What do owls, skinny legs, and thrift-store flannels have in common?


 -unedited journal excerpt, May 22, 2011

I'm perched on a rock in a canyon just above Page Springs campground and am barely breathing. A few feet away is a Western Screech Owl sleeping in a Juniper tree.

We've been looking for awhile to find him. Two times yesterday and then again this morning.

He is almost half-way up the tree--next to the trunk--probably about ten feet up.

If you weren't looking for him, you would never know he was there. He blends so well with the bark of the tree.

It's my first one. I am thrilled!

The canyon is gorgeous with a mix of old and young juniper trees along the creek that flows down the middle. Some are so old that most of the branches are dead. Beautifully gnarled and twisted--filled with nesting holes and twisted bark covering the trunks and branches.

The steep slopes of the canyon are covered with rocks. Big bursts of sagebrush grow up through the rocks. Basalt cliffs and rock croppings border the canyon ledge almost like sentinels guarding and watching over the land.

Only nature sounds are present. The gurgling creek. Birds--a Northern Flicker calling and an American Robin chirping.

I can sense the timelessness of it all. 


Although I wrote this in my journal more than a year ago, the memory of seeing that owl is as vivid as if it happened yesterday. 

During this particular trip we were camped out near Malheur National Wildlife refuge...but more about that later.

What I really want to emphasize is the power of journaling while you are experiencing something wondrous like an owl sighting.

Journaling or what I like to laughingly call "notes from a casual observer," is a beautiful and meditative way to capture a moment in time that you will never have again. It helps you create vivid images and memories. Most of all, it gets you to start paying attention. And once you do this for awhile, you will be truly amazed at what you start to notice that has been there all along.  

I'll share a lot more excerpts and write more about journaling in future posts, but for now, just think about picking up a journal or small notebook to tuck in your pocket or bag. Then next time you connect or notice something in nature in any small or big way, you'll have the notebook handy to capture the experience.   

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, © Given Photography 2018

A little more about Malheur National Wildlife refuge, which, by the way, is one of my most favorite places in the world.

The refuge is about twenty miles south of the small town of Burns, which is located in southeast Oregon.

It's an oasis in an otherwise hot and dry area of the state. For nearly sixty miles, lakes, ponds, and marshes cover the land, cooling the hot air. It's a riparian area of streams, shrubs, trees and meadows. 

It is, without a doubt, a paradise for birds. Situated along the Pacific Flyway, this oasis attracts more than 330 bird species. Sometimes during spring and fall migrations, visitors can see up to 100 species in a day.

Sandhill Crane, © Given Photography 2018

And we are talking cool birds here. Big ones with skinny legs like Great Egrets, Sandhill Cranes and White-faced Ibis. 

But you do not have to be a birder to enjoy this place. It is so beautiful and remote. So wild, but not too wild. (Although someday I'll tell you my mountain lion story.)

Many people come to fish in the area and Diamond Craters, which is an outstanding natural area of basaltic craters, is nearby. One geologist summarized this natural area as having the "best and most diverse basaltic volcanic features in the United States and all within a comparatively small and accessible area."  

I've been to Malheur more than a dozen times and always think of it as my annual nature retreat. It's a place where nobody cares that you are wearing your old t-shirt, hiking boots, and a thrift-store flannel.

And personal beauty...it's all on the inside. You go a la naturale everyday. No make-up, please. You wash your hair with sun-warmed water, let it air dry and put it in a messy ponytail or tuck it under a ball cap. I think of this place as organic luxury. Liberating even.  

If you want to go, accommodations are sparse and we usually camp, but a cool old hotel is located in the non-existent town of Diamond, which is near the volcanic craters. We have stayed there and loved it. It has a big ole porch, serves up family style meals, and seems to be popular with people like us who love getting away from it all. 

What about you? Do you have any special nature moments or cool remote places to suggest for a weekend getaway. Have you seen any wildlife lately? Does journaling or jotting notes appeal to you? 

Oh....and you've probably answered the title question by now, but just in case...What do owls, skinny legs and thrift-store flannels have in common? ONE FANTASTIC VACATION! 

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