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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Farewell to 2014

The end of 2014 is just a few days away. This has been a busy year, filled with both sadness and  happiness.

Sadly, we said goodbye in April to our 12-1/2-year-old golden retriever, Tia, due to a brain tumor that ultimately caused unstoppable seizures. Tia was my daughter's best friend, and her death left a huge hole in our family.

I did a lot of fun things this year. In January, I made a trip to Yellowstone National Park, primarily to observe the various thermal features (geysers, mud pots and thermal pools) and observe wildlife in winter. I tried my hand at snowshoeing for the first time, which was a lot of fun. February found me traveling to far northern Canada to visit Churchill, the polar bear capital of the world. The bears were already on the polar ice, but the purpose of the trip was to see and photograph the northern lights. We did see them, but they were not very spectacular. One morning's wind chill was -68 F, which seriously curtailed that day's outdoor activities. I did go on my first dog sled ride, however, albeit a short one.

In March, I drove to Sedona for a couple of days of hiking and photography. Late March sent me on a bus tour of central Europe. The group visited Poland (Warsaw, Krakow, Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps) and the 'black Madonna'. Next came beautiful Vienna, where I saw a performance of the world-famous Lippizaner stallions.
We visited Budapest and took a dinner cruise on he Danube, then toured Prague and made a day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia's capital. During this trip I was taken under the wings of three delightful Jewish women who provided great fellowship and fun for me as a solo traveler.

Yellowstone called me back in April for a few days of searching for wolves (seen only through high-powered spotting scopes).

In May, I joined a friend I met on last year's hiking trip to Turkey on a fabulous African safari to Kenya and Tanzania. As luck would have it, no one else signed up for that trip, so we had the safari vehicle to ourselves. We spent many wonderful days on game drives and nature walks, photographing and observing elephants,lions, buffalo, gazelles, cheetahs and dozens of bird species. We ended our trip with a few days in Cape Town, South Africa, including a visit to the cell on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years..

July took me hiking in Washington's beautiful Olympic Peninsula and enjoying the quiet beauty and lush wilderness of this special area. A special treat was a river rafting trip on the restored Elwha River.

Another trip to Yellowstone in November blessed me with the opportunity to observe a wolf pack interacting with a couple of grizzly bears (through a spotting scope) and to hear a nearby wolf briefly howl.

This year's travels wrapped up with a hiking trip to the tropical paradise of Costa Rica. Although the hike was more difficult than advertised due to the deep mud and ever-present tree roots on the trails, we had two amazing guides, wonderful food, outstanding accommodations and terrific animal sightings. We saw several kinds of monkeys, macaws, hawks, coatimundis, toucans, sloths, and the most breathtaking sunset anyone in our group of eight travelers had ever seen.

In July, I adopted two papillon sisters, little dogs whose owner was fighting a terminal illness and could no longer care for them. They are almost 8 years old and are quite a change from the retrievers to which I had been accustomed. They are much more needy than my previous dogs, but they have adapted well to their new home. We are working on improving their socialization skills and leash behavior, but they are making progress.

My daughter broke off a long-term relationship with a less-than-ideal guy, and is now dating a wonderful, polite, considerate fellow who is an airplane mechanic in the Air Force. She plans to complete her cosmetology studies by early summer.

So that was our 2014. I am looking forward to another busy year of travel and adventure in 2015, beginning with a hiking trip to New Zealand.

I hope that 2015 brings you happiness, love, peace and good health.