Saturday, July 20, 2019

That NW Bus

I was on my 50th camping trip in 38 years with Stephen Johnson and Bruce Gregory driving to Palouse Falls, Washington when I spotted a colorful bus near the road.



For decades the old bus sat next to highway 261 in Washtucna, Washington where it was spray painted by graffiti artists.  Over time it became a popular spot for painters and photographers as the bus’s appearance continually changed.



Eventually the bus was destined for the scrapyard when a letter was written by Lee Ann Blankenship, President of WHMCC (Washtucna Historical Museum and Community Center) to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources to explain the significance of the bus.  Eventually an agreement was made to move the bus to land donated by Blankenship Farms near the intersection of Highways 26 and 261.



The bus, well known as #ThatNWBus, has now been donated to WHMCC.  Artists and photographers enjoy adding their personal touch to the iconic bus.



The vibrant colors include everything from love notes to abstracts and political messages.  I loved photographing it but had some reservations that I was merely copying someone else’s “art”.  So, it was a challenge to use the colors and designs creatively.

I hope you enjoy the photos, but please remember they are copyrighted and must not be used without my permission.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Painted Desert, Arizona


My most recent post showed petrified wood at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.  The other big attraction at the park is often called the “painted desert”.

The painted desert stretches across much of northern Arizona, so this national park covers just a small portion, but it is easily accessible here.  The brown debris near the center of this photo is probably fragments of petrified logs.


The layers of color were created over millions of years of change in the earth’s surface.  Earthquakes, volcanic ash, and flooding deposited layer after layer of different minerals, and erosion exposed them for us to see.


These hills are known as “the tepees”.


I only had a few hours to explore the park, but I noticed that the best petrified logs are in the south, and the best views of the painted desert are in the north.



The variations of color are just amazing, and this photo gives some idea of the vast uninhabited space around the Park.

There are other attractions in the park including petroglyphs, pueblo ruins, and a Route 66 monument.  It is well worth the trip.

Thanks for looking, but remember that these are copyrighted photos that can not be used without permission, and in most cases a reasonable fee.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Petrified Forest

I drove to Tucson last month to visit my son Brian and his wife Laura.  On the way back I took an extra day to explore Petrified Forest National Park near Holbrook, Arizona.  There are two main attractions there, the painted desert and the petrified forest.  Here is the story of the Petrified Forest.


Some people think they are going to see a standing forest here, but the trees turned to stone after they fell and were washed downstream and buried during the late Triassic period around 200 million years ago.



As millions of years passed, the buried logs absorbed water and silica from volcanic ash which crystallized into quartz which often kept some of the logs’ details.


Spectacular colors were added by various minerals.  The colors in this photo have not been altered.


The crystallized logs were harder than the soil where they were buried.  Over time, erosion removed the surrounding dirt and the logs surfaced.  Sometimes the logs helped reduce the erosion under them, leaving them balanced on a narrow ridge.


Many of the huge logs look like they have been sectioned with a chainsaw.  This happened when they were still buried and earth movement caused forces that snapped the crystallized logs like breaking glass rods.

The petrified logs are mostly in the southern part of the park, but if you go be sure to see the painted desert in the north as well.

I hope you enjoy the photos, but remember they are copyrighted.  Please don’t use them without permission.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Bear Lake Monster Encounter


I should have written about my encounter with the Bear Lake monster just after it happened, but I didn’t want trouble from the skeptics.  But since Idaho Magazine published my article about the event in the February 2019 issue, the secret is out.  I might as well talk about it.

It was a dark and stormy night.  Well actually, evening just after sunset, and Linda and I were camped at Bear Lake State Park on the east side of the lake in Idaho during July 2018.  A storm was dropping beautiful sheets of rain on the western mountains across the lake.  I set up my camera on a tripod to photograph the storm and hopefully get a lightning strike.  It got darker and darker, so my exposures got longer and finally I got a photo of some lightning.  The wind got stronger, indicating the storm was getting closer, so I knew I had to leave to avoid the lightning.  But just as I got ready to pack up the tripod I saw something leaping and bounding across the water coming right at me!  My first thought was the famous Bear Lake monster was coming to get me.  What else could it be?

I started taking photos as it got closer and closer, but it was dark and my photos of the charging monster were all blurry because of the long exposures.  The monster hit the beach nearly at my feet.  It was a giant black inflatable turtle that must have blown all the way across the lake from the west shore eight miles away.  Heart pounding, I packed up my gear and returned to our trailer just as the rain hit.


During the night a second thunderstorm hit, and when I looked for the turtle the next morning it was gone.  The wind must have blown it to Wyoming.

I’m glad the folks at Idaho Magazine thought enough of this yarn to publish it, and I got a kick out of telling the story.

Please remember, my photos are copyrighted and must not be used without permission.  I usually charge a reasonable fee to use them, except for charitable or academic purposes.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Sun Dog


A sun dog is an atmospheric phenomenon that creates patches of light about 22° to the side of the sun.  Usually we see them on cold clear mornings here in the Bear Lake Valley, but this one showed up in the middle of a misty afternoon.

Suns dogs, or parhelia, are created by sunlight refracting through icy clouds of hexagonal crystals.  I was out looking for photo opportunities with Bruce Grayum when we saw this one from a back road near Georgetown, Idaho.  The cows didn’t seem impressed by the huge apparition in the sky near their pasture, but they did provide scale to show the size the sun dog.
It was a cold day, 9° F as we continued to explore.  We stopped at the bridge over the Bear River on the Nounan road and saw the sun dog again, but this time no clear sky was visible at all.  I liked the reflected light in the river.
Sometimes the arcs of light form a complete halo around the sun, and some have faint rainbows of color like this one.  Photographing them can be tricky because the camera must be pointed directly at the sun.  A clean lens is needed to prevent flares, and there is danger of getting a burned retina.  If your camera has it, live view might be a good option.
Our last stop was along Creamery Lane between Georgetown and Nounan where the sun dog appeared in icy mist over a winter landscape of drifts and sagebrush.  Shooting into the sun causes the lens to stop down, darkening the photo, but if the exposure is lengthened, the sun dog seems to blend with the sky and disappear.  I think the darkened exposure presents an other-worldly appearance anyway.

Why are they called “sun dogs”?  No one knows for sure, but the term has been around since the 1600’s and the origin seems to be lost in time.  Some say it is because the "dogs" follow the sun around.

I hope you like this post, but please do not use my copyrighted photos without permission.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Comet, Montana Ghost Town


The last ghost town we visited on our summer camping trip, Comet, Montana, was one of my favorites.  Comet’s first mining claim was in 1869 by John W. Russell and the town was started in 1876.  The area was called the High Ore Mining District.

A row of old cabins greets visitors as they enter town.  There were about 300 people here until the mines started to play out and Comet was described as a ghost town in 1913.

In 1926 the Basin Montana Tunnel Company built a 200 ton concentrator which became the second largest mining venture in Montana.  Local mines went on to produce over 20 million dollars of silver, gold, lead, zinc, and copper.  The mill shown here with the bunkhouse was closed in 1941 and the equipment salvaged.

There are lots of wonderful old buildings like this boarding house.  Miners stayed here for 75 cents room and board.

There wasn’t enough left of this truck to identify it, but my guess is it was used to haul ore, based on the 16 leaf springs.  Comet is privately owned and there is one occupied house, so private property must be respected.  However, buildings can be viewed from the road.


There are still a few houses scattered across the hillside.  The town once had a school with 20 pupils, but they were outnumbered by the 22 saloons.


We had some pretty good clouds that day, and some of them worked well with the collapsing buildings.




There is usually an opportunity for interesting detail photos in places like Comet.

Comet was built on mining, so I will end with a photo of a mine headframe with a trestle connected to an ore bin. There is still a winch in a small building with a cable leading to the shaft on top of the hill.

Remember, these photos are copyrighted and should not be used for any purpose without permission, and usually a small payment, unless used for charitable or academic purposes.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Granite, Montana Ghost Town





I knew that Bruce Gregory and Stephen Johnson would enjoy Granite, Montana based on my visit there in 2005 with my wife and our neighbors.  So, Granite was one of our destinations on our summer camping trip.





There was a silver bonanza in the 1880’s on Granite Mountain, and soon the mountaintop was packed with buildings.  The centerpiece was the magnificent Miner’s Union Hall, now a big brick ruin.  The elegant building once had a dance floor / auditorium, lodge room, office, library, and more.

Mae Werning’s house is down the street.  She was the watchman and last resident of Granite and died in 1969 at age 75.  Most houses now are just piles of lumber or overgrown rock foundations.


Granite Mills A and B together ran 80 stamps until the 1890’s.  In the 1950’s the buildings were intentionally burned for safety reasons, leaving these gigantic foundations.


Just down the road along the face of the mountain ruined structures of the Ruby Mine are on the verge of collapse.
Granite has some of the biggest ghost town structures we have found on our camping trips.  It is amazing to think about what it was like to live and work here more than a century ago.
I hope you enjoy these photos, but please be aware that they are copyrighted and can not be used for any purpose without permission and reasonable compensation.