I loved doing lap after lap around the Volendam as we cruised the waters, taking photos of distant scenery, and exploring views of the ship and its equipment.
Our first port of call was Juneau, Alaska. Deciding against an organized excursion, Yumi and I wandered the town on our own, and took a bus out to the Mendenhall Glacier.
Disney and Princess ships
Float planes are everywhere in Alaska
Sarah Palin's old house (Governor's Mansion)
Cruise ships and float planes - yep you see a lot of those in Alaska
And salmon fishing
Approaching the Mendenhall Glacier
Yumi on the trail
Porcupine taking a snooze
Mendenhall Visitor Center
We saw no bears, but we did see bear poop, which was close enough
The park has an arctic tern nesting area
Apparently I didn't take many photos on day 2, which was mostly cruising up the Inside Passage
during the night toward our first stop at Juneau, Alaska. But here are some of our stateroom,
and a whale and some other wildlife.
Our cosy stateroom
We liked the location, speed, weather, and other data tracking on the TV.
For me, a bottle of Jim Beam to sip before retiring to bed; for Yumi, a bottle
of white wine. If you look closely, you may see an upside-down photographer in the
Yumi checking out the interior
Yumi with Uncle Stefan
And the highlight of the day, a minke, no, a humpback, a minke,
no, the consensus ended up a humpback whale! One of a pod of
several. Would that ghostly whiter shape alongside be a youngster?
Porpoises, no, dolphins, no, porpoises, oh, heck, frolicking beasties
splashing in the water
It's when you encounter photography situations like this that you
want an even longer lens!
Yumi and I did our first-ever cruise this month, joining a group of six more relatives for a 7-day Alaska sojourn with Holland America on the ms Volendam. While we had a few overcast days, and saw lots of rain in the distance several times, we experienced just a few drops of rain during the entire week, and plenty of warm sunshine. The sea was smooth all the way, even in the less-sheltered stretches, and neither of us experienced any seasickness.
Long story short? We loved it. We'd do it again tomorrow. We're hoping to win the lottery so that we can indulge in the well over 100 pages in the Holland America cruise-planning booklet.
I'll be posting day-by-day photos here retroactively as I have time. It's tough to come home from most vacations. Now I know it's even tougher to come home from a cruise!
Looking aft toward Vancouver while still docked
The "sails" of Canada Place from near the bow
Out at the bow. This was to be one of our favourite places to view
surroundings - assuming it wasn't too windy
Yumi entering the bow area
Under way! Passing beneath the Lion's Gate Bridge
Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver. We've hiked there many a time, but this was only
the second time we've seen the lighthouse from the water
A passing tug
Downtown Vancouver begins to shrink in the distance
Revving up the engines as we're well clear of the harbour.
Yumi at the stern
The view straight down from the stern
Checking out some of the interior. Beam me up, Scotty!
We noticed this elevator rug the first day, and yes, they do change
it every day. After a few days we realized why - you can get discombobulated
very easily on a cruise as the full service kicks in and the days flow by
As evening comes on, a last shot from Deck 3, the Promenade where
folks take their daily walks, and watch for wildlife
Can't wait for tomorrow!
To take the edge off of my increasing wanderlust as spring progresses and the roads and trails call, we headed up to Alice Lake Provincial Park just north of Squamish, BC, today. We had only a few hours, but it was enough to get out of town for a bit, and take a stroll around the lake. From June through September this park is crowded, and sometimes the road is closed when the parking lots fill up. But in April we saw only half a dozen other people on the lake trail.
Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver is one of our favourite place to get away for some rambling in deep woods near the sea. Yumi loves to explore the tidal pools, and there are lots of opportunities for photography.
I coughed up nearly $800 at Docksteader Subaru in Vancouver for a major service for our 1998 Subaru Outback today. But at 14 years old and nearly 242,000km, or close to 150,000 miles, the car is still as reliable as the day I first drove it off the lot. A quality vehicle with regular maintenance. I hope to get a couple more years out of it!
I initially leased the car in Saskatoon, and have had it serviced at Docksteader for the entire 14 years since. In all those years, I've never questioned the Docksteader staff, and have always felt they are worthy of my trust. I'm sure the folks on the sales side would love to sell me a new Outback, but it's the service folks that customers deal with most, and they've always been uniformly good. So I'll likely buy another Subaru from Docksteader. . . some day : -).
The next major service will be at 288,000km, or about 177,700 miles, and that will be a milestone decision, as it will likely run over $1,000. But at the rate we're putting on the klicks, that should give us over two more years before we face that scenario.
For the last month or two I've been thinking about buying new all-season tires for our 1998 Subaru Outback. It's been an outstanding car, but at 14 years and some 235,000km (~145,000 miles), I've been starting to wonder how much more to keep investing in it. It's still running fine, and I've always had it serviced faithfully and regularly according to the manufacturer's guidelines. A month or two ago I had the winter tires switched for summer tires during a regular service, though the dealer warned the tread on the all-seasons was getting iffy, and doubted if we'd get much over a few months of safe driving out them.
The dealer quoted around $700 for a new set of premium all-seasons, so I said I'd think about it, and began checking out places like WalMart and Canadian Tire. I certainly didn't want to buy high-end tires for a car approaching the end of its life, but on the other hand, I didn't want overly cheap ones, either. Tires are not something you scrimp on. They are key to overall vehicle safety.
The debate was settled yesterday when a bolt was driven into the right rear tire during an errand. Thunka thunka thunka. . . Something had to be done about that immediately, and I wasn't thinking of plug-and-patch on a tire that already had nearly 100,000 klicks on it. We headed straight to Canadian Tire where they were having a 25% off sale on their in-house Motomaster brand (some of which to my understanding are made by Hankook, and higher-end ones by Goodyear).
Canadian Tire quoted me about $450 for four Motomaster AWs on "4 f0r 3" sale, installed, with tax, and enviro disposal fees for our old ones. They said they had nine in stock, and could get them mounted the same day. So I drove my wife home (thunka, thunka, thunka), and went back to get into the queue.
An hour later, as I wandered the strip mall, I got a call on my cell. The nine P205-70-15s supposedly in stock had resulted in only three turning up. And he'd called three other stores within a 20k-radius with no luck. So there was our car, up on the lift, with no wheels, and no tires, and the guy at the desk was saying they did have the slightly more expensive Motomaster SE2s available, also on sale at 25% off, for around another $70.
Now of course I immediately thought this was a bait and switch, despite all the "Reader's Choice" awards mounted on the walls of the service waiting room from local newspaper surveys.
But after calling the wife, and the manager offering to throw in their cross-Canada premium protection plan (which I had declined in the first place) at no extra cost "for my time," I bit the bullet. A total of $528 was still better than $700, and from all I'd researched online, the SE2s had better reviews than the AWs.
So we now have a new set of all-seasons that are rated at 110,000 km, plus a set of winter tires that likely have around 40-50,000 km left on them. Will the car do another 150,000 km? Unlikely, but as I said, you don't want to mess with being cheap on tires. . .
I occasionally get information and advice requests from friends whose kids wonder about going to Japan to teach English.
I went to Japan in 1985, taught for several years, and then moved into journalism. (I had degrees in Arts, Education and Journalism to back me up). After an initial tight year or two I eventually developed some great teaching gigs, all private contracts through personal connections. At one point I was teaching just three days a week (albeit leaving home at 6:30 a.m. and returning at 9:30 p.m.), averaging around C$60/hour, and enjoying four-day weekends.
That largesse is long gone. . . In recent visits to Japan one and four years ago, I was shocked at the low wages on offer in ESL job adverts, accompanied by some high education requirements.
I've been back in Canada for over ten years now, so my knowledge of Japan's ESL market conditions are not what they once were, but when I got a recent request, I contacted a couple of buddies in Japan for insight.
Here is my initial stab at giving a Mom some advice for her daughter who was looking at teaching English in Japan:
It's been over 15 years since I was last in the English-teaching biz in Japan, and a lot has changed. A few of the leading chain ESL schools there have gone bankrupt over the last several years. I avoided the chain schools anyway (drudgery hours at low pay), lucking out with a private school that sponsored my work visa, and let me pick up my own contracts on the side. I'm not sure how well XYZ would get along without a degree -- that's been pretty much a minimum qualification for decent teaching work going back to the 80s. My sense is that TESOL qualification has also become more of an advantage since my heyday of the mid-80s/early 90s before I shifted to journalism. Please don't take what I say next the wrong way (but it's a fact of life, eh?) tall, attractive, young, blondish women have always done well in Japan... And while Japan is, relatively speaking, one of the safer countries in the world, it's also not that difficult to "stray" if you don't have a good grip on where you are, who you are, and, what you want.
To my gratitude, both friends in Tokyo responded to my e-mail plea for more up-to-date info within hours, confirming that the English-teaching boom that began in Japan in the early 80s and rolled along for 10-15 years, was over. The market is much tighter now, and higher qualifications are required for decent positions.
A succinct take from Kevin Ryan, a professor whose blog you can see at http://www.kevinryan.com/:
Had a friend with a daughter who just graduated university. She got a job at a chain school, and it was very exciting at first. She was able to get set up in an apartment, but ended up using most of her salary for rent and food, paying the "company store". She worked hard hours, about 30 contact hours a week, in a suburb of Osaka. It was OK, but she didn't have any time to do much else but work and live. She left after about 6 months. You need a solid MA in TESOL for anything more than that. The market has tightened up tremendously since you were here.
And a broader response from Mike Lloret, recently retired from corporate communication and training at a leading Japanese electronics firm. His blog is http://balefires.blogspot.ca/:
First, a quick response to the mother's points:
- Experience working with children and tutoring is a plus; many schools, especially smaller private ones, derive more of their income than you'd think from classes for kids. Note that some of them can be very young kids, who may have little-to-no exposure to English outside the classroom.
- Some sort of TESOL certification is becoming very important, as Paul notes. A degree is pretty much an unavoidable minimum requirement, and these days there is a strong preference for degrees in education, linguistics, TESOL, etc. Some employers are seeking those with Masters degrees.
- There can be a little wiggle room with regard to the degree if the job-seeker has extensive experience, especially in Japan, but I wouldn't count on it, and that doesn't seem to apply in this case, anyway.
It might be instructive for the young woman to take a close look at gaijinpot.com, paying particular attention to the length of time the job offers have been there. Except for the openings in Fukushima and prefectures close to it--most of which are hard-to-fill replacements for teachers who fled what they saw as danger after 3/11--the openings represent employers holding out for better-qualified and/or cheaper applicants, not a lack of job seekers.
This might be instructive for background knowledge:
Your comments about attractive blondes are accurate, as noted in this anecdote:
and if the young woman is unaware of the Lindsay Hawker case, she should look it up.
The bottom line is that I don't think much of the young lady's chances of getting a decent job here, and definitely wouldn't recommend that she come over before getting a binding contract.
So, unfortunately, the good times seem to be over for "experience Japan by teaching a little English on the side." I'm not saying it can't be done, it just won't be as easy or fun as it was when money seemed to slosh around in abundance, and a ramen shop on the Ginza offered gold-dust garnish for your broth. . .
I enjoyed the above event this afternoon, and there are a couple more in the same series coming along over the next few weeks, so sign up and participate if you can.
There were thought-provoking and succinct presentations from the following panel:
Wayne Wright, Director, Metro Vancouver Board of Directors and Mayor, City of New Westminster
Facilitator: Peter Holt
This particular series of dialogues was prompted by a Vancouver Foundation study on alienation in society in the lower mainland of BC, which has been heavily reported on in the press over the last few days. The report can be found here.
Some of the results were troubling in the sense of many respondents reporting feelings of loneliness, disconnection from their community, difficulty in establishing community relationships, etc.
I may question what Metro Vancouver can do about such issues, but I laud it for confronting the situation and inviting the public to meet and share ideas along with experts in related fields.
There were lots of questions and comments from the audience, and I didn't have a chance to speak so I'll share a few thoughts here:
So, I'm not a Burnaby native or even lower mainland native. I was born and raised in Saskatoon. I spent 14 years working in Japan, married a wonderful Japanese woman, and we moved to Canada some 12 years ago. So how did we integrate and make friends? Volunteering. Our first couple of years here were pretty quiet, but then we discovered streamkeepers, and that made all the difference. From initial contacts in streamkeepers, I joined the local business & community association, the Burnaby Board of Trade, became involved on City of Burnaby committees. . .
You have to make the commitment, you have to give before you get, you have to learn about and respect your community's history, get to know its "elders", and then you can start to receive, and be embraced by others.
On my drive home from northern BC, at one point I stopped for a rest and snack at 108 Mile Ranch, where a number of pioneer buildings have been collected at a beautiful site. The ranch dates to a post house on the Caribou Trail in 1867.
Another day on the road heading south to LA. Note that we did this trip in mid to late March, and I'm posting photos now starting a couple of weeks later.
One place we greatly enjoyed along the way despite the poor weather was MacKerricher State Park in Northern California. We spent several hours walking the boardwalks, watching birds and seals, and even passed through the mouth of a whale!
Over ten years had passed since our last road trip to LA where my sister lives with her husband and kids. It was well past time to visit them, so we cobbled together a little over a week for my wife, and two weeks for me. The plan was to drive down the coast, taking five days to get there, including a couple of days in San Francisco, then Yumi would fly home after a couple of days in LA. I'd spend a few more days with my sis, and then drive back.
Unfortunately, we hit one of those wet patches that now and then covers the entire west coast. We had rain, snow, and wind all the way down, but still enjoyed being on the road.
We left one evening after work, and made it as far as Olympia, WA, the first night. The next day was the first of a couple on the coast. Unfortunately is was rainy, foggy, and cold, and let me tell you, though I generally love driving, it was a bit nerve-wracking on some parts of the narrow, twisty coast road, particularly in fog.
But here are a few shots of some fun along the way. The Avenue of the Giants.
I was off for two weeks on a road trip to Los Angeles to visit my sister and family, and though I was taking lots of photos, I decided not to blog en route. That explains the absence of material here, but I aim to start posting again soon.
My wife Yumi likes to call these the "Gulliver" photos. That's me with her dad, and me with her mom on our last visit to Japan in October this year.
Yes, I need to lose a few dozen pounds. That's why I'm signed up for the BMO Vancouver Marathon next May. My goal is to power-walk the half-marathon, and to lose 10kg (about 22 pounds) as I train.
Here we go:
More photos from around Yumi's hometown in Aomori prefecture in northern Japan, taken in late October.
Yumi with Eito, the family pup
Eito on an access road out in the rice fields
Early morning sun breaks over a forest edging the fields
Colors get richer as the morning progresses
Meito, the goat
Reaching out for a nose scratch
Papi the cat and I, love at first sight : -)
OK, a big, warm lap.
Something that strikes me about these animals is how they all instantly accepted me.
Yumi went to Japan earlier and spent a week with her folks and relatives before I followed, so she got to know these animals, all of them new additions since our last visit. Now, I know many animals are good judges of character, of whether or not someone is comfortable with them, or is a threat to them, or to their "family." But they are also fast judges of relationships. They're Yumi's parent's pets, but obviously they quickly grasped Yumi's place in the hierarchy, and then when I came along, they immediately understood my relationship to Yumi.
So there was no fear, no anxiety, no protectiveness.
Now I'm a nice guy, but I suspect I'd have gotten a very different reception if I'd walked into the yard the first time all alone.
A few photos from the small city of Hirosaki in Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan, where my lovely wife Yumi went to university. I'm getting confused myself as to the numbering of these blog posts! I guess it's the 7th "day" that I've posted photos to this blog, but it doesn't correspond to the days of our October trip to Japan.
The old library, constructed Western style in 1906
Yumi by a display of Hirosaki historic buildings at miniature scale
And moi by another model
And here I am in front of the actual preserved building just a couple
of blocks away from the miniature display.
I love these perspective changes.
Heading toward Hirosaki "castle." I put that in quotation marks
because while it's a lovely sight, it's not really a castle. It's one defensive
Still looks imposing, and beautiful
Continuing photos from our Japan trip in October, we finally made it up to Yumi's parents' place in Aomori, near the northern end of Japan's main island. We borrowed their car, and headed out to explore the autumn colours of the famous Oirase area.
There are usually a couple of swans hanging around in this river near
Yumi's parents' place
Yumi on the bank of the stream
Two bees, or not to bee : -)
A raptor soars near Lake Towada
Back to posting more photos of our Japan trip in October. These are from Kakunodate, a town in Akita Prefecture that is known for its preserved samurai homes and thick-walled "kura" storehouses.
OK, I'm finally getting back to posting more photos of our Japan trip in October. I'd left off with shots from Nikko, a World Heritage Site that I'd visited several times when I lived in Japan. It was great to be back, and as I mentioned, my wife Yumi and I arrived on the day of a biannual parade that re-enacts the transfer of the remains of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu to the site hundreds of years ago. While folks in the thousands gathered for the parade, Yumi and I explored remoter parts of the beautiful shrine complex, then trotted back in time to catch the parade.
This next set of photos finds us in Nikko, Japan, a World Heritage Site, and a place were a few of Japan's founding shoguns are enshrined. It's a lovely place, with flamboyantly carved and decorated shrines, lush forests, and, often, crowds of people. Little did we know that we arrived on the day of a biannual recreation of a parade re-enacting the transfer of the remains of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu to the site. That actually proved to be beneficial, as we wandered the further reaches of the lovely grounds in peace while most folks congregated along the parade route. No worries, I'll have parade photos up in my next post.
Me in front of a fabulous gate
The famous monkeys
A lovely little rest area
Yumi getting ready to board the bullet train : -)
Nikko is famous for its water, and there are many public fountains
along the main road between the station and the shrine area
And what's Japan without Hello Kitty?
Mount Fuji from the bullet train as we zoom off back to our hotel
in Utsunomiya. Eerie scene is the result of a tiny pocket camera from
a train doing over 200kph at dusk.
I think this was my third or fourth time in Nikko. I believe my sister and I visited together when we first went to Japan in 1985, and then I went there at least once, if not twice, during the 14 years I lived in Tokyo.
There were gaggles of Japanese high school girls in their short plaid skirts on the local train from Utsunomiya to Nikko the morning Yumi and I went. It occurred to me that the first time I went to Nikko was well before they were born. And I had not a single white hair. Sigh. I whispered to my wife "would you like to be a high school girl again?" No way! The cruel awkwardness of youth is behind, and our best days are yet to come, eh?
As mentioned, I am not giving exact dates to these photo collections. They are from my trip to Japan from Oct. 10-24. These are from Osaka.
Approaching Osaka Castle
Me, by a gate
The canon is a signal piece from a later era
The reconstruction shows the gaudy style preferred by Toyotomi Hideyoshi
There are many massive stones in the moat and base, some weighing
over 100 tons. What's amazing is that often they came by ship from
hundreds of kilometers away, donated by vassal daimyo. Remember,
we're talking late 16th C technology here!
A more modern building with fire/quake practice underway. Must
be quite the slide down one of those chutes!
An electric Nissan Leaf that we passed on the street at a rental car place.
The proprietor was very friendly, giving us a tour of the car inside and out.
It was our first time in Osaka, and in the evening we went to Osaka Station City to look for a place to eat. Took the escalator up ten floors to the restaurants. Each floor was 85% young women out shopping. Everything on the restaurant floor was $25/person and up. Not our style. We took the train one station over to Temma, figuring a smaller station would have cheaper eats. Found an amazingly long shotengai, or shopping street. Ended up eating too much for about $9/person. I had a Nagasaki sara udon set that came with five side dishes, while Yumi had champon noodles.
Yumi near the bottom entrance to Izumo-Taisha, one of the most
revered Shinto shrines in Japan. Unfortunately the main building
was under renovation, but we still enjoyed the trek up the hill, the
huge straw "ropes", and the other buildings.
There is a series these "torii" or gates along the way
The old Taisha train station is wonderfully preserved and evokes
memories of a bygone age.
A fanciful, and somewhat phallic, turtle decoration on the roof tiles.
Turtles symbolize long life.
And on to Matsue to visit the castle. Unfortunately is was raining steadily
but we persevered.
Part of the moat
The lovely keep
View from the top
Just starting to get some autumn colors
Samurai helmet with devil motif. There's an excellent collection of armour
in the keep
Though I've seen lots of samurai armour, I'm always surprized
at how small these fighters were. Few appear to be over 5'4" to 5'6"
or so. And slender - so the armour could weigh nearly half as much
as the man wearing it. No wonder some accounts of battles describe
mass slaughter when exhausted forces encountered fresh opponents.
And one little bird with one big bug on the keep's roof!
We enjoyed Matsue, despite the steady rain. Ironically, the city is known for the wonderful sunset views toward the Sea of Japan. So tourist info centres, kiosks, hotels, etc., have signs showing sunset time, and the probability of clear weather - which was zero percent during our visit. I'm sure the scene below must be lovely during a gorgeous sunset!
Izumo and Matsue are off the beaten tourist path, because it takes a good four to five hours to get there by train from the more populated and well-known Pacific Ocean side of Japan. But it was well worth the trip, and I hope some day we will personally experience a Matsue sunset!
Oh yes, it was also fun recognizing locations in Matsue used for photo shoots of Japan's NHK "Dan Dan" drama series, which we watched some time ago on TV Japan in Canada.
Passing the time on trains is a lot easier when you pick up bento boxes
of delectable food : - ) Most major stations have "eki-ben" or "station
bento boxes," often featuring local delicacies.
Here are photos from the first day in Japan on our Oct. 10-24 trip. We walked and walked, from our hotel near Ochanomizu, around the Imperial Palace, past the Diet building, Roppongi, and to Shibuya. From there we walked to Meiji Jingu and Shinjuku, where we finally hopped a train back to the hotel.
A view of the Imperial Palace moat
Nijubashi at the Imperial Palace
Yumi by the massive gate
Yumi in front of the Diet
There's always a hefty police presence near the Diet to deter fringe elements
Shibuya, famous for fashion
Moi with Hachiko, the famous dog that always waited for its master at the station
And in the Land of Cuteness, a Hachiko bus stop
And a Hachiko bus
Approaching Yoyogi from Shibuya
Yoyogi National Gymnasium designed by Kenzo Tange for the 1964 Summer
Olympics. It has held up remarkably well in appearance.
Entering Meiji Jingu from the Harajuku side. This shrine was one of my
havens when I was resident in Japan, and I walked through its grounds once
or twice a week on the way to work for several of the 14 years I lived in Tokyo.
Donations of casks of nihonshu (sake) to the shrine from all over Japan
The NTT Docomo Building as seen from Meiji Jingu
Pond in Meiji Jingu grounds
We love turtles!
One of Tokyo's impressive jungle crows
There were some pretty amazing spiders hanging about
And a grasshopper.
And some sort of wasp
Walking toward Shinjuku. Contrast between NTT Docomo
tower and one of the few remaining old buildings around
Our final destination on this day - Takashimaya Times Square in Shinjuku
Where this Wako tonkatsu outlet was my destination :-)
A happy Paul chowing down after a loooong day of rambling
On our last several visits to Tokyo over the last 12 years since
we moved to Canada, we've always stayed at a reasonable business
hotel near Ochanomizu Station. There used to be one holdout, lovely,
w0oden house on this corner lot. We often wondered how long it
would last in a sea of hulking business towers.
If any of my faithful readers are wondering at my silence, I was off in Japan visiting my wife's parents and doing some sightseeing for the last couple of weeks. There simply wasn't time to blog during the trip, but I'll slowly start catching up starting this week. Then again, I'm at the 2011 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Vancouver for the next three days, so it may be a bit longer before this blog gets active again.
After spending the morning editing, I had to get out and clear my head, so I took a quick jaunt up to the Squamish area. I like checking out a few creeks and rivers up that way for spawning salmon, and sure enough, I could smell them before I could see them.
Spawner seen through the Tenderfoot Creek Hatchery fence
Paradise Valley Road
I picked up half-price tickets for the Big Bus hop-on, hop-off, tour bus in Vancouver on Groupon, and today Yumi and I played tourists in our home city - well, next-door city, in that, you know, suburb of Burnaby : - ). It was great fun to just sit back in the "topless" bus in the glorious sunshine.
Here are a few photos taken from the bus, and from a wander about the Canada Place cruise ship terminal.
A flattering shot with wide-angle distortion :- )
Some flying lions
Canada Place sails reflected in the new convention centre
Paul and Yumi reflected in Canada Place
The Zuiderdam leaves the harbour. We thought she looked big.
Until we walked around to the other side of the pier and gaped in wonder
at the Diamond Princess.
The bow area
Looking toward the stern
The, er, starship, feature
Off into the gulf, and the Pacific
Lovely day for a trip up the valley, up the canyon, back to the coast via the Duffy Lake Road, and home down Howe Sound. I love how you can travel just a couple of hours in BC and come across such distinct biological & geographical zones.
The blue Thompson enters the muddy Fraser at Lytton
Naxwit Picnic area near BC Hydro Seton Lake Recreation Area
I ran across some mysterious guns (cannons) when visiting Kingston, Ontario, in June 2009. Intrigued by what I thought were Imperial Russian markings on them, I went on a quest to discover how they had come to Canada.
A close-up of one of the guns in Macdonald Park. The double-headed eagle caught my eye. . .
So as we continued visiting historic sites in Kingston, I kept asking about the guns.
I had no luck at this nearby Martello Tower. The student on summer duty did his best, even searching the Internet, but came up with no information. Also had no luck at the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes not too far away, though it was fascinating in its own right.
Later we were out at Old Fort Henry, and that's where I hit pay dirt. Touring the fort was a wonderful experience, especially watching the re-enactments of drill, musket firing, and big gun firing.
It occurred to me to ask for the curator's email address, and I sent him my question. He had the grace to respond quickly, while I didn't even get around to posting on my blog until two years later. Sorry! Here's his answer:
Mark Bennett, our Supervisor of Programs passed along your request for information regarding the two guns with double-headed eagles in front of the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald, our first Prime Minister.
The guns are Russian, hence the Czarist, double-headed eagle emblems. Following the Crimean War, 1854-55, an offer was made by the government in London England, for guns captured at the great naval base of Sebastopol in the Crimea to be displayed in cities throughout the British Empire. The fortifications were taken by assault and the abandoned stores were captured and returned to England at the conclusion of the war. Many cities in the Empire applied for these trophy guns and they were subsequently delivered in the following years. The City of Kingston received two of these guns, whereas most locations received only one. I know of several cities in Canada that have Crimean Guns.
The Sebastopol guns are famous for another feature. Queen Victoria instituted a new medal for gallantry at this time. It is known as the Victoria Cross and has become the most sought-after decoration for gallantry arguably in the world. The simple bronze crosses are made of bronze from the cascables of guns that were captured at Sebastopol (identical to the ones you saw in Kingston).
I hope that this answers your question. Thank you for visiting Fort Henry and we hope you will visit us again soon.
Fort Henry National Historic Site of Canada
St. Lawrence Parks Commission
Ontario Ministry of Tourism
Now that's what I call service. Thank you Ron, my apologies for my tardy post, and hope everything at Fort Henry is going well!
Saw this mom black bear and cubs grazing at the side of the road on northern Vancouver Island on the May long weekend. Needless to say, I took all my photos from inside the car.
These shots are from a tour of the Campbell River estuary on Vancouver Island the May long weekend. The tour was part of the 2011 SEP Workshop (BC Streamkeepers' Conference). Even with my bird books, I'm not sure exactly what this is.
I'm way behind on getting photos up on this blog! Here's a teaser from a trip we took to Seattle at the end of April this year. I took nearly 100 shots of the Space Needle and the fountain.
The day being overcast and gloomy, I checked the weather up the valley, and it was supposedly sunny near Hope, BC, on this Easter holiday Monday. So we saddled up our Subaru and headed out. Unfortunately, we never got out of the rain, but we did have a great time looking at cool aquatic bugs and rocks with all sorts of permutations of colours at the Chilliwack River in the drizzle. When I see stones like these, I wish I'd taken a geology class or two. . .
Can you imagine what sorts of forces and processes created such patterns? Mind boggling. As I wrote to a geologist friend of mine:
It's so exciting to be out in nature and drinking in the sights. There is so much to see at every scale ranging from micro to macro... I dunno why so many folks are so oblivious and/or so uncaring! While I may feel ignorant, at least I also feel awed and intrigued, and am always eager to learn more :-).
Whenever we stop by a creek, stream or river, Yumi has to
start turning rocks over to see who is living underneath.
Another stonefly, big and fat. We never get bugs this big
in our pollution-prone, urban Byrne Creek, where we
volunteer as streamkeepers
OK, now we get into the cool stones and rocks, which I
know nothing about!
And this was the coolest of the bunch. What looks
like water, or snow, or ice, is some kind of solid rock
"flowing" into the other rock
Kettle River tops BC's Most Endangered Rivers List for 2011 -
"Sacred headwaters" in second spot - list highlights issues such as the need for water policy reform and improved protection of northern rivers
The Kettle River has topped British Columbia's most endangered rivers list for 2011.
The Kettle River runs through BC's southern interior near the towns of Midway, Rock Creek and Grand Forks. This river, already suffering from excessive water withdrawals, seasonal low flows and high water temperatures, is threatened by significant new water extraction proposals near its source. The river is in dire need of a water management plan that recognizes there are clear ecological limits to the amount of water that can be withdrawn. Unless greater efforts are made to address this issue, the fate of this beautiful interior stream and its fish stocks may well foreshadow what many other streams in the region will confront in the face of ongoing climate change.
"Most importantly, the issues unfolding on the Kettle highlight the urgency of updating BC's century-old Water Act so as to ensure the needs of fish and river ecosystems are adequately considered before making decisions on water extraction for various industrial uses", said Mark Angelo, Rivers Chair of the Outdoor Recreation Council and an Order of Canada recipient. The province has just concluded seeking public input on Water Act reform, and new legislation is hoped for in the coming year. "Modernizing the Water Act creates a significant opportunity to improve the state of many waterways, including the Kettle", said Angelo.
In the second position is the area widely known to the Iskut First Nation as the "sacred headwaters" in that it nurtures the source not only of the Skeena, but also the Nass and Stikine, all great salmon-bearing rivers. Located on the southern edge of BC's Spatsizi wilderness, the sacred headwaters is home to an abundance of wildlife, including caribou, stone sheep, grizzly bears and wolves; to many, this area is the "Serengeti of Canada" said Angelo.
Yet, the sacred headwaters is also the site of a major proposal by Canada Shell to extract coal bed methane gas, a highly invasive process that would compromise the biological richness of the great rivers that flow from this area. If approved, a maze of wellheads, roads and pipelines would spread across the proponent's 400,000 hectare tenure. Given the intensity of such development, concerns include the likelihood of altered drainage patterns and increased siltation. Vast amounts of wastewater, high in salts and heavy metals, may also be generated in the extraction process. Current plans call for re-injecting this polluted water back into the ground but this is an untested method that could contaminate groundwater aquifers linked to surface flows.
While there is a temporary moratorium on coalbed methane development in the sacred headwaters, it is set to expire in 2012, at which point development could proceed. "There is widespread support for making this moratorium permanent, which would do much to protect the legacy of the great wild rivers that flow from this area", said Angelo. "The threats confronting this area highlight the need to be more proactive in protecting our great northern salmon rivers", added Angelo, who also chairs the Rivers Institute at BCIT.
Coming in at the number three position is the Peace River, currently in the midst of an environmental assessment relating to the proposed Site C dam.
In the fourth spot is the Fraser River, which for the 18th time in 19 years, finds its way into the top half of the endangered rivers list. "Of particular concern this year are the development pressures facing the 'Heart of the Fraser' between Hope and Mission, one of the most productive sections of river anywhere in the world", said Angelo.
Coming in at number 5 is the Kokish River on Vancouver Island, southeast of Port Hardy. The river's salmon and steelhead stocks are jeopardized by a controversial run of river power project.
"As one scans this year's list, the issues and problems outlined are extensive and diverse, ranging from the importance of pro-actively protecting productive salmon rivers and ensuring that adequate water management regulations are in place to the need for improved riverside habitat protection," explains Angelo. "The list also helps to create a greater awareness of the various threats that confront our waterways", he added. "These issues highlight the fact that you cannot separate the health of our fish stocks from the health of our rivers; they are completely inter-dependent".
Each year, the Outdoor Recreation Council solicits and reviews nominations for BC's Most Endangered Rivers from its member groups, which total close to 100,000 members, as well as from the general public and resource managers from across BC.
For more detailed information on the rivers listed, please see the endangered rivers backgrounder at www.orcbc.ca
1. Kettle River (water extraction, development)
2. "Sacred Headwaters" of Skeena, Nass and Stikine (coalbed methane)
3. Peace River (hydro-electric dam proposal)
4. Fraser River, "Heart of the Fraser"(urbanization, industrial development, habitat loss)
5. Kokish River (IPP proposal)
6. Morice (pipeline proposal)
7. Taku River (mining development, road proposal, leachate concerns)
8. Similkameen River (cross border dam proposal)
9. Elk River (development, increasing selenium levels, wildlife migration issues)
10. Coquitlam River (excessive sedimentation, urbanization)
11. Bute Inlet Rivers (IPP proposal)
12. Atlin River (impacts of dam and Whitehorse, Yukon energy proposal)
Media only: backgrounder details on each river is found at www.orcbc.ca
For more information, please contact:
Mark Angelo - (604) 432-8270 Robert Gunn - (604) 451-6860
I have yet to write about the terrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The last week has been a blur, and I'll get around to it eventually. Immediately following the tragedy, after we eventually tracked down my wife Yumi's family and ascertained that they were OK, we decided we needed to refresh our quake kit here on the west coast of Canada where we've been living for the last 12 years or so.
We hauled it out of the front closet, and as I made my way through it, I realized that I'd bought the backpack that it was contained in around 1987 or 1988 while I was living in Japan. It's literally beginning to fall apart - signs of that hot, humid Asian climate that seems to eventually permeate backpacks with some impossible-to-get-rid-of mould that always rears its head eventually.
Though I felt a bit under the weather--achy late yesterday and a tad feverish this morning--we decided to head into downtown Vancouver and put a few miles under our shoe leather. Nothing like fresh air and exercise to clarify if one is actually ill, or not!
We walked Robson St., which is always fun, and followed it all the way to Denman, stopping in at Hon's to fortify ourselves with potstickers and noodles in soup, and then along the shore to Stanley Park.
We love the Lost Lagoon area.
I doubt if processed white bread is good for raccoons. . .
Sez Paul, while chawing down on some fresh, home-made
French bread, washing it all down with a nice glass of red
wine. . .
Savouring cups of coffee and latte after a long walk
OK, Yumi insisted that I look cute, too, so I should include the following foto:
I think that's wife talk..
Hey, wait for me!
Ah, together again : - )
Yumi met me in downtown Vancouver today. I was at an Editors' Association of Canada workshop on editing narrative, which I greatly enjoyed. We found each other around 4:30p and headed over to see the re-lit Olympic flame, celebrating the 1-year anniversary of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Brought back some great memories!
A lovely sunny day enticed me up the Sea to Sky from Vancouver to Whistler.
Scene from a viewpoint along the highway
Chopper passing by some peaks
Shannon Creek downstream of Shannon Falls
The pier at Porteau Cove
A group of Barrow's Goldeneyes
Heron at the end of the pier
Another shopping jaunt into Washington State got side-tracked into more rural, nature-focused exploration, resulting in a few nice shots in Larrabee State Park and along Chuckanut Drive. We really have to explore more of the NW United States - some gorgeous areas and what looks like great camping!
Not exactly hiking gear, but we hadn't planned to hit any trails, and
weren't expecting to get too far off road. But we couldn't resist. . .
My wife Yumi is cajoled into striking a pose : - )
From the beach at Larrabee State Park.
A sunset view from Chuckanut Drive.
The Brackendale bald eagle count was way down this year - another of several bad years in a row - likely due to poor returns of chum salmon to area rivers. Yumi and I tracked down a few eagles near the Tenderfoot Hatchery. Here are a couple of shots. I'll add more details later.
The day before Christmas, we headed down across the border into Washington State for a daytrip and some shopping. As a Canadian citizen it's relatively easy for me, but my Japanese national wife Yumi needs to get a visa, along with fingerprint and eye scans. We hadn't been across the border since the new technology was implemented, and we were impressed by the new facility, and the efficiency and courteousness of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel at the White Rock/Blaine I5 crossing.
We drove to La Conner for lunch, and wandered around the quaint town which we had last visited some ten years ago. By the time we got there, the rain had stopped, making us pleased with our choice to head south across the border away from Vancouver's forecast of a week of rain. We continued south on highway 20 at a leisurely pace, going as far as Ft. Ebey Washington State Park on Whidbey Island. I chatted with a park ranger, and it seems like a great place for camping when it's a bit warmer.
We headed back north, stopping at Bellis Fair for some shopping, and got home late in the evening. Somehow it stayed dry in the States, but as we crossed the border back into Canada we ran into pouring rain again.There were several cool salmon sculptures on the shoreline. I thought I'd snapped a photo with info about the artist, but I can't track it down. Anyone who knows can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can make proper attribution.
Love this gas-mask salmon -- that's how I envision the fish
must feel going up the Fraser and my troubled local creek.
One of the 6" gun emplacements at Ft. Ebey.
Set up as defense against the Imperial Japanese Navy,
the WWII-era battery never fired a shot in anger,
though it won artillery contests against floating targets.
Part of the excellent field of fire over the Strait of Juan de Fuca,
er, I mean a lovely view!
Friends of ours will be spending awhile in Tokyo, and I came up with a list of things to do. I lived in Tokyo for about 14 years, so the process made me feel very "homesick" for awhile. (Note that this list may be somewhat skewed toward an engineer who likes woodworking).
1) Railway Museum looks cool:
Yumi and I visited the old one when it was in a small building "downtown." We've never been to this new facility in the suburbs, which sounds impressive.
2) Akihabara Electric Town
The gizmo, gadget, computer, cell phone, electronic device capital of the world
3) Tokyu Hands - kind of like Michael's crafts, Staples and Lee Valley combined :-) South end of Shinjuku Station.
4) Kinokuniya - bookstore with English-language section. One of the largest collections of books for sale in English about Japan.
As I recall it's next door to the Shinjuku Tokyu Hands store.
5) Japan Traditional Craft Center in Ikebukuro
6) Meiji Jingu
Beautiful park and shrine located about halfway between Shinjuku and Shibuya, two main Tokyo shopping/entertainment areas.
7) Omotesando & Takeshita Dori
Tree-lined shopping street in the famous Harajuku (at the south end of Meiji Jingu). Fashion, kid hangout, lots of fun to amble the streets on a weekend. Used to be a really funky area with old apts, pretty much all razed in the last decade and replaced with cutting-edge architecture, tho I miss the old atmosphere...
8) Asakusa Senso-ji temple
Huge temple with famous gate.
9) Ginza, the super-upscale shopping district, can be fun to amble around in. The Kabukiza theatre is in this area:
People also like to hang out at the Sony building in Ginza to check out the latest gadgets:
10) Odaiba is the new shopping/entertainment area out in the bay that I was trying to remember the name of.
11) Minato Mirai in Yokohama is a fun area.
Historic sail training ship Nippon Maru
12) For a quiet getaway with a taste of hiking, there's Mt. Takao about an hour west by train from Tokyo. Relatively easy trail, temples in the woods...
13) Nice day trip to Kamakura
14) Oh, yeah, there are several museums in Ueno Park. We haven't been there in at least 15 years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ueno_Park
15) How could I forget Yuzawaya in Kichijoji, another amazing crafts, toys 'n cool stuff store:
Yuzawaya is in Kichijoji, right at the east end of the JR station. Kichijoji is a great dining, shopping area in western Tokyo where I spent a lot of time because we lived nearby. Inokashira Park on the south side of the station is nice, particularly in the cherry blossom season.
Our steadfast 1998 Subaru Outback hit 200,000 trouble-free kilometers today. That's about 123,456 miles for those of you still on the British Imperial system for distances (like the U.S. ). I like these numbers, because the last time I posted an odometer shot from the Outback was when it hit 123,456 km.
I know there are trusty Subarus out there with way higher mileage, but we don't use our car for commuting - I work from home, and my wife is a staunch Translink Skytrain work commuter.
With regular maintenance, this car has been absolutely dependable. Of course there have been a few other maintenance items like one blown fuse, a couple of light bulbs, and a couple of sets of wipers, but those are to be expected with normal wear and tear. The only unusual item was a head gasket that was replaced under warranty.
While I originally got the car new on lease in Saskatoon, it's spent 99% of its life based in Burnaby, BC. (we liked it so much we bought it out when the lease expired). I'd like to thank Don Docksteader Subaru for providing excellent maintenance services for 12 years. Docksteader Subaru Service quickly gained my trust, and I hope to see another trouble-free 100,000 km with their assistance.
The Adams River sockeye salmon spawning run is in a dominant fourth year, and after a relatively quiet visit on Friday, Yumi and I went back on Saturday for more viewing. The Adams River Salmon Society's Salute to the Sockeye event draws a lot of people on weekends!
The Adams River attracts chinook in addition to sockeye.
You can see how massive they are, with my size 12 shoe
next to one.
This time we wandered down to Shuswap Lake on the cloudy,
moody Saturday morning.
The shores of the lake were covered with expired salmon.
It looks wasteful, but each carcass carries a crucial load of
nutrients with it.
A sockeye moves past a spawned out cousin.
A biology lesson in the main event area.
Vehicles pouring into the grounds late Saturday morning.
The event draws folks from around the world.
After lunch in Kamloops, we hit the road homeward. We decided
take the slower 5A south to Merritt through the ranch country.
The first camping trip of the year was met with rainy weather, but we forged on regardless and had a great time. We headed up to Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park, one of our favourite parks because it's only about a 3-hour drive from Vancouver, yet it's remote enough that it tends to be fairly quiet, especially early in the season.
And quiet it was! Of the nearly 100 sites in the campground, several walkabouts over the weekend showed only a few dozen were occupied. We had reserved a nice site up against Phelix Creek, and the sound of the rushing water also helped to muffle any human noise.
Rain regardless, we put our canoe in the water on Friday afternoon and paddled for several hours until we were soaked and tired. Trolling a line behind produced a single bite, and no catch.
Fortunately we had been able to set up the tent and rope up a tarp over the table before the rain hit, so were fairly comfortable on Friday evening with a cosy fire.
A 15-minute shot of sun through the clouds!
Saturday resulted in more rain off and on, and blasts of wind. We headed out in the canoe again, but there can be substantial winds with occasional heart-quickening, canoe-heeling and spinning gusts on the mountain lake, so we headed back in after only an hour or so out on the water.
The next bit of entertainment came as Yumi was washing some of the mud off our trusty '98 Outback at our campsite (15km of access road to the park is "gravel," or in other words, potholed, stony washboard, packed dirt :-). As she went to refresh her pail of water from a pool just off the edge of the tent pad, I saw a black shape silently lumber past through the woods just a few meters beyond her.
"Yumi, get back! Back to the car, right now! There's a bear!"
Poor Yumi didn't see a thing, but scampered back nonetheless. It was amazing how silently, and how fast, that black bear rambled by.
I immediately ran out into the road because I knew some kids had been bicycling up and down the campground, and sure enough a wide-eyed little boy zoomed off to his dad as I barked at him, "look sharp, there's a bear right in there!"
The father spotted the bear, policed his family, and then the two of us monitored the beast, while spreading the word to other campers, blowing our car horns, etc. The fellow said he'd heard from park staff that the bear had recently gotten into a cooler that some irresponsible camper had left unattended. The word was to make as much noise and be as uninviting to the little bruin as possible, in the hope that it would move on, and not get itself shot.
The bear moved back down the campground between tent sites and the creek, and disappeared. Half an hour later as Yumi and I set out to hike up to the Goat Trail Lookout, the bear burst out of the bush, ran across the road, and hightailed it into the forest on the other side with park staff in a truck hot on its heels, horn blaring madly. The attendant got out, hollered he was going to set off a bear banger, and, BOOM!
We saw no more of the bear, but we sure made a lot of noise as we climbed up to the Goat Trail Lookout!
Crossing high, fast, Phelix Creek on the Goat Trail
Now that's some head banging!
Yumi scoping the lake and mountains
An hour of sunshine, wow!
There is canoe rental at the lake now, but we're glad we
have our own
A red-breasted sapsucker that let me get to within two meters
or so to get this shot with my teeny Canon SD780 pocket camera
Instead of canoeing the choppy lake, we decided to try the trail on the north side to where the wilderness campground used to be (now shut down due to hazard trees).
Not far down the trail we ran across a big pile of fresh green scat - OK, at least the bear's a vegetarian. Another dozen meters and lots more fresh scat, dark in colour, but at least no bear bells in it :-).
We ventured a bit further, but as our pace slackened and doubts increased, we decided that common sense outweighed valour, and turned back.
It still being cloudy and drizzly, we packed up in the morning, thought about another jaunt in the canoe, took one look at the cold, choppy lake and decided to head south. Coffee in Pemberton, a walkabout at Alice Lake, lunch in Squamish, and a leisurely drive home.
The 7:00 am BC Ferries run from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay, and the return 5:00 pm run produced some moody sunrise and sunset photos today.
The dawn run:
And coming home at dusk:
For a couple of months now I've been trying to catch this gizmo on sale at Canadian Tire. It plugs into the cigarette lighter on a vehicle to power an iPod, and it also transmits music from an iPod using a selectable FM band. (Our faithful and stalwart '98 Subaru Outback has no aux input for its stereo. . .) Such devices are often in the $40-70 range, but this no-name brand has been available at Canadian Tire for under $20 off and on, but has always been sold out when I get to a store.
Well, I finally found one during Boxing Week sales at a CT for $14.95. It's pretty flimsy, and it sticks out so far that I cannot put the vehicle in park without removing it, but hey, it works! When I finally saw one, I turned it over and over, wondering at its cheap appearance, and a fellow came along and said, "Hey, works great, I've got three of them!"
I just realized that I badly dated myself - does anyone call them cigarette lighters anymore? I believe the politically correct term now is auxiliary power outlets.
A Christmas daytrip up the Sea-to-Sky highway to Squamish and Brackendale resulted in some nice shots, though there were few eagles to be seen.
Stonework pattern on washroom at Shannon Falls
Spawning salmon, green water, stones make for an impressionistic shot
near the Tenderfoot Hatchery
Great Blue Heron watches salmon near the Tenderfoot Hatchery
An American Dipper keeps a sharp eye out for wayward salmon eggs
Lots of people at the Eagle Run at Brackendale, but few eagles
Squamish River with mountain background
Heading back home we stop at Porteau Cove - Yumi against the sunset
Moon at bottom with Porteau Cove pier structure
Rocks and ripples at the ocean's edge
Chains anchor the sunset
Bench and rails frame the setting sun
Trees, sunset along the Sea-to-Sky highway
The sun dips in to the sea beyond the mountains
On the way home from Harrison Lake we took the slower route 7, and at one point before Mission saw trails and what looked like a spawning channel to the north of the road. We found an access road, and discovered the Silverdale Creek Wetlands. We'd heard about the project, so we set out to explore. There were "Mother Bear with Cub" warning signs all over, so we kept our eyes peeled, proceeded slowly, and made plenty of noise!
It was a beautiful area, with ponds, marshes, and a spawning channel. We found only one dead spawner in the wetland area, but saw several more dead, and one live one swimming upstream, from the bridge over the creek near the entrance.
Look closely - there, in the middle foreground, it's
a huge concrete salmon. Steamkeepers around the
lower mainland have been sharing the mold for
Despite it being November, there were still lots of dragonflies about
Lots of bird boxes of various sizes adorn many erected perch "trees"
The only spawner we saw in the habitat
The same spawner can be seen in the foreground
And a close-up of a second concrete salmon in the habitat
On the pretext of looking for spawning salmon in Fraser Valley creeks and rivers, Yumi and I took a day trip all the way up the valley to Harrison Lake. While we didn't see many fish, it was a gorgeous day. As we were strolling around the beach at the lake, a formation of aerobatics planes zoomed overhead.
Kayakers head out on Harrison Lake
The dock near the hot-spring hotel
Along the trail to the original hot springs pool
Heading back toward the beach area
A sudden roar, and this formation unexpectedly flew overhead
A slightly tighter shot as I banged away while zooming in
Breaking into the blue
Heading back from a loop over the lake
A day trip up the coast from Vancouver past Squamish and Whistler and then along the Duffey Lake Road to Lillooet and Lytton had us up at 5:00 on Sunday morning. It turned out to be a great day, sunny, and not too hot. We stopped at several places along the way for short walks/hikes including Brandywine Falls, Nairn Falls, Duffey Lake, Seton Lake and Lytton.
View south to Daisy Lake from Brandywine
Yumi on the trail to Nairn Falls
Young black bear on Duffey Lake Road
Yumi at Duffey Lake
Road toward Lillooet
Seton spawning channel
We came across a nonchalant herd of mountain goats between Lillooet and Lytton
The silty Fraser River
The clear Thompson River flows into the silty Fraser at Lytton
A crow harasses an osprey above the river lookout at Lytton
Porteau Cove is one of my favourite spots to stop on the Sea To Sky highway from Vanvouver to Squamish and Whistler. With the sea, the mountains and the sky, there are always photo opportunities.
Update when I get home.
NOTE: I am taking hundreds of photos, but as mentioned earlier, am traveling with an old Japanese Windows ME laptop that cannot load contemporary Nikon or Canon software (am carrying several cameras :-)
Dauphin, Manitoba -- nice town with some gorgeous buildings.
Highway 10 heading north from Dauphin in Manitoba lined with Ukrainian Orthodox and Catholic churches, many nearly in ruins, along with cemeteries.
Ukraina, Manitoba -- a dead village several kilometers east of Highway 10 named after the home country of many early settlers, with a neglected, rotting church, open to the elements. I felt sadness, shame, and resignation... But there is nobody left, so who is to blame?
I got that feeling a lot along the 10 north in Manitoba.... Tough country that it appears a lot of people gave up on....
Ethelbert, Manitoba -- dueling Ukrainian Orthodox and Ukrainian Catholic churches at opposite ends of town :-).
Transition from prairies to forest comes much faster than equivalent central Saskatchewan latitudes.
I will update this later when I get home from the road trip.
Beautiful Clearwater Lake. Many golf courses. Shilo Canadian Forces Base -- sobering sight of hundreds of yellow ribbons on fence posts for miles and miles around the base.... Assiniboine College -- site of former "insane asylum" -- not my words but those on a historical photo, is another beautiful site with impressive old buildings and beautiful grounds.
I will update this later.
This is a placeholder to remind me to update this later.
Windy southern Saskatchewan -- can barely stand up!
Was taken aback at how hilly and "bad-landish" it is south of Moose Jaw on the No. 2...
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Heritage Centre in Regina. Beautiful new museum that reviews the force's amazing history and proud heritage while glossing over or omitting the less complimentary bits.... Don't get me wrong, I have huge respect for the history of the NWMP and its successor the RCMP. I have worked with RCMP members to improve communities. I just figure it wouldn't hurt to be honest and own up to a mistake or three? The best PR is when you admit all... and do better...
Anyway, one item that irked me aside from the rah-rah intro movie was several references to the "disappearing bison" that resulted in a massive socio-economic-environmental disaster on the prairies, that completely disrupted the lives of First Nations tribes. It was never explained how or why the bison "disappeared" in a decade or two after being sustainably harvested by First Nations for thousands of years. Was it magic?
Right... There was no mention of the slaughter for hides by Caucasian killers -- I do not deign to call them hunters -- that arrived in the mid-to-late 19th century that took bison to the brink of extinction, along with the First Nations that relied so much upon them.
No self-respecting historian would let such a reference go unexplained. This ain't no political polemic, it's the facts...
This is a placeholder to remind me to update this when I have more time.
For some reason I woke up at 5:00 this morning and could not fall asleep again. I got up, did some excercises, shaved, showered, and it still wasn't time for the free continental breakfast at the hotel. I read the paper, and finally 7:00 arrived and I had my breakfast.
But it was still dark! I snoozed until 8:00, and then checked out and headed off into a gray dawn. I decided to drive back west on the No. 3 to Fort McLeod and from there to Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump -- a World Heritage Site. According to my guide book, it was supposed to open at 9:00, but when I arrived, the sign said 10:00. That was OK, because it gave me an hour to explore the trail through the killing grounds below the cliff. There were several signs warning of bear and cougar activity, so as I walked my head kept swivelling like a WWII fighter pilot, and I made sure to make plenty of noise as I trundled along.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, a buffalo jump was a way natives used to kill many of the huge bison by driving them off a cliff. Then they would smoke and dry the meat, render the fat, and use the bones and hides for various purposes to get them through the winter. Nothing was wasted.
Over several thousand years, the jump at Head Smashed In was reduced from over 20 meters to around 10 as bones and fallen rock and washed off dirt filled the area below the cliffs. It's still an impressive site, with magnificent views over the rolling prairie and the Oldman River marked by a line of trees off in the distance.
The interpretive center was a strking modern building set into the cliff, with excellent displays about the site and the Blackfeet who controlled the area. While the autumn colours were modestly spectacular, I'd like to see the site in the summer, too.
Then it was back to Lethbridge for lunch, followed by a couple of hours near the Oldman River, where I walked some trails, viewed the magnificent rail trestle bridge (the longest in Canada, or the longest in the world, depending on which sign or source you read), and checked out the reconstruction of Fort Whoop-Up.
As I was taking photos of the fall foliage I spotted a midsized beast curled up in a tree about 12-15 meters off the ground. I couldn't quite make out what it was, and a passing jogger said it was a porcupine. Huh? When the nature centre opened I went in and asked the staff, and sure enough, porcupines often sleep way up in trees during the daytime! That was new to me....
Two more hours on the road brought me to Medicine Hat, which I found to be a very confusing city to get around in. Dunno why, nothing seemed to go as I expected it to...
I am really on the prairie now -- it was flat flat flat for much of the leg from Lethbridge to Medicine Hat. But the wide open spaces are beautiful in their own way.
I left my cousin's place on an acreage west of Calgary this morning and zipped into the city to drop off a package for a friend. Mission accomplished, I backtracked west on the No. 1 -- and ran into a near whiteout of a snowstorm! Groan. Just what I needed after two days of rain.
I persevered, heading south down the 22, and within half an hour the skies cleared, the sun came out, and I enjoyed a wonderful drive through the beautiful, rolling, ranch country with the mountains to the west. As I cruised south, view upon view pulled me to the side of the road to shoot photos. The silvers, yellows, browns and golds of the autumn landscape were amazing, with the blue, purple and gray backdrop of the distant mountains, and the white clouds scudding across the vast, azure, western sky!
When I hit the No. 3, I backtracked west to visit the Frank Slide, then it was east again on the No. 3 and then south on the No. 6 to Waterton National Park.
I arrived in Waterton to find the village literally boarded up for the season and just a few hardy tourists wandering around. The townsite was full of deer. The countryside was gorgeous and I took a pile of photos. I had not visited Waterton in over 30 years, and the short sojurn today sparked weak memories, at best. But I vowed to bring my wife Yumi to Waterton in the spring, or next autumn, to make fresh memories together.
I left Waterton reluctantly, as fragile fragments of camping in the park as a kid with my family began to form and tease over the intervening decades... Were we driving the Rambler? Did we have that huge, heavy, yellow and brown canvas tent?
It was time to head onward into the future again...
I took the No. 5 north and east to Lethbridge. I ran into another line of windmills, about 20 or so, not as many as the dozens along the No. 3... I wonder how much of Alberta's electricity comes from the wind?
Today made up for the last two days of non-stop rain. I loved cruising along the nearly deserted roads at 10 - 20kph below the limit and pulling over whenever I felt like it to drink in the views and frame a few shots.
Sorry, the photos will have to wait until I get home in about ten days -- I don't have the gear and software to get them onto this ancient notebook computer that I'm using....
Well, despite Environment Canada forecasts, it rained all the way from Burnaby BC to Canmore AB over the last two days. I stopped in Banff for a quick walkabout in the drizzle today, drove the Bow Valley Parkway -- I always like to pay my respects at the monument to Ukrainian-Canadian internees near Castle Mountain. While none of my relatives (ancestors) were interned, I still feel a bond. And on my wife' side as well, for she is Japanese... Two great travesties in Canadian history and democracy... It finally cleared up around Canmore... and I arrived at my cousin's place in Calgary for an excellent meal and a great bed.
I left Burnaby on a two-week road trip this morning, so I won't be updating this blog all that often. I've got my photo gear along and plan to amble along from BC to Manitoba before visiting relatives in Saskatchewan.
One snag is that a new notebook computer that I ordered from Dell did not arrive in time for the trip. My main laptop is being used by my wife for a class she's taking -- it's the only machine we have that has MS Access 2003, which is required for the class. I have her seven-year-old Japanese IBM laptop with me, but it's constrained by the obsolete Windows ME operating system so I couldn't even load some of my software on it before I left. It's pretty slow, too, with its Celeron processor and 192MB of RAM...
Not to mention working with the Japanese menus! By guess, and by golly, and by ancient memories of scripts and characters learned many years ago... Dang it, I really need to keep up my Japanese...
So I will be limited to taking a few notes and surfing the web, but not posting photos to this blog. I hope to catch up in November with several dozen photos winnowed from the hundreds I plan to take over the next two weeks.
I've been gearing up for a two-week road trip across BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. I'll be visiting friends and relatives, and taking tons of photos.
I figured I'd be seeing snow, and sure enough there already was a dump of several centimeters in southern Saskatchewan, so I'm glad that in the last few days I got a new set of Arctic Claw winter tires from Big O Tires, and got a major service on our '98 Outback from Don Docksteader Subaru. My automotive philosophy is never stint on maintenance, and use reputable service providers. We've put 165,000km on our Outback, or over 100,000 miles, with nary a problem.
Itchy feet and an itchy trigger finger put me on the road today to get out into the mountains and shoot some photos. I went north up the 99 to Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton, carried on past Duffey Lake and over to Lillooet. Then it was back south to Lytton, Hope, and home to Burnaby. It never ceases to amaze me how varied the landscape is in BC, and how quickly you can transition from one ecological zone to another. The weather also changes by the hour as you travel, and today I encountered everything from hot sun to torrential rain.
On the 99 north.
Near the Joffre Lakes parking lot.
Near the Joffre Lakes parking lot.
Setton Lake, just west of Lillooet.
I've stopped at this spot perhaps four or five times over the last ten years, and I have never seen this lake calm. Powerful winds funnel down between the mountains, raising whitecaps and making boats tied to the dock buck like broncos mad at being tethered.
Heading south on highway 12.
North of Lytton.
After the morning spent retracing the horrors of atomic weapons, we headed back to the Dejima area, and had lunch by the waterfront at Dejima Wharf. Two of Nagasaki's famous dishes are Nagasaki Sara Udon, or crisp noodles covered with a seafood and vegetable sauce, and Nagasaki champon, a succulent noodle soup.
Nagasaki Sara Udon
Yumi tackling a bowl of champon.
Throughout our stay in Nagasaki we saw many of these impressive raptors soaring overhead.
Our first morning in Nagasaki we headed out to pay our respects at the atomic bomb memorial and peace park. With the sun shining brightly on the beautiful harbor city surrounded by mountains, it was hard to believe that 60 years ago much of it had been instantly rendered a radioactive wasteland with tens of thousands of dead and dying.
The peace museum was powerfully moving, with haunting images and artifacts. It also does not overlook Japan's imperial expansion and aggression.
Preserved ruins of the Urakami Cathedral. The cathedral, then the largest in East Asia, stood near the epicenter of the blast. It is ironic that Nagasaki was likely the most "Western" city in Japan at the time, and had the highest proportion of Christians in Japan.
I had never quite understood the symbolism of the Nagasaki peace monument until I read the plaque with the following words:
Words of the Sculptor
After experiencing that nightmarish war,
that blood-curdling carnage,
that unendurable horor,
Who could walk away without praying for peace?
This statue was created as a signpost in the
cause of global harmony.
Standing ten meters tall,
it conveys the profundity of knowledge and
the beauty of health and virility.
The right hand points to the atomic bomb,
the left hand points to peace,
and the face prays deeply for the victims of war.
Transcending the barriers of race
and evoking the qualities of both Buddha and God,
it is a symbol of the greatest determination
ever known in the history of Nagasaki
and of the highest hope of all mankind.
Nyokodo. It's tiny, yet so moving...
From the plaque:
Nyokodo (As Thyself Hermitage) is the sickroom and study used by Dr. Takashi Nagai, honorary citizen of Nagasaki City. Born in Shimane Prefecture, Dr. Nagai graduated from Nagasaki Medical College and majored in radiology. He was exposed to excessive doses of radiation while treating large numbers of tuberculosis patients with poor equipment. As a result he developed chronic myeloid leukemia and was given three years to live. Two months later he was injured in the atomic bombing and lost his wife, but he continued his selfless efforts for the rescue of the atomic bomb victims, finally falling bedridden. However, spurred on by his sense of scientific mission and also his Catholic faith, Dr. Nagai wrote more than ten books from his sickbed here. He named the building after the Christian maxim "Love others as you love thyself" and live here with his two children, appealing to the world about the foolishness of war and the importance of peace until his death on May 1, 1951 at the age of 43. Nyokodo continues to this day to serve as a symbol of Dr. Nagai's spirit of peace and brotherly love.
We left Himeji around noon and took a side trip to Kurashiki on our way to Nagasaki. Kurashiki has preserved an area of town with charming canals, old warehouses, and lots of arts and crafts.
The curry shop where we had lunch.
OK, here we go with about a dozen views of Himeji Castle.
Yes, I took 137 pictures of Himeji Castle, and I'm having a tough time winnowing them down to, say, a dozen to post here. If we'd had more time, the shutter would likely have dropped a few more hundred times....
The castle is one of few in Japan to survive in original condition following the destruction at the end of the shogunate in the Meiji Restoration in the 19th century, and the bombings of WWII. While there are quite a few reconstructed castles around Japan, none compare to the sheer immensity and beauty of Himeji.
When I first experienced the castle 22 years ago, I was packing a Nikon F2 and Fujichrome slide film, so as I recall, I limited myself to a 36-exposure roll or two. This time I was packing several SD cards the size of the first joint of my thumb (but much thinner) in the 1 - 4 GB range that could hold anywhere from several hundred to over a thousand shots each at the highest 8MP setting on my Canon S5 IS digital camera....
That said, I think I'll return to editing photos later, and will leave this here as a teaser :-). G'night...
After seeing a client for lunch in Tokyo on Tuesday, Yumi and I headed off on our travels. With Japan Rail Passes in hand, Yumi organized a series of bullet train tickets that would take us all they way to Nagasaki on the southern island of Kyushu with stops at Kobe and Himeji on the way down, Fukuoka and Hiroshima on the way back north to Tokyo, then all the way to Aomori at the northern tip of the main island of Honshu and back to Tokyo. The JR agent at Kanda Station in Tokyo where we made our seat reservations was amazed at all the stops we were making. The JR Pass is a great deal -- we likely did over 200,000 yen worth of traveling each on passes that cost less than a quarter of that amount.
The shinkansen bullet trains are magnificent beasts that run like clockwork.
Cleaners line up to ensure the bullet train is spick and span before passengers board.
We were up by 6:00 on Monday morning, and decided to head out to our old stomping grounds in the Kichijoji area in western Tokyo. We planned to walk around Inokashira Park on the south side of Kichijoji station until the stores opened at 10:00.
Walking on side streets on the way to Ochanomizu station we got a glimpse of the Nikolai Cathedral among office towers.
A holdout householder -- the land must be worth millions...
A Chuo Line train pulls into Ochanomizu station.
Inokashira Park with shrine, aeration fountain.
A detail of the shrine.
The small park surrounded by the urban jungle had an amazing variety of wildlife.
Yumi with binoculars in hand, pointing out another species of duck.
After a couple of hours in the park, we headed back into the shopping arcades and streets of funky Kichijoji.
The main shopping arcade.
A shop selling traditional crackers.
A kimono store selling the real stuff, not tourist junk.
Personalizing cell phones is a big business.
Blowfish swim in a restaurant's aquarium.
As lunch approached I began thinking more about food, so I headed over to the Seiyu department store, knowing the basement food floor featured an amazing variety of prepared items.
A lineup of packaged meals.
A mouth-watering variety of onigiri rice balls.
More great stuff! I love Japanese supermarkets!
This display of tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlets) reminded me of a tonkatsu restaurant nearby, so I headed out to find Yumi.
Yumi was shopping at Yuzawaya, a huge crafts store at the east end of the station, and I was to meet her there at 11:30. When I arrived, I found a large Halloween display -- I don't recall the event being such a big deal in Japan five or more years ago! Japanese retailers are experts at appropriating any sort of holiday from any culture to flog more goods :-).
Hmmm. This costume looks like it's more suited to, ahem, tricks rather than treats!
We were momentarily distracted by this sushi mountain plastic display...
But ended up at our favourite tonkatsu place in the LonLon mall. Yum!
In the evening we walked over to Akihabara, Tokyo's electronics wonderland. When we arrived, I was completely disoriented -- the area has undergone huge development, and it took me 15 minutes of wandering around to gain my bearings. I was seeking a new memory card for my digital camera and the prices in the major stores were out of sight. I knew I could do better if I could find some of the teeny shops I'd frequented years ago. I finally tracked a few down, and sure enough, the prices were less than half of the major electronics retailers.
A manga character billboard.
Yumi checking out canned noodles -- a recent phenomenon that we'd heard about but not experienced first hand.
We ended the long day back on the Kanda shopping street, where we closed out the evening with beer and munchies at an izakaya pub.
The flight from Vancouver to Tokyo was uneventful, but the descent into Narita brought a smile to my face as I listened to the middle-aged tourist couple behind me excitedly point things out in the landscape: "Look honey, they've got Toshiba in Japan, too!" Ah, yeah :-).
Yumi met me at Narita Airport on Sunday afternoon -- she'd left for Japan a week early to spend more time with her parents.
I felt the change in the air and humidity the moment I stepped off the plane, even though the temperature was around 20C. My nose crinkled up, my pores opened up, and sweat began to trickle down the small of my back.
I was second in the "gaijin" (foreigner) line in immigration and sailed through. In typical Japanese efficiency, from the time I passed through immigration and picked up my bags, it took us only minutes to set up my Japan Rail Pass, get reserved seats on the Narita Express to Tokyo Station, and run for the train. Whew! Love that clockwork train system.
As we traveled in to the city, night fell early, and it was pitch black by around 5:00 p.m. As the mixed farms and towns of Chiba gradually filled in with the tens of kilometers of unbroken urban concrete jungle of the greater Tokyo metropolitan area, I was overwhelmed with a sense of time passed. I lived in Tokyo for 14 years in the '80s and '90s, but this trip I felt more like a tourist and a stranger than I ever had in previous visits back after moving to Canada. A four-year gap can do that to you...
From Tokyo Station we took the Chuo Line to Ochanomizu Station, and walked the five minutes to Hamilton Inn Ochanomizu, a basic yet comfortable business hotel where we've stayed several times.
I grabbed a quick shower and then we headed out to get something to eat and drink. We walked over to the Kanda shopping arcade, and I marveled at the familiarity, and the changes, in the area near where I worked for several years back in the late 90s. We ended up at a Watami chain izakaya, or pub, near Kanda Station, and I reveled in the familiar menu items and excellent Japanese beer.
The strangeness fell away and I felt great to be back in Tokyo!
I'm off to Japan today, and am not bothering to take a notebook computer with me, so this blog will be in hibernation for a couple of weeks. When I get back I'll start filling it in with photos and commentary starting from the beginning of the trip.
It's been nearly four years since Yumi and I were last in Japan. Since we moved to Canada some eight years ago, we've returned to visit family, friends and clients every one to two years; however, a series of events including my two-year MA in Professional Communication program at Royal Roads University conspired to make for a long gap.
I'm really looking forward to the trip. In addition to visiting Yumi's folks in Aomori Prefecture, we've got meetings set up with several clients in Tokyo (these short meetings and lunches are important in maintaining contacts and keeping the work flowing), and lunches and dinners scheduled with several friends.
We're also taking a week to ourselves to take a swing down all the way to Nagasaki on the island of Kyushu with several stops at key tourist points along the way. Neither of us has visited Kyushu and we're looking forward to it.
I'll start posting entries and plenty of photos starting around Oct. 29. See you later!
An elk with a magnificent rack calmly browsing beside the highway.
Me in front of Mt. Robson on an unusually clear day.
Before we met a couple of fellow learners from my recently completed MA in Professional Communication at Royal Roads University for lunch in Edmonton, Yumi and I spent the morning at the Royal Alberta Museum. We enjoyed the dioramas and live animal exhibits, and wished we'd had more time to explore.
Here are some of the beautiful and educational dioramas:
Golden eagle and chick.
Yumi is spellbound by the eagle catching a rabbit diorama.
And here are some of the live animals:
A western hognose snake -- cute! And endangered :-(
An amazing stick insect.
Yumi staring at the unnerving giant tropical cockroaches!
Northern pike -- a ghostly predator...
Relaxing by the fire with a brewskie at Whistlers campground in Jasper.
We drove from Saskatoon to Edmonton, stopping at Vegreville to show Yumi the world's largest pysanka (Ukrainian Easter egg).
The pysanka with a brewing storm in the background.
Yumi stretching up to the pysanka.
Alberta summer thunderstorm.
We reached Edmonton, and in the evening we checked out the West Edmonton Mall, the largest in the world. We were not particularly impressed. A mall is a mall, eh? OK, there are the other attractions, too, but.... Just didn't do it for us.
We went for a drive and walk in the morning at Weyakwin Lake. We spotted some mushrooms from the vehicle, so we all piled out to search for more, but they were few and far between.
The public beach.
A sleek female mallard.
"Ukrainian fire drill" -- everyone hops out of the van and checks the side of the road for mushrooms :-).
A wasp's nest on the cabin with resident emerging.
We drove from the farm north of Melfort Saskatchewan to an aunt's cabin further north at Weyakwin Lake. It was great visiting relatives and catching up in the summer sun.
Checking out the dock.
My wife Yumi on the tractor-tire tree swing.
Yumi lends an ear to a visitor.
Evening boat ride with cousins.
The breathtaking (and nose plugging :-) cormorant and pelican island. Unfortunately I was using my pocketable Canon SD400 and didn't bring my Canon S5 IS superzoom along...
We woke up early in the morning in the Tunnel Mountain campground in Banff, and quickly ate breakfast and broke camp. We had a few hours to kill before driving to Calgary, so we poked around the hoodoo trail, drove up the Mt. Norquay road, and explored the Cave and Basin historic site.
Morning view from the campground.
Hoodoo in front of mountains.
Another hoodoo trail view.
Banff from the Mt. Norquay road.
The Cave and Basin historic site -- the hot springs here provided the impetus for declaring the area a national park.
The famous pool, now closed to use.
Yumi carefully viewing endangered Banff Springs snails.
A trail from the Cave and Basin leads to a bird blind on the lake.
Trilingual English, French and Ukrainian signs commemorate the harsh internment of Canadians of Ukrainian descent during WWI -- the Cave and Basin was their winter camp. Such forced labourers built much of early Parks Canada facilities. They were considered to be enemy aliens because at that time Western Ukraine was under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They were treated much like Canadians of Japanese descent were in WWII.
While none of my ancestors were interned, I am angry that such events happened in a supposed democracy. I feel it for both wars and ethnic groups for my wife Yumi is Japanese. Again, none of her family was affected for she was born and raised in Japan, but there's a connection...
We're off to the prairies. I was born and raised in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and we try to get out to visit relatives at least every second year. I love the drive from our home in Burnaby, BC, through the mountains, and down into the expansive plains. We drove as far as Banff the first day and camped overnight. We had reserved a spot through Parks Canada, a wise move during the busy summer season, but were disappointed by the bare, open campsite that we were assigned which was closely surrounded by several other sites. With the usual luck, some of our neighbours arrived back from town near midnight, and proceeded to loudly chatter and giggle with boyfriends on their cell phones as they bedded down. The wonders of modern technology, eh?
Yumi forbade me from roaring at them, as I've been known to do to campers who carry on with loud music and laughter well past "quiet time."
Sunset on the Bow River in Banff.
Magpie casing out handouts in downtown Banff -- why have I seen these corvids only east of the Rockies?
After a hearty breakfast at our friends' place, we headed out to see some of the sights. Yumi and I have never spent any time in Vernon, though we've passed through on several trips, so it was nice to take a look around. There is a lot of development going on!
The first place we stopped was Planet Bee, which was very interesting. We enjoyed viewing the transparent hive and locating the queen bee who had been marked with a dab of white paint.
Yumi checking out the hive.
The queen amid a mass of bees.
Next was a visit to Davison Orchards. I enjoyed checking out all the old farm equipment while the others explored the fruit, gifts, pies and other products for sale.
A 1949 John Deere M.
A 1946 Mercury 3-ton truck.
Next stop was the Allan Brooks Nature Centre that provides an awesome view of the Vernon area. We enjoyed the vistas, and the wildlife.
A view from the centre.
Yumi stalking a marmot.
Taking a closer look at the marmot.
A swallow brings food for its young.
Our last stop before we had to drive back to Burnaby was the Gray Monk winery. It's a beautiful setting overlooking Okanagan Lake, and we had lunch at the outdoor restaurant. The food was excellent.
The winery overlooking Okanagan Lake.
A huge hanging basket of brilliant flowers.
The sunny restaurant.
We woke up on our first day in Washington at 7:30 am local time and got out and about around 9:00. The Computers, Freedom and Privacy 2006 conference that I'm here for starts tomorrow, so I had the full day with Yumi to get ourselves situated before I turned her loose on her own.
I'm going to put a bunch of photos at the end of this post, so if you're a visually oriented type and want to avoid all the blather, just scroll down :-).
We walked north across the Mall to the Old Post Office to try and find some breakfast in its food court. Along the way we noticed all the concrete planters placed for security since 9/11 and the armed guards everywhere. We encountered our first of many security checks when we entered the Old PO. I had stuff spread all over several pockets and had to pass through the scanner three or four times. The last item found was my Swiss Army knife, which the security woman perused, shrugged and handed back to me.
The food court in the magnificent hall was deserted, giving the place an eerie feel. We decided to go up the tower first and then get something to eat. I didn?t like the glass elevator, but felt fine at the top. There were magnificent views all around on the sunny, clear morning. We could see the Capitol, a chunk of the White House, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Smithsonian buildings. Great place to start our visit!
Back down at the food court a few places were beginning to come awake at 9:30. We got bacon and egg breakfasts for $3.49 ? a lot better than $12 for the same thing at the hotel.
Morning hunger pangs sated, we headed over to the White House. There was a crew digging up an area on the lawn, and I snapped a photo of a John Deere Gator with the White House in the background -- nice juxtaposition for a Saskatchewan boy!
It was gradually getting warmer as we ambled along toward the Vietnam War Memorial. As it came in view I began feeling somber. There were quite a few small Canadian flags left along the wall so it looked like a Canadian tour group had passed through recently. It was touching to see the photos and mementos left by people, and watch aged couples painstakingly page through the memorial books. Hard to believe there are over 50,000 names of the dead carved in that black granite.
Next stop was the Lincoln Memorial. It?s an impressive structure. The feeling of awe and respect was destroyed by herds of rowdy schoolchildren who were running around and shouting despite the signs asking for quiet. The view up the Mall was impressive and we thought of Forest Gump.
We trundled off to the Korean War Memorial and it was a somber and impressive monument. I found the statues of a unit on patrol powerfully evocative of the rigors of that often cold campaign. Both the Korean and Vietnam memorials didn?t yet exist the last time I was in Washington nearly 35 years ago.
Down around the Tidal Basin we began to flag a bit as lunch approached and the sun strengthened. The Roosevelt Memorial was impressive. I found the quotations thought-provoking. They seemed to call upon ideals that are not actually reflected much in contemporary American society. Wonderful words, but are they heeded? I found this to be a recurring thread throughout our long march today. Many monuments to many highly intelligent men who wrote compelling thoughts, yet the swarms of fat retirees and screaming schoolchildren kept intruding with their apparent lack of awareness and respect.
Oh well, it?s still a magnificent place and the Washington Monument commands the eye from every turn.
Next up, the Jefferson Memorial. Somehow it was not quite as impressive as the Lincoln, or even the modern Roosevelt. I wondered out loud what presidents since Roosevelt would ever be honored in such a manner. Likely none, or at least none that I would deem worthy.
By this time we were tired, so we headed back across the Mall to the food court in the Ronald Reagan Building. Security again. It was a relief to get out of the sun, eat and relax. We checked out the Washington Visitor Center in the same building and were not impressed. The woman there ignored us until we were leaving, and there appeared to be little free information available.
Somewhat refreshed and fully refueled, we trekked on to Ford's Theater and caught a presentation on the assassination of Lincoln. I could remember visiting the theater as a kid of 11 or 12. I think we saw a production of ?You?re a Good Man Charlie Brown? there, but I could be mixing that up. There is a museum in the basement of the theater. There is something macabre about the clothing worn by Lincoln the night he was shot and the pillow he died on, yet it is all strangely touching. Across the street is the house he was carried to and the bedroom he died in. The house is flanked by gaudy souvenir shops, fronted by raucous street vendors, and fumigated by the exhaust of idling tour buses. The parks staff seem dispirited and resigned to an endless stream of repetitive questions. Poor Abe.
That did it for us. Over seven hours of walking was enough. We dropped into a convenience store and picked up some drinks for the walk back to the hotel, and stumbled in, exhausted, at 4:30 pm.
I?ll do some blogging and some homework and Yumi will bone up on sights she?ll see tomorrow while I?m in sessions.
Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial from the Old Post Office tower.
John Deere on the White House lawn.
Bird's nest in a traffic light near the Mall.
Kids make rubbings of names on the Vietnam wall.
Lincoln Memorial framed by trees.
Yumi got me with Abe. There must be millions of photos like this one!
The Korean War memorial patrol. Canada is among the UN nations honored.
The two of us at the Tidal Basin with the ever-visible Washington Monument.
Roosevelt Memorial bread line figures.
The quotation on the wall to the left deserves sharing: "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."
Fishy humanoid gargoyle on Ohio Dr. bridge looks Jimmy Carter-ish :-)
We headed out to Washington, DC, where I'll take in the Computers, Freedom and Privacy 2006 conference, along with some sightseeing. Yumi is tagging along.
We had a bit of excitement along the way in Toronto, where we changed planes. There was extra security on for flights into Washington's Reagan National Airport because of its close proximity to the center of government. We had to clear security again before entering the departure lounge, with all carry on baggage checked by hand.
We boarded the Embraer 175 and after awhile the captain came on the PA system and said there was a glitch with a computer and they would have to power down the entire plane and reboot it. It took about 90 seconds in darkness before they fired it back up. Then a few minutes later he came back on the PA with a command to deplane immediately and leave all personal belongings behind because a fuel truck near the plane was smoking. The plane was only about a third full so we scrambled off quickly.
After about 15 minutes back in the departure lounge, the captain said there had been an electrical problem on the fuel truck, and that the fire marshal had cleared us back onto the plane. An adventure to start the trip! We departed about 45 minutes late.
The ride in to Washington was spectacular in the dark with the major monuments and government buildings lit up. The approach to Reagan National provides an excellent view of the Mall, and you can see why they have the extra security for Reagan flights. It?s only seconds from the flight path to major sites. Yumi tried to snap a photo or two, but the turbulence resulted in smeared streaks of light.
The L?Enfant Plaza Hotel was a bit of a disappointment. Perhaps it was a "4-star luxury" hotel 20 years ago? The TV in our bathroom is a tiny old thing, the toilet paper roll doesn?t stay seated, the furniture is somewhat "distressed" and there is generally a tired air about the rooms and hallways. The mini bar was not stocked, though I suspect that if it had been we would have avoided it anyway -- prices for room service and hotel restaurants are not encouraging for us hillbillies :-).
I was also disappointed to find that the hotel's wireless Internet access was not included but cost an extra $9.95/day or $24.95 for three days. I guess now that so many people are free from usurious hotel telephone charges, hotels are trying to make up the lost revenue in high-speed Internet access. Seeing as I have to do homework for my Royal Roads MA in Professional Communication course while I'm here and interact daily on online discussion boards, I had no choice but to cough up. Dial-up was an option, but it would have been irritatingly slow.
Yumi and I went to Pacific Rim National Park a few weeks ago and stayed at the Green Point campground for two nights. It's the third time we've gone in as many years, and we always enjoy walking aptly named Long Beach and exploring tidal pools for interesting critters.
Me standing on the Pacific rim :-).
One of the hundreds of beautiful views from the Wild Pacific Trail that greet you every meter or two...
Yumi and I went on an overnight camping trip to Kettle River Provincial Park over the weekend.
The forecast was for rain, but we took our chances and arrived as the sky was clouding over. We saw a grouse strut through the campsite we chose, followed by greetings from assorted chipmunks, squirrels and jays, and then we got the tent and tarps set up.
Our dining and eating shelters in place, we walked the river from the campground south to the old Kettle Valley railway bridge and then back to the north end of the park before dinner.
We were looking for beavers, for we had seen one near the island at the north end of the park last year, and on our way back to the campground we rounded a bend and found ourselves face to face with a sturdy specimen eyeing us from the water only a couple of meters away. We stared at each other, and then as I reached for a camera, it disappeared. Sigh.
After dinner we walked back south to the bridge, and then all the way to the south boundary of the park and back. There were dozens of swallows flitting through the sky over the muddy, fast flowing river like a melee of dogfighting Spitfires.
It rained that evening, but we were snug under our tarp by a fire.
The next day dawned soggy and foggy after heavy rain. We had breakfast, packed up the wet gear in garbage bags, and went for a walk on the other side of the river where there are several visible entrances to old mines. They are all "closed" because of the danger of collapse, however it's obvious that people explore them. Not us, though, a photo in front of a dark, gloomy, mostly filled-in adit is close enough for me!
The morning walk was also rewarded with seeing a marmot, spotting several unidentified raptors, and hearing an owl. As we slowly drove out of the park, a couple of young deer near the road graciously said goodbye with ears flared, and noses twitching.
Continuing our Victoria weekend trip, Yumi and I wandered the inner harbour one evening. It's a popular tourist spot, with the BC Legislature and the Empress Hotel anchoring two sides of the harbour.
Yumi and I took advantage of a holiday in Japan to take the ferry over to Victoria on Friday morning. We arrived on the island at 10:30 a.m. and slowly drove down the west side of the Saanich penninsula, aiming to be at Ft. Rodd Hill national park for lunch.
It's a beautiful site on the ocean, with former coast artillery fortifications and a picturesque lighthouse.
That's me beneath the fire-directing tower, leaning on a cannon.
Fisgard lighthouse, built in 1860.
Up with the sun again, we broke camp and headed south on the Icefields Parkway. Our first stop was at Mt. Edith Cavell, accessed just a few dozen kilometers south of Jasper.
The road up to the mountain and glacier was paved but in bad condition, so the 14.5km passed slowly, but the views more than made up for the bouncy, twisty ride.
Named after nurse Edith Cavell who was executed by German forces in WWI for helping Allied soldiers escape Belgium, the site is suitably majestic and uplifting.
The lower end of the upper glacier is known as the "Angel," while ice calved from the lower part floats in the little lake.
Up at the crack of dawn, we built a smokey fire from damp wood, ate breakfast, and headed off to Maligne Lake.
The sky cleared and the sun came out, literally brightening the prospects for some good hiking. The drive to Maligne Lake took us past Medicine Lake, an interesting body of water that appears and disappears with the seasons.
In the spring, Medicine Lake magically appears as the snow melts, and then gradually shrinks over the summer until it disappears in the autumn. The mystery was solved when underground channels were discovered that empty the lake at a pace that doesn't keep up with the spring rush, but eventually drain it as the inflow decreases.
We arrived at Maligne Lake around 9:30 a.m., ahead of the tour bus rush. It was beautiful. We walked the shore, and hiked a loop through the woods.
After having lunch sitting on some rocks near the shoreline, we headed back toward Jasper. We stopped at Maligne Canyon for another hike.
The hike down the canyon is spectacular, with amazing rock formations and thundering water. Some of the underground channels from Medicine Lake can be seen emptying into the canyon. We took the trail as far down as 5th bridge, and then considered returning to the parking lot on a different trail through the forest.
There was a cougar warning out for the area, so we were a bit uncertain about the narrow, darker, less-used forest path, however with tighter grips on our walking poles, we ventured forth.
About 50 meters into the forest Yumi suddenly stopped dead in her tracks, and pointed at a muddy area on the path. Superimposed on horse tracks was a perfect cat print, only the size indicated this was no house cat! A careful look around found more cougar tracks, and we about-faced and with tingling spines headed back to the path along the canyon where there were plenty of other hikers.
We left Prince George early in the morning and cruised east on the Yellowhead (Highway 16) toward Jasper. It was overcast with occasional rain.
Being avid streamkeepers, we stopped several times along the way to check out rivers and creeks including the Willow River, Bowron River, Slim Creek and the Milk River.
As we approached the intersection of highways 16 and 5, I recalled that there was a salmon viewing area in Valemount, about 20km south of our course. We decided to check it out, and discovered that we'd missed a chinook salmon run by a week or so. They had arrived a couple of weeks early and we saw only one carcass.
Swift Creek is billed as the home of the world's longest chinook salmon run -- the fish travel 1,280km from the Pacific Ocean up the Fraser River and to the creek to spawn. Apparently they average about 18km a day. Amazing.
Retracing our course back to the 16, we continued east to Mt. Robson Provincial Park where we stopped for a tailgate lunch and a visit to the information center.
It's hard to believe that the icy blue torrent one sees in the north is the same Fraser River that is a brown, silt-filled working channel back home in Burnaby.
We arrived in Jasper around dinner time, and headed for the Whistlers campground, the only one that was open due to the "strategic services withdrawal" underway by national park staff negotiating for better wages. Park staff were uniformly friendly and helpful throughout our trip.
As we registered at the campground, we were warned to be on the lookout for elk, as it was the mating season and the males could be aggressive.
We set up camp, got a fire going and were cooking dinner when a group of female elk appeared, three mature and three yearlings, slowly moving along while munching on grass and shrubs. Not long after a male with an impressive rack appeared, obviously the leader of the harem.
We were a bit nervous while the male was around, but eventually he trotted off, and the females bedded down less than 10 meters from our tent! We thought that eventually they would move on, but on our last bathroom run for the night, we discovered they were still sleeping there.
The few buildings are the only existing remnants of all the internment camps that held some 22,000 Japanese-Canadians during WWII -- a shameful stain on Canada's history, as over 70% of the internees were Canadian citizens. They were uprooted from B.C., and then after the war ended they were not allowed to return home, but had to move east of the Rocky Mountains.
As we walked into the site, we could hear a happy male voice laughing and chattering away. We entered the reception area, and the man behind the voice looked familiar. My wife Yumi exclaimed, "I've seen you on TV!"
It was "Nobby" Hayashi, former bat boy for the famed pre-war Japanese-Canadian Asahi baseball team, and we'd seen him in a documentary video that was produced when the team was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame recently. Better late than never....
We toured the centre, and as we moved from building to building, my anger and sadness grew at what had transpired in a so-called democracy, and at the blatant racism. It was shocking to hear cheerful women's voices calling to each other in Japanese as we walked around the site, and to turn a corner to see beaming, beautiful, elderly faces in a place that to me seemed to hold such sadness.
I had many questions for Mr. Hayashi. He said there were only about 20 Japanese left in New Denver, all that remained of a handful of tubercular and family-less internees who were allowed to stay on in the town when the other 2,000 or so internees were forced to move east when the camp closed.
They must all be in their 70s to 90s.
I didn't ask what will happen when they're all gone.
I sat in the beautiful gardens created for the centre among the ghost-filled buildings, and pondered people's inhumanity toward other human beings.
Yumi entering the building in which we found Nobby Hayashi manning the counter.
I'm still catching up on our trip home from Calgary to Burnaby last week.
After crossing Arrow Lake on June 8, we continued south to the charming town of Nakusp and its friendly residents. Everywhere we went, people chatted with us, and we met several former Burnabarians who had moved to this interior town to enjoy a slower pace of life.
We walked the lovely lakefront and saw hawks and osprey soaring overhead, and enjoyed the jam-packed local museum.
Unfortunately, we didn't have time to visit the hot springs, but I suspect we'll be back sooner than later.
We woke up to a cacophonous chorus of irritatingly cheerful birds, squirrels and chipmunks around 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday, June 8, at Blanket Creek Provincial Park. The auditory assault on our peaceful campground prompted us to hit the road early.
We planned to catch the 9:00 a.m. ferry across Arrow Lake from Shelter Bay to Galena Bay, and arrived at the landing only to find it was half an hour late.
As the sun's intensity increased, we slathered on the sunscreen. At last we drove onto the small ferry, and were on our way.
I love ferries, large and small. It's great being on the water, binoculars and camera at hand. The 20-minute crossing was all too short.
Looking north up Arrow Lake from the ferry.
We stayed at Blanket Creek Provincial Park on Monday, June 7. It's about 25km south of Revelstoke on Highway 23. We'd never been down that road, and were impressed by the beautiful scenery.
Of the 64 sites, only half a dozen or so were occupied, so we looked forward to a quiet evening.
It's a beautiful little park on the shores of the Arrow Lake reservoir. We walked down to the water, and did the 2km nature trail. There were piles of deer scat all along the trail, however we didn't encounter any deer.
We'd certainly camp there again if the occasion arises.
It's hard to believe that paddlewheelers used to ply these waters in days gone by.