"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The 2018 Africa Journals, Ch. 13: Searching for Spots

 When last we heard from our intrepid travelers, they were happily photographing everything in sight at Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa.   Their lodgings at Phinda's Zuka Lodge were exquisite and the food exceptional.  Now we find them on a very special day.


Driver/Ranger Amy is so excited she is literally bouncing in her seat as she steers the safari vehicle through the bush.   The rest of us are bouncing, too, but that has more to do with the dirt roads in the Phinda Private Game Reserve.

A ranger reported that a young female leopard appeared in a particular area with two cubs, and that’s where we are heading.   For Amy, this is special.   She has watched this leopard grow up and for it now to return with cubs is thrilling.

We visitors to Africa, so often gobsmacked by the array of animals and birds, sometimes forget to consider what these experiences are like for the guides.   We become attached to certain animals, even though we have seen them only once.   The guides often know several generations, can identify specific animals by name, especially the big cats.   Perhaps the elephants and giraffes, too, but not the prey animals as they come and go and there are so many of them.

When we arrive at where the ranger saw the leopard, there is nothing there.  Amy drives around the area, through openings in the sparse brush, again and again.   She double-checks with Telusi about the location.   He assures her this is the spot.

More circles around the brush and then—deep in a dark thicket—they spot her.   It takes me a while, even with pointing fingers showing me where to look, before I see how perfectly camouflaged she is.

I see only a small part of her, but that part involves teeth gnawing on whatever she has captures and dragged into the thicket.   

Eventually, she comes out and sits in a spot between the trees. 


We drive to the other side and watch.   One of the cubs is seen immediately on top of a very uncomfortable looking bush.  

We don’t see the other cub until it walks out of thicket brush and goes to its mother.

We spend a long time with these leopards, hoping second cub will join the two, but that never happens.   The second cub is far too shy, wary of these strangers in the noisy vehicle.


The leopard nursing her cub is a sure sign that she is not bothered by our presence.

But, taking shots of her on top of that bush is quite satisfying.

Amy's effervescent personality bubbles over when she sees the cubs and she gives Telusi a big hug for his help in finding them.

We leave the leopards and make the mid-day journey back to camp, stopping along the way to photograph  whatever appears.

We visit the leopards on another day.   By this time, one cub has been dubbed Heidi, and with her sister they are known to us as Amy's grandchildren.
 We don't have to search for them this time.   The mother is in a tree right beside the trail and one of the cubs is draped across the branches above her.   The other cub,  Heidi, is in the thicket to the left of the tree where their dinner from a few days ago is getting pretty ripe.

I think you have to be a cat to comfortable here.


Notie the cub's tail draped over the branch.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Don't Give Up

Yes, don't give up.   I'm getting there.

I was editing photos last night so I could continue the Africa Journals, and here are a couple photos from that session.

"Speed Bumps."   Cheetahs are the fastest land animals in the world, reaching more than 40 mph in short bursts.

Blue waxbill.

Pied kingfisher showing off its catch.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Driving Denali: Part Two-Outward Bound

Outward Bound

Kantishna.   Kantishna.   The word swirled in my head like ping pong balls in a whirlwind.   There are memories associated with that word and I’m trying to bring them to the surface.
Mining, definitely mining.   But more…

I’m at the end of the 92-mile road through Denali National Park, looking around before I head back through the park.   

I’m standing outside a cabin that once belonged to a legend in the Kantishna district, Fannie Quigley.  Known for hiking long distances to prospect for precious minerals and stake claims, her cooking, and her troublesome consumption of vast quantities of alcohol, the cabin preserves some depiction of the hard-scrabble life of Alaskan pioneers.

Quigley and Group with huge antlers after hunt
On a Moose Hunt in the Kantishna Country, L-R, Fanny Quigley, Joe Quigley, Ruth Carson, and Joe Dalton, circa 1919.
Photo Credit: Stephen Foster Collection, University of Alaska Archives. Photo published in Bundtzen (1978)

It is a boon for Doris, of the National Park Service, to spend summers here, visiting with tourists and talking about Fannie.   When I first saw her, she was sitting on the front porch, book in hand.

As we talked, hundreds, if not thousands, of sandhill cranes fly overhead in large circles, gaining altitude and assimilating newcomers into the flock as they commence their southern migration.

That reminds me that I, too, must be on my way.   Though I am allowed to remain in the park until midnight, I want to make the journey during daylight hours for the sake of photographing birds and animals.  

I take my leave of Doris, envying her job in this beautiful place, and head east on the muddy gravel road.  I hadn’t gone far when I saw a sign, and all those ping pong balls coalesced, settled, and I remembered.

The sign read Camp Denali.   Bingo!   Ginny and Ceil.  I recalled stories from my friend Nancy Simmerman, a professional photographer from the days before digital photography, who published many coffee table books on Alaska.

Nancy was long-time friends with Ginny and Celia, otherwise and more correctly known as Ginny Wood and Celia Hunter.    She had spent many days with them at Camp Denali, which was not easily accessible.   Nancy spoke of Nordic skiing through Denali Park, then known as Mt. McKinley National Park, and traveling with park rangers and their dog teams as they made winter patrols.

Ginny and Ceil, along with Ginny’s husband, built a small lodge for adventurous travelers, probably the first ecotourism venture in Alaska.   Both pilots with the Women Airforce Service, the two looked around the lower 48 states before deciding it was too crowded, and turned their sights north.

Mud on the running board.

They homesteaded 67 acres on a ridge with a spectacular view of Denali, harvesting logs to build with, and scrounging whatever they needed.

The duo lived off the land as much as they could, and operating the lodge for 25 years.   After selling it, they devoted themselves to conservation of wildlife and wildlands, becoming known as pioneers in this endeavor.   Their life histories are fascinating—women engaging in occupations and activities that were most unusual for the times.

Eventually, the Kantishna area was added to the park.  

A half hidden caribou.

I stopped and took a photo of their driveway, which was blocked as the lodge was closed for the season.   Now it is one of the upscale lodges that cater to tourists in this area.   Access if either by special permit and transportation through the park, or by air where small planes that land at the Kantishna airstrip.

I find game is scarce on the drive out, and I seem to be just a few moments too late to see bears and an osprey.   A big bull moose makes up for all the lack of animals.

And, the scenery was phenomenal.

I saw this fellow on his bike at about Mile 80 as I was inward bound.   Here, he is much, much closer to the entrance of the park.

Handlers taking the Denali dog team for walks.