Archive for the ‘Things to Do’ Category

Getting High on the Olympic Peninsula

Thursday, 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.

The Enchanted Valley

Friday, 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.

Chasing Whales with Captain Jim

Wednesday, 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

Monday, 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!

Friday, 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.

Ferry to Bainbridge

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

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.

A different kind of beauty

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

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!

Eagle Landing Steps

Monday, March 29th, 2010

eagle landing steps from the water

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!

Viva La Sinfonietta!

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

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!

Free Public Sails!

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

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!