Sunday, July 29, 2007

I Don't Sleep On Planes

Leaving Seattle, we flew between Mt. Rainier and Mt St Helens. It was the best visibility of the whole trip and I can finally appreciate how really high Rainier is. We were climbing through 15,000 feet when the co-pilot came over the intercom to draw our attention to the massive snow capped peak. We’ll save some time on our next trip to get up close and personal with more of this natural beauty. That trip, only in the talking stages, already sounds like another full agenda. Our itinerary for Friday was to travel from Seattle to Dallas to Los Angeles to Lihue. Yes, I know, that’s not a direct route. We were at the Los Angeles Airport about to embark upon the third and final leg of our trip to Lihue, Kauai when the lady at the counter made an announcement about being way oversold and they needed volunteers to give up their seats. We’ve done this in the past. It’s called a bump. The airlines takes your seats, puts you on the next flight to your destination and gives you some sort of compensation. Here’s what we got: They put us on the next flight to Honolulu which was leaving in five minutes, gave us an $800 travel credit good for a year, put us up in a hotel in Honolulu for the night, gave us a $20 dinner credit, a $10 breakfast credit and booked us on a plane to Lihue for early the next morning. So, here I sit, very early on Saturday morning in the Honolulu airport waiting for our flight to Lihue. We haven’t had more than a few hours sleep over the past 24, traveled thousands of miles crammed into a space smaller than a phone booth and we’ve been eating airport food . It’s hard to say which has bothered me more but I keep telling myself the perks were worth it. Carl has found a used newspaper to browse while I tap out the keys to keep everyone updated. When we finally arrive in Lihue, there are issues still facing us. Where is our luggage and will our rental car still be available? I have to say that it’s much easier to find a place that you only visit every other year during daylight hours.

Flown Coup

We hit the pavement one last time to find those elusive eagles. It didn’t happen but it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying on our hosts’ part. We did see a couple way off in the distance perched on a rock during low tide or riding the air currents high over our head. I’ll just have to return in January for the first of the salmon runs on the nearby rivers. Then we headed to an area called Whatcum Falls, a nearby park and green space, in the middle of town. There is a lovely stone bridge over the creek which drains the Whatcum Lake reservoir. Sadly, at the end of our week’s stay in Bellingham, we had two minor casualties, my camera and my husband both were injured during a fall into Whatcum Creek. My new Nikon D200 has been ordered from my local photography shop back home. The staff at the Foto Factory are great and will be shipping it to me from more than 3,000 miles away. I’ll have that new camera in a day or two but my husbands’ shin and knee will take a week or more to heal.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Invisible Peaks

The northwest portion of Washington boasts some impressive mountains, Rainier, Hood, St Helens, Adams, Baker, most of them volcanic. My dad kept telling us that we should be seeing these snow capped peaks during the first few days of our trip but the weather and low ceilings kept them hidden. Tuesday evening we got our first real look at Rainier, all 14,000 plus feet of it. We were more than 60 miles away and still it dominated the skyline. This morning, however, was a time to enjoy the beauty of the Hood Canal and Walker Mountain. The Hood Canal is not really a canal because it is closed at one end. Still, it’s narrow enough so that you can enjoy the beauty of both shorelines in many places. A low fog bank helped to increase the early morning “moody” atmosphere for my camera. After leaving the canal, Adena transformed the car into a billy goat and we climbed up the narrow and steep four mile road to the overlook on Walker Mountain. From there we had a great view of Rainier to the south and Baker and Shuksan to the north. We arrived back in Bellingham just in time to visit the local microbrewery to sample the good stuff. Then it was back to my dad’s house to do some laundry and start packing. Thursday is a get away day for us.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Emotions Run High

This was a very special and emotion packed day. We were headed to Mt. St Helens and, finally, the sun was out. Even the few clouds in the area gave way. As we approached the blast area, the signs began to read “monument”. This entire area is not a state park or national forest any more. In fact, more than 27 years later much of the area is still buried under many feet of ash, pumice and mud. We arrived at Johnston Ridge Observatory which is approximately five miles from the mountain. The ridge got it’s name from a vulcanologist named David Johnston who was checking instruments on the morning of May 18, 1980 when the entire side of the mountain was jarred loose by a 5.1 magnitude earthquake which triggered the ultimate eruption. He died just seconds after alerting Vancouver about the eruption. From the Observatory, we looked directly into the horseshoe shaped crater formed by the blast. A new lava dome called “the Bulge” is forming and scientists believe this new dome may eventually replace the more than 2,000 vertical feet that was dislodged with the blast. The area before us was almost completely devoid of life. Not a single tree remained. Behind us was evidence of what was once a lush old growth forest that spread out over rugged terrain for more than 17 miles; all gone in seconds. The trees were either incinerated, uprooted or flattened by the pyroclastic flow. Huge stumps and pieces of two foot diameter logs still remain. It was truly an awe inspiring landscape. David Johnston wasn’t the only person to loose his life that day. In all, twenty two people were lost. It could have been much worse. A light plume of steam came from the top of the bulge; evidence that St Helens is still uneasy and should be respected. Click here for an up to date web cam image taken from Johnston Ridge.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Misty Mountains

After traveling for hours, we arrived at the base of Mt Rainier and drove higher and higher through old growth forests and past pristine waterfalls only to stop amongst thick stands of moss draped trees which created a canopy for the lush ferns growing at their feet. The sun played with us most of the way to where we were headed; a place called and aptly named Paradise, the highest drivable point on the mountain. We stopped at a trail crossing for the Nisqualy River, a fast moving glacial runoff which had a log bridge place over one of the narrow channels. We could hear boulders being tossed about in the milky green water just below our feet. When we finally arrived at Paradise, the mountain seemed to be playing cat and mouse with us. First we could see the lower slopes and then they disappeared in the mist. The decision was made to wait a bit in hopes the weather would clear but a few minutes later, the clouds rolled in and visibility was dropped to about 50 feet. We knew the mountain had won and we descended through Stevens Pass and on to our hotel for the night.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Rainy Days And Sundays...

Our hosts, Dad and Adena, drove to every spot they could think of to satisfy my request for eagles, but to no avail. We did see ruggedly handsome coastlines and mist shrouded old growth forests but the eagles kept to their airy realm. Oh, we did see one or two high above our heads but not one single bird came within the reach of my camera's lens. We had to satisfy ourselves with a couple of blue herons in the marshy areas off Samish Island. Then, we walked along lush wooded paths down to a rock strewn beach with massive hunks of driftwood. We'll keep looking for the elusive prize.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Cross This Off My List

The shear power of these marine mammals is difficult to explain. They move through the waters off San Juan Island like a warm knife through butter. The orca watch we went on was totally successful. We had the pleasure of seeing members from two of the three resident pods, more than forty killer whales in all. And, in the distance, most likely, was the third. I'll have one or two images in production when we return home. We could see lots of activity, whales spy hopping and breaching, near other boats. Other highlights of the trip included a sighting of a beautiful mature bald eagle high up in a tree, impressive specimens of the red barked Madrona trees and harbor seals "sunning" themselves on a rocky shoreline. The joke's on them because we didn't see the sun for the first three days of our visit to Bellingham, WA. That didn't stop us from enjoying the company we were with and I got to scratch another item off my list; to see wild orcas at play. I hope I can do this again real soon.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Thoughts From The Plane

I’ve never been able to figure how airlines really plot their routes and here’s a prime example. We’re traveling to Seattle today for a week’s visit with my father and his wife. Boston to Seattle is a fairly long flight made much longer by the stop we have to make in Dallas. Okay, we’re flying American Airlines and Dallas is a hub city for them. This, I understand but when we leave Seattle and head for Hawaii, we have to go back to Dallas before going to Los Angeles and then on to Lihue, Kauai. Does this make sense to anyone? During the next three weeks, I’ll be making frequent entries here so check back often. My plan is to upload some of the great images I’ll be capturing of the Pacific Northwest, both it’s cultural heritage and it’s magnificent splendor. I’m told the rainforests are lush, the mountains rugged and snowcapped and the wildlife unspoiled. I have two photographic goals. The first is to add a magnificent bald eagle to my animal images. I’m told by my father this is an achievable goal. The next is to view and hopefully photograph the resident pods of Orcas ( killer whales ) in the area. They are one of my favorite marine animals. My favorite is the dolphin and since Orcas are a member of the dolphin family, I don’t feel disloyal in the lease. Everyone should have a list of things he or she wants to accomplish before their time on this earth comes to an end. I am slowly crossing these things off mine. I learned to scuba dive because I grew up loving the Cousteau Chronicles and when I went snorkeling, I wanted to stay longer and go deeper. I’ve been to the Holy Land in a time when the region was fairly quiet and travel was considered safe. I swam with a pod of wild dolphins who approached the dive master and myself. Granted, they didn’t stay long because we, as humans, are so awkward in their home and provide such little entertainment. I’ve had the opportunity to ride in helicopters and hot air balloons, not at the same time, mind you. I’ve been to Australia and will go back. What I still have on my list to do: Paris on a warm spring evening, View the Lippizanners at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, go to the Moon. There are others but I don’t want to drag on. In fact, maybe I should apologize now for the length if this post and others to come. I was cautioned that I should keep my entries to a minimum and I try really hard to limit my posting to a couple of paragraphs but sometimes the subject just can’t be adequately covered with a couple hundred well chosen words.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Nearing Take Off

The suitcases became officially open today. With the amount of traveling that we do, there is always a certain amount of stuff in them at all times, things like sewing kits, sandals, sun block, hats and bathing suits. Today is the first day of packing. It's a tremendous task to plan for three climates along with three pastimes. Water, cold and heat combine with ocean life, mountains and the tropics to provide the ultimate in photographic, sightseeing and vacation experiences so here is the dilemma; to pack the appropriate amount of gear for all possibilities while limiting both suitcases and weight. I begin with "lists" of things needed and end up with a list of my lists. Don't laugh because until the time we actually land in Seattle, I will have this nagging feeling that I've forgotten something. Carl is always telling me that we aren’t going to be in the middle of the ocean or on the moon and whatever we’ve forgotten ( meaning me ) we can always find a place to buy it. Travel time is almost upon us. In fact, there are so many things to do before we can leave that I’ve been trying to plan each day to it’s maximum. Today is a travel day, to the banks, to stock up on groceries and to the office supply store for stuff we’ve run out of. I need to pay a few bills along the way as well as dropping of some art at one of the galleries I’m exhibiting in.

Friday, July 6, 2007

A Hectic Week

Right now, I can't find where I put ... Well, it doesn't matter what it was. I'm in the middle of preparing for a reception in Waterville Valley this evening, a show in Franconia on Saturday and a show in Whitefield on Sunday. I have a pile of new work in the studio to go to the ARTS Gallery in Lisbon on Monday and another pile beginning to grow for the new location at the Thyme To Heal Holistic Center in Bath which will open while Carl and I are touring the Pacific Northwest. Carl is out on the deck putting a coat of polyurethane on an accent table which is being auctioned off to benefit the Caregiver's of NH later this fall. He did a granite and tile mosaic on the top before staining the oak table to look as if it were walnut. The first coat of poly darkened it in a very nice way. I've been so busy I haven't even had time to take any photos. I'm beginning to pack for our trip but I really can't think about it seriously until I get through this next week. So, wish me luck. I'll get through this rush of activity but when I do, I'll really need the guided tour service that I volunteered my father for. I sure hope he takes his vitamins and gets lots of sleep.