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Posts from June 2014

Why It's Nice to Visit Vermont: The Green Mountain State

"When I was in high school I moved from the big city to a tiny village of 500 people in Vermont. It was like The Waltons!" ~Daphne Zuniga

I lived in Vermont until I finished my Bachelors and Masters degrees in Education.  I left when I was 24 years old and moved to Virginia.  I return at least two times a year to visit family including my 93 year old grandmother :)  I love the lush green mountains and the seasons.  I love visiting when there is a big snow storm!  It's fun sitting in front of a fireplace watching the snow fall drinking hot chocolate, but driving on icy roads and getting bundled up - NOT so much!

My grandmother and I:

Pano (1 of 1)-390View from a Condo in Smuggler's Notch ski resort about 3 years ago:

Vt1While in Vermont I had many friends and family to visit fortunately I made it down to Church Street and the Burlington waterfront which I think is stunning this time of year.  

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Pano (1 of 1)-415Here is Church Street a few weeks before Christmas this past year:

Cs1A view of downtown Burlington from the top of a parking garage:

Pano (1 of 1)-402 Here is a picture of Ben & Jerry's ice cream which I think helped put Vermont on the map.  Until they became famous people used to ask me which state Vermont was in. 

Pano (1 of 1)-417  I found some photos of some graffiti that I actually thought was beautiful.  I am usually not a fan of any form of graffiti, but I thought this was well done and seem to fit in in the Church Street area. 

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Here are some photos of the University of Vermont which is my Alma mater.

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The Echo Lake Aquarium is a great place to visit if you are in the Burlington area on the waterfront:
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 Pano (1 of 1)-437Pano (1 of 1)-440The Lake Champlain waterfront in Burlington:

Pano (1 of 1)-436This covered bridge is in Wolcott, Vermont in an area known as the Northeast Kingdom:

VtA few more photos of the Vermont countryside.  That is Mount Mansfield in the distance:

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Pano (1 of 1)-437The following photos were taken in the fall of 2012 at Smuggler's Notch with a cell phone:

Thanks so much for visiting.  Please feel free to leave any comments or questions.  Have a wonderful week!


My Alaska Cruise Ports of Call - Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan

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The above photo was taken of a totem pole in a garden area called "Whale Park" in Ketchikan.

"It's not like Alaska isn't wilderness - it mostly is. But most Alaskans don't live in the wild. They live on the edge of the wild in towns with schools and cable TV and stores and dentists and roller rinks sometimes. It's just like anyplace else, only with mountains and moose."

~ Tom Bodett

I did love the "representatives" Holland America had waiting for us as we left the ship in the ports:

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 During my seven day cruise from Vancouver to Alaska and back, we stopped at three ports.  The first one was in Juneau where I took a helicopter to the Mendenhall glacier  where I went dogsledding.  Here is a post I wrote about this fantastic and fun experience here: 

Dog Sledding in June on the Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska

Although this excursion did not last a long time I found it tiring so didn't get to see much of the town of Juneau.  I did take some photos from the upper deck of the cruise ship

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Our second stop was in Skagway.  The tour I had scheduled that day was to visit some gardens.  That sure was canceled due to a lack of people signing up.  This turned out to be a blessing in disguise for me.  I had gotten a piece of ice in my eye while dogsledding and wasn't quite a bit of pain so I did not get off the ship in Skagway.  I thought Skagway looked very similar to Juneau.  I didn't feel well enough to get off the ship which was disappointing, but I was able to get a few photos from the upper deck of the ship.  

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Pano (1 of 1)-349I sat here on the ship for a while just relaxing.  Ms Zaandam is a recently renovated and pretty ship:

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When we got to Ketchikan, two days later, I felt fine to get off the ship and explore the town which I thought was very pretty.  It reminded me a lot of Park City Utah as did Juneau and Skagway.  I'm going to be very honest about my thoughts of the seven-day cruise that I went on which may be very different then the ones other people have chosen.  I would like to explore Alaska and or northern Canada sometime in the future, but in a very different way.  I felt the parts of Alaska I saw were very commercialized.  It's not a bad place to visit and I'm not saying I didn't enjoy it or have a good time, but in the future I want to visit places that are more off the beaten path such as Greenland.  I love Park City, Utah and I feel that city is more authentic than the ports we visited in Alaska which, to me, are basically just built up or man made for the cruise ship's passengers to enjoy.  That's just my two cents and based on nothing more than my own thoughts. I've never said that I'm not opinionated, but advice from Michelle is always free :)!

Here are some photos of Ketchikan which was around 60 degrees Fahrenheit that day.

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They even have trolleys like Park City:
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Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.   I hope you all have a wonderful week.   Take care everyone.


My Favorite Part of My Alaska Cruise: The Tracy Arm Passage

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"To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world."

~John Muir

(OK we all know Alaska is a state not a country, but it may have been when this quote was written)

Visiting the Tracy Arm Passage was definitely one of the highlights of my cruise to Alaska. Tracy Arm is a Fjord located only about 45 miles from Juneau.  Our ship was only there for about six hours, but it was incredibly beautiful.  There was a chance that we might not be able to get into this area because ice chunks are often blocking the entrance for the ship to get in.  It was pretty cold in this area compared to some of the ports we stopped at so I was very grateful for the server passing out pea soup to those who wanted it on deck.  On this day I saw more people out on deck looking at the beautiful scenery and taking photos than any other on this seven day cruise.  One thing I would definitely recommend to people who like to visit this type of environment is not to visit Antarctica first like I did.  Antarctica was probably one of  my favorite trips so far and Alaska, at least this particular cruise that I chose, just did not compare. The fact is you're just not going that far north on some of these cruises, so you're not going to see some of the scenery such as this Antarctica scene:   AntarcticaBack to Tracy Arm Fjord in Alaska!

Lot's of people out on the deck despite it being fairly cold:
  Pano (1 of 1)-298Server passing out yummy pea soup!

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If you are lucky, you might see bears, deer, wolves, seals, and even mountain goats.  Perhaps I wasn't vigilant enough or just not lucky, but I don't remember even seeing a bird of any sort.

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 Yes, this ice chunk was really this blue!

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  I will leave you with a photo of me trying to stay warm and wearing sunglasses becaause I got a chunk of snow in my eye while dog sledding :(Pano (1 of 1)-294

  Thanks so much for stopping by.  Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.  Take care my friends!

~ Michelle

Some of the Many Benefits of Using Google's Panoramio to Store Photos

One of my most popular photos, taken in Antarctica, on Panoramio with more than 9000 views:

There are many benefits to joining Panoramio for those who like to take photos for any reason.  First of all you get free storage space for your photos.  They are stored in full-size.  Facebook  does not store your photos full-size.  One can also get a page rank when you join Panoramio.  

I just joined in March 2013 and I have a PR of 2. Here is my site:

You also can join groups in Panoramio similar to how you can join them in Facebook. Members can comment on your photos as well as like and favorite them. Each photo has its own statistics showing how many views it's received, likes, and favorites.  You also can see the lifetime views of each of your photos.  For me it is like social networking for photographers who are both professional and hobbyists.  When one joins panoramio, they can choose for no one to be able to use your photos at all without your permission, or you can choose to let anyone use your photos for any reason.

One of the best things about joining Panoramio is your Photos can be used in Google Earth and Google Maps if they are selected.  There are certain criteria your photos must meet in order to be used.  First of all there cannot be recognizable people in your photo or close-ups of flowers and animals.  I like it for my landscape photography which is probably my favorite thing to take photos of.

Panoramio was acquired by Google so in 2007 so it is probably a fairly safe place to store your photos.  I used AOL photo storage eight or nine years ago.  When they no longer offered photo storage, they did give their users plenty of warnings to move their photos.  Those who did not, unfortunately, lost all of their photos.

  Here is my most popular photo overall based on Panoramio's algorithm,  It was taken on my dolphin siting expedition in Lovina, Bali:

Pano11Here is my most popular photo in Google Earth with more than 26000 views.  It's a research station in Antarctica:
Pano11Here is my most popular photo taken in Antarctica in Google Maps with more than 31000 views:
Pano11Here is my most popular photo which is shown on an external widget of a sunrise in Lovina, Bali with over 5600 views:
External widget 5600Do you use Panoramio?  Are there any other photo storage sites that you would recommend and why?  Thanks so much for your visit and your comments!


Dog Sledding in June on the Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska


“Cats are smarter than dogs. You can't get eight cats to pull a sled through snow.” ~ Jeff Valdez

 I decided I wanted to go on a helicopter ride and see the beautiful Mendenhall Glacier while in Alaska. I also wanted to go dog sledding although this kind of goes against my belief that animals should not be used as entertainment for humans.  I did, however, want to meet the dogs and see what their lives were like.  It turns out I had a wonderful time and the dogs seemed very happy.  They were so friendly they almost reminded me of how my cats are so cuddly.   They  loved attention from people and the man in charge of the pack talked about them like they were his children.  We were taken on a scenic and FUN dogsled ride.  I asked a question regarding what happens to them when they are no longer able to pull a sled. The guide said they went to a home in Wyoming. which is the same place they go when the season finishes in September.  Each day while in Wyoming, they go on a 15 mile run every morning and night.  These dogs definitely get their exercise and we all know the dogs love to go for walks and runs!

The helicopter ride was absolutely amazing I wish my photos reflected how beautiful the scenery was but it is difficult to take photos from a helicopter especially from the front seats I learned while in Hawaii is sitting in the back is a better place to take pictures.  It's okay because the experience is enough photos are a big plus but the experience in itself was so worth it!

I do believe that the Iditarod  should be stopped.  Unfortunately some dogs die!  Here are some articles written by people who witnessed this race or horrific tragedy.

I'm glad that I went on this shore excursion.   I don't think I would do it again although the dogs seem very happy and healthy.  I just can't avoid my thoughts that animals are not to be used for human entertainment.   Overall I was glad to see how happy the dogs seem.  It made me sad to think about our dog who was adopted as a stray around five years old he had been abandoned and abused we found him running around in traffic.   He has separation anxiety disorder because of everything he went through as a young dog.  He's 14 now, but his life was pretty tough in the beginning.  These dogs were definitely leading a charmed life compared to our Shadow.

 Thelma and I:

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 Thelma and Louise:

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They truly did love attention and being touched!

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4 day old puppies with their mother:Pano (1 of 1)-180Our helicopter:

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Aerial view of the Mendenhall Glacier from the helicopter:Pano (1 of 1)-193

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Where the crew sleep:
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I thought they were beautiful and I am definitely more of a cat person!

Pano (1 of 1)-209Dog Camp:
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Pano (1 of 1)-209I will leave you with a photo taken of our "team".  I was obviously having a blast!

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What are your thoughts on whether or not dog sledding and or the Iditarod humane and or ethical?

Thanks so much for visiting.  I'll be posting more about my cruise to Alaska once I recover from jetlag - again.  Take care my friends

~ Michelle