A Palmetto State Vacation (Day 3)

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens: On our last day of vacation after the previous day, we started off at what was my top pick of places I wanted to see (based on the brochures).

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As someone who is happiest slowly exploring all that nature’s flora and fauna have to offer, Magnolia Gardens was at the top of my list. We elected not to tour the actual house as we were trying to fit in both the gardens here as well as another plantation later in the day.

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The gardens were expansive, including swamps, waterways, gravel pathways lined by specimen trees and flower beds and a variety of other unique elements. I could have likely posted a gallery of 30-40 floral shots; there were flower beds and gardens galore.

When walking the many trails through the gardens, the trees were the epitome of Southern beauty. You can’t help but just look up and enjoy the visual feast.

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A memory that brings a chuckle is the several alligators we encountered while walking. There are swamps here: Where there are swamps, there are gators.

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They kept to themselves mainly, only venturing near if an edible target was close by in the way of frogs, turtles or such tasty morsels. Most of them were small.

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I can just imagine if I lived here I’d be seated on the banks of the small lakes and water features every day just taking it all in (being mindful of the alligators of course).

Being the epic Southern plantation gardens it is, beauty and flowers abounded (magnolias included).

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Everywhere we walked, there was a small scene happening in every corner or outcropping.

 

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The sense of tranquility here translated to the tourists. Despite having a large number of visitors strolling about, it was still very quiet.

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Who doesn’t want a red bridge flanked on both sides by planers of overflowing flowers in their own back yard?

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Walking pathways went on and on in a chain of discovered serendipities!

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Ok, really, I could just build a little cottage for us right here on the water.

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It also just so happens that Magnolia Gardens has a petting zoo of a myriad of local animals, including several peacocks!

 

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The stillness was a welcome respite.

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My favorite part of the entire day at Magnolia Gardens was the Audubon Swamp Garden (of all things, a swamp!?).

We tackled this last and I had small hopes. It was the high point in the afternoon. It was hot. I was tired. I had sweat through my shirt and hat. And we still had another place to go after Magnolia this day. And it said “Swamp” on the sign.

But truthfully, though, this was the best part.

 

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The turtles were equally entertaining as they were brave, given that they sunned themselves with the constant threat of nearby alligators.

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This one kept floating lazily in circles around the bases of trees in the water, waiting for any fledgling birds to topple out (none did while we were there, thank goodness).

The birds though! One section of the swamp was just teeming with rooks, herons and a myriad of other local birds. The constant calls of mates to one another and chatter of juveniles hungry for the next arriving parent to the nest were a continual musical of swamp banter. Trees jutting out of the water contained no less than 5-6 large nests each. It was a wonder to watch.

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Most of the trails through the swamp were heavily shaded and simple to follow. We found a perfectly-placed bench right by the water and settled in to watch and listen.

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The swamp garden was a bird watcher’s delight!

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And speaking of all things related to birds, who knew Audubon himself frequented the plantation so often?

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As we exited the property to the parking lot, we passed by this petite little house surrounded by a small but thriving garden center. On pausing to read the sign by the path, reading this endearing story was our last piece of the plantation. Somehow the story of Grandma Tena was just right, even to a stranger.

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It’s nice to think that everyone who passes by sees her picture and can read this story.

Boone Plantation: We ended up our day, and our vacation, at Boone Plantation on the last of our tour days before we flew out the next morning. On arriving onto the property, imagine having this for your driveway! It took over 200 yrs for the oak trees to manage to arch over to one another.

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We had just finished a full day at Magnolia Plantation and were pretty worn out and had reached our maximum sun exposure for the most part. We elected to tour what I was mostly interested in: The gardens of course!

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When the husband asked what I wanted to see here, I asked just to see the gardens and grounds. We had been running full tilt at this point for three days and were also nearing the max point of comfort for how much we had been in the sun this day.

Our first point of exploration was a butterfly garden held within a small, netted structure. It contained a plethora of tropical plants and local flowers complete with fountains (but the fountains were unfortunately being maintained and had been drained while we were there).

The gardens, while much smaller vs. Magnolia Plantation, were worth the drive over.

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My lens might have been overused a bit, snapping pictures of nearly everything in bloom. It’s a bad habit I have when around growing things. But how beautiful the colors are!

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We rounded up the day by taking a tractor-pulled wagon narrated by tour guides of the entire plantation. The wagon was covered by a tarp, and was very much the shade we needed at this point. Unfortunately, the ride was a bit bumpy so I elected to simply sit back and listen to the history. But I did walk over and snap a picture of these older tractors on display near the area where we waited for our tour.

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The plantation still serves as an events center and houses polo horses.

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It was a FULL three days with a day before to fly in and a day after to fly out. But it just goes to show how much you can fit in when on vacation. And even better, I got to see all these places with my favorite guy. ‘Til next time, South Carolina!

 

A Palmetto State Vacation (Day 2)

2019-05-18 Moultrie 1 Fort Moultrie: Carrying on after our first day of vacationing in the Charleston, South Carolina area took us to start day two at Fort Moultrie. I was really impressed at the museum that is situated across the street from the fort itself.

Firstly, it was a cool, dark oasis from the toasty trek that awaited us across the street at Moultrie. The staff were wonderful and welcoming to all who ducked into the building. The displays and information available strolling through the museum were really well done and engaging to all.

2019-05-18 Moultrie 12Most of what I saw while touring the museum gave a sense of wonder at how anyone stationed here back in the day functioned in the heat. You get an impression that it was sandy, hot and spartan. When you begin to contemplate having to manage huge cannon and ammunition in those conditions, it boggles the mind.

While in this place of imagination, I came upon this poster encouraging women to enlist in the Women’s Army Corps. While it seemed out of place being one of the few colorful pieces in contrast to everything else, it gave a nod to women playing a role in the non-combat roles available then.

Venturing outside to the actual fort, armed to the hilt with my wide-brimmed straw hat and 70 (yes, 70) SPF sunscreen, our first surprise awaited us. Evidently, Native Americans taken prisoner in the area then were relocated and imprisoned at Fort Moultrie. This included Osceola and on his passing, he was buried here.

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We likely could have spent much more time here, but as it was respectably hot and the sun was beating down, we made tracks from one site to another. This made investigating the many hallways and ammunition storage rooms a respite.

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Walking around the perimeter of the Fort is actually a nice stroll. It’s a comfortable distance and there is access to the shore you can head over to and the breezes coming in off the water were definitely appreciated.

There are interior structures and I was quite surprised with how cool the lowest level hallways and storage rooms were.

I found a small flower growing alone out of the exterior brick wall – an interesting little find among the cannon lined up and pointing out to sea.

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Can you even imagine having to put hands on and manipulate cannon as huge as these in the heat of the day here? No doubt they had a heck of a kick when fired.

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The views looking out into Charleston Harbor were really beautiful. I could almost imagine how many young soldiers stood in this very spot admiring the sea over the years as well. (Fort Sumter isn’t in the shot, but is just to the right of this view).

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Following my other half through the hallways and doorways.

2019-05-18 Hunley 1 The Hunley Project – A perfect indoor activity for the hot weekend was a tour to see the restoration of the Hunley submarine.

On entering the large facility that houses the restoration work and guided tours, we found a plethora of intriguing stories of the Hunley itself and the crews assigned to it. The staff who work and volunteer there were obviously passionate about this history and made our experience all the more engaging.

We could have easily spent hours here; its money well spent to visit and help support the ongoing work.

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Our tour guide mentioned that when it was first located, the Hunley carried over 10+ tons of extra weight due to concretion that had occurred to its frame over time while it laid on the ocean floor. It was relocated to a special tank that was filled with a special solution for years (and is still happening) to pull the salt out of it little bit by bit.

It’s amazing to consider that this huge tank (over 70,000 gallons) is filled and drained regularly to help release the salt out of the hull…for years. When the tank is empty, works are able to continue restoration.

 

 

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Some of the models were really impressive, showing what the Hunley would have looked like fully whole. Since everything on the submarine was hand-powered or manually operated, the explosive weapon was mounted on a lance on the front of hull that the crew could aim roughly and ram into a target.

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Seeing a visual representation of just how tight the quarters were for the crew to work in was fascinating. Seven men crammed themselves into a hull so small that even sitting upright was impossible. They sat in a row as shown in the model above and operated a hand crank that powered the submarine.

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A collage of photos depicting some of the restoration work before and afters.

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This map showed the mystery of the Hunley in as far as it’s intended mission to attack the USS Housatonic. It sank the Housatonic and then no one knows what happened to it. There are several hypothetical scenarios, but no clear evidence why it sank and why it ended up much farther out towards sea than where it was thought to have gone down.

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One of the final stories we learned on exiting the tour was Lt. George Dixon’s gold coin. The odds of a story like this one are amazing.

The Hunley project facility was one of the best things we did. The mystery of what really happened to this ill-fated submarine will likely never be solved.

Patriot’s Point

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What would be a visit to Charleston, without stopping by the USS Yorktown? We elected to come back here after taking off from the same point to ferry over to Ft. Sumter the day before. Having put in a solid day of touring around already, our visit here was admittedly short in comparison, but we already had an idea of what we wanted to see and where it was.

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This was my husband’s field of expertise. Being a bit tuckered at this point in the day and the heat, I might have unabashedly found an oasis in the shade standing under the wing of one of the aircraft.

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The story of Scrappy the dog was the most endearing short story to happen upon while walking among the aircraft, displays and photographs. It’s possible this may have been yours truly’s favorite part of the visit here 😉

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Next up, our final day 3 of our trip…

A Palmetto State Vacation (Day 1)

It has been far, far too long since we went on a vacation. Thus, a few weeks ago, we decided to simply book tickets and head to a mutually-agreed upon locale that would offer military history interest for the Mr. and flowers and nature for the Mrs.  Charleston, South Carolina it was!

We stayed in nearby Mount Pleasant which was only a short drive from historic downtown (and frankly, much easier to navigate when driving).

Fort Sumter

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Ft. Sumter from our incoming Ferry

Our visit to Fort Sumter was surprisingly interesting. I say surprisingly as I went along with my husband thinking I had the general knowledge of what occurred here and it’s place in history. As is the case with many historical sites one visits, there was much more to be learned.

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The first impression I had was how bare the fort was. After so many years of destruction and reconstruction, there are only brick walls and a small number of cannon. On one level it’s very much what you expect.

This Rodman cannon is massive. You could easily place a basketball into the firing end. The size of the entire body is mind boggling that it could even be manipulated, turned or maneuvered. I can’t fathom what it was like to fire.

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These brick passages offer some of the only shade against the relentless sun and heat.

The views of the expansive Charleston Harbor and open ocean contrast with just how dug in the soldiers must have felt, making their final stand in such a small piece of land.

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This illustration caught my eye depicting what the harbor might have looked like on the outside as well as the interesting viewpoint of how the siege may have been watched from Charleston.

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Historic Downtown & Rainbow Row

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We decided to try to fit in some walking around historic downtown Charleston in an afternoon. This was a weather-based and traffic-based decision as it was evident this day was the coolest day of our vacation and competition for parking would only get worse into the weekend.

For me, the real beauty of the historic homes were the doors, gates, gardens and details. The homes were gorgeous and obviously well-cared for, given their age.  But the details made the house. Diligent attention had been paid to each shrub, gate, light and entry way. Just beautiful.

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Naturally one can’t go to downtown Charleston and not see Rainbow Row. The trees, being Spring and all, hid parts of these lovely ladies. But their colors were true to every photo I’ve ever seen of them.

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The streets were quite narrow, and there was no room to stand back further to get a wider view. (Note to self: Buy a wider lens!). But it was really a pleasant scene with carriages coming and going, the sound of an ice cream truck tinkering along and these serene rainbow homes.

White Point Garden

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It was at this point in the day that this fair blogger had been in the full-on sun of Ft. Sumter half off the day, and had been walking in the hot rays in downtown after parking in a public deck. Shade was required. White Point Garden was the last on the day’s list as it was just a few blocks south of Rainbow Row. And the park was just perfect with the strong sea breeze coming off the harbor.

While we strolled around, we found historic statues and old cannon positioned outward toward the water. It was really such a perfect spot to end the day. Birds roosted overhead and chattered happily and it gave us the welcome shady respite needed to make the return trek back to the car.

Up next: Day 2…

A Fast Week Down Under

This week has me in Australia of all places, for work-related meetings. My typical work travel generally takes me to cities in the continental US, when needed. But this is a rarity to go to such a distance for my job.

A week may not sound like a quick trip at all, but it really is when it’s this far away. Coming out here I drove south into Colorado, and departed from Denver International which brought me to Los Angeles, California (LAX). Then it was on for the long leg of the trip overnight to Sydney, Australia. The week definitely felt like it was shortened from the start when I departed on a Sunday evening and arrived, nearly 20 hours later, on a Tuesday morning (time zone shift).

Nearly every moment of the week would be taken with either meetings, dinners with colleagues or jet lag, so it definitely would not be the most conducive trip to outings. This made me want to use the opportunities I did have to see what I could.

2019-02-19 Sydney 01On landing, I had expected to be so tired and out of sorts I’d want nothing else to do other than sleep. However on arriving in Sydney, after working my way through customs, I felt nothing of the sort. Energized, I taxied to the hotel I was staying at and showered for my first excursion. On walking out into the street with iPhone walking map in hand, I began to find my way towards my only “must see” of the trip: The Royal Botanic Gardens. Interestingly, these oddly billed birds were everywhere. Much like you’d see pigeons in US cities, I later found these to be the Ibis. Local teammates later filled me in that the ibis is a wading bird, but much like most wildlife, was lured to the bigger cities due to trash and the result of humans enticing it inland.

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Hyde Park is really a beautiful green space where I was staying with my team. It is filled with buildings, monuments, fountains and the most gorgeous and impressive trees I’ve seen yet in my travels.

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Being at the lunch hour, the park was filled with those taking in the day as well as those taking lunch from work. This was a pretty intense game of chess in the park that had a small gathering intensely following each move.

2019-02-19 Royal Botanic Gardens 01Now keep in mind, I’ve just left Wyoming where it was snowing and cold and dry. At this point in my first day in Australia, I’m walking in the heat of summer in a more humid region. It quickly came to my attention I was struggling. And it wasn’t any one particular thing, but a combination of registering the fatigue from an entire 24 hour period of driving/air travel, feeling like the air was dripping off of me and noticing everyone else in the park was huddled under any shade available. Thus, my tour of the gardens became more direct and guided by shade trees.2019-02-19 Royal Botanic Gardens 02

I do not know the history of this monument to the Australian Desert Corps, but I’m interested now to find out.

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The fountain looked and sounded so refreshing on this hot day, I could have easily been tempted to walk right in (though I’m pretty sure I would have been asked to leave).

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I took this photo of this monument not for the monument, but as an example of the many park-goers who took refuge under any shade they could find.

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The park gates were noticeably ornate and very stately. The full gates were actually wider than I’ve captured here in the photo, but there were large advertisements for garden activities on either side so I elected to snap only the middle section.

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As I mentioned earlier, the trees were just amazing. Larger, very healthy, and sprawling. Each variety was distinct and offered welcome respite on the many winding pathways throughout the gardens.

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Due to the heat, this was one of the few bunches of blooming flowers I could find. The park was still massively expansive and full of lush greenery, but it seemed to be a bit past the blooming season we might expect in the US spring time.

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The ornate rose garden reminded me of the type of presentation a historic English manor garden might have (which of course I’m sure is reflective of the English/Australian historical relationship).

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The rose garden design was really quite lovely, even if it was in the heat of the summer-to-fall transition.

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Trees like this one have surely made for fantastic hiding places for birds and small children over the years. What stories these trees must know.

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I did find an interesting treat in the conservatory building where a carnivorous plants show was available indoors. Granted indoors was still in a tropic green house, temperatures and all, but it was a bit more comfortable.

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Hanging bromiliad arrangements were something I was surprised to see among the jack in the pulpits and venus fly traps. (But they do indeed belong).

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The “creepy” fog effects were a fun touch with added plant glass sculptures.

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With so much greenery and standout arrangements, it’s easy to not look down and admire the tiniest of the botanic carnivores, yet there they were.

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Someone obviously spent significant time planning, growing and building the living wall as the backdrop for it all.

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More jack in the pulpits.

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And this hanging display I have no idea what it was – you can see some growths that resemble pitcher plants but I’d need to do some research to figure out what they are.

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You simply can’t have a creepy botanic carnivore display without fright night movie posters setting the theme in the hallways, naturally.

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Just on the outside of the building here, was a giant-sized display of cloth and metal structures of pitcher plants and fly traps that definitely did the job in attracting attention of passing tourists.

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After I made the return walk back to the hotel of roughly a mile, jet lag began to set in. Honestly I thought I’d arrived unscathed and had evaded the price we pay for jumping time zones, but I was not to win that battle.

I elected to take a “short nap” before meeting colleagues for dinner that night. The short nap became a 6 hour rest that I realized included 2 hours of sleeping with my alarm going off. This was NOT a pleasant wake-up either. This was a near head-ache, foggy-brained, what-happened-to-me-sleep. Needless to say, after earnest regrets, I declined the informal dinner and after ordering a quick meal via room service, fell into another long sleep.

Sleeping in was not to be had, though. This began my habit this week of waking at unholy early hours (the following morning, my day started at 2 a.m.) as my body worked to adjust to having lost an entire day in time zones.

With business meetings, come business dinners. Our team enjoyed a delicious meal of superb seafood at Nick’s Seafood in Sydney off Darling Harbour. It was open air seating and eating and afforded us a beautiful view to enjoy while we ate.

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After this lovely night on the harbor, work resumed and the next two days were non-stop. I kept waking up at 2-4 a.m. every day and there was nothing for it other than to do some work online until breakfast and then start the day. Evenings usually extended through 9-10 p.m. until I returned to my room to take a quick shower and fall into bed.

However on the last day (Friday), after the last of the meetings concluded, those of us who remained one more night due to Saturday flight departures elected to make a last-minute run to Manly Beach via one of the area ferry boats.

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We passed the famous Sydney Opera House which was still striking despite the foul weather that evening. It sprinkled on us off and on nearly all evening but nothing so much that we couldn’t keep on with our little self-guided food tour.

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The views from the Ferry were just beautiful. It almost reminded me of a modern, Mediterranean town somewhere remote. What isn’t captured in these photos is the impromptu storm we rode out on the ferry. Swells rose to such a height the captain brought everyone inside the boat to ride it out as best we could. A few faces did look a little green.

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Once the storm clouds began to clear the sail boats came out to race and enjoy the evening light.

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Evening seemed to last quite a while and it seemed everyone who had a boat was out in it. It made for quite the show for the ferries.

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The sun started to go down though, as it always will, and we made it to Manly Wharf and then the beach walk just in time for a few final pictures before the night fell.

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The evening was really quite comfortable and the air surprisingly didn’t seem to smell that salty. However it was a harbor after all so I’m guessing the actual ocean-facing beach probably had a bit more salt in the air.

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We noticed this restaurant on the main walking street that strongly resembled Burger King from the US, quite a bit. We even walked up to it and took a peek into the restaurant and even the menu and interior was nearly identical. Possibly the Australian branch of Burger King?

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On our way back from an amazing restaurant we ate at, the Manly Grill, the shops and eateries were lit up for late night business and kept our path illuminated.

Our group just barely made it back to the ferry wharf where the boat was waiting and we enjoyed a peaceful and swift trip back to Sydney where we all collapsed back in our rooms, packed our bags, and took off the next morning for the long flight back to the US.

Rocky Mountain Getaway – Day 3

2017-06-17 Independence Pass 01Departing the hotel in Snowmass, we took an indirect path back so that we could hit a few sights along the way. One of these was to drive Independence Pass, which ultimately tops out at over 12,000ft. Fair warning – the speed limit nearly the entire way is between 25-35mph for good reason. This drive is not for the faint of heart.

2017-06-17 Independence Pass 02The views are breathtaking. This is truly God’s Country here; totally protected and preserved and just amazing. The contrasting peaks, summer snow, warm sunshine and shallow creeks and rivers seemed right out of a magazine. The roads are very narrow and you will be turning your wheel to take hairpin after hairpin but with a little backbone, it’s absolutely worth it. Pull over as many times as you like to take photos and thank the universe someone had the good sense years ago to set this land aside to be what it is today.

2017-06-17 Twin Lakes 01 Once we exited Independence Pass, we briefly stopped by a place called Twin Lakes as we started back east. Due to time constraints and needing to get home, we couldn’t explore here but it was a great view here from the side of the road at least.

2017-06-17 Dillon Reservoir 01While this is another similar lake view, this is actually Dillon Reservoir by Frisco also in Colorado. Another location I’d noticed on the map but had never seen in person before. It was just a few miles off the main highway to get to this spot. This wasn’t the spot I wanted to shoot from though. An impromptu wedding had taken over the overlook where we hiked to. It was an elderly couple tying the knot with maybe 10 family members present and was just about the sweetest moment I’ve seen and worth pausing a respectable distance away to witness their vows and silently wish them well before I left.

Somehow that moment seemed the perfect way to end our trip as we motored on back towards Denver then Fort Collins.

Rocky Mountain Getaway – Day 2

2017-06-16 Maroon Bells 01Early morning (4 a.m. wake-up call) had wheels on the road by 4:30 a.m. driving towards the Maroon Bells 45 minutes away from where we were staying in Snowmass Village. This was the very first look of the Bells entering into the gatehouse area to the park (there is a fee to drive in and park). This is just after 5 a.m., stopped in the middle of the road with my headlights on without a soul around.

2017-06-16 Maroon Bells 02The shot of the morning sun bathing the Bells and the lakeside valley below is “the” essential picture to get. And one can usually find a good handful of serious photographer always setting up and getting this shot any given morning.

2017-06-16 Maroon Bells 03Being the animal lover that I am, I was fascinated by the photo of geese floating about in the reflection of the peaks as we waited for the sun. Needless to say, the geese have it good in this particular lake.

2017-06-16 Maroon Bells 04Seeing the moon still hanging over one side of the lake, high above, was an interesting contrast with the sun rising quickly behind me.

2017-06-16 Maroon Bells 05I’m still learning the finer art of light control and struggled a bit to keep focus on the peaks but still avoid washing out the Bells themselves with the bright sun and snow reflection. This shot ironically was the best one of the bunch for this vantage point and it was taken with my iPhone.

2017-06-16 Maroon Bells 06I was enthralled by the lake itself. It was perfectly clear and the reflection of the trees on the mountains beside it was serene. My next trip back here (hopefully in the fall or winter) would definitely include more focus on these views.

2017-06-16 Maroon Bells 07On leaving the park, I turned around to take one last look, and even though it’s not the usual composition, it’s my favorite shot of the Bells.

2017-06-16 Glenwood Springs 02After a hearty breakfast in Aspen and a nearly 3 hour rest while the hottest part of the day passed, the next stop was back to Glenwood Springs.

A quick trip to Linwood Cemetery include a chance to see the final resting places of Doc Holliday and Kid Curry.

2017-06-16 Kings Row Cavern 01The end of the evening held a 45 minute trip through the Kings Row Caverns at the Glenwood Adventure Park. A 10 minute gondola ride took us up to the park which sites on the top of  a hill.

2017-06-16 Kings Row Cavern 02The caverns (there were 2 tours that can be chosen from or taken one after another) were really interesting. Just long enough to make it worth your tickets but not so long that you get anxious for being underground.

2017-06-16 Kings Row Cavern 03The varying shades of rock and sediment were endless. I was torn between simply listening to the tour guide and looking with my own eyes and remembering to take pictures. Truly fascinating and was so much more than just these three photos convey.

2017-06-16 Glenwood Springs Hwy 82 01It was a very, very long day with other stops and driving between locations, but worth it. I snagged this shot when we pulled to the side of the road to photograph a particular mountain in the other direction, but I found the valley so peaceful and with so much detail, I couldn’t help but focus in that direction.