Foto Friday #99

BUGS are creepy and downright strange, but they all have a purpose in life… just like we do.

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A bee’s purpose is to balance delicate ecosystem functions. As pollinators, they are crucial to the world’s agricultural production. Bees pollinate approximately 75 percent of the fruits, nuts, and vegetables grown in the United States.

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One the of strangest looking creepy-crawlers is a stick bug, sometimes called a walking stick. Because they look like twigs, it is difficult for predators to spot them. They are herbivores who can do great damage to foliage, but they are an important source of food for birds and other animals.

For September 25 Photo a Day Challenge: Strange and for

Nancy Merrill’s A Photo a Week Challenge: Up Close and Personal

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Foto Friday #97

… and to the Republic for which is stands,

one nation under God, indivisible,

with liberty and justice for all.

The sculpture For Which it Stands by James Haire is located at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It is in reference to the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of our country. We need to be reminded again (and again) of these words and their meaning.

For Ragtag Daily Prompt: Again

Foto Friday #95

A Sign of the Times – Covid Style:

Hide & Seek with the Sun at Scotts Bluff:

The Highlands Landscape at Eilean Donan Castle:

Like all of us, I struggle to fill the void that Covid has caused. My volunteer activities are no longer an option, social outings are few and far between, and spending time with my grandchildren is not as easy as it once was. I’ve had to find new diversions for my free time. My latest endeavor is making creative collages with my existing photos. I can spend hours in attempt to find just the right combination of imagines and layouts, backgrounds and margins. I made these collages with PhotoScapeX, but there are many image-maker programs available.

For Lens-Artists Challenge #110 – Creativity in the Time of Covid

Taking the Scenic Route – Part Two

1032137361Here’s more on our recent road trip. Remember, our agenda was Kansas City to Scotts Bluff to Grand Tetons to Yellowstone National Park to Northern Idaho to Glacier National Park to Mount Rushmore to Sioux Falls and back to Kansas City.P1040430

Between Scotts Bluff and the Grand Tetons, we stumbled upon old Fort Laramie, Wyoming, once the principal military outpost on the Northern Plains. With the end of the Indian Wars, Fort Laramie was of little importance and abandoned by the US Army in 1890.  Eleven of the original structures have been restored and Fort Laramie is now a National Historic Site.  As with most of the National Parks on our agenda, the visitors center and indoor facilities here were closed due to Covid-19 concerns. The park grounds were open, however, and Park Rangers were present and more than willing to share information. It was a Park Ranger who suggested we visit the Oregon Trail Ruts and Register Cliff which were also in the area.  We are glad we took his advice!

The Oregon Trail Ruts is a State Historic Site and a National Historic Landmark. Remnants of the pioneer trail can be seen all over Wyoming, but the tracks here are the best-preserved set of Oregon Trail ruts anywhere along its former path. We walked the short trail uphill to where 4–6 feet deep gouges were cut into solid rock by the wheels of wagons between 1841 and 1869. The geography of the area forced thousands of wagons heading west to cross the ridge in exactly the same place, resulting in the permanent ruts.

Register Cliff was an important landmark during the westward movement across the United States. It was a key checkpoint for travelers to verify they were on the right path, and it became custom for them to record their name and date of passage in the soft sandstone of the cliff. Many of the inscriptions at Register Cliff are from the 1840s thru 1860s—the peak years of travel along this stretch of the Oregon Trail.

Another stop before we reached the Grand Tetons was Ayres Natural Bridge Park, located just south of the Oregon Trail. Crafted by the hands of Mother Nature, it is one of only three natural bridges in the country with water beneath it. Weary pioneers would relax here, making it one of Wyoming’s first tourist attractions!

We spent the second night near Riverton, Wyoming and got an early start the next morning so we could enjoy as much time as possible at Grand Teton National Park. Unfortunately, the closer we got to Grand Teton, the colder and rainier it got… and the rain turned to snow just before we reached the eastern entrance. Our plans to stop at every scenic overlook inside the park no longer made sense as the low clouds and fog severely limited our visibility. I know there were mountains at the Grand Tetons, but we didn’t see them!

We made our way to the park’s southern exit, then further south to Jackson Hole. Lunch at Snake River Brewing was a wonderful experience. So good! So clean! We took our time leaving Jackson Hole, hoping the sun would burn away the fog back at the Tetons. It did not! So, we left Grand Teton from the northern tip and drove the few miles between it and Yellowstone’s southern entrance.

Yellowstone is a huge park containing 2.2 million acres of land and 370 miles of paved road. It is 66 miles from the south entrance to just outside the western entrance where we had booked accommodations for the next three nights. In the little town of West Yellowstone, we checked into the cutest lodgings of our trip and hoped for better weather in the days to come.

We loved Yellowstone! We experienced everything from desert-like landscapes to green alpine meadows;

from cool rainy mornings to glorious blue skies;

from hot bubbling geysers to cold trout-filled streams;

from bison, bear, elk and crows to graceful trumpeter swans;

… and from congested roadways to nothing else around us but natural beauty!

Our only disappointment was that a portion of the main road was closed in the northern section of the park.  Also closed inside the park were lodging and dining facilities, so we packed a lunch each day and enjoyed picnics immersed in nature. All other visitor services were very limited, including restrooms with running water. Here is an assortment of images from our two-and-a-half days in Yellowstone:

Next: Part Three – Glacier National Park and the route home

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Taking the Scenic Route

17IMG_8494 (4)IMG_8467 (3)3My husband and I had never been to Yellowstone National Park, so when we started thinking about a road trip, Yellowstone was at the top of our list. During the planning stage, we learned my sister and her husband would be in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho visiting my nephew for the Fourth of July, so we added Idaho to the agenda… and since we would be so far north anyway, why not include Glacier National Park as well! We filled in the rest of the itinerary with things we wanted to see and do along the way! We live near Kansas City, so here is the route we took:

trip map

Packing for this trip was unlike any packing we had ever done! We crammed an entire laundry basket full of cleaning supplies: Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer, disinfecting spray, extra tissues, and paper towels. We also took a digital thermometer and plenty of disposable face-masks. To minimize our exposure at stops for snacks, we took another basket full of food and a cooler with bottled water and tea. For hiking in the northern national parks, we took bear spray, mosquito nets, bug spray, binoculars, hiking boots and raincoats. Then, of course, were all the normal items we would need, including clothes for both warm and cold weather – and cameras! Needless to say, the car was full!

We promised ourselves we would stop often to lessen long periods of time in the car – and simply because we could. So, three and a half hours after we left Kansas City, we made our first stop in Lincoln, Nebraska to see the Sunken Gardens – one of the 300 best gardens in the country, according to National Geographic. The gardens were constructed during the winter of 1930-31 as an opportunity for unemployed men to earn money during the Depression.

My husband likes beer – craft beer, in particular – so when we travel we are always on the lookout for local breweries. Whether you like beer or not, a local brewery tends to possess a certain charm and they are often spotlessly clean. We felt safer inside a sparsely crowded brewery for lunch than a fast-food restaurant, so we ate in one nearly every day! That explains our choice of the Kinkaider Brewing Company after our stroll through the garden. A “Kinkaider” is what a settler was called in Nebraska after the Kincaid Act of 1904, which provided each settler 640 acres upon payment of a $14 filing fee. The brewery had a historic hand-carved bar, original framed prints adorning the walls, and a unique and varied menu!

Three more hours down the road we found an original Pony Express Station in Gothenburg, Nebraska. The station was donated to the City of Gothenburg in 1931. It was the perfect place for a brief afternoon break.

We made it to Scotts Bluff, Nebraska – our goal for the first night. Having seen pictures online of Scotts Bluff National Monument at sunset, we wanted to witness it for ourselves. We didn’t have much time for the hiking trails, but we did manage to find a perfect spot to watch the sun sink below the horizon… and it was glorious! We got our pictures, drove through the rest of the park, then headed to our hotel and called it a day.

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For those of you curious about accommodations during this virus, I was extremely impressed with the efforts made by hotels to keep us safe. Most had contactless check-in procedures, rooms which had been cleaned and vacant for at least 72 hours, and constantly “covid-cleaned” common areas. Everywhere we stayed appeared to be immaculate, but I still wiped down the frequently touched surfaces and generously sprayed each room with disinfectant. I doubt we have ever had cleaner accommodations!

The next two posts will contain less commentary and more photos highlighting the best parts of our trip: one post on The Grand Tetons & Yellowstone, and another on Glacier National Park and the route home.

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Foto Friday #93

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I became unexpected friends with this adorable little goat, one of over 1,000 animals who reside at the Kansas City Zoo. He almost appears to be posing for pictures, but really he was just scratching his chin on a wood-framed opening in the children’s area. The Kansas City Zoo, located inside Swope Park, opened in 1909 with a modest collection of animals, but it has become one of the most respected zoos in the country. Nestled within valleys and rolling hills, the zoo’s exhibits range from the $15 million Helzberg Penguin Plaza to the interactive Stingray Bay to a chimpanzee habitat praised by Jane Goodall herself – a British ethologist known for her long-term research on chimpanzees.

For LCPP – Life Captured Photo Prompt: Unexpected Friends

and for Ragtag Daily Prompt: Almost