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Saturday, January 11, 2020

Blustery Pacific Northwest Day Outing - Cool Critters!

Nutria on the trail edge at Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge.
What do you do on a cold, blustery gray day, with the promise of months more of them on the way? 
Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge, off of Highway 14, just East of Washougal Washington.
Note the dark clouds, though in truth they were handsome in their own dramatic way.
Truly, if teleporters existed, I would beg to be beamed to a warm sunny spot where I could shed my clothes and bury my bare toes in the sand. I can't deny being envious of my cruising cohorts currently holed up in summery Australia and New Zealand, or the winter-warmed lands of Southern California, Florida and Mexico, or the Indonesian tropics.
Deb admires the artwork which she dubbed "the magic door," though it was closed to us
this time of year.  It led to the fish ladders but was closed to protect some seasonal waterfowl.
Instead, I did the next best thing... called a friend (thanks, Deb!) willing to bundle up and trundle out and join me for a brief wander to see what we could see. We headed off to new-to-us territory in our own backyard, Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge. Established in 2009, I never made it to Steigerwald before moving from Southwest Washington in 2010. 
The trail is as much an art trail as a wildlife trail. This trip, I kept my lens mostly
on the flora and fauna, but this sign gives you a small taste of the artwork.
The rest will wait until a future post - or - your visit there.
As many as 200 different bird species find at least a temporary respite at the refuge.

The refuge was named for rags-to-riches Allen Steigerwald, originally from Pennsylvania. A newcomer back in 1886, with only $10 in his pocket, he convinced local suppliers to loan him the materials he needed to build a home on contract. Later projects included the Lewis and Clark Exposition. Then came farming, and a dairy business in Washougal, where Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge is now located.

While Deb and I were new to this particular neighborhood, the wildlife was clearly well settled. "Watch for the bald eagles, great blue heron and the nutria," car-bound smiling hikers wearing dangling binoculars told us.
Nutria crossing the trail at Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge.
We didn't see the eagles or the heron (though I've seen plenty of both in the area), but we did see the nutria. Happily chowing down on vegetation at the edge of the path, he didn't appear bothered by our presence, though he preferred showing us his derriere far more than his rather cute face. The Dutch refer to these critters as "beaver rats," which strikes me as a great description as their bodies are beaver-like but their tails are rat-like tail and they're rodents.
Female American kestrel at Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge. She was much more impressive when she took flight, but my camera focus was too slow to capture that.
We also saw plenty of ducks and geese, and I originally mistook a gorgeous American kestrel, for a harrier. A California scrub jay with bright periwinkle plumage of was there to bid us a colorful goodbye at our walk's end, a delight despite knowing they're really one of the thugs of the bird world. 
California scrub jay with colors far cheerier than his expression, still welcome on this gray day.
I will happily return to enjoy Steigerwald on a sunnier day or even again before then, but hopefully not trying to snap photos from under my wind-tugged umbrella.
Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge -- I'll be back!
Location Location
We've been busy bopping around on house-sits in the Portland-Vancouver Washington area. We're about to start our 5th house-sit* since late November. House-sitting gets us off the boat and out from under the gloom of covered moorage during the already darkest days of winter. It also cleared the way for tackling some boat projects that don't meld well with living aboard. Currently, Wayne's about half-done with refinishing the floors in our salon. And we're still sussing out what, when and where our next adventures will be.

*my affiliate link to Trusted House-sitters, those house-sits we're doing other than for friends.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Flashback: Best Campground in BC (& a Marine Park)

Lookout ridge near sunset, Keats Loop trail, Keats Island, British Columbia, Canada
We'd already spent a pleasant afternoon wandering the arty town of Gibsons when we opted to make way for the more tranquil waters of Plumpers Cove Marine Park, only a half-hours cruise away.
Dock gangway to shore from Plumper's Cove Marine Park, British Columbia, Canada.
We appreciate being able to step off the boat and onto land without having to break out the dinghy or kayak to reach the shore.
View of Serendipity at the dock from Plumpers Cove park.
Wayne knew I'd love Plumper's Cover for its hiking trails, which you can also read about in AllTrails.
Boundaryline between park and Keats Island's residents.
I thought the gate was pretty cute and the light caught my eye.
Wikipedia notes the locals are a bit coy about getting the word out on the place, as they want to keep it to themselves, as they 'lovingly refer to [Plumper's Cove] as 'the best campground in BC.'"
Charming trail marker at Plumper's Cove, British Columbia.
We had the park mostly to ourselves; only cruisers were there, and I saw no one on my hike.
Initially, the trail was fairly flat where it took off from Plumpers Cove by the docks.
The forest exuded an aura of otherworldliness, as though some sylvan creature would pop out from around a tree at any moment.

The trail changes character as you get closer to the ridgeline.
Enchanting as the forest was, the sunset wasn't far off, so I had to hustle. I ran a bit on the flats. Before long, negotiating the trail required a bit more care.
Near the top of Keats Loop, Plumper Cove regional park, British Columbia.
Near the top, the trail emerged from the woods, bathed in that gorgeous light you want to stop and savor, but can't, without returning in darkness.
Oh - now this was tempting!
I allowed myself a few minutes to explore the ridgeline view, before hustling back. Then I saw this, just barely peeking out from some rocks.
Geocache. I pulled out, then put it right back where it was.
I thought of Bob Indig, my best friend's husband, who both placed and found many geocaches. He's quick enough and with better night vision than, me, and would've given proper homage to the find.
Sunset over the charming town of Gibson, British Columbia, where we stopped earlier that day.
I have terrible night vision. Not realizing the trail was as long as it was, I didn't bring a flashlight with me. Swiftly, I made my way back to our boat. It wasn't very many minutes after I was back aboard before the sun set.
Serendipity sitting pretty in the sunset glow at Plumper's Cove Marine Park dock.
The sunset just kept getting more and more vivid. If I could wave my magic wand, I'd come back with a tent and backpack, camp on the ridgeline, watch the sunset, and the sunrise from there.

Location Location
This post covers one of our stops from this fall's cruising at Plumper's Cove and marine park, off Keats Island in British Columbia Canada, September 24-25, 2019. The park restrooms were already closed and water was shut off for the season.
Looking off at Howe Sound, towards Vancouver British Columbia;
our destination for the next day.
Currently, we are holed up inside on a rainy-day dog-sitting stint in Milwaukie, Oregon, just outside of Portland, Oregon. I will update the lat/long of Plumper's Cove from our logbook when I'm back on the boat. Meanwhile, this struck me as a good time to reminisce, much like when I spent many happy winter hours pouring over my bulb catalogs planning my spring garden when I used to have one. 

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Atypical Thanksgiving

The folks from Marine Resources Council, a highly productive
Florida conservation group used this in their newsletter.

In Thanksgivings past, split shifts and distant lands made for different Thanksgivings for Wayne and me

  • Last year, on Thanksgiving day I was startled on my kayak by a 'gator (or maybe it was a manatee -- I'll never know for sure). 
  • Three years ago, off an unpopulated Australian Island, we and our cruising friends scraped our larders and the result was Chinese. And we saw pink dolphins! We're still in touch with those friends, who we've seen several times since returning to the States, on both coasts.
  • Four years ago we'd just arrived in New Zealand. A yacht club kindly hosted their best guess at a US Thanksgiving dinner, which they mostly got right. It wasn't a family-style Thanksgiving with the usually gluttony, but we appreciated the effort and best of all, the friends we broke bread with. We're still in touch with those friends.
  • Seven years ago, we introduced our Slovenian cruising friends to Thanksgiving in the Caribbean country of Antigua. We are still in regular contact.
  • Many years ago traveling in Australia for Thanksgiving, since I couldn't have turkey, I ate kangaroo (yes, they are the national symbol but there's somewhere in the neighborhood of 34 million of them and they taste a lot like London Broil and are lean, healthy meat).
  • When I first moved to the Pacific Northwest, and there was no family nearby, I joyfully embraced the tradition of "orphan's Thanksgivings," shared with friends. "Friends are the family you choose" is the motto displayed at a friend's home; we whole-heartedly agree.

Multnomah Falls, less than an hour's drive,
visited shortly after returning to roost here.
In between, our Thanksgivings have been more traditional, though sometimes started late or cut short by work obligations (retail and the airlines are serving others on Thanksgiving). Overall, there have been fewer, rather than more of those in much of my adult life.

My parents embraced the "orphan's Thanksgiving" concept the year they invited the immigrant Russian students they taught English as a second language. I remember at the end of the meal, my Mom served Earl Gray tea. 

"This is really good! What is this?" exclaimed one of the guests. "Earl Gray tea," my Mom replied. "I need to see the package and find out exactly where you bought it," our guest countered.

Then, it dawned on me. I imagined this woman, likely used to meager tea options if any, going into Fred Meyers, trying to pick this particular tea out from probably 50 options. And nearly every grocery item she was shopping for would be like that. How overwhelming that must be.

And how complacent we are in this land of plenty. That is the norm for us - whatever we want, whenever we want it. And today, quite likely delivered to our doorstep.

This year, we're spending the morning at a friend's Thanksgiving brunch. Sometime this afternoon, we'll join Wayne's folks for family time, football, and of course the traditional Thanksgiving feast, with turkey and trimmings. We haven't had cable tv for many years, so for Wayne, watching football will be a rare treat. Then we'll return to where we're house-sitting, to enjoy some good kitty love, and some time off our boat.
The aptly-name boat Serendipity, a boat given to our by friends. It is our home now. Earlier this year we took our home to this incredible spot, Princess Louisa Inlet.
We have much to be grateful for. We are happy, healthy. We live aboard a boat given to us. We're able to spend the holiday with each other, friends and family. It is no longer an option to share Thanksgiving with my parents, though they are most certainly with us in spirit. 

We've also loved our wayward Thanksgivings. There's something delicious about spending a holiday on the hook with fellow cruisers, making do with what's at hand. The celebration is of a life well-lived, amongst those we love spending time with.

This Thanksgiving, we look forward to spending it with friends and family and the usual traditions.

We also trust there will be adventures ahead.

We wish you the very best Thanksgiving this year and every year, wherever and however you spend it. 

Location Location
Our boat in Jantzen Bay. We are currently house-sitting in Portland, OR.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Home: Winding Down, Settling In, Taking Stock

Ghostly sunrise from the St. Helens City docks where we waited
to get re-accepted at our former Portland OR marina.
How the heck did I manage to let 4 weeks slip by since my last post?!?
Astoria Bridge, behind us we work our way up the Columbia River.
I left off posting when we were headed back across the Columbia Bar; blissfully another non-event across the "graveyard of the Pacific" thanks to Wayne's excellent planning and some good luck.
Mt. Hood welcomes us home as we wend our way from the ocean up the Columbia River
toward Portland Oregon.
We arrived back in the exact same Jantzen Bay marina slip we left in the summer of 2018. 
A dock in the middle of nowhere between Cathlamet and Longview.
We stopped overnight to cruise rather than buck the tides.
Ultimately, it was the cold weather and our tropics-spoiled blood that prompted us to get back on the grid to heat our boat more thoroughly than our main cabin propane heater can. For us, that means plugging in an electric space heater and a heated mattress pad. What can I say? Now anything colder than 70 degrees F now feels cold!
Approaching the Longview Bridge. Not far from St. Helens, where we waited for our
live-aboard approval for a slip in Portland Oregon.
We've been on the move since May when we left Florida with my Prius packed to the gills with what last bit of stuff that didn't fit, moved by Greyhound. It's easy for the time to fly when there's a healthy list of stuff that's harder to do when you don't stay in any one place for long.

To name a few... 
Smook, a very affectionate kitty who was kind enough to
welcome me to his home for a house-sit.

  1. filling out the 5-page 2-point type document to get re-accepted into our former marina as live-aboards
  2. setting up a PO Box (as our marina doesn't accept mail)
  3. getting caught up on our snail mail
  4. moving into yet one more very small storage area (goal -- digitize my photos and dump the storage area)
  5. starting to catch up with friends and family
  6. tracking down some less mainstream personal hygiene items,
  7. replacing some of my more threadbare clothing and adding some items for colder weather
  8. acquiring some mail-order odds and ends
  9. setting up to house-sit with Trusted House-sitter.com to get in my pet fix and to get off the boat a few times this winter (and just finished my first stint today)
  10. getting an extension for completing my online marketing class that required more regular wifi connection that I could spare for classwork(due now the end of the year)
  11. working on a few freelance writing projects...

Latourell Falls, part of the Gorge Scenic Highway waterfall loop.
Our unexpected reward for returning before November is the most vivid fall colors I can recall in my 20+ years in the Pacific Northwest. While the weather's been chilly, often dropping into the 30s overnight and not getting warmer than the mid-50s most days. But, we've had mostly sunny skies, little rain, and not much wind.
We scoped out the dock area at Beacon Rock, further up the Gorge, for future reference.
It was a treat to make a couple trips up to the Gorge, take in the sights of the area that lured me up to the Northwest back in the late 80s, and get in some great hiking.
Bridge by Bridal Veil Falls, Columbia Rive Scenic Highway waterfall loop.
What next? Well, there's always boat work to do!
Wayne, doing brightwork on the boat over the summer. Other projects await.
Beyond that, we're open. 

I've got a couple presentations to make on our sailing adventures. 
Image from openclipart.org
Eventually, I need to decide what is the "one through message" for my book that will inspire me to pick it back up and finish writing it.

I'm leaning toward developing my freelance work while finding other ways to re-connect with the community around me so I feel like I'm doing more than just passing through.

At the same time, I'm incredibly grateful to have the luxury of options and time to figure it out.
Portland's chock-a-block with cool murals. This one was in the Goat Blocks, by Market of Choice.
Location Location
We're back in Jantzen Bay Marina (N45 47.449 W122 47.189), Portland Oregon.

Up Next
I will do a roundup of our most recent cruising, how far we went, the highlights, etc. - unless I can't resist doing a post with some more "beauty shots" of the Gorge scenic area first.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Red Sky at Morning Sailor Take Warning?

Grays Harbor coastline this morning.
"Couldn't we just [deleted] and go back to sleep?" Wayne, groaned, wistfully. We both knew better. It was 6:30 am. And dark.
Moonrise over Westport Marina, Grayland Washington.
We're working our way home to Portland Oregon, where we expect to roost off Hayden Island, Jantzen Bay. This morning we left Westport Marina, Grayland, bound for Ilwaco, Washington.
Dawn as we left La Push, Washington, yesterday.
"That is one angry-looking sunrise," Wayne observed. "Maybe the sun was protesting getting up, too," I replied, knowing full well how much Wayne is not a morning person.
Dusk view from Quileute Marina, La Push Washington.
Yesterday's sunrise was almost as spectacular from La Push, where we once again took our best guess at first light departure timing.
Dusk from La Push, WA.
Wayne described the La Push sunset as "World class." I agree. We enjoyed from the window at River's Edge Restaurant, for a rare meal out. We don't fish. La Push is a fishing town. I figured it was the freshest salmon dinner I could get. It was. In the cozy warmth of the restaurant, I decided to enjoy the sunset without whipping my camera out. Even the far tamer view at dusk was still pretty spectacular.
Guardian gets a guardian on the NOAA boat next to us at Quileute Marina, La Push Washington.
Normally, we bolt from Neah Bay, cruise about 22 hours straight, cross the Columbia Bar and head into Astoria (or vice versa, on the way out).
Cape Flattery Lighthouse, between Neah Bay and La Push Washington.
This time, thanks to some amazing weather, Wayne's working the rubik's cube exercise on the best time to cross the Columbia Bar, we're taking our time. Plus, like a child dwadeling over bedtime, we are reluctant to end this season's cruising to tuck into the cave-like covered moorage in Portland Oregon.
These rocks off Cape Flattery reminded us of nature's version of Easter Island's statues.
Timing the tides, currents and available light, it's been early to rise, up and out, several mornings in a row. 
Olympic mountains view from Port Angeles City docks.
Many of our most magnificent views were not capture-able by camera, like the whimsically named Graveyard of the Giants. But then, that's what travel is all about, right? Otherwise, we could all just never leave our screens, and take in the world digitally. 

It is not the same as being there. If anything, this trip has intensified our desire to hike the Cape Flattery area, and wander the "enchanted" Elhouwa Valley.

Where has traveling inspired you to travel more deeply?

Oh -- that "Red sky at morning, sailor take warning. Red sky at night sailor's delight."? Wive's tale. Those fiery sunrises have been just as much a delight -- other than our sleepy eyes getting a bit fried from the sunshine.
Rough guess on a Google Maps satellite view of our location at this posting.
Location Location
At the moment, we're two and a half hours outside Grayland, Washington, bound for Ilwaco, by Astoria (N46 43.5 W124 11.8). We still have wifi.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Touring the San Juan Islands with Friends

Wayne takes Ponghki, Frodo and Pete on their first foray dinghy to
Pete's childhood summer hangout, Saddlebag Island, San Juan Islands, Washington.
"You gotta work on your camera technique," Wayne chided. What he meant was a way to take photos unobtrusively. He is right. Nonetheless, it's a rare event for Wayne to catch up with Pete, his friend all the way back from high school. I had to take at least one keepsake shot - even if it looks like Wayne's missing some front teeth (he's not). This was our first ever overnight hosting aboard our trawler, Serendipity.
Saddlebag Island, Washington State Park, San Juans.
Pete, Pete's fiance Pongkhi and her Havanese, Frodo are all based in Seattle. We picked them up Friday eve in Anacortes, in a driving rainstorm. Pete suggested boyhood haunt, Saddlebag Island, less than 3 miles from Anacortes. It had been at least 15 years since Pete's last visit there. 
Colorful collection of seaweed at Cypress Island's Pelican Beach, San Juan Islands.
Our next stop was one of our favorites, Cypress Island. Everything was new for Pongkhi and Frodo, and this was also Pete's first stop on Cypress. We anchored off pebbly Pelican Beach, as it was closer to Eagle's CrestPelican Beach a popular stopover for kayakers, with a campsite, fire ring, covered picnic area and composting toilets.
Salamander on Cypress Island's trail to Eagle Cliff from Pelican Beach.
We spotted two salamanders on the trail to Eagle's Crest.
Waist-high ferns at lower part of trail from Pelican Beach to Eagle's Cliff (or Duck Pond),
Cypress Island. San Juans.
The ferns along the trail were lush and tall. Even though the sun was out, the trail was dark underneath the forest canopy of Douglas fir and red cedar.
Overlook near the top of Eagle's Cliff trail framed by a tapestry of trees and shrubs.
Cypress Island, San Juans.
Though it was definitely fall jacket weather, we were grateful for the sun. 
Fern on Cypress Island San Juans showing its fall colors.
The autumn foliage was gorgeous.
Coral mushrooms alongside the trail from Pelican Beach, Cypress Island, San Juans.
Pete was wishing his mushroom-hunting chef friend was there to advise us. Pete knew these coral mushrooms, technically, were edible, but had an overly strong laxative effect. We took only photos.
Red cypress perched on mossy hillside, Cypress Island, San Juans.
The light was glorious where the trail broke into the open.
View off Eagle's Crest summit. Cypress Island, San Juans.
I love the emerald colored water from this panorama spot at Eagle's Crest summit. The trail is closed spring through summer as that's when eagles nest there.
Pete, Pongkhi, Frodo and Wayne at Eagle Crest Summit gazing Westward, Cypress Island, San Juans.
The top of Eagle's Crest makes for a great lunch stop as well as a truly phenomenal view. Others say it's the best-ever site they've seen sunsets, but that would mean hiking back in the dark.
Sailing "race" standstill between current and lack of wind. Zoom view from Eagle's Crest summit.
We were amazed to watch a sailboat "race" from Eagle's Crest summit. Eventually the sailboats gave up and motored so they'd make it back before dark.
Eastern (backside) view from Eagles Cliff summit, Cypress Island, San Juans.
The view from Eagle's Cliff when you look over your shoulder is also respectable.
Serendipity on mooring ball, Pelican Beach, Cypress Island, San Juans.
Mooring is free off Pelican Beach. Eagles Harbor, on the other side of the island is usually more popular for boaters. 
Dusk view Mt. Baker and Cascades from our boat off Pelican Beach, Cypress Island, San Juans.
Photos can't do justice to the spectacular snow-topped view of Mt. Baker. And this was taken from the deck of our boat!
Tall ship/schooner sailing the San Juans. Viewed off Pelican Beach, Cypress Island, San Juans.
Pete's sailed tall ships, so it's no surprise this beauty caught his eye.
Frodo does his happy dance, his leash wrapped around Pongkhi's legs.
Pelican Beach, Cypress Island, San Juans.
Frodo's "happy dance" is hilarious. We're glad his trip to Pebble Beach rated one.
Pete, no stranger to sailing or the San Juans,  scopes out the view from Serendipity's bow.
Pete spent his early years and childhood summers in the San Juans. This was his first experience cruising to from "the dark side,"  a sailboat rather than a trawler.
Pongkhi and Frodo enjoy San Juan Island sightseeing from Serendipity's bow.
Everyone got along well, despite the tight quarters. Even Frodo adapted well to life aboard, albeit only a two-day stint. As Monday was a work day for Pete and Pongkhi (and Frodo usually joins her at work), we parted ways at the Anacortes-bound Friday Harbor ferry dock on San Juan Island. 

We hope to do this again with Pete and Pongkhi and Frodo!

For a great summary of where to sail, hike and kayak in the San Juans, click here.


Location Location
We're currently moored off Port Angeles city docks, N48 07.249 W123 25.657. Tomorrow, weather permitting, we sail 52 miles to Neah Bay, then day after, 22 hours nonstop from there crossing the Columbia Bar into Astoria.