Hanging With Plants, Climbing The Water Tower & The Black Sun At Volunteer Park

There is something very peaceful about a conservatory full of plants. A place where all the cares can be left outside the glass structure and take a breather for an hour. An old Victorian Conservatory, a Victorian water tower and seeing Seattle from the black side of the sun. All of this done before noon on a quiet overcast day in Volunteer Park.

Volunteer Conservatory:

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Walking among the plants in a Victorian-era greenhouse structure is a step into a peaceful warm environment full of plants from all over. From one area to the other of the building was packed with flowers, trees, cactus, and other exotic plants blooming with color. I went right around the time the conservatory was opening for the day and I believe this is the best time of day to go when it is not crowded with people.

 

The Water Tower:


Walked all the way up to the top of this old Victorian water tower to great views of Seattle, Bellevue, and Lake Washington. From here through the tree top/branches there are glimpses of the old grand houses of Capital Hill. The very same houses that are well out of reach for anyone in this city unless you have a couple of million dollars extra sitting around. From the old style wrought iron bar windows you can see the landscape of the park below, and with the old pictures of the tower, some of the trees below have been growing since 1909!

 

Black Sun Of Seattle:

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If you stand just right on the top of the stairs with the SAM behind you, you can get the Space Needle framed in the middle of the sculpture. I do not remember why it is called the Black Sun, but it has been part of the park since 1987.

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I did not visit the Lake View Cemetery where famous Seattle people are buried (which is next door to the park) because there have been a people destroying grave sites in the Seattle area. So I could not see the final resting places of Bruce Lee. Maybe some other time.

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Tanzanian Adventures|Unexpected Hike

Updated 12/2017

Hiking in Tanzania was an unexpected adventure with a whole lot of people. I was talked into going on this hike with a whole bunch of people because we could have a view of Mount Meru from the top of a hill just behind the hotel. The said hike was to hike to the top of Suye hill before sunset. We did all make it up just as the sun was setting, and we all got a great view of Mount Meru and the rest of Arusha valley below.

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It all started with crossing the busy road full of crazy motorcycles and cars. Not something for the faint of heart in this country! The beginning part of the trail started up a steep muddy rock step between a cluster of houses along the slope of the lower part of the hill. Once in the tree line, it was climbing up the steep embankments with slippery mud clinging to our shoes, getting almost lost in the brush when the group was split up, and finding out the cobblestone path was not complete enough to take anyone to the top. It took around an hour to hike up this trail to the top to see the sunset over the valley and to see an unobstructed view of Mount Meru. The guide from the hotel said Mount Kilimanjaro could be seen from the top as well, but it was hidden by cloud cover and this was true for the whole time I was in Tanzania. Most interesting part of this hike was seeing two people living in the shack on top of the hill. Remind me of people living deep in the jungles of South America.

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Mt. Meru

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Now going down the hill was an adventure in the dark. I have never hiked in the dark, and hiking down this hill in the dark was not an easy task. What made it easier for me and those around me in the group was the headlamp I had packed just in case. Going down the side of the hill was a challenge with all the slippery mud on the steep parts, and the vegetation that liked to reach out to catch us as we passed by. People were slipping and falling at times. I even when down hard after I had told the people behind me to watch out for a slippery part. Slowly we all made if safely to the bottom with a few scraps, scratches, mud caked on clothing and shoes. It was worth it in the end! I earned the dinner back at the hotel, and it was one adventure worth going on.

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Disclaimer: All links are for reference and are in no way affiliate links. I do not receive or am paid for promotion on products mentioned in this post.

Sweaty Hike Through Saint Edwards State Park

Seminary Building

Boy was it hot on the day I decided to go take an urban hike through Saint Edwards State Park! This solo adventure started off with me asking myself is this worth getting sweaty? Yes!

I started out towards the beach (Lake Washington) for a glimpse of the lake from a different angle. I started off on the Perimeter trail, but somehow found myself on the Seminary trail which lead to the beach. The beach was peaceful with the water lapping at the shore, and a few people where swimming in the lake as Kenmore Air float planes came flying overhead.

Peek of Lake Washington

After taking in the view of the lake I headed towards the Orchard Loop. The trail that connects to Orchard Loop trail ended up being the part of the hike that felt like it was going to kill me! South Canyon trail ended up being one of those challenging trails because I had to hike it all uphill!! Here I was huffing, puffing, and sweating all the way to the connection for the loop trail. I now know for future hikes to go down this trail instead of up it. Once on the Orchard Loop trail, it was all easy, and I regained my breath. Unfortunately the “orchard” was nowhere to be found, or I miss something along the trail.  I must have because there was not an orchard to be found as I made the whole loop again. Very disappointed after huffing and puffing my way to it.

After finding my way back to where the seminary buildings are, I decided to find the famous Grotto seen in wedding pictures. Ha! I ended up reading the map wrong! I thought the Grotto trail lead to the Grotto, but nope. Apparently it by passes it from the bottom of the hill instead (palm to face). I hiked all the way back down to the lake, and then had to take Seminary trail back up!

Stone Steps On Trail

Eventually I found a map with the “you are here” circle to finally be steered in the correct direction for the Grotto. Dear reader, I made it harder than it should have been. The Perimeter trail going towards the playground in a corner of the field is where the entrance to the trail leading to the Grotto starts.

Behind Look of The Grotto

Once there I really found it peaceful and secluded. A little slice of magic in the middle of the woods. I joked on Instagram I had found the place where I was getting married….when the time comes….when I find someone first…..ok then.

Selfie with The Grotto

The structure is a small stone altar with stone steps and a path leading up to it. Stone walls border around the area to make it look like small outdoor church/sanctuary. A very beautiful spot for a small intimate wedding.

The Grotto
Leading Up To The Grotto

After hiking lost all around the area, I decided it was time to head back home and get out of the heat. While walking back to the car, I decided to check out around the Seminary building.

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Entrance To The Seminary Building

There is something about old church buildings and how they speak volumes without making a sound. Lots of stories being told in these hollow halls of this building, and judging by the land action notice sign, it seems the place will have a few more to share in the coming years.

Overall I hiked a total of 5.5 miles. Not bad for an urban hike.

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Deception Pass State Park

For the longest time I have been wanting to visit Deception Pass and the bridge that keeps showing up on my news feed over the past couple of months. Over one holiday weekend Dad and I loaded up the truck with our fishing gear and headed for Deception Pass Park’s Cranberry Lake for some fishing. Along the way we stopped to take in the sight that is Deception Pass Bridge.

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On a Friday morning we loaded up the truck with fishing gear and drove an hour and a half up to Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey  Island side to Cranberry Lake. Once there we were greeted by a serene looking lake, and quietness of an early morning fishing spot. The side we ended up on was the east side of Cranberry lake near the entrance to the park’s campground. A half an hour into fishing I had caught my first fish, a medium size striped bass. For some weird reason I was more tickled about catching it than any other fish caught the whole day. Around 8:30am the Navy decided it was time for some training with the F-18 Hornets (Navel Air Base Whidbey is nearby). At one point if you were not awake already, you would have been once one turned on its after burner and then a sonic boom would jolt you awake. After awhile you just became use to the sound roaring over head as they were doing maneuvers over the lake. Later in the morning we ended up with a medium-sized catfish and a very small striped bass which sadly had to be released back into the lake.

 

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Stripped Bass
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Catfish

After a while I started catching large clumps of water weeds instead of fish. A true disappointment when you think there is a fish on the end of the line giving a fight.

After four hours of fishing we decided it was time to go when more people started showing up and crowding the dock. On the way back home we stopped at the Deception Pass Bridge Park to view the bridge by the same name. This bridge when seen in the flesh is quite a marvel of engineering, and raw beauty nature surrounding the structure in breath-taking. Being on the side of the bridge is a little nerve-wracking when cars are speeding past you close to the narrow strip of concrete you are standing on. But the view was worth the nerve-wracking, and I would never change that feeling.

 

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View Below The Bridge
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Vew From the Bridge

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The water below was a light turquoise color close to the waters around Hawaiian Islands during a rain storm and could see the swirling currents in the channel below. At one point a motor boat was gunning the engine into full throttle to get through the channel to the other side. I have heard in the past people have become stick in these strong currents coming off the Strait of Juan de Fuca into Skagit Bay.

 

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Skagit Bay w/ Strawberry Island
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Strait of Juan de Fuca to the Pacific Ocean

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There were plenty of trails to hike down to the beaches along the channel, but I would like to save those for another time when I can devote a whole day to it. I believe another visit will be in store soon, and hopefully it will be on a sunny warm day. Driving back along highway 20, there were two lakes looking very tempting to fish. Pass Lake and Campbell Lake are the next lakes to tryout in the near future.

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North Beach Below

Now I can check this off the bucket list, and hopefully will have the chance to take out-of-state visitors to this wonderful gem close to the San Juan Islands. Maybe I will see them too. Who knows?

Oahu’s Windward Coast Vacation | Days 12-15 (Last Days)

Updated: 12/2017

Day 12: Zip lining & Beach

Zipping through the palm tree tops! Three rides 1,200 ft! At first when I saw how far off the ground I was going to be, I started freaking out. I’m not afraid of heights, but it looked to be very scary. Now that I tried it, I will be doing it again. The morning started off with a down pour for five minutes, then cleared up long enough to take three rides down. The first two rides were with Mom , and then the last one was just me by myself. Once I got through the first one, I was fine to take the last two rides down. It was very short ride, and so I recommend getting at least more than one ride to really experience the zip line. I now can add this to my life experience list and hope to try out the one near home called Wild Life Trex near Seattle. The rest of the day was spent at the beach again just relaxing.

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zipping along

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me zipping along

Day 13: Marine Base Crazy & Last minute stuff

Another relaxing day getting last-minute stuff done before we leave for home. Took on last trip to the Marine base to do some last-minute shopping at the Exchange. When I stepped outside the store I saw a new sign that appeared in front of the doors. Apparently the new base commander is trying to keep the unmentionable people from “polluting” the base and disrespecting the military environment. So just imagine the pictures you see on People of Wal-Mart website and you have a good picture of what was posted on this sign. These were the things that are not allowed to be worn when on base. I really could see why the commander is doing this and why he doesn’t like half-naked people walking around base when not in uniform. The whole time I was on base (even Bellows had a dress code in their commons areas) I never say anyone out of uniform looking like a bum.  I just go some Hawaiian theme stuff to take back to Seattle at the Exchange.

Relaxed on base for a bit and started to see Man of Wars washed up on the beach. Remembering there was a full moon when we got to Hawaii and five days later the jelly fishes started to appear, every time we walked the beach we had to make sure to watch where we stepped or else get stung by the blue tentacles. Later that evening we all went out with my cousin one last time to a small local pizza place in Kilua.  The place was busy with locals stopping in to grab a slice of pizza or a whole pizza for dinner. The pizzas are huge at Bob’s Pizzeria, and so a whole pizza can easy be shared with five people. I had two big slices which amounted to four small slices.

Now here is a funny story in a way to share….When we went to drop off my cousin at the Marine base, we did not go through the main gate as we have in the past, but he back gate where the housing is. A huge mistake because when we pulled up and my cousin showed his ID, the guard at the gate wanted everyone’s ID. Apparently there is a huge crack down at night due to a Marine sneaking a prostitute on base a few weeks back and getting caught. Also the guard in a moment of putting his boot in his mouth made it almost clear that he thought Nana, Mom and I were prostitutes! Nana and Mom felt offended, but for me I just though “oh thanks for letting me know I look like one.” As I was stating in above paragraph, the commander of the base is really on a crack down. We did drop my cousin off at his barrack without anymore trouble from the Marine Security Force.

Day 14: Sea Turtles

Our last full day in Hawaii. We did some last-minute shopping again and packed up our bags for our afternoon flight back to Seattle. Walked the beach one last time (ok a few times). While on one of our walks we saw a group of sea turtles swimming along the beach. A half a mile down there is a little cove where the waves are strong and the turtles get stuck in. All three turtles tried their hardest to swim back out to sea, but kept getting swept back into the rocks. At one point one came very close to some kids in the water and freaked them out along with the poor turtle. I believe the three turtles did get out when the waves calmed down a bit.

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While packing for the trip home, I realized I had bought a lot of Hawaiian food. Hmm…I think I will need it when friends come over for tea and a Hawaiian short bread macadamia nut cookies.

Day 15: Going Home

Going to the airport was crazy stressful adventure. Why? Because 1) my suitcase all of sudden put on weight, 2) security check point was a mad house and I thought for sure I was going to throw my shoe at TSA (Sea-Tac has it down to a science), 3) USDA inspection line was crazy! Poor Nana had to be patted down because she set off the metal detector and her sleep machine had residue of liquid in it. Really just wanted to get on the plane and get to Seattle without anymore stuff happening. The flight was six hours as usual. The only crazy part was landing in Seattle after a huge windstorm came through. Overall, the six-hour flight went off without much stuff happening. When I left Seattle for Hawaii the temperature was 70 degrees F, when I came back it was 50 degrees F and a storm blowing through. Just shows how much the weather changes within two weeks of being gone. I still look at my phone’s weather app for Bellows to see what the weather is at the moment. I miss the warmth, but Seattle did have a wonderful summer with all the sunny hot weather we had. I can’t complain.

I really enjoyed my two-week adventure on Oahu Hawaii. I will of course return to the islands again in the near future. I think the next island to visit is Kauai or Big Island. I am glad I had the chance to see my cousin while he is stationed at K-Bay, and hope he has a great time while there.  I loved not having to do all the touristy things this time. I really got to see the island from a different perspective. I know now all the main freeways, and know which major highways lead to where. Great to stay somewhere other than Waikiki for a change. I really got to see the beauty of the island without the sky scrapers in the way. I still would love to hike up Diamond Head since I did not get the chance this time. I guess I will be making a return visit again.

Mahalo for reading about my adventure in Hawaii! Hope you enjoy Hawaii really soon.

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Disclaimer: All links are for reference and are in no way affiliate links. I do not receive or am paid for promotion on products mentioned in this post.

Oahu’s Windward Coast Vacation | Day #10 (North Shore)

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Update: 12/2017

Day ten was all about our adventure along the north part of Windward Coast and the North Shore. Last time in Hawaii I only got as far as Laie (Polynesian Cultural Center) so naturally I wanted to see the other small surfing towns along the Kamehameha highway.

Our first stop was at the Tropical Farms where they grow some of the famous macadamia nuts. Inside their store, there are tons of macadamia nut products. Any possible flavor roasted with the macadamia nuts can be sampled. The ones I liked were the garlic (theses are very garlicky and if you want to kiss someone, make sure they to had some too.), cinnamon sugar (very sugary), plain roasted, coffee roasted, and jalapeno spiced nuts. Also for the first time I tried the macadamia flavored Kona coffee which is the bomb with macadamia milk! Starbucks cannot compete! I wonder where I can find this coffee in Seattle? I will have to check this out. Tropical Farms is also one of those touristy stops, so I still recommend coming early to have the chance of seeing the farm without the crowds. To bad we did not have the chance to go on the farm tour since we did get there an hour after they opened. But I still had the chance to cracks some nuts! Apparently to crack a macadamia nut the native Hawaiian way you pry open the hard woody nut casing to reveal a lighter colored nut shell. Then using an old tree stump and a good size heavy rock you whack the nut with the rock until the casing splits open to reveal a white fleshy inside-the macadamia nut. The process is close to un-shelling peanuts. I did open my nut with only one whack of the rock, but I did mash the inside a bit.

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Nut + rock = macadamia nut!
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Hard outer shell
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Macedonian nut
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Cracking my nut

A mile down the road we stopped at the Kualoa Beach Park in Kualoa to see the small island off the island called Chinaman’s Hat (Mokolii Island). This park affords a great view of the Pacific ocean, Kaneoha Bay, Chinaman’s Hat and the Ko’olau Mountain Range ( setting for lots of movies and TV show back drops). Across the road from the park is the famous Kualoa Ranch where Jurassic Park was filmed.

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We stopped for lunch in Kahuka for the famous garlic shrimp plates that are famous in this part of the island. Two years ago while driving up to the North Shore, there was a little shrimp stand that sold plated lunches called Titia’s Grill (CORRECTION: This place is permanently closed.). Outside this town there are huge shrimp farms where they harvest shrimp for the whole Oahu Island. And really there is no difference between farm grown or wild grown shrimp. I recommend  this place for lunch or dinner and try any of their shrimp plates especially their garlic shrimp!

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As we continued along Kamehameha highway towards Haleiwa we stopped at Sunset Beach. This beach has a little secret. This beach is said to have Sea Turtles coming up on the shore and lay to the beach. To bad this time when we went there were no sea turtles lying on the beach. I would love to say the turtles knew when the tour buses came and so scurried back to the water, but the life guard said most of the time the turtles were either on the beach at sunrise or sunset.  When we pulled into this beach’s parking lot there was not a bus insight. Come out of the bathroom two minutes later, the parking lot looked like chaos! Goes to show how anything in Hawaii can change in a blink of an eye 🙂 .

An hour later we pulled into the town of Haleiwa, the surf capital of the world. The beaches were packed with surfers, snorkelers and paddlers enjoying the surf. The waves were not as much monsters yet because it was still summer, and winter is when the huge waves usually came into play for surfers. Since I was in the North Shore area, I had to try the famous local shaved ice treat. So where did I go? To the famous Matsumoto Grocery Store for the rainbow shaved ice. The picture looks like the shaved ice must be a large, but this is the smallest they had. At this point I figured all things in Hawaii are done big, and never small. This motto suited me just fine. At $2.50 a pop, I thoroughly enjoyed it! Having it run down my legs trying to eat it, and having the stick sweet mess all over my hands brought the child out of me again. Matsumoto is not the only place in town that sells shaved ice, but this place is the most famous and popular spot to try one. As you see from the picture below, there are many different flavors you can order. All those flavor combinations, and do I want ice cream or azuki beans on top of the ice? I will have to come back to find out next time I’m there.

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Rainbow Cone
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What’s your Flavor?

At this point I still was not done with ice anything. Just up the road from Matsumoto is a little ice cream parlor called Scoop of Paradise. Oh man, sorry Dave’s Ice cream, this place has the best ice cream so far on the island. Ice cream here is made from real cream like the Italian ice cream which makes this ice cream creamy and rich. Chocolate Macadamia nut and Pineapple Cheese cake were the flavors I tried together.

A few hours later we all head out-of-town towards Bellows AFS. On our way back I wanted to stop at the Fine Ass Chocolates and Coffee place right off the highway (CORRECTION: the shop is now permanently closed as of 2017 at all locations). The famous “Donkey” balls chocolates are sold. Just the name of the place sounded bad ass! I bought some chocolates called “Dirty” balls and “Flaky” balls in dark chocolate. I did try the “Fire” balls which has pepper flakes it the middle. The major hit for the family is the Flaky balls with coconut in the middle.

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Disclaimer: All links mentioned in this post are for further reference and are in no way affiliate links. I do not receive nor am paid for promotion of any products mentioned in this post.