Just after the Independence Day holiday in the United States I ventured off to Western Wisconsin with an old time friend from college to explore the Lost Lake area in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. This was my first time camping in a national forest and this was a great spot for my first attempt. I’ve read that if you’re going to a National Park you should often check out a nearby national forest for accommodations which are often more available and can be more affordable.
The cabins at Lost Lake were renovated in 2012 under the federal stimulus and provide a fun and affordable trip in well kept facilities in the beautiful Northwood’s of Wisconsin. The cabin we stayed in can accommodate up to 6 people with plenty of room. Fortunately the weather was absolutely perfect with daytime temperatures in the lower 80’s Fahrenheit for enjoying the area lakes and cooling off to the upper 50’s during the night for great evening sleeping.
There are several lakes in the area to explore but we always returned to Lost Lake for some swimming, fishing, and wildlife watching. It’s a small lake which does not allow any boat motors keeping it peaceful for all to enjoy either by swimming, fishing, or kayaking. I would get up at sunrise or shortly there after to enjoy the calm, quiet lake and watch a local loon or eagles fishing. A great break from the busy daily routines I’m commonly use to.
One of the creatures in abundance at Lost Lake are a frogs which can be heard throughout the day and into the night. Once I figured out what they looked like under the water with only their heads peering out at me it got a little frightening. At one point I counted over twenty frogs staring at me and several times more than a dozen just watching me. I was certain there would be nightmares about frogs attaching me during the night but fortunately that did not happen. Large bullfrogs can be found and heard all around the lake. I kept waiting for them to say ‘bud’ with another answering with ‘wise’ with ‘errrrr’ being croaked off in the distance. For those who don’t know this was a commercial created for Budweiser many years ago.
After enjoying a fire near the cabin one night I ventured down by the water to take in the night sky. The number of stars shining and reflecting in the water was just breathtaking. My plan was to take a few pictures and retreat to bed for the night as it had been a long day and I wanted to get up for the sunrise the next morning. After photographing and enjoying the night sky with peaceful sounds of frogs for over an hour I decided it was time to call it quits. After a few hours of some great sleep I drug myself out of bed to watch the sun appear over the horizon the next (actually the same) morning.
Light began showing in the sky way too early in July in Northern Wisconsin. I ended up getting out of bed at 4:45 in the morning with plenty of light to see my way from the cabin to the lake to witness the sun coming up an hour later. While I only got just under 4 hours of sleep that night there was no hint of being tired as the morning was so calm and peaceful it almost didn’t feel real. Fortunately I have photos that tell me otherwise. Clouds didn’t cooperate in the morning to provide one of those amazing sunrises with a colorful sky and while there was some fog on the lake I was hoping for more. Still watching the world come to life with birds moving to and fro while the loon and eagles began to wake up and start searching for food was well worth getting up for. Besides, if there were clouds for the sunrise there probably would have been clouds blocking all the stars just hours before.
During one of our afternoon just relaxing by the lake I brought my camera with the longest lens I have just in case there was something to capture. The resident loon kept its distance preventing a nice close up shot but that was ok. I was taking a picture of some of the frogs staring back at me when my college friend called out my name with a bit of a sense of urgency. I was all set up for my photo when he called again with a bit louder tone in his voice telling me I needed to look up only to see and eagle incoming. Turning the camera towards this majestic bird I focused in on it just in case it got closer and dove into the water in search of a fish. Shortly after I got focused in on it, the eagle did begin a quick descent towards the water only to grab a fish and retreat to a nearby tree to consume its fresh catch. Looking back at the camera I realized I caught this with a couple of frames which was fun to see even if it was from across the lake. Zooming out a little further I saw the reaction of a couple of kids floating at the beach as this eagle dove down right in front of them. What a sight that must have been! One of my favorite photos from our time at Lost Lake. It was such a great time I’m going back in September to do it again before camping season comes to a close.
Dragonflies are such interesting insects often darting here and there riding the air currents as they hunt. Occasionally they land for a moment or two allowing a photo to be taken. This one seems to be looking back wondering what this big eye (camera lens) looking straight at it is doing. The colors and details of dragonflies are quite diverse and fun to look at when you get an opportunity. I believe this one is called a 12 spotted skimmer due to the spots on its wings all of which are not visible in this photograph. I was surprised by all of the hair covering the main portion of its body. Almost like a bumble bee. A fun subject to photograph.
While spending some time on the Big Island of Hawaii there are numerous things to see and do and one of those items is to walk on the green sand beach. This is becoming more and more popular for a number of reasons. One of those is that this is one of only four green sand beaches in the world making it very unique. Another is getting there has become easier due to transportation availability. You can choose to pay for a ride unless you have a 4 wheel drive vehicle, which is definitely required, or you can hike the 3 miles one way to get there.
Our group decided to take both options. Some payed for a taxi ride both ways, some used a taxi for one direction, and others hiked both directions. These “taxi’s”, which are 4 x 4 vehicles, cost us $15 per person round trip or $10 per person one way. They save a lot of time and make this beach more accessible which is both a good and bad thing in my opinion. I chose to hike both directions because the scenery is incredibly beautiful and I’m able to physically handle this hike. Just remember to bring plenty of water to drink and sunscreen or this can turn into a miserable experience. In the photo above you can see the views while walking next to the ocean. On the right side of the photo is the trail leading from the boat landing, where this journey begins, with a few people walking over the ridge. Unfortunately they are pretty hard to see due to the size of the photo. In the very top picture you can see the beginning of the trail with a boat landing in the little bay. Again the boat landing is difficult to make out in this photo but you can see buoys in the water directing boats into the landing.
After walking over some fairly rough terrain for over an hour due to many distracting views along the way we came upon this beautiful sight of the green sand beach. Once these amazing views were taken in I was surprised at how small this beach actually is and how steep the climb is down to the beach itself. I was quite warm by this point and ready to get into the water so we quickly made our way over to the trail down to the beach and went plowing into the ocean waves. The sand is very soft and felt nice on bare feet while working towards the salty water.
There was only a little over an hour to enjoy this incredible Hawaiian beach so not much time to really explore the area around it. Once I had cooled off in the ocean there were some pictures I wanted to take while here so I dried off and grabbed the camera to remember how beautiful it is from a distance and up close. The water is such a beautiful turquoise blue, the rocks are interestingly carved by the ocean waves, and the sand is an amazing blend of green, white, and black grains which you can see in the image below. These green particles apparently are from lava mixing with certain minerals as it flows from the earth and deposited in this remote location. There’s a better explanation of this on this USGS page. I could have spent a lot more time taking in this beach but there were other sights to continue on to so it was time to return to our car and head to the black sand beach.
Pansies are a beautiful spring flower showing off their vibrant colors when many people want to see flowers in bloom. They are striking flowers so I spent a little time photographing them and was fortunate enough to encounter some wildlife while doing so. Well, if insects can be considered wildlife. While really looking into these flowers I was setting up to take some close up abstract photos when a fly decided to enter the picture.
Already set up I quickly snapped a few photos while it was in focus under the lens just for some added interest. Below is the photo I was attempting to get before the fly flew into the frame. Seeing pansies this close makes me wonder how insects see them. Supposedly the veins, which are the darker lines, draw them into the center part of the flower where the pollen is so they can exchange this pollen in hopes of creating new seeds. But then why is the center yellow? Does that attract the insects once they are on the flower enticing them to the pollen? I like how this photo shows pollen grains sitting on a flower petal shaken from the stamen either by insects or wind. A nice contrast to the purple.
Every night as I walk into the house there have been a couple of monarch caterpillars munching away on the leaves of milkweed which we let grow specifically for them. It’s always amazing how fast these caterpillars grow. They become noticeably larger each day. There’s some debate as to if we should put these into a protected place so they can cocoon and turn into butterflies or let them find their own hiding place to cocoon and risk something eating them. Looking forward to seeing the butterflies soon floating around the neighborhood.
Cold hardy ladyslippers are in full bloom again so I’ve taken a little time to capture a few photos of them before they begin to fade. These are all plants that I have growing in containers in my yard so they can be enjoyed year after year. Well, providing I do a good job growing them and they survive each year.
There are a few different color variations ranging from all white to combinations of white, yellow, and red/brown. Some of these have a great fragrance but you have to get close to the flower to smell it while others really have no scent. A sweet perfume really adds to the enjoyment of any flower in my opinion.
The most difficult part of growing ladyslippers is they only bloom for a few weeks and then they’re done for the year and this seems to regularly occur as the heat of summer arrives which reduces their length of blooming. Unlike other flowers, ladyslippers bloom all at once so there is this mass of blooms and then it’s all over with instead of a staggered bloom extending the season. This just means you have to take time to enjoy them when they’re blooming or it will be a while before you get to see them again.
When thinking of Hawaii one of the first things many people envision is of a waterfall in a tropical paradise. Well there are several on the Big Island of Hawaii to meet this expectation. Our first day on the island brought a conversation with a local orchid grower near Hilo regarding sights to see with waterfalls being high on our list. His response was a laugh followed by an explanation that there are numerous waterfalls with fast flowing water as it had been raining almost every day since the 1st of the year.
Our first stop was at Rainbow Falls near Hilo providing a beautiful waterfall flowing over the edge of a volcanic cliff crashing into the channel below. We were told that during the right time of day the sunlight casts a rainbow in the mist below giving this falls its name. It’s definitely a beautiful sight attracting many people to the area to explore this great water feature of Hawaii.
After taking some time to enjoy this area and listen to the water as it falls over the cliff and into the river bed below and use the available restrooms, it was off to see another of Hawaii’s popular waterfalls. After a short drive we arrived at the spectacular Akaka Falls State Park. Here there is a nice paved path winding through the jungle bringing you to an almost unimaginable waterfall. This is a waterfall with a 400 foot drop! I never imagined being able to get this close to such a place being able to witness this plunging river from a paved platform across the gorge. It is so tall and you’re close enough that it’s almost like you’re in a dream.
While the tall Akaka Falls is certainly the highlight of this state park, it is not the only waterfalls visible here. Another one can be seen through trees and shrubs and one more is quite a bit shorter but still beautiful to see. We were nearing the end of our day with the parking lot gate soon to close so it was time to leave but still difficult to tear away from a waterfall that seems like you only would see it in a movie or on tv. There are several other waterfalls but these seem to be the two most popular and worth seeing.
With the late spring this year migrating birds such as the Great Blue Heron were restricted in places to find food. This gave me an opportunity to get closer and get some great photos of this skittish bird. Several days earlier I was walking through this area and was only able to catch a glimpse of this heron as it flew away before I really even knew it was there. A couple of days later the same thing happened only allowing me to get a blurry photo as it few away.
Finally, the next day being a Saturday I ventured out again before sunrise. As I got closer to this little stream, which was beginning to open up after the winter, I moved more cautiously and tried to appear as though I wasn’t even paying attention to the stream by looking the other way. After a bit of surveying the landscape in the opposite direction I caught this heron out of the corner of my eye so I now knew it was there and hadn’t taken flight yet.
Returning my attention in the opposite direction from this bird I would glance back from time to time to find it was going back to its business of fishing. Slowly I retrieved my camera and attached a larger lens before turning it on this Heron over a downed log. The more I just relaxed and continued my normal movements from this distance the more comfortable this bird seemed to get even allowing me to slowly move closer over time getting even better photographs and observe its behavior. Occasionally a pair of wood ducks would swim by since the Heron deemed the area safe with me their. I had a great time and stayed there until the Heron stopped fishing and departed with another one passing by.
Once spring arrived plants began to return to life rather quickly. I took a little time to capture some of the surrounding trees as their leaves returned to life bringing green back into the landscape. In the above photo is a silver maple extending new leaves into the warming air to capture the power of the sun creating energy for life.
Oak leaves expanding with their tiny lobed leaves while still perfect in form before the tribulations of summer take its toll on them.
Here are Ginkgo leaves emerging from a long winter unfurling into the bright sunlight as they stretch out of the bud. Below are the flowers of an oak tree getting ready to create new acorns. The beginning of another oak tree?
Unfortunately there has been limited time available to go exploring with the camera while spring explodes all around us but I have taken a few opportunities to enjoy the landscape as it returns to life. Above is a purple and white bicolor wild violet. Below are oak tree flowers.
Bringing some very enjoyable sweet fragrances are the blooms of crabapple trees and hyacinths. They don’t last very long but sure do bring a smile to many with their pleasurable smell bringing great springtime moments.