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.