Friday, June 29, 2012

I can hear Dorothy now...

"Toto, THANK GOD we're not in Kansas!"

It reached 118 F in Norton Dam, Kansas today. (Story here. via Drudge)

A Little Traveling Music Please!

Terry drove into New Jersey and NYC on Wednesday. One of her former bosses was retiring and they had a big party for him on Thursday. She stayed at her Mother's in New Jersey and took the train into the Big City just as she had done for 32 years before she retired. (Different route to Path but otherwise the same old same old.)

She says there were quite a few of her former colleagues there and they remembered her fondly--even if she couldn't remember the names of some of the younger folks. Typical of a bureaucratic federal government office, they are being reorganized...again. She says they are going to be going back to the way things were shortly after she joined them back in the early '70s.

Anyway, she had a good time at the party despite the near 100 degree temperatures. Those temps did affect her stay at her Mom's, however. The MIL just won't budge on the air conditioner front. During the winter she keeps the house near 80 degrees and won't put the window AC in during the summer. Heh. She's pretty well up there in age (I think she'll be 87 on July 7th [UPDATE: Terry corrects me in the comments. Mom wil be 89 on the 7th.]) and pretty well set in her ways. (Stubborn as a mule and twice as tough. Try telling her NOT to go out and shovel the snow next December!)

Today she drove out of NJ and back to the Aerie. Good thing, too. Today it's even hotter in The City and New Jersey.

Before Terry left, I put OUR window AC in the bedroom window. A lot of good that did me! The damn thing ran all night and didn't lower the temperature in the room below 78 degrees. And this was one we bought two summers ago. So I switched it out this morning for an older model and that one seems to be working just fine. (Terry says it's in the 60'sin the bedroom this afternoon.)

I will not be enjoying those cool temperatures in our Aerie bedroom, however. I took off for the Bolt Hole around 10 AM. The temperature hit 90 degrees on the NY Thruway near Syracuse but it fell slowly as I turned northward out of Utica. Windier, too. That and the low relative humidity are producing comfortable conditions that will get even better as the sun goes down. Lows tonight are forecast for the upper 50s. It will be hotter tomorrow, by a few degrees but then the highs will fall for early next week.

Anyway, my drive up was uneventful and I found the Bolt Hole to be intact and standing. As soon as I got my food in the fridge, I called to see if Village Motor Sports in Speculator still had the part I needed to fix the ATV. (I hope!) I ordered it in late May and never got around to picking it up what with our travels to Cape Cod and the Pacific Coast, and my knee problems. They assured me it was sitting there waiting for me to pick it up so I hopped in the truck and headed even further north to do so. (Tack another 100 miles onto the 220 I drove from PA to the Bolt Hole.) Tomorrow I see if this was the part I was looking for.

It was a nice leisurely ride during which I got to see a member of the dumbest bird species in North America: a Ruffed Grouse. Standing on the side of the road--on the painted line marking the division between the traffic lane and the bike lane--just watching all the cars of holiday vacationers speed past as though it was greeting each one to its Adirondack domain. On the way back, I had to stop twice to let some hen turkeys shepherd their chicks across the highway. Good thing no one was behind me or coming the other way. The first group was a pair of hens with between 12 and 15 little ones that looked to be three, maybe four, weeks old. If I hadn't stopped I would have had a grill full of the little ones. I was surprised to see that even as young as they were, they were able to get airborne for the short flight to the shoulder of the road. The second group was a solitary hen with about 10 chicks that looked to be only one or two weeks old at the most. They couldn't fly, but man could they waddle! I saw two other solitary turkeys in different spots as well but they seemed to be chickless.

Now I'm sitting here in the Aerie listening to the wind rustle the leaves of the Aspens while there's an evil Red Squirrel chattering nearby. I can also hear the songs of Cedar Waxwings, Robins, Song Sparrows and Chipping Sparrows, a couple of warblers and others as well.

Oh, and I've been reminded that I'll need to put out the mouse traps by the rat-a-tat-tat of tiny paws on the storage  tins on the shelf.

(I was looking for something with Jackie Gleason saying "And away we go!" but it's not on You Tube. This is, however. And it's cute!)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

This Means War!

The last couple of days I've been waging war against groundhogs. (This may be a violation of Pennsylvania code given Punxutawney Phil and all that. Just kidding. Ground hogs are considered vermin in PA. They're fair game.) I've caught them coming out on the lawn during the day, but they must also be making it into the garden as well. The leaves of the zucchini and cucumbers have been nibbled--just as they were getting large.

I've spotted three different critters. Two are large--one very dark chocolate and one milk chocolate in color. Then today a smaller one showed up.

I'm beginning to feel like Clint Eastwood:

Only, I've got an air rifle and not a shotgun. And I'm sneaking out onto the deck and trying to get a bead on them before they head for the tall weeds. The big ones have learned that the cocking of the rifle and/or sliding of the screen door mean something. Just the tiniest noise, and they dive for cover. The little one who showed up today hasn't learned yet...despite being hit at least twice. (The big ones got hit once or twice in the last few days.)

1) The fat of a groundhog is thick enough to absorb the .177 pellets even traveling at 1400 fps.

2) Being absorbed in the fat, they do little damage. Especially since they don't expand upon contact like lead would do.

3) I'm going to need a bigger gun. Oh, I've got them, but using a 12 gauge or a .30-.30, or a .270 or a 50 caliber muzzle loader seems excessive.

4) I'm going up to the Bolt Hole tomorrow. I'll be bringing the .22 home with me.

5) In the mean time, I've extended the chicken wire fence down the side of the garden in an attempt to halt their depredation.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"The bear went over the mountain..."

Or in this case the Cape Cod Canal and then the Berkshires all to get to the Cape.
Poor guy probably just wanted to go back to the beach.

Wandering Cape Cod bear captured in Boston suburb

BOSTON (Reuters) - He's baaack: A male black bear captured on Cape Cod earlier this month, where it was tranquilized and moved to central Massachusetts, showed up again on Tuesday just six miles from downtown Boston. State officials said they had captured the bear in a tree in the Chestnut Hill area of Brookline, just west of Boston, and confirmed it was the same bear which roamed the Cape for about two weeks before being captured and relocated on June 12. The bear was identified by a tag placed in its ear. It had probably traveled about 100 miles. .... The so-called Cape Cod bear was first spotted May 27 in the Cape Cod area, the easternmost part of the state. State wildlife officials think the bear swam across the Cape Cod Canal from the mainland.
We were on Cape Cod from May 23 to May 31. You don't suppose he stowed away on the trailer and rode east from the Adirondacks, do you?

Vampire hunters?

Obviously these guys are not vampires...but, perhaps, they know some.

Police: 5 suspected of stealing 9.5 tons of garlic

VIENNA (AP) — Austrian police did not need sniffing dogs to locate this suspected heist — 9.5 tons of garlic. The Austria Press Agency says police stopped three overloaded and sagging vans about to cross into Hungary from Austria on Wednesday and found them packed to the roof with the pungent cargo.
Harry Dresden, call your office.

Lonesome George

At least when they say, "He looks so lifelike," they will be right!

Famed Galapagos tortoise to be embalmed, displayed
QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — The beloved Galapagos Islands giant tortoise known as Lonesome George will remain a tourist attraction even in death.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Aerie Rain

Remember how I said last night that the forecasters were predicting little rain for the next week? Well they--and I--had it wrong.

About 2 AM a thunderstorm rolled in and deposited a considerable amount of water on the Aerie along with much sound and fury. I guess my watering of the gardens was unnecessary after all. (That or I primed the pump much like washing the car.)

More good news from the rain is that the winds shifted so as to come out of the north and it's much cooler this morning. The overnight low was in the high 50s and it will struggle to reach the mid 70s today. That should end late in the week, if you can believe the forecasters, when the high will be closer to 90 on Friday.

The bad news is that the rain has driven the relative humidity way up.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Back at the Aerie

A busy couple of days since our return from the west.

I needed to cut the grass. After three weeks away it was a bit brushy. Terry did some food shopping and the laundry before cleaning up the flower bed by the front door.

Then the vegetable gardens needed weeding. Got one done on Saturday before the loss of fluids had me feeling lightheaded and woozy. That caused me to call it quits. This morning (Sunday) I got another weeded and finished the third this afternoon.

Everything needed watering. We received only 1.25 inches of rain over the three weeks we were out west. The long term forecast doesn't promise much for the next week, either.


Saturday I was surprised by and surprised a black bear who came out onto the lawn in the middle of the afternoon. It was our friend the young male. He's about 3+ years old and looks to be around 250-300 pounds. Which is plenty big enough from 20 yards away. Luckily, he's pretty shy and took off with little more than a few shouts. He didn't go swiftly, but steadily, which was fine by me.


This morning I woke at 4:30 AM still feeling the effects of the dehydration. The birds were pretty darn active too. A very loud Indigo Bunting was followed by an equally loud Eastern Towhee. They were followed by a persistent Chester the Cat imploring someone to get up and feed him--and the girls too, if you must. So I was up and about by 5 AM. If they double team me again Monday morning it might be time to get the shotgun out--or send Chester and the girls out to catch some birds.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Still on the Road Home

Still on the road as we head eastward.

Terry and I left American Canyon, CA very early Monday morning at the same time that Lucille and Doug headed for the Oakland airport to fly to Kansas City and then drive down to their lake house on the Lake of the Ozarks. Today we drove within 65 miles of there. They beat us by two days. But we saw some fantastic sights (or perhaps "sites") along the way.

Monday we drove east on I-80 until we reached Sacramento and then took US-50 east to South Lake Tahoe (A pretty ride!) and through Nevada (A stretch of highway laid out with cooked and uncooked pieces of #8 spaghetti. Parts were as straight as a ruler but the connections through the mountains looked like a toddler's scribble.) into Utah to Salina where US-50 meets I-70.

Tuesday we left Salina, Utah on I-70. This, like US-50 the day before, was a new stretch of roadway for us. WOW! What scenery! The rock formations, canyons and color put one in mind of the national parks to the south: Bryce, Zion, the Grand Canyon and Arches. And you can see it for FREE! (I'll share some photos when I get a chance.) Eastern portions of Utah and very western portions of Colorado were not nearly as scenic. It was, however, increasingly moister as we approached the Rockies and ski country--which was developed to within an inch of its scenic beauty--maybe beyond. Through Denver, I-70 took us out on to the drier planes and we made it all the way to Burlington,CO on the eastern edge of the state before we came to a halt.

Wednesday we left Colorado and drove all the way across Kansas and much of Missouri. Winter wheat was being harvested in eastern CO and western KS and corn grew progressively taller as we drove east until we saw some with tassels on it in mid Missouri. We also say some huge wind farms harvesting the wind energy in Kansas. Hundreds of windmills stood idle in the 20+ mph wind, however. They're either not yet connected to the grid or something is seriously wrong.

Tomorrow, Thursday, we'll head through St. Louis and on into and across Illinois and Indiana and the southern most tip of Ohio to get to Wheeling, West Virginia.

If all goes according to plan, we'll be back home on Friday.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Thursday night in Portland
and Friday on the road

Thursday evening, I made my way back to Mezza for a double helping of baklava to go. (Terry made spaghetti for dinner so as to leave Rick and Sandy a couple of meals of sauce.) We all got a taste of the honeyed dessert.

Mezza's very friendly and helpful waitress 

Afterwards, Rick went outside to do some work on his bee equipment. More frames are needed for expanding hives.

 Rick at work/play


Friday morning, Terry and I packed up and headed south toward American Canyon, California to visit Joe and Laura, Doug and Lucille. Along the way, the temperature--which started out at 53 degrees ended up passing 100 degrees and settling at 91 some 10 hours later. We past Mt. Shasta along the way.

Mt. Shasta viewed from I-5

Elevation of Mt. Shasta

We also past many groves of olive trees, rice paddies, pistacio orchards and more in the fertile Sacramento Valley but at 70 mph we had no chance to snap a photo.

Joe did some BBQ ribs for dinner. And it was good.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

It's a Velvet Re-Revolution

Hey, I'm all up for a bit of revolution. Especially in a good cause.
What are your demands?

Our needs are simple. We seek to drive Brett Kimberlin’s fake Velvet Revolution into third place, or lower, on a Google search for the term. We estimate that we can do this within six months. Eventually we’d like to knock Wikipedia out of the top spot, but all things in their time. We seek to replace Brett Kimberlin’s fake Velvet Revolution with a fake Velvet Revolution of our own, a Velvet Revolution that tells the truth about Kimberlin and his henchmen, in order that past and potential donors to Kimberlin, such as George Soros, may be fully informed about who is cashing the checks.

Read why and how here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wednesday Afternoon in Portland

Today was an "easy" day.

Rick had expressed an interest in a workbench which he could use to build/repair his bee boxes. Since there was plenty of material left over from the old deck and new deck, I spent the morning cutting and screwing the stuff together to build a 30" tall, 45" wide, 24" deep table out of 2"x and 4"x lumber. Take my word for it. This is one sturdy bench.


Then Terry and I went around the corner to Mezza, a Middle Eastern restaurant specializing in Lebanese cuisine for lunch. And it was good.

Wednesday Report from Rick & Sandy's

I've been a busy little beaver here at Rick and Sandy's home in Portland's Woodstock area. Saturday Rick and I went shopping from lumber and supplies. Saturday Eric (a friend of Rick's) brought his tools over and we spent half a day framing out the deck. Monday I screwed down the deck boards with the assistance of Terry to straighten out some of those that were bent. Tuesday I dismantled two of the sets of steps leading up to the the front porch and rebuilt them into sturdier formats.

Then Tuesday evening we went to Eric's house for a grand dinner. The deck is a 6'x16' affair with cedar boards supported by pressure treated lumber.

  Nearly completed deck with a photogenic model for scale 

Being the Northwest, the steps to the front porch were suffering from moss, mold and general decay. They were never protected from the weather with stain or weather proofing and were on the verge of collapse. The new four foot wide steps built from pressure treated 2"x12" (sides and treads) and 2"x6" (risers) are very solid and sturdy.

  New side steps

  New front steps. 

Terry spent time admiring Rick's raised bed gardens that are chock full of delicious snap peas begging to be picked right now.

  Rick's garden plots 


Yesterday afternoon (June 12th) we got an email announcing the arrival of Samantha Rylee McMahon. Sammi is my niece's first and makes my younger sister a Grandma. Suddenly my knees hurt even more.

 Welcome Samantha Rylee! 

 Ryan and Sandy McMahon made something far more beautiful than any deck and sweeter than the sweetest snap pea. Congratulations kids.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Deck Construction and more!

After Rick and I paid a visit to the Big Orange Box store (aka Home Depot) on Saturday to get supplies on Saturday, Eric showed up at Rick's house today for a breakfast of pancakes, eggs and bacon after which we got to work on construction. First we sent Rick out to get two more 4"x8" timbers. Then Eric and I carefully sited the concrete piers for the four corners and the centers. We sistered two 4"x8"x8' timbers to a 16' 2"x6" to form the rear stringer, cut 4"x4" posts to level it across the house, and mounted joist hangers on it to place the joists. We cut the joists to length and then waited for Rick to bring the 4"x8"s that would form the front stringer.

Once Rick got back, we all positioned the front stringer on three concrete piers (only a little adjustment as to their position was required), cut the 4"x4" posts to level the stringer and attached the hangers and joists. All that remains to do now is to attach the cedar deck boards using screws and construct a ramp and set of stairs so as to get up and down to and from the deck.

6'x16' Deck Nearing Completion

 Nearing Completion 

Much of the construction was done under the watchful eye of Penny, the Labradoodle. As Eric had brought his dog, Buddy, with him and the two pooches entertained one another. (In reality, Buddy just wanted to be left alone so he could figure out how to spring the gate to chase after a cat that would have beaten the crap out of him or just to go across the street and smell the California poppies int he neighbor's yard.) Penny seemed very pleased with the new deck ans sprawled out upon it as soon as we laid the deck boards.

 Penny the Labradoodle 

Rick is a bee keeper with 5 or 6 hives at various places including one at a friends house a little over a mile away. He works on his boxes in his yard sometimes and had one set in the back that was unoccupied until a few weeks ago when a wandering hive found it and took it over. For all he knows, these may be the same bees that swarmed over at his friends place a month ago.

 Volunteer Bees 
(Check the entry on the left. They're busy as...well...bees.)

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Bird Photos from Bear River

Here are eleven of the best photos I got this morning at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge outside Brigham City, Utah.

American Avocet

Black-crowned Night Heron

Snowy Egret

Black Stilt 

White Pelican

 Western Grebe with chicks

 Clarks Grebe

  Fosters Tern just hunting and hovering 

 Yellow-headed Blackbird

 Sandhill Cranes 

Just two old boys discussing fishing. 
Snowy Egret and Double-crested Cormorant.


Day Four of our
Whirlwind Western Wandering

It was 34 degrees this morning at 6 AM MDT when we woke up. Spotted snow in the mountains east of Brigham City. Might have been there yesterday but might have fallen overnight.  With the low cloud cover and rain we had around dinner time it's hard to say if there was any snow on the high peaks or not.

Was "up" to 40 degrees when we got to Bear River to go birding at 7 AM. And a great morning we had, too! Lots and lots of birds. We tallied 40 species of mostly western waterfowl. The Western and Clark's Grebes, Cinnamon Teal, Black Stilts, Avocets, and White Pelicans were among the highlights of the morning. I took many pictures and hope some of them came out. I'll post some as soon as I take a look at them and do whatever editing needs to me done.

The drive to Ontario, OR went smoothly and we settled into a motel by 5 AM. Tomorrow we have about 370 miles to Portland and gain an hour as we cross into the Pacific Time Zone.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Three Days on the Road

Day One saw us travel from the Aerie across Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and most of Illinois to the town of Ottawa. Seven hundred and twenty miles in mostly fair weather. We did hit a few heavy rain showers in Ohio but not much else. A good portion of I-80 in Ohio had construction going on, especially in the area south of Cleveland. That section has been undergoing reconstruction for years.

Day Two we finished with Illinois, then traversed all of Iowa and a large portion of Nebraska to finish in Sidney--a distance of close to 850 miles. If I thought Ohio construction was bad, it was nothing compared to Nebraska. It seemed like more than a third of I-80 westbound was under reconstruction. Iowa had almost no construction for its entire length and the rest stops were the nicest I've ever seen. They were immaculate!

Day Three we finished I-80 in Nebraska and drove all 400 miles of it in Wyoming before entering Utah. In Utah we only followed I-80 until we got to I-84 and took that interstate west to where it joins with I-15 north. We stopped in Brigham City, Utah for the night. A "short" day of just about 650 miles.

We had thought we would be able to go birding at the Bear River Refuge once we found a motel room near Brigham City, but the sky opened up and we opted for dinner at a nice steakhouse instead. Perhaps tomorrow we'll be able to do some birding before we leave for Boise, ID and the town of Ottawa, OR just a little over 300 miles away. After that it will be another 300+ miles to Portland, OR.

Days One and Three saw us battling headwinds with Day Three being the worst. The wind across western Nebraska and all of Wyoming was howling at 25-35 miles per hour with gusts going even higher. Motor homes and tractor trailers were noticeably listing to one side and travel trailers were fishtailing under the pressure. I was happy not to have the Wilderness in tow! As it was, both days saw a considerable drop in the miles per gallon I was getting int he Tundra. There was a 4-5 mile/gal difference from what I got on Day Two when the winds was calm.

The temperatures have been something else. In PA and early Ohio things were cool due to the overcast skies. Then it got warm...really, really warm. Under clear skies and bright sun it reached 91 degrees in central Nebraska on Day Two. Today, with the wind howling it still reached the mid 70s in central Wyoming, but as we reached Utah the sky got clouding and there was a bit of rain. As a result, the temperatures fell like a stone. It was 43 degrees and pouring at 5 PM MDT when we went for dinner. I've little doubt that it may have been snowing in the mountains just to the northwest of here. (We did see some snow on the peaks of the  Colorado Rockies from I-80 in Wyoming.)

That's all for now. 

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Conditions at the Aerie
June 2, 2012

When we got back to the Aerie yesterday, I checked the rain gauge to see what we got from the "severe thunderstorm warning" that was issued earlier in the week. There was 1.12 inches of water in the gauge and all the plants (especially the weeds!) in the garden looked pretty good.

The leaf lettuce and beets were doing especially well, but the zukes and cukes had sprouted as had most of the bean seeds I had planted the day before we left. Some of the beans look like they may have lost their seed leaves prematurely and are little more than four inch long spikes, but enough are growing to provide us with an amble amount of fresh string beans starting in a couple of weeks.

I did a little weeding and Terry has thinned out the leaf lettuce providing several nice garden salads.

Last night we got had another sever thunderstorm warning but the heavier showers stayed off to our west. We just got rain. Lots of rain. This morning the gauge held another 1.2 inches of water.

It was quite cool with the outside temps around 50 degrees and a steady breeze blowing dried things out pretty well while we loaded Ricks "stuff" into the truck. The grass got dry enough that I was able to crank the lawn mower up and cut the grass. Despite being fairly dry, it took me a goodly amount of time to get the job done because the grass has grown like wild fire and I had to empty the bag after every second or fourth row.

Terry did some grocery shopping and got all the laundry done today so we've got some clean undies and shirts to wear.

Except for packing our own bags and putting them and some groceries for the trip in to the truck, we are set to go. We'll easily be on the road tomorrow morning before 8 AM. Earlier if our cat alarms go off at 3 AM like they did today!

Our days on Upper Cape Cod; 3c
(more) WHALES!

Our whale watching was the best! Time after time there would appear a ring of bubbles followed by a ball of birds and then white foaming water int he center of the ring. Then a whale or more than one would appear gulping down the food they need so badly after spending winter in the Caribbean where their type of food is scarce. Several times we saw whales leap completely out of the water (breach) as if in an attempt to launch themselves into the air only to come splashing back down. I couldn't capture these unpredictable yet spectacular actions with my camera however, so you'll have to take my word for it.

Pair of blow holes (nostrils) atop whale's head. 

Sometimes distinctive colors or scars on the fins and back also help ID individual whales. 

The top of the flukes may help in ID too.

Two whales in a coordinated feeding attack.
 One is heading away from us, the other towards us.

Whale gulp! 

Another view of the underside of a whale's tail flukes. 

The naturalist had a photo album of all the distinctive markings that allowed him to give names to nearly every whale we say. This identification along with other information is collected in a database to assist in research of these endangered whales.

Sometimes the whales were too close. Especially when your zoom lens is set for longer distances and they end up right next to the ship.

Whale's back... 



We had a great day on the water and saw more whale activity than we anticipated. (After a while it got to be like watching Bald Eagles around the Valdez fish hatchery. Ho, hum. There's another one.)

That's the way we spent our Wednesday.

Thursday morning Terry and I headed back to the Bolt hole to drop off the trailer. We spent the night before heading to the Aerie to gather Rick's "Stuff" for our trip to Portland, OR.

Our days on Upper Cape Cod: Part 3b WHALES!

Once out in the whaling sanctuary, the means by which the Dolphin Fleet could guarantee sightings became clear. The first ship out in the morning would have the toughest job of locating a group of active, feeding whales. the other ships would merely have to follow their sister ship to the one or two dozen active whales and each ship would take turns following the whales as the day went on. However they worked it, once the ships were on the whales, the captains were careful to keep the ship speed slow and do as little as possible to disrupt the feeding whales.

In any event, we got to see between 16 and 20 different whales in the hour and a half that the Dolphin VIII was out in the sanctuary waters. These are just a few of the photos I took. All the whales we got up close to were humpback whales. There were a few minke whales off in the distance but not close enough to get good photos.

Why are they called humpbacks? 

When a whale sounds, it often flips it's tail upright. The coloration of the underside of the tail can be used to identify the whale. This rather plane upper surface is of little help, however.

Whale's tail. 

The whales are feeding on little lancets--they look like 6" long worms--that they corral with a bubble curtain. The whale dives to the bottom (about 150 feet) circles as it releases bubbles forming a tube about 18-20 feet in diameter. Then the whale rises in the center of that tube with its mouth open wide to scoop up the small food fish. The humpback uses baleen to strain the fish from the salt water and gulps down the fish. Birds congregate to pick off the spillage.

Three whales feeding. 

Birds enjoy some easy pickings. 

Cow and her calf do lunch together. 

Distinctive color pattern on the underside of the tail flukes. 

Whale strains its food to the delight of the gulls

( be continued.)

Our days on Upper Cape Cod: Part 3a

When we went to Alaska as a group back in 2010, we enjoyed several cruises in Alaskan waters and got to see lots of seals, birds and even a few whales. All those trips were for other purposes, however. One took us from Skagway to Juneau. Another was a dinner cruise. Then there was the fishing trip out of Homer. Others were to view glaciers up close and personal. None of these cruises actually got you out in the ocean but, rather, were in inland waterways--channels and bays still pretty well confined between two somewhat nearby pieces of land. (The trip out of Homer got closest to the open ocean, yet still got no further than the opening of Cook Inlet.)

Our whale watching excursion out of Cape Cod was a little different in that once we rounded the point of land forming a curled fist encompassing Provincetown, there would be nothing between us and Europe. And, we would be going out with the sole purpose of locating and observing whales.

Dolphin Fleet Whalewatch.  

The Dolphin Fleet operates at least 4 vessels out of the Provincetown Harbor. Dolphins VII, VIII, IX,and X were docked at the pier on Wednesday. Only VIII and IX were cruising on this day, however, as it's still early in the season. Thirteen of us planned on going out on the final trip of the day, the 1:30 PM cruise on Dolphin VIII. Previously Dolphin VIII had sailed at 9:45 AM with what looked like an eighth grade class and while we waited for it to return, Dolphin IX set sail with a crowd at 12:30 PM.

Dolphin VIII returns from its morning cruise. 

Shortly after 1 PM we were permitted to board and it soon became apparent that this would not be a crowded vessel and we would have plenty of opportunity to move about should we need to.

Part of The Alaskan Crew 

Provincetown has an interesting history of it's own. It, not Plymouth, was the first landing spot of the Pilgrims. An event usually overlooked in the history books, but commemorated with the tallest free standing granite tower in the world. Terry claims she and her sister once climbed this beast for a fantastic view of the harbor.

Tallest free standing granite tower in the world. 

As a working fishing port, there are many folks of Portuguese ancestry. There's a plaque commemorating their contributions to the town but there's a special set of murals for some of the noted women behind the men who kept the town running smoothly.

As we cruised out of the harbor and around the "fist" we passed wide beaches, lots of sand dunes and not a few lighthouses.

Including this one with a keepers cottage that can be rented in season. No electricity, however, and access is "over the sand" as they say. But, with blue fish and striped bass running within wading distance of the beach, it might be worth it!

While we cruised, we got the obligatory safety talk from the ship's naturalist and his helper. He also provided a little background as to the types of critters we might see, their behavior and the reason they are here.

After 30-45 minutes we finally approached the whale sanctuary and spotted the Dolphin IX with several whales off her bow.

Excitement began to build with the knowledge that we would soon be getting some of that "up close and personal" experience ourselves.

Lots of WHALES!  in the next post.