Farewell Tanzania

Every night on our Tanzania safari, we witnessed gorgeous sunsets and beautiful sunrises. The pictures do not do it justice, but the memories will last forever.

Sunset at Ngorongoro Crater

Sunset at Ngorongoro Crater

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Last night in Tanzania

Aron, our safari guide for the past 8 days, expertly weaves through the Arusha traffic to our last lodging in Tanzania. We are headed to the Kia Lodge which is close to the airport since we have a 4:00 a.m. flight to South Africa. We settle into our room, decide to just snack on our leftovers rather than a full dinner, walk around the premise and stop to enjoy the views of Mount Kilimanjaro. Oh, how I would love to venture near this majestic mountain and maybe do a bit of climbing. I guess I’ll leave that desire for another time.

Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro

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Lake Manyara National Park

Blue Monkey scampering through the mahogany trees.

Blue Monkey scampering through the mahogany trees.

The last stop in this incredible journey is Lake Manyara National Park. The park roadway winds through an expanse of lush jungle-like forest where we witness large troops of baboons, blue monkeys scamper between the ancient mahogany trees, bushbuck hiding in the shadows, and a cheetah searching for lunch.

Cheetah sitting on a termite hill surveying the area for lunch.

Cheetah sitting on a termite hill surveying the area for lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

We ate our boxed lunch overlooking the Rift Valley, enjoying our final moments in Tanzania. After lunch we head back to Arusha in preparation for the next African adventure.

Having lunch overlooking the Rift Valley and Lake Manyara.

Having lunch overlooking the Rift Valley and Lake Manyara.

 

 

 

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A night at Ndutu Safari Lodge

Ndutu LodgeNext accommodation is Ndutu Safari Lodge facing Lake Ndutu. The lodge is situated in the southeastern part of the Serengeti ecosystem. The tiny stone cottages, shaded by majestic acacia trees, were built with local materials in order to blend into the rustic surroundings.

Our room was small, but comfortable. Even though all the lodges we have stayed in are powered by generators, this is the only one that turns it off during the night which meant that flashlights were needed when dark and no hot water for the early morning showers. Oh, well… we will survive. The gift store was the best we encountered so far, but we knew this ahead of time from the multiple review sights we scoured. So we were prepared to purchase a few tokens to take home to family and friends.

Water is a continual problem at Ndutu and the surrounding areas. Water in the bathrooms comes from a dug-out waterhole near the lake. It is hauled by bowser every day to the Lodge and pumped up to the watertower into four storage tanks. This water contains dissolved minerals (mostly sodium carbonate or ‘washing soda’) which is impossible to remove and makes the water feel soapy. For this reason it cannot be used for drinking or cooking, nor for mixing cement. Also, uniforms, sheets and towels, which are regularly washed in it, deteriorate after a few months, so replacing these is a constant problem.

Genets, related to the mongoose.

Genets, related to the mongoose. They are highly agile creatures, with quick reflexes and exceptional climbing skills.

The compound is small but quiet and offers beautiful photo ops.  There are no fences around Ndutu Safari Lodge and wild animals wander through at all hours of day and night. Watchmen are on duty to escort guests back to their rooms.

Before dinner we took a quick walk before settling down at the camp fire chatting with other adventurers. It became apparent that we got to experience so much more than the larger groups, and we still have a couple more days to go. Yippy!

The best part of this lodge is dinner time. The food is marvelous, the best so far on the trip. And, the entertainment was beyond expectation. Every evening 4 genets sneak in through an opening in the thatched roof and sit on the rafters overhead enjoying the warmth and companionship. It was a pleasant distraction for everyone.

Dung BeetleAnother first for us was the sighting of a dung beetle so called because they feed on feces. Yup, you read that right! They are found on all continents except Antarctica (must be too cold for them!).

Almost as big as my hand

Almost as big as my hand

Second discovery was the giant snail. Couldn’t resist this photo op.

So much to experience at every stop along our trip as we savored the moments. This trip was totally incredible because we did experience a world so remote from our own daily life. So beautiful, so incredibly beautiful.

A rainbow over the acacia trees at Ndutu.

A rainbow over the acacia trees at Ndutu.

Stay tuned to find out what experiences we had the next morning…

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More Cheetahs

Yes, there were more cheetahs as we traveled around the Serengeti Plains and Lake Manyara. We got a chance to capture a few more shots while we waited and waited to witness a chase, but to no avail. Oh, well… maybe the next time.

Click on pictures to enlarge

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Next cheetah was spotted in the deep grasses just looking around for something to eat.

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Cheetah on the plains watching a herd of zebras, gazelles and wildebeest. Which one will be lunch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This cheetah has scented something, but where will she go?

 

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Cheetah sitting on a termite hill gives her an advantage over the smaller prey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cheetah Hunt

Cheetah on a hunt

Cheetah on a hunt

The thrill today was our first Cheetah sighting in the deep grass watching over a reedbuck antelope. However, there was a body of water between the two causing the cheetah to cautiously wait until she was within striking distance.  Click on the pictures to enlarge.

The cheetah can run faster than any other land animal— as fast as 70 to 75 mph in short bursts covering distances up to 1,600 ft, and has the ability to accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in three seconds. We watched and watched but to no avail. The hunt was a slow process.

The coarse, short fur of the cheetah is tan with round black spots affording it some camouflage while hunting. There are no spots on its white underside, but the tail has spots, which merge to form four to six dark rings at the end. The tail usually ends in a bushy white tuft. The most distinguishing feature are the black “tear marks” running from the corner of its eyes down the sides of the nose to its mouth. This black area keeps sunlight out of its eyes and aid in seeing long distances.

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The small reedbuck is alert to a predator nearby

The reedbuck is a sturdily built antelope with yellow to grayish brown coat. Only the males possess horns about 10-14 inches long. Its large, oval-shaped ears distinguish it from other antelopes. A small, black, bare glandular patch can be noticed at the base of each ear.

As we continued to watch this cheetah, she hopped on top of a stump to make it easier to survey the surrounding area. Click on the video below to watch a brief clip.

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After awhile, the cheetah walked right in front of the safari vehicles that were watching the show. No one needed a telephoto lens to capture this majestic powerful animal. Stay tuned for more cheetah sighting.

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The cheetah unconcerned about the massive number of vehicles stopped to watch the show

Cheetah watching

We were not the only ones captivated by the closeness of the cheetah

 

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Serengeti Migration

We were in the right place at the right time – the Ndutu region of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. In January, the Great Serengeti Migration, movement of vast numbers of wildebeest and zebras, is in the southeast portion of the Serengeti. We were there and parked our safari vehicle in the midst of this awesome experience. Click on the video to experience a few seconds of this movement.

Serengeti Migration map

Wildebeest boast the largest mammal migration in the world, migrating close to 1,000 miles each year

The great Serengeti migration is the movement of millions of wildebeest, accompanied by large numbers of zebras and gazelles in search of greener pastures and better quality of water. Every year is an endless journey across woodlands, hills and open plains, chasing the rains in a race for life. This movement is a predictable annual pattern. The month-by-month pattern is shown on the map on the right.

It is estimated that 1.5 million wildebeest, 400,000 zebras and 200,000 gazelles make up a total of over 2 million migrating animals! They travel in large herds and are active day and night, grazing constantly. Mid February is calving season when approximately 8,000 wildebeest are born every day for a period of approximately 3 weeks. Calves learn to walk within minutes of birth and within days are able to keep up with the herd. The Serengeti plains are rich in nutritious grasses, providing the herds with the best conditions to raise their newborn.

Wildebeest

Wildebeest can live to be 40 years old

 

The wildebeest, also called the gnu is an antelope. They were first discovered about 1700 by Dutch settlers on their way to the interior of South Africa. Due to their resemblance to wild cattle, (large head, shaggy mane, pointed beard, and sharp, curved horns) these people called them “wild ox” or “wildebeest.”

Predators include lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, and hyenas. Although wildebeest can run up to 40 miles per hour, the young and weak are easy prey. As we contemplated the migration movement, our guide easily pointed out a tree in the distance. Looking through binoculars we located a tree-climbing lion, watching and waiting for the right one to appear.

Tree climbing lion watching over the migration

Tree climbing lion watching over the migration

 

Cheetah on a hunt

Cheetah on a hunt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next stop:  Ndutu Lodge with a wonderful dining experience.

 

 

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Serengeti Plains

The gravel road goes on forever - "Serengeti" means endless and it certainly seemed that way!

The gravel road goes on forever – “Serengeti” means endless and it certainly seemed that way!

Serengeti is derived from the Maasai language, “Siringitu ” meaning “Endless Plains” and it truly seemed that way as we traveled across the dusty, gravel roads. As our guide, Aron, proceeded to obtain the National Park permits, we climbed Naabi Hill to take in the view. Incredible! The Serengeti is made up of rivers, woodlands, plains and kopjes (small rocky hills).

These endless plains fill the southern half of the Serengeti and one of the reasons why the yearly Migration of Wildebeest, along with their zebra friends to lead the way, takes place. More about the migration in the next posting.

A field of giraffes

A field of giraffes

Along the way we came across fields of giraffes. What an incredible sight, both near and far. I’ll let the pictures tell the story…  (click on pictures to enlarge)

giraffe

Giraffe, the tallest living terrestrial mammal – 16-20 feet tall with average weight of 3,500 lbs for males.

 

 

 

 

Giraffe closeup

Giraffe right next to the safari vehicle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next stop was to watch a lion eating lunch – a zebra. Then, another lion lounging on a rock next to a pull off.

Lion eating zebra

Lunch time!

 

Female lion just lounging next to the roadway

Female lion right next to a pull off

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two lepoards in tree

Momma leopard and cub in tree. Look closely – top right! Lunch!

 

 

So much to see and witness along the bumpy, dusty, gravel roadway for miles and miles in order to arrive at our next accommodation. It seems that all safari vehicles need to check into lodging before 6:00 p.m. and we were cutting it close, BECAUSE… there was one more stop. Here is a picture as close as we could possibly get! Yes two leopards – momma and cub. The other cub was in a tree right next to this one. Look at the picture closely and you will see the dangling legs of an impala. Leopards carry their kill into a tree to prevent the ground feeding animals an opportunity to steal lunch.

Now it is time to head to our lodging, Serengeti Serena Safari Lodge made up of cute bungalows. We sat on our back porch, absorb the scenery of the Serengeti and watch a little dik-dik playing in the grass.

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Our little Serengeti bungalow

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Patty sitting on the back porch taking in the Serengeti scenery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dik-Dik is a small antelope, stands about 12-16 inches at the shoulders. They make a shrill, whistling sound to alert other animals to predators.

 

We will be staying at this darling little bungalow in the heart of the Serengeti for two nights to give us ample time to explore the region. It sits on the saddle of a tree-clad ridge with commanding panoramic views across the Serengeti. The lodge incorporates traditional African architecture and has won numerous awards from the world travel press. It blends completely into the living landscape with a series of traditional domed ‘rondavels’ widely spaced throughout the grounds in the midst of a grove of acacia trees. Because of the potential night time animals wandering around, guides with flashlights escort you to and from the dining area. A reassuring idea we took advantage of, because who wants to meet a lion along the way?

Next days adventure…  Oh, wow surprises ahead!

 

 

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Ngorongoro Crater – Part III

More animals found inside the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area. Click on pictures to enlarge.

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Zebra’s stripes come in different patterns, unique to each individual. Color blind animals, such as lions, confuse the stripes with tall grass in the Savannah.

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A zebra foal is brown and white.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gazelles are small antelopes, most standing 2–3.5 ft at shoulder. They are able to run at bursts as high as 60 mph or sustained speed of 30 mph.

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The Spotted Hyena is a common carnivore in Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The warthog is a wild member of the pig family.

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Jackals are predators of small- to medium-sized animals and proficient scavengers. Their long legs and curved canine teeth are adapted for hunting small mammals, birds, and reptiles. Their large feet and fused leg bones are well suited for long-distance running, capable of maintaining speeds of 10 mph for extended periods of time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The word “hippopotamus” is derived from ancient Greek meaning “river horse.” Hippos are recognizable by their barrel-shaped torsos, enormous mouths and teeth, nearly hairless bodies, stubby legs and tremendous size.

 

 

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Momma leads baby hippo past the safari vehicles. The hippo is one of the most aggressive creatures in the world and, as such, ranks among the most dangerous animals in Africa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next stop:  Serengeti Plains…

 

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Ngorongoro Crater – Part II

The African Big Five term has nothing to do with a safari; it was coined by the big game hunters who described these five as ferocious and difficult to hunt. However, “Big Five” it is a great marketing tool for safari operators and a term we were about to use in one day. The Big Five consists of: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and cape buffalo.

Thousands of Flamingos spend time in the salt pans of Lake Magadi within the Ngorongoro Crater.

Thousands of Flamingos spend time in the salt pans of Lake Magadi within the Ngorongoro Crater.

Our day begins around 8:00 a.m. when we meet our guide in the hotel lobby. With luggage stowed in the back of the safari vehicle, lunch boxes safely stored on the floor in the front, water in the cooler, we are off to travel the twisty road down to the crater floor. This area is truly unique because it is the only conservation area in Tanzania that protects wildlife while allowing human infiltration via safari 4-wheel vehicles during daylight hours. The crater is 2,000 feet deep and its floor covers 100 square miles. Lake Magadi, easily seen from the top of the crater, is a saline pan and home to thousands of pink-hued flamingos.

We got to see and photograph the “Big Five” on this particular day. Click the pictures to enlarge.

1.  Lions:  Our first sighting of lions was a fairly large pride that had recently killed a cape buffalo. We watched them for a considerable amount of time as their posturings was amazing. The hyenas and jackals were waiting in the wings to get their fair share.

Next we found 3 male lions sleeping in the shade of a tree near a brook. And, finally 4 more male lions hanging around the hippo pool. This is where we stopped for a lunch break and many, many more photos with the amazing shot of one lion walking between the vehicles.

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Male and female lions at Cape Buffalo kill while the hyenas and jackal wait for their turn.

three sleeping male lions

Three male lions snoozing under a tree near a brook. Their bellies are full.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Male lion walking between the safari vehicles

Male lion walking between the safari vehicles

 

 

Lion near hippo pond

One of 4 lions just resting near the hippo pond

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.  Leopard:  The leopard is the smallest of the four “big cats” with relatively short legs and a long sleek body. Its spots are small, densely packed rosettes. The unique feature of this mighty cat is its ability to climb trees even when carrying a heavy carcass. We were fortunate to see several in trees snoozing after a kill. The evidence were still visible on higher branches.

Leopard lunch in tree

Leopard lunch, an impala, high in tree

Leopard and her cub in tree. Lunch is a little farther up in the branches.

Leopard and her cub in tree. Lunch is a little farther up in the branches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rhino in field with wildebeest and zebras

Rhino in field with wildebeest and zebras

 

3.  Rhinoceros:  Rhinos are large mammals, only second in size to the elephant. They have a thick protective skin, formed from layers and layers of collagen. Adult rhinos have no real predators in the wild, other than humans poaching for the rhino horns. Young rhinos can however fall prey to big cats, crocodiles, wild dogs, and hyenas. We were fortunate to see two (or maybe three) rhinos resting, but quite far even for our zoom lens.

 

 

Elephant eating from a bush

As we drive down into the crater, we spot several elephants gathering their breakfast. Notice how she uses her trunk to forage.

 

4.  Elephant:  The largest living terrestrial animals, male African elephants can reach a height of 13 feet and weigh 15,000 lbs. They are herbivores and can be found near a source of water.

African elephants have larger ears (used to control body temperature) and concave backs. (Asian elephants have smaller ears and convex or level backs.)

 

 

 

Water buffalo

African buffalo (Cape buffalo) is one of the most successful grazers in Africa and while not particularly demanding with regard to habitat, they require water daily.

 

5.  African Buffalo:  The African Buffalo (also called Cape Buffalo) is a fearsome animal in looks and behavior. Owing to its unpredictable nature, which makes it highly dangerous to humans, the African buffalo has never been domesticated unlike its Asian counterpart, the Asian buffalo.

Herd of African Buffalo

Herd of African Buffalo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next will be pictures of all the other animals we saw while traveling inside the crater…

 

 

 

 

 

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Ngorongoro Crater – Part I

Rain clouds cloaking the Ngorongoro Crater

Rain clouds cloaking the Ngorongoro Crater

We are on the road again heading to a large volcanic caldera – Ngorongoro Crater – the world’s largest inactive, intact, and unfilled volcanic bowl. This conservation area is recognized as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. It is about 110 miles west of Arusha.

We arrived at our accommodations, Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge late in the afternoon, checked in, and followed the guide to our room.

The lodge, built entirely of local river stone and camouflaged with indigenous vines, blends into the landscape perfectly as it hugs the jagged crater rim.

The Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge is build from river stone and covered in indigenous vines. It is entirely invisible from the crater floor less than 1/2 mile below.

The Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge is entirely invisible from the crater floor less than 1/2 mile below.

Our room was comfortable, the changing room, bathroom and shower area humungous, and the outside timbered floored deck afforded an uninterrupted view of the crater below.

Dinner, an incredible culinary delight, was served in an upstairs room with floor to ceiling windows that allowed a panoramic view of the sunset and amphitheater below. It is stunning and we can’t wait for our next day’s adventure to the crater bottom.

Click on the pictures to enlarge.

sunset Ngorongoro Crater

Sunset at Ngorongoro Crater sets the stage for a perfect day and heightens the anticipation of the next adventure.

 

 

 

 

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Maramboi Permanent Tented Camp

The Maramboi Permanent Tented Camp – our first safari lodging – not exactly what Patty had in mind as she is strictly not a tent camper. However, for one night she just might have to suffer through this.

Zebras eating the tender grasses between walkways

As we head to our “tent” we are distracted by zebras

We arrived late afternoon and were immediately greeted by the manager who offered us cool towels and a fruity drink ( and we soon learned this was a standard custom at all the safari lodges).

After a brief introduction and orientation, we were escorted down a long rock walkway to our “tent.” Progression was slowed by the picture opportunity before us – zebras just walking around the area as if they were domesticated.

Our tent lodging for the night

Our “tent” room for the night complete with deck to sit and watch the animals meandering by.

 

 

Once we finally arrived at our “tent room” Patty was pleasantly surprised and quite comfortable with her upcoming tent experience. The accommodations were spectacular. The huge canvas-walled, screened-windows, thatched-roof rooms were raised on platforms and consisted of all the necessities, including electricity and running water. Let’s just say the were luxurious – from all the amenities to the linen and pillows! I personally enjoyed the marvelous pillows! Why can’t all places have pillows like this one?

Inside our Maramboi tent.

Inside our Maramboi Tent. Plenty of room with three beds, a table with chairs, oscillating fan, big bathroom/dressing room area with sink and large counter space, huge shower, flushed toilet in a separate room. All very comfy!

 

Our afternoon and early evening was filled with animal watching – zebras, impalas, wildebeest, jackal and the lone Leopard tortoise.

Wildebeest follow the zebras as they migrate to greener pastures

Wildebeest follow the zebras as they migrate to greener pastures

 

 

 

Young Impalas next to our deck had a playful tussle with locked horns

Young Impalas next to our deck had a playful tussle with locked horns

 

 

 

 

Leopard Tortoise lives mainly in grassland habitats and grazes extensively upon mixed grasses. It typically lives 80 to 100 years.

Leopard Tortoise lives mainly in grassland habitats and grazes extensively upon mixed grasses. It typically lives 80 to 100 years.

 

 

 

Zebras feeding

From the outdoor dining area overlooking the firepit with zebras and warthogs grazing nearby.

 

 

 

Sun beginning to set across the lake at Maramboi tented safari camp

Sun beginning to set across the lake at the Maramboi Tented Safari Camp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next stop:  Ngorongoro Crater and Conservation Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

 

 

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Tarangire National Park – Part II

Besides all the elephants at Tarangire National Park, we were able to snaps some photos of a variety of animals throughout the park. Click on a picture to enlarge.

Herd of zebras

Zebras are easily spotted with their unique and distinctive black and white stripes. Unlike their closest relatives, horses and donkeys, zebras have never been truly domesticated.

Water buck crossing the road in front of a safari jeep

A male waterbuck, the last one in a line of several that crossed the road in front of a safari vehicle, just meandered along without any concern. The watebuck’s coat is reddish brown in color and becomes progressively darker with age. The long, spiral horns, found only on males, sweep back and up.

Mother elephants with two calves

Female elephants (cows) tend to live in family groups, which can consist of one female with her calves or several related females with offspring.

Two giraffes at the river drinking with a small redbuck near by

Giraffes (the tallest living terrestrial animals) have extremely long neck and legs. Notice how he spreads his legs just to drink from the river’s edge. Every giraffe has distinctive coat patterns. Nearby is a rooibok (red buck) which is a graceful, medium-sized antelope. Only the rams have lyre-shaped horns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vervet monkey in tree

Vervet monkey are mostly vegetarian with a black face and white fringe of hair and greyish body hair. The males have pale blue scrotum and red penis.

 

 

 

 

 

Water buffalo

African buffalo (Cape buffalo) has an unpredictable nature which makes it highly dangerous to humans. It has never been domesticated unlike the Asian buffalo. It is one of the most successful grazers in Africa and while not particularly demanding with regard to habitat, they require water daily.

 

 

 

Family group of warthogs

The warthog is a wild member of the pig family. The common name comes from the four large, wart-like protrusions found on their head which serve as fat reserves and used for defense when males fight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A male lion (Simba) staying cool under a tree. Look closely and you will see the outline of another lion to the left and farther under the tree.

A male lion (Simba) staying cool under a tree. Look closely and you will see the outline of another lion to the left and farther under the tree.

 

 

a female lion on a small hill.

The first lion we spotted just enjoying the sun and view from her little hill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next stop:  Our “luxury” accommodations for the night…

 

 

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Favorite African Birds

We were blessed to have a guide who could rattle off the names and facts of specific birds. Although we didn’t always get great pictures, here are a few that are somewhat okay. Click on the picture if you want to enlarge.

Helmeted Guineafowl

Helmeted Guinea fowl have dark plumage with dense white spots. They eat seeds and insects and build their nests on the ground.

Two African Red-Billed Hornbill cleaning each other

African Red-Billed Hornbill cleaning each other as a hawk and another bird look on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Egyptian Goose

Egyptian Geese were considered sacred by the ancient Egyptians, and appeared in much of their artwork.

 

Two love birds sitting onto of a small tree.

Love birds are social and affectionate small parrots

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thousands of Flamingos

Thousands of flamingos on the salt pan of Lake Magadi in the Ngorongoro Crater.

 

African Ostrich with his family

The African Ostrich holds 3 records: World’s largest and fastest running living bird and lays the largest eggs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Superb Starling has a long, loud song consisting of trills and chatters.

Superb Starling has a long, loud song consisting of shrills, chatters and screeching.

 

The Saddle-billed stork is a huge bird that regularly attains a height of 60 in, a length of 56 in and a 8-9 ft wingspan.

The Saddle-billed stork is a huge bird that regularly attains a height of 60 in, a length of 56 in and a 8-9 ft wingspan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

African Masked Weaver eats insects, seeds and nectar.

African Masked Weaver eats insects, seeds and nectar.

 

 

 

 

The Secretarybird is a very large, mostly terrestrial bird hunting its prey on foot. It is usually found in the open grasslands.

The Secretarybird is a very large, mostly terrestrial bird hunting its prey on foot. It is usually found in the open grasslands.

 

 

 

The Red-billed Oxpeckers feed exclusively on the backs of large mammals. They feed on ectoparasites, particularly ticks.

The Red-billed Oxpeckers feed exclusively on the backs of large mammals. They feed on ectoparasites, particularly ticks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crowned cranes are noted for their spectacular dances, which involve head-bobbing, wing fluttering, leaps and bows. They are the only cranes to perch in trees. They fly with their neck extended forward and legs stretched horizontally behind the tail.

Crowned cranes are noted for their spectacular dances, which involve head-bobbing, wing fluttering, leaps and bows. They are the only cranes to perch in trees. They fly with their neck extended forward and legs stretched horizontally behind the tail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tarangire National Park – Part I

Tarangire National Park, located 75 miles southwest of Arusha is an easy drive on mostly surfaced roads (well, mostly… except the several detours onto back-country-dusty-bumpy-trails while the main road was being resurfaced.) At a small village that sported Coca-Cola signs everywhere we turned off the main road for the last 4 miles of graveled bumpy dusty roadway to the entrance and a giant baobab tree. These beautiful trees grow to heights of over 100 feet, have massive trunks as large as 36 feet in diameter, and can live for several thousand years.

Baobab Tree

The Baobab Tree thrives in dry climes with low to moderate seasonal rainfall.

The Baobab Tree has a special role to those that live near them as well as to the elephants, monkeys and baboons. It can provide shelter, food and water for animal and human inhabitants in savannah regions. The tree’s fruit is a large pod known as ‘monkey bread’ or ‘cream of tartar fruit’ and rich in vitamin C. The seeds are rich in protein, calcium, oil and phosphates. They can be roasted and ground like coffee beans. Young leaves have a high calcium content and can be used as spinach. The trunk is fibrous and can be woven into rope mats and paper.

Tarangire National Park is 1,096 sq miles. The name of the park originates from the Tarangire River that crosses through the park, being the only source of water for wild animals during dry seasons. And, this is where we found the elephants. Many, many elephants. Huge herds of elephants. I am sorry that our pictures do not do it justice. I suppose a video of the huge herds would have been better, but here are a few to let you experience the thrill of elephants.

Click on the pictures to enlarge.

Young elephant rubbing a tree or is he trying to push it down?

Young elephant rubbing a tree or is he trying to push it down?

Elephant herd on the Tarangire River

Elephant herd on the Tarangire River

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elephants are large land mammals in two extant genera belonging to the family Elephantidae. They eat mostly grass, tree leaves, flowers, wild fruits, twigs, shrubs, bamboo and bananas.

Elephants are large land mammals and eat mostly grass, tree leaves, flowers, wild fruits, twigs, shrubs, bamboo and bananas.

Herd sheltering under a tree to avoid the hot noon sun.

Herd sheltering under a tree to avoid the hot noon sun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next post I will share photos of the other animals in Tarangire. Stay tuned…

 

 

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Arusha, Tanzania

 

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Multicultural aspects of Arusha

Arusha, a multicultural city in northern Tanzania, is surrounded by some of Africa’s most famous national parks and game preserves: Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, Olduvai Gorge, Tarangire National Park, Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru. It has a temperate climate with January averaging a high of 84 and low of 50 and rainfall about 2.3 inches. This is where our adventure begins.

The area is serviced by the Kilimajaro International Airport which is approximately a 45-minute drive to Arusha. Thus this city is a stopover for the many safari trips.

As we drive through the city heading west, we are bombarded with traffic, people and markets. The main mode of public transport is walking, motor bikes and the daladala, a minibuses which is cramped and safety is a serious concern. However, the ride is very cheap, US$ .20 is the fixed price for any trip around town.

We are happy to be safely inside our safari vehicle.

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Arusha Market Day

Selling shoes off of a flat-bed wagon.

Selling shoes off of a flat-bed wagon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Good Earth Tours and Safari

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Posing by our vehicle after a muddy day on the Serengeti Plains

We can’t say enough about the amazing experience and marvelous education Good Earth Tours and Safari provide us while in Tanzania. Certainly our travel expectations were exceeded as neither one of us had any real concept of what we were getting ourselves into. Yes, we had seen pictures and listened to tales of other adventurers, but did we really understand what was ahead? No, no, no… As Aron, our guide frequently said, “Every day is full of surprises!” And, it was!

Pick up:  First morning pickup was 9:00 and we placed our adventure into capable hands. After the first day, we usually began our adventures shortly after 8:00 a.m. as both of us are early risers.

USA Coordinator:  Baraka Maro  888-776-7173 provided us with timely information to make our journey possible. It was his attention to details that convinced us to take the leap and put down the deposit. You can bet we are so, so glad we did! Thanks, Baraka for setting the stage for this trip of a lifetime. Without you, it wouldn’t have happened.

Guide:  Aron – What can we say? Everyone thinks they have the best guide. But, really???  Aron had eagle-sharp vision to spot a tree climbing lion, park us in the middle of the wildebeest/zebra migration and still not run over the chameleon in the middle of the road. His gentle persona was just what these two sisters needed. We will never forget our muddy adventure as Patty tried so hard to direct the rescue operation.

Vehicle:  Toyota Land Cruiser held together quite well through the rough graveled pot-holed roads, muddy streams, over the plains, around the wooded areas and safely to our accommodations each evening. A cooler between the back seats held a good supply of bottled water (well needed) and energy-packed chocolate candy bars salvaged from our daily lunch box. 280

Accommodations:  All were quite nice and more than adequate. Nice?  Hum… more luxurious than we expected. We thrilled at the huge permanent tent equipped with bathroom and shower and the most luxurious pillows! There was plenty of wildlife running around the property to keep us entertained all evening. We marveled at the vista from our balcony at Ngorongoro Crater and could hardly wait for our next day’s adventure into this wildlife sanctuary. We enjoyed the private escorts between our room and the dining area just in case a lion came to visit. Sunsets and sunrises were a special treat every day along with the early morning rainbow and balloon flight over the acacia trees at Ndutu.

Sister’s agreement:  This was the best trip ever and worth every penny we spent!

 

 

 

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Planet Lodge

Ok, well, the excitement isn’t really beginning today since we slept until noon. A quick shower, searched the suitcase for warm weather clothing and then off to fill our bellies. The dining area is outside on a covered patio which was truly delightful. We are pleased to find the lunch menu enticing – hamburger and fries, Coca-Cola and coffee.

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Planet Lodge, Arusha, Tanzania

Our little round bungalow is delightful and Mt. Meru is visible in the background. Mount Meru is an active volcano with the most recent eruption in 1910. At a height of 14,977 feet, it is the ninth or tenth highest mountain in Africa, dependent on definition. Who’s going to quibble with the facts?

We spent the afternoon walking the grounds, sitting by the pool, listening to the birds, marveling at the flowers, and enjoying the warm sunshine. So, so far away from the bitter cold and snow!

After dinner, we repack our suitcases knowing that for the next 8 days we will be on the move daily and very little time to rummage through our stuff. Task complete, we head off to bed eager for the safari to begin. Tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. we begin our adventure!

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Enjoying a cup of coffee, probably my last for a couple of weeks unless I can be assured the water was boiled.

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It’s January – lots of cold and snow at home, but here in Tanzania the flowers are everywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Off to Africa

Tanzania mapIt was a very, very long day. No, wait! It was a very, very, very long two days.

I arrived at the airport hours ahead of schedule; you take a ride whenever it is available. Sitting in the Club Lounge reading my book, chatting on the phone and sipping wine made the afternoon a breeze. Finally it was time to board the first of three legs – 7:00 p.m. Monday night with the expected arrival time in Tanzania at 2:00 a.m. on Wednesday. I am happy to say, all flights were on time and completely bearable since we had comfortable seats that reclined to 180 degrees for sleeping. After dinner, we popped a sleeping pill and relaxed the hours away.

Once we were at the Kilimanjaro Airport we experienced a confused system: Lane #1 – pay for and obtain an entry visa ($100 bucks gone real fast); Lane #2 – answer a few questions (like, ah, why are you here?) and get passport stamped; Lane #3 – fingerprinting both hands all while the electrical lights blinked on and off. (Seems government has a problem supplying consistent electricity).

With all that rigmarole behind us, we gathered our suitcases and headed outside to find our guide waiting for us with our names on a sign. Whew!!! Our biggest fear was that in the wee hours of the morning we would be left alone. I must say Good Earth Tours and Safari was well organized!zebra crossings

The drive into Arusha took nearly an hour with very little to see except zebra crossings.  Chuckle…  Patty really looked for the zebras! We even stopped for a brief minute to view Kilimanjaro in the distance in the dark. (You could just make out a barely visible outline.)

Arrived at our lodging around 3:30 a.m. and had to wait while the proprietor got up, dressed and opened the front doors. Once we were shown to our quarters, we collapsed into bed (mosquito netting in place), popped another sleeping pill and fell fast asleep.

Stay tune for the excitement to begin…

 

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Where the heck are they?

mapThe sisters are going again! Anyone know where they are? The map to the right will give you a hint at least to the continent we are on. Africa – wahoo!

Actually, we are catching a late night flight from Washington to Turkey, then a connecting flight to Tanzania for an 8-day safari. Kilimanjaro here we come!

The next leg of the trip is an early morning flight (4:05 a.m. – that’s right in the morning) to Ethiopia with a connection to South Africa where we will spend the night.

Then we will hop, skip and jump to Zimbabwe for a few days to see Victoria Falls (one of the Natural Wonders of the World) and have a bit of fun before heading back to reality (and snow and cold) the end of January.

We have had our Hepatitis shots, tetanus booster, Yellow Fever shot and Typhoid vaccine pills. We have malaria prevention pills to be taken before, during and after we get home. We sprayed our clothes with Permethrin, packed the Deet and sunscreen, and slipped the cameras into the backpack. We are ready!

If possible we will post pictures either on this website or on Facebook, but internet connection may be a bit spotty since most of the tent camps run off of a generator. Electricity may be a problem; water is definitely a problem. Oh, well… Can’t wash or blow dry my hair, so every day may be a bad hair day!

Oh, the Passport Health Consultant informed us that we should stay away from coffee since the water is a problem. If the coffee is of percolator-type then we can be assured the water has boiled, otherwise a drip coffee maker only uses hot water, not boiled. So, anyone under these circumstances looks for an alternative and “Pocket Coffee” – chocolate with a dollop of espresso inside is a great alternative. I’ll get my chocolate and coffee fix all at the same time.  :-)

Stay tuned…

Old Crap

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Happy New Year

I can hardly believe that 2013 is behind us. It is time for a bit of reflection. What a great year this has been and I am thankful for the opportunities I have been able to grasp. Traveling is always an adventure and an opportunity to explore, experience and expand my horizons. During each trip I attempt to capture moments in my memory and photography.

The sisters traversing the Panama Canal - 2013

The sisters traversing the Panama Canal – January 2013

January - A flight out of the cold, snowy Northeast down to beautiful warm Fort Lauderdale. It was a joy to strip off the heavy jackets and soak up the sunshine. We marveled at the colorful flowers. Leaving Florida behind we cruised to several Caribbean islands for fun in the sun. Then on to the highlight of our trip – the Panama Canal. What a marvelous undertaking and I am so glad we took the time to do our research. It made the whole adventure so meaningful. 2014 marks the 100 Anniversary of building the canal.

Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park

Upon returning to Florida, we spent a few days in the Everglades National Park learning about the ecosystem of this massive tropical wetlands –1.5 million acres. This is home to alligators, crocodiles, manatees, a variety of birds, including eagles, osprey, egrets, roseate spoonbill, cormorants, and so many more. It was really difficult to leave this warm climate to head back to snowy, cold Northeast.

 

Ducks at Norman Lake

 

March – Spent a few days at a lovely, well-equipped rental home on Norman Lake in North Carolina with dear friends. Weather was nice — a bit cool but mostly sunny. We did a bit of hiking, lots of chatting, plenty of snacking, and explored the gorgeous grounds of the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens. We sat on the dock every evening feeding the ducks day-old bread. They didn’t really enjoy the popcorn, but we did! These few days were so much fun and relaxing we plan to do it again in 2014.

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Walking along the California Coast – windy and foggy!

 

August - Another quick trip. This time to California to visit my “Alaskan Adventure” roommate in Palo Alto. What a great time sipping wine, tasting chocolate, reminiscing, chatting into the evening, hiking, zip-lining, walking the California coast, eating plenty, and relaxing.

Wonder where the two of us will venture off to this coming year?

 

 

Evan Levi

Lots of fun, lots of laughter, lots of sunshine in the beautiful blue sky

September - For several years now, Labor Day weekend has been set aside for the family reunion in Madison, New York. Weather was fantastic and we all had a marvelous time sharing and caring for each other. The kids spent most of the weekend either fishing or swimming under supervision, of course. Meals were plentiful and the camp fire with s’mores a delight. The highlight of the weekend was the hayride.

Thanks, Patty and John for being terrific hosts! See you all in 2014.

 

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Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon

 

November - And the final trip which had been on Patty’s bucket list for 10 years and finally booked 13 months ago was the mule ride to the bottom of Grand Canyon with an overnight at Phantom Ranch. It was a bit scary in September when the government closed down the National Parks. Would we be able to go????

Yes, the day arrived and off we went to Arizona to do a bit of hiking near Flagstaff and Sedona before heading to the Grand Canyon. It is hard to anticipate what the inner canyon is like when you only stand at the top looking across this massive area — 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep. Every year, about 5 million people stand at the South Rim lookouts to marvel at the massive canyon below. It is breathtaking and as the sun sets in the evening and rises in the morning the color transformation is exquisite. I am thankful for the opportunity to stand at the top looking down and travel to the bottom and look up. I am thankful for the opportunity to experience the magnitude of the inner canyon, see the beautiful green Colorado River and enjoy the peaceful evening at Phantom Ranch.

I have been blessed this year to have had so many experiences, so many adventures. It has been a pleasure to pull together pictures, journals and videos to share with my readers. Have a happy, healthy, prosperous 2014, and, look for your own adventures, wherever you may be.

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Final upward thrust

Upward trail

We slowly make our way back and forth across the steep cliff

The final leg of our journey. Up, up, up we go! Unlike the downward trail with its constant pounding on our knees, this trail ride provided a rocking motion as we sit forward in the saddles to counterbalance the uphill terrain. (It also created some tender spots on the derriere.) First the mules place their two front feet on the upward step, then with a jumping motion the two back feet followed — first a rocking motion backward, then a jarring motion forward. Back and forth, back and forth as we make our way to the top of Grand Canyon.

Our progress is slow as we frequently provide rest stops for the mules. This is a hard climb for them with the steepness of the trail and the change in altitude. I will forever be grateful for the mule’s strength and sure-footedness as my own legs would not have been able to conquer this journey.

Looking back on the trail

Looking back on the trail

Our final stop was spectacular. We got a chance to look down into the massive canyon below and catch a glimpse of a small portion of the trail we just negotiated. Then we looked up to the top of the cliff where we would finally dismount and say good bye to the mules. You will have to look closely to the cliff’s edge in order to see the hikers meandering back and forth, back and forth. We are so close but still a long ways to go as we, too, must traverse upward through several switchbacks.

Looking upward we just had to wonder where is the trail?

Looking upward we just had to wonder where is the trail?

We can hardly believe the adventure is over. After a wait of nearly 10 years, Patty finally got her wish and wore her “straw hat.” This mule ride and exploration of the inner canyon was far beyond our expectations. It is truly a magnificent place, magical, sacred — the change in color, the geological variation, the rock formations (spears and plateaus), the deep crevasses, the plants and shrubs, the Colorado River…  It is immense to say the least.

Grand Canyon — 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep. Nearly 5 million people every year stand at one of the lookouts on the South Rim and gaze downward in awe. Only a few get to experience the true wonder of the inner canyon. We are thankful we did!

It is official!

It is official! We completed the mule ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, stayed overnight at Phantom Ranch and mastered the upward journey the next day. Hooray!.

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Cedar Ridge Rest Stop

Group photo with Grand Canyon cliffs as the background

Group photo with Grand Canyon cliffs as the background

We are about three quarters the way to the top and it is time to give the mules a well-deserved rest. It is also time to walk off those kinked knees.

We have arrived at Cedar Ridge, a wide open plateau with a grand panoramic view of the canyon walls. Before we are assisted with our dismount, we pose for a group photo with the Grand Canyon cliffs as the background. What a fantastic view!

Patty shows our guide Doug how she gets into the saddle!

Patty shows our guide Doug how she gets into the saddle!

 

 

 

 

We spend about 20 minutes walking around enjoying the view, nibbling on snacks we squirreled away in our pockets, chatting with our fellow travelers, and refilling our water canteens.

Back in the saddle again!

Back in the saddle again!

Now it is time to get back in the saddle again. We still have a considerable ways to go.

 

Grand Canyon from Cedar Ridge on the South Kaibab Trail

Grand Canyon from Cedar Ridge on the South Kaibab Trail

 

Maddy our guide leads us out of the shaded side of the cliff, around a precipitous turn and take our last glimpse of the Colorado River so far below.

Maddy, our guide, leads us upward out of the shaded side of the cliff, around a precipitous turn and a chance to take our last glimpse of the Colorado River so far below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Up… Up… Up…

Looking up the canyon cliffs

Looking up the canyon cliffs

The climb upward on South Kaibab Trail is 7.4 miles. Unlike the Bright Angel Trail we descended into the canyon, this trail has one toilet rest area, but no drinking water available. With filled canteens, we are ready to make our way out of the canyon bottom.

Because of the steepness of this trail, we walk the mules for 10 minutes and rest for 10 minutes while we take in the vastness of the canyon cliffs and the deep gorges below.

Twisting trail with deep step and red dust

Twisting trail with deep step and red dust

The mules are sure-footed and manage the deep steps with a rocking motion, different than the constant pounding on the knees during the downward trip.

Last view of the Colorado River as we maneuver a steep bend in the trail.

Last view of the Colorado River as we maneuver a steep bend in the trail.

 

 

 

A brief stop before the next steep climb and sharp bend.

A brief stop before the next steep climb and sharp bend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We slowly make our way to the resting point – Cedar Ridge.

Stay tuned…

 

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Next morning

Maddy in her mule guide outfit. Isn't she a doll?
Maddy in her mule guide outfit. Isn’t she a doll?

Phantom Ranch early morning routine

Dawn – it is time to get up, put on our dusty outfit and bring overnight luggage to the mule corral before heading off to breakfast and filling water bottles. Maddy, our smiling guide is waiting to greet us and orient us to the day’s adventure. Same mules, same saddle, same routine, different trail. The upward trail is steep so we will walk the mules for 10 minutes and rest for 10 minutes. This will give us plenty of time to snap a few pictures and take a drink of water to remain hydrated. Life is good!

Leaving Phantom Ranch to journey upward

Leaving Phantom Ranch to journey upward

We say good bye to Phantom Ranch and meander along the Bright Angel Creek towards the Colorado River. This morning we will cross the Kaibab Bridge to get on the south side of the river. It is just the beginning and as the sun slowly rises over the cliffs , it leaves a reflection in the river. A sight to behold!

 

Early morning reflection as we cross the Kaibab Bridge over the Colorado River

Early morning reflection as we cross the Kaibab Bridge over the Colorado River

 

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As we begin our ascent, we stop frequently to see where we have been. The South Kaibab Trail affords us many opportunities to look back at the Kaibab Bridge and the morning reflection in the Colorado River.

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The pack mules bring down the days supply and take out the refuse. Every day – down and back.

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Up a little higher we stop again and our mules are attentive to the distant pack mules already across the river, just a tiny speck as they head towards Phantom Ranch. We will meet them again later in the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Phantom Ranch

Sister are smiling! We made it to the bottom of Grand Canyon and pose for a picture along Bright Angel Creek.

Sister are smiling! We made it to the bottom of Grand Canyon and pose for a picture along Bright Angel Creek.

We did it! Yup, we made it all the way to the bottom of the Grand Canyon on the back of a mule. To our surprise, Phantom Ranch, the only lodging facility below the canyon rim, is not located on the Colorado River. Rather it is tucked in beside Bright Angel Creek on the north side of the Colorado River (thus having to cross the Colorado River on Kaibab Bridge). It is open year round for hikers, mule riders and rafters.

The ranch, completed in 1922 was designed by architect Mary E. J. Colter who also designed many of the buildings situated in Grand Canyon Village. The rustic cabins and main lodge are built of wood and native stone and do not intrude on the natural beauty and solitude of the setting.

Phantom Ranch Cozy Cabin

Phantom Ranch Cozy Cabin

After a quick orientation, we gathered our overnight bag (sneakers, clean socks, lip balm and clean shirt) and headed to cozy cabin #3. It has 2 bunk beds, a small table with 2 chairs, an air conditioner, a cold water sink and flushed toilet.

As cozy as our cabin was and the enticing bed to lay flat, we shook off the temptation and quickly donned our sneakers, stripped off our jackets, and headed out to explore the inner canyon.

shook with yellow cottonwood trees

Bright Angel Creek at Phantom Ranch

Our first adventure was to hike the trail that leads to the north rim, just to say we did it. Of course, we didn’t go too far because we had so many other areas to explore. We meandered along the creek, pass the campsites, and administrative buildings enjoying the beauty around us — yellow cottonwood trees and soaring cliffs. Later we walked to the Colorado River to explore the Silver Bridge and other areas. It was truly exhilarating to be so deep within the canyon walls.

We also stopped at the small store and gift shop to purchase the obligatory postcards that are stamped, “Mailed by mules from Grand Canyon.”

As the sun sets behind the cliffs, Phantom Ranch plunges into darkness.

As the sun sets behind the cliffs, Phantom Ranch plunges into darkness.

As the sun slowly set, the tops of the cliffs were illuminated. A peaceful moment just appreciating the beauty around us.

Dinner was served 5:00 p.m. — steak, veggies, potatoes, corn bread and chocolate cake. We were stuffed and by 6:30 both of us were in bed. Oh, it felt so good to finally rest the body in a prone position.

It seemed like just a short period of time before we were up and ready to mount the mules again. Our overnight luggage (plastic bag with sneakers) had to be at the corral to be loaded into the saddle bags before heading to breakfast at 7:00 a.m.

Meeting time – 7:45 a.m. at the mule corral. See you there!

 

 

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Crossing the Colorado

Two bridges cross the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The first one we spot has us novice mule riders grinning as we anticipate the final leg of our trip to Phantom Ranch.  Unfortunately, this was not the bridge we would be crossing.

Silver Bridge - Transcanyon pipeline support structure and hikers trail.

Silver Bridge – Transcanyon pipeline support structure and hikers trail across the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park

Silver Bridge, completed in 1970 was constructed as a trans-canyon water pipeline support as well as hiking trail across the Colorado River. Although the Colorado River is a source of water for seven states, it is not the direct source of water for the Grand Canyon National Park. Water is plentiful on the North Rim and quite scarce on the arid South Rim. In order to support the millions of tourists at the Grand Canyon Village, 500,000 gallons of water a day is piped down Bright Angel Canyon by gravity from the North Rim, through Phantom Ranch, across the Colorado River and pumped up to the South Rim just for our pleasure to have a glass of water during meals.

The Silver Bridge is too narrow for the mules to cross so we must continue our ride until we reach the Kaibab Bridge (Black Bridge).

Early visitors to the base of Grand Canyon were unable to cross the Colorado River due to the strong currents. However, at one point there was a cable system and metal cage large enough for one mule or several people to be transported across the river — a harrowing experience.

Kaibab Bridge - our destination to cross the Colorado River

Kaibab Bridge – our destination to cross the Colorado River

The construction of the Kaibab Bridge in 1928 changed tourism of the inner canyon forever by making a safe passage across the Colorado River for both mules and hikers. Building this bridge in the remote and difficult-to-access inner canyon was riddled with many challenges where motorized vehicles cannot access. All materials, 122 tons, needed for construction were transported down the canyon by mules or human power. The one-ton, 550-foot-long suspension cables were carried down on the shoulders of 42 Havasupai tribesmen who walked single file over 9 miles and nearly 5,000 feet down. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Our mules adroitly carried us up another rock face, around the final bend, down a steep precipice into a curved tunnel to emerge onto the bridge. It was truly a sight to behold and pictures do not do it justice.

Trail and tunnel entrance to Kaibab Bridge over the Colorado River

Trail and tunnel entrance to Kaibab Bridge

Patty and her mule, Olga, cross the green flowing Colorado River via the Kaibab Bridge (Black Bridge) with steep cliffs on both sides

Patty and Olga safely cross the green flowing Colorado River via the Kaibab Bridge (Black Bridge)

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Colorado River

First sighting of the Colorado River.

First sighting of the Colorado River.

At the very bottom of the Grand Canyon

Riding mules down Bright Angel Trail, we descend 4380 feet. We finally get our first glimpse of the mighty 1,450-mile Colorado River of which 277 miles flows through the Grand Canyon National Park. What a beautiful sight. The warm sun is beating down on us and I can hardly believe it was 30 some degrees early this morning when we embarked on this adventure.

The river is running green today. However, later in the week as water is released from the dams to redistribute sandbars and beaches in the Grand Canyon, the river will run brown and muddy from sediment build up. Between 85 and 90 percent of the Colorado River’s discharge originates from snow melt, mostly from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and Wyoming. This is a vital source of water for agricultural and urban areas in the southwestern desert lands of North America. In 1869, John Wesley Powell ran the rapids and led the first expedition to chart the Colorado River.

Soft sandy trail along the Colorado River at the very bottom of Grand Canyon

Soft sandy trail

We made it to the bottom and walked the mules along a sandy beach. A whole lot different than the clanking of hoofs along the rock ledges. It is considerably hotter down within the canyon walls and might have been a good place for a swim and rest the tender sit-upon-bones and knee joints! But, no we have a destination and we continue our trek. Only another hour to Phantom Ranch.

River Trail along the canyon cliffs above the Colorado River

River Trail along the canyon cliffs above the Colorado River

We continue along the River Trail up and across a rocky cliff high above the river. It is hotter and my ears are plugged. I begin to feel a bit woozy in the stomach. The boxed lunch supplied to us back at Indian Gardens was not that great nutritionally – Fritos, Oreos, an apple, a bottle of Gatorade, carrots, and granola bar. Was I hungry or was I suffering from dehydration?

It was about this point when I told my sister to have the guides stop. Her comment, “For heavens sake we are almost there!” What a great sister!!! Eventually I convinced her I needed help and within seconds the guides were at my side taking off my jacket, pouring water down my neck, and administering electrolytes under my tongue. We were warned of the symptoms before we even embarked on this adventure. It is especially common during the hot summer months as the bottom of the canyon can reach 120 degrees. A couple of minutes later I was fine and we were off again.

Stay tuned as we continue our trek to Phantom Ranch on the other side of the river…

 

 

 

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Down… Down… Down…

P1000066Meandering our way down each gorge we marveled at the magnificent vista. Neither words nor pictures do justice to the total experience. One can only imagine the forces of water, ice and wind that eroded these canyons billions of years ago.

The cliffs are made up of limestone, sandstone and shale. Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite. Sandstone is solidified sand and shale is solidified mud. Most of the rock in the Grand Canyon is composed of sedimentary rock which is only formed at the bottom of the ocean or in shallow coastal plains. If you spent some time investigating you would find fossils of creatures that used to live in the ocean.

With a 5,000 foot descent, we got to see a variety of rock formation and traversed a variety of trail conditions from dust, to rocks to sand.

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Indian Gardens

Indian Gardens rest area

Indian Gardens rest area

The Havasupai Tribe once inhabited what is now known as Indian Gardens, 4.6 miles from the South Rim. Once we arrived it was easy to see why they called this place home. It is truly a calming oasis in the middle of a canyon. A small creek runs through this area on its way to the Colorado River and cottonwood trees provide a shaded stopover for weary hikers and knee-sore riders.

 

Stiff knees, numb legs, difficulty walking

Stiff knees, numb legs, difficulty walking

The dismount was a shock as my feet hit the ground – knees buckled and stiff legs refused to straighten. Our guide, Doug, said I walked like him. Yikes, it took a bit of walking around before I was standing fully upright.

Lunch at Indian Gardens

A boxed lunch was provided – included beef jerky, granola bar, Fritos, apple, cheese stick, oreos and Gatorade. A few munchies were stashed in our pockets for later in the afternoon.

 

The weather is getting a bit warmer and no rain in sight so it is time to shed the yellow slicker. These are tied to the saddle just below our water canteens which we diligently filled before resuming our trip.

Time to mount up and get on our way. We have another 5 miles to go.

P1000045As we left the Indian Gardens area we spotted several deer eating along the lush creek and squirrels dashing around the edge of the trails.

Leaving lush Indian Gardens behind

Leaving lush Indian Gardens behind

So much to see…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bright Angel Trail to Indian Gardens

The beginning of Bright Angel Trail

The beginning of Bright Angel Trail

We are off!

Someone told me the first part of the trail is the scariest, so I was well prepared for some self-talking to convince the body to relax and “trust the mule.”

Our initial indoctrination was only a 10 minute walk, then we stopped so the guides could adjust cinches and stirrups. At each stop along the way, the mules got really close side=by-side and faced the canyon even when the trail was barely wide enough for their hooves. This posturing allowed for an unobstructed view into the depths and prevented the mules from taking off on their own.

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First stop reveals the steep cliffs that engulfed the first part of our journey

Of course, the view was gorgeous as we began the 5,000 foot descent.

Bright Angel Trail with hairpin turns and down, down, down.

Bright Angel Trail with hairpin turns and down, down, down.

Down, down, down we go and it is a killer on the knees! But, the vista laid out in front of us was breathtaking.

Our guides were informative, taking time to enlighten us to Grand Canyon geology and climatic changes.

 

 

It truly is a wonder of the world and being engulfed into the canyons was way beyond our expectations.GC vista

 

Grand Canyon cliffs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our destination is Indian Gardens, an oasis along the trail

Grand Canyon with Indian Gardens Oasis in the middle

Lunch stop at the green oasis along the Bright Angel Trail

 

 

 

 

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The Adventure Begins…

clear plastic bag for overnight necessities at Phantom Ranch

Phantom Ranch overnight luggage

A short walk to the mule corral at the Bright Angel trail head where we met our guides, Doug and Maddy and hand over our overnight luggage to be packed into the saddle bags. We were able to stuff in sneakers, lip balm, comb and clean shirt for the next day.  Well organized and traveling light, to say the least.

Now for instructions, precautions, rules, regulations and the final opportunity to back out with a 100% refund. If you start on this journey and decide to quit part way through, you have to hike out on your own, and no refund. Hum…  I think we will just stay with our mules, no matter what. Final potty break (it will be about 1-1/2 hours before we dismount again) and then into the corral for introductions to our partners for the next two days.

Very large, very broad mule for trip to Phantom Ranch

Algebra, my sure-footed transportation for two days

I was assigned Algebra and Patty got Olga. Both mules are very tall and very board, a cross between a male donkey and a female work horse. They are sure-footed and well trained for the Grand Canyon trails. We were told to trust them even when they precariously walk at the edge when making hairpin turns.

Grand Canyon mules are selected for strength, endurance, temperament, and gentleness. They are well adapted to the unique environment and work situation at the Grand Canyon.

 

 

Time to mount up, get comfortable and enjoy the view!

Judy sitting on Algebra having a final chat with guide, Doug

Chatting with Doug, our competent guide

Patty sitting on top of Olga the mule at Grand Canyon Bright Angel Trailhead

Patty and Olga are ready to go

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Sunrise over the Canyon

Dressed for the mule ride

Dressed for the mule ride

Up early to don our protective layers – long underwear, heavy socks, long pants, long sleeve shirt, fleece, wind breaker, bandana, sunglasses, cowboy boots, yellow slicker, gloves and wide-brim hat.  (Note: Patty is wearing her treasured straw hat purchased 10 years ago just for this occasion.)

Ok, we are ready. It is about 30 degrees outside, but we anticipate it to be much warmer at the bottom, thus the layers.

As we headed off to breakfast, we stopped for a few pictures of the early morning sun shinning on the cliffs. Breathtaking!

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Sunrise at the Grand Canyon

7:45 a.m. meeting time. Eight of us gathered in the lobby eager to begin our journey. With introductions, we learned our trail mates were from Ohio, North Carolina, Oregon and Canada — friends right away!

Let’s go…

 

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Sunset over the Grand Canyon

Bright Angle SignOur next stop was to check into our accommodations for the evening and to confirm our reservation for the mule right the next morning. After signing the obligatory “do-not-hold-us-responsible” paperwork and getting weighed (to make sure we were not too heavy for the poor little mule), we gather our slickers, overnight luggage bag, and water bottles. We will have to do a bit of repacking this evening to make sure we have what we need for the journey.

The Bright Angel Lodge sits at the top of the Bright Angel Trail. This is the location of the mule corral and where we will begin our adventure. We decided to walk for a bit and get comfortable with the beginning of our next day’s journey. The trail is wider than expected and not too steep, an easy walk for a few hundred yards. We were rewarded with the sun shining through a small porthole and mule deer grazing in the shrubbery.

Bright Angel Trail was named after the creek and canyon by John Wesley Powell, an explorer of the Colorado River.

TBright Angel Trailhe trail descends 4380 feet to the Colorado River, over 9.5 miles. It has an average grade of 10% along its entire length. It may be easy going down, but treacherous coming back up. Hazards hikers encounter along the trail include dehydration, sudden rainstorms, flash flooding, loose footing, boot-packed ice, rockfall, encounters with wildlife, and extreme heat a good part of the year. This trail is used by the mules for a ride to the bottom of the canyon and they add their debris along the way. Hikers must be aware of where they step.

The mules are highly trained, sure footed animals, however the trail is not wide enough in some spots for a person and a mule. Hikers need to hug the canyon walls as the mules have the right of way. The trail has many switchbacks which the mules maneuver efficiently.

Sunset over the canyonAs the sun began to settle we quickly secured our place along the Rim Trail to shoot the spectacular color transformation. Someone once claimed that it was “a dancing of the shadows” and it truly is a spiritual moment. The deeper the sun, the brighter the colors on the cliffs across the way. A spectacular sight; a satisfying way to end a perfect day!

Off to have a bit to eat, repack our overnight bag, and get a good night’s sleep.

See you all in the morning…

 

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Majestic Grand Canyon

Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it, not a bit. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. ~President Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

 

Grand Canyon SplendorThe day has finally arrived and we head to the Grand Canyon for our next adventure. One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, you cannot stand at the brink of a lookout without being in awe of what nature has crafted – peaks, cliffs, table flat plateaus, deep unseen gorges, ridges and crevices. It is immense; it holds a spirit all unto its own.

Around 1:00 p.m. we arrived at the South Rim, the most accessible part of the park and open all year. Our first stop was at the Mather Point Overlook and Visitor’s Center. As we stood at the overlook we were not disappointed even though the sun was high. The majestic canyon overwhelms the sense. It is huge and stretches on forever.

Nearly five million people overlook the 1-mile deep canyon each year. Since the weather was still considerably warm we had plenty of company as we searched out a parking spot for a quick glimpse of the canyon and a well-needed lunch break. Even though it was mid day, we were still enthralled at the majestic view, colored cliffs and blue sky. It overwhelmed the sense. The exposed rock cliffs tell the story of every geological period since the beginning of the earth, the birth of the Pacific Ocean, the mighty collision between the continents.

The Grand Canyon consists of 1.2 million acres and we were about to explore its depth.

Stay tuned for more…

 

 

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Mule Ride – What to expect

Now that our government is back to work and the National Parks are open for business, Patty and I will fly to Arizona feeling confident of a marvelous experience ahead. We have begun to pack for warm and cool weather as we read about snow falls in Flagstaff. Not knowing what the bottom of Grand Canyon will be like we plan to wear layers as we travel the cliff trails on top of a mule. However, we did read that there is a possibility of a 20 degree difference between the top and the bottom of the canyon. Riders must be prepared for weather changes. Let’s hope for clear blue skies and 50′s on top with clear blue skies and 70′s on the bottom. Perfect!

What’s provided: 

  • Water canteen
  • Rain jackets–just in case
  • Small plastic bag to put overnight things and change of clothes/shoes which is transported to Phantom Ranch on the pack mule.
  • Box lunch

What to wear:

  • Wide brim hat tied under the chin
  • Long pants and long sleeve shirt with sweater or jacket – layered clothing, of course
  • Rain pants – when it’s cold, wet, and windy waterproof and windproof pants keep you warm and dry
  • Gloves
  • Scarf or Bandanna
  • Solid, closed-toe shoes with a smooth, hard sole (like cowboy boots)
  • Camera that must be strapped to body leaving hands free
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen – positive thinking :-)

What to expect at Phantom Ranch:

  • Steak dinner
  • Cabin accommodations with toilet and cold water sink
  • Hiking
  • Ranger talk in evening
  • Breakfast prior to departure next morning

 

Okay, we got all that and ready to go! Stay tuned for pictures just as soon as we have wifi.

 

 

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Grand Canyon Here We Come!

“With the partial suspension of U.S. government services showing no signs of ending, tourists will continue to be turned away from the Grand Canyon, despite a push by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and local businesses to reopen the state’s signature national park.”

Grand Canyon cliffs and color changes as the sun sets

Grand Canyon cliffs with color changes as the sun rises

Thirteen months ago we booked our trip to Grand Canyon for an overnight at Bright Angel Lodge and the mule ride to an overnight at Phantom Ranch. Will the bickering and name calling in our federal government prevent us (along with millions of others wishing to visit our national parks this fall) from the pleasure of experiencing what President Theodore Roosevelt declare sacred land? Honestly, can orange cones in the roadway prevent the American people from enjoying the beauty of our treasured country? I think not as many people have eagerly tossed them aside. Patty and I will be more than happy to do the same!

The 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) visited the Grand Canyon in 1903. An avid lover of nature and staunch conservationist, he established the Grand Canyon Game Preserve on November 28, 1906. He added adjacent national forest lands and redesignated the preserve to a U.S. National Monument on January 11, 1908. Opponents, such as land and mining claim holders, blocked efforts to reclassify the monument as a U.S. National Park for 11 years. Finally, the 17th U.S. National Park was established and signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on February 26, 1919.

The Grand Canyon is considered one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World. It is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and attains a depth of over a mile. “We the people” have a right to enjoy these lands. Government take notice as the election process may see that you are seeking employment somewhere else. The 44th President and his minions cannot keep us away! It is time for a change.

Check out the notice on the GC website. You can’t even do any research. Bummer!

Because of the federal government shutdown, all national parks are closed and National Park Service webpages are not operating. For more information, go to www.doi.gov.

Last Updated: 10/01/2013                                                                                                        EXPERIENCE YOUR AMERICA

 

 

 

 

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Thanks Patty and John for a great weekend!

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Cousins are special

Inside and outside the cousins had a marvelous time together hiking, swimming, fishing, shooting pool, building with legos, hide and seek, reading, playing games on the Ipad, and…  Wonderful memories. See you all next year.

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Giant Marshmallows

Oh what fun climbing on and hiding amongst the giant marshmallows – or as Riley called them giant ice cubes. The kids really enjoyed running around and laughing and just plain having fun all weekend!

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Campfire evening

Gathered ’round the blazing fire light…

Yes we gathered for a wonderful meal, conversation, s’mores, giant bubbles, hand clapping music, sparklers, laughter and fun. What a precious evening!

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Joy of a hayride

The Gang on hayride Evan Levi Evan, Jamin, Tyler IMG_0395Everyone loves a hayride – young and old. John hooked up the tractor, loaded the wagon with hay bales, then all aboard for laughter, fun and making memories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Family Fun

A serene pastoral setting perfect for hours of fishing - the barn reflected in the pond

A serene pastoral setting perfect for hours of fishing

Every year about 20 of us gather at my sister’s farm for fun in the sun (or cloudy days, whatever). The activities include kite flying, hay ride, fishing, swimming, hiking, camp fire, s’mores, legos, electronics, cooking, eating, chatting, laughing, barn chores, climbing to the hay loft and building tunnels, feeding calves, petting the cats, throwing the ball for the dogs… Old and young find plenty of things to do!

This year the big attraction was fishing and many hours were spent catching and recatching whatever fish happens to bite on the corn pieces. Sierra, Jamin, Tyler, Levi and Evan sat on the dock for hours hoping to catch the big one! Even little Riley (the youngest – age 2) enjoyed casting the peewee rod.

Having fun in the pond after a hard day of fishing

Great way to cool off (saves on water for showers in the house!)

After a hard day of fishing, the best thing to do is take a swim. Big and little enjoyed the plunge, although I hear the water was mighty cold on impact. Life jackets, cushions and tubes were used to lazily float around while soaking up the sun rays that popped out in the afternoon.

A great weekend for everyone. Stay tuned for more pictures and more fun…

 

 

 

 

 

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California Coast Redwoods

Sequoia sempervirens, the ever-living redwood

Mighty coast redwood

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

 

Another name for these magnificent 2,000-year-old trees is Coast Redwood. They are predominately found in the California temperate rain forest along the coast where the incoming rolling fog and rainfall provide sufficient moisture. These redwoods are the tallest tree specie on earth. They grow up to 380 feet with a diameter of nearly 30 feet.

Judith sitting on the fence at the base of a huge redwood

I am dwarfed by the giant redwood that is 270 feet tall and 17 feet wide (almost as high as a 25-story building). Imagine a tree this large grows from a seed the size of an oatmeal flake.

The coast redwood has a conical crown, with horizontal to slightly drooping branches. The bark is very thick, up to 12 inches, and quite soft and fibrous, with a bright red-brown color when freshly exposed (hence the name redwood).

The root system is composed of shallow, wide-spreading lateral roots that wrap around other redwood roots in the vicinity for protection and stability. Even if a redwood tree has been logged or destroyed by wind or flood, the root system is still alive and capable of sprouting offspring. Fallen redwoods provide a fertile place for new trees to grow. A study of the root system supporting many trees demonstrates the sheer persistence of this specie to survive.

Judith is standing inside a fire damaged redwood that still survives due to the tannic acid within the bark.

More than 100 years have passed since the last forest fire burned in this area

Tannic acid within the redwood bark gives it a rich cinnamon red color while providing defense against insects, fungus and even fire contributing to the longevity of these trees. This thick fibrous bark combined with foliage starting high above the ground provides protection from most fires and insects. Almost indestructible, these huge trees survive as long as enough living tissue remains unharmed. The damaged trees will continue to slowly heal after insult and injury.

A burned out redwood survives, heals and grows.

A burned out redwood survives, heals and grows.

Redwoods reproduce both by seed and sprouting from an exposed root, stump or fallen branches. The seed comes from an olive-size cone containing between 60-120 seeds. Seeds are released when the cone scales dry out and open. However, the forest floor is thickly covered with leaves, so seeds rarely find their way to the soil except after a fire or flood. Growth of seedlings is very fast, with young trees known to reach 65 feet tall in 20 years.

Redwood must endure the harshness of fire in order to attain their great ages. Therefore, they have many fire-resistant characteristics. In addition, fires appear to actually benefit redwoods by culling competing species while having only minor effects on redwood.

The coast redwood has been cultivated in New Zealand for over 100 years. Other areas of successful cultivation outside of the native range include Great Britain, Italy, Portugal, the Queen Charlotte Islands, middle elevations of Hawaii, Hogsback in South Africa, a small area in central Mexico (Jilotepec) and the southeastern United States from East Texas to Maryland. Coast redwood trees were used in a display at Rockefeller Center and then given to Longhouse Reserve in East Hampton, Long Island, New York and these have now been living there for over 20 years and survived the low temperatures.

May everyone have the opportunity to witness this majestic tress!

 

 

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California Coast

Erika Judy Calf CoastVisiting the California coast in the summer is an experience. Be sure to bring along a jacket; it is cooler, windy and foggy. During the summer months when it is hot inland and cooler offshore, fog develops. Thus during the winter months the coastal region is crystal clear.

Fog forms when the onshore flow of wind brings in the cooler air that condenses into the warmer atmosphere. The mountains trap the fog on the coastline and deposits the moisture onto the coastal redwoods.

Leaving Palo Alto and the never ending traffic, we meander over the twisty roads of the Santa Cruz Mountains which forms a ridge along the San Francisco Peninsula. Once on the western side of the mountains we encounter the cliffs overlooking the coastline. It is rocky; it is sandy.

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Palo Alto Foothills City Park

Beautifult Boronda Lake within the Palo Alto Foothills Park

Boronda Lake within the Palo Alto Foothills Park

What a pleasant surprise to find a 1,400 acre park complete with hiking trails, fishing, boating, wildlife, picnicking, camping, Nature Interpretive Center and spectacular views only available to Palo Alto residents. And, I got to enjoy a beautiful day with Erika.

Photo shooting

Photo shooting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bridge over a small creek in the Palo Alto Foothills Park

15 miles of hiking trails

Footbridge to small island

Footbridge to small island

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Palo Alto, California

Majestic coastal redwoods

Coastal redwoods can grow over 300 ft tall and live well over 2,000 years.They are the tallest living plant on earth.

Palo Alto, population of 61,200, is the beating heart of Silicon Valley, the southern region of San Francisco Bay area. It is home to many of the world’s largest technology corporations – Google, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Facebook, Sun Microsystems, Netflix, and Ebay to name a few, as well as Mrs. Fields, Tesla Motors and Stanford University.

Palo Alto is over 100 years old, and named after the majestic 1000 year old coastal redwood trees.

In 2006, Palo Alto City Council passed an ordinance that said anyone found peeing in public would be guilty of a crime. Since Palo Alto has a vibrant downtown area, you would think the public restrooms would be readily available. Maybe! However, the problem was solved: Pay to tinkle in a fancy French toilet. Costs 50 cents for 15 minute limit. After you leave, the door closes, the toilet folds into the wall, and chemical disinfectant automatically clean the whole stall. Wow!!!

Fancy fench toilet that is self-contained, self-cleaning

50 cents, please…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Summer Adventure

Summertime is adventure time. So what adventures am I embarking on?

First of all, the adventure of caring for my three grandchildren. I have downloaded several books for them:  Clean Jokes for Kids, How to Draw Cartoons, and Magic. We are having fun exploring these avenues.

But, another adventure is a visit to California, the San Francisco Bay area. My roomie from the Arctic Ocean/Polar Bear Adventure lives there and I get to visit with her for a few days. Hum…. wonder what adventures we will participate in?

I’ll let you know as they transpire.  So, stay tuned…

 

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Tangled necklaces, no more!

To prevent necklaces from getting tangled in your jewelry pouch, thread one end through a drinking straw and reattach.

For short chains, I usually cut the straw in half. For extra long chains, I loop it through the straw a couple of times. This method is an easy way to prevent a snarled mess when you begin to unpack your carry-on.

 

 

 

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Repurpose Pill Box

How to easily and safely pack jewelry:

Use a plastic pill container to pack earrings, rings, and small pins or brooches. I particular like the Buxton Container as each day’s container is stored inside of a small snapped pouch .

Or if you have only a few items, you might consider the smaller type of pill container.

It is also handy to keep a small pill container in your purse or backpack for emergency aspirins or motrin. My sister carries Dramamine with her in a small container just in case she experiences vertigo. She has learn to be prepared after a serious bout while traveling on a bus in Australia.

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