Tarmac ribbons criss-crossing the landscape, dusty back roads twisting between the cool shadows of ancient pines, and less traveled pathways connecting present to past, all I wander, seeking, seeing, with my keyboard and camera capturing scenes and stories to share with you.

Now in its sixth year, this venue has become an important part of my life, a place where I can express my thoughts and feelings about the things I see and do, hoping the process brings me a bit closer to friends and family who enjoy sharing my sometimes chaotic and often nonlinear observations and ideas. A journal, I suppose, but one with which I find pleasure in thinking others are alongside me on my journey.

Comments, thoughts, or just a friendly chat, use the response box below or email me at patrickgroleau@gmail.com.

September 29, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: GLACIER RETREAT PHOTO ANALYSIS

... i was wrong ...

... okay, i suppose i can allow myself a bit of slack and say, "maybe i wasn't right, but i was pretty darn close" ...

... after staring at my journal entry for about a half-hour, examining over and over the then/now pictures of me near portage glacier, i took all the images into photoshop and began a detailed investigation ...

... first thing i did was to backtrack and erase any of my first impression ideas that the triangle-shaped mountain liz and adrien and i stood in front of was, indeed, the same as that pictured in the 1960 photograph ... emotional content, that was very, very difficult to do ...

... i then revisited closely the 1960 picture ... my "favor the left foot" observation was correct, but i wouldn't be surprised if one of you had already noticed much clearer content evidence the photo had been reversed ... want a hint ... hmmm, well, i suppose it's fair to say i probably shoot with passable accuracy with either hand, but there's no way i'd survive a gun duel having had to draw from my left side ... pop gun's hammer is to the front in the picture, too, further proof that it was on my right hip and thus the picture had been reversed ... (yes, you're correct, hair part line is also a clue) ...

... realizing that my on-the-spot impressions had been less than scientific, i finally admitted that i really couldn't legitimately match the skylines in the two photographs ... then, in a moment of inspiration (as usual the offspring of frustration and motivation), i realized i could quite easily return to the glacier valley ... nah, no private jet for me ... "google earth," there you go ...

... after exploring the terrain map several times, i determined that, indeed, i was incorrect in my first impression ... a second light bulb popped in my head, and i went to google and searched for an image of the "portage glacier retreat" ...

U.S. FOREST SERVICE
U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY
... since i knew we had picnicked regularly within a mile or less of the edge of the glacier during the years 1958-1962, examining these maps gave me an approximate starting point for my search ... i went to google earth to get an idea of the terrain (the yellow pin comes later in this story) ...
GOOGLE EARTH
... using these maps i decided that our picnics had taken place about 1/2-way from the current eastern edge of the glacier (up in the photo, just above the red dot) and the modern visitor center (off the bottom edge of the picture) ... once i'd zoomed in as close as the program allows, i entered the "ground level view" mode ... here, of course, i instantly wished i'd had a super-duper zillion gigahertz macintosh and the equivalent internet connection speed ... once my machine had rendered enough for me to move around, one glance at the triangle-shaped mountain behind me in the 1960 picture reinforced my new determination that no matter how much i desired it just could not be matched to a mountain which it only superficially resembles ... again, me, my girls, excitement in the air, an understandable error, i think ...

... going back to the center of the valley, still in ground level view, i started to think a bit ... i set google earth for the overhead view and looked down into the landscape ... i immediately said to myself, "in order for us to get to the center of the valley in 1960 there had to have been a road someplace, and it can't have been the modern route because that would've run right into the glacier" ... a bit more thinking ... "that old road couldn't have been in the center of the valley, there would've been too much glacial outwash and seasonal flooding" ... think-think-think ... ah, yes, in 1960 the railroad tracks would have been pretty much in the same location, tucked along the southern flanks of the mountains on the north side of the valley ... sure enough, even without a photo reconnaissance interpreter license, i found traces of a highway ... faint, but there ...

... the angle, too sharp, it can't be an abandoned and overgrown roadbed for trains ...
GOOGLE EARTH
... having the line where i thought the picture had been taken, i once again i went to the ground and began to wander around the valley ... i was perhaps five minutes before a casual rotational sweep of my view and i spotted the prize ...
GOOGLE EARTH
... could this be it ... ??? ... there was only one way to find out ...

... portage valley today ...
U.S. FOREST SERVICE
... little patrick, in the middle of the same valley, 1960 ...

... looking at the photograph i realized how i had been fooled by the perspective ... a quick search of my memory and i remembered that pa had a telephoto lens for the argus c3 with which he (and many others) had a kind of photographic love/hate relationship ...



... i added it all up, combined it all into a layered photoshop document, set the image of me in 1960 to 80% transparency, then, after a bit of experimenting with the scaling, i was there ...

... (honest, i almost think this deserves a drum roll) ...

 SPRING, MOST LIKELY 1960
60°47'39.02"N/148°53'1.36"W

... as near as i can figure, my "circular error of probability" is probably less than a few hundred feet ... close, so very remarkably close ...

... to the best of google earth's capabilities, this is what dad saw that day in 1960 when he managed to get his little son to stand still for a minute so he could snap a picture of him in front of portage glacier ...

... and now it's one in the morning and i'm crying, but it's okay because somehow, someway, right now the little boy can see his dad with a camera in his hand, and he's so very, very happy because he knows he's got the best pa in the whole wide world ...





WANDERING ALASKA - GLACIERS

... we got up early to make our way down along turnagain arm to portage and the turnoff to the port of whittier ... this is a deceptively calm moment in the daily cycles of a fjord with treacherous forty-foot tides, tidal bores, drastic currents, and quicksand like mud flats ...

... once a place that was our playground ...

... the road to portage took us through a beautiful forested valley ...

... as adrien was taking the last picture i remarked, "it was somewhere around here where we used to picnic all the time" ... there was a group of men taking photographs and we began to talk ... as we were speaking i looked up at the triangle shaped mountain in the left of the picture and—well, while i didn't say it, for sure it was an OMG moment ... i ran to the car, grabbed my ipad, and returned to the edge of the lake, where i then scrolled through until i found this picture of little patrick ...

... what a difference fifty-seven years makes, and i'm not talking about the color of my hair ... !!! ... adrien had the presence of mind to snap the following ...

... how odd, the photograph of little me ... all my life i've wondered about that picture ... all these years has been a mystery, why i was favoring my right leg ... yes, you're correct, as you see it i'm clearly giving my left leg a rest, which is normal for me ... turns out that pa wasn't so careful about which way he mounted his slides, and this one was backwards in the cardboard frame ... it was only after closely examining the profile of the peak that i figured it out and photoshop flipped it to reality ...

... to get to whittier we had to wait it was time scheduled for cars to drive through the tunnel ... with a length of over 13,000 feet, the anton anderson bore is the longest combined rail/vehicle tunnel in north america ... this is the whittier side of the tunnel ...

... we took time for coffee while waiting to board ... liz (ever and forever herself) found it necessary to indignantly point out the errors on the plaque commemorating those who first lived in whittier ("your" vs. "you're," that sort of thing) ... i said, "liz, lighten up, they were sort of like pioneers, too busy surviving to focus on grammar" ... she gave me her special liz look, which, as i'm sure some of you have learned, is to be answered only by following monty python's classic advice, "run away—run away" ... luckily, she didn't have a chisel ...

... in 1958 we packed our bags, fired up the ford, and, via a month in rhode island for mike and i to finish school, made our way to seattle, where we boarded the troopship m.m. patrick for an inner passage "cruise" to alaska ... 

... never having seen snow, this was my first view of "the territory of alaska" ... congress passed the act making alaska (and hawaii) a state a week or so after we arrived, and it was another six months before it took effect ... in this, seeing as at the time there were less than 225,000 residents in the territory, i am a member of a very small (and gradually declining) group of people who can stake a claim to having lived in the "last frontier" before it became a state ...

... as near as i could get it, the same spot today ... the picture of the tugboat was one of pa's favorites, he entered it in several photography contests ... in his neat semi-cursive print he labeled the slide mount with his name and phone number, whenever i look at it i think to the great smile as he held my hand and began the process of explaining to his wide-eyed little boy the wonders of this great new world we were entering ...

... we headed out into prince william sound ... i took no notes, so i'll not try to recount the details of the different types of glaciers ... simply, from the moment we left the dock until my feet again touched tarmac in whittier, i was completely and absolutely mesmerized by the magic and majesty of this place ...

... i heard some complaining of the "overcast" ... fools ...

... this wonderful lighting, it reminded me that at best the camera is a technology rather pathetically attempting to do what with our eyes we take for granted ...

... we stopped so crew members could bring aboard ice that was frozen sometime in the 1800s ...

... liz was brave, and also quite lucky that on this day the lesson we all learned viewing "a christmas story" wasn't applicable ...

... while we floated motionless several tremendous chunks of ice "calved" from the edge of the glacier ... even this close we were distant enough that the great cracking noises washed over us only after the ice was actually entering the water, making photographing such events a lottery-like endeavor ...

... the captain brought us in even closer to view the "tunnels" in the glacier ... at times great streams of meltwater will flow from these huge portals ...

... there is a fascinating "dimensionality" to the edge of the glacier ...

... i spent some time with the captain, a moment in which he was neither actually guiding his ship nor standing to have his picture taken with passengers ... he was, to me, seemingly quite young for a position of such tremendous duty, but in him i sensed great competence ... it reminded me of my time in the military, where so very, very young i—we—were tasked with great responsibilities ...

... between stops the boat would speed across the water at a most remarkable forty-four miles per hour ... during these parts of the voyage, needless to say, even in the lee of the cabin it was a bit brisk on deck ...

... at other times, this time of year where the tour wasn't a quarter the ship's capacity, prince william sound defined the word "calm" ...

... there were also moments where was proof it's possible there is more to the universe than meets the eyes ...

... hidden beyond a majestically mysterious ridge is an ice covered wilderness larger than the state of rhode island ...

... the arapahos say, "only the rocks live forever," but here, in this place, over time even the hardest strata will surrender to the unrelenting ice ...

... a landscape which dramatically distorts the scale of time and space ... here, a "where's waldo moment," see if you can find the bald eagle ...

... yet, in a landscape that evokes even in me a most reverent awe, as i'm aware that as the glaciers melt, and we, all of us, begin to deal with the reality of global warming, i also know that there will be an epoch in which they return, and then much of our world will be blanketed in a great sheet of ice ... that, too, in its day will be a problem humanity will have to face ...

... but, as inevitable the changing of the earth, the wearing down of the mightiest of peaks and the deepest of seas filled to become great rolling plains, equally it remains to me a great truth, that my liz and adrien, they are forever ...

... this, among so many, was of the very best of my days ...

OF THE FIRST AUTOMOBILE AND A SHADOWED MOON

... roger's seriously suffered medically advised hiatus from motorcycling ended sunday, we celebrated by taking a little ride over to the owls head transportation museum ... we arrived to the beginning of an excellent demonstration of a perfect reproduction of karl benz's "patent motorwagon," considered to be the world's first true function designed/built automobile (although, just to throw a bit of gum in the works, i'm not sure the credit shouldn't go to george sheldon, who, as near as i can determine, was denied the historical distinction for political/economic reasons) ...

 ... the modern fabrication is a machinist's dream, except for the internal workings of the coil and spark plugs a 100% accurate recreation of the original ...

... my favorite detail of the original design is the curved spokes of the flywheel, cleverly cast so that any heat expansion will be absorbed by the spokes rather than alter the curve of the weighted rim ...

... a curator let me walk into the hanger to examine up close the old aircraft engines ... my single-cylinder ('thumper") 650cc bmw rotex motorcycle engine produces almost as much horsepower as both of these 4-cylinder engines, yet is only one-half the weight of one of them ... on the other hand, a mechanic didn't need fancy tools and a computer to work on these machines ...

... there was an antique car show taking place at the museum ... i owned one of these ... mine was hard-topped and, from the size of the marker lamps, this one is a few years older than my 1972 model ... in my opinion, the classic vw is a vehicle at the same time both seriously under and over rated ...

... okay, simply, "be still, my heart" ... if i were rich i'd be tempted ...

... a replica of a world war i spad XIIIc.i ...

Courage is doing what you are afraid to do.

There can be no courage unless you are scared.

EDDIE RIKENBAKER


... a 1948 crossly station wagon, which was designed to be small enough that it could be displayed in furniture stores and then driven out the front doors after purchase ... with wartime rationing of gasoline the earlier versions of this car were quite popular because they could get over 50mpg ...

... i always enjoy the owls head transportation museum, and sharing a nice motorcycle ride in september is top of my list, too ...

... sunday evening john and i drove down to east boothbay to witness and photograph the lunar eclipse ... we arrived to a relatively balmy breeze and wonderfully clear skies over the peninsula ...

... for photographing the moon john let me use his "classic" [well over twenty-five years old] tamron 500mm sp catadioptric [mirror] telephoto ...

... taken as the eclipse was beginning, first exposure was typical for a full moon, iso 200 at 1/500th second ... as the moon had almost fully entered the earth's shadow, however, things became much more difficult ... the was so little illumination that this exposure was 1/10th second at iso 1,600 ... where's the hubble telescope when you need it ... ??? ...

 ... the darkness, however, inspired me to move down to the edge of the sea for a better vantage of the milky way ...

... after the shared experience, of course, but much more than the picture taking, my favorite part of the evening was watching john invite others to come over to view the heavens through his giant telescope ... to my teacher ears the "oohs" and "ahhs" were sheer music ...

The intellect of the wise is like glass;
it admits the light of heaven and reflects it.
AUGUSTUS HARE

September 22, 2015

MILKY WAY

... late sunday night john and chad and i shared a little wander up past stratton to explore the sky from the top of quill hill ... for over an hour i most patiently waited until the setting moon and a bank of clouds low on the horizon combined with this gnarly (john's word choice, not mine) tree to form a wonderful composition ...

... john brought his giant telescope and treated me to an unbelievable view of the furthest visible object in the sky, andromeda ... without the telescope, in a fuzzy little patch that i could cover with my thumb, several hundred billion stars ...

... fascinating ...

All the powers in the universe are already ours.
It is we who have put our hands before our eyes and cry that it is dark.
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA