Friday, December 23, 2011

Bosque Pano from last month's trip

Packages all wrapped now. Christmas cards all sent (albeit late). Now catching up on other things like the blog.  need to do this everyday.

Was reviewing some of the photos from our recent trip to southwest and happened onto this one of one of the cornfields in Bosque del Apache where the geese and cranes fly in daily to feed.  It is actually a 7 frame pano that I stitched together.  the 7 frames were actually 3 photos each done at multiple exposures then processed with a piece of software to blend together and capture a wider dynamic range of light.  Called HDR photography, it really helps sometimes to capture in a  photo both brightest and darkest areas.

The human eye can see 11 F stop range so HDR usually does +2 or 4 and -2-4 which captures up to 9 F stops so to speak.  I also enhanced the color with another adjustment software.  The size of the photoshop file was 350 mb so I reduced it to just a small number in photoshop.

This is probably way more than most of you wanted to know but I did think you would enjoy this pic!.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sunrise and Cassius

There's joy in the heavens this morning
Even though we are home now, the camera is still on.  Yesterday I looked outside as we were making coffee to see a rapidly developing sunrise.  Quick, where is the camera?  ok.  Tripod?  Out in car.  Yikes! it is going fast.  Only a few minutes.

Head out to back yard as the clouds deepen in color filling the sky.  but the trees mask a lot of the sky so where to find something in foreground to add.  Ah,  the little metal angel we stick in one of the flower pots on the deck. And voila!  a photo is born.  Cropping it in photoshop turned out pretty well.  might use it for our Christmas card.

This morning we arose and headed up to the ridge to meet our freinds, Barb & Dave and her daughter, Bailey who is visiting from Oregon.  She brought her beautiful St. Bernard dog, Cassius who posed for us.  We were going to use flash to fill in the front of Cassius while the sunlight was backlighting however, neither Barb nor I could get it to work, then other people came by and Cassius was, of course, the center of attention.  Still fun and I did get one decent photo.

Think tomorrow is a sleep in day.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Home for now!

If the ambulance is too late, they can use the hearse!
 View across the street from RV last night in Tempe.
After parking and stowing the RV in Tempe during a driving (and drenching) rainstorm, we headed west navigating the "free"ways and interstates of Phoenix, then LA.  Since we left so late in the day (4 PM after lunch, we hit the rush hour in Phoenix but missed it in SoCal. I had planned to take a snapshot with iPhone of the RV in storage but forgot 2 times.  Once during parking because of the rain, and second time  after we left the restaurant despite talking about it over late lunch.  Senior moment I guess.

I read to Sraddha while she drove the first leg into Riverside, then drove the remaining evening through the north side of LA on the 210 to Valencia just south of the grapevine and Tejon pass.

Using on of the hotel travel apps on the iphone I found an inexpensive Best western motel just off the freeway in Valencia. where we dragged our overnight gear into the first motel of the trip and collapsed in bed.  When I called ahead to the motel to confirm availabitlity and pricing (cheaper than the app said), we were also informed that a Starbucks was right across the street for the next morning pick-me-up.  A godsend for weary travelers and the first purchased coffee in weeks.  We had really been enjoying our morning post meditation beverage prepared in our own mobile "kitchen" since we departed the village mid November.  Strange to travel the way we used to for a couple of days.

Our breakfast at Tita's Pupusaria
in Buttonwillow
Early next morning we headed north, fortified with our coffee, over the Tejon pass as the light fog burned off revealing snow on the surrounding peaks.  I was driving so couldn't snap any pix.  About 2 hours into the day we hit Buttonwillow on Interstate 5.  What and where is BUTTONWILLOW?! literally in the middle of no-whereville.  However...

We wanted something other than typical fast food. During previous trips through the area, Sraddha had stopped here and discovered a little Salvadoran restaurant converted from an older fast food place which server "pupusa's" made fresh from maiz flour as we waited.We pulled off the highway, drove up and down the roads and found it.  Tita's Pupusaria.  Hmm. sounds intriguing. This salvadoran place in an old hamburger joint serves fantastic food. The fried plantains sweet and when combined with savory pupusa offers a wonderful complement. Being vegetarians, we ordered the pupusa con queso y loroco. The accompanying slaw has some oregano which flavors the whole dish. Great spot to stop en route between SoCal and NorCal. really fun.   I really couldn't finish it

Off we drove north and, after obligatory stops at Trader Joe's in Roseville, and the food co-op in Grass valley we made it home by just as the sun set.  Saw a red shouldered (as opposed to a red tailed) hawk as we drove down the last little road to our non-mobile home in the woods.

View outside front of RV in desert.
Sorry for the late post as it just has been very busy since we have been out for a month.

Will post some more stories of the trip as time permits.

then off again to recoup our RV in late February.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Last Day in Tucson

Time to think of returning home.  Been a wonderful inspiring time here in southwest, and I am beginning to smell the barn. Well, just figuratively, so to speak.

We drove over to northeast Tucson to visit Sabino Canyon which is a natural desert oasis located in Tucson’s Coronado National Forest and is home to spectacular desert landscapes and abundant wildlife.

We saw many birds which made someone very happy.

Bear Canyon reflection pool in Sabino Canyon near Tucson
Sabino Canyon is well known in many circles, however, we elected to hike up Bear Canyon, its eastern neighbor.  While tourists flock to Sabino canyon, we saw very few hikers.  Due to time restraints and poor planning we didn't make it to 7 falls area, however we did get about 3 miles up the canyon (and back).  one of the most beautiful hikes ever.  Subtle colors, quiet pools of water, steep rocky canyon walls covered with Saguaro cactus.  What it must have been like 200 years ago.

We also visited Degrazia Gallery for their celebration of La Fiesta de Guadalupe featuring high school mariachi bands and ate a good chile relleno.  lovely simple living location in the Catalina foothills. Ted Degrazia was a local painter and quite the musician having completed his master's degree in arts with his thesis including paintings depicting various classical music pieces.  I didn't take any photos

We returned "home" late in the day as the clouds moved in.  Weather patterns changing and heavy rains expected Monday evening and Tuesday.  I filled up the water bottles with good drinking water from the campground tap while Sraddha worked on some business emails.  Also began to move  something around in preparation for home trip.  The campground only has electricity to offer and water comes from the taps in various places so we go fill up our gallon jugs every other day for drinking water and use the water stored on board in coach for washing and bathroom. We have been draining down our water tank in preparation for putting the motorhome into storage for 2 months. We thought we still had 1/4 tank of water, however, s the night turned dark, the RV water pump kept pumping indicating it couldn't draw in sufficient water to keep the pressure.  Back on go the shoes and out goes Kent with his trusty headlamp to break out the hose(s) to reach the water tap about 70 feet away to refill the RV water tank.  Such is the joy of RV living.  could be worse.  we could have been a lot further away from water tap or not even have a water tap.  we thought we could last for the whole week on one tank but found we needed just a bit more.  we did short showers everyday

Anyway. now we head up north towards Phoenix, first stopping at Boyce Thompson Arboretum before heading to an RV park in Apache Junction where we can drain the tanks, get a good shower, and prepare RV for storage.  I am concerned about the pending rainstorms and how that will affect our preparations.  We hope to clean and prep the RV and put in storage by Tuesday afternoon then head west. towards Barstow/Tehachapi.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Birds in Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

Tucson Mountain Sunrise
And you ask, "what is the ASDM?" Answer:  Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.  When you walk through this place you learn all there is to know (that you can in a few hours) about the Sonoran desert, a unique ecosphere area in southern Arizona and northern Mexico.  Filled with different cacti, animals, reptiles, insects, flora and fauna, too numerous to count or mention.

Great Horned Owl
We are staying at this campground in Tucson Mountain park beyond a little mountain range west of downtown Tucson.  Hardly any campers in the whole place and we feel the calm of the desert.  And the occasional army helicopter flying over but nothing like the interstate traffic or Tucson airport noise.  Very still.  Can hear the coyotes howling.

Prairie Falcon
We have visited the ASDM now 3 days in a row.  Monday afternoon went over, scoped it out and joined as members.  We figured it would pay for itself with 3 visits and, indeed, it has.  What a magical place!  Full of subtlleties and sublime beauty, even in winter.

Harris's Hawk really focused on prey
The stars of the show, however, are the birds (of course).  Hummingbird aviary and regular aviary.  But the best is the raptor free flight exhibit.  2 times per day the museum trainers fly birds without tether.  I decided to try photographing them.  On 2 different occasions so far I shot almost 1,000 photos and only 4 of them were worth showing in my opinion.  The rest were discarded as either blurred, out of focus, wrong light, etc.

Of course there are other birds which will appear in this blog from time to time.

Bosque Del Apache in the rear view mirror

Snow Geese at Bosque del Apache
New Mexico is in the rear view mirror now and we are basking in the (relative) balminess of Tucson's sunny 60 degree days.  We have spent a few visits to the Arizona Sonora Desert museum nearby and just looking at all the neat Saguaro cacti and other species unique to this desert.

Great Blue Heron
Last night I was invited to the Tucson camera club Christmas party and spent the evening visiting with new photographer freinds, one of whom may visit me up at the village sometime as he is interested in communities and has worked with communities his whole career.  We had a delightful conversation.

Yesterday we also hired someone to come out and wash off all the dust, dirt and grime from the coach and wax it also.  In addition he applied some UV protectant. This all should be done once per year anyway.  now she is ready to go to Phoenix for storage for a couple of months.

Snow Goose Landing
Spent much of today scouting locations for Saturday morning photoshoot of lunar eclipse.  As a budding photographer, I have been fortunate to be in places where the photographs just fell into my lap.  I know this one is coming and want to get a good shot.  We drove north and found 2-3 possible locations.  Will get up early in morning and head out around 5:30 for a 7 AM shoot in order to find the best spot.  The good news is that the moon is full and bright and we can see our way off the trail if need be.

For now I hought I would share a few more photos from Bosque with you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Back in Tucson...early

Icicles on bike rack
Woke up at 4 AM for photoshoot last Sunday morning to a very cold morning with a dusting of snow and some icicles hanging on back of bike rack. Had checked the weather forecast the night before which predicted some snow coming so checked again and it forecasted 2-4 inches of snow Sunday night into Monday morning. Hmm...the workshop finishes Monday morning.  Do we risk staying? I headed out to Bosque for morning shoot, stopping, with several other guys, at the crane pools in northwest corner of reserve.  As light developed, we could tell weather was moving in from the south. In fact the morning sunrise was not happening.

Snow Geese Blastoff with Cranes Ready for takeoff
As daylight unveiled, the light was flat and we wondered if we could get any good photos. It was 26 degrees with a little nor-easterly wind so nice for takeoff photos. Decided to focus on practicing shooting the takeoffs and managed to get one "ok" shot of some geese blasting off with cranes readying for takeoff.  Other photos were dark and flat.  Around 8 AM, I rechecked the forecast, bid everyone farewell, and headed back to the motorcoach where Sraddha already was packing up.  We headed out a little after 9 AM with weather moving in.  Staying on the interstate to Hatch, NM, then taking shortcut to Deming we skirted across the front of the storm getting a few snowflakes enroute to Tucson, which we reached about half hour before dark.

Good thing.

Friends Subaru in Socorro.  we missed this by leaving early
The next morning, we got a call from one of the men, I had met during the workshop who said they were snowed in and couldn't leave in their Subaru until Tuesday!  The interstate was closed and even the road into Bosque was closed.  They were just staying in the motel and processing photos.  and we are in Tucson under partly cloudy skies. I compared the weather. Lesse.  23/9 temps in Socorro, NM and 49/29 in Tucson.  We learned a lot about life in the right lane here.  Motorcoach and really cold temps do not mix well.  Yes, if we were stuck, we would survive but might have some issues with something breaking.  Yes we would not freeze but might be stuck in Socorro for a few more days.  While not the worst thing to happen, we would not want to drive the motorcoach on snowy roads and we now have a week in Tucson to enjoy the Sonora desert and I can spend some time catching up on photos, sleep, and other aspects of natural world.  We will return to Bosque because it is a magical place, in fact would love to spend another week there, but not in this cold temps unless we are staying in a motel where it is warmer at night and we are not fighting the elements.  Either I am getting wiser, or just plain older.  that is yet to be determined.  More posts soon as we are heading over to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum which is 10 minutes away to explore.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hunkered down in Socorro, NM

Blastoff at Bosque
Currently hunkered down Thursday afternoon in Socorro at the RV park waiting out the high winds along with others in the same boat (or similar motorcoach, anyway). High winds gusting up to 50 and we have our slideouts slid in to protect the awnings from wind damage. Good time for shower, lunch and blogging while I await the beginning of the 4 day photo workshop later in the day.

Cranes Landing for breakfast
Morning came around 4 AM as it will for next 4 mornings also as we arose early to great the geese and cranes at Bosque when they took off in search of food.  Called the "Blast-off" and is unlike anything I have seen before.  We arrived at the Bosque del Apache Flight deck observation platform around 5:45 AM with sunrise expected around 6:30.  However, the birds don't wait for the sun rays to great them.  Dawn beckoned in the east slowly and we could see some good clouds along the lower part of horizon portending potential good things.  As you can see on the left, we were not dissapointed.  We heard the snow geese honking and rustling and the cranes trumpeting their unique sounds.

Red Tail Hawk thinking about food.
By 6:15 the observation platform was full of photographers waiting and taking pics of the increasing color in the sky reflected on the pond before us. Soon, the rustling of the geese increased and suddenly, WHAM! they were off in the air.  hundreds, even thousands of them took off, flying every which way, circling in group, flying by.  Wow.  The cranes nonchalantly stayed calm, cool, collected, not yet ready to ascend the morning skies in search of breakfast.  I marveled at this morning ritual as ageless as the species of birds we viewed.  I have been told the flocks are less then previous years by veteran photographers, although the visitor's center staff begs to differ.  perhaps they will come later, perhaps they went elsewhere in search of food.  Still hundreds, if not thousands of birds flying in the air is truly amazing.

Snow Goose landing
Later in morning we cruised around the farm loop north of the blast off location in search of birds feeding in the in the fields.  Last night I had made the acquaintance of another photographer, Harry, who told be of a good spot to watch the cranes land with sun at our backs.  We drove there and spent over an hour shooting birds and they would come in hoping to catch the right light, right focus and right angle.  I shot over 400 photos this morning.  Back is sore because I wasn't using a tripod, merely tracking them as they descended the skies.

Add caption
It was most interesting to watch how the geese and cranes landed.  The way they moved their wings and wingtips.  Amazing

White Crowned Sparrow
Then enroute back to motorhome we saw this little White Crowned Sparrow

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bosque del Apache

Sandhill cranes landing at sunset for the night
This place is a great as advertised.  Actually the stars of the show, the Sandhill Cranes are as great as advertised.

After driving north from Deming for a bout 4 hours through desert we arrived in the Rio Grande valley amidst chile and cotton fields.  We traveled back roads through instead of the interstate most of the time, except for about 40 miles.

Had lunch at visitor center then drove a few miles north to the "Birders Paradise" RV park to camp for the night.  Unhitched Ms. Toad and off we go to explore the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.  Known as a winterhaven for the Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese, we saw many other birds (I think Sraddha had 20+ on her daily list).  We drove around the farm loop looking for birds and found quite a few.
Rather than bore you with the details, I suggest you watch this 3 minute slideshow of photos I shot this afternoon at the reserve.  It speaks for itself. to view in full screen click on the little square in lower left corner of the video)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Deming, New Mexico

Lined up at the propane refill spot
Fortunately the drive was only 5 hours drive to day from Tucson, because we didn't get going until very late morning.  good drive on interstate the whole way, with everyone passing me all the time.  I was driving in the right lane again around 62 mph which is fast for me.  We pulled into Deming New Mexico around 4:30 with sunset at 5:10 PM.  we drove slowly through this sleepy town to the east end where several RV parks are lined up.  We had selected one which had propane refill so we checked in, disconnected Ms. Toad, and pulled up to the propane refill spot and the park owner came out and filled it up.  I asked him what months are the busiest  for him and he said usually October thru May, however this year it was December-May.

Saw this interesting sign on the front desk when I was paying for the propane.  Thought it was pretty cool. The park wasn't very full and we were here just overnight.  We set up quickly and fixed dinner.

We are close to the interstate so can here the trucks but it is background noise and not too bad.  Spent another hour tonight troubleshooting the Verizon mifi hotspot device.  This after 2 hours yesterday followed by exchanging the device this morning for a new one since the firmware upgrade "bricked" it.  Sigh.

The sky is real big here.  pretty neat and inspiring.  we will go off the interstate tomorrow morning driving up to Socorro, NM with our final destination being Bosque del Apache national wildlife reserve, famous for its birding.  Photographers "flock" to this location for the incredible bird shots.   Many use high end gear (much more high end than I have), however, I hope to get a few cool shots.  We will see.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hummingbirds and Skyscrapers

Sunday evening after a full weekend.  Just completed a workshop this morning at Ananda Tucson covering "all things online with Ananda"  We began with the site, reviewed blogs and youtube and other of the main ananda websites, and concluded with watching last Sunday's video from Ananda Village.  Am always amazed and impressed with the depth of inspiration available online through these sites.

Lunch with Elizabeth and Stanley at a wonderful Indian restaurant then helped Elizabeth and their graphic designer get set up with the Ananda graphics package on their computers.  I use a Mac and they use Windows.  I marvel at how anyone can get things done on windows computers these days without some form of tech support.  We have excellent tech support and education at the village for all the employees, but someone on their own in the world has to find other resources.  Usually some family member perhaps. Anyway, I am grateful for our tech support department back home.
He is eying his  competitor (other Costas)

Costas Hummingbird
Yesterday Sraddha and I visited Tohono Chul park nearby which offered  wonderful examples of desert gardens and all kinds of flora and fauna, well, flora and birds anyway.  I am finding that patience pays off with bird photography when I found this one little Costas hummingbird flitting around one of the garden areas.

As I watched, he would sit on a shaded perch (not good for photos) then, every few minutes, dart out to plants around the garden to feed then back to his little shaded area.  I found a spot to sit on the ground near one of the plant clusters he frequented and waited with the sun at my back.  Finally he returned and I was able to get several photos of him as he worked over the blossoms.  Remember this little guy is only about 2 inches long and flies real fast! REAL FAST!

House front near Tucson Art Museum
Charro's - Great pumpkin tamales!
Cool reflection in downtown
After lunch in the outdoor cafe (keeping an eye out for my little freind), we ran a few errands then ended up looking for a place to photograph around sunset.  We tried San Xavier del Bac mission, but a festival was happening with loud music so we ventured back downtown finding an area near the art museum with colorful walls and interesting arrangements.

We also captured this cool reflection on a modern skyscraper.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sweetwater Wetlands

Nestled behind some industrial buildings north of downtown Tucson near the interstate freeway is this little area called Sweetwater wetlands.  The Sweetwater Wetlands is a water treatment facility, an urban wildlife habitat, and an outdoor classroom.  Amazing place.

We drove over from the Ananda Tucson center as it is only about 5-10 minutes.  Well, actually took us 25 minutes because the normal route is torn up for some construction.  I mean, who has heard of freeway construction in the middle of winter?  Oh, yes, this is Tucson, where the temp reached 74 degrees today.  Ok, no more rubbing it in for you "northerners".

taking flight
With the din of the freeway in the background, we walked around this tranquil park looking for birds.  From a bird photographer viewpoint it was late in the day and most of the bird sightings were shadowed and dark but Sraddha saw quite a few species.  this little duck fella posed for me in a small spot of sunlight the took flight.  I was using a rented 300mm telephoto lens with a 1.4x extender and trying to figure out how to use it.  think the photo turned out okay but not quite as sharp as I would have preferred.

Bobcat new Sweetwater wetlands

We walked around the perimeter of this pond which was a good 3/4 mile and there were 2 ponds like it.  You will see below the sunset photos to get an idea of the wonderful foliage.  
On the south side of the pond are 3 other rainwater fairly empty holding overflow ponds  overflow.  Too far to get any bird photos but I spotted this bobcat looking for dinner.  Nice kitty! Think he walked away hungry.  

As dusk approached, I left the kitty and raced around to the north side of the pond to catch sunset.  think the 3 photos below turned out pretty nice. Couldn't decide which one to show you so posted them all.  These were done via HDR.  Please tell me which one you like in comments section.

Sweetwater Sunset 1

Sweetwater Sunset 2
Sweetwater Sunset 3

Giving Thanks

The Sentinals
Today is Thanksgiving here in USA, in Arizona and in Catalina State Park.  We will be with our good friends of Ananda Tucson in satsang, watching a football game and eating some good food.

Swami Kriyananda wrote back in 1994 a letter about thanksgiving.  Here is a paragraph.

"We,too, at Ananda, have so many blessings for which to thank Him: our communities and way of life, our friends in God, the opportunity to serve God, and to serve Him in others. I know that many of us, myself included, thank Him daily for the sheer abundance of these blessings."

Reflections in Canyon
Giving thanks doesn't need to be relegated to the dinner table or thanksgiving day.  It is best done daily, hourly, even minute by minute, a state of ongoing gratitude for the blessings we receive every moment, even when it doesn't look right then like a blessing.

In the afternoon,  we hiked in Catalina State Park.  Started out through in a mesquite bosque where I was thinking, "this is kind of just the same here, just a bunch of thorns."  About 1.5 miles into hike we rounded a corner and walked down a short steep hill into this incredible riparian canyon teaming with water, deciduous trees including maples and saquaro cactus.  the afternoon bright light turned into late afternoon sunset and the light shifted to really make the saguaro shine. On the way out of the canyon I happened onto these cactus standing as sentinals to the mountain.  I only had my iphone camera with which to take these photos. (Memo to Kent - Take your real camera on hikes).  Still the light was incredible.  It was a blessing.

Whenever we remember, give thanks for what is happening, no matter the circumstances.  It is a blessing that we are where we are in life.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


View of catalina mountains out front of campsite
5 nights after departing Ananda Village we arrived in Tucson area.  Actually north of Tucson about 15 miles at the foot of the Catalina mountains in a place called Catalina State Park where we will reside for a week or so, exploring the area, hiking, etc and also spending time with our good freinds of Ananda Tucson!  More on that later.

Since we will be here for almost a week, before departing east to New Mexico, setting up camp was a little bit more detailed.  we stripped off the towing equipment from Ms. Toad, brought out the carpet (no, it's not red or green) and the lawn chairs and unloaded the bicycles.  Now the motorhome becomes our home on this campsite for a week while we explore and see friends in the area.

While Sraddha discussed the week's plans with Elizabeth, the Ananda Tucson leader, I stowed everything in the "basement" or below decks if you will.  Actually there are several compartments on both sides of our motorhome in which we store all kinds of things from cords, to hoses, to tools, to extra camera equipment, to surgical gloves and cleaning supplies.  Amazing how much space we have and how quickly we have filled it up with "stuff" (think George Carlin, etc)...sigh.

Watching birds from bicycle
Still an hour left in daylight so off we rode on our bicycles to explore the campgrounds.  We rode up to the equestrian area and, sure enough, I turned around and Sraddha was about 1/4 mile back gazing into the mesquite bushes.  Lark sparrows were abundant. Never a dull moment.  We continued the tour over to the trailhead at the base of the mountains and decided that might be the place for tomorrow morning's hike before we meet Elizabeth.
What a beautiful area. We are used to forested lands up north at Ananda Village so the desert vistas, and botany takes some adjustments.  The Sonoran desert here is truly a wondrous experience.  so filled with life if you know how to look.  En route earlier in the day we were traversing a rather monotonous desert section north of Quartzite in western Arizona.  same look mile after mile when we noticed a red tail hawk perched up on the top of the power pole.  another 1/4 mile we saw another hawk, then again another.  This went on fo a good ten miles or so with many, many hawks.  Hmm.  this many hawks means lots of food, like mice other little animals.  Yet the desert appeared so bleak on the surface.  Looks can be deceiving.  If you are still reading, all these photos today taken with Annie Leibowitz' favorite camera...The iPhone.

View across our campground looking eastward

Monday, November 21, 2011

Buckskin Mountain State Park on the Lower Colorado River, Arizona

Welcome to Arizona! Today's drive was short, about 70 miles. Nice to have a short drive day as tomorrow, Tuesday is a big one with 300 miles to Tucson.  We drove across then down the Colorado River from Needles through Lake Havasu City to Buckskin Mountain State Park on the Colorado River. This is below parker dam which created Havasu lake and the city for which it is named.  It is amazing how many homesites and developments have grown up in this area over past 50 years since the dam was built.  Mostly manufactured homes which indicates this area caters to the middle class america searching for an affordable place to live in the warmer climates near water.

Buckskin Mtn State Park
I had stopped at this park about 10 years ago during a little arizona adventure in the pickup/camper days and remembered it as a quiet oasis of cottonwood trees and peaceful repose.  Indeed it proved to be again.  Set on a river bend (oops, I forgot to take a photo of this), it offers many recreational opportunities for families during weekends, summers and holidays.  today, Monday, it was about 30% full with other people like us who seek quietude away from the crowds.  Across the river are a couple of developments of trailers and houses.  As I type this in the evening, I can hear people talking as they sit outside enjoying the evening.

Say's Phoebe
We had 2 adventures today once we arrived.  The first was to just walk around the park along the river bank watching the birds.  I got out my big 70-200 mm lens and added the 2x extender giving me 400mm with which to capture birds.  Divine mother did not disappoint. As we walked past the volleyball net, Sraddha spotted this "Say's Phoebe", a flycatcher who was sitting on the net and would dart out to catch an insect then dart back.  Since i didn't have a "really big lens" to sit back a long ways, I had to get close to it so, creeping up slowly, it allowed me within 30 feet and posed for me.  I took about 15-20 shots, experimenting with settings and finally got this one.  Thank you divine mother!


Later on I shot this Phainopepla up in a willow tree.  Both were shot in raw format and I zoomed in photoshop to crop out all but the bird so it looks closer than it was.  the other attempts were out of focus.  Patience pays off

Other adventure was discovering the Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge nearby which is home to the largest riparian river valley in lower colorado area.  Driving up the dirt road 3.5 miles gave us a taste of what the colorado river must have been like 200 years ago.

While sitting here on a park bench in the dark typing this blogpost i am hearing lots of fish jumping in the water.  Amazing what happens around us when we just listen.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Amboy to Needles

Sunrise at Amboy Crater
Ya know, boondocking isn't so bad!  Camping overnight in the Amboy parking lot was fun, except for the other RV running its generator all evening and then again in the morning. Not that bad though and waking up to sunrise at Amboy Crater was pretty incredible.  After meditation and coffee, we hiked up to the top of Amboy crater.  Having hiked the Lassen cinder cone last July we found this to be a cake walk and a lot of fun to get some exercise.

 Eastbound BNSF waiting for crew at Needles
We were ready to head east by mid morning after a tasty breakfast with Sraddha at the helm.  Old route 66 was not very busy so we ambled east for about an hour then rejoined I-40 for another hour into Needles.  Our first view of the Colorado River.  Needles is an old town which thrived during the heyday of route 66 but mostly is a winter vacation spot now for snow birds.  The downtown is pretty empty but a few places left as reminders of bygone days. It also serves as the crew change spot for BNSF railroad crews, with over 100 trains passing through per day! No wonder we heard trains all night at Amboy.

Western Grebe at Havasu NWR
Our main reason for stopping here, other than not wanting to stay on the road too long, was the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge on the Arizona side of the Colorado River.  After setting up camp at the Needles Marina RV park, we headed out over the old Route 66 bridge to Arizona to explore the refuge.  We found a marshy area with many different birds such as ths Western Grieb, coots, ducks, even a flock of snow geese flew overhead. Check out the Greib's red eye!   While Sraddha looked for birds i kept asking within as to what do want me to see?  The birds were mostly far away and the vegetation not too interesting at the moment plus it was grey light, hard for photos.  We returned to Ms. Toad and resumed exploration.

Sunset with coots
A bit further south we passed this dirt road but didn't stop.  Actually, i didn't see the turn so after about 3 more miles, Sraddha mentioned the turn we missed.  Back we went as dusk approached.  the location was called "Catfish Paradise". this a prime fishing location?  Didn't see any cats or any fish, and certainly no catfish.  In fact the place looked not too busy at all.  Perhaps it is just the slow season.  We parked Ms. Toad, and headed to the shore where we were greeted by suddenly beautiful sunset.  This is the answer to my the question: "What do You want me to see?"

Sunset over Havasu NWR

Back to the jeep for camera!  and here are the results. You can see larger versions on my Picasa web album site.  Back to RV for home cooked dinner and shower, then writing this blog.  What a day, and it is only the 4th day