Kevin Nelson

Great Stories Found Here

Category: Mountains, Nature, Wildlife

‘Who wouldn’t be a mountaineer? Up here all the world’s prizes seem nothing.’

Victoria Lakes, near Victoria Pass, off Highway 395 in the eastern Sierra of California. The scene is God’s creation; the words belong to John Muir.

How to Survive a Trip to the top of Yosemite’s Half Dome

Note from Kevin Nelson: This piece won recognition in a travel writing contest sponsored by Dave’s Travel Corner, which drew entries from around the world. It’s about an adventurous trip to the top of one of the world’s most remarkable peaks. Here’s the start of the story, with the jump switching you over to Dave’s to read the exciting finale. Enjoy!

The plastic water bottle skidded off the granite and disappeared. It wasn’t the sound the bottle made that disturbed me. It was the silence that followed its rapid disappearance.

Along with twenty to twenty-five other people I was perched on the east face of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, the world-famous granite slab that John Muir called “the most beautiful and most sublime of all the wonderful Yosemite rocks.” We were climbing the cables that lead up the backside to its 8,842-foot summit. The message in the bottle needed no translation. It was as clear as the pale blue sky above us.

Hug the cables tight, and we’d all be fine. They meant safe passage up and down. My problem was that I was feeling woozy and lightheaded, unsure if I should—or could—take another step upward. To read more, please click here….

Visit Luther Burbank’s Home and Gardens in Santa Rosa

Luther Burbank was to plants what Steve Jobs was to computers. A creative genius who could take a thing and combine it with another thing, and in so doing make the original thing better and even sometimes new.

Luther Burbank, left, and Henry Ford.

At the time of his death, in 1926, Burbank was one of the most famous men in America, certainly the most famous horticulturalist. Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Helen Keller, Jack London, John Muir, and other luminaries of the time visited him at his home and gardens in Santa Rosa, about an hour north of San Francisco, to see him and a few of the wonders he had created such as the spineless cactus.

Continue reading

Encountering a Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-winged blackbirds are not really red-winged. It’s a misnomer.

This April Ruby and I were walking in the open spaces on a cool, wet, drippy day. We were the only ones out. For this reason perhaps, a red-winged blackbird perched on a bush seemed less skittish than they usually are. She sat on a branch near the trail and did not budge as I stepped to within a couple of arm lengths of it.

Being blackbirds, red-winged blackbirds have mostly black wings. The red comes from the markings on their wings, which remind me of the showy shoulder epaulets worn on the dress uniform of a military officer. Certain red wings have white or yellow stripes at the base of their plumage. But the ones I see around my house are low elevation birds and their patches are all red.

Whatever the variation, red-winged blackbirds are colorful and delightful to see. Their bright and vivid red colors always stand out against the dull gray of an old fencepost, where they often sit. They also like to hang out on the tops of tule weeds and bushes, such as the one Ruby and I encountered.

Ah, but that’s as far as you go, you two! The bird flew off when I overstepped my welcome and drew too close to it.

 

Birds, Frog Legs, and the Three Musketeers

An ortolan.

One of the pleasures of reading old books is that you frequently encounter unusual words or words that are no longer in common use. So I found while reading an early passage in The Three Musketeers, in which d’Artagnan threatens an innkeeper and his employees if they cannot find an important letter that has been lost:

“My letter of recommendation,” cried d’Artagnan, “on the holy blood, I will split you all like ortolans.”

What, pray tell, is an ortolan? Continue reading

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