James Richardson Photography Galleries: Blog https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog en-us Copyright James Richardson (James Richardson Photography Galleries) Fri, 10 Sep 2021 14:10:00 GMT Fri, 10 Sep 2021 14:10:00 GMT https://www.jdrichardson.com/img/s/v-12/u446081002-o426854207-50.jpg James Richardson Photography Galleries: Blog https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog 120 115 Prepare to Believe at the Creation Museum https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2021/6/prepare-to-believe-at-the-creation-museum     "Prepare to believe" is the slogan for the Creation Museum located in Petersburg, Kentucky, near Cincinnati, Ohio. It is operated by the Christian creationist apologetics ministry Answers in Genesis (AiG). It was started to promote an explanation of the origin of the earth based on a literal interpretation of the Bible's Book of Genesis account of creation.
    The state-of-the-art 70,000 square foot museum brings the pages of the Bible to life with over 160 displays and exhibits. The funds to build the museum were raised entirely through private donations to AiG, and it opened on May 28, 2007. Ken Ham is president and founder of the Creation Museum and Answers in Genesis.

Creation Museum Entrance 077Creation Museum EntranceEntrance to the Creation museum
    One of the first exhibits as visitors enter the museum is Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Here, visitors learn how Adam named the animals as they walk through the Garden of Eden and observe the Tree of Life and of Adam and Eve’s taking a bite of that infamous apple.

The Serpent with Adam and Eve in the Creation Museum 031The Serpent with Adam and Eve in the Creation MuseumThe Serpent with Adam and Eve in the Creation Museum
    Another exhibit is Noah’s Ark Construction Site. It is a full-scale cross-section of the Ark. The exhibit explains the how Noah constructed the Ark, his tools, and explores how Noah and his family may have solved the problems of taking care of the all the different kinds of animals in the Ark. Now visitors can see an actual full size replica of the Ark at the Ark Encounter a short distance from the Creation Museum.

Ark Encounter in Kentucky  2100003Ark Encounter in KentuckyArk Encounter in Kentucky
    The Creation Museum has excellent dinosaur-related exhibits, including dinosaur eggs and bones, plus realistic animatronic models (ones that move). But a dinosaur skeleton of an Allosaurus fragilis has recently been added. The museum’s new dinosaur probably stood ten feet high and was thirty feet long. Within the museum are other attractions. There are theater shows and the Stargazer's Planetarium. In the theater, one show called the Six Days Theater is a video presentation summarizing the six days of creation as recorded in the book of Genesis. Other themes of the theater presentations are Men in White and The Last Adam. The museum's restaurant is called Noah’s Café and a Dragon Hall Bookstore offers gifts and accessories.
    Outside the museum other attractions provide entertainment for visitors. The Botanical Gardens has over five hundred varieties of plants in its gardens. There is a hummingbird and butterfly garden, a rain forest garden, and swinging bridges. All the gardens are connected with a five-foot-wide paved walkway, which is just under a mile long and can accommodate strollers and wheelchairs. A five-acre lake within the gardens contains over 6,000 plants with a surrounding walking path. For the kids there is a petting zoo and for the more adventurous there are over two and a half miles of zip lines and sky bridges.
    Explanation of Dinosaurs in the Creation Museum 082Explanation of Dinosaurs in the Creation MuseumExplanation of Dinosaurs in the Creation Museum Explanation of Dinosaurs in the Creation Museum 082Creation Museum Botanical GardenCreation Museum Botanical Garden Explanation of Dinosaurs in the Creation Museum 082The grounds of the Creation MuseumThe grounds of the Creation Museum

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) adam and eve attraction bible biblical creation creation museum dinasaurs garden of eden genesis kentucky travel https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2021/6/prepare-to-believe-at-the-creation-museum Fri, 18 Jun 2021 19:40:14 GMT
Remembering Past Trips - Albuquerque https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2021/5/remembering-past-trips---albuquerque As I continue to remember past trips of my writing career, Albuquerque, New Mexico always comes to mind. Most of New Mexico is beautiful and brings back good memories. Santa Fe. Los Alamos. But Albuquerque is special.

San Felip de Neri Church, Albuquerque 002San Felip de Neri Church, Albuquerque 002 Albuquerque Museum 001Albuquerque Museum 001

I attended a press trip several years ago and spent four or five days seeing the city and many of the attractions surrounding Albuquerque. As I wrote in a Camping Life Magazine article, "The city of Albuquerque, which is bisected by the Rio Grande River, lies within the northern and upper edges of the Chihuahuan Desert. That means low humidity and little rainfall. As a matter of fact, on average there are 310 days of sunshine, an annual rainfall amount of about nine inches, and an average relative humidity of only 44%. As a precaution for visitors, that low humidity and much sunshine means they need to stay well hydrated by drinking lots of water and by using sun protection. The effects of the sun are somewhat intensified because of the city's altitude. Albuquerque has one of the highest elevations of any major city in the United States. The elevation of the city ranges from 4,900 feet above sea level near the Rio Grande Valley to over 6,700 feet in the foothills of the Sandias." Thusly, I learned much about the climate and geography of Albuquerque.

Sandia Peak Albuquerque New Mexico 011Sandia Peak Albuquerque New Mexico 011

Of course, while there we were treated to the hot air balloon experience. Early one morning we met with several balloonists that were gracious enough to take anyone who wanted to up in one of the balloons. I did. And I did.

Albuquerque Hot Air Balloons 043Albuquerque Hot Air Balloons 043 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloons 035Albuquerque Hot Air Balloons 035

That was one of the most amazing things I have experienced. I had many times wished for this chance to go up in a hot air balloon. That fascination took me to several balloon festivals, but had never actually been in one.

Albuquerque Hot Air Balloons Touching the Rio Grande 052Albuquerque Hot Air Balloons Touching the Rio Grande 052 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon 065Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon 065

During the trip to Albuquerque, I also visited the "Old Town," Sandia Peak, where I rode the tramway up the mountain, and the Petroglyph National Monument. Petroglyphs are ancient drawings on rocks somehow preserved from earlier civilizations.

Sandia Peak Tramway Albuquerque 004Sandia Peak Tramway Albuquerque 004 Albuquerque New Mexico rocks Petroglyph National MonumentAlbuquerque New Mexico rocks Petroglyph National Monument

There were trips outside of Albuquerque to the El Camino Real Heritage Center and along the Jemez Mountain Trail. Both of these excursions were enlightening and interesting, but my main focus was the city of Albuquerque.

Flags of the El Camino Real Heritage Center 035Flags of the El Camino Real Heritage Center 035 Jemez Pueblo Red Rock Trail 034Jemez Pueblo Red Rock Trail 034

On my website are many more photographs of the city and its surrounding attractions. Any can be ordered from my site and it would be appreciated immensely. Here's the link: Albuquerque.

Read more of my travels here.

Thanks for visiting my Travel Blog.

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) albuquerque el camino real hot air balloon new mexico petroglyph petroglyphs photography press trip sandia peak travel usa https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2021/5/remembering-past-trips---albuquerque Tue, 04 May 2021 16:42:13 GMT
A Lot About Alabama https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2021/4/a-lot-about-alabama One of my favorite states to visit is Alabama. There are several reasons for that. Its nearness to West Tennessee, where I live, its varied terrain types, and its numerous attractions. If you have read any of my blog posts, you can tell that I have visited my every part of the state of Alabama, from the "mountains" of North Alabama, to the Gulf Coast, and many places in between.

US Space & Rocket Center, Pathfinder 07US Space & Rocket Center, Pathfinder 07Huntsville has the U.S. Space and Rocket Center

Yes, there are mountains in North Alabama, although not very tall ones. For instance, Alabama's highest point is in the Cheaha State Park, where its elevation is about 2400 feet. In the eastern part of the state the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains are responsible for the "mountains" of Alabama.

Huntsville Alabama, View from Monte Sano State Park 025View from Monte Sano State Park 025

Alabama's shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico is only sixty miles. But the white sandy beaches of those sixty miles accounts for much of the state's tourism. I, along with my family, have spent many weeks on the coast in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. 

Beach Scene at Gulf Shores 001Beach Scene at Gulf Shores 001 Sea Oats at Gulf State Park 001Sea Oats at Gulf State Park 001

Attractions are numerous from natural areas, state parks, museums, and beaches. Huntsville has the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and Monte Sano State Park, Gulf Shores has Gulf State Park and beaches, Mobile has GulfQuest and the USS Alabama, Birmingham is noted for its Civil Rights history, and North Alabama has the Dismals Canyon and Little River Canyon and Waterfall.

GulfQuest in Mobile 030021GulfQuest in Mobile 030021GulfQuest of Mobile

USS Alabama in Mobile Bay 040094USS Alabama in Mobile Bay 040094USS Alabama

Dismals Canyon, Rainbow Falls 8541Dismals Canyon, Rainbow Falls 8541

Little River Falls, Alabama 001Little River Falls, Alabama 001

 

You may read more about my travels to Alabama and many other places here.

All the photographs in this blog are available for sale. Please visit my main site for all my photograph of other destinations.

Thanks for visiting.

 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) alabama alabama photography destinations" gulf coast gulf shores huntsville huntsville destinations rocket city travel blog travel blogger u s space and rovket center https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2021/4/a-lot-about-alabama Wed, 21 Apr 2021 17:09:32 GMT
Remembering Past Trips: Western Nebraska https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2021/3/remembering-past-trips-western-nebraska As I remember past trips of my traveling career, another of my favorite places was Western Nebraska. 

This part of Nebraska is the location of the first transcontinental railroad and the first transcontinental automobile highway (the Lincoln Highway), and also the route of the Oregon Trail, the California and Mormon Trails. It was also the path of the Pony Express riders. Why? The route followed the North Platte River through the prairies, sand hills, and the grasslands toward the new lands to the west skirting the higher mountains of the Rockies.

North Platte, Nebraska is near the confluence of the North and South Platte Rivers and where the Union Pacific Bailey Yard is located. The Bailey Yard is the largest railroad classification yard in the world covering 2850 acres. A classification yard is a location where railroad cars are separated, transferred, and added to make trains. During my visit to Western Nebraska, I counted 120 rail cars loaded with coal coming from Wyoming. It met another empty 120 heading back to Wyoming.

Overlooking the Bailey Yard is the eight-story Golden Spike Tower. From here visitors can observe the yard and watch the non-stop action on the multitude of tracks. There is also a visitor center with railroading displays and a courtyard with the twenty-three flags representing each state the Union Pacific Railroad serves.

North Platte Golden Spike Tower and Bailey Yard  7278Golden Spike Tower at Bailey Yard in North Platte

North Platte, I discovered, is also the site of Buffalo Bill Cody's Ranch. Called Scout's Rest, it sits on 25 acres of its original 4000. Now it is a historical park consisting of his Victorian home and barn with his showman memorabilia. Buffalo Bill led a colorful life. He was at times a scout for the army, a pony express rider, a buffalo hunter, and, of course, a wild west showman. This home in North Platte was built for rest and relaxation and because it was near the railroad for transporting his horses and other show material.

North Platte, Nebraska, Buffalo Bill Cody Ranch 7287North Platte, Nebraska, Buffalo Bill Cody Ranch

Interstate 80 follows generally the same path along the North Platte River, but I wanted to take US 30 to Ogallala. I had heard so much about the town from the book by Larry McMurtry (who recently died) and the TV mini-series Lonesome Dove. Ogallala first gained fame as the terminus for cattle drives that traveled from Texas to the Union Pacific rail head located here. Also in Ogalalla there is Boot Hill, a cemetery that shares the name with a more famous one in Tombstone, Arizona. Still it is an interesting place to visit.

 

Boot Hill, Ogallala, Western Nebraska 7358Boot Hill Cemetery in Ogallala, Nebraska Boot Hill, Ogallala, Western Nebraska 7366The Trail Boss, Statue in Boot Hill in Ogallala, Nebraska

 

As I headed westward, the terrain changes a little. Near the Nebraska - Wyoming border, buttes and landforms appeared. Some of the most significant of those landforms are Chimney Rock, Castle and Jailhouse Rocks near Bridgeport, and Scotts Bluff National Monument near Scotts Bluff. These were significant landmarks for the wagon trains heading westward.

Chimney Rock, Western Nebraska 037Chimney Rock, Western Nebraska 037 Courthouse and Jailhouse Rocks, Western Nebraska 005Courthouse and Jailhouse Rocks, Western Nebraska 005

Chimney Rock is the most recognized feature on the Oregon and California Trails. It is a sandstone rock formation (looks like a chimney) that rises 325 feet over the North Platte Valley. It is easy to see why it was a major landmark for early travelers. Just outside of town of Scottsbluff is the Scotts Bluff National Monument, an impressive geologic land feature that rises to 4,659 feet above sea level or 800 feet above the North Platte River. The Summit Road at Scotts Bluff National Monument takes visitors to the top of the monument.

Scott's Bluff National Monument 8085Scott's Bluff National Monument 8085

Northeast of Scottsbluff, the town of Alliance had in store an unusual attraction. In Alliance, I saw a sign for Carhenge. I followed the sign to find a replica of Stonehenge with 38 automobiles placed to assume the same proportions and positions as England's original.

Alliance, Carhenge, Western Nebraska 012Alliance, Carhenge, Western Nebraska Alliance, Carhenge, Western Nebraska 012Alliance, Carhenge, Western Nebraska

My last stop in my trip through Western Nebraska was Fort Robinson near Crawford. Fort Robinson, an active Military post from 1874 until 1948, was established to protect the Red Cloud Agency, which assisted the Indians of the area. The current fort sits on 22,000 acres with some of the original buildings and a multitude of activities.

Fort Robinson horseback riding 003Fort Robinson Fort Robinson horseback riding 003Fort Robinson

Such was one of my favorite destinations. Western Nebraska will always be a notable place to visit.

To see more photography from Western Nebraska, visit Western Nebraska. The page opens slowly, so please have patience. Thanks.

 

 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) bailey yard boot hill cemetery chimney rock nebraska north platte ogallala travel western nebraska https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2021/3/remembering-past-trips-western-nebraska Tue, 30 Mar 2021 20:58:47 GMT
Remembering Past Trips - Door County in Winter https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2021/2/remembering-past-trips---door-county-in-winter When winter really hits, like it has now, I dream of spring and being on the road again. I have been very blessed to have traveled as much as I have. Most of my trips have been in association with a public relations firm that represents many destinations. From those press trips I have written countless travel pieces, many of which have been featured articles in national publications. If you care to view my writing credits, they are here (https://www.jdrichardson.com/writingcredits).
 
In the next few blog posts I will revisit some of my favorite destinations from my travels. I made many trips to Door County in Wisconsin. I suppose that is one of my most favorite places, since I have made at least five trips there. The last trip was in winter. And as I look out my window in the “sunny South,” we are having an uncharacteristic snow storm.
 
That reminds me of that winter trip to Door County.
 
Door County Washington Island  1260037Washington Island is part of Door CountyWashington Island is accessible only by ferry or private boat
When I arrived at the Green Bay airport and was traveling to Door County, which is about an hour's drive from the airport, I didn't see the kind of snowfall that I was hoping for. I remember thinking, "This isn't what a winter scene is supposed to look like."  Nevertheless, there was snow. We stopped at our usual morning place, the Door County Coffee Company. Great coffee. Friendly service.
Wisconsin_Door County Coffee Co_1260001Door County Coffee CompanyDoor County Coffee Company is always our first stop in the morning of the first day.
 
On any trip to Door County my all time favorite place to visit is Cave Point County Park. And this trip was one of the highlights. Watching waves from Lake Michigan batter the rugged rocky shoreline at the park was amazing. I suppose I took over a hundred photographs. Here are just four.
 
Door County's Cave Point County Park is my most favored place to visitCave Point County Park in winter Door County's Cave Point County Park is my most favored place to visitCave Point County Park in winter Door County's Cave Point County Park is my most favored place to visitCave Point County Park in winter Door County's Cave Point County Park is my most favored place to visitCave Point County Park in winter
 

Washington Island sits off the coast of the peninsula of Door in Lake Michigan. It is a short ferry ride from the northeastern tip of the peninsula. I had never been to Washington Island on any previous trips to Door County. But this time I did. The ferry company was only making infrequent trips across the Porte des Morts, or Death's Door, as the passageway between the mainland of Door County and Washington Island is called. That is due to the number of shipwrecks that have occurred in that treacherous waterway because of the currents and wind. But this trip was interesting since the water was covered with ice. But we had the privilege to make the trip across that treacherous waterway on the icebreaker ferry. I understand there is a second larger icebreaker added to the ferry line. Here is a video of the trip to Washington Island aboard the icebreaking ferry:

 
Voyage to Washington Island Via Ice Breaker
 
While on Washington Island, we visited the Stavkirke Church, which is a wooden chapel built to represent a Norwegian Borgund chapel of early Scandinavian settlers to honor their roots. There was a good bit of snow on Washington Island and it made the trip more worthwhile. In winter there are not too many places for tourists to visit. Mostly the diehard residents and workers are the only folks we saw during this trip. However, there was a restaurant open. Can't remember the name.
 
 
WI_Door County_Washington Island_Stavkirke-1260057Door County Washington Island StavkirkeDoor County Washington Island Stavkirke
 
The trip back to the mainland was just as interesting as the trip to Washington Island. The most notable parts of the road trip to the ferry port is the famous crooked stretch called the "windy road." That's not windy as caused by the wind, it is windy due to its crookedness, like "winding" road.
 
WI_Door County_Windy Road-1260111Door County's "Windy Road" like winding road.Windy Road
 
 
 
Our last stop was Peninsula State Park, the larges in Door County. On the way, however, we made another photo stop at the  Ephraim Anderson Dock, a graffiti-covered building that houses an art gallery. It's never been open every time I have visited, but it's a good stop for photography.
 
WI_Door County_Anderson's Dock-1260122Door County Anderson Dock in EphraimAnderson Dock WI_Door County_Anderson's Dock-1260122Door County Anderson Dock in EphraimAnderson Dock
 
 
At Peninsula State Park, there was an opportunity to snowshoe cross-country. We couldn't resist the thought of clumping through the white stuff without sinking down into it. It seemed to be a longer hike that it should have been. Or maybe it was the snowshoes and the snow that made it seem so long.
 
WI_Door County_Peninsula State Park_Snowshoeing-1270183Snowshoeing in Door County 's Peninsula State ParkPeninsula State Park Door County Peninsula State Park Snowshoeing  country 270181Door County Peninsula State Park Snowshoeing It's getting late
Such was my last visit to Door County Wisconsin. But I think it was one of the best, especially since I got to make the trip in winter.
 
Thanks for reading my travel blog. There's more.
Keep watching. I'll post more of my favorite travel destinations later.
 
 
 
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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) cave point county park door county ice breaker peninsula state park photography snow snowshoe hiking stavkirke washington island winter wisconsin https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2021/2/remembering-past-trips---door-county-in-winter Wed, 17 Feb 2021 21:05:31 GMT
Surprise! It’s Mobile! https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2020/11/surprise-it-s-mobile     Mobile is an interesting city. It is also surprising. Mobile has been under six flags in its history. It is known as the Azalea City and is the Azalea Capital of the World. It is home to the Mardi gras (sixty-two years before it was celebrated in New Orleans). It is more family style in Mobile. 
    “Damn the Torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” Such was Admiral David Farragut’s popular paraphrased quote during the Civil War Battle of Mobile. But today’s visitors to Mobile Bay will not have the same problem with torpedoes as the Admiral had in 1864. Instead there will be a barrage of attractions waiting in the port city of Mobile from the historical to the natural.
 
   Visitors will have opportunity to see historic forts dating to the Civil War. Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island and the downtown Fort Conde are both open for tours.  Fort Conde is part of the nearby Museum of Mobile, which tells the story of Mobile with permanent and changing exhibit galleries.  

Fort Conde Downtown Mobile AL (2).JPGFort Conde Downtown Mobile AlabamaFort Conde in Mobile Alabama Fort Conde Downtown Mobile AL (10).JPGCannons at Fort Conde Downtown in MobileFort Conde in Mobile Alabama

Fort Gaines, Dauphin Island (3).JPGFort Gaines, Dauphin IslandFort Gaines on Dauphin Island Fort Gaines, Dauphin Island (3).JPGFort Gaines, Dauphin IslandFort Gaines on Dauphin Island
    One of the most popular attractions of the Mobile area is Bellingrath Gardens. It is the sixty-five acre estate of Walter Bellingrath, who made his fortune with a Coca Cola franchise, among other ventures. It all started as a fishing camp and, with the assistance of his wife, the gardens became the showplace it is today. The gardens have something blooming all year and the Bellingrath Home is equally beautiful. 

Bellingrath Gardens Rockery area (8).JPGBellingrath GardensBellingrath Gardens near Mobile Alabama Bellingrath Gardens Rockery area (8).JPGBellingrath GardensBellingrath Gardens near Mobile Alabama Bellingrath Gardens Rockery area (8).JPGA Rose in Bellingrath GardensBellingrath Gardens near Mobile Alabama Bellingrath Gardens Rockery area (8).JPGBellingrath GardensBellingrath Gardens near Mobile Alabama
    There is a wide range of other popular attractions. Because Mobile was the beginning of the Mardi gras, there is a museum celebrating that fact. The Mobile Carnival Museum focuses on the colorful history of the mystic societies that began the traditions associated with the Mardi gras through costumes and floats of the past.

    The USS Alabama is permanently docked at the Battleship Memorial Park and offers an interesting tour. The huge battleship dominates the landscape, but there is also an aircraft museum and the submarine USS Drum to explore.

USS Alabama Battleship Deck (4).JPGUSS Alabama Battleship DeckUSS Alabama in Mobile Bay USS Alabama BattleshipUSS Alabama Battleship in Mobile BayUSS Alabama in Mobile Bay

    The Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center is a great place to take the family with interactive displays, an I-Max theater, and state-of-the-art exhibits. “My BodyWorks” is a section that features more than fifty interactive medical exhibits built for fun and to educate. The 5 Rivers Delta Center gives another perspective to the Mobile area with its nature center and opportunity to take an ecotour cruise one of the largest river delta systems in the US.
    One of the newest museums along the Gulf Coast is located on the Mobile, Alabama Riverfront. Gulf Quest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico, which opened in September 2015, is an unusual museum in several ways. It is the only one dedicated to the Gulf of Mexico's rich maritime traditions and history. The 120,000 square foot space is shaped like a ship headed into Mobile Bay. And there are ninety interactive exhibits for adults and children.

GulfQuest in Mobile-040062GulfQuest in MobileGulfQuest in Mobile GulfQuest in Mobile-040062GulfQuest in MobileGulfQuest in Mobile
    The museum has five levels, or decks, each loaded with creative displays. There are four theaters that explore the Gulf's maritime history and Mobile's shipbuilding contribution during World War II. An interesting Ocean Planet Theater shows satellite data projected onto "Earth." On the top "Deck 5" visitors can "Take the Helm" with a simulator and navigate through the Port of Mobile.
    With all there is to do and see in Mobile, visit and find out why it is an interesting and also surprising.

All of the photographs on this page are for sale. Follow the link embedded in the images.

Thank you for reading this installment of my Travel Blog.
Any questions or comments, please email me.    

 

 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) alabama alabama photography attractions bellingrath dauphin island fort conde fort gaines gulfquest mobile mobile photography photography https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2020/11/surprise-it-s-mobile Thu, 19 Nov 2020 19:18:19 GMT
Secrets of My Best Selling Photographs: Memphis Skyline from the Sandy Shore in Arkansas https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2020/10/secrets-of-my-best-selling-photographs-memphis-from-across-the-mississippi-river Memphis is probably my favorite photography subject. And lately I have been producing panoramic images. This best selling photograph is called Memphis Skyline from the sandy shore in Arkansas.

Memphis Skyline from the sandy shore in Arkansas -210007-PanoMemphis Skyline from the sandy shore in Arkansas -210007-PanoMemphis from Across the Mississippi River

For many years I have been wanting to get a Memphis skyline from across the Mississippi River. Years ago when it was permissible, or at least nobody cared, to drive across a cotton field in Arkansas to the banks of the river and get photographs of the Memphis skyline, I did that. I even got photographs of the cotton field. No, it isn't permissible to drive across the private property, Understandable.

But within the last few years the pedestrian bridge (called The Big River Crossing) across the Mississippi River on the old Harahan Bridge has been constructed. That has opened a whole new perspective and new opportunities for photographing the river and the Memphis skyline. I've made several panoramic photographs from that vantage point. 

Big River CrossingMemphis from Big River Crossing Memphis from Big River Crossing And a BargeMemphis Skyline from the Big River CrossingMemphis Skyline from the Big River Crossing

Later, the Big River Trail, a bicycle and walking path added to the Big River Crossing on the Arkansas side and followed the river bank north just past the Hernando DeSoto Bridge. This is another new perspective and added opportunities for photographers.

That is the perspective for this best selling photograph, Memphis Skyline from the sandy shore in Arkansas. That particular day I adjusted my angle to include the large piece of driftwood into the composition. I made five photographs of the scene, changing the camera position each time left to right, slightly overlapping each subsequent image. In Photoshop Lightroom I combined the images letting the program create the panoramic photograph seen here.

At arts and craft shows I have several printed and framed. Usually I sell all that I bring. I think the addition of the driftwood makes this photograph stand out from my others. I'm appreciative of the good fortune of finding this unique perspective of the Memphis Skyline from the sandy shore in Arkansas, and of course, for the Big River Trail.

My other travel blogs are here. And my full website for all my photographic destination and art work available is here.

Any of my panoramic images are available as prints ordered directly from me, or as digital downloads from my website.

Thanks for visiting my Travel Blog.
 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) memphis memphis panoramas memphis photography panorama panoramic panoramic photography photography secret secrets tenenssee https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2020/10/secrets-of-my-best-selling-photographs-memphis-from-across-the-mississippi-river Thu, 01 Oct 2020 16:42:10 GMT
Secrets of My Best Selling Photographs: Bridge with Moon https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2020/9/secrets-of-my-best-selling-photographs-bridge-with-moon Hernando DeSoto Bridge with MoonHernando DeSoto Bridge with MoonHernando Desoto Bridge across the Mississippi River in Memphis Tennessee

     This photograph is without a doubt THE best-selling photograph at art shows that I have ever done. It has been on several CD and book covers, and countless other places (that I didn't authorize.) This is the secret of one of my best selling photographs.

BRIDGE WITH MOON

     I know the way I name my photography isn't catchy, but I call it like I see it. There's the bridge. And there's the moon. I chose to print this one in black and white. It really doesn't lose anything in color. It was pretty bland. I was on a hotel balcony overlooking the Mississippi River and the Hernando DeSoto Bridge in Memphis, Tennessee. It was early in the morning. Misty rain. Foggy. You can see the lights of traffic coming into Memphis for work.

     It's mostly luck and a little skill that makes an outstanding photograph. Timing is everything. Natural lighting is something God provides. I can't make it happen. This photograph was naturally lit. I just noticed it, set my exposure, composed it, and snapped the shutter release.Tripod? Maybe. Don't remember. Sometimes I come up with a special photograph. This one is special.

     Some people ask, "How did you get the moon there? Did you Photoshop it in?" Some say, "The Moon is never there. You must have added it." Check out this website, all you non-believers. The moon CAN be there.

     Photoshop? I use it. Fairly well, I think. But I did not Photoshop the moon into this photograph. Promise. Was it really there on the morning I made this photograph?

     Well, maybe all secrets shouldn't be revealed.

     Make a comment if you care to.

     Purchase my photograph if you care to.

     Visit my other Travel Blog posts...if you care to.

     Thanks for reading my blog.

     

 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) best seller bridge hernando desoto bridge memphis mississippi river moon moon set photograph tennessee https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2020/9/secrets-of-my-best-selling-photographs-bridge-with-moon Wed, 09 Sep 2020 15:53:40 GMT
Secrets of My Best Selling Photographs: Cypress Swamp https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2020/9/secrets-of-my-best-selling-photographs  I have been a photographer for years. And I have sold many of my photographs, either to illustrate my travel articles or at arts and craft shows. At those shows there are certain ones that have repeatedly sold and are still some of the favorites with buyers. This doesn't exactly follow my theme as a "travel" blog post, but I thought I would share those photographs and how they came to be. I'm am revealing secrets of my best selling photographs.

Because my travel writing has taken me to many places across this beautiful country and several other countries, I have seen some amazing places and had opportunity to photograph them. I live in West Tennessee so most of my travels have been in the Southeast. Tennessee is a beautiful state and has nearly every kind of terrain, except maybe an oceanfront. That being said, several of my best sellers are from Tennessee.

Two favorites of buyers were actually taken in or near Memphis. A prize winner at a Florida art show is one I call "Cypress Swamp." Not a classy name, but descriptive. I tend to call my photographs the way I see them. I guess I could have named this one "Silhouettes in the Marsh." But I didn't.

Cypress SwampCypress SwampCypress Swamp in West Tennessee

I manipulate a lot of my photography using Photoshop and Lightroom. But this photograph was made before I had Photoshop. As a matter of fact, it was made with a 6 x 7 Pentax film camera. I did scan it into my files but I did no manipulation. What you see is what I saw. 

Here's the Story of "Cypress Swamp"

I was on my way to Shelby Forest, actually Meeman Shelby Forest State Park, early. Before I retired, I was in the habit of getting up early. But after retiring, not so much. As I left the Memphis City Limits, I approached the Loosahatchie River. The back water was up among these cypress trees. The sun had just risen and a fog had settled over this scene I was witnessing. It caught my eye and I stopped. I took several frames. This is the result. No editing. No manipulation.

When I first looked at the image, I couldn't determine if there were reflections and where they began. Look closely.

Another thing I love about this photograph is the many shades of browns. I have revisited this site many times since I made this photograph, but never have I seen this image repeated. 

That is the story of "Cypress Swamp." My next blog post will be about the other Memphis photograph that has been a best seller.

If you would like to see my other travel posts, they are here.

More of my photography are at these sites: J & D Richardson and Pixels.com 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) artwork back water best photograph brown cypress cypress swamp cypress tree cypress trees loosahatchie memphis photo secrets photography secrets tan tennessee https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2020/9/secrets-of-my-best-selling-photographs Tue, 01 Sep 2020 15:10:58 GMT
Me and My RV Dreams https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2020/8/me-and-my-rv-dreams Like many fifty-something or sixty-something year old folks, I have been dreaming of owning a motorhome for years. Now the nearness of the day that I can actually take advantage of a motorhome, or afford one, is fast approaching, I cannot decide if I want to invest in one or not. Maybe you share my concerns.

Nice RV like I want

Here are the points of my consideration. The type motorhome I want costs a lot of money. Will I travel that much? Will it be cost effective? Where will I park it when it is not on the road? How will I maintain and service it?

Big questions. Large RV’s do cost a lot of money. The fact that they are self-contained “homes” with a motor means they are fully equipped with every convenience imaginable. That costs money. The price ranges of motorhomes are from nearly $100,000 to well over $400,000 for new ones. Used ones are, of course, cheaper. That’s the price of a nice house. How many nights could I stay in very nice hotels for that amount of money? A lot.

I am a traveler so I do not think I would have difficulty taking advantage of the motorhome. Whether it would pay for itself in savings at RV parks is another consideration. After all, it does cost to park those things overnight at most campgrounds. The nightly rate ranges from $15 – 50. Motels are not much more than that. And there is the upkeep and maintenance of the motorhome. Where to get it serviced?

Linn Cove Viaduct along the Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina 065RV owners can take off whenever the mood strikes.   TX-LlanoCnty_141_"Our RV" in the Texas Hill Country

For those reasons I doubt if anyone could say owning a motorhome is cost effective unless they live in it six or seven months out of the year, or are full-timers. When it is not on the road, like most people whose neighborhood association does not allow motorhomes parked at their homes, the expense of storing it can be as high as $100 or more monthly. Another expense.

But the convenience of traveling in a motorhome sways me to believe it is worth all the expense, especially if I would be taking it out more than two or three times a month. The convenience of pulling off the road anytime I wanted to make a trip to the restroom without having to wait for a rest area. The convenience of stretching my legs while my wife is taking a turn at the wheel. The convenience of “raiding the fridge” anytime. The convenience of not having to pack for every trip. The convenience of knowing you have a comfortable bed to sleep in at the end of the day. No worry of bed bugs.

These are the points I need to consider: the conveniences and the inconveniences. The cost and cost-effectiveness. That might determine if buying an RV, or motorhome, is a worth it. Until I make my decision, I will rent a motorhome a few more times to help make. Hopefully, I won’t spend more money renting one than it would cost to buy one.

TN_Townsend_RV at KOA Townsend-8260036Here we are renting a Class C MotorhomeIn Townsend Tennessee
 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) advantages of motorhome camping motorhome RV https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2020/8/me-and-my-rv-dreams Sat, 15 Aug 2020 15:24:07 GMT
Reelfoot Lake - Its Legends and Cypress Trees https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2020/8/reelfoot-lake---its-legends-and-cypress-trees Reelfoot Lake SunsetReelfoot Lake at Sunset The legend says that Reelfoot Lake was formed because of love. An Indian chief named Reelfoot took away the maiden from a rival neighboring tribe. The angry father prayed that his loss would be avenged. During the wedding ceremony a great rumbling of the earth caused the ground to swallow Reelfoot’s entire tribe. The result was the formation of Reelfoot Lake. Such was its legendary origin. Whether or not it was because of love, the lake was formed in the winter of 1811-12 by a tremendous earthquake.

The scenic beauty of the Earthquake Lake, or Reelfoot Lake, with its plentiful Bald Cypress trees and its aquatic plants is made even more appealing by the fact that it is the largest natural lake in Tennessee. Its scenery and wildlife draw many visitors to enjoy its nature, hunting and fishing and other forms of outdoor recreation. 

DSC_2255Cypress Trees and Lily Pads2255 Located in the extreme northwest corner of the state, Reelfoot Lake is composed of approximately 25,000 acres (15,000 of those are water) with 280 acres around the lake set aside as a state park with many attractions for its visitors.

Perhaps the next most notable attraction to Reelfoot Lake State Park (other than its origin) is its population of Bald Eagles, which increases from December to March because of migrations. During these winter months Bald Eagle watchers and admirers visit Reelfoot Lake in large numbers. Naturalists conduct eagle watch tours from the Visitor Center.

untitled-2150008-2uReelfoot Bald Eagle0008-2OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The Visitor Center on the south side of the lake also has many programs on the natural and cultural history of Reelfoot. There is a rehabilitation area for eagles and hawks where visitors can observe wildlife close-up. A boardwalk extends out into the lake among cypress trees and permits visitors to get a closer look at the many native plants and animals. Guided pontoon boat tours of the lake make further exploration of the wonders of the lake possible. The tours are conducted from May through September. 

A192 Great Blue Heron SanibelGreat Blue Heron Sanibel A192 Owl in Captivity

Visitors find Reelfoot Lake very scenic and enticing. Its shallowness and cypress tree-lined shores make it especially picturesque. In seemingly open portions of the lake cypress trees are surrounded by lily pads and the lake can be deceptively shallow. Truly it is scenic, but it can be dangerous for boaters unfamiliar with its waters.       

To get to the south side of Reelfoot Lake from Tiptonville take State Highway 21/22 east from the intersection of Highway 78. The Visitor Center is about a mile east of that intersection. Around the Visitor Center and along Highways 21 and 22, motels, restaurants, campgrounds, and resorts await visitors. The resorts on Reelfoot can arrange guided fishing and hunting trips and eagle watch and sightseeing tours on the lake. Package deals are available at most of the resorts. 

Adjacent to the park are two national wildlife refuges (Reelfoot Lake and Lake Isom). The excellent waterfowl habitat that is provided by the proximity of these refuges makes the migration of waterfowl another important attraction. Waterfowl watching and hunting are popular activities on the lake.

Side trips to the nearby national wildlife refuges enhance a visit to the area. An auto tour encircles Reelfoot Lake (a pamphlet is available at the Visitor Center). The brochure shows points of interest and has maps of the wildlife refuges and hiking trails that are closed to vehicles. A shorter auto tour of Grassy Island near Walnut Log is also available and is very rewarding. The route extends into the wildlife refuge and terminates at the lake where another boardwalk and an observation tower provide a more isolated look at the flora of Reelfoot.   

A variety of recreational opportunities are available at Reelfoot Lake State Park. Cross-country bike enthusiasts can try a couple of overland trails. Although there are no designated bike trails on the park, a bike ride around Reelfoot Lake is approximately 50 miles and goes by several areas of the lake as well as the Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge. There are longer biking trails that incorporate a portion of Reelfoot Lake. A section of the Mississippi River (Bike) Trail begins at the Reelfoot Visitor Center and goes to the Visitor Center on Mud Island in Memphis (approximately 177 miles). The Mississippi River Trail (MRT) is a seven state bike route that will eventually offer over 1200 miles of bicycling adventure. Stretching from the northern terminus at St. Genevieve, Missouri to New Orleans, Louisiana the MRT will go through portions of Missouri, southern Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. 

A canoe trail to the Heron Rookery may be of interest. This area is accessible by canoe only during high water, usually in late winter and spring. Check status before making the trip. Guided canoe trips can be scheduled for groups with their own canoes. Reelfoot Lake is an outstanding canoe destination with its cypress trees, abundant flowering plants, and its wildlife.

DSC_2200A Heron and a Cypress Tree2200

Reelfoot Lake is one of Tennessee's natural wonders. Its scenic beauty and abundant wildlife entice visitors to sample the wonders. The activities of eagle watching or other wildlife watching, hunting, fishing, and just relaxing and admiring the lake will keep those same visitors busy and happy. 

Check out more of my Travel Blogs.

Another Reelfoot Lake Blog at Travel Art Pix.

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) eagles earthquake lake herons indian legends lake legends reelfoot reelfoot lake tenenssee https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2020/8/reelfoot-lake---its-legends-and-cypress-trees Thu, 06 Aug 2020 04:33:10 GMT
A Somewhat Loop Route to the National Parks in Arizona and Utah https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2020/8/a-somewhat-loop-route-to-the-national-parks-in-arizona-and-utah There are few places in the Western U.S. that has a concentration of national parks than along the border of Arizona and Utah. And a convenient route that almost makes a loop allows visiting all these parks possible with a minimum of traveling.

Arizona has its Grand Canyon, both the South and North Rims, and the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. Its neighbor, Utah, has Bryce and Zion National Parks. Spurs to the "somewhat' loop can take in the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest to the east of Flagstaff, the slot canyons of Antelope Valley and Monument Valley east of Page, Arizona, and Lake Powell to the north of Page. Utah has Bryce and Zion National Parks. With all there is to see in this section of the West, it should be on every traveler's itinerary to visit the "somewhat" loop to the national parks of Arizona and Utah.

For visitors traveling from the southwest and entering through Flagstaff, Arizona, the Grand Canyon would be the most reasonable first stop, and probably the most anticipated, since everyone compares all national parks to the Grand Canyon. For good reason!

The Grand Canyon is, pardon the expression, the granddaddy of them all. The South Rim, the most visited of the two, is open all year. The North Rim is closed during the winter because of its 1000-foot higher altitude. The Colorado River at the canyon's floor flows 1450 miles from Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado to the Gulf of California. The Canyon is eighteen miles wide at the maximum and one mile deep. The North Rim is ten miles from the South Rim as the crow flies, 215 miles by road. 

AZ Grand Canyon_079South Rim of the Grand Canyon_079

Upon entering the park at the South Rim, the first opportunity to see the Canyon is at Mather Point (elevation 7120 feet). The visitor center is located here and a free shuttle carries visitors through the park and it is advisable to avail themselves of the ride to avoid the crowds and parking.

Numerous activities are doable at the park. Many trails, mule rides, and helicopter rides into the canyon are popular. But most of the visitors just enjoy the view from atop the canyon. The South Rim has more activities and more opportunities for viewing, but the North Rim is more isolated, a point many visitors enjoy. 

Page and Glen Canyon

If traveling from the South Rim to the North, the only route is the scenic State Highway 64 to US 89 through Page, Arizona. At the intersection of US 89 and US 160 near Tuba City, there is an option to visit Monument Valley, which affords the iconic vistas of many Western movies. The entrance to the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is on Goulding, Utah.  An entry fee allows for a rough 17-mile auto tour -- not recommended for RV's, trailers, or motorhomes, but worth it for smaller vehicles. A shortcut via SR 98 from Monument Valley to Page saves about fifty miles, but it also misses some beautiful scenery of Marble Canyon. 

Page is a large city with all amenities and is located in the Lake Powell and Glen Canyon area. Stop by the Glen Canyon Dam and Clark Hayden Visitor Center for information of the dam. Just outside Page to the east (along SR 98 from Monument Valley) a popular stop is the slot canyons of Antelope Valley. Guided 90-minute tours are available. 

AZ AntelopeCanyon_017Arizona's Antelope Canyon_017

Bryce and Zion National Parks

Traveling westward from Page along US 89 to Kanab, Utah, which would be a good stopover and a reasonable base to visit Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. Locals refer to Kanab as "Little Hollywood" because of its history as a filming location for western movies and television series.

To get to Bryce Canyon National Park from Kanab, use US 89 north for about sixty miles to SR 12. Follow signs to the entrance to Bryce Canyon. 

Every national park has its unique features and Bryce Canyon has its hoodoos, which are tall, thin spires of rock consisting of sedimentary rock and are topped by harder stone, giving the appearace of a cap. Bryce Canyon has an 18-mile driving route that runs in a north-south direction. The park brochure recommends going to the southernmost Rainbow Point, and stopping at the overlooks, or points of interest, on the way back northward. That is for safety's sake because all the turnoffs are on the eastern side of the route.

Besides the spectacular views from the overlooks, there are fifty miles of hiking trails, ranger-led talks on the ecology and geology of the area, and a visitor center. Many sites at the campgrounds are on a first-come, first-served basis, but many can be reserved online or by calling the toll-free number (877-444-6777).

Backtrack to US 89 south to SR 9 near Kanab. The eastern entrance to Zion National Park is accessible from SR 9. Travel along SR 9 (Zion - Mt Carmel Highway) involves passing through a tunnel that has definite vehicle size limitations.  The northern entrance is from Exit 40 along Interstate 15. At the northern entrance is a short, but scenic five-mile auto route, called Kolob Canyon Road, which begins at the visitor center. 

The majority of park activity takes place through the eastern entrance, which can be accessed from the west. The national park visitor center, the Zion Human History Museum, overlooks, and trailheads are located in this portion of the park which is along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. 

Zion is a hikers dream. There are miles and miles of trails and any combination from easy to strenuous. The options are almost endless. Some of the lower trails are wheelchair accessible and the park's shuttle system stops at many trailheads. 

One of the spurs from this 'somewhat' loop is from Flagstaff eastward along I-40 at the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park.  At the main entrance an easy 28-mile auto route that takes visitors past some of the most colorful land formations in the country and along sites that contain a large amount of petrified wood. There are pullouts and parking areas for short walks to points of interest. 
Some points on national park travel

AZ PaintedDesert_005Painted Desert of Arizona_005

AZPetrifiedFores_042Petrified Forest of Arizona_042

During the summer months most of these national parks are crowded with visitors. Campers should be aware that all of these attractions have good campgrounds and take reservations. Plan ahead as long as possible. 

The national parks have a program for visitors over 62 years of age. A Senior Pass costs only $80 for a lifetime or $20 for an annual and allows this pass holder to get into any national fee area. It includes anyone in the same vehicle to get the benefit.
    

For more please visit my Travel Blog.

For more photography, please visit my Fine Art America site.

        

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) arizona grand canyon monument valley painted desert petrified forest photography slot canyon utah https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2020/8/a-somewhat-loop-route-to-the-national-parks-in-arizona-and-utah Sat, 01 Aug 2020 16:28:24 GMT
Dismals Canyon of Northern Alabama https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2020/7/dismals-canyon-of-northern-alabama Dismals Canyon of Alabama, Fat Mans Misery 8603Dismals Canyon of Alabama, Fat Mans Misery 8603

Northern Alabama does not cover a lot of territory. The entire state of Alabama at its widest point is close to two hundred miles east to west and about three hundred fifteen miles north to south. Its northern-most point is only about 140 miles across and broadens to around 155 miles. This small part of the state has many attractions that visitors could enjoy without requiring extensive travel time. 

One of these attractions, Dismals Canyon, is a canyon, but is definitely not dismal. It is located just off US Highway 43 on Franklin County Road 8, near the town of Phil Campbell  and south of Russellville. A turnoff four miles south of the intersection of State Highway 13 and US 43 onto CR 8 takes visitors to the entrance of Dismals Canyon. 

AL_Dismals_Paths lead visitors between and around huge moss-covered rocks-8575Paths lead visitors between and around huge moss-covered rocks

The National Park Service named the 85-acre privately owned and operated parcel of northwest Alabama as a National Natural Landmark (NNL) in 1974. There are several good reasons for that designation -- its biological diversity and its geologic and human histories. The origin of its name, Dismals Canyon, is unknown. According to the website (www.dismalscanyon.com), it is believed that the canyon got its dreary name from the area's early Scotch-Irish settlers who could have named the canyon after a craggy spot in Scotland called "Dismals." Another theory is that the settlers felt uneasy about the rugged bluffs and dark grottos of the canyon and thought the place "dismal".

Explorers have found pottery and arrowheads made by Paleo Indians, the first people known to inhabit northwest Alabama, on the canyon floor. They also found an old musket and cot in one of the dark spots of the canyon. Also, remnants of a water mill, cotton gin, and a sawmill built by early settlers were found in the canyon. So, humans throughout history have used the canyon for habitation and refuge.

Within the canyon are two waterfalls. Rainbow Falls, located at the beginning of the canyon, is formed as the Dismal Branch of Bear Creek drops fifteen feet into the canyon. The second smaller one, Secret Falls, is from a feeder stream emptying into the Dismal Branch. 

Dismals Canyon, Rainbow Falls 8541Dismals Canyon, Rainbow Falls 8541

Within the canyon is a stand of old-growth virgin timber composed mainly of Hemlock, Tulip Poplar, Sweetgum, Bigleaf Magnolia, and Beech. There have been identified more than 350 different species of flora by botanists that explored the canyon. At the end of the canyon one Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) towers above the forested floor. It is called the Champion Tree, measuring 138 feet tall with a circumference of eight feet nine inches and a crown spread of fifty feet. 

Another thing that sets the Canyon apart is the presence of Dismalites, which are actually larvae of a fungal gnat (scientific name: Orphelia fultoni.) They are very small, and the salt on human fingers will kill the "glow worms," as they are called. They has been documented from sites across the southern Appalachians. Some of the most well-known sites include the western North Carolina mountains, Tennessee’s Hazard Cave, and Dismals Canyon. One of the only other glow-worms known on the planet lives in cave systems within New Zealand. 

Some of the key features of Dismals Canyon are waterfalls, the Champion Tree, and several formations that have been used by former residents, whether they were Indians, early settlers, or outlaws. Rainbow Falls was the source of power for a mill that was destroyed by a flood about a half century ago. Remains of the timbers and millstone are scattered along the canyon floor.

There is a Pulpit Rock, Indian Head Rock, Fat Man's Misery, Stove Pipe, and Witches Cavern. All are formations of rocks in the canyon and all have significance. For instance, the Kitchen, which is a partially covered flat area that is protected by large rocks, was used by the Chickasaw Indians for cooking and tribal rituals. Since there is no written records about the early times, the information and legends were handed down through the generations through word of mouth. 

Dismals Canyon of Alabama, Kitchen area 8571Dismals Canyon of Alabama, Kitchen area 8571

Dismals Canyon has a fairly well marked trail through the rocky crevices and along the stream. Visitors enter the canyon by going down a series of stairs descending about thirty feet. The path leads along the stream to the end of the canyon, where a short wooden bridge crosses the stream. The path continues back to the point of origin near Rainbow Falls.

Although North Alabama does not cover a lot of territory, there are a number of interesting places in this section of the state. One of the most interesting, and best kept secrets, is Dismals Canyon.  But definitely not dismal.
 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) alabama america beaten canyon dismalites dismals dismals canyon glow worms hiking off path rocky travel usa https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2020/7/dismals-canyon-of-northern-alabama Fri, 31 Jul 2020 14:05:40 GMT
Memphis’ Big River Crossing https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2019/10/memphis-big-river-crossing One of Memphis’ most popular attractions for visitors and residents alike is the pedestrian bridge across the Mississippi River. Named the Big River Crossing, it opened October 22, 2016 and is the longest public pedestrian bridge across the river. At nearly a mile in length, it is also the country’s longest active combination rail, bicycle, and pedestrian bridge.

Big River Crossing 099Big River Crossing
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pedestrians can walk, bicyclists can ride, and skate boarders can do their thing from Tennessee to Arkansas across the Mississippi River on the Big River Crossing. The walkway is attached to the near side facing downtown Memphis of the still in use 1916 railroad bridge called the Harahan, which has an interesting history.

There are four bridges across the Mississippi River at Memphis. The Frisco Bridge was built in 1895 for the railroad. The Harahan Bridge was originally a railroad bridge, but added two automobile lanes on either side of the rail tracks in 1917. Wooden planks were added atop metal girders on each side of the bridge. The planks carried single file traffic in each direction.
Big River Crossing 099Big River Crossing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1949 the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge opened and still carries Interstate 55 across the big river. Then the Hernando DeSoto Bridge, or the Big M because of its shape, opened in 1973, and is utilized by I-40.
Big River Crossing 099The Hernando DeSoto Bridge at Memphis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Users of the Big River Crossing can watch barges and riverboats navigate under the bridge and get great views of the Memphis skyline.

Parking is available in the nearby Martyr' Big River Crossing 099Big River Crossing s Park. 

See more Memphis Photography!

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) bridge harahan harahan bridge memphis mississippi mississippi river pedestrian pedestrian bridge river tennessee https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2019/10/memphis-big-river-crossing Thu, 17 Oct 2019 15:44:07 GMT
The Scenic Blue Ridge Parkway https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2019/7/the-scenic-blue-ridge-parkway Anyone who has traveled much has probably been on part or all of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Parkway, part of the National Park Service, runs 469 miles over the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This national park is the longest and narrowest in the world with no traffic lights and a maximum speed limit of 45 miles per hour. The two-lane paved road is well maintained. It also goes through some of the most beautiful scenery in the United States, and there is no fee to enter.

Blue Ridge Parkway Indian Paintbrush Jackson County NC SC264.jpgIndian Paintbrush along the Blue Ridge Parkway of Jackson County The Parkway begins at the southern terminus of Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive in Virginia and ends at U.S. 441 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, North Carolina.

Four lodges and six restaurants are scattered along the Parkway. There are nine campgrounds to serve the visitor from early May through the fall color season.

There are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy while on the Parkway. Bicycling, hiking, photography, and bird watching are favorite things to do. Hundreds of overlooks provide pullouts to enjoy the views across the mountains and valleys. Use the mileposts as guides and handy brochures to find attractions along the way. There are too many notable attractions on the Parkway to mention each, but everyone has favorites.

The Peaks of Otter, at mile marker 86, have been dominant features of the landscape in this part of Virginia for centuries. Roanoke Mountain and the city of Roanoke are at milepost 120. Mabry Mill at milepost 176.1 is a restored gristmill and sawmill with a woodworking and blacksmith shop. Old time skills like basket weaving, seat caning, spinning, and weaving are demonstrated.

 

Doughton Park overlook along  Blue Ridge Parkway Western North Carolina 001.jpgDoughton Park overlook along Blue Ridge Parkway Western North Carolina Crossing over into North Carolina between the 210 and 220 mileposts, the High Country of North Carolina lives up to its name. Towns like Boone and Blowing Rock have amenities worthy of a stopover. One of the most popular attractions on the Parkway is the 5946-foot Grandfather Mountain. A nature museum, hiking trails, a restaurant, and a mile-high swinging bridge top off the mountain’s features. Perhaps the crowning point of the Parkway, the Linn Cove Viaduct, is an engineering marvel. At milepost 304.4, the 1243-foot-long bridge, finished in 1983, was needed because the traditional method of cutting a road would cause damage to the rocky, natural environment. Linville Falls State Park (milepost 316.3) is just off the Parkway and has a campground with full hookups. Another state park along the Parkway is Mount Mitchell (mm 355.4). At 6684 feet, it is the highest peak east of the Rockies. Asheville, North Carolina, is accessible from the Parkway at mileposts 382 through 393.

 

 

 

The North Carolina section of the Parkway is much more mountainous than its Virginia counterpart, but both states have their special features.

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) blue ridge parkway grandfather mountain linn cove viaduct linnville falls north carolina https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2019/7/the-scenic-blue-ridge-parkway Mon, 15 Jul 2019 19:37:41 GMT
What’s Up in the U.P.? Discovering Michigan’s Upper Peninsula https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2019/6/what-s-up-in-the-u-p-discovering-michigan-s-upper-peninsula Unless you are a “Yooper” – a congenial name referring to residents of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, you cannot appreciate the area’s scenic beauty and its natural resources without visiting this state’s northernmost section. Because the Upper Peninsula contains almost one-third of the land area of the state of Michigan with just three percent of the total population, it is an excellent recipe for great recreation away from the crowds. 
The Upper Peninsula is composed of 16,452 square miles. The maximum east-west distance in the Upper Peninsula is about 320 miles with the maximum north-south distance being about 125 miles. It is bounded on the north by Lake Superior and on the south by Lake Michigan and a small eastern portion by Lake Huron. It has about 1700 miles of continuous shoreline with the Great Lakes. There are about 4300 inland lakes and 12,000 miles of streams. About one third of the peninsula is government owned recreational forest land, including the Ottawa and Hiawatha National Forests, and the Lake Superior State Forest. All that adds up to fantastic opportunities for outdoor recreation. The outdoorsperson will find a mecca if they enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, wildlife watching, hunting, outdoor photography, wildflower seeking, snowmobiling, or cross-country skiing. The history buff can appreciate the colorful mining and Native American background of the Upper Peninsula. The naturalist will also be in pure heaven with the abundant forests and the wide variety of flora and fauna. In addition, there are lighthouses, waterfalls, state parks, and an extensive list of things to do and places to visit in this unique region.
 
Another reason for the large variety of activities and attractions of the UP, as it is most often called, is its diverse landscape. It is divided between the flat, swampy areas in the east and the steeper, more rugged land in the western part. The northern Lake Superior coastline has a distinctive rough and rocky appearance. The southern Lake Michigan coastline is less rugged and noted for its beaches. The land and climate of the UP are not suitable for much agriculture. The economy has been based on logging and mining. Most mines have closed since their heydays from 1890 to 1920, and now the land is heavily forested with logging still a major industry, as is tourism.
 
The Keweenaw Peninsula
 
At the northernmost part of the UP is the Keweenaw Peninsula. It projects into Lake Superior and was the site of the first copper boom in the United States. Called “Copper Country,” it has a colorful history of hardworking immigrants who carved themselves a place in this wild country. Immigrants were mainly Finnish, Swedish, Cornish (Cornwall, England), and German.
 
Copper Harbor is a small town at the extreme point of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The town's name gives evidence to the former use of its harbor as a port for shipping copper mined from local deposits during the mid-19th century. That economic activity no longer exists, and the town's harbor is mostly used for recreational endeavors such as snowmobiling and sightseeing. There is a ferry that connects Isle Royale National Park to northern Michigan.
 
The town is in an area of scenic beauty. It is the northern terminus of US Highway 41 and the eastern terminus of State Route 26. Both approaches to Copper Harbor, the shore hugging  State Route 26 from Eagle Harbor and the more inland, rugged US 41, offer excellent views of the countryside, as does the 8.5-mile Brockway Mountain Drive off M 26, which has several pullouts that also afford scenic views. At the top of Brockway Mountain (1328 feet) visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of Lake Superior and some of the inland lakes of the Keweenaw.
 
Near Copper Harbor is Fort Wilkins State Historic Site, which a restored 1844 frontier army base originally built to protect the port in the early years of the copper mining boom. Also, one can follow Manganese Road from the town's center to Manganese Falls and Lake, and the Estivant Pines, among the oldest and tallest remaining strands of virgin white pines located in Michigan. The name comes from the Frenchman Edouard Estivant who originally purchased the tract in 1870. The Estivant Pines Wilderness Nature Sanctuary includes 350 acres of virgin northern hardwoods, interspersed with groves of eastern white pine. Three loop trail combinations give the hiker a choice of one mile to two and a half mile loops over rugged terrain. Besides the old growth pines, there are at least 256 plant species with ten species of orchids, and some eighty five bird species and large mammals. The trail is a part of the Michigan Nature Association Sanctuary.
 
Estivant Pines is two and a half miles south of the Copper Harbor town center on the Manganese Road. Other points of interest of the Keweenaw Peninsula include the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse, the Delaware Copper Mine, and the Great Sand Bay. The Copper Harbor Lighthouse is a definite must-see, but can only be visited via boat. Tours leave from the Copper Harbor Marina daily and are inexpensive. 
Copper Harbor Lighthouse Copper Harbor Copper Harbor Lighthouse Copper Harbor
Lighthouses are very popular destinations whether accessible by foot, car, or boat. The Upper Peninsula has over fifty lighthouses and range lights waiting to be discovered. Of course, many are not opened to the public and many are only accessible by boat, but that is half the fun in discovering lighthouses – getting to them. Range lights differ from lighthouses in that range lights are in pairs. Range lights are used to precisely align a vessel within a narrow channel such as in a river or entrance into a bay. The one closer to the vessel is named the beacon or front range; the furthest away is called the rear range. The rear range light is always taller than the front range light.
 
The largest cities of the Keweenaw are Houghton (pronounced Hoe’-ton) and Hancock, and they happen to be separated only by the Keweenaw Waterway and connected by the unique Portage Lift Bridge. Remnants of the once thriving warehouses line the waterway, but the waterfront is seeing new life with restorations.
 
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
 
Along Lake Superior from Munising to Grand Marais the thirty-five miles stretch of coastline has a designation of a national lakeshore – one of only four with that distinction. The other three are the Sleeping Bear Dunes on Lake Michigan, the Indiana Dunes in Indiana on southern Lake Michigan, and the Apostle Island National Lakeshore on southern Lake Superior in Wisconsin. The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of the outstanding natural attractions of the Upper Peninsula. The sandstone cliffs tower up to two hundred feet above Lake Superior’s surface. The cliffs are “painted” by the mineral deposits in the rocks. Because of the weather, the erosion, and the pounding of the water, the cliffs have been molded and carved to take on a variety of shapes, most of which have names, like Miner’s Castle, Lovers Leap, Indian Head, Grand Portal, Chapel Rock, Battleship Rock, and Indian Drum. A three-hour boat cruise leaving from the Munising harbor is an excellent way to see the Pictured Rocks up close and from the water.
Many of the features of Pictured Rocks are accessible by a short hike or can be driven to get a different perspective. Miner’s Castle, for instance, has a picnic area, interpretive center, and trails leading to overlooks, and is the most photographed of the Pictured Rocks formations. Most of the beaches, waterfalls, and other formations require hiking longer distances. But any endeavor is worth the effort.
 
The Hiawatha National Forest is another of the choice destinations for visitors enjoying the outdoors adventure available in the Upper Peninsula. There are actually two large units of the national forest – the West Unit is located between Munising, Manistique, and Rapid River; the East Unit is between St Ignace and Sault Ste Marie. With over one million acres there are six wilderness areas and five National Wild and Scenic Rivers within its borders and provides a playground for year round outdoor activity. Hiawatha touches all of the three Great Lakes of the UP and contains a 26-mile scenic byway along Lake Superior’s south shore.
 
Whitefish Point
 
On a piece of land jutting out into Lake Superior separating it from Whitefish Bay is Whitefish Point and another of the interesting destinations of the UP. At Whitefish Point, or the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes”, as it is dubiously dubbed, is the site of the first lighthouse on Lake Superior and also, appropriately, the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. Within the museum are interesting artifacts of various shipping disasters, including the Edmund Fitzgerald, about which a song was written. Incidentally, the cause of its sinking is still a mystery.
 
Getting around the UP is mostly via two-lane highways. The only interstate in the UP is I-75 connecting Sault Ste Marie on the Canadian border with the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Of course, I-75 continues southward to the Everglades of Florida. The main east-west routes are US 41 in the north and midsection and US 2 in the southern part. US 41 ends in Copper Harbor and extends southward through Menominee on the border with Wisconsin.

Cuisine in the UP has as many flavors as its founding nationalities, and then some. While in Copper Harbor try the Harbor Haus with its great views of Lake Superior and it offers excellent German dishes in addition to the standard fare. One item all visitors must try when in the UP is the pasty (pronounced pass’-tee). The pasty is a simple food. It originated in Cornwall, England, an area still known for its pasties. The pasty started life as a working lunch for tin miners to take underground with them. Easy to carry, the pasty could be eaten even with dirty fingers. While it does not do justice to its taste, the pasty can be described as a “pot pie without the pot”, or a smaller, more portable meat pie. Basically, a pasty consists of vegetables and meat wrapped in a crust.

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan covers a large area with many things to do and places to see. The Keweenaw Peninsula, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Hiawatha National Forest, the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, and Whitefish Point are some of the prime destinations of the UP for visitors that enjoy outdoor recreation. But, there are many other opportunities and attractions too many to list. Several museums give insight to the UP’s mining and shipping heritage, like the Iron Mountain Iron Mine and Museum, the Michigan Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee, and the Marquette Maritime Museum. And then there is the U.S National Ski Hall of Fame. Where else but in the UP? Other notable attractions include the incredible Mackinac Bridge and the Soo Locks, the town of Calumet, headquarters for the Keweenaw Historical Park, the Bays de Noc, which are numerous bays clustered near the southeastern UP cities of Escanaba, Gladstone, and Rapid River. The Bays de Noc has 211 miles of shoreline with beautiful sand beaches, marinas, and campsites. There are golf courses and thousands of acres of water to enjoy all types of nautical activities.

With all the possibilities for recreation and discovery, the Upper Peninsula is a surefire destination for the active and inquisitive traveler. Explore the UP. You might even like it so much, you would become a Yooper.
 
 
 
 
 
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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) copper harbor eagle harbor lighthouse Keweenaw lake superior lighthouse Michigan pasty pictured rocks UP upper peninsula whitefish https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2019/6/what-s-up-in-the-u-p-discovering-michigan-s-upper-peninsula Sat, 01 Jun 2019 13:43:29 GMT
Tennessee's Tri-Cities: Bristol, Kingsport, Johnson City https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2018/5/tennessees-tri-cities-bristol-kingsport-johnson-city  
Tennessee's Tri-Cities area is a historical and outdoorsy kind of destination. Actually, it is several destinations rolled into one. The proximity of the Tri-Cities, plus a couple more, like Jonesborough (Tennessee's oldest city), Greeneville, and Elizabethton, make it easy to get around and explore its history and good nature. The upper east Tennessee Tri-Cities are Bristol, Kingsport, and Johnson City. Think of a triangle with each city at one of the angles and Interstate 81 somewhat bisecting the triangle.
Everyone knows one thing that Bristol has to offer -- the Bristol Motor Speedway, but there is more to this town shared by Tennessee and Virginia. The Speedway has its annual NASCAR races and its Dragway. At the farthest point north on the triangle, the Bristol Caverns and the Burger Bar await visitors. The Caverns are just outside the city. It has steps leading deep inside and then paved walkways wind through its chambers and along the banks of a secret underground river which created these caverns. After taking in the Caverns, check out the Burger Bar, which is rumored to be the restaurant where Hank Williams ate his last meal. It is actually in Bristol, Virginia, but since both states share the name, it is difficult to know when you are in Tennessee or Virginia. The Burger Bar has been in operation serving delicious burgers since 1942.
At the western-most point of the Tri-Cities triangle is Kingsport. Visitors can enjoy the Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium, the largest city park in Tennessee. Within its 3550 acres are a 44-acre lake, 38 miles of hiking trails, and a nature center featuring a state-of-the-art planetarium that will dazzle even hard core planetarium-goers. There are also native animals housed around the park, including gray wolves, bobcats, deer, and birds of prey.
The Exchange Place is a living history farm from the 1800s. It once was a self-supporting plantation and was built along the Old Stage Road. It is thought that the name originated from "exchanging" horses and currency due to its location.
Not to be out done, Johnson City, at the southern point of the triangle, has its historical points of interest. Rocky Mount, a living history museum set during the Revolutionary War, served as the territorial capital from 1790 to 1792. Between Johnson City and Elizabethton, which lies just to the northeast, is Sycamore Shoals of the Watauga River and the national historic site of the same name. It was the original muster site of the Overmountain Men, patriots who fought a British army at the battle of King’s Mountain. Along with the historic shoals, the park includes a visitor center and museum, the reconstructed Fort Watauga, and the Carter Mansion at another location in Elizabethton. The Carter Mansion was built between 1775 and 1780 by John and Landon Carter, who were both prominent in political and military affairs, and served during the American Revolution. The Mansion is the oldest frame house standing in Tennessee. When Tennessee was admitted into the United States in 1796, Carter County was named for the son, Landon Carter, and the county seat of Elizabethton was named for his wife, Elizabeth Maclin Carter.
Jonesborough, just west of Johnson City and not really part of the triangle, or the Tri-Cities, is Tennessee's oldest town and a walk along its bricked streets and restored buildings will prove it. Travelers can take a stroll past the Chester Inn Museum (built in 1797) to the International Storytelling Center, where the annual National Storytelling Festival is held the first full weekend in October. Across the street is the prominent Washington County Court House. The first courthouse, a log structure, was built in 1779. The current courthouse was built in 1913 and is the centerpiece for the other historic buildings. Jonesborough has many bed and breakfast inns for visitors to experience the oldest town.
 
This part of Tennessee has a lot of "oldest" things. Because farther southwest from Jonesborough is Greeneville, site of the oldest college in Tennessee -- Tusculum. The Doak House Museum and the Andrew Johnson Museum and Library are located at the college. Samuel Doak, being a Presbyterian minister and lover of higher education, had much to do with establishing early colleges in the area, and the 17th President of the United States called Greeneville home.  
 
Just southeast from one point of the triangle and Johnson City toward the North Carolina border is a very scenic area. Passing through the Cherokee National Forest to Roan Mountain State Park is a beautiful drive. Within the state park's 2006 acres are cabins available for overnight stays, excellent campsites for RVs and primitive camping, trout fishing opportunities, fourteen miles of hiking and biking trails, and a century-old farmstead. The interpretive visitor center with an old fashioned gristmill stands beside the Doe River. The cabins are located in a forested section of the state park near the visitor center. 
A ten-mile drive to the top of the 6285-foot Roan Mountain provides a tremendous vista of the surrounding mountains and valleys. At the top of the Roan, where the Appalachian Trail crosses and North Carolina and Tennessee join, the rhododendron gardens are located and during the month of June the flowering shrubs bloom, making it a special place for visitors.
 
Besides Roan Mountain State Park, there are many spots that visitors can experience Northeast Tennessee's good nature and participate in their favorite outdoor adventures. That’s because Tennessee's Tri-Cities area is a historical and outdoorsy kind of destination.
 
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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) bristol johnson city kingsport nascar roan mountain state park tennessee tri-cities https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2018/5/tennessees-tri-cities-bristol-kingsport-johnson-city Wed, 30 May 2018 18:43:23 GMT
A Forrest Ride Through West Tennessee https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2018/5/a-forrest-ride-through-west-tennessee Tennessee is a great touring ground for Civil War enthusiasts. In fact, more conflicts took place in Tennessee than any other state except Virginia.  Tennessee’s significance in The War Between The States was due in large part to its critical river and railroad systems. In addition, because of the state's strategic position and shape, it was a natural pathway for defenders from the South and invaders from the North.
Cannons at Fort Donelson in Dover Tennessee Overlooking the Tennessee River 014Cannons at Fort Donelson in Dover Tennessee Overlooking the Tennessee River 014
Many generals took part in the Civil War on both sides. One in particular served in Tennessee and his battle route makes for an interesting tour. General Nathan Bedford Forrest made a name for himself as one of the most worrisome opponents for the Union army. He led a cavalry division and made raids against Union supply lines and often won decisive battles for the Confederate army.
 
A good introduction to General Forrest is at Fort Donelson near Paris, Tennessee, where he first distinguished himself in February, 1862. Fort Donelson sits on the banks of the Cumberland River, which was a major entry point of the Union naval forces. An overlook from the fort replicates the view from the Confederate cannon positions on the Cumberland River. Dover, a town near the fort, is the site of the Surrender House, as it is called. It was originally the Dover Hotel and is the location the surrender documents were signed by the commanding generals of both sides. Forrest was not a general at the time.
 
After the Union forces took Fort Donelson, Forrest took his forces to Nashville to defend Tennessee's capital. However, it was to no avail because Nashville was the first state capital to be captured by the Union forces.
 
Near the town of Camden is Nathan Bedford Forrest State Historic Park, obviously named for the General. On November 4, 1864, General Forrest attacked and destroyed the Union supply and munitions depot at (Old) Johnsonville across the Tennessee River from the state park. New Johnsonville has been rebuilt after Forrest's visit. His operations were concentrated along the river in the vicinity of the park and the nearby small town of Eva.
 
The park's Tennessee River Folklife Interpretive Center sits atop Pilot Knob, the point with the highest elevation in West Tennessee. The center features information on General Forrest, the Battle of Johnsonville, and the lifestyle of the residents on the Tennessee River.
 
Just south of Interstate 40 at exit 108 is the visitor center for Parkers Crossroads Battlefield. This is a relatively small battlefield, but there are trails with interpretive signs along the way. This battle occurred on December 31, 1862. General Forrest out-maneuvered the Union forces and withdrew south to Lexington and then across the Tennessee River. Both sides claimed victory, but the Confederate claims are more recognized.
Cannon at Parkers Crossroads 003Cannon at Parkers Crossroads 003
The Battle of Shiloh was fought on April 6 - 7, 1862, and was one of the bloodiest of the Civil War with over 23,000 casualties on both sides. The battlefield covers many square miles and has a printed tour that details the battle strategy and lists monuments with their significance. Even though Forrest was only a colonel at Shiloh, he was stationed as the rear guard and was protecting a field hospital. During fighting he was seriously wounded when a Union soldier fired his musket striking Forrest in his spine. However, Forrest survived the battle and the war.
 
There is much to see at Shiloh, including a national cemetery and many monuments to the generals and the states whose armies participated. The Union army called Shiloh the Battle of Pittsburg Landing, because it was their base of operations and landing site for river steamers carrying troops and supplies. The Confederates called it the Battle of Shiloh Church. The Shiloh Meeting House was occupied by both sides at differing times during the battle.
Shiloh BattlefieldShiloh Battlefield Shiloh BattlefieldShiloh Battlefield Shiloh BattlefieldShiloh Battlefield
Forty river miles north of Memphis is the site of another West Tennessee battle. Because of its strategic location to control traffic on the Mississippi River, Fort Pillow was attacked and captured by the Union army, which controlled it during most of the war. An exception to this control occurred for less than one day immediately after the Battle of Fort Pillow on April 12, 1864. General Forrest overran the fort and forced the Unions out. However, the same day the Confederates abandoned the fort. The only result of the battle was the temporary confusion of Union strategy.
 
Both the North and South agree that General Nathan Bedford Forrest was one of the greatest tactical officers in the Civil War. His campaigns took him across much of the state of Tennessee. From Fort Donelson southward along the path of the Tennessee River, to Shiloh National Military Park, there is plenty of history and scenery for visitors.
 
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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) battlefields civil war general forrest tennessee https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2018/5/a-forrest-ride-through-west-tennessee Fri, 18 May 2018 17:24:28 GMT
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore of Wisconsin https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2018/4/apostle-islands-national-lakeshore-of-wisconsin  
Apostle_Islands_National_Lakeshore_Visitor_Center
Locals say, when speaking of Lake Superior, "The lake is the boss!" There is a good reason for that. Lake Superior is generally considered to be the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area. It has an average depth of nearly 500 feet. It is the coldest and deepest of the Great Lakes. It stretches approximately 350 miles from west to east, and 160 miles north to south. Its shoreline is almost 2,800 miles long. As Rev. George Grant said in 1872, "Superior is a sea. It breeds storms and rain and fog like the sea....It is wild, masterful, and dreaded."
If Lake Superior is rough, stay on shore. But, if it is calm, it can be exciting, especially along Wisconsin's northern coastline where the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is located. A national lakeshore is operated by the National Park Service (NPS) and must be established by an act of the U.S. Congress. There are four national lakeshores, two on Lake Superior and two on Lake Michigan.


Lighthouses Lighthouses
The Apostle Islands are a group of twenty two islands in Lake Superior off the Bayfield Peninsula in northern Wisconsin. All the islands except for Madeline, the largest, are part of the National Lakeshore. They are known for their historic lighthouses, sandstone sea caves, and old-growth forests. The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore has more lighthouses than any other NPS area. There are eight historic lighthouses on six of the islands. For most of the century, the lighthouses have guided ships and boats through the rough waters of Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands.
 
The town of Bayfield serves as starting point for exploring the Apostle Islands. The small town has every amenity necessary for the boater and traveler -- restaurants, locally owned motels and inns (no big chains), and marinas. Bayfield is known for its good sailing due to the shelter offered by the Apostle Islands. The National Lakeshore headquarters and visitor center are also located in Bayfield.
 The Apostle Islands offer outstanding boating opportunities with its protected bays, public docks, and natural beauty. Public docks are found on thirteen of the islands. At some docks space is reserved  for NPS vessels and excursion boats. The remaining space is available to the public on a first come, first served basis for a small fee. There are also public boat launches in Bayfield and surrounding towns.
Bayfield, WisconsinDowntown Bayfield Wisconsin view of harbor at sunsise
The NPS does not recommend the use of boats smaller than sixteen feet for travel between islands. Smaller boats can be extremely hazardous when weather conditions become unfavorable. Before launching, as any wise boater knows, check lake conditions (especially on Lake Superior).
 
There are several ways to explore the Apostle Islands. Kayaks and personal water craft are popular. Tour boats are sometimes preferable because they have narrators on board who know the history of the various islands. Many visitors choose to kayak, either by bringing their own or renting from a local shop. The islands also offer opportunities to view interesting rock formations and shipwrecks. There have been 350 shipwrecks on Lake Superior.
 
Sea kayaking has become a very popular means to travel among the Apostle Islands. Lake Superior is renowned for its cold temperatures, rough seas, fog, and sudden squalls. Average water temperatures in May and June are only in the 40s. Even in late summer, surface temperatures rarely exceed 60 degrees, except in protected bays. Average summer winds blow from five to twenty knots with waves of one to four feet. Higher are possible.
Apostle Islands Cruise Apostle Islands Cruise Apostle Islands Cruise
The Apostle Islands Cruise Service offers a variety of nonstop sightseeing excursions and island shuttles with stops at several islands. Their office is located in Bayfield near the city dock. All cruises depart from Bayfield.
 
All the Apostle Islands have unique names, The origin of the name "Apostle" is believed to come from early explorers. According to their practice they gave holy names to new places. But the individual islands have names like Hermit, Oak, Outer, Cat, Otter, Rocky, Bear, Sand, and Devils. Most have special characteristics. Devils Island is the northernmost point in Wisconsin. The most notable feature of this island is its sea caves, which are erosions in its sandstone cliffs, and are favorite destinations of kayakers and tour boats. Kayakers and boaters can see sea caves on the east side of Sand Island as well.
 
The Apostle Islands Cruise Service offers daily trips to the Raspberry Island lighthouse in summer. The lighthouses on Sand, Devils, and Michigan islands are staffed by volunteers, who give tours to tourists who get there in their own boats. During the Lighthouse Celebration in September, the Apostle Islands Cruise Service schedules trips to Sand, Devils, Long, and Michigan islands as well as Raspberry.
 
Permits are required for all camping on the National Lakeshore, where it is permitted on eighteen of the twenty-one islands. Also there are more than fifty miles of hiking trails on the islands. These trails provide access to lighthouses, abandoned quarries, old farm sites, historic logging camps, beaches, and scenic overlooks. In addition, the Islands and surrounding area offer anglers opportunities to catch Lake, Brook, and Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, and Coho Salmon.
 
Madeline Island, the only one of the Apostle Islands accessible by automobile, is not within the National Lakeshore. Attractions on Madeline Island include Big Bay State Park, with its lakeside campground, and the Madeline Island Historical Museum, with its exhibits about the fur trade era. Madeline offers full tourist services. With a population of 302, La Pointe, the only town on Madeline Island, has restaurants, lodging, and various activities. The population increases to over 1500 when summer residents arrive.
 
Transportation to and from the mainland is by the Madeline Island Ferry Line, a car ferry from Bayfield that runs from spring breakup to winter freeze-up, which is generally from early April through early January. It there's ice, a wind sled (a flat-bottomed vehicle with an airplane propeller on the back) carries passengers prior to an ice road opening, which happens when the ice is thick enough and deemed safe to allow vehicles to drive between the mainland and Madeline Island. Naturally, caution is always advised if driving the ice road.
 
Visiting the Apostle Islands in northern Wisconsin is rewarding. Just remember, "The lake is the boss!"
 
#apostleislands
#wisconsin
#lakesuperior
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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) america apostle islands apostle islands cruise service bayfield lake superior madeline island national lakeshore the lake is the boss usa wisconsin https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2018/4/apostle-islands-national-lakeshore-of-wisconsin Thu, 26 Apr 2018 16:59:57 GMT
Steinbeck's Salinas - As in California https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2018/4/steinbecks-salinas---as-in-california

It's called the "Salad Bowl of the World", the "Artichoke Capital of the World", and the birthplace of John Steinbeck. The Salinas Valley of Central California is all that and more. The fertile valley bordered by the Santa Lucia and the Gabilan Mountain Ranges help make the climate ideal for the first two claims. And John Steinbeck spent the early days of his life in the city of Salinas.
 
Wineries abound
Besides the proliferation of fields of colorful fruits and vegetables in the valley, and the mountains' as-far-as-the-eye-can-see grape vineyards (and that means many, many wineries), there are plenty of natural resources to enjoy, like whale watching, cruising the coastal waterways in search of other marine life, and hiking in the nearby mountains. Plus, the museums and restaurants round out the attractions to see and the adventures to be had in the Salinas Valley. 

 
The many farmlands in the valley raise a majority of this country's fruits and vegetables. Because of the long growing season and the resourceful use of the land, farmers can plant another crop in a field as soon as the previous one is harvested. With the valley's ideal climate, coupled with innovative irrigation methods, that makes for a plentiful harvest and happy farmers. The restaurants of the valley and all over benefit also.
Cannery Row and Ed Ricketts Lab
John Steinbeck wrote a lot about farming, farmers, migrant workers, and the Salinas Valley. Many characters of his books are based on real people he encountered during his life and his travels. One of his most famous works is The Grapes of Wrath, which in 2014 marks seventy-five years since its writing, is based on a family's migration from Oklahoma to California is search of a better life and work. Cannery Row is set in Monterey, just south of Salinas, and concerns the booming sardine canning business, which he participated in during his illustrious career.
John Steinbeck Center John Steinbeck House
His popularity, or notoriety, at the time he was living in Salinas, is varied. Yet, the National Steinbeck Center celebrates the life and times of the writer with interpretive displays arranged by seven different themed showcases among others, East of Eden, Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men, and The Grapes of Wrath. Two blocks west of the Center is the Steinbeck House, the boyhood home of the author. It is Victorian in design and was built in Salinas in 1897. The Steinbeck family moved into the house in 1900. John was born in 1902 and spent his early years here. The Steinbeck House is now a restaurant but also holds tours of the home.
  Monterey Bay Aquarium Monterey Bay Aquarium
Much of Steinbeck's stories took place around Monterey Bay where the canneries were located. The city of Monterey sits on the bay and has become very commercialized. Cannery Row is a tourist destination with restaurants, gift shops, hotels, and the excellent Monterey Bay Aquarium. The aquarium opened in 1984 and is a showcase for the habitats and sea life of one of the world's richest marine regions. There are more than 35,000 sea creatures representing over 500 species. The aquarium sits directly on the bay, an ideal and appropriate location.
Elkhorn Slough_wildlife cruise Elkhorn Slough_wildlife cruise
Also on Monterey Bay at Moss Landing, there are opportunities to board vessels of varying kinds and get on the water. Visitors can explore the nearby Elkhorn Slough for sea otters, harbor seals, and a multitude of birdlife, both waterfowl and shore birds. A slough is a wetland that is fed by a larger body of water, whether a bay or river. A cruise on the Elkhorn Slough is an excellent way to observe the wildlife. Two cruise companies offering tours on the slough are Whisper Charters and Elkhorn Slough Safari. Other adventurers can board ship with Sanctuary Cruises and get up close and personal with dolphins, humpback and blue whales, and orcas. Their cruises are with marine biologists and typically last 3-4 hours.
  Pinnacles National Park Pinnacles National Park
Besides cruising for wildlife in the Bay, visitors can travel to the highlands and visit one of the newest national parks, Pinnacles. Named for the landscape formed by an ancient volcano, the park has two entrances: one on the eastern side and the other on the western. The two parts of the park are connected by trails. No road passes completely through the park. The eastern entrance leads to the park campground  and visitor center. The western portion has only a ranger station and a parking area for trail users or rock climbers.
 
Wildlife is abundant in Pinnacles. The park is one of a few places in the country that is a release site for the endangered California condor. Of course, their range is greater than just within the park, but chances are greater to see a condor from the protected boundaries of the national park. There are a couple recommended spots where the chances are better. One is in the High Peaks area, which requires a substantial hike, but definitely worth the attempt. The other suggested spot to see condors is along the ridge just south of the campground.
 
Needless to say that hiking or rock climbing is the thing to do at Pinnacles. The hikes range from moderate to strenuous and vary in length. Some pass through talus caves, which are formed by falling rocks that get wedged creating passage ways. Bats find them good enough to call them home.
  Salinas Valley_Agriculture and Rural Life Museum Salinas Valley_Agriculture and Rural Life Museum
The Salinas Valley would not be complete without a museum illustrating the farming heritage of the area. The Monterey County Agriculture and Rural Life Museum, located in the town of King City south of Salinas, was established in 1980 and tells the agricultural story of the Salinas Valley. There are several preserved structures on the grounds and a reconstruction of a dairy barn that houses many artifacts and equipment of an earlier day. There is also a train depot and the Museum of Irrigation present also. An RV campground with 99 sites at the park can accommodate big rigs.
 
With all there is to see and experience in the Salinas Valley, it will be easy to appreciate all the superlatives of the region. From the Salad Bowl and Artichoke Capital of the World to the latest national park to the birthplace of John Steinbeck, there is an activity for any visitor.
 
#Salinas
#California
#steinbeck
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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) america's salad bowl artichoke capital of the world california john steinbeck salinas https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2018/4/steinbecks-salinas---as-in-california Thu, 26 Apr 2018 16:34:53 GMT
El Camino Real https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/4/el-camino-real The Oldest and Longest "Highway"?
El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro
 

          Between the New Mexico cities of Las Cruces and Albuquerque is the El Camino Real International Heritage Center, a good place to learn about El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, or the Royal Road to the Interior. The Heritage Center gives an overview of the 1500 mile historical route from Mexico City to Santa Fe. Some historians even extend the route to Taos and Veracruz. El Camino is the oldest and longest continuously used "highway" in the U.S. and Mexico and it closely follows the modern-day Interstates 10 and 25 from El Paso, Texas, to Santa Fe. That will be the route of this story.

          El Camino Real International Heritage Center is located in a very appropriate place. It might seem to be in the middle of nowhere, but after a little thought, it is the perfect location. Only five minutes drive off Exit 115 of I- 25 and thirty miles south of Socorro, the Heritage Center tells the story of El Camino Real with exhibits, period artifacts, displays, and traveling exhibits about the trail and the establishment of colonies in New Mexico. It is suitable for all age groups. Visitors can explore the history and heritage of the trail from Mexico to Santa Fe as it appeared 300 years ago. 
          The Heritage Center overlooks the dry desert of the Jornada del Muerto (Journey of Death), the lower Rio Grande, and El Camino Real trail. The remote desert location is appropriate because it shows a sense of the climate and the long dusty trail endured by the early travelers, spending six months or longer on the trail to reach Santa Fe from Mexico City. The Jornada del Muerto was the most dreaded stretch of the journey because, even though it was ninety miles in length and took nine to ten days (at 8-10 miles per day), and contained no water or shelter, it still saved several days taking this route rather than the path along the longer 120 miles bend of the Rio Grande River. That is the appropriateness of the location of the Heritage Center.
           Most historians say the use of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro was used from 1598 through 1885. It began to decrease in use in the mid-1880s with the advent of the railroad, which transported people and supplies along the Rio Grande in hours rather than weeks. But, in the early 1900s, automobiles traveled El Camino Real, serving as the first highway from El Paso to Santa Fe. That restored life to the old trail again for a short period. Except for a portion between Las Cruces and Socorro, I-25 follows the Rio Grande, rather than the 90-mile waterless shortcut through the Jornada del Muerto. 

          There is much to see and do in El Paso and Santa Fe, and travelers are probably aware of most of their attractions. But perhaps the attractions of the smaller towns along El Camino Real may not be so publicized. 
           Bosque del Apache (Spanish for "woods of the Apache") National Wildlife Refuge is one of the best in North America. Tens of thousands of birds, including Sandhill cranes, Arctic geese, and many kinds of ducks, gather each autumn and winter there. The 57,191-acre refuge is located at the northern edge of the Chihuahuan desert, and straddles the Rio Grande, approximately twenty miles south of Socorro. 
          Belen, New Mexico, is another of the towns with mileage noted on the signs along I-25. Besides art galleries and a great little restaurant called Pete's Cafe, the Harvey House Museum is located there. Harvey Houses sprang up over the Southwest along railroads ran by the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe (ATSF). The Harvey Houses were combination restaurants, hotels, and newsrooms that catered to the train travelers of the late 1800s. Fred Harvey was an Englishman that moved to New York to start a restaurant business. After the Civil War, the restaurant business declined, but the railroads flourished. Mr. Harvey saw an opportunity and joined with the president of the ATSF and created what was to become a profitable business. The Belen Harvey House was one of more than a dozen in New Mexico. At the peak of his career, there were 84 Harvey Houses across the Southwest.
    

          Just northeast of Belen is another special spot, Tome' (pronounced To' mi), New Mexico. Just outside of town with its numerous art galleries, Tome' Hill is the site of an annual Good Friday pilgrimage. In 1947, Edwin Berry made a promise to God and kept it. As a military policeman during World War II, he saw friends killed in battle and narrowly escaped death himself. He promised God that if he returned safely from the war, he would build a monument where all the faithful could go to give thanks and to worship God. Berry and his friends began fulfilling the promise in March 1947, by carrying building materials on foot and by mule to the top of Tome' Hill. After a year, the project was complete and three massive crosses stood vigil on top of El Cerro de Tome, or Tome' Hill. And still do today. Besides the crosses, there are over 1,800 petroglyphs (rock drawings) that have been documented and catalogued by archaeologists from the University of New Mexico. The oldest petroglyphs are believed to be about 2,000 years old. Many represent the animals that are still in the area today, such as the coyote.

         The climb up Tome' Hill is steep, but definitely worth the effort for the views from the top. It not only is a physical, but also a spiritual experience. At the foot of Tome' Hill is a steel sculpture called La Puerta del Sol (the Gateway to the Sun) that commemorates El Camino Real and Tome' Hill. 
          The city of Albuquerque also is situated on El Camino Real and the Rio Grande. Just a few special things to do and see relate to the outdoors and dining. The city has an average rainfall of just below ten inches, and is sunny most of the year. Since Albuquerque is the hot air ballooning capital of the world, it would seem that taking to the air is one must-do activity. The Albuquerque International Balloon Festival, the world’s largest, takes place each October, when there will be from 500 to 700 balloons in the sky at one time. It is probably the most photographed event in the world, drawing a huge crowd of balloonists and spectators. During the festival, there is only one company licensed to take visitors aloft from the Balloon Fiesta Park, where the mass ascensions occur. That is the Rainbow Ryders of Albuquerque. Of course, they offer rides at other times.

          Because Albuquerque is the hot air ballooning capital of the world, it seems natural that there would be a hot air ballooning museum. And there is. It is the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum and is filled with interesting historical artifacts of ballooning and other flying-related endeavors. 
          A jeep tour in the mountains is another unique experience. New Mexico Jeep Tours has a variety of tours available to see ancestral Pueblo ruins, ghost towns, volcanic necks, and other unusual geological formations, or can customize one to suit your needs. A jeep tour will allow visitors to get an up close perspective of natural New Mexico, rather than the standard touristy attractions.
          But there are standard touristy things to do and see within Albuquerque also. Historic Old Town is the city's cultural center, with seven museums and more than 100 shops, galleries, and restaurants around the centerpiece -- the 1793 San Felipe de Neri Church. Dine at El Pinto, one of the best restaurants in Albuquerque. It is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. It features New Mexican cuisine, which blends Native American and Spanish ingredients and prepares dishes with Albuquerque's signature ingredients, red and green chiles.
          Historic Route 66 passes through Albuquerque, and is called Central Avenue. It goes through Old Town and the downtown business district. There is a tour available for download on the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau website.
          Closely associated with the Native American heritage is the Petroglyph National Monument outside Albuquerque. It stretches seventeen miles and protects a variety of cultural and natural resources which includes five dormant volcanic cones, hundreds of archeological sites, and an estimated 25,000 petroglyphs carved by Native American people and early Spanish settlers.
          Between Albuquerque and Santa Fe are a group of Indian pueblos and reservations that attest that the Native American influence still is a large part of culture of the region. That and the importance El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro had on the Spanish arriving in the Southwest make the diversity of cultures of New Mexico a great place to visit, explore, and savor.

 


 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) Jornada del Muerto albuquerque belen bosque del apache edwin berry el camino real harvey house hot air ballooning museums new mexico rio grande tome hill https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/4/el-camino-real Wed, 29 Apr 2015 18:50:00 GMT
Fort Pickens, Florida https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/4/fort-pickens-florida Fort Pickens, Florida
            Florida’s Panhandle is a highly traveled part of the state. Rightly so, due to the popular Emerald Coast area from Panama City to Destin to Pensacola. Just south of Pensacola across the bridge at Gulf Breeze on Highway 399, one section of the Gulf Islands National Seashore offers visitors a unique look at barrier island life and the remnants of a historic fort – Fort Pickens. The attractions of this stretch of land along Santa Rosa Island make this area a very desirable and unique vacation spot away from the typical sand, sun, and surf destination.
 
          The Gulf Islands National Seashore does have sand, sun, and surf. In fact, there are miles of Gulf Coast white sandy beach frontage. There are ample parking areas with easy access to the sand, sun and surf. With a short walk down the beach you might find yourself alone. The crowds are in Destin and Panama City. If it is isolation you are looking for, visit the Gulf Islands National Seashore. From these beaches, distant views of high-rise condominiums lining Pensacola Beach’s shoreline are reminders of the typical beach vacation.
Gulf Islands National Seashore
            Visiting the beach is always part of a trip to Florida, but there is more to this area than just white sandy beaches. The national seashore is special in itself. Protected sand dunes are a part of the landscape along the roadway. The constantly changing dunes have restrictions. No walking is permitted on the dunes. There are walkways over the dunes and boardwalks across the dunes for access to the beach. 
            The Gulf Islands National Seashore contains several tracts along the Mississippi, Alabama and Florida coastline. There are eleven sections over about 150 miles. The national seashore stretches from West Ship Island just south of Gulfport, Mississippi, to the eastern tip of Santa Rosa Island near Fort Walton Beach.  There are four historic forts on the barrier islands – Fort Massachusetts on West Ship Island, Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island, Fort Morgan in Alabama near Gulf Shores across Mobile Bay from Fort Gaines, and Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island. The forts were built in the nineteenth century and were constructed for the protection of our major waterways from enemy attack after the War of 1812.

Fort Pickens
            Along the Gulf Islands National Seashore on Santa Rosa Island, the remains of Fort Pickens occupy the extreme western part of the island. Construction on Fort Pickens was begun in 1829 and was completed in 1834. Fort Pickens is the largest of the four forts and was built to defend Pensacola Bay and its navy yard. Incidentally, across Pensacola Bay from Fort Pickens are Fort Barrancas and the Pensacola Naval Air Station. While visiting the historic Fort Pickens, frequent reminders of the nearness of thundering modern fighting planes across the bay offer a unique contrast to the stillness of old Fort Pickens.
            Several remaining batteries from Fort Pickens are scattered across the landscape of the tip of the barrier island. Large bore cannons are entrenched along the beachfront facing the Gulf of Mexico at a variety of locations. Frequent parking areas along the coursing roadways throughout the fort enable visitors access to most of the batteries. Several batteries are closed to the public for safety reasons, but there are ample examples for touring.
            The main part of the fort offers a walking tour of the different structures within the fort. Along the surrounding walls of the fort are several mounted cannons. Under the heavy walls within the fort are barracks and sleeping quarters. There are tunnels leading to mine chambers that can each hold one thousand pounds of gunpowder. Building a heavy walled fort on the sands of Santa Rosa Island had its design problems. To support the weight of the fort on the soft sand, engineers resorted to an old design of arches, which are designed to distribute weight. In parts of Fort Pickens overhead arches, along with reverse arches in the foundation, were used to spread the fort’s weight to minimize settling. A reverse arch is a downward arch and, when it was used in conjunction with the overhead arch, was able to support considerable weight. There are several examples of this combination at Fort Pickens.
Arched doorways Ft Pickens M1566Arched doorways Ft Pickens M1566    Double arches at Ft Pickens M1571Double arches at Ft Pickens M1571 Double arches at Fort Pickens M1573Double arches at Fort Pickens M1573

Attractions of the National Seashore
            Besides Fort Pickens and the beach along the Gulf Islands National Seashore, there are nature trails to enjoy and appreciate the different forms of life contained on a barrier island. The Blackbird Marsh Nature Trail is on the bay side of Santa Rosa Island. The Dune Nature Trail is on the Gulf side of the island and offers a boardwalk over the fragile and changing landscape of the sand dunes. The area also has an amphitheater, picnic grounds, and a visitor center and museum.

            On the bay side of the island adjacent to Fort Pickens a fishing pier extends into Pensacola Bay. No license is required and fishing is permitted twenty-four hours a day. However, a night owl permit is required to use the pier when the park is closed. One can be obtained from the campground registration office.
            The campground for the Gulf Islands National Seashore and Fort Pickens has approximately two hundred sites many with electrical hookups. A campground store offering groceries and supplies is located near the campground reservation office. In addition to the camping fee, there is an entrance fee of $8 for the Gulf Island National Seashore and Fort Pickens and is good for seven days. 
Getting there
            To get to the Santa Rosa Island section of Gulf Islands National Seashore and Fort Pickens, take Highway 399 south from US Highway 98 in Gulf Breeze. Gulf Breeze is the first city across the Pensacola Bay Bridge out of Pensacola along US 98. From Interstate 10, take I-110 through Pensacola to the US Highway 98. Follow the signs to the Pensacola Bay Bridge. In Gulf Breeze, look for Highway 399 and signs to Pensacola Beach and Fort Pickens. 
            The extreme western part of Florida offers visitors the same white sandy beaches as the more notable sections and more. Fort Pickens and the Gulf Islands National Seashore near Pensacola Beach is a great place to get a way from the crowds and soak up sunshine and history at the same time.
 

 

 


 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) beach camping florida fort ickens forts gulf islands nationa seashore national park service pensacola sandy santa rosa island white sands https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/4/fort-pickens-florida Sat, 25 Apr 2015 15:42:11 GMT
Huntsville, Alabama https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/4/huntsville-alabama Beyond Space in Huntsville
         Without a doubt the most impressive, and the most notable, attraction in Huntsville is the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. But with closer investigation, visitors will soon see that there is much more to see and do in this north central Alabama city – like seeing world-class museums, visiting a botanical garden with the nation’s largest open-air butterfly house, and getting a bird’s eye view of the city atop a mountain with even more surprises.

          Huntsville is a city with many surprises. One does not normally think much beyond the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, but there are other attractions just as notable in their own way. Many of the city’s attractions are located in the downtown area, which is easily accessible from Interstate 565, the connector between Huntsville and neighboring Decatur. Within the downtown area, there are the Huntsville Museum of Art, the Early Works Museum Complex, consisting of the Huntsville Depot and Museum, the Early Works Children’s Museum and the Alabama Constitution Village, and the Huntsville Visitors Center.
US Space & Rocket Center, Saturn V, Davidson Center For Space Exploration 001US Space & Rocket Center, Saturn V, Davidson Center For Space Exploration 001 Early Works Childrens Museum, Huntsville Alabama 002Early Works Childrens Museum, Huntsville Alabama 002

          Also along I-565, the Huntsville Botanical Gardens is a 110-acre natural paradise. With its gardens and displays, the botanical garden could be a destination in itself. To go along with the space and rocket theme, there is also Sci-Quest, a hands-on science center for children. At Sci-Quest kids can explore the mysteries of many things usually taken for granted.
          When it comes to nature and the outdoors, Huntsville is not left out. Besides the botanical garden, there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation. The city has foothills of the Appalachian Mountains on three sides. Just a short drive up a mountain is Monte Sano State Park, which offers an incredible view of the city below. Hiking trails, camping, picnicking, and bird watching are very popular activities.
The Attractions
          The first stop should be the Huntsville/Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau just off I-565 at Exit 19A. Their facility is adjacent to the restored depot and has all information of sights, sounds, and great eating spots in the city. Plus, it is an ideal place to get assistance in planning your itinerary.
Early Works Historic Huntsville Depot and Museum Huntsville Alabama 001Early Works Historic Huntsville Depot and Museum Huntsville Alabama 001

          The nationally accredited Huntsville Museum of Art has a permanent collection and traveling exhibits throughout the year. In addition to its exhibitions, the museum offers art classes for children and adults, and has special programs. The Huntsville Museum of Art is located downtown in Big Spring International Park. As well as being impressive on the inside, the grounds of the museum are beautifully landscaped with a lake and fountain with plenty of area for picnics. 
          Early Works History Complex, near the Huntsville Museum of Art, offers three venues to discover history. The Children’s Museum has displays and opportunities to interactively learn about the history of Alabama. The Huntsville Depot, built in the mid-1800s, has old locomotives on its grounds and a Civil War section with a wall of graffiti left by soldiers.
          The Alabama Constitution Village is a living history museum. As the site for the 1819 Alabama Constitutional Convention, villagers dressed in period outfits enlighten travelers of the way life was in the early 1800s. There are eight Federal style buildings on one square block in Huntsville’s downtown area containing the Village.

          If there were not enough history at the Early Works Complex, Huntsville has five historic districts on the National Register. The Twickenham Historic District contains many early nineteenth century homes, many of which were used during the Civil War by the Union army. Fortunate for the district – this saved them from being destroyed. The Old Town District contains Victorian homes built in the 1870 – 1930 range. Stop by the Visitors Center for information on the walking tours and directions.
Huntsville Naturally
          For the traveler looking for the natural side of Huntsville, he will not be disappointed. The foothills of the Appalachian Mountains that surround the city on three sides hold many opportunities for the hiker, bicyclist, bird watcher, or anyone just wanting to be outside. The most popular of these foothill destinations is Monte Sano, which contains a state park of the same name, 547 acres held by the Land Trust of Huntsville and North Alabama for recreational purposes, and a museum and living history site called Burritt on the Mountain.
         
The Land Trust holds and protects almost 4000 acres and maintains three major mountain preserves, which are open to the public. On Monte Sano the Trust offers ten different trails in the acreage they support. A parking area for the trailheads is along Bankhead Parkway on Monte Sano. One trail follows an old railroad bed of the Monte Sano Railway of the late 1800’s. The original eight miles of track were laid in approximately four months in the year of 1888 in order to connect the Huntsville Depot to the Hotel Monte Sano. Time was of the essence because the hotel was actually a health resort built during the period of yellow fever, cholera, and diphtheria. The thought was that clean mountain air might help visitors recover more quickly.
         
The current trail is along one and a half miles of the original route of the Monte Sano Railway. Along the trail, there are evidences of the supports for the trestles and bridges. Large stones used for those supports still hold their position. Markers along the trail describe the old railroad features at each marked point. It makes for an interesting hike.
         
Nearer the base of Monte Sano, Burritt on the Mountain offers equally spectacular views of Huntsville below. Originally the estate of Dr. William Henry Burritt, these 167-acres have the mansion for tours, an interpretive museum, and a recreation of a nineteenth century farm complete with livestock. The mansion is of a unique architectural style and is listed on the Register of Historic Places.
Huntsville, Burritt on the Mountain 9170098Huntsville, Burritt on the Mountain 9170098
         
For birders there is the North Alabama Birding Trail, an addition to the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail. Fifty bird watching sites are scattered throughout eleven North Alabama counties with several in the Huntsville - Madison County area. A brochure and map is available at the Visitors Center.
         
Besides the Monte Sano campground, there are a couple others that are convenient to Huntsville and its attractions. Ditto Landing, with a campground and marina, is located north of the Tennessee River bridge just off Memorial Highway (US Highway 231). Another campground in the area is at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Its campground has full hookups and is within walking distance of the most exciting attraction in Huntsville. So this one should be a first consideration if the Space Center is in your itinerary.
Speaking of the Space and Rocket Center
          The most visited attraction is the US Space and Rocket Center. The museum tour explains the history of the US space program and the part Huntsville and Dr. Werner Von Braun played in shaping that history. Museum pieces include a Space Shuttle, Saturn rockets, a lunar rover, several of the actual Apollo crafts that made the first missions in orbit and to the moon, and many rockets that propelled those crafts and our astronauts into space. Don't miss the Davidson Center, where a full size Saturn V rocket is housed. Another important feature and popular part of the Center is the Space Camp program, In this youngsters, teachers, and other adults enroll and get intensive astronaut training.
          Huntsville has a lot more to offer its visitors than the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, but that is still the most popular attraction and the reason most people come to Huntsville. But after they visit the Center and venture off other exits, they will soon understand the amount of things to do in Huntsville. 
Huntsville Alabama, US Space & Rocket Center, Davidson Center 9160019Huntsville Alabama, US Space & Rocket Center, Davidson Center 9160019

 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) alabama huntsville monte sano u s space and rocket center usa https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/4/huntsville-alabama Fri, 17 Apr 2015 14:26:13 GMT
Talladega Scenic Drive https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/3/talladega-scenic-drive For a Scenic Drive – Try the Talladega
(Not the Superspeedway!)

     Of the four national byways in Alabama, the Talladega Scenic Drive is the shortest, but arguably the most scenic. Located in the east central part of the state about eighty miles east of Birmingham, the Talladega runs the ridgeline of the Horseblock and Cheaha Mountains through the Talladega National Forest. In its twenty six miles it passes six overlooks, several trailheads, and the Cheaha State Park, but provides many opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Talladega Scenic Drive scene Alabama 001Talladega Scenic Drive scene Alabama 001

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               The highest point in Alabama is contained within the Cheaha State Park at the mountain of the same name. Its elevation is 2407 feet above sea level. Within the park are several miles of hiking trails, a restaurant, motel, camping facilities, and an observation tower marking the highest point. Observable wildlife is plentiful within the park. Not only is Cheaha State Park the highest point of the Drive, it is also the “high point”.
     As the Drive passes through the national forest, it connects on several occasions with access points to the Pinhoti National Recreation Trail, which has section in Alabama and Georgia and links to the Appalachian Trail. This 100-plus mile long trail is second to none in the state as it meanders through rolling hillsides, up rocky crags, past mountain streams and waterfalls, and the panoramic vistas atop the mountains of the Talladega National Forest.
     The 7,300-acre Cheaha Wilderness lies next to Cheaha State Park. From  the observation tower on the summit of Cheaha Mountain, a dense second-growth woodland stretches south across the state park and into Cheaha Wilderness. Numerous forms of outdoor recreation are available within the wilderness area and the national forest. Hunting, fishing, camping, picnicking, and, of course, hiking are all great ways to experience the good nature of the Talladega. The previously-mentioned Pinhoti Trail passes through the wilderness area.
Cheaha Trailhead Cheaha State Park Along Talladega Scenic Drive Alabama 002Cheaha Trailhead Cheaha State Park Along Talladega Scenic Drive Alabama 002 Cheaha State Park observation tower Park Along Talladega Scenic Drive Alabama 002Cheaha State Park observation tower Park Along Talladega Scenic Drive Alabama 002
     Within the Talladega National Forest are three developed recreation areas – Coleman Lake, Pine Glen, and Lake Chinnabee.  Lake Chinnabee Recreation Area is not far from Cheaha State Park. This 17-acre lake and small campground are tucked into a peaceful valley. The recreation area has eight campsites and offers more opportunities for hiking, picnicking, and fishing. The Chinnabee Silent Trail connects the campground to the Cheaha Wilderness.
     The Talladega Scenic Drive is accessible easily from the north from Interstate 20 near Oxford. Take Exit 191, which is US 431, south to its junction with AL 281, which forms the majority of the Talladega Scenic Drive. AL 281 continues in a southwesterly direction winding through the national forest past the Cheaha State Park. The Drive continues in that same general southwesterly direction. Its name changes several times on maps (Skyline Motorway, Blue Ridge Road, Sky Line Drive), but it still carries the National Scenic Byway designation of the Talladega Scenic Drive. Along its route it nudges the small towns of Erin, Clairmont Springs, Weathers, and Chandler Springs. The largest town near its southern terminus is Talladega, the county seat of Talladega County.
Talladega County Courthouse Talladega Alabama 001Talladega County Courthouse Talladega Alabama 001

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

           In these times of economic worries and higher gasoline prices, visiting places close to home makes a lot of sense. And where better to visit than the Talladega National Forest and its Scenic Drive. The outdoor recreational possibilities are varied. The wildlife is abundant. The scenery is great. And it is close to home.
 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) Cheaha State Park Chinnabee alabama drive scenic talladega talladega scenic drive usa https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/3/talladega-scenic-drive Mon, 30 Mar 2015 23:21:23 GMT
Alabama Gulf Coast https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/3/alabama-gulf-coast The Inside and Outside of the Alabama Gulf Coast

            The white sandy beaches of the Alabama Gulf Coast seem to call travelers to “come visit”. There is something about the white sand, the sun, and putting it all together that makes it a special place to spend a night or to spend a week. Because more and more vacationers and weekend travelers are coming to this popular spot, there seems to be something new each time that makes it even better. More attractions, more condos and motels, more restaurants, more souvenir and gift shops. More campgrounds. More golf courses. More fun.

            Of the approximately fifty-seven miles between the Mississippi and Florida state lines, there are only thirty-two miles of beaches on Alabama’s Gulf Coast (excluding the approximately ten miles on Dauphin Island). But for that short space, there are a lot of activities to occupy time. Relaxing on the peaceful beaches is one of the most popular activities. There are several public access points. One is at the intersection of US Highway 59 and SR 182 (the main street through Gulf Shores). At Gulf State Park there are other access points to beaches.

Alabama Coastal Birding Trail

            One of the latest additions to the “things to do” list is the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail. Signs are posted along roadways throughout the area noting special places to see birds. The Trail is an arranged series of loops describing the birding spots frequented by Alabama birders. The loops are scattered around the Gulf Coast, but it is not necessary to follow the complete loops to enjoy birding. Suggestions are given at each site as to which species of bird may be seen at that particular site.

            The Gulf Shores-Orange Beach Loop starts at Perdido Pass near the Florida state line and extends near SR 180, which leads to Fort Morgan. Another loop – the Fort Morgan Loop -- begins at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. Pick up a brochure and map of the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail at one of the visitors’ centers in Gulf Shores or Orange Beach.

Other Attractions

            Gulf Sate Park contains 6000 acres and separates Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Part of the park is located along SR 182 and access to the campground, fishing lakes and pier is from SR 180 also. Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is a few minutes out of Gulf Shores on SR 180 and has 6700 acres of coastal terrain, including secluded beach access, changing sand dunes and rolling pine-oak woodlands. The name Bon Secour means “safe harbor” and is very appropriate for the native flora and fauna obtaining sanctuary at the wildlife refuge.

            At the western terminus of SR 180 from Gulf Shores the historic Fort Morgan overlooks Mobile Bay. Construction began in 1819 after the War of 1812 when Congress realized the US was vulnerable along the southern and eastern coastlines. The fort was completed in 1834 but proved obsolete even during the Civil War as General Farragut led his Union fleet past the fort with the loss of only one ship. Redesign of all the brick forts followed. Now the self-guided tours through the fort demonstrate the combination of the old brick and the new concrete structures. Near the fort the Fort Morgan Ferry operates carrying cars and passengers to Dauphin Island where the sister Fort Gaines stands guard across Mobile Bay.

Outdoor Recreation

            Fishing and golfing prove to be popular diversions for the outdoor enthusiast. With over one hundred boats in the Orange Beach fishing fleet there will be one ready to take eager fishermen in search of grouper, snapper, triggerfish and amberjack. For those with their own boats there are plenty of public boat launch sites for fresh or saltwater fishing. For those wanting to be on the water without fishing, there are sightseeing cruises for shelling or dolphin sightings.

            There are plenty of golf courses in the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area offering golfers many opportunities to try their luck and improve their skill while visiting the Alabama Gulf Coast. Sportsmen may set up tee times on line by visiting this website.

Inside Recreation

            Perhaps the favorite things to do on vacation while not soaking up sunshine or enjoying the beach are to shop and to eat. By being of the Gulf with a backyard so bountiful with fish, many restaurants offer catch-of-the-day seafood prepared in a multitude of different ways. Gulf Shores has many excellent restaurants with a variety of cuisines for whatever taste.

            The Tanger Outlet Factory Stores, just north of Gulf Shores on US 59 in Foley, is an outlet mall with over 120 stores. Bargains await shoppers looking for fill a few bags while relaxing away from the beach.

Summary

            The first thing an RVer will probably want to do is find a suitable location to park the motorhome. A little research beforehand makes for a more pleasant stay regardless of the length of time involved. There are several campgrounds with excellent facilities. A nice campgrounds in the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area is Island Retreat RV Park. It has all amenities and is about one and one-half miles west of US 59 on SR 180 (Fort Morgan Road). Other recommended campgrounds are Gulf State Park Campground, the Luxury RV Resort, and Doc’s RV Park.

            For a great vacation or long weekend test the waters along the Alabama Gulf Coast. Outdoor and indoor recreational opportunities abound at this fun-in-the-sun destination.
Beach at Sunset Gulf Shores 004Beach at Sunset Gulf Shores 004

 

 

 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) alabama alabama birding trail beach birding coast gulf coast white sand https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/3/alabama-gulf-coast Thu, 26 Mar 2015 20:24:38 GMT
Cumberland Falls https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/3/cumberland-falls  

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in Kentucky

            Wanna see a moonbow? Do I mean a rainbow?
Cumberland Falls Moonbow(3)This moonbow shot was taken about 11:00 p.m. during a full moon at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park.

            Moonbow. South Central Kentucky has a very unique natural attraction. Cumberland Falls is one of a kind. It is the only waterfall in the United States at which regular moonbows occur. The only other waterfall at which this occurs regularly is Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe in Africa. Occasionally moonbows occur at other waterfalls in this country, but at Cumberland on clear nights with a full moon, this natural phenomenon is routine.

            What is a moonbow? It is a “rainbow” seen at night. Conditions have to be just right for a moonbow to become visible. First of all, there must be a full moon. The skies should be clear with no clouds obscuring the moon. When the full moon moves overhead so its light rays can reach into the gorge, its light beams pass through the mist created by the thundering water. That produces the moonbow the same way a rainbow is made visible. The best location to view the moonbow is on the lower overlook nearest the waterfall. As the moon changes its location, the moonbow moves accordingly. First, it is visible very close to the waterfall. Then, as the moon moves overhead, the moonbow shifts and appears further away from the waterfall. It seems to move down the gorge away from the falls. Since the park closes at midnight, viewing time is limited to a couple hours after dark until midnight. During the summer with daylight savings time, darkness arrives around 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. That is not much moonbow viewing time. There is a moonbow schedule posted on the Cumberland Falls website, which gives dates the moonbow may be visible.  

            Cumberland Falls is a great place to visit even without the moonbow. The waterfall itself is 125 feet wide with a 68-foot plunge. The average volume is over 3200 cubic feet per second. It is a powerful waterfall in the 677-mile long Cumberland River. The waterfall is situated in the Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. The Daniel Boone National Forest covers a large portion of South Central Kentucky and surrounds the state park creating a wilderness retreat with a list of outdoor recreational opportunities. Heading the list is the assortment of hiking trails ranging in length from one-quarter-mile to a 10.8-mile trail, which begins at the visitors center and follows the gorge of the Cumberland River until it joins the Laurel River. This trail, called the Moonbow Trail, is part of the Sheltowee Trace, which extends the length of the Daniel Boone National Forest.
Cumberland Falls 002Cumberland Falls 002

                    One particularly scenic trail, Eagle Falls Trail, is one and one half miles in length and follows the cliff line along the Cumberland River. This trail offers some of the best views of Cumberland Falls. About one half mile from the trailhead, a short trail leads to an overlook over the Cumberland River gorge just below the falls. This trail is also the only one leading to Eagle Falls, which is a forty-four foot waterfall formed as Eagle Creek plunges into the Cumberland River basin.

            The stretch of the Cumberland River below the waterfall is a popular run for canoeists. The twelve-mile stretch of river offers experienced whitewater enthusiasts adventure on the water. Sheltowee Trace Outfitters for information on guided trips. Sheltowee Trace Outfitters also offer several guided whitewater trips into the Big South Fork.

            What make this park a state resort park are its other amenities. The Dupont Lodge has deluxe accommodations, a first class restaurant, and a full-time naturalist on staff. There are programs throughout the summer months and activities for the entire family. Views from the restaurant at the Dupont Lodge are excellent. Tables line the picture-windowed walls giving a panoramic vista of the Cumberland River and the surrounding national forest. The lodge itself is of rustic construction with its timbered interior. That gives authenticity to the wilderness flavor. Solid hemlock and knotty pine paneling accent the large stone fireplace in the historic main lodge building. The Blair Museum is located in the lodge and features Native American artifacts and exhibits of the area.

            Getting to Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in not difficult. It is easily accessible from Interstate 75. From I-75 take Exit 25 and go west on US Highway 25. At State Highway 90 follow the signs to the state park. It is approximately twenty miles from I-75’s Exit 25 to Cumberland Falls. Interstate 75 passes through Cincinnati, Lexington, and Knoxville and is intersected by several other interstate highways making Cumberland Falls, the resort park within a wilderness setting, and the moonbow very accessible.

Feel free to leave your comments. Thanks for reading.

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) camping kentucky moonbow park resort rv waterfall https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/3/cumberland-falls Tue, 17 Mar 2015 21:50:00 GMT
Enchanted Rock https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/3/enchanted-rock            If you are visiting the Texas Hill Country and you happen to be driving along Highway 965 north from Fredericksburg, and something huge materializes from nowhere, relax! You are approaching one of the unique natural landmarks of the country -- Enchanted Rock. This is one of the most visited parks of the Texas Hill Country and for good reason.

            Enchanted Rock State Natural Area of Texas is about eighteen miles north of the city of Fredericksburg. The annual visitation to this park has exceeded 300,000 each year for the last five years. There must be something worthwhile for visitors with those numbers.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area 123Enchanted Rock State Natural Area 123

            The Texas Hill Country is best known for its springtime wildflowers, particularly the bluebonnets. But Enchanted Rock is popular year round. The huge granite formation is the second largest in size only to Georgia’s Stone Mountain. The park covers 1643 acres and has many features attractive to visitors. The dome covers about 70 acres and rises three hundred twenty-five feet above the bed of Sandy Creek, which flows past the mountain.
Bluebonnets of Burnet County 043Bluebonnets of Burnet County 043


  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

         There is much history associated with this large granite dome. Archaeological remains are common in the park and indicate that Enchanted Rock was attractive to a variety of prehistoric groups of people over a long period of time. The first documented explorations of the area did not occur until the early 1700s when the Spanish were attempting to settle Texas. During the mid-1700s Spaniards made several trips north to what is now the Hill Country to establish a mission and to mine for silver and gold. Discovery of Enchanted Rock is attributed to Captain Henry S. Brown, who was leading a group of new Texans pursuing a party of fleeing Indians.

           Indian legends contribute largely to the tales about the Rock. The Apache displaced the Tonkawa in the early 1700s and the Comanche followed the Apache in the late 1700’s. All Native American tribes felt the same way about Enchanted Rock. It was sacred and revered as a place favored by the Great Spirit. Indian lore tells of groans emanating from the Rock on cool nights and of seeing flames on the surface following a rain. These mysteries have been explained by geologists as natural events. The flames probably were caused by reflections from the wet mica on the Rock’s surface. The changing temperature of the rock could cause the groans.

            German immigrants helped found communities like Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country. Groups of Germans left their homeland because of political unrest and overcrowding. They were looking for opportunities and a new start. The first settlements were begun in the 1840’s. There are many evidences of that heritage in towns of the Hill Country. The German settlers named Fredericksburg for Prince Frederick of Prussia. When the Germans arrived in Texas, they encountered many unexpected hardships. The Texas war with Mexico broke out as the Germans were attempting to get to their new settlements. Trouble with the Indians caused obvious problems until a treaty was made.

           Rock climbing and rappelling, hiking, primitive camping, and picnicking are the major activities for visitors to Enchanted Rock. The activities on the rock are obviously the main attractions for visitors. Rock climbers must check in at park headquarters. There are route maps and climbing rules available. Pitons are prohibited on the Rock. Leather-soled shoes are recommended for climbing and hiking due to the slippery nature of the rock surfaces.

          There are several trails in the park. A four-mile Loop Trail circles the Rock and winds around granite formations. Enchanted Rock Summit Trail climbs 425 feet in six tenths of a mile to the top of the dome. There are no water and electricity hookups for RVers and trailer campers. Only primitive and tent camping is allowed at the park. It is “walk-in” tent camping. Tenters must carry their equipment a short distance from the parking area. The forty-six campsites have tent pads, picnic tables, a fire ring and a nearby water faucet. Restrooms with showers are nearby. Backpackers have three twenty-acre areas with sixty sites for primitive camping. They must also carry their water in and their trash out. Most of the primitive sites are located behind Enchanted Rock and can only be reached by trail and no vehicular traffic is permitted. 

       Fees are $7.00 per person per day for entry into the park. Children twelve and under are admitted free of charge. Tent camping sites are $18.00 per night and primitive camping sites are $14.00. Only four people are allowed in each primitive camping site and up to eight people can camp in the tent area. The camping fees are in addition to the entrance fees.

         Enchanted Rock is a very popular destination on weekends. Visitors from Austin (about seventy miles to the east) come to enjoy the distinctiveness of the State Natural Area. The park gets so crowded during the summer months that rangers must close the parking area temporarily. The park limits the number of people in the park to protect its fragile resources. When parking lots are full, the park will close for up to two hours. This can happen September through May, sometimes as early as 11 a.m. Arrive before ten in the morning to avoid the crowds.

        The Texas Hill Country is a beautiful part of the country to visit. The scenery is distinctive and its attractions are unique. Enchanted Rock is a definite stop while in the area.

 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) bluebonnets camping enchanted rock granite hiking hill country rock stone tents texas https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/3/enchanted-rock Mon, 09 Mar 2015 12:00:00 GMT
El Paso Texas https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/3/elpaso  

Two Cities, Two Countries, One Visit

 

          Throughout its colorful history, El Paso has progressed from a small adobe village of just a few hundred to a western boomtown to the sixth largest city in Texas. Today El Paso is still colorful, but it has outlived its old nicknames, like ‘Sin City’ and ‘Six Shooter Capital’, and has acquired modern-day ones like ‘Sun City, ‘Land of the Sun’, and ‘Star of the Southwest’. Its former nicknames came about in the 1800’s, but things changed in the early 1900’s, and the city has progresses. El Paso’s color today comes from its rich heritage and its mixture of cultures. Its sister city, Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, is separated only by the Rio Grande River. That affords travelers easy access to two cities and two countries in one visit.

          El Paso is in the extreme western corner of Texas and is closer to large cities in New Mexico than any others in Texas. The New Mexico border is just a few miles away and Los Cruces is forty miles to the north. Interstate 10 passes through El Paso, which makes getting there easy, as far as good highways are concerned. If coming from the east, Texas is a wide state and it will seem as big as all claims. Getting to El Paso from the west (I-10) and north (I-25) are also convenient. Travel within the city should not pose any major problems for motorcoaches except for in the downtown section, where parking and traffic will be the largest concerns.

          Once there El Paso has plenty of activities and attractions to enjoy. From museums to shopping to entertainment to outdoor recreation, there is something for every member of the family. There are museums on archaeology, history, art, science, the border patrol, and the holocaust. Shopping can be at modern malls or across the border in Juarez’s City Market. A variety of theaters and programs provide entertainment. Outdoor recreation can be in the form of hiking, biking, or rock climbing in the Franklin Mountains, or golfing on one of El Paso’s courses.

          Downtown El Paso has several attractions of interest. The El Paso Convention and Visitors Bureau is located adjacent to the convention center and would prove to be a useful stop to gather up to date information on activities and to answer any questions about travel into Mexico. There are tours that originate there and at other locations in El Paso that take visitors across the border. Taking a motorcoach across the border will involve getting permits of various types. Consult the Department of Homeland Security for current requirements.

          Juarez has some excellent restaurants and historical attractions. The tours will give an overview of where suitable destinations in Juarez are located for those wanting to do independent travel.

          The El Paso Museum of Art and Insights -- the Science Museum is within walking distance to the convention center. The Museum of Art houses over five thousand pieces in permanent collections. They include collections of early European and American art, Mexican colonial art, and contemporary southwestern art. Insights – El Paso Science Museum focuses learning by doing. Interactive exhibits emphasize the hands on experience to learning.

          The El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center is another addition to the list of museums located in El Paso. Its mission is to educate the public and to honor the memory of those who perished.

          Museums not in the downtown area but worth visiting are the El Paso Museum of Archaeology, the National Border Patrol Museum, the Fort Bliss Museum, and the Railroad and Transportation Museum of El Paso. The El Paso Museum of Archaeology and the Border Patrol Museum are in the north part of the city along the Transmountain Road, which passes through the Franklin Mountains and affords great vistas at several overlooks.   

          The Archaeology Museum tells the story of the area’s first inhabitants using dioramas and colorful exhibits. The museum grounds cover fifteen acres and include nature trails, outdoor exhibits, and a desert garden with more than 250 varieties of native plants. The National Border Patrol Museum depicts the history of service and tells of some of the heroes that guard our borders.

          There are a series of three missions dating back 400 years. The route between the missions, called the Mission Trail, is marked and maps are available at the convention and visitor center or online. These adobe churches (Ysleta Mission, Socorro Mission, and the San Elizario Chapel) will inspire visitors and will add to the visit.


          The Chamizal National Memorial is located downtown near the Bridge of the Americas, one of the four border crossings. It recognizes the treaty that resolved the border land dispute. Because the Rio Grande River changed courses, there was a section of land that both countries thought theirs. In 1963 that dispute was settled and this 55-acre park and museum honor that peaceful decision. An outdoor amphitheater and an art gallery are also on the grounds.

          El Paso is a military town and Fort Bliss is in the center of it. The fort itself has a long history. It began in 1848 with a regiment of mounted infantry and today is known for its air and missile defenses. A museum is on its grounds and is one of the must-sees of a visit. Permits are required for entering the military installation. Directions for visitors are posted at entrances.

          Shopping in El Paso can be as varied as the visitor desires. Convenient malls and specialty shops are readily available. Historic El Paso Street is located in the heart of the city. El Paso Street is near one of the bridges into Juarez. Visitors will pass storefronts with all kinds of merchandise – both American and Mexican. Just across the border in Juarez is City Market, a popular large two-story building where vendors sell everything from blankets to burritos. A trip across the border and to the City Market is another must-do experience while in El Paso.

          Eating is always a popular experience while traveling. El Paso has a variety of great restaurants, and of course, there are some excellent ones serving Mexican food. After an evening meal there are many opportunities in different venues for entertainment.

          The Plaza Theater in downtown offers a variety of scheduled events. It was built in the 1930s and was advertised as the largest theater between Dallas and Los Angeles. Nearby at the convention center the Abraham Chavez Theater has another impressive list of scheduled events, including the El Paso Symphony performances.

          For the outdoorsperson, Franklin Mountain State Park will provide plenty of hiking, biking, and rock climbing in its more than 24,000 acres. It is the largest urban park in the nation and covers thirty-seven square miles and lies within the city limits of El Paso. The highest peak in the park is the North Franklin Peak with an elevation of 7192 feet. As far as camping in the park, there are only five self-contained RV sites in the park. No water or electricity hookups. No ground fires permitted. Reservations are recommended for anyone desiring to stay in the park. The McKelligon Canyon area of Franklin Mountain State Park has established rock climbing areas.

          Before leaving El Paso, there are a couple other must-sees and must-dos. The Wyler Aerial Tramway at the edge of the Franklin Mountains climbs 940 feet and offers a view of 7000 square miles. That includes three states and two countries from its 5632-foot elevation. There is an observation deck at the top of Ranger Peak. Another must-see, must-do is to take the Scenic Drive along Rim Road. Along the residential road views of El Paso and Juarez are possible. There is a park along the route to pause and take in the panorama.

          El Paso is a colorful destination where visitors can experience two countries, two cities, and two cultures in one visit. Even though the two cultures of El Paso and Juarez have merged significantly over the years that these two sister cities have coexisted, both are great places to visit. And do not miss the opportunity to visit Mexico while in El Paso.

 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) border patrol museum el paso franklin mountain juarez mexico museum texas https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/3/elpaso Mon, 02 Mar 2015 13:00:00 GMT
West Virginia's New River Gorge https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/2/west-virginias-new-river-gorge Wild and Wonderful –

West Virginia’s New River Gorge

     Like the license plate of West Virginia explains, the state is “Wild Wonderful”. Especially so is the southeastern portion, which holds several tracts of land managed by the National Park Service. The largest, most notable, and most exciting of which is the New River Gorge National River (NRGNR). Others are the Gauley River National Recreation Area (GRNRA) and Bluestone National Scenic River (BNSR). Babcock State Park is also located in the area and has many attractions for the visitor.
     The part of the New River Gorge set aside as a National River is a 53-mile section that covers nearly 70,000 acres and offers fabulous whitewater adventure, rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, fishing, wildlife watching, and camping. It is the combination of the fast-moving river and the resulting gorge that provides such a beautiful backdrop of all the activities.
Grandview Overlook at New River Gorge National Park 014Grandview Overlook at New River Gorge National Park 014
     The New River has its beginnings in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina near Blowing Rock, flows through Virginia’s Appalachians, and passes through this Southeastern section of West Virginia. It joins with the Gauley River to form the Kanawha River, which eventually empties into the Ohio River.
     Actually, it is believed that the New River is among the oldest on the continent. So, its “new” name is a misnomer. The New achieved the designation of an American Heritage River in 1998. It is one of only fourteen in the country. The American Heritage Rivers Initiative of 1997 has three objectives: natural resource and environmental protection, economic revitalization, and historic and cultural preservation.
     On average there is a one thousand-foot difference in the elevation between the river bottom and the land above the gorge. Because of its extremes in elevation and the moisture gradients, it supports a much greater variety of plant and animal life. The New River has longed served as a migratory corridor for both plants and animals. As an example, animals more commonly found farther north make the Gorge the southernmost extent of their range. There are some animals found only in the New River area. But there are many common species of wildlife that a typical visitor will spot and identify.

Outdoor Activities

     The multitude of outdoor opportunities includes hiking, mountain biking, whitewater activities, fishing, wildlife and bird watching, and rock climbing. Of course, while hiking the many trails, wildlife and wildflowers are appreciated. Trails vary in length from one-quarter mile to seven miles, and can be combined for longer hikes if desired. Because wildflowers are numerous throughout the Gorge, they are a popular quarry during hiking outings. Many common ones are the several varieties of trillia, Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), Asiatic Day-flowers (Commelina communis), May apples (Podophyllum peltatum), and Cardinal Flowers (Lobelia cardinalis), just to name a few.
Asiatic Dayflower, Commelina communis P258Asiatic Dayflower, Commelina communis P258  
Mayapple plant with bloom P429AMayapple plant with bloom P429A

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     There are also mountain bike and horse trails scattered throughout the National Park Service or state park lands. The Thurmond to Minden Trail is one of the most popular trails for hikers and bikers because it is an easy grade and is wide and smooth. The entire trail is 6.4 miles round trip, but only 2.5 miles round trip to the main overlook. This trail provides views of Dunloup Creek, the New River, and the community of Thurmond. It was formerly a railroad route which was used to haul coal from the mines in Minden to Thurmond.
     One of the lesser known trails is the Endless Wall Trail. Obviously its destination is a site popular with rock climbers. Great views of the river a thousand feet below are afforded along this trail. In addition, the largest coal mine of the 1800s – the Nuttalburg – is in this section, which is the latest addition to the NRGNR.
     Several outfitters can accommodate those wishing to experience the area via horseback. A stop at any of the visitor centers will provide the most current trail conditions, wildlife and wildflower species viewable, and other pertinent information during the visit. The New River Gorge visitor centers are in the Sandstone area in the southern portion, the Grandview and Thurmond in the central part, and at the Canyon Rim in the north.

White Knuckled Whitewater

     One of the most popular attractions of the Gorge is its whitewater and the activities associated with it. Outfitters offer half and full day rafting trips and also rent kayaks and canoes. There are many put-in and take-out locations along the New, Bluestone, and Gauley Rivers. Hauling your own is also acceptable for those experienced in negotiating the class of whitewater found here. Many class III - V rapids give enthusiasts plenty of opportunities for thrills and probably spills. Generally, the rapids of the southern section of the New River are rated lower (class I – III). Those are ideal for beginner to intermediate boaters. The rapids north of Thurmond (class I –V) require more skill and experience. As an example for the reason of the appeal of its Gorge’s whitewater, the New River falls 750 feet in fifty miles from Bluestone Dam to Gauley Bridge (that is where the New River joins the Gauley). In comparison, the Mississippi river falls 1428 feet from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. That is a distance of 2300 miles and the reason whitewater is not so popular on the Mighty Mississippi.
Kayaker at Fayette Station Rapids New River Gorge National Park 019CKayaker at Fayette Station Rapids New River Gorge National Park 019C Whitewater Rafting at Fayette Station Rapids New River Gorge National Park 030Whitewater Rafting at Fayette Station Rapids New River Gorge National Park 030
     The Bluestone NSR and the Gauley River NRA are all located in the southeastern section of West Virginia and are within a couple hours drive of each other. They provide opportunities to enjoy the scenery and partake in the outdoor activities in a similar setting as the New River Gorge. The Bluestone NSR is located south of the New River Gorge NR, but does not offer the whitewater action as the New and the Gauley Rivers. The Gauley is north of the New River Gorge and has numerous Class V-plus rapids. The New River Gorge is the largest of the three tracts and thus has more opportunity for a variety of activities.

Rocking Good Time

     Rock climbing is another of the major attractions of the New River Gorge. Within the nearly 70,000 acres there are over 1400 established rock climbs. “The New”, as it is called by climbers, has become one of the most popular destinations in the country. Little wonder, as the sandstone cliffs range from thirty to one hundred twenty feet in height and have excellent features for climbing. Local climb shops or guidebooks will be helpful in locating a favorite climb. Climbers come here from across the country to experience the New River Gorge.  There is a driving tour (Fayette Station Road Tour) beginning at the visitor center that passes this rock climbing area, goes under the New River Gorge Bridge twice, crosses the river on the Fayette Station Bridge, and affords great views of some of the best whitewater on the New River.
Rock climber in New River Gorge National River 01.jpgRock climber in New River Gorge National River 01.jpg
     Camping throughout the NPS tracts is all primitive with no drinking water or hookups, but it is free and available on a first-come first-served basis. Most camping areas are located along the river and require registration, which can be done with any ranger. There are four camping areas – all located between Thurmond in the central section and Glade Creek southward – Stone Cliff Beach, Army Camp, Grandview Sandbar, and Glade Creek. Get directions from any visitor center.
     There are several private campgrounds surrounding the NPS land and the area state parks maintain campgrounds with full service facilities for RV’s. Consult the latest campground directory. Reservations are recommended during the summer peak season.

Fish Tales

     Fishing is another way to enjoy the New, Bluestone, and Gauley Rivers. Trout are present in several tributaries of the New River. West Virginia’s Division of Natural Resources stocks these rivers and their tributaries each spring with golden, rainbow, brook, and brown trout. Trout are fishable on several creeks and streams within the NPS tracts. Within the New River are the Meadow, Glade, and Dunloup streams. Glade Creek is in Babcock State Park, and Mill Creek and Gauley, Meadow, or Little Bluestone Rivers also contain trout. Fishermen should be aware that there are several catch and release areas. Consult the fishing regulations before casting.

Babcock and Thurmond

     Babcock State Park adjoins the New River Gorge NR and has a 52-unit campground, riding stables, Boley Lake for fishing, and a fully functioning grist mill. There are twenty miles of hiking and horseback riding trails, a couple of scenic overlooks, and a visitor center full of information. The Glade Creek Grist Mill at Babcock is an excellent photo op and is located next to the park headquarters. The grist mill has an interesting history. It was actually resurrected in 1976. It was built as a re-erection of one which stood at its present location. It was constructed using parts and pieces from several old mills across the state. Babcock State Park is located east of the New River and is accessible from SR 41 near the town of Clifftop.
Babcock State Park Grist Mill  Southern West Virginia  near New River Gorge National Park 14Babcock State Park Grist Mill Southern West Virginia near New River Gorge National Park 14 Babcock State Park overlook Southern West Virginia  near New River Gorge National Park 03.Babcock State Park overlook Southern West Virginia near New River Gorge National Park 03.
  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

      The entire gorge area has much history associated with it. Coal and timber played an important role in the development and decline of the area. Coal became an accessible and popular fuel source in the late 1800s and timber was readily available for building and also fuel. Because the area was plentiful with both, the area began to grow, especially around the town of Thurmond, which sits in the center of the 70,000-acre NRGNR. Thurmond became the chief railway center for the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad. At the town’s peak it had two hotels, two banks, restaurants, and a variety of stores and businesses.

THE Bridge

     The most impressive man-made feature of the NRGNR is the bridge across the New River along US 19. It is the highest vehicular bridge in the Western Hemisphere, and is the second longest steel arch bridge in the world. Completed in 1977, it is second only to the Millau Viaduct in France. It is 3030 feet in length and 876 feet above the river below. For local travelers, its completion changed the time required to get from one side of the gorge to the other from forty-five minutes to about one minute.
The Bridge over US 19 at Overlook Canyon Rim Visitor Center New River Gorge National Park 005The Bridge over US 19 at Overlook Canyon Rim Visitor Center New River Gorge National Park 005
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


    West Virginia’s largest one day event is Bridge Day, the third Saturday in October. What is Bridge Day? It is a day the New River Gorge Bridge is closed to vehicular traffic and opened to only pedestrians (it is closed to pedestrians for the rest of the year). BASE -- building, antenna, span, and earth -- jumpers gather from around the world and do their thing over the side of the bridge. Quite a sight!
     The first Bridge Day was celebrated in 1980. Since then, it has become an increasingly large event with each year. The one-day festival includes demonstrations of rappelling, ascending, and BASE jumping of course. Bungee jumping is banned because of a deadly accident in 1993. 
     The southeastern portion of West Virginia is one of the most scenic and recreationally rich areas of the Appalachians and certainly in the state. With its rich heritage and abundance of outdoor possibilities, the New River Gorge and its neighbors are certainly a must visit destination. And then it will become evident as to the validity of the state’s license plate motto “Wild Wonderful”.

New River & Gorge from overlook at Class VI with James R in foreground Southern West Virginia 02.jpgNew River & Gorge from overlook at Class VI with Yours Truly in foreground in Southern West Virginia
 

 

 

 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) biking hiking New river gorge rock climbing The Bridge The New usa west virginia wildflowers https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/2/west-virginias-new-river-gorge Mon, 23 Feb 2015 13:00:00 GMT
Drive a Crooked Road https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/2/drive-a-crooked-road Drive A Crooked Road: Virginia's Cascade Highlands
 

          The Cascade Highlands of Virginia is located in southwest Virginia and does incorporate a part of the "Crooked Road", which is a marked tour through the southwestern section of Virginia focusing on the musical heritage of the region. The driving route through the Cascade Highlands of Virginia also has close ties with bluegrass music, but there are also great opportunities for outdoor recreation, cozy places to stay, and excellent food. Plus, most of the roads are crooked.

          The Cascade Highlands is composed of nine counties in North Carolina and Virginia. The purpose of this group of counties is to tie together their common and abundant outdoor recreation, music, arts, wineries, and events. And this piece will only tour the Virginia portion of the Cascade Highlands.

          The counties of Smyth, Grayson, Carroll, and Patrick are included in the Virginia section and all have activities worthy of a visit. Interstate Highway 81 clips the northwestern section and passes through Smyth County. The major town is Marion. The north-south I-77 goes through Carroll County, the largest towns of which are Hillsville and Galax.

          The best routes in the Cascade Highlands are on portions of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which bisects the area, and the east-west US 58/221. The north-south highways of SR 16 in Smyth County and US 52, which parallels I-77, are also good scenic drives. 
Blue Ridge Parkway Hay Bales 008Blue Ridge Parkway Hay Bales 008

            This section in the Cascade Highlands of Virginia has the Blue Ridge Music Center at milepost 213. The center has permanent and rotating exhibits on the area's musical heritage, but mainly focuses on bluegrass. There are daily mid-day performances by local and regional artists throughout the season. An evening show is added on Saturdays.

          Two other musical venues include shows at the Historic Rex Theater in Galax and at the restored Lincoln Theatre in Marion. "Blue Ridge Back Roads Show" is a regular Friday evening event in downtown Galax. The musical concerts are one of the nation's last remaining live radio broadcasts. They are carried on station WBRF-98 into five states and streams on the internet.
Galax, Virginia, Rex Theater 005Galax, Virginia, Rex Theater 005
Marion, Virginia Lincoln Theater 005Marion, Virginia Lincoln Theater 005

          The Lincoln Theatre in Marion is a restored 1929 500-seat auditorium that has state of the art sound and lighting. It does a regular series for PBS called "Song on the Mountains", which are bluegrass concerts featuring regional performers. There are also theater touring groups that do shows.

           Practically next door to the Lincoln Theatre is the General Francis Marion Hotel. Of the some 300 guest rooms in the town of Marion, the 36 at Francis Marion are probably the nicest. This newly renovated 1927 boutique hotel and conference center has the Black Rooster Restaurant, Gallery, and Lounge, and provides excellent service.

          One of the best restaurants in the Cascade Highlands is the Galax Smokehouse, an award-winning barbecue restaurant. The restaurant participates in the contests conducted by the Memphis Barbecue Network and has an outstanding record for wins in the associated competition. Try the ribs and banana pudding.

          For outdoor recreation there are few places better for the variety than in the Cascade Highlands. There are three state parks, three major trails systems, the New River, and a national recreation area. The state parks include Hungry Mother, Grayson Highlands, and the New River Trail. Mount Rogers National Recreation Area has the highest peak in Virginia and offers visitors opportunities for hiking, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, camping, and of course, scenic riding.

          Grayson Highlands State Park has the second highest mountain in the state. Little Pinnacle is just over 5000 feet in elevation. A good hiking trail along Wilburn Ridge provides an opportunity to see wild ponies, which are part of a herd introduced here a few years back. Horseback riding trails cross the Wilburn Ridge trail. In addition, the Appalachian Trail passes through Grayson Highlands State Park and Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.
Grayson Highlands State Park  006Grayson Highlands State Park 006
Grayson Highlands State Park Wild Pony 021Grayson Highlands State Park Wild Pony 021

          Hungry Mother State Park in Smyth County near Marion has many amenities from a lake for fishing and boating to a beach area. There are cabins for rent and camping facilities. Activities for kids keep the little ones entertained. A lodge with a restaurant and gift shop are also on the park grounds. At the beach area, SR 16 continues upward for an exciting ride to an overlook that allows great views of Rich Valley below. The ride back down is even better. 

          Paralleling the New River, a fifty-seven-mile linear park provides trails for bicycling, equestrian, and hiking. Also camping along the river, fishing, tubing, and boating are activities available at New River Trail State Park. The park office rents horses, bicycles, canoes, and kayaks.
Hungry Mother State Park Overlook 005Hungry Mother State Park Overlook 005
New River Trail State Park Biking 001New River Trail State Park Biking 001

          Ironically, the New River is considered one of the oldest rivers in the world, according to geologists. It has its origin in Ashe County, North Carolina, and flows northward through Virginia and into West Virginia, where it merges with the Gauley River to form the Kanawha, which flows into the Ohio. In West Virginia, it passes through the New River Gorge, providing some of the best whitewater action east of the Mississippi. But in the Virginia section, the New River flows more gently and still is popular for floating and tubing. Trout and other fish species are plentiful along portions of the New. Watch for my blog upcoming on the New River Gorge. 

          Within the Cascade Highlands is a town with an interesting history -- Saltville, which is located in Smyth County, west of Marion. It does not fit into any of the previously mentioned categories as having a great restaurant, or as having outstanding outdoor activities, or having a musical heritage such as Galax. But it is unique in that it is situated on huge actively producing salt wells. Excavations have recovered several well preserved skeletons of now extinct species dating back to the last ice age, according to archaeologists. During the Civil War, Saltville was one of the Confederacy's main sources for salt and was considered vital to the Confederate war effort as the salt was used to preserve meat for Confederate soldiers and civilians. Because of that, the town became a target for Northern forces intent on capturing the salt supplies and removing the town from Confederate control. There were two major Saltville battles in 1864 and eventually the Union army gained control of the town and the salt. The loss of Saltville was considered a major blow to the Confederacy's shrinking resources.

          Saltville is home of the Museum of the Middle Appalachians. It is in the center of town and presents an excellent view into the past history of the town and region. It has numerous exhibits regarding the town and its geologic past, the Civil War, and the Indians that inhabited the area before the white man.
Saltville City Overlook 008Saltville City Overlook 008
Saltville Museum of Middle Appalachians 005Saltville Museum of Middle Appalachians 005

           There are several routes that could cover the Virginia portion of the Cascade Highlands. The main east-west route would be along US 58, which is a portion of the Crooked Road. Stops at Grayson Highlands State Park, the towns of Galax and Hillsville, would give an overview of the countryside and would allow time to take in some of the area's culture, music, and food. Then, to conclude the trip, it would proceed eastward to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

          A worthwhile north-south ride would be SR 16 from US 58 near Grayson Highlands across I-81 to Marion. Stopping over to see the Lincoln Theatre and maybe nightover at the General Francis Marion Hotel would also allow some soaking up of the culture. From Marion, head north to Hungry Mother State Park. Then to SR 42 and west to Saltville.

          Along either of these scenic drives, take time to stop and enjoy some good barbecue and bluegrass music. It will be worthwhile.

**Following the link to the photographs will take you to a page where you may see many other images of Virginia's Cascade Highlands.

 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) barbecue bluegrass cascade highlands music new river outdoors virginia https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/2/drive-a-crooked-road Tue, 17 Feb 2015 03:43:18 GMT
Pictured Rocks of Michigan's Upper Peninsula https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/1/pictured-rocks-of-michigans-upper-peninsula Picture This!
The Pictured Rocks of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

     Miners Castle, Lovers Leap, Indian Head, Battleship Rock, Grand Portal, and Chapel Rock are just a few names of formations along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. And the names do not do justice to the uniqueness of this section of the Lake Superior shore line.
Miners Castle Pictured Rocks Upper Peninsula  Michigan 005Miners Castle Pictured Rocks Upper Peninsula Michigan 005

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Lovers Leap Upper Peninsula Michigan 117Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Lovers Leap Upper Peninsula Michigan 117

     Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is comprised of 16,542 square miles and has about 1700 miles of shoreline on Lake Superior, Michigan, and Huron. The maximum east - west distance in the Upper Peninsula is about 320 miles with the maximum north-south distance being about 125 miles. There is much for the visitor to see and do in the UP. One of the most impressive natural attractions is its Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The thirty-five mile stretch of coastline along Lake Superior from Munising to Grand Marais has that designation of a national lakeshore – one of only four with that distinction. The other three are the Sleeping Bear Dunes on Lake Michigan, the Indiana Dunes in Indiana on southern Lake Michigan, and the Apostle Island National Lakeshore on southern Lake Superior in Wisconsin.

     The sandstone cliffs of the national lakeshore tower up to two hundred feet above Lake Superior’s surface. The cliffs are “painted” by the mineral deposits in the rocks. Because of the weather, the erosion, and the pounding of the water, the cliffs have been molded and carved to take on a variety of shapes, most of which have names, like those mentioned above.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Upper Peninsula Michigan 19Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Upper Peninsula Michigan 19

     This section of the Lake Superior shoreline is a haven for tourists, pleasure boaters, tour boats, and kayakers soaking up the coast’s natural beauty. The best way to see the Pictured Rocks is by tour boat. In Munising the Pictured Rocks Boat Cruises operates tours of the coastline from May to October. The narrated boat tours last approximately two and a half hours and cover about thirty-seven miles. The times are posted on their website
Munising Harbor Pictured Rocks cruises Upper Peninsula Michigan 03Munising Harbor Pictured Rocks cruises Upper Peninsula Michigan 03

      On land many of the features of Pictured Rocks are accessible by a short hike or can be driven to for a different perspective. Miner’s Castle, for instance, is the most recognized of the formations. There is an interpretive area above Miners Castle with a picnic area, information center, and hiking trails. Most of the beaches, waterfalls, and other formations require hiking longer distances.

     Munising should be the base of operations for exploring the Pictured Rocks area.  There are plenty of services, including campgrounds, shopping, restaurants, and service stations. The visitor center for Pictured Rocks and the nearby Hiawatha National Forest is in the middle of the town at the intersection of State M-28 and Alger County H-58. Information on lake and trail conditions is available here. Many outdoor activities can be enjoyed around Munising (and most everywhere else in the UP). Kayaking, canoeing, hiking, biking, boating, fishing, and snowmobiling are just a few of the things to do while visiting.

     The Hiawatha National Forest has much to offer visitors wanting to enjoy outdoors adventure while in the area. There are actually two large units of the national forest, but the West Unit is located near Munising and provides a playground for year round outdoor activity. There are twelve developed campgrounds and numerous undeveloped primitive camping areas in the West Unit. Some have hookups. Most do not. The visitor center at Munising can provide up to date information on the camping areas or check at the forest service campground website
Lake Fannie Hooe Campground, Copper Harbor, UP MichiganLake Fannie Hooe Campground, Copper Harbor, UP Michigan

     Another option for camping is in the Lake Superior State Forest, which is also in the Munising vicinity. There are eighteen sites but no hookups are offered. The North Country Trail runs through this campground. It is a National Scenic Trail hiking route from North Dakota to New York and includes over 1500 miles in Michigan. Its total length is 4,600 miles stretched across seven states. Managed by the National Park Service, it is the longest hiking path in the United States and passes through ten National Forests. Information on the trail is available at its website.
Lake Superior State Forest road to Chapel area Pictured Rocks 004Lake Superior State Forest road to Chapel area Pictured Rocks 004

     Lighthouses are always good destinations for visitors and there are several in the Pictured Rocks area. During the last century they were very important to mariners, especially in Lake Superior, due to the combination of rough water, extreme weather, and the rocky shoreline.

     The Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse can be seen from the Pictured Rocks Boat Tour or by visiting Grand Island. For many years sailors dreaded the eighty miles of dark shoreline that stretched east from Grand Island Lighthouse to the light on Whitefish Point. Unmarked by any navigational light, these dangerous shores claimed dozens of ships. To fill the gap, a lighthouse was placed near Grand Marais on Au Sable Point in 1874. To reach the lighthouse, follow H-58 from Munising for about 12 miles to the Hurricane River Campground within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Park and follow signs along a trail to the lighthouse. It is about a 1.5-mile hike.

     Whitefish Point, called the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes”, is the site of the first lighthouse on Lake Superior and also, appropriately, the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. Within the museum are interesting artifacts of various shipping disasters, including the Edmund Fitzgerald, about which a song was written. The Whitefish Point Underwater Preserve is a section of the coastline to conserve shipwrecks and historical resources on its 376 acres. Also at this location is the Whitefish Point National Wildlife Refuge, which is on the migratory route of many species of raptors, water birds, and songbirds. The Whitefish Point Bird Observatory, an affiliate of the Michigan Audubon Society, operates a research and education facility at Whitefish Point.

     Waterfalls are also plentiful destinations in the Upper Peninsula and the Pictured Rocks area. The waterfall at Tahquamenon Falls State Park is probably one of the most scenic in the UP and one of the largest. There are two waterfalls in the Tahquamenon River – the Upper and Lower. The Upper is the grander of the two with a drop of nearly fifty feet and a width of about 200 feet.  There are trails for hiking in summer and for snowshoeing in winter. Wildlife abounds throughout the park. Tahquamenon Falls is located between Munising and Whitefish Point along H-28.

     Near Munising there are Wagner, Alger, Memorial, Horseshoe, and Munising Falls. Within the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, there are several others -- Miner, Mosquito, and Chapel Falls. From the boat tour Spray Falls is viewable and is a large waterfall emptying directly into Lake Superior.

     Getting around the UP is mostly via two-lane highways. The only interstate in the UP is I-75 connecting Sault Ste Marie on the Canadian border with the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. It continues southward to the Everglades of Florida. The main east-west routes are US 28 in the north and US 2 in the southern part. US 28 connects I-75 and Munising.

  **If you would like to order a copy of any of these photographs, please click on the image. You will be taken to my website where you will be able to order any size, quantity, and mats and frames if desired.

    Thanks for visiting.

 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) camping hiking michigan miner's castle munising pictured rocks upper peninsula https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/1/pictured-rocks-of-michigans-upper-peninsula Mon, 19 Jan 2015 21:52:58 GMT
What Defines My Photography https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/1/what-defines-my-photography         I suppose the most asked question at my art shows concerns two of my photographs. The question, "How do you get that picture?"

Bridge with Moon

     These are the two pictures that get most comments and "How'd you get that?" And are my best sellers!

      Well, here's the scoop.

      Top picture is called "Cypress Swamp." I was on my way to shoot in Shelby Forest (Meeman Shelby State Park for those who don't recognize Shelby Forest.) Early morning, about dawn, as I was driving along Watkins Street west of Highway 51 in Memphis, I looked to my right as I approached the Loosahatchie River Bridge. This is what I saw: a smallish cypress swamp with dead trees encased in an early morning fog. The sun was just coming up but was obscured by the fog. This brownish hue was natural. I stopped the car, set up my tripod, and made several exposures. This was before digital, so I couldn't check the picture there. I shot with my Yashica 2 1/4 square medium format camera and with my Nikon 35mm camera.

      When I got the images back from the processor (that's what we did back in the pre-digital days,) I was pleased to see the results. All were shot as transparencies (slides.) That's how that one was conceived. No thought. No pre-planning. Just blind, dumb luck...and a little help from the good Lord for creating such a scene.

      My "Bridge with Moon" shot was taken on New Year's Eve a few years ago. I can't remember exactly what year it was. Dorothy and I were celebrating our anniversary downtown Memphis and stayed at one of the hotels overlooking the Mississippi River and the bridge (the Hernando DeSoto Bridge.) Early morning had brought a light rain and made the streets glisten. The moon was not actually there, although it could have been at that location had the conditions been right. The light streams of the car headlights add to the fact that I used a long exposure. This image was taken on film also, like the Cypress Swamp. The full moon was shot several nights before on the same roll of film. I noted where on the frame the moon was ans framed the bridge appropriately. I always tell visitors to my booth who question the moon really being there that I double exposed the image and got the moon there "the hard way." I did not use Photoshop (although it would be easy to do.)

      That is the story of two of my best selling photographs. I suppose they define my photography.

      If you would like to own a copy of the photographs, you can be the proud owner of either, or both, by clicking on the image and follow the link to my website, where you can order a copy in any size. Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog. I appreciate you input also.

 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) art work bridge with moon cypress swamp memphis photography tennessee https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2015/1/what-defines-my-photography Sat, 03 Jan 2015 16:51:58 GMT
Albuquerque Outdoor Recreation https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2014/12/albuquerque-outdoor-recreation The Trails of Albuquerque Lead to the Great Outdoors

          Most visitors to the Albuquerque area of New Mexico associate the city with hot air ballooning. True, it is the premier ballooning destination, but the city and its surrounding area is chocked full of outdoor opportunities in the way of hiking, bicycling, and equestrian trails, fishing and hunting, and wildlife and bird watching. The area mountain ranges, the Sandias and the Manzanos, provide much of the outdoor possibilities. But within the city itself, there are protected areas, called Open Spaces, that afford low impact recreation.

          The city of Albuquerque, which is bisected by the Rio Grande River, lies within the northern and upper edges of the Chihuahuan Desert. That means low humidity and little rainfall. As a matter of fact, on average there are 310 days of sunshine, an annual rainfall amount of about nine inches, and an average relative humidity of only 44%. As a precaution for visitors, that low humidity and much sunshine means they need to stay well hydrated by drinking lots of water and by using sun protection. The effects of the sun are somewhat intensified because of the city's altitude. Albuquerque has one of the highest elevations of any major city in the United States. The elevation of the city ranges from 4,900 feet above sea level near the Rio Grande Valley to over 6,700 feet in the foothills of the Sandias.

          The Sandia Mountains are a range located in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties, just east of  Albuquerque. The range is mostly within the Cibola National Forest, and part of the range is protected as the Sandia Mountain Wilderness. A portion in the foothills belong to the Albuquerque Open Spaces. The range is home to the Sandia Peak Ski Area and Tramway. Its highest point is Sandia Crest at 10,678 feet. The word sandia means watermelon in Spanish, and is thought to reference the reddish color of the mountains at sunset. The Manzano Mountains are a small range running north and south and are about forty miles long. The center of the range lies about 25 miles southeast of Albuquerque, and the northern foothills (called the Manzanitas) are just a few miles east of the edge of the city.

          Most of the city's best biking and hiking areas are concentrated in and around the Sandia and Manzano foothills. The Sandia Mountains offer a wide range of hiking, biking, and other recreational opportunities, including more than sixty well-established hiking trails that total over 150 miles. Some of the more popular areas in the Sandias are the Tramway, the La Luz Trail, and in the winter, the ski area and Capulin Snowplay area.

          The Sandia Peak Tramway is the world’s longest aerial tramway and it transports passengers a distance of 2.7 miles near the top of Sandia Peak. The tramway is not the only way to the top. For hikers, the most popular way to climb Sandia Peak is to follow the La Luz Trail, a seven mile trek up the west side of the mountain with about 3700 feet of elevation gain. Oddly enough, the trail has a lot of traffic, particularly on weekends and holidays. The Sandia Crest Trail traverses the entire range of the Sandia Mountains. The northern end of the trail is located at the Tunnel Springs Trailhead and the southern end is at Canyon Estates Trailhead. Hikers can purchase one-way tickets if they decide to hike up and ride the tram back down. There is also a restaurant and gift shop at the tramway station with some nice short hikes and spectacular views from the top of the tram area at the observation deck.

          The ski area with chair lift and mountain bike routes are on the backside of the Sandia Mountains from the Tramway. The biking trails range from novice to more technical ascents for advanced riders. Begin at the base of the ski area, and loop up and back down. Or, take the chairlift to the top, and choose one of several trails back to the base. There are no established campgrounds in the Sandia Mountains, but camping in Cibola National Forest and the Sandia Mountain Wilderness is allowed. Only fires are prohibited. Camping in the Foothills Open Space is by permit only.

          The Sandia Foothills Open Space is part of an initiative by the City of Albuquerque to acquire lands for public use. Currently, the Open Spaces comprise over 28,000 acres in and around Albuquerque, and provide more opportunities for outdoor recreation. Another of the most popular Open Spaces is within the city limits of Albuquerque. The Rio Grande Valley State Park contains 4300 acres for low-impact recreation, such as hiking, bicycling, mountain biking, in-line skating, and horseback riding. Within the state park, the Paseo del Bosque is a natural surfaced trail of approximately sixteen miles with a myriad of unmarked trails winding throughout the bosque (a bosque is an area of forest found along the  flood plains of streams and river banks and gets its name from the Spanish word for woodlands). The Rio Grande State Park offers an environment of large cottonwood trees and coyote willow, which provide a cool, shady forest for habitat for beaver, numerous bird species, turtles, and snakes. There are several other sections belonging to the Open Spaces, some of which will be described. Check the Albuquerque website for a listing and location.

          South of Albuquerque near the town of Socorro off Interstate 25, another "bosque" is noteworthy. The Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge offers unique viewing opportunities during the winter months from November to February. During this time wintering bald eagles, snow geese, and sandhill cranes make this refuge a seasonal home. There is a fifteen-mile auto loop tour allowing visitors the chance to see and photograph wildlife. Since the birds are accustomed to vehicles, it offers a good opportunity to observe wildlife more closely.

          Several "trails" from Albuquerque offer visitors a variety of tastes of the culture and countryside. A couple have excellent associated outdoor recreation. El Camino Real is the oldest and longest continuously used "highway" in the U.S. and Mexico and it closely follows the modern-day Interstates 10 and 25 from El Paso, Texas, to Santa Fe. Near Socorro is the El Camino Real International Heritage Center, a good place to learn about El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, or the Royal Road to the Interior. The Heritage Center gives an overview of the 1500 mile historical route from Mexico City to Santa Fe. It is located in a very appropriate place because the Center overlooks the dry stretch of desert known as the Jornada del Muerto (Journey of Death), the lower Rio Grande, and a portion of El Camino Real. The Jornada del Muerto was the most dreaded stretch of the journey because it took nine to ten days (at eight to ten miles per day) to cover that portion. It was a "shortcut" to avoid a bend in the Rio Grande.

          At the Heritage Center there are short trails to see the native plant life and longer trails, developed by the Bureau of Land Management, to allow visitors to enjoy the remote, pristine desert on either foot or horseback. If visitors want to take the longer trails, they should stop at the Visitors Center for the current conditions, and always notify Center personnel before departing on the BLM trails.

          North along El Camino Real (and I-25) is another small town worth visiting -- Tome'. In March 1947, Edwin Berry began fulfilling a promise he made during World War II. He built three crosses on top of Tome' Hill, just outside of town. The one-half mile climb up the hill is steep, but definitely worth the effort for the views from the top. Tome' Hill rises 500 feet above the Rio Grande Valley, which is one landmark viewable from the top. Besides the crosses, there are over 1,800 petroglyphs (rock drawings) documented. The oldest petroglyphs are believed to be about 2,000 years old. Many are of the animals that are still in the area today, such as the coyote.

          More petroglyphs are located at the Petroglyph National Monument, which is just outside the Albuquerque city limits. The core of five volcanoes are visible along the horizon. According to geologists, these "extinct" volcanoes produced dark gray basalt upon which the petroglyphs are carved. A moderate hike will take a visitor near some of these volcanic cores. More strenuous hikes are required to reach the top.


          The national monument is composed of three sections -- Boca Negra Canyon, Rinconada Canyon, and Piedras Marcadas Canyon (another Open Spaces area of Albuquerque). All three have petroglyphs. All have hiking trails. The Boca Negra is the most visited and has three well marked trails.

          Another "trail" in the Albuquerque area with many possibilities for outdoor recreation is the Jemez Mountain Scenic Byway. It is north of the city and begins at San Ysidro, a small town at the junction of US 550 and State Route 4. The Pueblo of Jemez, an Indian village, is five miles north of San Ysidro and is located in the Red Rocks area. There is a hiking trail from the Walatowa Visitor Center through the Red Rocks. Information is available at the visitor center on the Jemez Pueblo, which is open to public only on feast days a couple times a year.

          Farther north on Forest Road 485 the Gilman Tunnels border the rock walls along the Guadalupe River. Pullouts allow visitors views of the scenic area. The tunnels were products of the 1920s, when logging trains needed access to the timberlands.

          North of the town of Jemez Springs, are the Jemez State Monument, Soda Dam, Battleship Rock, and Jemez Falls. Jemez State Monument is the location of remains of an ancient pueblo of the Jemez Indians and a 17th century Spanish mission called San Jose de los Jemez.

          Soda Dam, a natural dam in the Jemez River formed by water flowing from underground hot springs, is a unique geologic formation. It is located 3/4 mile north of Jemez Springs. A 200-foot tall rock formation called Battleship Rock has a picnic area and trails along the base of the formation and along the Jemez River. Hiking to the top of Battleship Rock is not permitted. The elevation at the picnic area is 6760 feet.

          Jemez Falls, a large 70 foot waterfall at an elevation of 7880 feet. The Jemez Falls Campground is about one mile off SR 4. A parking area at the campsites allows for about a mile roundtrip hike to the waterfall.  

          Fly fishing is a popular activity in the Jemez Mountains. There are many small streams in the Jemez area that are loaded with rainbow and brown trout. Many remote areas of the Jemez River see very little fishing action so there is plenty of opportunity to avoid the crowds. According to local fishermen, the main stretch of the Jemez River is a good place to start, particularly above the town of Jemez Springs. The Guadalupe River is another good area to test fishing skills. One of the most popular areas to fish in the Jemez Mountains is Fenton Lake.

          The Jemez Mountain Scenic Byway continues to the city of Los Alamos and then to the Bandelier National Monument. The city of Los Alamos' main attraction is the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where physicists created the world's first atomic bomb during World War II. Los Alamos County has over fifty miles of pedestrian, bicycle, and equestrian trails that connect to hundreds of miles of cross-country trails in the surrounding Santa Fe National Forest. There are a set of connecting trails that lead into White Rock Canyon from several points around the nearby town of White Rock. They are known as the Red Dot and Blue Dot trails. White Rock is just southeast of Los Alamos and has an amazing overlook into White Rock Canyon and the Rio Grande. Getting to the overlook is by way of Overlook Road, which is on the east side of town. The steep Blue Dot Trail starts about 100 yards from the overlook observation platform and is just over one mile in length one way to the Rio Grande below.

          Bandelier National Monument, which has remains of cliff houses from 13th century Pueblo Indians is southwest of White Rock along SR 4. The main attraction of the monument is Frijoles Canyon, which contains a number of ancestral pueblo homes, kivas, which are ceremonial structures, and more petroglyphs. Some of the dwellings were rock structures built on the canyon floor and others were produced by carving into the canyon walls. The "Main Loop Trail" from the visitor center is one mile long, is mostly paved, and provides access to these dwellings. A good option for camping is Bandelier's Juniper Campground. But check the park's website for closings prior to visiting. www.nps.gov/band/.

          The "trails" around Albuquerque offer visitors many forms of outdoor recreation, with the surrounding mountains providing the most. Among all the cacti and lovely plants, there are rattlesnakes, so beware. Remember the sunscreen and have lots of water available.

**If you would like to order a copy of any of these photographs, please click on the image. You will be taken to my website where you will be able to order any size, quantity, and mats and frames if desired.

      Thanks for visiting.

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) Jemez mountain trail albuquerque america bicycling edwin berry el camino real hiking hot air ballooning new mexico outdoor recreation petrolyph national monument rio grande sandia sandia peak tramway tome hill tome. usa https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2014/12/albuquerque-outdoor-recreation Tue, 23 Dec 2014 20:46:48 GMT
Destination - Destin https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2014/12/destination---destin Destination -- Destin, Florida

            As you arrive in Destin, Florida, from the west, a sign welcomes you to the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.” If Destin is your final destination, you will find out, while the fishing is great, that there is much more to do here than fish.

            The Panhandle of Florida is a growing area for many reasons. The major reason is the convenience and accessibility of the Panhandle to the rest of the country. The guidebooks say that Destin is nearer to parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, than Destin is to Key West. This area of Florida is commonly known as the Emerald Coast because of the white sandy beaches appearing green as seen through the shallow blue waters of the Gulf. Traveling to points beyond the Emerald Coast adds hours to a trip -- valuable hours of soaking up the sun’s rays. Destin’s white sandy beaches are the major single attraction of the Emerald Coast.

Destin welcome sign 109Destin welcome sign 109

            Along with the beach and fishing, Destin’s attractions include restaurants of every variety, an almost endless choice of condominiums, waterparks, golfing, camping, and shopping. The leading rental agency’s catalogs of available units get thicker by the year. That is one reason camping is so appealing. Destin and the other communities along the Emerald Coast are constantly building high-rise condos, adding restaurants of different fare and other attractions for the visitor.

“World’s Luckiest Fishing Village”

            The Destin marina is lined with fishing and sightseeing charter boats. Early each morning there is a parade of boats leaving Destin Harbor loaded with anxious fishermen hoping to be one of the luckiest. Their destination is the open Gulf from ten to twenty miles off shore. Charters last from a half a day of about six hours to all day of eight to ten hours to overnight. The most economical way to go fishing is by party boat. Party boats are large boats that can accommodate thirty to forty fishermen. The smaller charter boats that carry six to eight people are very popular and fairly reasonable. On these smaller boats, service is more personalized. The crew is made up of the captain who pilots the boat and one or two deck hands, or mates, who prepare bait, help with the day’s catch, and even clean your fish at the end of the trip. Deep-sea fishing is the second, or perhaps third, most popular activity of the Emerald Coast. Eating seafood is the other activity that gives fishing a run for second place.

Destin Marina Destin Florida 007Destin Marina Destin Florida 007   East Pass Destin Florida 020East Pass Destin Florida 020

            Sightseeing excursions for dolphin watches, snorkeling, and evening dinner cruises add to the excitement and the boat traffic in Destin’s harbor throughout the day. In addition the privately owned yachts, fishing boats and the wave runners increase the size of the parade in and out of the harbor.

Crab Island Destin Florida 002Crab Island Destin Florida 002 East Pass Destin Florida 024East Pass Destin Florida 024

Food and Fun

            The beautiful white sand beaches and all the related activities -- sunbathing, wave running, parasailing, and just strolling on the beach -- combine to attract thousands of sun-worshippers to Destin. The white sand of the Emerald Coast is like no other. The sun is the same, but the crowds seem to think it is better here.

            There are almost as many restaurants in Destin as there are condominiums. All those visitors have to eat somewhere. Of course, seafood is the most popular fare, but there are cuisines of every variety -- All-American steak, Italian, Oriental, Brazilian, Creole, Caribbean, and Mexican. Good restaurants usually require a long wait during the summer months. However, if the restaurant happens to located on the beach, the wait does not seem so long since there is always easy access to the waterfront. Most restaurants along the beach provide decks to enjoy the sight and sounds of the surf.

Destin Harbor at Night  P8150242Destin Harbor at Night P8150242 Destin Harbor at Night  P8150237Destin Harbor at Night P8150237

            Within twenty-five miles of Destin there are at least 360 holes on eighteen golf courses. The Emerald Coast is a true golfer’s haven. Some courses are associated with resorts and packages can be arranged that include accommodations and golf. For the golfing traveler, there is no shortage of excellent courses on which to play.   

A Tour of the Area

            US Highway 98 runs eastward through Destin and continues as the Emerald Coast Parkway to Panama City. Inside the city limits of Destin Old Highway 98 takes a turn toward the south and follows the coast. More restaurants, condominiums, and other attractions are located in this area. Outside the Destin city limits Scenic State Route 30 heads south from US 98 and also follows the coast. Smaller communities are springing up with rental units and restaurants and things for the traveler. As you leave the city limits of Destin, the landscape changes from one of urban development to the more scenic natural vistas of sand dunes, sea oats, and scrub pine trees.

Sea Oats on Beach Destin M626Sea Oats on Beach Destin M626 Fire Hydrant in Sea OatsFire Hydrant in Sea Oats Sand Dunes and Sea Oats Destin MF189Sand Dunes and Sea Oats Destin MF189

            Notable stops along Highway 30 are Grayton Beach State Recreation Area and Seaside. The recreation area is just east of the community of Grayton Beach and has a campground, fishing, boating, swimming and, of course, beach access. Seaside is a community worth a visit. Its structure incorporates a town center with organized residential and rental units around the center. There are shopping areas with centralized parking.

            To the west US 98 passes through Fort Walton Beach, a city of similar size to Destin with similar attractions. Further to the west US 98 joins Interstate Highway 10 in Pensacola. Interstate 10 is the major east-west highway across Florida’s Panhandle. US 98 is the scenic route.

            Because of Destin’s proximity to the rest of the country, the Emerald Coast on Florida’s Panhandle is a choice destination for lovers of sand and surf. Destin’s white sandy beaches, deep-sea fishing opportunities, and excellent accommodations and campgrounds make the Emerald Coast a favorite for thousands of visitors annually. 

 **If you would like to order a copy of any of these photographs, please click on the image. You will be taken to my website where you will be able to order any size, quantity, and mats and frames if desired.

      Thanks for visiting.

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) america beach charters destin emerald coast fishing florida sun usa white sand world's luckiest fishing village https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2014/12/destination---destin Mon, 15 Dec 2014 13:00:00 GMT
Cherohala Skyway https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2014/12/cherohala-skyway A Road Less Traveled -- Driving the Cherohala Skyway

          Even though it is just over forty miles long, the Cherohala Skyway is one of the most beautiful stretches of highway in the southeastern part of the country. A little “Blue Ridge Parkway,” the Cherohala Skyway straddles the border of Tennessee and North Carolina and connects Tellico Plains in East Tennessee to Robbinsville in the western part of North Carolina. This 40 mile two-lane blacktop ribbon of highway passes crystal-clear rivers and lakes and climbs to elevations of 5300 feet and offers travelers breathtaking scenic overlooks.

          The name “Cherohala” was derived from the names of the two national forests that the skyway passes through -- the Tennessee section is the Cherokee National Forest and the North Carolina section is the Nantahala. So combining the “CHERO” (Cherokee) and the “HALA” (Nantahala) the result was the "CHEROHALA.”

Side Trips

          There are many interesting points and side trips along the Cherohala Skyway. Of special interest to campers is the Indian Boundary Campground on the Tennessee side in the Cherokee National Forest. The Indian Boundary Campground is maintained by the forest service and offers one hundred campsites. Take Forest Service Road 345 near mile marker 14. Indian Boundary Campground would be an excellent base for exploring the Cherohala or just a great place to relax and literally get away from it all.

          On the Tennessee side a worthwhile side trip is to Bald River Falls. This waterfall is about a five-mile drive on Forest Service Road 210 near the 5-mile marker. The road is gravel but is well maintained and it follows the Bald River. Trout fishing is popular on this stretch of the river. The waterfall is beside the road and is worth the scenic drive. Bald River Falls is a cascade of one hundred feet and can be enjoyed and photographed from the roadway.

 

Scenic Overlooks

          The Skyway has abundant pullouts and overlooks from which to enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests. At the Skyway’s beginning in Tellico Plains the elevation is 920 feet. From there it rises to its highest point of 5390 feet at the Santeetlah Overlook on the North Carolina side. Grand vistas of the forests and distant lakes and rivers make stopping always scenic and worthwhile. At Lake View (elevation 3360 Feet) Tellico Lake along the Tennessee River is seen in the distant. At the Tennessee-North Carolina state line the elevation is 4490 feet at Beech Gap.

Along the Cherohala Skyway MF445Along the Cherohala Skyway MF445 Sunset along the Cherohala Skyway SC233Sunset along the Cherohala Skyway SC233

          On the North Carolina side there are several overlooks from which the visitor can take leisurely strolls while enjoying the scenery.  Several trailheads are located at pullouts and overlooks along the Skyway. At Spirit Ridge (elevation 4950 feet) take a short hike of three-tenths of a mile through a hardwood forest to a breathtaking view of the byway and the surrounding mountains. At the Hooper Bald Trailhead (elevation 5290 feet) a quarter-mile hike leads to Hooper Bald, near which is the site of an old hunting preserve. Several exotic species, such as the Russian boar, were imported to this preserve in the early 1900’s.

          The last ten miles of the Skyway makes its descent toward Robbinsville. Along the way there are still breathtaking vistas of the mountain slopes, the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest and Santeetlah Lake below.

          At the end of the Cherohala Skyway on the North Carolina side at Santeetlah Gap (elevation is 2660 feet) the traveler can take Highway 1127 to the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. Named in honor the World War I veteran and poet, this wilderness area of 3800 acres is one of the last remaining stands of virgin hardwood timber in the Appalachians. Kilmer was killed in action during the War and was best remembered for his poem “Trees.” There is a two-mile loop-hiking trail that winds beneath great trees. The Memorial Forest is part of the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness and can only be enjoyed on foot.

          Although the Cherohala Skyway is only about forty miles in length, the scenery is breathtaking. Sometimes called the “Little Blue Ridge Parkway,” the skyway has landscapes to rival those of the Parkway. There are sufficient activities for side trips to make this drive more than just a day trip.

To Get There

          To get to the Skyway and Tellico Plains, Tennessee, use Exit 49 on Interstate 75 at Athens. Follow Highway 30 east to Highway 39, which leads into Tellico Plains. Tellico Plains is about twenty miles from the Interstate. The Robbinsville, North Carolina, beginning of the Cherohala Skyway is accessible from US 74/19 through Bryson City or from Interstate 40. From the interstate take Exit 27, which is Highway 74/23. At the junction of US 74 and US 129 take 129 to Robbinsville. The junction is about sixty miles from the Interstate 40 exit.

    **If you would like to order a copy of any of these photographs, please click on the image. You will be taken to my website where you will be able to order any size, quantity, and mats and frames if desired.

      Thanks for visiting.

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) cherohala skyway drives highway hiking motorcycling mountains north carolina overlooks scenic tennessee https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2014/12/cherohala-skyway Mon, 08 Dec 2014 13:00:00 GMT
Big South Fork https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2014/12/big-south-fork The Big South Fork 

         What is big and comes in a variety of colors? The answer is the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in all seasons of the year. Situated both in Kentucky and Tennessee, the Big South Fork is spectacular enough for the two states to share.

          Composed of over 100,000 acres, the Big South Fork is the largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi River. With that much area there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation of all varieties. For relaxing, try camping alongside one of the many rivers or branches in the Big South Fork and listening to and feeling the spray of the cool mist as the water ripples over the rocks in the stream. For the active crowd, whitewater rafting or kayaking over the wilder portions of the river will prove satisfying to their desires for adventure. If water adventures are not for you, there are 280 miles of trails for hiking, biking, or horseback riding. Wildflowers, waterfalls, and unique rock formations are among the favorite trail destinations.   

Big South Fork in Autumn 01Big South Fork in Autumn 01

          The Big South Fork of the Cumberland River has its origin within this recreation area’s boundaries with many branches contributing to it, like White Oak Creek, New River, and Clear Fork. The Big South Fork is located in the southeastern part of Kentucky and the northeastern part of Tennessee and contains some very rugged terrain. The gorge of the South Fork of the Cumberland River is steep enough to provide some spectacular views from the many overlooks in the park (many of which are wheelchair accessible). At the East Rim Overlook the river gorge can be viewed 400 feet below. The rocky, rugged terrain can be enjoyed visually from the overlooks, but it cannot be appreciated fully until they are experienced at ground level.

Big South Fork Honey Creek OverlookBig South Fork Honey Creek Overlook

Where to start?

          Headquarters for the Big South Fork Recreation Area in the Bandy Creek area is the hub of activities and one of its information centers. Being near the geographic center, it is convenient to check here for information on activities and to obtain the latest condition of trails and water and accessibility to the various areas. The Bandy Creek area contains one of the three campgrounds in the Big South Fork,  horse stables, and a group camp area. Information on outfitters that guide whitewater float trips, overnight backpacking trips, and horseback riding can be obtained from the park headquarters at Bandy Creek and other visitor centers.

Getting there

          Major state and US highways surround the Big South Fork in both Kentucky and Tennessee. US 27 is the north-south highway bordering the Big South Fork on the east. In Tennessee State Highway 52 is the southern bordering highway and connects to US 27 near Elgin passing through the town of Rugby and its Historic District, and joining US 127 in Jamestown. County Road 297 is the only major highway that crosses the midsection of the Big South Fork. Several highways clip corners or small sections of the area. The Bandy Creek area and the headquarters are accessed from CR 297.       

Whitewater and Trails

          The Big South Fork Recreation Area has excellent opportunities for whitewater adventure. Several sections of the main river and its branches have a designation of Class III and Class IV rapids, which means it can be a very exciting ride down the river. Guided rafting trips can be arranged from commercial outfitters scattered around the Big South Fork. Their names, locations, and telephone numbers can be obtained from park headquarters. Kayaking is also a popular way to experience the river with its long stretches of isolated whitewater and the steep rock walls along the gorge.

Big South Fork Devils Jump MF435Big South Fork Devils Jump MF435

          There are hundreds of miles of trails in the Big South Fork to be enjoyed and endured by foot, mountain bike, and horseback. Maps can be obtained from the visitor centers so be sure to check in for trail conditions, especially if overnight trips are planned (which is required). A visitors center is also located in Stearns, Kentucky along Highway 92.

          Most of the attractions are only accessible by trail. Waterfalls, natural arches, and spectacular overlooks are examples of what awaits the hiker who wants to enjoy the true wonder of this wilderness. Many short trails provide natural treasures at their terminus for those who cannot or do not like to hike. Many long trails can be taken to fully appreciate the wilderness area’s uniqueness.

          Angel Falls is located about two miles north of CR 297 at the Leatherwood Road bridge. The old O & W railroad bridge (and exciting whitewater action) is located two and three tenths miles to the south from the same trailhead. These two relatively easy hikes are good ways to enjoy a sampling of the Big South Fork's wonders. The Leatherwood Road bridge area, a take-out and put-in point for whitewater rafters, is about two miles from the Bandy Creek area along Highway 297. 

          In the extreme northern section of the Big South Fork is Yahoo Falls, a beautiful and tall waterfall worth the trip. At 113 feet it is the Big South Fork’s highest waterfall. A short 0.4 mile hike is required to get to the falls.

Yahoo Falls Big South Fork SW199Yahoo Falls Big South Fork SW199

          Twin Arches in the western part of the recreation area involves a five-mile drive over a gravel road and a 0.7 mile hike to get to these natural arches. The north and south arches are 62 feet and 103 feet tall, respectively, making the south arch the tallest sandstone arch in Tennessee.

Stearns, Kentucky Area

          On the Kentucky side in the extreme northeastern section near Stearns are the Blue Heron Mining Community and Interpretive Center, the Big South Fork Scenic Railway, and two overlooks -- Devil’s Jump and Split Bow. Take the train ride to the Blue Heron Mining Community aboard the Big South Fork Scenic Railway. This trip takes the passengers down the same route of the early coal miners to the Blue Heron Interpretive Center, where audio stations describe the life in an early coal mining community.

Big South Fork Railway MF 429Big South Fork Railway MF 429 Blue Heron Interpretive Center Big South ForkBlue Heron Interpretive Center Big South Fork

          Experiencing the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area can be in a variety of forms -- whitewater adventures of raft or kayak, horseback trail rides, waterfalls, natural arch or wildflower walks, a train ride to a coal mine of times gone by, or quiet times by a mountain stream. The experience could be any or all of these. But the important thing is to experience the Big South Fork. 

     **If you would like to order a copy of any of these photographs, please click on the image. You will be taken to my website where you will be able to order any size, quantity, and mats and frames if desired.

     Thanks for visiting.

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) big south fork biking hiking kentucky recreation river tennessee whitewater https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2014/12/big-south-fork Mon, 01 Dec 2014 13:00:00 GMT
Vicksburg Mississippi Then and Now https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2014/11/vicksburg-mississippi-then-and-now Then and Now - Vicksburg, Mississippi


            Just as Vicksburg, Mississippi, was a very sought after and fought over location during the Civil War, it serves today as a beacon to history and a very significant destination for discovering some of the reasons for its importance. The picturesque city of Vicksburg sits on a high bluff overlooking a bend in the Mississippi River. Its very location was important during Civil War times and was looked upon as the main obstacle of Union domination. The Vicksburg National Military Park bears many memorials to lost soldiers and unnamed heroes during that bloody conflict and sad chapter in America’s history. But nevertheless, Vicksburg today remains a desirable destination for history buffs. The Civil War and its Southern charm are the major attractions of this city on the bluff of the Mississippi River.

            The National Battlefield and the Civil War are the focal points of Vicksburg’s history. The battlefield is situated in and occupies a major portion of northern Vicksburg. Notable buildings and museums are scattered throughout the city, mostly in the downtown district. Two self-guiding scenic tours are clearly marked and are listed in the Vicksburg Visitors Guide, which is readily available at most visitor centers along Mississippi’s interstates and in several locations within Vicksburg. The markers for the self-guiding tours lead visitors through the historic downtown district. The Visitors Guide explains the significance of each stop along the tours.

Vicksburg – the City

            The most prominent building along the self-guiding tour is the Old Court House Museum, which was constructed in 1858 by slaves. Many great Americans were hosted in the building in its history – Jefferson Davis, Theodore Roosevelt, Booker T. Washington, William McKinley and Ulysses S. Grant. Here the U.S. flag was raised while the Confederate flag was lowered on July 4, 1863. Other museums not associated with the Civil War include the Biedenharn Museum of Coca Cola Memorabilia, Yesterday’s Children Antique Doll and Toy Museum, and the Lower Mississippi River Museum. Many nineteenth century homes along the self-guiding tour routes have been restored and now serve as bed and breakfast inns. Each has a colorful story to help piece together the history puzzle of Vicksburg.        

View of the Mississippi River

            Visitors can see why Vicksburg was such a strategic point when they walk along the high bluffs along the Mississippi River. There are several points overlooking the river from which the visitor can watch the river and its traffic. Just gazing upon the mighty Mississippi allows the imagination to wander. Riverfront Park offers the best view of the bridges across the Mississippi River and the river itself. The park is at the Navy Circle, another strategic point during the war.

 

            There are four casinos along the river for entertainment and contain great restaurants. All operate twenty-four hours. The Ameristar, Lady Luck, Diamondjack's, and the Riverwalk Casino are located on Vicksburg’s riverfront.

Vicksburg - The Battlefield

            The Vicksburg National Military Park is more than just a cemetery for soldiers killed in action. It is the battlefield where two armies of Americans fought and shed blood and many lives were lost. The park identifies strategies and strongholds of the winners and uncovers weaknesses and plights of the losers. Generals and heroes are memorialized. Monuments mark historical battles and pay tribute to states represented. The park consists of a 16-mile route beginning at a visitor center and circling through the battlefield. There are numbered stops with explanations in the guide handed out at the entrance (entrance fee is $8.00 per car). During the tour there are red and blue metal markers along the way. Red markers denote Confederate lines and emplacements. Blue pertains to Union forces.

Down the Road a Piece

            Just outside Vicksburg there are a couple other notable spots contributing to the area’s history. Grand Gulf Military Park is about twenty-five miles south of Vicksburg on US Highway 61. The former thriving town of Grand Gulf has an interesting history. It was settled in the 1700s by the French and remained a small and unimportant outpost during much of its early times. But when cotton became “king” in the early 1800s, because of its location on the Mississippi River, Grand Gulf became a major port city. By the mid-1800s its population had grown to nearly 1000. Unfortunately, a few ill-timed tragedies struck the thriving town. In 1843 an outbreak of yellow fever claimed several lives. Ten years later a devastating tornado ravaged Grand Gulf. Then the fatal blow – the currents of the Mississippi River (the source of the town’s importance) ate away the entire business section of the town (fifty-five city blocks!). By the outbreak of the Civil War, the population had been reduced to a mere 158 people.

            But during the Civil War, the town left its claim to fame. It was the last stand of the Confederate Army under General Pemberton in an attempt to ward off the Union’s approach by General Ulysses S. Grant to take Vicksburg. The Confederates made a valiant stand but General Grant’s army outflanked the Southerners and the end to the stronghold was approaching.

            Grand Gulf Military Park, a memorial to the city’s history and to the last effort by the Confederates to hold Vicksburg, contains four hundred acres and has relics from the town’s prominent past and interesting items on display from that period.

            The town of Port Gibson is near Grand Gulf Military Park and is significant historically. Many buildings remain preserved in this serene town “too beautiful to burn” (according to General Ulysses S. Grant during his occupation of the town in 1863). There are also eight historic churches along Church Street.

            It is difficult to imagine the size of some of the plantation homes of that era without actually seeing them up close. The Ruins of Windsor are located about 9 miles west of Port Gibson. Windsor was a large plantation home built in 1860 and was obviously not too beautiful to burn. However, it did not burn until 1890. All that remain of the stately house are its spectacular columns that supported the structure of the building. Huge, tall columns give some indication of the size of the main house in its heyday.

Post-War Vicksburg

            After its surrender in July 1863, Vicksburg became an occupied city until after Reconstruction. A force of 5000 United States Colored Troops, who patrolled the streets, occupied it. The civil liberties of the Vicksburg inhabitants were practically non-existent during this time, as the townspeople were required to give loyalty oaths. Failure to take the oath resulted in either arrest or banishment from the city. Plantations owned by the “enemies” of the government were confiscated. Mississippi was readmitted to the Union in 1870, but troops were not removed until President Rutherford Hayes ordered them out in 1877.

            Vicksburg was also the exchange point for prisoners of war. On April 24, 1865, more than 2300 released Union soldiers embarked on the steamer Sultana for the journey upriver toward home. Three nights later near Memphis, the over-loaded boat exploded and more than 1800 died. The Sultana incident is the greatest maritime disaster in American history but its importance was lost due to the little attention it received. It occurred the same time as the surrender of the Confederate generals and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Summary

            To get to Vicksburg from the East, use Interstate Highway 20. Vicksburg is fifty miles west of Jackson. Interstate 55 goes through Jackson and brings visitors from the North and South to the central section of Mississippi. From the West I-20 crosses the Mississippi River from Louisiana. US Highway 61 parallels the river through the state. The Natchez Trace Parkway (the 450-mile route from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi, that is part of the National Park System) passes within a couple miles of Port Gibson. Port Gibson and Grand Gulf are about 20-25 miles south of Vicksburg along US 61.

**If you would like to order a copy of any of these photographs, please click on the image. You will be taken to my website where you will be able to order any size, quantity, and mats and frames if desired.

Thanks for visiting.

For more information:

Vicksburg National Military Park
3201 Clay Street
Vicksburg, MS 39183
601-636-0583
www.nps.gov/vick

Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau
Clay Street at Old Highway 27
P. O. Box 110
Vicksburg, MS 39181
800-221-3536
www.visitvicksburg.com

The Old Courthouse Museum
1008 Cherry Street
Vicksburg, MS 39183
601-636-0741
http://www.oldcourthouse.org/

Grand Gulf Military Park
12006 Grand Gulf Road
Port Gibson, MS 39150
601-437-5911
http://www.grandgulfpark.state.ms.us/

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) battlefield civil war grand gulf military mississippi park port gibson river usa vicksburg war https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2014/11/vicksburg-mississippi-then-and-now Mon, 24 Nov 2014 13:00:00 GMT
Bluebonnets of the Texas Hill Country https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2014/11/bluebonnets-of-the-texas-hill-country      The signs of spring in the Texas Hill Country are everywhere. A visit to the south central portion of Texas known for its bluebonnets in spring will leave a lasting impression. To visitors that have never seen the springtime display, it is difficult to imagine the landscape without actually being there. It will draw them back year after year.

Bluebonnets in the Texas Hill CountryBluebonnets in the Texas Hill CountryBluebonnets in Texas Hill Country near Ennis

The Legend

     In the Texas Hill Country springtime, Mother Nature puts on one of her unique displays. The hills become covered with a small blue wildflower – the bluebonnet -- the state flower. There is an Indian legend about the bluebonnets, as there are Indian legends about many wildflowers. It says that the land was thirsty and dry. The leaders of the tribe knew that the Great Spirit wanted to give the land water, but that in order for that to happen, someone would have to give up something very valuable to them. All the tribe members thought and thought. None could imagine that it would be themselves who would have to give up anything except this one small Indian girl who always carried around her special doll. She never parted with it because it was a gift from her mother. However, she knew that she was the one the Great Spirit wanted to make the sacrifice.

     One night the little Indian girl went to the hill upon which the Great Spirit lived. The sacred tribal fire was burning and she placed her doll in the fire as a sacrifice so that her people might have rain. The next morning the rains came. Along with the rains tiny blue flowers were scattered across the hills as far as the tribe could see. These bluebonnets were signs from the Indians’ Great Spirit of his pleasure with the special sacrifice of the little girl.

Bluebonnets, Austin, Texas 010Bluebonnets, Austin, Texas 010

     Some years are better for bluebonnets than others. It is dependent upon the amount of rainfall and sunshine in the early spring. There are a number of publicized "bluebonnet trails" that allow visitors to see the splendid little flowers along routes that take them through the countryside off the main roads. Many pass through private property and the property owners do not like wildlflower-peepers to trespass onto their land. So, a word of caution. If there is a fence, chances are it is private land. But, there are plenty of pull-offs that allow visitors to get up close and personal with the bluebonnets.

Bluebonnet Trails

     Three counties within a hundred miles of Austin have a particularly bountiful bunch of bluebonnets. Washington, Gillespie, and Burnet Counties are usually blessed and each one boasts of great "bluebonnet trails". Washington County, west of Houston, is home to Brenham and the Blue Bell Creameries. Farm roads off the main highways, east-west US 290, and the north-south SR 50, are best for wildflowers. The La Bahia Trail, originally an Indian route from Louisiana to Texas, is one bluebonnet trail. It follows FM 390 and FM 50 and goes from Washington-on-the-Brazos (the site where the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed) to the town of Burnet (pronounced like durn it) in Burnet County. The trail passes through rolling farm land and the town of Burton, the site of the oldest operating cotton gin in America.

Blue Bell Ice Cream Factory Outside Brenham, Texas 011Blue Bell Ice Cream Factory Outside Brenham, Texas 011 Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site Independence Hall Washington Texas 018Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site Independence Hall Washington Texas 018

     Burnet is called the Bluebonnet Capital of Texas for good reason. An annual bluebonnet festival will be held April 10-12, 2015, and the wildflowers are usually right for the viewing. The county's bluebonnet trail heads west toward Llano along SR 29. About 3 1/2 miles out of town, Ranch Road 2341 heads north to Lake Buchanan. This 15-mile route has some of the best wildflowers in the state and there are plenty of pull-offs for stopping and admiring.

Bluebonnets of Burnet County 043Bluebonnets of Burnet County 043

     Gillespie County, south of Llano County, is the third great place for bluebonnets. Its largest city is Fredericksburg with the National Museum of the Pacific War and the George H.W. Bush Gallery. The best route for bluebonnets is the Willow City Loop, which is about 13 miles north of the city off SR 16. The 13-mile narrow road passes along farm land (most of which is private) and offers more great bluebonnet viewing.

   

     There are actually five species of bluebonnets. All grow in Texas, in slightly different areas, but all in spring. Besides bluebonnets, the Hill Country is ablaze with other wildflowers. The red Indian Paintbrush often grows next to the bluebonnets. Some pastures are filled with goldenrod or white poppy flowers. Indian blanket, sometimes called firewheel, has red, orange, and yellow blooms.  

     Bluebonnets are wildflowers that are not easy to grow. They are adapted to the rocky, alkaline soils of the Hill Country, and to the frequent drought conditions. In addition, the hard-coated seeds take a couple years to germinate. They can be artificially prepared by scarifying the seeds. That is, either physically nicking the seeds, or using chemicals. Then, if they do germinate, care is required in the planting process. I suppose it is better to let Mother Nature do her thing in the Hill Country. And just go see them there.

     **If you would like to order a copy of any of these photographs, please click on the image. You will be taken to my website where you will be able to order any size, quantity, and mats and frames if desired.

     Thanks for visiting.

#bluebonnets
#texas
#texashillcountry

 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) america blue bluebonnets george h.w.bush gallery hill country legend photography texas usa wildflowers https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2014/11/bluebonnets-of-the-texas-hill-country Mon, 17 Nov 2014 13:00:00 GMT
Get Off the Interstate: My Side Trip Along Alabama's I-65 https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2014/11/get-off-the-interstate-my-side-trip-along-alabamas-i-65           When we are planning a trip and looking at a map, it is usually our custom to take the main highways, whether it is an interstate or a nice wide four-lane. We want to get to our destination by the most direct route with the least number of hassles. I recently took one of those major highway excursions, but I wondered about some of those small towns just off the road. Such was my “side trip” along Interstate 65 on my way from Tennessee to points south. It turned out to be my destination for a few days of exploring the I-65 corridor in North Alabama. 

          I had passed road signs on prior trips for Athens, Decatur, and Cullman, and wondered what I was missing by not stopping. This time I stopped.

          Athens is about fifteen miles south of the Tennessee state line. It is the county seat of Limestone County with a 1926 courthouse that has a Confederate soldier statue still facing north standing guard. On the historic town square Limestone Drugs has an old-fashioned soda fountain. The Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives houses artifacts during the Revolutionary War through the present from local soldiers. 

Athens Alabama, Downtowm Limestone County Courthouse 02Athens Alabama, Downtowm Limestone County Courthouse 02 Athens, Alabama, Downtowm Limestone County Courthouse 01Athens, Alabama, Downtowm Limestone County Courthouse 01

          Athens is not left out when it comes to annual events either. The Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention occurs each October and attracts musicians and visitors from all around the country. www.athens.edu/fiddlersA Storytelling Festival will be held October 27th and 29th - 31st in 2015 in downtown Athens www.athensstorytellingfestival.com. Storytelling being the oldest form of education, the town is looking forward to making this an annual event. Things are happening in Athens. But I wouldn’t have known without getting off the main highway.

          Farther down I-65 Decatur is situated on the Tennessee River and has really graduated from town status to city with its population of 56,000. The neighborhood of Old Decatur dates to the early 1800s. The historic district’s most significant building is the Old State Bank (built in 1833), which is located on SR 20/US 72 Alt. It was one of the few buildings in Decatur to survive the Civil War. While visiting downtown Decatur, I stopped by Simp McGee’s and sampled the great menu and heard tales of the colorful riverboat captain for whom the restaurant was named. 

Decatur, Alabama, Old State Bank 02Decatur, Alabama, Old State Bank 02   Decatur, Alabama, Old State Bank 07Decatur, Alabama, Old State Bank 07

          Decatur has a lot of annual and special events worthy of note. The Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic runs on Memorial Day and fills the sky with colorful balloons from across the country (www.alabamajubilee.net). The Spirit of America Festival celebrates the Fourth of July. A barbeque cook-off called Riverfest is held the third Saturday in September at Ingalls Harbor. Incidently, Ingalls Harbor is the site of several bass tournaments.

          Just to the east of Decatur along I-565 heading toward Huntsville sits the little town of Mooresville. Its claim to fame is the fact that it was incorporated one month before Alabama became a state. In October 1818, it was incorporated into the Alabama territory. The town with a population of 63 has a post office, several homes built in the 1800s, or houses looking like those of that century. But I wouldn’t have known that without getting off the main highway.

          Cullman has several points of uniqueness. The most surprising one is the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament. It is situated on 380 acres of isolated farmland just outside Cullman in Hanceville. Several buildings make up this shrine, temple, and monastery for the Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration. The shrine is the result of Mother Mary Angelica’s work, which included founding of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).

Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament

          Within the city limits of Cullman, the Ave Maria Grotto is another awe-inspiring place to visit. Its three-acre are on the grounds of the St. Bernard Abbey and contains 125 miniature replicas of famous churches, shrines, and buildings from around the world. Most of the miniatures are the creations of one of the early Benedictine monks, Brother Joseph Zoettl.

          One of Alabama’s longest covered bridges (I wouldn’t have known Alabama had covered bridges unless I got off the main highway) is located near Cullman. The Clarkson Covered Bridge was the site of the 1863 Civil War Battle of Hog Mountain and is surrounded by a park with picnic tables, hiking trails, and a shallow creek.

Legg-Clarkson Covered Bridge 014Legg-Clarkson Covered Bridge 014

          A part of the Wallace State Community College, the Evelyn Burrow Museum (www.burrowmuseum.org) is another gem of a place. Unbelievably, it houses a $9.5 million collection of objects d’art, some dating back to the 1600s. There are 5000 pieces of porcelain, statues, and china from around the world. They were collected over period of 65 years by Evelyn and her late husband Ottis Burrow. The collection consists of works by Remington, Dresden, Faberge, and Tiffany.

          Just a couple miles outside of Cullman, the Seven Winds Kitchen (http://sevenwindskitchen.com) makes peanut and pecan brittle the way it ought to be made. In 1994, daughters of Berta Gammon, Jane Gammon and Frances Scruggs, opened Seven Winds Kitchen and Gift Shop in Logan, Alabama, so they could share their mother's art of candy making. Their candy is all hand-made. The brittle is hand-pulled. Good stuff. But I wouldn’t have known any of this without getting off the main highway.

          The Interstate 65 corridor of North Alabama is just one place I found to get off the main road and see what is there besides gas stations and a rest areas. This country is full of places like these. But I wouldn’t have found them if I hadn’t gotten off the main highway.

    **If you would like to order a copy of any of these photographs, please click on the image. You will be taken to my website where you will be able to order any size, quantity, and mats and frames if desired.

     Thanks for visiting.

 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) I-65 alabama america beaten burrows interstate kitchen museum off seven the trail travel usa winds https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2014/11/get-off-the-interstate-my-side-trip-along-alabamas-i-65 Mon, 10 Nov 2014 13:00:00 GMT
Transition from DSLR to 4/11 UPDATE https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2014/3/transition-from-dslr-to-4/3 This is a large step for me.

Since I am a travel photographer, I have always had some sort of Nikon camera, whether it was a 35mm FE2, or an N90s, or a D100, or finally a D700. That D700 with all its lenses is a pretty good size bundle...and I'm not getting any younger.

So, for that reason...that I'm not getting any younger...I decided to try a lighter outfit. Tough decision.

Here's what I came up with. After reading many reviews and talking to fellow photographers in the Memphis Digital Photography Meetup Group, I ordered an Olympus OMD E-M1. It's their latest micro Four Thirds camera. It's small. Looks like I put my D700 in the dryer. I got the 12-40mm 2.8 lens and the 75mm 1.8. I wanted to go all prime, but I felt the range of the 12-40mm was what I needed. Plus, the reviews for that lens was very good.

I haven't had much chance to play with the new camera yet, but I will post my opinions later.

Meanwhile, anyone need a good Nikon?

UPDATE 3.15.2014: I have traveled with the E-M1 and took just over 100 images. The resolution is great. It handles well. Too many buttons and levers for me. Maybe I'll figure them out as I need them.

This camera is not for action or sports photography. I tried it on my grandkids doing the snow tubing on Ober Gatlinburg. Not good results. I'm hoping it gets better with usage.

There is a lot to like about the E-M1. One of the things is the ability to digitally double the focal length of any attached lens. It's done with making one of the function buttons enable that feature.

As I use the new camera more, I'll update this page until I have reached my final decision. 

UPDATE 4.11.2014: After using the E-M1 on a recent trip to Nebraska, I can say as I become more familiar with the camera, I am liking it more. The comment about it not being a camera for action is erroneous. There is a setting for continuous fast and continuous slow that works wonderfully. Also, on the dial for A, P, M, there are adjustments for various scene effects and artistic affects. One of the scene option is "action". That setting puts the aperture at the maximum and a higher ISO so that a fast shutter speed is set. That works also. Today, I am shooting some interiors with it. That should be one of the final tests. I'll post results later.  

UPDATE 7.7.2014: Now that I completed shot several interior shoots, I have confidence that the E-M1 can satisfactorily replace my D700 FX Nikon. The only thing now that would concern me (if I shot with flash very often) is how it would perform in the unlikely (hopefully) event that I had to shoot a wedding.

UPDATE 7.26.2014: I have used my Nikon flash on my E-M1 and had to shoot A and had the best results using manual on the flash.
Not bad. The shoot was for indoor architecture.

 

 

 

 

 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) camera change d700 e-m1 nikon olympus omd transition https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2014/3/transition-from-dslr-to-4/3 Fri, 07 Mar 2014 16:46:59 GMT
Bristol Motor Speedway https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2013/11/bristol-motor-speedway Just returned from a trip to Tennessee's Tri-Cities area. That would be in the northeast part of the state. The Tri-Cities are Johnson City, Kingsport, and Bristol. There is a Bristol, Tennessee and a Bristol, Virginia. Interestingly, there are not two Bristols. The stateline is in the middle of the city.

The biggest attraction in Bristol is, of course, the Bristol Motor Speedway. Huge!!

As luck would have it, I was privileged to get a ride around the track in a Mustang pace car.

That 30 degree banked track is amazing...especially at 70 mph. Imagine at over 100!!

It was a memorable visit to the Spreedway. It would be especially memorable to go to Bristol in 2016 for the Battle at Bristol. This is a football game between Virginia Tech and the University of Tennessee on September 10, 2016. The football field of the Volunteers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville is large, but Bristol holds even more spectators. The aim is to have a football game with the most fans ever in one venue.

 

There is much more to Bristol than the Speedway, but come NASCAR race weekend, that is a big deal!

 

 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) bristol nascar race speedway tennessee tri-cities volunteers https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2013/11/bristol-motor-speedway Sat, 02 Nov 2013 20:06:27 GMT
Memphis' Other Guitar Factory - St Blues Workshop https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2013/9/memphis-other-guitar-factory---st-blues-workshop A few days ago, I was writing an assigned article for one of my magazines that was about Memphis' attractions. I always like writing about my home town. It's easy to do research!

The article concerned music, a natural for Memphis. It started at the Gibson Guitar Factory, proceeded to the Rock N Soul Museum, went down Beale Street, and stopped at a few of Memphis' other downtown attractions.

Just before I had completed the article, I was made aware of another guitar factory in Memphis. Great timing! The St Blues Guitar Workshop is behind the Sun Studio on Union Avenue near downtown. I checked out their website and found they had tours also. I emailed the owner, Jeff Cox, and discovered they did not have the same restrictions on visitors as Gibson did. Gibson says "no photography". St Blues - "take all the pictures you want". Gibson says "silence your cell phones, don't even take them out of your pocket or you'll be removed from the tour". No such restriction at St Blues. Jeff even introduces you to his workers in his workshop. Nice touch.

 

Granted the Gibson Guitar Factory is a much fancier and elaborate building. Much larger. More workers. Higher output - 60-65 instruments a day. St Blues -much less fancy. Much less output. But the fact is: Gibson Guitar Factory is a great place to visit and learn about guitar making. And so is St Blues.

I took both tours. I like them both. But St Blues is much more personal.

St Blues makes three types of guitar: the workshop series, the Juke Joint, and their specialty - the Cigar Box Guitar. Jeff says the Cigar Box has really taken off in Europe and that the Blues are really big there.

 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) blues factory guitar memphis music st workshop https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2013/9/memphis-other-guitar-factory---st-blues-workshop Thu, 12 Sep 2013 14:21:44 GMT
Outer Banks Photography Workshop https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2013/4/outer-banks-photography-workshop Wow! It occurs to me that I have not blogged in a while.

Last month I took part in a photography workshop in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was an experience... good and not so good.

The good.

The workshop of ten participants was led by Richard Bernabe of South Carolina. An article, which he wrote on Iceland, appears in the May 2013 issue of Popular Photography. He travels the world photographing and leading workshops. He leads photographers in workshops to Patagonia, Iceland, and North America. His techniques are excellent and I learned a few things. We shot every sunrise and sunset. Some were better than others, but I believe I got some good shots. Some have been accepted by my stock agency.

A sunrise on an abandoned pier on Cape HatterasCape Hatteras Frisco Pier DSC5790

What I learned.

Richard did a presentation on the camera's histogram and how to best use it. The idea is to get all the graph within the frame of the histogram with the majority of that graph to the right. The detail of the image is weighted to the right within the graph. That's probably not a very clear explanation, so you may think I didn't really learn anything about histograms.

There was also a night photography session on shooting star trails. It was conducted beneath the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

The not so good.

The only negatives about my experience on the workshop were the time of year it occurred. Early March. Before the beginning of the tourist season. Not much was open, but had plenty of good restaurants and really all we needed. Also, the temperature range was from mid 40's to low 60's. Chilly mornings and evenings.

Then there was the high waves and high water on the roads, making for interesting travel, particularly in arriving and leaving the Outer Banks. Enought on that.

Sunset on Cape HatterasSunset with waves and shorebird DSC5861

Overall, it was a great photographic adventure and an educational workshop.

Thanks Richard.

Sand dunes, sea oats, and the Cape Hatteras LighthouseCape Hatteras Lighthouse and sand dunes DSC5847

 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) hatteras outer banks photography richard bernabe workshop https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2013/4/outer-banks-photography-workshop Fri, 19 Apr 2013 15:30:35 GMT
Grand Rivers https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2012/8/grand-rivers Last week Dorothy and I, along with her sister Pauline and her husband Jim, made a day trip to Grand Rivers, Kentucky. I had an article to write for an online magazine. We saw a muscial (Fabulous Fifties) at the Badgett Playhouse. We later had dinner at Patti's Restaurant. Great show! Great food!

Here are a few pictures from our trip.

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) grand rivers kentucky pattis settlement https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2012/8/grand-rivers Mon, 20 Aug 2012 02:53:31 GMT
Perdido Key and Pensacola Trip https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2012/8/perdido-key-and-pensacola-trip Dorothy and I just returned from a few days in Perdido Key, Florida. That's just across the Alabama line from Orange Beach and very near Pensacola. Our time was relaxing. We got up when we wanted, ate when we wanted, and hung out on the beach as long and as short a time as we wanted. Seafood was good at the Shrimp Basket, the Sunset Grill, and the Crab Trap.

I ventured out a few places for pictures. Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores was the first day's destination. Another day, I went into Pensacola and the Naval Air Station (home of the Blue Angels). I visited the Pensacola Lighthouse and the National Museum of Naval Aviation. There are 173 steps to the top of the lighthouse. Wow! What a view!

The National Museum of Naval Aviation was fantastic, and admission was FREE.

Here are a few pictures from Perdido and Pensacola.

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) aviation florida lighthouse museum pensacola perdido https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2012/8/perdido-key-and-pensacola-trip Sat, 11 Aug 2012 03:43:00 GMT
Our plant photography adventures https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2012/7/our-plant-photography-adventures Asiatic Daylilly shot in Moscow, Tennessee Several years ago, before the advent of digital...or the advent of digital in my life, Dorothy and I traveled to many locales to photograph and identify wildflowers. We made several trips to the Smokies, many excursions to state parks, and one BIG trip West. We have many stories about our trips and how we made the photographs.

Our images were on 35mm slides. I have just finished scanning several hundred slides into digital files. I posted nearly 200 on my website. www.jdrichardson.com/wildflowers. Take a look. Don't worry about viewing them all. I probably wouldn't either if they weren't mine.

 

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(James Richardson Photography Galleries) wildflowers https://www.jdrichardson.com/blog/2012/7/our-plant-photography-adventures Sun, 01 Jul 2012 20:26:20 GMT