Saturday, August 8, 2009

Oregon coast

We are in familiar territory again. We are traveling south through Oregon down the coast that Kris has been camping and playing on since she was a kid. We stopped in Portland so Cheri could replace her broken computer, then fought the Friday traffic out towards the coast. Most campgrounds seemed to be filled with weekend campers so we ended up boondocking at the Spirit Mountain Casino. Cheri had a good night playing with her money before the other poker players finally wrestled it away from her.

Flying kites on the beach.

On Saturday we finally made it to the coast and every campground we passed was still full with weekend campers. This is the first time since Memorial Day weekend, when we started our trip, that we have had a hard time getting a campsite. We stopped at a commercial "RV Resort" and they had two sites left. We had a wonderful afternoon playing on a relatively secluded beach.

We have just a few days left on our trip and we expect that weekday sites will be easier to find.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Slowly heading home

Well, we spent some time at the Royal BC Museum on Monday. It was a holiday in BC and we were amazed watching traffic congeal around the arteries of Victoria. We had no problem finding a campsite that night though. (Well, after we ignored the GPS - because it directed us to the Parks Maintenance yard several miles away first.) We stayed in a National campground just above the main road leading to the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal. It wasn't too bad if we pretended the traffic noise was wind in the trees. We arrived at the terminal at 7:20 a.m. in hopes of making the 8:00 ferry to Vancouver - it was not to be. We watched as a plethora of trucks and cars were loaded without us. When it was clear we were not going to be loaded - Cheri went out and turned our propane back on and made breakfast.

We were able to meet Jenny from the last paddling trip for Dim Sum lunch when we did arrive on the mainland. Then we started our drive south. We were warned to expect an hour delay at the border - so we were happy it only took us 50 minutes to get through. When the Officer heard we had been gone three months he looked at us and asked. "So are you folks employed these days or what?" When Cheri explained that she was retired and Kris was a teacher - he stopped asking us questions and sent us on our way. We didn't even get a chance to declare the new waterproof camera we bought in Canada.

It is a good thing we ran into a little traffic on Vancouver Island yesterday. It helped to prepare us for the freeway driving and the incredible snarl of traffic in Seattle. Of all the miles we have put on the Bee in the past few months - we haven't driven on a freeway or had any traffic issues since we left California in May! We had to readjust our defensive driving from watching for wildlife to watching other drivers. We both are suffering from a mild case of culture shock.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Nuchatlitz adventure

I'm back from my kayaking adventure on the west coast. The trip was great, with amazingly good weather, great people, and a nice mix of exploring the sandy beaches and time on the water.

We saw many sea otters, but never close enough for me to get a good picture. At one campsite, there were two otters that hung out and ate just off our beach at dinner time. Some shorebirds are starting migration south, and I saw some small flocks of semipalmated sandpiper and black turnstones. Lots of driftwood on the beaches, and some interesting plants, like the big-headed sedge below.

The first day was very hot and sunny, and then the fog moved in and kept it a little cooler, but I think I spent the entire trip paddling in a shirt and shorts. We were a big group on this trip, and Ali and Luke, our guides, did a great job keeping us on track and feeding us.

But the day before we were picked up by the water taxi had to be the most spectacular in terms of wildlife. A small group of us went for an afternoon paddle after setting up camp. We were crossing to another island, when one of the group called out "Orca!" and we watched a large male and a smaller companion swim right past us and out towards the ocean. Amazing.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Seperation Anxiety

Kris had so much fun on our kayak trip last week - she went on another adventure this week. The kayak company had some last minute openings and Kris decided to take advantage of one. She is off on the west side of Vancouver Island for another 6 day kayak trip. She took the Spot with her and is dutifully sending a locator twice a day for me to track her adventure. Having sent spot locators from several of our excursions - I am having fun reading between the beacons, so to speak. I can extrapolate that after she sent the signal from an island at their lunch break they probably paddled around several neighboring islands before returning to the camp where she sent another signal- even though the spot shows a straight line from lunch to camp.

I on the other hand am on the east side of Vancouver Island at the Salmon Point RV Park chilling for a week. That is if you can call 90 degree days chilling. I have use of a pool AND a hot tub to help me beat the heat. In all our travels this is the first RV park I have encountered with these amenities.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Kayak camping

Even though my camera took a swim, Cheri took some still images with her video camera. This campsite is pretty typical of where we stayed. Every night we'd carry the kayaks up into the woods. The evening tides were so high, the water would come to the very top of the beach at night, so above the tide line was the safest place for our kayaks.

Then in the morning, we'd carry the kayaks back down to the beach, usually at a very low tide, which meant carrying kayaks over lots of algae. The task of packing the kayak usually took us a while. It's amazing how much stuff will fit, but getting there can be a long process.

The low morning tides made for excellent viewing of the intertidal creatures. I thought this group of sea anemones looked like an art installation I've seen somewhere.

And then we'd be off exploring more little islands in the fog.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Johnstone Strait Expedition

We're back from our week long kayak/camping trip with Spirit of the West Adventures. We had a small group of 5 people and a guide, and had some good paddling and lots of great food. We started out in the community of Telegraph Cove where we got picked up by the water taxi to shuttle us out to our first camp. While in Telegraph Cove, we spent some time at the Bones Project, a non-profit whale education center featuring articulated skeletons of marine mammals. They had some great skeletons, but the light made it difficult to photograph. I'm posing next to a blue whale jaw bone.

They also had an articulated fin whale hanging from the ceiling that was pretty amazing.

After checking out the bones, we taxied to our campsite, and from there we explored a number of little islands, camping along beaches and clam shell middens. The paddling and scenery were great. We had some fog, but otherwise the weather was ideal. The only bummer of the trip is I found that salt water and electronics don't mix. My camera took a dive the second day of the trip, and hasn't recovered. Fortunately the memory card still works, or I wouldn't have any pictures to share. This is the lunch site at Mamalilacoola where my camera took a swim off the dock.

This is a totem at the old village site. Luke, our guide, said it might have been a funeral pole.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Packing Again

We are finished with laundry and are packing to go on a six day kayak trip in the Johnston Strait between Vancouver Island and mainland Canada. We will not be able to post any blogs while we are away - but hopefully we will have lots of Orca pictures when we return. We will try to send a spot every day to track our progress. Does life get any better than this?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

BC Ferry to Quadra Island

We took the BC ferry from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy, and it was a very different experience from the Alaska ferries. The boat was new and very swanky, and the food was great. But if you wanted to sit in the front observation lounge, you had to pay. Granted, the lounges along the side of the vessel had great seats, and nearly floor to ceiling windows, so it wasn't too bad. The trip was very foggy, which made the islands looming in and out of the fog more dramatic.

After arriving at midnight in Port Hardy, we spent the night in the curling club parking lot, and then drove to Campbell River, where we picked up another ferry to Quadra Island. In between, we took a hike out to a view over a strait where enormous quantities of dynamite were used to remove a couple rocks that were a hazard to navigation. The trail crossed a creek via a suspension bridge, which was fun to navigate, and only a hazard if more than one person tried to cross at the same time.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Arriving in Prince Rupert

We arrived in Prince Rupert, BC at 3:30am after a long ferry ride from Wrangell on the ferry M/V Taku. If we had to do this trip again, I'd have tried to avoid traveling on the Taku. It's a smaller ferry, and besides the awful food, just seems more run down than the others. This is the container port next to the ferry terminal, that was busy loading and unloading containers and was all lit up in the early, early darkness.

Rainbow Falls

While in Wrangell, we took a hike to Rainbow Falls. The falls themselves were not very impressive after our many sunny days, but the trail itself was pretty impressive. It's just under a mile long, but there are over 700 steps to climb. We fortified ourselves with occasional wild blueberries along the trail.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ferry Sketches

I brought a little watercolor sketching kit with me, thanks to some great suggestions from Jana Bouc, and have been struggling with this new way of painting. I still haven't figured out how to paint trees yet...but I've had better luck with little sketches on the ferry.

Leaving Petersburg

As we were loading onto the ferry in Petersburg we pulled out a camera and were able to get some photos of our journey onto the boat. This is a shot of the harbor from the ramp leading into the ferry.

Here we are starting to load onto the M/V Taku.

Here we are halfway down the ramp watching the car ahead of us load.

We are parked so that we will be the first ones off the boat in Wrangell. There were not very many vehicles on this ferry with us.

On this journey we travelled through the Wrangell Narrows, in some places the channel was only about 300 feet wide. There were over fifty channel markers the captain had to navigate through.

Our kayak group had a dinner planned for the night we got back, unfortunately we were only able to join them for a drink before dinner because we had to catch our ferry. As we traversed the narrows, we passed the restaurant and our group was waiting to wave at us on the ferry. We were able to see them with our binoculars, but I am not sure they were able to see us waving back. It was very sweet of them to wait till the ferry passed to wave us off on our journey.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Anan Bear Observatory

We took a charter trip with Alaska Charters and Adventures to the Anan Bear Observatory. It is in Tongass National Forest and maintained by the US Forest Service. There is a viewing platform built about 50 feet above a bend in a river above a small waterfall. The spawning pink salmon tend to pile up as they try to jump up the waterfalls making a great place for bears and eagles to feed. This is a wild habitat that the bears allow humans to share. Words can not adequately express the wonders of being invited into their living room and allowed to sit at the couch for a few hours while they play and dine - so we will let the photos speak for themselves. We've put a few more photos on the flickr page as well.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

LeConte Glacier trip

We're back to civilization after our three day kayak trip to LeConte glacier. We did a guided trip with Tongass Kayak Adventures, and had a great time. The kayaking was beautiful, the weather was remarkable, and the people were great. One of our guides said she'd never done a trip where it didn't rain at least once, so we felt priveleged to have spent several days in the sun.
It was very interesting kayaking with a group instead of on our own. On one hand we felt much more secure, and even paddled in our shirt sleeves for most of the time, and it was also fun to meet and interact with other kayakers. We did a lot of laughing around the fire ring, and it was very decadent to be served excellent food after padling all day. But it felt strange to be a little duckling following the momma duck all day. The picture above is one of our lunch spots showing the power of the tides in the area. When we pulled in, the water was out near that point, and we followed a little creek to beach our boats. By the time we were done, the tide was pushing our boats up the inlet.
The tides also strand small bits of iceberg, called bergy bits (really) on the beach. This one was about 6 feet tall. Our base camp faced out towards Fredrick Sound, and the icebergs that calve off the glacier get trapped at the entrance to LeConte bay because there's a big terminal moraine under water. At low tide, it's visible nearly across the entire mouth of the bay, and so as the tide receeded and the bergs hit the mud, they also tend to turn over or break apart.
By the way, those little black spots on top of the iceberg are a pair of bald eagles. The kayaker is our head momma duck, Marja, taking a moment to look up at an iceberg.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ferry to Petersburg

The ferry ride from Sitka to Petersburg was pretty uneventful once we got on the boat. We saw a few orca and some humpback whales along the way, but mostly took a couple of excellent showers, napped in our cabin, and had a halibut burger from the cafeteria. The room was simple, with a couple of bunks and a bathroom, but it did have a window. I was asleep as we approached Petersburg, but Cheri got some great shots of the sunset.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Alaska Marine Highway - Delays

We are unexpectedly sitting in a coffee shop in Sitka having some extra internet time. Our ferry from Sitka to Petersburg has been delayed twice. Originally we were to leave Sitka at 3:15am, thankfully the Sitka Terminal worker called us yesterday and let us know they boat was delayed until 7:30 this morning. Unfortunately when we arrived at 7:30 we were told that the ferry missed the tide and wouldn't be in until at least 1:30 this afternoon. With a twelve hour trip to Petersburg, we are hoping for a later departure. We have booked a cabin on this leg so we have beds to sleep in - but arriving in Petersburg at 2 or 3 in the morning means we have to get up in the middle of the night to disembark. We were told Sitka was the most susceptible to tide delays. We just had such good luck so far we were hopeful . . . ah, life is still good, we are just past the half way point in our trip, another 6 weeks to go.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


We've spent the last few days in Sitka, enjoying amazing weather. The first day we went out on a boat trip with Paul Davis of Gallant Adventures to St. Lazarius Island to see nesting puffins and murres. The island is the eroded core of an old volcano, and looks rather otherworldly with basalt cliffs covered in greenery. We also saw sea otters, humpback whales, and a pair of minke whales while out on the water. Quite the morning!

After spending the morning on the water, we took a walk through the totem park, which has a collection of Haida and Tlingit totem poles.

We've taken a couple of kayaking trips around the sound, visiting islands and enjoying the scenery. The first trip we paddled from the harbor and out to Middle Island, with a couple stops for lunch and snacks.

This is a view from the water looking back towards Sitka. The little rock in front is covered with Gulls and Cormorants.
Mount Edgecombe is an old volcano across the sound from Sitka.
The second trip we took, we launched from the beach near our campground at Starrigaven bay and paddled around another group of islands (the name escapes me at the moment) to the north. We were on the water only a few minutes when these four sea lions came to investigate us. They spent several minutes checking us out before moving on.
Lots of eagles in the Sitka area. We saw one catch a fish right in front of us on the water and then carry the fish to its nest.

This is one of the beaches we stopped at. We nick-named it clam beach because the beach was a mix of broken clam shells and black gravel. Each beach we found was different, but it was wonderful discovering these little secluded private spots. I don't think the picture does it justice.

On the water!