Monday, March 28, 2011

Bighorns and fish wranglers!

Desert bighorn sheep on top of Elephant Mountain, West Texas
Copyright (c) 2010 Wendee Holtcamp

I have much more to blog (or do I?) but yikes it's 253am, and I have to go to bed. I've been pulling late-nighters, working on a big piece for the 10th annual Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPW) Magazine Water issue. I'm so blessed to be a part of it, year after year.

But, I wanted to post links to my latest articles, both in the April issue of TPW Magazine!

Regal Return: Desert bighorn sheep are being restored to the mountains of West Texas.

Against a magenta sunrise, the winter solstice moon — full and white — sinks into the western horizon. Several dozen folks stand bundled up at the base of Elephant Mountain, a flat-topped 6,225-foot monolith rising more than 2,000 feet above the Chihuahuan Desert. Witness to the glorious dawn on the solstice, a day historically celebrating rebirth and a return to light, I can feel the collective anticipation of the events soon to unfold.
On all accounts both practical and symbolic, it seemed the perfect day for returning desert bighorn sheep to the Bofecillos Mountains of Big Bend Ranch State Park on the Texas-Mexico border, where they had been absent for the past half-century.

The Fish Wrangler: Biologist Clark Hubbs devoted his life to cataloging and protecting the state’s fish species.

On a January morning 24 years ago, 65-year-old Clark Hubbs, a University of Texas biology professor, was up to his usual business. Streamside to a Frio River tributary in the Hill Country, he was ready to sample several species of small fish such as mosquitofish, darters and minnows, with his doctoral student, Kirk Winemiller.

“Clark was in the habit of starting his day at 4 a.m., so each morning we arrived at the first field site just before sunup,” Wine-miller recalls. “We discovered a thin rim of ice along the shoreline, and I asked Clark for the whereabouts of the hip wader boots in the truck. He replied, ‘This is Texas — we don’t need hip waders!’”

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Texas Gulf coast trip

The biggest live oak tree in Texas is located in the Columbia bottomlands, an ecoregion southeast of Houston comprised mostly of bottomland hardwood forests lining three rivers, the Brazos, San Bernard and Colorado. I went here reporting two stories for Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.
Me in the Columbia bottomlands!
My friend Cheryl the human pincushion - she got some thorns on her sweater!
This is a devil's walking stick or toothache tree. Weird and cool aye?
This is a young buckeye tree, flowering.
We went kayaking on Austin Bayou, a slow-moving tidal slough that runs into the Gulf.
I took this on a little Casio camera, so the color is a bit off.
We saw these waterbirds near the coast - a white ibis (on the far right), a bunch of roseate spoonbills and a few yellow-crowned night herons.
Another shot of the ibis and spoonbills.
A close-up view.
A palmetto thicket in the Columbia bottomlands.When I was growing up, I lived in the Oregon and it was a long drive on narrow, winding roads that went by this one area with a massive tree. My dad and I jokingly called it the tiny tree. So here's a Texas tiny tree!Dwarf palmettos are common in the area.Shelf fungus on a tree in the woods.These coastal forests have many vines, palmettos, and a high diversity of tree species.A boardwalk over the trail because the coastal bottomland forests are sometimes waterlogged.
A shot of the live oaks. Live oaks keep their leaves year round, unlike most oaks.The door of the Quiet Oaks Bed & Breakfast where we stayed.The yummy breakfast we had at the B&B - vegetable frittata, yogurt and fruit.We stopped by Sea Center Texas, an aquarium with native Texas sealife plus a hatchery for redfish and Southern flounder.There are many alligators on the Texas Gulf Coast. Here are two little ones on display.Cheryl and I at Surfside, on the beach! I love the beach! The place we stayed is just miles from the coast. After spending a few days in the Columbia bottomlands we went up the Texas coast and drove the Blue Ocean Highway, which has been completely renovated since Hurricane Ike. I was in shock! The Texas coast looked beautiful.A view of the coast at Surfside.
I was so excited to see that someone - not sure who - has established sand fences along the coast to re-establish dunes. I wrote an article about this a couple years ago. I noticed these on the side of the road and pulled off to take photos. Only after taking a bunch of pictures did I realize that they also had planted some beach plants (in a line along the right side of pic) and also old Christmas trees!A shot of the sand fences.
Seashells at Surfside
We went up the coast to visit a big wetland restoration project, and saw this gator slurking through the mud. There are gators in the sloughs and waters and coastal marshes of the Columbia bottomlands too.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

babies, goals, sisters, and the velvet elvis

My beautiful niece. New life is so precious! Copyright (c) 2011 Wendee Holtcamp

"When everything is answered, it's fake. The mystery is the truth."
-Sean Penn.

Methinks I need to blog more frequently because when so much time passes, I start to wonder where to even begin. Or shall I say, not too much is going on, yet everything is. Ah, life as paradox.

I just returned from a week-long visit to the small mountain town of Sisters in central Oregon, where I got to know my newborn niece and her mom. My brother was there too, for a brief moment of time. When I first saw my niece, I was scared to hold her, like I was going to drop or break her or something. It's funny how you forget how tiny newborns are, and how fragile. Yet human life is also so strong, so persistent, so tenacious. I did overcome my baby-breaking-fears and held her, of course, and oh how sweet she is! I'd never been to Sisters before, and - the few times the snow stopped and the sky cleared - the view right out the window was of the "three Sisters" which are three 10,000 mountain peaks in the Cascades. Early settlers dubbed the three sisters Faith, Hope, and Charity.

I didn't get out of the house much because I was helping my niece's mom out, but it was sure peaceful and beautiful. The neighborhood sets right next to Deschutes National Forest, and many tall, red-barked ponderosa pines rose tall from the layer of pure white that blanketed the area. We had several snowfalls during the time I was there. It was so lovely and beautiful! When I was a kid, I have many fond memories of camping on the Deschutes River with my dad and brother but that was a different part of Central Oregon.

While there, I made a couple visits into the quaint little town of Sisters, and especially fell in love with Angeline's Bakery, which has a lot of vegan and gluten-free items, and I discovered this utterly divine raw, vegan chocolate truffles made from raw cacao by Jem Raw Chocolates. They're only sold in Oregon, but if you can, check them out. Seriously amazing. And no one paid me to say that. They're just good! Oh wait, I think you can actually buy them online too!

What am I up to? Well, let's see. I'm working on this "Goal Setting Course" by The Wake-up Call Coach Amy Ahlers that I won during the Inner Mean Girl Cleanse I participated in. It's a 12-week course, where I get weekly emails that have exercises to identify wins and losses from the previous year, "process" the through journaling and such, and then create new visions and goals for the new year. I'm about 1/3 of the way through.

Even though I'm not at the goal-setting part yet, I have already set some pretty serious goals while thinking about my New Year's resolutions, and as far as writing/biz goes - one is to double my income, and write twice as many stories in 2011. That means, I will have to become doubly efficient! To that end, I installed a program on my computer that tracks where I spend my time, Rescuetime. It's pretty impressive and the results, illuminating! I have already discovered that I'm a fairly fast writer when I set down and do the writing, but I also tend to - on occasion - spend "too much" time on time-wasters like Facebook, Huffington Post, etc. It's been very insightful.

Overall, I am happy with how things are going so far this year. I've broken into three new markets (The Daily Climate, Climate Central and Miller-McCune magazine) from contacts I've made from the Society of Environmental Journalists conference, which is a good thing because the state of Texas' budget is not doing so hot. My daughter came home telling me how they had laid off many of the first-year teachers, and many extracurricular activities have been cut, and it will affect her JV soccer team. It is going to affect my writing for Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. Keep your fingers crossed and say a prayer because that is my bread and butter, and the editors there are awesome to me! I'm working on a query challenge with other members of Freelance Success, which is a fantastic writer's resource.

I have an article coming out this week on "The Big Chill: Why is the Bering Sea so Cold if the Earth is warming?" at Climate Central online, so stay tuned. If all goes as planned, I should have a piece in the next issue of Miller-McCune magazine, and I'm about to head to the coast next weekend with my awesome friend Cheryl, who I met at the Colorado Writing Away Retreat last year and hung out with again at last fall's SEJ conference! I'm working on two stories for Texas Parks & Wildlife mag. One is for the 10th annual water issue, and another is a "3 days in the field" travel piece. Those are always fun!

Last but not least, I am in love! I have discovered ... Rob Bell. He. Is. Amazing! I love Rob Bell. I love Rob Bell. I love Rob Bell! He wrote The Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith - see below - and also Sex God (I'd previously read some of this one, but the Velvet Elvis, which I just discovered, blows me all away in a whole different way), and is a pastor who founded Mars Hill Bible Church. I dunno, the guy's a freaking g.e.n.i.u.s. I just adore his writing, his open mind, his intellect. He says, for example, "Central to the Christian experience is the art of questioning God... naked, honest, raw, vulnerable questions." He also delves into a lot of Jewish cultural history from that time, and despite having studied a lot of this stuff through various Bible studies, he had completely novel insight for me, such as the meaning - in Jewish culture - of being yoked to a Rabbi, and of "binding and loosing" and other things that Jesus said; the meanings of the statements are still relevant but these cultural references lend so much more insight. Good stuff!

Wild Olive Tees
I love this design! They're having a hoodie giveaway but it ends tomorrow...
Dangerously spiky icicles. The three sisters in the distance - this is the view out of the window of the house I stayed at in Sisters, OR.
I bought this onesie for my niece that says "I love my auntie"
The three sisters mountains. The one on the right is actually two. The second peak is hidden behind the one in front.
My latest journal collage.