Snorkeling with the whales

An adventure trip offers a week of close encounters

by Mary L. Peachin
Published January 25, 2004
PUERTO PLATA, Dominican Republic — Here we are, in the midst of a three-month-long orgy.

All around us, whales are breaching, finning and slapping their tails on the water, as males–their testosterone off the scale–single-mindedly focus on one goal: finding and copulating with an agreeable female.

And we are in the water with them.

Our weeklong snorkeling adventure began the night before, 85 miles away at Puerto Plata, when we boarded the Wind Dancer, a 120-foot, live-aboard scuba boat that sleeps 18.

In the morning, while we are moored on Silver Bank, the ships whale expert, Tom Conlin, gives us our introductory briefing. Continue reading »

OUTDOOR SCHOOL, YELLOWSTONE INSTITUTE HELPS NURTURE A LOVE OF NATURE

By Mary L. Peachin
Sunday, March 12, 2000

Deep in the Valley, on the road between Mammoth Hot Springs and Cooke City, Mont., bison graze along the banks of the Lamar River. When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park, this area became home to some of the 10 packs, and whenever one of the packs kills an elk, news spreads up and down the valley, usually beginning and ending at the Buffalo Ranch.

The ranch is the campus for the field school of the Yellowstone Institute, which offers more than 125 courses throughout the year. This campus doesn boast a stadium or research library; its classroom is all of Yellowstone National Park. Continue reading »

LODGINGS AROUND THE PARKS

By Mary L. Peachin
Sunday, March 12, 2000

A last-minute reservation doesn exist in most of our national park system. If you plan your summer vacation to Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Parks in late spring, youll probably be told, “You shouldve called a year ago.”

Chagrined and unwilling to wait at 6 in the morning at the gate of one of those national parks campsites hoping to get an overnight spot, these half dozen places offer an alternative to pacify that “no-vacancy” frustration. They are not crowded (though you should still make reservations as early as possible), and they are all in areas that offer scenic road trips with opportunities for animal viewing, and activities including fishing, hiking, or horseback riding. Continue reading »

LIGHT AT END OF TUNNEL, Kartchner Caverns, Southeastern, Arizona

By Mary L. Peachin
Sunday, October 31, 1999

In the rugged hills of the Whetstone Mountains, about 40 miles southeast of Tucson, amateur cavers Randy Tufts and Gary Tenen found the “mother lode.” More precious to them than gold was their 1974 discovery of an untouched natural treasure, a living cave with growing calcite formations, hidden under the desert floor for more than a million years.

Equally amazing are the steps Tufts and Tenen took to protect their remarkable find from vandalism and destruction. Rather than trumpeting the news of their discovery, the two men, then in their mid-20s, adopted a years-long code of silence, going so far as making selected friends and loved ones sign documents of secrecy, so as to protect the caves. Continue reading »