Rambling To The Smoky Mountains

October 9, 2007

Today we headed east toward the Gatlinburg, TN, in the Smoky Mountains. It was a cloudy day, and we got into rain, so I didn’t really anticipate any picture taking today. However, when we got close to Gatlinburg, the traffic slowed way down. We soon discovered why – there was an elk grazing in a pasture by the road, and people were stopping to take pictures.

How could we resist? We slowed down long enough for me to snap a few shots too.

It seems the Great Smoky Mountains National Park started re-introducing elk in the park here in 2001. When you look close, you can see he has a radio collar around his neck and a tag in his ear.
What a regal looking animal!

Whale And Wildlife Watching Quest

October 6, 2007

Probably the best day on our ramble through Alaska was the shore excursion to watch whales. Okay, it seems a little strange to call it a shore excursion when we went right back out to sea, but we did switch modes of transportation and got off the big ship and onto a much smaller waterjet-powered catamaran.

We started by disembarking at Juneau, and boarding a bus to head for Auke Bay. Our bus driver was chatty and full of all kinds of information about Alaska. He would have made a good advocate for the Chamber of Commerce. When he talked about the climate, which isn’t the glacial cold you’d expect due to the fact it’s a temperate rainforest along the shoreline, it made the area sound like a great place to live.

He mentioned the money every citizen gets each year from the revenue off the oil fields in Alaska. He mentioned all the wildlife to be found. He had good things to say about the area… until he mentioned some of the costs of living. Aye yi yi! So much is so expensive because it has to be shipped – housing, food, gas… the prices are exorbitant! Guess I’ll stay in the south instead of moving to the far north.

The catamaran we traveled on had two decks. The bottom and part of the top were enclosed, but for the really good pictures, you needed to be out on the open deck. Of course, it was COLD out there. I said it doesn’t get as cold as you’d expect, but that doesn’t mean it’s not downright chilly out on the water in September!

I went inside from time to time to check on Dad and get warm, but most of the time I was out there taking pictures of the wildlife and scenery. And such sights!

We had barely left the dock until we had Orca Whales on both sides of the boat. The guide said it’s not as common to see them, so I guess we got lucky. Further out we saw lots of humpback whales, sometimes half a dozen at a time. It was AMAZING.

The only thing that could have made it better would have been a whale or two breaching, and even “more better” would have been getting a picture of it!

We also saw a lot of seals and eagles and other birds. And the scenery was breathtaking almost everywhere you looked.


If you’re ever in Alaska, take every chance you get to check out the wildlife, and of course, the scenery too. It’s positively awe-inspiring.

I’d head north again today if I could!

Cruising Glacier Bay In Alaska

September 22, 2007

Awe-inspiring. Stunning. Wondrous. Magnificent. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe Glacier Bay.

Did you know Glacier Bay is a national park? Further, it is a World Heritage Site, “the principal recognition given to natural and cultural areas of universal significance.” It can only be reached by boat or plane. When a cruise ship enters Glacier Bay they take on at least one Park Ranger, who gives a running commentary on what there is to see.

Obviously, there are glaciers. Since these touch water, they are all “Tidewater Glaciers.” The park includes around 12 that calve into the bay. Unfortunately, though we sat in front of a couple of them for half an hour or so, we didn’t get to see that spectacular phenomenon.

We saw birds and seals,

but otherwise, it was a landscape on a grandiose scale.

The mountains of the Fairweather Range are huge.

It’s hard to get a perspective on how truly monumental they are. We got a clue when we got close to one glacier, saw a cruise ship that was still a mile away from the glacier and it looked dwarfed, and were told we were still 7 miles away.

As you can see, it was a big ship. It just looked small next to the glacier.

Glacier Bay is truly natural beauty on an awe-inspiring scale.

A Whale Of A Good Time!

September 20, 2007

Tuesday we went on a Whale Watching and Wildlife Quest. In a word, it was AWESOME.

We barely got out to see until there were Orca Whales diving around the boat. (Of course, we know Orca Whales are really dolphins, so why are they called whales?) The naturalist on board the boat declared they didn’t usually see Orcas, so we were quite fortunate.

Further out to sea, we saw humpback whales. LOTS of humpback whales.
There is a big difference between low and high tide, generally 15-25 feet. This activity stirs up the nutrients in the water. Also, there is a narrow channel that further compresses the food in one place, so the whales like to congregate there.
The only disappointment was none of the whales actually came up out of the water. We just saw a lot of backs and flukes.

We also saw an island positively covered with Stellar Seals on one end. Making lots of noise! On the same island, there were 2 eagles perched, one on a sign, and one on top of the hill.

It was so cool to see all these animals, and the scenery was breathtaking. Mountains and snow and glaciers and clear blue skies. Phenomenal.

It was hard to choose which pictures to use – all you had to do was snap the shutter and you were bound to get some beautiful photos. But most of them will have to wait. Internet service is mucho expensive on board and it takes a long time to load photos.

So more to come… but probably not until I’m home again!

Busy as a Bee!

September 1, 2007

Bang, bang, bang! I can’t decide if I feel like I’m sitting in the middle of a shooting gallery, or it sounds like someone shooting off fireworks. Dove hunting season began at 12 noon here, and there are obviously LOTS of hunters busy taking advantage of it.

According to Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, the mourning dove is the most hunted migratory game bird in North America. I believe it, and I think every possible hunter is out there for the start of the season. The dove may be the symbol of peace, but they’ll be in pieces if they show a feather today.

While hunters are busy terminating doves, here on the farm we’re hoping for new life. One of the peahens is sitting on 4 eggs. It sure would be nice to see some little peachicks running around in the aviary. It just hasn’t been our year for peachicks. So far, zilch, nada, none.

While the hunters were after doves and the peahen sitting on her eggs, The Farmer was busy mowing the back yard today. This is news because it’s the first time he’s done it in years. We sold off the majority of our sheep and goats, and don’t have enough left to keep the grass eaten down like we used to.

He also tried out the new chainsaw he bought today. His previous chainsaw expired from old age. He sent it to the shop to be fixed and the bolts fell apart. Yeah, you could say it was extremely old.

While The Farmer was busy checking out his new chainsaw, some old trouble showed up to see what was happening. And what’s the biggest source of trouble on the farm? Why, the ornery little goats of course.

The one busy chewing Farmer’s pants is his special pet, a cashmere goat named Tom Thumb. He is the rare goat that would rather be petted than eat cracked corn.

And while the hunters hunted, the peafowl sat, and The Farmer sawed, there were bees and bugs busy gathering nectar from the newly blooming Sedum ‘Matrona’.

All around the area today, people and critters were busy as bees!

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