One Year Blogiversary – Thank you for reading!

I made my maiden post one year ago on May 30th.  I had no idea if I would stick with it.  I had no real idea even why I was doing it.  It just sounded fun and was one of those things I thought I would regret if I never tried.  I was worried if creeps and weirdoes would abound.  It turns out blogging has been a fun outlet for me with no weirdoes at all.  The blogosphere has been an inspirational and supportive system. It even encouraged me to join Instagram (bulldogtravels) and Twitter (@finulamarie) ! (If anyone has a teenager I could borrow to better show me how to use them I would be willing to feed them!)

I was hoping blogging might get some of my travel-related restlessness out of my system.  The reality for me is blogging and following so many wonderful travelers on their journeys has only left me wanting to see and experience and photograph more places.  The bucket list is growing not shrinking friends!  I have been taken to places I never dreamed of going to or seeing through other blogger’s posts.

I am grateful for every click, like, and comment I have received over the past year.  I still get excited every time I get a new like, comment, and especially followers. I am humbled that anyone would enjoy my writing or photography enough to follow me!  People have viewed my blog from 43 countries!  Wow!  I hope to keep your attention and interest over the next year.  I hope to double my followers over the next year!  I have a trip to Ireland planned over the summer and lots of smaller trips that will surely be blog-worthy.  I am also particularly excited about a photography expedition I have planned with a Bay Area Zoo.  Stay tuned for more Bulldog Travels to come!

In honor of my Blogiversary I want to do something I have never done before.  Since David Letterman recently retired I will borrow something from him and give you a few fun Top “Ten” lists.

*Top Seven Favorite blog postings (From before I had a lot of followers),

*Top Five Most Supportive and Inspirations Blogs I am following, and

*Top Eight most liked and commented posts

Top Seven Personal Favorite Blog Postings

(My personal favorites from the early days before I had many followers)

  1. Arches National Park
  2. Mushroom Festival Postings
  3. Mendocino Botanical Garden (Dahlias)
  4. Winged Victory of Samonthrace
  5. San Diego Zoo
  6. Random Zoo Postings
  7. My Happy Place…part two Garden of Eden Maui

Top Five Most Supportive and Inspirational Bloggers

(Some of my favorite blogs and personalities in no particular order)

  1. Indah Sustani @ Indahs: Travel Story & Photography
  2. Terri & James @ Gallivance
  3. Crystal Trulove @ Conscious Engagement
  4. Marisa LaValette @ SavvyCitiZen
  5. Darwin on the Rocks and Around the World

Top Eight most liked and Visited Posts this year

(Most Visited, liked, and commented on posts)

  1. Travel Fails
  2. Travel Journal
  3. Relics of a Trip Gone by
  4. Negative Star Dining
  5. Something new, something old
  6. Belize Butterfly Sanctuary
  7. Belize Botanical garden
  8. Various Photo Challenges

Thanks again for those of you out there who have supported me! Happy Travels!

 

Enchanted Forest – King Fire

Last September our family had quite a scare.  A massive wildfire ripped through the El Dorado Nation Forest in a dead run towards our family cabin.  In what seemed like an entirely impossible feat Mother Nature once again showed us her might by making the King Fire move 50,000 acres over night.  For almost a month fire fighters did everything humanly possible to keep this fire contained.  For most of the month though Mother Nature mocked their efforts.  It seemed the drought conditions in California combined with unusual wind conditions made for an extremely dangerous go of it.  The Fire ended up contained after approximately 97,000 acres of destruction.  It stopped one mile from our family cabin.  We are very lucky to have our cabin and our health when others were not so lucky.  We are most grateful that no one lost their life fighting this fire.  (Thank you to all of you out there that helped fight this fire.)

Having said all of that, I went up to the cabin this weekend for the first time since the fire and since the snow has melted in the mountains.  For those of you familiar with the area I drove from Highway 80 in Auburn >Highway 49> through Georgetown and up Wentworth Springs Road towards Ice House.  I was extremely saddened to see Stumpy Meadows reservoir almost entirely burned.  And the beautiful tree lined road for tens of miles at a time burned and destroyed and clear cut.  It was easy for me to pretend that it was fall and the orange needles on the pine trees were just turning colors in October.  But, the reality is needles don’t turn orange and all of those trees are dead.  Logging has begun with hundreds of logging trucks making the drive on a daily basis.  I can only hope planting will begin soon.  But as my husband put it, “The forest will never look like it is supposed to again in our lifetime.”  That thought weighs heavily on my mind.

On the drive back we stopped along the road so I could take some photos.  I had always been taught in school and by the old timers that the forest does strange things after a fire.  I was hoping to catch some wild flower growth or something interesting that perhaps I have never had the opportunity to see before so closely.  What I found was something entirely different and amazing.  My forest has been enchanted!  It was barren and empty and injured in places.  But, in others it was touched by the fairies.  Please enjoy the photos that still mesmerize me today.  And bare with me they were taken with my iPhone…

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Rainbow colored moss growing near a stream and under a burned tree.  I have never seen moss this color in this forest before.

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More beautiful moss growing near burned out trees.

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Strange things growing on the forest floor.  This photo almost looks like it belongs in an aquarium not on the forest floor.

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Gorgeous colored moss growing near a stream.  It looks to me like it can be an abstract painting.

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Gorgeous colored grasses and moss growing near a burned out tree trunk.

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Beautiful sunset.

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More lovely colored moss.

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Logging site.

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Massive burn piles are being created by the loggers.  Had to put the Jeep in the photo so you could see how large these burn piles are in spots.  I understand that hundreds of logging trucks are going through here each day.  I can’t wait to see baby trees being planted.

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Stumpy Meadows is a pretty reservoir.  This was the scene of one of the more dramatic videos during the King Fire.  The majority of the reservoir was on fire.  If you look closely you can see the trees have been burned almost all the way around the photo. It is still beautiful in this light but it is mostly destroyed.  It makes me wonder what it will look like after it is logged and barren.

For this wanderlusting Californian for whom photography and travel are a perfect fit, a picture says…

I am humbled and honored to have been interviewed by James King with the Displaced Nation this month! Please check out the blog post and tell me what you think!

The Displaced Nation

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Writer, world traveler and photography enthusiast James King is back with his latest interview subject.

Jenny in Ireland Jenny Schulte in front of an old church window ruin near Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland.

Hello again, readers! My May guest is 38-year-old Jenny Schulte. who never had any thoughts of leaving her Northern California home until she travelled to Ireland in 1999 to explore her Irish roots. Now she is an ardent traveler who combines her love of photography with her travel experiences in her captivating blog Bulldog Travels, subtitled “Everything and Nothing Plus Some Pretty Photos.” Jenny is wrong to call it “nothing”: her blog is her her outlet for sharing her travel adventures along with the kinds of “photographs my friends have always enjoyed,” as she puts it.

On her About page, she says:

[Those] two wonderful hobbies of travel and photography fit perfectly together.

A woman after my…

View original post 2,295 more words

Rocky Mountain High – Pike’s Peak Cog Railway

In the final hours of our sibling bachelor party weekend for my younger brother we found ourselves in the Manitou Springs area of Colorado after driving through Garden of the Gods National Park.  We attempted to drive up Pike’s Peak and were stopped at the main gate due to snow.  We decided to see if the Pike’s Peak Cog Railway was running and by golly it was.

Pike’s Peak boasts one of the oldest and highest “cog railways” in the United States.  (They are, it seems, jealous of New Hampshire’s cog train.) Riders can buy a relatively expensive ticket ($37) at the depot whilst enjoying some delicious roasted nuts and hot chocolate.  (I say hot chocolate because the coffee was terrible and cold. Boo.)

Big Horn Sheep, Yellow Bellied Marmots, Deer, Elk, and Bears live on Pike’s Peak and can be seen on the ride unless it is snowing!  As an alternative riders can relax and watch the beautiful rocky scenery go by as they are climbing/chugging/cogging up to 14,115 feet above sea level.  One will see gorgeous pine trees, waterfalls, aspen trees, and eventually a blank wild land too high to sustain much vegetation.  (I was slightly worried when I read the sign that said not to ride the train if you were pregnant, prone to heart disease, had difficulty breathing, etc etc etc.  I was worried I might not do well in the altitude but I felt great the entire time.)

The ride was about three hours with a thirty minute stop along the way.  Bring your jacket, gloves, and hat because the train is not heated and many of the passengers choose to open the windows for better photo taking.  Please remember to be a kind human and shut said window if your seat mates are getting hammered by the snow coming in through your window.  (Thank you!)

Have you ever taken an interesting train ride anywhere?  Have you ever ridden a cog train?

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Pike’s Peak Cog Train Depot

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Map in the depot

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“All aboard!”

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Tickets, hot chocolate, and a window seat!

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Ever wondered what a cog looks like in the snow?

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We are climbing!

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A view from hanging out the window in the snow.

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Just your friendly snow plow at aprox 9,000 feet elevation.  PacMan is going to eat that snow for dinner.

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Still climbing

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Snowing and cold but we were able to de-train (is that a word?) and walk around before heading back down the mountain.

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Cold Feet

To read more about my Rocky Mountain adventures click here…

Rocky Mountain High – Garden of the Gods National Park

On our last day in Denver we attempted to head to Vail.  I have always had grand visions of Vail being the Cannes or the Paris of Colorado.  Since it hadn’t rained in recent memory here in California we thought it would be fun to visit the snow.  We managed to get about fifteen minutes outside of Denver before it started to snow pretty hard.  We knew we would never make it to Vail and back, in the snow, by the time we needed to catch our flight.  Alas, Vail will remain a mystery to me still.  We re-routed our drive south to the Garden of the Gods National Park near Colorado Springs.

The park was lovely.  It is reasonably small and reasonably free.  😉  One can start their visit at a wonderful little visitor’s center with a lovely gift shop and café.  The rain was coming down in buckets which made photography difficult.  But, my brothers were good sports stopping the car at every pullout and helping me keep my camera dry.  My socks were wet but my excitement was high.

Since it is still the off season there were very few tourists in the park which made it even better.  Better to take photos and view the sites.  better to make erratic movements to pull the vehicle over because your sister is pointing and yelling “Stop!”

Have you been to any great National Parks in Colorado?  What about Utah?  (I see a lot of resemblances here between the rock/geology in Utah and Colorado…)

For more about Garden of the Gods

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One of the first views when entering the park on Juniper loop from the visitor’s center.

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After a soggy walk I viewed some beautiful “fins”.

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Balanced rock.  Interesting how our country allows for a road right through the middle of a natural wonder.

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I wasn’t kidding about the rain.

To read about my other Rocky Mountain Adventures click here…

Rocky Mountain High – Fort Collins, Colorado – New Belgium, Odell, and Cooper Smiths Breweries

After Visiting Rocky Mountain National Park for the day my brothers and I decided to get refreshed in Fort Collins.  As previously mentioned you can’t walk five feet without stumbling upon a Pub, Tap Room, or some beer related establishment.  So, we took a quick tour of New Belgium and Odell Brewery before they closed and wound up at Cooper Smiths for dinner.  New Belgium and Odell’s were packed, I mean, packed with people who love beer or people who were just out enjoying the nice weather with their families.  These breweries are family and pet friendly and do everything they can to encourage visitors to stick around a while.

New Belgium has a self guided tour that takes you through their philosophy and beer making mantra.  Its an enjoyable walk while you enjoy your beer.  I love that they provide beer coasters as postcards you can send to all of your friends and family free of charge.  They even pay the postage.  The environment is electric.  Pick up a hula hoop, pet people’s dogs who are allowed inside the facility, sit a while in the New Belgium camper, or people watch the new age folks doing yoga on the lawn.  Oh, and drink some beer.

Odell’s didn’t have as much pomp and circumstance as New Belgium.  Well, maybe it did.  They had food trucks and a band.  It was just a different more festival vibe. But still, I was amazed at how many people were at this brewery and how many of them brought their young children.

Next we went in to town and enjoyed dinner at Cooper Smiths after walking around for probably thirty minutes trying to decide upon the perfect place.  Finally, worn down to the point the three of us didn’t care any more we figured we would stick with the theme and go to another brewery with food.

Have you been on any interesting brewery tours?  What’s your favorite beer or brewery?

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New Belgium

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New Belgium Tap Room

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New Belgium Outside Patio

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Self Powered Beer tour.  Sign me up!

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Sit and relax a while in the New Belgium trailer with your glass of beer.

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Campy little “Snap Shot” display.

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Cheers!

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Odell’s Storefront

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Odell’s Tap Room

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Cooper Smith

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A little pie and Apple sauce to go with your beer

For other Rocky Mountain posts please click here…

Captivate me – One Four Challenge – Country Road

I ran across this lovely blog called Captivate me!  The site encourages bloggers to post four versions of the same photo once per week for four weeks.  It’s called the One Four Challenge.  I am going to perform an abbreviated challenge and include all four photos plus the original all at once.

I took a fun little country photo of the back of my husband’s helmet while motorcycling down a local country road at sunset.  The photo by itself is moderately boring.  However, with a new app I recently downloaded on my iPhone called Enlight I had some fun with the photo.  (I am pretty impressed with the editing capabilities of the iPhone these days…)

Tell me which one you like best.  I am partial to the watercolor effect myself!

Happy travels!

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Original

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Watercolor

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Fuzzy

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Colorful

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Interesting B&W

Road Trip Food – What’s your favorite?

My husband and I went up to Oregon for the weekend to visit his family.  His Dad was having an important number birthday so we made the drive up for his shindig.  It’s mandatory that we fill the car console up with tasty junk food to make the drive more palatable.  (Especially the boring bit between Sacramento and Redding before it starts getting really pretty!  Hello Mount Shasta.)

The road trip and various stops at dirty gas stations got me thinking.  What is your favorite road trip food?  Do you use road trips as an excuse to eat junk food?  It certainly isn’t healthy but boy does it make the time go by a little faster.

   
    
   
If you like this post you might like some other posts I have made about my food adventures…

Click here to enjoy the road trip baguette whose glorious-ness I once enjoyed from a French gas station on a road trip…

Rocky Mountain National Park

 

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As previously mentioned my brothers and I visited Denver to spend the weekend together celebrating one of their impending weddings this summer.  We enjoyed a baseball game at the Rockies stadium and a short sidestep to the Mork and Mindy house.  Our next stop was Rocky Mountain National Park.

The park is approximately an hour and a half outside of Denver.  The elevation is “Rocky Mountain high” which means fewer trees but no shortage of lovely views.  It also means one gets out of breath practically climbing out of their car.  But perhaps I just need to exercise more…The weather was cool and snowy in parts.

We viewed Big Horn Sheep, Elk, Coyotes/Wolf, and Deer.  The wildlife was ample and the number of visitors was low.  It seems the high season is in the warmer weather months which was lucky for us.  We encountered a number of intrepid visitors at Bear Lake where a short walk provided the visitor with a lovely frozen lake view.  People were skiing, snowboarding, and snow shoeing.  We managed to slip and slide our way there just in tennis shoes.

A highlight for me, rather randomly, was the Rocky Mountain National Park visitors center.  It boasted lovely lines and architecture that seemed peculiar to me for being a government building.  While wandering around reading plaques I realized the interesting architecture was because a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright created the building.

What’s your favorite National Park in Colorado or anywhere for that matter?  Has anyone visited any lovely Frank Lloyd Wright properties they particularly enjoyed?  I hope to see many more in my lifetime!

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Stanley House on the way to the park

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It’s still winter in Colorado for sure.  Not a spring flower to be seen anywhere.

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The animals do not seem to be too afraid of the visitors.

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Bear Lake.

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Frank Lloyd Wright inspired visitor’s center

If you enjoyed this post you might enjoy my other Rocky Mountain Posts…

Rocky Mountain High – Mork and Mindy House

As previously mentioned in my prior post my brothers and I recently traveled to Denver in celebration of one of their upcoming weddings.  All of us have fond childhood memories of watching Mork and Mindy on television.  As we traveled through Boulder, Colorado we thought it sounded like a good idea to look up the house.   The house appears to be privately owned and no evidence shows it did or has anything to do with the television show.  However, thanks to a google search we found it and got a kick out of driving by and taking a photo and stretching our legs.

Has anyone else made any quirky stops like this when they were en route somewhere else?  I love looking places like this up along your planned route.  Sometimes, it winds up being more interesting than the place you intended on visiting all along.  I would love to hear your stories…

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See my other Rocky Mountain Posts if you are interested…