Reading List 2020

At the end of 2019 I read the first book in the Outlander series by Diana Gabalson and was hooked. I began the year 2020 by reading through the rest of the books in the series. Book 2, Dragonfly in Amber, was pretty good and wrapped up some of the story lines in book one. But Voyager, book three, was fantastic and still remains one of my favorite in the series.

During the late spring and early summer I got back into Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St. Mary’s series. The series combines colorful and zany characters, funny dialog and fascinating historical events. With a year like 2020 is was just the type of escape that I needed.

I read several book in 2020 by Douglas E. Richard, who is one of my favorite sci-fi authors. Veracity is a novel that explores the idea, “What if you developed a technology that made it impossible for anyone to lie? About anything. Would this save humanity from itself? Or would it tear society apart?” Through character dialog and character experiences the author is able to explore the pros and cons of living in a world where lies can be detected by anyone. Although you may think it’s a win-win scenario, there are some downsides to total truth.

Another Douglas E. Richard series that I got hooked on was the Alien Artifact series. The first book is named The Enigma Cube. The introduction to the book on the Amazon.com page says, “To secure a dazzling future they must travel to a perilous past.” Not only is it a time travel story, it’s a near future sci-fi story featuring technology like enhanced “super soldiers” and advanced drone technology.

The news that Amazon was making a mini-series from the Wheel of Time book series by Robert Jordan got me excited. I had hope that Amazon would spend the money and do a good job adapting the books. They signed on some good talent like Rosamund Pike to play Moiraine. The news inspired me to re-read the series again since it had been a few years. It was another good escape from the madness that was the year 2020. However, it’s a long series so by the end of book 6 I was ready for a change and wanted to read something else.

I’m a huge fan of the book series Dune by Frank Herbert. My favorite mini series adaption is the Sci-Fi Channel three-part mini-series that came out back in 2000. The news hit social media in 2020 that a new production of Dune was underway. Naturally I was curious and had hope they would do a good job. I read that the plan was to make a two part movie in order to tell the story better than was possible in a standard 2 hour movie. That was encouraging news. It seemed like the new movie production had an impressive cast of actors and actresses. Understandably, COVID 19 paused production and release of the first movie. However, I was still inspired to get the first three books in the series electronically on my Kindle. So far I have re-read the first two books.

For fans of Jodi Taylor like me, the big event for the end of 2020 was the release of book two of the Time Police series named Hard Time. I was not disappointed. This is a great story and series and I am an fan. The characters are wonderfully imperfect.

As I’m writing this article in 2021, I just received season six of the Outlander series on Blu-ray. This season is based on the book named, A Breath of Snow and Ashes – (Outlander 6) by Diana Gabaldon.

  1. Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander 2) – Diana Gabaldon
  2. Blood of Elves (Witcher Series) – Andrzej Sapkowski
  3. Voyager (Outlander 3) – Diana Gabaldon
  4. Drums of Autumn (Outlander 4) – Diana Gabaldon
  5. The Fiery Cross (Outlander 5) – Diana Gabaldon
  6. A Breath of Snow and Ashes – (Outlander 6) – Diana Gabaldon
  7. An Echo in the Bone – (Outlander 7) – Diana Gabaldon
  8. Written in my Hearts Own Blood – (Outlander 8) – Diana Gabaldon
  9. Eagle in the Sky – Wilbur Smith
  10. Journey of the Pharaohs (NUMA Files) – Clive Cussler
  11. And the Rest Is History: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Book Eight – Jodi Taylor
  12. An Argumentation of Historians: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Book Nine – Jodi Taylor
  13. Hope for the Best: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Book Ten – Jodi Taylor
  14. Cry Wolf – Wilbur Smith
  15. Veracity – Douglas E. Richards
  16. Hungry as the Sea – Wilbur Smith
  17. Plan for the Worst: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Book Ten – Jodi Taylor
  18. The Enigma Cube – Douglas E. Richards
  19. War Cry – Wilbur Smith
  20. The Solomon Curse (Fargo 7) – Clive Cussler
  21. The Long and the Short of It: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Short Stories – Jodi Taylor
  22. Why is Nothing Ever Simple: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Short Story – Jodi Taylor
  23. Pirate (Fargo 8) – Clive Cussler
  24. Origin – (Robert Langdon 5) – Dan Brown
  25. Oracle (Fargo 11) – Clive Cussler
  26. Timeslingers – Jay Sherer
  27. Contact – Carl Sagan
  28. The Last Dragon Slayer – Jasper Fforde
  29. Song of the Quarkbeast – Jasper Fforde
  30. Eye of Zoltar – Jasper Fforde
  31. Blue Gold (Re-read) – Clive Cussler
  32. Eye of the World (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
  33. A Pivot in Time (Enigma Cube 2) – Douglas E. Richards
  34. The Great Hunt (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
  35. The Dragon Reborn (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
  36. The Shadow Rising (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
  37. The Fires of Heaven (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
  38. Lords of Chaos (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
  39. Dune (Re-read) – Frank Herbert
  40. Dune Messiah (Re-read) – Frank Herbert
  41. Hard Time (Time Police Series #2) – Jodi Taylor
  42. Marauder (Oregon Series 15) – Clive Cussler & Boyd Morrison

Mount Katahdin Panorama Photos

Over the Thanksgiving 2020 holiday I took a trip to Millinocket, Maine. On Friday, November 27th the weather cleared up enough to explore the Baxter State Park area and get some photographs of Mount Katahdin. The first stop was New England Outdoor Center on Millinocket Lake. I was able to walk down to their boat landing and get a few photos of the mountain. It was a beautiful view, even though the peak was still covered with a cloud.

Millinocket Lake and Mount Katahdin in Millinocket, Maine.
Same view with the 300 mm zoom lens.

Further up Golden Road was another spot that I found on Goggle Maps. The place was Abol Bridge near Abol Bridge Campground and Store. The bridge crossed the West Branch of the Penobscot River. Using the Google Maps street view feature I could tell that the bridge offered a clear view of the mountain and river.

An article in Game and Fish online from 2010 says, “The West Branch Penobscot is one of the Northeast’s finest salmon fisheries.” The article goes on to say,

“Focus on the section between Ripogenus Dam and Pemadumcook Lake,” advised Tim Obrey, a regional fisheries biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “It’s a unique section of river. I can’t think of any other place with a resident population of river salmon. This is not a population of fish that comes up from the lakes to spawn. These salmon winter in the lower areas of the river. As the water temperature starts to warm up they start migrating upstream.”

https://www.gameandfishmag.com/editorial/fishing_salmon-steelhead-fishing_mo_0510_02/241559

The West Branch sounds like a great place to return to during fishing season. Catching both salmon and trout sounds great to me!

Summer Salmon and Trout Fishing on Lake Winnipesaukee 2020

Going on a fishing charter locally in New Hampshire was one of the few things we could do this summer with all the COVID 19 travel restrictions. So, I was really happy to get two charter trips with Salmon Patrol Charters this year again on Lake Winnipesaukee.

We got to enjoy some beautiful sunrises in addition to catching some nice fish.

My Rainbow Trout at sunrise.

We had a beautiful sunrise on the August 16th trip. I caught a nice Rainbow trout just as the sun was coming up.

Johnny’s Salmon
Jack’s Salmon

Both Johnny and Jack landed some nice Salmon!

My first Lake Trout!

I landed the last fish of the trip. This was the first Lake Trout that I have ever caught! I was surprised to catch a Lake Trout since they are known as a deep water fish and we had the lines down around 30 feet.

The sunrise on our August 23rd trip was spectacular. We left the dock in a dense fog. It slowly cleared off revealing a beautiful sunrise.

Sunrise August 23, 2020
Sunrise August 23, 2020

I can’t wait until next season when we can go back and do it again!

Flock of Canada Geese

Kayaking the Connecticut River: Wilson Landing to Grant Brook

On Sunday, September 6th I went on the longest kayak trip I had been on in years. I paddled a little over five and a half miles up river and back for a total of a little over eleven miles. I started at Wilson Landing in Hanover, NH and want to the mouth of Grant Brook in Lyme, NH.

I left about mid-day, which is not the best time to see wildlife on the river, but I brought my camera anyway. As I approached the large island north of the Ompompanoosuc River I spotted a huge flock of Canada Geese. A large group of them swam over to the mouth of a small brook on the New Hampshire side.

I paddled over next to the shore and slowly approached the mouth of the brook so the geese would not see me so quickly.

Canada GeeseCanada GeeseEventually I slowly drifted out into the mouth of the brook so I could photograph more of the birds.

Flock of Canada GeeseCanada GeeseI continued up river to the mouth of Hewes Brook and was able to find the river landing from the river. The landing is an extreamly primitive kayak and canoe boat landing off of River Road in Lyme.

Beyond Hewes Brook is the Wilder Management Area, which is a tract of conservation land in Lyme, NH. The river part of the “land” is made up of river back-ins, coves and grass island. I did see three Mallard ducks while paddling around.

On the way back to Wilson Landing I went in and around the grass islands across from the Ompompanoosuc River. I was lucky enough to catch a bunch of Mallard ducks sunning on one of the logs in the river.

Mallard Ducks on the Connecticut RiverI was able to get a couple photos before a boat went by and scared them all off.

Connecticut River Duck Tour # 2: Wilson Landing to the Ompompanoosuc River

Another favorite Upper Valley kayak trip is from Wilson Landing in Hanover, NH to the Ompompanoosuc River on the Vermont side.

It’s up river of Hanover and is close to the mouth of the Ompompanoosuc River in Thetford, VT, which is a great place for wildlife encounters.

Before going into the Ompompanoosuc it always good to paddle around the grass islands that are across from the mouth of the river on the New Hampshire side. It’s a great habitat for ducks and birds.

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As you can see, the ducks can easily hide their family in the grass “islands” if there is a threat yet still come out to swim, feed and hang out on one of several logs poking above the water near the islands.

After a couple circles around the islands to see what else was around, I headed over to the Ompompanoosuc River. As I got to the large part of the river mouth near the Interstate 91 bridge I could see an enormous flock of Canada Geese. It’s not unusual to see geese raising their families here, but this seemed like a larger flock than I usually see.

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I was amazed that they let me drift among them and take photos as they swam about and ate.

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I have a 300mm lens and make efforts to drift slowing and quietly while taking photos.

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Some of the birds came really close to the kayak.

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This is one of my favorite Upper Valley kayaking trips!

 

 

Connecticut River Duck Tour #1: Wilder, VT to Hanover, NH

A fantastic kayak trip in the Upper Valley region of Vermont and New Hampshire is on the Connecticut River between the boat landing in Wilder, VT and Mink Brook in Hanover.

I paddled around the islands just below Mink Brook since it is usually a good place to see ducks. Sure enough I spotted a large group of more than a dozen ducks. They were a bit skittish at first and hid in the brush when I first paddled by. I decided to paddle around the island once more while paddling and drifting at an extreamly slow rate. Well, it paid off and I spotted the whole group in a small cove.

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Due to the green coloring on the head, I’m pretty sure theses are Mallard Ducks. I visited the Website All About Birds to confirm my identification. The Mallard ID page says, “Male Mallards have a dark, iridescent-green head and bright yellow bill.” and that “Females and juveniles are mottled brown with orange-and-brown bills.”

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It looks like many of these birds are juveniles since I can see the green head feathers growing in on some of them.

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The All About Bids Website also describes adult mails as having a gray body “sandwiched between a brown breast and black rear.” I can see the middle bird in the photo above is part way through the color change with most of the green head feathers grown in and the body feathers changing from mottled brown to gray.

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I paddled into Mink Brook to look for more ducks. Sure enough, there were a few families in there but most were skittish and kept there distance from me. There were a few that stayed calm as a drifted around in the coves.

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I was able to get a pretty good water reflection shot of the duck in the photo above.

 

Kayaking at Grafton Pond June 13, 2020

On June 13th our meetup.com group went on a sunrise kayak trip to Grafton Pond in Grafton, NH. The plan was to be on the water about 4:45am.

It wasn’t too long after we left the boat landing before we saw the first loon. It put on quite a show for us with some wing flapping and diving.

Look photo 1It was a little chilly out so it felt really good once the sun came up and warmed us up a bit.

Sunrise at Gradton PondAs usual, most of the the loons on the pond formed up in a small group for some fishing.Loon photo 3Loon photo 2
Loon photo 4Towards the end of the trip I was waiting for the rest of the group near a small island. I was able to drift my kayak pretty close to what I think is an Eastern Phoebe.

Bird Photo 1I’m definitely planning to go back for another early morning kayak trip this summer.

 

Green Mt. Hiking Trip April 25, 2020

I went hiking with a small group of people from the meetup.com group that I’m in to Green Mt. in Claremont, NH. It was my first time there and I did not even know about the trail before the hike. I discovered its the mountain right next to the City of Claremont with the cell phone towers at the top. It’s so close to the city that I got some great photos from the top using my 300mm lens. As you can see from the old brick buildings, Claremont is an old mill town. Wikipedia tells us, “The water power harnessed from the Sugar River brought the town prosperity during the Industrial Revolution. Large brick factories were built along the stream, including the Sunapee Mills, Monadnock Mills, Claremont Machine Works, Home Mills, Sanford & Rossiter, and Claremont Manufacturing Company. Principal products were cotton and woolen textiles, lathes and planers, and paper.”

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I was also able to get some panorama shots from the ledges near the top.

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I really enjoyed the view of Mt. Ascutney on the right to Okemo Mt. and ski resort off in the distance on the left.

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I zoomed in with the 300mm lens for a better view of Okemo Ski Resort, which is over in Ludlow, Vermont.

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Key Largo Diving Trip February 26th, 2020

After two days of bad visibility at the dive sites off of Key Largo, conditions improved on Wednesday. Thankfully we went back out to Molasses Reef. I was thrilled to see a beautiful Reef Shark swimming along the reef. I was the only one in my immediate dive group to see it so I’m glad I got some video. Another small group that was on the same boat got to see the shark (you will see them in the video).

For the afternoon dive we went back to a couple sites on French Reef. While swimming through one of the grottos I spotted another Nassau Grouper.

Thanks to a couple of other guys in our dive group who spotted the turtle first, I had a great encounter with a Hawksbill Turtle.

This turned out to be my last dive of the trip since wind picked up on Thursday and the waves got bigger and Friday was my “dry day” before flying home on Saturday.

Key Largo Diving Trip February 24 2020

On Monday February 24, 2020 I was diving at Molasses Reef off the coast of Key Largo, Florida with Rainbow Reef Dive Center.

I had several good shark encounters. The second one was the best. I was able to intercept a large nurse shark swimming across the reef and got within several feet of it. The Florida Museum website says, “Large juveniles and adults are usually found around deeper reefs and rocky areas at depths of 3-75 meters (10-246 ft) during the daytime moving into shallower waters of less than 20 meters (65 ft) after dark.”

Later on I had a fantastic Southern Stingray encounter. According to the Florida Museum website at Stingrays tail “can be up to twice as long as their bodies, with a sharp spine that has teeth on either side of it.”

I also encountered a small Nassau Grouper. The Nassau grouper, which is endangered, is one of my favorite groupers due to their color and stripe pattern. The Florida Museum website says, “The Nassau grouper can change color pattern from light to dark brown very quickly, depending upon the surrounding environment and mood of the fish.” This one has the stripes that fade towards the belly. The faded colors did help it to blend in with the sandy and rocky section of the reef that it was swimming in.

It’s exciting to see the larger marine creatures like sharks and stingrays, but I like to slow down sometimes and appreciate some of the smaller fish. The Queen Angelfish is one of my favorites.

Another reef fish that is a pleasure to watch is the Banded Butterfly Fish. “The banded butterfly fish is also a predator, feeding on tube worms, sea anemones, corals, and occasionally snacking on crustaceans.”