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Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’

Big Bend National Park Zone 1: The Mountains (Day 120)

November 16th, 2009 No comments

See, because there are three main zones in the park: (1) mountains; (2) desert; and (3) river. Right.

And before things get too wild, I’d like to mention that this national park is in the middle of nowhere (which I guess is better than being at the edge of nowhere, because at least it’s in the middle of something). It’s a hard park to get to without meaning to be there. OTOH, (they claim) it has the darkest night sky of any NP in the lower 48. Would probably make it a good place to be a burglar — not that anything happened.

Hiked to “The Window”. Kind of a short hike (4.5 miles), mostly tourists. And most of the good pictures I got of the mountains were from the Visitors Center rather than the hike. Naturally.

‘Course, they didn’t have one of *these* at the Visitors Center:

big-bend_tarantulaA tarantula! Or maybe it’s a tarantulo. It’s hard to tell without flippin’ ’em over.

About the size of my hand. And then the trail (although, technically, the tarantula photo *is* a photo of the trail.

big-bend_window-trailHere’s the trail. Not bad-looking for a desert. Oh wait — these are mountains, not desert.

big-bend_windowThen this is “The Window” itself.

So it was kind of a dull hike — but at least I got to sweat a lot. Then I went back to the campground and visitors center to get some *real* photos. Relatively real. Two of them.

big-bend_casa-grandeCasa Grande from the handicapped-accessible trail.

big-bend_pink-cloudsA middling-quality sunset, with mountain silhouettes.

Then I decided that since I’d never gone to a National Park ranger lecture at a campground amphitheater before, I should try that. So I went, listened to a guy talk about how old rocks are for 20 minutes, then tried to leave quietly. There was a new moon, which made things especially dark, but I found these guys right outside my campsite.

big-bend_javelina-soloA javelina!

big-bend_javelina-bandAnd his merry band!

(It’s hard to compose wildlife photos interestingly when you can’t really see the wildlife so well.)

And then I went to sleep.

bkd

Mammoth Cave: The Historic Tour! (Day 111)

November 6th, 2009 3 comments

The one tour you’re supposed to go on at Mammoth Cave is The Historic Tour. It’s the one that people have, historically, gone on. The history involved primarily has to do with the history of cave touring at Mammoth Cave. I’m not kidding.

But first, here’s a deer:

mammoth-cave_deer-in-leavesTired from a night of partying with the cave trolls.

And then this also came before the cave:

mammoth-cave_pardon-progressThere *is* no excuse for progress.

And *then* I went on the tour.

mammoth-cave_big-chamberIt’s called “Mammoth Cave” because it’s big (it’s the longest cave in the world).

mammoth-cave_fat-mans-miseryRemember that one Simpsons where they re-build Ned’s house?

mammoth-cave_graffiti19th-century graffiti artists had much neater penmanship.

mammoth-cave_chasmTarget practice for rock-droppers.

mammoth-cave_exitDaylight at last!

People on this tour had a hard time not standing on the rocks. OTOH, the guide stood on rocks, so why shouldn’t the tourists? The guide also said that the National Park belongs to *us* (as opposed to belonging to the government). I didn’t engage, but I really, really wanted to. Discretion and valor, etc.

Historical facts:

  • They mined saltpeter here for the War of 1812, also known as the Second War of American Independence.
  • Originally, tour guides were all slaves.
  • The slaves got to keep their tips.
  • One of the slaves discovered a whole lot of the cave.
  • You used to be able to take a boat cruise on an underwater river in this part of the cave (the tour guide was proud of having been part of the group that disassembled the boat pier and boats thereby putting an end to the practice).

Anyway. I saw wild turkeys near the deer, but they were skittish and thus the photo was blurry. The bobcat is still the best animal I’ve seen all trip. Although the turtle in Minnesota was also pretty cool.

bkd

Another State, Another Lighthouse (Day 100, Part 2)

October 27th, 2009 4 comments

Another *two* lighthouses actually. Drove into Savannah, saw confusing-looking streets, decided it was probably the same idea as Charleston, and instead headed out to Tybee Island where there was at least a fort. And lighthouses of course. Of course.

The fort was Ft. Pulaski, mostly famous for being the Civil War fort that guarded the Savannah River. It was taken by the North early on and then used as a prison. Also known as being the site of the earliest known photograph of men playing baseball. They know it’s the earliest photograph because someone claimed it was and so far no one has refuted the claim.

pulaski_grave-moat-wallExecuted for overthrowing his cut-off.

pulaski_cannon-circleI always think fort photos are going to be interesting.

pulaski_interior-wallAnd then they turn out to be not all that exciting.

pulaski_exterior-moatAnd yet I persevere.

cockspur-island-lighthouseCockspur Island Lighthouse, right next to the fort.

pulaski_frogMy animal spirit guide assumes tangible form.

cockspur_lighthouse-pathPurportedly, over 5,000 shells passed over this lighthouse during the battle.

cockspur-lighthouse_meEvidence that I may have been there.

tybee-island-lighthouseThe Tybee Island Lighthouse — way too well-kept.

fort-pulaski_dumpsterCaution indeed.

Another big day of looking at old stuff! The fort also had a rifle demonstration. I always wonder why it’s more interest to watch someone else shoot a rifle than it is for me to shoot one myself. Wait — maybe it *isn’t*. Hafta think about that one.

bkd

The Graveyard of the Atlantic and Me (Day 88, Part 2)

October 14th, 2009 1 comment

Rest assured, I didn’t not wreck at Cape Hatteras. Just about melted down when it turned out that the Parks Service, in their infinite wisdom, closes down all their campgrounds on the cape (four or five of them) on October 12th though. Real handy. Y’know, a lot of Parks sites keep their campgrounds open during the off-season. Bring in a couple port-a-potties, turn the water off, and lower the price by $5, but otherwise: open. And these are sites that, like, get snow and crap. Or you could just allow beach camping.

And thus started my hate affair with North Carolina.

But hey, how ’bout these lighthouses! They weren’t closed, no sir! Not till the next day, at which point, yes, they were to have been closed (or so the rangers said).

hatteras_seagullsYou’re right: these are not lighthouses.

hatteras_bodie-lighthouseBodie Island lighthouse. It’s only a mile from the water (the *ocean* water). Maybe it was built to protect the ships that were working their ways up the swamps.

hatteras_hatteras-lighthouseThe Hatteras Lighthouse. They have signs that point you to where this one *used* to be. You can still see its old foundation. It’s next to the water.

hatteras_lighthouse-glassTop of the lighthouse.

hatteras_lighthouse-stairsInside the lighthouse. How trite.

I think moving a lighthouse away from the water is worse than de-clawing a feral cat. I mean, it’s still a house with a light in it, but it’s not a lighthouse any more. My only remaining hope is that global warming kicks in for real so that poor suffering lighthouses like Hatteras and Bodie can glimpse the water again.

BTW, Hatteras is the tallest lighthouse in the US (if you can call it a lighthouse) and the “tallest brick lighthouse” in the world. The black-and-white is cool, IMHO.

Otherwise, Cape Hatteras National Seashore is just another shoreline. Not nearly as dramatic as Big Sur or Oregon Coast — and I was a little underwhelmed by *those*. There are a few touristy towns there — I’m not sure why a tourist would hang out in Avon, North Carolina, though. Maybe the beaches are nice in summer. There were guys who were surf fishing, which looked like it could be cool, although they didn’t look like tourists. And I didn’t see any ships get wrecked while I was there — but at least it didn’t cost me $55 to get in.

Without NPS campgrounds, I ended up paying $50 to stay at a motel run by a gas station. There were private campgrounds available, but they all looked like they were ruled by feral cats. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. As it turned out, the gas station was also ruled by feral cats.

bkd

Shenandoah and the Two-Way View (Day 82)

October 9th, 2009 Comments off

Shenandoah is a National Park made for old people who don’t get out of their cars. There’s nothing to do there besides pull over and look out over the side and see the valley with farms and towns in it. Valleys, sorry. One on each side. They don’t change much.

shenandoah_overlookEvery quarter-mile there’s an overlook. And every overlook has this exact view (in essence).

But at least the old people are genteel. At least the local ones are. And with the photography, I just went with the old standby: leaves. I’m guessing Shenandoah is pretty brilliant by the end of October. Wasn’t as colorful as New England had been a week or two earlier, though. I suppose these things take time.

shenandoah_skyline-drive-leavesAnother couple weeks and Skyline Drive will be on fire (figuratively).

I also sort of went on two hikes. The first was to White Oak Canyon, which my Reader’s Digest book suggests is the park’s scenic highpoint. To me, the highpoint of it was getting 2.3 miles in, seeing the first little waterfall, and having the locals there tell me it wasn’t worth it to keep going, because the rest of the waterfall was going to be even less spectacular. I guess it hasn’t rained much in Va.

But, whatever, there must be hike photos, so:

shenandoah_white-oak-leavesTrailside leaves.

shenandoah_white-oak-turkeysJust after it occurred to me that this would be a pleasant enough place for turkey hunting with Sgt. York, I stumble onto these guys. Gary Cooper, however, did not make an appearance.

shenandoah_white-oak-cascadeThis is more stunning than the waterfall was.

shenandoah_white-oak-bridgeEh. It’s a bridge.

The couple at the waterfall also insisted that I should hike up to Hawk’s Bill Peak, the highest point in the park, so I did. It was a short hike. Here’s evidence it happened:

shenandoah_hawks-billThe compass tells you where the forest is on fire.

And then I headed south and out of the park, never to return again.

shenandoah_yellow-by-roadSomehow the yellow seemed significant at the time.

shenandoah_bobcatJust because you can’t see it doesn’t mean this isn’t a photo of a bobcat.

It really *was* a bobcat.

bkd

Pemaquid Lighthouse (Day 76)

October 1st, 2009 No comments

Big drivin’ day yesterday (like eight hours total), but I checked out some more Maine before high-tailin’ it out of there. Have I used “high-tailin'” recently? Seems too familiar somehow.

Oh, stayed the night in the Seven Mountains Motel in Rockport, Maine. It was like a classic 1960’s motel (park in front of your room, single-story, 15 or so units), but the couple that ran it sort of did it like it was a bed and breakfast. Jean and Norman were their names. Norman had an outstanding Maine accent. It was awesome, recommended.

Anyway, went to this lighthouse and took these two photos.

pemaquid_birdsBirds near the lighthouse.

pemaquid_lighthouseLighthouse near the birds.

I was kind of expecting a grander lighthouse, but as it *does* sit near the water, I’m guessing this one’s effective at least.

bkd

Moose River to Nina Moose Lake to Agnes Lake (And Then Back) (Photos) (Day 55)

September 12th, 2009 2 comments

bwca_moose-river-parkingDay 1: Rudolph?

bwca_moose-river-put-in

bwca_moose-river-bank

bwca_grasswaterThere’s probably some better way to crop this one.

bwca_street-thru-grass

bwca_nina-moose-eagle

bwca_turtleA fierce lake turtle!

bwca_walleyeDay 2: A fierce lake walleye!

bwca_agnes-shoreline

bwca_sky-in-water

bwca_bow-on-agnes

bwca_agnes-trees

bwca_agnes-sunset

bwca_return-in-fogDay 3: Heading Home

bwca_reeds-in-fog

Overall, a pretty cool trip. I think going solo made it a little more of an adventure than it otherwise would’ve been — the place has to be a haven for Boy Scout troops, guys’ weeks out, etc. Also:

  • The solitude here is amazing. You go and find a campsite and you basically don’t need to remember that humanity exists after that point — which is a little unsettling when you’re out there by yourself.
  • The bird sounds here were all foreign too me.
  • Even the squirrels seemed off-model (I think they’re red squirrels rather than whatever the other kind are).
  • The lakes all do look kind of the same.
  • When paddling home in the fog Thursday morning, I actually got to use my compass (thanks!).
  • Paddling against the wind is one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever done multiple times. Fortunately it only happened for about the last hour of paddling on Day 1.
  • Had never caught a fish while paddling my own boat before. Probably a good thing it wasn’t a 30-lb. northern pike — that might’ve gotten awkward.
  • When I was coming out of the lake, the folks just putting in were asking me if it was crowded. Relative to Boundary Waters? No idea if that constitutes crowded. There are, like, seven campsites on Lake Agnes and they were all taken, but it didn’t *feel* crowded.
  • For having no padding under me (and no stuffing on the bottom of my sleeping bag), I slept remarkably well out there.
  • Finally got to dig into my MREs. The chili and macaroni one was excellent. Even the penne with vegetarian sausage was good.
  • Pretty much all the water out there is brown, I’m guessing from all the tannins in the trees filtering through the soil? Anyway — when you put that through your own water filter, it’s still brown when you drink it.

Close enough.

bkd


Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Very Badlands (Day 52)

September 7th, 2009 2 comments

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is exactly the same as Canyonlands in Utah if you take Canyonlands and then:

  • Smash it down a bit.
  • Remove any arches or bridges.
  • Sepia-tone it.
  • Add infinite bison.

There are also prairie dogs, at least one dead porcupine, and wild horses at TRNP.

tr_cloud-vHey look! They have clouds in North Dakota, too!

tr_clouds-in-riverAnd sometimes those clouds get reflected in the Missouri River.

tr_missouri-riverOther times, the Missouri River is somewhat less reflective.

tr_badland-overviewBadlands, with neither river nor clouds.

tr_lone-treeLittle tree on the prairie. By itself. Next to a double-track pathway.

tr_wild-mustangsMy trip through the wild mustang drive-thru.

I camped there for a night — there are a lot of trains that pass nearby, but it only cost $10, so that mitigates.

Should probably say something profound, but I’m very sleepy and am getting up in 6.5 hours, so maybe you can make something up for yourself. (Thx.)

bkd

Legion Lake Campground at Custer State Park

September 7th, 2009 No comments

Stayed at this campground for a couple nights. It’s noteworthy because only five of the 15 sites have trees anywhere near them, otherwise you’re just camping on grass next to your neighbor who is also camping on grass. Also noteworthy for being overrun with bison.

legion-lake_campgroundThis bison guards the bathroom. And the photo reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Mr. Burns buys the Count Chocula cereal because the picture on the box looks like him.

legion-lake_campground-bisonFortunately, I got a site next to a tree, which offered some protection from the raging herd.

The campsite cost $20/night, but on the plus side the bathrooms have showers in them — you just have to fight through the bison before you can use them (and believe me, once you’ve wrestled a few bison, you *need* a shower).

bkd

Hard Drivin’ and the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody (Day 45)

September 2nd, 2009 8 comments

Stayed the night with Jon and Erin in Victor, Idaho. I was particularly impressed by their mature lifestyle that was a clear departure from how a college student might live. In the morning, we had breakfast!, which, somewhat confusingly for me, did not consist of high-fiber Pop Tarts:

IMG00055-20090830-0831They have more kids than I do.

Then it was off to the open road. From Victor, headed onto Highway 22, which goes steeply and windingly over Teton Pass (not sure if that’s the name, but it seems like it could be) to Jackson, Wyo., which is a town whose amazingness seems a little lost on me. Maybe because I never get out of my car when I’m there.

From Jackson, the road headed north back up through the parks — Grand Teton and Yellowstone. A couple things about Grand Teton. One, the mountain itself looks pretty cool:

grand-tetonAnd you don’t even have to get out of your car to see ’em.

The other is that in order to get from Victor, Ida. to Sheridan, Wyo., no matter what the fastest route goes through Grand Teton and Yellowstone, which becomes somewhat less cool when all 50 or so miles grinding through Grand Teton look like this:

grand-teton_trafficFine: not quite *all* 50. But pretty close. And it’d be nice if there were a highway somewhere in this country that wasn’t being re-surfaced.

It’s also repeatedly disappointing that people don’t understand that when they’re driving slowly through national parks, you’re supposed to use the pull-outs. I think it makes complete sense to be doing 20 under the speed limit while driving through Yellowstone — but if there’s someone behind you, get out of the way. OTOH, I got to practice tailgating and high-beam flashing quite a bit, so maybe I should just be glad for the experience.

Once I escaped the parks, it was a pretty easy shot over to Cody, Wyo., home of the Buffalo Bill Historic Center, a museum that sort of tells the story of the West. They have, for instance, the biggest collection of firearms I imagine could exist under one roof:

cody_museum-firearms (1)Then multiply by 48.2 to get the full effect.

The great thing about the firearms wing of the museum is that you learn that you don’t know anything about the history of firearms. I figure learning what it is that you don’t know is probably about as important a thing to learn as anything. Museum also had big exibits on western art (

cody_museum-bear-hunters (1)No, I don’t know why I wouldn’t have taken the photo straight-on.

), the Plains tribes of Native Americans, the life and times of Buffalo Bill Cody, natural history of the West, and a temporary exhibit on Lewis and Clark. I liked that the museum was unapologetic. The displays are all professional and the write-ups show the sort of scientific detachment you’d expect from a museum, but there was no sense of emotional manipulation around any of it, which could have been easy to do from a number of directions. It’s a solid half-day museum (but kind of expensive: $15/adult).

Oh, also: I had some fantastic New Mexican food in Cody. No photos and I can’t remember the name (there’s only one New Mexican restaurant on the main drag in Cody), but it was pretty fantastic.

From Cody you have two different ways to get to Sheridan: 14 and 14A. Supposedly 14A is prettier, so I headed up that direction. The road goes through Mormon flat-land farm towns for a while, but eventually takes a sort-of dramatic turn and heads up into the hills.

highway-14aAs always, I think the bug splatters make the photo.

It was pretty, winding, and steepish. Would probably make a fantastic sled hill in the winter. It got up high enough that there was a patch of snow next to the highway in one spot. Near the top, there’s a turn-off to go visit the Medicine Wheel. After driving a mile and a half off the highway to visit it, though, they inform you that you can’t use the road that goes to it and have to walk the last mile and a half. Feeling used, I declined.

Driving down out of the mountains, I encountered family after family of deer, most of whom were galloping single-file across the road at inopportune moments. The three closest calls I’ve ever had with deer came within about a half-hour of each other on this little stretch of road. It’s like they have this death-wish. And it probably doesn’t help that they built fences on either side of the highway such that the deer appear to be trapped on the road. OTOH, if they’d just stay *off* the asphalt.

highway-14a_deerBambi’s mom: none too bright.

And it’s good to know that my brakes work. By the time I got off the hill, I was getting pretty mad at the road. I think an hour a day of winding mountain roads is plenty. Three or four hours is probably too much.

Finally rolled into Sheridan a little after 8 PM, got to my brother’s house, and had some leftover beef stroganoff that was really good. Pretty tired, though. I appreciate roofs and permanent structures now more than I used to.

bkd

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