Tag Archives: wildlife

A Return to Costa Rica

Darlene and I were able to extend our stay in Costa Rica following Nacho and Adriana’s wedding and we each got to enjoy some new areas of the country – this time during their very wet and rainy “green season”. (All of our arrangements were made through Costa Rica Rios.)

We started off with a few days in and around the very popular and very busy Manuel Antonio National Park to see the wildlife – three-toed sloths, white-face monkeys, caiman, basilisks, spiders and snakes (on my!) – and enjoy the beaches.  We stayed at the Gaia Hotel and Nature Preserve.

After Manuel Antonio, we were transferred further south and a little bit inland on a rough road to the remote Rafiki Safari Lodge for four nights.  From the lodge we managed to get wet in numerous ways: smashing waves on a raft on the Rio Savegre, walking through a heavy waterfall, careening down a water slide, wading into a roaring whirpool beneath another waterfall, soaking in the lodge’s hot tub and of course hiking in the rainforest – in the rain.  We were also treated to our guide Kenneth’s extensive knowledge of the jungle and life growing up in the nearby very small and remote villages.

Our next adventure was a steep hike up to and an overnight stay in The Cave, behind the Diamante waterfall near Los Tumbas.  We also explored some additional trails and came upon another even more insane waterfall as well as an unexpectedly long climb/hike to a not-so-nearby swimming hole.  The next morning, Darlene opted to do the optional rappel down between the twin falls near the cave:

From there we were transported south to Osa Peninsula and had a boat transfer through the mangrove waterways out to Drake Bay and La Paloma Lodge.  Over the following four days, we had a scuba dive trip out to Caño Island, a guided tour with Tico to see lots more wildlife in a bit of Corcovado National Park, a very entertaining and somewhat eventful kayak outing (ask Darlene) in a river channel as the tide came in and a long day’s hike along the coast and the edge of the rainforest to see some (ahem) non-existent baby sea turtles. (Again, ask Darlene. ;-)

A five-and-a-half-minute video montage of our whole trip.

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See also separate gallery from our rainy day visit (before the wedding) to the Rescate Wildife Rescue Center.

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Steens Mountain

Exploring southeastern Oregon, Darlene and I made our way up to Alvord Desert, below the eastern front of Steens Mountain.  We zipped around the playa mid-day for a little while and then continued north along the steep eastern front of the mountain.  As it turns out, all the roads up into the mountain from this side feature private property signs and require special permission to access, so we ended up continuing on to other southeastern Oregon destinations before eventually circling back several days later.

Kiger Mustangs

On our way back we passed through the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and headed to the highlands in hopes of seeing the Kiger Mustangs.  These are wild horses which were only fairly recently discovered to be direct descendents of Iberian horses brought over by Spanish conquistadors some 400 years ago.  We did come across a large herd near the road that we could watch for a long while before sunset, even while we cooked and ate dinner.

The next day we took up the Steens Mountain loop from the north, going clockwise and checking out Kiger Gorge before finding a pullout along the road to spend the night.  (Too many mosquitos in the actual campground back down amongst the creek and aspens.)  Over the next couple of days, we checked out many stupendous viewpoints and got in a few hikes (including off-trail from the peak). We camped at another pullout near the top one night so we could more easily catch sunrise and we ran into another herd of wild horses at lower elevations.

Steens Mountain montage

After Steens Mountain, we headed home west (choosing to skip a follow-up visit to Alvord Desert) and stayed overnight in Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge where we enjoyed a soak in a hot spring pool and did spot a herd of antelope.

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Among the Giant Sequoias

Darlene and I loaded up the van and the cats and headed out this past week for a short adventure.  First stop was to overnight under some dark skies in the San Benito mountains for a potential meteor storm from Tau Herculids.  (There was a decent meteor shower, but no full-on storm.)  We then spent the next five days in and around Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park, hiking among the magnificent giant sequoia trees, checking out Kings Canyon and exploring the Sequoia National Forest between the two national parks.  We also attempted an extended mountain bike ride from Buck Rock to Lookout Peak but had to abort due to a failure / total destruction of my rear hub – resulting in a long bike walk back.

We came across some black bears while hiking in Sequoia National Park.

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Paddling Elkhorn Slough

 

While Darlene was out here visiting for a few days from Wisconsin, ;-)  we took the kayak out for a late morning paddle in Elkhorn Slough.  And of course we saw the usual array of sea lions, sea otters, pelicans, etc:

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Colorado Road Trip

I’ve already posted a series of galleries for most of our Colorado road trip:

This last gallery (Florissant, Shelf Road, Flaming Gorge, etc.) contains more miscellaneous pictures — visiting the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, driving the dramatic, unpaved Shelf Road south out of Cripple Creek, stopping by the Royal Gorge Bridge, hiking out to the dinosaur trackways near Red Fleet State Park (Utah), spending a couple of days at the south end of the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, seeing wild horses in Sand Wash Basin HMA in northwest Colorado, and overnight stops in Wyoming, Utah and Nevada on my way to and from Colorado.

Old homestead at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

On the Shelf Road

Flaming Gorge Reservoir

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Dinosaur National Monument

As part of our month-long Colorado road trip, we spent about four days in Dinosaur National Monument but could have happily spent more if not for the worsening smoke from this year’s California wildfires.

One of many canyon overlooks along Yampa Bench Road

 

Coming from the south, we started with the canyon portion of the park and spent two nights at the Echo Park campground.  One day was just biking out along the Yampa Bench Road and checking out many of the amazing river canyon overlooks.

The following day we turned our attention to the dinosaur fossils and petroglyphs in the western part of the park by taking a slow, rough 4WD road to the other side of the park.  (Why take the easy way around??)

At the Quarry Exhibit Hall, you can see hundreds of fossilized dinosaur bones still embedded in the rock:

Lots of petroglyphs along Harper’s Corner Road

And we had a close encounter with a pair of bighorn sheep:

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Pescadero Whales

We drove out to the sea cliffs near Pescadero Beach this morning to see if we could spot some whales.  We lost the sun on the way over but we did get to see what I think were gray whales as they swam near us for a while:

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Bald Eagle Chicks

While wandering the Eastern Sierra around Bishop and Mammoth, Darlene and I came across a high vantage point along the Owens River Gorge overlooking a bald eagles nest – with chicks!  We came back the next morning and waited around a couple of hours – long enough to see the second parent eagle bring back a meal to feed the chicks:

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Butterfly Eruption in Tahoe

There’s a massive eruption of butterflies in Tahoe this week – there are swarms of them all over the place, including on the highways and the trails around Tahoe.  According to this news report, they’re the California Tortoiseshell Butterfly and there may be millions of them around the lake right now.

“It is pretty phenomenal,” said Tahoe Institute of Natural Science (TINS) Executive Director Will Richardson, Ph.D. “It’s exceptional. I have not seen a flight quite like this before.”

Here’s some video I recorded in slow motion while mountain biking the Sawtooth Trail near Truckee yesterday:

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Joslyn’s Visit

Darlene’s niece, Joslyn, came out from Wisconsin for her spring break from school and I think we managed to fill her time here.  We visited Shark Fin Cove, Pigeon Point Lighthouse, the Seymour Marine Discovery Center and saw dolphins while flying the drone from the sea cliffs near Pescadero.  We spent one morning to see the redwood trees at Henry Cowell State Park and a deserted Roaring Camp Railroads.  We introduced her to the sea otters at Moss Landing and got in a guided walk at Año Nuevo to see the elephant seals (lots of weaned pups at this time of year) and she and Darlene stayed overnight at the Monterey Zoo and fed the elephants.  Besides a couple of movie nights and several interesting board games, we also went up to Tahoe for three days so she could learn to ski – and she was careening down the mountain in no time!

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Colorado National Monument

Continuing on our way home from Wisconsin, Darlene and I came across Colorado National Monument just outside of Grand Junction and decided to have a look.  I’d never heard of this place but the scenery was gorgeous and there were fantastic views and rock formations in every direction throughout the park.  We ended up spending a couple of days to check it out and do a little hiking – click through for the full gallery:

      

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Passing through Colorado

On our return trip from Wisconsin, Darlene and I made our way down through Iowa and Missouri and across Kansas with one overnight stop and then into Colorado stopping off in Denver but failing to find anywhere nearby to grab a campsite.  (Ended up in a motel parking lot north of Boulder.)  We stayed a couple of nights in Rocky Mountain National Park to do some hiking.  The long views weren’t all that great because the smoke from the huge California wildfires were filling the skies even in Colorado.

  

Heading south, we found a spot to camp for a couple of nights in national forest land outside of Winter Park and got in some high altitude (10,000′) mountain biking.  We visited Dave and Martha at their new home in Evergreen before continuing west on I-70.  We camped out a couple of nights and did some trail riding in the hills above Eagle and had to wait out the mud in the morning in order to get the Traveling Cat Adventure Vehicle™ safely down the mountain again.

We also took some time to ride along Glenwood Canyon and tried to hike up to Hanging Lake late in the evening but ran out of time.  We came across a mama bear and her two cubs climbing in the trees near the trail though:

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Minnesota/Wisconsin State Parks

Continuing our road trip out to Darlene’s mom, we hit up a bunch of different parks in Minnesota and Wisconsin – some on my own (with Pan and Hera) while Darlene helped her mom during her hip surgery recovery and some together both before and after.  We got in some mountain biking, kayaking and sightseeing all around as well as a two-day photo shoot for Carlyn’s high school graduation.  However, I forgot to take any pictures while camped out with the cats in her mom’s driveway for a couple of weeks!

      

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Badlands of South Dakota

Continuing our trek out to Wisconsin along I-90 and across South Dakota, we visited and hiked around a bit in the Badlands National Park and encountered some bighorn sheep.  The park campgrounds were full but we found dispersed camping (with lots of other folks) just outside the northwest entrance.

We weren’t able to visit some of the other interesting sites in the nearby Black Hills area (like Jewel Cave or Wind Cave National Park) because a severe thunderstorm and hail warning drove us north out of the way.  The next day I dropped Darlene off at the Rapid City airport so she could fly home to make her doctor’s appointment (she’s currently on medical leave due to a hip injury).

I continued on with Pan and Hera and visited the Minuteman Historic National Monument, which was well worth the stop.

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A Close Encounter with Devils Tower

After stopping over in Portland to visit Glenn and Michele and make a couple of repairs (as well as visit Outside Van), we finally turned east to truly head for Wisconsin.  Two of the few tourist stops we made along the way was the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana and the Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming.  The Museum of the Rockies has a few rotating exhibits but its showcase is its dinosaur collection which includes “some thirty-five thousand specimens, including the world’s largest collection of Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops, along with America’s largest collection of dinosaur eggs, embryos, and babies”.

Continuing on but before we came upon Devils Tower, I had to sit Darlene down the night before our arrival to watch “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”.  We arrived early the next morning (before 7 am) to beat the crowds.  (Apparently it gets crazy busy there everyday from 10 am to late in the afternoon.)  Darlene slept in on the early morning drive and awoke to this view out the campervan window:

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Backpacking in the Enchantments

Leprechaun Lake (6875 ft) in the Enchantments core zone

The Enchantments is a popular backpacking destination in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area of central Washington state.  It’s popular enough that you have to submit an application via a lottery system many months in advance (much like the Mt. Whitney trailhead).  We managed to score a permit for the “Snow Lakes Zone” and I was able to join Glenn and Michele and several of their friends (John, Kyle and Fritz) last week in Leavenworth to start our four-day adventure.  Unfortunately, Darlene had to bow out for a work-related conflict but we were able to make another backpacking trip to the High Sierra the week before.

It was looking sketchy with all the smoke from the wildfires across the northwest this summer, including a small wildfire burning in another part of the Enchantments area (closing off the other half), but we lucked out with some not-completely-unbreathable air the week we were there and even a remarkably clear day on our second day.

Ready for a nice long climb from the Snow Lakes trailhead

On our first day, we hiked from the Snow Lakes trailhead at about 1400 ft and climbed about 4000 ft over eight or nine miles to the far side of Snow Lakes.  It’s a lot of elevation but it’s spread out fairly well and, except for a couple of large rockfalls, the trail is in good condition and there’s plenty of opportunities to get water.  Part of Snow Lakes is used as a reservoir and it was down some 20-30 ft when we arrived – apparently drained like a bathtub by an underground aqueduct that shoots a huge jet of water out the side of the mountain above Nada Lake.   We camped alongside some of the exposed beach of Snow Lakes for two nights.

Working through the rockfalls between Snow Lakes and Nada Lake

Glenn and Fritz “volunteered to keep watch” over our campsite the second day as the rest of us headed up over the western ridge from Snow Lakes to the “core zone” of the Enchantments area.  That turned out to be not so much a trail as a rocky mountain goat path, scrambling up over granite outcroppings.  It was hard to picture carrying a full 40-pound pack over that but many people do the Enchantments as a 18+ mile through hike.  The craziness of that trail aside, the many lakes of the core zone were lovely, though we only went as far as the shore of Perfection Lake (while looking for mountain goats) before making our return to our camp.

Climbing the pass from Snow Lakes up over the ridge

On our third day, we packed up camp late in the morning and headed down the short distance through the rockfalls to Nada Lake, with a brief sojourn to the more natural looking half of Snow Lakes – where we stumbled into a small herd of deer who were remarkably unconcerned with our presence.  We camped along Nada Lake at the base of a huge rockfall of massive boulders that extended all the way up the mountain.  And on our last day, we got a close encounter with a family of mountain goats as we made a leisurely hike all the way back down to the trailhead.

Camped at Nada Lake (4900 ft)

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