Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park

          The Anhinga Trail is the premier wildlife viewing trail in Everglades National Park.  This wheelchair accessible trail follows a series of raised boardwalks through the sawgrass marsh.
The trail starts behind the Royal Palm Visitor Center, four miles from the main park entrance.  This is a short and easy trail - perfect for those without the time for more extensive hiking or canoeing in the park.  You’re guaranteed to see alligators and a variety of birds along this trail.
            I have walked the Anhinga Trail on two separate visits to Everglades NP and I recommend visiting the trail on a weekday in February an hour or so before dusk.  The following pictures were taken on just such a day.
For more information on the Anhinga Trail visit this site:  
Here is a sobering thought, taken from the Everglades NP website: 
"Did You Know?
In the 1800s John James Audubon noted that the sky was often darkened by the flocks of numerous birds above. Since the early 20th century, around 93% of the wading bird population has vanished. Much of the wildlife left in south Florida depends on Everglades National Park for a home."
If you haven’t yet visited Everglades National Park, plan your trip here:  
Green Heron
Photos from the Anhinga Trail:
click on a photo to enlarge

Great Blue Heron

Alligator Spa
Little Blue Heron and reflection.

White Ibis
Smiling Alligator
Tricolored Heron
See You Later, Alligator.
Wood Stork
Anhinga Mom with Chicks.
Anhinga Dad
Mmmm - that fish was good.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hospitality in Walden, Colorado

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire  
Walden, Colorado - named for former postmaster Marcus Aurelius Walden - is the only municipality in Jackson County; it lies in the center of a large open valley called North Park.  What kind of a town is named after a postmaster?  I’m about to find out.
I arrive mid-morning in Walden, looking for a place to have breakfast with a cup of coffee.  I park the car then reach into the familiar spot in my purse for my wallet.  But, the wallet isn’t there!  
I dump my purse, turn my pockets inside out but come up empty - no license, no credit cards, no ATM card, no money.  I do have my checkbook but who will accept an out-of-state check without ID? 
It seems that my day of eating, exploring, and shopping in Walden will be shorter than I had planned.  Before leaving I decide to browse an art gallery on Main Street.
Karen Miller Welcomes Me to the Green Otter Galley. 
I walk into the Green Otter Gallery and hear soft classical music playing.  The proprietor emerges from a side room.  She welcomes me to the gallery:
“Are you a local?”
“No,” I say, “Just visiting for the day.  You have so many pretty things in this gallery; I’d love to buy something but I don’t have any money, credit cards or ID.  And I waited all morning to eat breakfast here in Walden.”
“Well...I will give you money for breakfast.” 
Oh no, I couldn’t possibly accept that ---but I do have my checkbook.  
“I could write you a check for the money,” I say.  “Will you accept an out-of-state check without an ID?”
“Sure, that would be fine.” 
  Wow, I can’t believe my luck.  “I’ll have to buy something... how about this book called North Park ABC’s by Karen Miller?.”  
The store’s proprietor smiles.  “That would be great.  I just happen to be the book’s author.”
The Moose Creek Cafe - Real Moose have been spotted on
Walden's Main Street.
         I tell Karen that I’ll write a check for the book plus $20.00 and she can give me a twenty-dollar bill from the till.  While we’re completing the transaction Karen tells me that this gallery is filled with work by local artists - four of them joined together to open the gallery and they’re enjoying the work, and interacting with tourists. 
With a fresh $20 in my pocket I’m on my way to The Moose Creek Cafe for breakfast. I order the traditional fare of eggs, bacon and hash browns.  The waitress is pleasant and easy-going.  
I’ve discovered that a town named for a postmaster can be most accommodating.  “The Kindness of Strangers” is more than a cliche in Walden.  I’ll be back.

Walden, the “Moose Viewing Capital of Colorado” is profiled in the June, 2011 issue of Sunset magazine.

The Green Otter Gallery offers classes in Drawing, Knitting and Pastel and Oil Painting.  Karen Miller is hosting art camps this summer for kids and adults.  To learn more, you can contact Karen Miller at:  
For more information on Walden and the North Park area, visit these sites: and

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fun at The Oregon Coast Aquarium

         The Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport is our destination on this cool and rainy December morning.  

            We arrive as the sea otter feeding is about to begin; two aquarium employees bring buckets of food to toss to the waiting otters.  Tim and I are standing outside a plexiglass window with an expansive view of the otter’s enclosure.   As we watch the otters gulp their food a volunteer informs us that only the finest quality seafood is fed to these marine mammals; the aquarium spends $13,000 a year to feed each otter.  They eat better than we do.  In addition, otters at the Oregon Coast Aquarium have their own doctors on staff and they may live for 20 years.  How about that - they have better health care than we do too.

         Sea otters have about 1 million hairs per square inch of body surface and spend most of their time keeping that fur impeccably groomed.  Even though wild otters spend their entire lives in the rugged sea their skin never gets wet.  Unfortunately for the otters they were hunted to the brink of extinction for their warm and waterproof pelts.  

Sea Otter - Internet Photo

 An entertaining outdoor event is the sea lion feeding.  We watched as sea lions performed tricks for their treats.  One of the large sea lions was an artist of sorts; yes, he held a brush in his mouth and painted on a canvas held by his trainer.  And I’ll bet you won’t be surprised to hear that his paintings are for sale in the aquarium's gift shop. 
          The Oregon Coast Aquarium is a mixture of indoor and outdoor exhibits arranged  attractively on the grounds.  Among the indoor exhibits, we toured Deep Sea Passages; a walkway over and under the water leads you through this ocean experience.  We also viewed the tide pool, jellyfish and swampland exhibits. 
  The outdoor avian exhibit hosted pigeon guillemots, tufted puffins, oystercatchers and common murres.  It was great to walk right up - no tanks or cages - and watch the birds swimming and diving.

A budding Van Gogh displays his talents.
 After touring the aquarium we drove to the Newport Historic Bayfront on Yaquina Bay.  The Bayfront hosts the requisite tourist shops but this is also a real fishing port.  Fishing boats fill the harbor; seafood unloading docks line the street.  There are literally dozens of seafood restaurants and fresh seafood markets along Bay Street.   Newport’s bayfront is a seafood lovers dream.  

A Newport Harbor Scene.
If you’re planning to visit the Oregon Coast this summer, a trip to Newport’s Bayfront and the Oregon Coast Aquarium should be at the top of your list.
For more information on the aquarium visit:

To learn more about the city of Newport, visit this website:

Playground at the Oregon Coast Aquarium - fun for kids of all ages.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Sequoia Photo Essay.

If you believe the adage "a picture is worth a thousand words", then I have the photos to prove it.  Yes, I know that by publishing a blog I'm in the word business and I really am in love with language.  But these trees - these giant sequoias - they leave me speechless.

If you would like to read or re-read my post "Sequoias of Yosemite" you can find it in March 2011.  In that post I try to describe my fascination with these oldest, largest and most beautiful living things.
Here are a few pictures to complement the "Sequoias of Yosemite" post:

As always, click on a photo to enlarge.
The perfect vantage point to photograph sequoias.
Relaxing in the Mercer Grove - Tim has never looked so tiny.
The King of the Forest.

The Bachelor and the Three Maidens in the Mariposa Grove.
The Mercer Grove of Giant Sequoias.

Posing by the Roots of the sequoia (below) 
that fell 28 years ago.
Standing by the trunk of a fallen sequoia.

Walking  through the Tunnel Tree in the Tuolumne Grove.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Backpacking the St. Joe River Wilderness

          One other soul joins us in Idaho’s Heller Creek Campground this evening—Frank A. Heller, buried in the grave next to our campsite.  According to the plaque by his gravesite Frank was a mining prospector here in the early 1900’s.  He died in his cabin during the harsh winter of 1936; his body was found by a forest service employee that spring and buried here by the creek which bears his name.
  Despite the nearby presence of Frank A. Heller’s corpse Tim and I sleep soundly on this clear and calm July evening.
Our peaceful campsite next to Frank A. Heller's grave.
  The following morning we wake at 6:00 a.m., load our packs and start down the backpack trail.  Heller Creek joins the St. Joe River a few hundred yards from the campground.   After 2 hours of hiking we climb a steep hill and spot a gravel bar far below.  We descend from the trail through heavy timber and then to the gravel bar at river’s edge.  We drop our packs, happy to have found a home for the next two nights.  We put up the tent and then Tim dons his fishing gear to try his luck in the St. Joe.  He immediately catches a couple fish and walks upriver while I build a fire ring on the beach and gather wood for tonight’s bonfire.
  Tim returns a couple hours later and reports that the fishing is good.  We cook our dinner of potato-cheddar soup with ham on our tiny backpack stove, then make lemon pudding for dessert.  After dinner we light the fire and Tim scrounges the hillside for more wood.  He returns dragging the trunk of a dead 20 foot pine tree;  foot by foot we feed the tree into the fire until it’s time to crawl into the tent under a star-filled sky.
Evening on the St. Joe River.
  We awaken at 7:00 and sunlight finally reaches our campsite at 9:00 as we prepare to leave for an all-day hike downriver.  The trail starts uphill and immediately begins an undulating climb.  We enjoy sweeping views of the river but don’t find many places to access the St. Joe for fishing.  We finally choose a spot where the trail nears the river; a large table-top rock at river’s edge provides a perch for me.  Tim enters the river and casts into a deep pool near the rock where the trout are jumping for his flies.  He then walks up river for an hour while I sit and read a mystery novel about a woman who was murdered while on a camping trip—hmmmm, maybe not the best choice of reading material for this type of vacation?  
  Tim returns and we eat our lunch on the rock.  During lunch I notice wispy mare’s tails clouds floating by, portending a change in the weather.
Our Wilderness Kitchen.
  After lunch we start back to the campsite and pick another nice spot—after a steep downhill hike—for Tim to fish more of the scenic St. Joe.  Once again Tim catches a few nice cutthroat trout, including a big fish that breaks his line.  Tim walks upriver while I settle in with my book.  The afternoon heat is sweltering and when Tim returns a couple hours later he suggests we cool off in a nearby waist-deep pool.  We shed our clothes and hop into the river, enduring the icy water just long enough to wash the grime from our bodies.  Cooled and refreshed we return to the campsite and cook a dinner of beans and tortilla soup.  
  We start tonight’s fire with kindling and large branches and soon have a roaring blaze going.  We feed the fire with the rest of last night’s dead pine trunk and enjoy the fire until midnight.
  Last night we noticed a few wispy clouds obscuring the stars and this morning we wake to higher humidity and cloudy skies.  We rehydrate a freeze-dried Mexican omelet and cook it, along with bacon and grits, for breakfast; we’re eating well on this backpack trip. 
  Tim builds a small fire and after burning our trash we drown the fire with river water, making sure that not a single glowing ember remains.  It’s time to load our packs and hit the trail.  
  After a two hour hike through intermittent drizzle and light rain the red pickup truck, parked in Heller Creek Campground, comes into view.  It’s a welcome sight.  Ten minutes later we toss our packs into the back of the truck, share a light lunch, then drive back to civilization...leaving Frank A. Heller’s soul to rest in the peace and solitude of the Idaho mountains.
For more information on the St. Joe Wild and Scenic River check out these sites: