Thursday, June 23, 2016

Costa Rica II

Everybody poops. Sloths do it just once a week. They live in the forest canopy and ONLY descend (slowly) to the ground to poop. Typically if you spot a sloth in the wild you will see a ball of fur hanging from a branch high above you. During our recent visit to Costa Rica to help Graham celebrate his 9th birthday, we were incredibly lucky to see a small sloth during one of its infrequent trips to the ground. From pictures I'd always thought sloths were kind of homely but "in person" this little sloth was the cutest creature ever. 
We also enjoyed the birds, snakes, lizards, and butterflies that Costa Rica has in abundance and were especially excited to see the showy little Blue Jeans frog. 
Graham chose Carolina Lodge, in the foothills near Miravelles and Tenorio volcanoes, for celebrating his birthday. The 170 acre ranch offered plenty of activities to enjoy during the four days we were there.  
Barry family on hike.

Amara and Graham milking cows.
Horseback riding.


Graham paddling, Amara fishing with string from boat.
Play at the exercise platform.
Birthday boy enjoying Carolina Lodge hot chocolate - extra 
yummy with fresh milk.
Amara and Celeste
Graham with dog he had bonded with on prior visit. 
Man and animals working.

After Carolina Lodge we stayed near the Arenal Volcano. Since it was the "green season" - which means rainy - we weren't sure if we would be able to see Arenal. Again we were lucky and had nice views of the volcano each day we were there. Arenal was erupting a few years ago but now there is a steam plume.
Graham with Arenal in backround.

We stayed one night in a hotel in La Fortuna. A fortunate choice, because after dark Amara, Celeste and I armed ourselves with flashlights and explored the hotel's garden. Jackpot! We spied about a dozen tree frogs. They were definitely more attractive than the tree frog sculpture in the hotel's yard!

A visit to Costa Rica wouldn't be complete without a scorpion encounter. Roger got into the passenger seat of Celeste's car and we soon noticed a scorpion on the ceiling right above his head. Everyone started shouting. Loudly. We probably made it more likely that the scorpion would panic as well and drop onto Roger's scalp. Thankfully it did not. We tried to get it out of the car but didn't succeed. The scorpion disappeared behind the glove compartment and left us wondering if we might encounter it again.

Costa Rica is a feast of green inhabited by beautiful and exotic plants and animals. However, the best part of the trip was spending time with our delightful grand-kids. Roger is less than enamored with Costa Rica's hot and steamy weather but Amara and Graham are great for the prevention of a grumpy grandpa. 
Gracias a la vida.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Death Valley Super Bloom

"16 hours 23 minutes to see flowers". Roger reminded me of his phone's prediction multiple times on the drive to Death Valley to see the "Super Bloom". I must admit he had a point, especially since we usually have our own super bloom in April on the slope behind our house. But Death Valley had been on our list of places to see so the "Super Bloom" put our butts in the truck for the long drive. 

The anticipated two day drive turned into four, not because of problems but because of distractions. We turned onto Highway 31 at La Pine, Oregon and the route from there to Death Valley was all new to us. Roger is Geography Man so he had a good time in that 16 hours and 23 minutes.

First distraction was Fort Rock - which was not a human fort but a geologic one - the remnants of an old volcano rim.
Fort Rock
Continuing on we thought of Malheur Wildlife Refuge, east of Fort Rock, which was the site of the occupation by the Bundy brothers and their followers. We followed the occupation closely since Malheur during the bird migration has long been on our list of places to see. Unfortunately, the end of the occupation turned tragic, but a couple of Portland comedians wrote a satirical song about the craziness before then. Sample lyrics:

"Patrioooooots, Patriooooooots, Stormin' a building surrounded by ducks" 
The third day of our trip we didn't get far, beginning in Reno and ending at Mono Lake. Our route took us up through the snowy mountains and down along the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe. We did more stopping than driving. There is a reason Californians come to play here. 
Great spot for snow shoeing, skiing and snow play along HWY 431
Roger navigating the granite along Lake Tahoe shoreline
Public beach at Lake Tahoe
Day four brought even greater distractions. We explored magical Mono Lake with its other-worldy tufas and Panum Crater with its large, gleaming blocks of obsidium. Both are facinating. Tufas are formed when the calcium of freshwater springs combine with the carbonates of the lake water and form limestone. Panum Crater is one of the Mono Craters, the youngest mountain range in North America. 
Dwarfed by the tufa at Mono Lake.
South Tufa Area at Mono Lake
My he-man holding up Panum pumice.
Mt. Whitney on right.
The next morning we admired Mt. Whitney and then finally headed into Death Valley. First point of interest was Father Crowley Vista Point overlooking Rainbow Canyon. Lots of people were hanging out, but not so much for the scenery. They were waiting for F-18's to fly through the canyon, giving the crowd an eye-level view. The F-18's had flown over us on the drive into the park so we didn't wait around for the "show".

The more fertile areas of Death Valley were carpeted with flowers, especially Desert Gold. A less common, but elegant flower that I thought stood out was the Desert Five-spot.
Desert Gold in Death Valley
Desert Five-spot
We were blessed that Death Valley had come to life with blooms but the flowers were just a bonus to an interesting and often beautiful landscape.  Zabriskie Point with its chocolate/vanilla hues was a favorite spot of ours - and of a myriad of photographers.
Waiting for the sun at Zabriskie Point
From Zabriskie Point
Salt flat at Badwater Basin, lowest spot in North America 
Roger walking down wash on Gower Gulch Loop
Artist's Palette
Titus Canyon drive
Entering Titus Canyon Narrows

Good way to begin last full day in Death Valley NP.
A bit east of Death Valley is Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, home of tiny pupfish. I'm thankful we took the time to stop at this oasis.  The facilities are very nice but the beautiful blue pupfish is the star. They live in the Crystal Spring pool near the Visitor Center and Kings Pool at Point of the Rocks. Pupfish are a "relic" species that has existed since mammoths drank from the same springs so they've adapted to a dramatically different environment than that of their ancestors. These amazing survivors are most easily seen in Kings Pool.
Pupfish in King Pool
16 hours and 23 minutes? Yah betcha!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Bowron Lakes Canoe Circuit

Bowron Lakes

We bought our first kayak in 2006 from the Northwest Outdoor Center in Seattle and they told us about the Bowron Lakes being a great place to paddle. We finally kayaked the Bowron Lakes Canoe Circuit this past June. All I can say is: What took us so long!?!

This trip would have been perfect if mosquitoes didn't exist. The Cariboo Mountains of British Columbia are the backdrop for this picturesque 72 mile circuit of lakes, streams, and portages. Wildlife sightings included moose, a black bear, loons, bald eagles and river otters. We totally lucked out on the weather.The gorgeous scenery and placid water prompted frequent exclamations of "Look at that!" from Roger.
Peaceful water on Isaac Lake
Our good fortune stayed with us even on the day that a storm rolled through. We arrived at one of the cabins before the storm unleashed its fury and watched it with a roof over our heads and a fire burning in the woodstove.
Storm blowing in on Lanezi Lake
The Bowron Lakes circuit begins with a portage. It was our toughest because we didn't position the wheels and distribute the weight well. Struggling to push/pull the boat up an incline made us fast learners in the art of portaging.
Wheels ready for the portage
First day scene
Our first day included easy, relaxing paddles of Kibbee and Indianpoint Lake and three less than relaxing portages. We got a break from portages on day 2, starting from our campsite at the beginning of 38 kilometer long Isaac Lake.
Day 2 morning, beginning of huge Isaac Lake
Old cabin at day 2 campsite on Isaac Lake
Lush vegetation and waterfall along Isaac Lake, day 3
On the morning of day 4 we had to decide if we were going to negotiate the whitewater and sharp corner of the "Chute" or do a longer portage. We decided to run the Chute. At the informational meeting prior to beginning the Bowron circuit there was a lot of discussion about whether to run the Chute or not run the Chute. We had no difficulty getting through it. I'm sure Roger's paddling skills had something to do with that.
McLeary Lake, day 4 , site of 1st moose sighting (not pictured)
After McLeary Lake came more excitement - paddling the Cariboo River and evading deadheads and sweepers. Reports indicated that this is the section where people most often need rescue and wrecked canoes can be seen along shore.  A higher or lower water level might have been more challenging but the day we ran the Cariboo it was just fun and easy. I had no reason to be apprehensive.
Cariboo River
The Cariboo River flows into Lanezi Lake. Some canoeists had warned us about a storm forecast for the afternoon so we paddled steadily to the Lanezi cabin. We pitched our tent and then went inside the cabin and listened to the tales of later arrivals who didn't beat the storm.
Lanezi Lake after the storm
The next day we leisurely paddled through Sandy Lake and then took a detour into Unna Lake. From the trailhead at end of Unna Lake we hiked to Cariboo Falls. The falls were thunderous with voluminous spray.
On the trail to Cariboo Falls
We continued on to Babcock Lake where we camped for the night. Babcock is a small, shallow lake warm enough to entice me to go swimming. Later Roger and I sat on the beach and watched a moose feed across the lake. I was surprised that at times the moose was almost totally submerged in the water, with just the top of her back showing.
Morning fog at Babcock Lake, day 5
There was a sign warning of a bear in the area at the beginning of the short portage between Babcock and tiny Skoi Lake. There is another short, easy portage between Skoi Lake and the larger Spectacle Lake. When we completed the second portage I turned around and saw a black bear standing in the trail about 25 yards from us. He must have been just off the trail as we passed through and we didn't even see him!  
Our lunch stop on Spectacle Lake
On our last night we stayed at a campsite just off the beginning of the Bowron River. It was also the beginning of a large swampy area so we were most bugged by mosquitoes at this site. Nevertheless, the first two campsites we stopped at were full so we were glad to find it unoccupied. This was the only day we had some difficulty finding an available campsite.
View from last campsite
On our sixth and final day we meandered around the Bowron Slough for a while, hoping to see moose and not anxious for the journey to end. We did see a moose but it was on the main channel of the Bowron River rather than one of its offshoots.
Canoes turning a corner on the Bowron River with a moose just ahead
Moose swimming in the Bowron River
When we entered Bowron Lake we encountered the roughest water we had on the circuit. The wind settled down by the time we finished so conditions were back to "normal" for our trip. Back to perfect.
 Roger looking back at Bowron Lake.
(Bowron Lake is the only lake on the circuit where motorized boats are allowed.)
What a time. What a place.