Monday, July 3, 2017

Change of Scenery!!

After four months at the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, we decided that it was time to move on. We'd completed our major projects and had a couple of minor misunderstandings with the management there. We felt like we were looking mostly at emptying garbage cans and sorting through recycling for the next couple of months. We've never left a volunteer gig early, but neither of us was looking forward to more time there so we "gave our notice" and headed south.

We had spoken with Oregon Fish and Wildlife a couple of summers ago about their opportunities, so we reached out to them again to see what they had available for July and August. We received a couple of different offers, and selected Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area in northeastern Oregon.

Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area is just over 6000 acres in size, and protects one of the largest remaining wetlands in NE Oregon. While much of the area is wet meadow and marsh, the refuge also includes prairie grasslands, upland shrub, and conifer habitats. It is designated an Important Bird Area (IBA) it is also home to many mammals include elk herds.

Our job is a simple one. Get the RV volunteer area cleaned up and fixed up. It has been a few years since they had an RV volunteer, and the manager would like to make the site more attractive to future volunteers.

The RV pad is on an old homestead site. We are in a grove of large trees (Black Locust and Walnut) planted by the former residents. They provide welcome shade and lots of habitat for birds. We are completely surrounded by nesting Tree Swallows along with many other species of birds.
Tree Swallow in Nesting Box

Bullock's Oriole

Northern (Red-shafted) Flicker

Our view is our over a huge marsh, with the Blue Mountains in the background. We're told that herds of elk will be coming down from the mountains and will feed in this meadow in August.

There are two outbuildings on the site that are pretty run down. This one is supposed to house a washer and dryer, but we haven't found the key yet to check it out!  Hopefully those appliances will be working when we get in there, but it sounds like the building hasn't been open in several years. We'll get a chance to spruce those buildings up and get things working.

Compared to Washington's Olympic Peninsula this is a warmer, drier, and sunnier area. We are running the A/C to keep cool in the afternoon, but with the low humidity it is always comfortable in the shade. 

We look forward to our first workday on Monday morning, where we will find out what exactly we've gotten ourselves into for the next couple of months.

Mark

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Alaska Journal - Day 13

We docked in Juneau, the capital of Alaska, this morning.  While having breakfast the crew got everything ready for disembarkment.  This was the end of the line for our trip.

There are no roads connecting Juneau to the rest of Alaska or to the rest of North America.  It is reachable only by boat or seaplane

We had a couple of hours before our shuttle to the airport.  It was too early in the morning for most places to be open but we walked around looking at the sights.

We walked past the State Capitol building, which was modest as state capitols go. Since it was Saturday we didn't expect for it to be open, but we would have liked to look inside. 


The local Ravens were pretty friendly. They were probably used to getting handouts. 

After walking around for a while we found ourselves in the area where the big cruise ships dock.  There were many, very large, souvenir shops in this area and I did find a place to pick up a few souvenirs.  We bought a few t-shirts and other things.  I had already bought a magnet at the start of our trip in Seattle and one in Ketchikan but I couldn’t resist picking up a couple more.  


It was time for our shuttle to the airport.  The cruise folks had already taken our luggage so we hopped on a luxury bus with only our carry-on bags.

We splurged on first class seating for the flight back to Seattle. Pretty nice!

Mark got some great pictures of glaciers as we flew out of Juneau. The idea of glaciers being "rivers of ice" is well illustrated here. You can see several smaller glaciers flowing in to the main glacier, which finally melts into the river.

The flight was uneventful.  With first class seating we got a hot lunch and cookies.  We landed in Seattle on time and got back home about 8 p.m.

Please leave a comment or send an e-mail if you have enjoyed our first trip to Alaska.

The end.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Alaska Journal - Day 12

What is a WOW moment?  Waking up to this:


This was the amazing sight out our door this morning. 


Endicott Arm is marked by rugged mountains, deep u-shaped valleys and towering waterfalls.  At the head of the fjord is Dawes Glacier, a tidewater glacier.

Tidewater glaciers flow to the sea and are found at the head of fjords or inlets which they carved while retreating.

We brought our breakfast up to our room while we waited for our allotted 9:10 skiff tour to the glacier.  By this time we were getting a little tired of constantly being around people.  It was nice to be able to eat a meal without having to carry on a conversation.

Blue Ice

Amazing Blue Ice

We were lucky to be the last onto the skiff.  This put us right at the front where we had the best view of the glacier.  We had been told that it would be very cold because glaciers make their own wind. Called Catabatic Wind, this is wind caused by air flowing down along the top of the glacier and out into the ocean. As you can imagine it is a cold wind, so we bundled up and headed out.


Our skiff had to stay about 1/4 mile from the front of the glacier.  Large chunks were breaking off.  This is called calving.  Calving is when chunks of ice break off at the terminus, or end, of a glacier.  Ice breaks because the forward motion of a glacier makes the terminus unstable.  The resulting chunks of ice are called "icebergs."  There are also bergy bits which are usually less than 15 feet in size and are generally spawned from disintegrating icebergs.

Pictures from the crew:



We floated around the ice bergs and bergy bits for about 1 1/2 hours!  Our guide, Mark, grabbed a large chunk of ice so that everyone on the skiff could touch it and see how incredibly clear it was.


Another group brought in a piece of ice with the outline of a leaf embedded in it.
The variety of shapes of the various bergy bits were amazing. 





As we slowly made our way back to the boat we passed by a harbor seal resting on a bergy bit. 

The crew had hot chocolate waiting for us when we got back to the boat.  After lunch we headed back to our room to relax and start packing up.


Next time: Juneau. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Bug Museum

We drove by the sign to the Bug Museum a few weeks back and I, of course, wanted to plan a visit. 


When you look up the museum on the Internet it doesn’t seem like there would be much to see but with other things to do in the area, we put it on our list too.

There is more here than just bugs!
Any guesses?

There were both live animals and collections.

Myrtle the turtle greeted us.

This is a Peanut Head Lanternfly from Costa Rica.  I will say that we have been to Costa Rica three times and have never seen a Peanut Head!

There was a wonderful beetle collection, very well displayed.

This Atlas Beetle from Malaysia is one of the largest insects on Earth.
The giant horns are used for battle with other Atlas Beetles.

Would this be the perfect RV pet?
Ant Farm

There are more than 10,000 types of ants around the world.

There were ant farms for sale in the gift shop (live ants were also available).

Of course, everyone needs a Hissing Cockroach from Madagascar.  At 3 inches, it is one of the largest species of cockroach.
Madagascar Hissing Cockroach
Affectionately known as “hisser”.

Would you recognize these as grasshoppers?

Giant Lubber Grasshoppers from Peru.

This is the real color of these grasshoppers wings.  With their wings closed, they blend into the plants and the predators do not see them.  But, if a predator gets to close - they spread their wings and the unexpected bright color scares away the predator.

We saw a lot more displays before heading to the reptile room:
California King snake (nonvenomous)

This Tokay Gecko from India is one of the largest in the world at 12” and is very aggressive with a strong bite.
Tokay Gecko can change the color of its skin to blend into the environment.

Did you recognize the toes from the earlier picture?
Day Gecko from Madagascar
The Geico commercial Gecko is thought to be modeled after a Day Gecko.

We looked at the rest of the reptiles then headed to the gift shop. 
Found a nice magnet for my collection.
Next time:  Back to the Alaska Journal

Teri

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Bugs and Destroyers - A Great Day With a Little Disc Golf Thrown In

Taking a break from writing the Alaska Journal we headed to Bremerton, Washington.  It was a short 1 1/2 hour drive from Dungeness into a beautiful area of the Kitsap Peninsula. 

We left in the afternoon after work to take advantage of our next two days off.  Our first stop was for Mark to play disc golf at one of the many courses in the area. 

This area averages 39 inches of rain a year.  Both disc golf courses Mark played were in beautiful, lush, green forests with towering trees.  On our 2 1/2 day trip Mark played 3 18-hole rounds on 2 different golf courses.   

We had a couple of other things planned besides disc golf!

The USS Turner Joy was named after Admiral Charles Turner Joy (1895 - 1956), a veteran of World War II and the Korean War.  It was selected as a Naval Memorial in 1988 and is now a permanent attraction on the Bremerton waterfront.
USS Turner Joy

The Turner Joy was the last Forrest Sherman Class destroyer built.  Of the 18 vessel class, only 2 remain.  As we boarded we were met by a wonderful volunteer who served on a different destroyer (in the Forrest Sherman Class) during the Vietnam War.  He was very interesting to talk with as he had firsthand experience. 
Mark talking to a volunteer.

With lots to see we headed down.

With a crew of 332 there wasn’t a lot of personal space.  We went through several berthing rooms.  They did not look very comfortable.
A tight fit!

The outer hull is only 3/8 of an inch thick.  This makes the ship lighter so it can go faster.  It is also the reason Destroyers are called Tin Cans.  Top speed 32.5 knots (37 1/2 mph).
3/8 inch thick.

Originally built with 3 5-inch Mark 42 guns and 4 3-inch Mark 33 guns, the 3-inch guns were removed in 1970.  The 3-inch guns had a limited effectiveness and were too difficult to maintain.
5-inch gun.

Loading was entirely automatic from an ammunition drum (containing 20 rounds) in the handling room, up to the loading tray by means of a rotating hoist. 

The weapons targeting control center was the culmination of a series of US radar-equipped antiaircraft systems developed during World War II.  The MK 56 became a dual-ballistic system, with the capability of issuing simultaneous gun and fuse-setting orders to two different batteries of different calibers, such as the 3-inch and 5-inch guns.  It was extremely fast, producing a weapons firing sequence with just two seconds of the time it began tracking an enemy vessel.
Weapons Director Control Room
Remember our wonderful volunteer that we met when we came on board?  He found us again as we were touring the ship and told us that his job was in the Weapons Director Control room.   (His first job when he came on board was to cook breakfast for the officers).  He had some wonderful stories.

The Turner Joy was commissioned in 1959.  After several tours in Pearl Harbor and Guam she was used for air-sea rescue duty near the Mariana Islands for President Eisenhower.  Best remembered for her participation with USS Maddox in 1964 - an action that led to the United States’ increased involvement in the Vietnam War.

This projectile (bullet) weighs 70 pounds.  The Sailors would have to handle each of the 600 projectiles until they were all put away in the magazine.  They would have to do that for all three of the 5-inch 54 caliber guns on the ship.  Each gun had a crew of 14 men.
70 pound projectile.

This is a second-generation, lightweight anti-submarine warfare (ASW) torpedo and the first service torpedo with a seawater-activated battery as a power source.
Anti-submarine Warfare Torpedo

The torpedo launchers utilized compressed air 1500 psi to catapult their torpedoes into the water.
Torpedo tubes.

The Combat Information Center is often called the nerve center of the ship.  It is responsible for collecting and distributing operational information by using its radar, sonar, radio wave, and other electronic search equipment.  “Rigged for red” means only the red lights are turned on.  White lights are detectable from great distances at sea.
Combat Information Center (CIC)

The bridge is the main control point for the entire ship.  It is the duty station of the captain and the officer on the deck.  All orders and commands come from the bridge while the ship is underway.
Mark on the Bridge

We saw many other areas of the ship.  I’m not sure if we saw everything as there were lots of hallways and different levels, but we sure made an effort to see it all.

Next time: The promised bug museum.
Teri