The maps led us out of the snow and back home - we completed the circle today and were greeted
by (chilly) sunshine on Pender.
Enroute we passed through Shanika, an Oregon ghost town where the only peopled place in the
flat desert landscape was the electrically coloured general store.
Our final travel highlight - the narrow, tunnelled Washington-side road along the Columbia
River Gorge. The grandeur of sheer cliffs cascading into white-capped water was paralleled by
the man-made roadside attractions including a full-size replica of Stonehenge, completed in 1930,
built as a memorial to those who died in WW1.
A challenge to see in the small image below, but I was intrigued by framed glimpses of modern
windmills on the adjacent hillside.
Nearby is the Maryhill Museum of Art, beautifully situated on the high bluffs overlooking the river
and filled with an eclectic collection of art including more than 80 sculptures by Auguste Rodin,
objects from the palace of the queen of Romania (!), European and American paintings, a
stunning collection of chess sets from around the world, and rotating special exhibitions.
Outdoors there are intriguing sculptures - here two views of a metal runner.
After rewarding visits with family over Easter week - the mandatory ferry ride that necessarily
bookends any Pender arrival/departure.
We knew our circle was complete when we found ourselves amid the moss-covered trees of
This penultimate week of vacation indulgence takes us from mere miles from the Mexican border to mid-Oregon, from cactus and tumbleweed to forests of pine, from shirt-sleeve heat to turtle-neck cold.
The small frontier town of Ajo California welcomes visitors with eye-catching murals, some even
extending across the sidewalk. The second shot below, a close-up of part of the first photo,
shows the fun and somewhat disorienting sidewalk.
Many murals express the sentiments of the artist as in the mural below.
From Ajo we began the long trek north, stopping to linger in Las Vegas for a day trip to the
Valley of Fire. The valley lives up to its name - roads and trails through fiery red rocks
rivalling the grandeur of the park's nearby cousins - Bryce and Zion. Even a smaller desert-
variety of bighorn sheep!
Those 'slits' through the rock piles are part of the roadway in and out of the park. Below - even
a slot canyon!
And, not far north of Vegas, Death Valley. Our third time, and the vistas as gripping and
mesmerizing as the first. Love the curvy one-way road though the aptly named
"Artists' Palatte Drive'.
We hit a bit of a wall on the west side of Death Valley when we encountered foreboding winter
storm warnings in the High Sierra Mountains. "Carry chains" - like we'd even be able to mount
them if we had them! We diverted east to Nevada where we found no snow but considerable
rain and significant winds buffeting us with frightening strength - didn't seem to bother the
big-rig driver passing us.
After that long and challenging day, even awakening to snow on a subsequent morning was
welcome - that's our motorhome reflected in the lake. Knowing the wind had dropped and the sun
would quickly melt the snow was comforting, as was being being back in familiar vegetation.
Next time I post will be from home. Happy Easter wherever you are!
Still in desert territory - for the past couple of weeks we've been hiking, exploring, and
marvelling at the diversity of vegetation and the gravity-defying rock formations of Arizona.
We spent a week with friends hiking and golfing, keeping ourselves fuelled by exquisite
chocolate made by a Canadian who opened a gourmet shop in downtown Prescott.
From there we moved on to the Tucson area where we hiked in State Parks and National Monuments -
we found well marked and maintained trails of varying difficulty and were blessed with wonderful
walking weather - not too hot and a thin cloud cover to veil the sun.
Fun to explore the ghost towns and see the vehicular decoration - the hand painted box of the
truck above makes our rig mundane by comparison! Hmmm...
Flying right along...
from picking the juiciest of oranges at our campground in Bakersfield, to admiring the beauty
and drama of a very different landscape - definitely no longer coastal!
Above and below, Joshua Tree National Park. To my eye, individual Joshua trees have nothing
to recommend them; in combination they create a strange, even weird, captivating environment.
We were lucky to have bright sun and ominous clouds, underlining the strangeness of the
landscape and vegetation. The photo on the right below is of cholla cacti - rivalling the surrounding
Joshua trees for spookiness.
A super moon ushered in the month of March, lovely rising over the mountains that ring Palm Springs.
And Sunnylands, the magnificent desert escape for presidents and celebrities from all walks
of life - guests of the Annenberg Estate by invitation. Visitors are allowed into a portion
of the gardens and estate only when no dignitaries are in retreat at Sunnylands.
The manicured lush and luxurious landscape of Palm Springs is welcome contrast to the barren
desert. Now headed further inland to friends in Arizona where it snowed just a few days ago.
Just into southern California - writing from Bakersfield, about 100 miles east of LA. We did a similar trip a year ago and chuckled when we realized that last year it took us four days to get here from home; this year it took 21 days! The highlights of our meandering ways this week included a trip into San Francisco and visits to Napa and Sonoma. We were able to leave our chariot in an RV park outside the city and approach the city by passenger ferry. Fun for us country kids to see skyscrapers and climb aboard cable cars - as thrilling as the rides at any amusement park.
Never mind the (excellent) wine, the Napa and Sonoma wineries are enchanting and the
countryside idyllic. At this time of year mustard is prolific everywhere, even beneath the vines.
From a distance, it looks as though a master splashed the landscape liberally with bright yellow paint.
Back to the coast for perhaps the highlight of the week - Point Reyes National Seashore,
not far northwest of San Francisco. It's desolate beauty is completely captivating - isolated
farms, thousands of grazing cows, pocket beaches littered with resting elephant seals. We
watched as they deliberately covered themselves with sand and we learned that they sometimes
stay put for three months!
Local hiking trails reminded us of walking in Ireland or Scotland. The weather changed dramatically
several times in the few hours we were there. We dodged occasional downpours and were lucky
with timing for long walks.
Point Reyes itself - another treacherous headland. The blustery wind so strong the stairs to
the lighthouse were closed and I struggled to hold my camera still enough for a photograph!
Signing off from sunny, chilly CA - up to about 10 C in the daytime and just below freezing at
night. But here is the view from our window this morning, and we are allowed to harvest!
Week Two - did I mention surf?
The joy of traveling in the off season: that small white dot on the far right (above) is our
motorhome - the only vehicle visible for miles around.
Love the sun-kissed wind-blown wave tops:
and the abundance of foam:
Tricky cliffside coastal driving, amazing views:
and seaside lunch stops.
The sun dipping into that endless swallowing sea...
Gone, but not forgotten...
A slight detour inland along Redwood Highway to the Avenue of the Giants - narrow roads,
The Mattole Road leads out of the redwoods to the coast - our "not to scale" map gave us no
indication of the length, condition, beauty of what lay ahead. Three hours of the most remote
California coast (who knew that California even had a remote coast).
Fortunately, the motorhome was safe and sound at an RV park in Arcata (near Eureka) - this
road was a challenge even by car. But worth it (says me, not the driver). Almost no cars,
a handful of farms, lots of grazing cows and sheep; a rugged mountain road that dipped
to skirt the ocean before rising for the next switchback climb.
Here's what we found - after the fact - online: "there’s one area of the coast that’s so rugged,
so remote, that road builders simply didn’t try. This area is known, appropriately enough,
as the Lost Coast."
Lost no more, back on the I-5, we head on...
A week into our planned two-month rain-escape odyessy - with our motorhome and "toad" (what
motorhome owners call their towed vehicle)...
Not hard to find rainbows along the very wet northwest coast of Washington as we head
towards Cape Flattery, the most northwest and wettest point of the contiguous United States.
The promised smoked salmon shack at Neah Bay was missing salmon - the shack was
a SHACK, offering only frozen halibut. The fishers were hunkering down in port in winter
Camp wood is advertised and readily available along the coastal route. A friend now says he
knows the difference - camp wood smokes and firewood burns.
South of Forks, WA, we detoured into the Hoh Rainforest - a gem we might have dismissed
given our familiarity with BC rain and forest. Glad we didn't - it's easily accessible and
Even elk endure the relentless rain.
South to Cape Disappointment State Park just across the bridge from Astoria Oregon -
another gem - a park encompassing a state of the art marine coast guard rescue station
- practicing helicopter rescues when we were there. (That's not a manikin.)
The view from one of the two park lighthouses - a freighter sounding it's horn constantly -
and no wonder as it is quickly enveloped in dense fog.
Across the bridge to the Maritime Museum in Astoria Oregon. Not "comfortable" with stark
reminders of the immense power of the sea - fortunately balanced by equally compelling
stories of coast guard rescue. Even given the sophistication of today's knowledge and marine
technology, 600 people require rescue every year at the confluence of the Columbia River
and the Pacific Ocean, the location known to mariners as "The Graveyard of the Pacific".
And a tsunami story ...
We traveled this coast 49 years ago - blissfully unaware of tidal waves. Today US 101 travels
in and out of tsunami safety zones with every passing mile, and awareness of escape to higher
ground tempers pure coastal exhilaration (or at least it does for me more and more as I age,
and having lived in Japan, the earthquake epicentre).
Cannon Beach - famous for Haystack Rock, a Pacific monolith.
Impressive, but more captivating was the art scene - amazing unpretentious galleries deserve
Cannon Beach's reputation as the "Carmel of Oregon". Photographs (with permission) taken
at Bronze Coast Gallery
The Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport offers a close-up view of what we miss as we gaze
from above at this amazing coast.
Not sure what's around the next corner - stay tuned.
Excited that two of my images - one colour, one black and white, have been juried into the
Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery art show - show runs February 3rd to 24th.
A note to mark the nearing of solstice and the end of 2017 - and to imagine beginnings as the new year approaches.
The closure of Red Tree Gallery (a significant part of my life for eight years) means that I am looking back with nostalgia and forward for new paths to explore. At the time of writing, mist signifies the unknowingness of what lies ahead.
November was windy and wet - no surprise - but even downpours may be interesting. West coast
rain can be dreary - or, sometimes, golden, as seen through this back-lit wind-
And, speaking of glow - this taken on a more favourable day:
Fall reveals the backbone of trees denuded - sinuous, strong, earthy, rooted:
December brings the return of the buffleheads - en masse. One morning perfectly smooth
water was ruffled by their arrival. Here they are beating a hasty retreat - they are particularly
shy and probably sensed my presence:
Looking ahead - my camera will continue to be my daily companion and I love that I don't
yet know where it will lead. At home I can't resist the marvel of sunrise; it spells hope:
As 2017 comes to a close, it seems appropriate to end with full-circles of pink/orange clouds and
blue skies. For each of you I wish peace, new beginnings, and fulfillment.
As a member of Red Tree Gallery for eight years, it is with a mixture
of sadness and a sense of upcoming challenge/opportunity that I write.
After twelve years, Red Tree Gallery launches its final month-long
showcase of beautiful artwork on the waterfront at Hope Bay. The
artist reception takes place tomorrow, Saturday December 2nd - join
us for warmth, chocolates, bubbly and, most importantly, fine art
between 11 and 4. We offer thanks to the Pender community that has
supported the Pender Island Artisan Cooperative since the inception
of the gallery. Red Tree Gallery remains open until 4 pm on December 31st.