Riding The Whitehorse Trail

What a great way to spend Friday Fun Day with the Donovan Dudes. We loaded up our bicycles and hit the Whitehorse Trail along the Stillaguamish River.

Trail Map
The crew rolling along

As we made our way along the river we stopped often to take in the views. And I thought it would be a good idea to have each of the Dudes write a little something about the ride.

The North Fork of the Stilly

Kingston:

Me and Drampa took a few pics of this river right here. The darker spot of the river is called silt and its from a little creek that flows in from under the bridge we were standing on. It was pretty sunny on our bike ride but there was still snow on the Mountain tops.

Suzie cruising on her Townie Go bike

Duke:

These mail boxes are a memorial to the people that died in the Oso landslide. The mail boxes represent all the houses that got destroyed. All the mail boxes have been sealed in a bronze coating.

Mailbox Memorial

Cade: This bike ride was a very fun yet informative ride. It was just under eleven miles round trip, and the turnaround was the memorial of the OSO landslide in 2014. It was a beautiful trail that was pretty flat and had amazing views of the river. Below is a picture of my family walking along the pathway filled with 43 trees as a memorial for the victims.

A tree for every lost soul
The Crew

Well thanks to all my guest writers, that was fun.

Rush Hour!

Ok, that’s it for this one… Thanks for following along. Kat

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Brian’s Fish Knife

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Booker’s Eagle Adventure

Good times with lots of eagles.
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Eagle Campout

A mob of eagles

We rolled out Saturday morning with Leane, Richie, and the Donovan Dudes headed up to Fir Island in search of eagles. These days my FaceBook home page is pretty much limited to just Bikes, Birds, and Ukuleles, and I had been seeing posts from my birding “friends” indicating lots of bald eagles were hanging out in the Skagit River delta area. We decided a winter camping adventure was the perfect way to take advantage of the slight break in the normally rainy weather.

Our first stop was Wiley Slough, but as we arrived we were engulfed in a massive fog bank. That didn’t stop us from hitting the trail, but it did make for some interesting photos.

Eagle #2 The count had begun.
Northern Pintails
Great Blue Heron
The fog was as thick as pea soup…
Dudes in the mist
This guy might be about eagle #10

So eventually we made our way up to Bayview State Park where we thought we would pull in (without a reservation) and camp for the night. Yikes! How in the world could the campground be FULL. It was the middle of winter and 38 degrees F. 😩

Remarkably, the grownups somehow managed to finagle our crew into the last two sites left in the park, and we settled in for the evening. 😁 👍

Cozy campfire time

The next morning we were back on the eagle watch.

This big busier flew right over camp
Chestnut-backed chickadee

There is a magical eagle watching spot along the Bayview-Edison road known to the devoted birders as East 90. Nearby is the famous “Eagle Tree”. It is not uncommon for us to see a dozen eagles at once up there.

The Eagle Tree near East 90
A juvenile bald eagle
Did you know that juvenile eagles don’t get there white head and tail feathers until they’re about 4-5 years old.

Well, we hit the eagle watching motherlode. In a flooded field just past the mouth of the Samish River we spotted a massive gathering of eagles. We joined about a dozen other eagle lovers in a small parking area to watch the show.

There were too many eagles to count
The action was non stop
Those are trumpeter swans in the background

Suzie did try to count all the eagles. She decided on 135 eagles on the ground. She couldn’t accurately count all of the eagles that were flying and sitting up in the trees.

The eagle watching crew… Eagles in the background
Cade scoping out the birds

Well that’s a wrap for this one. It is such a blessing to have a place like this, less than an hour from my home where I can enjoy this beautiful slice of wild nature… With my family.

Thanks for following along. Kat

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Friday Fun Day!

Friday Fun Day, what a concept. So my daughter Leane is homeschooling her 3 boys. Known far and wide as “The Dudes”. In order to kind of break up the weekly routine, Leane decided that on Fridays the curriculum should be focused on having some fun as they are learning. And in order to give Leane a small break from being the teacher, housekeeper, cook, laundry technician, and about 100 other jobs, I would assist with some of the Friday Fun Day activities.

So, what better place to go for some outdoor adventures than good old Wylie Slough. I’d been seeing lots of images of the snow geese blanketing the sky, so I figured that would get everybody stoked up. I outlined our learning objectives for Leane and she approved. Suzie made us all a big lunch. We packed up our binoculars and camera gear and hit the road. Oh, and we dressed out in rubber boots and rain coats because it was pouring down rain. Ah, the Pacific Northwest in the fall. (Or spring, or winter, or even the summer).

We broke out the Moleskine notebook and a pen so the dudes could keep a list of the birds they saw. Now I’m not much of a bird “lister” but I thought it would be good for the dudes to take turns being in charge of maintaining the list as we went along. In addition to that, each dude would be picking one of the birds we saw during our excursion and doing some research on their chosen bird. Then they would write a short essay about their bird and complete a simple art project of their bird. Sketch, watercolor, whatever…

Here are some highlights from our day:

For starters, we hit the motherlode on snow geese.

Leane got this photo with her iPhone from the car window.
…and mixed in with the snow geese were plenty of trumpeter swans

As we pulled into the parking area we spotted two eagles. The dudes took turns snapping photos with the Sony a6000 and Tameron 70-300mm lens.

Duke, photographing a bald eagle
He actually captures two eagles in this image
We hiked down the dike trail in the rain and bunkered up in the tiny bird blind
Kingston scanning the slough for waterfowl
Here we see a coot, a bufflehead, a green-winged teal, and a pied-billed grebe… all in one shot.
Cade captured the photo above of the four different birds.

We had a marvelous day and really weren’t bothered too much by the steady rain. The dudes managed to compile a respectable list of birds. Everything from giant trumpeter swans to tiny golden-crowned kinglets.

Great Blue Heron hunting for little fish.

One of the joys of the day was our ability to watch all these different birds going about their daily activities, and us not interfering or altering their behavior at all. This great blue heron let us stand by and watch him spearing fish, the bald eagles were still in the same tree when we returned to the parking area, and all the little birds we saw while eating lunch were just carrying on with their day.

Lunch happened under this nice covered area.

Duke picked the Eurasian Collared-Dove

Eurasian Collared-Dove by Duke Danger

The Eurasian Collared-dove (by Duke)

The Eurasian Dove’s habitat is all through America and goes down into Mexico, a little bit of Canada, and in the Caribbean as well. They eat grains such as corn, wheat, sun flower, milo, and millet. They then lay 1-2 egg’s a clutch. Do not touch stray doves because they might have parasites.

Kingston picked the Trumpeter Swan

Kingston’s Trumpeter Swan

 The Trumpeter Swan (by Kingston)

North Americas largest waterfowl, the Trumpeter Swan. This bird lives in lakes and ponds. Its mating grounds are wetlands in remote Alaska, Canada and in Northwest U.S. then when winter starts they move to ice free coastal and inland waters.                                          

This Swan has a wingspan of 6 feet in length and it is over 25 pounds. This species was once endangered but now the the species is recovering population.

 In the 1600’s market hunters and feather collectors had decimated the Trumpeter Swan population. In the 2000s Canada and U.S government conserved land to recover the population.

Cade selected the Anna’s Hummingbird

Cade’s little Anna’s Hummingbird

           Anna’s Hummingbird (by Cade)

         Hummingbirds are one of the smallest families of birds there are. These specific hummingbirds are short and stocky. They have a straight, shortish bill and a large tail that goes past the wing-tips when perching.

        The male’s head and throat are covered in shining reddish-pink feathers that can look dull brown or gray without the sun hitting it. The females are mostly green and gray, without any rufous or orange marks on the body.         

        Anna’s Hummingbirds are the fastest living thing (if you are measuring by body lengths per second) and they are also faster than a rocket entering earth’s atmosphere. The male’s call has a scratchy metallic sound to it. You can look for him perched above head level in trees and shrubs. 

                                                              

Ok, well that’s a wrap. Thanks for following along.

Kat

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Birding With Booker (Teenager Edition)

So if you have been following the Adventure Journal for a while you may remember a post from several years ago called Birding With Booker. Well, Booker and I are back out on the bird trail again. A couple of weeks ago Booker turned 13 years old. Yikes, a teenager! When asked by his parents what he would like to do for his special birthday, Booker answered, “I want to go birding with Grandpa Jeff”.

…I’ll pause here for a moment to get my heartstrings tucked back into my chest…

Booker also mentioned that he would “like to have a camera with a better zoom lens”. So when Travis called and shared that information with me all I could say was Done Deal! Let’s go…

We picked a date and got Booker all set up with a Nikon super-zoom camera. A perfect birding camera for a developing photographer. We left before sunrise and headed to Wylie Slough on Fir Island. A favorite birding area of ours.

We covered a few technical pointers for Booker’s new camera once we arrived at the parking area. As soon as we stepped out of the car we were instantly accosted by some rambunctious eagle noise directly above us in the trees.

Greetings, eagle style

We instantly pointed our cameras to the tree tops and snapped some images. I didn’t notice until I got this image on my laptop that there were two eagles up there. Look to the far left of the photo and see if you can spot the second eagle’s beak.

Booker in the viewing blind

It was raining a bit so we scurried on down to a bird viewing blind overlooking a tiny slough. Booker got his camera set up on my tripod and we photographed ducks, coots, great blue herons, pied-billed grebe, and more eagles. And lots of LBJ’s… Little Brown Jobs. (mostly song sparrows).

LBJ’s

We hiked for a bit along the dikes and stopped to examine every bird along the way. We actually spent more time on the little everyday common birds than we did on the big majestic eagles.

The grey skies above offered two things to our birding adventure… Rain… and thousands of geese.

Anytime we looked up there were huge flocks of geese covering the sky
Booker sporting his new camera.

So I’ll leave this adventure here for the time being. I’m sure we’ll be back for many more birding trips and photo safaris in the future. I feel so fortunate to think that of all the cool stuff a newly minted teenager might want to do for his birthday this wonderful young man wanted to spend time slopping around in the rain with his grandpa. I am blessed!

Happy Birthday to my birding buddy.

Thanks for following along. Kat

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Beach Ready!

When you head out the door of our condo in Panama City Beach, you always go “Beach Ready”. Meaning that at the slightest provocation one can just change the daily planned adventure and head for the beach.

Suzie and I were delighted to have the Donovan crew with us for this trip to the Florida panhandle. Ever since we bought this little slice of sandy heaven we’d been telling the Dudes how cool it was. So far on this little vacation they have not been disappointed.

Enough jabbering, let’s see some pictures.

The whole crew headed out to Conservation Park
The Dudes – expressing themselves
Some of the local wildlife

Unfortunately we didn’t get a decent photo of the beautiful northern cardinals that we saw. Also on the unfortunate list was the fact that some of the trails were still flooded from the heavy rains, so our hike was cut short… No problem… back to the beach!

Cade watching the sunset from the surf
The sunsets are always interesting

We took a little road trip down the coast to Apalachicola. A cool little shrimp fishing village with some nifty shops and restaurants.

This place is a gem
Dripping in southern coastal charm
Duke made a new friend

And speaking of new friends. We went on a photo safari to introduce ourselves to every gecko in the town.

Howdy mate
Simmer down, I’m not gonna post every single gecko pic…
The Capt. T.J. ready to head out to the gulf

We were pleased to have a little sun during the day and our drive back to the beach was highlighted with a short stop in Port Saint Joe.

The Donovan crew climbed up into this lighthouse…..
…..While I went off to make a new friend.

Of course the Dudes headed straight for the beach as soon as we returned to PCB.

The next morning greeted us with biblical levels of rainfall. We temporarily suspended our hiking plans when we started seeing flooded streets en route to the trail. We settled on a little retail therapy at the very touristy Pier Park.

Strolling the shops

Soon it was back to the beach for sandwiches and saltwater. And almost every session in the gulf ends with a stupid pools tricks encore.

…on the count of 3…..
The Dudes

The next morning we awoke to a perfect panhandle day.

Brown pelican cruising the gulf

We made an early trip out to Camp Helen State Park to walk the Oak Canopy Trail. This beautiful morning stroll was just the ticket. Not too long, hot, or buggy. And just a treat for the eyes everywhere you looked.

Here’s the crew in a rare moment of cooperation with the photographer
American Beauty Berry
Eastern grey squirrel
Northern cardinal… Finally got a pic
Saw palmento

In celebration of Richie’s birthday we drove into Panama City and enjoyed a big feed at Uncle Ernie’s restaurant.

Uncle Ernies in the old Saint Andrews area of Panama City.

Just like most nights we topped off the evening watching the sunset, the dudes did their nightly pool session, and I stepped out for a little night photo op.

f/16 4″ ISO 200

A new day, a new adventure. We drove down to Saint Andrews State Park to hike around Gator Lake. And Oh YES! We saw gators…

This big boy was right next to the trail.
Just cruising along
Here’s the crew
This is a white ibis

The park had received over 9 inches of rain in 24 hours during this weeks rain storms. Several parts of the trail were well under water. And of course with all the alligators one would not be advised to go wading into the inky dark water.

So let’s wrap this story up here. We all had a marvelous time. And remember, always go “Beach Ready”.

Thanks for watching…

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Homeschool Van Slam

Here is our latest video.

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You Can Never Go Home Again… Or Can You?

Way back in the “good old days” we bought a 5 acre piece of property outside of Monroe WA. We had a plan to build our own log house on the land and somehow it all worked out. We lived there for 19 fun filled years, but eventually as the children grew up we moved on to new (easier to maintain) dwellings.

Recently, some 40 years later, Suzie and I drove by and managed to catch just a fleeting glimpse of the old homestead through the trees, and I decided I would send a letter and a bunch of old photos to the current owners. Thinking they might like to see a little bit of the history of their home. As it turned out, I got a very warm response from the current owners… They were the same folks that had originally bought the property from us. The log house had been home to their family of 5 for all these years.

We caught up via text messages and I finagled an invite to come up and visit the old log house. I explained that my grandsons, the Dudes, were studying a block of instruction on “Living Off The Land” and they were included in the invitation.

So here are some old photos of the construction project, and a few “then and now” images for comparison.

I cut the logs for the house from my in-laws property near Easton WA
The log peeling seemed to take forever
My trusty “spud”. That’s the tool used to peel the bark from the logs
Rotating the logs so they season evenly
Today the old log yard is a nice grassy field…. That small building was added by the new owners.
The logs are stacked and it’s time to cut off the ridge log supports… Note: Try this method at your own risk
Installing the chimney. Again, maybe not the safest method.
Eventually we had a house!
Our family on the porch. The house looks great these days
.
Leane on the porch
Travis rippin’ around the inside on his 3 wheeler
Suzie, grinding way…
And that’s me, having just cut in the front door.

Well there you go. It was just delightful to see that the old log house was still being lovingly maintained and cared for. We shared some wonderful moments and memories with the current owners about the joys of raising our families in the same house. And the Dudes all got a chance to see where their mom grew up and the house that Suzie and Drampa built.

Thanks for following along. Kat

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Handmade Music

Follow along as I build a new ukulele from a Stew Mac kit.

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