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A small wildfire in the northwest sent some thick smoke through this area. The roads remained open, but while the (relatively) well-publicized waterfall several miles back had a regular flow of tourists through the day, the area where this was taken was barren other than one or two stray cars like my own. The day wasn't much to write home about, but in the midst of smoke or in any other case, driving down the switchback-addled highway felt like an achievement enough to Midwestern sensibilities, and the outlines of the mountains were beautiful, no matter what the light the air cast them in, so the scene warranted remembering.

Cathedral Spires Trail, Custer State Park. Nestled in the granite core of the Black Hills (the same highway passes Mt. Rushmore, exits off into the park and then passes the Crazy Horse Memorial in no more than 20 miles), it hosts some of the best scenery anywhere in the Plains States. The best part - some of the trails go not around the rock formations, but on them, and this lets you get up close and personal with the Black Hills. The little building in the distance on this hill is Black Elk Peak, the highest point anywhere between the Rockies and the Pyrenees.

A stormy 7 AM or so in Badlands National Park. Along the park's main loop road, a lot of the scenic roadside outlooks are perched next to the tops of the formations so that one may walk from their car onto the badlands roofs themselves for quite a ways along social trails. I did so, though not without a nerve-wracking slide down on the trail several feet (with rocky chasms on either side) and an even worse return scramble. I got this shot from a very shaky spot and hurried back to the car to keep sightseeing before the storms hit.

Relatively little-known Makoshika State Park in the eastern Montana badlands. I only had a few odd (and very hot) hours there, but those were enough for a runner's tour around some almost vacant trails. The desert heat in long pants almost did me in, but I managed to get this pic of the barren alien landscape before hurrying back to the A/C.


For some reason so esoteric even God probably couldn't guess it, I took full advantage of a three-day weekend off from work by driving 10 hours one way to the heart of the Colorado Rockies. Not so heinous-sounding when I put it that way, maybe, but I was also broke, alone, sleep deprived, dehydrated and driving a car with brake problems the entire time, because no road trip of mine is complete without chaos. But as the pic proves happened, I made it to the tippy top of the Rocky Mountains on Colorado's Mount Elbert and got a pretty good snapshot of my painfully minimalist gear.

I don't know who these two graves represent. More than likely, I'd assume, they're the markers of some sort of accident that claimed two lives either here or very near to here. Regardless, they made for a somber reminder of the unforgiving nature of the wilderness, putting new perspective - and in their own way, new beauty - on their mountain landscape resting place.

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Yes - it might be one of the most popular spots to photograph on one of the most popular and, though also closed off, obvious and easy hiking routes of all to take during a day trip away from New York City - but Cold Spring holds a special place in my basic heart regardless. Tucked-away juniper trees and their deceiving blue berries in uncut waist-high rust-brown fields; fall colors toward golden hour and the motionless skeletal backdrop the trees pretend to be when they see a group of people stargazing in the already bitter winter. There's a reputedly much more difficult hike on that ridge on other side of the Hudson (pictured); though I haven't tried it yet, I mean to still.

Just because I had to have something of the city. And I have been here for nearly three years. And this is what I have to show in terms of photos, but even this can garner something fruitful in the form of showing just how mediocre of an urban photographer I am. It captures some fall day toward the southern end of Central Park when I fell again into the trap of thinking I could relive the glimmer of the skyscraper windows on my phone screen. Whether that's the fault of my phone camera picking up natural scenery better than urban landscapes or just my inability to adjust the image of the city in my head to the real thing around me, the jury is still out.

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