CHANGES IN LATITUDE CHANGES IN ATTITUDE

Feeling every bit like Dorothy as she stood holding Toto and staring in amazement at the sparkling Emerald City of Oz, Richard and I were enchanted by our first glimpse of the stunning skyline of Panama City, Panama.

IMG_0002IMG_0011Beautiful people.
IMG_0017Exotic fauna.
IMG_0009Brilliant flora.
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Once we boarded the four-masted  WIND STAR
IMG_0151
settled into our state room
IMG_0136and watched from the deck as the ship sailed from Puerto Colon into the Caribbean Sea
IMG_0021we knew we weren’t “ in Kansas anymore”.

SAN BLAS ISLANDS

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Viewing the San Blas Islands from the bridge with our new friend, England-born
Second Officer, Stephen.
Small World…turns out he lives practically next door here in New Mexico
when not navigating the high seas.

Once ashore,  we found molas, more molas and achingly beautiful beaches.

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FROM THE ATLANTIC TO THE PACIFIC
VIA THE PANAMA CANAL

Pm-mapBecause of the “S” shape of Panama, the canal opens North into the Atlantic
and South into the Pacific Ocean.

IMG_0118Our transit through the canal started at 6am with the arrival of the
Panamanian pilot.
IMG_0078Richard watching the transit from a comfortable chair beneath the
Canal Flag, a signal the Panamanian Pilot is on the bridge.
IMG_0068Mechanical “Mules” attach cables at $3,000 each and pull the ship along.
The Wind Star required two.

IMG_0060Tug Boats, like floating bumper cars, scoot around herding boats into proper position.

IMG_0076The changing water level within the locks raises or lowers the ship.
When the lock gates open, the tug escorts us forward into the next lock.

The Wind Star carried us along under beautiful bridges
IMG_0091past the tropical prison digs of General Manuel Noriega, deposed dictator of Panama and former powerful Drug Lord.
IMG_0089In the canal we meet enormous cargo ships that reduce their voyage by nearly 8,000 miles by taking this shortcut across the Isthmus instead of sailing around
Cape Horn.

IMG_0107DSC00821This container ship passing through the Miraflores locks requires $12,000 dollars worth of cables. With canal tax (calculated by weight and size), the total cost must be astronomical.

PANAMA CANAL FACTS
(JUST A FEW)

 *Less than 500 years after VASCO NUNEZ de BALBOA slogged, chopped and floated a path across the snake infested, mosquito ridden Isthmus of Panama to become the first European to gaze upon the Pacific Ocean, more than 40 cargo and pleasure craft a day move through the 12 locks to travel the 51 mile length of the Panama Canal.

*The French broke ground on January 1, 1880, spent $260 million dollars, lost some 20,000 lives, eventually admitted defeat and sold out to the Americans for $40 million dollars.

*The US started work in 1904. Ten years later, after a cost of $375 million dollars and a loss of 5,609 lives, the first ship passed through the Panama Canal.

*In 2008,The Disney ship Magical Kingdom paid $313,000 for a one way trip through the canal.

**Read “The Path Between the Seas” by David McCullough for the complete story of this engineering marvel.

450px-Anayansi03Homage to Balboa in Panama City

PACIFIC PORTS OF CALL
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The Wind Star anchored off shore several times as we sailed north along the western coast of Panama and Costa Rica. We slapped ashore in Zodiacs to enjoy a day of snorkeling, swimming, hiking, birding or exploring.
IMG_0167In Drake Bay, Costa Rica, Richard found the ground covered with tiny fuchsia flower petals…like a Buddhist’s prayer…
IMG_0176and tropical blooms right out of a dream.
IMG_0169IMG_0170IMG_0165While ashore, we enjoyed distant views of the Wind Star.
IMG_0151As we neared Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, our sail nearly over, we prepared  to leave shipboard life behind. We will forever remember charming crew like Ragam from The Philippines, divine food (Yes, it was a “bloat and float” trip but constant physical activity kept the pounds off.), open ocean sunsets and our new friend and Costa Rican bird guide, Elliot.
IMG_0142IMG_0184IMG_0182DSC00836(1)I wanted to turn around and take the same trip all over again.
I loved it so.
***

To be continued: 
CHANGES IN LATITUDE
CHANGES IN ATTITUDE
COSTA RICA

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DECEMBER SNOW STORMS 2012

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200COLD !

1222021355(0001)COLDER!

IMG_0028BEAUTIFUL!

1228021330(0001)50 INCHES OF SNOW SINCE NOVEMBER AND A RECORDED LOW
OF NEGATIVE
24 DEGREES.

IMG_0061TREES ARE ALL DECKED OUT FOR CHRISTMAS

THE FOREST IS A STUDY IN BLACK AND WHITE

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AN ASPEN’S EYE ON WINTERIMG_0027

WILDLIFE ADAPT TO THE COLD AND SNOW.IMG_0031IMG_0033BIRDS ARE HAPPY BECAUSE WE FEED GENEROUSLY.

ELK COME TO BURNING TREE MEADOW
JUST DOWN THE HILL FROM THE HOUSE

IMG_0076 TO PAW AWAY THE SNOW, ALWAYS WITH A RIGHT HOOF,
TO FEED ON GRASS  AND ROOTS UNDERNEATH.

IMG_0062

IMG_0079IMG_0070THEIR WINTER COATS ARE 7 TIMES WARMER THAN SUMMER ATTIRE.

IMG_0049WE SURPRISE THEM AS THEY LIE IN THE SNOW
AT EASE, COMFORTABLE, WARM.
PERFECTLY
SUITED TO THEIR ENVIRONMENT.

WE HUMANS HAVE A BIT MORE TROUBLE
MOVING ABOUT IN THE WHITE STUFF.

IMG_004530 MPH GROUND WINDS PUSH SNOW ACROSS
THE ROAD INTO 6 FOOT DRIFTS.

IMG_0041WE (MOSTLY RICHARD….I WENT ALONG FOR THE RIDE)
PLOWED AND SHOVELED FOR 3 DAYS
JUST TO STAY AHEAD OF THE DRIFTING SNOW.

IMG_0047WE HUMANS ARE NEITHER WARM NOR CONTENT
WHILE DEALING WITH NEVER-ENDING PILES
OF SNOW.

WINTER IN EAGLEFIRE, HIGH COUNTRY, NEW MEXICO,
AT TIMES
FRUSTRATING, DIFFICULT, EXHAUSTING.
BUT ALWAYS DELIGHTFUL
FILLED WITH LIGHT
AND HOPE FOR A NEW YEAR
OF PEACE!
1231021320VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL CHAPEL
NEW YEAR’S DAY
2013

FIRST SNOW NOVEMBER 2012

LATE FRIDAY EVENING the wind blew in bringing snow and plummeting temperatures,  Winter knocked at the door to tell us that Golden, Glorious Fall days were over. We greeted a snowy morning and hailed the arrival of a new season.

Three inches of snow blanket the woods surrounding the house. Mountain tops wear marshmallow peaks. Elk bugles no longer sound from the meadows. Our Stellar’s Jay has only Chickadees and White-breasted Nuthatch for competition at the feeder.

Along with an occasional visit from his Corvid cousin, the Magpie, who drops in below for peanuts.

So peaceful.  So quiet. But, as I gaze out at the pristine stillness of this snow-covered morning, I recall a warmer, more hectic season when we are out smarted, out numbered, out witted and out maneuvered by scurrying, skittering packs of disarmingly “cute” artful dodgers…Rodents!  Order: mammalia. Class: rodentia. 

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True, rodents are part of the wildlife we claim to love so much, but the term wildlife usually brings to mind large charismatic mammals like elk, deer, bear and cougar. All animals that prefer to live apart from humans.  Unfortunately the same term also includes smaller, not-so-charismatic mammals that prefer to live with humans.  Because we  feed birds, we get to meet these charming, ravenously destructive little critters up close and in person. Here follows The Critter Chronicles.

Chipmunks and Ground Squirrels
Note:
Chipmunks are small and have stripes on their faces like the photo above.  Ground Squirrels are larger, fatter and have no stripes on their faces like in the photo below.

This Ground Squirrel was so full, so fat, so happy

I could easily pet him as he gobbled up bird seed.

The critters were beating the birds to the feeders and wolfing down more than their share of expensive seed. Note the bulging cheek pouches on Chip ‘n Dale below!!

So we put up a new, more inaccessible (we thought) feeder just for the birds.

At first they were flummoxed and stood and stared at the seed just out of reach. Richard and I declared victory that was short lived.  We hadn’t counted on pole dancers!

Humans = zero,  Critters = 10

And we have only ourselves to blame.

Photo of a very bad human caught in the act.

To be Continued:  CRITTER CHRONICLES

 

EAGLEFIRE THANKSGIVING RECIPE

Baste the turkey:

Climb to the top of Rock Candy Mountain:

Call the family:

Set the tables for people and wildlife friends:

Welcome the guests:  First, Mom and the twins.

Then, Papa showed up.

And, a feathered friend.

Bless the food and Toast the day:

HAPPY THANKSGIVING 2012
Jan and Richard

STAKE OUT

Fueled by the excitement of our good luck “game watching” last evening, I set out this morning to take advantage of the last of the late summer sunshine before the forecast cool, cloudy, rainy weather moved in.  As I headed for the rim of the canyon just above the Big Ass Aspen Meadow, I thought about last evening’s amazing sightings:

Just before 6:30 we had headed down the mountain a ways to sit in the meadow and celebrate sunset.  Earlier we heard elk bugles coming from the direction of Burning Tree Meadow and were hoping to catch a glimpse.

Bull elk bugle to challenge other bulls and entice cow elk to their harem.  A cow measures a bull’s attraction by the strength of his bugle.  Suddenly we got more than a glimpse when we ran head long into a beautiful herd of 8 elk.  I instantly got tunnel vision and buck fever all at the same time and gazed dumbly at the first bull I saw until Richard whispered, “The bull on the right is big but the one on the left is enormous.”  Well, I’ve seen big bulls before but this one was an AVATAR.  We were looking at THE BOSS, THE BULL OF THE WOODS, and he was staring right back at us.

(disclaimer:  not my photo)

The spread of his rack was big enough to accommodate two proverbial hammocks.  We hurriedly counted points at 6 X 6 but weren’t sure we saw them all.  It was early in the mating season, and this proud papa already boasted a harem of 6 cows and the following of an envious, hopeful satellite bull.  Quickly the boss bull swung his massive head away from us toward a tardy cow bolting out of the woods to pledge her allegiance.  He gathered the new gal into his harem and herded them up the hill into the woods.  As he trotted away, I noticed his massive flanks covered with dried black mud and knew this bull was fully engaged in the rut.

Bull elk are most enamored of their own musky odor and wear the scent proudly during rut.  This smell (or stink…for those of us not of the elk ilk.) precedes them, declaring dominance and proclaiming intention. Carefully preparing their toilet, bulls first select a spot of bare, soft dirt onto which they urinate.  Next a great show of puddle stomping and prancing around mixes the musky brew to the desired consistency and aroma.  Satisfied with the preparation, he drops into the muck, rolls around, lunges to his feet and applies the finishing touches to his face and rack. As you hike around elk country in the fall, look for these dried mud holes and take a whiff…trust me, the stink abides.

Elk facts:

An elk calf weighs 35 pounds at birth.
A full grown female or cow weighs in at around 500 pounds
A mature bull weighs 700 or more pounds, and may lose 100 pounds during rut.

ANTLERS:
A rack on a mature bull weighs as much as 40 pounds.
Only bulls have antlers/racks. They shed and grow new ones every year.
In Spring antlers are covered with soft, nourishing “velvet.”
By September, antlers are hard bone.

But that was yesterday.  This morning I was hungry for an equally exciting sighting, as I settled into a warm sunny spot overlooking the heavy growth below the steep canyon walls. With my back resting against a large Pondarosa Pine and my binoculars in my lap, I prepared to wait it out. Twenty minutes went by.  I heard chickadees, chipmunks and squirrels, and saw nothing. The sun rose higher, the right side of my face began to burn, ants made their way across my boots, and I thought seriously about giving up my position for a more comfortable one when I heard a small rock roll.

Then a twig snap. 

Then nothing. 

I waited.  Visions of a stealthy mountain lion rattled my nerves.  Deep in the foliage flickered a speck of tawny fur. I raised my binoculars for a closer look at the fur patch.  I watched until a single delicate, long leg came into view.  Deer! (Thank goodness!)  I could just make out the shape of a doe browsing her way along the canyon floor when movement about 25 yards in front of her caught my eye–tawny fur covered with white spots!  An adventurous little fawn ranged ahead of mom, stepping soundlessly over the dead-fall and  browsing young aspen sprouts. So young (for this late in the summer), so small, so vulnerable and so undeniably cute.  I was bewitched.  The fawn raised his head and in a few bounds was by his mom’s side.

(photo from Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)

I had seen enough.  The gift of a magic moment.  Not wanting to interrupt the peacefulness of the pair, on hands and knees I slowly made my way up the steep hill and back to the house to share my adventure with Richard.

***** 

LOOK WHO CAME TO VISIT

This big buck with handsome antlers is always a welcome sight. Richard shot this photo from the deck. Although it is mid-August, deer are still in the velvet but elk racks are newly polished bone.

Here a young doe and buck visit the salt lick.

DEER VISIT THE SALT LICK

Mama doe and her twins show up regularly near the house.  In early spring the twins sported spots and hid in the grass nearby while MOM browsed and licked salt.  By mid summer, the twins showed up with fewer and fewer spots and an ever braver and more adventurous attitude.  Soon they came to LOVE the salt lick.  By early October, they lose their baby attire and wear the same colors as Mom.

Earlier this spring, this two year-old spike elk (in the velvet) came for the salt.

*****

SIGNS

Driving into The Moreno Valley Labor Day, 2012, I paused to consider this sign:

TLR….TLR….???   Oh yeah…. The Lone Ranger!  The movie was filming in the Moreno Valley and I heard rumors that Johnny Depp would occupy the home next to us.  I stayed alert for a rare Jack Sparrow sighting but no luck. Richard reminded me that we never see the Lone Ranger and Tonto unless we need help, so I guess we’re doing fine.

Lots of village locals worked as extras in the movie and a popular bar and grill in Angel Fire saluted the masked man and his sidekick.

Weary of looking for Movie Stars that live the high life, I kept to my task searching for wildlife.

Bears are a common sighting in the nearby village of Angel Fire where recently a resident awoke to strange noises in the early morning hours to find a large black bear sitting on his sofa eating leftover popcorn.  But up here at 9,000 ft. we have to settle for glimpses and signs. Several times  we have caught sight of the rear end of a very large cinnamon bear and a smaller black one just down the road in Burning Tree Meadow.

Earlier this spring we found huge paw prints high on the top of the glass door that opens onto the deck.  Unnerving!

Hiking the trails we often find signs that tell us that “The Bear” likes the same routes.

These two overturned logs could only have been moved by a bruin on the search for grubs.

Just last week we stepped around this sure sign.

Don’t think this Bear paused long enough to test the new Charmin.

Later the same day we found Bobcat scat.

Elk are high on my list of sightings but, unfortunately, more often than not, I usually have to settle again for signs that tell me the handsome animals have been here and gone.

I know the elk are eating well and following the same trails as we do because their droppings are everywhere:

As we hike we often follow along in their hoof prints:

When the hunters are not about, elk often visit our salt lick.  This unfortunate fellow received an injury somewhere on his body causing his rack to take on a “wonky” shape.

Along about September, the velvet begins to dry and fall away from the hardened racks of the bull elk.  Some folks I know find the discarded velvet but I have never been that lucky.  To help the velvet shedding process along, bulls thrust their racks into bushes and small trees rubbing away the remnants of the velvet that provided the blood flow to the soft antlers. Pitiful, little defenseless conifer trees  mauled by bull elk cleaning and polishing their racks are everywhere in the forests and meadows. The tree in the photo below is a sure sign that a big bull wandered by and walked away with a shiny, polished rack.

Although elk roam everywhere in the valley, you have to be at the right place at the right time or all you will ever see are the SIGNS:

*****