Benny Creek

We’re not normal campground folk. We drive long distances to amazing overlooks to camp on our own throughout our forest lands. Unfortunately, that is becoming increasingly difficult, you can see my gripe here: https://kritterspix.com/2022/06/18/everything-changes/. When we were going through Big Lake, we stayed in the Big Lake Campground where we had a nice view of the lake down the road.

Big Lake is a popular fishing lake in the area. There are actually quite a few of them in the Pinetop / Lakeside area, most with designated campgrounds (some with ‘No Camping’).

Greer Lakes is another, with fishing at any of three reservoirs: Bunch, Tunnel, or River Reservoirs. There are 2 pay campgrounds: Rolfe Hoyer and Benny Creek.

Benny Creek Campground has a flowing stream at its base and overlooks Bunch Reservoir from the top of the hill. Fishermen on the dock and in boats can be seen from its shores, along with blue heron seeking their own meal.

Along the long dirt roadways we took, we did find a number of animals from birds to big horn sheep.

While I had hoped to get some pix of black bear, which are known to be prevalent in the areas we drove, we weren’t so lucky – this time. We’ll keep trying though. In the meantime, we continue to enjoy the outdoors and everything it has to offer.

Lake Havasu

Lake Havasu is home to the famed London Bridge, but it is also home to a lot of RV’ers and boaters.

During our brief stay, we had a wonderful visit with our special friends, and saw an abundance of large (& fast) boats driving through town and on the waterways. Though February is not necessarily prime time for the boaters, it certainly was for the RV’ers, who litter the campgrounds and desert with big rigs.

While we weren’t there long, we enjoyed our stay and the warm weather (89F) away from our snow packed roads (6F the morning we left).

Gotta love the diversity of Arizona.

Birds a feather…

What do they say? Birds a feather flock together. That is no more true than at Whitewater Draw, where thousands (we heard numbers anywhere between 20,000 and 47,000) sandhill cranes flock to this lush marshland in southern Arizona.

But it’s not just sandhill cranes. The area is rich with all sorts of birds, including the blue, green, and cinnamon -winged teals, Northern pintails, red-winged blackbirds, Northern shovelers, grebes, egret, hawks and owls.

Cinnamon teal at Whitewater Draw
Green-winged teal
Northern shoveler rests in water at Whitewater Draw

We saw quite a variety of waterfowl during a trip to Whitewater Draw for a Photo Workshop sponsored by Arizona Game and Fish. (See my post here… https://kritterspix.com/2022/02/06/whitewater-draw-workshop/)

Pintail duck at Whitewater draw

We saw birds I never heard of, like the colorful Vermillion Flycatcher and Northern Harrier.

Vermillion Flycatcher
Juvenile vermillion flycatcher in the weeds along Whitewater Draw

Not to mention the very entertaining sandhill cranes.

Sandhill crane graze at Whitewater Draw
Sandhill cranes chatter

Whitewater Draw has had increasing numbers of sandhill cranes year over year. This area is the best sandhill crane-viewing site in Arizona, and one of the largest migration sites in the country. It’s a thrilling sight to see and experience.

I got a lot of trigger time with my camera, and practiced my Birds-in-Flight (BIF) photography. Check out my post of BIF photography here.. https://kritterspix.com/2022/02/06/birds-in-flight-bif-photography/

Christmas on the Beach

Sometimes when you need a distraction, you have to do something different.

It’s been a difficult year for us, so we decided a change of scenery for the holiday was in order.

We thought some beach wildlife was just the thing… and we knew just the place. Only 30 miles south of Paso Robles is a wonderful stretch of beach rich with sealife.

We camped out for nearly 2 weeks and took in the sea otters along Morro Bay.

When we got our fill of that, we moved on to Pismo Beach to check out the butterfly migration.

We took in blue heron fishing in a stream.

And were lucky enough to watch them catch supper.

It rained much of the time, but we managed to get some pix nonetheless.

If you are patient enough and persistent, one can capture beautiful moments.

It was a wonderful break. We are ready for a New Year full of positivity and promise.

East Clear Creek

With all the rain we just got, we hoped to get some low hanging clouds and fog hanging in the trees along East Clear Creek.

The bridge across the FR 95 / 96 Road had lifting fog as the sun tried to break through, and didn’t disappoint.

Fog streamed down through the trees to unveil East Clear Creek below. It was a memorable sight, and one I was happy to capture the terrific moment I found myself in.

Mingus Mountain

It’s always fun exploring new areas. We had never been to Mingus Mountain, so decided with weather coming in… it was a good time.

The campground is pretty developed, and was fairly full. But it was quiet and had a series of trails behind each campsite offering terrific views of Camp Verde and Cottonwood below.

We recall our friend Gary waxing poetic about Mingus Mountain when he used to hang glide from Mingus. Following massive rain and winds that we endured through the night and into the morning, we encountered a complete white out of low hanging clouds and fog.

We checked out Gary’s Mingus launch site and considered the courage it took to jump off this cliff into the great blue below. Ah, but I must take pause. Gary would admonish me as the ‘uninitiated’ for using such a word. A hang glider pilot does not ‘jump’ off a cliff, he flies. In fact, an experienced pilot approaches it with eagerness and exhilaration.

When we were there it was nothing but clouds – not a good day for hang gliding, but eerie and fantastic nonetheless. It was a nice spot, with beautiful views. We enjoyed the weather and all the moody scenes it provided, making for interesting photographs.

Our trip definitely reminded me that it’s fun and exciting to try new places and new experiences. It’s easy to get stuck in our doldrums of same ‘ol, same ‘ol. We need to get out more to enjoy new and different experiences.

North Rim, Grand Canyon

We frequent the North Rim of the Grand Canyon much more than the South Rim, in large part because we don’t actually enter the park.

We are able to enter the outside of the Park boundaries where we can camp and mostly enjoy great views in solitude. I will admit this time we saw more people on our trip than I think we ever have before. It was a treat to meet fellow travelers who were like minded and shared similar interests.

We drove all the way to Point Sublime (for which we obtained a Back Country Permit, as it is just over the Park Boundary) and camped for several days.

Surprisingly the leaves had hardly begun to change and temps were fairly warm. Unfortunately, we saw very few clouds. By the time we got home we were welcomed with cool temps, clouds, and rain. No matter what, though, it’s always a pleasure to enjoy nature and a good view.

Check out more pix here … https://kritterspix.com/2021/09/26/rainbow-trail/

Returning to the Scene

We decided to return to the scene of my award winning shot (see post here… https://kritterspix.com/category/photo-musings/ ) before the forest closed.

With all the fires in AZ at the moment, we got quite the red sun at sunrise. Unfortunately, we were unable to stay long, as the AZ Game & Fish came by to advise us the forest would be closing due to the fires.

Many of the AZ fires have been human caused, and with super dry conditions they are out of control with little containment. Firefighter resources are very thin, so any new fires would be difficult to fight. We are actually thankful they are closing the forests to keep our forest safe. Nonetheless, it was disappointing to have to leave such a glorious spot. I guess we’ll have to go back.

Parker Creek

Having lived in AZ all of my adult life, we have traveled many of the places and roads that AZ has to offer. We have enjoyed exploring the off roads and the gorgeous scenery throughout our amazing state.

It’s always a treat when we find a new special place and scenic view.

Parker Creek was such a place. It had stunning views of Roosevelt Lake and Four Peaks. It was truly breath taking.

The only thing we missed were some great clouds and wonderful sunsets. We’ll have to go back.

Oregon Coast

We just got back from the Oregon Coast, a trip we have made now multiple times in the last few years.

There is something special about the scenery and the seafood. We took the opportunity to get a much needed respite for some relaxing views, and amazing seafood.

We saw deer, elk, turkey, and even sheep along the way, along with rock spires, docks, and ocean views. This time of year, the weather was windy and cool with occasion rain…. a bit chilly. But we got some nice walks in and visited some great seafood spots for some amazing fresh seafood.

We camped in mostly state parks which offered some terrific walking trails filled with wonderful vistas and colorful plants. We were especially enamored with the western skunk cabbage which we coined the more affectionate name, ‘sea lilies’, with great bright yellow lily looking flowers, amidst large green leaves.

We enjoyed fresh oysters and clams, cooked and raw; fresh fish (ling cod, rock fish, and petrole sole); and fantastic Dungeness crab. The 2021 dungeness crab season isn’t the best, but we did manage to get a few tastes in of some terrific crab, as we picked up fresh fish at the docks and markets, caught that day, and enjoyed that night in our camper every day.

The drive home was a sad one as we enjoyed the redwoods of Northern CA, and headed back home, ending our sabbatical too soon. I’m ready to do it again already.

See more photos here … https://kritterspix.com/2021/04/21/oregon/