Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Balloon Festival

WHEN? Wednesday · June 18

WHERE? Foley, Alabama · find us on the map

Can you imagine a Balloon Festival without balloons? When we attended it last weekend, that's what it was.

I always hate it for those who plan an outdoor festival, and then the weather doesn't cooperate. We were probably there less than an hour when the weather became so threatening that we left before the downpour.

The balloon festival ... that wasn't

I think you'll agree that the 4th Annual Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival was uneventful for us. We even missed the frisbee dogs. We did see a tiny dog who was dressed up all fancy that we got a photo of. Other than that, we enjoyed viewing some really old tractors on display.

See more Balloon Festival photos on flickr

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Weeks Bay Reserve

WHEN? Tuesday · June 10

WHERE? Fairhope, Alabama · find us on the map

estuary: A semi-enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea. Estuaries are often associated with high rates of biological productivity.

Our first visit to Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve was last February, while geocaching with Dave and Barb. We gave up on finding the cache because recent rains had made the boardwalk where it was located waterlogged. Remember Bog Reflections? Later that same day, though, we did find a cache located on the estuary itself.

We knew then we would want to come back.

Welcome to Weeks Bay Pitcher Plant Bog

Most of our morning was spent on long boardwalks seeing and learning about Weeks Bay habitat.

  • Flora: We began today's visit at the Pitcher Plant Bog AKA the Kurt G. Wintermeyer Trail, a joint project of Weeks Bay Reserve Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs programs. (That was a mouthful, wasn't it?) Although we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves, the descriptive signs served as a knowledgeable tour guide.

    White-topped pitcher plant
    White-topped Pitcher Plant

    It’s easy to see why these plants were given this name, when you look at them. They come in several varieties and colors and have an appetite for insects. Since neither of us had seen a pitcher plant until today, our experiences fall into the familiar category of “don’t believe I’ve ever seen anything like this before.” As we've traveled during the last several years, we've said that phrase so many times we've lost count.

  • Fauna: We encountered lots of butterflies, a tiny salamander and a black-tailed squirrel different from any we'd ever seen before. Unfortunately, it scooted up a tall tree before we could take a decent photo of it. Weeks Bay is also home to many varieties of birds, and its website serves to encourage birdwatching.

After completing the tour of the pitcher plant bog, we briefly visited the Interpretive Center, then explored another long boardwalk.

See more Weeks Bay photos on flickr

Wildflower:  Meadow Beauty Weeks Bay Interpretive Center An especially helpful sign

So can you tell that we really like this place?
We’ve been sorta at loose ends ever since we completed our previous volunteer jobs at Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery in Kentucky. Since it's so close to home, we're considering volunteering one day a week or so at Weeks Bay, to help visitors enjoy this beautiful natural area while we learn more about it ourselves.

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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Beach breezes

WHEN? Thursday · June 5

WHERE? Gulf Shores, Alabama · find us on the map

Until our recent move here, most of Gulf Shores that Wendell and I had seen was limited to the drive past various tourist destinations along Highway 59 and Perdido Beach Boulevard, on the way to our regular Orange Beach vacation spots. Now that we're Gulf Coast locals, we've been exploring areas that we used to breeze on past. Today we discovered a Gulf Shores public beach that's less than 20 miles from home. Although it didn't offer the senior-discount freebie we've grown accustomed to, the $5 parking fee was worth perks like restrooms and showers that aren't available at other area public beaches.

The yellow hazard flag was flying when we arrived, and the strong winds created big, curling waves like I haven't seen since we vacationed on Dauphin Island over thirty years ago. With so many families out on a weekday afternoon, there were plenty of opportunities for people-watching. My favorite was a parasailer who was pulled from the shore to the horizon and back several times. He seemed to enjoy the challenge of the high surf.Beach Warning Flags
The purple flag was also up, but that didn't keep people out of the water

The wind was such that we thought we might go parasailing while we were trying to get our sun shelter put up! Shortly after a red hazard flag replaced the yellow one, we departed to escape an unexpected rainstorm. Our time there was fun though, and we got our five bucks worth.

See more of today's photos on flickr:
Beach · Clouds · Sky · Waves

Gulf Shores parasailer