Smith Mountain Lake Mystery Writer

Contemplations from a quiet cove on Smith Mountain Lake.

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Location: United States

I'm a Southern gal who loves life, my husband and our family (which, to date, includes 13 grandchildren). I enjoy being with friends and family. But I also like being alone and thinking up plots for future books. I've published two novels, both mysteries, and I'm working on my third. For more about my books, visit me at If you ever hear me say, "I'm bored," please get me to the ER immediately! Paddling my kayak and snapping pictures of the critters I see relaxes me. Beach music has the opposite effect--when I hear those old "doo-wops" I want to dance.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Orangutan and the Hound

I don't usually write such short blogs, but all y'all really need to see this video my friend Mary Lib sent me. I have already created a couple stories that could explain it. Bet you can, too. Now, click below. You'll be glad you did.

Orangutan and the Hound

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Saturday, January 15, 2011


My previous post, LOVE AFFAIR WITH ALASKA: Part 6, contained mostly pictures of moose, caribou, grizzly bear, and Dall sheep. Some people on the tour bus saw a snowshoe hare, porcupine, and a wolf. I didn't because I was on the other side of the bus. Guess I could have climbed over other equally excited tourists, but the thought of being on the top of a human mountain did not appeal, especially when the bus seemed to be tilting enough without my 125 pounds added to the pile. Hubby Ron managed to see the porcupine and the wolf (which looked like a fox to him).

Taking a photo of a golden eagle in flight (above) through the dirty window of a moving bus isn't exactly a piece of cake, but this is one of the two non-blurry shots that came out. Remember to click on picture to enlarge. Golden eagles, who usually mate for life, eat rabbits, squirrels, mice, marmots, other birds, and sometimes even young Dall sheep. Females are larger than males. Dark brown with a wing span of 72.8 inches to 86.6 inches, they range in length from 27 1/2 to 33 inches in length. Folks, that's a lot of bird. I thought they were beautiful, but not as regal as the bald eagles we have in Virginia.

Mt. McKinley, also known as Denali by Alaskans, is 20,320 feet tall, the tallest mountain in North America. Only 30% of the tourists visiting Denali National Park see it because of the weather. In a single day, one can experience sun, wind, rain, clouds, and rain. Two days out of three, the peak is covered with clouds. Conditions change in an instant, but we were lucky.

Mt. McKinley above and below.

Mt. McKinley, white behind the dark mountain range.
See how it towers over the other mountain and the cloud.

I could write a dozen blogs about Denali National Park and Preserve, but I bet y'all would get sick of hearing about it. If you're curious and want to learn more, check out this website.

From Denali, we traveled to Fairbanks and visited the Alaskan Pipeline.

Pipeline Visitors Center

Hubby Ron standing by a cross section of pipeline.

Lengthier view of pipeline, which is 800 miles long.

Loved this sign! Click on picture to enlarge.

Me at the entrance to one of Fairbanks' many museums.

Sculpture in downtown Fairbanks.

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On Day 4 of our land tour, we took a bus trip to Denali National Park and Preserve. Charles Sheldon, who first visited the Denali area in 1906 to hunt Dall sheep, was entranced by the beauty of the tundra, the wildlife, the braided rivers. He wanted to preserve the land for all to enjoy, and largely because of his efforts Congress passed a bill in 1917 to establish Mount McKinley National Park, which was enlarged and renamed Denali National Park and Preserve in 1980. The park covers six million acres, is larger than the state of New Hampshire. My photos cannot begin to do justice to this wild land. I strongly suggest that you click on each picture for an enlarged view.

The above picture looks like a painting, but it's not. I took it through the bus window. The first few miles of the road are paved; the remainder of the 91-mile ribbon of road is composed of fine gravel or dirt. Meeting another bus on this road is frightening. We all gained a lot of respect for our bus driver (also our tour guide).

Look closely at the picture below and you'll see a bus near the top. The two white spots in the center are Dall sheep.

The Dall sheep in the pictures above and below didn't care that we were invading their territory. The sheep always stay in the same group or flock, and prefer steep cliffs and wind-blown ridges away from wolves and other predators. Adult rams weigh 200-250 pounds; ewes weigh between 110 and 150. Their diet consists of sedges, moss, willow, grasses and lichens. I learned that their hair is hollow, which insulates their bodies in the cold weather. There have been times this winter when I would've loved to have had their hollow hair!

Caribou are plentiful, and we saw many herds. I learned that reindeer and caribou are the same animal, except that caribou are wild and reindeer are domesticated. Besides, it would sound weird to say "Rudolph the red-nosed caribou."

A herd of caribou.

Lone caribou standing in a braided river.

It's not uncommon to see grizzly bears, and we were fortunate to see two different families during our ride. They range in color from light to dark brown; some are even two-toned, with the front being one shade of brown and the back being another shade. The two pictures below were taken from the bus. Be sure to enlarge the pictures. We were told by guides that grizzlies and brown bears are the same except that brown bears live near the coast where they dine on fish; grizzlies are inland and eat red-blooded animals. Amazing.

A family of two grizzlies.

A family of bears. Can you find all three? Click on the picture.

Moose can weigh 1,800 pounds, and yet they can disappear quietly into the brush. Considered ugly and gawky by me before this trip, I now look at them differently, think they are beautiful, even graceful.

Below is a picture of the tundra and the mountains. Photo taken from bus.

Denali may have been one of the most fascinating and beautiful places I've ever been. I'll write more about Denali in my next posting. I do so LOVE Alaska!

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