Sunday, August 14, 2022

Mosaic Monday #186: Back to the Islands

 

As I continue my denial that this is the month of August, we might as well go way back to May and our trip to Grand Cayman.  (see previous posts June 5, 2022June 12, 2022 and June 19, 2022)  One day we journeyed around the island, beginning with Smith's Barcadere, one of the most photographed beaches in the Caribbean.  Also known as Smith Cove, this historic stretch of coastline is a favorite with locals and visitors alike.  Calm, clear waters and easy beach access make it ideal for snorkeling.  Dappled shade and picnic tables round out the facilities for those who don't want to go in the water.  I filled my time taking pictures, and bird-watching.  The two videos below are a bananaquit - a member of the tanager family.  They feed on small insects and spiders, as well as fruits and nectar.  The local subspecies, Coereba flaveola sharpei, is endemic - found only in the Cayman Islands.


The other most common bird at this beach? Chickens. 




The flowers and fruit on the trees at the beach fascinated me.  I did some rudimentary investigating on the web, but the identification eluded me.  Anyone know the name of the tree(s)?  (One had pink flowers and the other yellow.  Both flowers were shaped like a hibiscus, and the leaves of the trees were identical, if that helps!)


Our next stop was Spotts Beach, known for turtle sightings.  And sure enough, we saw three different turtles.  This is the smallest.


Check out the video of the small one.  It was completely oblivious to the snorkelers awkwardly hanging above it while it snipped at the sea grass, gently rolling in the current near the shore.


Here's the medium-sized green turtle going up for air.  Isn't it marvelous how the sunlight shines through the ocean onto objects under the surface?  The water here was only about 15 feet deep.


I love the following shot with the reflection.  By the way, all these pictures were taken by Spousal Unit with his hand-held GoPro.


The largest of the three was by far the most skittish, and that's why we have only video.  Notice the two remora clinging to it or swimming nearby.  The larger animal provides protection while getting cleaned.  I can't put into words how fulfilling it was to witness three of these majestic creatures in the space of 30 minutes.


Our next stop was Kaibo Beach Bar and Grill, on the far North Side of the island.  If you look at the red numbering in the picture below, we began at 1 - our condo.  Smith's Barcadere is 2, Spott's Beach is 3 and Kaibo is 4. (You can enlarge the picture by clicking on it.)


You can take a ferry from Camana Bay to Kaibo, but you would miss all the fun of driving around the island!  


After we enjoyed drinks and appetizers at the Grill, we strolled over to Starfish Point, only a quarter mile from the restaurant.  As the name would indicate, you can always find starfish in this area.  The red cushion sea stars that frequent the shallows looking for food provide the perfect photo opportunity, while the soft sands are a great place for beachcombing and exploring.

This day, we also came across a few hermit crabs at the Point, the first we have ever seen on the island.  Caribbean hermit crab adults burrow and hide under the roots of large trees, and can be found a considerable distance inland.  I suppose these creatures, like us, were also on their beach vacation!



Welcome to Mosaic Monday, a weekly meme where we get together to share our photo mosaics and collages.
Please include at least one photo mosaic/collage in your post.
The link will be open from 1 p.m. Sunday until 11 p.m. Tuesday (U.S. Mountain time).
Remember to add the link to your Mosaic Monday post and not the one to your blog.
Please link back to this post so that your readers will be able to visit and enjoy more wonderful mosaics; taking the MM blog button from my sidebar is an easy way to link back.
As host I will visit every participant and leave a comment so that you know I stopped by.
Please try and visit as many other blogs as you can, especially those that join in later, so that everyone's creativity can be appreciated fully.
Thank you for joining in today and sharing your mosaics with us. 


You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Sunday, August 7, 2022

MM# 185: An Idaho Falls Fourth of July

Is anyone else around here in shock that it's already AUGUST???  Since I am deep in denial, this post is re-winding to our Fourth of July weekend with #1 Son in Idaho Falls.  Between classic patriotic events such as the parade and fireworks, plus typical tourist attractions (the Zoo!), we were on the go, go, go. And the time spent with #1 Son was the cherry on the sundae!

Given Friday was his day off, we drove down on Thursday, and were greeted by the newest members of our family, Daisy and Ruby.  #1 Son has been dying to have cats.  Once he secured his job and his own apartment, he was ready.  He waited until after our family trip to Cayman (but even in Cayman I was helping him scour the 'net for cat trees and other products), and by then he had identified two adoption candidates at a nearby shelter.  He was so thrilled they were still available when he went for his appointment!


We parted with the girls just long enough for a little outdoor dining at Smokin' Fins.
 


In the past, I have written posts about the love that #1 Son and I have for museums.  We were delighted to find that the Museum of Idaho was hosting the "Genghis Khan: Conquest and Culture" exhibit - bingo!  #1 Son has a particular interest in all things Asian.  Friday morning we headed to this display, showcasing more than 300 original artifacts including ancient weapons, jewelry and domestic items. 


The exhibit presented multiple facets of Genghis Khan, including his unprecedented leadership capability, even if some of his practices might be considered barbaric by today's standards.  Being a Mongol meant being a warrior, but Genghis Khan turned individual warriors into an army.  He also incorporated defeated soldiers, mixing them in with his troops to help ensure individual loyalty.  To facilitate discipline and provide a clear chain of command, the troops were organized by tens.  The ten men in the basic unit were responsible for each other - if one failed, all were punished.  An imperial guard served the Khan.  To be selected was considered a great honor - it was the military academy for the next generation of elite leaders.  Each young officer-in-training, chosen from the sons of regimental leaders, was also a kind of hostage, guaranteeing the fathers' loyalty to the Khan. 

The morin khur (horse-head fiddle) is the national instrument of Mongolia.  In Genghis Khan's time, every man was expected to know how to play it.  (see left side of collage below)  While at the museum, a gentleman was playing a horse-head fiddle, sometimes accompanied by a woman on a dulcimer-like instrument.


At its peak, the Mongol Empire revived and controlled the "Silk Routes" that united Asia with Europe.  That control meant more than just access to essential supplies and tariffs to support the Empire.  It also allowed Genghis Khan to spread innovations between cultures.  Many features of modern Western life were brought from the East by Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire.  Genghis introduced the concept of the printing press, diplomatic immunity, the pony express and the use of passports.  These innovations sped transit and safeguarded trade across his vast Empire.  The next time you eat a hamburger, put on your pants, shout "Hooray" or play the violin, remember to thank Genghis Khan!






You can click on the photo below to enlarge it and read more about these cultural contributions.


These papier mache masks are among 108 fashioned by dozens of Mongolian artisans under the direction of the exhibit curator.  The Tsam Dance is an elaborate ritual performance of masked dancers performed on the 9th day of the last month of summer.  The dancing figures represent the demons which protect the soul after death in the journey to rebirth.

Tsam was banned during the 20th Century Russian domination of Mongolia.  These masks were worn in the first public performance of the Buddhist Tsam Festival after Mongolia won independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.


We went searching for some lunch in downtown Idaho Falls, and along the way I saw these two murals.



And our day was not over yet; the Zoo was holding an evening fundraiser with live music and access to all the normal exhibits.  Given the cooler evening temperatures, many of the animals were lively.  Check out the video of the Serval.


These cats are just a LITTLE bigger than the kitties back at the apartment.  And yes, I only took pictures of cats ...


The next day, we went to the Farmer's Market.  I was fascinated by these Chimney Cakes, which I had never seen before.  Labeled as "Transylvanian Treats", the batter was slathered on the skewers and baked over a charcoal fire.  When done, the skewers "rested" upright on the table, and then your selected coating (cinnamon sugar was popular) was applied.  Final step was to bang the skewer on the table, and the cake would magically slide off into the bag.  Voila!  Too bad I closed my eyes for the photo! 


That afternoon, we took a break from the heat and went to the movies - have you see the Elvis movie with Austin Butler and Tom Hanks?  A terrific film - even though it was hard to watch Tom Hanks in a "bad guy" role!



On Sunday, we went to church and had a lazy afternoon (more time with the cats!) before an evening baseball game.  The Idaho Falls Chukars are an independent baseball team of the Pioneer League, which is not affiliated with Major League Baseball but is an MLB Partner League.  What is more American than hot dogs, popcorn and baseball for the Fourth?

And then it was the Fourth!  We began our day early, staking out a spot to watch the Parade, which began at 9 am.  The theme was "Let Freedom Ring".


There were several "cheer" floats, and all of them had the cheerleaders on these boxes - didn't seem too safe if the trailer needed to stop suddenly.


We are partial to marching bands since #1 Son was in his high school marching band all through high school.  If you are similarly inclined, here is one video for you.


And I know #1 Daughter would love this VW bus.


Idaho Falls is home to the Melaleuca Freedom Celebration, the largest Independence Day fireworks show west of the Mississippi River.  Leading up to the 10 p.m. "high-flying, ground-shaking, adrenaline-filled display", the Snake River Landing venue is home to live music, a massive Kids Zone (I have never seen so many bouncy houses in one place), and a plethora of food and beverage vendors. As chance would have it, #1 Son's apartment is within 5 minutes' walk of the venue!  We alternated between the venue and the pool at his apartment complex - it was HOT.  We wondered how the cats would deal with the booming noise of the pyrotechnics, but when we returned to the apartment close to 11 p.m., they did not seem distressed.

And then, as quickly as it started, the weekend was over.  #1 Son leaves quite early for work, so we left at the same time.  The Idaho sunrise greeted us as we navigated northward on the mostly empty highway.  We were thrilled to have this time with #1 Son, and to see him so content in his home.  


"I hope you realize that every day is a fresh start for you.  That every sunrise is a new chapter in your life waiting to be written."  Juansen Dizon 



Welcome to Mosaic Monday, a weekly meme where we get together to share our photo mosaics and collages.
Please include at least one photo mosaic/collage in your post.
The link will be open from 1 p.m. Sunday until 11 p.m. Tuesday (U.S. Mountain time).
Remember to add the link to your Mosaic Monday post and not the one to your blog.
Please link back to this post so that your readers will be able to visit and enjoy more wonderful mosaics; taking the MM blog button from my sidebar is an easy way to link back.
As host I will visit every participant and leave a comment so that you know I stopped by.
Please try and visit as many other blogs as you can, especially those that join in later, so that everyone's creativity can be appreciated fully.
Thank you for joining in today and sharing your mosaics with us. 


You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Mosaic Monday #184: Going for the Goats

Take three hikes, blend in a handful of waterfalls and a dash of clouds.  Moisten with some early summer snow fields.  Toss with mixed greens in the form of alpine flowers, and what do you get?  The ideal environment for Oreamnos americanus, the mountain goat, and Ovis canadensis, the bighorn sheep.

As I wrote in my last post, these three hikes would be our initial opportunity to participate in the Citizen Science program, collecting data on the Mountain Goat and Bighorn Sheep populations in Glacier National Park.  Any guesses what we found?  Read on, dear friend, read on!

First destination: Apikuni Falls.  Not only is there a debate on how Apikuni (or Appekunny) Falls is spelled, but also of its meaning, either "white-spotted robe" or "scabby robe".  The white man who earned the Indian name of Apikuni (James Willard Schultz) married into the Blackfeet tribe and lived with them for many years.  "Scabby robe" refers to one who is badly tanned with many hard spots.  

The hike to Apikuni Falls requires little effort and provides rewarding views of Many Glacier Valley, including Lake Sherburne (see above).



As you walk the mile to the Falls, the trail transitions through meadow, forest and finally a rocky outcropping which grants your first view of the 100-foot waterfall.   I love how the water falls directly off this rock shelf. 


As you get closer, you can see a series of cascades below the main waterfall.

At the waterfall, we checked the Avenza Map app on my phone, which showed the goat observation point (a red dot) some distance to the right of us (a blue dot).  It seemed simple enough, until we looked to the right.  No discernible trail.  Rocky scree with questionable footing.  And steep. Hmm.  Not ones to give up easily, we began the scramble.  Within 10 minutes, we concluded this effort fell into the "not a good decision" category.  Clambering up is one thing - how would we get down?  And we had barely moved the blue dot any closer to the red dot!  Volunteering has its limits, especially when life-endangering!

We settled for enjoying the mist from the Falls, and I felt I could spare a few minutes to shoot some flowers since we had budgeted an hour for goat observations.

Check out the slow motion of the falls.



James Schultz (Apikuni) was a noted author, explorer, guide, fur trader and historian of the Blackfoot Indians.  Schultz wrote articles about the Glacier area for a new magazine called Forest and Stream.  Its editor, George Bird Grinnell, was so taken by Schultz's description of the land that he paid a visit to the mountains in 1885.  Grinnell was so inspired by what he saw that he spent the next two decades working to establish Glacier as the 10th national park.  

Glacier National Park is beautiful now; I can only imagine how it was then!!!

On the way back, the higher elevation provided an even more expansive view of Many Glacier Valley.


Ok, if you are keeping score: goats - 0.  Just down the road from the trailhead for Apikuni Falls is the starting point for Poia Lake.  Poia is a Blackfoot name also known as Star Boy, a magical hero of Blackfoot mythology who is the son of a mortal woman named Feather Woman and the immortal Morning Star.

The first mile of this 8.6 mile round trip is STEEP, a preface to the total elevation gain of 2,400 feet.  Thankfully, the expansive meadows with a wide assortment of wildflowers were enough to keep me distracted!




The trail was mostly forested until the last half hour.  Given that we had started this hike at 11.45, we were grateful for the shade in the (Montana) heat of the day.  As much as we would have liked to linger at Swiftcurrent Ridge Lake, the mosquitoes who favor the shade were prevalent.  Best to keep moving!

From the lake, we climbed to the top of the ridge, and then the trail began to descend.  Surveying the topography, it was clear we would have more climbing to reach Poia.  We were starting to get hangry!!!  

Around this point, we saw the only person we would see on the trail to Poia, an interesting contrast to the dozens of hikers we saw on Apikuni and the hundreds we would encounter on the final hike.

We left our fellow hiker in the dry streambed and climbed a rocky escarpment.  We knew we were getting close to our destination when we passed the campground.  We did not pause until we reached the goat observation point (the red dot!)  Boy, was it worth it.  Outstanding views!



We don't typically go "off trail", but the red dot required that we do so.  It was clear others had done the same, as a fairly clear footpath led to the observation point.  The opportunity to get the view above is one of the many benefits I am sure that will accumulate from this volunteer gig.

The breeze on this promontory kept things cool even though we were in full sun at 2.15 in the afternoon.  We satisfied our hunger with snacks before we started our observations.  Sadly, not a single goat or sheep in sight.  In fact, no footed critters anywhere - not even the ubiquitous marmots or ground squirrels.  

(We had seen several piles of bear scat along the trail, but no bear sightings either.  I suspect any bear would have been resting in the shade!)

We kept ourselves cool with wet neckcloths, dunked in the lake and streams we would cross.

No one was in the campground as we passed back through; given the time of day, I suspect this particular site would be empty for the night.  I must admit that annoyed me a bit.  Most of our applications for back-country camping permits have been denied, so I just expect that most of the time the campgrounds should be full!!!    Despite our frustration, we do plan to a future camping trip along this way - it's another route to access the Belly River area, one of our favorites (see these posts from last summer: Lost for Words, A Slice of Paradise, Up, Up and Away.)  


By the time we reached our hotel for the night, we had been awake since 5 am, and had hiked 10.6 miles while climbing 3,100 feet.  We were ready for some chow, an adult beverage and then, bed!


The next day, we took the time to enjoy a cooked breakfast before heading to the Iceberg Lake trailhead.  (And if you are keeping score, it's still goats = 0.)



Both days, we entered Glacier National Park through the Many Glacier entrance.  This is one of the few access points that does not require a vehicle reservation, so we were anticipating some traffic at the entry point.  That was not the case, thankfully.  In fact, the entry station was not even staffed!

Before we left home, I had spoken with a friend about a recent hike, and I was shocked to learn she had not been able to complete the hike due to snow.  "Take your Traxx," she advised.  We did, and wondered what lie ahead when we saw this sign at the trailhead.   (Warning - hazardous snow and ice conditions exist 2.5 miles ahead on Iceberg/Ptarmigan Trail (right after Ptarmigan Falls)).

We chatted a bit with several of our fellow hikers; one noted that she had been here three weeks ago and the snow had been manageable.  As it turned out, she was right.  (And when we returned to the trailhead, someone had removed this warning sign!)

It was hard not to notice the dozens of people on this trail; a marked difference from near-total isolation on the Poia trail the day before.  I suppose it's popular because it only climbs 1200 feet and round-trip distance is 9.6 miles.  And did I mention the spectacular views?






The on-line guide to Glacier National Park trails noted that bears frequent the area, especially the segment before Ptarmigan Falls.  We did not see any, but today's check shows that the trail beyond Ptarmigan has been closed off and on since July 17 due to grizzly bear activity.  Glad we did this hike on July 13!









Check out the slow motion videos of Ptarmigan Falls.



Roughly three miles from the trailhead, we emerged from the forest and from this point we had our first good views of our destination.  Looking toward the left, we could see a cirque with a couple of large snowfields lying on the cliff walls.  In the basin just below those snowfields is Iceberg Lake.  (Can you see Man Without Hat in the center right of the picture below?)



Shortly thereafter, the trail reached the bottom of Ptarmigan Wall and began heading in a west-southwesterly direction.  The Wall, towering more than 1500 feet above the trail, is known as an arete, defined as a thin ridge of rock separating two valleys that have been carved by glaciers.  In this case, the Ptarmigan Wall divides the Many Glacier Valley from the Belly River Valley.

For the last 20 minutes of the hike, the trail was snow-covered, but manageable.  A trail crew was clearing the drainage channels to encourage water to run off the trail rather than in it!  I asked about the footbridge installation, and was told it is in place.  (Seasonal footbridges are exactly that - removed in the fall and installed in the spring.)  Yay - otherwise, it would have been a cold crossing!  

We arrived at the goat observation point (the red dot), which this time was just to the right of the trail.  Within the first 10 minutes of setting up our spotting scope and pulling out the binoculars, we had locked on two goats!!!

(Many hikers asked what we saw, and we invested a fair amount of time explaining the Citizen Science program, and sharing our spotting scope so they could catch a glimpse of the horned creatures!)


Score: goats - 3!!!  It was quite exciting, and a thrill to share the experience with others!  With that done, we could focus on enjoying the scenery and the return hike!


Orange sticks marked the way to the lake, the first time we have ever seen that.  I believe it is meant to protect the magnificent alpine wildflowers that will emerge as the snow recedes.




Sitting at an elevation of 6,094 feet, Iceberg Lake is in the shadow of mountains that tower 3,000 feet above.  Hence, the lake receives little sunshine, thus allowing ice and snow to accumulate on the water and on the surrounding cliff walls.  This didn't stop at least one visitor from going for a dip!


As we finished our break and snacks, threatening clouds had begun to gather, so we hoisted our backpacks and bade Iceberg farewell.  We were surprised to see this small lake a short way down the trail - we must have been so anxious to reach the goat observation point that we didn't notice it!


I am not sure which mountain pops up in this picture below, but I love the contrast of the smoother edges and brown shades, compared to the knife-edge of the Wall. 



It seemed quick when we arrived once again at the Falls.  Despite the spots of rain that had been peppering us on the way down, we paused for a break.


With the prospect of a three-hour plus drive home, we did not tarry (except to take some flower photos!)



As we neared the end of the trail, around 3 pm, we were amazed and a bit chagrined to see the number of hikers just setting out, with Iceberg Lake as their destination.  A rough calculation indicated they would be returning no earlier than 8 pm.  While the sun stays long in the sky at this time of year, the bears come out "after business hours", so you want to be off the trail by early evening.  Not to mention the weather.  It was raining a little more when we ended our hike, and was seriously splashing it down after we came out of the gift shop.  I said a silent prayer for all of them, and carried on.

It had been a wonderful series of hikes, and I am grateful that we have the ability to enjoy Nature's bounty.



**I may be slow commenting this week, and Mosaic Monday will take a break on July 31st.  See you again on August 7!

Welcome to Mosaic Monday, a weekly meme where we get together to share our photo mosaics and collages.
Please include at least one photo mosaic/collage in your post.
The link will be open from 1 p.m. Sunday until 11 p.m. Tuesday (U.S. Mountain time).
Remember to add the link to your Mosaic Monday post and not the one to your blog.
Please link back to this post so that your readers will be able to visit and enjoy more wonderful mosaics; taking the MM blog button from my sidebar is an easy way to link back.
As host I will visit every participant and leave a comment so that you know I stopped by.
Please try and visit as many other blogs as you can, especially those that join in later, so that everyone's creativity can be appreciated fully.
Thank you for joining in today and sharing your mosaics with us. 


You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter
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