With 70 miles of pristine coastline, year-around sunshine and mild temperatures, it is easy to enjoy the surf and sand almost any day of the year. From expansive sandy beaches, rocky cliffs, reefs, tide pools and everything in between, the beaches in San Diego are as varied as the California beach towns that were built around them.
The Berkshire hills are laced with legends and ghost stories, so I ventured up to Greylock to explore this enigmatic region and hopefully encounter a few ghosts. My first stop was the Bellows Pipe Trail which is rumored to be haunted by a ghost called the “Old Coot.” This ill-fated soul named William Saunders earned his living as a farmer before being called away to fight for the Union in 1861. About a year later, his wife, Belle, received a report that her husband had been gravely wounded and was in a military hospital. That was the last she heard of him. But Bill Saunders had survived, only to return home and find Belle remarried.
In 1865, a bearded, ragged man, wearing a Union blue uniform, stepped off the train in North Adams. You can guess who had finally returned home. Saunders walked to his farm, and while standing outside he saw his wife and happy family, his children calling another man “daddy.”
Crushed, he turned on his heels and walked away, heading toward Mt. Greylock, where he built a ramshackle cabin in the remote Bellows Pipe. He lived the rest of his days there, almost a hermit, hiring himself out occasionally to farms, known to locals only as the “Old Coot.” War and time had ravaged his appearance and no one recognized him.
People say the Old Coot was caused by the horrors of war and grief over losing his family. One cold winter’s day, hunters came upon the shack to find the Old Coot’s lifeless. They were the first to describe a sighting of the Old Coot’s spirit fleeing up the mountain, but he’s haunted the trail ever since.
To this day, his disheveled spirit is sporadically seen on Mt. Greylock, always heading up the mountain, but never coming down. You might be skeptical about this tale but are you brave enough to walk the Bellows Pipe Trail after dark?
Located in Lakeland Florida, Circle B Bar Reserve is among the best birding and wildlife viewing spots I have been to in Central Florida. The preserve is a former cattle ranch that today features impressive numbers of ducks (Black-bellied Whistling-, Mottled, Blue-winged Teal and sometimes Ruddy Ducks) and shorebirds (Long-billed Dowitchers, Wilson’s Snipe and both yellowlegs) in winter and wading birds are present all year long.
The Venice Rookery is one of the country’s best destinations for Bird Photographers. This bird sanctuary sits quietly amidst the busy strip malls. During nesting months (usually beginning in December and lasting through May), you can see a vareity of birds cincluding Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, and Anhingas building nests, courting, and raising chicks.
Everglades National Park is one of the largest and most well-known of America’s national parks. It covers 1,506,539 acres, it is the third largest national park in the lower 48 states, only Death Valley and Yellowstone National Parks are bigger. The park contains sawgrass marshes, hardwood hammocks, mangrove swamps, and lakes.
Everglades National Park is the only ecosystem in the world where alligators and crocodiles co-exist side by side. Alligators do not eat human beings. But, they will protect themselves, attacking humans if they get too close or endanger their young.
The Everglades name is synonymous with birds. In the 1800s, the well-known naturalist and artist, John James Audubon, wrote during a visit to South Florida, “We observed great flocks of wading birds flying overhead toward their evening roosts… They appeared in such numbers to actually block out the light from the sun for some time.” Over 400 species of birds have been known to occur in southern Florida. Birds are usually placed in one of three groups: wading birds, land birds, and birds of prey. One of the prettiest wading birds is the purple gallinue seen below.
A common land bird found in the Everglades is the Red-bellied Woodpecker. The red-bellied woodpecker often creates “caches” of food by drumming rows upon rows of small holes and wedging a single nut or seed into each one.
The little blue heron is unique among herons as it is the only species with two distinct colour morphs for mature and immature birds, with the adult bird being mostly blue and the immature almost entirely white.
And best of all we saw Bigfoot and his son pulling into the Everglades!