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Writing in Rock

Jim Byous

 

Petroglyph looking north

This basalt boulder hangs above Willow Creek and is marked with dozens of pertoglyphs near Susanville, California on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Petroglyphs of Susanville, California

The volcanic boulders are rough and scratch my hands as I climb the jumbled tangle of basalt talus to the top of the bluff.  Dave Marson, a life-long friend, steps up the slope mountain-goat style bounding ahead of me.  He is familiar with this destination where petroglyphs that marked the sight for thousands of years.  Hanging above Willow Creek, the Belfast Petroglyphs are in a protected area that is sacred to the descendants of the Maidu, Paiute, Pit River and Washoe Tribes who live on the Susanville Indian Rancheria.  They still use the site to fish, hunt, and to gather food and medicine.

Algae and Lichen

Brightly colored algae and lichen patches streak down the sides of the upper rock crags.

As we climb higher we see stone-pecked symbols; star maps, circles, snakes, and other undecipherable patterns pecked and scratched into the the boulders.  Did I say, “Snakes?”  This writing in rock was here long before Captain Charles Merrill, a former sea captain, came to develop the land in 1864.

Petroglyphs, star maps, moon and owl.

On this boulder star maps can be seen along with a crescent moon and an owl-shaped glyph.

His dreams of creating a thriving city was futile and premature.  The land still lies empty showing few remnants of the settlement’s roads and streets designed to hold 21,000 people.  The name Belfast was to commemorate Merrill’s home of Belfast, Maine.  Here he planted three thousand poplar trees to dot the flat, desert plane.

Grinding Rock

A grinding depression on top of a basalt slab.

On top of the bluff the talus rubble turns into a boulder-strewn flat where generations of original inhabitants camped.  Dave points out the grinding holes that dot the stones.  Some are many inches deep confirming their use over the years.  An anthropology major in college, he decided to forego the profession for a home and a life in the mountains.  His knowledge of the Native American tribes and sites in the area will rival most professors in the university system.

I stop to look around.  From here the view is excellent.   With the creek and canyon on two sides it is a perfect spot for watching the valley.   It would be hard for an enemy to sneak up and surprise the occupants.  Below along Willow Creek game trails follow the course of the waterway making the towering rocks a perfect hideout for hunting game.

It is springtime and beautiful.  Later in the year the area will turn brown like other California and Nevada desert planes.  But today color is abundant, green grass, purple Collinisa, blue Lupine and golden California Poppies.

The sun is dropping, white clouds dot the cyan sky.  The breeze is cool and refreshing.  But, it’s time to go.  This historic spot is a pleasant place.  A peaceful place.  We pick our way back down toward the car through the rocks.  I notice the snake glyphs as we pass.  Maybe we should be a little less peaceful and a little more vigilant… but still, pleasantly vigilant.  – JB

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A snake glyph stained red by algae.

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Snake glyphs.

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Star maps above a snake glyph.

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And still another red snake glyph.

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As we left, the sun began to set behind the Sierra Nevada to the east.

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Collinsia and other wild flowers grow among the boulders.

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A weathered spiral glyph above Willow Creek.

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The Four Directions symbol is universal among Native American symbolism.

How to get to Belfast, CA Petroglyphs

pet loc

Other places to visit in the Susanville area:

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Historical Museum

Eagle Lake Recreational Area

Susanville Ranch Park

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Tuesday, then occasional photos/photo tips on Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

© J.D. Byous 2018, All rights reserved.

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Filed under History, nature, petroglyphs, photography, Science, travel, Travel Photography, Uncategorized

Relax and wait for the photo to cook – Tybee Island

It was a great morning, predawn with a chance to relax and wait for the photo to cook.  At least that’s what it feels like – baking an image.  Use the recipe .  Wait for the clock.  I had been planning this shot for weeks.  Tybee Island, Georgia’s North Beach is the perfect place; tranquil, cool, quiet, and a great jetty for creating wispy, foggy waves in long-exposure images.  Over the exposure the waves “stack” and create the illusion of fog, ice, or in some cases, glass.  The sea looks as if a fog machine has pumped its haze across the surface leaving stationary items like rocks, poles, sharp.  Everything is peaceful as I push the shutter button.  Small waves split as they reached the rocks. The occasional large swell crashes into the granite quay sending salt-water sheets into the air… but only a few inches or feet.  The calming scent of salt and sea water drifts by.

Pelican and Shrimp Boat at Sunrise

The Beckster’s Pelican and Shrimp Boat at Sunrise photo. I’m jealous, still.

The ocean is relatively calm on this edge of the Atlantic. Seabirds fly over.  Some land and peck the sand searching for a sea-washed breakfast morsel.  Others fly on toward Hilton Head Island across the sound.  A pelican roosts on a marker pole several-dozen yards out in the water.  At low tide the wooden perch stands high and dry.  At all times of the tide it welcomes winged visitors, usually pelicans and maybe this same bird.  It’s worth a photograph, but The Beckster beat me to the best one several years earlier.  She, Kate and Tare, our granddaughters, play in the sand a few yards away.  She gets shots when I’m not looking.  She did back then too.

While shooting a small wedding at sunrise I noticed she was missing.  She had spotted the photo unrelated to the bride and groom, ditched us and went for it.  I’ve been jealous ever since that time.  The sun had lifted from the edge of a cloud bank just above the water and was directly behind the bird.  In the distance a shrimp boat headed to deeper water, in just the right compositional place.  It’s a great shot and I give her the best compliment that any photographer can give another, “I wish I had taken that one.”  Leaving the wedding, however?  She can get away with it.  She’s The Beckster.

 

Jetty and Pelican Before Sunrise

The test shot of the jetty and pelican before sunrise. 60 second exposure at f11. I like it so I kept it.

This morning the old bird sits in the same spot, in the same position.  But that’s not why I’m here.  I’m here for long exposures and I haven’t made one in years… thirty-five years.  Back then I had a Toyo 4×5″ view camera that I carried to the bottom of a canyon to capture the North Fork of the Tuolumne River near Twain Harte, California.

Jim taking photos by Bec

A photo of me by The Beckster as I shoot the pre-dawn test images. She’s sneaky, but then, she’s The Beckster.

Long black and white exposures were not a problem in the shadow of the surrounding mountains.  The extended shutter opening captured the flowing stream as if it were ribbons of glass.  One second, two, three, four, I counted off the time.  Around four shots and I’m finished.  Sheet film isn’t cheap.  It wasn’t then either.  Afterward I developed and printed my favorite image and painstakingly oil tinted two.  One went to my Uncle Roy in Savannah.  It was a Christmas present.  The other I kept.  Over the years mine was destroyed while in storage.  Then later, sadly, my friend and uncle died.  The photo stayed with aunt Dot, his wife, until her death.  Now I have it back.  I cherish the copy and the memories that it represents.

Tuolumne River, 1982

This is the image I made in 1982. It took a bit more effort and I love it. But, boy, do I love digital!

Those cameras take more thought and preparation.  But today I still go down the checklist.  Tripod?  Check.  Filters?  Check.  Correct lenses?  Check.  Oh, yeah.  Camera?  Check.  Now, find the exposure and wait for the sun.  I have the filters that cut light, ND16 and ND8 stacked in front of the lens.  Boy, I love digital.  Good black and white images can’t be beaten.  But I do love the ease of computer aided photography.

Jetty And Pelican with Sun

The jetty and pelican as the sun breaks above the horizon, the color version.

I compose the image.  What’s the exposure?  It’s time.  The sun should be coming up, but I need a test.  I take one shot.  It’s overexposed so I stop the lens down to a smaller aperture to cut down the light.  Snap again.  One-minute exposure at f11.  Got it.

The first one is perfect.  All of the images made are perfect.  Did I say I love digital?

Not bad for thirty-five years in  long-exposure hibernation.

Now the dilemma.  Which one… and…  color or black and white?

Leave a note below or email me and tell me your think.

– Jim

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Tuesday, then occasional photos/photo tips on Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

© J.D. Byous 2018, All rights reserved.

 

 

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Filed under nature, photography, travel, Travel Photography, Uncategorized

Two Curmudgeon Boomers at Babyland General – Impressive

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Babyland General

The Cabbage Patch Kids, Babyland General Hospital looks like a plantation house out of Gone with the Wind.

Two Curmudgeons Boomers at Babyland General – Impressive

Jim Byous

 

“Have you ever been to Babyland?” Roger asks as we drive along highway 11 near Cleveland, Georgia.  The question seems a bit odd coming from a seventy-something, white-haired, former special forces, Green-Beret warrior.  He is a relative and a friend.  A man’s-man.  He and John Wayne would get along fine.  He is the kind of guy that Evil Knievel would hang out with…  and did.

Roger and the "Kids."

Roger and the “Kids.”

“No,” I reply, a puzzled look on my face.  My mind quizzes myself, “Do I look like the kind of guy that would find appeal in a doll factory?”  I leave the question to my mental ethersphere.  I don’t want to hear the answer.   I remember that my two daughters had Cabbage Patch dolls when they were small.  Now that they are grown with kids of their own, they still have them tucked away in a drawer or on a closet shelf.

A Kid in a cabbage.

A Kid in a cabbage.

“You want to go?  It’s right up ahead.”  He says.

“Do you want to go?” I come back.

“Why not?”  he says.

“Why not?’ I say.

Roger turns the huge, white, Chevy Silverado onto Hulsey Road.  A brief time later the sign directs us to N.O.K. Drive where we drop over a hill and there it is, the faux-kinder-delivery site.

Racks of accessories for Cabbage Patch Kids.

Racks of accessories for Cabbage Patch Kids.

A large signs hawks, “Cabbage Patch Kids Babyland General Hospital, Cleveland GA.”  Around it are acres of green, manicured lawn boardered by forest growth.

It looks like the plantation house of Tara from Gone with the Wind.  It literally shines on the hillside.  I don’t see Scarlet and I don’t see the Tarleton boys, but this is impressive.

An entryway case displays vintage Cabbage Patch dolls while display cases reflect in the glass.

An entryway case displays vintage Cabbage Patch dolls while display cases reflect in the glass.

My curiosity peaks.  This may be worth the visit… even for an old guy.  Out front of the columned porch and colonnade a gaggle of Canadian Geese feed on the front lawn.  “Why do they call it a ‘gaggle’?” I ask myself.  “Do they gag?”  Why not just a ‘flock’… I digress…  The geese scurry uphill as we stop for photos.  Roger continues then turns in to the drive.  The geese migrate back down after we pass.

Canadian Geese on the lawn of Babyland General.

Canadian Geese on the lawn of Babyland General.

In front of the building are large, white, plaster casts of garden vegetables with baby head insets.  They stare blankly into the sky with their machine-washer-like eyes.  It’s cute, but eerie at the same time. The sky is dark, it is starting to sprinkle.  The smell of moist, freshly-cut grass and asphalt greets us when we open the pickup doors and fast-walk to the cover of the building’s long, wrap-around porch.  A few people sit on the park-bench-style seats and countryesque rocking chairs along the walls.

A plaster cabbage and kid in front of Babyland.

A plaster cabbage and kid in front of Babyland.

Inside the door dozens of eight by ten photographs cover the walls telling of celebrities who have visited the facility; Burt Reynolds, George Lucas, Tom Selleck, Michael Jackson, Luciano Pavarotti… Wait… Luciano Pavarotti?  How cool is that?… (However, Michael Jackson oddly fits into the theme of this venue.)  Just beyond the gallery is a large, building-wide reception area with couches and chairs.

Celebs at Babyland
Celebrity portraits line the entryway.

Glassed shelves display vintage and special Cabbage Patch Kids from the past.  American flags accent the floral arrangements on pedestals along the wall leading down to photo-opportunity spots on the end wall.  I need to get a picture.  This place is looking interesting.

Nurse Debbie is attending to a new Kid while a mom and dad follow their daughter from bassinet to crib, searching for a potential addition to the family.  It’s not busy.  Today is Monday and a holiday.  I estimate there are around fifty people here.

Kids waiting for kids to decide which will go home with them.
Kids waiting for kids to decide which will go home with them.

Another person dressed in scrubs tells me that on the previous two days, there was standing room only.  She tells me that the place was a mass of newly adopted mothers and grandparents. Today, however, it appears most folks are driving home, just as on most holiday weekends.

Several rooms packed with dolls await a new owner… or… parent… that is.  Boy dolls, girl dolls, black-skinned dolls, light-skinned dolls, and those with tones between.

Through a nursery window, a nurse attends a newly cultivated cabbage kid.

Through a nursery window, a Nurse Debbie attends a newly cultivated cabbage kid.

They sit in boxes, cabinets, cases and cribs.  Accessories for the new foster-child-parents hang on racks and include shoes, socks shirts, skirts and about anything else needed for a new addition to a family.

A quick portrait

A quick selfie in front of the sign. I am sitting in a plush, cabbage leafed sofa. Perhaps I am ready for harvest.

I am impressed.  I can tell that Roger, a competent businessman, is too.  We are both calculating prices of products and the customer flow that is swirling through the faux-hospital and its inventory.  On one wall is a large plastic tree.  Below it are rows of cabbages that have doll-head centers.

Fathers and Grandfathers waiting area

The fathers’ and grandfathers’ waiting area. At scheduled times it is also the delivery area for the entertainment of eager onlookers.

I am told this is the delivery area where a forceps-wielding nurse attends an expecting cabbage and delivers a doll, delighting a crowd of admiring onlookers, kids and supporting adults.

Two men sit silently, working the buttons on their cell phones.  No doubt their wives, girlfriends or significant others are wandering the floor with a child or grandchild in search of the perfect adoptee.

Prospective parents and Kids.

Prospective parents and Kids.

“Is this the father’s waiting room?” I ask.  One smiles and nods, then continues to click the virtual keys on the phone.  The other does not break his concentration to respond.

“This is kind of cool,” I say to the first man.

He looks up, smiles again, and gives a one-word response, “Quite!”  His eyes drop back to the phone.  His look mimics the expression of a trapped animal, yearning for freedom.

Roger walks up.  We both know it is time to go, enough time has passed here… for two old curmudgeons.  “This is some operation,” Roger says as we walk toward the door.  “Impressive.”

One of the many cribs-full of Kids awaiting adoption.

One of the many cribs-full of Kids awaiting adoption.

He’s right.  It was a lot more than I expected.  This will be a venue for my youngest granddaughter.  Impressive? Quite!

As we drive away from the Babyland General I glance back over my shoulder.

Kids and more Kids.  These are smaller-than-normal Kids at a lower price.

Kids and more Kids. These are smaller-than-normal Kids at a lower price.

The geese waddle up the hill from away the road as we pass.  What’s that?  I swear I hear a medley combining the themes from Gone with the Wind and Babes in Toyland.

Impressive.

– – The Cabbage Patch Kids’ Babyland General Hospital is located at 300 N.O.K. Drive • Cleveland, Georgia 30528 in Cleveland, Georgia.


Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

 

© J.D. Byous 2018, All rights reserved.

 

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Time short in Savannah, GA? Five tips on the best photo spots.

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

Time short in Savannah, GA?  Five tips on the best photo spots.

By Jim Byous

What!!?? You only have one weekend to visit Savannah?  You gotta have pictures… but you want something different.  Finding the right spot for pictures can be difficult when you are visiting a place for a short time.  In Savannah, like anywhere else, there are many angles and views.  Unfortunately, most travelers’ photos tend to look like everyone else’s.  Here are five tips on how to make shots interesting with a few places to find them during your weekend photo hunt.

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Looking up at Jepson Center for the Arts on Telfair Square.

Having been here for the past twenty-five years helps.  I’ve searched hard and often for vantage points that are different.  Still, the five best photo locations in Savannah are hard to describe.  Not because they aren’t there, but because there are so many.  The city is most picturesque.  And, not because I live here, but because it’s a freekin’ beautiful place… even in the heat of August.

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Tybee Island is a short drive from Savannah’s Historic District and offers excellent opportunities for photographers.  Here on the Strand, Hurricane Irene created a fantastic backdrop as she rolled up the Atlantic Coast.  Colors can vary widely from morning to noon to evening, just be patient and enhance a bit in Photoshop.

Here we go:

First Tip, Get Close.

First.  Get close.  River Street and the Factor’s Walk area are great places to find different, less-often photographed shots, even though hundreds of thousands of tourists pass them each year.  These two thoroughfares run parallel to the Savannah River and serve as a tourist haven.  There is an abundance of history and dozens of shops for souvenir trolling that will occupy others who are traveling with you.  Scout along the retaining walls that appear to keep the town from sliding into the water. They have great features to capture.

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Ballast stone were used to build walls along what is now called Factors Walk. Before the Civil War it was called River Street.  Postbellum the wharves were connected to make an access road on the water and the old “River Street” became Factors Walk, named after the cotton and shipping factors’ offices walkovers that span the gap.

Most were built in the mid-1800s with segments going back to the century before.  Stone from around the world can be seen; limestone with chert nodules from Devon England, basalt from Italy, coral from the Caribbean.  They have unique textures and shapes that are pleasing to look at while telling their own version of history.  Here too are cobblestone pavers that make interesting images.

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An African-shaped stone serves in the cobblestone ramp behind City Hall.

The stones came in ships as ballast, rocks in the bottom the ships to balance the load and keep the ship upright.  The stones were off-loaded on the docks and the city resold them for building materials.  Walls, cobblestone streets and buildings were constructed over the years using them.  Later in the 1800s ships captains realized they could substitute pig iron that could be sold to Savannah’s iron foundries and the negative-cash-flow stones were replaced with a money-making commodity.

Go Up!

Second.  Find a parking garage and take the elevator, the stairs, or drive to the top floor.  Not too many buildings are open for the use to image seekers, but parking garages usually offer a good, “birds-eye” perspective of nearby streets.  Three of the following images were made on top of the State Street Parking Garage at Drayton and State Streets.

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The Lutheran Church of the Ascension and the tower of the Federal Courthouse on Wright Square.  It was captured from the State Street  Parking Garage’s west end.

However, there are several multi-storey walkways and garages in Savannah, so getting good vantage points for overall shots of different squares will mean lots of steps…  or if you are like me, the elevator.

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World Famous Leopold’s Ice Cream Shop taken from the east end of the State Street Garage. Taken from Oglethorpe Square parking garage, east end.

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The Cluskey Vaults on Bull Street Ramp taken from the upper walkway above Factors Walk at dusk.

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The Talmadge Bridge and Marshall House flag from the north-center section of the State Street facility.

Some attendants are grumpy about folks standing around, so shoot quick and go for the next site… or parking garage.  There are many walls to look off of, giving interesting perspectives to the streets and people walking below.

Go Down and Look Up

Third. Go down and then look up.  Sometimes finding a good and unusual view is simply bending your knees.  By doing so you can combine near objects with those more distant.  Or, you can give a perspective that most folks do not think of catching.

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Dottie the Trolley is River Street’s free transport queen.  Her schedule varies since construction, maintenance and construction often interfere with availability.  Here, a bent-knee, lower-angle shot brings the upper storeys of the historic warehouses into the composition with the trolley and cobblestones.

Sometimes it means looking up from a different location.  Factors Walk offers many such views of the “skyline” buildings along the river.  Its mid-way location between the lower, River Street and the upper, Bay Street buildings can give great perspective for shooting.

 

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Here, City Hall’s gold plated dome is viewed from Factors Walk behind  Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub. The gold is said to be from Dahlonega, Georgia.  The stairway that the young lady is climbing is on the site of the original port crane built by James Oglethorpe in 1733.

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The often photographed, Lafayette Veranda at the Owens Thomas House takes on a new perspective when shot from a low angle.

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Looking up on a narrow street sometimes offers a great shot of detail on historic buildings as is seen on this picture of the frieze of the Federal Court House on Wright Square.

Go Where and When Other Don’t

Fourth.  Go where and when other don’t.  Most visitors follow a set pattern; visit River Street, take a carriage or trolley ride, and walk a few squares.  Some venture out to Tybee Island and the beach.  Highway 80 takes them from the Historic District to the island through Romerly Marsh where most do not see the photographic possibilities.

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Romerly Marsh at Lazaretto Creek at mid-day.  The partial overcast sky creates great lighting for capturing the grass, water and sky.  This was taken around 10 a.m. from the boat ramp off of Highway 80.

Savannah is surrounded by marshland that is accessible on the main thoroughfares.  Stop and take a look, especially in early morning and late afternoon.  The beach at Tybee is similar.  If you can schedule to go through or visit at sunrise or sunset

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A pelican waits for the sun as it rises off of Tybee’s North Beach.  Sunrise photo sessions are often overlooked by visitors who, in a hurry to see the next attraction, miss the morning’s light show.  Photo by Becky Byous

you’ll have the best opportunities.  Most sunbathers arrive later in the morning and leave just before sunset to avoid traffic.  Little do they know that most everyone else think the same way which leads to… traffic.

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Kudzu on the Ogeechee Canal, located on the west edge of the Historic District.  These types of areas often show signs of litter and trash.  That’s what Photoshop was invented to take care of.  Just do it.

Look for the unusual

Fifth.  Look for the unusual.  As you walk around town look for things most people don’t record on their camera.  Sometimes you may almost trip over them, sometimes they are so ordinary that a closer look is all you need to get a great photo.

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Drain grating at Savannah’s Trustees’ Garden is molded in a gear motif to celebrate the Kehoe Iron Foudry’s place in history.  Most passersby do not notice the unique design.

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Flamingo on Bull Street add an interesting perspective of Savannahian humor most visitors miss.  Photo by Morgie McCormick.

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A traffic mirror over a walkway between the Visitors Center and the Battlefield Park/Railroad Museum sites adds a different perspective that most will miss.  This location is believed by some historians to be the site where many Patriots were buried in a mass grave after the 1779 battle, The Siege of Savannah.  The monuments to the fallen can be seen in the mirror as well as to the right of the frame.

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This view through a window at Clary’s Cafe was a grab shot as an older lady was attempting to ketchup to the rest of her group.  (No charge for the bad pun.)  Clary’s is noted for its appearance in the Clint Eastwood directed movie, Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil.

That’s the five ideas and many more areas to find them, but remember, ALWAYS get the main overviews of the sites.  You’ll want them to illustrate and add context to the differing views you find on your visit.

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You can’t miss with a shot of ships coming and going next to River Street.  On busy days they pass regularly on their way to the Port of Savannah and offer great images in any light.

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And be sure to catch the overall shots of important places.  The Owens-Thomas House is a near, must-see.  It’s one of many house museums in the historic city.

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Y’all come see us and bring your camera.

 

© J Byous Company 2018, All rights reserved

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Filed under travel, Travel Photography

My father never stopped

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

By Jim Byous

My father never stopped at the Grand Canyon.  My father would not stop.  Never.  Ever.  Never-ever… unless of course he had to use the bathroom and then it was a Whiting Brothers gas station to fill up and find relief.  Cruising down Route 66 twice each year I would drool, yearn and whine that we might turn on Route 64 from Williams, Arizona to see the hole in the ground that I’d been told about in school, read about, and wished to visit.  Didn’t happen.  Not once.  The 120-mile round trip would add almost ten percent to our drive to Eastern Oklahoma and the visit with family.  His last trip through was to move there, the destination of all of our trips.  He died a few years later.

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As the sun rolls past the colors change, just like they are advertised to do.  Fabulous.

Well…, not really never-ever.  I do remember one side trip.  We did stop at Meteor Crater after I had hounded for several hours.  I wore them down, I guess.  That’s another story, however… That was when my mom made a statement that would place a bookmark on my eighth year of life… “It’s nothing but a big hole in the ground.”  She actually used an expletive somewhere in the sentence.  However, you think about it, she’s right.  But, oh, what a hole in the ground.  I was hooked on large, naturally excavated terrain with that viewing.

But I digress.

 

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Meteor Crater, just a big… hole that I find fascinating.  More to come in another blog.

Fast forward fifty-plus years… Okay, make that almost sixty-plus years.  But, I am finally here.  As always, time is short, and to make it worse the Beckster and I have some kind of bug.  I do not feel like touring, I’d prefer to lay in the motel and whine.  But, the road calls.  Time dictates and demands, “See it now ‘cause you may not be back for a while… or ever.”  So we go.

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An odd, pockmarked rock on the south rim.

We leave Sedona in the morning heading out on route 89a and up its famous switchbacks that I dubbed, The Hairpins.  The road reminds me of a shoe string.  It twists and turns and loops, so crooked that, as my father used to say, “You can see your tail lights as you round the bend.”  This road is definitely bendy and loopy, not for the faint of stomach.  The Hairpins climb from the junction of Pumphouse Creek and Sterling Canyon then past 6,639-foot, Mexican Pocket Mountain then dumps you onto the long plateau that leads to Interstate 17 and Flagstaff.  At Flagstaff we follow US 180 to Arizona 64 and we are here – two and one-half hours later.

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Mather Point Overlook.  Nice  folks, but one must look beyond the spilled drinks and crowds because the beauty is there.  It’s worth it.  One look and you forget your immediate surroundings.

We are here.  Yes, we are.  Along with what appears to be half the population of the Western Hemisphere.  At Mather Point we park at the Visitors Center lot.  A short walk and we on the overlook.  People are scrambling everywhere… I mean, everywhere.  Hanging off of the rails to pose for pictures, on outcrops of rocks to our left… posing for pictures, off of the overlook a few hundred yards to the west… posing for pictures.

Selfie sticks flash in the sunlight looking like a rerun of the battle scene on Braveheart.  And, children running everywhere, climbing on rocks, climbing on rails.  My inner-parental-self stands, stunned and silent.  Coffee, or some other brown runny substance rolls from a coffee cup on the concrete path ahead.  The aroma of coffee wafts up, affirming the contents.  I hope that the Beckster doesn’t get a whiff.  We’ll be searching for a McDonalds, because, as you know, they make the best coffee.  It’s a Beckster thing.

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Looking north from Mather Point Overlook.  A man in a red shirt hangs near the edge for a prank photo.  It HAD to be a guy in red.

Then it hits me.  Blamm!  The view.  It’s 10 a.m. and past the “sweet” light of morning and it’s beautiful.  No, bad example, exquisite.  No, not enough, still.  Wow!  That works, just, wow!  Clouds cover the Northern Rim.  Rain falls from the patches of blue and white fluff.  The red-orange banding along the mass of mesas, cliffs and side canyons are like a light show in rock.  Grab a camera.  I alternate between DSLR and smartphone.  It’s hard to get a bad shot.  I am impressed.  I am really impressed.  I wish my parents were here.  They should see this.  They would have liked this big hole.

We no longer feel ill.  Somehow the bad has been erased so we point our pickup east along the rim drive.  As the sun climbs and the clouds move the scene changes.  I had read how the colors change with the day.  Oh, my God, what have you done here?  This is beyond words.  Each turnout and overlook has its own phenomenal view.  At one stop, a raven poses for me, then squawks a rebuke when I’ve overstayed my welcome.  We move on.   If I were shooting film we would have burned through several hundred dollars in emulsion and processing fees.  Man, I love digital.

Navajo Jewelry shop Navajo Reservation

Navajo Jewelry shop Navajo Reservation

Before we know, we arrive at the Desert View Visitor Center, the end of the line.  The views and the images are still great.  Just one more picture and we need to head back.  We’ve burned through the entire day.   Down the road we make one more stop, a Navajo jewelry stand.  Here a Viet Nam veteran and his wife offer beaded jewelry, dream catchers and pottery.  As the sun drops low it is cold so we keep moving, but after buying gifts for the kids and grandkids and earrings for the Beckster.  Oh, and something for me, a stone circle pendant.  I like it.  It’s made by nice people, or at least sold by them.  I wish we had time to stay and talk but the road calls.

Mary Colter's Desert View Watchtower

Mary Colter’s Desert View Watchtower marks the end of the view sites on the South Rim Drive.

It is a great day.  I am ready for a nap but we still have to drive the Hairpins after dark.  The Grand Canyon?  I will be back.

Too bad Dad couldn’t be here.

 

© J Byous Company 2018, All rights reserved

 

 

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