A Calm Morning

I had one of the most amazing mornings yesterday.  For some reason, I woke up earlier than normal. I jumped out of bed energetic, and was ready to tackle a new day.  By 6:30 a.m. I was already on my second cup of coffee.calm

Sunrise wouldn’t be for another forty-five minutes and I contemplated hopping in the truck to capture a few sunrise photos along the Texas Gulf Coast.  The RV was dripping with dew and the windows were coated with moisture rich humidity blocking any potential view.  I needed to open the RV door to check the sky for cloud coverage.black and white photography

The past couple of weeks have been a total bust for sunrise photography.  The sky was either totally cloudless (boring) or covered in a thick layer … blocking any notice of a sunrise.  The mornings when the skies did cooperate, my body didn’t, and my sluggish exit out of bed found me missing the opportunity to capture those perfect skies.foggy morning

Yesterday morning when I stuck my head out the RV door, I was greeted with nothingness.  I could barely make out the shape of the tree just five feet away.  Fog … a thick layer of fog engulfed the landscape.  The assault of humidity had its way with my natural curly hair.  Nothing a baseball cap couldn’t fix.  The moist sea air upon my face made my skin feel ten years younger.  Frizzy hair and dewy skin … oh well 😏  Texas Gulf Coast

Wow …. I had to get out there, even if the lighting wasn’t good for photography.  The atmosphere was amazing.  I threw on some clothes.  Topped off my coffee and jumped in the truck.  I wasn’t sure if I’d find anything worth photographing, but I didn’t care.  I reveled in the quiet.  In the solitude.  In the peacefulness.  Aaah, how wonderfully calming, yet eerie and mysterious!calm

By 7:30 the sun had been up fifteen minutes, yet I saw no signs of her presence.  I didn’t mind.  I was enjoying a glorious morning by myself.  And although I may have been alone, I was not alone.

I was bushwhacking strolling through damp grasses and weeds amongst a grove of oak trees that serve as the roosting grounds for Great Blue Herons and Egrets.  I could hear their rustling, grunts, and squawks in the trees above me.  When one of the birds would take flight, I could even hear their wing movement.  I know …. how cool was that!peace, calmAnd then there were the ducks and Coot swimming in the pond.  Rumor has it, there’s even an alligator that calls this place home.  Such company, I can do without.  Birds yes, gators no!

What a wonderful morning it was, and although I didn’t photograph the kind of images I originally set out to capture, I was pleased with the photographs I did make.  By 10:00 a.m. the fog had burned off, my stomach was growling, and it was time to return to the RV … feeling refreshed, renewed, and happy.solitude

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Our Good Fortune Continued

It was mid August when Al and I were in dire need of a little down time.  With obligations behind us, we were able to meander as our hearts desired.  Just the way we like to roll.

Elks LodgeAfter a four hour drive, we pulled into the Elks Lodge parking lot in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  We found a nice grassy spot to set up camp for three nights.  It’s easy to fall in love with Santa Fe, New Mexico.

It is such an eclectic mix of new and old offering a little something for everyone, not to mention a great farmer’s market.  Ah, yes… worthy of its own post!

And although we loved our boondocking spot at the Elk’s Lodge, the real camping gem we discovered was forty miles down the road.  At Cochiti Lake Campground we snagged a lovely pull-thru site with electric and water.

Loved the Cochiti Lake Campground

Loved the Cochiti Lake Campground – photo taken just before sites filled up and rain started

Each afternoon, a summer storm would roll through gracing me with an artistic show that only mother nature could create.  During these storms, I would try to leave the RV door open or at least a window. Cochit Lake Campground

The smell of fresh rain in this arid high desert landscape was intoxicating and the vegetation and bunnies seemed to relish in the moisture.  And once the storms passed, a rainbow would remind me to smile.  Each afternoon as I sat in the comfort of the RV watching the show unfold, I was flooded with a mix of emotions; comfort, relaxed, awed, alive, lucky, life is good …..  and this is why we RV.

Cochiti Lake Campground

Cochiti Lake Campground

The ten days we spent here were just what we needed to relax and rejuvenate.  Although the majority of the time was spent around camp, I did manage to venture into Santa Fe  a few times and hiked at Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument at every opportunity.

Hiking at Kasha-Katuwe NM had me feeling relaxed and renewed

Hiking at Kasha-Katuwe NM left me feeling relaxed and renewed …. aaahhh!  There’s something very special and spiritual about this place or maybe it was my timing.

We also managed to take in a quick visit to Bandelier National Monument. We must return - fascinating!

We also managed to take in a quick visit to Bandelier National Monument.  Fascinating place that we must return to! Unfortunately, weather forced us off the trail.

This area in New Mexico is definitely a place I look forward to returning to and as much as I was reluctant to leave, hitch itch set in and it was time to put the RV wheels in motion.

Our next stop was in Arizona at the Petrified Forest National Park.  On the far south side of the National Park, just outside the park entrance, are a couple of gift shops.  They allow free overnight camping.  We stayed here last year for a quick overnight when we helped our daughter move from Denver to Phoenix.

Our free campsite near the Petrified Forest National Park

Our free campsite near the Petrified Forest National Park – Crystal Forest Gift Shop

During this visit, I was able to linger and explore the park …. well kind of.

Retracing the historic route 66 - those are the original telephone poles. A quick photo before the bad storm rolls in.

Retracing historic Route 66 – original telephone poles still stand. Quick photo before the bad storm hits.

The weather wasn’t necessarily all that agreeable and after I took a fair share of commemorative photos, the lightening and down pouring rain had me hightailing it back to the RV.

In between weather fronts, Al and I decided to hit the road bound for Williams, Arizona.  Fortunately, the winds were short lived and the three hour drive was pretty uneventful.

While we were trying to back in to a site at Lake Kaibab National Forest, the camp host rolled up in his golf cart letting us know he just received a cancellation for a nice pull-thru site ….. sweet!  My how those travel Gods continued to smile upon us.

Our peaceful campsite at Lake Kaibab National Forest Campground

Our peaceful campsite at Lake Kaibab National Forest Campground

my front yard - aaahhh, relaxing!

my front yard – aaahhh, relaxing!

Williams, Arizona, is known as the gateway to the Grand Canyon, but the town has also done an amazing job of rebranding itself and playing up its Route 66 history.  This is a fun little town worth spending an afternoon exploring.  It’s also a great place to grab a bite to eat or a hotel room for a visit to the Grand Canyon since the national park is only an hour drive up the road.

Williams, Arizona - historic Route 66 is the theme around here - fun!

Williams, Arizona – historic Route 66 is the theme around here – fun!

I had every intention of driving up to the Grand Canyon for a day of photography, but I managed to come down with a head cold and with the cool temps that are common in this part of Arizona at the end of August, I longed for some heat.

So down in elevation we went …. to the town of Cottonwood.  Just east of town is a popular boondocking spot (free camping, no services).  It’s amazing how drastic the change in weather can be a mere hour apart.  In Flagstaff the weather temps barely hit 70 degrees Fahrenheit while in Cottonwood temperatures were well into the 90’s.  The heat felt wonderful, although when it reached 104 inside the RV, even sick lil’ol me thought it was a tad too hot.  However, between the RV sauna, chicken noodle soup, and a spicy Mexican meal at Javalina’s in Sedona, I started feeling better in short order.

Boondocking near Cottonwood, AZ. Sedona off in the distance.

Boondocking near Cottonwood, AZ. Sedona off in the distance.

Three days of boondocking in the desert heat had us moving on down to Prescott Valley in search of electric and air conditioning.  We booked a month long stay at the Fairgrounds RV Park.

Fairgrounds RV Park, Prescott Valley, AZ. It was an ok place to park for the month of September.

Fairgrounds RV Park, Prescott Valley, AZ. It was an ok place to park for the month of September.

On October 1st we returned to Phoenix, Arizona, our starting point back in April. We’ve been comfortably parked on the north side of the valley and visiting  with friends and family regularly.

So now you’re all caught up on our summer journey.  I’ll eventually write some posts and share a bunch more photos on the highlights of our summer stops.  We truly had a fantastic six month adventure filled with lots of firsts and a few repeats

Al and me with our daughter and son. We're able to spend the holidays together this year - happy dance!

Al, our daughter, our son and me. We’re able to spend the holidays together this year – happy dance!

For now, I’m off to finish up my Christmas shopping…..

Should I get this pressure cooker or would this  drone be more fun? I like the idea of both, don’t you 😉 I ordered this T-shirt for my daughter!and several gift cards as stocking stuffers.  Yep, I’m getting close to the end of my shopping and starting to wrap’m up.  I’m a shopper and love this time of year 🙂  This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure can be found here.

Vibrant Pink Beauty

When traveling by RV, weather always plays an import role, and flexibility is the name of the game.  After all, the number one priority is arriving at our next destination safely.roseate spoonbill

We pulled out of Rockport, Texas, early Sunday morning and arrived at the Elks Lodge in San Antonio, Texas, three hours later.  The original plan was to spend only one night here, and continue our trek toward Phoenix, Arizona, but with high wind predictions in west Texas along Interstate 10, we’ve decided to sit tight for another night or two.  bird photography

We’ve been to San Antonio several times and really enjoy the city, but we probably won’t be venturing out and about too much which has given me the perfect opportunity to go through my hundreds (more like thousands) of photographs I took over the past month.Birding

I don’t think I’ll ever get bored running into the vibrant pink of the roseate spoonbill.  I don’t know what it is about these birds that is so intriguing.  Could it be those gorgeous pink feathers?  Or maybe it’s their entertaining personality.Birding

I’ve been lucky to have enjoyed some rather close encounters with these pink beauties and I swear they like being photographed.  Or at least, they don’t mind my presence.Bird photography

Hope you enjoy these photographs of this vibrant and vivacious bird as much as I do.Birding

Birding

Birding

Roseate Spoonbill

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Third Times a Charm

Today is our last day along the Texas Gulf Coast.  We’ll be working our way back to Phoenix Sunday morning, and although we did contemplate extending our stay, the pull of appointments, seeing our children, and the anticipation of the desert blooming can’t be ignored.  This was our third January camped near Rockport, Texas, and was our best visit yet.  Perhaps the saying third times a charm is true, because this visit certainly was a charmer.

a birders delight!

a birders delight!

Last year’s visit found us dealing with the Polar Vortex meaning lots of cold, wet weather.  I also contracted pink eye aka conjunctivitis which put a real damper on my photography.  This year with all the talk of El Nino along with the fall flooding in Texas, Al and I actually thought about canceling this trip to the coast, but since we already had the RV park reservation lined up, as well as friends waiting for us, we hit the road and arrived New Year’s Eve.  And boy, am I ever glad we decided not to cancel.

This kind of water is a kayakers dream

This kind of water is a kayakers dream

Al and his buddy had a fun month of taking the boat out into the St. Charles Bay every morning doing what guys do best; hunt, fish and BS.  I had a fantastic time playing with my camera(s) but when new neighbors pulled in next door my fun was taken to another level.  During a casual get to know the neighbor conversation, Mary Ann informed me she enjoys photography.  Well, she didn’t have to tell me twice.  Next thing she knew, I was getting her out of bed early, loading her in the truck, and sharing all my favorite (and not so favorite) photography spots with her.

The vibrant pink of the rosette spoonbill is easy to spot.

The vibrant pink of the rosette spoonbill is easy to spot.

Our first full-day outing was up to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.  I skipped a trip here last year because of my eye illness, and therefore, I was looking forward to a visit this go around.  And just like my first visit, I was somewhat disappointed with the refuge.Aransas Wildlife Refuge

There were very few birds to be seen with the exception of the vultures, but we did spot a javelina in the far, far distance.  We even saw one cross the road, but quickly disappear into the brush.  Looking at the photo, I do wonder if this is a hog and not a javelina.  Regardless, I’m telling my friend, Mona Liza, I finally saw my Javelina 😆

Took my digital zoom to spot that javelina or is it a hog?

it took my digital zoom to spot that javelina or could that be a hog?

VultureThe showing of birds at the refuge was poor, and several trails / viewing overlooks were closed.  I don’t think I could honestly recommend going out-of-the-way to visit the Aransas NWR.  If you’re in the area and interested in a picnic outing, then by all means, but if you’re looking for a well maintained, wildlife rich place, this isn’t it.

Next…. I always enjoy a visit to Mustang Island and the town of Port Aransas.  I cruised the island twice by myself and once with Mary Ann.  Commutes via ferry never get old, and are a fond addition to a day of adventure.

This is the boardwalk at the birding center. The woman is carrying a newborn baby. Look in the water to her right. Mr. Alligator is eyeing her.

This is the boardwalk at the birding center. The woman is carrying a newborn baby. Look in the water to her right. Mr. Alligator is eyeing her. He was hungry that morning and on the move.

In the town of Port A (aka Port Aransas) a stop at the Leonabella Turnbull Birding Center and stroll at Charlie’s Pasture is always worthwhile.  Then there’s driving on the beach and sharing lunch with feathered friends.  Seagulls can always be counted on for a little entertainment.Seagulls

It wasn’t long before I discovered my partner in crime (Mary Ann) was adept at spotting those vibrant pink beauties; the roseate spoonbill.  I can never seem to take enough photos of these unique characters.roseate spoonbill

But then I do love the vibrant white of the egret ….. How about a little vibrant pink and white together with a touch of striking yellow?  Aren’t these two beautiful?birding

The highlight of my visit to the Texas Gulf Coast was the morning Al’s friend, Dennis, took me out for a boat ride for the specific purpose of photography.  I just can’t thank him enough for two hours of sheer perfection and joy.  We launched the tiny vessel twenty minutes before sunrise.  It was a cold 32 degree morning (one of the coldest all month) with no wind and clear skies.  He thought for sure I was going to cancel due to the cold.  Not a chance!  I couldn’t wait to get out on the water.St. Charles Bay

I wore my winter coat with one of Al’s camo coats over it along with earmuffs, camo hat, warm gloves, and sweatpants tucked into rubber rain boots.  Sorry folks, no photo of this fashionista.  I was super comfy and with no wind, it was a perfect morning.

Can you see the two whooping cranes?

Can you spot the two whooping cranes?

As we slowly cruised the waters, the sun rose.  We kept an eye on the shoreline in search of wildlife, and from time to time, we could hear the familiar call of cranes.

Once we spotted the cranes, the boat motor was turned off, and we floated toward shore.  I carefully stepped on the front of the boat steadying myself and raised my camera up over my head as high as my five foot four frame would allow.  This is one time I was grateful my Panasonic FZ200 had a flip out monitor.

The three front sandhills are getting ready to fly.... camera ready.

The front sandhills are getting ready to fly…. camera ready.

And they're off

And they’re off

I was thrilled to see not only the endangered whooping cranes, but a smorgasbord of coastal birds;  egrets, sandhill cranes, killdeer and those lovely pink roseate spoonbills.  I was tickled pink with delight and this was by far the highlight of my visit to the Texas Gulf Coast.coastal birds

I would be remiss if I didn’t share the highlight of Dennis’ morning.  While I was clicking away, he was drinking his thermos of hot coffee and enjoying the scenery around him and that’s when he spotted a dolphin.  In a whispering tone, he informed me of the dolphin.

Center right - dolphin feeding

Center right – dolphin feeding

When I turned around to look out over the water, there was a sudden flurry of activity as the dolphin was feeding.  Dennis had never seen this before and was as giddy as a school child…. or as giddy as me seeing the wonderful variety birds.

He and I both enjoyed our morning out on the water.  My boat ride ended with a photo of this trio.Birding

Yes, this was one fun month filled with a bunch of wonderful surprises.  Al and I are already looking forward to returning next January, and who knows, we may even extend our stay.  The desert or the coast?  I’m glad we can split our time between the two, because I don’t think I could pick.  Let the tug of war commence!

We're on the move!

We’re on the move!

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The Same, but Different

Our first full week along the Texas Gulf Coast whizzed by.  Even though our weather was a mixed bag of cold, warm, sunny, gloomy, wet and dry, I have no complaints.  It’s been a great week exploring some familiar turf.Texas Gulf Coast

This is our third January hanging out in Rockport, Texas, just down the road from Goose Island State Park.  We’re staying in a private RV park surrounded by some familiar faces and some new faces.  Although the RV park is much the same, there’s a few subtle improvements which are always appreciated.  There’s also a few changes in the neighborhood, a couple of blocks away from the park.

This photo was taken last year. There was never a shortage of cranes to photograph

This photo was taken last year. There was never a shortage of cranes to photograph

The first thing I noticed were the lack of sandhill and whooping cranes hanging around the neighborhood.  Turns out, one of the homes in the area changed ownership, and the new owners decided not to keep up with a feeder.  The locals aren’t too happy anyway about all the tourists and photographers parking in the middle of the road to capture glimpses of the rare, endangered whooping crane.  Plus, Texas has received an abundance of rain resulting in a bumper crop of Blue Crab, the whoopers favorite.

A homeowner maintains a feeder filled with cracked corn

Last year a homeowner maintained a feeder filled with cracked corn

Sandhill and Whooping cranes appreciate the cracked corn during seasons of drought

Sandhill and Whooping cranes appreciate the cracked corn during times of drought

whooping cranes

Endangered Whooping Cranes taking flight

I’m not sure what it is about these coastal birds that has me intrigued, fascinated, and totally enthralled.  It’s captivating to watch these magnificent birds take flight or land.  They exude a sense of weightlessness and perhaps even power that is mesmerizing.  Yep, I’ve definitely developed a passion for cranes.

It's amazing to watch these large birds in flight

It’s amazing to watch these large birds in flight

Whooping cranes

I’m a little disappointed I won’t be able to photograph these gorgeous birds this visit as easily as I did last year.  I might make a special trip out to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge or I’ll focus on photographing some of the other beautiful coastal birds.  There’s no shortage of birds along the Texas Gulf Coast and a little patience and perseverance usually pays off.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Who can pass up an opportunity to capture the pink beauty of a Roseate Spoonbill?

an Egret prepares to land

Snowy Egret prepares to land

I find Egrets to be particularly elegant.  I wonder how they manage to stay so white.  If only I knew their secret so I could have the same results with my socks 😉

Week one was off to a fabulous start, and thus I can’t wait to see what I’ll discover over the next three weeks.  Fingers crossed the weather will cooperate.  If you’d like more information on the endangered whooping crane, you can read my post here (I give some statistics) and here (my second trip) and here (my visit to the International Crane Foundation).

Exploring the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail: Highlights Of A Birding Mecca (Exploring Series)

Therapy comes in many forms

The intoxicating beauty of towering red rock sandstone monoliths and buttes…. rocks aptly named Coffee Pot Rock and Cathedral Rock…. equal parts of rugged and luxury….  a small town blessed with an abundance of beauty and surrounded by National Forest land…..Sedona, Arizona

These words barely begin to personify stunning Sedona, Arizona.  Sedona served as stop number two for my excursion with my daughter, and as you might expect, it did not disappoint.  Ashton was pleasantly awed by the angular rock formations, high mesas, and stunning colors.  Sedona

Talk about a visual treat.  A feast for the eyes.  An abundance of beauty in all directions.

SedonaThose beautiful red rocks serve as a backdrop for a number of outdoor activities ranging from spiritual pursuits to hundreds of hiking and biking trails to guided Jeep excursions.

Lots of great dining options

Lots of great dining options

Since Ashton and I only had a couple of hours to tour the area, we set our sights on exploring the shops.  Sedona is well-known for its vortex energy and folks from around the world come here for healing and spiritual renewal.

SedonaMany of the shops focus on the metaphysical and sell jewelry made from various crystals and stones, each serving a distinct purpose.  We stepped into the Sedona Crystal Vortex shop and found ourselves learning the metaphysical value of the array of polished stones.  The store offered everything from loose stones, to stunning pieces of jewelry that I would classify as “Art”, to simple elasticized bracelets. Sedona

As we perused the numerous bracelets, we read the special benefits of wearing particular stones.  It seems there’s a stone for whatever ails a person.

 

SedonaMy skeptical nature may have had me doing an eye roll, but the bracelets were cute and thus I figured what the heck.  It certainly couldn’t hurt to wear one of these ‘healing‘ bracelets and I can always use a little help.  Hmm….. I pondered which stone(s) would be most beneficial for me;   creativity, energizing, harmony, inspiration, courage, grounding, prosperity, calming, balance?  The list went on, and although I was tempted to walk out of there with half a dozen bracelets, my wallet thanked me for walking out empty-handed.  Perhaps I should have indulged in a citrine stone bracelet = prosperity!

Ashton, on the other hand, found healing and inspirational therapy at a wine shop.  Following a little wine tasting, she walked out of the store with two bottles of Arizona wines.

Sedona

We spent another hour engrossed in retail therapy before heading off for a little spiritual enlightenment.Chapel of the Holy Cross

Regardless of one’s faith, a visit to the Chapel of the Holy Cross is a must.  Built in 1956 this Catholic Chapel rises 70 feet (21m) out of a 1,000 foot (300m) red rock cliff.

Sedona

I must admit, a quiet moment of reflection inside this church had more of an impact on my aura than any of the crystals or healing stones I handled that day.  Perhaps my chakras are in need of attention.

On that note, I know just the place to go to have my chakras aligned, engage in vortex energy, have my aura analyzed, or purchase stones to help heal whatever ails me 😉  Yes, Sedona…. I shall return.  I’m itching to hit your trails!

Sedona

Before heading out of town, we made one final stop.  Not only had I worked up a thirst, but I felt compelled to show Ashton the architecture on this one of a kind McDonald’s. Sedona Yep, this is the only McDonald’s in the world where the arches are turquoise instead of golden.  So when I told her we were stopping at the Turquoise Arches for soft drinks, she was initially perplexed and later humored.

Crystal Healing
November’s Chopin Fashion Handmade Metal Leaf Pendant Wood Prayer Bracelet Link Wrist Necklace

Yellow makes me smile!

photo challengeWhen I saw the topic for this weeks WordPress photo challenge – Yellow.  I knew exactly which photos to post.  I’ve always loved the color yellow.  It’s one of those colors that just makes me smile.photo challenge

For those of you who have been following my blog, you also know birds make me smile.Yellow challenge

I wouldn’t refer to myself as a ‘birder’ but rather someone who just enjoys the beauty of these unique creatures.WordPress daily postphotographyphotographyBut I couldn’t stop with just the birds.  I can’t look at Sponge Bob Square Pants without thinking of my children which brings on more smiles.  I sure do like the color Yellow!photography
Exploring the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail: Highlights Of A Birding Mecca (Exploring Series)

Angular Galveston, Texas

As I was writing a  post in an attempt to get caught up with our travels, I’m distracted once again….. but in a good way by today’s Daily Post photo challenge.  The word ‘angular’ is perfect to share some of Galveston’s beautiful architecture.daily post

daily post photo challengeSince we arrived in Galveston, Texas 10 days ago, I’ve had the opportunity to walk around downtown Galveston a couple of times.  I’m in love with the beautifully restored Victorian homes.  Sure there are still signs here and there of a devastating hurricane that occurred in 2008 – hurricane Ike, but restorations are on going.photographyIn my short time in the area, I do believe I’ve fallen in love.  Galveston has so much to offer and hopefully I can convey all of it’s beauty in upcoming posts.  Stay tuned!Architecture Victorianarchitecure photography

photography architecture

hurricane Ike

the Great Dane dog sculpture was carved from a downed tree caused by hurricane Ike.  There are more tree sculptures located throughout the downtown area.  Talk about a great way of ‘repurposing’


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Mystery

There’s something mysterious about a foggy morning…..  conjures up memories of a spooky Scooby Do cartoon. “Scooby Do, where are you?”mysteryWe’re currently visiting Galveston Island, Texas, and although I’m excited to get out and about to explore, the cold and rain has keep me RV bound for the past few days.photo 101So as soon as this polar vortex moves on, you can bet I’ll be out hunting down the local wildlife ….. egrets, herons, sandhills oh my!mysteryToday’s photo 101 word is ‘Mystery’ and a foggy morning along the Gulf Coast seems fitting to me.photo 101

Exploring the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail: Highlights Of A Birding Mecca (Exploring Series)
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