Bright Red Sun

I woke up this morning to the smell of a fire. The sun was bright red and the air smoky. Ashes covered my deck. As I looked around, ashes were falling from the sky. I turned on the news and found out 410 hwy. was closed because of firefighters containing a fire at Crystal Mountain area. There was already a forest fire in Cle Elum. The wind carried the smoke and ash over the mountains and into Auburn and surrounding areas.

This has been the driest summer Washington has ever had.

Anchorage

Anchorage is surrounded by the sea and Cook’s Inlet as well as the mountains. I consider it  a springboard to other destinations of Alaska. You can take a boat, ship, plane, bus, or ride the train from it.

There are many museums, including inside the Federal Building. Near West First Street is a monument of Eisenhower, for you history buffs. The Cook’s Hotel has a statue and a painting of Captain Cook. There are also several old paintings of the natives and the captain’s arrival.

For those who love to shop, you will be intrigued by the five-floored mall in downtown Anchorage. There are many fun tourist shops around too. Some shops have stuffed bears and moose to welcome guests. My favorite candy shop is inside the Cook Hotel. The owner colored his chocolates to look like the Northern Lights. How creative!

Many little parks dot the landscape of Anchorage. The Earthquake Park has a resident moose. Easy access from downtown is an eleven-mile coastal trail with spectacular views of the Cook Inlet. Kincaid Park is known for mountain biking. Many bicycle rental places are available. The pioneer spirit survives here. Anchorage has a population that appreciates the outdoors and never takes for granted the beauty here.

Glacier Bay

The water was a vivid blue with floating chunks of ice upon it. Seagulls cried as they circled above the huge glaciers. The sun peeked over the mountains and I could see the entire range capped with snow. The wind had a bite to it and I huddled deep inside my jacket. This was Alaska.

Great rivers of ice stretched over and between mountain ridges until they met the tidewater. There is nothing like hearing the sound of the glacier calving large chunks of ice with thunderous cracks into the sea. The Mendenhall Glacier is about 13.6 miles long and is not far from Juneau. The Margerie Glacier is bigger and is 21 miles long. There are other glaciers, but these are the popular ones.

A glacier forms when the snow pack doesn’t melt away, but is compressed by additional snow accumulation. Eventually, the compressed snow becomes ice. The force of gravity pulls the glacier downhill. As a glacier moves, it scrapes away soil and rock. This should be on your bucket list to see if you haven’t done so already.

Skagway: A Gateway

Skagway means the windy place. With only 27 inches of moisture a year, Skagway is known as the sunshine capital of southeast Alaska. Its soil is rich and with the summer hours of the long daylight or Midnight sun, visitors will be surprised at the enormous growth of vegetation and flowers. The height of the gold rush had barely passed when the local residents exercised their green thumbs. By 1905, the White Pass railroad’s brochure proclaimed the beauty of Skagway’s flowers and prolific gardens.

The city had its history of brothels in its day. In 1898, on the corner of 6th and State, the Red Onion Saloon was a dance hall and bordello. It was moved later to Broadway. On some of the side streets, you can visit some of the old Red Light district areas. Not far from there, is a historic log cabin built by Captain William Moore and his son. He had followed gold rushes and settled there. He prospered, after the flood of gold seekers, by owning a dock, warehouse, and a sawmill.

Another interesting building is the Artic Brotherhood Hall. The old lodge members had collected 8, 800 pieces of driftwood and nailed them to the front wall. The building is now the home of the Visitors Bureau.

The Golden North Hotel is said to be haunted. Its famous resident, Mary was a woman  that succumbed to pneumonia in room 23 while waiting for her fiancé to return with gold. Guests claim to see her spirit in the room and feel a sensation of choking.

During the Gold Rush, criminals and con artists set up shop. One of the most notorious was “Soapy” Smith. He erected a fake telegraph company and charged $5.00 to send a message. The scam was the wire never left Skagway. The Klondike Gold Rush lasted just a few short years, but it made Skagway a bustling boomtown. No matter where you go in this town, you’ll feel like you are stepping back in time with its wooden sidewalks and  storefronts in a colorful picture of its past.

Not talked about for some unknown reason is a small creek park before you walk into the main drag of the city. In July and August, you can see the salmon jumping about as they are in the process of spawning. It’s a great wonder to watch. I highly recommend visiting this town.

 

Denali

I recently visited the Denali National Park and Reserve. Denali is the highest mountain peak in North America at 20,310 feet. It’s located in Alaska. The mountain was first named McKinley in 1896 for President W. McKinley, but the original Athabascan name was Denali. The Alaskan Board changed the name back to Denali, but it wasn’t until 2015 that the federal government adopted the change, thus you may hear it called by either name. Denali dominates the mountain range and is visible on a clear day. However, it is frequently swathed in clouds. I was lucky when I visited the area that the weather was good. I had expected rain or cold weather. The day I had arrived, it was 87 degrees. With the heat, it kept the wildlife from view.

Visitors can access the park by vehicle, bus tour, or by railroad. Lucky visitors can see grizzly bears, moose, caribou, and Dall sheep. I did see a caribou crouching in a dry riverbed, yet it was too far away to get a great picture. I did get pictures of the Alaskan state bird, Tarmagon. It’s nickname is chicken. It is similar to a grouse and is found in bushes and long grass. Another animal is the red tree squirrel. It’s small compared to the gray squirrel. They are fast-moving creatures. I tried several times to get a picture of the little buggars. They are cute and are about the size of a chipmunk. I found it fascinating that they collect mushrooms and place them on the branches of black spruce trees to dry, before storing them.

So if you visit Alaska, do visit Denali. The scenery is beautiful.

 

Mt. Rainer’s Wonders

One of the best things about living in Washington state is the view of Mt. Rainier. At 14, 410 ft. high, Mt. Rainier is the tallest peak in the Cascade Range. It is an evolving landscape of forests, meadows, glaciers, and craters. It is a place of untrammeled  freedom from development and a place of peaceful solitude. The park’s wilderness is a habitat to wildlife. So if you are ever in Washington, check out Mt. Rainier and breathe the fresh air.

I took my brother-in-law up there yesterday. He is from Florida and he was amazed at the snow and scenery.

The Nasty Aegypti Mosquito

Many of us have heard about the Zika Virus on the news, but might not understand how serious it is, especially those who live in the NW states. I recently took an updated nursing course on the subject and I was amazed at what this little bugger can cause. The potential for a localized outbreak of the Zika Virus in the USA is significant given the level of travel exposure, opportunities of migration, and the prevalence of mosquitoes along the southern rim of the country. As of December 2016, cases of the Zika Virus within the USA have been reported in returning travelers and in women having intimate sexual contact with men infected while traveling to regions with ongoing mosquito transmission. Zika has migrated out of Africa and Asia into the Americas over the past two decades.

Primarily, the Zika Virus is often asymptomatic. However, infection during pregnancy is often complicated by transmission of the virus to the developing fetus. The results are arrested neurological development, microcephaly, and related congenital anomalies. There is also evidence linking the Zika infection with post-infectious Guillain-Barre syndrome. Guillain-Barre is an acute, progressive syndrome characterized by flaccid paralysis and often triggered by infection. Most patients recover after many weeks, but often require respiratory ventilation support and management of complications. Microcephaly is a rare pediatric disorder in which the growth of the fetal brain size is unexpectedly small for a given stage of development. Zika is characterized by headache, conjunctivitis, a pruritic rash, mild weakness, and mild fever, lasting three to six days. In the course of acute infection during pregnancy, the virus can be transmitted across the placenta to the developing fetus.

In the past, the aegypti mosquito thrived on nonhuman hosts. It has adapted to an urban habitat and shows a preference for the human host over mammals. It flourishes in impoverished crowded areas without piped water, inadequate trash disposal, and ineffective barrier protections such as screen doors. A single female deposits its eggs at multiple sites. It takes advantage of stagnant water sources, pet bowls, cemetery vases, and tires. Adult mosquitoes of both sexes feed on nectar and fruit. Females require blood protein to fully develop their eggs. Only the female bites. The aegypti mosquito is an aggressive daytime biting mosquito and feeds in the hours of dawn and dusk. They are stealth feeders and approach their victims from behind and bites on ankles and elbows. This mosquito is a sip feeder in that it bites multiple humans in the course of its blood meal. The female prefers shady areas for rest and is adept at hiding under beds and in closets to later emerge for a nocturnal feed. Of public concern is if this vicious feeder emerges with a second vector with a potential for widespread outbreak in other parts of the country.

The full spectrum by which Zika is transmitted sexually is not yet known. It has been detected in saliva, urine, semen, and breast milk. Studies are underway to determine the incidence, duration, and pattern of virus shedding in men with and without symptomatic Zika infection. For now, the CDC recommends that men diagnosed with Zika consider using condoms or abstaining from sex for six months following the infection. There isn’t any effective antiviral therapy as of yet for the Zika infection. The general recommendations for pregnant women in the USA are:

  • all pregnant women should be assessed for possible Zika Virus exposure at each prenatal visit
  • Advised not to travel to an area active with Zika
  • If the pregnant woman must travel, follow strict steps to avoid mosquito bites and prevent sexual transmission during the trip
  • Have partner use condoms or other barrier methods to prevent infection during the woman’s pregnancy
  • cover exposed areas of skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants
  • use insect repellents registered with the EPA and contains DEET, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Sleep in screened areas and air-conditioned rooms
  • use mosquito netting over strollers, carriers, and cribs of infants younger than two months of age.

Virologists anticipate it will take several years to bring a Zika vaccine to implementation.

 

Superstition & Song

Some of you may remember a parent or grandparent saying this ditty before you went to sleep. “Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.” Did you know it was based on truth? Old superstitions and religion thought it evil to bathe more than a month at a time. It was thought a sign of vanity. They covered their bad body odor withy herbs and perfumes.

I recently visited Prescott, Arizona and visited the Sharlot museum. In their historical building called the Fremont, the narrator told the history of the beds back in the 1880’s. Instead of box springs, long ropes were used to hold in sacks of straw for bedding. Daily, the ropes would have to be tightened. Between the casual bathing and the straw, people were used to having lice and bed bugs. When the ropes were pulled taunt the bugs would jump.

Tired from driving, my husband and I pulled into a motel called the Sand And Sage in Hawthorne, Nevada. Big mistake. My husband saw the sign for $29.99 a night. I told him that sometimes the cheap motels are not the best to stay at, after I had read about bed bugs in the newspaper, but he wouldn’t listen. The clerk was pock-marked like a meth head and not very bright. A sign behind him said no refunds. Our room was on the end. We had to push hard to get the door open. A small refrigerator stood ajar behind the door and a microwave was above it. Neither were plugged in. An old TV sat off in the other corner and had a dark picture. There were no bath towels in the bathroom and the bathroom had seen its day with wear. The room had two queen size beds. One slumped down. I pulled back the covers of the other bed and noted blood stains. I told my husband that I wasn’t sleeping inside the bed. I had a blanket in the car I covered up with. He slept on top of the bed but couldn’t sleep because he pictured bed bugs in his mind all night. The next day we drove all the way back home in Washington. My husband and I both agreed to never stay in Hawthorne again. Bed bugs, ugh!

 

London Bridge

London BridgeRemember the old ditty, “London Bridge is Falling Down?”  That song was based on truth. The original London Bridge endured 50,000 pedestrians daily over 140 years until the bridge slowly began to sink in the soft bottom of the Thames River. England decided to sell the London Bridge and the USA bought it for millions of dollars. It was brought to Arizona piece by piece. The bridge was reconstructed on dry land which cut down on time and expense. The Bridgewater Channel was carved out of Pittsburgh Point which changed the area into an island. The granite of the London Bridge, blackened over decades due to the exposure of the coal plants in England during the Industrial Revolution, actually bleached back to its original color from the desert sun of Arizona. The bridge can be viewed at Lake Havasou, Arizona by walking the perimeter of the beach trail for free. Otherwise, if you want to walk or drive over the London Bridge it will cost you a fee near the resort area. I found this piece of history interesting while I vacationed in the area.

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Friday Harbor

The sea sloshed against the ship’s sides as the ferry weaved in and out of the heavy criss-crossed waves. I stared through the window for a glimpse or a peek of a whale, but the glass steamed from the mist. Someone shouted that a Bald eagle nested in a tree across the way, but the gloom covered it from my sight. I wondered if I had made the right choice for my weekend vacation. I had never been to Friday Harbor and I had wanted to experience the sight of one of the magnificent sea beasts. To my disappointment, the whale search was postponed because of the fog until the afternoon.

As the Victoria Clipper eased into the harbor, I wondered what to do with my extra time and the burden of carrying my luggage. The captain made my day by storing my luggage for me. I strolled up the hillside, expecting to find fanciful shops, but everywhere I turned was a place to eat. I had already eaten aboard the ship. I needed something to occupy my time for two hours.

After walking a spell, I finally found a few shops that engaged my interest. A shop. painted in bright colors, beckoned me inside. I found a long-sleeved shirt with a picture of a fox on it that my daughter would love. The material felt softer than a cat’s paw. I frowned after turning over the price tag. A hundred and six dollars for a shirt was outrageous! Everything else in that shop was just as expensive and I walked out. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the cash, but why waste it?

I dashed across the street and entered the Island Studio. Beautiful pieces made from glass into trinkets, vases, and paintings amazed my eyes. Then I trekked to the back of the shop and met an elderly man, with a wry smile, that waved me outside to his unusual garden. Plants grew out of old telephones, a giraffe statue stood in the center of geraniums, glass globes paraded through stalks of snapdragons, old car parts twisted into fountains, hyssops popped out of old metal springs, and mermaid figurines coiled out of cochlea shells. The old man watched the expressions cross my face and hooted with laughter. I thanked him for sharing his work of art with me, before I headed out the door.

The sun had come out and I hurried back to the waterfront. The captain informed his passengers that the whale hotline had spotted a few humpback whales. I had expected to see orcas, but I was told they were feeding on salmon near some bay. The ship romped through the strait and we arrived in time to see a humpback plunge sideways into the choppy, gray sea. A naturalist on board announced that humpbacks dive for a twenty minute span. Everyone waited with their cameras ready, but when the whale surfaced, I found it hard to steady the camera and hang on at the same time. Over and over I tried to get a decent shot, but nothing worked out and I gave up. I decided the memory of it was the best part. How often does anyone get a sight of a humpback? At the end of the whale tour, my shuttle and luggage awaited me.

I stayed at the Best Western Hotel, located atop the hill from the marina. Yes, there were plenty of bed and breakfast places, but I didn’t want to interrupt someone else’s life with my coming and going. The Best Western served a delicious free continental breakfast and had a Jacuzzi on
sight. I had dinner at their Mexican restaurant. Later, I ventured outside to the Jacuzzi and relaxed in its warmth. Various birds flinted from tree to tree and kept me entertained with their song.

The next day, I decided to go for a walk and I found out the San Juan Museum was located across the street from my hotel. A bell, the size of the Liberty, guided the pathway to the entrance. The museum reflected days of old with its 1880’s style charm. Pinafore curtains graced the windows and antique knick-knacks lined the window sills.

I wandered the neighborhood and noticed the architecture of old buildings, including the old fire station. A house, with a window in the shape of a tree, amazed me. I stumbled upon an old toy shop, jewelry stores, and an unusual art store. By the time I finished browsing, the Whale Museum had opened. It was worth the wait. Displays of history, videos, and whale skeletons amazed my eyes. I picked up a few souvenirs from the gift shop before I left the museum.

My stomach implored me to follow my nose and locate some food. Several choices awaited me from hamburgers, sweets, ice cream, a sandwich shop, and fish and chips. I opted for a burger since the place was less crowded, even though I craved fish and chips. I took my lunch to the waterfront
and sat by the dock. This way I had a place in line for the tour back to Seattle and I could enjoy the view as well as the brief sunshine.

Finally, the captain boarded the passengers, one by one, onto the ship. I slid into a booth near the window. After everyone was aboard, the ship took off. When the ship reached mid-sound, the naturalist called out for everyone to glance out their windows. The captain circled a small island where sea lions and seals sunbathed so everyone could get a good look. I wondered what these creatures thought of us humans snapping and clicking our cameras and smart phones. After a few minutes, the ship left the island and continued on its route. Out of the blue water appeared a rock island covered in a dozen sea birds. Each of them clamored for a small patch of space. If one flew off, another took its space.

The sun streaked a line of orange over the top of the clouds as if to remind everyone that night approached. Children, lolled by the rocking of the sea, soon snuggled in their parent’s laps and quieted down for the remainder of the trip. Teens played a game of cards across the way while others finger-danced their smart phones. I tried to read, but found myself unable to concentrate, and watched the sky change instead.

The Seattle skyline, with its many lights reflecting off the water, came into view. A cheer went up from the crowd as the ferry pulled into the harbor and I realized I was smiling. It had felt good to get away and I had enjoyed the sights, but Seattle will always be home no matter where I am.