Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Another morning like this...

Today I started back in the regular routine of bicycle commuting. Either through good planning or by luck, it's only five miles by road from home to office, short sweet exercise, a psychological air-lock between home and work. Even better though, there are seemingly infinite options to stay off the road by taking an anastomosing network of ad hoc and official trails of all sorts. Today the sunrise at a little duck pond caught my eye. 
Another cure for the terminal cynic.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Mornings like these...

... Remind me why I live and work in in Alaska. Our crew has been fortunate to have summer return to the western Alaska Range for the last few days. So far our mapping project has gone well, we are having healthy geologic debates and making substantial changes to the existing geological map of the Upper Styx River area. My tolerance and sense of balance for steep terrain  is coming back, a little. How can one help but enjoy ones self here.
Puntilla Lake -- Rainy Pass Lodge

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Scenic Puntilla Lake

It all seems like an idyllic place, but the 24 hours preceding 9 am this morning the ceiling was no more than 200 feet above the lake and frequently the Super Cub would not have been distinguishable. Now, however, this is a little piece of heaven.

Monday, June 17, 2013

End of a lovely trip

Waiting at Mount Wright for the tour boat to pick us up, we listen to the sound of a humpback whale exhale as it paces back and forth in the mouth of Muir Inlet.
After three glorious days, this morning we woke to the sound of rain...if we had to pack camp in the rain, at least it was the last morning. Now the clouds have cleared and it is glorious weather again. We've been fortunate with this 10 day stretch of unusual weather.

There are more photos here

June 17 -- Mt Wright

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Last night in paradise

Our camp at the north end of Garforth Island is different than all the others, a truly sandy beach and the water is crystal clear. It was another hot day but the morning respite was a good wind blowing down Muir Inlet. The wind, of course started up as we were 1/4 of the way across the inlet back to the east side. Between the north wind and the strong ebb we made great time. We saw two northbound kayakers resting at Muir Point waiting for the wind to die and the tide to change. We were in our camp by early afternoon and lazed around, strolling the beaches, and trying to stay cool. There are a lot of nesting oyster catchers here, they come charging out of the grass with all sorts of shrill calls and theatrics. This evening while having our dinner a half dozen of the crazy birds came out of the wood work and  noisily chased each other around the island. Must have been the social hour.
Tomorrow we have an early rise and a short paddle across the channel to Mt Wright to meet the tour boat for our pick up. It's almost exactly 31 years since E & I took our first romantic overnight canoe trip  that sealed our life together, this trip has sealed us together even more!
June 16 Garforth Island

Saturday, June 15, 2013

McBride Inlet -- Hunter Cove

We awoke to a chilly morning with the booming sound of McBride Glacier calving new bergs to add to the morning ebb procession. We had a great morning ride on the ebb along the west side of Muir Inlet, but as the day turned to afternoon the heat from the sun became overwhelming, there was a nice breeze to gusty winds blowing out of Wachusett Inlet, but that did little to temper the sun. Imagine Sea of Cortez with glaciated mountains. It took us a while to find a suitable campsite without signs of bear activity, finally picking a little gravel shelf with enough room for a bear to pass without stepping on our tent. We had true sea-side dining at high tide.
We are falling asleep to the sound of forest song birds and sea birds all at the same time.
June 15

Friday, June 14, 2013

McBride Inlet

We made it to the mouth of McBride Inlet just about one hour before high tide. As the ebb started, a stately parade of bergs flowed out into Muir Inlet, crunching, grinding, and booming their escape out to sea.
We had had a glorious sunny paddle northward past Goose Cove and The Nunatak after waking up several times during the night to the sound of exhaling porpoise.
E and I are really enjoying our company traveling together through this magnificent place!
June 14

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Glacier Bay -- Day 1

Mount Wright to north of Klotz Hills.
Two humans alone in the wilderness besieged by millions of black flies and mosquitoes...only a thin layer of mesh is protecting us from complete exsanguination. 
Seemingly alone in Muir inlet we paddled north on the flood tide and following winds. Along the way we saw mountain goat nannies and kids, a black bear, Dall  harbor porpoise, loons, murelets, oyster catchers, arctic terns, etc. Our first choices for campsites turned out to be nest sites for terns and gulls. The campsite we ended up with has a bear highway running through the prime tent site on the beach ridge, so we cooked on the beach and camped in a little alcove in the woods well off the beach and bear trail.
After a delicious meal we nestle in our tent enjoying each others companionship. 
June 13

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Goin' Rogue!

The Corvallis Cliff Canoers (CCC) organized a float on the Rogue River from Almeda Campground to Foster Bar for parents, family and friends. It was a great three day trip for 25 people and two yellow labs. We had 4 oar rafts, 2 cats, 1 paddle raft, 3 kayaks, and two IKs.
First of all, the best part of the trip was the people and the organizational effort it took to keep everyone safe, well-fed, and having a good time. It was a delight to spend quality time with the entire four MELT family together and to get to know the boaters of the CCC that M spends so much time with. We had a great time making connections with all the family and friends, and look forward to more trips in the future.
The second best part of the trip was the Rogue itself; in my limited experience on rivers this is one of the more scenic, geologically interesting, and white-water fun rivers I've floated. There were few stretches without at least one upper class II to III rapid every mile or less. The flow was right around 3200 cfs and water temperatures were in the low 60s F. E rode out Rainie Falls in the raft captained by A while T had a perfect line in the IK with the inevitable endo and exit out the bottom of the hole.
We had two really nice camps, one at the Meadows just below Horseshoe Bend, and another at Camp Tacoma. Food,drink, and campfire merriment were fantastic. The sleeping to the sound of the river, crickets, and wild turkeys was delicious.See more photos here: Rogue photos

Thursday, May 2, 2013

May Day!

Happy spring!? Snow yesterday (April 30) and on May Day. I love snow and skiing, but this is a little on the crazy side. E and I leave tonight to visit the Northwest to experience real spring. More later.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The same old grind

... But how lovely it is!
The first bike commute in ages! Almost time to stow the lights until next September because the rosy glow of dawn is so gorgeous. During the westward ride home the late afternoon sun was blinding.
I may be a slug on two wheels, but I love the crunchy sound as the tires roll and bite the crisply packed trails. I also love play of the long shadows cast by the low angled sun through the Boreal forest.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Arrivedercci Italia

Our last day it was blowing a small gale and raining buckets. The south Asian umbrella and plastic poncho hawkers were making a fortune. We borrowed some umbrellas from the B&B and walked/ran to the Church of San Clemente, a 15th century church, that although small, by roman standards, was beautiful in its own right. But it's what is hidden underneath was fascinating, excavations in the 1870s revealed a 4th century church that had been partially raised to build the present day church. Some of the frescoes, inlaid marble floor, and marble columns were still intact. New walls and vaulted ceilings had been built to to support the structure above. It was clear that the walls were built from rubble of the old; there were fragments of intricately carved marble in the rough masonry.
Then in the next level down there were the remains of pre-Christian roman buildings including a Mithrian cult meeting place and a house with running water either from a spring or an aqueduct. It was the first place this trip that the layers of Ancient Rome and the transition from the pantheistic empire through the Holy Roman Empire, the fall, and then the Renaissance to the modern Rome was so clear.
After a wonderful lunch at what was obviously a very popular local spot we retrieved our bags and jumped on the Leonardo Express to our sleep and fly hotel in Fiumincino, closing the circle.
The last Italian experience was L's dive into Grappa as an aperitif...although quite interesting the one small glass left me feeling a little rough at our 0400 wake-up to catch our flight.

Ci vediamo dopo...


Our goal for the day was to visit the Museum of the Vatican and the Sistine chapel. I can't say much more then everything exceeded our expectations... The collections of art from ancient to the Renaissance, the scale and grandeur of it all is beyond belief. E and I are each of two minds when we visit cathedrals and other sites, and now here at the center of the Catholic world... I'll stop my heathen rant now, before I forget the art and architecture on display at the Vatican is simply magnificent. Wouldn't we all want a Raphael or a Michelangelo fresco in our study?
We did find a bathtub we would like to get on loan from the new pope!
After the museum we went out to Piazza San Pietro for a picnic lunch at the foot of the massive colonnade ringing the piazza. We watched the ebb and fill of the equally massive line waiting to get into the basilica. We chose to forgo the line and just enjoy the architecture from the outside.

Ancient Rome

We visited a different Rome today, the one of Julius Caesar to Constantine. We stood on the spot where Julius had the occasion to say "e tu Brutus?". At another point we stood in the remains of the immense cathedral that was built by Constantine upon his victorious return after finding an opportune time to convert from persecutor of Christians to being the first Pope.
Then we marched down the main roman street of the forum between two triumphal arches and found the Temple of Vesta where virgins (vestal, of course) kept the symbolic flames burning. Right next door was the palace of the vestal virgins, which was quite luxurious and had a fine central courtyard line with statues of V.V. Maximi of the past to inspire residents of the palace that wealth and fame awaited awaited them if they stayed virgins until their 36th birthday.
We wandered around the ruins of the forum some more and then had our picnic among the opulence of Palatine Hill where the emperors lived, looking down on the mere mortals below.
After lunch we went to the Coliseum. Lots of crowds, but an impressive place, we could feel the ghosts of the gladiators, slaves, Christians, lions, etc who were killed here solely for spectacle and pleasure of the more fortunate residents of Rome. At least in our culture we allow the gladiators in the football stadiums to live until they die a slow death of dementia from repeated brain trauma.
So with that in mind we decided to feed the lions in our stomachs...

All roads lead to Rome did ours. Our first day in Rome we wandered from our lodging near the heart of Ancient Rome to the Pantheon. The Pantheon is a 2000 year old concrete dome of immense proportions that was originally a place of celebration of the pantheon of Roman gods, subsequently looted and then adopted and redecorated by various popes. It is now a church and of the burial place of Raphael and two Italian kings.
We had a glass of wine at one of the cafes around the piazza at in front of the Pantheon and watched the throngs of tourists from all corners of the world. Then we went to the Trevi Fountain which was more thronged and then to the Spanish Steps for he sunset throngs.
It seems everyone's road leads to Rome!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Napoli Sotteranea

We visited a really old part of Naples on Monday. First, lunch at a stand up cafeteria on via Toledo, then we wandered our way into the the old part of the city. The streets became narrower and the buildings taller and more crowded; the only place to really see the sky was in the small piazzi in front of the churches. The place was vibrant -- shops of all kinds, butchers, fish markets, bakeries, green grocers, artisans, etc. Pedestrians, cars, trucks, scooters, and bikes all trying to be in the narrow alleys at once.
We encountered one church that was built in the 6th century. Then there was another church that was built in the 16th century by a cult of the Catholic Church dedicated to helping souls caught in purgatory to reach salvation. There were two levels of the church, the upper level in baroque style with beautiful but slightly creepy artwork ( lots of depicted skulls and bones). The church in the basement (closed to the public) is where the cult carried on their practice of each member adopting a skull from a crypt and caring for it until the skull's soul could be saved. Needless to say the Vatican frowns on the practice.
We found the subterranean tour and went down into the system of cisterns and narrow aqueducts built by the Greeks and expanded by the Romans. The system was in use until it was blamed for a cholera epidemic in the 1890s. After that it became a handy garbage dump and then an air raid shelter during the Allied bombardment of WWII. Now it is part of a tourist attraction and is being explored by spelunkers and archeologists. The tour ended with a visit to a neighborhood that was built in, around, and on top of a 2000 year old Roman theater . More than anywhere so far, this tour showed us that we Caucasians think of history in Alaska is just a blink of the eye.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Campi Flegrei in a day

The sulfur smell struck before we exited the Metro Tunnel into Pozoulli...It was quite strong at the train station. We walked up the hill towards Solfatera, and along the way encountered an excavation of Roman ruins right under the street, and then further along realized that the retaining wall and part of modern building walls were actually re-used Roman walls. Talk about remodeling!
We spent a couple of hours wandering around "Volcano Solfatera". Plenty of steam emitting from fumaroles with delicate needles of sulfates along the walls of what appears to be an old tuff ring. Some simmering mud pots and hollow sounding ground on the floor of the crater. The most activity were a set of loud jets escaping at a temperature of 160 C. Yellow and orange suffer and arsenic deposits coated the rocks, pretty impressive really.
Later we walked around Pouzzuli at the waterfront, port and old town. We saw the 100 A.D. Roman amphitheater and the "Temple of Serapis" which at one time was below sea level and then reemerged to its present position above sea level; you can see the holes that had been bored by clams. It looks like 10 to 20 meters of up and down motion. This is apparently due to hydrothermal expansion of water saturated layers in the first 1-4 km below the surface. The Campi Flegrei caldera seems to be pretty active. Indeed, as we left town, there was a good view of Monte Nouvo, so named because the 300 m high cone on the edge Pouzzuli is the result of a 1538 A.D. eruption.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Domingo en Napoli

Our first day in Napoli, we visited several of the architectural sights including the Gallaria Umberto in the main part of town along via Toledo. It seemed that most of Napoli was out enjoying the fine day. Families crowded the large Piazza Plebicito with small boys playing soccer with their parents. We arrived right at noon so the church bells were ringing. We walked up via Toledo lined with cafes, pastry shops, shoe stores, and clothing stores, amongst throngs.
We spent much of the afternoon in the archeological museum which had a tremendous collection of mosaics, frescoes, statues, and everyday objects that had been recovered from the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum. We were most impressed with the artistry and beauty of the mosaics and the blown glassware that managed to survive the heat of the 79 AD Vesuvius eruption.
After a few challenges buying metro tickets and walking through some sketchy neighborhoods we managed to get on the train and arrived back in the lovely Mergallina neighborhood to our home in an 1890s apartment block complete with courtyard and stables.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Punta Campanella

The day was bright and clear, so we launched our plan to walk out to Punta Campanella. First, the bus to Termini, then a gentle walk in the shade and then sun along what started as a narrow steep road and ended as a wide rough trail to the 16th century watch tower that is now a modern lighthouse that marks the southwestern tip of the Sorrentine Peninsula. Along the way we met a new friend, Enrico, saw another 16th century watch tower that has been renovated to a modern summer home; and had another wonderful picnic of salami, aged provolone, and crusty Italian bread (and of course vino rosso). After enjoying the views of Capri and due Golfi, we started up the sketchy trail that leads up the ridge to Monti San Croce. It was quite a climb among limestone outcrops with fossil coral decorated with patches of wild flowers. The views were tremendous. However we could see the gathering storm clouds, so Elizabeth set a blistering pace to get to the top. We finished the day back at the little bar owned by Enrico, where he served some local red wine, home made mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, olives, and limoncello. The stories and friendship were wonderful, but the food was "not especially cheap".

Arrividerci, Sorrento

We enjoyed our stay in Sorrento, especially our home at Casa Astarita and all the wonderful food that we had at all the restaurants. We found that Elizabeth had brought the perfect outfit to be in-style: black leather boots, tights, skirt, and down sweater!
After a hydrofoil ferry ride we arrived in Napoli at thei height of Saturday afternoon on the coastal promenade and enjoyed the scene while we walked along via Caracciolo to our new lodgings at Hotel Ausonia in the Mergellina Port district.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Festa di Sant' Antonio Abate

The festivities honoring S. Antonio started early today, with a procession including all the civil authorities and religious authorities in Sorrento, it was quite long and included lots of bell ringing, bands playing, banners, crucifixes, incense, and cannons firing. It seemed like all the town tried to fit into the local cathedral. Even for a heathen like me, it was a moving event.
Afterwards, we trotted up the steep hill sides above Sorrento with the sound of cannons and bells from all the churches around Sorrento. We walked through Sant Agata Sui Due Golfi, perched on the ridge with views of both the Golfo d' Salerno and Golfo d' Napoli. Then we had a very private and scenic picnic at the old convent at il Deserto.
The day ended with dinner in the Piazza d' S'Antonio, at the end of the evening mass.