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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
The West Branch sounds like a great place to return to during fishing season. Catching both salmon and trout sounds great to me!
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.
We had a beautiful sunrise on the August 16th trip. I caught a nice Rainbow trout just as the sun was coming up.
Both Johnny and Jack landed some nice Salmon!
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.
I can’t wait until next season when we can go back and do it again!
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.
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.
During the last week of February I had some vacation time to use up and took a short trip down to Key Largo for some diving.
I have not been to Key Largo in February since 2017 and forgot how the weather could be. It was windy with cooler temperatures all week long with 4 to 6 foot waves on some days and 2 to 4 foot waves on the others. We had days where visibility was piss poor and getting back on the boat was a challenge.
But, I did have a few good days in the water and interesting sea life encounters.
On Sunday, February 23rd I was on a boat going to the wreck of the Benwood and French Reef. The boat crew had mentioned they had seen a lot of sea turtles and Jellyfish in the area. This made sense since sea turtles eat Jellyfish. Although I did not see any sea turtles that day I did see lots of Jellyfish.
For the second dive we went over to French Reef, which is close by. I was lucky enough to have a Nurse Shark swim right by me for a great video close encounter.
For the afternoon dive I was on a boat going to Molasses Reef. First I had an encounter with a young Goliath Grouper.
Right when I got back from chasing the grouper I encountered a Reef Shark in the same area.
I must say, I was fortunate to enjoy these marine life encounters.