Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Our Last Day in the Mountains

We woke up early again for our last full day in the mountains.  Back to Skyline Drive and the cell tower to try for a little bit different view for our sunrise pictures.  We were sure hoping for another show like our first morning there.  It was pretty, but not as "fire-y" as the first morning.

As we were driving back to the campsite for breakfast I saw a deer along the side of the road.  Pepaw stopped the car for me to take a picture, but the silly deer wouldn't strike a pose for me!  He kept moving down the mountain, I kept taking pictures and Pepaw would move the car to try to help me set up the next shot.  Of course I didn't get a really good picture - but I did get this REALLY artsy shot...I decided I kinda liked the thing...accidental or not!

After breakfast (sure missed those scouts and the REAL breakfast burritos!) we were anxiously looking forward to going to the Davis Mountain Preserve - a little different view of the mountains, so off we went. 

We stopped at a small scenic overlook/picnic areal for a few pictures.

 View of the valley and rock formations

 Our Small visitor

The mountains on the other side of the valley

We were a little disappointed at the preserve.  Between the fires last summer and the drought of the last couple years it was pretty brown.  You could tell that when the conditions were right it would have been a beautiful place for pictures with Aspen, Juniper, and Ponderosa Pines, but as it was...not so much!

We headed back to camp to rest a bit - but ended up back on top of Skyline Drive again because we noticed some really GREAT cloud formations and couldn't resist going up to take a look!

Now I've told you before, I'm not one for the purely scenic shot - I like the plants and trees so much...I'm going to let this Yucca show you how the storm built up while we were there.  Utterly COOL!

We were actually so engrossed in getting our pictures that we missed part of the growing storm.  I happened to look up and see lightening across a valley to our right...I wasn't too worried - it was far away - until I looked up and noticed that there were new grey clouds right over my head AND it began to start to rain a few drops!  I covered my camera with my jacket and headed toward the car looking for Pepaw as I went...saw him heading toward the car too with his camera covered and pulling out the trashbags.

We got the cameras and tripods covered with the trashbags and stood next to the car as the rain came faster and faster.  All of a sudden I felt a HARD drop - looked out at the parking lot and saw...HAIL!  The sun was at our backs...and hail was in our shadows!  Amazing.

As the shower passed by and the rain stopped we were able to get back to taking pictures of the clouds again.

Of course we HAD to stay to see the sun set on our final full day in the park!

I'll try to show you the effect of the sun setting on those beautiful clouds...although my pictures don't really do it justice!

So you can see how as the sun got lower it turned from gold to pink, and the clouds did too!

My final shot of the day - had to go back to my plants...

What an amazing, heart pounding, thouroghly outstanding end to our fabulous Spring Break in the mountains!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Break Day 3 - Historic Ft. Davis

Today was such a great day, from sunrise to sunset full of amazing photos!!!

We got up bright and early as always to catch the sunrise.  We chose to go to the same spot as yesterday since we had such good luck there.  It was pretty, but not as colorful.  Still beautiful and inspiring though.

After taking the pictures we hopped back in the car and headed back to the campsite for our breakfast of dehydrated eggs and coffee.  We had just finished timing the rehydration of the eggs when the boy scouts next door came trooping through our campsite.  Boy were we surprised when they told us they had cooked WAY too much food and offered us home-made breakfast burritos!  They were so good and a welcome treat!  Thank you Scouts!  One boy was amazed we were having coffee while camping...pretty funny!

After cleaning up the site we jumped into the car for a little outside the park photo-walking.  We had seen some amazing formations along the highway on our way to and from the park, so we drove on over to shoot some pictures.

I just love these lonely trees atop the various mountain formations.  They look so beautiful against the Texas sky!

The next two trees just looked so colorful against the rock formations I couldn't resist!

After our short jaunt outside the park, we headed back to do what we had come to do - hike a mountain.  We were determined to complete Indian Lodge trail.  We could start at our campsite and walk to the the trailhead at the Indian Lodge and the end of the trail was right across the street from our campsite so we would end up back at the tent if everything went as planned.  This is a 1.7 mile hike, so we were pretty sure we could handle it. 

Remember the picture of the beautiful tree in front of the cobalt blue Texas sky from day 1?

This is pretty much the beginning of the trail.  You hike up the left side all the way up to the top.  You can actually stand by the tree and look over the valley below, so beautiful!

This is the same tree from the trail on the day we hiked it.

Some of the flora along the way...

I scared Pepaw a little here as I leaned over a boulder to catch a shot of the narrow view of the valley below...pretty cool, huh?

Once we got past that particular formation we just kept going up,

and up, and up.  Notice that same formation in the center of the picture below!

Higher and higher we climed, until...

we finally reached the peak!  We added our rocks to the "pile" and continued on. 

This is actually a shot from the "backside" of the mtn. we would end up climbing down to get back to camp.  From here you can see the entrance to the park and Skyline Drive going up the other mtn.

It only took us a short 3 hours to walk the 1.7 miles - of course part of that time was taking pictures...but it was a 463 ft. climb! 

After our hike we decided to drive on into Ft. Davis for a cold drink.  While there we went to the National Park - Historic Ft. Davis.  We got there just in time to see them fire the cannon.

This is an amazing experience as you watch a video about the history of the fort and then walk through some of the refurbished buildings.  It was amazing to look at the artifacts they've found while the archiologists have worked on bringing the fort back to as close to original as they can.

Old Glory never looked better.

One of the buildings they're working on.

After our trip we drove back to the park and up Skyline Drive to the "cell tower look-out" to take our sunset pictures.  It never ceases to amaze me, the variations the clouds go through in a very short amount of time. 

And the final BLAZE of glory as the sun disappeared behind the mountains and the sky LIT UP!

Time to call it a night...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Break Day 2 - McDonald Observatory!

Note:  If you want to see the pictures larger just double click...this will open a window with the photo gallery for this post.  Nice!

Our first full day at the park we weren't really at the park all that much!  We got up early - gotta get those pictures of the sunrises you know! By early I mean 5:00 we could get cleaned up and ready then get all the camera gear into the car and drive up Skyline Drive to the shelter with the picture window.  We had scoped it out on our first day and had agreed that would be a great place to go for sunrise pictures...see what you think:

 Just as the sun began to peek over the horizon -

 Before it even rose above the mountains!

 Talk about your Misty Mountains - or even

 Purple Mountain Majesty!

 I was fascinated by the pinks, purples, and blues.

I was pretty much convinced the light show was over and Rick and I were standing next to the sign showing the different trails available that connect to the shelter when I glanced behind him and all of a sudden saw the mountain in the background just LIGHT UP!  I grabbed the camera and tried to get the shot before the light changed...

 A golden mountain

Our next stop was the interpretive center.  They have a great area set up where you can watch the various birds.  You can go inside the building and read about the history of the mountains and the park or about the native wildlife.  They have a huge window with rows of chairs set up and you can sit and view all the birds as they come to the feeders, or you can go outside where they have set up a wood fence "blind" with holes at different heights so you can view or take pictures.  I really don't have the best lens for this type of photography, but here are a couple of my attempts!

 This one looks like a Colima Warbler (to me anyway)

 These could possible be Northern Mockingbirds?

After observing the birds for a bit we decided to head on over to the UT McDonald Observatory.  I had heard a lot about it - I've never gotten to see an observatory before, and we knew they had some night programs we wanted to see, so we wanted to go ahead over and get the tickets before they were sold out.

 The view from the observatory parking lot

We went in and found out we would have the opportunity to go to the "Solar Show" and take a tour of the facilities, as well as visit the exhibits, then return for the twilight show and "Star Party" later.  We went to the Solar show where we were to see a live shot of the sun and while we were watching pretty much all we could see were the clouds crossing in front - not a good sign! But the show was great and I wish it were available for me to use in my class...I learned some new things about the sun, COOL!  When we got out to go up the mountain to see the 107" diameter telescope this is what the sky looked like -

 The scenic sky

We got to go into the observatory, walked up 70 stairs, and into the room with the telescope!  This is the 107" diameter telescope the researchers use!

 107" telescope pointed at the wall

After several kids were allowed to move the telescope around, they actually moved the entire top of the building to align the door with the telescope.  The doors open up like elevator doors to expose the sky.  Unfortunately, they can't open them up during the day because of the regulated temperature.  They try to keep the temperature of the room the same as it will be at night so there is no condensation...did not know that!

 After they moved the wall around so the doors would open to the view of the sky

This is the sign talking about the mountain the telescope is located on.

 Just an FYI

We walked around the outside of the building and saw the visitors center.  I shot two views - one with the telephoto and one with the wide angle so you could see how high up we were!

 Telephoto view

 Wide angle view

We then drove on over to the 86" telescope.  The mirrors on this one are amazing to see, but because they are so exposed you don't actually get to go into the room with them.

 The 86" telescope building

We drove back to the campsite to eat a VERY late lunch and rest up for a bit, then it was back to the observatory for the twilight show and the star party.  Of course we also wanted to get the sunset shot!

 One of the beautiful cactus along the roadside

Sunset from the side of the road to the observatory

The twilight show and star party were almost a bust because of the cloud cover.  They did show us Venus and Jupiter side by side, and we were able to see Mars and the Big Dipper.  They were going to do talks in the building, and they had several smaller telescopes set up pointing at different areas of the sky but there were no guarantees that when it was your turn it wouldn't be shrouded in clouds.  There were over 700 people there and we weren't going to fight small children to look through the telescopes anyway, so we decided we would head on back to the campsite.  Because we were close to the back and one of the first few people out of the amphitheatre, we walked right up to a waiting!  I was able to look through and see Venus - what a cool ending to an amazing day!

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This is about my life. My life as a wife. My life as a mother. My life as a Memaw. My life as a teacher. My life as a runner. My life such as it is.