Posts with the category ‘Nature / Wildlife / Outdoors’


Spring Sights, Sounds and Smells, Coming Soon to a Garden Near You

April 13, 2018

For those awaiting the arrival of spring, the place to be is the Biltmore House & Gardens in Asheville, North Carolina. Over ten square miles you will find lush green hills dotted with still-bare trees whose branches are tipped in white, pink and purple. This vista of life rejuvenating convinced me that winter may finally be coming to an end. The six Biltmore gardens sit below America’s largest private residence, the place George and Edith Vanderbilt called home in the early 20th century. In early April, tulips create a riot of color barely restrained within the garden’s stone walls.  From this point of view, the… Read More…


More Thrills Than Just the Great Barrier Reef, As Bats Take to the Skies in Cairns

February 4, 2018

The most monumental fig trees I’ve ever seen, stand on the property of the Cairns Public Library in Queensland, Australia. These trees are such an impressive sight, it took my dazzled brain several minutes to notice that they were singing. In the thicket of deep glossy green, a high pitched-clamor prompted me to look for a cluster of noisy birds, but I was wrong. Very wrong. The Cairns library trees are a year-round roost site for thousands of bats, or what the Australians call Flying Foxes. Spectacled Flying Foxes and Little Red Flying Foxes spend their days hanging upside down (as they do), wrapped in… Read More…


In Bend, Oregon Stone Sculptures Go Flying Out of Creator’s Yard

December 27, 2017

Artist Greg Gifford of Bend, Oregon, sees inspiration where others might overlook it. He finds it on the ground. A decade ago, a hobby for stacking rocks turned into the retired school teacher’s creative second career. “The materials are really cheap,” Gifford said, adding another incentive to using this material over something else for his creations. Gifford first started playing with stones while camping on the beach in Baja with his wife Jan. Mornings they would fish or kayak and in the afternoons they would windsurf. In between, he would make rock stacks, seeking the most challenging, oddly-shaped rocks to see if he could make… Read More…


National Park Service Scenes Splash Across Northern California

August 26, 2017

Doris Dalbec is making use of the wheelchair her recently-deceased husband no longer needs; rolling herself back and forth from paint-laden table to the side of the visitors center at Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California. Oh, she can walk alright, but there’s a lot of up and down and side to side action when creating a mural 36 feet across and eight feet high. On the day I meet her, Dalbec was joined by Wanda Kirkpatrick and Nan Marie Stewart, three of many local painters who “leave ego aside” and work collaboratively on one enormous work of art. They are members of… Read More…


A Ride Through The Sky Even the Wright Brothers Couldn’t Imagine

August 10, 2017

Before the Wright Brothers mastered the air they were accomplished bike builders and competitive cyclists. All this was brought to my attention this Spring when on assignment for Air & Space magazine, I traveled for seven days by bike exploring the history of aviation in and around Dayton, the Wright’s hometown. You can read the full story here. Now, little more than a century later, we barely think twice about getting on an airplane on one side of the world and arriving on the other. The same cannot be said about biking in the sky. That is why I have a clear recollection of the… Read More…


My Growing Affection for All That Flies

May 1, 2017

For the past two decades I’ve had a passion for things that fly and that’s as it should be considering writing about aviation is how I make my living. How birds arrived on my radar screen is not so clear, but on a trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama, I took a bike tour of Gulf State Park with Ted Floyd, the editor of the magazine of the American Birding Association. As we pedaled along I was captivated by a beautiful grey blue northern mockingbird and a loggerhead shrike that was perched at the top of a long dead tree. Shortly after that, a bald eagle flew… Read More…


Iceland Bared, Three Ways to See What It’s Made Of

October 22, 2016

“If you get lost in the forest in Iceland, just stand up,” or so the joke goes. Iceland has many natural wonders, but forests are not among them. You are much more likely to get lost among the volcanic rocks which pile atop each other over vast distances. Covered by snow in winter, lichen in fall and awash in purple Lupina in the summer, the bones of the face of Iceland have a seasonal sameness. I’ve visited Iceland five times in as many years, including a visit in July for this story for The New York Times. But after a conference here this week, I took two days and… Read More…


A Day at the Beach, a Pinch at Dinner on Hong Kong’s Lamma Island

May 29, 2016

On a steamy but sunny Sunday in Hong Kong, I packed a swimsuit, an umbrella (to ward off rain) and a hotel hand towel, in the thoughtfully-provided nylon carry bag left in my room at the East Hotel and headed for the ferry to spend a day on Lamma Island. This is not just a place to go swimming, it is a hilly walk through fecund forests where every break in the trees yields another spectacular view of small, colorful structures tumbling down the hills and flag-bearing fishing boats bobbing on the water. Just twenty minutes across the water from super-bustling Hong Kong, it is the antithesis of Asia urban, a… Read More…


My Terrible/Wonderful Typically Australian Day

April 23, 2016

No irregular rider goes out on a horse without expecting sore muscles the next day. The price seems well worth it, however, because there’s nothing to compare with the get-back-to-nature nature of horseback riding and doubly so when the destination is Victoria’s St. Andrews Beach, a wild stretch of dunes and energetic surf on the Mornington Peninsula. Early one recent morning, I saddled up for a ride with a group and guide at Gunnamatta Trail Rides. We were given a safety briefing and helmets and then I was assisted into the saddle of a tranquil horse named Banjo. With me atop, he obediently he took his place in a line of horses… Read More…


A Train Called the Lunatic Express

March 31, 2016

When I remember Kenya, I will think of trains. Not because I saw so many of them on my recent visit and not because I traveled in one. But the Kenya the world knows today would not exist except for a rail line that, during its design and construction, was considered such a bad idea it was dubbed the Lunatic Line. Maybe it was crazy and maybe it was not. There are arguments on either side. All of which you can explore at Nairobi’s Railway Museum. I was lucky enough to have an interview with the museum curator, Elias Randiga, an excellent storyteller who kept me spellbound as… Read More…


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