Friday, July 10, 2020

Photo Friday: Washington Dayhikes and Sunsets

My boys and I traveled to Seattle to spend a little time with family, especially my mom and my brother and his family. It was a good time to relax and get taken care of a bit, and we also fit in a couple of dayhikes with Dave's brother and his wife. Seattle was delightfully cool and while we never did see Mt. Rainier (never in the right place at the right time), we enjoyed some good views of other things.

Our first and best hike was a 9 1/2 or 10 mile hike to Melakwa Lake. Like most of the hikes near Seattle, I'd been there before--30 years ago. Funny, but I didn't remember much about it.

The hike starts out climbing up beneath the westbound lanes of I90. It felt a bit like the Ewok world in Star Wars--all forest and primitive, then up above there's this space-age transportation thing.

Fantastic waterfall 1/3 of the way up.

We enjoyed our lunch at the lake, but weren't inspired to swim, as temps were in the high 50s and there was still snow down to the water in places.

The second hike, up the Ira Spring trail to Mason Lake, was less scenic, and as we'd failed to realize Friday was the holiday for the 4th, far more crowded than we liked. I did get a few good shots, though.

Trufula trees, er, bear grass grew in several places along the trail.

I'm pretty sure these are a berry, but my mind refuses to come up with an ID.

Nearly every night gave us a beautiful sunset from my brother's home, too.

We were definitely a little sorry to come home, back to the land of way too hot!


All images and text ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2020, unless otherwise indicated.
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Non-fiction Review: The Winter Army

Title: The Winter Army: The World War II Odyssey of the 10th Mountain Division, America's Elite Alpine Warriors
Author: Maurie Isserman. Narrated by Brian Troxell
Publication Info: Audible Audio, 2019. Hardcover 2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 336 pages
Source: Library digital resoures
Publisher's Blurb/Goodreads:
The epic story of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division, whose elite soldiers broke the last line of German defenses in Italy’s mountains in 1945, spearheading the Allied advance to the Alps and final victory.

At the start of World War II, the US Army had two cavalry divisions—and no mountain troops. The German Wehrmacht, in contrast, had many well-trained and battle-hardened mountain divisions, some of whom by 1943 blocked the Allied advance in the Italian campaign. Starting from scratch, the US Army developed a unique military fighting force, the 10th Mountain Division, drawn from the ranks of civilian skiers, mountaineers, and others with outdoor experience. The resulting mix of Ivy League students, park rangers, Olympic skiers, and European refugees formed the first specialized alpine fighting force in US history. By the time it deployed to Italy at the beginning of 1945, this ragtag group had coalesced into a tight-knit unit. In the months that followed, at a terrible cost, they spearheaded the Allied drive in Italy to final victory.

Ranging from the ski slopes of Colorado to the towering cliffs of the Italian Alps, The Winter Army is a saga of an unlikely band of soldiers forged in the heat of combat into a brotherhood whose legacy lives on in US mountain fighters to this day.

My Review: 
I’m a sucker for interesting books about bits of WWII, as well as for books about mountaineering and outdoor adventures, so of course I had to check this one out. I got the audiobook from my library, and enjoyed it, but didn’t find it as compelling as I expected. The story is well-written, and many of the players are familiar: David Brower (Sierra Club), Fred Beckey (who wrote THE mountaineering guides to the Cascades), and a couple of other names I knew all showed up on the roster of the 10th Mountain Division.


What held it back was in part how much of the book was about the drive to create the force, and the initial struggles to get it going. The other disappointment was finding out just how little of their mountain training they ended up using. I knew about the elite mountain troops, and somehow I had thought they got to prove that their training and expertise were worth it. Instead, they had very little opportunity to do so, though they fought valiantly and well when they got to Italy, and played no small role in the Allied victory there. They just didn't get to do it on skis.


Reality interfered with a great story, and left us with a very good story, well told. This was an unusual bunch of men, many of whom chose to serve as enlisted men in the 10th rather than as officers elsewhere. They deserve their own chapter in the history books, and I am glad to have read it. Kudos to the narrator as well, for an excellent delivery that never called attention to itself.

My Recommendation:

Another worthwhile chapter for those interested in those who fought WWII, and how they did it, with a bonus for the skiing and mountaineering.

FTC Disclosure: I checked The Winter Army out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Friday, July 3, 2020

Photo Friday and Smashwords Sale!

So, before I get into sharing more photos from Antarctica, you have to hear about the Smashwords Summer/Winter sale. All my books are on sale, and for this first week of July, they are 75% off, which means the ones usually 99 cents are free--a great chance to get in at the start of each series! Jump on the chance, because I'm going to reduce the percentage off each week, unless I forget (yeah, I'm not really expecting great things of myself).

Find my books at my Author Page and stock up!
Just missing the latest, Death By Library and The Christmas Question--but you'll find them all on sale at Smashwords!

Okay, now for Antarctica #6, 

Cierva Harbor Zodiac Cruise

As with my last photo post, I'm offering minimal commentary. This was the next-to-last day of landings and adventures, and as you will see, weather was damp and dreary, but even under those conditions the light in Antarctica could be beautiful.

Coming into the harbor in the morning.
First view, an Argentine base. It was closed for the season, but is in regular summer use. The red buildings are a nice bit of color in an often black-and-white landscape.

Humans move out, penguins move in. I'm pretty sure this was a colony of gentoo penguins.
We then went off to look at icebergs and watch for wildlife in the harbor.

I'm still not sure exactly how these striations were formed. Has to have something to do with the layers in the snow (tilted 90 degrees).
Finally we found our critters--a leopard seal that checked out each zodiac in term, probably trying to decide if there was anything there it could eat.
Note that by now it's raining for real. You can see the rain hitting the water.

Our guide warned us not only to keep our hands out of the water, but to actually move away from that side of the boat, because they can lunge up and grab things, like tourists.

A farewell gleam of sun hitting the clear ice on one jagged mini-berg.

All images and text ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2020, unless otherwise indicated.
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!