July 30, 2017 Bend, Oregon

Balloons Over Bend
Balloons Over Bend

Balloons Over Bend Festival

Until I saw them coming my way during my daily walk around the hospital loop road, I was unaware that this weekend Bend was celebrating it’s annual Balloons Over Bend Hot Air Balloon Festival. Since recovering my energy several weeks ago, I make it a habit to walk the roughly one mile long perimeter loop road of the St. Charles Hospital every morning before the traffic rolls in, so I am out there around 6 or 7AM daily … and that, of course, just happens to be the same time that balloonists favor for their flights.

Balloons Over Bend
Balloons Over Bend

This morning, as I was just approaching home, I watched as the pilot of this balloon carefully set down on the paved parking lot amongst several tall street lamps, just across from where I am camped on the hospital’s loop road. As I walked by, the chase team arrived and as they were hauling out the protective tarp to collapse the balloon on, I hurried the short distance to the motorhome to grab my camera for some shots and managed to get this one of the balloon just as it was being deflated.

Balloons Over Bend
Balloons Over Bend

A little later, another balloon came along the same route, but this one continued on across the hospital campus to the north.

Balloons Over Bend
Balloons Over Bend

Two more balloons show up after coming over the top of Pilot Butte.

Balloons Over Bend
Balloons Over Bend

As you can see from the image above, the hospital camping area had a front row seat for the show this particular morning. Note the non-interested spectator ( Sam ) in the motorhome, keeping an eye on Dad, not terribly interested in the balloon activity.

Balloons Over Bend
Balloons Over Bend

 

Another Way to View Balloons Over Bend
Another Way to View Balloons Over Bend

There were others getting a very close, and I imagine, a very interesting perspective on the activities.

Balloons Over Bend
Balloons Over Bend

 

Balloons Over Bend
Balloons Over Bend

 

Balloons Over Bend
Balloons Over Bend

 

Balloons Over Bend
Balloons Over Bend

Another Completed Acrylic Painting

"Maine Harbor Reflections" 18'" x 18" Acrylic
“Maine Harbor Reflections” 18′” x 18″ Acrylic

This makes three completed paintings since I have been waiting out my treatment schedule. Learning a little bit more about these acrylic paints with each completed painting and may eventually get the hang of how to use them.

Nothing much new to report on the health front. Chemo continues and results are all going in the right direction. My oncologist has set up a referral for me to go to Portland and meet with the specialists who will do the transplant procedure ( if that is the way they recommend going ) sometime in the next week or so. He also wants their input on perhaps truncating my chemo regiment since I have had such a rapid positive response so far. This means I may get this over with a little sooner than originally expected.

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July 10, 2017, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park

I had been waiting quite a while to revisit Crater Lake National Park here in Oregon, located about 100 miles south of Bend, where I am currently staying. First visited way back in 1993 on a month long excursion up the west coast, I had been wanting to return since the loop road around the lake had been closed due to snow on my first trip up there.

What's Left of 548 Inches of Snow
What’s Left of 548 Inches of Snow

So, sitting here in the Saint Charles Hospital camping area, I have been online checking the road conditions in the park for the past two months, waiting for the all clear before doing the 200 mile round trip. The park’s website said that the north entrance road would finally be open around the 6th of July, so I waited until the Monday after the holiday week to make the trip.

I read somewhere that the park received more than 548 inches of snow this winter, a little more than normal, thus the later than usual opening of the north entrance road, the south entrance, I believe, is always kept open.

Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park

The loop road was still partially closed, only 9 miles on the northern end of the lake was open to traffic. If planning a trip here this summer, or actually anytime in the next three years, be aware that there are some pretty long construction delays you will encounter due to heavy road work scheduled over that period.

Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park

The lake has some of the purest water found anywhere, being fed entirely by rain and snowfall only, no rivers or streams enter the lake.

Crater Lake, That's Water, Not Sky Behind the Rocks
Crater Lake, That’s Water, Not Sky Behind the Rocks

You pretty much have to see it to believe it, the blue of the water is something to behold, due to water clarity and extreme depths, this is also the deepest lake in North America. The shot above is taken looking down on that rock formation and that is the lake in the background, not the sky. I have experienced nothing but blue sky days like this every day for the past six weeks, no clouds, no rain, just sun and blue skies every day. Boring, but beautiful.

Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park
Pollen Patterns, Crater Lake National Park
Pollen Patterns, Crater Lake National Park
Pollen Patterns, Crater Lake National Park
Pollen Patterns, Crater Lake National Park

Surrounded by coniferous forests, the surface of the lake today was just covered by pollen in places along the north shore.

Nothing new to report on the health front, now in my third four week round  of chemo and still suffering no side affects with weekly test results still running very positive, leaving me more optimistic about the future every week. Keeping my fingers crossed!

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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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April 26, 2015 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Ring-necked Pheasant
Ring-necked Pheasant

A Cool Morning in the Refuge

Frosty Morning on the Refuge
Frosty Morning on the Refuge

Temperatures dipped into the 20’s last night and it was just a bit nippy as I headed into the refuge this morning.

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

Frosty Morning on the Refuge Road
Frosty Morning on the Refuge Road

The chilly temps do not seem to deter the birds as they were out and about as soon as the sun peaked over the hills to the east.

Male Northern Harrier Preening
Male Northern Harrier Preening

One of the male Northern Harriers had found a perch warmed by the early sun and was performing his daily grooming ritual.

Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier

Anyone following this blog can probably tell I have a strong fascination with the ” Gray Ghost “.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

The great Short-eared Owl shot still eludes me, though he does seem to take a certain delight in tormenting me with his distant antics.

Ruddy Duck
Ruddy Duck

Male Ruddy Ducks are now sporting their brilliant blue bills to impress the ladies.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird
Meadowlark
Meadowlark

And small birds are singing their hearts out everywhere throughout the refuge, again hoping to impress members of the opposite sex.

Meadowlark
Meadowlark
Bird on a Wire ( Kestrel )
Bird on a Wire ( Kestrel )
Ring-necked Pheasant
Ring-necked Pheasant

Late in the afternoon, just around sunset, I ran into this colorful male Ring-necked Pheasant along the southern portion of the refuge road. Lighting conditions were just ideal to capture the breathtaking colors of this bird, the sun was low and the soft light further diffused by clouds as the bird moved in and out of the shade at a fairly close distance from me. These conditions just make all the colors pop!

Ring-necked Pheasant
Ring-necked Pheasant

In this closeup, you can see every color of the rainbow on this bird. The purple around the neck is a color I had never noticed before, revealed when this bird walked into the shade.

Ring-necked Pheasant
Ring-necked Pheasant

Pretty spectacular creature, wouldn’t you agree.

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