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North to Alaska and Back -- July & August 2013
Alaska -- July-August 2013

Liz and I took a 6-week trip to beat the summer heat and visit family and friends up north while doing some wonderful birding. The trip effectively was four parts: (1) Driving north to Washington; (2) Coastal Alaska; (3) Washington Camping; and (4) Oregon Coast and driving home. We had a good long time away on a low-cost vacation. Trip Map

Portland: relaxing with family

Part 1: Driving north to Bellingham, WA.

We bought extra cat food, bid farewell to the cat sitter (Mom visiting from Florida), and hit the road July 1st heading north in temperatures hovering around 115 degrees F. We were ready for someplace cool, and as we drove hard all day, we kept the AC on "max" nearly to Reno. We did stop at Torrance Ranch to check the birds (too hot for birds) and Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR; too early in the season for ducks) on the way.

We stopped in Portland for a few days visiting family (dad and brother). We mostly relaxed and reveled in the "heat" of town, watched the illegal July 4 fireworks, and then hit the road again heading to the northwest corner of the Lower 48: Bellingham. It was still hot - we needed to go farther north.

Chenega Bay
Kate and Liz working on a hummingbird

Part 2: Alaska Ferry to Chenega Bay and back.

On July 6, we boarded the good ship M.V. Kennicott, one of the "open water" ferries that is the Alaska Marine Highway, and settled into six days of standing on the bow watching birds all day, eating a bit, and sleeping in a room-ette (a broom closet would be larger).

The ferry deposited us in a small fishing village on an island in Prince William Sound only accessible by water and air. We spent a delightful 4 days with old friends hiking about the island, banding about 50 Rufous Hummingbirds, and putting a roof on the barn. When the Kennicott came back through heading south, it took us with her.

Link to British birder, Jos Stratford's, narrative of the ferry ride north.

Backpacking the coast of Washington

Part 3: Camping in Olympic National Park.

Back in the Lower 48, we visited old friends in Port Angeles and did some birding on Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. Liz and I then headed off to Ozette (literally the northwest corner of the Lower 48), where we backpacked the Ozette Loop - one of the most delightful 10-mile, 3-day backpacks ever.

We then did a few days of car camping on the coast and in the Hoh Rain Forest (damn dry season - it was hot and dry here too!). We eventually headed south through Gray's Harbor NWR and Ridgefield NWR to Portland, where we again stayed with family.

Cannon Beach
Family on the coast of Oregon

Part 4: Oregon and the Trip Home.

In Portland for a couple of days, we were joined by my sister from Texas and her family, and the four families (dad, me, brother, sister; totalling about 15 people) headed for a house on the coast at Cannon Beach. We spent a wonderful three nights together, then they returned to Portland and Liz and I headed south along the coast.

We spent two days driving south scanning rocky headlands and open ocean for birds. After that, we put pedal to the metal and headed for home, stopping only to sleep and eat, oh... and stopping at Tule Lake NWR and Miller's Rest Area for birds.

When we finally got home mid-August, mom was happy to see us and the cat ignored us. We were home and all was right with the world.

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 130920

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