Not much to say, but here are some photos of a monarch butterfly visiting the Mexican sunflowers on our porch yesterday.
- Category Archives nature journal
A look at the natural world, nature writing but mostly photoblogging.
There was a huge spider living under the eaves of our back door. I mean really huge, easily the biggest spider I’ve ever seen in the wild around here, maybe a quarter the size of a tarantula, with a big bulbous body (pregnant with eggs?), and legs that probably stretched almost an inch across. It would build a web every night from our rear door over to the clothes line, and every morning — until I figured things out — I’d go outside and walk into the web. The spider would then make a run for it, on semi-permanent strands a little higher up, back to its hidey-hole under the gutter, and from there it would stretch its arms out and make “I am scary spider!” gestures until I went back inside.
The spider had a pattern: it would hide out in its spot during the daytime, then come out and rebuild its web once darkness fell. The web building process was quite fun to watch, and the spider was a very successful hunter, which is maybe why it liked that spot.
A few days ago I noticed it had moved its daytime hiding spot to the inside of the screen door frame, then it seemed to disappear — no more spider, no more webs. Just yesterday I went looking, found its crushed body on the door, and felt bad for the rest of the day.
Well it came down in buckets as predicted. Then, also as predicted, the rain stopped yesterday afternoon and the sun came out. We took a walk down to the Colonial Industrial Quarter to look at what the Monocacy might be doing — yikes!
Doug and I did a really nice ride yesterday, starting out on the Switchback outside Jim Thorpe, then doing a hike-a-bike up one of the descents and into the strip mine trails on top of Pisgah Mountain. My agenda was to look for and photograph some mountain laurel before the opportunity slipped away, since I was still mad at myself for not going at all last year; Doug I think was just up for a decent ride.
Neither of us had been in that particular neck of the woods in quite a few years, and though we started out with a vaguely-formed plan to check out “the Blue Ponds” — old quarries, hundreds of feet deep, that had filled with water and were now swimming holes, and I’d guess I hadn’t seen them in maybe 15 years — we eventually were just in “hey this trail looks cool let’s take it” mode. We saw some ponds, but not the ones we started out to find, but we were having too much fun to worry about it.
Eventually we stopped to look around and realized we were probably lost — everything looked so semi-familiar! Like we’d maybe been there, or someplace just like it, only a few minutes ago, or years, or decades… Actually we were kind of lost, but my GPS had maps that seemed accurate enough, and though we were far off from where we thought we were we could find our way back. We continued on.
That’s when the rain started, which fogged up my glasses and totally flummoxed my GPS unit’s touch screen; the going was a bit tougher but we were still making progress until we found some more cool trails, which really didn’t go the right way but were awesome… The sun came back out, we rode on, and eventually worked our way back to the Lungbuster and down to the lake. What a great day!
So anyway, that was our ride in words and pictures, here’s a map of what we did:
Open that map and you’ll find plenty more photos, which are connected (on the map) to the locations I took them.
We stopped in Boulder on the way home from Estes Park, to visit the National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesa Laboratory. This is a lab and museum partway up a mountain outside of town, designed by I.M. Pei, and with a bunch of hiking trails out back that continue up into the Flatiron Mountains. We hiked about, then visited the museum before continuing home. Here are some pictures from our hike:
This was our second hike/exploring day in Rocky Mountain National park. We decided to start the day with a big breakfast, so Anne and I went into town to get donuts, but we were delayed on the way by some elk in the road. So here are some obligatory elk photos, taken abut 50 yards from our cabin:
Our main event of the day was to go up to the Alpine Discovery Center, which was a long, uphill drive, through several layers of ecosystems. Some photos from a lookout along the drive:
Finally we were in the alpine tundra, and then at the discovery center where we walked to the very top of the hill. Some hot chocolate at the center, then we hit the road again, stopping at another overlook for more tundra. Tundra photos:
We stopped at another overlook, further down the hill:
Our final destination was a place called Moraine Park, which was a wide valley where the elk could be found. There was also a creek — the Big Thompson River? — and some vegetation restoration areas, which were fenced off from the elk but accessible by gate. These were the last photos of the day:
Well, we’re staying another day, the snow and especially the ice being too much for us this morning — we packed and left, drove to the local bakery, and scared ourselves so much we went back to the hotel for another night. What that means is that I now have a bit of downtime, and can post some more of my photos, starting with our first day in Estes Park:
On our first day in the park, we hiked from Bear Lake to Emerald Lake. No photo does justice to the spectacular beauty that surrounded us, but here are a bunch that seem to capture the light, and the beauty and the drama:
Finally, some roadside pictures of rutting elk we passed on our way out. If you look you can see the bull (the one with the antlers) just left of center.
Here are my photos of the Denver Botanical Gardens, which we visited last Wednesday, starting with some wildflower and similar gardens near the entrance:
Then came some a water garden, a kitchen garden and a small desert landscape:
We ended with the Asian-themed, English garden, and futuristic landscapes, ones more generally connected with art or architecture:
We never did get to look at the indoor gardens and greenhouses — the day was so nice that we explored the outdoor gardens until the place closed.
It was a perfect springlike day Monday, so I hopped on the Iguana to do a little OpenStreetMapping — there was a note on the website saying that a Moravian spiritual retreat just outside of town had been closed, and I thought if I could go there and confirm it on the ground, I’d go ahead and make the change when I got home. The former retreat was right next to a new park too, so I could also do a little exploring when I got there.
My ride was pretty low-key: I was just out in street clothes and boots (and my helmet), something I’d been doing lately for casual riding; I was also inspired to keep it simple by Bike Snob’s recent article… I tooled up Main Street to Macada, then Altonah, then made a right onto Santee Mill Road, which is basically as bucolic as the City of Bethlehem gets. I was looking for a road/path off Santee Mill to take me into the park, but never found it (I saw later it was smaller than a sidewalk and very easy to miss). No matter, I continued forward, back into civilization, and entered the park from the front. Just outside the park entrance was a house where the retreat would have been; the house had posts out front, from which there might once have hung shingles, and the shingles might once have said “Spiritual Retreat” or whatever, but the shingles were gone now and there was a big “Private” sign by the driveway. So Phase 1 of my exploration was complete…
That left the park — officially, “The Janet Johnston Housenick & William D. Housenick Memorial Park” but apparently just called “Housenick Park” by normal people. This is a parcel of land donated by Janet Johnston Housenick, granddaughter of Archibald Johnston, the first mayor of the consolidated City of Bethlehem (he was also chief architect of that consolidation, and a high ranking executive at Bethlehem Steel — he was as Bethlehem as it gets). The land was once part of the Johnston farm/estate, and it includes the old Archibald Johnston Mansion. The park is fairly new and still under construction/renovation, but there are a bunch of new footpaths and old carriage roads, and I cruised around for about an hour, taking pictures.
It’s hard to believe looking at it, but the estate only dates from the 1910’s or 1920’s — it looks typical of a farmstead from about 100 years earlier — and the house was built using Bethlehem Steel beams. There was a boat house and tennis courts (or the ruins of them), but there were also lime kilns and the remains of orchards, ornaments in a hobbyist’s historical reenactment of country-squire life.
The ride home was uneventful, and pleasant though the day was getting breezy. I returned via Township Line Road, which eventually becomes Altonah, and basically retraced my steps from there. I went about 16 miles all told, and total ride time was just over 2 hours