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Nebraska's Sandhills Journey National Scenic Byway

August 25th, 2021

Nebraska

There are very few places left in America that are so pristine that they have been virtually untouched by man. Nebraska Highway 2, AKA Sandhills Journey National Scenic Byway, is one such place. Located in the north-central section of Nebraska, the Sandhills cover a little more than a quarter of the state. This 272-mile long National Byway starts in Grand Island and ends in Alliance, passing through the middle of an area of world-class natural wonders. It’s home to the completely hand-planted Nebraska National Forest, the Loup River, abundant wetlands created by the Ogallala Aquifer, and brilliant night skies. Being in the Central Flyway for migratory birds, it’s teeming with wildlife, and you can’t forget the Spring Migration of the Sandhill Cranes.

​The Nebraska Sandhills is a place of wide-open spaces where undulating windswept dunes have been stabilized by a sea of prairie grass that only has a fragile hold on the land, and where cowboy hats and cowboy boots are a way of life and not just a fashion statement.

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Escape to the Blue Ridge Parkway

June 23rd, 2021

Escape to the Blue Ridge Parkway

At 468 miles long, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a National Parkway with the designation of All-American Road, the highest classification in the National Scenic Byway system. Starting at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, the Parkway follows the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains, winding its way through North Carolina before terminating at the Great Smoky Mountain National Park's Cherokee entrance. At its highest point, the Blue Ridge Parkway reaches 6053 feet in elevation near Mount Pisgah in North Carolina and at its lowest 649 feet along the James River in Virginia. Along the way, you will see spectacular mountain and valley vistas, quiet pastoral scenes, sparkling waterfalls, and colorful flower and foliage displays.

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Moonlit Flight

June 23rd, 2021

Moonlit Flight

Sometimes what's going on behind the scenes is just as good as the image created...


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Three Golden Age Favorites in Mississippi's Queen City - Meridian, Mississippi

June 23rd, 2021

Three Golden Age Favorites in Mississippi

What do the Mississippi Industrial Heritage Museum, a Dentzel antique carousel, and graves of Gypsy royalty have in common?

All three are located in Meridian, Mississippi. In my opinion, this eclectic mix of sites is some of Meridian's more interesting locations dating back to the city's Golden Age.

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Historic Waterway to the West - The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

June 23rd, 2021

 Historic Waterway to the West - The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

The year 2021 is the 50th Anniversary of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park becoming part of the National Park System. This park preserves the historic 19th Century transportation canal from Washington D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland. Since 2019, it has been ranked as the 11th most visited United States National Park, with Great Falls being the most visited location along the canal's 184.5 mile-long towpath. Many visitors stop at the Great Falls Tavern but never explore more than the canal's first 14.5 miles.

No road follows along beside the C&O Canal. For that reason, the towpath is most popular with hikers and bikers. However, I decided to stay out of the city and explore some of the lesser-visited C&O Canal highlights. Wanting to see as much as possible and knowing that I didn't have time to see it all, I decided to drive to different locations along the canal, doing a series of short hikes along the way.

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The Spring Migration of the Sandhill Crane

September 16th, 2020

The Spring Migration of the Sandhill Crane

National Geographic calls the spring migration of the Sandhill Cranes through central Nebraska “one of the greatest wildlife phenomena in North America”. If you are a birder, a wildlife photographer or just a nature lover, I really consider this a “must do” for your bucket list!

In 2017, I was lucky enough to spend the entire migration season in Nebraska with the Sandhill Cranes. It had been on my bucket list for quite some time. I had gotten a small taste of it about 10 years ago when my husband completed a 2 month assignment in Grand Island. That year, we left at the beginning of March when the cranes were just starting to arrive but what I saw in those first few weeks literary blew my mind!

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The Bridges of Madison County - Iowa's Covered Bridges Scenic Byway

September 16th, 2020

 The Bridges of Madison County - Iowa

When you hear someone refer to “The Bridges of Madison County” I bet your first thought is the movie with Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep. If you are an avid reader, it’s the best-selling novel that preceded the movie by a few years. Many people are not aware that those beautiful covered bridges Clint’s character went to photograph are located in a picturesque area of Iowa less than an hour drive from Des Moines.

The official name for this area is Covered Bridges Scenic Byway. It is one of Iowa’s newest scenic byways. At 82 miles long, this byway is packed with beautiful natural areas and unique destinations like John Wayne’s Birthplace. There’s enough to see and do in Madison County to easily fill a 2 or 3 day weekend.

If you are like me, you may need to make a second trip just to see and experience it all!

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Following the Path of the Pioneers Through Western Nebraska

September 16th, 2020

 Following the Path of the Pioneers Through Western Nebraska

In the western portion of the state of Nebraska you’ll find Western Trails Scenic and Historic Byway. This is a historic 144 mile route from Ogallala to the Wyoming border that roughly follows the path the pioneers took almost 200 years ago. While there is much to see and do here, I have chosen the amazing geological formations that those brave pioneers saw along the way to be the topic of this post.

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Waipi'o Valley the Valley of Kings

September 16th, 2020

Waipi

Visiting Waipi'o Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii had been on my bucket list since 2006. At that time, we were on a seven month assignment on Maui and had hopped over to Hilo for a weekend visit. We planned to hike the volcano, see waterfalls and drive down into Waipi'o Valley. I had done all the research, rented the jeep, was raring to go, and then we simply ran out of time. Not realizing how much larger the Big Island was to the other islands, I failed to plan for the driving time. Plan accordingly, from Hilo, it is an hour and fifteen minute drive and from Kailua-Kona, you are an hour and a half away. That's no stopping to take pictures or sightseeing but straight drive time.

Fast forward 11 years to 2017, when I received the news of the Big Island assignment my first thought was, "I finally get to see Waipi'o Valley!"

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Little House on the Prairie

September 16th, 2020

Little House on the Prairie

I have a confession to make; I was 50 before I read the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I can hear the collective gasp of all the shocked women that are currently reading this post….blasphemy, I KNOW! In my defense, when I was about the age when all the other little girls were madly absorbing these books, playing "Holly Hobbie" dress up and dreaming about being Laura, my local librarian marched me over to the adult section of the town’s public library and handed me an Agatha Christie novel. I never stepped foot in the children’s section of the library again.

When I look back, I’m really not sure what I was doing when the television series came out because I didn’t watch that either. Oh, I saw an episode or two but without the background of the books; I just really didn’t get it. Maybe, it was just too “girly” for me; I hated pink, didn’t play with dolls and was the only girl in my neighborhood with a complete football uniform, shoulder pads and all.

Needless to say, my husband was more than a bit skeptical when I tossed out the idea of driving up to DeSmet, South Dakota, for a “Little House on the Prairie” weekend.

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Car History Comes to Life at The Henry Ford

September 16th, 2020

 Car History Comes to Life at The Henry Ford

ATTENTION: Car Lovers, Auto Geeks and Gearheads...​

If you have never visited Greenfield Village at The Henry Ford for a car show, you don't know what you are missing!​

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Historic Bowens Mills 160 Years of Michigan History

September 16th, 2020

 Historic Bowens Mills 160 Years of Michigan History

Step back over 160 years in time at the beautiful Historic Bowens Mills. Once a thriving community, farmers brought their grain here to the 1854 grist mill to be milled into flour and meal. Visit the antique apple cider press that sits ready for another fall apple season.

​Located in the western portion of Michigan, almost exactly halfway between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, Historic Bowens Mills is in the Yankee Springs area of Gun Lake. Today, it is a second generation family-owned and operated Michigan state historic site whose mission is to preserve this 19 acre historical park and the history of Yankee Springs Township and Barry County for future generations to learn from and enjoy.

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The Painted Churches of the Big Island

September 16th, 2020

 The Painted Churches of the Big Island

With my interior design background, I always take a special interest in any unique and interesting architecture. The Painted Churches of the Big Island certainly fall into that category. ​If you are an architecture and/or art lover, these churches are definitely a must see. Be aware, these churches don't give away any of their secrets on the exterior, it's necessary to go inside to discover their beauty!

Funny story, on one of our visits to St. Benedict's, my husband was out in their amazing garden mostly trying hard to stay out of my way. :-D He was enjoying the quiet and the birds when a car hurriedly wheeled into the parking lot. This guy jumped out of the car and loudly proclaimed, "I'm not sure why they call this the Painted Church, it's just white!" Before my husband could tell him to go inside, he was back in his car and had sped away.

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Take a Walk Through Minnesota's #1 Winter Wonderland - Bentleyville Tour of Lights

September 16th, 2020

 Take a Walk Through Minnesota

Whether it’s an over the top home display like in National Lampoons Christmas Vacation or the professional wonderland of Walt Disney World, nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit better than a good ole Christmas light display!

I grew up in the small town in southern Illinois that is known for Candy Cane Lane so a trip to “see the lights” is something I just HAVE to do at least once a year. Call it an addiction if you must, but I’ve gone as far as Niagara Falls, Canada not for that famous waterfall but to see the "Winter Festival of Lights".

So, when we pulled into Duluth, Minnesota back in late summer and I immediately began to see the requests on social media for volunteers to set up for the Bentleyville "Tour of Lights", my excitement started to build. Not only would I have a Christmas light display in town, but it was going to be in walking distance!

The Bentleyville "Tour of Lights" opened on November 17th, I was there opening night and twice just this week. I never expected anything as elaborate and beautifully done as this! It really is magical! With every visit, I'm in awe and manage to see something new.

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A Visit to the Stunning Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens

September 16th, 2020

A Visit to the Stunning Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens

I have visited many botanical gardens around the United States but Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is hands down my favorite! This is a pristine 40 acre rainforest garden. While this one of a kind garden contains over 2,000 species of tropical plants; it is so much more than just a botanical garden. It is also a stunning tropical nature preserve and sanctuary that features a multi-tiered waterfall, several streams, and an amazingly beautiful ocean front walk along Onomea Bay. This garden is acclaimed as one of the most beautiful locations in Hawaii; a distinction I think it well deserves.

The adventure begins 2 miles before you even reach the Garden…

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Great Blue Herons a Common Sight at Crab Orchard

September 16th, 2020

Great Blue Herons a Common Sight at Crab Orchard

​This is the closest I have been to a blue heron…

With wildlife, I’m convinced that no matter how much you try to plan ahead it's really just dumb luck that you are in the right spot at the right time.


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The Frank Lloyd Wright Gas Station

September 16th, 2020

 The Frank Lloyd Wright Gas Station

Only a 30 minute drive west of Duluth, Minnesota on the edge of the St. Louis River is a little logging town in the North Woods called Cloquet. This town began as a group of small settlements around three sawmills: Shaw Town, Nelson Town and Johnson Town and today it has a population of a little over 12,000 people.

Many people would be very surprised to learn that this quiet little town has a unique tie to America’s greatest architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. This is the location of the only functioning gas station ever designed and built by Mr. Wright. It is also the only piece of Wright’s Broadacre city project ever to be constructed.

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The Goddard Chapel's First 100 Years

September 16th, 2020

The Goddard Chapel

I have always loved this beautiful old chapel. As early as four or five years old, I can remember staring out the car window in excitement and maybe with just a touch of trepidation as I waited to get my first glimpse of it anytime my parents drove down Route 37. It became even more interesting to me when I discovered that it was built by an ancestor of mine and that the two most prominent tombstones on either side are ancestors too.

I have been planning this image for a long time. It could be called, "Memories of my Youth", for when cemeteries were scary places to visit. In my mind's eye as a five year old, this is what the Goddard Chapel looks like...

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The Sordid Past of Cave-In-Rock

September 16th, 2020

 The Sordid Past of Cave-In-Rock

Sitting along the banks of the Ohio River in a quiet little town in southern Illinois is a cave called Cave-In-Rock. The first recorded history of Cave-In-Rock was in 1739 by French explorer M. DeLery who mapped the limestone cave and named it, “caverne dans Le Roc” which after being translated into English is still the name it bears today. Although, much of its history is unsubstantiated, the local folklore that surrounds this cave started almost immediately after its discovery and tells a story of river boat pirates, bandits, fugitives, and murderers.

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Autumn on the Bayfield Peninsula - The Wisconsin Lake Superior Scenic Byway

September 16th, 2020

 Autumn on the Bayfield Peninsula - The Wisconsin Lake Superior Scenic Byway

In 2018, Wisconsin designated the road through the Bayfield Peninsula as Wisconsin’s fourth scenic byway. Named the Wisconsin Lake Superior Scenic Byway, this 70 mile segment of State Highway 13 winds its way around the South Shore of Lake Superior and provides sweeping scenic views of beautiful forests, pristine beaches and the “big lake” itself. Along the way you will visit quaint harbor towns full of historic architecture, historic fishing villages, small orchards and fruit farms and the home of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Bayfield, at the center of the byway, is the gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and the Gaylord Nelson Wilderness Area.

Known as a fantastic summer destination, I decided to visit in autumn to experience the Bayfield Peninsula in a way that so many visitors never get a chance to do. It is a much quieter time with most of the tourist destinations closed but it's a great time to "get back to nature" and the fall colors are off the wall!

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Visiting the New Orleans Garden District

September 16th, 2020

 Visiting the New Orleans Garden District

Following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Americans started to arrive in New Orleans and wanted a neighborhood to call their own. It took thirty years to happen but in 1826 when Jacques Livaudais failed to show up for divorce court preceding he lost ownership of the family plantation to his wife. In 1832, she moved home to France and sold the property to a group of businessmen that saw this land as American’s answer to the French and Creole dominated Vieux Carre. They parceled it off into a grid of 80 city blocks and it became part of the Village of Lafayette.

Wealthy Americans flocked to build mansions here. With plenty of space each mansion was surrounded by huge lawns and gardens some spanning full city blocks which earned the area its nickname the “Garden District”. That nickname stuck and the Garden District became its official name when the neighborhood was annexed into New Orleans in 1852.

While the lawns are no longer as grand as they once were, the mansions are still just as impressive as they were the day they were built. A visit to the Garden District offers a chance to see an entire neighborhood of preserved mansions from the 1800s and displays a melting pot of architectural styles that were “new” for the time period in which they were built.

The Garden District was recognized for its architectural and cultural significance in 1972, when it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and then again in 1974, when it was declared a National Historic Landmark. Most recently, the Garden District was designated as a Historic District in June 2007 by the Historic District Landmarks Commission.

Whether you choose to take a guided walking tour from one of the many local tour companies or just do it yourself, a visit to New Orleans is incomplete without a visit to the Garden District.

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Waterfalls Abound at Amnicon Falls State Park

September 16th, 2020

 Waterfalls Abound at Amnicon Falls State Park

One of my favorite places to see waterfalls in northwest Wisconsin is Amnicon Falls State Park. Located 15 miles east of Superior, Wisconsin near Lake Superior, it is one of the easiest places to visit waterfalls on the Lake Superior Waterfall Tour.

This is a small park, with only 2.4 miles of hiking trails. The best part of the trail, a 1/4 mile easy loop, is right off the parking lot. This is where you will find four named waterfalls, three smaller unnamed falls and a historic bridge. None of these waterfalls are very large but they are all very picturesque. The park is small enough to see the highlights in under an hour; but, if you are a true waterfall lover, bring your lunch, you could easily spend most of a day.

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Seven Bridges Road - The Best Short Drive on Minnesota's Lake Superior North Shore

September 16th, 2020

Seven Bridges Road - The Best Short Drive on Minnesota

Seven Bridges Road located in Duluth, Minnesota is one of the more beautiful drives within the city. This 4 mile stretch of road intertwines with Amity Creek, the western branch of the Lester River, as it winds its way through a pine, poplar and birch forest on its way out to Lake Superior. A beautiful stone arch bridge has been constructed at each location were the road intersects the creek. All matching, there are seven bridges to cross along the way.

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Bottom of the Trace - The Natchez Trace Parkway - Bottom Half of Mississippi

September 16th, 2020

Bottom of the Trace - The Natchez Trace Parkway - Bottom Half of Mississippi

Part 3: of the Natchez Trace Parkway is the Southern Section of the Mississippi Trace from milepost #160 to the end at Natchez, Mississippi.

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Top of the Trace - The Natchez Trace Parkway from Tennessee through Alabama

July 22nd, 2020

Top of the Trace - The Natchez Trace Parkway from Tennessee through Alabama

Part 1 of the Natchez Trace Parkway covers the Natchez Trace through Tennessee and Alabama.

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Middle of the Trace - The Natchez Trace Parkway - Top Half of Mississippi

July 22nd, 2020

Middle of the Trace - The Natchez Trace Parkway - Top Half of Mississippi

Part 2 of The Natchez Trace Parkway is the middle of the Trace. This post covers the top half of the Mississippi portion of the trace from milepost #308 to #160.

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Least Teerns Breeding on the Mississippi Gulf Coast - The Largest US Breeding Area

July 22nd, 2020

Least Teerns Breeding on the Mississippi Gulf Coast - The Largest US Breeding Area

On the Mississippi Gulf Coast, there are two one-mile stretches of beach that make up the largest nesting colony of Least Terns in the United States. This Important Birding Area right along the Gulf of Mexico contains sections of five beaches: Biloxi Beach, Gulfport East, Gulfport West, Long Beach, and Pass Christian; putting the Least Tern within the most populated area for beach-goers along the Mississippi coastline. Situations such as this make biologists suspect that humans and the family pet are the number one reason the Least Tern population is in decline.

I was not aware of this Important Breeding Area until I visited Biloxi several months ago to photograph the birds wintering in the area. Nesting Least Terns quickly became a priority on my birding bucket list.

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In the Land of the Giant Presidents' Heads

July 22nd, 2020

In the Land of the Giant Presidents

On President’s Day Weekend, I was more than a little excited to get the chance to photograph the Presidents' Heads! These giant busts reside on private property, with only a few opportunities for the public to visit them each year. Exposed to the elements, cracked and crumbling in various stages of deterioration, they are surrounded by heavy equipment in an apocalyptic industrial wasteland where the mold and moss adds character and awesomeness to the entire experience.

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Mississippi Gulf Islands National Seashore - Exploring West Ship Island's Fort Massachusetts

July 22nd, 2020

Mississippi Gulf Islands National Seashore - Exploring West Ship Island

Fort Massachusetts is located on West Ship Island, 12 miles off the Mississippi Gulf Coast; it is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Once known only as Ship Island, Hurricane Camille in 1969 cut the island in half creating East and West Ship Islands. The US Army Corps of Engineers began reconnecting the islands in 2018, so one day it will be one island again.

The barrier islands of the Gulf Islands National Seashore create a buffer between the mainland and the Gulf of Mexico. It is a critical habitat for shorebirds and sea turtles making West Ship Island an excellent location for birding and nature photography. The water around the island is typically crystal clear with visibility as much as 12 to 14 feet deep so the island is also a great destination for swimming and fishing. With something for everyone, it makes for a fun family day trip while also sneaking in a little history at the old fort.

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Rodney Ghost Town - A Mississippi Just off the Natchez Trace Drive

July 22nd, 2020

Rodney Ghost Town - A Mississippi Just off the Natchez Trace Drive

Located just outside of Lorman, Mississippi and a short distance off the Natchez Trace Parkway is the ghost town of Rodney, Mississippi. Not much is left of this early nineteenth-century river settlement that is richly steeped in early American history. It is now all but forgotten and only visited by the most adventuresome travelers.

I first fell in love with an old black and white photograph of the Rodney Baptist Church many years ago placing Rodney Ghost Town high on my bucket list of places to photograph in Mississippi. Let me just say; it didn't disappoint!

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