Here's another look at the hoodoo later in the day. If you look closely you can see a quarter moon off to the right. The hoodoo almost looks like a bird getting ready to eat the moon.

December 12, 2014
by David Ryan

Wandering in the Low Angle Light of Late November

Last month while driving from New Mexico to Tennessee, I was blown away by how wonderful everything looked. Even the Great Plains of eastern New Mexico and western Oklahoma looked fantastic. It finally dawned upon me that late fall’s low angle light was responsible for everything looking so great.

When it’s at a low angle, the sun lights up everything from the side and intensifies all the colors. Everything glows when the light is right. And when you add in the contrast of a brilliant glow on one side and a long shadow on the other, it is possible to see even the smallest details and textures. It may be the best time of the year to get out and wander.

You may remember the connection between Halloween and Groundhog Day that was mentioned in the recent blog post, Wandering Through the Bosque in Autumn. The same connection also applies to light. By the beginning of November the sun is low enough on the horizon to light up everything from the side. And sometime in February the details and contrast start to wash away as the sun travels higher on the horizon.

To check on this idea, the dogs and I went out with my friend, Bob Julyan, on the day after Thanksgiving to wander around the badlands the Ojito Wilderness. The Ojito is on public land and is an officially designated wildeness area about an hour northwest of Albuquerque. We thought it would be a perfect place to see how the light would play upon the details of the badlands.

Here is some of what saw in the area of the Hoodoo Trail.

As you can see, we picked a perfect day.

As you can see, we picked a perfect day.

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Highway marker for the Highlander Folk School on U.S. 41.

November 23, 2014
by David Ryan

Wandering Along U.S. 41 to Monteagle Mountain in Tennessee

A little less than two weeks ago while visiting my mother-in-law in Manchester, Tennessee, the dogs and I took a road trip from Manchester and headed south along U.S. Highway 41 to Monteagle Mountain on the Cumberland Plateau.

This stretch of U.S. 41 is perfect for a two-lane road trip. The traffic is light to almost non-existent; most of the traffic now goes on Interstate Highway 24. The Interstate is far enough away from U.S. 41 so you don’t even know it’s there. As a result, you can relax and take your time without feeling pressured by other traffic. This is the type of road that Bill Bryson described while driving around Australia in his book, In a Sunburnt Country.

A road like this rare. A few years ago I read an article in The New Yorker about Jack Kerouac and his 1957 novel, On the Road. The article mentioned that the book was actually nostalgia for driving in the 1940s, right after World War Two, when there were three million miles of highway for 38 million vehicles. Today the number of cars is close to 250 million while the highway mileage has only grown to a little over four million miles.

No wonder so many of today’s roads are too wide, too crowded, too fast, and too disconnected from the landscape for a relaxed and pleasant drive. So when you find a quiet and pretty two-lane highway, drive it.

U.S. Highway 41 south of Manchester, TN

U.S. Highway 41 south of Manchester, TN

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Wouldn't this be a great place to eat lunch if you worked in the office building?

November 13, 2014
by David Ryan

If You Can Wander Here, You Can Wander Anywhere

While traveling to Tennessee to visit my wife’s mother, we stopped in Conway, Arkansas for a couple of days to visit my wife’s sister and her family. Because we were traveling with dogs, we stayed in a Motel 6 overlooking a Walmart parking lot. After having breakfast at the Waffle House next to the motel, it was time to walk the dogs. And nothing says, “let’s go for a walk”, like the combination of a Motel 6, Waffle House, and Walmart.

The only thing better than having a Waffle House next door to a Motel 6 is have a Walmart on the other side.

The only thing better than having a Waffle House next door to a Motel 6 is to have a Walmart on the other side.

But as we started, good things began to happen. We immediately spotted a gap in the motel parking lot fence with a path leading towards the Walmart. Gaps in a fence are always an invitation to continue walking. We followed the path and then headed to the backside of the Walmart. There we could see a wooded area in the distance.

Who knows what you'll discover when you venture through a gap in in a fence?

Who knows what you’ll discover when you venture through a gap in in a fence?

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