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2012

Bars . . . Bars . . . Ev'rywar!

posted Jul 4, 2012, 4:01 PM by Michael Schwarz   [ updated Jul 10, 2016, 1:15 AM ]

Sunday- July 1st  at 9:15am

Michael and I, along with 5 other passengers and the pilot board this 1951 DeHaviland Otter float plane and are about to take off for a day of bear viewing.  We will fly southwest from Homer for 120 miles through the Shelikof Strait to the Katmai National Park & Preserve on the Alaskan Peninsula. 

The flight was smooth as could be.  The day was cloudy but no wind and no rain.  Life is good.


We passed several active volcanoes on the flight.  This is either Mt. Iliamna or Mt. Douglas





You can't go far in Alaska without seeing a glacier or two, or three!  The color of the water is so blue.




Glacier


We will be landing on a lagoon about a mile from here.  We'll hike here for bear viewing.

This is a picture of the bogs and streams and meadows below as we descend.  Isn't it cool looking?

Our sister plane as she gets ready to land.


They fit everyone with waders.  I might have to get me a pair.  Yo Ho Ho

A rare sighting of a white wolf.  Michael got this picture right before the wolf ran off.  Excellent job Michael.
Ahhh.  Bear prints.  We're getting close.

The first sighting!  A little information about bears.  There are only 3 kinds of bears; black, brown and polar bears.  Grizzlies and Kodiaks are brown bears.  I didn't know that.


We found a grassy spot in front of a small hill and sat quietly on the ground or fallen logs to let the bears get used to us.  It didn't take long before several came into sight.  They didn't even care that we were there.

When bears come out of hibernation from the winter they don't start eating right away.  During hibernation they form an intestinal plug that keeps them from urinating and defecating.  It takes a few weeks for that plug to pass once they wake up.


Once they start , eating becomes their main focus (Remember that fact.  It becomes much more important later in the day).  1st is the early spring berries, then the tender summer grasses near the rivers and streams.  Then it will be fish, once the salmon start upstream, usually in early July.


She just spied another bear coming up the bank.



   







Not all the bears are this good looking.  He's nice and fluffy!

Aw shucks!!



Sometimes they got pretty close. 



This male tried all day to get any female bear to stick around, but no luck.

Hey, How you doin.

The closest any bear passed to us was 30 feet!!!! That is CLOSE.  we all held our breath waiting for him to go by.




Okay.  Time for a break.  Where's the bathroom please?  Over the hill to the nearest bush you say.    I hike up and over the little hill and look for a good spot.  The grass is pretty tall-about butt high.  I'm doing my business as fast as I can when I look up and see a bear lift his head from eating at the same time!!!!!! I didn't see him when I scoped out my spot because the grass is pretty high and he had his head down.   He's about 50 feet away (which sounds a lot farther than it is).  He looks at me and I look at him - and he goes back to eating.  I am happy that I am wearing those rubber boots.  

I didn't have my camera with me when I went to find a bush but this is the bear I came face to face with.  he ventured out to the meadow shortly afterwards.


Hey, don't I know you???

Other than eating another activity was frequent napping.


Is that Miss January from the sexy bear calendar????  I think it is!


Can't quite scratch that one spot in the middle.....


Ahhhhh





















After about 4 hours of watching the bears we hiked back to the planes.



The sun was out on the way back.  The water in this alpine lake really is this color.

Since the clouds had lifted the pilot was able to fly directly over one of the glaciers so we could get a really good look.





What a fabulous day!!!!!!!!!!

Cocktails await . . .

Valdez, Alaska - The Most Scenic Place We've Been

posted Jun 25, 2012, 10:25 PM by Michael Schwarz   [ updated Jul 10, 2016, 1:34 AM ]

Tok to Valdez, Alaska

Riding down the Richardson Highway (they sure have a funny definition of highway here), we were treated to unusually beautiful weather with some of the most gorgeous scenery we have ever seen. Both of us thought that with a ride into town like this, there is no way the town will be able to top it. Boy, were we wrong. Take a look at the photos from the ride into town, around town, and on the glacier cruise we took. We saw more wildlife in that one afternoon than we saw in the past two weeks!



Mount Sanford - 16,237 feet

We were lucky the weather was clear enough to see the summit because there has been lots of cloudy weather.  Mt McKinley is 20,324 feet. Look carefully. There's a giant snow-covered mountain back there.





Worthington Glacier

This is a valley glacier


See the blue ice in the next 3 pictures?





The Glacier and Wildlife Cruise

We took a 6 1/2 hour cruise of Prince William sound in Valdez aboard The Lu Lu Belle. We used a 2 for 1 coupon from the Tour Saver book.  Check out the slide shows and videos at the bottom!


Sea Otters

Aren't they cute?


I want one!!

Sea Lions

lots and lots of sea lions.
Noisy and smelly but fun to watch
Are you lookin at me??

Humpback Whales




Sea Otters


Sea Lions


Whales


Ice...Ice...Baby


Whale Breeching


Turn up the sound for this one!

Sea Lion Serenade


Dawson ... Dawson City That Is.

posted Jun 24, 2012, 6:36 PM by Michael Schwarz   [ updated Jul 10, 2016, 1:22 AM ]

June 18 -20

Looking down on Dawson City from Dome Hill at 12:00 (midnight!!!)


Official sunset was 12:49am.  Sunrise was 3:28.


Yukon River on Main St.

Historic building that hasn't been restored yet. I think it was a bank.

One of the more important locations in town.

Seems like anyone can get a drivers license in the Yukon!

Dredge #4

This was used to mine placers gold (flakes).  The whole thing would swing side to side scooping up the creek bed.  Once it was finished with an area it floated down stream a little farther and started all over again.  The locals said that it emitted a horrible metal on metal screeching 24 hours a day.  No lubricant could be used on parts that the gold would come in contact with otherwise the gold would float off and not settle out.

That big giant dredge produced a product that would fit in this tiny little bucket once a week. On its best day, they got 900 ounces of gold.

Artsy photos of the mechanisms in the dredge.


These are the levers in the control room at the top of the dredge that controlled the movements of the dredge.

The Ferry

This is the only way from Dawson City to the Top of the World Highway.

Note the high tech landing area. Bulldozers and bucket loaders were on hand to keep it in good shape.



The Keno

Stern Wheeler - transport from Whitehorse to Dawson City. This is what they look like when you take care of them.

Stern Wheeler graveyard

This is what they look like when they don't take care of them.

This was one of the sites that was recommended at the Visitor Center.  It was supposed to be a short distance from the end of the territorial Campground.  Michael and I could not find the path.  We met a couple of local teenagers who convinced us to follow them into the woods to find it.  There was a hint of a path, once upon a time. After about 1/4 mile there it was.

Did you hear that??  Banjo music playing off in the distance.












Thanks Randy and friend.

Michael and I found a better path on the way back.   What an adventure that was.

Sled Dogs!

Over the ferry and 5 miles into the woods is a sled dog kennel and training camp.  What a great find.  The 2 1/2 tour was well worth the fee. In the background are all the different training vehicles.


Including this ATV.   These guys like (love) to run!


The largest sled dog museum in the Yukon


We Made It!

posted Jun 8, 2012, 7:48 PM by Michael Schwarz   [ updated Jul 10, 2016, 1:34 AM ]

More is coming... Stay tuned!


Brigham City, UT to Helena, MT

posted Jun 3, 2012, 8:25 PM by Michael Schwarz   [ updated Jul 10, 2016, 1:20 AM ]



Helena, MT - June 3
Overnight stop on the way to Canada
Mosque?? Nope- It's the Helena Civic Center


Helena
State Capitol Building


Helena RV and Campground
We give it a 3 out of 10.  They are trying to revive it. $20 w/ 30 amp electric only.



For our CT/MA relatives - look how far 84 and 90 go!!!  It's like we're just down the road.


South of Butte, MT


Grand Junction, Colorado

posted May 30, 2012, 8:41 PM by Michael Schwarz   [ updated Jul 10, 2016, 1:23 AM ]

Page, AZ-Glen Canyon Dam

End Of April on our way to Grand Junction, CO

The visitor center usually offers tours of the dam but the day we were there they were doing maintenance down below in the turbine area . . . Next time.


Bryce Canyon National Park - Utah

A 2-night stop on the way to Grand Junction.



Dave Radican - Here's a camper for you. Note the grille!



We took a 3 mile hike down into the canyon.  This was on the way back up!!!!

                                   Thor's Hammer

The Sentinel




Grand Junction, Co

May 1-June 2

Hunter and Jax



Day trip
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Montrose, CO


Park Visitor Center with Hunter
Can you hear me now??



South Rim looking across at the North Rim



Our daughter Gretchen, her husband (our son-in law) Johnny, Jax (5), Hunter (7)




Yes honey, I'm glad your parents came to visit for a month.





If the Empire State Building was at the bottom of this canyon it would only come halfway up this cliff wall.







The Gunnison River at the bottom of the canyon.  Do not take this drive at night.


Grand Junction RV - our next RV??
Michael has been taking his vitamins. Ha Ha!!








Our daughter is training for the "Tough Mudder" 10 mile run and obstacle course the 2nd weekend in June in Denver.  Grand Junction had a mini 2 mile mud run and obstacle course, just for fun!!



Jax graduation from pre-school.  Kindergarten this fall-watch out!

Hunter and Jax joint birthday party

Thanks Auntie Samm for this cool Darth Vader talking mask.  You have a VW Jetta don't you??


Hunter's and Jax's birthday present from their mom and dad.

Who's that big kid in there jumping with you??  Grandma, is that you? 


What can I say??


Yoda watermelon head.  Thank you Samantha for turning me on to Pinterest.
Who made that cool cake from the Lava Pit fight scene from Star Wars?
Thanks Grandma.


End of the birthday party - Auggie (the party animal) is pooped.  No pictures of Grandma and Grandpa.


Tucson

posted Apr 15, 2012, 7:10 AM by Michael Schwarz   [ updated Jul 10, 2016, 1:34 AM ]

Apologies to our fan!!  They just removed our finger casts and we finally got our computer repaired. Sorry for the delay since our last post, but we promise that we have mended our ways.  We are currently in Grand Junction, CO visiting our daughter and her family which includes 2 grandsons.  We left Tuscon at the end of April and headed to Phoenix for a few days and then on to Sedona, AZ to meet up with Bob and Patty.  We had a lovely time hiking and catching up.  We arrived in Grand Junction on May 3rd for a month-long visit.  I can't believe that the month is up and we are prepping to leave this Saturday.

Here is what we did while we were in Tucson:

Kitts Peak Observatory

60 minutes from Tuscon, AZ.  There are more telescopes on this mountain than anywhere else in the world.  We took a guided tour of one of the telescopes.  Very interesting.
More telescopes on one mountain than anywhere else in the world!
The Big One on Kitt Peak

A model of the telescope. The mirror is 144 inches!!


Hiking in Tuscon

There are 3 or 4 mountain ranges surrounding Tuscon.

Saguaro cactus bloom in late May

Cool looking.


Titan Missile Museum

30 minutes south of Tuscon.  I'm not old enough but Michael remembers Fallout Drills in elementary school where they hid under their desks to avoid the fallout from a nuclear missile strike.  I guess they don't make desks like that anymore.  For those of us slightly younger I remember these missiles from the movie "War Games".  It was a great tour conducted by ex-military personnel.




Mission something something (I don't remember the name)

45 minutes south of Tuscon.  They are in the process of restoring the inside so we only saw the outside.  They did have a nice museum to tour.  Isn't this a nice picture? 


Pima Air and Space Museum

This was a bus tour of "The Boneyard".  A fleet of mothballed aircraft as far as the eye can see.

Connecticut/Massachusetts

We flew to Connecticut mid April for a week to visit family - Michael's sister, parents, my sister, and of course, Samantha.  For all those who are wondering - No, I did not make her a sandwich.  These are pictures I took with my phone from the airplane window on the way back to Tuscon shortly before landing.  We were able to use one of our 1st class upgrade coupons on the return flight which probably explains why the pictures came out so good.



Bisbee, AZ

We went to take a tour of the copper mine and when we got there we realized we had taken the tour a few years ago.  We went to the local mining museum and then took a walk around town.
Hi from Bisbee!


Bisbee is on the side of a hill.  When you get to the top of these stairs there's another set just as long and steep at the top.


Apache Junction, AZ

30 minutes east of Phoenix.  Lost Dutchman State Park.  This is the view from our campsite.  We ran into Bob and Patty and didn't even know that they would be there.  Small world.  We hiked 1/3 of the way to the top before it got too hot.  Okay, before we gave up.  As we were resting part of the way up we were chatting with some locals and they said that this is the hardest hike in all of the Phoenix area.  Maybe next year we'll make it to the top.


View of the same mountains from a ghost town a few miles away.  The ghost town was a tourist trap but we liked the old west look against the mountain.

Sedona, AZ



Sedona- Bob and Patty, I don't know about you but I think we all look better in person!!!  Maybe it's the hat?




Oh well . . . Cocktails await.

Into the Middle of Nowhere and Back Again!

posted Mar 28, 2012, 9:33 PM by Michael Schwarz   [ updated Jul 10, 2016, 1:30 AM ]

Port Aransas to Tucson

We have just arrived in Tuscon, Arizona at the Desert Trail RV Park.  The view from the front window is a giant cactus and the mountains beyond.  Very nice! We left Port Aransas Texas last Friday morning, which was a day earlier than planned, and headed to Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico (yes, that's a real town and was named after the radio/TV show). We actually stayed in Elephant Butte at the state park.  It had a very nice view of the lake and the mountains.
  We had to hump it from Port A in order to get there on Saturday afternoon as we had reservations to take the Virgin Galactic/New Mexico Spaceport tour on Sunday morning at 8:30am.  The Spaceport is mostly done and is owned by the state of New Mexico and leased by English billionaire, Richard Branson.  The estimated date of the first commercial passenger space flight is sometime next year and will cost a mere $200,000.  Many celebrities have already paid and are just waiting for the flight, Ashton Cutcher for one.  We put our name of the waiting list (click here to make your own reservations). The Spaceport is in the middle of nowhere and is basically a glorified hanger.  The inside isn't done yet but I'm sure when the "pretty" stuff is done it will be a sight to see.

While we were there we took a day trip up north to Socorro to see the VLA (Very Large Array) radio telescope.  If you saw the movie 'Contact' with Jodie Foster several years back, you saw the VLA (with some Hollywood enhancement).  There are 27 telescopes lined up in 3 rows/arms. Each one looks like a giant satelite dish.  They are all pointed in the same direction staring up at the sky.  It is very other-worldly looking.  It is also out in the middle of nowhere.  It seems like all the sights to see in New Mexico are out there!! To get an idea of scale, look for Michael in the bottom portion of the photo, right in the middle.

On the way back from the VLA we took a side trip to see the historic site of Fort Craig.   It figured big in the Civil War. It was 13 miles off the highway down a dirt road in the - you guessed it- middle of nowhere!!!


We left Elephant Butte on Tuesday and traveled a few hours to Silver city (still in New Mexico). On the way we stopped at The City of Rocks State Park. It's only a few miles down a dirt road, so technically, it's not the middle of nowhere, it's only on the outskirts.

When we arrived in Silver City, We visited the local museum and soaked up some local color then headed back to the RV park. Silver City's big claim to faime is 'The Big Ditch'. In 1912, there was a flash flood that created a 12-foot wall of water. When it was all over, in place of Main St. there was a 'Big Ditch', which is still there today. To cross Main St., there is a bridge!

Wednesday morning we packed a picnic lunch and headed 45 miles north thru the Gila National Forest to see the Gila Cliff Dwellings.  Originally we were going to drive the RV up this road and camp at the national park campground. We did some more research when we saw that the estimated travel time for the 45 miles was 2 1/2 hours.  Hairpin turns, very narrow roads, 10-12 degree inclines and declines.  Yikes!!!!!!  Both Michael and I decided to make the drive in the car.  Good call.  We hiked the pretty steep half mile up to the cliff dwellings (thank goodness for all the bike riding while in Port A) listened to and enjoyed the Park rangers 1 hour tour and then hiked back down.  What a great outing! 

All the sights we saw in New Mexico were great and we recommend them all.  The spaceport trip was a bit pricey and we would have LOVED it for half the price.

With our arrival in Tucson we have just switched out of travel/sightseeing mode into stay in one place mode.  Thank goodness because we are tired from the last 6 days of constant on the go.  We will be here for a month but there are so many things to see and do.  We will be taking one of those weeks and flying to Connecticut to visit Michael's parents (and Samantha and Lisa of course).  His parents are both 91 this year and we want to see them whenever we can.  The next time we'll be out that way will be in late September or early October on the way back from Alaska.  We'll plan on spending a month or so there before heading back to Texas.

That's all for now . . . cocktails await!

El Paso Traffic Sucks!

posted Mar 25, 2012, 6:42 PM by Michael Schwarz   [ updated Jul 10, 2016, 1:23 AM ]

Just a quick note. We pass through El Paso yesterday. We have been through El Paso twice. The first time was four or five years ago. Going through town on I-10 was excruciating. Yesterday, they decided to close the road entirely! I guess El Paso and us just won't get along.

Port Aransas - The Attack of Spring Break

posted Mar 14, 2012, 10:42 AM by Michael Schwarz   [ updated Jul 10, 2016, 1:29 AM ]

Before we begin, we have a suggestion about the Visitor Comments. If you register, you can get email updates to the extremely erudite responses that we make to your comments. Think about it.

To say things changed overnight would be an understatement. There are now people in town that are younger than we are! Lots of them, too.  It's a little noisier at night too.  Starting at around 5:00 each afternoon we hear the sirens around town.  We are hoping they are police and not ambulance.  Check the"Photo Gallery" for pictures of our ride down the beach.  Here are a few teasers.

Not all Spring Break visitors are young partyer's though.  We went out to dinner with Russell, Janice and Sarah one night and hung out at their campsite another night.  Monday our friends Kathie and Myron are arriving for a visit so we are looking forward to that.


Plans for the Alaska trip are progressing nicely. Check  "Our Travel schedule" for an update. Ellie has discovered internet forums and is finding out more about some of the destinations than the chamber of commerce sites like us to know.  We were planning to stay in Prince George, BC because they have a happy, cheery web site talking about all the attractions that can be experienced there. They must have forgotten about the 3 wood pulp processing plants that give the town its distinctive aroma.

We are leaving lovely Port A next Saturday and heading for Tucson, AZ.  One of the stops on the way there will be Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Why there, you ask?  Virgin Galactic Spaceport! When we run out of places to visit in the motor home we want to have plenty of options lined up.  Where else should we stop between here and there? Put an entry on the Where Should We Go Next? page. 

But, enough for now . . . cocktails await.

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