STORIES FROM THE WOODS XXVIII ~ Bear Encounter ~ Today’s Stunewslaguna.com

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Story and photos by FITZ MAURICE
This is a story about my intense encounter with a bear in the woods. I was alone,
and I had to decide what to do as I stared nervously at a black bear only 12 feet away from me. He was watching my every move and obviously trying to decide what to do about me (just as I was wondering what to do about him).
This happened in Redwoods National Park, in the dense woods near the ocean. I was traveling with friends. At the Visitor Center, we were shocked to see all the photos of cars wrecked by bears. We learned that if bears smell any food or candy or anything sweet, they stop at nothing to find and eat it.
A bear is strong enough to pull the entire rear trunk door off if that’s what it needs to do to get at the food. With these frightening photos in our minds, we arrived at our cabin in the darkening woods.
A fairytale experience, including the danger to be found in the woods
Among the redwoods there are endless magical trails that invitingly call you further and further into their embrace. To walk among the tallest trees in the world is to feel instantly like a child. You are literally dwarfed by their magnificent grandeur.
Then you remember being a child, and start chanting the little stories about children in the woods. The scenery creates a fantasy world with lush ferns and red velvety paths that wind and weave you through old groves and new.
This Alice-in-Wonderland experience starts happening inside you and before you realize it you are wiggling your body inside a natural opening in one of these massive trees. It is so much fun to play in these enchanted woods and all ages can easily enjoy its leisurely trails.
Did I mention that I was there when the rhododendrons were in full bloom? That’s when your eyes can delight at lavish lavender flowers standing out against the rusty-red bark of the redwood trees.
Next day, after hiking strenuously on several of the magical mystery trails, we all felt like going for a swim in the ocean. The trail started right from our cabin site heading to the sea, and we enjoyed how cool it was once in the dense woods. The ocean is volatile and cold this far north in California. I am always willing to swim if the sun is shining hot – so in I went through the crashing waves. I felt renewed after my plunge in the salty sea.
While I was drying off, my friends said they wanted to head back and get dinner started. I wanted to warm myself in the sun a little longer before stepping back into the cool woods.
Heading back to our cabin, I was shocked to see how dark it already was once inside the ever-deepening woods. It was even a little hard to see as night was quickly closing in. I had to watch each step. Eventually I saw the footbridge that I had to cross coming into sight.
Stepping on the wooden bridge I looked up and saw the black bear. He was at the other end of the 12-foot footbridge, staring at me, swaying back and forth. When our eyes met, my knees went weak and I stopped breathing. What was I going to do?
What would you have done? Think about it for a minute. I would love to hear your answer.
To recap: I’m alone, it’s already dark and getting seriously darker, to retreat would lead to the noisy crashing cold ocean behind me, and the only way to my cabin was across this footbridge.
What I decided to do was scream as loudly as I could. The problem was that I might only have one shot at this, and I had to struggle to gain control of my trembling voice. I forced myself to scream as loudly as I could, my voice ringing in my ears.

Now I was really terrified because I knew no one could hear me. I realized then that the bear did not appreciate my scream and was getting agitated. What to do?
I remembered what I had learned I should do in this situation: act bigger than the bear and be louder. I was afraid to back down and retreat into the noisy, dark woods along the cold ocean, where he might come after me. I had to try to intimidate the bear into backing away and letting me pass.
The bear was staring at me during these critical minutes when I was deciding what to do. I slowly removed my knapsack from my back and held it up in one hand. I planned to throw it as an offering to spare myself.
Then, summoning up all the courage I could, I started to pray in a very loud voice, asking God to get me past this bear alive. I was simultaneously stomping my feet on the wooden bridge while holding both arms up in the air so I looked as large as possible.
It worked! The bear scrambled away into some nearby bushes. Not feeling out of danger yet, I kept my eyes on the spot where he fled and continued yelling and stomping my way slowly towards my cabin.

When I threw the cabin door open, my friends said, “Fitz, are you all right? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” Not surprising that I was so white in the face and breathless after that frightening encounter with that black bear in the woods!
To see some of her newest National Park Paintings, go to Woods Cove Art Gallery, 1963 South Coast Hwy or visit www.nationalparkpaintings.com.
For more information about FITZ Maurice, email fitz@fitzmauriceart.com, visit www.fitzmauriceart.com 

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Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of our National Park Service this week.

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Our National Parks have preserved America’s priceless collection of natural, historic and cultural treasures and our Park Rangers are delighted to teach us about our planet, our history and ourselves!
To see some of my newest National Park Paintings, go to Woods Cove Art Gallery, 1963 South Coast Hwy or visit www.nationalparkpaintings.com/index.html

2016 is the Fourth Year of my Quest – to paint ‘live’ in every National Park in America! Now having totally committed my life and talents to help promote and protect the Parks, I am traveling by truck and trailer to each Park; then hiking, kayaking and horseback riding in search of the ultimate scene. Finally setting up with portable easel and oil paints, I set out to capture in paint, the wonders that make each National Park a treasure to Americans and all the people of the world!

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Today’s Stu News Laguna.com~August 19, 2016

“There will never come an end to the good that [Mather] has done” – founding the National Parks  

 Story and photos by FITZ MAURICE

Almost exactly 100 years ago, on August 25, 1916, the National Park Service was founded by Stephen Mather. Mather was a wealthy conservationist who led the publicity campaign to promote the creation of a unified federal agency to oversee the administration of the national parks. He became the first director of the National Park Service and served for 12 years. He so loved the national parks that he personally contributed his own money towards the acquisition of new parklands.
When Stephen Mather died, the Park Service erected bronze plaques in every park with these words: “There will never come an end to the good that he has done.”
There were other remarkable people who were passionate about supporting the National Park Service concept and foundation, including politicians like President Theodore Roosevelt, who during his presidency was instrumental in creating five national parks, 18 national monuments and preserving over 100 million acres of prime national forests.

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I was excited to catch this photograph of a park ranger standing guard over a wandering mountain goat while I was up at the Logan Pass Visitor Center in Glacier National Park, Montana. It’s fun to compare the profiles of the ranger and the goat, including their little chin goatees.

Then there were artists like Anselm Adams (acclaimed photographer) and John Muir (writer, spokesperson) who understood the value in what they saw and did their best to bring the importance of preserving these precious places by promoting them to politicians, wealthy contributors and the American people.
This is how America got its greatest idea: the formation of the National Park Service to preserve and protect some of the greatest landscapes on earth.
The truth is that each National Park a priceless treasure to Americans and all the people of the world. Its hundredth anniversary is well worth celebrating.
The National Parks are protected and preserved to a large degree because of the amazing work of park rangers. Especially now that I have been to 30 of the 59 National Parks in America, I realize how invaluable park rangers are. They protect the parks and wildlife from pressing crowds and natural disturbances. Rangers have a wealth of information and are happy to answer visitors’ questions and concerns.
I have learned to go straight to the Visitor Centers to get the free brochures that outline the highlights of each park and I always take the opportunity to ask a ranger my list of questions. Often my questions pertain to the specific time of year that I am there. For example, if it’s summer, I’ll ask where is the best lookout point is to watch the sunset. In winter I’ll ask which trails are closed due to snow conditions. From experience, I’ve learned to ask whether there are any seasonal attractions that might be occurring while I’m there. This is how I once found out about a celestial phenomenon in the night sky that I may have otherwise never been aware of.

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The early days: building the Going to the Sun Road
In many of the parks, the Rangers offer guided tours that are a fun way to learn about the mysteries that stand in front of you. What a fabulous chance to learn about nature! And you will really want to understand more when you are there in the midst of monumental beauty.
Our National Parks have preserved America’s priceless collection of natural, historic and cultural treasures and our rangers are delighted to teach us about our planet, our history and ourselves.
To see some of my newest National Park Paintings, go to Woods Cove Art Gallery, 1963 South Coast Hwy or visit www.nationalparkpaintings.com/index.html
2016 is the Fourth Year of my Quest – to paint ‘live’ in every National Park in America! Now having totally committed my life and talents to help promote and protect the Parks, I am traveling by truck and trailer to each Park; then hiking, kayaking and horseback riding in search of the ultimate scene. Finally setting up with portable easel and oil paints, I set out to capture in paint, the wonders that make each National Park a treasure to Americans and all the people of the world!

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Today’s News ~ Stunewslaguna.com ~ Bear with me ( and a cub ) Stories From The Woods XXVII

Story and photo by FITZ MAURICE

Winter hangs on for quite a while up in Montana, and 10 to 15 feet of snow can take a while to melt. The main road that takes you up to Logan Pass, the Going-To-The-Sun Road, didn’t open up until the middle of June.
As always though, Glacier National Park teemed with wildlife. While I was there, the bears were coming out of their lairs and they were very hungry. Bears lose up to half their weight while sleeping the winter away in their caves. Mother bears nurse their cubs, who stay close for warmth and protection. When it is finally warm enough, mother bear and cubs spring from their cave and they are ravenous.
The angriest animal of all is a mother bear defending her cub. She will attack if she thinks it is necessary to protect her cub. People are too often taken in by how cute bears look but they can go from cute to attack animals at a furious speed that will unnerve you.
Bears do not want to interact with humans. They prefer to get away from you before you can ever see them.
Above all, you don’t want to surprise a bear. Talking/singing, clapping your hands frequently and making loud sounds to be heard while hiking is a good idea. This way all wildlife, not only bears, hear you coming and they have time to move on before you get too close. Hiking in groups is best – there have not been any bear attacks on groups of four or more hikers.
When near any sources of water or food, be extra attentive to wildlife approaching. Bears are also attracted to your candy, sunblock, toothpaste or anything that smells sweet, so avoid carrying those items with you.

bear-and-cub  This mother bear and cub approached a little too close for comfort!

Another great idea is to wear a bell that rings continuously and warns wildlife of your approach. While visiting Glacier I also learned that if you do come in close proximity to a bear, it is important not to look the bear in the eyes, because they see that as aggression. However, it is good to talk softly to the bear, keeping the animal calm and establishing that you are not aggressive. That is, if you can pull yourself together enough to talk to the bear who is checking you out!
Some recommend that you carry a bottle of bear spray while outside in big bear areas, believing that is the most effective way to deter bear attacks. You can purchase bear spray in the Visitor Center and shops in Glacier. They suggest you wear the container on your chest or carry it in an accessible place.
Bear spray is an individual decision. Personally, I can’t see myself squirting the bear in the face accurately as it comes charging at me. What if the bear mace backfires and the spray gets into my eyes rendering me blind? I prefer to focus on avoiding any bear encounters.
The wisest thing to do is make sure you stay far away from bears, at least 100 yards, as they can suddenly charge at you. Respect bears as wild animals.
So how did I get this photo of a black bear and her cub? They came out of nowhere and ran right in front of my rental car. Always ready with my finger on the trigger of my camera, I grabbed this shot just as they went growling into the woods and beyond.
Even though I was inside a car, I didn’t kid myself that my situation was safe, and drove away slowly as soon as I could.

August 25, 2016 Celebrates the 100th Anniversary of our National Park Service ! 

FITZ Maurice has been on her “quest” to paint live in every national park in America. Now totally committed to help promote and protect the parks, the artist is traveling by truck and trailer; hiking, kayaking and horseback riding in search of the ultimate scene. Finally setting up with portable easel and oil paints, FITZ sets out to capture in paint the wonders that make each national park a treasure to Americans and all the people of the world.

To see her National Park Paintings visit Woods Cove Art Gallery, 1963 South Coast Hwy or visit www.nationalparkpaintings.com

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LOVE HURTS !

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Bighorn Sheep ~ GLACIER National Park, Montana ~ 2016

Happy 100th Anniversary National Park Service !

Get outside and enjoy your National Parks ~ It’s Summer

 

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Stories From The Woods XXVI: Glacier is an Eden ~ Stunewslaguna.com

Story and photos by FITZ Maurice

I arrive at Glacier National Park in Montana and see that it is a monumental park rich in beauty and wildlife. Incredible hiking along trails that are reminiscent of what I believe Nirvana might be. Waterfalls are gushing in all their glory. Around me, all is emerald green, velvety, with thick woven woods. Mountains admire themselves in their crystal-lake reflection. Glacier itself is a true Eden, lush with life and teeming with wildlife.
Mountain ranges, woods, lakes and open fields are sprinkled with yellow and violet flowers, enough to hold any viewer’s attention. When you add the wildlife experiences that are possible as well, it’s thrilling.

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Fitz Maurice at The Garden Wall, Glacier National Park

Never before have I had the privilege to see so many animals walking freely around in their environment. No wonder so many artists and photographers are lured to this rare beauty. It’s a photographer’s dream come true because you can get some incredible shots while just hiking along on a gorgeous sunny day. I was lucky – it was the ideal time to be there because the highest pass on the Going-To-The-Sun Road had just opened.
It was the end of June, and the snow had only just retreated enough that I could drive up to the snow-covered peaks. The timing also meant that the wildlife was busily going about their lives. I got a great photo of a mountain goat with her vulnerable baby in tow while they were crossing a vast and frozen landscape. It looked as if it was the first journey out in the open for that tiny baby goat.

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Mountain goat leads her baby out into the open

I also saw and photographed bighorn sheep as they lay comfortably snuggled up in snow while basking their backs in the hot sun. I was tempted to do the same – that looked inviting.
One of the surprises for me was how hot it was. Logan Pass is 10,000 feet in altitude and there was lots of snow on the ground. Yet the temperature was 84 degrees.
I was in a dream state as I explored. I felt cozy in heavy-duty socks and hiking boots, but I needed only a T-shirt on because it was so hot my skin was tanning.
In Montana at this time of year, this far north, it remains light until 10 p.m. or so. I was shocked when I paddled in from kayaking at Lake McDonald and realized it was 9:45 p.m.
There is so much fun to be found in Glacier Park. Kayaking the crystal clear lakes is inspiring, and rafting the rapids is a rush. People can choose horseback riding through the fragrant woods, or take a helicopter up and ride the ridge of the Continental Divide, or swim down in the Hidden Lake. There are wonders to marvel at and secrets to discover in the Treasure State of Montana.
I have to mention that it is likely that the longest-lasting glaciers at Glacier National Park, Montana will only survive until 2030 – maybe. Then they’ll be gone. Support our National Parks, which should be easy to do since it is now summer.
Go to your nearest park now and get outside!
To see some of the newest National Park Paintings, go to Woods Cove Art Gallery, 1963 South Coast Hwy in Laguna Beach.

2016 is the fourth year on the QUEST, to paint ‘live’ in every national park in America. Having totally committed my life and talents to help promote and protect the parks, I am traveling by truck and trailer to each park. Then I go hiking, kayaking and horseback riding in search of the ultimate scene. Finally I set up with portable easel and oil paints, to capture in paint the wonders that make each National Park a treasure to Americans and all the people of the world.

 

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STORIES FROM THE WOODS XXV ~ “Raccoon, My Uninvited Guest”

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Lunchtime and I’m enjoying it outside when suddenly – out of nowhere – this raccoon comes walking straight towards me – took this quick photo. op – when he shockingly was about to crawl right on me to grab my food – that’s when I jumped up and away so fast ! I was shocked how quickly and aggressively he came after my food. He looked gigantic when he was coming towards me but he was probably 25 pounds. The real issue with raccoons is that they have incredible hands capable of manipulating and lifting tops of trash cans and are strong enough to prey things open. They are opportunists and take advantage of any food source. Once more, their little hands have very sharp claws and even though they look cute – raccoons are wild animals !

Living out in nature as much as I do – naturally I encounter wildlife – I respect their ways and practice keeping a safe distance while I am observing them. This was the first time I witnessed a raccoon being so bold. They do not make good pets because as they mature they become increasingly aggressive and territorial. Another reality is that raccoons, like all wildlife carry diseases and parasites.

It’s actually more humane Not to feed raccoons and other wildlife because your intentional feeding causes them to become increasingly dependent on humans which backfires when they get into trouble and become unwanted pests.

If humans intentionally feed and have trash and pet food accessible to raccoons – they will over populate in a small geographical area – creating higher risks of diseases and increased pest incidents.

These smart animals are most active at night but can be seen anytime of the day. Raccoons can travel great distances to find food and they will eat just about anything from fruit to small rodents and fish to garbage – so they are real survivors ! If you want to help raccoons and wildlife survive and stay wild don’t feed them human food !

To see some of the newest National Park Paintings – go to Woods Cove Art Gallery, 1963 South Coast Hwy. in Laguna Beach !

2016 is the Fourth Year of my QUEST – to paint ‘live’ in every National Park in America !
Now having totally committed my life and talents to help promote and protect the Parks, I am traveling by truck and trailer to each Park. Then hiking, kayaking and horseback riding in search of the ultimate scene. Finally setting up with portable easel and oil paints, I set out to capture in paint, the wonders that make each National Park a treasure to Americans and all the people of the world !

 

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STUNEWSLAGUNA.com ~ Stories From The Woods XXIV

STUNEWSLAGUNA.com ~ Editor. Note: Artist Fitz Maurice has set out to paint live at all of the US National Parks. She will be submitting her stories from the road to StuNewsLaguna from time to time.
Story and photos by Fitz Maurice

“Bristlecone Pine Trees are like Wisdom Personified”

After leaving Arizona I headed up to Nevada to discover Great Basin National Park. It’s an astonishing experience that inspires and humbles you when you realize that you’re standing with trees that are 5,000 years old and growing. This is a sacred place – forests being the first temples on earth. Perhaps that is why the bristlecone pine trees are only whispered about. They are a rather well kept secret, for good reasons.

Bristlecone Pine Tree and FITZ 5:16
Ancient bristlecone pine tree and Fitz, on the QUEST, May 2016
Bristlecone pines stand alone and unprotected, too vulnerable to the graffiti and theft of indecent people who are selfish enough to impose destruction on this sacred ground, stealing something that should be holy to all of mankind.
“On the QUEST” means to me, first and foremost, my desire and commitment to protect and preserve our national parks. Even if you personally never go, you have the comfort as an American of knowing the most rare of natural beauty is there, just waiting for you. The truth that you may have been searching for is there, waiting for you to behold. God bless America and keep our national parks ours: the People’s Parks!
When I visited the Bristlecone Pines, it was the kind of day that they thrive on but not so friendly to we humans. At a high altitude of over 10,000 ft. it was below freezing and blowing a cruel snowy wind up to 30 mph! As you can see in the photo, I’m wearing five layers of wool, a down coat, and I had the scarf across my face so I could breathe. The air was that frosty cold! These types of conditions provide the old tree souls with some protection from the public. It is exactly the freezing weather and constant snow that spares these ancient trees from too many visitors, diseases, insects and drought and, worst of all, vandals.
Needless to say, I had the entire frozen and sacred temple to myself and was able to learn so much about how these 5,000 year-old trees survived and thrived. It was a great opportunity, witnessing how these remarkable trees lived yet another day on earth. After all, they love freezing cold snowy days and have thrived on them for thousands of years.

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“Bristlecone Pine Tree, Great Basin National Park, Nevada,”  Charcoal Drawing by Fitz Maurice

The ancient trees are still growing – another excellent example to us all. As long as we are alive, we should be growing.
I also observed the tree’s willingness to bend, which saves them from breaking. When the force of storms beat on them, they simply grow with the flow. This tooling by the wind has sculpted the bristlecone pine trees into forms that are gnarled as if by determination, yet they remain green and growing. Above all, their goal is to reach up to the light. They will weave around anything and turn and twist until they have stretched in every way possible to reach an inch higher.
I’m struck by the realization that these ancient trees started growing there in Nevada during the time of the Egyptians!
I’m left with this question: When will mankind truly honor nature? When will we admit that we are still very adolescent and need to grow up enough to realize that humans must learn from nature? We need to learn from wise trees such as these that have proven their successful existence despite all odds. I’m learning so much living immersed in nature. I’m learning to bend and twist my life to God’s way, like the way the trees seek His light.
I believe that bristlecone pine trees are truly wisdom personified.
To see some of the newest National Park Paintings visit Woods Cove Art Gallery, 1963 South Coast Hwy, in Laguna Beach.

FITZ Maurice has been on her “quest” to paint live in every national park in America. Now totally committed to help promote and protect the parks, the artist is traveling by truck and trailer; hiking, kayaking and horseback riding in search of the ultimate scene. Finally setting up with portable easel and oil paints, FITZ sets out to capture in paint the wonders that make each national park a treasure to Americans and all the people of the world.To see her National Park Paintings: www.nationalparkpaintings.com

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JUMPED into a SNOWMELT RIVER TODAY !

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Saw this clean rushing river and just cannonballed right into it ! It felt so freeing to be a kid again and just go for it. It was hyperventilating cold ~ it’s that Freeze that gives you the Cleansing Experience ! Feeling purified from head to toe ~ Thank God for snow and rain ~ keep those rivers flowing ~ Amen !

HAPPY SUMMER ~ Plan to Go to Your National Parks Now !

Visit ~ 2 New National Park Paintings on Website

To see the National Park Paintings ~ Woods Cove Art Gallery, 1963 South Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, Ca. 

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