Wednesday, August 22, 2007

queen charlottes, the "bad"

One of the main places we wanted to see on the Queen Charlottes is a remote island that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The totem poles were stood up and somewhat restored a number of years ago, although there is some controversy about whether they will continue to be propped up or whether they will be allowed to return to the earth as their creators desired. Anyway, we only committed to go to the islands because a tour operator we were working with assured us their 4-day tour was filling so we could go there. But when we arrived, she announced that it had not filled, but we could go on a 2-day trip that would go some of the other places we wanted to see, and then she had arranged for us to go down there by floatplane. What could we do at that point but accept that? So the trip went well. Then the plane trip was delayed a day, then the night before we were supposed to go, the boat operator who takes you from where the plane could land to where the totem poles are backed out. So no trip. We tried for our remaining few days to get there, but we were never able to. We also missed seeing an area that is supposed to have incredible marine life. We would not have gone if we knew we weren't going to get to see all we wanted to, since we will probably never get back there. So it goes...
Other minor bad inconveniences -- on the way home, we ran into a storm -- lightning all around -- so we decided not to camp. The motel we were in lost its power, but had some emergency back-up. Unfortunately it didn't cover the water pump. So no showers that night. Fortunately the power was on by the next morning... Lots of bugs -- I think I was bit by at least 3 different kinds of creatures. I was itchy.

But the good far outweighed the bad -- it's a place I'd highly recommend.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Queen Charlottes (number 33) -- the good

We made it to the Queen Charlottes! Beautiful islands, I referred to them as "the Northwest on steroids." Big trees, eagles everywhere (we got off the ferry and went for a walk, and counted over 20 in one mud flat. We never saw that many together again, but it was pretty amazing; later, people at a restaurant gave us the guts to some salmon they had and we put them on the beach -- the sound of the ravens and eagles going after them was particularly memorable), deserted beaches, pretty lakes. We went on a two-day tour to some of the old Haida sites, spending the night in a longhouse (built in 1985 to house protesters who objected to logging in some of the more pristine areas -- the protest led to the establishment of the Gwaii Hannas National Park and Heritage Site, jointly administered by the Canada Parks Service and the Haida Nation). Highlights of the tour included spending time in natural hot springs -- one pool was too hot for more than a couple-minute soak; touring Skedans, an old village where the totem poles are gradually being reclaimed by the earth, just as the Haida wanted -- the memorial poles in particular were expected to decompose so the person's soul could be reborn -- it really was a spiritual place; hearing a report that whales and dolphins were 20 minutes away, so rushing out there in our speedy boat, seeing whales (humpbacks, we think,) in the distance, then being surrounded by white-sided dolphins for probably half an hour -- riding the wake, jumping all around. I'm sure there were over 100 of them. It was pretty amazing! We also went to a dinner hosted by a Haida woman and featuring traditional foods. I liked dried "spawn on kelp" -- oolichan [herring, I think] eggs gathered on seaweed where the fish deposited it, but fresh, not so much. And this seafood lover could never complain about salmon, cod, octopus, etc. Yum!
Plus we met so many interesting people, local and tourists. All right, Greg did sit next to a couple of obnoxious yuppies at the dinner, but I got to hear about an English man who decided to sell everything and bicycle around the world, and a couple from Calgary complaining about how oil money is negatively impacting their city. We talked to a number of artists, notably carvers re-learning the traditional Haida crafts. One man saw us taking a picture of one carving and noted that his son had made it. He didn't say he made the one beside it until we turned our cameras to it. We commented on another person working on a canoe, and he insisted it was the community's canoe. I don't think Westerners have the same humility we saw there. Very interesting...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

the fretting begins

Sunday afternoon we figured out most of the details of the trip to the Queen Charlottes, determining we can leave on Friday August 3, getting reservations for places to camp on our way to Prince Rupert, more reservations for where to stay while on the Queen Charlottes, getting a ferry reservation to leave. Nice to have that all worked out -- everything seems to be going together well.

So I woke up early this morning, starting to worry about all the little details. Like: what kind of food should we take for camping after we've been on the tour for four days, how expensive will food be on the islands, how exhausted will we be after spending all night on a ferry boat (and why does it take 9 hours to go 9 miles), how many pairs of shoes should I take on the tour (hiking boots, the required rubber boots I have yet to buy, tennis shoes, sandals??), etc. I proved to myself yet again that I am a very good fretter.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

the value of a list

When our vacation plans fell through, we decided we would do a road trip around Oregon -- down the coast, up through the arid east, camping along the way. I even got a stack of books out of the library.
Then I reviewed the list and saw "Go the Queen Charlotte Islands." Could we do that instead? We decided to try to make it work, and we have. We don't have everything in place yet, such as how long we're staying and how we're getting off the islands. But what we are most excited about is going on a four-day exploration of the southern part of the islands (the more remote, culturally and environmentally interesting). We will go by fast small boat, then kayak and hike around the various places. We expect cool, probably rainy weather, but we can dress for that. We need to work out where else we will stay, how we can do some other hiking in the area. I think it will be great fun!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

another list update

Life just goes on, so I'll comment on some of the small events (and not-events)...
74. Learn to accessorize. (blogger doesn't think that's a word!) I met a woman selling jewelry at a gathering at our local naturopathic university, and loved her work. She creates flowers out of glass that are enclosed in more glass. I bought one and liked another one, of a trillium, except for the color. So I've been in contact with her and when she made another trillium, I bought it. I've thought they might also be nice gifts. Well, last night I dreamt about them. I can get obsessive...
35. Read the Qu'ran.
Last week was our church's General Assembly (Unitarian Universalist), and one of the workshops I went to was by an African-American woman, a Methodist minister's child, who has converted to Islam. She spoke about what the text of the Qu'ran says about women, very different from how it has played out in so many cultures. A question afterwards had to do with reading the Qu'ran. She responded that it's a very dense text and recommended that it be read in conjunction with a commentary. So I will have to devote a block of time to do that. Also she said it's best to start with Chapter 9 (sounds like the advice of skipping all the "begats" to get through the Bible.)
41. Participate in community-supported agriculture. Yeah Root Connection!! We are getting lots of greens, and I'm figuring out some wonderful recipes with chard. We even made a special trip there to pick "wild greens" for our Gourmet Group's salad. Mustard greens in particular add a special taste. But I still don't know much to do with bok choy.
86. Do the Seattle International Film Festival. It's over, so maybe next year...
58. Learn about digital photography.
I got a new camera for my birthday, and so far I've learned how to turn it on. But then, I'm only up to page 20 in the instruction guide. I'm looking forward to learning more, though.
73. Visit Burgess Shale. Our plan for summer vacation this year was to go to the Canadian Rockies, so I thought a hike to see the Burgess Shale was on. Unfortunately, with my bad knee I was not sure I could do it. I finally got a diagnosis of "just" arthritis, and the advice to keep exercising (the physical therapist did say climbing Mt. Everest is out). So by the time I called, we could not get reservations for the hike. I'm disappointed, but not going to take this off the list. So we are probably going to car-camp around Oregon.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

feeding the community

I finally filled our bird feeders a couple of weeks ago. I remember last summer when I was so sick, looking out the window and watching the birds peck at the empty feeders, but there was no way I could go out and fill them. Not this year, though. So there's one hanging off the porch, that's easy for squirrels to get into. They were the first to find it. Then the next was a raccoon!! It was extremely tame, would jump off the porch and watch me as I charged it banging pan lids together. (I had to learn to wait until I was outside to do that, because it really freaked out the cats!) I saw it about three afternoons in a row. Then the feeder was completely empty (a squirrel looked desperate), and I haven't seen the raccoon since. But I have a feeling it would come right back if I put food out. So I was reflecting on why it bothers me so much that a raccoon was there, but I'm not so bothered by the squirrels, even though technically the food is for the birds. They still haven't found the other feeders out by the trees.

In another kind of feeding, I went to our local community supported agriculture farm, the Root Connection, for the first time this afternoon. I really enjoyed it. There were big tubs of different vegetables, and for my share, I could pick one red lettuce, one green lettuce, one bunch of turnips, 2 bok choy, 1 lettuce cabbage -- I don't even know what that is. Then on the back part of the farm, you could go pick more greens. I got 2 kinds of mustard greens that I cooked with beans tonight, some chard for the African peanut and pineapple dish from one of the Moosewood cookbooks, and some mizuna, which is a salad green. I'm going to learn a lot! In the front area is an herb garden, where I picked some mint (from their selection of 4 kinds) for a Greek rice dish later in the week. When the weather's warm, I can imagine making mojitos with chocolate mint. Basil comes later too. There was a section of the garden specifically for kids, where later in the summer they can pull up radishes and pick beans. What a great way to get kids involved! Next time I won't wear sandals, though.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

more on food

So I was frustrated that some of what Barbara Kingsolver says in her latest book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, because it's not practical for those of us who have to work to know where all our food comes from. Then she hooked me on the thought of making cheese. I mean, I've made crummy fresh cheese that goes in a crummy saag paneer recipe, but I found a place to buy that not far from my office. But now I'm intrigued by the thought of making cheese at home. Maybe I can get B to help me.
I now have a signature dessert -- lemon mousse, from Ray's Boathouse Cookbook. Yum! G made a great cole slaw from it, with cabbage, bean sprouts, green beans, and a wasabi-flavored sauce. Yum yum!