Passing through places I’ve never been I often find unexpected areas of beauty that lead to quiet reflection. This barn scene at Capitol Reef National Park was a place that caught me off guard on a day where I needed some time to think about myself and why I had been feeling the way I was. The serene meadow surrounded by the red rock cliffs was a perfect place for a time out among the horses and light traffic before heading up into the canyon for more adventures.
On a drive through Utah from Park City to Provo I just happened to pass by some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve seen on the side of a road. This open pasture was just too perfect with grazing horses and a flowing stream, but to top it all off the snow-capped mountain range in the background makes the scene. This is just one of many amazing roadside attractions I wanted to stop and spend the rest of my day at along the way. If anyone wonders why I want to spend more of my time in Utah, this is the answer.
While driving through Georgia visiting some sections of the Appalachian Trail we came across Vogel State Park. We could see this waterfall from the road so we found our way into the park, ate breakfast, and then picked up the short trail around the lake that led to the falls. There is a small observation deck at the edge of the falls, but you can walk down farther to the bottom if you choose. I stood by the torrent for a long while, letting the white noise of the rushing water drown out all of my thoughts for a few minutes. At that point I needed it, and it was nice.
Watching birds gracefully float through the air is calming to me. They take off in a fuss but end up spreading their wings and letting the wind carry them smoothly through the air. In Louisiana we visited a man-made nesting area for birds, and there were hundreds of them inhabiting the small islands of wood and leaves. Every few seconds one would take off and soar over the water, trying to grab a fish or bringing back more building materials for the nest. They flew with purpose and conviction, but they flew silently, skimming the top of the water with their wingtips.
Striking colors distract from the death that surrounds us, aiming our gaze upwards towards the heavens instead of the small plot of land in the ground which our bodies will inevitably inhabit. Whether it was forethought or just the necessary placement of windows, these ideas lurk in my mind while exploring the cemetery grounds throughout New Orleans. The time- and water-stained above-ground graves and mausoleums are monotone while the sanctuaries boast colorful flowers and windows in true NOLA spirit.
After waking in the dark and driving the sinuous roads that lead through the mountains of the Olympic Range I found myself walking quickly up a steep path in the early morning light. The sun had yet to cross the peaks, and it was chilly for August. After some switchbacks and open trail walking I made it to my destination. The top of Hurricane Ridge is expansive and majestic. Jagged mountains surrounded me while rolling meadows lay at my feet. Olympic marmots whistled to each other while everything else was silent above the clouds as the sun showed its face and washed over me as I sat in awe for an hour or more taking in the incredible power of nature.
Morning in the midwest had such epic beginnings when the sunrise began nearly an hour before our star crossed the horizon. The pillowy clouds stretched on for miles in the sky, carrying the soft morning glow from around the curve of the earth and lighting our pre-dawn drives. The great expanses that make up the middle of the country are quiet except for the occasional roar of tractor trailers on the interstate and the thoughts in our heads as we watch the day unfold.
Being up before sunrise has an energy that is invigorating. There is potential to the day while you wait for the sun to break the horizon. Staring at snow-covered mountains towering in every direction around you in the blue tones of early morning is magical. And when the first warm glow hits the peak of the tallest point, it radiates with life-affirming color while it slowly swallows up the darkness and ushers in the morning.
Going to a good museum is always an inspiring experience for me. When I leave I feel a renewed sense of drive to create interesting and creative work. It seems that just seeing a collection of amazing work by talented artists helps me see the world in a different way again. I like finding shapes like this that create interesting negative space and line illusions. This is the outside of the Cleveland Art Museum. Fittingly, the outside was just as inspiring as the inside for me.
Anyone reading this probably already knows that Utah is my favorite place to visit. The National Parks are astounding, but the view from any given drive on a backroad, state highway, or even an Interstate can leave you speechless from the unmatched beauty that rises up all around you. The red rocks paired with the often blue sky seem to exist in perfect harmony and play off one another, creating the most rich, brilliant versions of either color that you will encounter in nature. Everything else seems just a little more dull after crossing the figurative state line.
The landscape of southern Utah is so varied that it’s hard to identify at times. This shot is from somewhere near Buckskin Gulch near the Arizona border. Watching the road curve ahead into the distance is always exciting, especially with views like this. We took several dirt roads to get where we were going as you often have to in the backcountry of this area. They are often washboarded or covered with soft sand so travel becomes a gamble. We made it in and out of every one without incident somehow.
The midwest has an emptiness that becomes hypnotic while driving through it. Endless fields lead out to distant horizons, dotted with a few trees and tumbleweeds rolling across the highway. The manmade structures are often the most dominant thing in view, and wind turbines are quite beautiful to me. The way they spin separate from each other and the silhouette against the orange sky at sunset is something I’ve always liked seeing when we pass through the vast open spaces that allow for their use.
Summer is almost here, and my friend and I have been talking about how much we miss skiing. This happens every year, but I am happy that I got to ski quite a lot this season. It’s never as much as I’d like, but I did get to see a lot of new places and finally ski a few places out west. I miss the snow and especially the views from Park City. The atmosphere there definitely made me think I would like to live in a resort area for the winter sometime. I’m already looking forward to the next season.
Art museums are everywhere, but they are not all the same. While I’ve seen versions of Donald Judd’s Untitled sculpture in more cities than I can count, the body of work at a city’s art museum can vary as much as the weather while you travel. Omaha’s Joslyn Art Museum is a fantastic collection of all types of art with great rotating special exhibitions as well. Along with all of the fantastic work on display, the museum itself is a perfect blend of classic architecture and modern design that make navigation only slightly confusing (which is saying a lot for a museum.)
The landscape of the American Southwest is amazingly varied and unique. Driving through the desert regions you could be among high mountains with snow then surrounded by endless flatness with dry bushes, tumbleweeds, and Joshua trees dotting the landscape. It is endlessly beautiful no matter where you go during the day, and the stars come out at night almost lighting up the pure blackness as the strange silhouette forms rise up on all sides.
There are so often random amazing spots in places you aren’t looking for it. One of the best parts about being in a new place every day is discovering these little spots and feeling somehow comforted by the ubiquitous beauty that exists everywhere if you can appreciate it. This one happened to be on a disc golf course in South Carolina. As the sun was going down, the well-designed and fun course was challenging us, but I was holding my own. Can’t get mad at a missed putt with these surroundings.
While in Georgia we hiked several short trails on the Appalachian Trail. Since Joanna had hiked the entire trail last year she knew all the best places to check out. Blood Mountain was a slightly challenging hike uphill to a beautiful view overlooking the endless mountains. It was nothing like her amazing accomplishment last year hiking 2,185.3 miles, but it was a great day for a hike, and we got to pass out some Kind bars to thru hikers, and she did a great job encouraging them to keep going all the way to Maine.
The Jungle Gardens on Avery Island are an amazing area covered in old trees covered in Spanish moss lining the swamp waters filled with gators and birds. We saw so many alligators and water birds during our drive through the grounds that it became unsurprising after a while. There were a lot of great places to stop and walk to see more of the natural wonders. It was a perfect thing to do on a somewhat rainy day since we could retreat to the car whenever necessary. We definitely got lucky since the weather was more of less friendly during our visit.
Eastern Texas is flat. It’s so flat that any little bit of rain seems to fill up the slightest dips in the ground and turn city parks into marshes. It has made it a challenge to find things to do outdoors even though we haven’t been hampered by the falling rain itself. Camping has been tricky as well, but the reflections in the flooded streets had us in the way of a few cars while we shot. All they gave us was a few honks and dirty looks though. Sorry, Texas motorists, we’re just trying to capture the beauty of your state.
There wasn’t much time spent in Houston, but we got to see a show at a great little venue and check out the park before we had to head east. Though it was a fleeting view, the view was very nice. We’ve been dodging the rain somehow among all the sever thunderstorm warnings, but the rain the has fallen has left behind a lot of puddles that kept us from playing disc golf. It did make some nice reflections of the city that I really had fun shooting.
We got to see a lot of beautiful places in Austin, and Ladybird Lake was one of my favorites. Just off the busy streets there is a little park along the water where cyclists, runners, moms with strollers, and people like us, who want to dip our feet in the water and play Phase 10 in the shade, can get away from the noise. We enjoyed a couple of hours on the banks and in the grass, escaping the hottest part of the day in the shade with a great view over the water. Not a bad way to spend a day on what some might call a vacation.
Austin, Texas has been a mixture of busy and lazy. We have seen a lot, done a little, and eaten way too much. On a lazy day, we strolled through the Umlauf Sculpture Garden, where Charles Umlauf’s many sculptures adorn a gorgeous open space of green. The little ponds and bridges made the shaded walk feel like a real day off as we learned about his incredible work ethic and attention to detail and meaning in his pieces. The Diver is a rendering of Umlauf’s son, and across the pond is “The Kiss” in a very intimate and romantic location. A lot of thought was put into the placement and spacing of the work, and the garden was a great place I would love to visit again.
The desert regions of the southwest aren’t nearly as barren as one might think. Besides the incredible structures and canyons there are myriad plant species that line trails and backcountry throughout the area. Wildflowers are abundant in warmer months, and blossoming cactuses are some of the more strangely beautiful flora that you can find. The exotically intriguing flowers beckon while the sharp points encourage you to keep your distance. That’s what zoom is good for.
On our way through Texas we had a chance to stop in El Paso for a day, and it was a really nice time. We checked out the art museum, which had some great local art and a focus on female artists. Along I-10 and driving through the city we could see this large X across the border in Juarez. It was created by Chihuahuan artist Sebastian, and it represents the mixed heritage of Mexican culture as well as the troubled history between the border cities. It was an imposing figure on the horizon as we drove past the bridge into Mexico and headed farther into Texas.