I See Fields of Green

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center-8175

Recognizing that our country is losing its natural landscapes, Lady Bird Johnson and actress Helen Hayes founded an organization in 1982 to protect and preserve North America’s native plants and natural landscapes.  The organization opened a new facility southwest of Austin TX in 1994, now named Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center after the former First Lady. The wildflower center is devoted to help preserve and restore the beauty of North America.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center-8204

The Center’s many gardens display the native plants of the Central Texas Hill Country, South, and West Texas, while the Plant Conservation Program protects by conserving its rare and endangered flora. One out of every five plant species in the world is threatened by development, invasive species, climate change or other factors. The centers core principles are in set place for plant conservation by developing botanical expertise, partnering with the public and private landowners, educating and training Texas Master Naturalists, Seed collecting and banking, identification and control of invasive plant species, and conservation research on rare and endangered plant species.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center-8084

Not only was this one of my favorite albums to post process, I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent at the center as we walked along the paths that highlighted the beauty this land has to offer. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center offers a little bit of something to everyone.

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope”
~Lady Bird Johnson

Georgetown, TX

Southwestern University, TX-7955

Georgetown TX, is located 25 miles north of Austin and is home to the most beautiful town squares in the state.  At one time, a cattle trail named, “The Shawnee” led thousands upon thousands of cattle through the heart of this small town to the rail centers in Kansas and Missouri.  Today, Georgetown is home to one of the best preserved Victorian and Pre-WW1 downtown historic districts, with The Beaux-Arts Williamson County Courthouse, built in 1911, as its centerpiece.

The establishment of Southwestern University in 1873 contributed to the town’s growth and is located about ½ mile from the historic downtown area.  This private, four-year, undergraduate college that encompases 700 acres, was founded in 1840.  Southwestern claims to be the first university in Texas and in 2015, the university celebrated its 175th Anniversary!  The main campus is organized around a central academic mall formed by a semi-circular grassy area bounded by a pedestrian walkway and academic buildings and is absolutely breathtaking… I was completely impressed by the historical value and what this college has to offer its students.

Notable Buildings:

The Roy and Lillie Cullen Building (formerly called the Administration Building) was built in 1898. The Cullen Building currently houses the administration, business office, alumni relations, and classrooms. Throughout various times in its history, it has also housed the campus auditorium, gymnasium, chapel, and library.

CullenOld

Southwestern University Special Collections
http://www.southwestern.edu/about/tour.php

The Lois Perkins Chapel was built in 1950 and includes an Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ and stunning stained glass windows.

Mood-Bridwell Hall, originally a men’s dormitory, was completed in 1908 and currently houses classrooms, faculty offices, a computer lab, the Debbie Ellis Writing Center, and an indoor atrium.

men_of_mood_ Bridwell Hall 1910

Southwestern University Special Collections
http://www.southwestern.edu/about/tour.php

Thank you Megan and Brian for the wonderful tour of this amazing city!

Austin TX

Austin TX-7919

Dan and I traveled to Austin, Texas earlier this year to visit family and see the sites.  I have not been there for years and the beauty of this city has not changed.  The city is located near the Balcones Fault, as a result, much of the eastern portion of the city is flat with soil heavy in clay, whereas the western suburbs consist of rolling hills and is located right on the edge of Texas hill country… Beautiful I tell you!

2015-06-19-Lake-Travis-Ausin-TX
Image by Dan Traun

Because the hills are primarily limestone rock with a thin layer of topsoil, parts of the city are frequently subjected to flash floods from runoff caused by thunderstorms. We traveled to the Lone Star State in May which was unfortunately one of the rainiest months on record. Actually, according to the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, 35 trillion Gallons of rain fell on the state in the month of May; enough to cover the whole state up to nearly 8 inches deep.  Whoa!

It was a wet trip, however, that did not stop us from venturing out when we could. Hiking, eating, laughing, and spending time with family; what a grand time and it came with a few firsts… First time consuming brisket cooked to perfection, first time actually liking a good margarita with Sotol (way better tasting than Tequila, in my opinion) and the best margarita mix ever (Jalapeño- lime, produced by Republic Spirit Blends); both of which you cannot find in Minnesota.

The following images were taken on a hike in these rolling Texas hills.

Thank you, Dean, Vickie, Brian, Megan, Adam, and Renae for your wonderful hospitality!

The Long Lost Album

IMG_5310

Found… The long lost album.  Over a year old, I still remember this album well; coming across this one was a fun find which brought back wonderful memories.  We ran across a few faces, and a couple of properties left behind on this day.  Both of the furry girls pictured are not with us today, but are still missed, and what we think is a 2-story schoolhouse was a chance find. Driving down the country roads in Wisconsin, I happened to spot the bell tower of this magnificent building; we stopped and captured what we could.  Unfortuately, both Dan and I could not find much information on this building, but I know there is history here. Someday, it would be interesting to find out more about this property, but then again, we would have to find it again :-)

Custer State Park, SD

Custer State Park-4421

Since the early 1900’s, Custer State Park is home to an abundance of wildlife and spectacular views.  Spanning 71,000 acres, the park is rich in history and provides its visitors with countless adventures.  Dan and I traveled the road that encompasses Custer State Park many times during our travels; however, my favorite is an 18-mile stretch called “Wildlife Loop Road” which is rich in wildlife such as Big Horn Sheep, Elk, Pronghorn, Prairie Dogs, and much, much, more.

Wildlife Loop

Custer State Park “Wildlife Loop Road” Map

One of the most famous attractions in Custer State Park is the free-roaming Bison herds.  Dan and I were in the right area at the right time and were able to observe a round-up as they were moving a herd from one area of the park to another.  The sight of hundreds of Bison coming at you was exhilarating!  Instantly, we parked the car and opened the sunroof where I could poke my camera outside for the wonderful photo opportunity…  Such amazing creatures.

My favorite part of Custer State Park are the “Begging Burros”.  The Burros roaming the park today are descendants of the pack animals once used to trek visitors to Harney Peak Summit.  Full of character, they gain the attention of the visitors that travel in the park (both inside and outside of cars). The Burros mostly inhabit one area of the park where a herd of about 50 will try to obtain food, sometimes even causing traffic jams as they block the road.  Of course, I would always recommend using caution when encountering the herd, but I am amazed and entertained every time I see them.

Custer State Park-DAN_5863-5863

If ever in South Dakota, make sure Custer State Park is on your list of places to visit!

A Time to Love

Custer, SD-5979

After leaving the Badlands, Dan and I (along with Tindra) spent the next few days in and around Custer, SD.  This was Tindra’s last trip with us and we were so grateful that we had this time with her. The magical views of the Black Hills National Forest never do get old.  The Black Hills get their name from the Lakota Sioux, “Paha Sapa”, meaning the hills are black. From a distance, the hills of this area do appear black due to the towering Ponderosa Pine forest; however, up close, these forests are teeming with color.

Needles Highway is another favorite of mine. Completed in 1922, the highway is named after the needle-like granite rock formations that were carved over many years by erosion.  Such beauty is found in this area and surprises are noticed around every turn.

We camped out for the week, but decided to move into a log cabin when a snow storm hit the area leaving 3-4” of the fluffy white stuff.  The snow blanketed the Pines in the Black Hills creating a peacefulness that I will never forget…  A Time to Love.

Badlands National Park, SD

Badlands SD-3351

Badlands National Park: The Lakota named this land “Mako Sica”, meaning “land bad”;

Badlands National Park

The park consists of roughly 244,000 acres of prairie grass mixed with sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires.  Looking out over the sometimes lunar landscape, it is desolation at its best… You can look for miles and see no sign of civilization.  Despite the solitude, the land has been so ravaged by the elements it has become quite stunning. Erosion of the Badlands reveals sedimentary layers of different colors: purple and yellow (shale), tan and gray (sand and gravel), red and orange (iron oxides) and white (volcanic ash). These striking geologic deposits also contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds; prehistoric bones are still being uncovered today by park officials.

I cannot even tell you how many times Dan and I drove the 30-mile Badlands Loop, how many times we stopped to hike the trails to absorb the surrounding beauty, or view the abundance of wildlife that roam the park’s boundaries. We stayed in the area for 2 days and with each entrance into Badlands National Park, we encountered something new and exciting.

If ever in the area, stop in at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center situated near Cedar Pass Lodge to learn more about what the park has to offer.