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The First Time I Saw the Desert

I’d never seen the desert before, but I’ve always wanted to.  It seemed like such an intriguing  landscape, so different from the dense green rolling hills I was used to. Where palm trees weren’t a strange sight, and cactuses grew naturally.

One day I discovered some cheap flights to Las Vegas, and suddenly a week long desert adventure was being dreamed up. Five hours to the other side of the country was the longest I had ever spent in a plane. I loved every minute of it; seeing the landscape change before my eyes.

 In the rental car we explored the desert world for the first time. The land was so flat, with no tall trees, you could almost see straight across to the other side of the city.  Mountains stood tall in the distance, surrounding Las Vegas like a wall.

I stared along the palm tree lined streets, having never seen more than a few palm trees before.

I continued to stare out the car window as we passed all the famous casinos.  Strange to see them all in person. Only ever seeing them in movies, it almost felt like they didn’t actually exist.

Nestled around the shiny sparkling casinos, run down motels and other attractions lay as ruins, providing quite a big contrast.

Even the houses matched the desert color theme.

The seven days in the desert were off to a good start.

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Visiting Family in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery

During my trip to Michigan, I wanted to visit the cemeteries of my relatives. Luckily I unknowingly chose a hotel right in between two main cemeteries where my relatives laid. Unlike the the Southfield Cemetery, the Holy Sepulchre Catholic cemetery was massive and easy to get lost in.

It was an icy November day, and we wandered around the vast place, looking for our family members.  My mom was relying on her memories of running around here when she was little. Her grandparents were caretakers of this place!

This unique group of trees caught our eye and we wandered over. It was the right area!

Someone had placed wreaths at the graves, we wondered who that could have been.

My great great grandfather, who came to Detroit from Austria and worked as a grave-digger in this cemetery.

I’ve always liked wandering around in cemeteries.  There’s something really peaceful about them.  It was even more special to visit a cemetery where my family members were buried. Most of them I’d never met, but had heard plenty of stories about. Others I have some vague memories of, so I was glad to get to visit their graves.

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Mountain Cows

I could hardly believe it when we reached the top of Bearwallow mountain. A herd of cows gently grazing on the mountain top meadow. I was hoping to just see one cow, as the hiking guide had mentioned, so I was overjoyed when I saw so many of them!

The cows were really friendly and we were able to walk right over too them.  They were nervous if we got too close so I wasn’t able to touch them.  But I sat on a rock in the middle of them and watched as they wandered around and ate the grass.

Bearwallow mountain was just 30 minutes outside of Asheville. I will definitely want to come back to visit the cows.

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The Big Hike to Hawksbill Mountain

I never posted the pictures from the Big Hike last fall.

It was a one mile hike to the top of a mountain that stood tall along the Blue Ridge mountain range. Towards the end of the hike the trail was nearly straight up the side of the mountain!

The views from the top of Hawksbill Mountain were some of the best I’ve seen in the Blue Ridge. It was also exciting because we finally managed to time it right to see the perfect autumn leave colors.

It can’t really be seen in this picture, but on that rocky ledge is Wiseman’s View, which I visited years ago!  It was cool to be on the other side of it.

These mountains overlook Linville Gorge, which is a river that runs though this area deep in the valley.

We stayed on the mountain top for a while, eating the little picnic we packed and looking out at at colorful mountains.

For some reason this short weekend trip the the mountains almost  a year ago really stands out in my mind as one of my top favorite trips. The weather was perfect and everything we did was so much fun, with no stress of worries. Looking through these photos really reminded me of the time spent there and made me excited to return soon.

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Unexpected Mushrooms

It had been too long since we last took a walk. Wanting something different we decided on a nature trail in a park north of town. It was a park I had spent many unwanted hours at  years ago for home school events I wanted no part of.  I hadn’t returned since.  But I decided I might as well replace my bad, semi repressed memories with some good ones.

Rain had been falling every day for weeks but this was the first day the sun had been out for more then a few hours, but it was still very humid and muggy.  I saw this tree at the beginning of the trail, a sign of the mushroom sightings to come.

Moss was everywhere, covering fallen trees and branches with a fuzzy green coating. And around nearly every turn, a different type of mushroom, some I had never seen before.

Also present, were millions of bugs.  I unfortunately had forgotten to bring bug spray so there were times where we raced down the trail at full speed, trying to outrun clouds of mosquitoes and ominous buzzing sounds.

As we neared the end of the trail, we spotted an incredible sight.

GIANT MUSHROOM.

We almost got caught in the rain after this, but luckily is passed over pretty quickly.

 

This trail was a lot of fun and I can’t wait to go back. And maybe I’ll even remember the bug spray!

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A Desert Painted

Parts of northern Arizona had reminded me of what Mars might look like.  But upon entering the Petrified Forest and seeing the Painted Desert, this area really looked like we had just been transported over to the red planet.

The bright sun gave a false impression of a warm day. The air was cold, and the zero humidity made it even colder.  The wind was unreal. Pulling the breath out of your lungs and not giving it back. It certainly felt like another planet.

I wanted to hike down the trails, and be immersed in the strange landscape, but the elements seemed too rough. So we just drove along the road, rarely passing another car.  Stopping at the overlooks, mostly alone on this strange red part of our planet.

I’ll never forget how weird the desert looked.

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Just (2000 Miles) Down the Road

The interstate in my backyard, if followed long enough, will eventually lead to the small town of Holbrook Arizona.
It’s a little town that the old route 66 used to run right through until it got bypassed in recent years by the construction of big interstate 40. Holbrook also inspired the little desert town in the movie Cars.
The people behind the scenes of the movie Cars apparently spent some time in this cafe, planning out the movie.
(For some reason we didn’t eat there?!!)
We rolled into the town of Holbrook on a chilly late February afternoon, after spending the day wandering through the Petrified Forest. Old neon signs lined the streets, and big dinosaur statues guarded the many little gift shops scattered around.  I wanted to walk around and explore the shops, but it seemed everything was closed. There was nobody around, except for a random car passing by here and there. With the cold wind blowing through, Holbrook felt like a bit of a ghost town. Or at least on its way to becoming a ghost town.
I dreamed of what it might be like, in the hot summer weather, and what it had been like many many years ago.
I still find it amusing, when I listen to the cars on the interstate behind my house, that this little town lies way down the road. And then I dream of racing off, back to the desert.  It’s just 2000 miles down the road!

 

 

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The Lost Beach

Cape Lookout Island.  Only accessible by Ferry, and with no paved roads.  It was once a home to a small fishing community but is now owned by the National Park system.
A short walk away from the tourist area, down the lonely shoreline, and remnants of the island’s past begin to appear.
Barnacle laden debris from the houses burned down by owners who refused to let them become acquired by the government.
And maybe parts from an old car that became engulfed in a sandstorm, only to appear again some time later.
Conch shells, still inhabited by their original owner can easily be found in the shallow waters.
 
This beach is different than others. A beach forgotten.
 
 
 
 
 
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Abandoned Mill Village

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A few more pictures from when my friends and I explored an old Abandoned Mill Village, that was used for part of filming the Hunger Games movies.

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These little homes have sat vacant for at least forty years, while nature engulfed them. Grass grew tall around the foundation, and vines had climbed through the windows, and cracks in the walls.

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I wish I could go back in time and see what this place once was.

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It was the perfect kind of day for exploring, and a day I will never forget.

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Abandoned Mill Village: Inside the Walls

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When my friends and I visited the Abandoned Mill Village, we couldn’t resist taking a look inside the little houses that had been abandoned for forty years or more.

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Many of them were painted bright colors inside, perhaps they had once been cheerful little homes. But now the paint was peeling from the walls, parts of the floors were caved in, and plants had begun to creep in through the broken windows and cracks in the walls.

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It’s a spooky feeling walking through a place now dilapidated, that was once somebody’s home. I wish I could see what these houses looked like when families were still living in this village.