Archives

From 405 Magazine: Cruising Alaska among the icebergs, rainbows, the eagles and everything else wild Un-Cruise Style

On the first morning of seven days and nights in the southern passages, I woke up to icebergs. Perched above the iceberg was an eagle and above the eagle on an iceberg was a rainbow… All of which was happening in front of a waterfall.

Alaskan Sunset

Alaskan Sunset

An hour later, while watching a brown bear bumble adorably along the shoreline, just off the bow of the boat, a humpback whale leaped out of the water. By day’s end, the sun made a royal departure, turning the night purple and gold for just a moment until everything was silent. Pics are below and link to my two stories are here for 405 Magazine and here for Lost Tribe.

 

286e-2ae8-6c8b-de13

Killer Whale just off the bow of our sister ship.

6617-f41f-1e12-bfbb

Nothing like waking up at 4am with the sun already up surrounded by icebergs. One of the most memorable mornings of my life.

Nothing rivals the EXPLOSION that follows as this glacier shed its primordial ice.

Nothing rivals the EXPLOSION that follows as this glacier shed its primordial ice.

The view above Mendenhall Glacier

The view above Mendenhall Glacier

Salmon is always the best choice in Alaska.

Salmon is always the best choice in Alaska.

 

An eagle perched on an iceberg looking for some lunch.

An eagle perched on an iceberg looking for some lunch.

One of many waterfalls in the eastern passages.

One of many waterfalls in the eastern passages.

Humpback tail

Humpback tail

an old volcanic plug

an old volcanic plug

oaxaca, mezcal, mexico, travel, food, drink, fiesta

From 405 Magazine: The colorful spirit of Oaxaca and the magic of mezcal

From second-story balconies, families watch and wave as I step into the Oaxaca night – A frenzied parade of colorful skirts, twirling giants and brassy horns fill through narrow cobblestone streets. Wherever such a kaleidoscopic parade goes, an exponentially larger fiesta will begin. To read more from this story, click from 405 Magazine HERE.Jimedor

costa rica, hot springs, tabacon, costa rican vacations, NAMU, tourism, travel, wildlife, waterfalls, arenal, volcanoes, national park, volcanoes national park

From 405 Magazine: Tabacon Hot Springs, Best hot springs resort in Costa Rica

Tabacon, tabacon resort, tabacon hot springs, hot springs, costa rica, arenal,volcano, vacation, costa rican vacations

howler monkey outside Tabacon Hot Springs

Tabacon Thermal Hot Springs and Resort, at the base of the Arenal Volcano and Arenal National Park is one of the most beautiful and unique resorts in the world. The best thing to do when you are at Tabacon? Take a walk. Read about it here in my most recent article from 405 Magazine! Tabacon, Hot Springs and Resort, Costa Rica

Hot Springs at Tabacon, Costa Rica

Hot Springs at Tabacon, Costa Rica

the harrowing tale of a horse’s rear end: Life on the farm

When the rubber glove had finally been unrolled, it stretched two feet long, roughly the distance from the doctor’s fingertips to her shoulder. She and two others stood sternly at the horse’s rear end, scratching their chins and throwing around words combos like “vulva” and “inflamed urethra” like two drunk guys discussing football stats. The horse, Ella, now restrained in a “horse stock,” seemed only aware that she had

Ella having a bad day

Ella having a bad day

been separated from her baby Tucker who screamed from the barn next door. I hovered with Meg around the horse’s head justifying my presence as equine moral support though in truth it was morbid curiosity. With a clinical smerp, the vet technician squeezed a Big Gulp’s worth of lube onto the equine vet’s now gloved fingers and a moment later, as Ella’s eyes bulged like a “Bug Out Bob Toy,” the vet’s arm, from fingertip to shoulder, disappeared. From the other barn, once again, Tucker screamed.

A day earlier the same vet had been called out to the barn to remove as stick from the same horse’s throat. For no good reason, Ella had decided that after 22 years of successful life earth, that it was time to complicated it by swallowing small tree branches. These branches would get stuck somewhere inside her long horse neck and the only way to get it out involved forceps and prayers. And while the idea of shoving your arm down the throat of a very powerful horse seemed daunting, what the vet was doing now, though teeth were not involved seemed far more so. Each time Ella’s yearling would scream from the other barn, some herculean combination of powerful muscle contractions followed by a loud Winnie, would fire the doctor’s arm out of the horse’s back side like a cannon for a moment and back in it would go.

“She’s an old breeding mare. She’s used to this,” said Meg, who stood dutifully at the horse’s head, trying to calm her.

“No one could ever be used to that,” I managed as the horse’s eyes continued to bulge, the doctor prodding repeatedly. Finally the vet pulled her arm from the horse’s backside with a smile.

“Everything seems fine in there,” she said. As much for myself as the horse, I was thrilled the whole was over.

“Glad it’s all good,” I said, trying to sound like what I’d just seen was normal.

“All that is left now is a vaginal exam.”

“Wait… Then what exactly was that?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

As the next exam began, this time involving a pink ribbon around Ella’s tail to allow easier access to the next unfortunate frontier, once again, for the other barn, Tucker whinnied for his mother and like only a mom taken away from her child could do, Ella whinnied back.

There is something oddly humanizing about watching a horse take an entire arm in ass. In one revolution of the planet, Ella the horse had been violated in more ways than an over-ambitious porn star and once again, I had seen things that could not be unseen… Life on a farm… Most harrowing of all, in the end, the only thing wrong with the horse was that Ella was simply getting older. Ella had been a horse that thus far I hadn’t gotten to know very well but my heart couldn’t help but swell as she returned to see her little yearling Tucker whose panicked “whinny” had sent the doctor’s arm flying from the worried mother’s backside more than a half dozen times. Never mind the body cavity intrusion… All she cared about was her kid. Yet as they were reunited, it seemed so easy for a horse to forget such a violation. Not so much the case for a city guy like me. The next time I saw Ella, she would definitely get an extra carrot or two… though perhaps after the day she’d had she might just prefer a flake of hay.

AuSable River, Michigan: A Father’s Day reflection

One night while my family vacationed in the Northern Michigan town of Harbor Springs, my father suggested that we go fishing. The nostalgia-filled, stop-sign-only resort town is located on Lake Michigan at the tip of the Lower Peninsula, just two hours north of the famed AuSable River.  That was where we were headed.

At just 17, I was well aware that the AuSable River is one of three Michigan rivers that inspired the coming-of-age tales of Ernest Hemingway’s famed character Nick Adams, who spent his youth pulling trout from these pristine waters.

An outdoor enthusiast, my father echoed Hemingway’s fascination with the river, offering that the AuSable is a fly fisherman’s dream. The relatively wide river, which cuts through one of Michigan’s many Jack Pine forests, is said to be abundant with both rainbow and brown trout. While there were more than a dozen other rivers between Harbor Springs and the AuSable, the river’s history and reputation made it well worth the drive, despite the potential for afternoon thunderstorms.

kirtlands warbler, birdwatching, grayling

Kirtland’s Warbler

My dad was, and still is, a birdwatcher. He and a friend had driven thousands of miles across the United States in search of birds they had yet to see. To this day he keeps a lifelong list of every species of bird he has seen. As an avid birder, he was not above stopping to “pish” (something between a whisper and a whistle) at a bush in order to coax out nesting birds. He always had binoculars and had even been known to slam on the brakes of his car to identify something that turned out to be as common as a wren on a fence post.

As we loaded up the car and hit the road, I learned that my father’s reason for choosing the AuSable extended beyond the river’s lore.  Sure he wanted to fish, but really he wanted to see the Kirtland’s Warbler. This small rare migratory bird spends its summers nesting beneath Michigan’s Jack Pines near Grayling.  Like most kids my age, I was impatient, eager to get going on this father/son trip that involved the thrill of pulling in a sixteen-ounce trout from the fast-moving river. With impending thunderstorms and limited time, looking for a bird, no matter how rare, was not part of my plan.

The Kirtland’s Warbler is an extremely endangered bird. The fewer-than-a-thousand birds left on earth spend the fall and winter months in the Bahamas, migrating in the late spring, by night, to just a few counties in Northern Michigan. Having been a birder for nearly twenty years and having seen hundreds of species in America, my father was thrilled by the chance to see such a rare bird as the Kirtland’s Warbler, an opportunity as rare as the bird itself.

The nesting area was a few miles off the exit to Grayling.  A barbed wire fence, suited for the perimeter of a prison, lined a dirt road. According to the yellow warning signs, this fence was there to protect the warbler’s fragile nesting areas.

Also lining the roads were RVs with bumper stickers that read things like “I brake for roadrunners” and license tags from all over the country and Canada. Outside the RVs, their owners sat in lawn chairs, binoculars in hand, eyes trained on the tree lines.

“We will recognize the Kirtland because of its yellow belly, bluish grey back, and, most important, the broken ring around its eyes,” my father instructed me.  “You have to see the broken ring for the sighting to count,” he re-emphasized.

As we waited, rain clouds looming, he and his fellow birders swapped stories like old war buddies, occasionally pausing to check out a bird in a pine only to dismiss it as a sparrow. He was in his element and happy. My attention remained only on my watch and the rain clouds that drew nearer.  My day on the river was getting away.

My face grew hot with frustration. Frustration at the clouds. The bird. My dad. This is my vacation, I thought to myself, and he’s ruining it.

And as that thought seared itself into my mind, a bird with a yellow breast landed on a stump.

“That’s it,” I exclaimed.

My dad and the thrilled birders drew their binoculars to their eyes to catch a glimpse, but only quickly enough to see a flash of yellow before the bird vanished into the woods. Birding is highly honorable. Going on my word would confirm for all of them that they had seen the warbler.

“Did you see the broken ring around its eye?” asked one of the birders, not aware of how little I cared.

“Of course,” I lied.

“Are you sure?” asked my dad. I scanned their faces, then the clouds.  Rain was coming.

“Yes. Let’s go!”

He looked at his fellow birders and then at me. They waited, hoping for the confirmation.

“I saw it,” I managed.

“Guess that was it then,” he said, though his confirmation sounded more like shame and resignation than confirmation or accomplishment.

The car ride was silent. The way he said “Guess that was it,” weighed on me. He had hoped for years to see this bird. Seeing it should have been a moment and I had taken that moment from him. I had to make it right.

I didn’t see the ring,” I confessed. “All I saw was the yellow.”

“It’s okay,” he said.

But it wasn’t okay at all. I wanted to go back. I wanted to go back more than I’d ever wanted anything.  The river was no longer important. All I wanted was for my father to see that bird, but it was too late.

“Please…” I managed.

“We’re going fishing,” he said, the light now gone from his blue eyes.

We arrived at the AuSable. Two muskrats played along the bank and a kingfisher snagged flies from a hatch. Within minutes, it began to rain. Before long it was pouring. There would be no fish pulled from the AuSable that day. At least not by us. It was time to go home.

My dad and I in 2012

My dad and I in 2012

As we drove back towards Harbor Springs, I thought of all the fishing trips he and I had been on over the years. And as I played those memories back, I couldn’t remember any of the fish we caught at all. Just that we’d been together and that while we fished he would show me the birds. He loved them and he loved sharing them with me. I had loved just being with him.

This day had been different. We had set out to see something that we may never see again. That someday no one may ever see again.  I had been a child when we had left earlier that day, and somehow in that dark, sad moment as we drove, felt I was no longer.

“Next time,” I managed to say as it began to pour and we headed back to Harbor Springs, “We’ll see it next time.”