Big Bend National Park, Texas – May 2019

Big Bend National Park is one of the more remote parks in the continental United States, but with some effort – we arrived!




The early morning drive down from Marathon provided an excellent sunrise, giving the mountains great coloring.








Eventually we made our way back down to the Rio Grande River Valley.



Our west Texas days constantly provided interesting cacti views.



The Rio Grande in this area is really just a decent size creek, but the kayaks were setting out for the day.



Our first choice for hiking along the river, the Santa Elena Canyon Trail, was closed due to wildfires, so we headed instead for the Boquillas Canyon Trail.




As we made our way along the river an elderly man on the Mexico side serenaded us with songs in an effort to get us to come down to the river bank so he could sell his wares.



The canyon walls continually closed in until we couldn’t go any further unless we went in the river.




We returned to cross the border into Mexico (detailed on the next post) passing more colorful mountains along the way.




With wildfires closing a number of the more popular spots in the park, we chose to go up into the basin and check out the Window View Trail. Again we were treated to interesting vegetation.








Being in the basin we were surrounded on all sides by the mountains.




This view is ‘The Window’.




While it was disappointing that the wildfires impacted the park, there was plenty to see and do for the day.






Houston – May 2019 – Smithers Park

Smithers Park is an urban art oasis in southeast Houston. Named in honor of a couple folk art philanthropists, the park resides between a residential and commercial area, next to the legendary Houston folk art area known as the Orange Show.




The park has art from over 300 people, mostly self taught. The day we were there a few were working on their current projects.




The band shell was impressive, with an interior of mostly cut up road signs.



The mosaics are a collection of random materials.



All are very original in their design.




Bordering the entire length of one side of the park is a 400 foot long ‘Memory Wall’.







The surrounding neighborhood is predominately Latino, and as a tribute there is a ‘Day of the Day’ couple sitting at a table.





At first you think this is a small grass oasis, until you look closely and see the guitar neck in mosaic beyond it, and the grass is the body of the guitar.




Additional images of art on the Memory Wall.









A mosaic dog trying to get food off of the table, that itself is covered in mosaics.



Kilroy is here.



The Tiger mosaic is very impressive.




We end with a view of the back of the band shell, where you see it is a giant fish. Smithers Park is a great stop if you find yourself in Houston.







New Orleans – May 2019 – One Final Look

We had a great few days in the Big Easy, coming away with fantastic memories, and lots of photographs.

Nola = New Orleans, LA (abbreviation for Louisiana) NOLA



Nola is a city with their own language and culture.



The home of jazz music.



One of the best places for local food like Po’ Boys is Mothers.



There are plenty of horse drawn carriages for the tourists, resulting in carriage jams.




The number of wide boulevards are surprising for such an old city.




Louis Armstrong Park – more Nola celebrating jazz.




The locals are friendly, and at times had free beer!



The French Quarter, while touristy, is a unique place.



Plenty of street entertainment.




St Louis Cathedral is impressive.



More views of the Quarter.




Plenty of Voodoo stores to choose from, should you need them.




Did I mention music!




But this New Orleans parade is over….




Time to roll on out of town. À la prochaine.





Grant, Alabama – May 2019 – Cathedral Caverns

Not far from Huntsville, Alabama is the amazing natural wonder of Cathedral Caverns. For the last 20 years the state of Alabama has owned the cave and operated it as a state park.

The entrance is said to be one of the world’s widest entrance to a ‘commercial cave’ at 25′ tall and 128′ wide.



This column has been named ‘Goliath’, one of the largest stalagmites in the world measuring 45′ high and 243′ in circumference. To get an idea of the size, note the walkway railing in the lower left corner of the photo compared to Goliath.



The cave is filled with amazing stalagmites and stalactites.



For many years the cave was owned and operated privately. Note the railing on the left side of the photo – that was the path that the original owners had put in. When the state took it over they built a nice walkway with no stairs that runs 3/4 of a mile back into the cave complex, allowing all to have the chance to experience it.



More of the interesting formations in the cave.



About 1/2 mile back into the cave you come to this amazing field.



The stalagmite called ‘Improbable’ is renown as it is only 3″ in diameter, and goes up at a 45 degree angle for 25′.

Cathedral Caverns is truly a wonder of nature, and well worth the trip to northern Alabama.






Southeastern Ohio – April 2019 – Interesting and Unusual Sights Part 1

A long spring Sunday was spent wandering throughout Southeastern Ohio. For those not familiar, this area of the state is the beginning of Appalachia – both the good point and bad points.

Part 1 of the posting is showing the interesting sights of the area. Part 2 (in a second post) shows some of the hardships endured.

The day started out passing through the small town of Somerset, home of the Civil War general Phillip Sheridan. His statue graces the middle of the traffic circle in the center of town.





Just south of Somerset we passed by a large collection of ‘Ghost Bikes’. These bikes are normally placed where a bicyclist was killed in accidents. I am not sure if this person is paying tribute, or makes the bikes.





Southeastern Ohio is made up of small towns that all have seen better days. They were mostly coal towns or clay/brick towns. Murray City has restored their small train depot and even has a small engine and caboose.



While inside they have the items used to run the depot. Apparently nobody has used the calculator in a long time as it was covered in cobwebs.





Nearby Glouster has restored their depot as well.




Glouster also has a number of public art installations including a large, nicely done mural showing the history of the town.




They also have a number of reproductions of famous pieces of art on the side of the building in the center of town.





Nearby Nelsonville is a center for tourism for the area, as they have a very popular scenic railroad. In addition the town square has been restored, including this great building – the Stuart Opera House.

Nelsonville has a music festival that brings ‘nationally known’ artists, as well as many regional artists. The Stuart also hosts many concerts.




This stylish house on the edge of the town square is made of some locally made bricks, with the interesting coloring.




Nelsonville was a brick town, as noted by this great building and the brick street.




One of the manufacturers was the Star Brick company, with their distinctive stars embossed in each brick.





With the natural beauty of the hills and valleys, it has become a tourist mecca with nearby Hocking Hills being the center.

As with many parts of the country they have converted old railways to trails. This trail goes through the King Hollow Tunnel. This tunnel is unique in that is was (and still is) wood frame, as opposed to stone or concrete. It was recently restored and stabilized but still done with wood.





Nearby Lake Hope State Park has a historic Iron Furnace.





The highlight of this area is the famed Moonville Tunnel. The guide at the visitor center told us to take a road until we reached the stream and walk across the bridge. Clearly this is not the bridge to cross.




We eventually found the correct one, and headed for the tunnel. The Moonville Tunnel is infamous for being haunted, with numerous different stories about ghosts.





All we found were graffiti from previous ghosts (or tacky people).





It has rained a lot recently and the side of the trail through the tunnel had a light layer of water which coupled with the stunning amount of graffiti gave it an interesting look.

Part 2 of this day is highlighted in a second post.






Logan, OH – March 2019 – Last Ice Posting of the Year (Hopefully)

With winter hopefully coming to an end soon it was a good day to check out Hocking Hills State Park, and the numerous waterfalls throughout the park.





For this hike we started at the top of the gorge, where the aptly named Upper Falls is located.





As we made our way downstream we passed numerous ice formations on the gorge walls.





While the icicles are all bumpy, the icy spots on the trail were perfectly smooth, and very slick.





The day was mostly cloudy but we did have a peak of the sun highlight the lower falls and rock formation near one of the trails exiting the gorge.





Much like snowflakes, it seems no two icicles are the same.





The stream continues down the gorge with numerous small waterfalls.





We reached the lower falls before heading off for other trails.





Broken Rock Falls is at the end of a short side trail. Despite the narrow path for the water to travel over the wall, it came down with significant noise.





We moved on to Cedar Falls where the path to the falls took us past more interesting formations on the gorge wall. It seems the ice here was ‘stuck’ to the wall, as opposed to the numerous icicles elsewhere, although there were some here too.





The light mist that comes over the edge causes the light coating.





Cedar Falls is one of the nicer ones in the park.





Another waterfalls was hidden around the corner from the main falls, and all of the people. Note the two logs framing the sides covered in ice as well.





Our final stop was Ash Cave. We saved this for our ‘grand finale’, however the cone at the bottom wasn’t nearly as tall as in previous years.

Still it is an impressive falls.



A close up of the ice ‘cone’ at the bottom with the mist of water barely visible in the center.

All in all it was a great day in the park, and my phone says I climbed the equivalent of 54 stories of a building! Exercise and photography, what could be better.