The Connecticut River above the Wilder Dam is a great place to see wildlife while kayaking. I was a beautiful June morning as I put in at the Wilder boat landing with a plan to head up river to Mink Brook.
It turned out that I did not have to go far for my first wildlife encounter. It turned out there was a family of Mallard ducks right near the boat landing.
I eventually move on and headed up river towards Mink Brook. I encountered a few other Mallard ducks sunning on a log.
I finally made it into Mink Brook. I usually see lots of Mallards in the area, I was surprised to see a female Wood Duck. She did have some chicks with her, but they stayed hidden in all of the branches and brush near the shore.
On my way back to the boat landing I encountered the same family of ducks that I photographed when starting the trip.
For our hiking part of the tour we went to White Domes Trail. The americansouthwest.com site tells us it’s a 1.1 mile hike and is, “probably the most popular hike in Valley of Fire State Park since it is easy, a loop rather than one-way, and passes a good variety of scenery including many colorful rock formations of Aztec sandstone, and a short though pretty section of slot canyon”
I did not expect to take many photos at the visitors center, but grabbed my camera anyway. The landscaping around the visitor’s center was fantastic. The garden area in front had numerous flowering cactus. Before long I noticed some hummingbirds flying around the cactus.
“A small green-backed hummingbird of the West, with no brilliant colors on its throat except a thin strip of iridescent purple bordering the black chin, only visible when light hits it just right. Black-chinned Hummingbirds are exceptionally widespread, found from deserts to mountain forests”
This is one of the most adaptable of all hummingbirds, often found in urban areas and recently disturbed habitat as well as pristine natural areas.
A Black-chinned Hummingbird’s eggs are about the size of a coffee bean. The nest, made of plant down and spider and insect silk, expands as the babies grow.
The Black-chinned Hummingbird’s tongue has two grooves; nectar moves through these via capillary action, and then the bird retracts the tongue and squeezes the nectar into the mouth. It extends the tongue through the nearly closed bill at a rate of about 13–17 licks per second, and consumes an average of 0.61 milliliters (about one-fiftieth of a fluid ounce) in a single meal. In cold weather, may eat three times its body weight in nectar in one day. They can survive without nectar when insects are plentiful.
Hummingbirds are a challenge to photograph so I really got into the task. I also enjoyed watching a bird that I don’t see on the east coast of the US.
On Friday May 13th I took at photography tour of the Valley of Fire, which is just outside of Las Vegas. I knew the Valley of Fire was known for colorful rock formations and ancient petroglyphs, but I did know know there were so many Bighorn Sheep. We actually spotted some right near the entrance to the park.
Our second stop on the trip is a place named Atlatl Rock.
Soon after arriving we were near the base of Atlatl Rock getting ready to look at the ancient petroglyphs. I was taking to the tour guide when we spotted a Bighorn Sheep moving near the base of the rock but moving towards the Valley of Fire Highway. I put the 300mm lens on my camera and headed towards the sheep on an intercept course.
I was amazed and impressed to see petroglyphs depicting Big Horn Sheep, especially after just having an encounter with one.
In addition to Big Horn Sheep, there are petroglyphs of people hunting the sheep using an Atlatl, which is an ancient spear thrower.
Thursday May 12th was the day I schedule the helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon West Rim. Since I was now familiar with the area near the Grand Canyon West visitors center, I would have a better understanding of the terrain during the helicopter tour. This tour was the real reason that I brought my GoPro Hero 9 along on the trip. Although I booked the tour with Canyon Tours, the actual company that did the tour was Maverick Helicopters. They picked me up from my hotel and brought us over to their airfield. I think it was in Henderson but I’m not sure now.
Below is footage from the Colorado River, Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. The lighter colored rocks near the water shows how much the water has dropped over the last few decades. I posted this video to my YouTube channel. Since the title of the video was related to a current news topic the video got 34 thousand views in the first month. As of June 25th it’s up to 40 thousand views.
Below is the footage from when we crossed Lake Mead on the way to the West Rim of the Grand Canyon. Off to the right we can see Temple Bar Marina.
It was exciting to fly up over the ridge and into the canyon lands.
The best footage from the trip was when we left the Grand Canyon West visitors center and flew along the canyon on the way back to the Las Vegas area.
Below is the mouth of the Colorado River where it goes into Lake Mead. This is another video that is getting thousands of views per day due to the fact that the water level of Lake Mead is in the news so often.
The video footage below is the west end of Lake Mead, which we crossed on the way back to the Las Vegas area and the airfield
Overall it was a wonderful tour and I would definitely book another trip with them if I am ever back in the Las Vegas area.
On Wednesday May 11th I went on a kayak tour on the Colorado River in the section below Hoover Dam. I booked at tour with Blazin Paddles Kayak Tours. They picked me up from my hotel on the strip, so I did not not have to worry about driving. We started at Willow Beach on the Arizona side of the river. It had been windy in the Vegas area at time during the week. Wednesday was no exception. The wind was supposed to pick up during the afternoon and hopefully we would be off of the water by then.
It turns out that Willow Beach has a rich history and had been visited by people for thousands of years.
I brought my GoPro Hero 9 to record some video footage of the trip. It turned out that Emerald Cave was a lot smaller than I imagined. But it was still a great trip. It was a treat to kayak in a totally different landscape than I am used to in New England.
On the way back we stopped at an historical site called the River Gauge House Site. We pulled up on the landing area and some mallard ducks swam over for a visit.
The house site was part of the Willow Beach Gauging Station. The house site was just down river from the Gauging Station, which was used to measure the flow and level of the river below Hoover Dam.
This is the view down river from the house site.
When we returned to Willow Beach a Mallard duck followed us in and swam real close to us. They don’t fear humans like the ducks that I usually encounter in New England.
Next we headed over to the Willow Beach Marina to wait for the shuttle bus and visit the store. I was able to take a few photos of the marina.
Inside of the store their were stuffed & mounted stripped bass had had been caught in the Colorado River around Willow Beach in the past.
Since I enjoy fishing I just had to check out the fishing info poster at the marina. The big shock was that marshmallows and cheese are the recommended bait for Rainbow Trout.
The recent news stories about the low water levels in Lake Mead make me nervous. What will be the impact for this part of the Colorado River if the water in Lake Mead gets so low that they reduce the amount of water they let through Hoover Dam.
On Monday May 9th I took a bus tour from Las Vegas to the west rim of the Grand Canyon. The two major stops on the trip were Eagle Point, home of the Grand Canyon Skywalk, and Guano Point.
I brought my Pentax Kx Camera with a variety of lenses. My plan was to make a series of Panorama photos using Adobe Lightroom.
The Grand Canyon West Rim is on the Hualapai Indian Reservation. They also operate the Skywalk observation platform at Eagle Point. I chose not to go on the Skywalk since you are not allowed to go on the Skywalk with your cell phone or camera. Instead I took photos from Eagle Point and Guano Point.
The views from Eagle Point are pretty good with views looking to the east.
As part of my February 2022 vacation I spent a few days at Killington for some mid-week skiing. I was able to get a room at the Mountain Inn, which is near the top of the access road right next to the ski resort. I had wanted to stay there for years. Killington Distillery is in the same building as the hotel. The hotel has a ski locker room and a free shuttle to the Killington base lodge. The also have an outdoor heated pool!
They also have a nice patio with picnic tables and a fire pit plus a great view of the ski resort.
Since I did not have to drive I was looking forward to relaxing at the bar. As I mentioned, there is a distillery onsite.
They have some fantastic craft cocktails made from the Killington Distillery products.
I tried the Blackberry Bourbon Sour and loved it!
I loved that they had a fire pit outside. The weather and temperature was pretty good for winter and I had a fire nearby. It was nice watching the lights from the grooming machines going up and down the trails at Killington.
The Mountain Inn also has an outdoor heated pool. I did not use it during the first night of my stay on Sunday but I sure did Monday evening after skiing.
This was my first ski trip of the season so I was happy to take a couple warm up runs on the Snowshead trail.
My sister and nephew joined me for the day. We had some great runs on Ramshead, Snowdon, Killington Peak, Sky Peak and even a run down the Great Eastern to the Skyship Base. We had lunch at the summit lodge, which was nice. The place has lots of windows and some great views.
The weather on Tuesday was strange. It warmed up over night and the whole mountain was covered in snow fog. Since the visibility was so bad I did several runs on Showshead, which was fogged in but it was good enough to ski.
It cleared up first around the top of the Snowshead trail but rest of the ski area was fogged in. Once the fog burned off some snow flurries came through, which made visibility better but not perfect.
I eventually went back over to Ramshead mountain and did a bunch of runs on Easy Street and Caper.
Wednesday morning was beautiful and sunny. Before leaving I was able to get some beautiful photos of the mountain with my Pentax Kx camera. Below is Killinton peak and the K1 summit lodge.
Below is the Snowshead trail. Although it’s the easy training trail for the resort, I like it since it’s a nice relaxing ski with a great view.
Below is a photo of the Superstar lift and trail.
This is a panorama of Ramshead, Snowdon, Killington over to Skypeak and the Snowshead trail.
A friend gave me the book Zero Day by David Baldacci for Christmas 2020 so it was my first book for 2021. I enjoyed it so much that I immediately bought the next three books in the series. Later on in the year I discovered the Memory Man series and the Will Robie series.
The Memory Man series by David Baldacci has a fascinating main character. Amos Decker had a bad football head injury that, “left him with an improbable side effect–he can forget nothing.” Later in life he is a police detective. One day he came home to find his family had been murdered. A perfect memory turns out to be both a blessing and a curse. Most of us (especially as we get older) would love a perfect memory. However, Amos Decker has a few bad memories that he wishes that he did not remember in perfect detail. It does make him a hell of a detective and makes him excellent at questioning witnesses and identifying inconsistencies and connecting details.
Another new author for me this year was Colin Falconer. I clicked on a Facebook ad (book ads are one of the few I will click) for one of his books and was taken to Amazon.com. The summary of the story read,
The Holy Land, 1260: Templar knight, Josseran Sarrazini is chosen to escort the Pope’s emissary, a Dominican friar, on a diplomatic mission to the all-conquering Mongol horde in an effort to broker a peace deal. To do it, they must undertake one of the most extraordinary journeys ever made.
I ended up reading three more books in the series. The book Aztec (renamed The Feathered Serpent) was fantastic! It’s the story of Hernan Cortes conquest of the Aztec nation. The book Lord of the Atlas turned out to be another favorite. The Amazon summary of the book says,
Marrakesh, 1893: Two former army officers are offered a small fortune to help the Sultan of Morocco quell a rebel uprising. It seems like the easiest money they’ll ever make. But they couldn’t be more wrong.
Later on the summary says, “This is adventure on a breath-taking scale, evoking the beautiful and the barbaric of nineteenth-century Morocco, and transporting the reader to a now-lost world.” I agree!
I actually purchased The Bone Collector back on June 17, 2019 but never read it until 2021. I remembered it was made into a movie starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. I loved the book! Jeffery Deaver has Lincoln Rhyme using some fascinating forensic science techniques to solve crimes. A big part of his technique involved using database technology to catalog and match evidence samples. Throughout the year I eventually read the entire 14 book series. I also watched the movie and a new series based on the novels.
I really enjoyed the book A Ripple in Time by Victor Zugg. He seems a fairly new author on Amazon.com, with the first book listed only published in 2018. Amazon describes the story,
It started as a routine Miami to Charlotte flight for the passengers, crew, and Federal Air Marshal Stephen Mason. But a freak storm over the Atlantic propels the airliner unexplainably back in time to the early 18th century. They find themselves on the sparsely populated coast of the Carolina Colony.
It turned out to be a fantastic story and since then I have read several other novels by Victor Zugg.
The new Dune movie finally came out. Before it was released I read the book again (I have read it several times over the years). I gained a new appreciation of the challenges that a film producer had when telling this story. The novel Dune has an interesting structure. Each chapter begins with an excerpt from fictional books written by Princess Irulan and Paul Atreides. Some of the excerpts gave us background information that the screenplay writers have to find a different way to present it to the viewers. I really enjoyed the movie and am looking forward to part 2.
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler was a recommendation from my friend’s fifteen year-old son. He read it for an assignment at school and really enjoyed the story. It turns out it was a time travel story. A black women from the 20th century named Dana gets transported back to the early 1800’s in Maryland. It was fantastic! She ends up traveling back and forth between 1976 and various years in the early 1800. Every time she seems to be sent back to save the son of a slave plantation owner named Rufus. The story was able to explore aspects of slavery in addition to comparing cultural norms and attitudes of people in the 1970’s and the early 1800’s.
I read the book Rendezvous with Rama before, but it was many years ago. When I saw there was a Kindle version I had to get it. Even thought Arthur C. Clark was a science fiction writer, he had a excellent grasp of the practical side of science. The Rama ship design concept of the enormous tube with the living area on the inside surface is brilliant. Having the craft rotate could provide the artificial gravity. The Star Trek Next Generation episode named Relics used a similar concept with the Dyson sphere where they enclosed a sun with a large sphere and the inhabitants lived on the inside surface.
I also read next book in the series which is named Rama II. Clark wrote this story in partnership with Gentry Lee. I think they did a better job with the drama and conflict between characters compared to Rendezvous with Rama.
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