Friday, August 22, 2014

Yellowstone: Palette Spring

A. F. Litt: Yellowstone National Park &emdash; Palette Spring

Palette Spring
Mammoth Hot Springs. Yellowstone National Park. July 31, 2014
Copyright © 2014 A. F. Litt, All Rights Reserved

I’ll start with the spring… The last time I was at Yellowstone was in the very early 1980s, the summer between 1st and 2nd Grade, I think.  Mammoth Hot Springs was one of the last places we went, I if I remember right, and I was suffering from a little geothermal feature burnout and wanted to do something else that day, but my parents hauled me up from the Bridge Bay campground (I think) under duress, and I was glad they did.  I was blown away. 

So I was really looking forward to this stop, our first major geothermal site in the park on this trip. 

But the springs have settled down a bit since then.  While this is still a spectacular place, it does not feel as active as it was 30 years ago.  Spring after spring had notes about being more active in the 1970s and then quieting down in the early to mid 80s.  

At first, I started worrying that, well, maybe Yellowstone wasn’t going to live up to my memories, but no, things are just a little more quiet at Mammoth then they were the last time I was there.  It’s the nature of these features to change and shift, to ebb and flow…

Still, the Mammoth Hot Springs Trail Guide assures us that, while these springs “change constantly, and sometimes overnight” that the “overall activity of the entire area and the volume of water discharge remain[s] relatively constant.”

Because of this, it might not be so much that the Mammoth springs have settled down, but that the water flowing from the springs I remember has moved on to other springs.  I suspect that things were more spread out back then, maybe the volume was being discharged by a number of smaller features and now it is being more concentrated in fewer but larger springs.

So, while I remember a lot of water coming down on both sides of the boardwalk between Mound & Jupiter Terraces and Minerva Terrace, Minerva was pretty dry this year making this stretch of trail a lot less dramatic than my memories (one of my favorite spots back when I was a kid).  But in exchange, we were greeted with a much more active and spectacular site at Palette, which is much more active since I was there last, in fact overrunning and closing one of the trails looping through the area.

As for the photos… This was a long trip for our family, and these photos was taken at the end of the third day…  We’d jammed out to the park in a day and a half and arrived late, after dark on the 30th, so this was our first day out and really sightseeing. 

Palette Spring MistTaking photos while on a family vacation can be a touchy endeavor.  Seeing this spring, at this time of the day, with this light, I could have lingered for an hour (or, at least, until we lost the light…  Thank God for the endless summer golden hours!), but the kids were getting tired and hungry (dinner at Outlaw Pizza in Gardiner was our next stop), and I had to rush things a bit. 

So these are the sacrifices for art I have to make…  Instead of running back to the car for a tripod, I made due with my monopod and some hand held shots…  So I don’t feel like I got the photos I really wanted in the end, and relied on repetition to get some of the ones I did capture (take 20, one might be still enough to use!)…

Too often, rushing through locations is my downfall, and has been for most of my photographic life.  With the Recreating the Historic Columbia Highway project, most of my photography is rushed, trying to get to as many sites as possible during the day, and often I am shooting not for art but to document sites and conditions of old road and building traces.  On family trips, I feel like I am holding up everyone else, so I rush with gear, settings, and even with being absolutely sure that I got the shots I think I got, relying on a quick chimp, at the most, instead of really zooming in on the frame to make sure that the photo is a clear as it seems with a quick glance at the back of the camera. 

But on this trip, I did try to slow down and to take some time to be a little more still, a little more sure, and a little better equipped.  These are not locations that I expect to be returning to any time soon, and I didn’t want to return home with cards filled with almost but not quite shots.

However, on the first non-travel day of the trip, these practices were not entirely in place yet, and I will admit that it is a life long struggle that won’t fix itself overnight!

On 500px:
On Panoramio / Google Earth:

Palette Spring and SkyPalette Spring TerracePalette Spring Palette Spring CascadePalette Spring, New and Old FormationsPalette Spring and Clouds

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Our Lady of the Rockies

A. F. Litt: Montana &emdash; Our Lady of the Rockies 

Our Lady of the Rockies
Shot from the Berkeley Pit.  Butte, Oregon.  July 30, 2014.
Copyright © 2014 A. F. Litt, All Rights Reserved

Today’s photo isn’t technically great, since it’s shot on the P510 with the super zoom cranked to the max, but it is interesting.  We were staring at the large quarry lake that has filled the Berkeley Pit in Butte, Montana since the last time I was there and we noticed some statue or something up on the mountain to the east of us.  Turns out that it is an enormous statue of the Virgin Mary and the second tallest statue in the United States after the Statue of Liberty.  Built in 1985, it wasn’t there the last time I was through Montana.  The statue is 90 feet tall, but is still easily missed since it is way up on top of a 8,500 foot mountain, 3,500 feet above the town.

For more information and some interesting pictures, follow the links below:

The Story: "The base of the statue was poured with 400 tons of concrete in September of 1985. December 17, 1985, a Nevada Air National Guard team lifted the statue in four sections with a CHAR Sikorsky Sky Crane. Supported by the Montana National Guard, the U.S. Army Reserve from Butte, and teams of civilian workers, the final head - section was place atop the statue, while thousands watched."

Our Lady of the Rockies - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "Our Lady of the Rockies is a 90-foot (27 m) statue, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, that sits atop the Continental Divide overlooking Butte, Montana. It is the second tallest statue in the United States after The Statue of Liberty. The statue was built by volunteers using donated materials to honor women everywhere, especially mothers. The base is 8,510 feet above sea level and 3,500 feet above the town. The statue is lit and visible at night."

Butte's iconic Our Lady of the Rockies celebrates 25 years: "In 1979, Bob O'Bill wanted to build a 5-foot statue of the Virgin Mary to celebrate his wife's recovery from serious illness. He thought maybe it would be placed in a city park. But plans began to snowball and area engineers were soon picking out a suitable spot — the 8,500-foot Saddle Rock high on the Continental Divide — for the placement of a 90-foot statue. From head to toe, it would be as big as the Statue of Liberty and it would become the second largest statue in the country. It still holds that honor."

Supreme Court reverses Our Lady decision: "Supreme Court reverses Our Lady decision ROAD PLANNED FOR TRAM IS NOT PUBLIC, COURT SAYS"



On 500px:

On Panoramio / Google Earth:

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Harris Homestead, Deschutes River, & the Railroad Wars

A. F. Litt: Oregon - Deschutes River &emdash; Harris Homestead House and Sagebrush, 2014

Harris Homestead House and Sagebrush, 2014
Deschutes River Trail. Sherman County, Oregon. August 19, 2014
Copyright © 2014 A. F. Litt, All Rights Reserved

Photo of the Day, not from the two week trip, but from the rafting trip from this week.  Now, I just had some ideas on how to proceed, nothing was promised!


On 500px:

On Panoramio / Google Earth:

UPDATE:  August 21, 2014

One of the things I’ve been wanting to do with the renewed POTD is to write a little more about the photos I’ll be posting.  Unfortunately, yesterday I didn’t have time to do this. 

I took this photo while on a three day, father and son rafting trip with a group from our church.  We floated the Deschutes from Buckhollow, just below Sherars Falls, to Heritage Landing at the confluence with the Columbia.  We camped for the second night at the Fall Canyon campsite and, scouting around a bit after setting up our tent, I noticed the old homestead about a mile, more or less, up the river trail from our campground.

We didn’t have a chance to walk out there until later in the evening, right at sunset, and as we approached, I only had a few seconds to shoot with the house well lit with the last of the sun’s rays before it dipped below the ridgeline and left the ruins in shadows. 

While there was still plenty of light left to get some closer photos, this is the only nice shot I was able to capture of the house still bathed in the sunset glow.

I was able to get some neat shots though, both around the homestead and a little further down the trail at the old Deschutes Railroad Water Tower.  Went back again in the morning, as well, hoping for some sunrise light, but there were quite a few clouds in the sky and it was a rather pale and grey dawn.

The trip was spectacular, though the river was high so the rapids weren’t as exciting as we’d hoped.  But, since it was a whitewater rafting trip, I only took a point and shoot camera that stayed in its dry bag most of the time and a small, waterproof video camera that takes awful stills, so not that many photos came home with me.  Mostly a video trip, and I’ll be editing that footage and posting it sometime this fall.

Below is some more information about the area.  Follow the links for more details.

Deschutes River Maps:

Harris Homestead - Hiking in Portland, Oregon and Washington:

At mile 10.9 is the Harris Homestead. There is a dilapidated farm house and dilapidated farm buildings. This area is currently being used for farming. The farmers used to live here, but now they live in The Dalles and drive here when needed. There are several farm fields and a building with some farm equipment like some irrigation and fencing stuff. On a typical day, a pickup or two will drive from the trailhead to here, do some work, and then drive back. Horses are allowed only to here. Beyond, only hikers and bikers are allowed.

Deschutes River Hike - Hiking in Portland, Oregon and Washington:

There are railroad and farm relics all along the trail. At mile 1, off the hikers trail next to the river, there's some sort of cable car that goes across the river. At mile 5.6 there's an old railroad car with an intact wood floor that might offer protection in inclement weather. At mile 6.6 is the remains of a bridge across the river (Free Bridge). There's one footing on the east side and another footing in the middle of the river. At mile 7.8 there's an old wood trestle and another railroad car. As of 2014, this car is now gone - I have to go see if there are any relics. At mile 10.9 is the remains of the Harris Homestead - a dilapidated house, some dilapidated farm buildings, a dilapidated cabin, and another farm building that has some current materials like hoses and fence posts.


This hike ends at the water tower just beyond the Harris Homestead at mile 11.3. Return the way you came. See Deschutes River from Macks Canyon Hike for a description of the next 11.8 miles to a trailhead at Macks Canyon.

Portland Hikers • View topic - Deschutes River Bike Camping Trip, April 23-24-25: (A nice picture of the campsite we stayed at and other photos.  Also, it appears the house was a bit more intact in  2010, the leaning bit in these photos is all the way down now!)

Fall Canyon is just one of the many campsites along the Deschutes that were set up primarily for rafters. We didn't see anyone rafting the river this weekend though. Afterwards we struck out to explore the eerie, yet strangely beautiful Harris homestead a mile down the pike…

Portland Hikers • View topic - Deschutes River Hike (April 5-7, 2012):

…about two hours later we arrived at the Homestead and started checking it out. The kids and dog even ran up stairs for a photo op. Us adults on the other hand decided to not push the limits of the old framing. We found some cool “artifacts”. We continued onto the water tower and had lunch there. On our way back there was a guy plowing the fields at the Homestead so we ran down and asked him why they were plowing the fields as this was a source of much discussion last night. The guy we spoke with (Mike) was super nice, he said they were planting Barley (he specified the type, but I don’t remember) because the deer and sheep really “love it”. With my curiosity satisfied we moved on.



One of the last railroad wars to occur, happened right  here in the state of Oregon.   In the end, the dispute was settled, but not after men died and property was damaged.  Today, one line lays abandoned and the other still in use.  This article will discuss primarily the abandoned Deschutes Railroad and it's remains, as well as the abandoned sections of the original Oregon Trunk.

The story is quite complicated, so what you will read here is a very abbreviated version.   In 1908, construction of two competing railroads was begun at the confluence of the Deschutes and Columbia Rivers.   The Oregon Trunk railroad was to connect with the Union Pacific on the south bank of the Columbia River, while the Deschutes Railroad was to connect with the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railroad, located on the north bank of the Columbia River.

The Deschutes Railroad Company, a subsidiary of Union Pacific, was the first to take action on what was thought to be a lucrative railroad route.  Surveys were conducted as early as 1906 along the banks of the Deschutes River.  It was decided that the east bank offered the best route and the Deschutes Railroad began to survey and construct there.    Not long afterwards, the Oregon Trunk Railroad, which was incorporated in Nevada by investors from Seattle, with the sole purpose of running a railroad down the Deschutes, began its own surveys and construction along the west bank of the river.

Over the next few years, the railroads would be involved in numerous legal disputes over accessing the river canyon.   Specifically, because at several points along the route, both sides were competing for the same ground.   While railroad wars were common in the  1800s because railroad companies were often rewarded with more land, the quicker they could build, they had subsided by the 1900s.   However, the dispute between the Oregon Trunk and the Deschutes Railroad quickly deteriorated into essentially a railroad war.  One of the last to occur in the U.S.   Competing construction crews would often blow up each other's supplies and black powder stores, dump boulders on the camps and even get into gun battles!   Men were even apparently killed.  The local Sheriff had to get involved and made several arrests while enforcing court orders.

The first sectional abandonment occurred when the Oregon Trunk abandoned its line between South Junction and Metolius in 1923, and began using the Deschutes Railroad track from South Junction into Madras and Bend under a trackage rights agreement. This abandoned section had three tunnels, one of which still exists today and can be easily explored.

The next major abandonment occurred in 1935, when the entire Deschutes Railroad on the east bank from Moody to North Junction was abandoned.  The Oregon Trunk agreed to allow the Deschutes Railroad to use its better built line on the west bank and share costs of maintenance.   From this time forward, the railroad was essentially a single line operated
by two companies.  

Both the Oregon Trunk and the Deschutes Railroad originate from the south bank of the Columbia River.   The abandoned Deschutes Railroad originated from near the current site of Miller.  Nothing is left of Miller, but the line connected to the Union Pacific route that was already built on the west bank of the Columbia River.

Twin crossings is one of more interesting sites along the two railroad routes.  This is as far north as I've explored, so this photo featurebegins here.     This was one of the most contested build sites of both railroads, because both lines had to tunnel on the same side of the river right next to each other.  The tunnels would also be most significant in length of all the tunnels on the two lines, meaning the two competing crews had to spend a significant amount of time together.   A number of fights broke out and at one point one crew at to move their camp due to the blasting activities of the other crew.   Today, the Oregon Trunk tunnel and two steel bridges still survive today and are actively used by the BNSF/UP.  However, the Deschutes River tunnel was blasted shut sometime after 1935 when its line was abandoned.   When the Deschutes RR was converted to a road probably well after World War Two, the road was built over the site of the Deschutes tunnel, but a
few hints of the grade and some concrete abutments of small bridges can still be seen in the area.

As you can see, there is literally no hint of the Deschutes grade here.  Long covered by rock slides, probably from the road construction as it was built over the tunnel.   The two right photos are of the north bridge of the two bridges that crossed over the Deschutes River.   This is facing southwest.   Heading south on the west bank, the Oregon Trunk crossed the Deschutes river, entered its tunnel on the east bank and then crossed back over the Deschutes and continued down on the west bank again.  This route was chosen to keep the line as straight as possible
in this particular location.  In looking at the maps, it appears the S curve route that would have been the alternative wouldn't have been any more unusual that other S curves on the route, leading me to wonder if the site was chosen just as much as a provocation to the Deschutes RR as it was a strategic location.

Oregon Sheriffs - Sherman County:

On one side was James J. Hill, who first announced plans to help develop Central Oregon after visiting the Lewis and Clark Exhibition in Portland in 1905. Rumor had it Hill intended to build a railroad through Central Oregon, beginning at Bend and extending south to Klamath Falls and into northern California.


On the other side of the tussle was builder E. H. Harriman, who upon hearing the rumors of Hill's rail plans organized the Deschutes Railroad Co., and began surveying and filing maps of rights of way over government land in the Deschutes River canyon.


A man posing as sports fisherman John F. Sampson entered the picture a short time later and began buying up Options on wild lands and ranches throughout the Deschutes River Valley. He then approached William Nelson, the man who held controlling interest in a speculative, but non-existant railroad company called the Oregon Trunk Line, organized in 1906 in Nevada. Sampson bought Nelson's interests for $150,000.


It later was revealed that John F. Sampson was really John F. Stevens, the noted engineer behind the development of the Panama Canal and the Great Northern Railroad. Stevens had actually bought the Oregon Trunk Railroad for Hill, who furnished the funds to build the rail line through Central Oregon.

PaddleWise - Stories:

Competition was fierce with rival companies timing blasting to roll rocks into the path of the competition. Powder stores were located and exploded in sabotage night raids. In addition to the name-calling and rock throwing, shots were often exchanged. Coyote holes, shallow surface holes in the rock for black powder charges, often threw rock and debris across the river, endangering the competing crew. While clearing rock for coyote holes, the crew from Harriman's Des Chutes line discovered a large ball of rattle snakes huddled together to conserve body heat. The crew then spent several days sneaking burlap bags full of rattle snakes into the Oregon Trunk Railroad camp. Many of the Italian immigrants working for the Trunk Railroad under the supervision of contractor Harry E. Carlton packed and left the job.

At one point in the construction both companies posted riflemen on the ridges to cover the activities of their crews. One of these riflemen noticed sputtering sparks in the midst of sleeping workers. Closer inspection revealed a lighted fuse leading to a keg of black powder.



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from tag history

Happy 124th Birthday, H. P. Lovecraft

Grégory Lê






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NaNoWriMo 2013 & 2014

nanomofo nanowrimo-fail

Last November and next November are a long way off, and it is a testament to how busy this year has been that I still haven’t posted about my 2013 NaNoWriMo belly flop until now, but I wanted to preserve this piece of joy before taking it down off my blog:

2013 NaNoWriMo

I was going the rebel route and trying to get some work in on my 2012 novel, which still needs to be finished.  Here is the counter for the novel, same now as it was at the end of NaNoWriMo 2013:

2013 nanowrimo total words

I wrote about my goals for 2013 last November, so I won’t go into detail here, but they were not about writing 50,000 words in a month, or even finishing the novel, but they involved getting back in touch with that novel and, mostly, carving out time in my schedule and building routines and habits to work on writing every day.

So what happened? 

Mostly, I realized that I already was writing a book, though a non-fiction one, Recreating the Historic Columbia River Highway, and that my schedule did not allow me time to work on two books at once while trying to raise the boys and start a business and… and… and…  all the things that fill my days.

e854fa10d95117260732b32f829e69dfIn fact, going through that process is one of the things that made me realize that I am writing a book on the HCRH.

Sure, I had a book as a part of the overall general plan with that project, but it wasn’t until last November that that piece started to feel real to me.  Until then, my focus was on the movie, and research to support the movie.

So where am I now with these projects?

With the novel, it is pretty much written in my head, so to finish the rough draft it is really just pounding out the details and dialog into the computer.

However, people change over time and the stories we want to tell changes with us.  While I still love that story and am dying to get it out into the world, the way I want to tell it has changed a bit, so I after finishing the rough draft, I will be going back and rewriting the whole thing before sharing it.

And when will these drafts be finished?  I have no way of telling, right now.  There are a lot of variables, but I hope to get a draft out to some test readers sometime in the next two years.  Best case scenario, it will be 2015, but considering that the HCRH book is my main priority right now, and that I want to have it on sale by the fall of 2015, 2015 is pretty unlikely for the novel, since I doubt I will have time to write two books at once.

And then there is all the photography and video work to be done…  

And then there are the boys’ tutoring and homework and… 

Oh, bother. 

I can sleep when I am dead!

But I love this stuff, and it will all get done eventually.  Of that, I have little doubt.

Oh, and NaNoWriMo 2014?  Not sure yet.  Maybe.  Probably not.  We’ll see what happens once the boys are back in school.

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Cool aerial video of Steamboat Rock & Grand Coulee

Some neat video shot over some of my old stomping grounds…

Flying Grand Coulee and Steamboat Rock - YouTube:

Published on Aug 29, 2013 Take off from Grand Coulee Airport flying over Grand Coulee Dam, Columbia River, Lake Roosevelt, Northrup Canyon, Banks Lake, Steamboat Rock. Flying a Northwing Trike WSC (weight shift control) Light Sport Aircraft with Rotax 582 65hp 2 stroke and GT5 Wing. Filmed with wing tip mounted GoPro 3 Black Edition in 1080P, edited in Premier Pro. Converted to 720P for web share.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Re-launching my “photo of the day” with the 2014 vacation photos…

A. F. Litt: Washington &emdash; Kennewick 9/11 Memorial

Kennewick 9/11 Memorial
Kennewick, Washington. July 29, 2014
Copyright © 2014 A. F. Litt, All Rights Reserved

I’ve been thinking about starting up the photo of the day again, and since I have over 3,000 new photos from our family vacation this summer, it seems like a good time to start.

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, since I feel like I am not working on much photography these days.  Sure, I’ve spent the summer running through a bunch of event photos, and I’ve been slogging through hundreds of photos for the Recreating the Historic Columbia River Highway documentary project, but these are not really what I would consider artistic, fine arts style photos, which is what I want to focus on a little more with the resumed photo of the day.

I feel like I’ve been neglecting my photography a bit and I think trying to take a few minutes to publish one decent, somewhat artistic photo every day would help keep focused on my photography a bit more than I have been for the last six months or so.

This is not to say that I haven’t been taking lots of pictures, but it is to say that most of the pictures I’ve been taking have been quick and dirty shots from events, or the survey style work on the old highway, and the focus on the art of photography is sacrificed somewhat in those environments.

Today, I am posting two pictures.  I decided to start with Yellowstone and threw one up of Riverside Geyser earlier, but then I decided to start with one photo from each day of the trip. 

Neither of these are among the best shots from the two week trek across the country, but I like the one below for sentimental reasons and the one above is probably the best shot from the only location I took pictures of on the 29th, which was a travel day.

The monument is built with steel from the WTC.  It is partially melted and this memorial is pretty amazing.  It’s the first time I’ve seen anything like this in person, and we hit it at a nice time of day, too.  I’ll probably throw a picture up later on showing more detail, but I wanted to start with the wide view of the whole thing.

Like I said, not that exciting of a photo, but was an interesting and touching place to start off our trip with…

A. F. Litt: Yellowstone National Park &emdash; Riverside Geyser

Riverside Geyser
Upper Geyser Basin. Yellowstone National Park. August 2, 2014
Copyright © 2014 A. F. Litt, All Rights Reserved

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Tim Burton’s 1982 Hansel & Gretel for Disney


Tim Burton made a very bizarre adaptation of HANSEL & GRETEL in 1982 and need I say more!?! - Ain't It Cool News: The best in movie, TV, DVD, and comic book news.: "This was all made on a budget of $116,000 and obviously was not what Disney thought they were getting when they gave Burton the money to make the film. It never screened on television again, and only screened a few times as part of a traveling Burton exhibit by The Museum of Modern Art. Thankfully, we live in an age where nothing is truly lost, (except THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED) and the film has been found and uploaded to YouTube for all of us to enjoy. Trust me, it is even more bizarre than it sounds and is a nice piece of film history."

'via Blog this'


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