Black and white trees

I love the way leaf-less trees look so stark in black and white.

These photos were taken in Prospect Park, Brooklyn a couple of years back.

And this one in Lancaster County.

March was heralded in by a snowstorm, and it looked like this in front of our house just a couple of weeks ago:

DSC_0096

Now that it’s mid-March, we’ve had some lovely warmer days, the snow piles have mostly melted and there’s a hopeful feeling in the air, but the trees are still stark and leafless. Not for long, though!

EDIT: I wrote this post earlier this week. Today, on the first official day of spring (and my birthday, no less), we are experiencing another snowstorm. Can you believe that?! Enough with the snow, already! :-)

Beautiful snow

Last week we had another bit of snow. (That was the snow before today’s snow, and Sunday’s snow, and then the two snows before that.) It seems every time Boston gets a foot or more of snow, we get about 2 or 3 inches. And I have to admit, I don’t mind one bit (sorry, Boston!). 2 or 3 inches is quite manageable, and fun to play in. However, this particular dumping was the most beautiful snow any of us had ever seen.  Normally, snow just seems to clump together into these big lumps, but this time you could see individual snowflakes stacked up to make the piles of snow. The sun would reflect off them, and you could see all their spectacular beauty. I tried taking some photos, but was really unsuccessful. Maybe these will give you a little idea of what it was like.

DSC_0091 DSC_0079 DSC_0078
Now, if you want to learn how to take photos of snowflakes, don’t ask me how! But this guy… wow! Scroll down the page to see some incredible specimens.

Even if my snowflake photography was a bit of a major flop, playing outside in the snow with the kids was not! This snow was light, fluffy, beautiful stuff to play in, and also really good for making snowballs!

DSC_0088 DSC_0087 DSC_0083

A prize-winning photo!

With such a sensationalist title, you’d think this is something really special, right? Well, not quite! TripAdvisor (where Ben works) had this internal competition over the summer where you could send in a photo with a TripAdvisor fridge magnet on your vehicle, and every week they picked a winner.

One night, we organised a date night and went and took some photos.  After that we had a fantastic Mexican dinner and got to witness a spectacular lightning storm from our cozy seats inside the restaurant.

Here is our prize-winning entry. Ta-daaa!

DSC_0823 (Large)

Oh, you’re probably wondering what we won. No, not a holiday… I wish! A big bag full of useful (and less useful) goodies with TripAdvisor emblazoned on them all. :-)

Roadtrip: Lone Pine

The next stop couldn’t have been more different from Las Vegas. Tranquil, rural, isolated, pretty much nobody around, right in nature, and no electricity! We stayed the night in a little cabin/tent outside a small town called Lone Pine, between the Death Valley and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. To get there, we drove through Death Valley, a hot, arid dessert with amazing scenery and contrasts. We experienced quite a bit of contrast in elevation just by driving through — the highest point was 3040 feet (927m) and the lowest point was below sea level, so lots of ear popping going on.

We were very thankful that our car had air-conditioning. On the day we were there, the temperature was 120 F (49 C). We stopped at the Visitors’ Center and before we got out, we could see there was a bit of a breeze and thought it might be a bit more pleasant because of it… it was like stepping into an oven with the fan bake setting on! It’s so hot it sort of just stuns you while your eye balls cook. Believe it or not, people live there. (???!!!)

Let me just share something I thought was funny: we drove through a town called Pahrump a bit west of Vegas. It probably has some deep meaning, but to us it just sounded so funny. Imagine having to say “I live in Pah-RUMP.” Pahrump-pa-pum-pum! You’d just have to be known as the Little Drummer Boy! (Okay, end juvenile moment.)

Pahrump town

Pahrump!

We chose the most direct route to get to our next stop, which meant that it was also the least interesting route through the Death Valley scenery-wise. Nevertheless, I think we still saw some amazing things and a lot of variation.

Death Valley 

Death Valley

Oasis in the Death Valley

Death Valley

Death Valley

Death Valley

Death Valley

Death Valley at a different angle

On the western side of the park, we drove into a rainstorm. There were some breaks in the clouds and the light streamed through it in the most amazing ways, it was almost surreal.

Amazing light

Amazing light 

Amazing light

Arriving at our cabin in the Alabama Hills was like one great big happy sigh of relief — to be away from the tackiness of Vegas, all the stress of having to organise a new car, and to be done with the hot up-and-down drive there. It smelled so good and fresh with the recent rain on the plants, and it was lovely and cool because of it.

Inside our cabin

The kitchen at our destination

At our destination

The bathroom and outside kitchen

Esther looking at some rustic old tools

Noticing a little bump

The next morning we were on the road again, this time on our way to Mono Lake and Yosemite National Park, but we did make time to stop and clamber around some rocks in the Alabama Hills. Ben and the kids didn’t take long to disappear behind the rocks, and I enjoyed the time to take some photos of the rocks, lichens and wildflowers there.

Looking towards the Sierra Nevada mountains

Some wildflowers

Little wildflowers

Almost an ad for our new rental car

Great spot for Western movies

Lichens

Lichens up close

Rocky hills

Clambering

My loves

Garden of the Gods at sunrise

When we were visiting the Boonzaaijers’ in Colorado Springs, I decided to get up early one morning to go and take some photos of the Garden of the Gods. I had heard that it was particularly beautiful at sunrise, so I got up at 5am and headed on down there, just as the sky was changing colour. It was so quiet and I only saw two other people before the actual sunrise, which was a big change from the day we went there with some family members during the Tschetter reunion. It was also horribly hot that day, so to be there in the cool of the morning in the complete stillness, being able to take photos without holding anyone up was a delightful experience.

The photos mostly speak for themselves, so I’ll just let you enjoy them without my commentary getting in the way!

Visit to the Boonzaaijers’

So, getting around to posting these last roadtrip posts have crawled to a terribly slow pace, but I’m determined to finish them up. When I get to that point, I’ll evaluate whether or not I keep AliensInTheApple going, or change its name, or just say “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

But, moving on in our roadtrip, we spent a wonderful 4 nights in Colorado Springs at Ben’s cousin Erica and her family’s place. We had a really great time getting to know them all better (having only met Stephen and the kids at the Hoyt reunion). They are a really fun family, and I was encouraged by what great parents they are — I learned a lot by just observing them!

Erica is married to Stephen, who is a great baker (I speak from experience!). We enjoyed many treats from their Dutch bakery, and even got a tour of it.

One afternoon after Stephen got home from work, he took the kids (and us) out to a nearby reservoir to do some fishing.

Esther’s favourite part was finding bugs and wildflowers.

One afternoon Ben and I went with Stephen to drop off some wedding cakes that he had made to see how he assembles them and gets them all prettied up for the wedding. I must admit I felt a bit nervous about this method of transport, but apparently they’ve never lost a cake in transport!

This one we dropped off at Glen Eyrie, a beautiful old castle. While we were there, I took the opportunity to take some photos of the grounds and building while everyone else decided whether the cake should be left inside our outside (there was a storm brewing). What an impressive place!

About a week before our visit to the Boonzaaijers, the Waldo Canyon fire saw them evacuated from their home and bakery for a few days, so we weren’t even sure we’d be able to visit them, but thankfully it was contained, and although the fire came close to their house, their home and business was spared. The fire also came to the hills right behind Glen Eyrie, as you can see here:

All over town there were posters thanking firefighters and I saw this card on a table at Glen Eyrie:

I totally forgot to get a whole family shot of the Boonzaaijers, so in the end I just took a photo of the two cousins, Ben and Erica. (Stephen and Erica’s baby has since been born, and it’s a cute little girl named Tabitha.)

And I just have to leave you with this: spot the gecko! (I promise there really is one! If you click on it, you’ll get a bigger picture.)

One of the mornings we were staying with them I went back to Garden of the Gods, seeing that I had lost all my previous photos when my computer crashed. This was way better anyway, going at sunrise, and I got some great shots that I’ll share with you next time.