Monday, June 28, 2010

Gone Fishin'

Nick had a great day fishing the Homer tuck with a fabulous boat captain. Nick is standing over his King salmon limit (only person on the boat to catch a King). Everyone limited on halibut. You are allowed two kings per day (five in one year) and two halibut per day. Thirty seven pounds of salmon and halibut are on their way to San Francisco.
Greg Sutter is a hell of a boat captain. Tim, one of the three clients with him on our day, stands next to Greg. Greg had us out in terrible, windy weather, trying to get all of us our fish. We were one of the most successful boats.

This was an early morning shot before the rains came. A bit of Milt's head (the second of the three clients) shows on the right. It was a hell of a good time.

Aleknagik Smolt Sampling Day

The above photo is a kitchen shot taken at the Lake Alekgnagic station. Jackie, station manager, has been there for seven years. She holds a master's degree in biology. She is an expert field researcher and also has cooking skills! We feasted on pork ribs and chops the second night in the station.

This is a typical view of Lake Alekgnagic. All four interconnected lakes in this system are very large. It takes two hours by fast boat to get between the two stations (Aleknagic and Nerka).

This was the mother lode of smolt, taken from one of the beaches sampled on Aleknagic. Other beaches just had a few. Consider that tens of millions of smolt escape the system every fall to try their hand at becoming adult sockeye salmon. The Bristol Bay commercial fishery takes around thirty million sockeye a year, without affecting the health of the system.

This is a photo of a typical beach sampling scene.

Here is the crowd on the day's sampling. Jackie and Rachel are the managers of the sampling effort. Owi is an intern for the summer. Mary is supervising the entire effort while Nick is photographer for the day.

University of Washington Research Station Outing

The above photo is of Dan Schindler, head of the Aleknagic research station, near Dillingham. This University of Washington station has been in existence since 1946. Nick in his posting "What makes a good coach" summarizes the findings about the sockeye population in the Aleknagic system.
Dan's wife, Laura Payne, is an ornithologist. She is studying the population of wood swallows that migrate every summer from southern California to this site to reproduce. This photo, shown together with Laura and Dan's six year old daughter Luna, is of several one day swallow chicks.

Here Laura is examining a green sided flycatcher chick that was found in one of the swallow's nest boxes.

Here is another photo of the flycatcher chick.

These are four very hungry swallow chicks. After Laura has trimmed a bit of toe nail from each chick (to facilitate identification if they are caught in adulthood, she puts them back in the nest. The nests are boxes that Laura built and mounted in trees in a meadow near the University of Washington's Lake Nerka site (part of the Aleknagik system). One opens the side of the box by unscrewing it, and the chicks and adults are there. By plugging the entrance hole to the box when the chicks are out, the parents can't tell they are gone, and will not abandon the nest. When the chicks are returned, the plug is pulled from the hole in the box, and invariably one or both parents is back inside within a minute.

Friday, June 25, 2010

"What makes a good coach is knowing what the result is supposed to look like"-Vince Lombardi as told to John Madden

The Aleknagik system, feeding into Bristol Bay, Alaska is one of the few unspoiled habitats for salmon in the world. Nick's prior exposures to salmon habitat were the Columbia River system (95% salmon population decline due to excessive damming (Grand Coulee, Chief Joseph, Rocky Reach, Wanapum, the Dalles, and several other hydroelectric dams), the Klamath River (hundreds of miles of salmon habitat isolated by two main stem dams) and California (all rivers have been dammed and water diverted). Aleknagik has been studied continuously since 1946 by the University of Washington. Through sediment boring, the health of the habitat for sockeye salmon has been extended to the last glacial period. The evidence from all of the research is that the sockeye population is as large as or larger than it was thousands of years ago, despite the substantial annual harvest taken by Bristol Bay fisherman for the past 130 years. Climate warming may be the cause for the improvement, given that Aleknagik has exceedingly short summers (ice out begins May 30 and ice returns towards the end of September)


The importance of Aleknagik to caretakers of salmon in the lower forty-eight is that this is what the restored environment should look like. Some of the critical research findings, all of them eye-openers to Nick, are:


  1. Aleknagik Lake itself (one of four interconnected lakes) provided an opportunity to sample twenty nine separate sockeye groups. They overwhelmingly demonstrated phenotypic variation mostly as a function of spawning habitat. For example, two adjacent populations ( creek and beach spawners respectively) showed dramatic variation in phenotype, but the beach population was almost identical to another beach group over 50 kilometers distant;
  2. Sockeye spawn in three distinct landforms, beaches, small creeks, and rivers.
  3. Spawning sockeye come onto their redds at different times during the overall spawning run.
  4. Each river and creek has a large annual variance in numbers of fish, but there is very little covariance. The result is a stable annual escapement of sockeye from the system into the Bristol Bay fishery. The positive result for the fishing industry is that closure of the fishery is only likely once every forty years. The northern California salmon fishing fleet can be properly envious.


Thinking carefully about these findings, evolutionary adaptation by the sockeye to the fine gradations of its environment has stacked the deck (selected for) species survival in a big range of possible adverse conditions. Also, it appears that the "action" is in the small creeks more than in the rivers. The creeks provide numerous protected, quiet pools where smolt can grow. Thus, when salmon restoration programs in the lower forty eight focus only on placing salmon in large rivers, failure is likely.


The trout-addicted fly fisherman also should take careful note of the Aleknagik system. Rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, Arctic Char, and Arctic Grayling are all dependent on salmon eggs and decaying carcasses for their most significant growth. Trout have evolved a tricky adaptation, given that they typically require warmer habitat to thrive than salmon, who seek colder water. Trout swim rapidly from their lairs to gobble up salmon eggs in colder water, and quickly return to warmer water.


Finally, even bird fans can take lessons from the Aleknagik story. Tree swallows that next closer to salmon runs produce more chicks and sustain a higher survival rate than more distant nesting birds. The insect biomass consumed by the swallows is larger near decaying salmon due to resulting nutrients that favor micro-invertebrates.

Monday, June 21, 2010

June 20, Ankorage


10:30pm and the sun still shines low on the horizon over Cook Inlet, the view from our hotel window near the airport. Tonight we're in Ankorage and have half of tomorrow to sightsee some in town before our departure for Dillingham. So far we've managed a Starbucks, a mall with a shoe store (needed a water resistant walking shoe for the many rainy days), and a Walmart (that pesky, hard-to-find a 50 or 30 to 20 amps adapter). Not much to Ankorage but lots of fast moving 3-lane roads past low rise, poorly planned, malls filled with low end retail shops or bars, gas stations, hair salons, and all manner of small businesses. A working class housing neighborhood with modest bungalows near our hotel where I walked (9:45pm -- like late afternoon, high summer, upper mid-west) is pleasant - grassy lawns, filled with mature large blooming lilacs, bright colored annuals, mature birch trees - very pleasant area to walk.


Tomorrow is the summer solstice. I find the continuing daylight somewhat unnerving - I stay up too late at night even when I'm tired. I wake up at night, any time - 3am, 5am - and it's still light, a continual gray light through the night as far as I can tell.  Weird, but on a sunny day such as this one in Ankorage, very seductive to continue enjoying the beautiful light.


nick has commented on some of our activites in Seward, a small town, with town fathers interested in controlling all forms of commercial development, according to the RV owner's comments. Consequently, I found it quite a charming little town,not spoiled by uncontrolled growth. It is surrounded by commanding natural beauty and two national parks. We saw some of its beauty for the first time this morning - few clouds covering the surrounding snow and glacier-covered mountains. Seward is a big tourist town with much to offer. We sampled a day on the bay viewing much wildlife and many birds on our cruise to Northwestern glacier (where Nick took the photo of the harbor seal in the calving glacier filled inlet). And we had another visiting Seward's Marine Life museum and walking the town. The downturn in the national economy has made it hard for some small merchants to stay in business judging by the number of empty store fronts on main street. Many local residents make it clear that summer is the time of the year that they make money. The RV owner told me she worked 7 days a week all summer. I asked when does she take a break, she said "winter". Everything is very quiet then. Most workers in town are government workers in some form. The others work like crazy all summer and pick up odd jobs in the winter when available. Otherwise there is commercial fishing and service businesses for the local community.


Time for bed. 11:30pm and the sun is still above the horizon. Nick just covered his eyes with his eye mask. I should do likewise.    Mary

Sunday, June 20, 2010

More Photos

Mary explaining a point during our picnic in Haines

Camper parked along the Cook Inlest

Ninety-five pound halibut caught by a nice young guy

Harbor seal enjoying 36 degree water

View at low tide in Northestern Fjord, Kenai Fjord National Park

Scene at Seward docks

June 19th Chat on Eve of Departure from Seward

The woman who owns our RV park says that white people in Alaska don’t like to work. This was in response to Mary’s comment that we heard a lot of Spanish spoken in Anchorage. The current generation of young people says, “Hey, I don’t need to take that kind of work”. The owner’s daughter is twenty-five and pregnant and says that she wants to take care of the baby, and doesn’t feel like she should have to work. Mom rolls her eyes. It is difficult to get work in Homer, but her son got a job cleaning the barnacles off of fishing boats, working at night. He is happy with the wages and the free time he gets during the day time. Mom is from here, and lived away only during a two-year stint in Florida, which she hated. She is no longer with the husband that took her there for a military posting. I met her current husband, who re-filled the camper propane tank. He is a nice guy who spends a lot of time sitting on a bar stool watching TV.


We had a “townie” kind of day. We went to the Homer based Alaska Sea Life research institute, where they care for wounded wild life. It is a small scale Monterey aquarium as well and has many wonderful tanks with live fish, King crabs, jelly fish, and others with harbor seals and a very large Stellar sea lion. When we finished with the exhibits we wandered to the other end of town and had a great lunch, peeler shrimp, and seafood salads. Later we drove to the Exit Glacier, an outfall from the Harding ice field. This outfall has receded steadily from its first sighting in 1821. One of the more interesting pieces of research on glaciers is that the scientists have cored many glaciers and they report that the pace of glacial melt has never been as fast as it is now for the last ten thousand years.


The rain continues steadily. We may get a couple of glimpses of the sun in Dillingham when we head that way on June 21st for our visit to the University of Washington salmon research station. A recent paper from the scientists there indicates that the sockeye salmon sustain very high reproduction rates, due to the high variability of their spawning cycles. Several sockeye sub groups make their pilgrimage from May through July, and this dispersion of the species reproduction cycle assures that some will find the right opportunities to feed prior to spawning and good water conditions for running the rivers.


In the morning we will take a final look around here, maybe visiting an Alaska state salmon weir around the corner from our RV park. Apparently several fish a day are crossing the weir.


Communication back to the lower forty-eight has been pretty good, but we are going into the first of our off-the-grid side trips. We will leave the PC and cell phones in Anchorage when we fly to Dillingham, and will begin the use of electrons again when we return to Anchorage on June 24th. Our plans are vague from that point, but we will most likely head to Homer, a good place to base ourselves for a few days of visits to other Kenai Peninsula towns. We also have a sketchy program in mind to visit Kenicot in Wrangell-Elias National Park. This was the site of Kennecott Copper’s first major mine. There is probably a reason why the spelling changed. Perhaps the corporate geniuses decided that more letters in the name means more prestige. Some wag told us that Kenicot is better than Denali because it contains a lot of “funky Alaska”. We are looking forward to figuring out what that means.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Here is a truly random selection. From the top, Northwestern Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park, Photo along the Haines Highway, Ketchikan, and Mary with drying socks. Peace to all

How Did We End up in Seward? Musings on the evening of June 17th

Alaska provides some constraints on a driving trip that require an adjustment to the routine of even the road savvy couple. The distances are enormous, and the map is misleading to those of us who have only driven the lower forty eight. The roads are sometimes good and sometimes not. Frost heaves abound and the prudent driver doesn't want to go air borne too frequently. All the road repairs are done in June and July, so the friendly hello of the lonely flag man occurs often (one of these guys entertained him self and us by showing the dragon fly sitting on his arm, consuming the last of a bumble bee it had caught in mid air. The waits are less than ten minutes, but occur several times a day.


Taking all of this into account, we realized that we won't have time to cover all of the Kenai Peninsula in between our next two fly-in trips, and so we ambled down to Seward to get this piece of the Kenai under our belts before the flight out to Bristol Bay. The usual spectacular vistas lay around every bend in the road. Much of the morning we drove along one arm of the Cook Inlet. Nick remembers the Cook Inlet people who had a huge investment fund in the early eighties, and who bought into several startup cable TV companies in the lower forty-eight. They probably made damned good money. A glacier enters the Cook Inlet far to the east and south of where we drove.


We broke the journey with a fine hot sandwich and soup lunch at the Mt. Alyeska ski resort. Mary got a recommendation from one of the nice shoe clerks at a mall in Anchorage. I spent the shoe buying time reading the WSJ on my Kindle, but I did overhear Mary and the two girls talking about mid-summer's night approaching in a few days (the 21st of June). Mary said something like "do you have sexual orgies like in Scandinavia on that evening?" I missed the reply but I think the young women were a little surprised.


We arrived late afternoon to a nice spot six miles from Seward, got the camper rigged up and put the RV park laundry machines and shower facilities to work. Nick learned the previous night that not all RV parks have electrical outlets to receive a typical three prong 20 amp 110V plug. That led to a question of the manager of this night's RV facility, and she loaned me a conversion plug (50 to 20 amp). Looks like we need a trip to the hardware store tomorrow.  It has rained on and off for several hours, much like yesterday evening. The pattern is: mornings are cloudy but dry, with the sun poking through the clouds occasionally, while the afternoons bring a steady, moderate downpour. We drove into Seward and had a good seafood dinner and beer and wine. The restaurant was crowded with tourists and locals, a bit of a shock to ears more accustomed to road sounds and quiet camper life. Tomorrow we get a nine hour cruise of the Northwest Fjord of Fjordlands National Park. If it would stop raining we could get a hike in the following day. The snow level is down to about 1,500 feet, so until it does clear we are restricted to walking on the flats. That is a possibility because Seward is situated in a very wide harbor.


Here are some notes from our June 15th dry camp at Lake Creek, the Yukon.


This was the first day we put substantial mileage on the truck. We picnicked along the Haines Highway, in view of Haines Junction, situated below in a beautiful valley. The Haines Highway is a glorious journey past glacier-filled mountains and very long vistas.


We refueled at Haines Junction. The fuel stop owner, a Chinese man and his wife, took time out from their Chinese language color TV program to take Nick's money. They told another customer that business was slow but beginning to pick up with the summer travelers.


We moved on to Lake Creek campground, not far from the US border. This was an absolutely silent campground in the woods. The camper really shows its stuff at dry camps. We have abundant water, hot water, cooking heat, refrigeration, lights and a furnace to take the morning chill off.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Haines Day

Despite our plans, we never left Haines. It was nice to be on land again, without rain. We found a state park with views of two glaciers across the Lynn Fjord, and picnicked. We then went to two museums, a presentation by the Bald Eagle foundation, and three grocery stores. The match between the number of activities and grocery store visits was an accident.

The previous evening on the ferry Nick went out for a final cigar break and lucked out. Nine humpbacked whales spouting and rolling. One went airborne and came down with a huge splash. No pictures of that event. Too dark and the camera was packed away.

We will try to get more photos into this blog. Right now there are some connectivity problems to be worked out.

Dinner calls.

A Blog Posting from Mary

   Finally I'm at our shared computer to add my thoughts and reflections on this remarkable journey Nick and I are sharing.  I write now, late morning, while Nick reads the recently downloaded Sunday New York Times. We went ashore in Ketchikan, our first stop en route to Haines early this morning. We spent most of the hour we had in the Best Western lobby downloading emails, the NYT, and the New Yorker onto the Kindle. We are in our full second day on board the ferry.  The days have a flow to them: much reading until eyes blur then a break gazing at the surrounding shoreline mountains and looking for wildlife – some whale spotting; then another break to walk around, up and down the three flights of stairs, to restart the blood circulation system. It is cold, sometimes raining and standing outside chatting with fellow passengers and admiring the scenery is a great pastime. Mostly we cruise through very narrow channels, protected from the pitch and movement of the open ocean. When we do pass through areas open to the Pacific, the swells are notable. Last night while sleeping, the fruit I had resting on the sink counter, rolled into the sink.  I was glad I was in bed, safe from being thrown around.

   The quality of the snack bar and dining room are mainstream America, but they mark a break in the reading and gazing. Many of our fellow passengers have brought most of their food because purchasing it on board is expensive. We too have brought some of our own food to enhance what we choose to purchase. While Nick and I have a cabin room with private bath, many other passengers spend the threes days on board living in one of the lounge rooms – generally sleeping on the floors – or on some plastic garden-type lounge chairs in an area euphemistically called the solarium. The solarium is on the upper most rear deck space, roofed, but open to the fresh air and blowing winds. On another rear deck, fully exposed to the elements, yet others have pitched tents to sleep and place their belongings. Currently it is quite cold. Those folks living outdoors wear their wool hats, fleeces and rain jackets for a little warmth. They sleep in sleeping bags.

    If I remember to inquire about the number of passengers – varies from port to port – I'll report a definite number, but I'd guess there are more than 150. There are also a large number of staff members keeping this moving hotel/living quarters operating. There are no public spaces without people, but they are very pleasant and we prefer them to our cabin. The staff present various forms of entertainment throughout the day. We have three lectures on Alaska – the Tsongess National Forest, the inland waterways, and native culture.  There are movies for kids a couple of times a day. Navigation maps of the inland waterways are posted and a staff member moves a large yellow arrow to indicate exactly where we are. I find this information most interesting.

    Back to reading…currently the Girl With the Dragon Tatoo and Blood River.


Ketchikan-A Gash in a Fjord

Today is June 13th. We were rousted at 6:30AM by the loudspeaker announcing our arrival at Ketchikan. It had been a short night, with sleep disturbed by one of the open ocean crossings. (This means rock and roll for the uninitiated) Ketchikan is a surprise, just a little dock space and marina for containers and small boats, and a sprinkling of buildings halfway up the hill fronting the fjord. The airport sits across the channel from town and a small ferry brings people across. Four large cruise ships were packed into moorage at the far end of town. There is a very active sea plane service right next to the ferry boat landing. Heavy, windy squalls came through every ten minutes or so, and the temperature didn't get above fifty degrees


Still, we took advantage of the short stay (one hour) to get our electronic doper fix of email and New York Times downloads to the PC and Kindle. Ketchikan's Best Western staff was kind enough to let us onto their wifi. Good smells of fried eggs and sizzling bacon came from around the corner, but there was no time. Nick downloaded two oatmeal cookies from a vending machine for later consumption. Mary met a young woman who had just graduated from college in Arcata, CA. She and a friend are bicycling forty nine states for a year. They rode from northern California to Bellingham and got on the ship. They will get off at Haines, to ride the Alcan back to Montana. They have panniers for their gear. Maybe in a year the economy will recover enough so that they can get jobs. Back on board the M/V Columbia, Nick found good cell phone reception and called and left VM's for our daughters. Even the Spot Messenger (portable GPS) worked, most likely because it is easier to find the satellite when sitting still. Nick had tried to connect the Spot en route yesterday and was unable to get a fix.


We have less than twenty four hours to Haines; with intermediate stops at Wrangell, Petersburg, and Juneau (we'll skip that one, given the 3:15AM arrival). Nick hopes to be allowed to get off at Wrangell. Who in his right mind would miss an opportunity to say he spent time in Wrangell? Hopefully, a few months from now everyone will forget that the stop-over lasts less than an hour, giving Nick the opportunity to talk about all of the salmon he caught and logs he skidded during the journey. (Addendum) Wrangell is one of the sweetest smelling places in the north. Pine resin and sea remind us of what the environment used to be like generally along the west coast. Wrangell was founded as a Russian fort in 1834 to restrain the expansion of the British. That didn't work out so well. Later, Wrangell was an outfitter for both the Cassiar and Klondike gold rushes, as miners headed up the Stikine. Today this is a peaceful town, loaded with wooden churches and, hopefully, an equal number of bars.


Mary has been completely relaxed. "There is nothing I have to do, so I am comfortable doing nothing." She is racing through the first Stieg Larson book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, having read the second novel first. The two of us roll around the ship like marbles, running into each other every hour or two. We hang together and tell tales of people met and things seen then go off again. We still have some food from the camper, and the leftover cheese, salami and crackers are better than anything sold on the ship. The cook and wait staff are all State of Alaska employees and, due to state law, cannot accept gratuities. The result is the expected in both the cooking and the serving.


It will be great to drive off at Haines tomorrow morning. The ship is comfortable and convenient, but cabin fever is creeping in. Problem number one is lack of exercise. Problem number two is the tantalizing scenery rushing by, but with no way to get out into it. The routine onboard is reading, looking out the window, going on deck for photos and binocular searches (a few porpoises and an occasional partial whale viewing, plus two bald eagles), listening to mediocre Forest Service lectures, chatting up the crew, dining on bad food, and sleeping.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

M/V Columbia-Beginning Second Day

Jim and Jan Carrell picked Mary and Nick up on June 11th at the Fairhaven Inn, near Bellingham, WA. Jim and Nick were good friends in college and have fished a little together. Jim is a retired mathematics professor at University of British Columbia. Jan and Jim met at the University of Washington fifty years ago. After loads of conversation and a great seafood lunch on the Chuckanut Highway’s Shell House, Mary and Nick drove onto the ferry. Um, that is, four hours after arriving in line, we drove onto the ferry, the last but one of all the vehicles. In the meantime, we saw a full fire truck and an eighteen-wheeler go on board. One reason for our delay is that we disembark at the next to last stop. Beyond that, who knows? The shape of our vehicle was a good fit for one of the last spots on the truck deck. In any event, after hoisting about 150 lbs of gear up the steel stairs, we met the Purser, who gave us the keys to our berth. Immediately after, the ship horn sounded and we were off into a gorgeous sunset and the glassy Sound.


We cruised up the remnants of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, enjoying a stunning vista of Mt. Baker. We had a poor meal in the dining room and went back outside. Before complete darkness we found the lights of the Port of Vancouver. We could even see lights on top of Whistler. A few porpoises messed around with the ship.


Nick, while on cigar duty, met Chief Johnny Ruiz, head cook. Like many professional cooks, he is a chain smoker. He has lived in southern California, Idaho, Utah, and now Anchorage. He bemoaned the shipping of water from Idaho to California during one of our state’s many dry spells. Nick apologized on behalf of the whole state. Johnny worked for seven years as the helmsman on a seagoing scientific sailing vessel, saying it was the hardest job he ever had. He got two weeks a year off, “not good for a marriage. Fortunately, I have a great woman, and we are still together.” The science was to examine volcanic fumaroles at the bottom of the ocean. He said that they saw unbelievable life formations, including many that live on a sulfur rather than oxygen cycle. To him, this dramatically opens up possibilities of life forms on other planets.


During a walk this morning, Nick met another new buddy, Marshall, on deck with his wife and four kids. His Dad is still asleep. Marshall finished his residency and fellowships at Stanford medical school this year, and is taking up his first job, in Anchorage. He is a pediatric anesthesiologist. His father, who lives in Utah, flew to California, drove a one way U-Haul back to Utah with the family furniture, then flew back to drive a second car for the family to Alaska. It sounds like he needs the sleep, since he is really old (one year older than Nick). Once the family gets to Anchorage, Dad will fly home.


An annoyingly efficient sound system carries all sorts of announcements, including into our berth. We just got the morning “Car Deck” call. Three times a day, passengers can return to their vehicles for fifteen minutes. There are many dogs on this journey and they are not allowed out of the vehicles. Given that some will be on board for almost three days, the owners are allowed to go down and care for pooch. The imagination creates all kinds of bad scenarios regarding what pooch has done in the truck overnight.


Nick had a nice exercise walk and a few calisthenics on an outer deck. Mary is doing the same at this moment, and then we will go for breakfast. The weather is deteriorating.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Update and Backdate

We have arrived in Bellingham. The ferry is five minutes away. Our hotel overlooks a noisy railroad track, a parking lot and warehouse roofs. Not what Nick imagined, but we also see Puget Sound out the window. There is nothing picture worthy about our vantage point.
However, the Mt Shasta City evening was very nice, and Nick encloses a couple of pics of that segment. The first is of Mt Shasta, showing some of its snow load. The second is of Mary standing at the steps of our camper, prior to dinner. The RV park was pretty basic, but had an electrical hookup.
Tonight we are heading out for a walkabout, and a seafood dinner. Despite the clouds, one can already tell that it stays light quite late. Last night, along the Oregon/Washington border, it was light until 9PM despite the rain.
It is quite nice disengaging from the news. Never heard anything about the oil spill today. Maybe it is a figment of Rush Limbaugh's imagination.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Watching Ships on the Columbia River

Two days into this trip have led us to a nice RV park on the north bank of the Columbia River. We sit in our comfy camper, working the electronics and dinner prep simultaneously. Strangely enough, we still have elements of the Walkure working our neurons. Serious music dopers, Mary and Nick. Northern California, Oregon and Washington show evidence of a very wet winter and spring. Rivers (Sac, Klamath, Rogue, Wilamette, Columbia) are full, as is Shasta Lake. Mt Shasta has enormous snow covering this year, apparently twice normal.

Weather is not cooperating for sun lovers, with rains forecast for the next several days no matter where we go. It matters not, given that we are either driving or sitting on a boat for awhile. Bellingham is our destination tomorrow and a night in a hotel (shower time and a seafood dinner). We meet our frineds the Carrels for brunch at an oyster house on the 11th before putting the rig on the M/S Columbia, our Alaska ferry.

The camper is working well. It is very efficient to set up. Once the top is raised, the first item is to make the bed so that all of the pillows, blanket, sleeping bag can go in the over cab space. The second thing is to pull down the dining table from the roof mount and set it up. The refrigerator runs dual fuel (propane or electricity) so when we have a hookup, we switch over.

Rain has started, but dinner has too. Time to enjoy it. This beats the hell out of tent camping.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The wheels are starting to come off

The mental wheels, that is. The space shuttle doesn't require the logistics for this venture. Nick and Mary have eight electronic gadgets (two digital cameras, Ipod, two cell phones, one Spot Messenger, a Kindle, a PC), each one requiring a different sized charger or battery. Many of these have web support, and most of the usernames and passwords differ from each other.

Clothes for the trip are either in Napa or San Francisco, and it is whack-a-mole to figure out which.

Food is sufficient to feed us for over two months, but the truck/camper won't carry all of it.

One way or the other, we are off on Tuesday.