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 14, 2015 Anchor Point, Alaska

Moose Calf
Moose Calf

Last Days on the Kenai Peninsula

Today will be my last day here at the Halibut Cove CG at Anchor Point, thus the end of my time on the Kenai Peninsula. My week in this campground has been a welcome respite from the cramped, noisy conditions I have experienced in most of the places I have camped here on the Kanai. Adequate spacing of sites makes quite the difference.

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

Scavengers
Scavengers

I’ve spent the last several days checking on the eagles on the beach right here at the campground, as well as watching the fishing charters come home and had the opportunity a couple of days ago of seeing up close and personal what a 380 pound halibut looks like. BIG! The huge fish was stretched across the deck of the charter boat and was easily six feet plus long. I can’t imagine what it must take to fight something that size up through 200 feet of water, I’m not sure I would enjoy the experience, sounds like an awful lot of work to me. I am told that once they reach this size, they are not that great to eat so bringing in something this size is mostly for the bragging rights, I suppose, and $$$ if the angler is entered in one of the lucrative halibut derbies conducted around here.

Scavengers
Scavengers

Giving Up on the Fireweed Shots

Mount Lliamna
Mount Lliamna

The image above is of Mount Lliamna on the far shore of Cook Inlet, taken on one of the few blue sky moments I have encountered here in the past few weeks. This inactive volcano tops out at over 10,000 feet in elevation and is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The prevailing weather patterns here make days like this quite rare. Most of my month and a half down here around Seward and Homer have consisted of gray, dense cloud cover with rain showers almost every day. Never any heavy rain, just overcast conditions almost daily, not prime weather for any great landscape shots.

Fireweed Above Homer, 1993
Fireweed Above Homer, 1993

Notice the fields full of fireweed in bloom in the distant background ( as well as in the foreground ) of the image above, one I took twenty-two years ago on one of the back roads above Homer. I was really hoping to see this again on this trip, but alas, it was not to be.

After fruitlessly roaming hundreds of miles on all the back roads down here on the tip of the peninsula searching for fields of blooming fireweed, I am forced to give up and head north for my camping reservations in Denali National Park. Here and there I am finding small patches of fireweed in bloom but nowhere am I finding the solid pink fields that I remember from my previous trip here. In another week or two, I am sure they will be here in profusion, but I will be several hundred miles north by then.

Roadside Grazers
Roadside Grazers

Moose, Moose, Moose

One thing I have been quite sucessful at finding around here has been moose!

Mom and Calf
Mom and Calf

That is, cows and calves, but absolutely no bulls, at least not around here.

Roadside Grazers
Roadside Grazers
Roadblock
Roadblock

Roaming all the back roads in my fruitless search for fireweed landscapes has put me in close quarters with many moose mamas and their offspring.

Moose Calf
Moose Calf
Moose Calf
Moose Calf

And it isn’t just out in the boonies that I encounter these guys, I had quite a bit of luck near town on Skyline Drive as well as at the end of East End Road. I imagine that the moms are clever enough to realize that the close proximity to humans and their dwellings, rather than being a bad thing, is actually a much safer spot for their offspring because of the lower incidence of predators this close to humans.

Posing
Posing
Curious Moose Calf
Curious Moose Calf
Curious Moose Calf
Curious Moose Calf

Today, on my last trip into Homer, I encountered this mom and calf grazing along the very end of Skyline Drive. With no traffic, and thus no disturbance, I was able to shoot a ton of images from the car without disturbing this duo. The calf, at first very unsure of what to make of my presence, was particularly endearing. Twice during the half hour I spent with them, the calf approached my vehicle to a distance of only twenty feet or so, staring and sniffing, trying to figure out what I was. Mama fed contentedly and unalarmed just a little farther back.

Staying in your vehicle, not getting out and trying to get closer, is one of the best ways to get some closeup shots of these guys, not to mention safer, since mother moose can be quite protective of their youngsters.

A Painful Lesson?
A Painful Lesson?

Junior was experimenting with various types of plants, to see just what was palatable, here sampling Cow Parsnip, not sure this is something that they actually do eat,

I'll Try Anything Once
I’ll Try Anything Once

here trying a bit of metal, heck, how do you know if you don’t try,

Too Far to Reach
Too Far to Reach

and here trying to sample some short mowed grasses, but their long legs make it difficult to graze anything that low to the ground, so …

Getting Down to Business
Getting Down to Business

he has to kneel down to partake, something you also see that they have to do when drinking from a shallow water source.

Scratching an Itch
Scratching an Itch

These calves are a delight to observe as they go about discovering their new world, but as I head farther north I hope I can can locate some of these guys Dads.

And so I depart the Kenai Peninsula, heading first to Anchorage, and the Toyota dealersip there for my 40,000 mile routine maintenance service, then a little farther north to the Wasilla area for a few days of exploration, before continuing north to Denali National Park and my reservations within the park at the Telanika Campground at the end of the month.

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July 10, 2015 Anchor Point, Alaska

Beach Flight
Beach Flight

Hanging Around Anchor Point

Well, after a two plus week stay at The Fishing Hole Campground on Homer Spit, I finally just couldn’t take it any more, so moved about 30 miles north to the Halbut Cove Campground in Anchor Cove. I developed a real love/hate relationship with the campground on Homer Spit and in a way, really hated to leave. Waking at 4 or 5 in the morning and sitting back in the recliner having my morning coffee, while watching the sun rise, or birds and boat activity on Kachemak Bay, or the early rising fisherman trying their luck for King Salmon along the beach, made for a wonderful, peaceful morning. I also had a couple of great neighbors while I was there, people I will feel comfortable meeting up with again back down in the lower forty-eight.

But then there unfortunately were the other kind of neighbors, you know, the ten percent factor, the ten percent that cause ninety percent of all the problems anywhere when in a crowded environment. Actually, I would like to think it’s more like three to five percent, but boy, do they ever make their presence known. The campground on the Spit, like most places I have stayed in here in Alaska, has everybody right on top of one another, and most people are considerate of their neighbors, the do onto others rule. During my stay I had a sucession of thoughtless individuals who thought nothing of leaving their barking dogs confined in their rig all day while they went out on a fishing trip, or who would run their noisy generators, or their motorhome’s engine when they didn’t have a generator, and would run it for five or six hours at a time and couldn’t even abide by the quiet time rule of eleven PM.

But the most persistant problem was barking dogs. I will never understand how someone can sit at their campsite with their German Shepherd barking at everything that moves, and remember this is a packed campground with fishing activity twenty four hours a day, sit right next to their constantly barking dog, and not ever even attempt to silence it. There is no campground host or any kind of official presence in the campground, so these few inconsiderate individuals can get away with anything they happen to feel like inflicting on all the others in the campground.

Halibut Cove Campground, Anchor Point

Anchor Point Halibut Cove CG
Anchor Point Halibut Cove CG

Just look at all that wonderful space between the campsites !!!!

Anchor Point Halibut Cove CG
Anchor Point Halibut Cove CG

There are maybe 8 or 10 sites that could accomodate a large motorhome, all back-in sites, no hookups. no dump station, and the only water is a hand pump station. No dumpster for trash either. But there IS space between the sites and after Homer, that just seems so nice. I am able to get a decent, not great, internet signal here, and my over the air TV antenna picks up 10 stations. Each site is flat, has a picnic table and a fire ring. The beach is just a very short walk away, as is the Anchor Point boat launching area.

Anchor Point, The End of the Road

Anchor Point Beach Boat Launch
Anchor Point Beach Boat Launch

Anchor Point’s claim to fame is that it is the most westerly point in North America that you can drive to … the road ends here, at the beach boat launching parking lot.

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

Anchor Point Beach Boat Launch
Anchor Point Beach Boat Launch

A novel use for logging skidders.

Anchor Point Beach Boat Launch
Anchor Point Beach Boat Launch

The extreme swing of tides in Cook Inlet and the soft sand make it pretty much impossible for individuals to launch their fishing boats, so that is where these heavy duty, wide tired rigs do their thing, for a hefty fee I would imagine. And when the fish are running, they are kept quite busy. Every time I walked down there, the parking lot was full to overflowing.

Anchor Point Beach Boat Launch
Anchor Point Beach Boat Launch

There are hundreds of gulls gathered here on the beach waiting for the launchings to begin, and several eagles also ( see below ). Apparently the large wheeled skidders stir up a lot of tasty tidbits when they drive out into the water and the gulls then drop down to pick up whatever is stirred up.

Anchor Point Beach Boat Launch
Anchor Point Beach Boat Launch

Yes, that is a volcano in the background, across Cook’s Inlet.

Anchor Point Beach Boat Launch
Anchor Point Beach Boat Launch
Anchor Point Beach Boat Launch
Anchor Point Beach Boat Launch

I wonder how long the skidders survive in this nasty salt water environment.

Bald Eagles on the Beach

Today there were about fifteen bald eagles scattered up and down the beach, with the majority of them being juveniles. Don’t know if that is because this is a great place to raise youngsters or if it might be because it happens to be an easy place to scavenge, which they probably find easier than hunting their food.

Beach Takeoff
Beach Takeoff
Bald Eagle Landing
Bald Eagle Landing
Breakfast on the Beach
Breakfast on the Beach

The eagles have first dibs over the gulls when a fish carcass is uncovered.

Juvenile Bald Eagle
Juvenile Bald Eagle
Juvenile Bald Eagle
Juvenile Bald Eagle
Juvenile Bald Eagle
Juvenile Bald Eagle

Juvenile eagles seem to have no concerns about trying to scare adults off their meals as this one was doing in the image above. He came flying in and landed all but on top of an adult trying to knock the adult off it’s fish. The adult ended up standing his ground though.

Wildlife Image Collections

Because of weak intermittant internet signals in my travels the last several months, I have all but given up, for now, at least, on getting all my bird and wildlife, and landscape, images loaded on to my website, mcqallery.com. But I have been able to upload several of my bird, and some wildlife, collections to my Google + site. If you are interested in seeing my Hummingbird shots, Bald Eagles, Whooping Cranes, or any of several other collections, just click on the Google + or the Picassa logo in the box at the top of the sidebar on the righthand side of this page.

 

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June 30, 2015 Homer, Alaska

Kachemak Bay Sunrise
Kachemak Bay Sunrise

Another Gloomy Week on the Homer Spit

Although there are brief periods of sun and bits of blue sky now and then, for the most part the skies are constantly gray and gloomy. I understand that this type of weather pattern is quite usual for this area, so what can one do but wait it out. Though the sun seldom appears, it also doesn’t actually rain all that much, no downpours whatsoever, just periods of light rain and drizzle.

I usually maintain a very solitary existence on my travels, but this past week plus I have had the distinct pleasure of being camped next to a delightful retired couple from South Dakota. I have enjoyed more small talk with them than I usually have in the course of several months on the road, and have gotten quite a kick out of watching and hearing about their fishing exploits here in Homer as they have fished for salmon and halibut. A lot of the salmon fishing was done directly in front of our motorhomes, while the halibut fishing was done on a charter where the Mrs. managed to haul in a sixty-two pounder. Had fun teasing him as she also landed the largest King Salmon at the Fishing Hole, down the beach from our campsites, seemed to outfish the man of the house at every opportunity. But today they broke camp and have moved on, and their replacement has definitely not lived up to them as far as great neighbors go, outside, ten feet away slamming doors at midnight and running one of the noisiest generators I have ever heard for hours on end. Oh well, you win some and you lose some.

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

You will have to forgive my constant barrage of bald eagle shots but they are about the only interesting subjects i have here on the Homer Spit.

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

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle
Coming of Age
Coming of Age

A few interesting facts about bald eagles can be found here, including the fact that they mature at four to five years old, which would make this guy more than likely than not, about four years old.

Immature Bald Eagle
Immature Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

I was walking around the marina and just happened to catch this juvenile as he lifted off. I haven’t really tried doing any flight shots of these guys here because of the constant mist and drizzle, but if it ever clears up, I may just set up my tripod and long lens right outside my door and try to get some images of the eagles as they fly by all day , and night, long.

Hills Above Homer
Hills Above Homer

Searching for Fireweed

The green fields such as in the image above will be turning pink sometime in the weeks ahead as the fireweed finally comes into bloom. I have been driving all the hillside roads above Homer and north all the way to Anchor Point hoping to find some fireweed patches blooming, but I’m beginning to feel it just isn’t going to happen while I am here. The flower stalks have been starting to form here and there, but I have only seen a couple individual plants here and there in full bloom. If you are going to be in this area in July, and are interested in knowing which roads will provide the best shots of these fields, just click on my Travel Maps to see my notes on these back roads.

Lupines and Roses
Lupines and Roses
Blue Flag Iris
Blue Flag Iris
Cottongrass Trail
Cottongrass Trail

While searching the countryside for fireweed I do continue to run into other wildflowers though.

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

And also yet more bald eagles, this one perched on some fence rails left in the middle of a meadow that probably once was some kind of farm plot.

Bald Eagle Staredown
Bald Eagle Staredown

I believe this is his ” would you mind just leaving ” stare, obviously a little annoyed at my presence. This was taken from the window of my car with my 600mm lens, so I was not close enough to actually disturb him as he was on the lookout for any movement of prey in the field he was surveying.

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