I’m off on another adventure – this time to the Antarctic. It’s an exciting opportunity to spend ten days touring the Falklands and South Georgia Islands in the Antarctic Sea with National Geographic Expeditions. The ship departs from Ushuaia – the southernmost city in the world – near the tip of Tierra del Fuego.
Most of the trip is aboard the Lindblad ship Endurance, which is designed to travel in that region. Indeed, just last year the Endurance came across a huge pod of fin whales foraging near Antarctica – likely the biggest congregation of baleen whales seen in more than a century. Read more and watch this brief video. I hope we’ll be that lucky!
After a month of warm temperatures – often above Freezing at night, and into the 40s, 50s, during the day – and the nearby forest floor had melted nearly clear of snow, I was glad to see winter conditions finally return. We had 6″ of fresh powder snow on Thursday. Sure, it was topped by an hour or two of sleet, but the woods felt properly wintry this morning as I climbed my usual route to the hilltop, stopping only briefly to explore the fresh tracks left by the hillside residents, leaving my own track to mark the day.
At the top of the hill the morning quiet was punctuated by a busy woodpecker, hopping from tree to tree to seek his breakfast.
For various reasons, I have not had a chance to hike any Big mountains for many months, but was eagerly looking for a day when the weather, my schedule, and my friends would all converge. Today was that day – beautiful blue skies, crisp temperatures, and decent trail conditions. We followed the Glencliff Trail – which is part of the Appalachian Trail – up Mount Moosilauke. This is my favorite winter approach; despite it having the greatest elevation gain of any approach to the summit, it is the shortest approach in winter and allows one to traverse the beautiful ridgeline between south and north peak.
When we noticed in one car a cloth that had been chewed into fuzz – and in another car some snacks that had been nibbled – we realized the smallest residents of our garage were brazenly exploring the interior of our cars and decided something needed to be done. So we borrowed a small plastic trap, loaded it with cheese, placed it near the woodpile, and… bang! within a couple of hours we’d caught our first mouse.
I put the trap in the car, drove it down the road a few miles, and gently dropped the mouse off in a remote area. I returned and set the trap again.
The next morning, another mouse was shivering inside the trap. I dropped it off on the way to work.
The next morning, a third mouse, pictured above, was waiting in the trap. I dropped it off, close to the second – perhaps it will reunite with its family.
It’s not an easy time of year to relocate – being winter and all – but maybe this is better than sending our cat to spend a night in the garage!
Early this morning I headed out for my morning walk – which recently has included a steep hike up the hill behind our house, bushwhacking through the snowy forest. The sun was coming up, and as I walked across the street and entered the woods I noted a pinkish glow along the horizon to the west and north… although, with this hill to the east, the woods were still in the morning’s dim early light. I made it less than 50m into the woods, starting up the slope and thinking I might revisit the spot where I so often see fox tracks, when a barred owl swept silently past me, its talons clutching its breakfast catch. It landed on the branch of a nearby pine tree.
Darn! I had no camera with me today, although on my Tuesday outing I had carried a full complement of camera gear only to see nothing of interest. I hesitated, then ran back home to fetch my Canon R5 with its 100-500mm lens. Within five minutes I was back, and the friendly owl was still there, posing patiently. I experimented with different positions and different exposures – the light was still low – and the above photo was the result.
Noting that he was facing away from me, swiveling his head to look in my direction, I decided to walk around to the other side to perhaps capture a view from the front… but my efforts to crunch through the old snow in that direction apparently convinced him it was time to leave, and he flew off. I look forward to seeing him again someday!