Category: flowers

Hiking the Trails at Devil’s Den State Park: Throwback Travels

Since it looks like summer is here to stay, I’m slowly catching up on things. It is amazing how much more you can get done when it is too hot and humid to be outside (I think we have a heat advisory through tomorrow night).

So, I decided that I would try to see how many #ThursdayThrowbackTravel posts I could generate this summer and fall–both as blog posts and as pages under the travel tab.

The first entry for the ‘series’ is looking back at a trip we took to Arkansas a little over four years ago, when we visited Devil’s Den State Park. The park is located probably halfway between Fayetteville and Fort Smith within the Ozark National Forest.

The park offers three main outdoor activities: hiking (or walking), mountain bike riding, and horseback riding (as long as you supply the bike or horse). We went for the hiking/walking aspect. They also offer either camping or cabins for rent.

Cabin rental within Devil’s Den State Park

During our three to four day stay; at least half the day was spent out on different trails (that were either easy or moderate in terms fo difficulty–so not that much climbing or stairs involved).

There are approximately 13 trails within the park, with one or two being set aside strictly for mountain biking. The others you can hike, and on most of them–you also need to watch out for people on mountain bikes or horses.

Deer spotting

Taking these kind of trips take me right to one of my ‘happy places’–being out in nature. I enjoy trying to catch glimpses of different wildlife, seeing how many different birds I can spot, and taking numerous wildflower photos.

While the world is slowly opening back up–I’ve been slowly thinking of trying to plan a trip for sometime between 2022-2024 (nice time frame, right), though I know it may not be an outdoor trip (I prefer taking nature based trips with other people, safety in numbers), but possibly a trip to a new city/state or even country–if I’m feeling up to air travel (will have to see how things play out pandemic wise).

What is your favorite state park to visit? Then where is your favorite hiking trail?

No Comments bird watchingbutterfliesflowersinsectsnatureoutdoorsPhotographyState ParkstravelTurtles

Turtles & throwback photos: celebrating national trails day

Did you know that June is the ‘Great Outdoors Month’?

It started as the ‘Great Outdoors Week/end’ in the late 1990s under President Clinton, and was expanded under the presidents that followed. It has only been the past two years (since 2019) that it was officially designated as the ‘Great Outdoors Month’ by Congress.

It was designed as a way to get people outdoors and being active, plus showcase how outdoor activities are economically beneficial as well for everyone.

Within the month, there are also ‘specific’ days that get celebrated as well, such as:

National Trails Day (1st Saturday of the month–so for 2021, that would be today), and National Get Outdoors Day (2nd Saturday of teh month, so this year it will be on June 12th).

So, today is National Trails Day which was established to promote awareness to the massive trail system in the country that is maintained by the local, state, and federal governments.

Luckily, I live just a few blocks from a great walking trail–Boomer Lake (the trail goes all the way around, plus there are mini-paths that branch off from some of the sidewalk). While there are still areas that I haven’t really explored (during the summer there are ticks to be worried about, and the the cold temperatures in the winter), but I do try to get out on the trail at least once a month (if not once a week). I’m also going to try to get to Sanborn Lake and see what type of wildlife is around there as well sometime this year.

Red-eared slider seen sunning itself at Boomer Lake

There are other hiking trails that are nearby at one of the larger area lakes, but not within walking distance. Plus, walking/hiking the trails at Lake McMurtry requires you to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes. At least at Boomer Lake, it is only water snakes (and I don’t get close to those either).

When we managed to get up to northern Minnesota for vacation, there were always numerous hiking trails on the north shore of Lake Superior, and then just walking the roads around the area lakes also allowed for nature photography and watching. Depending on the time of year that we would go up there–it would either be in time to look for waterfalls, or take pictures of the different wildflowers growing.

Following the river (which I’m pretty sure was in Temperance River State Park)

One nice thing about hiking along the rivers, you could see where they entered Lake Superior:

Temperance River entering Lake Superior

Sometimes you can even follow the trail all the way down to the mouth of the river. Then you are able to see all the rocks that have collected over the centuries.

Smooth rocks in the river

I do like trying to find agates on the beach–on the rare occasion I’m successful, but most of the time I’m not (though since I’m not a geologist–I may have missed quite a few of them).

Wildflowers

I’ve managed to do several other small hikes over the years (these will possibly be their own pages under the travel section–coming soon[in addition to possible pages for the these hikes as well]), and hopefully will be able to do a several more in the future.

Where is your favorite hiking trail located, and is it an easy, medium, or hard hike?

No Comments fitnessflowersHealthnatureoutdoorsRandom Celebration DaysReflectionsState Parkstravel

I spy with my little eye–crow poison in bloom.

So I noticed this wildflower blooming around the base of one of our crepe myrtle bushes.

False garlic, aka crows poison blooming in the yard

What was unique and interesting about the flowers–I didn’t plant them there. Some animal (whether it was mammal or avian) ate the seeds of the flowers somewhere else and used this area as their ‘bathroom’ at some point over the past few months.

So false garlic (also known as crow poison) is an early spring wildflower that is one of the first to appear in bloom, and depending on the summer weather may even flower again in the fall.

This is a wildflower that is native to a good chunk of United States (from Virginia to Oklahoma and upwards from Ohio to Nebraska; the only state in the ‘area’ that it isn’t found in is West Virginia), Mexico, and South America (Peru, Uruguay, and areas within Argentina and Chile). It has also been listed as a rare or threatened plant in two states (Indiana as crow poison, and within Ohio as false garlic).

While I didn’t plant the flowers around the bushes, it was a nice little pop of color this spring, when so many of the plants didn’t really flower that well (our peach bush was budding out in February when the killing freeze came through, that also took out our crepe myrtles–though at least one has growth near the base of the plant; the jury is still out on the other four).

Before these had flowered, my dad noticed others in the yard-but mowed them down thinking they were just weeds–little did we know that they would give beautiful white flowers. If more pop up this fall, I may try to ‘transplant’ them to anohter area, where we can appreciate the flowers and color better.

Reference: https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=NOBI2

No Comments flowersnatureoutdoorsPhotography

It’s not a weed–it’s an herb: National Dandelion Day

It is also going to be the start of yet another photography challenge. I’ve decided yesterday that while I’m going to try to do another 365 day photography challenge, the main rule will be all pictures have to be from this year forward with a few exceptions (such as way-back Wednesdays, throw-back Thursdays, and flash-back Fridays).

So every day (hopefully) will be a ‘new’ picture for 2021-forward, unless on Wed/Thur/Fri I can’t decide on a ‘new’ picture and decide to do a ‘older picture’ from 2020-earlier.

Dandelions in the yard

Did you know that April 5th is also National Dandelion Day?

While many people consider dandelions to be ‘weeds’ and invasive plants–it is actually an herb.

Dandelion seeds ready to disperse

Dandelions have the ability to grow just about anywhere and can be found on every continent except for Antarctica.

While they may ‘interrupt’ the esthetics of a manicured lawn–they actually have numerous benefits, such as being rich in vitamins A, B, C, and D.

The leaves of the flower are edible and have been used in both soups and salads.

The flowers have also been brewed into wines and teas as well.

Native Americans use the flower for medicinal purposes as well.

Some of those medicinal purposes can include reducing inflammation, aiding in digestion, boosting the immune system, regulating blood sugar, and possibly reducing cholesterol.

Dandelions in the yard

I remember picking numerous dandelions in middle school and learning how to make paper from them in art class–something I may try to do again this spring/summer as a fun little craft project.

We leave dandelions growing in our yard–in part to help the insects (such as honeybees), but also because they’re green and are helping to keep the dirt and dust from coming into the house. They hardy enough to handle dogs running over them constantly.

Do you see dandelions as a weed to be removed from the yard or as a flower/herb that grows where it wants?

No Comments flowersnaturePhotographyRandom Celebration Days

Photography Challenge Day 13: Ruby-throated hummingbird

So the winner of today’s photography challenge is the ruby-throated hummingbird.

I’ve always been intrigued by hummingbirds—they’re small, quick, and they beat their wings constantly.

Lately, I’ve also been trying to remember that when I was younger I felt a little like a hummingbird.

In that I could dive into a subject, immerse myself, learns as much as I could and then move on.

Ruby-throated hummingbird at the rose-of-Sharon

I did this for class projects: there was the paper over the Culture of India (and I covered everything from architecture to music to philosophy), to diving into the history of Peru (though I don’t think I ever wrote a paper over this—so that may be something to go back to) and medieval England.

I’ve always been fascinated with birds—I have quite a few bird encyclopedias in my storage unit, plus numerous articles that I had clipped out of the papers as I was growing up to make a scrap book on them.

So what does fascination with birds, culture and history of other countries, and everything else have to do with hummingbirds?

Ruby-throated hummingbird at another rose-of-Sharon

When I had taken the Clifton Strength Assessment test back in both 2017 and 2019, my top strength was learner.

This trait fits people who have a love of learning (though they have to be drawn to the topic), love digging into new things, love researching topics and ideas and gathering information.

These individual have been likened to hummingbirds in that they will deeply investigate on subject before moving on to another—similarly how hummingbirds will investigate flowers for their nectar before going to the next flower.

Until I took the test and saw the top strength as learner—I had almost forgotten how much I enjoyed learning, reading, investigating, and putting the information together in some format.

Getting my undergraduate degrees took awhile—because I was ‘bouncing’ between ‘flowers’ (aka different subjects)—but I did manage to get my two degrees and minor (though now looking back, I should have taken that last six hours of sociology to get that minor as well).

Graduate school, allowed me to dive deeply into a subject that was still fairly new and I was learning different techniques and systems. The first postdoc was where the love of learning started to dwindle—while the topic was slightly different from grad school—what I was being taught really wasn’t, and therefore I got bored (only realizing now, exactly why I was getting bored so early—if I had realized it then, things might have gone differently had I asked for either another project or figured out a way to strike up a collaboration with another lab).

The second postdoc allowed me to dive into another system and I learned quite a bit—though I didn’t like being told to read up on other things in my spare time. I learned in both staff positions—more so in the first (only because I was working with undergrads in several different labs on several different projects) than the second. It has taken about ten months of self-reflection to realize that one of the problems that I had with the last position—I was bored; while I had been told I could ‘collaborate’ with other labs on projects, the only labs I could think of would have required me doing experiments and those aren’t something that you can schedule to only take 1 to 2 hours a day.

As I now move forward—I have to remember that I’m like a hummingbird, where there needs to be ample ‘flowers’ around for me to sample; I may hang around one or two longer than others, but at least I won’t get bored.

This is something that I will keep in the forefront as I start looking towards either my industry transition or freelancing/working for myself–I need variety to keep busy–so for me (at least mentally) it is better to be both a jack-of-all-trades and a ‘specialist’.

Have you taken the Clifton Strength Assessment Test? What was your top strength?

No Comments bird watchingcareerflowersnaturePersonal DevelopmentPhotographyprofessional developmentReflections

The bee on the chive flower: Photography challenge day 8

So I’m basically going to be a day behind in the photography challenge, unless I manage to do a double photography post at some point.

The winner for today’s entry is the honeybee on the chive flowers.

Honeybee on the chive flowers

The honeybee (and actually all of the bee clade) is actually only native to Eurasia, but humans took them to four other continents (Africa, Australia, South & North America).

In terms of recognition—there are eight species recognized, but with a total of 43 subspecies. These subspecies are populations of bees that living in different areas and have different morphological characteristics. Out of those species—two have been domesticated for honey production and/or crop pollination—the eastern & western honeybees. Other bees may also produce & store honey—but not to the extent that the eastern & western honeybees manage.

Honeybee on the chive flowers

One way to help these insects is to plant bushes, flowers, veggies, herbs, and other plants that are native to the area (or at least not totally invasive) that can attract the bees and help them survive.

We have numerous bushes in the yard that flower (crepe myrtles, rose-of-Sharon, wisteria, clematis, flowering quints, and others), in addition we also have various herbs planted, though the only one that really flowers is the chive.

Chives are a flowering plant that produces edible leaves and flowers (though we leave the flowers alone so that the bees, wasps, and butterflies have something to also feed on). They are also related to common onions, garlic, shallot, leek, scallion, and the Chinese onion. These are one herb that once you plant; they will come back up for a couple of years (unless there is a really cold snap, and I’d guess less than 0 degrees).

This year I’ve managed to get the picture of bees, flies, butterflies, and wasps all resting/feeding on the chive flowers. A new goal for next year—record and see how many of which species land on the flowers.

Do you like chives? If so–what is your favorite recipe for them? Another thought–maybe once I have my own place, I can become a part time beekeeper. Are you (or someone you know) a beekeeper? Have you ever thought of becoming one??

No Comments flowersinsectsnaturePhotography

Photography Challenge Day 199: Odds and Ends

So since I couldn’t just pick one or two pictures to share today, the theme is odds and ends. Basically a little bit of several things–namely insects, arthropods, and maybe either some fungi or a bird or two. In other words–it will be mainly pictures, with a few words here and there.

Viceroy butterfly

I did see a Viceroy butterfly on my morning walk the other day going around Boomer Lake. It was just sitting on the one edge of the bridge soaking up some morning sun before looking for food.

Heron flying overhead

I’m also pretty certain that I got a picture of a green heron in flight. The body type is right for them, and they’re a dark color. It just didn’t help that they had the sun at their back, making it hard to see the actual green color of their feathers.

Red-spotted Purple Admiral Butterfly

I managed to get a good picture of an red-spotted purple admiral this weekend as well. Luckily I spotted one on the street (and there weren’t any cars coming).

Bee on the flowers

Our decorative grass is flowering, and that means I’m starting to see some bees in the backyard again this fall. It’s always nice to see them.

Creepy little spider

Then I noticed that there was this little spider spinning it’s web between the leaves of some of the plants.

So these are just a few of the other pictures that I took this weekend (and I still have others I can share). Most of the pictures are nature/wildlife, as that is what I’m currently most comfortable trying to photograph. Though this fall/winter I may start branching out and starting to do some architecture shots as well. But mainly I’m focusing on enjoying a hobby, and maybe figuring out how to fit in daily with everything else.

No Comments bird watchingbutterfliesflowersinsectsnaturePhotographyScience

Photography Challenge Day 198: The chives have flowered

So the winner of today’s photography challenge are the flowers of the chive plant, and the numerous different insects that have visited them so far.

One of the several stalks of chive flowers

There have been numerous different insects on the chive flowers so far, though I haven’t been keeping count (or actually watch for a specific amount of time).

One species of wasp on the flowers.

This summer I’ve seen a couple of different wasps, and some flies. I’m pretty sure that the butterflies are coming through–just not that often when I’m around with my camera.

Mating wasps on the flowers??

So it looks like some of the wasps were also potentially mating on the flowers as well–I thought that this was a really weird looking wasp. Once I got the pictures on the computer–it looks likes two wasps (or other flying insects) potentially were mating (or one was cannibalizing the other).

Butterfly on the flowers

Though this one butterfly did come through the yard on Saturday, and stopped on the flowers long enough for me to get a couple of pictures of it. I also think that this is the silvery checkerspot butterfly (more on this in another post).

No Comments butterfliesflowersinsectsnaturePhotography

Photography Challenge Day 197: The plant optical illusion (short post)

So the winner of today’s photography challenge is the Rose-of-Sharon in the backyard. I was spending time doing photography this afternoon and I liked the way that the flowers of the one Rose-of-Sharon looked.

It looks like Johnny/Number-5 to me…..

It wasn’t until I was reviewing the picture, that I realized it reminded me of Johnny/Number-5 from Short Circuit. If you’ve never seen the movie–you’re forgiven (I’ve aged myself with the reference).

The plot of the movie is a robot discovers self-awareness and consciousness after being struck by lightning. With a little help, it tries to evade being recaptured and reprogrammed while at the same time trying to prove “it’s alive” to its creator.

While the movie is over thirty years old, it is a wonderful movie–and if you haven’t seen it, I strongly recommend it.

No Comments flowersnatureOptical IllusionsPhotography

Photography Challenge Day 188: Grasshopper hiding in the grass

The winner of today’s photography challenge is a grasshopper. I noticed this guy hanging out in the flowers of some grass (if I had to wager a bet—it is either switchgrass, or a close family member).

Grasshopper in the grass

So grasshoppers go through five different molts between hatching from the egg and the adult—but they look like an adult in each stage (just smaller and slightly weirder—as I shared some pictures of the younger nymphs earlier this summer).

This one was just chilling in the flowers, though I’m sure that if I got any closer it would have jumped towards other tall grasses in the area.

A little on the grass (as I’m going to say that I’m pretty sure that it is either switchgrass—or a close family member), it was probably thinking of chomping on. Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a perennial warm season grass that is native to North America. This is one of the many plants that is being groomed as potential biofuel plants. One of the main reason why it is being looked at: it isn’t part of the food chain for either humans or cattle (or other farm animals).

It can also grow in areas that other plants can’t—such as high salt, and brackish waters. It has a very good root system—so it can also work in erosion control as well. It comes back year after year—and before we started building cities and towns in the middle of the prairie—it was one of the major native grasses.

I actually worked with this grass during graduate school (it was the focus of my dissertation)—and I am always amazed to see how tall it grows in the wild (in the lab—it’s height is limited by either the growth chamber or being trimmed back in the greenhouses)—it can get up to six feet tall pretty quickly in some areas.

No Comments flowersinsectsnaturePhotography