Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Trip Home - Wyoming into Montana

Interstate 90 cuts through a corner of Wyoming that is rugged high plains. If you look hard, you can see a slightly darker blue above the mountains on the left side of the picture. That's actually the Big Horn Mountain range, nearly obscured by smokey haze.

I'd noticed these on the way out - now I knew they were kin to what I saw in the Badlands.

I made a rest stop in Sheridan - it has a visitor's center up on a hill overlooking the freeway with picnic tables, a playground and a place to let out your horses. That's Wyoming for you. Yes, it really was that hazy.

While I was eating my lunch, I started seeing rabbits hopping all over the grounds. Yes, that's Wyoming for you too.

The rest area made ample use of the red rock I was seeing all through this area.

Back on the road headed towards Montana, things still looked plenty parched. That's why I was so surprised to spot this intense blue lake nestled among the pale yellow grass - a color palette I want to try.

All along the way there had been subtle reminders that it was indeed late September. Hard for me to get my head around. These became more pronounced as I got into Montana.

As I neared Billings, I backtracked a bit up Interstate 94 in order to visit Pompey's Pillar which will get its own blog post. I have to admit it was mighty unsettling to start seeing mileage signs for points east, but I only had to head that way about 30 miles, then it would be back to my westward trek.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Trip Home - Rest of South Dakota

After finally pulling myself away from the lure of the Badlands, I continued down the Interstate toward the Black Hills - a welcomed sight. I wanted to take another sidetrip up into those "hills" - mountains really - even though I was losing light. Not only did I need a mountain fix, I wanted to see Lead where my dad had worked before moving out to Idaho.

I turned off at Sturgis (Harley motorcycle enthusiasts rally here each August) and almost immediately entered a narrow forested canyon, the road winding its way up toward the infamous town of Deadwood. That canyon was just like my Idaho ones so I was so glad I'd headed up into them, waning light or not. Up over a little pass and then you drop into Deadwood. Unfortunately  I had no time to walk around in the older section of town - some wonderful architecture there. But I did feel so at home - these mining towns in these narrow canyons all have a certain look and feel, whether they are in South Dakota, Idaho or British Columbia.

After many twists and turns through this very strung out town, I came to Lead and its banner announcing "Home of the Famous Homestake Mine!" Yes, that was what I was looking for! I had heard stories about how my dad worked at that mine not long after he and mom got married - the deepest mine of its kind in the western hemisphere. It always sounded to me like there was a special cache to having endured those deep levels of underground gold mining. The family story continues that when World War II broke out, dad was not drafted because miners were deemed more valuable as miners than soldiers. However, it was not gold that the War Production Board wanted so the Homestake's operations were suspended and dad was transferred to a  mine near Wallace, Idaho, one that produced silver, lead and other minerals.  I can't believe that of all the sightseeing we did on family trips back to the area, dad never took me up to Lead.  Again, I really didn't have time to walk around much, but it was worth it to see the general area and some of the buildings still standing (the mine ceased operations in 2002). It's quite the scenic area.

I still had some miles to go to reach my destination for the night, and it led me over another pass (over 6000 ft) and winding down again through more narrow canyons with exposed rock outcroppings. I rued the lateness of the hour, not long before it was pitch black. And then I crossed over into Wyoming and headed north for Sundance and the Rodeway Inn. You gotta wonder about a place that feels it is necessary to advertise "clean rooms." And that pool & hot tub? "Discontinued" for the season along with their advertised continental breakfast. Hadn't really thought about the fact that I might be traveling "off season" and was pretty disappointed with the accommodations overall. At least they had good internet connections.

The stay in Sundance was not all bad. The next morning as I gassed up the car, I spotted this wonderful church spire.

And how about this - it was an Episcopal church - Good Shepherd. I would have loved to have attended a service there.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Trip Home - Last of The Badlands

Seriously, just when I thought there would be nothing more to stop for, a new vista appeared around the corner. A few times, I didn't even bother to turn off the car, just jumped out, took some pics drank in the beauty and thought quickly how I might use what I was seeing in my art, and jumped back in the car!

At this turnout, I was particularly interested in the pyramid-like shape front and center.

I think these are from the White River Valley Overlook. For perspective, note the other tourists taking pictures.

As I moved farther west into the park, the composition of the layers changed. The pink became more pronounced and the rest very white. I'm sure I have some literature from the park that explains this but it isn't close at hand - sorry. However, this website has some general information on the geology of the Badlands.

The road took me back up onto the plains and a straight stretch where I could see cars pulled off on both sides of the road - not a scenic turnout. Could only mean one thing...wildlife! These big horn sheep were feeding near the road and ignoring the tourists trying to get a good shot. They mostly turned their behinds to us.

Again, I thought I was out of the scenic part, but suddenly I was winding down again to see colors that really grabbed me - muted muddy red and mustard yellow. I KNOW I have these colors in my batik stash! I'd come into the Yellow Mounds section of the Badlands. What a contrast the the craggy spires and buttes I'd come through. Everything here was soft and rounded. I'm not sure the colors are translating properly, but this area definitely got my creative juices going. 

I was quite interested in the oval shapes along the one hillside, formed by the red eroding away and exposing that mustard yellow.

And I'd like to say that is the end of scenic Badlands. But as you can see, the road continued into those  mountains where I took even more pictures. But you get the idea - this is one fantastic part of America! Artist residency anyone?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Trip Home - The Badlands Cedar Pass

I noticed on the park map a "pass" coming up and could not imagine there could be an actual pass in this area devoid of "real" mountains. But sure enough, I soon was winding down off Cedar Pass and headed for yet another fabulous scenic turnout. 

This one had quite a long trail that wound up to a viewing platform before winding back down to the parking lot. The views all along the way were spectacular!

Above are some views from the very top of the trail.

On the way down, the trail wound into a wooded area. It was late afternoon, shady down in those trees and I couldn't get the snake warning signs out of my head. But none were seen, just these interesting rocks once I got out in the open again.

And twisty tree trunks and junipers loaded with berries. Don't forget that larger versions of the pics are available by clicking on them, then clicking again once you get to the slideshow.

I was almost to the visitor center, having gone less than 5 miles into the park, at least 20 more to go. But surely, I'd be able to just breeze through those additional miles because it really was getting late and I had several more hours of interstate driving before reaching my destination for the night. I did skip the visitor center, but many more scenic turnouts enticed me off the road...can you stand more pictures?

The Trip Home - The Badlands Spires

Once I'd taken in the grand views, my eyes honed in on shapes and spires against the skyline. Somehow, I think these images seemed more likely to translate into design inspiration. Looking as much at negative space as anything on many of them. These are all taken at this same first view turnout. I guess I didn't think there'd be much more spectacle than this. (I was wrong.)