Category Archives: birds

Wow, it’s so lovely and warm

I always wake up at the crack of dawn when I’m camping. Especially this time of year when it gets light before six in the morning. But that’s okay.

I’m not sure why (am I ever sure why?) I decided to drive up to Lake Chelan this morning, but I never really have before. I stopped in the touristy town of Chelan, at the foot of the lake, to buy batteries for my camera and to stick my head in a quilt shop on the main drag. Whoever their fabric buyer is, her taste does not agree with mine. I’m not a big fan of what I think of as sixties neon, and that was about all that little shop held.

There is no road clear around Lake Chelan. It’s a landlocked fjord, and the upper end of the lake reaches deep into the North Cascades. There are two roads on either side. The one on the north shore of the lake is only about twenty miles long. The one on the south side is about twice that length, so that’s the one I took.

Lake Chelan is the third deepest lake in North America at over 1500 feet deep (the bottom is lower than sea level), according to a sign I read at the ferry landing. It’s roughly 55 miles long, and varies from one to two miles wide. It’s also pretty darned gorgeous. I stopped at the Fields Point Landing, a few miles up the lake, to poke around the visitor center and ask about the ferry that runs daily to Stehekin, the tiny settlement at the head of the lake. One of these days I want to take that trip, but the boat had left an hour or so earlier. Next time.

But I saw beautiful views, anyway, and more flowers.

The view across Lake Chelan from Field’s Landing. I don’t know if that’s a permanent snowcap or if it’s just because it’s only May.
A view of the ferry landing and down the lake.
Along the path looking northward along the lake. The yellow flowers are more balsamroot.
Prairie Star Flower. I saw these for the first time down in Oregon on my Long Trip last summer. This was the only shot I got of them this trip where the blossoms weren’t blurred by the breeze.

I’d thought about camping at 25 Mile Creek State Park at the end of the road that night, but it wasn’t even noon yet, and I decided I wanted to actually go on up to the Okanogan. So, stopping along the way to make a picnic lunch, I headed up to the town of Omak, where one of my favorite quilt shops (Needlyn Time) is. And, yes, this time I bought fabric, which I needed like a hole in the head, but tough.

After that, I headed up to Conconully, the little town that inspired the ghost town of the same name in my Unearthly Northwest books.

The view from the highway going up to Conconully from Omak. Please excuse the bug blurs — I had to take this through the windshield because there really wasn’t a good place where I could get out of the van.
This is what I meant by more balsamroot than I’ve ever seen on one trip before. Whole *hillsides* of the stuff.

Conconully is one of the few towns I know of with a state park right at the edge of town. But it’s a nice state park, and the campsite I wound up at was right on the lake and pretty secluded. I spent what was left of the afternoon just enjoying the day and reading, and listening to the red-winged blackbirds sawing their courtship cries. Oh, and watching the geese and ducks use the lake as a landing and launch pad. And the deer eating the campground’s mowed grass.

One of the red-winged blackbirds who sawed his mating call all afternoon at Lake Conconully.
One of the deer who wandered through the campground in the afternoon.
The view from my campsite at Conconully State Park.
My campsite at Conconully State Park.
Sunset from my campsite.

All in all, I drove a bit more than I had intended, but it was well worth it.

September 7: My third ferry of the trip, believe it or not.

I’ve ridden ferries in Virginia, Maryland, and now Ontario. This one was by far the longest ride, though, almost two hours.

I got a late start this morning, and was eating breakfast at the picnic table at my campsite when I heard a soft rat-a-tat-a-tat. I looked up, and saw a woodpecker. Bigger than a downy, considerably smaller than a pileated, I’m assuming he’s a hairy woodpecker, but I’d love confirmation (hint, hint, Katrina [g]). Anyway, he was a brave little fellow, and just looked back at me as I walked over to get a better look at him. A nice way to start the day.

A friendly neighbor this morning.
A friendly neighbor this morning.

I went back to Tobermory, looking for somewhere to go out of the humidity, and also looking for wifi because I wasn’t sure if I was going to end up somewhere that had it tonight. The librarians at the Tobermory library were very nice about letting me charge my computer and use their wifi, so I sat and scribbled for a while, then uploaded blog posts. Then I walked over to the local bookstore just around the corner, and bought another fridge magnet as well as perusing the books.

By that point it was time to get in line for the ferry. There were rather a lot of us crossing over to Manitoulin Island. The ferry holds 143 vehicles and I’m pretty sure it was full. The boarding process was smooth, if a bit slow, and we pulled away pretty much on time.

The beginning and end of the ride are dotted with islands, but for at least an hour the view is nothing but lake. I am told it can get pretty interesting during a storm, but today the ferry was gliding across still water, which made me very happy. And the views, even when it was just water, were so pretty.

The first of four lighthouses I saw on my ferry ride today.
The first of four lighthouses I saw on my ferry ride today.
Looking back at the Tobermory ferry landing.
Looking back at the Tobermory ferry landing.
Islands on the Bruce Peninsula side.
Islands on the Bruce Peninsula side.
The second lighthouse of the day,
The second lighthouse of the day,
At times, because of the humidity, it was hard to tell where the lake stopped and the sky began.
At times, because of the humidity, it was hard to tell where the lake stopped and the sky began.
The last two lighthouses of the day, on Manitoulin Island.
The last two lighthouses of the day, on Manitoulin Island.
The South Baymouth ferry landing on Manitoulin Island.
The South Baymouth ferry landing on Manitoulin Island.

We arrived on Manitoulin Island right on time, unloaded much more quickly than we loaded, and off I went up Highway 6 towards the tiny hamlet of Manitowaning, where I found a motel room for the night. Showers and wifi and TV [g]. The desk clerk/owner directed me to the only place serving cooked food in town, a place called Loco Beans, which mostly serves coffee, but which served me a chicken veggie wrap and a butter tart, so I’ve now eaten one (they’re pretty tasty, and not as much like a pecan-less pecan pie than I thought they’d be) and can officially cross the border into Manitoba when I get there without getting in trouble [g].

The road cuts were unusual and pretty along the highway.
The road cuts were unusual and pretty along the highway.
What most of the drive to Manitowaning looked like.
What most of the drive to Manitowaning looked like.

I haven’t decided how much dawdling I want to do here, vs. heading on west. We’ll have to see how I feel about it in the morning.

August 4: Another state, another campground, and an entire flock of wild turkeys

Well, and a listee who is also my copy editor and a friend.

Anyway, I got a late start this morning, since I only had about an hour’s drive and only had to be there by noon. It wasn’t a bad drive at all, although there was a slowdown just before I crossed over from Massachusetts into New Hampshire. It didn’t last long, though.

I stopped at a welcome center just after I crossed the border to ask about campgrounds. The gentleman behind the counter was very helpful and told me about a state park about half an hour from Portsmouth, which is where I want to go tomorrow. After crossing over into New Hampshire, though, I started seeing the weirdest freeway signs I’ve ever seen.

The sign reads NH State Liquor Store and Lottery Tickets, exit one mile.  Is this bizarre or what?
The sign reads NH State Liquor Store and Lottery Tickets, exit one mile. Is this bizarre or what?

My copy editor lives in Dover, New Hampshire, just before you cross into Maine. She had asked me to meet her in the parking lot of a local ice rink, because a) convenient, and b) free parking. I got there a little early, and sat and read for a bit until she came up to Merlin’s window.

Dover, New Hampshire's city hall.
Dover, New Hampshire’s city hall.
Dover has mounted police officers!
Dover has mounted police officers!

We went out to lunch at a nice little café, where I ate veggie quiche and salad, with a piece of the excellent blueberry pie for dessert. New England blueberries are better than blueberries from just about anywhere else, including home (we have better blackberries, though [g]). Beth also insisted, once she found out I’d never heard of such a thing before, that I take a whoopie pie with me for later. Whoopie pies look like Oreos on steroids (about four inches around and an inch thick), except that the cookie part is more like cake, and apparently they are a New England thing. Although our waitress at the café appeared to be surprised that I’d never heard of them before.

Beth and I had a nice long lunch with lots of conversation, and I enjoyed myself very much. She’s my last person to visit until I get to Ontario. Afterwards, I headed just a bit west to the state park, the name of which starts with a P and is centered on a swimming lake. The campground is huge, and heavily wooded, and the site I was assigned to has this long driveway, down a slope between trees. I thought I could turn around at the bottom, but I couldn’t, so I ended up backing up all the way to get out of it this afternoon when I couldn’t find my bug dope and had to go buy some at the park’s little store. I know it’s in the van somewhere, but it’s nowhere to be found, and there are mosquitoes here.

Anyway, when I came back, I backed down into the site, so at least I won’t have to back up again first thing in the morning. It was easier backing down the hill into the site than backing up out of it, too.

I got here about the middle of the afternoon and just read and kicked back in the pretty woods, until about an hour later, the lady in the site next to me exclaimed, “Turkeys!” I was like what? until I looked up, and lo and behold there was a whole flock of wild turkeys strolling through our campsites. I literally could have reached out and touched some of them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them so close up before. I grabbed my camera and took a bunch of photos, which was fun.

Turkeys!  In my campsite!
Turkeys! In my campsite!

And probably the best bird photo I will ever take [g].
And probably the best bird photo I will ever take [g].
Tonight there seems to be a party going on a ways off, including music. I hope they obey the quiet hours that are supposed to begin at ten pm (they did, about fifteen minutes after i wrote this).

Other than that, this is just about the perfect campsite. Oh, and I ate about half of the whoopie pie for dessert with supper. It’s tasty.

Tomorrow I’m doing more living history at a place called Strawbery Banke (yes, that’s the correct spelling) in Portsmouth, which is one of the oldest towns on the eastern seaboard (why is it the west coast, but the eastern seaboard? just curious). Then across the border into Maine! I keep saying that, but this time I mean it [g].

July 15: An overwhelmingly enormous and gorgeous garden

Today was the day I finally got to go see Longwood. Katrina’s been posting photos of the huge estate garden originally owned and developed by Pierre DuPont back around the turn of the last century for a long, long time, and I have been drooling over same about that long. At any rate, I’ve been wanting to see Longwood for years, and it was the one thing I wanted to be sure and do while I was visiting here.

It’s a two-hour drive up across the Pennsylvania border to Longwood, and on the way we stopped at a place where Katrina knew of eagles. We saw several, and this is the best photo I got (cropped and enlarged to a faretheewell) of a baby eagle.

See the immature eagle? Although he does seem to be behaving himself.
See the immature eagle? Although he does seem to be behaving himself.

Then it was on to Longwood, where we spent the rest of the day walking around in the 90dF humidity looking at everything. We ate lunch there, and got ice cream, and stayed until almost dark. I was absolutely exhausted by the time we left (according to Teri’s phone, we walked over five miles), but it was so worth it. What a gorgeous, gorgeous place. I think I’ll let some of the almost 300 photos I took speak for themselves.

The rainbow border. It runs from blue flowers on one end to red ones on the other. It's *amazing* and long, and there were so many flowers that I don't normally see because the climate's so different.
The rainbow border. It runs from blue flowers on one end to red ones on the other. It’s *amazing* and long, and there were so many flowers that I don’t normally see because the climate’s so different.
I don't remember exactly where this little dude was, but he was adorable.
I don’t remember exactly where this little dude was, but he was adorable.
The other end of the rainbow borders.
The other end of the rainbow borders.
And one of a bed of gorgeous red cockscomb blossoms.
And one of a bed of gorgeous red cockscomb blossoms.
This little fellow is an anglewing butterfly. He was along one of the walkways.
This little fellow is an anglewing butterfly. He was along one of the walkways.
A variegated hydrangea.
A variegated hydrangea.
The Italian water garden.
The Italian water garden.
One of many, many in full bloom waterlilies in the conservatory courtyard.
One of many, many in full bloom waterlilies in the conservatory courtyard.
A lotus growing with the waterlilies. I don't think I've *ever* seen a lotus in blossom before.
A lotus growing with the waterlilies. I don’t think I’ve *ever* seen a lotus in blossom before.
One of the many, many tropical plants in The Conservatory That Ate New York. Seriously, you could have fit twenty little Tacoma Seymour conservatories in it and still have room left over.
One of the many, many tropical plants in The Conservatory That Ate New York. Seriously, you could have fit twenty little Tacoma Seymour conservatories in it and still have room left over.
A rainbow sherbet hibiscus flower in the conservatory (there were a dozen different kinds of hibiscuses there.
A rainbow sherbet hibiscus flower in the conservatory (there were a dozen different kinds of hibiscuses there).
The meadows. Which were also full of flowers.
The meadows. Which were also full of flowers.
A whole bunch of liatris in the meadows.
A whole bunch of liatris in the meadows.
This is the atrium of Mr. DuPont's house, and the biggest split-leaf philodendron I've ever seen.
This is the atrium of Mr. DuPont’s house, and the biggest split-leaf philodendron I’ve ever seen.
Purple martin houses fully occupied in the idea gardens.
Purple martin houses fully occupied in the idea gardens.
Flower beds in the idea garden.
Flower beds in the idea garden.

And on the way back to Teri’s house we drove over the Susquehanna River at sunset. It was a great ending for the day.

The Susquehanna River at sunset.
The Susquehanna River at sunset.

June 23-24: Not much the first day, more the second

Yesterday was pretty much a driving day. I had anticipated it only taking me a couple of hours from Decatur, Illinois, to Indianapolis, Indiana, and had called listee Kevin Kennedy (who is in rehab for some health problems) to arrange to come visit her yesterday afternoon. When I was still only on the outskirts of Indy at 3 pm, and still anticipating a grocery stop, plus rush-hour traffic, I called her back to rearrange things for this morning.

The drive across the rest of Illinois was flat and corny and soybeany, which was fine. Big skies, making me feel tiny again. But as soon as I crossed into Indiana, three things changed. First was relatively minor – Indiana needs to spend more money on their roads. Tooth-jarring is an exaggeration, but not by much. Second was even more minor – I lost an hour going from Central to Eastern time, which was another reason it took me longer than I expected to get to Indy (also, Indiana now observes DST, which it did not when I lived here in the late 80s and early 90s – I’m glad they came to their senses about that). The third was bizarre. No sooner than I crossed the state line, the landscape went from flat as a pancake to hilly — not just rolling, but hilly. It was like there was a reason for the state line to be there. Very strange.

Still, there wasn’t much to take photos of. As a matter of fact, I only took two photos yesterday, and here they are.

Right before the road got curvy.
Right before the road got curvy.
Hemerocallis fulva, or orange day lily. I saw literally thousands of these alongside the road in Illinois and Indiana. They're feral, not native. They come from Asia.
Hemerocallis fulva, or orange day lily. I saw literally thousands of these alongside the road in Illinois and Indiana. They’re feral, not native. They come from Asia.

Last night I spent my first night of the trip in a hostel. It’s called the Indy Hostel, and it’s on the north side of Indianapolis in an old craftsman style house. It was nice and clean and quiet. I like hostels, but there simply aren’t very many of them in the U.S., especially outside of big cities. I’m hoping to take advantage of more of them when I get to Canada (they have a lot more hostels up there).

This morning it was much easier to find where Kevin is doing her rehab than it should have been, and I even found a parking place right out front. We had a good hour’s chat (or at least I did, and I hope she did, too), which wasn’t quite as far ranging as the one I had with Jim the other day, but every bit as enjoyable. She also called me right after I left to let me know Lois had posted on the list that the new Penric novella is now available (I bought it this afternoon [g]).

Then I drove down into the hoots and hollers of southern Indiana. Not directly to Bloomington, because I wanted to stop at one of my favorite places when I lived here, McCormick’s Creek State Park. It’s Indiana’s first state park, and it, like the National Park Service, is celebrating its centennial this year.

It’s a beautiful little park, with a lodge (restaurant, rooms, and cabins, like a proper eastern state park) where I ate lunch – a delicious pork tenderloin sandwich (an Indiana specialty). It also happens to be where my second husband and I told my parents we were getting married, so that was kind of weird.

Then I drove the winding road into the park and wandered down through the dense green woods (I don’t know why I always think of evergreens as the forest and deciduous trees as the woods, but there you go) to the little canyon and waterfall. Southern Indiana and large chunks of Kentucky are karst country, similar to what I saw near Jasper Township in Jasper NP, Alberta, last year. That’s why Mammoth Cave and so many other caves are around here.

This is native. It's a species of hydrangea, and it was growing near the waterfall at McCormick's Creek.
This is native. It’s a species of hydrangea, and it was growing near the waterfall at McCormick’s Creek.
The waterfall at McCormick's Creek. Lots of people playing in the water below the falls. I'd have liked to do that, except I was worried about the footing. The last thing I need to do is hurt myself again.
The waterfall at McCormick’s Creek. Lots of people playing in the water below the falls. I’d have liked to do that, except I was worried about the footing. The last thing I need to do is hurt myself again.
The falls via zoom.
The falls via zoom.
I don't know what he is, but he's cool. He was near the falls.
I don’t know what he is, but he’s cool. He was near the falls.  ETA:  I am informed that this is some sort of damselfly.  Thanks, azurelunatic from DW!
The stairs going back up to the parking area, through the lovely woods.
The stairs going back up to the parking area, through the lovely woods.

It was cooler today (80 something instead of 90 something), especially in the shade, even if it was humid enough to need to drink the air instead of breathe it, so walking around in the woods was actually rather pleasant. And the waterfall is beautiful.

The park has a nice nature center, too, with a glass-walled room lined with bird feeders on the other side, so you can watch the birds in air-conditioned comfort [g].

A phlox! This one was near the nature center.
A phlox! This one was near the nature center.  I love the lavender and white combo, but then I love phlox just on general principles.
I'm not sure what kind of birds these are, but it was so much fun to watch them from inside. There were squirrels and chipmunks all over the ground eating fallen seeds, too.
I’m not sure what kind of birds these are, but it was so much fun to watch them from inside. There were squirrels and chipmunks all over the ground eating fallen seeds, too.  ETA:  I am told by my birder friend Katrina that they’re house finches.  It’s always good to know what I’m looking at [g].
I'm pretty sure the fellow on the left is a downy woodpecker (you can't see the red, but he had it), and the guy on the right is a goldfinch.
I’m pretty sure the fellow on the left is a downy woodpecker (you can’t see the red, but he had it), and the guy on the right is a goldfinch.

After I left McCormick’s Creek I drove on into Bloomington and did a little exploring around. I lived here for two separate years, once (1986-87) while my ex was in library school, and once (1991) while I was in library school. But I hadn’t been back since. I found some landmarks – the apartment where my ex and I used to live, way out in the country, and the bar where my friend Heidi from the library school library and I used to go to drink Long Island Iced Teas and Blue Hawaiians on the occasional Friday night and then weave our way back to the dorm [g].

And now I’m ensconced in a Motel 6 here for a couple of nights, because I have more that I want to do in Bloomington. It’s good to be here. This is the one place, where if someone put a gun to my head and said, “you have to move back to the Midwest,” I’d say, okay, send me to Bloomington. I have a lot of good memories here.

June 1: Too much driving for one day, and it probably won’t be the last time that happens

I really didn’t mean to drive 320 miles today. I’ve been averaging less than 200 a day so far, but, well, California is like Ohio, and I’m not sure I can unpack that enough to make sense for anyone but me. Let’s just say I’ve been having some really weird flashbacks today and let it go at that.

Anyway. They weren’t having guided cave tours at Lava Beds NM today, unfortunately, so I decided to head on out. Basically what I did today was go down the eastern edge of California from the far northeast corner down to Lake Tahoe. I’d had it in my mind that I wanted to visit the northern end of the Gold Country tomorrow, but by the time I reached the turnoff, the idea of going back west just felt seriously wrong, so I didn’t, and came down to Tahoe instead, and found a motel on the north shore.

Tomorrow I escape California and head east into Nevada, on a highway called The Loneliest Road in America <g>. We drove it once when I was a kid, and it really is the shortest route between here and Great Basin National Park, where I plan to spend a couple of days (and go in a cave I know has guided tours).

Anyway, this is some of what I saw today. I think I took maybe six pictures all day, which is also seriously weird.

A scrub jay at my campsite this morning.
A scrub jay at my campsite this morning.
What most of the day looked like.  Pretty, but it got monotonous after a while.
What most of the day looked like. Pretty, but it got monotonous after a while.
Mt. Lassen looming over Lake Almanor.  When I was a teenager, we came here to go fishing.
Mt. Lassen looming over Lake Almanor. When I was a teenager, we came here to go fishing.
A really lousy shot of Lake Tahoe.  I'll try to do better tomorrow.
A really lousy shot of Lake Tahoe. I’ll try to do better tomorrow.

Oh, and Merlin now has 2000 miles on his odometer (he had almost 1000 before I left).

I needed a break

From the mess my condo has become, so I took a walk.

This is what happens when you have the warmest April on record.  Some flowers get blasted, and some bloom way too early.

With bonus birds.

This is Thimbleberry in blossom.  The flowers are about an inch across.
This is Thimbleberry in blossom. The flowers are about an inch across.
Wild roses blooming already.  This is why I love my new camera.  Taken with zoom of a blossom a good eight feet away.
Wild roses blooming already. This is why I love my new camera. Taken with zoom of a blossom a good eight feet away.
Lush, greenery along the path.
Lush, greenery along the path.
Cranesbill, aka hardy geranium.
Cranesbill, aka hardy geranium.
This is why Indian plum is called Indian plum.  Do note, however, that each fruit is about a quarter of an inch long.
This is why Indian plum is called Indian plum. Do note, however, that each fruit is only about a quarter of an inch long.
The last of the Siberian miners' lettuce.
The last of the Siberian miners’ lettuce.
Wild peas.  Over a month early (they don't normally start blooming till late June).
Wild peas. Over a month early (they don’t normally start blooming till late June).
Small, loud bird (I don't know what he is, but I suspect a sparrow).  The woods are *full* of chirping this time of year.
Small, loud bird (I don’t know what he is, but I suspect a sparrow). The woods are *full* of chirping this time of year.
This is a rob-bob-bobbin, as my father used to call them, otherwise known as an American robin.  He was one of two robins having a knock-down drag-out fight.  Or sex.  I wasn't quite sure which.
This is a rob-bob-bobbin, as my father used to call them, otherwise known as an American robin. He was one of two robins having a knock-down drag-out fight. Or sex. I wasn’t quite sure which.
This is what happens when those pink salmonberry blossoms fall off.
This is what happens when those pink salmonberry blossoms fall off.
And a mama mallard.  Papa was just out of the shot behind the bushes, as were the babies.
And a mama mallard. Papa was just out of the shot behind the bushes, as were the babies.

And that was what I did while taking a break and a walk at the same time this evening.

Around Waughop Lake, with birds and flowers

It’s 60 degrees outside!  And the sun is shining!

Naturally, I went for a walk.

Waughop Lake is part of Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood, Washington.  It used to be a farm for the mental hospital across the road, where the patients doing farm work was considered therapy back in the old days.  Nowadays it’s a city park, with soccer fields and a bark park (as my sister calls off-leash areas) and trails.  And an old cemetery managed by a wonderful group called Grave Concerns.

Waughop Lake is not a Native American name, even though it sounds like it ought to be, at least to me.  It’s named after a former superintendent of the mental hospital.

Anyway, it was a lovely spring day, and my new camera lets me take much better photos than my old one.  So here’s some of what I saw.

A view across Waughop Lake from the miniature boat area (they have races there in the summertime).
A view across Waughop Lake from the miniature boat launching area (they have races there in the summertime).
Ducks. Mallards, although the angle of the sun makes it harder to see their coloration.
Ducks. Mallards, although the angle of the sun makes it harder to see their coloration.
Canada geese are ubiquitous around here.
Canada geese are ubiquitous around here.
You may remember a recent photo I posted of some Glory of the Snow in my garden. These (and lots more) were growing in the grass near the lake. Back in the day, the wife of one of the former superintendents landscaped the area around the lake. It's mostly gone back wild, but some of the non-natives still grow and thrive there.
You may remember a recent photo I posted of some Glory of the Snow in my garden. These (and lots more) were growing in the grass near the lake. Back in the day, the wife of one of the former superintendents landscaped the area around the lake. It’s mostly gone back wild, but some of the non-natives still grow and thrive there.
I'm not positive what this is. I've heard them called coots. They're all over the place around water in this part of the world. Salt and fresh.
I’m not positive what this is. I’ve heard them called coots. They’re all over the place around water in this part of the world. Salt and fresh.  ETA:  According to my birder friend Katrina, this is an American Coot.
Forsythia, a non-native, but gloriously sunshine yellow.
Forsythia, a non-native, but gloriously sunshine yellow.
I'm not sure what kind of bird this is, but there's no way I'd ever have been able to take a photo like this with my old camera.
I’m not sure what kind of bird this is, but there’s no way I’d ever have been able to take a photo like this with my old camera.  ETA:  Same source, Downy Woodpecker.
Plum blossom. Everybody and his cousin has a pink or a white ornamental plum in his or her yard here.
Plum blossom. Everybody and his cousin has a pink or a white ornamental plum in his or her yard here.
Not sure what this little guy is, either. The only reason I noticed him was because the closer I got to him the louder his chirps got.
Not sure what this little guy is, either. The only reason I noticed him was because the closer I got to him the louder his chirps got.  ETA:  And this little dude is a Song Sparrow.
The pussy willows are just about done already. But they're so pretty.
The pussy willows are just about done already. But they’re so pretty.
A view back towards where I took the first photo, from the opposite side of the lake.
A view back towards where I took the first photo, from the opposite side of the lake.

And that was my walk at Waughop Lake.

Off to the Canadian Rockies, Day 8

A grove of aspens at Pyramid Lake.
A grove of aspens at Pyramid Lake.

Thirteen days ago, June 19, 2015.

Exploring around Jasper townsite.

It was another misty moisty day and cloudy was the weather, as my mother would say (in sharp contrast to what we’ve got here in western Washington as I write this — we just came off the hottest June on record, and it’s supposed to get over 90F today, which is 20 degrees above normal), so I decided to start with something indoors, to give things a chance to improve.

But first I stopped at a Tim Horton’s in Jasper townsite, where they sold me a large hot tea and Timbits (doughnut holes) for breakfast. I’d never been in a Tim Horton’s before (I’ve seen their ads on the Canadian TV station I get on my cable at home), but they do very good tea and doughnut holes.

Jasper townsite has an active historical society, and an excellent museum telling all about its human history. The woman staffing the museum told me about at least one place I wouldn’t have known about otherwise, too, and was very friendly and informative in general. I am a big fan of local historical societies who are lucky enough to have volunteers like her.

A display at the Jasper Historical Museum telling about where the local First Nations lived.
A display at the Jasper Historical Museum telling about where the local First Nations lived.

It had cleared up a little by the time I left the museum, so I headed out to a pair of lakes, Patricia and Pyramid, which turned out to be a lovely short drive. I don’t know who Patricia Lake is named after, but Pyramid Lake was named after one of the mountains that looms over it, which is sort of pyramid-shaped. If you squint at it from the right angle. More to the point, Pyramid Lake has an island, accessed by bridge, with a pleasant walking trail around it. Even the rain, spitting and spatting, didn’t ruin the pleasure of that walk.

The bridge to the island in Pyramid Lake
The bridge to the island in Pyramid Lake
A robin and her nest on the island at Pyramid Lake.
A robin and her nest on the island at Pyramid Lake.
Pyramid Mountain.
Pyramid Mountain.
Yellow gallardia, white non-native oxeye daisies, and spiky butter and eggs, on the highway just outside Jasper townsite.
Yellow gallardia, white non-native oxeye daisies, and spiky butter and eggs, on the highway just outside Jasper townsite.

My next goal was Maligne (pronounced Ma-LEEN if you speak English, Ma-LINE if you speak French, according to the lady at the museum) Canyon, the third of those slot canyons I saw on this trip. More deep narrow recesses with water thundering down, more all but unnecessary bridges because it was basically close enough to jump if you were crazy, more wildflowers, more thundering waterfalls. And a sign telling all about how this canyon, at any rate, was created because I was standing on a karst formation. Karst. Here. I always associate karst landscapes with Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave. It seemed very odd to run across it way off up here, for some reason. And the landscape was so green and lush. I’d had it in my brain that the whole of Jasper National Park was going to look like the area around Athabaska Glacier, but it doesn’t. Not at all.

The karst exhibit at Maligne Canyon.
The karst exhibit at Maligne Canyon.

Just after I turned around (the trail and canyon go on for several miles, but I only walked down to the third bridge and the waterfall, about a kilometer, mindful of the steepness of the trail going back uphill), the skies opened up. If I hadn’t been wearing my raincoat, I’d have been drenched. My feet absolutely squelched, though.

A view of Maligne Canyon.
A view of Maligne Canyon.
Another view of Maligne Canyon.
Another view of Maligne Canyon.
The waterfall at the third bridge on the Maligne Canyon trail.
The waterfall at the third bridge on the Maligne Canyon trail.

While eating my lunch in the car after, I discovered Jasper must have a repeater for the Edmonton CBC radio station, because I got to listen to a gardening show, which was fascinating. Seems to me like it would be an uphill battle to garden so far north (although many of the houses in Jasper have nice gardens), but apparently it’s worth it.

And so on to Maligne Lake. I passed Medicine Lake on the way, which, because of the karst, drains completely by late summer.

Medicine Lake, which had not disappeared for the summer yet.
Medicine Lake, which had not disappeared for the summer yet.

Maligne Lake is another of those jewels dropped into the middle of a forest, with mountains all around, and should be part of the seven wonders of the natural world, not Lake Louise, IMHO. If it weren’t for the mosquitoes and the rain continuing to threaten, it would have been almost too perfect. But about the time I got back to my car, I got showered with ice pellets. In late June.

Maligne Lake, seriously, utterly gorgeous.
Maligne Lake, seriously, utterly gorgeous.  That’s a historic boathouse on the left.
A view of Maligne Lake from the bridge at its outlet.
A view of Maligne Lake from the bridge at its outlet.

On the way back to Jasper townsite, I saw four bears. One lone male, then a sow with two cubs. Pretty exciting stuff, and by far my best bear photo of the trip.

Mama bear and one of her babies.  The other one was out of sight at that moment, alas.
Mama bear and one of her babies. The other one was out of sight at that moment, alas.  This was taken with the zoom, from the safety of my car, just so you know.

When I got back, I prowled town for a bit, ate supper (better than the night before, thank goodness), bought some candy called naked bear paws (cashews on caramel), and headed for the hostel. Back down the Icefields Parkway tomorrow, the first step in heading home <sigh>.

Off to the Canadian Rockies, Day 6

A cloud-shrouded Lake Louise.
A cloud-shrouded Lake Louise.

Thirteen days ago, June 17, 2015.

Yesterday got away from me. So we’ll start again with day six today.

Off to Lake Louise. The literature says that it was once counted as one of the seven natural wonders of the world. I can’t say it lives up to that sort of hype, but it was rather spectacular. And about as crowded as Johnston Canyon was yesterday, due mostly to tour busses carrying folks speaking at least a dozen different languages (primarily French, but several other European languages and at least that many Asian ones).

It was pouring rain when I left Banff townsite to drive the thirty-odd miles to the lake, but by the time I got halfway there, to leave the Trans-Canada Highway for the upper half of the Bow River Parkway, it was just barely spitting.

Memorial for WWI internment camp along the Bow River Parkway.  Men in that camp helped build roads and trails in the park.
Memorial for WWI internment camp along the Bow River Parkway. Even unfairly imprisoned (shades of Manzanar, etc., in the U.S.), men in that camp helped build roads and trails in the park.

It was much cooler, though, and today was the first day I really appreciated the fact that I’d brought my insulated jacket. I was also glad I’d taken as many photos of the mountains as I had over the last two days, because the cloud deck was low enough to drape like a shawl over the shoulders of the mountains, and I wouldn’t have nearly as many unimpeded photos as I do if I hadn’t (I uploaded my photos to my laptop that night, to discover I’d taken about five hundred on the trip so far — thank goodness for digital cameras, is all I can say, and you’re getting the cream of the crop).

Lake Louise.
Lake Louise.
These lakeshore memorials to early pioneers in the area made me think of Han Solo, for some odd reason...
These lakeshore memorials to early pioneers in the area made me think of Han Solo, for some odd reason…
Clark's Nutcracker at Lake Louise.
Clark’s Nutcracker at Lake Louise.

So. Lake Louise. One of the most famous lakes in the world, or so I’m given to understand, named after one of Queen Victoria’s daughters, bright turquoise, nestled in a glaciated valley just below the Victoria Glacier, and ringed by mountain peaks. Really beautiful, actually. The hotel at the foot of the lake, also famous, I gather, is almost exactly like the one in Banff. Big and fancy and run by an international hotel chain, so without the kind of character and uniqueness a hotel in a place like this should have.

The big, blocky Chateau Lake Louise.
The big, blocky Chateau Lake Louise.

There’s a nice, paved path around the west side of the lake which I strolled for some distance, hoping for mountain goats on the mountainsides above, but no luck, alas. Perhaps tomorrow on the Icefields Parkway. And, my curiosity satisfied, I head back down to the turnoff for Moraine Lake, which I’ve also heard good things about.

Moraine Lake.
Moraine Lake.

Moraine Lake, is, if anything, more gorgeous than Lake Louise, backed by a whole range of mountains. The outlet of the lake is marked by a huge natural rockpile, with a trail going to the top. By then it had pretty much quit raining altogether, and the clouds were beginning to rise, so I took the short hike up there to goggle at the view, spotting more wildflowers along the way as a bonus.

I think these are some kind of currant blossoms.  Along the rockpile trail at Moraine Lake.
I think these are some kind of currant blossoms. Along the rockpile trail at Moraine Lake.
Arnica along the rockpile trail at Moraine Lake.
Arnica along the rockpile trail at Moraine Lake.
Least chipmunk at the rockpile viewpoint at Moraine Lake.
Least chipmunk at the rockpile viewpoint at Moraine Lake.

One of the exhibit signs said this was where the picture on the back of the Canadian twenty dollar bill was taken, but I took one out of my wallet and apparently they’ve changed the design. Still, the view was well worth immortalizing, so I did.

The view from the rockpile viewpoint at Moraine Lake.
The view from the rockpile viewpoint at Moraine Lake.
Doesn't the water look almost opalescent?  Especially next to that dark green tree?
Doesn’t the water look almost opalescent? Especially next to that dark green tree?

On my way back to Banff townsite, I stopped in the village of Lake Louise (a couple of miles from the lake itself), and went in their visitor center. Unlike the ones for Kootenay National Park (actually in Radium Hot Springs), which only had a tiny exhibit section, and Banff townsite, which was just a bunch of information desks (although, to be honest, with the Whyte Museum and the Cave and Basin site it would have been redundant to do more), the Lake Louise visitor center had a great set of exhibits on the geology of the area.

And so back down the upper section of the Bow River Parkway, where I saw a wild canine! It was either a very large, very healthy coyote, or a lone wolf.  Or maybe, from the tail, even a huge fox. From the distance at which I saw it, it was hard to tell (this photo has been cropped and enlarged to a faretheewell).

Lone wolf?  Really big coyote?
Lone wolf? Really big coyote? Enormous fox?

And then, further down the road, another bear! My second one of the trip.

Bear!
Bear!

Add to that the loads of Columbian ground squirrels and least chipmunks (the latter of which were all over the place at Moraine Lake), and the ravens and magpies and Clark’s nutcrackers (the latter of which were all over the place at Lake Louise), and I’ve seen lots of critters so far.

Once back in Banff townsite, I filled Kestrel’s gas tank against the drive to Jasper tomorrow, which I was seriously looking forward to. Especially if the weather improved.