Thursday, August 31, 2017


I had found the Hotel Donaldson when planning one of our first trips taking D to Minnesota, but it always seemed to be booked. But this time it worked. It was certainly the nicest of the three renovated downtown hotels we tried in the last few days. Cool common spaces and rooms, neat art, and a great restaurant. We checked out the view of town from the rooftop bar. M warmed up for the big fight in the fitness room.

My morning bike ride was along the Red River. The trails on the North Dakota side were great and all very new. The ones on the Minnesota side were older a little ragged.

I guess it's been 20 years since the big floods - or at least the last big flood in 1997. Also, I think it's important to point out that the Red River flows north to Hudson Bay. We're not in the Mississippi-Missouri watershed anymore.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Great Falls

Several years ago, I spent a wonderful early morning climbing the hill above the confluence of the Madison, Gallatin, and Jefferson Rivers near Three Forks, Montana (September 2014). Where the Missouri officially begins. A few hundred miles downstream, after picking a few more tributaries draining the eastern slope of the Rockies, the river reaches Great Falls. Geologically, this section of the river is very young, since the Missouri followed a distinctly different course prior to the last glaciation.

Great Falls gets its name from a series of five falls and intervening rapids that drop the Missouri over 600 feet in 10 miles. This was a significant landmark for native Americans, a major pain for Lewis and Clark making their way upstream in heavy boats in 1805, and a boon to early Great Falls, which was built on local hydropower.

As on so many rivers, great and small, the capturing of hydropower requires eliminating (or severely modifying) the waterfalls, so now their are five dams perched on each of the original falls and very little water is left to cascade over the rocks, since most is diverted to the power houses. This must have been incredibly impressive during spring runoff before the dams were built (much like the falls on the Snake near Twin Falls -- June 2012).

We were staying downtown - the renovated Hotel Arvon (with a great dinner at the completely unexpected Wine by Wednesday). Early Wednesday morning, I rode my bike down the river past Giant Springs on the trail, then revisited with M on the way out of town. Giant Springs is a huge natural spring on the banks of river - probably as significant a geologic feature as the falls themselves.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Glacier Park

A forest fire burning above Lake McDonald made our trip over the Going to the Sun Highway a little eerie. Traffic and construction gave us more time to take it all out in. But we eventually made it to Logan Pass, where parking was sort of like Friday evening in Ballard. But fifteen minutes of hovering paid off - though we didn't spend much more time than that walking around the visitors center.

The smoke was drifting over the divide and down into the St. Mary Valley and seemed to be getting worse while we watched. We stopped for the requisite photos on the way down - and left some of the smoke behind. Since our last visit (September 2012), much of the north shore of St. Mary Lake has burned (in July 2015). And the pullout at the Wild Goose Island overlook has been expanded - which meant we had to wait for three loads of tourists to get back into their little red buses before we could get some photos without heads and hats in the way.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Flathead Valley

One week on Salt Spring, then home for a day to catch our breath and to repack the car. And then we're off again - on a real road trip (Salt Spring is fun, but doesn't really meet my criteria for a road trip).

We stopped briefly at Snoqualmie Pass to watch the moon pass in front of the sun. Ate cheese and salami at Frenchman's Coulee. Stopped for coffee at The Vault in Couer d'Alene. And had dinner at the 44 Outlaw Grill in St. Ignatius. We drove north through Ronan as the sun set and drove around Flathead Lake as the light faded.

The Kalispell Grand Hotel was the first of three renovated downtown hotels we checked out on the way back to Madison (the Arvon Hotel in Great Falls and the Hotel Donaldson in Fargo will be the other two).

Tuesday morning I pulled the bike out of the car and rode a great loop up past Foy's Lake. I even pedaled up to Lone Pine State Park for its great views back of the valley. The ride back down into town was much faster than the one up.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Dionisio Point

Dionisio Point is the northeastern tip of Galiano Island. I had seen pictures and checked it out on the map and it looked like a wonderful place to visit, if I could get there. The Provincial Park is cut off from the rest of Galiano Island by some large swaths of private property, so its official designation is "marine access only." But that doesn't mean you can't get there without a boat. The bike not not only made it possible, but added to making this place the highlight of my little Galiano adventure.

I spent a few hours exploring its rocky points and beaches - the centerpiece of which is a beautiful tombolo (a spit that connects two islands). There was also a nice little pocket beach farther west, below the old (and large) native village site of Quelus'.

Dionisio Point itself marks the southern entrance into Porlier Pass. The sandstones, typical of the Gulf Islands, weather into fascinating shapes and patterns (this kind of honeycomb texture in rocks is called tafoni). 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Active Pass

The ferries from Tsawwassen to Long Harbor (and those to Swartz Bay, Mayne, and Pender) go through Active Pass, making it a busy place.  It's a fairly narrow channel (between Mayne and Galiano) with strong tidal currents and lots of other boats. Every year for twenty years, we've ridden through, usually on deck, enjoying the scenery and hoping to see orcas jumping across the bow (not yet). And I've always noted little rocky points and beaches on the north shore (the south end of Galiano), promising to check them out someday.

My two days on Galiano last week finally gave me the chance. And it's amazing how often the ferries were going by. The return from Sturdies Bay to Salt Spring also gave me a chance to go through in the dark, which added a new twist.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Galiano Island

This year I decided to mix up the Saltspring routine by spending a couple of days on another island. I left M with ample support staff and took the car, the boat, and the bike on the early Monday morning ferry. I camped at Montague Harbor and spent the two days checking off a long list of beaches, home keys, paddles, and bike rides. I arrived back in Sturdies Bay Tuesday evening for the 8:55 boat feeling I'd gotten a great introduction to the island (and that my advance work had paid off). 

I'll post a little more about specific places in subsequent entries, but this post is just an attempt to capture the overall gist of the adventure. Which began, right off the ferry, at the Sturdies Bay Bakery. Then it was off to Morning Beach, a couple of more public road end shore access points, and a hike up Mount Galiano. From there, I headed down to the beach at Mathews Point and to Bellhouse Point, both of which I'd been eyeing from the ferry for twenty years. I found my reserved walk-in campsite and set up the tent, then took the kayak out for a hour or two. Dinner was at the Montague Harbor Marina (The Crane and Robin). Sunset was from Shell Beach.

I broke camp early on Tuesday morning, stopped for coffee and a cinnamon bun at the Bakery (I was going to try something different, but my first choice wasn't open yet). Then to the north end of the island to see if it was true that I could get to Dioinisio Point without a boat. I switched out the bike for the car and rode the last 8 kms - more on this adventure later. Bodega Ridge, not far away, was easier and perhaps better, than Mount Galiano. I followed it with a drive to the very north end of Porlier Pass Road with several stops on the shore along the way.

I went back to Montague Harbor and rinsed off the day's sweat at Shell Beach, then hung out at the Hummingbird Pub for a couple of hours. I'd made good work of the two days and had plenty of time left to wander around Sturdies Bay wishing the ice cream place was still open. The Salish Raven (brand new boat) takes its time getting back to Long Harbor (stops at Mayne and Pender), but I was back to Geeen Acres by 11:15.

White Rock

This is a bit of an experiment, trying a new App to let me use Blogger from my iPad (a perennial obstacle to posting while traveling and a reminder of how frustrating it can be when a large company - like Google - fails to continue to support an application despite a large base of users).

We always begin our Salt Spring week with a Friday drive north across the border - makes Saturday morning more pleasant before heading for midday ferry in Tsawwassen. We have tried Tsawwassen and Richmond, but this year we got an AirBnB just north of the border in White Rock. We drove out to Crescent Beach for dinner at The Cabin.

Saturday morning I rode back out to Crescent Beach on my bike in a big loop that included the beach at White Rock and the Peace Arch.

Now the test. Can I add photos to the post? If this works, maybe I'll add some more comments on my blogging mechanics in a future post.

NOTE: 6 October. Although I could successfully post from my iPad, the results were poor. The process was frustrating and clumsy, managing the photos was difficult, and the process was far from transparent. Ultimately, I revisited the posts later, swapped out the photos, and cleaned up some details. Blogger remains a desktop endeavor.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

English Bay

The main point of the weekend, or at least the thing that everything is planned around, is the Celebration of Light fireworks show Saturday evening over English Bay. There will be two more shows this coming week, but those folks don't realize that it is going to be really hot and incredibly smoky - so we're glad we reserved this weekend. We stay at the Sylvia, right across the street, and there are thousands of food options in the neighborhood, which makes it all very easy.

The challenge is always figuring out where the tide will be when the show actually happens - the tide is typically rising on these summer evenings. We want to be in the front row. If we're too high, there will be folks in front of us. If we're too low, we'll get wet, and by then there won't be any place to retreat to, since several hundred thousand people will have filled in behind us. But despite M's apprehensions, we got it right. People who set up in front of us had to move and we still had a few feet of dry sand between us and the water when the show ended.

When we first started doing this, the show was sponsored by Benson and Hedges, but that was a problem in the politically sensitive northwest. HSBC took over for awhile, as I recall. Now Honda is the main sponsor. It's set up as a competition among national fireworks teams (are there really such things?) - this night was put on my Japan and they did a very nice job. One of the things we like about being up close is that you see so much more of the low level stuff and the choreography - not just the big blasts high in the sky.

Here are links to a couple of our earlier trips:
2008: English Bay

2006: English Bay

Saturday, August 05, 2017

False Creek

M headed back to the hotel when we finished our loop, but I kept going. I've always wanted to ride the Seaside trail all the way around and out to Spanish Banks and this was the perfect opportunity.

I've been doing long rides every Saturday all summer - motivated by the new bike. Our basic loop around Stanley Park was 7 miles or so, but by the time I made it back from the far end, I'd put on more than 30 miles.

The trail is great. Most of it is dedicated bike path, usually segregated from the pedestrian path it parallels. The biggest challenge was the volume of traffic and the number of riders with very little road sense. I can forgive the kids - but still have to watch out for them. And at least the Brit who swerved left when he should have swerved right (dangerous, but understandable, given their conditioned responses to oncoming traffic), was very apologetic (in a very polite British way). But the walkers staring into their cell phones while wandering down the middle of the bike lanes and the tourists on rented bikes who seemed oblivious to basic road etiquette, or even to the presence of other riders, was a little terrifying!

In Kitsilano (okay - we're not on False Creek anymore, despite the title of the post), the trail shifts away from the shore and onto well-marked bikeways through the Point Grey neighborhood, before hitting the long stretches of Jericho Beach and Spanish Banks, where you lose pavement. The trail completely peters out as you approach UBC, but I kept going up the hill on the road before deciding to turn around. I took a break and walked down to Acadia Beach, which sort of marks the transition from the broad sandy beach at Spanish Banks to the cobble foreshore of Point Grey and Wreck Beach.

Spanish Banks - quite a ways beyond False Creek - looking back at the city