Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Spring Vacacay Outing #4: Deception Pass

Today we hit the road early in order to beat the traffic and get out to Anacortes and Deception Pass in a timely manner.  Little did we know that there was a Convertible + Personalized License Plate convention going on somewhere up there.  We passed a Corvette convertible with the license plate "EVILELF", a Nissan 350Z convertible with "GRAMS Z", and *another* Corvette convertible with "KOOLWHP", all within about 5 miles of each other.  I am *not* making this up.  You guys should know I'm not that creative...

Tanya's a steady hand with the camera on the move!
Convertibles aside, the drive up was very scenic despite being mostly freeway.  We made it to the Deception Pass State Park a little after 9:30 a.m. and began walking immediately.

There are a couple of walking trails to wander on, and we did both.  The northern trail was the most interesting and offered the best views of all the natures.  Who would have thought that an island could be so densely populated by trees?

SO many trees!

Near the far end of the northern trail stands a statue carved of wood.  I didn't get great pictures of it, but here are its two faces:

There are four placards around the statue telling the story of the Maiden of Deception Pass.  I love finding stories like this as we adventure!  You should read the story for yourself.  I'd be interested to know what others thought of it...

This is also near the spot where the now (in)famous Double Rusty picture was taken.  For reference:

When just one Rusty isn't enough, try Double Rusty!  (also available in 6-packs)
This trail was the longer of the two, totaling about 3 miles round trip.  Finishing that one, we moved on to the other two trails towards Lighthouse Point and Lottie Point.  Lighthouse Point was cool for two reasons: 1) suddenly, a field of flowers, and 2) a nice little beach where a seal was sighted (although no picture was captured, unfortunately).

BOOM!  Nature explosion!
Lottie Point was... not nearly as exciting.  Honestly, the point was really hard to see through the trees, and the point itself was pretty inaccessible.  You'll have to console yourselves with another picture of Tanya walking through trees.

Seriously? How many trees can there be?!
At least THIS many, my dear!
These two trails were between 2.5 and 3 miles together, bringing our total to about 6 for the day.  We made one more stop at the southern end of the Park for a shot on the beach back toward Lighthouse Point and a late lunch.  I even managed to skip a couple of rocks.

Squint really hard and you can see the seals... or the lighthouse...
Deception Pass was definitely worth the effort, especially the northern trail.  Four enthusiastic thumbs up!  Would explore again!

For those of you that are wondering, I have NO REAL IDEA of what's on the agenda for tomorrow.  The weather doesn't look like it's going to hold, so tomorrow's outing will be even more of a game-time decision than usual.  Here's to hoping it's at least SUPER GREAT!  :-D

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Spring Vacacay Outing #3: Bainbridge Island

Today was a day full of boating and walking through towns and woods.  It all started with a drive back to Seattle to board the Bainbridge Island Ferry.  Parking in a convenient garage in downtown Seattle, we managed to catch the 10:40 a.m. ferry (vacation, don't judge us for being latezy).  The trip over was unexpectedly chilly!  I figured it would be a little cold, but darn my Texan tenderness toward the arctic chill blasting me full in the face from the front of the ferry!  Thanks to Tanya's brilliant contingency planning, we had scarves and ear covers (and even gloves) with us.  It made the trip tolerable, and almost pleasant.
Hello, tiny Space Needle!

Luckily, immediately after arriving it was almost 1,000,000 degrees F.  OK, that's a slight exaggeration, but it was plenty warm already on a day that promised to only get warmer.  We walked through Bainbridge town straight to The Harbour Public House, where we enjoyed an early lunch of fish and chips and salmon and beer.  It's a good thing we got there early, as the line was out the door by the time we finished.
I can't smile with my eyes open.

Our main excursion on the island was to the Bloedel Reserve, a simply marvelous walk through nature.  The reserve is well laid out, interesting, pleasant, and well worth the trip.  Speaking of the trip, let me take a slight detour into the only annoying thing that happened all day.  We rode the bus out to the reserve, and were told that the next bus would be at 2:20 p.m.  We had actually made it through the reserve by 2:20 and were literally walking out the front entrance as we saw the bus turning the corner, leaving us behind.  It wasn't more than 30 yards away, and we tried waving it down, to no avail.  They like to keep their schedules sharp on that island apparently.

It was equally apparent that nature had intended for us to stay at the reserve an extra hour.  It gave us a chance to wander back through the Japanese Garden section of the reserve, which was quite tranquil and worth spending some extra time in, reflecting.
When do we move in?

Catching the 3:20 p.m. bus back into town gave us plenty of time to stop by the Eagle Harbor Book Company, where I picked up a Neil Gaiman book illustrated by Chris Riddell, a nature poetry book, and a pocket haiku book.  The final stop was at the Mora Iced Creamery.  Tanya actually had two large scoops -- one Sabayon and one Italian Chocolate.  I, of course, had a Gianduja Milkshake.  Think of it as Nutella with extra hazelnuts, chilled into a highly viscous liquid.  Zounds, it was delicious!

Did these guys know I was coming in?
Catching the 5:30 ferry back to Seattle, we had every intention of going to get sushi.  As it turns out, the garage we parked in closes at 8 p.m..  We didn't want to be rushed through a night of what we hear is some of the best sushi available in the U.S., so we opted out of it in favor of leftover Thai food and wine at the house.  Given the state of our legs after yet another day of walking all over the place, it was definitely the right decision.  Next time we'll know to park in the 24-hour lot!

I know I promised you guys a Lake Serene outing today, and for those of you that are disappointed, I'm afraid you'll just have to get used to it.  :-D  Tomorrow, we're seriously considering another driving/walking outing, this one to Anacortes.  But, as usual, it'll be a game-time decision.  I humbly request you to stay tuned!  Also, at this point, I think we're up to taking requests!  =-D

Monday, April 18, 2016

Spring Vacacay Outing #2: Snoqualmie Area Driving Tour

Today's outing was a driving tour of Snoqualmie Falls, Preston/Fall City, North Bend, Rattlesnake Lake, and Snoqualmie Pass.  We intended to get into the city, take the ferry, etc., but decided this morning that we didn't want to adhere to *any* schedule, even that imposed by a boat.  Also, we decided not to hike today, for two reasons.

  1. We got a later start than we intended, and it was already getting warm by the time we got out and about.
  2. We were still recovering a little from yesterday's activities.

Proof of needing extra recovery.
With that said, on with the show!

Snoqualmie Falls

The first stop was Snoqualmie Falls.  For those of you that have never heard a large waterfall, I'll give this very inadequate description.  Imagine the rumble of thunder still at a good distance.  Now filter that sound down a little, so that it appears audibly translucent.  Play that sound in an infinite loop, and you'll get a sense of what a large waterfall sounds like.

Wait a second, I actually captured a little of this on video!

The falls were fantastic and definitely worth visiting.

Preston/Fall City

We decided to take a scenic route down through Preston/Fall City on our way toward North Bend.  It's a neat little town full of roads canopied by solid green.  The light that manages to get through is reflected off of bright foliage, resulting in a soft yellow-green glow.  Eventually you break out of those seemingly unending tunnels of green into a wide open view of Mount Si.  Moving from that closed-in feeling to an open sky dominated by a solid wall of forested mountain was quite breath-taking.

Unfortunately, getting good pictures of this effect is really difficult, especially in a moving vehicle.  You'll just have to take me at my word about how awesome this was.  :-)

Three Forks Natural Area

The next stop was Three Forks Natural Area.  It was a random stop we picked because it looked like there was a small walkable trail there.  It turns out it's also a dog park, and a pretty magnificent one at that, being backed by Mount Si.

Dogs frolicked the day away here!

We pulled over a couple more times on the way to North Bend, because pretty nature!

I'm pretty sure living here doesn't suck.

Rattlesnake Lake

We stopped by Rattlesnake Lake to check out the area.  There is actually a nice hike here, and we may still do it, but as previously mentioned, it was not in the cards for today.  However, the recreational area around the lake is worth visiting all by itself.

More lake and mountain than will fit in the picture!

Snoqualmie Pass

Our final stop (not counting eating) was at Snoqualmie Pass.  Our intention was to get a picture at the Twin Peaks sign, but we drove around the supposed sign location and couldn't find it.  Inevitably, it was probably ten more yards in one direction or the other that we didn't go.  Oh well!  The drive to and back from the pass was worth the price of admission.

Last one to the slopes is a rotten skier!

North Bend

On our way back to the cottage (ok, it's not really a cottage, but we are staying at a cool little house on Lake Sammamish), we stopped for a late lunch at the North Bend Bar and Grill.  When we vacacay, we try to dodge chainy places, opting for local establishments to try to get a feel for the area's cuisine.  This place fit that bill nicely.  We recommend it to anyone that happens to be in the area and feels even the tiniest bit peckish.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's exciting episode, where our intrepid adventurers wander to Lake Serene!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Spring Vacacay Outing #1: Chirico Trail

For those of you just tuning in, Spring Vacacay is fully underway at this point.  We're actually preparing for Summer Vacacay with the boys, when we'll be taking on Oregon!  For now, however, we're near Seattle, exploring the day trails and other scenery for a few more days.


Patriotic trailhead!
Today's outing was a short-ish one: Chirico Trail, up to Poo Poo Point.  Just in case you didn't click the link, it's short-ish because it's a 3.8 mile trip up the hill and back.  We decided to start with this one since neither of us has hiked seriously since Spring Vacacay last year in Utah.  We figured we would warm up with this and then move on to Snoqualmie Falls in the afternoon.  Once again, my arrogance wrecked all of our plans...

First things first: the hike itself was great and we are very glad we did it.  We would do it again, taking the longer path to the top next time.  With that said, I'll proceed with a tale of woe.  Eh, that sounds too pedestrian... how about a tale of dolor?  Yes, it's a real word.  Look it up!

This ain't even hard!
We got there relatively early, but the trail was already crowded.  It turns out that was a good thing, because it meant that we had an extra excuse to go slowly.  As mentioned, the hike is 3.8 miles -- that means 1.9 miles up, and another 1.9 miles down.  In the first 1.9 miles, the elevation gained is about 1760 feet.  The main issue with that is that we're from Texas.  Texas, as a rule, doesn't have elevation gains like that.  Our neighborhood, where we did almost all our training for this, is a 0.9 mile loop.  Tanya and I had been doing that loop twice at lunch four or five times a week for the past couple of months, but the elevation gain is about 50 feet.  There's a world of difference, unfortunately.  We soon learned that lesson.

Most of the hike up is actually shaded, which was a good thing.  It started off pretty chilly, but before long it was pleasantly cool.  Everything smells deliciously earthen on a shaded trail.  Apparently I'm one of those weirdos that like the smell of pine, pollen, and decomposing layers of leafy mulch.

Sipping water, or blowing bubbles?
Tanya took the lead most of the way.  This is actually a departure from our normal hiking order, as I have trouble hearing her talk to me when I'm behind her.  I always attributed this to my declining hearing, but I think it might have just as much to do with the windy conditions under which we usually walk/hike in Texas.  I didn't have much trouble hearing her at all (not that we were talking a lot -- gotta make oxygen decisions sometimes).

The climb up was hard.  I'm not ashamed to say it.  I've already said that I was ill-prepared (living in one of the flattest states in the nation), and climbing the equivalent of about 3000 stair steps was more work than I'm accustomed to.  Still, we made it, and hopefully our legs will get used to the strain a little.  Our other hiking outings will be at least this hard.

On the plus side, all of the gear worked out wonderfully.  The trail shoes I had were delightful, only slipping twice (neither time being their fault).  The backpacks are more compact than our normal ones, but they have much better designed storage.  I didn't feel like I had to leave anything behind because of space.  We switched to hydration packs insteads of carrying bottles around with us.  Not having to manage those was really convenient.  The pants, shirt, and hat were all relics from last year, and worked just as well in the woods as they did on the rocky hikes in Utah.

Learn to aim, or take a panorama!

The payoff of the hike, as mentioned earlier, was worth it.  What you see here is the meadow before the point, which looks out on one side of the valley (toward Mount Rainier).  This was a cool spot to take a short break in, which we did.  Snacks were consumed, but we didn't tarry.  Off the the point we went!

So view!  Very nature!
This is Poo Poo Point, looking back toward Lake Sammamish.  They actually have a hang-gliding launch here, although no one was out today.  Lots of people were camped out here, so we made our way back to the meadow for lunch, then jaunted back down the the hill.  The trip down was much faster than the trip up, but was still challenging.  Shake leg occurred.  Oddly enough, the strain in my legs is mostly thigh-based, but for Tanya it was in the calves.  I'm going to assume that's because I'm taller, instead of trying to figure it out.  #TallGuysMatter

Lessons Learned

  • Everyone in this area hikes on the weekends, and I think all of them wind up on this trail at some point.  Hike it during the week if you want more solitude.
  • Take your poles, even if you don't think you'll use them.  Carrying them around via backpack loops is easy, and you never know when they'll come in handy.
  • Add sodium/electrolyte tablets to your water to help avoid cramping muscles.
  • Tanya doesn't like snakes (we saw 2) almost as much as she doesn't like spiders (we saw 0, but if we had it would've meant disaster).
  • Take two sips every time you only think you need a single sip.  You packed those two or three liters of water for a reason.  Make it worth the effort!  I only drank 0.5 liters in an almost 4 mile hike -- not nearly enough.
  • Claritin D is a must for me.  Even with it, I still sneezed a little.  Nature assaults my olfactory senses, and my nose fights back with vicious (and sometimes viscous) sternutations. (Another real word -- keep your dictionary handy!)
  • Robert Frost is good to read in the meadow.  I read "Birches" and "A Time to Talk" there.
Stay tuned for more exciting outings from Spring Vacacay!

Sunday, April 10, 2016


I wish I could adequately express in words how much I loathe the tomato.  Unfortunately, I have neither the vocabulary nor the space to properly convey how hideous and abhorrent these mistakes of nature actually are.  However, for posterity’s sake, I will endeavor to point out their largest sins against existence.

Let’s start with their classification.  Are tomatoes a vegetable or a fruit?  As it turns out (scientifically speaking, at least), they are definitely a fruit.  That is to say, a smart person knows that a tomato is a fruit.  However, a wise person knows better than to put a tomato in a fruit salad.  If you have to be both smart and wise in order to properly place the thing, it implies that the thing is not worth placing.

Moving on to growth: tomatoes, as it turns out, are ridiculously needy and hard to take care of as a plant.  Headlines include but are not limited to:
  • They are amazingly susceptible to a range of pests (aphids, flea beetles, tomato hornworm, whiteflies) and diseases (blossom-end rot, late blight, mosaic virus).
  • If you’re starting a plant from seeds, it has to be grown indoors for 6-8 weeks before the last frost of the season before it can be moved outside.  Good luck predicting the future!
  • They need at least 6-8 hours of good sunlight every day, but in our southern climate, they benefit from light afternoon shade.  It's a good thing we've got that automated patio shade!
  • The soil they’re planted in should be slightly acidic, well-drained but able to hold moisture evenly, and rich in organic matter.  Get out your litmus testing kit!  I'm glad I learned all that chemistry in college just so I can take care of a stupid plant that I hate!
  • If they grow too fast, their delicate skin will crack, rendering them even worse than terrible.  So, you should do a good job taking care of them, including messing with the soil and even watering and just enough but not too much sunlight, but don't do TOO good a job because then they'll just explode on you.
I could go on, but hopefully you get the picture.

Now we get to the heart of the matter: consumption.  The uncooked tomato is deceptively appealing, visually.  You can’t help but wonder if you could take a big bite out of one, similar to the way you would an apple (a vastly superior fruit).  Doing so will likely disturb you for the rest of your life, causing you no end of terrifying dreams and subsequent psychiatric bills.  Hey, at least you won't have to deal with those spider nightmares anymore.  Unless, of course, they morph into spiders with tomato abdomens!  Fangs dripping poisonous tomato juice!  GAH!  Where's my phone?!  I need an emergency counseling session!

The textural consumption experience is not unlike eating a grape (another vastly superior fruit).  The skin of both is thin, with meat that has a pleasant firmness without requiring much work from either molar or canine teeth.  That’s where the similarity ends, however, and you must deal with the fact that between the meaty parts of a tomato exist a slimy larval state that the tomato passes off as “juice and seeds.”  Seriously, if you think earthworms are disgusting because they’re slimy, you should refrain from inspecting the inside of a tomato.  It’s *just like worm guts*.  More on earthworms and tomatoes later.

The taste of an uncooked tomato is indescribable.  It’s as if Nature said “Hey, I’m done with the avocado and earthworms, but I’ve got some leftover guts and stuff.  What should I do those?  I know!  I’ll create a fruichtable just to mess with people!  Let’s see how many of them actually try to eat the thing!”  That’s right — you heard it here first: the tomato is that happened with Mother Nature mated an earthworm and an avocado.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing redeeming about the tomato.  I happen to quite like ketchup/catsup, tomato sauces with pasta and pizza, and throwing rotten tomatoes at bad comedians.  Beyond those uses, however, I’m not sure why you would bother with this travesty of growth.  

Do yourself a favor, hard-working farmer: plant tomatoes if you so desire, but don’t treat them any better than your other plants.  In fact, neglect them a little.  Perhaps we can natural-select them into a heartier and better-tasting fruit.  Otherwise, make better use of the space you would normally put a tomato plant in, and plant a DQ-Blizzard bush.