Spring Has Come Finally!

Spring has finally arrived here in Seattle! As the cherry trees blossoms awash the area in whitish-pinkish color, there are many signs of spring has finally here! The tulips are starting to come out of their slumber, and the yellow heads of daffodils are shining brightly through the gray days of spring. Finally after a roller coaster ride of a winter season, spring has come.

While large crowds crammed themselves into the University of Washington’s quad full of cherry trees, the Washington Park Arboretum and the Japanese Garden’s cherry trees where in bloom minus the large crowds. For four hours I walked the winding paths through the different gardens soaking in the spring sunshine with the cherry trees and dogwood trees in full bloom.

Unexpected find in the rhododendron garden! These beauties are Camellias. They are a broad leaf evergreen shrub with pink, white and red large showy flowers. I want to have these in my garden one day!

Photography done on a Samsung Galaxy S9 phone.

Christmas Of Years Past

This girl may have been watching too much Hallmark Channel Christmas movies and now it may have gone to her head… a little. Christmas time for some reason makes past eras (1800s anyone?) seem closer than any other time of year (except for baseball season).

Image result for Miss Bennet: Christmas at PemberleyLast year a friend told me about the Meeker Mansion being all dressed up for Christmas in a Victorian theme. Every year the Meeker Mansion opens its doors day after Thanksgiving through eighteenth of December to the public for a special holiday exhibit. This special Christmas showing raises funds for the Puyallup Historical Society’s upkeep and repairs of this old historical home.

It has been a very long time since I have been down in Puyallup (last remembered 2011). When you have all the Christmas shopping done early, and need to get out of the Seattle holiday madness, go further south.

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The Meeker Mansion sits in the old part of Puyallup as a relic from a time long gone, and every year the mansion is decorated for Christmas in the late Italianate Victorian style. Ezra Meeker the man the Victorian mansion is named for was a leading pioneer (physical parts of the Oregon Trail exists today because of him), first mayor of Puyallup and the “Hop King” of his day (Washington Hops).

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Photo Credit: bookwormhistory.com

During Christmas season the house is dressed up for a Victorian Christmas. Each of the seventeen rooms on the tour are decorated ready to receive guests for a Christmas house party at any moment.

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Even the kitchen is decorated for the holidays!

Today the mansion is still undergoing painstaking work to bring all the rooms back to original decoration during the time when the Meeker’s were in residence. At the time the first and second floors of the house are completely finished to include period era furniture with all the trappings of grand house at the turn of the century. The third floor, unfortunately, is not open for exploring.

20181123_133045.jpgThe house around the time of it being built had modern convenience of having electricity and running water. As you can see the tree is plugged into an outlet in the wall that is original to the house.

Cannot have a real Victorian Christmas without a piano. This one was waiting to for Silent Night to be played.

Scene out of many of those Christmas cards!

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A little crowed at the beginning to day, but my the time I got to the first floor most of the people were already gone. I would recommend coming a little later in the day as it is not so much crowed.

Falling In Love With Bivalves

A long time ago I had some very bad mussels dish at a fancy seafood restaurant which was the reason I never touched certain bivalves. Clams where the only thing I would eat with a shell in this department. This all changed when I toured the Penn Cove Mussel Farm on Whidbey Island and Taylor’s Shellfish Farm in Bow. Not only did I get to sample fresh mussels, clams, and oysters, but I learned more about how each farm raises them in the most sustainable ways possible. I even was able to see a geoduck up close, something very few of us are afford in a restaurant.

Penn Cove Shellfish Mussel Farms

To get to the mussel beds out in Penn Cove, I had to board a boat at the old Coupeville Wharf. This is the famous wharf everyone has to take a picture of for social media, and on this morning, the wharf had a coastal seaport asleep vibe waiting to be awoken by the sun.

DSC00353Once in the boat, I sported the most stylish bright orange life vest and off towards the mussel beds we went. Once in the area, we saw mussel beds loaded down into the water with harbor seals lounging on top looking very happy. Most of the beds at the time had small mussels growing, but a few of the beds were big enough to harvest. It takes about a year for a mussel to grow the size for harvesting.

DSC00334DSC00311IMG_3299DSC00331Penn Cove Shellfish Mussel Farms grows more of a native mussel to the Pacific Coast-Penn Cove, but they also grow Mediterranean Mussels as well. The mussels are grown mostly in their Penn Cove location, but they also grow other shellfish like clams and oysters at their other location in Willapa Bay.

DSC00341After the tour was finished, our group received a 15lb bag of mussels to bring back to share with our friends.

DSC00395Interesting fact: mussels are more popular in Belgium, Netherlands, and other landlocked German-Franco countries. The first mussel farm on the west coast of the US was established in the 1970s and is Penn Cove Shellfish Farm.

Taylor Shellfish Farms

DSC00589When you hear Taylor Shellfish Farms, you may think of the Oyster Bars popping up all over the Seattle -Bellevue area of recent. But the real treat is to visit the location of the farm itself off Chuckanut Drive in Bow. Here you can have a taste of oysters while enjoying the view of the oyster growing beds and seeing first hand how those oysters are harvested.

DSC00593Here I tasted the different types of oysters grown and got an up close look at a delectably, the goeduck which goes for $70 lb which translates into $80-100+ at a seafood restaurant! I really wanted to try a small piece just to see why people want to eat this, but only if you buy one.

DSC00608DSC00611What does a person do with a geoduck? This even sparked some… let’s say.. inappropriate jokes regarding what a goeduck looks like. Even a shirt being sold in the market store played on this inappropriate joke. Pacific Northwest native the geoduck is known as “the good time clam.” Yep, I typed that!

IMG_3660IMG_3671The famous oyster shells are spread all over the ground outside which goes to show how close from tide to table really is.

Overall, I do believe I will be eating more bivalves in the future. Spending a whole day touring both shellfish farms was a treat, by had the opportunity to see how sustainable shellfish farming is and how it contributes to a healthy environment in our water ways, all the while eating homegrown shellfish in the process.

Tale Of Two Forts| Casey & Ebey

Forts are all over Whidbey Island and a few are even state parks! Fort Casey was located close to where I was staying making it an easily accessible place to explore on an early crisp sunny morning and Fort Ebey just a fifteen-minute drive toward Oak Harbor.

Fort Casey:

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Fort Casey is located five miles from Coupeville next door to the Port Townsend-Coupeville Ferry terminal. The fort was established around the 1890s as a World War I coast artillery fortification to protect the Puget Sound at the Admiralty Inlet area. The fort was decommissioned after World War II and made into a state park.

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On a quiet morning, I decided to explore the fortifications early before the crowds. In relative peace, I explored the arm structures, battlements and the iconic large guns reinstalled after becoming a historical site.

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For some reason, I found this funny!

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The iconic Admiralty Lighthouse built in 1903 was not open at the time. Maybe when I return for another visit to Whidbey Island I will have to stop by.

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Fort Ebey:

Fort Ebey just like Fort Casey was part of the World War II coastal defense system with smaller battlements. The old fort has a lot of hiking trails and beach access to explore.

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One such battlement had a series of tunnels to explore in the dark. With a flashlight and my phone, I walked around the dark rooms and passageways. I should have known that a walking around a dark secluded area would not be a smart thing to do. At one point when I was walking back down another semi-dark passageway, I caught a dark figure out of the corner of my eye off in a dark bunker. At first, I thought “oh hell! I saw a ghost.” But quickly realized it was a person and he was sorry to scare me, but I was already running down the corridor out towards light and to my car. This really should have taught me a lesson in not going to these places alone!

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After a scare just wanted to calm my nerves so I headed towards the beach to get some sea breeze. The waves were crashing in at an alarming rate. There were moments when the waves were huge, enough to boogie board or surf at one point.

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After what seemed like hours I headed back to my car and headed back to Camp Casey for a day of sunbathing at the pool.

 

Have you been to any of these forts? Did you find the Fort Ebey tunnel a little scary? Let me know in the comments!

Winchester Peak Lookout & Twin Lakes

Taking off on an impromptu back country adventure was in store for one last hurrah before we all moved to different parts of the world. Packing the van with our gear and headed out towards Mount Baker Wilderness, we started the beginning of goodbyes.

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Backcountry camping at it finest! By the time our group got to the trailhead, the sun had set and the stars were out in all force. The plan was to hike up the trail by headlamp to spend a night in the lookout. It did not pan out in the end, and decided to set up camp and get up early in the morning to chase the sunrise on the way up. With a sleeping pad and a bag, I fell asleep under the stars watching shooting stars across the sky.

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Getting up early for another sunrise with hot chocolate made getting up the trail better. At the Twin Lakes Peak, I watched as the golden rays slid up the slopes of the mountains for another day of hiking.IMG_3697

IMG_3710There is a quote about nature reminding us all how small we are, and nature keeps moving forward greeting the day with beautiful rays of joy. Sunrises from mountaintops remind my of nature is more beautiful then we give credit. With the small haze of wildfires, even the sun still comes up in clear golden rays.

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Mount Baker throughout the hike up loomed in the distance reminding me this would be the last sunrise in the alpine for some time.  It also looked cold and deselet compare to Mount Rainier.IMG_3694

After eating some instant oatmeal bars, we headed up the trail towards the lookout.

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One part of the trail we had to slide down a snowfield in order to cross. My butt got so wet by the time I reached the bottom, it looked as if I peed on myself and I think my tailbone got bruised in the process after hitting a small chunk of ice sticking up. Also, we had to stop for a snowball fight as well to get each other one last time before we all headed off around the world.DSCN4406IMG_3743

Just hiking up, you could see how much beauty there is in the alpine. The rugged peaks in the distance marked where the United States and Canadian border is. That is how close I was to Canada. At one point I did ask the Canadian if they wanted to make a run for the border. The answer was no. IMG_3843

For some reason I ended up being the first one to the submit where the lookout was. On my way up the trail, I saw a group of hikers coming back down the trail and realized they were the ones who spend a night in the lookout. I am normally the last one to the top of may hike, so beading a whole bunch of people made it extra special.

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Of course inside the lookout was very warm, and could see from the log book countless people had been up here in the past few months. As a funny joke, we all signed the visitor book as the Marmots of 2018. A class about a year ago did the same thing when they visited, and we found it in the log book!

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The sign below reminds all who venture up here that you cannot be unhappy and still be here. You have to be happy!

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On the way back down we all decided to go another route back to the campsite. It ended up having to hike climb across a snowfield. The whole time I was thinking “dear God, what the heck did I get myself into?” It is harder then you may think to cross an icy sheet of snow and climb up it with bare hands! At one point we all were sliding back down the slope towards the sharp rocks in the talus field below! I even had some one’s butt in my face, and it was enough motivation to get the heck up the icy slope. Finally, we all managed to get to the top with fingers painfully stinging and white. No frost bite for any of us, but came close!

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Once down at the trailhead, we made a dash for the lake! There is no picture of me jumping into the cold alpine lake waters to wash off the grime of the trail, but it was divine experience worth it. After having the sun dry us all off, we packed up the campsite and headed for civilization with a stop at the Taco Bell for lunch.

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This picture sums up hiking in the backcountry. Around every corner is something unexpected and once you have completed one hike, you go back for more. I can see this type of hiking continuing for years to come. Once bit, you cannot go back!

Information:
Winchester Lookout

Twin Lakes Trail

Sunsets of Whidbey Island

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“Never go too long without watching a sunset” -Atticus

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“The only kind of sunsets that I don’t like are the ones that I missed.”

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“Sunsets are proof that no matter what happens every day can end beautifully.”

-Kristen Butler

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Location: Fort Casey State Park and Camp Casey Conference Center SPU