Harbor Fog Picture of the Week

Harbor Fog - A dense fog covers the Avalon Harbor.
Harbor Fog – A dense fog covers the Avalon Harbor.

Do you have a bucket list? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s a list of things you’d like to see or do before you die. The concept existed before Rob Reiner’s 2007 movie The Bucket List (starring Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman, Sean Hayes, and Beverly Todd), but maybe the film made this type of to-do list more widespread.

As I wrote at the beginning of this month’s project, we chose to go to Catalina because the island was on Queen Anne’s list. She’s bugged me for years about going. We had a lot of fun, so I’m happy we went. However, more adventures remain on her list, including seeing the Northern Lights (she claims that she’d settle for the Southern Lights, but I’m not sure that’s the truth). Anne is always showing me deals on Iceland tours from Travel Zoo. The hitch is that the best time to see the lights is in the middle of the night in winter. I can’t imagine dragging her from a warm bed into the freezing night.

I’ve never honestly compiled my bucket list. I married a wonderful woman; what more do I need? Besides, if I had such a list, I’d be afraid she’d kill me if I finished it. She’d say, “You’ve had your fun; now it’s time for you to go.” That’s why we’ll never own a chest freezer.

After we returned from Avalon, Anne asked several times if there was something that I wanted to see or do. I’ve been thinking about it since. In my late fifties, I realized that I was never destined to be rich or famous, so dreaming of yachts, private airplanes, or exotic cars was a waste of my time. With that burden gone, I’ve had time to learn about the poor slob I am. Over the last couple of decades, I’ve winnowed my hobbies so that I can concentrate on photography. Since I retired seven years ago, I no longer call myself a designer or computer programmer. Now I’m a photographer, and I’m happy about that.

On the other hand, one goal that has eluded me involves fishing. Since my ex-brother-in-law introduced me to trout fishing, I’ve always dreamed of landing a fish over ten pounds. During our 2016 Alaska trip, I had my best (and last?) chance of accomplishing that goal because Fred and I were going after salmon. My best catch that summer was the nice silver salmon I landed on a fly. It was eight pounds. Close, but not cigar worthy.

I haven’t been on the water since, and I put that lunker idea out of my mind—until we got home from Catalina. When we researched adventures to fill out our week, I came across fishing charters, specifically fishing for tuna. I discarded the idea because this trip was to celebrate our anniversary, and leaving Anne alone in a sailor bar while I was out all day on a stinky fishing boat didn’t seem right. But sailing out into the open waters off Catalina’s west coast intrigued me. I prefer a nice piece of tuna over steak; they come in large packages. So, I started my first bucket list. Next, I have to research the best season and place to hire a boat—like the ones you in this week’s picture.

One morning in Avalon, I woke up and left to take pictures. When I went outside, I found dense fog. I might as well be in London. Since I’m used to the clear desert air, this was both a challenge and a treat. I ran around town, reshooting everything I had done over the past days but in the fog. I wanted to show the weather but still have a subject identifiable. This week’s image, which I call Harbor Fog, is the one that worked best. It was taken on the harbor’s north side looking south. I like how the morning sun tries to burn through the low clouds, how the boats fade in the distance and the faint hint of the pier buildings in the right background. What do you think—did I get it right, or should I stick to the desert? You can see the larger version of Harbor Fog on his Web Page by clicking here. Come back next week to see another side of Avalon.

Till Next Time

Garnet Mountain Picture of the Week

When I was a younger man, I had too many hobbies. Besides photography, I raced cars, fished, listened to music, and gorged on food and wine. Since retiring, we’ve downsized. I’ve given up cars, fishing, and expensive restaurants. We live on a pension now, so photography is my last indulgence—and it’s a good thing that I don’t have to buy film anymore, else I’d have to throw that out the window too.

It took a while to adapt to Arizona living. Sure, half the year is divine, but summers are hell—literally. So, as every good Zonie knows, you head for the hills to escape the heat and humidity of the monsoons. The other option is to close the drapes, lock the doors, and hibernate in front of the telly. As an aspiring angler, I bought a new edition of Bob Hirsch’s Best 100 Arizona Fishing Holes every year. They never changed, but I always read the ink off my copy by the time the Outdoors Show rolled around. I preferred fishing for trout instead of bass, so we’d make our pilgrimages to where the waters were cold: the Mogollon Rim, White Mountains, Lake Powell, or Lee’s Ferry—if the weather was good.

On the trip that Queen Anne and I made to Pierce Ferry for this month’s topic, I kept asking myself, “Why haven’t I been here before? This part of Arizona is beautiful and very photogenic.” I think the simple answer is that there are no trout here, so I didn’t care. Of course, there’s the Black Canyon below Hoover Dam, but it’s 675′ above sea level. That’s lower than Phoenix, and black rocks surround it. Besides, I got skunked on the one trip that we made, so I never went back.

Hualapai Valley, as I said, is Basin-and-Range topography—like Nevada. It’s flanked on the east by the southern end of the Grand Wash Cliffs, while the Cerbat Mountains line the west. The valley floor’s low spot is Red Lake—which is dry most of the year. Orchards surround the lake, but I don’t know how successful they are. Hualapai Valley is also home to a large grove of Joshua Trees, which fills an area about the same size as ours in Yavapai County.

It’s the Grand Wash Cliffs that caught my attention on the map. They’re a long string of mountains—above and below the Colorado River, forming the western edge of the Colorado Plateau. They’re the transition to the Great Basin Desert.

Garnet Mountain - Joshua and sage grow to the foot of snow-covered Garnet Mountain.
Garnet Mountain – Joshua and sage grow to the foot of snow-covered Garnet Mountain.

This week’s featured image, Garnet Mountain, shows Joshua Trees and sage growing to the mountain’s feet. The mountain is over 6,000 ft high and has snow from previous winter storms. The unnamed pointy peak is closer but a thousand feet shorter, so that’s why it’s not snow-capped. Together, they show two of the geological forces that shaped Arizona. Block shapes are generally uplifts caused by plate tectonics, while pointy mountains are usually volcanic. I like what we saw on this visit, so I’m planning a trip to the Colorado River’s north side later this year, but to do that, I’ll need to travel via Utah or Nevada, so I’ll need some slot machine money.

You can see a larger version of Garnet Mountain on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy seeing it. Join us next week as we drive home and stop for more photos.

Until next time — jw

Big Lake

I wasn’t interested in fishing as a teenager. Fast shiny cars and women were the only things on my mind. I liked the times my dad took me to drown worms, but it was never a thing I did with friends. It wasn’t until I moved to Arizona as a lad of twenty-four that a group of guys accepted me to fish with them. After the first time they invited me to come along on a long weekend trip to Big Lake, I was hooked.

Mount Baldy
Mount Baldy is the second highest peak in Arizona. It’s an easily recognizable landmark from anywhere on Big Lake.

In those days, camping was something you did because you were on a fishing trip. It was a necessary evil that you endured so that you could be on the water. To compensate for the suffering, we’d bring fine wine, Jack Daniels, and gourmet food — some big steaks at least — and we’d swear that everything taste better in the dirt. There were no tents or Dutch ovens, we cooked everything on a Colman stove or a cowboy fire and we slept in the back of trucks. We were manly men … although we really were young and stupid.

Rental Boats at Big Lake
The Big Lake store has boats for rent, but we always got there before the store opened for the season.

According to my new friends, the only time to fish Big Lake was just as the lake thawed or as it began to freeze. Fishing the spring thaw meant that there was a chance that you could catch a fish that had wintered-over; a big fish. Since it was before the official season, the store was closed and the lake hadn’t been stocked with fingerlings yet. Who wanted to catch a puny fish? They were sardines! We were after the two or three-pound rainbows, or maybe a nice brown trout. Those were rare.

To get to Big Lake for the thaw, you needed a four-wheel drive truck. The road wasn’t paved in the 70’s, and the snow plows didn’t do the forest roads. So as we drove, we might need to stop and engage the front hubs to get over a snow drift or two. That was enough justification to drive a monster truck the other 360 days a year. One year we were late. The Palo Verde were already in bloom. The roads were clear of snow and we didn’t need to four-wheel. What a disappointment.

The trip I remember the fondest was the time I brought back the biggest fish. It was late afternoon of our second day. The sun was behind Mount Baldy and the light was fading fast. Out of our group of ten, we only had a couple of rainbows on the stringer. They were less than a foot each. It was a pathetic day. Up and down the line, guys began complaining. It was cold, the fishing was lousy, it’s time for a drink by the fire. To increase chances, each of us tried different bait, lures or whatever. I had come to the party with a fly rod. Fly fishing was new to me and I was mostly catching my hat or ear. Someone called out, “Last cast.” We were going to call it a day. With my best effort, I cast a black woolly worm onto the water’s surface. It was too dark to see the fly, so I blindly began stripping in the line.

BAM! My rod bent in half. I thought I snagged a rock at first, but then a fish cleared the surface once and then again. It was a huge fish, even in the dark everyone could tell. It took out line, enough line that I feared it would take it all. It put up a nice fight and I finally netted it. Once on the bank we examined the brightly colored rainbow and put it on the scale. It was over five pounds. I smiled and looked up, only to see everyone fishing as hard as they could. We beat the water to a froth for another hour before giving up and heading back to camp. As I recall, it was a great night around the fire.

Trees Below the Peak
Even if you don’t fish, there’s a lot of beauty to see in the White Mountains.

Anne and I made a pilgrimage to the White Mountains yesterday. We explored the roads and stopping for every photo-op. When we got to Big Lake, these memories flooded my brain, so we sat for a moment on a picnic table. Since those guys were ten to fifteen years my senior, they’re all gone now. I’m grateful they gave me a love of the outdoors and the thrill of catching a fish. Although our camping is more refined now, it’s still fun to act stupid around a campfire.

Till then — jw

Grants Pass – Oregon

Our trip today took us up the Willamette Valley into the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon to Grants Pass (how do you have a possessive noun without an apostrophe?). A town in the mountains . . . sounds wonderful doesn’t it? In Silverton yesterday, the highs were in the 80’s and the lows in the 50’s. As we set up camp, I glanced at the thermometer, and the temperature was 104°. Compare that with the high in Congress today, which was 93°. What’s wrong with this picture?

Our drive was pleasant as we  followed the Willamette River to its headwaters. South of Eugene, the rolling farm-land gave way to a low mountain range. We played tag with the trailer trucks, passing them on the up-grades and they’d return the favor on the down-hill runs. We had the cruise set at five miles over their speed limit, so they shouldn’t have been able to do that. For a moment I thought about calling the 800 number posted on the trailers and report their speeding, just for something to do, but that would have spoiled the drive. Besides, I would have had to wake Anne.

I noticed today that the great raptors circling in the sky are no longer eagles. They’re turkey buzzards, just like we have at home. They seem pinned to the sky, never moving their wings. I wonder why their arms don’t get tired.

We made the two hundred mile journey to Grants Pass in less than five hours. As I said, we were poking along, enjoying the ride. Because we got here during the heat of the day, we had to move all the new wine bottles out of Fritz and into The Ritz, where we could keep them air-conditioned. I’m afraid that will become a daily routine until we get home next week.

After the heat broke, we searched for a place to have dinner. We found a nice one called River’s Edge. It’s an upscale restaurant perched above a riffle on the Rouge River. The first thing you see in the entrance is a ginormous painting of a fly fisherman making an impossible cast. Still it was romantic in a River Runs Through It sort of way.

From the Deck at the River's Edge
I found it impossible to concentrate on dinner, when the river called to me.

We had a very good meal, but while we sat there, I wanted to go get my fly rod out of the truck. That river called to me. “Fish me! Fish me!” It was the haunting voice of the Goddess of Fly Fishing (maybe we should have a contest to give her a pseudo mythological name). Anne kept gushing on about how romantic it was, and I kept looking for steel-head in the riffle.

We left just after the bus came in. Two large tables were reserved for a group of octogenarian on the lowest deck. They walked through the door with canes and walkers. The restaurant didn’t have access ramps, so they struggled down the stairs clutching at the railing and each other. They certainly had the best seat in the house, and undoubtedly an excellent dinner, still . . .

Blue Bear in Grants Pass
A sculptor of a blue bear reading a fairy tale to its cub. Is that a Goldilocks tattoo on her chest? “Eat my porridge will you?”

On the way back to camp, we stopped in downtown so I could take some snaps. Bear sculptures decorate downtown Grants Pass. That surprised me, because after Alaska, how could there be any bears around this much civilization. All of California’s grizzlies were wiped out by 1855. The statues are artists interpretations as each was different. There weren’t any plaques explaining their existence or meaning, just the artist’s name.

Hotel Josephine
The Redwoods Hotel with a mural of the original Hotel Josephine painted on its wall. The five-story structure was an addition to the original which suffered a fire and was torn down. Now the original hotel lives on as a mural on the side of the addition.

Tomorrow we’ll take the Redwood Highway to Eureka, where we will spend a couple of days. We read that there is a walking tour of the Victorian Era homes available, so that has Anne excited. As you already know, I love to shoot old buildings, so I’m looking forward to it too. Maybe it will be cooler down by the Pacific.

Rogue Theater
The Rogue theater was converted from a movie theater to live performances. In addition to the bill on the marquee, Iris DeMent is coming in October.


Haines – Alaska

Surrounded by glaciers with a deep water port and only ONE cruise ship comes here.

I talked to the local fish shop and they said there was a late fun of red salmon. They counted over 15,000 in one day, so . . . we stayed in Haines another day so I could try to catch a few. The guy told me to go when the tide was in, which was 6:55 today. I was at the mouth of the Chilkoot river at 7:00 ready to go and so were some other fisherman. I got my rod together, fly on, waders on and headed into the river. It is full of boulders and is very hard to walk in, but I headed out to a small island near the middle. That’s when I heard some loud growls coming from the bushes. I know they were loud, because I didn’t have my hearing aids in and I could hear them loud and clear. It was a mama grizzly taking her two cubs out for breakfast and I was in the way. She was about 20 feet from me when I saw her, so I headed for the bank as slow as I could make myself walk.

This is the Grizzly sow that made Fred give up his fly rod and grab his camera. She had two cubs with her, and a mama grizzly with cubs is not to be taken lightly.
This is the Grizzly sow that made Fred give up his fly rod and grab his camera. She had two cubs with her, and a mama grizzly with cubs is not to be taken lightly.

When I got to the bank, I headed straight for my truck and traded in my fishing stuff for my camera. I’ll send you a picture of her and the cubs when I can. A park ranger showed up and told me; oh that’s “Speedy” and her latest kids. They come out about this time every morning. WHY DIDN’T THE FLY SHOP TELL ME!

After they had moved on down the river and I made sure there weren’t anymore surprises, I got out my fishing gear again. Another thing the fly shop didn’t tell me was the commercial fisherman were turned loose this week and very few of the reds were making it up the river. Just my luck. Oh well I did catch a big Dolly Varden that fought like a salmon. I released it, since they are not that good eating, but not before I took a picture. I’ll send it to you. When I landed it, I didn’t know what it was so I whipped out my trusty fish identifier and sure enough, it was a Dolly.

Fred's Dolly Varden
A nice size Dolly Varden Trout, a species of Arctic Char.

And now for the bad news. When I quit fishing and started walking out the boulder field in the river, I lost my balance and caught myself with the hand I had my rod in. Broke my rod! Guess I’ll be testing the Orvis guarantee.

We’re headed for Whitehorse tomorrow to see if we can get our refrigerator fixed. We’ll keep you posted.


Hyder – Alaska

And you thought we left Alaska. Well, we did. Except, we made a side trip to Stewart, which is in British Columbia and Hyder, an Alaska town. They could conceivably be the same town, but there’s an international border in the middle of main street. There is only one way in to Hyder and it’s also the only way out. The US Customs doesn’t even man the border here, only the Canadians do. They really asked us if we bought anything in Hyder, which is funny, because it’s essentially a ghost town with one closed general store.

The tourist attraction of Hyder is the bear observation platform built and maintained by the Forest Service. You’re probably thinking what I had. It’s that place where they filmed the brown bears catching salmon in mid-air. It’s not.

Here, the service has a deck along Fish Creek, where you can watch the salmon make their journey upstream, spawn and die. All of this is very interesting . . . to a fisherman or biologist. Today we saw pink and chum salmon nesting while steel-head kept pestering their courtship.

Salmon Spawning in Fish Creek
A female pink salmon has dug a nest while a couple of courting males wait with anticipation.

Occasionally, a bear will wander on the set, and grab a meal. That’s what gets the tourists excited . . . including us. I admit, I paid five bucks to watch a bear grab a salmon out of the creek. It would have been worth it . . . had one showed up, but we didn’t get the schedule.

Each day, at the ticket window, there is a list of the most recent bear sightings. They start at around 6am and the last one shows up around 10am. Six is when the ticket window opens, so nothing happens before then. Our camp host told us that late in the afternoon was good too, but for the last week, sightings we of bears in the morning. So, when you get here, come early.

An otter scratches his head while resting on a downed pond log.

Disappointed about not seeing bears, we took solace in watching two otters playing in the water. They were tricky to shoot, because every time I got the camera ready, they submerged. I’m glad I’m not shooting film, because I would have wasted two rolls shooting water ripples.

Glacier Detail
Detail of an unknown glacier near Stewart.

The scenery is nice in Misty Fjord, home for this community. A couple of nice glaciers and several waterfalls decorate the mountainsides. The broad leaf trees are at the first stage of turning color and the fireweed seed pods have begun to open, releasing white feathery seeds to the wind. In another week or two, this place will be ablaze in color.

Bear River
The Bear River runs from the above glacier to the sea, a length of twenty miles, with more water than Phoenix uses annually.

Tomorrow morning we head further south towards Prince George and civilization. It has a Wall-Mart and (be still my heart) a Costco. It’s funny how your priorities change when you’ve been on the road for a couple of months.


Valdez – Alaska

Ho hum, another waterfall, another glacier. You can quickly get jaded after a month in Alaska. On today’s drive we, crossed over the Alaska Range. The same one that parallels the Alaska Highway, and impressed us so much the first week we arrived. Today, Anne’s comment was, “Those are pretty, but they don’t have snow on them so they’re not very high.”

Horsetail Falls
As the Richardson Highway descends into Valdez, several waterfalls decorate the cliffs.

Yesterday’s adventure was driving down to Valdez to have lunch with Sally, Fred and Deb. They chartered a boat to do a three-hour cruise to some island. The charter company delayed their cruise for two days, because the boat was in repair. The last we heard this morning was that boat left the harbor, but we haven’t heard back from them . . . yet.

Glacial Bogs
Tidal bogs provide wetlands along the road to Valdez.

We wanted to visit Valdez to see what it was like. It was raining and foggy, so we didn’t get to see much of anything. It’s another fjord port along the southern coast and the terminus for the Alaska Pipeline. What little of the mountain tops we could see from town, towered above the water, just like in Seward. And as I said, there was only a hint of them appearing now and then through the fog.

Bridal Veil Falls
Another water fall and in my opinion, the most photogenic along the Richardson Highway, is Bridal Veil Falls.

The most interesting thing that the Queen and I saw, was the massive school of pink salmon in the bay in front of the fish hatchery. I’ve seen Jacques Cousteau films of schools like this, but I was awe-struck when I saw it with my own eyes. There were so many fish in the bay that they had to bump into one another as they swam. Seals were coming up from beneath the school and charging them. We could see the fish boil to the surface as they tried to evade the hidden predators.

Behind us on the other side of the road, a small water fall came from the cliff, making a short creek that ran through a road culvert and into the sea. The creek too was salmon packed. Above the first small riffle awaited a gauntlet of sea gulls that attacked every fish that tried to make its way upstream. One after another, the salmon tried and failed. The fish still kept coming.

Deb, Fred and Sally told us how they saw other animals join in on the harvest. There were bald eagles, sea otters, and they saw a grizzly that appeared out of the dense woods. He strolled to the water’s edge and plunged his muzzle into the water and then retreated back to the forest with dinner wiggling in his mouth.

Worthington Glacier
Although we did see a Cal Worthington Dodge dealership in Fairbanks, I doubt that they named this glacier after Cal (and his dog spot).

The fish were so dense that fishing meant casting a hook into the water dragging it back intending to snag a fish. I was tempted to try my hand, but it was raining and my heart just wasn’t into fishing in that way. I watched a couple of guys haul in three or four fish in five minutes that way before we left for the drive back to camp. Unlike the waterfalls and glacier, we stopped to shoot along the way home, I doubt I will ever get to see another run of salmon like that again in my life.