Denali Diaries…Onward & Eastward

After leaving Pittsburgh we headed to Niagara Falls which neither Frank nor I had ever seen.  It proved to be everything and more than I had hoped for.  I tried to go with no previous notions of the photos I wanted.  Some will be the typical tourist view ( we did all the tourist things and loved them) and others hopefully not so typical.  In any case, I bring my own perspective to any given location and situation and I believe I accomplished that with my vision and creative interpretation of Niagara Falls.

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Fireworks welcomed us from the Rainbow Bridge crossing from the US into Canada.  Niagara Falls, Canada Skyline.

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Typical tourist view of the Maid of the Mist approaching drenchingly close to the falls.  I chose a slow shutter speed to emphasize the spray and turbulent water.

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View from the Maid of the Mist looking at American Falls.  We were blessed with beautiful weather and a double rainbow.

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We enjoyed a tour of Cave of the Winds which brought us along a series of boardwalks and stairs right to the edge of the falls.

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After getting off the Maid of the Mist we climbed a trail to the base of the falls.  This is a view of the walk and tourists in their colorful ponchos from the Canada side.

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Aptly named the Hurricane Deck, the pounding of the falling water and the scream of the wind feels like being in the heart of a hurricane.  An up close view of the falls is also a guarantee to get wet.  Colorful ponchos are provided at each attraction helping to keep dry and adding a splash of color while the wearers added scale to photographs.

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My love affair with water was re-ignited at Niagara Falls and poor Frank patiently waited while I set up a photograph, clicked the shutter, collected my tripod, took a couple of steps and exclaimed, “oh, look!”, set my tripod down and began photographing again.  Thanks honey, I feel that your sacrifice was worth it.

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View of Horseshoe Falls from “Journey Behind the Falls” tour on the Canada side.  I felt that this photo alone made it worth the price of admission.

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Light, water, a telephoto lens and a slow shutter speed are some of my favorite ingredients for photographing blur motions.

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I play with various shutter speeds to find the effect I like and then let the shutter fly capturing various splashes and streaks in the warer.

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Twilight and first spotlights on the falls.  The light, a slow shutter speed and the spray help to capture the surreal feeling I got when photographing the changing light of day to evening.

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I love finding just the right shutter speed and compostition to capture the fluid motion of water.  Niagara Falls certainly provides a waterfall lover with ample opportunity to find as many compositions as they have time to explore.  And explore we did.  And yet, I feel that we barely scratched the surface.

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The falls are lit every night from basically dusk until midnight (check for actual times).  To see them fully you must cross over to the Canada side.  Well worth the walk.  Great exercise, great photo opps along the way.  The colors keep changing.

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Canada boasts a structure much like the Space Needle in Seattle, the Skylon Tower was built in 1964-65.

We had originally thought about heading to Maine and following the fall colors down the coast and our timing was perfect for color but, alas, campgrounds were closing down leaving us with no options to stay so, we looked at the map and decided to head south east to Watkins Glen, NY.  Learning to go with the flow has been one of our goals on this adventure and by doing so, we have discovered new locations that we never would have seen otherwise and Watkins Glen was one such treat.  Running through town is a 2 mile hike with 19 waterfalls.

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There were photos to be made around every corner, look up, look down, zoom out, zoom in, change lenses, add a nd or polarizing filter.  It was like being a kid in a candy store.  Talk about a waterfall lovers paradise.

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I was drawn to the water carved rocks dotted with colorful leaves as a beautiful setting for my compositions.

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Little nooks and crannies, intimate compositions were made more dramatic with the textured rock through which the water flowed.

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Light reflected off the canyon walls bounced into the water lighting it with the warmth of the afternoon sun.

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Waterfalls stair-stepped their way through the deep canyon, pooling into basins before finding an outlet and falling into the next pool.

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Leaves caught in the whirlpool swirled round and round creating a dancelike motion all their own.

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With last light peeking into the canyon just far enough to cast a glow on the water, I stepped behind the falls and shot up at the ledge where they cascaded from.  From wide angle compositions including the canyon walls and passing tourists to more intimate compositions where water is the sole subject, I found Watkins Glen to be a fairie land to feast my lenses upon.

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Following the water theme, and looking for locations to explore we backtracked to Letchworth SP in New York.  There we spent several days exploring the surrounding landscape and waterfalls as well as simply sitting back, relaxing and enjoying our new lifestyle.

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There are three falls originally named Upper, Lower and Middle Falls.  We followed the trails and explored them all.

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Including zooming in for intimate details.

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Capturing soft patterns as the flowing water cascades down the rocks.

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And beautiful patterns of shadow and light reflecting colors in the water.

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Keeping with the theme of water and looking for new locations to explore we headed back into Pennsylvania and the Pocono Mountains.  In no rush to be anywhere soon we booked a full week and spent our time both exploring and relaxing.  Nearby Bushkill Falls is a privately owned land with waterfalls

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They have spent many years and dollars into an effort to make the trails to the falls accessible with boardwalks and stairways leading to spectacular views.

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Turns out we were only a short bus ride from New York City so, we had to make a quick overnight visit to the city.

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We had both been there several times so we were in no rush to hit the tourist spots so much as we just wanted to wander around the city absorbing the energy and vibes.  We stopped at John Lennon’s memorial in Central Park and took a few minutes to imagine…

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We then stopped by the Dakota Hotel to pay our respects.

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While in Central Park we got caught up in the magical world of imagination and fun with stops at the carousel.

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And at the Alice in Wonderland statue.

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We were even “treated” to a sighting of the Naked Cowboy with his endorsement of Trump on his rump.

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It was a beautiful day with many people out enjoying themselves.

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I popped in to St Patrick’s Cathedral to snap a few pics.  It is such an overwhelming architectural wonder.

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A vertical pano emphasizes the height of the columns and the pattern on the ceiling.

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We took the subway to the 911 Memorial.

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It was very sobering to see all the names engraved on the memorial.  A beautiful building and memorial have been built in their honor.

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It was time to head eastward to the coast.  Two months, 5600 miles and 15 states afters leaving Portland we arrived on the east coast at Cape Hatteras.  Ah, to be able to walk the long beaches, wade in the water, feel the sand between my toes, camera in hand.  I’m in my happy place.  Stay tuned for more posts to the Denali Diaries

For now, we be road trippin’!

Denali Diaries…Portland, OR to Pittsburgh, PA

Welcome to Denali Diaries, the timeline of our (Frank and Laurie) adventures and mis-adventures along the highways and byways of the USA in our not so tiny house on wheels, “Miss Denali”..

On July 29th Frank and I signed the papers on the sale of our home and nearly all of our earthly possessions in Portland, Oregon and handed over the keys to a wonderful couple from North Carolina.

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We moved ourselves, our few remaining possessions and our two kitties, Goldie and Malu into our new home on wheels, “Denali”, a 35′ fifth wheel trailer.

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After settling everything in Portland we hitched up Denali and headed for the open road on Aug 22, 2016.  We were in no hurry to get anywhere nor did we have any “set in stone” destinations in mind as we planned to follow the seasons, fall colors to the north east and then warm weather in the south east to spend the winter months.  We did want to stop and visit friends and family along the way.  Our first family stop was in Shelley, Idaho where we parked in my cousin Gary’s backyard and felt like we were in a five star resort with the stunning views.

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Gary took us out fishing on the Snake River where Frank caught a beautiful rainbow trout for dinner.

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Time flew too quickly and we were unable to see nearly as many relatives as I had hoped and I do have quite a few of them.  Back on the road, we headed to see my family in Salt Lake.  In between visits and barbeques we took a trip down memory lane and drove over Guardsmans Pass to see if there was any fall color.  It was a bit early on the western side but the eastern side as we dropped down into Midway was alive with color.  I had to stop at a favorite location to review memories of days and people long since passed.  It was a tranquil ride.

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I took my flying companion, Lucy out to The Great Salt Lake to do a little flying and the sunset was beautiful.

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A week flew by before we knew it and it was time to hitch Denali up for another ride to a new destination.  Next stop Moab, Utah and Arches National Park.  Once we had arrived at our campsite and got settled in, we took a ride into the park to see the sunset from the Windows section.

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The next morning I didn’t feel well at all and we hung around the trailer for most of a beautiful day before I dragged myself out of my funk and went out to photograph sunset.

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Boy am I glad I did, the photo Gods were smiling on me and all the other lucky folks out that night.

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The next day we headed into Moab for breakfast at the Jailhouse Cafe and then off to hike Hunter’s Canyon.  By one mile in we had exhausted most of our water and I was sweating and dragging so we turned back knowing it would not be wise to continue on with so few supplies in the intense heat.

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Our stay in Moab was way too short but, we were looking forward to seeing friends in Colorado and the road was calling.  We stopped in Grand Junction and visited with good friends before powering on to Golden where we were going to park it for a week to visit with friends, do some hiking and biking and filling our lungs with that Rocky Mountain air.  However, plans can be changed at a moments notice and Monday morning rolled around with both Frank and I still feeling funky so we took a detour from our plans and headed to urgent care where I had pneumonia and he needed meds too.  With that diagnosis we decided to lay low for a few days to let the drugs take their course and help heal.

In the meantime we did a little sight seeing, taking the incredibly efficient light rail downtown to Union Station.

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Due to our days of forced inactivity we decided to extend our stay and went to Rocky Mountain NP for a quick overnight visit.

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There’s nothing like clean, fresh, thin air to get your heart pumping and we both began to feel much better.  Maybe nature is the cure for what ails us more often than we realize.

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The next morning before heading back to Golden we took a couple of hikes around Sprague Lake and Bear Lake.  There were many other visitors that morning who all seemed to have the same idea of enjoying the tranquility because, even with the number of people, it was very quite and beautiful.

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On our way back to Golden we stopped at a wonderful stone church that has always intrigued me and it proved worth the stop.

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We were a bit concerned about how our kitties were going to handle the new lifestyle but, it turns out we needn’t have worried.  They have settled right in to life on the road and love to explore each new campsite to determine whether or not it has their kitty paw of approval.  They truly are good little campers.

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Our next destination was Pittsburgh with overnight stops mapped out along the way to break up the long drive.  Our travels took us through Kansas where Frank gratefully downed a refreshing beer at Capn’ Jack’s in Oakley, KS where we camped after fighting a strong side wind all day.

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A couple of days later as we were approaching Kansas City, MO a warning beep and light came on and the truck instantly powered down.  We managed to pull over to the side of the road on the busy highway where we proceeded to give AAA a mayday call.  Three hours later Phil and Bobby from Santa Fe Towning came to our rescue with two huge tow trucks.

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They not only towed us to a Ford dealer, Phil knew of a campground close by that he said he would gladly drop us off at so we wouldn’t have to park in the dealer’s lot overnight.  We got a site and our road angels got us all dropped off nice and snug in what was to be our home for the next few days as they fixed the truck.  Kudos to AAA, Santa Fe Towing and Phil and Bobby for helping us through a stressful situation.

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All the excitement of the day left me feeling a little bit fragmented.

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But, every cloud has a silver lining and some even have a brilliant orange lining.  We were blessed with power, water, sewer and cable tv while we waited for our truck to be repaired.  Things certainly could have been a lot worse.

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After two and a half down days we decided we would have to pass on St Louis and other stops along the way to Pittsburgh.  So, we simply drove and parked the next few days.  We passed through all kinds of weather along the way with Tex and Denali powering through it without a hiccup.

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Some campgrounds were more like glorified parking lots with amenities while others were beautiful and tranquil providing the ambience of my idea of camping.  We sought the latter out as often as possible.

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And through all our adventures and misadventures we finally made it to Pennsylvania.

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First on our agenda was to catch up with our niece, Niki, and her family.  Joey was just a toddler and Gia hadn’t been born the last time we were in Pittsburgh.  What little cuties they are!

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Like a little parakeet I am forever drawn to bright colors and sparkly things and the glass block windows at Big Jim’s in Frank’s boyhood neighborhood drew me like a moth to a flame.

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Lunch at the Oyster Bar in Market Square also includes a stop at PPG Center to get lost in all the glass and reflections.

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So, here we were in the “Burgh” on a Sunday when the Steelers are playing at home and Frank’s cousin Michael happened to have two extra tickets.  What did we do?  We went to the game, of course!!!  We got to see Franco Harris, my fav, taking selfies with fans.

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And we got to see the Steelers make touchdown after touchdown, making new records right in front of us, live, with all the energy of a stadium filled with loyal fans.

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In the spirit of the game, Frank pulled out his terrible towel and Steelers colors.

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What a perfect end to the first chapter of our road trippin’ adventure.  We have driven 3841 miles across 10 states in 44 days.  We have had some amazing adventures, and a few not so fun misadventures.  We have met some wonderful people, seen some beautiful sights and eaten a little too well.  In other words, we are living our dream along with all the highs and lows that go with it and loving it all the way.

For those who wish to follow along on our excellent adventure simply subscribe to this blog or check back regularly.  Now that we are getting into the swing of RV life, I’ll share our adventures, photo opportunities, life lessons and more.  But for now, we be “Road Trippin!”

*All images captured, processed and creatively enhanced on my iphone 6+