Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .

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ACE-ing Portland at The NINES

Thanks to a flurry of emails from one of my four brothers, my husband and I decided to make Portland, Oregon the first stop on our Pacific Northwest tour. When I told him we had booked our flight from Toronto to Portland.  He sent me a notice of a hotel special from Hotwire and urged me to book at The NINES.  Which I did.  We were not disappointed.

The Nines Hotel, Portland

The Nines, a place for you and your honey bunny.

The Nines is located within a former mega-department store in the Meier & Frank Building.  There is still a downsized Macy’s within this landmark building but the hotel takes up floors seven and upward to the eighteenth, top floor.  The name, is a reference to the glory days of the building, “dressed to the nines” with various decorative elements reinforcing this theme.

The Nines

Rooms, all dressed up at The Nines

The price of the hotel at $129 was within five dollars of what we paid for a very basic room at one of Juneau’s top hotels shortly after. We were very “down” with that to borrow a youthful expression. The rooms were comfy and chic, the location superbly central, with the light rail transit system footsteps away and just a few blocks away from the ACE Hotel.

Ace Hotel

Coffee & good food flank the Ace Hotel

While in Portland my brother and I exchanged several text messages via Blackberry messenger, including one where he asked if I loved the lobby of the ACE Hotel as much as he did.  Just off the lobby is a Stumptown Coffee Roasters Cafe, so when you get your coffee there, you can then hang out in the ACE Hotel lobby.

ACE Hotel Lobby

Casual Corner at the ACE Hotel

What did I love about the lobby?  Was it the offhand chic, and truly casual atmosphere where you felt perfectly comfortable rearranging the modular sofa to your needs.  Perhaps that comfort level was an offshoot of the duct tape repairs on the immense coffee table with cactii and succulents as the centerpiece.  Lining the passage to the lobby were to-the-ceiling bookshelves and in the lobby itself were bikes for hire and an icon of instant photography, a vintage four shot, photo booth.

Ace Hotel

Duct tape detailing carries the day

I held back on professing love, mainly because I wondered if we, who seemed to always be the oldest pair “in the house” were entitled to “love” the place.  The creative and hip ambience had me wondering if the Drake Hotel and the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto drew inspiration from the ACE.

While the Drake is far more “sheeshy” or “chi chi” and self-consciously arty it is not quite as inviting and cozy.  We stayed at the Drake Hotel one night, even though it is only one mile from our home just a couple of blocks off my running route.  We were the successful bidders on an overnight stay there at a silent auction fundraiser for our local YMCA.  The room by the way, was a lesson in good, functional design and the food at the Drake is always terrific, with fried chicken on buttermilk pancakes a pleasant brunch memory.

Stumptown Coffee at the Ace Hotel

Stumptown coffee at the ACE, yes, I love it!

As for the coffee, Stumptown Coffee Roasters is acknowledged as giving Portland the edge over Seattle as best coffee town in North America. In Canada, Stumptown is only available at two LIT Espresso bars in Toronto. One of the locations is a few blocks from us and our attention was drawn to the Stumptown difference and our good fortune in our proximity to LIT by the same brother who directed us to visit the lobby of the ACE Hotel.

In comparison, the atrium style lobby of  The Nines is of mammoth proportions, with a restaurant, pool room and several seating areas. I never made it to the fitness area but my husband reported that the treadmills had a screen where you could view a visual of a track. We also never made it to the highly recommended Asian inspired, rooftop restaurant.  You know there’s a lot going on in your hotel when you don’t have time to enjoy or even peek at all its amenities. And there is so much to do in this city with Powell’s the world’s largest, independent, used and new bookstore, a fabulous weekend market, fresh and unique take-out food in abundance at the many street vendors and easy access to running routes by the river.

Willamette River Walk, Portland Oregon

Nothing beats a river path for reducing the risk of losing your way while on a run.

p.s.  We don’t normally travel with a stuffed rabbit.  The one pictured in this post was purchased as a gift at the Japanese garden in Washington Park.

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Blogging Jogger gets Freshly Pressed

Last summer I took a course in blogging at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD University).  It is a qualifying course towards a Digital Media Certificate offered by the Continuing Education department.  I’ve also taken a digital photography course, InDesign and am thinking about taking an Introduction to Adobe Illustrator.  Mind, Motion and Matter came to be on August 7th, 2010 a few days before  final assignment was due, the assignment, start a blog. The first comment on my blog was from my son.


Photo of OCAD University courtesy of Invest in Toronto

Our instructor, Greg J. Smith provided lots of social commentary on blogging and social media as well as the mechanics of starting a blog.  His blog is called: Serial Consign, Digital Culture & Information Design. WordPress, was his recommended blogging platform.  He also addressed concerns that exist about Facebook and privacy issues and said that he had disabled his Facebook site, due in part to the paucity of meaningful discourse that typified his Facebook experience.

I decided to disable my rarely used Facebook site but was thwarted because I had changed email addresses since signing up and with no access to that email address, Facebook told me it could not be disabled. Food for thought, no?

In spite of this I have come to accept that Facebook is a “fact of life” and am working towards figuring out how to use it in small doses and make wise use of the different privacy settings.  And of course, this time round, I’ll have a back up email address to avoid losing control over my Facebook web presence.  I’m sure if push came to shove something could be done but who has the time to pursue this kind of on-line bureaucracy?!  Irksome to say the least.

Last Tuesday, I got the email below, telling me that I was part of an elite group of bloggers.  I was Freshly Pressed!  Comments and “Likes” began pouring in and by the end of the day I had surpassed my previous record for hits by almost 2000.  The following day, I had over 1000 hits and had tripled my number of subscribers.  What a wild ride!

Freshly Pressed

Freshly Pressed Congrats Email

To be Freshly Pressed means that your blog is one of 10-11 blogs featured on the WordPress home page where it says, “The best of 363,479 bloggers, 404,519 new posts, 403,358 comments, & 103,896,794 words posted today on WordPress.com.”  The post accorded this distinction was titled: I Think My Bathroom Scale is Broken.  Which is exactly what I said to my husband when I stepped on the scale for the first time after our 11 day holiday.  I had attributed the unusual amount of flesh around my belly to be caused by not sticking to my planking routine as my daily runs keep my weight quite consistent.

I learned a lot about blogging by the kind, funny and inquisitive comments I received as a result of being Freshly Pressed.  Prior to this, I had not given much thought to the Freshly Pressed concept, other than wondering in passing whether having a photo that lends itself to the narrow horizontal space allotted to each featured blog increased your chances of getting featured.

But now, my bar graph stats are hard to interpret at-a-glance, as compared to the big day, and the day after.  Subsequent and previous days show up as tiny slivers.  Back to reality and I do confess that I find myself a little self-conscious about my posts with so many new subscribers.  Hello, hello . . . and thank you!

On the run today, the blogging jogger tried a new method of carrying her point and shoot camera.  I clipped a small case to the back of my running skirt and there placed my camera.  I won’t go into the details but while making a pit stop my camera fell out of the case and into the toilet and it no longer works. Sad, and costly.

Is the description of this little mishap material for another winning blog post title?

Ciao . . .

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Happy in Haines

Future site of cubic cabin

The weather in Haines, back in early June was superb and we were told, unusually summery.  First order of the day was a run, and a destination run at that.  I’m not the only one in my family to fall in love with Haines as my Whitehorse brother, an architect, recently bought a property in Haines.  Thus  sight number one, was his lot.

Final leg up the hill, breakfast just around the corner

His lot is on the edge of this town, in the uppermost reaches so it was quite a climb to get there and a bit too steep on the downhill to really enjoy an easy stride. But, man oh man, what a view!   Then, down to the water and a run over to the Mountain Cafe, THE place for coffee in Haines. This combo healthy food store and cafe sits at the conjunction of the major roads into the town. Having verified the location of where we would breakfast, I was eager to get on with the eating and shortened my run a bit.

I do cut myself a bit of slack while on vacation particularly since my husband has had to cut back his running as my primary goal is to spend time with HIM.  I’ve also cut back on travel shopping as well, for the very same reason.

Mountain Cafe, Breakfast Burritos

The Mountain Cafe met expectations with very good breakfast burritos and local hustle and bustle.  Then we walked to Fort Seward, so named for William H. Seward who negotiated the purchase of Alaska from the Russians.  The fort was decommissioned in 1947 and is now privately owned.  The original buildings now a combination of private residences, B&B’s, eateries galleries and studios.

Carrying on the Tinglit cultural traditions

Tinglit artist's supply room

Notable was the Alaskan Indian Arts centre with a gallery and studio  where we were able to informally tour the studio where totem poles are made.  To order a totem pole CLICK HERE  It was hard not to compare the quality and pricing of the work found here to the offerings of the ultra-commercialized Juneau.  Any cruise ship passenger happening upon this place would feel that they had connected to the “real” Alaska.

In the afternoon we went on a three-hour guided hike.  This was quite expensive but hikers are cautioned to travel in groups to minimize the risk of a bear attack.  I’ve heard various numbers cited for safety from parties of three to ten.  With eight in our group, including two guides, one armed with bear spray in a holster I felt safe.  Being of small stature, I’ve often thought it would be useful to have a very tall, hiking hat in the shape of some sort of menacing creature.

One of our guides, Lindy was a musician and naturalist.  She and her husband lived for years in a Yurt,  the portable, wood-framed and felt-covered dwelling of nomadic Mongolians.  Funnily enough her band played in Ottawa last year, for the Canada Day celebrations.  Lindy was able to tell when a bear had scratched its back on a tree, or whether a moose had gone by, by virtue of a few hairs left on bark or a bush.  Thankfully, she was also able to tell us that the very loud and scary sound we heard was not a mountain lion or a bear but the sound of humpbacks in the water nearby.

If it had been the two of us, in fear (or at least my fear) we could have set personal best times running back to the trail head.  Thanks to our guides we now cherish the memory of those otherworldly, sonorous and eerily musical sounds.  Sadly, we were not able to see the humpbacks through the thick forest cover but we came upon another group who were starry-eyed having seen the humpbacks play in a cove further on.  Excitedly we trekked on, hoping the whales would linger so we could enjoy the same.

Humpback whales hang out here

The word pristine was invented to describe places such as the destination cove and all those beautiful, mostly unnamed places in the north.  Wow!  The humpbacks were gone however and that was a bit disappointing.   Somewhere along the trail the topic of beer came up and this thread was eagerly pursued by our other guide.  He promised to take us to the Haines Brewing Company located in the state fairground, formerly the set of the movie White Fang.  Happily, time allowed and sampled some Spruce Tip Ale while I enjoyed a freshly brewed and delicious root beer.

Happiness is a bottle of spruce tip beer

From there we returned to the Fireweed Restaurant for dinner where we were greeted like regulars.  I wondered if this was because our two night in a row appearance set us apart from the majority of middle-aged folk who travel Alaska via cruise ship.  One of the couples on our hike were from California and they were amazed to discover that it was possible to travel down the Lynn Canal by state ferry.

The next day was our travel day to Whitehorse.  Sure wish we had more time on our hands but I know we will be back.

Haines, good for the soul

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Haines, Sweet Haines

A regal, eagle welcome

This little town on the Lynn Canal, a fjord in Alaska, is bypassed by cruise ships, save for one day a week, Wednesday, when a single ship docks.

I was introduced to Haines by virtue of taking part in the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay  which starts in Haines Junction, Yukon and ends in Haines, Alaska for a total of 148.1 miles.  I did a 20 mile leg with very modest elevation changes.  Whilst others had their work cut out for them, biking past the treeline as the temperature dropped accordingly.  The race ends in the Fort Seward compound, which affords a stunning view of mountain and sea.  That weekend the town was bursting at the seams with people and energy as the combination of the adrenalin high and the perfect weather in this northern haven was euphoric.  As a finale a fish fry in conjunction with the awards ceremony was held in the Fort Seward square.

View from Captain's Choice Patio, just steps from our room

My visit this year was my sixth to Alaska and my fourth to Haines but the very first visit with my husband.   Returning to Haines with him, was the most anticipated moment of our trip.  The ferry ride there was idyllic as described in a previous post, Where a Whale Was.

One of my must-do-one-day items (I’m not fond of the expression “bucket list”) is to visit Haines in November to witness the largest gathering of bald eagles in the world.  My last visit was in September and bald eagles could be spotted in threes and fours, regularly.  We saw one bald eagle in Juneau but I was a bit disappointed not to have seen more. Shortly after we got off the ferry and while waiting for our motel shuttle-car a bald eagle obliged my eagle-seeking-eyes and landed on atop the highest point on the ferry.

Fettucine with smoked salmon, fuel for the morning run

I was very keen to revisit a restaurant, the name of which I was uncertain but guessed to be Fireweed Restaurant.  There I had enjoyed the most delicious plate of pasta with pesto sauce in a most laid-back setting with a gorgeous view.  As we chatted with our driver from the Captain’s Choice Motel  my description of a restaurant called Fireweed seemed to match reality and we were driven straight there.

Does it get any better than dinner at the Fireweed?

How to describe the feeling I had in entering the Fireweed Restaurant.  There seemed to be a pause in the action as we entered, a quick glance to see what category of northern species we were; cruise people, who missed their boat, locals, adventurous youth, or rambunctious Whitehorse youngsters?  I’m guessing that we were sized up as Canadians from Whitehorse.  But, it was a curious rather than an intrusive pause and I imagined that there was a mutual meeting of hearts and minds in recognition that here we all are in this most cozy of restaurants, in a tiny northern paradise with a world class view.  None of us wishing to be elsewhere.

Sweet and timeless dreams start here.

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Fatherhood & the Global Village

A Kobo Reader for dad

One of my husband’s most endearing qualities as a dad this past year, was to extend his circle of fatherly care, outside our immediate family. He did this by taking the plunge alongside me to chair a gala that raised $22,000 in net revenues for an orphan sponsorship fund in Ethiopia a program of People for Kids, AID Organization Canada.

The event was a small, family, friends and workmates fundraiser and a crucial element of making it all work, was that my husband had to step, or should I say sprint, far outside his comfort zone in asking for help (i.e. ask for money!)  from friends, family and colleagues.

Partners in fundraising

He was hugely gratified by the response to his outreach and we are both very grateful for the support of so many. And of course, my love for him grew with this big step on the journey of parent and couple-hood, a journey where are first steps together were taken on a run – of course. Happy Father’s Day my love!

Fathering is not something “perfect” men do, but something that perfects the man. The end product of child-raising is not the child, but the parent. 

Frank Pittman

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Run, Jump, Eat Cake & Other Adventures

I managed to get in 40 miles for the week ending Sunday, June 12th, although on Monday I was pretty dead legged after a successful 13+ miler on Saturday.  I had to abandon my husband on his five-miler, as my legs just didn’t have any juice. Later in the day, I was invited to take part in more vigourous activity at a birthday party for a three year old niece.  As I wandered into the backyard of my sister’s home, I was invited by my brother-in-law to join in on the fun in the bounce tent as I was under the maximum weight allowed.

I couldn’t resist the challenge as a former lover of trampolining.  Although, my very worst sports injury took place on a trampoline at age 13, a severely sprained ankle that to this day, remains my Achilles heel.

So in I went, through an opening designed to fit your average eight year old to bounce the night away.

Awkward entry

Getting the hang of it

Look at meeeeee . . . .

Ungainly exit

I was concerned that I would set back my training a few days with this unplanned for training session but I didn’t notice ill effects on my five miler this morning.  Phew!

As for the bunny cake, however cute and delicious, it was not the best start to my week of cutting back on refined sugar.  So, so hard to resist a birthday cake.

Hop, Eat, Jump

The bicycle story started the day before we left for our vacation.  On leaving work, I could not find the key to my bike lock and had to leave my bike parked on Dundas Street. I worried and wondered how much of my bike would be left when I returned.  On my first day back to work, I could hardly stand to look at the spot where my bike was parked thinking I might see a bike frame, with no wheels, fenders and seat.  But hallelujah . . . there it was neatly placed on a the lawn of the home in front of which it had been parked.  That morning, the section of sidewalk where my bike was parked was being worked on by road crews and THEY HAD REMOVED THE POLE FROM THE SIDEWALK, thus liberating my bike.  WooHoo!  I walked over, claimed my bike and carried it to work.  The guardian angel of bikes must have been watching out for mine.

Close to home, I arranged to have my lock removed by Cam at My Little Bike Shop on College street.  Cam also has the best prices on Kryptonite locks. Good price but still not cheap at $80, making the bill for the lost key $110 with the $30 for lock removal.

Cam at work with an angle grinder. Watch out for sparks!


Cam doesn’t do tune-ups but spruces up old or vintage bikes.  This led to a discussion of my old Bianchi road bike bought in 1985.  He decided to make a house call to check it out and followed me home as I led the way on my newly liberated bike.  He paid me $50 for my cobweb covered vintage wheels.  He also asked that I mention to my friends that he is in the market for old bikes.  That took the bite out of my $110 misadventure. Bianchi it turns out is the oldest bike manufacturer in the world.  He asked me to let my friends know he is looking to buy bikes.

So now, it is Saturday, five days after I began this post and having now completed another Saturday run, 14 miles today, finally feel I can spare the time to finish the post. Although, I’m at a loss to connect the dots, if there were any.  All I can say is THE END and I hope to have a smaller gap between this post and my next post. I think I set a personal record for post-less days.


Where a Peony Was – Return to City Life

The peony down the street

While away, the thing I missed most was our garden.  The peony buds were coming along nicely and I hoped not to miss any of their divine showiness. One peony bud in particular was on my mind.  Nearly three years ago, I was sitting in a favourite spot in Mt. Pleasant cemetery close to the double bed of commemorative peonies that supposedly have one of every type of peony grown in Canada.  The gardener was pruning the post-bloom garden and we struck up a conversation.  He then gave me 14-15 peony roots and told me to plant them.

I rushed back to work and put them in water and a few days later planted all fourteen in my garden.  Nothing green poked through the earth that year.  But the following spring, leaves showed up on three cuttings.  Last year, a bit more foliage grew on two of them and this year many more leaves grew on a single stem.  The only survivor.  To my amazement a bud started to form and I was certain that it would blossom.  My curiousity about what type of peony would emerge was blooming,  and then we left town.

Many mornings in spring and summer I begin my day by checking out our front and back garden with coffee in hand.  My first morning back, I did this and was shocked to discover the mystery peony bud was gone.  I can only guess that it had blossomed and someone stole it as there was a definite jagged, ripped look to the top of the main stem.  Sad to say flowers from our garden are often picked but never did I feel so sad as this time.  Could the thief ever have any idea of how long I had been waiting to see this particular flower. What a sad comment on life in the city coinciding with my return to Toronto.

I console myself by saying that the loss of the flower will create a stronger plant for next year, with more flowers because of the energy saved by this years flowerlessness. Sniff . . .

Above is a photo of a peony on our block that made my heart melt with its beauty.  This photo is my current BlackBerry screensaver.

As for the return to running, I had a better-than-expected outing.  My goal was to run for two hours and I was expecting it to be a bit of a slog as I have gone under my forty-mile-week minimum goal several times in the last six weeks.  The cooler temperature, overcast sky and slightly slower pace to accommodate an injured run mate’s injury made for a very comfortable 13+ mile run with energy to spare.

Men planking at St. Clair & Avenue Road

As we waited at Avenue Road and St. Clair for J, R decided to plank.  Later on at a water fountain stop, R & J decided to plank.  I limited myself to assessing the planking form of my running mates as I find planks difficult and did not want to run with sore abdominals.  I recently learned that planking has branched out into plankstering in unusual places.  Apparently a plankster died while planking on a moving car.  My husband’s intention was not to plankster when he did his on a ferry in Alaska.

Man planking in his boots on Alaskan ferry

A plank a day keeps a backache away. It is a very effective abdominal exercise. Gotta get back to it!  Reverting to the topic of peonies, while my all-male running mates enjoy gardening (we toured each others gardens last year) they tell me that real men don’t like peonies. Hmm . . .


I Think My Bathroom Scale is Broken

Over the course of our our eleven day holiday I missed three days of running. The most common reason for a missed run over the past few years is early morning travel. I am a morning runner and find it very difficult to do a run once the days activities are set in motion.

We traveled to Portland, Oregon, Juneau, Haines and Skagway in Alaska, then Whitehorse, followed by a half day visit to Vancouver.

Missed Day #1 – We had to leave our home at 6 a.m. to catch our flight to Portland. Missed Day #2 In Haines, Alaska, we left our motel at 5:30 a.m. to catch a fast-ferry to Skagway.  Missed Day #3 A 6:00 a.m. departure from our lodgings in Whitehorse to catch our Vancouver flight.

Blue Heron, Juneau

I’ve described our run in Portland and here are photos from the run that followed in Juneau.  Spotted on the run were these four blue heron, the only heron seen on this trip.  On my last trip to Juneau, I was staying at a lodge quite a way out of the city and I saw a bald eagle and twice, a pod of orcas.  No such luck this time.

Those sightings took place in early spring, when bears were not as active and probably hibernating, or so I told myself. I would not have ventured out on the roads in that quieter area of Juneau otherwise.

This  Juneau run was 2.5 miles through the main street of town, through a souvenir store and along the waterfront. I ran through a gauntlet of large ravens which would definitely scare off anyone with ornithophobia.

Ravens to the right, ravens to the left.

A Waterfront Stretch in Juneau

This first morning in Juneau was much enjoyed as our late evening arrival in Juneau introduced us to the rough edges of the city that appear once the cruise ships depart. There is urban sprawl in Juneau and the downtown has suffered in that it caters almost exclusively to tourists in the day and seems a bit like a deserted and rundown, Disneyland set in the later evening. In the early morning, locals heading off to work abound and chit chat in the local coffee shop was congenial and lively.

I was motivated to do a short run in anticipation of brunch at my brother’s favourite Juneau breakfast place, The Sandpiper.

My breakfast of corn beef hash and poached eggs was tasty although was quite far off the scrumptious version dished out by Kenny and Zuke’s in Portland which at $11.45 was $2.50 cheaper than the Sandpiper’s version. Alaska can be fairly pricey.  Portland’s version of corn beef hash is to Alaska’s, as king crab is to non-king-crab. Read the review, “Can the Jewish Deli be Reformed?” from the NY Times.

Portlandia Corned Beef Hash $11.45

Alaskan Corned Beef & Hash $13.95

Corn beef hash, Alaskan style $13.95

Scrumptious and leisurely breakfasts are one of the best parts of vacationing. On our last day in Portland I ordered corn beef hash and cheese blintzes.  Yes, I confess that with minimal worries about weight gain, I am a bit of a piglet.  Although, I’m still tending towards the broken-scale theory as I can’t figure out how I gained five pounds on our fairly active vacation.

Cheese Blintzes a breakfast dessert

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I Wonder, Wonder . . .

Lowell Glacier, Kluane National Park

As a self-professed, chicken-hearted traveler, I was surprised by my sudden desire to hop in a tiny five-seater Cessna to tour the ice fields and mountain range of Kluane National Park. Curiosity carried the day (as did MasterCard) as I convinced my husband that we should spring for a tour to see what is impossible to see on foot, or overnight camping expeditions. The park has been deemed a world heritage site and the waters from the glaciers are the third largest source of ocean water on the planet.

On a clear day the view from the park visitor’s centre is stunning however, what lies beyond is hidden. This remarkable wildlife preserve with the world’s greatest concentration of grizzly bears, along with a mountain that boasts the largest base circumferance of any non-volcanic mountain in the world, topped by the tallest peak in Canada, Mount Logan, second to Denali in North America howled out to me, “Just do it!”

Anticipating that the ride would be bumpy at times, I spent $14 at the general store for Gravol, consuming only 1 tablet of the 12.  In addition to the dreamlike beauty of the park, I found myself astonished by the man-made miracle of flight as we soared up to 12,000 feet.  I tried not to think too hard about the vulnerability of our position and felt quite doubtful that the emergency survival kit and first aid kit could ever be of use should anything go wrong in this extreme terrain.

Born to fly?

When time allows, I’ll post more of the photos of this priceless but pricey experience and leave it to those wiser than me to articulate the awesomely instructive powers of the natural world.

The color of the mountains is Buddha’s body; the sound of running water is his great speech. ~ Dogen


Where a Whale Was

Getting there is more than half the fun!

We’ve been without the internet for nearly two days so it is getting ever more difficult to keep up the blogging with our whirlwind tour of five cities/towns.  The 4 1/2 hour ferry trip from Juneau to Haines, Alaska took place on a perfect day which allowed us to stay up top on the lounge deck the whole way. We were treated to partial body and tail sightings of a humpback whale, with photo evidence of it’s water spout.

Look for the water spout in the centre of this photo.

Cruising down the Lynn Canal is one of my absolute favourite activities.  We’ll be back.

Life along a 90 mile fjord