June 28, 2017, Bend, Oregon

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

Some Good News!

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

First off, I would like to thank all of you that have sent encouraging comments regarding my current health situation, it is greatly appreciated. I originally had no intention of posting progress reports on that front, but several readers suggested I should, so I will keep you posted.

But since the main purpose of this blog is to showcase the landscapes and wildlife of this continent, let’s proceed in that direction first.

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

I am currently camped along the loop road around the Saint Charles Hospital Campus in Bend. The hospital has a small, eleven space campground with full hookups that it graciously supplies to it’s patients and their families, free of charge. And for me, it has been a lifesaver! The Bend area has a few very nice, and very expensive RV Parks, and the surrounding area also has several public and private campgrounds. However, they all have one thing in common … they all are booked pretty much solid throughout the summer months. And, until I was allowed to park my rig here, I was out of luck trying to find a place to stay for my chemo treatments. So, thank you, Saint Charles !

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

I have been here undergoing weekly treatment now for seven weeks and really haven’t had the emotional, or at times, the physical energy to get out and explore the area.

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

A couple weeks ago, on a ninety plus degree day, I needed to cool down, so I hopped in the Prius, turned the AC on and did the 100 mile drive east to the John Day area of central Oregon. I only made it to the painted hills section of John Day, but that alone was worth the trip as I hope some of these shots may show.

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

Earlier this month, I made a return trip to Malhuer NWR in the Prius to check out what the refuge had to offer in early summer. I was really hoping to be able to explore the Stines Mountain area and perhaps get a chance to see some of the wild horses there, but the road was still gated.

Common Nighthawk
Common Nighthawk

The refuge certainly looked different than on my previous visits, both of which were in very early spring. There was very little bird activity, and the roadside shrubs and bushes were now all leaved out and the fields were now covered with three and four foot high grasses, so even if there was anything there, it would be impossible to see anything.

The only shot I even took was of this common nighthawk sitting in the middle of the refuge road.

Memorial Day, Mount Bachelor
Memorial Day, Mount Bachelor

Memorial Day weekend, I drove up to Mount Bachelor, only 20 miles out of Bend. Base depths on the hill were still at eight feet at the end of May and the parking lot was quite crowded, with many RV’s and folks staying in tents below the high parking lot snow banks.

Memorial Day Camping, Mount Bachelor
Memorial Day Camping, Mount Bachelor

Seventy-five degrees and sunny, ideal weather for golf or fishing down in town, yet perfect spring asking weather half an hour away, not hard to see why this area is so popular. Just an incredible amount of building going on and housing is very expensive here.

A Lab in it's Element
A Lab in it’s Element

Got a kick out of this lab enjoying himself chasing snowballs on the parking lot snowbanks.

A Lab in it's Element
A Lab in it’s Element

OK, Here’s the Progress Report

Hood Canal Action
Hood Canal Action

I have forced myself to resume painting and just completed my first acrylic painting on canvas. This is a composite of a few photos from the Hood Canal in Washington, where Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons congregate in late spring to take advantage of the sculpin spawn in the oyster beds along the shore where  Big Beef Creek enters the canal.

This painting measures 24″ x 16″ and depicts the way the Bald Eagles harass the herons to give up their catch. The eagles perch in tall pines along the shore and watch while the herons hunt through the oyster beds looking for the spawning sculpins. As soon as a heron plucks a fish from the water, the eagles swoop down from the pines and force them to give up their catch. You can right click on the image if you would like to see a larger version of the painting.

On the myeloma front, I just completed round two of my multi-drug chemo therapy, and my oncologist is very pleased with the results thus far! My kidney function, not that long ago at a stage four kidney disease level, just a hair’s breath away from requiring dialysis, has already returned to completely normal function. My red blood cell count is slowly increasing and all the bad stuff is rapidly decreasing, indicating that the chemo is doing it’s job. Other than some severe fatigue initially, the result of the disease and the aggressive chemo approach, I really have had very little, if any, adverse side affects, no nausea, no pain, no hair falling out, etc., and the last couple of weeks, even the fatigue has gone away, as the red blood cells continue to increase.

My oncologist says I am, in his words, ” way up on the good side of the bell curve “, as far as my chances of having a good outcome to this process. He says the fact that I have had such a rapid reversal of the progression of the disease, along with my bodies ability to tolerate the potent drugs, bodes very well for my immediate future.

He assures me that I am a very viable candidate for a stem cell transplant and that procedure could possibly be done as soon as August. He has also suggested that perhaps, and he says he is about at a 50/50 position on this, I may be one of the folks that may be able to keep the disease in remission without the transplant because of how my body has responded so far, but the final decision will be made after another round of drug therapy.

But the overall prognosis has decidedly changed in a positive way, and for that, I am most grateful.

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July 7, 2016 Ridgeway State Park, Colorado

Heading North on Route 145
Heading North on Route 145

On to Ridgway and the Million Dollar Highway

The image above was taken along Route 145 as I headed north and upward towards Telluride, Colorado on July 6th. After doing some extensive research on whether or not to drive Route 550, the Million Dollar Highway, from Durango to Ridgway, I chose to take the slightly longer, safer ( read chickened out ), route staying on Route 160 west through Durango, then picking up Route 145 near Cortez, then north on Route 62 at Placerville, joining Route 550 at Ridgway, and then a few miles north on Route 550 to the Ridgway State Park where I have reservations for a two week stay.

Route 145 north through the mountains is a pretty decent road that makes a very long, gradual climb before a short steep ascent to Lizard Head Pass, elevation 10, 222′, and a steep decent to Telluride. It was touted as an easier route through the mountains than Route 550 and I would have to agree. I had no trouble at any point along this road and would do it again in a heartbeat.

I arrived at the State Park in the early afternoon with temps in the mid to high 80’s and found my  reserved site unusable, just way too severely sloped. What would have been a disaster was averted by some very nice, accommodating volunteer hosts and a park ranger who turned a potentially awful situation into a pleasantly resolved one. More on that in the next post along with some images of the campground in the next post.

Looking Down on Ouray
Looking Down on Ouray

The Million Dollar Highway

View From the Million Dollar Road
View From the Million Dollar Road

At the crack of dawn Thursday, I loaded my photo gear, and Sam, into the Prius and headed back south down Route 550 to see if there were any million dollar views along the Million Dollar Highway.

( I have included all the images in this post in a gallery, located at the end of this post, where you can see larger images and view them as a slideshow, if you like.)

View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View Along the Million Dollar Highway
View Along the Million Dollar Highway

Turns out, there are ! Quite a few indeed. WOW ! I have never been here before and I will say, I am REALLY impressed with this country.

View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway

Of course, ideal conditions, a blue sky day with temps around 70 ( once I climbed to above 8000′ ) didn’t hurt.

View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar road
View From the Million Dollar road
View From the Million Dollar road
View From the Million Dollar road
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway

Heading south and climbing to an elevation of 11,118″ at Red Mountain Pass, I was really glad I chickened out and did not decide to take this road in the motorhome towing the Prius. That said, a lot of other folks obviously feel otherwise as I passed several motorhomes with toads, along with 5th wheels and some travel trailers. There also were a few tractor trailers poking along the highway, but not all that many. What did amaze me were the number of cars , not quite traffic jam numbers but a whole lot more traffic than I anticipated on a highway with such a fearsome reputation.

Stream Along the Million Dollar Highway
Stream Along the Million Dollar Highway
Stream Along the Million Dollar Highway
Stream Along the Million Dollar Highway

There is just SO much to see along this road, it is going to take a few trips to even begin to take it all in. And since I am spending all my time rubbernecking along the way, this highway may well be the end of me since there are countless opportunities to go off the edge of the road, and straight down hundreds of feet, no guardrails along much of the way, At one spot I stopped to take a few shots, I could see the remains of three different vehicle several hundred feet below.

View From the Million Dollar Road
View From the Million Dollar Road
Along South Mineral Road
Along South Mineral Road
Along South Mineral Road
Along South Mineral Road
Along South Mineral Road
Along South Mineral Road

I took only one side trip off the highway today, out South Mineral Road to check out the campgrounds, and designated camping areas, located along the road. If I ever worked up the courage to take the motorhome up into these mountains, the camping along this road would well be the reason why.

Roadside Attraction
Roadside Attraction
Roadside Attraction
Roadside Attraction

I passed this bicyclist heading up to Red Mountain Pass and just after doing so saw these two deer on the side of the road, so I did a quick u-turn and waited off the road to see what their reaction would be to the guy on the bike as he approached them. Thought I might get something interesting, but as luck would have it,  some jackass on his roaring Harley ( one of many, way too many, on this road today ), came through in the opposite direction and just had to rev it up as he passed the deer, scaring them off just before the bicyclist got to them. I will never understand the mentality of these idiots, destroying so much in their wake, I guess just to draw attention to themselves, pretty pathetic.

Waiting Alone
Waiting Alone

And speaking of pathetic, here is lonesome Sam, waiting for the photographer to return to the Prius after shooting something along the way. I guess it’s going to take some more time before she gets over our loss … she hasn’t touched her food bowl in going on three days now, and is just seriously depressed. She is getting a lot of attention now with no competition, so I’m sure she will come out of it sooner or later. This is the first time in her ten years that she has been alone, so it is a new experience for her.

View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway

The area around Red Mountain is simply spectacular, I’ll just let the images show you what I mean.

View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Road
View From the Million Dollar Road
View From the Million Dollar Road
View From the Million Dollar Road
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
View From the Million Dollar Highway
Looking Down on Silverton
Looking Down on Silverton

South of Red Mountain Pass is the town of Silverton, seen here from an overlook a little farther south of the town itself. Note the Railroad train coming into town in the lower right.

Million Dollar Highway Image Gallery

Click on the first ( or any other ) image to see larger versions of the images in this post.

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July 5, 2016 Pagosa Springs, Colorado

View from Above Wolf Pass
View from Above Wolf Pass

Wolf Pass, Colorado, Goodbye to Jenny

View from Above Wolf Pass
View from Above Wolf Pass

It is only a 10 mile drive to the top of Wolf Pass from where I am staying at the West Fork Campground, about 14 miles north of Pagosa Springs. And when it gets a little too warm at the campsite, that is where I go to cool down and wait for the evening temperatures to drop back to a comfortable level.

Above Wolf Pass
Above Wolf Pass
Above Wolf Pass
Above Wolf Pass

By the time one reaches the summit, the temperature has usually dropped by 20 to even 30 degrees and there is always a strong breeze up here. From sweating down below to pulling on the sweatshirt up here.

Above Wolf Pass
Above Wolf Pass ( Note the Beetle Kill )

The views are stunning but the extensive amount of bark beetle kill is just awful to see, and unfortunately is probably a view into the future when most of these coniferous forests will all be devastated like this.

View from Above Wolf Pass
View from Above Wolf Pass

The beetle kill at this altitude, about 10,000 feet, is probably around 60 % of the forest.

Beetle Kill Near Wolf Pass
Beetle Kill Near Wolf Pass
Marmot Den
Marmot Den

Wildlife and Wildflowers

Marmot Den
Marmot Den

I was shooting some wildflowers on one of the steep roadside banks going up to the overlook above Wolf Pass, when this marmot stuck his head out of his den to see what I was doing in his neck of the woods.

Marmot Sunbathing
Marmot Sunbathing

Figuring I wasn’t much of a threat, he made his way out of the den and up the rocks to get a little late day sun.

Colorado Wildflowers
Colorado Wildflowers

I have read that the wildflower displays the Colorado mountains are famous for occur in mid July and beyond, exact timing, most likely, depending on elevation.

Wildflowers
Wildflowers
Wildflowers
Wildflowers

But up here at Wolf Pass, the show has at least started.

Wildflowers
Wildflowers
Wildflowers
Wildflowers
Wildflowers
Wildflowers

I won’t even begin to try and identify these individual flowers, not my field of expertise, but I can appreciate their beauty without knowing their names.

Wildflowers
Wildflowers
Wildflowers
Wildflowers
Wildflowers
Wildflowers
Wildflowers
Wildflowers
Mulie Twins
Mulie Twins

These guys were tiny, couldn’t have been more than a few days old.

Wait for me, Mom
Wait for me, Mom
Sam Checking Out Wildflowers
Sam Checking Out Wildflowers

Jenny’s Last Outing

Jenny and Sam Above Wolf Pass
Jenny and Sam Above Wolf Pass

On July 6th, I left Pagosa Springs with an enormous hole in my heart, traveling for the first time on this full-timing gig with only Sam ( Samantha ) for my companion.

Jenny and Sam Above Wolf Pass
Jenny and Sam Above Wolf Pass

Jenny, my constant companion for almost 16 years, is no more. She has been suffering from some kind of seizures for the past two weeks, her breathing has become very shallow and it was quickly becoming obvious that her end was near. I clipped her long coat just a few days before these shots at Wolf Pass were taken when the heat was making it very hard on her. She and Sam have been all but connected at the hip for 10 years, but Sam has almost always been right at her side the last several days as she obviously knew something was not right.

Jenny and Sam Above Wolf Pass
Jenny and Sam Above Wolf Pass

Sam even became something of an alert dog as she could sense when Jenny was going into one of her seizures and would jump out of their bed and let me know what was coming just seconds before the seizure would hit. I was hoping that such a wonderful little dog like Jenny would be blessed with a quick and painless end, but for whatever reason, that was not to be.

By July 4th, her breathing was becoming very shallow and rapid, and she was now being hit with a couple seizures a day, so I had to help her out and made an appointment for her to be put to sleep at the veterinary clinic just outside of Pagosa Springs. They were very kind and did a wonderful job of ending Jenny’s suffering, even coming out to the car, so she wouldn’t have to experience the normal dread she went through anytime we approached a vet’s clinic for annual checkups and shots.

Jenny
Jenny

Jenny made it to 15 Years and 9 months, a fairly long life for a small dog, and I can proudly say, I know she had as good a life as any little dog could possibly expect to experience. The look on her face in the image above expressed this inexplicable adoration she had for me. Though certainly friendly, she would barely acknowledge other people, or dogs, and seemed to focus all of her attention on me, why, as I said, I just don’t know.

At Home on the Couch
At Home on the Couch

In our previous life, she had the run of a 6000 SF house and art gallery/frame shop, plus a large yard  to chase squirrels in.

Keeping Me Company in the Workshop
Keeping Me Company in the Workshop

She always had a canine companion and for the last ten years, that was Samantha, seen above in their daytime space behind my work station in the frame shop.

Checking Out New Territory
Checking Out New Territory

Three years ago, the three of us hit the road for this full-timing life, and she was able to experience a lot of North America, exploring lots of new territory.

Jenny Checking Out the Texas Wildflowers
Jenny Checking Out the Texas Wildflowers

…. smelling the wildflowers in Texas

Windblown in the Desert
Windblown in the Desert

….getting windblown in the desert

Jenny In Amish Country
Jenny In Amish Country

…perched on a picnic table watching Amish buggies go by in Pennsylvania.

Photographer's Assistants
Photographer’s Assistants

Accompanying this photographer to too many locations to possibly recall, always there to help me pull gear from the back of the Prius.

At the Beach
At the Beach

And, God, how she loved the beach ( I guess that probably goes for all dogs ). Just run forever, never seeming to tire whenever we hit the sand.

Watching the World Go By
Watching the World Go By

Here watching the world go by from one of her favorite perches when we were wintering on the Port Aransas Beach.

In the past, and unfortunately I have gone through this process many times, I have usually replaced a dog with a new pup fairly quickly because I don’t like to leave the remaining dog without canine companionship, and training a new puppy usually takes my mind off the recently lost pet. This time, I don’t know what I am going to do yet. The sorrow is little deeper than ever before, perhaps a reflection of my own age, but more likely because of the special place this little dog held in my heart.

Rest in peace, Jenny.

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July 3, 2015 Homer, Alaska

Sunrise Over a Foggy Kachemak Bay
Sunrise Over a Foggy Kachemak Bay

Still Waiting for Fireweed in Homer

Yesterday morning we had an interesting red sun rising over a foggy, socked in Kachemak Bay. Don’t know if it was the fog or perhaps smoke blown in from the fires north of here that caused this brilliant red orange sun. Absolutely no color in the sky, but a very eerie sunrise.

Exploring the Back Roads Around Homer
Exploring the Back Roads Around Homer

Once again we have leaden, gray skies and overcast conditions with sunrise being the only time the sun is actually visible all day.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Exploring the Back Roads Around Homer
Exploring the Back Roads Around Homer

I continue to explore the back roads above Homer and even ventured out some logging roads off of the North Fork Road, hoping to find some fireweed in bloom, but it obviously is still just too early.

No Fireweed in Bloom yet
No Fireweed in Bloom yet

Have found some great vantage points for photos, if I can stay here long enough, and if the weather would ever cooperate. Those foreground plants are fireweed, with their flower stalks just beginning to form, and all those bright green patches on the distant hillside are fields of fireweed, just waiting to bloom and paint all those meadows a brilliant pink.

No Fireweed in Bloom yet
No Fireweed in Bloom yet

Guess I will continue to try and wait it out, though my 14 day limit here at the campground on Homer Spit has now been reached, and I’m not sure where I can go next.

Tidepools of Kachemak Bay

High Tide
High Tide
Low Tide
Low Tide

Kachemak Bay has the fifth largest tide swing in the world as the above two images illustrate. And since today was one of the lowest of the month’s low tides, I decided to venture out there at low tide and see what I could see.

Where is he going now?
Where is he going now?

My two traveling companions laid their normal quilt trip on me as I headed down the beach to slosh out to the low water mark, close to a quarter mile away.

Abandoned again!
Abandoned again!

Still amazed that at sixteen years of age, Jenny can still make the leap up to gain a perch on the windshield shelf.

Exploring the tide pools
Exploring the tide pools
Exploring the tide pools
Exploring the tide pools

As you can see, I wasn’t the only one that decided today would be a good day for tide pool exploration.

Starfish
Starfish

Once you got almost to the low tide mark, there was no stortage of starfish.

Stranded Crab
Stranded Crab

Other than starfish, this lone crab was about the only other creature I was able to find.

Starfish
Starfish

The starfish come in an assortment of colors and sizes.

Starfish
Starfish
Starfish
Starfish
Purple Starfish
Purple Starfish
Starfish
Starfish

In areas the seabed was covered with tiny dime sized mussels, but none any bigger. And as you approached the low tide mark, there was a lot of seaweed and kelp. Walking around on the consistently firm seabed wasn’t too bad, just a little slippery here and there.

Looking Back Towards camp
Looking Back Towards camp
Slogging Back to Camp
Slogging Back to Camp

Certainly an intertesting way to spend an hour or so on this rare, sunny morning, but I have to admit I was a little disappointed in not finding more to photograph out there. I have hopped around tide pools along the coast of Oregon and Washington and found a lot more variety of life in those pools than here.

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