Sunday, May 31, 2009

Flying into Concrete

Concrete, Washington, that is. Recently, our good friend David came to visit us in Bellingham. Looking at his charts, he found a small airport with an unusual name, Concrete. Unfortunately, when David arrived, so did a weather system, so he and Wayne never got to fly into Concrete.

View Larger Map

Yesterday, Mom and I "flew" to Concrete in Bertha (her Buick). From Bellingham, we headed south on I-5 to Highway 20 at Burlington. The North Cascades Highway first takes you through Sedro Wooley and then winds along the wide Skagit River.

The name evolved from Minnehaha in 1888, to Baker in 1890, to Cement City and finally the city was incorporated as Concrete in 1909. The name pays homage to the large deposits of limestone and clay that were and are sought after by cement companies.

The Concrete Heritage Museum preserves the history of this unique region. They even provide guided tours in the Sockeye Express on Saturdays from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Saturday is market day in Concrete. Follow the signs to the Senior Center and you will find a variety of booths selling crafts, woodwork, plants and other locally produced items. They even have a wandering fiddler for your entertainment.

Concrete is the regional center for education. A unique new high school literally bridges Superior Road. The old abandoned high school overlooks playing fields that now form a city park. It must have been the center for community activities in its heyday.

Of course, you can fly into the Concrete Airport. The 2600 foot runway is in excellent condition. Because it's located between hills in a river valley be cautious of weather and wind conditions. Parking is primarily on the grass. Walk about a half mile and you are at the city center. Each July there's a fly-in (camping encouraged) in conjunction with the Cement City Street Fair. This year the dates are July 24-26.

To make our trip a circle route, we backtracked to Highway 9 in Sedro Wooley. You drive past rural homes on large lots to Park Road just past Wickersham. This road skirts Whatcom Lake all the way back to Bellingham.

So if you are looking for a quick weekend adventure, fly (or drive) into Concrete. And I assure you, it won't hurt. - Margy

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Coastal BC Animals: Sunflower Seastar

Sunflower Seastar

The cold, clear waters of Desolation Sound are home to many types of starfish. On a recent trip to Lund I found this Sunflower Seastar right in the harbour.

Sunflower Seastars have from 15-26 arms (rays) and can grow up to 1 metre (3 feet) in diameter. They are predators of the ocean floor of the intertidal and subtidal zones and eat sea urchins, clams, snails, abalone, sea cucumbers and other sea stars. With over 15,000 tube feet they can "scoot" along at about one metre per minute. If attacked, they can shed arms to get away. Regeneration takes just a few weeks. Now that's a neat trick! - Margy

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Wall

We live in a place called Hole in the Wall. In fact, we live next to the Wall itself.

It's a large granite monolith that was scoured and shaped by ice-age glaciers 10,000 years ago.

On warm spring days I love to lie on my cabin deck and gaze up the Wall to the sky above.

Thanks for gazing up at my wall! -- Margy

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Coastal BC Insects: Pale Tiger Swallowtail

On Monday, I went out to see how my potatoes in a barrel were doing. I buried the green sprouts a week ago and wanted to see how many had resurfaced. Right there is the barrel was the most beautiful butterfly.

It was a Pale Tiger Swallowtail. Hopefully it wasn't laying eggs so that its large green larva could devour my potato plants. I'll have to keep an eye out for that, but it's young are supposed to like the foliage of woody plants.

I have lots of books and guides about nature up at the cabin. One I really like for insects is Insects of the Pacific Northwest by Peter and Judy Haggard. The photographs make identifications much easier than illustrations. A good reference website is BugGuide.Net. It includes "insects, spiders and their kin" from the US and Canada. There's even an active forum where you can connect with other bug lovers or get assistance with a tricky identification. -- Margy

Friday, May 22, 2009

Boating into Lund BC

We've had glorious good weather, a wonderful change from the cloudy, wet winter. Wednesday, our good friend John helped us launch Halcyon Days in the chuck.

We gave up our slip in the Westview Harbour. They only allow annual moorage, and we keep the Bayliner up at the cabin all winter. I called Beach Gardens, but they were already full. That was a huge surprise since visiting boaters seem down this year. I called Lund and Fran, the Harbour Master at the government dock, was very accommodating.

I had to stay in town to do grant writing, so Wayne toughed it out (yea right) and went on a cruise alone. This morning I met him at Lund. Fran got us rafted up to two other boats that stay put most of the time. If they have to get out, she or another harbour employee makes sure our boat is securely re-tied. Three months moorage was $266.96 for our 25' boat. That's quite reasonable considering we are sitting right on the doorstep of world famous Desolation Sound.

If you need overnight or long-term moorage, give Fran a call at (604) 483-4711 or on VHF Channel 73 about an hour before arrival. She'll find you a spot in her cozy little marina. Then you can head up the hill to Nancy's Bakery for a hearty breakfast, lucious lunch or just a sweet treat. See you in Lund!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Texada Island Quarries

Nearby Texada Island is well known for its rock quarries.

My quarry photos come from Texada Island, just off the coast from my home in Powell River, BC. Texada is the largest island in the Strait of Georgia running from Powell River south to the Sechelt Peninsula. It is 50 kilometres (31 mi) long and 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) wide. The west side of the island forms the border of the Malaspina Strait, a popular passage for boaters heading for the anchorages of Desolation Sound.

Texada was named by José María Narváez during the Spanish explorer's expedition of 1971. In fact, there are many Spanish place names in our area. In 1876 iron ore was discovered on the island, followed by copper in 1898. In 1910, the Pacific Lime Company and BC Cement started limestone quarries on the island.

High quality marble from Texada went into building construction here in Canada and in the States. You will find marble quarried on Texada on the facing of the Vancouver Post Office. There are still active quarries on Texada including the Blubber Bay Quarry, Imperial Limestone Company and Texada Quarrying. Limestone is used in aggregates, cement grade limestone, agricultural lime and many other products.

Texada Island is more than just quarries. It is a quiet, rural destination for residents and visitors alike. Take a ferry from Powell River to discover the historic villages of Van Anda and Gillies Bay, the wonderful campground at Shelter Point, and many hiking and ATV accessible back roads, and over 100 kilometres of pristine coastline to explore. -- Margy

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Flying to Newport, Oregon

Wayne and I took advantage of two nice spring days to fly our airplane 997. She's been getting too much hanger time and was rearing to go.

The weather was warm, so headed to one of our favourite camping spots, Siletz Bay, Oregon. The Airport is about two hours south of Bellingham, just enough time to get our rusty flying skills back in shape. After a wonderful dinner at the Side Door Cafe, we crawled into our tent for a good night's sleep to the sound of surf breaking on the nearby shore.

We got up and wanted to go somewhere for breakfast. We called Astoria, but the Runway Cafe is no longer open. These are tough times for general aviation, and airport restaurants are closing left and right. As we were packing, a local stopped by and suggested Newport, Oregon.

Newport Municipal Airport (ONP) is on the Oregon coast. If you are flying Victor 27, you pass right over it. The 5398' main runway is lighted with several instrument approaches. The FBO has a nice new building, it's a busy Fedex regional hub, and has commuter service to Portland by SeaPort Airline using the super cool Pilatus turboprop.

When we arrived, Jimmy, the "Boss" of FBO Line Services was there to greet us. He helped us get started with fueling at the self-serve pump, pointed out a handy parking spot, and arranged for us to take one of the FBO's courtesy cars.

And not just any courtesy car, an ex-police cruiser (a Crown Vic no less!). We drove over the bridge into the City of Newport for, by this time, lunch. Jimmy recommended Georgie's Beachside Grill overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was a great choice. I had the razor clams, one of my all time favourite meals, and Wayne had an oyster club sandwich. YUM! But way more than we could eat, even as hungry as we were. On the way back to the airport, a scruffy looking guy gave us a simulated pistol shot with his finger. Was it my antennae that gave me away?

You can be sure Wayne, 997 and I will be returning to Newport again. Next time we plan to stay the night and enjoy the beach, sun and some more great meals! Hey Jimmy, keep the Crown Vic warmed up for us. See you soon! -- Margy

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Utopia is More than a Place

Between our float cabin and the rock wall is a protected pool. In the summer, the water is warmed when the sun reflects off the dark rock, making a perfect, natural swimming pool.

And what would a swimming pool be without pool toys. This is our new one. It's called the Poolmate Utopia Lounge. Even though the water is still bone numbing cold, I can float around my pool on Utopia.

We purchased our Utopia online from Overton's for about $70 USD. I love the stablility and the durable nylon cover. Because the lake water is still cold, I've only used it in the chair configuration. If I cross my legs I can float around the pool without getting wet except for a bit of my butt. When summer arrives and the lake water warms, I can flip the padded seat out and use it in the lounge configuration while I float around and read on nice sunny days. And boy, am I'm really looking forward to that! -- Margy

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Spring Garden Harvest

My tradition is plant my annual vegetable garden during Easter week. This year we were at the cabin for the whole month, so I spread it out a little more than usual. Even though we had cool weather for the start of spring, the recent warm spell has everything starting to sprout. For the first time in several years, all of my seeds came up with no problems. I was even able to do some thinning already.

One thing I love about my spring garden is my flowers. The most predominant ones are the daffodils. When everything else is still underground, they are bright and sunny.

In May, we to be back to the States for a short time. Our asparagus was just starting to come up and I didn't want it to go to fern while we were gone. So I got out my trusty knife and cut them all off just below the soil line.

While some of them were a bit small, a few were approaching grocery store size. They made a great side dish to go with our steaks the last night at the cabin. A fitting end to a great stay, but we'll be back soon! -- Margy

Friday, May 01, 2009

Powell River's Star Party

Wednesday was the Star Party hosted by Powell River Books at the Town Centre Hotel in Powell River, BC. Wayne (with a little help from me) set up two telescopes in their courtyard. Light pollution was pretty bad, but the goal was to introduce people to astronomy and the availability of affordable telescopes. The Star Party was our contribution for the International Year of Astronomy and to encourage everyone to look to the skies.

After a week of sunshine and clear nights, we had a sudden cloud cover. When you live in Coastal BC, you have to be flexible with the weather. At least they didn't call for rain! Then just before party time, the skies cleared completely. We set up both telescopes to focus on the moon. Then Wayne switched his more powerful Meade LX90 to Saturn, Messier 13, a Globular Cluster, and a double-star pair (Mizar and Alcor). With computer driven controllers, we were able to find and track the evenings best celestial objects.

The participants had a good time and lots of opportunities to look through both telescopes. Wayne and I want to thank Shelly, the manager of the Town Centre Hotel, for her ongoing support of events like these and Powell River Books.

Wayne is an enthusiastic amateur astronomer. He has three telescopes, a Meade ETX125 (125 millimeter) Maksutov-Cassegrain, a Meade LX90 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain, and a Edmond Astroscan (for fun). For newbie amateurs astronomers, here are a few of his recommendations:

I am amazed at how dark and clear the sky can be here in Powell River. It's a perfect location for night sky exploration, even from the corner of our floating cabin up Powell Lake. -- Margy