birdandhike logo
Home | Postcards

Annual Newsletter to Family and Friends -- December 2014

Desert Rat Times

The Desert Rat Times

A Familial Publication by Liz La Rue and Jim Boone

(adapted for the web)

Desert Rat Times
Volume 27, Number 1 December 2014
Download 8.4 mb PDF

2014 in Review

What a year we've had! [Do we start with this phrase every year?] We made some wonderful trips close to home, drove to the very farthest corner of North America, and even made it to Hawaii.

In January, we visited Sequoia National Park to attend an old boss' retirement party. We hadn't seen Dave Graber since before Graduate School, but being well liked, he drew people ranging from our days in Sequoia (1980s) all the way to Washington, DC. It was great to catch up with old friends, and we had a glorious few winter days in the park, aided in part by the lack of snow this year.

Sequoia National Park

February was a busy month hiking around home and Death Valley (annual trip with the Schmandt family from Boston), and Liz finally got her new refrigerator. Jim even found some time to do contract work for the National Park Service.

liz with fossil roots

arrow canyon wilderness

death valley

March finally brought days warm enough to go shirtless around the house (at least for Jim), more local hiking, some local birding, and a new patio cover in the backyard just in time for Dad and Joe to come visit for a few days. At the end of the month, we drove to eastern Utah to see Gunnison Sage-Grouse on their lek (dancing and breeding arena).


dad and joe

April was a month of time-out for Jim as he spent the days working on a construction site in town. There were no tortoises, but we had Burrowing Owls and lots of breeding Killdeer.

pipeline work

The end of April and early May found us birding 50 miles off the US west coast with Jerry and Helen Freilich on a pelagic birding trip organized by the Anchorage Audubon Society. We spent parts of four days at sea, saw some fun seabirds, and made more friends from Alaska. On the way home, we stopped at Jerry and Helen's and visited with Dad and Joe and John's family in Portland.

pelagic birding

In mid-May, Mom came to cat-sit, and Liz and I bought a minivan that we converted to a camper. In late May, Liz and I departed on a grand adventure heading north and east on a 10-week birding road-trip. Before the end of the month, we'd visited Liz's brother (Bill and Karen) in Albuquerque, friends (Preston Family) in Oklahoma, Liz's boss (Kathy Spindler) from Georgia in Michigan, old friends (Pat and Kate Lederle) from Las Vegas in Michigan, and we'd seen some great eastern forest birds, including Black-billed Cuckoo, Cerulean Warbler, and Kirtland's Warbler the most rare warbler in North America).

Kirtland's Warbler

June 3rd saw us cross the Canadian border in Ontario. We birded the north edge of Lake Huron, but moved pretty quickly east through "urban" Canada. By the 6th, we were east of Quebec City and into rural and wild places. On the 8th, we headed north from Baie-Comeau, Quebec into the wild interior of Maritime Canada where the wild country began.

Birding from the highway along the St. Lawrence Seaway

We drove north for days before arriving at Labrador City, Labrador. Most of the road was paved, but we stopped frequently to look for birds, bears, moose, porcupine, and to see lots of big, wild country. For people like us familiar with the grand expanse of western wilderness, we were unprepared for the truly vast expanse of the Taiga — Great Northern Forest.

great northern forest

From Labrador City, we drove east for days, again traversing the vast expanse of the Great Northern Forest, until we arrived in the port city of Goose Bay, the northeastern-most city served by paved road in North America. Continuing east on what was the start of hundreds of miles of gravel road, we arrived in Cartwright, Labrador, on the Atlantic Coast — the northeastern-most town in North America serviced by road.

Cartwright Harbor

From Cartwright, we started for home on Friday the 13th of June, and of course, this was the only day with "car trouble" (flat tire) on the entire trip. Surprisingly, a tire that was almost the same size as the other three only cost $200 (plus a motel room) in a small town in the middle of nowhere (Port Hope Simpson). We also saw some fun birds and met some nice people, so it wasn't really a bad day.

St. Lewis, labrador

A few more days brought us to Red Bay, Labrador. What an amazing little town! With ice bergs, the most wonderful room, a history of 16th century whaling, and fun birds, this was the first place we found where we would really like to go back to spend some time. Liz could spend lots of time looking more carefully at the actual clothing from one of the burials. The fine weaving and construction of the clothes was intriguing; stockings at that time were woven instead of knit. The museum also had weaving items that were used on board ship, and a most amazing drinking glass.

Red Bay


Continuing south, on June 16th we took the ferry to Newfoundland, which is a huge island a short ways out in the Atlantic. We started our tour on the northern-most tip at the L'Anse aux Meadows archaeological site, a Viking settlement site dating from about 1000 AD. The provincial government built a viking sod house adjacent to the excavations so visitors could see what viking life was like, and they have several, very good, living history actors on site. Liz even got a lesson in single-needle knitting for one of the Norsemen.

L'Anse aux Meadows

We spent a couple of days around the north end of the island, then started south and were hit by a several-days storm with lots of rain. We tried to bird Gros Morne National Park, but decided to use the bad weather to press farther south. We visited some famous birding sites, including the Elliston Atlantic Puffin colony, Quidi Vidi Lake at St. John's, Witless Bay (two boat trips to the offshore nesting islands), and Bird Rock at Cape St. Mary's (two days). Cape St. Mary's had been on our bucket list for over 30 years and literally the goal of this trip, so it was quite a treat to finally see the cliffs thick with nesting seabirds on consecutive mostly sunny days (fog is the norm).

bird rock, newfoundland

We birded Newfoundland until the 30th, when took the long ferry (13 hours) to Nova Scotia. We spent a couple of days hiking and birding in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, then started moving south. Our travels were interrupted for two days by Hurricane Arthur, but we sheltered in wonderful little Tatamagouche town with a nice, friendly hotel and a small restaurant that kept the kitchen going during the storm (most places lost power).

Labrador Sea

After the storm, we pushed south to the Joggins Fossil Cliffs on the Bay of Fundy, a site famous for plant fossils that Liz had always wanted to see. We spent several days visiting sites around the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia and in New Brunswick, and even got to see the tidal bore, but we felt we were starting to run out of time (July 10). Liz was quite taken with the tradition of rug hooking in the Maritime Provinces. By chance, we stayed at a motel within walking distance of a major hooking studio where Liz did a little shopping and picked up a brochure about the local fiber arts events. If we ever get back this way at the right time of year…

Joggins Fossil Cliffs

We eventually pushed off the southeastern-most point of Canada (Campobello Island) into the U.S. We hiked and birded along the coast of Maine and spent three days in Acadia National Park, one of the days with an old friend from Sequoia (Heather Rice), effectively running out of time before really starting home.

Acadia National Park

We stopped in Boston to visit the Schmandt Family (Death Valley hiker friends) for three days. They took us hiking in their local woods and to a wildlife refuge on the coast.

Acadia National Park

Starting the long drive west, we stopped in upstate New York to bird and hike in the Adirondack Mountains near Lake Placid. There, we really ran out if time and started pushing for home. We did, however, find time to drive by Niagara Falls where we saw the falls from both sides (yes, the view is better from Canada), and then drove across Ontario to Point Pelee National Park, a world-famous birding site on the north side of Lake Erie. After a few hours there and a few hours at Magee Marsh on the U.S. side of Lake Erie, we found ourselves driving south late into the night.

Niagara Falls

We stopped along the interstate at Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, another site that Liz had always wanted to see. We took the morning cave tour and were off again heading fast for Dallas where we stopped to see Jim's brother Bill and his family. Billy even stayed an extra day to visit with us before returning to college.

Mammoth Cave

Another long drive found us back to Albuquerque, and two days later we arrived home on July 31st. Mom was happy to see us, but Mocha showed her displeasure with our long absence by hiding under the bed. It didn't take her long to get over it and come out for energetic scratches and belly rubs.

home sweet home

Mom stayed another week, during which we did a delightful campout on Mt. Charleston. The rest of August was quiet as we caught up on everything we'd missed during the last 10 weeks.

Mt. Charleston

September temperatures began to moderate, and we did several local birding and hiking day-trips. We also did a quick trip to the Grand Canyon with Ginny and Gary Canori (friends here in town) and a quick trip to San Diego for a pelagic birding trip. We also celebrated out 30th wedding anniversary, although we've been together for about 33 years.

Grand Canyon

san diego pelagic

local hiking

October was another typical month at home hiking and birding the local mountains. At the end of the month, Jim took the jeep south to visit our property in Arizona. He spent the morning fixing the tin roof on the shack and hiked around a bit, then drove about half-way home, stopping in the Wilson Mountain Wilderness Area to do some hiking and visit a spring. Hiking alone on the 29th, Jim took a nasty tumble off a 30-foot cliff onto solid granite. He probably should have died, but with several relatively minor injuries, he was able to hobble out 3 miles to the Jeep and drive home.


November started with Jim canceling an Audubon Birdwalk that he was going to lead, but he was able to limp on another birdwalk a couple of days later as he started to heal.

Mid-November saw Jim subjected to three weeks of forced rest and recovery — we set sail on a 17-day cruise to Hawaii! We'd gotten cheap tickets on a ship out of San Diego, so we celebrated our 30th anniversary with a grand trip. We spent five days crossing the ocean, five days visiting four islands, five days coming back, a day in Ensenada, Mexico, and then back to San Diego. For us, it was a very peculiar vacation, but we had a good time.

iao valley

We had hoped to see oceanic bird species far out at sea, but mostly we spent a lot of time sitting (forced relaxation) and gazing out across the big water. We saw shearwaters, boobies (we watched them catch and eat flying fish), albatrosses, tropicbirds, and storm-petrels, but far fewer species and individuals than we'd hoped. Birding the islands was fun, but mostly we saw non-native species such as Asian Zebra Doves and Brazilian Red-crested Cardinals. We did see two species of native forest birds (Apapane and 'Oma'o), and Nene Geese, and that was a treat. It was also interesting to see steaming volcanoes, although we did not see any flowing lava.

Waimea Canyon

When we got home, Jim was healing well, and by the middle of December, he was back on the trails and off-trails with barely a limp. Some aches and pains remain, but at least we are back on the trails and life as normal.

Another December event for Jim was serving as a juror on a criminal case; at least the trial only lasted three days. These things are sad and everyone loses. It was interesting, however, to realize that hooking someone up and taking them to jail was completely different from sitting in judgement on a jury and finding someone guilty.

Liz continues to volunteer one day each week at a local elementary school with third graders, hoping to have them believe that math is something they will use everyday. Liz also continues to knit, and she wishes she could drag her spinning wheel along on road trips, but she should probably just take a spindle and use the wheel at home.

rubio's fish tacos

Already making plans for traveling next year, Mom plans to come and cat-sit during spring and early summer, so we will be off to somewhere. We haven't decided where yet — but planning is so much fun!

Despite Jim's best efforts in October, we remained healthy this year. We visited several times with friends and family in different parts of the country, and we spent lots of time in town and in the desert with local friends. What more could anybody want? Happy Holidays everyone!



Family News 2014

Family News 2014 Bill and Karen LaRue continue in Albuquerque. They are busy in retirement, Lorena took a Caribbean Cruise, and Grandma passed during the summer at 101.

Mom Boone continues traveling, visiting friends and family around the country, and just finished her 12th season as a state park volunteer. We expect her in Las Vegas to house-sit for 2 months next spring.

Dad Boone and Joe are well in Portland. Dad tutors 5th-grade math, maintains his yard, and agitates for social change, while Joe hikes the neighborhood, remains the grand chef, and has become the tech nerd for the family. Both like having time to read.

Cathy Boone and Peter are busy at the London School of Economics. Josh and Sander are off at college (Chicago and Boston), but they all get together during the year.

Bill Boone and Maria continue in Dallas. Bill's job at American Airlines remains secure, and Maria works in a neighborhood elementary school. Billy is in college (College Station), and Catherine is making plans for college.

John Boone remains in Portland where his company is doing well, Lori sings in dinner clubs, and the three kids are growing up. Ashley is in high school where Eric will join her next year, and Andy is following quickly along.

Mocha Cat mostly ignores us, preferring to lie in the sun and watch birds. The birds don't mind her, and still she has never tried to catch one.



Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wishing you and your family all the best in the year to come.

Cheers, Jim and Liz

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 150114

Postcards     Copyright, Conditions, Disclaimer Home