White ibis

White ibis
Ibis

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Looking Back at 2014: Adventures with Old and New Friends

This has been the best year for meeting new friends. I met six precious new friends this year. I also had some great visits from old friends.

The new year found me working at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.   Cindy, the manager of the Visitor Center and keeper of the web page and Facebook entries, started inviting me to go on photographic excursions.  She even invited me to join her at Crystal River to swim with the manatees. When her back gave her serious trouble,  I mowed her yard. By the time I left we were friends.  She worked at Dinosaur National Monument this summer and I visited her on my way south. I keep up  with her via her blog and Facebook.

Cindy setting up in the boneyard at Jekyll Island

Cindy and me as I was leaving Dinosaur Park

I was working the desk one day when a lady called with questions about paddling and camping in the refuge.  She had a bubbly personality and really intrigued me when she told me she and her Dad were planning to do the last section of the Suwannee  river.  I immediately asked her to be a guest blogger and write about her experience since I knew I would not get to go this time.

Later we met after she invited me to join her on a camping trip on the Altamaha River.  Then she invited me to stay with her as I was leaving Oke and do another paddle. I rushed to pack so I could leave a day early and spend two nights and a day with her. Now Julie and I are keeping up via Facebook until we met again - which I expect will be next winter.


Starting out on a camping trip with Julie


Landing our the sand bar we camped on

Me on South Fork. a stream near Julie's house


Julie on same trip
I met another lady, Laurel, while running the Visitor Center. That evening I went out on the tour boat and met up with her again.  We are both birders and photographers and bonded over the consistently wrong bird identification by our tour guide.  Then she invited me to visit her in Edisto Island, SC and took me paddling, birding, and beach walking.  Of course we each took several hundred pictures and enjoyed seeing a slide show of our best ones before I left. She was definitely a lady with the energy to almost wear me out!  I THINK I'm going to get her to come visit me this spring so I can show her migration in Texas  - and send her on a paddle or two with my friends, since my shoulder won't be ready to paddle yet.


Laurel in one of her pair of kayaks on one of two paddles we did

A new local volunteer came to work at Okefenokee.  We only got to work together a couple of days but found we loved each other and had hilarious times working as wandering docents together. I'm hoping to see Barbara over and over since she and her husband are looking forward to becoming resident volunteers as soon as they sell their house.

Barbara saving a turtle nest  - I stole this from her Facebook timeline. 

I talked to a couple several times while working in the Visitor Center.  They were from Wisconsin and Mary was an avid birder and photographer.  One morning I went birding before going to work and ran into her.  We spent several hours together, both before and during my "work" as a wandering docent,  and now keep up via Facebook. I'm trying to convince her to make a small detour and come visit me on her way back to Georgia for the winter.


Mary and me - I had to pick up a truck and "work" and she followed me around to each photo stop

And I had a few visitors.  Pat, an old friend and paddling buddy came over to paddle in the swamp and also on St. Mary's river. We had a great week of paddling together.


Pat and I leaving our first shelter in Okefenokee - I proved it's
possible to leap into the canoe and look like I was paddling in
the 10 seconds before the camera snapped the picture - see we are still
tied up - only took about 5 tries.

Kyle worked with me at National Bison Range. Of the three of us who shared the bunkhouse, I was the only one with a car, so I took the guys with me to shop and sometimes to play. I also taught them both to drive a standard. Kyle and his girlfriend, Sylvie, were going to school in Jackson, Florida, so came up and spent a day with me.


Kyle and Sylvie on a tour boat at Okefenokee

Another pair of friends came, with friends of their own, to paddle in the swamp and ate supper with me.


Anita on the left and Bill on the right with the friends they are about to paddle
off into the swamp with 

I left Okefenokee to head to Galveston to visit several doctors before going up to Montana.  I had to stop to visit one of my oldest friends - both in age and in years of friendship - Hulin. He is a fantastic cook and made me crawfish etouffee, one of my favorite dishes.   I earlier had come back from Okefenokee NWR during the New Year Holidays to help celebrate his 90th birthday.


Hulin and his crawfish etouffee 

The last big trip I did before starting ny northward migration was my annual pilgrimage to South Llano River State Park to celebrate birds and paddling in the midst of friends from across Texas.  We had a  small group this year, compared to some years but I thought it was just the right size.


Most of the group supper bunch

Winnie always brings me my old white water kayak I gave her

This is the paddle on the lower part of the river

Several weeks after I got to Red Rock Lakes, new volunteers showed up with THREE boats on top of their truck.  As soon as I ascertained that there were  only two of them, I invited myself on all their future paddles. (That was about three sentences past saying hello.)  Both Chari and Steve are fantastic photographers, and. love hiking, paddling, and birding. They are WAY more into living completely in the moment than I've been able to achieve.  We had lots of fun adventures together and I keep up with them via Chari's blog.

Chari trying to photograph an eagle on Elk Lake

Chari on our Summer Soltice Walk

Steve photographing an unoccupied golden eagle nest

My friend, Teri, who I met when we both were volunteers  at Malheur NWR, came to visit me and also took me on the Centennial Valley Raptor Count. We drove over 100 miles and found some great birds. We also visited the Bear and Wolf Center in West Yellowstone.


Teri on the bear sofa in the gift shop of the Bear and Wolf Center

My friend, Natalie,  also visited me and had some good times with Chari and Steve. She had her own boat because she was on the way to a week of rivers in the Grand Tetons. So we took her paddling on the one day they and I shared off. We also visited Quake Lake and learned all about the horrible earthquake near Yellowstone.


Natalie and Cheri on Henry's Fork of the Snake River

And when I saw that Guy and Trisha were coming to Yellowstone, I talked them into driving about another 30 miles and visiting me an afternoon and night.  We had a great time birding and then we shared supper at their campsite.  They tried fishing before they left, but were unsuccessful.


Trish, me and Gay at Lower Red Rock Lake

I also went to the Rocky Mountain National Park for a long weekend, since it was only 600 miles away, to have a quick visit with my friend Carole. She lives in Houston and we have a mutual friend who invited her to join us for a week of camping and hiking in Yellowstone a few years ago.  She is a volunteer at Rocky Mountain NP.

Carol on a hike on the Ute Trail
About ten days after this trip, it was time to pack up and move to the National Bison Range.  I dropped off my stuff and then Justin, an intern working there. took me to Missoula to catch a plane to Ottawa to visit my daughter Karen and son-in-law, Francesco for several days.  The kids took me a few places and gave me a bus ticket to travel around Ottawa and Gatineau.  On one weekend, we visited a huge park and demonstration garden.  The other weekend, we visited Montreal Botanical Garden, the Insectarium, and the Olympic Tower.


The kids in  the funicular going up the Olympic Tower to the Observatory


Karen in the demonstration garden in Ottawa

And after I got to National Bison Range in September, another Texas/Montana friend, Kathy, came to spend a few days.  Both of us are birders and we had a lovely visit to Lee Metcalf NWR, one of the best birding areas in the Missoula area.  We were supposed to meet up at Caddo Lake but she got detained in Montana by a misbehaving central heater.  Hopefully I'll get down to visit my Corpus Christi friends in late January or February and see her then.


Kathy looking at ducks

So I was blessed all year with friends old and new. It really is true that, if you adopt a travelling life, you get to keep your old friends, but will also find lots more of the kind of people you enjoy the most.