Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Michael Chamberlain Painting

Recently, I had the following very cool e-mail from Northern California artist Michael Chamberlain ( "Love your photos! I'm writing to ask permission to use one of your duck photos as inspiration for a painting I plan on doing. I want to paint ducks (I had one when I was a kid), but I don't have any nearby to refer to."

Naturally, I said "yes." This is his painting and my original image that he used for inspiration.

I am very flattered!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Kids and Kamping

Last week, Bill and I loaded the car with camping gear and two of our grandsons, Zachary and Camron and headed up into the mountains.

We rented two tents, four sleeping bags, four ground pads, cooler, water jug and two lanterns from Peterson Air Force Base. Their rates are hard to beat and the equipment is top notch.

We parked our car and gear at The Crags Campground on the backside of Pikes Peak and headed out on a 5 mile hike to the top of the Crags.

The scenery was beautiful!

As we gained elevation, there were more rocks - no, more huge boulders. Zachary and Camron decided to climb this one. They are just tiny specks in this picture.

Zachary and Granny posing for the camera. Zachary is my first grandchild, but not my oldest as I've gained a few along the way.

Another rock formation with a cave that begged to be explored. The boys, with their boundless energy took lots of side trips up and down, over and back. They probably walked twice as far as we did!

This is a Gray Jay - a common bird of the Rockies - but my first sighting. The locals call them "camp robbers" because they will swoop in and steal any food that is left unattended.

Zachary was enjoying some trail mix. Several Gray Jays came in for a closer look and before we knew it, one was eating right out of Zachary's hand!

Zachary and Camron had a great time sharing their snack!

Granny decided it looked like fun so she had to try it too.

Towards the top, Zachary stopped for a short rest. Zach lives in Pennsylvania so I don't get to see him as often as I would like. This past week was special - but next time he will have to stay longer!

The last part of the hike was more challenging with steeper climbs. The elevation was around 11,000 feet.

Almost to the top. The trees at this elevation looked like bonsai with their growth stunted from the elevation and lack of oxygen; trunks and limbs were twisted and weathered from the winds. The bunch of flowers that look like they are growing out of solid rock were beautiful.

Once we reached the summit the views were spectacular in every direction.

There were lots of cute ground squirrels begging for attention (and trail mix!)

Again, Zachary shared his snack. After enjoying the views and the critters, we headed back down the trail - hoping to get back to camp before the afternoon storms. We just made it!

The rain stopped as quickly as it started and we set up camp. The boys pitched their tent on the other side of a small stream from the main campground area where Bill and I set up our tent. Naturally, they had to work together and build a stone bridge over the creek. Camron brought his BB gun so next they had target practice. I was really proud of our little sharp shooters when they both hit a very small plastic cup with their first shots!

We needed lots of firewood! Zachary and Camron cut down a couple small dead trees in the woods and, with a little help from Bill, cut them into logs. We had a small saw and ax and both came in very handy. The camp host stopped by with a chain saw just as we were finishing up so the boys quickly cut down another tree and let him cut it up with the chain saw. Now, we had a nice wood pile!

The boys built the fire, getting the coals nice and hot so Bill could cook a delicious dinner of pork, baked beans and baked potatoes. Boy was it wonderful! For dessert we had s'mores - toasting marshmallows over the campfire. It was getting cooler and the heat from the fire felt good.

By nightfall, we were exhausted and headed into our tents. I had not slept in a tent in probably 40 years. The ground was MUCH further away than I remembered. Getting down on the ground and back up was a challenge.

No sooner had we settled in when the skies opened up, the rain started falling and the thunder and lightning bounced around the mountains. It was quite a show - and tell. Fortunately, we stayed warm and somewhat dry in our cozy sleeping bags inside the tents. Morning was a long way off - but we did manage to get a little sleep. At one point I was sure there was a bear in the tent with me - but it was just Bill snoring.

The next morning, while the boys slept in, Bill worked in the left-over drizzle to try and get the fire re-started so he could cook breakfast. It was quite a chore but a can of "Boy Scout fluid" later, it was burning nicely.

But by the time the sun came out, he had the coffee perking and all was good with the world. Our breakfast of bacon, fried potatoes and fried eggs was the best I've ever eaten. There is something special about food cooked over an open campfire.

The ground was still pretty wet, so instead of doing more hiking or geocaching, we took down the tents, packed up our gear and headed back down the mountain towards home. It was a fun experience and I look forward to the next time - but we might have to get an air mattress to help make the ground just a little softer for these old bones of mine.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

ANA Summer Seminar

Son John was in town last week to teach a class on Colonial Numismatics at the ANA Summer Seminar at Colorado College. His co-instructor was Erik Goldstein, numismatic curator at Colonial Williamsburg.

The boys look like they could be brothers. Despite their casual look, they are very professional and extremely knowledgeable. I attended a couple of sessions and the class couldn't get enough. It was fascinating! I'm very proud of them both.

During the week, Johnny joined us for dinner several times and brought friends from the seminar with him and we all had a great time.

The weather has been beautiful, so we spend a lot of time outside. Mr. Robin had just taken a bath in the pond.

The juvenile Robins have fledged. Look at his speckled breast - it almost looks like a different bird.

We've seen a couple of Black-headed Grosbeaks at the feeders.

The Lesser Goldfinches are plentiful and there are always several at the feeders or getting a drink from the birdbath. The Lesser variety is smaller than the American Goldfinch and has more greenish-black on its back.

A butterfly stops to enjoy the yellow flowers.

I love the colors in this shot.

On one of our walks over in the park, we saw a large group of these tiny non-descript grey birds flitting around in the pine scrub. I've decided it is a Bushtit. I'm sure we've seen them before, but this is the first time I've really identified one.

We hadn't been out geocaching in a while, so decided to locate a couple of new caches that have recently been placed in Palmer Park. Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunt where someone hides a container then publishes the coordinates ( and other cachers try to find it. Inside the cache, there is always a paper log to sign and date. Some of the larger caches have trinkets you can trade or travel bugs you move along to another cache. Everything gets recorded on the website. World wide, there are over a million caches. This is a very popular, family friendly sport that gets you outside in the fresh air.

This is a picture of GZ (geocache talk for ground zero) the place where our GPS unit indicates the first stash is located. Once there, it can be anywhere up to about 25 feet from GZ - and can be on the ground, in a tree or hidden in a hole in the rock ledge. They cannot be buried. I was down to the right with the GPS indicating I was within 5 feet - as the crow flies. Elevation is not part of the formula - so we had to climb up on the rocks another 15 to 20 feet to get 3 feet closer.

Then we look for something out of place - or a likely location to hide a very small container. We found a small pill box behind the rock. Inside was the log where we signed our geocache name (gailandbill) to show we found it.

While walking, we found another geode - a rock that is hollow inside - perfect to hide a cache in. We took it home and Bill made the hole a little wider and we put a small pillbox that I covered with camouflage-colored duck tape inside. We named it Bublenut (the GPS unit only has space for a 7 letter name, so we dropped the other "b" in "bubble") and hid it in plain site just off a trail in Palmer Park - on the ground with a couple of other rocks. The hollow rock is the one on the upper left. Inside is the log and instructions - just in case someone finds it by accident. Non-geocachers are called "muggles" like in the Harry Potter books. Bublenut was published after dark on July 4th and the FTF (first-to-find) located it at first light the next morning.

Back in the park, the hummingbirds are thick. My challenge is trying to get a picture where the light is at just the right angle that the iridescent colors show.

This little guy has a bright red gorget (throat) but it looks black unless it is reflecting the sun.

I also saw another Violet-green Swallow perched in a tree begging to have his picture taken. Beautiful bird!

Son John left yesterday to fly back to New York City where the temperatures are over 100 degrees and the humidity is just as high. Here in Colorado Springs, today is cool with highs around 60 and humidity at 15%. A cold front came through last night with hail the size of golf balls and lots of rain - but today the skies are clear and blue. I think I'll take a hike!