Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Wild Things: National wildlife refuges offer splendid viewing of birds, animals -- and it's free!

You're sure to find a wilderness preserve or wildlife and bird refuge near you. Check it out for a relaxing, cheap diversion.  

IF THE CALL of the wild lures you to commune with nature, you probably have beautiful wildlife and birds within an hour or two's drive of you.
Think wildlife refuges, which dot the country from top to bottom, east to west.
This happy seal is enjoying life at Moss Landing, near San Jose, California.
We've explored a half-dozen of them in the past few weeks, and look forward to more in 2015.
CALIFORNIA alone has 20, and Montana has 15, giving me 35 refuges to explore in the pair of states I call home.
Wildlife preserves welcome visitors to view their conservation methods and enjoy boating, hiking and photography.
I love visiting the refuges and preserves.  During my 15 years in Arizona, I spent time watching the desert bighorn sheep, cousins of the bighorns in my backyard of rural Montana in the Beartooth Mountains.

Cookie and Yorkie Nora hit the trail in southern California near Julian.
I've viewed the pronghorns in Oregon, tundra swans on the Upper Mississippi, wild ponies on a press trip to Virginia's Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, and recently, gorgeous waterfowl in Wyoming's National Elk Refuge.
MOST OF the refuges and preserves offer abundant bird life.
At Moss Landing Wildlife Area near San Jose, California, we shared a splendid kayaking experience with friends, enjoying birds, seals and otters for free!
Whale watching expeditions -- which we also enjoy and partake of -- were charging $35 and $40 nearby, but with our friends' kind loan of a kayak, we spent only time, gasoline and a little elbow grease enjoying this California State wildlife preserve on the shore of Elkhorn Slough.

Bighorn sheep -- here in Montana--
may be viewed in several other
U.S. states in wildlife preserves.
THIS LOVELY spot near the Monterey Submarine Canyon is also a favorite site for shoreline whale watchers.  As with many preserves and refuges, parking is free and plentiful -- and traffic is seldom bumper to bumper as it is in some of our national parks.
At Moss Landing, the beach is cool and pleasantly windy. We enjoyed paddling past a group of noisy seals as we headed toward pelican and otter sightings in the marshes.
You can usually find a place to stay, a restaurant, and sporting
opportunities near a preserve. This is true at Lake Henshaw,Ca.
Regulars know when to watch for whales offshore, breaching and gliding by.
Josiah Diallo has what it takes to win an audience.
NOT FAR from Julian, Calif., the 5,312 acre Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve, located in the scenic mountains between Santa Yasbel and Julian about 40 miles northeast of San Diego, is one of the prettiest preserves in the county we've seen. Nearby Lake Henshaw offers places to stay and the hiking is superb -- acres of rolling grasslands and native California oaks. The forests are almost as dense as in Northern California -- minus the redwoods.

COMING UP: A brilliant San Diego musician rings in Christmas with a beautiful voice and stellar guitar stylings.  You can book Josiah Diallo for a party, celebration or education event.  He is at home in the classroom or an outdoor eatery, a church or private function, or anywhere calling for gorgeous music and enlightening commentary. Remember, carpe diem: so explore, learn and live and catch us Wednesdays and weekends at www.whereiscookie.com

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