Patricia Temples Photography

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Archive for the category “ADVENTURES”

Wind Turbines

The first time I saw wind turbines was in 1992. While driving from Claremont CA to Palm Springs my friend and I happened upon a Wind Farm with hundreds of turbines. The land was down below the level of the road, in a valley. We bravely drove down among the turbines and it was magical. Today I believe there are guided tours in this same area so people can see what we saw 24 years ago up close and personal.

The next time I saw wind turbines it was from the air, Sept 2015 on a flight in a small plane over West Virginia. This time I got photos. Again, it was magical.

West VA WT.jpg

In May of this year my husband and I drove across the United States to visit some of the western national parks. When we were in Kansas and then Colorado, and later in New Mexico and Texas, we saw wind turbines.  I was excited.  I took a lot of photos from the car, repetitive and full of window glare, but I wanted to capture them all.  I think they look like sculptures! In the photo below you can see a crop-duster who was flying among the turbines.

With a planeLast September when I posted a photo of the West Virginia ridge full of wind turbines, I got several comments about them, some pro, some con.  So today as I write this, I want to present some facts, some interesting, and some enlightening, at least to me.

My initial thoughts about wind turbines are that they are a beautiful and safe alternative to fossil fuels for energy.  When we drove through Kentucky, we saw in the distance a huge energy installation which included 3 nuclear reactors and 4-5 smoke stacks billowing smoke.  It was ugly and scary to me.  When I saw the wind turbines, it was a pleasant and peaceful sight.  So, I decided to do a little research on them.

WT 2

There are 48,800 utility-scale turbines (larger than 100 kilowatts for significant power generation) in 40 states and Puerto Rico.  The amount of energy generated in a year is the equivalent of energy used in 20 million homes. There are 88,000 wind-related jobs across the US.

WT 1The steel tower is over 300 feet tall,and the blades are 116 feet long.  The optimum wind speed for rotating the blades is 25-35 mph, creating a rotation of 14 rpm and a speed of 105 mph at the tip of the blade.  The blades rotate automatically into the face of the wind, and the pitch of the blades also changes as needed to optimize the capture of the wind energy.

The majority of wind farms are on private land, which is leased by the developer for the expected life span of the turbines of 20-30 years.  The current estimate of potential energy from wind farms is 10 times the energy consumption for the United States.

Now, to the concerns.  One friend mentioned that many birds get killed flying into the turbines.  Yes, 214,000 – 368,000 is the estimate. That’s too bad, isn’t it?  Estimates about bird deaths from other “obstacles” are:  cell and radio towers – 6-8 million;  windows on buildings – 1 billion;  cats – 1.4 – 3.7 billion.  Birds don’t have it easy.

WT 4

I read online that people are worried about having wind turbines near where they live because of the electrical charges in the air. One fellow said that his cell phone charges automatically without being plugged in! Out west the wind farms are in open areas, away from towns and cities, and to me that is the ideal location. There are often animals grazing under them, or crops growing among them. The land is still useful, there is no run-off of chemicals or toxic materials.  The electricity that is generated is of course “captured” and sent via power lines to where it is needed.  I have a new respect for power lines after my trip out west because they are the lifeline of the people there. Many, many miles can be traveled without seeing civilization, but you will see power lines making sure the next community has power.

WT 6 transmission lines

Finding ways to satisfy our ever-growing need for energy that is safe, clean and efficient is a worthy endeavor.  I vote for wind turbines.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

We left the Mighty Five Parks in Utah, heading out for our return trip to Virginia. We took the southern route back, and there were several things we wanted to see along the way.  But, at the beginning of our trip, soon after we entered Colorado, we noticed another National Park not far from our route. So, we stopped in the town of Cortez to inquire at the Visitors Center about Mesa Verde. On the map, it is a relatively small park, especially compared to the huge Canyonlands Park we had just left. When I said that to the volunteer, she raised her eyebrows at me and said, “Well, to see even the best part of the park will take you four hours.”  Wow. She was right. We spent just about that much time in this park and could have spent more.

Mancos ValleyBecause this is such a fascinating park, I am going to give you more facts, all lifted from the official brochure you receive at the visitors center.

Mesa Verde is Spanish for “Green Table.”  Ancestral Pueblo people settled in this area in A.D. 500.  They farmed, hunted wild animals and gathered edible plants.  They also made tools from stone, wood, and bone, and built pit houses for homes.  Pit houses were often clustered as small villages on the mesa tops. In the second photo below, you can see that they designed a system to keep their fires burning inside the pit.  Placing a stone in front of the opening below created a draft to pull air through and out a hole on the surface above.

Pithouses 1

Pithouses 2

In about A.D. 750, the Pueblos began building houses above ground using poles and mud.  By A.D. 1000 their skills had advanced to stone masonry.  Walls of thick stone often rose two to three stories high and were joined as units of 50 rooms or more.  Some of these homes were built in cliff alcoves that had once served their ancestors as sheltered areas.  The cliff dwellings are what made Mesa Verde famous.

Cliffdwellings 5A

Cliffdwellings 5B

Cliffdwellings 5

Most of the cliff dwellings were built from the late 1190s to late 1270s.  They range from one-room houses to community centers of about 150 rooms.  Builders fit the structure into the available space.  Notice the gorgeous stone around the cliff dwellings.  It’s a part of the beauty of the space, much as our land accentuates our property.

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As we looked with binoculars across the canyon to the cliffs, we wondered how the Pueblos moved from one house to another, or from their home on the cliff to their gardens above.  It was a hard life.  They lived in the cliff dwellings for fewer than 100 years, and by 1300 Mesa Verde was deserted.  They joined other Ancestral Pueblo who moved south into what is now New Mexico and Arizona.

Local ranchers first reported the cliff dwellings in the 1880s.  Archaeologists have studied, excavated, analyzed and restored pit houses and cliff dwellings.  The history reveals people adept at building, and skillful at making a living on difficult land.   The evolution of their skills is evident in the various structures seen in the park.

Cliffdweller statue




Arches National Park

I’ve saved this Utah Park for last, even though it wasn’t the last of the Mighty Five we visited, but because this is a Park that many people know and recognize. We wisely determined that we should go to this park on Thursday instead of Friday after our experience at Zion. We entered this park at 7:30am, which was really too late for a sunrise photographer, but the light was still great, and the crowds were still asleep. It was a beautiful time to be there. My images don’t have the wow you have seen from other photographers, but I’m happy with them nevertheless.



Petrified dunes


Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park is Utah’s largest park.  It is divided into four districts, but we only saw one, Island in the Sky.  That is the northernmost section, and it is a broad mesa bordered by the Green River on the west and the Colorado River on the east.  These two photos are from the Green River Overlook.


There is a White Rim in the canyons below the overlooks, which is sandstone. A ranger talk that we heard indicated that when this area was under water, sand was deposited along the rim and as the water receded, essentially a beach was left behind.  If you look closely in the photo below, you can see a car approaching the whitest area in the foreground.  Special permits allow cars to go into the canyon for exploration or camping.  The day before we were going into the park, a shopowner showed us a special weather alert.  The White Rim Road was going to be closed the next day because of the expectation of 3 feet of water in the area!  We watched the weather forecast that night, but no rain was predicted.  I inquired of a hiker whom I heard talking at breakfast.  He was going into that area, and the water expectation was because of snow melt in the mountains.  It was going to be 84 degrees that day.  As you can see, the car was traveling in a totally dry area.  Some bikers also went by on this path near the rim as I watched.


We heard a wonderful ranger talk about the geology of the park. It’s easy to see why this is called Canyonlands.



Ranger 1Ranger 2

I walked out to Mesa Arch, which gives you a wonderful framed view of the La Sal Mountains in the distance.  I also saw a variety of desert plants on the short hike to this arch.  The arch was busy with photographers, both amateur and professional. As we jockeyed for position, one woman fell head first down a short, but steep cliff not far away.  I think she had a few bruises, mostly to her ego.  That could have been me in a heartbeat.


On to Capitol Reef National Park

We arrived safely in Torrey, Utah, a quaint little town with plenty of restaurants and art galleries and shops for local products. Lunch was the first order of business and we found Cafe Diablo on the outskirts of town, which was recommended by Fodor’s. This turned out to be a wonderful restaurant and we ate there three times in the next couple of days.

As we drove through Torrey, there were speed limit signs and digital signs telling us how fast we were going. They were serious about speeding! In addition, the sheriff’s car was parked in a prominent location in the middle of the busiest area, and so we paid close attention to the speedometer.

Capitol Reef National Park is a large park.  Within its borders there is an early Mormon settlement named Fruita, which has a lovely little park and gigantic aspen trees.  I can proudly say I was hugged by an aspen tree.  They also had a fenced off area where they were protecting Chinese Wisteria!!  We consider that an invasive here in Virginia, but out there, they are trying to bring back this large vine.CRNP 3


We drove on paved and unpaved roads in Capitol Reef NP.  The unpaved roads got us down among the rocks, and into magical places.

After several hours in the park, we went back into Torrey and investigated going on a Jeep Tour into an area of the park where the roads are rougher. We thought it would be great to have a guide to tell us about the landmarks there and other local information. However, that night we got a call that they had overbooked and wouldn’t be able to take us on the Jeep Tour. So, instead, the next day we drove ourselves into the Waterpocket Fold area of the park. What a great decision that was!  We would have missed that if we had gone on the Jeep Tour. This is what the Park is known for.  A giant monocline has pushed up into high cliffs, leaving a flat valley below. The monocline stretches for 100 miles. We drove through private land for a bit before hitting the park boundaries, and we saw Sandy Ranch, a huge operation below us with cows, lush green grass, and an occasional farm truck.  Then we went once again on unpaved roads, which led us back to Boulder on Route 12!!

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We returned again to Torrey and again to Cafe Diablo.  This meant we had to go through the speed trap!  Every time we went through town, which was often, we saw the Sheriff’s car sitting there.  So, I decided to take a good look.  There was a dummy sitting in the driver’s seat!  So, on one trip through I made Roger pull off, I walked over to the car and took a couple of shots. You can imagine what the tourists were thinking who drove through while I was standing there with my camera!

Torrey Sheriff 1Torrey Sheriff 2




Utah’s Scenic Byway, Route 12

We were told by locals and tourists alike that if we were headed to Capitol Reef National Park, we needed to take Route 12, a scenic byway and All-American Road. A road receives All-American designation by having scenic views unlike any anywhere else, and there are not many roads with this designation.  So, on Monday morning we headed out from Bryce Canyon NP (lower left) to Capitol Reef (upper right center at Torrey) via Route 12.

Route 12 Map.jpg

A guest at the lodge with whom I had a conversation told me it was a spectacular road, with pullouts and special sights all along the way.  He also told me that there was a section of the road which had sheer cliffs on either side.  “I just don’t know why they didn’t put guard rails on that section,” he said.  That was enough to get me going.  I dreaded that section all the way.

The scenery was indeed spectacular and there were sufficient pullouts (that’s what they call them in the west) to give me opportunities for shooting while standing still, something I hadn’t done nearly enough of, it seemed.  I was particularly excited by the heavy cloud formations overhead.  We innocently discussed the possibility of rain on this trip over the mountains.  But, I loved the drama they created and every time I held the camera to my eye, I had a heart palpitation!  Magnificent.

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But, I kept my eye on the map and the upcoming cliffs with sheer drops and no guard rails.

Route 12 7

It got gloomier, and it was clear we were headed into a storm.  Then, at 9300 feet on our GPS, the snow started coming down, then hail. The road quickly turned white.

Route 12 8

We drove slowly through this squall, meeting a few cars on the way, and every foot of the trip I’m thinking…..we have to drive on this slick road with no guard rails and sheer drops down the mountain.

Soon we started getting out of the snow, and things began to brighten.  We started seeing beautiful birch trees with their white trunks and black markings, just beginning to have new yellow-green leaves for the season.  I loved them.  But, I”m still worried.

Route 12 9

Route 12 10

Route 12 11The next thing I know we’re in Boulder, Utah!  Looking at the map, I could see we had passed the dreaded section of road.  I had missed it!  I still don’t know how. I think I must have just “blacked out” when we got there, since I was quite worried about it.  My husband, the driver, says it was a bit scary.  We had hit it before the snow storm and I didn’t even know.

After writing this draft, I decided to google “The Hogback, Route 12, Utah” and found a couple of youtube videos of the drive.  I don’t think I missed it at all!  I think it just wasn’t nearly as scary as I had imagined it would be.  It’s a one-mile section between Escalante and Boulder. Try it for yourself and tell me what you think.

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