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Wilderness Adventures - Sept., Week 4/2007

This is about a remote area in west central British Columbia, Canada called the West Chilcotin. Surrounded by numerous glacial mountain ranges, alpine lakes teeming with wild Rainbow Trout, and full of wildlife. Living here goes from no running water or electricity to spacious log homes with all the conveniences and without the smog!
If you would like to see pictures of wildlife, mountains, lakes, exciting snowmobiling, events and more, and read stories like 'Lake Monsters' - just go into Archives on the lower left side of this page.

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Check out the Picture of the Day.

30/09/2007 12:44 PM

Fast Dying Fall

Our Fall seems determined to deteriorate and let Old Man Winter in. That little cold snap from Thursday night pretty much did in any annual flowers left outside. The next morning after it had warmed up from a low of -5 and the sun was shining brightly, I set the tomato vine back out on the deck. Even though the thermometer on the front deck registered 10C or about 50F in the sun, it was still sitting on freezing in the shade and the air had a pretty crisp feel to it so I brought the tomato plant back in. It hasn't been back outside since and probably won't be. You hate to give up on a plant that's loaded with cherry tomatoes in the process of ripening. It's not often you get that burst of sunshine in your mouth that biting on a fresh sun ripened tomato will give you.
Yesterday started out grim and just got worse. It snowed most of the day although it didn't stick to the still warm ground. Made things pretty messy though. Andy called from Anahim Lake to tell me that someone said we were supposed to get eight inches of the white stuff so I dove outside to start picking stuff up. You know, gardening tools, shovels, hoses, extension cords, sprinklers and various other implements that you use throughout the summer. Although this is pretty early for a snow to come and stay, it's a good warning. I've been caught flat footed before in years past when winter would slam in early and fast. Or not even early. Sometimes you can have a long balmy fall. Then you get an unexpected two foot snowfall and you can pretty much kiss anything you left lying about good-bye until spring.
It might be of small importance except that we run snowmobiles all about this property in the winter and you don't want to run over anything you'll damage or that might damage the sled. Nor do you want to get started doing something in the spring but can't because something is still frozen into the ground. We had that happen with a decorative sprinkler late last winter and early spring when we wanted to start dropping the beetle killed pine. We finally unbolted this tall copper sprinkler from its base to keep it from being flattened, but had to wait for a while for the ground to thaw enough to remove the base. I think only one tree hit it so it wasn't damaged too badly.
Many of the folks from Nimpo Lake were invited to go to a retirement party and pig roast at this end of the lake yesterday evening. The owner of Crazy Bear has sold his remote fishing lodge and though not leaving the country completely, (he still has a summer cabin here on the lake) he is out of the business now. I felt badly for him because this outdoor function was not going to be pleasant for anyone with wet sloppy snow coming down. But as with most things, little miracles always occur when you need them. By late afternoon a wind came up, blew the clouds away and the sun was shining by the time Mr. pig came off the spit. It was still a little breezy and cool but nothing two big bonfires and a lot of liquid antifreeze couldn't fix.
It's too bad we don't have more functions or neighborhood block parties in the area. It's nice to visit with people you might see in passing at the post office or wave to on the road and even nicer to converse with folks you've never met before or see rarely. But I think most of us that really like the Chilcotin are actually hermits by nature. We like it peaceful and quiet so you never think to have parties that often. And of course most of us are too lazy or too busy to do the organizing required to get something going. So hats off to Carol Webb and the rest of her family who did a tremendous job of putting this together as well as providing that terrific homegrown pig. And my personal thanks to all the other folks that helped out or brought some grits because I don't know about anyone else, but I sure enjoyed myself!
We have some new computer equipment in the house and that's always a mixed blessing. Andy's computer has been completely rebuilt by his brother and for all intents and purposes is now a new computer. With that always comes problems and a heightened frustration level when things like printers and Internet hookups don't work. We finally shut down his computer last night because we had Frank's party to go to and when Andy started up the computer this morning, everything worked fine. Maybe there's a good lesson in life there. If things are getting you down, get up and walk away.
I got a new toy too. Two of them, in fact. The first is a flash drive which I have admired since seeing them hanging around the necks of all the Forestry logistics people at the fire camp in Anahim Lake during the Lonesome Lake forest fire. However, I've been eyeballing the price tag for three years now and just haven't been able to justify putting out that kind of money on memory backup when I can utilize rewritable CDs and a portable hard drive I received for Christmas a couple of years ago. So getting 2 GB of memory that I can utilize, on something not much bigger than a stick of gum, and a lot easier to use than a CD at one third the price of retail is a wonderful thing indeed.
The second toy is a different matter altogether. Andy was to get a new monitor for the new computer and chose to get a 22" widescreen that I could use and he would take my 17" flat screen. A 22" wide flatscreen is a lot of real estate. In fact, the bright background blue on my desktop actually hurt my eyes. I did something I never do on my work computer. I actually put a background picture on the desktop that's reasonably soothing in color and gives me a point of reference. Otherwise, this thing is so big you don't really know where to look at it.
I spent yesterday studying web sites using it. You see, all this flatscreen real estate is fantastic for the graphics work I do in Photoshop and Flash. It gives me lots of room to have images up and have my tool bars without the floating palettes overlaying pictures to the point of having to reduce the images markedly in size. So it's wonderful for that.
But....the jury's still out on web pages.
Only a very small percentage of people use anything but a 1024 x 768 screen resolution on their computers. That will change, of course. Only a few short years ago the majority of people used 800 x 600 but very few people still do. And as more people purchase the larger flatscreen monitors more web sites will have to be built keeping that in mind. In fact, a lot of people don't realize how difficult it actually is to build web sites that will fit all screen resolutions and browsers. I've been building in 1024 x 768 for some time now but testing in several sizes knowing that the sites will still look okay. However, I haven't had a screen this size before and so haven't been able to test for this size of 1680 x 1050. Yes, I know, large.
Looking at some of my sites I kind of had to go....hmmm. That's okay but not really a standout. So I had a look at all manner of other sites built by other webmasters. Hmmm.....looks like they're having the same problem. What size do you build for so that a web site looks good on all screens?
I only found two sites that looked excellent at the standard resolution but still looked really, really good on this size of flatscreen as well. And neither one built for 800 x 600. So I guess I'll have to do some research and find out how many people are still using the old resolution. I hate to leave those folks out in the cold but if not very many are using 800 x 600 anymore, I may stop building for such a small minority and concentrate on building websites that work in the present most popular resolution and on higher resolutions of the future. And it's not like those folks can't see the website. It's just that they'll have to scroll to the right to see the width of the web page. Which I think we all agree is highly annoying.
In any case, I am enjoying the intense clarity of the graphics on this new screen. I'm just not too sure what to do with the rest of that blank space in front of me.

27/09/2007 8:25 PM

The Big Moon

Tonight it's finally clear enough to see a big, fat, yellow moon rising in the East. I'm assuming that's the cause of our sharp drop in temperature today. We were up to a balmy 13.4C when in less than two hours it dropped 10 degrees this afternoon. It's just above freezing now and still dropping, albeit a little more slowly. Today was mixed bag of sun and cloud with a chilly little breeze by this afternoon. Once the clouds cleared away from over the mountains you could see a fresh dusting of snow and much heavier snow on the higher peaks.
I've been enjoying warmer temperatures the last two days that comes with cloud. Even at night, it hasn't been bad at all. Some people like to contemplate their navel and although that may be of interest to some, I like to contemplate the night. The last two nights it's been pleasant enough to sit outside for a few moments after dark and wait for the moon to come up. I often wonder what it's like for those people that live in the urban areas and always have the pollution from city lights. In the bush it can get so black that you can't see your hand in front of your face, but that's actually rarer than you think.
On a night heavy with cloud the moon still backlights it and slowly you can see the silhouettes of trees and other objects take shape in the yard. There's really no such thing as color but rather shades from black to grey and everything in between. Even the loons have been quiet the last two nights and the complete stillness is perfect for meditation if you're into that sort of thing. Every once in a while you can hear the slight rustle of a tiny breeze soughing through the leaves on the trees. But that's it. Sometimes the lack of sound is so profound that the loudest sound of all is the buzzing in your own ears. Your brain's way of filling what it considers to be an unnatural void I guess. No pun intended.
I like the night and the silence that goes with it for problem solving, whether to do with my business or anything else that might be on my mind. But lots of time I like to just sit and watch. We now have a canopied rocking bench on the back deck and since it's somewhat protected from breezes, it makes for a very pleasant place to stop for a few moments. I'm hoping we can utilize it for watching some northern lights this fall, although once it looks like snow is going to fly, we'll have to take it down. In the meanwhile, it's been a wonderful place from which to contemplate my navel, so to speak.
The water on Nimpo Lake was too rough for fishing today but I saw one fellow in a float tube that seemed to be out fishing for most of the day yesterday. He looked as contemplative as I on my night watches, and perfectly content. It looks like it might be a neat way to enjoy the day. Last night the water was covered in rings from the fish rolling on the surface. Maybe they knew the weather would be turning and were chowing down as much as they could. It would have been a good evening for fishing, that's for sure.
Well, this has been a nice little break from work but I've got to get back at it now. Things might be a little busy for articles in the next couple of days so have a great weekend!

25/09/2007 7:20 PM

Some Things Just Have To Go

Sad Sack bit the dust yesterday. Sad as it is to cut down a green pine tree when so many have been hit with the Mountain Pine Beetle, some things just have to be done. Sad Sack was a tall, skinny pine that had previously been protected by a whole forest of trees next to the house. Once those trees were gone and Sad Sack no longer had protection from the wind, he rotated like a drunken ballerina every time the wind blew, sometimes over the house, and sometimes over the trucks, depending on what direction the wind was coming from. The roots would undulate under the soil when Sad Sack was doing his dance, meaning even after a whole summer to dig in and stabilize, he hadn't. My biggest fear was that the tree would fall unexpectedly either on the house or worse yet, one of the animals.
Andy cut down both a tree that had its top break off in the wind the other day and Sad Sack yesterday afternoon. Since they were both green, that meant pulling out the sawhorses, the draw knife, and me peeling the lengths for fence posts and rails. Not peeling right away is not an option. You have no idea what an ordeal it is to peel logs that have been cut for awhile. I won't even bother to spend the time if they're not freshly cut and even then, peeling bark off is much easier in the spring when the sap is up than in the fall.
I think that puts us at 106 trees down on our property now. We dropped 99 beetle killed trees this winter and spring but seven more have either fallen or had to be cut down because they're so vulnerable to the wind. That's the problem with trees that grow that close together. They don't develop a proper root system and because their lower branches don't get enough sun, they die off. The tree ends up growing up tall and skinny reaching for the light and with pine boughs only at the top, it's top heavy in the wind.
Oh well, stuff happens. Maybe there won't be any more.
We found one interesting thing though. On the tree with the broken top the bark on one side of it was dead. When I peeled it you could see the chambers created by beetle larvae running the length of the tree, but not girdling it, which is unusual. There was only the slightest hint of blue stain here and there and then we found a beetle, but it was less than half the size of an adult. Andy dug it out to examine it and to our shock it started moving across the palm of his hand. And that does not make sense at all!
I don't think it's possible for the larvae to already be that size this early in the year. And if it is, that means its parent hit early this summer and if that's the case, the fungus the beetle carries on it's body should already have spread through the tree. According to some of the written work on the subject, it takes a full year for the beetle to complete its life cycle, and in the case of high elevations and colder temperatures, it may take two years. If this is the second year for the beetle we found, then there definitely should have been more blue stain. Like I said, none of it makes sense. But, as we examine more and more trees, we've learned that the folks that are supposed to know how it all works, may not.
I keep my fingers crossed and knock on wood when I say this but it almost looks like our Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic may have slowed somewhat. We've still got trees around that are green and many of them were not hit this summer. Some that were weren't hit as heavily or as hard and some of the stronger trees seem to have been able to drown the attackers with pitch. Sheer numbers such as we had two summers ago simply overtake a tree, but we didn't see the huge flights this year that we did then. The rotten little buggers are still there, just not so many. Hopefully, that means that some of the mid-age or larger trees will survive. If nothing else, maybe it means our little ones won't be wiped out as they were at Riske Creek.
This morning started out clear and sunny but deteriorated to pretty solid grey cloud by this afternoon. We did get enough sun before the clouds moved in to bring the temperature up to a little over 12C or around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. There was a bit of a cool breeze but nothing like yesterday. It made for a pleasant walk in the woods today and there were a few folks out fishing on Nimpo Lake today.
Articles might be a little thin this week. It's that time of year again when I start manufacturing fridge magnet calendars for my clients and once I get going on the setup, I don't like to stop, so I'll write when I can.

24/09/2007 4:23 PM

Baby Loons

We went out fishing on Nimpo Lake yesterday afternoon and it was great. Even cool, the weather was perfect and the lake flat calm for the most part. Fish were jumping all around us for the first hour we were out and I caught a nice one shortly after we got near the island. Things really slowed after that, though. We did get some strong bites but nothing that stayed and I only got a little one shortly before we came in. The action on a fly rod is great right now with the trout having a tremendous amount of energy and very fat bellies. And last night you could hear the fish slapping the surface steadily and watch the ripples spread in the moonlight.
There's definitely an algae buildup on Nimpo Lake right now, especially away from the Main Arm. Most of it has been broken up by that wild wind we had the other day but there's no question it's clouding the water. Lots of underwater weeds this year in the beds where you usually find them, and the reeds are really, really tall in the reed beds. I think that's because our high water early in the summer forced the reeds to put on height, and then when the water dropped, they stand unusually tall. That's okay. Gives the local Muskrat more work.
We were delighted to see three baby loons, juveniles actually, out past the big island yesterday. None seemed to have survived the summer in the bays on the South Arm so we were a little concerned. But Mom was hanging with one farther out and there were two together following their parent around on the lake fishing to beat the band. Seeing them is a bit of a relief since there are so many bald eagles on the lake now and increasing in population every year. Where it used to be somewhat unusual to see one, now we see them every day and in fact saw three while out fishing yesterday.
Onto continuing yesterday's rant while I'm still on the bandwagon. For those of you strictly into reading about gentle nature, you might wish to stop reading here....
I have to admit that I have a problem with China. Actually, I don't have a problem with that country so much as that I have a problem with most of our manufactured goods coming from China. As I mentioned yesterday, I think that there's going to be some serious implications as a result.
Friends were telling us the other day that they had decided they were only going to buy 'American' after being shocked at how much has that 'made in china' sticker on it. It took them two years to find running shoes made in the US and they cost a fortune.
We've already been down that road.
Following the example of my mother and her partner a couple of years ago, and their refusal to buy anything not made in the US or Canada, we determined to do the same. For example, Andy wanted a good pair of hiking boots and knew well that the product he was looking had long been a well established brand name and an American icon in boot making. It was going to cost a lot more money ordering these things out of the Cabela's catalogue, but it was a well known, highly respected make, and of course, it said it was made in the US. We got the boots and sure enough, there was a big tag on them that said something along the lines of 'All American Boot since 1898' or some such date'. Sadly, on the sole and inside the boot, it said 'made in china'.
As much as we considered buying products from outside North America a betrayal of sorts, we finally gave up trying to stick to buying within. You couldn't find anything! Everything says 'made in china' on it. To me, that's downright scary. That means another country owns us.
I have to wonder what threats, economic or otherwise, were made by China that would cause the CEO of Mattel to back down and apologize to the Chinese about the recalls on their toys in the past few months. Did some banker in China pick up the phone and call old President Bush? "Hey, we're gonna pull the rug out from under you if we don't get an apology." Or did some bookkeeper call up the CEO of Mattel and threaten to kick the company out of China if they didn't get an abject public apology? An apology for what? If the toys were manufactured to Mattel's design specs and turned out to be dangerous, then that's Mattel's fault. But somehow I don't think they would condone the use of lead paint on toys. Either way, I've never heard of any CEO apologizing to any country for such a thing before. Stuff like this has happened for years with manufacturing in every country, including ours. But c'mon, this guy groveled! I think that this is just a very tiny example of the huge power China now wields over us. And check out the numbers on money owed. If you knew how much paper China holds on us, and how badly tilted the trade deficit is in favor of China over the US, you would not be able to sleep at night. Somehow this insidious giant has crept in and taken over and our respective Federal governments have allowed it to happen.
You can talk all you want about there not being enough workers to take the low paying or factory jobs in the US and Canada. And it's true that we North Americans want to buy our goodies as cheaply as possible and that's difficult to do when you're paying high wages in the manufacturing sector. But what happens if there is a recession? Suddenly there are no jobs and there aren't going to be, even in the industries manufacturing basic needs goods that we have to have, because corporations aren't going to bring their factories back from China. So now you have a huge workforce, an economy in recession, and no way of climbing out of the hole. In addition to that, those wages, no matter how low, are being paid to workers in another country. That means our economy does not benefit from those wages or income taxes or a workforce spending that money here. The only ones that benefit in the long run from having their factories in China are the owners or stockholders in those corporations because cheaper labor and parts adds to their bottom line. In other words, only a very small portion of the North American population are actually benefiting in the long run.
As I mentioned yesterday, I think that there are two things that are going to devastate our countries, even if there is only a little burp in the economy. The US has invested so much money in Iraq and gotten absolutely nothing in return. Not even an end to the war. That does not mean I am expressing an opinion about the war one way or another. I'm just stating an economic fact. So where do you think that money comes from? For the first time in history, over half of US debt is owned by outside interests, primarily China, Japan and Southeast Asian nations. We are now importing far more than we export and have a huge trade deficit. The budget deficit is added to daily by the cost of the war in Iraq. We're also seeing more demand from developing countries like China and India for oil, and yet most oil producing countries such as Saudi Arabia are already producing close to capacity.
To quote the words of Professor of Finance Roger Ibbotson from an essay he wrote in 2006, "If foreign countries stop buying our debt, that will cause long-term bond prices to drop, interest rates to rise and the dollar to fall. Excess demand for energy and natural resources from China and India will likely spur a rise in U.S. inflation rates. Higher interest rates and inflation coupled with a weak dollar..." equal exactly the same scenario I discussed yesterday that we saw in the mid 70's.
I find it very interesting that what Ibbotson predicted a year and a half ago has for the most part, come to pass. I don't think I met a single, solitary person last year that thought the economy might take a nose dive. Everyone seemed to think it was just going to keep rolling on as hot and heavy as it has been. In fact, many people still do. Scary thought....
Fortunately, since a US presidential election year is notorious for being a good one because the Federal Reserve isn't about to rock the boat at that time, and 2008 is coming up, then I guess we can expect to ride this roller coaster for one more year. After the election next fall though, I don't see things as looking too good for any of us.
I could be wrong. But I don't think so.
Hey, check out the picture of the day. Andy got a beautiful shot of a sunrise over Nimpo Lake this morning after a call from the neighbour down the lake.

You'll find I moved yesterday's article over here and took it off of last week's blog, just for consistency in subject and date.

23/09/2007 1:56 PM

Fall Continues

We haven't gotten any more snow and our pleasant Fall continues. I can live with that. I know that a lot of the weather report here seems repetitious and probably somewhat boring, but I've had more than one person with a summer home here tell me they like to know what's happening in the Chilcotin with regards to weather.
There wasn't much to report yesterday, that's for sure. Mixed cloud and sun with a very cold wind didn't make for a particularly nice day and I don't know that the temperature ever did reach 10C or 50F. It's sitting a little higher than that today but it's much warmer in the sun at about 65 degrees Fahrenheit and a lot more pleasant to be outside. There's hardly a breeze. Just enough to tell you that Old Man Winter is indeed just around the corner.
It looks like it might be a good day for fishing and I'm hoping we can sneak out onto the lake this afternoon when my overly hardworking partner gets back from doing some Bobcat work for the neighbours.
Surprisingly, the floatplanes are still out in force, even this late in the year, which is a good sign. Our high Canadian dollar is a worrisome event with regards to bringing visitors to the area from the United States. The Americans get a lot more bang for their buck when they're getting at least a third more on the exchange. By the same token, we lose a lot of Canadian tourism to the States at times like this because Canadians get a lot more for their dollar in goods and services. Folks that might have held off going to the States when the dollar was only worth 62 cents are now eager to take advantage of much cheaper airfares and vacations.
Besides hurting the manufacturing sector throughout Canada, the most significant loss in British Columbia is to the forest industry. The price of lumber is down as it is. But even then, when the American importers can get lumber for 35 to 15 cents less on the dollar, they buy. When it's at par as it very nearly is right now, exports to the US trickle away. Since BC relies heavily on its forest industry, that's a very serious hurt.
Our own mill is a very good example of that. The planer mill has been shut down for a couple of months now and the sawmill will be shutting down for renovation in the near future. Whether anything starts up again this fall is anyone's guess. The sawmill will have to if they want to get that lumber out into the yard and started air drying, but the nickels don't start coming back in to pay the cost of turning logs into lumber until the planer mill pumps out finished product for shipment. You can only carry that expense for so long.
It's been a long, tough haul for the lumber industry in BC for the last few years. High tariffs imposed by the US really hurt with the additional burden of low lumber prices. Our mill is run entirely by diesel generators so the high cost of fuel for the last couple of years has put the whole outfit into the red. It couldn't come at a worse time considering that there are millions of acres of beetle killed trees out there that need to be recovered before they simply blow over or rot where they stand.
I don't see things getting much better. Housing starts in the States are down and I think they'll continue to sink. Canada is always behind but that will happen here too. I don't see how a recession can be avoided in the near future, although I sure hate the idea of it occurring. I'm seeing all the same signs I saw in the 70's prior to the recession in 1980 and '81.
In most of the western provinces there is a real shortage of workers and wages are skyrocketing. I haven't seen an economic climate of this nature since the early 70's when you could quit a job in the morning and have another by afternoon. An overseas war, high housing prices, booming economy, high fuel prices and a high dollar are identical to the scenario we saw in the 1970's. All led up to the crushing interest rates we saw collapse our economy only a few short years later.
I personally think what makes this doomsday scenario even more dangerous than the last is that so much manufacturing from the States has gone overseas, much of it to China. When you no longer have a strong manufacturing base, and you're spending billions of dollars month after month on that money pit called Iraq, I think you become a slave to your lenders. Throw in bad lending practices and a large illegal immigrant population that is utilizing the country's resources such as the health system and schools without paying income tax, and I think you'll find a country teetering on the edge. And I'm not sure that the Feds can do much about it. Bailing out the banks and keeping interest rates low might keep panic on the stock market at bay for awhile, but I don't know that it can help forever.
Unfortunately, Canada is tied so closely to the US, especially since she's our biggest trading partner, that if the US economy takes a nose dive, we won't be far behind. No matter how strong our economy is at present.
I have to laugh at these economists on television that assure Canadians that we won't be effected by the United States' weak lending practices or by her economy slowing. Excuse me? If the Americans aren't buying their products, then they're not buying ours. And if they're not buying ours, then what do you suppose is going to happen to our manufacturing industries, our forestry and mining industry? Job loss and cutbacks. And if you don't have a job, Sweetheart, Canadian or not, you aren't going to be buying those luxury items, those houses, those cars, those entertainment centers and other goodies that have been driving our hot economy for so long. You're going to pull in your horns, tuck away your wallet, pray the interest rates on your mortgage don't skyrocket or you won't be eating, hang on for the ride and hope it doesn't last too long. Because if it does, you'll be walking into the bank and handing over the keys to your house and your new SUV. Just like so many thousands of people did all across Canada in the early 80's.
And so starts the domino effect. Something that I've been predicting for over two years now. Although economics can be an extremely complicated matter, if you listen to the economists, anyway, in it's basic form, it's pretty simple. Adam Smith's theory of economics comes to mind. Supply and demand. The law of physics also applies here. What goes up, must come down. In the case of the economy, it may never come down all the way, but it will come down.
I only hope for our sake and the sake of everyone else in North America, that my little doomsday prediction will not come true.
There's my little rant for this fine, sunny Sunday. It will probably continue tomorrow so for those of you that don't care to hear it, skip the blog for a couple of days and I'm sure I'll be back to just talking about the weather and the fish jumping fairly soon.
As you can see, this is the start of a new week. Last week's articles can be found at September Week Three
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The purpose of this web site is to draw attention to a remote area of west central British Columbia. It is a beautiful area that relies heavily on tourism. The search engines don't know much about the West Chilcotin, Anahim Lake, Nimpo Lake or any of the other small communities in the region and I hope to change that! Even as large as this site will eventually be, there just isn't enough room or time in the day to fully describe this incredible country but I am going to try scraping away at the tip of the iceberg, so join me!

Follow the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!
Pink sunrise in the fall.
Closeup picture of an adult loon.
A long necked duck hides in the reeds.
Dark blue backdrops a fishing boat on the lake.
Loon with wings outspread as though dancing on water.
A picture of two young loons still grey in color.
Picture of blue and orange sunrise over the lake.
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