Rest in Play, Eclipse

She was love and kindness, dog-ified.

The citizens of Seattle are a little bit more sad today, because our beloved, internationally known, solo bus riding dog has passed away. According to this article, she had cancer and died in her sleep. She was only 10 years old.

I never met Eclipse personally, but as I note in my post entitled One More Thing to Love About Seattle, she was one of the many things that made me really happy to call this area home when I first got here. And this article in NPR entitled, Eclipse the dog, known for riding the bus alone to the dog park, has died tells you everything you need to know about how beloved she was. It includes a twitter post with hundreds of comments by those who will mourn her loss, as well as a delightful YouTube video that was made by King Country Metro about her, which I’ll post below.

Eclipse showed us all that some things transcend species, require no language, and will always make the world a better place. Those things are love and kindness. Thank you, Eclipse, for teaching us all. Since you always had your bus pass on your collar, I’m sure there was a bus waiting to take you to the Rainbow Bridge in style.

Are you wondering what to bring to Thanksgiving dinner? How about my book, Notes on Gratitude? Place your orders now! (Or any other time, since we’re on the subject.) And… thanks!

Denali Encounters

I have always wanted to lay my eyes on the tallest peak in North America.

My whole life, I’ve been intrigued by Denali, even when it was still called the much less exotic Mt. McKinley. I have always wanted to lay my eyes on the tallest peak in North America. But the interior of Alaska seemed forever inaccessible to me.

That is, until this month. This month, I went to Alaska. And I refused to go to Alaska without paying homage to “The Tall One”, Denali.

Denali is 20,310 feet high. That’s hard to wrap my head around. That’s more than 3.8 miles high. Miles. And the National Park that surrounds this mountain is 6 million acres of undeveloped land. That’s bigger than the state of New Hampshire. And the crazy thing is, there’s only one road.

And believe you me, that road is treacherous. It’s so scary bad, in fact, that private vehicles are not allowed beyond milepost 15. That’s disappointing, considering that the road is 89 miles long. (By comparison, New Hampshire has 33,328 lane miles in a smaller area.) But limiting access like this also helps keep this park wild and natural, so for me this roadblock is well worth it.

To go beyond milepost 15, you have to take one of the park’s buses. There are several options. There’s a free, unnarrated one with limited access, an unnarrated transit one, which takes you from one park facility to the next, or there are several tour bus options, including the Tundra Wilderness Tour, which takes you as far as the Stony Hill Overlook at milepost 62. That’s an 8 hour, round trip tour, which tells you a lot about the state of the road, and also allows for the fact that your guide will stop a lot, and by that I mean A LOT, to allow you to take pictures of all the wildlife you’ll encounter.

The buses were a disappointment, though. They were school buses with ever-so-slightly upgraded seats. The windows kept falling open, letting in the frigid air and the road dust. I felt every bump in the road. Even if you had been the size of an elementary school student, you’d have still felt there was not enough leg room. But the place made it worthwhile.

During our tour, we saw 18 Dall Sheep, 8 Grizzly Bears, 5 Moose, 4 Caribou, 1 Arctic Ground Squirrel, 1 Ptarmigan, 1 Spruce Grouse, and 1 Magpie. The only thing missing was a partridge in a pear tree. We also saw glorious Autumn leaves, stunning mountain ranges, braided rivers, and a glacier.

And then… Denali. We joined the 30 percent club. Since the peak is so tall, usually most of the mountain is shrouded in clouds, so only 30 percent of the park visitors get a chance to see it with their own eyes. But we had a bright, clear, sunny day, apparently the first one they had had in weeks, and there it was, rising up to greet us, almost as if it knew I had been waiting for this my entire life.

And I’ll leave you with one final note. I’m so glad this glorious mountain is no longer called Mt. McKinley. It was first called that by a gold prospector who admired President-elect McKinley, and then after the president was assassinated in 1901 the name caught on. There has been controversy over that choice since well before the park was even established back in 1917. The State of Alaska itself has been pushing for the name change since 1975, but was continually blocked by the Ohio delegation in congress, because Ohio was the state that McKinley was from. Nevermind that McKinley never stepped foot in Alaska. (We’ll also probably never be able to do away with the useless penny because Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, will never stand for that.) The mountain only got restored to its earlier, Athabaskan name in 2015, and I’d say it’s about time.

If you ever get the chance to see Denali, do whatever it takes to do so. Its vast beauty will transform you. Here are a few of our pictures from our visit.

A book about gratitude is a gift that keeps on giving!

A Totally Different View —

It’s a rare thing indeed to come across a writer whose voice is so unique that it comes through loud and clear in his work. Recently I met such a writer at the Fresh Ground Stories meetup group in Seattle. Nathan drives a city bus for a living, so his views from the bus are completely different than my views from a drawbridge. He has a lot more human interaction, and he deals with it with aplomb. And then he writes about it in his blog.

If you read just a few entries, you’ll see what I mean. He doesn’t write about who he is, but you can see it through his conversations with people.  He knows how to diffuse tense situations. He doesn’t judge people, not even for a second. He has a way of making people open up and reveal things that they never would to most of us. You can tell that he genuinely cares about people and is fascinated by their unique perspectives. He makes himself a blank slate and allows people to write their stories upon him.

I’m not sure he realizes how unusual and outstanding his qualities are. This is a young man who will have an impact on people wherever he may find himself in life. Some people are just exceptional. Nathan Vass is one of those. Read his blog. You’ll be transported.

Nathan on his bus. {Image credit:]
Nathan on his bus. {Image credit:]

One More Thing to Love About Seattle

So I’m at the local Goodwill buying work clothes (no sense in going retail for something that will only wind up covered in grease) when I see this lady pushing her grocery cart down the aisle, her Lhasa Apso taking pride of place in the baby seat. No one batted an eyelash. I figured it was an isolated event, but no. I’ve since seen dogs (not service dogs, mind you) in the post office, the dry cleaners, the grocery store, and on the busses.

This is a dog friendly town. There are a ton of dog parks, and you can’t spit without hitting a veterinarian. And come to think of it, I haven’t seen a single stray since I’ve been here. That’s pretty amazing.

Apparently we even have a dog who rides the bus by himself to the dog park! This video will amaze you. All of the commuters seem to take it in stride.

That’s what I love about Seattle. Everyone seems to be cool with eccentricity. I’ve seen people dancing across the cross walks and marching down the street wearing clown suits and banging drums. Why not? Let your freak flag fly! I suspect that sooner or later I’ll fit right in. Any quirky city that holds dogs in high esteem ranks pretty high in my book.


Eclipse, the bus riding dog.

[Image credit:]