Friday, August 29, 2008

Top of the World

We're engaged!

Here's the story:

We have been in Yellowstone (we being Justin, myself, and my parents) for the past 6 days. On Wednesday, we hiked up Mount Washburn, a high peak in the middle of park. It is a three mile uphill hike one way, so we planned on hoofing it, with Mom and Dad going at their own pace and returning to the van once they got tired. We lost Dad pretty soon, not because he turned back, but because he found lots of photo opportunities. Mom, however, was determined to keep pace with us, and after much huffing and puffing, the three of us made it to the top.

There is a fire tower at the top of Mt. Washburn, and the public can access two levels of it, one enclosed, and one an open deck. We investigated the tower, and then returned outside to soak in the scenery. Then, shock of all shocks, Dad appears! We assumed that he'd turned back long ago to snooze while we huffed.

Justin connived to get me away from Mom & Dad by saying that he wanted to take pictures from the second deck of the fire tower. From the open deck, we were looking out over all of Yellowstone on a fine clear day, and it seemed like we were on top of the world. He opened up his camera bag, but he pulled out a little velvet box instead of a camera ... and I said yes! Perfect man, perfect place :)

Pretty soon after, we went down to tell Mom & Dad, and Dad took the picture I posted above.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Today, I am away from my own computer and personal warehouse of digital photos, so I'm just gonna have to owe you a Super Park picture or two :)

Fortunately, we'll be leaving for Yellowstone tomorrow, so hopefully I'll be able to capture a really really super picture to share!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Are You Feeling Disgruntled?

These guys are :)

These shots were taken back in March, at Mom's birdfeeding stations. As this is a busy week, I thought I would catch up on some photos I've been meaning to post, but just have never gotten around to. These aren't the best quality pictures, but the birds are cute even if they are ticked off about something :)

I doubt they really are angry, but they may be alarmed or suspicious of the shadow that keeps moving behind the window nearby (me with my camera).

Sunday, August 17, 2008

SPS: Yellowstone Warm-Up

We'll be heading out West next weekend, to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. I am posting a picture from Yellowstone to get warmed up this weekend. Here's the last one out of a set of black and white photos I took almost three years ago now.

This is the general landscape outside of Gardiner, MT, the northern entrance to the park. I'm also posting the picture in color, because I'm not sure anymore which one I like best!

The twist with this upcoming vacation is that my parents are going to be along for the ride. They have not been out West, so it's going to be an all-around adventure. I am sure you'll see quite a few interesting blog posts from my Dad and me in early September!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Calendar Girl

Please forgive me for tooting my own horn, but I received some happy photo-related news recently, and wanted to share. I posted the snowy flowers below on my blog April of last year. In May of this year, I entered it in a contest. The contest was held to choose twelve shots for the 2009 calender for Glen Helen, a beautiful nature preserve in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

The picture was taken in Glen Helen in 2007, on the day before Easter, in early April. Snow flurries had been blowing through all day, coating the ground but not sticking for long. The powers-that-be chose this shot to represent the month of March, and I am thrilled.

If any of you are familiar with Glen Helen, you are already aware of what a special place it is. Glen Helen is not municipally-owned and receives no public funding. The preserve is part of the Glen Helen Ecology Institute, which, in turn, is a part of nearby Antioch College. The preserve relies heavily on volunteers, donations, and fundraisers, including the sale of calendars, for its continued operations. Basically, they do a lot with just a little! If you are ever in that neck of the woods, be sure to stop by and visit, it is well worth it.

If you'd like to know more about the glen, here is the website.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Full Pony Experience

Our first day out on Assateague, I had a close encounter with a pony in the parking lot. I was getting into the car to pull out my camera because I had seen a group of ponies on the other side of the lot. By the time I made it to the car, the ponies had made their way across the lot and one passed between my barely open car door and the car next to me. He never batted an eye!

Another day, we found traffic brought to a standstill by a pony clopping down the road at a very leisurely pace. A pony jam!

From the campground, we could see ponies grazing in the marshes on the bay side of the island at sunrise.

Now this pony, I felt sure was a pregnant female, because the horse had big, distended, lopsided belly. The pony was communicating deeply with the van, or else it was sleeping, because it held this position for quite a while. Later, we had very obvious confirmation that it was a male horse, so not pregnant! When we were packing up to leave the beach on our last day, we had to hurry, because this horse was slowly working his way down the parking lot, stopping and snoozing in front of each car. We wanted to get in and get going before he got to ours :)

As great as all these daylight run-ins with ponies were, I have no pictures of our hands-down coolest pony experience. We were woken up, in the tent, one night by the most curious set of sounds: chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp, THUMP!, chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp, THUMP!

In fact, I wear earplugs when I camp, so I was really just catching the THUMP part, by feeling the impact through the ground. I pulled my earplugs out to hear Justin say very softly, "I think there's a pony out there!" Sure enough, we could just barely make out the shadowy outline of a pony right in our campsite. The horse was browsing, hence the chomping, and stomping the ground about every fourth chomp, probably to dislodge attacking bugs, hence the thumping.

The pony worked its way around the campsite, eventually mowing the grass right in front of our tent. It came within 2 feet of the tent door, easily. I was slightly worried that it wouldn't see my flip-flops, which I'd left right outside the tent door, and munch those, too!

Later the pony worked its way further away, and also pushed its way through several large clumps of brush that separated the camp sites. I was also slightly worried that he'd work his way back through the clump of brush at the rear of our tent and stumble right into us in the dark. But no such luck, and pretty soon our night was pony-free, leaving us with awesome memories :)

Saturday, August 09, 2008

SPS: Bombay Hook

A lot of times, things aren't black and white, but sometimes they are! Here's a great egret and a glossy ibis, showing that opposites might not attract, but at least they don't mind each other.

And here's a group of avocets, a wading bird with striking coloration - black, white, olive, and a wash of rusty red.

All these birds were in Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware. I've seen this refuge mentioned a couple of times in bird books and in articles on great places to see migratory birds, so of course I've been itching to get there. We thought we'd swing in and just see what types of activities they had, hiking or scenic drives or whatnot, because it isn't really a time for migratory birds to be on hand. But we were pleased to find all sorts of waterfowl in residence, including many great and snowy egrets, and a large flock of avocets.

I thought Bombay Hook sounded terribly exotic, but the name apparently originates from what the original Dutch and German settlers called the stretch of land: Boompies Hoeck, which means "tree thicket."

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Beach & Bay Crabs

Ghost crabs were pretty common on the beach. Here's a big one:

The crabs emerge from holes in the sand, scuttle sideways very quickly, and then return to their holes in the blink of an eye. Because they're basically sand-colored, we thought we were seeing things at first!

We found some crab "dens" where their scuttling tracks were quite evident. One day on the beach, I had a good time with three or four ghost crabs, watching the very tips of the eyes emerge from a hidey-hole, then seeing the crab make a run for it. I'm not sure what they were after, although I did see one latch on to a piece of seaweed and run back into its lair.

On the bay side, we saw fiddler crabs. On the Chincoteague end of Assateague, the Park Service had built a wooden boardwalk out through the salt marshes. The ground was crawling with these little crabs. Fiddler crabs are identified easily by their lopsided claws ... probably the origin of their name, too.

Monday, August 04, 2008

SPS: Pony Time

This weekend, we went camping on Assateague Island, which lays across the Maryland/Virginia border. We were on the part owned by the National Park Service, in Maryland. Assateague is a typical barrier island with a twist: a herd of wild horses, affectionately known as ponies, roams the island freely, including the beach!

Of course, seagulls, like this laughing gull, make the beach their home, too.

The beach was not crowded any of the days we were there, so it was much easier to see some of the beach's natural denizens.