Sunday, December 22, 2013

2013 Winter Solstice...

"Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."
Robert Frost

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

September 2013 Road-Trip...

Without going into great detail, I’ll mention that the summer of 2013 has been an unusual one for me. The first time in 36 years that I have not worked the fireline, with the exception of a type 3 wildfire incident I commanded in early May. My lower back was torqued during the Pack Test (45# / 45minutes / 3 miles). I passed the test but the subsequent injury has limited me to very light duty and no return-to-work clearance from my medical providers as of yet. So how the above plays into this next story is a bit unique, but leave it to say, I am not an ideal patient. Catherine had a bit of vacation time coming from Stonerose and needed a break from the care-giving role she found herself in with her mom. We decided on a stress relief, light duty week in the camper would suit us both well. And thus it was in early September that we embarked on a short road-trip heading to visit the Pacific Ocean via the Olympic Peninsula.  Our departure was September 5th. The day after my birthday and the day before Catherine’s. Usually we are on a month long sail cruise at this time of year but my injury took the option of the boat off the table – too much potential for less-than-light-duty activity.
The Washington State Highway 20 bridge over Early Winter's Creek.
The Hwy separates the campground into north and south areas.
We camped to the north and had that area to ourselves.
 Our first stop was Early Winter’s Campground in the Methow River Valley. The campground is located in the Okanogan / Wenatchee National Forest and even though Washington State still had a burn ban in place campfires were allowed in improved campgrounds on national forest lands.
Catherine pointing out where she and her family had set up an
extended camp when she was a teenager.  

Catherine enjoying a nice weather, quiet afternoon at
Early Winter's Campground and the nearby
creek. Unbeknownst to us at this time but this stream
was to undergo major changes during the night.

Burn Ban? What Burn Ban???
We knew there was a red flag storm warning for the North Cascade mountains with heavy rain and abundant lightning, remember I’m a fire manager and incident commander and have spent many years paying close attention to summer storms, but what Mother Nature threw at us that night was unprecedented in my experience. The lightning was phenomenal and near continuous with explosive cracks of thunder immediately in the wake of the strikes.

A significant change in the creek in less than 12 hours.

The next day N.O.A.H reported nearly 2,000 lightning strikes across the state and over 2 inches of rain in some areas fell in less than 6 hours. Here’s a complied image showing Early Winter’s Creek to the left at approximately 1900:hours on 09/05/13 with me doing a polar bear plunge and then a photo from the same location at approximately 12 hours later on 09/06/13. Pretty darn substantial change.

Backing up a bit: after enjoying a glass of wine at the fire we were sleeping in the camper when all of a sudden Catherine, Pinja and I were all awakened by a brilliant light and an explosion of thunder. "Wow! That was close!" was the general sentiment. Between the flashes of lightning and the blasts of thunder the wind was howling, causing the camper to shudder, and huge rain drops were pelting the thin roof inches above us. The storm kept our crew awake for a bit but soon with Pinja hiding under the covers and Catherine snoring away I was the only sleepless one.
And I was sweating. Hmm... Kick off some covers and go back to sleep - no go. Booms of thunder, flashes of lightning, pounding rain and camper-rocking winds. Hmm... My pulse is up and I've got a little bit of jitters. Howling winds and I hear a tree cracking and branches falling as the rain pounds our protection shell and the lightning flashes and the thunder cracks in crisp electric percussions. Hmm... is that a pain in my chest? And so it was I passed several hours of the night weighing the options: Do I rouse the crew and break camp and drive through the storm to seek help? There is no cell service in the campground. Do I drive until we can call 911 and make arrangements to meet the ambulance, telling them I have a possible heart attack - leaving Catherine to fend for herself in this storm. Probably better than her waking next to a corpse, but heck, driving a camper down the road at night in these winds with this much rain in such a storm isn't going to be easy for anyone. But I'm a fire chief, I'm medically trained - this isn't a heart attack. Is it?
Several self-assessments, a lot of deep breathing and a few hours pass. The storm abates to "normal" levels - so do I. Sleep finds me. Morning comes...
* * *
Happy Birthday Catherine!
Morning for our crew means COFFEE. I brew a pot, serve Cathy and decline one myself. She notices immediately. I tell her about my night.
“So, you’re going to an emergency room this morning,” she says whilst enjoying the fresh-ground brew I served. Although I’m feeling much better, with the exception of the pain in my lower back, I agree. We decide to cross the North Cascade Highway and find a hospital in Western WA. About that time our campground host arrives and informs us that North Cascade Highway is closed (again). Major washouts, mudslides, trees down. Mental note to self – glad we weren’t traveling at night, during the storm, over the mountains…
Long story short…
"Happy Birthday to you... Happy Birthday to you...
Happy Birthday dear Catherine... Happy Birthday to you"...

Yes indeed I did sing to her as Wenatchee Valley nurses and aids wired me up, checked me out, and after three hours in the E.R. gave me a clean bill of health.

So what was up? Well as the good doctor said, "we really didn't check you for what was wrong, but we did check you for a cardiac emergency. You are not, nor did not recently have one". What we determined was the likely cause relates back to the opening paragraph of this blog. "I'm not an ideal patient". I'd been neglecting to eat when I took the pain-meds for my lower back. Those meds wreck havoc on the stomach and it appears that I had a substantial bout of upper intestinal gas reflex. Add the hostile environment of the major storm and a few other stressors and, well there you have it. Three things good I can say about this situation is:
  1. Wenatchee Valley Hospital E.R. ROCKS! You folks were great.
  2. Catherine has incredible patience and a very positive outlook on it all...
  3. We got out in time to make the run over Stevens Pass in the daylight and managed to hook up in our friends driveway in the fine little city of Mukilteo, Washington...

Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival

Mukilteo's waterfront park deck-out for the celebrations.
 Once a year the residents of Mukilteo host a weekend long gathering of family, friends and visitors to this friendly sea-side village of twenty thousand people. In the language of the indigenous people Mukilteo means "good camping ground".
Our dear friend Liza and Catherine share the sunshine and a
smile on this fine afternoon.
 Located on the south east shore of Possession Sound this is the site of a Washington State Ferries terminal to Clinton, on Whidbey Island.
Waterfront seats, local brew, a glass of red, a late afternoon
sun and good friends. It has the making of a fine day.
To say "the weather was good" would be a total understatement. The weather for Western Washington State was great!
According to a bit of research Mukilteo is one of the most affluent suburbs of Seattle. In 2007, the city had a median income of $83,569.
Fireworks during the Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival celebrations.
Based on per capita income, Mukilteo ranks 29th of 522 areas in the state of Washington. In 2011, Mukilteo was ranked as number 9 of Money Magazine's top 100 small towns of America to live in. Fireworks for the Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival were primarily sponsored by Boing...

Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival

During the annual Wooden Boat Festival the public wharf and waterfront of Port Townsend in Jefferson County, Washington State, gets rather busy.


As a crowd of appreciative spectators line the public wharf, this fleet of mixed watercraft is off the Port Townsend waterfront during the 2013 Wooden Boat Festival.

Boat designer and builder Larry Silva checking out some of this year's entries into the P.T. Wooden Boat Festival.  


 This bronze cast statue of three seals is found on the grounds behind the Wooden Boat Foundation in Port Townsend.

This contemporary plein air artist provides an insight into the activity of the waterfront on the morning of the 2013 Wooden Boat Festival.

 The Canadian Steveston Lifeboat was on display and open to visitors during this annual Wooden Boat Festival. The wooden vessel was built in 1944 by the U.S. Navy in Pearl Harbor and for a time used by Admiral Nimitz as his barge.
Nearly 40 years had passed since Bruce Tipton and I had crossed paths. Over the course of those years I had heard that Bruce was part of the Wooden Boat Foundation in Port Townsend but the winds had not brought us on the same tack until the afternoon pictured here. I had a weather eye out for Bruce but so many years is a long time to change a person. Still when I spotted this fellow earnestly discussing wooden spars his voice told me it was Bruce. Well met indeed.
Connie and Catherine, two nautically inclined, beautiful ladies to enjoy a hot, sunny afternoon with on the shoreside piers of Port Townsend. Connie and Larry took time off from their home construction project to meet us at the Wooden Boat Festival.
The Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival fills the towns waterfront with vessels of all types and well as filling the streets with visitors and tourists. It is an active weekend in this Salish Sea community.
* * *
Olympic National Park
Bid farewell to our friends and the fine seaside town of Port Townsend and followed that windy Washington State Highway 20 westward to it's '0' mile marker.
We weren't sure where the evening would take us but we finally settled deep in the Elwha River Valley, inside the Olympic National Park. Where there were very few visitors. 
A couple of those few visitors we met the next morning when Catherine and I invited Tucker and Edward into our camp for coffee. Catherine is a southern girl at heart and be it camper, boat or home the galley is an important social setting. So it was that our two new biking friends were treated not only to the offered coffee but biscuits, eggs, a delightful sweet pineapple/habanero sauce and more coffee. Turned out we had a few of the tools the guys needed to tune their bikes and we saw them off in fine style later that morning. Seems like we are now the old folks in the camper whilst others are under the lean-tos and tents.
Mother, Mother Ocean...
Wandering down the windy road from Forks to La Push we noted a fog bank over the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean and soon the bright autumn sunshine of mid September was left behind. Our first item of business when arriving at La Push, the tribal home to the Quileute people was to visit the tribal center. About 40 years ago I was a young man living in this area. The native peoples were good to me and shared many fish without asking anything in return. This trip Catherine and I brought some homegrown beef that we left at the tribal center for some elders. Next we found a spot at the RV Park right on First Beach. And soon afterward we took a walk onto the beach. Mother, Mother Ocean...
Catherine and our traveling companion, Pinja, with the southern most portion of James Island in the foggy background. On First Beach La Push.

Pinja thinks she's a lab, loves the water and delights in being allowed to chase the gulls off the beach. Granted she is cautiously weary about those breaking waves plunging up onto the beach and has yet to get rolled by one of them...

Cakesosta and associated sea stacks form part of the point separating First Beach from Second Beach in the La Push area of Washington coast located in Clallam County.
Back in early December 2011 I posted in Foster's Sailing Blog regarding a very large drift log that washed ashore near La Push. It hadn't crossed my mind that a couple of years later I might take a photograph of that very same log, still located on First Beach near La Push, Washington. 
My lower back injury has restricted cycling this year. Where I normally get a couple of hundred miles a year, I've probably less than twenty during 2013. Catherine and I did hop on the cycles and did a leisurely tour of the La Push village and water front. That presented up an opportunity to speak with a young native lad who has taken up surfing. Appears some of the Quileute youth have become competitively at the sport. Good for them!
 And speaking of surfing. A good wet-suit goes a long ways along the North Pacific beaches. These guys were making the most of out of the small waves coming ashore this afternoon. Would have loved to have been out there with them...

To be continued: check back soon...

Friday, November 1, 2013

August 2013 Portland and Pacific Ocean Roadtrip...

Back in August of this year (2013) Catherine and I took a little road trip to Portland for Stonerose and made a detour or two on the way home. I don't do many summer road trips, unless I'm on fire suppression assignment, but due to an on-the-job-injury, this was my first summer off in 36 years. I agreed to tag along on this road trip to share some driving, provide moral support and enjoy the company of my fine lady...
Here's a bit of the story...
Our meanderings took us from the north country of Eastern Washington, down the San Poil River, across a corner of the Colville Nation, thru the Grand Coulee, along the mighty Columbia River and all the way to the Pacific Ocean. We followed the coastline for a bit, visited the fishing mecca of Westport, crossed over a northeastern shoulder of Mount Rainer and somehow found our way back home...

In the later part of the 1970’s the Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center was designed and built by architect Marcel Breuer as part of the dam’s third power-plant. Breuer designed the visitor center to resemble a generator rotor.  From this center the National Park Service stages an evening laser show using four large ion gas lasers.

So were traveling over Manilla Creek Pass in the lower Okanogan Range, crossing a portion of the Colville Nation tribal lands, out in the pine and sagebrush forest lands, when my lady says to me, "I need a restroom break. Preferably a scenic one."
"A scenic one?" I ask glancing around at the towering Ponderosa pines surrounded by sagebrush and bitter bush and not another car or residence in sight.
"A real restroom," she says reading my mind.
"Hmm, a real restroom and s scenic one at that." I mumbled. "Hope you can hold it"... She could and here we are at the National Park Service restroom with the Grand Coulee Dam in the background. Boy, do I ever deliver...

Steamboat Rock on Banks Lake…

Steamboat Rock State Park is located on Banks Lake in the Grand Coulee of Eastern Washington State, U.S.A.

Morning Sunrise Sun Lakes
Sun Lakes and Sun Lake State Park are downstream of the Dry Falls area of Northeastern Washington State at the southern reach of the Grand Coulee.

Towering Basalt Cliffs over Sun Lake…
These towering basalt cliffs, illuminated in the early morning sun, rise over the western shore of Sun Lakes in the Grand Coulee of Washington State, U.S.A.
The Sam Hill Memorial Bridge

U.S. Highway 97 between Washington and Oregon is spanned by the "Biggs Rapid Bridge" also known as the Sam Hill Memorial Bridge. Connecting  Maryhill, Washington to Biggs Junction, Oregon the bridge is owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WA DOT). The bridge. The is located 13 miles above  The Dalles Dam. Bridge length is 2,567 feet, with a 26 foot deck width and has an 88 foot clearance above the Columbia River below.
The Maryhill Museum of Art is perches on a south facing slope overlooking the Columbia River Gorge. Open to the public in 1940 the structure was originally intended as a mansion for entrepreneur Samuel Hill (1857-1931). During May of 2012 a plaza open that overlooks the Columbia River, serving as an education center, a collections suite and a café.

Mother Goddess Native American display at Maryhill Museum of Art 

Seal Skin Shirt - Native American display at Maryhill Museum of Art

Stone Carving -  Native American display at Maryhill Museum of Art


On to Portland, Oregon and the  Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals
Well, err, almost...
We did manage to hit rush hour traffic on a Friday summer's evening in Portland and trying to reach our evening destination was a bit delayed. Although I must say if your going to get stuck for an hour in traffic the peak of the I-5 bridge over the Willamette River, over the downtown Portland waterfront on a fine summer's eve is not such a bad place to have to creep along with fellow motorists...
Compilation of images by Catherine L. Brown
Our mission with Stonerose took us to a gathering of rockhounds, scientists, collectors and the general public at the Rice Museum, a fifty year old establishment that has become nationally recognized as the finest rocks and minerals museum in the Pacific Northwest.

The traveling Stonerose booth at the Rice NW Museum of Rocks and Minerals.

Clementine and Catherine staffing the Stonerose booth on the back lawn of the Rice Museum.



Deep Forest Road of Oregon

Western Oregon has near-rainforest conditions that promote large tree and foliage growth as this one lane road through the deep forest illustrates.

Mossy Old Maple ~ Cloochy/Cloutrie Creek Picnic Area
 Turn easterly off Oregon Highway 26 and cross the one lane bridge over Cloochy Creek into the picnic area. This is in the heart of deceased author Ken Keasy’s Oregon Coastal Mountain country and the story on the plaque of the Cloochy/Cloutrie Creek Picnic Area is one worthy of the great author himself.

The Astoria–Megler Bridge…

The Astoria–Megler Bridge is the longest continuous truss bridge in North America. This steel cantilever bridge spans the Columbia River between Astoria, Oregon and Point Ellice, Washington.  Located 14 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the bridge is 4.1 miles long and has the distinction of being the last completed segment of U.S. Route 101 between Olympia, Washington, and Los Angeles, California. Seen here in transit from the Oregon side.

The longest continuous truss bridge in North America…

Looking down the maul of the the Astoria–Megler Bridge spanning the Columbia River near it’s mouth at the Pacific Ocean.

Westport and a visit with cousins. The beach house was built by the Pearson Family and has remained in the family for many years. Just a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean you can hear the song of the surf  from the front porch couch.  

Twilight at Westport – North Pacific Ocean…

It had been a long time since either Catherine or I had visited the ocean. While we occasionally sail the saltchuck of the Salish Sea there is a great difference from the placid inside waters and the Mother Ocean. We walked with cousin Kathleen and Ralph for a twilight walk on the beach. Here Kathleen and Catherine are walking a stretch of the Westport Beach near the Grays Harbor bar crossing during a late summer’s twilight.

Catherine illuminated by the glow of her cell phone as twilight turns toward darkness on a northern Pacific Beach.

Greetings from Westport ~ Wish you were here...

Parts of Washington State's ocean beaches are deemed public highways and here we are riding in Ralph's Dodge south on Cohassett Beach with our traveling pup Pinja doing the flying ear thing.

Beach Walker and Dog, Cohassett Beach…

Catherine and Pinja on Cohassett Beach during a calm summer’s day near Westport, Washington U.S.A.
Hanging at Westport we enjoyed the hospitality of cousin Hillary and hubby Rob. Professional fisherman and gourmet cooks go together hand-in-hand in this family. What a grand table they set.

Pacific Sunset
We'll wrap up the visit to Westport with a golden orange sunset off Cohassett Beach, near Gray’s Harbor, Washington, U.S.A. Notice the two sailboat’s dim silhouettes under the setting sun.

Pacific Crest Trail

Leaving the I-5 corridor behind we again wandered off the main roadways and found ourselves at the Pacific Crest Trail where it crosses this bridge over the Chinook Pass Highway in Mount Rainer National Park in Washington State, U.S.A.

Mount Rainer…

14,411’ Mount Rainier, in the heart of Washington State is a massive strato-volcano. The topographical prominence of  this mountain contributed to the Puyallup Peoples naming it Tahoma, from the Lushootseed word  meaning "mother of waters". Mount Rainier is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. Seen here behind Governor’s Ridge in Mount Rainer National Park.


Tipsoo Lake, Governors Ridge, Mount Rainer…

Catherine and I hamming it up in front of: Tipsoo Lake at 5,400 feet vertical elevation is the foreground for this image of Mount Rainer behind Governors Ridge in Mount Rainer National Park, Washington State, U.S.A.

Yakima Peak, Mount Rainer National Park…
The 6,226 foot summit of Yakima Peak towers over Tipsoo Lake in Mount Rainer National Park near

Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility…

With tongue-in-cheek it might be said that an astute traveler may note not only the topographic differences but the climatically distinct variations between the western and eastern geographic areas of Washington State. Whiskey Dick Mountain is the site of the Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility. The farm, with 149 wind turbines, is owned by Puget Sound Energy and named after the famous metal sculpturing ‘Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies’ which is located across the Columbia River.

Columbia River – Vantage Bridge Crossing…

The Vantage Bridge carries Interstate 90 across the Columbia River. Due to the Wanapum Dam this section of the river is named Wanapum Lake. This 2,504 foot long bridge carries over 10,000 vehicles daily. The bridge separates the Ginkgo Petrified Forest (east) and Wanapum Recreational Area State Park (west) in this portion of the Columbia River Valley.

Sunset over Windy Ridge and the Columbia River Valley…
Whiskey Dick Mountain is the highest point on Windy Ridge in the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area. Seen here with the mid-August sunset flaming over the landscape.

Lead Pony – Wild Horses Monument…
This is the lead horse of fifteen metal sculpted wild horses from artist and sculpture David Govedare.  While WA DOT refers to this larger-than-life sculpture as Wild Horses Monument the artist has entitled it GRANDFATHER CUTS LOOSE THE PONIES.
Alkali Lake – Sun Lakes Basin
Alkali Lake was formed by the Missoula Floods in the lower coulee south of Dry Falls. The lake is located in Grant County, Washington, just north of the town of Soap Lake. The Sun Lakes drainage runs north and south right beside Washington State Route 17 leading from near the city of Moses Lake to Coulee City, Washington, U.S.A.
  Basalt Cliffs and Formations at the Southern Reach of Alkali Lake
These basalt cliffs and Washington State Highway 17 form the western shore of Alkali Lake in the Sun Lakes drainage. The lake is a critical habitat for wildlife, especially waterfowl in this parched area of the Evergreen State.  These massive basalt cliffs and rock formations were exposed by the great Missoula Floods during the last ice age and form a part of the Grand Coulee in Washington State.
Morning in the Grand Coulee
Morning sunlight softens the otherwise harsh features of these unique rock formations. Castle-like topographic features top the basalt cliffs forming the rim of the Grand Coulee.

Road trips these days have a lot of user-friendly technology available to the savvy traveler. And so it was that Catherine was checking her Facebook profile whilst we were on the road and discovered that the Washington State Department of Transportation, operators of the Keller Ferry, which crosses the lower reaches of Lake Roosevelt / Columbia River, was staging the dedication ceremonies of the new M/V SAN POIL, (the new Keller Ferry).

Logistics worked out for us to spend the night nearby and attend the celebration the next morning.

And as it worked out  our ship's dog and canine traveling companion, Pinja, was the first pooch on the new MV SAN POIL once it was open to public. And to seal her place in on-board canine history Pinja was also first dog onto the fly-bridge of the new vessel, as captured here in a photo by Catherine...
* * *
Postscript: in the wake of the dedication ceremonies the new MV SAN POIL began her mission of ferrying vehicles the impounded waters of the mighty Columbia River on the lower reaches of Lake Roosevelt and we also caught the first ride across the lake. From that northern landing it is less than two hours to Riverhome and the end of this fine summer's road trip...

On that first ride across of the MV SAN POIL this old truck was the in the front of the line. It happened that this truck was built the year that the retired Keller Ferry, MS MARTHA S. had been brought into service. A fun loop of history for the inaugural ride across the lake...

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