June 3, Palo Duro, Oklahoma, & Kansas to Seattle

Palo Duro was beautiful & fun as usual. The park campgrounds were full as it was the weekend, so we stayed in the commercial campground just outside the park and rode the motorcycle in to do our touring. It was very hot--in the 90s--so long hikes were not a tempting activity. We spent most of our time in the park bird watching, but mostly saw birds we had seen before with the exception of the Mississippi Kite and the Tufted Titmouse. The latter looks very much like its cousin the Black-crested Titmouse. It was exciting to watch the Kite soar than suddenly pull its wings in and dive down (stoop) to the ground to catch its prey--very dramatic.

Palo Duro Canyon Views

Next on our schedule was a rendezvous in Kansas with the Porter side of Riley's family; however, we had a few days to get there and Oklahoma to cross. So we took a look at the Oklahoma state map and picked out a few State Parks that looked interesting and headed for Foss Lake not far from the border with the Texas Panhandle. Interestingly, the last rest area in Texas offered a Wi-Fi connection to the Internet. It didn't work for us, but we didn't take the time to find out why not--maybe their connection was just down. Foss Lake was a pretty spot, and we saw our first Eastern Bluebird here--a family--two adults, two juveniles. We saw them after that at every park we stayed in in Oklahoma and Kansas.

Next day we did a drive-thru of Boiling Springs State Park, then camped at Great Salt Plains Lake State Park near the Kansas border. Boiling Springs State Park did have a boiling spring--not hot, but bubbling--that was full of Cottonwood tree spores. It was a beautiful park with lots of wooded areas. We were told the Pileated Woodpecker hung out there but we didn't see them. However, we did see the Red-headed Woodpecker and were happy with that.

We had a great camping spot at Great Salt Plains right by the river downstream from the dam. Not much water was coming out of the dam so the water level in the river was very shallow. As a result, we could actually see the backs of fish swimming in the river and there were quite a few dead fish too. We drove around to the other side of the lake to see the salt plains which were quite impressive--very white, so in the sun glare, sunglasses & hat were a must. Selenite crystals can be found here and it is legal to dig for them (we didn't) as the piles of dirt from the holes provide nesting areas for the birds that are not as easily flooded. This was a wonderful place for birds and we saw quite a few, new and old (list below), including the elegant White-faced Ibis, a male in full breeding plumage. When we got up to leave for Kansas, I looked across the river and there were 4 vultures sitting there with their giant wings outspread to the sun. I called Riley and we stood and gazed at this spectacular sight in awe and never once thought of going after the camera. It's a memory we won't forget but we can't share the sight with others except through inadequate words.

Great Salt Plains

View of dam from our campsite

Sun setting on cliffs across from campsite

Great Salt Plains Lake
In Kansas, we spent the night at Elk City State Park, then met Randy & Roxie in Thayer the next evening--Friday, May 27. Randy was taking most of the pictures with his camera so when he gets his photos to us, Riley will be writing a full report of the Kansas portion of our journey. For now, suffice it to say that our stay in Kansas was truly enjoyable. Riley has a wonderful and interesting family, and visiting with them is always a pleasure.

Riley, Roxie & Randy at grandparents grave in Thayer, Kansas

Richardson & Porter headstones, Council Grove, Kansas

Since Kansas, we've been heading back to Seattle as quickly as we can. Doctor's appointments start on Monday, June 6. Because of the need to move on, we are spending much of the day driving. When we get to a park, we walk around and look at birds to sort of unwind, then dinner, computer games or movie, then bed. We stayed at Rifle Falls State Park in Colorado; beautiful triple falls evidently created from one fall when a now-defunct hydroelectric plant was installed there. Our bird there was the American Dipper.

Rifle Falls, Colorado
Driving through northern Utah, we got off Hwy. 40 onto Hwy. 35 and went up through the mountains. At 9200 feet elevation, we found snow on June 1. A campground and a road at the top were both closed because of snow! We stayed at Rockport State Park where we saw lots of birds (list below), including Western Grebes and Sandhill Cranes. The cranes were juveniles and looked almost pink in the light of the morning sun--very impressive. In Oregon we stayed at a campground on the Snake River, then made it into Seattle on Friday just in time to see Keith (we hope!) before he leaves for Tennessee. As we drove into Washington, the skies were clear and we got gorgeous views of Mount Adams and Mount Rainier. When we got on I-90, we saw a huge cloud bank sitting on top of the Cascades. Seattle is cloudy as usual.

Snow at 9200 ft., Utah

Snake River, Oregon

I've finished the quilt for Alyssa--just need to take pictures then will put it into the mail to send it to her. Then, I can start thinking about my next project. :-) When we were in Austin, Luke loaned me the first two of Neal Stephenson's "Baroque Cycle." These are huge books and I may just spend my spare time reading for a while. He also loaned me a book called "On Mexican Time," a true story of a couple's experiences on moving to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. The slower life style is certainly appealing, but the bugs are not! At any rate, I'm enjoying the book. I don't usually like to borrow books, as it means mailing them back, but this way Luke will have three fewer books to move to New York.

Love to all,
Margie & Riley

Wednesday, May 25, 2005 Great Salt Plains Lake State Park, Oklahoma
White-faced Ibis: male in full breeding plumage
Least Tern (Interior)
Baltimore Oriole: m in full plumage
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Cliff Swallows flying in out of mud nests along freeway bridge
Great Egrets
Snowy Egrets: m in full plumage
Cattle Egret: m in full plumage
Great Blue Herons: m in full plumage
Northern Cardinal: m & f
European Starlings
Turkey Vultures
American Crow
Lark Sparrows
Double-crested Cormorants
Nothern Mockingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Eastern Bluebirds: m, f & j
Western Kingbird
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Mourning Doves
Barn Swallows
House Finch: f
Heard Bobwhite again!
Getting ready to leave on Thursday morning, 4 turkey vultures were across river holding wings out to sun--very impressive!
Thursday, May 26, 2005 Great Plains Salt Lake State Park, Oklahoma
Sandpiper Trail off Hwy.11, North End of Park
Black-necked Stilts
American Avocets
Snowy Plover
Wilson's Phalaropes: m, f & j
Semi-palmated Sandpiper
Least Tern (Interior)
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Western Kingbird
Barn Swallows
Cliff Swallows (under bridge on highway)
Red-winged Blackbirds (off Hwy. 81)
Saturday, May 27, 2005 Elk Lake State Park, Kansas
Northern Bobwhite (finally!)
Blue Grosbeck
Hairy Woodpecker
Eastern Meadowlark
Eastern Kingbird
Dickcissel: m (heard song)
Eastern Bluebird
Northern Mockingbird
Red-winged Blackbird
European Starlings
Eastern Wood Pewee
Wednesday, June 1, 2005 Rockport State Park, Utah
Western Grebes
Bank Swallows
Western Wood Pewee
Yellow Warbler
Scott's Oriole: m & f
Sandhill Cranes
Herring Gulls
White Pelicans
Great Blue Heron
Brewer's Blackbirds
House Finches: m & f
American Robins
Black-billed Magpie

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