Alaska Bucket List Trip

Day 3 – September 3 (Seward)

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View from Resurrection Roadhouse at Windsong Lodge

Awoke to the wonderful sounds of nature. I have to take a moment here to express that absolutely nothing can prepare one properly for the grandeur and scope that is Alaska. Even when one is traveling through it or looking out the window experiencing it, it’s impossible to comprehend the vastness. The trees are taller and denser than any I’ve ever encountered before, even those in areas where civilization has intruded enough to build.

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View from the parking lot at Resurrection Roadhouse at Windsong Lodge

We had breakfast at the Roadhouse and boarded the shuttle for the trip to the harbor for our Kenai Fjords cruise. Let me preface by saying that the weather was so bad the day before that all of the cruises had been either cancelled or limited to Resurrection Bay. We were scheduled to go out into the Gulf of Alaska as part of our 6-hour tour (cue Gilligan’s Island theme) of Kenai Fjords National Park.

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“Our” Major Marine Tours Catamaran

The Major Marine Tours boat was a catamaran, so I felt certain that the cruise would be as smooth as possible. Our all-female crew was wonderful. Our guide was a U.S. Park Ranger – Ranger Dan. Ranger Dan was originally from Sandy Springs, Georgia (not far from where we used to live). The ride out in the bay was breathtaking. We went past Bear Glacier, where it looked as if an immense vehicle had driven down it. Those areas of dark are called moraines. We passed some water caves and lone standing rocks that reminded me greatly of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the Pictured Rocks area.

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Bear Glacier and Moraines (for size reference, notice full-size boat in front of glacier)

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Standing Rocks Reminiscent of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

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Giant Cave

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Could not BELIEVE someone was out on a Jet Ski (It was very chilly!)

Not far past the rocks, we entered the Gulf of Alaska and happened upon a pod of Orca. There were several adults and a few juveniles. While not nearly as rough as the previous day, there was plenty of rocking and rolling while the ship cut its engines to drift and watch the orca. We stayed as stationary as possible considering the seas for quite a while. Sadly, this took quite a toll on many of our shipmates.

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Adult and Playing Juvenile Orcas

When Captain Kayleigh started the boat back up and headed toward Aialik Bay and Glacier, it was not a moment too soon. Even though I’d taken Bonine (a motion sickness medication), that rocking with the diesel fumes had gotten to me. As we pulled close to the Aialik Glacier, there was a tremendous explosion sound and then intense thunder as the great glacier calved. I’m so glad I was able to see this intense, natural phenomenon. As I was trying to see the Harbor Seals up along the edge of the by, the glacier calved yet again.

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Aialik Glacier in Aialik Bay

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Aialik Glacier Calving (note spray from splash)

 

All through the bay, there were small icebergs from the glacier “calves.” The crew managed to fish one of these out of the bay, clean it off, and shatter it into drink-sized pieces. Jim got a glacier margarita. I was still feeling a bit green, so I abstained from that and the “buffet” lunch.

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Harbor Seals at Aialik Glacier (note icebergs from recent calving behind them)

The trip back was quite a bit smoother as the boat was going with the current and waves instead of against it. I also think that the sea had extracted its toll on us so was kinder to us on the return. As we went through the passages in the Channel Islands, we were able to see flocks of puffins (both Horned and Tufted) in the wild. We also saw Sooty Shearwaters and Black-legged Kittiwakes. On the rocks was a huge colony of huge Stellar Sea lions. Most of the trip the sky had cleared greatly and these immense mammals were sunbathing and taking in the warmth. When we passed the area where we had seen the orca on the way out, we found they were still there and even more visible. Luckily though, we had very little time left on the tour, so the Captain and crew made for the harbor after only a short stop.

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Black-legged Kittiwake in foreground – Horned & Tufted Puffins behind

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Large Colony of Stellar Sea Lions (basking in the sun which finally came out)

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Four of the Pod of Orcas

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Ranger Dan Holding Map of Our Route (and all the wildlife seen)

Once back on dry land, I felt a whole lot better and we scouted for someplace to grab a bite and a cocktail. Right next to the boat harbor is Ray’s Waterfront. Our shuttle driver had recommended the place – and it was close, so we gave it a try. I’m very glad we did. The service was a bit awkward, but the bourbon was good and the macadamia-crusted halibut, with coconut curry rice and sauce was very good – actually, one of the better meals on the trip.

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Ray’s Waterfront (picture from Pintrest)

We stopped across the street and bought a pint bottle of Maker’s Mark. (Have I mentioned that everything in Alaska is quite a bit more expensive than in the lower 48? Just getting products into Alaska is way more expensive, so they pass that along in pricing.) The clerk had to see BOTH of our licenses – out of the wallets. Now, y’all know how old we are. I guess a rule is a rule and he could get fired if he didn’t require us to pull out our id, but really?

We caught the last scheduled shuttle of the evening and headed back to the lodge. After a quick nightcap, we headed for bed. It was a very long day, but one not easily forgotten.

When the Gales of November Came Early – 44 Years Ago (Repost)

Every November 10, I reblog my post on the Edmund Fitzgerald. 44 years seems like a long time to most of us, but to the families of the crew lost, it must seem like yesterday.
Ever since I moved to Michigan, and especially since I have now been to Whitefish Point and seen the bell and the other ephemera at the Shipwreck Museum, it is even more poignant.
I hope you will read, enjoy, and comment on the story. It would be especially interesting to hear your memories.

 

November 10, 1975. Do you remember?

“The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called ‘Gitche Gumee’
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty.
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early.”

 Gordon Lightfoot, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” 1976

 

I remember it well. I can still “see” Harry Reasoner sitting at his desk on the evening news talking about the apparent loss of the ship “Edmund Fitzgerald” and crew of 29. For some reason, it struck me – viscerally. Perhaps it was because we were so used to seeing great ships going under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge (although they were not nearly as large as the Great Lakes freighters). I remember following the story at the time. I never forgot the sadness I felt. Then, too, there’s that song…it’s one of those that sticks in your head and takes forever to get rid of.

The last voyage of the Great Lakes Freighter “Edmund Fitzgerald,” captained by Ernest M. McSorley, started in Superior, Wisconsin on November 9, 1975. The “Fitz” was loaded with over 26,000 tons of iron ore pellets. The ship was scheduled to transport the cargo to Zug Island on the Detroit River. She left port with the Arthur M Anderson whose captain was Bernie Cooper. It was determined that the Edmund Fitzgerald would take the lead as she was the faster vessel.

Both captains were acutely aware of a building November storm entering the Great Lakes. Captain McSorley and Captain Cooper agreed to take the northerly course across Lake Superior, where they would be protected by the Canadian shore. They would later make a turn to the southeast to eventually reach the shelter of Whitefish Point.

Weather conditions continued to deteriorate. Gale warnings had been upgraded to storm warnings early in the morning of November 10. While conditions were bad, with winds gusting to 50 knots and seas 12 to 16 feet, both Captains had often piloted their vessels in similar conditions.

 

Last Voyage

As the Fitzgerald approached Caribou Island, it appeared to Captain Cooper on the Anderson that the Fitz had passed far too close to Six Fathom Shoal. He could clearly see the ship and the beacon on Caribou on his radar and could measure the distance between them. He and his officers watched the Fitzgerald pass right over the dangerous area of shallow water. By this time, snow and rising spray had obscured the Fitzgerald from sight

According to transcripts and quoting from the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum website, “At 3:30 pm that afternoon, Captain McSorley radioed Captain Cooper and said: “Anderson, this is the Fitzgerald. I have a fence rail down, two vents lost or damaged, and a list. I’m checking down. Will you stay by me till I get to Whitefish?” McSorley was “checking down” his speed to allow the Anderson to close the distance for safety. Captain Cooper asked McSorley if he had his pumps going, and McSorley said, ‘Yes, both of them.’”

There were no more extraordinarily alarming reports from Captain McSorley that afternoon. However, at around 5 p.m., a wave smashed into the Anderson smashing its starboard lifeboat. Winds were reported to be almost 60 knots steady, with gusts to 70 knots. Seas were running 18 to 25 feet.

Again, from the GLSM website, “According to Captain Cooper, about 6:55 pm, he and the men in the Anderson’s pilothouse felt a “bump”, felt the ship lurch, and then turned to see a monstrous wave engulfing their entire vessel from astern. The wave worked its way along the deck, crashing on the back of the pilothouse, driving the bow of the Anderson down into the sea.

“Then the Anderson just raised up and shook herself off of all that water – barrooff – just like a big dog. Another wave just like the first one or bigger hit us again. I watched those two waves head down the lake towards the Fitzgerald, and I think those were the two that sent him under.’”

The first mate of the Anderson spoke to the Fitzgerald one last time, about 7:10 pm.

Fitzgerald: “We are holding our own.”

“Okay, fine, I’ll be talking to you later.” The mate signed off.

The radar signal, or “pip” of the Fitzgerald kept getting obscured by “sea return,” meaning that seas were so high they interfered with the radar reflection. Around 7:15 pm, the pip was lost again, but this time, did not reappear. The Anderson’s First Mate called the Fitzgerald again at about 7:22 pm. There was no answer.

Quoting Captain Cooper, “At this time I became very concerned about the Fitzgerald – couldn’t see his lights when we should have. I then called the William Clay Ford to ask him if my phone was putting out a good signal and also if perhaps the Fitzgerald had rounded the point and was in shelter, after a negative report I called the Soo Coast Guard because I was sure something had happened to the Fitzgerald. The Coast Guard were at this time trying to locate a 16-foot boat that was overdue.”

Captain Cooper kept asking the few other ships in the area if they had seen or heard anything from the Fitzgerald. As there had been no word, he persisted with the Coast Guard. Captain Cooper and his crew had just managed to pilot the Anderson to safety in Whitefish Bay. They were all breathing a huge sigh of relief when the Coast Guard made a huge request of them.

There were no Coast Guard ships in the immediate area. Could the Anderson go back out into the storm to look for the Fitzgerald? I can’t imagine the anxiety. Here they had just reached safety after being hammered by a huge storm including two huge, rogue waves (called “two sisters” in maritime lingo), but the seaman’s unwritten code is that you go to try to help fellow seamen.

The Anderson became the lead boat in the search. The Anderson was again severely pounded by the storm and was rolling badly, but they were able to locate the Fitzgerald’s two lifeboats (empty) and other debris, but no sign of survivors. The William Clay Ford also left the safety of Whitefish Bay to help. These two were later joined by two Coast Guard cutters and a fixed-wing aircraft.

The Coast Guard continued the search. On November 14, a specially-outfitted, U.S. Navy plane got a strong signal 17 miles off Whitefish Point. In the next few days, the Coast Guard cutters used different technologies (including side-scan radar) to check that area. One of them located two large pieces of wreckage on the bottom in the same area. A similar search took place in late November. However, winter was closing in. There would be no chance to continue until spring. As large as the Great Lakes are, Mother Nature and winter are stronger. The Lakes become impassible with ice.

In May of 1976, they returned to try to determine if these sonar responses were, indeed, the wreckage of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Navy submersibles took thousands of feet of video and hundreds of still photos. On May 20, 1976, all question as to the final resting place of the “Fitz” was removed as photos were examined and the name “Edmund Fitzgerald” was clearly seen on the stern, upside down, 535 feet below the surface of the lake.

Depiction of the Wreck

In November of 1994, family members of the crew brought their concerns to The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS). They were worried that technology was getting to the point where more and more divers were able to dive the wrecksite of the Fitzgerald. They, naturally, considered this sacred ground as it is the final resting place of their loved ones. The families were still trying to find some form of “closure.”

After discussions with the families, a long list of U.S. and Canadian government agencies, and the owners of the wreck, it was determined that a single, significant artifact – the ship’s bell – could be removed from roof of the pilothouse and brought to shore. A replacement bell, inscribed with the names of the 29 sailors who lost their lives on the Fitzgerald, would be returned to the pilothouse.

The bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald broke water at 1:25 pm, July 4, 1995 as family members watched. A wreath was placed on the water following the recovery. Family members there that day finally had the opportunity to express their grief, say goodbye and for some, bring closure after 20 years. The replacement bell would be returned to the wreck.

The Fitzgerald’s bell was stabilized and then delivered to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. From there, the museum continued restoring the bell for use as the centerpiece of a memorial to the men who died in the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. You can see it, today, as the centerpiece of their museum along with a photo of Captain McSorley and additional information about and pictures of the Fitzgerald.

The Edmund Fitzgerald will forever, legally, remain off-limits to divers as it is the final resting place for the 29 souls lost that fateful night.

 

Christening of the “Fitz”

“Life” moments of the Edmund Fitzgerald

8/7/1957: Keel laid

6/8/1958: Hull #301 is christened “Edmund Fitzgerald” after the CEO of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company

9/24/1958: The Fitzgerald makes her maiden voyage

1972: Captain Ernest McSorley takes command of the Edmund Fitzgerald

11/10/1975: Last day of the great ship

5/20/1976: More than 40,000 feet of video tape from expeditions to the purported wreck by submersibles is examined. The words “Edmund Fitzgerald” were clearly seen on the stern, upside down, 535 feet below the surface of the lake

7/4/1995: The bell of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald is raised, restored, and replaced on the ship by a new bell with the names of the twenty nine men lost. This is the last time the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald will ever again be legally dived upon

 

To this day, the true reason for the sinking goes unsolved. Did the Fitzgerald essentially scuttle herself on the shoals in the storm? Were the hatches properly fastened? Did the two giant, rogue waves (the “two sisters”) that hit the Anderson continue to build and swamp an already listing Fitzgerald driving her into the bottom? We’ll never know. There were no survivors to tell the tale.

“Does any one know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searches all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay
If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her.
They might have split up or they might have capsized;
May have broke deep and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Alaska Bucket List Trip

Day 2 – September 2 (Anchorage to Seward)

Another EARLY start. We needed to be at the Anchorage Railroad Depot at 5:45 a.m. As our bodies were still on Eastern time, this wasn’t as hard as it sounds (there’s a 4-hour time difference). The depot, though, really isn’t set up for the onslaught of humanity that come to board the Alaskan Railroad trains. There are very few seats in the depot and there were hundreds of passengers (mostly older). That said, we were given our “GoldStar” pins (again, we splurged for top-of-the-line travel in the GoldStar Dome) and sent to the front of the train to find our car.

After climbing a very tight, spiral staircase, we found our seats in a beautiful train car with huge, picture windows. The perks of riding in the top-of-the-line compartment is that you get a meal and two “adult beverages,” as well as unlimited coffee, tea and soft drinks. As a heads-up, the bartenders on Alaska Railroad make a mean Bloody Mary!

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Jim on a Train = Happy Man

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Me on a Train = Tired!

The weather was still not cooperating as far as being sunny or clear and there were still a number of large wild fires in the area. I must say, however, that the scenery is matchless! The entire trip was one beautiful vista after another. I saw my first moose from the train just as we were leaving Anchorage. It was walking down a residential street in a subdivision. As the train move on toward Seward, we were hoping to see more birds and animals in the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, but the tide was out in the Turnagain Arm (a body of water with the world’s second highest tides at over 30 feet) so no Beluga whales or much wildlife.

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Leaving Anchorage

 

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Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge

 

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Glacial River Between Anchorage & Seward

 

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One of the Myriad of Waterfalls Between Anchorage & Seward

We went past Spencer Glacier, Bartlett Glacier and through Grandview Pass. Jim took a great shot as the train headed through the Pass. There was an area in the very back of the train car which was open and it afforded some very good shots of glaciers as we passed. It was a little to “breezy” for me, but Jim loved it. Of course, you put Jim on a train and he’s completely happy.

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Alaska Railroad @Grandview Pass – Photo by Jim Pappas

As soon as we were pulling into the Seward depot, I could see the shuttles for the Seward Windsong Lodge. One was, obviously, a baggage truck and the other our passenger shuttle. From the time we left our bags at the depot in Anchorage, we didn’t see them again until they were delivered to our door at the Windsong Lodge. The efficiency of the tourist programs in Alaska is without reproach! I cannot commend Alaska Tour and Travel highly enough. Throughout the entire trip, our rooms were ready, our excursions had us booked properly, and we didn’t have to worry about transfers or anything. Definitely, the way to go!

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Seward Windsong Lodge

Check-in time at the Seward Windsong Lodge (3 p.m.) is strictly adhered to at the Lodge and, since we had arrived before noon, we had several hours to kill.

We had passes to Alaska SeaLife Center which is down on the Seward Harbor, so we hopped on the shuttle. The shuttle made a stop right outside the SeaLife Center. If you ever get to Seward, this is a great attraction. You can spend a few minutes – or a few hours. The cost of admission helps their mission. From their website: “The Alaska SeaLife Center is the only facility in Alaska that combines a public aquarium with marine research, education, and wildlife response.

While primarily dedicated to marine research and education, the nonprofit Center is the only permanent marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation facility in the state.”

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Spotted Seal in for Rehabilitation

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Horned Puffins @Alaska SeaLife Center

We were really looking forward to seeing the sea birds. We got our first-ever looks at Harlequin Ducks, Common Murres, King Eiders, Pigeon Guillemots, endangered Spectacled Eider, and (of course) the stars of the show, the puffins (Horned and Tufted)! I could have watched these amazing creatures for hours as they flew through the water. They can dive to amazing depths and hold their breath for an astoundingly long time.

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Horned Puffin Chilling

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Tufted Puffin

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Tufted Puffin Playing

After a couple of hours, we returned to the Windsong Lodge to get checked in. The property reminded me of the wonderful lodges in the Smoky Mountains or even Switzerland. There were several buildings with roughly 8 rooms (4 up and 4 down) in each nestled into great woods. We opened the window to the sounds of red squirrels, birds, water from a recent rain dripping from the leaves and needles, and wind.

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Seward Windsong Lodge – Poppy

The Resurrection Roadhouse (on the Resurrection River) is located on the grounds of the Windsong Lodge. It consists of a restaurant area and a lounge. The lounge didn’t open until 5, so we opted for a late lunch/early dinner. Again, while the food was filling it wasn’t a stand out. I was a bit disappointed in the crab cakes because I figured (being Alaska) there would be mostly crab. Figured wrong. I WILL say, however, that the Bourbon Mule (a cross between a julep and a mule – mint and ginger beer) was outstanding. I might be beginning to see a theme here.

Resurrection Roadhouse

Photo from TripAdvisor – Weather Was NOT This Nice for Us

Alaska Bucket List Trip – Day 1

Day 1 (Detroit to Anchorage)

The day started early. We woke up at our normal weekday time of 4:30 a.m. The house seemed eerily quiet without our beloved dogs. It was just as well that we had much to do to get the airport. Luckily, our check-in and flights went like clockwork. That, in itself, is amazing. We flew from Detroit to Seattle (about a 5-hour flight), and then from Seattle to Anchorage (approximately 4 hours). I have to admit I am now spoiled for flying. We splurged and bought first-class seats for the entire trip. I guess I never realized how much nicer everything is when flying first-class. Most of both trips were cloudy, but I did manage to snap a couple of photos of Mt. Rainier with my cellphone.

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The wait for the shuttle from the airport in Anchorage was a little long, but not bad. Actually, it was the only transportation on the entire trip that was less than on-the-dot precise. The shuttle driver was very nice and took us to the Clarion which was comfortable and not in the middle of any hub-bub. We got a kick out of the brass sign on the front door warning people that moose DO frequently walk through the area and the parking lot so do not approach them or get out of the hotel or car when they are there.

Since we were pretty well exhausted from the travel and there really wasn’t anything pressing in Anchorage, we walked to Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse to get something to eat. I have to say that the food was just meh, but the beer was very good. Except for a couple of occasions, this was to be true for the entire trip.

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Unexplainable! (A Haunting?)

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

Having grown up (and spent most of my life) in the south, stories of hants, witches, and things that go bump in the night are part of the fabric of our beings. We’ve heard the stories, the “hear-tells,” since we were just wee little things. I don’t know that the south is any more prone to holding on to its spirits, or if it’s a result of the English/Irish/Scots long history of story-telling that keeps these tales going. Since most of the original settlers in the southern mountains were English, Irish, or Scottish, story-telling and acceptance of the unseen was as much a part of their DNA as hair- and eye-color. Thank goodness this has been passed down to today. I think acceptance of the unexplained is part of the reason so many have current-day tales of seeing, hearing, or experiencing things that give us the all-overs.

I also think that there are some folk who are just more (shall we call it) “open” to experiencing things that are perhaps from another dimension or time. I’ve heard it called “sensitive.” Whatever it is. Some of us see or hear things others do not (and, no, I’m not talkin’ about after a few snorts). Perhaps it comes from an active imagination fueled by stories from the past; but just maybe those things really are there – just out of the seeing and hearing of most folk.

I must be one of those people who is sensitive. I’ve had many occurrences of things that just can’t be explained. One of those I will recount in this post. It was something seen (and unseen until recently) on my wedding day.

Let’s go back to late July in 1986. It was hot as the blue-blazes in Georgia. We lived in Marietta (which has many a ghost story associated with it due to the War Between the States). Temperatures were well over 100 degrees and the humidity was sky-high. Frankly, it was miserable, and our wedding was planned for August 2nd.

The Thursday before we were due to be married on Saturday, as all the relatives were arriving in town, a storm hit. It was a storm like none other we’d experienced before (or after). There was virtually constant lightning followed by enormous cracks of thunder that continued to roll for what seemed to be an eternity. Rain came down in sheets and the wind blew to the point we worried about the 40- and 50-foot tall pine trees in the yard. Quite frankly, it was terrifying! The storm raged for almost an hour, then – as suddenly as it came up – it was gone.

Friday, dawned clear and cooler. By Saturday, the temperatures were very comfortable and the humidity was gone. It was a beautiful day – especially by summer in Georgia standards.

 

 

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The Planters Restaurant

We had chosen to be married at the Planters Restaurant in Marietta, GA. This was a pre-War plantation home (previously called Bushy Park) that had survived the war and Sherman due to a pre-existing relationship between the owner and important people in the north. The owner allowed his home to be used as a hospital for Union forces. Still there were skirmishes around the home as evidenced by still-existing bullets in the framework around windows and doors.

We figured that a home that had withstood the onslaught of hundreds of troops and survived through war would be a good place to begin a marriage. We planned to get married outside under a huge, old oak which had seen the worst and was still standing proud and strong. We liked that as a good omen for a strong marriage.

Now for the “strange but true” part. During previous trips to the Planters (which was our favorite restaurant), we had seen some things that were a little “odd.” For example, one cool, early evening, we were walking up the steps to the front door when two of the rockers on the front porch started rocking ever so slowly. Now, there wasn’t a breath of air moving, so that didn’t cause the motion. We kinda looked at each other and went inside. It’s funny to me now that neither of us got the willies over that at all. There was no maleficent feeling or anything even remotely scary. It just seemed “natural.” I can’t explain why, it just didn’t seem at all frightening.

On the day of our wedding, my mother, sister, good friend and I were getting ready in one of the upstairs rooms which had been a “lady’s” bedroom. What a beautiful, sweet room it was. I felt completely at ease there. I should have had butterflies in my stomach – I was, after all, getting ready to vow to spend the rest of my life with the man of my dreams. Instead, I felt intense calm. I will say that all three of the other ladies were a little “jumpy,” but I put that down to excitement.

When the staff member in full, long, war-era dress brushed by the door and just peered in for a moment with a sweet, but almost-sad smile, I thought it was nice. Then I realized, they don’t have staff wearing period costume. My friend went to go look out the door to see what I saw and there was no motion anywhere. She did remark that the hallway felt “cool,” but nothing beyond that.

Still, I didn’t feel anything but calm. I honestly felt as though I was being watched over. There was such a strong feeling of comfort, strength and happiness that pervaded the entire ceremony and gathering afterward. I honestly felt as though the “house” was wishing us well.

Flash forward to just this year. As Jim and I were preparing to celebrate our 31st anniversary, some friends were asking if I could share any of my wedding photos. I also put one up on Facebook. I really didn’t think anything of it – that way, until I saw it. There in the photo, looking back at the camera in the window was the unmistakable outline of the head of a German Shepherd Dog. Both Jim and I have always had affinities for that breed (as most of y’all know and can tell from my previous posts). By the way, this room was on the second floor. Was this my spirit animal watching over me? Was it a trick of light? What do you think?

Wedding Photo Dog

I’m sad to say that The Planters is no longer a restaurant; however, the building still stands. I hope it will continue to do so for another 150 years. For those who watch over it (whether from this world or the next), I am forever grateful.

Remember, I really love to hear your comments. Just click on the “Leave a Reply” link and let me know what you think. Also, let me know if there’s something you’d like to hear more about.

Looking Forward to “Seeing” You Here Next Time on Colmel’s Blog!

Heartbreak Times Two

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

It’s never easy to say goodbye to a beloved family member. For many of us, the loss of a dear four-legged “kid” is as heart-wrenching as any human loss. You may wonder why I haven’t been authoring my blog for so long. Here is a large part of that reason.

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Our Darling Dolly

Dolly

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It’s incredibly hard for me to even think about this, let alone write about it; but I’ll give it a try.

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Dolly

You’ve read about our Dolly girl in several previous posts. Without reprising all of that, I’ll give you a synopsis of how Dolly came to be with us.

We really weren’t looking to adopt. We had Bear and Sydney who had established a relationship over almost three years of living together. Bear had driven poor Sydney (who was a senior when we adopted her) a little crazy with his youthful shenanigans, but they had reached a comfortable status quo. Bear was a couple of weeks shy of his first birthday when we adopted him and Syd was a senior, but it worked. Sadly, though, Syd was slowing down quite a bit and Bear really needed someone to play with. Syd wasn’t a viable candidate for that anymore.

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Dolly – The Face I Couldn’t Resist

One evening I was reading posts on Facebook, when up popped the photo of the most adorable, fluffy, white, German Shepherd Dog I’d ever seen. Jim had always said he would like to have a white GSD female sometime. Here was the cutest face on the planet and she was coming to Michigan. I knew in my heart that she absolutely must come live with us. She would be the white female Jim had wanted and the playmate Bear needed.

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Dolly’s Intake Photo

I put the wheels in motion. I started writing to Southwest Michigan German Shepherd Rescue (the organization that she was coming to all the way from California). I went to their website and filled out all the paperwork. “Dolly” (as she had been named by the rescuers in California) had been pulled from a high-kill shelter by an organization called Miracle GSD Network.

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Dolly Pappas – Day One!

After the Miracle Network checked over our application and followed-up with our references, we were approved to adopt Dolly. Sydney, Bear, Jim, and I piled into the car and drove to meet Dolly. Everyone got along beautifully, and Dolly became part of the family. Honestly, though, she was already firmly in my heart.

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Cinder

 

Cinder

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Cinder at Southwest Michigan German Shepherd Rescue

As you probably recall from previous posts, we adopted Cinder from Southwest Michigan German Shepherd Rescue in 2014. (See previous post “Cinder(ella?)” She had come to the rescue in exceedingly poor shape. She was nothing but skin and bone and her toenails hadn’t been trimmed in ages. Basically, she was a mess. Kristin at SWMGSR immediately went to work to get “Sinder” healthy. She called us as she knew we had experience with adopting seniors and had recently lost our most senior girl. Would we consider taking on another senior?

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Cinder’s Poor Feet on Intake at SWMGSR

After the requisite spaying (and – in this case – nail trim), we rode out to meet “Sinder” with our Dolly (who had been adopted in April of 2014) and Bear (adopted July of 2011). Everyone seemed to get along well, so we signed the paperwork and Cinder (immediately changed her name to match her coloration) came home with us.

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Bringing Cinder Home

Changes and Challenges

Cinder & Dolly

Happy Days – Cinder & Dolly at Miracle/SWMGSR Reunion – Summer 2015

Sometime in the fall of 2015, we noticed that Dolly seemed to be “dragging” her front feet a little. She still would run, but she seemed to knuckle under frequently. Our vet thought it was possible that she had banged her shoulder into the dog door and was experiencing some weakness due to some minor nerve damage. He also cautioned, though, that we might be dealing with Wobblers’ Syndrome if she didn’t improve over a little time.

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Dolly in Doggles for Cold Laser Treatments

My earlier blog posts went into great detail about Dolly’s challenges with Wobblers’ and her brave struggles.

Life has a way of throwing hard, curve balls at you. How you respond to adversity sometimes tells you more about yourself than when things go well.

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Earlier this year, Cinder started a swift decline. Her mobility became very compromised. She had difficulty getting in and out of the house. Walking for her was exceedingly difficult. She was obviously in quite a bit of pain. She didn’t even want to eat. We tried everything the vets recommended, but Cinder was telling us she was done. With a great deal of sorrow, we allowed our big girl to end her pain and suffering and go to the Rainbow Bridge in peace.

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Only a month later, our Dolly dog started to experience very similar problems. Her Wobblers got to the point where she was unable to control any portion of her mobility or her internal organs. We tried helping her with a sling – which worked for a while. Within that short time, though, our Dolly gave up. She couldn’t be coaxed to eat anything. (Dolly had always been such a “chow hound.” Undoubtedly, this was due to her tough life on the streets of California before she was rescued.) She wouldn’t even try to rise. I still get a huge lump in my throat and my eyes tear uncontrollably when I remember the sad, pained look of surrender in her eyes. Once again, we had to make the decision to let her go.

It’s never easy to lose a family member. To lose two in the space of a few short weeks is almost too much to withstand. Our poor boy, Bear, was very sad and confused; but we know that he had an even better sense of the degree of the girls’ conditions and illness than we did. Letting them go was the hardest thing to do, but it was also the ONLY thing to do. Allowing them to suffer was never an option. Cinder and Dolly will always have very special places in our hearts. We will miss them until the day comes that we join them again across the Rainbow Bridge.

Remember, I really love to hear your comments. Just click on the “Leave a Reply” link and let me know what you think. Also, let me know if there’s something you’d like to hear more about.

Looking Forward to “Seeing” You Here Next Time on Colmel’s Blog!

Life is Short, Live in Dog Years

Life is Short, Live in Dog Years

I will be back soon. We just lost two of our precious dogs (Cinder on Feb. 2 and our darling Dolly on March 29). This story is wonderful, touching, and beautiful. Please enjoy. I did – through my tears.

Ruffwear Blog | News, Events & Adventures

Life is Short, Live in Dog Years

Story and Photos Contributed by Ruffwear Ambassador Mallory Paige, in loving memory of her adventure pal, Baylor the Dog.

I used to say a dog’s short life was the hardest part about making them your best friend, but now I know it’s actually the biggest gift. My dog, Baylor, taught me that.

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For 12 years, Baylor and I did everything together. As a tiny puppy he followed me from room to room, unable to relax unless we were snuggled up together. He went on his first road trip at just 11-weeks-old and was irreversibly convinced he was the size of a chihuahua.

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He wasn’t perfect, and that’s what I liked about him. Years of never getting into anything were intermixed with moments of gobbling down an entire carrot cake, shredding a wicker wastebasket and methodically eating an entire rock garden.

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He was an…

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