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.
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!
Friday night I boarded a plane to San Francisco to visit my younger daughter and her partner, who live in the city. Fun, relaxing weekend. It rained most of the time I was there, except for our touristy “Sunset Bay Cruise” on Saturday night, which was really delightful. Most of the photos are from that cruise. The cruise offers a moving vista of the bay and its skyscrapers, bridges, parks, neighborhoods, marinas, maritime industries, hills, and morbid history (Alcatraz and Angel islands). The on-board entertainment (two live singer/guitarists) was high quality but charmingly informal. A proposal/engagement happened right before our eyes and of course we all celebrated, even though we didn’t know the young couple. Passengers receive a free glass of wine and an abundant buffet of light fare, including sandwiches. Of course, since we were in San Francisco, we went out to eat twice on Sunday (brunch and dinner). We also stayed IN and played Bananagrams a lot, and watched two episodes of the stunning series Life that Allison and Peter had stored on their TIVO.
Today I took the ferry to Bainbridge Island to visit a friend. I love the ferries! The crossing to Bainbridge takes only 25 minutes, but you feel like you’re in a very different place when you land. I’m disappointed in myself, though. I had wanted to be really “green” and take the bus from Burien to the ferry dock and then walk onto the ferry as a foot passenger instead of driving my car on – but I was running late, so I spent the money and the gas and drove on. Oh well – next time!
One of my favorite views in the Seattle area is the skyline as you return to the mainland, as viewed from the Bainbridge ferry. I heard rumors of whale sightings from the ferries the last few days, but I didn’t spot any today.
It’s a good time of year to go backpacking in Central Washington. The wildflowers are starting; it’s not high enough for snow. And there’s still lots of water, in lakes, streams and waterfalls.
I visited the Channeled Scablands with a small group, mid-March. Eight fairly flat miles in, eight out. Weather was good – it got down to about 40 at night, but a campfire of old sagebrush and a flask passed among friends thwarted the chill. This area, called Ancient Lakes, reveals remnants of the sudden flood caused by the bursting of the ice dam which held back Glacial Lake Missoula until the end of the last ice age.
This area has a desolate kind of beauty. Quiet, peaceful, lonely. A retreat from the ordinary.
But driving home, Snoqualmie Pass was hammered by one of the hardest rains I’ve ever experienced, and there’s new snow in the mountains on April Fool’s Day!
Here in Burien, we’re blessed with two spectacular saltwater parks. Seahurst, the older one, offers generous parking, forest trails and beaches, and wide areas for playing and picnicking. There’s even an environmental learning center. Our new park, Eagle Landing Steps, is new and really unique. Practically vertical, it’s a sliver of a bluff.
You access the trailhead from a tiny parking lot in a quiet neighborhood 5 minutes up the coast. The trail winds toward the water for about 1/4 mile, then the steps begin – all 280 of them! – zigzagging down to the beach. Built of strong galvanized steel bolted into monumental concrete pillars, the endless flights of steps float just above the pristine vegetation – salal, sword ferns, snowberries, and wild azaleas about to bloom. Alders and conifers stand guard above. After about 3 trips up and down those steps, I’ve had a good workout! Beats going to the gym, say I!
Seattle and Tacoma share an intimate symphony called the Northwest Sinfonietta. Founded in 1991 by the conductor, Christophe Chagnard, the ensemble features 35 professional musicians who perform a wide range of works, from Baroque to contemporary. Last night I took our new Light Rail and met a friend downtown for “Bach to the Future.” It was thrilling. I’ve never really enjoyed classical music (except for the obvious Puccini and Tchaikovsky), and the Sinfonietta makes it really easy – $20 for most seats. They play about 5 concerts each year of unusual, entertaining music, Friday nights in the smaller Nordstrom Hall of the Benaroya building, and the following night in Tacoma at the Rialto Theater. One concert last year featured amazing music composed by Charlie Chaplin for his movies. They showed the movies on a VERY big screen while the Sinfonietta performed the score.
Getting there couldn’t be easier. The Tukwila station of the Light Rail is about 8 minutes away with free parking, and the University tunnel station has an elevator that lets you out right in the Benaroya lobby!
Every Sunday afternoon the Wooden Boat Center on Lake Union in downtown Seattle offers free public sails. Along with 11 other grateful Sunday sailors, I went out in a historic 35′ oyster boat last week. It was a spectacular day, and although the voyage was short, it was a delightful experience. No experience necessary – the Center’s volunteers do all the work. What a Seattle thing to do!
In the summertime, you have to arrive early, perhaps around 10 in the morning, to sign up in person – there was only room for 12 on each of the two sailboats. Then volunteers rig the boats and the “crew” boards around 1 or 2 in the afternoon. All Aboard!
Last week 3 backpacking buddies and I went on a 3-day backpack up the spectacular Eagle Creek canyon in Oregon. Hobbit country! Waterfalls, mosses, ferns, huge old-growth evergreens, streams, deep pools, cascades, water everywhere, churning, falling, spitting, spraying, misting, rushing, tumbling, roaring and making everything green! Usually I hike in the Washington Cascades or the Olympic mountains. This was a different kind of ecosystem, more like on the Olympic Peninsula. It’s about 5 hours from Seattle, but well worth the drive. We had a fabulous time.