Getting High on the Olympic Peninsula

August 26th, 2010

The other day, my guests drove all the way around the Olympic Peninsula in one day!  A long day, but they enjoyed it.  I enjoyed this vast treasure in a different way last weekend: hiking a 21-mile loop, gaining 4,000 ft elevation, camping in Seven Lakes Basin with four other backpackers.

Our weather was pretty darn good, considering it was supposed to rain.  The lupines were flashing their deep blue drifts of color across the high meadows, and the scarlet Indian Paint Brush blossoms were trying to keep up.

We saw a bear, a deer, and a family of ptarmigans.  Those who took the side-climb to the top of Bogachiel Peak saw a huge herd of elk!

Washingtonians are truly blessed with some of the most breathtaking mountain and ocean (and high desert) scenery in the world.

Musings from the Innkeeper

August 16th, 2010

Matthew's Sunset from the deck of the cottage | Soundview Cottage

Summer has arrived in all its NW splendor.  Clear dawns, lots of eagle activity, incredible sunsets.  It’s hot during the day (96 yesterday in town!) and dark at 9 pm.  The cottage is booked solid until August 29, and much of September, too.

Fortunately, it’s cooler here by the water, and the cottage has air-conditioning and new insulating window shades.  Many guests just STAY here, enjoying the chance to “get away from it all.”

You can send out for elegant dinners from a local caterer who delivers, or order from To Go Services, which offers a tremendous variety of take-out from different restaurants.  And there are lots of grocery stores nearby – and there’s always Pike Place Market for the best fresh fish and produce to bring home and cook in the little kitchen for dinner!

I wanted to share a few interesting innkeeper stories.  A couple of weeks ago, a young couple arrived on foot with backpacks, and last week another couple arrived on bicycles.  Most of my guests come from the airport in a rented car.  But recently I’m getting more local folks who just want a relaxing break in a more peaceful setting.

The backpackers are college students from Arizona who never rent cars when they travel – “So much better for us and for the environment,” they say.  They had flown to Seattle and taken 2 different Metro buses to get as close as possible, completing the last mile on foot.  When they got hungry, they walked to nearby restaurants or grocery stores.  The bikers, who live in a different part of Seattle and don’t own a car, brought their own supplies in panniers.

I had two really interesting  guests on Saturday night who had driven over from Eastern Washington for a Mariners game.  He’s a geneticist from a 7,000-cow dairy farm in Prosser – decides which cows to inseminate with which bulls.  And she does ultrasounds on pregnant girls and women.  She’s done it for 15 years, and she told me a little about some really dramatic scenes that can happen in her work.
And my current guest, from California, is recovering from the Ironman he competed in yesterday in Everett (in the heat!).

And about once a year I get a visit from a US diplomat to Moldova, usually with his wife, here for a couple of weeks to see family, doctors, dentist, etc.  These folks, originally from Seattle but just now winding up his long career abroad in the diplomatic service, are modest, sophisticated, REALLY well-educated, fun to talk with, and very sweet.

I love being an innkeeper and getting to know such a variety of people, on a short-term basis and sometimes repeating.  Matthew, who shot the sunset photo above, has been here many times on business.  He usually comes by himself to install communication systems in private luxury yachts, but once he came out just to relax, bringing his lovely wife.

Recently, guests have given me a bottle of delightful dessert wine, and (different people) 2 lbs of yummy, very special Portuguese sausage (FedEx’d from the east coast in dry ice).  (as if they hadn’t already paid me!)

I love my job!

Adventure in Peru

July 25th, 2010

Nonnie Trip #2 took grandson Alex and me to Peru.  (#1 was last November when I took his cousin Quinn to Egypt.)  I have 3 grandchildren to go.  A Nonnie Trip (Nonnie is the family name for me, a grandmother) must be

1.  to another continent where they don’t speak English  2.  hopefully, to a developing or third-world country and  3.  a mind-blowing adventure.

The two-week trip started in 11,000-ft-high Cusco,

went even higher to Chinchero, came back down (believe it or not) to the ever-thrilling Machu Picchu, and ended  in the Amazon headwaters in a REAL jungle.   I can heartily recommend this small, casual-style tour conducted by a most unusual eco-volun-tour outfit called Crooked Trails.  They came to our rescue in 2 emergencies, in most compassionate, professional ways.

The highlight of the trip for me – because I’d been to Machu Picchu before – was the Posada Amazonas lodge in the jungle.  Hard to describe the hardcore eco-ethics-cum-luxury style of this remote hotel.  No walls on the rooms – all part of the jungle.  (of course, there are mosquito nets for the beds.)  The food was generous, varied, healthy and delicious; the staff fun and knowledgeable; the setting other-worldly.  And our exit was yet another adventure!

The Enchanted Valley

July 2nd, 2010

the view from the outhouse

Back about 40 years ago when I lived in LA and was just getting my feet wet with backpacking, the Sierra Club offered a hike into the Enchanted Valley on the Olympic Peninsula.  The hike was canceled that year due to lack of interest.  But MY interest kept going until this summer, when my dream finally came true.

The Enchanted Valley is up in the headwaters of the Quinault River.  You drive to the end of the road beyond Lake Quinault, park, and start walking, 13 miles to be exact – we took 2 days to do it.  A small group from MeetUp had planned this trip, and I was not disappointed!

Green on Green

It’s only about a 4-hour drive from here to the upper Quinault River, to a whole different ecosystem, one where green is the only color and human sounds surrender to rushing water.  Bears, indifferent to hikers, barely (scuse me) look up from their leisurely grazing for berries in the meadows.

The Enchanted Valley was a privately-owned destination in the 20’s, until the National Park took it over and maintained it as a ranger station and emergency shelter. It’s the first major clearing – there are many beyond it as the trees start thinning and shrinking – and I think it got its name from the myriad waterfalls that grace the cliffs surrounding it.  While we were there – 2 nights in June – a crew was replacing the original cedar-shake roof, faithfully duplicating the original shingles, which were almost three feet long!  They had had to mill them themselves – you just can’t buy shakes like that anymore.

Reminded me of an old, old shack I stumbled across once in the Sierras many years ago.

On the way home, a few of us visited charming Port Townsend and Fort Worden, staying in the youth hostel there by the beach.  It’s definitely shorter to go south through Olympia and Hoquiam, but it makes a nice loop to continue the circle.

I’m so glad I finally got to actually experience the Enchanted Valley, one of the many amazing places on the  spectacular Olympic Peninsula!

You can see 130 photos from the trip, contributed by myself and the 7 other backpackers, on the Seattle Backpackers website.

This is OUR watch!

June 5th, 2010

How do you feel when people criticize the government, politicians, and “the system” – but don’t do anything – not even vote? Would you like to have a positive influence on the world we’re leaving to our children?  I would!

Photo by Brett Fish

So I went to a community “town hall” meeting the other night, where my Congressman Adam Smith was answering questions and opinions from his voters.  I like him.  A thoughtful Democrat.  Co-sponsor of both the Fair Elections Now Act and the new Disclose Act.

Here I am gathering signatures on a petition for clean elections.  My friend Jean and I have been on the Board of Washington Public Campaigns for several years.  I’m really lucky to have the time, now that I’m semi-retired,  to get involved in these activities.

In 2004,  when my younger daughter was 20, we went to Washington, DC, to join the Women’s March.  What a thrill!  1.2 million people in support of a woman’s right to make up her mind. Here’s an aerial photo of all of us jamming the mall.

I burn biodiesel in my oil furnace in my home because I’m an environmentalist.  The cottage has efficient, quiet Convect-Air wall heaters.

Several times a week, I tutor refugee kids as a volunteer, helping them learn a new language, a new alphabet.  To read from left to right.  It’s so hard for some of them.  They’re fresh from Latin America, East Africa, and Southeast Asia.  One’s from Iraq, via Jordan.  How brave they are!  They’re so grateful for help.

I’ve been a member of South End Neighbors for Peace & Justice since I moved to Burien five years ago.  We raise money for Afghan schools, we vigil for peace on “our” street corner (1st & 148th), we register voters, and we get together twice a month for a potluck supper and good friendship. Here’s a booth we hosted at the Burien Strawberry Festival last year.  My peace buddy June turned 90 today – what a role model!

If I didn’t “read” the news every morning (online), and learn about events and issues, if I didn’t try to promote my beliefs while respecting the opinions of others, if I just decided to “sit it out,” I would feel rather useless.  I’m glad I live in a country where I can try to make a difference.

This is the only watch we’ll have on Spaceship Earth, Folks.  It’s up to us.  For the sake of our children, stand up.  Get involved.

History of Three Tree Point is Published

May 19th, 2010

Three residents of Three Tree Point have recently published a book about our unique Burien waterfront community, tracing its history through more than 200 vintage photographs. Soundview is just south of the Point, on a high bluff overlooking the Sound.

The Point received its name from three massive fir trees that stood on its north side at the beginning of the 20th century. The area was largely undeveloped until 1903 when the Three Tree Point Company began marketing the community as a place to build summer homes for those desiring a beach lifestyle.

“A Mosquito Fleet” of ferries served all the South Sound coastal villages in the early days.  They landed at Three Tree Point, bringing supplies to the general store, which still stands, now converted into a home.  (The current city fathers won’t allow any commercial activities in these parts.)  Many of the original beach residences, some more than 100 years old, are lovingly maintained and inhabited, despite dozens of stairs that have to be negotiated between the road and the beach.  (No worries – Soundview’s off-road parking is just a few level steps from the red door.)Cottage Front Door

This neighborhood is still a quiet backwater of greater Seattle, enjoying tranquil views of the Sound, the mountains, and Vashon Island.  I’ve only lived here five years now, but some of my neighbors are third generation residents!  There’s something mesmerizing about this place.  It would be hard to leave.

The history book presents images of a diverse mixture of family life, unusual characters, holiday celebrations, shipwrecks, fishing derbies and storytelling.  Sepia-tone photos of old geezers, prim wives and roudy children adorn the pages.  If you’re interested in perusing the book during your visit in the cottage, please let me know and I’ll lend you my copy.

Chasing Whales with Captain Jim

May 19th, 2010

Whale with Mt Baker in the BackgroundLast week I stole away to Friday Harbor for my annual whale watching fix with Captain Jim Maya.  Jim almost always finds whales, and often other sea creatures as well, like dolphins, sea lions and eagles.  It’s a fun ride on his fast 27′ Glacier Bay twin-engine boat “Peregrine.”  Last Wednesday we found a pod ‘way out in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  The weather’s been a little iffy lately, but we lucked out and got sun AND whales!  And Jim’s grandson “Ike,” almost 3 1/2, was along, too.

It makes for a long day, but you can get an express ferry from Anacortes in the morning and be on the Peregrine by 1 pm – and be back home to Soundview by bedtime.

Another Dazzling Spring Day in Eastern Washington

May 10th, 2010

Summited Mt. Whiskey Dick near Vantage yesterday!  The high desert, just west of the Columbia River, surprises the hiker with dozens of different kinds of spring flowers – from phlox to balsam, from cactus blossoms to lupines, all popping up among the sage brush.  And look at all those beautiful clean-energy wind turbines!  The weather was spectacular, and it was thrilling to get out and tromp across the hills and up to a majestic outcropping of lichen-encrusted basalt.

Burien Farmer's Market Opens!

May 7th, 2010
Every Thursday afternoon from now til October, our local Burien farmers’ market will delight with fresh fruits and vegetables, arts & crafts, amazing bouquets of flowers, plants to grow in your own yard, and food-related items like baked goods, fresh fish, meats and sausage.  There’s usually live music and a lively crowd.  Bring your own grocery bags if you can remember.  When the farmer’s market opens and the cottage gets busy (like now!!), I know summer’s just around the corner.

photo courtesy b-town blog

For more things to do while staying at Soundview Cottage, visit our Things to Do page.

Spring has Sprung!

April 25th, 2010

Spring has burst upon Puget Sound, ready or not!  Wave upon wave of chaotic color engulfs the cottage door and mine, the windows, the decks, and the driveway, as each new bulb, perennial, or rhodie takes center stage.  Ferns shyly unfurl.  Poppies brashly pop.  Primroses kick the CanCan!  Lilacs languidly lean over the driveway, exhaling fragrance into the breeze.  Every day at Soundview is a new cirque du soleil – except the sun is still often absent.   But who cares? Summer is on her way!