Grand Coulee Dam

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Grand Coulee Dam

July 11, 2018

Yesterday we drove to see the Grand Coulee Dam.  It is such a contrast to see the Columbia River against the dry countryside.  It makes the water look particularly refreshing.

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Reservoir behind Grand Coulee Dam.

Sadly, there is no way for fish to pass the dam.  Instead, the dam funds three fish hatcheries in Leavenworth, Winthrop, and Entiat where they produce over 2 million fish.  In 2016, Reclamation took the first steps to developing the science to look into the feasibility of fish passage and reintroduction.  When the study is complete, Reclamation will decide what to do.

We continue to enjoy the wildlife around the little lake at our campground.  I have been kayaking everyday and often we sit in the shade by the lake and watch the bird activity.  There are lots of juveniles being fed by their parents.  I’m including some favorite pictures from yesterday and today.

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Eastern Kingbird
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Northern Flickers
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Juvenile Canadian Goose
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Killdeer
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Downy Woodpecker
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Bullock’s Oriole nest
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Robin with berries.
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Bullock’s Oriole
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Hawk (not sure what kind)
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Hawk (not sure what kind, same as above)

Through the Cascades

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Loon

July 10

We left Burlington yesterday morning and drove through the North Cascades.  It was the toughest drive the motor home has had to do.  The mountains are huge and there was endless climbing, following by endless going down.  The temperature rose significantly as we reached the east side of the mountains and it is dry.  When the heat hit us, I was skeptical that I was going to enjoy this week.  We drove through a lot of area that was devastated by wildfires in the not too distant past.

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Chickadee

We arrived at a very small campground on a small lake.  It turned out to be a very lovely spot.  We sat in the shade in the afternoon and it was not so hot.  In fact, it was very pleasant.  We enjoyed visiting with our neighbors, especially the 87 year old woman who lives next door.  She’s delightful.  Since she has lived in the area since she was 12, she has lots of information to share.

Dart is not as happy with the place as me.  There are many orchards in the area and some of them have cannons that go off to scare the birds.  Dart has had enough of the noise with all the 4th of July fireworks, now he has to put up with this!

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Northern Flicker

I rode the kayak slowly around the edge of the lake yesterday evening and saw lots of birds.  The water is very clear.  Regis went snorkeling while I was kayaking.

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Northern Flicker

There are lots and lots of swallows.  As the sun was going down,  they began to roost in the trees.  A lot of them were closing their eyes.

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Sleepy swallows.
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Swallows

 

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This Red-Winged Blackbird is having a bad hair day.

I got up before the sun this morning and got some pictures.  It was beautiful and quiet except for all the bird sounds.  Although it was a little chilly, it was a warm chilly if that makes sense.  I think it might be because the air is so dry that it is very pleasant.

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First light in Omak, Washington.
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First light in Omak, Washington. That is my kayak at the base of the tree.

 

Church Mountain Trail

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Banana slug (maybe?) on the Church Mountain Trail in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

By Regis. July 7

So we tried a third mountain hike today. On the drive to the trail head, Linda was thinking out loud “Why is it always cloudy and rainy when we go for hikes?”. Then without skipping a beat “oh yeah it’s Washington”. The weather had a better chance today than our Sauk Mountain hike . Today it was just highish clouds hung from the mountain tops, no rain and a bit warmer than 40.

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Columbine on the Church Mountain Trail in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Linda had heard about this hike, Church mountain trail, on her recent whale watch trip. There was snow in the meadow and we thought it would be great for Dart to have some fun. Seemed like a great plan until I located a trail description from The Washington Trail Association (www.wta.org).  I’ll let their description speak , emphasis mine;

“From the trailhead, the route up Church Mountain starts deceptively easy with a 0.5-mile stroll up an old forest road. Then it gets right down to business with lots of switchbacks winding up and around the west side of the mountain. The trees are fairly dense, which you’ll actually appreciate on warmer days, though they obstruct any big views until later—look for the occasional peek of Mount Baker above or the North Fork Nooksack River below as you continue to climb.

At 3 miles, the trail finally eases its grade and opens up into sprawling meadows. This is your first chance to glance back at the spectacular view of Mount Baker. As you meander through the meadow, you will not see any of those notable golden larch trees, but the vibrant fall colors brought out by the abundance of huckleberry bushes that blanket the meadow and the ridge above in hues of green, red, purple and gold.

From the meadow, the last 1.2 miles of the climb get steeper, but the trail takes you directly through a large huckleberry patch for some possible late-season treats. The last 200 feet are a scramble up loose rock. Take advantage of the cable to hold on to going up this last section. From the peak, you will get a fantastic 360-degree view of Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan, Damfino Lakes, Border Line Peaks, Goat Mountain, Excelsior Pass and Skyline Ridge in the background.”

If you were counting thats 4.2 miles UP. I knew we would not be doing a 8.4 mile round trip, but 3 miles up to the meadow seemed doable. Oh how could I have been so wrong! To be fair the description listed lots of switchbacks. OK we did lots on Sauk Mountain. What it didn’t say was how STEEP the west side of the mountain was! Once we started hiking we were going up and a very steep up it was!

We started the hike at 2300 ft. and got to the meadow just short of 5000 ft. For the mathematically challenged thats 2700 ft. This hike was steep! The switchbacks were much longer and steeper than Sauk Mountain. In fact, each switchback was probably higher than the total height of Florida! The trail NEVER gave us a break. It was a long steep slog up probably the steepest side of the mountain.

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A rare glimpse down the mountain on the Church Mountain Trail in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. There were lots of clouds.

We paced ourselves and took many breathers at the switchbacks. We were dog tired and about to give up but we had glimpses of a meadow through the trees and and decided we would go 500 more feet and turn around.

We did get to the meadow and within the 500 ft. Dart had been off leash the whole trip and was great. We were a bit disappointed with the snow. It was just smaller patches much higher up in the meadow. If Dart was going to romp, he was going alone. I think we snapped a couple of pictures, snacked, watered, started getting eaten by bugs, and started back down. Going down was almost as hard as going up but without all the heavy breathing and sweating!

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Meadow at the 3 mile mark on the Church Mountain Trail in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

On the way down, we met a couple going up.  She was carrying a baby in a sack on her chest.  He was carrying a young child on his back.  It definitely made us feel unfit.

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Fungus on the Church Mountain Trail in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

We also determined that Dart has no age issues to prevent him from hiking.  He has temperature issues.  If it is warmer than 70 degrees, he’s a quitter.  Otherwise, he can outdo us any day.

 

Another Great Day on the Water

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Orcas among the San Juan Islands.

July 6

I went whale watching again today, but this time from Bellingham, Washington.  This puts you in the midst of the San Juan Islands.  It was a great trip and I was fortunate to see another pod of Orcas.

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Orcas by the San Juan Islands,

We saw transient Orcas.  There are transient Orcas and resident Orcas in Puget Sound.  The naturalist told us that the transient Orcas, many of which eat seals, live to about 40.  The resident Orcas have been documented to live to 100 and they eat salmon.  Unfortunately, the salmon stocks are so depleted that the resident Orcas are struggling.  But, the transient Orca numbers are increasing because the seal population is also increasing.

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Orcas hunting for seals by the San Juan Islands.
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Orcas hunting for seals by the San Juan Islands.

Apparently, sometimes you get to see the transient Orcas actively feeding.  Our Orcas were traveling a regular route where they are often successful in getting a seal.  When they do, they drown it and then split it up between the pod.  We saw a pod of about 4-5 whales that included a juvenile.

I also saw some seals.  They are just beginning to have their young.

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Seal mom and pup.
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Curious seal watching our boat.

 

I saw lots of seabirds including these Oystercatchers.

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Oystercatchers.

And, there were great views of Mount Baker and the San Juan Islands.

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Mount Baker.
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San Juan Islands.
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Lighthouse on Patos Island.

 

Vashon Island

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Nashi Orchards Perry and Cider. Yum!!

July 5

We joined Jason, Dan, and Coco on Vashon Island for July 4th.  We left the motor home in Burlington and stayed in a lodge on the Island.  We planned to do some “beach” things like sit in the sun, kayak, and paddle board.  We brought the beach umbrella for Dart and Coco to sit in the shade.  It was windy and cold, so we walked the beach in our jackets and enjoyed the views of Mount Ranier.  Dan found us something else to do for the afternoon.

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It may have been too cold to do beach things, but at least we got a great view of Mount Ranier.
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The shorelines around here have LOTS of driftwood. 
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Hmmm. Looks like someone didn’t read the sign.
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While we were enjoying the view, we saw this Osprey plunge into the water and catch this fish. It was windy, so this Osprey was having a lot of difficulty bringing this fish back. Also, the Osprey was only using one talon the whole time it was transporting the fish.

Dan hit the jackpot for us and found a place to do a cider tasting.  We went to Nashi Orchards which accommodated the six of us (4 adults and 2 dogs) for a cider tasting and tour of the orchard.  Nashi is a word for pear.

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Fuzzy pear growing in the Nashi Orchard waiting for it’s chance to be transformed into a Perry.

It was amazing.  I had no idea that cider could taste that good.  Some of the ciders have pears.  The orchards use a lot of their own fruit but will sometimes add fruits from other local farms.  The ciders were more like a fine wine.  After getting a taste of about six different ciders, all good, we toured the orchard.  The gardens were beautiful and we got to see the fruits beginning to grow on the trees.  We met the sheep that do a lot of the maintenance around the trees.  It was so beautiful, I was ready to move in.   The owners were very enthusiastic about what they do and were happy to share lots of information with us.  (I obviously didn’t absorb it all so I have to go back for another tour.) It was a great experience and we all felt that maybe we lucked out that we didn’t want to kayak in the cold.  It just goes to show there is always something interesting to do.  We, of course, purchased some cider to take with us.

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Apples growing in the Nashi Orchard.
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Sheep that helps keep the orchard “trimmed”.

We ate a a farm to table restaurant called the Bramble House. They offered cider from Nashi Orchards and well as other local options.  The dinner was amazing and the deserts were even better.  It’s probably a good thing I don’t live next to this restaurant.

We went to the area where the official fireworks were being set off for the Island.  We took the dogs so that we didn’t leave them in strange lodgings with all the booms.  It was crazy.  We were warned it would be crazy and it was.  There were so many “unofficial” fireworks going off that we weren’t sure we would know when the official ones started.  Good fireworks like that are not cheap, so I was amazed at how many people were shooting off big fireworks.

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Waiting to watch fireworks while the neighbors were setting off their own fireworks. Crazy!!

Coco was okay as long as they weren’t going off over her head.  When we were in the thick of things, the fireworks were going off around us, so we had to back off to give the Coco some space.  Dart wasn’t happy from the start and Regis took him around the neighborhood.  That gave Regis an opportunity to see just how many fireworks were going off all around Puget Sound.  And, most of those were probably not “official”.

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“Unofficial” fireworks.

We were able to tell when the official fireworks started.  They were a little bigger and better.  As soon as they started, all the “unofficial” fireworks stopped.  As soon as the last official firework finished, all the “unofficial” fireworks started up again.  We could hear them long into the night, much to Dart’s dismay.  I’ve never seen 4th of July fireworks on the West Coast before and it is the wild, wild west out here.

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Official fireworks.
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Official fireworks.

Sauk Mountain Trail Flora

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Flora along Sauk Mountain Trail.

Yesterday I mentioned that we saw a lot of flowers and plant life on the Sauk Mountain Trail.  With all the fog, there were no views and  we spent out time appreciating the flora around us. In this post, I’m simply sharing some of the pictures of that amazing floral scenery.

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Flora along Sauk Mountain Trail.
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Flora along Sauk Mountain Trail.
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Flora along Sauk Mountain Trail.
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Flora along Sauk Mountain Trail.
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Flora along Sauk Mountain Trail.
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Flora along Sauk Mountain Trail.
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Flora along Sauk Mountain Trail. Notice the water droplets from the fog setting on the flower.

 

Thwarted Again By Snow

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July 2, 2018

Yes, I’m talking about snow in July.  We embarked upon one of our favorite hikes today.  We went on a hike to Sauk Mountain three years ago on June 21 (blog post here).  The original hike was in warm sunny weather.  It was cloudy when we left today, but I was optimistic the weather would clear.  When we got to the trailhead, it was still cloudy and 40 degrees F.  I was still optimistic the weather would clear (not having paid attention to today’s forecast).  We arrived at the trailhead and only one car was parked there.  Last time we hiked here, the place was packed.  We met the  other hiking pair as they was coming down.  They were finishing their hike as we got started.  They said there was lots of snow on the top and it was snowing.

I was still optimistic.  Regis was ready to throw in the towel, but not me.  We trudged up the mountain in the fog.  There was little to see except the flowers on the side of the path.  I had forgotten how tough this hike is.  There are 26  switchbacks.  Once we got within .7 miles of the top, we hit snow.  Dart did his ecstasy run and showed off how he could make it through the snow without sliding down the mountain.  This snow was very slippery and I gave up fast.  We stopped to have water and a snack and it started to sleet.  I know many of  my friends and relatives are dealing with the heat.  We were sitting in the snow while being pelted with sleet on July 2!  What’s up with that?

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Regis and Dart near the top of Sauk Mountain. It was not really possible to get past this point. Dart enjoyed the snow and when the sleet started, we headed back down.

We couldn’t get to the top because the snow and we froze because of the sleet and blowing wind.  We turned around and headed back down.

On the way down, the clouds parted a few times to give us glimpses of the view.  When we got back to the campsite, it was mostly sunny.  Regis and Dart sat outside and we set up our beach umbrella to give Dart some shade.  This morning Dart was romping in the snow and\ in the afternoon he was dozing under his beach umbrella.

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View of the Skagit River from Sauk Mountain at the end of the hike when the clouds parted.
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View of the Skagit River from Sauk Mountain toward the end of the hike. This is Regis texting Jason who hiked with us 3 years ago in the warm and clear weather.
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A view of some of the 25 switchbacks on the Sauk Mountain Trail. The trailhead parking lot is located just right of top center.
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Dart enjoying the afternoon under his beach umbrella.

Partial description of US Forest Service Trail #613:  “The trail begins in high mountain meadows offering wildflowers and spectacular vistas the entire length…..A 360-degree panorama of the North Cascades is provided at the old lookout site.  On a clear day, Mt. Ranier can be seen to the south, Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands to the west, and the rugged Cascade peaks stretching to the east.” The trail starts at 4300 feet and rises 1200 feet in elevation.  It is 2.1 miles to the top and considered a more difficult trail.

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This little guy was eating some vegetation on the side of the Sauk Mountain trail.

Needless to say, the clouds blocked those spectacular views.  But, we saw lots of wildflowers and got a good workout.  And, Dart got another romp in the snow.

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Some of our neighbors at this campground. They don’t seem to care about Dart, but Dart has some issues with these guys.
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One last picture from our last hours at Port Townsend. The gulls hang around this spit, but this particular morning an eagle showed up and broke up the party. All the gulls left. It appears that a bird was killed and this immature eagle is having breakfast. There were two crows hanging around hoping for scraps.

Kayaking With Seals

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Curious seal keeping an eye on me during a kayak outing on Puget Sound.

June 30

We are on our way to Burlington, Washington today and will be crossing Puget Sound on the ferry from Port Townsend to Whidbey Island.  I love Port Townsend and will miss it, but there is lots to see and do on the other side of the Sound.

We have enjoyed kayaking while here.  Since it’s been chilly, we have to dress warm;  When we go out on the water, we hope we don’t fall in.  I have enjoyed the seals.  They are very curious and pop up to check you out.  I love just paddling along and having a seal pop up not far from the kayak.  I’m glad we’ve had the opportunity to kayak several times while we were here.  We hauled these kayaks across country and stopped at 4 checkpoints in 4 states to have them checked for mussels.  This weeks kayaking adventures made it all worth it!

 

It’s Still Junuary

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Point Hudson Marina.

June 29

The day before yesterday, we got our second glimpse of Mount Ranier in the two weeks we’ve been here.  We didn’t even think about being able to see it from here until it suddenly popped up one day.

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View of Mount Ranier from Port Townsend.

The weather has been cool here.  Since we are camped directly on the water, it’s even cooler.  If we go to the other side of the marina into town, it warms up a bit.  Dart couldn’t be happier with the weather.

We’ve been doing a lot of walking around Port Townsend and drove down the road and walked another section of the Discovery Trail.  As we hear about warmer temperatures elsewhere in the country, it’s fascinating to be sitting here in a wool sweater in June while I type this post.  We have no complaints!! But, I will start blowing southeast and see if I can send some of this cool air down to you hot folks.

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California Quail on Discovery Trail in Washington State.
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Plant on Discovery Trail in Washington State.
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Point Hudson marina. We’ve seen several otters in this marina.

I have seen several new birds to me while we’ve been here.  I also caught site of a Brown Pelican yesterday.  They are abundant in northeast Florida, so I see them all the time there.  This is the only Brown Pelican we have seen.  This spot seems to attract some of the birds you would normally find on the coast and others you would normally see on the rivers.  There is a variety of birds to see.

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Harlequin duck on Puget Sound.
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Regis watching the Navy ship across the sound.

Downtown Dog

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Barn swallows.

June 27

Dart seems to be becoming a city dog.  When Regis has allowed Dart to decide where to go on their walks, Dart heads straight downtown.  I would never have guessed he would choose downtown.

Yesterday, when I was taking Dart for our morning walk, Orcas swam by the campground.  I had our best lens with me while walking Dart since I’m always looking to see what to capture.  Regis was at the campground.  Fortunately, Regis is a really great guy and took off in the car  to find us, but not before he ripped off a bunch of pictures.  We immediately headed closer to Wilson Point, since the Orcas were headed for the Straight of Juan de Fuca.  I got to see them and I think they were the same Orcas I saw from the whale boat because there was a baby in the group. While they were swimming in front of the campground, they were going through the area we’ve been kayaking.

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Orcas swimming by Port Townsend.

I broke down, took some money out of my IRA, and bought two new lenses.  The new lenses arrived a few hours after the Orcas left.  I’ve only tried the new Canon 70-200/2.8L IS II USM so far.  I am in love with this lens.  This is my new favorite lens.  Regis talked me into spending the extra money for the 2.8 and I’m glad I did.

The trouble with my old lens started with the purchase of my new 100-400 lens before this trip.  Most of my pictures have been blurry, so I thought the problem was me.  I noticed the pictures with the 100-400 lens are crisp and clear.  So, Regis and I started experimenting with the old lens (18-200) and saw that the pictures are blurry at most settings.  At the right focal length and lens opening, you can obtain an ok picture.  But, all other lengths and settings are blurry.  This is the same lens that broke twice and was fixed.  In my research on new lenses, I noted that this 18-200 lens is considered a travel lens and not particularly sharp.  Couple that with two breakages and this lens could not stand up to the quality of my new lens.  It took me weeks to figure out what lenses to get because I wanted to cover the focal lengths between 18-100 because that is the gap between my two other lenses.  I wound up getting a 24-70 lens and a 70-200 lens.  Now my range of lenses are 10-18, 24-70, 70-200, 100-400, and a 1.4 extender.

I have been trying to take some pictures of baby swallows but there has not been enough light since the nest is under a roof.  I was going to get Regis to shine a light source on the nest so I could take a picture, but never got around to it.  I used my new fast lens to take a picture and it worked.  When I first saw the birds last week, there were four nestlings.  Now, there are only two.

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Baby barn swallows.
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Barn swallows.

 

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Barn swallows.

I also have some extension tubes, but was not happy with the blurriness of the pictures.  The only lens I could use the tubes on was my older 18-200 lens.  That’s the blurry lens.  I put the extension tubes on the new lens and what a difference.  This is going to be fun.

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Flower in Port Townsend.

Lawn Ornaments – Deer

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Fawns in Port Townsend.

June 25

When Dart and I go on our morning walks through Port Townsend, we see LOTS of deer.  They look like lawn ornaments.  They are pretty tame.  They let us get close, but not too close.  Dart doesn’t seem to notice them unless they run.  They he barks.  They don’t seem very bothered by Dart, other than keeping some distance.

There are beautiful gardens around here in almost every yard.  Lots of deer salad.

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Deer in Port Townsend.
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Deer in Port Townsend.

 

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Deer in Port Townsend. Perhaps a baby and it’s older brother?
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Deer in Port Townsend.
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Deer in Port Townsend.

Since Verizon throttled me on my unlimited internet access, I have been having significant issues getting basic internet service.  It’s so slow, it often times out.  Regis, on his Apple, is doing much better.  I frequented the local coffee shop with free WIFI the last couple of days and I have no problem when I’m there.   Hmmmm.

 

Discovery Trail

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Dart and Regis walking on the Discovery Trail in Port Townsend.

June 23

Last evening we saw a rainbow during sunset.  This is the second time in a week we saw one.  Prior to this, I don’t think I’ve seen a rainbow for a couple years.  Very cool.

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A rainbow at sunset at Puget Sound.

We went to the local farmers market this morning.  They had awesome produce and flowers. When we got back, we saw a rowing race in progress. It turns out our camping neighbor was in the race and won first place in her class.

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Racers on Puget Sound.

This morning, Dart woke up full of energy.  He drove us crazy.  We took him out on the Discovery Trail, which starts in Port Townsend, to wear him out.  Since it is warmer than usual today, a combination of the heat and the trail did the job.

Soon after we got started, there was two bicyclists and a dog coming our way.  As soon as the dog reached a path to the beach, he left his guardian and ran down to the water to cool off.  Apparently, they had just completed six miles and the dog wasn’t waiting when he got an opportunity to cool off.

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Dog cooling off in the water.

There were birds and lots of flowers along the trail.

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Flowers along Discovery Trail.
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Heron along Discovery Trail.
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Flowers along Discovery Trail.
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Flowers along Discovery Trail.
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Towhee along Discovery Trail.

It also goes by the Port Townsend Paper Company where, according to their website, “produces Kraft pulp, paper, containerboard, and specialty products by blending virgin and recycled fibers at our mill headquarters in Port Townsend, Washington.”

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Port Towsend Paper Company.

While I spent most of the afternoon trying to download some files, Regis had his own dreams.

I tried to use my unlimited Verizon data plan to download the files with no luck.  My computer kept dropping the connection.  I went to town to access some free WiFi.  After two tries and several hours, I gave up and came home.

In the meantime, Regis spent the afternoon with Dart dreaming of racing in the R2AK (Race to Alaska).  I pointed out that I couldn’t get my kayak around the buoy the other day and we couldn’t even make it to Whidbey Island from here, what is he thinking?  He said he wasn’t thinking of me being a crew member.  I’ll be happy to cheer him on from a warm and comfortable location.   (Regis wants me to ask for an early call out for potential crew members).