Monday, December 9, 2013

Happy Holidays

Here is wishing you all glad tidings of the season and all the best in the year to come.

My year started at Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Chris flew to Albuquerque to join me.  We spent several days, photographing in the refuge.  The temperatures were in the low teens in the early mornings when we arrived but it didn't diminish our enthusiasm.   The noise of the sandhill cranes and snow geese is worth the trip.  But hawks, cormorants, herons, ducks, songbirds, and eagles are plentiful. Chris saw his first javalina (collared peccaries).
From Bosque I headed back into Arizona for a couple of months.   Many of my RV friends have either settled  or spend the winters there so it is a social time for me.  In the spring I headed to the San Francisco Bay Area where I saw Lin's family, my cousins, and managed visits with some old friends as well as time with Chris.  After completing routine medical stuff I prepared for the coming summer in Ketchikan, Alaska.   But before that we celebrated Chris' birthday.

The highlight of the train trip was the surprise he learned about after we arrived on site.  Sunday morning he got to ride in the steam engine with the engineer, engineer-in-training, and fireman. 

This year's summer job was as a naturalist with Allen Marine Tours in Ketchikan.  Five  days a week I did narration aboard a large catamaran rated for 150 passengers.  The 4.5 hour tours went to the Misty Fjords National Monument.  We went up Behm Canal, passed New Eddystone Rock, a 237 basalt rock, core of an ancient volcano, and into Rudyerd Bay.  The entire area was carved by long ago glaciers.   The geology shows its history of volcanoes, uplifting of tectonic plates and constant erosion of wind and water as well as glaciers.  The heart of the monument is a bit like Yosemite Valley with its monolithic granite cliffs.   Unlike Yosemite, fjords (salt waterways filling old glacial valleys) take you there.   Its a bit like looking up at Half Dome from a boat with little shoreline as rock comes straight down to, and below the waterline.  The emphasis of the tours was geology and scenery, but we almost always saw bald eagles.  Dall's porpoises, harbor seals, pigeon guillemots were common.  Sometimes we saw marbled murlets, humpback whales, or orcas.  On a few occasions we saw bears and  wolves.  Seeing wolves from the boat is a rare treat.  The crew was thrilled at the sight, then appalled when a guest couldn't see why the captain had stopped the boat because, as he said loudly, "they just look like dogs."   My bear and wolf sightings in Alaska were never as close as the ones in Yellowstone nor were they as frequent.

One day a week (yes, I worked 6 days, which is fine when you live on an island and can't go far), we did a shorter tour to a defunct salmon cannery.  I had several of small world encounters.   On one tour there was a couple from one of my Yellowstone tours.   The wife and daughter of the City Manager who hired me in Antioch were on the cannery tour and later, back in town, I got to see Lee.    Ed, who hired me in Richmond for my  first public administration job, was on a tour with his wife.   And one day a voice called out, "Betty Prange."   I turned to find Mark, who was a police corporal when I first arrived in Antioch and who rose a couple ranks while I was there, becoming Chief after I left.   Not on tours, but visiting Ketchikan were Mary and Elaine, RVing friends and Cathy, a close friend of my cousin, a woman I had met at a few gatherings at Bonnie's over the years.  

Ketchikan lies on Revillagigedo Island in southeast Alaska. Living on an island for someone who is used to traveling as I am, is limiting.  You must travel by air or water.  And even if by air, the airport is on neighboring Gravina Island so you take a ferry across.   This got a lot of attention a few years ago.  The "Bridge to Nowhere" was between Revillagigedo and Gravina, and while few people live on Gravina the purpose of the proposed bridge was to link the airport to town.   I did take a few days off and flew to Sitka, the old Russian capitol of Alaska.  I had always wanted to see it and was not disappointed. Delightful town.   

Saxman Native Village south of Ketchikan
Ketchikan is where my mother spent WWII.  She joined the SPARs, the women's division of the Coast Guard.  I grew up on stories of bears, picnics, berry picking, trips to Metlakatla (the Tsimshian village on neighboring Annette Island), the stairways up the steep hills that substituted for streets.   Today it is a thriving art community with all kinds of performing and visual arts as part of everyday living.   The original peoples, the Tlingit and Haida, and later the Tsimshian, had a rich heritage of art; totem poles, painted clan houses, bent wood boxes, exquisite basketry, carvings, dance and music.  That is still in evidence as well as newer, non-Native arts.   I encourage you to take a look at "Older Posts" to see some views and hear more about Ketchikan and Sitka. 
Lincoln Memorial
Vietnam Memorial
Back in the Bay Area, I managed a field trip with the Diablo Valley Camera Club of which Lin and I were founding members.  Chris is a member and I have rejoined although I do a lot of my activities via Internet and Chris reports back to me on critiques of my work.  We took the trip to Washington, DC.  And finally, after Thanksgiving, I got the motorhome out of storage, did some work on it with a lot of help from Chris and his co-conspirator Phil, to find and repair a leak.   Stocked, I finally headed out---only to land a few days later at a repair place in Stockton, CA as I had a major electrical failure; a breaker panel gave out.  Not a common occurrence, fortunately, but one which has been frustrating.  The repair shop has been great; the company that makes the units has been slow and difficult.   We are still awaiting a replacement for the defective part they sent.   Then I will be on my way. 

Take a look at the blog entries for this year to see lots of photos and hear about our adventure. At the bottom of this page, click on the "older posts" at the bottom right side. They are in reverse order, so the first one will be Washington DC, our October adventure. Then a report on the ferry and train trip from Ketchikan, Alaska to Martinez, CA, then, keep clicking at the bottom for "older posts" and see an entry on Sitka, Alaska, and several on my summer working in Ketchikan.

I am looking forward to connecting with many RV and former RV friends this winter. 

Look forward to news from all of you.  I enjoy hearing what has happened in your life since last we talked or wrote. 

Happy New Year to all.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Weekend in the District of Columbia

Capitol with dawn lighting

With some airline tickets leftover  from a cancelled trip, Chris and I had an October deadline to use them.  He called with an idea-- how about a quick trip to Washington, DC to photograph and play tourist.   As well traveled as I may be, the nation's capitol is a place I'd not visited, so I was  eager to try it.   Chris made reservations, back in September for this quick trip.

Once the arrangements were made, changing them was costly. We sweated-out the government closures. We decided we would have to go, but might be forced to find substitutes for the monuments and national buildings we wanted to visit and photograph.  Our discomfort over the change of things being closed was minimal compared to the overall damage caused by the shutdown and the disregard of the Constitutionally established methods for passing, implementing and reviewing legislation.   But don't get me started on that topic in my blog.   What I want to share is the awe, the pleasure, the pride I found in our nation's capitol. 

Yes, there are homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks and park; yes, there are issues.
Jefferson Memorial in evening light
But there are also beautiful buildings, monuments, repositories of national treasures, people out enjoying the mall and the Smithsonian, running in a special event and otherwise  enjoying a weekend of spectacular weather and the reopened treasures.  My hats are off to the National Park Service employees; the monuments and areas around them were clean, well landscaped, and welcoming.  I appreciate the park interpretive rangers who assist visitors in understanding the history behind the things we were seeing.  

We were fortunate.  The shut down ended just before we arrived.  It meant the monuments and buildings were open, but the crowds were down. The large tour companies had cancelled and individuals had held off making plans.

We took a "red-eye" arriving at our hotel about 6 am. on Saturday.  We didn't expect our room to be ready, so we stashed our luggage and headed out in the early morning light to explore.  We walked, and walked, photographed, walked some more, ate, and generally enjoyed a long day, returning to our hotel in time for a light dinner in the lounge downstairs before crashing into bed.  We were up the next morning at 5 am in order to be back out for early light.   What a treat.  We grabbed a taxi to get to the Lincoln Memorial early, but as we passed the WWII Memorial and saw what the light was doing, we told the cab driver to drop us there.  Later, we walked to the Lincoln Memorial.

Rather than text, I'll tell the story through a photo essay.   You can click on photos to enlarge or to show as a slide show.  The captions won't show so you may want to peruse first and then go back and see the photos in larger, more dramatic format.

Another shot of the capitol at first light

Jefferson Monument in early morning

The next three photos are interior shots of the Capitol Rotunda. We did a tour, one that was rather disappointing in both content and delivery. However, we had a volunteer docent later at the Library of Congress, and a couple of National Park Interpretive Rangers, who made up for it.

Early morning skyline

From the Jefferson Monument looking toward the Washington Monument, currently encased in scaffolding for  retrofitting after earthquake damage.
A highlight of the weekend was the Library of Congress.   I had never thought of the library in a physical sense as much as I had in the concept of a repository for information; books, documents, photographs and other records as well as a cataloging system used in libraries throughout the country and ISBN numbers for published books.   So, walking in the doors of the Jefferson Library, one of several buildings of the Library of Congress, was a treat.    A volunteer docent took us on a tour.  As an interpretive guide I am particular about the tours I take.  This one was outstanding.  

My shutter trigger finger went wild inside the building.   It may seem like a lot of photos to my readers, but this is just a tiny selection to whet your appetite for this outstanding edifice. 

The main reading room.

I didn't lie on the floor to take photos of the ceilings and details of the interior as did the young couple here.  My  fellow Yellowstone photo guide, Wim,  recommends this technique.   I did find some wide balustrades and set my camera on its back.

Ceiling skylights



 Of course we viewed the White House, from outside.  Unfortunately the First Lady didn't get word I would be in town and so I didn't have tea in the Rose Garden.
White House at night

We got up very early our second morning with the intent of getting to the Lincoln Memorial for sunrise.  We grabbed a taxi to make it on time.  But, before we reached the Lincoln site, our cab passed the WWII Memorial, yes, the one that has been in the news lately, and the light was too good to postpone this site until later.

Each star represents 100 lives of service men and women lost during WWII

The sunrise highlights the Lincoln Memorial from the WWII Memorial

We walked along the Reflecting Pool to the Lincoln Memorial.   This would have been special under any circumstances, but having just seen the incredible film, Lincoln, with Daniel Day-Lewis playing the lead, increased the impact for me.

I walked around the majestic columns of the Lincoln Memorial and was greeted with this colorful sight.  This was the Army Ten-Mile event with 25,825 people racing.  Here they are crossing the Arlington  Memorial Bridge, over the Potomac,  with the cemetery in the background.

The stark simplicity of the Vietnam Memorial is testament to the somber tone of this monument.   I've seen the photos of the monument, crowded with people looking for the names of loved ones, placing wreaths, and standing in quiet remembrance.  I am glad it was a rather quiet day for our visit.  A few people walked through (as was true while we were at the other monuments as well) and it was a quiet time to reflect on one of the defining events of my generation.

The walking continued.  

Pavement in Freedom Plaza on  Pennsylvania Ave. 

We had Sunday Brunch at Old Ebbett Grill, the oldest restaurant in the District of Columbia.  It began in  1856, but has moved a few times.  The current site was established in 1983.

the Old PostOffice

The Washington Monument, complete with scaffolding with Capitol Building in the background

I knew my RVing friends would enjoy this.  In a whirlwind weekend you cannot do justice to the Smithsonian.  You can't do justice in weeks.   But we promised ourselves a brief foray into the American History Museum where we picked just one exhibit; transportation.   In the Natural History Museum we chose the section on tectonic plates which is helpful to me in understanding and explaining some of the earth's geology on my tours.  But we treated ourselves to a detour through the butterfly display where we were up close and personal with live butterflies.

We ran out of time in the air and space museum and barely saw the large entry lobby

Our final photo ops were the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the FDR Memorial.  Again, our timing was right and we caught it with the beautiful light at the MLK Memorial as the sun set.   This is a simple monument but its placement along the line of sight from the Lincoln Memorial to the Jefferson (seen in the distance) is appropriate.   From here, we went to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial which is great even after the light of day is gone.   An interpretive ranger from the National Park Service was still on duty to talk about FDR.

After dark at the MLKing, Jr memorial.

In the FDR Memorial

And that ended our whirlwind trip to the capitol.   We left the hotel at 5 a.m. to make our flight home.  The flight was delayed by two hours, not that the airline made any attempt to notify us.  But the weekend was a great success and I am ready to return, sometime when it can be a more leisurely time and I can see some of the many sights missed this time.

Remember you can click on a photo and see them all, in large size, in a photo strip.  You won't have the captions but you will be able to see all the photos in a better format.