When Cold water is Hot

Living a minimalist mobile lifestyle can be enlightening, fun, and rewarding but it can also present challenges. Last summer, Al and I meandered around Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado and although we had a fantastic time, the transient way of life can be stressful at times.

Moab, Utah

A transient lifestyle can be challenging but oh so amazing!

Wanting to keep our schedule flexible, we didn’t make any reservations last summer. That sense of freedom and rolling on a whim is one of many things we love about this RVing lifestyle. But there is a down side. Summer is a time for family vacations, peak travel season, which means state parks, national parks, and private RV parks are usually booked months in advance and for us that meant finding a place to camp was no easy feat without a reservation.RVing

This summer we decided to park in one place for a few months and see how long it would take for hitch itch to set in. This summer we’d have no worries or stress as to where to camp. In the past, I’m usually good for a month, maybe two, parked in one spot and then I’m ready to get those wheels rolling again.

Prescott, AZI’m enjoying my time camped here in Prescott Valley, Arizona, and there’s only a small part of me missing the adventure of travel …. just a little anyway. However, I’m sure my latest adventure with my daughter tempered that need to roll.

So to overcome any hitch itch, I’ve been keeping myself busy. When the weather isn’t scorching hot, which it unfortunately has been this past week, I’m out an about hiking or exploring with the camera in hand.

One of my favorite places to hike in Prescott, Arizona, is at Watson Lake. I’m never at a loss at finding a photographic composition in this unique little spot. And when the light isn’t quite right for those landscape shots, I always manage to find a willing model or two to focus my camera on.

Watson Lake

Not only is it a fun adventure exploring new landscapes, learning the idiosyncrasies of a new location can be equally amusing.  In early May when we moved up to Prescott from Phoenix, up to 5,200 feet in elevation, we thought we would be escaping the extreme triple digit heat which is normal in Phoenix. Boy, were we wrong!

First off, Phoenix has been experiencing record high temperatures this past week and that heat has permeated into every square inch of the state of Arizona, including Prescott. Now granted, we’re still at least ten to fifteen degrees cooler than the city of Phoenix, but who’s counting when the temps rise over 100 degrees Fahrenheit 😲

Watson Lake

me hiking at Watson Lake when the temps were still comfortable

With those high temperatures in mind, when I take a shower in the late afternoon, I have a fun time adjusting the water temperature. I try putting the faucet nozzles in the same position all the time. Lately, the water is hot, I mean unusually hot. The other day when our thermometer was registering 108 outside, I kept turning the hot water nozzle down in hopes that the water temperature would cool.

bird photographyEventually, I had the hot water nozzle  turned totally off and just the cold was running. No cold water for this gal! Considering we only have a six gallon water heater and I’ve become quite adept at taking a quick Navy shower, the excess hot water was a treat. Yep, the cold water was hot …. how interesting!

I’m always learning something new with each place we call home.

Eventually, the water did turn cold, but it did take awhile for the above ground and shallow below ground water lines to be cleared of the heated water.

Watson Lake

This photo was taken in May. You won’t find any puddles around these days.

A transient RV lifestyle is anything but boring, and there’s always something new to learn and experience. And although there’s a part of me that would like to be on the move exploring like we did last summer, I’m enjoying the lack of stress associated in finding a place to park. Plus, I still have so much more to see around here, and I haven’t even mentioned our active social life yet.

There’s definitely an upside to being stationary for a time, but I assure you my transient RVing lifestyle won’t be coming to an end anytime soon. That freedom to roam is addictive!

Watson Lake

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Pain at the Grand Canyon

It was approaching seven in the morning and the tops of the canyon walls in Zion National Park were starting to light up with sunshine. The winds were gusting causing the tent walls to whip about. The camp stove was sitting on the picnic table, and after several unsuccessful tries at lighting it, Ashton recommends we break camp and stop for coffee and breakfast along the way. That sounded like a fantastic idea…. better than bringing the camp stove into the tent in hopes of blocking that wind.

north rim of the Grand Canyon

Another day, another scenic view!

We quickly broke camp and did a fantastic job battling the excessive winds. We were getting good at this tenting thing and working instinctively well together. We managed to control the thin nylon tent and keep it from taking flight like a kite. We then loaded up Charlotte (Honda CRV) in a neat and organized manner. We still didn’t have a firm plan in mind for the day, but we were living on RV time and rolling with the winds.

Echo Canyon Zion National ParkBefore driving off, we took one more look around the campsite making sure we hadn’t left anything behind. We glanced over at the neighboring campsites…. no movement. Appears our camp comrades were still sound asleep. Fortunately, we had bid farewell to our neighbors the night before over a campfire.

With a nostalgic wave to our new friends and the gorgeous Zion Canyon, we reluctantly drove down the road. The day before, the Mt. Carmel Highway on the east end of Zion National Park had closed due to a landslide which required us to come up with an alternate route.

Recalculating and turning our road trip into a big loop turned out perfectly. We experienced things that we totally would’ve missed out on had we stayed with the original route.

First and foremost on the agenda was breakfast. We ended up driving through the quaint town of Springdale, located just on the outskirts of Zion National Park. For some unknown reason, nothing caught our attention. About thirty minutes later with our tummies growling and cravings for coffee increasing, we pulled into the River Rock Roasting Company. And what a find this was!

River Rock Roasters

Great coffee, great food, great view – River Rock Roasters, La Verkin, Utah

Ashton and I enjoyed the coffee and breakfast bagels so much so, that she and I agreed we’d go out of our way to visit this place again. Was it the view or the fact we were hangry or was it our need for caffeine (coffee addiction satiated) or is this place that good? Didn’t matter to us. We were a couple of happy campers and ready to face the day after our plates and coffee cups were empty.

About an hour or so down the road, we saw a sign noting the mileage to the Grand Canyon. In our typical mother/daughter fashion, we glanced at each other and said, “Hey, we’re this close, might as well stop”.

north rim of the Grand Canyon

Me on the left, Ashton on the right – at the north rim of the Grand Canyon

Turns out the north rim of the Grand Canyon had just opened to tourists a few days earlier. Good timing for us. I’ve driven this stretch of 89A in northern Arizona a couple of times in years past, and Road 67 to the Grand Canyon was always closed. Therefore, a visit to the north rim would be a first for both of us.

Access to the north rim is limited to the summer months, or rather from about mid May until the first serious snow fall which can occur in September or October. The south rim stays open year-round.

We found plenty of parking at the visitor center. As I stepped out of the car, I felt pain … pain all over and immediately used some colorful language. Not one of my finer moments considering I wasn’t setting a good example for my daughter. The car door was still north rimopen which allowed her to hear every inappropriate comment I uttered.

From inside the vehicle, I heard my daughter exclaim, “Mother. What is your problem?” Just then, she exited Charlotte and in our typical mother/daughter fashion, she joined me in voicing colorful expletives…. “Holy sh*t! WTF! OMG!” Thank goodness the parking lot was relatively empty and there wasn’t anyone else within ear shot of us. With each step we took, another expletive escaped our mouths along with a few laughs. Gosh, we hurt!

That eleven mile, strenuous, 2,148 foot elevation gain hike the day before in Zion National Park had finally caught up with us. Ah, the cockiness we expressed just hours earlier had come back to haunt us. We were feeling just fine when we woke up that morning. Guess our muscles just needed a little extra time to process the abuse from the day before.

We slowly and gingerly worked through our pain and walked to the visitor center and picked up a park map. At this point, any sane person would’ve called it a day and returned to their car. Nope! Not us. Let’s do some more hiking!north rim

We were at the north rim of the Grand Canyon which required a little sightseeing and photo taking and the fact that we had trouble walking due to pain was merely an inconvenience. Did I mention how much we hurt?

north rim of the Grand Canyon

“I can take pictures of the Grand Canyon from here”, exclaimed Ashton

When an Adirondack chair presented itself, Ashton didn’t hesitate to take advantage of the situation.

After strolling out to a popular scenic overlook (Angel Point – I think) and a little more photo taking, we enjoyed lunch at the Grand Canyon Lodge cafe. This is when we came to the realization that the thought of setting up the tent later in the day would be a grueling endeavor. Something we didn’t look forward to. We even had doubts that we could physically handle it.

Recalculating! Exuberantly, I said to Ashton, “Dad is in Phoenix spending the weekend with your brother, which means the RV in Prescott is empty. How about we drive all the way to Prescott and sleep in a bed tonight? Let’s forget about the tent.” I barely finished talking when Ashton, rather loudly, exclaimed, “Sold!” Yeah, a few heads in the restaurant turned, but we didn’t care. Neither one of us thought we were capable of the movement necessary to pitch a tent, let alone sleep on the ground. Once we made it to the ground on our air mattresses, we doubted we could get back up. Did I already mention how much we hurt? 🤣

Lee's Ferry Historic Site

Ashton finds another spot to take a break – historic site at Lee’s Ferry

With our new plan mapped out and a renewed spring in our step, we headed off to our next location – Lee’s Ferry. Even though our original plan to camp here was nixed, I still wanted to stop for a quick visit. It had been nearly twenty years since I last drove by this area and I wanted a refresher.

Colorado River boat tour

Boats return from a tour up river thru Horseshoe Bend and near the base of Glen Canyon Damn

When the boats pulled in after their scenic tour up river, I had an aha moment. So this is where the boats come from as they motor up the Colorado River through Horseshoe Bend and to the bottom of the Glen Canyon Damn for sightseeing.

I remember peering over the cliff edge at the scenic Horseshoe Bend and wondering where the boats down below came from. How does one go about boating this stretch of the Colorado River? Lee’s Ferry is the answer.

Grand Canyon rafting

These are supply boats getting ready to head downstream through some serious whitewater rapids.

Lee’s Ferry is also the starting point for an incredible whitewater rafting trip through the Grand Canyon. Ashton and I watched these supply boats getting ready to head down stream. I explained to Ashton …. rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon is a memorable once in life-time kind of adventure. When one signs up for such a trip, all they need to bring are their personal items. Thus, crews are needed to haul all Lee's Ferry historic sitethe supplies, camping gear, and food as well as do all the set up and prepare the meals. These were the boats we were observing – the supply boats and crew.

I’ll admit, I was relieved when I didn’t hear the comment, “Let’s do that for our next adventure“. I’m sure our current state of fatigue accompanied by sore muscles came into play.

It was getting late in the day and as tempting as it was to grab a campsite and call it a day, the thought of pitching a tent had us moving on down the road.

Three and a half hours later, we pulled into the RV park in Prescott Valley and a real bed in my home. It had been a long day of travel, twelve hours to be exact, but we weren’t complaining. We had just completed the best mother/daughter trip to date; a trip filled with amazing scenery and even more amazing memories.

I’m not sure how we’ll ever top this adventure, but we can sure try!prickly pear

What goes Up, Must go Down

The view was mesmerizing and stunning.  We knew it would be beautiful, yet we were still awed, not only with the landscape but with ourselves. It took us nearly four hours of grueling uphill climbing to get to Observation Point in Zion National Park.

Zion Canyon

The view from observation point – breathtaking!

hiking zion

We hiked from the valley floor to the top of the mesa. Over 2,100 feet in elevation gain!

The high fives and exuberance were short-lived as we soon came to the realization that we still needed to hike back down to the valley floor. What goes up, must go down! At this stage of the hike, I would have gladly entertained any other way back down the mountain.

Observation Point Zion

Proof we made it to the top! Observation Point trail in Zion National Park

Hmm, as I glanced over the cliff edge thoughts of repelling, paragliding, or base jumping came to mind …. tempting but obviously not available options. So after one more photo-op showing proof that we indeed made it to the top (made it to observation point, known as one of the more strenuous hikes in Zion National Park) we slowly meandered our way back down the trail.

Zion National park hiking

Hiking on top of the mesa was enjoyable and relatively easy.

All was well and good that first mile. The trail was still pretty much on the mesa. The views were lovely and the trail easy, but once we started the decent …. well, let’s just say, Ashton and I were not a couple of happy campers.

hiking zion national park

Ashton hugged the wall, even when passing uphill climbers.

hiking Zion

She did great confronting her fear of heights, but she sure did walk fast going down.

Ashton’s pace quickened as the trail zig-zagged and offered staggering drop-offs. She knew she needed to get through this section of the trail without letting her fear of heights kick in. As for me, I stopped to tighten my shoe laces a couple of times trying my best to keep my toes from jamming into the front of my hiking shoes.

top of the mesa

Me taking a much needed break!

I’ve always been prone to cramps in my toes, especially if my shoes are laced too tight, but under these circumstances, I was left with no choice. After tightening up the laces, I managed to keep up with the downward trek at a somewhat reasonable pace until the balls of my feet started burning. My feet were hurting like never before and I’ll admit I was overcome with a little panic.  We were barely a quarter of the way back down the mountain and I was having trouble walking. “How in holy heck was I going to keep going another two hours?

hiking zion national park

Can you spot the hikers on this ledge portion of the trail?

Zion national park hiking

Ashton was a ways in front of me as her focus was getting beyond this part of the trail with the sheer drop-offs. Once I caught up to her and the switchbacks seemed less daunting, I sat down in a nicely shaded area. I was on the verge of tears as my emotions were filled with concern and pain. Thoughts of Reese Witherspoon flooded my mind ……..   A month earlier after my daughter and I binge watched Netflix’ the Gilmore Girls, I rented the movie “Wild”. This movie is based on a true story. Although, I thought the movie itself was merely ok, it did have a thought-provoking impact on me. What possesses a woman to hike 1,100 miles by herself? Would I ever entertain such a silly notion?

As I sat there on the side of the trail in Zion National Park with my shoes and socks removed attempting to ease the throbbing pain in my feet, scenes from that movie played in my head along with some very non-lady like expletives. Just then, I remembered the medical/sports tape and knife in my pack. Oh yeah, let’s tape up these paws!

First it was up and around the second toe wrapping the tape in two directions. That toe has been sensitive ever since I lost the toenail last fall from all the up and down hiking I did at the Sonoran Preserve. Then it was around the balls of my feet – round and round, I wrapped the tape around the front of my feet …  shoes and socks back on …. laces tied tight …. when I stood up, the discomfort was gone. I was overcome with relief and nearly (I said nearly) started to skip down the trail. Oh thank God I brought that tape!

photo-op

There’s always time for a photo-op

photo-op

Now we were making good time, rarely stopping and keeping a steady pace. After about an hour, we seemed to be somewhere at the half way point of the hike back to the trail head. It was at this point I thought I was out of water. I couldn’t suck any more water out of my camelbak, but I didn’t think that would be a problem considering we were getting closer to the trail head with each step.

light at the end of the tunnel

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Are we there yet? Oh, please Lord!!!!!!!

However with only about fifteen more minutes to go and the shuttle bus stop in clear view, my legs started shaking uncontrollably. Sure they felt a little weak but not falling down weak. I found it humorous but Ashton was seriously concerned for my well-being.

She grabbed my pack and started fiddling with it. Low and behold, there was still some water in the pack. After a healthy slug, the shaking subsided and I responded with, “Thank you, mommy”.  Which daughter swiftly responded with, “Oh be quiet and keep walking. I really don’t want to have to carry you down this hill, and as tired as I feel right now, just be glad I don’t roll you down”. 😆

hiking Zion

Yes, we had hiked up there!

With the shuttle bus stop mere minutes away, we moved quickly down the remaining switch backs. Once on the bus, we snatched one of the last remaining seats and plopped ourselves down. A huge aaaahhhh escaped our mouths simultaneously. Our heads turned to look at each other and we burst into laughter and shared another high-five.

camp cooking

Spaghetti for dinner!

During the entire twenty-five minute bus ride back to camp, we sat in a silent and exhausted state. We exited the bus at the visitor center and still had to walk back to our campsite which resulted in a few ow, ow, ow’s with each step.

Along with our sore muscles, we were famished, and the homemade spaghetti waiting for us in the cooler, begged to be heated up. Over dinner, we discussed the events of the day. There were so many highlights, but what impressed Ashton most were the friendly folks who’s paths we kept crossing on the trail along the way to the top of Observation Point.

hiking zionWith the steady uphill climb, there was a lot of stopping to catch a breathe by everyone… young and old. One minute we’d pass someone along the side of the trail only to have them a few minutes later pass us as we were stopped to catch our breathe.

We engaged regularly with a family of three; mom, dad, and teenage son. They enlisted our help when they had trouble finding the trail head for Hidden Canyon. When we pulled out our map and informed them that they had passed the spur an hour ago, they laughed and decided to go in our direction. The stopping for air had us passing each other regularly which resulted in smiles and chuckles.

When we passed them as they were having lunch sitting on the side of the trail, the mom wanted to make sure we brought our lunch, because if we hadn’t they had an extra sandwich we could have…. complete strangers willing to share their lunch. How awesome is that? A little while later once we had all reached our goal, we took turns handing each other our cameras for those special photo-op moments.

We also engaged with another couple along the trail who visit Zion National Park regularly. This was their second attempt at hiking observation point. Right before the serious zig-zag, cut in the rock portion of the trail, we noticed the wife sitting along the side of the trail by herself. Her fear of heights kept her from continuing yet again, and she sat waiting while her husband went on to complete the hike. We sat with her for a little while and visited. It was amazing how much she and I had in common. We literally could’ve sat there and talked for hours.

Sometimes it’s these little encounters that are like adding a cherry to an ice cream sundae. It’s the topping to an already amazing adventure.

camp cooking

We enjoyed a wonderful homemade meal back at camp.

According to Ashton’s Fitbit, we hiked 11 miles, climbed 249 flights of stairs, almost 25,000 steps, and burned over 2,800 calories. She received a bunch of Fitbit awards that day!  Observation Point Trail took us almost four hours to hike up and two hours to hike down. I’m sure our socializing on the way up, impacted that time 😉

hiking zionShortly after we were done eating, our two neighbors returned from their hikes and we once again shared a campfire together. The three families all met while waiting in line for a campsite and we ended up camping together.

There was the couple from Germany traveling in a rented Class C motorhome with their two small children, and then there was the retired Canadian couple from Quebec traveling in a Class B Van and then Ashton and me in a tent.

This camaraderie with complete strangers that we encountered on the trail and at camp was new to Ashton and added a unique fun element to our overall adventure.

Ashton also became familiar with the term “RV time“. Whenever she’d ask me a question regarding our plans for the day, I’d usually respond with, “Doesn’t matter. Whatever we feel like. We’re on RV time”. Which basically means, we might have a tentative schedule, but if one of us wants to change things up, no problem. If one of us didn’t sleep well or is hungry or doesn’t feel well, we’ll adjust the plan.  We roll with the flow and change directions on a whim if we need or want to. There’s no time clock, no rules, no schedule, and no competition = living on RV time.  Her biggest goal now, is to figure out when she can start living every day on RV time.

Ashton learns more about RV time the next day when the road we want to take is closed due to a landslide …. which way do we go, which way do we go?

hiking zion

Look who took our picture!

zion national park

There’s always someone on the trail willing to help take a photo!

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

An Epic Hike in Zion

It was six o’clock in the morning on May 19th, 2017. As I laid cocooned in my sleeping bag, I listened to the sounds on the other side of the nylon tent walls. I noticed it was getting light outside and the sun would be rising soon. Although with the towering canyon walls, I wasn’t sure when the warmth of the sun would actually reach our campsite.

Observation Point Zion

Me on the left, daughter Ashton on the right. Angel’s Landing off my right shoulder.

The fluttering of wings as the birds flew from one tree to another along with their continuous chirping put a smile on my face, but there was another sound, an unusual sound, that took me a moment to figure out.

I quietly (as quietly as possible) unzipped the tent and then slowly stepped out.

deer in Zion

The deer in the campground were not bothered by people. This was a rare opportunity to photograph wildlife with a wide angle lens.

The unusual sound I heard while laying inside the tent was made by deer … it was the ripping of grass and chewing.  A deer had been grazing just on the other side of the tent wall, mere inches from my head, but by the time I stepped out of the tent, that deer had moved on. However, two other deer were across the street grazing.

Quaker oatmeal and coffeeThese deer are obviously used to people and when the two grazing deer came walking toward and then past me, I stood frozen and silent. This was one time a zoom lens wasn’t necessary. What an awesome way to start the day!

Ashton and I had a couple of hikes in mind that day, and we wanted to get a somewhat early start.

Shortly before seven, I started heating up the water for coffee and oatmeal, and when Ashton stepped out of the tent, I excitedly pointed behind our tent. There in the tall grass lay three female deer munching on grass while watching the tourists pass by. This was their yard, and we were their tolerated guests.

wearing makeup while campingWe knew in our gut, this was just the beginning of one heck of a memorable day.

With breakfast out of the way, we continued to get ready for the day, which for these gals, includes a little makeup. Hey, just cause we’re camping doesn’t mean we can’t do it in style 😆

We loaded up our gear and then hiked over to the visitor center to pick up the shuttle bus. Twenty-five minutes later, we exited the bus at stop #7 for the Weeping Rock and Observation Point trails. We headed up the short Weeping Rock Trail which is less than a mile round trip. It’s a steep paved trail which ends at a rock alcove with dripping springs. Kind of cool and interesting and we thought worthwhile.

Weeping Rock Zion

The trail to ‘Weeping Rock’. It was a brisk morning which Ashton can attest to!

Weeping Rock Zion National Park

Weeping Rock – interesting sight.  Water seeps out of the rock and vegetation grows in crevices.

Little did we know at the time, but this trail served as a nice warm up as to what was to come. After admiring the seeping rock and lush plants, we hiked back to the trail head and took the spur toward Observation Point. We agreed earlier that morning that this 8 mile (12.9 km) round trip strenuous hike with a 2,148 foot (655 m) elevation gain was more than we wanted to tackle. Therefore, we planned to hike about an hour and a half up then turn around (3 hours round trip) to head back to camp for lunch and explore the Watchman Trail in the afternoon. Good theory!

Observation Point Trail Zion

Can you spot the shuttle bus?  Offers scale.  Little did we know, the trail would climb and take us near the top of that mesa – white portion of rock….  😲

From the get go, we could feel the trail climb. We were immediately huffing and puffing and stopping frequently to catch our breath. Although the trail starts out paved, the continuous uphill, zig zag climb is anything but easy.

hiking zion

the trail is a never ending zig zag

As we neared Echo Canyon, we were thankful the trail leveled off and offered a nice reprieve from the continual uphill climbing.

Echo Canyon

Echo Canyon. We enjoy the reprieve from climbing.

Echo Canyon

Enjoying the flat part of this strenuous trail

slot canyon Zion National Park

Ashton’s first slot canyon

This was Ashton’s first ever exposure to a slot canyon and although we only hiked a small fraction of Echo Canyon, it was a visual delight. In order to hike the actual Echo Canyon Trail a permit is required and canyoneering skills are necessary. Yep, not for us. We were thrilled and satisfied with the sliver we did experience.

hiking in Zion

Observation Trail continues

I don’t recall how long it took us to hike to the other side of Echo Canyon, but I do remember Ashton and I being awed by the landscape. The photo-ops were endless and there was no way we wanted to turn around at this juncture … not yet, anyway.Zion national Park

It was onward and upward, and the uphill climb seemed unrelenting, but did we stop?

hiking Zion

Is this our turn around point?

When we came to a trail sign …. (this was the noted spot on our trail map where Ashton and I originally planned to end our climb and turn around) …. we decided, we’ve come this close …. “lets do it“! Truth be told, it was our stubbornness that egged us on. We refused to be each others excuse as to why we couldn’t complete this 8 mile strenuous hike.

Zion National ParkIn other words … there was no way I would accept defeat so my daughter could say, “We couldn’t complete the trail because my mom couldn’t handle it“.  Heck no! That makes me sound old. I may be old, but I’m not that old.

And then, Ashton refused to give in to her fear of heights because she wouldn’t give me the ammunition to say, “We couldn’t complete the trail because of my daughters fear of heights”. Yeah, we’re stubborn!

Ah, but that age thing did catch up with me. At one point, I found the need to actually sit down on the side of the trail to rest and let my heart rate come completely down. All that climbing had my heart pounding rapidly in my ears. Years ago, I worked out with a personal trainer and used a heart rate monitor regularly. Because of that experience and knowledge, I knew I was pushing too hard and needed to take a break for my health and safety. After munching on a Lara Bar, resting, and drinking more water, I felt ready to tackle another stretch of climbing ……  just in time for my daughter to face her fears.

hiking in Zion

Ashton’s fear of heights kicks in! Who’s got the racing heart now?

This would be the final stretch of climbing needed to get to the top of the mesa. The trail was literally blasted out of the canyon wall and offered dizzying drop offs and eye-popping scenery. Not exactly ‘fear of heights’ friendly.

hiking in Zion

can you see the zig zag trail?

hiking Zion

Let’s zoom in a little closer – can you see the trail now? Check out that elevation gain.

hiking Zion

Zoomed in more! This stretch of trail was the most challenging for Ashton, not to mention my lungs.

hiking Zion

Ashton confronts her fear of heights! The popular Angels Landing Trail is just to the top left of Ashton’s head.

Ashton’s fear of heights was news to me. I have to admit, I found the whole situation somewhat humorous and had to ask, “Since when did you develop a fear of heights?” Somewhat hesitantly, she responded in a near whisper, “Since I went bungy jumping in New Zealand”. Her response resulted in more chuckling on my part …. “So you gave me gray hair, and gave yourself a fear of heights.”  Photo-op!

hiking zion national park

Ashton tries calming her nerves – fear of heights! “Seriously, mother!!! You really have to take a picture?”  Yes I do honey, yes I do 😆

zion national park

Another needed stop to calm the dizziness.

hiking Zion

Whew! Climbing has stopped. Mini panic attack over, but we still had further to go… Far left Mesa in the distance – to the left of the red vertical line = “Observation Point”

Once we reached the top of the mesa, we were able to breathe normally, but still had more distance to hike to get to “the point”. Ashton’s racing heart caused by a fear of heights had calmed down, and my racing heart caused from the ridiculous uphill climbing had also calmed. Deep calming breathes were taken by both of us followed by a sigh of relief.

hiking Zion

Observation Point in the distance – note the red vertical lines against the white rock – the V lines point to our destination.

hiking in Zion

Can you see the specs of people at Observation Point?  Follow the red vertical stripe up.

With the goal now in sight, our pace quickened. Ashton and I kept looking at each other with smiles and saying, “We’re doing this. We’re actually doing this. We’re almost there“.

As we exited that last cluster of pinion trees, we were assaulted with the most breathtaking view that is quintessential Zion Canyon. Engulfed with awe, we high-fived each other while huge smiles stretched from ear to ear. “Oh my gosh! I can’t believe we made. We did it!”Zion Canyon

It took us four challenging hours of unrelenting uphill climbing and at times we questioned our sanity. We also questioned each other, “Are you sure you don’t want to turn around?”  “It’s up to you. If YOU want to turn around, we’ll turn around“. “I’m fine. If YOU want to turn around, we’ll turn around“.  “Well, I’m fine too“.  Onward and upward!  Did I mention, we’re stubborn?

hiking Zion

Note the brass survey marker embedded in the rock. As you look to the monolith rock to the right – we are looking down on the infamous Angels Landing. Ashton was ready for a photo-op now!

Observation Point

Observation Point

That view … is that not the most incredible view! Thank goodness we embraced that stubbornness or we might have missed out on this experience. And what an experience this epic hike was. A memorable day indeed …. from start, to finish!

hiking zion

Time for a break! Let’s savor the view.

But the hike wasn’t over yet. What goes up, must go down, and what one thinks might be easy, probably isn’t. Next up, the journey back down the mountain ….

Zion Canyon


A Popular Trail in Zion

When Ashton and I chose Zion National Park as the destination for our road trip, I had only two requests …  stop at the Zion Lodge and hike the trail that was accessed across from the lodge. Other than that, I left it all up to daughter. Sure, I’d offer my input, but ultimately, we’d do and see whatever she would like.Zion National Park

Back in the early to mid nineties, we lived in Las Vegas, Nevada for a few years, and it’s an easy two and a half hour drive from Las Vegas to Zion National Park. While living in Las Vegas, Al and I visited Zion once with the kids in tow and later I revisited with a girlfriend. Both times, I overnighted at the Zion Lodge in one of the rustic cabins. The buildings themselves are unassuming, but the huge green lawn accompanied by a bunch of benches left an indelible impression upon me. A visitor can sit, and admire the soaring canyon walls …

Zion wildlifeAs I sat on one of those benches looking up, I remember feeling awed by the beauty around me. This former flatlander from Illinois was overwhelmed with the unique and stunning landscape.

Today, I was equally awed, if not more so. I’m not sure if it’s my age or the fact that I’m able to travel leisurely on regular basis, but there was a relaxed calmness about me that allowed me to savor the scenery along with each experience and hike I accomplished.Zion National Park

As any parent knows, traveling with small children is a huge distraction which I’m sure had an impact on my first visit to Zion. This go around was different. Instead of me, the mom, constantly concerned about the where abouts and antics of a six-year old and four-year old, my adult daughter was the one in charge and it was her responsibility to keep me (dear old mom) from getting into trouble. No easy task 😆  This new-found lack of responsibility on my part was oh so fun!

Zion National ParkAfter our Riverside Walk, we took the shuttle bus back down the canyon to the Zion Lodge and bought a couple of lattes at the cafe.

We found a bench near the large grass lawn and sat in silence while sipping our coffee. The last time my daughter and I sat here, she was four years old. Wow, how those twenty-three years seemed to have whizzed by!

Not only was I awed by the majestic landscape surrounding me, I was equally awed by the young lady sitting next to me. What a beautiful, caring and successful person my daughter has become. A mom can’t ask for much more!

With our energy boosted from the caffeinated coffees and a stop at the Zion Lodge checked off my list, it was time for a little more nostalgia. I wasn’t sure which trail hubby and I took with the kids all those years ago, but I was pretty sure the trail head was near the Zion Lodge, which meant it had to be the Emerald Pools Trail. What I do remember as the highlight of that day for our family of four was walking behind a waterfall. Thus, Ashton and I were off in search of that waterfall.

Emerald Pools Trail Zion National Park

Walking behind a waterfall – Emerald Pools Trail

Yep, I found the right trail and memories flooded back. It was every bit as entertaining during this visit as it was all those years ago, even though the amount of water falling was light in comparison.

The Emerald Pools Trail is a collection of short trails that meander past a small, lushly vegetated stream that rolls down from the cliffs and forms several interesting pools. Since the trail head is located across the street from the Zion Lodge making it easily accessible, the Emerald Pools trail is one of the most popular trails in Zion National Park. With that in mind, we weren’t surprised we encountered plenty of other hikers on the trail, but even though we had to share the trail, it was still worth the hike.

Emerald Pools

The beginning of the Emerald Pools trail hike

Emerald Pools

We did the entire hike from the lower pools to the upper pools, which is about 3 miles round trip. The last stretch to the upper pools was the most difficult, partly due to the number of other hikers on the trail and partly because of the elevation gain.

Zion National Park

Interesting scenery along the trail

Emerald Pools

Traffic jam at the upper pools. When they say this trail is popular, they aren’t kidding!

Emerald Pools Trail Zion National Park

This was a lovely hike that we enjoyed, but personally, I liked the super easy Riverside Walk Trail a little more. Not because it was easy (well, maybe) but because it offered open views of the soaring canyon walls, the rushing Virgin River, and of course, those lush hanging gardens. The Emerald Pools trail is more about the waterfalls and pools of water. The trail to the lower pool is rated easy, but as the trail climbs to the middle pool and eventually upper pool, it gets a little more difficult which is why this stretch is considered moderate.

From the Zion Lodge to the Upper Pool there’s a 350 foot elevation gain. It’s about 3 miles round trip. Plan around 2 hours – depending on photo stops.

Next up, we’re in search of more stunning scenery, and we’ll tackle the hike of all hikes … our epic hike ….

Zion National Park

Virgin River – Zion National Park

Urban Planning at its Finest

I’ll admit, I wasn’t always a fan of Phoenix, Arizona. Quite frankly, if our son hadn’t moved here eight years ago, I’m not sure how much time we’d actually spend in Phoenix, but let’s add in the fact that our daughter also lives here now …. well, need I say more … this place has definitely grown on me.desert wildflowers

With that said, Phoenix, Arizona, has since become our ‘home’, our home base so to speak.  We always manage to find some place in the Phoenix valley to park the RV for a desert birdlengthy stay and get in as much parent/child time as possible.  Although, from Al’s and my point of view, there never seems to be enough time spent with the kids.

Gosh, they are adults after all and do have demanding jobs and lives of their own.  Thus, we take what time we can get.

Our two favorite pastimes to spend together as a family are hiking and eating, and there’s no shortage of either around here.

As far as urban planning goes, I think Phoenix has done a fabulous job.  Traffic can be a bear just like any other major city, but the road system is laid out in a hikingsomewhat  organized manner compared to other cities and is easy to navigate. There are several expressways looping around the city to assist in keeping the dense amount of traffic moving.

Over the past several years of visiting Phoenix regularly, at all times of the year including summer, we’ve had the opportunity to observe traffic patterns and noticed there seems to be a sharp increase in traffic during the months of January, February, and March when the valley is loaded with snowbirds from the north.  Once these snowbirders move on …. come April, the density of the traffic seems to lighten, and by May the city can once again breathe.

Phoenix, AZ

This sure doesn’t look like a big city, does it? And check out the dense amount of wildflowers.

But what impresses me the most about Phoenix is the park / trail system.  No matter what side of the valley we park the RV, there’s always a trailhead within a short distance.  Quite hiking in Phoenixoften these trails feel remote, are rugged, and vary in challenge.  Don’t be fooled, there are some very challenging hikes in this city.

There’s also tons of groomed, kid friendly parks with playground equipment perfect for families. Yes, urban planning at its finest.

Although the Superstition Mountains remains my favorite place to hike while in Phoenix, I’ve discovered several other wonderful trailheads.

Most recently, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time hiking at the Sonoran Preserve.  The Desert Hills Trailhead was recently completed and is less than ten minutes away from our RV Park.  The Apache Wash Trailhead is located a little closer to where our children live and makes for a great place for us to meet up.

desert wildlfowers

the wildflowers have added a joy to my hiking

This spring has been especially enjoyable hiking with the abundance of dense wildflowers.  I’m a girly girl and a sucker for flowers.

hiking

hiking with my daughter regularly has been a wonderful treat

So, while it may not have been love at first sight, I’ve come to appreciate and embrace all that Phoenix has to offer.  Of course, the fact that my babies live here adds to mommy’s overall enjoyment ☺

Sonoran Preserve

Sonoran Preserve – Desert Hills Trailhead

share the trail

Whether you’re in the heart of the city or further out, you’ll share the trails with all kinds

share the trail

“I don’t mind sharing the trail”

desert birds

it’s not just the sights that are lovely … natures sounds are musical

desert wildflowers

love, love, love the desert wildflowers

happy camper

Me – happy camper, hiking near Lost Dutchman State Park

Moon Take a Hike Phoenix: Hikes within Two Hours of the City (Moon Outdoors)
Lawn Gone!: Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard

Shhh! It’s a Secret

I was deep in thought as I glanced out the truck window watching the never-ending west Texas landscape pass by.  It’s times like these that my mind wanders and I do my best thinking.  Yes siree, Texas is one big state and a state that has a lot to offer; diverse landscape, fun cities, quaint towns, a Gulf Coast, tasty food, and a variety of weather.  I’d say, a little something to please anyone’s interests.

Medina River

Bandera, Texas – Medina River

Along with a few new discoveries made this winter, I found myself revisiting a bunch of my favorite spots.  For me, it’s all about nature and looking at life through the lens of my ospreycamera.  With that said, what I love about Texas may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s fine by me.  How boring and crowded it would be if we all liked the same things.

I put a map together to share with you, my wonderful blog followers,  a few of my special haunts along the Texas coast, but shhh, let’s keep these sites between us.  It’ll be our secret  😃  After all, we wouldn’t want the world discovering this unassuming area or encroach on my birds.  Then it just wouldn’t be the same.

pelican

Listen up!

Alright, I’ll admit most of the sites noted on the map aren’t exactly secret, especially during the peak tourist months in summer or those popular holiday breaks, but even then, not everyone knows where to find these magnificent birds.  But I do!whooping crane

Now don’t go getting mad at me if there aren’t any birds at the noted sites.  My feathered friends do have wings and a mind of their own.  And they’re really bad about birdschecking in with me – almost as bad as my children!

Obviously, there’s a bunch of things I left off the map.  I really could’ve added another dozen markers, but decided to focus on the sites I personally have a tendency to frequent the most.  I’m never at a loss of things to do around here and make new discoveries all the time.

With a little time and exploration along the Texas Gulf Coast, I have no doubt that you too will discover your own favorite spots – spots I might even be unaware of – in which case, you’ll be obligated to share!

After spending two months enjoying the Texas Gulf Coast, it was time for us to hit the road and return to the desert southwest.  Crossing west Texas can seem never-ending, Texas Longhornbut with a little foresight and armed with helpful information about hidden gems, the drive can be bearable and maybe even enjoyable.

Before we can get to west Texas, we’ll need to get to Interstate 10.  The last several times we’ve driven through this part of Texas, affectionately called the hill country, we’ve always included a stop in San Antonio.  Wanting to change things up a bit and avoid the big city, we came up with an alternate route.

Besides, driving through San Antonio with an RV is an adventure unto itself, and not always a pleasant one especially when the GPS and wife are at odds.  Poor Al 😫

Texas Hill Country

Spring in the Texas Hill Country – adorable!

Thanks to a recommendation from a wonderful blog follower/friend, we discovered the quaint little town of Bandera, Texas, which is located northwest of San Antonio and south of the town of Kerrville and Interstate 10.

sleeping duckTalk about a great place to overnight and avoid traveling through San Antonio.

Next year, I think we’ll stay here longer and explore the town of Bandera. One night was definitely not enough.  Our RV park neighbor mentioned a tasty place for breakfast located within walking distance from the RV park that piqued Al’s interest.

I remained smitten with all the birds along the river and if the weather prediction for west Texas had been better, we absolutely would’ve hung around another day or two.  But with impending wind and rain in the forecast, we felt it best to keep on rolling west.  Yep, it’s crucial to keep an eye out for that Texas weather, especially high winds that can cause brown out conditions or spur up tornadoes.

Eygyptian Goose

Egyptian Goose checking on her eggs

So where did we stay for our overnight in Bandera, Texas?  On the trip down to Rockport, we stayed at the Skyline Ranch RV Park, and on our return to Arizona we stayed in town at the Pioneer River Resort.  Both places are located along the Medina River, but Pioneer is located right in town while Skyline is a few miles out of town.  You can count on being packed in pretty tight at either RV park.

Bandera Texas RV Park

Pioneer River Resort, Bandera, Texas

Bandera Texas

Bandera Community Park along the Medina River. Pioneer River RV Park can be seen in the far distance on left. Sits on the other side of the highway. Easy walk for me to spend time with these guys.

Bandera RV Park

Skyline Ranch RV Park – photo taken as I was walking back from the river.

Skyline RV Park

At Skyline Ranch RV Park it’s all about the deer. The Axis deer are so cute with their spots.

We really enjoyed both RV Parks and it would be a toss up as to which one I’d recommend.  Guess it boils down to whether one prefers staying in town or hanging in the country.

gazebo

This gazebo reminded me of the ‘Gilmore Girls’

On that note, I think I’ll let the photographs do the rest of the talking and show you what makes Texas special to me ….

Medina River

Bandera, Texas – Medina River – community park.  White momma duck sitting on her nest.

axis deer

Axis deer – Bandera, Texas

Egyptian goose

Medina River

 

 

 

 

 

 

chicks

Spring is in the air!

duck

duck

 

 

 

 

 

 

heron

great blue heron roosting site

pelican

Now that’s a mouth full!

roseate spoonbill

roseate spoonbill

Charlies Pasture

Interesting trails!

cormorants

Life along the coast!

killdeerbird

 

 

 

 

 

sunrise

 

birding center

 

 

 

 

 

Always something interesting to see!

egret

 

 

 

 

 

 

egrethawk

 

 

 

 

 

 

blogging

roseate spoonbills

Until we meet again, my pink beauties!

Adios Texas, until next time…. and yes there absolutely will be a next time!

VIAIR 300P Portable Compressor

the Next EXIT 2017

 

Things to do in Rockport

After a fantastic two month stay along the Texas Gulf Coast, we’ve hitched up and started our journey back to the desert.  I love having the freedom to split our time between two such diverse places; the Texas Gulf Coast and the Arizona desert. I’m grateful I don’t have to pick one or the other because each place offers something special and unique.

St. Charles Bay

Sunrise over St. Charles Bay, Texas

First, let’s talk about the water.  Gosh, what’s not to like about water, beaches, and sunsets, or in my case, sunrises!  All this water is the main attraction and the reason folks year round flock to the Rockport area.

Copano Bay

Rockport is popular with anglers

Rockport BeachYou won’t find much of a beach scene around Rockport/Fulton, but it is an anglers delight.  For miles of sandy beach, you’ll want to visit Mustang Island.  With that said, there is a small stretch of sandy beach to enjoy at the  Rockport Beach.

The Rockport Beach is a one mile long strip of land with sandy beach on one side of the road and a migratory bird area on the other side.  This is a fee use area and you’ll need to leave pooch at home.

There’s a small area roped off so nesting birds won’t be disturbed, making this a worthwhile stop for birders and photographers.  It’s also the perfect place to get in a little kayaking and paddle around an island to view nesting migratory birds.great blue heron

Although summer is considered peak tourist season, you’ll find plenty of snowbirds in the winter hanging around and calling themselves winter Texans…. us included.

friendship

Having friends over to our place.

Because this is such a popular place to escape the harsher weather to the north, you never know who you’ll run into around here.  Our friends, Faye and Dave, were wintering on Mustang Island, an easy one-hour drive away from our camp and we enjoyed a few get togethers with this entertaining couple.  We also managed to squeeze in a few other social engagements.

friendship

And then a get together at their place on Mustang Island.  Faye and Dave on the left.  Al and me on the right

This was our fourth year spending January in this part of Texas and our first time spending February.  Thus, I’ve had time to put a dent in this list –  51 things to do near Rockport.

Fulton, TexasRockport/Fulton are quaint, small town communities where everyone waves.  You won’t find any high-rise condos around here, although it is a very popular spot for folks from the big cities of San Antonio, Austin, and Houston to own second homes.  There’s also no shortage of RV Parks.

roseateThe original draw for us four years ago to visit the Texas Gulf Coast was for Al to meet up with his buddy and do manly things with manly men 😉  Little did I realize during that first visit, how I’d come to embrace and relish our visits to the Texas Gulf Coast.

And now it’s a toss-up as to which one of us looks more forward to these visits.  Thankfully it doesn’t matter considering we’re in full agreement that we’ll continue returning until it no longer fits.

Fishing and hunting is extremely popular round these parts.  We usually roll into town sometime during the last week in December which happens to be duck season.

duck hunting

Duck hunters know how to treat their dogs. Dog gets its own seat, wears a life vest and ear protection.
One hunter says to the other, can I borrow …. truck yes, wife maybe, dog never!

The airboats can be heard going out every morning starting around 5:30 a.m.  Once the Christmas/New Year holiday week is over, the morning noise lightens up during the oyster boatweekday but continues in a steady stream on weekends.  By the end of January, duck season is over and the only airboats going out are anglers and they tend to go out at a much more reasonable hour.

The St. Charles Bay can be rather shallow which is why airboats are so popular.  But during certain tides, the sight of oyster boats are common.  Oyster fishing is huge business around here and the first weekend in March is the Oyster Festival.

A lot of anglers fish from shore or don chest waders and fish while standing in the water.  There are public duck blinds for anyone to use on a first come basis for duck hunting during the season.

duck hunting

These two hunters are wading out to a public blind.  St. Charles Bay, Lamar, Texas.  Oyster boats in the distance.

whooping cranes

There’s a public duck blind in the water above the left crane and arrow sign

Texans love their outdoor recreation.  Allow me to share my winter Texas neighborhood along with the diverse activities taking place within relative close proximity to one another.  AND everyone gets along, respecting recreational choice.

I alternate between walking and riding my bike around the neighborhood.  Envision me having a Julia Roberts moment – a scene from the movie Eat, Pray, Love.  There I am Light at the end of the tunnelriding my three speed bicycle with a cute basket on the front (gotta have the basket, you know), camera slung across my body. As I pedal slowly, I glide down the tree-lined road.

My long flowing hair blows gently in the breeze (in reality the uncontrollable curly frizz is tightly bound and tucked under a cap in a battle against the extreme humidity and gusting winds 😖).  I take in the sights and wave to passerby’s.  As I exit the trees, I’m greeted by the expanse of the bay in the distance.  Further down 8th Street, I see several cars parked along the road.  The endangered whooping cranes can be seen in the field along with my favorite Brahma calf and a slew of other birds can be seen mingling near a pond.Texas Gulf CoastOf course, I too stop and start taking photographs (duh! like I’d pass up a chance to work that shutter).  Folks from around the country and the world visit this part of Texas for the birding.  Seeing a family of endangered whooping cranes is a rare and special treat.

Kayaking anyone? He launches at the end of 12th St. and Lamar Beach Road

Truck guy launches kayak at the end of 12th St. and Lamar Beach Road while whooping crane family looks on.  These birds are used to the flurry of activity, but they still stay far away – 600mm zoom and crop

A little later and you can see the green kayak in the water

A little later, you can see the green kayak in the water

There’s several of us lined up along the fence taking photographs of the whooping cranes.  Locals and visitors a like engage in idle chit-chat.  The loud boom, boom, bang, bang in the distance has a visitor questioning what the noise was. I, considered a winter local, along with another local dweller, exclaim nonchalantly, “Oh, those are the duck hunters in that blind out in the bay”.  With that said, we were back to our photo taking and chit-chatting about the birds.Rockport Texas

After snapping the camera’s shutter one too many times, I continue my bike ride along Lamar Beach Road.  I ride by several fishermen enjoying the day.  A kayaker in the bay was off paddling while the duck hunters were gathering up their decoys.  I roll by pedestrians and other bikers and regardless of who I pass, hellos and waves are exchanged as if we know one another.

Pelican

Pelicans act like begging dogs at the fish cleaning station at Goose Island State Park.

A short time later, I’m pedaling around Goose Island State Park.  Although the shore birding around the park can be hit or miss, I can always count on pelicans to entertain me, especially if there’s someone cleaning fish at the cleaning station.

Pelican eating fish

Who needs a human when I can catch my own! ISO 100 F4.0 1/1000  (600mm)

Boat & RV left side-This is our 82 yr old neighbor who is an avid fisherman. He launches, docks, does everything himself and never gets his feet wet! Winters here and spends summers in Montana

Boat & RV left side-This is our 82 yr old neighbor who is an avid fisherman. He launches, docks, does everything himself and never gets his feet wet! He winters here and spends summers in Montana.

Let’s see, so far I’ve biked around the neighborhood.  I’ve taken hundreds, actually more like thousands, of bird photographs.  I’ve also enjoyed photographing interesting sights and amazing landscapes.

foggy morning

a foggy morning along the coast had me out of the RV by 7:00 a.m.

spider web

a foggy morning provided mystery and interest

marina

marinas offer tons of photographic material – lots of interesting things to see

I can’t forget to mention, a visit to a marina shouldn’t be missed.  There’s so much great blue heroncharacter and intrigue to see.  Or how about doing a little shopping at Rockport’s historic downtown or touring an art gallery or two. This gal always manages to work in a few days of frivolous shopping.

On a rainy day, I get a kick out of visiting gift shops and checking out the crazy souvenirs. Who thinks up these things, and who buys it? 😉  Oops – guilty!

Here’s a write-up I did last year sharing a few more sites like the Fulton Mansion.seashells

Hmm, I might write up one more post about the Texas Gulf Coast and then we need to move on.  Ah yes, I already miss her…. miss the water and the birds and look forward to returning at the end of the year.  But the desert is calling.  The desert in bloom can’t be missed!Texas Gulf Coast

Browning Neoprene Dog Waterfowl Hunting Vest, RTM4,M 1303002202 Medium

 

Sougayilang Boot-Foot Chest Waders Waterproof Fishing Hunting Boot Waders (12.5)

 

 

Birding Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend: More Than 75 Prime Birding Sites (Birding Series)

Embracing Photography Failure

When I started this blog five years ago, I was sharing photographs that were shot with a $79 Kodak digital point and shoot camera.  I didn’t know anything about photo editing or even that the photographs needed to be edited.  What came out of the camera got shared on the blog … as is.great blue heron

Like any newbie blogger, I was excited to get that first follow, that first like, and of course, that first comment.  As the months passed, I eagerly continued writing posts filled with photographs.  The comments and followers increased and I developed friendships, friendships that continue to this day.

sandOne day, I received a message.  An email message from a fellow blogger?  Oh, how exciting, I thought!

That excitement was short-lived as I read … “If you’re going to post pictures on your blog, the least you could do is a little photo editing.  There’s no excuse for sharing a photograph with a crooked horizon especially since there’s free editing software like Picasa that’ll fix it in a second. 

Oh and quit posting the photos so little.  If you’re going to share photos, then share photos so we can see them.  Don’t expect readers to click to enlarge because they won’t.  Nobody has time for that.  Aside from the poor pictures, nice blog“.

whooping cranesAll righty then …. I was heartbroken, mortified, and embarrassed.  How is it I was capable of building award-winning custom homes from conception to completion, and yet I knew nothing about photo editing?

Quite frankly, my computer/technology skills were basic at best, which drove my business accountant crazy 🤓

Old school film seemed simple;  snap a bunch of pictures until the roll of film was full then take it to the drugstore to get it developed. Botta bing, botta boom!

poor photograph

FAIL – nice color, relatively sharp, but I didn’t keep panning and thus cut off his head

That message gnawed at me.  Editing?  Hmm!  Google and I became well acquainted.  Picasa was downloaded.  I started following blogs that focused on photography, along with all the RVing blogs I already followed.  As our RV travels increased, so did the photo taking AND sharing.  A slow and steady photographic evolution morphed.

Great Blue Heron

Better – Great Blue Heron     ISO 100     F4     1/800       56.9mm  (35mm equivalent 312mm)

I’ve been humbled by many of your complimentary comments lately about my photography.  Through A LOT of trial and error, I do feel it has improved as have my editing skills, but the compliments and questions still surprise me.  I consider myself a novice, a beginner, a work in progress when it comes to photography.

With that said, I thought I’d share a little behind the scenes, or shall I say, behind the lens with you all, and show you a few of my photo fails and successes…. a post about what works for me, using simple and inexpensive camera gear.

ducks in-flight

Camera set on ‘shutter priority’.  ISO 200  F4.5   1/1600   54.5mm (35mm equivalent= 305mm)

I’m still a comedy of errors behind the lens, and fully embrace my tried and true method of ‘point and pray’ style of photography.  So this isn’t a detailed ‘how to’ post.  And if you consider yourself an accomplished photographer, I always welcome critique cormorantand recommendations.  I’m actually grateful for that critical email message …. well, maybe 😉

I’ve gone through the camera envy stage, and still do.  When I see amazing images on a blog post, I’ll ask the blogger about their camera gear thinking if I use what they’re using my photographs will improve.  Or maybe if I spend more money on camera gear, I’ll capture better images.   We all know this isn’t necessarily true!  We’ve all seen stunning photographs taken with an iPhone and some very poor photos taken with a DSLR.

Therefore, camera choice is personal, and the best camera to have, is the camera that you carry?Pelican

So what camera(s) do I carry?  I predominantly use what’s referred to as a “Bridge” camera.  A bridge camera is more than a Point and Shoot, but not quite a DSLR.  Thus, a bridge between the two.   There’s no lens changing with a bridge camera but there are a lot of customizing options.  I have a whole page dedicated to cameras if you’d like more detailed information.  I realize, whatever camera I use, it’s important to learn how to operate the equipment and know its capabilities and limitations.

shore birds

FAIL – I set camera on ‘program’ mode. Totally wrong setting for moving subject.   ISO 400      F4.0
shutter  1/100   causing a blurry mess         55.7mm (35mm equivalent 310mm)     No cropping

shore birds

Moderate FAIL – ISO 400   F4.0    shutter 1/250    still too slow for moving subject    30.1mm (35mm = 167mm)shore birds different day   ISO 100   F4.5     shutter 1/1000      70.5mm (35mm equivalent 392mm)        No cropping

The built-in zoom on my Panasonic is marketed as a 25-600mm lens which allows me to shoot a wide-angle landscape image one minute and then zoom in on wildlife within roseateseconds.  I love this flexibility, but it does have its drawbacks.  The quality of the photograph will never be on par with a DSLR and the crop factor is limiting.  It’s all about resolution, pixels, and sensor size.

I’ve used this camera for three years and have learned its strengths AND its weaknesses and I know when I zoom in to that 600mm capability, I will lose image quality.  I also know its aperture sweet spot is F4.0 and it’s best not to take the ISO over 400.  There are also times it has trouble focusing,

heron

FAIL – even though the heron is in the center of the photo and  camera was set to a ‘center’ focal point,  camera had trouble focusing on the heron with all the vegetation  😒  It’s the camera, not me!  Panny and I have been at odds lately!    ISO 100    F2.8 (even at F4.0 camera had difficulty focusing)     1/800      107.8mm (592mm)

egret

ISO 100    F5.0    1/1600       108mm (600mm)    Fail on placement of Watermark. Not thrilled with composition!

How close am I to the birds and what lens am I using?  Hmm!  I have no clue on actual distance but I can share lens distance.   Since I’m using a bridge camera, there’s no specific lens to talk about, but I can share an equivalence to a DSLR.  If you note the info on each photo, I’ve shared the mm number.  Since I have a cropped sensor camera, the number in parentheses is the equivalent if using a full frame camera.  If you don’t understand sensor size or why my camera or an iPhone will never capture the image quality of a DSLR, here’s an enlightening article that might clarify.

bird photography

How do I capture birds in motion?  For a Point and Shoot, I set the camera to the “sports” setting.  My little Sony P&S doesn’t offer a sport setting but it does have a “pet” setting that does ok. Then set the camera on “burst” mode.  Multiple shots taken spoonbillat one time is key, but note, point and shoot cameras can be slow to process multiple shots and take a few seconds to recover and be ready to snap again.  I’ll admit, I rarely use the Sony P&S for birds. Too challenging.

For my bridge camera, I prefer to set the camera on “shutter priority”.  I’ve tried using the “sports” setting and “aperture priority”, but wasn’t pleased with the results.  Every camera and user is different.  Because I’ve photographed so many birds with my Panasonic, I have a pretty good handle on how fast my shutter needs to be for specific birds.   For example; cranes and herons in-flight, the shutter can be as low as 1/800 but for ducks, I need at least 1/1600.  And I always have the camera set on “burst” mode, taking at least three shots at a time.whooping crane

Yes, I do delete a lot of photographs, and I’m ok with that.  I also set the camera on continuous focus (AFC) and switch back and forth between a center focus point versus multiple focus points.

cormorant

Cormorant  –  ISO 200    F4     1/800     46.5mm  (35 equivalent 290mm)

If my subject is holding still or I’m shooting landscapes, I’ll alternate between the IA (intelligent auto) and P (program) settings.  I do acknowledge that the camera can often times be smarter than me.  Thus, I never feel badly using the camera in full auto mode.Killdeer

Whenever I’m photographing wildlife, I take a ton of photographs.  Remember, digital photography is free. So why not shoot away!  It’s not uncommon for me to shoot 300 plus photographs in a day, and if the birding is really good, I might shoot as many as 1,000.  Out of those images, I expect to like maybe 25.  By the way, I only shoot that volume of photographs when it comes to wildlife.

sunrise

Camera set on Auto – unprocessed, right out of the camera.  I still can’t hold my camera straight!

sunrise

exact same photo, but OVER processed for fun!

Photo processing – This past January, I finally graduated in the editing department.  I jumped from Picasa to Photoshop Lightroom.  I know some folks think processing/editing is somehow trickery, but processing is necessary for optimal imagery.

It’s no different from film.  The roll of film was processed and pictures were developed from the negatives.  You wouldn’t walk around sharing the negatives.  It’s the same with Lightroom or any other photo editing program.

Some folks like to over process a photograph for dramatic effect.  Most of the time, I try to keep the colors in my photos to as close to what I see, to reality.  However, even Ansel Adams played around with developing/processing.  It’s just another way to let the creative juices flow.

sunrise

image right out of camera – no processing.  I finally activated the “grid lines” on my camera to assist me in achieving a straight horizon.  You’d think by now, I could hold my camera level 😒

bird in-flight

Same image processed; a little cropping & color adjusting. Is the horizon now slanting the other way? Geez!

Lately, I’ve been shooting more purposely.  You know, thinking about composition, accessing settings, and striving for a compelling image.  All I can say to that is the delete black bellied whistling ducksbutton is working in overdrive and the fails far outweigh the wins more than ever before.  Ah, but isn’t that part of the fun and challenge of photography?  Hmm, maybe I’ll return to that ‘point and pray’ method  😄

But the big question is always, “Are we having fun yet?” You bet I am, and my recommendation is whatever camera you’re using, whether you process or not, keep posting.  Don’t let  anyone derail your creativity.

Cheers to sharing pictures – the good, the bad, and all the in-betweens!great blue herons

Tony Northrup’s DSLR Book: How to Create Stunning Digital Photography

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ300K 12.1 Megapixel, 1/2.3-inch Sensor, 4K Video, Splash & Dustproof Body, Leica DC Lens 24X F2.8 Zoom (Black)

Comedy of Errors

It was another early morning around the RV.  Once again, Al and his buddy were heading to the marina by 6:15 a.m.  While I sat in bed enjoying my first cup of coffee, I contemplated how energetic I felt.  I determined, not very!Rockport, Fulton, Texas

While sipping my second cup of coffee, I read emails and glanced out the RV window checking for cloud conditions.  Looks like another morning of ho-hum skies, eliminating any urgency to leave the comforts of the RV post-haste for a photo-op.

roseate spoonbillFinally around 8:30, I hopped in the truck and headed on over to one of my favorite areas to walk.  I figured, I might as well get in some exercise since the day won’t be about photography.  But this gal never goes anywhere without her trusty camera slung around her neck.  One never knows when a rare photo-op might present itself!

There’s a relatively new housing development being built not too far away from our RV park near Rockport, Texas.

This former home builder still likes being around new construction and enjoys checking out the latest trends in the housing industry.  I even enjoy the smell of lumber!  I know, weird 😏

new homes

I still like checking out new construction housing developments – walkway lower right.  This photo was taken on a beautiful sunny day …. just one of many.

paver boardwalk

this is the walkway aka boardwalk in the new housing development. Houses are on the right – marsh and Gulf on the left. This photo was taken on that foggy morning in my previous post

Anyway, I love getting in daily strolls in this gated community.  Most of the homeowners are only here occasionally … maybe on weekends or holidays.  The houses are used primarily as second homes.  Thus, I usually have the “boardwalk” (their label, not mine) to myself.Gulf shore birds

I parked the truck in my regular spot and took the path to the walkway.  As I started down the boardwalk, I immediately gasped in awe and glee.  The little ponds in the marshes were loaded with shore birds. Thank goodness, I brought my camera.  It was a gloomy, overcast morning and my camera seemed to have difficulty focusing.  Perhaps, it was camera shake due to my excitement.

Texas birding

this may be reality  …. but

colorful birds

This is what my mind saw – a flurry of color – where to look? where to point the camera? To say I was excited would be an understatement!

I was elated to have stumbled upon so many shore birds.  I did my best not to startle them, but the slightest movement on my part seemed to send them flying off to the roseate spoonbillnext pond. I slowly followed in their direction and my camera continued to work in overdrive.

Well over an hour later, it was time for me to leave.  Oh, how I wanted to stay longer, but my teeth were floating from the coffee ingested earlier.  As I approached the truck, I dug around in my bag for the keys.  I couldn’t seem to find them.  I entered the code on the keyless entry pad on the driver’s side door of the truck and began searching the vehicle floor, ignition, passenger seat and still no keys.  It is so not like me to misplace my keys.egret

I began to wonder if the keys had somehow fallen out of my bag while I was retrieving a new camera battery.  After all, there was a lot of excitement going on and while I dug in the bag for the battery, I kept my eyes on the birds.

So it was back to the boardwalk to retrace my steps.  Still no keys.  Eek!  I’m frazzled and really need to pee but the last time I used the construction porta-potty, I attracted a lot of attention from the workers … something I was hoping to avoid this go around.  Plus, I was in no mood for jovial sparring.

egret

someone’s feathers are ruffled

“Check the truck again, Ingrid”, I said to myself.  I tried punching in the code on the keypad but had a total space out.  Oh my gosh, I can’t remember the code!  😱  Just then, one of the landscapers yelled something out to me.  In a daze, I asked, “I’m sorry, what?”  He repeats, “Did you get some nice shots?”  “Oh, yeah”, I responded, still frazzled.  heron

All I could think about was loosing all the keys on my key chain.  The truck key was one thing, but the other keys, holy sh*t, not easily replaced!!!

As I responded to the landscaper, something to the left of him caught my eye.  Ah-hah!  There was a lone porta-potty in the distance and after a quick visit, I was once again able to thick clearly.  I still couldn’t remember the keyless entry code on the truck though.  Talk about a brain fart 🙄

Oh well, I shrugged. I’ll walk back to the RV Park and get Al’s keys which he always leaves behind while boating.  I thought about calling my friend and neighbor in the RV park, but I forgot to take my cell phone with me – grrr.  So that wasn’t an option.  Well, I needed the exercise anyway considering I got sidetracked earlier by all those birds.great blue heron

So it was off to the RV Park by foot.  Along the way, I discovered the roosting grounds for Great Blue Herons and a delightful pond.   Once again, I was sidetracked and found myself meandering through a grove of twisted oak trees all the while my brain kept saying, ‘focus – tend to business’.

pond

note the tops of the trees – great blue herons nesting

I couldn’t help but get sidetracked, but soon logic took over and I was once again on my way to the RV Park.

But then …. the unique sound of the Black Bellied Whistling Ducks stopped me in my tracks.  These squeaky guys always make me smile and I can’t resist looking up to the skies when I hear them to catch a glimpse of their beautiful coloring.  Little did I know, I was in for a treat.  As I stood still trying to blend in to the truck of an oak tree, I watched them circle.  Hundreds of whistling ducks landed not far from me.  Then to top it off, a deer emerged from the brush.

whistling ducks

black bellied whistling ducks

whistling ducks

Alas, after being sidetracked a couple of times, I finally made it to the RV to retrieve Al’s keys.  I stuck my cell phone in my bag (just in case) and briskly returned to the truck.  Well…. maybe briskly is an over statement since there was a slight detour back through the oak trees and the heron nesting grounds.  But I swear, it was brief 😉

great blue heronBy the time I returned back to the RV with the truck, Al was home.  He and his buddy had a great morning out on the water.  He had worked up an appetite and wanted to know, “What’s for lunch?”  Twenty minutes later, we were sitting at the local dive up the road indulging in an awesome shrimp po-boy sandwich arguing over the code to the truck keypad.  Seems I confused Al, as well as myself.

To wrap up the day …. I had one of the most exciting bird photography mornings ever along with a very cool location discovery.  My close proximity to the shore birds is what lent to the thrill.

I lost my keys and later found my keys on the backseat floor.  Don’t ask 😆  I ended up walking about four miles that day.  I took hundreds of blurry photos.  Therefore, broke my camera.  Oops!  User error?  Maybe!  Fixed my camera.

sunrise

someone woke someone early!

I confused my husband regarding the keyless entry code on the truck, but not to worry.   The code was recalled in the wee morning hours the next day …. I believe someone waking someone exclaiming, “I REMEMBER THE CODE” was involved.

Lost my keys.  Found my keys.  Walked four miles.  Broke my camera.  Fixed my camera.  Communed with hundreds of birds.  Confused my husband.  Husband remains confused (living with me thirty plus years, confusion justified lol).  What an exciting day.  Ah, rarely a dull moment in the life of a full-time RVer!seagull

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