Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On Vacation

This time I am in California helping my grandpa celebrate his 80th birthday with a big party. I'll miss you all while I'm gone, but I'm so happy to have such a great occasion to celebrate!

Monday, July 27, 2009

To and Fro

It's hard to believe I didn't even get a chance to finish sharing my South Carolina pictures with you before my annual camping adventure with grandpa. Now I have to tell you that I'll be leaving for my California trip a few days early - tomorrow - in order to drive back across with grandpa. It seemed silly to fly out a few days later for his 80th birthday when I could keep him company for the two-day drive back to Santa Rosa. Alas, grandpa's house is an Internet-free house, so, dear readers, all you will get for a while is a taste of the Wyoming wilderness.

I'll make a quick account, however. This year's trip was to be a fishing trip, even though we don't know much about fishing here in Wyoming. We decided to explore a few places, and saw fish everywhere we went. However, our tally was quite sad: Grandpa, 1 and Brian, 1. The trout were having none of out bait - and we tried quite a few different things. But, as always, we had fun. The first night we camped about 45 minutes from home in a hidden-away little spot. We moved on the next day to the Snowy Range, which is only about two hours from our house and which we will definitely return to. At 10,000 feet, the scenery was amazing and the air cool and refreshing. Even at this late in July, the campground had only been clear of snow for a week. We snapped up the last open campsite which overlooked two lakes. It was really perfectly situated for our purposes. And amazingly beautiful.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cypress Gardens, Part III

As with most places in the South, there is a lot of history at Cypress Gardens. Most recently, the property has been used to film a few movies, including The Patriot, for which this faux bridge facade was built. Scenes from The Notebook and Cold Mountain were also filmed here.

Originally, the property dates back to 1725 when it was purchased by Scotsman Alexander Nesbitt. He built Dean Hall here, and turned the property into a profitable rice plantation.

The property was handed down to the sons and grandsons of Nesbitt, who later sold it in 1821 to William Carson. After the Civil War, Carson's family couldn't restore the plantation to productivity, and they considered selling it to Benjamin Kittredge of New York. Son James Carson was reluctant, however, to sell it to a sportsman who would only use it a few months a year. To resolve the situation, Kittredge paid Carson an annuity every year for the rest of Carson's life - which was longer than anyone expected. James gave up drinking to live as long as possible, much to Kittredge's dismay.

Kittredge had the idea to plant the grounds with flowers, and he and his wife took classes at Harvard to learn more about landscaping and botany. They made it a place that others wanted to see, and opened the gardens to the public in 1932.

Kittredge died in 1951. His son sold the property in 1963 to the city of Charleston for $1, stipulating that it must always be open to the public. In 1989, Hurricane Hugo destroyed much of the landscape of the area, and Cypress Gardens was devestated by the loss of hundreds of trees and all of its buildings.

It reopened two years later, but park attendance was down from its high point in the middle of the century, and I imagine it was costing the city quite a bit to maintain. So in 1996 Charleston handed it over to Berkeley County to maintain, which only makes sense as it is located in Berkeley County. Berkeley County built a small aquarium, a butterfly house and began hosting events. My high school prom was held there, and it was so very lovely.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cypress Gardens, Part II

Did I mention Cypress Gardens is covered in alligators? I don't think anyone has been chased down and eaten, but every time I have been there, I see one or two resting in the water near the path. This little guy was not even two feet long, so I didn't hesitate to get up close and personal. Growing up nearby, I've learned what size of animal it takes to chomp off an arm. This little one was more likely to take a finger off, but probably only if I waved it in front of his face. And believe me, I'm not that stupid.

The big ones were out and about on this lovely July day.

The water in the swamp is maybe four foot deep at the most, which the alligators love. If you have seen them in a glass enclosure, you may have noticed they like to rest their hind legs and tail on the ground when they aren't moving.

Somehow getting close in a boat doesn't seem as scary as getting close on foot. I think that's because they are so very fast on land. An alligator can close 10 feet before you can turn around to run. Not that they would, though. They are much less aggressive than crocodiles. In fact, they really just want to eat turtles and birds, as evidenced by a complete lack of alligator attacks at Cypress Gardens.

*** UPDATE***  A woman was bitten by a sunning gator that she surprised while walking on one of the paths in March of 2010.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cypress Gardens, Part I

One of my best friends from high school, who lives in Colorado now, happened to be visiting home at the same time as me. We decided to spend a day together at Cypress Gardens, one of the most beautiful places in South Carolina, conveniently located 20 minutes from our hometown.

Cypress Gardens (not to be confused with the one in Florida) is a 170 acre preserve, the majority of which is comprised of cypress swamp.

The cypress trees reflect endlessly in the blackwater, which is covered by lilypads and inhabited by 30 some-odd alligators, bullfrogs, egrets and many more animals.

Cypress trees are easily identified because of the 'knees' that project upward around them. The real purpose of these knees is unknown, but the growths are thought to provide extra oxygen to the tree, and to anchor them in the shifting soil of the swamp.

Essentially, the swamp is a flooded forest.

You can explore it by a footpath that winds along the water's edge, but as the close proximity to lounging alligators scared us a bit, we opted for a guided boat tour.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Red Catus

There is always something in bloom at my parents' home. This time it was a beautiful red cactus that had levels upon levels of petals.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Always Leaving

I'm back from my summer trip to South Carolina and as always, am feeling a bit blue.
I'm quite content when I'm in Wyoming, but it is so hard to leave my family knowing it will be half a year before I see them again. I often wish I were within driving distance, thinking I'd get there more often and be spared the anxiety of flying, but then I'd never get to take photos out of the plane windows. These sort of shots are never great, but the view from above is so beautiful, especially from Houston to Charleston. You fly right over the coastline for miles and miles and it's too amazing to not at least try to capture it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

On Vacation

It's hard to believe I just got through posting about my last trip out of town, and here I'm on the road again already. This time I'm off to fair South Carolina for a visit with my folks. I was looking at my calendar and the fun looks to be nearly non-stop through August. It feels like summer just began and here it is already a third of the way through! Well, until I talk with you all again, enjoy the rest of yours!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

ETSY PLUG - Stiksel

A couple of months ago, Stiksel's beautiful tea towels were everywhere you looked on Etsy. And for good reason - they are really cool functional items of art.

A graphic designer friend of mine was getting married and I thought she (and her graphic designer husband) would think this was as cool as I did. When it came in the mail it was even more beautiful in person and I almost kept it for myself...

But I didn't. Because Stiksel has several of these in her shop, and though I love the black and red, they come in other colors, too, like this avocado one.

Stiksel also offers this cool design on shirts, and incorporated into other works of art, like the old-fashioned handmade dolls below.

You'll find an eclectic assortment of items in Stiksel's shop. I love this passport case, made of canvas and sandwiched between protective plastic.

These fabric fishes are so fun. The are screen printed on the front and are linen on the back.

And aren't these crocheted coasters really lovely? I love them in this charcoal color - they look modern and graphic and less fussy than traditional white ones.

Check out Stiksel's blog for new products and interesting photos and tidbits from the Netherlands.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Natural Bridge, Virginia

We also stopped at Natural Bridge in Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was actually more impressive than the signs made it out to be. It was originally owned by Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington even climbed the walls to carve his initials. It was really beautiful, and there was a gorgeous nature trail along with it.

This is one roadside attraction I would definitely recommend if you are ever in the area.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Some of the attractions didn't even make any sense, like this cowboy riding a dinosaur. Strange but funny.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


After we saw Jon graduate from medical school, Bri and I loaded up in the van with his folks to drive back to Virginia Beach. Our route took us through the Blue Ridge Mountains, and along the way we saw signs for lots of roadside attractions. We had the whole day, so we stopped at a few. My favorite was Foamhenge, a full-size replica of Stonehenge, but - you guessed it - made out of foam. I couldn't stop laughing at the idea, but when we saw it in person, it actually looked pretty cool.
And of course you have to take funny family photos at roadside attractions.