Sunday, August 15, 2010

A change in scenery

I love Minnesota, but I can only handle so many lakes!  The trip out west has been an awesome change of scenery, starting with the beautiful San Juan mountains in Colorado!

This lightning storm scrubbed my attempt to climb Mt. Sneffels, one of Colorado's many 14,000ft+ peaks.  It sure did make for a great photo though (and a healthy dose of luck didn't hurt)!

The rough weather made for some amazing sunsets as well!

I've never been that interested in landscape photography in general, but this trip is quickly changing that. I've been shooting a wide variety of panoramas in particular. This one is a 360 degree shot from the top of California Pass, giving an excellent view of the Red Mountains. Make sure to click it and view some of the larger sizes!

I also got a chance to do a little off-roading while in Colorado. This was shot at a place called Yankee Boy Basin after we'd run out of road that the Highlander could handle. It was one heck of a drive to get up there, but photos like this made it oh so worth it.

Colorado also has some awfully brave wildlife!  I've only managed to catch a coupe glimpses of Marmots and more exotic fare, but this deer wandered within about 15 feet of me one morning.

Colorado has been great, but now it's off to Texas via White Sands, New Mexico, one of the most beautiful places on earth!  Check back soon for some photos that will really blow your mind!
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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Honoring fallen heroes

I had the honor of meeting Mike Ehredt yesterday as I made my way from Minnesota to Colorado. Mike was passing near Ames, Iowa as he runs from Oregon to Maine, planting flags each mile, one for each and every American soldier lost in Iraq.

Mike Ehredt, smiling way bigger than I would be if I was running 30 miles a day

When we met up with Mike, a retired postal clerk and Army vet, we dropped my father John, also a retired Army officer, off to ride along with Mike for the day.  John will accompany Mike until he is done for the day, then turn north and ride all the way back to the Twin Cities over the next couple days.

Mike and my dad approaching the next mile marker

We met up with Mike at mile marker 110 near Jackson, Iowa, where he planted a flag for Marine Reserve Corporal Steven P. Gill from Round Rock Texas, who was killed by an IED explosion in July 2005.  After planting the flag, Mike and John silently saluted Corporal Gill, before pushing on to the next mile marker.

Saluting Corporal Gill one last time

In memory of Marine Corporal Steven P. Gill, just outside Jackson, IA

It was inspiring to see one man jogging on the shoulder of a busy highway, alone with his jogger stroller as cars zipped by just a couple feet away.  From the little bit I got to talk to Mike, he seemed like an absolute stand-up guy, and I think what he is doing is very special.  We didn't want to delay him long, as he was barely halfway through his day's run, so we bid Mike and my dad farewell and moved on.

Mike and John head east towards Ames, IA, while we head west for Omaha

Conveniently, Mike actually planted a flag for my uncle, Daniel E. Holland (along with the other three soldiers killed with him) in Colorado earlier in the year, and it worked out that as we passed north of Denver the next day we were only a couple miles from the location of Daniels flag.  Using the GPS coordinates from the Project America Run site, we were able to locate it without much trouble along Hwy. 93 outside Boulder.  Daniel and his family lived in Colorado for a while at one point, and he loved the outdoors, so it was fitting that his memorial was placed just at the foot of the Rocky Mountains just a couple hours from where he'd lived.

The flag planted for Ltc. Daniel Holland, an Army Veteranarian killed in Iraq May, 18, 2006 by a roadside bomb, along with three other soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter

The writing was faded on the ribbon, but you could just make out Daniel E. Holland, San Antonio, Texas.  We had a short moment of silence to thank Daniel for his sacrifice, then walked back to the car and continued our trip, heading up into the Rocky Mountains.

The faded but visible writing on the ribbon bears Daniel's rank, age, service, and hometown

I'll leave you with this beautiful sunset at the Nebraska/Colorado border.  What a sight to see!
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Saturday, August 7, 2010

See the Twin Cities by canoe! (or kayak)

Two weekends ago I spent my Saturday and Sunday photographing the Mississippi River Challenge, a fundraising event put on by the Friends of the Mississippi River to raise awareness and fund for their river conservation efforts.

Canoes and kayaks of all shapes, sizes, and colors carpet the put-in point at Coon Rapids Dam
Kevar, aluminum, fiberglass, plastic, wood.  The boats of the Mississippi River Challenge run the gamut.

The Mississippi River Challenge takes several hundred paddlers from Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park to Grey Cloud Island in Cottage Grove, bringing them straight through the Twin Cities.  Paddlers get to experience a wide variety of environments on the river, including the shallow, fast-flowing waters right below the dam, the tree-lined banks north of Minneapolis, canoeing through the heart of downtown and passing through the locks at St. Anthony falls, and the more industrialized riverfront areas around St. Paul.

Some of the lead kayaks pass beneath the Hwy 610 bridge near the start of the challenge
From the 610 Bridge just downstream of the put in point the view was amazing.  The sun sparkled on the water as the first paddlers made their way toward the open river south of the park.

The trip is spread over two roughly 22-mile days, with the first day ending with a celebration and overnight camp-out at historic Ft. Snelling.  I was along to photograph the entire event, running from put-in point to various bridges, overlooks, and rests stops along the way.

Boats fill the landing at Bassett Creek Park where paddlers at lunch provided by Erbert and Gerberts
The prospect of food, cool green grass, and shade kept plenty of paddlers at Bassett Creek for a while.  This caused a big of a traffic jam down at the landing, but the hard working volunteers managed to keep boats coming and going the whole time.

The event ran very smoothly and everyone I saw seemed to be having a great time.  Every rest stop had snacks and drinks furnished by sponsors and served by volunteers, and the food never went unappreciated when the tired and hungry paddlers arrived.

This paddler is excited for the prospect of some R&R at Fort Snelling!
Look how happy these girls are to be at the fort!  All that lies between them and food and rest is a short hike up the hill to the historic fort.

A big thanks goes out to the Friends of the Mississippi River, the long list of sponsors and volunteers, and most of all, the paddlers, for making this year's Mississippi River Challenge a success!  Hope to see you next year!  In the meantime, check out the galleries here and here!

We did it!  Some of the very first paddlers to arrive at the finish at Grey Cloud Island
We did it!  Some of the first paddlers to arrive at Grey Cloud Island share a quick moment of celebration.

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