Nature, Photography

Photo Fun:Wikiup



Here’s a scene right out of a fairy tale, complete with the rustic dwelling of a forest gnome.  Actually, it’s a wikiup someone built around a tree in the Sapphire Mountains.  I had never seen one before so I went over for a closer look.


At first I thought the opening too small to get through, but I got in with no trouble.  And the interior afforded enough space for two people to lie down in.  Not my idea of a Motel 6, but I’ll bet it beats sleeping outside in the rain!  Overall, very neat!

© KoppingAnAttitude, 2016  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given.

Nature, Photography

Wood Road


Deep in the desert between American Falls and Rupert, Idaho an old trail, barely visible in places, winds across the windswept Wapi lava flows.  Dubbed Wood Road, this trail was built by early settlers who drove their horse-drawn wagons over the lavas to the Big and Little kipukas to cut the junipers that thrived there.  I had heard of several ‘wood roads’ traversing different areas of the lavas, but in all my ramblings never saw a stretch I would dare attempt with anything other than my feet.  Maybe a motorcycle in a few places, but not without donning a lot of padding because a spill out there would really hurt.  Besides, too often you find yourself staring down a crack coming up out of nowhere, or on loose scree with a hard time finding good footing, let alone tire traction.  On second thought–forget the motorcycle.  If you don’t want to walk, you’ll need four tires and some serious ground clearance.

But back to the story.  One of my brothers had made the trek over Wood Road and, always ready for another adventure, volunteered to take me out there.  I jumped at the chance.  On a sunny October morning we loaded onto four-wheelers and RZRs for the fifty-four-mile round trip.  The first few miles we sailed over sand dunes and then along a dirt track, bouncing through ruts and dodging rocks.  Over all, it wasn’t too bad, but we did hit spots that slowed us down.  During a long sandy stretch fifteen miles out we came across some spun-down tire tracks where someone must have gotten stuck.  A while later while stopped for a breather we noticed a trail of oil down the middle of the road and surmised that an oil pan must have lost an argument with a rock.  Again, ground clearance and four-wheel drive in this country.

After another hour we skirted a potato field and then took a gravel road toward the lavas and the Wood Road trailhead.  As our ATV’s eased up the first rock I thought, “People actually brought horses and wagons up here?”  They surely did, although I understand they filled in the worst cracks with brush and the roughest spots with earth.  In most places the road is well-defined:


In others, not so much.  Yes, the photo on the right is part of the road.


Either way, our ATV’s had their work cut out for them, as you can see in the following videos:

A choppy ride but loads of fun.  We passed through some rugged but beautiful country!


Nearing the kipukas, we passed sawed-off stumps from bygone days:


These shots were taken as we entered, first Little Kipuka and then Big Kipuka:


I will never figure out why the lava stopped and left this land untouched.  At any rate, we decided to give the ATV’s a rest while we explored the surrounding lavas.  I found the knots and curvatures in these pieces of wood fascinating:


I’m truly grateful for this opportunity to view God’s handiwork and experience first-hand a piece of Idaho’s rich history.  And I didn’t have to travel far to get there!  Amazing what you can find in your own back yard if you just get out and look around.

© KoppingAnAttitude, 2015  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given.


Hiking, Nature, Photography

Pillar Butte

IMG_1 PillarButte

Over the past three months I have taken many trips down Memory Lane, revisiting sites I’d not seen in years or even decades.  This past Labor Day I made my second hike in thirty years to southern Idaho’s Pillar Butte.  Dubbed Molly’s Nipple by early settlers, Pillar Butte looks more like a benign pimple sitting on its rock cushion than the fiery cauldron that some 2,270 years ago blew out blast pits and spewed the lava covering much of the 125-square-mile Wapi lava flow that is part of the Great Rift.

The roads, for the most part, were good, except for the rocky, rutted Crystal Ice Cave road, which composed the last seven or so miles to Wapi Park.  I had traveled this road in a pickup, but it was a rough, slow go.  THESE served as our transports on this trip and, trust me, are the only way to travel those desert roads.

IMG_2 RZR and MX Bike

I had never ridden in a RZR before and was grateful at first for the grip bar on the passenger’s side.  However, the ride wasn’t bad at all, and by the time we reached the Ice Caves road I had let go of the bar, picked up my camera, and recorded my first RZR ride.  It’s tame by most standards, but I sure thought it was fun!

At any rate, we reached Wapi Park and prepared for the two-hour trek to the butte.  The broad lavas stretched before us, swirling and swelling into the lobes and toes characteristic of a pahoehoe flow.  While the footing was good overall, we did encounter stretches of loose, shale-like rock, along with some sizeable cracks and pits.

IMG_3 Lavas


IMG_5 RoughTerrain

We had made pretty good time, but as we neared the butte the going got a lot tougher.  Blast pits and thin-shelled tubes that a foot could break through surrounded the cone.  The easiest route would have required a mile-long hike to the east, then circling around to the butte’s south side.  However, it was close to noon, and we were hungry and wanted to eat our lunch on the summit.  We inched our way into one of the blast pits, scrambled up the other side, and then made our way up the cone.

IMG_6 PillarButteCloseUp




Near the top, I looked down and noticed the junipers and a beautiful pattern on the floor of this pit.


To the west this island of untouched earth, called a kipuka, lies amid the lava sea.


We even saw a rainbow around the sun.


After lunch we descended the cone and went to look for a cave supposedly located somewhere southeast of the butte.  Along the way, I took this beautiful shot of the cone with the lavas cascading away from it.


Incidentally, this area had been a military target during WWII.  While most of the empty 50-caliber casings have been picked up over the years, one still turns up from time to time.  My brother found this one laying atop the rocks.


We didn’t find the cave, but we did find scores of interesting lava formations.








Rock Garden






This is just plain pretty!

At one point I glanced at the butte and, for all the world, it appeared to be glowering at me.


I zoomed in for a closer look.  Sure enough, there was a face in the cone’s south flank and it did not look happy.  In fact, it looked flat-out furious!


I wondered, with some amusement, what had ticked the old boy off.  Maybe he’s still smarting from all those artillery rounds.  Maybe he resented us eating lunch on his scalp.  Or maybe he just HATES being called “Molly’s Nipple!”


Hey! Don’t call me Molly’s Nipple, bro!

© KoppingAnAttitude, 2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given.

Hiking, Nature, Photography

Stories in Stone

SIS 1_BrushyWashOneSunflower

Among the rolling hills east of American Falls, Idaho lies an area known as Blind Springs. Aside from rumors naming it as the stash site for a stolen Wells Fargo strongbox, it is largely nondescript—just acres and acres of brush and rock adjoining fields of grain or crested wheatgrass. My family once farmed and grazed cattle in the hills overlooking Blind Springs before leaving the area in 1967. In August of 1991 we took a drive through the hills, Dad reminiscing about his boyhood as we picked our way along the dirt trail. Suddenly we ran into (not literally) a wall of white and gray stone. I had long forgotten this excursion until recently when I went through a box of pictures and came upon photographs taken that day, particularly this one, which I thought showed an almost perfect likeness of Michael Landon wearing sunglasses gazing at the sky (far left).

Blind Springs

I couldn’t remember where this spot even was but it aroused my intrigue. Studying other photos I took that day and, with a little help from Google Earth , I zeroed in on the general area, grabbed my Mom, brother, and sister-in-law, and headed for the hills. The gravel road wound among grain fields for several miles, finally forking east to the dirt trail I hoped would take us to our destination. This we followed for roughly a mile, crossing over a hump and descending along a deep gash cut between two hills. The road leveled out and had begun to curve when, off to the right, I spied a lone gray stone partially embedded in the hillside, its scaly face eroded to expose grainy white rock. This was it! We were getting close! Overjoyed, I hopped out for a closer look.

SIS 2_Arches

This region sees little rain, so what caused this rock to break down so is anybody’s guess. We saw no rubble around the base. The rock seemed to have been chiseled and then sanded smooth and the debris hauled away. The hole on the far right was deeper than the others. A closer inspection revealed a hole bored completely through.

SIS 3_Hole in White Stone

SIS 4_Bored Through

This white pock-marked stone lay nearby. I’m no geologist, but I’m guessing this is probably limestone and that rain caused these indentations.

SIS 5_Pocked Stone

We loaded up and continued around the bend where, lining a steep embankment to our left, stood the object of our search.

SIS 6_Wall Amid Terrain

My imagination went wild as I stared. On the one hand, the stone wall resembles a temple from a Cecil B. DeMille epic; on the other, a place of torment where tortured spirits remain frozen for eternity. Twisted faces glower and grimace. Others seem to laugh. An elephant’s head and trunk appear left of center. A thousand stories of triumph and tragedy handed down through the ages and etched in stone.

SIS 7_Hieroglyphics

I counted seven faces in this spot alone.

SIS 8_Seven Faces

This bunch seems to be laughing. (Must be Miller time!)

SIS 9_Faces

Angry eyes glare out a fortress window.

SIS 10_Angry Eyes

Near the hilltop a cobra hovers.

SIS 11_Cobra

The years have not been kind to Michael.  My heartthrob now resembles an ape–proof positive that even something carved in stone does not last forever.

SIS 12_Ape

Another hollowed-out rock.

SIS 13_Hollow

An orc’s black head tops this white wall.

SIS 14_Orc

At the end of a gratifying (but hot!) August day we bid Blind Springs farewell and headed back to town for an ice-cold Pepsi.  On the way back I pondered that it might be interesting to come back in another fourteen years to see if the ape transforms back into Michael!

SIS 15_Stone Mountain


© KoppingAnAttitude, 2015 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material and/or images without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given.




Nature, Photography

A Scenic Afternoon Along the River

It has been a hectic three weeks!  Moving day is barely a month away.  Deciding what to keep and what to toss, packing, and tying up loose ends amid the last gasps of my dying programming career have left little time for much else.  I tried sneaking in a bicycle ride here and there, but two weeks of gloomy skies and stormy weather put a damper on that—literally.  However, Sunday afternoon the sun broke through.  I felt as though let out of a cage!  Grabbing my camera, I headed for the greenbelt.

Normally I would have taken my bike; but I hadn’t photographed this stretch before and the thought of simply ambling along a river trail appealed to me.  I never expected anything extraordinary.  More than likely these photos would resemble others taken around town; then again, a photograph might reveal an image unnoticed when the picture was snapped.  Not that I believe in ghosts.  Factors such as light, vegetation, clouds, and shadows can produce such illusions.  I love when that happens!

Several yards down the trail a web of stark branches snaked above the surrounding foliage, weaving curious patterns against the sky, and a brown trunk bearing a single hole stood boldly against a backdrop of filmy foliage.

1 Gnarly Branches Against Cloud (2)

2 Gnarly Branches Against Cloud

3 Hole in Trunk

These limbs appear almost charred:

4 Thicket Against Cloud

Farther down, one poor tree doubled over in agony.  I discovered why as I circled around.

5 SplitTrunk BowedBranch

6 Split Trunk

A cascade of wild roses spills over the wall:

7 Wild Roses

The dense thickets obscuring the river finally parted, affording this placid view:

8 River

This footbridge surprised me, for it seemingly leads nowhere:

9 InvitingBridge EtherealLight

But it indeed has a destination!  Camouflaged amid the thick foliage is part of a house.  Can you see it?

10 House Amid Thicket

Bonus question:  Do you see a man’s face in this photo below the bird’s nest?

11 BirdNest

I’ve considered having a contest but have no idea what to offer as a prize, although I intend to give it some serious thought.  (But for those who might be thinking a Porsche, a Jaguar, or a million bucks, forget it—it ain’t happening!)

Wishing you all a great week!

Nature, Photography

Magical Trees

1 God's Great Alphabet

I have a real thing about trees.  That wasn’t always the case.  Sure, some were nice to look at, and the wind roaring through their branches sounded neat.  A regal pine alone on a hilltop or the delicate fronds of a weeping willow floating on the breeze warranted an admiring glance.  But until I viewed trees through a camera’s lens I never noticed their timeless beauty.  One summer afternoon after acquiring my first digital camera I roamed my brother’s yard searching for photo ops.  Spying a quaking aspen near the driveway, I walked over, aimed the camera skyward through the branches, then checked the viewer to see what wonders I had wrought.  A delightful, intricate pattern of leaves overlaid the clear blue sky.  Magic mingled with the sunlight filtering through the foliage.  That was back in 2007 and I still view trees with awe and wonder.

2 Winding Path

A trip to Canby Grove, Oregon during the summer of 2008 further fueled my new-found passion.  I followed an inviting path ever deeper into an enchanted world.  The sunlight filtering through those emerald canopies bathed the woods in ethereal glow.

3 Ethereal Glade4 LightAndShadowed Glade



Overhead, the leaves and branches formed striking, almost web-like images against the sky:

5 Dark Branches Leaves Against Ethereal Light6 Leaves Light And Shadowed

7 Light And Shadows8 BranchWeb Against Broad Leaves

9 Evergreens Against Sky10 Sun Peeking Through Pine Boughs


I found even those with arthritic limbs beautiful.  The one on the left stood outside my hotel window along the Columbia River:

11 Weird Pine Tree12 SunDotted Trunk


But what I find especially intriguing are the different shapes in trunks and branches, some of which I did not detect until after I took the shot.

A wishbone and tornado:

13 Wishbone14 Twister


Spider legs and a tree sprite:

15 Tree Spider16 Tree Sprite

Wonder of wonders, I even saw Treebeard strolling by!

17 Ent Walking

A little farther down the path I rounded a corner and spotted something that looked at first like a gigantic claw.  A closer look closer, however, revealed the head and neck of a sleeping pony draped across the log.





18 PonyOr Claw

19 Pony

Other folks might see something entirely different—maybe just a tree or a wad of roots.  I have a vivid imagination, and it doesn’t take much for me to see all kinds of fantastic creatures.  I guess that’s just the child in me.  But that’s the part that still believes in magic and dares to dream.  May I never grow old.