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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 Best of a Mexican March: Part 1

A Vagabond's Last Takes On A Winter in Mexico.

sunny 79 °F

With only just over a week left here in Mexico, I feel a bit overwhelmed thinking about all the writing and photography I’d like to share about this remarkable peninsula. The problem lies in the fact that I want to get out and play, savoring my last week before starting the long ten-day voyage back to the United States and Alaska. Once again, I’ll solve this problem by offering a photographic journey through some of the desert and ocean scenes that I’ve enjoyed so much.

Sperm Whales
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Sperm Whales were on my list of whales I really wanted to see while down here in Mexico. I had visions of Melville’s classic ‘white whale,’ and I wanted to see one for myself. Sperm whales have a very different shape than the other whales I’ve seen, and their spout is distinguishable from others as it comes out diagonally from their blowhole

I witnessed three separate pods, and a huge solo male. Sperm whales are very social; the females tend to stay together with calves and it almost as though they are synchronized swimming. They would rest on the surface in between dives, and it was during this time when I could get a really good look at them. When at last they had rested enough, they would take a final breath, and begin the long slow process of diving. First, the head would go down, and like a cracking whip, the rest of the body would follow. I could see the dorsal bend and submerge which would lift the huge flukes of the whale’s tail to a near vertical position. Seeing the humungous fluke lift out of the water is amazing. It is among my favorite views of the whale, any whale. It’s as though they are waving goodbye before disappearing into the depths for several minutes.
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Animal Prints
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The desert is full of nocturnal animals. They come out at night to eat, drink, and be merry--avoiding the harsh light and heat of the day. I was lucky enough to get out at first light, and spent the golden hours of the morning admiring the simple beauty and design of animal prints on the sand dunes.
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Two Sunrises
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I told Clay our Chief Engineer that the sky would light on fire this morning. He was skeptical, and impatiently called me out when at first the clouds remained unlit by the rising sun. I told him to be patient and wait, that it would happen. Ten minutes later, the sky smoldered and caught, briefly highlighting the large gray clouds in sunrise orange over the ocean and Isla San Francisco. Sunrise orange is hard to describe, it’s not pink, orange, or gold but some amazing mixture of them all.
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It was a cold, windy morning on Magdalena Bay. It was brisk. I watched a panga of anglers slowly work their lines in the choppy seas. I thought about the life of an angler here in Mexico; the long hours, the hard work, for not very much money. Two things stuck in my mind. One was that I was more or less living the same life, working all night on a boat to watch the beauty of the rising sun and cloud. The other thought I had, was that to work outside for a living is a good life. To immerse oneself in the golden glow of a sunrise for its entire duration is better than the best corner office with a good view in the world. Money is worthless in comparison to a life lived well.

Desert Plants and Landscapes
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What do you think of when you think of a desert? Perhaps you think of a flat, bare, plain, rocky, desolate with the odd scrounging a living here and there. The desert of Baja is a lush desert full of desert plant life. It’s varieties of plants, cactus, shrubs and flowers is quite impressive for how little water falls here.
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Boojum Trees
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We took a field trip in buses to a Boojum Tree forest. The Boojum tree is a funky looking tree, with a white trunk and hundreds of think twig like branches extending about a foot from the trunk. It grows tall; maybe thirty to forty feet high twisted and bent high into the desert sky. It looks like a tall inverted white carrot.
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The desert where these trees are located was superb. It was full of a wide variety of flowering plants and cactus. I loved the silence of the desert solitude. The only sound was that of the occasional bird, or the buzzing of giant bumblebees, and the cursing of your absent-minded author as he accidentally thrust his foot into an extremely sharp ball of needles that punctured deeply into his foot. This marked the first time I had received a puncture from a cactus spine in four and a half months of sandal wearing wandering. I was due, and didn’t let it slow me down.
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Snorkeling at Isla San Marcos
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The island of San Marcos is a geological gem, and an amazing setting to don your snorkel gear and see what’s going on below the surface of the water. The shoreline was a jagged rock wonderland of arches, sea caves, overhangs, spires and coves. The water was cool and refreshing, and as I made that first lunge into the darkness of the sea cave, I gave a little yelp as the water reached my sensitive areas. I don’t dive with a wet suit, as the water temperature here is about the same as Lake Superior in mid July.
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I swam deeper into the dark water, heading underneath a giant arch and to the greenish glow of sunlit water some distance away. It was very cool to swim through the darkness of that cave, and to emerge into the bright sunny water beyond. I saw at least ten varieties of fish swimming lazily through the coral covered giant rocks and boulders. The water was warmer in the sunlight, but occasionally a cold current would swirl over me, mixing warm and cold water over my body leaving my skin tingling in delight.

This was among the best snorkeling I’ve done here in Mexico, and I hope to return one more time before I leave.

Dolphins

Dolphins are good for the soul.
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Desert Insects and Animals
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The desert is full of life. The best advice I can offer is to walk slowly, take your time, and look at each rock and plant before you move much. Often these insects, birds, and animals are lazily sunning themselves in the heat of the day.
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So Ends Part One. There's more to come this week, so stay tuned!
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Posted by Rhombus 11:06 Archived in Mexico Tagged cactus plants whales deserts oceans insects dolphins photography dunes Comments (0)

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