2021 West Coast Trip – Washington, Oregon and California

Day One

Maureen and I left Chicago on Amtrak’s Empire Builder train at 2:18 PM on August 3rd from Union Station. The train left 3 minutes later than advertised but I was impressed. We were traveling 2210 miles from Chicago to Seattle. It is supposed to take 43 hours. The train stops in a number of stations, usually only for a few minutes. Only 9% of the passengers getting on supposedly go the entire distance. Because of Covid, masks were required on the train except when eating and drinking. If the private sleeping coach door was closed, masks weren’t required.

Our accommodations are small but adequate. We have a bedroom berth on the upper level of the car. We have a couch that turns into a bed at night. Across from the couch is a sink with running water and a single seat by the window.  Behind the sink is a very small bathroom which also serves as a very small shower. Storage space is limited. We really need to cut down on our packing.

We traveled through areas of houses and businesses as we traveled through Chicago’s northern suburbs to Milwaukee. As we traveled further north, we traveled along forest preserves in Cook and Lake County. We passed by Lake County’s Middle Fork Savanna Forest Preserve with colorful wetlands, prairie and savanna. Great egrets were common in the wetlands that were made colorful with blooming pink blooming hibiscus flowers. Unfortunately, there were also patches of the colorful invasive non-native purple loosestrife in some wetlands. The prairies had pink joe pye weed and yellow sunflowers blooming. We were pleasantly surprised by the wild areas we were seeing.

In Wisconsin on our way to Milwaukee the scenery was a mix of development and crop fields. The crop fields were mostly corn and soybeans but we also some fields of cabbages. We met east bound Empire Builder south of Milwaukee as it traveled to Chicago. In Milwaukee the trained slowed to a crawl into the downtown area and train station. We had a brief stop and then our train continued, now proceeding in a western direction to the west coast. We passed the Miller’s brewery leaving downtown Milwaukee.

We passed small towns, farm fields of corn and small farmsteads with colorful red barns. We also passed by nice large wetland complexes with the usual great egrets. We saw many sandhill cranes feeding in harvested wheat fields.

After a quick stop at Columbus/Madison Wisconsin, we continued west. I was impressed with the amount of open land west of Madison, many wetlands, prairies, woodlands and pastures. It was great to see that it wasn’t all in crops. As the sun was getting low in the sky we crossed and traveled along the Mississippi River for some miles and finally into Minneapolis, when it was dark, for another brief stop. Maureen started painting soon after we left Chicago.

The meals were good but not gourmet. The service in the dining car was great. It’s communal dining so we sat with other people. It was interesting meeting fellow travelers on the train. The dining car is only for the sleeping car passengers. The coach passengers can buy fast-food type meals from the lounge car. The train consisted of a baggage car, sleeper cars, a dining car, an observation car/lounge car and coach cars.

Day 2

Our first stop on day 2 was Minot, North Dakota. We slept through Minnesota and found ourselves in North Dakota. I showered in the tiny shower and we ate breakfast (full meal with eggs, bacon, potatoes and croissant, and coffee of course!).  The stop in Minot is a long one – usually about an hour. The train is refueled and a new engineering crew takes over. Even though it was raining lightly we got off to briefly stretch our legs.

We enjoyed seeing the small towns and farms with many out buildings. Riding the train you see it all pass by – the beautiful landscapes and also many abandoned houses and farms and even a few old deteriorating yet interesting churches. Abandoned farm equipment, cars and trucks were common. It must have been hard making a living there.

We traveled through the rest of North Dakota into Montana. The landscape we were traveling in was constantly changing. We’d travel through hilly areas with wheat fields or hay fields as far as the eye could see. We were traveling through the prairie pothole regions and passed many large wetlands.

We amused ourselves looking out the window, sometimes playing cards, reading and Maureen sketched and painted a bit.  We got 3 meals on the train, breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Eventually we got to Glacier National Park. There are two stops, East Glacier and West Glacier. Quite a few people got off at East Glacier to visit the park. The scenery – mountains, forests and streams were beautiful but it was dusk. The Empire Builder goes through Glacier National Park but it was getting dark and unfortunately we didn’t get to see much of the park. Perhaps the east bound Empire Builder goes through during the day.

Because of the delta version of Covid getting so bad, Amtrak stopped the communal dining. We ended up getting our last dinner delivered to our sleeping room.

Day 3

When we awoke the next morning, we were in the State of Washington. We had passed through western Montana and Idaho in the dark. It would have been nice to see these areas. We were passing through lush forests with crystal-clear streams. We passed through many tunnels. The longest was the Cascade tunnel which is 7.8 miles long and passes under a portion of the Cascade Range of mountains. At Spokane Washington the train splits, our section going to Seattle and the other cars going to Portland, Oregon.

Eventually the train got to Everett which is on the coast of the Puget Sound. From here we traveled south along the shore to Seattle. It was low tide and many great blue herons and gulls were out looking for a meal. Finally after 2 nights/days, the train pulled into King Street Station in Seattle.

We enjoyed our trip on the train watching the countryside pass us by. We would want a little bigger sleeping berth next time or we’d bring less luggage. We probably should have stowed our large luggage in the lower-level storage rack and only brought what we really needed with us in sleeper room. We both agreed that we would never want to travel in the roomette (not much better than coach) or the coach where you no privacy. It was really nice having our own private shower and toilet. The communal ones get pretty messy. Overall we would consider taking the train again. We got great views from our private window but we also did spend some time in the observation portion of the lounge car. You can get great views from many windows of the observation car.

My final thoughts on the train are, if you’re okay with camping, try the train. If you don’t like camping, the train is not for you.

We left King Street Station, got our rental car and  to went to our hotel in Seattle. We always stay at the Inn at the Market .  We love the view from the rooms and the location. It’s right next to Pike Street Market and just down from the first Starbucks store.  We dropped off our luggage and went exploring until our room was ready. Pike Street Market was really crowded so we didn’t stay long.

We headed down to the wharf but had to make the obligatory stop down Post Alley to the gum wall. The wall has expanded up and down the alley. It’s not as thick with gum as it used to be – I heard they cleaned it off, but the gum’s back. There were also more tourists at the wall than I ever remember.

We had lunch at The Crab Pot –we both had halibut fish and chips.  Very good!

From there we went to another favorite spot – the aquarium. My favorite exhibit is the octopus tank. We really got lucky.  The octopus, named Licorice, was very active moving about the tank. Usually the octopus is hiding in some corner. Licorice is a one and a half year old male that they plan to release next week. Being so active indicates that he is sexually mature and ready to mate. They have another octopus, Ink Jet, waiting in the wings to replace him. We finished the day with a meal at Cafe Campagne, a great French restaurant right next to our hotel and a favorite of ours.

Official Disclaimer – I’m finishing this blog at home. Wifi was horrible on this trip. Amtrak advertised they had wifi – well there might be some weak wifi at some of the stations along the route but that was about it. I’ve never experienced some terrible wifi. The wifi in Seattle was good but from there it went from back to worse to even worse than almost non-existent. Even when we had wifi it was so weak that I couldn’t upload anything.

Day 4

We ordered breakfast from Bacco, another great restaurant, next to our hotel. The hotel staff told us to order it to take out because there would be a long line since it is so popular. It was packed when I picked up the food 15 minutes after they opened. The hotel staff told us that all of Seattle was much busier than usual –twice as many people as usual — and it had been that way since Covid restrictions had lifted. We loaded up the car and set off to La Grande, Oregon to visit Maureen’s childhood friend Sue and her husband Steve. Oregon seemed dry except for the irrigated valleys which were quite green. We passed by a former Army Depot with it’s earthen covered igloos which reminded me of where I used to work – Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. We noticed one small forest fire as we got closer to La Grande.

We enjoy staying with Sue and Steve, besides great friends and company they have a great house looking over the valley and visited by all sorts of wildlife. Steve had been up in Alaska about the same time we were, fishing for halibut. So – guess what?  we had more halibut!  What a treat.

Day 5

Steve and Sue took us on a drive through Baker Valley where La Grande is located. The Oregon trail went through Baker Valley and within feet of Sue and Sue’s house. We drove to a high point, pulled out lawn chairs and enjoyed the view. We watched the fire suppression aircraft flying into and out of La Grande fighting the many forest fires in the West. The small fire we had seen yesterday on our drive in seemed to be out.

Day 6

Maureen and I really enjoy relaxing with Sue and Steve, sitting on their patio watching the wildlife come to their yard. Mule deer are regular guests, coming to pluck plums and apples off the trees. My favorites were the covey of California quail that would come down several times a day to check out around the bird feeders.  I also enjoyed the Anna’s hummingbirds and the Steller’s Jays.

In the afternoon we drove to the Wallowa Whitman National Forest and hiked around Grand Ronde Lake, a beautiful, secluded spot. We got lunch at the ski resort up there and sat outside, enjoying the food and taking in the incredible scenery.  We stayed quite a while, enjoying each other’s company and the beautiful surroundings.

Day 7

We had reservations at Timbeline Lodge at Mount Hood so Maureen and I drove through the Columbia Gorge along the Columbia River. Maureen saw big horn sheep on the cliffs. Bill was too busy driving to see them. This is a very beautiful drive with steep cliffs, large rolling grassland hills and of course, the Columbia River. We tried to go to Multnomah Falls but all the parking lots were full so we decided to go the fish hatchery at Bonneville Dam to see salmon going up the fish ladders around the dam. Wouldn’t you know it –they weren’t open, but Bill made a new friend, Bigfoot. We finally decided to just get to Mount Hood.

Timberline Lodge might be familiar, it was the lodge featured in the movie “The Shinning.” The entrance shot was Timberline although the interior was another lodge. This historic lodge is really at timberline, there are few trees growing above it on Mount Hood. The lodge is ornate, with rough hewed timber, ornate iron work and large, stone fire places. We hiked around the lodge, enjoyed a nice meal and watched the sun setting out behind the lodge.

Day 8

We hiked around the lodge than took a longer hike around Lake Enid in Mount Hood National Forest.

Sue and Steve planned to meet us for a night at Mount Hood and we planned to meet at Trillium Lake in the National Forest. It seemed everyone had the same idea. The lake was full of kayakers, swimmers and sun bathers and all the parking lots were full. We finally decided to just meet at Timberline Lodge.

We hung around the lodge, sitting in Adirondack chairs viewing the mountain top, playing corn hole (throwing sand bags), talking, laughing and enjoying the day.  We had dinner together in the lodge and later enjoyed the nice sun set and colorful skies.

Day 9

We left Sue and Steve and headed to Napa, California. This was to be our big drive day, going from Mount Hood to Napa.  The scenery was great, but when we got to southern Oregon and northern California the smoke from the forest fires was quite evident. The smell wasn’t too bad in the car, but was pretty bad outside. We stopped for gas and Maureen went into the store – she thought everyone must smoke (cigarettes) in the store, but when she got outside, she realized it was the same smell– smoke from fires.

We had a little mishap on our drive. Maureen kept feeling like something was pulling at her shirt sleeve, then she noticed a small face looking at her, some type of creature sitting on her shoulder. She yelled “there’s an animal in the car!!!”and “stop the car!!!” We were on the Interstate going at a good speed but I was able to eventually get over and pull off the road while Maureen yelled and freaked out. She immediately jumped out of the car. She thought it was a bat. I searched the car and couldn’t find anything. Maureen said there’s no way she’s getting back in that car, and then we both noticed a deer mouse running on the inside rear window deck. I was able to shoo it out of the car. We don’t know where it came from but it was quite an experience. Maureen was shaken up by the experience. We continued on, sans mouse, and finally got to Napa, checked into our hotel and recovered from our time with our extra little passenger. Sorry no picture of the little fellow.

Day 10

We had a nice lunch in downtown Napa at Ristorante Allegria then planned to visit some wineries and sample some wine. Our first stop was the Robert Mondavi Winery, an old favorite of ours. We discovered though that Covid has changed how wineries are operating. You need reservations in advance for the wine tasting and you can’t wander around the grounds. They keep you close, in one room or one area.  We were able to get a glass of wine and sit in an open area. We decided to forget about visiting more wineries – given Covid, plus been there, done that — and took a nice hike in a nature reserve.

Day 10

We checked out of our Napa hotel and drove to Jack London State Park. Many years ago we had stayed at Jack London Lodge in the town of Glen Ellen. We visited the park and got re-acquainted with Jack London and his wife, and their incredible lives.  Jack wrote over 50 books, two plays and then some.  His wife was also very talented and went on to become a writer after Jack’s death at 40 years old.  Jack was ahead of his time in terms of his ideas around organic farming.  He introduced surfing in the United States.  There’s a cottage to visit, a museum, his farm, and more –it’s well worth a stop. Many of us probably read some of Jack’s books when we were young. I’m thinking of getting re-acquainted with his writings.

We had lunch at the Jack London Pub which we had visited many years ago while staying at the Jack London lodge. We left Glen Ellen and traveled to Vallejo where we were going to visit Maureen’s niece Anita and her husband Destin.

We drove to Anita and Destin’s house and met up with Anita’s father, Maureen’s brother John and went out to eat in Vallejo. We also enjoyed walking around the Art festival going on in downtown Vallejo.

Alaska Adventure – 2021

Day one and two.

Our journey started with getting up at 3:30am on Thursday, July 8th. It was a long tiring flight with a change of planes in Seattle. The flight over British Columbia was great with the snow-capped mountains and the fjords. We even saw a few glaciers.

We landed in Juneau and got a cab to our hotel in town.  We were treated with seeing over 50 bald eagles on the way in. They seemed to be everywhere and in large groups. We are staying at the Silverbow Hotel, a boutique hotel, in downtown Juneau. We were  tired but did get out and explored the harbor. We had a great meal at Tracy’s Crab Shack on the wharf.   Maureen worked getting the fresh crab meat out of the crab legs, Bill opted for crab cakes and less work.

On Friday we explored the old town historic area of Juneau where our hotel was located and spent lots of time at the wharf. Juneau depends on the large cruise ships and there are none. The large cruises won’t start up until the fall we are told. There are lots of empty storefronts. We found the Juneau residents friendly but there was an edge to many of them and the town felt edgy. There are lots of Bill’s favorite bird, common ravens about the town. We enjoyed listening to the many sounds they make. We saw a pigeon guillemont in the harbor. We ate halibut at the Hangar on the Wharf and Alaska Fish and Chips Company at the Flight Deck. The fish and chips are as good as our previous favorite from Aukeryi Iceland. We also did a few more things then eat – the Alaska Museum was interesting but also disturbing – the usual story of what happened to the natives. Today we catch our boat and we’ll hopefully see lots of wildlife.

Day 3

I hadn’t planned on talking about food so soon again but we ate lunch at a funky outdoor place called Deckhand Dave’s Fish Tacos. I had the fish tacos and Maureen had the fish and chips – halibut again and it turned out this was the best halibut we had.  The fish just got tastier and tastier.

We caught up with our National Geographic tour in the afternoon. We had to get tested again for Covid with a rapid test and after passing we were put in a room (bubble) until time to leave. We took a bus up the Eagle Crest Ski Area and had a short hike through the rain forest. There were so many shades of green in that rain forest.

Finally, we got to our ship, MV Sea Lion, and got settled into our ship’s cabin.  We have 37 passengers plus crew on this voyage.  The ship left in rain and traveled south through the inside passage. The Sea Lion is the smaller of the two Linblad-National Geographic vessels.

Day 4

We woke up and saw a black bear and one humpback whale before breakfast.  Great start! The weather was overcast.  Eventually we got to the Endicott Arm (fjord) and the sun came out. We traveled up the Endicott Arm to the Dawes Glacier. The fjord had many U-shapes coming into it. There were waterfalls everywhere. The steep walls of the fjord told the story of the glacier receding – the steep sides got less and less vegetated until they were quite bare of vegetation. These bare walls were quite colorful.

Icebergs became more plentiful as we got closer to the glacier. Many had a deep blue color indicating really dense ice that probably was from the bottom of the glacier.

Dawes Glacier is one of the southernmost glaciers that empty into the ocean.

We saw a number of harbor seals basking on the icebergs near the glacier.

After Dawes Glacier we went up Ford’s Terror, a small fjord off the Endicott Arm. It is rare to get to go this fjord but we had the right conditions with the tide. We saw more interesting rain forests and waterfalls.

The Sea Lion had to rescue some knuckleheads in a small sailboat that lost its steering. They were lucky we came along.  They had no radio or any way of communicating with others and these folks were just odd.  They didn’t seem to “get” the predicament they were in.  We towed them to a place where their friends agreed to meet them and then we hung out at the entrance to Ford’s Terror. Ford’s Terror was named for a man who surveyed the area years ago. Ford and his partner went up the fjord and were trapped there when the tide changed. There is a huge, fast tidal change in this fjord that can surprise you.  Ford thought they were trapped there and would never get out. Eventually they got out and survived to tell the story.

We left Ford’s Terror and got back to the Inside Passage. We watched several groups of hump back whales. Unfortunately, there were a couple multi-million-dollar yachts also there and people from the yachts in kayaks and paddle boards were harassing the whales, getting too close and flying a drone over the whales. All of which is illegal, but I guess the super-rich don’t pay attention to rules and regulations.

Day 6

Day 6 saw us at Grindall Island in Misty Fjords National Monument for some tidal area exploration, rainforest hiking, and zodiac cruising. We weren’t told about the tidal area conditions (rocky beach with many slippery rocks) that needed to be navigated to get to the trail. Bill would probably not have gone on the hike if he had known; this tricky beach area was difficult walking and probably aggravated his injured ankle. The tidal area was interesting nonetheless and we took a short hike through the rainforest into a muskeg area with sphagnum moss and sundews.

The zodiac boat ride resulted in some animal observations. We explored along the rocky fjord edges and found a mink. It very inquisitive and watched us for some time.

We then went around a small island. It was low tide and there were many sea animals exposed including sea urchins and sea stars of many colors. We saw numerous bald eagles in the trees on the island.

At the tip of the island was an even smaller island covered in sea lions. We spent some time watching their antics and listening to them. Most seemed to be sleeping.

We left the Grindall Island area and sailed towards Ketchikan which would be our final destination. We were treated with seeing a brown bear feeding along the shore. We watched the bear for quite a while. It didn’t seem to be bothered by us. It was feeding on grass.

Late in the afternoon we stopped for more whale watching. The whales were off in the distance but the scenery was fantastic with the sun setting.

Day 7 and 8

In the morning the Sea Lion ship got us to Ketchikan and we disembarked.

National Geographic took us via bus to Saxman totem park. We saw many totems and learned about them.

The totems were erected to tell stories, honor events and to honor important people.

One of my favorites was this one of William Seward who was Secretary of State and bought Alaska. The tkinkit people held a potlach for Seward. Potlatches were ceremonial feasts where gifts were given away. Tradition was that the recipient of a potlatch must give one in return. Seward never returned and gave a potlatch. This totem is of Seward. They painted his ears and lips red to show their displeasure with Seward not returning the favor of having a potlatch.

It was bittersweet leaving the boat, but our hotel in Ketchikan was great. We stayed at the Inn at Creek Street for three nights.  This gave us a chance to unwind from the ship and explore the area in a leisurely way.  Our Inn is the tan structure on the left. Our second-floor window looks out over this scene. The Inn is located in the old bawdy area of Ketchikan. The houses were built along and above Ketchikan Creek. Creek Street was famous for its prostitutes and bootleggers.

Across the creek from us is Dolly’s House. Dolly was one of the most famous prostitutes and her house is now a museum. There were lots of men and very few women in Alaska at the time. If a woman was looking for a man, Alaska was the place – there was a saying “The odds were good BUT the goods were odd.”

We enjoyed walking around Creek Street, the harbor and the town of Ketchikan. We ate more delicious, fresh halibut and salmon. Wildlife was plentiful, and we didn’t have to go far to see it. Bald eagles were everywhere. Here are three along the pier.

We saw sea lions swimming in the harbor.

Each day we were entertained by a family of harbor seals that we watched from the windows in our room or off the deck. They’d come up Ketchikan creek each day looking for fish, especially at low tide when the water was shallow and fish were more restricted in their movements. We even watched a fish get caught. It was quite a show because the seal had caught it by the tail and didn’t have a good hold on it. The fish escaped several times but in the end the seal got its meal.

We took a bus to Bight Totem Park, an Alaska State Park with magnificent specimens of totems and a clan house you could enter. The interesting thing is that because of the weather totem poles don’t last long and the tkinkit tribe had to make new totems to replace the old ones. Totem making is an art and it is still practiced.

Reflecting on it all, we had a great trip and are sad at leaving although we both agree we don’t want to live in Alaska. We’d just miss too much. I found it interesting that most common birds I saw were bald eagles, ravens, marbled murrelets and glaucous-winged gulls. The rainforest was very quiet and I didn’t hear many birds.

Early tomorrow morning we fly back home to Chicago.  Farewell, Alaska, for now!

Lofoten Archipelago, Norway – 2020

I spent a week in Norway this winter (2020) photographing the sights of the Lofoten Islands with 5 other photographers. The Lofoten Islands are an archipelago of islands known for dramatic landscapes with rugged mountains and peaks, beautiful blue fjords, sandy beaches and sheltered bays. Lofoten is also known for colorful traditional fishing villages.

I spent a day flying from Chicago to Oslo, Norway. I spent the night near the Oslo airport. The next day I caught my flight to Bodo. My flight from Bodo to Leknes on a small plane got cancelled due to the weather. There was an extreme low-pressure system over Iceland and Norway during this time. Apparently, they wouldn’t be able to calibrate the planes instruments because of the low pressure. My options were wait and possibly go later in the evening or take a four-hour trip on an inside steamer (ferry) from Bodo to Stamsund. Stamsund is only 15 minutes from my destination at Leknes. I got in touch with the leaders of the group and they agreed to pick me up in Stamsund. Unfortunately, it rained the entire trip and I didn’t get to see much of the ocean and archipelago.

We stayed at a resort called Lofoten Basecamp. They were nice cabins made to look like the classic Lofoten fisherman’s cabins. I got lucky and had an entire cabin to myself, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a kitchen/living room. For me the trip started the next day since I was a little late having come on the ferry.

Day 1

After a quick breakfast, our first stop was Skagstranden beach.  Skagstranden is a wide sandy beach with a jagged mountain in the background. There was not a lot of snow on the mountains or ground. It had been raining over the previous days. This would change and we would have some snow each day.

Beach Ripples

There are springs bringing fresh water down to the beach and into the fjord. Interesting patterns develop in the sand from the movement of the fresh water flowing to the fjord.

We next headed to Nusfjord, one of the quaint little fishing villages with many red fisherman’s cabins along the shore, many out over the water of the fjord on stilts. These huts were originally for itinerant fisherman that worked in the area during the fishing season.

After leaving Nusfjord we stopped at a large lake called Strovatnet. Strovatnet means “big lake” in Norwegian. There were nice patterns in the ice which were probably made by the wind blowing thin layers of ice. The sun tried to peak out at one point but never made it.20200211-_D853010_1_2

On our way to our sunset location at Uttakleiv we stopped at Flakstadpollen, a large bay with turquoise-colored water. A long exposure smoothed out the water.Fjord

Our destination Uttakleiv is another wide beach. Portions of the shore is rocky with many large boulders. We never got our desired sunset, the sky remained overcast as it was all day long. Walking down to the shoreline I noticed this sculpture that I thought was nice since it was only a few days before Valentine’s day.Sculpure

The tide was up and the waves were crashing upon the rocky shore. I shot a number of long exposures of the surf. This can give some interesting movement to the water and create “ghost” rocks. You never quite know how things will look until you’ve made the image. It’s hard to visualize what the image will look like ahead of time. It all depends on the wave and your timing of the photograph.ShorelineShorelineShoreline

Day 2

We finally got our snow. At times the driving conditions were a “white out.” I was glad I wasn’t responsible for the driving. Our first stop was the Grimsoy church which is at the edge of the sea. The tide was out and the seaweed was exposed but covered with snow. It was a pretty unique scene, the snow-covered seaweed, white church and the snow-covered mountain in the background. It’s not often you see snow-covered seaweed. We had fun composing many photographs while the snow was coming down. Grimsoy ChurchGroup20200212-20200212_111410

Our next stop was the small town of Henningsvaer. Henningsvær is spread across a number of islands, with breakwaters and dikes bringing the fishing village together. Access to Henningsvaer is by bridge which is common for many of the towns and areas of Lofoten.Street

We stopped for coffee and sweets in Henningsvaer and did a little souvenir shopping. Henningsvaer is a quaint small fishing village with a small harbor and a famous soccer field at the tip of one of the islands making up the town.PastriesHarbor

I was most intrigued by the fish hanging up to dry. We had been seeing these fish racks along our drives. This was the first opportunity to see them closeup. The fish is cod. This is the traditional way of preserving the cod. These fish were fresh and smelly. Actually, we smelled a fishy odor in many towns due to the drying cod. We just got used to the smell. I learned later that much of the dried cod goes to Italy.Drying FishFrying FishFrying Fish

We came across some red sheds along a small fjord after leaving Henningsvaer. We stopped to photograph this idyllic scene with the snow-covered mountains in the background. The shed had cables attached to it. We noticed this on other buildings which we assumed was to stabilize the structure from the winds and storms that can hit this archipelago.Shed

We stopped along the E10, the main road through the archipelago for sunset. The sun was trying to peek out from the clouds over the sea. It made for wonderful pink colors on the distant mountains. Eventually the sun peeked through clouds for an interesting sunset. The sunset was nice but I thought the best scenes were where the setting sun was reflected onto the clouds over the mountain.MountainsSunset20200212-_D853518-Pano

I wanted to try the dried fish for a meal but we saw this sight of gulls trying to feed on the fish and I lost my appetite for dried fish and instead had fresh cod.Fish RacksHalibut

Day 3

We were at Balstad harbor for sunrise. We had great color on the mountains and great reflections on the water in the harbor.HarborMountainsHarbor

We made several stops prior to our destination for the next segment of the trip, the town of Reine. The first stop was a small waterfall below the usual rugged mountain in the background. I also found the ice forming in the stream interesting.Waterfall2020-02-25 10-45-13 (B-Radius8-Smoothing4)

We stopped at Skagstranden Beach again to watch a surfer in the cold water.Surfer

We dropped our bags off at the Lofoten Bed and Breakfast and headed out to probably the most iconic location in the Lofoten Archipelago, the bridge in the small fishing village of Hemnoy. This is a popular spot to photograph and we lined up with other photographers on the one-lane bridge overlooking the old fisherman’s cabins. Some of these date to the 1890s. The cabins have been rehabbed and are rented out to tourists. We were hoping for some sun to light up the scene, but no such luck. We would return and try again along with other photographers.PhotographersCabins

Day 4

We got up early and hiked up to a hilltop overlooking the small fishing village of Sakrisoya which is just a very small island. Crampons were in order getting up to the top of the hill. There was one other photographer up on top when we got there. It was overcast and the color wasn’t good. The other photographer started to leave and told us we were 10 minutes too late. We stayed around in the sleet and snow and in about 10 minutes the sun started to peek through the clouds and paint the mountains pink.  I’m not sure why the other photographer thought we were late but it sure seemed he left 10 minutes too soon.BillSakrisoyaSakrisoya

We then traveled farther south, as far as you can drive to the town of A, pronounced “aw.” We were in whiteout conditions again and didn’t stay in A but worked our way back north. We stopped at a spot overlooking the town of Reine. We got some photographs of the town before the snow started getting serious.ReineReine

We returned to the Hemnoy bridge location for sunset. We got more images of the cabins with the snowy mountain in the background. While we were there, a fishing boat left the harbor. CabinsFishing Boat

Once the sun had set, we moved to another iconic location of a footbridge. It was difficult shooting because you had to be on a small road to photograph it properly and there was lots of traffic of workers driving from work. I gave up and spent my time photographing around a house nearby and the town of Reine from the dock. I think my photograph of the town of Reine at night is one of my favorites from the trip.Reine at Night

Day 5

We went back to the overlook of the town of Reine before sunrise (the blue hour). The light was nice reflected off the water of the harbor.20200215-_D853979-PanoTown Early Morning

We went back to Hamnoy again but not the bridge location. We were behind the iconic cabins that are photographed from the bridge. Here we found more colorful cabins and a harbor.DockDock

Our ultimate goal for sunset was to return to Uttakleiv beach. We had time to make stops on the way if we saw anything interesting. We stopped at a pretty scene of the high arched bridges linking up parts of the archipelago. We crossed many of these bridges. We also passed through numerous tunnels; some were under the fjords linking different sides of the fjord.Bridges

We stopped at Ramsberg to examine the beach and made another visit to Nusfjord. While we were there, an inland steamer came and dropped off some passengers. These ferries are a regular way of getting around the Lofoten islandsInland Steamer

Our final stop of the trip was back to Uttakleiv for sunset. The sea was not as wild and the tide was lower than on our first visit. On the first visit we couldn’t find the famous “eye of Uttakleiv” or “dragon’s eye.” The crashing waves during our first visit covered up the eye. It was easy to find this time with all the photographers around it and we had to wait our turn. It’s a round rock in a depression that looks somewhat like an eye. I had fun photographing the surf and rocks with a long shutter speed. More water streaks and ghost rocks.Eye of UttakleivRocky Coast20200215-_D854176

Day 6

It was time to leave. I had the early flight and I was dropped off at the tiny Leknes airport. The plane left Bodo and at some point, during its flight to Leknes it turned around and went back. So, my flight out of Leknes was cancelled just like my flight into Leknes. This time the airline bused us to a large airport in the north of the archipelago. It was a 4-hour trip and it snowed the entire way. The only good thing  was we were on a direct flight to Oslo and I didn’t have to transfer in Bodo. It snowed most of the way and the roads were slick but we made it. I’d love to go back to Norway but I’m not sure about in the winter when air travel can be easily disrupted.Beach

I spent the night in Oslo and left the next day for home via a stopover in Iceland. I was rewarded with clear skies over Iceland, Greenland and Labrador, Canada. Here’s a view of a glacial arm coming off the largest glacier in Iceland, Vatnajokkull.Vatnajokull Glacier

I had a great trip and would like to go back with Maureen in the summer.

Discovering the Artist in Me

Hello!  I posted this on my business blog and thought I’d share this story with you here.

Discovering the Artist in Me

Late last year I scrolled through the offerings at Mabel Dodge Luhan Inn in Taos, New Mexico.  I’d been to this magical place before with the incredible Nancy Hill https://daremore.com/.  I attended Nancy’s retreats twice in this setting, and I wanted even more.

Looking at the winter workshops, this one caught my eye:  https://www.mynewsletterbuilder.com/email/newsletter/1412622040

“Rejuvenate Your Creativity in the Magic of Taos!”  Yes!  I said and signed up.  The event promised new ways to access your creative voice and make it a greater part of your life.  “If you don’t think you’re creative,” it said, “you’ll have proof that you are. If you’re a writer, you’ll find a new flow…. If you’re an artist, you’ll find out how easy it is to discover words…you’ll discover new freeing techniques.”  There would be daily yoga, drawing, painting and writing.

I’ve always been a writer but drawing and painting—ugh—I’ve been blocked about those since 7th grade.  I couldn’t do it and I gave up.  And yet I registered.

About a week before the class, I emailed Jill Badonsky, the instructor and told her I’m dreading the art portion.  She wrote back: “You’ve signed up for the right workshop.”

I didn’t buy all of the recommended art supplies because I told myself I wouldn’t be drawing or painting in Taos or anywhere, so why bother.  I had high hopes for writing, meeting inspiring women, eating delicious food at Mabel’s, and being creative. I had low expectations and anxiety about drawing and painting.

I can’t explain what happened.  I drew and painted with watercolors in that February workshop.  I overcame my resistance and somehow did it.  It was partly Jill’s cleverness, encouragement and tools; it was somewhat the magic of Taos, and it was in part me, opening myself to this little miracle.

I’ve fallen in love with drawing and watercolor painting.  Jill also taught me how to use Snapseed and Waterlogue, two photography Apps.  Here’s a little gallery from this beginner artist.

If you’re holding yourself back from something, take some deep breaths.  Open up even just a little bit and give it a try.

For me, this new outlet brings me joy and greater confidence.  I’ve registered for a program this summer to sketch Madeline Island’s landscapes, flora and fauna and create a botanical sketchbook.  If you’d asked me about this six months ago, I’d say you were mistaken; you can’t be talking about me!

I hope this little revelation of mine inspires you to open yourself up and discover your own miracles.

Kind regards,





Back to Iceland – 2019 – Day 6 Part 2

We did go out in the evening to see the Aurora Borealis after dinner. Here’s two items that were on the menu. I tired the reindeer which was good, but I passed on Mister Ed.


We drove to a pull off on the Ring Road. There were others also looking for the Northern Lights, including a bus of young Japanese girls. The camera sees northern lights better than the human eye. The Northern Lights were very faint and you could hardly make them out. I think we made the Japanese girl’s day. They couldn’t see the northern lights but they could see them on our camera monitors and they were taking pictures of our monitors. Anyway, it was a disappointing display and we are hoping for better Northern Lights later in the trip. Here’s an image that shows a little green of the Northern Lights and a lot of stars.


I’m going to try and continue the blog but the place we are staying in for three nights has very poor wifi and I’m struggling to get the blog up.





Back to Iceland – 2019 – Day 6

The group met up to do some serious photography. The group consists of 7 of us. Jack Graham and Orvar Thorrgensson are leading the tour. We left for the east of Iceland. Soon after leaving Reykjavik the rain started. Our first stop was Seljalandsfoss, a tall waterfall that people can walk behind. I’ve seen many great photographs of this waterfall both from the front and from the back.  Today it was raining so hard I just took a few photos with my phone and didn’t walk behind it.


The next stop was Skogafoss, another really tall waterfall.  If you suspect by now that foss means waterfall in Icelandic, you’d be correct. This waterfall is located on the Skoga River. It had been raining so there was more water than usual flowing over it. You can walk up pretty close to it, but beware don’t get under it, lots of water is flowing over it. Here’s a short video.


The weather maps showed that the rain might let up for a short period of time and we went to the black sand beach at the small town of Vik. There are many black sand beaches in Iceland. The black sand is ground up lava eroded by the power of the ocean waves. We were fortunate that the sun peaked through the clouds for a brief period and we go some nice photographs. Here’s a couple of images.


The columns are probably ballast that is slowly being eaten away by the power of the ocean.


We are hoping for some clearing and possibly seeing the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. I’m not very hopeful since it’s still raining, but we’ll see.





Back to Iceland – 2019 – Day 5

We made it to Keflavik airport, returned the rental car and got a cab to Reykjavik – an uneventful trip for once. The sun came up around 10:30 on our way to Reykjavik. Yes, we finally saw the sun. We got to our hotel in the city center and I went out to  explore the town. I went to some of my favorite areas in the center of the city. Some of this will be a repeat of last year.

There’s a lot of art work around Reykjavik. You come across murals on many buildings. Here are a few I saw. There are many more and you come upon them as you explore.


I went down to the harbor. A few large fishing boats were in. Fishing is an important part of the Icelandic economy. Fisk is the Icelandic work for fish. It’s nice to understand an Icelandic work for once. It was a nice calm day and a few whale watching boats were going out of the harbor.


From the harbor I walked along the bay to Harpa. Harpa concert hall is a meeting and entertainment center. I have to visit this building every time I’m in Reykjavik. I building is very unique and I find it very photogenic. The exterior is mostly geometric glass panels of different colors.


The geometric columns are supposed to resemble the ballast columns that are commonly found around Iceland that were the result of volcanic action. I find the geometric designs interesting and photogenic. You can find all sorts of photographs.


Hallgrimskirkja is the large Lutheran church in downtown Reykjavik. I’ve visited it before, but I wanted to return on a sunny day and go up to the top of the tower which overlooks Reykjavik. There are great views of the city from the tower, but the church and tower were closed for a service. The same thing happened to me last year. The church was also designed to resemble some of the rugged mountains of Iceland and the ballast column theme continues here like at Harpa. The statue in front of the church is Leif Erikson and was given to Iceland by the US.


I’ll finish with my favorite sculpture in Iceland. Back when I was working, I felt like this guy on some days. Tonight, we meet the tour group and start our journey to the southeast of Iceland.



Back to Iceland – 2019 – Day Four

Neither of us got much sleep last night. The wind was howling and there was a lot of noise. At times it sounded like someone walking across the roof. The winds were in excess of 60 MPH. I don’t know high the wind gusts were. The wind let up a little in the morning but not the rain. We had to get over the mountains to reach Borgarnes. Fortunately the temperature rose and there was no snow on the mountain pass although it was windy, the rain was coming sideways and there as some fog. We made it across and decided to get to Borgarnes and just stay in the rest of the day. It rained hard all day so no pictures. Tomorrow we head back to Reykjavik. I have never been in rainy and windy conditions like we faced over the last two days. I can’t image what it would be like in a hurricane.

Back to Iceland – 2019 – Day Three

Day three started well but didn’t end that way. We got up and drove across a gravel mountain pass. It was windy and snowing. The studded tires came in handy again. We got to the black church at Budir before sunrise. The church stands out from the snow-covered mountains in the background. Nobody seems to know why some of the Icelandic churches are painted black.


It seems Icelanders frequently put up lite crosses on graves at Christmas time.


We left the Budir church and traveled west along the peninsula. It quickly started to rain and continued for the rest of the day. We decided to just head back to the quest house early. The wind really started to pick up. When we got back to the guest house we could hardly get out of the vehicle because of the wind. We got in and planned on going back out for supper later. At around 6pm we tried to get to the car. I could hardly get the door of the guest house open. I was able to get to the door handle of the car but I couldn’t open the door because of the wind. I could barely keep upright and was about to start crawling back to the door. Jack tired and had no luck either. After some deliberation we decided to go hungry. While I’m writing this the wind is howling like I have never heard. I’m glad to be safe in the guest house. The winds are over 60 miles per hour. We need to leave tomorrow and get over a pass. The wind will die down a little than it is supposed to pick up again about when we need to get over the pass. I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring. If we make it over and to Borgarnes tomorrow we should be okay. We’ll be out of the worst of it, but it is supposed to get much worse here on the north coast. We need to leave. Here’s a video of Jack trying to get to the car.


Back to Iceland – 2019 – Day 2

I picked up my friend Jack Graham at the Airport around 6:30am and we headed to the northwest of Iceland, the Snaefellsnes peninsula. It was a three-hour drive through the darkness with intermittent rain. We had to travel over a mountain pass and we were glad for the studded tires. We arrived at Grundarfjordur and checked into the Kirkjufell Guest House. We were at the famous mountain Kirkjufell for sunrise. Kirkjufell refers to the shape of the mountain (kirk means church, ju means bell and fell means mountain – Church Bell Mountain. You can see why it’s so named. There are waterfalls in the foreground that make this one of the most photographed spots in Iceland. We got a little sunlight at sunrise but not like we had hoped for. The scene wasn’t as dramatic as I have seen it before.


I settled for photographing parts of the waterfall.


After Kirkjufell we traveled along the peninsula to the west. We spotted this small church with snow-covered mountains in the background. This is Ingjaldsholskirkja, one of the first concrete churches in the world. There is a painting of Christopher Columbus in the church. He stayed in this area the winter of 1477-1478. There is speculation he learned of the sailings of Lief Ericsson and other Vikings to the new world.


Located at the western most tip of the Snaefellsness peninsula is the Svortaloft lighthouse. To reach this lighthouse is a long rough road over lava. This is another good bird viewing area, but not in the winter.


Below the lighthouse is an arch in the lava cliffs. The white specks are either gulls or locations of former nests. The birds weren’t very active in the heavy wind.


The wind was fierce and the ocean was smashing into the lava cliffs.

_8507251 We headed back to Grundarfjordur in rain, snow and wind. He had an interesting time finding somewhere to  eat. Everything was closed in Grundarfjordur. We had to travel back to Olafsvik. Thirty minutes back from the direction we had come to find a  restaurant then back to Grundarfjordur.