New Mexico – Desert and History!

Well…she’s baaack! I have been remiss in preparing a blog – I think the whole quarantine has created a malaise that makes it hard to stay motivated, but I’m back! I’m going to retrace my steps, so to speak. As for all of us, the whole lockdown due to COVID-19 has been wearing and our options for things to do somewhat limited. As the restrictions begin to lift, we are hoping we can begin to get out and about and explore the beautiful country safely. This may turn into more of a travel blog than a photography blog, but should be fun nonetheless, especially as Craig expands my photography lessons. I’m sure there will be plenty to laugh about! So in the spirit of retracing my steps, I’ll revisit a trip we took before all the isolation and lockdowns.

Before the COVID-19 hit, we wanted to get away from the cold weather here in Colorado. We got in the car and headed south to New Mexico as I noted in the last blog. Well, that was interesting. We ended up in Alamogordo, New Mexico and a very desololate area. As I mentioned, our target was White Sands National Park (White Sands National Park). It is very fascinating and full of history. The dunes are stunning and ever changing. The light rolling over the dunes creates a beautiful scene.

White Sands National Park
White Sands National Park

The region is very barren and sparse. There are miles and miles of nothing except sand, cacti and sage brush. It, however, has its own beauty in many ways. The dunes are vast and very different than those found in Southern Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park. These dunes are whiter (looks like the area is covered in snow) and a different formation than Great Sand Dunes.

A scene of the vegetation and dunes at White Sands National Prk
A scene of the vegetation and dunes at White Sands National Prk

I was amazed at all the rocket science that has take place there. The area is the home of first atomic bomb testing, just 65 miles from White Sands, part of the Manhattan Project. Even today, the highway nearby closes for a couple of hours at a time for missile launch testing. The International Space Hall of Fame is located in Alamogordo, the town adjacent to the park.

Hall Of Fame, Fun

It was established in 1976 to honor those who have contributed to advancements in space. If you are there, it is well worth the trip to see the history, the story behind the inductees. The inductees range from Copernicus to Sally Ride to Carl Sagan to every astronaut and scientist in between. It is also the last resting place of Ham, the first primate launched into space in 1961.

Ham’s gravesite
Ham’s gravesite
Ham’s space suit!
Ham’s space suit!

The museum is very well done and lots of fun. The visitors ranged from older folks to young families and had many hands-on exhibits. There areas designed as the Star Trek’s transporter room!

Beam me up!
Beam me up!

But the history the Hall of Fame captures is amazing and stirring. You’re reminded of the risk of the brave souls that took off in space flight – some giving the ultimate sacrifice. Others working against all odds to advance science, technology and our world!

Robert Goddard display
Robert Goddard display

In short, if you ever get the chance, the trip to the International Space Hall of Fame is well worth it!

Eldorado Canyon State Park

After five years living in Wyoming I am finally getting to really explore Colorado. Last weekend was beautiful, full of sunshine and temperatures in the mid-sixties. So my wife and I found our way to Eldorado Canyon State Park. Image

The snow was melting which made for muddy conditions when walking around. But the snowmelt had brought to life the small waterfalls and cascades that flowed throughout the park. I discovered over the winter just how much I had gotten myself out of shape. My bones were stiff and climbing around on slippery rocks with a tripod was an adventure. I am sticking to the story that all this stiffness in my body is a result of not enough winter activity and not because of my sixty years of age.

If  your thing is watching people scale canyon walls then you should check this park out. There were rock climbers everywhere and they really made me ashamed of my current physical shape. I am going to take those pounds off in the next two weeks.

Sorry, I didn’t bring with me any telephoto lens, so no photos of the people climbing canyon walls. I have to admit rock climbers are truly amazing. For now I hope you enjoy the photo and short little video of the waterfalls and cascades.

Eldorado Canyon State Park is just fifteen minutes outside of Boulder by car. It is well worth the time to check it out. The downside is it cost eight dollars to drive into the park or three dollars to walk in. I will be back at the park later this spring once the foliage comes back to life.

Both the photo and video were taken with the Nikon D7000 and the lens was the Nikkor 17-55mm. – CLG

A Once in a Lifetime Encounter (Hopefully)

Last night around midnight I found myself sitting on the front porch with my mind jumping from one topic to another. I was so wound up I just had to get away. So I jumped into my car drove west of town about ten miles to a little spot by the North Platte River. I parked the car off the side of the road and with my trusty little flashlight walked the trail about forty to thirty yards down to the river bank. I sat down on a rock and gazed out at the river and the starry night that was stretched out before me.

About three months ago my wife and I discovered this little isolated corner of Wyoming. I was enamored by the river and beauty around it. So much so that when feeling troubled, I would secretly come to it to ease my mind. It always had a calming effect upon me and last night it worked its magic. Within ten minutes of sitting on that rock I was relaxed and at peace with both myself and the world.

Feeling totally relaxed and ready for sleep I found my way off the rock and started heading back up the trail. Then I heard the bushes in front of me rustle. Emerging from those bushes onto my trail was the biggest mountain Lion I had ever seen. Well, at least I think it was the biggest mountain lion I had ever seen. When it is after midnight and pitch black all around you things can get a little distorted.

The mountain lion stopped in the middle of the trail between me and my car. He turned his head and stared at me. He was about ten yards in front of me and from the light from my little flashlight I could see every hair on his body. His greenish yellow eyes seemed not evil but menacing. For what seemed like a minute or two we both just stood there staring at each other.

I remember wondering if I should not shine the flashlight on him. I thought “oh my God I am going to be eaten by a mountain lion”. Then oddly I felt embarrassed. I was wearing off white pants, a black and cream Hawaiian shirt and covering my feet were house slippers. If I am going to die in Wyoming I should not have these types of clothes on.

They say when confronted by a mountain lion you should make yourself big and make loud sounds. But all I could think of was the song “Bottle of Wine” written I believe by Tom Paxton and made famous by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs. So I started loudly singing that song and moving my shoulders to the beat of the song.

The mountain lion either did not like my singing (which most people don’t) or he just got bored with me. By the time I started the second verse he just walked away. I walked back to the river’s edge figuring if he attacked me there I would jump into the water. I figured I would rather drown in the freezing water than be eaten by a mountain lion. Also I thought he would not follow me into the water.

Using my flashlight I kept scanning the area to see if he was still around. After a while, not seeing any sign of the mountain lion I dashed up the trail to my car. Once I was safe in my car, I started it up and went back home.

Safe in bed I kissed my wife on the check. The kiss woke her up. She stared at me and said” what’s wrong?” I said, “I am just glad to be home”. She patted me and fell back asleep. Oddly enough with all that had just happened, I also fell right to sleep.

The attached photo was taken by me a few years back and I added it for effect. – C. G.

Mountain Lion Photo By C. L. Getchius