Wednesday, July 23, 2014
While driving around White Rock, BC, I noted this little house with pretty flower baskets. I took a photo of it, but didn't notice that my camera had changed its lens setting to "fisheye". When I looked at the image later, I thought, "Oh, no... it looks really weird." But then I realized that it was actually a pretty cool, if not totally accurate, rendering. It reminded me of a house that's been flooded with water and is about to burst...
Tuesday found us awaking at 0400 (that's called oh-dark-hundred in the Navy) to catch an Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to Wrangell, Alaska, via Ketchikan. "You're in Alaska?!" you ask? Yes, the adventure continues! We were flying to visit my second cousin, Jim Abbott, and His Lovely Bride Betty; I had not seen Jim in over 50 years. Jim served in the US Navy as a hospital corpsman with the Marines in Viet Nam, and in hospitals on Guam and in Adak, Alaska, and is a retired medical lab supervisor; Betty is a retired elementary school teacher. Today they are celebrating their 49th wedding anniversary!
Jim and Betty have lived in Wrangell for 41 years, and built themselves a beautiful home on the west side of Wrangell Island. This is the view from their deck...truly spectacular and inspirational!
One of the really funny incidents during our visit came when Jim offered us a glass of wine. To say that Jim and Betty are not drinkers sort of understates the situation. They brought out several bottles of wine for us to choose from, all gifts from friends; vintages from 1985, 1994, 1996 and 2001 were all represented, but unfortunately, all of the wine had "turned", and had to be discarded. Betty laughed that the garbage man would think that they had hosted a really wild party, with seven empty wine bottles in the trash can...
Southeast Alaska, or the Alaska Panhandle as it is better known here, is very wet, getting about 90 inches of rain per year. Orlando, Florida, as a comparison, gets about 52 inches annually. The rain forest here is very green and much more dense than any I have hiked in other than the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. Fortunately, today was sunny and warm (65F) so we went on a 2 1/2 hour local hike today up to Rainbow Falls and beyond.
Rainbow Falls was beautiful, and the trail above the falls even more challenging. We didn't see any bears, and although we were carrying an air horn for protection, we were happy not to have to use it. (An air horn???) The infamous Alaskan mosquitoes also gave us a break; we sprayed repellant on our arms and legs, and hardly noticed more than a couple of the little pests.
Posted by Ty and Suzanne Giesemann at 10:43 PM
Saturday, July 19, 2014
A Sylvan Cathedral; Oh, Canada! Rising Damp? Bread Pudding; Tandoori and Vindaloo; No More Guano For You!
Before leaving our Bellingham campground, we went on another hike though the forest. This time, though, it wasn't at 4 in the afternoon with lots of noisy boys and adults chattering about their love lives. At 0830, we had the trail to ourselves for most of the way, and the very few people we did pass were, like us, reverently silent and enjoying the cathedral-like atmosphere of the deep woods.
Shafts of soft early morning light cut through the trees and illuminated the undergrowth and fallen trees with a surreal glow. When you're in this church, you know that there is a God or Mother Nature in charge.
Even this humble cedar stump took on an unusual, other-worldly aspect...
We departed Bellingham on Friday morning and are now back in Canada... British Columbia, to be precise. I have to admit that the border crossing was not as pleasant as it could have been. The electronic road sign said that there would be a 60 minute wait at the I-5 crossing, but it would have been much shorter had it not been for the line jumpers. Here's the setup: there are two lanes of traffic lined up for a mile or so, and the third lane on the right is for NEXUS subscribers, individuals who have preregistered, had their backgrounds checked and irises scanned, paid a $50 fee, etc. Huge signs painted on and above the roadway clearly identify which lane is for the very few folks who use NEXUS. But as we were waiting patiently in our lane with hundreds of cars and RVs ahead and astern of us, here are dozens of yahoos driving up the NEXUS lane from far behind us and then cutting into the lane ahead of us, adding lots of time to our wait. I wanted to go out with a baseball bat and smash the offenders' headlights, but My Lovely Bride convinced me that a Canadian jail wasn't the optimum way to meet the locals. We finally got to the check-in booth, and as we drove through, I was gratified to see the Mercedes with California plates that had cut in one car ahead of us pulled over and being searched. I hope that the Canadian border authorities had selected his car (and those of other scofflaws) for very time-consuming inspections.
BC also has the prettiest flower baskets in the world, beautiful mountains and forests, and a happy, friendly population. Its world-famous Buchart Gardens in Victoria, which we visited when living in Seabeck, Washington, 15 years ago, is one of the most beautiful public gardens on the planet.
The afternoon we arrived, Suzanne gave a reading to a couple from Vancouver, BC, and when I returned from a local coffee shop, found that they had left a very thoughtful gift: a freshly baked bread pudding (having read in this blog about our weakness for that dessert). It was enough for an entire platoon of hungry Marines. Thank you, Mabel and C.K. Chan! It may add an inch or three to my waist, but the bread pudding was delicious. (Here Suzanne is trying to tell me that I only deserve a tiny bit, but I waited until her back was turned and ate a huge piece!)
Posted by Ty and Suzanne Giesemann at 10:27 PM
Thursday, July 17, 2014
From the Universe; Dee-lish! The Mountain; Seattle Event; A Big Red Cedar; Larrabee State Park; Another Web
Now, back on an earthly plane... Being from New Orleans, I like good food. We rarely go out for meals other than sushi because we are so often disappointed in the quality of food at many restaurants. The other morning, I prepared traditional N'Awlins French toast for MLB and myself. Yes, Bob, it uses real French bread, as well as vanilla extract and almond extract, and a liberal dose of confectioner's sugar over strawberries... it will give you a great sugar rush!
After a hearty breakfast, I went kayaking on American Lake while Suzanne gave a reading. Not only is it a good workout, but the view of distant Mt. Rainier was impressive. Known here simply as "The Mountain", snow- and glacier-capped Rainier dominates the horizon. There is no other peak near its height (14,410, the fifth-highest peak in the lower 48 states) in the vicinity. Considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, Rainier has 26 permanent glaciers, more than any other US mountain outside Alaska. Summiting the mountain normally requires 3 days of extremely hard climbing. Unfortunately, a campground neighbor told us that one of her office mates was missing after day-hiking part of the 93-mile long Wonderland Trail that circles Rainier. The 64-year old has been missing for five days, and is in our prayers.
Wednesday afternoon found us driving the car up to Seattle where Suzanne was giving her popular Heart Gifts presentation at East West Books. An enthusiastic group of attendees, many of whom had suffered losses like us, were spellbound by her recounting of Wolf Pasakarnis' story. Wolf's Message, her latest book, should be out soon on Kindle, with hard copy available this Fall.
Here is Suzanne with Lisa "Skripps", who said, "The evening was a mind-blowing and totally inspirational gift to experience."
This stump from a 20 foot diameter, 200 foot tall Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) is on display at a rest stop between Seattle and Bellingham, WA. It is also called giant arborvitae and shinglewood. This tree died in 1893 after a fire burned its hollow base. It was reputed to be at least as large as the Quinalt Lake Red Cedar, the current holder of the world's record for the largest red cedar still standing. We wanted to hike among these trees, and were headed to a state park near Bellingham to do just that...
Larrabee State Park was our destination for one night, and as soon as we arrived, we donned our hiking boots and hit the trail. The Fragrance Lake Trail is a very pleasant but occasionally steep trail that winds its way up through second-growth red cedar and Douglas fir.
Suzanne found a unique (if not very comfy) seat on these roots to do some communing with the trees...
But the most amazing sight we observed was this spider web. I have never seen one quite this complex or beautiful. Look carefully at the two tiny heart-shaped light refractions. Mother Nature had truly smiled upon us this day... Considering Suzanne's presentation last night was called "Heart Gifts" and it focused on the interconnected web of All That Is, we were quite stunned by this apparition on the trail.
Posted by Ty and Suzanne Giesemann at 10:57 PM
Monday, July 14, 2014
Three in a Shower? Cleaned Up; Ural Gear-Up; Hello, Cupcake; Stronger than Steel; A Good Motto; The Sound of Freedom; Scott Lake
I was in the shower with a redhead and a raven-haired beauty when My Lovely Bride called from Scottsdale. This wasn't a wild bachelor's dream. It was reality. And I couldn't answer the phone...
Okay, now that I have your attention, here's "the rest of the story". It was doggie bath time, and Suzanne was in Arizona. Rudy and Gretchen like baths about the same as most dogs. They run and hide. After rounding them up, I set to work. I didn't take a snapshot of Gretchen in the shower; like any girl, she's shy about such things. Rudy, on the other hand, didn't complain, although he doesn't look very happy.
Rudy (nicknamed "Elvis", or "The King"), on the other hand, is more laid back, although he can bark with the loudest of Dachshunds. A neighbor in the campground saw us walking today and said, "Gee, based on their barking while you were gone, we thought you had really big dogs!" (Uh-oh... but in fairness, he was walking his own dogs past our coach, and our little guys were just trying to protect their territory.) Rudy is a dark red Doxie; we've actually had people ask if he was a short Irish setter... yeah, very short! Now they're fluffy and looking sharp, ready for their Dog-Mom's arrival tonight! They both clean up good!
"Hello, Cupcake..." That sounds like a line that an old guy would use to a sweet young thing. Yeah... so what? Well, it's also the name of a real cupcake shop in downtown Tacoma. Unfortunately, it was closed when I walked by so I couldn't sample the wares, so to speak, but it's on my list for my next visit. Their July special cupcake is banana split - chocolate banana cake with cream cheese frosting. Sounds decadent.
We are staying at Fort Lewis, which is the headquarters for the US Army's I Corps (also known as "America's Corps"), consisting of 20,000 active duty soldiers assigned here and another 20,000 reservists from many other states as well as Washington. The heart of I Corps at Fort Lewis is the 7th Infantry Division, whose motto, "Light, Silent and Deadly", reflects the modern Army's emphasis on rapid response and enhanced mobility in restrictive environments (mountains, deserts, etc.). Their vehicles are primarily Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICV), faster than tanks but much more lightly armored, and only armed with .50 cal machine guns and grenade launchers, rather than the 120 mm gun carried aboard Abrams tanks. They carry a crew of two plus an infantry squad of nine soldiers plus their personal equipment.
Riding around the base, I noticed this door with a sign appropriate for the young men and women assigned here who regularly have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in their nation's defense. What better credo for warriors than "Everybody Fights; Nobody Quits"? HOO-AH!
Finally, I'll leave you with this picture of serenity in the Cascades. This photo was taken at Scott Lake near McKenzie Pass in Willamette National Forest, Oregon, elevation around 4,800 feet, with the Sisters in the background. If it hadn't been for (a) the mosquitoes and (b) the fact that this was US Forest Service land, I might have looked to buy an acre here and put up a cabin for The Pack's summer abode... Sigh...
Posted by Ty and Suzanne Giesemann at 9:12 PM
Saturday, July 12, 2014
The nearest city to Fort Lewis, where The Coach is staying a few days, is Tacoma. Last night I went downtown for dinner, but had some problems... Restaurant A was kinda dumpy; B was a college dive; C was closed for renovation; D, Pacific Grill, was great, and I had a delightful server, Diane, who made sure I ordered the right menu items and kept my Pinot Noir glass charged. This smoked salmon appetizer was exceptional; I also had a grilled salmon entree. (I would have liked to have caught the salmon myself, but they aren't running right now. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!)
The restaurant was just down the street from Tacoma's old Union Station, with its beautiful copper dome. Opened in 1911, it is no longer a railway station, but is used for weddings and exhibits.
I did share the lake with a couple of other boats, but no ski boats or pesky jet skis. This gaggle of Canada geese (Branta canadensis) - distant cousins of mine, perhaps - were keeping a tight cruising formation worthy of Navy destroyers just off my port bow. The lake's luxurious water plants make a good feeding ground for waterfowl.
My initial guess on plant identification for this pretty pink floating variety was a fragrant water lily, but after extensive floral research, I identified it as the insultingly-named water smartweed (Polygonum amphibium). It is an important plant, providing seeds for waterfowl, marsh birds, upland game birds and songbirds. Indians used it as an antiseptic and as a poisoning cure.
This partially-submerged log with an empty knothole and blooming wildflowers caught my eye. The wildflowers probably arrived as partially-digested seeds in bird droppings (birds are very handy for that sort of thing).
A close-up of the knothole shows interesting textures in the wood as well as algae (or perhaps moss?) growing near the high water line. I tried sighting through the knothole to see if maybe it had been used to show the location of pirate treasure, but was unable to locate the chest of booty.
Posted by Ty and Suzanne Giesemann at 11:04 PM