Cold and Wet

Autumn weather visited my area yesterday. To put it mildly, I am not a fan.

So, I did what any warm weather loving girl would do, I snuggled up and watched videos of wildlife napping:

Wilford definitely wins the gold in the napping category! This footage was gathered this past August from the Angeles National Forest near Los Angeles, California.

Mountain lions taking snuggling to the next level! According to the Swan Valley Connections page, this is a mom and her four dispersing-age kittens squeezing into a hollowed out larch log. This film was captured this past February in Montana.

I love trail cameras, there’s still so much we have to learn about our wild neighbors. Their social lives are far richer than previously documented.

Down in Key West

Last week I drove down to Key West for the 30th annual Meeting of the Minds (MOTM), a four day trop rock music festival hosted by the Parrotheads in Paradise. Yes, I’m a proud Jimmy Buffet fan (though I have yet to see him in concert).

In case you don’t know, trop rock is a broad genre that encompasses reggae, country, Caribbean, and folk – all of it held together by the laidback island lifestyle that Jimmy’s music exudes. The full lineup is way too long for me to list but some of the highlights were Sister Hazel, Gramps Morgan, Aaron Scherz, The Wheeland Brothers, Mishka, Mac McNally (10 time CMA Musician of the Year), and the one that absolutely blew me away this year was Niko Moon (see video below).

I joined my first Parrothead club when I moved to Texas in 2018. Since I didn’t know a single soul in the state I figured it would be a way to meet fellow live music fans. I was not disappointed! Besides the awesome music, part of the draw of MOTM for me is the chance to reunite with friends from low places (other, I mean, other places).

Of course, my visit wasn’t just about music, I had to explore as well. By day, I wandered the island taking photos and searching (in vain) for a crocodile. When anyone asked where I was, my roommate’s reply was, “She’s off doing Erin things.” Sums it up! Later in the day when it was time to meet up, I knew where I’d find them – at the bar.

Oh, one last thing about Parrothead concerts and music festivals, they’re all fundraisers supporting charities in their various cities. What’s not to love about that?!

Day Trip: Dry Tortugas

(As I promised a few days ago, here’s more detail about my recent trip.) In order to catch the ferry boat out to the Dry Tortugas National Park I had to be up before dawn (not my usual, as you may know). Considering that I’ve waited a few years to take this trip I didn’t really mind.

About 20 miles west we passed by the Marquesas Keys. This small cluster of islands is protected from habitation as part of the Key West National Wildlife Refuge. The area is most famous for what lies in the water nearby, the wreck of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha.

The Atocha was one of eight Spanish ships that sank during a hurricane in 1622. Over a span of 60 years Spain recovered large amounts of gold, silver, emeralds, pearls, and other valuables from the vessels but they never located the Atocha.

In 1973, the shipwreck was famously discovered by Mel Fisher and his team. Over the ensuing years they recovered $450 million dollars worth of treasure, though according to the ship’s log, that is only half of the precious cargo.

It was roughly another 50 miles before we next saw land, this time Loggerhead Key (with it’s lighthouse) and Garden Key (almost completely covered by Fort Jefferson). We could feel the difference in the sea about the same time we spotted the Dry Tortugas. Named by Ponce de Leon in 1513, Las Islas de Tortugas were prized by sailors for offering shallow, safe harborage.

I spent an hour touring the 16 acre fort (third largest in our coastal fortification system). Began in 1846, the outpost was constructed to protect a vital shipping lane for US commerce, though it was never really needed (none of the heavy guns were ever fired).

The rest of my four hours I wisely spent wandering Bush Key (which storms and shifting sand have now connected to Garden Key, though who knows for how long). Impressions from the island: the intense color of the water, a flock of Magnificent Frigatebirds wheeling overhead, a sea turtle in the shallows, a Peregine Falcon dining on something feathery, and my first sea biscuit (and yes, it almost killed me to leave it behind, but I had to follow national park rules).

Long before I was ready it was time to board the ferry and return to Key West. Though the high speed catamaran averaged 30 miles per hour, I still spent more time at sea than I did on land that trip. Didn’t matter to me as I thoroughly enjoyed the entire adventure – well worth the wait!