Color and Surprise in the Fall Garden

I wandered in the garden and found color in the lavender –

and a rose –

and in a flock of visitors dressed in brilliant yellow!

Townsend’s Warblers – what a treat!

“Thank you for dropping by!  Please come again!”

~ Susanne

The Cruise Continues – On to Astoria!

We woke to sunrise on Day 2 of our cruise ready for our first port of call:  Astoria, Oregon, the oldest American settlement west of the Rockies, founded in 1811. (Here’s Day 1 if you missed it.)

After coffee and a light breakfast I went down to the Promenade Deck for a walk around the ship as we approached the mouth of the Columbia River.  This was the view north, of Washington’s Cape Disappointment.

And this was the view to the east of Mt. St. Helens who blew her top in 1980.

And there – straight ahead – was a giant sandbar.

According to Wikipedia, ‘The Columbia Bar is where the river’s current dissipates into the Pacific Ocean, often as large standing waves… The waves, wind, and current are hazardous for vessels of all sizes.. Conditions can change from calm to life-threatening in as little as five minutes due to changes of direction of wind and ocean swell.. Since 1792 approximately 2,000 large ships have sunk in and around the Columbia Bar, and because of the danger and the numerous shipwrecks the mouth of the Columbia River acquired a reputation worldwide as the graveyard of the Pacific.

Scared?  No not me. I was trusting our experienced Captain and even more, the pilot boat that came to guide our ship safely to port.

I continued my walk and found quintessential views of Oregon to the south.

Just ahead was the Astoria bridge connecting Oregon and Washington. When completed in 1966, it was the longest continuous-truss bridge in the world.

We would dock just short of it, then head out for our shore excursion.

This was not our first time to Astoria so we’re quite familiar with its offerings.  But we signed up for a guided tour of Fort Stevens State Park and enjoyed stops by other landmarks on the way, including the Astoria Column for the best views in town.

We didn’t climb to the top – I did last time and that was enough.  A narrow winding staircase inside takes you to an even narrower platform at the top barely two persons deep.  But even without climbing the tower the views from the hill are great.

Our next stop was the Peter Iredale – because who doesn’t want to see a shipwreck?  This British ship ran aground in 1906. Remember?  It’s the Graveyard of the Pacific!

We finally arrived at Fort Stevens, a military defense installation, constructed during the Civil War, and fired upon during WW2. The tour guide was enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the fort, having grown up as an army brat playing in its batteries.

After a full day we headed back to the ship for dinner and watched as our captain carefully maneuvered us out to sea.

There were parting shots of the Astoria Column,

more quintessential views of Oregon,

and of course the setting sun.

Next up –  a full day at sea, followed by an early morning arrival in San Francisco.

Stay tuned!

~ Susanne

Salmon Mosaics and the Sockeye of the Cedar River

The salmon have returned to spawn on the Cedar River, primarily Chinook, Coho and Sockeye. Their journey was not a simple one.  Having left the Pacific Ocean, they entered Puget Sound, made their way through the Ballard Locks,  into the fresh water of Lake Washington, and are now fighting against the current to return to the place of their birth.

I was happy to see them in great numbers at Cedar River Park – their beautiful colors shining beneath the surface of the river like a mosaic.

I took these pictures near the Weir, a strange looking contraption designed to capture Sockeyes for transport to the fishery at Landsburg.

But why?  The answer is a bit complicated but goes something like this:

  • The Cedar River Watershed provides drinking water for the City of Seattle;   When the Landsburg Diversion Dam was constructed in 1901 it created a barrier to salmon and other migratory species.   In 2003 facilities were added to allow the fish passage into the Seattle’s Municipal Watershed upstream of Landsburg Dam.
  • A fish ladder and sorting facility provide passage for adult salmon, steelhead, resident rainbow and cutthroat trout and other migratory species. Because of their much higher numbers, sockeye can pose a risk to drinking water quality. Sorting facilities at the ladder allow the exclusion of sockeye from above the dam.
  • As mitigation, the hatchery produces fry to replace those that could have been produced above the dam. Hatchery fry supplement production from sockeye spawning in the Cedar River below the dam.    (For more info on the watershed see City of Seattle)

I was sad to see the captured salmon. I wish they could travel their final course naturally – without man’s interference – even though they have the same fate no matter how they make it up the river – to spawn and die.

In fact, sockeye aren’t native to the Cedar River.  They were introduced after the river was rerouted and the Ballard Locks were built almost 100 years ago. Still, I’m glad they’re here now. Aren’t they beautiful?

~ Susanne

The Cruise Begins!

Seven nights – five ports of call – Seattle – Astoria – San Francisco – Monterey – Victoria – and two full days at sea.  It was time to cruise!

I admit I’d had some concerns. The week before we left, the weather was as bad in Seattle as it can be – heavy rain, pounding hail,  even thunder and lightning.  Why had I booked such a late season cruise?  But when Sunday rolled around the forecast showed sunny and dry all week – yippee!   So we happily bid Seattle farewell and headed out to sea on the Star Princess leaving Pier 91 at 4:00 p.m.

We’d boarded the ship at 1:00, had lunch and checked out our room –  it was perfect. More spacious than we remembered from our one and only previous cruise, and we were thrilled to have a balcony.  We explored the ship, doing our best to understand the layout – it would take all week. The top three decks (14, 15, 16) contained the buffet, pools, outdoor theatre, small bars, clubs, and wonderful, wonderful views.  Lower decks (5, 6 & 7) had the formal dining rooms, speciality restaurants, entertainment venues, shops and the promenade.  In between were the staterooms – we were on Baja Deck 11.

Soon enough it was time for dinner. We’d ended up with a 5:00 seating in the traditional dining restaurant, where we shared our table with two other couples (one local, one not) friendly and easy to be with.  Lots of bantering ensued about travel and cruising and places and things and somewhere along the line this exchange happened:

Unnamed party:  ‘Do you know who Archie Bunker is?  You sound just like him.’

Archie (not his real name) with a laugh :  ‘Everybody from New York sounds like Archie Bunker.’  Including you-know-who but we stayed clear of that.

After a wonderful dinner and dessert we said goodbye to our new friends and headed up top to watch the sunset.

When it got a bit chilly we remembered we had the same view from our room and headed back down where it was warm and cozy.

We watched the scenery go by from our balcony –  as we headed west to the Pacific Ocean.  There were our own Olympic Mountains – as beautiful a sight as any we would behold from sea –

and the brilliant colors of sunset staining the sky.

Later on we fell asleep to the gentle movement of the ship … and slept soundly until we woke to sunrise the next morning.

Now I’m not what you’d call a morning person but with so much on the horizon I had to get up early and check it out.

There were so many mountains in the distance as we sailed down the Washington Coast, including the tallest which must have been Rainier – but don’t quote me – I’ve never seen them from sea.

When this finally happened I knew we’d made the right choice –  it was a wonderful start to our cruise and I looked forward to every day ahead.

That’s enough for now but there’s lots more to come, including our first stop at Astoria, followed by a full day at sea.

Stay tuned!

~ Susanne

The Fall Colors of Coulon

Fall is in full swing in the Pacific Northwest so I went to see the show at Coulon Park where the trees are alive with color.  I thought you’d enjoy seeing them too!

Still sorting through my photos and will bring you my first cruise post soon!  🙂

~ Susanne

After a Week of Cruising

After a week of smooth sailing down the West Coast under summery blue skies and sunshine – lazy days spent at sea and excursions at ports of call –  we returned to beautiful, cold and damp, Seattle.

I’m still getting my land legs back and settling in. Unpacking luggage.  And stories. And hundreds of photos I was compelled to take.  I look forward to sharing them with you in the coming days.

I’m also ready to embrace the fact that summer is really over – a chill is in the air, leaves are changing color, and salmon are running on the Cedar River – fall is here to stay and winter follows close behind.

The cats are adjusting too –  confused and a bit agitated about our absence – they require more love and attention which I am happy to give.

The cruise was wonderful, even better than I expected.  Still, it’s great to be home.  🙂

~ Susanne

Choosing Cruising

For the second time we booked a cruise.

You may remember our first one to Alaska two years ago. Here’s a little reminder if you don’t – Juneau and Mendenhall Glacier.

In fact, cruising to Alaska might be considered a gateway cruise – for some people it can lead to other cruises to far and distant lands. Like the Panama Canal. Or the Caribbean. Or Mexico.

We opted for something a little less exotic and closer to home – where we can still enjoy the cruising experience. Down the coast from Seattle. To San Francisco. And Monterey. With a stop by Victoria on the way back. Not because we’ve never been to these places before but because we have – and loved them. Only this time we’ll leave the driving to someone else. And arrive by sea. Relaxing don’t you think?

I hope to tell you all about it soon.

In the meantime, here’s a sneak preview of sunrise from the ship.

~ Susanne

%d bloggers like this: