Saturday, September 27, 2014

Lower Bells Canyon - A Wonderful Day in the Wasatch

Lower Bells Canyon

Traveling across eastern Utah, the landscape looked like a lifeless planet. Lacking trees, fences and livestock, the giant red rocks resembled a graveyard of ghostly shipwrecks. Once over the pass and down into Price, we entered an oasis of wet mountains known as the Wasatch.

Rising sharply out of the desert plateau, the jagged, turquoise peaks form an impressive eastern boundary. At the city of Sandy, we traced the winding Wasatch Boulevard to a granite trailhead. Hung snuggly at the top of a narrow, natural staircase, we discovered the Lower Bells Canyon Reservoir.

The lovely, green lake was inhabited by a gaggle of friendly waterfowl. Delightful ducks, with little ones in tow, dipped, dabbled and dove while we hopped, skipped and jumped riskily along the rocky shoreline. Encircled by dark pine on a cloudy day, the shadowy, cold water appeared jet black.

Vertical crags formed an impressive backdrop while out west the Great Salt Lake was a hazy mirage. After some time for quiet reflection, basketball beckoned so we descended back to the beginning. Despite being whisked away from my beloved wilderness, it was still a wonderful day in the Wasatch.

A narrow, natural staircase

Lower Bells Canyon Reservoir

The lovely, green lake

Delightful ducks

With little ones in tow

A risky venture along the rocky shoreline

The vertical crags were impressive

Great Salt Lake was a hazy mirage

A wonderful day in the Wasatch

Saturday, September 20, 2014

United States Air Force Academy - Let's Go Zoomies

The Cadet Chapel

"We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does. ~ Cadet Honor Code

Below a spectacular summit named Eagle, we spent a stormy, summer weekend playing in a soccer tournament at the United States Air Force Academy. The athletic fields were immaculate and the opening day atmosphere was electric. We were focused on our ordinary lives and our children competing at that time.

Some may have failed to look across the way where soldiers were practicing sports like soccer, baseball and football. Make no mistake though, it wasn't all fun and games for those young men and women stationed in Colorado Springs studying the art of military warfare. We complained about parking, the heat and losing but did that really matter?

The politics associated with youth soccer are just insignificant nonsense compared to the lessons being taught over the wall. Up on The Terrazzo, cadets are struggling to survive one of the most rigorous academic and military training programs in the world. They are required to discard all personal effects and learn to live off of bare necessities.

It's a place where hard work, service and loyalty are truly rewarded. The students learn how to follow orders, survive in the wilderness and become respected leaders of men and women. Bound by discipline and tradition, doolies (freshmen) have significant restrictions placed on their movements and actions. The Fourth-class cadets hustle across campus constrained by a white marble grid decorating the square pavilion.

The spiritual centerpiece of the complex is considered to be a prominent example of modern, American architecture. The artistic, 17-spired Cadet Chapel is a solemn sanctuary where warriors go to pray before being shipped out to hostile conflicts across the globe. The building was designed in a distinct, modernist style, and makes extensive use of aluminum on the exterior, suggesting the outer skin of an aircraft or spacecraft.

I can only agonize over how awful it must be to fight in a war but these brave souls have willfully volunteered to defend our country and our freedom. There has been recent controversy about illicit behavior on the base but cordial interactions with polite cadets made our stay a positive experience. As for the athletic programs, I'm their new biggest fan. Let's go Zoomies.

Soccer below Eagle Peak

The Terrazzo

A rigorous military training program

A spiritual centerpiece

The artistic, 17-spired Cadet Chapel

The place warriors go to pray

Interior design of the chapel

Let's go Zoomies

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Nebraska Cornfield - A Circular Stroll

A Nebraska cornfield

I'm a child of the corn, a bug-eater and a husker. I was raised on a farm in Western Nebraska where a colossal cornfield was our backyard. They've been suffering from a terrible drought but this summer the sunflowers have gone crazy and the corn is as high as an elephant's eye.

Follow the dogs around the crop and you'll discover a field full of life. Avoid the stickers and watch for woodpeckers in the old tree stand. The hills are alive with a kaleidoscope of color. A profusion of colorful wildflowers decorate the normally brown pastures.

Atop the fell, an irrigation canal is running high where the views are sublime. It's a far-reaching panorama of farmland featuring Chimney Rock, clearly visible from fifteen miles away. Despite their decay, a pair of Chevy trucks seem surprisingly picturesque.

Backlit against a cloudy sky, Longhorn cattle bring a dramatic dimension to the circular stroll. Down by the creek, trample across a corner of winter wheat. Hot, tired and hungry, we make it back to the old homestead where the smell from the kitchen is unmistakable. Corn on the cob, it's what's for dinner.

I'm a child of the corn

The sunflowers have gone crazy

Watch for woodpeckers

Colorful wildflowers

An irrigation canal

Chimney Rock is clearly visible

Surprisingly picturesque

Longhorn cattle

The bull is a dramatic dimension

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Lake Isabelle - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Lake Isabelle" Colored Pencil

"If you could say it in words there would be no reason to paint." ~ Edward Hopper

This range is distinguished by an indescribable beauty. Neither photos nor sentences can capture the scale and grandeur of such a special place. An exquisite legacy from the last ice age, Lake Isabelle is as elegant as her name would suggest.

In the heart of the Indian Peaks Wilderness, it's calm before the storm. Bound by the purple sky, thunder rumbles in the background. Rising out of the summer's greenery, the ridge line appears violet while a cobblestone pathway is closed by cascades of sliding snow.

A wonderland in the winter, the warm weather has transformed the entire area into a watery world teeming with flowers and wildlife. The lake is rippled by drops of rain, serrating the surface into a surreal reflection while the moist atmosphere has washed the landscape clean.

Only the essential shapes and colors are allowed to stay. The turquoise water is ice cold and rushes out of the foreground into a soggy moraine. I know we must also leave but I swear I can hear the mountains calling, "Won't you stay, just a little bit longer?"