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June 09, 2015

Vancouver Trip--Day 10: Tofino and surfing

   Laura and I made our way to Tofino.  Our first stop was just off the road at what looked just an other rocky outcrop.  In fact it was one of the best set of shallow waterfalls I had seen on the trip.  We climbed around on the rocks for a bit, and then went out for breakfast.  After breakfast toured the town of Tofino looking at first nation art.  Tofino also had surfing, which I had never done but wanted to try.  In February of this year I tried snowboarding for the first time and loved that.  I had been told if you can snowboard, picking up surfing is easier.  So Laura and I put on wet suits and learned the basics from our instructors.  Once in the water I followed directions and one of my first waves managed to stand up and ride for a couple dozen feet.  The instructors thought that was pretty good, but I didn't manage to do it many times after that.  I noticed at some point fighting my way through the surf so I could try and catch a wave was really tiring me out.  Then it dawned on me: I was tired because I was motion sick.  This is a typical symptom for me.  I tried to fight the feeling.  After awhile we were called to shoe and the instructor said he would take a group of us further out so we could try riding some larger waves before they broke.  I wanted to do this, but once I got back in the water I just couldn't fight my way through the surf.  I retreated back to shoe and couldn't even stand up—I had to crawl out of the water.  It's as motion sick as I have ever been and it took about 30 minutes before I could put my head up without getting really dizzy.  In time I was able to make my way back to the car were I had some ginger pills.  These took about 10 minutes to kick in, but when they did I felt completely fine.  So I tried surfing, but it's hard to say if I was successful or not.
   After surfing, which Laura did just fine, it was time for dinner.  I was on the Pacific coast, had just swam in the Pacific Ocean, and now I wanted to try seafood.  While I've eaten sushi, and I had crab cake once in Maryland, I've never really had seafood.  Laura made inquiries about the best seafood place in town, and that's where we went.  We ordered a huge platter for two that had a little of everything.  I found I really like scallops and halibut.  Red snapper was okay, and while I like salmon I wasn't fond of the raspberry sauce they put on it.  The mussels and oysters was indifferent to, and I found crab to taste much like string cheese.  But overall I liked what I had tried and wouldn't mind eating it again.
   Laura wanted to camp on the beach, and there was a campground on the beach.  But when we got there we found all the beach sites had been taken.  So we headed to an other location, cooked s'mores and called it a night.

June 08, 2015

Vancouver Trip--Day 9: Raptors, Water Falls, and Caves

Laura in the

Laura in the "Cheese Grater"

   Our first full day of exploring Vancouver Island.  We started out with visiting a raptor center with eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls.  Falcons have always been my favorite bird of pray, and on this trip I was introduced to the American kestrel—a very small falcon.  It struck me as viciously adorable.  The demonstration of these birds was impressive.  My photography skills were not good enough to capture how these birds can sore, or their agility in the air.  Their peregrine falcon impressed me the most when they tossed up something in the air and it grabbed it with an aileron roll.  And while I have seen bald eagles in the air, one cannot appreciate their size until you can get close to them.
   We then departed to a park for a hike and some lovely waterfalls.  I'm still fairly new to enjoyable hiking, but I think I'm developing taste for it.  After that hike, it was time for a cave tour.  I have toured a few caves, but I wish they had all been like this one.  We had about a 20 minute hike to get to the cave, and then only had the lights on our helmets.  There were no nicely prepared paths—just raw cave.  Our guide told us to always have three places of contact when moving around, and we had to avoid touching living rock formations.  We were required to ware helmets and there were to tricky places to navigate.  We had wanted to go on the 5 hour tour, but they didn't have enough people to do it.  So we had to settle for a 3 hour tour.  The first part of the tour we were with two other people and the cave was fairly easy to navigate.  The second part of the tour was just Laura, myself, and our guide.  This part of the tour we got some more challenging spelunking.  Every time the our guide gave us a choice between doing something difficult and taking a short cut, we opted for difficult, and it was so much fun.  Near the end of our tour our guide pointed out the cheese grater.  It was a narrow path of jagged limestone just wide enough to squeeze yourself through sideways.  Once in, you couldn't turn your head.  About you could do is suck it in and press forward.  I loved it and did it twice.
   After the cave we started in the direction of our destination for the following day.  At our campsite, I started a fire and then put up Laura's tent, and she worked on dinner.  This evening we ate like kings: cedar plank salmon, baked sweet potato, and grilled cucumber.  Again, the tall fire pit made cooking slow, but when our food was done it was absolutely delicious.  I retired to my trunk and slept soundly.

June 07, 2015

Vancouver Trip--Day 8: Traveling to Vancouver Island

   Today it was time to get out of the city and make our way to Vancouver Island.  There are no bridges to the island, and it can only be reached by boat.  So Eve drove us on board a ferry and we took a lovely trip across the Strait of George.  Once to the other side, our first stop was Butchart Gardens, followed by a butterfly museum.  The gardens were nice, but I lack an appreciation for growing things I can't eat, or grow to over 200 feet.  The butterfly museum I like a lot better.  At both places, I made heavy use of my camera and took over 1,200 pictures.  It was then time to travel to our first camp site for the evening.  I don't know that I have ever camped on an island, but I know it has been 10 years since I camped in a tent.  This would be one of two nights the entire trip I didn't sleep in my trunk.  But the day was quite warm and I was concerned it would be too hot for my trunk.  So I decided to put up the tent I brought and sleep in that. 
   Laura is an excellent chef.  After camp was setup, I got the fire going and she prepared dinner.  Our fire pit was a bit on the tall side which made cooking slower than we would have liked.  I compensated by getting the fire good and hot, and we burned through our wood pretty quick.

June 06, 2015

Vancouver Trip--Day 7: Vancouver

Jellyfish

Jellyfish

   Our day was spent in the city of Vancouver, and in order to navigate around we used public transportation.  I was really a big fan of the electric trolly buses.  Quiet, quick acceleration, and no emissions.  The first stop of the day was the Vancouver Aquarium.  I love aquariums, so this is always a treat.  We had planned to visit a museum as well, but I spent too much time enjoying fish, sharks, sea otters and dolphins.  After the aquarium we went to Wreck Beach.  The water of Straight of George is on the chilly side, but I had never swam in the waters of the Pacific.  Although it was difficult getting into the water, I got use to the cold fairly quickly.  Since I have been swimming regularly for the last several months, I decided I might try swimming out to a buoy.  I learned two things: it's hard to swim in a straight line without goggles, and the waves of the ocean make me motion sick in a matter of minutes.  In order to reach the beach, one must traverse about 500 stairs.  I decided I wanted to run up as many of these as I could.  I made it about half way before I had to stop and pant for awhile.  I was able to walk the rest of the stairs at a brisk pace, but was unable to run them. 
   After the beach it was time to work our way back home.  We stopped at a sushi place for dinner.  I wanted to try sushi on the coast because I knew they would have access to much better fish than I can get in the midwest.  However, while the sushi was good, I didn't feel it was better.

June 05, 2015

Vancouver Trip--Day 6: Around Vancouver

Looking out Toward Howe Sound

Looking out Toward Howe Sound

   Spent the day traveling around the Vancouver area.  Visited the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Britannia Mine Museum, Shannon Falls Provincial Park, Sea to Sky Gondola, and the Vancouver Lookout Tower.  It was quite a busy day, but our hostess, Laura, is the best.  This is the second time I've seen trees that reach over 200 feet tall, and they still fascinate me.  Douglas firs, hemlocks, cedars and spruce trees that seem to reach for the clouds.  It feels like observing the woods being the size of a pixie.  The Vancouver area is a temperate rain forest and the heavy rain fall and high humidity allow trees to grow to amazing heights.  Like a little kid I just wanted to go up to these behemoths and give them a hug, and often did.
   The suspension bridge was kind of fun to walk on.  It never stopped swaying and I felt like a drunkard trying to walk across it.  We toured all of the park and I really liked the way the they did the tree top suspension bridges.  The bridges formed a path between several large trees about 30 feet off the ground.  But these bridges were not permanently fixed to the trees.  Instead, a collar was put around the tree.  I imagine that the collars will need to be loosened from time to time, but they don't hurt the trees at all.  Even at 30 feet of the ground, this height is just a small fraction of the total height of the trees they run between.
   The Britannia Mine is an old copper mine, and we went into the tunnels to see how the mining was done.  It was an interesting tour.  Shannon Falls was a good hike and I got some good pictures of the falls.  But my favorite place that day was the Sea to Sky Gondola.  The view going up was amazing, but nothing compare to the view at the top.  This is among the most beautiful places I've ever been.  It overlooks Howe Sound and is high in the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park in the southern Coast Mountains.  Here even the giant trees look small among the vast landscape.  We stayed for some time, but had to keep moving.
   The last part of our trip took us downtown were we went to the top of the Vancouver Lookout Tower where I took a leisurely stroll and a fair number of pictures.

June 04, 2015

Vancouver Trip--Day 5: To Canada

Laura

Laura

   Started the day at 6:20 am and traveled through south central Washington toward Seattle.  Vineyards everywhere.  I guess I had never thought wine grapes when I thought about the dry east side of Washington state, but there were tons of them.  By 9:30 am pacific time I was climbing the Cascades, and by 2:00 pm PT I was north of Everett.  I stopped for a shower—my first of the trip—then it was time for crossing the border.  Unlike my last trip into Cananda, I was asked a couple questions and send on my way.  The whole thing only took a few minutes. 
   Once in Canada my phone quickly lost service.  I had my destination locked into the GPS, but it could not make corrections without having data access.  However, it wasn't a problem.  Around 4:00 pm PT I found the coffee shop I had been instructed to go as the rendezvous point.  And shortly thereafter I met up with my old friend Laura.
   The evening was spent catching up and planning the remainder of my trip.  I had a lot of options in Canada and there wasn't enough time to do everything, so decisions had to be made.  This would be one of two nights the entire trip I didn't sleep in my trunk.

June 03, 2015

Vancouver Trip--Day 4: Craters Of The Moon

Lava Rock

Lava Rock

   Woke about 6:00 am and started working my way out along the south west end of Yellowstone National Park, making several stops along the way.  I was became a little concerned about fuel when the road the GPS had scheduled me to turn was closed.  It had no other gas stations close to me.  Luckily, the GPS didn't know of all the gas stations and I found one a few miles latter.  Fueled up I began to work my way south west toward Idaho.  Technically I had been to Idaho, having even spent the night in the state.  But it was just the 60 mile strip of the upper panhandle, so I didn't feel like I really got to see much of Idaho.  So this trip I decided to travel the southern part of the state.
   My only scheduled stop was Craters of the Moon National Monument—a 618 sq. mile lava field.  I had come across a lava field once before and I randomly stumbled upon Carrizozo Malpais in New Mexico.  However, Craters of the Moon was larger and had many more formations.  While I didn't find it looked much like the moon, it was am interesting landscape.  The patterns formed from the flowing lava were fascinating. 
   After exploring lava for awhile it was time to log some miles.  I got back on the road and began working my way north west.  Enjoyed my scenic drive through Idaho and stopped in Oregon just shy of the Washington border to stay the night.

June 02, 2015

Vancouver Trip--Day 3: Beartooth Mountains and Yellowstone

Twin Lakes

Twin Lakes

   While I still slept well, the evening was as windy as I had ever spent in my trunk, rocking the entire car in wave after powerful wave.  At about 6:30 am I woke to sirens, and with the wind from the evening before I wondered if bad weather wasn't coming my way.  However, the sky didn't look particularly threatening, and there was nothing on the national weather service site for the area.  So I have no idea why the sirens went off.
   My goal for today was to work my way across Montana and head south toward Yellowstone National Park.  I still had a lot of Montana to cover before I would get into the mountains, and so it was good to get an early start.  Eastern Montana was interesting.  The morning was hazy, and the landscape had a lot of badlands.  In the distance I knew there would be mountains, but there would be no seeing them for some time.  Then about 10:15 am mountain time I gazed my first snow topped mountain peaks of Beartooth Mountains.  By noon I would be traveling Hwy 212—the famous Beartooth Highway—in these mountains, climbing higher and higher.  Soon I came across snow on the ground and had to stop and play in it.  My first stop was a little premature because this road just continued to climb.  Near the top, everything was covered in snow and the view was breathtaking.  I stopped a few more times for pictures, including the frozen Twin Lakes some thousand feet below my vantage point.  And my summit stop was at  44.974957°, -109.434730° at a posted altitude of 10,947 feet.  The snow was at least 18" deep here, and the temperature in the lower 40ies F.  I wanted to walk over to a rocky patch I saw a couple hundred feet away and noticed shortly into the walk I was working really hard.  At first I thought it was just the work of trudging through the deep snow, but then it dawned on me: altitude.  I was getting much less air per breath than I typically get at the 800 feet I'm use to.  It was really interesting to experience this phenomenon.
   While playing in the snow at high altitude is a lot of fun, I had to continue and descend.  I entered Yellowstone National Park around 4:30 pm MT.  Shortly after arriving I saw my first buffalo resting in a grassy field.  On my first visit to Yellowstone I also saw buffalo right after arrival, and I really like this fact.  I would not have thought one of the largest tourist attractions in the United States with all the traffic it brings, sitting atop a super volcano, spanning the otherwise fairly empty states of Wyoming and Montana, would have such a concentration of wildlife, beauty and appeal.  But I guess I too cannot resist the allure of this place.  Driving through Yellowstone is an experience in and of itself.
   While I had been to Yellowstone once before I certainly didn't see everything that one trip.  This time I did the Lamar Valley, Tower Fall, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Hayden Valley, before stopping at Yellowstone Lake for the evening.  The first time I was at Yellowstone the GPS messed up my location and I wasn't able to see Old Faithful.  There were no rest areas I could camp at near the park and I was worried I wouldn't be able to see a geyser.  Then it dawned on me that I was in a place with several hotels and no one was going to notice my car in a lot of cars if I just pulled into a parking lot and slept for the night.  That worked so well I decided that was the plan this time.  So next to Yellowstone Lake I found a nice parking spot and climbed into my trunk for the night.  And like before, I slept soundly on this 640,000 year old caldera.

June 01, 2015

Vancouver Trip--Day 2: Minnesota and North Dakota

   Started by day about 6:00 am after a lovely nights sleep at a rest area in the trunk of my trusty car Eve Liberty.  In the morning I had a 1/2 mile run as the rest area I stopped at for the night had an observation area at the end of a trail.  Throughout the day I kept this practice up, having a short jog at each rest area.  Felt good to move a bit after several hours of driving.
   The goal for the day was to travel Interstate 90, entering Minnesota close to Minneapolis and following it northwest toward Fargo, North Dakota.  I had never driven this route before, and I had never been to North Dakota.  That was going to change.  The scenery north of Minneapolis was pleasant, with rolling hills and dotted with lakes.  I entered North Dakota at 3:45 pm, marking the 48th state I've traveled and completing all the contiguous United States. 
   North Dakota was what I expected it would be, but not as flat as I've often been told it is.  With my audiobook going, plenty of snack food, and a clear day I made easy time with North Dakota.  At about 7:00 pm mountain time I arrived at my only scheduled stop for the day: Theodore Roosevelt National Park right at the west edge of the state.  I viewed it from Painted Canyon Visitor Center and observed the sun was getting low in the sky.  I decided to hike one of the trails and see if I could allow some time for the sun to set.  The clouds in the sky, low sun, and badlands backdrop provided several fanatic HDR photo opportunities.
   I had planned to sleep in North Dakota, but I was making progress too quickly.  The sun set shortly after I entered Montana and I found a rest area near Wubaux.  One thing I wanted to do on this trip through North Dakota was photograph the stars.  There is very little light pollution because of the low population density.  However it was too cloudy to make this a worthwhile effort.

May 31, 2015

Vancouver Trip--Day 1

   Bags are packed, car is loaded, and it is time to start my long trek westward across the country.  There are more than 1,600 miles between home and my destination, with several scheduled stops along the way.  The first day of my road trip has been spent mostly in preparation and not a lot of miles are planned for today.  After a stop at the grocery store for initial supplies, I was putting on the first miles of the trip about 8:00 pm.