Saturday, July 25, 2009

Whooping cranes dance . . .

Today, a slightly overcast warm summer day with lovely cummulus clouds building almost to rain, we visted the grounds of the International Crane Foundation, a complex designed to study, preserve and protect cranes all over the world.

We quietly watched African cranes in a new exhibit, their dazzling colors red, black and white, with golden delicate crowns of feathers arcing in a floating circle over their heads -- the Black Crowned Crane and the Gray Crowned Crane (see below).

And then we watched a pair of rare Whooping Cranes interact in a marshy pond. Apparently they dance (and mimic movements) as part of pair bonding and, to my surprise, to release tension. So, birds dance. And this International Crane Foundation continues its wonderful work.

Cranes dancing.MOV

Friday, July 24, 2009

Farewell to Minnesota . . .

Yesterday we spent a pleasant afternoon, wandering around the open habitats of the Minnesota Zoo. We saw baboons, gibbons, flamingos, grizzlies, Mexican wolves, and a few mammals we'd never seen before -- takins, a sleepy Binturong, and a funny hedgehog. I've updated Webshots but here are some shots to enjoy.

Minneapolis Zoo

The real highlight of our visit to the Minneapolis area, though, was to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA). We were only able to investigate one floor in our 3-1/2 hours there and were entranced by Chinese, African, and Native American arts, especially a rare Drum Dance blanket from the Anishinabe/Dakota culture. This museum allows photographs, offers its extensive and beautifully presented exhibits at no cost, and provides extraordinarily helpful notes for each artifact. Their website is outstanding, though I did post a few favorites on Webshots, including this court drummer from the Chinese Han Dynasty. Enjoy! Enjoy!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

On the road in Minnesota . . .

The new tent works great! After four days of thunderstorms, some a downpour, we're happy to report this new tent doesn't leak. And we can get it assembled in under 20 minues (a good improvement from the first 35 minute session).

We're camped in the wilds of Minnesota, just outside Minneapolis, and will leave tomorrow for Wisconsin before heading to upper Michigan and the delights of Travers City. Yesterday we ambled through shopping malls, took advantage of 25% off on Senior Weds at the Goodwill, and saw Ice Age at the movies, finishing up with three-mushroom pizza and then ice cream sandwiches while sitting by the pool at the KOA here. And we've admired the Mississippi River from the Science Museum. Not exactly roughing it. However, driving the freeways here at 70+ mph is certainly hair-raising, and city drivers cut it close, much closer here than we do out west.

Arrangements for Scotland are finally falling into place. We have an apartment in Edinburgh already for the month of October. One place. With a kitchen. Two weeks are set in Inverness. Now to somehow make arrangements in Orkney, but today is our last full day in Minneapolis. Will we go to the zoo or the art museum? Don't know yet and don't care. Life is good. This morning I saw a sun shower and a double rainbow before breakfast. I hope the sun is shining where you are.

Minneapolis Institute of Art

Minneapolis Institue of Art (Webshots)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Glacier National Park . . .

It's the middle of July. Today we hiked around the eastern half of Glacier National Park to find bright yellow Glacier Lillies poking out of the snow at Logan Pass. Even though it's mid-summer, lowering rain clouds rolled in, shifting and settling over the mountains. Beautiful.

Glacier National Park

On the road again . . .

It appears we are going in circles. We left Spokane on Sunday morning early, well before breakfast, and headed north to Canada. Our maps were well organized and we had a clear plan to cross the continent to Philadelphia via Canada, starting with the Rockies, stopping in at Banff and Jasper, and then car camping across Canada's midwestern plains, revisiting Elk Island, where once a herd of elk leisurely grazed through our campsite.

We flashed passports at the border, drove north for 250 miles, explored historic Fort Steele, and then it began to rain. We camped out at the cheapest hotel we could find in Radium Hot Springs, too discouraged to even take a dip, somewhat taken aback to find the "free internet wireless" was limited to 15 minutes offered by the local service provider. Folks at the Information Center joked about finding hotel deals for US$140 and more a night. And we discovered our sandwiches cost $8 apiece, and gas translates to about $4 a gallon. It can only get better tomorrow, we assured each other. We've been away too long to remember how expensive things are. We'll camp.

Monday morning clouds greeted us, and it rained steadily as we drove through Kootenay National Park to Banff, up that lovely valley ringed by mountains to Lake Louis. But the clouds moved in, covering the mountains, and the rain turned into a downpour. No one was camping.

So we've driven south again, down Bow Parkway some 300 miles. We did see one young elk, glorious in a full rack, covered with velvet, browsing grass alongside the road, oblivious to motorists. I still love the Rockies and we'll return one day, but for now as we travel east, it just seems less complicated to stay in the states where KOA awaits in case of rain.

Kootenay National Park, British Columbia

Photo: Kootenay national Park, British Columbia (Webshots)

Sunday, July 05, 2009

On traveling . . .

Still haven't quite come to ground, though we're in Spokane for another 10 days, preparing for three different trips (with lots of packing and unpacking). This video, Where the Hell is Matt, reminds me once again why I love traveling and what is truly human, regardless of country, time or place.

It's funny, his blog is irreverent, and I begin to feel just a little more connected.