The Places I have been – Haida Gwaii

After what seemed like an extra-brief (and shortened) weekend thanks to the delayed flight home from Halifax, I was off to Haida Gwaii bright and early the following Monday.

My visit wasn’t going to be at the ideal time of year to visit the islands, Fall and Winter can be very stormy up the north coast and I was warned that there was always a possibility of not being able to get on, or off the island when planned. Fortunately due to some scheduling changes I was able to go in early October rather than the two or three weeks later I was originally supposed to travel there. Still a good chance of storms though.

There are a couple of ways to travel to the main island, via Air Canada to Sandspit along with a ferry ride to Queen Charlotte City, or Pacific Coastal airlines to Masset. I opted to fly into Masset even though I’d be starting work in QCC, the drive is about 90 minutes give or take and the flight landed early, so plenty of daylight to find my way down island. I figured cutting an extra mode of transportation out lessened the likelihood that I’d end up stuck there as ferries often will pull service (for good reason) during storms and I didn’t want to miss a flight because of that.

The flights run out of the South terminal at YVR and I knew the plane would be a smaller prop job, but it was a couple of hours flight so I figured I could handle it. After so many years of flying now, I am getting MUCH better at it…

Tom dropped me off at the terminal and I checked in and wandered around the small terminal area until flight time. When the flight was finally announced we walked outside to the plane and clambered up the stairs. It was indeed a smaller plane, but not horribly so. One side of the aisle had single seats, the other double. I was one of the last to board so I ended up at the back of the plane near the bathroom (lucky lucky) in one of the double seats. After everyone was settled the flight attendant asked for a male volunteer from the back to come sit up in an empty seat near the front. The guy in the rear single seat agreed to go, so I hopped over into his seat and both my seatmate and I got to sit alone.

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I buried myself in a book for the duration of the flight until I caught bits of land appearing below me, so I knew we were approaching our destination. At first smaller groups and then finally a larger landmass with a distinguishable coastline appeared in my window as I felt the plane start to descend.

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After a perfect landing we all trudged towards the small terminal to retrieve our bags. I was to pick up the car I was being provided while on island at the check-in counter. I’d received confirmation that it was there and what to ask for, but still the lady I spoke to didn’t seem to know what I was talking about At first she thought I was picking up a rental car (which I understand can be difficult to guarantee without a reservation) but after a bit more explaining she went to check the office and thankfully came back with a key. It was for a much bigger vehicle that I’ve been driving lately, an SUV, so I approached with trepidation. But after driving it around the parking lot to get used to the feel, I figured I’d be perfectly fine, despite the somewhat soft brakes.

I snagged a quick picture of the terminal from the parking lot before I left.

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There is a lack of Google street view on Graham Island, but I did take a peek on Google maps to get an idea of where I was facing distance wise, unfortunately for me I neglected to write down if I was to turn right or left when I reach the end of the airport road. I sat there for a minute and finally turned left.

I passed a few properties and then a golf course, I figured seeing that I was on the right path, that is until I reached two bridges with alternating traffic, then finally a dirt road that warned me to proceed at my own risk. Uh. No. So after wasting 20ish minutes going the wrong way, I turned around and went back to the airport to ask directions, hoping someone was still there. I mean this ISN’T a busy airport with lots of flights. Thankfully there was and when I inquired how to get to Queen Charlotte City, the gentleman told me to turn right and just keep going. See there is one main paved highway on the island. I commented on the lack of signs at the airport and I was told that most people know where they’re going.

When I mentioned that to one of the people I worked with later, they laughed and told me that it’s probably very true. Most of the people coming were coming home or visiting family especially that time of year. But as they’re looking for more tourism there were finally some road signs put in geared more towards the first time visitor. As I discovered though it was once you’d turned the right direction. Ah well.

Safely on the right road now I headed towards QCC. I saw a little traffic nearer to Masset, but once I had a few KM behind me there were long stretches where there was no-one in sight. Unfortunately I had the wrong cell provider as there was ZERO signal even in the cell coverage areas (which are basically just around the main areas of population) but nothing, no matter which in the stretch of road between the communities. Not great for safety! I was glad though that I was travelling during the day for both of my driving days.

I started to notice plenty of what I thought were fawns by the side of the road. It confused me a bit as I figured fawns would be seen in the spring. I found out later though from a local that they are in fact full-grown deer, just a smaller local variety and plentiful due to no real predator. They made me nervous though, I didn’t want to end up in a wreck due to a spooked deer. When I saw them I would slow the car down and prepare for one to dart. Needless to say I did this a lot so the drive took me longer than it would have otherwise. Turns out I was told later to not slow down as that is more likely to spook them, and to be more concerned about deer on the water side of the highway (where that was the case) as they were the more likely to dash across the road to the safety of the forrest. Good to know for my trip back to Masset.

I finally came to see water through the trees and I knew I was starting the approach to QCC. I finally started to see a few more cars and then as I pulled into Skidegate I knew I wasn’t that much farther from town. I came to a very confusing signpost and the road angled a bit. I wasn’t sure which way to go and saw a smaller sign that said Queen Charlotte on the right up a slight incline, so I followed it and ended up RIGHT back on the highway. Huh.

Fortunately I saw a ferry worker and asked which way to go to get to QCC, she probably thought me an idiot and pointed to her left. So that meant basically to go up and around the signpost not quite straight. Got it.

I was told to watch for the hospital sign to locate my guest house. I saw the sign and looked for the hospital which was a smallish building which looked to be under construction. Now as a city girl I was expecting a bigger city when I hear city, but it wasn’t a city like I know a city, it was a village. I saw the sign for where I was staying on the main road and headed up a VERY steep incline to get there. The place is owned by a lovely couple named Dorothy and Mike and they are also part of the local volunteer run SPCA so there were a number of cats and kittens in the main part of the house where I was staying.

After settling in I attempted to email Tom and let him know that I was safe in QCC. No dice. I couldn’t get a message to go through. Thinking it was maybe their wifi I tried a few places in town to find a phone card or something. It’s a small village and things are kind of spread out. I happened to come across a business area and found out the internet to the island was down and had been for a couple of hours. That is the reality there. One pipe in that everyone shares and when it’s down it’s down.

I decided to find somewhere to eat and while I was there the internet came back, I got the wi-fi password from my server and was finally able to get a message through. I warned Tom that it was likely we’d not get to Facetime or maybe even message while I was there. It looked like that was indeed going to be the case. The food in town was pretty good, even the pizza which I wasn’t too sure if I should try. Pizza is pretty hit and miss at best even in the big city. On my way back to my temporary home I passed a small liquor store under a bar and picked up a case of cider as it didn’t seem practical to get wine. I forgot how much I do like a dry apple cider.

Needless to say while staying at the guest house I had fun with the kittens, but there was one particular cat that I couldn’t help falling in love with. He was still up for adoption and unfortunately I hesitated a day, because it isn’t something I would do without discussing with Tom. He immediately started looking up how to get a pet on a flight and I went to ask Dorothy about Mister the cat. She sadly told me that he was just spoken for by a nurse from Masset who came originally to look at the remaining kitten, but fell in love with Mister instead. Boo!

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She said the adorable taffy coloured kitten was still available, but knowing Cinny and the, well face it, bitch she can be, I wouldn’t want to subject a tiny kitten to her! He was ADORABLE though.

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It rained a bit while I was in QCC, but no major storms had yet hit. One evening I was drawn outside by sound of someone singing while musicians played. It was a lovely haunting voice from somewhere down the street. The evening was dry and cool, so I sat on a chair on the deck and listened to the music and watched the clouds dance over the moon for a while.

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Soon it was time to head back up island to Masset. I was going to go right to work when I got there (logistics had me needing to spend two full days in each village) but I wanted to start the drive after daylight. Wise decision as it turns out as there were even MORE deer on the drive back. At least I could see them. The weather had cleared and it was a bright sunny day with a few scattered clouds. Apart from almost being run off the road by a truck that came flying onto the highway from a logging road without stopping, it was faster drive back up.

After work I grabbed a bite to eat at a local place and had a burger and fries. The burger seemed a little more dense than I was used to, and someone said maybe it was deer. Uh. Hope not!

I eventually headed down to my accommodations, this time a guest house called the Copper Beech house which is owned by a writer named Susan Musgrave, but was run by a lovely lady whose name unfortunately has slipped my mind. She showed me to my room which had a separate entrance at the side of the house but was in the basement area. It was a very eclectic place to say the least, but I liked it. The bed was difficult to navigate in and out of without, well, scooting, but it was very nest-like and I slept like a LOG.

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There were some interesting people there to say the least, an older man with long flowing hair with a pink streak and his much younger lady friend with a matching pink streak. He reminded me of Sean Connery from the Rock before he gets his hair cut. Anyway, nice enough couple and he was nice to chat to, but she was a bit more into the whole spiritual journey thing. He lived there for a time and the trip there was a birthday present for him to return to a place he loved, so a spiritual journey for him too. Even a lawyer who was staying there, flown in for court day on the island. When asked why I was there, I said for work and I basically wouldn’t ever be otherwise they all stared at me. Heathen!

I think the point of the place is to spend more time up in the common area and socialize, but that’s not my bag. I stayed in my room and watched movies on my laptop.

That night there was an amazing storm and wind and rain lashed my window most of the night, but I still slept great overall.

My second work day, I happened to run into a local artist named Wayne Edenshaw riding a bike past me. He was carrying a canoe paddle and asked if I was interested in buying it. He’d made it and it was very cool but a bit big of a souvenir to get into my case home. He asked if I was interested in seeing some of his signed prints and I said sure! I needed something to take back home and I hadn’t had any luck at the shops in QCC. I chose this hummingbird, it’s sitting on my mantle as we speak waiting for a frame. He said his background was part Haida and part Skidegate First Nations. After our chat he said “Háw’aa” for purchasing the print, which he explained was Haida for “Thank you” and that phrase has stuck with me (though I admit I googled the spelling)!

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After I was done working my final day in Haida Gwaii, I went out for dinner with few local ladies I had worked with and had a great time.

After work was through I started to become desperate to get home, especially as there are no flights off the island on Saturday for PC airlines, so it meant I wouldn’t get to leave until Sunday. Now maybe for the adventurous type this would be a great opportunity, but that’s not me and as I started to hear that the weather was going to turn for the worse again, it meant a possibility of not being able to leave.

I attempted to visit a local shop that according to the lady with the pink streak had some really nice stuff in it. It turns out though, that she may be open a lot, but will close on a whim to go to the beach if she feels like it. I guess the day I walked there was one of the days. I stopped off at the 50’s diner and had a grilled cheese (no more burgers for this gal) and then stopped at the local grocery store to get a snack to accompany my last couple of bottles of cider and yet another laptop movie watching session.

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The store was busy for sure and you could definitely see that it was a bit picked over. I guess with the restocking of shelves happening less often than say a store back home, certain things were more likely to be bought first including meat. I was told that most people hunt and eating the rather plentiful deer was common.

Saturday night there was the literal calm before the storm. As I was sitting in my room I noticed the sun was breaking through so I ran out to the slough and snapped a few pictures before the storm clouds choked off the sun.

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FINALLY the day to come home dawned and it was stormy. The worst of it hadn’t hit yet and there was still a good chance that the flight would get out I was told by the guest house hostess, the pilots were used to flying in bad weather. Still there was more gales approaching and I sat chewing my nails while I breakfasted. She called the airline for me and confirmed that the inbound flight was delayed, but was still on the way from YVR. As long as they could land okay and there wasn’t any danger to taking off I was going to get home. I still wouldn’t believe it until I was on the plane.

I finally see the incoming plane land (yay!) but notice it is smaller than the one I came in (boo!) and my stomach sank.

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It was very small, so small you had to duck to get to your seat. One row on each side of the aisle and you could see the pilot and co-pilot the whole time. There were a few nervous people on the plane with me and our slightly bouncy ascent didn’t help. We were forewarned that it may be a bit choppy and it was. Still these are skilled pilots used to the area and they soon had us up above the worst of it. There were a few bits of turbulence but I didn’t care, I was just happy to be going home.

A couple of hours later a perfect landing and I was finally home! I don’t think I’ve hugged Tom any tighter than when I finally saw him again.

I’d wondered in the past what it would be like to travel to Haida Gwaii (or as it was known back then Queen Charlotte Islands), now I know. For the many people who love the natural unspoiled land and the remoteness, it is probably heaven. Me on the other hand, I think I need a bit more (minimum) four star hotels in my life. Still, an adventure just the same and the people who live there are some of THE nicest people you will ever meet. If you are the adventurous type and plan a visit to Haida Gwaii, I would recommend either of the places I stayed.

Personally though,  if I want to see the BC coastline, I’d probably stick to Tofino, it’s a little more my speed.

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The Places That I’ve Been – St. John’s and Halifax

My coast-to-coast-to-extreme coast journey taught me a few things: I love the Maritimes (particularly St. John’s Newfoundland and Labrador), I am a much better flyer than I was a few years ago (not completely freaking out when getting into a small plane in stormy weather), I’m still capable of travelling alone, but I prefer travelling with Tom, and there is no place like home.

*Heel click*

It all started with flying to St. John’s. I was at the airport pretty early on a Sunday morning, even with that I wouldn’t be in St. John’s until 9:40 their time. I paid for an upgrade to ‘Plus’ on WestJet and yeah there was some additional leg room alright and some ‘free’ food and drink, but I found I really didn’t need it that badly. Unlike Alaska you don’t get the nice wide boofy seats in first class so I took a pass on the other legs.

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Is it possible to fall in love with a city at first sight? Well second technically as I arrived in the dark and didn’t interact with THAT many people until the following day. But fall in love I did. I cannot say enough nice things about the people of St. John’s. The accent? LOVE IT. The architecture? Two words: Jelly Beans! Colourful Victorians out the wazoo.

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You can practically throw a rock and hit a restaurant or a bar on any main drag, on George street you don’t even need to throw a rock. The cabbies are full of stories…did I mention I love the people?

I was lucky enough to spend 5 nights there and work with some fabulous people. My last full day, I was encouraged to take a couple of hours (I wasn’t needed in the morning) and walk up Signal Hill. I was staying on Duckworth street not far from the start of the walk uphill. It was a somewhat steep climb (most people drove!) but it was worth it. The views of St. John’s were amazing. At first I was pretty much alone to enjoy it.

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Then a few busloads of people arrived. The flooded the area, including the inside of the tower, but they didn’t stay long. The crazy winds drove them back to the safety of their bus.

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I stayed for quite a while, snapping pics and enjoying the view.

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I took a bit of creative license with this pic of the tower, it has a radio antenna on it I found kind of ruined the look so I photoshopped it out.

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On my way back, despite being tired from that hike up the hill, for some reason I was drawn to the waterfront and completely by accident happened up on very special spot, mile zero of Terry Fox’s ill-fated cross-country journey to raise money and awareness for cancer research. As a west coaster and someone who had watched Terry’s journey on the news it was special and humbling to see, considering I was feeling tired and internally grumbling after my walk. This young man ran a marathon a day on one leg. Perspective.

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As it was a work trip, I didn’t have a lot of time to take pictures, but I took the most of St. John’s.

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I was told that in June you can watch icebergs float by through the harbour and sometimes they get stuck there. How cool would that be?

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I regretfully left on Friday morning. I really should have spent my weekend in St. John’s, but everyone said I should spend my free time in Halifax. Not that it wasn’t great, it was and there were plenty of places I wanted to see in Nova Scotia, but I didn’t have a car. I just loved St. John’s a little bit more. Lots of history in both places,  in Halifax it was very much mixed in with modern surroundings like this old cemetery which is now a park.

 

 

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The people in Halifax were also lovely and friendly, especially the folks I worked with. The seafood in both cities was beyond great. I made the mistake of taking a break from seafood and going to what was pegged as the best Chinese restaurant in Halifax. Coming from someone who has had GREAT Chinese food, that wasn’t. Lesson learned!

I moved back to seafood. Ever in Halifax I highly recommend the lobster croissant at Salty’s mmmm..

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I found out that 121 souls from the Titanic were buried in Fairview Cemetery walking distance from where I worked the first part of the week so before heading ‘home’ to my hotel I wandered down after work.

There is a whole section clearly marked for visitors to find.

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Particularly poignant was the gravestone for the unknown child who was it turns out later identified.

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I had also read that a gravestone for a J Dawson is often adorned with flowers and the like from people who believe the character Jack Dawson from the movie Titanic was real. It was free from decoration when I was there though.

This Titanic grave gets a lot of flowers apparently from people thinking Jack Dawson really existed...

 

It was sad to see so many gravestones with the same date repeating one after another as I walked the rows. Sadder still to see the graves with no name, only a number.

After the two weeks away I was due for a weekend home before I flew to Haida Gwaii (up the coast of BC, Google it).

I was at the airport the requisite amount of time before my flight, made it all the way to my seat and to where the flight attendants start with their safety spiel when the captain came on over the speakers to inform us that some kind of indicator light was on which shouldn’t be, so maintenance would need to be called to inspect. We sat in our seats on the tarmac all silently hoping that it was a false alarm and we could get underway. That is until he came back on and said that there was indeed a problem and that we’d all have to get off the plane and wait to see if it was something they could fix. Those of us with connecting flights fretted. Mine was a reasonable turn around but as time went by, that window shrank.

Eventually they came on over the loudspeaker to announce our flight was cancelled, to go get our bags and head back to the check-in counter as the West Jetters were busily trying to find us alternate flights to our destinations. After standing in line for what seemed ages one of the reps asked if I was travelling alone. I said yes (with slight confusion), but it turns out she wanted to see if I had already been booked on a flight. She offered to check on the kiosk for me (using my original reservation code) so I wouldn’t lose my place in line. I was lucky, even though I was booked for a stopover in Toronto, I didn’t HAVE to land there so I had more alternatives. People actually flying to T-Dot in some cases weren’t going to see it until the next day.

It turned out I was booked on a flight that touched down in Hamilton and then flew to Calgary where I would switch planes and so she went ahead and checked me in. I thanked her for her help and ran straight for the baggage drop area, she came and found me and handed me a meal voucher. I headed right back through security as my flight was due to take off in an hour. Once there I found out my flight was, you guessed it, delayed! This put my last connection in Calgary at risk. At that point if I missed it, there was one last flight they could book me on, but that would put me in Vancouver after midnight, as it was I was already going to be there after 11:00 pm already 5 hours later than originally scheduled.

I thought I was never going to get to go home!

Eventually though the plane arrived and I was sat in the middle seat (boo!) but grateful to be jetting closer to home. We touched down in Hamilton and my two seatmates were replaced by a nice couple with a baby. They asked if I wouldn’t mind if they sat together and I gladly moved over. We chatted for a bit, I played silly faces with the baby and they found out about my long long long day and the possibility I may still miss my connection. They offered to jump out of their seats and let me in the aisle first once we hit Calgary to give me a better chance to catch the connection which was really sweet of them. I took them up on it and when we landed ran straight for the gate. That flight was just boarding when I got there thank goodness. I sent Tom a message to confirm I was on the flight so he’d know when to go to the airport to pick me up.

I cannot even express how grateful I was when I finally landed at YVR and saw Tom. Man I missed him sooo much, we haven’t been apart that long since we were finally living together!

Geez this post is already getting too long, on to Haida Gwaii next time.

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Coast To Coast

On Sunday I’m heading off on a coast to coast journey, or rather a coast to coast to coast journey.

Yep, I’m starting here in BC, flying to St. John’s Newfoundland, a week later to Halifax Nova Scotia, then back to BC. But not back to Vancouver, well okay yeah for a few days. Then I hop on a smaller than I’m used to plane up to Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands). It’s for work, for a big project I’ve been involved in for over a year now. It’s exciting that we’re at this stage, a very important one and I’m looking forward to seeing places I’ve never been before (not to mention hearing the Newfoundland accent), but I’m sure going to miss Tom. We haven’t been apart since we finally got to living in one place. He’s been able to come with me on other business trips, but this one was just not in the stars as he’s pretty tied up at work with his own project.

Anyway, because I’m heading out Sunday and I’m one of the ehem “lucky” ones who have an iPhone5 with a faulty battery, I’m sitting here writing this blog to kill time while the technicians in the Apple store replace it. I have an hour to kill, because really I’ve nothing BETTER to do on a Friday night than sit in my car in a mall parking lot until around 9:00 pm. I’m kind of pissy about the whole thing, having a phone with a bad battery for one, and bad it is, it starts to die pretty quickly without really putting it through any heavy use. Other than that, I made an appointment like a good little iDrone a couple of weeks ago, only to find out they don’t have any batteries in stock. Really? After a recall? Psh.

Anyway I get the email last night, or was it this morning? That my battery has arrived and to come into the Apple store by the 23rd or they give my battery to the next person who needs one. Yeah, not gonna happen because I NEED a phone I can rely on while traveling. Guess what today is? iPhone 6 launch day. GRRREEEEAAAAT timing right? At least I missed the crush of the crazies who sit in line all night to get a new phone. Seriously NOTHING will make me line up all night or for that matter many hours, especially a phone that you can pick up later with no wait. I don’t get the early adopter mentality.

So here I sit tapping away, in the passenger seat of my little Fiat Nate. I know I look weird, but the thought of walking around a mall, or sitting around one even, sounds even less appealing, I can live with the weird stares.

I just realized that yet again my blog is going to be about travel, but at least this time it’s a different kind of travel…

I’m going to try and blog a bit more while I’m away; presuming I’m not wiped out each day. I know that 4.5 hour time difference is going to kick my ass in both directions, but I’m pretty sure the long flight with a stopover in Toronto is going to make me want to fall flat on my face when I get to my hotel. My plane won’t land until 9:40 pm Newfoundland time and I’m sure by then it will FEEL like it. The good thing is that I don’t need to be at work until 10:00 am, so I’ve a chance to get a decent night’s sleep to reset my clock.

Oooh lookie at the time, I’ve only got another five minutes to kill so I’m going to wrap this one up and post it when I get home.

Later, from the far east coast!

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Faithfully – (Two trips, one post)

Okay, according to my last post, it wasn’t all vacations around here.  Well, this post isn’t going to support that statement very much because I haven’t written a thing since the LAST vacation and we’ve been on two since then, whoops.

The first one was back in April. I’ve been keeping flexible about time off due to some unknown timelines on something I’m working on, and when an opportunity to take some time off comes up, it could be fairly last-minute and if Tom can swing it too? We are outta here.

Where did we go? Well Cannon Beach of course! It was an extended long weekend really, five days, but five days in our favourite place is better than none. We lucked out weather-wise too, apart from the day we arrived (which was POURING) and the day we left, the weather was mostly mild and sunny.

Arrival day
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Due to the rather last-minute nature of our trip, we didn’t get the beachfront suite booked, rather the Ocean front room which doesn’t have the panoramic views, is a room not a suite and is set back from the original building. Not a deal breaker but boo. When we checked-in though, we asked if there were any cancellations. There weren’t, but they were able to give us a beachfront suite for a few days and then do an in-house move to our booked room the last couple of days. We SO took them up on it.

We did lots of walking on the beach of course. On one, we witnessed a marriage proposal (awwwwwww)and were the first to congratulate them as we walked by.

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We also made a friend I named Stomach due to his (typical) endless appetite. He found us every day and demanded chips. Took them right out of hand too.

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We’d see him arrive with a dramatic flourish…

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And do this until we came out…

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He could keep it up for ages.

The view from our second room was nice, but not AS nice and beacause it wasn’t a suite it meant no couch (a much much smaller loveseat) and no separate bedroom. Hardly slumming but we’re used to the space. I know. Wwaahhh.

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But yanno, it’s Cannon Beach… we were happy to be there.

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We then booked a fairly spontaneous trip to California in June. We stayed in Newport Coast as it was a big place with laundry and we knew we liked it. We hadn’t stayed there without the boys before, but it was nice to have the place to ourselves, we just closed off the extra bedroom and we each had a bathroom which was AWESOME. Close to Crystal cove too, which is very pretty.

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But first, we headed straight for In-N-Out. I guess the horse head wearing is a thing.

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One thing we now see, is how much more dramatic the waves are in Oregon. Every place we try to go back to always seems to pale in comparison to our beloved Cannon Beach. I spent a lot of time in California for the first few years Tom and I were a thing, so I will always be fond of it, but we’ve made so many new ones in Oregon.

What does make me sad though is the terrible amount of tar on the beaches in California too, mostly up in LA county. We saw (and unfortunately stepped on) tar in Manhattan and Hermosa beaches. We saw traces of it at Laguna Beach too though. I don’t recall ever seeing any up the coast in Oregon. Sad really. One thing for certain is when it comes to California, I’m an Orange County girl that’s for sure. I do love the Newport area and I have warm memories of a great getaway in Dana Point back when Tom and I were dating.

We had planned a couple of amusement park visits, Universal Studios where we had a BLAST!

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Then Disneyland (where we DIDN’T). I’d never had a bad experience there before, but the day we went, along with the ride closed for maintenance (Space Mountain) which we knew about, six major rides were shut down, so the other rides had very very long lines. The staff was rude, seriously rude and non-communicative. To top that off, it was grad time and we found out the hard way that all these classes were there on trips. Tons of teenagers without parents = loud and obnoxious in many of them. We left far earlier than intended as we just weren’t having fun. I barely took a photo there.

Still, one black mark on a nice trip.

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I’m glad we went, no regrets as it was fun and we had a good time away. If nothing else, it taught us to stick to the place we love and that’s where we’re going to go back to the minute we can swing it. See you soon Cannon Beach, I hope. Cannon Beach: to quote Steve Perry…”I’m forever yours, faithfully.”

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Belltown Ramble – our quick trip to Seattle

It seems like all I’m posting about here these days are the trips we take. Seriously it isn’t all vacation round these parts, I swear!

When we do grab just a little time off, Cannon Beach is a wee bit too far away. Seattle though, we can pull off a few days there without too long of a drive. I’ve had a few people ask me why we go to Seattle, when we’re not hardcore shoppers. In fact, someone said recently they didn’t think the city was very pretty. I disagree completely. Sure there are parts of any city that aren’t ‘pretty’, Vancouver included, but there is a lot of beauty in Seattle and I love a city that embraces public art the way it does.

We’ve only seen part of the city, though we’ve spent plenty of time walking around it. We tend to stay around the Seattle Center area to stay away from the downtown core. An eclectic area to be certain, but reasonable walking distance to the waterfront along with Seattle Center and a couple of our favourite places to eat.

This past trip though, unlike the previous ones, the weather didn’t cooperate. It rained most of the time, but being hearty souls (despite Tom’s ice-cream face – inside joke) we still did plenty of hoofing around, just with caps and hoods on. My picture-taking was limited to pulling out my phone every now and then.

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We did get a few breaks in the drizzle though.

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And Tom made a new friend.

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One of the highlights for me though, was spotting these amazing glowing flowers outside of the Pacific Science Center through the window of the Sport restaurant. We made a bee-line for them after dinner and had a blast playing with them. They’re called ‘Sonic Bloom’, awesome right?

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Aaannnd we ate pizza at The Rock. Yeah chain food again, but we like it!

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We still keep hoping to run into our favourite busker, but the last few trips he’s not been around. Maybe we’ll see him when we get down again this Summer.

The best weather was going to happen on the last day we were there, so we’d planned on taking the ferry ride over to Bainbridge, but we made the mistake of not parking near where we had just checked out of and attempting to find parking near the ferries. The one garage we found had an attendant you had to hand your keys over to AND your car was hoisted up to the rafters in a crazy claustrophobic space. Considering we had all our luggage in the car, including some personal electronics, we waved the guy off and decided to take a pass on the ferry this time around.

Call us paranoid, I’m sure he was trustworthy and nice, but no.

If you’ve never been to Seattle, you must. Do it!

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The Sweet Escape ( Arch Cape Escape – part 3)

Thursday January 23rd brought another gorgeous WARM dry day. At low tide we headed north up the beach to see how far we could walk without running into a headland the low tide couldn’t surpass.

As we were leaving we caught a whiff of some wood smoke in the breeze, not strong, but familiar as to what it was. We couldn’t see any chimneys in the neighbourhood showing signs of any activity and didn’t think much more of it.

I wasn’t wearing boots, so to avoid one rather busy area of runoff we abandoned Sally’s Alley for another beach access point further down the road.

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It wasn’t until we got to the beach that we saw there was smoke coming from the hills up behind our house across highway 101.

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We heard sirens eventually, but at that point we didn’t know how serious the fire was. Still, our house was a stone’s throw from the highway and the fire not all that far from the highway, so we kept an eye on things.

The smoke started to drift down towards the water as the winds picked up and it formed a bit of a haze, different from the marine layer haze you can sometimes see over the ocean.

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We were lucky, the tide stayed out long enough for us to get down to Hug Point, a large headland we had heard about, but not seen. Back in the day, the beaches were the coastal roads (I cannot even imagine!) Hug point proved to be a challenge to get around, so a ‘road’ was created which hugged the point. Get it?

Now road is a bit of a generous term, because it had to have been a bumpy ride either in a horse and buggy or eventually a car. Not to mention the fact it is a rather narrow passageway with a rather unforgiving ocean on one side of it.

Here’s an interesting page with some historical pictures of hug point.

Now here’s Tom on it, in his invisible car.

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At this point the water still made its way up and around the access point and when I was up there, I was a wee bit freaked out about the water swirling around me, and me getting stuck so I snapped a quick shot of this historical roadway and skee-daddled off the rocks.

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See what I mean? Imagine driving on that?! Scary!

Beautiful though, as is the rest of the Oregon coast.

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And the area comes with its own little waterfall.

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We were having such a great time on this trip. Here’s a shot of Tom that perfectly illustrates exactly how much:

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And of course with a silly walk.

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We were treated to yet another AMAZING sunset from the deck of our lovely, lovely holiday home.

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Ahhh…

The next morning, it was apparent that the fire was still burning and fueled by some winds, it had in fact grown. We kept an eye and ear out, just in case the winds shifted and sent the fire in our direction, rather than up the hills as it had thus far. Everything started to smell like smoke including the house, Tom’s car and every stitch of clothing we had.

Though the dry hot weather was great for us, not so great for the firemen from the surrounding counties who along with the forestry workers had their work cut out for them.

The helicopters with their bambi buckets were passing overhead steadily. On previous trips we’d seen practice maneuvers up near Astoria for, I imagine, just such an occasion.

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Here’s a news story from the fire.

And here’s some video I shot from the beach

See? A little too close for comfort!

The next day was our last full day at the beach and it was a dandy, despite the smoke which hung over the beach, it was warm and sunny, so warm that we didn’t even need a sweater. Even Tom (aka Mr. Frosty!)

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It seemed they’d made some real progress with the fire by nightfall, but you could still see the flames once it got dark (this was a zoom shot from our back yard up into the hills.)

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Sadly, all too quickly, it was time to leave.

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Though we’d been doing our laundry all week, we knew that we’d need to wash the smell of forest fire out of our clothes when we got home, but that was a small price to pay. We were really worried that this lovely house, and all the lovely houses around us could have been caught up in a fire. It looked like there would be no threat to them and the fire was contained and expected to extinguished in a week or so. We felt like we could say goodbye and not worry about the house anymore.

It didn’t mean we wanted to though. (Sadface)

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We will be back one of these days, oh yes we shall.

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The Sweet Escape ( Arch Cape Escape – part 2)

There is nothing like being at the ocean to soothe the spirit, at least as far as I’m concerned.

It was such a nice thought to know we had a whole week stretched out in front of us, in space enough to stretch out IN. We’d never rented a house before, and if we had anything to say about it, we would always rent a house. Sadly though, not practical, mostly because many of rental houses only rent by the week and we can’t always pull off a week away. Even if they did rent for a few days at time, it seems like the good ones (like ours was) get booked-up pretty far in advance, especially in your more typical beach seasons, unlike January.

The first morning, we had a leisurely breakfast then headed into Seaside to grab a few necessities from the grocery store and visit the antique store we’d found on previous trips. This place is a treasure trove for military stuff (for Chris) and run by a super nice couple. The store is fantastically organized too, not ramshackle as some are and the owner’s price things very fairly.

While I was waiting for the owner to finish up with another customer I spotted this framed article. The sticker placement was fortuitous, as I always call Tom’s antics behind me in photos as ‘Tom Bombs’.

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When we got back to the house we unloaded the booty and headed back out to take a walk on our beach. As our house is poised up high on the bluff, we strolled down to “Sally’s Alley” one of the local beach access pathways.

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We discovered pretty quickly that at high tide there wasn’t much of a beach, not like Cannon Beach for sure anyway. Though there was a strip of sand after a row of rocks between the ocean and the shore, the waves would randomly push the water right to the rock line. Fine if we were wearing boots, not so fine wearing sneakers. We quickly abandoned the idea of a walk there after making a run for the rocks more than a couple of times. No knock on the beach, because it was lovely, but we were used to being able to walk a beach no matter what the tide is.

We decided to take a drive down to Cannon Beach and do a little more shopping instead and then had dinner at The Lumberyard, one of our favourite restaurants in town. We were sad to discover though, that they had taken our beloved Chili-mac off the menu! The waitress informed us that yes, they’d done some retooling on the menu, but they had both the chili and the mac n’ cheese as separate dishes. We decided to order both and split them which turned out to be a LOT more food than the older appetizer but still delish.

We got back in time for what turned out to be a spectacular sunset. We pulled some chairs up on the deck and settled down to watch it.

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It did not disappoint.

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The weather continued to amaze us, other than a very short sprinkle the second day it was warm and each day seemed to get warmer.

We checked the tide tables and set out for a walk on our beach. We chose to go ‘left’ and found that it was probably the shorter of the two directions walking room-wise.

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We then spent a little relaxy time in the window seat (I told you we spent a lot of time there when inside!)

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But we were dying to say hello to our old friend Haystack Rock. We hopped back in the car and found parking in one of the day lots. It was strange to be driving to Cannon Beach, we are so used to just stepping out of our hotel and being right there. As much as I love the solitude and privacy of the house in Arch Cape, I’ll admit I missed being right IN Cannon Beach. Conflicted!

I think Haystack Rock missed us as much as we missed it. Well, I’d like to think so anyway.

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We had dinner at our fave pizza place in town (though we now know why most of the time people do take-out) and took our left-overs home for the next day’s lunch. Yum.

As we were down for a much longer trip than our typical longish weekend, we didn’t feel as strong a need to spend every second near the beach. Bonus for me as I love to visit the town of Wheeler and poke through the antique stores there. There are two of them, one more an antique mall and the other, ohhhhh the other! Old Wheeler Antiques is a marvel. It is full of the most spectacular Art Deco accoutrement known to man.

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All I know is, if we win the lottery I am backing up a U-Haul to this store and buying everything in sight.

Then Tom found this bar and I think I fell in love. I weeped a little inside to leave this behind.

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Sigh.

The clouds and light were so funky at that point I walked down to the water’s edge and ventured out onto the dock. Only so far though because I am NOT fond of floating docks. I shuffled my way down and hugged a pole while Tom walked to the end. Ah I wish I was that brave! There is only so much I will do for a good picture yanno?

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Of course, no trip down south will be complete without a trip to Tillamook.

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I mean ICE CREAM!

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Sadly, they still don’t have bubblegum (damn them for retiring that flavour!) and didn’t have my other fave, but yanno, I made do. ;)

Then we looked for cows. I LOVE cows.

You can tell right?

As I turned back I realized I had been so enchanted with the cows, I had walked through quite a bit of mud. Then Tom pointed out that it was, in fact, something other than just mud.

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Um, so we stopped at a patch of grass where I did my imitation of a dog after doing its business (wipe, kick, wipe, kick) and we made a stop at the grocery store…

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Bahahahaha!!

On the way back ‘home’ we were treated with yet another gorgeous sunset. We caught the tail end of it, as we were passing these cool rocks I’d wanted to photograph in the past. It was too late to set ourselves up in the perfect spot, but beautiful just the same.

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Gotta run! Part 3 next time.

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