Tag Archive | USA

Tenaya Lake

Tenaya Lake by webmink
Tenaya Lake, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

Another shot of Yosemite National Park that’s not Half Dome! This is Tenaya Lake, near the summit of the high country in Yosemite just a few miles from the east entrance to the park at Tioga Pass. Even late in the year there’s snow visible at this altitude.

The lake is right beside the road, so no trouble finding it – but do turn off and walk in the woods too. Pack breakfast on your day excursion to Mono Lake, Bodie or Bishop and picnic here after you’ve spend the hour or so it takes to drive up from the valley floor. The Tioga Pass Resort just outside the entry station also does a great breakfast if you prefer not to picnic, and you’ll be surprised how good the deli inside the Chevron station at the foot of the hill just outside Lee Vining is – make sure you eat there at least once!

American Castle

American Castle by webmink
American Castle, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

Dusk in Chicago is a great time to enjoy the architecture. This is the Chicago Tribune building, with its gothic flying buttresses and ornamentation yelling permanence and wealth to you. Let’s hope the newspaper can survive the onslaught of new technology better than the mediaeval european buildings it mimics…


Bodie Wagon by webmink
Bodie Wagon, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

After visiting Yosemite a few times, one gradually becomes aware that there’s more to see if you travel further afield. Just outside the eastern entrance to the park, a few miles to the north of Lee Vining up US-395, there’s a very well preserved gold rush ghost town called Bodie.

While it was already know as a ghost town before the first world war, it was still occupied until the last mine closed during the second world war and as ghost towns go, it’s pretty modern – there is even a well-preserved gas station. There are full streets of “wild west” wooden buildings in a good state of repair, and you can definitely imagine the spirit of the place when it was a bustling and rowdy mining town.

It’s definitely worth a visit if you venture out of Yosemite, as is Mono Lake (visit the Mono Lake Committee store) and, much further to the south, the small town of Bishop where you’ll find Mountain Light Gallery, the photography base of the late Galen Rowell.

Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde Cliff Palace by webmink
Mesa Verde Cliff Palace, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

One of the most extraordinary places I have visited in the US is Mesa Verde. It is a town abandoned intact by its residents about 700 years ago, located in the canyon-riven plateau foothills of the Rocky Mountains in the south-west of Colorado. The town stretches along canyon walls and reflects the 700 years that the Anasazi lived there. It’s thought that climate change forced them eventually to leave and move south.

It’s an amazing place, as any 700-year-old town would be even if it hadn’t then been abandoned for another 700 years. The living spaces, ceremonial spaces (kivas) and towers seem much more recently built and left. They are hidden in the overhangs of the canyon, hard to approach from the plateau but with easy access to the valley floor.

Mesa Verde National Park is a must-visit if you’ve ever the time to get there – a day or so of driving from Denver.

Chicago Park

Chicago Millennium Park by webmink
Chicago Millennium Park, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

The OSI Board meeting was held in the offices of ThoughtWorks, which are high in a tower overlooking Chicago’s centrepiece downtown Millennium Park. It’s a large, green place with formal gardens, sports areas, urban art and an open-air theatre. It’s worth clicking through to the original and taking a closer look.

This panorama (stitched together from three photos) is unusually quiet, even for a Sunday. The NATO summit was being held in the large building at the end of the park (top left) and the roads approaching it were either closed or heavily patrolled. The harbour next to the event was also cleared and patrolled by gunboats.

Militarised Zone

[youtube http://youtu.be/hIT3ch-tVCc]

Chicago is a city I like a lot, but this weekend’s visit was unusual because it happened to coincide with the NATO summit being held here. The architecture is just as splendid as usual (and I will probably post some photos of it), but each time I was out on the streets an enormous security machine was in operation. Riot police, riot cyclists (yes) and most amazingly gunboats in the Chicago river. I wonder how much this show of force inspires the reaction rather than pacifies it?


Monarchs on Eucalyptus by webmink
Monarchs on Eucalyptus, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

One of the most amazing discoveries I can remember from my many visits to California is the over-winter Monarch butterfly colonies that dot the central Californian coast. These amazing creatures migrate thousands of miles to spend the winter huddling together for warmth in huge clusters. They – or their children – migrate to the same places every year. As a result, there are places that reliably have vast numbers of the butterflies clustered in the trees for months on end. As the weather warms, they return to active life and start to spread out onto the surrounding trees, as you see in this photo.

Every year I’ve been in the area at the right time I’ve gone to see them – my favourite spot is in Santa Cruz. If you want to know how to find them, send me an e-mail and I’ll try to help. They’ve naturally all flown now – they will be back in the late autumn.


Waiting to cross the road by webmink
Waiting to cross the road, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

As if to underline the laid-back character of Key West in Florida (which one American friend called “the laziest town in the country”), wherever you go there are chickens sauntering about their business. They actually look much tidier and more organised than most of the tourists.

Not to mention more traffic aware. All the car horns I heard were associated with tourists wandering into the street without looking; I saw no chickens with a death wish. One hen on Duval Street was crossing amidst all the traffic with her chicks, taking all five safely across. Another, a rooster, jumped from a tree into the centre of the street and looked around carefully to avoid a brush with destiny. And of course, the rooster in this picture was very carefully considering whether to jump off the kerb and cross, taking great care to look both ways first.

So next time you hear someone ask “why did the chicken cross the road”, the answer – at least in Key West – is “to teach the humans how to do it properly.”

Half Dome Sunset

[youtube http://youtu.be/TWdzDIGW6zw]

Despite the crowds who gather to share the experience, watching the sun set and the shadow of the Sierra Nevada pass across the face of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park is always a tranquil and enriching experience. A hush settles over the place, as if everyone is aware of a sacred presence, and discussion settles to a whisper as the transition to night gradually embraces the landscape.

The year I went there with friends after JavaOne (including Juggy the Java Finch) I set up a tripod and took a sequence of stills to build this timelapse record of the experience.

%d bloggers like this: