Thursday, October 31, 2013

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 114


Nordfjord or northern fjord is located in the northern part of Sogn og Fjordane county in Western Norway.  It is a long fjord stretching for 66 miles or 106 kilometers from Husevågøy, an island, to Loen a village at the other end.  There are several communities all along the fjord including some old fishing villages that date back to before Viking times.

The fjord is also the home of glaciers among them, Jostedalsbreen, Briksdalsbreen and several others.  Jostendalsbreen covers 188 square miles (487 square kilometers) and is the largest glacier in continental Europe.  The thickest part is 2,000 feet and the length is approximately 37 miles.  A National Park that covers over half the glacier was established there in 1991.   This huge glacier has about 50 “arms” including Briksdalsbreen.  Briksdalsbreen is worth mentioning because it lost 160 feet of ice in 2006 and retreated 479 feet that year and is thought to be in danger of breaking away from the upper ice field.  I found it very interesting that it is not the cold temperature of the region that maintains the glacier but the heavy snowfalls. 

I think the photograph on the postcard was taken at another natural feature in this area, the very deep lake, Hornindalsvatnet .  The lake was officially measured at 1,686 feet (514 meters) deep making it Norway’s and Europe’s deepest lake.  The river Eidselva flowing into an arm of Nordfjorden called Eidsfjorden is the main egress for the lake. 

The postcard is by Axel Eliasson, published in Stockholm, Sweden, and numbered 5045.   It was tinted and then reproduced as a colored card.  The picture shows two men with oars and a woman in a red scarf holding two long poles in this small, single-masted boat.  It is difficult to tell what they are hauling in the boat; it looks like vegetation of some type, a large mound in the middle and a smaller bunch at the end where the men are sitting.  The card is an unused with an undivided back for the address only.  Any message would be written on the picture side of the card.

For more information about Nordfjord, Hornindalsvatnet, and Jostedalsbreen, please see:

Monday, October 28, 2013

Music at UW

  Halloween Organ Recital

Here is something to put on your calendar for Halloween next year—The University of Washington School of Music puts on organ concerts annually beginning with a Halloween recital at this time of year.  The event is held in the cozy Walker Ames room in Kane Hall on the campus that holds about 100 to 150 people and was a treat not a trick.  The Littlefield organ was decorated, as were other areas in the room.  All the performers and a few people in the audience were in costume. The evening opened with Hedwig’s Theme from the Harry Potter movies continuing on with a variety of old and new music including some familiar Bach, Mozart and Grieg.  The room was almost full even though a football game was being held at the same time in the stadium on the other side of the campus.

Part of the audience and the organ

The organ with decorations

The performers in costume

After the recital the participants posed for a few photos.  Unfortunately I was not standing in the right position to get a good picture of all of the performers but Professor Carole Terry is in the center with the red & black jester hat, the students:  William F. Bryant as the Grim Reaper, Kyujin Choi the ladybug, Samuel Libra as the doctor, Kyle Kirshenman in a gray kimono, Hyun-Ja Choi & Ahra Yoo were wearing Mickey Mouse ears and black cat red ears that lit up, Christopher Howerter was the cowboy, David Boeckh was the vampire in top hat and cape, and Cara Peterson was in the red robe.  [If I made an error and got someone in the wrong costume, I apologize.]

The organ was installed in 1990 and is named for the Littlefield brothers, Edmund and Jacques, who donated the money for its construction.  It is beautiful.  It was handmade in Tacoma by Paul Fritts & Company Organ Builders and was modeled after 17th century German and Dutch instruments.  It has 979 pipes ranging from 10 feet to the size of a pencil and has a wonderful tone.  This evening was great fun and one I hope to repeat next year.

For more information about the upcoming organ recitals and the Littlefield organ see:

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Iron Goat

Mountain Goat

The photo of mountain goat shown above was taken several years ago in South Dakota but he had to have some space because the trail we hiked this week is called Iron Goat and is located near Stevens Pass, Washington.  The logo for the Great Northern Railroad is a mountain goat, hence the trail name Iron Goat refers to the company and the iron rails.  It was part of the railway but is now an interesting historical and interpretive hike.  The tracks were removed years ago and this line was not used after 1929 when a longer tunnel and safer route opened. 

 Start of the trail

Sign at the trail head

There are still a few artifacts left from the railroad days and placards are here and there along the trail to explain and give some historical facts.  Not too far from the trail head it climbs steeply up the bank to connect with the main trail.  After getting to the top portion it climbs very gradually, about 100 feet every mile, and is easy walking; however, like most hiking trails this one is narrow in places and rocky. 

Iron spikes

When the railroad tracks were first installed by Great Northern in 1893 hundreds of trees on the hillsides were cut down.  At the time it was not known that by doing so they put the new rail line in jeopardy from slides and avalanches.  The remains of snow sheds, one made of timber and others made of concrete, are still visible along the way.  We puzzled over how they were able to construct the huge cement wall so far into the wilderness in 1893 but the one we reached is still standing and there are others farther along that we did not walk to.  One of the tunnels has caved in or been blasted shut but the opening is still there and the placard explained how all the work was done by manual labor using pick axes, blasting, and hauling out all the rubble.  

Placard explaining about the tunnel construction

Mouth of the old tunnel

The forest is mixed, broad leafed maples, alder, birch, evergreen firs and cedars even a few golden larches.  The trail was deep in maple leaves in places and I felt like a little kid rustling through them, kicking leaves.  We did not see any animals except for a garter snake and birds.

The little garter snake froze when we approached so a picture was possible.  I have not seen a snake for ages thus it was fun to come across a harmless little one and be able to take a photo.

There were some late flowers in bloom and some of the trees still had pretty autumn colors but many trees had already lost their leaves.  Mushrooms or toadstools were hiding under the downed leaves everywhere along the way. 

Vegetation and water are now making a new home on the old cement snow shed wall.  

Looking up the leaf strewn trail

Mushrooms growing on the trees

Mushrooms—not checking to see if they are edible and choice but preferring to think of them as toadstools—fun to look at, not going to taste.

Thimble berry in bloom in October

Besides the Thimble berry we saw tall yellow violets, cinquefoil, foamflower, a few white daisies and miner’s lettuce. 

Tall yellow violet

Golden Larch trees formed a line on the hill across the way

View looking out from the snow shed wall

The four mile round trip for us was from the trail head up to the first large cement snow shed wall and back.  All the way to the end is 6 ½ miles or a 13 mile round trip.  Neither of us is ready for that yet.  Some people leave a car at each end and just hike the 6 ½ miles but it is possible to stop anywhere along the way and return.  The railroad put up convenient mile markers, like the one below--at least one is missing--which makes it easier to tell just how far one has walked.  

This would be a good hike for families with children.  The only slightly difficult part was the steep rocky ascent to the main trail which, of course, has to be gone down on the return trip.  Going down is always harder for me because it jars the knees and puts additional stress on my legs.  There is an outhouse at the trail head with a compostable toilet.  It is nicer than the outhouse at the Ranger Station and the only restroom facilities with flush toilets are miles and miles away.  Just something to consider especially when taking children along.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 113

Big Four Mountain Inn & cabins, 1931

The Big Four Mountain Inn located on the Mountain Loop Highway was built in 1921 and burned to the ground in 1949.  It is now a picnic area.  

Since we had visited Big Four Mountain just a couple of weeks ago I thought it might be fun to share this postcard photo of the mountain and the inn taken by John A. Juleen (1874-1935) in 1931.  Juleen established a commercial photography studio in Everett, Washington in 1908.  Following his death his wife continued to operate the studio until 1954.  He took thousands of photos of Everett businesses and industry, portraits, and numerous views in the Snohomish area.  In the 1930s he published an extensive collection of postcards.  Juleen used a Kodak Cirkut panorama camera and was one of the first photographers to take aerial pictures of Everett and Snohomish County.  The Cirkut camera was designed as a rotating camera, patented by William J. Johnston in 1904 and first manufactured by Rochester Panoramic Camera Company in 1905.  The model number indicated the maximum width of the film, as an example, the model No. 16 took 18 feet of film corresponding to the width of the panorama.  Today the Everett public library has several of his photographs but only a few examples of the postcard collection.  The card above was reproduced by Smith-Western Inc. of Portland, Oregon and is available at the Verlot Ranger Station and visitor center.    

Besides the main inn there were cabins seen in the foreground at the lower left side of the card.   Big Four Mountain Inn was one of a few such resorts, one at Mt. Baker that burned, one at Ohanapecosh, demolished in 1967, another at Longmire, where the main inn burned in 1926.  Lodges still exist at Paradise and Sunrise on Mount Rainier. 

Big Four Mountain was a lavish resort with transport via a branch railroad that ran from Hartford near Lake Stevens to Monte Crisco.  This rail line was primarily used to transport timber for the logging industry but also provided passenger service for the settlements, lumber camps, mines and eventually to the resort.  The rail line was popular with tourists because it allowed access to mountain scenery.   The inn and cabins cost the developers, Wyatt and Bethel Rucker, $150,000 to build.  All the facilities had hot and cold running water; there was a 9-hole golf course, tennis courts, and an artificial lake.  Buses or “gas cars” were used to bring guests to the inn over the rail line.  The resort had many visitors including some celebrities who signed their names on the lobby walls. 

When the fire broke out in the main building on 7 September 1949 the caretaker, Fay “40” Watts managed to avert a greater disaster by keeping the fire from spreading to the resort’s gas pump and tank.  The three story 53-room wooden inn was described as burning like kindling.  The inn and the smaller annex could not be saved.  The fire ended Big Four resort and within a few years the Forest Service required the owners to remove the remaining improvements leaving only the fireplace and some sidewalks. 

The fireplace remains from the Big Four Mountain Inn

This second card above shows a map of the Mountain Loop Highway and the various hiking sites.

For more about Big Four Mountain Inn, see:

For more about J.A. Juleen the photographer and/or the Cirkut camera, see:

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Lake Evan and Boardman Lake

Another short, easy hike this past week.  This time we went to two lakes, Lake Evan and Boardman Lake, which are on the Mountain Loop Highway just past Granite Falls and the Verlot Ranger station. 

The Verlot Ranger Station and visitor center looks like a little house.  The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built it in the 1930s.   It has a small museum with early historical photos and information about the area.  For more about the Ranger Station and the CCC see:

It was foggy in the city but the sun was shining in the mountains.  The trail is full of roots and rocks in places but has so many big trees and then opens out to the beautiful isolated lakes.  Lake Evan is just a short distance from the trailhead.  The water was still as a mirror reflecting the trees. 

The bunchberry leaves had turned mostly red

There were a lot of snag trees that had bleached out to silver, were still standing, but no long growing.


We continued up the trail until we came to Boardman Lake.  It was as calm as Lake Evan had been providing more reflections. 

There were patches of brilliant colors on the hillside above the lake.

This area was logged a long time ago but there are still some really big, old trees standing in the forest.

The tree shown below was originally growing on a nurse log or nurse stump but time and weather have eroded away the remains of the first tree and left this interesting tree with open roots.

It is getting a little too late in the season to see many flowers in bloom, however, we did come across a few Solomon Seal plants that had gone to seed.

There were some mushrooms (toadstools) too.

This hike is about 2 miles round trip.  Except for all the roots and rocks it was an easy hike with only about a 300 feet elevation gain.  Driving back we got views of beautiful scenery wherever we looked.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Big Four Mountain & Ice Caves

 Big Four Mountain

Last week’s mini hike was to Big Four Mountain and the Ice Caves near Granite Falls.  This is a short 2 mile round trip hike on a super improved, wheel chair accessible trail—wide boardwalks, and even gravel or paved surfaces.  There was only a 200-foot elevation gain, the fall colors on the trees were so pretty, not many people, traces of a number of waterfalls and the ice caves.

We had a picnic lunch near the caves but did not go inside.  Only last year someone was killed who had gone inside the caves.  There are signs warning of the dangers but we did meet two other hikers who had gone inside. These two men had passed us earlier as we were walking up toward the caves and we did not know that they had gone inside but thought they had continued up to the second set of caves.  The caves do not exist earlier in the season but appear at the end of the summer or in the fall when the snow and ice is melting enough to form them. 

Looking up from the trail toward the mountain we saw the remains of some of the trees that had been knocked down in an avalanche that took out hundreds of trees.  This same avalanche also took out the old bridge that has now been replaced.  Part of the new bridge is visible in the photo below.

The trail had several wooden walkways and bridges

This metal bridge is also a replacement for an older bridge that was lost during a river flood.  The river water was so clear that we could see the bottom easily.

More than one of these signs warned of the dangers near the ice caves

Approaching the ice caves

The photo above of the two hikers who entered the caves through the hole on the right side of the ice shelf gives some idea of the size of the openings in the ice.  When we met up with them later on the return trip to the parking area they said all the openings joined to make one large cave,  showed us some of the pictures they had taken of the interior and said there were two waterfalls inside.  

There is melting ice and running water under the shelf so the top and sides forming the caves are very unstable at this time of year.  It was extremely unwise for these two hikers to have entered and if the sides or part of the top had fallen in no one would have known they were trapped or crushed inside.  We were very content to sit on the rocks and admire the caves from a safe distance.

There was a lot of Autumn color including these red Mountain Ash berries
A bonus stop at Granite Falls completed the day.