Friday, July 23, 2010

Hike One....

This whole photo blogging thing is really useful to remind one of things that were fun to do in the past.

A few days ago I reviewed my "Best of 2007" pictures and realized how much I missed just hiking through the woods on an almost daily basis like I used to do when I lived in Houston.

Wanting some physical exercise and mental space to think, I grabbed my camera and drove a few blocks over to Mill Creek Canyon, determined to find some little trail to take; something not too challenging (like most of the trails I have encountered there), just an easy hike that would allow me to do some wild flower hunting along the way.
It didn't take long for me to find a trail head.
A few minutes on the trail and I spotted the flower above.

The sphere was a little bigger than a golf ball, and scent could challenge anything fragrance that Chanel has to offer.

The buds were equally delightful in a visual way.

I was stepping aside the path regularly for mountain bikers and runners to pass by, and I got goosed by dogs twice. Oh well...the breezes were cool and carried that mix of pine and mulch and something else that tickled my imagination. It was quite a different scent from the wooded trails of Houston.

The flowers here were different than in Houston (mostly).

Later when I showed this picture to Bernie, he thought it might be a different kind of swift than he knows from California. He said he would have to get out his lizard identification book, something he hasn't needed to consult in years. Both of us are having to consult identification books now.

It is like a whole 'nuther world to us here.

I was a bit surprised to see grasses already dried.

A tiny freckled charmer, no bigger than a penny...a one of a kind on this hike. Sweet, isn't it?

I began my hike around 7 pm; it was still fully light out, but some of the flowers bloomed in heavily shaded areas which required the use of a flash. Since I am never sure which will look best (with or without flash) I tried both, and was most pleased with the effect that flash created.

At one point the trail lead beside a wall of solid rock.

The dry crumbly stone was sprigged with random flowers growing in the seemingly impossible location.

The book "Hinds feet on high places" readily came to mind with this sort of scene.

When I began the hike up the hill I was not all together pleased with the fact that Mill Creek was rushing across the street from where I parked.
(Now here's a laugh: as I went to type in the name of the creek, I had a mental blank. "What is the name of the stream that runs through Mill Creek Canyon?" I asked Bernie.
You can imagine the odd look I got for asking that question!)
Since I was climbing UP hill, I figured I would not be coming across any flowing water.
(Again...with that thought, obviously my brain was on vacation...)

I was wrong. The trail ended at a streamlet which could be crossed via a wooden platform. Just one flower bloomed by the water, but what a flower it was! The picture of the day for sure!

And now for the rest of the story:

I was on Grandeur Peak Trail, which was to be 1.6 miles hike each way. No problem!

I really wasn't planning on hiking too far anyway; just a little peek around, you know what I mean?

So I headed off wearing shorts, tee shirt and a pair of basically biking shoes, without any socks.

No problem on the 1.6 miles up.

As I turned to go back down, I suddenly realized I was getting a blister on my heel.

A few moments later I realized the blister had ripped, and every step was going to make it worse.
What to do...what to do...I tried to walk with the shoe's heel cup mashed down, but that wasn't going to work for the return hike.
I finally slipped the shoe off and gingerly picked my way down the stony path a step at time, first with a shod foot, then with the bare.
It was starting to get a bit riders still whizzed by me and one girl with the huge German Shepard that had goosed me earlier stopped her jogging long enough to ask if I was all right.
I was, sort of.
Somehow this situation seemed vaguely familiar.
It took a bit, but finally it came to me:
Hannah Dustin walked for days wearing just one slipper on the snowy rocky Massachusetts and New Hampshire soil.
Jeepers. If she could manage that...surely I could hack walking a mile and a half.
I could, and I did.
For a moment I considered posting a challenge to all female Dustins by birth to walk in one shoe each March to commemorate her trial.
Then I realized that if Hannah was here, she would think that was just plain old crazy.
And she would probably wonder about her 12 times great granddaughter who was so insensible as to go hiking without proper shoes and socks when such options were readily available.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A tiding of....

Isn't he a gorgeous fellow with his rain bowed hued tail and gleaming white shoulders?
A tiding (or "charm", "gulp", "mischief", "tittering", and "tribe") of magpies has been inhabiting our garden the past few weeks.
They used to occasionally hang out in our front yard.
Now they seem to have discovered our backyard. I caught four of them in this picture; there are five magpies all together in the tiding
When Larry the Cable Squirrel tried to join their party by sneaking onto the garden bench, I thought it was kind of cute. Larry assumed an adorable classic upright/tail arched pose just as I lifted my camera up.
My camera shot didn't capture the Hallmark card multi-species unity scene.
All I got was the blur of two magpies attacking Larry as he raced to leap off the left hand side of the bench.
I had no idea magpies were anti-squirrel!
(Special PS to my favorite chicka daughter Laura: Happy 32nd birthday! Look out for those boll weevils!)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bernie's Bonsai Buddy Invites Us Over

Bernie's been enjoying getting to know a few people who share his hobby of bonsai through the Salt Lake City Bonsai Society meetings. One member, a man named Darryl casually invited us over to see his bonsai collection. It was the day before Gail was coming in for a visit; I had a list of things I wanted to get done, but I figured it would be fine to go see a few bonsai in the early evening, and be home in plenty of time to finish up my to-do list.

As soon as we pulled up to the house with an amazing desert landscaping in front, I started to suspect that this visit would not be just to see a few mini trees in pots here and there.

Oh no, definitely not. I knew I would want to spend at least a full day exploring this garden, and hearing how it was created in a typically sized plain old suburban backyard.

Darryl had also done extensive landscaping in his back yard, which included a koi pond with TWO water falls flowing around an island where a weeping blue spruce sprawled out in magnificent style.

There was also a full fledged vegetable garden which bordered a pen with...

Three very large tortoises. The friendly animals RUSHED up to greet us at a speed that I wouldn't have thought possible. I wasted no time getting into the pen and making their acquaintance.

Don't you just love that face? The tortoise each were just slightly smaller than the size of a typical old fashion trash can cover and each had a distinct personality. I discovered that while they are just fine with me patting their shell and head, they would JUMP and HISS if I touched their arms. Quite disturbing actions for both of us!

Two small dogs frisked about us and the garden as well...

The tortoises were bigger than the dogs! I asked how Darryl had come to own the tortoises; he said he used to own a large collection of exotic spiders; no one was interested in caring for them when he wanted to vacation, so he traded them for the tortoise. How interesting!

Our host offered us a glass a wine and a pond side seat in comfortable padded chairs on a low wooden deck where we relaxed in the early evening balmy warmth.

Before long Darryl pointed out an enormous bullfrog which had positioned himself at the top of one of the waterfalls.He excused himself for just a moment and returned with a cage of crickets to toss for the frogs dinner. The koi were busy swirling in colorful knots, dragonflies were stitching about and birds landed here and there in the water fall for a dip too.

I began to realize that I wanted to live here, beside the pond. I wanted to sit on this deck every morning and every evening, enjoying having a private pond and two waterfalls to lull me into a state of bliss.

Eventually we "hiked" to the top of the waterfall area where Darryl kept his amazing collection of bonsai. This forest planting was just one of many bonsai pieces that he had.
His single specimen ginko tree would be amazing to see when it turns golden in the fall. He showed us a tree that he had collected in the wild that had been professionally "aged", that is, two experts had both agreed the tree that he was continuing to shape and grow was already 600 years old.

He and Bernie spoke about the finer points of bonsai, the successes and the failures, and he gave Bernie some very humble thoughts to help him figure out what might have caused some bonsai projects to fail.

We are planning to install a Japanese garden in a part of our garden someday. I was seeing black bamboo for the first time here; you can be sure that someday our garden will have some of the interesting black forms as well.

We eventually returned to the low deck and I noticed a flash of yellow flit by and land. A yellow warbler was perching on a power line. Using my zoom to get a reasonably good picture, I showed my photo to Darryl. He had been unaware of the fast moving warbler being in his area. He then began to share about all the birds that do visit the pond.

Now I really, really wanted to live in this place. Or at least camp in the back yard....

I thought it was quite clever to put an ancient looking bonsai on a post in the tortoise pen. There was also a heated green house on the property where the tortoise spend their winters in a semi-hibernation state, along with the more tender bonsai.

Darryl's wife grows their non-bonsai landscaping from seed. She plants and grows in the greenhouse in late winter, then transplants the seedlings when the snow finally melts from the landscape. The more I looked, the more I saw, the more I envied!

There was artwork nestled into the garden, metal sculptures, potted plants in interesting planters,

and clay animal masks made by the local junior high students and left behind at school unwanted. Darryl is given them to display as he wishes.

Inside his house were more interesting plants. At one time Darryl had torn off the entire wall facing the garden; birds flew in and out of the house over the summer as they remodeled and put in a wall of glass. They leave the waterfalls flowing during the winter. Darryl told us the garden is designed to be just as lovely when banked with snow.

I believe him. I am ready to grovel for an invitation to see it in such a state!

As we left the garden through a small passage that lead through the garage, a passionflower vine bloomed against a trellis. I had never seen a shy or modest passion flower before, so I had to take a picture of course.

Out in front amidst rocks and towering cactus, Darryl's desert was in bloom glowing in the moonlight as night finally fell.

We will invite him and his wife over to see our humble garden, and share a glass of wine together on another balmy evening soon.

Oh, and the list of things I thought I had to get done before Gail came?

As I first learned in my home economics college classes: Work expands to fill time alloted.

Everything that needed to be done got done.

Funny how that works.

Next time you don't think you have time to do something fun because you have too much work to do?

Just say the quote, and bag the work.

The workload will shrink to fit the time that you allot for it!


I may be a tad behind on the latest and greatest new features in Picasa, but I did find out that pictures in a Picasa Web album can be edited in Picnik.
A drawing that can be made via a click on a photo is a nifty option.
You can add text and do-dads too.
For right now, I am just happy with how this picture looks.
(I didn't even have to use the feature that makes a person look skinnier. It was taken a few years back when I thought I was heavy. Like my grandmother in law once said: save all pictures of yourself. They will look wonderful in twenty years.)

Now that I have stumbled upon this feature, I know want to make "drawing" out of a lot of my pictures.

Let's see how long this little obsession will last.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The rest of the visit.

A visit with family makes even the mundane activity a good time. Hal and Barbara sat on the porch as Bernie mowed the lawn.

We did go out for pizza one night, Chinese food another night, and restaurant up near Snowbird, where we sat on another deck and enjoyed looking at another mountain and more birds at feeders. The drive up there was what it was really all about.

Mostly it was just a time to relax and just enjoy the time together. Hal later said how neat it was that none of us turned a television on even once.

Take pictures, talk, stare at the mountains, the sunset, the flowers, the birds.

Repeat the next day.

And the next.

I could use a lot more days like that.

My favorite shot: I finally caught Hal with a smile.

He is a happy soul; it is just that like most men, he isn't inclined to grin a lot.

So I was watching for his smile, and had my camera ready for it when it came.
Come back anytime...Utah awaits you, and if you want, I'll even get you some of Utah's favorite Frog Eye Salad if you want some next time!