An Interesting Day, but not all that unusual for life in Durango

It was quite an interesting day, but then again every day in Durango is new, different and interesting.

Marilyn woke up this morning before 6 AM and realized that I was not in bed. She noticed a light on in my office, but I was not in there. She then searched all over the house (even in closets) thinking that something might have happened to me. She thought that maybe I had had a heart attack or stroke and had wandered off in a daze. While downstairs she noticed that my old winter down jacket was missing from its hook. She let Duffy out the East door and called me – still no response. Then they went out the West door and finally found me photographing the Super Blue Blood Moon!

It was the first total lunar eclipse since 2015 and the first Super Blue Blood Moon visible from the U.S. since 1866! There was a thin layer of high cirrus clouds and the moon eventually dropped down into thicker clouds and disappeared, but I did manage to get a few okay photos through the thin cloud layer. Canon 500mm/f4.0+ 1.4x, Canon 7D Camera, ISO 1600, -0.33 exposure compensation. f/5.6. Exposures 1 sec. to 0.4 sec.

Then in the late morning we arrived at the Snowdown’s Fashion Do’s and Don’ts’.

Snowdown is Durango’s crazy week-long winter festival. The Fashion Do’s and Don’ts’ is a rather wild noisy event attended by over 600 people. The theme for Snowdown this year is “It’s a Black Tie Affair”. Photos taken with my Samsung Galaxy S5.


Prizes were awarded for the best dressed, worst dressed, funniest costume, best theme and the costume grand prize. I’m not sure which one Marilyn and I won, but we were the last ones announced and we were awarded a $100 gift certificate to Guido’s Pizza Pasta Panini. Guido’s is a restaurant, bar, gelateria and market (gastronomia). Thank you Guido’s!!!!

Then when I got home this afternoon from walking Duffy there were four big bucks in our yard. They did not cooperate so never got all four in one photo. Image taken through the kitchen window (again with the Samsung cell phone).

Total Solar Eclipse ———— 21 August, 2017

Why I Wake Early
by Mary Oliver

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

Over two years ago, I contacted friends Milt and Kathleen May, living near Driggs, Idaho,  and informed them that the center line of a total solar eclipse of the sun was going to pass directly over their house on August 21, 2017 and could we please come and park our camper in their yard.  Milt and Kathleen were not aware of the event, but enthusiastically offered up their hospitality.  Since then, of course, the whole Teton Valley which is located on the western slope of the Teton Mountain Range – and indeed the whole country – eventually became abuzz with eclipse fever.

Marilyn, Duffy and I drove our camper up through Colorado, Utah and Wyoming with a brief stop in the Tetons. Eventually we ended up in Idaho where Milt and Kathleen were the most gracious and welcoming of hosts.  Friends soon arrived from Colorado, Oklahoma and California and a splendid festive time was had by all.

Two days before the eclipse Marilyn, Duffy and I hiked the Teton Canyon Overlook trail starting out from base of the Grand Targhee Ski Area and ended with a grand view of the Tetons to the East.

Mariliyn and Duffy with Grand Tetons in the Background 9872

To photograph the different phases of the eclipse, I bought a 92mm solar filter from Thousand Oaks Optical. This filter fit on my Kowa TSN 833N angled 88mm Prominar spotting scope with a 25-60x eyepiece.  I attached a Canon 70D to the scope using a special adapter.  In addition, I bought a step up ring so that the filter could also be used on my Canon 100-400mm with a Canon 7D camera.

Here’s first contact taken through the Kowa spotting scope:

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First Contact, Total Solar Eclipse, Prior to Totality, August 21, 2017, Driggs, Idaho, USA, North America

Here are a couple of more images as the eclipse progressed:

Total Solar Eclipse 9896W1WMTotal Solar Eclipse 9898W1WM


The following photos were taken with the Canon 100-400mm lens

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And this one was taken seconds before totality:

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For totality, Marilyn unscrewed the solar filter on the 100-400mm lens while I kept photographing.  Here’s a few images of the Diamond Ring Effect (also called Bailey’s Beads) as totality occurred.  This phenomena occurs when the moon covers the sun, but some sunlight streams through the craters and valleys of the moon’s surface.  You can also notice solar flares in the top right.

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Diamond Ring at beginning, Total Solar Eclipse, Auguat 21, 2017, Driggs, Idaho, USA, North America
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Diamond Ring at beginning, Total Solar Eclipse, Auguat 21, 2017, Driggs, Idaho, USA, North America
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Diamond Ring at beginning, Total Solar Eclipse, Auguat 21, 2017, Driggs, Idaho, USA, North America

Here are a few other exposures taken during totality with the 100-400mm lens

Total Solar Eclipse, Auguat 21, 2017, Driggs, Idaho, USA, North AmericaTotal Solar Eclipse, Auguat 21, 2017, Driggs, Idaho, USA, North America

During totality I was also able to take photos with my Canon 500/f4 lens with a Canon 1.4 adapter with a Canon 70D camera.

Total Solar Eclipse, Auguat 21, 2017, Driggs, Idaho, USA, North AmericaTotal Solar Eclipse, Auguat 21, 2017, Driggs, Idaho, USA, North America

The last photo also shows another Diamond Ring Effect as totality ended:

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Here are a few photos taken after totality showing the moon moving off of the sun’s disc:

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Ending of Total Solar Eclipse 9104W1WM
This one was taken with the Canon 100-400mm lens

And here is a final image showing the last little bit of the moon in front of the sun:

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Ending of Total Solar Eclipse, August 21, 2017, Driggs, Idaho, USA, North America

After a delicious lunch, we packed up and headed home since I was scheduled to fly to Africa on the 25th.  About 5 miles north of Idaho Falls we hit stop and go traffic.  We then became enmeshed in an epic exodus of eclipse viewers headed south on Interstate 15.  It took us about eight hours to go 80 miles.  We finally ended up staying in our camper at a truck stop south of Pocatello, Idaho.

Here are a few photos taken at a rest area south of Idaho Falls.  One photo shows the line of people for the restrooms and the other shows the line of cars on the Interstate.

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Driving home after total eclipse, Line for the bathroom at rest area south of Idaho Falls, ID on Interstate 15
Traffic after total solar eclipse on Inerstate 15 south of Idaho Falls, Idaho
Traffic after total solar eclipse on Inerstate 15 south of Idaho Falls, Idaho


An Enjoyable day of Photography and Hiking (not only that it was my Birthday)

The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.  – Rachel Carson

Marilyn was out of town so in the morning I spent a bit of time watching and photographing a pair of House Wrens.  They are very common birds, but their behavior was really interesting.  The male prepares several preliminary sites with nests that are not completed. He sings, attracts a mate and then she goes around and checks out the nesting sites, chooses one and later finishes the nest with a softer lining.  Several days ago they were at one nesting box on my property, the next day a different one, and then back to the first nesting box.

What was really interesting was that one of them (I think the male) would bring sticks to the box to make the nest.  When it arrived at the hole in the nest box the stick was much too long to get in the hole.  To get the stick in the hole it would either turn its head sideways so that one end of the stick would pass into the hole or it would juggle the stick in its bill so that it was no longer holding the stick in the middle, but rather further down on one end which was now shorter. It could then pass the shorter end through the hole and into the box.

For some reason I found the whole (hole!!!) experience fascinating.  Each stick presented a new challenge and it was interesting to see how this most common of birds handled each new problem.

I nicknamed the female Sophia La Wren and the male Christopher Wren.
And then in the afternoon Duffy and I did our Tom and Atticus thing.
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Duffy Feeling Frisky and Running
We hiked up on snow to Andrews Lake (elevation 10,744ft) and a bit beyond.
Duffy at Andrews Lake 9407W1WM
We had the mountains all to ourselves and didn’t see another person during the entire hike.

Are you ready to go home, my friend?” With that he turned from the river where he had been staring off into the distance, and he entered the shadowy path through the forest. He was headed for home and the bed by the open window. That’s where he always slept and where the night noises came and went until the light of a new day crept over the eastern mountains and slowly spread across the sky leaving the shadows one finds in the beginning, and not at the end. – Tom Ryan

Duffy Hike to Andrews Lake 9402W1WM

Elk in the ‘hood

The local community must understand itself finally as a community of interest – a common dependence on a common life and a common ground.  And because a community is, by definition, placed, its success cannot be divided from the success of its place, its natural setting and surroundings: it soils, forests, grasslands, plants and animals, water, light, and air.  The two economies, the natural and the human, support each other; each is the other’s hope of a durable and livable life.  – Wendell Berry

Every night, before going to bed, I always get up, turn off the heat and check the outside to see what the weather is doing and what animals might be hanging around.

Upon looking out the South windows, I noticed a series of tracks cutting across the meadow below the house.  It was then that I saw the rumps of six elk gathered under a pinyon pine to the Southeast.  They were there for only about 10 minutes before moving off.

We’ve seen much larger herds of elk from the house a number of times, but they are always “across the way” in the Bodo Wildlife Area, but this was the first time we’ve seen them here at the house – and the first recorded on the trail cam.

The trail cam photo shows that it is still set for Daylight Savings Time.  (My negligence).  The vertical streaks are caused by snow falling.


 The color photo was taken at ISO 10,000 through a  window and was lit by two floodlights to the South.

Elk, Cervus canadensis, La Plata County Colorado, USA, North America
Elk, Cervus canadensis, La Plata County Colorado, USA, North America

“Over days, years and generations, animals roam. They look for food, mates and new territories to inhabit. They roam seasonally as food sources change. They move to survive local disasters. They move to survive the winter and to find locations with enough food to fatten up for breeding and raising young. They roam over several generations, repopulating decimated habitat or settling new areas. Living things move out of necessity. In many cases they must migrate or they will perish. Migration and motion are the nature of nature; native species cannot survive over time in the islands of habitat we have allotted them. In the world of nature, it is essential that things flow.” – Susan Eirich

Happy New Year!!!

Our Active Ungulate Neighbors

Active ungulate interaction outside our windows on a Winter’s morn.  (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

Audrey and the Invisible – a very short story

I just came across this in an old file folder.   Hand-written many years ago – probably sometime when I was in my 20s or 30s.

Climbing Gear

Somewhere out and about halfway past the security bolt, amidst the swirling storm, Audrey snuffed it out.  Brand new EBs and all. She lost it. She popped her pieces under a ragged roof and zippered the overhang.

 As I look back now, I can remember the kaleidoscope of thoughts that rushed through me then:  “Anchor’s good.  It should hold. But she’s way above it and it won’t make any difference.  Ever the risk-taker.  My belay is useless.”

 Cold snows and ancient spirits flew at me from different corners of the rock – opposite and distant.  I can remember shivering uncontrollably.  I couldn’t believe what had happened.

 Kennedy, King and Khrushchev were still alive, when we first met years ago.   We finally hooked up and spent our time in the mountains.  We loved to read books and cook food and go climbing together.  And coming home late at night we’d walk down the old path toward the cabin, chocks rhythmically chiming, and watch silently, like monks, our Vibrams in the dust.  “Does anyone know the Truth about anything?” we’d ask ourselves.  We never owned a television set.

 There was a large pine tree that was over 200 years-old outside the kitchen window.  “I wonder if it remembers the passenger pigeons,” she had whispered early one morning.




Note for those readers who don’t know what EBs are: 

EB stands for Edouard Bourdonneau , the french master boot maker , who , together with Pierre Allain , manufactured the first climbing shoe in 1947 .
During the fifties , he created the brand EB which became the “gold standards” of climbing rock shoes in the sixties and seventies .
The brand died in 1986 after the arrival of the spanish made”Firé ” and its sticky rubber which rendered the “old” EB obsolete .
But , in 1992 , with a new owner , EB started again to manufacture climbing shoes ( although very different from its ancestors…)up to this day …

   by Xavier Legendre, Sports Climber, Marseille – quoted from the internet


Sunday Morning

I spent Sunday morning with some new friends searching for American Dippers along the rushing snow-melted torrents of the upper Animas above Silverton.  We were doing research for the American Dipper Project locating nests and bird activity to help document healthy sections of the beleaguered river.  It was a good place to be following the news of the tragedy in Orlando.

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American Dipper, Cinclus mexicanus, Animas River, La Plata County, Colorado, USA, North America

John Muir wrote of the American Dipper that they “seem so completely part and parcel of the streams they inhabit, they scarce suggest any other origin than the streams themselves; and one might almost be pardoned in fancying they come direct from the living waters, like flowers from the ground.”

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American Dipper, Cinclus mexicanus, Animas River, La Plata County, Colorado, USA, North America

I have no answers for days like this when evil seems to overshadow kindness and innocent lives are violently killed by hatred and ignorance. I have no answers, but it seemed a good place to be Sunday morning in the mountains among friends and raging rivers and the diminutive dippers.

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American Dipper, Cinclus mexicanus, Animas River, La Plata County, Colorado, USA, North America

Wendell Berry once wrote,

“I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought or grief. I come into the presence of …water.  And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

American Dipper 8115W8WM



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