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Posts Tagged ‘birds’

Rockland bid us farewell with a gorgeous sunrise.  After breakfast ashore (at the quite yummy Home Kitchen Café),  a quick grocery run to top off provisions, and a quicker stop at the marina dock to top off fuel and we were on our way, reluctantly starting our way back south/west.  We had another nice view of  Owls Head Light, then Whitehead Light along the way to Long Cove/Tenants Harbor.

Departing the following day, we had a nice view of Tenants Harbor Light, including a pretty oil house as well, owned for several decades now by various members of the Wyeth family.  A bit later, and inhabited only by birds, was Franklin Island Light.  Franklin is one of eight island lighthouses transferred by the US Coast Guard to the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge for the protection of nesting habitat.  It turns out these islands, ironically because they were at one time occupied by lighthouse keepers, were ideal for this purpose.  Keeping gull colonies from completely taking over a nesting area is key, as they don’t play nice with other smaller species.  Light-keepers were motivated to keep gulls at bay as well as they depended on rainwater collected from their roofs for a fresh water supply.  Find more info on these protected islands here on the US Fish and Wildlife site.

Next up was another pass at Pemaquid Point Light (too many tourists on this fine week-end day for photos to my liking), after which we’d planned to drop the hook in Pemaquid Harbor. We arrived to find it very crowded, full of boats with people aboard, but not appearing to be going any where.  Hmm…  As we pondered our options, several lobster boats, usually quiet on Sundays as lobstering is not allowed,  were suddenly tearing through the harbor.  Then we noticed the Coast Guard boat, seemingly unconcerned.  Then it dawned on us; we’d unknowingly stumbled upon a lobster boat race.  Yep, it’s a real thing in these parts, and they’re apparently quite serious about it.  The Bangor Daily News likens it to NASCAR meets a tractor pull.  We hung around for a couple of races, but it was obvious we weren’t going to be dropping a hook anywhere in the vicinity.  Nearby Poorhouse Cove made a fine and much quieter substitute.

We returned Monday to find a whole different place.  Still a pretty tight harbor, we managed to anchor in the Upper Pemaquid River and ferried our bikes ashore for a bit of exploring.  On site was a small reconstructed fort/historical site, apparently popular for summers and school field trips, but not much going on during our visit.  We biked across the penninsula to New Harbor, pausing along the way at a post office to mail our absentee ballots. We had lunch at Shaw’s Fish and Lobster Wharf, one of the places on my “Lobster Rolls Worth Driving to Maine For list”, overlooking New Harbor Co-op where the fishing boats bring their hauls.   I later learned was also featured in an Epicurious piece on Maine lobster shacks.  Spreading it around a bit, we also picked up a steamed lobster from  Pemaquid Seafood tucked behind another co-op near where we’d anchored. Mike picked this one for freezing, which a few days later made a fine lobster mac and cheese.

Fog and  light rain greeted us the following morning, but we opted to move on anyway.  Today’s lighthouses included Ram Island Light, Cuckolds Light (now operating as an inn) and an attempt at Seguin.  Alas, when we poked our nose in the cove at Seguin Island, a visit ashore just wasn’t in the cards.  It was a bit more rolly in the cove than we’d hoped, and more importantly, so foggy that you couldn’t even see the light tower (photo below).  Views from the island of the surrounding area were not likely to be better.  We opted to pass.  Shortly thereafter, I was granted a consolation prize though, a sighting of a new-to-me seabird, a Northern Gannet.  Of course I was at the helm, in the fog, dodging both lobster buoys and lobster boats, Mike otherwise indisposed, but managed to grab an OK photo despite those challenges.  The Basin off New Meadows River, huge and peaceful, was a fine place to spend a couple of evenings.

 

The day of our departure dawned a bit clearer and we agreed that it was worth a bit of back-tracking to take another shot at Seguin Island Light. Our efforts were rewarded as sunbeams fought to break through the clouds as we approached.  We took a mooring in the cove and dinghied ashore for what turned out to be a lovely visit, including a climb of the tower and a hike about several of the trails.  Some of the gulls were not happy, seemingly accustomed to having the north end of the island to themselves.  A fresh looking chick peeked at us as we departed; ID help welcome on the latter.  The original first order Fresnel lens, dating from 1857, was a highlight; Seguin Light is one of few that have managed to keep such a special lens as most have been replaced with lights far more efficient but less attractive.  For more info, photos, some history and a blog kept by the volunteer keepers, check out Friends of Seguin Light Station.

With the forecast calling for winds shifting north overnight, we opted to make this a day stop only, cast off the mooring and headed  back into Casco Bay.  Potts Harbor/Ash Point Cove was a reasonable place to spend a few days, wait out some weather.  Another fishing wharf, another on spot on my “lobster roll list”, (Erica’s Seafood), and some dinghy exploring kept us entertained.

We spent one more night in York before leaving Maine waters, and caught another (closer than on our way north) view of Isle of Shoals Light as we cruised through New Hampshire waters.

P1070754 Isle of Shoals Light, NH

Isle of Shoals Light NH

Maine, 2018, it’s a wrap.  So glad we made the effort to make the trip up this summer, and definitely on the list of places we would return to.  In the meantime, it’s time to make some tracks south.  Stay tuned.

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From the time we were anchor up in Port Clyde, we were enveloped in fog for the duration of our run to Camden, our auto-hailer announcing our presence with a horn every couple of minutes.  Mike’s not convinced that the lobster boat captains can even hear it above their own engines, but it does give some sense of comfort… and more importantly it’s COLREGs-compliant.  Literally as we arrived, the skies cleared, offering a lovely view of the Camden Hills from our float in the Inner Harbor.  Good thing I snapped a photo then, because the following morning, the fog returned to obscure our view. (Comparison photos below.)  Camden is a lovely albeit very touristy town.  We enjoyed wandering about, but especially enjoyed catching up with my cousin Tim who was vacationing in the area.  Drouthy Bear was a fine place to spend some time.

 

 

After doing a bit of laundry, we were off again for a bit more “boat-camping”.  Seal Bay off Vinalhaven was a gorgeous spot.  Cruising friends Dawn and Paul aboard s/v BuBu3 found us here the next day.  Dawn and I had a lovely paddle, circumnavigated Penobscot Island.  The boys joined us later for a short hike around nearby Huber Preserve.  Photo credit for Cheshire at anchor goes to a fellow cruiser we keep crossing paths with.  A bit of distant fog the following morning was magical.

 

A couple of days later we moved on, a few more hauled seals noting our exit. Our next stop was Warren Island State Park/Grindel Point Lighthouse.   We climbed the lighthouse and poked around the attached Sailor’s Museum housed in the keepers’ cottage.  The LED light was not near as impressive as some of the Fresnel lenses we’ve seen, but it’s always nice to get a shot of our boat at anchor from atop a tower.  The museum was small but interesting.  We always appreciate lighthouse towers and keepers’ quarters that are open to the public.

 

With some nice afternoon light remaining, we opted to dinghy to the State Park dock and hiked the trail on the perimeter of the island.  Plenty of wild raspberries offered sustenance.  The next morning, the weekend crowds were gone and we nearly had the harbor to ourselves.

 

From Grindel Point we moved on to Belfast Harbor for a couple of days where we picked  up a city mooring.  We ferried our bikes ashore, and pedaled around the harbor to Young’s Lobster Pound for a late lunch.  We’d considered taking the dinghy, but the bike option turned out best as we found a place along the way to have Mike’s i-phone repaired, something we’d been trying to do w/o success since Portland.  After lunch we pedaled along the well-traveled Belfast Rail Trail that runs along the Passagassawaukeag River.  For the more adventurous (not us), the rail trail ends where the pedestrian-only  Hills to Sea Trail  begins, 46 miles long connecting Belfast and Unity.  Instead, we opted for the not-so-traveled Stephenson Preserve nearby.  Back in town, we did a bit of exploring before enjoying some wine and sourdough pizza at a little spot named Meanwhile in Belfast.  Belfast is a pretty little town with some interesting shops (Eat More Cheese was a personal favorite!) and galleries, and flowers everywhere… including atop the trash cans.

The following day was a bit more utilitarian. The local laundromat was well placed next door to the Belfast Co-op from which Mike fetched breakfast.  After shuttling laundry back to the boat, we headed ashore again for another wander through town and up the hill on our way to Hannaford’s for groceries.  The crew of Bubu caught up with us once again for beers at Marshall Wharf Brewery/ Three Tides; the beers were OK, but the service  abysmal so we opted to move on to dinner Front Street Pub for dinner.

 

With weather coming in in the days that would follow, we opted to leave early the next morning for a run to Rockland ahead of the SSCA Penobscot Gam.  A 05:11am departure had us running in fog the entire way, BuBu3 visible to us on radar but not otherwise. Four-plus hours later, Rockland Breakwater Light, even in the fog, was a welcome sight.  We were anchor down a bit before 10:00am.  Based on vhf chatter, the wind and the traffic picked up as the day went on.  We would stay put, safely tucked into the south end of Rockland Harbor for the whirlwind of potlucks and social activities that would follow.

The official Gam activities included a pre-Gam dinghy drift (think floating happy hour) as well as a day-long potluck/program topped off by a tour of the Sail, Power and Steam Museum led by its founder, salty and colorful Captain Jim Sharp.  While in town, we also visited the Puffin Project Visitors Center  and the Maine Coastal Islands NWR Visitors Center, both of which were quite educational regarding seabird restoration efforts in the Maine coastal islands.  The Maine Lighthouse Museum was of course a highlight as well.  We even managed to catch a brief walk through the Maine Seaweed Fair event (concurrent with the Gam) where, in addition to sampling some interesting nibbles, we met an interesting artist, Mary Chatowsky Jameson of Saltwater Studio who uses incorporates real seaweed into her art. I was so captivated we came home with a couple of her melamine plates… perfect art for a boat we think.

Our final day in Rockland consisted of another potluck, this time a Women Who Sail gathering (an awesome Facebook group I’m a member of), after which I met Mike for one last pedal out to the grocery.  Monday morning’s skies were clear as we topped off fuel and water and headed out past a now clearer view of Rockland Breakwater light, with Owls Head Light as a bonus.  From here, we’re eastbound, off to explore the coastal islands of the Mount Desert area.

 

 

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The area known as Maine’s MidCoast could keep a cruiser busy for a long while.  Different than the defined bays that are Casco to the southwest and Penobscot to the northeast, the so-called MidCoast is characterized by rivers and narrow bays alternating with long finger peninsulas that run down to the sea. There are a few places to cut through, and in these spots as well as running the rivers, the tides and currents are worthy of respect.

Along our first morning run in this region, we passed a couple of lighthouses.  There are so many lights up here, and while we’ll not see them all, the Captain is very cooperative in allowing for detours along the way to catch views and photos of some I deem more worthy.  Along this morning’s route at the mouth of the Kennebec River, Pond Island Light (pictured left) is a simple tower, all other structures having been razed some years ago.  Some lamented the loss of history, but with the Coast Guard transfer of the property to US Fish and Wildlife, and with the help of the National Audubon Society , a tern colony was re-established.  The link above has details; it’s quite an interesting story.  Unfortunately some great horned owls have shown interest in the restoration as well… too bad for the terns.  A bit later on our route along the western shore of Southport Island is Hendricks Head Light.  It’s now privately owned and not open to the public, but has been nicely restored and is quite pretty from the water.

Our first pause in this area would be Mill Cove off of the Sheepscot River.  More of a working harbor than a cruiser  hotspot, it made my radar for a couple of reasons.  One was the nearby Trevett Country Store, included on a list I found of “20 Lobster Rolls Worth Going to Maine For”.  When in Rome, you know, and in fact the lobster roll did not disappoint, nor did Mike’s haddock.  A leg-stretching walk along the nearby Gregory Hiking Trail was a nice follow-up.

The second reason to stop here was for bicycle access to the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden.  We actually biked into Boothbay first to catch what proved to be a nice farmers market where we picked up a few things, none terribly perishable, then pedaled back to the botanical garden.  It’s a beautiful place, a nice combination of more cultivated/manicured areas balanced with trails that meander through more natural stretches, with several interesting sculptures scattered about, including a couple of kinetic sculptures.  The kid-friendly fairy house section made me smile, and the serene Meditation Garden featuring local granite was of course a highlight for me.  At days end we pedaled back into Boothbay to check out the Boothbay Brewery.  They apparently once had a restaurant onsite… not this season, and the hotdog stand outside was a poor substitute.  Their hours are quite limited and the beers not to our liking anyway; not sure this place will make it long, at least as a tasting room/venue.  We’ll see.  We also concluded that our belt-driven circus-bear folding bikes that are great in the flatlands of Florida and most of the coastal areas we visit, but leave a bit to be desired along the coast of Maine.  We’re definitely missing having some gears.

We were up and moving early the following morning, the Captain having perfectly timed our passage through Townsend Gut, eastbound and through the Southport Island Bridge, the first we’ve seen in awhile.  True to form, the bridge tenders of Maine are less than chatty.  Still, they get it done.  We also saw some early risers collecting seaweed from their boats. And of course there were waterfowl.

After a brief pause in Boothbay Harbor for fuel and water, we headed down around and up the Damariscotta River.  Along the way we passed a couple more lighthouses. Burnt Island Light was constructed on land already mostly cleared thanks to sheep farmers who regularly set fires to improve grazing; there are in fact several islands bearing the same name in the state, but only one lighthouse.  A bit further on was Ram Island Light.  I read that there are 21 Ram Islands in Maine.  Apparently sheep and ram were a thing in years past.  Unrelated to lighthouses, but I can also tell you that there are numerous places named for seals as well… Seal Bay, Seal Cove, etc.

In fact, our goal for today’s run was a Seal Cove where we in fact found seals.  We stayed for a night before moving around to nearby Long Cove which also had seals.  We’d seen a few swimming during our time in Maine, but this was the first we’d seen them hauled out on rock ledges as is their habit.  I was amused to listen to their barking which I like almost as much as listening to dolphin breathe when we’re in waters further south.

P1070035 hanging out in Seal CoveP1070046P1070044

After a couple of days of hanging with the seals, we were underway again, this time on a mission to see puffins.  First though, there was Pemaquid Point Light.  This light is a special one, and in fact is open to the public.  Alas, a land-based visit this pass was not on our itinerary.  The folks clustered on the lower rocks are gathered in “the spot” for the official shot of the tower reflected in a tide pool, which I only learned of some time after our road trip through the area in 2012.  Blog post and photos sans tide pool here.

P1070056 Pemaquid Point Light ME

Our next port of call would be Port Clyde, but with the Captain’s blessing, our route would take us there via Eastern Egg Rock.  EER is a 7-acre treeless piece of rock, dirt and grasses on the way to nowhere in Muscongus Bay, home to the Audubon Puffin Project.  It’s claim to fame is being home to the world’s first restored seabird colony.  The link above has some interesting details about the restoration, including the living conditions of the few researchers who live on the island during nesting season.  For the truly geeky, check out this blog by the Maine Coastal Islands NWR researchers, the folks who live and work on some of these islands during nesting season .  On the day of our motor-by, it was overcast, but fairly calm.  Photos are passable but… Puffins! Click on the photos for a larger view if you’re so inclined.

 

We arrived in Port Clyde (apparently mostly owned by Linda Bean of LL Bean fame) to pick up a mooring from Port Clyde General Store, catching a quick shot of Marshall Point Light from the water on our way in.  Always challenging to be on the bow ready to deploy the anchor when a photo op arises.  Squirrel!

P1070095 Marshall Point Light ME, from the water

After a late morning arrival, we walked to Marshall Point Light where we toured the small but nicely done museum housed in the Keepers Quarters and took a few more photos.  Some will recognize this light from Tom Hanks’ film “Forrest Gump”; Gump runs out to the tower during a scene on his cross country run.  Apparently quite a big deal here. I just think it’s a pretty and very photogenic light.  Apparently the movie-makers thought the same.

Wandering back into Port Clyde, we paused to check out a few art galleries, one featuring the well-known Wyeth family and another the lesser-known but quite accomplished Barbara Prey.  She does some interesting Maine landscapes, and some commissioned pieces for NASA but I was particularly captivated by the story of a recent commissioned piece for the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA).  Wow!  Of course being in Maine and not Boston, we didn’t see this piece in person, but the story is impressive.  Mass MoCA has apparently undergone an expansion, and Prey was commissioned to do a huge watercolor depicting the pre-renovation of the previous industrial space, currently housed in that very space.  I absolutely love seeing older structures re-purposed, but seeing depictions of the old together the new together is extraordinary.  Oh a whole different level of art… we found a puffin sculpture at water’s edge.

The following morning we were ashore again for a bite of breakfast at the dockside coffee shop, Squid Ink, followed by a much needed haircut for yours truly.  Not so long after, we departed in fog after disentangling a lobster pot from our starboard rudder that had managed to get twisted up while we were on a mooring ball.  Not kidding.   We dodge them on the water and they attack us in a mooring field.  Foggy shots of Marshall Point Light followed.

 

On to Penobscot Bay…

 

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As I sit down to compose this long overdue blog post, I’m having flashbacks to the confessions of my Catholic school days…

Dear Readers, it’s been 5 months since my last blog post…

In fact the stats page of this blog tells me that I’ve only written four posts in the past 12 months, which to be honest is a wee bit embarrassing.  We’re still out here and still loving our life on the water.  I guess I just haven’t been as inspired to write about it. More truthfully, my laptop/camera/i-Phone aren’t playing well together these days when it comes to photo download/editing. My onboard tech support guy tells me its a terminal problem, something to do with the ancient photo-editing software I’ve been using that’s apparently no longer compatible with the electronics I’m using. Last week I decided to break up with it, though I’m still getting struggling a bit with my new process. In any event, dealing with photos has been a PITA, and consequently writing a blog post with photos has become more frustrating than fun.

That said, I do want to fill in the gaps.  This post will bring us up to current times, and in the days/weeks to come, I’ll fill in the gaps, back-dating posts to maintain some chronology. My apologies in advance for the confusion this will likely create. Or maybe I’ll just chuck the whole mess into a creek somewhere.

My last post found us on the west-central coast of Florida during a winter cold spell.  As I type, we’re back on the east coast and making our way to New England in hopes of finding some relief from the heat, humidity and hurricanes that dominated our summer of 2017 spent in Florida.  In between we spent a very relaxing few months exploring the barrier islands of the Florida West Coast, followed by another stretch back in Vero Beach while Mike sorted out a foot injury, followed by an extended birthday celebration (mine) with friends in St Augustine FL.  Details on these adventures and misadventures to follow.

For now though, we’re back in Oriental, NC… our hailing port and one of our favorite towns along the Atlantic ICW. As we’re contemplating some time in Maine this summer, we’d been moving relatively quickly, at least quickly for us. In order to maintain some momentum, I’d resigned myself to a certain-to-be-too-brief stop in Oriental, that is until about 2 days out when the Captain announced he had a few projects in mind. Did I mention that it’s also a great place for boat projects? Plan B would have us here for a week, maybe two, which in the end turned into three. The projects had their challenges, but went relatively well, though the weather was less than cooperative with almost daily rain/thundershowers. No worries though; it just left us more time to catch up with friends here which is never a bad thing.

IMG_5291 bling in boxesPart of what makes these projects take so long is that we do much of the work ourselves. Thankfully the Captain is scary smart and willing to try just about anything, in fact prefers to do his own work as then he knows what he’s dealing with down the road… or stream as the case may be. This time around we’ve upgraded our radar, chart plotter and vhf radio (the latter of which now features AIS), and added a loud hailer. Mike had parts ordered within a couple of hours of our tying up at the dock and a few days later we had a pile of boxes of new electronics… we were committed.

 

For the next several days, the entire interior of the boat was torn up as we had to open up six different access panels to be able to pull old wires out and snake new ones in their place with a couple of new runs as well. Best we can tell these Geminis are assembled with no allowance for someone someday maybe wanting to do some upgrades; we ran into a couple of snags (pun intended) that stumped us for awhile, including a not-visible-to-us run through the salon and galley ceiling; we decided to sleep on it. Apparently that strategy was effective as Mike had a brainstorm in the night; when I woke to make coffee the following morning, I found him clad in only his headlamp, reading glasses and slippers poking around in the ceiling with a bit of wire. The photos will mean more to those who work on boats, especially Geminis, but you get the idea. Sorry, no photos of naked Mike.

Next up was tearing out the old equipment. Taking the old radar down required a couple of trips up the mast, specifically my hauling Mike up. The first trip was mostly to determine that the radar and mounting bracket would have to come down separately, and that the latter was going to take some work to get free. The second trip was to get the deed done. Unfortunately our mast light was a casualty of the process as well; Mike accidentally put a foot on it and sent it crashing down to the deck and with one bounce, it was over the side into the creek. Oops. Add that to the list.

IMG_5323 freshly painted mounting bracketWe decided that the mounting bracket was reusable, though needed a good cleaning up, an extra bit welded on to mount the new loud hailer, and of course some primer and paint. Fortunately there’s a very good welder onsite at the adjacent yard who was able to do some sandblasting and weld the new bit for us. A couple of days of priming and painting later, we had a good-as-new bracket. Mike’s good, but so far he’s not learned welding. This is the only part of the project we didn’t DIY.

Another long morning up the mast finished the exterior/up the mast part of the installation, Mike working in the bosuns chair and me sending pieces, parts and additional tools and pre-assembled tef-gelled bits of nuts/bolts/washers up to him. I’ll be honest, it was stressful, not only having Mike hanging 20 feet up in the air dangling by a couple of halyards, but also hoisting some fairly pricey pieces of electronics up off of the deck as well. I don’t imagine Mike was exactly comfortable doing assembly and electrical work in mid-air either. Throw in the pop-up thundershowers we’ve been having all week… well, it’s been quite interesting.

First up, the bracket, followed by the radar dome itself. The latter was more than a bit awkward, but we got it done using a couple of nylon straps off some storage containers we have aboard (Mike’s idea) and a few bits of sticky shelf liner to keep the straps from slipping (my contribution), which worked nicely combined with Mike’s expert knot-tying skills. Last but not least, the loud hailer was mounted, tucked neatly up under the radar dome and requiring no extra holes to be drilled in the mast.

In the cockpit, the new chart plotter install was something Mike had anticipated when we replaced the auto-helm a few years back. Instead of a large cumbersome thing that hung from a bracket in mid-air in an annoying view-blocking location, the new one is on the reconfigured helm panel with the rest of the instruments… and is a huge improvement over the 16-year old technology of its predecessor. Mike is excited; I am as well, but am not looking forward to the learning curve.  Electronics, you know…

The new vhf radio puts a real handset at the helm vs the separate, not-as-powerful handheld radio that we’d used previously, as the handset for the previous primary radio wouldn’t reach the helm. Now we have a handset in the cockpit, another in the main cabin, and the “old” handheld has been reassigned for use in the dinghy. The safety officer (yours truly) is also thrilled that this new arrangement now lets us receive AIS information, which should make night watches at the helm a bit more comfortable.

We had a few smaller projects we knocked out in between raindrops. The aforementioned mast light was replaced which required a couple more trips up the mast. We did some routine maintenance including cleaning out fuel tanks and an oil/filter change for the diesel engine, fondly referred to as the Red Queen. We also replaced most  of the running rigging… all three halyards and the mainsheet, along with both reefing lines. All in all, I think Cheshire’s pretty happy with her new bling. I know her crew are.

We’ve been working hard, but also playing hard. It’s been a blast catching up with old and new friends, along with some that happened to have passed through while we’re here. Pat at Inland Waterway Provision Co as usual has been enormously helpful in getting us get bits and pieces for our projects, and gets bonus points for scoring me a copy of a new cruising guide for the Maine Coast. We spent a lovely afternoon exploring some of the area creeks aboard a friend’s newly refurbished pontoon boat, the Starship Enterprise.  The weekly Open Mic night at Silos, a favorite local restaurant, has not disappointed and we finally caught their annual all-day SilosPalooza Music Festival this month which was quite fun, particularly given that we count as friends several of the musicians who played the festival. A new-since-our-last-visit craft brew pub, the New Village Brewery, has also warranted several visits. They’re ramping up with their own brews, but also host weekly tap takeovers for other craft brewers around the state.

Another stroke of fortunate timing had us invited to the home of some land-based friends who are beekeepers to help out with an extraction of honey from some of their hives. We’re big fans of seeking out local honeys in our travels, so seeing the process up close was a real treat. (Separate blog post to follow.)

P1060389 Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

As for wildlife watching, not much new to report except for the nightly calls of a Chuck- Will’s-Widow near our marina. We’ve not seen it and likely won’t, but look forward to the whistling calls each night. Find more info, photos and a sound clip here if you’re so inclined. I’ve also been amused by a Red-bellied Woodpecker who is quite fond of the aluminum gutters on the nearby condos.
So as usual Oriental has been a fun and productive stop, but new cruising waters are calling and we’re excited to see what adventures they bring. Stay tuned for a bit of catching up on where we’ve been as well as some more timely accounts of what’s coming. And thanks for your patience.

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Road-trip 2017, Days 25 – 26

Many moons ago, Mike and I used to be regular visitors to New Orleans, LA.  Our general travel philosophy didn’t allow much for repeat visits to any one place, what with so many new-to-us options, but NOLA was different.  We’d return every 2-3 years for stretch.  Then Hurricane Katrina whacked this fine city in the fall of 2005.  We’d not been back since.

For all of our visits though, we’d never ventured out to Avery Island, home of the famous Tabasco Hot Sauce.  This trip, we decided it was worth a bit of a detour.  Beyond the spacious country store where one can purchase all things pepper sauced, we took the self-guided tour of the factory.  Despite signs warning of bears, we saw no wildlife in the vicinity of the factory.

Adjacent to the world famous Tabasco facility is the lesser known Jungle Gardens of Avery Island where Edward McIlhenny helped to save the snowy egret from extinction.  In the late 1800’s when the snowy egret was being hunted to near extinction for its plumage, he built an aviary on the island.  He would capture and raise these wild egrets, and after they raised their hatchlings, he’d release them in time for migration.  They apparently returned the following spring and every year thereafter, bringing some of their friends along as well.  The garden also features lots of gorgeous live oak trees, a sunken garden, several stands of bamboo and even a Buddha.  And of course there are alligators.  It’s a bit kitchy, but was worth wandering though.

 

From Avery Island we headed to Houma, LA which is nowhere really, but put us striking distance from NOLA.  Pizza at Redfish Pizza was quite good. The following morning we drove into the city.  Breakfast at Cafe DuMonde was of course obligatory.  After meandering the historic district for a while, we encountered long lines/waits at a couple of our favorite spots, settled on a new-to-us place that ended up being nasty.  Who knew you could get bad food in NOLA?

At the end of the day, we decided that as much as we love this city, it’s not at all the same on a day trip.  Or maybe it was the shock of city after several days in the back country.  Either way, next time we’ll plan better.  But for now, we needed to be making tracks.  We drove on to an uneventful night just outside of Mobile, AL with a plan to explore the Pensacola area of the FL panhandle the following day.

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Road-trip 2017, Days 22 – 24

For our eastbound trip through Texas we were on a bit more of a fast track than we’d been on our way west.  We did pause for an evening in Houston though where we caught up with some of Mike’s family, his sister, two nieces, a niece’s husband whom we’d not yet met and a couple of wee ones.  It was fun to catch up and I’m kicking myself that no one though to take any photos.

Leaving greater Houston, we’d slow way down again.  We took to the backroads through Port Arthur and into the bayous of southwest Louisiana to pick up the Louisiana Outback Creole Nature Trail.  I had a number of National Wildlife Refuges in my sights.

We hit one of the Visitors Centers in the area to pick up some maps, grabbed a late lunch at the Anchor Up Grill in Cameron and spent the late afternoon into early evening exploring the Pintail Wildlife Drive and adjacent boardwalk at Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge.  Birds and other wildlife were abundant.  I’ve managed to id most of them, but input and/or corrections are welcome.

 

A number of alligators were also out and about, perhaps scouting their evening meals.

 

Out of daylight, we headed for the Lake Charles area where we’d grab a bite to eat, spend the night and get a jump on another day of bayou exploring.

The following morning’s exploration of the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge gave us another opportunity to stretch our legs a bit.  We saw some different birds than we’d seen the previous day, along with some other creatures, and while there were several signs for gators, none were visible this morning, likely waiting for afternoon to sun themselves.

Mid-day we headed back into Cameron for a bite of lunch at T Boys, followed by a spur off of the Creole Nature Trail in search of the Roosevelt National Wildlife Refuge. Eventually located, it proved to be more for fishing access than it was birder-friendly.  No worries though; after a pass though, the late afternoon light fast approaching, we headed to our last stop of the day, the Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge.  A couple of creeping slow loops around the Wildlife Drive here proved to be a beautiful way to wind down our day.

From the swamps of southwest Louisiana, we’d head to the Big Easy.

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Road-trip 2017, Days 18 – 21

Having gotten our fill of urban exploring, we headed out of LA and back into the deserts.  After a stop at Coco’s Bakery & Restaurant (a western chain) for a bite of breakfast, we motored on to Mohave National Preserve in southeastern California where we spent a perfectly delightful few hours hiking about.  The preserve is expansive at about 1.6 million acres.  We could have spent a lot more time here, but the Grand Canyon was calling.

Motoring on, we paused for the night in Williams, AZ, staging for an early morning visit to Grand Canyon National Park.  This stop was on our “must do” list for this road trip as neither Mike nor I had been here.  It would not disappoint.

The following morning we drove up to Tusayan where we parked the car and caught the free shuttle into the National Park.  Though our schedule would not allow for a hike all the way to the bottom of the canyon (Mike’s edit: nor would our old legs), we thoroughly enjoyed our morning trek from the south rim, part way down the Kaibab Trail and back up.  Our afternoon was spent shuttling about the central part of park, walking part of a paved rim trail and generally gawking at the views.  Back in Williams, we had dinner at the Historic Brewing Barrel and Bottle.


The following morning we were up and out early for a drive back into the south end of the park, and out towards the east end to explore the Desert View area.  We enjoyed more amazing views of the canyon in the morning light, poked around the Tusayan Museum and took in the architectural detail and fascinating artwork of the Desert View Watchtower.  The tower was designed by Mary Colter, a renowned architect of the time; find more history and some photos, including of the interior,  on the NPS page for the tower.

As with other places we’ve visited on this road trip, we could have lingered a lot longer, but we’ve got miles to cover and some more family visits on the calendar.  We headed out of the park at mid-day, stopping for lunch at a little Mexican place by the airport and some photos ops in downtown Winslow, AZ.

From here we picked up the pace to cover some miles.  After an overnight near West Mesa/Albuquerque we enjoyed a lovely Easter Sunday Brunch at the Slate Street Cafe, took a quick pass though Albuquerque’s Old Town (mostly closed on this holiday morning) and headed on into the vastness of Texas.

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