Robber Fly

In central Ohio it’s been several weeks since we’ve had any appreciable rain. Add to that numerous days with temps greater than 90F and you have the recipe for a very dry landscape. On concrete hard ground, if it has been walked on at all, as dust rises grass seems to break apart under foot. For the grass it’s hard to believe life will return before next spring. In what seems almost a miracle, the green of most trees continues to contrast with the brown of the grass. Perhaps we should plant more trees. The water level in the reservoir near our home has held up well, and is amazingly clear with little rain to stir it up. In contrast a reservoir a little further away, that supplies water to the city, is down over six feet. Now, with it’s expanse of dry clay lake bottom between the water and shoreline trees, I tell myself it looks better if I just imagine it’s “low tide”.

Trees do their best to maintain the green canopy along the Big Darby, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

It’s hard to have high expectations for seeing wildlife in these conditions. But in the middle of the day, as we cower in our air conditioned homes, life goes on. Unlike buzzards, smaller birds, that typically don’t catch thermals to the higher cooler air, are more likely to restrict their activity to the morning and evening. On the sun baked ground at noon I try to imagine what it would be like for an ant to travel any distance. I don’t see many travelers. However, as long as they have access to sources of food, the airborne insects seem unfazed by it all.

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Recently, in the morning’s relative coolness, we found ourselves walking at waters edge in the park near our home, Only a couple hundred yards into our walk a very small bird or large insect was spotted hovering, flying around, then perching on the branches of a partially dead tree. It was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and a “free range” one at that, how exciting. It’s always so much more rewarding to see a creature, not all that often seen in it’s natural habitat, in it’s natural habitat.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird takes a brake while on the prowl for insects.

Another look.

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After the hummer just disappeared into thin air, as they have a habit of doing, we wondered what the rest of our time in the park would offer up.

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New England Asters

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Actually I’ve wandered of topic a bit because I started out with the thought of highlighting the really good day we had with robber flies. They seemed to be everywhere on a recent hike of Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. They’re not an insect that other members of the bug world are happy to see. From the perspective of other insects they are a very efficient killing machine usually waiting in ambush and going after just about anything no matter it’s defenses. Click here for more information. What made the day really good was not only seeing numerous robber flies, but seeing a number chasing and then with captured prey. At one point one loudly buzzed the top of my head as it unsuccessfully pursued a Zabulon skipper. The erratic flight pattern of the skipper undoubtedly contributed to it’s escape.

Red-Footed Cannibalfly perhaps 1 1/2 inches in length. There are over a thousand species of robber fly in the US.

Robber fly with a moth in it’s spiny, not easy to escape, clutches. Barely visible is the piercing-sucking proboscis which is used stab and paralyze it’s prey, inject liquefying enzymes, and then extract the nutritious snack.

. . . with what appears to be a grasshopper nymph.

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Morning light faintly touches Crimson-Eyed Rose-Mallow

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Robber flies weren’t the only insect on the prowl.

Unlike the robber fly, solitary wasps do not consume their prey but instead lay their egg(s) in a nest near or within an insect that has been captured and paralyzed with venom. If all goes as planned, as the larva develops the insect will be it’s food, (Donna).

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Other creatures were also eating other creatures.

Low clear water in the Scioto River made crayfish easy pickings for this Great Blue Hero, (Donna).

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Green-Headed Coneflowers with a visitor.

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Nature always seems to be generous as long as you hold your expectations in check. Often when looking for one thing other things will become part of the mix. It’s usually best to just see what you see.

An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail hides in the foliage.

When one thinks Monarch one thinks milkweed, but there are a variety of other flowers they enjoy. In this case it’s thistle.

The only Little Wood Satyr seen during a hike of Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Question Mark Butterfly, Big Darby Creek Metro Park

A tiny, but very common, Pearl Crescent on a New England Aster, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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In the summer I sometimes just like to sit in my small canoe or walk slowly with no particular focus but only to let nature speak with a more all embracing voice. Realizing at that moment just how much is going on around me that I have no knowledge of, much less understanding. Perhaps a lesson in life in these trying times as I strive not to be ignorant of my own ignorance.

How you choose to look at something determines what you see.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Butterflies That Don’t Look Like Butterflies

In the last few weeks butterflies have become a lot more common, especially during warm late spring afternoons. To the casual observer some don’t even look like butterflies.

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Below are some seen recently where there’s no question what they are.

The very small Banded Hairstreak, (Donna).

Another very small butterfly, the Summer Azure, (Donna).

Hackberry Emperors are a very common medium size butterfly that shun flowers but on a warm day will often land on your skin.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is a large butterfly that’s easy to spot and usually easy to get a picture of.

The profile of the medium size Eastern Comma is a bit confusing but in flight there is no mistaking it for anything but a butterfly, (Donna).

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But then there are some where we’re not quite sure, a moth, butterfly, or something else?

The Silver Spotted skipper is one of the largest of the skippers and for that reason fairly easy to spot. It is a fast flier not floating like the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Habitat: Disturbed and open woods, foothill stream courses, prairie waterways. Range: Extreme southern Canada and most of the continental United States except the Great Basin and west Texas; northern Mexico. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org

The Zabulon Skipper is very small, common but easy to miss. Habitat: Brushy openings near moist forests and streams. Range: Massachusetts west through southern Michigan to central Kansas; south to central Florida, southern Louisiana, and northeast Texas. Strays to New Mexico, South Dakota, and southern Quebec. A separate population ranges from central Mexico south to Panama. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org

Two very small and seldom seen Crossline Skippers. Habitat: Open grassy areas including prairies hills, barrens, power line cuts, old fields, forest openings. Range: Western North Dakota east across central Minnesota, southern Ontario, and southern Quebec to central Maine; south to northeast Texas, the Gulf Coast, and northern Florida. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org

A Peck’s Skipper on a dandelion. A very small fury butterfly. Habitat: Many open grassy habitats including meadows, prairies, lawns, marshes, landfills, roadsides, vacant lots, and power line right-of-ways. Range: British Columbia east across southern Canada to Nova Scotia; south to northeastern Oregon, southern Colorado, northwest Arkansas, and northern Georgia. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org

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And then there’s this rather unusual specimen.

American Snout, Habitat: Forest clearings and edges, thorn scrub, brushy fields, roadsides.
Range: Argentina north through Mexico and the West Indies to southern United States. Migrates to central California, southern Nevada, Colorado, and most of the eastern United States. http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org

While fascinating it’s not clear what purpose the snout serves, (Donna).

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Given that many butterflies are very small and some fly very fast it can be a challenge to spot them. However once spotted, they transport one into a world that few visit and get to appreciate.

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Thanks for stopping by.

 

While I Was Away Fishing

With the arrival of a granddaughter and my annual fishing trip to Michigan photographing the wonders of nature in central Ohio has been a bit neglected. Fortunately in my absence my wife took up the slack and was busy finding fascinating things closer to home. In fact, considering that it’s usually the slow time of year, there have been an amazing number of things to see.

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Numerous Kingbirds nest along the reservoir in Griggs Reservoir Park and while the babies have fledged they still expect their meals to be catered. Fortunately, ample fresh berries and cicadas make the work a little easier.

Bringing dinner home, (Donna).

Trying to get noticed, (Donna).

Finally! (Donna).

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When not being entertained by the kingbirds; vireos, numerous Great Crested Flycatchers, and even a Yellow Warbler were spotted.

A Warbling Vireo which is not often seen this time of year, (Donna).

An immature Red-eyed Vireo, (Donna).

Great Crested Flycatcher, (Donna).

Yellow Warbler, a rare find in the park in early August, (Donna).

Barn Swallows engage in a heated discussion about sharing a dragonfly, (Donna).

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A first of the year Buckeye Butterfly and a seldom seen Royal River Cruiser were also spotted.

Buckeye, (Donna).

A Royal River Cruiser not often seen along Griggs Reservoir, (Donna).

and not to ignore some of the more usual suspects .   .   .

A Eastern Tiger Swallowtail at waters edge, (Donna).

Amberwing Dragonflies are common but due to their small size are often hard to photograph, (Donna).

Monarch, (Donna).

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It’s always hard to compete with my wife’s discoveries but as usual the Rifle River Recreation Area did not disappoint with some nice Large Mouth Bass caught. To eliminate as much trauma as possible the barbs were removed from the hooks which doesn’t seem to effect the catch rate and I’m sure the fish are much happier as they swim away.

A beautiful morning on Devoe Lake.

Typical of the Large Mouth Bass caught. This one was on Au Sable Lake.

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There were often a pair of Trumpeter Swans not far off while fishing on Devoe Lake. In addition there were always loons to enjoy. An encouraging discovery was not only the number of loons seen on the lakes within the park, where they nest due to the absence of motorboat traffic/wakes, but on the cottage lined lakes nearby.

Common Loons, Devoe Lake.

Au Sable Lake

Rifle Lake

As can be seen from the above screen shots Rifle Lake does not have suitable habitat for nesting but Au Sable Lake does with a considerable amount of sheltered natural shoreline. To my joy, immature loons were observed there.

Lily pads on Devoe Lake.

Trumpeter Swans, Devoe Lake.

Near sunset on Devoe Lake.

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As I finished this post a task required that I briefly venture outside. In our front yard a hummingbird briefly hovered close by and then went about it’s business. Such a serendipitous occurrence caused me to stop for a moment, and as I did, ever so faintly, the call of a loon on Devoe Lake could be “heard”. I was left again with the realization that nature’s wonder can be found in many places. Whether on a lake in Michigan or in a city park of Columbus Ohio, all we need to do is open our eyes.

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Thanks for stopping by.

The Rifle River and A Mystery Bird

It’s that time of year again when we travel 6.5 hours north from our home in central Ohio to the Rifle River Recreation Area. Usually we enjoy checking out different areas for new adventures but this park’s unique beauty keeps us coming back. Whether paddling on the park lakes or hiking the trails there is always something to discover. From one week to the next different wildflowers can be seen. Spring warbler activity is complimented by the evening call of a Whippoorwill or Barred Owl and there’s always the distant call of a loon on Devoe Lake.

(click on images for a closer look)

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This year’s late June visit meant that in addition to increased warbler activity we’d also see blooming lady slippers and pitcher plants. Of course there would also be more mosquitoes to deal with and they’re always particularly pesky when one crouches down to study a flower or take a photograph.

A shaft of sunlight highlights a fern along the trail.

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My wife was nice enough to contribute the bulk of the pictures for this post as much of my time was spent fishing. However, to start the post off on a curious note I did notice something interesting one afternoon while hiking.

These rolled up birch? leaves littered the forest floor.

A closer inspection revealed a small caterpillar within the shelter of the rolled up leaf. It was in the process of eating it’s way out. Another egg sac near by? Based on an educated guess it would appear that a moth deposited it’s eggs on the underside of the leaf which then caused it to roll up and fall to the ground. Inside the leaf the caterpillar is safe from the prying eyes of birds until it escapes into the leaf litter and pupates soon to emerge as a moth and continue the cycle.

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When my wife wasn’t hiking and I wasn’t trying to catch a fish we did a fair amount of exploring by canoe.

Yours truly with a Devoe Lake Large Mouth Bass.

Exploring Grebe Lake

Common Loon, Devoe Lake.

Take two, (Donna).

Yellow Pond Lily, Grebe Lake.

Painted Turtle, Loud Pond, Au Sable River, (Donna).

Paddling trough the lily pads, Grebe Lake.

Trumpeter Swans, Grebe Lake.

A Mink checks us out along the Au Sable River, (Donna).

Au Sable River Walleye.

While Water Lily, (Donna).

Kingbirds entertained us as we paddled the Devoe Lake shoreline, (Donna).

Morning on Devoe Lake.

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One day as we drove back to our campsite after a morning paddle we came upon an unusual discovery in the middle of the road.

Our first thought was to move it along before it became the victim of a less observant driver.

But a closer look revealed that it was a Blanding’s Turtle something we’d expect to see in a nearby lake but not in it’s present location. Since it’s not a turtle we often see we were pretty excited, (Donna).

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However, perhaps the most unusual thing seen during our week long stay was the bird spotted while hiking along Weir Road.

The best ID we could come up with was a partially leucistic White-breasted Nuthatch but it’s beak didn’t look right. The mystery remains.

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We’d be remiss if we didn’t give special mention to the Ovenbirds and Yellowbellied Sapsuckers that entertained us each day at our campsite.

Ovenbird, (Donna).

With a white moth.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, taken while hiking but representative of the activity around our campsite, (Donna).

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While on the subject of birds, while hiking a park trail my wife was excited to see a Black Billed Cuckoo. It was a life bird for her.

Black Billed Cuco, (Donna).

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Finally, below is a summary of other things seen as we explored the park trails.

A recently emerged mushroom translucent in the sunlight.

A family of very colorful but small mushrooms.

Wild Columbine along the trail.

Hawkweed and fern.

The Rifle River

Showy Lady’s Slippers along the park road. A real treat to see.

A closer look, (Donna).

Bunch Berry Flower

Spotted Thyris Moth on fleabane.

Deep into the woods.

Red-spotted Purple

Another view, (Donna).

Yellow Lady’s Slippers were also seen, (Donna).

The flower of the Pitcher Plant. The plant gets it name by the shape of the leaves at the base of the plant which trap insects in water the leaves collect.

Overlooking Pintail Pond

Hover fly on dogwood blossoms.

This fairly large moth has yet to be identified.

Fleabane

Eastern Wood Pewee, (Donna).

Elfin (not Slaty) Skimmer.

Yellow Goats Beard, (Donna).

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, (Donna).

Another view.

Sheep Laurel, (Donna).

American Redstarts were fairly common, (Donna).

Blue Flag Iris, (Donna).

Dot-tailed Whiteface, (Donna).

River Jewelwing (M), (Donna).

River Jewelwing (F), (Donna).

Cedar Waxwing, (Donna).

Four-spotted Skimmer, (Donna).

Wood Frog, (Donna).

Coral Fungus, (Donna).

Chaulk-fronted Corporal

Wild Geranium, (Donna).

Little Wood Satyr.

Indian Pipe (before), (Donna).

After? (Donna).

A Green Heron stalks prey along the Devoe Lake shore, (Donna).

Black-shouldered Spinyleg, (Donna)

Another interesting plant we have yet to ID, (Donna).

Dead Mans Fingers, (Donna).

Delaware Skipper, (Donna).

Baby Robin, (Donna).

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As each day passes nature evolves. A wishful thought would be to spend one week each month in a place such as Rifle River Rec Area. Then one would truly appreciate it’s wonder. Thanks for stopping by.

Misty Day, Devoe Lake.

An Uncommon Loon

During a recent rough and windy late May paddle in central Ohio we were excited by the sighting of an immature Common Loon. This is the first time we’d seen one while paddling in Ohio. Usually they’ve moved north by the time we get the canoe in the water so this one was a bit of a mystery. On this particular day our goal had been to see warblers while exploring the reservoir’s quiet coves but the wind put a damper on that effort. Fortunately there were other things to see.

Common Loon, Alum Creek Reservoir north of Cheshire Rd, (Donna).

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In one cove after a little exploring on foot a relatively new Beaver lodge and dam were discovered.

Beaver Lodge, Alum Creek State Park.

A beaver lodge resident, Kentucky Flat Millipede.

Beaver Dam, Alum Creek State Park.

.   .   .  and yes we did get one very average picture of a Yellow Warbler near the beaver dam.

Yellow Warbler, Alum Creek State Park, (Donna).

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A little further on a mother Wood Duck did her best to distract us from her babies.

Female Wood Duck, Alum Creek Reservoir, (Donna).

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The outing’s best bird pictures were taken by my wife at the end of the day while I put the canoe on the roof of the car.

Eastern Towhee, Alum Creek State Park, (Donna).

Female Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, Alum Creek State Park, (Donna).

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The season moves on and with it the ever increasing activity of butterflies and dragonflies. New adventures await.

Female Common Whitetail.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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It’s A Butterfly Time Of Year

Not that they aren’t seen earlier in the spring and summer but August does seem to be the time for butterflies. This year it’s been almost impossible to be out for any length of time without seeing a Monarch. In the late morning or afternoon small but beautiful Pearl Crescents make the shorter grass along the trail their playground. The beauty of some butterflies like the Giant Swallowtail is apparent to even a casual observer but others like the Buckeye reveal their beauty only after a closer look. Others like the hairstreaks are easy to miss altogether unless you know what to look for. The good news is that you don’t have to get up a the crack of dawn to see butterflies.

Sunlight filters through the woods along the Big Derby during a recent butterfly hike.

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So below is a celebration of butterflies that have been seen in the last few weeks. Much of the credit must go to my wife who tirelessly pursues these usually unpredictable creatures until she gets the shot she wants while I often content myself to photographing the more predictable wildflowers.

In late summer Bull Thistle is common in the prairie areas of Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park and seems to attract it’s share of Monarchs.

The Giant Swallowtail is Ohio’s largest butterfly and not one we see every day, Griggs Reservoir Park..

A Giant Swallowtail depositing eggs, (Donna).

Great Blue Lobelia enjoying the more shaded areas of Griggs Reservoir Park.

A very small female Eastern-tailed Blue rewards Donna by opening it’s wings.

Prairie sunflowers, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

The beautiful but very small Gray Hairstreak, (Donna).

Hackberry Emperors are fairly common in Griggs reservoir Park and on a warm day enjoy hitching a ride on your arm to take advantage of your perspiration, (Donna).

Cardinal Flower

A small Summer Azure almost seems to blend in, (Donna).

Wingstem, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park prairie.

The not often seen Meadow Fritillary

The fairly common but lovely Orange Sulfur, (Donna).

New England Aster

Usually not seen in central Ohio until late summer or fall the medium size Buckeye is striking, Griggs Reservoir Park, (Donna).

Fringed Loosestrife also enjoys the more shaded areas along the Scioto River.

A small Zabulon Skipper, (Donna).

A small but lovely Common Checkered Skipper, (Donna).

Lazard’s Tail along the Scioto River, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Silver Spotted Skipper, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Tall Blue Lettuce, Griggs Reservoir Park.

Red-spotted Purple, (Donna).

Another look, (Donna).

Gray-headed Coneflowers seem to take flight.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Another look.

A somewhat faded black form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, (Donna)

Black Swallowtail, (Donna).

Black Swallowtail laying eggs, (Donna).

Ironweed, Griggs Reservoir Park.

The Peck’s Skipper is a very small moth like butterfly, (Donna).

Cup Plant

Monarch, (Donna).

Monarch

Trumpet Flowers, (Donna).

Mating Pearl Crescents

Pearl Cresent

Tall Bellflower

Eastern Comma

The tiny flowers of Virginia Knotweed.

Certainly not the most aesthetic setting, a Zebra Swallowtail lands in our canoe just as we finish a paddle on Paint Creek, (Donna).

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Where there are butterflies and moths there are caterpillars and no one is better at spotting them than my wife.

Brown-hooded Owlet, (Donna).

Monarch caterpillar, (Donna).

Orange Dog (Giant Swallowtail caterpillar), (Donna).

Another look.

Black Swallowtail caterpillar showing horns. Horns extend when head is touched lightly. Donna).

Without horns protruding, (Donna).

Sycamore Tussock Moth caterpillar, (Donna).

Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillars, (Donna).

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We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge some of the birds that continue to charm us as we walk through the woods of central Ohio.

Male Goldfinch, (Donna).

This time of year False Dragonhead can be seen along the shore of Griggs Reservoir.

A Ruby throated Hummingbird checks out the Bull Thistle at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, (Donna).

Woodland Sunflowers offer a splash of color in the woods along the Scioto River.

A Tufted Titmouse checks Donna out as she attempts to take it’s picture.

Indigo Bunting, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

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So what was I doing while my wife was taking so many excellent photographs in central Ohio? Fishing in Michigan of course.

This nice Largemouth Bas went swimming right after posing for this picture.

Fishing at sunset on Devoe Lake, Rifle River Recreation Area.

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If time spent in nature speaks to the essence of your being, your soul, you have riches greater than any material procession can offer. A wealth that grows in health, spirit, and the awareness of being part of the greater mystery. Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

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