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Clouds Over the Castle in Capitol Reef



Clouds Over the Castle in Capitol Reef, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

As many times as we’ve passed through Capitol Reef, we’ve never really stopped to spend time. So we decided to spend a night in Torrey, a tiny desert village on the western edge of the park.

Sadly, the light wasn’t too cooperative. Rain and overcast clouds most of the time kept the monuments from reflecting their traditional brilliant reds.

As we were leaving the park we made one final stop at the Visitor’s Center. Across the street, The Castle had a few touches of sun for just a short moment – with a line of clouds framing it in the sky.

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Driving the Beartooth



Clouds over the Beartooth, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

Red Lodge hadn’t been in our plan. Neither was the Beartooth. But as we left Teddy Roosevelt National Park for Custer Battlefield National Monument, my Facebook friends (yes, I was online) changed my mind. We headed to Red Lodge for the night and the trip over the Beartooth. Snow was not something we had in mind!

The Beartooth Highway is an amazing road. Charles Kuralt called it “America’s Most Beautiful Road.” It was not really on our radar. But it is now – one of the most breathtaking 62 miles we’ve ever driven.

Arriving in foggy Red Lodge at sunset, the Beartooth was bedecked in clouds. “Not sure it will be open,” said the front desk manager. Snow was falling in August and the plows were out. At the summit, a full mile above the Montana border village, heavy snow was falling.

We hit the Beartooth at 8 a.m., twisting and turning up the switchbacks. The sun was breaking in and out of clouds, just starting to light the tips of the peaks straddling the Wyoming-Montana line. It was cold – mid 30s – as we made our way to the summit.

Just as friends had said, it took forever – stopping for photographs at nearly every turn. Turn by turn it became more and more spectacular. The sun touched into mountain valleys, while starting to bathe the peaks in morning light.

It was the first light to touch the 4-6 inches of fresh snow, blanketing wildflowers and covering a moonscape of rock at the 10,947 foot West Summit.

Dropping over the summit to the Cooke City side, we encountered the first traffic from the west including motorcycles that had to scramble for lodging when snow kept them from the crossing the evening prior.

The descent into Yellowstone was bittersweet. The scenery turned from breaktaking above-the-treeline skyscapes to heavily forested mountainsides.

The small collection of buildings in Cooke City marked the end of the Beartooth and the beginning of Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, with buffalo at every turn.

I imagine that every time you drive the Beartooth you are greeted with new scenes. And one thing’s for sure, once you drive it you’ll be counting the days to your next drive.

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Menacing Midwest Storm



Menacing Storm, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

One of the things we really miss about the Midwest are the storms. A few days ago I blogged about the amazing lightning storm in Hayward. On our I-94 drive across western Minnesota, we watched a mid-morning line of powerful thunderstorms form in front of our eyes for over a half-hour. We pulled over to document the massive clouds that had formed.

In this scene, taken along a corn field on I-94 east of Fergus Falls, we watched a series of parallel, horizontal lines of layered clouds suddenly come together in this huge mass of weather.

It almost looks like a massive tornado bearing down on this small farm nestled in the protection of a grove of trees. Soon, we were wrapped in the clouds with wind and rain before it passed to the southeast.

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Tornado Warning Sky



Tornado Warning Sky, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

One of the things we miss living in Utah are the thunderstorms and freakout weather that can hit the Midwest. It was dark a bit early Saturday evening, with nearly pitch black skies just after 9:00 p.m. Ben and Meghan called us out to the deck to watch a lightning show above. Then, Ben’s fire pager went off: ‘potential tornado at Nelson Lake (8-10 miles)’ and it was heading our way.

Being in the calm of a storm is like a trance. The air was still, but the sky was electrified with seemingly thousands of bolts of cloud-igniting lightning every second. We looked to the north to see an eery sky.

The next 15-20 minutes bounced from fascinating to scary, not knowing the patch. Weather radar showed its path heading just east of us, likely over Round Lake and the Chippewa Flowage.

The sky boiled in the darkness with its menacing green tone illuminated by the flashes of lightning.

We gathered first on the deck, then the driveway. I clicked away, making photograph after photograph of the pitch black sky – using the lighter digital images to showcase the story of the terrifying sky.

Soon, it was calm again with the lightning storm passing to the east. It was reassuring to the young kids, who didn’t know whether to watch in amazement or fear.

Such is the power of mother nature!

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Paddlewheeler on the Rock River

It was a long day for Tour de Heartland, starting at 6 a.m. in Kansas City, then an eventful nine hour drive to Dixon, IL for Brandon and Charlotte’s wedding reception, then two hours to Madison. To make it a perfect day, we took the scenic route.

The water is amazingly high in the Midwest. We took a beautiful route for sunset from Dixon to Rockford along the Rock River. Sadly, our timing was a bit off as most of it was post-sunset. So when we initially passed this paddlewheeler, I didn’t even stop.

But young Naomi kept talking about how nice the clouds looked in the sunset afterglow. So I spun the Audi Q5 around and went back, just in time to catch this paddlewheeler lazily strolling upstream with the clouds in the backdrop.

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New Year in Silver Creek

Happy New Year! It’s been a cold, frosty, snow New Year here in Silver Creek near Park City. With two to three feet of light, fresh new snow, it was wonderful snowshoeing right out the back door as the sun set on New Year’s Eve. It was a perfect opportunity for Hannah and her new friend Ivy to try it for the first time. As expected, Mac the wonder dog joined the girls for a fun outing in the sagebrush of Silver Creek. Check out the pix!