July 27, 2018 South Beach Campground, Washington

Maltese
Pearl at 7 Months

Fogged in at South Beach

Pearl has made it to 7 months as of today so I thought I might include a new photo of her as she has changed quite a bit from the last time I took any shots of her. Still very independent, but is gradually coming around to realize that it is in her best interests to listen to me more than just occasionally. House breaking has finally been successfully completed and she has become agreeable to have her harness and leash put on when the situation warrants.

South Beach Campground
South Beach Campground

Haven’t been posting anything lately as I seem to find myself unmotivated to get out and do much. We have been socked in with heavy coastal fog for a week or more now, although as soon as you get just a half mile inland, there are bright blue skies and very warm temperatures, in the high 80’s and 90’s. But here in the campground the fog keeps temps in the 60’s.

South Beach Campground
South Beach Campground
Coastal Fog
Coastal Fog

I have driven up to Forks and then back down to the coast to LaPush and Mora in the bright, hot, sunny weather, but as soon as you get back near the beach you run into the coastal fog bank again, so nothing to photograph lately.

Gulls on the Beach at LaPush
Gulls on the Beach at LaPush
LaPush Harbor
LaPush Harbor

I did drive about 30 miles south one day and then did the loop road around Lake Quinault hoping to get some shots of the many small waterfalls along that road. However all the small streams were bone dry and thus obviously no waterfalls.

Roosevelt Elk
Roosevelt Elk

I did however stumble across these Roosevelt Elk. First time I have ever encountered a mixed sex herd of elk, bulls, cows, and calves, all feeding or resting along the riverbank.

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July 12, 2018 South Beach Campground, Washington

South Beach View Through the Windshield
South Beach View Through the Windshield

Return to South Beach

In 2014 I discovered this little jewel of a campground as I made my first trip around the Olympic Peninsula. At that time, when I pulled into the campground, I was a little underwhelmed to say the least. What lay in front of me was a very crowded narrow gravel strip with RV’s and tents packed in as tight as sardines, lots of dust, smoky fires, and people wandering through the tightly spaced campsites. I grabbed the only available spot right at the entrance, as far from the beach as was possible, and figured I would only be able to tolerate staying in this hectic, congested spot for a night or two.

Fifty-one days later, when they closed the campground for the season just after Labor Day, I left with a whole different attitude about this very unique camping spot. As with real estate, location means everything here. After a couple nights camped at the entrance I was fortunate enough to see a unit leaving a beachside campsite and moved myself over to the vacated site. Still packed in tight with little space between the front and rear of my motorhome and my neighbors, at least now I could draw the blinds on the driver’s side of my rig and thus sort of close out the congestion on one side of the campsite. And the view out the other side was of the beach. I was serenaded to sleep nightly by the sound of the waves crashing on the beach, drowning out  ( most of ) the noise of the other campers. Days were spent reading and walking on the beach with Jenny and Sam. While the west roasted under 90 plus degree temps that summer, here at the beach it was a pleasant 70 – 80 degrees every day and nights were just right for sleeping with temps in the 50’s.

So for quite some time I have been wanting to return here and get a respite from the summer heat.

South Beach Campsite
South Beach Campsite

After a couple nights in a campsite across the road from the beachfront sites, I was able to move into this wonderful campsite, probably the best site of the 60+ sites in the campground.

South Beach Campsite
South Beach Campsite

Nobody in front of me, nobody to the left, and only the beach to the right.

Surf Fishermen
Surf Fishermen

This is my morning view out the passenger side window, not bad for a campsite that costs me all of $7.50 a night. There are no hookups of any kind here, no water available and no dump station, but those are available about 5 miles north of here at the Klalaloch Campground. Being out in the open as this site is, satellite reception is fine and there is a very strong Verizon signal here.

A Most Unusual Day in the Campground

South Beach Early Morning
South Beach Early Morning

The early morning shot above shows me in the campsite I had when I first arrived here on Monday.  The site I coveted was directly across the road from where I was and the woman tenting there told me she was leaving on Wednesday, so on Wednesday morning I signed myself up for four nights in that spot and sat back waiting for her to vacate the site so I could move over and set up there. But there turned out to be a little fly in the ointment in the person of a production company that moved in early that morning to shoot commercials for an RV manufacturer … and they had chosen the perfect site to use for that shoot, the site I was intending to move to as soon as the woman vacated that site.

I was a little dumbfounded to learn of this from a casual conversation with a fellow camper who happened to be part of the production crew. I told her I  was a little bewildered that there were no postings of any kind that an event like this was happening and when I checked with the campground host to find out if this was for real, they had no knowledge of this either .. kind of strange, but then again, this is a campground run by the federal government, the National Park Service.

So there I was, ready to move to my ideal campsite, and I was told that it was to be used by the production company, not me, even though I had paid for the site and there was no indication anywhere that someone else had reserved that site for the day. As a younger man, I would probably have fought to move onto my paid for site regardless, but at this stage of my life, I decided to just roll with the punches and see what transpires.

In the Middle of the Action
In the Middle of the Action

So I remained on my original campsite as the production crew set up all around me as you can see in the image above.

Caterer
Caterer

Behind me a caterer had his trailer and set out a spread for breakfast and coffee breaks.

Wardrobe Motorhome
Wardrobe Motorhome

In front of the caterer was the wardrobe bus for the models, occupying the rear of this motorhome while the front of the trig was an onsite production room for the photographers.

Wardrobe Motorhome
Wardrobe Motorhome
Prop Trucks
Prop Trucks

Three rental trucks house all the various props and equipment the photographers would need for the shoot.

Unloading Props
Unloading Props
Setting Up for the Shoot
Setting Up for the Shoot

Around noon, a fifth wheel was moved onto the ( my ) site and set up for the first shoot.

Models for the Shoot
Models for the Shoot

The models moved in and the staff set out props for the shoot. Looks like a pretty nice site, wouldn’t you say?

The Shoot
The Shoot

Photographers, there were four of them involved, started doing external shots after an hour or so of interior shots.

Shooting Platform
Shooting Platform

I set up my ladder behind my motorhome and allowed the photographers to use my roof as a shooting platform.

Getting a Better Angle
Getting a Better Angle

Probably should have gotten a liability waiver from them, but fortunately, no one got hurt climbing up and down from the RV.

Lunch Break
Lunch Break

As I mentioned before, I was in the center of all the action, and that was no different as the caterer set up tables to serve lunch to the crew. Although I didn’t partake, I might note that I was invited to join them for lunch by the production managers.

Lunch Break
Lunch Break
Lunch Break
Lunch Break
Lunchtime
Lunchtime

This young woman typified the attitude all of these folks, pleasant, hard working people that genuinely appeared to enjoy what they were doing. I spent a long day , from 8 AM until 10 PM with these people, the drivers, the photographers, the caterer, the ” worker bees “, and the managers and they were all genuinely nice people. I would have to say that I have never encountered such a mixed bunch that appeared to work so well together.

Motorhomes Move In
Motorhomes Move In

After lunch they moved the fifth wheel out and moved in two motorhomes that they spent the rest of the afternoon and evening shooting.

Motorhome Reflection
Motorhome Reflection

I got a kick out of the reflection of my dowdy rig in the highly polished exterior of the $578,000 45 foot motorhome.

Motorhome Reflection
Motorhome Reflection

You certainly would not see any reflections when looking at the side of my motorhome.

At 9:30 PM, the photographers got their final sunset shots of the motorhomes and the day’s shooting was completed and the boss called it a wrap to the cheers of the hard working staff. The motorhomes were moved out and I was able to finally move onto my cherished spot. By 10:30, about an hour after my normal bedtime, I was finally set up and ready to enjoy the rest of my stay at South Beach.

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May 27, 2018 Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Bear #399 and Cubs
Bear #399 and Cubs

A Beary Good Day in the Tetons

Grand Teton N.P. Unsettled Weather
Grand Teton N.P. Unsettled Weather

I arrived at the Gros Ventre Campground in Kelly, Wyoming, just outside Jackson Hole, on Thursday, apparently bringing the unsettled weather with me.

Grand Teton N.P. Unsettled Weather
Grand Teton N.P. Unsettled Weather

Storm clouds, a bit of sun, rain, hail … just can’t seem to escape this kind of weather this year. Does combine at times to produce some dramatic shots though. The above image is the scene as I exit the Gros Ventre Campground on what turned out to be a very rare, exciting day in the Grand Teton National Park.

Bear #399
Bear #399

Bear #399

Bear #399
Bear #399

( For a little background of Bear #399, arguably the most famous bear in the world, click here.)

On Saturday of the Memorial Day Weekend, I had originally planned to just stay home and avoid the holiday crowds, but at 5:30 in the morning when I caught a glimpse of a little bit of sun through the storm clouds at sunrise, I decided I would venture out, hoping the holiday crowds might be sleeping in..

Bear #399
Bear #399

I drove about thirty miles north on the main road to an area referred to as Pilgrim Flats and couldn’t believe my eyes when I spied a very healthy looking grizzly with two large cubs grazing in the flats not more than hundred yards off the side of the road.

Bear #399 and Cubs
Bear #399 and Cubs

And more amazing yet, early morning golden light and no rain!

Bear #399 and Cubs
Bear #399 and Cubs

I was able to position myself with the sun to my back and couldn’t believe that the bears seemed very content to do their thing and were oblivious to myself and some other early morning photographers who were able to take advantage of this incredible opportunity.

Bear #399 Nursing Cubs
Bear #399 Nursing Cubs

When Mom stopped grazing and called the cubs in to nurse, I just couldn’t believe how fortunate I was to have abandoned my plan to stay home on this holiday weekend.

Bear #399 Nursing Cubs
Bear #399 Nursing Cubs

Don’t think I would want to ever see those claws up close and personal.

Bear #399 Nursing Cubs
Bear #399 Nursing Cubs

Very healthy two year old cubs and obviously, a very experienced mother.

Bear #399
Bear #399

After spending the better part of two hours with these guys, and with crowds gathering, I departed Pilgrim Flats and continued up the highway to see what else I might run into.

A Second Encounter with Bear #399 and Cubs
A Second Encounter with Bear #399 and Cubs

On my return south on the highway, about two miles north of where I originally encountered these bears, I saw them coming out of the woods heading down to a small pond and pulled over to see if I could get any different type of shots. But by this time traffic was getting very heavy and my stopping started a huge ” bear jam ” on the highway. Just incredible how quickly the road backed up and people stopped in the middle of the road, on both sides, people darting in and out of traffic, just chaotic, and not my cup of tea. So, I left #399 and her cubs to the holiday crowds and hurried home to get my shots on the computer to see if I captured anything worthwhile in my early morning encounter with this star of the bear world.

An Obsessed Mountain Bluebird

Female Mountain Bluebird
Female Mountain Bluebird

While I have had other birds, at other campgrounds, be attracted to their reflection in the motorhome’s mirrors, I have never run into one as obsessed as this female Mountain Bluebird.

Female Mountain Bluebird
Female Mountain Bluebird

She shows up at sunrise and returns all throughout the day to try and discourage this interloper she sees in the mirror, trying to intrude on her territory.

Female Mountain Bluebird
Female Mountain Bluebird

Other times I have observed this kind of behavior, it has always been a male bird and I have never seen one so aggressively fight off this perceived intruder. She was making such a mess of the mirror that I finally had to go and wrap a plastic bag over the mirror, whereupon she turned her attention to the other other mirror, that she had previously ignored. Now both mirrors are wrapped in plastic, but she still shows up several times a day to check on the intruders she knows must be there but that she can no longer see.

Next post, another bear encounter at the same location, but a different bear!

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April 21, 2018 Marion, Kansas

Abandoned Kansas Farmhouse
Abandoned Kansas Farmhouse

Driving the Backroads of Kansas

I have been staying at another Army Corps of Engineers park on the shores of Marion Reservoir the last week or so. Cottonwood Point Campground is yet another great COE campground with 171 campsites spread out over many acres along the shoreline of the reservoir. The sites are mostly level backins with a few pullthroughs, most have gravel pads, picnic table under a shelter, fire pit and charcoal grill. Most have 50 amp electric  with water spigot and some sites have full hookups.

Since there is almost no one here this early in the season, I was able to grab a great pull through site at the very end of one of the four camping loops, guaranteeing me the solitude I love. This site, like most in this campground is waterside with lots of trees around the campsite. Very strong Verizon signal for my internet and this site allowed me easy access to the southern sky for my satellite TV. And for all this I have to pay all of $10.50 ( with my senior pass ) a night, pretty hard to beat that.

Cottonwood Point COE Campsite
Cottonwood Point COE Campsite

My only gripe is that yesterday I had to move from the wonderful site seen in these images to another pull through ( that proved to be every bit as nice ). The reason why ? Well, even though there are only about a dozen campers here amongst the 171 sites, this particular site has been reserved for the weekend. An all too common occurrence with campgrounds that allow reserving specific sites as opposed to reserving a guaranteed open space in the campground ( like the Texas State Park system does )

Cottonwood Point COE Campsite
Cottonwood Point COE Campsite

Notice the rapidly growing Pearl next to Sam. Weighed 2.4 pounds at her first vet visit a month ago, and now 4.4 pounds at her vet visit this week ( for the last of her puppy shots and her first rabies shot ). She remains bold and very independent, to the point of stubborn at times, but recognizes that she does have to pay attention, and respond, to my requests … at least most of the time. Continues to harass poor old Sam, but I do catch Sam actually playing with her quite often now, and even seeking her out to snuggle with once she sees that Pearl has finally shut down and fallen asleep.

Kansas Farmscape
Kansas Farmscape

The weather has been all over the map during my stay, from lows in the low 20’s to highs around 80, with rain, snow and a little bit of sun. The only constant has been the wind, blowing from all directions, but continually blowing, often up to 40 mph.

Kansas Farmscape
Kansas Farmscape

I have been driving all the back roads looking for old barns, but there are very few left standing, most farms now have metal barns, nowhere near as picturesque as the stately old wooden structures.

Abandoned Kansas Barns
Abandoned Kansas Barns

It’s not like the wooden barns didn’t once exist here, it’s just that what I see now are mainly just piles of wooden debris scattered through the woods that border the fields.

Abandoned Kansas Farm
Abandoned Kansas Farm

Once in a while I come across one that is still sort of standing, as in the images above, but these are few and far between.

Remains of a Stone Farmhouse
Remains of a Stone Farmhouse

I suppose that if a stone structure, like the one above located in the middle of a cultivated field, can’t survive here, it probably is little wonder that the old wooden structures have all disappeared.

Controlled Burn
Controlled Burn

Cheyenne Bottoms Wetlands

I made a 200 mile round trip to check out the Cheyenne Bottoms Wetlands west of here the other day after I went online and managed to reserve a spot on the last day of trips to a blind ( limited to only 6 people ) set up next to a Prairie Chicken lec to observe their mating rituals. The smoky scene above is what I encountered as I approached the wetlands. Unfortunately, there was a controlled burn in progress out on the wetlands and a lot of the area was thus inaccessible on the day I chose to visit.

Cheyenne Bottoms Birds
Cheyenne Bottoms Birds

I did manage to drive a bit of the roads in the wetlands and encountered a few birds here and there.

Avocet
Avocet

Certainly worth visiting again.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

I will be returning there with the motorhome next week and hope to get a better chance to explore the area for birds. These wetlands are located along the Central ( migratory ) Flyway and are a main refueling stop for all kinds of birdlife heading north to their breeding grounds.

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