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Posts Tagged ‘Lysichiton americanum’

Having explored the beach, the group now turned their attention to a walk that followed Fox Creek into the depths of the conifer forest. Here, they hoped to find plants that thrive in the under story in the moist, mossy areas alongside streams. This too, is the favourite haunt of grizzly bears, especially at the time of the salmon run in these creeks.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110400

Bear footprints © DY of jtdytravels; P1110400

As they entered the forest, the group soon found evidence of bears in the area.  Apparently, bears choose to regularly walk in these old bear prints. No-one really knows why. But, the size of the prints and the spaces between them show just how big these animals are! Hopefully none were out and about in the forest! But the thought always added an edge of excitement to forest walks in the Tongass. So, time out for bear drill!  Stay together. Talk while you walk. Bears don’t like to be surprised. And if you do see a bear? The first rule is simple, but it may be difficult; DO NOT RUN! A bear can reach speeds of 60km/h and you can’t. Stay still, slowly raise your arms to make yourself look taller, and slowly retreat. With luck the bear is more interested in berries than in you.

Now, what about those stream side plants?

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110401

Platanthera stricta © DY of jtdytravels; P1110401

Almost lost in the lush green undergrowth of the forest, the Slender Rein Orchid; Platanthera stricta, can easily be overlooked. It looks so elegant against the rough bark of a conifer.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110411

Boschniakia rossica © DY of jtdytravels; P1110411

Also in this moist, moss covered soil were several of the parasitic Northern Groundcone, Boschniakia rossica, which David had previously found growing under Alders. Here they were gaining their nutrients from Sitka Spruce.

© DY of jtdtravels; P1110405

Oplopanax horridus © DY of jtdtravels; P1110405

One plant to be especially wary of is the well named Devil’s Club; Oplopanax horridus.  Those thorns are horrid; the species name says it all! Despite that, this plant has been used by the native peoples for centuries for its medicinal properties. The roots and inner bark have been used to treat ailments such as arthritis and diabetes, ulcers and stomach upsets. Just getting to the inner bark must have been a daunting process. The stems were also used as fish lures. Some groups believed that charcoal made from burning the stems would protect the wearer from evil powers if used as face paint for ceremonial occasions.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110426

Oplopanax horridus © DY of jtdytravels; P1110426

The pyramidal terminal head of buds that forms the “Devil’s Club’ becomes a rather attractive head of white flowers. These are followed by bright red berries which aren’t edible for humans but are a favourite food for bears…. and this forest is known to be home to many bears.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110416

Arnica latifolia © DY of jtdytravels; P1110416

Making a showy statement in the green of the forest was this bright and cheerful, yellow daisy, Mountain Arnica; Arnica latifolia. How can anyone resist the temptation to take a photo of such a flower? 

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110419

Arnica Latifolia © DY of jtdytravels; P1110419

A closer look, shows many tiny flowers bursting out from buds which are clustered on the central disc. Those yellow bracts are strikingly veined. So intricate… and yet so many people often pass them by as ‘just a daisy’!

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110421

A fallen tree over the creek © DY of jtdytravels; P1110421

A tree, fallen across the creek, its trunk now covered in moss, was surrounded by lush growth. When a tree falls, it opens up the canopy allowing light into the understory and that gives a chance for the forest floor plants to grow stronger.

Orthilia secunda © DY of jtdytravels; P1110422

Orthilia secunda © DY of jtdytravels; P1110422

A fairly common plant found growing in moss covered, moist soils alongside a stream is the delightful Orthilia secunda, an evergreen perennial with deeply veined elliptical leaves. These leaves contain an acid that has been used very effectively, we were told, to treat skin sores. The white to pale green, nodding bell-shaped flowers are all directed to one side of the plant. This has given the plant its common name, One-sided Wintergreen.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110425

The forest at Fox Creek © DY of jtdytravels; P1110425

This forest was the most dense and lush that David had experienced on the trip.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110428

Lysichiton americanum © DY of jtdytravels; P1110428

As usual in the wet areas of these forests, Lysichiton americanum, Skunk Cabbage, was in evidence. It also has the name of Swamp Lantern. Why?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Swamp Lantern from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A search on images on the internet supplied the answer! Lovely, isn’t it?

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110430

Pinguicula vulgaris © DY of jtdytravels; P1110430

A close up of the flower of the carnivorous plant Common Butterwort, Pinguicula vulgaris. This photo clearly shows the 2-lobed upper lip and the 3-lobed lower lip with a white ‘path’ of spots in the throat to lead a pollinator into the flower.

It grows in damp environs such as bogs and swamps in places that have cold winters; in the northern parts of Russia, Canada and northern parts of the United States including in Alaska. At the beginning of autumn the plant forms winter buds so that it can survive being frozen.

(More about the carnivorous habit of this plant in #20 Georges Island walk.)

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110436

Aquilegia formosa © DY of jtdytravels; P1110436

One of my favourite wild flowers is Aquilegia formosa or Red Columbine. The common name apparently comes from the Latin, columbina, meaning ‘dove like’. The petals and spurs supposedly represent five doves gathered around a feeding spot. That thought had never occurred to me! The spurs attract sphinx moths, the plant’s main pollinators.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110440

Crossing Fox Creek © DY of jtdytravels; P1110440

Here, crossing the creek, was the most likely spot to encounter a bear.

But not on this walk.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110441

Tiarella trifoliata © DY of jtdytravels; P1110441

Tiarella trifoliata is a small perennial herb. The tall leafless, panicle of bell-shaped, white flowers rises above the basal leaves which are trifoliate. It always grows on a north facing slope in the understory.  Common names are many: Three-leaf Foam Flower, Lace Flower, False Mitrewort, Coolwort or Sugar Scoop; take your pick. The last name needs a bit of imagination! This is another example of the need to use scientific names.

Toadstools © DY of jtdytravels; P1110444

Toadstools © DY of jtdytravels; P1110444

Moist, mossy areas; toadstools and fungi are a common find.

Moneses uniflora © DY of jtdytravels; P1110447

Moneses uniflora © DY of jtdytravels; P1110447

The Shy Maiden; Moneses uniflora seemed to be present on every walk.

Moss © DY of jtdytravels; P1110451

Moss © DY of jtdytravels; P1110451

One of the many varieties of moss; each important to the ecology of the forest.

Back to the Beach © DY of jtdytravels; P1110453

Back to the Beach © DY of jtdytravels; P1110453

The creek path lead the group back to the beach.

This is obviously a much larger outflow when it rains heavily

or when the spring thaw brings water down from the mountains.

‘Sea Lion” was almost lost in the soft ‘mizzle’ that had begun to fall.

Heracleum lanatum © DY of jtdytravels; P1110454

Heracleum lanatum © DY of jtdytravels; P1110454

Alongside the creek, after leaving the cover of the forest, Heracleum lanatum, or Cow Parsley, grew amongst the grasses. This large perennial plant was used as a green vegetable by many native peoples. However, because handling Heracleum stems can cause severe skin problems and blisters, only the very young stalks and leaf stems were eaten and only after they had been peeled. They were also occasionally boiled.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110457

Rhinanthus minor © DY of jtdytravels; P1110457

Rhinanthus minor or Rattlebox was also growing amongst the grasses along the creek edge but outside of the fringes of the forest. The yellow flowers, protected by green bracts, have two lips; the upper one being hooded. This plant’s scientific name, Rhinanthus, comes from the Greek and refers to the unusual shape of the flower; rhin meaning snout and anthos meaning flower. The common name of Rattlebox refers to the noise that the numerous, winged seeds make as they rattle around in the seed box before they are expelled to the air.        

Potentilla anserina ssp. pacifica © DY of jtdytravels; P1110458

Potentilla anserina ssp. pacifica © DY of jtdytravels; P1110458

A delightful, small, ground hugging plant, Potentilla anserina ssp. pacifica, or Silverweed, grew in soft, wet, sandy spots beside the stream. This is the only one of the cinquefoils which has runners and single flowers borne on leafless flowering stalks. The roots of this plant are of two types; long fleshy taproots holding them firmly in the ground, and short curly roots near the surface. Although bitter to the taste, the roots were boiled as a vegetable.

The clouds descend! © DY of jtdytravels; P1110468

The clouds descend! © DY of jtdytravels; P1110468

As the ‘mizzle’ turned to drizzled and the clouds came down ever lower, it was time to return to the ship, dry out, enjoy some lunch and share stories of the day with new found friends.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110470

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110470

A quick look outside confirmed the decision to stay on board for the afternoon!

There was to be a lecture on current whale research

and a briefing about Glacier Bay National Park, our next destination.

More of that very special place anon.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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Petersburg Area Map

Petersburg Area Map by Google

From Petersburg, marked in red, we crossed the channel in our inflatable DIBs to a private landing pontoon on Kupreanof Island. From here we hiked into another part of Tongass National Forest to seek out some more of the native flora of the region.

©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130786

Kupreanof side of the channel © JT of jtdytravels; P1130786

One of the tricky parts about taking this whole expedition was that most landings were, of necessity, wet landings, requiring “wellington” or “mud” boots to negotiate the landing from the DIBs into icy waters and onto rocky shores. I chose to do none of the wet landings as I was being extra cautious of the slippery, wet, rocky shorelines. Why? My travel insurance didn’t cover any problems with my knees since it had been less than 24 months from my latest knee operation. Without cover, medical help in these parts would have been extremely expensive, to say the least.  I had other adventures which I shall write about later.

However, as no boots were required for this walk, I chose to join David and experience the forest with him. There was just one slight problem… the tide was well and truly out and the ramp from the landing pontoon to the walkway at the top was exceedingly steep! I took a very deep breath and inched my way a little nervously up the wet, wooden ramp.

©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130787

© JT of jtdytravels; P1130787

At the top, we divested ourselves of our life vests and just left them on the grass in amongst a patch of yellow buttercups. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to trust that they would remain there until our return!

Myosotis sp. ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100522

Myosotis sp. © DY of jtdytravels; P1100522

A patch of lovely Forget-me-nots, Myosotis sp., also grew close to the path.

These are not native but were introduced to America from Europe…

Somehow; sometime; by someone.

A forest weed!

Rubus spectabilis ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100525

Rubus spectabilis © DY of jtdytravels; P1100525

Before we left the shoreline and entered the forest shade, we were delighted to find some the  bright red berries of Rubus spectabilis, Salmonberry. We just had to try them and indeed they are quite tasty… as well as being a spectacular berry, as its name suggests.

©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130788

© JT of jtdytravels; P1130788

Our first stop was at a small wooden ‘kiosk’ where Caroline showed us the map… that’s an important part of forest walking, just in case you lose your way. Not that that was likely to happen as it was a single file pathway and board walk for most of the way.

©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130790

© JT of jtdytravels; P1130790

I was most impressed that this trail facility had been built by the students in the High School’s construction class; each student has been recognised for their contribution.

©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130791

© JT of jtdytravels; P1130791

And I was further impressed that this project was a collaboration between several sections of the Petersburg community. That, too, was recognised by a plaque.

©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130789

Forest Path © JT of jtdytravels; P1130789

This is a National Forest and, as such, logging can be undertaken in a controlled way. The trees along this path by the shore were quite young… reforestation in progress.

© JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130792

Ferns © JT of jtdytravels; P1130792

The path was edged with ferns.

©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130794

Lysichiton americanum © JT of jtdytravels; P1130794

Lysichiton americanum, Cabbage Skunk was also much in evidence.

The large leaves of this plant were used to wrap things in…

long before paper and plastics!

©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130804

© JT of jtdytravels; P1130804

Skunk leaves are not only large, but quite sculptural as well.

This one was close to perfection.

©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1100476

Large sculptural leaves © DY of jtdytravels; P1100476

There were more wonderful shapes and textures in the leaves of the understory.

Toadstool ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100521

Toadstool © DY of jtdytravels; P1100521

This was a great area to look for fungi.  How elegant is this?

Yes. David was down on his knees again for this shot.

Menziesia Ferruginea ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100481

Menziesia Ferruginea © DY of jtdytravels; P1100481

Another example of the delightful False Azalea; Menziesia Ferruginea.

 David had found one of these on his first walk.

©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130796

Start of Kupreanof Trail © JT of jtdytravels; P1130796

After following the path parallel to the shore, we came to the start of the board walk that would take us along the Kupreanof Trail, up through the old growth forest to a boggy, muskeg plateau on top of the hill. It was a bit of a huffy, puffy walk with a great many steps of uneven height to negotiate, but there was plenty of interest to see along the way.

©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130797

Moss covered dead wood  © JT of jtdytravels; P1130797

There were several dead or dying trees along the way. When a tree dies and falls in a forest, it continues to play an important role by creating a light gap in the forest which provides the opportunity for new life. To begin with, here in this damp environment, the fallen trunk is quickly colonised by mosses. Then, as it rots, it becomes a ‘nurse log’ on which the next generation of forest trees will germinate and begin to grow. The forest floor here was littered with fallen limbs and trunks overgrown with moss, giving the place a slightly eerie feeling.

©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130798

The Boardwalk © JT of jtdytravels; P1130798

The boardwalk was still single file but at least it was two planks wide.

©  Jt  of  jtdytravels; P1130805

Lush understory growth © Jt of jtdytravels; P1130805

Further up the hill we came to some lush forest with lots of healthy understory growth.

©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130808

Moss covered dead tree trunk © JT of jtdytravels; P1130808

Moss had certainly taken up residence on this small, dead tree trunk.

Cornus canadensis ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100482

Cornus canadensis © DY of jtdytravels; P1100482

This was a beautiful example of Cornus canadensis; Dwarf Dogwood or Bunchberry.

©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130811

Moss encrusted conifer © JT of jtdytravels; P1130811

The higher we climbed, the more daylight we began to see.

In this clearing, a brown moss had taken hold on almost every branch of a tall conifer.

Feathery Moss on a Conifer ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130845

Feathery Moss on a Conifer © JT of jtdytravels; P1130845

This tree, a little further out of the dense forest,

was covered in lichen and a cream coloured, feathery moss.

Muskeg plateau ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100487

Muskeg plateau © DY of jtdytravels; P1100487

Up another flight of steps and we had finally arrived at our destination for the afternoon, a plateau of boggy muskeg with quite a different group of plants to enjoy and photograph.

We’ll look at them in the next diary posting.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright ©  JT and DY  of  jtdytravels

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More of our travel photos are on

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Conifer © DY of jtdytravels; P1100423

Tree hosting lichen and moss © DY of jtdytravels; P1100423

Up until this point on our walk with David in the forest at Ideal Cove, we’ve been looking down at small plants, mosses and fungi under the trees; but if we look up, we’ll see that many lichens and mosses have taken up residence on the branches.

Beware of prickles! © DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100392

Beware of prickles! © DY of jtdytravels; P1100392

And while we’re looking up and out instead of down, it’s worth being very aware of the prickly plants in this forest. They don’t know not to grow over board walks!

Streptopus amplexifolius ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100429

Streptopus amplexifolius © DY of jtdytravels; P1100429

Back down in the understory of the forest, David found this Streptopus amplexifolius, an unusual plant, commonly called Clasping Twisted Stalk. The base of each leaf surrounds or clasps the stem which kinks and twists after each leaf. The buds and bell shaped flowers hang down below the leaves at each leaf axil. They can only be seen by lifting the large leaves.

Another common name for this plant is Watermelon Berry, which refers to the water-melon coloured berries. Although the berries are very juicy, they are not very flavourful.

Coptis asplenifolia ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100431

Coptis asplenifolia © DY of jtdytravels; P1100431

Another interesting plant which grows on the forest floor is Coptis asplenifolia, commonly known as Fern-leaved Goldthread. Its a delicate, evergreen herb, with fern like leaves.  It grows from gold coloured roots; hence the common name. The photo shows the unusual seed head; a ring of up to twelve seed filled capsules on an upright stalk. Each time a capsule is hit by  a raindrop, a seed is ejected. Because these plants are slow colonizers, when found in a place like this, they signify that this is an old growth forest.

Aster sp. ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100432

Aster sp. © DY of jtdytravels; P1100432

This delicate pink aster was a surprise find in the depths of this forest.

It’s not a garden escapee! There’s not a garden for many miles. It belongs here.

Fauria crista-galli © DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100434

Fauria crista-galli © DY of jtdytravels; P1100434

Fauria crista-galli is commonly called Deer Cabbage. The flowers certainly look attractive but they have a very bad aroma; a pretty sure sign that they are pollinated by flies!

Platenthera unalescensis © DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100438

Platenthera unalescensis © DY of jtdytravels; P1100438

Platanthera unalescensis, is one of the Alaskan Rein Orchids. You need to be fairly observant to find this delicate plant with greenish flowers. It grows in dry to moist coniferous forests, so is happy in the area that we’ve been exploring with David.

Linnaea borealis © Dy  of  jtdytravels; P1100440

Linnaea borealis © Dy of jtdytravels; P1100440

The boardwalk crossed boggy, undrained land, known in Alaska as muskeg. It’s characterised by sphagnum moss vegetation and David found the very small  plant called Linnaea borealis growing in the mosses. Since the plant itself is less than 10cm tall and the drooping flowers are only 2-5 mm long, this was another case of needing to get down to ground level. By doing that, David was able to actually look into the flowers and show us that the bell is darker inside than out. It’s a shame that he couldn’t bring us back the smell of these flowers, too, as they produce a very fragrant perfume. All in all, a truly lovely plant.

Linnaea borealis ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100437

Linnaea borealis © DY of jtdytravels; P1100437

The plant is so lovely that it was said to be the favourite plant of Linnaeas, the Swedish botanist who became famous for introducing to science the system of using binomial Latin names. And so the generic name for the plant is Linnaea, in his honour.  The plant’s specific name is borealis, meaning northern. In Alaska the plant is found only north of Ketchikan.

Linnaea borealis ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100436

Linnaea borealis © DY of jtdytravels; P1100436

Twin Flower is the common name of Linnaea borealis and that’s very apt. Each upright flower stalk divides into a Y; and each branch of the Y bears a single, delicate, bell shaped flower. The stems themselves are rather hairy, slender, semi-woody. The plant is evergreen and spreads across an area from runners. Seed is also dispersed when the fruit, or dry nutlets, which have sticky hairs, catch onto the fur of animals and the feathers of birds.

Lysichiton americanum ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100444

Lysichiton americanum © DY of jtdytravels; P1100444

Another plant very common in the wet, boggy muskeg is Lysichiton americanum. It’s common name of this plant with huge, rubbery leaves is Skunk Cabbage. The tiny flowers of this plant are arranged on a fleshy spike called a spathe. Deer enjoy eating these spathes and brown bears dig up the roots to eat. They don’t seem to be put off by the ‘skunky odour’!

Carex lyngbyei © DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100447

Carex lyngbyaei © DY of jtdytravels; P1100447a

Another very common plant is Carex lyngbyaei, Lyngby’s Sedge. They are grass-like but they are not grasses. The leaf base of a sedge forms a triangle in cross section while the the leaf base of a grass is round. The whole of this plant is rich in protein and is a very important source of food for bears, especially in spring before the berries fruit and the salmon run

Still no sighting of a bear today, though.

Moneses uniflora © DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100448

Moneses uniflora © DY of jtdytravels; P1100448

Moneses uniflora is a member of the Wintergreen family and is also known by the name of Pyrola uniflora. It’s common name is Shy Maiden, coming from the greek derivation of its name monos, meaning one and hesia, meaning delight. And delightful it is. However, it’s a difficult flower to photograph as it grows low to the ground (only 3 – 17 cm tall) in the shade of the deep forest. This was yet another time that David needed to get down to ground level.

Another common name for this plant is Wax Flower because of the single white, waxy flower that grows from a rosette of roundish leaves. However, the common name that I most like for this demure flower is Shy Maiden, for obvious reasons!

©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100441

Menziesia ferruginea © DY of jtdytravels; P1100441

A much larger plant, a scraggy shrub, is Menziesia ferruginea often called Rusty Menziesia, from the species name, ferruginea which refers to the rusty salmon colour of the flowers.  But this common forest shrub is also known as Fool’s Huckleberry or False Azalea. It seems to be masquerading as something other than itself!  The urn shaped flowers are somewhat similar to the huckleberry flower in both colour and form, hanging down. But when this plant is in fruit, the flower stems turn up and the fruits are not delicious berries, but very dry inedible capsules.

Rubus spectabilis ©  Dy  of  jtdytravels; P1100442

Rubus spectabilis © Dy of jtdytravels; P1100442

One plant that certainly did have edible fruit was the Salmonberry, Rubus spectabilis. Found close to the edge of the forest, they made a tasty bight for weary walkers on the way back to the shore line. They certainly look inviting and taste something like raspberries.

Fern © DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100397

Fern © DY of jtdytravels; P1100397

Some forest plants are easy to overlook simply because they are common… like ferns. These plants form an important part of the understory especially at the edge of the forest. They maybe common… but are really rather lovely.

Fungi ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100451

Fungi © DY of jtdytravels; P1100451

Something else on the forest floor that many people walk past without so much as a glance is fungi. But how stunningly simple and beautiful are these; another down on the ground photo!

Forest walk ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100457

End of the forest walk © DY of jtdytravels; P1100457

I’m sure there were more plants to find and photograph, but, as always happen in a group situation, someone calls ‘time’; time to go back to the ship.

Fucus distichus ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100462

Fucus distichus © DY of jtdytravels; P1100462

But even as David left the depths of the forest and stepped back on the rocky shore, he found yet one more plant to share with us all, the Rock Weed, Fucus distichus. This brown alga grows in clumps or tufts from a basal ‘holdfast’ that anchors it to the rock. It lives in intertidal zones. When covered with water, this plant is erect, very stiff and cartilaginous. However, as shown here, when out of the water the fronds don’t stay erect but fall against the rocks.

Ross Weinberg, Vidiographer © DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100466

Ross Weinberg, Vidiographer © DY of jtdytravels; P1100466

Sitting amongst the Rock Weed, and also waiting to go back to the ship, and lunch, was our expedition’s professional videographer, Ross Weinberg. His task wast to prepare a video diary of the trip for everyone…. and he did an excellent job including places, people and some of the fun that we shared.  David often uses video but, on this trip, he chose photography to enable us all to share his plant hunting expeditions by means of this diary.

'Sea Lion' awaits in the bay ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100458

‘Sea Lion’ awaits in the bay © DY of jtdytravels; P1100458

And so, the first walk of the expedition came to an end. It was time for lunch!

More anon

Jennie and David

All Photographs ©  David Young and Jennie Thomas of jtdytravels

More of our travel diaries can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More travel photos on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

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