TEXAS PARKS & WILDLIFE FOUNDATION – FOCUS ON THE WILD – June Contest

The subject of the June 2016 Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation Focus on the Wild photography contest is “Texas views from the hiking trail.”  I live near Palo Duro Canyon State Park, so I figured I’d enter three of my favorite Palo Duro Canyon photographs — all of which were literally taken from hiking trails.  Check out my three entries!

The following photograph was taken from the Givens, Spicer, & Lowry Running Trail.  It’s one of my favorite trails because it’s incredibly scenic and it doesn’t have nearly as many people on it as the Lighthouse Trail.  There are quite a few places to do some off-trail exploring, too.

The following photograph of a dry creek bed and storm clouds was taken from the Lighthouse Trail.  The combination of scenery and stormy weather in this photograph always makes me pause to take a closer look.

There have been a few new trails created at Palo Duro Canyon State Park since I moved to the Texas Panhandle eight years ago.  This photograph was take while I was hiking one of them — the Rock Garden Trail.  The Rock Garden Trail directs hikers through an area that fell victim to a rock slide many moons ago.  There are quite a few interesting rock formations along the trail.  I love that you can see the Spanish skirts in the background of this photo (top right-hand quadrant).

Château de Chenonceau – Part 2

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Château de Chenonceau was the first chateau that we visited during our time in the Loire Valley.  If you’re planning a trip to the Loire Valley and are trying to decide how many chateau to plan on seeing, I recommend planning to spend about half a day at each chateau.  We could have easily spent longer than half a day at Chateau de Chenonceau (the inside is still furnished, and the grounds are lovely), but we really wanted to have ample time to see Château de Chaumont and the International Garden Festival that day, as well.

I took so many pictures during our time at Chateau de Chenonceau.  I won’t be able to include all of them in one blog post, so I’m splitting it into three parts.  This one will include pictures from the inside of the chateau.  The first post includes photographs from the outside of the chateau, Diane’s garden, and Catherine’s garden; it also includes more information on the history of the chateau.  The third post will focus on the grounds, and a fourth post will include photographs of some of the beautiful flower arrangements from inside of the chateau, as well as photographs of paintings of Chateau de Chenonceau.

Immediately when you enter the chateau, there is a small chapel on the left.


Chapel in Chateau de Chenonceau


Chapel in Chateau de Chenonceau

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Château de Chenonceau – Part 1

Château de Chenonceau was the first chateau that we visited during our time in the Loire Valley.  If you’re planning a trip to the Loire Valley and are trying to decide how many chateau to plan on seeing, I recommend planning to spend about half a day at each chateau.  We could have easily spent longer than half a day at Chateau de Chenonceau (the inside is still furnished, and the grounds are lovely), but we really wanted to have ample time to see Château de Chaumont and the International Garden Festival that day, as well.

I took so many pictures during our time at Chateau de Chenonceau.  I won’t be able to include all of them in one blog post, so I’m splitting it into three parts.  This one will include pictures of the outside of the chateau, Diane’s garden, and Catherine’s garden.  The other two posts will focus on the inside of the chateau and the grounds.

Chateau de Chenonceau is built across the River Cher.  The oldest written reference to Chenonceau is from the 11th century, though the chateau as it exists today was not built until the mid-to-late 1500s.  The architecture is a mixture of late Gothic and early Renaissance.  The only chateau that is visited by more people each year than Chenonceau is Versailles.  It is nicknamed Château de Femmes in honor of the six women who called it “home” during its early years.  During WWII, the River Cher was the boundary between occupied and free France; the chateau was bombed twice during WWII.  In 1951, the Menier family (who had owned Chenonceau since 1913) restored Chenonceau.  They still own it to this day.

The tree-lined walkway that ushers visitors towards Chateau de Chenonceau is beautiful, and does a good job of setting the tone for guests.  The entire chateau seemed almost magical — as if it had been preserved exactly as it was when it was initially built — a small window into the past.


Walkway Leading to Chateau de Chenonceau

Statue at End of Walkway

First View of Chateau de Chenonceau

A Moat

Roses & Chateau de Chenonceau

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Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation – Focus on the Wild

I just came across an advertisement for the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundations April 2016 Focus on the Wild photo contest.  The April subject is “Texas wildflowers in bloom.”  I immediately knew exactly which photographs I wanted to enter.  Sometimes it’s discouraging to enter photo contests and not win, but what I like most about contests like these is getting my photographs in front of a much wider audience than normal.  Here are my three entries.

Each spring, “the old cemetery” in Rockport is taken over by wildflowers.  Though tickseed is the most common (it’s the golden yellow one seen here), there are also bluebonnets and winecups (among other flowers).  There are many old statues and tombstones throughout the cemetery that make for picturesque photographs.

Virgin Mary & Tickseed at Old Rockport Cemetery

I was on the way home from a dear friend’s wedding when I passed this scene — the perfect fence & bluebonnet shot.  This photo was high up on my “photo bucket list,” so I turned around to take a few shots.  I debated long and hard on whether or not to include the Indian paintbrush in my photograph.  In the end I decided to leave it — it adds some visual interest without cluttering-up the photograph.  Aside from that, I think we all feel a little out of place, just like this Indian paintbrush, from time-to-time.

Rustic Fence, Bluebonnets, & Lone Indian Paintbrush

I was driving from Austin to Borger when I passed this scene.  I was kicking myself for not stopping (mostly because I don’t think it gets much better than cows grazing in a field of bluebonnets) and several miles later made the decision to turn around and go back to get a few shots.  There was a nice, big caliche driveway leading up to an entrance for this field, so I went ahead and pulled in to the side of it.  I was able to get quite a few shots (I’m always willing to stay some place a bit longer when I don’t feel like I’m in danger), but this one is my favorite.  I like the sense of movement from the longhorns’ tails, the hillcountry in the background, and the bluebonnets in the foreground.

Longhorns, Texas Hillcountry, & Bluebonnets

Flower Friday – Scabiosa

I just uploaded these photographs to Flickr last night and decided that they would make an excellent Flower Friday post.  Scabiosa (aka pincushion flower) is one of my favorite plants — it’s a perennial (my plants made it through winter without completely dying this year), it’s drought tolerant, and pollinators love it.

IMGP8077Scabiosa & Reakirt’s Blue Butterfly

Scabiosa & Reakirt's Blue ButterflyScabiosa & Reakirt’s Blue Butterfly

Ready for a FightScabiosa & Angry Bug

Le Mont-Saint-Michel

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Le Mont-Saint-Michel is a 247 acre island community (population: 44) in the Normandy region of France.  The island has been inhabited since ancient times, and has been home to a monastery since the 8th century A.D. From Wikipedia (because I cannot say it better myself):  “The structural composition of the town exemplifies the feudal society that constructed it: on top, God, the abbey and monastery; below, the great halls; then stores and housing; and at the bottom, outside the walls, houses for fishermen and farmers.”  The island is accessible by foot during low tide but is completely surrounded by water at high tide.  There is a 46ft difference between high and low tide.  Le Mont-Saint-Michel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is visited by 3 million people each year.

One convenient thing about the main highways in France is that there are many signs for common attractions, so we always knew whether or not we were going the right direction.

Road Sign for Le Mont-Saint-Michel

As fans of Band of Brothers, we were excited to see a sign for Saint-Lô, a town mentioned in one of the episodes.

33 Miles to Saint-Lô

Wagon & Flower Pots

Pretty, Yellow Flowers

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Bayeux

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We stayed at the Churchill Hotel in Bayeux while we were in Normandy.  It was the hotel that Winston Churchill stayed in when he was in Bayeux.  Bayeux was the first city to be liberated on D-Day (by Great Britain), so today it looks much like it would have looked during WWII.  The population of Bayeux is ~13,000, so it’s a decent sized town.  Bayeux was founded during 1 B.C. as a Gallo-Roman settlement named Augustodurom, in honor of Emperor Augustus.  I wasn’t a fan of the food in Paris; however, I did enjoy the food in Bayuex.  I ate a traditional Norman chicken dish, Poulet Vallée d’Auge, at two different restaurants in Bayeux.

There is one iconic building missing from this blog post — the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Bayeux.  Photographs of Bayeux’ beautiful cathedral can be seen in this blog post.

The Churchill Hotel is on the left of this photograph.  The grocery store, Carrefour, where we purchased our picnic groceries is adjacent to the hotel.


Rue Saint-Jean

Rue des Teinturiers


I apologize for including so many pictures of the waterwheel.  I had seen pictures of it online prior to our trip to France, so I was hoping to come across it while we were in Bayeux.  It ended up being on the way from our hotel to the municipal parking lot where we parked our car, so we didn’t even have to search for it.  Each of these photos is a little different, so I wasn’t able to narrow it down any further.

L’Aure & Waterwheel via Place aux Pommes

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