Tag Archives: new experiences

Finally….We Saw a Bear

When visiting a number of the National Parks there are signs warning visitors of wild bears however it is not a common occurrence to actually see one. The first places we really began to hope for a bear spotting was while traveling in Alaska – Mendenhall Glacier, Glacier National Park, Skagway and the Chilkoot Trail, and Ketchikan. Being there during the salmon run seemed like it should almost guarantee a bear sighting yet we did not see any. This was disappointing as we could see where bear had been and in one case was told of a sighting mere minutes before we arrived to that area. Well, there were other parks in our travel plans with good opportunities as well. Maybe there will be better luck at those.

A cinnamon bear with her cub

When planning for the Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah we read about high bear populations so hoped this would provide the much sought after encounter (from a distance of course). Keeping a watchful eye while driving and taking time to hike into the forests produced no success and once again left us wanting to see a wild bear. Now we are starting to wonder if we are bear repellent as we’ve been to some good areas to see them and nothing to show for it. It became kind of a joke for us and many friends of ours that seeing a bear is not in our future and if you want to go into bear territory, just ask us to join you and you won’t need to worry about encountering them.

Black bear with her cub

As our Monopoly National Park travels near the end we had one last hope to see a wild bear a safe distance away – Yellowstone National Park. The first afternoon and evening in the park and no bears. Our first full day exploring this beautiful place – you guessed it, no bears. A second full day on which I got up early and went into areas with a higher probability of bears just hoping to come across one and still no bears. Giving up in the late morning I began my trip back to the hotel to pick up the rest of the family for more Yellowstone fun only to encounter a road block and not being able to get through. Losing a little hope at the sight of road construction equipment I eventually made it through the jam and began passing numerous people with cameras all pointed in the same direction.

Bear scratching on a tree trunk

Quickly pulling over hoping to finally see a bear I was confronted with park police told I couldn’t park there so I continued on and finally found a legitiment place to stop and walked quickly back to the place I saw all of these people expecting whatever wildlife to have moved on by now. Shocked there she was – a bear. Not only was there a bear but she was with a cub. Finally… a wild bear siting! After this bear and cub walked into a nearby forest I began my walk back to the car when another person pointed out another bear in a nearby field. This bear also was with a cub. That’s four bears in one area. By the time we left Yellowstone a few days later we had observed seven bears in total. The wait was over and well worth it. Bears are fun to watch at a safe distance for both the observer and the bear, especially the cubs as they play on trees or in a meadow.

Foraging for food

Mammoth Hot Springs

Upper Terraces at sunset

With just on hour of daylight left on our first evening in Yellowstone National Park, we took off exploring the several walkways built around Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces. During research ahead of this trip these hot spring terraces weren’t an exciting feature that I was in a hurry to see so this seemed like the right amount of time to quickly explore the area. Upon first viewing these formations I was surprised at how white they were and the formations creating all of these little, unique pools. Something I’ve never seen anywhere before.

Looking up at the terraces

Apparently this extreme white comes from calcium being brought up with the springs and deposited as water from these springs cools which means these terraces continually change. This means that the terraces viewed last summer are not the exact same as the ones I saw this summer which will be unique next summer for different visitors. That’s kind of fun. Still, after walking around these features for a little while I felt I’d seen enough to call it a night and return to the hotel for much needed sleep. That’s when the photographer inside of me kicked in.

Trees that have been overtaken from mineral deposits still growing

Shapes, textures, colors, and living and dead trees creating interesting objects began to appear. Yes, they were there the whole time but I didn’t really see them individually. Algae and bacteria living in this hot water add colors to the pure white calcium deposits creating amazing patterns in the terraces. Add to that trees which have been overtaken by these mineral deposits provide another layer of texture to this scene. Soon I realized I could spend a lot of time here catching these items as the light continues to change highlighting different features of each terrace formation ending in beautiful photographs.

Interesting colors and shapes of these mineral formations

Now there wasn’t enough daylight left to capture the Mammoth Hot Springs the way I would like to. As we continued to explore different areas, the springs became more and more fascinating with their little calcium ridges flowing over past living trees turned into decaying artwork and colored different shades of orange and brown as light continued to fade from the almost clear sky. Other areas provided trees a place to grow as a hot spring would become dormant providing more interesting features. With renewed energy it was off to see more areas and discover more of these steam filled deposits creating calm pools of water waiting to cool as they seep from one to another.

The Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces

Eventually the sky became dark enough to prevent further photographs highlighting these great colors and textures so we returned to our car for the trip to the hotel before crashing into bed for some much desired rest. These Mammoth Hot Springs became more interesting than I would have imagined and every time we passed them on the way to see another location there was a temptation to stop and get more photographs in better light. However that would come at the cost of seeing more of Yellowstone. One advantage to visiting the terraces later in the evening is we really didn’t have to deal with crowds. With this being our first night here it was a false sense of navigating through Yellowstone in mid June. The next day would quickly change this with vastly larger numbers of vehicles and people.

Tree struggling to live in dormant hot spring mineral deposits


Yellowstone National Park was one of the most eagerly anticipated parks on our National Parks Monopoly board from the beginning of our adventures and has definitely lived up to its name. We chose to stay in Gardiner near the North Entrance so our first experience in Yellowstone was to go through the symbolic Roosevelt Arch. The arch itself if beautiful but seems quite out of place now so it must be symbolic as it does not fit the surroundings very effectively. When it was built in 1903, according to a nearby sign, it must have been a grand entrance into this scenic and adventure filled land and now remains as a piece of history here.

Snow covered mountains of Yellowstone National Park

This is a vast and continuously changing landscape and as such requires some time to drive through, when you can drive through it as half of the year snow covers many of the roads closing them to most vehicles. During the peak summer months of June, July, and August there is much to see and do but require some additional attributes for vacationers. First you need to bring a lot of patience as travel is relatively slow due to numerous other visitors all stopping along the road to see the incredible views and wildlife, many times without consideration to those behind them.

The Lamar River


Secondly be able to accept many things that you can not control. Most of this is from people wanting to get a certain picture of wildlife, the numerous hydrothermal features, special group shot, or that all important selfie. Other times it can be from people trying to catch up to their group or kids being clueless to their surroundings. Relaxing and understanding other people have different priorities and schedules can help enjoy this beautiful time of year to explore Yellowstone. One tactic to get around some of these annoyances is to start really early in the morning and/or staying later in the park when most others are headed back to their residence for the day.

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

We had four days to explore this massive place and each day brought something new to see with some of these days packing in more than can be taken in for a single day. Fortunately that’s what pictures and maps are for, to recall what each day provided. Before heading to Gardiner I spent several hours doing some research of what makes this National Park special so that while driving around we wouldn’t miss these things. The most recognizable piece of Yellowstone National Park is the hydrothermal features created by molten lava a short distance under the Earth’s crust as a large portion of this area is basically inside a caldera of what is now a dormant volcano.

Hydrothermal features in the lower geyser basin of Yellowstone


The next highlight is the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone which has the Yellowstone River rushing through it. This river falls over a 300 foot cliff resulting in a thunderous crash heard for miles as the water continues on into the canyon. With above normal snowfall this past winter melting at a fast pace, the flow over this waterfall is faster and louder than normal. Yellowstone Lake is another of the grand pieces to explore with many doing so either by fishing, kayaking, or boating. Be careful as the water is still cold even during the warmer summer months being able to cause hypothermia which occurred a week before our trip here. While these are destinations within the park, arguably the biggest highlight of Yellowstone National Park is the wildlife. Unfortunately, seeing many of the different wild animals residing here is unpredictable so the only way to have an opportunity to see it is to be on the lookout while driving from one location to another or hiking into some of the back country areas with safety precautions understood and accessible. I’ll continue to go into detail on many of these highlights in later posts.

Yellowstone Lake

Climbing for Air …. American Lung Association

For a number of years now (10 to be exact) the American Lung Association has organized and event called Climb for Air. I’ve heard about it for a couple of years and thought it was cool that they would be able to use one of the taller buildings in downtown Minneapolis for it. This is a fundraising event ending with each person climbing stairs for 31 stories. When I first heard that I questioned if I would be able to accomplish such a feat.

Climb for Air event in Minneapolis

On Friday I heard of this event happening this year again and began to ponder if I should attempt climbing stairs for 31 floors to reach the top of one of the skyscrapers in Minneapolis. I’ve not been working on getting into trail condition as much as I should be so physically I’m not as prepared. Researching further 31 stories equates to about 680 steps. Once I saw that then there was little doubt if I could do this or not. There have been caves explored where I’ve climbed half that many stairs so I should be able to do this although this is just climbing up, up, up with limited breaks like a cave would have. After going back and forth I decided it would be a good new life experience for me as well as a worthwhile organization to support in honor of an uncle I lost due to lung cancer and signed up.

Over half way done

The next day I arrived at US Bank Plaza to begin my climb. Average climb times are listed as 10-15 minutes so I figured I should be able to do it 20 minutes taking my time as needed. They attached tracking tags to one of your shoes to keep track of how long it takes to climb and off I went stair after stair. I remember reaching the second floor and then the third. Before I realized it I was at the 16th floor – over half way. I stopped for a quick water break on the next floor and then there was the 19th floor. My legs were beginning to feel it a little but more so I was breathing pretty hard by this time.

From the top

Reaching the 22nd floor I tried to slow down a little for the next flight, took a few seconds to stretch tightening muscles a few times until reaching the 29th floor and decided a strong finish was how I wanted to end the climb. During this time I was thinking back to last summer’s climb of Long’s Peak and wondering how many steps I climbed for that. A few more than this I’m sure. Once getting to the top floor I was a little shocked it was done and kept walking back and forth on that floor to cool down while grabbing more water. After a few minutes I realized it took just over 6 minutes to climb 31 stories. Wow was it really that quick? It was an enjoyable experience and one I felt good doing. Marathons and bike races aren’t of much interest to me but this fits in well for me.

After completing the climb

Houston, We Have a Problem

The problem was our time here was too short. We were in Houston for a couple of days before boarding a cruise ship to the Caribbean and were looking for something interesting to explore. Researching things to do in Houston, NASA was at the top of the list and reading different people’s experience here we decided that’s how we wanted to spend one of the days.

Exploring the Moon

General admission gains access to a days worth of exhibits which include different space capsules, informational movies, multiple types of space trainers, equipment used on different space travels, and even a lab situation where moon rocks were examined all put into settings made to give you a good idea of what it’s like going into space. In addition, you can visit Independence Plaza which holds a shuttle carrier holding a shuttle, Rocket Park were there are several different rockets used to travel into space, as well as a couple of other buildings showcasing some of NASA’s current work via a tram.

Experimenting with Moon rocks

We were in Houston visiting Johnson Space Center and this could be our only chance to experience this with our children so we decided we wanted to take in the full experience and went on the VIP tour. With this tour you get to visit areas not available to any other tour such as the underwater training center as well as get up close and personal in some of the areas were the tram does go such as historic mission control and building 9 where you can view new technology that may be used in future space endeavors along with lunch which can be a little expensive at a place like this.

Skylab Space Station Trainer

Our first stop was the underwater training facility. Here they have a life-size International Space Station for astronauts from around the world to train on. Luckily for us, there were a couple of astronauts training so we could see how they prepared to work in space. It’s very interesting because while underwater they each have at least two assistants for training and safety. This pool is massive as you might imagine to hold a replica of the Space Station. With space suits on these astronauts can’t get themselves into or out of the pool so they have a small crane to get them in and out.

Underwater training pool

Next we explored building 9 and got to see many of the new creations meant for use on the moon and beyond such as advanced rovers and other exploration vehicles. There were different types of space suits on display, Robonauts which can be used to explore areas not as hospitable to people, and the Orion capsule being built for possible missions back to the moon. Surprisingly, this Orion Capsule has much the same design as capsules already used to go to the moon. The technology to operate them, however, is much better and so is the equipment that can be used to explore more of the moon. Also in Building 9 there is a Soyuz capsule currently used to transport astronauts to the International Space Station and parts of the space station for these capsules to connect to. Seeing these in person is really interesting.

NASA's nxt Lunar rover

Something we got to experience, that very few get to be a part of, was the launch of astronaut Scott Kelly live. While his launch took place in Kazakhstan, the people at Johnson Space Center prepared an area for their VIP tour guests to view the launch. Because of this launch our trip to see the new Mission Control needed to be delayed as a number of NASA officials were in Mission Control as this trip began. Our experience watching this brought the United States involvement in the International Space Station to life more than any news story could. This post was not intended to coordinate with his return almost a year later. That is just a lucky coincidence as I had planned on this post a week or so before realizing Scott Kelly was returning home from his year at the space station.

Watching Scott Kelly's launch at NASA

After watching the launch to the International Space Station, our tour continued on to Rocket Park where there are several different rockets used to propel people into space. The highlight of Rocket Park is the Saturn V rocket which was used to take people to the moon. In the photograph above you can see a person walking under the rocket on the far side to indicate just how massive this rocket really is. You could stand inside one of the rocket engines and there are five engines that powered this rocket from the Earth. Walking around Rocket Park you can start to put together the timeline from the first rockets to Saturn V and even see the equipment that went into making the shuttles. Most of this rocket was used to get it off the ground and to the moon. Very little was needed for the return trip.

Saturn V

On to Mission Control. Here we were able to sit at the actual desks used to control these missions to the moon and some of the earliest Space Shuttle flights. It really felt like going back in time and humbling to be in this amazing and historic control center. There was a few minutes of presentations by NASA officials and then we had some time to look around this piece of American history. How much better could our experience get?

NASA's old Mission Control

How about witnessing the new Mission Control as they maneuver the International Space Station for the docking of the Soyuz Capsule with Scott Kelly aboard? Here I learned information I was unaware of before such as NASA is the organization that actually flies the space station and a trip from Earth to the International Space Station takes mere hours. I always imagined a trip of this distance would take a day or more. One other surprise to me was how ordinary a launch appears in Mission Control. Not all the desks were filled and people appeared to just be doing their everyday business and having conversations with colleagues just as many of us do only they’re in control of vehicles thousands of miles away and responsible for the lives of those aboard. I’ve seen more chaos in a grocery store. This was the end of our day at Johnson Space Center which required relaxing by the pool of our hotel the rest of the night just to absorb all of the information and experiences from this day. The night sky has a little different appearance now.

NASA's new mission control

Agate Fossil Beds

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument one of the smallest national parks we’ve visited but an interesting place to explore with some surprising things to learn. Before finding this place because of the Monopoly board I had no idea that fossils have been found in this part of the Midwestern United States. Once again another pleasant surprise from our Monopoly adventures.

Some of the mammals fossils

This park requires only a few hours to explore but has much to offer for it’s size with information on the significance of the area for the Sioux as well as fossils to view both in the visitors center and along trails. In addition there are great views of the plains that make up large expanses of the landscape in western Nebraska.

Looking out at the vast prairie

One of the unique fossils which has been preserved in this national park are corkscrews dug deep into the earth by a type of land beaver that use to reside in these hills. When you see them you can’t help but wonder why they dug these burrows in the shape of a corkscrew. I question if it was to help them get in and out of their underground home. Maybe they couldn’t climb in and out of these deep holes any other way. Still, these corkscrews called, daemonelix or devil’s corkscrews, added a lot of steps each time entering and exiting these dens. A workout just to get up and go outside and retreat back into shelter. Probably worse than stairs in our houses.

There are fossils hiding in these hills

A Week at the Ridge

Going Through the North Woods

Recently there was an opportunity to join my daughters class on a trip to Northern Minnesota for a week at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center. There was some hesitation about going for me due to a couple of reasons. First, many of the activities are outside and spending a week outdoors in the cold of a Minnesota winter was not overly appealing and secondly, a couple hundred students talking, screaming, and goofing off is difficult for me to take in. I decided to continue on with the trip because I love new adventures and, even more, sharing those adventures with others. Watching another person experience something new and exciting and find skills they didn’t know they had is fulfilling to me.

Looking for Fresh Tracks in the Falling Snow

In the days leading up to this northern adventure I got things situated at work for me to be gone and finished picking up appropriate gear as the weather forecast called for temperatures to be below 0 degrees F most of the week. Finally I got all my stuff packed and ready to go still a little uncertain of how the week would go with these kids. Monday morning came and it was time to head up. I was joined by another parent who would be sharing this adventure and off we went on our 4 hour journey to Wolf Ridge. We arrived a little before the kids got there on their buses giving time to settle in before the chaos started.

The Students Arriving

The kids all arrived, unloaded their luggage and went to their assigned rooms to put it away before heading to their first class of the week. Unfortunately the snow depth was on the light side meaning cross country skiing would not work and snowshoeing was questionable. Who would have guessed a thin snow base in Northern Minnesota in January? We began to figure out the routine for the week and let the learning begin. Each group consisted of 12 –15 students most of the time with 2 – 3 adults assisting them which made the week very manageable and a lot of fun. You get to know this group and these kids become almost like your own in a short period of time.

Learning About Renewable Energy

There were so many activities planned that each day felt like a week because of how busy it was. the fact that it was pretty cold became less of a concern because of the fun and education taking place. We all just knew we had to dress correctly for the conditions and we’d be fine. It helped remind me that subzero temperatures are not a good reason to forego outdoor adventures and that I am able to stay comfortable in these types of environments. Continually checking the forecast and outside temperatures became useless for me because it didn’t matter. I would go where I was asked to and do what was needed to help facilitate as much learning for these kids as possible.

Learning to Work Together Regardless of the Temperature

The coldest day during the week, I had heard, was –26 degrees F with a brisk wind creating a wind chill of –43 degrees F. Yes, we still ventured outdoors on that day but not as long as other days. For those unable to imagine such conditions let me provide an example. After a meal in the dining hall I would grab a hot cup of tea to drink back at the dorm we were staying in. On the short 4 – 5 minute walk back I would almost be drinking iced tea in my room. That’s a slight exaggeration but not much. Another example was using my mobile phone to take a few pictures. I could only take a few because as the phone became colder it actually froze up and would not work again for almost an hour until it warmed back up.

Ropes Course at Wolf Ridge

While there were several different classes with a lot of learning going on surrounded by this beautiful landscape, the most talked about classes were the ropes course and climbing wall. These were the most challenging to complete and required students to push through their fears and often be surprised by their abilities. It was such a privilege to be able to witness these kids figure out what they could really do and complete either the ropes course or rock wall or both. A new experience for many. I was certain I could complete the ropes course but I’ve never taken the time to climb a rock wall so this was my first time doing it. Yes, I did make it to the top twice.

Preparing to Climb the Rock Wall

As the week began to wind down towards the end a little sadness entered that we’d be leaving. Several adults that have gone before me and encouraged me to take this opportunity all said I’d have a great time and they were right. It was so much fun spending time with these great kids and seeing what they could achieve along with meeting a bunch a great chaperones and having fun getting to know many of them. We’ve all gone back our separate ways but the memories will continue to be with me.

Sunset at Wolf Ridge

Driving in New York

Lower Manhattan

Driving in New York, specifically Manhattan, is an experience all of its own. There are people everywhere. In the street – crossing the street. When doing research about getting around Manhattan when visiting you come up with the same advice over and over again – use public transportation. That’s great advice for a couple of reason. First, you’ll get to where you want to go faster. Second, less stress. And finally you don’t have to worry about a place to park. But where else will you get to experience this unique type of adventure?

An adventure it is if you’re not a usual driver in New York. Vehicles everywhere going in different directions faster than you can determine which lane you need to be in. No other driver is going to just let you change lanes or take a moment to figure out if you’re going the right way or if there is an available parking spot. Being an aggressive driver is required in order to get around in Manhattan. Being aggressive does not mean being stupid. The other drivers are watching out for you whether you realize it or not but there is a catch – you need to watch out for them too.

Vehicles Everywhere

I decided to go against all of the advice and drive in Manhattan as a tourist. There was a car full of people and using our rental car, paying tolls, and paying for parking was slightly more economical than using public transportation. In addition, theoretically we could visit more sights in less time by relying on our own vehicle going from Lower Manhattan to Mid Manhattan. After driving for a short time it became obvious that using our own car was not going to make getting from one area to another faster.

The streets seem tighter, the parking areas are smaller, and staying focused on driving is a challenge as there are recognizable sights all around trying to take away from that focus that is required to keep from crashing into someone or something else. Every block is stressful and requires a lot of energy to get where you are going without incident. After 45 minutes of driving in Manhattan I had mixed feelings about the experience. On one hand it was exhausting. On the other hand, it was fun. Driving in New York is unlike driving anywhere else.

One of the Many Distractions

Prior to being in New York I’ve had the privilege to drive in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami, Chicago, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and several less populated cities. In fact I drive in Minneapolis on a regular basis. Minneapolis may not be as intense as other cities but it does provide larger city experience. None of these cities compares to New York.

Streets packed full of cars that feel as though they are all honking at you and traveling at 60 miles per hour if they are going 20. After some time you begin to realize that all the honking may actually be in an effort to help instead of nagging and distracting making you feel like you have no idea how to drive. Many of the honking sounds were just an announcement that another car was going to be moving over a lane behind you or in front of you. The warning actually becomes helpful after figuring out what they mean.

If you need to move over a lane because there is a bus or truck stopped in your lane a block ahead or construction has closed down a lane or two in your direction you just have to use the blinker and go. Most of the time the cars around you will make room rather quickly. When we left Manhattan for the last time I was completely surprised we made it through without a single ding in the rental vehicle. I was very nervous every time we entered a parking garage because the ramps and spaces were all very tight. I thought I was going to hit the wall or pillar in each place. It feels like an accomplishment to have successfully driven in Manhattan on multiple occasions without crashing. Those that drive trucks and buses in downtown amaze me. Those individuals have earned my respect. They also make me question their sanity. What’s next? London, Paris?!

Driving a Bus in Manhattan?

Enjoying the Fall Eclipses

The Lunar Eclipse    The Solar Eclipse

For Several Areas in the Northern Hemisphere there have been some great astronomical events to watch in the form of eclipses. Late in September we had a lunar eclipse which was also called a blood moon due to the red colorations at the peak of the eclipse. A month later there was a partial solar eclipse. Solar eclipses are a bit more difficult to watch since you shouldn’t look directly at the sun without a heavy filter such as welders masks or you risk hurting your eyes.

There are some people who travel great distances in order to witness these astronomical events. For others, they just wait until one of these events happens and they are in the viewing area which can take many years to occur. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be in the viewing area of a pair of eclipses this year. Even more fortunate than that, they’ve occurred at times which I could take time to go out and watch them without missing important obligations. The first that took place was the blood moon which is when the Earth passes between the sun and the moon blocking all direct light on the moon creating a reddish appearance across the moon.

The Lunar Eclipse Underway as I was Leaving the House

The night before I decided to go out and witness this lunar eclipse first hand and see if I could get some nice pictures of it in the process. After a little research it was discovered that the full eclipse would happen just before sunrise and just above the horizon. Before this eclipse would end the moon would dip below the horizon eliminating the view of the last part of this eclipse. I set the alarm and went to sleep for a short night. With the noise in my ear I quickly shut off the alarm and questioned if I really wanted to get up at 4 am just to see this eclipse. After laying there for a few minutes I eventually got up, knowing that I could come back to bed after the eclipse, and put the camera and some food in the car for my 10 minute journey to my viewing location. But before I left, the eclipse was already under way so I snapped a picture and took off a little more awake especially after hitting that cold night air.

Blood Moon In the Night Sky

Arriving at the viewing location, it was quiet and peaceful. Just me and the moon. I set up the camera and started photographing the eclipse and adjusting settings to find which ones worked for the pictures I wanted to achieve and switching lenses on my Sony Nex camera to see which shots each would produce during the rest of the morning. Soon another car drove in and a camera was set up. Hmm… I’m not the only fool to give up the early morning hours of sleep for this. A little re-assuring in this choice. I continued taking pictures throughout the rest of the visible lunar eclipse with a little conversation mixed in between photographers.

The Final View of the Eclipse

The second eclipse of the fall was a solar eclipse where the moon goes between the Earth and the sun blocking the sun. Fortunately this one happened just before sunset again allowing me the opportunity to watch it without missing other important obligations. During the afternoon I was texting back and forth with my wife, after finding out about this eclipse from another co-worker that morning, to see if she wanted to join me on this nice fall day to witness a solar eclipse. I agonized for several hours on where to watch this and take pictures. After finally accepting the options I had, I arrived home and met my wife and daughters to head out to watch this astronomical event.

The Beginning of the Solar Eclipse

Viewing a solar eclipse is far more challenging than a lunar eclipse due to the brightness of the sun and the damage you can do to your eyes by looking at the sun.  Fortunately I had a dark enough filter for the camera that allowed us to view the eclipsing sun through the camera without looking directly at the sun. Even though you couldn’t see the eclipse directly, the amount of sunlight shining on the surrounds was noticeably decreasing. It’s like wearing sunglasses but you can’t remove them and make your surroundings brighter. And since this was happening with the setting sun, there was a yellow tone over everything more than usual. It reminding me of the sun rays gleaming over the horizon just before it dips below the surface only this time the sun was higher in the sky.

Solar Eclipse Being Reflected in the Water

It was nice to be able to get out and enjoy both of these fall eclipses if for no other reason than allowing some time to relax and slow down for a few hours. By the way, I did not end up going back to sleep after the lunar eclipse. It was in the plan and was a great way to motivate me to get up originally but never happened.

Eclipsing Sun Setting

To see more Lunar Eclipse Photos go here….

To see more Solar Eclipse Photos go here….

Re-living American History–Valley Forge

Living Accomodations at Valley Forge

Valley Forge was an encampment used during the American Revolutionary War for the winter of 1777-1778 just outside of Philadelphia. There was no battle here so it may seem a little unclear as to why this was turned into a national park. What’s so significant about Valley Forge? Valley Forge marked the turning point in the war because the army was able to train and learned how to fight as a unified army under General George Washington. Without the use of our National Parks Monopoly board we may have never taken the opportunity to explore Valley Forge National Historical Park and missed learning about this important place in United States history.

Ovens to Prepare Food

We were fortunate to be joined by some friends while exploring Valley Forge which provided a different way to look at the Revolutionary War as we learned about this Continental Army encampment. One of those friends is British bringing a very different point of view and a new perspective on this war. I had never thought about the war from the British view which added to the interest while learning about Valley Forge. Seeing how the soldiers lived and everything they had to endure was quite interesting.

Living Space Inside the Soldiers Huts

These soldiers were only in Valley Forge for six months. In that time they had to build shelter, fortify the area from attack, and train all without adequate supplies, food, and clothing. How many Americans today would accept these conditions? If it meant freedom? I think there are a great many that would sacrifice everything they had to if it meant gaining freedom. There are many that do that in today’s military for the protection of our country and for other’s freedom. I’m humbled to think of these people and the strength of the United States even when it seems there are a great many differences separating this country.

Fortifying Valley Forge

Knowing how these soldiers were living brought the question of how were the British soldiers living? Did they have equally bad supply of food and clothing? Before Valley Forge the Continental troops were relatively untrained so the British were looking for a way to win the war quickly and likely thought it should be relatively easy. I’m sure their troops were not desiring to be in America having to continue this fighting even though there was likely a great pride being a part of the greatest military in the world at that time. I assume their living quarters consisted of buildings they had taken over and turned into housing giving them an advantage since they didn’t have to take time to construct new structures.

General George Washington's Headquarters

It was educational to see General Washington’s living quarters which were rented for the winter. They were modest but still substantially nicer than the huts built to house the troops. Most of the huts would house twelve soldiers in each one. Talk about cramped quarters. These all had to be built during the winter. Imagine all of the trees and stones needed to do this in such a short period of time. I’m sure there was very little time spent in these huts as there was food to get, security to provide, and training to complete while maintaining equipment. Each day wondering when the next battle would take place and where that would be. By the end of their stay at Valley Forge I’m sure the troops were eager to move on and engage in the next battle. You certainly cannot win a war by staying in a camp living without enough supplies.

A Place to Sleep