We are enjoying perfect weather, not a given when you are in the Pacific Northwest, and not a given on any coastline or any vacation. The mornings may dawn a little grey and foggy, but it all burns off – this week, anyway – and we are having wonderful afternoons.
I don’t even bother trying to shoot whale any more. I have one photo of a marvelous whale tale from our first trip back to Alaska and this time the boat was rocking and rolling and mostly all we would see were backs breaching and spouts. Do you really want to see the place where two seconds ago there was a whale? Hmmm, no, I didn’t think so 🙂
In calmer waters, we also saw otter, seal, sea lions and lots of birds.
The next day, on the bear watch, we also took lots of photos, and I won’t show you all of them because again, as the boat rolls, that perfect shot of the mother bear and the baby bear walking down the beach cuts off the mother bear’s snout, and the next one, the mother shows up fine but the baby is indistinguishable from the shadow in which he is playing . . . or the bear on the beach, you know 40 photos of the bear’s backside as he sucks a clam for one good photo of the bear (without his legs cut off). Wildlife photographers make their money by spending hours, days and months to get those calendar shots, and then being in just the right place at just the right time.
And it is so much fun just to go watch, and to try to get those good shots 🙂
Do you see the little bear? He’s over to the left, in the grass; Mama Bear is looking at him.
Now you get to see him! (And Mama’s nose is cut off, dammit!)
He’s digging and eating clams. He is in heaven, full belly, lots of clams.
Seeing an eagle; good luck!
It was our house guests’ last night in our area, and we wanted to do something special and memorable with them, so we booked on Olin Marler’s Sunset Cruise out of Destin. We found this trip several years ago, and while our guests enjoy it, we do, too!
It is mid-season in Destin. The Spring Break craziness has just ended, and the Summer Madness has not yet begun. A boat for forty holds ten of us tonight, plus the crew, and the crew knock themselves out to show us a good time.
We had a gorgeous sunset, with dolphins
We had a whole bunch of dolphins, grown ones and little ones, and they were having a great time. They stuck around, and we watched for about half an hour, no other boats in sight.
As we were leaving, the full moon rose and gave us a glorious ride home:
We can’t promise future house guests this experience. We’ve never had it this good. Maybe our guests brought this good luck?
While we lived in Germany and Qatar and Kuwait, we went every year to Africa. On the smaller flights out of Johannesburg to Windhoek or into Zimbabwe or Zambia, we would encounter swaggering men, hanging out in the aisles, talking loudly, usually with big bellies, all decked out in safari gear/ersatz military camo. At first, I thought they were mercenaries of some sort, they seemed to be so full of themselves. Then a stewardess told me they were the “tiny-dick” hunters.
I had never heard the term. These are men, who, to make themselves feel good, pay thousands of dollars to be taken to an animal, like Cecil, the lion below, to kill. They have these hunts in the United States, too, where semi-tamed lions are shot at game farms, trapped, and fed, only to be sacrificed to the egos of the “tiny-dick” men.
Walter Palmer says he was told all the permits were in order. A news article on NPR yesterday tells how this famous lion from a protected game reserve was lured across the boundary so that Walter Palmer could shoot his with is little bow and arrow. Walter Palmer has broken the rules and lied before. He has a history of imagining that the boundaries do not apply to him.
I love it that his shameful behavior has been outed, and that his name and his detestable hobby are now known internationally as a man who would shoot a beloved lion for the sake of his ego. Below is the story from Associated Press via AOL News:
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota dentist who went on a guided bow hunting trip for big game in Zimbabwe said that he had no idea the lion he killed was protected and that he relied on the expertise of his local guides to ensure the hunt was legal.
Walter Palmer, who has a felony record in the U.S. related to shooting a black bear in Wisconsin, released a statement Tuesday after Zimbabwean authorities identified him as the American involved in the July hunt. They said Palmer is being sought on poaching charges, but Palmer said he hasn’t heard from U.S. or Zimbabwean authorities.
“I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt,” said Palmer, a dentist who lives in the Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie. He said his guides had proper permits, and to his knowledge, everything was handled properly.
“I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion,” he said.
The 55-year-old was identified by the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe and police as the American facing poaching charges for the crossbow killing of Cecil, a well-known lion. Local authorities allege the lion was lured from a protected area and killed in early July. Zimbabwean conservationists said the American allegedly paid $50,000 for the trip.
The lion’s death has outraged animal conservationists and others, including U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat. In a statement late Tuesday, the congresswoman called for an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to see whether any U.S. laws were violated.
Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, condemned the lion’s killing in a statement.
“To get a thrill at the cost of a life, this man gunned down a beloved lion, Cecil with a high-powered weapon,” the PETA statement said.
Palmer’s hired spokesman, Jon Austin, said he believed Palmer was in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area Tuesday. No one answered the door at Palmer’s home, and a woman who came out of his dental office in nearby Bloomington said he wasn’t there or taking patients Tuesday. Phone calls to listed home numbers went unanswered.
According to U.S. court records, Palmer pleaded guilty in 2008 to making false statements to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about a black bear he fatally shot in western Wisconsin. Palmer had a permit to hunt but shot the animal outside the authorized zone in 2006, then tried to pass it off as being killed elsewhere, according to court documents. He was given one year probation and fined nearly $3,000.
Doug Kelley, a former federal prosecutor and Palmer’s attorney in the bear case, was unavailable for comment Tuesday, according to his assistant.
Palmer has several hunts on record with the Pope and Young Club, where archers register big game taken in North America for posterity, said Glenn Hisey, the club’s director of records. Hisey said he didn’t have immediate access to records showing the types and number of animals killed by Palmer, but he noted that club records involve legal hunts “taken under our rules of fair chase.”
Although African game wouldn’t be eligible, Hisey said he alerted the group’s board that Palmer’s ethics were being called into question. He said Palmer’s domestic records could be jeopardized if he’s found to have done something illegal abroad.
A Facebook page for Palmer’s Minnesota dental practice was taken offline Tuesday after users flooded it with comments condemning Palmer’s involvement in the hunt. Hundreds of similar comments inundated a page for his dental practice on the review platform Yelp, which prior to Tuesday had only three comments.
Some people left stuffed animals at the door to his shuttered office Tuesday in a sign of protest.
Palmer is properly licensed and able to practice in the state, according to the Minnesota Board of Dentistry. Board records show that Palmer was the subject of a sexual harassment complaint settled in 2006, with Palmer admitting no wrongdoing and agreeing to pay a former receptionist more than $127,000.
“This is a very strange onion soup,” I said. “It has crispy crunchy onions on top, but it has mushrooms in it.” Mushroom soup was the special soup for the day, but I had ordered onion.
We have wanted to try the Hideaway ever since we got to Sedona, and today is the day. We have to look to find it, it really is hidden away. It is at the end of a little strip/court mall, with a difficult entrance. You are supposed to enter at one place and exit at another. I say this with authority, because we did it the other way, LOL.
As soon as we found the Hideaway, we knew it was for us. It overlooks a vast wadi full of trees and brush and a creek. It reminds us of places we’ve stayed in Botswana, you can almost hear the elephants crashing through the trees if you listen hard enough. We are sitting out on the verandah, looking at the menus, and everything on the menu sounds really good, a little different from the norm, very creative.
This is the view above the tree line:
There is a large seating area inside, too, but the day is so gorgeous, everyone wants to sit outside.
I ordered the onion soup and a bacon, lettuce and avocado sandwich. AdventureMan orders a salad and a pizza.
AdventureMan is eating his salad, listening to me discuss how odd this “onion soup” is. “Mushroom soup is the soup of the day,” he reminded me. “They probably just made a mistake. Send it back!”
I can’t send it back. It isn’t the onion soup I ordered, I’m pretty sure, but I can’t stop eating it. It is unbelievably delicious.
AdventureMan says this is one of the best pizzas he has eaten in his life, ever, and we have had a goodly number of pizzas 🙂
My salad and my Bacon, Lettuce and Avocado were delicious, but paled in comparison to that soup. I loved the freshness and variety of the greens, and the fresh taste of the sandwich, which was way too much food after that exquisite soup.
AdventureMan had a beer, I had a red wine. Both local, both very very good. We don’t drink so much anymore, but we enjoy it more.
When the bill came, at the end of the meal, there it was, as clear as could be:
I didn’t even make a squeak. I didn’t even tell the server she had made a mistake. That mistake was so delicious. This was probably one of the best overall meals of our trip. Wonderful environment, fabulous views, tasty food in copious amounts, good beer and good local wine, great service and reasonable price – life is sweet.
We are up before sunrise (having our bodies still on Central Time has its advantages) and head for Red Rock Upper Drive, where we wait for the first rays of the sun in utter privacy, except for a family of hikers, with their hiking sticks, who shout ‘good morning!’ as they hike past our viewpoint and head on up the hill.
And here it is! Our first Sedona sunrise! (We didn’t get up for any of the others, LOL)
The early light hits the red stone opposite:
And every morning, there were balloons over Sedona while it was still cool in the mornings.
It is still chilly in the early morning, but Spring has begun. By noon, it will be in the 70’s (F).
This was one of my favorite formations, in Boynton Canyon, near the hiking trails. It reminds me of Petra, and our camel treks into the lands of Lawrence of Arabia.
Lots of hiking trails here:
This totally cracked us up. We know primitive roads. We went over a road in Tunisia that Montgomery used when he flanked Rommel’s forces. THAT was primitive. I was outside the car, guiding AdventureMan over ruts as deep as our Volkswagon Bus. These roads are not paved, but they are passable. Primitive is in the eye of the beholder.
This is the only purple cactus I ever saw. Clearly it is related to the prickly pear, if it is not a prickly pear. I wonder if it is like hydrangeas; that you can change the color of the prickly pear by adding iron or something else to the soil? This was at an entrance to a new housing development that is just beginning; the houses will have pretty spectacular views.
Sedona is beautiful. Everywhere you look, there is something beautiful to see. Of all the beautiful places, Crystal Creek park was my favorite. It had all the elements – red rock formations, a rippling creek, and a hungry heron. It also reaches a powerful vortex, at the base of Cathedral Rock, and we hiked the trail, took photos, enjoyed a lot of positive energy, but I don’t think we were sensitive to the vortex.
Red Rock State Park is another of those wonderful parks created and maintained with public funding, and manned by happy volunteers. We met several here, this wonderful guide, who gave us a first rate explanation of all the geological formations, and volunteers who ran the gift shop and museum/gallery.
Sedona has stolen our hearts 🙂
Many moons ago, I had given AdventureMan a plasticized raptor identifier, all the raptors in North America, so when we spotted this little guy, who we didn’t recognize, AdventureMan reached in the glove compartment, took a quick glance and said “It’s a Merlin!”
He was very sweet about sitting still long enough for me to take a photo:
The National Butterfly Center wasn’t opening until ten, and we decided to watch the sun rise over the Rio Grande. We had read you could see the Rio Grande from Benson – Rio Grande Park, so we got there by 0630. The park was closed, but campers told us people are allowed to walk in; you pay at the honors post, so we did. This is the only place on the whole trip I sprayed myself thoroughly with mosquito repellant, as mosquitos love me, especially at dawn and dusk. It’s one of the smartest thing’s I’ve done.
Walking into this park was a thrill. The birds are so excited about the sun coming up, and there is this huge, raucous clattering of bird cries. As we get further into the park, there are also owls calling to one another, WHOOOO-OOOOOOO, WHOOOOOOO-OOOOOOO; we can’t see them, but we can hear them, and it is thrilling. We keep walking to get to where we can see the Rio Grande, but all we can really see is almost the Rio Grande.
So before you go any further, remember, it is really dark, and I am shooting under the worst conditions. It is early morning, cloudy and foggy. I’m just sayin’ . . .
Benson – Rio Grande Park is part of the Texas Birding Trail, and later in the morning, like around 8, so not late, just later, all the bird watchers in the world start to arrive. They are looking for migrating birds, and they have their lists and huge bird-watching telescopes. We are not those birders. Mostly, I can identify cardinals, and blue jays. I can identify a raptor. I’m not a real birder, just a bird appreciator. These guys that come, they are SERIOUS birders, and they travel to Mission, TX to set up camp and tick off as many birds as they can, like in the movie The Big Year. This is either the National Birding Center, or a national birding center, and as day broke, hundreds of birders flocked into the park.
This is a part of the Rio Grande, but not really, it is a side-stream sort of Rio Grande place. The park guides told us if we really want to see the Rio Grande, there was a great restaurant you can see it from or you can go to Anzalduas Park, and told us how to get there. It was cloudy; I never did get a sun rising over the Rio Grande.
Campers are allowed to do ‘primitive camping’. I didn’t know what primitive camping was, but as it turns out, it’s what we used to do when I lived in Alaska. You bring everything yourself, you hike with everything on your back. There may be some paved areas, or minor structures, but you have to have brought everything you will need with you. No cabins, or things like that. There are, in this park, public restrooms and public showers. This shower is too public for me!
The floor is also covered with roly-poly bugs. Honestly, I am not born to camp. I applaud the park for having public restrooms in a place where it is simply impossible to keep the bugs out, but I cannot imagine walking on this floor in bare feet. There were some very brave primitive campers finishing up as I entered the restroom; they had showered and were brushing their teeth and they looked really happy. I am happy for them (shudder) and very thankful for a hotel with linens on the bed and hot water and no bugs!
Almost alone in the park, we managed to get turned around. I did my 10,000 steps before eight in the morning, and I was wearing the wrong shoes, so when we found benches at a bird feeding area, I was happy to sit down. There were glorious birds everywhere, and then, the happiest volunteers I have ever met came along in a little golf cart with bird seed and peanut butter, and put out breakfast. They were having the time of their lives, and gave us all kinds of good advice about Mission, Tx.
Early morning, low light and the birds wings are going faster than my camera can capture.
A little while later, the “tram” came by and we hopped on, happy for a ride back to the entry. It was a couple weeks before our blisters healed!
It is warming, but “warm” is relative. Compared to 19°F, 31°F is “warm.” In terms of hands and toes and cold tile floors, it is still very cold. I was reminded this morning of how very cold I was in Kuwait those few January days when it would get down to 0°C; when windows are not sealed tightly and all your floors are marble, it’s like having winter inside your home.
And that is how my doves must feel. Normally, they sleep under our rosemary bush, or snuggle down under the lavender. I think, now that we have pulled a lot of our larger potted plants in close to the house under the awning, they are sleeping under our plants. This morning, they know I am here, with my camera, and they don’t care. They want to catch a few more ZZZzzzz’s in the first few rays of the early morning sun.
They fluff up their wings to capture air and warm it with their bodies. Look how puffed up this one looks, about twice it’s normal size.
AdventureMan goes out every day and breaks the ice in the bird bath, and puts in fresh water. People are good about feeding birds, but forget how hard it can be for them to find water when outdoor temperatures fall into the freezing zone.
Pointe-Aux-Chenes was probably one of the most beautiful drives on our trip. You start off driving along a small canal, and you’re going to need your smart phone or a map to make the right turns to get to this isolated location.
We had read there was an wildlife observation point at the Pointe-Aux-Chenes Nature Refuge, but we looked and looked and never found it. Never mind, there was so much to see.
As you go south, and you get closer and closer to the Gulf, houses go up on stilts.
This is still very much a fishing community:
Is this a mistake? A misunderstanding? The area is called Pointe-Aux-Chenes, Oak Pointe, but this sign refers to the tribe as Pointe-Aux-Chiens, Dog Point Indians. Hmmmm.
It is so hard to capture anything that looks like a dolphin, even though at sundown, the place was full of dolphin – or porpoises, I am not sure I know the difference. Even though I didn’t get a good shot, it was a glorious place to be at that very moment.
Can you see the eagles perched in the distant trees?
For a moment, I thought I was in the Camargue with it’s wild ponies, but a local man said he thought these belonged to someone and just cropped on this salty grass at the end of the road.
So many beautiful things to see in one spot!
Annie Miller was a woman ahead of her time, out trapping, hunting and doing whatever she needed to do to keep her children fed and clothed and going to school. When oil went bottoms up, the town of Houma approached Annie Miller and asked her to start up some tours of the swamp, to attract business to the area. She did, and was so knowledgeable that people came from everywhere to take her tours.
Now her son does the tours, and we liked his approach. We call it “Under promise and over deliver” which we think is a great slogan for contractors everywhere. At one time AdventureMan worked for a giant company whose contracts were called “The Gold Standard.” His company cost a little more, but they delivered on every promise and were good at figuring out problems that cropped up mid-contract and working with the government to support the mission.
As this tour departed from the gathering spot at Bayou Delights restaurant, the guide told us that with the colder weather, he couldn’t guarantee that we would see any alligators at all, but that there were other things he would show us. I love that approach. It prevents excessive expectations.
As it turned out, we saw all kinds of wonderful things, both inside and outside of the Mandalay Wildlife Refuge.
This is a revolving bridge over the Bayou Black. You can see the round base on which it can swing sideways to allow really tall boats up the Bayou. The guide saws he has never seen it work in his lifetime.
Entering Mandalay Wildlife Refuge:
Shooting digital is a crap-shoot. You have that tiny delay, but a tiny delay makes shooting wildlife less predictable. I didn’t even know I had this shot until I uploaded my photos to my computer. It was absolutely glorious to see.
I have never seen anyone call an alligator before. “C’mon Ruby! C’mon b-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-by! C’mon Ruby!” And Ruby came!
This is more exciting to me than alligators. These birds are gorgeous.
These two eagles would swoop at the same time for chicken skins; unfortunately, against the dark bayou, you couldn’t see them as they swooped, but I loved catching two of them together as they chowed down on their meal.