The Town of Donegal and Donegal Castle

On our next leg of the journey, we explored the area between Dunlewey and the town of Donegal. We stayed close to the coast and followed N56, traveling through Dungloe, Lettermacaward and Bogagh on our way to our next B & B, Ardlenagh View B&B, which was a short distance from the town of Donegal. We stayed our third night and started our fourth day in Irelend in this wonderful town. After and good night sleep and fulfilling breakfast, we toured the Donegal Castle and stopped in a few of the local shops. Everyone we ran into so far on this trip was welcoming and extremely friendly.

Donegal Castle is a castle situated in the centre of Donegal Town in County Donegal in Ulster, Ireland. For most of the last two centuries, the majority of the buildings lay in ruins, but the castle was almost fully restored in the early 1990s.

The castle consists of a 15th-century rectangular keep with a later Jacobean style wing. The complex is sited on a bend in the River Eske, near the mouth of Donegal Bay, and is surrounded by a 17th-century boundary wall. There is a small gatehouse at its entrance mirroring the design of the keep. Most of the stonework was constructed from locally sourced limestone with some sandstone. The castle was the stronghold of the O’Donnell clan, Lords of Tír Conaill and one of the most powerful Gaelic families in Ireland from the 5th to the 16th centuries.

This was a fun filled day and one of the most memorable birthdays thus far! See you at our next stop.

Downhill Demesne and the Mussenden Temple, Part 1/4

Downhill Castle was built by the eccentric Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol and Lord Bishop of Derry. The building of this massive structure began in 1772 which continued with the rear courtyards until the early 1790s.

Downhill Demesne, the Mussenden Temple, the grounds encompassing the temple, and its manor house (Downhill Castle) is now a National Trust property and is open to the public all year, from dawn to dusk. I would highly recommend a stop if ever in the area; the grounds and what it holds are beyond beautiful.

In the feudal system, a demesne was all the land which was retained by a lord of the manor for his own use and occupation or support, under his own management, as distinguished from land enfeoffed by him to others as sub-tenants.

The Demesne also includes a dovecote, walled gardens, a belvedere, or summer house, built for the Earl-Bishop’s daughter and a mausoleum dedicated to his brother George, 3rd Earl of Bristol, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Travel along with us as we get closer to the remarkable structures that the property contains.

A Beautiful Morning with the Giant

Dan and I had already experienced so much and this, our third day, did not disappoint. We woke up early and drove to our next area on our must see attractions in Ireland. We parked the car and walked the road down to take in this beautiful site… The Giants Causeway. It was a beautiful morning and we had the area to ourselves. The rock formations and basalt columns in this area were formed over 60 million years ago by volcanic activity. Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven or even eight sides and tallest columns are roughly 39 ft high. While I know the interlocking columns were formed as the result of ancient volcanic activity, but I prefer the story of legend.

The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool), was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realizes that his foe is much bigger than he is. Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn would be unable to chase him down. Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa.

We didn’t not have much time to explore as we needed to move on to our next location. We will definitely be back as there is so much more to see and hike. Some of the best-known sights include, but are not limited to, the Harp, the Organ, the Wishing Chair or Throne, the Chimney Stacks, and the Camel, who served as Finn McCool’s horse. Can you spot the Chimney in the background of some of the images?

High Falls of the Pigeon River

The last stop of this Autumn trip to the MN North Shore was Grand Portage State Park. The Summer of 2014 was the first time I laid eyes on this natural beauty. I remember the thunderous noise as we walked down the path to view the tallest waterfall in Minnesota (120 foot drop).  One side of the waterfall is located in Grand Portage State Park in Minnesota, the other side is located in Pigeon River Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada.  The hike is not bad on this one and I would highly recommend a stop any time of the year. An insert from a previous post, Continuous Creation on the High Falls of Pigeon River,  “This morning’s mist was heavy which made every color of the landscape pop; a photographers dream.   Low and behold, the High Falls of the Pigeon River in all its glory.”  The colors are so vibrant, that I still have to remind myself this image is not taken in a Tropical Rain Forest.  🙂

Bringing us back to this trip and the colors of Autumn in Minnesota. The trip this day included some investigating as we took the road less traveled while looking for another waterfall on the Pigeon River. The majority of times these types of excursions do not end up in the way we were hoping; however, we always have a blast attempting to find what we set out to originally locate. As we turned to follow the low maintenance hiking path, we spotted a sign, “Caution”, it read. Caution? Bravery triumphed and we continued down the narrowing path.  A mile or so down the path, we stumbled across what appeared to be the imprint of a very large mammal. Could this be a dinosaur left over from the Ice Age hiding in this remote part of the country?

Well, not a dinosaur in sight, all we really saw down this path was a whole lot of beauty as the seasons changed from Summer to Autumn.  Enjoy the images from this trip!

 

Hollow Rock

Hollow Rock can be photographed on the property of Hollow Rock Resort which owned by Grand Portage Casino in Northern Minnesota

hollow-rock-resort

Since we stayed in one of the 8 cabins they have on the property, we were lucky to have this rock formation right outside our front door. We spent the next few days capturing this magical landscape at different times of the day, but the sunrises were amazing! During the day, we took the time to explore the area and stumbled across many treasures all while producing wonderful memories (priceless).

Enjoy~

Autumn on the North Shore

Dan and I cannot get enough of Minnesota’s North Shore area.

MN State Parks north of the Two Harbors

MN State Parks north of the Two Harbors

The landscape is riddled with an abundance of beautiful scenery and waterfalls. Every time we take this trip, we stumble across something new. We enjoy the outdoors and what excitement the hiking trails of this area can bring especially during Autumn. This season marks the transition from Summer to Winter and in Minnesota, the green leaves give way to an array of colors providing a showy performance of red, orange, and yellows. In this post, we made a brief stop at Temperance River Falls, then were off to explore what we could find in the area.  As we made our way closer to Grand Marais, we ran across Honeymoon Bluff Trail which has an amazing lookout over Hungry Jack Lake (perfect for sunset images). Please enjoy the view in and around the area.

Days Gone By

There are many truths of which the full meaning cannot
be realized until personal experience has brought it home.
– John Stuart Mill

In an attempt to organize photo albums in Lightroom, I ran across a few that I have not reviewed.  The images published today are from back-roading in the charming area surrounding our home, Southeast MN and Southwest WI.  Working on these images brought back wonderful memories and will display buildings that are not standing any longer.

For instance, the images of the one room school house in Elgin, MN seen below, is no longer standing.  Visit an earlier post from 2014: When the School Bell Rang

The next couple of images are views seen around our area due to Frac Sand Mining.  I still remember passing by the beautiful trees, hills, and marshes, when all of a sudden we ran into a large mound of golden sand.  Thankfully, the Frac Sand Mining industry here in our area is dying down.

While we are blessed to share our lives now with “the new kids” on the block, Clover and Lucy, we will forever miss the two inseparable, mischievous, opportunists we called Tindra and Audrey.

Enjoy the sights from this day as we traveled the small towns and dirt roads.

21ST ANNUAL APOSTLE ISLAND SLED DOG RACE – BAYFIELD, WI | #AISDR

According to the Smithsonian website, exactly how long canines have provided companionship just got a revision: Instead of pinning domestication at about 11,000 to 16,000 years ago, new genetic evidence shows that man’s best friend may have split from wolves 27,000 to 40,000 years ago. This new evidence proves dog power has been used for hunting and travel for quite sometime and the human-animal bond travels beyond anything we can measure.

Yearly, we make the trip to photograph the Annual Apostle Island Dog Sled Races in Bayfield WI. The excitement seen and heard during this event is exhilarating, specially at the start of the race. To watch the bond between the dog sled team and musher is beyond any words I can say.

Assembling a dog sled team involves picking leader dogs, point dogs, swing dogs, and wheel dogs. The lead dog is crucial, as this fearless leader will lead its team to the success of completing the task. Powerful wheel dogs are also just as important since they are needed to pull the sled out from the snow. Point dogs (optional) are located behind the leader dogs, swing dogs are located between the point and wheel dogs, and team dogs are all other dogs in between. The wheel and swing dogs are selected for their endurance, strength and speed as part of the team.

A team of sled dogs has as many different personalities as a team of co-workers in any business. The musher must know and respect each personality of its team; placing each one in a position where they will give 100% during a race or outing. There are many different factors that go into picking the right sled dog and for what position they will play as part of the team. Qualities include, but are not limited to the following:

Pulling ability
Speed: The right pace at the right time
Endurance
Attitude or determination: a desirable specimen displays a positive mental and emotional attitude towards his work. Attitude is contagious!
Intelligence and Trainability: Responding quickly and positively to a driver’s efforts to teach him commands or procedures and to be aware of encountered obstacles.
Co-operation
Docility: a desirable specimen is easy to handle, manageable and docile. He does not pick fights with other dogs and even turns aside from other dogs’ aggression.
Bonding: A bond to musher and team needs to be strong.
Movement: Both speed and endurance are negatively affected when a sled dog has an inefficient movement.
Courage: They will display awareness of danger on the trail without being fearful.
Temperament: Stability is important; they are neither nervous nor aggressive, but just right.
Climate Hardiness
Health, Viability and Longevity
Leader quality: Once you have a good lead, everyone wants to follow.

Before I go, I thought I would share the story of one musher and his team, “Racey’s Rescues”. This team is a favorite among the crowd, not because they are the best team and win every race, but because these “underdogs” were brought together because they were in need of rescue. All dogs on this team was rescued from poor situations and were trained to work together, maybe not to win, but to live a life filled with fun runs and excitement. I give credit to pack leaders, Sally Hedges and Jim Lynch, as it took patience and a lot of hard work so that these four-legged wonders could overcome whatever situation they came from – enough to enjoy life and come together as a team to push through obstacles that would have otherwise stopped them in their tracks.

I highly recommend this event no matter if you are a spectator, a volunteer, or a participant.  I know we will be there year after year, cheering each team along.

I See Fields of Green

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

Austin TX

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!