Horton River Canoe Trip

From July 29 to August 20 we were kayaking on the Horton River in Canada’s Northwest Territories. The trip was lead by Rich Henke and Brian Elliott who did an incredible amount of planning and logistics to make this trip happen. The congenial group of six also included Pete Ackerman and Steven Cochran. This was a trip of a lifetime. Once we left Norman Wells (pop. 800) in a Sea Otter float plan and were dropped off we didn’t see anyone else. In fact about the only signs of humans we saw were a couple of footprints. Many caribou, some grizzlies, and lots of birds. Brian is a birder and was great about sharing his knowledge and pointing out birds and other animals we would have never seen.

We took lots of pictures and video footage, but so far we haven’t organized them. But other participants have and you can see their great photos at Rich’s Smugmug page, Brian’s Flickr page, and Pete’s new Smugmug page — make sure you can see the captions in his Best of… as his observations are quite interesting and informative. The journal he kept paid off. One of Pete’s photos also graced our Christmas card this year.

The Horton Rivers terminates in Franklin Bay, which is connected to the Beaufort Sea which connects to the Arctic Ocean, almost 70° north after traveling almost 400 miles. Some of the trip we were above timberline even though our elevation was about 500 ft. This is tundra country which is more interesting than one would expect. Fun to walk on if you’re not trying to get somewhere because it’s soft although sometimes wet, and the tundra is comprised of many varieties of plants.

All for now. Four months later: Pete had just posted his photos and in looking at them I’m reminded how extraordinary this trip was.

Other Horton River trip reports that helped us plan our trip:

Horton Canoe Trip Report – Jul 10, 2004 – Eston and Jackie
Jul 2, 2012 – Manrico and Liz 21 days, 20 nights on the river. Excellent trip report Includes 9 minute movie and 157 image slide show.
Traditional Arctic Kayaks—Jim Rutzick, HORTON RIVER, JULY, 1997
Horton River to Paulatuk 2007 — Freda Mellenthin

Croatian Restaurants in Los Angeles Project

Something that’s been the works for a while. But thought it time to introduce it, although nothing is ready to published. So this posting is as much for me to document the program before I forgot too many details of the journey. And it’s been fun.

Probably can say it started with our trip to Croatia in 2013 to Croatia with Gary and Mary. We decided to spend one day on the island of Bra? to see if we could find any remnants of Scarich relatives. That was documented in an earlier post and Louisa’s short video. We met three third cousins, Mila, Mirjam and Ana. Ana was the genealogist and was interested in where her great-grandfather living and worked in Los Angeles (LA). I did some research at the Los Angeles Public Library in their genealogy section and on Ancestry.com. Mainly LA city directories, but also draft cards which yielded a dozen or so addresses. Louisa and I spent a fun day visiting the sites, taking pictures and talking to a couple of local residents (and getting yelled at by some telling us we couldn’t take photos). We found many houses where Scarich relatives had lived in the Boyle Heights area of LA and nearby. All of the restaurant sites are in downtown LA and have been replaced by high rises or parking lots.

That resulted in a email exchanges with Ana and digging out of family photos which resulted in one photo of Nicholas Tade Scarich in front of a house which was clearly at 3730 Hammel Avenue.

In the spring of 2015, the Los Angeles Public Library had an exhibit entitled “To Live and Dine in LA.” (Don’t know if the link will die when exhibit ends.) The exhibit was a joint effort between the library and the Los Angeles Library Foundation. (Need to confirm the details of the support). The links led to an essay by Charles Perry, Food Historian and President, Culinary Historians of Southern California who contributed to the exhibit. I contacted Perry and he generously sent an article he had drafted on Croatian Restaurants in LA with the suggestion that the effort needed to be developed. Well, I thought that this might be fun. Expand beyond the Scarich connection and learn a bit more LA history. I envisioned the effort as being presented somehow on a map. About the same time, because I follow the blogs about urban life and transportation in LA and elsewhere, I saw a posting by Omar Ureta about a map he had developed showing when all the buildings in LA county were built. Ah ya, the map showed me the possibilities. I contacted Ureta via MaptimeLA, a group dedicated to helping people learn how to use maps to help Angelenos. Another breakthrough, maybe I could learn how to do what I wanted. I’ve attended three meeting so far getting overwhelmed with the many mapping software options, but even more importantly meeting a bunch of dedicated, interesting, mostly young people. I hope to contribute to their efforts. I’ve been experimenting with those software and am now also taking a class at Santa Monica City College on GIS, specifically learning ArcGIS. Coincidentally MaptimeLA is working on a project on old restaurants that still are open in LA using a list in an article by Nikki Kreuzer.

As I said at the start, no progress to show. Sign off for now. I expect to edit this posting as there are several details to confirm or links to be added. I may also add a post on the software journey.

Photographs from Ishkashim, Afghanistan and Tajikistan

From EurasiaNet.org:

Two towns named Ishkashim stand opposite each other on the Pyanj River, which marks the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Against a stark backdrop of daunting peaks and dusty plains, life here, as documented in this photo essay by Diana Markosian, is marked by constant uncertainty.

Škaric / Scarich in Croatia and the United States

The Scarichs are from Brač. The first of our line of Scarichs to come to California was Vincent Gregory Scarich. Not many of us have visited family in Croatia. My (Greg’s) aunt and uncle, Rita and Gerry, visited probably in the late 70s. And Uncle Nick, one of Vincent’s sons visited from time to time. But no one I talked to knew who or where they visited. I was always told I was named after my great-grandfather Vincent Gregory Scarich from the island of Brač. However I’ve never seen anything in writing that confirms that his name was Vincent Gregory. His Certificate of Naturalization from 1905 has Visko Skarich (no accents). Škarić is Scarich in Croatian, so Skarich is yet another spelling.

Visko Skarich Naturalization

Before we went on our trip to Croatia we thought we’d try to visit some Scarichs if we could find any. My dad had some contact about 40 years ago, but never visited any relatives in Croatia. His uncle, Nick, had visited Croatia but neither my dad nor I could find any information on that. I tried one of my cousins since their parents had visited relatives in Croatia, but they didn’t have any information. I Googled and although I found plenty of Škarićs not much contact information or current information. The major of Split in 2000 was a Škarić and Split is the main port to catch the ferry to Brač. I also tried Facebook and found some Škarićs but not in Split or Brač. Nonetheless I contacted one, but never heard from her and real ized that I wasn’t likely to find any of the mostly thirty somethings on Facebook that would be interested in meeting us.

But in family papers I found that some distant cousins (Restovich) were buried in Postira, a town on the island of Brač. I also looked on a couple of genealogy sites but didn’t turn up anything. So we left on our trip with a plan to poke around the graveyard in Postira.

On our first full day in Croatia we were visiting a farmers market in Zagreb. Louisa saw some honey from Brač at a stand and the woman selling the honey said that there were lots of Škarićs on Brač. So we might find some, but I assumed that would be older non-English speaking and we wouldn’t learn much.

Ten days later in Split we decided to reconnoiter the ferry to Brač the day before we were to go. I went to the ticket office and Louisa started talking with a person in line for the ferry that afternoon. He was a Škarić. Skaric at Split Ferry

The next day we caught the 9 am ferry and upon arrival drove to Postira and went for lunch. In talking to the waitress she related that although she wasn’t from Brač she knew there were Škarićs and suggested going about half a kilometer down the shore to a grocery store and ask about the Škarićs neighborhood that was nearby. A whole neighborhood! This is getting interesting. I suggested the village priest and we all agreed that was even a better place to start. She pointed out the steeple and after lunch we wandered up the hill to the church. No one in the church, but we saw a house that looked like it might be the rectory and called into the open front door. The priest came out and although he spoke very little English he got the gist of what we were after and brought out a big ledger book. I had a birthdate of 1859 and Vincent Gregory/Visko for a name. He started thumbing through the book and ran into about ten pages of Škarićs. The book appeared to have been recompiled about 50 years ago with more recent additions (the book was organized and all the old entries had been put in at the same time (we later learned that many of the church records were copied over when the communists took over and the originals hidden away). The priest finally homed in on one page and although the birthdate differed by a year from what I had, and the first name was Vicko not Visko, but seemed like a reasonable variant. No middle name either. He then got kind of a knowing look and he went to make a call. He said two o’clock and I talked to Mila, my (third) cousin would said she would come by in an hour. During the hour Father Ton?i Jelin?i? brought us some homemade wine to drink.

An hour later not one but two cousins showed up and soon their cousin soon showed up. They were all females in their mid-fifties and spoke fluent English. We talked for a while and Mila invited us to her house for happy hour. It turns out their cousin, Ana, is the family genealogist and had a partial copy of the family tree. Up until then we weren’t convinced that we had nailed down the relationship, but her tree had Vinko Juraj, a brother of their great-grandfather. And eventually I remembered when I was about seven I met a relative from Bolivia, Sonja. They had met Sonja and her son, Vincent, who visits Brač every couple of years. With all these connections we agreed we must be cousins.

Photo of Greg and cousins
Greg, Mila, Mirjam and Ana

Mirjam, my other third cousin, met and married an American in college in Zagreb, and has lived in New York ever since. Her daughter, Anya, was there also and in fact visits every summer (except for two years during the war).

The next day, Mila took us for a tour of our neighborhood, called Škarića Dvori. Dvori we took to mean neighborhood of the Škarićs. She pointed out numerous building, several plaques celebrating famous Škarićs. We met one older couple. He is a Škarić but spoke no English.

Obviously we learned a lot more about the family than I’ve written about here. The cousins are all generous and interesting. We had a great time and will stay in contact.

We’ve posted photographs from the whole trip to Croatia on our to our website here.

Mugu Peak Hike

Anita, Bob, Louisa and Greg got out after the recent rains and took a local hike. Weather turned out to be good, a bit windy, but otherwise fine. And much better views than we expected. This posting is in part a test of new to me easier photo posting in WordPress.


2013.01.27-13.25.36.gs.L2013.01.27-15.17.56.gs.L Boney MountainBoney Mountain2013.01.27-14.56.04.gs.L2013.01.27-14.34.54.gs.LBob, Anita, Louisa at campsite2013.01.27-13.50.46.gs.L2013.01.27-11.43.12.gs.LRoad Runner2013.01.27-13.15.54.gs.L2013.01.27-13.53.22.gs.L2013.01.27-13.58.42.gs.L2013.01.27-14.10.30.gs.LCoreopsis maritima

Sunset from the Pacific Coast Highway seen on our drive home. Lots of cars were stopped to view and photograph this sunset.


Cedar Mesa and the Valley of the Gods

Louisa and Greg camped and hiked in this area in the southeast corner of Utah on our way home from the Mountain Film in Telluride as described in the previous post. We just put together a photo book of Greg’s photos of this part of the trip.

Mainly posting this to see how Shutterfly presents the book. The full screen option is good. Edit: the option to view is now only via the link below.

Click here to view this photo book larger

Colorado and Utah Road Trip

We began our trip with the Telluride Mountain Film Festival. Mountain Film is held over Memorial Day weekend and celebrates adventure in the outdoors, nature, the cultures that live closer to nature, the environment and saving it for the future. This year the theme was Awareness Into Action. Also setting the background for discussions was a tribute to Richard Holbrooke—Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. We were delighted to be the guests of locals, Nancy and Alfredo, along with Patrick, Janet, Judy and Paul. Thank you for your kind hospitality Nancy and Alfredo.

We then stopped by Janet and Patrick’s place near Telluride to see the progress on their property.

We all then headed to Fruita, a Colorado a mountain biking mecca. We all camped, some in motor homes, some in vans, and some in tents. Judy and Paul’s friend Wayne, a BLM ranger, had a couple of days off and showed us around. Paul H., another friend of Judy and Paul’s also joined us. When we arrived Wayne took us for a quick evening ride near Loma. The next day we did the Western Rim Trail, a great trail in both Utah and Colorado along the Colorado River canyon rim. Fun riding and incomparable scenery. The next two days with Janet and Patrick joining us, we explored Book Cliffs a few miles north of Fruita. Fun riding. Fast swooping trails, ups and downs, and attention grabbing trails along ridges, such as Zippety Do Da. We weren’t disappointed in Fruita.

Everyone headed off in their own directions and we went nearby to Colorado National Monument with steep red canyons. Camped two nights there and did a hike on the Monument Canyon Trail to Independence Monument.

Headed south via Moab to Cedar Mesa in southern Utah which includes Natural Bridges National Monument. Arrived late and the campground was filled up so we went just outside the monument into BLM land where you can camp anywhere, although they prefer you use existing sites. A mile or so off the main road we found a nice site along a wash. Better than the campground. Very quiet. We saw about one car per day while in our campsite. Plenty of things to see and do, the monument as well as endless Anasazi dwellings and pictographs in the many canyons.

Photos from our trip are posted in the our photo gallery. You may want to use the slideshow option: click on the appropriate icon in the upper right, and after the slideshow comes up you may want to click on the icon in the lower right  to view full screen (Flash needed). Or you can use keyboard arrow keys to go from one slide to the next.

Mysore India

We are now in Mysore, Karnataka. Today we re-arranged our train tickets so we can make it to Hyderabad for Padma’s cousin’s engagement party on March 6 which will be attended by many of the relatives Louisa met in 1997. It will be a great occasion and nice finale to our trip!

Unlike many breakfasts of vadai, paper dosa or idli and tea, this morning’s (western) breakfast was omelet, milk coffee,” butter toast jam” on the rooftop overlooking Gandhi Square. We chatted up a fun young German couple at university studying poli-sci and education. We have hardly met any Americans during the trip.

Wandering thru town after breakfast, we found the most stunningly beautiful Devaraja market with gorgeous produce stacked and displayed in eye catching arrays, hugh piles of flower pedals, jasmine, marigolds being strung and dazzling garlands wrapped with silver thread for weddings as their vendors called out to customers competing for their rupees.

Already our thoughts were turning to food again which is not hard find here. Evenings carts materialize on sidewalks and street corners whipping up delightful dosas (pancakes) plopped in a leaf bowl (biodegradable!) hit with a big dollop of coconut chutney and topped with a vadai (chickpea flour doughnut) or you could have Gobichanchoori as a snack, cauliflower in a dough mixture fried and served with a spicy sauce and sliced cabbage, chillies, onion. Great chased by a cold Kingfisher beer.
We walked on to Mysore Palace, home to the current maharaja, who supposedly still lives somewhere in the back of the palace. Hard to dream up something as opulent as this architectural mash up of Buckingham Palace meets King Tut’s interior decorator. Picture this—peacock blue, pink and gold fluted coumns with floral bases and caps rising up three stories to a stained glass ceiling of peacock feather patterns in the octagonal wedding hall surrounded by a scalloped arch colonnade with 36 murals of the maharaja’s birthday parade incuding marching bands, mounted regiments, caprisonned elephants with golden howdahs, white bullocks drawing silver coaches and a few thousand of his closest friends.

Just to show you how India has changed, we climbed the 1000 steps of Chamundi Hill to the Chamundeswari temple passing the 5 meter high Nandi bull statue on the way. A couple of real cows followed us up the steps looking for a hand out. Being pressed for time on the return, we took a new comfortable city bus with A/C down the hill!

The British influence in Mysore is readily evident with its wide neat boulevards and symetrical street layout. They actually have stoplights and drivers for the most part actually obey them! Unlike Madurai which was built with streets for bullock carts, foot traffic, and bicycles, now has to accommodate SUVs, buses hurtling down the streets, motos weaving in and out, autorickshaws dodging, and bicycles careening and bullock carts plodding along, itinerant cows wandering, dogs laying in the road PLUS pedestrians AND there is no sidewalk. Crossing a major busy street is a death defying adventure. What space would be sidewalk is being used by sidewalk vendors selling sugar cane juice or chat snacks or coconuts. Another notable factor is the unrelenting ear splitting use of car horns, bells, claxons, whining two cycle and roaring truck engines. It is non stop 24-7 off the end of decibel charts. Add to that blasting Tamil movie songs emminating from pirated CD shops.

Fifteen minutes from the Mysore, we found tranquil rice patties being plowed by oxen, sugar cane fields and big shady trees on quiet country lanes yesterday on a day trip to Tipu Sultan’s fortress and summer palace at Srirangapatnam. We rode rental bikes to a 9th C Vishnu temple and were enthralled by the beautiful elegant columns and colonnaded court. Chatted with one of the Brahmin priests to find out he has a colleague at the Indian temple in Malibu!

Leaving tomorrow for Coorg and the mountains! Namaste! Louisa