Sunday October 24, 2021 was a beautiful late fall day. The last time that I had been to Gunstock Mountain Resort was for a ski trip back in March of 2009. All I had with me for a camera at the time was an inexpensive “point and shoot” camera that only took photos in jpeg format. I wanted to go back with a good DSLR camera and a few lenses. So I packed up my Pentax K-x camera and my three lenses and hit the road.
I took the chairlift to the top and went out on the deck of the summit hut to take some photos.
The view was fantastic!
I went down some of the ski trails to get some different views of the lake. The panorama photo below is looking towards the north end of the lake.
I walked down a couple other ski trails to get some views to the south. Below is a panorama showing Rattlesnake Island, which is one of the larger ones on the lake.
I was riding down the chairlift when I got some photos of the southeast part of the lake near Wolfboro, NH.
Imagine these views in the winter and you can understand why I would like to go back there for a ski trip.
On October 17th I lead an meetup.com group hike to the summit of Mt. Sunapee. It’s one of my favorite hikes and ski resorts because of the fantastic view of Lake Sunapee from the summit and ski trails.
My goal for the hike was to get some late season foliage photos that I could turn into Panorama photos using Adobe Lightroom. The two panorama photos below are from the top of the Skyway Ledges ski trail. I like to stop here for a few minutes and enjoy the view in the winter when I am skiing.
The panorama photos below are from the the top of the Wing Ding trail on the Sun Bowl side of the mountain.
The panorama photo below was shot by turning the camera on its side for a series of portrait photos that I “stitched” together in Lightroom to make a huge panorama photo. I was able to capture both the foliage on the lower slopes of the mountain and entire lake.
On Sunday September 19th I joined a meetup.com group and hiked Mt. Moosilauke (See the Alltrails Page) in New Hampshire. It’s one of the 4000+ footers in New Hampshire and an awesome hike.
This is a panorama shot of the view from the Gorge Brook Trail once you start to get above the treeline.
We got a little higher and I got my 300mm lens out and zoomed in on Mt. Lafayette over on the Franconia Ridge.
It was cold at the top (down in the 40’s with the wind chill) so most people at the summit were hanging out behind wind breaks.
The views towards Franconia Ridge were fantastic even though a few clouds moved in.
This photo is looking towards Lake Tarleton, Lake Armington and Lake Katherine in Piermont, NH
This photo is of Black Mountain to the right and North Haverhill, NH down in the Connecticut River Valley.
This is one of my favorite 4000+ mountains to climb it’s the closest one to where I live. Starting from the Dartmouth base lodge is very cool. my next favorite trail is the Beaver Brook Trail from route 112 in North Woodstock, NH.
Although I had a full week of Scuba diving in Cozumel, Mexico, and had some amazing sea life encounters, the Whale Shark snorkel trip on my last day of vacation was one of my favorite days, despite the fact that I got sea sick.
They offer these Whale Shark snorkel tours in several resorts in Cozumel, but the tours actually take place off the coast of Cancun, Mexico. Cancun, Mexico is located on the Yucatan Peninsula, which is a summer feeding area for Whale Sharks. However, it takes some effort to get there from Cozumel.
I packed my gear the night before and got up at 5am to be at the Ferry Terminal at 6am for the 7:15am ferry to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. The van ride to the marina in Cancun was a little over hour.
The snorkel tour boats were a lot smaller than I expected. As we headed out to sea, the waves started getting bigger. After about an hour on the water with 4 to 5 foot waves, I started to feel light headed. I tried all the tricks like looking at the horizon and it helped for a while, but I eventually had to admit I was sea sick.
We were about 34 miles off shore when we saw the others tour boats where the whale sharks were feeding. We soon joined them and were able to see some whale sharks near the surface and put a guide and a couple snorkelers in the water. They would swim with the whale shark(s) for a bit then they would get back in the boat. Then we would find another whale shark and put two more people in the water.
When it was my turn, getting in the water and cooling off helped me to feel better. The video below shows both times I was able to get in the water with the whale sharks. During the first swim I found myself between two whale sharks, which was fantastic, but I did not get as closed as I had hoped. During the second swim I was able to get closer and swim beside it for a while, which was awesome.
When it was time to leave, the waves were still big enough I was happy to go back to shore. On the way back a huge rainstorm overtook us. Although it thoroughly soaked us, it did calm the seas down and make the waves smaller. It also cooled me down and helped with my sea sickness.
Before taking us back to the marina we anchored in the shallows off the beach in the hotel zone in Cancun. The water was only about 4 feet deep but we got hang out in the water and drink Corona beer while the crew made ceviche. They used fresh Grouper for the fish ingredient and a jalapeno pepper for the heat. The captain of the other tour boat made fresh guacamole for us.
Now I wish I had taken more photos from that part of the trip, at the time I was happy be feeling better after being sea sick and and drinking a beer off the beach in Cancun, Mexico.
Another fantastic encounter on July 19th was with a Spotted Moray Eel.
Make no mistake, this is a big Eel. We can’t see it’s full length but it’s pretty thick so I bet it’s between 4 and 6 feet long. It’s more common to see a Green Moray Eel but finding a Spotted Moray is less frequent. So I was really excited about this encounter.
I found a couple fantastic online information resources about Spotted Moray Eels. One is Oceana.com. Their page about Spotted moray Eels says, “Spotted morays, like most morays, have poor eyesight and rely heavily on their sense of smell. For that reason, it can be quite easy for SCUBA divers to approach these fish, but caution should be taken, as the spotted moray’s bite can be strong.” They go on to say,
“In amazing recent research, scientists demonstrated how morays use a second set of jaws in their throats to manipulate food that they have captured. Morays are unable to create suction with their mouths, so their prey has to be manually pushed to the back of the throat, something that is difficult to do without limbs. On land, snakes have a similar problem, but they are able to unhinge their jaws, one at a time, to “walk” their mouths down the prey’s body. Morays do not have that ability, and instead use their second set of jaws to manipulate their food. Attached to the esophagus via strong muscles, these “pharyngeal” jaws reach forward into the mouth, grasp the prey item from the oral jaws, which release at that time, and pull it back to the muscles of the throat. Using slow motion cameras, scientists have been able to video the exchange of food between the two sets of jaws. X-ray images of morays clearly show the pharyngeal jaws and highlight their similarity to the oral jaws.”
I found good video on YouTube of a Spotted moray Eel that shows its “pharyngeal” jaws.
Cozumel Mexico seems to have a healthy population of Queen Angelfish. During the week I shot lots of footage of Queen Angelfish but the encounter on July 19th turned out to be the best.
The Florida Museum Website has an excellent page on Queen Angelfish. The site describes the fish as, “blue-green with blue and yellow highlights on its fins, and can be differentiated from the similar blue angelfish by the prominent dark ringed ‘crown’ spot on its forehead.” They go on to say, “Its brilliant blue and yellow color easily separates it from all other western Atlantic angelfish species except the blue angelfish (Holacanthus bermudensis). These two species are very similar in coloration but the queen has a dark, ringed spot with blue dots on its forehead that resembles a crown. The queen is also more iridescent than the blue and has a completely yellow tail. These two species have been known to occasionally interbreed and create a hybrid.”
Although I saw many of theses fish while diving, most of them did not let me get that close and were always moving, which made then difficult to capture on video. However, this one swam right at me and gave me a good opportunity for a close look.
Back in July 2021 I took my first trip to Cozumel. Mexico. Although I was diving for five days, one of my favorite encounters happened on Monday the 19th. For the first two-tank morning dives we went to a site named Delilah. Early during the first dive our group encountered a Hawksbill Turtle.
The NOAA Fisheries Website tells us, “In many parts of the world, Hawksbills face the unique threat of being hunted for their beautiful shell, also known as “tortoise shell”, which is used by craftspeople to create many types of jewelry and trinkets. The historical hunting and killing of hawksbills for their shell nearly drove the species to extinction. Today, the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) forbids the trade of any turtle products on the international market, including hawksbill tortoise shell, but illegal hunting continues to represent a threat to the species in many parts of the world.”
I did not realize how close they had come to extinction. I feel fortunate that I have been able to see and video so many of them during my time diving.
The site also mentions, “Hawksbill turtles are omnivorous (feeding on both plants and other animals), but their preferred food in many areas is sea sponges. They will also eat marine algae, corals, mollusks, tunicates, crustaceans, sea urchins, small fish, and jellyfish.”
As you can see from the video, there are lots of healthy coral and sponges on the reef for a turtle to feed on.
I had some staycation days to use at the end of February 2020 so I planned some skiing and hiking trips. My goal for Friday was to find a short hike with majestic views. So I went over to Artist Bluff in Franconia Notch near Cannon Mt. Ski Resort. It’s a short hike, but from the top you get a fantastic view of Franconia Notch and Eagle Lake,Cannon Mt and Mt. Layafette.
I had some vacation time to use before the end of February so I planned a few “staycation” activities like skiing and winter hiking. On Wednesday, February 24, 2021 I planned a hike with my friend Sandra up Mt. Cube on the Rivendell Trail in Orford, NH. The weather forecast was for partly cloudy with temperatures in the mid 30’s, which is warm for a winter day.
One of my favorite sections of the Rivendell trail is the stand of Red Pines. In addition to the tall pines there is an under story “layer” of pines that look beautiful when covered in snow.
A spot on the trail where we always seem to stop is called the Sunday Mountain Lookout since you get a wonderful view of Sunday Mountain (it’s more of a hill rather than a mountain) in Orford, NH and west into Vermont.
We finally hit the part of the trail where the trees pretty much turn to all pines. The trail is especially beautiful after it had been snowing.
Another lookout on the Rivendell trail has a fantastic view west into Vermont. Using my 300mm lens I can get a great view of Killington Ski Resort. According to Google Maps this is 60 miles away.
As we got above the treeline the small pines alongside the trail were half encased in ice.
We finally made it to the top of South Peak but did not stay long due to the wind chill.
I did take a series of photos looking towards Groton Wind Farm and Plymouth, NH. The distant view was nice but I really liked the snow covered pines around the summit.
We decided not to go to North Peak since the trail did not look packed down and we did not have snow shoes with us.
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.
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.
Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander 2) – Diana Gabaldon
Blood of Elves (Witcher Series) – Andrzej Sapkowski
Voyager (Outlander 3) – Diana Gabaldon
Drums of Autumn (Outlander 4) – Diana Gabaldon
The Fiery Cross (Outlander 5) – Diana Gabaldon
A Breath of Snow and Ashes – (Outlander 6) – Diana Gabaldon
An Echo in the Bone – (Outlander 7) – Diana Gabaldon
Written in my Hearts Own Blood – (Outlander 8) – Diana Gabaldon
Eagle in the Sky – Wilbur Smith
Journey of the Pharaohs (NUMA Files) – Clive Cussler
And the Rest Is History: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Book Eight – Jodi Taylor
An Argumentation of Historians: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Book Nine – Jodi Taylor
Hope for the Best: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Book Ten – Jodi Taylor
Cry Wolf – Wilbur Smith
Veracity – Douglas E. Richards
Hungry as the Sea – Wilbur Smith
Plan for the Worst: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Book Ten – Jodi Taylor
The Enigma Cube – Douglas E. Richards
War Cry – Wilbur Smith
The Solomon Curse (Fargo 7) – Clive Cussler
The Long and the Short of It: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Short Stories – Jodi Taylor
Why is Nothing Ever Simple: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s Short Story – Jodi Taylor
Pirate (Fargo 8) – Clive Cussler
Origin – (Robert Langdon 5) – Dan Brown
Oracle (Fargo 11) – Clive Cussler
Timeslingers – Jay Sherer
Contact – Carl Sagan
The Last Dragon Slayer – Jasper Fforde
Song of the Quarkbeast – Jasper Fforde
Eye of Zoltar – Jasper Fforde
Blue Gold (Re-read) – Clive Cussler
Eye of the World (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
A Pivot in Time (Enigma Cube 2) – Douglas E. Richards
The Great Hunt (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
The Dragon Reborn (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
The Shadow Rising (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
The Fires of Heaven (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
Lords of Chaos (Re-read) – Robert Jordan.
Dune (Re-read) – Frank Herbert
Dune Messiah (Re-read) – Frank Herbert
Hard Time (Time Police Series #2) – Jodi Taylor
Marauder (Oregon Series 15) – Clive Cussler & Boyd Morrison