Yellow-Bellied Slider at Pocosin Lakes NWR

Yellow-bellied Slider
Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
North Carolina
May 2023

A telephoto shot into dense wetlands yielded this vignette of a Yellow-bellied Slider turtle.

Canon 77D + Tamron 100-400mm vc lens

I have a few North Carolina travel photos to post before I return to my regularly scheduled Spring in New Jersey shots.

Gable Barn and Distant Clouds

Gable Barn with Distant Clouds
Tuolumne County, California
May 2022

A leftover shot that I almost forgot to edit from our California trip. I especially liked the gnarled fence post and blue sky. This was captured as we drove from Groveland CA along Highway 120 to reach Big Oak Flat Road.

Read my full California trip report here –

Northern California 2022 Trip Report

Planning Phase:

After last year’s excursion to Southern Utah, Lisa and I decided to continue our explorations of the American West in 2022. After plugging a few random travel dates and locations into Travelocity I came up with round-trip non-stop flight prices from EWR airport to SFO for $280. With that value pricing, a one week trip to see the coastal Redwoods and Yosemite National Park was born. Lisa hadn’t been to California previously and I had yet to explore north of San Francisco.

I proceeded to complete our airfare purchase through Travelocity (Alaska Airlines departing NJ and then JetBlue for our return flight). Lisa also quickly began researching rental car rates out of San Francisco International and we eventually settled on Alamo rentals based on price and reviews. We booked a mid-size class car to the tune of $426 all-in for a 7 day rental.

Lisa and I were told by a friend that Point Reyes National Seashore is not to be missed and Lisa also researched Humboldt Redwoods State Park as a major nature attraction nearby to the Pacific Coast Highway. We wagered that spending our first few nights near the coast and then transitioning to lodging nearer Yosemite would lend to a diverse natural sightseeing itinerary. Google Maps also indicated that a quick stop in Napa Valley could be easily pieced into our driving route.

May 9th:

We had a smooth and uneventful trip from EWR (Newark Liberty International Airport) to SFO (San Francisco International Airport) via Alaska Airlines. ⬇️ Big Thanks to Jonboy for getting us to the airport.

We scored a very economical “mid size class sedan” from Alamo car rental and we certainly averaged well over 50+ mpg for the many hundreds of miles we drive around the PCH and Yosemite. Two thumbs up on the 2020 Hyundai Ioniq hybrid “blue edition”. The integrated Apple CarPlay also served us well for navigation purposes. ⬇️

What trip to San Francisco is complete without an obligatory touristy walk around Fisherman’s Wharf? ⬇️

Nice view of the marina near Fisherman’s Wharf and I believe that Sausalito provides the distant background. ⬇️

Heavy Metal and boating = perfect together? ⬇️ I also appreciated that the guy working on this vessel was rocking out to seminal West Coast punk band Agent Orange! 🤘

Located a few blocks from Fisherman’s Wharf, Cilantro Taqueria filled the belly of 2 hungry tourists ⬇️

Lisa enjoyed driving us down scenic and winding Lombard Street in San Fran. ⬇️

So long San Francisco, we barely knew ya. We had to reach our airbnb in Manchester CA which lies every bit of 135 miles North on the same day! We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and set our GPS for a short stop at Golden Gate National Recreation Area. ⬇️

Just a small sampling of the varied scenery at Golden Gate National Recreation Area ⬇️

Amenities and food stores seemed a little sparse as we continued our drive North on Route 1 towards the Point Arena / Manchester area. We grabbed a few groceries at Diekmann’s Bay Store to bring to the airbnb ⬇️

Arrival at airbnb #1 “Private Tiny-House in a Grove of Large Redwoods” on the evening of May 9th was a comforting sight to our tired eyes. Accommodations were very clean and modern and Jed and Emilie clearly take great pride in ownership ⬇️

May 10th

We started our morning with a quick drive from Jed’s place to the Point Arena Lighthouse for a bit of sightseeing. ⬇️

Continuing our drive up Route 1 we had a very pleasant caffeine layover at Headlands Coffeehouse in Fort Bragg ⬇️

After morning coffee we proceeded to today’s main attraction, Humboldt Redwoods State Park in Mendicino County ⬇️

Within the state park’s visitor center I found the story of conservationist and naturalist Charles Kellogg very inspiring.

Below is a small sampling of the natural sights we enjoyed at Humboldt Redwoods State Park ⬇️

As we departed Humboldt Redwoods an unexpected snow squall (not pictured) blew across both Route 1 and 101. Our brave Hyundai Ioniq pushed onward heading south through Ukiah as we circled back towards airbnb #1 in Manchester. Lisa and I stopped at Ukiah Brewing Company for a bite to eat and to taste the local brews. ⬇️

May 11th

We began the day with a short morning drive South on Route 1 out of Manchester. I wanted to see the unique geological features to be seen at “Bowling Ball Beach” at Schooner’s Gulch. Lo and Behold the “bowling balls” are not exposed during high tide. Dang! I still enjoyed stretching my legs at Schooner’s Gulch ⬇️

Next we stopped in at Gualala Point Regional Park to see the sights. The adjacent range of sheep with young lambs made for fun “wildlife viewing”.

Next we enjoyed a stop at Stewarts Point Store for a cup of coffee and freshly baked pastries ⬇️

Goat Rock at Sonoma Coast State Park proved also to be a very scenic stop along Route 1 ⬇️

Our primary destination on May 11th was to be Point Reyes National Seashore. With sparse amenities along the way we turned off the highway and explored the same town of Bodega to refill on snacks and soft drinks. Lisa and I both enjoyed the various small historic downtown shopping areas we stumbled on throughout our trip ⬇️

After taking in the sights in the town of Bodega it was time to explore Point Reyes National Seashore. It was extremely windy when we walked up to the lighthouse!!! ⬇️

More sights at Point Reyes ⬇️

May 12th

May 12th was not only my birthday, it was also time to bid the Tiny House in the Redwoods a fond farewell. Lisa and I were driving through Napa on our way to airbnb #2 in the Oakhurst/Bass Lake area ⬇️

Though we did not stay long the scenery was impressive at Lake Sonoma Recreation Area. The hiking trails also seemed challenging and noteworthy ⬇️

My internet research on visiting Napa advised that Oxbow Public Market is a must-visit so who were we to object? ⬇️

Lisa and I were a bit surprised to learn that the vast majority of Napa Vineyards require advanced reservations. We were thankful that Artesa Vineyards and Winery were able to accommodate us without reservations on a most informative wine tasting. Be sure to request host Jesse Galvan at Artesa! ⬇️

After a short but enjoyable and calorie-rich visit to Napa we hit the proverbial pedal to the metal to check into airbnb #2, Chuck’s Lost Pine Cabin ⬇️

May 13

On the morning of May 13th 2022 in the wee hours of the morning we drove North out of Oakhurst on Route 41 for our introduction to Yosemite National Park.

Having heard the walk up to Vernal Falls was “easy” we decided to give that a go. Turns out a steady steep ascent on hard asphalt can be a little tough on the feet and ankles. ⬇️

We also read that the hike to Mirror Lake was level and easy. However our energy reserves were already depleted at Vernal Falls! ⬇️

Lisa and I were extremely relieved to get off our feet and back in the car after a long day at Yosemite. We did catch some nice last day light at Tunnel View as we made our way out of the park and back to Lost Pine Cabin. ⬇️

May 14

Following another pleasant sleep at Lost Pine Cabin, Lisa and I brewed our morning coffee and prepared for another adventure day. Utilizing wifi at the cabin, I booked 10AM tickets for a tour of Boyden Caverns. ⬇️

We stopped at Grant Grove Restaurant along the way for breakfast.

With no time to spare we arrived at the Gift Shop at Boyden Cavern to embark on the 10AM guided tour. We found Stella our guide to be informative and enthusiastic ⬇️

After touring the caverns we briefly proceeded to Grizzly Falls. We then did an about face and explored the Stump Meadow area. ⬇️

After seeing such massive dead trees it was time to press onward and see the splendor of The Giant Forest sequoia grove. We were quite tired and the trails were crowded by the time we reached the largest tree in the world, The General Sherman Trail. ⬇️

After another long day of adventuring and sight-seeing (we didn’t sleep much this trip) we grabbed a late dinner at Visalia Brewing Company. We observed some seedy characters emerging on the dark streets in the city so we wasted little time in returning to the Lost Pine Cabin. ⬇️

May 15

On the morning of May 15th we drove from Oakhurst towards the town of Mariposa to see what we could see. Overall we found the stores in Mariposa underwhelming though we had decent coffee at The Pony Express. ⬇️

After breakfast we continued driving up the harrowing narrow roads of Highway 49 and chanced upon the wonderfully preserved gold mine town of Coulterville. Coulterville has a feel of a quasi-ghost town with some businesses operating in structures built in the late 1800. Gritty and authentic is how I like my Wild West sightseeing. Lisa and I spent quite a while inside the Coulterville museum appreciating the period artifacts. ⬇️

From Coulterville we ventured onward to Columbia. Columbia is also a gold mining town and home to several bustling family-friendly restaurants and shops. I did not enjoy this stop nearly as much as Coulterville though the 90F weather was also beginning to get to me. ⬇️

From Highway 49 (Golden Chain Highway) we turned east on Highway 120 back towards Yosemite National Park. We stopped for iced coffee in Groveland at FireFall Coffee Roasting Company. The drinks could have been better though our young barista insisted I give this Zombie‘s album a listen. ⬇️

As we drove south through Yosemite heading towards Oakhurst we enjoyed dynamic evening light and a beautiful view of the the Blood Moon rising. ⬇️

May 16

On the morning of May 16th we had to bid adieu to The Lost Pine Cabin in Oakhurst. Due to morning traffic en route to SFO our drive time was nearly four hours. Lisa and I boarded JetBlue flight 1982 at 2:15 Pacific Standard Time. We touched down at Newark Liberty International at approximately 11PM EST. We were both very thankful for our travel experiences and airbnb accommodations but now it was time to go home and get back to the grind.

I will be updating this trip report with interactive links and descriptive photo captions as my schedule allows.

Let me know if you have any questions on our itinerary.

People Pictures from Utah 2021 Trip

People Pictures from Utah May 2021 Trip

These photos are from our group of adventurers as we traversed Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park.

Lisa, Dave, Mark, Mario, and Kelly pose in the Narrows at Zion National Park

Mark, Mario, and Kelly take a break at the Narrows in Zion

Mario and Kelly pass through deeper water at The Narrows in Zion

Mario at Bryce Canyon

Lisa passes through Capitol Gorge at Capitol Reef National Park

Mario can’t seem to spot that pesky Big-horned Sheep near Zion National Park.

Mark photobombs a Big-horned Sheep crossing near Zion


Bryce Canyon National Park
May 2021

This Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel wasn’t too proud to beg for a meal though I was not providing one.

Learn more about the Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel –

Desert Spiny Lizard at Zion National Park

Desert Spiny Lizard
Zion National Park in Utah
May 2021

This close-up shot was taken with a telephoto lens as we only encountered small lizards on the recent trip to Southern Utah.

Read more about reptiles found in Southern Utah –

Near Goosenecks Overlook – Capitol Reef NP

Near Goosenecks Overlook
Capitol Reef National Park
Wayne County, Utah
May 2021

The walks were easy and the views expansive at Goosenecks Overlook at Capitol Reef National Park. Don’t miss this stop if you are in Southern Utah!

Visit Capitol Reef National Park –

Night Sky Over Kolob Mountain

Night Sky Over Kolob Mountain

Zion National Park in Utah
May 2021

This shot was taken off of Kolob Terrace Road away from the hustle and bustle of central Zion National Park. I got lucky as a passing car briefly illuminated the mountains to make this shot.

Visit Kolob Terrace –

Canon M5 + Rokinon 12mm F/2.0 lens
25 second exposure F/2.5 ISO 6400

Hoodoo at Capitol Reef National Park

Hoodoo at Capitol Reef National Park
Notom Bullfrog Road, Utah
May 2021

On our recent trip we did a fair amount of hiking in strong desert sun but luckily this shot was taken out of our minivan’s window.

Learn more about the scenic drives at Capitol Reef National Park –

Full Trip Report coming when I have time.

Everglades-area / South Florida Trip Report – February 2021

White Ibis and Roseate Spoonbill at Big Cypress National Preserve Florida

On the night of Sunday February 28th 2021, Mike Leone, Steve Covacci and I boarded our flight from EWR (Newark International Airport) on a direct flight to MIA (Miami International Airport). I booked my flight, hotel reservation (Fairway Inn Florida City) and rental car (Budget) all from Round-trip non-stop tickets were running $150 for the desired dates and times. We left frozen New Jersey and snowplowed banks behind in exchange for average Florida daily temperatures of 85°F. This trip would mark my 6th pilgrimage to Miami-Dade County in search of wildlife and outdoor adventures.

Dave onboard the United flight from EWR to MIA
Coastal Prairie near Flamingo

We landed on the tarmac in Miami close to midnight and made the approximate 35 mile drive south on the Florida Turnpike towards Florida City and Homestead. Itching to get my recommended daily dose of Everglades National Park (ENP), I drove our rental car directly to Main Park Road. There is 24 hour access to this area, though a seven day car pass will cost you $30. A nighttime walk from the Royal Palm Visitor Center onto Anhinga Trail and Gumbo Limbo Trail yielded views of a young American Alligator, a variety of fish, as well as some mosquitoes. Note that I only consider Everglades National Park a comfortable visit from December through March due to diminished mosquito levels. Following our nighttime nature romp, Mike, Steve, and I retired to our accommodations at Fairway Inn in Florida City which lies just about 10 miles from ENP.

Young American Alligator along Anhinga Trail

For the morning of March 1st 2021, the three amigos again drove towards Main Park Road to enjoy the immersive sites and sounds off the varied trails and boardwalks within ENP. Our morning stops included Anhinga Trail, Long Pine Key, Pa-Hay-Okee Overlook, and Mahogany Hammock. We concluded the morning adventures at Flamingo Visitor Center and also a quick look at the Coastal Prairie Trail. Following a hot and humid Florida morning the only logical way to cool down is, of course, a cold refreshing tropical milkshake at Robert Is Here. Robert Is Here is a very popular fruit stand in Homestead and a great place to sample tropical fruits like Sapote, Sapodilla, Canistel, and Guanabana.

The three amigos partook in a short afternoon siesta at Fairway Inn before setting our sails for a late afternoon walk along the historic Old Ingraham Highway. The Old Ingraham Highway was the original concrete driving route through Everglades National Park and is now closed to vehicular traffic. Steve, Mike, and I ventured out on the old highway for an approximate 3 mile nature walk and enjoyed the expansive nature views of the beautiful Everglades back country.

After a full day of outdoor explanation Mike, Steven, and I head over to Rosita’s Mexican Restaurant in Florida City. Rosita’s serves great authentic Mexican fare and offers casual dining. You can also purchase beer and other beverages here.

In the early hours of March 2nd 2021, Mike Leone, Steve Covacci and I aimed our rental sedan Northward up Krome Ave and then Westward on the Tamiami Trail (US Highway 41). Our primary destination of the day was the rugged and beautiful Big Cypress National Preserve. Big Cypress consists of over 700,000 acres of open space and is home to Florida Panthers and additional endangered animals and plants.

Sprawling landscapes of Big Cypress National Preserve
American Alligators are abundant at Big Cypress

We pulled into the parking lot for Oasis Visitor Center and were stunned by sheer numbers of wading birds in the nearby waterways. Egrets were out in large numbers including Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets and Cattle Egrets. We were able to see Wood Storks as well as a small number of Roseate Spoonbills in the beautiful morning light. Oasis Visitor Center is also an easy place to photograph alligators in the wild.

So many birds at Oasis Visitor Center!

Our next destination within Big Cypress was the scenic Loop Road driving tour. Loop Road is one of my favorite areas to look for large alligators, enjoy the lush foliage and blooming bromeliads, and also to admire the beautiful clear freshwater of Big Cypress National Preserve. Reptile life is abundant along Loop Road. Both Cottonmouths (Water Moccasin) and Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes are found throughout the Everglades region so it is always wise to watch where one walks.

View a detailed NPS brochure of Loop Road Scenic Drive here.

Mike and Steve admiring the scenery along Loop Road

From Loop Road the three amigos saw a kiosk for the backcountry hiking trail at Gator Hook Strand and decided to stretch our legs and explore. We enjoyed reading the kiosk about the history of the old logging tram line at Gator Hook and took a short peaceful walk on the hiking trail before the pathway became increasingly muddy. From what I’ve read, the Gator Hook hiking trail may be flooded in most seasons aside from Winter.

After returning back to our car on Loop Road we drove to the Tree Snail Hammock Trail opposite the Loop Road Education Center. We happened upon a very friendly and knowledgeable national preserve employee who excitedly filled us in on wetlands restoration projects to restore free flowing water throughout the Everglades. The process known as “plugging” occurs when East to West irrigation canals are patched with dirt and rocks to encourage water to flow in its original North to South orientation.

Great conversation with park personnel
Ligus Tree Snail

Following Loop Road, Mike, Steve, and I got our rental car back to Tamiami Trail and pulled up to Clyde Butcher’s Gallery. Clyde is very renowned for his stunning black and white imagery of Big Cypress and Everglades National Park. Within the Clyde Butcher Gallery there is a broad array of beautiful nature photography on exhibit and the artwork is available for purchase.

Our next stop on the Tamiami Trail was the Kirby Storter Roadside Park and Boardwalk. The Kirby Storter Boardwalk is an easy 1 mile round trip walk with elevated views through a Cypress Hammock concluding at a gator hole. The covered picnicking tables near the parking area provide a nice break from the Florida heat. Note that amenities such as restaurants, convenience stores, and gas stations are sparse along much of the Tamiami Trail packing a cooler filled with food and drinks is recommended.

Further West along the Tamiami Trail we reached the scenic Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk located within Fakahatchee Strand. Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk is a beautiful shaded and easy walk through some impressively large trees. Take your time along the boardwalk to look for watersnakes, gators, as well as nesting hawks or eagles. Our small party of explorers was very lucky to observe an American Bittern from the viewing platform at the end of the boardwalk.

American Bittern at Big Cypress Bend

After Big Cypress Bend we drove a short distance North to reach the entrance gates for Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. After paying our $3 vehicle admission fee at the visitor center we took our rental car on Jane’s Memorial Scenic Drive. Jane’s Drive is a dirt road and luckily the surface looked recently graded so we had no trouble navigating the road in our front wheel drive rental sedan. Mike and I took a short walk down the East Tram trail to take in a little more of the natural views to be found at “Faka”.

As we began our return Eastbound on the Tamiami Trail we took a late day drive on the rugged Turner River Road in Big Cypress. Turner River Road offers both expansive views of sawgrass prairie as well as wildlife-filled waterways. There is a great deal of photographs that can easily be taken through your car window though I prefer the experience of getting out on foot.

Mike and Steve document Big Cypress flora
The ever-present American Alligator

A dinner at El Rancho Grande Mexican Restaurant in Kendall was warranted after a long day of adventuring. We found the food, service, and ambience all to be excellent at El Rancho. After a nice meal we retired to Fairway Inn Florida City and called our day a wrap.

Chilaquiles at El Rancho Grande

Our final day of exploring Southeastern Florida was to be Wednesday March 3rd. In early morning Steve slept in dreaming of Dogecoin and AMC shares while Mike Leone and I decided to do earlybirders’ birding in the Frog Pond WMA proximity. Frog Pond WMA encompasses a large network of prairie and canal trails and is popular for birdwatching. We did encounter a few birders chasing a vagrant Smooth-billed Ani though we did not ourselves see the Ani.

Mike and I returned to Fairway Inn Florida City, picked up Steve and then packed up our bags and checked out of the hotel. One visit to Robert Is Here is rarely enough so we trucked over to our favorite local fruitstand for canistel milkshakes. Mike and Steve also picked up boiled peanuts for the road.

Next, the three amigos took the short drive over to Biscayne National Park. 95% of Biscayne National Park is aquatic and primary activities include kayaking, canoeing, as well as scuba diving. Steve, Mike, and I explored the other 5% of this parkland including a nice leisurely walk along a shaded mangrove trail.

Being an avid Orchid grower Mike advised us that RF Orchids in Homestead was not to be missed. Our entire party enjoyed the beautiful grounds at RF Orchids. Next we drove to the Fruit and Spice Park in Homestead. The Fruit and Spice Park is a well manicured local park and the only tropical botanical garden of its kind in the United States. Picking of fruit from trees is not allowed though any fallen fruit is fair game.

As we left Homestead behind us for our last time this trip we drove North towards Hollywood Florida to photograph the celebrity Burrowing Owls. The local Burrowing Owls are easily viewed from the parking lots with a decent pair of binoculars. Steve and I enjoyed using telephoto lenses to snap shots of these charismatic ground-dwelling birds.

Mike & Steve

Next we drove towards Hollywood Beach, nestled between Fort Lauderdale and Miami for a brief visit. Taco Beach Shack at Hollywood Beach offered high quality food and drinks in a lively setting. Many beach goers and bicyclists were out and about at Hollywood Beach and we had perfect weather in the low 80’s with a light breeze.

As nighttime approached it was time to return our rental car, ride the Miami Mover, and get to our gate at Miami International Airport for our red-eye flight back to Newark International Airport by way of American Airlines. Mike, Steve, and I made it to our gate at MIA and enjoyed an uneventful flight back to Northern New Jersey.

Thank you for reading my trip report for our Everglades-area trip 2021. If you have any questions about our itinerary you can reach me directly at You can also follow my local NJ nature adventures on Facebook and Instagram.

You can find my 2019 Everglades-area Trip Report here