Tag Archive | nature

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge – Lion

This week’s ‘alphabet with a twist’ segment of Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge requires a word starting with L that has at least two syllables and, going through the photo files, I came across these images that I captured at Brookfield Zoo a while back.  This magnificent lion was in just the right spot to have his picture taken and I made the most of a rare opportunity to catch his different moods.

For more on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge go to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Letter L – Needs to have at least two syllables

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Cave in Rock

During our visit to Marion last month, we were feeling rather adventurous and decided to make a small side-trip to Cave in Rock State Park.  The cave, for which this park in southern Illinois is named, overlooks the Ohio River.

We had done a lot of walking along woodland trails during the previous couple of days and I must admit that I viewed the river and its rocky bluffs as a welcome change of scenery.

The bluffs towered above us as we made our way along the path towards the cave and I was once again reminded of how unpredictable nature can be, when I remembered the news that morning concerning a fatal rock fall in Yosemite National Park.  I felt extremely vulnerable walking under those great overhanging limestone rocks.

As far as caves go, this one, measuring 55ft across, is not that large, but it has an interesting history.   American Indians had already used the cave for thousands of years but the first European to discover it in 1729 was a Frenchman who mapped and named it “caverne dans Le Roc”.  During the late 1790’s the cave was a hideout for a gang of bandits, headed by Samuel Mason, that preyed on commercial boats using the river. Local lore even tells of Frank and Jesse James using the cave as a hiding place. Later, settlers founded the nearby town of Cave in Rock and it became the site of the ferry that crosses the Ohio River.

I’m not a huge fan of caves. My imagination works overtime in these places and I find them claustrophobic, rather like walking into an extremely large MRI machine. The last time I was in one was many years ago when I went with the Girl Scouts to Eagle Cave in Wisconsin. So it was with some trepidation that took the first few steps into this one and as our only source of light got smaller I felt more and more apprehensive.  What if there were bats!!  Eek!

 

But, I told myself, you can’t take pictures if you don’t get in there!  So on I went. There were no bats. In fact there wasn’t much of anything except a lot of graffiti scrawled across the rock.  It wasn’t easy to get a picture that didn’t include some childish desecration and, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there’s no way I will memorialize these idiotic scratchings by photographing them.

It was good to emerge into the sunlight again and I felt like I could breath a little easier, standing on the banks of the river.

I thought I’d check out the path in the opposite direction, which took me past another smaller cave that had been blocked by some huge tree trunks, whether by nature or the hand of man I wasn’t sure. No matter.  One cave per day was enough for me and this one didn’t look very safe so I was happy to finish the expedition and return to the car.

For those of you interested in visiting, Cave in Rock State Park has a restaurant and lodge as well as playground and picnic areas and plenty of hiking trails.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge – Scale

Sometimes when you take a photo it’s hard to get a feel for the actual scale of things.  It isn’t until you add something else to the picture that you get a better sense of just how large or how small that object really is.  Normally the vehicle seen in the lower half of the first image might seem quite large but, seen against the immensity of the mountains in Utah, it appears no bigger than an ant scurrying across the landscape.

The same could be said for the buffalo seen here on Antelope Island in Utah.

The cars in the lower decks of Marina City in Chicago look like nothing more than children’s toys.

You will have to look closely at the left of this picture to make out the parasailer, dwarfed by the mighty Mackinac Bridge in Michigan. He makes even the boat seem huge.

A close-up of these two window cleaners in downtown Chicago wouldn’t necessarily give you any idea of the height at which they were working which is why I pulled the camera back to give a better view of where they really were.

For more on The Weekly Photo Challenge go to Scale

A Good Day At Spring Valley

Because it was Columbus Day, school was out and the weather was gorgeous, Spring Valley Nature Center was packed!  The new recreation area was full of super-excited children, happy to have at least one more opportunity to play outside in shorts and sandals.  I was pleased to see, too, that parents were encouraging their families to not only enjoy the slides and climbing frames but to go exploring the rest of the nature center.  Great for them but not so good for someone who is hoping to do some wildlife photography.  Screaming youngsters and timid woodland creatures unfortunately don’t make for a good mix.  However, I had all day and waited patiently for the rare quiet moments when I was able to get a few shots.

Any day at Spring Valley is a good day.

A Hidden Gem in Marion

During our visit to Marion, Illinois, a couple of weeks ago we decided to take a chance and visit a place called Mandala Gardens.  I had read a brief review of the Gardens on TripAdvisor which sounded promising but the Mandala Gardens website itself mentioned something about calling ahead, and like many of the side-trips that we make, this one was rather spontaneous.  When we got to the privately owned Gardens early in the morning the gates were closed and I gazed longingly through the bars at what looked like an intriguing vista. I was just about to get back in the car when a lady came out of the adjoining house and walked down to greet us.  I explained that our visit was rather a last-minute idea and were sorry to turn up unannounced but she told us that it wasn’t a problem and ushered us in.

You immediately feel the peace and serenity that emanates from this tranquil setting.  Diana Tigerlily (pictured below) and her husband Greg Reid have lived at the property on North State Street for 20 years and during that time have put a lot of effort into making it the lovely place that it is today. Diana kindly allowed us to wander around and enjoy the Gardens and of course I made the most of this great photo opportunity.  For more on Diana and Greg’s story go to ABOUT

There are several interesting structures to explore at the Gardens one of which is The Infinity Arch created by Thea Alvin.

Another feature, also created by Thea Alvin, is Moongate which stands at the end of the pond. Here at the Gardens Diana holds Yoga practice sessions which are named Blue Heron Yoga and just as I was about to walk around the pond the blue heron, for which these sessions are named, flapped lazily away. Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough to get a shot with the camera but luckily the pond and Moongate were still there.

Looking through Moongate you catch a glimpse of the sandstone labyrinth, a quiet place to meditate, or take a walk through the trees just beyond and return to the garden via the bridge. Both the labyrinth and the bridge are the result of Greg and Diana’s hard work.

 

Back among the flowers, there are plenty of places to sit and enjoy the various pieces of artwork than can be found at Mandala Gardens, including Talisman, a metal sculpture by Carey Netherton and some delightful little stained-glass windows which are part of the potting shed.

If you are ever in the Marion area of Illinois, I can highly recommend a visit to Manadala Gardens.  Diana was most welcoming and made us feel right at home.

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge – Down on the Farm

The topic for Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge this week is anything farm related.  I have some happy childhood memories of staying at a farm during one summer holiday and, although I don’t think I’d fancy living a farm life, I still enjoy visiting them either locally or when we’re away on one of our trips.  These pictures were taken at Kline Creek Farm, run by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, in West Chicago. This living history farm is open year-round with free admission.

For more on Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge go to Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: All Things Farm Related

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge – Garden of the Gods

This week, Cee’s ‘alphabet with a twist’ is looking for g words, which is lucky for me since I recently spent some time at a place in southern Illinois called Garden of the Gods, part of Shawnee National Forest.

Most people who have driven through Illinois will tell you that much of the State is rather flat and uninteresting but southern Illinois is anything but that, as we discovered last week.

I was told that Garden of the Gods is one of the most scenic and visited areas in Shawnee National Forest and I could see why.  The views were spectacular!

320 million years ago, a shallow sea covered the land shown in the image below. Rivers deposited sand and mud along the shoreline which gradually hardened to stone.

The textures and colors in the layers of rock were stunning! The red-brown swirls and rings are called liesegang bands and are comprised of sandstone and iron.

The paved Observation Trail that winds through the Garden of the Gods takes you through and past some very interesting rock formations including one named Devil’s Smokestack.

 

I wouldn’t recommend bringing young children on this particular trail as there are some steep bluffs that drop 100ft down.  I was very cautious while finding a good spot from which to take pictures and I got quite nervous when I saw my husband, who is in charge of the video camera and is just recovering from knee replacement surgery, swiveling about rather close to the edge in order to get some panoramic views.  Good grief!!!

For more on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge go to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Letter G – Needs to have the letter G (log, goggle, geometry, lodge)