Category Archives: Nature

Visiting With Wolves

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My husband and I just returned from a wonderful trip out west to Colorado.  I plan to post about a few of the wonderful places we visited on our trip but I first wanted to share our experiences at a special place called Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation in Guffey, CO.  This place is a unique sanctuary for captive born wolves and wolf-dog hybrids that have been injured, abused and or neglected.  After meeting the founder, Mark Johnson, one can tell that he pours his heart and soul into caring for these canines.

RMWF started with a wolf named Cheyenne.  Johnson acquired her from another sanctuary when she was 4 1/2 weeks old.  He and his wife raised her and it soon became apparent that Cheyenne was very special. Cheyenne had a gift.  She was able to tell when a person needed her either emotionally or physically.  She was gifted with the ability to heal people.

Read about Cheyenne here.

Unfortunately, Cheyenne passed away in 2009, but the sanctuary goes on.

We were greeted by Mark when we arrived and were given a short presentation about the sanctuary and the story of Cheyenne.  After the orientation, it was time to interact with the wolves!

Even wolves love belly rubs.  Dan rubs Zoya’s belly.

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RMWF charges no entrance fee for your visit and operates on donations.  When you visit, it is just you and your group.  It was only my husband and I at our visit.  Before visiting, you make an appointment.  They have several 2 hour appointments daily.  You will interact with the sanctuary residents with your group only.

Mark gives very specific instructions for each wolf you interact with.  He knows each wolf like his own child.  Some are too shy for guest interactions but we were able to personally visit with seven wolves/ wolf hybrids (I think).

Thor was another that loved to give kisses and get belly rubs.

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Baby even gave us a howl!

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Poor Kiska came from a shelter in Texas.  She is a wolf hybrid.  They are working on getting her weight up.  She is such a love!

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A few more shots from the visit…rmwf_6304

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If you every find yourself in the Colorado Springs area, I highly recommend a side trip to Guffey to visit this special place.  RMWF is about 1 .5 hours from Colorado Springs. Visit their website Rocky Mountain Wildlife Foundation for information.  Appointments are necessary and all ages are welcome! They are a 501-c3 non-profit organization.

 

No pictures, but Guffey is a tiny town about 2 streets wide.  Visit the Rolling Thunder Cloud Cafe!  Wonderful owners and great food!  We stopped in after our wolf visit for lunch and had some excellent chili and conversation!

Jersey Goes West Pt. 8 – Mammoth Lakes and Devil’s Postpile

After our visit to Manzanar, it was getting a little late and we were ready for dinner.  We found this restaurant in Bishop.  It was a nice “home-cooking” type restaurant.  I had fried chicken and the hubby had meatloaf.  Both meals were huge portions and quite tasty!IMG_7384

It was close to 10 pm when we arrived at Mammoth Lakes.  We planned to go to Devil’s Postpile National Monument in the morning and wanted to stay as close as possible, so I chose to make reservations at the Mammoth Mountain Inn. They have pretty affordable rates during the non-ski season.

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We were given an upstairs room in a wing near the main lodge and were told to take any food or smelly items out of the car and into our room as the bears had been quite active lately.

Going from -200+ feet below sea level to 10,000 feet above sea level in a few hours has its issues!  I remember telling my husband that I was out of breath just from brushing my teeth.  The other thing that I totally didn’t expect, was that our clothes in the luggage were soaking wet!  For the life of me, I couldn’t not figure out why our clothes were wet when the luggage was dry.  Then it finally dawned on me, that it was so hot in the desert that our clothes heated up and then cooled so quickly that water condensed on them within the luggage.  We had clothes hung up all over trying to dry them out!

Unfortunately, we were only staying in this beautiful place one night.  We fell exhaustively into bed.

The next morning we had breakfast in the main lodge.  The food and service were wonderful!  After breakfast, we needed to find the ticket office to buy passes to ride the shuttle bus to Devil’s Postpile National Monument.  During the busy season, no cars are allowed up the road to the monument unless you are going early in the morning or late in the evening.  The road is narrow and they try to limit traffic going to the monument.  They sell tickets near the sporting areas at the inn.  I took a few shots while trying to find the tickets.  More than once, my husband said, “We are coming back here and staying for more than one night!”.  He did not want to leave!

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The day was a bit smoky from the wildfires in Sequoia and Yosemite.

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We finally found a little stand that was selling excursions and asked about shuttle bus tickets.  Turns out, that yesterday was the last day for the shuttle bus, so we were free to drive up to the monument!  With that, we said goodbye to Mammoth Mountain Inn and hello to Inyo National Forest.

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Devils Postpile National Monument is located within Inyo National Forest.  When driving, there is an entrance fee.  I think it was $10.  The shuttle is a bit more expensive.  The drive was a little scary as there aren’t many guardrails and the road is narrow.  Downhill drivers are supposed to give uphill drivers the right-of-way and there are some turnouts for photos and to allow faster drivers to pass.  I am a chicken when it comes to mountain roads so hubby did the driving.

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It was a short walk to the postpile from the parking area.  On the way, we passed this beautiful meadow with the San Joaquin River running through itDevils Postpile_Inyo_7448

Devil’s Postpile is located a short easy walk (about 0.4 miles) from the parking area.

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This awesome geologic structure was once a lake of basaltic lava.  As the lava cooled it formed these jointed columns. What was left was a mountain of cooled basaltic columns.  These columns were hidden until glaciers eroded the face of the mountain and left the impressive columns exposed.  If you visit Devil’s Postpile, make sure you climb to the top!  It is a short 15 minute uphill hike and well worth the effort.  Nature is amazing!  The top looks like honeycomb of stone.  It looks like someone laid paving stones here.

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If we are ever able to visit again, I would like to take the longer hike to Rainbow Falls but it was longer than we were prepared to take today. We wanted to make it to Yosemite in time to see a few things before nightfall.

A couple parting shots as we hiked back to the parking area…

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After leaving, we stopped back in Mammoth Lakes for lunch. I am sure the locals had fun watching this Easterner trying to open a bear-proof trashcan.  I was a pro by the time we left Yosemite!

Stay tuned for our few days in Yosemite!

 

 

Jersey Goes West Pt. 7 -Death Valley

Yes, we braved Death Valley in the summer and lived to tell about it!  One thing I search for before we left was information on touring Death Valley in the summer.  I wasn’t sure that we should even attempt it, but after reading that people actually do visit in the summer, we decided to go.  I am really glad we did!  We heeded safety warnings, brought plenty of water, did not do any long hikes and stayed within sight distance of the car. We only had a partial day to spend at the park so it was a really quick tour and we only hit some of the highlights.

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We started out at Harmony Borax Works.  The famous 20-mule teams were used for the difficult task of hauling the borax out of Death Valley to market.  The Harmony Borax Works played an important part of the history of Death Valley and the settlement of the Furnace Creek area.

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Next was a short stop at the Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center.  Check out that temperature!  It was about 11 am.  It is definitely a dry heat!  Make sure you drink plenty of water.  With the dry heat, you do not sweat and may not realize that you are becoming dehydrated until it is too late.

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On to Badwater Basin and the salt flats!IMG_7267

Badwater Basin was as far as we went in the southern section of the park. We turned back toward Furnace Creek and stopped at Devil’s Golf Course.  Crystallized salt was deposited here by ancient oceans and then shaped by wind and rain leaving a sharp, ragged landscape that was said a place where only the devil could play golf!

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Next stop on our whirlwind Death Valley tour was the Artist’s Palette Loop Drive. The colors on this drive are spectacular.  Pictures just don’t do it justice.  It was early afternoon when we drove the loop.  It is supposed to be even more scenic in the late afternoon or early evening sun.

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We began to slowly make our way west towards the western exit of the park.  Before reaching Stovepipe Wells Village, we stopped at Mesquite Sand Dunes.  This place (according to literature at the visitor’s center) is one of the most dangerous places in the park.  The dunes look much closer than they actually are and most of the deaths in the park have been because people try to hike to the dunes in hot weather and become dehydrated and disoriented. We stayed close to the car and admired from a distance since the temperature had reached close to 120 degrees.

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Our last stop in Death Valley was at Stovepipe Wells Village for some refreshments.  We needed to be in Mammoth Lake that night so we couldn’t stick around too long.

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I really enjoyed Death Valley despite the heat.  I hope to plan a trip back one day, hopefully in February or March when the wildflowers are blooming.  There are so many more places to explore and I hate that we had to make it a super fast trip through, only skimming the surface of what the area has to offer.  It is possible to tour Death Valley in the summer, not optimal conditions, but it is possible!  Take A LOT of water with you and heed the “Turn Off Air Conditioning” warning signs when leaving the valley.  As you climb, the car can easily become overheated.  We had no problems, but did turn off the AC and had the windows open.

Coming up next….a stop at Manzanar, the Japanese Relocation Center that was in operation during World War II.

 

 

Jersey Goes West Pt. 3 – Valley of Fire (continued)

After hiking to Mouse’s Tank, we returned to the car and continued up White Domes Road  to Rainbow Vista.  Rainbow Vista is a provides a great colorful panoramic view of the area.

Rainbow Vista View

There is a short hiking trail in area.  The trail led to this beautiful multi-colored rock formation.  This is what Valley of Fire is all about!

 

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We hiked back to the car.  Next stop,  Silica Dome and Fire Canyon.  Off White Domes Road is Fire Canyon Road.  A short drive up Fire Canyon Road leads to a view of Fire Canyon and Silica Dome.  There is a small lookout area but no hiking trails in this area.

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The sandstone formations that are prevalent in Valley of Fire are made from grains that are almost pure silica. Silica Dome is the best example in the park of such a deposit. The change in color towards the base of the dome occurs when small amounts of iron in the rock produce the rust stain color.

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After our visit to Silica Dome, we made our way to the Fire Wave.   The Fire Wave hike is about an hour long  out and back and it is not recommended (actual warnings posted at the trail head) to do this hike in hot weather.  We took water with us and planned to only go a short way.

The trail starts with a downhill trail going towards this large rock formation.

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We walked along the large sandstone outcropping and soon found this beautiful formation.

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This flat smooth sand stone was made up of the most vivid beautiful colors.  Pictures really don’t do it justice.  At this point, we decide to just do the whole hike.  We didn’t know when we would be able to make a trip back here and we felt good despite the heat.

The only way to follow the trail at this point were cairn markers that were set up on the rock.

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After a half mile of hiking, we finally came to the Fire Wave.  What an awesome natural piece of artwork!

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After a little rest, we hiked the half mile back to the car.  The hike back was a little more tough since it was uphill.  I am so glad we did it though! It was about 5 pm by this time.  We hopped back on the road and drove to the end of White Domes Road to see……the White Domes of course!

The sun was getting lower in the sky and the lighting wasn’t that great so my images reflect that.

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There is a hiking trail in the area but we were both pretty beat from the Fire Wave hike so we enjoyed the view close to the car.

I thought I could wrap up Valley of Fire in 2 parts, but that’s all the time I have tonight.  Stay tuned for more!

Bear Creek Preserve

Today I took a short trip to the Bear Creek Preserve located on Lower Bank Road just north of the Lower Bank Bridge over the Mullica River.
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There is not much of a parking area. No motor vehicles are allowed in the preserve so I parked outside the locked gate and walked in. The sandy road starts in a wooded area and follows Bear Creek as it makes its way to the Mullica. There were turtles and ducks in the wooded area of the creek and I even saw a common yellowthroat but no one wanted to cooperate for pictures.

After a short walk through the more densely wooded portion of the road, the landscape opened up to the marsh area.
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A male mallard was much more cooperative with a short photo shoot before I moved on.

Male Mallard

Spring was trying to make an appearance. Most of the trees were only budding but the red maples were full of their bright red “helicopter” seed heads.

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Red Maples in Spring

As I walked, I heard a lot of birds singing but they were shy and did not want their picture taken. The tree swallows were out in droves hunting for insects. It was nice to be out here without another person around. The marsh grasses rubbed against each other creating a symphony of eerie but interesting noises.

Marsh Grasses

I came across this bird blind but couldn’t go inside as the doors appeared to be nailed shut. Too bad, it would have made a cool spot to sit and look for birds.

Old Bird Blind

This trail is a really beautiful trail. If I had gone a bit earlier in the morning, it may have been a little more active with birdlife. Wildlife seen today: red slider turtles, a snake which slithered into the grass to quickly for an ID, catbird, Canada geese, common yellowthroat, mallard, and tree swallows.

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Of Sunsets and Sunrises

I recently got some neutral density filters for my camera and was eager to test them out. First I went to Lower Bank Bridge at sunset to try them out. Lower Bank is located on the Mullica River in Burlington County, NJ. I think I still need to get a hang of the timing thing. Unfortunately my trip out there was on the spur of the moment so I quickly lost the light. I also need to be a little better at planning. What do you think of my results?

Lower Bank Bridge at Sunset

Lower Bank Dock at Sunset

I decided to give it another go the next morning. Again…I am not a great planner. I woke early to take a drive to Lake Oswego since it is close to work. Lake Oswego is a beautiful quiet lake located in the heart of the NJ Pine Barrens. It sits within Penn State Forest in Burlington County. Again…I underestimated my timing. It took me a bit longer to get ready to leave than I anticipated and I am NOT a morning person. Luckily I got to the lake just as the sun was coming up. I would have liked to be there a bit earlier to set up.
Lake Oswego Sunrise

I like this one, but I think next time, I need to try to find some details to focus on rather than trying to get the whole scene. I will definitely be practicing more with these filters. Thanks for reading!

The Best Laid Plans…

You know what they say, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray”. That was my weekend. I had plans to go to the Rancocas Nature Center run by the NJ Audubon Society with my husband but, alas, it was not meant to be. After running a few errands in the morning, we came home to find a break in one of our water lines. That took precedent and nearly all day to fix. While he was occupied fixing that (it would have been an easy fix but a valve broke after he tried to turn the water back on) I decided to stick somewhat close to home.

On my way out I took a little detour to see if the Lowerbank ospreys had returned to their nest. They are nesting near the Bear Creek Reserve. Sure enough they were there! Spring is really here!

Bear Creek Reserve is located in Lowerbank, NJ.
Bear Creek Reserve is located in Lowerbank, NJ.

One of the ospreys nesting in Lowerbank, NJ
One of the ospreys nesting in Lowerbank, NJ

After visiting my favorite ospreys, I headed to the Edwin B. Forysthe National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is located in Oceanville, NJ just off Rt.9 on Great Creek Rd. It is home to many different species of birds and important migratory stopping point for many species as well. There are great hiking trails and an 8 mile drive along the impoundments. Atlantic City can be seen across the bay while on Wildlife Drive.

I was pleasantly surprised that there where still a lot of ducks in the area as I thought they may have migrated north already. There were quite a few blue-winged teal (which I don’t see to often) and the more commonly found green-winged teal. I also spotted Northern Shovelers, black ducks, mallards, Canada Geese and brants.
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Green-Winged Teal

The ducks were sticking around but some summer birds had begun to arrive. The refuge was teeming with Great Egrets and Double Crested Cormorants.
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Double Crested Cormorant

The ospreys have also arrived at the refuge. Nearly every osprey nesting platform had a mated pair hanging out, surveying the area.

To end the day, I took a quick ride to nearby Smithville. Smithville is a little village with a couple restaurants, a bakery, and lots of little quaint shops. Smithville is also on Rt. 9 a few miles north of the refuge.
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Smithville Railroad

Smithville also has a small carousel. I love photographing carousels. I am not sure if this is an original piece or a reproduction as there are no signs describing it. I am guessing it is probably a reproduction but I still appreciate the art that originally went into these pieces.
Smithville Carousel Elephant

Smithville Carousel Horse

And so it begins…..

Here I am…blogging.  I never thought I would say that.  I often like to read blogs, but never thought I would be writing one!  I have always enjoyed writing trip reports, combined with my photography for a well know Disney website.  I recently have been pursuing my interest in promoting my photography a bit more seriously and thought what better way to do it than starting my own blog about some of my favorite places both newly discovered and old favorites.  As a photographer, I specialize in nature and animal photography.  I also enjoy photographing the pieces of our past that may not be with us forever.  I don’t know where this path will lead, but I hope it will be entertaining for my readers!

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