A friend

I had a friend, I’ll call him Jon for these purposes.  Jon was a lawyer, and a good one.  He was also a man of integrity, intelligent and easy to be with.  We fished and hiked together over a number of years.  We first met hanging around our daughters at Ridgepoint Stables.  Jon loved the mountains on North Carolina as I did and we hiked there when possible.

Nc morning fog rudis glaze signed

On one occasion we went up to North Carolina for a long weekend of hiking, eating and drinking. On a beautiful day, we hiked up to Shining Rock, a nice walk, and climbed up on the rock to have our lunch.  To my surprise,my always prepared friend pulled out a bottle of excellent red wine from his backpack, and thankfully, a corkscrew.  We shared the bottle with our sandwiches sitting under the glorious North Carolina skies.  I must admit after sharing the bottle, we stretched out for a while under that glorious sky,  Getting moving, we got down from Shining Rock, and hiked back to our car.  We were driving my 86 Volvo 240D.  One of the most reliable cars I’ve owned.  I drove it for over 214,000 miles.  I noticed after starting the car, that I was hard against the peg on empty, on top of a mountain miles from any gas station.  We did the only thing possible, got out of the parking lot on the downhill slope, put the Volvo in neutral and let her rip.  We coasted all the way down, picking up speed and laughing like school kids.  While filling up at a station at the bottom of the mountain, we saw a string of vintage MGs going by.  We had seen the same cars while on the way to the mountain in the morning.  Neat vehicles.

Mg signed

We went to dinner that evening at the Inn at Brevard, and when we pulled into the parking lot, lo and behold, the lot was full of MGs.

The Inn, a restaurant really, was a grand old house.  You walked up the steps, and entered a wide hall with stairs in front of you, a sitting room on the left, used for  dining, a large dining room on the right, already filled with MG snobs, and a narrow hall leading back beside the steps to the kitchen and whatever else in the back of the house.  We were seated in the small dining room on the left near the hall. Actual cloth tablecloths and good silver.  Living large, we were.

During our fine meal, enjoyed with a fine bottle of wine, we heard a commotion coming from the large dining room across the hall.  One of the men was complaining loudly and profanely to the server about something.  She went back to the kitchen, and he actually followed her and continued to berate her, the host and the chef, again loudly and profanely.  He finally finished venting his spleen and resumed his seat.  In the relative quiet that followed, we finished our meal, paid the check and got up to leave.  I stopped in the hall to put on my coat, but my usually mild-mannered friend continued across the hall to the large during room.  He approached the fellow who had been so profanely vocal, put his hand on his shoulder, and said in a soft voice, “Sir, I’m sorry you had such a bad experience”, then raising up and continuing in a louder voice, “but did you have to be such an asshole about it?”  Silence in the dining room.  Jon turned and walked toward me, and we quickly exited the premises.  We laughed all the way to the car, walking by those beautiful, vintage British cars.  As I drove out of the lot, Jon turned to me and said ”I left my coat in the restaurant, and we can’t go back and get it.”  More hysteria.  As an aside, I have heard that those old MGs are finicky, and that mountain air can have an effect on tire pressure, just what I’ve heard.

A fun trip with my friend, and there were others.  Then Jon went flying.

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Last Days in Alaska And Victoria Island

Ketchikan was the last stop we made in Southeast Alaska.  Approximately 14,000 people live in Ketchikan and the surrounding countryside.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketchikan,_Alaska  I really can’t say a whole lot positive about Ketchikan, although I’m sure it is a nice place.  A prime cruise ship port, it is very commercial.  The best attraction from our standpoint was the Totem Heritage Center, which preserved and displayed old totems from around Ketchikan and the surrounding areas..  https://www.city.ketchikan.ak.us/departments/museums/totem.html


The principal purposes and reasons for Totem Poles in the culture of the Northwest Indians were:

  • Potlatch Pole – to symbolize the generosity of the person who sponsored the Potlatch ceremony
  • Legend Pole – To record a supernatural encounter
  • Memorial Pole – To commemorate the life of an important person 
  • Burial Pole – totem poles were used as grave markers, grave posts  or mortuary totem poles
  • Heraldic Pole – Recording the history of clans or families
  • Portal or Entryway pole – through which a person enters the house, identifying the owner and family of the house
  • Ridicule pole, also called shame pole  – symbolic reminders of debts, quarrels, murders, and other objectionable occurrences
  • Indoor House Pole – supported the roof and bore emblems of the clan
  • Welcoming Pole – situated on waterfronts and identifying ownership of the water and surrounding area  (Courtesy: http://www.warpaths2peacepipes.com/native-american-symbols/totem-pole.htm )
An interesting topic, meriting further study. 
Some shots of downtown Ketchikan:
Downtown Ketchikan
Downtown Ketchikan 2
Ketchikan harbor
The next and last stop of the cruise was at Victoria, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.  Victoria is the capital city of the province of British Columbia, and is one of the prettiest cities we have visited.  Some background if you are interested.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria,_British_Columbia
Victoria is famous for Butchart Gardens, and rightfully so.  A beautiful place, and not to be missed if you are in the vicinity.  http://www.butchartgardens.com
Some views around Butchart Gardens:
Butchart 1
Butchart 2
Butchart 3 degas signed
Butchart 4 hdn texture signed
Butchart tree davinci sketch signed
Butchart pond chia 3 signed
Victoria is a beautiful city, as I said the seat of government for the province of British Columbia.  We happened to be there on a Saturday, and there was a street fair going on around the pretty little harbor.
The Parliament building across a corner of the harbor.
Victoria parliament house
The harbor, The Empress Hotel across the water.
Victoria harbor
A totem in the park across from the harbor:
Victoria totem 1
A totem in the Empress Hotel:
Victoria totem 2
And, finally Plasterman.  Put money in his box and he comes to life.
Plasterman texture
Next morning, we sailed for Vancouver rand disembarked.
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Haines and Sitka

Haines, Alaska.  Another small southeast Alaska town, with less than 3,000 hardy souls.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haines,_Alaska

A pretty little town which boasts three museums, The Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center, the American Bald Eagle Foundation, and last but certainly not least, The Hammer Museum.  The Hammer Museum is not named for someone named Hammer, no it is named for mankind’s oldest tool, the hammer, The museum boosts 2,000 hammers on display, and claims to have thousands more in storage. A museum to one man’s obsession with hammers.

Hammer Museum

Don’t miss the Hammer Museum when you visit Haines.  Leave enough time, you will need at lest 20 minutes before you get terminably bored.  How many hammers can you look at?  Anyway, worth a few minutes.  Haines from the ship.

Haines ak color pencil 67 signed

And a sketch  of the harbor at Haines.

Haines harbor and mountains sketch signed

Fort William H. Seward or the remains of same is located near Haines. From Wikipedia: Fort William H. Seward, also known as Chilkoot Barracks is a site atPort Chilkoot in Haines Borough, Alaska, about 0.5 miles (0.80 km) from the city of Haines. It was the last of a series of 11 military posts established in Alaska during the gold rush era, and was Alaska’s only military facility between 1925 and 1940. It provided a policing presence for miners moving into the gold mining areas in the Alaskan interior, and a military presence during negotiations over the nearby international border wit hCanada. The fort is named forWilliam H. Seward, the U.S. Secretary of State who oversaw the Alaska Purchase. Between 1921 and 1925 all other military installations in Alaska were shut down; in 1927 Fort Seward was manned by a force of 255. The fort was formally deactivated in 1945, and sold to the Port Chilkoot Company. The property has been developed as an art colony; it includes housing and art galleries, and accommodations for tourists.

The town of Sitka is located on two islands on the Alexander Archipelago of the Pacific Ocean.  It was first settled by the Tlingit Indians 10,000 years ago, and was called New Archangel under Russian rule.  The population in 2010 was a little under 9,000 people.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sitka,_Alaska    https://www.travelalaska.com/destinations/communities/sitka.aspx

Sitka from the Oceania ship:

Sitka from the boat


A view of Sitka harbor from a whale watching boat.

Sitka harbor house degas signed 

We didn’t see many whales that day, but did catch an eagle and some sea otters.

Bald eagle looking left

The sea otters are the heaviest weasel and the smallest sea mammal.  They send most if not all their lives floating in the ocean and having a merry old time.  I guess.

Sea otters


On a walk through a  preserve in Sitka, we saw some totems.

Sitka totem

Three totems at Sitka signed


I remember seeing an entrance to Middle Earth in Ireland, and indeed found an entrance exists in Sitka as well:

Middle earth at Sitka signed


We ran into this fellow on our walk.  I remembered the instructions on how to cope with an angry bear, so I pounded my chest, made as much noise as possible.  He didn’t seem to care, after all he knew I couldn’t hurt him, he was protected by a fence.

Sitka bear


More to come from Alaska.

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Alaska 2 – Whales and Glaciers

The next morning, we sailed into Icy Straits, AK, a port created by the cruise lines.  The dock is about 7 miles from the settlement of Hoonah, AK. http://www.visithoonah.com  Hoonah is primarily a settlement of the Tlingit tribe of Native Americans.  This link give some background on the little community of about 800 souls. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoonah,_Alaska  

The main reason for the cruise terminal at Icy Straits was for the cruise lines to sell excursions for whale watching, bear watching and other assorted adventures.  

We took a whale watching trip out of Icy Straits, a small boat with 14 people total.  Some shots from that boat ride:

The mountains of Southeast Alaska

Icy straits mountains opmc signed


Orca Whales:  Actually a dolphin http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/killer-whale/

Orca whale off icey straight


Humpback whale approaching the boat, you can just see his eye:
 Humpback whale looking at you


Humpback sounding:
 Humpback whale going down to feed

If you are interested: http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/education/marine-mammal-information/cetaceans/humpback-whale.html


The Hubbard Glacier is the only glacier in the world that is advancing, growing instead of shrinking.  We spent more than an hour slowly circling in Disenchantment Bay, watching and listing to the glacier crackle, calve and pop.  Some pics:

Hubbard glacier 1

Hubbard glacier 2

Hubbard glacier 3


Quite an impressive sight.  More on Alaska later.


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Alaska 1

We recently took a cruise from Vancouver, B.C. up the inside passageway to Alaska.  We sailed on the Regatta with Oceania Cruise Lines. https://www.oceaniacruises.com  Oceania is a mid-size cruise line, the Regatta and her two sister ships hold 684 passengers and about 450 crew members.  They do a very nice job, up-scale without being terribly expensive.  We got into Vancouver late and boarded the ship abut noon the following day.  Vancouver is a popular embarkation port for cruises, particularly to Alaska, and sports a very nice cruise terminal.  Sailing away from the terminal:

Leaving vancouver cruise terminal


A happy cruiser, my roommate for the trip:



It was a beautiful evening sailing away from British Columbia toward Alaska.  Some pretty sunsets:

Evening over bc with lights


Evening over bc


Evening over bc 2 vangogh


Evening over bc restyle hdr


The next day was spent cruising at sea, eating and relaxing around the ship.  One of the problem with cruising in general and particularly on Oceania is the temptation to eat way too much.  The ship features a “formal” dining room, two speciality restaurants, Italian and a steak house, and a informal buffet style restaurant.  There is also a poolside snack bar where you can get simple fare like hamburgers, salads, etc.  The food was excellent and the service impeccable.  

The scenery sailing up that day wasn’t terribly exciting, but hanging out on the ship and relaxing was what the doctor ordered, or at least what he should have ordered.  We woke up the next morning to the snow-capped peaks of southeast Alaska.

First alaska snow detail


Standing on the top deck watching the ship approach Wrangell, I took this shot of the pool deck on the Regatta:

Regatta pool deck


The big town of Wrangell, Alaska has a  population about 2,000.  Some information on the history of Wrangell: http://alaskaweb.org/cmtys/wrangell.html, http://alaskaweb.org/cmtys/ftwrangel.html

Wrangel hdr degas dancers 1


Near the dock where we disembarked for our exciting walk around Wrangell was an abandoned skiff.

Wrangell abandoned boat sketchwork3


One of the first things we did was to visit Bob’s IGA Supermarket.  This was really good.  Noticed this guy walking his canoe down the street.  I can understand walking your dog.



Wrangell did have a nice  museum celebrating the history of the town and surrounding area.  The museum shared a building with the community center.  There was a small “flea” sale going on, and I bought a photographic print called Quiet Reflections.  The young lady, named Charity, had quite an eye.  You can find her on Facebook as AlaskaCherry.  We then walked up to Petroglyph Beach, where there were carvings on stone by ancient Alaskans.  Unfortunately, the tide was in, and the carvings ere covered.  I did take this sweet shot:

Petroglyph bay charcoal 78


On the walk back, we heard a warning that a giant crab had escaped his trap.

Giant crab wrangell


We managed to avoid injury.  A nice visit to Wrangell over, we returned to the ship.



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