Monday, July 21, 2014

A Day In Seattle


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Just as I had hoped, taking the bus into Seattle from my new home in Bellevue proved simple.  

20 minutes and 4 stops after boarding at the South Bellevue Park and Ride, I'm at Pioneer Square.  I head for the waterfront.  

A local gentleman on the bus comments how much people are enjoying the heat wave.  It was 77.  Sorry, folks back home – don’t hate me!

I make my way over to Pike Place Market. 

It's fabulous!  Also crowded.  A local tells me that several cruise ships are in port. 

It's great fun to roam the maze of shops, restaurants, breweries, fish markets, and produce stands that seem to go on and on.

Back on the city streets, I stroll and browse some more.  This is my favorite shop.  

It has everything a map-nerd like me could wish for.  

I find an upscale antique shop stuffed full of treasure.


All along this trip I have been scheming about ways to sample the region’s prized Dungeness Crab.  On offer here, is Crab Cocktail.  Perfect!

The counter guy asks if I want cocktail sauce. 

Me: What’s the alternative?
He: Melted butter. 
Me: Uh, yeah.  Put me down for that.

And, yes, it is as delectable as it looks.

In the late afternoon, it was back to Home Depot where I receive permission to park overnight from the nice folks. This is a great location - close to the Park & Ride, and quiet.  I have this view of Bellevue from my living room.

[Note: On Sunday I explore the area on foot and find that the urban Bellevue is made up of corporate offices and high-end retail and residential spaces.  Everything looks new.  A real 21st century urban space.]   

 I'll hang out here for a few more days before making my way back to the coast.  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Mt Rainier NP - Day 2


Early in the AM, I begin the 8-mile up, down, all-around drive to Paradise, the park’s main Visitors’ Center. 

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The fabulous weather holds – nothing but blue skies and temps in the 60s.  I hike the Nisqually Glacier Trail for a good half-hour until  snow prevents further progress.  

Nisqually, one of Rainier's 25 glaciers, appears in the upper left corner and slopes toward the middle of this photo below.

Next I strike out on Skyline Trail until snow, once again, halts my progress. 

Back at the Visitors' Center, I watch the furious activity among the prospective summiteers.

After lunch, I drive the long route north up to White River Campground to secure a camping spot for the night before continuing to Sunrise – the park’s highest accessible point.  Arriving after a breathtaking 1.5 hour 14-mile drive, I search the entire campground twice over for vacant sites and find just two.  

One site is situated at an approximate120-degree angle and the other, on closer inspection, is littered with cigarette butts, orange peels, and egg shells.  I am in no mood to spend 30 minutes cleaning up the site.

Earlier in the day, a ranger had assured me that there would be plenty of vacant spots at White River.  After all, the postage-stamp size camping sites preclude all but the tent-campers and the micro-rigs like mine.  By the time I find otherwise, it is too late to backtrack and spend another night at Cougar Rock.  Bummer!

Leaving the park, I'm consoled that I can at least resume my connectivity and cell service after a 24-hour communication blackout.  I'm feeling pressed to check into the classroom.  My students have a major project due on Sunday and I know there would be lots of questions.  Incredibly …. there are none! 
The drive to Auburn, WA – destination Muckleshoot Casino – is only 30 miles but takes over 90 minutes due to construction on Highway 410.  All but a small section of the entire route is surfaced with freshly-placed gravel. 

Gravel is to the GDB what Fire is to The Scarecrow.  

With the GDB's 5-inch clearance, the sharp gravel pings unrelentingly throughout her fragile underbelly of plumbing, pipes, and propane.  It is a long, noisy, worrisome drive.  

But we make it without any obvious damage!

So I'm here for the night at the Muckleshoot Casino in Auburn, WA.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mt Rainier NP - Day 1


Mt. Rainier, standing 14,410 feet tall, encompasses dense forests, wildflower meadows, snowfields, and glaciers.  All this makes it one vast snowy show-off!  The National Park Service protects approximately 250,000 of its acres.  

Summit seen from Cougar Rock Campground

The mountain's looming bulk dominates the landscape to such a degree it’s almost impossible to take in.  I’ve learned that it’s one thing to be surrounded by a mass of 14-ers like the majestic Rockies, but quite another to have an intimate encounter with just one lone monolith.  With the Rockies, promiscuity is permitted; Rainier requires commitment.  Even if it's short-term like mine was. 

Mt. Rainier National Park is two things: 1) spectacular and 2) crowded.  

And this was hours after the first crush at Paradise Visitors' Center

And why shouldn’t it be?  Crowded, that is.  Almost 300-feet of annual snowfall makes the park inaccessible much of the year.  And the summer vacation season is in full-swing.  When I feel cramped and impatient, I try to remember to balance this with gratitude that so many people visit this treasure.  

One day, this will belong to all those bored-looking teenagers. 

I spend the night at Cougar Rock Campground.  It’s a lovely enclave of trees, rocks, and flowing water.  It offers a variety of trails.   

The GDB peeks shyly out from our campsite on the right.

As blog readers know, I have become somewhat squirrely about hiking alone.  But I manage not to psych myself out over the next 2 days.  Maybe I’m cured? (she said hopefully).  I spend an agreeable couple of hours exploring the Longmire Trail.

In the evening, I attend a Park Service program where Ranger Steve makes a masterful case regarding how nature enriches all of us.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mt. Saint Helens


After au revoirs to Debbie, Jim, and Gayle in the morning, I head inland and cross the Columbia River into Washington.  A new state for me!  The temperature shoots up 16 degrees almost immediately after leaving the coast. 

After 6 weeks in Oregon, I miss her already!  Once the initial shock of the no-sales-tax reality finally set-in, I quickly became accustomed to it, along with the the can’t-pump-your-own-gas state law.  I learned to say (just like my Mom did into the 70's) Can you do the windows, please?.  

Washington has a tough act to follow.


After a rather expected noisy night among the semis at an I-5 rest area, I head out to   

I remember the eruption well.  It happened on May 18, 1980 right before my graduation from college. 

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Weeks before the eruption, seismologists gave fair warning after a 4.1 magnitude quake occurred right under the summit.  A crater the size of a football field formed.  Next a massive bulge appeared. It grew ominously larger.  Seven weeks and another 10,000 smaller quakes later, the mountain exploded.  

Two weeks after that, its dust encircled the globe. 



Unfortunately the mountain is covered in haze during my visit.  This is the best I can do.

Mt Saint Helens is but one of hundreds of active volcanoes situated in the Cascade Range.  The most dangerous of which is Mount Rainier.  

Oh boy!  My next stop!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

More Lincoln City

What a wonderful stay this has been.  We've remained busy over the last 3 - 4 days: beachcombing, shopping, hiking, and even indulged in a red-hot session of Bingo.


None of us actually win anything but we laugh a lot.  And there are free cupcakes so ...  we had that going for us!


We spend a blustery afternoon at the nearby Tanger Outlet shops. I score some most excellent sandals. Debbie and Gayle each have a pretty good haul too.

I can hear John now: "Show-off!"

We stop at the local favorite fish market, Barnacle Bill's, where I grab some luscious smoked salmon for dinner.


In the morning, Gayle and I explore the beach at low tide.


The exposed rocks unveil an otherworldly array of marine life.


sultry starfish

Later in the day, we hike Cascade Head trail.  We have been wanting to do this hike for a couple of days, but the heavy cloud cover would have obscured the views, so we patiently hold off until the elusive sun appears.  Which it does for a magical couple of hours.  Perfect timing!

Gayle, Debbie, and Jim have a pre-hike conference.

This trail traverses diverse ecosystems.  In the beginning, it winds through a first-growth forest of fir, cedar, and spruce

then a meadow

and culminates in this eye-popping view of the Pacific.

Debbie and I stop here, taking it all in, as Jim and Gayle make their way to the top.

We are gazing.  Elk are grazing.

As if that weren't enough scenery for one day, we make a quick visit to the Salmon River Estuary located next to the trailhead.

What a great hike!  What a great day!

Tomorrow the others move northward up the coast while I head east toward Mt. Rainier.