Oregon Coast

Last Spring we drove up the Oregon Coast on our return to Canada.  We have made this trip several times now with varying weather conditions.

Unfortunately, from a photography point of view, we had a lot of rain and heavy overcast skies which did not lend itself to a lot of great shots.  I did get a few that I liked, though, during periods of better weather conditions.  Here is a selection:


Wreck of Mary D Hume, Gold Beach, OR


Oregon Coast


Cannon Beach, OR


On of the highlights of our trip was La Conner, WA.  Not only is it a picturesque little town, but we arrived just as the tulip fields were coming into bloom.  I was especially fortunate that a camera club buddy, Annie, who summers in Bellingham, met me in La Conner and took me on a tour of the surrounding tulip fields.


La Conner, WA


Tulip Fields


Yellow tulip





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20180310-056A1323Can a photo give you an earworm (a song playing over and over in your head)?  Who knows?  Let’s find out!

On the drive back from Canyon de Chelly our route would take us past Winslow, AZ.  Of course I couldn’t pass up the chance to photograph “The Corner” – you know, the one in the song.

So here, for your viewing pleasure, are some photos of the corner.

Is that song starting to worm its way in?

Well, I’m a standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona
Such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flat-bed Ford
Slowin’ down to take a look at me

(Jackson Browne/Glen Frey)

Have you got a full-bore earworm now?  Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

While its playing in your head, leave a comment with your favourite memory associated with the song.


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Canyon de Chelly

Our journey continued with about a 100 mile drive from Monument Valley to Canyon de Chelly  National Monument.  As was Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly (pronounced “de Shay“) is located on Navajo Tribal Land.  While one is free to drive the rim of the canyon to various outlooks, to visit the floor of the canyon one must be accompanied by a Park Ranger or Navajo guide.

The Monument is actually comprised of three canyons carved out by streams: de Chelly, del Muerte, and Black Rock.  The canyon’s history is really the history of the Ancestral Puebloans (also referred to as Anasazi) who lived in the cliff dwellings and, more recently, the Navajo.  In the winter of 1864, Colonel Kit Carson attacked and laid seige to the Navajo in the Battle of Canyon de Chelly.  Faced with starvation the Navajo ultimately surrendered and were marched to the Bosque Redondo reservation near Fort Sumner.  Four years later they were allowed to return to their lands.  Today about 40 Navajo families live within the Canyon.

Our first afternoon was spent touring the rim of the canyons and shooting down into them.



Spider Rock


The next day we took a tour of the canyon floor then ended the day at a couple of the outlooks again looking down into the canyon.



Fortress Rock


White House Ruins


White House Ruins


Howling Wolf


Next … a throwback to an Eagles’ tune.



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Monument Valley


The Mittens, Monument Valley

Last March, along with a group of photographer friends, I journeyed to Monument Valley.  This collection of massive sandstone buttes is located in northeastern Arizona, straddling the border with Utah.

The valley is on Navajo Tribal Land.  To visit the valley you must first buy a permit from the Navajo Nation Parks & Recreation.  While you can do a self-guided tour, the best way to visit is to hire a Navajo tour guide.  There are quite a number of tour operators to choose from.  For a photographer, it is well worth the additional cost to do a photography tour.  We used Phillips Photography Tours and found them to be excellent.  If you have the time, I would recommend, in addition to one or more of their other tours, the Hunt’s Mesa Overnight Tour.  The jeep ride up to the Mesa alone is worth the price of admission!  Arriving at the Mesa in time for sundown, you are treated to an incredible vista.  While you are shooting, the guides are setting up camp and starting supper.  Once it got too dark to shoot we enjoyed an incredible feast featuring steak cooked on an open fire.  The next morning we were up early to catch sunrise before starting the journey back down.

Following are some of my favourite shots from Monument Valley.


Next up, Canyon de Chelly.

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Argentina Part 2

The morning of our final day in Mendoza was free time, so I took advantage of the opportunity to explore the area around our hotel.  Across the street from our hotel was the  Plaza Indepencia, the largest park in the vicinity.  Tree- lined streets took you to four other parks within a few blocks of each other.  The area was beautiful and quite pleasant to stroll around.

Gentle rain was falling as we arrived, that afternoon, at the final, and perhaps most uniquely-designed winery of our tour.  O. Fournier winery is located in the Uco Valley.  The winery is, if I recall correctly, 7 stories high – most of it underground.  Using gravity to move the wine saves the use of pumps.  Grapes are unloaded on the “roof” (at ground level) and move down through the floors as the transformation to fine wine takes place.  A central column, with a skylight at the top, carries light into the depths of the building, reducing the need for artificial lighting.

Another unique feature was the barrel room.  Holding only a fraction of the number of barrels it was built for, the walls of the room are lined with art.  Looking down from the catwalk above the room, it is certainly an impressive gallery!

From the gallery/barrel room we entered the “library” which holds wines of different vintages and labels instead of books.  The shelves surround a large boardroom table.  Now this is a library I’d happily spend time in!

An underground passageway returned us to the dining room from where we had started our winery tour.  Here we would enjoy our final dinner in Argentina, accompanied by some great O. Fournier wines.  The rain had let up, leading to an incredible view out the windows, across the pond and vineyards, to the sun setting over the Andes.  What a perfect ending to an incredible tour of some of the finest wineries in Chile and Argentina.

Sunset over the Andes

Our tour was more than just a series of tastings.  We had the opportunity to see where wines, in some cases that I had been buying for years, came from.  In talking to the wonderful, friendly folks at the wineries, we learned more than just about the wine.  We learned about the culture, the backgrounds of the winemakers, and the history of the wineries in what has become an important wine-making region in the world.  In so many ways it was a voyage of discovery.

My thanks to Janine and Daryl for being such incredible, friendly and attentive tour leaders.

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Argentina Part 1

Our flight took us up over the Andes from  Chile to Argentina; more specifically from  Santiago to Mendoza:  from the land of Carmenere to the land of Malbec.  The city of Mendoza is the capital of the Province of Mendoza.  Here we would spend the remainder of our Opimian Society sponsored South American wine tour.

Our local guide met us at the airport and took us on a tour of the city before we headed to our hotel.  A somewhat unique feature in Mendoza are trenches that line the streets.  They are part of an irrigation system that brings water from the Andes and serve the purpose of watering the trees that line the streets.  The one stop we made on the tour was atop Cerro de la Gloria (Glory Hill).  At its summit is a monument to the Army of the Andes.  The panels on each side of the monument depict different parts of the country’s history.

Following hotel check-in and lunch, we set off for Bodega Mauricio Lorca.  Our visit started with a tasting then a tour of the winery.  Like many of the wineries we visited, this winery made use of both concrete tanks and oak barrels for aging the wine.

As the sun got lower on the horizon, we enjoyed appetizers and wine on the patio before moving inside for a fantastic barbequed dinner.  You can’t beat fine wine and fine food!

Sunset over vineyard

The next day was a triple-header:  two wineries and an olive oil factory.

We started the day at Bodega Renacer.  The stone tower of the winery reflecting in the pond certainly gives a great first impression!

A tour of the vineyard followed a tasting under a canopy.  In the vineyard we were watched over by 3 hawks that had taken up residence in the area.  From the vineyard we toured the winery.  A feature not seen at other wineries, but that we would see again on our last day, was how trucks transporting grapes unloaded into chutes on the roof.  The grapes are then fed by gravity to the destemming machine and press below, rather than using augers.  The final stop in the tour was the barrel room with it’s huge, round boardroom table.

Our next stop was Olivícola Pasrai.  In the pressing room we learned about the making of olive oil.  We were then taken to the gift shop where we had a chance to see some of the different products made from olive oil as well as a tasting of variously flavoured olive oil.

Our final stop of the day was Bodegas Alta Vista.  One of the things I enjoy about many wineries is the combination of historic buildings and modern wine-making equipment.  Alta Vista dates back to 1899 but the buildings have been fully modernized.  We began with a tour of the winery followed by a tasting.

So many wines, so little time!  Stay tuned for our final day in Mendoza.




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Chile Part 4

From Santiago, our journey took us to Santa Cruz, Chile for a two-night stay.  Enroute we stopped at Viu Manent winery.

A special treat at this winery was a tour of the vineyard in horse-drawn carriages followed by a tasting of their fine wines.  Our visit wrapped up with lunch.

Our lodgings were at the Hotel Santa Cruz Plaza, a beautiful old hotel in the heart of the city.  A stained-glass skylight adorned the elevator shaft and a further stained-glass dome covered the restaurant area.  The hotel was across the street from a park and next door to the Colchagua Museum, both of which I visited during our stay.

Without question, the “party” winery of our trip was Viña Echeverría.  Presided over by Roberto Echeverría, Sr., it is truly a family operation.  Everything was done to make us feel welcome, right down to flying the Canadian flag at the entrance to the property.  As we got off the bus we were met by a welcoming party led by Roberto Sr. (Poppa).  Our visit began with a presentation on making sparkling wine (presented by Poppa) along with, of course, a sample.  Roberto Sr. now specializes in sparkling wines while Roberto Jr. is the chief winemaker for the balance of their wines.

Following the presentation, we went on a tour of the winery before making our way to a garden area where we tasted the many wines the family makes.  An incredible barbeque dinner in the garden followed in which the food just kept coming.  Post-dinner we enjoyed a trivia contest at which pretty well everyone won some kind of prize.  The evening was topped off with drinks on the terrace of the old family home.  Roberto Jr. demonstrated his skill at opening wine bottles with a sword!  The party would have gone on all night but for the fact we had a fairly lengthy bus ride back to Santa Cruz.

The following morning we checked out of our hotel for our return journey to Santiago, with a stop at Viña La Rosa in the Cachapoal Valley.  The gardens surrounding the buildings were gorgeous and of course featured countless rose bushes.

Our visit started with a tasting and a presentation on the effect of terroir on wine.  Following the presentation we were taken for a tour of the Cornellana vineyards with, of course, a tasting of Cornellana wines among the vines.

After enjoying the wine and a stroll around the vineyard, we returned to the main property at Vina La Rosa for lunch on the lawn.  Not only were we enjoying some incredible wines on our tour of Chile but we were being extremely well fed!  Lunch was absolutely delicious.

The following day was our final day in Chile.  Early in the morning we boarded our bus for a trip to the seaside cities of Viña del Mar and Valparaiso.  Viña del Mar featured some beautiful beaches and was obviously a tourist mecca.

Statue in Vina del Mar

Tall ship passing


Flower clock

In Valparaiso we took a short walking tour through one of the neighbourhoods before taking an old funicular down to the main square.  The square, in front of an old naval building, featured a beautiful statue honouring a naval battle of 1879.

We returned to Santiago in time for a final dinner to say farewell to Chile.  In the morning we would fly to Mendoza, Argentina.

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Chile Part 3

Our Opimian Wine Tour in Chile continued, the next day, with a cooking class in the morning followed by tastings with two different wineries.

The cooking class actually commenced at the market where we met our chef and followed her around as she purchased supplies for our class.

Back at the kitchen, and of course in need of refreshment, the first order of business was making Pisco Sours … a drink that by now we had quite come to like.  Then, while being fed appetizers and sipping wine, we participated in making empanadas and ceviche. Our morning finished off with lunch where we got to consume the fruits of our morning’s labor.  This was my first time trying ceviche and it was actually pretty good.  And while the empanadas may not have been as nicely formed as a local would have made, they tasted pretty good.

20180220-056A5485In the afternoon it was off to the Maipo Valley to visit Antiyal.  The winery, owned by Alvaro and Marina Espinoza, grows grapes biodynamically.  While you might describe it as “organic growing on steroids”, it ensures that the land is kept in a good state for future generations.  And while the methodology might seem a bit “out there” there is no denying Alvaro’s passion for wine and biodynamics.  And the “proof is in the pudding (or wine)” as he produces some amazing wines.  Following a tour of the vineyard and winery, as Alvaro described his methodology, we finished up with a wine tasting, accompanied by incredible appetizers, under the shade of a grove of trees.

We had a chance to have a bit of a snooze on the bus as we returned to our hotel in Santiago and another wine tasting that evening.  The winery of one of the new suppliers to Opimian was too far from Santiago for us to travel to on our tour, so they brought the tasting to our hotel.  Representatives from Las Veletas did a presentation on their winery in the Maule Valley.  More great wines from a great addition to the Opimian family!

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Chile Part 2

Nestled at the foot of the Andes Mountains, Santiago is truly a beautiful city.  A guided tour of the city provided the official start to our wine-tasting journey in Chile and Argentina.

The following morning it was off to the Nadalié Cooperage where owner Thierry Villard welcomed us at the gate.  The cooperage, run by his son Sebastien, gave us a rare opportunity to see how wine barrels are made.  Our tour started with a tasting that demonstrated the effect of different types of oak and varying amounts of toasting of the barrels.  This was followed by a tour of the production plant itself.  We saw how the staves were initially assembled then steamed to shape them into a barrel.  The barrel is then toasted to the specifications of the particular winery purchasing the barrel.  Finally the top and bottom are fitted and a bung hole drilled.


The tasting

From the Cooperage we traveled to the Casablanca Valley and Villard Fine Wines.  Thierry drove separately and beat us to the winery, meeting us to drink sparkling wine under the shade of a group of trees as he told us about growing grapes.  Then it was on to a large patio at the winery where we were served a very fine lunch accompanied by a selection of Villard wines.  The lunch was wonderful, the wines delicious, and the view from the patio was incredible.

Following lunch we had a tour of the winery.

All too soon it was back on the bus for the return trip to Santiago.  That evening we had a sampling of Chilean folklore at the Bali Hai Restaurant.  The restaurant definitely caters to the tourist crowd.  While the meal was decent and the dancing, for the most part, entertaining, the show did stoop to being a bit too “Las Vegas glitzy” for my tastes.


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Catching up & Chile Part 1

Wow!  Where has the time gone!  The past 6 months seem to have been a whirlwind of activity, none of which included updating my blog.

During that time I have been on a wine tour in South America, a photo tour of Monument Valley, travelling up the Oregon Coast, camping a couple of times in Jasper, and backpacking in David Thompson country.  Over the next few weeks I hope to get caught up on my blog posts for these many adventures!

The first of these adventures, as mentioned above, was a wine tour to Chile and Argentina.  The trip was organized through a wine club that we belong to, The Opimian Society, led by Janine and Daryl Koroluk, Area Representatives for the Saskatoon Chapter.

We arrived in Santiago, Chile a couple of days prior to the official start of the tour.  Our hotel was located in a beautiful area of the city, close to restaurants, museums and parks.  We even found a street full of yarn shops for my wife!


Mural across from hotel


Restaurant patio


Rental bicycles


Street performers


View from roof of hotel


View from roof of hotel


Looking down the block towards hotel


Street scene


Street scene


Plaza de Armas





One of the sites I really enjoyed was the Museum of Fine Arts, a short walk from the hotel at the end of a beautiful park.


Museum of Fine Arts


Museum of Fine Arts


Museum of Fine Arts


Museum of Fine Arts

By the end of our second day, most of the rest of our group had arrived.  We were about to set off on a week and a half of wine tasting and touring Chile.  More about that in my next post.

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