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Posted By Robin & Jim

We are finally able to settle into life back aboard our floating home after a great road trip across the country from corner to corner - 14 states, over 4000 miles (we took a few detours for fun), and two trips into Canada (one was accidental and brief).  We are in Sidney, BC for about 2 weeks to un-stow everything, re-provision, and finish the last bit of the diesel heating system installation... and then we will start really cruising here, after years of dreaming.

To backtrack just a bit - we took the ferry from Vancouver (on the mainland) to Victoria (on Vancouver Island) a week ago, and that alone was an impressive operation.  The ferry is 560' long and carries 2100 passengers and 470 vehicles for the 90 minute ride.  The views were gorgeous as we cruised between rocky islands.

The next morning we got up early to check on the EUROGRACHT's progress, and headed to the big breakwater at the entrance to Victoria Harbour to watch her approach.  I confess that I had to wipe a few tears from my eyes when I saw the ship and our boat once again.

eurogracht approaching

Two tugs came out to meet the ship to help her turn around and back into the berth.  As she got closer and began to turn we could see ADVENTURES clearly, and she looked great!

first glimpse

Since we were aboard the ship for the offloading we didn't have a great angle for photos, but what matters is that the process went well and by 0930 we were underway once again.  We took a slip right in downtown Victoria for the first 2 nights, and were right in front of the historic Empress Hotel and the Parliament building - Victoria is the capital of the Province of British Columbia.  Every night Parliament is illuminated by lights - such a pretty sight right from our boat!

parliament

After enjoying downtown for a bit it was time to move on, and we got the full treatment of how the downtown harbor can be so busy.  There is regular seaplane service to Vancouver and the planes share the narrow channel with boats.  There are several ferries from the US - the huge COHO and the smaller, fast VICTORIA EXPRESS, plus the tiny water taxis that buzz around the harbor.  As we came through the narrows we had two seaplanes land right next to us, and one take off.

seaplane landing

We had an easy cruise up to Sidney, and as we left the harbor we had this view of the cloud and snow-capped Olympic Mountains (on the US side) and a prawn trawler fishing in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

fishing boat and olympic mtns

 


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

Yesterday was a big day - we watched the EUROGRACHT - the 450' freighter carrying our boat and only home ADVENTURES arrive in Victoria harbor.  Interestingly, Jim's dad happened to be on a cruise ship that just happened to be in Victoria for a port call yesterday too!  So all three of us watched the EUROGRACHT dock, and we got to meet the Loadmaster who is handling the offloading process.

Once Customs finished their inspection of the ship we were allowed aboard so Jim could lower 6 antennas.  We needed to do this so the lifting bars clear everything on top of our boat.  It was very exciting to see our boat again, and she looked great except for some grime from the ship.

Today was the BIG day - and we were first to be offloaded.  We drove to the port and boarded the EUROGRACHT, met some of the stevedores, reminded the Loadmaster that ADVENTURES is our only home, and then we stood off to the side with our hard hats on to watch the crane and crew work.  It was a relief to see the lift go smoothly and to see our boat set gently back in the water!

unloading

We used the pilot ladder to scramble down the side of the ship and get aboard, and then we spent about 15 minutes turning batteries and systems back on.  The GPS units all took a while to realize that they had traveled a long way, and the engines were cold and cranky, but everything fired up just fine and we yelled "thanks for the ride!" to the EUROGRACHT as we cruised away. 

Now we're at a dock right in front of the Empress Hotel in downtown Victoria where we will attempt to restore some order - unlashing and un-stowing everything. 

And then a new chapter of ADVENTURES begins!

Thanks to Clara and Bill for giving us our first taste of the Pacific NW - lots of happy memories.


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We arrived in Blaine, Washington on the US/Canda border on Monday afternoon, and we have been continuing to track the EUROGRACHT's progress up the coast.  She's due into Victoria, BC tomorrow (the 11th) and we're scheduled to be offloaded first on Sunday morning.  We can't wait!!!

To backtrack a bit... after our adventures in Idaho we headed across the north end of Oregon to visit Robin's cousin Mike and his family in Hood River.  We traversed some big green mountains, crossed through more farmland, and then descended into the Columbia River gorge - wow!  We never realized how beautiful and dramatic the gorge is, and how wide the river runs so far from the sea.  There are a number of locks and dams and hydro power stations along the river's course, and we saw tugs pushing large barges.

The town of Hood River reminded us of some of the Maine coastal towns - picturesque, perched on a hill above the water with interesting shops and cafes.  The tall evergreen trees on the hillsides give way to orchards of apples and pears as the road turns south away from the river gorge.  What a gorgeous area!  There are clear views of the snow-covered Mt. Adams to the north, and Mt. Hood to the south. 

mt. hood

Robin's cousin lives on a big piece of property with evergreen trees, wild blackberries, grouse, a pond full of very vocal frogs, red winged blackbirds, and a few pairs of pheasants.  The male pheasants seemed to respond to a neighbor's roosters, and they put on a show of dancing and singing every morning.  It was wonderful to reconnect with family and to share stories from our childhood - we had a lot of laughs! 

The area also boasts some stunning waterfalls, with a nice hiking trail that connects many of the falls, culminating in Multnomah Falls.  Wonderful!

After a brief stop in downtown Seattle to pick up a few more parts for our heating system, we arrived in Blaine.  Actually, we accidentally went to Canada.  Briefly.

We were trying to find a grocery store so we could pick up some things for the friends we are visiting with.  Jim searched for "grocery store" in the car's GPS, and found a nice store 2 miles away... except that he didn't notice the store was in Canada.  We jumped back on the highway and found ourselves at the Canadian border gates, with no possibility of a U-turn.  Good thing we had the passports handy.  The border guard was pretty nice about it, and they checked us into Canada and directed us to a U-turn so we could wait in line to go through the US border gates.  A little adventure!

We visited with friends we met in Marathon this winter, and waited until today when it was time to head to Victoria to meet our ship, as well as see Jim's dad who happens to be making a port call in Victoria on a cruise ship tomorrow.

It's only just beginning to sink in that we're "here".  I think it will feel real when we're back aboard our home on Sunday.


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We have really been enjoying our exploration in the west, and we seem to be most drawn to places with unique landscapes.  Keeping with that theme, we left Salt Lake and drove up into Idaho to hike in Craters of the Moon National Monument. 

The Snake River plain runs across southern Idaho and is mostly flat terrain in an otherwise mountainous state.  The 52-mile long Great Rift is a series of deep fissures in the earth which are volcanically active.  About 15,000 years ago lava oozed out of the ground (as opposed to erupting from a volcano formation) and created a huge plain of lava that was active as recently as 2000 years ago.  The size of this flow is mind-boggling!

stark landscape

The park covers about 750,000 acres and it has examples of a variety of volcanic formations: pahoehoe lava, ah-ah lava, spatter cones, cinder cones, craters, and caves created by lava tubes that have collapsed. Jim is posing near some small spatter cones here, and we hiked to see some larger ones later in the day.

jim spatter cones

Next we hiked up a steep cinder cone that was composed of soft, crunchy dark gray cinders with no other color or vegetation.  When we got tot he top we found some red rocks, small shrubs, a single tree, and a fantastic vista across miles and miles of lava plain.

cinder mountain

We hiked the trail around Broken Top cone, scrambling down the rocks to explore Buffalo Cave.  Despite relatively warm temperatures, the cave was quite cold and icicles were hanging from the ceiling.  Continuing on we saw such a varying landscape with different kinds of lava flows, "bombs" (blobs of rock ejected from an eruption), cinders, and the occasional pretty flowers, trees, and shrubs. 

lava and vegetation

Despite its inhospitable appearance, Craters is home to a variety of wildlife.  We saw some little pika - similar to a chipmunk but without a tail, and antelope in the territory just outside the park.  We saw evidence of lava all across southern Idaho, in the farmer's fields as well as the pastureland.

stark landscape vertical

We had a great day and really enjoyed the contrasting kind of beautiful scenery.  We've been lucky with this trip and we've loved seeing and learning about new things.  This land is pretty amazing, and we're just barely scratching the surface.

 
Posted By Robin & Jim

There are a number of National Parks in southern Utah, which is a testament to the amazing formations and shapes that can be found across the state: Arches, Canyonlands (with three different entrances and major districts), Bryce Canyon with its colorful "hoodoos", and Zion with its towering cliffs.  Bryce and Zion are part of the "Grand Staircase" which continues down to the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  It is an amazing and magical region well worth extended exploration.
Nearly across the road from Arches National Park with its red rock fins and arch formations is the entrance to Canyonlands National Park's "Island in the Sky" district - a land of pinnacles and buttes cut by the Colorado River.  We didn't have time to venture into Canyonlands, but we were able to stop at the oddly-named Dead Horse Point State Park near Moab, which offers a stunning vista 2000' above Canyonlands and the Colorado River.  This view looks more southeastward with the snowcapped La Sal mountains in the distance.

dead horse la sal vista

And this is our favorite view over a horseshoe bend in the Colorado, with miles of dramatic territory begging to be explored.  We are standing at about 6000' above sea level to get this view, but remember it all used to be an inland sea about 300 million years ago!

dead horse colorado

You may notice that there isn't a lot of vegetation (an understatement!), because this is the high desert and this area averages about 10" of rain per year.  But the plant life that does exist is hardy and adaptable to live in this environment.  And it is also beautiful, like this indian paintbrush flower.

indian paintbrush

Between Colorado and southern Utah we've had some great animal sightings - mule deer, elk, buffalo, cottontail rabbit, chipmunks, lizards, as well as a lot of hawks, including peregrine falcons, kestrels, and harriers.

After savoring the dramatic view we had to keep making miles and head into Salt Lake City to visit friends.  We lived in Salt Lake for 2 years in the early 90's to go to grad school at the University of Utah, and we really loved the area and the people there.

The beautiful Wasatch Mountains still had a healthy layer of snow, though the ski areas closed recently.  The hard-core people were still hiking up to enjoy a few runs though.

We had to drive up the canyon and visit our old favorite ski area - Brighton, and Jim was a good sport about posing on the snow.  And yes, I did throw a snowball at him!

 jim at brighton

On the way back down the canyon we saw a coyote in the woods - pretty cool!  We had a marvelous time catching up with our friends, and seeing the Olympic cauldron and all the growth in the area.

jim at U

 

 
Posted By Robin & Jim

300 Million years ago part of the western US was an inland sea, covered in salt water.  We can remember hiking in parts of southern Utah where the ground is littered with small shells as far as the eye can see.  The salt left behind when that inland sea evaporated created salt domes that were eventually covered by dirt and debris from wind and floods, cementing into a cap of rock over the ages.  Between the unstable salt domes and geologic faults, the land collapsed in places and was uplifted in others.  Further shaping was done by water and wind, eroding the sandstone rock into freestanding fins, and some of those fins developed arches and windows.  That is the story of the amazing shapes in Arches National Park in Utah - one of our favorite Parks.

jim in red rock country

Arches is interesting because of the unusual shapes as well as the red color of the Entrada sandstone, on top of the tan Navajo sandstone.  We didn't have the time to photograph Arches at its finest - when the sun gets low in the sky the warm late-day light makes the red rock look even more red... and then the red rock reflects light onto other red rock between the fins and the result is a deep flaming effect that is truly stunning.  We used to live in Utah and we have seen the beautiful color of the rock many times in the past.

We hiked up to our favorite arch - the iconic Delicate Arch, which is a long, steep hike across the slickrock. 

delicate arch wide

Arches has become much more popular in the last 20 years, and we had to hike up early even on a weekday to avoid too many people.  It's always well worth the climb and we saw a desert cottontail rabbit and a pretty yellow and green collard lizard on the way.

delicate arch vertical

Landscape Arch is another famous feature, located in the Devil's Garden area, and it is the largest with a span of about 300'.  This is as close as we can get since part of the arch collapsed in the last 20 years and the rock is getting thin in spots.

landscape arch

Another of my favorite spots is Balanced Rock - and the balanced part of the rock is the size of 3 school buses!

balanced rock

We made the most of our day at Arches hiking a lot of miles, and were rewarded with this view of the huge formation called Park Avenue at the end of a great day.

park avenue

The next stop on our road trip was Dead Horse Point State Park on our way up to Salt Lake City - another place with lots of memories.

 
Posted By Robin & Jim

As our roadtrip across country continues, we headed from New Mexico into southwestern Colorado to visit Mesa Verde National Park.  Jim had never been there before, and I was there once with my brother and parents about 27 years ago - with lots of happy memories. 

mesa verde valley

Mesa Verde is a vast (81 square mile) wide plateau that sits high above the low desert, rising to about 8400' in height.  Between 600-1300 A.D. the ancestral Pueblo (sometimes known as the Anasazi) lived and farmed on the mesa and in its valleys, eventually building dwellings in natural alcoves in the cliff faces. 

mesa verde cliff palace wide

Cliff Palace, shown above, is the largest group of dwellings in the park, and is amazingly well preserved despite time and weather.  There are many alcove buildings around the park - some small and ceremonial, some larger. 

mesa verde cliff palace vertical

The reason these people moved on sometime after the year 1300 remains a mystery, though a long drought and difficulty maintaining a strong corn crop is suggested as the likely reason.  It is thought that these Pueblo people are now part of the Hopi and Zuni (as well as other) tribes in the southwest.

We really enjoyed hiking around the park and seeing the amazing structures built into the cliffs, trying to imagine what life was like for these people.  They must have been part mountain goat, since we had to do a lot of climbing to see the dwellings up close!

mesa verde ladder climb

We're enjoying everything about the trip so far - exploring, seeing new and familiar places, learning new things, hiking, and watching the endless changes to the shape and color of the land.

From Mesa Verde we headed into southern Utah's famous Red Rock country near Moab.  We had been there several times before about 20 years ago, but had never driven there from the southeast.  It was amazing watching the land transform from the mesa and forest to the yellow and red desert with weird shapes.

utah pillar

We are headed to one of our favorite places - Arches National Park, full of bizarre rock shapes and strong red color for more hiking and exploring (and photography, of course!)

 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We are thoroughly enjoying our adventures as we drive across the country.  We've been making good progress and we're actually in Twin Falls, Idaho this morning, but it will take several entries to catch up on some of the wonderful places that we've stopped to explore along the way.  As of this morning, the Eurogracht is off the Baja Peninsula, making her way to Ensenada, Mexico.

After enjoying a day of art museums and galleries around Santa Fe, we headed to the badlands of New Mexico to hike in the Bisti Wilderness - a Bureau of Land Management area.  It is not widely known and has few visitors, but we fell in love with the strange colors and utterly surreal landscapes, changing at every turn.

bisti wide

There are no trails in the area so you just hike along the vast wash and venture up into the hills and shapes around the edges.  You have to be careful not to get lost if you get into the hills too far, though a high point would give you enough vantage to see where the dirt road is.

Some of the mysterious feeling comes from these areas of rocks that look like they were tossed here by some giant hand, though their color is completely different than the surrounding land.

bisti scattered rocks

And then we came upon my favorite spot - the "cracked eggs" which look like something out of a science fiction movie.

bisti cracked eggs

And then in the nearby hills the colors turn green and black and yellow, with hills of brick red just next door.  We also found a lot of petrified wood, but only in certain areas.  We would have given anything to have a geologist along with us to explain some of this amazing place!

bisti 1

If you wanted to shoot a science fiction movie, this would be the perfect place.  The scenery was just impossible to believe - the shapes and colors, and combined with the quiet it was an eerie place.  I could spend weeks exploring and discovering what's behind the next hill.

Unfortunately we had to move on down the road, but we decided to swing past the Navajo Nation's sacred Shiprock to take some photographs.  Shiprock is HUGE, jutting out from the flat plains and dominating the landscape of mesas, buttes, and valleys in the area.  We could see it from quite a distance, but we ventured closer to take advantage of the sun getting low in the sky.  There is a great rock rift that runs south from Shiprock, and that's what you see in the foreground.  Stunning, and well worth the detour to see it up close.

shiprock

From New Mexico we headed into Colorado to visit Mesa Verde National Park - another amazing place.