A family adventure day to Skagway

Cathy hasn’t joined the dogs and I on a adventure in a very long time, but on Friday she took the day off work to escort us to Skagway. Bella and Tucker are always happy to ride in Cathy’s Jeep Cherokee – it’s much more comfortable for them than my car.

We got off to a very late start, not leaving the house until a few minutes after 11:00. The sun had risen at 10:08, at it was -22°C when we started out.

It was soon apparent that some of the large lakes weren’t yet frozen, and there was a lot of fog down Carcross way.

Fog ahead on the South Klondike Highway in January
It’s difficult to capture in a photo, but I really like way the sun looks in fog.

Fog on the South Klondike Highway in January
By 11:34 it had warmed up to -14°C, and it was obvious that it was open water on Lake Bennett that was producing much of the fog.

Fog ahead on the South Klondike Highway in January
I wasn’t feeeling very good when we left home, so Cathy was driving. That gave me a chance to get some photos not normally available to me. I always like seeing and photographing semis and snowplows, though I do usually cringe at the thought of another rock hitting the windhield.

B-train fuel tanker on the South Klondike Highway in January

Snowplow on the South Klondike Highway in January

The new bridge across the Nares River at Carcross opened a few weeks ago, and the old wooden bridge is slowly being torn apart.

The new Nares River bridge on the South Klondike Highway in January
As we drove south from Carcross the fog dissipated, as Tagish Lake was frozen. At the Venus Mine, the weather was looking great ahead.

The historic Venus silver mine on the South Klondike Highway in January
We made our usual stop at Tutshi Lake to let the kids play for a few minutes. The amount of snow this year is extremely low.

Snowy peaks along Tutshi Lake in the far north of BC
Tutshi Lake was still open and some fog was forming, but a north wind blew it away quickly.

Tutshi Lake, BC - open water in January
I took the wheel when we left Tutshi Lake, and our next stop was at the White Pass summit. The next photo was shot right at the Canada-USA border.Β The wind was brutal – the wind chill must have been nearing -30, and there were no sledders or skiers. I processed the image as an HDR to bring out the detail.

The White Pass summit on a windy January day
Another DHDR image. The ground blizzard was pretty cool, if a bit disorienting.

Driving south from the White Pass summit on a windy January day
Once on the sea side of the summit, the temperature started climbing as usual. It was up to -10 as we descended towards the William Moore Bridge.

Driving south from the White Pass summit on a windy January day
Once out of the shelter of some curves in the valley, the north wind hit us and the ground blizzard got even better πŸ™‚

A ground blizzard on the South Klondike Highway on a windy January day

We got to Skagway at about 12:30 Alaska time (1:30 Yukon), had an excellent lunch at The Station, and by 1:30 were back on the road. I wasn’t feeling good again, so Cathy was driving and other than going over to the mouth of the Dyea River to see the seals that are aways fishing there, didn’t do any wandering.

There was no traffic on the highway other than semis and snow-clearing equipment, though a few vehicles were parked down in the sheltered forest areas – sledders and skiers. The reflection of the lights of the B-train fuel tanker in the next photo may give you an idea of the condition of the road – yes, thats ice.

B-train fuel tanker on the South Klondike Highway in January
Icy or not, it’s spectacularly beautiful in the winter.

The South Klondike Highway in the White Pass in January
Another snowplow doing some fine-tuning of the shoulder.

Snowplow on the South Klondike Highway in the White Pass in January
A grader and the rotary snowplow doing some heavy moving.

A grader and the rotary snowplow doing some heavy moving on the South Klondike Highway in the White Pass in January
The snow-clearing crews were sure busy this day.

Snowplow on the South Klondike Highway near Fraser in January
Clearing Customs at Fraser was quick and simple as usual.

Canada Customs at Fraser, BC
You can see the fog rising off Tutshi Lake in the next photo.

Tutshi Lake, BC - not frozen in January.
We stopped at Tutshi Lake again, to give both the dogs and me a break.

Tutshi Lake, BC - not frozen in January

My dog Tucker at Tutshi Lake, BC, in January

My dog Bella at Tutshi Lake, BC, in January

Driving back to the highway from the Tutshi Lake parking area.

Snowy peaks along Tutshi Lake, BC, in January
A final shot of Dail Peak. I slept much of the hour from here to home.

Dail Peak in January
This game cam was in my post office box at Skagway – now we can get some photos of the moose and other critters that pass through our property πŸ™‚

Our new game cam

Catching up – winter and dogs and photography and Christmas…

It’s been 5 weeks since I last posted. There hasn’t been much going on as my activities are still very limited, but I promised that I wouldn’t go silent for long periods, so here’s what I have been doing.

The Whitehorse airport is one of my happy places. Whenever I go to town I have a list of expected arrivals and departures and try to time my errands or meetings to catch some of them. The first photo of the action on the ramp with the fancy new snow-clearing machine going by was shot on December 19th.

Winter action at the Whitehorse airport
The following day, I caught an interesting atmospheric phenomenon created by an incoming 737. At -16°C and 85% humidity, jets make their own weather as they approach to land. Notice that it’s not smoke from the engines, it’s clouds of vapour created by the flaps.

At -16C and 85% humidity, jets make their own weather as they approach to land.
A better look at the plane making the little clouds, Air North’s Boeing 737-48E C-FANB.

Air North's 1992 Boeing 737-48E C-FANB
This new rig looks like it does a great job of getting snow and ice off the runway.

Clearing snow off the runway at the Whitehorse airport
The older rotary puts on a more impressive show, though πŸ™‚

A rotary plow clearing snow off the runway at the Whitehorse airport
The airport is easy for me – I drive by it on my way to other things, and the photos come easily. The thought required for creative photography is still beyond me, and writing this blog is far more difficult than it was before the accident.

Air North action at the Whitehorse airport in the winter
I waited for the arrival of Air Canada’s Airbus A319-114 C-FZUL that afternoon (December 20th). It was 20 minutes late, but while I was waiting I was able to help a couple from Vancouver who had gotten badly stuck below my planned shooting location across from the Alaska Highway truck scales. I had taken the Tracker, and it’s always stocked with recovery gear, so that was quick and simple. The next photo was shot at 4:07, exactly 20 minutes after sunset.

Air Canada's Airbus A319-114 C-FZUL
On December 24th I did a morning outing to pick up a few last-minute things at 2 grocery stores. I left the driveway at 08:50, and was heading home on the Alaska Highway at 09:35 (35 minutes before sunrise). Quick and simple. When I headed for home it was -6C in town, -13 at home. The next photo shot on the Alaska Highway gives you an idea of just how little snow we have this year.

On the Alaska Highway at dawn in December
Christmas was particularly quiet this year. There were no decorations, no presents (well, we never do presents), just a couple of wonderful meals with friends, one on Christmas Eve and one on Christmas Day. I had plenty of assistance offered while I was working on the turkey stuffing. πŸ™‚

All my fur-kids watching me working on Christmas dinner
We’re babysitting for a couple of weeks. Paddler is an easy fit – he’s pretty much a part-time member of our pack, which he joined as Maverick, a member of YARN’s Airplanes2 litter 10 months ago. Bella and Tucker both love playing with him, especially in this incredibly mild weather we’ve been having.

My dogs Bella and Paddler
I’ve been doing some more scanning of documents and slides, most of which then get turfed. This is the painful part of slide scanning. I can think of many reasons why I shouldn’t toss them, but these many binders of slides have to go. Some – a few, like early Alaska Highway images – I may be able to rehome.

Throwing away slides after scanning them
The City of Whitehorse does a wonderful job of lighting up the city for the holidays, and I’ve been wanting to get out for some photos. By evening, I never have enough energy to do it, so on December 31st, I headed out just after 04:00 while I still felt okay.

My driveway at 04:00 on December 31st
The SS Klondike was my first stop. The lights here have been scaled back from what they used to be, but it’s still beautiful.

Christmas lights on the steamboat SS Klondike at Whitehorse, Yukon

Christmas lights on the steamboat SS Klondike at Whitehorse, Yukon

The huge tree that’s installed in front of the railway station on Main Street was one of my two primary targets, and it’s best seen before normal people get out of bed. The next photo shows it from the Main Street side.

Christmas tree and railway station at Whitehorse, Yukon
And here’s the Front Street view.

Christmas tree and railway station at Whitehorse, Yukon
City Hall is always done up nicely.

Whitehorse City Hall at Christmas
The MacBride Museum.

Shipyards Park is the main showplace for the light display.

This was the first time I’d seen the City create a large animated light display – the train at Shipyards Park is best seen in a video.

At 05:30 I went up to the airport to catch an Air Canada departure. It was too dark and none of those photos were any good, but Air North’s Boeing 737-55D C-FANF was towed into position to get ready for a 07:00 flight while I was there.

Air North's Boeing 737-55D C-FANF

I really needed to get out, but the Christmas light cruise went badly. I wasn’t feeling well by 05:30 and by 06:00 had to quit after a few minutes at the airport. By the time I got home I was just plain sick and had to go to bed.

I could only spend a few minutes on it yesterday, but I’m still working on restoring the model of the WP&YR container ship Frank H. Brown at the Yukon Transportation Museum. The section of the boat needing the most work, the gantry crane, is almost ready for paint now. Two of the arms were broken off, one was loose, lots of the paint was flaking off (and at some point it had been re-painted the wrong colour), and many small pieces like railings needed to be re-glued.

Restoring the model of the WP&YR container ship Frank H. Brown at the Yukon Transportation Museum
The model railway is a superb location to work on this piece of the boat. It’s an easy place to talk to people about it and other aspects of the museum as well.

Murray Lundberg working on restoring the model of the WP&YR container ship Frank H. Brown at the Yukon Transportation Museum
I did an interview with Dave Croft and Wayne Vallevand from CBC a couple of weeks ago. Very soon after the story went live, I heard from one Whitehorse woman who also had a fall and needed to hear that what’s going on is real. Hearing from Rebecca made my day, since that was my main point in talking about it. Admitting what’s going on in that way feels like its own sort of defeat, and yet is important. You can read the story here.

There, caught up – sort of. My search for a solution to my health problems continues. I’m not getting better – except on days when I do nothing, and that includes computer time.

I love this New Year message. Every day I get to kiss someone who thinks I’m wonderful, snuggle with furry creatures who agree, and can still make art. So maybe I’ll surprise myself and get better, too. I hope that 2020 is kind to all of you.

Happy New Year

A drive to Skagway – sun, torrential rain, and heavy snow

My last attempt to drive to Skagway didn’t turn out well, but on Friday (November 22nd), I had the urge to have another go at it.

I checked 511yukon this time and things looked good. The yellow means partly covered with snow, black is bare, and white is covered with snow. The weather forecast for Whitehorse was cloudy in the morning, with a high of +5°C (41°F) and then clearing later. For Skagway it was rain and 46°F (+8°C).

Yukon road report
The scattered clouds at home produced some nice light for the frost early in the morning. It was +2 when I headed down the road at 10:50.

Frosty pine in the Yukon
Unlike the crazy temperature swings the previous week, it only ranged between +1 and +3 all the way to the White Pass summit. While you might think that the weather doesn’t look too good in the next photo (shot at 11:18), to me it looked like good photography ahead πŸ™‚

Along the South Klondike Highway
Brute Mountain at Carcross.

Brute Mountain at Carcross
At the Bove Island viewpoint, the light on the island wasn’t good but Lime Mountain was nicely lit up.

Lime Mountain along the South Klondike Highway, Yukon
The light on Dail Peak along Windy Arm was particularly good right at noon.

Dail Peak along Windy Arm, South Klondike Highway, Yukon
The next photo, shot just south of the Yukon-BC border, was processed as an HDR to exaggerate the great storm light on the mountains and wet road. It was +3 with a very light rain falling – despite the road report of “bare,” it was quite icy.

Storm light on the South Klondike Highway, Yukon
Even though I had left Tucker and Bella at home, I made our usual stop at Tutshi Lake and shot a few photos.

Tutshi Lake, BC

Tutshi Lake, BC

The rain falling at highway level along Tutshi Lake was snow just a little way up the mountains.

Snowy trees along the South Klondike Highway, BC
Just south of Log Cabin, although there was sun and it was +1, there was a light snow falling.

A late-November drive on the South Klondike Highway, BC
Sometimes the views at the Canada-USA border are spectacular. Other times, not so much πŸ™‚

The Canada-USA border on the South Klondike Highway

I hadn’t felt too bad until I hit the really winding section of highway dropping down from the summit. That made me quite sick.

Crossing into Alaska was quick and simple as usual. Two Customs officers I hadn’t seen before, both women, were on duty. I always wonder what brings people to a post like Skagway. A few miles further south, winter was gone.

The South Klondike Highway just north of Skagway, Alaska
I had a relaxing, excellent lunch at The Station in Skagway. While I was there, it started raining – and soon turned to torrential rain. I did a loop around town, but as I started up Broadway to head home, I had a pretty good idea what was going to happen as I climbed back into the mountains.

Torrential rain on Broadway in Skagway, Alaska, in late November
I made a short stop at the WP&YR yards, but the rain was so heavy the photos I took are from the car window.

WP&YR locomotives in November
The rain started to turn to snow just north of Customs.

Rain turning to snow on the South Klondike Highway just north of Skagway, Alaska
As I neared the William Moore Bridge, the snow was extremely heavy.

Heavy snow falling on the South Klondike Highway
The new pullout at the William Moore Bridge is very nice. The old bridge is securely fenced off now, but it supposed to be opened to foot traffic at some point. Perhaps the National Park Service hasn’t come up with a complete plan for it yet.

The new pullout at the William Moore Bridge
A woman in the grocery store said that 2 feet of snow was forecast for the White Pass that night, and the way it was coming down, I could see that possibility. The next photo was shot just south of Summit Creek, at 2:40.

Heavy snow falling on the South Klondike Highway
At Canadian Customs, when I asked what I was down for, I said “just wandering.” His response as he looked around was “really??” – I said the light was really good when I was southbound πŸ™‚

Coming up to Canadian Customs at Fraser, BC, in the winter
Back to great light at Dail Peak just south of the BC-Yukon border. When I stepped out to take this photo, I discovered just how icy the road still was.

Great light at Dail Peak on the South Klondike Highway
The last photo of the day was shot just south of Conrad at 3:30.

I got home at about 4:30 and texted Cathy “I beat it!” A full day and I hadn’t hit the dreaded “wall” πŸ™‚

But… Saturday was bad. I did nothing all day. And Sunday was much worse – I was very sick, the worst I’d been in weeks. Two steps forward and 3 back? By Monday I was back to “the new normal,” though. Will I make that drive again knowing how sick it might make me? At this point I don’t know. Probably not, without some sort of plan to do something different (a sleep in Skagway perhaps).

A drive to Carcross, and an update about my brain injury

It’s now been 7 weeks since I’ve posted here – the longest break since I started the blog in 2007. This post will sort of be in two parts. The first will be the sort of thing you expect here – a photojournal of one of my wanders. The second part will be about the brain injury that has brought my very active life to a screeching halt for now.

I spend my days now in two ways now – going through old newspapers gathering information that I sometimes post in my Yukon History group, and browsing through my tens of thousands of photos. The photo-browsing got me to thinking that I should fly somewhere – anywhere, just to get some window-seat time, overnight and fly home again. To do that, I needed to test my ability to travel, so on Friday I decided to drive to Skagway. Being out for 6 hours or so, with winding roads, would be a good test.

We’re down to just over 7 hours of light now, so I was in no big hurry to hit the road. The temperature was -4°C when I left home, +1 in town when I fueled up 10 minutes later. The temperature was all over the map as I headed south – the cold spot was at Robinson as is often the case, at -7°C. A few miles further, it was +3 when I shot this first photo at 10:05. At Carcross a few minutes later, it was back down to -1. Crazy.

Winter on the South Klondike Highway
I stopped just south of the new Carcross bridge to get a photo of what I thought was a crew starting demolition of the old bridge.

The new and old Nares River bridges at Carcross, Yukon
Well, this was a surprise! There was no cell service there, but when I got back to Carcross I checked 511yukon and discovered that not only was the highway between Carcross and Skagway closed because of “black ice”, roads in the entire southern Yukon were under a Travel Advisory.

The avalanche gates on the South Klondike Highway closed to to icy road conditions

The avalanche gates on the South Klondike Highway closed to to icy road conditions

I decided to hang around Carcross for a bit and see if the highway would open. On closer examination of the work going on at the bridge, the crew was just taking down the last of the wooden framing around the new bridge.

The new and old Nares River bridges at Carcross, Yukon
There was some interesting light that allowed for some good photo ops, like the next one shot at Caribou Commons.

Winter at Caribou Commons in Carcross
Some of the long-abandoned cabins on the opposite side of the Nares River are always good subjects as they slowly fall apart.

Abandoned cabin at Carcross
The Tutshi memorial, built from the remains of the famous steamboat that burned on July 25, 1990.

The Tutshi memorial, built from the remains of the famous steamboat that burned on July 25 1990.
While the weather was quite pleasant in Carcross, it was certainly Winter right above us on Brute Mountain.

At 11:30 I drove back to the avalanche gates, but no luck – still closed, and there was no indication at 511yukon when that might change. By this point, though, it didn’t really matter. I was starting to get pretty sick, and getting home would be all I could manage.

The avalanche gates on the South Klondike Highway closed to to icy road conditions
When I start to “hit the wall” now, things deteriorate in a hurry. Within a few minutes, I really didn’t know if I would be able to get home without a nap.

By the time I got home, I was done. If Tucker and Bella hadn’t been anxiously waiting for me in the window, I would have gone to sleep in the car. It was all I could do to get in the house and to bed.

So, the test did not go well. I can’t drive very far (so I can’t fly anywhere – the point of the test), and I can’t walk very far.


That was Part 1 – the easy part because most of it was what I’ve done here for many years. Part 2 is much tougher.

My regular readers know that I injured myself in a fall during a hike back on August 7th, and am still having a lot of problems. If any of the people who get paid a lot of money to know this stuff knows what’s wrong with me, they’re keeping it a secret. My neurology team “can’t put a name to it,” and the concussion therapist says it’s not a concussion. It’s a brain injury of some sort, though – perhaps exactly what doesn’t matter. It’s a very complex subject with each person having their own set of issues, and solutions.

Some people say that rest is important, but many more say that you need to work through it to whatever degree you’re able, and that’s the one I’m going with. My final neurologist said that while there’s no recommended treatment or therapy, “rest is not your friend.” Rest is my friend in one way, because that’s when I don’t feel too bad – activity soon makes me feel like shit. Three to four hours of anything is about my limit – then I “hit the wall” and need to go to bed. With brain injuries, you can’t work through it in the way you do sports or hard physical work. When you hit the wall after a brain injury, you’re finished.

Brain injuries are very often life-changing, as has been the case for me. Among the symptoms, they produce headaches, fatigue, dizziness, poor coordination, disorientation (stairs are awful for me), difficulty in concentrating and in processing complicated questions, difficulty in making decisions, impatience and emotional outbursts, and depression. Depression is a big part of it for many, and the suicide rate for people with brain injuries is at least twice as high as for uninjured people. That rate increases beyond double as the severity of the injury increases. I’ve had some extremely dark days.

For many, conversations are difficult, and avoided whenever possible. I’ve apologized on Facebook to the many people whose messages and phone calls I haven’t returned. Processing the thoughts is difficult, and even something about the frequency of the cell phone is annoying.

The dizziness, poor coordination, and disorientation make walking difficult. Some people say I walk like I’m drunk. I often use a cane – that will be the case this afternoon when I go to my concussion therapist because of the distance I have to walk, much of it on icy surfaces. When grocery shopping, the cart is my walker.

A support network is extremely important during the healing process. For me, that includes pets. Tucker is my nurse. He’s extremely intuitive, and demands that I join him in bed when I don’t feel good, most recently a couple of hours ago while I was in the middle of writing this.

I’ve joined a couple of brain injury support groups. While they both provide lots of information about people’s different experiences, they can also be quite discouraging. My neurologists said I’d get better “eventually” but refused to say whether that was weeks, months, or years. I see people in the groups who have been suffering for 4, 7, 10 years. One of the members posted a Brain Injury Identification Card that has a list of symptoms, to help people understand how to deal with the card carrier. She said “I received this card in the mail today. While it’s probably a good thing to carry, it feels like defeat. I have made a lot of progress, but I still struggle accepting this new version of life. All the things on the back of this card are true, but I wish they weren’t. Seeing it in writing makes it feel too real, too permanent. I cried and cried when I saw it. Even though I know it’s good to carry, it just makes me so sad that it’s necessary. I want to wish this all away.”

I’ve had people tell me that there are lots of people in much worse shape than me. That’s supposed to somehow make me feel better, that other people feel worse? This isn’t a contest.

For now, I have to embrace small victories – sometimes very small ones. I also have big events ahead that I keep focussed on. In April I’m going to drive the motorhome back to Vancouver Island for a few weeks, and I’ve recently booked a 22-day cruise in South America that includes 4 days in Antarctica. I WILL be better for both of those.

Motivational images are always around me now. Usually made by other people, but sometimes I make my own, like this one made with a photo shot from my Carcross cabin in early March 2007. That bit of blue sky off in the distance is very important to me.

I see we have some sunshine and some great aurora forecasts coming up in the next week, so I hope to have more photos of this amazing country to share with you soon.

An aurora night at Lake Laberge and Fox Lake

Last Friday (September 27th), the aurora forecast was very good so a friend and I headed out, planning on a long night of photography.

We first went to the Lake Laberge Campground, arriving early so we could watch day transition into night. I was very surprised by how many people were camping for the weekend – the last weekend the campground is open for the season.

I shot the first photo right at 9:00 pm. All of the photos in this post were shot with my Canon EOS 7D, with a Rokinon 10mm lens, at f2.8. The first two photos were shot with 5-second exposures and ISO 800.

Dusk at Lake Laberge, Yukon
Our timing was perfect, as the aurora borealis began to appear just 4 minutes later. Some of you may wonder whether “aurora borealis” or “Northern Lights” is the correct term. While “Northern Lights” is an old term that has largely been replaced in common usage, everybody will understand, whichever term you use.

Aurora borealis at Lake Laberge, Yukon
Darkness then came quickly. By 9:20 the aurora was getting larger and brighter. The next photo was shot with a 20-second exposure.

Aurora borealis at Lake Laberge, Yukon
A 30-second exposure captured the next image. To the left, the lights of a distant jet can just be made out as it passed over.

Aurora borealis at Lake Laberge, Yukon
At 9:38 there was still a bit of light in the sky to the west. The large diffuse band of aurora seen above the bright band in this and the next few photos is quite unusual.

Aurora borealis at Lake Laberge, Yukon
The sky was incredibly clear, and the Milky Way was showing up well overhead. This was shot with a 30-second exposure and ISO 3200.

The Milky Way at Lake Laberge, Yukon
When the campers nearest us lit a large fire, and another RVer turned on large outside lights, it was time to leave. Before leaving, I shot a few photos that included the fire – this one at 9:44 pm.

Aurora borealis at Lake Laberge, Yukon
The aurora delayed our departure by a few minutes – the next two photos show the unusual diffuse band of aurora well.

Aurora borealis at Lake Laberge, Yukon

Aurora borealis at Lake Laberge, Yukon

We got to the Fox Lake Campground at about 10:40. There were lots of campers here, too, and a bus full of Japanese tourists. The aurora had gotten quite dull, but my friend had brought some glowsticks and we played with them a bit. I shot the next photo right at 11:00, by which time the aurora had brightened up again.

Northern Lights at Fox Lake, Yukon
It takes a very good aurora display for Fox Lake to be a good shooting location, as that hill on the right blocks any low displays. My friend was shooting from the end of the boat dock.

Aurora borealis at Fox Lake, Yukon
Looking back at the camping area at 11:12. Some of the tourists were using flash to take photos – extremely annoying, and ruined many of my photos.

Aurora borealis at Fox Lake, Yukon
At 11:16 there were some nice rays and reds in the display. You can see a vehicle on the North Klondike Highway in the next photo, too.

Aurora borealis at Fox Lake, Yukon
By about 11:30, my body was giving out. This is one of the ongoing problems I’m having from my injury back on August 7th. I went and sat in the car and watched from there, but a nice flare at 11:40 got me out for some photos that included the tour bus…

Northern Lights at Fox Lake, Yukon
…and some shooting directly up, where some nice corona action was happening.

Aurora borealis at Fox Lake, Yukon
At about 12:30, we started back home. Just after 01:00, though, the aurora was so strong that I pulled over and we got a few shots from the shoulder of the highway.

Aurora borealis on the North Klondike Highway, Yukon

After I dropped my friend off, the aurora went crazy on my drive home. I texted her and she went back out and shot for another hour, but I was done. Although it was a much shorter night than I’d planned, it was still really good.

Cruise ships in Skagway in the 1990s

Seeing the megaships that visit Skagway now, it’s interesting to look back at what the ships looked like 20-30 years ago. I started taking pictures of them in 1990 when I started picking up their passengers for bus tours. To many ship enthusiasts, the 1990s were nearing the end of the time when cruise ships looked liked ships.

First, let’s have a look at the docks at Skagway. The basic configuration now is the same as it was 30 years ago, though the Railroad Dock is now 2,000 feet long, almost 3 times what it was in 1990. The photo below, from Google Earth, was shot on June 21, 2019 – Carnival Legend was at the RRF docking position (the Railroad Dock Fore, closest to town), Viking Orion was at RRA (Railroad Dock Aft, to the south), and Norwegian Jewel was at BRD (Broadway Dock). Google Earth actually has this image dated as June 20, 2019 – my wife, Cathy, thinks it’s quite amusing that I even noticed that the ships were wrong for that date πŸ™‚

Aerial view of Skagway docks in June 2019
On September 12, 1990, Regent Sun was at the Railroad Dock (background) and Island Princess was at the Broadway Dock.

Regent Sun and Island Princess in Skagway on September 12, 1990

Regent Sun was built in 1964 for ZIM Lines of Israel. Named SS Shalom. She ran between Haifa and New York until 1967 when she was sold to German Atlantic Line and became Hanseatic, used for cruises in Europe and North America. In 1973, Hanseatic was sold to Home Lines and was renamed Doric. Homes Lines rebuilt her with a larger after superstructure, and she was then used for cruises to Bermuda and the Caribbean. In 1981 she was sold to Royal Cruise Line, and renamed Royal Odyssey – she was again rebuilt, including her funnel, an expanded topmost deck expanded, and a bulbous bow added below the waterline. She then cruised all over the world. In 1988, Royal Odyssey was sold to Regency Cruises and was renamed Regent Sun. In 1995, Regency Cruises collapsed and all of their ships were seized – Regent Sun was laid up in the Bahamas. Although she was sold and renamed a few more times, she never sailed again. In 2001, as Sun 11, she was sold to Indian shipbreakers, but sank off South Africa while en route to India to be scrapped.

Island Princess began life in 1972 as Island Venture, sailing for Flagship Cruises. In 1974 they sold her to P&O’s Princess Cruises and she was renamed Island Princess. She sailed for them until 1999, when she was sold to Hyundai Merchant Marine of South Korea. They renamed her Hyundai Pungak, and she was used to transport South Korean pilgrims to religious sites in North Korea. For a brief period in 2001–2002 she sailed as Platinum for Fiducia Shipping. She was then sold to Voyages of Discovery, who renamed her Discovery. In 2014 she was taken out of service, and was scrapped in India the following year. In 2003, Princess Cruises launched a new ship named Island Princess.

In July 1991, Regent Sea (foreground) and Costa Daphne were at the Broadway Dock.

In July 1991, Regent Sea and Costa Daphne were at the Broadway Dock at Skagway.

Regent Sea was built in 1957 for the Swedish American Line, and was christened MS Gripsholm. She sailed from Gothenburg to New York as well as being used for some cruises. In 1971, she was rebuilt as a pure cruise ship. In 1975 she was sold to the Karageorgis Lines, who renamed her MS Navarino she sailed Mediterranean routes for them until 1981, when she was damaged in a grounding in Greece. It took nearly 3 years to repair her, then in 1984 she was sold to newly-formed Regency Cruises, who renamed her MS Regent Sea. In 1995, Regency went bankrupt, and Regent Sea was auctioned off to United States American Cruise Line. They began to convert her to a casino ship, but went bankrupt before completion. In early 2001 the ship was sold for scrap, but after being looted by pirates, she sank off South Africa.

Costa Daphne was built in 1955 as a freighter for the Port Line, who named her Port Sydney. In 1972-1974, she was rebuilt as a cruise ship, and had a short life as Akrotiri Express before joining Costa and being renamed Daphne in 1975. She sailed for Costa until 1997. She was subsequently sold and renamed several times – Switzerland (1997–2003); Ocean Monarch (2003–2008), with a brief spell as Hellenic Aid, a hospital ship in Sri Lanka in 2005; and finally Princess Daphne (2008–2014). In 2014, she was scrapped in India.

Also in July 1991, Executive Explorer was at the Ferry Dock.

Cruise ship Executive Explorer at Skagway in 1991

Executive Explorer was built in Washington in 1985 for Glacier Bay Yacht Tours, as an overnight excursion boat. She was taken out of service in 2002, and in 2006 the company went bankrupt. In 2011, the ship was bought by Alaskan Dream Cruises, refurbished for week-long cruises, and relaunched as Alaskan Dream.
On August 27, 1991, Pacific Princess and one of White Pass’ container ships, either the Frank H. Brown or M.V. Klondike were at the Railroad Dock.

Pacific Princess at Skagway in 1991

Pacific Princess was built in 1971 for Flagship Cruises, who named her Sea Venture and operated her for cruises from the United States to Bermuda. In 1975 she was sold to Princess Cruises, who renamed her Pacific Princess. She is often said to be the original “Love Boat” on the very successful TV series of that name. However, although Pacific Princess and Island Princess were the original floating stars of the show which began in 1977, The Love Boat was filmed aboard many Princess ships in destinations around the globe. Princess operated her until 2002, when she was sold to Pullmantur Cruises of Spain, who renamed her Pacific. In 2008 she was seized for an unpaid repair bill, and she was eventually scrapped in 2013-2014.
In September 1991, Royal Viking Sky was at the Broadway Dock.

In September 1991, Royal Viking Sky was at the Broadway Dock in Skagway.

Royal Viking Sky was built for Royal Viking Line in 1972. In 1982 she was lengthened from 177.70 meters to 205.47 meters. In 1991 she joined Norwegian Cruise Line and was renamed Sunward, but was only with them for about a year. Under many owners, she has had 10 different names, but is currently (2019) being operated by Fred Olsen Lines as MV Boudicca.
Also in September 1991, Yorktown Clipper was at the Ferry Dock, and Pacific Princess was at the Railroad Dock.

Yorktown Clipper and Pacific Princess in Skagway in 1991

Yorktown Clipper was built in 1988 for Clipper Cruise Line. In January 2006 she was sold to Cruise West, who renamed her Spirit of Yorktown. Cruise West ceased operations in 2010. Spirit of Yorktown was purchased in 2011 by Travel Dynamics, but in 2014 she was seized for unpaid bills. She is currently (2019) operating on the east coast of the US as Americana.
On September 10, 1991, I caught Dawn Princess approaching the Railroad Dock.

Dawn Princess approaching the Railroad Dock at Skagway in 1991

Dawn Princess had been built for Cunard in 1957 as RMS Sylvania, deigned to carry both cargo and passengers. The last of their 4 Saxonia class ships built for the Trans-Atlantic route, their dimensions (608 feet 3 inches long, 80 feet 4 inches wide) were defined by the Saint Lawrence Seaway, as the ships had to pass through that system of locks and canals to reach Montreal. Cunard sold her in 1968 to Sitmar Line, who re-named her Fairwind. Following a year-long refit, she began sailing Alaska cruises in 1971, with a capacity of 925 passengers and a crew of 330. For a brief period she operated as Sitmar Fairwind, but in 1988, Sitmar was sold to P&O, who re-named her Dawn Princess and transferred her to their Princess Cruises division. She only operated for Princess for 5 years – in 1993 she was sold to V-Ships, who re-named her Albatros. By late 2003 her machinery was worn out, and she was sold so a ship breaker in India, where she was broken up in 2004.
Using the same name for different ships can be confusing. When I posted the photos in this post on my Yukon History & Abandoned Places group, a couple of people said they sailed on the Dawn Princess long after 1993. The next photo, though, shot in 2006, shows the Dawn Princess that was built in 1997 and operated under that name until 2017.

Dawn Princess, 2006
By 2001, ships were getting much larger. Some time that year, Carnival’s Jubilee was at the Railroad Dock.

Jubilee was built for Carnival Cruise Lines in 1993. In 2004, she was sold to P&O Cruises Australia and renamed Pacific Sun, sailing Australia and the South Pacific. In 2012 she was sold to Chinese cruise company HNA Cruises, who renamed her Henna. In 2015 HNA ceased their cruise ship operations, and in 2017, Henna> was scrapped.
One last photo follows, just because Empress of the North was so unique. On September 4, 2006, she and Celebrity Summit were at the Ore Dock.

Cruise ships Empress of the North and Celebrity Summit were at the Ore Dock in Skagway in 2006.

Empress of the North was built in Washington for Majestic America Line in 2002, and sailed Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and Columbia River for them starting in 2003. Majestic America Line ceased operations after the 2008 cruise season, and the Empress of the North was turned over to the government (U.S. Maritime Administration). In 2013, the American Queen Steamboat Company purchased the ship and renamed her American Empress. She is now (2019) sailing the Columbia and Snake Rivers between Astoria, Oregon, and Clarkston, Washington.

Hiking Border Ridge in the White Pass

With a 90-minute hike up Summit Creek having gone well last Tuesday, I decided to give a more challenging hike a try the next day. The area I’ve come to call Border Ridge has no trail and rarely sees hikers. It’s high alpine – a land of bare granite, sparse vegetation, and spectacular views. Perfect for what I wanted.

It was almost noon when I finally parked the Tracker at the Km 24 milepost sign, right at the actual Canada/USA border, and started up. One of the border monuments can be seen in the first photo. To read about the incredible task of surveying the border and placing the original monuments, see The thin line between Alaska and Canada, by Ned Rozell.

The actual Canada/USA border in the White Pass
The access route I use is a very steep rock slide that is mostly covered with heather and other plants, making it dog-friendly. Tucker and Bella love this area, too, and were very excited. The tour buses below are stopped at the “Welcome to Alaska” sign. Just past that point, I saw a beer can, and stuck it in my pack. It had clearly been there for years, as the moss under it was dead. It amazes me that people will leave trash in places like this, but as I was writing this I read an article in the Smithsonian Magazine that said volunteers collected 3 tons of garbage from Mount Everest earlier this year. So people with no respect are everywhere πŸ™

Hiking above the Welcome to Alaska sign on the South Klondike Highway
One of things that the dogs and I love about Border Ridge is the amount of water – there are clear snow-melt ponds everywhere, and most of them last all through the short summer. Some like the one in the next photo are in particularly dramatic granite-enclosed locations.

Dramatic pond in the White Pass
Walking north past the first of the high points, at 3,563 feet.

Bella was certain that something was living in the summit cairn (and she was probably right – a pika would be my guess) πŸ™‚

My shelty/husky Bella in the White Pass
One of the places on the ridge that particularly intrigues me is this little pond. Its granite surround is so perfect. This was by far the lowest I’ve seen the water level – perhaps I’ve not seen it this late in the season. When the water is deeper, though, it’s very cold.

A small high-alpine pond in the White Pass
Clouds suddenly moved in, accompanied by a very cold wind, so I had to add a layer. I wonder if an earthquake caused that crack in the granite between me and Tucker. I need to check previous photos, as I don’t recall noticing it before.

Hiking along a crack in the granite in the White Pass
I need to spend some time with an alpine plants identification guide. I’m awful with names, but I do like to know more about them, particularly the berries and other possible edibles. I wonder which ones would make a healthy tea (if any), for example.

Alpine plants in the White Pass

Alpine plants in the White Pass

The next photo shows the same pond, with the summit cairn at the top. The “grain” of the ridge is clear here – it makes navigation interesting, going along and across the many little ridges and finding a way around the many cliffs.

Granite ridges in the White Pass
The view from the north end of Border Ridge, with Summit Lake, and Summit Creek Hill the mountain to the left.

A high view of the White Pass
If you also wonder about such patterns, Google “why does ground dry and crack into patterns?” There are some pretty interesting articles πŸ™‚

Why does ground dry and crack into patterns?
At the northwest corner of the ridge I was able to get a photo of much of the International Falls trail, where we hike regularly. The parking area and trailhead are to the lower right.

High view of the International Falls trail
My next target was border monument #118, marked by the red arrow in the next photo. Fresh snow on the peaks to the left leave no doubt that the end of the season is drawing close.

A distant view of border monument #118 in the White Pass
A closer look at border monument #118, which sits at 3,585 feet according to my inReach. It had now been an hour and 20 minutes since we left the highway.

Border monument #118 in the White Pass
Some details…

Border monument #118 in the White Pass
I was getting tired, so from there we headed back towards the highway, stopping only to take a couple more photos of the Fall changes in vegetation. We got back to the car right at 2:00.

The weather on Wednesday had been somewhat better than forecast, but Thursday morning was chilly and damp, as expected. It had been an excellent trip and I was okay with heading home.

I shot one final photo to show you what trees near the White Pass summit are like. This is one of the healthiest of them, having lucked into a small area with a fairly substantial soil deposit. It’s probably much older than I am, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s over 100 years old.

We headed back to Whitehorse just after 10:30.

A White Pass RV getaway – 3 days of hiking and aurora

I needed a mountain getaway, so last Monday drove the motorhome down to the White Pass for a few days. The weather forecasts called for 3 days of good weather, then rain. Getting out in the mountains and being disconnected were just what I needed.

I left home just before noon on Monday. The Alaska Highway is just ahead in the first photo – Whitehorse is a few kilometers to the left, Adventure to the right πŸ™‚

Fireweed Drive and the Alaska Highway at Mary Lake, Yukon
After getting parked at my usual spot just south of Summit Creek, I continued on to Skagway, where I planned to photograph a couple of ships I didn’t have in my files. But the American Constellation had already left, and the Silver Muse wasn’t in a photo-friendly position, so I got neither. I don’t find Royal Caribbean’s massive Ovation of the Seas very interesting, but that’s her in the next photo, with the Alaska ferry Columbia in front.

Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas at Skagway, Alaska
While I was out on the breakwater trying to get a good angle on the Silver Muse, I got a few photos of the Small Boat Harbor.

Small Boat Harbor at Skagway, Alaska
Back up top, I checked in with Canada Customs, and took a few photos of railcars on the WP&YR train that was there picking up passengers. Steel-bodied car #209, named “Lake Bernard”, was built in 1993 and has a wheelchair lift and seating for 26 people.

I went back to the RV, fed the fur-kids dinner, then on our after-dinner walk, decided that the light was so lovely, the dogs and I should go down to the beach below us on Summit Lake.

One of the lingering problems from my injury 5 weeks ago is an odd disorientation. As many times as I’ve walked the trail down to Summit Lake, I didn’t recognize most of it. That’s a bit unnerving given some of the places I hike.

Walking to Summit Lake in the White Pass
It felt so good to be back on that beach. Bella was in the water immediately, and I’d brought Tucker’s ball so we had a good play. We didn’t stay long – it cooled off dramatically as soon as the sun dropped behind Summit Creek Hill.

Walking on the beach of Summit Lake in the White Pass
I didn’t sleep very well that night. When I was up at 02:30 I noticed a bit of aurora borealis in the sky to the north, so I went out and photographed that for a while. The next photo has the motorhome in it.

Aurora borealis in the White Pass
The display peaked just after 03:00 – the next photo was shot at 03:03.

Aurora borealis in the White Pass
The next image intrigues me – with no change in the camera settings and no change in the aurora, the colour is quite different. The photo above is accurate colour – the one below isn’t. Having other lights in the photo can change the way cameras record the colour of the aurora, but with that not being the case here, I don’t know what did it.

Aurora borealis in the White Pass
My parking spot, seen at 09:00 Tuesday morning from the area where I walk the dogs.

RV boondocking in the White Pass
I spent about 3 hours reading, then heard a train horn so decided to go for a drive up to Fraser to see if any good photo ops presented themselves. A short walk got me the next photo of Summit Lake.

Summit Lake in BC's White Pass
Another White Pass train was loading passengers, but I’d have to go through Customs to get any photos of it.

Fraser, BC, with a WP&YR train
The Customs post at Fraser is a pretty quiet station, with a couple of short rushes during peak touring times.

The Customs post at Fraser, BC
It was a gorgeous day, so I decided to give a real hike a try. Summit Creek would be a good test, with no long or steep climbs. By 1:30 Bella was immersed in her favourite element πŸ™‚

Dogs wading in a smal pond along Summit Creek
The kids were having a ball, and I was doing well.

My dogs on a hike along Summit Creek in the White Pass
It was a slow hike for me, but the Fall colours were coming along nicely so there were plenty of reasons to stop for a minute or two.

Fall colours along Summit Creek in the White Pass
Imagine the forces that can do that to a wall of granite. It’s about 15 feet high.

A wall of granite along Summit Creek in the White Pass
When there’s a dry way to go and a wet way, always choose the wet way, Bella says πŸ™‚

My dogs in a little creek along Summit Creek in the White Pass
We stopped in the lower canyon of Summit Creek. The water level was much lower, and the water much clearer than it had been 5 weeks before.

We were back at the highway in about an hour and a half. It had been a very good hike.

The next photo shows the view to the south from the RV at 5:00 pm, shot at 400mm.

Dramatic peaks in the White Pass
Molly is always happy to have her family back. She loves the RV life πŸ™‚

My cat Molly in the RV
Once the kids were fed, a nice but simple dinner for me – Italian sausage and seasoned rice with a nice bottle of red wine while finished reading “The Mindful Hiker” by Stephen Altschuler.

Simple dinner in the RV
It had been a busy day, and taking my cane on the day’s final dog-walk was a comfort. Taking a walk in my pyjamas – one of the pleasures of boondocking in the middle of nowhere. Also one of the pleasures of not caring what anybody thinks about it πŸ™‚

Taking a walk in my pyjamas
I also did a a bit of photography of berries and Fall colours (and dogs) on that last walk.

Berries and Fall colours in the White Pass
Two days before the full moon, the world was pretty interesting when I woke up at 02:00 so I went out and did some shooting. The full moon overpowers all but the strongest of aurora displays.

Aurora as seen with a full moon in the White Pass
With the Autumn Equinox fast approaching, this is no longer The Land of the Midnight Sun – this photo of the dawn colours was shot at a much more normal 07:04.

Dawn colours in the White Pass
On Wednesday morning I went down for a look at progress on the William Moore Bridge, before the highway opened and work crews arrived. I expect that now that the gully has been filled with rock from the bridge approach construction, this curve will soon be eliminated.

A curve on the South Klondike Highway north of Skagway
While the light was still rather dim, I drove past the bridge and took a few blurred-water shots of Bridal Veil Falls. This one was shot at 0.8 of a second.

Bridal Veil Falls, Skagway
Back to the bridge. They’re down to the finishing now – it looks like paving will happen soon.

William Moore Bridge, South Klondike Highway
A final shot of the bridge construction site. I expect that the next time I go down, that will all be cleaned up.

William Moore Bridge, South Klondike Highway
Driving back to the motorhome, I noticed some low-lying fog in the distance, so continued on for a look, as it often produces some interesting photo ops. I love the colour of the dawn light in the next photo.

Fog at dawn in the White Pass
Dropping down into the shade, the colours were dramatically different.

Fog at dawn in the White Pass

After breakfast I decided to try a much more challenging hike. I’ll tell you about that outing in the next post.

Back to adventures – a drive to Skagway and an aurora night

My healing from the hiking accident is progressing nicely – far better than the doctors led me to believe would be the case. As I write this on Saturday morning, I’m planning to load the motorhome to get away for a few days on Monday. This past Wednesday, though, I took my first “long” drive in almost a month, to Skagway, then had great aurora viewing that night.

On Tuesday evening I did another “test” drive, into Whitehorse. The light was beautiful at Schwatka Lake, and I caught CF-FHZ, a 1950 de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Mk. I Beaver, taxiing. It’s operated by Alpine Aviation.

CF-FHZ is a 1950 de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Mk. I Beaver.
Wednesday began with my usual therapy routine, which includes 20 minutes or so out in the corral, cutting out the willows and pines that I’d allowed to grow over the past 12 years. It’s a good way to get some exercise and sun while connecting with the earth’s healing powers.

Murray cutting out willows

The drive to Whitehorse had gone well so I decided to try Skagway. I had no idea how it might go, so didn’t take the dogs – I expected to have to stop and take a nap or two, and was mentally prepared to even have to make it an overnight trip.

I didn’t get away until after 11:00. The Fall colours were getting good, and I made my first stop at noon for a couple of photos along Windy Arm.

Fall colours on the South Klondike Highway
A few minutes later, I stopped in at Tutshi Sleddog Tours. They were very busy and I couldn’t find Michelle as I’d hoped, but I got a puppy fix, so it was a good stop anyway πŸ™‚

Puppies at Tutshi Sleddog Tours

Puppies at Tutshi Sleddog Tours

This was a very different drive for me – I needed to focus on what I was doing, and only made 3 stops. The third was when I lucked into a WP&YR train returning to Skagway, right at the series of bridges between Miles 7 and 8.

WP&YR train
I have photographs of each of the railway’s 79 passenger cars (and all the other equipment), and with the 400mm lens, got a different angle on a few of the cars here.

WP&YR 'Lake Goat' passenger car
I started my Skagway visit at the viewpoint on the Dyea Road. It was a good spot to get photos of the two megaships in that day, the Norwegian Bliss (seen in the next photo) and Royal Princess. Norwegian Bliss has a capacity of 4,002 passengers (at double occupancy, so can go much higher), with 1,700 crew members. Royal Princess is slightly smaller, with a capacity of 3,560 passengers at double occupancy, and 1,346 crew members.

Norwegian Bliss docked at Skagway
I was amazed by the number of caterpillars crawling around the viewpoint. The Chilkat Valley News from Haines said recently, “While many people call them woolly bears, retired ornithology professor and Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Bob Armstrong said the bumble bee looking caterpillars are called spotted tussock moth caterpillars. Despite their bright, colorful and cuddly appearance, it’s a bad idea to handle them because, like bumble bees, they can sting.”

A spotted tussock moth caterpillar at Skagway
Buying things other than food is rather a novelty for me now. In Skagway I picked up a set of neutral density filters for my camera (for shooting waterfalls primarily), a couple of books to assist on my journey, and a journal that was gifted to me by a friend who made it.

At about 10:00 that night, a member of my Aurora Alert group posted that an aurora display had begun. I looked out but it was weak, and the aurora forecast was just a Level 2, meaning we shouldn’t expect much if anything. But as more reports were posted, I kept an eye on it, and as the display got better, got my camera gear together at about 11:00.

I was too tired to drive to a better location, so just went out into my front yard in my pyjamas and started shooting at 11:15. The neighbour across the street has huge “security” lights that make aurora shooting not very good, but as the aurora spread across the sky, I walked out onto the road (still in my pyjamas πŸ™‚ ), and started shooting the south-eastern sky. The next photo was shot at 11:23.

The aurora borealis at Whitehorse, Yukon
The display rapidly got better and better, and I was shooting constantly. I varied settings a bit as the light intensity changed – the next photo, shot at 11:27, was shot with my Canon EOS 7D and Rokinon 10mm f2.8 lens, at ISO 1000 and 15 seconds.

The aurora borealis at Whitehorse, Yukon
The show peaked at 11:32 (when I shot the next photo), and I had reduced my exposure time to 13 seconds. From there it diminished and faded quite rapidly.

The aurora borealis at Whitehorse, Yukon
The final photo looks to the north again, so shows my neighbour’s lights, but it also shows some great colour in the aurora below the tree line. I would have gotten much better photos if I’d gone for a drive to an open view, but I was really happy to get a show like that to end the day.

The aurora borealis at Whitehorse, Yukon

I’m back – slowly recovering from my hiking injury

I last posted here on Sunday, August 18th. I was home for 2 days after an 8-day stay at Whitehorse General Hospital following a fall during a hike on August 7th. The day following my last post, Cathy and I flew to Vancouver to meet a neurologist at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH).

While I have a ways to go yet before I’ll be out on hiking and motorcycling adventures again, the worst is over. Here’s a brief look at what’s happened to get me to this point.

Between Cathy, Air North, and a wheelchair, we got to Vancouver Monday morning. We had absolutely no idea what to expect at VGH – would we just be in and out for the test(s) I needed, or an overnight stay? I had brought what I’d need to stay overnight.

The taxi ride (a very long one due to an accident on the ramp from the airport) was awful. The movement caused the dizziness that is one of my primary symptoms to bring on bad nausea – I just barely kept my stomach contents where they belonged.

We got off to a very bad start at VGH. Although we had an appointment to meet the neurologist at the Emergency Department, it took about 5 hours to get to see him and 2 neurology students. Then, we were told this would be a multi-day stay to get all the tests done. We decided that Cathy would fly home the next morning, and she got a nice hotel across the street from the hospital. Despite the fact that they had no bed for me, I wasn’t allowed to join her – I spent that stressful night in a hallway in a back corner of Emerg. Late Monday night, a nurse brought me a sleeping mask (eye shades) and earplugs, which helped. I shot the first photo very early Tuesday morning while I was in a very dirty mood.

Murray at Vancouver General Hospital Emergency Department on Aug 20 2019

The neurologist had told me that they’d found nothing to indicate that any serious damage had been done by my fall. But I felt awful, and spinal injuries scare the hell out of me. The “what if” scenarios spinning through my head were never positive πŸ™

At about noon on Tuesday (August 20th), I was wheeled on the stretcher to a ward in the Djavad Mowafaghian Neurosciences Unit in the huge Jim Pattison pavillion. A couple of days later, I shot this photo of the elevators that brought people to the unit. In the “small world” department, I worked for Jim Pattison for a dozen or so years back before he became uber-wealthy – he actually used to pop by the Overwaitea Foods warehouse to chat with us occasionally.

Djavad Mowafaghian Neurosciences Unit at VGH
Meals at the Whitehorse hospital had been very good – made from scratch, interesting, and large. At Vancouver, they were none of the above. How’s this for a dismal excuse for breakfast? I hear that’s the norm across BC now πŸ™

A dismal breakfast at VGH - Aug 22 2019
On Wednesday, a couple of Physical Therapists came to assess me. We went for a walk, me with a walker, and things went badly. I got so dizzy and weak that they had to take me back to bed with a wheelchair.

Aug 22 2019
Having a wheelchair beside your bed, and a sign above the bed noting you as a fall risk, not to move without a walker or assistant, is very disheartening.

Aug 22 2019

On Thursday, I was determined to work this out, and was up and down the halls a few times with my walker. A nurse came by that evening to say it had been noticed how hard I was working.

That evening, the neurology team also came by and told me that I could go home if my final test on Friday, an electromyography (EMG), showed nothing significant as they expected. They were confident from what they and the other staff members had seen that I could heal at least as well at home. They were worried about how I’d be able to make travel bookings, but I assured them it was no problem. Within minutes of them leaving, I was booked on Air North’s Saturday morning flight home.

On Friday morning, my Physical Therapist graduated me from a walker to a cane. Much better! The tests that day all verified that no serious damage had been done in the fall – the neurology team were still confident that this would work itself out.

My final dinner at VGH – sesame ginger cod. This actually tasted pretty good, though a serving about double that size would have been more reasonable.

Aug 23 2019
On Saturday morning, my niece, Sari, picked me up at VGH, and drove me to the airport. The drive was much better than the taxi ride on Monday had been, but I still got quite nauseous. I had arranged for a wheelchair at YVR, and I had breakfast before Sari wheeled me to the security gate. She had to leave me there. I suppose I could have gotten an Air North rep to help me get to the gate, but I wheeled myself there – it was a very long way. At 10:15, my chauffeur arrived πŸ™‚

Air North at YVR - Aug 24 2019
I normally love flying, but I just wanted this flight to be over. It was cloudy all the way, so there wasn’t even anything to take my mind off the situation.

Coffee on Air North - Aug 24 2019
That afternoon, therapy tool #1, the hot tub, was being readied (we get hot water delivered for it). It occurred to both Cathy and I that getting into it could be a challenge for a while, but it turned out to be easy. I had sunk the tub down into the deck so the rim is the perfect height to sit on and just swing my legs over. And OMG it felt good!

Hot tub being filled - Aug 24 2019
Cathy told me that if I was good and did what the medical team told me to do, she’d make my favourite breakfast, smoked salmon eggs Benedict. I did, and on August 25th she did πŸ™‚

Smoked salmon eggs Benedict - Aug 25 2019
My Facebook post on August 26th: “It occurred to me a couple of hours ago that there are walkers with engines – they’re called lawn mowers. The non-motorized one – the wheelbarrow – was a lot tougher, but I’ve got this. I’ll be back in the mountains soon.”

Lawn mowed - Aug 26 2019
By August 27th, though I was having a quiet day after over-doing it the previous day, I felt almost ready to stop using the cane. The hot tub and home gym, a sunny deck and a trail for forest bathing and earthing were and still are my healing agents.

Aug 27 2019
This awesome shower in the late afternoon of the 27th was just what I needed to finish off the day right. After some pretty dark days, I was rejoicing at where I was.

Aug 27 2019
That night, I even went out and took some photos of the Milky Way (with a satellite crossing in front of it) from the deck.

Milky Way - Aug 27 2019
On August 29th I posted on Facebook: “I’ve seen this quote a few times recently, posted by friends who like themselves, and like being alone. So I made my own image with it. I need to get out onto the land for a few days very soon – perhaps this coming weekend if things continue to progress well. I may not do a lot beyond sitting on the beach, but that’s okay.” That possible getaway didn’t happen.

Aug 27 2019
Healing energy and meditation have been very important for me the past 3 weeks, filling countless hours of my time. In greetings, namaste has no direct translation. Of the meanings I’ve found, the one I use as my meaning is “I bow to the place in you that is love, light, and joy.”

Sept 1 2019

And here we are – Monday, September 2nd. While I’m basically functional, long walks and long drives aren’t possible. We tried to go to Skagway on Saturday but I had to get Cathy to drive after less than an hour. I’m improving slowly (with some setbacks) but my patience, particularly with summer rapidly disappearing, has pretty much worn out. It’s only been 32 days since I fell, and I’m improving far faster than initial conversations led me to believe might happen. During my final talk with one of my neurologists, though, she said that full recovery could take weeks or even months. Too much rest will retard my healing – I need to be active to some degree, and find my balance as to what works and what is too much. In 2 weeks Cathy is going to Europe for a month. It’s impossible to say what shape I’ll be in by then, but I have a great support network if I have problems.

I’m trying to focus on the fact that this could have been (and for a while looked like it was) so much more serious. But sometimes I think I need a new story – “I fell off a cliff – 63 feet it was. I’m lucky to be alive!!” Being this messed up by simply falling on my bum is just stupid. But I have no problem keeping in mind that some day I’ll be able to look back on this as just a bad memory – many people, including several friends of mine, aren’t that positive right now πŸ™

Value every day, my friends – you just never know which one will be your last good one.

And value your friends. Their support, and their humour, have been a huge comfort to me over the past weeks.

Hospital gown humour

This will be my last “medical” post – back to having fun shortly πŸ™‚