Friday, February 28, 2014

A Winter Tour of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Refuge: n.  a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger or trouble.

          It may seem incompatible with the above definition, but during certain seasons hunting is permitted at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.  Thankfully the refuge is managed for hunters and non-hunters alike with almost 80,000 acres of habitat, and a 12 mile auto tour route.

         Bear River is accessible year-round but spring and summer can be buggy—we’re talking swarms of bugs—and fall is sometimes shared with the aforementioned hunters.  What’s a birder to do?  How about winter, when the crowds are gone and Tundra Swans congregate by the thousands at the refuge.  

         Enjoy the bird life and scenery of Bear River during winter, as captured in the following photos: 

White pelicans in flight.

A Western Grebe family.  Notice one fuzzy head peeking from the back of
the daddy grebe (top).  The other chick is trailing behind its parents.

A flock of Common Goldeneyes graces the water.

As we watched the flock, two Goldeneyes took flight.
Note the reflection of the near bird in the icy blue water.

Pie-billed Grebes navigate among the ice floes.

The honks and hoots of tens of thousands of Tundra Swans
fill the air on a winter's day.

          Ultimately, the major threat to the refuge will come not from hunters, but from a burgeoning human population in need of water.  Visit this magical place before the Bear River is diverted for residential and agricultural use.

Sunset.  The refuge and its residents are at rest and safe—for now.

March 8th is Swan Day at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge near Brigham City, Utah.  Learn more about it by visiting their website:

If you enjoy bird-watching as much as I do, you don't want to miss this:
Bald Eagles have taken up residence on the campus of Berry College in Georgia and, last Saturday—February 22nd, 2014—a brand new eaglet was hatched!  The eagle cam provides a live, 24/7 look into the fascinating life of this eagle family.   

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Olympic Dreams in Stowe, Vermont

        Olympic moments; they’re timeless.   So today, while you’re enjoying the games from Sochi, Russia let us journey back exactly 20 years ago, to February 18, 1994 and the Lillehammer, Norway games—inspiration for a women’s cross-country ski trip to Stowe, Vermont.  
        Weary after the 10 hour drive from Pennsylvania, our adventurous group arrives at Ten Acres Lodge ready to lounge by the television and watch the XVII Winter Olympic games. 

Posing in front of Ten Acres Lodge, a classic Vermont country inn.

          American speed skater Bonnie Blair races across the ice as if jet-propelled.  Should we rent skates and give it a try?  Nah, we tried that last winter and our ankles held up for only a couple loops around the pond.  Cross-country skiing is what we came for, and watching the performance of Italian skier Manuela Di Centa— who medaled in all five nordic events—motivates the seven of us to tackle the ski trails at Trapp Family Lodge.  

Skiing part of the 100 kilometer trail network at The Trapp Family Lodge.

          The following morning we’re ready for the 2.8 mile trail to “The Cabin” at an elevation of 2100 feet.  It’s a long climb to the top, but when you arrive at The Cabin you’re rewarded with a crackling fire, homemade soup and hot chocolate—a most welcome place to take a break.
          Seasoned mountaineers are often quoted as saying that getting up the mountain is the easy part, the hard part is getting down.  Keeping that aphorism in mind we leave The Cabin to face a series of steep and winding hills.  It’s a thrilling ride down the mountain, maybe too thrilling as evidenced by my one, spectacular, cartwheeling fall.  I’m still in one piece though, and ready for another evening of relaxation in our rental cottage.

The Cabin is a popular place to chill during a day of strenuous skiing.

          For dinner we feast on homemade lasagna, then it’s time to start a blazing fire and tune in to the Olympics once again.  As we watch the skiers kick-gliding across the snow and racing effortlessly down the hills, we realize our performances today were poor imitations of these highly trained athletes.  But we’re happy with our efforts.  After all, every aspiring Olympian knows the effort is its own reward.  We turn in with dreams of, if not Olympic glory, then another memorable day on the ski trails tomorrow. 


         This weekend, after having watched the XXII Winter Olympics, dust off those skis, sharpen those blades, get out there and play on the snow and the ice.  The Winter Olympics: what better opportunity to rekindle an old passion—or to ignite a new one—for winter sports? 

         I’m happy to report that both the Ten Acres Lodge and the Trapp Family Lodge are still providing vacationers with unforgettable winter experiences.  Visit their websites for more information:

Sometimes it's nice to not have to traverse the snow
under your own power.  We're enjoying a horse-powered afternoon
of fun during a sleigh ride at The Trapp Family Lodge.

          Readers, do you have any Olympic moments—winter or summer—which inspired you to try a new sport?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Winter Adventures in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

         Cabin fever got you down?  Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah is the definitive cure for this common winter malady.  At an elevation of 8000 to 9000 feet, Bryce Canyon's rim is typically snow-covered from December to March and opportunities for winter fun abound.

Welcome to Bryce.  Tim and I arrived on January 30 and were greeted
with 50 degree temperatures and little snow.  An overnight snowfall
produced this welcoming sight on the 31st.

            If the snow is deep strap on your snowshoes to hike into the canyon and among the hoodoos—those fantastical rock formations for which Bryce is known.  Even in years of scant snowfall (this year, for instance) the Queen's Garden trail is walkable in hiking boots with good tread.  Ruby's Inn Nordic Center provides groomed cross-country ski trails near the park's northern entrance.  The trails are free and open to the public.

The layer-cake hoodoos of Bryce Canyon on a January day.

        Not the adventurous type?  You can still enjoy the scenery from Bryce's many viewpoints.  After a day spent enjoying Bryce Canyon's many offerings, I guarantee you'll never again dread the coming of our coldest season.
       Cabin fever?  Take the cure and visit Bryce Canyon now.  Doctor's orders.

       Enjoy these photos from last weekend's trip to Bryce:

                                                       Snowshoeing from Bryce Point

Our snowshoes are lined up and ready to go.

I'm peeking through the branches of a fallen Ponderosa Pine.

Dashing through the snow…  beneath Bryce Point viewpoint.


You may snowshoe from any park viewpoint, just don't venture too close to the rim—see photo below.

Looking back along the rim toward Fairview Point.


                                                  Cross-country skiing Ruby's Inn trail

Ruby's Inn's trails are groomed for both classic and skate cross-country skiing.


                                                            Queen's Garden Trail

A bench provides the perfect rest stop on the descent
into Bryce Canyon along the Queen's Garden trail.

Members of the Castle Country Canyoneers—our hiking club—on their
way to the arch (left) on the Queen's Garden trail.

To read about and view pictures from previous trips to Bryce Canyon National Park, visit this blog post: