Fun in Arizona with the Trogans

We had an amazing time with the Trogans the last 4 days. It was wonderful to be stationary for a while and to spend time with family we rarely see. Uncle Mike and Aunt Susie showed us a spectacular time despite the incessant rain. Every time we went outside it would start to rain, but we still managed to go on some great hikes in saguaro cactus country. We were spoiled with awesome food, a comfy place to sleep and good company. Now we are stranded in Flagstaff with car troubles. Hopefully we’ll be on our way to the Grand Canyon in the next few hours. Happy 60th Mom!

The rivers were raging from all the rain so we had to rock hop. Mike and I got soakers, Ryne stayed dry and Susie…well she almost got washed away! When we started the hike, we crossed this creek no problem. Susie is looking for a way across as the water is quickly rising!

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Susie taught me how to cook whole artichokes and she made yummy roasted cauliflower risotto (Michelle’s (her daughter’s) recipe. Delic!

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Saying goodbye-

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For the Birds et al.

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Great White Heron, Pavilion Key, Everglades NP
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Double-crested Cormorant, Anhinga Trail, Everglades NP
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Red-shouldered Hawk, Anhinga Trail, Everglades NP

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Great Blue Heron, Anhinga Trail, Everglades NP
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Royal Terns, Pavilion Key, Everglades NP
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Anhinga feeding young, Anhinga Trail, Everglades NP
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American Oystercatcher, Pavilion Key, Everglades NP
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various birds, Pavilion Key, Everglades NP

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Mexican Jay, Laguna Meadow Trail, Big Bend NP
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Vermillion Flycatcher, Rio Grande Valley Campground, Big Bend NP
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Clay-colored Thrush, Bentsen State Park, Texas
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Red-naped Sapsucker, Bentsen State Park, Texas
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White-tailed Hawk, Laguna Atascosa NWR, Texas
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Flammulated Owl, South Padre Island Texas
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Pelican Jen, Port Aransas, Texas
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Brown Pelican, Port Aransas, Texas
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Can you tell these are whooping cranes? They were digi-scoped from a mile away.

And herps…haven’t seen many this trip because of the cold

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Brown Anole, Sable Palm Sanctuary, Texas
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Hurter’s Spadefoot, Goose Island State Park, Texas
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Other animals and beautiful scenery we encountered…

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Boot Canyon, Big Bend NP. This is the only U.S. home for the Colima Warbler
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“Carmen” White-tailed Deer, Boot Canyon, Big Bend NP
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Large Douglas Fir in “the bowl” at Guadalupe Mountains NP, Texas. An ice age relict surrounded by desert
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Smith Spring, Guadalupe Mountains NP, Texas
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Yup, Lions have killed people here. Despite the odds, we managed to survive again.
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Coyote, Daniels picnic area, Big Bend NP
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The Rio Grande at Big Bend NP

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Park Rangers put up with Mexicans crossing the river to sell their crafts illegally. The mexicans then waited on there side of the river for people to buy there stuff. This baffled us.

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cute sign on a podunk house

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Top of the notch accommodations and hospitality at Aunt Suzie and Uncle Mike’s in Scottsdale, AZ. LOVE the big, cozy bed and fruit basket! We arrived Friday night and they took us to see bull riding!

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The bulls were far to rowdy and quick to get a good pic.

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From roughing it to winos…in Uncle Mike’s impressive wine cellar!

Desert

The last 5 days we visited 2 national parks in Texas: Big Bend and Guadalupe. Big Bend was superbly dreamy with desert, valleys and high mountain forests. We went for a 13 mile hike on the Laguna Meadow trail which took us up into high pine-juniper forest and around Boot Canyon, named after a rock pinnacle shaped like an upside boot. Views were stunning and it was thrilling to know that we could encounter a mountain lion. Guadalupe Mountains were my favorite though. There was desert, canyons and montane forest and astounding views. Views so far that the only thing preventing you from seeing further is the curvature of the Earth! We hiked “the bowl” which took us up to a 15,000 year old relic coniferous forest above 8,000 ft. Douglas fir, ponderosa pine and southwestern pine loomed above us as we walked over the crunchy snow. This forest type survived the ice age because of the wet, cold climate high in the mountains. There were many adoring specialty birds up there including mountain chickadees and Williamson’s Sapsucker (which I found so stunning). Day time temperatures were comfortable especially in the sun (40s-50s), but after sunset it got frigidly cold (20s)! At night, I typically wore 3 pairs of wool socks, 2 pairs of pants, 3 sweaters plus a heavy winter jacket. Then, I had to maneuver my way into my mummy sleeping bag. I felt like a sausage in a casing and when nature called in the middle of the night it was a hassle to get out and then back in.
After tent camping in these disagreeable temperatures for 10 nights, we decided it was time to get a warm hotel room. We found a cool mountain village, 100 miles from anywhere, called Mayhill and stayed at the Mayhill Hotel (the only hotel in town). It was so comfy and charming. The room was southwestern themed and had an electric fireplace! Aawww!
Yesterday we went to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. The caves were massive with unbelievable features. We went 750 ft underground for a few hours and I was finding it difficult to get ample oxygen. I have to really admire early spelunkers! Today we got acquainted with the desert at White Sands National Monument, NM and hiked around on gypsum (not sand) dunes. This is home to remarkable creatures, like the kit fox and kangaroo mouse, which never need to drink water.
One amazing act of kindness happened to us when we went out to eat (which we rarely do, this was only our second time since we started our journey). We went to pay our bill and the waitress said it was already paid. A complete stranger bought our meal! Ryne asked “do we look that poor?” We were flabbergasted at this generous and random act of kindness!

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South Texas tales

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After a wet and often cold and windy journey down the gulf coast we have arrived in far southern Texas. We camped on the beach two straight nights and didn’t get much sleep, however, last night we met a local couple while watching a Flammulated Owl on South Padre Island, who generously invited us into there beautiful home for the night.

The Big Easy

Yesterday we drove through the pan handle of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and ended up in New Orleans. We took a stroll down the French Quarter and then stopped to eat the original Muffaletta at the Central Grocery Store, which is where this Italian sandwich was invented in the early 1900’s. It was delic, even without the meat and the olive salad was fantastic. Due to the flash flood and tornado warnings here along the cajun coast we are stuck in a motel until the weather clears.

N’awlins was draped in dense fog
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Yummy olive salad
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Live Oaks
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N’awlins city park
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A menagerie of critters followed us because they wanted food. These are Whistling ducks
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In route, we stopped to visit Sleaz and Ann who showed us a good time canoeing and off road biking
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Here is a picture of the razorbills. I know it’s a terrible picture, but you can see two birds in the wavy sea. Also, we finally found a Gopher Tortoise!

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Happy New Bird!

We had a wonderful visit with my In-loves in Weston. We had fun in the sun, had long nature ambles and ate delicious meals. We spent New Years Day in the beautiful keys, we drove all the way to Key West! We love you Mutti, Pops and Seth! We left sunny southern Florida yesterday and headed north, straight into rainy, chilly weather. We made a stop at Anna Maria to look for a rare bird called a Razorbill, a puffin relative that looks like a penguin. It was raining sideways and I felt like we were in a hurricane, but we persisted our search for the razorbills. Finally, I spotted two! They were rolling around on the surface of the water and oh so cute! We arrived in Gainesville, FL last night and we’ll be trouncing around here for a few days.

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