Lens-Artists #119: Hideaway

For this challenge Ann-Christine has asked us “where or what is our hideaway”. Her description of hideaway says “A Hideaway, is a place to which a person can retreat for safety, privacy, relaxation, to seek seclusion or refuge.”

When I am at home I can hideaway for a few moments by getting out in nature or by reading a book. But for me, a true hideaway is a wilderness area far away from civilization, somewhere with no robo calls, internet, or other interruptions.

Three of my favorite destinations immediately came to mind – the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in south Georgia, Denali National Park in Alaska, and Everglades National Park in Florida. Although these are three unique protected wilderness areas, what they have in common is that they are miles away from civilization and the wildlife is free to roam.

Okefenokee Landscape
Okefenokee Landscape

Of these three areas, the closest to my home is the Okefenokee Swamp. When we get to the end of the 17 mile road from the main highway and arrive at Stephen C. Foster State Park I feel like I am in another world. This image and the one at the top were both taken in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge near Fargo, Georgia.

Mount Denali in Denali National Park, Alaska

To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.

John Muir
Sunrise in Everglades National Park in Flamingo, Florida

There are no other Everglades in the world. They are, they have always been, one of the unique regions of the earth; remote, never wholly known. Nothing anywhere else is like them.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas

Thanks to Ann-Christine for this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #119: Hideaway.

Lens-Artists #108: Sanctuary

This week, our guest host Xenia of Tranature has chosen Sanctuary for our challenge. She reminds us that “Sanctuary can be found and created in a garden, a park, a field of wild flowers and by the sea …… watching wildlife, listening to birdsong …… along the forest trails and in the mountains.” She has asked us to show where we find it or how we create our calm and healing.

America’s National Parks and Wildlife Refuges are national treasures and wonderful places to find sanctuary.

Pa-Hay-Otee Overlook in Everglades National Park
Pa-Hay-Otee Overlook in Everglades National Park
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Cypress Trees in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
Polychrome Overlook, Denali National Park, Alaska
Polychrome Overlook, Denali National Park, Alaska

Closer to home, I can find my sanctuary watching the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean on one of Georgia’s barrier islands (image at the top of the page), walking on the beach, or watching the birds and butterflies in my backyard butterfly garden.

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Waiting for Tropical Storm Isaias

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Xenia, thank you for this weeks Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Sanctuary

Day 56: Rainy Day in Denali

Day 56: Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Our plan for the day was to ride the bus up to the Polychrome Overlook and take a hike. When we awoke to a steady rain we decided to wait to see if it would clear up. The rain continued all day so we took a couple of short hikes around the campground instead.

The rain finally let up a little later in the afternoon so we spent the rest of the day relaxing by the campfire.

Day 55: Wildlife but no mountain view

Day 55: Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Our search for wildlife continued as we boarded our bus at 9:40 am. The 120 mile round trip to Kantishna and back took us all day. Our bus driver and tour guide Wayne kept us informed about each area we went through. The weather was overcast and rainy all day.

Our first two wildlife sightings were Grizzly bears. The first was close to the road, the second farther away.

Next, we saw two different herds of Caribou before stopping at the Toklat River rest area. There we saw Dall Sheep on two different mountains. The Dall Sheep look like white dots on the mountain without binoculars or a telephoto lens. The pictures aren’t too good but you can tell they are sheep.

There were Caribou grazing on top of a ridge before we stopped at the Eileson Visitor’s Center for a stroll in the rain on the Tundra Loop Trail.

And then there were moose.

The Denali Park Road ends in Kantishna where several gold mines once operated. One of the mines was owned by the Quigleys. When the couple got divorced, Fannie Quigley built a cabin and lived there alone. When the national park expanded its boundaries the several privately owned lodges located there were allowed to continue to stay open.

As we began our return trip we stopped at Wonder Lake where on a clear day there is a view of Mt. McKinley. In Denali National Park the chance of seeing Mt. McKinley is only 30% and the chance of seeing a bear is 90%.

Other than stopping to watch some Dall Sheep far off on the side of a mountain we didn’t make many stops to view wildlife on the return trip.

Total wildlife count for the day: 13 Caribou, 12 Dall Sheep, 2 Grizzly Bears, several Arctic Ground Squirrels, and a Ptarmigan (the state bird of Alaska) flying low to the ground by the bus. A great day!

Day 54: Into the Denali Wilderness

Day 54: Monday, July 8, 2013. Denali RV Park and Motel to Teklanika River Campground, Denali National Park, Site 27. About 40 miles driven.

Denali Park Road is the only road in Denali National Park and Preserve. Private vehicles can drive the first 15 miles. Within those first 15 miles are the Visitor’s Center, the sled dog kennels, a campground, a science and learning center, scenic turnouts, and many hiking trails.

Travel beyond the first 15 miles is limited to the park buses and private vehicles going to and from Teklanika River Campground at mile marker 29.1. The campground has about 50 sites and a few of them are quite large. There is a three night minimum stay required and once we set up in our campsite we could not move our vehicle until the day we left. When we checked into the campground we received a camping pass along with a vehicle pass which we showed a park ranger at the Savage Creek checkpoint at the end of the 15 miles. She asked if we had filled our fresh water tank and had food. When we replied yes we were on our way into the wilderness area of Denali National Park.

The first 15 miles of the Denali Park Road is paved. The rest is dirt. The 90 mile road has several rest areas and scenic turnouts for the buses.

The wilderness area of Denali is just that.  Congress designated Denali to remain a mostly primitive area. There are no maintained trails except for around the Eielson visitor’s center. Hikers can hike wherever they want. There are a few campgrounds for tent camping that can only be reached by riding the bus. Bicycles are allowed and we saw a few cyclists.

After setting up camp we walked to the bus stop to wait for a bus so we could see some of the Denali Wilderness. The buses start near the entrance to the park where visitors can board for a tour. The 20 people waiting for the bus at our campground were all hoping to get the next bus. Sometimes the bus is full and riders have to wait for the next one. Most of the riders are hoping to see wildlife and the protocol is to shout “STOP” if anything is spotted. The driver will stop the bus and, if possible, position the bus so there is a good view of the wildlife. Our bus had scheduled stops at Teklanika River rest area, Polychrome overlook, Toklat River rest area, and Eielson Visitor’s Center. The rest areas have pit toilets and the Eielson visitor’s center has rest rooms. At each stop the driver announces when he will depart. Riders can stay longer at any location and catch another bus later. Hikers can catch a ride on a bus by standing on the side of the road and waving their arms.

We rode the bus as far as the Eielson Visitor’s Center. Our two objectives were to see wildlife and hopefully Mt. McKinley. On a clear day the mountain can be seen from the Eielson visitor’s center. Unfortunately, it was not a clear day. We struck out pretty much on the wildlife sightings, too. There were several Caribou sightings and Dall sheep so high on the mountain they looked like white dots. No bears at all.

The rain started coming down as we returned to the campground. Our campsite was at the end of a row with trees and wildflowers surrounding us. The site next to us was empty and we felt like the only people there.