Summer Travels Part 2: Whale of a Tale Edition

The end of summer is nigh…and there is so much to catch up on from just a few days of traveling!  And since a picture is worth a thousand words, probably the best way to tell you what Chris and I have been up to is to show you what we’ve been up to.  How’s that?  This post will be mostly about the trip we took at the end of July, which we split between Seattle and San Juan Island.  Ready for the recap?  Swell!

First up, Chris and I stayed at Tulalip for three nights so that we could [both get pedicures and] attend his high school class 20th year reunion in Seattle.  It was weird – even though I didn’t know anyone there, I could still see all the cliques and kind of tell who was who.  Everyone was trying to impress everyone else.  I can’t say that I’m terribly disappointed that I missed mine last year; between Chris and me, one 20 year reunion was enough!  But Chris was happy that he went because catching up with a couple of old close friends was worth it.

DSC00756The next day was Chris’ 38th birthday.  Now he’s only two years younger than me and can’t make fun of me for being super older than him.  I took him out to a really nice dinner, because I’m sweet like that ❤

We spent Sunday traveling over to the San Juan Islands.  We caught the ferry at Anacortes and took it to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island proper.  The weather couldn’t have been more beautiful!  We stayed at a nice little bed and breakfast right downtown, where we had our own little apartment complete with private hottub and magically-appearing fresh-baked cookies.  And the breakfasts were Ah. Maze. Ing.  Nom nom nom!

One of the highlights of our trip was taking a five hour sea-kayaking tour.  There were only six of us on the tour, plus our guide, Owen.  We left out of Roche Harbor and kayaked completely around Henry Island, which was about 11 miles in all.  The weather was completely fantastic – sunny, a slight breeze, and warm.  We saw a pair of bald eagles, and a little red fox joined us on our lunch break.  We also saw plenty of harbor seals, but whenever I got my camera out, they dunked underwater.  Why do they have to be such camera haters?  The most amazing part of the trip happened about halfway through our day when we saw approaching orcas – K-pod, to be exact.  I don’t know how many we saw, but they did come fairly close; one female swam under our kayaks to get to a younger orca that was headed toward us along the shoreline.  It was really cool being so low on the water, watching them surface and blow, and even breach.  It was Chris’ first time kayaking (my second) and I’d say it was a success!

But wait!  There’s more, yes, still more!  The final full day of our vacation was spent driving around the Island, stopping wherever we thought would be interesting.  We saw both English Camp (hip hip hooray!) and English Camp (sad) AND I got my NPS passport stamps at both places, we stopped for an unexpected visit to some tidepools, said hi to a few shy alpacas, were astounded (and slightly dismayed) by the gastrointestinal parasites of pinnipeds at The Whale Museum, and bought a few treats at a lavender farm (the lavender ice cream was nom-tastic).  Here’s a quick tour!

Thanks for joining me on my little vacation retrospective.  We had a great time, plus I got to meet this guy and his dog!

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Summer Travels Part 1: Planes, Trains and Automobiles Edition

Holy schnikies!  It’s August already, and here I am, having fallen behind on posting.  I have no idea where this summer has gone, although I know where I’ve gone, and those places have been many, far and wide.  It has been a great summer, aside from that whole having to work thing that I’ve got going on right now.  I love going on vacations, and traveling with my Fuzzy Huzby is always an adventure!  And since I’m a little behind, I think I’m going to do mostly a pictorial post today about some of our summer travels.

First up was the family reunion that we went to in Durango, Colorado.  Every couple of years or so, my dad’s side of the family (the Koski’s) get together for schmoozin’ and boozin’.  This summer, my Uncle Paul and Aunt Renee, who live in Nucla, Colorado, picked Durango for our clan’s gathering.  It was a short weekend, but Chris and I packed in a lot of action and adventure!

Everyone who made it to Koski-palooza 2013.

Everyone who made it to Koski-palooza 2013.

Saturday: Mesa Verde National Park

Chris and I grabbed our cousin Heidi and spent Saturday climbing all over the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park, just outside of Durango.  First we took the Balcony House tour, where we had to climb up ladders and go through tight tunnels.  Then we toured Cliff Palace.  Both sites were amazing, but for me, a highlight was letting my big nerd self buy the “Explorer” edition of the National Park Passport and getting a couple of Mesa Verde stamp cancellations!!!  Woo hoooooo!!!  (Also, I might have purchased ALL yearly stamp collections from 1986 to the present.  Also, I might have the Passport App on my iPhone.  Also, I might have a problem with being too obsessive about this whole thing.)

Sunday: Narrow-Gauge Train to Silverton

The next day, the whole family took the historic narrow-gauge train from Durango to Silverton, which largely followed the Animas River between the two towns.  It’s about a 2.5 hour ride each way, so I occupied my time taking selfies with various people, drinking smuggled Fireball Whiskey with my cousins on the DL, and enjoying the fresh air (which was nicely flavored with freshly burned coal from the steam engine, cough cough cough).  Want to see some pictures?  Great!  I have some!

It was a really enjoyable trip, but I must say, it was way too short.  I feel like I didn’t really get a chance to talk with many people, other than the usual pleasantries and quick updates.  I did spend some time hanging out with my Aunt Tje, which was great because I think we’re both somewhat introverted and share some things in common.  And, it was really awesome hanging out with my cousin Heidi for the day – I love that she’s grown into such a smart, fun and laid-back young woman!  Colorado, and especially Durango, is a beautiful place and I realized that I do miss that landscape.  Another successful family reunion…check!

Writing 101: Dashing Under the Night Sky (Part 1 of 3)

What I remember, when I was maybe four years old, is staring up at the night sky through the back window of my father’s hatchback.  We were on the road and it was dark, except for the billions of stars above me.  I could feel the tires of the car, a flesh-colored Volkswagen Dasher, on the highway, and it was so late at night, or maybe so early in the morning.  I was tired, but being lulled back to sleep by the movement of the car, the smell of the car’s dry heat coming from the plastic vents, and the soft glow of the lights in the dashboard.  My brother, a year and a half younger, was asleep next to me.  It is a brief memory, but one that I have held onto for some reason.

The events surrounding the memory are a little less clear.  I seem to recall my dad waking me up in the middle of the night – or was it early morning and still dark? – and telling me and my brother to get up, that we were going.  I can’t remember if the car was packed with our belongings.  Previous to that night, I don’t remember my dad packing our things, or telling us we were moving, although I’m sure he did and I was just too young to really know what it meant.  I don’t remember arriving at our destination, or if a moving truck was involved.  I didn’t know at the time why we were moving.

It was the first time though, that I remember knowing, really understanding, that my mother was not with us, would not be joining us along the way, and would not meet us there.  I didn’t know when my brother and I would see her again.  I worried that she wouldn’t know how to find us.  I worried that we would not see her again, or that perhaps we would be too old and that she wouldn’t recognize us.

And as those stars slipped across the night sky, as we dashed along the highway moving from our home in Wisconsin to our new home in Oklahoma, the distance between me and my mother seemed to grow greater and greater, until we became no closer than the nearest stars in the sky.

 

Photo by Frank Delargy

Photo by Frank Delargy

Related post:  Silence is never louder than when you should be asleep

 


 

This is Day 4 of Writing 101.  Today’s assignment was to:  Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.  And the twist:  Make today’s post the first in a three-post series.

I really struggled with this post in that I couldn’t think of what to write about, let alone how to incorporate it into a three-post trilogy.  I thought of all kinds of losses – people, pets, objects, games…but nothing really stood out, until I found this memory, lurking in the corner of my mind.  It wasn’t a permanent loss; today, my mother is very much a part of my life, I am happy to say.  I’m not quite sure how this will start my trilogy, but I’ll think of something, eventually!

Writing 101: A sense of place (or, as Liz Lemon says, I want to go to there)

I can feel the heat from the sun blazing down on me, and I know my surroundings feel it too.  The top of my head is burning, and my dark hair does nothing to reflect the heat, but only absorbs the constant rays, unobstructed by clouds or rain, at least in this season.  There is a breeze, which I welcome on my skin; it is cool when it rushes across the thin sheen of sweat on my face and arms.  It is a welcome cool.  The breeze brings me dust from the road I am standing on, a dirt road, cracked under the sun with layers of clay crumbling up towards the atmosphere as particles are swept into the air.  They tickle my nose and I sneeze.  I can smell the earth, but I can also smell and almost taste the grasses – it is the sweet scent of dried grasses, uncut, waving in the wind.  I can hear the grasses brushing together as they sway in waves with each breath of air that chases the next across the savannah.  With that wave I hear more sounds.

There are birds chirping in the distance.  Perhaps a loud squawk of a corvid defending its food from another large bird, or the song-like chirps of smaller birds hidden in the leaves of a grove of nearby acacia trees.  I can also hear other animals, larger animals, many animals.  Herds of them, grazing slowly under the heat that surely affects them as much as it affects me.  Their dainty hooves trample the crisp dried grasses that brush up against long legs that slowly move from one patch of grass to another.  Their hooves also make a dull thud on the dusty earth where there is no vegetation, where they are crossing the road in which I stand.  Their mouths make a slow grumble as they tear plants from the ground or leaves from the trees, masticating the tough fibrous materials between their grinding teeth, lazily, up and down, back and forth, before they swallow.  I can smell the salty-sweet excrement they leave behind, that is already drying into chips under the sun.  Insects scurry towards them, clicking their wings and legs as they go, humming as they fly towards their destination.

More intermittently, I hear other noises, those of animals I must be wary of.  Animals that I have come to meet, to encounter from a distance.  At this time of day they sleep in the shade, unless disturbed by their young who play and climb and tug on their fur demanding attention.  I hear the chirpy mews of the cubs, and every once in a while a rumbling growl from one of the adults followed by a quick scamper of paws in the grass as a cub runs from the scene.  I would like a nap too, in the shade.  I can hear tails slapping flies away from backsides covered with fur, paws scratching at something itching underneath a heavy mane.  In the distance, the far away distance, I hear a trumpet-like calling…and another one answering…a family, checking in and letting each other know where they are.

Do you know where I am? What do I see?  Can you see it too?


This is Day 2 of Writing 101.  Today’s assignment was to answer this question: If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?  And the twist:  organize your post around the description of a setting.

I really want to go to Africa to see all those fascinating creatures of the plains.  I’m especially interested in the cats, but all of the animals there call to me.  Africa is at the top of my bucket list, and I can’t wait to start planning that adventure when I am able to go!  I wanted to write a description of the place without using the sense of sight, just information that I could get from touch, sound, smell, and taste (to a lesser extent).  Did you feel it?  Could you see what I was describing?  Let me know how I did in the comments below, and tell me where you would go if you could drop everything and zoom off right now!

Savannah, from Simon at www.GoodFon.su

Savannah, from Simon at http://www.GoodFon.su

 

Arizona Day 4: Ahh, there’s the Sedona I’ve Heard About!

Sunday was our last full day in Sedona – so sad!  However, we still did have a full day to enjoy.  We decided to go on a short hike, because how can you go to Sedona and not hike on the red rocks?  AND, the weather was still sunny and in the mid-70’s – so perfect (especially after having spent a few months in the cold, rainy, cloudy Pacific Northwest).  We ended up near the Sedona Airport, in the Brewer Trail / Coconino and Yavapai Loop area.  We hiked up to a couple of vista points and greatly enjoyed the scenery!

And…here we go. We rounded a curve in the trail and found a group of people meditating to the sounds of a Native American beating a drum. Rich white new-age people crack me up.

We had such a great little vacation.  It was a fantastic way to celebrate my birthday, and Valentine’s Day, and beat the Seasonal Affective Disorder blues.  We’re back in Vancouver now, but I’ll always have a bazillion pictures to look at (even if they all look mostly the same!).  Cha cha cha!

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Arizona Day 3: Sedona by Surprise!

Selfies with pink javelinas in uptown Sedona!

Selfies with pink javelinas in uptown Sedona!

Ahhhhh – now we’re really getting into vacation time.  Thursday and Friday were awesome, but we had to get up pretty early in the morning so that we could put our vacation plans into action.  But Saturday, my friends, was time for relaxation…AND MORE ADVENTURE!!!!  Although, when we woke up, we didn’t know exactly where the day would take us.

The first stop for me was at the spa, where I got an amazing custom facial.  And it wasn’t just a regular facial (ok, get your mind out of the gutter!), but it was like a facial with bonus massages.  While various goops were moisturizing my skin, the therapist massaged my arms, hands, shoulders, and then gave me a scalp massage so relaxing that I was just on the verge of sleep.  Then, I went to get a long pedicure that included a hot stone massage for my feet and legs.  I was so relaxed from my facial treatment that I just wanted to go back to the room and take a nap.  But I suffered through my pedicure to the very end (ok, I’ll admit it – I can be a touch spoiled!).  Seriously though, it was all very relaxing and I felt very pampered.

So now on to the good stuff that might interest you!  We wandered up to Main Street for some lunch (meh) and walked around a bit.  On our meanderings, we stopped in at a little tourism outfit that was giving great rates on SEDONA HELICOPTER TOURS!!!  YESSSS!!!  All the helicopter tours!!!  We opted for the “Hog Wild” tour, which basically combined their two shorter tours into an hour-long flight.  They even picked us up at our hotel and drove us to the airport and back.  I knew that I wanted to see all the red rocks surrounding Sedona, and this is one of the best ways to do it!  Are you ready for some pictures and another video clip?  Here you go:

(with bonus helicopter blade blur)

The pictures don’t really capture how amazing the valley is, in terms of its colors and vastness.  I guess to really get a flavor for what the ride was like, you should probably watch this video clip.  We were able to get really close to the rock formations and swoop through the canyons, which was a little different from the Grand Canyon tour because at the Grand Canyon we had to stay above a certain elevation.  But in Sedona, there were no regulations like that – my favorite parts of the flight were Secret Canyon and Boynton Canyon – we even saw some cliff dwelling ruins.  I highly recommend seeing Sedona by helicopter!

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Arizona Day 2: The Grand Canyon (Kind of Subjective, Yes?)

Now, don’t get me wrong – I think the Grand Canyon is pretty friggin’ spectacular.  And I also think it has definitely earned its place on the 7 Natural Wonders of the World list.  I’m just saying, “grand” is kind of subjective, and it could be a perspective that some people might not necessarily agree with.  I, however, am not one of those people.

Yay Grand Canyon!!!  Bright and early, we headed northwest from Sedona up to the South Rim for our Valentine’s Day adventure.  Chris had never seen the canyon before, but it was on his bucket list, so we wanted to do it right.  And you know what that means…

HELICOPTER RIDE!!!

And neither of us had ever been on a helicopter, so that was a first for both of us.  The most fantastic part of the ride was flying about 100′ over a flat expanse of Ponderosa pines, and then all of a sudden we were flying 100′ PLUS another few thousand feet above the ground!  The helicopter stayed level, but of course, our stomachs dropped (along with our jaws).  I managed to take some video of the flight, which also features me acting like a complete spaz (as per usual, so don’t be surprised):

(REALLY???  Out of all the screen shots that could’ve represented this clip, THIS picture was the one selected???  REALLY?????)

Me and Chris in the helicopter!

After the flight, we stopped off at some of the view points to take a look around from the ground (and to collect a few stamps for my National Parks passport, which I actually forgot at home – d’oh!).  All of the views were spectacular, and they all looked something like this:

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It is amazing how the brain can barely process the visual field of depth of the Grand Canyon – when you’re looking at that much space in front of you, it’s hard to believe that you’re not looking at a photograph or a painting.  It hardly seems real!  Of course, we had to take a gazillion pictures, even though they all kind of look the same, and a picture will rarely ever do the real thing any amount of justice.  But I can show them all to you, just let me know if you want to see them (j/k!).  I won’t torture you with all of them right now, but here are a couple of my favorites:

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By the time we made it back to Sedona, the sun was on its way down and we were ready for our Valentine’s Day dinner (which was delicious – we both had the lobster).  I hope that you had a pleasant VD experience, and are looking forward to hearing about the rest of our mini-vacation in Arizona!  More to come soon…

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