Sunday, March 30, 2014

Old Friends...New Friends

Time to catch up!  Finally have a good internet connection. Now we have gone from Texas and the Whoopers and wild flowers in Goose Island State Park, and the wonderful birding at South Llano State Park, to Carlsbad, New Mexico.

We had another day or two of checking on the Whooping Cranes and took some pictures of the windflowers that seem to be everywhere in Texas.  The roadsides are often covered and many fields are rainbows of the Indian Paintbrushes, Lantana, and the Bluebonnets and many unnamed varieties.  We did buy the field guide but lest I misname something I'll just include some portraits...

On to our next stop.  

South Llano River State park is about 100 miles west of San Antonio and has been a stopping point for us since we started traveling seven winters ago.  Here we met many new bird species, visiting the four bird blinds and walking many miles of trails looking for several endangered species.  I added 28-30 species to my annual bird list.  I jot down the name and place where I first see a bird each year.  It was super to see many old friends.

                White-winged Dove

                    Western Scrub Jay

                  Rio Grande Wild Turkey (over 800 roost here)

                     Black-Throated Sparrow

                     Spotted Towhee

                 Black Chinned Hummingbird

               Vermillion Flycatcher

           Yellow-Throated Warbler

Well, enough of the birds I guess. Other things happen too.  The snakes have come out of hibernation while here and the armadillos stroll around.

My heart has been full during this last stop in special ways, too.  I have been thinking so much of our friends Annie and Charlie who we met our first year here in one of the blinds.  We have enjoyed  this friendship over the years and although we didn't meet up in Texas this year they have been very present with us.

This year we met a couple from Alaska who gave us their contact information and invited us to call.  We probably will since that is who we are, always adding friends to our heart-village (my new term).  We also met a geophysicist and his wife who love photography, and a woman named Beth who is facing treatment of pancreatic cancer, who also drives a leisure van like ours. On it goes for us.  Around every corner it seems we have opportunities to cherish old friends, near and far, and to met many more who offer to become a resident of our heart-village and add to the blessings of our journey.

We miss our family and friends at home and send you daily thoughts and prayers and love. You are the earliest residents of our heart-village!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Heading west ...

We traveled the road that winds along the Gulf Coast, along the Big Bend of Florida, and then we connected with interstate 10, a cross country highway along the southern tier of states.  We used it to go from Pensacola through Alabama, Mississippi, and landed for the night in southern Louisana.

It was sad to say goodbye to mom but it was exciting to see how well she and stepdad Chick are managing to live independently.  She is 92 and he is 94 and they manage three good meals each day, care for a kitty named Ginger, and get to grocery stores and doctors appointment as needed with some help from friends.  Mom has the energy and memory of a young woman and keeps them going!

Our first stop after Mom's was at a state park called Ocklochlonee River where we hoped to see a rare small woodpecker called the Red Cockayed WP.  Might have had a glimpse but no real identification.  Did see Longleaf Pines where we saw the nesting holes.  We did find two special things.  Our friends Joan and Lucille are traveling as well as met up with us there for two nights, and we had a wonderful time together.

We also saw something new to me a White Squirrel...not albino but an actual subspecies.  We saw many and captured a picture in our site.

After saying goodbye to our friends we headed to a spot we had visited before.  During our first trip across Florida to Texas we had driven a very long day and decided we would stop at the next campground we saw.  We were in southern Louisana and new to the area, but we saw a sign read Cajun Haven.  We were hesitant but too tired to move on so we talked with the owner "Jeff " who couldn't have been nicer to us.  Most of the campground was filled with trailers and men who worked on the oil rigs, and Jeff assured us of our safety.  We slept well that night and left him a nice thank you note and said if we ever returned to the area, we would stop.

Well, we made sure on this trip that we would return to Cajun Haven.  He gave us a great site and told us he had built a bar/restaurant right beside the campground and invited us to come over for the evening.  We first met "Killer" who runs the office and maintains the grounds.  He said we had to go to the bar cuz Jeff who now is known as Red Dog was cooking a free dinner for everyone.  Needless to say, we weren't going to miss this.

When we walked into the bar, we felt like we were stepping into a movie set.  Folks were playing pool. Others were playing Washer Board - tossing metal washers into holes on a slanted board, and others were sitting around the bar.  Red Dog's friend Earl now to be known as Coonass, invited us to sit with him, and share a cold one from his bucket. Then started the education on Cajun food, culture, words and life in this part of our country.  It was truly one of the most enjoyable nights we have had learning and sharing with wonderful caring, kind people.  Pictured below is Killer, and Tone with Coonass and Red Dog.

And here is a picture of a crayfish trap...part of our Cajun education.

The following morning we left LA with a happy heart after a wonderful time with these great people. Listen carefully and you can hear Tone singing "those good ole boys...not meaning no harm..."

Back to I10 we went for a few hectic hours of traffic.  After we reached the border of Texas and the city of Beaumont, we turned south along the coast to Galveston. Great road along the water and heading  toward Goose Island state Park, just north of Corpus Christi.  We hope to see the Whooping Cranes and worry we might be too late, but we are fortunate that on our first effort we spotted three.  Many that winter here are gone but we are grateful to  get a glimpse of these endangered birds.


Here you can see the state fl lower of Texas, the Bluebonnet .

We are feeling so privileged. We are seeing the diversity of the geography of this great country, while being blessed with the amazing diversity of people that all call it home.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Goodbye BPKFL family... hello to new places.

One week ago we left our wonderful community at Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge and started on the road toward mom's.  Along the way we spent a few days in the Everglades , a stay in Big Cypress National Preserve, and then a trip along the west coast to spend a weekend with Debbie and Linden, Janet, Ozzie and Haley, seeing friends Pat and Jean, and finally a stop in Wildwood with Mom and stepdad. laptop is still a question so I am trying again to work on the IPad.  Here goes...

During water aerobics we watched a "young" osprey couple build a nest a attempt to start a family.  We can only assume that the breeding was not successful and the nest eventually blew down.

                       A Collared Dove resting and cooling on a very hot day.

                   Black Necked Stilt in Eco Pond, Flamingo, Everglades NP.

              Painted Bunting at Corkscrew Swamp Audubon Sanctuary.

                              Purple Gallinule On Anhinga Trail

                       White-crowned Pigeon at Nine Mile Pond in Everglades NP

Still having trouble with the formatting, but I will keep trying.  Some dear friends sharing fun times at BPKFL.

A few shots now of some of our favorite sights in the Keys. 

The alligator who was napping in our site when we returned from our day of hiking/birding.
Two years ago we had the Rattlesnake in our site and this year it was a alligator.  Everglades excitement.

    Air Plant.  So many in the Cypress Swamp along with orchids and other amazing plants.

Will close with a shot from the sunrise gathering. A KeyDeer came to join the group and posed for a sweet shot this morning.  So we have said goodbye to winter number six in the keys and we can honestly say it was the best one yet.  I still feel hampered by the iPad but will do our best to convey a  few thoughts and pictures from our journey.  We are so very grateful for all the people we have in our life.  We truly feel loved and respected.  As we prepare for our journey west, we thank BPKFL for all the love and care.  We thank our family and friends for all the encouragement and support as we head to Alaska.  It is a day to look ahead with excitement, and look to the past with gratitude and joy.  Love and hugs as always!