Posts or Comments 09 August 2022

Chihuly Nights &Dallas Arboretum joydeanlee | 09 May 2019

Chihuly Nights—Dallas Arboretum, 2012


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Badlands National Park &Custer State Park &Glacier National Park &Glacier National Park &Montana &National Bison Range &South Dakota &Wyoming &Yellowstone National Park joydeanlee | 23 Jul 2016

Cross-country trip—2016—Critters encountered

In 2016 my sister, Mary Hunt and I traveled from Versailles, Indiana, to Kelseyville, California. Below are some of the animals we encountered in South Dakota and Montana. In future blogs I’ll discuss specific places we visited.

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Elk, taken with zoom lens at the National Bison Range in Montana.


The marmot seemed to think he was an interesting subject to photograph for he seemed to be posing for us at Logan Pass, Glacier National Park.


The prairie dog surely thought we’d have food for him because he approached us with no sign of fear in Custer State Park, South Dakota.


Herd of bison at the National Bison Range in Montana.


One of the bison got up close and personal with us as we drove by at the National Bison Range in Montana. Yes, we rolled up our windows.


At Glacier National Park mountain goat, who was shedding a winter coat of wool, and the young goat didn’t seem concerned with the crowds of people angling for photos of them.


A pronghorn antelope wandered right up to our car in Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

Amicalola Falls &Georgia joydeanlee | 15 Nov 2015

Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia

At 729-ft. Amicalola Falls is the tallest cascading waterfall in the southeast. Amicalola Falls State Park is located in the north Georgia mountains NW of Jasper, Georgia.

We viewed the spectacular upper falls by walking the West Ridge Falls Access Trail whose recycled-tire surface is described as gently sloping, but one of my sisters and I had to stop several times to rest during the ascent.

I always use the excuse that I’m stopping to take photos, but both times I walked up that trail recently it was too cloudy for great photography. In addition the two weeks plus of rain had wiped away most of the colorful fall leaves.


A touch of autumn color enhanced the beauty of the falls.


This old wrecked truck makes you wonder about the 5 W’s: who, what, when, and why. We know the where! The demolished truck was stopped by trees and lies off the path to the upper falls at Amicalola Falls.

Dallas Arboretum &Texas joydeanlee | 18 Nov 2014

Dallas Arboretum—pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkins, and a variety of foliage

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Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens is perhaps my favorite arboretum in the U.S. And when it’s autumn, a tour of the grounds is so much fun. According to their website, “Over 65,000 pumpkins, gourds and squash come together to form the nationally acclaimed Pumpkin Village.”

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This year in the Pumpkin Village contained three pumpkin houses plus pumpkins galore. Many more pumpkins were spread around the 66 acres.

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Another asset of the Dallas Arboretum is its location on White Rock Lake. The infinity pool gives the illusion that it runs into the lake whereas it is perhaps a quarter of a mile from the lake.

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Bright splashes of flowers constantly attract the eye.

To view a slide show of all of my photos during my day at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, click on this link and then select the first icon in the upper-right corner:

New Mexico &White Sands joydeanlee | 20 Apr 2014

National Parks/Monuments—White Sands

Between Almagorda and Las Cruses, New Mexico on US-70, White Sands National Monument rises up from the desert, an amazing white mass of gypsun sand glaring so brightly that you need sunglasses on a sunny day.

White Sands National Monument

According to the National Park Service website, “Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world’s great natural wonders—the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of this unique dunefield, along with the plants and animals that live here.”

Another tidbit of information from the NPS website is that just a few inches of the dunes consist of loose sand. “Rainwater falling on the dunes dissolves some of the gypsum and cements the sand grains together, creating a crude form of plaster of Paris. This makes the white sand dunes easy to walk on.”

And walking/hiking across the dunes or sliding down in your own waxed plastic snow saucers or one that you buy at the Visitor Center at the park’s entrance provides fun for kids of all ages, although I’d be afraid that I’d break a bone or two or be bruised from end-to-end. Children up to 10 years old should be accompanied on the slide down by an adult. Sliders are also cautioned to select dunes that do not have any vegetation, rocks, or other obstacles.


Parent and child prepare to slide down the dunes in their waxed plastic snow saucer.

An easy hike is the Dune Life Nature Trail which provides info about the plants and animals common in the dunes. The Interdune Boardwalk provides views for people in wheelchairs or other limited mobility.


Vegetation as well as wildlife abounds in the park.

Photography opportunities are best two hours after sunrise and two hours before sunset. Selecting places where few people have tread will provide photogs with the most pleasing images.

Ranger-led events include sunset strolls, full moon bike rides, and a trip to Lake Lucero as well as presentations about subjects such as salt mining and the animals of White Sands.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting White Sands 6-10 times in the last 25 years, particularly as I traveled from Texas to the Phoenix metro area. I chose to take the roads less traveled, often through the mountain town of Cloudcroft in the Lincoln National Forest east of Almagorda and then down US-70 to Las Cruses, New Mexico to again travel on I-10, the fast highway.
Because I currently have a house/pet-sitting client in Las Cruses, I have many more opportunities to visit not only White Sands but numerous other parks in the area.

Arizona &Grand Canyon &Grand Canyon &National Parks/Monuments joydeanlee | 12 Dec 2013

National Parks—Grand Canyon

Visiting Grand Canyon National Park is always an awe-inspiring experience. Since 1988 I’ve traveled to Grand Canyon five times, each time with a different friend or family member. I love watching the reactions of people I care about to experiences that I enjoy.

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To view a slideshow of my Grand Canyon photos, click on any photo.

Although first afforded Federal protection in 1893 as a Forest Reserve and later as a National Monument, Grand Canyon did not achieve National Park status until 1919, three years after the creation of the National Park Service. ( website)

1988: That summer Eileen Donewald, a long-time friend who is now deceased, and I traveled from Indiana to Mesa, Arizona. Springfield, IL, Hannibal, MO, and Mesa Verde National Park were on our travel list. The stop at Grand Canyon was our last one before we drove to Mesa where her son, Mike Donewald, his wife Linda, and their son Christopher lived.

2000:Next visit was in December, and the snow on the cliffs enhanced the colors. Again I left Indiana with my friend Jennifer Eberhardt (now Lynn) on a roadtrip with stops in Nashville, Dallas, Carlsbad Caverns NP, White Sands and Saguaro national monuments, Walnut Canyon NP, Grand Canyon NP, and Sedona, AZ before reaching Mesa, AZ, where I spent the winter with my friend Eileen.

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2001: My older daughter, Helena Abbing, accompanied me on my third trip to Grand Canyon in May after we traveled from Santa Fe, NM, to Canyon de Chelly (pronounced sh long a) National Monument with a quick stop at Shiprock before reaching Grand Canyon. The sad fact was that at both Canyon de Celly and Grand Canyon I had to spend a lot of time in our motel rooms working on indexes. I was still working full-time then and the deadlines had to be met. Final destination: Mesa, AZ.


2005: Next trip to Grand Canyon was with one of my sisters, Joyce Ann Buchanan in January. She flew to Dallas from Indiana, and then we followed the same roadtrip route that I’d taken with Jennifer. We still laugh today about an incident that occurred at Saguaro National Monument. Too embarrassing for details. Final destination: Mesa, AZ.

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2006: Finally my most recent visit to Grand Canyon was with another long-time friend, Doris Strimple. The May weather was perfect for walking along the South Rim path. Doris had flown from Indiana to Houston where I’d been house/pet-sitting, and again we stopped at most of the same places I’d visited with both Jennifer and Joyce Ann. One of the highlights of our trip was walking down the natural entrance into Carlsbad Caverns. Final destination: Mesa, AZ.

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The natural wonders of the United States, particularly in the West, merit numerous visits.

Marfa &Texas joydeanlee | 03 Sep 2013

Marfa, Texas—Hotel Paisano, the movie “Giant” and the mystery lights

Marfa in West Texas had long been on my sightseeing list. I wanted to spend a night at Hotel Paisano. Why, Marfa? An interest in the movie Giant whose exterior scenes were filmed nearby, the Hotel Paisano where many of the stars stayed briefly, and the Marfa Lights. I visited there last December after a house/pet-sitting job in Las Cruses, New Mexico, as I was en route to Big Bend National Park (See another post National Parks—Big Bend).

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When I checked in Hotel Paisano, I didn’t request Room 223, where James Dean had supposedly stayed in the early days of the filming of Giant, but that was the room I was assigned. Simple but comfortable. Also my first experience with a wall-mounted heater.

The temperature dropped very low that night. I’d been given a remote control and told it operated the heater. I pointed that remote at the old-fashioned radiator I saw in the room, pressing the “Up” button. No heat! After repeating this step several times and getting colder and colder, I noticed a unit mounted high on the wall. Pointing the remote at that unit and pressing the “Up” button produced results. Yes, warm air began to flow out of the unit.

Hotel Paisano’s architect, Henry Charles Trost, designed several buildings in West Texas. Others included the Kerr Mercantile in Sanderson, the Gage Hotel in Marathon, the Holland Hotel in Alpine, and the Hotel El Capitan in Van Horn. The latter three still offer accommodations for visitors. On a later trip through Van Horn, I dined at the Hotel El Capitan in Van Horn: chicken-fried stead with jalapeño gravy.

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The courtyard at Hotel Paisano was brightly lit for the holidays.

Another attraction nearby is the Marfa Lights. “Accounts of strange and unexplained phenomena just outside of Marfa began during the 19th century and continue to this day,” according to the Visit Marfa website ( “The mystery lights are sometimes red, sometimes blue, sometimes white, and usually appear at random throughout the night, no matter the season or the weather.” Are the mystery lights a phenomenon for which there’s a logical explanation? Opinions vary, but you can drive to the official Marfa Lights Viewing Area west of town if you want to chance seeing the lights.

If you plan to visit Big Bend National Park or anywhere south of I-10 in West Texas, include Marfa on your itinerary.

Big Bend &National Parks/Monuments &Texas joydeanlee | 03 Sep 2013

National Parks—Big Bend

Big Bend National Park lies on the Texas-Mexico border where Rio Grande flows through the Santa Elena Canyon, steep mountains rising up from the river on each side. The International Dark-Sky Association has designated Big Bend as an official Dark Sky Park. This is the Association’s description of a Dark Sky Park: “a park or other public land possessing exceptional starry skies and natural nocturnal habitat where light pollution is mitigated and natural darkness is valuable as an important educational, cultural, scenic, and natural resources.”

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The Rio Grande flows through the Santa Elena Canyon. On the left is Mexico and on the right, Texas.

Background: I’d traveled I-10 from Houston en route to and from Mesa, Arizona, at least once a year beginning in 1999 and noticed the signs for Big Bend National Park, but I never had the combination of time and money to make the trek to the southwest tip of Texas. In early December, 2012, I completed a house/pet-sitting job in Las Cruses, New Mexico and planned the trip to Big Bend before my next house/pet-sitting assignment in Houston.

Getting to Big Bend is, indeed, a long trek. Chisos Basin Lodge, the only lodging other than camping in the park, is located far from any major city. From the lodge to San Antonio, 448 miles (7 hrs); from the lodge to El Paso, 340 miles (almost 6 hrs). The park has 1,252 sq. miles, which is larger than the state of Rhode Island. It is the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert topography and ecology in the United States, according to Wikipedia.

The awe-inspiring view and the peace and serenity evoked by the surroundings made my stay at the Chisos Basin Lodge memorable; it is the most beautiful setting I’ve ever stayed in. The Window, one of the most photographed views in the park, unfolds before you on the downhill approach into the basin

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The Window can be viewed from the Chisos Basin.

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The Mule Ears is another of the often-photographed rock formations.

Arizona &Horseshoe Bend Overlook joydeanlee | 18 Apr 2013

Arizona—Horseshoe Bend Overlook

If you suffer from vertigo, do not go to the Horseshoe Bend Overlook. Or if you do travel there, don’t get too close to the edge; there are no guardrails of any kind.


Horseshoe Bend in the Colorado River with its 1000-foot drop is a awe-inspiring sight, one of Mother Nature’s gifts.

In 2007 as I was en route to the San Diego area, I traveled to the Page, Arizona area. Hiking out to the edge of the overlook at Horseshoe Bend was one of my adventures there.

Here’s information from Wikipedia: Horseshoe Bend is the name for a horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River located near the town of Page, Arizona, in the United States. It is located 5 miles downstream from the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell within Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, about 4 miles southwest of Page. Accessible via a ½-mile hike from U.S. Route 89, it can be viewed from the steep cliff above. According to Google terrain maps, the overlook is 4,200 feet above sea level and the Colorado River is at 3,200 feet above sea level making it a 1,000-foot drop.

  • For a slideshow, click on the photo.
  • To view full screen, select the icon in the lower-right of the photo.
  • Click on Show Info to view captons if they do not appear.
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Antelope Canyon &Arizona joydeanlee | 17 Apr 2013

Arizona—Antelope Canyon

Navajo Parks and Recreation Department offers tours to both the upper and lower sections of Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon that was formed by the erosion of sandstone. This erosion occurs especially during the monsoon season. According to Wikipedia, Upper Antelope Canyon, Tsé bighánílíní, means “the place where water runs through rocks.”


A view of one of the narrow passageways created by rain rushing through the sandstone making the corridors narrower and narrower.

While I was spending several days in Page, Arizona area in the fall of 2007, I toured Upper Antelope Canyon. We were loaded into the back of a pickup truck with bench seats which could seat approximately eight people.

Once we were inside the canyon, I couldn’t see the settings on my camera and accidentally chose a setting that did not provide the correct exposures. Thus my photos are not of the best quality. I know, “Excuses! Excuses! Excuses!” I mutter to myself.

Page, Arizona, is far, far off any major interstate so traveling there requires extra time and patience.

To view a slideshow of Antelope Canyon, click on any photo

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