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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Picture the World

Here's a bit of an unusual blog post: a photo from everywhere I visited in 2015.

January found me hiking on New Zealand's beautiful South Island, where sheep outnumber people! It was here that I discovered that despite my allergy to wool, I can wear merino wool with no problems. I also took my first helicopter ride, which flew over and then landed on Fox Glacier. I even got to walk around on the glacier for a few minutes.


In February, I got to visit one of my most special places, Yellowstone National Park. Some 4,000 bison call the park home. This herd is the only remaining herd of pure bison in the country. Other herds have been 'contaminated' with cattle genes. Bison are joined by a large herd of several thousand elk, as well as moose, pronghorn and mule deer. A variety of predators, including grizzly and black bears, wolves, coyotes, fox and cougars, help keep the prey populations in balance.

In March, I enjoyed a trip to Israel, including Jerusalem's Old City, the Western Wall, the Mount of Olives, Masada, Capernaum and the Sea of Galilee, and the Dead Sea. We also made a half-day trip to Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity, now under the control of the Palestinian Authority. And we visited the place on the Jordan River where John the Baptist baptized Jesus, according to legend.

From Israel we drove to Jordan, where we visited the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Jerash, the capital city, Amman, and for me the highlight of the trip, Petra. And as in Israel, we visited countless ancient Roman cities, which continue to be wonders of engineering and construction some 2,000 years after they were built..

I wrapped up this trip with my second visit to Turkey, this time visiting parts of this large nation I had not seen during my first trip. One of the places we visited was an Australian cemetery, with markers for some of the ANZAC troops killed in the battle of Gallipoli. Many of the bodies were not recovered, but each soldier has a marker in the cemetery, just one of several in the area. Nearby was a cemetery for soldiers of the Ottoman Empire who had died in battle.

Lion track
In May I went on safari in Botswana, a country rich in wildlife. There is nothing like being awakened by the trumpet of an elephant just yards from my tent in the middle of the night! I got to watch elephants swim and learned a bit about tracking elephants and lions by following their tracks in the dust. I also got to watch cheetahs, lions, African wild dogs and leopard, and saw an amazing variety of beautiful birds.

From Botswana, I journeyed to Zimbabwe and Zambia to view the spectacular Victoria Falls. The falls are so huge they can be viewed from both countries. It was an interesting sight to watch a herd of wart hogs grazing on the lawn outside my hotel in Zimbabwe. In Zambia, I spent one night in a fabulous hotel reachable only by boat.

Then it was on to Spain to hike part of the ancient pilgrimage route known as the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James). This was the most moving of all the trips I have taken. We didn't hike/walk the entire Camino, of course, just 50 or so miles of the highlights. I think I'm too old to walk the entire route, which takes just more than a month and entails sleeping in hostels on a space-available basis, but this was an amazing experience.

August found me visiting Yosemite National Park for a week of hiking and a day in San Francisco. It's a beautiful park full of magnificent, soaring granite cliffs, including the famous Half Dome and El Capitan. And of course it was a thrill to see the thousand-year-old giant sequoias. Can you find me in the photo?

In September I flew to Chicago to visit family and take a quick road trip with my sister to revisit places from our childhood, visit the graves of relatives and reconnect with our cousin and her family.

I was back in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks for a photography trip in late
The Grand Tetons from Oxbow Bend, Wyoming
September. The aspens were at their peak of color, the park wasn't terribly crowded, and the weather was cold at night yet pleasant during the day. We watched a grizzly bear foraging for food before beginning its winter hibernation, as well as a black bear and her cub, wolves and moose, plus trumpeter swans.

Sub-adult male  bears sparring near Hudson Bay.

The year's travels wrapped up in late October with a trip to Churchill, in far northern Canada, to view and photograph polar bears as they awaited the freezing of Hudson Bay and the beginning of the feeding season. The bears hadn't eaten for some 7 months!. Polar bears are amazing creatures, supremely adapted to live on the frozen tundra and ice.

This has been an amazing year for travel, with trips to many new places and a return to Turkey, a country with a centuries-old history. I have some outstanding trips scheduled for 2016, including a tiger photography trip to India, safari in South Africa, hiking in Ireland, photography trips to the canyons of the American Southwest and Costa Rica, and a trip to hang out with elephant researchers in Kenya.

2016 is shaping up to be a great year for travel!