Canvas Giveaway Contest Rules

Show your love and support for the National Parks. Follow the directions below to be entered in giveaway and chance to win this canvas.


2. Complete steps 2, 3, and 4 in the giveaway promotion dated 12/1/2020 on my Instagram profile, by midnight of 12/1/2020

3. Winner will be chosen randomly and notified via Instagram Message and must respond with 24 hours of notification with a valid U.S. address for shipping of canvas.

4. Only the canvas shown above, posted 12/1/2020, is available for this giveaway.

Gone Fishing –Along the Potomac

I spent a foggy morning along the Potomac recently, watching the fishing done by men and birds near Chain Bridge. The birds seemed to be winning, both the Great Blue Herons and the Red Faced Cormorants. I also spotted a Raven and an Osprey as I crossed the historic span headed home.

A little Chain Bridge history: There have been 8 bridges in this spot beginning just before the beginning of the 1800’s. They were destroyed or deteriorated by time, floods, and fire. At one point Confederate soldiers stood on one side and Union on the other. If I’m not mistaken, the current footings for the bridge date back to the 1870s. Today, the steep, steel gray, stone cliffs along the Virginia side are decorated with luxury homes towering over the fast moving waters below that still feel wild.

Down among the heavy, jagged rocks that characterize the Potomac River Gorge, just downstream from Great Falls and Mather Gorge, I also found a lot of trash and other debris strewn and left along the rocky banks. Certainly some of it comes from the river, dumped when the water runs high, but much of it comes from those who frequent this fishing hole.

McLean Mystery Bird Sign Scavenger Hunt

Note: This contest has long expired but you are free to explore on your own!

Buckle up McLean and surrounding DMV residents, I’ve got the perfect rainy day, pandemic boredom activity you can complete from the safety of your car.

For years someone has been mounting animal (birds, mostly) shapes to road signs and trees in Mclean. Years ago I wrote about it. (See past post.) As time has passed I’ve watched as some signs were lost due to weather, road improvements, removal, or perhaps theft—if something left in public and illegally mounted which is then taken can be construed as theft??

Of recent, the number of signs has increased, or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention for a while. Whatever the case there are a lot more of them, and the artisan has added a few designs to the mix, and improved the construction of these little works of art. He or she has switched to using painted, machine metal rather than wood, which was the material of choice in years past. Many of the wooden signs deteriorated and have been lost. In particular, there was an owl that I loved seeing. (Not going to tell you where it was.) I might also add, this person has some climbing ability because some of these mounts are not easily reached. There are also signs related to breast cancer awareness and snowflake shapes that may or may not be from the same person, but I haven’t included them.

Fast forward to now, we’re all stuck at home watching way too much Netflix, Tiger King and various other forms of sociopathy.  I”ve counted 24 signs in the McLean/Great Falls, VA area.  I’ve listed them with photos below. 

So, here is my challenge . . . hop in your car and start driving around McLean, and start chasing the winged and other mounted creatures. The first three people who successfully complete all directions in their entirety will win a landscape canvas from my collection. Here are the rules to participate:

NOTE: There are more butterflies not included on the list. The objective is to find the figures on my list. There are visual clues to make sure you are identifying the right one. I’m certain there may be some that I’ve missed out there. Feel free to point those out, but the objective is find the ones on the list below.

This exercise is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by or associated with Instagram.


Some birds of a feather like to cluster together and some do not

But all the birds and creatures of metal are located in McLean or Great Falls

Some hit close to home, to whose I cannot say

As a poet once stated many will take a path well travelled but some will take a path less worn

Sometimes they are so obvious they are invisible, which makes the hunt irresistible.

Be safe and be well if you partake in this adventure.  Two make better the hunt, one to drive and one, two, three to spy.

  1. Salamander-

2 Cardinal—

  1. Butterfly—
  1. Cardinal—
  1. Cardinal—
  1. Cardinal–
  1. Blue Bird—
  1. Cardinal—
  1. Butterfly—
  1. Red Headed Woodpecker—
  1. Hummingbird—
  1. Dragon Fly—There’s more than one of these.
  1. Butterfly—
  1. Blue Bird—
  1. Butterfly—
  1. Cardinal–
  1. Butterfly—I’m fairly confident this figure isn’t made by the same person, but I included it because I’ve enjoyed it over the years.
  1. Blackbird–
  1. Blue Bird—
  1. Cardinal—
  1. Hummingbird—
  1. Yellow Bird—
  1. Cardinal—
  1. Yellow Bird—

Be sure to see the latest post where a new bird has been spotted.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

During this stay-at-home period of the pandemic I’ve had a lot of songs running through my head, but the ’80’s classic, Should I Stay or Should I Go has dominated, of late. I’m not really even a big fan of The Clash, or am I? Hard to know, at this point.

As the world sits at home collectively trying to avoid the COVID-19 virus, millions undoubtedly need to evaluate upcoming travel plans. Looking forward thirty, sixty, ninety days what is the best plan of action and when should you cancel reservations? I’m wondering the same. I have plans to travel out West to photograph Glacier National Park in late June with multiple reservations still on the books. I thought as I evaluate whether to cancel or maintain my plans it might be a useful subject to write about for others.

Of course, if we, in the U.S., aren’t collectively successful at lowering the curve of the outbreaks this discussion will be for naught, and nobody will be going anywhere. I certainly maintain hope that that won’t be the case. I have no desire to put myself or any destination’s local population at greater risk. Everything hinges on achieving a declining trend by April 30. It’s hard to predict or know, since we’ve never experienced anything like this, whether there will be a definitive ruling on resuming full activity, or whether there will be some sort of roll out based on a particular areas status and rate of infection of the traveler’s home. It’s impossible to know how a roll out will look. Yesterday, I watched news coverage of a protest in Lansing, Michigan against the continuation of stay-at-home orders, while in stark contrast the Outer Banks of North Carolina will not allow non-permanent resident homeowners access to their homes as of March 20. A few of those Outer Banks’ residents are suing Dare County where these homes are located. No doubt different regions of the country are experiencing this pandemic from different points of view.

At the same time, I’m trying to support local businesses and business in general.  The outdoor industry, as an example, provides 5 million jobs in the U.S. and generates around $778 billion in economic output, according to information from The Land Water Conservation Fund. Not to mention, during a time of political conflict and clashes, National Parks and public lands are overwhelmingly popular and unifying environments for Americans and foreign visitors, alike.

Dr. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has explained virus predictions, as they relate to the various models designed to anticipate the spread and toll of the virus’ U.S. outbreak, are only as good as the assumptions used to build them. The same can be said for trying to predict the status of the pandemic in any given country or area in the next few months—all based on assumptions that may or may not come true. And, without being too pessimistic, it’s easy to imagine that there’s a clean start and stop to this threat, but Dr. Fauci put that idea to rest, as well. He said it’s not likely we will get a national all clear. It’s more likely that a return to normal will happen in stages.

My trip to Glacier National is scheduled for the last two weeks of June. I have reservations up and down the eastern side of the park and as far north as Waterton Lakes Park in Alberta, Canada. I was looking forward to that segment in particular. We are suppose to stay at The Prince of Wales Hotel overlooking the lake. At the time of this writing, the normal cancelation policy applies which is a full refund up till three days prior to my arrival. The bigger question is whether we would be able to cross the border by then.

I haven’t purchased airline tickets, thankfully, so I’m holding off on that purchase until I have a better sense of the general travel advisories. I do wonder whether it makes some sense to go ahead and purchase a ticket at the lower rates I see for routes, while demand is down, with the assumption that if travel is still restricted I’ll be able to adjust my flight to a later date or get a refund. If they’re doing that now, I would hope the same would apply down the road, but that’s a gamble.

As of Friday April 3 following many complaints from consumers about airlines not offering returns for canceled or significantly changed flights, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced it will require foreign and domestic airlines to provide speedy refunds to passengers holding tickets for canceled or significantly altered schedules.  Those holding tickets who choose not to fly are not eligible for these refunds.  Baggage fees and other extra fees should also be refunded under the same conditions.

Most hotels are allowing cancelations with varying limitations. For instance as of April 3, 2020 Hyatt is waiving change and cancelation fees for reservations existing or made April 1, 2020 or before for arrivals through June 30, 2020. Hyatt does have some restrictions for reservations made April 2, 2020 through June 30, 2020 for any future date related to “select Destination properties” and special event rates. As of this writing, Marriott International says there’s no fee for cancelations or changes to existing reservations or new reservations for travel at any future date, including prepaid rates, as long as the cancelation is made before June 30, 2020. Airbnb is allowing cancelations for check-ins between March 14 and April 30, and owners are being partially compensated by the hosting site for these COVID-19 related losses. My Airbnb reservation doesn’t fall within these dates, but I still have time to cancel based on the normal cancelation policy of the property owner. Each property has unique cancelation policies outside of the current COVID-19 cancelation allowances timeframe. Be sure to read the cancellation policy for any property you have booked.

I cannot fathom why anyone would want to go on a cruise of any kind for the foreseeable future given the nightmares we’ve watch unfold on ships all over the world.  Nevertheless, Disney Cruise Lines is offering passengers refunds for trips booked for March thru April, or the option to rebook within a 15 month window for it’s various routes.

In an informal poll of the folks who I know are traveling in June, most are holding off on a final decision until the end of April. One or two are largely resolved to cancel their trips in an abundance of caution, but most want to wait and see a little while longer before abandoning a much anticipated trip.

So, for now, I am holding on to my hotel reservations because there’s no harm in doing so, right now. I plan to reassess at the end of April and again mid or late May, keeping an eye on the specific area and service providers I will rely on during this trip. What are the guidelines for visitors, as well as the mood of the area where I might want to visit? I’ve been in touch with the hotels where I plan to stay and I’m paying close attention to what and how they answer my questions. Are the borders I’m crossing passable?. As a last resort, I have considered driving, rather than flying, and camping along the way, but I have to see if that’s feasible, too. Many camp grounds are closed to overnight visitors, as well. No way of knowing how those locales may adapt as the course of this pandemic plays out in the U.S.

Any leisure travel that’s scheduled for April or early May is likely refundable, and I would proceed with getting that process started now.  If you have travel in May I think the statement from Dr. Fauci about a national all clear is particularly useful.  Many stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders are through the end of April or slightly beyond.  In Virginia, where I live, ours goes through June 10 (unless rescinded sooner), while in Montana the restrictions are open ended, so it’s important to know the rules of the state where you’re headed, not just your home state.

Stay well and plan carefully as you proceed with your travel plans. The link below from Travel Weekly contains links to many hotels, cruise and airlines for your reference.

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Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge: A Sinking Treasure

Got a sinking feeling?

If thinking about the COVID-19 Pandemic, the impending presidential election, climate change and the myriad environmental challenges we face gives you a sinking feeling, that sensation might be more accurate than you know—especially if you live on the Eastern shore of the U.S.  The Mid-Atlantic Region, part of the North American Continental Plate, especially along the east coast, is sinking, while at the same time sea level is rising here.  This subsidence of the land or isostatic rebound, as it is called, is thought to be the result of glacial melting, which allows other portions of the plate to rise as the massive weight of melting ice sheets decreases.  In contrast, glacial melting in Alaska and Iceland for instance, also part of the North American Continental Plate, are causing the land there to rise and the sea level to lower.  This double whammy of natural and manmade environmental changes might make you think, “Run for the hills!”.  However, unlike a seesaw, the rise and fall is not uniform across the plate but undulating much like a piece of warm elastic.  This was news to me.  I knew about sea level rise, but not the land sinking.  

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (BNWR) in Cambridge, Maryland is a case study for researchers and scientists studying these simultaneous climate forces, which makes the region particularly valuable and vulnerable. Here the changes aren’t theoretical, they are happening at an accelerated rate and can be seen clearly in the ghost forests, the easily flooded roadways, the disappearance of some wildlife species, and the encroaching water at local doorsteps. 

Follow the Public Lands’ Money

Further complicating these landscape and environmental challenges, the 50 plus year bipartisan marriage between the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the energy industry could go down the drain if the President’s proposed 2021 Budget is approved.  Despite public comments of support via Twitter by the President for full and permanent funding of LWCF within the proposed legislation (S.3422) The Great American Outdoors Act, the true math shows the proposed budget for National Parks is cut by roughly $500 million for 2021.  The new bipartisan legislation, with the support of 59 Senators from both sides of the aisle, seeks to remedy the routine raiding and re-directing of LWCF funds to other non-public land uses.  As an example, in 2019, of the $900 million deposited to the LWCF, only $495 million actually made it to LWCF projects which flies in the face of a $20 billion backlog of maintenance and infrastructure needs within public lands, and over $22 billion LWCF dollars diverted over 55 years of its history.  The President has also led an effort to open once protected lands out west to mining and private enterprise.

Standing on solid ground and the facts at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, a beneficiary of LWCF money, is comprised of roughly 28,000 acres of wetlands, forest and open water. In his 11 years at this wetland refuge, Matt Whitbeck, resident wildlife biologist has seen changes in a decade that one might expect to occur over the course of a century. He co-authored a report in 2013 with The Conservation Fund and the National Audubon Society detailing the accelerated rate of sea level rise. The report also forecasts the loss of the marsh by 2100 and the realization that maintaining the current footprint of the refuge isn’t possible. He supports the new non-traditional approach that seeks to preserve and acquire land where the marsh is likely to migrate in hopes of a better long term survival strategy.

A New Strategy In Preservation: Let it Move

Since becoming a refuge in 1933 areas that were once forested are now drowning and transitioning to wetlands, and in other areas what was once marsh has become open water.  It has been reported that some 5000 acres of coastal wetlands have been lost or converted to open water since the 1930s.  As the land sinks and sea level rises the wetland is migrating from its 1933 borders and officials are trying to stay ahead of the up slope movement of the wetlands and how that will impact the refuge, the wildlife and the local community. 

1938 Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, photo courtesy BNWR
1974 Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, photo courtesy BNWR
1989 Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, photo courtesy of BNWR

The Blackwater River was dredged in 2017 bringing up 26,000 cubic yards of mud to a submerged area of marsh, and plugged with 220,000 sprigs of native water-loving vegetation.  This effort is a more traditional approach that tries to keep the marsh closer to its current footprint.  In a new approach,  The Land and Water Conservation Fund has assisted in the acquisition of large upland land parcels as they become available where researchers and surveyors expect the refuge to continue its march in hopes that identifying and protecting these areas will be a better approach to preservation. 

The LWCF has always enjoyed bipartisan support, investing earmarked energy drilling revenues, rather than tax dollars, back into conservation of public lands and support for national parks since the ‘60s.  However, in all these years it has yet to receive permanent funding from Congress despite being a widely supported, budgetary mainstay on both sides of the political aisle. Given recent environmental rollbacks related to coal production and clean water regulations, the lack of permanent funding as well as the diversion of funds away from LWCF and national parks is cause for alarm.  At Blackwater, as an example, water quality monitoring is now being handled by a team of individuals and non-profit conservation groups as staffing at the refuge has been shrinking under the stress of rising costs and flat line funding.

. . . decreases protection for our Nation’s waters and does not support the objective of restoring and maintaining ‘the chemical, physical and biological integrity’ of these waters.”  Michael Honeycutt, chairman, EPA Science Advisory Board

Furthermore, recent rollbacks in E.P.A clean water restrictions, driven by the Trump Administration, threaten to rewind years of progress—not just here at Blackwater, but nationally. This, coupled with the budgetary threats to LWCF, puts these environmental treasures at tremendous risk. Given the President’s pattern to conceal his genuine intent, his Twitter-promises to LWCF seem to belie a different truth for public lands–one that does not seek to protect but to profit, no matter the cost to the land.

Moonrise over Blackwater National Refuge

The wetland water of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, adjacent to the Chesapeake Bay, is still challenged by pollutants.  The rollbacks remove protections for seasonal/ephemeral waterways, ground water, or sources not adjacent to large bodies of water allowing industrial and agricultural chemical dumping, pesticide use and the destruction or filling in of natural wetlands in construction projects even though it’s well established that pollutants find their way into the greater water supply system via wildlife or unseen connectivity.  The E.P.A’s very own advisory council reports that these rollbacks lack justification and defy scientific impacts to the greater watershed systems.  It’s hard to imagine that there’s any denial of the connectivity of natural watershed systems—some of which may be hard to trace.  Similarly, the rejection and undermining of science is what Matt Whitbeck points to as one of his greatest concerns.  He makes the point that science by its very definition is unbiased, but he’s seen that belief challenged. His job is to protect this habitat for the wildlife that thrives within it, and the global forces behind the changes described are presenting a risk to wildlife and humans alike.  He shows visitors the undeniable sea level changes, and lets them come to their own conclusions.

BNWR Visitors Center

Besides serving as a filtering system for the bay and a buffer during storms, the marsh is also one of the largest breeding grounds for American Eagles and other migratory birds along the east coast.  No longer considered an endangered species, the breeding eagle population is strong at Blackwater.  It’s a favorite spot for bird watchers,  photographers, kayakers, fishermen, hunters and cyclists.  Younger visitors may not recall a time when eagles and osprey were endangered because of the widespread use of the pesticide DDT which interrupted normal breeding and poisoned the birds via contaminated water from direct or runoff water sources and contaminated fish they consumed.  Additionally, the refuge is still recovering from damage caused by the vegetation ravaging rodent called Nutria, whose apparent eradication has not been officially confirmed, but expected.

An Unexpected Discovery

I only discovered Blackwater Refuge two years ago, during a weekend trip, and now I find myself visiting and exploring frequently in the early morning to capture photos of the landscape and the wildlife.  It’s less than two hours from Washington, D.C.  I usually arrive before dawn.  Once I turn off the main road to the shore points, time slows.  It’s quiet here, even in the summer.   In the winter it feels abandoned.  I usually see something new each visit: a quality to the light, a chance encounter with an eagle or some other creature.  On this day it’s snowing lightly. The air and wildlife move about freely in a quiet rush of feeding and surveying.  I’m an intruder and watched by the wildlife and the locals.  The flat land lets the wind glide along with little interruption which adds to the feeling of remoteness and wildness.  In the winter, the unfettered, damp wind can be brutally cold.  Cambridge, Maryland’s business district is fifteen minutes away, buffered by a multitude of farms of varying sizes and conditions.  The occasional car will pass.  I’m noticed immediately by a dog when I stop at dawn to take a photo of an older farm house decorated for Christmas.  I move along not wanting to cause disruption, but I may be too late for that. 

A Legend Lived Here

As if the wetland isn’t reason enough to protect this area, it’s also the home to one of the greatest American heroes of the Underground Railroad—Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery herself and returned approximately 13 times to lead other enslaved people to freedom.  (The Harriet Tubman Museum is a must stop here.  Driving the area, one can only imagine the physical, 19th Century hardships one would endure trying to navigate, surreptitiously, on foot. 

This is a place and a story I will continue to document, to preserve, and to protect. If you visit, please leave no trace.

©Amy Linn Doherty and Pawpro Media

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Amy Linn Doherty with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Scott Neuman, Colin Slyer, Trump Administration Cuts Back Federal Protection For Streams And Wetlands, , NPR, January 23, 2020 10:37 AM ET, Updated at 3:20 p.m.,

Coral Davenport, Trump Removes Pollution Controls on Streams and Wetlands, January 22, 2019,, The New York Times

Daniel Strain, The Future of Maryland’s Blackwater Marsh, January 14, 2015, ,, fact sheets, LWCF General Fact Sheet, Great American Outdoors Fact Sheet

A Navajo Gem: Photographic Mining at Monument Valley

I visited a spot last year in the U.S. Southwest that filled my imagination as a child. This was a place I’d seen only in drawings and animated in cartoons by Chuck Jones and Maurice Noble, until I realized at some point, I’m not sure exactly when, that the red rock buttes and mesas really existed. Unfortunately, there was no Road Runner speeding across the landscape thwarting elaborate traps designed by Wile E. Coyote in hopes of capturing that fast, fast fowl using products and supplies mail ordered from the fictitious, but vastly stocked, Acme, Co. Of course, I am describing Monument Valley situated along the Utah and Arizona borders, one of the most recognizable spots in the Southwest.

Years ago I passed through the area while part of a team of 10 supporting a cyclist competing in Race Across America, but it was dusk as our caravan of three vehicles arrived and there was no time for touring. As I recall, I spent the night awake editing video segments in an RV, largely unaware of the beauty surrounding me. I promised myself I would return.

The photographic epicenter of this area, if it’s possible to pick one, is the East and West Mittens located in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, as well as the now equally iconic landmark 15 minutes away on the way to Mexican Hat commonly referred to as Forrest Gump Point, where the Tom Hanks’ character stopped his coast-to-coast-to-coast run along US Highway 163 in front of a line of iconic buttes and spires.

To be as close as possible to the formations, I chose to stay at The View Hotel, perched perfectly atop a plateau overlooking the famous buttes that resemble a left and right mitten jutting out from the ground.  From this vantage the two buttes are flanked on the right by Merrick Butte, each seemingly perfectly spaced from the other, but at different depths.  I couldn’t help but attempt a nighttime shot from the balcony (each room has good view) because we arrived late and the sky is so dark the buttes are lost in the blackness.  I knew they were out there.

We visited in early March so the air was still cold. The overall area has been experiencing greater precipitation and flooding in the last few years. There is a 28 mile gravel road looping the buttes for cars to explore the area, but many venture out on foot, as well. Group and private tours are also offered by Navajo approved groups and some will take you beyond the standard loop to see deeper into the Navajo countryside. I’ve never visited in the summer months, so I can’t speak to how hot it must get here during that time.

I scheduled a guide with Phillips Photography Tours for sunrise. Tule (pronounced like the Swedish car box brand) met me in the lobby of the hotel and within minutes we were headed down the dirt and gravel road beyond where tourist are allowed to venture on their own. The mittens were starting to emerge from the darkness. The tour owner had been thorough enough to send me an email the night before to let me know the weather was likely to be very cloudy at our original meeting time, so we pushed the start time to a little later. Tule took me out to the Totem Pole, a red rock spire once, and probably last, climbed by Clint Eastwood as he filmed the movie Eiger Sanction in 1974. The film industry has had a long love affair with Monument Valley ever since John Ford started featuring the area in John Wayne Westerns back in the 1930’s. It was indeed a cloudy morning, so sunrise wasn’t much to brag about, but it didn’t matter. I spent several hours moving from spot to spot taking photos of the landscape and other details I found interesting.

After lunch, Tule took me out for a second tour of a different area within Monument Valley.  Slowly and carefully we made our way up to a higher vantage point.  Somehow he maneuvered the vehicle to the top of a mound that I wouldn’t have thought possible.  What had started as a cloudy day had evolved into a John Ford Western worthy sky—sunny with patches of puffy clouds drifting between the vastness and the buttes providing a greater sense of drama and depth to my photos.

Totem Pole (Nikon750, 24-70mm, ISO 100, f 9.0, 1/125)

Driving around we passed several homesteads where Navajo families live within the shadows of these red rock buttes and mesas familiar to the world.  Often these homes have no electricity or plumbing but they’ve lived in these locations for years and years with no desire to leave even though conditions can be severe, especially as the residents advance in age and the roads become impassable at times during the winter.  Tule spoke of these elder residents with great respect.  There is a strong effort within the Navajo community to preserve their culture for younger generations to witness and practice.  Tourism and patronage of places such as The View Hotel and Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park are ways to support the greater Navajo community.

Nikon D750, 24 -70mm, ISO 100, f16, HDR 1/30, 1/60, 1/125
Tule and Peter

We retreated back to The View Hotel restaurant and enjoyed a comforting meal which was perfect—not fancy but filling and very good.  I had a soup and could barely stay awake from a very full day of photography.  I was up before dawn the next morning heading to Page, AZ to run the Antelope Half Marathon the following day.  I wished I had another day there. I timed it so I arrived before dawn at Horseshoe Bend part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (, and then headed for an adventure in White Pocket, atop of Paria Plateau (

My next post will address whether to keep or cancel future travel plans amid the national quarantine related to COVID-19. I’ve got some decisions to make, too. Look for it soon. Goodness knows I have plenty of time to write it!

Please take a moment to follow, share or like this post. The gesture helps make more posts possible. Thank you!

Phillips Photography Tours:

© Amy Linn Doherty and Pawpro Media 2009-2020.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Amy Linn Doherty with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Cherry Blossoms A Blooming Break from Coronavirus Pandemic for DC


If you find yourself in self-imposed or mandatory lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic hopefully this visual tour of the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC will offer a little respite. They are quite beautiful this year.

© Amy Linn Doherty and Pawpro Media 2009-2020.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Amy Linn Doherty with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

REI CO-OP’ing Black Friday Again

This Friday I’ll be out with family and fellow REI workers improving and cleaning an Appalachian Trail shelter (Whiskey Hollow Shelter) with PATC (Potomac Appalachian Trail Club) in Virginia as part of #OpttoAct and #OptOutside.

For the last five years Black Friday means something other than shopping for outdoor gear at REI. The outdoor co-op has been closing its doors to customers and paying its employees on the Friday after Thanksgiving for half a decade now on what is considered the busiest shopping day of the year in an effort to promote outdoor activity, coining the hashtag #OptOutside in the process.

The outdoor retailer has long seen a greater value for customers and its bottom line by selling more than just outdoor stuff to members. It’s big on experiences and encouraging a life lived more outdoors faced with the staggering statistics of sedentary lifestyles lived mostly inside, and the effects on personal health.

Now, the Seattle based co-op is poised to up the ante and take a more active role in protecting the outdoor spaces and places where its members and other enthusiast’s visit. Essentially the company is taking a more active stand against climate change, environmental issues and the protection of public lands. Members and customers are being asked to join in on a 52 week challenge to get more active, reduce your

OptOutsideenvironmental impact and leave the world better than you found it starting this Black Friday–Opt to Act.  There are official clean-ups for volunteers or you can develop your own DIY program using the provided suggestions. It can be as simple as picking up trash while you walk your dog or take a hike, shopping with reusable bags, saying no thanks to disposable cups at your local coffee shop, join a carbon offset program, recycle more 

efficiently, or you can encourage others to join you and expand your impact as a group. Check out the details here as well as organizations and name brands partnering in the effort: #LeaveNoTrace, #UnitedByBlue, #FinalStraw, #Stasher, #BeesWrap. #sustainability

Ledges & Laces


We’ve all seen the photos of a hiker out on a precipice, dangerously close to a ledge, witnessing a vista from a spot that’s presumably taken hours to reach. It’s what all hikers and outdoor enthusiasts dream about—myself included.

I love encouraging people to get off the couch or outside exploring but I fear the ubiquity of the person on a precipice photo makes some complacent about their preparation to reach these spots and is encouraging faster deterioration of fragile geological sites.  Each summer season sees many accidents at national parks and monuments—in so many cases people underestimate the dangers or damage they might cause.


The infamous shots of Horseshoe Bend are a perfect example.  In and of itself it’s not a very strenuous place to reach. If you’re in average good health and can walk a mile this is an easy walk from a nearby parking lot.  Yet, people die there because they are distracted, careless about the dangers, and careless about dressing properly.  

On a recent sunrise visit to Horseshoe Bend I watched as a young woman approached a raw section of the rim—without a railing—wearing a flimsy, leather soled sandal.  This red rock ledge is covered in fine sand and pebbles on top hard flat rocks offering a perfect spot for viewing and photos, but also a perfect potential for slipping.  It was a damp, thirty-some degree morning with a steady, brisk wind that makes one move stiffly.  There are sections with a railing and there are sections without.  This young woman stood near the rim without a railing to take her selfie, back to the edge, obviously cold, and sure enough one of her feet slipped away from her.  She was lucky because she slipped away from the edge.  All I could do was shake my head and be grateful I hadn’t just watched her fall to her death—something I’m sure I couldn’t handle.


Similarly while I was climbing down from Angel’s Landing at Zion National Park a few years ago, I witnessed parents standing behind as their twelve, or so, year-old daughter slid down an embankment on her bottom and jumped off to a landing less than two feet wide, facing a shear drop off into a canyon over 1,000 ft down, wearing a basic pair of worn sneakers.  If she had misjudged the landing, slipped ever so little, caught an edge on the rock face or done anything that caused her to need more room for a landing she would have been gone.  There was no precaution in her movement.

She might have also taken someone with her as she grasped for anything when she realized she was falling. Stupid, careless, thoughtless, reckless, I feel.  Even if she had the proper shoes this was an eye bulging situation to witness.  Again, I was thankful, as were the others watching in terror with me, that we hadn’t just witnessed the death of this young girl.  It’s almost as if the chains and railings give visitors a false sense of safety, and that folks are sure there will be protections or warning signs—even where the dangers are glaringly obvious.  In that case, I’m not even certain the parents recognized the situation they had allowed to occur.  (I can’t even bring myself to call it a tragedy averted because, to me, a tragedy is something you don’t or can’t see coming.  This was an obvious and unnecessary risk.)

And as for those who climb out upon overhangs, I know it makes for a great photo, but remember you’re standing on a natural ledge in the process of natural erosion.  One day it will fall, and are you sure you want to cause it to fall. Do you wish to go with it?  In many cases it seems there is no regard for the places and their preservation.  There is an insatiable need to possess them—not just witness them.  The least you can do is wear appropriate shoes. Sneakers and basic athletic shoes are intended for pavement or prepared surfaces, as a rule.  There is a great deal of engineering and design behind a good hiking shoe–really.  It’s not any different than buying tires for your car, except it’s you getting your feet trail ready.  Call ahead and talk to park officials or search online sites that provide a preview of conditions and logistics, so you know what to expect.  Yes, it takes time.  Yes, it will make the experience better.


Here’s the thing, National park visitation has spiked in the last six years, and the number of park rangers patrolling has declined along with their budgets. Keep these statistics in mind from Steve Sullivan, Permits Program Manager at the Grand Canyon, as you take a ledge or head out on an unfamiliar trail: each year at the Grand Canyon alone the National Park Service engages on average to 297 search and rescues, and 1,067 emergency service responses.  In May of 2016, on a single day there were over 1,000 people attempting some version of a rim-to-rim hike.  For every park visitor, nationwide, there is 1 park ranger for every 180,000 visitors, according to National Park Service data.  They are overburdened and under funded and the current administration doesn’t appear to have any regard or remedy for improving those stats.

You’ve probably heard the camping motto “Leave no trace.” meaning there should be no trace you visited—no trash, nothing left behind.  No trace can also include creating a situation where visitors disregard risks and need to be rescued or evacuated.  It’s a drain on a National Park system that’s already struggling to manage.  Please think and plan ahead before you visit a park, and take precautions all the way down to the shoes you choose to wear.

Hughes, Trevor and Chavez, Trevor. “Death on the trail: More Americans visit nation parks, but fewer rangers on patrol.” USA Today, Published June 29, 2019, updated July 9, 2019. Accessed August 31, 2019

Copyright Amy Linn Doherty and Pawpro Media

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