Quilt Gallery

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Gentle Side of the Tetons

The Tetons are probably America's most easily recognized mountains, a row of peaks shaped like shark's teeth. (Note that the Tetons were named for their resemblance to something else, but that is because it was men, no doubt starved for female companionship, who did the naming.) Bounded by steep faults in the rock, the mountains rise sharply along the western edge of Wyoming's Jackson Hole valley.

Teton sunset from Mormon Row

Hikers who venture into Paintbrush, Cascade, Garnet, Avalanche, and Death Canyons, the main routes into Grand Teton National Park's back country, quickly find themselves amid enormous boulder fields with canyon walls towering up on both sides.  Although some of the hikes are daunting, gaining thousands of feet of elevation over only a few miles, spectacular scenery and easy proximity to the road naturally draw many hikers.

Hanging Canyon

The west side of the range is a very different story.  Most of the trailheads are miles beyond the highway, at the ends of poorly maintained gravel roads.  The trails themselves tend to be much gentler, climbing open slopes that reflect the underlying westward dipping rocks.

Along the trail towards Grizzly Creek

Last month I spent five days on this gentle side of the Tetons as part of a geology field trip. Beginning at Coyote Meadows trailhead we hiked up Bitch Creek to the uppermost reaches of Grizzly Creek, just outside Grand Teton National Park (GTNP). It was a lovely spot, though thankfully it didn't live up to its name.  No bears, grizzly or black.

Our second camp, about five miles south of the first, was a greater challenge to reach as the trail crossed over two steep ridges and several times disappeared entirely in lush meadows.  Picking it up again took sharp eyes and good map skills.

The difficulty in finding the trail reflects just how little frequented this area is. Not counting a few people very close to the trailhead, I didn't see a single person outside of our group for the entire five days.

Another advantage of being on the west side of the range is seeing dramatic sunsets over the plains of Idaho.

But best of all are the enormous high meadows that, even in late summer, are filled with wildflowers.

For an even tamer side to the Tetons, here is my now completed quilt made with vintage blocks that I acquired at a Jackson Hole garage sale years ago.  I finished piecing it last summer, but waited until I was a little more sure of my skills with a long arm machine before attempting to quilt it.

The blocks were foundation pieced (by hand and by machine) so the finished quilt has a little more heft to it than most quilts. As I mentioned last summer, I used vintage scraps to complete the blocks.  The funny thing now is that I can't positively identify all of the pieces I added.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Wild Side of Florida

Silver Springs State Park is not the first place that comes to mind when I think of Florida.  And yet, when I visited last month, it felt like the real Florida, Florida as it was before Disney and Universal re-shaped thousands of acres into theme parks, hotels, and all things entertainment.

I must confess that I did spend a day at Disney's Animal Kingdom, and it was fun (as it should have been for $90 a pop), full of thrilling roller coasters and animal displays that are guaranteed to give you a good view.

Female gibbon

Asian tiger

The following day, when, for the first time, we visited Silver Springs, I found it a quiet and relatively unspoiled slice of Florida, and much more appealing than Disney. On the 90 minute boat tour of the springs and the Silver River our knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide filled us in on many facets of the area, including geology, history, and wildlife.

It is one of the largest artesian springs in the world, with over half a billion gallons of water flowing each day. Wow! Although the water is clear, nitrate pollution from cattle operations has promoted significant growths of algae on the spring's bottom and in the Silver River, which is fed by the springs.  At the moment, one can only catch glimpses of the sparkling silver bottom which gave the springs and river their names. Florida State has recently taken back control of the springs from private interests and one can only hope that their plan to clean up the spring proves effective in protecting this National Natural Landmark.

In spite of the algae, the springs and river support a large population of alligators.

As well as turtles and birds.

Anhinga and turtle on the Silver River

Although Silver Springs may be best known as a location for filming movies - six Tarzan movies, Creature From the Black Lagoon, and Rebel Without a Cause are among the films made here - the area's history is long and rich. In the sixteenth century Spanish explorers found the springs inhabited by Timucuan indians, during the eighteenth century English raiders killed the Timucuan, and eventually Seminoles moved into the area.* According to displays in the small on-site museum, from the 1920s through the 1960s Seminoles produced crafts, including their distinctive patchwork pieces, to sell to visiting tourists.

Seminole patchwork

Note that on this item the piecing and attaching of rick rack were done by machine, a quick and cost-effective approach to production.  I too rely heavily on sewing machines as I can make things very quickly and am able to experiment on a lot of things in a small amount of time.  Still, I really like the look of handmade pieces and I enjoy the process and quiet of stitching by hand.  Over the course of the summer I finally completed all four pieced borders for my compass quilt.

I am now working on the corner stars.

The next step will be to assemble all the pieces.