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Family Time! Bella Coola, British Columbia. 2023

Qalxalulhmtulhap means “We welcome you with an open heart” in the indigenous Nuxalk First Nation language. The Nuxálk traditional territories are located around the many inlets and valleys near Bella Coola, on British Columbia’s (BC’s) central coast, and I try to visit this special place as often as possible -- and have always felt welcomed by everyone I have met.

Shake It Off! Atnarko River, British Columbia. 2023

This area has so many of the elements I consider when I look to get away… an end of the road trip (Bella Coola is as far as you can go by car), a great drive with a wonderful valley at the end, wildlife, friendly-welcoming-and open hearted inhabitants, the only land route to the edge of the Great Bear Rainforest, and a ferry ride down the stunningly beautiful Discovery Coast. What more could you ask for?

It is also a prime habitat for both black and grizzly bears, and a few weeks ago my friend Kevin and I decided to go back up with our cameras and tripods and see what we could find during the fall coho and sockeye runs. We had been there together five years before, and we couldn’t wait to go back. This time, we would take a more circular route that would guarantee Kevin total immersion in some of the most scenic areas in the world – the magnificent Discovery Coast, Coastal Mountains, and the Pacific Northwest (Cascadia) region.

Roadside Black Bear! Bella Coola, British Columbia. 2023

Kevin drove from Boise to Bellingham (a little over five hundred miles each way), and then we took my truck and headed up for Kevin’s first experience with Vancouver, the Sea to Sky Highway, and the wonderful towns of Squamish, Whistler (with the Fitzsimmons and Garibaldi Ranges as a backdrop), Pemberton, and Lytton (confluence of the Thompson and Fraser Rivers). There are shorter routes, but really every mile of this has one beautiful vista after another. It is well worth the extra time.

Fisheries Pool! Atnarko River, British Columbia. 2023

We turned north up the Fraser River valley, then west along Route 20, the Chilcotin Bella Coola Highway, which ends at the five-thousand-foot elevation Heckman Pass where we started our steep descent into the Bella Coola Valley. As usual, we stayed with my friends Chris and Kristyn at the Nusatsum River Guesthouse in Hagensborg (just east of Bella Coola). They have some amazing cabins to rent, including a new cabin that we stayed at on this trip, and I highly recommend them. When we pulled in after our second day of driving, Chris had a fresh-caught salmon filet waiting in our refrigerator!

As usual for photography, we were up at five each morning and headed to the Atnarko River to look for bears (the Atnarko combines with the Talchako to form the Bella Coola River). We went prepared for rain, but the sun smiled down on us each day until we left the valley. A few powernaps during the afternoon and back to our cabin well after dark. The hours are exhausting, but when else do you get four days of just sitting along a river with your camera, a good friend, and spending time with bears?

Rockpile Pika! Bella Coola, British Columbia. 2023

One afternoon, just to see different scenery, we went up in elevation to my favorite rockpile to watch for pikas (family Ochotonidae). We joked about searching for the elusive saber-tooth pika that roamed the earth fighting off the great cats and Dire wolves. We didn’t see any of those; the pikas we saw were much cuter and super-fast. However, just talking about that had us continuously looking over our shoulders. That is until we fell asleep – it is really hard to stay awake in the sun, staring at rocks in your chair, and when you have been up since before first light.

King Island & the Burke Channel. British Columbia. 2023

Our last morning in Bella Coola found us in line by five in the morning to board the Northern Sea Wolf, the ferry that would take us down to Port Hardy on the north end of Vancouver Island. This is a ten-hour ferry ride (just under a hundred and nineteen miles) down the Dean and Burke Channels and then south along the Inside Passage to the northern tip of the Queen Charlotte Strait and Port Hardy. I’ve never been on a ferry ride that wasn’t wonderful, this one especially (my wife Stephanie and I took this up to Bella Coola some ten to fifteen years ago). But on this day, it was windy, cold, and grey – always expected along the PNW coast. So, while Kevin wandered about on deck, I enjoyed my second most exciting part of ferry travel – I slept for nearly the entire time!

Now, That's a Dinner! Atnarko River, British Columbia. 2023

The rain continued in Port Hardy, and now we were thinking about home. We booked it down Vancouver Island (another future trip destination) with brief stops in Port McNeill, Cambell River, and Nanaimo, then took the hour-and-forty-minute (thirty nautical miles) Ferry from Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay in Northern Vancouver, crossing the border at Peach Arch and getting home late that evening. In all, over fourteen hundred miles of driving with another two hundred plus on the ferries (another thousand for Kevin).

Mother & Cub! Atnarko River, British Columbia. 2023

And what were the highlights? Well, a week in the car with my friend, followed closely by the bears and pikas, but really… every mile was fantastic, scenic, beautiful, and luckily for us, fire-free. There may be nowhere better to spend a week than doing this circuit through BC. I already want to go back!


· Nuxalk Nation -- The term "Bella Coola" once referred collectively to the Nuxalk, Talio, Kimsquit and some Kwatna who inhabited villages around North Bentinck Arm and the Bella Coola Valley, South Bentinck Arm, Dean Channel and Kwatna Inlet. Their language is considered endangered today as there are likely under 20 fluent speakers. I’d like to share one of their stories on creation and the birth of their nation:

“Aalhkw’ntam, the Creator, created our first ancestors in the upper world, or heaven. He gifted them each with a spirit and breath and they came alive. He gave them names, technologies, and teachings to bring to the earth. He said, ‘Look to my walls of my house.’ Hanging on the walls were bird and animal cloaks (e.g., Raven, Eagle, Grizzly, Killerwhale). The ancestors wrapped these cloaks around themselves and transformed into the animal or bird before they descended to earth on the eyelashes of the sun, the sunbeams that hold up heaven.”

· A saber-tooth is any member of various extinct groups of predatory therapsids, predominantly carnivoran mammals, that are characterized by long, curved saber-shaped canine teeth which protruded from the mouth when closed. Saber-toothed mammals have been found almost worldwide from the Eocene epoch to the end of the Pleistocene epoch (42 million years ago – 11,000 years ago).

· The Dire wolf is an extinct canine. It is one of the most famous prehistoric carnivores in North America and roamed during the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene epochs (125,000–9,500 years ago).


Brilliance! Skagit County, Washington State.

We all have it! I know I have it more than most, as I really need to get out of the house at least daily. It may be to take the dog for a walk, go to the store, or to get a coffee … but I need to be out. Too long in the house and I get cranky. And then Stephanie will make a kind suggestion that maybe I need to get some air? After forty-five years of marriage, she knows the signs. At least weekly, I need to take my camera and get out to my favorite local destinations. And then, of course, there are the urges and cravings for a longer trip, the compulsion to gallivant and be on the road to somewhere different.

“I will never lose the love for arriving, but I was born to leave.”

Charlotte Eriksson

I’ve been lucky this spring and summer to get on two great trips to Yellowstone and British Columbia, and I expect, barring fire closures, to get back north to British Columbia in September. But over the past few months, I have not had the luxury of going out locally on a regular basis and enjoying the wonders of this area where I live.

Purple Mountain Majesty! Skagit County, Washington State.

So, last week, my schedule was clear and I headed out to see what I could find here in Whatcom and Skagit Counties. I wanted first light, so I was in the car by five in the morning (and back for a nap by ten). I live in a beautiful place, and almost always there is something beautiful or wild to photograph. This morning did not disappoint. If you can’t find what you are looking for, be patient. That truly is the secret to photography, especially wildlife. It was certainly true on this morning.

Juvinile Peregrine Falcon! Skagit County, Washington State.

I was out and taking sunrise landscape images, and, at first, there really didn’t seem to be a lot there. Geese flying, backdropped by the Cascades, but a long way off. Good light, but hazy. And one lone heron posing on a log.

Sentinel! Skagit County, Washington State.

I love herons, but I have a few quality shots of these and I questioned if it was worthwhile to go back to the truck, pull out my big lens and tripod, and hike back? But I felt the urge to get something for my time out and I figured that was why I was there, so I switched out my equipment and came back. I may have come back with a new outlook as well. I took a few heron shots, and then started talking to another photographer and birder (the only other person there). It is always a question I have; do I talk or concentrate on my camera? Trying to be less anti-social than usual, I opted to have a conversation.

Wascally Weasel! Skagit County, Washington State.

In the middle of that, I caught movement in the logs and grasses at water’s edge. A weasel! Wow! And in sunlight. Pure gold for a photographer on a slow morning. I quickly signaled the other photographer and swung around and found the subject sitting, for a few seconds, on a nearby log. My then conversation partner was asking what I saw? Was it a bird? What kind? Where? Where? He wasn’t really set up yet and didn’t have his camera at hand … and I don’t think he even saw the small brown skittering weasel running in the brush. An experience I have had (or missed) far too many times.

Take the Plunge! Skagit County, Washington State.

The moral of this story is that there is always something beautiful or unique going on. You might need to look harder, wait a few minutes, or change your perspective (or lens!). To see what is in front of you differently. It may not be visible, or only visible for a second, or you might miss it completely. But if that happens, and you are in a beautiful place at sunrise – you win anyway.

Marsh! Skagit County, Washington State.

All of the images in this posting were taken this one morning. Eyes wide open, senses alert, tuned in – all due to the appearance of a small, solitary, and simply gorgeous long tailed weasel (Mustela frenata). I am so appreciative that he or she decided to share with me that moment in the sun, and to have inadvertently (or not?) changed my perspective, mind-frame, and outlook on life. I was behind the camera for each of these photos, but it was the weasel that opened up the world that morning.

Fields of Plenty! Skagit County, Washington State.

I really like photography, but I am most happy when I am in the presence of wildlife. When that happens, happiness transcends into something more. That direct communication with animals, eye to eye through the camera, creates a sense of connectedness, of belonging, of immersion into the landscape, the experience, and the image. Bears, birds, skunks, weasels, it really doesn’t matter. So, on those occasions where wildlife decides to share their presence with me, to allow me a brief glimpse into their world, I am not sure I believe that is inadvertent at all. It is the culmination of desire, hard work, being in place, and opening your heart to another species who is allowing you, and often only you, to share that moment – that window into the wild.


· I identified the long-tailed weasel through a simple process of elimination. There are 8 species of mustelids that make their home in Washington State. Short-tailed weasels only live on the Olympic Peninsula and within Olympic National Forest, and the spotted and striped skunks, mink, Pacific marten and fisher, and the river otter are easy to identify and certainly not this guy or gal.

· I talk a lot about British Columbia, and how it is one of my favorite travel destinations. But they are having a rough summer. It is, by far, the worst fire season in Canada’s history. As I write this, there are over 1,000 fires burning across Canada, with two-thirds classified as out of control. So far this year, over thirty-four million acres of land have burned. Looking at different reports, that is larger than the state of Louisiana (33.52 million acres), or the state of Maine (22.646 million acres), and greater than the size of Pennsylvania (29,474,560 acres). In British Columbia, there are 380 active fires, with seventeen new just as I write this post.


Coastal Range. Kitimat-Stikine. British Columbia.

While I usually write and photograph the grand, the exquisite, and the marvelous here in and around Washington State, there are so many places of beauty (“ómorfi in Greece”) around the world. I feel blessed to have visited many of those, with expectations for more down the road. So today, I would like to explore “thankful” and “the good life” in different languages and ways.

Pacific Northwest, in mid-summer, is always nearly perfect after the Fourth of July weekend. So far this year, temperatures in the mid to upper seventies, sunshine and just enough rain to keep things green and wonderful. The first summer I can remember when I wore long pants and shoes only twice -- otherwise shorts and flip-flops. The good life!

Wild Mountain Rose. Washington State.

Agradecido (thankful in Spanish) for the weather, for where I live, having family close by, and for the opportunities to enjoy nature here and further away. Grato (Portuguese and Italian) for flowing rivers, high mountain passes, diverse wildlife and for the awesome landscapes of the west and northwest.

Ring-necked Pheasant. Skagit Flats, Washington State.

Vinaka means thank you in Fijian and Bula Vinaka translates as the “good life”. Pura Vida for Ticos in Costa Rica signifies “pure life,” but it really means stunning beauty, friendly people, and a laidback lifestyle – truly a way of life! So Vinaka for my ability to experience and document all these wonderful places, including Fiji, Costa Rica, Spain, Italy, and Portugal in past years.

Welcome to the World! South Cariboo Region, British Columbia.

Bula Vinaka and Pura Vida to each of you. A wish that each of you enjoy life every day! I hope that my images and words will help you anticipate that good life (different for everyone) and get you restless and your heart racing for that next journey, adventure, and experience (Resfeber in Swedish).

“From the moment I rise, I got blue skies, chasing down those storm clouds in my way.”

Agradecido, José Luis Rodríguez

Emerald Reflection! Sweden Lake, British Columbia.

The current perfect weather here at home is especially appreciated given weather conditions elsewhere in the world. As I write this, there are more than 390 fires burning in British Columbia (BC), and the 2023 fire season there is already the most destructive ever recorded. An evacuation order and alert for the BC town of Osoyoos has just lifted after the Eagle Bluff Fire threatened the town’s roughly five thousand residents. Friends looking to paddle Idaho’s Main Salmon are also affected by the Elkhorn fire in Payette National Forest (23,000 acres as of August 1). It is 107 degrees in Phoenix, 106 in Dallas, and 134 in Death Valley (the hottest temperature in the world today). Greece, eastern Spain, and southern Italy hit 113 degrees earlier this week.

Roadside Encounter! Babine Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia.

So, a good time to stay home or come visit friends and family in the Northwest. Low 80’s in Vancouver, high 60’s in Anchorage and Fairbanks, and about the same for summer in the far Northwest Territories (still on my “go-to” list). We could use more precipitation as we are currently experiencing a drought, an old Irish-English word for the perfect weather for drying clothes (well-named or what?). Water, and tons of it, is the beauty and source of the Pacific Northwest’s brilliant and translucent mosses and wetlands, whitewater rivers and awesome snowpack. It is also what keeps western Washington relatively fire and smoke free.

Morning Swim! Nechako River, British Columbia.

Anyone who hikes in wilderness, or kayaks and canoes in open water, knows that climate and weather can change in a minute. But I am hoping (knock on wood!) that nothing dramatic happens here over the next months (or years). As my then eleven-year-old daughter reminded me when we first moved to Bellingham, this is the land of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, lahars (rolling slurries of rock and water), and tsunamis. Komo Kulshan (Mt. Baker) needs to just sit there, enjoy being a beautiful backdrop for the Salish Sea and a destination for hikers and climbers seeking its summit. The Cascadia subduction zone off the coast of Northern California, Oregon, and Washington just needs to continue to chill. And of course, we need our average annual forty-two inches of rain to keep those fires at bay!

Common Merganser. Fulton River, British Columbia.

Again, agradecido for our current, local “armogan” weather (Mediterranean for fine weather, perfect for traveling or starting a journey). Here is to continuing and sharing a wonderful summer season of Sonder where we understand that “…each random person we meet is living a life as vivid and complex as our own” – and to an approaching, maybe too-soon Austice, that “wistful omen of the first sign of autumn.” (see endnote)

Picture Lake. Mt. Shuksan, Washington State.


· Both “Sonder” and “Austice” are from the New York Times bestselling book The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig. Described as a daily dose of beauty, and a collection of made-up words that perfectly describe some of the most profound feelings. “Sonder: the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background.” “Austice: a wistful omen of the first sign of autumn—a subtle coolness in the shadows, a rustling of dead leaves abandoned on the sidewalk, or a long skein of geese sweeping over your head like the second hand of a clock.”

· Managed Retreat? Please, Not Yet. Climate impacts on Indigenous Fijian communities.

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