June 28, Seattle to Northwest Territories

We had a pleasant time visiting sisters Gaynell and Roxanne in Seattle, not so pleasant with the doctors. However, we were happy that no follow-up visits were necessary this time, so that we stayed only a week as planned. We also had a short visit with Keith before he left for Tennessee and were glad we got to have some time with him.

Riley, Keith & Lucky in front of Keith's new truck

Roxanne & Riley

I spent both weekends with Gaynell and got a lot of sister time--we even had our nails done. We watched birds in her backyard and I saw all the birds I've seen there before plus a couple more, so added a few to the bird list. We also went to a new park that the city of Burien has built called "Eagle's Run," I think. It was finished but not yet open, so we walked around the fence anyway to take the trek down from the cliff to the beach. Along the trail there is a view point where you can see Eagles nesting in a very tall tree. The nest is huge and we could hear the chicks clamoring to be fed (screaming is more accurate!) as we walked down the trail. Momma Eagle was on the nest when we got to the viewpoint and the chicks had quieted. We went on down to the beach and walked over to Seahurst Park where Thad picked us up. This way we escaped the ordeal of climbing back up the cliff--it was a fairly steep trail. Thad then took us out to eat at a local Mexican cafe that we have been to before--very good food. Riley spent this weekend with Roxanne and Neal and they went on a birding trip too, to the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, and had a fine time hiking and identifying birds.

Riley and I stayed over on Monday to see the new (and final) Star Wars episode--very dark--at the Cinerama with its very big screen. We enjoyed it. Afterward Riley took me back to the Nisqually Refuge to see the birds he had seen earlier. It is a very beautiful place and though we did see birds I had not seen before, I don't think we were there at the best time of year for birding--Winter looked best from displays we saw there. When we get back from Alaska, we plan to make this trip again and I am hoping Gaynell will join us.

On leaving Seattle we stopped in Bellingham and rented a "personal mail box" at a postal service place there that will forward our mail to us whenever we ask, thus relieving Keith of a responsibility that he has found more burdensome than we had thought it would be. We just can't seem to get a lot of our mail turned off, both the company that handles our finances and doctors offices insist on sending hard copy mail--very frustrating! Since the bank doesn't insist on it, you'd think the financial company could get into the electronic swing too. Doctor's offices go on about privacy but we get other bills by e-mail so why not them too? Some day it will happen but for now we have to put up with it. At any rate, we have an address of our own now. [See the associated e-mail for the snail mail address, though as always, we prefer e-mail.]

Once we crossed the border into Canada, we stopped at the Reifel Bird Sanctuary near Vancouver. It was a wonderful place and we saw many birds. One unfortunate aspect is that they raise money by selling birdseed to feed to the ducks, which means there are too many Mallards and they have become begging pests. They were coming up to us and pecking at our feet wanting us to feed them! Most distressing! As we were leaving, we saw a different looking duck in among a bunch of Mallards and on closer inspection, we identified it as a Mandarin Duck--what in the world was it doing here? It stood there long enough to let us take a picture as proof, and one of the park volunteers came over and verified our identification. We actually saw another one on a pond near Kamloops. Since this is an Asian species, I suspect the ones we saw are "escapees" from zoos or parks.

Mandarin Duck in Reifel Bird Sanctuary
After visiting the Sanctuary, we headed up Hwy 99/Hwy 1 toward Lillooet, stopping at Porteau Cove Provincial Park (PP) to camp that first night. This is a beautiful curving road with everything in the way of scenery that one could ask for: ocean, beautiful trees, mountains, lakes, rivers, falls and creeks. Anyone who has driven up to Whistler for skiing or other entertainment can attest to this beauty. We stopped and took pictures at the beautiful Shannon Falls, named for my beautiful daughter, of course. :-) When we got to Lillooet, we camped at the Frasier Cove RV Park, where we have stayed before, for a couple of nights. The Frasier River is huge here and it was sturgeon fishing season, so fisherman began showing up as the weekend progressed. The weather was cloudy and a bit rainy, which is supposedly not the norm but is how it was the last time we visited also. Maybe we bring it with us. :-)

Shannon Falls, British Columbia

Old bridge across Frasier River at Lillooet

From Lillooet we went on through Kamloops and on up to Wells Gray PP, still there in British Columbia. On the way, we found ourselves on the wrong side of the North Thompson River with the only way to cross being on a "reaction" ferry. This ferry was not much bigger than we were and I was a little nervous but it worked just fine and we made it safely to the other side of the river.

McLure "reaction" Ferry over North Thompson River
Wells Gray is a huge park with the Clearwater River running through it. It has many falls including the Helmlech, which is the 4th largest in Canada. It also has lots of wildlife; we saw several Black Bears, including a mother with twin cubs, a red fox, deer and elk, crows, and many thousands of mosquitoes. We stayed two nights and the first night, we were afraid to get out of the RV. We tried to hike the next morning but gave it up because of the mosquitoes. I'm not sure repellent would have deterred them. The next night we stayed at a campground on the Clearwater River and the mosquitoes were not so bad. We took two fairly long hikes--one down river and one up. We had a much more satisfying stay then at the previous campground.

Helmlech Falls on Clearwater River, B.C.

Young Black Bear in Wells Gray PP

After leaving Wells Gray, we drove into Alberta and started up toward the Northwest Territories (NWT). We stayed at a great park near Grande Prairie, Saskatoon Island PP. Didn't understand the name--it wasn't on an island and there wasn't one in the lake there either so it's a mystery. This was a great place for waterfowl and we saw many new ducks and Eared Grebes. We had some maintenance work done on the RV in town that took longer than expected so we were in the area three days. A local city park, Crystal Lake, boasted nesting Trumpeter Swans, so we went over for a looksee. Sure enough the nesting couple was there along with seven cygnets. We saw them well enough with our binoculars, but they were not close enough for picture taking. Darn it! After the work on the RV was finished, we spent a night in the nearby town of McLennan, billed as the "bird capital of Canada." We took a nice walk along a lake there but most of the birds were gone. Evidently, this is a stop on their migratory routes but they don't stay.

The drive from there up to the Northwest Territories is a long straight road through muskeg and swamp country, very scrubby looking trees. In other words, fairly boring, though we did see many hawks and a couple of Sandhill Cranes just standing near the road. The hawks we didn't identify; we don't stop for birds unless there is a safe turnout, and how likely is that to occur right when we need one? The fellow manning the Visitor Center at the NWT border said the cranes were nesting in that area. While in Seattle, we bought an audio version of Bill Clinton's autobiography "My Life," and we listened to it while driving this stretch of the road. We found the book very interesting and recommend it to others. [An aside by Riley: after the Monica Lewinski affair I said I would not vote again for a man with so little judgment. Having "read" Clinton's book, I've changed my mind. He sounded genuinely remorseful and revealed a sufficiently complex personal history (including a difficult childhood) to somewhat explain his misdeeds. And, as has been said since, "When Bill lied, nobody died."]

We are now in the Northwest Territories at the Hay River campground on the south edge of Great Slave Lake, having spent a night at the Twin Falls PP, which is on the Hay River where two very spectacular falls occur about two miles apart: the Alexandra Falls and the Louise Falls. These falls would be major tourist attractions if they were more accessible. We had trouble with mosquitoes again but did make the hike between the two falls. Here at the Great Slave the breeze over the lake blows the mosquitoes away, so though we have them at the campsite, it is pleasant enough to walk along the lake. The other insect that we have seen too much of is the horsefly, and they are even bigger here than in Texas--the Canadians call them "bulldogs," and they do bite. They swarm the RV when we stop but once the engine cools they go off and really haven't bothered us, unlike the mosquitoes who stay around looking for ways inside. We saw our first Arctic Tern in among a bunch of Herring Gulls on a sand bar out in the lake, but otherwise there are not many birds here.

Louise Falls on Hay River, NWT

Alexandra Falls

We are planning on driving around the west end of the lake to Yellowknife, which will take us through a bison preserve. At first, I had thought this was where the Whooping Cranes nested but I was wrong. They are to the southeast in Wood Buffalo National Park. We thought about going over there, but it is close to 200 miles in the wrong direction and the likelihood of seeing the Whoopers is slim--guided tours to the nesting sites are not offered and they are not right off the road. After all, it was sometime in the 1950s before a bush pilot discovered where they were nesting while flying over the area. The park was set up to protect the bison and accidentally protected the Whoopers as well. The best place to see them is still the Texas Gulf Coast.

We have not been finding open WiFi spots as we did when we were last in Canada. The Holiday Inns have closed their sites and want a whopping $6 an hour to use them. We have found a Visitor Center here in Hay River that will let us connect via Ethernet, so we'll be able to send this out as we leave tomorrow. My iBook has given up the ghost (failed hard drive) so we are down to one computer again (horrors!) and will probably remain that way for a while. The only document we lost with the iBook was our bird list. I was able to reconstruct it partially from the Web site, but ended up missing 7 or 8 life birds. I suspect we will see them again and be able to add them back.

I've finished "Quicksilver," the first of the Neal Stephenson books I borrowed from Luke, and have found it quite entertaining. I have yet to buy needed material for my next quilt project so have spent much time reading (obviously, since Quicksilver is over 900 pages), and it is time to start the second volume, "The Confusion."

Love to all,
Margie & Riley

Bird Diary
June 15, 2005 Reifel Bird Sanctuary, British Columbia, Canada
Wood Duck: m
Northern Shoveler: m
Green-winged Teal: m
American Wigeon: m & f
Mandarin Duck: m
Canada Geese
Mallards: m & f
House Sparrows: m & f
Rock Pigeons
Barn Swallows
Brown-headed Cowbirds
American Crow
Blue-winged Teal: m & f
Tree Swallows
Red-winged Blackbirds
Bald Eagle: a & j
Great Blue Heron
American Robin
Bewick's Wren
Rufous Hummingbird
June 23, 2005 Saskatoon Island Prov. Park, Alberta
Red-necked Grebe
Eared Grebe
Redhead (duck)
Common Loon
Bonaparte's Gull
Greater Scaup
White-winged Scoters
Great Horned Owl
Ring-billed Gull
Blue-winged Teal: m & f
Baltimore Oriole
Canada Geese: flock with goslings
Lesser Scaup
American Crow
Violet-green Swallow
Ruddy Ducks: m & f
Black Terns
Spotted Sandpiper
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-headed Blackbirds
American Robin
Black-billed Magpie
Red-winged Blackbirds: m & f
American Coots
Clay-colored Sparrow: a & j
Black-capped Chickadees

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