Alaska Cruise 2017: Part Seven – Ketchikan Alaska

Today is our last port-of-call–the city of Ketchikan. Alaska. We were told that the name Ketchikan is a native word that means “Land of a thousand jewelry stores”. I’m not sure I believe that, but for the size of the town, they certainly have their fair share. They even have a Walmart. We did not go but I did overhear one of the passengers from the boat asking where to catch the “Walmart shuttle”.

We woke pretty much with the sun, as we have most of these mornings and found that we were pulling into the bay. Karen captured this lighthouse as we passed by.

We were told that Ketchican is in the world’s 2nd largest rain forest, the Tongass National Forest. It is actually the largest remaining temperate rainforest. That being the case, we should expect wet weather here. As we get nearer the port, it is certainly more green here than our last two ports.

And yet, the mountains and the clouds, open to show bits of blue sky as we progress through the channel.

Once we arrive in port we disembark for our tour.

This stop we have chosen the Rainforest Wildlife Sanctuary, Eagles, & Totems tour. It promised a “guided nature hike, bald eagles, Alaskan reindeer, native totem carver and historic sawmill, at an exclusive reserve by the forested mountains”.  Our nature hike lead us through parts of the rainforest with the guide explaining interesting facts along the way, for instance, this is skunk cabbage. The name itself is enough reason for me to not eat it though it can be eaten if prepared right. If it isn’t prepared correctly, you could die. So…

There are lots of red pine trees, some of which are decaying. This is actually good for the forest as the dirt here is very thin. The roots of the trees spread out, but without much depth, the trees can blow over in heavy winds. This rotting tree will help create more soil.

As you would expect in a moist environment, moss and other fungi readily grow.

Here, the moss and fungi are helping to break down a tree that has fallen into much needed soil and nutrients for other plants.

Pointing out how the root structures of the trees adapt to the shallow soil, our guide does some explaining.

This is also a wildlife sanctuary. Here we see signs of bear in the area! Maybe we’ll get lucky!

This beautiful flower is the “Chocolate Lily“. The “rancid smell and dark color of the flower attracts flies for pollination”, according to a sign here. I didn’t bend over to smell it.

The root system of the trees can also be used as a small den for bears in the winter. This one was empty at the moment.

Looks like someone didn’t prepare well enough for the winter. Ah, the circle of life.

Well, they did promise Bald Eagles here. This one was still quite a ways away, but I’ll take what I can get.

And then as we rounded a corner, the grand prize! A bear in the woods! This black bear was looking for food, and since they mostly eat vegetation and fish, we’re not too worried, but cameras are a snappin’!

One thing with nature photography, many times you take what you can get. The bear never came out for a nice clean portrait, but at least I got both eyes in this shot. The guide hurried us along so not too many people would be congregated in one spot. This was not a photography tour after all.

Another part of this location was a raptor rehab center. They had a few birds but of course I focused on the eagle. Just look at the talons on that thing! That’s a human hand it is perched on.

And even though it is a captive, I figure that the way things are going, this will be the only close-up shot I get of the eagle’s eye, so I take it.

They also have a gentleman here who is carrying on the native tradition of passing down stories through the use of totem poles. If you remember from day 1, these poles are used to tell stories, either historical or fiction. Each face represents a character in the story and the only person who knows the story is the builder. At least until the time comes to raise the pole in a ceremony, at which time he recounts the story to all who are there.

Once we left there, we headed back into town to see what Ketchikan was like. I told you that they get a lot of rain. This is their yearly rain gauge. In 1949 they had 202.55 inches of rain. According to this, last year they had about 170 inches! According to the sign, average yearly rainfall is 12.5 feet per year. That’s a lot of rain!

We hadn’t taken a lot of “tourist” shots, so here’s the Welcome to Ketchikan sign–“The Salmon Capital of the World”. I didn’t eat any salmon but I did have some fish-n-chips while here, but I ate those for the halibut.  LOL

A monument to the men and women who came here seeking their fortunes. Some found what they were looking for, many didn’t.

Our ship is almost the length of downtown. It strikes an imposing figure in the background.

And for many of the women who came, they ended up here, the red-light district of the gold rush. They even have a girl in costume at Dolly’s. Notice how the row is built on a pier?

And note the sign at Dolly’s…

Being more interested in eagles, I found one on a radio tower. We were still disappointed that they were not everywhere like we had been told, but speaking with an older native gentleman who was walking along the sidewalk, he told us that they gather there in the mornings to fish. So, going back to one of my first statements in the first post, a cruise is not the best vacation for pure wildlife photography because you have little to no control over your schedule, but it certainly does give us ideas for future adventures.

This is what the first few main streets of town are built over. Not earth, a pier. We were told that during prohibition, bootleggers would smuggle booze into the bars in the red-light district by going under the streets of the city and then come up through the floors.

Here’s one of the many jewelry shops in town.

And sometimes, even my beautiful wife has had enough of the lens.

Back on board, we are greeted by a towel-monkey! Yet another creative use of towels by the Carnival stewards.

As we set sail, we bid farewell to Alaska. We won’t be setting foot on its land again this trip. Maybe someday soon once again we will get to come and spend more time.

Those mountains! Even shrouded in mist and clouds, they still take away my breath.

And our final Alaskan Sunset. Sadness…

Tomorrow is a full day at sea before we wind up in Seattle Washington. What to do for a full day at sea…

All words and photos copyright 2017 MHampton Photography
Equipment used: Canon 5DS-R, Canon 7DmII, Canon T6S, and various Canon lenses

Alaska Cruise 2017: Part Three – The Fjord

On the schedule for this day was the Tracy Arm Fjord. This was the only cruise that Karen saw when she was researching that took this side trip, so we were very anxious as to what we were going to see this day.

The day started out early. Sunrise here was earlier that we were used to in Texas, and the time was 3 hours behind, so when we woke up around 7am Texas time, it was really 4am Alaska time. And having a balcony with the curtains open meant that as soon as the sun began to rise, we were up as well. But it did mean that we got to witness this sunrise!

And as we were watching the sun rise over the horizon, we noticed something in the water, right off our balcony. Did you see it in the middle of the photo? Let’s take another photo and zoom in!

Yep, that’s the dorsal fin of a humpback whale swimming along side our ship. We learned that this is the time of year that they are migrating from Hawaii back to Alaska. They go to Hawaii to mate and give birth and then return to Alaska to eat and bulk up in order to start the cycle over. As one guide put it, Alaska is their kitchen and Hawaii is their bedroom. The whale was along side us for a short while, enough to get a few more shots before it slipped back into the darkness of the water.

As we continued to the fjord the mountains began to rise higher and higher against us. They were truly magnificent and humbling, realizing that even on this very large ship, we are tiny in nature.

This part of the world gets a lot of rain. We were fortunate that for the most part it was simply overcast and we got very little actual rain the entire trip.

The clouds however created for very dramatic skies. The on-board biologist explained to us that the fjords were created as the glaciers pushed their way across the land, carving out these “U” shaped valleys. “V” shaped valleys were caused by rushing water, such as the Grand Canyon. One way to tell just how deep the glacier ice was is to look at the mountain peaks. If they are rounded, they were likely covered and smoothed by the glacier. If they are jagged the ice did not cover them. But looking at the height of the mountains it is staggering to think of that much ice being that deep!

The mountains are so tall that they create their own weather patterns. You can judge, by looking at the very large trees in the foreground, just how immense the mountains are. Considering it is several miles from the shoreline to the top of the mountain…well, you can just let your mind run wild trying to calculate that distance. Another shot for scale. Here you can see a five story lighthouse in the foreground, dwarfed by the landscape!

As we arrived at the entrance of the Tracy Arm Fjord, our ship met with the “pilot” who would be responsible for directing the ship through the narrow passage. We were informed that because of the ice flows, we would not be allowed into the Tracy Arm today, but not to worry, there is another fjord that we would be able to explore. While somewhat disappointing, we were happy we would not miss out altogether. We make our way through passages which at first glance don’t look like a place you would take a 44 ton cruise ship.

And then we notice that we are not alone. The humpbacks are in the area as well. They like the fjords because the narrow passages makes it easier for them to scoop up food. The narrower the fjord, the more dense the food they like to eat. It makes their hunting much easier. And when you are trying to gain weight, you want as little exertion as possible.

Another interesting fact about the humpback whales is that the patterns on their tail are as unique to each whale as a human’s fingerprint. Photos like this one are used to track the whales between Alaska and Hawaii on their migration tour.

As we get closer, you can see where, what I would have previously considered a glacier, was sliding down the side of the mountain. After what I will be seeing soon, that’s just a bunch of snow and ice.

As we approach the entrance to the fjord (Endicott Arm according to Google), we begin to see icebergs floating in the water. Two things to notice about the icebergs. First is that their dark blue color comes from the fact that they are so dense the longer red light waves are unable to be reflected from the ice, leaving only the shorter blue light waves. And second, only ten percent of the iceberg is visible. Meaning that 90% of the ice is obscured beneath the water. Remember the Titanic? We proceed slowly…

Some people have paid for an off-ship excursion to get an up-close look at the glacier. I give you this photo of their boat as a reference for later. Notice the size as it pulls along side of our ship. It is a three story boat. Not small by any means.

As we enter the fjord, another amazing sight is all of the little waterfalls running down the walls of the valley. Pure mountain water, direct from the source. I bet is is refreshing!

Turn about is fair play. Karen catches me in her lens. Yes, it was much colder here, especially as the wind was whipping down through the fjord from the glacial ice ahead. On a side note, I did not pack gloves because I was expecting temps in the 50s. Luckily I found a very nice pair of ladies leather gloves that fit me perfectly in the ship’s store. I’m not proud. They were warm.

More icebergs. We are getting closer. We traveled about 33 files from the opening of the fjord to the glacier.

Excitement is building on the ship as everyone rushes to the bow of the ship. We tried to get there but it was just too crowded. But we were already told that the captain would be turning the ship so that everyone would be able to see the glacier, so we stayed put on the top deck.

And finally, the glacier! This one is named “Dawes Glacier” and now you see the difference from what I previously referred to as a glacier. But from this distance, it doesn’t look all that big. Just wait.

But first, what is this off the starboard side? Riding along on an iceberg is a group of seals! Harbor Seals I believe.

They remain on the ice as we get closer, until finally one by one they begin to slip off into the water.

Until finally, there was only one left. It really looked like it didn’t want to get into the water and would rather we just went away.

But finally, it did slip into the water along with the others, and we turned our attention to the massive glacier. Now, remember the photo of the excursion vessel from before? It is a three story ship. Not a small ship. You can notice it up close to the glacier in the lower left of this photo! There are actually two ships there now. That little dark spot is a ship!

Glaciers are not static objects, but rather moving rivers of ice. As the ice reaches the termination point, which is here, the ice begins to break off, or calve, which is what creates all the icebergs in the water. When this happens there is a large splash. We were lucky enough to capture this happening here. Remember, that splash is also several stories high! Nothing is small here.

Here is another shot of the excursion boats close to the glacier. For showing scale we zoomed in a bit more. And what looks like tire tracks on the top of the glacier is actually ground up parts of the mountain which is being carried away by the ice. By doing this the glacier turns rock into dirt which will then be deposited in a place where later life will spring forth. The design of nature is truly spectacular!

Some people however decided to bypass the cold and observer nature in comfort inside the ship. This gentleman was watching from indoors on the lido deck. Yes, we were eating again.  🙂

What a day! After spending a couple of hours here, it was time for the ship to leave the fjord and head for tomorrow’s destination, Juneau and the Mendenhall Glacier! But, as Carnival likes to do, this was waiting for us back in our stateroom. Just how many different ways can you fold a towel?

No sunset tonight as we were between the mountains of the valley. So that’s it for today. I’ll be back in a few days with part four! Still have lots of photos to sort through!

All words and photos copyright 2017 MHampton Photography
Equipment used: Canon 5DS-R, Canon 7DmII, Canon T6S, and various Canon lenses

Listen to your Wife!

Here is a life lesson.

When traveling on a turnpike at 75+ MPH and your wife suddenly says, “STOP!! PULL OVER!! I SAW A BALD EAGLE!!”, the smart thing to do is to stop, pull over, and ask her to clarify. This is exactly what happened this weekend as we were traveling to Oklahoma for our yearly Thanksgiving family get-together.

For some reason, let’s just call it providence, I had decided to leave my camera out in the back seat on this trip. Usually, nothing happens so it is safely stored away in the back with the rest of the luggage on these trips. The drive to family is about 4 hours and we were at about the 3 hour mark, making good time when the aforementioned actions took place. I pulled over.

After discussing the fact that what she likely was was just some exposed broken branch in a tree, she finally convinced me to back up. So here I am, backing up on the shoulder while traffic is whizzing by, narrowly missing a mile-marker sign (oops) when Karen declared, “I see it!” It was quite a distance away, and I still could not see it. So I hand her the camera. Of course, my camera settings are completely different than hers so she has a hard time getting a shot but once she does and shows me the proof, well, I hop out of the vehicle with the camera and head toward the field.

There were a line of trees between the and the great bird, but I was able to get a couple of clear shots before it flew off.

So, listen to your life and you may just see something amazing!

Oh, and here are a couple of shots of the Bald Eagle! Quite a distance away, and shooting through a stand of trees, but still a magnificent bird.

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East Texas Adventure: Part 4

Day 4 of the East Texas Adventure 2016 began at the Mineola Nature Preserve. On the banks of the Sabine River (this thing really gets around) it is a preserve set apart with trails, marshes, and birds of all kinds. There is also a pollinator garden there to attract bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.

One of the larger animals you can see there is a small herd of American Bison. While commonly referred to as a “buffalo”, its correct name is actually bison. These massive creatures can surprise you with their speed and agility. I remember watching them in Yellowstone leaping over fences. Many other “tourons” (tourist morons) have approached them too closely, only to learn that that massive head can toss a person quite a few yards, sometimes straight up!!

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One of my goals for coming here this day was to get a good shot of the pronthotory warbler. My friend Danny Pickens comes here often and had been posting some very nice shots. With my first sighting of one the previous day I had hopes of getting a cleaner shot of one out in the open and I was not disappointed! This one came out and landed on this small branch just a few feet away from the wildlife viewing station. This is a shot that made me happy.

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Just like the three days prior, the weather was hot and humid, but I didn’t let that stop me from spending some time on the trails here. I walked down to the gator pond, but did not see any gators. They have been spotted here, but not by me.

I did however spot this indigo bunting on the trail as I was walking back towards the parking lot. I’m always happy to see these little beauties! Combine this with the earlier warbler and I was a hot, sweaty, and happy photographer this day!

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After spending the morning here it was off to the town of Mineola to get lunch and decide where to go next.

After a quick lunch at MickyD’s I decided to go tourist for a bit and check out the East Texas Gator and Wildlife Center. I’ve been looking for gators all week, so why not go someplace where I know they exist? This is quite the interesting place and they do a lot of work with local schools and educational organizations. In fact there were a couple of school groups going through the place when I arrived.

Here you can see several young children being introduced to “lemon drop”, the rather large snake.

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While they have several reptiles and other animals inside, I came to see gators, so I headed outside to see some gators!

I came to the first pond and looked and at first I saw no gators, but then I saw the eyes sticking up out of the muddy water. If you look closely, you can see them too. And if you look even closer, you can see another on hiding in the muddy water behind the grass on the right. The gators are here all right, but they are very stealthy, at least at first glance.

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As I walked around, I soon began to realize that there were many more gators here than I first thought. Of course they are all behind fences for safety, but they are quite close. I would not be wise to be reaching over the fence to try and pet one. This one was practicing some form of gator yoga and it stretched it neck and soaked up some sun.

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And while this one looks like it is snarling at me, I think it was just being lazy and waiting for something to land it its mouth for a quick snack.

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These are truly ferocious looking creatures and I understand they can bite a mans arm or leg off with a single bite! As I was leaving I asked how many gators they have and they have well over 40 in their ponds. When asked where they get them I was told that they are all local East Texas gators that people have found on their property. Rather than kill them, they have a trapper that can bring them here where they can be cared for.

After spending some time talking with the people here, in their air-conditioned building, I figured I would make one more stop since I was out this direction, and headed to lake Tawakoni. Yet another of Texas’ great state parks where you can enjoy the great outdoors, no matter how how and humid it may be.

The first thing I saw was a squirrel, so like any good dog, I froze to watch it.

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Not realizing just how tired I was at this point, I parked my car in the parking lot, and with the motor and AC running, ended up taking about an hour long nap while I was waiting for the sun to get a little lower in the sky. My hope was to stay here until sunset because the sky was full of big fat puffy clouds.

After my little nap, I gathered up my cameras and headed to the nature trail which the rangers at the gate had informed me were well known for birds. And while the trees were not exactly full of birds due to the heat, I did hear a familiar call in the trees and was able to catch this beautiful painted bunting. This is one of my favorite birds and one that I don’t see to see nearly often enough. I occasionally hear their call at my place, but I have yet to actually see one there. Luckily, this male stuck around long enough for me to grab a few shots before heading back into the trees.

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And speaking of trees, I also ran across this very interesting looking tree on the trail. With its branches twisting and twirling all around, I could imaging this tree in the middle of some Halloween scene and drunk teenagers are running through the woods being chased by some crazed person with a chainsaw and machete. I’ll just keep walking for now.

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Sadly, as I picked out my spot to wait for the sunset over the lake, every last cloud in the sky began to dry up and disappear. At this point, hot, sweaty, and the beginnings of hunger beginning to set in, I decided to head for home. I was about a hour away at this point and I figured I could take a picture of a “bla” sunset anywhere. So I picked up my gear and headed back down the trail towards my car. Once there I loaded up, leaving the cameras in the front seat next to me, just in case.

And am I glad I did. Just as I was exiting the park, this greater roadrunner runs across the road directly in front of me. Seeing that no one else was on the road, I cut across the road to the oncoming side, pull over to the shoulder and grab for my camera. Apparently it was its dinner time as well because I watched as it bug up a rather large worm and then went after this cicada. Unfazed by my presence in my car, it continued on hunting as if I wasn’t there.

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Then to my surprise, another roadrunner showed up. I don’t know how to tell the male from the female, but I would guess this was one of each.  I thought maybe that red behind the eye of the second one may be a hint, but from what I’ve read, that is more an indicator of age with the young not having the red patch.

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After spending some time with the roadrunners, I headed home to wind down my this four day adventure. and as I pulled into the driveway, I was greeted with this beautiful sunset, right in my own back yard. Now that is a great ending to my week of adventure.

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Was the week hot and sweaty? Yep. Was it full of adventure? Yep. And was it worth it? You bet! But next time I will try and schedule my time off at a time when it might not be quite so hot.  And I’ll try to sneak in some shorter adventures in the mean time to keep this blog updated. I’ve had several comments from people who have enjoyed reading this and taking the adventure along with me, so I’ll try not to disappoint.

Until next time,

Michael

All photos copyright of Michael Hampton 2016 and taken with the Canon 5DS-R or Canon 7D Mark II

East Texas Adventure: Part 3

Another day, another chance to see something new! I got up early. And by early, I mean 6am-ish. Early enough to be on the road by 6:30ish or so. For today’s adventure I wanted to head over to the very east side of Texas and check out some wilderness on the Sabine river that separates Texas from Louisiana. First stop on the trip was North Toledo Bend Wildlife Management Area just outside of Joaquin Texas.  I found this by googling  “Texas Birding Trails” and picked the North Toledo Bend Loop. Texas has set aside these areas all over the state, so if you’re in Texas and want to find a place to go birding, this is a great resource to start.

As I started down the trail, I saw a flash of yellow and wondered if it might be the fabled Prothonotary Warbler that many of my photography friends have been catching lately. While it remained in the shadows, I was able to catch this glimpse that was my first confirmed sighting of this beautiful bird.

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Interesting note about this bird: according to WikipediaThis bird is named after prelates in the Roman Catholic Church known as protonatarii, who wore golden robes.

Continuing on down the trail, I noticed that it was quickly shaping up to be yet another hot and sweaty day. I had one camera on a neck strap and my other camera on a hand strap. It did not take long for that hand strap to become soaked from the sweat running down my arm. Luckily my cameras are weather sealed fairly well so I didn’t have that to worry about but they’ll be due for a good cleaning after this vacation.

Walking on, I came across this red-eared slider turtle making its way down the trail. I gave it a wide berth so as not to scare it into the woods for the purely selfish reason of getting ahead of it to make a photograph. It didn’t seem to mind too much as it turned its head to give me its best side.

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And yet a little farther down the trail I met up with this nine-banded armadillo. Kind of an unofficial symbol of Texas (although usually on its back beside the road), these things are nearly completely blind. If you are quiet and up wind, you can almost walk right up to one before it knows you are there. I heard this one rustling in the brush beside the trail and simply stopped and stood my ground while it made its way across the trail right in front of me. I stooped down quietly to take its photo.

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Moving along down the trail, I saw yet another flash of yellow. Thinking it might be a second sighting of the earlier prothonotary, I quieted down and moved slowly toward the yellow bird. Once I was close enough, I realized that this was a completely different bird. yet another new one that I had not seen before. After asking my friends and looking on the internet, I have come to the conclusion that this is a yellow-breasted chat. Chalk up yet another new one for my list of birds photographed. Of course, as always with new birds, I am willing to be corrected,

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As I continued down the trail, the temperature continued to rise, as did the humidity, to the point that the “feels-like” temperature felt like about 130°! Okay, that was my personal observation, not anything official from NOAA. However the sweat pouring from my body due to the rising humidity as I got closer and closer to the Sabine river was enough for my internal thermometer to register that I needed more water. Luckily I had brought a bottle with me in my back pocket. As I pulled it from my back pocket, I realized that I had already consumed the bulk of it and began to wonder if maybe I should have brought a second bottle along on this hike. It was then that I looked up and confirmed my suspicion…

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As this turkey vulture circled overhead like some harbinger of doom, I decided to find a shade and sit down to observe the river for a while. I’m also thinking that a Camelbak might not be a bad idea for future Summer hikes.

After a Spring full of record setting rain all over East Texas, the river is still close to the top of its banks. You can also notice the nice puffy clouds as a testament to the high humidity, but they sure are pretty!

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With the heat at this level, a lot of the wildlife has headed for shade or otherwise cooler areas, but there was the occasional egret or heron flying up and down the river looking for a cool spot or a meal of opportunity. This great blue heron flew by, probably looking for a nice shady place on the banks of the river to hunt for its lunch.

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Speaking of lunch, it was that time so as the heat continued to rise, I headed back to the car to go find someplace to refuel my body, or that vulture just might be satisfied in a way that would not please me too well. Arriving back to the car I headed to Center, Texas, which is not in the center of Texas by any means, but it is close enough and they have a Whataburger which is a staple food here in Texas.

As a side note the town’s name goes back to around 1866 when an East Texas State Representative, Al Johnson, introduced a bill to have all county seats be as close to the center of the county as possible. The County Clerk, taking this measure literally, had the county surveyed to find the center of Shelby country and thus Center Texas was born. (Wikipedia) Hey, you never know when that information will come in handy. You’re welcome.

After eating lunch, I circled back to the WMA and spent a little more time there sitting in the shade and just observing the river flowing by. Not much else was happening, other than a grandfather trying to teach his grandson how to back a trailer down the boat-dock which was somewhat amusing to watch. So after making sure they got the boat loaded properly on their trailer, I turned the car towards home with plans to stop at the Martin Creek Lake State Park, near Tatum TX. There is an island in the park that has almost always provided something interesting whenever I visit.

Arriving at the park, I made my way to said island and the first thing I noticed was a rabbit. This was new. I don’t normally see those here, but this was my first visit this time of year. The interesting thing was that it just sat there. At first it was almost flat against the ground in the shade, possibly trying to stay cool. Maybe it was trying to be stealthy thinking I would not see it, but it was too late. I moved cautiously and lowered myself to be a better shot. With those ears though, there was no way I was not seeing it. It sat there while I captured several frames and then slowly hopped its way toward the trees.

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Seemingly laughing at the rabbit thinking it could hide from me, I noticed this squirrel peeking over the top of a tree stump, being clandestine in its own way. But no, I saw it. The squirrel eventually climbed on top of the stump and spread out to relax in the shade. It didn’t seem very threatened by my presence.

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Taking the trail that circles the island, I came across yet another rabbit. Looking around and seeing no knights or land littered with bones, I figured it was safe to proceed. This rabbit did not have “huge, sharp, pointy, teeth” as far as I could tell. This was a good thing since I was not carrying a holy hand grenade. All total, I must have seen about 10 rabbits on the island this visit. But would I get to see my favorite critter of the island this trip? I continue on walking stealthily through the woods and along the banks.

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Three of the last four visit to this island I have seen a white-tailed doe. I’m not sure if this deer swam to the island or if it simply walked across the foot bridge while no one was looking, but I’ve ran across it almost every time I visit this island. I usually walk up on it before I even know it is there and end up startling the both of us.

Sure enough, as I round a corner and pop out of the woods into a clearing, I look across and the doe is there, staring at me while I’m staring at her staring at me. We lock eyes and freeze. I slowly raise my camera and began to take a few shots and then she gives me a chance at a doe action shot as she begins leaping through the high grass headed for the cover of the woods. What a beautiful animal! Not wanting to cause it any further anxiety, I headed in a different direction to let her be in peace. She provided me which a nice action shot and that’s all I could ask for.

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As I head toward the foot bridge to leave the island, I came across yet another rabbit. This one was huge! If any of them were going to attack, this is the one. It just sat there as I slowly approached, watching me watching it, until it finally blinked first and hopped back into the brier bushes. That was a big rabbit!

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Once back to my car, I loaded up and headed for home. Yet another nice day in East Texas and one more day of adventure left. It was about this time though that I noticed that my ankles were really starting to itch. Must have gotten into some chiggers that were immune to my Off. Oh well, not too bad (at least I thought at the time). I later discovered that these chiggers had really tore me up from by belly-button down to my feet. I don’t know if it was the fact that I didn’t have the Off with the higher deet content or the fact that the can had been in my car over a year and had lost its potency, but as the days wore on, my legs got more and more spots. At one point I counted over 50 unique chigger bites. Yeah, it was miserable, but still worth it. I do however now have a new can of Deep Woods Off with a higher deet level in the car and ready for the next adventure.

So that wraps up day three. Day four will be available shortly to stay tuned! More birds, and yes, gators!

Michael

All photos copyright of Michael Hampton 2016 and taken with the Canon 5DS-R or Canon 7D Mark II