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

France17

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

Continue reading

Bayeux

France12

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

Continue reading

Flower Friday – Texas A&M Gardens and Greenways Project

I’ve never shared a cell-phone photograph on my blog, but I guess there’s a first time for everything.  I took this photo on Instagram and then shared it on my Flickr site.  The next morning I woke up, and it had over 15,000 views (it currently has 17,337 views) — so crazy!  To this day I’m not sure what makes some photos do so well on Flickr, but something right must have happened with this one.

This photograph was taken on the Texas A&M University campus in College Station, Texas (whoop!!!!).  I wish that the Gardens and Greenways Project had been complete (or at least in the works) back when I was in college because the concept of having a 45-acre dream backyard on campus sounds really amazing.  This wildflower field is part of that project.

Texas A&M Wildflower FieldBluebonnets, Alamo Fire Bluebonnets, Drummond’s Phlox, and Indian Paintbrush

Wildlife Wednesday – Paso Fino Horses at Playa Negra

Springtime and warm weather always remind me of summer days spent at the beaches in Corpus Christi (my hometown).  Some of my best memories from growing up are of days spent at the beach.  Living in the Texas Panhandle really makes me miss being near the coast.  Since moving to the Panhandle I’ve been able to take two amazing, summertime, beach vacations to Vieques, a small island off the East coast of Puerto Rico.  Vieques is an amazing place to visit — it’s on my list of trips to blog about, so I won’t discuss it much here.  What I will say is that the people are friendly, the food and weather are great, and the beaches are beautiful and devoid of people.

During our first trip to Vieques, Bryan and I made the hike from one of the main highways down to Playa Negra.  Playa Negra gets it’s name from the black particles that get washed down onto the beach during rainstorms, making it appear like a black sand beach.  As we exited the jungle and made our way on to the sandy shore, I told Bryan, “The only thing that could make this beach more picture perfect would be if there were some horses on it.”  After saying that, I turned around and saw this mare and her colt — what a wonderful surprise!  Remembering that conversation always makes me laugh, and it makes this one of my favorite pictures from our first trip to Vieques.  I’m definitely ready to go back for a third time!

Paso fino horses roam free all over the island.  It’s not unusual to have to stop and wait for them to cross the road or to be forced to drive around them when they refuse to get off the road.  Sometimes you’ll see locals (known as Viequenses) riding them bareback or on small, thin saddle pads.  The horses are descendants of horses originally brought to the island by European colonizers.

Wild Horses at Playa Negra (Black Sand Beach) - Vieques, PR

Pointe-du-Hoc

France14

The fourth and final stop on our Normandy D-Day road trip was Pointe-du-Hoc.  The Fighting-Texas-Aggie in me had been looking forward to visiting Pointe-du-Hoc all day, as it was Lieutenant Colonel James Earl Rudder who led the Army Rangers to victory at Pointe-du-Hoc.  Rudder retired from the Army as a Major General and was the third president of Texas A&M University.

Pointe-du-Hoc was an important strategic location for the Germans, as it was the high point between Omaha Beach and Utah Beach.  A victory at Pointe-du-Hoc was crucial for the Allied forces in order to prevent the Germans from using Pointe-du-Hoc for observing both Utah and Omaha Beaches.  The 2nd Ranger Battalion was to scale the cliffs by using ropes, ladders, and grappling hooks.  Out of the 225+ American men who landed at Pointe-du-Hoc, 135 died.  The Americans were at a clear disadvantage — imagine being expected to scale cliffs while enemy soldiers stood atop them, armed and shooting downward at you.


Ronald Reagan Quote

Grappling Hook

“The officers said everyone that even gets close to the cliff out to get an award.”

Lieutenant Colonel James Earl Rudder

Continue reading

Monochrome Monday – Cotton Bolls

Fields of defoliated cotton always call out to me, but before taking this photo, I had never stopped to get a closer look.  There’s something appealing about the fluffy, white bolls — contrasting starkly against the brown, dead stems.  That contrast is what drove me to convert this to a black and white photo (good black and white photos have both black and white in them…not just shades of gray).  If memory serves me correctly, this particular cotton field was just outside of Abilene.

High CottonBlack & White Cotton Bolls

The following picture is of the same field, taken at the same time.  The stories that old house could tell!

22828590304_9507465e6e_oAbandoned Farmhouse

I figured that this would be as good a place as any to go ahead and share the following photo, as well.  I was with my parents (driving somewhere I don’t remember), and we drove past a cotton field in bloom.  It dawned on me that I had never seen a cotton blossom up close, so Dad pulled over for me to get a closer look.  The flowers looked pretty…in a strange sort of way.  I never would have guessed that they were pink.

Oh, the things we miss when we’re zooming by in our cars.

Cotton FlowerCotton Blossom

“That was where my dream began to take hold, of not havin’ to pick cotton and
potatoes, and not havin’ to be uncomfortable, too hot or too cold.That
in itself had driven me to try to find some better way of life.” 
-Buck Owens

Longues-sur-Mer Artillery Battery

France13

The second stop on our D-Day road trip was a German artillery battery at Longues-sur-Mer.  Construction of the Longues-sur-Mer battery was completed during April 1944, and the battery was an important part of Germany’s Atlantic Wall coastal fortifications.  The battery housed four, 152mm (6 inches!) guns and is located between Omaha and Gold Beaches — two of the D-Day landing zones.  On the night before D-Day, the battery was hit with 1,500 tons of bombs, though none of the guns were disabled by the time D-Day landings began.  British cruisers, Ajax and Argonaut, eventually managed to destroy three of the four guns; the fourth was finally destroyed at 7 PM on D-Day.  The crew of the battery surrendered to the United Kingdom’s 231st Infantry Brigade.

A Field of Shasta Daisies

152mm Gun & Casemate

Continue reading

Musée d’Orsay – The Building

Musée d’Orsay is housed in Gare d’Orsay, an old train station (and hotel) that served as the terminus for the Paris-Orleans Railway.  Gare d’Orsay was the first electrified rail terminal in the world and opened just in time for the 1900 World Fair (Exposition Universelle).  By 1939 the station’s platforms were too short to accommodate the the longer trains now used for long-distance travel; however, it was still used for some suburban trains.  The hotel closed in 1973; the building was reopened in December 1986 as a museum, Musée d’Orsay.  The building is beautiful, and after learning it’s story, I’m so happy that the French government decided to give it new life.

Continue reading

Flower Friday – Bluebonnets & An Indian Paintbrush

On April 13, 2014, I was given the opportunity to take the bluebonnet photograph of my dreams.  Seriously — I’d wanted to take a photograph of bluebonnets with a fence behind them for YEARS.  This shot could not have matched what I had envisioned in my head any better.

Quintessential Bluebonnet PhotoPerfect Fence & Bluebonnets & A Lone Indian Paintbrush
taken somewhere in Texas…

“28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!” – Matthew 6:28-30