You can look through Angel’s Window at Cape Royal Point to see the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon! Wow, the river and the scenery is spectacular!
If you drive from the Grand Canyon’s north rim main lodge directly to Cape Royal Point it will take about 45 minutes. But I believe you would stop at vistas along the way; the scenery is beautiful! Or, maybe you will drive to Cape Royal Point and stop at scenic spots on your return. Can do!
Once at the parking lot at Cape Royal Point, you will walk a short trail to Angel’s Window. At some points along the trail you can see the Colorado River framed by the rock window. Walk along the main trail further and you are at Cape Royal Point with views of the canyon. Quite honestly, you need to visit since no photo will really do it justice! What are your plans for next year? Add in a stop at the Grand Canyon’s north rim, but realize it is only open May to October if the weather cooperates.
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is a geologic structure between two monoclines rising 1,500 feet with many colored layers of shale and sandstone in northern Arizona. John Wesley Powell first named these cliffs in 1869 while he was on the Colorado River exploring the Grand Canyon. It was not till November 9, 2000 though when the monument was established with the National Landscape Conservation System mission: “to conserve, protect, and restore our nation’s natural treasures for present and future generations”.
We drove a dirt road, House Rock, to the condor viewing site. The condor breeding facility is in California with the condors being released here each year. There was no condor activity during our visit at this site. Condors were sighted at Navajo Bridge. We fortunately discovered there are more places to explore down this road the next time we visit here. See the map below with the West Bench Pueblo stop, Maze Rock Art site, and various trailheads … one of them being where the 800 mile Arizona Trail (from Mexico to Utah through Arizona) ends.
I loved this sign showing the size of the condor wingspan: 9.5 feet compared with other birds of prey. The following photo shows how the range of condors has diminished.
As you drive the road between Navajo Bridge and Jacob’s Lake in northern Arizona, it is the only paved road across 2.8 million acres of public land. There are 4,000 miles of unpaved roads that necessitate use of a high-clearance vehicle. Take time to plan your adventure as this is remote backcountry terrain with no services or cell phone signals. Be prepared!
A personal experience:
Years ago, I experienced this wilderness area while on a 3 night backpacking trip through the Paria Canyon. We started our hike a day later than our original departure plan due to heavy rains in Cedar City, Utah. Those rain waters would have flooded the deep slot canyon the next day and we would have had no escape. A couple of important points: have a permit to enter this area and know what weather is predicted for a couple of days before and also during your hike in the canyon. Do not get caught in a deep slot canyon with water roaring through and at you! Please do your homework and understand what you are planning to accomplish … be prepared … this is a wilderness area!
Macro photography is all about looking at something very close-up! Great fun viewing the cacti needles and fruit of the prickly pear cactus! Close to photo and safe enough to not get pricked by a thorn.
Will have to try macro photography on a few more plants and animals!
My 2023 challenge is to submit an eBird checklist per day for this entire year. I am now halfway through the year and realize what a challenge this is, day in and day out!
When I am at home, comfortably looking at the birds visiting our various backyard bird feeders, it is simple to record my observations! Always a minimum of 15 minutes per observation, I easily knock off my daily checklist challenge. When a greater roadrunner or other bird captures my attention, I can find myself spending more time watching their behavior from the comfort of my armchair.
While traveling, I scope out nature centers, local parks, wetlands and any place where I know other birders have made some interesting observations. Visiting 27 different states during this current trip allows me to add 43 new birds to my life list. None of this is as easy as observing birds at my home feeders and recording my list there.
Once I know where I will bird on a particular morning, I try to arrive in the early morning when birds are most active. Often I am walking a few miles with my camera on a tripod. I like to stop and listen for about 5 – 10 minutes before moving on. I use a 200 – 500 mm lens on my camera since birds are often at tree tops, on electrical lines, or so small within tree branches the zoom lens is best for any photo. Other times it may be the middle of the day because I had to travel to a location a distance from my campground.
After a couple of hours birding, I download my photos, process any photo I am interested in, and record the number of species and photos in The Cornell Lab’s eBird for my daily checklist to be complete. Depending on the day and my plans for the rest of the day, it varies where I get all that accomplished. I sometimes do all that work in my van and use my iPhone as a hotspot. Other times, especially if I am very hot, I may complete it all at a Starbucks while also enjoying an iced mocha! Whatever the location, there is plenty of work to be done. Some birds l know as I observe them, but others I will photograph even when unsure of their identification. For those, I thankfully can use the Merlin Bird Photo ID to help identify a bird for me. If I did not have that Merlin Bird ID app, I would be spending many hours flipping through bird guide books to identify those birds!
Another benefit of the app is the Merlin Bird Sound ID! How many times have I arrived at a location, heard birds, but seen none? That is the perfect time for me to set my camera on its tripod, turn on the app, and simply relax. At some point, birds will fly to another tree or walk on the ground so I can see them and maybe even take a photo. It’s important to see the bird that is listed on the app and not assume the app has the correct sound identification.
Of course many times I think to simply list the birds at the campground. I could do that, but only a few times did I do that. They were days I had many miles to drive or the weather was going to be stormy, rainy or a challenge and I wanted to get my checklist completed for the day. Otherwise, off to find a new location!
So I am halfway to completion of my 2023 challenge … just another 182 days to go! See you at the end of the year. Aren’t challenges fun? Do you have any challenge keeping you busy this year? Let me know … please tell!
Birding along coastal waters, whether the Gulf of Mexico or the Great Lakes, such as Lake Erie, necessitates taking time to view birds, edit photos, record observation details in eBird, and drive from location to location. My days are 24/7 outdoors with at least 6 hours of observing birds in the different locations per day. So why pay more money for a campground to only sleep 9 hours and leave? As a result, I searched for Harvest Host locations, specifically wineries and breweries. What a wonderful way to end a day with a glass of wine or mug of beer, talk with other people at the establishment and all at a lower price than an established campground!
Refresher: what is Harvest Host? If you have a self-contained recreational vehicle and need no hook-ups (electrical, water, septic) for a night, there may be a business offering its parking lot or a farmer their field for you to stay the night. Travelers arrive when requested and leave the next morning also as requested. Basically you are not interrupting the Harvest Host’s flow of business. It is recommended you pay the host $20 for this opportunity. I have spent $60 at a cheese place and $80 for a full course dinner elsewhere … which I would have done anyway if I had stayed at a state park or other campground.
I chose many Harvest Host locations: 2 in Texas, 1 in Louisiana, 1 in Mississippi and 1 in Georgia for my southern stretch of this pre-planned travel.Then during my warbler-seeking period, I visited 2 in Ohio. Here is the scoop on each of them.
Haak Winery in Santa Fe, Texas: beautiful property and building. Large parking lot so many RVs could be at his site, yet I was the only one. Interesting wines on their wine tasting menu.
Frascone Winery in Anahuac, Texas: Wish the host was there the night I was since I was looking forward to a glass of wine and alligator egg rolls, but not happening this time. Small area so I cannot imagine too many RV being in it. Quiet night except for 2 neighborhood dogs barking at times.
Houmas House & Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana: Space provided for about six RVs. I loved the mansion tour and eating dinner at the Carriage House. Beautiful property with even a garden tour possible. A cafe was available for morning meal, but I walked on the levee across the road to see birds and barges on the river and left early.
Fort Bayou Brewing Company in Ocean Springs, Mississippi: Parking lot had 4 other campers. Restaurant for meal and beer, but I ate prior to arriving here so enjoyed a beer with 4 interesting guys at the bar. A quiet night, good sleep!
Coastal Empire Brewing Company in Savannah, GA A couple and a single guy were also staying the night here, each with their fun stories. Our vehicles were on different sides of the establishment. Beer was tasty and I bought a 6-pack. Great night sleep…quiet!
I took a break from NYS visits to check out warbler migration in NW Ohio. Doing this period, I stayed one night at a Harvest Host: Debonné Winery in Madison, Ohio, then a couple of KOA nights in Perrysburg, OH, followed by a Harvest Host: Paper Moon Winery in Vermilion, OH and finally Silver Crest Cellars in Madison, Ohio. The wineries have beautiful properties and tasting rooms and serve lighter wines than California wines since their growing season is shorter here in the NE USA. Their parking lots were great for my overnights and quiet.
I discovered 4 Harvest Host locations night after night are probably my max. I truly want a shower, no matter how good wilderness wipes are to use. It is also nice every couple of weeks to have a hotel stay, unless lousy weather gets to me and then it may be sooner. Living 24/7 outdoors requires plenty of energy, along with greater flexibility when weather is rainy. Often I feel my days are short. At sunset I read in my van, walk the local area, return to the van and read, and soon after, I call it a night! When at a hotel I am often busy till 10pm. Interesting how we make use of time and place. It’s all good when I can remain flexible.
Great recommendation to see the sunset at Vermilion’s small beach:
I loved this red-light green light at Silver Crest Cellars ….
Ones mind – body connection is healthiest when in synch, especially when traveling. Driving a southern route from Arizona across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and the panhandle of Florida was a good idea. However, my body was unhappy. The gray, cold days in Florida where I had hopes of a few relaxing days were not to be; thus even my mind was frustrated. My van travel is best when I can also sit outdoors to sketch, read or exercise. Since it was not happening in Florida, Georgia was on my mind!
I chuckle to myself as I make my administrative/executive decision to leave my camp site one day earlier than planned … as if someone was going to stop me? As a solo traveler, I decide to treat myself to a hotel stay in Savannah, Georgia. Before arriving at the hotel, I went birding at Oatland Island Wildlife Center, visited the Isle of Hope neighborhood, and saw the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge. This 1991 cable-stayed bridge replaced the original 1953 cantilever truss bridge so maritime traffic could have 185 feet of vertical clearance as they moved along the Savannah River. As I looked at the bridge I thought how amazing it must have been to see it being constructed though the years … it is massive! (I could not find a place to stop and get a good photo.) There is much controversy regarding the name of the bridge that you can read elsewhere when you research a photo of the bridge. Downtown Savannah was congested, especially near City Market, thus no interest to me.
From Florida to Georgia, I drove many local roads, the blue highway, to see small towns, farms, ranches, fields and forests. Driving a two lane road, one each direction, is easy to enjoy until a logging truck, a truck with an over-sized load with modular house halves, or tractor truck trailer barrels towards and then by you. Ones mind must believe others are sober, alert and good drivers. And really it is not better when on a major highway. Speed limit signs seem to have no effect even with notice that detector devices are monitoring our movement. I have not seen more than 2 police cars yet in my travels.
If you come to Savannah, visit Oatland Wildlife Center. Honestly, I am not a fan of zoos, but this place has animals in large cages and good-sized, fenced, wildlife areas so deer, wolves and bison can roam in their own enclosures. It is a good place for a family with young children to visit so all can be outdoors and have some discussion about animals. I spent my time off the main path as the families were visiting the animals here. I was there for birding and did see three new birds: pine warbler, northern parula and wood storks. The wood storks were nesting high in the trees (a rookery). That was interesting to see.
Empire Coastal Brewing Company was my Harvest Host the next night in Savannah. I met fellow campers; we talked and had a beer. It was a nice quiet night … a regular campground or hotel room costs more per night. Here the $20 price was right: the cost of a beer as we talked and a six-pack to go. I would return here if I am ever in the area again.
The next day I visited Tom Triplett Community Park. Talked with many local people as we were all out walking the trail around the lake. I was so excited to photograph a new bird for me: swallow-tailed kite! A few seconds of hesitation and it would have been gone behind trees and I would never have seen it or photographed it! I was glad Georgia was on my mind and I followed through to visit a day earlier! Mind and body are in synch and life is good!
Texas is a huge state! I am never sure when I will be back to Texas, so I visit as many places as I can before leaving the state. But this day I was really crazy. I thought I would only be visiting two places. My goal of an eBird checklist per day prompted me to bird at my Harvest Host location: Haak Winery at 7:50 am since the weather looked questionable. (Not a fan of birding in the rain.)
My next stop was El Jardin Del Mar in Pasadena, Texas. Stopping at small local places, off the beaten track, is fun, so I do it. I observed seven different species of about 60 birds total and maybe a good photo or two. A young man approached me and asked if I got any good photos. My response always is, I hope so. He and I got talking and before I knew it I was in my life coach role. A time later as I left he said, “Bye and thanks for the advice”. I wasn’t sure I did, but okay if he felt that way. Then I was off to my main event location, Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.
The wind was blowing so hard at this refuge I had a hard time standing. I used my van as a wind block to set my camera on its tripod. With baseball cap on backwards, viewing birds through my binoculars and taking photos, this was work! My van door flew open with the wind and I literally wrenched my left shoulder trying to capture the door. A couple also on the auto loop and smart enough not to get out of their vehicle stopped by to chat. They asked me why I do not check out Smith Oaks Rookery. Obviously they saw my battle with the wind. They mentioned I could take photos of birds up close, out of the wind, and on a boardwalk. Sounded good!
I was to be at my Harvest Host for wine and alligator egg rolls … who would miss that opportunity! With AT&T not connecting I drove to the Harvest Host location to let them know I will not be there by 5pm as planned. No one was there! Well, off I went to the rookery. What a great recommendation from the couple! Easy peasy as they say … photos taken in no wind! When I was leaving the couple was excited to see me and asked what I thought. (They too drove the half hour to view the birds at the rookery again and hoping our paths would cross to ask my opinion of their recommendation.) Very nice, great recommendation and the birds were everywhere! I hoped to have some good photos.
Back to the Harvest Host. Bummed, as the host was in Greece and no wine or egg rolls … good quiet night with only 2 local dogs barking at times. After a day like today, they did not bother me!
My eastward van travel from Arizona to New York will be unlike last year’s trip. No freezing Colorado or Nebraska nights for me! Although seeing the sandhill cranes come to roost at night and take off in the morning in Nebraska was spectacular! Part one during this travel: discover what birds I can along the coastal waters of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida. I also decided to stay at Harvest Host locations … since I spent money for that annual membership … and really wanted to determine if it was a good option beyond KOA campgrounds.
Well the cold weather began my first night in Las Cruces, New Mexico, but with my winter sleeping bag I was fine! My favorite breakfast place is The Shed Restaurant in town. It was wonderful talking with the waitress I met on past visits. There is something to be said when we can connect with people time and time again across the USA as one travels. I again visited South Llano River Park in Junction, Texas while on my way to San Antonio. Besides viewing birds I saw my first live armadillo!
I loved the warm weather in San Antonio, Texas and a return visit to birdwatch at Mitchell Lake. While at this location a woman told me about Crescent Bend Nature Center just about a half hour away. Of course, I went there too. Next time I will make time to bicycle the gravel paths at this place.
A big surprise was meeting a family I had met at the San Antonio KOA last November. With a glass of wine and good conversation, we caught up with each other and how life has been treating us. It truly is a not small world, but simply amazing when your path crosses with another when hundreds of miles from each ones home! Rain always threatened, but I decided I brought my bicycle to ride so I hopped on it for a quick ride before rain and leaving San Antonio. One new bird: cave swallow, yet no good photo. They flew too fast for me to even take a photo.
South Llano River Park photos:
Mitchell Lake, San Antonio, Texas bird photo:
At Crescent Bend Nature Center, this northern cardinal spent many minutes looking at the window and the side mirror of the car belonging to a couple of woman who were relaxing at the park. We were amazed at the amount of time it spent there.
The note I left my partner one morning, “I will be somewhere with my camera”. It was a beautiful morning. I had the whole day ahead of me with no plan or restrictions. With a full tank of gas in my van, snacks and water packed, binoculars, and camera … I was ready to go … somewhere!
The outdoors can feel endless when a full day may be filled with hikes through various landscapes … should I stop by a wetland, a grassland, a wooded mountainous area … or all of it? To live where outdoor options abound, I can be anywhere or everywhere! Where do I wish to visit? What do I hope to see? Yes I have my camera … which lens will I feel like using? Or maybe I carry a longer lens and use my tripod? Until I step foot on the ground, I am unsure if I will spend time with an insect, flower, bird or landscape scene … or all of it.
On this day I love the breezes and sunshine. It is an easy day for photography as I put the breeze and sunshine at my side or back. Will I focus on the insect on the flowers with my macro lens? Or use my zoom lens to photograph the flying bird? Or a wide angle lens to capture a beautiful landscape? Time will tell as my day unfolds in various places … since I am somewhere with my camera.
I live in land-locked Arizona, so getting to the Pacific Ocean a few times a year is great travel fun for me. I’ve written about various California places, but walking at low tide at the intertidal pools within Cabrillo National Monument is worth a visit. Time to visit the Point Loma Tide Pools in the San Diego area!
Be sure to know when the tides are during your visit. You do not want to be caught in high tide when the water is just over 7 feet in depth. If you are looking for sea anemones, crabs and other living things it is best to be here at low tide. At this location there are 2 high and 2 low tides most days. Google it or ask a ranger the tide schedule.
I love checking out the pools of water and seeing living things there or in the cliff’s edge. See the crabs in the photo below? And look at all the life clinging to the cliffside!
Once again we see the power of water as these smaller pools were made.
Many people visit these pools, so plan your arrival as early as you can. Cabrillo National Monument which is where this place is, opens at 9am each day. I have been here other times and found the parking lot closed due to it being full. Of course there is plenty of other spots to stop at this national monument so consider doing that too. Of course, I was happy to get a good photo of a snowy egret flying by!