Back home again- Birthday weekend comes to an end

A genial greeting as we make our way back home; I cannot say enough of the friendliness of this Amish community.

amish

On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again- that song might have entered my mind (yes, I am a geek at times).  There is endless amusement around every corner of a paved, dirt, gravel, or brick road.  I have been, at times, accused of “rubbernecking” sometimes even not saying a word until we are well past what I have seen.  “Turn around”, I say.   The sight of an old building as we are traveling past a town is always worth a closer look and it paid off…  An old Feed Store and a tobacco plant? Very cool, very cool indeed!  My love for old buildings and the stories that they hold will never cease to exist.  Ahhh, the beauty that decay and abandonment can hold.

Through hills and valleys, forests and farmlands we traveled, making our way back to our little furry ones.

This particular trip was overall one of my favorites to date… although, there are many more to come.  Dan’s birthday has past and mine is around the corner.  What will this year of birthday excursions bring?

I thank you for eye-opening trip we had last year honey and look forward to many more.

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Over the river and through the woods- Birthday Weekend- Day #2

After our “clean up” from the stuck in the muck episode, Dan and I enjoyed our delicious breakfast and a morning hike around the property of Justin Trails Resort.  We were then off into the surrounding communities of Vernon and Monroe counties for a day of photographic amusement.

Have you ever experienced that sinking feeling in the bottom of you gut when on a roller coaster ride? I do every time we travel over a hill at a certain speed with a certain drop off gradient.  Dan thinks this is funny and will hit every hill that has that right drop-off and at the right speed. This trip was full of those sinking feelings in my stomach, as the landscape in this area was pretty steep at times.

Over the river and through the woods in search of round barns and covered bridges we go.  Included in with the enchanted beauty of Wisconsin’s hidden valleys are large congregations of German-speaking Amish farm families.  They continue to worship, live, and farm today as their pioneering ancestors did 150 years ago.  A friendly, quiet community who welcome anyone with a wave of their hand or a nod of their head. Their farms are immaculate and well kept; it was a treat to see how they live and work off the land.

Earth Day 2012 – Birthday Weekend, The start of day #2

Earth Day is observed on April 22 and was started in the United States in 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson to create awareness for the Earth’s environment and to encourage conservation efforts. In 1990, Earth Day was taken international, and today, more than 500 million people in 175 countries observe Earth Day. Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.  I guess we all have an interest in mother nature.

Earth Day had a different meaning for Dan and I last year; a day when we were stuck in her grasp, so to speak.

We awoke to the sound of the alarm notifying us that we need to get up and get rolling before the sun peaked its head above the horizon.  The night spent at Justin Trails Resort was very relaxing; time spent with my honey is always special to me.  The previous night, we were amazed to hear the call of numerous Sandhill Cranes located in a farmer’s pond/field across the way.   Permission was granted from the landowner the night before allowing us to venture on their property.  Donna (owner of the resort) mentioned,  “Due to the recent heavy rains in the area, make sure to stay on the higher field road.”  Okay, we thought- no problem.

We traveled closer and closer to the sounds of the Sandhill Cranes in hopes of catching a breathtaking sunrise with these beautiful birds in the foreground.  The road became more and more impassable as we ventured closer to our targets but it was too late- no place to turn around and the only motion we had to travel was forward.  Yep… We got stuck in the muck.  The Equinox is AWD not 4WD, I think came out of my mouth 🙂 All I could do was laugh at the situation as we tried to pull the long grass, sticks, and Cattails from the side of the road and place them in the “water” so that the tires would have something to grab onto. I say “water” because there really was not a road to be seen.  With a serious look on Dan’s face, he tells me to go to the other side of the car to see if the tires are grabbing onto any of the debris we placed under them- so I did.  The next thing I know, I was covered in the black, muddy, swampy, field water -muck, YUCK!!   Dan still was not finding the humor in it all, but I had to giggle- and I proceeded to do so as we walked back to the resort which was a good 2-3 miles.  It was a beautiful sunrise, gorgeous really, but did I get photos? NOPE!  Did I think about pulling the camera out of the car to take pictures of the car being stuck?  NOPE!

We walked back to the resort so that I could get cleaned up while Dan walked back to the farmers house to see if he could pull us out of the field road with a tractor.  As our luck would have it, this farmer was very helpful and didn’t bat an eye when asked- he wouldn’t even take any compensation for his troubles.  On his travels back, Dan did get photos of the car stuck in the muck- to see and hear his take on the day visit that blog post at When life gives you mud – make a mud pie.

After we both were clean and free of mother natures gift that she gave us that morning, we were treated to a tour of the old barn on the property which they were currently renovating.  Beautiful property, wonderful owners, a great breakfast and conversation- I would highly recommend a stay at Justin Trails Resort in Sparta, WI.

Lines, lines, and more lines… Birthday Weekend Day #1

Early Monday April 16th 2012, I received an email from Dan with an cryptic image attached stating “It will take us a little over three hours to get to our destination.  We can drive straight there and check in or shoot along the way and check in when we get there – whatever we want to do.  I’ve attached a detailed map of to our destination.  That’s all the information I can share.”
Lines, lines, more lines and a river?  Hmmmmm.

Weekend Birthday Map

My email reply to Dan… “Trying to figure out the trace of a map you sent!  Internet and the Minnesota and Wisconsin maps are in my sight; would this trip have anything to do with round barns and Monroe County?”  It turns out that the “lines” was a travel route leading us to the beautiful Vernon and Monroe Counties in an area of Wisconsin known as the driftless area.  See the detailed maps of Vernon and Monroe Counties for the location of the round barns and covered bridges.  The maps are another story for another day as the “X” didn’t always mark the spot 🙂

Off to a friends house for great conversation and a breakfast of champions (Thanks Linnae).  Hugs as we walked out the door and a wave as we headed on our way. Little did we know- we had a small stowaway named Hans.  Hans caused quite the stir back home when he was found to be missing but he was a good travel companion and enjoyed his time away from home.  Keep a watchful eye out for Hans in the images as he LOVED his picture taken.

Located in southwestern Wisconsin, Vernon and Monroe County is a land of scenic beauty and is in the Driftless Area of the upper midwest.  Glaciers surrounded but did not pass over this land.  From craggy buttes and mesas that once were islands rising from the wooded bed of a great glacial lake and grand marshes where bright red cranberries and mosses grow, Monroe County features a plethora of breathtaking views.  This serene countryside is truly an astounding sight and it’s roller coaster like roads were fun to travel.  Up, down, up, down, up, down… you never knew what your eyes would lay upon at the top of the hill or the bottom for that matter.  Our destination?  Justin Trails Resort in Sparta, WI for a long photography weekend retreat.  Check out Dan’s images from the day at his blog titled Driftless Area Weekend – Monroe County, Wisconsin – Day 1

April showers bring may flowers

April… Not only my birthday month but a time of new beginnings in the northern hemisphere as well.  Upon research, the etymology is from the Latin aperire, “to open,” in allusion to its being the season when trees and flowers begin to “open” or start a new beginning. Additionally the phrase “April showers bring May flowers” comes to mind.  April, traditionally a rainy period, gives way to May, when flowers will bloom because of the water provided to them by the April rains.  Therefore, by extension, that a period of discomfort can provide the basis for a period of happiness.  April… What a wonderful month indeed.

The fourth month of last year brought continued happiness and good fortune in our photography travels.  Dan and I scoured the countryside of Minnesota and Wisconsin in search for beauty.  We have the knack for running into something special whether it be a forgotten building, a reflection in a puddle from a recent April downpour, or a morning sunrise like no other.  As for the sunrises, I am a bit spoiled as I do, on occasion, get advance notice of the beauty that is about to unfold.  Dan commutes to St. Paul for work, which means that he leaves sometimes before I even open my eyes.  Those early morning text messages telling me to wake up and catch the morning sunrise as it is unfolding are appreciated… Thank you honey.