National Parks

Hiking at El Malpais

Things can only get better!  Yesterday we went on a little hike to El Malpais.  The last couple of weeks have been crazy with the beginning school and managing to get a bad cold on top of that not to mention two amazing weekends in my new home state of New Mexico.  

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El Malpais is a National Monument which has some great hiking trails and it is just outside of Grants.  Check out the NPS website here: El Malpais- National Park Service.  

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The wildflowers were blooming! I didn't realize that New Mexico would be so beautiful this time of the year. 

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It was a beautiful hike.  

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Caves caused by the lava flows.  

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So I don't have a lot to say. It was a wonderful day (and weekend) and here are some more images.  

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I'm not in the mood to rant about politics.  Humans are disappointing.   

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We hiked to the cinder cone.  Which was pretty cool! There aren't a lot of ancient volcanoes to see in Oklahoma.   

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I visited this hiking trail last fall and didn't complete the hike to the cinder cone.  

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It's never a waste of time when you're out in nature. 

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The Indian Paintbrush is beautiful to see because it reminds me of spring at home.  

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So, let's be still...  

 


Driving Across Colorado

On June 7th my sister and I drove across Colorado with the goal of visiting Dinosaur National Monument the next day.   We started our morning in Canyon City and visited the Royal Gorge first thing in the morning and then proceeded to drive across Colorado on our epic road trip 2017.  Eventually I'll post road trips from 2014-16!   

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I stopped to take a few shots of the Arkansas River which was flowing into the Royal Gorge.   We were traveling from the Royal Gorge to Salida on the first leg of our journey to Grand Junction.  

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We were heading towards Monarch Pass...

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Snow covered mountains; I think so!

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Driving across the country in our tiny car... 

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So we continued...  

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This is the area between Gunnison and Montrose, we didn't go through Montrose though, we continued north to Hotchkiss.   This is Curecanti National Recreation Area which is AMAZING.  

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This area is the Dillon Pinnacles.  

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Just beautiful.   

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So I believe this is part of The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, but it is also Curecanti National Recreation Area. 

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Incredibly beautiful, I had to stop multiple times to take photos!

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I believe I've been so far behind with posting images I didn't know where to start.  Maybe I can begin to work on this blog again.   

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I really want to go back ! 

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But we continued on... 

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The scenic route was worth the time! 

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Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico

It is finally time to start working on photography again.   I've been a terrible blogger for the last couple of years and I have so much content to post.  Some of this is because I've had not-so-wonderful internet service.  

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A little bit about the Tent Rocks from the National Monument website

The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is a remarkable outdoor laboratory, offering an opportunity to observe, study, and experience the geologic processes that shape natural landscapes. The National Monument, on the Pajarito Plateau in north-central New Mexico, includes a national recreation trail and ranges from 5,570 feet to 6,760 feet above sea level. It is for foot travel only, and contains two segments that provide opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, geologic observation, and plant identification.

The cone-shaped tent rock formations are the products of volcanic eruptions that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago and left pumice, ash, and tuff deposits over 1,000 feet thick. Tremendous explosions from the Jemez volcanic field spewed pyroclasts (rock fragments), while searing hot gases blasted down slopes in an incandescent avalanche called a “pyroclastic flow.”

Precariously perched on many of the tapering hoodoos are boulder caps that protect the softer pumice and tuff below. Some tents have lost their hard, resistant caprocks, and are disintegrating. While fairly uniform in shape, the tent rock formations vary in height from a few feet up to 90 feet.

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It was worth the drive.  The first hike was around the tent rocks, which apparently are also called "hoodoos" in geology.  

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A relatively short drive from Albuquerque or Santa Fe, it is worth hiking the slot canyon, which is pretty amazing.  

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This was one of my last May outings.  I didn't know about this place until my brother mentioned that he'd like to visit last fall and I've intended to drive up and see this place.   A national park is usually always worth your time.  

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This was a day trip that was definitely worth it.  

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I really enjoyed walking through the trail that led through the slot canyon. 

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I still take photographs like I used to. I still shoot fairly often, but perhaps not with the intensity or dedication that I did a few years back.  I need to spend time working on this page and my other pages and get back to where I enjoy the hobby of photography like I used to.  I'm sure calling it a "hobby" would set the passionate, absorbed, serious photographers in a furious rage.   It's just that it is my hobby.  

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It was a great day.  

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Take the time to go see your world, even if you don't stray too far from home. 

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Tent Rocks National Monument is worth  your time if you're visiting New Mexico. 

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El Morro

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Just down the road from my new home is El Morro National Monument .  My last visit was in 2010 when I went to a workshop at Crow Canyon sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

 

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This natural pool provided the run off water so people could stop and rest on their travels and have a drink...and autograph the rock.  

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So, natural resources are important.  Water is extremely important in the American west, which made this a great place to stop and have a drink before getting back on the trail.  

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Of course it was an inscription rock long before the colonists arrived.   The Ancestral Pueblo people were busy inscribing on this rock. 

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Telling their stories in stone a thousand years ago.  

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I love the petroglyphs.  

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If you take the half mile hike to the top of El Morro you can arrive at the ancient village of the Shiwi people.  Atsinna.  

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The Kiva is the church of the pueblo people.  A house of prayer.   

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I've hiked El Morro every week since I've been in New Mexico.  This Saturday was particularly pretty.  

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Of all the things I missed about New Mexico, I missed the sky the most.  I am in love with the sky on these days where the clouds dot the dark azure sky.   

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The passed through here in 1709, the year the little ice age struck Europe.  

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They came in the 19th century and wrote their names besides the ancient ones, beside the Spaniards and marked their journeys west.  

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The oldest inscription from Onate, is dated prior to the Mayflower.   This history in North America that we often miss in our history books,   we forget about the Spanish and the French in North America.   We need to remember they were here too.   

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I like the hike up El Morro, the views are spectacular.   

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It was a beautiful day. 

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There is the volcano that I can see from my back yard.  This landscape is amazing.   

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and you can look down on the other side of the mesa.  

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You can look out and see Highway 53 and in an hour you can be in Arizona.   

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These stairs carved in the rock to make your hike easier.   

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Highway 53 and El Morro is kind of out of the way but it is well worth your time if you are in the area.  

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Inscription Rock, a little place in western New Mexico that documents centuries of travelers who were seeking a new life, or were just continuing to live their lives out on the Colorado Plateau.    








 

 

 

 


Back to New Mexico

I have returned to New Mexico.  I had an opportunity presented to me that I couldn't turn down.  I've been here nearly a month now and am slightly settled in.  Here are some images from my initial drive out on September, 24th. I lived in New Mexico in 2003-04. I took my first teaching position in The Pueblo of Zuni.   That year had an incredible impact of my understanding of the world and people. It was the impetus for my fascination with Native culture and heritage and it's importance..  

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I probably should have stayed home a few more days and got over my cold.  But I left the day after I finished my last day of notice on my Oklahoma job.   I made it to New Mexico fairly early but New Mexico is a large state (the sixth largest), I had a few more hours to go.  I was doubting my decision but I know that I can do anything for a year (or two).  I also know there are a lot of places I want to see in the Southwest and work on my photography portfolio and this is an excellent time in my life to do it.   

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This is El Morro... the closest National Monument  to my new home.  

As I returned to familiar scenery and a landscape of my past....  I was longing for Oklahoma and my family.   But I was also curious about this new school and new students, and schedule.  I also feel that I'm in a position where I'm treated as a professional which I never felt working for large school systems.   I am in a state that values the fact that I've valued my education and the pay represents that.  

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The grandeur of nature and the signatures of the people who traveled through in the past at El Morro.   This is an amazing landscape.  I understand the inspiration New Mexico provided for artists such as Georgia O'Keeffe. But I've got a lot more images and perhaps I'll  begin working on my blog more often now.  


Carlsbad Caverns

So we did a super quick trip to New Mexico over Spring Break -  and by quick I mean like 36 hours quick.   We drove to New Mexico on a Thursday evening and home on a Friday night, but we still went to a place we have never been before but always heard about.   So I spent the day looking at the weather and checking different state parks and places within four or five hour drives that we could go to but since it was St. Patricks Day I also knew that I really didn't want to be in downtown Dallas or Tulsa that night.   After watching the weather Carlsbad was our destination of choice, my husband's suggestion and it was a good one.   

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We left the house at four thirty or so and made it to Carlsbad around midnight.  Of course New Mexico is in Mountain Time so I'm not really sure what time it was by the time we arrived. 

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I haven't been to New Mexico since 2010!!!  When I went to a National Endowment for the Humanities workshop up in Colorado at Mesa Verde.  It has been a long time and I love New Mexico it is one of my favorite places.   I can't believe it has been six years since I've been out there already.   

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So we make it to Hobbs and I get to drive from Hobbs to Carlsbad.   Which was a decent little drive.   We arrived at the hotel and went to bed for some much needed rest after our 463 mile drive.   

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It's pretty flat until you get to the mountains,  and you only get to the mountains near the caverns.  

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So you drive up the mountain and eventually arrive at the visitors center. 

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It was incredibly windy when we got to the top of the mountain to go into the visitors center for our self guided cave tour.   

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This is probably a REALLY, REALLY GOOD IDEA.  If you are in horrible shape and don't like walking uphill this is not the national park for you.  Also, small children, good luck with that.  If you want to carry them and hope they aren't scared of dark places.  I consider myself in "decent" shape and this cave hike kicked my butt.   It takes three to four hours and the hike back out is brutal and uphill.  The hike down isn't too bad, but it is one of the most incredible places that I've ever been to.  

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They weren't kidding.   

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As you enter it is truly other worldly.  I used a tripod and a 15-30 2.8 lens on a Canon 6D,  I still struggled to get the shots that I wanted out of these caves.  Of course it was so packed with tourists it is truly difficult to enjoy America's National Parks sometimes because they are always relatively crowded.   

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Now for the pictures inside the caverns.   

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I hope to have some more time at home now which will allow me to catch up on everything that I'm behind on.  

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I can't even caption these photos because they do not do it justice.  It is a place that you can only imagine if you see it and experience it.  A photo does nothing to help you understand the vastness.   

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I'm trying to show you the images that are in focus more but I felt like I was battling shooting in this not quite dark situation on crowded pathways.  

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We hiked a total of two miles in the caverns  but four round trip and that is all underground.  It is impressive.  I can't explain or tell you what it is like.  You need to go see it for yourself.  

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These were all shot at 15mm, ultra wide but you really can't tell can you? 

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See the trail going through the bottom of this room.   

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So it was time to hike out and I didn't take any photos on our brutal hike out.  Mainly because the 15 year old decided we should "jog" out, or walk very quickly.  It didn't bother me to leave because I really don't like enclosed places that much!   But I was definitely sore the rest of the weekend. 

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Just beautiful.  Other worldly.  

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And as today is Easter, this photo is symbolic to me because it reminds me of so many Native American emergence stories of how they came out of the middle place.  Emerging from the cave just as we as humans emerge into this world from the womb.   I sure was glad to see the light and go back to the outer parts of this earth.  

 


Hot in Hot Springs

On July 31st my daughter and I went to Hot Springs.  We got to Arkansas a day earlier than we usually do and decided to take a vacation day sight seeing. I hope next summer we can do even more of this.  

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What was my prior knowledge of Hot Springs Arkansas before going there?  Not much, I knew there were hot springs, I didn't know why.  I knew that it was a popular tourist spot and I also knew it wasn't too horribly far from the family place but we had never been there.   

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The water out of Hot Springs average 143 degrees f. and people have been drawn to the springs for hundreds (and likely thousands) of years.  The water that come from the springs are over four thousand years old (well obviously all water is "old" it's just not something we think about).   In 1832 under the Jackson administration the government set aside four sections of land to "reserve" them for the people.  In 1877 the government took control over the springs and approved the private bathhouses which you will see some more photos of.  

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In 1921 Hot Springs National Park was established.  

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Bathhouse Row is an interesting area. I believe one bathhouse is still in operation.  By the 1960s many of the bathouses had closed their doors and fell into disrepair.  By 2004 the park began renovating the buildings to help economically revitalize the area.  

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The water is hot! 

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These photos are more of a documentary style and of a tourist nature.  Not my best shots, but I wasn't trying very hard.

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Some images of Bathhouse Row   

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I hope to add enough historical information to educate you about your visit to Hot Springs or any other unusual places I've been to. I need to start working on educational power points, which was my original plan when I began visiting historical places. 

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I will do another post about the bathhouse museum we toured in Hot Springs. 

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This has a beautiful design. 

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Now if you actually want a real bath in Hot Springs the Buckstaff is the operational bathhouse there. 

Buckstaff Baths

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My daughter really wanted to do this. 

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We shopped a little and ate and then drove up the mountain to go up the observation tower.  

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I don't really like observation towers as I learned in Sioux Falls.  I don't like heights that much not in these situations.   

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It's a nice rainy day here in Oklahoma.   I just feel like staying inside.  Next week the job officially begins and I'll be a tired person.  

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You really can't see the forest for the trees out here...

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Mom's Mudflaps at Chimney Rock

So in the 1970s and early 80s my parents had a trailer manufacturing business in Butte Nebraska- S&S Trailers it was called.  They were pretty successful for a while. 

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This is where I spent my early childhood.  This is the kind of town where I could ride my bike to the store a few blocks down at age seven and be safe.  This is the kind of childhood our kids deserve but most don't have.  I was fortunate.   

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The paint shop, where some of my earliest memories are helping wipe down trailers to clean them before they were painted.  

So not a lot to say about Butte Nebraska but I'm one of the Sharp kids.  Which even decades after moving away people know whose family you belong to.  That's what small Nebraska towns are like. So when I was a kid my parents sold mud flaps that she designed with the outline of the state map around them.  

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One of the shop buildings.   

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The big green shop.  The old burnt out shop caught on fire before I was born sometime.  The irony of internet addiction when your phone has no coverage is for whatever reason I had 3G coverage if I walked over on the property.  I was staying across the road at my best friend's home.  

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But a few days later I was on the way on a spur of the moment last moment change of plans with my Plainsgirl buddy from Omaha...

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Way out west - we were taking the Great Nebraskan Pilgrimage to Chimney Rock, a place that was far, far away from our Eastern Nebraska.  Yet, it has always been such a huge part of the state's identity having never been there seemed kind of wrong in our advanced ages of the somewhat early middle.  

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So Chimney Rock in the Platte River Valley which was incredible.  This just doesn't seem like the Nebraska I've known.  Yet there it is Chimney Rock.   

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And WOW.  We were there.  

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So there was a museum, cool, we can go learn about this monument.   

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I walk in and see these.  I kind of did a double take.  I told my friend that my Mom designed those and my parents sold them all over Nebraska when I was a kid.   I had to call Mom and make sure I was correct that she did indeed design these mud flaps.  COOL.   My Mom did this and it's in a National Monument Museum that many people walk through and see every day.  

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So were it not for flooding in Omaha, and our random decision to travel west I wouldn't have known about this.  But I'm proud of my Mom's creativity in this museum.   Also, yeah how cool is that to go into a museum and see a part of your own family history preserved. Chimney Rock Joy Franklin -5585

I'm trying to work my way through more of my images from The Great Plains tour 2014, because I just confirmed the dates of The Great Plains tour 2015 this evening.  I'm excited!  I love going North in the Summer.  Maybe I just love traveling anywhere, anyways!  Yay for road trips.  I'd be a happy person if I could travel more.  

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So it was an interesting day last June when we visited Chimney Rock and Scottsbluff, and I'm even more thankful that we had more time with Grandma that evening.  


Nature is Non-Essential

America, we have a problem.  Those old men who've long been passed away are busy rolling over in their graves tonight; John Muir, John Wesley Powell, Teddy Roosevelt, 19th century dreamers, poets and early 20th century activists who crusaded to protect natural beauty from development would be in outraged.  Nature in 2013 is "non-essential."  I shot these photos at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area today. One of the nation's oldest National Parks once called Platt National Park.  It features a travertine spring and a beautiful creek with natural swimming areas.   The Sulphur Springs is in an area of the park that is always open for people to stop and sip the strongly scented sulphur water.   

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Not only has the federal government taken natural beauty away from the people as "punishment" by labeling the National Parks Service employees as non-essential this is a petty show of the will of governmental power.  This is in effect showing "We the People" of the United States that we are not responsible enough to visit a National park without a nanny state guardian available.   Yet, we educate our citizens that they have ownership in our national places. That these places are for everyone, all the time.  

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A symbolic cone placed to tell people that we aren't allowed to walk freely throughout this park collectively owned by American citizens, that the stewards who are hired to work here aren't important enough.  A tradition of protecting natural beauty for over a hundred years is now subjugated to political games and ploys to show the power of the Government.   

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This show of the "might" of the US Government is just as mighty as a parade of 10,000 soldiers down the streets of a big city.  It is a flagrant slap in the face to the American people telling them that this country is not theirs, it belongs to "the Government" and the Government will determine what we need and what is essential and "non-essential" so while regulators and tax collectors continue to go to work and harass and fine ordinary citizens, our parks are unnecessary.   This is no different as unveiling giant paintings of a dictator, this is the marching of troops, this is a group of soldiers invading a home to look for one person in Boston.   This is a show of power.  

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Yet, Government excess exists, an unsustainable path of destruction exists for a country whose expenditures outstrip income.  We are beholden to the full faith and trust of a system whose show of might is to put barricades up to keep citizens from seeing collectively owned natural beauty.

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In many ways this reminds me of the historic treatment of Native peoples in this Nation.  The government has deemed what is essential and nature is not.  Native people have always held land as sacred within certain religious ceremonies.  The sense of place holds a power with people whose ancestry may be traced back tens of thousands of years on this continent.  Yet, ultimately the government with it's courts and judges decide what is sacred and what land is to be protected.  This time the Government has decided what is important and nature is not important.   

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The Governmental shutdown is a passion play that our legislators like to have with each other every so often, yet I disagree that running the country into the ground is the best idea for our children.  But, at the same time I don't see that an entire park system needs to be shutdown especially as our national parks produce revenue.  Maybe we need fewer insurance companies, agents, and lawyers sitting around making up regulations and laws to protect their own self interest.  

Government Shutdown of Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur Oklahoma-4497
Maybe for the most part we don't need to be hovered over at National Parks and for the most part at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area I never see park workers, especially near the Sulphur Springs.  This show of Governmental power is to show the American Citizens -- the very citizens that we educate about their ownership of the government--that we are indeed powerless against barricades and cones that tell us that "this land is not our land."  This land is Government Property and you, the citizens are to keep out.  The sad part is that the park system provides the only nature that some people enjoy.  A controlled beautiful nature, not a wild nature to be explored but a highly regulated, legislated natural beauty.  

No one owns the land,ultimately all civilizations rise and fall and change. A short millenia ago this land was also occupied great civilization who left us echoes of their mounds which we can visit at the Chickasaw Cultural Center, which is not closed by the Government of the United States.  

It is not time to privatize the National Parks, privatize to development and corporate ownership along with more fines and fees. It is time for the old men running the country to show some respect for the people who put them in office and take a step back and re-prioritize the essentials.  


Old Military Trail on The Winding Staircase

Tuesday didn't go as planned. I was stuck for the night in Talihina.   Now, being stuck in one of the most beautiful places in Oklahoma is really nothing to complain about.  After we ate at the Hateful Hussy Diner in Talihina and got settled in I drove out east of town to Highway 1 to capture the sunset.  But, the history behind this old military road fascinated me when I began going on the scenic byway. 

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These are some of the highest mountains in the Ouachitas.  Everytime I come back I learn something new.  Learning isn't about doing something once, it must be reinforced and explored.  

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So this place that I explored, still needs to be explored some more. I'm drawn by the numerous hiking trails down the mountain, yet serious hiking is not something I've ever done before.  

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So I really want to come back out here for a couple of days and hike some of these trails.  

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But I didn't have time. I knew when the sun was going to set and had places to go and things to see. Now, I know this is bear country. 

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I don't want to meet a bear.  Bears don't care, bears will eat your face.   Now back to the Military Road markers, you might miss them when you drive through.  The scenery is amazing on your first couple of visits. 

 

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The landscape always overwhelmed me in the past and I never stopped and read these markers.  But, as my knowledge of Oklahoma grows my interest in the details also grows.  Last January I visited Ft. Towson.  I was going to find Ft. Towson Cemetery where my Great-Grandfather was buried and discovered Doaksville. 

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The old historial markers are interesting.  Different tidbits of information written in different eras, revisionist history.  

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A little more information for you.  

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and another shot of the old military trail... 

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After reading about this military road I was even more fascinated about visiting Fort Smith. It has been on my list of places to see for a long time.  I finally made it over on Wednesday afternoon. 

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More photos to come but this was mainly a post to focus on a little bit of the history of the region.