Tugboats and Benzene Barges

November 26, 2016 at 10:04 am (Photography, TX, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Benzene barge, Port Arthur, Texas

Benzene barge, Port Arthur, Texas

Well, I’m in Southeast Texas where I did some of my growing up. Visiting family for Thanksgiving. Didn’t talk politics so it went well. Yesterday we did something fun. We went first to the Spindletop museum in Beaumont, where the first oil well gusher in the area roared to life in 1902. (Stay tuned for another blog post on that one.)

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Then we drove to two restaurants whose websites did NOT say they were closed the day after Thanksgiving, looking for good southern cooking/Cajun food. Both were closed. Finally went to a Mexican buffet near the mall. Sigh. Then we visited my daddy’s grave (gone 25 years now) and realized my Uncle Mike was buried a few feet away (on Nov. 23). It was a beautiful day, and the cemetery was lovely and peaceful.

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Kristy Dutsch Towboat, New Orleans, La.

Finally we (my brother, nephew and I) drove through our old stomping grounds in Port Arthur. We went past the old high school (now a middle school), and the old homestead (decrepit and moldy, with a bright orange — and I do mean BRIGHT ORANGE) house across the street. I had a paper route in the neighborhood, and when I graduated from high school it was handed down to my three sisters, and finally to my lil brother.

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We drove down Proctor St., past the empty lot where Janis Joplin’s childhood home was (the bricks are now for sale at the Museum of the Gulf Coast – a really cool museum). It’s a pretty, tree-lined street that parallels the Intracoastal Waterway. We turned at the Rose Hill mansion and drove along the canal. A tug boat was visible above the levee, and we drove on top of it and watched the benzene barges go by.

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I never really thought about what kind of cargo the barges carried until I saw the signs on board. Benzene is a byproduct of the petrochemical industry, which is one of the major sources of jobs here in the Golden Triangle (Beaumont, Port Arthur, Orange.) Matter of fact, the refineries remind me of huge chemistry sets, with pipes and steaming vents and orange gas flares. They used to stink – a sulphur type of odor, not unpleasant, but very very noticeable – but with EPA regulations the scrubbers have really cleaned up the smell. (And I assume, some of the overall toxicity of living in an area full of chemical plants.) I did get a whiff of the old “Port Arthur smell” yesterday and it kinda made me homesick.

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Kristy Dutsch

Anyway, there was a steady stream of barge traffic the hour before sunset. One tug boat (they’re also called tow boats) pushed four barges!

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Eugenie J Huger, New Orleans towboat with four barges

Some info on how this river navigation system works is found in this Environmental Defense Fund publication.

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Here’s the distinction they make: “The term towboat, also known as a pushboat, refers to vessels that push barges through the water. This is the most common vessel type within the Houston area. The term tugboat most commonly refers to vessels that use a cable to pull cargo through the water.”

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Until I researched it, I didn’t realize Pleasure Island is completely manmade – spoils from dredging the ship canal.

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Eugenie J Huger passing by Pleasure Island

Generally the birdwatching at the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge and along the Gulf Coast near Sea Rim State Park is pretty good, but I’m here only a few days and family comes first. However, when I return back to Oklahoma I plan to visit the Great Salt Plains NWR in the northern part of the state. I’ve been seeing posts about the phenomenal birds gathering there for the winter. Woo hoo!

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If you like this sort of thing, you can watch a video about cargo shipping from the Port of Port Arthur. I thought they’d handle petrochemical shipments, but it appears it’s primarily other types of cargo, including military vehicles and equipment.

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Rose Hill mansion adjacent to the seawall

Watching the boats go by was like being a trainwatcher. These hobbyists love watching trains. Even more, they know a lot about the types of engines and cargo and cars that pass by. In Folkston, Georgia, where I lived a few years ago, it was a trainwatcher’s mecca since the rail lines funneled through that town. There was a gazebo set up with info about the trains, their time schedules, and cargoes. Sometimes trainwatchers from all over the country would be there with their iPads showing the dispatcher’s view of the trains coming, going, and waiting.

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So I’m including links to the info about the tow boats, for anybody who likes that sort of thing.

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Kristy Dutsch heading west under the bridge to Pleasure Island

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Jackie Cenac from Port of Houma, La.

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Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

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Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

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Caddo Maples

November 20, 2016 at 12:03 pm (Autumn, Bird photography, Birds - Oklahoma, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma, Photography, Wichita Mountains NWR, Wildlife)

Caddo Maples, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Okla.

Caddo Maples, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Okla.

Walking through a forested canyon in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, Okla., I felt like I was back in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park in Texas. Big Bend was the first park I worked at when the Great Recession ended my art business, and it changed my life.

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Not only is it my favorite park, it gave me the opportunity to be a park ranger for a few years. Smokey Bear hat and all. After that, I worked one summer at Mesa Verde, another summer at Dinosaur National Monument (both in Colorado), a year at Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, and a year for U.S. Fish & Wildlife at Okefenokee NWR.

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The area I was in yesterday was in the wilderness portion of the refuge that was only accessible by the public on a special tour. Helen Riley, Friends of the Wichitas volunteer, gave her usual excellent tour (my third with her). The above image in particular reminds me of the hikes I did in the Chisos, through Boot Canyon, when the oaks and maples were turning color.

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Caddo maples aren’t very common here, but they are among the most colorful of Oklahoma’s fall trees. This year’s color has been muted by an exceptionally warm autumn, but a recent cold snap helped the colors along.

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Most were gold and yellow, but this one was a lovely orange.

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I didn’t realize Helen was waiting for me while I spent some time with this tree.

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I’m on her “lolly-gagger” list, since I generally fall behind everyone else because I’m taking pictures of this thing or that.

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Well, we made it back to the bus in plenty of time, thanks to the fast walking pace she set. (Phew!)

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Many trees perished in the big fires of 2011, during the height of the drought here.

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I have never seen or heard so many red-headed woodpeckers as I did here. I don’t know why the acorn woodpecker hasn’t moved in – it seems like perfect habitat.

Red-headed woodpecker

Red-headed woodpecker

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Red-headed woodpecker in flight

Red-headed woodpecker in flight

Juvenile red-headed woodpecker

Juvenile red-headed woodpecker

There were also several eastern bluebirds.

Male eastern bluebird

Male eastern bluebird

It was such a treat to be out in that special area on a gorgeous crisp day.

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Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

Feel free to reblog or share

Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com

Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America

Join my Facebook Page

Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

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Martha Songbird

November 18, 2016 at 5:00 am (Autumn, Birds - Oklahoma, Butterflies, Dragonflies and Bugs, Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma, Photography)

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There’s a pretty little nature park in the middle of Fort Sill, Oklahoma, named after the last passenger pigeon on earth. Martha died in 1914 in the Cincinnati Zoo. Her billions of other kin had been exterminated out of existence by greed and thoughtlessness.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

Several decades ago, Fort Sill naturalists wanted to reclaim a part of the well-groomed military grounds for wildlife. They planted many native trees and shrubs, and let it go wild. Then they named it after Martha the passenger pigeon. Read the rest of this entry »

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Leaf Studies

November 16, 2016 at 5:00 am (Autumn, Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma) ()

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A stroll through the Martha Songbird Nature Park on Fort Sill a few days ago revealed many treasures, enough to fill several blog posts. This one is focusing on the leaves, fading in autumn glory.

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A sycamore (or is it a red maple?) leaf was pretty enough with the sun shining through it, but when a little hole caught the sun, it just became extra-special. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pet Cemetery (not scary)

November 14, 2016 at 5:00 am (Oklahoma, Photography) (, )

It was Veterans Day, and I decided to finally go to the Pet Cemetery Annex on Fort Sill. It’s a pretty spot among deciduous trees and mowed hillsides. Anybody who loves animals knows they have souls, and we grieve terribly when they leave us. I cried for four days when my 14-year-old tabby cat Tommy died. He’s buried between two maples in the yard I used to own in Maine. Our pets often take our last names. (They do that at the vet’s office.) I’m glad our military and civilian families who live and work on post have a place to lay their pets to rest. Some of the epitaphs were funny, like the Fierce Kitty. (My favorite.) There was one gravesite with a tub of plastic spiders. No headstone. Trying to figure what pet would have been buried there. A tarantula? Something that ate spiders? There’s a ferret buried there, too. My sister in Nederland, Texas found a ferret in their yard after Hurricane Rita in 2005. After reading they were social animals, they bought another. Both are gone now. Anyway, here’s a stroll through the Pet Cemetery.

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Read the rest of this entry »

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Ruby-crowned kinglet shows his crown

November 13, 2016 at 5:00 am (Bird photography, Birds - Oklahoma, Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma, Photography, Wildlife) ()

Male ruby-crowned kinglet

Male ruby-crowned kinglet

For years I’ve been wanting to get a photograph that showed the male ruby-crowned kinglet’s famed jewel on his head. I’ve only seen glimpses of it a time or two, but when I saw what looked like a head full of red at Martha Songbird nature park yesterday, I got excited.

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He was upset at someone. Maybe he had a spat with his spouse (below.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Heart Rock and October Surprises

November 11, 2016 at 5:00 am (Autumn, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma, Wichita Mountains NWR, Wildflowers)

Heart Rock, Wichita Mts Wildlife Refuge OK

Heart Rock, Wichita Mts Wildlife Refuge OK

This is actually a pretty big rock. You have to view it from above to see it’s a heart. The bottom of the heart is about head-high when you’re next to it.

Wichita Mts Wildlife Refuge, mid-Oct, Okla.

Wichita Mts Wildlife Refuge, mid-Oct, Okla.

It’s easy to get to, but there’s no sign, and it requires a little bit of rock scrambling. But the grip on your shoes is good. Read the rest of this entry »

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Critters ‘n Flowers

November 9, 2016 at 5:00 am (Autumn, Bird photography, Birds - Oklahoma, Butterflies, Dragonflies and Bugs, Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma, Photography, Wildflowers)

Mikey and his Doggles

Mikey and his Doggles

You never know what you’re gonna see when you get out of the car to stretch your legs. I was munching on an oatmeal-chocolate chip cookie when this little guy motored by at Queen Wilhemena State Park in Arkansas. Read the rest of this entry »

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Oklahoma’s “Blue Ridge Parkway”

November 6, 2016 at 6:42 am (Autumn, Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma, Photography) (, )

Talimena Trail, Oklahoma

Talimena Trail, Oklahoma

Who’d a thunk it? Oklahoma has mountains! Not just the Wichitas, which are pretty darned lovely, but rolling forested mountains with endless views such as I’ve seen along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Shenandoah National Park, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They are the Ouachita Mountains (Wash-a-taw or Wash-ee-tah). And the road to see them is the Talimena Trail, officially the Talimena National Scenic Byway. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dawn at Lake Wister

November 4, 2016 at 5:00 am (Nature, Nature photography, Oklahoma, Photography) ()

Lake Wister State Park, Oklahoma

Lake Wister State Park, Oklahoma

Well, the autumn colors didn’t materialize the previous day on my trip to eastern Oklahoma, but we found great color that morning when the sun came up. I was with the daughter of a friend and we had a great time talking photography (she’s a great portrait photographer – look her up: https://www.facebook.com/LittlePopePhotography/).

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We rose EARLY, had breakfast at the Eaton Hole cafe in Wilburton where we stayed, and drove to Lake Wister State Park in hopes it would be a great spot for a sunrise photograph. Boy did we guess right! Read the rest of this entry »

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