Where two deserts meet. 

We visited Joshua Tree National Park yesterday, drove the entire length of the park, from south to north, and stopped to explore all of the varied terrain and plants.   The park is ruggedly beautiful, and marks the intersection of the Colorado Desert and the Mohave Desert.  

We had a blast.  And took a bazillion selfies.   I’ll share some photos, but also wanted to share this cool interview I found this morning…. it’s 10 minutes long… of Steve Averill, the guy that designed and photographed the album art for U2’s album The Joshua Tree, which is celebrating its 30th birthday this year.  I think this guy has my dream job.  🙂

A fine example of the namesake of the park, said to look like Dr Seuss trees:

Amazing rock horizons:

Skull Rock, spooky!

Another peek from beneath the rocks:

I love exploring new places, and I love hanging with my girlfriends.   A perfect day.  


Desert fun.  

I’ve met up with Irene and Linda, two girlfriends from high school, in Palm Desert for the weekend.  We are having fun catching up on three decades of our lives while enjoying this beautiful oasis.  

This is the view from our patio. Lucky us.  This is looking east across the Coachella Valley towards the Little San Bernardino Mountain range.  

This is the same view, later last night as the full moon was rising.  

Back to black.  

We returned last night after our extended Eclipse 2017 trip; we took the opportunity to visit family in the area while we were up there.  We drove 19 hours straight across five states, and got home a little after midnight.  We wanted to get home to check on things, given Hurricane Harvey’s arrival the night before.   I’m thankful that the only bad thing so far is that our power is out.  I’ve no idea how long it will take to restore.  But it’s not a big deal for us; it’s nice to be home. 

This is a view of the sunset from the highway outside Dallas last night.  I’m praying for the folks on the Texas gulf coast and southeast part of the state.  

A busy two weeks.

I have been away for a bit.  Since I last posted…

On Valentine’s Day we stopped by Cypress Creek Park while on a winding drive through the hill country.  As we walked down to the water, I spied a male belted kingfisher – the first I had ever seen in person.  I’m kinda getting into this birding thing, so I was very excited.  But, I didn’t have my camera with me.  So, being the budding-but-persistent-bird-photographer, I drove out there again the next day with my camera and spotted him again; holding court in a tree on the bank of the creek.  I couldn’t get very close, but I did come away with a photo of him.  Success!  A tad fuzzy, but my first, for the archive.  🙂


The next day, I flew to Seattle to meet my sisters.   We went together to eastern Washington to visit our aunt; one of the last living siblings of my parents’ generation.  It was a nice weekend.  We shared laughs and memories and a few tears.   I enjoyed it.  I also snapped way too many pictures.   This one was of the ice crystals on the plane window next to my seat.


Spokane has gotten much snow this year.  The nearby rivers are flooding and raging.  This is a picture of upper the Spokane River falls on our last night there.


I’m back in Austin, now, and will try to keep the posts a tad more frequent.  Have a good week!


Remembering the Alamo.

We have out-of-town family visiting us this week, and today we headed to San Antonio.  It has been a long time since my last visit to the Alamo.  So, it was nice to visit again to get a Texas history refresher.

The rain finally let up, the sky cleared and the sun came out, making for a nice afternoon.

The Alamo is hallowed ground, given the loss of life there in 1836 of those trying to defend a foothold in the battle for Texas independence.  A plaque on the door reads:


If you are patient, you might be able to get a picture of the front of the chapel without people milling about.


Knocked one off the bucket list.

Over the weekend I took a roadtrip with 4 girlfriends to Big Bend National Park in far southwest Texas.   I’ve lived in Texas over 20 years and have never made it out there.   And it was long overdue.   It is all that they say it is.   Big, beautiful, rugged, inspiring, with mountain, desert and river views to die for.


We made it!

Six and a half hours by car from Austin, we made it to Ft. Davis by about 7pm Friday night.  We had reservations to attend one of the evening Star Parties held 3 times a week at the University of Texas McDonald Observatory, and made it with a little time to spare.   The skies were dark and the stars were out.   The Milky Way was amazing.   The stars and constellations visible to the naked eye were too many to count.  Through the telescopes they had placed for visitors, I saw Saturn, the Andromeda Galaxy, M11 star cluster, and the 2 star clusters in the Perseus constellation.   If you’re going to make the trip all the way out to Big Bend, you really should combine it with a trip to the observatory.   Get tickets ahead of time online.   They sell out frequently and have to turn people away.


McDonald Observatory giant telescopes on the hill – viewed from where we stayed outside of Fort Davis

Saturday morning we drove to Big Bend and hiked inside of Big Bend National Park.   Saturday afternoon we did the Window Trail – to experience the Chisos Mountains part of Big Bend.   Four hours round trip, a moderately challenging hike, with breathtaking scenery all along the way.


The Window in the Chisos Mountains from the beginning of the Window Trail.


The Window view at the pour-off at the end of the trail. Watch your step!

We started Sunday at Santa Elena Canyon at dawn – to experience the Rio Grand river part of Big Bend.  It was about an easy 2 hour hike roundtrip – though we had to bushwack a bit to get onto the trail.  The Rio Grande has sliced a 1500′ deep canyon through the mountain there.  At sunrise, the face of the sheer mountain walls glow in the brightening sunlight.


The Santa Elena Canyon trail, looking northeast with the sun rising over the Rio Grande.


About a mile and a half into the Santa Elena Canyon trail along the Rio Grande.

Sunday afternoon we hiked the Mule Ears Springs trail – to experience the Chihuahuan Desert part of Big Bend.   A 3 hour hike, moderate difficulty, mainly due to the rough terrain and 90+ degree temperatures.  Packing water with you is a must!


Mule Ears, in the distance on the left, from the Mule Ears Springs trail.


From the Mule Ears Springs trail, looking back south to Santa Elena Canyon in the distance.


Chihuahuan Desert scape, looking north to the mountains from the south side of the park.

Another very awesome trip.  We hiked our butts off.

Through the rain forest.

A misty, drizzly day led to a very enjoyable trek through the Olympic National Forest, walking along trails on Walker Mountain, a drive through Quilcene, a Fat Smitty’s burger in Discovery Bay, antiquing in Port Townsend, a little geocaching, climbing through 100 year old bunkers at Fort Worden State Park, and walking to the beach to see the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Point Wilson Lighthouse.

A few shots from the day…





Different points of view. 

Layers of Cascades foothills with Mount Baker off in the distance, center.Mount Rainier flyby as seen through a window waaaay over on the other side of the plane.  And from my window a few minutes later.  Looking up through a glass sidewalk in Pioneer Square from the Seattle Underground

BVI 2016!


Sheila365 has been rather quiet lately, as I’ve had many irons in the fire.   But I’m making up for it with this long post.  For the past week and half, I’ve been enjoying our latest sailing trip to the British Virgin Islands.  Before that, I was busy just getting ready to leave.

This year, Colleen and Lee joined Monte and I on a 40′ Beneteau called Forever Young.  Also on the trip were Kurt, Ken, Kevin and Greg on the guys’ boat, Ada, a 43′ Beneteau.  This is our fourth trip to the BVI, each time coming back to charter from ProValor Charters, well-run by Jim Gulczynski & Cecilia Donegan.

We all flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico and met up.  The next morning we headed to Tortola and the boat fun began.

Our island hopping route, more or less:


Our boat, Forever Young, is on the right in this shot, and the guys’ boat, Ada, is on the left.  This shot is from Little Harbour on Jost Van Dyke.


I brought my new big-girl camera, equipped with polarizing filters for the lenses.  I was excited to try it out.   It seems to have worked, the blues and greens in some of these shots are nearly as amazing as the real thing.   I took way too many pictures to upload here, but here are a mess of my favorite shots.

Day 1:  Fat Hogs Bay, Tortola

So it begins….


Day 2: Tortola – Indians – Little Harbor, Jost Van Dyke

The BVI Spring Regatta was underway the first few days we were there.  We had front row seats.


One of the races literally sailed through the mooring ball field at The Indians just off our stern.  We we had stopped there to snorkel for the afternoon.




We sailed to Jost:IMG_0076

We caught a ball for the night in Little Harbour.  This is a shot looking towards Tortola.  Lobster at Abe’s for dinner!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Day 3:  Little Harbour – White Bay – Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke

We sailed into White Bay, and snorkeled the reef.  While we were doing that, a 40′ cat hit the reef just a few feet away from us, leaving bits of its hull floating to shore (!)

After some painkillers at Soggy Dollar bar, we headed to Great Harbour for the night.



OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA12’s representing at Foxy’s:


Day 4:  Jost – Key Bay, Peter Island

We sailed to Peter Island to a bay that we had anchored in overnight 2 trips ago.  The weather permitted us to do it again this trip.   We had the place to ourselves.

This is a shot looking east from Key Bay, Key Cay to the right, more of Peter Island in the background.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Glorious sunsets.  St John USVI in the background of this shot:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And yet another:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGoodnight, Forever Young:


I saw the Southern Cross constellation overnight.  It was due south from us, just above Norman Island – I didn’t get a photo, but my SkyGuide app image will give you an idea of what I saw:


Day 5:  Peter Island – Leverick Bay, Virgin Gorda

We enjoyed a long sail up to the North Sound of Virgin Gorda, and caught a ball in Leverick Bay.  Our refrigerator had died on us, so we had to toss some of our provisions.   But the repair guy was quickly on the boat and had us back in business in very short order.

We went ashore to Kurt’s friend’s villa overlooking Leverick Bay for dinner.  The food and the views were divine.

A shot on the way to Virgin Gorda:


On a mooring ball in Leverick Bay, looking out through the Mosquito cut at a clipper sailing by:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Views from the villa:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA





Day 6:  Leverick – The Baths – Cooper Island

Heading out of North Sound, Ada is right behind us; Leverick Bay is in the background:


Going by Mosquito Point:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rain in the distance outside North Sound:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We got a ball at The Baths and dinghied ashore.  It was as beautiful as ever, but we encountered just way too many people inside along the trail (with tour guides)  – more than I have ever seen before.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then we motored on over to Cooper for the night.  Ada had kindly saved us a ball.  We went snorkeling at Cistern point:


Painkillers, bougainvilla and critters ashore at Cooper Island Beach Club:IMG_0082IMG_0087

And, the unbeatable sunset views looking out over Tortola:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Day 7:  Cooper – Fat Hogs – The Caves – The Bight, Norman Island

We sailed on the outside of Norman to The Caves for a snorkel, then caught a ball in The Bight on Norman Island for the night.  Dinner ashore at the Pirate’s Bight.

Somewhere in the Atlantic:


The Indians and Pelican Island from the Bight:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In the Bight for the night, Treasure point to the right:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Day 8:  Norman – Sandy Cay – Diamond Cay & Little Jost Van Dyke

We sailed to Sandy Cay for lunch and a trip ashore.   We anchored first, and then saw that they now have mooring balls – they didn’t the last time we were here.


Then we got the next to last ball in front of Foxy’s Taboo at Diamond Cay.  Little Jost was just to our port:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I caught a rare not-blurry-shot from the boat of the sliver moon and Mercury below it to the right, just barely visible over the hill of Jost:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Day 9:  Little Jost – Monkey Point, Guana Island – Tortola

The next morning we walked ashore to the Bubbly Pool.


Mangroves in the bay:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Waves breaking on the rocks:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA



And the Bubbly Pool in action:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We decided to head east to complete a circumnavigation of Tortola for this trip.  We stopped at Monkey Point on Guana Island, and then headed back to the marina for the night.




One last look over at Cooper, on our way into Fat Hog’s Bay:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Day 10:  Homeward bound

Up early and headed home.  Flying over Trellis Bay.  Goodbye BVI!


Looking to the east at Virgin Gorda with the Dogs in the foreground:IMG_0094

Now I’m back home with great memories, lots of pictures, and these treasures:IMG_0109

Catching up.

Yikes, my last post was on March 3rd!   I’ve been a tad busy.  Since then, life has happened.  I have been taking pictures along the way.  Let me bring you up to speed:

– My 6th blogoversary!  Six years ago I started sheila365.com.   I’m not as diligent as I used to be about posting, and my posts have gotten less photo-worthy, but I do enjoy it.  How time flies!

– Celebrated a friend’s birthday – this shot is from the lobby of the Hotel Van Zandt downtown.   I accidentally left my Harvard Business School umbrella in the restaurant there.   Oh well.  😦IMG_9996

– Lots of little birdies out back.  I think I have 9 feeders out, altogether.   I love watching them.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

– We have been dealing with battery problems on Nirvana for the last couple of months.  Ok, I’m using the “Royal We” there.   Short story:  our batteries crapped out on the boat.   The charger was apparantly kaput as well.  Monte has been researching chargers and new deep-cycle house batteries to keep our floating second home powered while we’re not hooked up to shore power.  We have since ordered, and Monte has installed, all the various bits and pieces, and this is a snapshot of the voltmeter on the control panel down below after the installation.   All is well!   I think we will be anchoring out before too long!IMG_9999

– Work took me to Raleigh all last week.   I have been taking advantage of the Austin Library’s on-line e-book and audio-book collection that can be easily checked out via the accompanying Overdrive app.   On this trip, I checked out the audio book for Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley – a story about a roadtrip he took across the country with his poodle in the early 60’s.   The jury is still out on how much I enjoyed it.IMG_0002

– It rained in Raleigh.  Monte’s birthday also happened while I was there – the first that I haven’t been home to celebrate with him.IMG_0004

– I flew home home on Saint Patrick’s Day.   Slainte!


– And then it rained some more in Austin.  After MANY years of drought, and a little help from last year’s El Niñ0, Lake Travis is officially full now at 681′ above mean sea level.  Hallelujah!


– Once I was back in Austin, we celebrated Monte’s birthday at a favorite restaurant.  Baked Alaska for dessert!


– And, this weekend we worked in the yard and welcomed in the first day of spring!

Now you are up to date.   🙂


Fair city.

My seat for my flight home on Saturday was on the side of the plane that usually faces away from Mt. Rainier.   So, I was happy to hear the pilot announce that we would be taking off to the west and flying around the city, due to the fact that Seafair was underway and the airshow that accompanies it over Lake Washington.  It turned out that I was treated to the most beautiful views on the way up after all.  Thanks, Mom.  🙂


This shot is taken looking to the south east.  Queen Anne Hill is the treed hill to the lower left.  Lake Union is above it.  Downtown is in the center of the picture.  Elliott Bay is to the lower right.   Above downtown is the south end of Lake Washington, and the wispy loops of smoke to the right of the I-90 floating bridge are from planes in the airshow flying over the hydroplane race course.  And, of course, Mt Rainier watching over it all – Mount Adams poking out to its right.  If you look closely you can find the Space Needle, Seattle Center, CenturyLink Stadium and Safeco Field, Boeing Field, Elliott Bay Marina, among other landmarks.

I love this town.