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Outer Banks Guide > Outer Banks Blogs > Eve Turek's Natural Outer Banks Blog

Tuesday, December 12, 2023
Tidings of Comfort and Joy
December. The year winds down, the daylight dims, and many of us find ourselves longing for more light on dreary, overcast, cold days. That is the good news of the winter solstice. And this year, it really is darkest before the minutes of daylight methodically and slowly begin to increase again, since we have a new moon in the middle of the month. But perhaps as a foreshadowing of the light to come, or a hearkening back to stories of the Christmas Star, this year’s Geminid meteor shower coincides with those darkest skies and also promises to be one of the best in many years, assuming clear skies. I am hoping to spend some time under a clearing night sky during the peak. There is something about “shooting stars” and “new moon wishes” and the hopes and dreams and longings of a new year coming. Many faith traditions celebrate this month, and for me, as a Christian, December holds the reminder of the greatest gift of all, as the Light of the World enters humanity, divinely disguised as a baby boy.

To remind myself of all that is still good and right and peaceful and joyful in our world, and in my own daily life, I – as you know – often go outside. In between the travels I shared with you from earlier in the fall, I have walked our own beautiful beaches, usually at dawn, or spent mornings or sometimes late afternoons over at Alligator River refuge. We had one of the lovliest autumns I can remember there. The unkempt, wild filter strips in between the farm fields, or the edges of the woods, have been awash in color for weeks. Even this past week, I still saw isolated bushes that held tightly to the last brilliant leaf. Soon even they will succumb to the waning of the light and the coming of the frost and the land, with a deep sigh, will rest.

Black bears that have been feasting on corn have lately been, well, tipsy. By this time of year, the corn that remains after harvest, isolated ears or kernels, has fermented. One evening recently I saw three bears that were definitely over-full on over-ripe corn. One laid in a field, scarcely moving except to throw up a foot or a front paw; the other two sat, swaying, with what we would call a silly grin had they been humans and not bears, and seemingly waving at the passers-by, clearly in their own little worlds. A mother bear and her two still small cubs made an afternoon’s work of stripping a tree on Sawyer Lake Road of its remaining berries, and just this week, I saw a bear grazing on what grass remained at the fields’ edge, getting as much food intake as possible before entering the torpor state they will stay in for most of the winter, though we may occasionally see a wandering bear on an unseasonably warm winter day.

Swan have arrived in the region, and the snow geese will not be too far behind. The harriers are back hunting in the fields after being absent most all summer. Otters are playing and feasting in the canals. And I still occasionally spot red wolves trotting through a field.

Seaside, the sunrise a few mornings ago was over the top. Dolphin seemed to agree and I was able to see and photograph one in the act of jumping a wave—with a fish in its mouth! That was a first!! The wave spray produced by its jump formed a heart. As you will see, that was not the only heart I received that morning.

What does this month mean to you? How do you approach “the holidays?” What are your hopes and dreams for a new year coming? What might nature show you, if you took a few minutes every day, and really noticed the pattern of the clouds, or the changing birdsong throughout the seasons, or even the actions of neighborhood creatures like squirrels or deer, preparing themselves in their own ways, as the bears are doing, for another winter season. How can you find rest, and how can you find joy? These are the kinds of questions I am asking myself as 2023 comes to a close. So I hope you don’t mind if I am asking you, too. Meanwhile, I hope these gifts, in the guise of glimpses from home bring you “tidings of comfort and joy.”

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This buck was waiting for me at dusk on Thanksgiving, after dinner with dear friends. Pete always found deer when we traveled...so this was like a heaven hug.

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Black bear with his prize!

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Dove, one of the fillies born last spring, is getting big -- but not too big to still nuzzle her mom.

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Here is one of the cubs up the tree, hunting berries.

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This bear is VERY tipsy!

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Eventually, this morning offered a "sun pillar sunrise" -- not the splayed out rays, but a bright pillar straight up. And the pink cloud above formed a heart!

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Here is that jumping dolphin. See the heart in the spray by its mouth? See the fish?

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Pelicans were out enjoying the morning, too.

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After completing errands late one afternoon this week, I walked out on Jennette's Pier and found two male Eider ducks.

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Usually when I see otters in the canal, the brown water is not very picturesque. But this morning the canal reflected the blue sky above! Beautiful!

posted by eturek at 12:36 AM

Comments [2]

Monday, November 20, 2023
Where in the World has Eve been?!?
Where have I been?

Gee, I am oh-so-glad you asked!

There is a reason I have not blogged here since (yikes) July. I have been doing quite a bit of traveling, and honestly wondered whether those images and stories would be of interest to a readership that comes to OBC for OBX news and pictures, not so much for other places, as wondrous as those places and adventures might be. So I have shared some photos and travelogue snippets over on Facebook, but obviously not here. For those who don’t follow me on FB, here is a condensed version of my last few months.

In mid-summer I learned I had won a private workshop slot with Jared Lloyd, a wildlife photographer who grew up here and whom I have known for more than 15 years. Out of all of his e-magazine subscribers (and he has thousands of those now), his random email prize-selection software picked my address to receive a 4-day workshop, all expenses paid, photographing brown bears during the salmon run in Alaska in September! I flew into Anchorage, he and his partner met me there and off we went to a VRBO house in Soldotna via one of the most picturesque drives I have ever taken, on the Kenai peninsula, and from there, we boarded a float plane every day and headed deep into the remote areas of Lake Clark National Park. And once there, it was, to quote Jared, all bears all the time!

Unlike interior grizzlies, these bears are not overly territorial. Food during the salmon run is so plentiful that the bears don’t waste energy chasing other bears—or humans—from their fishing spots in the rivers and lakes. Once we disembarked from the float plane, we got into small aluminum boats and motored around looking for feeding bears – which were easy to find. Three favorite images from that trip are below and trust me, I could have filled several blog’s worth with just this part of Alaska!

I flew home, was here about four days, and then was off again, this time on a year-long-planned western road trip with a fellow photographer from VA who is also, like me, traveling solo. While each of us has traveled by ourselves and will do so in the future, we both agree now that we are older gals, there is ease and security in traveling together. So we took off on the road to visit the Grand Canyon (Pete’s favorite of all our western trips), Bryce, Zion (my long favorite among all the canyons), and Antelope Canyon (where I had never been). We stayed one night in Tucumcari on historic Route 66 which was not as colorful as usual, having had a hailstorm that damaged much of the neon signage that gave the town its nostalgic charm. But all the canyons were spectacular, each one different but equally astounding. We stayed for my first time actually in the three parks, with cabins at Grand Canyon’s north rim and near the lodges at both Bryce (a short walk to the rim there) and Zion. That gave us ready access to the edges of the day and the best light of the trip, and I returned home with memory cards and my heart full of western landscapes. You will see highlights of that below, too.

I got back just in time to be able to photograph the 6-month old Red Wolf pups alongside the subadults born 18 months ago, several of whom have stepped into a mentoring role for the pups after the breeding male, the father, was killed by a vehicle out on 64, where the wolf had gone to feed on a bear carcass that had in turn been hit and killed but not removed from the roadside in a timely fashion. All the elation of a wondrous month’s worth of travel evaporated with the gut-punch shock of the news of the breeding male’s death (and the further news of deliberate poaching of wolves out in Pungo) and worries over the remaining wolves’ survival and viability of re-establishing a healthy wild population. I am busy working on essays and photographs for a book on Alligator River which Outer Banks Press will publish in 2024, with a target launch date of next summer, so I continue to go to the Refuge a couple times each week.

Now I feel a little breathless, taking you on a whirlwind tour of my last few months. There is more travel coming, so if you don’t mind leaving me a comment below as to whether you want me to keep sharing my adventures off the Outer Banks, or you prefer OBX only content, that would help me tremendously knowing how to blog here going forward. Meanwhile, I will get to work on a blog from the past few weeks of being back home and that will catch you up completely. And as always, thank you again for your interest and support.

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This was our view after we landed in the float plane! That is the Mount Redoubt volcano.

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The Brown Bears were intent on one thing: spawning salmon.

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After diving or snorkeling, the bears would frequently shake off. Pete's daughter Faith named this one: "Bo Bearek"!

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What makes this image incredible is that I journaled the night before about this exact phenomenon, sun shafts at Grand Canyon at dawn -- and here it was!

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Opposite end of the day: sunset glow at Grand Canyon North Rim.

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With a little assistance and a slow deliberate pace, I hiked down to the bottom of Bryce Canyon (and back up) via the switchbacks of Navajo Trail.

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A rainy dawn in Zion brought with it the gift I hoped for: a full rainbow over The Towers of the Virgin.

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While I didn't see the famous shafts of light (wrong time of year), the Secret Antelope Canyon Tour gave wonderful views in one of the slot canyons.

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The Antelope Canyon tour concluded with a ride out to a private overlook of Horseshoe Bend.

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Back home in time to witness this tender moment, well back in the harvested fields, between a young Red Wolf pup and a full-grown subadult born in spring, 2022.

posted by eturek at 12:23 PM

Comments [9]

Friday, July 14, 2023
Springing into summertime
While I have been posting some on social media (aka FB), I obviously have not written a longer blog since earlier in the spring! I have a really good nature-based reason for that. Spring 2023 was one of the wettest in years, best I can remember. And this wasn’t the dramatic and picturesque rain we see in summer with mounting cumulus clouds that turn dark as a quick thundersquall races through in late afternoon, leaving a rainbow as a calling card. No, think medium to white-gray skies with very little cloud definition, and drizzles to downpours making the entire landscape look bedraggled. We had so much rain, and overcast skies, that even before the wildfires up north began sending smoke far southward, we had hardly any colorful sunrises and sunsets. Sea oats, which thrive in drought, are extremely late to bloom this year. In past years, I photograph their emergence typically in late June; occasionally I have had to wait until the 4th of July to make my annual seascape with new sea oats image. Not this year. I have been checking every few days and they were only just beginning to show some seed heads and green color a couple days ago in Nags Head. But I can at last also report a weather change as of last week. We have had hot dry days, with an occasional thunderstorm, and I saw the prettiest sunset up in Duck since last winter over last weekend.

I did make three excursions up to Carova before the beach got very crowded, none of which combined best light with best tide with best winds, but I did manage to observe one of this year’s foals, Drake, when he was just a week old, and cavorting all around the beach like a baby goat while his mother Amelia, his sire Cowboy and the other mares in the family harem circled around him with constant vigilance. He was a treat to watch! One early morning, Dan Waters rode north with me and while we did not see horses at first light by the water, we did watch a pale sun rise dimly through the smoky haze while Sanderlings foraged at the water’s edge.

I drove down to Buxton in May for a sea turtle release at the old lighthouse site. The Green Sea Turtles had been cold-stunned over the winter, and the one Loggerhead had been injured. The work that the STAR sea turtle recovery hospital does in Manteo is truly amazing. If you are visiting the area, I highly recommend a visit there – just don’t do what the rest of the vacationing world does and pick the rainy day! The Aquarium gets so crowded on those days, that staff has to limit entry.

In June, I dropped off new work to Down Creek Gallery and for the first time ever, was able to enter the base of Ocracoke Lighthouse and point my lens up the stairwell. The lighthouse has been closed even to public view of the inside but is open some this summer for looking up the stairwell at random hours, depending on availability of NPS personnel and volunteers.

Meanwhile, rain or shine, I have still been spending a lot of time in my go-to sanctuary spot, Alligator River Refuge. While I have seen one of the critically endangered Red Wolves on occasion, sightings have been much less since the parents denned again and had a new litter on April 11, and since the cornfields have grown so high on Long Curve. I had a few brief life-list moments the other morning shortly after sunrise when a Red Wolf and a young black bear shared the field edge for a few minutes. Even more than before, every glimpse is a thrill and a gift.

While out looking for Red Wolves, I can’t help but notice the bears. As the black bears begin to emerge into view in spring, we start to see the big male boar bears first. They are on the hunt for eligible females and the mating behavior can be hilarious to watch. Some females are ready and willing while others show little or definitely no interest. Yearling bears who have spent all their lives at their mother’s side suddenly find themselves thrust out into the world on their own, so their mothers can mate again, and the yearlings are often spooky, startling at every passing car and keeping watch for larger, aggressive, territorial males. With friends who were here from Virginia, I watched a wounded, huge male bear chase a young, small bear along a berm even though that youngster was clearly no threat to him. That younger bear had earlier left the berm and gone into the brush and out of sight – until he gave his position away by standing up to see where the larger bear was. That was the moment the bigger bear began to give chase. The two charged through the brush until they reappeared atop the berm. Once the younger got some distance away, the larger male quit chasing him and turned around to go into the fields and forage. Judging from how beat up some of the older males look, and the fresh wounds some show, the fights between males for dominance can be brutal, and I am glad to report I have not witnessed those. I am not naïve; I know it happens, but I don’t have to watch it.

I would much rather watch and photograph the gentler and tender side of nature. So I am looking for the bigger bears soaking in the canals for some relief from the heat. Add in a sleepy-eyed bear napping and the “awwww” factor goes way up. And for maximum “awww” I watch for mother bears bringing itty-bitty cubs out into the fields or leading them safely back into the woods. Bear cubs are curious and will often stand up to get a better look at their surroundings. They are already adept swimmers and will follow their mother into and through the canals to reach the fields, and cross again back to the sanctuary and safety of the woods. A mother will send her babies high up into the trees if she goes to forage alone, since the big males will attack and kill cubs so the female will come into breeding season earlier. There is a reason “mama bear” is a shorthand phrase for a fiercely protective mother.

With that said, the refuge roads are (as is typical) more crowded this time of year with visitors who hope to see a bear in the wild. I always, always, always need to remind myself that the choice to bring your family into the outdoors for an adventure is a good one. I see how the effects of time outdoors have influenced my own now grown grandboys and the men they have become. But folks who come here to visit don’t always realize that the bear they are hanging out their car window to photograph with their cell phone (or are climbing out to photograph with a cell phone at close range) has babies nearby. Absolutely, enjoy and observe! Drink in the experience, yes. But be cautious, smart, and above all, respectful. If you give wildlife some space, you will see more and learn more. You will have the chance, as I have had, to watch wonderful and precious wildlife interactions not on your large screen smart TV, but with your own eyes in the wild. The keyword here is “smart” – and patience. Don’t cut a mother bear off from her cubs, or prevent a mother and cubs from crossing the roadway and getting where she needs them to go. Back up, be still, don’t rush, and the rewards are immense. And you will also know you have not stressed the animals or put them (or yourself) in any danger as you observe. Are animals aware of your presence? Of course! That is how generations of animals have survived, through awareness. But there is a difference between being aware of and totally unconcerned about someone’s presence and being stressed by that presence. I have watched animals show sudden signs of stress or agitation merely when a vehicle approaches too fast – or the occupants clearly are loud or agitated or even angry themselves. I have also observed animals who are completely calm and relaxed, continuing their natural behavior even as I photograph them with my long telephoto lens. That is why I always try to go out with my very best thoughts possible. I KNOW from long experience how sensitive animals and birds are, and I am trying for the remainder of my earthly life to learn from them, and to match my sensitivity to theirs. One final word: NEVER, and I mean never, try to feed a bear (or a wolf, either, for that matter) or to make a selfie or a photo with you or a family member and a bear close in the background! (This should all go without saying, but yup, I am going to say it.) Some of the bears have gotten so bold around cars that those of us who photograph and are out in the Refuge a lot, as well as some of the FWS personnel or volunteers I have talked to are concerned that folks may have fed them, or carelessly left trash behind. There is no good outcome for such behavior—for the animals or for humans. Don’t even think about it. Okay, soapbox speech over (for now).

The other day, I set myself a task of spending an entire day, dawn to dusk, in the Refuge. I packed in water and trail mix snacks. I blessed the porta-potty at the end of Buffalo City Road and the folks who clean it. I did not have over-the-top wildlife sightings until late in the day when I did watch a mother bear bring three itty-bitty baby bears across the road and into the woods. As I drove out of the refuge, a barred owl flew ahead of me down the last stretch of Milltail before veering west shortly before the parking area at the entrance. I paused at the canal to catch the last light of the day in what turned out to also become my “heart of the day” photograph. In that moment, I was reminded all over again why I do what I do. Why I get up way before 0’dark:thirty. Why I spend long hours in the field, every chance I get. It’s the love. It’s the chance to immerse in all the gifts nature offers, to renew my own spirit and to recommit on a regular basis to bring my best self, my best love, to all I do and say and even think. I hope you enjoy some of these gifts of love below.

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This is as bright as sunrise became in Carova when the Canada wildfires caused smokey hazy skies over the Outer Banks.

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Frisky new foal Drake practices prancing for the ladies. His mother, Amelia, and the other two mares watch closely.

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Peering up the Ocracoke Light Stairwell.

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I'm used to waiting out an elusive, longed-for wildlife sighting. But waiting out a sunset? Finally, a pretty one!

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I not only waited...I specifically asked for these two to share the field's edge, and share with me. So, so grateful.

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This bear could barely (bearly??) keep its eyes open. So sleepy!

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While I have seen bears stand up in fields or on the roadside before, this is the first time I have seen a bear stand up in a tree for a better view.

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Big bear gives chase! These bears were galloping!

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Here is a mother bear with one of her three cubs of the year.

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Sundown, leaving the refuge. See the heart reflecting the sky above?

posted by eturek at 3:34 PM

Comments [1]

Tuesday, April 4, 2023
Spring Wishes Granted
Since my last blog, the calendar declared it was spring, and in a sudden rush, when our temperatures fluctuated between the high 30s and high 80s (and just a few days ago they did this all over again, 35 in the morning and high 70s by afternoon), spring decided to comply.

Here is the opening stanza from one of my favorite e.e. cummings’ poems, originally published in 1950:

when faces called flowers float out of the ground
and breathing is wishing and wishing is having-
but keeping is downward and doubting and never
-it’s april(yes,april;my darling)it’s spring!

Sanctuary spaces to me are precious. Over the years, my sanctuary spots have included particular stretches of beach in Kitty Hawk and on Pea Island, and the northern section of Jockey’s Ridge, a tracker’s paradise.

Since last summer, my go-to sanctuary spot has become Alligator River. While I watched spring’s exuberant entry in my own yard and neighborhood, I have really noticed spring’s markers while riding the refuge roads, and breathing out gently my own wishes. Cummings’ poem goes on to offer life advice, especially in this season of spring, telling us that wishing is having and having is giving and giving is living…but keeping (which I interpret to mean keeping to oneself, refusing to share), is in his words downward, doubting, never, doting, nothing, nonsense, darkness, winter and cringing. Yikes.

Here is my paradox. I love to recharge outside, in sanctuary spaces. I also long for others to experience for themselves the same sorts of renewal and comfort and peace and yes, even joy, I experience in my best moments of connection—connection to all that is beautiful in our natural world, and connection to the God Who – I believe – is the ultimate Creator and Artist and Source and Sustainer of all that beauty and goodness. This dual longing, to receive but also to share creates the obvious conundrum, in which the very places which are quiet sanctuaries for me become more crowded as others seek (and hopefully find) the solace I crave myself.

For my part, I try to remember as I watch more visitors discover the quieter places I love that the best chances these places have of preservation is for people to know and appreciate and love them, as I do. My heart sings when I see a family who have chosen to come out in hopes of seeing a bear, for instance, rather than staying inside and just watching something on a small (in comparison) screen. That’s my education in Environmental Education coming to the forefront, too, I realize.

So what have I noticed recently, in my meandering and wishing?

Well, thistle has, in cummings’ words, seemingly “floated out of the ground” just within the past couple of days. In fact, I saw only one thistle plant with a fully opened flower, and several swallowtails (there were dozens flying about everywhere) had discovered this one flower and were vying for a spot atop it.

I’ve seen yearling bears, bears older than yearlings but not yet their ultimate full size, and the biggest male bear I think I have ever seen at the refuge, all in the span of the last week. No cubs yet.

I continue to sometimes see either a coyote (no collar) or our own critically endangered Red Wolves (unmistakable orange collar), most often fairly far back in the fields, and as I say to anyone blessed enough to watch them for a few minutes, every sighting is a gift—considering I have lived here 47 years this spring, and am only now seeing them myself.

A frisky full grown female deer ran through a field, out to the edge and up the fields, turned around and ran back in my direction and then back into the field she started from yesterday morning, giving me my best running deer image ever. (Yes, I told her she was beautiful; yes, I thanked her.) A couple nights ago the father of the Red Wolf litter born last spring trotted across a field with another wolf right at sunset, and a few mornings back, a coyote and bear grazed in a field together. I saw my first Barred Owl of the year last week, and am looking forward to watching new owlets once they hatch, fledge and come into the open later this season.

I always go into the refuge wishing for some connecting experience. Sometimes I see iridescence shimmering in the sky above. Going at dawn and dusk often means spectacular color in the sky sometimes mirrored below. Almost always I see Great Blue Herons, intent on their foraging at a canal edge, and Northern Harriers, such acrobatic flyers, maneuvering low over the fields, and Red Tail Hawks silently watching over the landscape from their high perches. After years of never seeing a Kestrel, I have watched a couple this winter-into-spring, and just a few days ago, added a new bird to my life list, a Common Yellowthroat, which my friend and fellow photographer Joyce Edwards identified for me. Another local photographer, Mark Buckler, pointed out a Bittern to me the other evening that I surely would have missed; while I have seen one at Pea Island and Bodie Island, I have never seen one here. Yesterday I paused at a tiny spot where one of the roadside canals widened a wee bit, recognizing this was exactly the sort of place my younger childhood self would have sat for hours, watching dragonflies and butterflies and hoping for a turtle or a frog. I guess I have always been who I really am—I just did not always recognize myself in my younger years.

What are you breathing and wishing for this spring? Here are some of my wishes granted below, from the "inner banks."

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Sometimes the first gift is in the landscape. We had temps in the 30s a few days ago at dawn.

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This bear has a heart on her nose!

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And THIS bear, a huge male, is the largest bear I think I have ever seen out here. Who says you can't thrive on a plant-based diet?

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I would have missed this Bittern if not for Mark Buckler pointing it out.

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These you can't miss! I love them, though they have a bad rep. To me they speak of releasing what we no longer need, and cleaning up our messes.

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The season's first swallowtails, on the season's first thistle.

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A frisky doe runs alongside the canal.

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A coyote and bear share a field in early morning.

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The father wolf and one of his pack at sunset.

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Recent rains created a pathway of light on Long Curve Road at sunset.

posted by eturek at 3:06 PM

Comments [3]

Tuesday, January 17, 2023
Western Travelogue Part 3 - Monument Valley and Homeward Bound
After the Tetons’ rocky mountain grandeur and Moab’s arches and red rocks, I headed to Monument Valley, a spot Pete and I had intended to visit in our October, 2011 trip, but the weather on our designated day was not favorable.

On the way, I stopped to recreate that long look down into the monoliths that Forrest Gump made so famous. In fact the pull-off for the obligatory souvenir-style photograph is named after him! I also found time to drive through the Valley of the Gods and to stop at Goosenecks State Park and view the twists and turns of the San Juan River before entering the Navajo Nation and heading for lunch and my hotel. That stop also offered me a panoramic view of rock formations that reminded me of the patterns seen on many Native-woven blankets and baskets. I found it easy to understand how the natural beauty inspired their artistry.

I ate lunch at Gouldings Restaurant; the property includes props from several John Ford/John Wayne movies, including a stagecoach, a western buckboard wagon, and the cabin John Wayne stayed in -- but not while filming Stagecoach, as I originally and incorrectly wrote! The cabin was actually built for the movie, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and was the headquarters for his character, Capt. Brittles, in that movie. It's a good thing I have friends who know their classic westerns better than I do! I know Pete would have loved seeing those as well as so many of the locations featured in his favorite classic western movies. A museum telling the history of how Hollywood came to Monument Valley has been closed to the public since the onset of Covid, and I was sorry not to be able to tour it while there.

My hotel room balcony overlooked The Mittens, among the best known of the valley’s monoliths, and I watched one sunrise and moonrise from the balcony. At the first sunset, I darted back and forth – first to a balcony and stairwell across from my room to watch the sun go down behind rock formations on that side of the hotel, and then back to my own balcony to watch the afterglow light up the Mittens.

When Pete and I went west, I found myself seeking compositions that included the many gnarled and twisted trees that find a way to grow in what seems too arid a landscape. For this leg of the trip, I noticed especially the blooming plants made even more vibrant in early morning light.

I shared earlier on Facebook how hiring a Navajo guide gave me the chance to photograph sunrise in an area inaccessible to the general public. After the sun came up, we drove to several more locations before he brought me back to the hotel. Later that afternoon, I explored the 17-mile loop road that is open to the general public. Every angle seemed to provide a different but equally spectacular view. The mounting cumulus clouds I photographed in Wyoming and Utah followed me to Arizona, and my guide here repeated what I had heard earlier in my trip, how unusual the cloud formations were, and how lucky I was to see not only them, but the Rabbitbrush in full bloom. I just smiled.

Riding with the guide, I asked him questions about more of the landscape features, plants and birds I had seen. All of a sudden, something small and winged whizzed right past our windshield. I could have sworn it was a dragonfly! That was the last thing I expected to see in what I think of as a desert landscape. My guide said the small stand of shrubs and one tree we had just passed was growing next to a fresh water spring. Perhaps the dragonfly had come from there. That afternoon, at one of the pull-off spots along the loop road, I was concentrating on photographing some of the interesting plants at my feet when I saw another dragonfly. Please wait; please don’t go, I said! I was able to make a quick photo before it flew around me and I turned to keep it in sight but once I made a complete circle, I never saw it again. I might doubt the whole encounter if not for the photograph. Regular readers know from all I have shared in the past 18 months how special dragonflies have become for me. Its brief appearance, in a desert no less, was one more heaven-hug and prompted a surge of both joy and comfort. Over and over in so many ways on the trip, I received assurances that I don’t travel alone, that even my seeming seasons of desert hold oases – if I will just keep my eyes and heart open.

By the time I came home through the NC mountains, the trees were beginning to turn, signaling another season’s passage. I lost another dear friend and also had to put my Sheltie down within days of getting home. I was glad I had the trip to help fill up a heart made weary this past year with the sheer effort living through grief can be.

That has been my quest this year: to live through grief, with grief. To figure out the daily steps that can bring me joy, and peace, even while still grieving. Since love never ends, tears still flow at odd (or expected) moments. But this world, though emptier in one way, still offers so much beauty, so much to be grateful for, so many moments to cherish. That very emptiness offers a portal into fullness I can only sometimes glimpse here. But, oh, how I treasure the glimpses! That is why I’ve purposed in my own heart to continue to live, to walk in this world, and to seek all the beauty I can, for ever as long as I can—and to share as much as I can.

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Goosenecks State Park. The San Juan River makes numerous bends below and the park provides a wonderful overlook.

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Another stop on the way to Monument Valley, Valley of the Gods offered great views and hardly any visitors!

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The first sunset. This was the view from a stairwell and balcony on the front of the hotel across from my room.

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Meanwhile, this was the scene in the other direction, from the balcony off my room. Anti-crepuscular rays over the Mittens!

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Had I not seen this for myself, I would never have believed how the western red rocks glow at dawn and dusk. This is sunrise.

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The morning's clear skies yielded to mounting white clouds in the afternoons.

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The precious dragonfly.

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The trees in red rock country have to be resilient and tenacious. This one seems to be dancing in joy.

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I even had a chance to photograph the Big Dipper over the Mittens.

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Heading toward home, I could follow fall's palette. This is a rest stop in the Smokies.

posted by eturek at 8:59 PM

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(c) 2009-2010 Eve Turek & OBX Connection, all rights reserved - read 790805 times

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