Saturday, July 28, 2012

May 11 - 13 2012 RV Trip to Belle Isle State Park, Va.

My wife and I decided to take a three day weekend at one of Va's newest state parks:  Belle Isle State Park, located SE of Fredericksburg along the Rappahannock River--on the Northern Neck.

We discovered a wonderful, well designed park--30 campsites with electricity and water. Our drive-through space required no leveling--perfect. This park offers places to put your own canoe or boat in, or you can rent canoes.

If you want to watch wildlife, birds, and butterflies, plan to rest in a comfortable chair on the back side of the visitor's center. The staff there are growing plants, grasses, and flowers to support a spectacular view of the Rappahannock River!

I stirred up a number of dragon flies when I walke by this marsh

I saw a number of osprey perched high in the trees

This was quite a boon to see--a field of flowers

Pretty back lighting while on the boardwalk

I enjoyed a walk from the campground to Mulberry Creek, where there is a nice accessible boardwalk--great place to watch birds and wildlife. From there, I walked along Mud Creek Trail, a covered gravel trail. However, the highlight of the walking was along the Watch House Trail, which led me to the Rappahannock River and back to the camp store and ancient barn.

Groundhogs were quite prevalent in this park

This bunny froze as I approached it--then it hopped off into brush

I like the lines of this field

This corn looks healthy
This campground was mostly empty on Friday night--but it was overflowing Saturday night, with all of the boaters coming in. Make a reservation if you choose to come over a weekend.

I look forward to returning during birding season!

Friday, June 17, 2011

June 15 2011: Killer Deer or a case of Mistaken Identity?--on the Blue Ridge Parkway

This is my craziest outdoor experience I've ever had!

On Wednesday the 15th of June, my wife, cocker spaniel, and I arrived at the Peaks of Otter Campground, Milepost 85, on the Virginia Blue Ridge Parkway. We found a level campground site and parked our RV on Loop "T'. The campground is lush with quite a forest canopy and ferns and grasses everywhere. The deer here are quite used to people and generally don't run away when approached.

After dinner, about 8:30pm--just about sunset--I began walking my 28 lb golden red cocker spaniel (Murphy) around the RV campground. By the time we were walking along the upper loop light was gone; I spied a large, dark, stationary object ahead, on the right edge of the road by the leaves. My first reaction was that I had encountered a bear, but when I turned on my flashlight and pointed it at the object, I saw a large young female deer.

She was undeterred by the flashlight, so we slowly walked towards her, on the left side of the road. Her eyes followed us continually, until we were alongside of her. Murphy tugged at the leash to get closer, but I was wary of getting within the distance of her hooves. She didn't flinch or move.

I continued walking past her, but I kept my head turned towards her as I felt a little unsettled by this event. After she had followed us with her eyes and head for an arc of 180 degrees, I finally turned my back to her and continued walking Murphy.

Suddenly, I hear thundering hooves on the paved roadway, and the female deer rushes past us, dashing into the woods, and getting ahead of us--she then turns around and faces us! I've never experienced anything like this and am scared as to what this deer's intentions are.

I turn my flashlight onto her face and just watch her watching us, for about 30 seconds. I decide that this is not the time to continue walking this looppast here and instead take a left turn and head down a small path to the lower loop, all the while facing her and pointing my flashlight in her face.

When I get half way down the small path, the deer has not followed us any further--and I hear the voice of a fellow female camper who had observed all of this, asking me if the deer had won? I replied 'yes' and returned to my RV.

Below is the picture of my 28 lb cocker spaniel Murphy--do you think that I had encountered a killer deer, or do you think that the female deer thought that Murphy was a tiny fawn?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

March 19 2011 Supermoon Viewing

This was a perfect night to view the Supermoon--the closest the full moon was for the last 18 years! The trees near the horizon were leafless, and the temperature was mild.

My wife set me up with a spectacular viewing set-up:  a pair of Oberwerk 15 x 70 big binoculars on a Universal Astronomics tripod and parallelogram-balanced viewing assembly--which means I could view the moon for minutes at a time effortlessly instead of just for seconds hand held.

Add to this a special reclining chair meant for sky watching, and it doesn't get any better than this! Below is the setup on my deck!

From my Canon DSLR on a tripod with a 300mm lens with a 2x extender, I was able to capture this image!

Finally, while I was walking my dog and carrying a small Canon point and shoot camera, I took this handheld shot just to show that I did I see this moon in its "Great Pumpkin" mode:

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Dec 31 2010: Walk around Hidden Pond Nature Center Park

Every year right around New Year I visit a local park to check out the birds, plants, water and ice, and whatever else is evident.

This year I chose Hidden Pond Nature Center, a park less than two miles away--part of the Fairfax County (Va.) park system.

Today, the temperature was in the low 50's--quite balmy for the end of December. I started at the Nature Center and then wandered around the various trails, finishing at the caretaker's home.

This white breasted nuthatch was moving quickly along a tree along the perimeter of the pond--I was fortunate to catch this view of it!

Two items of note:  I experimented with a Canon Power Shot SD 4000 IS Digital Elyph camera for the first time--Steve Ingraham recommends it for use with Zeiss spotting scopes; I thought I'd give it a try in a conventional manner. Second, I wore a pair of NEOS overshoes through the muddy trails--these were a Christmas present from my wife. These are awesome! Excellent tread; they fit over my regular shoes--and are waterproof, as high as below my knee. There'll be a picture below.

This white breasted nuthatch was moving quickly along a tree along the perimeter of the pond--I was fortunate to catch this view of it!

This tufted titmouse was the next bird I saw.

The pond was slightly frozen and snow covered.

I found several patterns that caught my attention:

When I walked the trails and stream below the pond, I came across ice:


A nice ice block:

Finally, a faux ice floe:

A spillway below the pond provided me with some nice images:

I particularly like the pattern just upstream of the drop:

There were interesting dead wood and reflections in the pond:

The next one makes me think about a small petrified dinosaur:

I found some dried leaves that caught my attention:

It was so warm that even a small bee came out to some grasses that were in the sunlight:

 My Powershot SD 4000 camera has an interesting feature:  built-in means to create fish-eye lens effect.

I first tried it on the pond:

Then I tried it on a large picnic table--before:

and after:

The neat NEOS Overshoes, acquired through Arthus Morris' on-line store--great for getting around in marshes, muddy trails, and fording small streams--a great Christmas present from my wife! Note the velcro flap enclosures running the length of the overshoe!

  I visited the caretaker's cottage--and I saw that someone had a sense of humor:  I saw a half dozen pair of boot and sneakers thrown over tree limbs in the back yard--this is one of six!

Finally, here is what the sky looked like when I started into the park--a glorious day!

Friday, November 26, 2010

November 21 2010 Appalachian Trail, Greenbrier State Park to Annapolis and Black Rocks, Md.

My sister and are re-starting out hiking adventures again--the last one was on the A-Trail in Md. from Washington Monument State Park to Greenbrier State Park and return.

So we drove to Greenbrier State Park just outside of Boonsboro, Md., off of US Rt 40, the old National Pike. It was a nice day for November:  low 50's at the height of the day with winds along the ridge and little wind down below. Link to description of the features of the Greenbrier State Park

The Visitor Center had just opened, and we were able to talk to the ranger there about the trails and pick up a map. We started the trip hiking up the steep Bartram Hill Trail connector to the A-Trail. The Bartram is well blazed but completely filled with leaves, which hid the trail.

From this sign, we could see that we were somewhere close to the middle of the A-Trail. 40 miles of it runs through Md.

My sister Amy

We had two destinations as we headed north:  a local attraction called the Annapolis Rock and then a little further, Black Rock. The total round trip distance for our hiking was 9.25 miles--quite a nice hike!

View of covered path over I-70
 The general area we were hiking on was generally called South Mountain.

The National Road crossed over I-70 and also provided an alternate trail head to begin the hike:

The trail is wide and well maintained. We encountered several Boy Scout groups and a number of families. A number of happy dogs were also out and about. The most interesting one was a young pit bull, who carried an 8' log in her mouth as she went up the trail. At her owner's request, she willingly dropped it as she approached us.

When we got to Annapolis Rock, several people were setting up their ropes to repel down.

Nice view of the rock out croppings
While this location provided a view of both Greenbrier State Park (and its lake) plus the Cumberland Valley to the west, the skies were hazy:

A mile beyond Annapolis Rock to the north, we came to Black Rock. This was a great place to have our lunch.

After lunch, we hiked back to our car without a break, traveling just over 4.5 miles in two hours. Going south was mostly downhill, so it was easier.

Next spring we are thinking about hiking from Gathland State Park just to the south to Weverton Cliffs, a setting just prior to descending down to Harper's Ferry, WV.