Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Good Camera is Heavy

My increased emphasis on running instead of hiking has meant that I don't bring my camera with me every time I go places anymore. Today, though, I went for a run with Ben and then met up with Jen and their twins for a walk.

The dogs were good sports and posed for me in between the run and the walk.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Westwoods at Dusk

I was a bit sore today from a run two days ago, so I decided to get in a long hike for some lower impact exercise. The dogs, who sprint back and forth no matter how fast I'm going, were perfectly happy to be out for longer, if not farther, than a run.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sleepytime Jack

One run, two hikes, and Thanksgiving with two new Golden friends makes for one tired Jackie. Comet not pictured.

Friday, November 18, 2011


For almost a year, I've been running farther and farther, faster and faster. When I started last November, I was alternating between jogging and walking a few minutes at a time. Now, I'm trying to break a 30 minute 5K, squeezing in time to run between work and sunset.

As frustrating as it sometimes is to be so rushed in finding run times, the reward of a sunset over the ocean by my house is pretty good compensation.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Black Cap

On what ended up being quite a busy day, we drove back across the New Hampshire border for a quick hike up Black Cap, a hike with one of the best difficulty-to-view ratios in the North Conway area.

The dogs don't care much for views, but they found some great mud to relax in while Andy and I sat back and enjoyed the beautiful day.

At the end of the hike, I tried to get a quick picture of the dogs in the car, which I obviously did. However, what you don't see in this shot is that I was calling Jax in order to get him to stick his head out the window and into the sun. Being well-trained and fearless, Jax actually came out the window about a second after this exposure.

Highland Lake Sunrise

As always, one of the biggest highlights of the cabin is getting up early to watch the sun rise over Highland Lake. This time I went out and took a few pictures of the still water before going back for the dogs and letting them send ripples all the way across as they chased sticks and ducks.
Once I went and got them, they troubled the surface of the water and had a grand old time trying to convince me to throw the stick a few more times. It was warm for an early Maine morning in October, but my hands still chilled quickly.

So poor Jax was left hoping for a twentieth toss that I wasn't prepared to give him.
Comet was a bit more able to amuse himself by splashing around and chewing the bushes that hang out over the water.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Kancamagus Sunset

As we have in the past, Andy and I stayed at our friend Lynn's cabin for the weekend.

On one of our evenings in Maine, we drove over the border into New Hampshire and drove up the Kancamagus Highway for sunset. We didn't quite catch the sun before it went behind the mountain, but we did catch some amazing color when we stopped at the Sugar Hill overlook.

The moon even swam into view while we waited. The foliage colors this year weren't as intense as some of the years we've gone up through New England in the fall, but the colored light of a sunset is a pretty magical thing.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

One More Paddle

I got out one more time for a paddle in the fall before it got too cold. This time, I kayaked all the way down the Hammonasset River from Nod Rd. to Clinton Harbor and back, about a 5 mile journey. I can't wait until it warms up again.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Quiet Woods

Right across the street from our summer cabin is a little pine barrens preserve. I've been running more and more this year, so a few mornings of vacation, I knocked out a few miles on the trails and old logging roads. One morning was particularly still and lovely as we skipped through the wet blueberry bushes.

Of course, the bear scat I found a few minutes later had me hightailing it back in the opposite direction, but it was a lovely morning nonetheless.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Up Mt. Washington

On August 17, we decided to take the MINI up the Mt. Washington Auto Road. The road's extreme gradient is a bit tough on a car, especially my rather new MINI, but it was a super fun car to take up and down such a crazy road.

The whole extended family climbed into a bunch of cars, and we all trekked on up.

According to my GPS, the route is 7.5 miles and has a vertical ascent of 4,585 ft. Washington's peak is officially 6,288, but you start the auto road pretty far up from sea level in the first place, and the parking lot is a huge set of stairs away from the actual summit.

On the way down, we were very conservative with the brakes and stopped at several of the designated pulloffs to let them cool.

I've been hiking and driving in New Hampshire for years, and this day that we just happened to decide to take for a drive up Mt. Washington was one of the clearest I've ever seen.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Vacation Travel

Andy and I rent a little place in New Hampshire each year and stay there with family and friends for as many days as we can both get off of work.

The drive up to our spot in New Hampshire takes a bit more than four hours. Our rental, like many others, doesn't start until the early afternoon, but we left early to beat traffic and had some time to kill.

So we stopped at the Black Bear Café in Ossipee, NH to eat and stretch our legs. The food is better than decent, and as you can see, the outdoor seating is dog friendly. They're open for breakfast and lunch, but not dinner.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friends and Peeps

Jeremy and Ben joined me today for another outing on the Hammonasset River. It was, after all, Jeremy’s idea in the first place. We rented them kayaks at a place on the river and then paddled up almost to Jeremy’s house and back down.

The last couple of miles of the river are essentially a grassy tidal flat, so the lowering tide exposed lots of mud on the banks.

I originally thought this guy was a Sanderling, but I’m not wonderful at identifying peeps, and now I’m not so sure. It’s nice that he and his friends were so cooperative about letting me take a series of pictures that could be reviewed later.

He’s definitely in the Calidris genus, but that’s where it gets more tricky.

If it’s not a Sanderling, which its brown color and face marks make less likely, it’s either a White-rumped or Least Sandpiper. I was able to rule out lots of the similar peeps based on the color of the legs (many candidates have black legs and could be ruled out), the size, the location (CT seacoast) and the behavior, but I’m really stuck between these last two. Pretty guy, nonetheless.

After reviewing the photos together, my dad and I have decided pretty firmly that these guys are Least Sandpipers.
We also got a chance to see a pair of Belted Kingfishers scoping the river for their lunch. They were a bit wary of us, so we never got too close. Fortunately, as they’re the only CT Kingfisher, they were an absurdly easy ID.

Ospreys are also an easy bird to shoot, but this one had half an enormous fish up with him in his tree, so I had a good time trying to frame the shot with the tree.

This guy is an old friend, the Saltmarsh Sparrow. There’s really nothing else it could be, but I worry that I may be wrong anyway, since all the entries I’ve read on these guys talk about their secretive behavior, and the two I’ve met have been quite unconcerned about my boat as it drifts closer and closer.

The crabs are definitely some kind of Fiddler Crab, but if you take a second and look up that genus of crabs, you’ll find a dizzying array of species. I gave up after a few minutes.

Regardless of the species, I like the composition of the shot.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Casco Bay Jaunt

Before today, I didn’t even know that an eider was an actual kind of bird, rather than just an old-fashioned word for feathery pillow filling. As happens so often, I see a bird I don’t recognize, I get lucky with a few good shots of it, and I look it up later. Or, even better, I send a picture to my dad.

At first glance, this duck might not look too spectacular, but if you know your ducks, there are a few things that jump out. First, she’s much larger than many of the brown, mottled ducks you may have seen. Second, she’s on the ocean. Third, her head shape is completely different from, say, a mallard.

Sure enough, I had kayaked my way into a flock of Common Eiders.

Not only was there a flock of eiders, but there was also a little Harbor Seal chilling out in a shallow pool formed by the rocks. I got pretty close before he slipped away into the water.

It might be time to mention that I found the eider and the seal during a kayak excursion on Casco Bay, out of Falmouth, Maine. I managed to grab the last few hours of daylight to put in at the Falmouth town dock and do a little exploring.

I have to admit some jealousy at the wilder nature of Casco Bay compared to my local Thimble Islands. I’ve heard that we have Harbor Seals, but I haven’t seen them, and I definitely don’t expect eiders at home.

Great Blue Herons are more typical fare in Connecticut, but I happened to get really close to this one as he fished off an idle lobstering platform. He took off, circled around me, and landed back on the platform, giving me ample opportunity to catch him in flight.

It’s hard to keep up much of a feeling of jealousy, though, when you’re slipping around a wooded island, watching Ospreys fight on the updrafts, wondering what’s around the next corner.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

PoeticGold Farm

On a more pleasant afternoon during my trip to Maine, I paid a visit to my old friend Jill’s brand new farm. It has a lovely barn to house classes for her new dog training school, and the house sits smack in the middle of a beautiful meadow that goes all the way down to a river.

Needless to say, it’s a paradise for Golden Retrievers. I was sad not to have Comet and Jax along for this trip, since they would have fit right into the golden whirlwind of Jill’s beautiful dogs.
She and I spent a few minutes calling the dogs back and forth across the meadow in the setting sun since they just look so good tearing through the flowers.

Finny (left) is closer to nine than eight, but he’s still got all the crazy enthusiasm of Copley (right).
Jill’s business is called PoeticGold Farm, and she offers dog training and photography, so check out the website if you live in the area and need artful, positive dog training. You can also check out her photo galleries on the Facebook page, even if you don’t live close enough to train with her.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sebago Weather

As part of my project to bring the kayak back to tippykayak, I took it with me when I went up to Maine for a teaching conference near Sebago lake.

The weather was a bit threatening, but I figured I could put in, tool around the lower section of Sebago, and get back to the dock quickly if things got hairy.

I only got in about a half hour before the southwest sky began to make less idle threats. There were no rumbles of thunder, so I felt comfortable cutting it fairly close, but it started to get windy, and I was out for a leisurely paddle, not a soul-testing duel with the elements.

I’m continually amazed by weather. Despite the threats to the south, the northeast sky remained light until it faded to pink. Still, I was glad to be off the water, since the wind got stronger the entire time until I was packed up and gone.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hammonasset River Solo

Jeremy lives near the Hammonasset River, which wends down through Clinton and empties out at Hammonasset Beach State Park. Jeremy and I had talked a couple of times about maybe putting kayaks in near his house and traveling all the way down to the ocean.

Given that today was the hottest day of summer thus far, Jeremy wisely decided it wasn’t a good day for his first major kayak outing. That freed him up to drop me off and pick me up, which made the whole process much, much more pleasant.

The river wends down through deciduous forest which transitions quite quickly to salt marsh. The luckiest picture of the day, by a long shot, was of this Saltmarsh Sparrow. These guys are known for being secretive and quiet, but I got lucky. This kind of moment can only happen in a boat as quiet and unobtrusive as a kayak. I can see a small bird hopping in the reeds, paddle quietly upstream of him, and drift toward him, snapping photos. If I had more robust camera equipment, I could do even better, but shooting with a twenty-year-old 75x300, I think I did alright.

Ospreys are a far, far easier target, for three reasons: they’re common, relatively calm about humans, and large. There are also about four nests between the put-in and the open ocean, so opportunities abound.

I underestimated both the heat and the distance: the map shows a big channel of open water in Hammonasset Point that doesn’t actually exist, so I had to travel a mile or two farther than I thought in order to go around a point to get to the open sound. Fortunately, Jeremy was a patient pickup, and it really was a beautiful spot to spend an afternoon—albeit a longer, hotter one than I intended.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Old Sea Crows

For a long time, I’ve kept my old whitewater kayak in the shed on a sort of just-in-case basis. I don’t have any local friends who paddle, though, and I haven’t actually taken the thing out in quite some time.

So I decided that I was old enough to simply give in and accept that I probably wasn’t going to be whitewater boating anymore. There are certainly plenty of guys much older than I who do whitewater, but I think my days of throwing a boat on the car and driving to Maine to catch a dam release are probably over.

So I wrote up a classified ad for the whitewater boat and bought myself a proper sea kayak. After all, the New England coastline is famous for its beauty, its wildlife, and its seaside culture.

I took it down to the closest put in (Stony Creek), and gave myself a tour of the Thimble Islands.

Typically, I’d try not to disturb resting birds, but I paddled upwind of this Double-crested Cormorant and let the breeze take me closer and closer as I snapped shots. Finally, he gave me the hairy eyeball and took off like some prehistoric monster.

“Cormorant” is a contraction of corvus marinus, Latin for “sea crow.” It’s apt. They’re common, hardy, and have a reputation for greedy eating.

A more difficult subject was this Common Tern, who was fishing off of one of the pricier-looking pieces of property. Taking these photos involved drifting and twisting and mashing the shutter button.

I did get a couple of good ones, including this one, which could be used if these people ever want to put their enormous island house on the market.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


It’s salt marsh season. This summer, I’ve been doing a lot of running with the dogs, which has meant far fewer opportunities for pictures, but here and there, we’ve gotten out for plain old hikes with the camera bag from time to time.

High tide is a nice time to go, and sometimes Jax moves so fast that it looks like he’s skimming the surface of the water.

He’s a grown up dog now, and while there are certainly puppyish moments, there’s also a lot of intense, mature focus in his manner, and you can really see that as he leaves a wake across the marsh.

Photo credit: Ben Taylor

There were only a few pictures from today, so Comet got short shrift, but he was there, romping and splashing and cutting up his paws a bit on the clams in the mud (he’s fine, by the way).

I bought a new car a few months ago. I loved my Jeep dearly, but it wasn’t efficient enough, so I downsized to an all-wheel-drive MINI Cooper Countryman. There’s plenty of space for the dogs, a roof rack that goes on or off in about three minutes, and all kinds of goodies that inspire my inner carhead.

The best goodie? The 30mpg highway I can get on my way to work.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The O in Osprey

I’ve been writing this blog for long enough that I can start to see patterns and signposts in my year. And one of those signposts holds up an Osprey nest.

The challenge now is trying to work on composition and color to put together a shot that doesn’t just say “look how close I can get to the Ospreys” but also captures something about what it’s like to be there out in the open air, watching them come and go.

Now, in the last landing shot, the bird was carrying some greenery, presumably to decorate the nest a bit. In this one, I have really no idea what it is. When I took the picture, I assumed it was a fish, but on reflection, I think it may be a piece of plastic.

I’ll check again, next time around.