We left Annapolis yesterday, driving home to Austin. Our route takes us very close to four US National Parks along the way. So, we must see them!
Sunday’s park was Shenandoah National Park. It was the created in 1935 amongst the Blue Ridge Mountains. The winding, two-lane Skyline Drive takes you through the park along the ridge-tops with dozens of overlook parking areas along it. We drove it for 60 miles. The trees were turning red and gold. It will be even more stunning in a week or two.
Last week was busy. We rescued Nirvana from the boatyard, brought her home, and I spent the next few days schlepping 100 lb batteries up and down the ramp, and Monte made sure they worked. The old ones lasted 5-6 years. The new ones will hopefully perform similarly.
We got everything installed in time to race the beer-can regatta on her with Kurt and Kevin and she flew with her new bottom. We think she’s at least a knot faster.
Then over the weekend we anchored in the cove for a sunset grilled dinner. Nice. Very nice. We had our annual first jump in the lake, finally, a week or so past the usual Memorial Day dip. It was fantastic.
Most years I post a summary of the previous 12 months here on Sheila365 – summarizing moments from fun trips, visits from friends and family, and other adventures and highlights from the year (like these summary posts from 2019 and 2018). Unfortunately, on this last day of 2020, there isn’t much to report, as COVID has curtailed most highlight-worthy moments.
Instead, today I went back and looked at my first post from the beginning of 2020. In that post, I included a picture of a beautiful sunrise that I took the previous year – as we were at the dawn of a new decade. I had to chuckle and shake my head reading this statement a year after I wrote it: “I’m not sure what the next ten years will bring, but I’m ready.” Well, I can now say that I was in NO WAY ready for what 2020 would bring.
BUT, I am still here, as are my loved ones, thank God. So, I am grateful, and I am simply trying to roll with it.
To end the year, I will just leave you with this, a picture of a beautiful post-sunset scene that I took at anchor in the Ashepoo River in South Carolina. Tomorrow is a new day.
I toted my camera and tripod to an overlook above Lake Travis last night to try to get a better photo of the Comet NEOWISE. Again, I was not able to spy it by eye or binoculars, but I did get some more underwhelming long exposure shots of it. It is getting very dim. I took exposures ranging from 10 seconds to about 1 minute. Still no stunning captures. No matter, I stayed out there for over 2 hours, enjoying the views.
This is a view about 30 minutes after sunset, with Sometimes Island in the foreground. The lake level is 668′. Windy Point juts in from the right; the Austin Yacht Club on the left shore beyond that; and you can even see Starnes Island way back there, if you look closely.
My second attempt at capturing NEOWISE. Sadly, these are the best shots of the night.
A 10-second exposure, about an hour after sunset; very faint:
A 25-second exposure about an hour and 45 minutes after sunset:
And just because… a 10-second exposure of the big dipper, on the left, pointing towards the North Star on the right side of the shot:
I have been waiting for an opportunity to see the Comet NEOWISE since I heard about it at the beginning of July. When it was visible over the pre-dawn, northeast horizon last week, the sky Austin was overcast. This week it is supposed to be visible after sunset.
Last night the sky was clear, so I grabbed my binoculars and camera and headed out to try to find a vantage point looking to the northwest horizon. I found a parking garage that I thought might provide a view. Since it was in the midst of Austin’s bright city lights, “visible” wouldn’t mean visible to the naked eye. I was not able to sight it in my binoculars, either. Instead, I took a number of shots using long exposure pointing at different areas of the sky in the general direction of where NEOWISE was supposed to be. I did capture it in several photos. Here’s the best one:
It’s definitely not NatGeo material, but I was excited to get it. If conditions allow, I may try again. If so, I’m hoping that my experience from last night will help me get a better picture.
I ventured downtown over the weekend to snap a picture of the University of Texas at Austin’s Tower bathed in burnt-orange light, to honor the graduating Class of 2020. My friend’s daughter graduated this year and I took this shot for her.
I ventured out to get my first real birding of the year in. Oh, I’m always looking for birds, but “real birding” means that I bring my binoculars and my camera. The Golden-cheeked warbler nests exclusively in Central Texas, and there are preserves that are closed to the general public during their breeding season of Feb-July, during which they are only accessible to those with permits. Welllllll. I have had a permit for several years and took advantage of it today to get away from people and find me some birdies.
I was treated to my first of season golden-cheeked warbler:
A very vocal, but elusive white-eyed vireo. I caught him here mid-song:
And one of many blue-grey gnatcatchers. They are so tiny, vocal, and always moving! This one stopped long enough for me to get a blurry picture:
Okay, I’m a tiny bit ecstatic. I finished the mainsail repairs today. And the slow, endless rain of the last week or so has moved on. So we drove out to the marina and tied the main back on, then took Nirvana out for a sail for the first time in about 3 months. We hoisted both the main and the jib. It was the first time taking Nirvana out since I repaired each of the sails. The winds were light, but I loved seeing them out and in the wind.
During winter, the low, rising sun shoots a blinding ray of morning light through the east-facing windows on the house. An illuminating spotlight passes through the house quickly. I caught this moment as I was walking through the living room this morning. I could almost see the light move slowly across the wall as I stopped to take the picture.