Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Even on a cloudy, drizzly, cold, windy, autumn day, Cape Breton Highlands National Park is a revelation.  Cape Breton is an island off Nova Scotia.  Buffeted by the winds of the Atlantic Ocean, the rugged beauty of the island is a sight to behold.  As you drive through the Cabot Trail along the coast, you will pass through this incredible natural wonder.

Driving through Nova Scotia, the seaside towns, the rugged coastlines, the friendly people already provided enough memories to last a lifetime.  And as we drove to Cape Breton, I had expected to see more of the same.  Well, yes and no.  The people were friendly, but the island is more exposed to the winds and tantrums of the Atlantic.  And as we drove through the coasts, the road winding through the mountains on one side and the Atlantic on the other, I could not help but think that I was the luckiest man on the planet.  I know countless people have witnessed the beauty of Cape Breton.  Yet to see it for the first time, to feel the cold crisp wind in your face as you stop and marvel at each curve in the trail, to experience the raw power of nature and the raw beauty that it has to offer – there are few places in the planet that elicit such awe.

I didn’t spend enough time at the park.  That much is certain.  A few hours hiking barely gave enough time to grasp the true beauty of everything that was around me.  Here, at least, are some images from this incredible spot on an incredibly beautiful island known as Cape Breton.

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SONY DSCSONY DSCThis was proving to be a wonderful hike through the highlands.  And then, the forest gave way to the coasts.  What a sight to behold.  I ran into these two women who bicycled their way across Canada.  From Vancouver, to the Canadian Rockies, to Cape Breton – they must have seen so much of what I still long to see.  Probably not on a bicycle, but someday – there are still so many places left to explore.

SONY DSCThe winding roads, the clouds over the ocean, the wind, the trail went on towards vistas that boggle the mind.

SONY DSCSONY DSCAnd then, the sun peeked through.  Just a smidge of sun, a few ticks of the clock – it was enough.

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Sometimes, when a place is really special, even a moment is enough to capture a memory.  And strangely enough, all the time in the world is never enough time to spend in that same place.  Cape Breton and Cape Breton Highlands National Park.  I hear the siren call.

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Grand Teton National Park

Words are inadequate.  Schwabacker Landing in the Morning.  And this is just the beginning.

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Bombay Hook National Wildlife Reserve

One of the most interesting places to visit in the east coast of the United States is Bombay Hook National Wildlife Reserve.  Is it by Delaware Bay and the reserve is a major stop in the Atlantic Flyway , the route that most birds take when they migrate northwards or southwards.  This means that birds almost always make a stop at Bombay Hook during the spring and fall migration season.  It makes it easier for non expert birders like myself to find birds to photograph.

Bombay Hook is a two hour drive from Northern Virginia.  You head to Annapolis, Maryland and then cross the Bay Bridge towards the Eastern Shore.  You proceed towards Wilmington, Delaware though you actually end up near Smyrna.  Since you need to get to the reserve around sunrise, you generally have to leave at 4AM or a little earlier to get there on time.  Every trip yields different photo opportunities.  Just don’t come here in the summer.  You will be eaten alive by mosquitoes, flies and other biting insects.  Actually, if you have a thick skin and/or love insects (which birds apparently do), this could be the place to be in the summer.  It is only a short drive from the Delaware Atlantic beaches.  It is also a short drive from Wilmington, Delaware.

Bombay Hook has plenty of short walking trails that allow different views of the marshes and pools that dot the reserve.  There are, of course, a lot of trees, bushes, flowers and other things that hide birds (and feed birds) quite well.  My musings on Bombay Hook will be comprised of multiple postings.  I only started visiting this wildlife reserve earlier this year.  It will be a place that I will return to again and again.

The pictures below were taken on my first trip to Bombay Hook (late April 2017).

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Autumnal Beauties

The birds are still here.  And they are at Huntley Meadows.  Just look for bushes laden with berries.  Or seed bearing pods.

And with autumn in the air, in the leaves, in the sky (the sun angle is far from its summer heights), the birds remind us that season after season, life is everywhere.  And beautiful to behold.  In all its forms.

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Mid Autumn Birding in Northern Virginia

I must admit that the russet, orange, yellow and green umbrella of leaves didn’t leave much room for finding birds and taking pictures of them on my walk at Huntley Meadows.  I must also admit that it doesn’t take that long to walk a three mile trail, unless you’re walking back and forth looking for birds (and not finding them).  As I entered the trail at Huntley Meadows, there were some forlorn photographers, with their long lenses and tripods leaving the park.  I didn’t want to ask how the birding was, but after ten minutes of walking, I could not resist to ask someone how their morning had gone.  Not a lot of interesting things, or something like that, was the verbal answer.  It was a confirmation of a supposition answered in the faces of many a photographer walking the trails at the park.  Not very promising, but at least there were leaves.

And a good thing that red, orange, yellow and green were in copious quantity.  Did it make up for a lack of birds?  No.  The lesser number of birds in the park, combined with the masking quality of the colors in the trees, combined with my inadequate skills at bird spotting really limited the number of opportunities for spotting a bird.  On a beautiful autumn day, the birds may have been there, but so where the leaves.  Still, it would have been nice to find more of our avian friends.  A lot more practice at bird spotting lies ahead.  A great way to enjoy the wonderful beauty that nature provides.