Bon Secour NWR

A follow up to my post on RVs. 

One of the highlights of our trip was exploring the nearby National Wildlife Refuge. We were about a mile down the road from it, and while route 180 is fast, there are wide margins so that it is eminantly walkable.

X marks the approximate location of Fort Morgan RV park.

I have a birding life list into the hundreds and was still able to identify five new species without serious birding. (Just walking with binocculars in hand.)  We walked there three times: first, late in the afternoon to the junction of the Gator Lake trail and the Pine Branch trail (4 miles round trip),  second, to the shore on the Pine Branch trail (6 miles round trip), and lastly to the Gator Lake trail returning via Mobile street, the shore, and the Pine Branch trail (8 miles round trip).

A Sandriling

Since pets (dogs) are not allowed in the refuge and there are not that many people who visit, the birds are quite tame. The Sandriling walked within two feet of me.

Fifteen inches (1/3 meter) of rain will flood the trails.

There were mosquitos, even at the winter solstice, so a summer visit should include insect repellent and quite possibly a face net.

Without trying, we saw:

  • Osprey
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Brown Pelican
  • Sandriling
  • Snowy Plover
  • Willet
  • Common Loon
  • Horned Grebe
  • Double Crested Cormorant
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Bufflehead
  • White-eyed Vireo

There were gulls (of course) and crows, as well as several varieties of sparrow, that we didn’t identify.  Not to mention these guys, who scared off the plover.

The Blue Angels.

California Trail Maps, 2018

I’ll have to figure out how to get wordpress to handle gpx or kmz or kml files, but here are the maps from our excellent expedition (part 1, part 2, and part 3).

The trail from ‘camp one’ in the redwoods.

Point Reyes overveiw:

Abbott’s cove:








Drake’s Cliff:











Tule Elk Preserve:

Two elk












Jade Cove:
This location is a bit of a secret – and nearly to the current blockage on route 1.  It is a bit of a climb down a steep cliff and there is more than enough poison oak. That said, it’s a fun day trip.

Hunting a Lion on Exmoor.

Not the semi-mythical Exmoor beast, but a pub called “the Lion” in Timberscoombe. We thought we’d have a relaxed day with a short pub walk for lunch. Good pub food, a few pints, and an easy walk home.

Unfortunately the pub – which looks a decent place – was closed for renovation. Looking in the windows suggested it needed the work. So we had a few handfuls of trail mix (hint: buy the components and mix them yourself. It’s a whole heck of a lot cheaper.) and headed back.

Rather than simply backtrack, we tried a loop with short stretches on the A396. These weren’t too bad, there being pavement for most of it. (Sidewalks for yanks.) We did have a digression because some landowner had blocked off the public footpath. You’re not supposed to do that, but they did nonetheless.

Most of the paths on the way back were sunken roadways which tends to make for ‘close’ air and hot walking.

Dunkery Beacon – where we walked the day before, braving wind and rain, is somewhere in the back of this image.

We went through the pretty little hamlet of Ford and headed home for a beer and Stilton lunch.

Wootton Courtenay from the distance.

Cretaceous and Tertiary Trails

Another trail map from a visit to Golden Colorado. This is a short walk that was suitable for the morning while we waited for our flight home.


This stroll starts from a somewhat tricky to find parking lot off of South Golden Street near route 70 (Hint Kilmer Street is the entrance to the Colorado State Police school – which makes it a very safe place to park.) It’s also near the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

It proceeds up South Table Mesa, and crosses the K-T boundary several times.  We took a digression (must remember to take the map with us next time) that would have led to the top of the mesa seen below:

We saw people on top the day before, but it appears they weren’t rock climbers.

The top is rather barren and desolate. A basalt layer with
dsc_0122 Prickly Pear and dsc_0124

Telegraph/telephone wires. dsc_0138Surprisingly wild views. CSM is this way, hidden by the edge of the mesa (you can also see Lookout Mountain in the distance).

It was, on a Monday morning, mostly deserted. Most of the runners and bikers appeared to be connected with NREL.

Elk Range Trail

The Elk Range Trail is a short (3.3 mile) trail in the Centennial Cone county park near Golden Colorado. Getting there is a scenic drive from the city, whether you use the twisty route 6 or the interstate 70, then cut north. Be warned, on weekends mountain biking and hiking pick alternate days (hikers on odd days, bikers on even ones). 9-oct-2016

We were doing a flying visit and so only had time to do an out and back walk, but the loop with the Travois trail would be even better.

Lookout Mountain is in the distance in this picture from the other car park.

Gear review, trail runners and the Talon 44.

You may have noticed some of the pictures I’ve posted. At least I hope you have. Most are not from places you can easily drive to.

DSC_0910 The road on this Welsh mountain isn’t for cars. Not even those little tiny ones they drive too fast and on the other side of the road in the UK.
IMG_0865 This view, on the AT in North Carolina, isn’t on the road either.

So I tend to walk. Which means I wear shoes. I used to wear hiking boots.

2016-08-17 17.14.47These are Merrell bare access 4 trail runners. Ones that happen to be used and peat-stained. It doesn’t look quite as pretty as the catalog image. I’ll typically wear only a thin pair of liner socks. There are two approaches to keeping dry feet. Do and don’t. In reasonable 3-season hiking the best approach is to let your feet get wet and then wear gear that dries quickly. These are laced with a “heel lock” which holds them on tightly without requiring extraordinarily tight lacing. It also means that the backs of the shoes don’t wear out and break down. Most trail runners wear out quickly, so I only wear these for walking. They have a thin vibram sole. Mine don’t slip when they’re wet, which is good. Not just good but necessary. The thin sole is a blessing and a curse. You can feel your way, it’s almost barefoot. It also means you can feel sharp rocks and gravel.

After a good few kilometres, I strongly recommend them.

I also need a pack. My trusty REI flash 50 finally bit the dust after several years of hard service. I thought very hard about replacing it with a Gossamer gear or similar ultralight pack. (I have and love a Mariposa plus.) 2016-08-17 17.15.48Several things made me choose the Osprey Talon 44. It’s made of tougher fabric, it has a top pocket with a key holder, it easily meets airline carry on restrictions, there’s a semi-hidden pocket for passports and spare cash, and finally it carries a reasonable amount of weight without too much effort. This last point is important. I tried an earlier version of Osprey’s breathable frame and it hurt. (This is a personal observation, my son used it for Philmont without any trouble.) Finding where to put water bottles and platypus’s (platypi?) is a little problematic but solvable. There’s even a top strap under the lid so I can drape my raingear over the top and strap it in. It’s definitely big enough for a light-weight backpacker during the three easy seasons.

2016-08-17 17.16.10 I always add a couple of extras to my packs. A real carabiner – from the climbing section at REI and not a cheap knock off, is essential. I clip my walking sticks and map case to it. It can also double as a pulley when I hoist my pack in bear country. This carabiner is a locking one which is better for my use than a clip one because it won’t accidentally clip on to things. The other thing is a bandana. Cotton might kill, but a bandana is a life-saver. A pot holder, an emergency hat, when soaked in water it can keep you cool, and um, is useful for washing those delicate areas when they start to chafe. I also tie it to the pack I’m using as sort of a badge of honour.

Happy trails.

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