I’ll admit it. I’ve always had a thing for bears. These furry – and seemingly cuddly – creatures have held a special fascination for me since I was a child. I remember my excitement the first time I laid eyes on an American black bear mother and her cub resting beside the main highway that traverses the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. While it’s sad to realize now that the mother bear, with cub in tow, was lured there in search of human food from the tourists gawking from the safety of their cars, at that moment it was pure magic.
Over the years, I became more accustomed to seeing bears on hikes and backpacking trips while living in the US Pacific Northwest. My time spent in wilderness areas gave me a healthy respect for the keen sense of smell and great power of these creatures, and I was always lucky enough to leisurely view individuals from a comfortable distance. This included watching a large and beautiful honey-brown specimen for over an hour while it foraged for berries on a mountainside slope in Washington State’s North Cascades National Park.
Let’s Go See The Pandas!
More than a decade later while traveling in China, I had the good fortune of visiting the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in the country’s south central Sichuan Province. The research center has been ground zero in the fight to save this unique member of the bear family (Ursidae) from extinction.
Is there any human alive today whose heart doesn’t melt at the site of these adorable creatures? Photo: Henry Lewis
Machu Picchu is an absolute masterpiece of architecture and a unique testimony to the Inca civilization. UNESCO designation 1983
Machu Picchu’s stunning setting has contributed to making it South America’s most iconic and visited archaeological site. In this view, the pyramid-shaped Huayna Picchu (on the right) can be seen towering above the site.
As is often said about journeying to a new destination, getting there is half the fun. This is definitely the case when it comes to traveling to Peru’s UNESCO crown jewel of Machu Picchu (sometimes spelled Machupicchu).
The citadel sits high on an awe-inspiring mountain at 7,972 feet (2,430 meters) above sea level and is surrounded by cliffs on three sides that plunge thousands of feet down to the Urubamba River which twists and turns below. These natural barriers made the city easier to protect during the 100 years or so it was inhabited by the Inca and also helped spare it from destruction by the invading Spanish armies in the mid-1500s.
Nature is never ending
The comfort I feel surrounding me
Being connected to the whole universe
Takes me away from worries in life.
Joy of heading into the mountains solo
Knowing I might never return
Immersion in the moment
Melts away the ravages of civilization.
It’s more than just
The air we breathe
Water that hydrates
Food that nourishes.
It’s the excesses
The vibrant colors
Delicacy of a flower petal
Dew catching the morning light
Trees reaching for the sky.
Insects, birds, animals
Wind, rain, warm sun
The sounds, the smells, the silence
It soothes my soul
Like nothing else can.
All photos by Henry Lewis and shot in the cloud forest on the slopes of Mount Kinabalu in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo.
It’s late spring/early summer in the Northern Hemisphere which means snakes and other reptiles are once again active. This past week, I had multiple encounters with beautiful snakes in my sister’s yard here in North Carolina where I’m visiting. Of course, I do realize not everyone shares my love of nature, nor my fascination with snakes. Some of you are surely cringing right now at the mere thought of being greeted by a snake outside your door, especially a surprise visit because you had forgotten to be aware of them.
My sisters and I agree (as snake experts recommend) with letting the harmless snakes, such as the Black Racer, have free reign outside because they control rodent populations and actually keep poisonous snakes away from the house. I have some friends who say the only good snake is a dead snake. However, I think those feelings are a result of not fully understanding how snakes fit into the ecosystem.
Try as I might to limit my exposure to too much negativity, on most days I’m a dedicated news junkie. However, sometimes all the buzz and spin become so overwhelming that I have to unplug for a few days. Such was the situation this past week.
I’ve been visiting long-time friends in Seattle for the past two weeks and I managed to escape the city for some much needed serenity in the Pacific Northwest’s great outdoors.
I had two experiences that I’m featuring here in video format. In the first, I was lectured by a Douglas Squirrel as he peered down at me from above. In the other, I was transported to a serene world where the only sound was rushing water tumbling over smooth rocks created millions of years ago.
Experiencing spring in one of the world’s temperate zones for the first time in 14 years excites my senses in similar fashion to the way artist Vincent Van Gogh must have felt upon moving from Paris to the colorful countryside of Arles in southern France in 1888. Van Gogh had found Paris to be dull and gray just as Brussels had been, and he longed to be in a place that was warm and colorful.
Colour expresses something in itself. One can’t do without it; one must make use of it. What looks beautiful, really beautiful — is also right.
Vincent to his brother Theo, c. 28 October 1885
Field with Irises near Arles 1888. Courtesy Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.
While I’ve had the good fortune to live in a variety of the world’s tropical regions that would have surely delighted Van Gogh’s senses, I’d forgotten how spectacularly beautiful temperate landscapes can be as they emerge from a long, cold winter’s sleep. The myriad shades of green and red budding deciduous trees, along with furiously blooming everything, make me feel like a child seeing the natural world for the first time.