The Flower Fed Buffalo
The flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
In the days of long ago,
Ranged where the locomotives sing
And the prarie flowers lie low:
The tossing, blooming, perfumed grass
Is swept away by wheat,
Wheels and wheels and wheels spin by
In the spring that still is sweet.
But the flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
Left us long ago,
They gore no more, they bellow no more:--
With the Blackfeet lying low,
With the Pawnee lying low.
- Vachel Lindsay

Friday, 29 June 2012

Living Large in Leavenworth

It's been 26 years since we last visited this once sleepy little town and a lot has changed. For one thing, it's not so sleepy anymore! We were here around the end of July, so right about in the middle of the tourist season, and it was much, much quieter then than it is now just at the start of the school holiday period.

The town also seems a lot bigger, but it's hard to say because we only had a couple of days here last time. The Bavarian theme has also got more full-on, which is pretty kitschy but kinda cool at the same time. A bit weird though to run across this shop:

 There seems to be a lot more adventure-based tourism, which would figure with the general growth in that industry. The Wenatchee River which runs right through Leavenworth is very popular for rafting and kayaking, especially in the Tumwater Canyon section. There are a lot of climbers in town, and where we are camping has gradually filled up: there were ten cars there last night and my bet is that there will be some more over the weekend. It's a lovely spot and a mule deer sidled through the campsite yesterday evening, it's ears twitching wildly as Di played the tin whistle. I did manage to get one snap, but it wasn't great:

We are having a quiet day. The Boss is a little fatigued after a fairly energetic three days: one day to check out the approach to Snow Creek Wall, where we intended a climb the next day; back up to Snow Creek Wall to climb Orbit; followed by a 17 km return hike to Stuart Lake yesterday.

There have been a couple of big fires since we were last here, which affected the Snow Creek drainage fairly significantly so we wanted to see what it was like crossing the creek and accessing the wall. No problems but it is an 8 km round trip with a 500 foot elevation gain, and it took a little while to find the best way across the creek and through the fallen timber to the track leading up to the crag. Di got a couple of nice snaps of flowers, especially this one of a wild rose:

Conditions weren't that great for getting photos of the wall itself, but this gives some idea of the architecture:

Our intended route follows pretty much right on the left hand skyline.


The forecast for the next day was really good, so we packed our gear when we got back to camp and prepared for an early start. We took a nice steady pace up the track, crossed the creek without falling in and made our way to the start of the route. Here's a picture of Di at the first belay station ...

A chipmunk dropped by for a visit while I was belaying Di at the top of pitch 1:

Di led pitch 2:

... and here she is nearing the belay on pitch 3 ...

Things were going really smoothly at this stage, and Di shot up the last pitch pretty smartly. Unfortunately we - well, mostly I can take the (dis)credit for this - didn't read the exit off the climb very well. The guide just says "scramble off". The left looked more than just a scramble, the right looked a bit "scrambly" and I reasoned that it could only get better as you got higher. Well, it didn't. Downclimbing and an abseil (off gear we were later able to retrieve) eventually brought me back to the end of pitch  4 and we ascended the correct way. It made the day a fair bit longer than it would have been otherwise. However, we had the great pleasure of seeing a mountain goat really close up for the first time in all of our visits to this part of the world. I got this picture just near the top of the "scrambling" ...

... and Di took this one of me with the goat right on top of the crag just prior to descending:

If you want to see more photos from this great day out,  especially of the beautiful flowers and the amazing goat, you can go to the SmugMug gallery we've created for this ascent.

Stuart Lake

Yesterday, we thought we should have a bit of an "active rest day" to make sure all our tired muscles didn't seize up. Di was keen to revisit some hiking territory that we enjoyed way back in 1986, so we headed off on the Stuart Lake trail.

What a great pleasure! No heavy climbing pack, and a nice easy gradient through pristine old-growth forest. If you look closely enough you can see five different types of trees amongst these healthy saplings:

We saw beautiful flowers along the trail, including Columbine ...

...  Early Blue Violets ...

... Tall Lungwort ...

... and Wild Heliotrope:

We just loved walking through the forest alongside the gorgeous stream and took a number of photos. Here's an example:

I couldn't resist shooting and uploading a short video of the creek ...

... which we had to cross on this impressive log bridge:

As in most deep and dank forests we've visited there was the occasional fungi hanging around ...

We came out in the open briefly for a great view of the mountains at the head of the drainage:

A little way before the lake there was still some snow on the trail:

And finally we reached our destination:

(You can see a few more photos at our Stuart Lake SmugMug gallery.) The trip back to the car was achieved at a leisurely pace, as we'd worked all the kinks out of our legs on the way up!

It looks like there's too much snow up on the Enchantments Plateau for us to be able to walk up there, and most of the flowers aren't out yet, but it's still very beautiful here in the Cascades.

Anyway, the laundry is done, The Boss has caught up on her ZZZZZ's while I've been organising this post and she's feeling frisky again. It's about time we headed back up to camp. Maybe the deer will visit us again. In the meantime, it's "Cheers" for now.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

... and on to Leavenworth

Now here’s something weird for you: in traveling from Penticton into Washington state we passed through four towns starting with the letter “O”! They are Oliver, Osoyoos, Oroville and Omak. Two on the Canadian side of the border and two on the U.S. side.
There must be something in the water, and there’s plenty of it. These towns are all strung out on the Okanogan River, which supplies endless water for irrigating an abundance of fruit crops, but most especially cherries. We’ve got a big batch stashed in the fridge: just too good to resist. But I am sure glad we didn’t buy them north of the border. Why? You’ve probably figured it out, but straight away we got our suspicions up about why the grand old U.S. of A. likes to refer to itself as “the land of opportunism” (I know it’s meant to be “the land of opportunity, but bear with me).
We were asked at border control if we had any citrus products. We didn’t, so we answered “No”. Nevertheless we were asked to pull over for the food check. Sure enough, they confiscated most of the lovely fresh, organic produce we’d bought the day before at the Penticton Farmers’ Market. But instead of putting them all straight into a bin as is the case when you come into Tasmania, the lass piled them on to a table with all the other great looking fruit and veg from earlier in the morning. Di reckoned that she was saving them for later - maybe because they don’t seem to be so big on the organic thing on the southern side of the border and the Canadian stuff is better!
The next example of how things work here in the Land of Opportunism is when we had to go into the office because the special visa wavers we’d bought - and paid for - were supposedly not valid for land entry, only if one arrives by plane. (Before leaving Australia we went through the process of completing the necessary documentation, stating that we’d be driving into the States from Canada). The border official could see when he scanned our passports that we’d done all the necessaries, but insisted that we needed to complete paperwork and pay additional monies to be allowed into the country. Hmmmm. Not too smart, I reckon. We also had to give an address where this fella reckoned he “could find you if I come looking for you”. It didn’t seem to matter that we weren’t going to stay in a hotel or at anyone’s house for any length of time. We had to give an address if we wanted to come in. Realising that we had a booking for a campsite at City of Rocks in Idaho for a week, we offered that. Mr Border Guard was happy with that, even though we’ll only be there for about a quarter of our stay. Interesting.
After finally clearing customs we rolled on down the beautiful Okanogan Valley and into Omak. The slogan on the sign at the entrance to town is “Kick back in Omak”. We stopped here because we wanted to buy a shovel, particularly a folding shovel like G.I. Joes carry (the idea was to get something that would be easy to store away in one of Big Blue’s footlockers). 
Well! Wallmart, where you’re meant to be able to buy anything, didn’t have G. I. Joe’s shovel. It was suggested that we might try the Home Depot (pronounced “Dee-Poe”. No good. But everyone is just so helpful and we were steered in the directing of Big R. Wallmart, Home Dee-Poe and Big R are all megastores, bigger than your average Bunnings, and all within a couple of miles of one another on the edge of town ( we actually walked from Wallmart to Home Dee-Poe and back because they were right next door to one another).

Big R didn’t have exactly what we wanted either, despite a lady who worked in the Horse and Hay section telling us she knew they used to have them because she’s sold them and has one herself for when she goes back-country on horse trips. There was no way we were going to leave Big R empty-handed, especially when their sign looks like this:

We bought the next best thing, and now the shovel ($10, tempered steel) - along with a couple of bungee straps ($2.50) lives on the roof:

That’s actually all we bought, despite being sorely tempted by a myriad of fascinating and diverse merchandise including the biggest bunch of guns I’ve ever seen ...

... a whole slew of high-lift jacks at a price that would have our 4-by-4 gear freak Alex Wilson drooling ...

... a good buy on dried pigs’ ears ...

.... and a “Fatboy Jr” safe to put them in (this was one of 32 on the floor)!

So, it’s on down the road. Next stop was a gas station and an ATM to fill up Big Blue and fill up our wallets with the folding paper stuff that all looks the same. This was Di’s next instance of identifying the Land of Opportunism at work: it cost $2.50 - the same as a couple of bungee cords! - to get some cash, which was the most we’ve seen on our travels so far. Another stop allowed us to get some beautiful Okanogan cherries and replace some of the fruit and veg that was appropriated at the border.
As we neared our destination for the day we caught our first clear glimpse of the Cascade Mountains through Big Blue’s windscreen not the greatest photo but exciting nonetheless):

By the time we got to Leavenworth and motored up the Icicle Creek Road, it was getting late and time to find somewhere to camp for the night. After driving into a couple of pay campgrounds, seeing that the fee was $17 per night and taking a punt that we’d be able to come back if we didn’t find some wild camping somewhere, we drove off on a little dirt road and ended up here:

And we finally managed to get to sample what Border Security would have liked the most, some of the Cannery Brewery in Penticton’s finest concotions:

We needed to do a major shop yesterday, and wanted to see if we could get a phone plan with calling minutes and data so we could check email and hopefully tether the lap top. There’s nowhere in Leavenworth to conduct such business so we drove off to Wenatchee. Di spotted a Bank of America branch, so we pulled in to cash her refund cheque from Patagonia. (It was for a jacket that Di bought in 2005 and, sure enough, Patagonia honored their lifetime warranty). It was a Bank of America cheque, so that seemed the logical place to go. Yep. Land of Opportunism: they charged $6 to cash a cheque drawn on their bank. Anyway, we couldn’t get any type of pre-paid phone deal for a month that would allow us access to the internet for less than $90, and they couldn’t guarantee that we’d have coverage where free WiFi wasn’t available. 

The rain has dried up and the sun is out, so it's time for us to go for a hike and look at some rocks to climb.  In the meantime, here's our route from Penticton to Leavenworth:

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Farewell Penticton ...

We've had a terrific time here in Penticton with our great friend and considerate host Jon Jones, who has put up with our foibles for almost three weeks. Along with making us feel at home in his condo, he's shared some of his favourite routes up at the Skaha Bluffs and graciously ensured that we got back into some climbing without overdoing it and getting injured. It's been great fun and we look forward to more time on the rock soon.
Jed and Claire from Hobart were here for a while on their honeymoon. They seemed to like the climbing: Jed in particular as he ticked one of the three star 12a routes while he was here. On our last day at the crag we bumped into another Hobartian: a guy named Kim who is on his way to Chamonix to climb with Nick Hancock. The climbing world is a small one indeed!
 We've played on the rock at Skaha on several occasions now and no doubt we'll be back again. Basically, it's just a fun place to climb!

Still, the time has come for us to move on down the road, literally. Tomorrow we head south on Highway 97 to the border at Osoyoos, then across into Washington State and on to Leavenworth. (As an aside, Highway 97 is the longest provincial highway in any province of Canada, running 2081 kilometres from the border with the U.S.A. in the south to the Yukon Territory in the north. And we'll be on Route 97 when we cross into Washington).

It's been great hanging out in Penticton, despite some uncharacteristically patchy weather for the Okanagan Valley in June. We've managed to climb on 10 of the 18 days we've been here, had a visit with Doug's aunt Florence and Uncle Eddie in Kelowna, dropped in at an artist's studio (more about that shortly) and generally chilled out on the other days.

Yesterday was Di's birthday, and she celebrated by leading a 5.10b gear route (about 19 on the Australian grading scale) and followed an 11a, which is pretty good for a 62 year old grandmother.

Speaking of being a grandparent, I pray your indulgence with a slight digression. We were greatly disappointed to hear that something funny has happened with the post: for the second time in a row we've sent postcards to both the grandchildren at exactly the same time and only Asha's has arrived.  So, here is a special card for Zavier:

So, back to Di's birthday. We went out to dinner at an excellent Italian restaurant called Villa Rosa. We'd certainly recommend it if you're in the neighbourhood! We got the one of the wait staff to take our photo:

You might not have noticed, but Di is wearing a new pair of earrings. Here's one in situ:

(Asha, our gorgeous granddaughter in Cairns always notices when Nana is wearing earrings, so this photo is especially for her ... )

The earrings came from the Delong Studio in Summerland, just a few kilometres north of Penticton. I managed to whisk Di out of there before we ended up with too much cargo!

It's now Saturday the 23 of June, and we've had a chilling out time for our last day here in the Okanagan Valley. It started with a stroll down to the  Penticton Farmers Market for a cinnamon bun (yum!) and to pick up some veggies to put in Big Blue's fridge. A little bonus was that the first cherries of the season had appeared in some of the vendor's stalls, so we grabbed a bag of them too. After a coffee at one of the many fine cafes close to Jon's condo we took in the sights of the Peach City Beach Cruise, a celebration of classic - and not so classic - cars. Here's a Youtube video of what it's all about:

Now, we're not car buffs by any means, but it was sure easy to appreciate and even delight in the craftsmanship and pride that has been put into restoring and modifying the vehicles that were on show. A few pictures will give you a bit of an idea of what I'm talking about:

If you'd like to see a few more photos from the Peach City Beach Cruise you can go to the gallery I've created on our Smugmug site.

We haven't found the motivation to take in the Elvis Festival that runs at the same time as the car festival but in a different part of the city. Maybe when we're a few years older, eh!

Meanwhile, our own "classic, unmodified (apart from the foreign stickers you can see if you look closely)  vehicle has been waiting patiently to hit the road:

See ya later, alligator!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Hangin' with Jon in Penticton

Doesn't it alway's happen? When you don't take the camera you see the most interesting things.
This evening, I was out for a walk along the lakeshore and over to the canal between Lakes Okanagan and Skaha with our friend and gracious host Jon  - Di said she just wanted a rest - and we saw two fantastic birds. The first was an osprey, which graced us but briefly. Jon has, on a number of of occasions while running alongside the canal, seen these fantastic birds picking trout from the water. Hopefully we'll be lucky enough to catch that before we go. The other beautiful bird we got a good long look at was a magnificent Great Blue Heron that was perched, motionless, on the bank of the canal  for ages waiting for an opportunity to snatch a fish from the water. Sorry there's no photo, but here are a few that will give an impression of the Penticton's waterfront:

Okanagan Lake shore

Statues of children playing

The SICAMOUS was a paddle steamer that plied the waters of Okanagan Lake.

Of course the main reason that we are here is not to look at the lake but to climb at Skaha Bluffs and visit with our friend Jon. 
We first met Jon when he came to visit us in Hobart in April 1998. We had a mutual climbing friend that gave Jon our contact details and he decided to look us up when he was on a climbing trip to Australia. It turns out that we had quite a lot in common and have seen each other a number of times in both Australia and Canada. One of the things that we have in common is a deep love for the environment and the minutiae that is contained within the environment. Here is a photo of Jon getting right into the Skaha Bluffs:

The weather has been uncharacteristically patchy for summer in the Okanagan, but we have managed to get out to the crags for four days so far.

Here's a photo of the general environment of The Bluffs, looking down towards Skaha Lake:

... and the trail to one of the cliffs we climbed at yesterday:

Sometimes I think Di would be happy just taking pictures. And there's lots to enjoy in terms of flowers at the moment:

Arrow-leaf Balsam-root

Scarlet Gilia

Besides looking at flowers we have actually done a bit of climbing:

Di, belayed by Jon, on a route called "The Raven and the Bear"

Doug doing an easy climb called "Father's Day"

 ... and Di looking as elegant as ever.

Our friend Jon has started using special belay glasses when he's belaying people on sport climbs:

They save getting a sore neck and seem to be becoming more popular here. We've seen a number of people wearing them.

We are ever on the lookout for wildlife to photograph. Never staying still very long, so far the birds here have been rather elusive, but we have seen lots of chipmunks - which try to pinch our lunch just about every day:

This little guy got close but not close enough!

In her wanderings Di came across something that we have not seen before but we think might have been a BABY chipmunk:

It was only between about 5 and 7 centimetres long and we can't think of anything else it might have been. You can just see it's rear end poking out behind the branch of the small shrub it was scrambling up.

I saw a coyote that was but is no longer:

                               ... while Di was taking a picture of a Rattlesnake ...

... but don't worry: she wasn't as close as it looks!       

Apart from the Rattlers, in places the ground is strewn with pine cones ...

                                                                                                              ... and the woodland is redolent with the scent of the trees from which they have dropped ... sorry, I can't get that on the blog just yet! ;-)

In more open areas but close to the pines are many of these gorgeous little beauties ...

... which have the surprising name of Bitteroot.

Finally, the gorgeous blooms below are just starting to come out on the Mock Orange. While they are lovely, what is most remarkable is their delicious scent.

That's all for now, but there should be another post before we leave Penticton. Some interesting things are coming up in the town. Stay tuned!

P.S.: It's now a day later and the Great Blue Heron was there again!