Sunday, August 23, 2015

Welcome!

Hello and welcome to my Blog!

I have established this as a means to keep Family and Friends informed about what the heck I am thinking/doing these days!  I also hope it might serve as a chronicle of sorts to my Daughter one day.
The photos and music you find here are my own.  Feel free to save/download anything you like.  If you want to download a pic, click it to make it full size before saving it. (or you'll just get the thumbnail)

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Enjoy!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Grand Canyon "Rim To Rim" Part 2 (Getting There)


  
We wake up early as the sun rises over the Nevada Desert...earlier than I prefer!  I probably got about 4 hours of sleep, but I figure I can sleep a bit in the car as we drive to the Grand Canyon's South Rim.  Pat grabs some coffee, and we throw our gear into the Toyota Camry rental car and head out.
We will be stopping briefly at the Hoover Dam, prior to making the 4+ hour drive to the Canyon.   It is way too early for me to eat anything so I gulp down some water and it isn't long before we are driving into the Hoover Dam complex.  It is about 6 am at this point and we are the only car/people I see!  We park and take a walk to the Dam, where we look down at the enormous mass of concrete from above....the same look millions of others have and will take...as we stand next to the warnings painted on the cement next to us.



We spend about a half an hour, walking the roadway along the Dam and taking in the bridge that had just begun to be built during my last visit! (2010?)  As the sun crests the distant hills, we feel the obvious heat of the sun and we make our way back to the shelter of our air conditioned car!

 We hit the road, settling in for a long and relatively boring (geographically speaking) drive.  Dennis is driving so Pat and I are free to sleep, but we end up talking about family stuff...inquiries about things one of us may know about, family legends...and general catching up as it has been some time since we were together.
We do the typical fuel stops and grab travel food....Doritos, water, Granola Bars, Oreo Cookies...the usual. It isn't long before we close in on the Grand Canyon.  It is a bit strange because when you get near the entrance of the Grand Canyon, you don't see it.   It is not like a large body of water that you catch a glimpse of as you approach, or a mountain range that rises above ground level...easily seen in the distance.  It shouldn't be surprising since it is a "Canyon", ie...below ground level, but it is interesting in that you just expect to see something!

We wait in line for a bit, pay our fees and find the South Rim Visitors Center and Lodge. We check-in for our Shuttle that will take us to the North Rim and allow us to leave the Rental Car, so we can complete the hike North to South and start back to Vegas.
I walk out to the wall, where again, millions of visitors before me have stood in awe of the Grand view before them.  It is the first look at what we will be traversing and the scale of the hike now becomes more "real".  I hold up my cell phone and take a couple snapshots, hoping to capture some sense of the size/scale of the Grand Canyon.   It is so cliche' and so "beneath me" to photograph such a spectacular view with a mere cell phone camera!   OK, I am typical...one of the masses...I have joined the flock of sheeple!
First look at the Grand Canyon from the South Rim (Cell Cam Pic)
I figure that we will be back at the South Rim and I will have ample opportunity to capture some images using the DSLR I brought along for the hike both during the hike, as well as after the hike when we are back at the South Rim, hopefully enjoying a good dinner!
We grab a quick lunch...hot dogs and the like and we are soon boarding our air conditioned, 11 person van/shuttle.  We will be the only passengers, so plenty of room!  I figured I might be able to relax and get some sleep to make up for the general lack of sleep we have all experienced...I figured wrong.
It seems our driver, nice as he was, had aspirations of racing in the Indy 500!  He drove the large and rather cumbersome white van like it was a modern sports car!  Dennis looked back over his shoulder at me more than a couple times as we hurtled uncomfortably close to the edge of the winding asphalt , sometimes just inches from some 100-300 ft drop offs!  It was all I could do to resist the urge to say, "um...we are not in a hurry"!
We drove thru the Navajo lands that border the Grand Canyon and we passed homes and shops along the way.  I think about how sturdy and determined the Navajo people are to thrive in such a rugged and harsh environment.
4 hours later (30 minutes ahead of schedule) we arrive at the North Rim Village.  We thanked our driver (more for not killing us, than getting us there ahead of schedule!) and arranged for him to pick us up at 3:30 am the next morning, to drive us to the trail head some mile or so down the road.
We checked in/got the keys to our cabin for the night, claimed our respective bunks and then went to the nearby snack shop and grabbed some sandwiches for dinner.  


 
 We found a table on the patio overlooking the North Rim and settled in for a simple dinner as we enjoyed the view!

We were once again looking out over the expansive Canyon, but this time looking across and toward the South Rim, where we had had lunch just 4 hours earlier!  The sun was getting lower in the sky and we watched as the shadows in the Canyon steadily climbed upwards along the tall towering mesas.
It wasn't long before darkness fell and we retired to our cabin for the night. We we had decided to begin our hike at 3:30 am, to get some miles in before the Canyon heated up with the Arizona sunrise. 

 


Just before we were about to turn the lights out, Dennis is startled by a tiny, fast moving creature darting past him!  We figured it might have been a mouse...but soon discover it is a Chipmunk, likely looking for some free trail-mix or something!  It is amusing, but at the same time, none of us want to be awakened by a critter crawling over us in the middle of the night!
 We decided to secure our packs in the bathroom, as it was without holes in the floor and the door shut tight, unlike the cabin room we were sleeping in.  I also secured my hiking shoes in the bathroom, remembering a few times where a scorpion, spider, or snake had surprised me on some dark mornings in the distant past! (Think Army days)
We all agreed our little friend was welcome and we settled into what were verrrry comfortable and welcome bunks!
I had been dutifully taking ibuprofen for several days and as I dumped several pills into my hand, I dropped a couple on the floor.   I was careful to recover the dropped pills, as I observed our little friend lying comfortably on the couch across from my bunk.  I downed my "too many" pills and stuck my earplugs in to avoid the snoring of my brothers, who had already fallen asleep/begun snoring!
As I lay there thinking, like I always do, (I should be sleeping...ugh!) I couldn't  help but think that 24 hours prior, I had been in Tacoma!  Now here I am, 4 hours from starting the hike into/across, the Grand Canyon. 
Crazy.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Grand Canyon "Rim To Rim" Part 1 (From Dream to Reality)



About a year ago, I received a phone call from my youngest brother, Dennis.  Since he lives back home in Michigan and doesn't often call, I never quite know what to expect when it comes to the subject/purpose of the call.

After some "how are things?" chit chat, he asks if i would be interested in hiking the Grand Canyon.  Specifically, a 25 mile hike from one rim of the Canyon, down to the floor of the Canyon, across and back up the other rim...appropriately called, the "Rim To Rim".

I would learn that he has imagined completing this hike for years and had decided to quit thinking about it and simply do it this year.  His plan was to get a reservation at the "Phantom Ranch", that serves as a midway point and an overnight rest stop for the hike, allowing us to use a bunk house so we wouldnt have to hike in any tents or camping gear.  The problem with this, is that it is a VERY exclusive place given its remote location and the limited space it offers to hikers.

The Phantom Ranch is unique enough to require its own Blog post, but I will briefly touch on it.  It is a small group of buildings, set up near the Colorado River and the Bright Angel Campground at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  It is completely supplied by mule/horses...read that again...because if it is man made and its there, (or needs to go out) it is accomplished by mule or horses.  The compound has a couple of "male or female only" bunk houses...approximately 20 bunks total,  (10 per bunk house) and a small Canteen which serves as general store, meeting place and dining room.  The bunk houses have running water, a shower, a bathroom and are air conditioned.  There just aren't many bunks to be had, thus...the exclusivity!

I digress...

Dennis tells me that he called in, every day, for God knows how many weeks/months, hoping to simply get a cancellation at the Phantom Ranch because when they come open for reservations at the beginning of the year, they are usually sold out for the hiking season...within a few hours!  Long story short, he said that the last time he called in, he was told that there was a cancellation that had just posted.  He said, "I will take it!" not even initially inquiring as to when it was.

He said that a group had apparently cancelled and he reserved three bunks and three "steak dinners" at the Phantom Ranch, for one night, in late July.  He said he thought it would be a great trip and thought it would be even better if all three of the brothers (myself, Dennis and Pat) could do it together.

The trip would require 4-5 days, as we would fly into Vegas, then drive to the Grand Canyon to do the hike, followed by a return trip to Vegas to fly back home.  We talked for a bit, and I could tell the trip/hike was important to him.  I told him I would give it serious consideration, see about time off and the like, and get back to him in a few days.  In the meantime, he was going to ask Patrick about it.

Now, I have done some hiking, backpacking and road marching in days gone by...some of which were quite difficult/challenging.  Most of the difficult stuff was when I was in my 20's and 30's, and long before my Right knee needed to be replaced!

I had spoken to Dennis' wife about this hike and she confirmed that this was something that Dennis REALLY wanted to do.  She said that he was going to go, whether it was alone or with Patrick and myself!
 
I talked it over with my wife and a couple days later, I told Dennis I was "in solid".  Not long after, I made the round trip plane reservations that would set my commitment in stone. I didn't have to do much else, as Dennis had made the Hotel reservations in Vegas, the Shuttle reservation at the Grand Canyon and the Car Rental to get us there.  It was just a matter of splitting up costs.

After committing to the trip, I realized that the hike would present a few unique challenges that would combine to make the hike more difficult than the distance alone might suggest.

First, the reservation at the Phantom Ranch was for the 22nd of July.  In Arizona, July is well....HOT!  Not normal hot, Arizona desert 100-110 degrees hot!

Second, elevation.  Our hike would start at the North Rim which is above 8,000 ft, take us down 5,000+ ft and then back up almost another 5,000 ft.  It would present a challenge for us "sea level" dwellers for sure. 

Lastly, at least for me, was the poor condition of my R knee.  I know, I know, everyone has a "bad knee".  I hear it all the time too.  My situation is this:  In 1978...yeah I am old...I suffered a football injury that resulted in a knee surgery that removed all of the cartilage on the inside (medial) half of my right knee.  This is not to be confused with modern, arthroscopic surgery that removes a tiny portion, or trims a small piece of cartilage off and leaves you walking out of the Doctors Office a couple of hours later.  (Had that done last year to my L knee...no biggie)

I have had no cartilage between the bony surfaces on the inside half of my knee for almost 40 years.  Short story made shorter, I beat it up pretty bad in the Army with all the running, marching, jumping out of planes and the like and it endured a lot of abuse.  It was always just a matter of time before it would need to be completely replaced.  My Orthopedic Surgeon said it needed to be replaced about 10 years ago.  (then said I was too young and would have to wait?!)

 Looking at the knee from behind


So, I went to my Orthopedic Surgeon and told him what I had planned for July.  He laughed and said, "the good news is, you cant possibly make it worse"!  He recommended I get some Ibuprofen into my system before/during the hike, gave me a Cortisone Injection and said, "Enjoy the hike"!  Thanks Doc.

Sometime later, I learn that my brother Patrick, after some time, has committed to the trip.  In his case, there was concern about his being able to get the time off from his job.  There was also the peer pressure of knowing his "oldest" brother had committed to making the trip!  He almost HAD to go!  On a side note, his L knee is at least as bad as my R knee, but... he is equally stubborn, so Rim To Rim it is!

Ultimately, I think the idea of taking this on as three brothers encouraged each of us to really make an effort to make it work.  It would be the first thing we would undertake together as brothers, since I took them to get fast food while on leave from the Army back in the 80's!

Once committed, I began to consider how best to prepare.  Equipment-wise, I had what I needed...a Geigerrig 700 hydration pack that would also contain spare clothes, a flexible tripod and DSLR, and some "Lara Bars".

Physically?  Well, I knew we would be descending from the North Rim and ascending the South Rim.  This meant a steep downhill for at least 4-5 miles of the first days hike of 14 miles.  What this meant for me was: 
1.  Take a BUNCH of Ibuprofen prior to/during the hike.  (Sorry liver and kidneys..its just a few    days!)
2.  Strengthen my legs, specifically my quads and the structure supporting my knee.
3.  It's gonna hurt.  Steep downhills are hard on knees, healthy or not.

I began a regimen of cycling (stationary/recumbent) on a daily basis.  Not an easy, or pleasant 20 min ride daily...rather a serious, focused program to build muscle/strengthen my legs.  While I was at it, I added a Total Gym workout and stuck with the program for 6 months.  My "hill profiles" got steeper and I got stronger.


 
I chose cycling as it is the best "bang for the buck", given walking and/or running would tear up my knee.  I chose not to do some hard day hikes at altitude in the Cascade Mountains, just prior to the trip, as I did not want to injure or screw something up and not make the trip.  Laziness played a part too!  The workout regimen worked well.  I improved my strength, put some muscle on my legs and my cardio improved dramatically.

I knew there would be no "training" for/acclimating to, the expected 100-115 degree temperatures.  Just have to "suck it up".  I also figured the loss in elevation might be a blessing on day 1, and a curse on day 2.  Which reminds me...we had to do this hike in 2 days vs the preferred 3 days, because we were only able to get a bunk for one night at the Phantom Ranch.  Many hikers take a "rest day" at the Ranch, prior to heading up the South Rim.

The day comes...to board a plane and head to Vegas.  My brother Dennis had booked a show, "Love",  (Think Cirque Show set to Beatles music) for 7:30 that evening.  I would be arriving about noon or so.  Driving to the airport, I get a text from Alaska Airlines.  My flight had been cancelled and I was put on a flight for 9:35 that would get me into Vegas at midnight!  Ridiculous.


Long story short, we drive home and after an angry Sandi calls Alaska Airlines a couple times, I am able to rush to the airport and catch a 5:20 flight, (with about 40 minutes notice) getting me into Vegas just about 7:30.  Dennis is able to swap tickets for a 9:30 show and avoid completely screwing the night up.  My plane takes off from Seattle and it's not long before I look out the window and take the obligatory Mt Rainier photo, from above it's towering summit.

Mt Rainier

The plane ride is uneventful and the landing unusually smooth for Las Vegas!?  I disembark and walk past the slot machines that clutter the Airport, making my way to the cab stand. 







 A short cab ride later and i am at the Mirage and meeting my brothers.  It is a typically stoic reunion, as no one in my family gets excited when it comes to seeing each other...even if it were after 25 years and surviving an Earthquake and the Plague.  God forbid anyone show emotion...That's just us.

We sit down to dinner at a Brazilian Steak House and catch up while enjoying some amazing food!  We decide to get an early start in the morning, so we can run by the Hoover Dam, as Pat has never seen it.  Then it is just a matter of the long drive to the Grand Canyon, so we can make our shuttle check-in before 1:00.  We finish dinner and head to the show.  

 

 We enjoy a pretty impressive Cirque style show, and are taken back in time as the show chronicles the Beatles and the worlds events, as they move forward from WW2.  Particularly good from my perspective, is the sound system and music...loud, but crystal clear and with perfect mid-range that really highlights the vocals!  It's like John, Paul, George and Ringo are right there singing into a mic! 

 
"Pre Show" as there are no cams allowed once the show begins

Its about midnight when we make a short drive from the Mirage to the Excalibur Hotel, where we will stay the night.  (We will come back and stay at the Mirage once we complete the hike)  We take in  some of the Vegas Strip along the way!





 I call dibs on the bed that is right next to the A/C, as I like the cold air literally blowing on me as I sleep!  A bit of small talk and its lights out.

Tomorrow will prove to be a long day.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

100 Years



I like this song enough to have practiced playing it on the piano for several years now.  I intended on playing/recording it, and giving the recording (just the music, no words) to my daughter for her 15th birthday as a sort of message...to enjoy her youth and all the discovery it brings.  Frankly, I just never felt I was able to play it as perfectly as I wanted.  Funny thing is...she has heard me playing/practicing it a thousand times!

Years ago, I watched a very good movie that dealt with extreme hardship and the hope of escaping that hardship and confinement, to finally live...to live in a way that recognizes and values freedom and to consciously appreciate the time we have on this earth...and the people in our lives.  One of the lines from that movie (The Shawshank Redemption) was, "Get busy living, or get busy dying".  I have reminded myself of that particular line many times since hearing it.

This song reminds me, in a similar way...to live.  When I hear this song, I hear much of my life being sung about...youth, love, a family, crisis...and most of it is past tense.

It is a sweet tune...speaking to years passing in the blink of an eye, and of a finite life.  I am reminded that we will always remember "15"... but we can never go back.  It encourages me to value all of the years of my life and to live in the moment...and cherish the experiences and people that I encounter on the way to my..."100 years".

Have a listen.

100 Years




 

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Bit Of Magic!



Several years ago, while on a Cruise to Alaska, my wife, daughter and I attended a Magic show.

I have always LOVED magic!  I still watch in awe as Illusionists and Magicians make things disappear, tell me what card I am thinking of, and otherwise outmaneuver my ability to reason and logically analyze things!

On this occasion, we had the pleasure of watching World Champion Magician, Shawn Farquhar, perform an original and truly wonderful card trick set to a beautiful song by Sting.  This has been imitated and "re-done" by others since, but the experience...and the look of wonder in my wife and daughter's eyes will forever cause me to fondly recall this song and this performance.

Prior to his unique "sleight of hand" performance you can hear him say, "It's my favorite...

It is mine as well.  Enjoy.

Shape Of My Heart


 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Whiter Shade Of Pale


 
The English rock group, Procol Harum, recorded this song in 1967.  The groups name?  It came from the Pedigreed (think formal/fancy) name of a friend's Burmese cat.  Yep, really!

This was an unusual song, with a structure reminiscent of Baroque Music and was based on J.S. Bach's Orchestral Suite #3 in D Major.  Matthew Fisher plays the Hammond Organ and once heard, this song is hard to forget for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost is the haunting Organ Riff that opens and sustains the song.  It isnt often a rock song is based on a Bach classic!  It is instantly recognizable and combines with the rather "simple" drums and unique voice of Gary Brooker, to make the song a "one of a kind".  Second...and no less unique, are the cryptic lyrics that one struggles to make sense of!

The song Hit #1 in the UK as well as Australia, making it to #5 here in the USA.

The song is presented here in it's "Electronically Enhanced For Stereo" album version.  The original was a mono recording and this Album was produced in a manner that tried (Not very successfully) to take advantage of the rather "new" technology of "Stereo Recording".  I recorded it straight off the 1967 Album using my vintage turntable!    Check it out.

A Whiter Shade Of Pale



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

DSLR Astrophotograph: Orion



After watching a few episodes of "The Universe" on Netflix a few days ago, I decided to lug my telescope downstairs and take a look at the night sky, something I have neglected for some time.  I realized that I missed the quite, cold nights...my eye "wandering" amongst the familiar constellations and planets.

I had a quick look at Jupiter and realized that the "seeing" conditions weren't all that great.  I swung the scope around to the constellation Orion and took a look at a few of the stars, as well as the Orion Nebula under the left side of Orion's Belt.  I could make out the four stars of the "Trapezium" within the blurry, gas cloud that makes up the nebula. 

I called it a night and before I went inside, I took another look at Orion.  It is such a large and easily recognizable constellation...it literally dominates the winter sky!  I decided that the next night, I would dust off my Astrophotography skills and grab a decent shot of Orion.

Tonight, I went outside a bit after 8 PM and spent about 15 minutes capturing the necessary "Light Frames", "Dark Frames" etc., (Technical mumbo jumbo...it is not hard to do) that would combine to produce the finished photo of Orion.  After some "stacking" and processing, the photo below was the result.  You can even see the reddish star "Betelgeuse" (pronounced Beetle Juice) at the top left shoulder of Orion!  

 Constellation Orion:  Canon XS, 17-135mm, F5.6, eight 5 sec exposures stacked

 Next time you are outside on a clear night, Take a look up and to the south/southwest and see if you can spot the mighty Orion!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

One Hit Wonder #4: Love Is Blue

                                                  http://s2.depic.me/00141/uhtlvrg6j80o_o/001b6d6f.jpeg



Most of the time, when we talk about "One Hit Wonders", we are talking about Singers, or Bands...that performed one big hit song and then faded into obscurity.  In this case, I will be highlighting a "One Hit Wonder" in the form of a single song.

The man that arranged the instrumental cover of this song was a very successful Orchestra Leader by the name of Paul Mauriat.  The original song, "L'amour est bleu", (Love Is Blue) was written and composed by Andre Popp and Lyricist Pierre Cour in 1967.  

Paul Mauriat toured with his Orchestra and specialized in the "Easy Listening" genre of music.  He is perhaps best known in the United States for his Orchestra's performance of this one song.  In 1967-1968 this song spent 5 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.  It is the only time a French artist has ever topped the Billboard 100!

This instrumental simply stirs something in me that I cant put my finger on.  Something sentimental...romantic perhaps?  The simple but pronounced snare drum presence, the harpsichord riff, the almost "Chicago'ish", staccato feel of the brass punctuating the chorus...and of course the SOARING, SOARINGGGG  violins/violas...they all blend together in an unlikely combination that just hits the sweet spot for me!

I decided on a simple, Mono version of the song, played off an old "45", just like I would have heard it for the first time.  Gotta love YouTube!

Have a listen!

Love Is Blue
 

Friday, December 19, 2014

One Hit Wonder #3: How Long



Another One Hit Wonder for your amusement and listening pleasure!!

This is another 70's tune by a group called "Ace".

Many people really liked this song and knew it by heart, but could not tell you what group actually performed the song...Even back when the song came out!  

This song is instantly recognizable from the first few notes, given its unique bass guitar "hook"/intro.  It has a rather repetitive lyric, but I really like the strong bass line, the rhythmic synth/keyboard, and the great background vocals/harmony.  Give this song a listen and see if it "hooks" you as well!

How Long

    

Saturday, December 6, 2014

One Hit Wonder #2: Too Late To Turn Back Now



When I listen to music, or more specifically, songs...I am usually reminded of a particular person, place or time in my life.  Oftentimes, these are mental “snapshots” from my younger days and even my youth, as I still tend to listen to much of the music I enjoyed as a young man.  Why my taste in music hasn't stayed “current”, I really don't know.   Musically, I admit, I am stuck in the 70's and 80's (and maybe some 90's stuff?) for the most part!   I do venture out into the modern music world on occasion and find myself enjoying more recent stuff, but less than I probably should.

This particular song takes me back to the age of about 10, when I was “riding around” all summer with my friends, on a bike with a “Banana Seat”!  Riding into the 7-11 parking lot past a row of pay phone booths, to buy a few pieces of “penny candy”.  You know...Jolly Ranchers, Mary Jane's, Fireballs and the like.  I can almost feel the hot, humid, Michigan summer...and I remember the smell of fresh cut grass...and the incessant buzzy noise of grasshoppers.

Like so many of the tunes I like, this song has a strong violin/orchestral presence.   It also has a rather typical “Motown” feel, though this song was produced in Florida and not Detroit!?   The song speaks to that universal topic...the power of falling in love.  Although the concept was a bit foreign to me at this young age, I would appreciate the lyrics later in my life:)

The lead singer has the most unusual habit of completely distorting the last part of some of the words in the song.  It's a most unusual annunciation and for some reason, his careless addition of an “N” sound at the end of words that don’t end with an “N” for instance, adds a strange novelty to the song!

I love the drum intro, that leads right into the sweet, rich violins...and that crisp, simple drum beat and the soaring violins sustain the song till the very end. 

It is also obvious how old the song is, given the line, "I found myself phoning her at least ten times a day..."  I mean, no one "phones" anyone these days! (You younger folks, just substitute "texting" for "phoning"!)

The group, “Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose”, is comprised of siblings; two brothers and two sisters, and they have that “cool” 70's vocal harmony that was so prevalent in those days.  They actually had two pretty big songs, so technically they are a “Two Hit Wonder” I suppose?!?  This song hit number 2 or 3 on the charts, and got a ton of airplay on the local radio station CKLW.
 (Windsor, Ontario)

A good memory from the long past summer of 1972!

Click the link below.

Too Late To Turn Back Now

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Lime Kiln Lighthouse


Lime Kiln Lighthouse

A few months ago, while reading something about Lighthouses, I wondered if there were any local Lighthouses in the local Puget Sound area. It seemed logical, given all the water in and around the area!

After a bit of research, I discovered that there were several Lighthouses in the greater Puget Sound area, but that most of them were simply not “active”. Seems there are only a few that are still sending out a light or a beacon at night.

I also discovered that unlike the tall, grand, East Coast and Great Lakes Lighthouses, these local Lighthouses looked like...well...more like small houses with a small cupola on top! (Duh, “Light House”!)

I determined which of these were still active at night and decided to visit and photograph one at “Lime Kiln” State park, on San Juan Island.

I asked Sandi if she would like to join me and make an overnight trip of it, since it was a few hours away and would take the whole day to get there and wait for sunset etc. She agreed to join me in my little adventure and we booked a motel on nearby Whidbey island, so we wouldn’t have to make the long drive home that same night.

My goal was to capture the Lighthouse at, or just after dusk. I wanted to be able to capture some of the light from the Lighthouse’s lens if possible. Not a terribly difficult shot, but it would require some timing.

The morning of our little trip to San Juan Island, it was pouring rain. Arghhhhhhh!! I packed up my gear and we headed out, hopeful that the weather would be better two or three hours north!

A few hours later we had reached Anacortes and enjoyed some unexpected sunshine and blue skies!!?? To the immediate south, we could see literally, a mile high wall of dark clouds. Not knowing how long the line might be at the ferry terminal, we decided to get some lunch at a local place called the “Shrimp Shack”. My brother in law had recommended it highly and said it was an old school, shack of a place...but that it had great fish and fresh “peel and eat” shrimp by the lb. I figured we had enough time, so we made our way to the unassuming little dive, just north of Deception Pass.



 We enjoyed some amazing Cod as well as the requisite 2 lb's of fresh shrimp! We had fun sitting outside in the sunshine like two kids...peeling and tearing the heads off a hundred or more tasty shrimp! We realized, it had been a long time since Sandi and I had been anywhere without one,or both of our kids. It was nice to just hang out with each other.

I checked the time and we decided we had better get moving, as we were unfamiliar with the Anacortes Ferry and its Terminal. We took off for the Ferry Terminal and after following our less than accurate GPS, we arrived at the Anacortes Ferry Terminal. Just in time I might add! Had we missed this Ferry, the next one would not have made it to San Juan Island before sunset, dashing any hopes of a photo at dusk!


We drove onto the Ferry, got out of our car and strolled around the top deck of the Ferry, enjoying the calm water and surprisingly blue sky! First stop was Lopez Island, where a few passengers disembarked, then it was off to San Juan Island. We glimpsed a pod of Orcas along the way, though they were quite a distance away. We watched as their blowholes would create little blasts of water and air as they surfaced every so often.  We also passed another Ferry that was making the return trip to Anacortes. 


 
Upon arriving at San Juan Island, we disembarked and made the 20-25 minutes drive to Lime Kiln State Park, on the Southwestern side of the island. As we parked and got out of the car, we noticed that the clouds were steadily moving in. I hoped they would not overtake our little scene, before we got a few photos!

We walked about a hundred yards down to the water and the Lighthouse came into view. I must admit, I was a bit disappointed...it was so small! Why wasn’t the light visible!? Oh well, I set about finding the angle I wanted and I set up my tripod. Meanwhile, Sandi walked some 60-70 yards south of me to a designated “whale watching” point.

I took a few test shots, then walked around and snapped a few pics from some angles that I found less pleasing, as I waited for the sun to set into the horizon. And the clouds kept rolling in! Arghhhh! I then walked over to where Sandi was anxiously waiting to see a whale or an Orca. She is like a little girl at times like this...eyes wide, grinning and hopeful and grateful to see things uncommon to our daily life. She ooooh'd and ahhhh'd over a couple of seals that came close to shore and she patiently waited to see something bigger. I love seeing her like this.

The sun had started to move and as it set over over the nearby British Columbia coast, I started to see that the light in the Lighthouse was on! Seems that the rather small light source is reflected through “lenses” that focus the light and really only do it justice when it is much darker.

As the sky darkened a bit more, and the scene was still illuminated enough to capture the Lighthouse and its surrounding cliffs and shoreline, I began taking pictures...15-20 second exposures, making certain that I could still capture a bit of the yellowish light shining through the glass lens atop the Lighthouse.

Now, while I was trying to get my “Solitary Lighthouse” shot, there was a couple, hanging around...walking...sitting..and it was all directly in front of the darn Lighthouse! I decided that it was better to get the shot with them in it, than not at all! I also figured that they might not show up at all, given the dim lighting. A few of the shots I took had the couple sitting and raising their cameras out towards the water. What they were photographing, I had no idea...I just know that they were in my photo!! (Maybe you can spot them in the photo?)

     The Lime Kiln Lighthouse

About this time, Sandi comes running up to me excited and smiling, telling me she just saw a whale! She asked if I was getting the photos I wanted and then told me she was going back to look for more whales! She was certainly enjoying our little trip to San Juan Island!

About 30 minutes later, I lost the light needed to take the photos I was after. I packed up my gear and headed back to the car with Sandi, who sadly, had not seen any more whales. We commented on how we looked to have beat the rain, though the clouds had fully covered the sky at this point. I hoped they wouldn’t screw up my pics too much.

We drove back to the Ferry Terminal and found no one there but us!? Seems I had misread the schedule ( which had just changed that day/for the Fall) so we would have to take the last Ferry out, which left in about an hour and a half. We were hungry, so we checked out a little restaurant near the Terminal. We enjoyed a relaxing dinner, talked a bit about the whales, the Ferry ride and the trip as a whole. I even ordered some hot tea at the end of dinner...a sure sign of me being relaxed and enjoying myself!

We walked back to our car and when the Ferry arrived, we found that we were only one of two cars heading back to Anacortes that night! The attendants pulled us all the way up to the forward-most parking spot, at the bow of the Ferry Boat. Sandi covered up in a blanket and reclined her seat, to settle in for an hour and a half nap. I reviewed photos I had taken earlier and watched the Ferry moving through the night between the green and red marker buoy’s, about a half mile behind another Ferry in the distance.

In the belly of the San Juan Islands Ferry

I exited the car to stretch and stood alone at the front of the Ferry as it quietly moved through the darkness...a cold, crisp wind pushing past me and through the empty, hollow belly of the Ferry. I thought back on the day...I always seem to “review” the days happenings. (I think too much) It had been a busy, long, time-pressed day, but it had also been fun, exciting and even a bit adventurous. Sandi had seen her whales, and I had gotten my photos. Both of us having enjoyed the trip, the scenery and each other.

I think I may have even smiled...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Luna


 I  have always been partial to Nordic dog breeds and in particular, Siberian Huskies.  I find them to be spirited, energetic and very fond of people.  My love for them started when i was about 8 years old.

At that time, I had just read "Call of The Wild" and "White Fang", by the author Jack London.  I immediately fell in love with the idea of adventures in Alaska and the Klondike and in particular, the strong, determined and loving sled dogs that were the main characters in these stories.

Since that time, I have had the pleasure of enjoying two wonderful Siberian Huskies.  The first, a dog named right out of "The Call of The Wild"...Teek.  He was a strong-willed, close companion of mine some 20 plus years ago, and was part of a 6 dog sled team in Germany.  The second Siberian was a sweet and loving dog named Luna.

Almost twelve years ago, my wife and I went searching for a pet for my daughters 8th birthday.  We came across a female Siberian Husky pup that had been returned to the breeders because the owner found the pup too "challenging" and "difficult". (This is a VERY willful and spirited breed!)  We hung out for a bit, as it was a nice summer day and we played with the cute little puppy for a bit.  We were able to meet the Mom and Dad dogs as well.  The male was a very large framed, strong and majestic looking Siberian...outside of the standards for a Siberian Husky, but simply beautiful.  The female was smaller, more slender and had a gentleness to her expressions.  (We would find out later that Luna would take after her Father in stature and her mother in demeanor)

We scooped up the little puppy after explaining to the Breeders that we understood the extra challenges that a Siberian Husky would present and that we would give her a safe and loving home.  We headed home with the newest member of our family and as i recall, Sandi was quite skeptical of the idea of a new dog.  Me?  I was certain that this new puppy would be a blessing to our family.

We presented the puppy (Later named Luna) to our daughter, who immediately took to her new, little friend.

 

It was all very exciting until later that night when Luna, likely still missing her Momma, began to cry and howl.  This was pretty normal behavior for a new puppy, sooooooo I grabbed a ticking clock and a small blanket and hung out in the laundry room next to little Luna until she fell asleep.  This went on for a few weeks until she got cozy with her new home and surroundings.  Sometimes, as i would be quietly sneaking out of the laundry room...she would catch me!!...and back I went...until she fell asleep again...usually on my leg making it even harder for me to escape to my own bed!!

We enjoyed Luna for years...her begging for food, and her demand to be walked at about 5 pm nightly characterized by her half growling and half howling.  In short, she was an ever present part of our family and daily life.  Even Sandi, who was constantly at war with Luna over the trampling of the plants and flowers in her large garden, (Luna apparently thought it was HER garden!) came to enjoy the positive and loving effect that Luna brought to our family.

When Luna was about 6-7 years old and going through one of her "heat cycles", she found a way out of our heavily fortified back yard. (Another Siberian trait...escape artist)  I found out while at work and was immediately alarmed as Siberian's like to wander and run...they are NOT prone to returning home.  I was unsure we would get her back.

I went about putting up large, poster board signs throughout the neighborhood and some days later, at the suggestion of a friend, I placed a Craigslist ad.

                                              The Craigslist Photo                                                 

About ten days and a ton of my daughter's tears later, I received a phone call from a lady in Federal Way.  She said that she had responded to a Craigslist ad several days earlier that described a "Found", black and white Siberian Husky.  She told me that she had recently lost her Male, black and white Siberian and thought perhaps her dog had made it the 20 plus miles to Tacoma.  (Which would not surprise me!)

She said that she responded to the ad, and after hearing the description of the "Found" Siberian, she drove to the woman's house in Tacoma to see if it was her dog.  She said that while the dog looked very much like hers, she discovered it was a female, and not a male dog.  She told me that she was told by the woman that no one else had replied to the "Found" ad and that it had been several days.  She said that the woman told her that if she wanted the dog, that she could take it, as she only kept it to hopefully find the owner.

The lady from Federal Way told me that she took the Siberian and drove back to Federal Way, and decided on the drive home to name this "Found" dog, Luna! (Yes really!)

She told me that the very next day, she received a call from the woman in Tacoma, who told her that she had located the owner of the dog, and asked her to return the dog to her.  She said that she then drove back to Tacoma and dropped the dog off, so it could be reunited with its owner.

Now, she had told me this rather long story with some concern, as she told me that she had seen the ad I placed, as well as the photo I posted and she immediately recognized the dog as Luna.  She asked if I had been contacted by the woman in Tacoma and I told her I had not.  She gave me the address to the woman' residence, as she had kept it on her GPS from the day prior.  Turns out that the address was about 4 miles from our house.  I thanked the nice lady and Sandi and I drove to the woman's house.

The short story is...we were able to get our Luna back.  Apparently the woman in Tacoma had seen our ad, which included a 200.00 dollar reward, and had gotten Luna returned so that she could collect the reward. (We offered it to the lady that had called from Federal Way, but she declined)

We simply could not believe that after two weeks, we had found our dog!  It was a happy homecoming and my daughter was elated.  Other than a few scratches and some torn nails from what looked like a fight with another dog, Luna looked just fine.  Me?...I was out tearing down the 20 large poster board "Lost Dog" signs!

A few weeks later, I commented that Luna looked a bit "chunky".  Sandi thought it was just her winter coat coming in.  A few weeks later we took our chunkier dog to the Vet, who examined her...gave her an x-ray and then smiled and told us that Luna was pregnant with at least 6 puppies!

Are you kidding me!??! 

We set about preparing a "Den" for Luna, (Closet under the stairs) and several weeks later...we welcomed 7 brand new puppies into the world!:)  Luna needed no assistance and after a couple hours of labor, she was exhausted....but feeding and caring for her babies and gently licking them clean.

 

I watched Sandi grow much closer to Luna during this time.  She developed a strong bond with Luna the way only another Mom could....and she fell in love with every single one of the puppies....we all did.



8 weeks later, we had found homes for all of the puppies and after a few more weeks, Luna had re-adjusted to her human family...though it was painfully obvious that she missed her babies.

We enjoyed Luna for the next four years...her begging, her nightly walks, her sleeping next to my daughters bed each night, and her sweet and gentle kisses when we knelt down to pet her.  Luna even enjoyed a brief friendship with our Grandson, Landon...who was not afraid to pet her and offer his 2 year old face to be licked! (As well as sharing any and all of his snacks with her)  Luna was also part of Veronica's Graduation pictures as well as her Graduation Announcement.

 




We recently noticed Luna slowing way down on her nightly walks...to the point of her laying down.  She would then get up and try her best to finish the walk, but I could tell she was very very tired...very out of character for a Siberian.  I knew something was wrong.

After a few visits to the Vet and a few tests...I realized that our 11 year old friend was dying.   She was very ill and so very tired.  It weighed heavy on my heart.  I knew that we would have to let her go and I wished I didn't have to make the decision.

We spent the last few days just being with Luna...talking to her, petting her...and just loving her.


We went as a family to take our sweet Luna to the Vet for the last time.

Veronica looked up at me with tears streaming down her face...barely able to speak...and said, "I'm losing my best friend".  Each of us put a hand on our beautiful and cherished companion, petting her.  It was very, very difficult to watch my daughters heart break as she lovingly held Luna in her arms......until she passed.

As anyone who has lost a cherished pet knows...these are special creatures.  They are here for a short time....an abbreviated life....but that short time is no less fulfilling and no less enjoyable.  We will miss Luna...each in our own way and we will treasure our time with her...and our memories of her.