Up-the-river 2022.

Last weekend Monte and I sailed up river about 30 miles from our marina. We left on Saturday morning, minutes after a thunderstorm rolled through. The calm after the storm made for breezes on our nose, so we motor sailed most of the way.

Kurt and Kevin joined us on their boat. We anchored up together in a cove below John and Wendy’s lake house. We fished, paddled, floated, and enjoyed catching up with some friends we haven’t seen in a very long time. The sail back home on Sunday was sporting, to say the least. The winds had clocked around and were 5-10 gusting to 20. Good sailing, but lots of grinding on some legs. I was sound asleep about 15 minutes after we got home that night.

Many birds, and one bummer.

This week I headed to the Gulf Coast of Texas in search of birds. Doray met me at High Island a day before a cold front was expected, which is a good thing if your goal is to see some colorful birds during Spring migration. On an ordinary day, the migrants just keep flying north once they cross the Gulf of Mexico – they’re on a mission. In the face of strong northerly winds and inclement weather, they will stop for a bit on the first land they come across to rest, which, for many migrants, are the woods on High Island.

Over the course of 3 days, I logged nearly 100 unique species of birds; a real treat for this birder. Doray and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. On Wednesday, Doray was heading home, and I was staying an extra day. We decided to stop in together at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge to see what we could see, and then go our separate ways. As I got into my car to head back to High Island, I was greeted by a flat tire. In the middle of pretty much nowhere.

The red star is where I ended up with a flat.

Changing a tire is not daunting. My dad showed me how to change a flat when I bought my first used vehicle way back when, and I’ve changed many a tire since then. However, this flat was a teensy bit more challenging due to a jammed lug nut, which didn’t want to come off. Eventually, the lug nut and bolt broke off. Which was not great. BUT if it hadn’t broken off, I would not have been able to change the tire at all. Silver linings! 🙂 So, I changed the tire. Doray stayed with me till I figured out my next move, which was to drive back to my hotel on the emergency spare and then get the tire fixed. Driving on the emergency spare is slow going. Driving with 4 of 5 lug nuts was a little concerning. But, in the end, everything worked out great. The repaired tire and one missing lug nut were enough to get me back home safely the next day, and the dealer is fixing the broken bits as I type this.

My 3rd day of birding was cut short, but it was a great trip, seeing many, many colorful warblers and other migrating birds. I didn’t get many bird photos to share here, but they are forever in my mind’s eye.

Thanks, Dad!

The next best thing.

I visited my family in Washington State last month. I had planned to get my first ever amazing pics of the tulip fields in Skagit Valley, but it was a tad too early.

Here’s a lovely field of daffodils in bloom instead. 💛

Happy Earth Day!

Hiatus?!!

Wowza. I’m sad to acknowledge that I haven’t posted here on sheila365.com for THREE MONTHS. I’ve had this photoblog for over 12 years now, and this is by far my longest period of radio silence. I can only blame an extended creative funk that I’ve been in.

Ok. With that said, I won’t linger on a long-ish, nostalgic post, I’ll just leave a few views from my day that make me happy.

Antelope-horn milkweed that’s come back over the last 4 to 5 years.

I love the red from this Cedar Sage, another perennial in it’s 3rd or 4th year.
Monte’s poppies are popping!
The first blooms from these irises that I planted a few years back… a gift from a neighbor who moved away.

I’m baaaack. 🙂

CBC 2021.

This year was my fifth year participating in the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. Doray and I joined a bunch of other birders to count birdies in the Westcave area. Over 8 hours we logged 7+ miles and ~40 species over 3 different properties. I haven’t birded much this year. Other things have crammed their way in to fill my free hours. But I do enjoy walking around with my eyes on the treetops.

The temperatures started out in the mid-60s this year, instead of the 30s, for a change. No rain. Just a perfect day to tramp around the hill country trying to tell one Sparrow species from another.

Nice. Very nice.

Reflections on the Pedernales River near Westcave Preserve.

Goals.

I’m not a bucket list person. But I am motivated by a challenge. And I love the outdoors. I’ve only recently sort of slid into this “see as many National Parks as I can” thing. But now it’s a thing I’d like to do. Before this week, I visited 10 of the current 63 U.S. National Parks in the National Park Service. As of today, my total is up to 14. 49 to go. And, they add new parks every year or two, so I need to step up my game.

Lori has a National Park Geek sticker on her car’s roof-top carrier. So, of course, I wanted one. I got the pin 🙂

I now am starting work on an itinerary, and on Monte to join me, for a long road trip to see several of the National Parks out west. Stay tuned.

Above the trees.

Tuesday morning we got up early and drove to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is the most visited National Park, with over 12 million visitors a year. And it is stunning.

We made it up to Newfound Gap overlook, which lies on the Tennessee/North Carolina State line, as well as the Appalachian Trail.

I’ve hiked the Appalachian Trail (100 feet of it!)
Standing in 2 states at once.

Then we drove up to Clingman’s Dome and walked up the steep climb to the observation tower for 360 degree views above the treetops. Clingman’s Dome, called Mulberry Place in Cherokee, was sacred to them. It is 6643’ high – the highest point in Tennessee.

View from Clingman’s Dome.
Clingman’s Dome observation tower.

After the park, we drove another 9 1/2 hours to Little Rock. One more National Park and then home tomorrow.

Three firsts.

We left Virginia early Monday morning, headed for the newest US National Park – New River Gorge National Park. It took us into West Virginia, my very first visit to the state.

The park is home to the New River and a 3000 ft long steel arch bridge, which was the longest in the world when it was built in 1977. Located in the Appalachian Mountains, the New River is actually one of the oldest on the continent, according to the NPS app (which I highly recommend if you’re a National Park geek).

The new bridge over the New River.
The New River gorge and its old bridge.
Sandstone Falls on the New River.

Visiting the park was a 2nd first for me. The 3rd first was grabbing my first geocache in West Virginia, for which I earned this nifty virtual badge. 🙂

Tuesday morning we’re in Tennessee, headed for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Stay tuned!

…And by car.

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.

Mid-week lake play.

We rafted up overnight with Julie and Ryan last night, grilling up dinner once they tied up to us after sunset. It was a new moon night, dark and clear.

The only other boat in the cove with us, as we enjoyed the sunset.

The temps were perfect, but no wind overnight.

Thankfully the winds came up around 10AM this morning and Monte and I enjoyed a lovely sail up to the yacht club and back.

A good day.

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