Childhood toys: marbles

Among the toys I still have from childhood is a large blue canning jar full of marbles. I know nothing about them, really... except to know that some are hand made, some are machine made, and most are the very common cat's eye: clear glass with a twist of color. Occasionally I come across marbles in an antique store, and if the price is reasonable, I add a few to my jar.

My favorites are the mostly white marbles, with swirls or patches of color in oranges, greens, blues, yellows. One day I'll have time to sort through them and learn more about the different manufacturers and the pattern names. For now, I'll just enjoy their brilliant colors.

Still eclectic after all these years...

It's been about 18 months since I started life as a blogger. I figured that eventually my blog would morf into a focused set of postings about one of my passions. Photography, wine, quilting, writing, journaling, antiques, cats, cooking. I love them all and can't decide what to focus on.

So for now, I'll continue as I began back in July 2009, writing somewhat erratically about the people, places, and things that I love. I hope someone out there is enjoying it.


Cumberland Island

Two years ago we took a winter vacation, our first that didn't involve skiing. We spent a few days in Savannah, Georgia, followed by two days on Cumberland Island, off the coast of Georgia. We loved both places, even though our grey Northwest weather followed us 3000 miles to the Atlantic coast. My new header photo is the front lawn of the inn on Cumberland Island, framed by a massive live oak with its spreading branches.

The house was pretty spectacular. The huge living room, study, and library on the main floor were filled with antiques and available 24 hours a day for our use. There was a fire in the massive fireplace all day long, and we spent a lot of time there (mainly drying our clothes after getting drenched outdoors). The guest rooms were on the upper two floors, except for the bedroom and bath just off the library, which were our rooms for the weekend. Between antiques, lovely architectural details, the wild horses, and the beautiful grounds, I found plenty of subjects for my camera. I'd like to come back one day.


Childhood toys

I can picture my childhood room very clearly. The child's hutch painted white, with the top shelves filled with beloved Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden and Bobbsey Twins books. The lower cabinet held my overflow stuffed animal menagerie, those that wouldn't fit on my bed. I wasn't much for playing with dolls, but still have the large baby doll I got when I was about 5. Mostly, I wanted stuffed toys, and still have a few of those.

When we got older, my parents gave most of our toys to the church, where they went to the nursery for other children to enjoy. I still have a few things, but lament the passing of our childs Singer sewing machine (for some reason, I have the case), the kitchen with its pots and pans and china tea set, and boxes of doll clothes, mostly made by my mother. I wish I had these precious mementos of childhood.


Instead of a gift exchange...

May I suggest a Christmas cookie exchange? That's what we did for my husband's family get-together this year, instead of drawing names or setting a price limit or getting gifts only for those under 18 years of age. The family is big, we don't really need any new stuff, and there's just something festive and comforting about baking cookies for the holidays.

I set it up like this: everyone who wanted to participate baked 2-3 dozen cookies. We set up a special table for the decorative plates of goodies, and I made cards to identify the varieties, and who baked them. I brought a stack off handle bags, and everyone selected the cookies they wanted to take home. If you brought 3 dozen, you could choose 3 dozen to take. We also brought extras for sampling, which we put on the kitchen island to eat for dessert after dinner.


Finally... deer at the farm

We were lucky this year... we had a white Thanksgiving! It started to snow early on the Monday before Thanksgiving, and all morning long I watched it come down. By lunchtime, I called it quits and headed for home. Glad I did; it took me an hour to go 6 miles because of all the detours around the steepest of the hills.

In the late afternoon, as I came up the basement stairs and looked out past the garage, I spotted something never seen at our little farm in the valley: deer. The past 25 years we've often commented on this lack... seems like with our apple orchards, the pastures, the woods, and a nearby creek, we would have a lot of deer. I took my camera out to record the event; with the salling snow and the failing light, the photos didn't come out great. But at least I've got proof!


The sickies are all around me

I've been surrounded by sick people at work the past couple of weeks, with no ill effects. But this morning I woke up with a sore throat and an aching back, and want nothing more than to go back to bed. Bummer...

Why do sick people feel so compelled to drag their sorry butts into work, infect everyone around them, then drag themselves back home? Do they really feel so indispensible, that their company's profitibility revolves around their presence, or the planets will fail to align if they're not sitting at their desk?

I'd like to gently remind them (before I run screaming in the other direction) to think about this: Are you so much more important than everyone else? If your co-workers get sick because of your selfishness, do you feel remorse? Or do you just shrug your shoulders, chalk it up to fate, and repeat the same behavior next time? Think about it. Who died and made you god?


Bella Frances

I'm reading Bella Tuscany, the second in the series, Under the Tuscan Sun. I loved the book, loved the movie (even though they completely changed the story), but hadn't read any of Frances Mayes' other books. I'm loving this book, and wish she'd written it before we went to Tuscany in 1997. Next time, I want to plant myself squarely in one of the small towns, and explore every day. The tiny hill towns, the wineries, the lakes, the back roads. Just immerse ourselves in the region and the culture, the cuisine and the wine. Wouldn't that be heavenly?


Woodford Reserve Dinner

Tonight was the long-awaited Woodford Reserve dinner at Duke's Chowder House. We've done several of these special dinners, which feature a particular winery or brewery, combined with a multi-course meal created by executive chef, Bill Ranniger.

Our little group has become regulars at these dinners, and we've enjoyed getting acquainted with Bill. He does an amazing job of creating recipes to pair with whatever beer, wine, or spirits are being featured. We usually go with the same group of people from Dave's group at Boeing, people who have become friends.

This is the second year that Duke, Bill, and other staff have traveled to Kentucky to choose their own special barrel of Woodford Reserve. Bill treated us to a tasting of the 2009 barrel last spring, and tonight we sampled them side by side. As a special thank you to our friend Rich, who got us started on these dinners, the restaurant gave a bottle to Rich, who plans his own food and bourbon party over the Christmas break. We're looking forward to that!

Dave with the special bottle of Woodford Reserve (with Rich in the background)

Melinda & Julie


Cheshire Moon

It was a chilly 44 degrees this morning, with a perfect Cheshire moon rising in the east. Just a few short weeks ago, I drove to work straight into the full moon, bright in the western sky. Today promises to be another spectacular autumn day in the Northwest, with sunshine in the forecast. As I logged into the computer and started another work day, a flock of Canada geese flew past my windows, on their way from the river to the corn fields just south of town.

I love the autumn, the chilly mornings that give way to warm afternoons. The air is soft, the leaves are still green on the trees in the wetland beyond my windows. All too soon the rain will fall and the wind will blow, and the leaves will be on the ground in thick piles of yellow and gold. I also love autumn for the changes it brings to my wardrobe. I've packed away the tank tops and sandals, the lightweight cotton shirts of summer, and brought out the long-sleeved t-shirts and the sweaters, the jackets, and the scarves that I wrap around my neck to brighten up my wardrobe.

More than any other season, autumn makes me smile.


Autumn moons

The moons in autumn are the best of the entire year. It's one consolation of heading for work in the dark! As I climbed the hill out of my valley this morning, there it was. A spectacular full moon, surrounded by patchy clouds. I had to pull over and look for someplace to take a photo. It's not perfect by any means... but it will do a pretty good job of reminding me.


Fish Sign

I think this hollow tin fish & wrought iron hangar would look great in our lakeside cabin, along with the antique oars and other water-related collectibles we found around the property. We spotted it in a little cafe in Seabeck, where we had breakfast this morning before driving around Hood Canal.

A trout or salmon cabin for a sign is now on my list of things to look for.


Stavis Creek

We find the prettiest places because of geocaching. This morning we had breakfast in Seabeck, then found a road that eventually came to an end at Hood Canal. We spent an hour at this spot, where the creek runs through a marsh on its way to the salt water. A family of Canada geese were in residence, and the light was so beautiful on the water.


Treed Raccoons

We went to our lake cabin this weekend, and after we got the truck unloaded and moved the Adirondack chairs out to the deck, I got a beer and my book, and settled down to read. I hadn't been outside more than a couple of minutes, when I heard the scrabbling sound of a chipmunk heading up one of the fir trees. Except it wasn't a chipmunk—it was a racoon. I watched it climb up the trunk toward the first branch, and there were two others waiting for him.

I quietly got up and went inside, woke Dave up, and grabbed my camera. The three racoons just stared at us. I got a couple of shots from inside, then we went out to the deck and settled down to watch them. They spent a couple of hours in the tree, staring at us until the novelty wore off, then climbed to the next big branch and settled down for a nap, screened behind the foliage, and stayed there for half an hour. They all moved up two more levels, one at a time, following mom. We wondered how they'd get down, and it was fascinating to watch them come headfirst down the trunk, stopping at each branch, then finally making it to the ground.

I love being surprised. Just when you think you won't see anything new, that the sights outside the windows will remain the familiar, beautiful view you've loved for almost two decades, something happens to remind you that life is ever changing... you just have to pay attention.



The writer in me is always on the lookout for clever phrases and names as we travel, and I added quite a few to my list on our recent trip. But I didn't see anything that topped these two favorites, which are both close to home, and both dog-related:
  • Dog training business near Poulsbo: Teacher's Pet
  • Dog grooming shop in Kent: Soggy Doggy


Truck farms

We're heading to the lake this morning, on what promises to be the hottest weekend of the summer. First thing on the agenda was breakfast at one of Kent's landmark (albeit out-of-the-way) restaurants, Mom's Kitchen. Mom's was once in downtown Kent, but is now on the south end of town, just before you cross the Green River into Auburn. The river makes a huge bend right here, contorting itself into a future oxbow (and oxbow lake), but unless you look at a map, you'd never know it. The road doesn't follow the river here, but heads straight south through fields of lettuce and corn. Dairy cows graze here, too... one of the last remaining commercial dairies is just on the other side of the valley.

Our route to the freeway took us past one of the last remaining truck farms in the valley, and it was a busy place this morning. The Mountain was out, the skies were blue, the irrigation was pumping, workers were cutting lettuce to load into waiting trucks, and a lone tractor was working the rows.

Everything was perfect for taking photos, so we couldn't resist turning around. Dave dropped me off on the side of the road, then found a tiny driveway to put the truck into. He walked one way, and I walked the other, and we spent a half hour photographing the farm in the midst of harvest.


Mt. Holly's Head Start

We're glad we took our time getting down the length of Mississippi. Old cemeteries, plantation houses, historical markers everywhere. Not being a student of the War Between the States, except for knowing that I have ancestors who fought in the war, I never realized that Mississippi was the site of many battles, because of its location on the river.

Today we turned onto a road simply because of its name: Lake Washington. I grew up above the large Lake Washington in Washington state, and had a view of it for much of my life. So we just had to turn and see what this lake Washington looked like, and got our second pleasant surprise of the day: antebellum homes.

We stopped dead in the road when we spotted this huge brick house, then pulled into the overgrown driveway and we walked up for a closer look. It had a brass plaque with the original plantation name and a bit of history; the house was built in 1856, just a few years before the war began.

The house has fallen into ruin, but there are signs of work being done here. Maybe just to shore it up and keep it from getting worse, or is it the start of a true restoration? Either way, the house has a huge head start on the owner… Will he ever catch up?

This really was a fabulous house, in spite of the condition. I wish we could have seen inside. Most of the glass was gone from the sunroom, and we could see glimpses of the room behind the 9-foot tall french doors that opened out onto the brick floor. There were still drapes hanging in the windows. The brickwork was beautiful, so was the wrought iron filigree detailing.


Geocaching road trips

Geocaching's been a pretty good excuse for traveling the past couple of years, and it's been a blast. We've seen the Georgia and Carolina coast. We've visited the Southwest, and the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains.

This summer, we traveled throughout the Appalachians and the Deep South. We've visited family and friends, and we're looking forward to seeing more of this beautiful country of ours, and adding more states to our geocaching statistics!

Great Spangled Fritillary

After our brush with the butterfly hatch in Tennessee and North Carolina, wherever I spotted them I tried to capture them on film. We stopped at a neat park that highlighted logging and cooperage history of Missouri, and also had spectacular perennial gardens. And where there are flowers, there are butterflies. We didn't see this variety anywhere else, but they were sure common in Missouri. Gorgeous, isn't it?

Big Spring, Missouri

I smile every time I write this, or show someone the photos I took at this enormous spring, because the name is such an understatement.

It's the largest spring in Missouri, and one of the largest springs in the world. On average, it gushes forth 278 million gallons each day from three outlets along the base of a dolomite cliff. For those who don't want to pull out a calculator, that's 11.6 million gal/hour, and 193,000 gal/sec. The river it spawns is turquoise blue in color, and crystal clear. We came here to do an earthcache, but it was also an excuse to get away from the main highways and explore some back roads in the mountains, on our way through southern Missouri into Arkansas.

Like every day so far, today was hot and humid. So it was nice to be next to the river and spring, and in the shade of the trees.

Filling up the geocaching map

As we left Sikeston Missouri, heading west to the Ozarks, I browsed through what I've written so far on this trip, thinking about what I'll post on my blog once we get home. This is our second long road trip this year, and between the two trips we've managed to see quite a bit of America: on our Miata roadtrip to the Southwest in May, we traveled through Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho (plus Washington). This trip unfortunately not in a Miata) we'll see Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama. Dave can add Florida to the list.

I'm glad I decided to take vacation and go with him to conferences. It's been loads of fun, and something I haven't done for a decade or more. Last year the conference was in Denver, and we did a 9-state road trip afterwards and saw Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming. There's no better way to see our country than from an automobile. I love road trips.

Happy birthday, Anna!


Bell's Tavern - Cave City, Kentucky

We had a few hours to kill before our tour of Mammoth Cave, so we went exploring. We drove back to the highway, and found a cool pre-Civil War tavern in nearby Cave City. All that's left are the rock walls and foundation; the building burned at least twice in its history.

We have a friend in our Miata club who's from this part of the country. He carries the Bell name, and is fascinated by his family history. We think he's probably related to the Bells who lived here. It will cool to find out!

The ruins were beautiful. With the fragile parts destroyed by the fire, you can really see how the building was constructed, the building blocks they used, from huge shaped stones like the lintel over the doorway, to the tiniest bits used to fill in between the larger stones.

Pyramidal Arborvitae

I figured these had to be native somewhere, and today I was very surprised to find out where. As we drove south from Elizabethtown to Mammoth Dave (Central Kentucky), the fields were ringed with beautiful mountain ash trees growing together with pyramidal arborvitae. The two looked good together, the dark dense arborvitae made a good backdrop for the brighter green, lacy leaves of the ash. But to someone used to seeing them grown as hedges (usually overgrown and out of control, as mine always become), they look very odd growing out in the wild.


Butterfly Magnet

I can't find this bushy bloom in any of my flower books, but hopefully someone else knows its name. I noticed it growing all over southern Ohio and northeastern Kentucky, and it's a butterfly magnet (like our Butterfly Bush in the northwest). This one flower head had 7 butterflies on it; there were probably 2-3 dozen spread out on the plant. If it grows in my zone, I'm planting them!


Butterfly Hatch on the Blue Ridge

The plan today is to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway north through North Carolina, and into Virginia, and get as far as practical before stopping for the night. This road is very cool, very uncrowded, and we wished we were in the MX-5.

Upstream we went, into the park alongside one of the prettiest rivers I've ever seen. there are butterflies everywhere: indigo blue, monarch, different colors of swallowtail, black and white. They must have just hatched, because literally, they're fluttering around everywhere. The road through the park is beautiful, with grassy verges and dappled trees on both sides. The mountains are doing their namesake thing: mist rising really makes the hills look smoky.

We went as far as the ridgetop overlook, took pictures, enjoyed the sunshine and distant vistas, then headed back down. We stopped at a bridge we'd seen on the way up, and took more photos. The way the sunlight bounced off the water was really cool.

My favorite is a wide-angle shot taken vertically, with the pattern of river tumbling over rocks repeated until it was out of sight.

Night Sounds

The night isn't a silent place in the South. Oh, no. At the first streaks of sunset, the woods come alive with insect sounds. Loud, resonating, sounds. As we drove through the North Carolina mountains at dusk, we were treated by the sparks of fireflies in the road ahead of us, and our open windows (thank goodness it was finally cool enough to open them!) meant we could hear the cacophony of night sounds from the woods.

At our little motel in Bryson City, North Carolina, one of the forest residents took a wrong turn and ended up on our rental car. We had a good time checking him out, and taking his picture. He must have liked us, too… he was still there when we got up the next morning. Big, green, long antenna, hard to fit into the viewfinder. Isn't he grand?



We stopped often today to take photographs. Like the tobacco growing in nearby fields, I've never seen kudzoo in person before, but I knew instantly what it was. It's like rich green moss that molds itself to the shape of the boulder underneath. Kudzoo grows over trees, rocks, roads, power poles, whatever is in the path. You can see what's underneath by the shapes under the green vines. Like this forest of trees, completely hidden. It was creepy.

I thought about a Victoria Holt book I read in my teens, which was set somewhere in the south. Kudzo played a major role, hiding an old cabin completely, and providing a hideout for the bad guy. I was skeptical as I read this book so many years ago, but I'm a believer now.

It's Sweeter in the South

It's impossible to not notice differences while on vacation. I enjoy the scenery, the people, the architecture around me, but sometimes, I can't comparing it to home. Prices (especially gas prices!), scenery, weather, temperature… but brown sugar?

Dave had oatmeal for breakfast this morning, with small side dishes of toasted pecans, raisins, coconut, and brown sugar. He offered me a sample, and said I had to taste the brown sugar. Our light brown sugar at home is flabby, insipid, nearly flavorless. You taste the sweetness, but that's about all. In Tennessee (and as we learned, throughout the South), brown sugar is rich and full of flavor. More molasses? This is something I plan to investigate. Maybe I'll have my friend Louise send me care packages of brown sugar from New Orleans!


Accelerating can be hazardous… to furniture?

I was waiting at an intersection on my way home from work when I heard a loud crash. A pickup had accelerated hard when the light changed, then stopped dead in the road. The girl in the passenger seat climbed out of the truck, and ran behind the truck, out of sight. She came back carrying the footboard to a waterfall bed, antique by the looks of it. Then two guys were pumping gas at the nearby 7-11 left their car and ran out into the highway to help. They soon walked back with a huge entertainment center and muscled it up into the truck. I'm sure by this point my jaw had dropped. What else fell out of the back of the truck? Sure enough, the two guys walked back again, and came back with the headboard for the bed. There were no tiedowns for any of this, and the tailgate was down. What were they thinking? You can't just put stuff in the back of a truck and expect it to stay there. Lucky for them, the stuff just slid out and landed flat on the road, and it didn't look like anything got broken. It was, however, a highly entertaining example of how not to move furniture.


Road trip numbers... there's a lot to count

 I've been sorting through the 1500 photos I took on our 17-day road trip through the Southwest, editing some, deleting some, referring to the rest as I wrote my journal and my blog. And it occured to me that I kept track of a lot of different stats on this trip.

The road trip was to get us to a regional Miata event in Moab, Utah and back home again. The numerical highlights were many:  Nine states, 4800 miles on my True Red 2006 MX-5, six snowstorms in five states, nine national parks, four days in Moab in the company of countless Miataphiles & 234 Miatas, and 112 geocaches found (24 of those were earthcaches). We saw countless animals, thanks to the late snow that kept a lot of animals in the lower elevations. In Yellowstone alone, we saw huge herds of bison and hundreds of buff-colored calves. We saw a mother grizzly bear with twin cubs, and just down the road, saw two young male grizzly bears tearing at a bison that had died. A ranger told us that they'd seen a grizzly with four cubs, almost unheard of. We also saw a moose (my favorite), and three patriarchs of a huge elk herd—huge bulls with truly impressive antlers, snoozing side by side in a meadow.


Tractors in town

Look closely, and you'll see a herald of summer in my town--a John Deere tractor with 2 trailers of lettuce, heading through town toward the Carpenito Brothers produce market.

Rush hour traffic wouldn't let me get close enough for a good photo, but I did manage to get this shot, the reflection in my rear view mirror.


Neighborhood bakery

Somewhere on the south hill of Spokane, there's a fabulous neighborhood bakery. Kathy took us there for breakfast this morning, and I love that it's right there on a residential street. People walk to it or ride their bikes... plenty of racks to leave bikes right outside the door.

If we lived anywhere near this charming bakery, we'd be regulars. It has a wonderful open, friendly, airy feel. I loved the storefront—tall windows, brick walls, a perfect place to get coffee or herb tea, then browse the pastry cabinets and choose from the dozens of varieties, from eclairs to muffins, sweet rolls and all kinds of flaky pastries. It's the perfect place to enjoy your coffee with a bit to eat, and read a while.


Dead horses

Today was a drive from the resort on the Colorado River, south toward Canyonlands. We're headed to Dead Horse State Park, and it was a great sports car drive—19 cars in all, a good group of sporty drivers and it was fun to drive this road with them. We stopped at the visitors center first, to get oriented. I bought a floppy hat with a wide brim, to keep the sun off my neck. After all the cold weather and snow in several states on this trip, we're finally getting sunny weather, and I'm starting to get a sunburn.

Then we drove the rest of the way out to the point, and with some creative parking, managed to get everyone in the small lot. There are gorgeous views from here, probably the best views of the Colorado River side of Canyonlands, because you can actually see the river.

The park is on a narrow plateau, which was used as a natural corral by cowboys in the 19th century. The plateau is 2000 feet above the river, and has a narrow neck that was easily fenced to create a natural corral. Cowboys would drive herds of wild horses onto the mesa, then fence off the opening.

How the last herd of horses got left behind, where they eventually died of thirst, is not clear. It's best to think that it was accidental, that it was a "I thought you were supposed to do that" sort of mixup. It could be that someone was told to ride out and take the fence down, and they forgot. Or it was just not considered worth the time to make the long ride. We'll never know. But I don't for a second buy the story that the fence was taken down, but the horses inexplicably wouldn't leave the plateau. That's a story concocted by someone who's never lived with horses. Horses are much smarter than that.

The other times we've come to Moab, I resisted coming out here because of the legend. As a lifetime horse lover, the thought of horses abandoned here was so painful, and I just didn't want to see where it happened. But I'm glad we came. It's a gorgeous spot with amazing views, and I could have stayed here for hours just watching the clouds blow through, and the ever-changing views.



This morning we went on a sports car drive and hike, and on the way back to Moab, we stopped to see this group of petroglyphs. We were surprised at where they were; we'd driven right past them earlier and didn't even see them. It's because a road engineering and cleanup project years ago had an unexpected effect: removing a steep talus slope put the figures about 30 feet off the ground, out of reach. Aren't these great figures?

We must have disturbed a small bat at one point; he flew right in front of my face and landed on the rock. With my long lens I was able to get a pretty good look at him.

Arch with a view

This afternoon we took a solo drive through Canyonlands National Park, to get the earthcaches and virtual caches there. We stopped at the visitor's center to get pins and hiking stick medallions, then drove out to the end of the road and worked our way back. It's warm today, thank goodness! Shorts and short sleeves felt good after all the cold and snow we've had so far.

From the last viewpoint you can clearly see the White Rim, the actual rim of the canyon (it's white because of the exposed layer of rock at the edge). From the viewpoint it's 2000 feet down to this level, and another 2000 feet down to the river. Awesome.

We really liked the walk out to this arch, and the views out over the canyons. The kids took turns walking across it, and I asked these three guys to pose for me. I think it made a great photo. And in case you were wondering... the arch was at the top of the cliff, but it was out over the sheer drop to the bottom of the canyon. If you fell, you'd fall a very long way.


Snowstorm #3

We're climbing now, heading toward a 10,000 ft. pass, the highest point between us and Moab. It's not snowing yet, but it's cold and windy and you can smell the snow in the air. Eventually we reached the sweet spot—where the elevation of the road finally climbed up into the snow zone. This time (our 3rd snowstorm of the trip) the snow lasted almost 2 hours on a road that climbed twice to almost 10,000 feet. We changed the GPS view to show the elevation plot, and we kept an eye on it as it rose.

All along the road were gorgeous stands of aspen trees, not the stunted trees you often see at high elevations, but perfect huge trees. If it had been warmer (and there hadn't been a white-out), I would have been out with the camera. For eight years I've been looking for just this kind of aspen forest, so I can take a wide-angle photo of the white trunks. I'll just have to come back. We stopped once at a big overlook, where the sun was breaking through clouds, giving us a wide panorama of mountains the in the background and canyons in the foreground. But the snow kept blowing, and we had to keep going.

Snow like this in May is probably not unheard of around here. But an MX-5 Miata doesn't play well in a snowstorm, and it doesn't wear tire chains. So we were relieved to finally drop below the snow zone. We stopped for a photo of the snow plow schedule, just as a group of motorcycles headed up the road toward the pass. They were in for a cold ride.

Searching for aspens

A few years ago we went mountain biking in Moab with a group of friends. We rented a house in town big enough for all of us to have separate bedrooms. Our room had a beautiful wide-angle photograph of aspen trunks. I've been looking for my own grove of aspens ever since.

Today, as we climbed the series of passes through the mountains between Bryce Canyon and Moab, we saw so many beautiful groves of aspen trees. But there was a blizzard raging outside the car, and the views were as much in our imagination as reality, so once again, I couldn't capture the aspen photos I wanted. Very disappointed.

This is a photo that Dave took in 2004, on our first trip to southern Utah. He cropped it to a similar size, but we never found a grove of consistent trees to make the picture we really wanted.


Pet Grouse

Finally, we're in Bryce Canyon National Park. The snowstorm that hit us in Zion this morning also made its mark here, and the red rocks and hoodoos were spectacular with a dusting of snow. We drove the road through the park, all the way to the end, then worked our way back. Such spectacular views from this mesa, I couldn't stop snapping photos and playing with the polarizer to get the best, brilliant blue skies. It was bitterly cold, though. Even though the sun was out, the wind was killer.

We bundled up into everything we had—for me that was my hoodie, black fleece jacket, fleece vest, baseball cap over the hood, gloves. And I was still so cold I couldn't stay on the canyon rim for more than a few minutes. I actually got brain freeze, like you get with very cold ice cream. That was a first.

At the overlook to the natural bridge (which is really an arch), I walked over to the edge to take a photo and enjoy the view, and turned around to see a ruffled grouse walking toward Dave. When he crouched down to take a picture, I got a good shot of him and the bird. Funny little thing… when Dave turned to walk toward me, the bird walked right alongside. He called it his pet grouse, and that he was taking it for a walk. The others around us were very amused.


Zion in the snow

Today was an amazing day in Zion National Park, during a freak snowstorm. The weather forecast was for low 60's today, imagine everyone's surprise when they got a dump of snow instead! We took our time driving through the park, and when the sky started to clear up, we scrapped plans to bolt for Moab, and instead we stayed in the park to photograph it in the snow.

This is one experience I will never forget... especially since we were in our Mazda MX-5. We were headed to Moab for a regional Miata event, and in our nine-state road trip through the West, we ran into snowstorms in five of them!