Approaching Ebey's Landing trailhead

Approaching Ebey’s Landing trailhead

“I leave this notice
on my door
For each accustomed
visitor:
I am gone into the fields
To take what this sweet hour yields.”
— Percy Bysshe Shelley

I take most of my out-of-town guests to Whidbey Island for hiking at Ebey’s Landing.  The journey itself is half the fun as it involves a ferry ride and a drive along country roads with old barns.

Old barn, Whidbey Island

Old barn, Whidbey Island

Another old barn

Another old barn

Ferry viewed from the bluff at Ebey's Landing

Ferry viewed from the bluff at Ebey’s Landing

The hike itself is pretty spectacular no matter which season I take guests there. The trail is a pleasant loop, up a bluff, and then along the beach on the way back.  This past weekend the landscape was as green as I’ve ever seen it.

Stairs at the start of the hike

Stairs at the start of the hike

Notice the hikers (like ants) on the bluff and on the shore

Notice the hikers (like ants) on the bluff and on the shore

The initial uphill stretch.  The path soon levels off at the top of the bluff.

The initial uphill stretch. The path soon levels off at the top of the bluff.

View of farmland from the bluff; so green

View of farmland from the bluff; so green

View from Ebey's Landing

View from Ebey’s Landing

Lupine

Lupine

Steep slope

Steep slope

Tree sculpted like bonsai

Tree sculpted like bonsai

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

Driftwood along the beach

Driftwood along the beach

The homeward stretch along the shore

The homeward stretch along the shore

Seaweed

Seaweed

Seaweed and rocks

Seaweed and rocks

Beach sculpture

Beach sculpture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“There is this form I can’t stop making which is really snakelike, but I often think of it as a river.  It’s the idea of fluidity that is the connection, but I’m not really talking about  a river either.  It’s the movement that interests me.”
— Andy Goldsworthy, Wall

Andy Goldsworthy clay wall sculpture in the Vieil Esclangon Art Refuge

Andy Goldsworthy clay wall sculpture in the Vieil Esclangon Art Refuge

On Days 3, 4 and 5 of our hike, we saw five Goldsworthy works installed in Refuges d’Art, small buildings or shelters, where individuals are allowed to camp overnight.  Our hiking trails took us up and down mountains, across rivers and creeks, with some of the most spectacular scenery of my trip.

We returned to the wild valley of Vancon and hiked to the Church in the abandoned hamlet of Forest.  The ruins of the church were restored to house a Goldsworthy wall sculpture, another recessed elliptical space.  In contrast to the one at the Chapelle Saint Madeleine, this one was a light hole in a dark wall.

Goldsworthy installation in the Church of Forest

Goldsworthy installation in the Church of Forest

Old cruxifix over a grave outside the church

Old crucifix over a grave outside the church

Goldsworthy wall sculpture

Goldsworthy wall sculpture

Lunch break and nap in the hamlet of Forest

Lunch break and nap in the hamlet of Forest

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We hiked high in the mountains along an old “tax trail” to the abandoned village of Faissal.  We seemed to climb ever higher, with grand views of the distant Alps and curious mountain goats watching us from the summit of an adjacent mountain.  And then down, down again.

“Hill and valley followed valley and hill.” — Robert Louis Stevenson, from Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes

Hiking is much too absorbing to allow much thinking, I’ve found.  I moved through the day, step by step, always alert to where I was planting my feet.  I didn’t want to slip on a loose rock and fall or hurt myself.  I was very much in the moment, a satisfying feeling.

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Blue doors on ruin, the village of Faissal

Blue doors on ruin, the village of Faissal

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The refuge at Vieil Esclangon

The refuge at Vieil Esclangon

Goldsworthy river-like clay sculpture

Goldsworthy river-like clay sculpture

Goldsworthy sculpture with x-ray effect

Goldsworthy sculpture with x-ray effect

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The Refuge of Eschuichiere featured two rooms with wall art fashioned by Goldsworthy of rock with natural lines of contrasting color.

“Stretching out lines that already exist interests me more than imagining new ones.  I have made lines that explore and follow the contours of a rock, the edge of a river, the growth of a branch, the junction between house and street . . . The intention is not just to make a line, but to draw the change, movement, growth and decay that flow through a place.”
— Andy Goldsworthy, Wall

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At the end of Day 5, our guide Eric drove us in the van to the farm Belon, which was formerly owned by one of the leaders of the French Resistance in WWII.  In the basement we found several of Goldsworthy’s stone arches.  One of our hikers, Michele, mused about the significance of this “underground” space and its resonance with the “underground” resistance movement.

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I found the entire five-day hiking experience very rewarding.  Not only did I get to see some Goldsworthy art that I would never have been able to find on my own, I also enjoyed the company of some French natives on their home turf.  It made me realize how difficult it is for me when travelling to spend ordinary time with local people.  Typically I am staying in hotels, eating in restaurants, and going to tourist sites — with a bunch of other tourists.  With this guided hike, I had the unusual (for me) opportunity to keep company with some interesting French people, share home-cooked meals at farm tables with them, and even sleep in shared rooms in auberges and gites.  I found that they are great conversationalists (even though I could not understand or speak French, they made an effort to speak English from time to time, and I watched their lively conversations with interest), they were enthusiastic eaters and enjoyed leisurely meals together, they were well read, and they liked President Obama!

Andy Goldsworthy sentinel near Authon

Andy Goldsworthy sentinel near Authon

Andy Goldsworthy built three sentinels in this part of France, and we hiked to two of them — the Authon sentinel on Day 2 and the sentinel in the valley of Bes on Day 4.  All are accessible by road, but Jean-Pierre felt that hiking to them would give us a better feel for the land elements that inspired Goldsworthy.  The sentinels stand like guardians in the landscape.  Although there is no mortar in the stacked stones, they are solidly built — sturdy and steadfast.

Day 2 was perhaps the most challenging day of hiking for me.  We were on the trail from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  Jean-Pierre had to make last-minute changes to our planned itinerary.  We were to have sheltered for the night in one of the Refuges d’Art (huts that housed a Goldsworthy sculpture), but the mountain road was too muddy, and it was impossible to get a vehicle up there with our heavy bags and camping supplies.  The adapted itinerary kept us hiking, sometimes off trail, and through more difficult terrain, for a longer-than-normal day.  At times I felt like a mountain goat!  My worst moment was slipping on a rock and stepping one foot into slimy, smelly swamp sludge.  There was also a scary traverse across scree, short, but Jean-Pierre escorted us safely across one by one.  I had a terrific workout, and the reward for the day’s efforts was seeing the first of Andy Goldsworthy’s sentinels.

Terrain Day 2

Terrain Day 2

The Vancon Valley

The Vancon Valley

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I found this shell fossil in a rock along the trail.  This part of France has many fossil sites.

I found this shell fossil in a rock along the trail. This part of France has many fossil sites.

Cherry blossoms near our lunchtime picnic spot

Cherry blossoms near our lunchtime picnic spot

Guide, Jean-Pierre

Guide, Jean-Pierre

First glimpse of the sentinel near Authon

First glimpse of the sentinel near Authon

This sentinel is situated in an open space at a curve in the road.

This sentinel is situated in an open space at a curve in the road.

The shape of the sentinel mimics a distant mountain peak.

The shape of the sentinel mimics a distant mountain peak.

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That's me with the sentinel!

That’s me with the sentinel!

Sunset at the sentinel

Sunset at the sentinel

On Day 4, after another day of hiking, we saw a second Goldsworthy sentinel in the valley of Bes.  This one was situated in a natural alcove in the looming rock.  It felt like a tiny beacon in a dominating landscape, and yet it felt protected, sheltered and cocooned.

First glimpse of the second sentinel

First glimpse of the second sentinel

The valley of Bes

The valley of Bes

Goldsworthy's sentinel, valley of Bes

Goldsworthy’s sentinel, valley of Bes

Again, the top of the sentinel echoed the shape of a distant peak.

Again, the top of the sentinel echoed the shape of a distant peak.

View from the trail near Courbons

View from the trail near Courbons

Signpost along the trail; we hiked from Courbons to Thoad on Day 1

Signpost along the trail; we hiked from Courbons to Thoad on Day 1

I signed up for this guided hike for the chance to see Andy Goldsworthy’s sculptures, but I was blown away by the spectacular scenery.  On Day 1, we hiked from the village of Courbons to Thoard.  Our destination was the tiny Chapelle Saint Madeleine, perched near the summit of a hill/mountain, which featured a wall sculpture by Goldsworthy.

The marked trail took us up over the hilltops and gave us awesome views of the surrounding snow-capped mountains.  It continued through a forest of beech trees; the fallen beech leaves provided a soft, but slippery, cushion of padding on the path.  I was challenged to keep up with the group, all experienced and hearty hikers, but I was exhilarated at the same time to be in France, on this hike — a dream coming true.

View at the start of the hike, up from the village of Courbons

View at the start of the hike, up from the village of Courbons

Mistletoe along the trail -- it was a common sight

Mistletoe along the trail — it was a common sight

Wildflower (windflower?)

Wildflower (windflower?)

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Trail through a beech forest

Trail through a beech forest

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Near the end of the day’s hike, we approached the tiny Chapelle Saint Madeleine via a gravel road that passed lavender fields.  The chapel, like many of the buildings in this area, had a tile roof of the most pleasing orangy colors.  The tiles were held down with stones.  Inside, on the wall where the altar would have been, was a recessed elliptical-shaped space large enough to stand in.  Goldsworthy intended this as an introspective space, a contrast to the vast expanse of the vista looking down into the valley just outside the door.

The road to Chapelle Saint Madeleine near Thoard

The road to Chapelle Saint Madeleine near Thoard

Our destination for Day 1, Andy Goldsworthy's wall art in this chapel

Our destination for Day 1, Andy Goldsworthy’s wall art in this chapel

Tile roof, exquisite colors

Tile roof, exquisite colors

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Andy Goldsworthy wall sculpture, Chapelle Saint Madeleine

Andy Goldsworthy wall sculpture, Chapelle Saint Madeleine

View down the valley from the Chapelle Saint Madeleine

View down the valley from the Chapelle Saint Madeleine

The days final steps, walking to the cottage Bannette, our farmhouse lodging for the night

The day’s final steps, walking to the cottage Bannette, our farmhouse lodging for the night

Iceland Impressions 2

May 7, 2013

“We do not take a trip, a trip takes us.”
— John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charley

Paved path following the coastline near Keflavik

Paved path following the coastline near Keflavik

One of my favorite things to do on my travels is to simply walk or drive around, see what presents itself, and take photos.  So on my stopover in Iceland, I donned walking shoes and set out from my lodging at the Hotel Keflavik and followed the paved path along the coastline.  I walked for about four miles before I turned around to come back, and I did not even reach the end of the path.  I felt like a solitary walker, so few people did I meet en route.

I fell in love with the tidy, modest-sized houses, with their red and blue roofs.  One yellow house was particularly cheerful.  I felt that, in comparison, our huge sprawling houses in the U.S. are too often ostentatious and wasteful.

The red-roofed houses of Keflavik

The red-roofed houses of Keflavik

Blue roofs, Keflavik

Blue roofs, Keflavik

Cheerful yellow house along the Iceland coast

Cheerful yellow house along the Iceland coast

Two historic "summer houses" in Keflavik

Two historic “summer houses” in Keflavik

Downtown Keflavik, how tidy and clean

Downtown Keflavik, how tidy and clean

Along the path was a restored cottage called a “Stekkjarkot.”  This sod-covered dwelling was typical of those from the mid-1800s.  The family who lived here would have made its living from the sea.

Stekkjarkot near Keflavik

Stekkjarkot near Keflavik

Keflavik is a sea town, with fishing boats and working harbors.  Very picturesque.

Breakwater leading into a harbor

Breakwater leading into a harbor

One of Keflavik's harbors

One of Keflavik’s harbors

Weathered blue shed

Weathered blue shed

Fishing boat seen from a bluff

Fishing boat seen from a bluff

After walking four miles in one direction, I returned to the hotel and then walked in the other direction, through the town, and up a bluff where I followed a hard path of volcanic rock along the cliffs.

Hard path on the bluff over Keflavik

Hard path on the bluff over Keflavik

Coming back down, I passed this woman basking in the spring sunshine like a seal on a rock.  (Don’t we all celebrate the return on light and warmth in the Spring?)

Welcome back sun!

Welcome back sun!

I ended my day by swimming with the locals at Keflavik’s public swimming pool.  For one-twentieth the cost of the Blue Lagoon, I enjoyed four or five warm soaking pools/hot tubs, a lap pool, a big general swimming pool while around me families played in the kiddie pools and water park with giant slides into yet another pool.  And then I splurged on a dinner of Icelandic lamb.  A perfect day.

My dinner of Icelandic lamb at the restaurant in the Hotel Keflavik

My dinner of Icelandic lamb at the restaurant in the Hotel Keflavik

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mount Rainier reflected in Tipsoo Lake near Chinook Pass on Hwy 410

I just had to take advantage of these last sunny days of summer to head to the mountains for a day hike.  I love the Naches Peak Loop Trail for its stupendous views of Mount Rainier and its wildflowers as the trail meanders past several tiny sub-alpine lakes.  This is an easy hike.  Heading out on the trail just ahead of me was a family with a toddler in a backpack and a two-week old baby in a sling.  I parked in the lot by Tipsoo Lake and headed clockwise up the trail so that I would have Mount Rainier in full view for the last part of the hike.

Here are some photos:

 

The sub-alpine meadows are studded with beargrass.

Tall trees with long shadows cast by the morning sun.

Lush green along melting rivulets

Beargrass and Queen Anne’s Lace with the Cascades in the background

The trail passes along several small lakes

Shards of ice and ground frost in the shady stretches of the trail

Busy bees, butterflies and birds along the trail

Tree silhouettes

Looking down on Dewey Lake from the Naches Peak Loop Trail

The Cascade Mountains with cascading blues

If you walk the trail clockwise, you’ll have this view of Mount Rainier on the latter part of the loop hike.

The trail passes yet another lake.

A weathered snag

The final stretch, heading back to Tipsoo Lake

Trail sign with Mount Rainier on the horizon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hiking trail up to the bluff at Ebey’s Landing

When I have company from out-of-town, I like to take them to Ebey’s Landing, one of my favorite hikes on Whidbey Island.  This loop trail provides a perfect slice of Pacific Northwest life — a ferry ride to get there, expansive views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, bucolic rural scenery, and a beach walk.  It’s not too strenuous, and a breeze keeps you cool even on a hot, sunny summer day.

We experienced a special treat on this most recent hike — a plein air artist was working on a landscape in oil pastels.  I always love to see artists at work.

Easel and trays of oil pastels at Ebey’s Landing

Steven R. Hill, plein air artist

An artist’s hands

Plein air art at Ebey’s Landing

View from Ebey’s Landing: a rural landscape with Mount Baker on the horizon

View out over Puget Sound

Looking down at the lagoon from the bluff at Ebey’s Landing

View of Olympic Mountains from across Puget Sound