Saturday, November 29, 2014

Lime Kiln Lighthouse

Lime Kiln Lighthouse

A few months ago, while reading something about Lighthouses, I wondered if there were any local Lighthouses in the local Puget Sound area. It seemed logical, given all the water in and around the area!

After a bit of research, I discovered that there were several Lighthouses in the greater Puget Sound area, but that most of them were simply not “active”. Seems there are only a few that are still sending out a light or a beacon at night.

I also discovered that unlike the tall, grand, East Coast and Great Lakes Lighthouses, these local Lighthouses looked like...well...more like small houses with a small cupola on top! (Duh, “Light House”!)

I determined which of these were still active at night and decided to visit and photograph one at “Lime Kiln” State park, on San Juan Island.

I asked Sandi if she would like to join me and make an overnight trip of it, since it was a few hours away and would take the whole day to get there and wait for sunset etc. She agreed to join me in my little adventure and we booked a motel on nearby Whidbey island, so we wouldn’t have to make the long drive home that same night.

My goal was to capture the Lighthouse at, or just after dusk. I wanted to be able to capture some of the light from the Lighthouse’s lens if possible. Not a terribly difficult shot, but it would require some timing.

The morning of our little trip to San Juan Island, it was pouring rain. Arghhhhhhh!! I packed up my gear and we headed out, hopeful that the weather would be better two or three hours north!

A few hours later we had reached Anacortes and enjoyed some unexpected sunshine and blue skies!!?? To the immediate south, we could see literally, a mile high wall of dark clouds. Not knowing how long the line might be at the ferry terminal, we decided to get some lunch at a local place called the “Shrimp Shack”. My brother in law had recommended it highly and said it was an old school, shack of a place...but that it had great fish and fresh “peel and eat” shrimp by the lb. I figured we had enough time, so we made our way to the unassuming little dive, just north of Deception Pass.

 We enjoyed some amazing Cod as well as the requisite 2 lb's of fresh shrimp! We had fun sitting outside in the sunshine like two kids...peeling and tearing the heads off a hundred or more tasty shrimp! We realized, it had been a long time since Sandi and I had been anywhere without one,or both of our kids. It was nice to just hang out with each other.

I checked the time and we decided we had better get moving, as we were unfamiliar with the Anacortes Ferry and its Terminal. We took off for the Ferry Terminal and after following our less than accurate GPS, we arrived at the Anacortes Ferry Terminal. Just in time I might add! Had we missed this Ferry, the next one would not have made it to San Juan Island before sunset, dashing any hopes of a photo at dusk!

We drove onto the Ferry, got out of our car and strolled around the top deck of the Ferry, enjoying the calm water and surprisingly blue sky! First stop was Lopez Island, where a few passengers disembarked, then it was off to San Juan Island. We glimpsed a pod of Orcas along the way, though they were quite a distance away. We watched as their blowholes would create little blasts of water and air as they surfaced every so often.  We also passed another Ferry that was making the return trip to Anacortes. 

Upon arriving at San Juan Island, we disembarked and made the 20-25 minutes drive to Lime Kiln State Park, on the Southwestern side of the island. As we parked and got out of the car, we noticed that the clouds were steadily moving in. I hoped they would not overtake our little scene, before we got a few photos!

We walked about a hundred yards down to the water and the Lighthouse came into view. I must admit, I was a bit was so small! Why wasn’t the light visible!? Oh well, I set about finding the angle I wanted and I set up my tripod. Meanwhile, Sandi walked some 60-70 yards south of me to a designated “whale watching” point.

I took a few test shots, then walked around and snapped a few pics from some angles that I found less pleasing, as I waited for the sun to set into the horizon. And the clouds kept rolling in! Arghhhh! I then walked over to where Sandi was anxiously waiting to see a whale or an Orca. She is like a little girl at times like this...eyes wide, grinning and hopeful and grateful to see things uncommon to our daily life. She ooooh'd and ahhhh'd over a couple of seals that came close to shore and she patiently waited to see something bigger. I love seeing her like this.

The sun had started to move and as it set over over the nearby British Columbia coast, I started to see that the light in the Lighthouse was on! Seems that the rather small light source is reflected through “lenses” that focus the light and really only do it justice when it is much darker.

As the sky darkened a bit more, and the scene was still illuminated enough to capture the Lighthouse and its surrounding cliffs and shoreline, I began taking pictures...15-20 second exposures, making certain that I could still capture a bit of the yellowish light shining through the glass lens atop the Lighthouse.

Now, while I was trying to get my “Solitary Lighthouse” shot, there was a couple, hanging around...walking...sitting..and it was all directly in front of the darn Lighthouse! I decided that it was better to get the shot with them in it, than not at all! I also figured that they might not show up at all, given the dim lighting. A few of the shots I took had the couple sitting and raising their cameras out towards the water. What they were photographing, I had no idea...I just know that they were in my photo!! (Maybe you can spot them in the photo?)

     The Lime Kiln Lighthouse
About this time, Sandi comes running up to me excited and smiling, telling me she just saw a whale! She asked if I was getting the photos I wanted and then told me she was going back to look for more whales! She was certainly enjoying our little trip to San Juan Island!

About 30 minutes later, I lost the light needed to take the photos I was after. I packed up my gear and headed back to the car with Sandi, who sadly, had not seen any more whales. We commented on how we looked to have beat the rain, though the clouds had fully covered the sky at this point. I hoped they wouldn’t screw up my pics too much.

We drove back to the Ferry Terminal and found no one there but us!? Seems I had misread the schedule ( which had just changed that day/for the Fall) so we would have to take the last Ferry out, which left in about an hour and a half. We were hungry, so we checked out a little restaurant near the Terminal. We enjoyed a relaxing dinner, talked a bit about the whales, the Ferry ride and the trip as a whole. I even ordered some hot tea at the end of dinner...a sure sign of me being relaxed and enjoying myself!

We walked back to our car and when the Ferry arrived, we found that we were only one of two cars heading back to Anacortes that night! The attendants pulled us all the way up to the forward-most parking spot, at the bow of the Ferry Boat. Sandi covered up in a blanket and reclined her seat, to settle in for an hour and a half nap. I reviewed photos I had taken earlier and watched the Ferry moving through the night between the green and red marker buoy’s, about a half mile behind another Ferry in the distance.

In the belly of the San Juan Islands Ferry

I exited the car to stretch and stood alone at the front of the Ferry as it quietly moved through the darkness...a cold, crisp wind pushing past me and through the empty, hollow belly of the Ferry. I thought back on the day...I always seem to “review” the days happenings. (I think too much) It had been a busy, long, time-pressed day, but it had also been fun, exciting and even a bit adventurous. Sandi had seen her whales, and I had gotten my photos. Both of us having enjoyed the trip, the scenery and each other.

I think I may have even smiled...

Monday, November 17, 2014


 I  have always been partial to Nordic dog breeds and in particular, Siberian Huskies.  I find them to be spirited, energetic and very fond of people.  My love for them started when i was about 8 years old.

At that time, I had just read "Call of The Wild" and "White Fang", by the author Jack London.  I immediately fell in love with the idea of adventures in Alaska and the Klondike and in particular, the strong, determined and loving sled dogs that were the main characters in these stories.

Since that time, I have had the pleasure of enjoying two wonderful Siberian Huskies.  The first, a dog named right out of "The Call of The Wild"...Teek.  He was a strong-willed, close companion of mine some 20 plus years ago, and was part of a 6 dog sled team in Germany.  The second Siberian was a sweet and loving dog named Luna.

Almost twelve years ago, my wife and I went searching for a pet for my daughters 8th birthday.  We came across a female Siberian Husky pup that had been returned to the breeders because the owner found the pup too "challenging" and "difficult". (This is a VERY willful and spirited breed!)  We hung out for a bit, as it was a nice summer day and we played with the cute little puppy for a bit.  We were able to meet the Mom and Dad dogs as well.  The male was a very large framed, strong and majestic looking Siberian...outside of the standards for a Siberian Husky, but simply beautiful.  The female was smaller, more slender and had a gentleness to her expressions.  (We would find out later that Luna would take after her Father in stature and her mother in demeanor)

We scooped up the little puppy after explaining to the Breeders that we understood the extra challenges that a Siberian Husky would present and that we would give her a safe and loving home.  We headed home with the newest member of our family and as i recall, Sandi was quite skeptical of the idea of a new dog.  Me?  I was certain that this new puppy would be a blessing to our family.

We presented the puppy (Later named Luna) to our daughter, who immediately took to her new, little friend.


It was all very exciting until later that night when Luna, likely still missing her Momma, began to cry and howl.  This was pretty normal behavior for a new puppy, sooooooo I grabbed a ticking clock and a small blanket and hung out in the laundry room next to little Luna until she fell asleep.  This went on for a few weeks until she got cozy with her new home and surroundings.  Sometimes, as i would be quietly sneaking out of the laundry room...she would catch me!!...and back I went...until she fell asleep again...usually on my leg making it even harder for me to escape to my own bed!!

We enjoyed Luna for years...her begging for food, and her demand to be walked at about 5 pm nightly characterized by her half growling and half howling.  In short, she was an ever present part of our family and daily life.  Even Sandi, who was constantly at war with Luna over the trampling of the plants and flowers in her large garden, (Luna apparently thought it was HER garden!) came to enjoy the positive and loving effect that Luna brought to our family.

When Luna was about 6-7 years old and going through one of her "heat cycles", she found a way out of our heavily fortified back yard. (Another Siberian trait...escape artist)  I found out while at work and was immediately alarmed as Siberian's like to wander and run...they are NOT prone to returning home.  I was unsure we would get her back.

I went about putting up large, poster board signs throughout the neighborhood and some days later, at the suggestion of a friend, I placed a Craigslist ad.

                                              The Craigslist Photo                                                 

About ten days and a ton of my daughter's tears later, I received a phone call from a lady in Federal Way.  She said that she had responded to a Craigslist ad several days earlier that described a "Found", black and white Siberian Husky.  She told me that she had recently lost her Male, black and white Siberian and thought perhaps her dog had made it the 20 plus miles to Tacoma.  (Which would not surprise me!)

She said that she responded to the ad, and after hearing the description of the "Found" Siberian, she drove to the woman's house in Tacoma to see if it was her dog.  She said that while the dog looked very much like hers, she discovered it was a female, and not a male dog.  She told me that she was told by the woman that no one else had replied to the "Found" ad and that it had been several days.  She said that the woman told her that if she wanted the dog, that she could take it, as she only kept it to hopefully find the owner.

The lady from Federal Way told me that she took the Siberian and drove back to Federal Way, and decided on the drive home to name this "Found" dog, Luna! (Yes really!)

She told me that the very next day, she received a call from the woman in Tacoma, who told her that she had located the owner of the dog, and asked her to return the dog to her.  She said that she then drove back to Tacoma and dropped the dog off, so it could be reunited with its owner.

Now, she had told me this rather long story with some concern, as she told me that she had seen the ad I placed, as well as the photo I posted and she immediately recognized the dog as Luna.  She asked if I had been contacted by the woman in Tacoma and I told her I had not.  She gave me the address to the woman' residence, as she had kept it on her GPS from the day prior.  Turns out that the address was about 4 miles from our house.  I thanked the nice lady and Sandi and I drove to the woman's house.

The short story is...we were able to get our Luna back.  Apparently the woman in Tacoma had seen our ad, which included a 200.00 dollar reward, and had gotten Luna returned so that she could collect the reward. (We offered it to the lady that had called from Federal Way, but she declined)

We simply could not believe that after two weeks, we had found our dog!  It was a happy homecoming and my daughter was elated.  Other than a few scratches and some torn nails from what looked like a fight with another dog, Luna looked just fine.  Me?...I was out tearing down the 20 large poster board "Lost Dog" signs!

A few weeks later, I commented that Luna looked a bit "chunky".  Sandi thought it was just her winter coat coming in.  A few weeks later we took our chunkier dog to the Vet, who examined her...gave her an x-ray and then smiled and told us that Luna was pregnant with at least 6 puppies!

Are you kidding me!??! 

We set about preparing a "Den" for Luna, (Closet under the stairs) and several weeks later...we welcomed 7 brand new puppies into the world!:)  Luna needed no assistance and after a couple hours of labor, she was exhausted....but feeding and caring for her babies and gently licking them clean.


I watched Sandi grow much closer to Luna during this time.  She developed a strong bond with Luna the way only another Mom could....and she fell in love with every single one of the puppies....we all did.

8 weeks later, we had found homes for all of the puppies and after a few more weeks, Luna had re-adjusted to her human family...though it was painfully obvious that she missed her babies.

We enjoyed Luna for the next four years...her begging, her nightly walks, her sleeping next to my daughters bed each night, and her sweet and gentle kisses when we knelt down to pet her.  Luna even enjoyed a brief friendship with our Grandson, Landon...who was not afraid to pet her and offer his 2 year old face to be licked! (As well as sharing any and all of his snacks with her)  Luna was also part of Veronica's Graduation pictures as well as her Graduation Announcement.


We recently noticed Luna slowing way down on her nightly the point of her laying down.  She would then get up and try her best to finish the walk, but I could tell she was very very tired...very out of character for a Siberian.  I knew something was wrong.

After a few visits to the Vet and a few tests...I realized that our 11 year old friend was dying.   She was very ill and so very tired.  It weighed heavy on my heart.  I knew that we would have to let her go and I wished I didn't have to make the decision.

We spent the last few days just being with Luna...talking to her, petting her...and just loving her.

We went as a family to take our sweet Luna to the Vet for the last time.

Veronica looked up at me with tears streaming down her face...barely able to speak...and said, "I'm losing my best friend".  Each of us put a hand on our beautiful and cherished companion, petting her.  It was very, very difficult to watch my daughters heart break as she lovingly held Luna in her arms......until she passed.

As anyone who has lost a cherished pet knows...these are special creatures.  They are here for a short abbreviated life....but that short time is no less fulfilling and no less enjoyable.  We will miss Luna...each in our own way and we will treasure our time with her...and our memories of her.