M is for Mountains – #atozchallenge

I love the mountains.  I spent a good part of my life in the mountains – New Mexico, Montana, Utah, Colorado, Arizona.  These are the BIG mountains.

Having lived in Kentucky for the past 25 years, I hear of people that live in “the mountains of Kentucky” or heading to “the mountains of West Virginia.” In my perspective these are more like hills. But, by the broader definition, there are mountains in states like Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Virginia.  Maybe even Tennessee.

Purple Mountain Majesties – Sawtooth range in Central Idaho
Here I am at the Sandia Overlook near Albuquerque in 1964

When I take trips to the Western US, I always try to make an effort to get to the REAL mountains….the kind over 10,000′ tall.  I love the fresh air of these mountains.  I long for the spectacular views…both from below and on top.

My first ventures into the mountains were as a young boy living in New Mexico.  My Dad also loved the mountains and we often took rides up to the Sandias. We would hike, take picnics and my dad always took pictures. He always took slides because he thought they were better quality.

In 1968 we moved from Dallas to Denver.  While in Denver, my Dad would take us on various drives up to Rocky Mountain National Park, Mt. Evans, Pikes Peak and other mountains.  As a junior high school youth I went with him for the intense hike up Longs Peak, near Boulder.  This mountain hike was a first for me.  I never made it to the top (since we were bogged down by a massive hailstorm in the middle of summer).  But my Dad left me at the stop station and continued up with a couple of friends.

My Dad Joe at the top of Colorado’s Longs Peak in 1968.

Later in life I had the opportunity to take a trip up to the top of Mt. Evans (by car).  It had changed over the years, but still had the mountain goats and the thin air.

Sitting high up on Mt. Evans in Colorado in 1990 looking down at a crystal lake.
Sumoflam and Mt. Rainier from Sunrise

Living in Bozeman, Montana in the mid 1970s was the final straw.  We actually lived up in the mountains south of Bozeman.  I was hooked and still am.  My goals have always been to visit America’s great mountains, mountain ranges and parks. I have been blessed to have been able to do so.

Over the years I have been to Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Tetons National Park, the Colorado Rockies, the Sawtooth Range in Idaho, the Beartooth Range and scenic drive in northern Wyoming and more.  I have even been to the eastern mountains of Shenandoah, the Alleghany Highlands in Virginia (where I am as I write this!), the Ozarks in Arkansas and Missouri and the Adirondacks.  They have their own wonderful scenery.

Mt. Rainier in Washington – visited in 2015
Grand Tetons as seen from Driggs, Idaho in 2013
Mt. Moran in the Grand Tetons as seen from Colter Bay Lodge
The Beartooth Range in northern Wyoming.
Three Sisters – nicknamed Faith/Hope/Charity near Sister’s Oregon
Lima Peaks south of Lima, Montana
America the Beautiful – A scene near Glacier National Park
A far off waterfall in Glacier National Park
Mountains of Glacier National Park near Babb, MT
Mountains near the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone National Park
The mountains and the Yellowstone River as seen from US 89
Our daughter Amaree with the San Francisco Peaks of Arizona in the background taken in the fall of 1981.
On Glacier Bay in Alaska
Washington’s Lake Crescent and Mount Storm King in the background
Mount Timpanogos in Provo Canyon, UT
Mountain view from Sacajawea Park in Livingston, Montana
Colorful homes and scenic mountains in Leadville, CO
Mt. Jefferson – at 10,497 feet the second highest peak in Oregon

 

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G is for Grandeur – #atozchallenge

The United States is a vast and diverse country. From sea to shining sea there are sweeping vistas and spectacular scenes of nature.

The grandeur of this country is not seen on the interstate highways, but on the back roads and the gravel roads that have woven the fiber of this country.

Grandeur as seen on a back road in North Dakota – The Enchanted Highway
Mt. Moran in the Grand Tetons as seen from Colter Bay Lodge

I am always awestruck by the superb landscapes that one can witness on the back roads. Some of these landscapes, such as the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains, are known by everybody. But there are so many more spectacles to feast your eyes upon.

When speaking of grandeur, perhaps one of my most favorite locations is Monument Valley in the northwest corner of Arizona and the southwest corner of Utah. Located within the Navajo Indian reservation, this amazing natural wonder has been the backdrop for many movies and television commercials. And one can only stand in a location or another and must turn their head from left to right to catch the full glory of this spectacular wonder of nature.

Visiting Monument Valley with my family in 1993
Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona
Sumoflam at Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona in 1990
Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona, ca. 1983

Not too far from there and also on the Navajo Reservation is a much lesser known, but in another way very spectacular sight. Called Coal Mine Canyon, it is a hidden gem off of a two lane highway east of Tuba City, AZ.

Coal Mine Canyon is filled with a variety of HooDoos…ghost like rock formations that can form eerie shadows and spooky formations at night.  The view goes on for miles into Blue Canyon.  In any other state, this might be a National Park or Monument.  It is just one more canyon in Arizona.

Sitting high up on Mt. Evans in Colorado in 1990 looking down at a crystal lake,

Head north into Colorado and take a ride up to Mount Evans north of Denver. Nearly 13,000 feet up, it offers up an amazing view of the mountains and lakes below.

The Beartooth Range in northern Wyoming.
At Beartooth Level — looking at the mountains from the top of the world

Not to be outdone in the words of grandeur, is the scenic highway that traverses the Bear Tooth Range along the Montana and Wyoming border. I have only been there once and it was in the very early spring on the first day the road was open. There were still piles of snow on both sides of the road. But the expanse of the mountains left me in awe.

 

An antelope and her calves run through the grasslands near Craig, CO
SD 63, a gravel road, runs through northern South Dakota’s grasslands and badlands

But grandeur is not just mountains or spectacular geologic formations. I can drive through the plains of North Dakota or South Dakota and experience miles and miles of grasslands.

I have driven through these great plains in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska. To some, the drive through these vast grasslands might be considered boring. To me, the vast expanse of grasslands is stunning.

The Oyate Trail highway in southern South Dakota
Wide Open Spaces near Scottsbluff, Nebraska
Mountains and grasslands near Glacier National Park and Bynum, Montana
Expansive views across Wyoming
Sandhill Cranes fly over high plains near Dell, MT
Expansive corn fields in central Missouri
Atlantic Sunrise in Maine

Then there is the grandeur of the oceans. I have been blessed to have been able to see the Pacific Ocean from the northern parts of Washington and Oregon all the way to the coast in Southern California. I have also seen the Atlantic Ocean from points in Maine all the way south to Florida. The amazing sunrises and sunsets over the water provide unspeakable grandeur and a glorious feeling.

Like the oceans, the Gulf of Mexico offers similar sights. Nothing like witnessing the spectacle flocks of pelicans flying in sync overhead.

Christmas sunrise near Ocean City, Maryland with a dolphin swimming by
Waves crash on the Pacific Ocean in the northwestern-most point in the continental US near Neah Bay, WA
Brown pelicans fly in synchronized formation over the Gulf of Mexico near Galveston, TX
A hoodoo at Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming

The most gratifying part of experiencing grandeur for me is that every back road and numbered highway offers a peek at splendid views. One needs only crest to the top of a hill and laid out before your eyes are wonderful scenes like that of Hells Canyon in Oregon, or in Hell’s Half Acre in the middle of Wyoming. Drive along a two Lane highway in the eastern United States in the fall and you get to the top of the hill and see nothing but spectacular fall colors as far as the eye can see.

 

Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming
Hells Canyon in northeast Oregon is actually wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon
View of Cincinnati, OH

But the grandeur is not just in nature. From a different perspective, the views of the skyline of a big city offers its own brand you were. Whether enjoying the skyline of Manhattan from across the river in Hoboken, NJ to witnessing the scene of riverine cities such as Pittsburgh or Cincinnati from the top of a hill, one gets a sense of how small they really are.

Three of my grandchildren look out at the lights of New York City from Sinatra Park in Hoboken, NJ
A panoramic shot of Pittsburgh from Mt. Washington
Seattle as seen from a boat in the Puget Sound
Massive bald cypress forests in Caddo Lake in NE Texas

I am grateful to live in these United States and my heart is filled with joy that I have been able to travel many a back road and experience the grandeur of this country.

With each new road comes a new experience. I still have yet to personally experience the special nature of Yosemite National Park or the giant sequoia trees of Northern California. But I have seen the vast expanses filled with volcanoes in Hawaii or the old volcano cones in New Mexico and Arizona.

Grand Tetons as seen from Driggs, Idaho
Humongous field of sunflowers in Central Kentucky. This too offers a feeling of grandeur

I have driven the long highway over Lake Ponchatrain in Louisiana and over the amazing Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. These man-made spectacles still offer a sense of grandeur.

The river into Juneau, Alaska as seen from a mountain top near Juneau
Fall colors as seen from a highway near Damascus, VA in 2016
Fall colors in horse farm country on a small road near Lexington, KY
Grand scene of the Badlands National Park
Visiting White Sands, NM in 2013
Bison relax in a wide field with antelope grazing in the background. Taken form the road in Yellowstone National Park
Sawtooth Mountains as seen from Stanley, ID
Two Medicine River canyon in Montana
Rock City in Central Montana
Fall colors from the Virginia Creeper Trail in Virginia
The grandeur of nature with sunbeams shining over a lake in Kentucky

So, get out on the road and experience this country for yourself.

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A to Z Challenge: The J Towns #atozchallenge

During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

J The J Towns

Jamestown, North Dakota

World's Largest Buffalo in Jamestown, ND
World’s Largest Buffalo in Jamestown, ND
Frontier Village, an old-timey Western Village in Jamestown, ND
Frontier Village, an old-timey Western Village in Jamestown, ND
The Chuckwagon Cafe - serving a 4 Meat Buffet
The Chuckwagon Cafe – serving a 4 Meat Buffet

One of my fun places to stop in North Dakota is Jamestown. It is known as the “Buffalo City” and one can find all kinds of Buffalo things, including “the World’s Largest Buffalo” statue and  the National Buffalo Museum.  It was commissioned in 1959 by local businessman Harold Newman, and built by art students from Jamestown College, under the supervision of art instructor and designer, Elmer Peterson. It is visible from Interstate 94, overlooking the city from above the James River valley. The statue is 26 feet tall, 46 feet long and weighs 60 tons. It was constructed with stucco and cement around a steel beam frame shaped with wire mesh and is one of the giants across the US. See more about my visit to Jamestown HERE.

Joseph, Oregon

Hells Canyon Scenic Byway
Joseph, Oregon is the Gateway to Hell’s Canyon
A view of Hells Canyon
A view of Hell’s Canyon near Joseph, Oregon
The Spirit of Joseph by Steve Parks
Sumoflam with “The Spirit of Joseph” Eagle sculpture in Joseph, OR. Sculptor was Steve Parks
Sacajawea Peak
A view of Sacajawea Peak near Joseph, Oregon
Wallowa Lake
Wallowa Lake near Joseph, OR

Known as “The Little Switzerland” of the United States, Joseph, Oregon is a scenic town on the shores of the lovely Wallowa Lake. I visited this community in 2007 and was enthralled by the beauty.  Like many towns, they have an art walk with many fine outdoor sculptures, including the intricate eagle sculpture “The Spirit of Joseph” by Steve Parks.  Joseph was named after Chief Joseph of the Wallowa Band of the Nez Perce Tribe.  Joseph is also about an hour away from the awe inspiring Hell’s Canyon. Despite the grandeur and wide expanses of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Hell’s Canyon has been carved much deeper by the Snake River. The canyon is about 100 miles in length and there is one 40 mile section that is nearly 5500 feet deep. But the steepest point from river to rim is at Granite Creek. This is an amazing 7900 foot deep section of the canyon!! The widest expanse across the canyon is 10 miles. The Hell’s Canyon Scenic Byway is an awesome way to spend a day driving and taking in the wonderful views.  See more about my NW Oregon  and SW Washington roadtrip from 2007 HERE.

Jeffersonville, Indiana

Jeffersonville, Indiana
Welcome to Jeffersonville, Indiana
One of the many floodwall murals of Jeffersonville, Indiana
One of the many floodwall murals of Jeffersonville, Indiana
Jeffersonville, Indiana Visitors Center
Jeffersonville, Indiana Visitors Center
Louisville as seen from across the Ohio River in Jeffersonville, IN
Louisville as seen from across the Ohio River in Jeffersonville, IN
Meriwether Lews meets John Clark at the Falls of the Ohio near present day Clarksville, IN
Meriwether Lews meets John Clark at the Falls of the Ohio near present day Clarksville, IN
Gargoyle at Industrial Terrorplex
Gargoyle at Industrial Terrorplex (added especially for my Gargoyle loving friend and author Tui Snider)

Just across the Ohio River from Louisville, KY is the river town of Jeffersonville, Indiana. Two different cities and a shared river and bridge.  In September 2013 , with camera in hand,  I drove around Louisville and then across the river to Jeffersonville.  The town has a series of floodwall murals which are delightful to walk along and see. Turns out that the 12 murals depicting the history of Jeffersonville were painted by Robert Dafford and his crew.  This project began in 2007 and was completed in 2012.  Ironically, I had seen his mural works in previous visits to Point Pleasant, WV, Paducah, KY and Portsmouth, OH. (see Paducah work here and the Point Pleasant work here). Dafford apparently has his photorealistic mural art in over 200 locations around the world. Jeffersonville is also home to The Industrial Terrorplex, a massive haunted house and “horror complex” created using state of the art Hollywood effects, offered up some surprises as I rounded the corner.  A couple of huge gargoyles were waiting on the fencepost to pounce down on me. See more about this unique Ohio River town in my 2013 post HERE.

Juneau, Alaska

Downtown Juneau Alaska
Downtown Juneau Alaska
Cruise Ship in Juneau
Cruise Ship in Juneau as seen from OUR Cruise Ship at 5:30 AM
Juneau Tram
Mount Roberts Tramway
View of Gastineau Channel as seen from top of mountain
View of Gastineau Channel as seen from top of mountain
Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau
Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau

One of the few places you cannot get to on a backroad by car is Juneau, Alaska.  Only accessible via air or boat, we visited while on a cruise in June 2004 with other family members.  Sitting along the Gastineau Channel, the town is picturesque and touristy.  It is the gateway to Mendenhall Glacier as well.  Mendenhall Glacier is about 13.6 miles long located in Mendenhall Valley, about 12 miles from downtown Juneau. We also took the Mount Roberts Tramway to the top of the mountain and enjoyed a spectacular view.  The tramway’s cars rise 1,800 feet from the cruise ship dock in downtown Juneau through the rain forest to the Mountain House, offering expansive views of Juneau and Gastineau Channel. The Tramway is one of the most vertical tramways in the world. See the entire report of this trip HERE.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

"Howdy Stranger" Sign at Teton Pass summit
“Howdy Stranger” Sign at Teton Pass summit
Jackson Hole Valley as seen from Teton Pass
Jackson Hole Valley as seen from Teton Pass
Antler Arch of Jackson
Antler Arch of Jackson
The famous Cowboy Bar neon sign
The famous Cowboy Bar neon sign
Mt. Moran in the Grand Tetons as seen from Colter Bay Lodge
Mt. Moran in the Grand Tetons as seen from Colter Bay Lodge
Grand Tetons as seen from outside Jackson, WY
Grand Tetons as seen from outside Jackson, WY

One of my FAVORITE places in the US is Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  It is the gateway to the Grand Tetons National Park and is a beautiful town nestled in a picturesque valley. See my full post from a 2013 visit HERE.  It is one my “Heaven on Earth” places.

Janesville, Wisconsin (Honorable Mention)

Bessie the Cow in Janesville, WI
Bessie the Cow in Janesville, WI

Another of the interesting towns in Wisconsin, Janesville is not too far from Madison and north of Beloit.  The town has big cows and cheese factories as well as a great history.  Definitely worth a visit.

Jackson Center, Ohio (Honorable Mention)

Airstream Factory in Jackson Center, Ohio
Airstream Factory in Jackson Center, Ohio
Wally Byam Caravan Club HQ in Jackson Center
Wally Byam Caravan Club HQ in Jackson Center
Sumoflam hanging at the Airstream Visitor's Center
Sumoflam hanging at the Airstream Visitor’s Center

Jackson Center, Ohio is the home of the Airstream Factory. Everyone has seen these iconic trailers on the roads.  This is where they come from.  They give tours!!  Check out a report about my visit there in May 2008 right HERE.

Jamaica Beach, Texas (Honorable Mention)

Jamaica Beach Water Tower
Jamaica Beach Water Tower
Pelicans in formation reminded me of Jet Planes in formation
Pelicans in formation reminded me of Jet Planes in formation

On one end of Galveston Island in Texas is Jamaica Beach, with nice beaches, condos to stay in and wonderful views of the Gulf of Mexico.  Brown pelicans are in the air everywhere.  See my 2014 post with many pelican shots and lots of views of the beautiful gulf coast HERE.

Jamestown, New York (Honorable Mention)

Large Lucy Mural in Jamestown, NY painted by Gary Peters Jr. and Gary Peters Sr.
Large Lucy Mural in Jamestown, NY painted by Gary Peters Jr. and Gary Peters Sr.
Big wall photo of Lucy and Desi in Jamestown, New York
Big wall photo of Lucy and Desi in Jamestown, New York
Lucille Ball Birthplace
Lucille Ball Birthplace

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t include another Jamestown.  (And yes, I have also been to Jamestown, VA to see the old Jamestown history!!) Jamestown, New York is the birthplace of iconic TV star Lucille Ball.  There is Lucy and Desi stuff all over town.  We didn’t have time to visit the Lucy-Desi Center, but I did at least get shots of the facilities and the murals.  See my full report about my New York trip to Jamestown and other places nearby by clicking HERE.

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