Carla Brennan's Blog

Reflections and Photos from The Big Trip and Beyond . .


Katydid and Buddha

PHOTOGRAPH OF THE DAY! November 2, 2017

I discovered this insect – what I believe to be a Mexican Bush Katydid (Scudderia mexicana) – walking on one of my outdoor buddhas today. I don’t see katydids very often (they are usually effectively camouflaged as leaves) so it was a pleasure to have it patiently allow me to take its portrait along with the Buddha. (The Buddha is always patient.) The “phallus-like” appendage is actually an ovipositor which means this is a female. They lay their eggs in the fall for a spring hatching.

The day after I posted this, National Geographic had a breaking news story about unique newly identified katydids. How often do you see news flashes on katydids? Like never? Synchronicity? These NG katydids are big, they are mean, they are brightly colored and they are monogamous. To see some strange Madagascar relatives of our local katydid:


Golden Gate Bridge From the Air

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This was taken on May 9th as I flew to San Francisco from Boston. Although I’ve made this journey many times, this was first time our route took us north of San Francisco and down the coast. From my window seat I got a good view of the Golden Gate Bride below. Although always stunning, this was my first time seeing the bridge from above.




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Days 353 – 355 Snow Canyon State Park, St. George, Utah

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September 2013

From Bryce Canyon National Park we made a short hop (150 miles) to Snow Canyon State Park in the southwest corner of Utah. This little state park would be the last red rock country we would see. Nearby were mountain biking trails and the town of St. George for Chris to explore. For me, there were acres of desert and unusual stone formations to wander in.

It was hot again: 100+ degrees at midday. Our campsite was tucked away against a tall petrified dune. Small spaces between the cliff face and the dense scrub oaks created outdoor “rooms” for us to retreat in to. My hammock swayed leisurely between two trunks and birds moved through the trees –  scrub jays, warblers, hummingbirds, Gambel’s quail and woodpeckers. Butterflies flitted in the spotty shade. Lizards searched the leaf litter for food.

The multicolored landscape was made of petrified sand dunes, lava flows and cinder cones. Snow Canyon is also home to some seldom seen Southwest species: desert tortoises, gila monsters (with their beautiful beaded backs and poisonous bite), and chuckwallas (a large, stocky iguana–like lizard). Our chances of seeing the lizards were almost nil, but the endangered tortoises were often sighted.

We took the trail in “prime tortoise habitat” and began our search. To our right was a flat desert with shrubs and grasses edged by high red cliffs. To our left was a cement wall and the back yards of new homes in a dense housing development. We could see into living rooms and could hear telephones ringing. No doubt the land the houses stood on had also been prime tortoise habitat. I wondered how many tortoises and other species had lost their homes to make way for more suburbanites.

After hiking for a while without luck, Chris wandered off ahead. He returned and said he’d found “the biggest one of all”. I thought he was joking and that he probably had just found a tortoise-shaped rock. But sure enough, after walking a few yards there stood a tortoise in the middle of the trail. These reptiles resemble their famous cousins – the Galapagos tortoise – but are considerably smaller. Their top shell (carapace) is about 10-15 inches, they weigh between 25-50 pounds and live for 50-80 years.

They are slow moving, with dry wrinkled and scaly skin, a short stumpy tail and long black claws used to dig burrows. The humps and ridges of their reddish carapace echoed the shape and color of the petrified dunes nearby. Their bright eyes had a primeval Jurassic stare. The tortoises watched us closely, not seemingly alarmed, but still wary of our presence. More hiking revealed several more tortoises. They dined on green grasses and produced turtle turds that looked like the damp dark wads of condensed grass that collect on the underside of lawn mowers.

“Silence is my favorite sound.”

Our last full moon of the trip. I remember our first full moon; it fell on the first night of our trip at Mercey Hot Springs in California. I remember that night had a similar quiet, a pervasive, almost palpable, silence. We went for a walk about 9:30 PM. The paved bike path was perfect for hiking in the dark. As it wound through the desert, it was easy to follow without fear of stumbling. I hoped to see a nocturnal animal but none appeared. There was a complete silence except for cricket choruses and an occasional car on a nearby road. A light wind caused a few shrubs to tremble.

One large rock face blocked the moon and we walk a long way in moon shadow. The east facing cliffs glowed brighter and brighter as evening progressed. More details of the landscape were revealed yet everything maintained a mysterious vagueness that suggested hidden things that are eternally secretive and unknowable. Stars sprinkled the sky but the moonlight obliterated most. No Milky Way that night. Chris saw a falling star. He said, “silence is my favorite sound.”

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Photographs of the Week – October 27, 2014

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For the last many months, I have been neglecting my duties as a blogger.

And I missed my self-imposed deadline of October 1st to have completed my travelogue entries of The Big Trip. My new deadline is December 31, 2014.

I got inspired to post today because of a picture I took of the partial eclipse a few days ago. On Thursday, October 23, I drove to Davenport CA and climbed to the top of a high hill overlooking Bonny Doon Beach and the Pacific Ocean. It also offered a broad view of the sky. At home, the sky is obscured by tall redwoods.

I had brought two sheets of dark glass meant for Chris’s welding visor. They worked well to track the slowly progressing eclipse with my naked eye. I also experimented putting one pane over the lens of my tripod–steadied camera and was delighted with the results. It’s not actually a very good photograph but it came out better than I expected. The eclipse is obvious and you can even make out some sunspots at the center. There’s a total eclipse in 2017 and I plan to have my photography skills in shape for that.

Also included is a photo I took on Sunday capturing two surfers paddling by a floating sea otter.

This morning I watched a black turnstone (a new bird for my life list) bathe itself in some tidal pools.

And lastly, waves. I’ve been taking lots of pictures of waves recently.

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