Monday, September 30, 2013

Glassy Glaciers

We spent  the majority of  Day 4 on deck / at least near windows admiring the sights of Glacier Bay, a national park, UN biosphere reserve and a world heritage site. Its magnificence speaks for itself.


250 years young 100 miles long and 1000’s of ft deep it once occupied the bay, now all gone. What remains are less than a dozen small tidewater glaciers.

The Tlingit (indigenous peoples) harvested its resources before 1750 amidst the dormant glacier that eventually forced their departure and upon its receding, their return to claim it as their spiritual homeland.

In 1890 John Muir came to research glaciers and their origens. He was followed by Minnesotan, William S Cooper Ecological Society of America re: preservation of the Glacier.

If you listen carefully you can hear calving which occurs when big chunks drop off the glacier leaving these breakaways icebergs which dot the waters.
I was so awestruck that I didn’t film the event/ just caught the splashing and the floating remains...

Hopefully the splendor of the glaciers will be able to be enjoyed by future generations. In any case Glacier Bay is one place you don't want to miss!

Tomorrow on to Sittka...

Friday, September 27, 2013

D'ju Know Part 3

Downtown Juneau is a shopper’s haven with jewelry stores and touristy kitch, store after store but there was no time for those as a tram car was awaiting to give us scenic overviews and a bit of historical perspective of the city.

Once on top there is a gift shop of course but also a theater with a short documentary of the Tlingit, the indigenous peoples of the region.

If interested to learn more of the Tlingit, click:

One can see how nestled in the city is. It was gold that brought the prospecting team of one Joseph Juneau and partner to discover the mother lode and establish the city named after him   here in the late 1800's. The once seasonal fishing area grew into a large scale hard rock mining industry in a very short period of time.

Upon departing the building oh my goodness take a look what was awaiting tourist feet.  Read the label carefully, it’s a scrusher. Here's an enlargement so you can make out the label.

Found on many golf courses  to clean mud off shoes manufactured in none other than Chaseburg.  Imagine that! Yep, it made it all the way to Juneau, Alaska and even had a city and bay aerial view.

There were nature trails to explore and Natureman had more ambition than I to hike to the summit...

With limited flora blooming so this Master Gardener opted to head back down to the area where the Tlingit dancers would be performing.  The dancers donned woolen costumes simple in design but must have been hot as the day was warm.

But before their performance began, Natureman returned hungry and ready to head back for dinner. We were both bushed.

Heaven forbid, we couldn’t miss a meal. :)

We boarded the boat knowing we could never have seen as much as we did without the kindness of our Juneau Couch surfing friends nor have felt as welcomed to their capital city.

Next week ... Day 4 in Glacier Bay and you guessed it the glaciers...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

D'Ju Know Part 2

After visiting Juneau's Arboretum and Shrine sites off we went to Mendenhall Glacier National Park where our new couch surfing buddies served as guides along the park's paved pathway. Time permitted us to learn more about each other. One of our hosts is actually a Wisconsinite (Dodgeville). We can understand their commitment and attachment to the Alaskan homes he has hand built in Juneau. Unfortunately we couldn't see it personally since there were other Juneau stops to be included in our 8 hour stop. BUT our trip's timing was in conjunction with the salmon migration. Now's that's a sight to behold.

Thousands of tired salmon make their way upstream to lay their eggs. The eggs are viable for 24 hours so those males have to work fast to fertilize the newly laid eggs.

It was no surprise to see other wildlife  near these waterways as fish equals food.  Eagles, porcupines and bears, oh my. Yes, 'tis the season to see bears in Alaska as captured by one of our  couch surfing friends. They actually tend to hang out in trees/bushes eating berries. I spent a lot of time looking for leaf movement.

No wonder the bears use this mode of transportation. ..

As we strolled the path near the glacier I spied a bush shaking and after zooming in with my camera assuming a bear, caught a porcupine instead working on the berries. This may be like Where's Waldo. Can you see him at the base of the bush? (a little right of center)

Mr. Porcupine
BUT We were also here to see the glacier and so far we only saw bits of the glacier floating in the waters.  This larger chunk reminded me of a floating Phoenix. What do you think?

Finally at the end of path the spectacular glacier was before us...

Glaciers make their way down valleys and crush and smooth the bedrock, polishing it and sometimes carrying boulders along as it retreats. Global warming is evident also here as the Mendenhall Glacier used to reach all the way over to the waterfall on the right behind us. 

It was super magnificent to be this close to a glacier...  but we still had more to see..
 TBC for more in Juneau.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ju Know?

Day 3 of our Alaskan adventure involved fellow Couch surfers who helped make our visit to Alaska's capital Juneau extra special. We were picked up in front of the Red Dog Saloon only we weren't the ones standing on top of the electrical box like this tourist on the right...

Off we went on the city's only road to visit the Jensen Olson Arboretum (normally closed to the public Mondays.) Manicured flower beds and grounds were bordered by a temperate rainforest. The owner wanted to preserve her life's garden work and donated her property to be an  arboretum.

With all the moisture everything grows bigger in Alaska. Take a look at this double begonia, fungi and these ginormous caterpillars that could be found  all over...

After a lesisurely walk through the arboretum off we went to visit nearby St Therese's Shrine off the beaten path for most tourists built 60 years ago. 

Charming stone church
The peaceful grounds now serve as a retreat for any denomination where you can stay in a lodge / recently built cabins with a serene view of this French garden and the bay ...

But the day was not over so from the shrine our hosts took us to Mendenhall Glacier National Park which will be shared in the next entry. So check back as the views will be very different than the End of the Rainbow Valley...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Kvetch, Kvetch, Kvetch

Would I be awful to complain that there was not enough time to do everything I wanted to do even with Day 2 being at sea?

Day Two I had tickets for Master Gardeners sessions, a desire to attend certain ship activities and also have time to soak up the panoramic scenery.  Starting the day early as always with my participation in exercise classes, a Dancing With the Stars lesson and tryout, witnessing a cooking class,  the ship's nightly Dance Revue, listening to the ship's various musical groups in addition to attending daily Key Note speaker made for a day without just enough hours.

Whale watching...
Snow capped mountain ranges
      But hey,  who am I to complain when surrounded by such magnificence?

Another gorgeous sunset...

And there's alway DAY 3. Stay tuned for when we dock in Juneau...

Monday, September 23, 2013


        I have added another 'dam' to my sea voyages as I was on the Statendam as a kid and now have added the Westerdam. What are these 'dams? Well, they must have to something to do with Holland, right? You know Amsterdam, Rotterdam... 

        The ms Westerdam was Holland America's luxury floating hotel for our weeklong Alaskan excursion. It's passenger capacity was just shy of 2,000 with over half of those guests registered with the International Master Gardener Conference aboard. (The crew numbered a bit over 800.) The gross tonnage over 82 tons included our heavy suitcase...OK time for a luggage story...

We opted not to take our large backpacks due to limited plane change time. I knew I couldn't run fast enough after waiting for the backpacks and then sprinting the entire length of the airport like who know who... (That OJ Simpson ad reference dates me) Opting to take an oversized suitcase for both of us since I didn't realize 10lbs over the 50 lb limit would cost an additional $125. EEGADS! Fortunately I had stuck a smaller empty suitcase in the car just in case it would be cheaper to check 2 bags versus the one big one. So I divided the contents and paid the $25 for an extra bag.)

OK on with the boat ...  “The ms Westerdam is the third in Holland America Line's series of Vista-class ships with the latest industry and environmental technologies such as a diesel-electric power plant for optimal energy efficiency and an Azipod propulsion system. Most of her staterooms have ocean views and many have private verandahs.

On board amenities included a Fitness Center, Spa, Movie Theater, Casino, Showroom and 3 Pools. We experienced most of these and each became experiences ... 

My favorites include when congested Natureman decided to use the Spa not realizing this was a 'special' service hence coming with an add'l cost. He had tried his key to no avail and someone came along and offered their key to let him in. So he enjoyed the therapeutic waters until confronted as to how he entered wo paying. When he heard the 2 spa attendants discussing him, he decided it was time to high tail it out of there... LOL  

Another favorite on board experience was the ship's aft hot tub from where we enjoyed its warmth while viewing the glaciers. Super scenic and memorable! 

Not a bad view for a hot tub, eh?

The ship's beautiful furnishings included an art collection of Dutch heritage in the New World with historic Dutch ships, a huge Indian silver-overlaid wood palace doorway, a bone tobacco pipe carved in the shape of a woman's head to a collection of 5,000-year-old pre-Columbian carved limestone figures from Ecuador. Contemporary pieces included an original Andy Warhol and sculptures by Sedona artist Susanna Holt.”

Personally I liked the brass features, brass hand railings,statues, fish shaped bar stools and doors shined at all hours by a very hard working staff. 

Elevator doors

Bar Stools

As we became acquainted with our lodging we had favorite spots besides the observation decks. Every day we spent time in the ship's beautiful library with it's bow window views admiring sightings of wildlife including whales and sea lions in addition to the beautiful scenery and sunrises/sunsets. It was obvious it was going to be a spectacular adventure experiencing Alaska. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Cast Off...

You might not have heard but I will be checking off another item on my Bucket List today.  In order to do this Life in the End of the Rainbow Valley will be taking a hiatus as Natureman and I go to continue celebrating not only the Jewish New Year 5774 but specifically his 65th and my future 60th birthdays courtesy of my folks. They have generously gifted us a trip to Alaska via Holland America's ms Westerdam.

Gee I would have gotten older faster had I known such a gift was awaiting... Wink, wink.

In addition to the cruise there are a couple perks as I will be united with a high school buddy Nancy in Seattle who will graciously host and introduce us to her city pre and post the cruise. Then, get this, the cruise is also hosting the International Master Gardener's Conference so there will be garden related topic seminars daily en route besides botanical land excursions. How lucky can a girl get?

Internet connections will not be resumed until our return the 17th. Don't worry until then you can rest assured we will find some sea faring adventures in our time away from the End of the Rainbow Valley

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Apple TIme

It's always great having kids to celebrate the Holidays and in addition it was perfect timing to celebrate Natureman's youngest turning 30 in the next week. Welcome to middle age Simon! It's been a big birthday month as Sam's was last week and Natureman's the week before.

Birthday Boy far left... 
Hmmm, a theme cake... well of course it has to include this month's harvest - Apples.
Apples are featured at Rosh Hashonah with honey for wishes for a SWEET New Year.

I found a keeper of a recipe that is not only tasty but easy.

Here 'tis:


3 c all-purpose flour

4 eggs

2  c white sugar

3 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

3 apples - peeled, cored and sliced ( I used more)

1 c vegetable oil

1/2 c orange juice

2 1/2 t vanilla extract

5 T white sugar

2 t ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350.
Grease and flour a 10" tube pan.

Sprinkle sliced apples with 5 T white sugar and the ground cinnamon. Toss to coat, set aside.

Mix flour, eggs, the 2c sugar, baking powder, salt, vegetable oil, orange juice and vanilla until well blended. Batter will be fairly stiff.

Pour 1/2 of  batter into prepared pan. Place apple mixture over the batter

                                                then pour  remaining batter over the top.

Bake at 350  for 60 to 80 minutes.
Let cake cool in pan.

This cake was a hit with all.  I just love when that happens in the End of the Rainbow Valley...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


On Monday as we drove down the residential part of Main Street there dotting one lawn was a flock of black birds. I almost thought it was Hitchcock's 'The Birds' revisited. Very scary and if you can believe this, I didn't even stop to take their picture.  I remember how those birds attacked people in that movie!

Apparently these black birds are a real pest to not only city residents but also a bigger nuisance to our rural neighbors just over the hill.  It was just that very morning that I almost jumped out of my skin as I was awakening by a loud boom. Were we being bombed?  It sounded way too close.  Then it was followed by other booms and what sounded like gun shots at varying intervals. A war zone?

What in the heck was going on? Well, the farmer was trying to scare the black birds into leaving as they are destroying his corn crop. ( Not people corn but feed corn.) Heck, I don't know about the crows but I felt like leaving. When I asked Natureman about this method he indicated  it was probably an automatic exploder. This city mouse needed a tutorial.

So, of course, I googled automatic exploder and here's what it looks like and what I found out.

"These are also known as "propane cannons." These do not discharge a projectile, but use propane gas as a loud discharge with a booming sound. There are manual mechanized single-shot units as well as electronic with random, rotating multishot devices. (Obviously my neighbor had the latter.) These cannons can be adjusted to a localized boom affecting a very small area to larger ones that can reverberate for 25 acres. Digital clock timers and photocells are options for automatic firing and turning the devices on and off."

Sure enough the birds lifted out of the field but I am not so sure they are not just hiding out in the trees waiting to return.  Some sandhill cranes also flew over End of the Rainbow Valley at the same time but I don't mind if they stay.

As far as I know Hitchcock didn't make a movie about Sandhill Cranes, did he?

Black Birds click on this link they don't sound so destructive when Paul McCartney sings about 'em...