Brian's Journal - Summer 2013

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6/21/2013   Summer SolstAss 50K  
Peter Corduan on ridge of Silver Star
This is a run more beautiful than its name by far. FatAss style, it was free and lightly (though generously) supported, but the terrain and scenery were spectacular. Afterwards I calculated the elevation gain and loss at 8700', maybe more, and the distance at least 50K. The glowing plumes of Beargrass strewn over the ridges and meadows were beyond counting. We ran through flowers all day long, not just the ubiquitous Beargrass but also sky blue Iris, scarlet Castilleja, fragrant yellow Erysimum (wallflower), blue Camas and numerous other less showy blooms, and by the end of the run we were visually sated. We couldn't see much by then anyhow; it was just about dark.
The start was at Grouse Creek Vista trailhead, 45 minutes from town and only three miles from Silver Star Mountain, our ultimate destination. Once on the trail, we took the long way to get to the summit, running up and down the five ridges that radiate out from the peak (hence the "Star" in the name) for 25 miles before reaching the top shortly before sunset. For most of the day it hid in the bellies of gray cumulus clouds while we ran through ridgetop meadows created over a century ago by a forest fire so large that its smoke triggered streeetlights at noon in Seattle 160 miles away .
Silver Star summit
Joe and Anne, the race directors, had marked the entire route with pink tape, no small task, and had cajoled/coerced his parents and another couple to drive their trucks up forest roads to points at miles 11 and 22 along the route. They'd also procured a keg of Workhorse IPA from the Laurelwood Brewing Company with a growler to go to whomever picked the lucky card from a deck stashed on top of Silver Star. I was the last person to reach the final turnoff to the summit. Joe and Anne were there waiting for me, and tipped me off as to the card to pick but I just brought the whole deck back down with me, along with the ribbons marking the route to the top. The summit of Silver Star was mystical when I was up there, shrouded in fog which parted just briefly to let the sun glance across the open ridge. Iwatched it set from the open slopes along the descent then stumbled down the last mile of an old eroded forest road to the finish after dusk over the loose rocks reflecting dimly the fading sky overhead. The Workhorse IPA at the finish was delicious but I was so tired afterwards that I crashed in the Motel 6 in Longview rather than trying to drive home.
6/29/2013   Plein Air Painting  
Summer Maples - oil on paper, 9x12
Frustrated by the too quick drying time of acrylics, I stopped by Daniel Smith months ago and bought as set of oil colors since many of my oil paints from college are no longer usable, either because they've hardened or because the caps are so tightly cemented on that they can't be removed without tearing the old lead tubes apart. Today was the first day I actually got out and used them. Last week the Gentslers stopped by the little patch of lawn under a birch tree by the old ABC where Susan and I were having a picnic lunch with Jim Brothers. We got to talking and found out that Josh had recently taken up oil painting but was frustrated by the results of his efforts, so I suggested that we go out painting the next Sabbath afternoon.
Campmeeting potluck
Susan, together with Janine Moody, put on her big Sabbath afternoon potluck on the designated Sabbath, the last day of campmeeting. I carried over two canopies, three tables and a dozen chairs this morning then came home and helped her peel potatoes and fix strawberries for the feast, which included her potato salad, beets and yellow squash with kale braised in garlic and balsamic vinegar, and my favorite, deviled eggs. She makes those only because I like them so much. We hauled everything else over there and finished setting up about the time people started showing up. Larry, Janine, Laura and her boyfriend Andrew who mowed all the grass around the house earlier this week, Ken and Janet Penner with their daughter Heidi and grand-daughter Vera May, Allen and Maritess and Alicia from the Philippines and Mike and Marilee Kier from Thailand (both couples originally from Restore) and Janine's mother Florence and her significant other from the Academy church but whose name (Dale) I didn't remember until the next morning. Josh wandered by about the time I finished talking with everyone and we went off to paint.
The scene we painted
I thought it would be easy to find a nice spot along the river down near Flaming Geyser but the banks where I planned to go were overgrown with blackberries. Eventually we gave up on a river scene and settled for a view of Big-leaf Maples by the parking lot. We had two hours to paint. We set up our folding tables and folding camp stools and dug our paints and palettes out of our cardboard bankers boxes we'd each brought to hold all our stuff. I suggested he use a medium sized brush, a Filbert if he had one but he didn't, so he used a bristle flat instead. I couldn't remember the name Filbert until we were pretty much done but I showed him mine. We shared my little bottle of turpentine which I last opened around the time Josh was born. We started with the sky and I showed him the mix of colors I use, mostly white with some Ultramarine Blue and a little Thalo Blue. We painted like I always do, from the upper right down to the lower left, so we did the sky, then the hills, then the maples and finally the foreground field and grass. I explained that that wasn't the best way to paint but it was how I always did it nonetheless. Josh's painting started to get muddy in the hills, so I showed him how to load some darker green on the tip of his brush and dab it on for contrast, just one or two little sideways strokes with the edge or the corner of the brush before going back to his palette for more. For the background trees on the left side of his painting, we added a bit of green and orange for contrast then striped in a few paler tree trunks to help the eye interpret the essentially uniform dull green back there. Running out of time, we had to rough in a field in the foreground. I showed him how to add texture with bits of darker and lighter color dry-brushed in, and how I painted with the side of the brush instead of doing it house-painter style. In the end, and to my surprise, our paintings turned out rather well. He was grateful for the lesson and I was grateful for the incentive to get out and do my first oil in over 20 years.
7/02/2013   White River training run  
Darchelle, Betsy, John and Matt (behind tree)
John above the White River valley
Along the ridge
A tree fell in the woods today. John and I saw it happen. We heard a crack and spotted something moving high in the forest canopy up the hill from us. It was big, and brown, and extended all the way down to the forest floor, a huge dead snag over 100 feet tall and three feet in diameter toppling to the ground. It landed with a heavy boom and a cloud of sawdust; Matt and Betsy, several minutes behind us on the trail, felt the ground shake. Did that really just happen, we asked each other. "That was cool!", we agreed. We could still smell the musty woody smell of the dust it kicked up when we started down the trail again.
Betsy suggested the outing, a 25-mile training run on the first half of the White River 50 mile course. John and Darchelle joined us. We set out all together but Betsy fell and scraped her knee in the first mile, before the big snag fell. We hiked up the Palisade trail together, spread out along the ridge then met up again at the Ranger Creek cabin, about 10 miles and at least three hours into the run. We refilled our bottles in the spring (Matt and Betsy treated theirs with their Steri-pens) and continued up the trail towards Corral Pass. We ran into a few patches of snow in the section just before the Noble Knob turnoff where John turned back after a side trip to the Knob. The last couple miles to Corral Pass were beautiful - warm and sunny with glorious views of Mt Rainier. I ran ahead to the pass and back along the ridge to the main trail before doubling back to find Darchelle, and Matt and Betsy a few minutes behind her. It felt good to run hard.
On the way down I made a quick detour out to Noble Knob. It was worth the trip; I think that was probably the best scenery of the whole day. I considered but thought better of climbing to the top of the crag. The side trip took an extra half hour but I'd probably have caught up to Matt and Betsy were it not for a woodpecker about a half mile above the Ranger Creek cabin. As soon as I heard it tapping high up in a dead Silver fir, I figured it for a Three-toed. It was a dark-looking woodpecker the size of a Hairy. Bird #312 for the year and I didn't bring binoculars. I couldn't make out any field marks so I got out my phone and played a recording of a Three-toed drumming. The bird immediately dove out of the tree, swooped down over our heads and sailed off to another more distant tree where it began drumming. Definitely not a Hairy drumming, rather slower, longer, and tapering somewhat softer at the end. I wanted a better view though, since I'm not that familiar with the species and I wanted to make sure it wasn't a Black-backed. I played the Three-toed
Can you find the woodpecker?
drumming several more times and each time the woodpecker quickly flew over but always managed to perch far enough away that I couldn't clearly pick out the pale back. Finally, 95% certain of the ID, I gave up. The woodpecker had flown downslope somewhere, still drumming, Down the trail a few hundred yards I heard it again, closer, and played the drumming one more time. Again it flew over, landed about 50 yards upslope and began to drum vigorously, every 15 seconds or so, for about a half second at a time. I bushwhacked up the slope until I found the bird and this time, I could clearly see that the back was paler than the wings. I took a few photos with the phone camera and watched the bird for a while before starting down, certain now that I'd seen an American Three-toed Woodpecker, my first since about 29 years ago. Darchelle was waiting at the cabin for me, and waited a little longer while I tanked up at the spring again.
We started down at a fast pace but Darchelle began to develop a little ITB soreness outside her right knee so I insisted that we walk all the steeper sections and run slowly on the flatter areas. Reluctantly she agreed; she didn't want to keep Matt and Betsy waiting. It's a long descent. Matt and Betsy had arrived enough before us to get comfortable by the time we showed up, maybe 15 minutes after them. About as long as I spent woodpecker-watching. We ate our sandwiches and some of Betsy's delicious sticky rice with Umeboshi plums. I rinsed off in a mud puddle and emerged smelling only slightly better than before. We ate at the Rainier Grill, I in a shirt borrowed from Matt because both of mine were wet. I'd run most of the route out to Corral Pass and back with snow packed under my visor cap and like the earth we were running on, everything on me was wet from snowmelt.
7/07/2013   Northern Hawk Owls  
Juvenile Northern Hawk Owl
Juvenile taking vole from parent
Juvenile w/ vole
Two rare birds are being reported on eBird now, a Hooded Warbler down near the Columbia River on the Cape Horn trail where David and I sought Hermit Warblers on the last day of our birding trip in May, and a family of Northern Hawk Owls near Tiffany Mountain where I once went deer hunting 30 years ago. Despite the pressure of marathon preparations I was determined to get out and look for one of them. I decided on the Hawk Owl because Boreal Chickadees and Owls live in the same area and Black Swifts would be possible too.
We were going to leave Wednesday but our date slipped to Thursday, then Friday, as I tried to get marathon packets stuffed, emails answered, volunteers contacted. I managed to get packed up on Saturday but not until early evening; we set out just in time to drop by Snoqualmie Falls to look for the Black Swifts reported to be roosting behind the falls. I thought I'd see them against the evening sky but it was Susan who spotted a flickering shape moving quickly below us and almost impossible to follow against the backdrop of shadowed trees and swirling water. I lost it before I could be sufficiently sure of the identity to count it though the size and fast flight certainly suggested a Swift. We got to the North Bend Grill just before they stopped taking dinner orders and left after bedtime but I managed to make it as far as the Red Top road. We found a flat pulloff along Blue Creek a mile or so up the road and didn't realize until morning that we were parked in some other campers' driveway.
I drove in the morning while Susan mostly slept. She slept all the way to Winthrop, where I didn't stop for gas because I didn't want to wake her, and part way up FR37, about to where we got into the big burn that consumed thousands of acres of forest around Tiffany Mountain a few years ago. The burn continued up over Freezeout Pass and from there north as far as we could see, gray snags with charred trunks standing in a thick carpet of green grass and forbs. FR39 switchbacked down a few hundred feet into Brown Meadows creek where we found a few green firs and spruce, protected apparently by the damp meadows along the creek, and a few birdwatchers peering through scopes. They had the owl, or one of them. Good thing too, because we would probably not have found it on our own, a tiny gray-brown spot in a forest of gray-brown trees.
7/08/2013   Tiffany Mountain run  
Tiffany Lake
Burned subalpine forest
North Ridge of Tiffany Mt
During the night I heard the solitary hoot again, as brief and indistinct as before, perhaps just one tree rubbing against another but there wasn't any wind, only the still cool air and the silent stars overhead. The note was too low for a Sawwhet or Pygmy, too high for a Flammulated or Long-eared, and too vague to figure out where it was coming from.
In the morning I crawled out of our tent before sunrrise. Camp was cool and quiet, with few birds singing. I wanted to do a longish run and decided I could handle a loop over Tiffany Mountain via the lake, then down Freezeout Ridge and back along FR39. I figured 12 miles and three hours so in my note to Susan allowed myself four and ended up taking five.
Trail to Tiffany Lake
Trail above Tiffany Lake
The trail to Tiffany Lake cuts across dry meadows dotted with red paintbrush and blue lupine then continues to the lake through a short mile of burned forest. Spruce and pine alike are stripped to blackened spires etched by the flames. A few trees are still alive, others kept their branches, dead and brown. Between the charred trunks the ground is green with grasses and fireweed shoots but the former forest is now a bristling blanket of gray spears stretching away to the horizon. The skin of forest is gone exposing the granite bones of the land while above the dead forest Tiffany's crags glow in the early sunlight. But the forest isn't dead. Ahead of me juncos flush with flashing white tail feathers and chipmunks scurry along dry logs. Overhead Hermit Thrushes repeat plaintive arias from tall snags. Below me the lake is still but invisible trout rise to dimple the surface. Brook trout you can keep, a sign explains, but Cutthroats must be released. By the shore a few token spruces have survived along with thickets where Fox Sparrows scratch and sing. Proximity to water, whether the lake or just a damp seep, seems to have conferred protection on a few trees fortunate enough to root nearby. Among the charred trees just up from the lake Lincoln's Sparrows trill like wrens in the vigorous young understory and across the water a White-crowned Sparrow with a foreign accent sings from a dead pine. The local White-crowneds are a distinct race, and perhaps even a distinct species, from the birds in the Puget Sound basin and the difference in their songs is pronounced.
Beyond the lake the trail switchbacks up through more charred forest and brushy wet meadows to a ledgy saddle rich with birds. Caerulean fragments of the sky above flutter to the ground, pause, then fly back up to a charred perch - Mountain Bluebirds, their soft calls sounding like the clucking of mourners at a funeral. They, and the juncos, the feisty Chipping Sparrows, the robins and kinglets aren't mourning the lost forest in a cemetery of stumps; they're defending territories, feeding young, living.
The craggy north face of otherwise undistinguished Tiffany Mountain looms ahead of me. I'm already almost halfway through my time yet far below the peak, which is itself not even halfway on my intended loop. I continue, of course. Just to the next saddle, which involves leaving the trail and scrambling over ledges, talus and snow in a basin dotted with living larches and flooded with morning sunshine. The slope above the basin is steep and loose. It climbs into a sparse grove of Whitebark Pine too remote for the fire's reach and culminates at a sandy saddle surprisingly close to the summit ridge. Three Dusky Grouse explode out of the krummholz to my right, stout gray birds with un-banded tails. They were misnamed Blue Grouse the last time I saw them here, maybe thirty years ago. I was deer hunting then and had succumbed to the lure of the mountain, leaving deer behind in the forests below to see what could be seen from the summit. No deer, though I did shoot and eat a grouse, the pale dense breast meat delicately flavored of spruce. Back then as now, I was hoping I might see the Spruce Grouse, a considerably rarer bird, and then as today, I hoped in vain.
Freezeout Ridge
A spur ridge still hosting a narrow snowfield in its lee climbs up towards the summit from my saddle, levelling off in the meadows which extend for miles west and south from the summit. The view is worth the effort. Smoky blue on the southern horizon stand the pickets of the Chelan Ridge beyond the Methow Valley from which we came, while beyond our camp to the north in Canada the Pasayten peaks are shrouded in rain clouds, weather that is probably moving my way but not for a while yet. For now the sun hides behind the local cumulus beginning to coalesce overhead, whose shadows play across the meadows extending down Freezeout Ridge, down into patches of pine, above the burn. My route back to camp, FR39 crosses the pass at the toe of the ridge and drops down into Brown Meadows creek where the Hawk Owls nested amidst the charred and weathered snags.
I thought I might find Rosy Finches and American Pipits up here in the meadows but hear tinkling songs of Horned Larks instead. Sandy birds of the shrub-steppe, I last saw them in scrubby sagebrush a few weeks ago in the Columbia Basin. The young larks with their oversized eye rings and speckled black and white crowns look like birds from another continent, Asia or Europe perhaps, until I recognize them. I guess I haven't seen them recently.
I ran down Freezeout Ridge. The meadows were surprisingly smooth and the gradient gentle - delightful running, though the two mile descent to the road still took a half hour thanks to birding and photo stops. Birds included a woodpecker that turned out to be a Hairy rather than the rarer and therefore more desirable American Three-toed, and a small covey of grouse tame enough to let me see the diagnostic yellow skin of the bare eyebrow. Diagnostic of Sooty rather than Dusky Grouse, I realized some weeks later. They were probably hybrids since they didn't have the pale band on the tip of the tail characteristic of pure Sooties. Still, I wouldn't have expected Sooty Grouse this far east of the crest.
Lodgepole Pine
The last four miles were considerably slower than they should have been. I kept having to walk, and after each short stint of running I felt the color drain out of the landscape and had to lean over with my head below my waist for a few moments to let the faintness pass. I couldn't spot the Northern Hawk Owls nor did I stumble across any Boreal Chickadees though I looked and listened in the thick dead lodgepole stand where Charlie had one yesterday. FR39 runs through a stand of unburned lodgepole as well, slender well-spaced trees with no understory other than the tiny huckleberry bushes more typical of Rocky Mountain forests than Washington Cascades. The sun slanting through the dark pine trunks made appealing color contrasts but challenging compositions. Easier to photograph were the lavender lupine growing in bright green moss farther along the road towards camp.
American Three-toed Woodpecker
American Three-toed Woodpecker
Mountain Bluebirds
Soon after I arrived in camp, Zack and his friends drove up. They'd spent the night down in Winthrop and hadn't made it back, as they'd thought they might, to hike up Freezeout Ridge in search of Boreal Owls. Just as well; the habitat didn't look as good close up as it had from down in the valley. Susan and I invited them on a walk in the woods with us to look for Three-toed Woodpeckers and Boreal Chickadees - local specialties. They joined us for about an hour but it wasn't until after they left that we came across the woodpeckers, a nest with young 20 feet up in a slender snag in the midst of burned out forest above the Tiffany Lake trail. We sat in the sun nearby and waited, and soon both the male and female came in and fed the young. I got some decent photos. The adults were smaller and duskier than I expected, and the male's crown patch appeared more gray than yellow.
Long drive home, like 7 hours, with heavy though brief rain showers from Winthrop up to the crest then clear skies, bright sunshine and a brisk breeze farther west. No Black Swifts. We arrived home wishing we could fast forward through the next week and a half until marathon and trip planning would be in the past, but no such luck.
7/14/2013   Tunnel Marathon  
Bogged down on the computer writing volunteer instructions and creating runner lists, I didn't get the water and Gatorade jugs filled on Friday as planned so Matt and Tony came over early Saturday afternoon and and filled them for me, loading them all in the bed of Tony's red pickup while I assembled the rest of the aid station gear.
7/25/2013   Chapel Stile  
Awoke before dawn and stayed in bed until it was fully light out but didn't go back to sleep. The rain stopped around dawn; fog drifted across the hills and shrouded the higher summits but the overcast broke up now and then to expose pale sky. Though tired, I geared up and set out for an exploratory run anyhow. I jogged up the road to where it ends, then followed a minor road south up to a pass from which I hiked a quarter mile or so up to the summit of Side Pike. A bit of drizzle passed through while I was up there, temporarily obscuring the views, but the air cleared by the time I got back down to the campground.
Our place on the left
Great Langdale valley
Great Langdale Road
Sheep Barn
View up valley
I jogged most of the way back to Chapel Stile with a birding stop at the stone horse bridge beside the road bridge, where a nice variety of birds were foraging in and around the mossy stream - a Wood Pigeon and a female Mallard, a small group of Siskins, two Pied Wagtails and a Gray Wagtail, possibly a dipper, and Blackbirds and a Great Tit, all down in/along the stream at some point, and a Blue Tit and Chaffinch in the birches, a Pied Flycatcher in the conifers and some Carrion Crows flying over.
Side Pike
Side Pike trail
Great Langdale from above
Sheep and Blea Tarn
Kettle Crag and fog
After a late breakfast and a rain shower we all went out, even David who's been sick the past couple of days, on a three mile walk. We started down at the Wainwright, the pub where we had a rather good supper last night, crossed a bridge across the mossy green Great Langdale Beck and through open oak wood up to, and right through, a working slate quarry beyond which we caught a private road which is also a public footpath through more shady green woods, tall mature oaks, ashes, maples and larches with a soft grass understory, past some workmen patching the road ecdges eroded by last winter's hard frosts and thaws and out into the sunshine again, through a farmyard with a baby blue 1969 VW bug sinking into the tall grass beside a 1769 (made-up date, but plausible) stone barn and through another grove of oaks before drpping down into the valley pastures and over to Oak How, an ancient stone barn and stout little stone house with cows grazing in the pastures below and clouds clearing from the crags above. One of the barns in the the farmyard was fitted with solar panels on the roof, an incongruous note of modernity though solar panels are actually quite popular in the village.
Mom, John and Daniel
Chapel Stile
Walking to Wainwright's
Lane to Baysbrown camp
VW bug, John and David
Oak woods
On the way home from Oak How we stopped at another bridge over the stream to look for trout. We spotted a few small ones, then Daniel dropped his lens cap in the stream and scrambled down the stone footings to retrieve it while we admired his temerity. As the others started home, Susan spotted a Redstart flycatching from a fence, a bird I've only seen once before, and I was able to get a few photos.
Oak How barn
Great Langdale Beck
7/26/2013   Langdale Pikes  
Again unable to sleep in, I set out early for a run across the fells above Chapel Stile to Langdale Pikes but got distracted by birding and only made it as far as the top of the ridge above town. I found lots of birds along the edge of the trees just above the road a couple hundred yards up from our place - Great and Blue Tits, Chaffinches, Siskins and Goldfinches, the ubiquitious Wrens, probable Willow Tits and a Nuthatch, among others. An unfamiliar bird out in the bracken was singing a sweet light warbling song with no harsh notes. From photos and elimination of other possibilities I concluded it was a Dunnock. I followed a track up through the bracken to a prominent rounded crag beyond which a Yellowhammer was singing from a small tree.
Langdale Pikes
Blue Tit
A trail traversed off to the right but I continued bushwhacking up through the bracken to a band of low gnarled trees of Common Juniper, or something very similar to it. Lots of birds there including a Robin, a juvenile Dunnock, a singing Song Thrush and numerous Willow Warblers. Above that grass began to replace the bracken and Meadow Pipits played around little crags.
Coal Tit
Willow Warbler
Up on top it was all grass, ankle high rather than short-cropped the way it had been down below, rolling fields crowned with little crags and outcrops of gray stone climbing in increments up towards the higher peaks of the Langdale Pikes. A grassy footpath ran across the fells up towards the pikes, ideal for running but I had neither time nor food to permit a run so I descended again.
View up Great Langdale
View down towards Ambleside
After breakfast, more like brunch, with everyone, Daniel and I set out to complete the route I'd intended to do earlier. Mom, John and Susan left around the same time to do a loop in the valley while David, still sick, went back to bed. We followed a footpath with a few shortcuts through the bracken on sheep trails, gaining the ridge in a half hour or so to find the grassy footpath over the fells.
Daniel fell-walking
Cotton sedge
Stickle Tarn
The Langdale Fells were farther away than I thought, four miles by my GPS, and I didn't have much energy but the views were delightful. The hiking was a mix of rock-hopping over crags and strolling on cushioned grass, each footstep sinking just perceptibly into the ground. After a mile or two we discovered why. We came across an area where sheep paths had eroded into the hillside and found several feet of brown peat underlying the grass. Other than Swifts slicing overhead now and then we saw few birds - a family of Northern Wheatears, a few Meadow Pipits, a couple of Common Kestrels and a distant Buzzard. We met few hikers too, until we started up the peaks, a steep walk up soft grassy slopes into rough-textured crags. We joined several parties admiring the views from the summit while Lesser Black-backed Gulls soared around at eye level looking for lunch leftovers.
Trail above Dungeon Ghyll
Gray Wagtail
The trail we followed down traversed slopes above the dark gorge of Dungeon Ghyll, slopes so steep as to be a little intimidating. Below the gorge the trail became a path of paving stones embedded in the grassy hillside and we ran down until our legs got rubbery. From the Stickle Barn we followed the lane back down the valley. It ran along the stream for a short distance and there Daniel spotted a Dipper, my first, along with several wagtails, both White and Gray. I got photos.
7/27/2013   Shopping  
Chapel Stile
Susan in churchyard
Rose climbing wall
Early in the morning Susan and I went out birding. We walked along the road into town then up past the church and beyond on a narrow little road that heads over the ridge to Grasmere. Just beyond the church a man noticed my camera and told us that he'd just seen a peregrine falcon dive on a pigeon, hit it and knock it to the ground. When the falcon circled around to retrieve its prey several crows showed up and drove it away. He pointed to the grove of trees down across the road where it had gone, and explained that he frequently saw it in the area, particularly early in the morning. A few minutes later Susan spotted it or its mate, a large adult female, perched in an ash tree on the side of the cliff above us. In addition to the peregrine we saw about 20 species and probably heard a couple others, though generally when I managed to find the source of an unfamiliar call, it turned out to be a Chaffinch. They make a robin-like (American) "teek" scolding call, an House Sparrow-like chirp and a short finch-like series of chips that I can't quite recall.
Peregrine Falcon
European Goldfinch
Common Chaffinch
Susan wanted to shop in Ambleside for a pair of hiking shoes since her ankle started hurting again after the walks yesterday and the day before, and Daniel and I wanted to find a pub to get online, and we needed to do laundry and pick up a few things at the grocery store, so I drove Susan and the boys in our van down to Windermere. The driving wasn't too bad; I just hug the center lane, slow down in the narrow spots and stop if I'm not certain of the clearance when I'm meeting another car. Old lady driving, we called it. Driving on the left after four decades of keeping right does require continuous attention though, so I don't pay much attention to the scenery.
Approaching town at a roundabout, I forgot the cardinal rule of roundabouts - look to the right. A small red car whose path I suddenly blocked honked loudly at me to remind me. In town, the traffic was busy and parking was tight. We drove through town searching for a laundromat. Susan suggested stopping at the Tourist Information place to ask for guidance but being male, the boys and I were for just driving around and looking, and for once that worked. Daniel spotted it on the main street and not too far past it, I found a parking place.
Parallel parking on the driver's side - not too difficult but not routine either. Pull up next to the car in front, look behind, wait for car to pass, turn wheel when in line with rear wheels of car in front. Suddenly a shout, someone pounding his fist on our rear window - a big man with a square face and bushy gray moustache, a pedestrian. Where'd he come from? Doesn't matter, I almost ran over him. He walks by the passenger side and scowls at me through the closed window then dissapears into the crowd. Everyone in the outdoor cafe next door is watching. I finish parking, we all get out and start down the street, then I notice that where I've parked a yellow line borders the sidewalk, while a white line runs along where all the other cars are parked. Probably a no parking zone, better not take a chance. I walk back to the car next to the cafe, get in and pull out into traffic, find another parking place down the street and return to the corner where Susan and the boys were going to wait for me. They weren't there.
Rattled by the parking incident, I didn't much enjoy the rest of our family outing. We got the laundry done, ate lunch at the cafe where I almost ran over the guy, bought $100 worth of groceries at Booth's without arguing too much over what to get and how much, made it back to Ambleside without further incidents and pulled into the public car park but it was full. We considered a minute or two and decided that we were all too tired to face trying to find a parking place and a hiking store to get Susan some shoes, so we drove home.
7/28/2013   Lingmoor Crag  
Lingmoor ridge on left
Rain began overnight and persisted until late morning. Susan wanted to go to church so I drove her over so she wouldn't have to walk too far on her sore ankle. The plan was that I would pick her up after a while, or when the church bells started ringing, or when she called, but no bells rang and no calls came. When Daniel and I drove by an hour and a half later, no-one was around. I tried calling but the phone had no signal. Later it occurred to me that I should have sent Daniel in to look. Instead we went on down to Wainwrights to get online and check the hotel booking for France and try to book a place for Portsmouth, the night before the QM2. I dislike researching and booking hotels in the best of circumstances and I guess I made that pretty obvious because as we were leaving the pub, Daniel said "That wasn't so bad, was it." To my relief, Susan was back home when we returned.
The weather cleared to cumulus in a bright blue sky and I wanted to get out for a hike but lunch, and the beer down at the pub, put me to sleep instead. Daniel and David went out to the old quarry workings above our place to build a cairn. By the time Daniel returned, I was awake again, and Susan was fine with our plans to go for a hike and meet everyone for dinner at the Stickle Barn up by Dungeon Ghyll, so we went.
We set out across the bridge by the Wainwright Inn. Great Langdale Beck was much higher than two days ago due to the rain last night but the water was still flowing clear. We met a troupe of hikers, all shod in sturdy hiking boots, descending the hill above the quarry. Turning off the Little Langdale trail 1.1 miles from the Wainwright, we ascended through bracken and meadows to the crest of the Langmuir ridge and left most of the hikers behind. Lake District hiking in general offers big rewards for little effort but the Langmuir ridge was even better than most. Soft grass meadows dotted with gray crags rolled over the top of the ridge. Green pastures and fields stitched together with drystone walls stretched across valley floors on either side of us. A particularly impressive wall snaked right along the crest of the ridge, dipping down across hollows and climbing over crags.
Amateur geololgist
Lingmoor wall
Hiking Lingmoor Fell
While we were stopped for photos a rather stout woman in brown striped pants and a white collared shirt with a purple knapsack overtook us. Somehow we got to discussing the local geology. Having read geologic maps of the area she told me that they showed numerous andesite sills and dikes, but that she wasn't sure how to tell the difference between the andesite and the slate. We'd been on slate, I told her, when we first gained the ridge but were now in andesite, and I broke off a piece to show her the fine-grained blue-gray crystalline rock. She'd read that Scafell Pike and the Crinkle Crags formed part of an old caldera and wondered what was the difference between a crater and a caldera, and whether the valley between the two peaks was a remnant of the caldera. We'd come to the trail where she would be heading back down to the valley so we sat on a crag in the sun while I gave her a little geology lesson, shouting a bit to be heard over the blustery wind. We probably talked for fifteen minutes or so while Daniel disappeared on ahead.
The old wall
Heathery crag
Clouds over Crinkle Crags
As I resumed hiking towards the west end of the ridge the terrain became more rugged and the wall broke down, replaced by a wire fence. The trail scrambled down over crag faces and cut crooked furrows through pink-flowered heather, descending stepwise to the green saddle above Side Pike and the pass beyond it while glowing patches of sunlight played across the blue slopes of the high hills ahead of us. Not finding Daniel, I started running the easy sections, though somewhat clumsily due to the chest case containing the long lens (which I never used) and the camera I carried in one hand. I had no idea how far ahead he'd gotten until I stopped to take in a particularly good view
and he ran up breathless behind me. He'd gone part way down the side of the ridge to check out a strip of forest, then had been hard-pressed to catch up.
We reached the road over the pass an hour before we were due at the Stickle Barn so I suggested we try to reach Red Tarn, on the far side of the rather high ridge which continued west of the pass. I allowed 30 minutes which got us well up towards the summit but only half way to our goal. We hiked hard up smooth slopes of short grass and moss, soft underfoot though the hollows were a bit damp. From the crest of the ridge we had twenty minutes to cover what proved to be 2 1/2 miles back down to Dungeon Ghyll and the Stickle Barn. Hurrying down steep grass slopes to the trail, I slipped twice and fell hard both times, fortunately on grass (mostly) rather than on rock. I banged the side of my knee hard enough to draw blood and wrenched my shoulder but both hurt only briefly. We jogged and ran down the stepping stones of the trail, then on down the narrow road into the valley, then walked and jogged the last 3/4 mile to the Stickle Barn arriving all sticky and hot and chilled at once, thirsty for water and beer and ready for dinner. We both had fish and chips and agreed that last night's poached salmon was much better.
Sun on the fells
Cobblestone footpath
The road down
7/29/2013   Tilberthwaite  
After a leisurely morning journal-writing we got out after lunch. Daniel and David went with Mom and John on a walk from Elterwater but apparently they didn't find the path Mom wanted to find. I did a run which turned out to have some hiking and bushwhacking in the middle thanks to a shortcut which didn't work out as planned. I consistently underestimate the distance and difficulty of runs in these hills.
Wilson Place and High Fells Quarry
High Tilberthwaite
I jogged down past Wainwright's, across Great Langdale Beck swollen but clear and up through the quarry and the oak wood beyond, over the hill and out into the meadows towards Little Langdale then down past Wilson Place Farm with its perennial flower garden glowing in a moment of sunshine and attended by a small knot of hikers with cameras. A quick shower blew off Weatherlam and chased all the hikers to shelter under nearby trees.
I found the road up towards High Tilberthwaite, the next valley south of Little Langdale and separated from it by a lower ridge running northeast from Weatherlam. My plan was to run just beyond High Tilberthwaite to Low Tilberthwaite, then follow a trail north over the ridge past Great Intake and down to the Greenburn Beck above Little Langdale Tarn. Unfortunately my intended route was longer and higher than it looked. I had a time window of just under two hours before I was due back at the Britannia in Elterwater to pick up Mom and John after their hike. An hour into my run I'd only just reached the old farm at High Tilberthwaite so I decided to try a more direct route via the High Fell Quarry. At the end of a steep gravel road I found the quarry, but no trails from there down through the heathery cliffs and sedge marshes. No footpaths that is, but there were sheep trails. I found one down along a stone wall then over a ridge and along the rim of 50' vertical drop into a quarry adit. I avoided the pit but not the soggy pasture between the foot of the cliffs and the footpath. On the way home I waded in every little brook and stream across the path, hoping to rinse the rankness out of my running shoes.
Little Langdale and Lingmoor Fell
Slater Bridge
Little Langdale Tarn
I made it back to the Britannia just 8 minutes late, and returned an hour later for dinner inside the Inn's stout walls. Doorways barely six feet tall, blackened hand-hewn beams across the plastered ceilings, overcooked photos of local scenes on the walls - the place had atmosphere. Apparently the inn dates back 200 years but it was a farmhouse for several centuries before that. The food, including multiple vegetarian entrees, was very good.
7/30/2013   Scafell Pike  
Midday at Stool End, Langdale Pikes above
Rain moving in late from the west
Start early we did not but the hike turned out to be shorter (only 14 miles, 5200') than I anticipated so it worked out OK. David decided not to do join Daniel and me, concerned that his knee isn't yet fully recovered from the ITB irritation that flared up on their back-to-back big days on the Camino five weeks ago, He walked with Susan and M&J from the Langdale camping area up to Blea Tarn and back instead. They dropped us off at the foot of the hill by the old stone barn around 11AM so we walked back to the trailhead by the turn to Old Dungeon Ghyll.
We picked the best day of the week for weather, one of the few days that Scafell Pike was not shrouded in clouds. The air was clear, the sky bright blue above the cumulus drifting over from the Irish Sea. Despite hot dry conditions before our visit the open hillsides are very green, especially the bracken on the lower slopes. Valley pastures and fell meadows are tinged with straw and gold, and the summit crags with gray. Brown heather caps some of the lower ridges with a wash of floral pink visible through binoculars.
Cobblestone trail up the ridge
Ascending Bowfell Pike
Deformed sediments
We followed a gravel lane across the valley to the whitewashed house and gray stone barns at Stool End, the last farm at the head of Great Langdale from which a well-built trail ascends a long ridge to the saddle between Crinkle Crags and Bowfell Pike. A couple shallow tarns sit right on the saddle with views out to the sea. We ate lunch there before scrambling over talus, ledges and short-cropped lawns to the summit of Bowfell Pike. The rock appeared sedimentary with obvious bedding planes consisting of thin layers of sediment warped and twisted into each other, the texture accentuated by weathering. In some places the surface is scalloped by thin-walled concretions split like old rubber balls. As we continued west across the fells towards Scafell we crossed into volcanics, possibly welded tuff with elongated gas cavities indicating the original orientation of the flow. From any distance it all looks the same, rough and gray.
These mountains date back I think to the Devonian which makes them some 200 million years old. Daniel and I calculated that if these old mountains have been eroding at the rate of 1/10" every 100 years, back then they would have been like today's Himalayas, thrust up 20,000' and more by the collision of continents. Who knows what beasts have traversed them over the years, but today we found families chatting with quaint (to our ears) British accents, high-school students with backpacks who asked us for directions despite the maps hanging around their necks, single women of indeterminate age trekking miles from the nearest trailhead, determined old men descending gingerly on creaky knees, and the ubiquitous gray and white sheep who've owned these mountains for the past five centuries.
Scafell Pike from Bowfell Pike
Scafell Pike from Scafell
Scafell Pike
From Scafell, with views over to Great Gable, down to Skyfell Tarn and north to Derwent Water and Keswick, we dropped down into a saddle then up a well-worn edge to the top of England, a rubbly summit crowned by a round stone platform four feet high and almost twenty feet across. Without the crown, Scafell Pike would be rather undistinguished though the views command attention - west to the blue Irish sea, south to Coniston and the end of the hills, north down U-shaped valleys to distant farms and patchwork pastures divided by drystone walls, all the way to Keswick and beyond. The only place we couldn't see was where we started, the Langdale valleys above Ambleside being hidden behind Bowfell Pike and Crinkle Crags
Meadows above Angle Tarn
Third lunch, Pike of Stickle center
Valley of Mickleden and our ascent ridge
We ate a second lunch on Scafell Pike with lots of company before crossing back to Scafell and down a long grade to Angle Tarn, where we decided we had time to swing by the Pike of Stickle before descending the Dungeon Ghyll meet the family for supper at the Stickle Barn again. Good choice of route. We walked along the grassy headwall above Mickelden and stopped for a third lunch above the Black Crags overlooking the odd hummocky terrain of the Langdale Combe, a field of gravel mounds 5-10' high and 20-40' across. We speculated that they might be composed of alluvium accumulated in glacial meltwater pockets, a bit like giant suncups, then deposited in piles when the ice melted away.
Langdale Combe
Stream crossing
Tarn on Stake Pass
We were glad for the trail, and recent trail work, crossing the boggy fields of Stake Pass and Martcrag Moor on the way over to Pike of Stickle. That pike is a dramatic dome from which the rugose buttresses of the Langdale Pikes look a bit like great elephant heads. Somewhere I read that 40% of stone age axes found in Britain were quarried from the stone of Pike of Stickle, so we searched for something suitable and found a fine-grained greenish chert, or more likely rhyolite, which might have been the right stuff, from which we chipped off a few souvenirs before racing down the cobblestoned path along Dungeon Ghyll to beat the approaching rain.
Langdale Pikes
Pike of Stickle
Supper in the Stickle Barn
We reached the New Dungeon Ghyll Inn eight hours after we set out and only 15 minutes late for supper. Chased from the outdoor deck and views by the rain, we ate inside, peering out through wedge-shaped slits in the whitewashed stone walls as if from the ramparts of a medieval castle. Castle-windows must have been in style 400 years ago. Despite our three lunches on the trail including an entire 150gm bar of cooking chocolate, Daniel and I were famished, but even better than the food was the water, then the beer. I don't trust the water in the mountains here - it's basically sheep manure tea. I figure we hiked about about 14 miles and 5200', not bad for a late start.
7/31/2013   Weatherlam  
Kissing Gate and lane to Little Langdale
Farm below Weatherlam
Hikers hut
Greenburn mine ruins
Sundew and Cinquefoil
Sheep and boulders
Good long loop today, our last full day here - 15 miles and 4100' up and down. The rain held off until mid-afternoon. I set out on a short run but had no need to be back by a particular time so I just kept going, up past Little Langdale to the old mine along Greenburn Beck, then up over Weatherlam, then along the ridge to Shire Pike, then up a steep step to Great Carr and along the headwall to Little Carr then down a long meadowed slope to Wrynose pass, across the one-lane paved road crowded with vans and up the trail to Red Tarn and on up over Pike of Blisco before the long slog down to the valley and along the lanes by Langdale Beck and Oak House to home again. From Red Tarn I considered doing the higher Crinkle Crags, the only high peaks around the valley which we haven't been up, but correctly concluded that I didn't have sufficient strength (and I was out of gels and water).
Me on Weatherlam
Great and Little Carrs
Plane crash memorial
I ended up doing about 6 miles of valley trail running (briefly obstructed by a shaggy brown bull and his shaggy brown cows with very long curved horns) and 5 miles of fell running, across broad ridgetop meadows and somewhat rocky trails (briefly obstructed by two very friendly and chatty pigs), and about 4 miles of uphill hiking and scrambling on moss, ledges and talus (obstructed only by my limited aerobic capacity). I wore my Maniac T-shirt but the hikers I met took it in stride; they're used to eccentricity.
Shaggy brown cow
Pig 1 scratching belly on rock
Pig 2, the friendly one
I only really talked to one, a former RAF reservist who was laying a plastic wreath on a cairn constructed partly of stones and partly of the twisted melted landing gear of an airplane. A bronze plaque on the cairn lists the names of the 8 RAF airmen killed in the 1944 crash. Though showing his respects to fellow soldiers, he and I talked more about hiking the fells and the 1-mile open water swim he did on nearby Lake Windermere last month "one of those bucket-list sorts of things - do it while I still can". My sentiments exactly.
8/02/2013   Crowley  
The Fox and Hounds
Our rooms
The pub
Needing a place near Portsmouth so we wouldn't have to far to drive in the morning, I searched on TripAdvisor and found the Fox and Hounds in Crowley, just outside of Winchester and less than an hour from Portsmouth. It was a good choice. Comfortable rooms off the street in a picturesque village, delicious dinner in a cozy dining room dark with the patina of age and comforting hint of wood smoke, hedge-bound footpaths through wheat and mustard fields just outside of town. In the morning after my run I partook of my first full English Breakfast of the trip - scrambled eggs, streaky bacon, 2 kinds of sausage, broiled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, wheat toast, coffee and orange juice. Not enough fiber to fill a thimble but very tasty nonetheless.
Entrance to the Fox and Hounds car park
Thatched manor 1
Thatched manor 2
The local bedrock is white chalk with inclusions of chert. The chert grows in lumpy rounded nodules with irregular protrusions, misshapen bones whitish on the outside, as if weathered, and dark translucent gray, almost black, inside. Locals have for centuries plastered the broken nodules as decorative interlays in their exterior brick walls. Presumably they've used the chalk in local schools; it lays down a smooth white line just like the real thing. I couldn't resist packing a sample of each back from my run, though I left behind the stoutly statuesque four-pound chunk of chert I really wanted to bring home.
After breakfast David and I wandered through the village marvelling at the thatched roofs, then we all took a short walk up the road and down a footpath a short distance into the countryside before returning to pack up and head for the ferry.
Despite my advance anxiety about them, all our connections worked as planned. I drove to Portsmouth, found the ferry terminal and dropped everyone off, then took John with me back to the Southampton airport and dropped off the car. Though I'd forgotten the name of the taxi company I'd called the night before, and barely understood over the phone where it was that he wanted to meet us, somehow we ended up being there when he showed up. He drove us back to the ferry terminal with 15 minutes to spare. We checked in, herded our baggage over to the end of the long queue of French high school students boarding the ferry for home, climbed onto the shuttle bus, hiked up a long ramp onto the ferry and fit everything into our cabin bound for France, where I took a nap. For supper we ate cafeteria-style supplemented with Guiness (a dry stout) and wine. We saw Gannets, gulls and terns, and perhaps a few shearwaters, on both sides of the Channel but I didn't bother to go out and take any photos. Too much going on I guess. In Ouistreham our hotel really was just across the street from the terminal, as advertised. The rooms were tight, typical of French hotels, but comfortable and we were in France. Mission accomplished.
8/03/2013   Caen  
The continental breakfast at the Ibis Styles Ouistreham extends the concept way beyond coffee and croissants. We ate well. Towards checkout time I walked over to the information desk at the ferry terminal and inquired where to catch the bus. She explained clearly in English but when John and I went looking, we couldn't find the bus stop. Back at the hotel, I checked google maps and saw that we hadn't walked quite far enough. Susan and I caught the next bus into the Gare SNCF in Caen and walked over to the Hertz office arriving just in time before they closed for the 12-2PM lunch break which is apparently universal in France. Even the parking meters don't charge between 12 and 2. Back at the hotel, we managed to squeeze the six of us and our baggage into the Chevrolet Captiva van. Tight fit to be sure; we had a few bags in laps but didn't have far to drive. We took the scenic route though, west along the shore until we found a seafood restaurant for lunch. Ordering was a challenge (and didn't get any easier with practice) but we all, even David, got enough to eat. John and Daniel split an order of oysters and I got most of them when Daniel discovered he didn't like raw oysters as much as he thought he did. I liked them better than I thought I did, especially with the onion and wine vinegar dipping sauce provided with them.
We took back roads into Caen, wandering down tight lanes traversing fields and weaving through petites villages of earth-toned stone walls, houses and outbuildings. The stone is gray limestone, the mortar a chalky orange, so the effect is that the buildings and the earth they sit on is all of one. Outside of town the shrubs and trees are the same as in England - beech, maple, ash, hawthorne - and the crops mostly wheat and corn. After a while we began to wonder where the apple trees were, Normandy being famous for apple products - Chausson aux pommes, Cidre, Calvados. It wasn't until our last day, when I inquired of our taxi driver (in French) on the way back to the ferry, that we learned that the apple orchards are elsewhere, down by Alenon and up in La Manche on the Cotentin peninsula.
Daniel booked the hotel in Caen, and it happened to be the hotel associated with the one restaurant I wanted to visit in that city - Archi Dona.
8/08/2013   Southampton  
The first thing I noticed upon opening the window this morning was the noise, nonspecific inarticulate noise. The Ibis Portsmouth Centre is downtown somewhere; we took a taxi there from the ferry terminal after dark so I didn't see where. I couldn't see many cars on the broad streets below but there must have been traffic somewhere nearby. The buildings nearby were featureless boxes of apartments; shops if any on the ground floor were still closed and the sidewalks were empty. Welcome to our last morning in England.
It was a busy morning of shuttling between our three rooms to coordinate breakfast time and travel plans. The boys were going to London either on the bus or the train; Daniel settled on the bus for 22 each; the train was 29 after 9AM, 38 before, and our Turkish taxi driver yesterday evening offered to drive them to London for 80. Neither debit nor credit cards worked to purchase the bus tickets online so they postponed their departure to allow time to buy tickets locally. John wanted the taxi to pick us up by 10:45 but he wasn't available until 11:30 and didn't arrive until 11:38. "No matter," he said, "you'll be there by 12:15" and we were. I didn't catch his name but he's the same guy we used last week to get to the ferry terminal after returning our rental car at the Southampton airport, the owner of his company MTS Cars, email and phone 02380 465824. He knew the traffic patterns and travel times and which ships were at which docks today and which back roads to take to get there. Perhaps they all know that stuff but I was impressed. He lives in Southampton but vacations in Florida and New York City, and occasionally Las Vegas.
Breakfast felt corporate. It had most of the components of a full English breakfast (excepting black pudding, which is tough to find) but the scrambled eggs tasted more powdered than ususal and the fried potatoes were preformed triangular biscuits. Bacon and sausage seemed pretty authentic though, and the fruit salad was fresh.
Boarding the QM2 was quick. We followed M&J through the priority Diamond line and were aboard within 15 minutes or so, our bags following soon after. Our cabins this time are on deck 11 on the port side near the stern so close to the swimming pool. We ate lunch in the King's Court buffet area and it was all good. I started running about the time the ship began to edge sideways away from the dock and ran until we were well out of the harbor. Susan walked some and together at one point we met Florian and Czara, a young couple we'd noticed the day before on the ferry from France because he had such long hair and she looked so cute and French and they herding between them several large packs and bags. It turns out he's French; she's from Albuquerque, which is where they're headed from New York. They'll be there for six months or more while she finishes a degree in art and he looks for work as a 3-D animator. Eventually they'd like to settle on the west coast somewhere. He runs, and was interested in perhaps running the Tunnel Lite.
8/09/2013   QM2 day 1  
We passed the southeasternmost point of England this morning around 7:30, a tower - probably a stone lighthouse - out beyond a series of bumps on the horizon with apparent headlands behind them, around 7:30. Soon afterwards we altered course slightly to the north of west to follow a great circle route across the North Atlantic. Based on the chart, it appears that we'll reach the edge of the continental shelf around 5PM this afternoon. The water temperature is about 72F, air temperature about 66F, sky partly cloudy with STCU and ALCU. Colors on the water are deep blue, steel blue, steel gray, gray-brown and gleaming gold depending on the position of the clouds and sun. A discernible swell rolls in from the west but more evident on the surface is a wind chop from the NW with scattered whitecaps and a small swell from the SW. As the day ages and we progress westward the wind dies back to 10 knots or so and a low NW swell develops with a period long enough to give the ship a slight up and down motion and a bit of roll.
I first noticed the motion of the deck around 1PM during my run. Each lap around deck 7, forward on one side of the ship and back on the other, upwind on the starboard side and downwind on port, covers .37 miles. It's a bit of an obstacle course dodging and passing other pedestrians, particularly as more passengers finished lunch and turned out for a stroll. That's perhaps not a bad thing; the twisting and turning helps compensate for the determined flatness of the teak deck. I ran 18 laps for 6.6 miles, taking a one minute walk break and changing directions every two miles. Towards the end my legs began to feel pretty heavy. Until yesterday I hadn't run in a week due to a chest cold I caught from David as we left the Lake District for France. Lingering cough or no, I'm hoping to run daily on the ship, an effort to burn some of the excess calories I'm expecting to ingest.
We're in the late seating for dinner which means we don't actually start eating until around 9PM. Last night either our waiter was slow or we were slow because we didn't finish until almost 11PM. We weren't the last ones out but close to it. The food was very good. I had a duck spring roll and gazpacho for appetizers, a spinach, feta and mushroom tortilla with red Thai sauce for an entree and something sweet for dessert, I forget what. I was falling asleep by the time we got back to our cabin but then lay half awake in bed for some time then didn't sleep well after that. Susan didn't either; she had the light on several times during the night. This morning I didn't make it half an hour after breakfast before I fell asleep again for an hour-long nap.
Susan and I ate lunch together in the buffet area (I had tomato salad, grilled Plaice in shrimp sauce, cauliflower in Mornay sauce, whiskey-barbecued short ribs, steamed peas, beans and carrots, three desserts.) then found our way to the theatre on deck 3 for a classical piano recital. The pianist, Hiro Takenouchi, talked about each piece before he played it. The main course, as he put it, was the Beethoven C-minor sonata named the "Pathetique". Unfortunately I was irresistibly sleepy by that point and heard only a few measures at the beginning and end, though at least the high-backed seats were comfortable for napping. I was still groggy for the following lecture about Queen Victoria's prolonged and excessive grief over the death of her husband Prince Albert. She loved him perhaps too well and depended on him too much, so when he died she wore mourning for the remaining 40 years of her reign. Her behavior cost her the goodwill of her people and might even have threatened the monarchy had not she finally come out of it enough to apparently make some amends.
Back in the cabin, I was out on the balcony talking with John next door about plans for meeting Sarah in Boston when we spotted whales spouting about a quarter mile from the ship. There were half a dozen of them, a short wide spray followed by a long smooth blue-gray back, then a rather upright but back-curved dorsal fin followed by more steel-gray back. We never saw head or tail though we did spot one just 50' or so from the ship; it appeared to be at least 30' long, medium bluish gray on the back and perhaps a bit paler on the sides. I think they might have been Bue Whales. The several stocky white birds soaring on stiff wings nearby were Fulmars, which along with Gannets are the only species I've noticed all day.
8/10/2013   QM2 day 2  
Slept better last night though my foot was still slightly sore in the morning. I developed a sore spot on top of my right foot about 2" in front of my outside ankle bone yesterday afternoon sometime after running. It hurt mildly, just noticeably, all late afternoon and evening. Seems to be soft tissue, possibly a bruise though I don't recall bumping anything. Anyhow, maybe I won't run today.
I ran anyway, just 3 miles with a walk break each lap, and walked another 1.5 miles or so. I didn't see any birds while I was out, but later in the afternoon walking with Susan after a late buffet lunch I spotted a couple of dark shearwaters. Probably Great Shearwaters, since over the next hour we saw 25 more, along with a half dozen Fulmars, two groups of porpoises and a small group of whales. The water has cooled down considerably, to 59F, the air not as much, to 64F. At noon our position was in the neighborhood of 50 30`, 20 30` and our bearing 270.
Susan signed up for a 3-day pass to the AquaTherapy center and spent a happy afternoon in the current pool and aromatherapy steam room. M&J attended talks on the Arab Spring uprisings and the prospects for Egypt. Susan found a cheese bar in the King's Court buffet and brought me up a plate with Brie, Cheddar, a soft ripened goat cheese, an orange Irish blue and another semi-soft variety along with a couple whole-grain rolls. I bought an Old Thumper beer down in the Golden Lion pub and brought it back up to our room to enjoy beer and cheese before dinner. Thanks to a long afternoon nap I was reasonably awake at dinner too, but ate more than I'd intended too and went to bed overfull again.
8/11/2013   QM2 day 3  
Mola Mola (~6' long)
Arcctic Tern
Woke up early this morning to gray STCU over dark blue-gray water. The wind shifted around to the ENE overnight, almost a tailwind so the decks aren't as windy as the past two days. The ride isn't quite as smooth though, thanks mostly to a long-period swell from the north, along with a shorter swell from the southeast. The gentle rocking overnight was comforting in a way, as if the mother ship were breathing slowly in and out.
From our balcony I spotted a Fulmar and a Great Shearwater up by the bow so I took my camera and went down to see if I could get some photos from the open deck 7, closer to the water than our 11th deck room. I counted birds for about an hour and came up with 14 Fulmars, 9 Great Shearwaters, an Arctic Tern and two other birds fying over, possibly more terns but seemed smaller, like largish shorebirds, with rather high-pitched shorebird-like "jeerrr" calls. I heard them but unfortunately didn't spot them in time to get photos or a decent view. No whales, but we did pass right by an Ocean Sunfish and fairly close to a small pod of porpoises.
After an hour out on deck I was well chilled so fumbled my way through breakfast barely able to hold my silverware. Two old guys, older than me anyhow, got into an argument at the drinks counter because one was offended that the other was steeping his tea at the counter instead of at his table. He was a bit in the way but not worth arguing over. Susan theorized that perhaps when men lose their purpose in life, they become irritable like that, and make life miserable for their wives as a result. We ate lunch w/ M&J in the Britannia Grill (tomato-mozzarella salad w/ balsamic dressing, trout in lemon butter sauce, apple tart in Calvados sauce) and visited with an English couple living in Dubai where he's been doing contract technical work, database-related, for Shell Oil and she is a fashion designer. They told us about their experiences adapting to local customs, or in some cases (such as the prohibition on drinking in public) working around them. Later we were stopped for coffee and tea in the King's Court buffet when Florian and Czara walked by. M&J left after a while but we ended up talking with Florian and Czara for an hour or two. Czara's family is Kuwaiti but she speaks English fluently. Florian's English is not as good but we were able to cover quite a few subjects from running to the objectivity of the news to picking up technical skills through online courses.
The wind shifted around to the SSE and rather quickly seemed to flatten the northerly swell. The sky stayed cloudy, the water dark and brooding. We passed scattered Fulmars and an occasional Great Shearwater all day long, but no more cetaceans. I didn't get out for a run and was very tired in the evening so we ate an undistinguished supper early in the King's Court buffet after cheese and beer/wine with M&J.
8/12/2013   QM2 day 4  
Long run today but not quite a marathon. I birdwatched from the starboard corner of the bow at 7AM for 20 minutes as we moved into fog, wind SE at 20 knots, temperature about 60F (water 49F) and saw 4 Fulmars, 2 Great Shearwaters and 3 Leach's Storm-petrels. After breakfast alone I dressed for running and started about 8:15. The headwind plus our motion made for a blustery wind of close to 50mph in places, a real boost running down the port deck but challenging at times running back up the starboard side. By 11:00 I'd completed 36 laps for 13.2 miles, half way to a marathon, when I ran into another birder at my morning spot on the starboard bow. We'd gotten into a bunch of birds - mostly Great Shearwaters but he picked out a Great Skua which I hadn't seen yet and I pointed out a couple of Leach's Storm-petrels which he hadn't spotted yet.
I decided it was time for a birding break so ran upstairs, showered and dressed and reported back down for duty. We accumulated a pretty good list over the next hour or so (1140 for 80 minutes, position at noon 47.40, 47.27, bearing 248, distance covered about 30 miles, temp 62F, sea temp 49F, wind SW 21 knots, sky mostly clear w/ haze and some thin fog):
Fulmar 35 Individuals and loose groups, mostly early in count period. Many molting inner primaries. Great Shearwater 140 Solitary and in groups of up to 50, some in molt. None were Cory's. Sooty Shearwater 4 Solitary or with Great Shearwaters, all dark w/ silvery wing linings. Leach's Storm-petrel 12 Individuals, but often seen in loose pairs. Shallow fork in tail, "V" pattern on back, white rump, erratic flight. Great Skua 2 Large, bulky and dark brown with paler highlights on back and white base to primaries. Common Murre 1 Unexpected, photographed.
Greater Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater
Leach's Storm-petrel
Great Skua
Common Murre
Humpback Whale

Lunch was delicious, my excuse for eating too much of it. Baked salmon, stuffed tomatoes, steamed broccoli and summer squash, Savoy cabbage in butter sauce, roasted potatoes, coffee and hot chocolate both in an attempt to warm up after standing outside in the wind. My hands were so weak from the cold that I could barely hold my silverware. Nonetheless after lunch I went back out for a while but birds were few so I came in for the second piano recital by Hiro Takenouchi, an all Chopin program this time. The finale, the Scherzo #2 in B-flat major I think, was so stirring that I decided to go back out running again to see if I could complete the second half of my marathon. A brief nap earlier in the program helped too.
I ran about 8, including a series of sprints trying to keep up with a very tall young woman who ran by me with a bounding stride, kicking her heels up high and doing a little extra leap every few steps, as if just for the fun of it. We never acknowledged each other but I chased her around for several laps, catching her only when she took walk breaks. I enjoyed the fartlek but after six miles it caught up to me. Lunch began to feel very heavy, particularly after I drank a couple glasses of cranberry-orange juice. I made it a couple more miles then walked a lap or two before coming across the French couple who sits at the table next to us at dinner.
Michel and Sandrina live in a village of about 500 people near Toulouse in southern France where they've owned a restaurant for 22 years. He's the chef while she's out front. They serve about 100 people a day for lunch and up to 200 for dinner. Their prix fixe lunch menu includes entree, plat and dessert for 12 and change; dinner includes fromage as well for 18-25. Michel didn't know much English but Sandrina spoke it fairly well thanks to her experience as an au-pair in Ireland some years ago. I mentioned our marathon and Sandrina told me about a marathon in Albie, quite close to where they live, in April. It's about 400km from San Sebastian where Daniel will be next spring, but it might work out. We chatted in English and French for two or three laps before I had to head in to warm up in a hot shower.
Susan had arranged to get together with a couple she met at the laundry down on floor 10, Mike and Karen. We sat in the Golden Lion and talked about running and San Francisco where they currently live. I drank a pint of Old Speckled Hen, a decent amber ale. From the Golden Lion we went directly to a champagne social with the Captain and other officers for Diamond, Platinum and Gold customers. We don't qualify but M&J do, and offered us their pass. There we met Janet, another of Susan's laundry contacts, and sat with her at a table reserved for Donna someone, the #3 top Cunard cruise days customer on board. Donna, who'd spent a total of over 1200 days on board according to the Cunard rep's announcement, didn't appear to be concerned that we were sitting at her table. Janet owns a block of flats on the London Marathon course and offered us lodging if I wanted to come run the marathon.
At dinner I talked more with Michel and Sandrina, quite a bit in French which was fun though I had great difficulty understanding them and kept having to ask Sandrina to translate. They had the lamb (much more popular in France than in the USA they observed) as did Mom and John. Susan and I had vegetarian entrees which were both delicious.
8/13/2013   QM2 day 5  
The sea warmed to 68F overnight and the air temperature was in the low 70's by the time we got up around 8AM. Sunny morning, the horizon sharp as a blade between dark blue sea and pale blue sky. No swell to speak of, just light wind waves maybe 1-2' from a 10-15 knot SW breeze. No birds either, morning or afternoon. Bits of brown seaweed floating in the deep blue water As I often do after a long run, I had a slow day. I hand-washed my running clothes, ate a large breakfast with Susan, felt all morning like taking a nap but never got around to it, edited some photos from yesterday, ran three miles with a few sprints but more walking and ate a late lunch in the buffet while Susan, having already eaten a sit-down lunch with M&J in the Britannia Grill, prepared for a massage session at the Spa.
Feeling anxious today that we only have one day left on the boat and I haven't done any work on the Tunnel Lite Marathon, nor have I completed the journal entries I'd hoped to do for Normandy.
8/14/2013   QM2 day 6  
Finally worked through some of the Tunnel Lite marathon emails today, processed some refunds. We ate lunch with M&J in the Brittany Grill. I ran for half an hour, more fartlek. Almost no birds; sometime in the afternoon I photographed my first Cory's Shearwater of the voyage but that was about it. I also saw a small group of the black whales earlier in the day and got a few photos of them. They seemed larger than the black whales I saw two days ago with the whale-watching guy and his son during my afternoon run. There were several groups of those whales with up to a dozen in one group, and they seemed quite small, black or dark gray above, with strongly back-swept dorsal fins. Unfortunately since that was during my run I didn't get any photos.
Minke? Whale
Cory's Shearwater
Susan arranged a busy social schedule for us in the evening. We met Janet and her granddaughter Claudia in the Golden Lion before dinner. I talked mostly with Claudia since I couldn't hear Janet and Susan, sitting across the table from me, over the piano player. After dinner we went back down to the Golden Lion for after-dinner drinks w/ Mike and Karen. We shared stories, about our kids, how we met, and such, a pleasant time.
8/15/2013   QM2 disembark  
Slept little, awoke early to the roar of a helicopter hovering alongside, shining a spotlight down on the water ahead of our police zodiac escort. Soon after we steamed past the illuminated green Statue of Liberty, while the sky began to glow orange behind the silhouetted buildings of lower Manhattan.
After one last and not quite full English breakfast we returned to the room to wrap up packing, and self-disembarked a few minutes behind M&J. We were off the ship by 7:30 and en route to Boston by 8:15. M&J had left the rear driver's side window open a crack so the car wouldn't get too hot in the sun, but the crack also allowed the rain in so the floor behind the driver's seat was awash in a half inch of water. I bailed with a broken plastic water bottle most of the way out of the city, and we finished drying the car out in the summer sunshine in Jackson.
King's Court breakfast buffet
Final packing
Elevator Lobby, 11th Floor Stairway C
The boys arrived from Madrid as planned; we picked them up in our rental car around 4PM but with traffic out of Boston and Portsmouth, didn't meet the rest of the family at the remodeled and very popular Red Fox until 7:45PM. Long day.
8/16/2013   Huntington's Ravine  
Birches on talus
Me on ledges
Daniel below the headwall
Daniel and I did a quick loop hike up Huntington's Ravine and down Lion's Head this afternoon. Traveling light, we made it to the rim of Huntington's in two hours and back in another two, sprinting down the fire trail leaping from boulder to boulder as we passed other hikers then pausing to gasp for breath once they were out of sight. That was fun, if a little risky. Great workout for the feet and lower legs though I might be sore tomorrow.
Scrambling break
Metamorphosed ripple marks
It was a beautiful day for a hike, clear and cool with a light breeze. I carried binoculars but didn't use them much; we saw a few chickadees and a Magnolia Warbler pursued by hungry offspring. Above timberline in the Alpine Garden we found bluebells blooming just as they were in the Lakes District on the other side of the Atlantic two weeks ago.
Daniel in the Alpine Garden
Me in the Alpine Garden
Daniel on Lion's Head
8/17/2013   Cathedral Ledge  
Like yesterday we were slow getting going this morning. I worked some more on Tunnel Lite Marathon stuff - assembling the runner and volunteer lists, answering refund requests and other emails - trying to get as much done as possible before we get home and things really get busy. Mornings have been cold so we've been eating breakfast indoors but this afternoon was perfect for an outing. I
View North from Cathedral Ledge
Family photo w/ Kearsarge Mt
Daniel posing
wasn't very motivated to get out so Daniel proposed a family outing to Cathedral Ledge near North Conway. We would take two cars so after the short walk to the ledges, Daniel and I would run down while Susan and David drove home.
As Daniel had promised, the views from Cathedral Ledge were impressive. Despite growing up in the area I don't think I'd ever seen them before. David and I photographed Daniel doing his yoga pose then we all chatted with a couple of 16-year-old girls sitting nearby. They'd been attending a climbing academy so Daniel and David asked them about it. On the way down Daniel and I ran up neighboring Whitehorse Ledge. We didn't find any views down the steeply angled face where the horse supposedly can be seen but we did find smooth ledges to run on and a cliff at the south end offering nice views along the foot of Moat Mountain and down the valley towards Conway. Nice trail running in pine woods too but my lower legs were sore from yesterday.
Consuming crustaceans
Not consuming crustaceans
We had a big birthday dinner of lobster, clams, corn and blueberry pie out on the porch while the light faded from the evening sky. Susan and David found the crustacean consumption unappealing so ate veggie burgers at the other end of the porch. I filled up on hors d'oeuvres and clams then couldn't finish my lobster, particularly since Daniel gave me half of his too. I've had lobster rolls a few times in the past several years but haven't eaten a whole lobster since pre-Adventist days. Not quite as much fun as I remembered.
A family of Wild Turkeys foraged around the house most of the afternoon the day before yesterday. Near sunset we saw them for the third time as they crossed the field and the road to head up into the woods above Proctor's and I finally got out my camera for a few photos. Yesterday afternoon Susan looked out the window and a Black Bear was standing on its hind legs peering into the open window of the pickup truck in the driveway. It got down and ambled off when Eric drove in, but a few minutes later Daniel watched it cross into the apple orchard just 30 feet from where he was standing. He called me and we followed it down into the woods but I got only one blurred photo as it crossed the brook. That was our third bear sighting in five days - the first down by Stonehurst Manor along Rte 16 north of North Conway, the second just a tenth of a mile towards the village from the end of Wilson Road here in Jackson.
Hiked Sugarloaf over by Bretton Woods with Daniel, David, Susan and Mom today. Nice day, a bit hazy. Washington and the higher summits were in the clouds when we passed the Mt Washington Hotel but clear by the time we reached the ledges on Sugarloaf. Mom matched the AMC guidebook time for the hike up, 1:10. She used poles and had very little difficulty with the ascent but tripped on a root on the flat part of the trail along the ridge and fell. She hit her forehead and split the skin, a rather deep inch-long laceration which bled profusely. Fortunately she had no symptoms of concussion, no dizziness, faintness or weakness. I didn't have my hiking stuff with me so we had no gauze bandages. Susan had some Kleenex which we applied as a compress, then Daniel thought to use the plastic grocery bag from lunch as a headband to hold the bandage in place. That way she'd have both hands free and could use both poles for the descent. He tore the bag in half, tied the ends together and I tied it around her head like a headband. Inelegant but effective. Even with the stops to fix her up, we made it down in 1:05. After we got home John took her to the ER in North Conway and she returned with seven stitches and a big bandaid on her forehead.
Sarah and Roger fixed a vegetarian dinner in honor of Rowan's name change. We contributed hommous and fresh semi-salsa but arrived too late for Eric's guacamole. Daniel and I celebrated with Mo, a pricy but flavorful pale ale, and a Belgian Brown Ale, sweet like a Dubel but darker.
Saw Dr Frerich's today and received a clean bill of health. He suggested a low-dosage aspirin daily for the Reynaud's, and that I keep my weight above about 141, which would be a BMI of 20. Afterwards the boys and Trevor met me in Enumclaw and we drove up to our favorite chanterelle spot. We weren't disappointed. In scarcely more than an hour of wandering through the woods we filled a plastic grocery bag each, nearly 15lbs not including Trevor's haul. Back home Daniel had to go out to see a friend in Tacoma so David and I made Chanterelle Soup by ourselves. It was delicious.

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