Sunday, September 15, 2019

Mother of the Bride

I'm taking a break from hiking recaps and fast-forwarding to the present....

Sorry for my absence from blogland this month, it's been a whirlwind of activity.  A huge life event occurred last weekend - my daughter got married.

Gift table

Nearly a year and a half in the making, my super-organized daughter had everything planned to a "T."  She'd chosen a local winery for the ceremony and reception, hired a photographer, caterer, and DJ.  Since she and her husband-to-be loved card games, they chose a playing card theme, and meticulously gathered, bought, or created decorations that followed this concept.

The beautiful bride hoping for a break in the rain

The only thing she couldn't control - the weather.  Historically early September in Oregon is always sunny and dry.  We'd enjoyed three weeks of hot weather leading up to the big day.  But by midweek, a pesky 40% chance of rain popped up in the forecast.  The day before it grew to 80%.  Since an outdoor wedding was planned, my family all hoped the weatherman would be wrong.......

The wedding party

We awoke wedding day morning to cloudy, misty skies.  The hour-by-hour forecast didn't look promising, showing heavy midafternoon rain - just in time for the ceremony!  Although the option existed to hold wedding vows indoors, my daughter would have none of it.  She declared "I paid for a lawn wedding, and that's what I'm going to get." 

Flower girl

Dry skies prevailed during the morning rehearsal.  Someone joked that my daughter and her almost-husband should quickly get married before it started raining.  Several people told my daughter that it's good luck to have rain on your wedding day. (I certainly hope that's true!)

Lovely bridesmaids

All morning while the bride and her bridesmaids prepped hair and makeup, clouds began to thicken and the sky became darker.  My daughter had hoped to have her wedding photo shoot outside amongst the vineyard's beautifully landscaped fields.  Seeing the forecast, her photographer wisely suggested the winery's barrel room as a backup location.  Then, just in time for photographs, the heavens opened up.  Finally dressed and ready for photographs, my daughter asked her bridesmaids what the weather was doing.  No one spoke up.  Turning around and seeing sideways rain pounding against the window she cheerfully remarked, "Barrel room it is!"

The "ring security man"

Luckily the venue had a huge porch overlooking the lawn, which became the de-facto studio for all group portraits.

Relaxing before the big event

The bride was stunning in her gown and the groom handsome in his suit and red Air Jordans.  The bridesmaids were gorgeous in their candy-apple red dresses, the groomsmen dashing in their black suits and red ties (and matching black Air Jordans!).  The flower girl, my niece, was the picture of cuteness.  The ring bearer, or "ring security man" was the son of one of my daughter's friends.  He was decked out in dark shades, name badge, and suitcase to keep the rings secure (however not one to trust a 3-year-old, the maid of honor and best man held the real rings).

Umbrellas up!

Fifteen minutes until "go time" we stood on the winery porch, sipping vino, watching torrents of water fall from the sky and drip off the roof.  It wasn't looking good.  Glancing at the wet chairs lined up on the lawn, I asked the wedding coordinator if someone could wipe them off just prior to the ceremony.  She ran into the kitchen and recruited the catering staff for the task.

Walk down the aisle

The appointed time came....and it was still raining, although not as intense.  The DJ/officiant decided to wait a few extra minutes just in case the weather changed.  But although slowing down, the rain didn't appear to show any sign of letting up.  Someone handed my hubby a red umbrella.  (Not sure where they found an umbrella in her wedding colors, but it was perfect.)  We'd waited long enough - time to start this wedding.  The show must go on! 

It was a wonderful (but wet) ceremony

My husband walked his daughter down the aisle wiping back tears.  She looked so beautiful.  Starting to choke up, I busied myself taking photos (yes, I brought a camera with me - I wasn't about to miss the front-row photo ops!)  Knowing my hubby and I are sensitive souls, prior to the wedding my daughter gifted us each handkerchiefs printed with the words "No ugly crying."  I tell, you she thought of everything!

Exchange of rings

The maid of honor was a trooper - not only did she hold my daughter's extremely heavy bouquet in one hand, she also positioned an umbrella over her head for the entire 10 minute ceremony.  What a great friend!

First kiss

It was a lovely ceremony, with custom vows and many references to cards and poker sprinkled in.  I wish I could remember some of the lines, but I've already totally forgotten them all.  Too bad someone didn't think to take a video of the nuptials.

Time to party!

Although it continued to precipitate the entire time, the rain was never very heavy and I didn't get too wet.  Not long after the first kiss and introduction of the new Mr. and Mrs, it tapered off into sprinkles.  But I was so into the ceremony I didn't even notice.  My hubby and I shed happy tears as our daughter and new son-in-law joyfully walked back down the aisle.  Let the party begin!

First dance

Taking advantage of this brief dry spell the wedding photographer whisked the newlyweds back outside for some vineyard pics.  Then my daughter and son-in-law made a triumphant entrance and commenced their first dance together as husband and wife.  (My son joked he was going to have the DJ play that Alanis Morrissette song titled "Ironic" - "it's like rain on your wedding day")

Daddy-daughter dance

Second on the agenda was the father-daughter dance.  My daughter and her dad have always been close and I got misty-eyed seeing them together on the dance floor.

Of course it cleared up an hour later....

After a few more dances, the DJ took a break for dinner.  We were served delicious food and more wine.  After eating I intended to visit with all of the guests, but time seemed to speed up and I felt like I really didn't see very many people nor have much of a conversation with anyone.

Shoe game (no peeking!)

The DJ called the newlyweds out onto the dance floor to play a game where the bride and groom held one of each of their shoes.  He asked them questions about each other (who is more likely to...?) and they had to answer by holding up the correct shoe.  It was a lot of fun to watch.

Best man speech

Then there were funny and sentimental speeches by the best man and maid of honor.

Maid of honor speech

Of course no wedding is complete without cake!  I absolutely loved the decorations on their wedding cake.  And when it came to feeding each other a slice, my daughter and son-in-law were very polite.

Cake tasting aftermath

During the customary bouquet toss, the DJ invited all the ladies, single or not out to the dance floor.  My daughter made several motions to throw her bouquet, and then at the last minute hustled over to the crowd and handed her bouquet to the flower girl.  So sweet!

The flower girls gets the bouquet

The evening passed by way too quickly and before I knew it, all the guests were leaving and people began cleaning up the venue.  Many hands made fast work, and everything was quickly packed into waiting cars.  The newly-married couple drove off to their honeymoon in the pouring rain (yes, it was raining once again!).

Parents of the bride

Despite the soggy forecast, a little rain didn't dampen our spirits on this special day!   I'm thrilled to have a son-in-law - my daughter's new husband is a smart, ambitious, enthusiastic young man that I adore.  Such a perfectly matched couple, I wish them many years of love and happiness.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Critters of South Dakota

It's been awhile - time for a critter post!

For my early June trip to South Dakota I brought along my big zoom lens in the hopes of capturing some wildlife. 

Curious deer

If you want to see wildlife, western South Dakota has plenty of opportunities.  Some were right in my parent's back yard.  Deer and wild turkey were daily visitors.

Scrawny turkey

The wild turkeys cracked me up.  Their walk was so ungainly.  And they have such a dumb looks on their faces.

Big tom!  (aka "Mr Thanksgiving")

Even their gobbling made me laugh.  It was fun to watch the big toms boss the ladies around.

Little bunny

My folks had a family of tiny cottontail rabbits in their backyard.  So cute!  Thank goodness for my big zoom lens, because they weren't about to stick around for photos.

Baby buffalo

One day my parents and I drove through Wind Cave National Park and Custer State Park in the Black Hills.  One advantage to visiting South Dakota in the late spring - animal babies!

Little horns starting to grow

The young buffaloes were so stinking cute!  Reddish colored and fuzzy with baby fur the little guys were downright adorable.  Their little horns, only nubs, were just starting to grow.


I spotted a few antelope off in the distance.  But those graceful animals are fast, and weren't about to stick around for photos.  Thanks goodness for a 600 mm zoom or I would've never gotten any decent images.

Contented buffalo

A huge herd of buffalo were dozing in a field near Wind Cave National Park's northern entrance.  They didn't appear fazed by the hot day.

"Mom knows I'm cute!"

 My favorite image of the day was this capture of a baby buffalo tilting his head in contentment. 


However, this young-un having lunch was a close second.

Bighorn sheep in the Badlands

The following morning I got up super early and traveled to the Badlands.  Although I just missed sunrise, the animals were out and about.  Not far from the entrance, I came upon a herd of bighorn sheep, and they were right next to the road!

Cute baby bighorns

Not only adult sheep, there were four fuzzy baby bighorns romping around.

More bighorn babies

 Talk about cuteness overload!

The little guys were adorable!

I got out of my car and began shooting away.  Not paying much attention to my surroundings, after a few minutes I looked behind me to see the mother sheep eyeing my warily.  She didn't look happy in the least!  Not wanting to get gored by her horns, I slowly backed into my car.

Telling secrets

It didn't take long for the entire herd of sheep to move towards me until they were surrounding my car.  There was no way I was getting out now.  Instead I stared out the window and enjoyed my front-row view of these magnificent creatures.  The best way to safely observe wild animals, I considered myself extremely lucky.

Mama bighorn

The sheep finally moved on, and I jumped out for a a few more quick shots.  Seeing these sheep so close up and watching the babies frolic and play was definitely the highlight of my day!

Prairie dog

The Badlands are home to numerous mammals.  One of my favorite little critters are the prairie dogs.  These rodent-like mammals live together in a large network of underground burrows and tunnels dubbed "prairie dog towns."

Looking for danger

When danger approaches, the head prairie dog will make loud squeaking noises, and jump up and down to warn his fellow doggies.  These frantic leaping antics are funny to watch.

Ready to jump down his hole

I drove by several prairie dogs towns, but one near the western side of the park was by far my favorite.  Here the little rodents didn't seem to mind if a woman pointed a gigantic lens their way.


Some of the best wildlife sightings (and photos) came from my parent's back yard.  Like this beautiful butterfly posing on some purple flowers.

Turkey resting place

 Or this turkey duo resting on a downed tree.

Love the red comb

Or this lone turkey with the longest, reddest comb I've ever seen.

Western Tanager

During my time in the Black Hills, my parents were even visited by a male and female western tanager.  These birds are so colorful they make great photo subjects.  The problem was catching them feeding in my parent's backyard.  You had to be vigilant.  But one day everything aligned and I was able to get a few photos of this stunning, colorful bird.

Yes, South Dakota is a wildlife watchers dream.  I'm beginning to realize late spring/early summer is a great time to spot critters, especially the little ones.  I may just have to change the date of my annual trip next year!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Crazy Horse Volksmarch 2019

Every summer I travel to the Black Hills of South Dakota to visit family.  Although these visits usually coincide with Labor Day, this year I made the trip in early June.  The main reason for the change?  The Crazy Horse Volksmarch is always held the first weekend of June and after participating nine years ago, I wanted to walk it again.

My family, ready to walk!

The Crazy Horse Memorial is a mountain near Custer, South Dakota that is being carved into the likeness of Crazy Horse, a famous Oglala Lakota warrior.  The work started in 1948, and due to the finished sculpture's colossal size, is far from completion.  When it is finished, Crazy Horse Memorial will be the world's second largest sculpture.

Follow the sign

Due to extensive construction work involving blasting rock, the mountain is off-limits.  The sculpture-in-progress can be viewed from the visitor center, a safe distance away.  But twice a year the Crazy Horse Memorial suspends work and holds a weekend volksmarch, allowing the public access to the mountain's very top.

The walk began in lovely pine woods

Hoping for some company, I recruited two of my brothers and young nephew.  My parents normally participate in the volksmarch every year, but this time my mom was recovering from an illness.  Although also under the weather, but not wanting to miss out, at the last minute my dad decided to join in the fun.

My nephew found the checkpoint sign

It was a gorgeous blue-sky South Dakota morning as my youngest brother pulled his pickup into the parking area designated for volksmarchers.  After everyone had applied sunscreen and visited the port-o-potty, we paid our 3 bucks each and picked up our checkpoint cards.  The walk had four checkpoints along it's route, and walkers were required to have their card stamped at each one.

Helpful Cub Scouts stamped our cards

Our walk began in the shade of some lovely pine woods.  Following a rough trail my family and I wound up and down a few short hills.  No real views of the mountain yet, but the scenery was pleasant and the temperature perfect.

Following a haul road

Before we knew it we came upon the first checkpoint, manned by a troop of enthusiastic Cub Scouts.  The boys happily stamped our cards, and we continued on.

Our first glimpse of Crazy Horse Mountain

After crossing a boggy area, walkers were directed onto a gravel haul road.  My family and I traversed another steep hill, and then came out into an open area.  Up ahead I caught glimpses of the famous mountain.  Another bend in the road and it was front and center.

A model of the finished sculpture

After nine years, I expected to see dramatic changes to the mountain, but it looked about the same.  The face was complete (it was finished in 1998), a large hole blasted under where the arm will be, and an outline of the horse's head painted on the granite.  But the sculpture is so big that even though large amounts of rock are removed from the mountain's face every year, progress is hard to measure visually.

Passing by the final checkpoint

The volksmarch route passed by an area where some of the construction vehicles were parked, which gained my nephew's full attention (he loves big trucks).

Climbing a long hill

Taking a short break in the shade of a bank of stadium lights (the memorial offers laser light shows in the summer months) I made sure my dad drank water and had a snack.  Although he was holding up much better than expected, I was still worried about him hiking while recovering from an illness.  (He's over 80 - but is in such great shape you wouldn't know it!)

The face comes into view

Passing by checkpoints 2 and 3, participants received more enthusiastic Cub Scout greetings.  One checkpoint offered port-o-potties, and another had set up a snack booth raising funds for a different local Cub Scout troop.

Family photo op

By the time we reached checkpoint 4, Crazy Horse's face dominated the skyline.  It didn't look far now.  But this final stretch was a steep, gravel road that was mostly in the sun.  Now nearly midday, it was getting hot.  I worried that this hot climb would be too much for my dad.

Amazing detail in the eyes

But dad was determined to make it all the way.  We walked slowly, and I encouraged him to stop and rest whenever he needed to.  There were a few small patches of shade, and our group paused at each one to give dad a breather.  My dad did wonderfully, never complained, and was enthusiastic the entire time.  Also a trooper, my young nephew, who had just completed 1st grade, made the entire climb without so much as a peep. 

View from the top

Finally, the side of the face came into view.  Rounding the corner, I stepped out onto the top of Crazy Horses's arm.  What a view!  The enormous carved face rose before me, 87 feet 6 inches in height.  On either side, the forested slopes of the Black Hills stretched away for miles.

Passing by the armpit

I was surprised to see the mountaintop wasn't packed with people as it was on my previous volksmarch nine years ago.  There was ample room to wander around and take in the sights without fighting for space.  My family even got a group photo unobstructed by other people.  Maybe because we hiked on Sunday of the two-day event?  Whatever the reason, I was happy for the smaller crowds.

Father and son heading down

My family spent a good twenty minutes on the summit, gazing in awe at the intricately detailed face (the eyes were amazing!), taking in the expansive views, and listening to a few of the workers stationed on top chat with volksmarchers.  Then, seeing thunderheads billowing in the distance, we decided it was time to get off the mountain.

One final close-up

After descending on the gravel haul road, our route diverged from the folks still climbing and followed a different path to the parking lot.  We passed by a shallow ditch full of croaking frogs (which my nephew tried in vain to locate).  Looking behind gave another perspective of the mountain, rising above huge piles of crushed rock blasted from it's slopes.

Lots of rock and equipment below

Although the volksmarch was billed as a 10 kilometer distance (6.2 miles) when we reached the parking lot my brother's gps watch only recorded 4.5 miles.  Having completed lots of hikes recently, it didn't seem like 6 miles to me either.  No matter, it was more than enough for my dad who weathered the walk in good spirits, and was now ready for some lunch in nearby Hill City.

Thunderheads gathering

A great way to spend time with my family, hike No. 23 of my #52hikechallenge was especially memorable.

The blog post about my 2010 Crazy Horse Volksmarch can be found here.

To learn more about the Crazy Horse Memorial visit their excellent website:, or click on this link.