Blogging A to Z Challenge – The Complete List for 2017 – #atozchallenge

During the month of April I participated with nearly 2000 other bloggers worldwide in the “Blogging from A to Z Challenge” which is now in its 7th year. This was my second year to participate and this year’s theme for my series was “Wanderlust.”  As a “Travelographer,” my posts tend to be photo heavy.  I travel and take loads of photos. This is my way of sharing the wonders of the back roads of America.

Corner of This Way and That Way in Lake Jackson, TX

Following are links to the complete A to Z set.  Just click on the banner for each and letter and enjoy the posts and the photos.  I hope all readers will Enjoy the Ride as much as I have enjoyed sharing it!

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With over 6,300 locations worldwide, Choice Hotels has you covered! Book on our official site ChoiceHotels.com and save!

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W is for Wildlife – #atozchallenge

There are not many better things on a back road trip than running into unexpected wildlife. There is an abundance of birds and animals to be discovered on the road.  For me, my camera is always at the ready for the chance meeting of some interesting animal or bird.

Sandhill Cranes fly over high plains near Dell, MT

One such incident happened on a gravel road near Dell, Montana.  I was on the lookout for bison as I drive along Ted Turner’s massive bison ranch.  While stopped to look I heard a strange bird call that I had never heard and shortly thereafter a pair of large birds came zipping by.  I got some shots, but wasn’t sure what I had until I got to the hotel later that night and discovered they were a pair of Sandhill Cranes, my first ever sighting of these glorious birds.

Sandhill Cranes near Cecilia, KY
A pair of Sandhill Cranes at sunset near Cecilia, KY

Just a few years later in my own state of Kentucky I was able to track down a migration of 1000s of these magnificent birds.  I actually came close to walking among their huge flock and they were flying all around me.  Words can’t explain the awe I had.

These birds migrate north back to their homes in Michigan and Wisconsin and fly through Kentucky in late January.  They stop in the bounteous cornfields to eat the leftovers that remained after harvest.

1000s of sandhill cranes converse on a field near Cecilia, KY
Sandhill Cranes take flight
Sandhill Cranes fly over Cecilia, KY

Chance encounters are always a thrill.  On a morning drive in Grand Teton National Park on a snowy morning in March 2013, I caught a fox leaping in the snow out of the corner of my eye.  The lovely animal stopped and stared at me as I sought to nab a shot.

Fox on Snow in Grand Teton National Park
Migrating Snow Geese by the hundreds in Arkansas in February 2017

On another trip earlier this year, we were driving on a backroad in Arkansas when we saw a “field of white” ahead of us.  Turned out to be a massive flock of migrating snow geese.

There could have been 1000s of them here, much the same as the Sandhill Cranes I noted above.  But it was such an unplanned surprise.

Once again, camera was always at the ready, so I was able to get a few shots while still sitting in the van (though we had to go about a mile down the road to turn around and accommodate the photo shoot.

Snow Geese everywhere
A flock of Snow Geese darkens the sky
1000s of snow geese in a small field in central Arkansas

Just like the snow geese, I happened upon a large flock of white pelicans at Andes Lake in South Dakota.  I could see them from a distance and thought they were ducks.

Pelicans in Lake Andes, SD
Pelicans taking flight at Andes Lake
Antelope in open range along the side of Wyoming 120

Of course, its not always about birds.  There are plenty of opportunities in the high plains to come across America’s fastest animal, the pronghorn antelope.

On trips through Montana and Wyoming I always saw these lovely sleek animals.  Sometimes I got them right on the side of the road.

I did have one lucky trip in 2013 when I was driving through Colorado and saw a mother and her two calves go jaunting through the tall grass.  I was able to get a nice shot with my telephoto lens.

Antelope Doe and Calves as seen from CO Hwy 13 north of Craig, CO
Antelope just stared back at me…didn’t run
A small family of pronghorn Antelope scamper across a field near Pulis Lane in Wilsall, Montana.
Antelope on the Run in Wyoming
A big bison poses for me in Yellowstone

The National Parks are always a great place to get some nice wildlife shots.  I have been to Yellowstone three times in the past 5 years and have seen a nice variety of wildlife, but mainly its the bison that roam free that are a thrill.  I was amazed at how huge some of these guys get.  One that walked by my car was at least 7 feet tall.

Bison and calves relax by a lake in Yellowstone
Bison roam freely along the Grand Loop road
Bison relax along Lava Creek in Yellowstone while pronghorned antelope look on from the background
Buffalo in southern Montana on Ted Turner’s sprawling ranch near Dell, MT
Another Bison in Yellowstone Park
A solitary elk bull relaxes in the meadow at Yellowstone

Elk are another great large mammal to look for.  I have seen them in Yellowstone and Grand Teton, as well as some of the mountain drives I made.

These are lovely animals.  And, like the bison, are huge.

 

Elk Bull in Sugar City, Idaho
An Elk Bull near Elkton, Oregon
One antlered elk bull on a breeding farm near Archer, ID
An elk was seen roaming the area around Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone
Deer at sunrise in Shenandoah National Park

The great culprit of car accidents and frequent recipient of roadkill awards are deer.  These can be seen along highways everywhere both day and night.

I recently made a trip to Shenandoah National Park and got some very nice shots of deer. I have many more from other places, but these are my best.

Deer jumping away in Shenandoah National Park
Deer looking on
Deer on the road from Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park
Deer grazing in the snow in Lewistown, Montana
Bald Eagle shot taken in mid April 2017 near Cave Run Lake, KY

Sometimes I make trips to find the wildlife myself.  Such was the case recently on a visit to the fish hatchery near Cave Run Lake in Eastern Kentucky.  I was in search of some of the bald eagles that hang around there.  Found one!

There have been more sightings recently of these lovely and regal birds.  I have seen one or two almost every week at Jacobson Park locally and also have been able to see a nest with three adults and two offspring near Taylorsville Lake west of Lexington.

Love these eagles.

Eagle at Jacobson Lake in Lexington
Eagle at Taylorsville Lake, KY
Great Blue Heron

My most favorite wildlife subject is the Great Blue Heron.  These huge birds hang around lakes and rivers in Kentucky and many other places.  I literally have 1000s of photos of them.  Here are a few recent ones from Lexington.

I have photos of these birds in Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Ohio and other places as well.

Blue herons in Taylorsville Lake
Blue Heron in Flight over Jacobson Lake in Kentucky
Breakfast time

I could post dozens and dozens of other photos, but I will only add a few other wildlife shots to this post from my travels.

Cormorants in flight over Kentucky
Turkey vulture gathering on a road in central Kentucky
Prairie Dog – Cactus Flats, SD
Prairie Dog — standing watch in Cactus Flats
A prairie dog scampers near the Camp Disappointment Monument
Mama Doggie – Cactus Flats, SD
Pelicans in formation over the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston, TX
A pelican starts its dive for a meal into the gulf
Pelicans fly in formation over the beach in Galveston
Christmas morning sunrise in Ocean City , MD and greeted by a dolphin in the foreground.
A closeup shot of a seagull taken on Bremerton Ferry while crossing the Puget Sound in Washington
Seagull in flight with the Gulf of Mexico behind it
A couple of seagulls “converse” as they enjoy the view over Lake Superior in Wisconsin
A pair of seagulls glide by in Galveston
Caught some nice seagull shots in Egg Harbor, WI
An osprey in flight
Mountain Goat in the Badlands of South Dakota
A Great Egret relaxes in the swamp near Uncertain, Texas
A red squirrel with a mouthful in Nebraska City, NE
Cattle Egret seen in Angleton, Texas
I found a gator in Brazos Bend State Park in Texas
Another Gator in Brazos Bend State Park

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Washington State: Mt. Rainier National Park

DSC_5960Our last couple of days in Washington and we finally made it to Mt. Rainier National Park.  This was a fabulous day trip from Port Orchard and we were blessed with amazing weather.

DSC_5963For this trip we headed south to Tacoma and then eventually made our way to WA 410 and to the small picturesque town of  Enumclaw.  We had a couple of hours to get there, so we stopped for a play break for the kids and a stretch break for the adults.  We found a nice park that afforded us all some time to get stretched and even take a few photos.

Livvy climbs the ropes to the top in a ark in Enumclaw
Livvy climbs the ropes to the top in a ark in Enumclaw
Kade having fun
Kade having fun
Hanging with kids in Enumclaw
Hanging with kids in Enumclaw
Benson hanging around
Benson hanging around
Charles just playing
Charles just playing
Grampz and Bensie
Grampz and Bensie
White River runs along WA 410 near Greenwater, WA
White River runs along WA 410 near Greenwater, WA

From Enumclaw we continued west on 410, also called the “Chinook Byway,” along the White River to Greenwater, WA.  The historic Naches Trail brought ox and horse drawn wagons through this area carrying early settlers west. Many years later, touring cars carried early visitors through Greenwater to the newly dedicated Mt. Rainier National Park.  Today, this place

Old Naches Trail Sign
Old Naches Trail Sign

is a dot on the map with a couple of touristy stops and a bar/cafe. Lots of Sasquatch carvings around the place as well.  By the time we got to Greenwater, everyone was hungry.  So we stopped at a place called Naches Tavern to get some lunch.  They had a nice picnic area on the side (the kids couldn’t go into the tavern portion) and actually had a pretty good menu.

Naches Tavern
Naches Tavern
Find the Sasquatch
Find the Sasquatch
10 foot tall Sasquatch carving at Naches Tavern in Greenwater, WA
10 foot tall Sasquatch carving at Naches Tavern in Greenwater, WA

DSC_6051Naches Tavern is a rustic old place and has apparently been around as a watering hole since the early 20th Century. The inside is decorated with old memorabilia of the Naches Trail and a covering of dollar bills all over the walls.

Naches Tavern 1
Naches Tavern 1
Old telephone sign in Naches Tavern
Old telephone sign in Naches Tavern
Dollar Bills on the walls at Naches Tavern
Dollar Bills on the walls at Naches Tavern
I found a Davey Dollar in Naches Tavern!
I found a Davey Dollar in Naches Tavern!
No Pets Allowed...notice what the pets look like!
No Pets Allowed…notice what the pets look like!

After lunch we were back on WA 410 heading towards Mt. Rainier National Park.  Chalk up another National Park visit for me!

Entering Mt. Rainier National Park on WA 410 south of Greenwater, WA
Entering Mt. Rainier National Park on WA 410 south of Greenwater, WA

The drive on 410 offers up some wonderful scnic views of Mt. Rainier but also of other mountains.  We got to a wonderful overlook near Naches Peak Overlook called the Tipsoo Lake Parking Area.

Panorama of Tipsoo Lake Parking Area near Naches Peak Trail
Panorama of Tipsoo Lake Parking Area near Naches Peak Overlook
Cowlitz Chimneys as seen from Tipsoo Lake parking area
Cowlitz Chimneys as seen from Tipsoo Lake parking area
Wildflowers near Tipsoo Lake
Wildflowers near Tipsoo Lake

From the parking area there is  a wonderful easy trail that walks along the ridge allowing a great view of Tipsoo Lake as well as wildflowers and wildlife.  We all walked that trail to the point where it started a decline down to the lake.  We wanted to get to Mt. Rainier, so we only went that far.  Along the walk I got some great closeup shots of birds in action, a chipmunk scurrying off and then the breathtaking view of Tipsoo Lake.

Birds on trail to Tipsoo Lake
Bird on trail to Tipsoo Lake
A chipmunk scurries to hide from my camera. Caught it just in time.
A chipmunk scurries to hide from my camera. Caught it just in time.
Mt. Rainier as seen from Tipsoo Lake parking lot
Mt. Rainier as seen from Tipsoo Lake parking lot
Another bird caught on the trail
Another bird caught on the trail
AA view of Tipsoo Lake as seen from the trail
AA view of Tipsoo Lake as seen from the trail
Sumoflam at Tipsoo Lake
Sumoflam at Tipsoo Lake
More wildflowers
More wildflowers
Family all walking along the trail from Tipsoo Lake
Family all walking along the trail from Tipsoo Lake
A Halo surrounds Mt. Rainier
A Halo surrounds Mt. Rainier

DSC_6178After our little hiking break we were back on the road to return to Cayuse Pass and then north to visit the Sunrise Visitor’s Center.  This location offered some amazing views of Mt. Rainier as well as of the Cowlitz Chimneys.  This is also the highest point that can be reached by vehicle at Mount Rainier National Park.

Sumoflam and Mt. Rainier from Sunrise
Sumoflam and Mt. Rainier from Sunrise
View of more of the Cascades
View of more of the Cascades
Stevens Canyon
Stevens Canyon

From Sunrise, we headed back to 410 and south to Cayuse Pass and WA 123 which would take us into Stevens Canyon and then around the east end of the mountain on the windy road towards Paradise.

Winding road to Paradise
Winding road to Paradise

We reached Paradise and it most certainly matched the name. Splendid views of the mountain.

Paradise is not as high up as Sunset, but it still offered a different perspective of Rainier and the Cascades.

Mt. Rainier from Paradise
Mt. Rainier from Paradise
Welcome to Paradise
Welcome to Paradise
One of many waterfalls seen along WA 123
One of many waterfalls seen along WA 123
Deer on the road from Paradise
Deer on the road from Paradise
Giant redwoods surrounded the highway
Giant redwoods surrounded the highway
Pine forests.
Pine forests.

After visiting the mountain we were soon on our way back to Port Orchard via Longmire, WA on WA 706 and then on to Elbe, WA.  The road was lined with giant redwoods and other tall trees.  It was a splendid drive.

WA 123 heading to Elbe, WA
WA 123 heading to Elbe, WA

Once in Elbe, we stopped for dinner at the Mt. Rainier Railroad Dining Co. to eat in an old Railroad Car.  It would be a fun experience for all  of us!

Mt. Rainier Railroad Dining Co. in Elbe, WA
Mt. Rainier Railroad Dining Co. in Elbe, WA
Dining Car at Mt. Rainier Railroad Dining Company
Dining Car at Mt. Rainier Railroad Dining Company

The Mt. Rainier Railroad Dining Company includes a caboose motel (The Hobo Inn), a gift shop, the Cascadian Dinner Train and a restaurant and lounge.  Great for railroad buffs, the Cascadian Dinner Train, once known as the American Freedom Train, apparently toured the country with 26 cars displaying over 500 treasures of Americana.  It was a unique place for all of us to eat.

Making friends at the entrance of the Dining Car
Making friends at the entrance of the Dining Car
Caboose Motel - the Hobo Inn
Caboose Motel – the Hobo Inn
Scaleburgers, across the street from the Dining Train.
Scaleburgers, across the street from the Dining Train.  Apparently known for great burgers, hot dogs and shakes.
We got to eat in the "luxurious" Silver Palace Car
We got to eat in the “luxurious” Silver Palace Car
All of us in the Silver Palace Car for dinner
All of us in the Silver Palace Car for dinner
Elbe Church
Elbe Church, Elbe, WA

Elbe is also know for its historic Elbe Church.  This tiny (18-by-24 foot) church sits on its original location and has a rich German heritage.  It bears the name of the founders’ origin, the Elbe River valley near Hamburg, Germany.  The church has been around since 1906. Forged by the town’s first blacksmith, a 4-foot iron cross tops the 46-foot steeple, which houses the first bell.  The church still features its original altar and elevated pulpit as well as one of the hand-carved pews. Lettered prominently on the steeple of the landmark Elbe Lutheran Church is “Ev. Luth. KIRCHE” (Evangelische Lutherische Kirche), a reminder of the founders’ German origins.

Alder Lake near Elbe, WA
Alder Lake near Elbe, WA

From Elbe, we drove along the eerily picturesque and spooky Alder Lake.

The lake is dotted with old tree stumps and is really kind of “out of this world” looking.  And, some of these are really quite huge stumps.  Quite an amazing site after all of the magnificent trees we had seen throughout the day.

Alder Lake stumps near Elbe, WA
Alder Lake stumps near Elbe, WA

Finally, as we approached the small town of Eatonville, we got one fabulous view of Mt. Rainier, which, in my opinion, was probably the highlight photo of my entire 10 day visit to Washington!

Closeup shot of Mt. Rainier form near Eatonville, WA
Closeup shot of Mt. Rainier form near Eatonville, WA
Another Rainier view from near Eatonville, WA
Another Rainier view from near Eatonville, WA

It was a glorious day of travel and a wonderfully scenic drive around one of America’a most amazing mountains!!

 

 

 

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