A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about islands

One Week in Alaska: Why I love My Life

Twenty Four Southeast Alaskan Scenes of Grandeur

semi-overcast 49 °F

I’ve been re-inspired by Alaska. Close encounters with Orca whales will do that to a guy. Hell, just looking out at the wilderness landscapes of this state will re-inspire a guy. I’m glad to be back in Alaska. I’ve surprised myself this week by realizing how badly I’ve missed this untamed place. Here are 24 photos that are just a glimpse into the vast wildness that makes up this amazing state. I’ve seen all this in only a week. Imagine what a summer could hold…

TRACY ARM
DSCN1823.jpgDSCN1857.jpgDSCN1865.jpgDSCN1882.jpgDSCN1936.jpgDSCN1938.jpgDSCN1968.jpgDSCN1994.jpgDSCN1996.jpgDSCN1914.jpgDSCN1891.jpg

GREEN SCENES
DSCN1739.jpgDSCN1746.jpgDSCN1764.jpg

WHERE OCEAN MEETS LAND
DSCN2015.jpg2DSCN1733.jpgDSCN1728.jpgDSCN1719.jpgDSCN1698.jpg

ORCAS
DSCN1654.jpg

GLACIER
DSCN1687.jpg

TREES
DSCN1636.jpg

YOUR HERO
DSCN1675.jpg

Alaska is everything you've ever dreamed of. Go.

Posted by Rhombus 10:29 Archived in USA Tagged trees birds boats islands ocean fjords whales alaska glaciers forests moss icebergs Comments (2)

Infatuated With Isla Magdalena: Beware of the Stingrays

Exploring the Amazing Sand Dunes, Sand Dollar Beach, The Stingray Episode

sunny 75 °F

Magdalena Bay is located on the southwest coast of the rugged and beautiful Baja Peninsula. The town of San Carlos is the only real town of size in the area, and one can reach this small, dirty, fishing town by bus, auto or by sea. What San Carlos lacks in charm, is offset by its location. It’s a great staging point to access the beautiful natural areas that make up this unique and often bypassed region of Mexico.

Aficionados of good sand would do well to consider the splendor of dunes and beaches that Isla Magdalena has to offer. IIsla Magdalena is a long skinny barrier island that protects Magdalena Bay that provides a home to countless species of wildlife including a wide variety of birds and the gray whales. I’ll write more about close encounters with the Gray Whales in a future post.

I’ve been fortunate to make two forays onto Isla Magdalena (which I’ll refer to as IM from here on out) so far. You could have just as easily called it a jaunt, or stroll, or a ramble- They all end up the same. My treks of late have simply been open ended, spontaneous walk over places I’ve never been to before. My explorations rarely last longer than a couple of hours or a day at most, and they are very enjoyable. It’s a way to focus on a little slice of the big picture, an introduction to an area, but not covering everything there is to see. A mini-exploration if you will.
DSCN9674.jpg
On my last exploration onto IM, I started out by exploring the beautiful dunes that undulate across the eastern side of the skinny island. It was mid morning when I stepped ashore, took off my life jacket, stepped out of my sandals and looked out over the rolling dunes before me. “Where to begin?” I thought to myself. Initially, I started walking though the ankle deep moist sand towards a high point, but as soon as I crossed the main trail that leads to the other side of the island, I quickly chose a different tack. One that would lead me astray from the road more traveled, and onto my own path of serendipity and chance.

I am very thankful for my delight in finding artistic beauty in nature wherever I roam. One man’s sand dune is another man’s treasure, and on this trek, I found several satisfying scenes.
DSCN9680.jpgDSCN9689.jpgDSCN9696.jpg
Check out this Desert Beetle.
DSCN9693.jpg
Sand Verbena is quickly becoming one of my favorite flowers. They grow in clumps on bumps of sand, sporting thin ivy like connection over the sand. The plant produces tiny, vibrant purple flowers with yellow centers. While composing some photographs of the verbena, I noticed a few water droplets had formed and saturated the flowers. The morning dew that forms very thickly on the west side of the peninsula and these tender little plants take advantage of this phenomenon, enjoying a satisfying drink every morning.
DSCN9706.jpgDSCN9715.jpgDSCN9711.jpg
I finally crossed the dunes and made my way onto sand dollar beach. My co-workers had been raving about this place for weeks, and this was my first chance to see it. Usually when someone brags about a place, I tune them out preferring to make my own judgments about it. Yeah, I’ve been burned too many times with other people’s elevated opinion of places.
DSCN9731.jpg
Sand dollar beach lived up to its billing. It’s a wide, flat sand beach, caressed by the curling waves of the pacific. The air is fresh, and cool. The sand is home to many different types of animals, some preferring the dry sand of the upper beach and others burrowing deep under the tidal range living their life underground.
DSCN9726.jpg
I ran into my friend Ame, who had taken advantage of her free time as I had. We walked along looking at all the cool stuff there was on the beach. Including a hairy legged hermit crab , and other bits of interesting sea phenomenon that washes up on shore, and lives there. I think I could beach comb Sand Dollar beach everyday for a year, and not get bored with it.
DSCN9730.jpg
We met up with our friend Edd, who I had made a plan of meeting the night before, and we decided to go body surfing in the beautiful curling waves that were rolling onto the sand bar out in the water. Ame declined to join us, as she’d been up all night walking the decks. Ed and I bid her farewell, and ran out towards the water, turning cartwheels (sort of), and yelling out, laughing and jumping until we hit the water. Then our laughing and yelling turned to high pitched, voice cracking shrieks when the water hit various parts of our anatomy. The water was a bit cool, but once submerged I got used to it rather quickly.

It was some of the best body surfing I’ve ever done. I’ve been body surfing all my life, mostly on the fine sand beaches of Lake Superior. I was curious to see how the oceans curls would compare.

Comparing Lake Superior and the Ocean
What I discovered was that ocean waves are more consistent, and once you figure out the wave pattern and set, it’s easy to time your jumps.

Lake Superior is nice because of its fresh water. The ocean is nice because the salt keeps you slightly more buoyant. The ocean is nice because the waves are consistent and strong. Lake Superior often has a very strong rip that pulls you along the shore away from your starting point. The ocean (here at least) didn’t pull us in any direction. To get big waves on Lake Superior, the wind needs to be howling from the correct direction. On the Ocean, the waves are there regardless of wind strength and direction. Swimming in soft breezes is more enjoyable than swimming in gale force winds.

I made several successful rides of over 50 feet and more, just by timing my jumps perfectly to catch the wave. I don’t like to swim with the wave before surfing it. To me, it seems like a lot of unnecessary work and not true surfing. My technique is to simply wait until my instinct tells me to go, and dive horizontally with the wave. I flatten and hold my body in a flying superman style and try to think like a surfboard (I think it helps). My technique works very well for me.

Body surfing perfect waves is akin to skiing down mountain slopes with a foot of fresh powder. It brings out an adrenaline-tinged euphoria that leaves me smiling all day long.

Edd was having as much fun as I was, then he yelled out in pain. I asked what was wrong, and he said that he thought a crab had bitten him on the foot. Having not felt that experience before, I didn’t question him. After all, he grew up by the ocean, and I didn’t. However, he was having a lot of pain, and he held his foot out of the water to check it out. A big drip of blood burbled up thinned out by the salt water and dripped into the ocean. Not good. Not good at all.

We started back to shore, and I was contemplating our situation. Edd was hurt, and we were a long way from the ship. I knew we had staff with radios somewhere on the island, but I wasn’t sure where. I knew that would have to be the first step: finding someone with a radio who could call the ship and the doctor.

Once on shore, the pain really started to hit hard. Edd sat on the sand, and I began to ask him the usual questions tapping his foot to see where the pain was. I wanted to keep him talking, as I didn’t know how bad it was, or if he would have an allergic reaction to the toxin. Knowing I’d have to go for help, I looked around and luckily saw our Video expert a couple hundred yards away. I sprinted over to him, and luckily he had a radio. He called the doctor, and I ran back to Edd. The doctor was only a couple of hundred yards further down the beach, and he made it to Edd and I relatively quickly.
DSCN9740.jpg
Edd had been jabbed by a stingray. He had a small laceration on his foot, but luckily there was no stinger in it. The bad news was that the doctor had left his medical kit on the other side of the island. He radioed other staff members who were already halfway across the island with our guests, and in no position to turn around. I knew I could get the kit faster than they could anyway, and I volunteered to go and get it. I’m not sure why the doctor left his gear on that side of the island when everyone was going to be on this side. I didn’t really think to ask, I just started running.

Isla Magdalena is roughly three quarters of a mile wide where we anchored and walked across. It’s covered in sand of varying consistency, from hard packed, so soft ankle deep mush and flowing dunes. There are beds of old sharp and brittle shells that occasionally peek out, unearthed by the strong winds. These are not ideal conditions for a jog by any means; running in sand is hard work, and exhausting. I was up for the challenge.

I figured Edd would be ok, but he was in some serious pain and that thought gave me all kinds of energy to make my crossing. I hadn’t run in a long time, but I took it as a test to see what kind of shape I was in. It was a trial by fire, if you will.

I have long legs, and I’m in good shape from all my adventures. I ran hard, pushed on by my task, and I made good time. I alternated between running hard where the ground was good, and jog/fast trekking over the bigger dunes and through the deep moist sand. I was wearing only my tan shorts, and I was moving fast. I’d like to think our clients (most of them European) only noticed a pale blur gasping into the distance, but I’m probably wrong. I reached the other side, grabbed the kit bag, and started back. I was tired, but game, and continued my fast pace back over the dunes. It was a little harder to run while carrying the bag, but it wasn’t too heavy.

I retraced my steps and made it back to Edd, the doctor, and a few crewmembers that had shown up to offer Edd support. The doctor got busy making Edd more comfortable, and I drank some water, and caught my breath. I deemed myself in good shape, passing my physical challenge for the day.
DSCN9747.jpg
After the doctor cleaned and bandaged Edd’s heel, it was time to try to get him back to the ship. With two people as crutches and two others carrying gear, we made a slow caravan over the dunes. I’m taller than Edd is, so I had to stoop to let him use me as a crutch. It probably looked fairly ridiculous, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Edd was really in some pain, and the toxin was spreading up his leg. We climbed to the high point on the dunes, before we stopped to let him rest. At that point, we decided to call in the cavalry.

We have a good emergency response protocol in place, and it was good to see that the system worked, and worked well. The ship was aware of our predicament, and standing by ready to assist as needed. They sent over a stokes litter, and five people to help us carry him. After we made the call, it became a waiting game. I had my friend Daisey stand on top of the dune as our guide, and I ran back across the dunes one more time to meet the reinforcements. My friend Daisey had the presence of mind to grab my camera and start taking photos. These pictures are hers, and used with permission.
DSCN9745.jpgDSCN9748.jpgDSCN9757.jpg
The cavalry and I trekked back to Edd, put together the litter, loaded him up, and started carrying him out. We knew he’d be fine, so we teased him as we went, cracked some jokes, and made the best of it. We loaded him in a zodiac, and brought him to the ship where the medical team was waiting with a big bucket of hot water. Stingray venom is made of heat-labile proteins. The hot water acts as a neutralizer, making the venom less effective, and keeps the toxin from spreading further. In a couple of hours, Edd was feeling a lot better, though he was a little gimpy for a day or two.

One final comparison between the ocean and Lake Superior: Lake Superior doesn’t have stingrays. Don't let this little episode scare you away. Isla Magdalena is worth the trip, and I wouldn't hesitate to catch more waves on my next visit. Even Edd said it was worth it.

Adios, amigos!

Posted by Rhombus 07:20 Archived in Mexico Tagged beaches islands flowers medical waves oceans sand surfing ships photography dunes body emergencies Comments (0)

A Vagabond's New Year

Hiking Isla Catalina, New Year Celebrations, Favorite Pic's of the Week

sunny 76 °F

Catalina_F..ns_camp.jpg
The Isla Catalina is probably the greenest, most lush desert island I’ve ever had the pleasure of hiking. It’s home to two unique species, one being the rattle-less rattlesnake, and the other being the giant barrel cactus. While I haven’t seen the rattlesnake yet, I am intrigued by its genetic evolution. I can imagine its thought process, “Well hell, every time I move to nab that mouse my damn rattle gives me away. Who needs it?” and over time, stopped growing one. Isla Catalina is quite deserted, so another possibility could be that predators to the snake are also probably few, so with no need to warn enemies, it learned to do without.
Desert Scene

Desert Scene


The giant barrel cactus is something I have seen, and I am quite fond of it. It lives up to its billing. It’s quite large. It’s very stout, and has a bright green trunk, about the diameter of a telephone pole. It ranges in height from a foot high to well over my head (roughly 6 feet). They are dotted all around the island, sometimes growing right next to another in a small copse of funky cactus. The barrel cacti aren’t the only inhabitants of the island; there are massive clumps of cardon, interesting clumps of cholla, and other wildflowers, sharp desert shrubs and plants.
DSCN8599.jpgDSCN8620.jpgDSCN8597.jpg
In starting my hike, I chose the road less traveled. Not only was this a better way to travel, it allowed me to completely lose my sense of civilization’s grip on me. I saw nobody, I heard nothing manmade, and I was free.

The overcast skies were leaden gray, and it was surprisingly cool. I hadn’t been cold in many weeks, but I loved being in cooler temperatures again. It was probably only 70 degrees, but the wind was steady, and it felt good to my body.
DSCN8644.jpg
I really enjoyed hiking through this amazing desert. I swear Dr. Seuss designed the landscape: giant clumps of weird cactus, some looking like lumpy offset stumps, others like land borne octopus. I stopped often to marvel at these amazing plants. I found another of my sacred places. I have sacred places all around this planet of ours. Usually, they are small little areas of land that appeal to my sense of order in the universe. In this case, it was a small sandy area, maybe 20 feet in diameter, it was devoid of any visible presence of life, and on the fringes were clumps of desert fauna. In the distance, I could hear the rolling waves of the ocean crash on the beach. I could see the rocky crags and hollowed out holes of the nearby cliffs. It smell like a desert, and I was immediately smitten. It was like sitting in a desert shrine, dedicated to the simple beauty of earth, this time in a desert format. It was peaceful, energizing, and I could’ve stayed there for hours, and possibly days, drinking in, and enjoying its finer features.
DSCN8635.jpg
Eventually, I found a jungle of desert shrubs; bright green, thick desert growth that looked like it was going to be very painful to try to cross. Luckily, I had a dry wash to follow through the tall carpet of impassable spines. The wash led to a beautiful little cove tucked into a wall of steep rock cliffs. The sound of the rolling waves was very nice, as I walked around looking at amazing and interesting shells scattered all over the beach. I had fun crawling among the rocks, watching the quick and agile crabs clatter away from me. I crawled through the eroded rock tunnels and explored the beach before turning back again. I didn’t have a clock, and I really wasn’t sure what time it was. One thing I knew was that I didn’t want to be the guy who missed the last ride back to the boat.
DSCN8629.jpg
New Years Eve, Vagabond Style.

We loaded into our inflatable zodiacs at about 8:30 pm, sure, it wasn’t close to midnight, but it was midnight somewhere, and we had work in the morning. Our team consisted of eight highly trained, crack-shot pyrotechnicians, recruited for our penchant for rocketry and night ops. We drove a quarter of mile through calm green waters, our wake glowing alien green from bioluminescence. Do I have to explain bioluminescence? More on that later. We landed, anchored the boat, and chose a firing location. A million stars were shining bright in the dark sky. We grabbed our parachute rocket flares, lined up, and waited for the countdown. None of us had ever shot off flares of this kind before, and we really didn’t know what to expect. They were rated for 1000 feet, and we figured it would be pretty cool. The countdown began, and we at …1 we fired them off in unison. Holy Crap! These things are serious! A powerful hiss, and the rocket shot off, a blinding orange light in the night sky. Then the chutes opened and they fell slowly down to the sea, extinguished in the cool waters off Ispirito Santo.
P1070235.jpg
After cleaning up our trash, reloading in the zodiac, and making our way back to the ship, we decided to top off our night by swimming in the bioluminescence. “Bio” are tiny microorganisms that glow in certain areas of the oceans when agitated. The wake of a boat will cause it to glow, a passing dolphin, or my favorite: Swimming. To swim in bio is to immerse yourself into cool liquid smoke, lit up by millions of fireflies and glowing an eerie green. It is beautiful. It is amazing, and it is probably one of the all time coolest things I’ve ever done. If you get an opportunity to swim in it, go for it, you won’t regret it.
P1070241.jpg
What an end of a tumultuous year, and a righteous beginning to the next. I’m quite optimistic about this years travels. I’m already situated in a beautiful desert locale, and I have some other plans to be fully developed by May. Any suggestions for a good month long trip? I’m all ears, and ready to go.

Favorite Pictures of the Week.
DSCN8661.jpgDSCN8694.jpgDSCN8703.jpgDSCN8711.jpgDSCN8717.jpgDSCN8749.jpgDSCN8754.jpgDSCN8777.jpgDSCN8824.jpg
For now, look for more desert stories, and descriptions. I love Baja. It is heaven on earth, and I’m enthralled that I’m here to explore it.
bonanza_boy.jpg

Posted by Rhombus 19:51 Archived in Mexico Tagged me boats islands wildlife mexico deserts oceans baja cacti photograhpy Comments (2)

(Entries 16 - 18 of 18) Previous « Page 1 2 3 [4]