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In The Raw: Journaling From Alaska to Washington

A Look Into My Travel Journal, My Writing Process, and Photos

semi-overcast 75 °F

I decided for this week’s entry to offer you my journal entries in their rawest form. These entries are the starting point for what will eventually become another thrilling edition of this blog. In a given week, I’ll head out exploring and recap the days adventures in my trusty journal. I’ve been writing a journal since 1997, and have filled up twelve notebooks of a variety of size. The entries are usually a quick recap. I try to write about what really struck me throughout the day. When I have time to write, my journal more thought out and thorough. There are often diagrams, maps, sketches and doodles added to the mix. Using these scribblings for inspiration and facts, I let the writing process flow. Often, I will get inspiration at strange times, and I have to try to remember what it is I want to say for most of the day before I get a chance to write it down. Somehow, the system works, and I'm able to occasionally write something thoughtful and coherent.

I realize I haven't updated my blog in the last couple of weeks. My apologies. I’ve been very busy of late spending my free time getting reacquainted with my slack line, my camera, and my friends. I've been depriving myself of needed sleep in order to enjoy my life, and something had to give. However, I think this small sabbatical has been good for me, but perhaps, not my blog.

The following are journal entries ranging from the inside passage of British Columbia to Clarkston, Washington on the Snake River.

9-10-12 BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA
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I’m in B.C. these days. It’s our phase day (deckhands switch shifts once a week giving us 18 hours off in a row). I took advantage by going on a short hike into the thick forests. The moss is quite spongy, and comfortable to lay upon. We found a black banana slug, some shells and whatnot. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I wrote my blog. I ate some cheese and crackers. I also collected a few plants to add to my terrarium. Mostly moss, but another limpet shell pool and the like.
Peanut butter , Honey and Cinnamon sandwich for lunch. Tea with Miss Tiffany. Pretty Beautiful. Pretty nice.
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9-11-12 TO BREATHE
Lido. Sunshine. Coffee. Orca. Watts. Dolphins. Stretch. Then I sat in the shade and exercised my breath. Alternating Nostril, deep, shallow in and out, deprivation, inflation. So good. Then I let my voice flow in a chant and it was lovely. I had all of the air I wanted and my voice was very, very low and rich. Satisfaction.

9-16-12 A FOUR DAY RECAP: POSITIONING, AMELIA, SEATTLE, PORTLAND
Well. Here I am in Astoria again. To get here, I went to Seattle. We dropped off our photo nerds and I went to sleep. I awoke to Amelia in the dining room. We talked, catching up and sat in the sunshine. She brought me a giant burrito from our favorite food cart. We compared notes, we had a good time.
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Positioning was a dream. I love positioning (this is when we take the boat from one port to another without guests). I was working nights, as usual, and hung out with Lofall (my deck partner) in the night. Decent seas. I love a good roll.
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I forgot to mention as we rolled into Seattle, I watched bioluminescent bow riding dolphins. It was AMAZING! Pacific White Sided Dolphins slowly doing barrel rolls in the bright white biofeed. Beautiful. I love the ocean. It felt so good to be back on it, rolling, riding and moving in flow.

9-17-12 CASCADE LOCKS ZEN
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Such a lovely place. A shroud of pines protects me from the sun and wind. I’m in a pocket. Cozy, but breatheable. The carpet is tan of dead grass silky to the touch. Chickadees roll through. Time to forage. In the center of the grove is a picnic table which I’m quite attracted to. So I stop and take it in. This is my second spot to stop. No, my third. My first were a wind swept pitch of grass under an ancient oak tree. Good air forced into me. My second was a slack line session with a lead of forty feet. It was awesome to feel it all. Warm sun, strong wind, slick slack line, freeness of accumulated crap I collected all night. Gone. Smiling.
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I could use one more stop, a visit to a tree I know on the south end of the island. I think I’ll let that one stand as a fine memory of last year. I love seeing the cusp of a shadow. The upper branches of a broad leafed maple are green. Glowing. Beautiful. And here I am.
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“He who understands the Tao in the morning can die in peace in the evening.” ~ Confucious

When I’m this tired, I can stare at anything for long periods. When I’m this tired, my blinks take longer, sometimes several seconds.

9-19-12 PALOUSE RIVER STATE PARK, WASHINGTON
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Well, I’m here again. At the falls, though this time I chose a shaded grove of trees and grass to slack line in, rather than hike around to the falls. It’s nice. It’s quiet. The wind in the trees, soft, warm, and fragrant. Slacklining has been good. So far, I’ve managed to slack line everyday this week. Each time at a different place.
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Yesterday, was at Maryhill. A typical session involves a couple of beers, walking the line, friends, shade and trees. The smoky clouds mute the intensity of the sun. It’s still out, but obscured by wildfires.

9-23-12 SEPTEMBER FLYING
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Whoa. Time is hauling ass. Made it to Clarkston. Three days of smoky skies, friends, slack lining, a bit of work, and walking around.
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On the first day, I went slack lining when I finished work. I went to the doctor who told me I had strained my shoulder. Seems about right. It takes six weeks to heal, and I’m on the 4th week. Ah weel.

On the second day, I visited my old friends Eva, Ada, and Faith. We caught up and hung out at the pool. Eva and I went slack lining. What a fine lady. On our way back to our ships, Tiff calls and I rush off to an antique store and buy a bike. I asked the lady in charge if she had any bikes. “ Just the one out front… or we do have an old one.” I told her I wanted to see the old one. “Really? Ok.” It was an easy sell. It’s a seventies tan cruiser. It had two flat tires, but I can fix it. In fact, I’ve already put on a fixing session. I put on an inner tube, pumped up the tires, adjusted the seat, de-rusted the rims and so on.

It’s going to be a sweet ride.

Day three.
Smoky. Real smoky out. Mountains obscured. I went to the Nez Perce County Fair in Lewiston. It was hot, muggy and smoky. Every type of person you can imagine was there, a walking display of humanity, most of it kind of appalling.
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We went on rides and they were very fun. Part of the scare of these rides is wondering if the contraption they lock you in is going to hold together. Then the fun speed of flipping upside down and screaming. I was having a ball. We went on the Kamikaze, the Zipper, and the Tilt a Whirl. My body didn’t know what the hell was going on. I flipped it, spun it, rotated it, and shook it. It’s sleep deprived, sun baked, dehydrated and sweaty. The tilt a whirl was too much. I felt sick halfway through the ride.

Then we waited a long time for a ride back to the ship. Stupid Purser. I felt like a kid though, exhausted, sticky, tired, and a little sick. Don’t count fat people at a fair. It might depress you.
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Hot shower. Cold Beer. Comfortable bed. Ahh.

Now, you are back up to speed. Look for more adventures along the Columbia River until early November. My plan of riding the Zen flow has already proved very interesting. Instead of leaving this ship in Portland, Oregon, I’m now leaving it in Longbeach California. Big Smile!

Posted by Rhombus 16:59 Archived in USA Tagged islands rivers rainbows friends sunsets canada ships sunrises forests philosophy zen slacklining Comments (0)

British Columbia by Water

An Ethereal Study of Reflection, Ocean Life and Fun

sunny 67 °F

These are my final observations of Alaska for the year.

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One: The Misty Fjords weren’t as misty as I expected them to be. To be sure, the morning was very misty, and very beautiful because of the vaporous water. Later in the day, they burned off, revealing the impressive rock faces that make up the landscape.
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Sometimes, incredible weather can happen in the most unlikely of places.

Two: Alaska was very good to me this year. Thinking back on all of the amazing things I have seen this past summer has been further encouragement, that I am indeed on the right path. Aye, life is good.

Three: I’m going to miss Alaska.
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Four: It’s been a fantastic trip. How lucky can one guy get?

These are my observations of British Columbia.

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One: British Columbia has amazing morning lighting, leading me to conclude it is an ethereal realm where the intense greens were mirrors on the surface of its protected narrow and winding waterways. Eventually, the mirrored images begin to form unique natural designs, and patterns. I was lost in brightness of the trees, the beautiful patterns repeating themselves, and the overall beauty of the mornings.
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Two: Kayaking is splendid activity to enhance the visuals of item one. I spent a morning floating on a placid surface, paddling hard when I wanted, but mostly taking it easy and exploring the intertidal zones along the shores of these lushly forested islands. I saw gigantic sea stars, and other invertebrates I hadn’t seen before. B.C. is a healthy place, the environments and ecosystems are strong, and flourishing.
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Three: The wildlife of British Columbia can be quite good. I saw pods of Orca, including a mother and calf pair that played in the tidal current lines just aft of our ship, not more than thirty feet away. We were out of gear of course and posing no threat to any wildlife. To find yourself surrounded by water mammals is a good situation to be in.
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To top it off, we found a pod of Pacific White Sided dolphins! There were several hundred in the group, and most of them were jumping in and out of the water with dolphin regularity. It’s hard to follow dolphins as they streak through the water. They are unpredictable. The best course of action is just to trust your instincts and keep shooting. For every fifteen bad pictures I take, there is usually one gem.
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The dolphins made my day. Just when you think there won’t be anything else to make a trip better, dolphins show up and spread that smile on my face just a little wider.
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Four: British Columbia has a lot to offer. Go check it out sometime. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
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I'm now back in the Lower Forty-Eight, about to spend six weeks travelling up and down the Columbia, Snake, Palouse, and Willamette Rivers.
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Posted by Rhombus 10:21 Archived in Canada Tagged trees reflections wildlife whales alaska canada dolphins photography orcas Comments (2)

The Dusty Vagabond's 100th Entry Extravaganza

Some Thoughts My Blog, Thirty Pictures of Adventures Past

all seasons in one day 60 °F

This entry is somewhat special to me, as it marks one hundred small chapters I have had the pleasure of presenting to you. My blog has surprised me. I never expected it to be as fun as it is to write, or how many people I’ve been able to reach with my twisted, yet well-timed views of this universe.

When I started writing about my travels way back in November of 2009, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I didn’t know if my writing would be like so many of my other “projects” that I’ve been intensely interested in, only to let them fall by the wayside. I’ve had a variety of doomed projects such as: learning Hawaiian, Spanish, and German (I‘ve a short attention span). I‘ve also given up ice skating (for good) bottle collecting, volunteering, golf, ventriloquism, and geology among many others. However, at the time I really wanted to start writing again. I had been to some cool places, and I had plans of going to many more. I knew I was leading an interesting life and I wanted to share it with others. At the time, I didn’t quite know where I fit into the whole scheme, but in time, I knew I wanted to inspire people to go play outside and see the world for themselves. I also wanted to show off my photos, a gift that I’m quite happy in sharing with you.

I’ve always been a better photographer than a writer, so to those of you who simply enjoy or review the photos I thank you for your time. For those of you who waste perfectly good minutes of your day and actually delve into the text and struggle through my invincible wall of typographical and grammatical errors, you have my respect, both of you. I can only imagine the fun you have trying to understand my awkward metaphors. At times, I have to try hard to get what I want to say written correctly and sometimes words fail the imagery I’m trying to relate.

Here's what I find interesting. People from the US, Canada, Great Britain have visited my site the most often. People from Afghanistan, Estonia and Zimbabwe have spent the most time reading the entries. I’m quite surprised and delighted at who has read about my travels. It has truly stretched across the globe, and I’m excited that strangers from around the world can read what a rambler like me is doing with my life. The planet is smaller than ever thanks to electronics.

I’m going to look back at some of my old photos and entries to reminisce and think of my past excursions. This is a good self-analysis of my craft more than anything else. I will repost thirty of my favorite photographs from the last one hundred entries, and tell you a bit more about each one.

Above all, I want to thank all of you who have taken the time to listen to what I have to say. I have had a good run, and an author is useless without an audience. In particular, I’d like to thank the good people at Travellerspoint (www.travellerspoint.com) who’ve put together a fantastic travel website free of charge. They also have taken notice and featured my blog (five times), photos, and have answered my questions. They’ve opened some doors for my craft that otherwise probably would’ve remained closed, lost in large pile of other traveler’s stories.

For those of you who want to know more about Travellerspoint, it is a website designed by travelers for travelers. It has well over a quarter of a million members, and offers free blogging, mapping, and photography. They have a featured blogs, travel photos, a travel forum to discuss anything travel related, a travel guide written by members, and an accommodations page to help you plan your travels. It is a fantastic site, and one I’m damn glad to be a part of.

Thirty of my Favorite Places

Rain and Sun
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I was leaving the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic Nat‘l Park. It was February. The campground was freezing cold, deserted and lonesome. I grew restless. I was hopped up on the high-powered coffee that I had been drinking all afternoon. As I drove out, the heavy clouds broke apart briefly in front of the setting sun lighting up the road and the intense rain shower I was driving through. I stopped the van, and took this photo out of my driver side window. Sometimes you only have a split second to decide if you are going to go for the picture or not. My advice? Shoot first. Drive later.

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I love the City of Rocks. It was late afternoon, and I had just finished bouldering for the day. I was setting up some climbing shots when I experimented with my shadow on the rock. I stretched my lanky frame and tripped the shutter.

Diving into beautiful Lake Superior
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This photo had perfect timing. I took it on the first attempt, looking at my watch and guessing when I should be airborne. At the time, I was shooting film and didn’t know if I had the shot or not, so I took half a dozen takes. Luckily, my guess was right on.

Sunrise and Ice
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Excerpt from my journal:
“I started my day with a debate. ‘Should I go out and take in the sunrise, or not.’ It's not an easy discussion to have with yourself. I decided to set up a system of rewards; a.k.a hot coffee and a muffin upon my return. Outside: cold, snow crunching, slicing wind. Protected by 1970's big green jacket, I find the atmosphere awash with an intense orange quality that sparkles magnificently on the ice. Like a 10 minute wink, the eye of the sun opens briefly, then is gone. Satisfaction. I find my rewards, listen to Yo Yo Ma play some Bach (appropriate), and happily plunk myself in front of my cheery fire. Good morning.”

Bull Elk at Dawn
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I’ve always wanted a good elk shot. Up until this point, I had many pictures of the ass end of an elk, which was somewhat awkward to both the elk and myself. Finally, one magical winter dawn in Yellowstone Nat’l Park I was driving east from Mammoth to go Nordic skiing when I saw two elk on side of the road. I used my van as a blind and took this photo just as the sun crept over the side of the distant mountain.

Madison Valley and Rocky Mountains
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Montana is awesome. This is taken just off the highway near and is a fine example of Montana’s alluring wide-open spaces.

A Rainbow and Passing Storm
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I was staying at Bruneau Dunes State Park in Idaho when a very powerful storm rolled through. The intense storm packed a punch and the rain pounded the van. It was a fast moving squall however, and sunlight soon lit up the clouds that had passed by. I jumped out to take advantage of the beautiful lighting. I was busy taking pictures of the trunk of this tree and its shadow when a rainbow appeared. I took this photo, set up for another, and my battery died.

Crab in Death
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I was biking on the hard packed sand of Cape Lookout State Park in Oregon when I came upon this crab sprawled out in a good dramatic death pose. I put my lens very close to it, crouching down in the wet sand. I wanted to convey the crab as my subject, yet show the expansive beach and surf at low tide. I still like this photo.

Moss Coverage
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I worked hard to get the angle just right for this photo. There were a lot of distracting sticks poking out of the water that I wanted to eliminate. After ten minutes of fussing, I finally found it.

Sitka Landscapes
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I went for a bike ride out to Jablonski Island one evening in early May. I was heading out to John Brown’s Beach when the sun cracked with intensity through a small window in the cloud highlighting the fishing boats, town and Spruce in very warm color but leaving the mountains in heavy gloom.

Devil’s Club and Waterfall
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I really love the intensity of the green of the Devil Club, and surrounding brush compared to the whiteness of the waterfall. If you like green, go hike through the temperate rain forests of Southeast Alaska to see the wide varieties of Earth’s most common color.

Embracing Alaska
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This is still one of my favorite photos and the best example of what I am all about. I had hiked up to Beaver Lake near Sitka, Alaska with a friend of mine. We found the rowboat, bailed it out, plugged the holes as best we could and rowed out onto the lake. I spied this log sticking out of the water and inspiration struck. I had her row me over to it, so I could climb up on it and pose while I shouted to her how to compose the photo. What you don’t know is that my finger on my right hand is painfully numb and bleeding profusely as I had sandwiched it between the bow of our rowboat and the log before I climbed up.

Free Spirit in North Dakota
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I found this field of rapeseed (horrible name) near my campground at Devil’s Lake, North Dakota. It made a beautiful backdrop, and it was easy to set up this self-portrait. I was thinking of how damn good it was to see the Great Plains in color for once, and how free I felt.

The Caboose
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This caboose sits silently near the small town of Poplar, Wisconsin. I passed it one afternoon as I was driving by and stopped and turned around. Too often in the past, I had blown by scenes that intrigued me. I often regretted it. Not this time, I stopped, left the van running, ran over into the clover and buttercups, got low and took the photo. Everything was perfect, and I haven’t seen this caboose in such conditions since.

Playing with shadow on an untouched beach
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It had been raining all day, and I had sat inside through all of it. Bored, I decided to go watch the sunset down on the beach. I was surprised when the low angled sun broke through the dark clouds and lit up the sand and forest. I set up a self-portrait and posed as to give myself a long, funky shadow.

Cloud clearing in Sitka
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I was trying to sneak up on some blue herons that were feeding in the estuary, near Sitka. I was bumbling around on the boardwalk as loud as I could, and the herons had all flown away by the time I “snuck” up on them. Disgusted with myself for not being quiet, I walked around to the front of the river when this scene unfurled in front of me. The clouds briefly cleared in front of the mountain peaks and the sun showed bright through the high clouds lighting up the meadow and river beautifully. No herons this time, but I captured one of my favorite Alaskan memories instead.

A Vibrant End to Autumn
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This was the only photo I took on this day. I was walking in my mom’s yard and these maple leaves struck me as being particularly vibrant. I started thinking about the last leaf of autumn, and a short story formed in my head about it.

Oak Leaf and Wave
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A quiet Zen moment of early winter.

Moonset
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I had been watching this full moon all night. I had just gotten off work, and I had a few minutes to grab my camera and compose this shot before the sun came up. It was a magical morning with moon on one side of us, and the sunrise on the other. I preferred this moon.

Cactus, Kayakers and the SeaBird
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I often compose the desert landscapes of Baja with the surrounding sea. I had just descended a high mountain peak on Isla Danzante when I noticed two kayakers about to cross the small cove. I saw my composition, setting up a leading line of cactus, kayakers, and the Seabird in the distance. I waited for them to separate a little and snapped the shutter.

An Arc of Dolphins
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I took hundreds of dolphin shots down in Baja, but none of them were as well timed as this one. For every hundred shots of the spray of where a dolphin had just been airborne, you might get one nice one. Luck was with me this day.

The Coyote
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This coyote passed within 4 feet of where I was standing on the ski trail in Yellowstone Nat’l park. I will never forget it.

Standing man statue
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I went for a bike ride in La Paz, Baja California Sur. As I headed back into the sun, this shadow and statue caught my eye. Luckily, I had the sidewalk to myself. I was in the right place at the right time, and took my opportunity.

White fences of Idaho
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While biking along “The Trail of the Coeur d’alene” I biked by these brilliant white fences and barns of a horse ranch. Since it was winter, and the world was drab, I turned to black and white to help contrast the scene, and let the fences be my leading line.

Water colors at dawn
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I love this kind of water. This is as brilliant and colorful as I’ve ever seen it. It was just before dawn in the Sea of Cortez, and the sky was fiery orange and pink with a wonderful sunrise.

The end of the earth
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Cabo San Lucas is home to a tip of land made of majestically carved rock called the end of the earth. Because the entire city of Cabo is a blown up little America, and the cape is beleaguered by tour boats and chaos, I was lucky to compose this shot without anything manmade appearing in it. I like this shot, because I was able enough to eliminate all the hubbub of the place and capture a quiet and compelling moment when the cape was quiet just before dark.

Strong-armed cactus landscape
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This Cardon Cactus was unique. It looked like to me, that a man was buried to his waste holding his hands straight up. I was wandering among the unique boojum trees found only in this part of Mexico when I stumbled upon this cactus.

Ame and Thom’s album cover
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We had gone for a stroll down by the Santa Cruz lighthouse and there were huge concrete forms used to protect the light called riprap. I had been playing around on them while Ame made a phone call. When she was done, I had her come and join me for a photo. She perched up high, and I sat low and the shot was perfect. Part of what makes travelling special is the people you meet along the way. I've met a lot of good people, I would never had met if I had stayed home.

Ice detail
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I’ll never forget this iceberg. It was the most uniquely colored berg I’ve ever seen, and I was mesmerized by blue. This berg wouldn’t look nearly so vibrant under a sunny sky, and fortunately we had a foggy drizzle to witness this masterpiece.

Islands in the mist
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The mists of southeast Alaska are amazing. When they begin to break up and dissipate, it creates beautiful land and seascapes where the mists mingle with mountain, islands, sea and sky.

Brown bear fishing
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I had been hoping to see a brown bear up close all year. In August, the salmon begin to run up the small streams of the islands and the bears come in for the feast. This bear was one of three who were fishing in Pavlov cove on the day we visited. I had just woken up, and the chief mate asked me if I wanted to go and look at the bears. I grabbed my camera hopped in a zodiac wearing shorts, light fleece and flip-flops. We rode up the small stream where we could see the bears. I hopped out of the zodiac and walked up the shore to the join the mob that watched these bears fish beneath the falls. I took this picture, caught my ride back to the boat and ate breakfast.

The Ohio and Erie Canal
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I love how grown in and swampy this picture looks. This was once a viable shipping canal running between Cleveland and Akron. It’s good to see nature reclaim its territory after man abandons their work.

The next one hundred entries begin once again in Alaska. I’ll be back aboard the NGS Seabird sailing south on a two week photo trip through Alaska and British Columbia. I’ve been looking forward to this trip for a while, and so I here I go again.

“We were curious. Our curiosity was not limited, but was as wide and horizon less as that of Darwin, Agassiz or Linneaus or Pliny. We wanted to see everything our eyes would accommodate, to think what we could, and, out of our seeing and thinking, to build some kind of structure in modeled imitation of the observed reality.” The Log From the Seas of Cortez, by Steinbeck.

Posted by Rhombus 16:08 Archived in USA Tagged travel mexico usa canada photography philosophy blogging Comments (5)

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