Tuesday, May 7, 2013

4 months and 10,000 miles later...

My general route home from Sarasota, FL to Portland, OR.
Wow!  I've been on quite the adventure!  The day after Christmas I left Portland for Sarasota, Florida for a 3-month internship with the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program.  I drove both ways and went further than 10,000 miles in a car with a current mileage of 224,000 miles.
A Bottlenose Dolphin was spotted from Venice Pier in Sarasota, Florida.  Often times dolphins will patrol a pier in search for free handouts, which puts them in danger of entanglements and other concerns.

On the way there, I got to see amazing sights; new birds, old family friends, a recently moved friend and lots of nothing (I drove though Texas).  I was amazed by the lack of vegan options in some places (even hummus) and was surprised by others.  I surprised myself with the ability to drive all day and not feel considerable fatigue or loneliness.

I found this kitty (who I creatively named Moo) when on the road to Sarasota, just a few hours away.  He had obviously been abandoned and through the power of networks, I was able to find someone to care for him by the time I reached my destination.  He was super friendly and I am sure found a loving and happy home.

The internship itself also surprised me for so many reasons!  The living situation was tight (I lived in a 2 bedroom apartment with 5 others, 3 of which I had to share a room with).  Fortunately everyone was really nice and we spent a lot of time talking about biology and comedy.  All my intern buddies were great!  And the fact that I was over 10 years older than all of them was never really an issue (unless I let it get to me- which I admittedly did at times). 

I was fortunate enough to watch this Loggerhead Sea Turtle be released from rehab from Mote Marine Lab and swim to her freedom.  She was huge and magnificent and it was a powerful moment.

This is a Wood Stork.  I had never heard on one before and was pleasantly surprised to meet many in Florida!

I got to be introduced to dolphins in the wild, along with the fish, rays and sharks that also share the water.  I learned new scientific study techniques and so much knowledge!  I got to spend a lot of time on boats on the beautiful Florida water and even got to drive one around a little bit.

This was my first sight of the Atlantic Ocean and beach.  I was surprised by how orange and flat the beaches were.  I originally escaped for a weekend in hopes to see an endangered Northern Right Whale, but no luck.
The only disappointing thing about Sarasota was the food options.  It was really lacking.  This did prompt me to bake (and cook) more and bring in some baked goods to where I was interning.  I think I only brought in one cake and that's all it took to be known as a good baker.

The sunsets in Florida were always different and amazing.  I could actually watch the sun set from my apartment, but this one if from Venice Beach a little south of where I was staying.

Manatees can be found in the waters around Sarasota, but it's a bit cold for them the time of year I was visiting.  To see manatees, I would often visit the Manatee Viewing Center in Tampa which was an electric station which caused the waters in the area to be warmer (and more acceptable for manatees).

It was tough to leave Florida, but as I made my way across the states back towards home, I felt a freedom I had not known before.  I got to spend my time doing what I wanted (when I wasn't driving) and stop for wildlife and snap photographs and really take in the world around me.  It was so great!  I saw bird species I always wanted to see, some I didn't even know existed, and in places I never thought I'd be in.  Who knew Texas would be one of the most diverse areas to find bird (and baby alligators too)!

Baby alligators!  There were so many of them in one area found in Anahauc Wildlife Refuge (TX) along with many adult alligators seen along their 2.5 mile driving wildlife viewing loop.  Many more seen than in Florida!

Black-necked Stilts foraged in the water in Sabine Woods, a great birding area.

Avocets along a gulf coast beach a little east of Galveston, TX.  I was so excited to see them!

I also got to see friends I hadn't seen in forever, family I hadn't visited since I was a kid, played laser with 10 one-year old kittens, saw more wild dolphins outside the internship, survived long roads and strange people, got through tornado weather and wind storms, met new people, got to see prairie dogs, a weasel and an armadillo, and so much more!

A Green Anole tells me to leave him alone by puffing out his pink throat pouch.  So cool!
Blanchard Springs Caverns in Arkansas.  A little after this photo was taken, my tour was cut short due to tornado weather on its way.  I had to drive down a mountain road with thunder and lightning everywhere to find shelter in the closest town.  Staying in the caverns seemed like a better idea to me!
A wind storm shut down part of I-40 in Arizona causing a few hour detour.  It did allow me to find the Montezuma Castle National Monument and see what a forest in Arizona looks like. 

I plan to share more from my travels, but I wanted to start here.  I know most people focus on vegan food for their travels, but for me it was more about the wildlife and the adventure.  I feel that my connection with nature and appreciation for wildlife is also about me being vegan.  Seeing all the beauty in the world fills my heart and reminds me to fight for what is natural, rather than the torture and captivity so many animals face in the world.

The Big Sur coastline on the Pacific Ocean.  I was so excited when I first reached the Pacific that I started to cry.  I knew I was home.  I loved Florida, but I really missed the big whales and the diverse topography.
Female Elephant Seals kept themselves cool with sand.  There were hundreds, maybe thousands of them.  Looking out, you constantly see displayed of sand flicks all along the beach.  I was so excited by the sight of so many seals that I could hardly contain myself.  Then, I realized the other side of the beach had just as many!
An adult transient killer whale exhales in the Monterey Bay waters.  They show up in the spring while mother gray whales escort their young north, who are more susceptible to attack by these whales.  The whale watch tour also included seeing lots of Risso's Dolphins and lunge feeding Humpback Whales.  It was amazing!
I stopped in Point Reyes to meet up with a good friend and camp and go birding.  We also fit in kayaking in Tomales Bay where we watched rays and sharks in the water.  Watching them swim around was amazing!

1 comment:

Robin Raven said...

I love this. You have such an exciting life. Welcome back; you were missed!!!