Yesterday: eagles. Today: mountains and orcas. Remember that, because you’ll need it at the end.

We’ve shifted our home base from the Mount Vernon area to Port Townsend, to spend more time with our older son and his girlfriend.

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I managed to avoid a total freak-out over maneuvering our BFT/RV combo onto the ferry, but then all kinds of lost my shit when I heard the captain say, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve spotted a pod of killer whales ahead. You should be able to see them from the bow in just a couple of minutes.”

And we did!

In the boarding queue, feeling confident that if that guy can roll his big self onboard, so can we.

In the boarding queue, feeling confident that if that guy can roll his big self onboard, so can we. He makes us look petite!

Just gotta fit through that thing when the boat pulls up...

Just gotta fit through that thing when the boat pulls up.

All aboard! It wasn't nearly as scary after watching the truly big rigs drive onboard before we did. If they fit, we fit!

All aboard! It wasn’t nearly as scary after watching the truly big rigs drive onboard before we did. If they fit, we fit!

Packed in tight, with 18-wheelers in front, behind, and on our left side. They make us look petite.

Packed in tight, with 18-wheelers in front, behind, and on our left.

Yesterday: bald eagles Today: Holy shit, there's a pot of orcas off the bow of the ferry! 2015 has been very, very good to us.

Thar she blows!
2015 has been very, very good to us.

Off we go, into Port Townsend.

Off we go, into Port Townsend.

And look who was waiting for us at the campground when we pulled in: our big boy!

And look who was waiting for us at the campground when we pulled in: our big boy!

After so many dismal days of soggy grayness, we reveled in the sunshine and clear skies, even though it was cold enough to… well… freeze the door mats. But other than that? Hey, look! The mountains are out!

These are our door mats. Knowing we were in for a stretch of rain-free days, I draped the sodden bastards over a picnic bench to dry out. Failed to take into account the overnight freeze warning. Oops.

These are our door mats. Knowing we were in for a stretch of rain-free days, I draped the sodden bastards over a picnic bench to dry out.
Failed to take into account the overnight freeze warning.
Oops.

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Deception Pass, between Fidalgo Island and Whidbey Island

Deception Pass, between Fidalgo Island and Whidbey Island

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That faded blue hump in the center may or may not be Mount Rainier. I'm not sure which direction I was facing -- which is pretty much a constant state of existence for me.

That faded blue hump in the center may or may not be Mount Rainier.
I’m not sure which direction I was facing — which is pretty much my constant state of existence.

Olympic Mountains, from the Coupevdlle - Port Townsend Ferry

Olympic Mountains, from the Coupeville – Port Townsend Ferry

Mount Rainier, from the Coupeville - Port Townsend Ferry

Mount Rainier (for sure this time), from the ferry

Deer on the parade grounds at Fort Worden. Cascade Mountains across the water.

Deer on the parade grounds at Fort Worden. Cascade Mountains across the water.

And speaking of Fort Worden, I leave you with this bit of movie nostalgia:

Name that movie. It was filmed at Fort Worden, where we spent 45 minutes not getting a camping space. Don't ask.

An Officer and A Gentleman” was filmed at Fort Worden, where we spent 45 minutes not getting a camp site. Don’t ask. Just keep humming love lift us up where we belong. Because that’ll take you up where the eagles fly, on the mountains high, and then we’ve come full circle.

Happy 2016, y’all!

As the Buddha would say, “Jesus, Emily. Look *up*.”

We’ve been here nearly two weeks, spending tons of time making memories with family, and taking advantage of rare non-rainy days to walk along the bay.

On this morning’s sojourn, I chanced to look up.

It’s a rule of Western Washington that I often forget: Every now and then, pull your eyes from the placid waters, the intense greenery, the snow-capped Olympics and Cascades, and the hipsters with their coffees, and gaze skyward, to the very tops of the cedars.
Because that’s where the bald eagles are, dummy.
Today, I saw four. Actually, I think Eagle 1 and Eagle 4 were a case of same-bird-different-tree, so maybe I saw only three.

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See them? Center tree, up top.

See them?
Center tree, up top.

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Still there. Same tree. But better shot of the truck, yes?

My apologies for poor photo quality. This was one of the rare occasions on which I wished I still had a real camera, as the iPhone just doesn’t do very well at capturing things that are way the hell up there.

That day I ate part of a cactus

Today we hiked out the Bear Canyon Trail in Tucson, AZ. Thanks to our excellent tour guide and Rohrer family friend, Eric — a horticulturist who has lived here for 25+ years — we gained a tremendous amount of knowledge about the Sonoran Desert. Talk about a value-added experience!

Although I didn’t take photos of all the edible/usable berries and plants Eric showed us, I can now recognize hackberries, desert lavender, Mexican oregano, wild grape vines, wolf berries, and fishhook barrel cactus fruit, and I ate teensy tastes of several of those. Hey, I’ve always been a bit of a whore for free samples. Now I won’t starve if I’m ever lost — or deliberately left behind — in the desert!

Enjoy the day with us through these photos. The weather was perfect!

We're staying at the blue dot. Our hike took us into the Coronado National Forest.

We’re staying at the blue dot. Our hike took us into the Coronado National Forest.

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Desert lavender

Desert lavender

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Christmasy-looking cutie from the mammillaria family

Christmasy-looking little cutie from the mammillaria family. The fruit is edible, and tastes like a sour strawberry.

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Can you see the switchbacks in the trail we hiked?

Can you see the switchbacks in the trail we hiked?

The seven falls, from too far away to see all seven, but I wanted to capture the grandeur

The seven falls, from too far away to see all seven, but I wanted to capture the grandeur

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These little beauties were about the size of a pencil eraser.

These little beauties were about the size of a pencil eraser.

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A little perspective on the size of those saguaros

A little perspective on the size of those saguaros

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It might not look like much, but this little cactus fruit could save you from dehydrating and starving in the desert. The flesh contains sugars and water, and the seeds are high in protein. Tastes kind of like a cross between a lemon and a pepperoncini.

It might not look like much, but this little cactus fruit could save you from dehydrating and starving in the desert. The flesh contains sugars and water, and the seeds are high in protein. Tastes kind of like a cross between a lemon and a pepperoncini — which makes it a “don’t eat unless near death” kind of thing anyway.

They come from the Fishhook Barrel Cactus.

They come from the Fishhook Barrel Cactus.

Tim and Eric on the trail. Their parents have been friends since college days, but these two hadn't seen each other for at least 30 years. That's a lot of catching up to do!

Tim and Eric on the trail. Their parents have been friends since college days, and these two hadn’t seen each other for at least 30 years. That’s a lot of catching up to do!

The stunning saguaro. They live for 150-200 years!

The stunning saguaro. They live for 150-200 years!

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Today’s Hike: Mount Rogers, the highest point in Virginia

We started in Massie Gap (lower right) at 4600 feet. Finished up there in the top left at Mount Rogers, 5728 feet, after a 4.5 mile climb over rocks. Lots and lots of rocks. Then we went back.

We started on the Rhododendron Trail in Massie Gap at Grayson Highlands State Park (lower right) at 4600 feet. After half a mile, we picked up the Appalachian Trail, and stayed on it for the remainder of the trip. We finished up there in the top left at Mount Rogers, 5728 feet, after a 4.5 mile climb over rocks. Lots and lots of rocks. Then we went back. Total hiking time: 6 hours

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Up we go!

We encountered this group of college kids several times throughout the day. Second from right: dude in kilt. Awesome.

We encountered this group of college kids several times throughout the day. Second from right: dude in kilt. Awesome.

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I'd been muttering that we'd better damn well see some of these wild ponies they keep talking about in the park. Less than half a mile in, we met two!

I’d been muttering that we’d better damn well see some of these wild ponies they keep talking about in the park. Less than half a mile in, we met two!

"You got any treats in that pocket?"

“You got any treats in that pocket?”

So while I was snapping a selfie with this one...

So while I was snapping a selfie with this one…

... this one was trying to bite my behind.

… this one was trying to bite my behind.

And Tim captured that very moment!

And Tim captured that very moment!

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Some of the ponies blend right in -- and then kind of spook you a little when they cross the trail in front of you.

Some of the ponies blend right in — and then kind of spook you a little when they cross the trail in front of you.

Rocks. Have I mentioned that we climbed over a lot of rocks? And that I do not want to see rocks again for a long time?

Rocks. Have I mentioned that we climbed over a lot of rocks? And that I do not want to see rocks again for a long time? This is the actual trail.

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Nearing the summit, we encountered this group of 15 ponies. You'll notice the one on the far left is lying on its side. Some other hikers thought it was giving birth. I thought it was dead. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.

Nearing the summit, we encountered this group of 15 ponies. You’ll notice the one on the far left is lying on its side. Some other hikers thought it was giving birth. I thought it was dead. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

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The spruce-fir forest atop Mount Rogers is the only one of its kind in Virginia.

The spruce-fir forest atop Mount Rogers is the only one of its kind in Virginia.

This humble little US Geodetic Survey disk is all that marks the summit of Mount Rogers, the highest point in Virginia. And if you don't look at the right boulder, you'll miss it.

This humble little US Geodetic Survey disk is all that marks the summit of Mount Rogers, the highest point in Virginia. And if you don’t look on the right boulder, you’ll miss it.

Summit selfie

Summit selfie

On the way back down: more ponies! This never gets old.

On the way back down: more ponies! This never gets old. You’re not supposed to feed them or pet them. We may or may not have broken that second rule.

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Purple mountains

Purple mountains, full of majesty, on another perfect hiking day in southwestern VA

Today’s Hike: The Great Channels of Virginia

Spectacular scenery today. See?

Our hike took us along the Brumley Mountain Trail, from Hayter's Gap to The Great Channels of Virginia.  6.2 miles round-trip, elevation change 1200ft, summit at 4208 feet.

Our hike took us along the Brumley Mountain Trail, from Hayter’s Gap to The Great Channels of Virginia.
6.2 miles round-trip, elevation change 1200ft, summit at 4208 feet.

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Abandoned fire tower and ranger's cabin on Middle Knob

Abandoned fire tower and ranger’s cabin on Middle Knob

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From the Virginia Department of Forestry, "...the Great Channels of Virginia, impressive formations of 400-million-year-old sandstone outcroppings. Geologists conclude that the Channels were likely formed while the high-elevation sandstone cap was under the influence of permafrost and ice wedging during the last ice age. These forces shattered and enlarged joints in the sandstone caprock."

From the Virginia Department of Forestry, “…the Great Channels of Virginia, impressive formations of 400-million-year-old sandstone outcroppings. Geologists conclude that the Channels were likely formed while the high-elevation sandstone cap was under the influence of permafrost and ice wedging during the last ice age. These forces shattered and enlarged joints in the sandstone caprock.”

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The summit!

The summit!

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Looking down from the surface into the channels

Looking down from the surface into the channels

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I got kind of a little bit lost. I have a terrible sense of direction, which is why I never hike unaccompanied, and always carry a whistle.  I knew Tim wasn't far, I just couldn't see him in the labyrinth of rock crevasses.

I got kind of a little bit lost. I have a terrible sense of direction, which is why I never hike unaccompanied, and always carry a whistle.
I knew Tim wasn’t far, I just couldn’t see him in the labyrinth of rock crevasses.

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