Tuesday, June 12, 2012

North of the Plaid Line

"Endurance is kind of like your spirit lifting weights."
Christopher De Loach, age 12

Up until last year, one of the things we had hoped to do while living near the ocean was to see a whale or two. Then we got lucky with a mama whale, which not only entered fresh waters, but passed slowly back and forth directly under a bridge on a highway we were familiar with. The story, as you might recall from previous entries, had a sad ending with the whale's death.
But when another chance came to head north and ply the waters of Puget Sound in search of more whales and at a discount (since we aren't quite in whale spotting season yet), we started packing.
This wasn't a quick trip. It's about nine hours by car if you're not stopping in Portland to see Leah (daughter #5) and husband Dane. We did stop, then went north again to Puyallup, WA, to where Allison (daughter #3), husband Scott and their two sons live. From there it was more north to catch the ferry going to the San Juan Islands, and finally to Orcas Island, where we were booked into a cabin just a stone's throw from the beach.
The island isn't just a jumping off spot for whale lovers. We saw a handful of bald eagles there and happened on a fawn which seem to have just been born. When we did hop aboard our boat, along with about 15 other folks, the whale watching wasn't anything that you'll ever see on Animal Planet, but we did spot a Minke whale at 200 yards or so, and perhaps a porpoise or two. Seals were sun bathing on rocky islands, and diving birds gave out clues as to where fish could be found. The cruise was over in a couple of hours, with no one seasick or feeling ripped off by the half price cruising sale. Another tiny highlight was in response to a question on tsunami trash. Sure enough, there was a what looked like a tent stake with Japanese writing on it, recently plucked from local waters.
Back in Puyallup, we took in a trip to the zoo. Marine animals were prominent: walruses, seals, polar bears and penguins. They also had an elephant, camels, monkeys, tigers, leopard cubs, tapirs, and others. The gorillas must have been on vacation. We were restrained in the gift shop since we're too old to look good in what they were selling, and we already have plenty of refrigerator magnets.
I had one slightly odd moment. Orcas Island has a mountain which rises just over 2,000 feet from the sea and affords a terrific view from its summit. This view includes a tiny corner of Canada. At the summit I later found myself trying to find a particular radio program. The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) came in pretty well, but how did I also manage to find some music with the unmistakable sound of....Mexico?  


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