Cape Cod Spring

It was a beautiful, warm spring day in Taunton. The sun was shining, the breeze was warm, the kind of day when you can believe that anything is possible.  I spent the morning running errands and generally puttering around but after lunch wanderlust kicked in. I’ve been working on a post about Cape Cod National Seashore, not to mention that there was a good possibility that there would still be whales around that might be seen from shore so it was easy to talk myself into an afternoon jaunt to the cape.

One of the nice things about Cape Cod this time of year is that everything is fresh and new. Trees are budding and folks are sprucing everything up to get ready for the summer season but the tourists haven’t arrived yet…at least not “en-mass”. There are a few vacationers but they are the exception so travel is easy. No traffic jams. It seemed like a good time to try to get pictures for that post.

It seemed like a good idea that is until I hit Bourne. I hadn’t even got to the bridges when the fog rolled in. Not little wispy fog but great , dense fog and over cast skies. I worked my way from scenic overlook to scenic overlook, debating all the way if I should turn around and save the gas or gamble that the fog was localized near the canal. Gambling won and it was a pretty good gamble.

By the time I reached the Salt Pond Visitor Center in Eastham the sun was shining again. There were a few hikers around but the Visitor Center was quiet. The Ranger at the desk asked me if I needed help  as soon as I walked in to ask about the fog conditions around the cape and if any whales had been sighted  today. He said the tip of the cape, Provincetown, Race Point and part of Truro on the bay side were pretty much socked in by fog but the ocean side of the cape was still clear with just a haze filtering the sunlight. He said most of the whales were down around Race Point but that some had been seen near Head of the Meadow Beaches in Truro.

Always the optimist I set off to look for the whales again. This time I had a new camera lens and I hoped it would be enough to let me catch some shots from shore. I went to Nauset Light first as that was where I saw the whales the last time. Nothing today. I moved on down to Marconi Beach. Struck out again. By now the clouds were starting to gather and the breeze was turning into more of a wind.

I decided one last stop and if I struck out there I would take the long way home and sight see up 6A  to the Sagamore Bridge. I pulled down to Coast Guard Beach and there I hit pay dirt. As soon as I pulled in I could see multiple blows on the horizon. The wind was really starting to blow too so I pulled on a wind breaker, gathered my 500 mm lens and the monopod and stepped up to the fence to brace against the wind.

Through the camera I could see the whales quite clearly. They were very active. The sun was still shining but it wasn’t as intense as it had been and there was definitely a slight mist. The blue sky seemed to blend into the ocean making the horizon line a fuzzy blur. It was really different and I was happy to try to capture those unusual conditions. It made me think of a piece of art or a multi-hued tapestry as it seemed to have a texture all of its own.

It was almost more mesmerizing than whales as they were so far out as to be tiny specs and spots in the mist.

I tried for pictures again without much better luck. Better lens, worse weather conditions, can’t win. I was joined by a couple from New Hampshire who were trying to video tape the action. He was having trouble holding his little video camera steady in the now gale like winds. He tried a tripod but that was shaking too. I was having my own troubles holding my big lens steady on the monopod. I wouldn’t have had any luck if not for the fence.

Before too long we had quite a crowd lined up watching for spouts. With that many people watching I doubt if any sightings were missed. Over the sound of the wind you heard an almost continuous chorus of there’s one, and there’s another , oh there’s two and I see a tail, that’s a flipper and so on. I was there over 3 hours before finally packing it in just before 6pm. I was tempted to stay around to see if there would be enough of a break in the clouds for a nice sunset but thought better of it. It was getting quite cold and sunset was still over an hour away.

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I said good-bye to my fellow whale watchers and headed home. I was anxious to see if I had caught anything under these conditions. The result was disappointing, again, but the day was not! I will keep trying until the whales move on or I get that “money” shot.

An Interesting Evening

Good Morning. This will be a short post because between work and my trip into Boston last night I just haven’t had time to properly prepare anything. Still I owe you something if I am going to meet my goal of 6 posts a week.

Last night instead of applying myself and preparing today’s adventure, I went into Boston to the BCAE (stands for Boston Center for Adult Education) to take a class called Travel Writing. It was taught by a feature writer from the Boston Globe, David Abel. I read the Boston Globe travel section regularly and get lots of ideas in the New England section for places to go and see that I then write about here.

David Abel’s pieces tend to be the international stories, the features that lead the travel section. Those are the premier spots so it was really exciting and kind of intimidating to be in a class taught by someone whose work I read every Sunday.

Right out of the gate, David had us write a lead in to a story. Then he had each of us read our lead in out loud. There were 7 of us in all and it seemed that I was the only one that did not have international travel experience. I also had the lead in that needed the most work. I don’t think I do my best writing under those conditions but the class critique was ok. As usual I was harder on myself than my classmates or the teacher 🙂

The class was about 3 hours long and consisted of 6 women and one man. It went fast, always a sign of an interesting topic. We touched on blogs as a way to develop our writing skills and to provide examples of our writing to potential editors. He asked how many of us have blogs and 3 of us raised our hands. In reply he said, then start one! He also looked at my Blog Book and pronounced it well done and showed it to the class.

The main thrust of the class was to  GET PUBLISHED!  David addressed the differences in writing for a magazine vs a newspaper such as the Boston Globe. How to “pitch” a story and what you might expect to be paid. He spent a good part of the class stressing the different parts of the story and how each part supports the lead in. I am not going to share too much of that here. If you are interested there’s another class coming up later in the year.

He wrapped up the class by telling us we were all his collegues and that we can get published even without journalism degrees and experience. We have to be open to the editors suggestions as they are bound to take our story and shred it, returning the bare bones to be reworked whether we agree with it or not. But David said leave the ego at the door and develop a good working relationship with the editors and making good money on each trip is not out of the question.

Wow! What a positive experience! Could there possibly be a Dusty Roads by-line in my future? A big Thank You to my friend Diane of the Mexican travels for suggesting  this class to me. I’m really glad I took the class!

End of the day in Deerfield

We spent quite a bit of time at Magic Wings. More than I think either Nancy or I had expected but since it was such a long drive, it’s nice that it kept us all interested. We had passed a dinosaur exhibit on our way but we spent so much time at Magic Wings that we didn’t have time to go back there. Alex, who loves Dinos was disappointed but was appeased when we told him where we were headed next.

Our last stop was Richardson’s Candy Shop. Nancy wanted to  pick up some chocolates for the kids’ Easter Baskets and Richardson’s would make them kind of special.

We found the store right down the road and oh, it smelled so good in there!

The Yankee Candle Flagship store is also near here but we just didn’t have time to stop. It was almost 5pm and we were looking at a 2 1/2 hour drive home. So candy in hand we started back. We didn’t take the highway this time because of all the traffic jams we had passed on the way over. Most of those backups were due to road construction so we really didn’t want to take the chance that they would still be  there. That could double our travel time.

The alternative was to take RT 2 or RT 2 A, which is the Mohawk Trail. I would have liked 2 A as it is wonderfully scenic but to appreciate it you need time to stop and explore and time was what we didn’t have. So RT 2 it was.

It was still a beautiful drive. We passed a huge trestle train bridge and a large roiling waterfall. Long stretches of white water boiled in the river that ran alongside the road. Of course since I was driving I couldn’t take any pictures. I promised myself a return “Photography” trip.

We were almost home when the “hungries” started so we made one last stop, this time at McDonald’s where we took a bathroom break and picked up fast food dinner.

We arrived back at Nancy, Alex, and Dawn’s home tired and  in the dark  but satisfied that it was a good day.

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Ahh I wonder where I’ll end up next 🙂

On Butterfly Wings…

The Conservatory is divided into two sections. The first room is educational which makes it easier to appreciate the main room when you get there.

As you enter there is a glass case with a Butterfly Tree in it. This model tree and monarch butterflies demonstrates how fully covered a tree would be if the migrating monarchs chose it to spend the night. It can be covered completely covered by thousands of monarchs. It’s pretty amazing. I have seen it on the Discovery Channel but it would be really nice to see it for real in the wild.

There is a TV mounted on the wall that plays an educational video of the life cycle of a butterfly from caterpillar to cocoon to fragile insect. Beneath the TV is another diorama showing butterflies feeding on flowers, on fruit or milkweed. To the left of that was a bank of terrariums. Alex really impressed me here. The terrariums contained frogs. As we walked from one to the next, Alex would point out the little frogs and tell me what they were and their main significance…like the poisonous dart frog. To my surprise he was correct on all of them and he’s only 7 years old. Like I said, I am very impressed.

Moving on we came to a large glass case that held a small bird and tiny little chicks. They seemed to be in perpetual motion running here, there and then back again. No wonder they  stay so little. they use all their energy running around instead of growing. In any case, meet the Quail Family.

Along the same wall were huge cases of mounted butterflies. Each case identified the region the butterflies were found, Africa, South America and so forth.

There were more cases in a row down the center of the room. Here were the creepy crawlies. There were huge African Hissing Cockroaches, (I don’t want to run into one of those anytime soon.) stick bugs (I think we used to call them “walking sticks” when I was a kid”. Then there were bugs that looked like dried leaves. You couldn’t even tell they were there unless they moved and a tail-less  scorpion. There was a gecko and last but not least some live butterflies.

On the remaining walls were the rules. The main one was “Don’t touch the Butterflies”. It went on the explain that when you reach for a butterfly all it sees is this big hand coming at it and it thinks it’s about to be “lunch” for some creature. It tries to get away. The wings are very fragile and damaged wings=dead butterfly. So it’s ok if the butterfly chooses to land on you but don’t reach out for the butterfly.

So with the rules under our belts we opened the big gray doors and stepped into what can only be described as an airlock! Warm air blew down from the ceiling creating a  pretty strong breeze. The short hall was lined with floor to ceiling mirrors. The door on the other end was glass and we could see a lush forest of trees, vines , bushes and BUTTERFLIES! All sizes, all shapes and colors, they were swooping and fluttering landing and taking off.

There was even one right in front of the glass doors. We stood waiting as the white and black striped insect flitted and flirted with the glass. Finally it appeared to move away and we opened the door only to have “Stripes” make a bee line for the open door. The warm breeze from the fans in the hallway hit that little bug like a fist and it dropped to the ground. We all just stood and looked. No one had touched it. We closed the door and waited to see if it would move but it just lay there, apparently stunned. A Magic Wings employee came hurrying over to retrieve the stunned creature and hurried off with it to put it on a flower.  Escape foiled! Now we knew why there was a warm breeze in the “airlock”.

Crisis over we moved deeper into the foliage.

The exhibit, like the restaurant was a busy place today. I don’t know if it is because it’s a holiday weekend or if it’s always like that. Lots of cameras in evidence too as we tried to catch a moment when one of the fluttering willow the wisps was still.

There were paths and benches and every where butterflies. At the end of the first path was a “Butterfly Nursery’ A large board was covered with cocoons, chrysalis and pupae of all sizes. As we stood watching a butterfly emerged from one and stood clinging to the empty shell waiting for its wings to stiffen.

As we wandered the paths we were awed by the profusion of colors. Not only were butterflies everywhere but so were the exotic flowers and plants. Dawn was determined to get a butterfly to land on her. She walked around with her finger stretched out to form a perch. I was afraid she was going to be disappointed and tried to get her to just take a “wait & see” approach. But being only 5, she would not be dissuaded. In the end, persistance paid off and a butterfly not only landed but stayed long enough for us to get the picture.

In addition to the butterflies and flowers and plants the little quail families were everywhere.

They also had a terrarium with a huge fat frog. Right next to it were two other terrariums with lizards. In the same area were the birds. The little sparrow/finch type birds were in cages but a parrot seemed to be free to do as it pleased. Sitting on its cage seemed to be what it pleased. 🙂

A bit farther on was a Koi pond with really big goldfish. The habitat seemed to have covered all the bases. There were plenty of feeding stations for the butterflies too from smashed up over ripe bananas to nectar style sponges.

It was warm in the exhibit as they are trying to replicate a tropical environment but with our hands stamped we could go in and out of the exhibit at will.

Each time we entered the “wind tunnel” air lock and looked for butterflies on our clothing before exiting. Finally it was time for a last stop in the gift shop before we called it a day. We still had one more stop to make before we could head home but I’m running out of room in this post.