Shenandoah National Park – Lewis Falls Trail

Blog Working Folder6

Our second (and final) day in Shenandoah National Park started at sun-up.  We set out early on the Lewis Falls Trail (the trailhead is at the Big Meadows Lodge) so that we could complete the hike before checking out of our room at the lodge.  The sun was just rising and starting to peak through the trees as we started our hike.  We ate peanut butter and crackers for breakfast while we were hiking in order to make the most of our time.

We came across this doe somewhat close to the lodge.  She didn’t mind us one bit.

I’ve never seen trailmarkers like the ones used at Shenandoah.  The design is actually pretty smart, as the metal holds up much better over time than painted wooden signs.  There were quite a few trails in the area.  It was TOO COOL to see the Appalachian Trail labeled on this particular marker.  Maybe one of these days I’ll get to hike the whole Appalachian Trail, rather than just a teeny, tiny part of it (you can see that the Lewis Falls trail heads south on the Appalachian Trail).

We don’t have much of a fall or many trees where we live, so we were constantly keeping a look out for pretty leaves.  I really love the color variations in these maple leaves.

Continue reading

Wildlife Wednesday – Paso Fino Horses at Playa Negra

Springtime and warm weather always remind me of summer days spent at the beaches in Corpus Christi (my hometown).  Some of my best memories from growing up are of days spent at the beach.  Living in the Texas Panhandle really makes me miss being near the coast.  Since moving to the Panhandle I’ve been able to take two amazing, summertime, beach vacations to Vieques, a small island off the East coast of Puerto Rico.  Vieques is an amazing place to visit — it’s on my list of trips to blog about, so I won’t discuss it much here.  What I will say is that the people are friendly, the food and weather are great, and the beaches are beautiful and devoid of people.

During our first trip to Vieques, Bryan and I made the hike from one of the main highways down to Playa Negra.  Playa Negra gets it’s name from the black particles that get washed down onto the beach during rainstorms, making it appear like a black sand beach.  As we exited the jungle and made our way on to the sandy shore, I told Bryan, “The only thing that could make this beach more picture perfect would be if there were some horses on it.”  After saying that, I turned around and saw this mare and her colt — what a wonderful surprise!  Remembering that conversation always makes me laugh, and it makes this one of my favorite pictures from our first trip to Vieques.  I’m definitely ready to go back for a third time!

Paso fino horses roam free all over the island.  It’s not unusual to have to stop and wait for them to cross the road or to be forced to drive around them when they refuse to get off the road.  Sometimes you’ll see locals (known as Viequenses) riding them bareback or on small, thin saddle pads.  The horses are descendants of horses originally brought to the island by European colonizers.

Wild Horses at Playa Negra (Black Sand Beach) - Vieques, PR

Wildlife Wednesday – Horned Toad

I moved to the Texas Panhandle during summer 2008.  At the top of my list of “things to photograph now that I’m living in the Panhandle” was the horned toad (a.k.a. horny toad, horned lizard, and horned frog).  While growing up my dad saw them on occasion, and he’d come home and tell us about them; however, I had never seen one for myself.  I thought that I’d have to wait awhile to fulfill my “goal.”  Never in a million years would I have bet money on seeing a horned toad during my first trip to Palo Duro Canyon State Park.  But I did — and it was nothing short of awesome — almost like God put this little horned toad on the trail just for me to see!  In the nearly-eight-years that I’ve lived here, I’ve only seen horned toads two other times.

In 1993, the Texas Horned Lizard was declared the state reptile of Texas.  Three types of horned toads call Texas “home;” they vary in length from 3 to 6 inches.  Horned toads are listed as a threatened species in the state of Texas because their population has declined sharply over its historical geographical range.  If you see one, please leave it alone!

Other pictures that I’ve taken at Palo Duro Canyon can be seen on my Flickr page.

Horned Toad

Wildlife Wednesday – Osprey

Normally photographs are accompanied with stories about whatever the picture is of; however, my treasured osprey photographs are accompanied with a story about how the picture was taken.

Dad, Mom, and I were bird watching at Indian Point Pier near Portland, Texas during March 2008.  The bird watching there is fantastic, especially if you’re interested in coastal birds.  When I take bird pictures, I always take my first picture the moment I see the bird.  Then I move a few steps closer and take another picture….which eventually results in the bird flying away.  Since Mom and Dad were with me this time, I decided to use them as my assistants.  I got about as close as I thought I could get without making the osprey I was photographing fly away.  Then Mom and Dad strategically walked towards the bird (who was perched high on a powerline-pole…probably keeping an eye out for a fish to eat).  I stood still — focused on the osprey — ready and waiting to get my shot the moment it started to fly.  Our plan worked, and I was able to get a couple of decent shots of the osprey.  Eight years later these are still two of my favorite bird photographs!

Osprey Pre-Flight

Osprey Taking Off

Wildlife Wednesday – Pronghorn Antelope

In order to post blog entries more regularly, I’ve decided to attempt to do certain posts on specific days of the week.  I know that Wednesday is almost over, but I figured that it’s better late than never.

The first time that I saw a pronghorn antelope was on the drive from Borger to Amarillo following my job interview at the then-ConocoPhillips Borger Refinery (now a Phillips 66 Refinery).  I was with a classmate who was interviewing at the Borger Refinery on the same day that I interviewed, and he kindly turned the car around so that I could get a better look (and a few photos) of these exotic-looking creatures.  I’ve lived in Borger for 7.5 years now, and I see pronghorn antelopes on a fairly regular basis, but I will certainly never tire of seeing these majestic creatures grazing on the wide-open Panhandle plains.

Fun fact: Though the pronghorn is commonly referred to as the pronghorn antelope, it is not technically an antelope.  It’s closest living relatives are the giraffe and the okapi.

Someday I hope to be able to photograph a baby pronghorn antelope.  Until then, here are a few of my favorite pronghorn antelope photographs.

The following photo is definitely NOT my best pronghorn photo, but it’s the first chance  I ever had to photograph pronghorns.  My camera equipment has improved significantly since this photo was taken.

Home on the range...

He's Back, Mom :-)

Continue reading