Zentangle® - July 2019

There was quite a lot of variation on the Zentangle front in July. There was a challenge on the long road trip days and then being very busy the rest of the time. Some days there was plenty of time to make several tiles…other days were too short to do anything other than on the critical path to get my daughter moved to Missouri! In the end – I still had a lot of tiles to choose from to come up with 31 tiles for July. The normal variation is seen in this first group made on the iPad with the Apple Pencil using the Procreate App. I found the iPad the easiest to work with at the end of a long day of driving.

I started experimenting with some square paper coasters for tiles early in the month.

There was also a series that were created with a spiral string then a single pattern….all on the iPad.

The most different tiles the samples I made using the butterfly tiles I used with the summer campers last week. It was fun experimenting with the shape and working with symmetry.


The Zentangle® Method is an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns. It was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. "Zentangle" is a registered trademark of Zentangle, Inc. Learn more at zentangle.com.

Road Trips to Springfield, Missouri

I’ve now made 3 road trips from Maryland to Springfield, Missouri  (one in June and 2 in July) so I am getting familiar with the route. It’s a two-day trip which I prefer to do with one slightly longer day. On one of the trips to Springfield we drove from near Pittsburgh to Springfield in one day….and I won’t do that again. Springfield, Ohio is a good midway point that my daughter picked (she liked the idea of going from Springfield MO to Springfield OH); it is my preference too.

I’ve learned where there is hard driving (lots of curves and trucks going at high speed) and where the current construction is. Hopefully the construction will be mostly done by the next time I go and there might be a better route through the Alleghenies that we’ll try.


There are two favorite rest stops along the way. One is close to Springfield and focused on Route 66 which makes a diagonal path through Missouri from St. Louis angled toward Tulsa, Oklahoma. They have a map on the floor of the rest top.


2)The other rest stop was in Indiana and I like it for two reasons: 1) It has plants that remind me of my grandparents in Oklahoma back in the 60s. They grew ‘rubber trees’ indoors in the winter then put them out in the flower beds near the house in the summer…almost burying the pots…then trimmed them back and brought them indoors for the next winter. This rest stop has the plants in the center planter inside the rest stop!

The rest stop also had ‘pocket wetlands’ on two sides. The red-winged blackbirds were numerous, and I heard frogs as well. The sky was threatening (thunderstorm imminent) and we were pushing to get to the hotel before the storm, so I didn’t have time to investigate more. Maybe next time. ..

Road Trip Scenes

Continuing our trek east from Springfield, Missouri, I got some pictures of St. Louis and the Mississippi River since my daughter was driving. The arch is easy to spot…not so easy to photograph driving east…probably would be easier on the highway driving west on the bridge with the Mississippi River in the foreground. The Mississippi was obviously high with no tree trunks showing along the water’s edge. A train was crossing the river on a bridge parallel to our route.

We stopped for the night in Springfield, Ohio. As we walked across the parking lot of the hotel to a restaurant, I spotted catalpas in bloom. The trees brought back memories of summer visits to my grandparents although I was always too late to see the trees in bloom. They already had their long seed pods by the time I visited. I read a book that described the blooms and then noticed them in a garden many years later. I was thrilled to see one in Ohio. It was growing near a water retention pond (so red-winged black birds and frogs provided ‘music’).


In the same area – on a very manicured area between parking lots were sweetbay magnolias…and they were in bloom too. These smaller magnolias are great for places that would be overwhelmed by the larger magnolias like the southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora).

Our timing in Ohio was near perfect for seeing both catalpas and sweetbays in bloom! It was a good finale for a long day of driving.

Gleanings of the Week Ending June 14, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Antibiotics found in some of the world's rivers exceed 'safe' levels, global study finds -- ScienceDaily and Hundreds of world's rivers contain dangerous levels of antibiotics – Same story from different news feeds. Antibiotics we take are not broken down in our bodies and are excreted. Wastewater treatment does not take them out of the water so the rivers are – over time – building up more antibiotics.

Ancient Fingerprints Show Men and Women Both Made Pottery in the American Southwest | Smart News | Smithsonian – The breadth of men’s finger print ridges are 9% wider than those of women…so pots that are made via pinching layers of coiled clay together using the thumb and forefinger (leaving fingerprints) can be analyzed to determine the gender of the person that made them. It turns out at Chaco Canyon that men and women made pottery…unlike the more modern tradition of the skill passing from grandmothers to mothers to younger women.

Route 66 Considered for National Historic Trail in The Park System – On a recent road trip, the Pacific, MO hotel we stayed in (west of St. Louis) was near Route 66. They had a map to continue the journey through Missouri on stretches of the old road. We needed to reach our destination quickly so stayed on I-44…but maybe sometime when we can take our time…we’ll take Route 66 where we can.

CITY SPROUTS: The Budding Movement to Integrate Garden-Based Learning in Public School Education | Children & Nature Network – A laudable goal…but it takes work. With teachers that already have a lot to do….organizing garden-based learning might be a tough addition to their job jar.

Most of the World’s Macadamias May Have Originated from a Single Australian Tree | Smart News | Smithsonian – The majority of macadamias are grown in Hawaii…so the lack of diversity within the trees in Hawaii leaves the crop open to species-level risk. This article talks about the research and search for wild plants in Australia to increase the diversity within the macadamia gene pool.

Seven US Species Invading Other Countries – Cool Green Science – We talk a lot about non-native species invading the US. Here are some that have gone the other way.

A Sea of Sagebrush Disappears, Making Way for Fire-Prone Cheatgrass: NPR – Nearly 75% of the acres burned by wildfires in the west are range lands rather the forest. And what burns is sage and cheatgrass. The problem is that cheatgrass, an invasive grass, grows faster than sage and is taking over land where sage once dominated…and cheatgrass is more flammable. Put that together with climate change and the look of the west is changing.

Megacities Like Paris and London Can Produce Their Own Clouds | Smart News | Smithsonian – The urban heat island phenomenon has been known for a long time. Now studies are looking at cloud cover over cities and it appears they are 10% cloudier than rural areas.

Still snarling after 40,000 years, a giant Pleistocene wolf discovered in Yakutia – Found in Siberia. The discovery was announced as the opening of a Woolly Mammoth exhibition in Tokyo organized by Yakutian and Japanese scientists. The same team also presented a well-preserved cave lion cub.

Six fingers per hand – People with 6 fingers on a hand (a form of polydactyly) can perform movements with one hand where people with 5 fingers would require 2 hands. The brain of polydactyly subjects controls the additional degrees of freedom the additional finger provides without sacrificing any other brain functions.

Road Trip to Cape May NJ

Last week we drove up to Cape May NJ for the Cape May Spring (birding) Festival. It’s a little over 3 hours for us. We decided to wait until mid-morning to let the traffic clear out…but the traffic was still very heavy on I-95. It took us more than an hour to get to the Maryland House Service Area; we opted to take the stop even though we usually pass this one by. It has been rebuilt in recent years with more areas for people to sit and eat…even places to charge electronics or use a laptop (although no one was doing that while we were there). The landscaping is still growing into the place.

Getting back on the road – the major traffic seemed to have cleared. We got to Delaware Memorial Bridge about 30 minutes later. And we were in New Jersey.

Our route turned south now that we had passed over the Delaware River and were on the other side of the Delaware Bay. Millville NJ was along our route to Cape May. I had completely lost track of where it was located in New Jersey since I had visited back in Fall 2014 (see post here).

This time we continued further south – into an area I had never been: Cape May, the furthest point south in New Jersey with the Delaware Bay on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. We arrived by mid-afternoon, checked in to our hotel and then picked up our registration packets for the festival. Then we headed out to the Cape May Wetlands State Natural Area. I’ll post about it tomorrow….and the rest of festival in the days to come.

Road Trip to Florida

Last week we drove down to Florida for the annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival in Titusville. I’ll be posting about the trip for the next week or so…but today the post is focused on the drive itself. We left the house at 5:30 AM to beat the worst of the commuter traffic around Washington DC. Venus and Jupiter were visible in the darkness to the east. We made a very cold rest stop at 6:30 AM south of DC and on I95…the interstate we would take all the way to Florida. The temperature was in the low teens. Leaving early had achieved its purpose; no stop and go or slow traffic! We listened to Planetary Society podcasts that my husband had on his phone.


It was getting light by our next rest stop at about 7:30 still in Virginia. It was a newer rest stop with a compass in the entry floor, an area to charge/use laptops (we never spend that much time at a rest stop), and a toddler toilet (I’ve only seen these in the newer Virginia rest stops….what a wonderful feature for young families).

We took I295 around Richmond and stopped at a McDonalds for a second breakfast. The sun was shining in our eyes. Turkey vultures were soaring. By 9:40 AM we were in North Carolina. I remembered the rest stop from a previous trip: red tile strips and glass brick.


There was a bird’s nest in the tree just outside the building – easy to see in the winter.


The next stop was a large truck stop in Kenly, North Carolina- with a large tile mosaic in the entry.

We stopped for lunch at Arby’s in Lumberton, North Carolina that did not take long and then were back on the road – crossing into South Carolina and seeing a Honda plant with its own exit from the highway and water tower.


The next rest stop did not have any structural distinction, but I did notice a large river birch in the picnic area.

I saw a hawk fly low across the road in front of us and began to see black vultures along with turkey vultures. Our last rest stop for the day had green tile and a skylight in the facilities. The picnic area had sabal palmettos – matching the South Carolina license plates.

We stopped for the night in Savannah – just off I95.


We didn’t start out as early the next morning. It was already beginning to get light. We made a stop, still in Georgia, where the roses were blooming.

As we drove into Florida a line of clouds moved in.

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I took pictures of the Dames Point Bridge going around Jacksonville (some morning commuter traffic).

At the next rest stop there was a pond with a fence around it (with signs warning of snakes)…but I braved the short walk up to the fence (didn’t see any snakes). I took pictures of the birds around the pond…the first for the trip: hooded mergansers,

White Ibis (mature and juvenile), and

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Not bad birding at a rest stop along I95.

We arrived at the registration desk for the festival a little after 11.

Ten Little Celebrations – August 2018

I thought August might be a slow month with the summer camps ending and nothing new starting….but the month developed….not hard at all to pick 10 little celebrations to highlight.

Solitary hike – Usually I hike with other people – most recently with summer campers. Hike my myself at Mt. Pleasant was a change-of-pace and something to celebrate. Getting a artsy picture of two butterflies on Joe Pye Weed with a clear blue sky background was the image to remember of the morning.

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Surviving a long hike – Then there was the much longer hike with camper up and down…across a stream and along muddy paths. I celebrated when that hike was done!


Blue Jay feather – A special feather is always a celebration for me…and from several perspectives: finding one on the ground, photographing it, remembering my daughter’s feather collection when she was very young, and realizing that know what kind of bird it came from!

Weekend in State College – Deciding to take a weekend trip – spurt of the moment. And dodging the rain to enjoy every minute! Celebrating family.

Butterflies – August seems to be my peak month for butterflies roosting on me in the butterfly exhibit. It’s special every single time.


Hummingbirds – Last weekend my husband and I attempted to photograph hummingbirds at Brookside gardens for two mornings. We were reasonably successful (a post about our experience is coming) but we’ll both improve with more practice. The birds are fast movers. Both of us are celebrating the photographs we got with the birds in focus!

Blooming bananas – Seeing something familiar but in a little different stage of development….I’m celebrating being in the conservatory at the right time.

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Rulers for 25 cents – I celebrated that several stores in our area had wooden rulers for 26 cents. That’s inexpensive enough I can have my own supply for field trips with children just learning to measure sizes of what we find on our hikes.

Dragonflies – I haven’t found dragonflies in the wheel formation (mating) but I did find two at our neighborhood storm water management pond that were half way there! I celebrated the photographic opportunity and an still looking for the wheel.

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Sweet potato leaves – Yummy sweet potato leaves. Our Community Supported Agriculture must have harvested part of the sweet potato crop in August so we got leaves in one of our shares this month. I hope there are still some left for later since we normally get them in late September. They are probably my favorite salad green….and I get them a couple of weeks a year….so worthy of celebration when they are available.

Ten Little Celebrations – April 2018

April has gone by very quickly…full of company and travel and the beginning of the spring volunteering blitz.

Six of the 10 little celebrations were experiences outdoors – typical celebrations of springtime everywhere:

  • Blue birds and tree swallows were making their nests I the boxes at Mt. Pleasant in Maryland.
  • There were ducklings at Josey Ranch Lake in Carrollton, Texas.
  • An eared grebe at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge near Sherman, Texas.
  • Macroinvertebrates in the Middle Patuxent close to home.
  • Spicebush in the forest behind my house and at Belmont Manor and Historic Park (both in Maryland).
  • Deciduous Magnolias blooming at Brookside Gardens. Maryland got a freeze at the wrong time in 2017 and most of the blooms turned brown from the cold just as they were opening. It was a treat to see them again this year.

I celebrated the end of two long driving days between Maryland and Texas. Both were blustery and more traffic than expected. It felt good to be done!

My new iPad is something I celebrate every time I create another Zentangle with it! I a pleasantly surprised with how easy I made the transition from pen and paper tiles to digital.

I thoroughly enjoyed a meal at a Brazilian steakhouse – this time managing to savor the flavors and not overeating. I even topped off the meal with dessert!

Finally – the Watershed Summit where the high schools of the county presented their report cards to the county government for their steams and school yards – based on data they collected last fall. Each of the 13 high schools had 2 presenters. They all were so poised and organized. It was a double celebration: the environmental findings trending positive in most cases and the quality of the students in attendance. Both bode well for the future.

Road Trip to Texas – Part 2


The next morning, we were up and having breakfast shortly after it the service opened at 6 AM. It was a cold start to the day – a frosty morning in Dickson Tennessee. The sun was just coming up through the trees we loaded the car and headed out about 6:30. We’d were already on central time so would not benefit from a time change on this leg of our trek.

The first rest stop was about an hour later. I cheered when the vending machines had my favorite caffeine drink (diet Pepsi). The day was still chilly but not frosty. The rose bushes at the rest stop were full of buds.

Our next stop was the welcome center after we crossed into Arkansas. It was a newer facility with some interesting architecture and posters; my favorite poster was the one of ‘mud bugs.’

We had a long wait on the highway that added more than an hour to our drive; a truck had lost part of its load and a crane had to be brought in to move it off the roadway. When we went by all the traffic was slowly funneled by on a shoulder. We recovered with a barbeque lunch near just before we got to Little Rock.

Then it was on to Texarkana and the welcome center for Texas. It’s a little tricky to exit the highway for the place…it was large with relatively few people around.

The next stop was the old-style Texas rest stop with tile mosaics unique to the place. The surprise of the stop was the historical marker; my sister recognized the name from her genealogy work!

The last stop of the trek was just before we entered the Dallas traffic…wanted to make sure we were in good shape for the final push to our destination.


Road Trip to Texas – Part 1

I drove from Maryland to Texas with my sister earlier this week….a 2 day trek. We left my house about 6:30 AM and headed west on I70 rather the dealing with the traffic around Washington DC. I am getting very familiar with the South Mountain rest stop since this is the route to the Pittsburgh and State College as well. This trip – it was in the low 40s and wet. The daffodils were blooming.

We got to I81 and headed south through West Virginia and then into Virginia. The welcome center in Virginia is a green facility….and has the big LOVE in front too.

The next stop was as an older Virginia rest stop but is one of my favorite with a terrace for picnic tables. We talked fast to get some exercise…and because it was too cold to dawdle.

The next stop was for gasoline. The flowers in the wooden pot were past prime but I appreciated them anyway. The Prius was doing well although the wind was beginning to pick up and I was aware that I was gripping the wheel a bit too hard.

We had food for lunch in the car so used the stops for walking around. There were daffodils again at the next stop.


Finally, we got to Tennessee. The rest stops along the interstate have a log cabin side and rock cabin side. I like the rock side since they are rock from the immediate area.


We were making fast stops because the temperature was dropping. There was a dusting of snow along the highway between Knoxville and Nashville! The wind was gusting and made it feel very cold.

The last stop before we got to the hotel in Dickson, TN had a different kind of rock and a historical marker for Senator Albert Gore Sr…and the interstate highway system.

Tomorrow I’ll post about the second day of the road trip.

3 Free eBooks – March 2018

So many books…so little time. I’m still working my way through the Japanese Illustrated Books from the Edo and Meiji Period. My favorite this month was a series with three volumes:

Kacho shasin zui. Published by Nishimura Soshichi, 1805. Available from Smithsonian Libraries here. I like the images of the birds and flowers as art and snapshots of nature through the lens of Japanese culture of the time. The scans appear a little smudged but that adds to their charm – there were books that were enjoyed again and again!

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The other books I’m highlighting this month were both written about the same time – the 1920s – and about scenic highways along rivers. The first one is from the west coast…the second is from the east coast. Both highways still exist…although is renovated/modified form. These books were probably produced as souvenirs with annotated pictures.

Oregon’s famous Columbia River Highway. Published by Lipschuetz and Katz, Portland Oregon. 1920. Available from Internet Archive here. Scenic routes have been popular since the beginning of the age of automobiles! Even with the lower speeds of those early cars, there were still turnouts – places to stop to see the river or walk a little way to see waterfalls.

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Storm King Highway and the Historic Hudson River. Published by J. Ruben, Newburgh, New York. Available from Internet Archive here. A lot has happened along the Hudson River in the last century and not all for the better. I found the highway on Google Maps and the first ‘street view’ was one with graffiti (not the artistic kind) all over the rock wall and rocks beyond. I didn’t look further. It’s depressing to see something that was once scenic turned into a prime example of ‘tragedy of the commons.’

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National Aviary (Pittsburgh)

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Last Friday afternoon was very cold in Pittsburgh – and a lot of people decided it was a good day for the National Aviary. Our first clue that it was going to be crowded was the full parking lot. We pulled into a parallel space across the park from the aviary and walked across the frozen, snow dusted paths to the gate in the fence around the Aviary. The priority was food instead of seeing birds since we hadn’t had time earlier for lunch. The café area was crowded but we managed to satisfy ourselves enough to last until dinner…and then headed to the Wetlands area. We walked in a few minutes before feeding time. The schedule feeding times are great for picture taking. They have several spoonbills and I got a picture of the underside of bill like I did for the white ibis on South Padre Island; the spoonbill underside is the same concave shape. I also realized that spoonbills are don not have totally bald heads like vultures, but they certainly have a receding feather-line.

The flamingos seemed to be doing their preening while standing on one leg.

As the staff (and volunteers) started feeding the birds, the birds moved about more, and I was able to get different angles of the same bird. Some of the colors change dramatically.

There are sometimes surprising patches of color that become visible only from the side or back.

The hadada ibis has wings with a sheen.

Some birds are small and fast…hard to photograph except when worms are offered on the railing and they fly down to gobble them up.

Some appear drab but have ‘personality’ when viewed via the camera’s zoom.

One of the pelicans flew up to the top of a tree in the enclosure….closer to the glass roof….alas no sun while we were there.

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Of course, there was water below the bridge walkway we were standing on…if there were fewer people around I would taken more time to photograph the variety of ducks present in the exhibit.

As I turned to leave - I noted the brilliant yellow tail feathers of a bird on one of the pipes high overhead, near the ceiling…a last hurrah for the wetlands exhibit.

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A Cold Road Trip to Pittsburgh


We drove to Pittsburgh last Friday for a quick visit with my daughter and son-in-law…returning home on Saturday. It was a very cold trip. The trek from our house to the first rest stop (South Mountain) was cold but the sun came out from behind the clouds occasionally.


As we were leaving South Mountain, the clouds thickened, and we didn’t see the sun for the rest of the day. We stopped at a truck stop between I-70 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Breezewood). It was miserably cold. I took one picture of a car carrier pulling out through the windshield.


By the time we stopped at the New Station rest area on the turnpike, there was snow on the ground.


As we got closer to Pittsburgh, there was more snow on the ground and almost every road cut had ice flows. On the plus side, it wasn’t snowing….just very cold.

Overnight it snowed. We were staying at the Hampton Inn Waterfront; I took a picture through the window of our room before sunrise.


During the day the snow was supposed to stop but it kept on longer than was forecasted. We started back a little earlier than planned. I didn’t take any pictures on the way back; the light was too dim. The rest stops were overcrowded, and we were glad we had some protein bars in the car, so we didn’t need to stop for food!

More about what we did in Pittsburgh over the next few days…

Savoring 2017 – Anticipating 2018

2017 was a busy year. Here are some highlights.


My daughter and I drove from Maryland down to Dallas to visit family and then spent a week in Grapevine TX for a AAS conference before driving on to Tucson. It was the trek between Tucson and the east coast for the year.

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Not long after I returned – I bought a new car: a Prius Prime.


February was the trough of the year in terms of activity but we did buy another car – a Honda CR-V for my husband.


In March a flew round trip to Dallas to do the chauffeuring for a trip to Oklahoma for my parents to visit other family members.

When I got back, we made a short visit to Pittsburgh – and enjoyed the Phipps Conservatory and the Aviary.

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April was the start of field trips: Delmarva Birding with my husband and then the field trip volunteering I do with Howard County Conservancy.

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In May there was another family visit in Texas and then moving my daughter from Tucson to State College. The packing up was some of the hardest physical work I’ve ever done…and then driving cross country with very sore and stiff muscles. Now that time has passed, I can see it as quite an adventure.

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In June I started volunteering at the Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy exhibit. That continued into early September.

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I made my first road trip in my Prius in July – to State College to help my daughter move into her apartment.


In August we drove to Nebraska for the Solar Eclipse.

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September was full of Howard County Conservancy field trips. The stream and school yard assessments with the high schools were the more numerous for the season.

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Staunton River Star Party is becoming an annual event or us. This was our third trek down to southern Virginia’s dark sky site.

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My sister visited later in the month and we toured two places I had not been in more than 5 years: Fort McHenry and Nemours Mansion and Gardens.


I was back in Texas in November for a family birthday celebration and then

Down to Harlingen for the Rio Grande Birding Festival.

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This December was by first time to volunteer as a conservatory docent at the Brookside Gardens Model Trains Exhibit. What a joy!


Then we went to Pittsburgh…I’ll post about that trip in the new year.

Anticipating 2018

There are already some things on my calendar for 2018: getting the eBotanicalPrints section of my website up and running in January, an 8-week class that will fill one day a week in February and March, a family visit in Texas for birthdays in April, Howard County Conservancy volunteering for school field trips in the spring and fall, and Brookside volunteering for the butterfly exhibit (April-September) and probably the model trains in December. I’m sure there will be a lot more that will fill the year.

Happy New Year to us all!

The Staunton River Star Party Observing Field

Staunton River State Park hosts two Star Parties each year – one in the spring and one in the fall. We’ve gone to the fall Star Party for 3 years but have always decided that the one in March is too cold or too wet. Maybe we’ll go in 2018. The park has a large field that has been used long enough that the soil is packed down almost as hard as the asphalt road (where the Visitor Center….and bathrooms (hurray) are located). The ‘road’ to our camp site started between the orange cones and was the closest we’ve ever been to the Visitor Center – something I noticed every time I made the trek to the facilities in the dark.

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There are lots of different set ups but probably the most honed for astronomy is a tent that has an opening for the telescope (the black patch on the top). They are relatively expensive and probably not something we’ll ever do but I can still appreciate the idea.

There are power cables from central posts out to hubs that are covered with big buckets on the field and everyone picks a spot close enough to one of them to have the power they need. There are many kinds of tents and campers…some people brought their gear in a small trailer and then used the trailer to sleep in. There is also a lot of variety of telescopes and covers for them during the day. Almost everyone has a computer along with their telescope – and the associated table and chair for it. Awnings help with the sun during the day and dew at night.

For the first couple of days, there were fewer people than I remembered from previous years. By Thursday the numbers were increasing, and people were still arriving when we left on Friday – before Saturday when there were more lectures and public observing in the evening. I wondered who would get the spot we left open on the field….a prime location.

Our Camp at Staunton River

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We set up our new tent on the observing field as soon as we got there. It was large enough for all our camping gear inside and had a screened section on the end for my husband’s observing chair and laptop. When he’s observing he spends more time in front of his computer than he does outside at the telescope. The new tent worked very well since the screened portion protected everything in it from dew almost as well as being inside the tent proper.

We had luxuries such as air up mattresses, pillows, warm sleeping bags….and a small coffee maker to heat water for tea on the cold mornings. Once the sun came up the tent became warmer than the outside temperatures very quickly – which was welcome since the days started out in the 30s. We opened the window covers as the day warmed into the 60s. There was enough breeze in the afternoon that the tent never became overly hot.

The field had electrical cables all we needed was an extension cord to connect out outlet strip – power to charge batteries (the telescope itself ran off batteries), laptops and phones. The telescope was the only item outside the tent…and it had its own cover for after the observing for the night was done.


The car seemed very full when we left home and was full to the brim coming back since we didn’t manage to pack as well. It’s a good thing we has freed up space by eating the food we took!

Tomorrow’s post will be about the other types of tents and campers and telescopes on the observing field.

Staunton River Star Party

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Last Monday, we headed down to Virginia for the Staunton River Star Party. The event is held at the state park – a dark sky site. We waited until most of the morning rush hour was over since our route included the Washington DC beltway. There was still traffic, but it was moving at highway speeds even around the Mormon Temple. The rain from earlier in the morning had stopped and the clouds were beginning to break up.


We made a stop at the first rest area we came to on I95 south of the Washington Beltway – anticipating easy traffic for the rest of the way.


Lunch at a Chipotle was our mid-point break.

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We arrived at the park about 3 and began setting up. I always enjoy the creative pumpkin carving that sits beside the door of the cantina. All the windows on the park buildings are covered with red cellophane and lights to mark paths are red as well.

I’ll be posting about the events of the week in the next few days….but I’m wrapping up this most with the road trip home last Friday.


We left the park about 10 and stopped at a fast food place for our first rest stop since we were not on an interstate yet and it was cool enough that my husband wanted something hot for brunch. We stopped for lunch at an Arby’s later then got on I95 shortly thereafter.

We stopped at the last rest stop on I95 before the Washington DC – obviously in Virginia.


But this rest stop has something I had not seen before – a toddler potty! I wonder if these are going to become more common as rest stops are remodeled.

We were glad to get home after crawling through the Friday afternoon traffic from 2-4. We waited until the next day to put the tent up in the backyard to dry out (we had to pack it up before the dew dried).

More to come about the Staunton River Star Party in upcoming posts.

Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area

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My husband and I visited Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area yesterday – taking advantage of the dry fall day before a few days of forecasted rain. It’s located less than 45 minutes from our house and I’ve had it on my list of places to visit since I was in Master Naturalist training a few years ago; I’m a little surprised that we haven’t found the time before now.

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The visitor center is open on Saturdays and sporadically on other days. We got there shortly after 11 and there was already quite a lot of activity. We got a map and headed out to hike. Rather than hiking from the visitor center, we drove a short distance to an overlook that doubles as parking from some of the trails. The overlook shows the area back toward the visitor center.

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The loop trail we took started across the road – following red blazes then orange and rejoining the red to get back to the overlook. It past some remains of one of the mines – fenced off to prevent accidents.

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There were leaves beginning to fall. Some of the oaks had a very large crop of acorns this year judging by the piles on the path. My favorite leaf was a red sassafras. There were some areas of invasive plants but not as many as places that have richer soils. There were swaths of ferns in a few areas. We walked down to a little stream. The water runs over bedrock in most places.

The critter-find for the hike as a fuzzy yellow caterpillar with some black tufts. I looked it up after I got home – an American Dagger Moth Caterpillar. It eats oak leaves – among other things.

More than half the path was over rocky areas; Soldiers Delight is – after all – a serpentine barren.

Road Trip Home from Nebraska

We retraced our road trip to get home from Nebraska – taking two days (again) to make the drive.

I took some last pictures around the hotel the afternoon before we left: the art in front of the gas station when we were filling the tank, the sunny parking lot, and the curtains in the room (they are a good prompt for a Zentangle!). This trip was the first time I had ever been in Nebraska and I was surprised that it was hilly; somehow, I expected it to be very flat like the panhandle of Texas. As we headed east the next morning we made one stop while still in Nebraska. There were a few people that were making an early start like we were – but not the crowd at the rest stop on eclipse day! The rest stop included some signage about the Native American use of the area.

We crossed the Missouri River, leaving Nebraska and entering Iowa. The rest stop at Council Bluffs has good signage about the history of the place and the fossil record; artistic ‘bluffs’ near the entrance, a floral mosaic inside, and low dividers around some of the picnicking areas; and a reddish colored walkway that might have been patterned after the river we’d just crossed.

We stopped at mid-morning to eat watermelon another Iowa rest stop. There were plenty of tables in the shade but it was cool enough that we picked one in the sunshine. There was a cicada that was very slow moving – too cold to make noise or fly away when I got close to take a picture! We stopped in Iowa City for lunch at a McDonalds and part of the decoration had physics and chemistry formulas! Right before we entered Illinois, we made one last stop and I took pictures of sun flowers. I like to see plants that are good for pollinators and birds in the rest stop gardens.

The Mississippi River is the boundary between Iowa and Illinois and I took a picture as we drove over the bridge. This is before the river joins with the Missouri…so it’s not as muddy looking. The only rest stop we used in Illinois had planted their formal beds with things good for last summer and fall insects and birds…good for them! It seems to be the trend in rest stop maintenance!

We hit a lot of traffic as we drove to the south of Chicago and into Indiana. I took a picture as we entered the state. We made a stop at a gas station before we got to the hotel in Elkhart, Indiana….tired after a long drive. There was a restaurant within walking distance from our hotel and it felt good to get the exercise after sitting for so much of the day.

The second day we had a shorter drive. The Ohio rest stops are more formal grass and trimmed bushes. There are some margins that might provide plants for insects. There are lots of travel brochures and I picked up several – thinking that north east Ohio could be a good destination for a fall or spring road trip. The rest stops have either barrel or dome sections over their food courts. I realized in the last one we stopped at that there was a Ohio map on the floor!

I took picture through the car window as we went into Pennsylvania. The Alleghenies make for a lot more elevation change and winding in the highway. The clouds were fluffy that day too. The skyline of Pittsburgh…the Heinz sign…the Squirrel Hill tunnel (my son-in-law’s apartment is on top of the tunnel!). After we left my daughter in Pittsburgh, we made a stop at one of the service plazas on the Pennsylvania Turnpike…and then it was through the Allegheny Mountain tunnel.

Our only stop in Maryland before we got home was at the South Mountain rest stop. By that time the fluffy clouds were mostly gone. The stop has mowed grass around the picnic tables…but the beds are planted with meadow type grasses and small flowers rather than exotic flowers. Those plants probably are easier to maintain and give the butterflies/bees a boost!

An hour later – it was good to get home.

Previous posts about our Solar Eclipse trek: Road Trip to Nebraska for the Eclipse, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Solar Eclipse – August 2017, Nebraska Sunrise.

Nebraska Sunrise

We were in Nebraska for two mornings and I was up for the sunrise for both. The first morning was the day of the solar eclipse. We got an early start because we knew we had to drive west to get out of the clouds. Our hotel in York, Nebraska was full of people around for the eclipse but many were hoping to stay in York and hope for clearing.

The next morning, we were heading east toward home. I walked to the edge of the parking lot for this picture. A few people had left the day before but there were still quite a few people at the hotel breakfast getting an early start on their trek back to where they came from.

Once we were in the car – I noticed that the sunrise was very colorful. I wished the dew was cleared better from the windshield…but couldn’t resist the ‘on the road’ sunrise pictures!

As always – watching the sunrise is a wonderful start to the day.

Previous posts about our Solar Eclipse trek: Road Trip to Nebraska for the Eclipse, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Solar Eclipse – August 2017.