Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tufted Puffins and more...

The dinner cruise, in support of the Dungeness River Audubon Center, was called the "Puffin Cruise," but in fact we saw young and mature eagles, a variety of seagulls, cormorants and harbor seals with pups along with the promised puffins.

John Wayne Marina, Sequim, WA about 6:30 p.m. Due to
the mist, it is hard to see the island destination well, but it
out where the sky is lighter, only when we got there it wasn't.
It was a misty evening with a light breeze, about 50-60 degrees, and not much wave action, but the wind waves picked up as the sun was setting, making it a little hard to get good shots. The lack of defining light was also challenging. I was glad I took along a windbreaker because once I went out on deck, the breeze and the mist were pretty chilly.

The 65-foot Glacier Spirit from Port Townsend was our
tour vessel. The captain and his team did an excellent job!
We were served a delicious dinner of dill and garlic salmon with a Caesar salad and Capt. Pete's Party Potatoes along with fresh-baked bread from Pan D'Amor that was yummy.

From my years of living aboard, I had a very good appreciation of what it takes to get a meal out from a galley and to serve it while underway.

Cruise time to the island was about 30 minutes. That was time enough for most folks to finish their meal and then go out on deck to see all the creatures on this island refuge.
The southern end of the island has a spit where the seals and
pups can lie on a beach and the water is somewhat shallow
so the pups can learn to swim safely.

Apparently the eagles, young and old, don't have enough challenging food adventures on the peninsula, so they come over to the island to grab a few eggs from the gulls or Canadian Geese, and the gulls harass the seals for the placenta after they birth their pups. This is a fine example of the "pecking order."

Off in the distance you could see the ruckus that the eagles were causing, and as we approached (only within 200 feet, please) we could make out pups lying next to their mums, geese in the water nearby, and puffins bobbing close enough to get shot or two before they dove down for fish for dinner.

If you look closely, just to the right in the photo, you can see dots of birds
circling and doing aerial maneuvers. We were too far off to hear much.
Rhinocerous Auklets, Caspian terns and other birds identified by our tour guide were flying or floating all around the boat.

In fact, it was rather difficult to know where to 'tern' next to see the next bird.

A closer shot of the chaos being created by the eagles...
Many of the birds are nesting now, so we often saw birds with fish in their beaks being carried off to the cliff homes for the little squawkers.

It was possible to see the holes the birds have made in the cliffs, but not much more from the distance we were required to stay offshore.

I was seated with a couple (John and Marie-Paul) who had lived in the Hague for awhile and they were delightful companions for dinner. The other couple at our table was mostly silent as we ate and as soon as we were close to our destination, they were up and outside. On the ride back they seemed subdued; no explanation.

"Bob" in the cap, was our birding
point man. Lots of local information!
Our tour guide was exceedingly informative, but I did not bring anything for taking notes. He had an excellent grasp of the history of the area and was knowledgable about the status of the threatened species and the numbers of birds on the island.
The tufted Puffin pair in all their bright colors, cruising near enough for my
camera to zoom in and get this shot.
We were offshore for about an hour and then we turned for home. The crew delivered up freshly baked brownies with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, almonds and a raspberry on top for our dessert. Wow!

Canadian Geese in the water, seals on the beach, gulls on
logs and in the air, and eagles - just out of the frame.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Lavender is in the air...

It's that time of year again on the Olympic Peninsula... the weekend of the Lavender Festival. (The link will tell you all about it.)

Lavender in bloom on the Olympic Peninsula a few weeks ago...
But it's been drier than usual, so some of the lavender growers have already started harvesting some of their crop because it doesn't do to have the flowers come to a fuller bloom too soon.

Still, there's plenty of the purple haze and smell to satisfy the tourists.

Last year I planted my own lavender bush and because I moved in January, the transfer of the bush did not go well. It needed to go into the ground earlier rather than later, but I think it will survive and maybe next year it will have the intensity of its neighbors.

Protection Island in Washington State, in the Strait of Juan
de Fuca, in the mouth of Discovery Bay, near Sequim.
This weekend, there's dinner cruise to Protection Island, a national wildlife refuge, to see the local marine birds. Some of the funds paid for the trip will support the local Audubon Society. I have been wanting to get out there since I moved to this area, so I'm hopeful this may be one of the nicest photo journeys I've been on in awhile.
Close up of the lavender flower, a wonderful scent, if you
aren't allergic to it, which I know some folks are.

The island is one of two of the local nesting places for the Tufted Puffin, and as one of my birder followers (Margaret in Italy) knows, these are interesting and an endangered species.

It's likely the weather is going to continue to be dry and warm, but I'm going to be prepared for the coolness that being on the water at dusk brings.

A good friend is moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico, in a couple of weeks. She was one of the first people who befriended me when I arrived in Sequim, and it will be hard to not have her living nearby.  I completely get the reasons for her move, and people move in and out of our lives all the time, in one way or another. But I don't have to like it, do I?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Celebration of Life: Renn Tolman

From the Homer (Alaska) Tribune: "Homer boatbuilder and musician Renn Tolman passed away peacefully in his tiny beachfront cabin on the afternoon of Saturday, July 5. He was 80.
A celebration of Renn’s life will be held at his boat shop in Homer at 4 p.m. Saturday, July 12.
Renn was well-known in Alaska coastal communities for designing and building the Tolman skiff, a practical dory-style v-bottom boat that found wide use among hardy seafarers on Kachemak Bay and around the world. His two do-it-yourself books, describing an economical “stitch-and-glue” construction process involving plywood and epoxy resin, sold thousands of copies. Tolman skiffs can be found in Germany, Norway, Australia and other countries. An old-school outdoorsman, Renn traveled far across open water on hunting and fishing trips. At his death he had just completed a new design, the Tolman Trawler
." (The link on his name has many photographs of his boats and a few of him.)
I have only just heard this news, and while I haven't actually talked to Renn in decades, he is part of the memory of my teen years in New Hampshire.
To celebrate his life today, at this great distance from his boat shop, let me just say that one of my treasured memories is sitting up in his cabin in Nelson, before he moved to Alaska, listening to my older brother and Renn playing music with their other pals. The cabin was smoky, dim, small and spare. It must have been a cool evening as there was a fire blazing while the harmonicas, fiddles, guitars, flutes and voices combined for a lovely flow of energy.
Renn was not an easy man to know, even if you were an adoring fan just because your brother was. But even then, he gave off the air of a hermit, a man who had much to think about and little to say, unless he sang it.
He was an integral part of the Nelson 'scene' with music and picnics and other dramas which others may or may not remember during those vibrant summers of the late '50s. Renn would have been in his mid-twenties then, and there were plenty of women who had their eyes on him. But there was something remote about him, almost ethereal, and however much I studied him, he was not someone I could easily describe to anyone else.
I know that when he moved away, his father, Newt Tolman, did not like to speak much about him. One night when we were having dinner at the Tolman's house, I asked him, "Are you angry at your son?" Newt cleared his throat several times, gathered up his voice, and with unusual sentiment for that crusty old man, he replied, "No, not at all... I just miss him something terrible."
Sometime after Renn moved to Alaska, my brother drove up there to visit, taking with him his strong-minded male Wiemaraner as company for the long drive from Massachusetts. I'm not sure where it happened, but along the way, apparently the dog decided he needed to get out to pee and opened the back of the camper and jumped out. My brother saw nothing until the flashing lights of a state trooper pulled him over to ask him if the dog that was chasing him was his. Reunited, they went on together and spent some of the summer with Renn. 
Having just watched the movie "Cloud Atlas," supporting the theory of reincarnation, which I tend to align with, I should expect Renn might be promoted to a distant star colony where his music and delicate soul can flourish.

(A more detailed obituary was published by The Sentinel (Keene, NH) and can be read here.)
Godspeed, Renn.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Reflections on a Fourth of July

I've been through a number of celebrations of Independence Day, some memorable and some must be forgettable as I cannot recall them now.

Waiting for the fireworks in Aberdeen, WA.
This year, as it has for several decades, the holiday falls close to my son's birthday, and I wanted to do something special with him.

Lady Washington, a full-scale reproduction
of the original 18th century sailing ship.
I arranged for us to be on Lady Washington, an authentic, full-scale reproduction of the original 18th century tall ship, for a display of fireworks in the harbor. (At the link you can see a video about the building of this vessel, and more details about her.)

The vessel is 112-feet in length overall, US Coast Guard inspected and certified, and is operated by Grey's Harbor Historical Seaport Authority, a not-for-profit organization in Aberdeen, Washington

A bit of trivia about the ship: she was the only real ship to be used in the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean," and her tiller was replaced with a ship's wheel for the movie and then she was refitted with the tiller used today.

The weather was cooperative to the degree that we could have fireworks, but the constantly threatening clouds and nighttime mist made it difficult to get good, clear and sharp photographs.

Still we had a lively time, watching the crew raise and lower the sails, along with a short sail up the Wishkah and Chehalis rivers.

Watching the crew manage the lines for raising and lowering
the sails was fascinating.

Out on the bowsprit as the summer sun
drops down to the horizon.

One of the crew members recalled another year when he was in Boston Harbor and experienced the synchronized and colorful display along with the music of the 1812 Overture played by the Boston Pops Orchestra.

I've been there, too, and it is the sine qua non of fireworks events, in my opinion. We were watching it just in the harbor, again on a boat, with a radio playing the Pops concert. Sometimes I wonder if I just dreamed the highlights of my past...
And the rocket's red glare....

Aberdeen was once a logging and fishing center at the southern end of the Olympics, but it seems to be a city struggling to re-define itself these days. It is less than two hours away from the state's capitol in Olympia, has beaches nearby, and easy access to the Pacific Ocean for fishing or sailing events.

But the buildings are grey with soot or dust or are so dilapidated as to create a feeling of abandonment, the quality of the restaurants leaves much to be desired and the population seems to need some kind of shot in the arm to take pride in their dwellings.
The bombs bursting in air... 
I left the city gratefully after two attempts to dine out; one place rebuffed us and the other was an expensive disappointment in dining. When the best food you can find in a city like this is at a Jack-in-the-Box drive-through, that is a sad statement of conditions.

This was supposed to have been an exemplary celebration, and it was frustrating that so much was beyond my control to make it so. Still, we took what was good from it, and counted the trip as being one of the better ones shared. Happy birthday, America, and Happy Birthday to my son.

He looks like a member of the crew...

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Enchanted Forest

When I was growing up, there was a small forest behind our house on Pine Street. At one time, I don't have any idea how long ago it was, there was an active quarry in that section of woods as well.

Aboard the ferry "Salish" to Whidbey Island, I caught this
nice pattern of shapes and color before we departed.
I used to go for walks there by myself when I was probably five or six years old. Those were the days when children were less at risk for getting lost just because they spent time exploring. And it probably was a contributing factor that my mother was an artist who didn't really want to spend time mothering, so the nanny she hired to care for my younger brother was preoccupied with him. (This is not "Oh, woe is me, poor abandoned child..." but a statement of fact.)

At any rate, I went to this piney woods often in the summertime. It was quiet, and there were some huge boulders that had gotten pushed into each other, creating a cozy little hide-away, filled with needles and leaves and cones from winds and previous seasons, in between them. (I know I didn't go there much after I was 10 or 11 because I was too big to fit in that space anymore.) It was my enchanted forest, where fairies and gnomes and my mystical life got nourished.
On this grey day, the canopy of trees took on a lovely
pattern only seen when one looks heavenward.

Once, when returning from the boulder site, I came up a path and was face-to-face with a doe and her two rump-spotted fawns and an 'auntie,' and I think a yearling. They stopped and looked at me, sniffing the air, and I was transfixed with the beauty of the group, standing breathless watching to see what was going to happen next.

It was one of those moments in time that seem to stop clocks... the world might have even stopped spinning as we faced each other. A crack of a twig somewhere broke the silence.  We all looked in the direction of the noise and there was the male, leader of the herd, fully antlered, coming to check on his girls.

There was no fear anywhere. We all sort of nodded at each other. The deer clan headed calmly off to the nearby field for grazing, perhaps to the place where I knew berries were nearly ready, and I sank to the ground, exhausted by the exhilaration of being so close to creatures I had read about.

72-acre Earth Sanctuary is located on Whidbey Island, off
Newman Road. It is $7 per person and $1 for the guide.

Fallen trees also serve as homes for the wildlife.

Yesterday I walked through a nature preserve, the Earth Sanctuary, on Whidbey Island that is privately owned and maintained. This forest fed me with the same etheric energy of my childhood. I returned home refreshed, cleansed and totally exhausted from it, sleeping two and half-hours, getting up for dinner and then falling into another wonderful and restful sleep until the six o'clock bird-fest outside my window woke me up.

This 72-acre Sanctuary is not unlike that of Willard Pond, another precious bit of protected land that our family gave over to New Hampshire Audubon to manage. I grew up appreciating the dangers of avarice for beautiful ponds and my grandmother Elsa dePierrefeu's wisdom created a 1700-acre wildlife preserve that still today offers the pavement-weary soul a place to retreat, repair and renew one's energy.

The wooded wetlands of this private land have over 80 species of native plants, including some delicious-looking red and yellow raspberries. (No, we did not take any. We did not see a sign that said we could not, but we felt we were on sacred ground and should leave the fruits of it to the residents; the deer, the birds, the beavers and muskrats and other critters that call this home.)

Raspberries are coming to fruit all over Washington now.
Ponds and bogs each have their role to play in nurturing a
healthy forest environment for all creatures, including slugs,
which are my least favorite creature overall.
I have never seen this fruit in the marketplace, but went to a
class recently to learn how to grow them at home.
There are printed, self-guided naturalist tour guides for free ($1 if you decide to keep one.) and posts with letters on them to help you determine what you are seeing, along with an explanation of why it is what it is.
The trail to the left leads to first Medicine Wheel area while
the trail to the right leads to the ponds and the Labyrinth and
Prayer Stone, more easily accessible.
The echoing basso-profundo music of these residents made
for a curious question by a tourist ... "What is making those
sounds?" I showed her how to find the source; she was entranced
and now, informed. Perhaps she also learned that they are
invaders and not particularly desirable, unless the Osprey
enjoy having them for dinner.
By taking the trail to the left, we found our way to the Cottonwood Stone Circle and the Tibetan Prayer Wheel. There is a spot for making an offering and burning tobacco. If it had been sunnier, we might have stayed long enough to see how the shadows played out on the ground.
Tibetan Prayer Wheel

Cottonwood Stone Circle

If you are planning to experience the Medicine Wheel section, be prepared to remove your shoes, carry some fresh tobacco for an offering, and either matches or a lighter to light it. At the time of our visit there was some tobacco and some sage for smudging, but the matches were wet. Also, no photographs are allowed of this sacred place, so please do not violate Native American customs by taking any.

Path is wide, but has a significant incline in
both directions. A bit challenging for wheeled
chairs or folks with walking issues.
In my opinion, the wetland trails on the farther part of the western end of the Sanctuary are not un- wheel-chair friendly, but a bit challenging, based on inclines in both directions for people with walking limitations. For example, my walking partner, due to knee issues, wasn't able to walk up the Celestial Trail at this time due to the steepness coming down.

There are plenty of places to sit and meditate in the area.
As it is not a public lands place, this is certainly not required to be ADA, but useful to know if you are traveling with someone who has such limitations. We were not able to explore the eastern end beyond visiting the Stupa very briefly due to time and weather, but another visit this fall is intended.

As we were returning to the parking lot, my totem, the American Robin, came and perched on some piled up prayer stones - a sign for me that I had come to the right place at the right time.

Visitors to the Stupa/Tibetan prayer location can use the
prayer wheels and the gong to enhance the experience.
All in all, it was a wonderful walking and meditating experience, shared with a special friend. There were a few other folks, but it wasn't at all crowded, and everyone respected the purpose of not talking while on the paths.

You can visit the Sanctuary on a day-trip basis or stay at the Retreat building on site. For more information, go to

If you don't have email or internet access, you can phone Celia at 360-321-5465.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Sol Duc Sunday

Ahhhhh, you ask, "Just what is a Sol Duc Sunday?"
Lake Crescent, Clallam County, Washington
on the Olympic Peninsula, about an hour's drive from
Port Angeles. It's three hours from Seattle.
No, it isn't something to eat. It's a drive on the Olympic Peninsula, up past Lake Crescent to the Sol Duc Hot Springs, (both are attractions in  the Olympic National Forest), for a lovely hot soak after a wonderful bike ride.

We got a late start, my friends and I, but the weather was so lovely, we felt no need to rush. The sun was out, a light breeze was tousling our hair, and then we put on our bike helmets.

I should say that we put on our helmets once we arrived at that portion of the Olympic Discovery Trail near Camp David, Jr., on the north side of the lake. There are plenty of signs off Highway 101, so it is easy to find the road.

This lake is incredibly clear and today it was also very calm.
Once we off loaded the bikes, we were reminded this is a good time of year to carry mosquito repellent as they started swarming us until we were moving along.

You take the trail westward, with a slight uphill trend, (easy pedaling, really) for about 30 minutes, until you reach the port-a-potty and the western entrance off Highway 101. Then you turn around and go back the way you came, gliding all the way!! I don't think I pedaled my bike more than a couple of times on the way back.

We didn't see any folks until we were headed back and then we saw two hikers/walkers on the trail. This whole area has lots and lots of trails for both bikers and hikers. Most of the bike shops have a trail map that is accurate and helpful.

A closer look at the submerged log, above and below.
We saw a doe, who looked more than a little puzzled at three helmeted humans bearing down on her at a pretty good clip. She took off, crashing and making a terrible racket in the forest, probably thinking she was going deaf not hearing us until we were so close.

At the western-most end of Lake Crescent, there are some
campsites, picnic grounds, boat launching pier and a small
area for swimming, at your own risk... it's pretty cold.
All in all, the biking portion of the trip, from start to finish, was about an hour. We did stop for about 20 minutes to enjoy a mossy clearing where we laid down on Nature's mattress to stare up at the canopy of forest. Curious to us was the protection we had from the mosquitoes while we were on the moss. Even though it was slightly damp, they did not seem to care to approach us there.

The light filtered through
the moss-covered trees.
By this time it was after 1:30 p.m., we were pretty hungry, so we stopped at the western end of the lake and enjoyed our packed lunches. There is a little store right there, so people can buy sandwiches and drinks and snacks if they aren't inclined to bring their own.

Taking a break on Nature's mossy mattress, making that
"earth connection" that is so rejuvenating.

The Olympic Discovery Trail near Lake Crescent.
With lunch done, we started the short drive to the road that takes you to the Sol Duc Hot Springs and campground. But that 14 miles of roadway after the Ranger entry station (It will cost you $15 per car if you don't have a national park pass.) is slow and winding. It will take you about half an hour from the ranger station to the hot springs.

There is also a lovely waterfall to hike up to, but we are going to do that another day.

The water really is this color!! And this clean!
About half-way along the road there is a spot to watch the salmon returning and leaping up the Sol Duc River, but since this was June, there were no fish to be seen. Their return is in the autumn.

Obviously the water is not really green, but it is so clear
that it reflects back the colors of all the trees near it.
Still it was incredibly lovely and peaceful, so we wandered about that location for a bit. It seems that a lot of people go to the Hot Springs for the full day or weekend. We only were there a few hours, but the sulfur heat was really helpful to my back after the workout it got on Saturday and my legs felt refreshed from the bike ride.

The largest pool is about 70 degrees. The closer circle pool
runs very hot, somewhere between 106-109 degrees.
This pool, closest to the administration and showers, is a
comforting 99-100 degrees on average. All sulfur.
We are not sure why the administration of the facility is being so sparing of help on a busy weekend, but it didn't help having to stand in a long line to pay to go in.

Oh, and yes, there is a fee for that as well. $10 per person. Pretty hefty if you have a large family, in my opinion.

You can go to the link to read all the details about this unique experience, and get information if you want to do an overnight visit.

I was quite stunned at the variety of cultures present on this day. I heard Ukrainian being spoken, German, Italian, Mandarin (Chinese), and one other dialect I couldn't identify.

It is very child-friendly, but not pet-friendly. Don't even think about bringing Fido along.

Other tip: wear water 'slippers' because the aggregate surface is really painful to walk on and the other walking surfaces are quite slippery.

There are towels for rent, food at the little restaurant, lots of beverages and sunscreen if you forget to bring it.

All in all, it was a truly delightful day and I'm so glad I've had a chance to see a little more of the paradise I am calling 'home.'