Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Grand Teton National Park

Our plane arrived back in Salt Lake around 7:30. We climbed back into Sylvia where she faithfully waited for us in the airport parking lot. After leaving the airport, we beelined to Takashi for some sushi, finished dinner late and drove to Whole Foods to stock up on groceries. We arrived at 10pm just after they had closed. Bummer. We found another grocery store (which was really, very weird) and I gathered food as well as I could in my dazed stupor. At 10:45 we rolled into the in-town KOA and collapsed into our comfy camper van beds. The next morning we started the drive to Grand Tetons National Park. After miles of Utah and Wyoming (including the west's deadliest mining town), we passed through Jackson and grabbed an early dinner before finding a campsite. We met the resident moose and then hit the sack. We awoke to a gorgeous fall morning. With the huge, craggy Tetons looming as a backdrop, the aspen trees were all dressed in gorgeous sunny-yellow leaves. We spent the morning slowly exploring the park. In the afternoon we took the ferry across Jenny Lake and set out on a hike, mindful that we had to be back before 4pm when the final ferry departed, if we wanted to avoid the two mile hike along the lake to get back to the parking lot. We meandered up the valley enjoying the views and timed our turn-around with a little buffer time to make sure we'd make it back in time. We often like to run on the way out of a hike so we set out at a jog. Jason and Isaac blazed ahead of Aaron and I but it wasn't long before we caught them. We found Jason sprawled out on the trail. He had tripped on a rock which brought him down on his knee, solidly on a nice solid chunk of granite. Sad, sad, sad. So much for having enough time to make it to the ferry. I helped poor Jason hobble along as long as I could before we decided that Aaron and I needed to run ahead to hold the ferry. We got there with ten minutes to spare and the ferry folks said that they couldn't delay for him so we waited and sweated and hoped Jason and Isaac would make it in time so we didn't have to call a park ranger to bring us back across the lake. Just before the final ferry arrived Isaac and Jason hobbled in. Phew! We had intended on spending a couple of days hiking in the Tetons and Yellowstone on the way home but hiking wasn't really in the picture after Jason hurt his knee so we decided to head home. The next morning we said farewell to the Tetons, buzzed through Yellowstone and arrived safely home after four weeks on the road.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Happy 15th Birthday Isaac!

When I really think about it, it really is a strange transition to go from the camper van in the desert to life on the boat. They're about as opposite as you can get but somehow we all settled in without skipping a beat. We spent our time in Seattle catching up on school and visiting favorite haunts and restaurants. We enjoyed a couple of evening sails after Jason got off work and even squeezed an overnight to Blake Island. We had lovely wind both to and from the island and since we didn't have long distances to cover, we had a chance to work on our light wind sailing skills a bit. We also celebrated Isaac's birthday on the boat, third year running on Marinero (fourth year on a boat, if you include the Bermuda 40 we chartered in Maine four years ago). Isaac being a board game junkie, we celebrated the day playing crazy board games (such as Paths of Glory) on the boat. We emerged in the evening for dinner at a Thai restaurant before snuggling back into the boat where we sung happy birthday and then enjoyed a decadent chocolate pot o' cream I had made the day earlier. Happy birthday Isaac! I'm so happy both boys got their birthday wish locations and that we have such a flexible lifestyle that allows for such big changes in scenery in the eleven days between their birthdays. After ten days in Seattle we climbed back onto an airplane and flew to Salt Lake City where Sylvia and the rest of our road trip awaited us.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Desert to Seattle

The day after Aaron's birthday we squeezed in a quick hike up to Emerald Pools before bidding farewell to Zion. As we headed north we made a side trip up to Kolob Canyon, the remote northern region of Zion. At the end of the road we took a short hike out to a spectacular view point before pushing on to Cedar City. After dinner at a very tasty pizza restaurant we pulled into a KOA for the night where I did laundry while Aaron played with his remote control tank. Our destination for the following day was Salt Lake where a vet appointment along with hotel and plane reservations were awaiting us. We had to take poor Pika to the vet for a health certificate as a part of the never-ending hoops to jump through to get her on a plane. Next it was dinner at our favorite sushi restaurant, Takashi. Lastly we checked into our airport hotel where we all took turns showering. Squeaky clean, we climbed into bed at 11pm. The following morning we awoke at 6am and were off the airport by 7am for our 8:30 flight to Seattle so that we could make it to our 2pm wedding that afternoon. Luckily everything ran smoothly and we arrived in Seattle with enough time to eat lunch at Serious Biscuit, grab seriously delicious coffee at Kakao, get groceries at Whole Foods and drop them, along with Pika, at the boat. The wedding was an hour drive away at a lovely farm and, uncharacteristically, we arrived on time. The wedding was beautiful and we spent the afternoon into the evening socializing with friends. At last we pulled ourselves away at 10pm (11pm our time) and drove back to the boat, bleary-eyed and exhausted.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Happy Thirteenth Birthday Aaron! Zion Style!

After Bryce we headed to Zion, one of our favorite national parks. Somehow we managed to get our favorite campsite and the boys spent the first afternoon there having epic sword-fighting duels among the cottonwoods and towering red cliffs. The next morning we hopped on the up-canyon shuttle with our eye on the Hidden Canyon hike. Unfortunately it was closed so we changed gears and hiked up to Scout's Landing just below the infamous Angel's Landing. At Scout's Landing we enjoyed a snack as we took in the views and watched throngs of people start up the epically steep scramble to Angel's Landing. The trail is insanely steep and exposed and makes even our climbers' stomachs turn. I couldn't believe the crowds of normal-tourist people heading up the chain-assisted trail. They looked like ants swarming an ant hill. We ventured up the first set of chains and sat on the scariest rock platform we have ever sat on with the kids. It still makes my mom-stomach turn to think about or to look at photos of it. Given the number of people on the trail and the scariness factor we opted to turn around and come back another time when the crowds cleared. We spent the afternoon swimming in the Virgin River at the campground. It was delightful to get fully clean. In the evening we ate dinner at our favorite Zion restaurant, Oscar's Cafe. On the covered patio we watched as a storm rolled through and pounded us with rain. Back at the campsite we walked over to the river to see it swollen and angry in the twilight.

The next morning we were awoken by a very excited, now thirteen-year-old birthday boy, Aaron. We snuggled in our bed while he opened his presents. Mother Nature had quite the celebration in store for Aaron's birthday. She dumped what was left of Hurricane Norbert on us. Throughout the day we watched as the Virgin River flash flooded and raged outside of its banks. It was super cool to watch it flood so insanely fast, become clogged with logs and then drop slowly as the day went on. Mudslides closed the national park for part of the day and south of us, an entire section of I-15 collapsed. We spent the morning deluge in a coffee shop where the boys amused themselves with a tank game. In the afternoon, the clouds parted, the sunshine came out and we went for a walk along the river surveying the changes. We then went for a walk with Aaron's new remote control tank. Very cool. In the evening it was back to Oscar's for dinner where we sang happy birthday to Aaron over a brownie sunday. We had no candles so we substituted straws instead and Aaron sucked in brownie and ice cream instead of blowing out flames after he made his careful birthday wish. Happy thirteenth birthday Aaron!

Oh, and I forgot to mention that Sylvia's battery went dead the day before Aaron's birthday so after a jump start from the park ranger we bought a battery that's just a little too big for the battery compartment which Jason and a mechanic grunted and sweated into place. Fingers's hoping it gets us home.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Bryce National Park

We spent the next couple of nights at Bryce National Park. At 8000 feet we could definitely feel the elevation and when we weren't looking over the canyon filled with the goblin-y hoodoos, we felt like we were in Yellowstone. While we were there we hiked down into the canyon among the hoodoos along the Navajo Loop to the Queens Garden trail. On the second day, with frequent thunderstorms rolling through and extreme exposure to them on the canyon rim, we opted for less hiking and more time in the camper van driving from scenic point to scenic point.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Escalante National Monument

We left Capitol Reef and ventured even further into the middle of nowhere in the Escalante Staircase National Monument. After eating a delicious lunch at the Hell's Backbone Grill, where they grow all of their own vegetables, we headed further south to find a campsite. The road narrowed to a scary fin called the Hogs Back with sheer drops on both sides and hardly enough room on top for the road. We felt like we were driving on the top of the world before we wound down into the canyon. At the bottom we found an awesome campsite backed up to Calf Creek. We spent the afternoon wading, playing and washing the accumulated sweat from our bodies in the creek. The following morning we hiked to gorgeous Calf Creek Falls. In the late afternoon we climbed the steep road over the Hogs Back up to Boulder to go to the Anasazi Museum where we learned about the Ancient Pueblo people and saw a huge yellow and black gopher snake out back near the unearthed pueblo dwelling. For dinner, with lightning and rain threatening, we were easily drawn back to Hell's Backbone Grill. Yum.

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Capitol Reef National Park

Boy....Isaac is a hard act to follow. After the excitement had subsided and after Jason and I had cleaned fire extinguisher dust from every nook and cranny, we set out at around noon to explore Capitol Reef NP. We first headed up Grand Wash where we went on a hike through a dried riverbed. Aaron was happy as a clam to be back in the desert. After suffering months of desert withdrawal, he steadily picked up dried sand clumps and hurled them against anything solid, watching them explode, for the entire hike. No pauses. We took the scenic loop to the end, enjoyed the view and people-watched a group of German Harley riders. Side note: roughly 70% of the people we saw were Germans the other 30% were an equal mix of Belgian, French and American. The national parks must have a killer advertising campaign going on in Europe, but America seems to have forgotten about them. Next we headed back down to the visitor center where we took the Sulphur Springs hike backwards to the first waterfall. We climbed the short falls and played in Princess Louisa-esque pools carved into the sandstone and watched braver people jump off the cliff into a pool of murky water. Isaac decided he would jump off the cliff instead of down-climb and I reluctantly followed. The cliff was a lot higher than anticipated and, after some debate (and lots of me saying "I'm scared!"), we retreated and opted for the more familiar experience of down-climbing the cliff. Next stop was the Gifford house, conveniently located next the campground, where we enjoyed homemade ice cream. We ended the day with a walk through the apple orchard in the campground where we ate apples straight from the tree.

Our second day brought no catastrophes and our bad luck streak seemed to have come to an end. After snagging a sweet site next to the apple orchard and river, we walked across the road and up the Kohab Canyon trail. We were super excited to find awesome slot canyons with mouth-watering climbing potential. We salivated and tried our hardest not to climb on the perfect jugs above us. We partially succeeded. We then hiked up to the top of the rim and enjoyed the view of the lush Fruita Valley contrasting against the red desert sandstone cliffs. In the afternoon we took a dip in the nearby Fremont River and lounged about in our shady campsite reading.

Our last day in Capitol Reef we spent hiking in Capitol Gorge. The boys found an awesome sandy area to launch into to their hearts' delight. Afterwards we climbed up to water tanks where we saw the ittiest-bittiest frogs we have ever seen. They were so cute. We then drove to see the petroglyphs and to see if there were any peaches left in the peach orchard. Alas, it was picked clean but we did find an open apple orchard so we picked a couple of bags of apples and deposited money according to the honor system. With the combination of desert awesomeness and fruit orchards, Capitol Reef is shaping up to be one of our favorite national parks.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Fire Cabinet By Isaac

Fire in the hole! (Or some other similarly stupid title)

After brushing my teeth at the public restroom at the Capitol Reef Campground, Dad and I headed back to the van while Aaron brushed his teeth. We got back to the campsite, and of course, we smelled something weird. Dad thought it might be a campfire, and after glancing into the van, I thought it might be from the small flickering light that I could see reflected off our plates in the cabinet. The sink pump appeared to be working pretty hard, even though the counter-top was closed. "Dad," I said as dad moved across the van to open the counter-top. "Dad," I said as he opened the counter-top. "Dad," I said as he stared at the running faucet. "Dad," I said as he tried to turn the faucet off with the floor switch. "Dad, it's on fire."

I'd been staring at the flickering light reflected in the plates as I carried out this interesting and moving dialogue. At first, I thought that the burner must be on and that it was reflected in the plates, but the plates were in the cabinet and the burner was on top of the counter. Unless photons had x-ray capabilities, that couldn't be it. So next, I thought that there must be a light on in there. But why would there be a light in a cabinet, and why would it be flickering? I was finally forced to admit that the cabinet was indeed on fire. As Sherlock Holmes once said, "Once you have ruled out the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth." Thus, I produced the informed remark that was outlined in the last paragraph.

So, I attempted to carry out logical reasoning in the course of a tenth of a second. My brain immediately thought to use all available resources to carry out my priorities as best as possible. First priority happened to be picking up the chihuahua. I leaned into the van to snatch Pika, while dad threw a pair of flaming kitchen mitts past my legs. I extricated Pika from the van as dad grabbed the fire extinguisher and blew a large cloud of pressurized dust into the flaming cabinet. Before he did this, I caught a glimpse of the inside of the cabinet; a small electrical fire was calmly eating the wires controlling the automated water pump. Then it was gone in a spray of dust. I turned around; on the pavement, the kitchen mitts were on fire. Dad extinguished this fire as well. As a precaution, Aaron emptied a water bottle on top of them. And then started to freak out at dad for playing with fire.

We ran out of water as dad tried to get the pump to stop running.

It turns out the the problem arose not because the pump had heated up from over exertion, but because the floor switch had been designed to be on for short periods of time. Being on for ten or fifteen minutes was too much for it, and it obligingly lit on fire to show its disapproval.

Let's see now; broken fuel pump, broken engine, wheel fell off, and innumerable other problems have plagued Sylvia. Luckily, this was the first, and hopefully last, fire we've had in Sylvia. Nothing worse could happen. Right? Right??

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sylvia Back in Action

I should begin this post by informing you that Sylvia never fully recovered from what was ailing her before our spring desert trip. We had a minor wiring issue we were scheduled to bring her into the shop for before our sailing trip, but when Jason tried to fire her up to bring her in, she wouldn't start. Uh oh. Eventually she started and made it to the shop but she never came home. Jason would occasionally call from the sailboat to see if the shop had figured out what was wrong. On one such occasion they told us that they didn't know what was going on even though they had one mechanic in the engine and another standing on one foot with a bible in his hand praying. At long last they reached the conclusion that it was finally time for a new engine. After much research Jason decided on a GoWesty engine and placed the order. So long story short, after four months in the shop, we have a new, and improved, Sylvia back and we were definitely ready to hit the road. After weeks of debate about where to go, and repeatedly giving the answer "we don't know" to the question of where we were going, we decided to head to Capitol Reef NP with two days to spare.

Day 1: We drive to Provo.
Day 2: Jason checks the tire pressure in the morning and discovers a screw in one of the tires. We have the tire fixed while we browse a farmer's market. We drive to Capitol Reef and secure one of the last campsites.
Day 3: Starts like this...After Isaac and Jason return from brushing teeth and I depart to the bathroom Isaac says to Jason, "Ummmmm, Dad? Why is the cupboard glowing?"

To be continued......

Monday, August 11, 2014

Back in the US

We reluctantly bid farewell to Canada and headed across the border to Roche Harbor to check back into the US. It's always strange to re-enter the US here after we've grown accustomed to Canada. Somehow American culture seems really in-your-face in Roche Harbor and it's a bit of a shock after six weeks of sailing the waters of BC. We stayed only long enough to check in, refuel and grab a few groceries before we wound our way through the narrow waterways of Mosquito Pass to Garrison Bay and picturesque English Camp on San Juan Island. This spot was occupied by the English during the Pig War, a war where the only loss of life was a pig who met its fate as a side of bacon during a boundary dispute. Unsure whom San Juan Island belonged to due to confusion over which strait was the established boundary, the English and Americans remained in a standoff on the island until the border dispute was resolved peacefully. The English really picked quite a lovely spot to spend twelve years during the "war". We spent the following day checking out the living history at English Camp where we played a rousing game of graces before hiking to the top of Young Hill. After dinner we paddled into shore at sunset for a summer solstice hike. The following morning, after much debate as to whether to spend another night here (since we loved it so much and there were more trails to explore) or leave, we opted to leave when we discovered that the orcas were nearby. As we entered Haro Strait we saw a mass of boats which could only mean one thing, orcas! We made our way out and joined the mob scene, slowly drifting in the direction of the orcas. We watched them from afar like all the other boats and realized that we had been spoiled. In the past we have seen them in the distance while under sail. When we heaved-to to watch them they came closer and closer until they swam under our boat. The boys even peered down into a giant orca eye as it turned sideways and looked up at them from beneath our boat.

We spent the next couple of nights in Griffin Bay where we sat out a day of rain which allowed us to rest and catch up on school and work. We spent the next day, no big surprise here, hiking. Then we were off to our final stop in the islands, Watmough Bay. This is where we celebrated Jason's birthday in a very similar fashion as Mother's Day a month earlier. After our day of hiking, we watched as a family of otters worked their way back and forth through the water gathering and eating their dinner. It was super cool to watch them so close and for so long. After our dinner and birthday strawberry shortcake we were roused from the boat by shouts from the beach. The boys and Jason witnessed as a man danced around on the beach naked yelling "woohoo! I'm enjoying my nakedness!" His mortified family appeared to be trying to retreat away from him by climbing higher up the rocks that flank the beach. Thank you, Naked Man, for supplying us with weird memories for Jason's birthday.

The next day we had a wonderful sail as we crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca, beating into 20-25 knot winds. Once in Port Townsend, we happily settled into the tea shop for tea and scones with clotted cream. The next day we made the final leap and arrived back in Seattle suntanned (even our surf-huahua's fur was sun-bleached) and relaxed. We settled back into our slip and spent the next week in Seattle while Jason worked. Over the week we managed to sneak out for a couple of gorgeous sunset sails after work. At the end of the week we finally climbed into the car and headed home after nine ridiculously gorgeous weeks on the boat. We'll miss you Marinero, thanks for keeping us safe and happy on our latest adventure.

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Click here for a video of crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Bowen Island to Sidney

With the memory of our last crossing of the Strait of Georgia from Bowen Island seared into our brains, we pushed past our PTSD and reluctantly left the dock at Snug Cove. There was really no need for any worry with more lovely weather in the forecast, it was only the haunting memory of our stupidity to leave a day after 70 knot winds raged in the Strait of Georgia, shutting down the beefy BC ferry system and ravaging Bowen Island, that rattled our nerves. We set out on another uneventful sail across the strait, but as we reached Gabriola Pass we heard a mayday come across the radio. It was a 50 foot power boat on fire south of us near Active Pass. A short while later a huge plume of smoke was visible in the distance. Luckily all three people and a dog escaped unscathed, I can't say that about the boat however. We eventually dropped anchor at DeCourcy Island just on the other side of Pirate's Cove. In the 1930's DeCourcy Island was the home a the cult led by the infamous Brother XII, a crazy self-proclaimed prophet who swindled wealthy followers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars as well as their wives. Once followers reached the island, husbands were relieved of all of their money and separated from their wives who went to live in Brother XII's love nest. We spent a day hiking through the premises of the former cult and looking for wayward wives.

Our next stop was Wallace Island where we hiked to the old cabin to deposit the driftwood sign we had made for Marinero, leaving it among all the others. Next, it was on to Ganges where we hid from the rain in bookstores and coffee shops. By evening things had cleared so we walked over to Hastings House and through its manicured grounds. Winter Cove at Saturna Island was next on our list, where we relaxed and enjoyed the weather and leisurely strolls through the forest to watch the rapids that separated us from the Strait of Georgia. A few days later we pulled up anchor and headed to our final destination in Canada, Sidney-by-the-sea. While in Sidney we enjoyed a day at Butchart Gardens where we, once again, stuffed ourselves silly at high tea. Luckily we were wise enough to only order two high teas this time instead of four. Our aching bellies thanked us.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Princess Louisa to Bowen Island

We reluctantly said goodbye to Princess Louisa Inlet and started south. We spent the first night in Garden Bay in Pender Harbor on the dock of a couple we had met in Princess Louisa. Nice couple, many thanks for your generosity! We refilled our water, stocked up on food and refueled before leaving Pender. Our next stop was Buccaneer Bay where we all romped and played on a gorgeous white sand beach. In the secluded cove where we were anchored we watched a momma deer coax her baby deer into the water to swim from island to island. I almost had a heart attack as I watched and was speculating in my brain how I could save a drowning baby deer if she needed it. Luckily my ill-fitted services were not needed. I can't say I knew that deer ocean-swam before seeing it for myself.

After that it was on to Gambier Island where we had Mount Artaban in our sights. After surviving the steepness of the Trapper's Cabin hike everything else has seemed like small potatoes. So as we hiked along and the trail suddenly reared up to unreasonable steepness, I silently berated myself for suffering so. This wasn't Trapper's Cabin. I was just tired. It couldn't possibly be that hard. As it turns out, it was that hard and all of us were suffering in our fatigued states. I'm glad I wasn't the only one. We were all still exhausted from all of our play at Princess Louisa. We found out after we drug ourselves back to the boat that we gained 2000 feet in a mile and a half. Ouch.

Exhausted, I headed to the foredeck to raise the anchor and we were off to Snug Cove on Bowen Island. We arrived starving and stumbled off the boat straight to a restaurant. I noticed during our stay on Bowen Island that as the weeks on the boat wear on, I find myself feeling more and more like Captain Jack Sparrow when I step out onto land. My eyes can't focus and the world around me spins. The ground seems to pitch and heave below my feet and I have a hard time walking a straight line, my brain can't think. This was my dazed mental state during our stay on Bowen Island. Or maybe I was just exhausted. We spent three nights there catching up on school, work, blogposts and rest.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Squeak Attack

We acquired two adorable stowaways when we were tied up to the dock at the head of Princess Louisa Inlet. It began when Isaac was laying in bed staring up at the hatch in his ceiling. He saw what he thought was a rat skitter across. The next morning Pika sat, staring at a classically-shaped mouse hole in the the cupboard beneath the sink. Her vigil couldn't even be broken by breakfast. I felt pretty sure at this point that whatever had scurried across Isaac's hatch had found its way into the boat. A search of the cupboard turned up nothing but we took note of the hole that led down to the bilge. We checked the bilge but turned up nothing. We noticed mouse poo up on deck and we all speculated how it could make its way into the boat. The following night was spent on a mooring ball at MacDonald Island. While laying in bed reading we heard rustling in the salon. Jason got up and shined a flashlight into the galley. There, frozen in the light beam, sat a tiny mouse. He came back and reported he had good news and bad news. Bad news, we had a mouse. Good news, she was the cutest mouse he had ever seen. We devised a series of plans of entrapment that all got discarded when Isaac came to report that he just heard the mouse skitter overhead on deck. How on earth had she made it up on deck so quickly? So Jason headed up top with a headlamp and an empty plastic spinach container we had pulled out of the recycling. I pointed out many times that there was no way he was going to be able to capture a mouse with a lousy spinach container. He spotted her up top but as he moved toward her she vanished into the chain locker. He poured several buckets of water down there to either wash her out or scare her up. Meanwhile Pika, who we discovered is an amazing mouse locator, listened and stared at a spot in the corner of our bed. On the other side of that wall is the cockpit. Several minutes later Jason spotted the mouse in the cockpit, made a mighty lunge and captured the mouse under the spinach container....unbelievable. How does someone spot a mouse in the dark and manage to capture it? I don't know. I quickly grabbed a piece of cardboard from the recycling, we slid it under the spinach container and the mouse (along with an almond for a snack) and taped it up. At this point it was 11pm and we were all huddled around her squeaking with delight at how cute she was and remarking that she was distinctly not wet (was there another one?). She is definitely the cutest mouse we have ever seen but a pet mouse on a boat was not an option. We threw on our life jackets climbed into a kayak and paddled to shore. We debated if we should just set her free on the dock (since that seemed be her natural habitat) or bring her to the grass. The grass seemed nicer to us so Jason brought her up. When he set her free she immediately ran to the dock and clung to its vertical edge, Spider-Man style. As we paddled away under the half moon we swear we heard her let out the saddest squeaks we have ever heard. We knew that could only mean one thing...we had separated her from her mate. Oh boy.

Back at the boat we settled back into bed when something skittered over the boys again. It was Mr. Mouse. Jason hopped out of bed, grabbed the spinach container and headed up top...this time, without a headlamp. I guess he felt he needed to step it up a notch because maybe we weren't thoroughly impressed with his last performance? I must admit that I was secretly thinking there was no way someone could possibly catch two mice in the dark with a spinach container. Mr. Mouse was much friskier and acrobatic than Mrs. Mouse and he skittered about wildly on deck. Down below, we would each call out as he scurried over our heads. I heard him sprint down the side deck to the cockpit. I called out and Jason came running by and I heard him lunge. I am thankful he didn't go into the water. At this point he's shouting "Headlamp! Headlamp!" I grabbed it as quickly as I could and shined it into the cockpit. We had Mr. Mouse cornered. He jumped about wildly, trying to make it up onto a seat that would lead him to freedom but Jason clamped the spinach container down before he made it. No. Way. How does someone manage to catch two mice in the dark with only a spinach container? I still don't know. But I think we may have discovered Jason's super power. We repeated the previous steps to seal the container but did notice that Mr. Mouse was not nearly as cute as Mrs. Mouse and he did seem perhaps a little wet and disheveled. We took a second moonlight, midnight paddle to shore to reunite Mr. Mouse with Mrs. Mouse so they could live happily ever after, not on our boat.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Following the Footsteps of Capi

The Curve of Time by M. Wylie Blanchett (Capi) is our constant companion on our excursions up the BC coast. In the 1920's Capi spent summers on her 24 foot boat, Caprice, with her five kids (and sometimes a dog) exploring the waters of  BC. We love reading about the places we are exploring and seeing them through her eyes and we love following her wake through these waterways. Her chapter on Princess Louisa was fresh in our brains and we spent time trying to figure out where she had anchored. On the Trapper's Cabin hike we could imagine following her and her brood up the mountain as we walked on the same skid road she had described in her book. We devoted our last day at Princess Louisa looking for the waterfall pools they had bathed in. We met success when we pulled our kayaks up onto a little beach where a waterfall tumbled out. We pushed our way through the bushes and found water rushing down granite. There we spotted what they called Big Wash, Big Rinse and Little Rinse where Blanchett and her family had bathed and washed their clothes. The water was running too fast and high so we couldn't climb in, but climbing higher we found some small warm-water pools where Aaron and Pika took a bath and I rinsed my hair with fresh water. It was a glorious spot and Aaron declared that it was paradise and this is where he wants to spend his birthday in the fall. We stayed and played as long as our hungry tummies allowed and then reluctantly climbed back into the kayaks to paddle back to the boat. During our paddle we watched a dozen curious seals watch us and schools of thousands of tiny fish below. We watched an eagle hunt fish along with our seal friends. Did I already mention that this place is paradise?

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Trapper's Cabin Hike

In Princess Louisa we stuck to a strict regimen of paddling, hiking and swimming. It was great for the soul. After a couple of nights on the mooring ball at MacDonald Island we moved up to the park dock at the end of the inlet where the infamous Trapper's Cabin trailhead is located. As we walked down the dock headed for the trailhead, fellow boaters scoffed at our flimsy footwear (flip-flops and barefoot shoes) and wished us good luck, doubt dripping from their voices. I have to admit this is one of the steepest hikes we have ever been on. It gains 1800 feet in two miles and reminded us of New England hikes we had been on, except on steroids. We spent a lot of time grabbing tangled roots, hoisting ourselves up the trail. Definitely not a trail you want to do if you're not fit and agile. We were rewarded for our efforts with a spectacular waterfall next to the remains of the trapper's cabin. We managed to complete the trail, from start to finish, in two hours and jaws dropped when we stepped back onto the dock. Time for a swim.

We staged our swimming excursions off of the kayaks in pockets close to shore where the water was a little warmer. We lashed the kayaks together and used them as a swimming and diving platform. Afterwards we rowed our still-attached kayaks, native long-boat style, back to our boat.

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Click here for a video.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Arrival at Princess Louisa

Princess Louisa is a narrow fjord hemmed in by 8,000 foot, snow-covered mountains rising straight from the water. Located forty miles inland, it is a branch off of the also very mountainous Jervis Inlet. The nearest roads are forty miles away so it is only accessible by boat or sea plane. We left early from Hotham Sound so we could enter the infamous Malibu Rapids at slack water. Weaving our way through Jervis Inlet we gawked at the mountains towering above us and took some time to watch a black bear scrounging for food along the shore. We arrived at Malibu Rapids with time to spare and took our place in line. When the rapids calmed the boats lined up and one by one headed into the narrow rapids where water can run as fast as 8 1/2 knots. The boat in front of us was apprehensive and slowed to a stop after he entered which forced us to swing around in a circle to allow him time to get the nerve up to go through. Isaac watched the bow for rocks as we snaked through the rapids. After safely making it through we relaxed and continued watching the mountains pass by in the warm sunshine.

Princess Louisa has three mooring options. Halfway up the inlet, at MacDonald Island, there are mooring buoys. At the head of the inlet, you can anchor on a shallow shelf close to shore and stern tie or anchor free with the waterfall's current pushing you away from the rocks, or you can tie up to the park dock. Upon our arrival we decided to delay our excitement to see the head of inlet and tied up to a mooring ball at MacDonald Island. Instead of motoring in to see the end, we decided on kayaks for our mode of transportation so we could soak up all the grandeur slowly and without the racket of the engine. We were surprised at how warm it was and hopped in for a swim immediately after securing the boat. The water temp was a balmy 64.5 degrees and, in between gasps, it felt so good. Somehow our shrieks inspired our neighbors to take a dip. Thoroughly refreshed, we hopped into the kayaks and set out for the head of the inlet. This was the perfect way to view this stunning landscape for the first time. I can't tell you how tiny it made me feel. The scale of the mountains, with dozens of waterfalls, falling straight into the ocean, was boggling. Words and photos can't do it justice.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Princess Louisa Inlet

I don't know how many days it's been since I've had a shower and I can't say that I really care. Maybe I should mention that I don't know what day it is either. We have no cell. No internet. We are in gorgeous Princess Louisa Inlet with glorious weather. In short, it's paradise. I've grown accustomed to the sounds of eagles and guillemots that surround me. I feel tiny in this landscape. Like so many other people, I will try to describe it, but I will fail miserably. It's just something you have to experience.

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Hotham Sound

Tiny Harmony Islands are nestled in Hotham Sound just off Jervis Inlet. We spent two nights there, alone, underneath the towering mountains above us. It reminded us a bit Prideaux Haven up in Desolation Sound. The ocean bottom is rocky and it took a couple of tries to get our anchor set before we ran a stern line to land. It's always a bit unnerving to listen to the chain scrape across the rocks, never knowing if the anchor is dragging with it. We spent our time there exploring in our kayaks. No hikes for us here as the land was a bit impenetrable, though we did go ashore and found a perfect bed of moss for an attempted group nap. We paddled around the islands and watched fish swim under us as we checked out all of the tidal life along the cliff edges. Later we paddled over to the base of a huge waterfall (1400 feet) that tumbled down into the ocean. Back at the boat we spent ample amounts of time lounging on the foredeck in the sunshine.

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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Victoria to Smugglers Cove

After Grandpa's departure we spent one more night in Victoria before setting out on the rest of our adventure. As we motored out of the harbor we saw race boats still trickling in from the Swiftsure Race. We raised sails for a while only to have the wind peter out. Grandpa's seat looked empty. After I dropped the sails I went below to make lunch. When I came back up on deck I noticed that Pika, who'd been in her bright pink and green Piglet sweater, was nowhere to be seen. I called to Jason up on the foredeck to see if she was with him. Nope. He thought she was below with me. Nope. We tried not to panic as I dove below to search and Jason scoured the decks. I looked under the table and the boys' bunks. In my panic, I even tore through Isaac's bedding. She was nowhere to be found below. At this point Jason had stopped the boat and we were both having the same thought of how in God's green earth are we gonna find a chihuahua in that big blue ocean. Distraught, I climbed the companionway stairs to see how Jason's search was going, only to find Pika, still in her Piglet sweater, climbing out of the rope cubby all blinky-eyed and groggy, clearly wondering why Jason had been desperately calling for her. She must have missed Grandpa's lap and climbed into the cozy spot to feel safe. Silly little dog...she scared the pants off of us. After lots of pettings, we relaxed and looked around. We looked at San Juan Island and it felt strange to be looking at these familiar places from the Canadian side of the border instead of the other way around. We made a quick stop at D'arcy Island which Isaac has already so aptly described. Late in the afternoon, after passing the familiar profiles of Stuart Island and Turn Point we pulled into Selby Cove at Prevost Island and anchored between a fishing boat and a half-sunken dock. The lush, green field on shore was super picturesque....the sinking dock, not-so-much. We had grand plans to paddle into shore and hike over to James Bay where we had been the week before but dinner over-ruled and the following morning we left early so we could make it to Active Pass at slack water. After safely making it through the pass we entered our nemesis, the Strait of Georgia. After having endured two whippings from this body of water we are always a bit apprehensive upon entering. To our delight the forecast held true and we had wind behind us. We raised sails and enjoyed a relaxing sail downwind across the strait. As we neared the other side, the wind died down and Jason, knowing I would just roll my eyes and make a snarky remark about the gennaker immersing itself in the water while we bobbed up and down (since our previous experiences have been as such), bypassed me and coerced Isaac into helping him put up the gennaker. After about forty five minutes they successfully had the gennaker rigged, in the air (not in the water) and pulling the boat....I never thought I'd see the day. Jason eventually talked me into a jibe with it, which we successfully executed after only mild tangling. We soon lost all wind as we came close to our destination and had to drop all the sails. We tied up to a dock in Snug Cove and found a restaurant for dinner. Afterwards we hiked to the top of a viewpoint before retiring for the night. We spent the next morning catching up on work, school and laundry. In the afternoon we hiked through a trail-filled park to a lake. For dinner we grabbed a couple of pizzas to go and took our seats in the bleachers at the softball field. We watched a local game as we ate our pizza in the sinking sun. The next day we set out for Smugglers Cove. The strait was full of waves but no wind. The boys took turns riding on the bow as the boat bucked up and down through the waves. After spending the night at Smugglers Cove we, you may have already guessed it, went for a hike before pushing north again with Princess Louisa Inlet in our sights.

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Friday, June 6, 2014

Haunted D'Arcy Island

Check out Isaac's story about his experience on haunted D'Arcy Island.

D’Arcy Island

Before I dive into my gripping narrative of our trip to D’Arcy Island, I feel I should give a bit of background story. As Mark Twain would say, if he was me, and lived in 2014, ‘No point getting into the story then going backwards. That’s gotta be the worst writing technique ever invented since the invention of government marketing.’ In a manner of speaking, at least. Anyway, D’Arcy Island is a former leper colony, mainly for Chinese lepers. They would contract the disease, be shipped out to this island, and then they would live an isolated life with a lot of other Chinese lepers, the only contact with the outer world being the shipments of supplies and coffins and the occasional journalist. So, this is a rather morbid place. You get that feeling after reading its history. But there is a little more. Supposedly, it’s haunted. At this point, you may be getting a vivid impression of ghosts and bogey-men and probably start to get a little freaked out while at the same time telling yourself that there is definitely no way it could be in any way possible, though it might be possible if someone had played with hexaflexagons or something similar causing vorpal spacetime influences across multiple dimensions. But unless that extremely unlikely case has occurred and also assuming that anything I said made any scientific sense at all, there is no way it could be haunted. So we all say. Regardless, we went ahead and read the haunted island story in the Waggoner’s Guide. It was not like a normal ghost story with the headless Victorian ladies (cough, cough Chinese lepers) moaning in the trees. No, this was something altogether more conceivable and thus, more frightening, in its own way. And do remember, this story comes from a sailing couple, and everyone knows that sailing couples are more or less grounded in reality when sober. Basically, they dinghied into the island, and, after tying up the dinghy, they headed up onto the firm, lush soil of D’Arcy Island. As they walked around, admiring the greenery, and searching for the foundations of old buildings, they were struck by the silence. Since Bob and Debby are the names of more than fifty percent of all sailing couples, we will call this couple Bob and Debby. One of them, either Bob or Debby, take your pick, says, ‘Where are all the birds?’ Now, first you must understand that when I mean silence, I don’t mean ‘The absence of sound,’ this silence was heavy, and crushing, and one was glad to hear the slightest noise, even if it was the noise of you screaming as you rushed towards the beach, overwhelmed by the pure creepy silence of it all. So Bob or Debby says, ‘Where are all the birds?’ Birds are common on the islands. You’re always hearing them. And all they had heard were wasps. Almost immediately after this question was asked bird calls suddenly started up. That, you must understand, is decidedly creepy. Especially because they stopped a little while later. So, our average sailing couple, Bob and Debby, move on and come to the foundations of another building. Debby goes ahead to the foundations while Bob stops to take photos or re-tie his shoe or something similar. Then he looks around at where Debby has gone and sees a ditch running around the perimeter of the foundations and he thinks to himself, ‘I wonder if water used to flow there?’ and almost immediately afterwards he hears running water. So he tells Debby, who can also hear the water, that he was going to go look for it. Debby stays back at the foundations while Bob forges his way into a bright green meadow. He continues on into the meadow when suddenly, the water noises stop. Puzzled, Bob makes his way back to Debby, who says that she can’t hear it anymore either. Creepy.
Strange, right? Now, you can see why we headed to this island, with exposed anchorage, for just an hour before continuing on. We never make lunch stops like that, except at Friday Harbor. But of course, we had to visit the haunted island. So we did. Mom was baking bread, and Aaron didn’t really want to go, so it ended up being just Dad and I in the landing party. And Pika of course. We can’t forget the chihuahua. She played a key part in the adventures of the hour. So anyway, we loaded into the kayak, and kayaked into shore. We tied up to some drift wood while Mom shouted something that sounds like ‘Pika Beagle’, then we headed up to the signs and the outhouse. I’m feeling rather relieved at this point. Outhouses seem so civil and not haunted. Maybe the island wasn’t haunted after all. Then I saw the deer. It was a normal deer, and it was quiet. I looked away for a moment. It disappeared without a sound. That was normal deer behavior, of course, but it completely freaked me out, since I was expecting creepy things to happen. Later, Dad said he saw it bound off into the bog. Of course, he could have told that to me right then, when I remarked on it, but oh, no, he has to wait until we’re kayaking back. Thanks a lot, Dad. Anyway, we’re heading deeper into the island. One thing that strikes us is the complete, total greenness of it all. Green moss carpeting the ground, not even allowing the slightest twig to stay on top. Green trees, bent over with what looked like a tree form of leprosy. There were no bird calls. Except for when there was. But that was rare. And overlaying all the green and not-birdiness was a constant buzzing from many, many wasps. Freaky. Wasps get on my nerves anyway, but when they’re the only sound besides me and Dad and Pika’s bell, it gets freaky. I was starting to get seriously freaked out as the branches of low hanging trees scraped their way through my hair, like the caressing hands of the dead, and branches caught my legs and tripped me, as if the wood itself was resentful of our presence. My brain, of course, was having a wonderful time making this all up at the time, and the impressions remained later on in my memories. But there was something about that island. The absence of bird calls – I once saw a bird moving about as if he was making chirping noises, but making no sound at all – and that constant buzzing, and the bent forms of the trees, the total greenery… I’ve never seen anywhere, in all of our travels, as green as D’Arcy Island. Stumps caught my eye, and looked like they were trying to skulk around behind me as my brain tried to work itself into a frenzy of fearful imagination. I tried to keep a hold on it, but Pika’s reaction to the island was unsettling. When dogs get nervous for no apparent reason, you start to feel nervous too. True, Pika gets nervous at anything, but this was different. She loves walking on land, but she refused to walk on D’Arcy, and kept looking longingly towards the boat. But when we were on a beach, she walked just fine. She also would occasionally start wiggling in my arms, as if she wanted down, but then she would stop, apparently changing her mind. She was definitely freaked out. And of course, the big pit that looked like a dug-up grave was also unsettling. I don’t think I need to give details of where exactly we walked; I think I highlighted the best and coolest parts and the general feeling.
This is D’Arcy Island. Go there for your fix of creepiness. Indian villages had a fair share of it in the early ‘20s, but now they’ve mostly lost it due to degeneration or visitors. But D’Arcy island… Ah, D’Arcy Island is rarely visited. People will stay there one night, if that, and then never come back. Nothing like a quarantine island to make things creepy.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Urban Sailing

We followed our past few days in peaceful anchorages with an urban blitz so that Grandpa could experience both. We eased ourselves back into civilization at Cowichan. As we pulled into the harbor I handed Grandpa the bow line and pointed out the gigantic fishing boat, appropriately named Double Decker, we would be rafting up to. Grandpa looked at me and replied, "you've got be kidding me." Nope. This was Grandpa's first experience rafting up and it was a bit strange to be lashing our boat to that big hunk of steel. It was the polar opposite of the beautiful anchorage we stayed the last few nights. Once we were properly tied up we all hauled ourselves up onto Double Decker, crossed her cluttered decks and hopped down onto the dock. Cowichan is home to True Grain Bread, our favorite bakery in the islands, as well as a cheese store and fish market so we spent the afternoon gathering and consuming delicious food. The following morning we set sail for Sidney where we perused bookstores and the evening street market. The next day we enjoyed a great sail down to Victoria where we would drop Grandpa off to meet his seaplane. I have to say that Victoria is a pretty busy harbor, especially since we just happened to be there the same weekend as the Swiftsure International Sailing Race. We arrived at dinner time and were starving (a common theme in our lives) so we headed straight to the docks and our favorite fish and chips place, Red Fish Blue Fish. We had forgotten that the pieces of fish are huge and we ordered way too much food. After we stuffed ourselves to an uncomfortable capacity we walked the docks and checked out all of the race boats. The energy and excitement was running high under the flapping of hundreds of colorful flags. We walked back to our marina as the sun set eagerly discussing all the race boats we'd seen. The next morning we watched as the race boats motored out of the harbor to the starting line. A short while later a man approached me from the dock and asked if I happened to have any motor oil he could buy from me. He was entered in the race and had a bit of engine trouble and race start was only fifteen minutes away. Luckily we had an extra quart so we handed it over to him. He tried to pay us but we insisted it was no big deal and he should just get going. He ran back to his boat and then came back to take down our email address so he could send us something. Canadians are so nice! He made it to his start in time and we saw that his boat finished the race with no problems. Hurray. We spent the rest of the morning showing Grandpa downtown Victoria which included a visit to the Empress, several cups of tea from various shops and lunch at a Tibetan restaurant. We then moseyed back to the marina, watching seaplane after seaplane after seaplane take off and land. Grandpa gathered his stuff, we hugged good-bye and watched him ride away in a shuttle to his catch his seaplane, sad to see him go. Thanks for joining us again this year. We're already looking forward to next year.

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Gulf Islands with Grandpa

We love having Grandpa join us on the boat. He has been from Seattle to Stuart Island with us already so we decided to have him visit for some sailing in the Gulf Islands. We sailed from Sucia to Poet's Cove where we anxiously awaited his seaplane. We watched as a seaplane landed just about on time and we all hustled down to the end of the dock to greet him. We watched a few people climb out but none of them were Grandpa. Hmmmm...what to do? We were all starving so we sat down at the restaurant for lunch and waited some more. Eventually his plane arrived and I rushed down to meet him while the others awaited our food. After hugs all around and lunch we headed over to Bedwell Harbor where we picked up the last mooring ball. Not taking into account that Grandpa had been awake since 4am and that he had spent the whole morning on airplanes, we decided to death march him up Mount Norman. In our defense we had forgotten how steep this hike is....poor Grandpa. He was a trooper. The next day we had a great sail to Ganges to get some groceries as we were all out of veggies on account of crossing the Canadian border. This shopping trip was supposed to be easy and relaxing. We would tie up to the dock for a couple hours, grab a coffee, peruse a bookstore, get some groceries and head out of town to Montague. Not-so-much. Apparently it was time for a Canadian three-day weekend, Victoria Day, as well as a race around Saltspring Island, so all the dock space was full and the harbor was also full of anchored boats bobbing up and down in the white-capping waves. But what could we do? We needed food so we anchored just barely out of the seaplane path and Grandpa and I eased ourselves into the bucking kayak to go get as many groceries as we could. It was a choppy paddle in as we surfed down the waves into the incredibly crowded dinghy dock. Luckily a kayak is easier to tie up than a big dinghy and we managed to squeeze in. At this point I had serious doubts about kayaking back to the boat without drowning. We worked our way through the crowded grocery store gathering as many food-stuffs as we dared. As we checked out, the cashiers found out that we were in a kayak and then informed us, "you know there are white-caps out there." Yep. We are fully aware of the situation, lady. Back at the dinghy dock I had to climb through someone else's boat to load our kayak and then we were on our way back to the boat with comments like, "it's a bit lumpy out there, eh!" and "I hope your chips don't get wet *snicker*" coming from shirtless, sunbathing Canadians. Very funny. Contrary to my belief that we were certain to capsize with groceries sinking to the bottom of the ocean, we bashed through the waves (I tricked Grandpa into taking the front seat) and arrived safely (and a little wet, ok, maybe Grandpa was soaked) back at the boat. Mission accomplished. After squirreling away our food, I raised the anchor and we set sail for Montague but along the way a lovely, empty anchorage at Prevost Island called our names so we anchored there instead. I cooked up some newly purchased fresh salmon and it bordered on divine. We sat in the cockpit and enjoyed delicious food while we watched stragglers from the sailboat race inching their way along through the sunset.

The next morning we climbed into the kayaks for a much mellower hike from James Bay out to the lighthouse point. Along the way we meandered through a picturesque old orchard with every tree covered in white blossoms. We were told there are sheep that roam the island. We found tufts of the wool along the trail but never laid eyes on them. At the lighthouse we ate lunch and lazed around in the sun before heading back towards the boat. We hit the beach at low tide so we took our time to check out the tide pools on our way to the kayaks. When we got back to the boat we headed for Montague Harbor. We arrived just in time to kayak in to shore, take a few turns on a beach swing and then catch the first Hummingbird Pub Bus of the evening. Wowee! This was quite the experience. When the bus pulled up, loud music was blaring from within. We were greeted by our drum-playing driver for the evening. Above the driver were a set of symbols and to his right a set of drums. As we rolled down the road he shook a tambourine with the music as he tried to pawn it off onto the people behind him. He finally had to tell the guy behind him to "take the tambourine, man, I'm trying to drive here," as he swerved all over the road. Thus it continued until almost everyone on the bus had a noise-making device of some sort or other. We're lucky our ears weren't bleeding when we exited the bus. It has definitely been named one of the highlights of the trip so far. After dinner and a return ride on the pub bus, the boys threw rocks to their heart's content as the sun set.

The following day we sailed to Portland Island where we hoped to anchor in Royal Cove but it was full. We figured the same would be true for Princess Cove too so we opted to anchor just on the other side of the reef from Royal Cove in what I will call Roll-y Bay where BC ferries passed by every half hour or more. We paddled in and took a short hike to Arbutus Point where we explored more tide pools before heading back to the boat. The next day the boys and I left poor Jason behind while he worked (and Grandpa rested). We hiked across the island to Princess Cove and then to the white shell beach where we explored, threw rocks, whittled sticks and watched humming birds and owls, all in the glorious sunshine. Jason and Grandpa eventually joined us and we all paddled back to the boat together where we enjoyed another lovely sunset.

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Click here for a video of our sail to Poet's Cove.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Matia & Sucia

We awoke to another glorious day. I am stunned at how the weather gods have smiled on us. Originally our destination for the day was Sucia Island where we planned to spend two nights but as we passed tiny, picturesque Rolfe Cove at Matia Island we spotted an empty mooring ball so we decided to snare it and call it a day. We had just been talking about Matia and how tiny the anchorage is so we took advantage of this opportunity and considered ourselves lucky. Matia has an interesting history. In the late 1800's the fugitive Skookum Jim hid out on the island and evaded the law for many years. Later, in the early 1900's a hermit lived on the island. He raised animals and cultivated the land. Once a week he would row across the channel to Orcas Island to socialize and gather supplies. One particular stormy winter, when he was in his 80's, he hadn't been seen for months so his friends crossed the channel to check on him. All winter the weather had been too rough for him to make the trip and his friends found him emaciated and near starvation. They brought him back to Orcas, nursed him back to health and convinced him to build a cabin there. It was decided that he would build in the spring and until then would return to Matia with an elderly friend to live out the remainder of the winter. So they loaded his boat down with supplies and headed across the channel. It was the last time the two old friends were seen and they were presumed drowned. Months later, in the spring, half of his boat was found up north in Canada but no trace of the old hermit. The other interesting thing about Matia is that it has somehow managed to evade the swing of the ax and the island is still covered in old growth forest. Today it is a national wildlife preserve, dedicated to bird preservation, with a mile-long trail that meanders through the towering trees. After afternoon tea on the foredeck we dropped the kayaks into the water and paddled to shore. As we hiked in the deep woods among the gigantic trees stories played in our heads and we kept an eye out for where we thought the hermit's cabin might have been.

The next day, after Jason finished work and the boys finished school, we headed across the channel to Sucia. We hopped into the kayaks for a hike among the surreal sandstone formations that Sucia is famous for. We explored the China Cave area where Canadian smugglers hid their illegal cargo of Chinese laborers during the late 1800's. It didn't take long before we succumbed to hunger and paddled back to the boat for dinner and a lovely sunset.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Watmough to Rosario

We had the strangest experience as we motored between Watmough and Spencer Spit. As we entered Rosario Strait we noticed that the opposite shoreline looked way freaky. Anacortes and the surrounding shoreline looked super distorted. The shoreline had been vertically stretched and looked like a band of white cliffs. As we continued, the shapes of houses shifted shapes and elongated. Islands extended beyond their boundaries and reflected over the water. Water boundaries smeared across land. It was crazy. We started to wonder if we had gone mad or if their had been a glitch in the matrix. We stared through the binoculars and eventually deciphered a hypothesis. To us it looked like a convex atmospheric layer had distorted everything like a carnival house of mirrors. Check out the photos. Any other ideas out there? Please leave a comment if you happen to know what's going on.

After a half hour or so of trying to wrap our brains around what we were seeing we continued on our way. We spent the night at Spencer Spit and enjoyed doing our normal Spencer Spit things before moving on to Rosario. At Rosario we took a dip in their early-1900's era pool and ate a delicious dinner in the mansion. The following morning we took a quick hike around Cascade Lake before setting sail for Matia Island.

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Best. Mother's Day. Ever.

I never thought I'd say this but....we awoke Mother's Day after a dreamy night of sleep in Watmough Bay. Safely tied to a mooring ball, we didn't experience a single episode of panic during the night. We spent a lazy morning sipping tea in the sunshine in the cockpit as we watched all kinds of crazy bird action. We watched bald eagles defending their catch from vultures and sea gulls. We witnessed a peregrine falcon attack a bald eagle to defend her nest and watched them fight and barrel roll through the anchorage before the falcon backed off. Eventually we kayaked to shore. After some rock-throwing on the beach we headed out for a hike. First we hiked to spectacular views from Watmough Head where we ate a picnic lunch of what we called "mangle-wiches" (Jason had kindly took charge of making lunch for me as it was, after all, Mother's Day, which, by the way, I greatly appreciated). We then enjoyed an extreme bout of laziness as we laid around in the grass and soaked up the sunshine and some of us (not naming any names) took a nap. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this. I have decided that this is something we don't do enough of and I hope to incorporate it into more hikes in the future. Maybe every hike. After extreme effort we finally roused ourselves and continued on our hike. We decided to search out a new route up Chadwick Hill and the swing of doom. After some searching, we had success and followed a nice path through the lush forest to the top of the hill where the boys took turns on the swing. Six happy hours after leaving our kayaks, we returned to the beach and paddled back to Marinero. Jason and I immediately hit the foredeck where we enjoyed yummy cheese and crackers and drank wine in the fading sunshine. I sat back and relaxed while Jason broiled some brats for dinner. After dinner in the cockpit we all headed below to play a board game together. We couldn't have asked for a more glorious day to romp around together as a family.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

MT to Watmough Bay

Two weeks after Easter I packed up the car and we headed back out to Seattle and Marinero. After a whirlwind week of prepping for our upcoming two month journey, we are back in the islands and happy. The winds have been uncharacteristically cooperative and we managed to sail downwind from Seattle to Port Townsend. We are almost always beating into the wind so as a result we have so little downwind experience that its a bit of a mystery to us as to how to set the sails properly but it was a very welcome change. The weather, however, was a little unsettled. We encountered a strange hail/thunder storm that rumbled a bit and gave us second thoughts about being on the water but luckily we only saw one lightning bolt and the boys and I were below for the vicious hail (poor Jason). The winds smiled on us again on our trip from Port Townsend across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Watmough Bay. Though the waves were choppy and varying anywhere from three to six feet (and we were all a bit green), we sailed a perfect beam reach the entire way on a single tack averaging a speed between eight and nine knots. Watmough has three new mooring balls so we snagged one before devouring a late lunch. We have spent many a sleepless night in Watmough with winds pummeling us and shaking the rigging. I have spent many sleepless hours listening and waiting for the anchor to drag and for our boat to smash into the nearby cliffs. The thought of spending the night on a mooring ball was delightful. Aaron was sick so instead of kayaking into shore for a hike, we snuggled around the table and played a board game. We all chuckled at the thought of how we spent two days of sailing to sit in the boat for the afternoon playing a board game.

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Friday, May 9, 2014

Easter 2014

After we got home from the desert we picked up Sylvia from the mechanic and she was running like a dream. Easter weekend brought with it gorgeous weather so I packed her up and we headed out to the nearest dry climbing crag. We spent a beautiful afternoon climbing and soaking up the sun. Afterwards we found a campsite on the Yellowstone river where we roasted sausages over a campfire and enjoyed camping in Sylvia again. Sigh. The Easter bunny once again found us in our remote location and managed to deposit candy and Easter eggs both inside the camper van and out. After we found all of the eggs we hid them again and started the hunt all over. You really can't ask for a more pristine and fun setting for an Easter egg hunt. We're hoping for gorgeous weather again next year so we can have a repeat.

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Monday, May 5, 2014

St. George, UT

We spent our first day back in St. George at Chuckwalla where we climbed climbs with jugs so big, fun and addictive we deemed them "the junk food of climbing." Isaac has been practicing lead-climbing in the climbing gym and here he got his chance to lead his first outdoor climbs! First he led a 5.9 followed by a 5.10a and then a 5.10c! He was so calm, cool and collected, he made it look easy. We are so proud of him. We headed back to St. George for dinner and to explore a bit. We came across a splash park which was exactly what I had hoped for since we hadn't had showers in almost two weeks. I talked Aaron into joining me in the water. It didn't take long before we were both completely soaked and giggly. Isaac and Jason kept their distance and pretended like they didn't know us. I always have mixed feelings about showers when we are on the road....on the one hand, after a certain point, I desperately want one (and I think everyone I encounter desperately wants me to have one), and on the other hand I don't want to take time out from exploration and fun to take this was the perfect compromise....although I may have gotten more than one look of disapproval from the moms in this little Utah town. After dinner we spent the evening relaxing in our campsite as we played a board game on the iPad together while scrub jays bounced around in the branches overhead. The following morning we hiked. Aaron was the leader as he led us up one steep slick-rock pinnacle after another until we were so hot, thirsty and tired we couldn't take it anymore. We rejuvenated ourselves at a Hawaiian poke bowl joint where we gobbled down way too much raw tuna dressed in delicious sauces over rice. With full bellies we took some time to digest, relax and read in the shady grass of a city park. We then headed out in search of the St. George narrows through a cool desert-y city park. After some locals pointed us in the general direction we finally located it. They aren't kidding when they call this narrow. It was hardly wide enough for us to fit in sideways. I almost declined because I have claustrophobia issues. In the end I couldn't wimp out just because I might have a panic attack once inside. So after the boys and Jason squeaked their way in, I, with chihuahua in one arm and my camera in the other, squeezed in. At times it was so narrow that if I took a deep breath my back touched on one side and my chest touched the other. It was best for me not to think about this. It was perfect size for Pika though. We all emerged into the sunshine on the other side without anyone getting stuck so we climbed back down into the tiny crevice we had crawled out of to retrace our steps. The following morning we amused ourselves once again at Chuckwalla. After a few warm-up climbs, Jason led a 5.11c which we then took turns doing laps on. Isaac was inspired and gave it an attempt. He declared beforehand that he probably wouldn't make it but he just wanted to give it a try. I am so proud to say that he managed to "pink point" it which means that he climbed the entire climb without a fall on his first try. All I have to say is "Whoa!" At this point we ran out of time and had to head back to the-armpit-of-the-world, Vegas, to return the camper van and pick up my car. As I unpacked the van and re-packed my car, on the shiny black pavement that smelled of human urine, I sweated up a storm. When we started my car we discovered that it was 96 degrees which would explain why it felt so hot. We checked into our hotel where Aaron entered a deep depression due to being in a hotel room in Vegas and the thought of leaving the desert. On the bright side of things we all got to take a shower. We then tried to decide what to do about dinner. It is a universally held opinion in our family that we all despise Vegas and the boys were dead-set against leaving the hotel for dinner. In the end there were no dinner options available in the hotel so we had to go elsewhere. Luckily we survived the half mile walk to and from the hotel and the horrible food we ingested. The next morning we bid this God-forsaken town good-bye, high-tailed it out as soon as we could and made it as far as Salt Lake City where we stayed a night in a quirky hotel. The following day we arrived home to beautiful spring weather.

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Friday, May 2, 2014

Zion National Park

We had a slow start to our first morning in Zion. While Aaron and his cousin played and looked for birds around the campsite we all relaxed and enjoyed the gorgeous scenery that surrounded us. Zion is one of my favorite national parks so I relished being back among the massive towering cliffs of red sandstone. Eventually we packed up and drove the winding road through the park to the mile long tunnel burrowed through a sandstone cliff and emerged on the other side at the Canyon Overlook trail. Miraculously we managed to snag two spots in the tiny parking lot and, after some snacking and sunning ourselves on the rocks, we headed out on a one mile hike to a spectacular overlook. While everyone else enjoyed the view, Aaron and I followed the calls of canyon wrens. We managed to find two and watched as they scampered around the cliff, diving in and out of cracks in the rock. They are really, really cute. Next we drove back down to the visitor center and hopped on a shuttle which runs through the park. We got off at the lodge stop and headed for the Emerald Pools trail. It was so fun to watch Aaron and his cousin run down the trail together. Afterwards we hopped back onto a shuttle which delivered us to our campers. At this point it was dinner time and the San Diego Taylors had to hit the road soon so we headed to Oscar's Cafe for some tasty Mexican food. Afterwards, with seriously full bellies, we hugged goodbye and watched as they drove off into the sunset, sad to see them go. It was so fun to have them visit us for a few action-packed days. Thanks for joining us!

The following day Jason had meetings in the morning so the boys and I walked to the other campground to snag a campsite for the night. We found a sweet site that had house wrens who were in the process of building a nest in an abandoned woodpecker hole. We hung out as we watched them and relaxed in the sunshine while we waited for Jason. After lunch we headed up to the plateau where we hiked up uber-steep slick rock until it was so steep we couldn't hike anymore. Then we hiked a draw where we stumbled upon petroglyphs. Tired, sun-soaked and happy we headed into town for dinner at our favorite restaurant before we settled back into our campsite to relax and watch the sun set over the cliffs.

The next day we hopped on a shuttle and headed to the Narrows. The Narrows is a hike into the narrowest section of the Virgin River where it winds through 2,000 foot tall sandstone cliffs and squeezes down to twenty feet wide. It has been closed the last couple of times we've been there due to high water and we hoped to wade our way up the river a bit on this trip. When we waded into the water it was icy and it didn't take long for our feet to freeze so we only made it about quarter of a mile in. The people in insulated waders should have given us a clue that maybe we were under-equipped. We then ate lunch in a sunny spot along the river in hopes that our feet would thaw in the process. All the while the well-fed, uber-aggressive, super-cute squirrels harassed us for a snack and tried to climb into Jason's lap. Next we hiked the Watchman Trail where we enjoyed gorgeous views before we drove back to St. George.

Click here for photos.