We Get Goosed
Thursday, 29 January, 2009 - As planned, we packed up and moved yesterday from Powderhorn Lake to Goose Island State Park (hence, we've been goosed, although in all the time we've spent here, I've seen a lot of birds but never a goose).
It was sad to leave Powderhorn after spending two very enjoyable months there and being treated like family, but it's time to move on and while the morning was still brisk (46°F/8°C) by the time we left at 11:30am, the clouds had cleared, taking with them the threat of rain that had been in the forecast, so I was very happy about that.
The 55 mile (88 km) drive took about an hour (click here to see its map) and we were checked in and backed onto our bayfront site by 1pm and completely setup by 3pm. It's a good thing we had made reservations, because the bayfront campground was otherwise full.
We are in a perfect spot - for me anyway. Sandra would have liked to be a bit closer to the washrooms and 'Stinky Beach', not that we're all that far from them, but we're also about as close to the pier as you can get and it's from the pier that I get most of my photos here.
Of course, one of the first things I did after we were settled in and meeting the neighbors was to see what was happening around the pier and got a few more bird photos and then sunset was quite pretty, as can be seen in the photo above.
The temperature for the day eventually peaked at 62°F (17°C), being quite pleasant in the sun, and generally turned out to be a perfect day for moving, contrary to the forecast, which had been so bleak at one point I'd considered postponing the move, but we've learned to take forecasts with a large grain of salt and today was an example of why that is.
Click here for Sandra's more detailed account of the day and photos.
Wednesday, 28 January, 2009 - It is with great sadness I have to tell you that shortly after posting my last report, my trusty old Mac 12" Powerbook G4 died. It had given me almost 5 years of trouble-free service, so I can't complain too much, although with the current state of the economy and other factors, this was not a good time for it pass on.
After checking around, we found the nearest place to buy a new one was at the Apple Store in Sugar Land, a suburb of Houston and a two hour drive northeast of here. I could have ordered one online, but we're scheduled to move to Goose Island State Park later today and I doubt if things could be shipped there, but it would also take longer anyway, so deciding to drive to Houston I called the Apple Store first thing on Monday, only to learn new models had just been released, hadn't arrived yet, but would likely be there the next day and to check back then around noon, which I did and was told the new models still had not arrived.
Personally, I'm just as happy with an older model that's tried and tested instead of a new and unproven model, because while they might be new, they aren't always an improvement, so for the same price as the new model, they said they could sell me the equivalent older model, which they guaranteed me they had in stock. I explained we would have to drive two hours to get there and didn't want to get there and find they actually didn't have any in stock, and they assured me they would have one for me.
So, to make a long story short, we arrived and were told...you guessed it...they were out of stock!
I'm not the kind of person to make a public scene, but this just set me off and my former businessman persona reared its ugly head and impressed upon the Apple personnel that I had been guaranteed a unit and I was not leaving without one and for the stated price.
So after much scurrying around and with smiling faces they presented me with not an old model, but the new one, which they claimed had just come off the truck, as luck would have it, and I believed them.
So all's well that ends well and I'm now the proud owner of the latest and greatest model of the MacBook White, as shown above, and have begun the long arduous process of getting it configured. The silver lining on this cloud is that during the 5 years since buying my last Mac, they have changed radically and can now run both Mac and Windows.
Click here for Sandra's more detailed account of the day and photos.
Looped And Then Pooped
Sunday, 25 January, 2009 - Yesterday, being cool and overcast, seemed like a good day to drive into Victoria to go shopping for a larger camera bag (the new lens doesn't fit in the old one) and the easiest way to get to the Victoria Mall and the stores near it is to take the 463 Loop (hence, looped) and after spending most of the day shopping, I was exhausted afterward (hence, pooped).
It didn't take all day to find the camera bag I wanted, but Sandra had quite a list of things to look for, all of which I think we found, but it was a long process and nothing wears me out like shopping does.
Anyway, since I limit myself to using just two lenses, my normal operating routine to keep shooting photography light and simple calls for having one lens on the camera and the second lens in a small over-the-shoulder camera bag that's just big enough to hold the larger of the two lenses, as well as any small items I might need, like the spare battery, charger, closeup lens, polarizer filter, remote shutter release, insect repellent wipes, and so forth. Unfortunately, the little camera bag I've been using for several years was too small for the new 100-400mm lens, especially for that lens with the 1.4x tele-converter on it, so I needed a replacement.
This I've been unable to find locally, therefore the trip yesterday to Victoria where I found exactly what I was looking for at their Target store, a little Denali camera bag that is absolutely perfect. Everything fits and with not a cubic inch of wasted space left over.
To give it a try, I went for an evening stroll around the RV park and found our resident Snowy Egret down near some pilings in the marina and got the shot above.
Click here for Sandra's more detailed account of the day and more photos.
A Glorious & Wild Day
Friday, 23 January, 2009 - Glorious, as in perfect weather - wild, as in wildlife viewing.
Nothing worth talking about took place since my last report, that is until yesterday when Sandra and I made the 45 mile (72 km) drive down to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (click here to see a map of the route), not only hoping to see some wildlife but to also see about me getting a senior's national parks pass, since as of my last birthday I meet the age requirement, 62 years of age.
The pass is now called the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Senior Pass, a name that doesn't just roll off the tongue, but who really cares what they call it since it costs only $10 and is good for the rest of one's life and my pass basically covers Sandra also. The pass gives free entrance to any national park, national monument, national historical site, or national whatever that charges an entrance fee.
However, in typical government fashion, getting the pass wasn't as simple as it should have been. Since I'm a Canadian resident but still an American citizen we've gotten several different answers from National Parks personnel as to whether I'd qualify for the pass and today was no different. Confusion reigned until the manager got out of a meeting and got things straightened out, saying I was indeed eligible. It is clearly stated on the National Parks website that "this is a lifetime pass for U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over" which seems like a very simple, straightforward, and unequivocal statement to me, so the only thing that confuses me about it is why they find it so confusing.
Anyway, all's well that ends well and with that bit of business seen to, we then headed out to see some of the wildlife that takes refuge there and seeing some proved to be even more difficult than getting the pass. Until we were on our way out of the refuge, we saw no birds, except quite a number of vultures circling over various areas and a few small birds that had no interest in having their photos taken. Otherwise, no animals, no reptiles, not even insects nor the resident alligator were to be found and no whooping cranes, for which the refuge is famous as their winter home. The place was almost devoid of life, which wasn't a big surprise since that's how we've nearly always found places like this and I expect it was made worse because it was very dry there, also seeing no water in any of the marshes. For whatever reason, we saw more wildlife leaving the RV park than we did in the refuge, that is, until we were on our way out, but I get ahead of myself.
On our way in, we walked a couple of trails before eventually driving to the observation tower at the end of the road, climbed the tower, saw nothing living in the entire panoramic vista it provides. One always hopes to see a whooping crane from up there, but that's never happened for us. You can only see them from one of the boat tours, since the cranes stay out near the water's edge, as far from the road as they can get. Very rare and elusive creatures they are.
Hungry at that point, on a bench along the boardwalk to the bay we ate the picnic lunch Sandra had packed, and then decided to take the Auto Tour Loop through the refuge, something we'd never done there before. One of the ladies in the Visitor Center had told us some Sandhill Cranes had been spotted along the tour route and that seemed like a good enough reason to take it.
Unfortunately, the only thing we saw was some nice landscape (it is a beautiful place and worth the drive just for the scenery) and Sandra saw what she's sure was the tail end of a deer disappearing in the bush, plus the omnipresent small birds that never sit in one place long enough to get a camera focused on them.
But at the end of the auto tour loop we decided to give it one more try and drove back to Jones Lake near the observation tower and things completely turned around at that point.
Sadly, due to the drought conditions in the refuge, not only were the marshes dry but Jones Lake has shrunk to the size of a large pond and I expect because of that there was quite a bit going on there. However, that wasn't obvious at first glance and took some good optics to see it. When we got there, several people were on the viewing deck with spotting scopes, binoculars, and cameras with long lenses, all pointed at what was left of the water, talking about the alligators they were seeing, but the only thing that was obvious was a great blue heron that was patiently waiting for a fish to swim by. Why the alligators didn't try to make a meal of the heron was a popular topic for discussion. Eventually, with the help of my new lens I began to spot the alligators (photo above left). All but one were in the water with little showing but their heads and a few bumps on their backs and the one on the bank blended in so well with the terrain it was almost invisible from a distance, as were some turtles. And then the heron caught a catfish, which it proceeded to attempt to eat but was never successful in getting it down while we were there. Wouldn't have surprised me if it was a Hardhead Catfish, which can be nasty creatures to swallow with their toxic barbed dorsal spine.
Tiring of watching the pond and four feral hogs rooting around at the other end of the dried up lake bed, we headed for home, but on our way out of the refuge we encountered an opossum crossing the road, a turkey vulture perched in a tree right beside the road, and thinking we'd give the resident alligator one more chance at the joy of our company, we were pleasantly surprised to see one had come out of hiding and was sunning itself near the viewing fence, then while we were photographing it, I saw an armadillo slide under the fence. Armadillos are one of Sandra's favorite animals to observe, so, of course, we had to take photos of it and then saw a few more near the refuge gate, which meant more photos there, one of them the photo above right, which with all due modesty, has to be one of the greatest armadillo photos ever taken in the entire course of human history. I got it to sit, but I couldn't get it to roll over.
The drive back to the RV was uneventful and the day ended with one of the best sunsets we've had in a while, which I photographed from the end of the new pier here at the RV park, so all in all, a very enjoyable day.
Click here for Sandra's account of the day and a lot more photos.
Goodies, A Cruise, A Dinner, & A Boil
Saturday, 17 January, 2009 - After posting my report Wednesday, I received a package from Michelle, which she had told me to be expecting, but having an ornery streak (from whom she could have inherited it I can't imagine) she refused to divulge what the package contained. It turned out to be a DVD of family photos, a masterpiece work of art by Faith, and some gluten-free goodies Michelle had baked, a bag each of soda and graham crackers (yummy stuff, too).
I've been terribly remiss lately in posting grandkid photos, so to correct that, posted here is one of the photos from the photo DVD Michelle sent, all six of the grandchildren at a Christmas gathering. From what I see on the DVD, it took six attempts before they succeeded in getting all six of these wiggle-worms well posed, which in itself seems like an impossible feat, so to have accomplished that in only six tries has to be nothing short of a miracle.
I find the arrangement here interesting. I don't know if it was intentional or not, but Michelle and Eric's three children are on the left, Ian and Tracy's three on the right, with the middle child of each being in the middle of this grouping and the youngest on the outside. Such organization.
Anyway, pictured (L-R) are: Luke, Grace, Faith, Lily, Caden, and Iris. A fine looking bunch.
Thursday proved to be fairly eventful. The weather was good enough, just barely though, that Delmer and I decided to give it another try for him to take me on a boat tour of Powderhorn Lake and this time Sandra decided to join us.
The cruise was interesting, despite the fact that few birds were out near the shoreline of the largely uninhabited lakeshore. Except for the RV park, a few houses near it, and what remains of Indianola, the lakeshore is mostly unspoiled marsh and wetlands and with some trees along the south shore, so it's a bird's paradise, but most of them were elsewhere that day or hiding down in the marsh grass. Also the tide was low, so even though Delmer's boat is a flat bottom with very shallow draft we still couldn't get too close to the shoreline for fear of damaging the propellor on the motor, so a lot of areas he wanted to show us were inaccessible that day.
Despite that, we did manage to get a few photos, such as the one on the right of a snowy egret taking flight. Not only did I have the new lens on the camera, but it was also attached through a 1.4x tele-extender, which turns its 400mm focal length into 560mm, which due to the crop factor of the sensor size in my camera being another 1.6x, it all totals to the equivalent on a 35mm film camera of 896mm, which is pretty respectable telephoto and while that is great for reaching out to distant objects, it is hard enough to hold steady on them when on terra firma, but almost impossible to do so from a rocking and moving boat. But thanks to the marvels of today's photographic technology, all the shots I took turned out in sharp focus.
Heading out, we were going with the wind, so it was pretty pleasant. Coming back though was a different story since we were then going against the wind, which had also picked up while we were out, and even though we had dressed for it, it wasn't enough because the wind eventually took the heat out of us and when it felt like I was risking getting a chill, we returned to the marina. As it was, my lungs, still sensitive from the pneumonia, were not happy with me a few hours later and it began to feel like I'd caught a cold on top of it, but happily it looks like I managed to fight it off and my lungs have quit complaining. Needless to say, we won't be trying another boat ride unless the weather is warmer and the wind calm, but we still had a great time and Delmer is just a wealth of local information.
That evening, Ellie and Jim had us over for a pork roast supper which was excellent, as was the company.
Friday, yesterday, was a lot quieter with only a quick run into town for some cold medicine and then we had supper out again, dining out two nights in a row being a very rare occurrence in our very tranquil life. This time, the RV park was hosting another shrimp boil and as before, took pains to see that I had enough gluten-free dishes to make a meal and another excellent meal it was. Sandra and I are both going to really miss this place when we leave.
For Sandra's account of the last few days and for a lot more photos, click here.
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Updated Friday, April 10, 2009
Copyright © 2009 by Gordon L Wolford .
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