Going wild in nature

Well, my first week of the summer holidays was just a dream with catching up on so much stuff – namely sewing! It was so good to feel so free and not have any responsibilities of going to work or even study! I still need the calendar to get the kids to their chicken duties and the like but nothing dramatic. In exchange for credit card points, I got my hands on the Nikon Coolpix P900, this is a recommendation from a friend of mine in Queensland when we visited and I was blown away with the pictures of the kangaroos with their joeys.  This camera has the convenience of a point and shoot camera with a 24mm to 2000mm lens that is lightweight and perfect for travel. The pictures above are a few of the earlier shots in the day of a favourite subject of mine, birds – who knew!!

Here are my little monkeys in a paperbark tree striking their Anime poses – I love this camera to capture these shots when the kids are high up in a tree.

From afar I was checking out the Canada Geese taking their bath on the shore of the lake, the zoom in on the detail of the water over the feathers is spectacular. The best part of this is that we went out for a picnic by the lake for Fathers Day and I had the camera sitting in the basket of my bike as we were on the trail and whenever we found something to photograph we hopped off the trail to check it out – like these ducklings and a mama duck. The butterfly was a random find and I had no idea this little guy had broken wings until I looked at the image later.

The highlight for me for the day was going to see the baby egrets on Shorebird Way where Google has closed off the street for a few months so they can nest in peace high in the trees. I have always wanted to see these birds close up and now I can, it was so exciting! Again we just parked our bikes and hung out with the wildlife show, it felt like a David Attenborough episode in real life.

Afterwards, my son and I enjoyed time out in the big chair at the Google employee park next door with a couple of crocodiles and the bikes of many colours.

Today I was on a mission to take pictures of the ladies at McClellan Ranch as the kids cleaned out the chicken coop. I took a wander around the farm and found baby goats doing yoga on mama. The market pigs are getting ready for their time at the show, I asked Missy what she sees when she looks at the pigs and she said bacon! It is hard for me as a vegetarian but one day they can decide on their own whether they would like to keep on eating animals. Plus I had no idea how beautiful pidgeons could be until I was photographing them today. The quails in the coop are Flash and Steve, they just need a lady friend.

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It has been quite an eventful week after all with the new camera and getting out an about checking out what Mountain View and the surrounds has to offer. The best thing is getting on my bike and photographing whatever I find on the trail, I had been meaning to take my camera down the trail but my Canon camera has such a heavy lens but now I have no excuse for taking a crap picture with my phone camera of a rabbit on the trail. Next stop Australia and I will be taking some pictures of some flying foxes for my friend in O-town.

An RV in the Redwoods

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After a couple of weeks of preparing for a couple of exams and finally completing them, it was time for a bit of rest and relaxation. Timing was perfect as California State Parks Foundation invited us (as Legacy donors) to a morning with the elephant seals on Saturday, so we booked an RV in the redwoods with Air BnB in Bonny Doon which was 30 minutes away from Ano Nuevo State Park where we went on our elephant seal tour.

We managed to find some delicious pie fro Pie Ranch – a place I have wanted to check out for ages and whose philosophy towards food is totally aligned with mine. And of course we had to buy some pie – we scored the lemon and the honey oat which were both super tasty with a cup of tea. We enjoyed the time in the RV catching up on knitting, reading, playing Nintendo, listening to audio books and generally relaxing under the redwoods.

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Saturday morning we had our early morning hike to Ano Nuevo State Park to check out the elephant seals. We had a funny and knowledgeable docent Ben who gave us the full history and life cycle of elephant seals and how their numbers went from near extinction to what they are now close to 2,000 seals just on this stretch of this State Park!

I had my 28-105mm lens to capture these guys – we got so close to them, and I managed to get some incredible shots. Of course, a telephoto would have been the best as I had lens envy every time I saw one sitting atop a tripod. But still, our docent said we did not really need it, as there were so many and they were so close to people. I was so happy to get some beautiful shots of these vulnerable creatures. There are many ways they are vulnerable ad they risk getting eaten by white sharks on their migratory route, the males have to prove their dominance amongst the harem of lady seals, the females develop a baby every year by mating with many males, the weaners are left on the beach to practice swimming and then they too will migrate miles and miles through treacherous shark infested waters to eat deep-sea fish and squid and hopefully come back to the same beach, the saddest seals are the  non-dominant males; they will just starve themselves to a certain point on the beach until they feel it’s time to go and eat and then come back for another mating season – the life of an elephant seal, who knew…

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On top of all the fun of seeing the elephant seals and the area being a wildlife refuge we saw so many birds and among them the great pelicans in their flying formation. The views over the dunes and around the sand were just breathtaking, and we were very lucky to score some sunshine on our walk with the seals.

California State Parks Foundation had set up a luncheon for us back at the barn, and we had the option of going back via the beautiful beach but to stay back 25 feet away from the elephant seals. We found one, and he looked like a rock on the beach. The beach was just so beautiful with its many rock collections and colours. The bonus was getting back to the barn was crossing New Years Creek without getting wet feet! Even though the water did not look very deep – you had to navigate your way around without getting too wet which added to the excitement.

We finished our hike just after lunch, so we had a whole afternoon to chill out, so we wandered over to Pescadero Marsh to see if we could find any birds. The kids were a bit excited and scared them off, so we decided it was a good place just to chill out on the grass and watch the clouds in the sunny afternoon sky.

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The evening after our trip out to Ano Nuevo and Pescadero ended with some rain, so we relaxed in the RV enjoying the sounds of the rain through the redwoods and on the roof. Such a perfect family getaway amongst nature.

A nature lovers paradise

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All I can say is that I am planning another trip back to the wonderful Washington State. Washington is a nature lover’s paradise, from the tiny little fungi to the massive old growth trees. It was such a perfect way for us all to recharge and revive ourselves at the end of the year. I wanted to capture Whidbey Island in all its glory and our memories of this wonderful getaway.

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Getting used to the island we did some exploring down to the most southern end of the island, Possession Beach which was quite small though full of small wonders including a harbour seal washed up on the shore that had been attacked by birds revealing its skeleton and inside – with the kids it was an anatomy lesson right there on the beach. My favourite is photographing the log sculptures washed up on the beach they are so picturesque and make excellent props in photographs.

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A view from our house was this beauty Mt Rainier sitting at 14,410 above sea level so it is visible from all over Seattle. This snow covered beauty revealed herself the morning we were leaving for Deception Pass, and we finally enjoyed a clear morning to see this glorious mountain and have a beautiful sunny/shady day.

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An hour drive up north was Deception Pass State Park where a Discovery pass is $10 for a day and you can see as many as you can fit in. The best deal is the annual pass for $30 that is if you are planning to spend more time wandering in the woods. If you are prepared for hiking here with a raincoat with a hood you are so set! Across the water, from the car park, we saw the Olympic mountains on the horizon. That particular morning the navy jets were doing their flying training over the mountains and in the second image you can see the black speck above the mountain which is a jet plane.

We did lovely 2-mile return hike up to the Deception Pass bridge via lots of trails to calm beach inlets along the way. Once we finally reached the bridge it was suggested that we walk on the windy bridge then I realised I had a slight fear of heights and quickly turned around! :/

On our way back to the house we stopped by Fort Casey and checked out the lighthouse in all its Christmas glory. In the darkness of an early winters evening, we drove across the 525 (the main freeway) to Coupeville to see this super cute historic town with lots of stores set in historic buildings it is definitely worth a visit, just for its quirkiness.

On Christmas Eve we took a drive over to Port Townsend via the ferry to check out what we could of Olympic National Park. The park is gigantic just like any national park and takes days to explore which is part of the magic. I really want to go to the Hoh Rainforest though in the time allocated it was too much driving which is a 2-hour drive from Port Angeles yes from the Twilight fame. I am already planning our next trip to Forks (again from Twilight) so we can check out the rainforest and explore this incredible park. We travelled past Dungeness National Refuge and went for a hike to the spit which is gigantic at 5.5 miles long and getting bigger year by year with a wild beach with huge waves on one side and a birder’s paradise on the other with the calm waters.

We made it to the Olympic National Park visitors centre in Port Angeles and spoke to the staff about what it would take to explore the vastness of this place. Hurricane Ridge required chains this time of year so we took a wander to the forest behind the visitors centre for a tiny peek into the grandness of this National Park.

On the way back before driving onto the ferry we checked out Port Townsend for some pics and then the trip back on the ferry was magical with the sun setting with many colours painting the clouds. I love this blue house we drove by, complete with a dragon wind compass.

Christmas day came and we really were working up an appetite for our shepherd’s pie, wine and chocolate feast. We walked up the beach on a 3-mile walk to as far as we could go and turned around. It was an excellent beach for dogs off their leash and my favourite was a black pug with a neon pink puffer jacket – styling! The kids loved climbing the trees on the beach and enjoyed us daring them to jump from the log and land on the beach, Missy here got some air but landed right in the water on the shore – oops cold feet!

Our last day on the island was a very windy 3 degrees celsius so we decided to have a picnic in the woods. The kids were super keen to go so we grabbed the opportunity and off we went. This morning after my shower I looked out the window and found this buck out in the garden enjoying his breakfast. Today we went to South Whidbey State Park for a wander through a magical old growth forest! The trees were breathtaking and I was in awe of the nature that exists in this small little forest from the tiny fern leaves en masse to the 500-year-old cedar.

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I am hugging an old growth giant, to take a picture in all this shade and green was quite difficult to get the light right and it is hard for the kids to hold my heavy lens so this is the best I could get including the bag as a prop for size comparison 😀

Everything is covered in green moss or ferns it was such an incredible and soul fulfilling experience sharing space with these trees who have been here for so long. The fungi were everywhere especially where trees had been cut or fallen, I read this interesting article about the future of some of the old growth trees in the campground and why the campground is closed.

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We found the 500-year-old Ancient Cedar and I am giving it a blurry virtual hug as you cannot go near the tree so people do not harm it and the roots. The forest was saved in the 1970s by a group of tree huggers (my people) who literally hugged the tree to save it from logging. My boots are now trashed after all the trail walking over mud, sand and rain and these Tevas really did an awesome job keeping my feet warm on all these hikes!

We are Family

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On tour visiting my aunt’s place today we were looking through more photos including my wedding album from a mere 10 years ago. Thank goodness it is safe with my aunt as it may be in someones garage in Alabama if I did not keep it safe here in Australia. The story goes that when we moved to the USA our removal company lost a massive box of our possessions that may have ended up in the land of the lost! Trying to locate this box was when I found out about American customer service – that is customer service minus the focus on service, boo!

To keep the kiddos entertained while we wandered down memory lane my uncle took them to the beach to check out the park and the pelicans. Ash had his first taste of a meat pie for morning tea, which he really enjoyed down to the last flake of pastry. Meat pies full of flies 🙂 The kids were at the park across the way where Pelicans are huge in these parts of the world and very plentiful.

We went down to the local fish and chip shop to check out what was on offer so I tried the grilled Goldband Snapper with some crispy chips – fish and chips here cannot be beat! That is one meal I will always enjoy though a walk is usually needed after scoffing down all the chips. Plenty of ibis came by to see if they could grab some stray food and the funniest thing happened to Missy when she had a chip in her hands above her head a cheeky little butcherbird grabbed the food from her hand and flew off – such a fun experience!

At the fish and chip shop there is a fresh fish market straight from the trawler from up North Queensland – there were plenty of crabs and prawns and these special little fellas called the Moreton Bay Bug which have flesh like a lobster or crab. The picture on the right is of the New Zealand mussel and the colour of their shell was just stunning. I so wanted to feast on everything there.

Little shrimp and Large Ocean Occy (octopus) to snapper heads and fish a plenty gave me inspiration for a seafood BBQ feast – today I just settled for some fresh Australian Pacific Oysters to enjoy with the fish and chips. The funny thing is that when I was looking at the fish to buy here I had to be careful on where the origin was, I found a Barramundi that was from China. To me as a foodie who loves to dine on local foods it was a bit of a shock to find this at a local fish monger. I imagine it is a supply and demand thing and if the people want Barramundi they don’t care where it came from, even if it was on a fish farm in China. I am happy to support the local fish companies here and tonight for dinner I had Tasmanian smoked salmon from the Huon River region – it is so worth that extra to support a company that has some sustainability practices in action.  I love Tasmania from the first time I visited it as a backpacker to the last time I visited as an environmental activist in the Tarkine region with The Wilderness Society. It is a place that I will be wanting to visit again and take the kids to see the World Heritage forests in the future – most likely when it is warmer and lets hope those forests are still there.

Lucky for us after all that seafood we found an outdoor gym so the kids could use up more of their energy on the cross trainer and get some weight training. Such a great spot for this gym equipment by the beach as you are getting a nice sea breeze while you are working out.

We have been here for over a week now and another day has flown by with more eating, catching up and hanging out. One thing I have been enjoying are the colours of the sunset and these super fluffy cloud formations, maybe I am too busy to notice them back in Cali as the time of the day I am too busy. Being on holiday gives you time to stop and appreciate the beauty and sounds around you, it is great to be home.