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Postcards from My Travels

Stories from my travels and other things that interest me. Enjoy.

Illegal Bird-killing Mining Claim Marker

Knocking Down Illegal Bird-killing Mining Claim Markers
Why do I do it?

A passion for nature and wild places; a duty to give back.

Illegal Mining Claim Markers

Illegal Mining Claim Markers

A scourge on the landscape, illegal hollow mining claim markers dot the landscape trapping and killing birds, bats, lizards, small mammals, and countless beetles and other insects.

Since about 1990, Nevada law has empowered citizens to knock down these bird-killing hollow pipes. Let's all work together to take down these markers and stop the needless killing of our precious wildlife!

Annual Newsletter 2017

Annual Newsletter 2017

This has been a difficult year, and I've found that trying to write about it has been difficult.

I discuss the chaos and turmoil that the 45th administration has thrown apon the world, in particular the unrelenting assaults on clean air, clean water, and public lands, and the attacks on several groups of Americans. Nobody voted to ensure that their children would breathe dirty air and drink polluted water.

I also discuss the good things we've done for the land and our fellow Americans such as taking down mining claim markers and standing with oppressed groups.

Annual Newsletter 2016

Annual Newsletter 2016

Is it already the end of 2016? Wow, how time flies! They say time speeds up as you age, so I guess we'd better get some things done pretty soon because we'll be 5 years older in a few weeks.

John Muir Trail Backpacking

John Muir Trail Backpacking -- August 2016

When I was 15 and 16 years old, I spent the summers hiking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. During both summers, I walked about 100 miles of the 212-mile-long John Muir Trail (JMT). The trips overlapped somewhat, and in total I walked 171 miles of the JMT. Since then, I've always wanted to finish the southern 43 miles. For more information on my developing quest, see my blog article.

On August 18, 2016, I began what I hoped would be a 21-day thru-hike of the JMT totaling some 245 miles without resupply, or at the least, I would hike the final 43-mile section of my 40-some-year quest to finish the JMT. Unfortunately, I completed neither and the Quest survives.


Overseas Travel and Urban Birding — Part 1: Germany

April 27 - May 09

Click the title to see the blog. We describe the sights and events encountered while traveling to London, spending time in London, Canterbury, and Dover with family, and doing a bit of urban birding.


Overseas Travel and Urban Birding — Part 1: England

April 17-27

Click the title to see the blog. We describe the sights and events encountered while traveling to northern Germany, spending time in wild places and urban cities, doing a bit of birding, and getting to know our best friends in Germany.

annual newsletter 2015

Annual Newsletter 2015

What a year we've had! Do we start with this phrase every year? We made some wonderful trips close to home this year, but in contrast to other years, 2015 was pretty quiet; well, sort of quiet...

Grand Canyon Backpacking Trip with Liz

Grand Canyon Backpacking Trip with Liz; November 2015

Liz and I spent a wonderful five nights below the rim, checking off a bucket-list item: getting Liz to the bottom of the Grand Canyon (and back).

We started during a snow storm with 26-degree temperatures, but after the first day, the weather was grand -- if a bit cool.

Liz did surprisingly well on the hike, and we hiked out without any trouble or even sore muscles.


2014 annual newsletter

Annual Newsletter to Friends and Family; December 2014

Our annual review of the year and seasons greeting to friends and family near and far.


Pelagic Birding Trip (i.e., Cruise to Hawaii); Nov. 2014

Link to Wordpress Blog

In November, Liz and I found a great deal on a 17-day cruise to Hawaii that we turned into a pelagic birding trip. We had hoped to bird the first 200 miles off shore (ABA count area), but we left after dark and saw nothing. On the first full day at sea, we saw one bird -- a Masked Booby. On the second full day at sea, we saw two birds.

The pelagic birding remained quiet, although we saw some fun birds. On the islands, we were impressed by the numbers and diversity of non-native land birds (e.g., Zebra Doves, Red-crested Cardinals, Waxbills, Bulbuls, and Munia). We were lucky to see a few native species, including Nene Geese, White Terns, Pacific Golden-Plover, White-tailed Tropicbirds, Apapane, and 'Oma'o.

The trip back was again quite at sea, but we still saw a few species of seabirds. In Ensenada, we saw lots of birds in the harbor, but mostly just walked around town.

The Fall

The Fall; October 29, 2014

In late October while hiking alone in the Mount Wilson Wilderness Area in northwest Arizona, I took a tumble off a slick, water-polished granite ledge and tumbled some 30 feet to the bedrock wash below. I got pretty beat up, but I didn't break any bones and was lucky to be alive. I hobbled out 3 miles and drove home, but recovering from this will keep me off the long trails from some time.

January 2015: my right wrist and right foot are still giving me trouble.

mega road trip

Mega Road Trip to Newfoundland; May-July 2014.

Liz and I spend 10 weeks on a wonderful trip visiting friends and family, seeing some really wild country, and of course, spotting a lot of very cool birds.

We drove across the country to Michigan, then up into Canada and eventually to Labrador where we made it to the northeast-most city serviced by paved roads in North America. Coming down the iceberg encrusted coast, we spent a couple of weeks in Newfoundland visiting life-list birding and historic sites. A 13-hour ferry ride brought us back to continental North America where we birded and camped in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Returning to the US, we birded Maine, Massachusetts, and Upstate-New York before making a quick trip home and putting a total of 12,000 miles on the van.

We had wanted to visit Bird Rock in Newfoundland for some 30 years, and finally we did it!

Pelagic Cruise

Birding the Eastern Pacific and Pacific Northwest; April 2014.

We were lucky to learn from friends about a pelagic birding trip set up by the Anchorage Alaska Audubon Society in time to sign up. As it turned out, our Anchorage friend couldn't come, but we joined our Washington friends on the trip.

Anchorage Audubon had arranged for about 20 birders, including a couple of hot-shot pros, to take a repositioning cruise from San Diego to Victoria, BC, over four days. The Holland America ship was great, and the captain even let us onto the bow -- a normally restricted area -- where the view of the birds was better.

We saw some great birds and made some good friends who we expect to visit in Anchorage before too long. After the cruise, we spent time in Washington and Oregon birding and visiting.

Annual Newsletter 2013

Annual Newsletter to Friends and Family; December 2013.

Our annual review of the year and seasons greeting to friends and family near and far.

Lake Havasu

Lower Colorado River Birding; November 19-20.

In late November, Liz and I did a quick overnight trip to the Lake Havasu area to do some birding along the Lower Colorado River. We hoped to see the first of the wintering waterfowl at Havasu National Wildlife Refuge near Blythe, California, and to see misplaced seabirds (Blue-footed Booby, Brown Booby, and Neotropic Cormorant) at Lake Havasu, proper. The main target of the trip, however, was a Mexican flycatcher (Nutting's Flycatcher) at Bill Williams River NWR. We were fortunate to see a Blue-footed Booby and the flycatcher.

Southern California Birding 2013-4.

Southern California Birding 2013-4; November 8-11.

In early November, Liz and I did a 4-day birding trip to Southern California looking for rare birds. We visited Tecalote Canyon where we saw Nutmeg Mannikins and Wrentits. We spent a day at sea where we saw lots of fall seabird migrants, including Brown Booby, Flesh-footed Shearwater, and Cassin's Auklet, plus California Sea Lions and an Elephant Seal. We spent a morning birding in the hills east of town, and we spent the next day at the San Diego Natural History Museum.

So Cal Birding 2013-3

Southern California Birding 2013-3; October 21-23.

In late October, Liz and I did a 3-day birding loop through Southern California looking for rare birds. We started in San Diego, then drove east to the Salton Sea before looping home through Joshua Tree National Park. We never saw our target Yellow-green Vireo, but we did see Blue-footed Bobbies, a Bean Goose, a feral Flamingo, and a Yellow-footed Gull.

So Cal Birding 2

Southern California Birding 2013-2; October 11-14.

In mid-October, Liz and I went over to Ventura to do some offshore birding and hiking on Santa Cruz Island, part of the Channel Islands National Seashore. We had planned to camp on the island, but the Republicans in Congress shutdown the government and ruined our plans.

So Cal Birding

Southern California Birding 2013-1; September 24-25.

After birding all summer, Liz and I got the itch to chase rare birds, so when rare species started showing up in Los Angeles this fall, we held our breath (from memories of so much smog) and headed for the "Land of La." The traffic was bad at times, but it turned out we had a good time. We birded a couple of inland lakes, then continued over to the coast and and spent the night. In the morning, we did a half-day trip out to Anacapa Island (Channel Islands National Park), the headed for home. We came home with four North American Life Birds: Arctic Loon, Blue-footed Booby, Black-vented Shearwater, and Pink-footed Shearwater, plus Yellow-chrevroned Parakeet, a non-native species that is not yet ABA countable.

miter basin

Backpacking the Sierra Nevada Mountains; September 6-10, 2013.

My brother and I spent 5 days hiking in high-elevation areas of the southern Sierras just south of Mt. Whitney. We started at Horseshoe Meadow and hiked over the Sierra crest at Cottonwood Pass. Turning north, we hiked into Miter Basin where late-summer meadows were surrounded by towering granite peaks and Alpine Chipmunks and Gray-crowned Rosy Finches posed for photos. Looping south, we crossed back over the crest at Old Army Pass and dropped into Cottonwood Lakes basin, eventually making it back to Horseshoe Meadow.

The weather was less cooperative than we had hoped, but it was a great hike and a nice time with my little brother.


Oregon, Washington, and Alaska; July & August 2013.

Liz and I took 6 weeks and linked together four wonderful trips that took us to visit family, friends from long ago, and spectacular places with lots of wonderful birds.

We spent 10 days at sea on the Alaska Marine Highway (ferry system), 4 days with friends in a small fishing village, 3 days backpacking, a week car camping, and about a week with family in town and at the beach.

Wild highlights included many Black-footed Albatross, a dozen Killer Whales, a pod of 200 Pacific White-sided Dolphins, 50 Rufous Hummingbirds in the hand, several Olympic Marmots, a Short-tailed Weasel, a pair of dancing Sandhill Cranes, families of sea otters, mating swarms of purple olivella (sea snails) on beaches, thousands of Marbled Murrelets, and carpets of tundra covered with carnivorous plants.


Backpacking in Utah for Fireflies; June 2013.

In 2010, I hiked into Coyote Gulch with a Sierra Club group and documented the presence of fireflies near Jacob Hamblin Arch. I posted photos online, and over the last three years, I've been contacted by entomologists from around the country. Finally, I set up a trip to get a firefly expert to the site with the proper collecting permits.

Liz and I took a retired professor on a grand 3-day trip down Coyote Gulch. We collect three male fireflies for science and recorded notes on their behavior (e.g., timing of the flash pattern) and habitat. Hopefully our efforts will reveal a firefly new to science. The professor, at age 70, had always wanted to go backpacking; hopefully this won't be his last trip.

Oklahoma Birding

Birding Trip to Oklahoma, Texas, and Arizona; April 2013.

Liz and I took a 3-week road trip out to Oklahoma and Texas visiting family and doing some wonderful birding.

We headed east to northwest Oklahoma and attended the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival. We saw the prairie-chickens, then looped south into Texas and came home via southern Arizona.

We saw six life-birds along the way, visited four sets of relatives, camped in some scenic places, made some new friends, and generally had a grand time.

season's greetings

Annual Newsletter to Friends and Family; December 2012.

An annual review of our year and seasons greeting to friends and family.


Tanzania, East Africa; July 07 to August 01, 2012.

I spent most of July with my sister on a world-class adventure to East Africa. We spent most of our time in rural northern Tanzania. This was Safari Country, and I got to spend one grand day in Tarangire National Park watching lions, elephants, giraffes, and so many birds that I couldn't stand it any longer. We also spent a few days in Dar es Salaam on the southeast coast of the country.

Photo at left: bird watching with the locals in the mountains above Mbulu.

Transit of Venus

Transit of Venus; June 5, 2012.

Every now and then, something happens in the solar system that makes one pause, take a moment, gaze skyward, and think for a minute about our position in the cosmos.

Annular Eclipse

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge; May 20-21, 2012.

Liz and I headed north to Pahranagat NWR to be within the zone of 100% eclipse. In southern Nevada, the zone extended from about Coyote Springs northward (map), so driving to Pahranagat and camping out made for a nice overnight adventure.

We arrived about 1630 hrs and set up in the last available campsite. By eclipse time, two other parties crowded into our site and dozens of vehicles were parked along the lake. Our new friends had solar glasses, so we were able to watch the actual eclipse, which started about 1730 hrs, peaked about 1830 hrs, and was finished by 1930 hrs. Everyone left, so we had a quiet, peaceful night together.

sequoia national park

Sequoia National Park, California; May 2012.

Liz and I went to Sequoia National Park for a week of camping, hiking, and birding. The trip was a stroll down memory lane, as we had worked there during the five summers of 1982-1986 as Seasonal Park Rangers. It was nice to be back, and we were proud to have done our part in protecting this wonderful place.

After some 25 years, some things were the same, some things were different. The trees, meadows, and birds were still here. One of the main differences, however, was the bears. Before, bears were a constant source of irritation, property damage, and incident reports. This time, we saw lots of bears in the woods doing what bears do naturally: grazing in meadows, nursing young, and of course, pooping in the woods.

Birding Southeastern Arizona

Birding Southeastern Arizona; April-May 2012.

Liz and I took a relaxing trip to Southeastern Arizona, stopping with friends and visiting some of our favorite places along the way. We had no definite schedule and ended up spending 12 days away from home. The birding was good, as expected, and we picked up three lifebirds and a few new human friends.

Heading home from Florida

Heading Home from Florida; March 2012.

Beginning March 2 and continuing, I'm heading home from Florida bringing my mother to Las Vegas. We are taking the slow road home along the Gulf of Mexico to Texas, then will pick up the pace.

Jamaican Doctor Bird Jamaica Birding with the Humboldt State Alumni Association; January 2012.
Fall Trip to Oregon -- November 2011

Fall Trip to Oregon; November 2011.

During November, I took three weeks and traveled to Oregon to visit Family. I hoped to make it a big birding trip, so I birded a few local spots and some northern Nevada sites on the way north, but snowstorms put an end to that. I arrived at Silver Falls State Park at the end of the third day. My mother volunteers and lives in the park for 10 weeks every fall, so I stayed and visited with her for 8 nights. I then went farther north to Portland and stayed with my dad for 5 nights. Catching a break in the storms, I blasted home, spending one night on the road.

Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands; October 2011.

We joined a UNLV Continuing Education trip and went to Ecuador in a party of 15 for 10 days. We arrived in Quito (capital of Ecuador) and spent two nights in an eco-lodge in the Andes Mountains. We then flew some 600 miles off shore and stayed at the Galapagos for 5 busy days and 4 nights on a yacht. Returning to the mainland, we spent 3 more nights in eco-lodges.

The experience was wonderful, the scenery grand, and the birds unbelievable.

Metoluis River Backpack

Portland and Metolius River Backpack; August 2011.

At the end of August, Liz and I took 8 days and flew to Portland for a few days of visiting family and three days of backpacking with my brother and his family along the Metolius River. The hike was fun and the three kids had a great time. A large, nearby wildfire added smoke and a bit of wilderness uncertainty to the trip. We had time to spend a few days with Dad and Joe before and after the hike.


Road Trip to Colorado; July 2011.

During summer, we took two weeks and traveled to Colorado to visit Liz's brother and his wife at their family cabin. We had a nice time visiting with them in a scenic and relaxing situation, and learned a bit about southern Colorado. During the trip, we camped at Navajo National Monument, Great Sand Dunes National Park (very cool bugs!), Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Hovenweep National Monument, and several US Forest Service areas.

coral snake

Chronicle of recovery from the bite of a Texas Coral Snake; 2010-2011.

Here, only four minutes after the bite, we are heading for the car and I know I'm in big trouble. This page follows my treatment and recovery.

thanksgiving in texas

Thanksgiving in Texas; 2010.

Liz and I headed to Austin, Texas, for Thanksgiving with my siblings. We stopped in New Mexico to visit Liz's brother along the way. On the way home, we birded the Texas coast, Big Bend National Park, and southeastern Arizona. The trip suffered one major disruption when I picked up the wrong snake.

pipeline work Taking care of Desert Tortoises on a natural gas pipeline project.
yosemite Annual Backpacking Trip to Yosemite; August 2010.
Around the Bend Friends Slideshow

Around the Bend Friends Hiking Club slideshows. I used these powerpoint slides to accompany my 10-minute monthly talks.

Natural History of the Mojave Desert #1-4: Wandering about the Mojave Desert

Natural History of the Mojave Desert #5: The concept of life zones

coyote gulch

Backpacking Coyote Gulch; June 29 to July 4, 2010.

Backpacking with the Sierra Club in Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument and Glenn Canyon National Recreation Area. A dozen of us headed for the canyons of the Escalante to bask in the glory of red sandstone chasms, listen to the spring serenade of birds and toads, and skip through fish-filled sandy steams.

walking box ranch Care-taking at the Walking Box Ranch; September 2009.
unidentified scat

Unidentified Scat; April 2009.

This is a real question: Can you identify this specimen?

Death Valley

Death Valley National Park; February 2009.

A Week of Day Hikes.

Ted Wiens Tire and Auto

Great Local Business Goes Bad when Long-time Manger Retires; 2008.

Save your money, prevent stress and headaches, don't do business with Ted Wiens Firestone!


The Perfect Seasonal Job Goes Bad; Spring 2006.

The Perfect Seasonal Job Goes Bad when I refused to commit scientific fraud. Although this low-paying, seasonal job didn't work out, it played a pivotal role in my life by giving me incentive (a fun job) to finally leave my miserable but high-paying corporate job on the Yucca Mountain Project. If life remains good, I will never again work in a corporate cubicle.

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 180106

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