Saturday, June 30, 2012

Go West XVII - The Great Such!

Beneath the Gateway Arch, Saint Louis, Missouri  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

Such a towering arch...
Such a monumental feat of engineering...

Such a readily recognizable landmark...
Such a complement to the vast open sky and...
the greatest Such to photograph!

(Such a post as this must be dedicated to Aunt Chovie!)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Go West XVI - Bright Delight

Red Fireplug, Town of Nederland, Colorado  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved
(Click on image for larger view)

The wonderful, colorful, painted buildings of Nederland, Colorado 

remain a bright delight to the eyes despite cloudy skies.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Go West XV - On Edge

Rim Rock Drive, Colorado National Monument, Colorado  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

Many narrow precariously perched roads in the mountainous West
 leave you feeling "on edge".

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Go West XIV - Balanced

Balanced Rock, Colorado National Monument, Colorado  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

I framed Balanced Rock between the branches of this old juniper for visual effect. It is fun to speculate on how long this famous landmark has been balancing itself, how long it took to erode into that almost human head shape, and how long it has been sporting that cool beret.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Go West XIII - Pearl Street Cadillac

Our Friends' Soul Reflected on a Cadillac Door, Pearl Street, Boulder, Colorado
  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

While walking around the Pearl Street district of Boulder, I spotted this reflection on the door of a late model Cadillac. Funny that it was a Cadillac, since we stopped a few days earlier at Cadillac Ranch in Texas.

Incidentally, this luxury car was named after Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, a French explorer and adventurer, who helped found the town of Detroit in 1701.

So it was appropriate that we encountered these Cadillacs while on our road trip... after all, Becky and I were doing our own version of exploring and adventuring, albeit 300 years after Monsieur Cadillac.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Go West XII - A Hike to Blue Lake

Lupines, near Lower Blue Lake Trailhead, Colorado  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved
(Click on image for larger view)

Today's post chronicles our hike to Lower Blue Lake, Mt. Sneffels Wilderness, San Juan Mountains... about 1 hour drive from Ouray, Colorado.
 These breathtaking lupines bloom vigorously on a hillside near the trailhead. 

Our beginning elevation is just over 9300 feet.

(To see a slide show, click on any image.)

Quaking Aspens, Lower Blue Lake Trail, Mt. Sneffels Wilderness, Colorado
 © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

Early sections of the trail pass through young aspen groves
 with their fresh green leaves on display. Our brains know these leaves are producing oxygen, but it's not quite enough for our lungs which are accustomed to the sea level elevation of the Lowcountry.

Mt. Sneffels, from the Lower Blue Lake Trail, Mt. Sneffels Wilderness, Colorado
  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

As we progress in elevation into the subalpine forests, we glimpse rugged mountain peaks which form the backbone of the wilderness area.

Meltwaters, near the Lower Blue Lake Trail, Mt. Sneffels Wilderness, Colorado
 © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

Melt water from high elevation snow fields and the Blue Lakes rushes down the mountain, joining other runoff to the East Fork Dallas Creek. From there the waters join the Uncompahgre, the Gunnison, the Colorado, the Gulf of California and ultimately the Pacific Ocean. These waters have a long journey ahead!

Becky on the Trail to Lower Blue Lake, Mt. Sneffels Wilderness, Colorado
  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

Becky continues up the trail toward the high peaks that tower above Blue Lake.
I linger behind, on the watch for yaks and yetis. Ok, not really. I lag behind looking for pictures to tell our story. But alas, I must not dally, or she will leave me in the dust... or snow.

Snow Fields, Lower Blue Lake Trail, Mt. Sneffels Wilderness, Colorado
  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

The higher we hike, the more snow fields we trudge over. The snow is well packed, but a challenge to traverse... 

several times our legs sink knee-deep and our boots fill with icy cold. 

Subalpine Meadow, Lower Blue Lake Trail, Mt. Sneffels Wilderness, Colorado
 © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

We near the tree line. At this point we pause to wonder how much further we have to go... more switchbacks and more snow fields await us on the trail. Hikers returning from the lake reassure us that we are getting close. We eat Clif Bars for energy and continue on.

Snow Draped Peaks, Lower Blue Lake Trail, Mt. Sneffels Wilderness, Colorado
 © Doug Hickok All Rights Reserved

The peaks above us are magnificent! There are fewer trees now and more wild terrain. How can mountain goats and bighorn sheep possibly survive among rocks such as these?  

Slopes above Lower Blue Lake, Mt. Sneffels Wilderness, Colorado
 © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

Above the lake basin, a steep talus slope of reddish rock makes a striking contrast to the dark formations of the tallest peaks.

Lower Blue Lake, Mt. Sneffels Wilderness, Colorado
  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

Finally we reach our destination! As breezes shift, the surface of the water changes texture and color. But when calm, a beautiful glacial blue color reveals itself. Ice floating on the lake makes a mockery of the warm summer sun. We watch a little gray bird called an American Dipper (or Water Ouzel) splashing in the lake in spite of the frigid cold. Our ending elevation is around 10,800 feet. After a picnic and some picture taking, we head back down the trail.

This spectacular hike took us 7 grueling hours to complete. By the time we returned to our car we were thoroughly exhausted, but knew that after a nap and pizza we would feel that it was well worth the effort.

And... it was on the drive back to the hotel that we sighted shaggy black yaks in a field, grazing.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Go West XI - Boulder

Hiking in Gregory Canyon, Boulder, Colorado  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

Boulder, Colorado lies at the convergence of the High Plains and the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, and offers the best of both worlds with plenty of open space.

Boulder County Parks and Open Space manages a whopping 36,000 acres of public use lands and more than 110 miles of trails for walking, running, hiking or biking, 
making Boulder one of the most outdoor user friendly cities in the U.S.  This, combined with a vigorous high altitude climate and a plethora of sunny days, encourages a healthy outdoor lifestyle.

Shown here is Gregory Canyon, where one can hike a maze of trails overlooking Boulder. The tall brick buildings in the distance are the main campus of University of Colorado, Boulder. The blue lake is Baseline Reservoir.

 We spent 5 glorious days here visiting with dear friends while sampling much that Boulder had to offer. We loved every moment.

(Over the past week, I have presented images
 introducing you to many of the places we visited, setting the tone for more detail-oriented photos as I continue our "Go West" travelogue for another week. Hope you stay tuned.)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Go West X - Gateway Arch

Pedestrian Crossing Sign, Gateway Arch, Saint Louis, Missouri  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

Gateway Arch is the tallest man-made monument in the U.S. (630 feet) and was built to commemorate our country's westward movement. American's urge to go West is deeply ingrained in our psyche since explorers and pioneers started the trend in the late 1700's.

So it is appropriately symbolic that the walking man on this sign
is under the arch,
on the go,
 and heading westward!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Go West IX - Palo Duro Canyon

Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

During our Western road trip, Becky and I encountered surprising and unexpected subjects... massive sand dunes in Colorado, monumental rocks rising above the flatlands of Kansas, and the mysterious and now legendary sighting of shaggy black yaks on ranch land near Ouray.

But perhaps the most astonishing find of all was Palo Duro Canyon. Just the opposite of Monument Rocks in Kansas, Palo Duro (Spanish for "hard wood") is an extensive canyon that carves deeply into the infinitely flat terrain of the Texas high plain.

 It is the second largest canyon in North America (120 miles long and 800 feet deep), and a fascinating environment of brightly colored stone tempered with the soft greens of juniper and mesquite. Historically it was the home land of Native American tribes such as the Kiowa, Comanche and Cheyenne.

It was here we spent our first day tent camping... with an oven-like temperature of 104˚F! Hot, dry, windy and dusty... but cool in its own way. The "Grand Canyon of Texas" was an excitingly rugged landscape to hike and explore.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Go West VIII - The Kissing Couple

The Kissing Couple, Colorado National Monument, Colorado
© Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

Being lowlanders from coastal South Carolina, Becky and I were easily awed by the vertical scale of Western landscapes. To my delight, they are perfect fits for the vertical photographic format, which I often favor when composing images.

This post shows the 300 foot high monolith called "The Kissing Couple", named for a slight separation in the stone, making it appear that two figures are entwined in a constant craggy kiss. The valley below is Monument Canyon, and in the distance, directly above the kissing rocks, you can see "Window Rock". In the far distance is Grand Valley, a lush fruit farming area where the Colorado River meanders through.

Eons of erosion have created a treasure trove of rock formations in this park. The hard, coarse sandstone cap rock weathers more slowly than the softer, finer layers below creating easily recognized shapes, like "Balanced Rock", "Dogs Tooth" and "Mushroom Rock".

I searched long and hard for Shaggy Yak Back Ridge,
but alas could not find it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Go West VII - Alluvial Fan

Alluvial Fan, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

In 1982 the ice age terminal moraine that contained Lawn Lake gave way, unleashing millions of gallons of water. A flood swept down the mountain tossing and tumbling trees and boulders with it. In the valley, Horseshoe Park meadows was submerged, and the nearby town of Estes Park was inundated with 6 inches of water.

But the good news is an interesting geological formation was created... an alluvial fan... and a cool new environment to explore. Short trails lead to rapids where visitors can climb on the boulders or wade in the cool waters. It is a very popular spot for picnics as well.

I made this "snap and go" image by resting my camera on the railing of a wooden bridge which spans the stream. I waited till people on the bridge stopped moving and vibrating my support, then made a series of pictures with the longest exposure I dared hand hold (1/4 of a sec). Luckily one was sharp enough to use!

My previous attempts at making this image involved balancing my camera on my nose, like a seal, and clapping my hands and feet together. But for some reason the photographs came out blurry. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Go West VI - Great Sand Dunes

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

Not the Sahara. No. Not the Arabian or the Gobi or the Kalahari. This is Colorado, the Great Sand Dunes of Colorado. They are the tallest in North America at 750 feet high. Winds blowing across the San Luis Valley brought sands from the San Juan Mountains and pilled them up at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains over a period of about 1 million years.

 Just to give you an idea of scale, those ant-like figures leaving behind trails of tiny tracks are people climbing the dunes, one standing triumphant at the top of High Dune. Average hiking time to the highest dune is about 4 hours round trip. Slipping and sliding in the sand is just part of the fun of going up. Rolling and tumbling down maybe the fastest way back!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Go West V - Alpine Tundra

Forest Canyon Overlook, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
© Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

In the Rocky Mountains no tress grow 
above 11,400 feet... eight months out of the year temperatures remain below freezing, fierce dry winds blast ridge tops, and ultraviolet light shines intensely. The climate is so harsh that only small plants and lichens survive. Compact plants only a few inches tall send tap roots 6 feet down into the earth to find nutrients to live. Small animals like yellow-bellied marmots and pikas spend long winters hibernating in their dens among the rocky slopes.  

Yet visitors to the park get first hand looks at the alpine tundra world by driving up Trail Ridge Road, and walking along short trails to overlooks like this one.

In the foreground are pink granite stones spilling over a steep slope into a canyon. In the middle ground are dark subalpine forests of spruce and fir which dominate the valley below. And in the distance rise the snow streaked sides of massive Stones Peak mountain where alpine tundra re-emerges.

Vast distances in the West can be a challenge to portray within the two dimensional confines of a photograph. But a scene like this one makes it easy, with the receding layers of space, and the use of a wide angle vertical format... along with a Chocolate Chip Clif Bar to munch on. Yum.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Go West IV - All Saints Chapel

Capilla de Todos los Santos, San Luis, Colorado  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

Atop San Pedro Mesa, in the small town of San Luis, stands the All Saints Chapel. Its design by local architect Arnie Valdez, reflects the Catholic tradition, but perhaps more importantly the influence of Spanish culture in this region of Colorado. Hispanic settlers established a village in the valley below, and by 1851 San Luis became an official town, making it the oldest one in the state. Leading up the mesa to this handsome and evocative church is a Stations of the Cross trail, featuring bronze sculptures by Huberto Maestas.

I found this setting fascinating, so evocative of the hardscrabble life of the arid Southwest and the impact of its Hispanic history.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Go West III - Route 66

Old Cadillac, Cadillac Ranch, near Amarillo, Texas  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

One of the original US Highways, Route 66 stretched from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California, and in its heyday in the 1950's was synonymous with the ultimate road trip. Along the "Main Street of America", you were sure to see something quirky and quintessentially American. Though this iconic highway has receded into the mythic past, segments of it still remain.

Not far from one of these remnants, in a cow pasture near Amarillo, Texas, is Stanley Marsh's Cadillac Ranch. This public art installation is a row of classic cadillacs buried at perfect angles matching those of the Great Pyramid of Giza. It is undoubtedly one of the most photographed places in Texas, and one of the most graffitied. The old cars are an open canvas for anyone with spray can in hand.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Go West II - Snap and Go

Monument Rocks National Natural Landmark, western Kansas
  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

It may surprise you to know whirlwind road trips can be a challenge to photographers, or anyone else with infinite curiosity. The temptation to stop repeatedly to explore can be heart rending. I wanted to stop at least 72 hundred times during our adventure... to take a photo, or look at a bird, or a rock, or a yak for that matter.

But we had to press on to see everyone we wanted to see, and visit all the places we wanted to visit. I took pictures when I could. Hence, my road trip photography is of the "snap and go" variety.

"Snap and go" is not especially conducive to good nature and landscape photography, which is often predicated upon capturing beautiful light to set a mood. Yet some subjects are strong enough to endure the snap shot style.

Monument Rocks (or Chalk Pyramids) is such a subject. They are a strange anomaly, towering 70 feet above the endless agricultural flatlands of the Kansas high plains. These chalky formations were sculpted by wind and water. But the layers of fossil rich rock date back 80 million years, when this region was not an ocean of wheat, but an ocean of sea water (talk about climate change!).

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Go West I - The Road Trip

Mt. Sneffels, near Ouray, Colorado  © Doug Hickok All Rights Reserved
(Click on image for larger view)

Becky and I just returned from a 24 day road trip to Western parts of the U.S.  Our main goal was to visit friends and family (34 to be precise, in 9 cities). Needless to say along the way we encountered spectacular settings, either driving, hiking or picnicking. We drove 5,824 miles through 13 states and 3 time zones. The highest elevation reached was 12,183 feet along Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. The highest temperature was 104˚F on our first day of tent camping in Palo Duro Canyon, Texas. And the oddest sight was a stand of 6 shaggy black yaks on a ranch outside of Ouray, Colorado.

But enough with the numbers. I am excited to bring you the photography. Over the next few weeks I will post an assortment of road trip pictures taken during our Western adventure. I hope you enjoy the views.

Today's image shows a mountain valley leading to Mt. Sneffels Wilderness, near Ouray (self-labeled "Switzerland of America"). Our destination here was the hiking trail that led to a turquoise alpine lake, in a basin below the snowy peaks seen above. I chose this image to start the Go West series because of the simple beauty of this mountain landscape, so representative of Colorado. The fresh green hues of the quaking aspens especially caught my eye.

And finally, thanks to everyone for your visits to our blog during our absence. They are very much appreciated!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Alien Light

Lamp, Abandoned Gas Station, near Lawrenceburg, Ohio  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

This lamp once kept a gas station well lit at night. But time passes, and what is left looks like remnants of an alien world.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Venetian Symbols

Ornate Lantern, Saint Mark's Square, Venice, Italy  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved
(Velvia slide film. Click on image for larger view.)

Ornate lanterns, church spires, seagulls from the Adriatic,
 and the Lion of Saint Mark.

 This could be no other place than La Serenissima!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Lantern Shadows

Lantern and Shadow, Dock Street Theatre, French Quarter, Charleston, SC  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved
(Velvia slide film. Click on image for larger view.)

Shadows of an old lantern play upon the surface

 of a stucco and brick wall.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Stono Dock

Sunset, Stono River Dock, James Island, SC  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved
(Velvia slide film. Click on image for larger view.)

A golden river flows past a boat dock at sundown, an idyllic scene symbolic of South Carolina's Lowcountry

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Detail of Headstone, Saint Philip's Churchyard, Charleston, SC  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

One of the inspirations in life is admiring the craft of an expert,
 no matter what the craft may be. Whether a writer, a doctor, a teacher, or a stonecutter, it is pure beauty witnessing the work of a master.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Gate Shadow

Gate Shadow on Stucco, Dock Street Theatre, Charleston, SC  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved
(Velvia slide film)

A gate shadow traces its ornate contours onto an old stucco wall at the 
Dock Street Theatre.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

High and Dry

Derelict Lobster Boat, near Welshpool, Campobello Island, New Brunswick
  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

Rest in peace.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hogwart's Herbology

Bare Boned Bonsai, North Carolina Arboretum, NC  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved


 Cover your ears!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bella Italia

Window, near Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved
(Velvia slide film. Click on image for larger view.)

This Roman vignette offers a glimpse of colors and textures typically seen in beautiful Italy. I am suddenly craving a large plate of lasagna and a glass of wine!

Bella Italia!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Impression of a Sunrise VII

Sunrise, Charleston Harbor, Charleston, SC  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved
(Click on image for larger view)

The sun rises over Charleston Harbor

 like the Eye of Sauron,
 searching the waters of Middle Earth
 for the One Ring to rule them all.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Wash Out

Creek Wash Out, Mt. Hood, Oregon  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved
(Velvia slide film.)

A jumble of rocky debris fills a creek flowing down from the slopes of cloud covered Mount Hood, an ancient volcano of the Cascade Mountains.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Decline and Resurgance

Arched Windows, Old Warehouse, Savannah, Georgia  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved
(Velvia slide film)

Patterns of semi-circles dominate the facade of this forgotten old building in historic Savannah. Like film and film cameras, it has fallen into decline, but has the potential for resurgence given the right circumstance.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Big Tuna

Big Tuna Restaurant, Georgetown, South Carolina  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved
(Velvia slide film)

It is the perfect time of day for photographing wonderful warm hues, but too early to visit the gritty, rustic Big Tuna Restaurant 
and Raw Bar. It is better to come back later in the evening, when it becomes a hoppin' kind of place.

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