My long work days have kept me from writing, but I hope to get some done this weekend! Meanwhile, as I was going through photos I found this one of a robin in Iowa, with dinner in his mouth.
I’m glad the weekend is here!
I am working on posts for my road trip, but… My mom and I got home today from a weekend getaway to Tucson, to enjoy a little time away. We both felt like we needed a break from the not-so-fun chores lately. We had a great time! So anyway, I was working on a post, but I just kind of lost steam tonight.
Meanwhile, here is another of my favorite photos from my road trip. A male Pronghorn that I saw at Fort Phil Kearny, near Sheridan, Wyoming. He was gorgeous!
Work has settled down, but it was still a busy week because a good friend of mine was in town! I hope that soon I will have the time for proper posts, and to get caught up on my recent adventures. But for now, here’s a quick pic.
I was down at a work meeting in August in Everett, Washington, and the hotel I was staying at was right on the water. I went for a walk at the marina in the morning, and was blessed to see this mama seal and her pup, hanging out. They were so close, and as you can see, she was as curious about me as I was about them! What a treat!
It just goes to show you, sometimes you don’t have to venture far to see something amazing. Happy weekend everybody!
Day 3: August 3, 2015
Wrangling four people into a car every day is like herding cats. But we managed to all get going in the right direction and on our way to Colorado National Monument. Once we got there, we discovered this park is a feast for the eyes in all directions. It reminded me of a combination of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, both of which are beautiful!
We stopped for our first hike at the first trail head after entering the park – Devil’s Kitchen. It is a 1.5 mile round-trip hike to the “kitchen,” a grotto created by four tall slabs of stone that encloses an area of slick rock on three sides. On our hike to Devil’s Kitchen, we saw two rabbits, several chipmunks, some small birds and several lizards. Jon’s parents hiked with us for part of the hike, and then turned around when we got to the slick rock climb.
Jon and I got a little off route trying to follow the cairns on the way up, so we actually passed the trail and made our hike a little longer and tougher, but in the end we enjoyed checking out the grotto. I was especially fascinated by the little tree that seemed to be growing straight out of the rock.
On the way back I came upon a small group of people staring at the ground, so I told Jon to hike ahead to meet back with his parents, and I walked over to see what the staring was about. It was a very National Geographic moment! There was a spotted lizard eating a striped one! Not that I normally get all excited about the gruesome facts of life, but I suppose it has to happen. And if it does, I might as well get pictures. It was pretty cool (in a macabre sort of way, of course) to see.
After the hike, we drove up Rim Rock Road to the top of the mesa and checked out some of the viewpoints. They offered fantastic views of the canyon below, where you could see riparian areas with cottonwood trees that were fed by seeps and springs. These would have been the areas where Native Americans lived all those years ago. Today you can hike down into the canyon, or start your hike at the trail head before the road winds its way up to the top of the mesa.
I loved the view of the Coke Ovens. They aren’t actual coke ovens, but a rock formation that looks like one. They kind of look like beehives too.
We checked out the Kissing Couple rock formation – sadly no photo because someone (me) forgot to charge the camera battery. We also saw Independence Monument – John Otto and his bride were married here in June 1911 – she stayed only a few weeks before deciding she must have been nuts to sign up to live in a tent in the middle of nowhere. They officially divorced in 1912.
If you remember from my last post, Otto was a big reason why Colorado National Monument came to be. He labored by hand for years, building roads through the monument to increase access – the main road he built is now a hiking trail – Serpent’s Trail.
Next we headed to the Visitor’s Center for stamps and postcards, and they were kind enough to let me charge my camera battery too! We checked out the exhibits, and sat at one of the picnic tables outside to enjoy our lunch. We had to recharge for our next hike!
Ridgefield’s claim to fame, as near as I can tell, is the Sandhill Cranes that head through on the way to their winter grounds. They come through in November, and we tried to go then, but the weekend that Jon had off it was pouring down rain west of the Cascades, and pouring down snow in the Cascades. Coincidentally, this was pretty much the only snow that the mountains received all winter, but that’s a bit off topic…
So, convinced that it would be a waste of time and money to go see Sandhill Cranes, who would likely be hiding somewhere else, and even if they were out we wouldn’t be able to see them in the deluge, we postponed our trip to our next weekend off together. If you follow this blog, you know that Jon and I typically only get 3 days off together per month, so our next weekend off together was in December.
The weather was very rainy, but certainly no worse than a typical December day in the Pacific Northwest. I wish I could have gotten better pictures, but it was a pretty dark day, so I did what I could. As we expected, the Sandhill Cranes were already gone, having moved further south, but we did see lots of other cool birds.
Ironically, Ridgefield wasn’t created to protect the Sandhill Cranes, but rather the Dusky Geese, whose migratory landing spots in Alaska were destroyed by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 1964. Which just goes to show that there really is a big connection when you think about the living world.
Dusky Geese look like shorter, smaller and slightly fatter Canada Geese to me, with a bit more blurred facial markings, and darker brown chests (that’s called a breast in the bird world). They are actually considered a subspecies of Canada Geese, along with several other subspecies, which are often so similar that even the experts have trouble telling them apart. Apparently, it’s a DNA thing. Which now leads me to wonder if all the Canada Geese I’ve been seeing my whole life are Canada Geese at all. But, if the experts can’t tell them apart, then they can’t really expect me to either.
And we saw nutria! If you don’t know what a nutria is, just imagine a giant rat crossed with a beaver. Or look at the picture below. The good thing about nutria is that a casual observer can tell them apart from rats and from beavers too. Nutria are native to South America, but of course, some moron 100 years ago decided it would be great to bring them here as pets, and then other morons decided it would be a good idea to release them into the wild when they turned out to not be such great pets, and the nutria decided that the climate of northern Oregon and Southern Washington is wonderful and set about eating their way through the marshes here. That’s the short version of what probably is a much longer story.
Nutria are actually pretty destructive, but here they are. We saw two that day, waist deep in the marsh, happily chewing vegetation in the rain without a care in the world. Of course, they might have been wondering if those geese over there were Canada Geese or Dusky Geese…
We also saw one hawk (I wasn’t able to get a great picture), three Blue Herons, and a gazillion Northern Pintails, Mallards, American Coots, Tundra Swans and the aforementioned Dusky Geese.
Despite the rain that fell the whole time we were there, and got all over the doors of the car and my camera when we had the windows open to take pictures, we had a good time. Jon’s favorite sighting of the day was the nutria, and I have to admit, I enjoyed seeing them too. I also liked seeing the Northern Pintails, especially when they go “butts up!”
Have you been to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge? What was your favorite animal?
I’m back from a trip to Los Angeles to visit my uncle, but work has been a blur and I’ve been trying my best to catch up on things at home. Laundry, cleaning, all those chores! Plus we are still working on the deck… So meanwhile, another baby raccoon to keep you occupied!
Hope you are enjoying your Sunday!