Sunday, October 21, 2012

Luci and Ricky Visit (and The Olympic National Forest)

Just as summer shifted into fall, we had our last scheduled visitors of a very action-packed summer. Unfortunately, with the arrival of Luci and Ricky, also came the beginning of the rain. And rain it did. They got far more than the normal Seattle rain experience. More on that later.

Luci and Ricky saw all the 'must-see' standard Seattle sights and we took them to all our favorite places as well...
...for example Golden Gardens...
... for a photo-shoot of Sagan...
 ...and then back to Golden Gardens later to view the Olympic Mountains from the beach... sunset.     [if the background of these 2 photos isn't stunning, tilt your screen until it is.]
We also got to hang out with several of their friends from Richmond who have relocated out here. It was nice to meet them, and good for them all to catch up.

Over the weekend the 4 of us rounded out the trip with a car/ferry ride over to the Olympic Peninsula of Washington for a weekend excursion around the Olympic National Park.

Olympic Peninsula of Washington (highlighted in orange)
Olympic National Park (outlined in green). Seattle is shown on the right.
The first night we stayed at the charming ToadLilly International Hostel, in the quaint city of Port Angeles

Olympic National Park is 923,000 acre wilderness, complete with 3 main biomes, each of which we sampled: glaciated mountainstemperate rainforests, and picturesque coastlines.

After starting the morning off right with coffee and breakfast at The Oven Spoonful and were off to see Hurricane Ridge, disregarding both the forecast calling for 4-8 inches of rain over the weekend, and the webcam (which showed only a white blur of fog)! Our determination paid off as the wind occasionally would push the fog out of the way to reveal gorgeous mountain views.

From there we were off to the Hoh Rainforest, a place that redefines the meaning of green.  
We hiked the short Hall of Mosses trail, which I highly recommend, as it is amazing.

Ferns everywhere...

...Moss growing on everything...
...Trees growing out of other trees.
Even the moss is covered with moss!
The water in the stream looked like beer on St. Patty’s day!… it is truly a magical place.
Much of the park is made up of beautiful old-growth forests, and dotted throughout the forested parts of the map are labels like "Big Tree". These giant marvels are very reminiscent of our visit to the Redwoods, and often hold the title of "National Champion", the largest living specimens in the nation. 

That's a Cedar.    a "Big Cedar" as the map notes.

This Sitka Spruce is the largest Spruce Tree in the World

And although it was POURING rain, (more than usual, even for a rainforest), it was thoroughly enjoyable.  
What isn’t as enjoyable is being completely-soaked-to-the-bone, and returning to your campsite during a monsoon to find your tents in newly-formed ponds, with the outlook of making a fire… dim. 

These were the good times, prior to our tents becoming islands.
So we packed up all of our wet gear, our pruney bodies, and far more rain than our gear should have be able to retain, and drove off to the Kalaloch Lodge to rent an (off-season, discounted) cabin!

And damn was that the best idea ever. The cabin had a kitchen, bathroom, woodstove, and most importantly a roof! So instead of literally sleeping in puddles…we slept in down-comforters to the sound of a crackling fire. And with no regrets, because camping without a fire, isn’t camping at all… it’s just sleeping outside on the ground, like an idiot.

When in the wilderness, it is essential to be wary of potentially dangerous flora and fauna lurking around every corner. In fact, each biome within Olympic National Park has its own specific threats that must be taken seriously.  Throughout our journey there was a series of escalating warning signs to remind us of these threats.
The threats of each biome:    Rainforest -> Cougars.              Mountains -> Goats                       Coast -> Killer Logs !

Luckily we didn't see any of these threatening things...except the killer logs.

The next morning we checked out the ‘haystack’ rock formations on the beach where we saw otters!  ... and then we headed home. 

Haystack rock formations and "killer logs".

It turned out to be an action packed adventure. It was brief tour of a vast park, but I hope to get back very soon and explore much more. Maybe Luci and Ricky will decide to celebrate their third anniversary out here again with us.  Maybe next time we will see Olympic National Park without the monsoon.  : )

Photos Courtesy of Luci and Tess

Friday, September 14, 2012

Jason and Harrigan Visit

My brother Jason and sister in-law Harrigan came out for an extended weekend visit. I would say they managed to cram in the full Seattle experience in that weekend. 

The Bowmans

All of us.

Picnic on the beach.


At Gasworks Park.

Random cool artwork.

Jason and Harrigan

We were all over the map, experiencing samples of the things that make Seattle…Seattle. Such as:

‘Green’ Living
We stopped by Seattle Tilth’s Harvest Fair which is where a lot like minded people converge to share/educate/and benefit from: urban farming, composting, green building, organic produce, CSAs,   pesticide-free zones, urban beekeeping, collaborative consumption, and locavorism. You know… the kind of common sense things that we would all get behind, if wasn't for the looming fear of being labeled a hippie.  Luckily for us all, there is more contemporary term: Granola– has the values of hippie but with the amenities and financial means of the average, modern, middle-class, family. This was definitely a Granola-lifestyle type of event, although a few hippies and yuppies may have infiltrated.  :)

We saw Samsara, a film for which I have been waiting to be finalized, for years. It is a fantastic look at the contrast of how fascinating and bizarre civilization/society is. I absolutely recommend it to everyone.  I think it is a bit edgier than Ron Fricke's previous work (which is all also spectacular).

We checked out were the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and the Olympic Sculpture Park. Both have been on my to-see list and each had some very interesting pieces.
Inopportune: Stage One by Cai Guo-Qiang. He directed the visual and special effects for the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics! 

I really like these masks.

"We all wear masks, metaphorically speaking."

The Porcelain Room of SAM

Split by Roxy Paine. 2003.  Stainless Steel 

Eagle by Alexander Calder. 1971

Unfortunately, Jason and Harrigan had already seen several of the installations before, either in Central Park (in the case of the sculpture), or in some museum called the “Guggenheim”. Maybe you have heard of it, but frankly…it sounds made up. So if we can’t impress them with Seattle’s art scene, maybe we can appeal to some other interests that Seattle is better known for:  food, coffee, and music!

Jason and Harrigan are what you might call Foodies, so we directed some time into eating a lot of delicious food. When I say delicious, I mean DELICIOUS. The places we ate spanned many neighborhoods and cuisines, but had one common theme… it was all really stellar food. But don't take my word for it, ask Yelp!

Some of the places we ate included Paseo, Bitterroot BBQ, Honore Artisan Bakery, Pike Place Chowder, Beechers Handmade Cheese ,and OddFellows Cafe. When we weren’t dining out, we were cooking up our own dishes: several fantastic breakfasts and one evening we bought mussels and cooked them down at the beach! Gourmet even at the beach!

We did our fair share of consuming coffee throughout the weekend as well. Not that we necessary were seeking out great coffee, but great coffee kind of finds you in Seattle. Some of the coffee shops we sampled included CaffĂ© Fiore, Honore, FonteChocolati, and of course Starbucks! [wow, what a pretentious sounding list of coffee shop names... but they can back it up].    : )

A band we know from Blacksburg, Wild Nothing, who subsequently have made it big in the indie music world, was touring through Seattle, so we all went to check it out. It was fun evening, and a good show, but I wouldn’t call it a great show…. The keyboardist had a recently broken arm, along with a few technical snafus, contributed to a lack-luster performance. But a fun night, none-the-less.

Wild Nothing

Throughout the visit, all four of us took pictures using the photo sharing app InstagramSome of us took more pictures than others and some of us might have an addiction to Instagram…but it paid off.  In an attempt at an experiment in modern technology and social media, I have combined all of the pictures we took into a collage. They are without description or context, and there is no rhyme or reason to the organization to the pictures.  Just 270(!) pics, documenting all of the things we did, the food we ate, and what we collectively experienced. Enjoy!

Another fantastic bunch of visitors! Who is next?!

[Photos courtesy of Harrigan, Jason, and Tess. I would also give some credit to Instagram!]

Thursday, September 13, 2012

John and Sarah Visit

Every year Dave Mathews Band plays a 3-day concert at The Gorge Amphitheatre over Labor Day weekend. This annual performance has become the Mecca for Dave Mathews Band fans. Our friends Sarah and John, made the pilgrimage out to Washington for the show (and to visit us!) and treated us to an evening at the absolutely gorgeous Gorge amphitheater. While many fans make it a full weekend event, complete with camping, we only caught the Saturday night show, opened by The Avett Brothers.

At the show
The Gorge Amphitheatre

Dave Mathews Band
It was a fun weekend of doing things around the city including: hanging out at the beach of Golden Gardens Park, going up the Space Needle, venturing into the International District, going to the Asian supermarket Uwajimaya, checking out the Pioneer Square Neighborhood, seeing the Ballard Locks, taking the ferry to Bainbridge Island, and having a fantastic meal at Hitchcock.

At the beach.

Sights and artwork from around the International District and Pioneer Square
Pioneer Square

Ballard Locks 

This very clever sea lion was swimming circles around the entrance to the fish ladder, treating himself to the all-you-can-eat salmon buffet.
A portion of the fish ladder to help the salmon bypass the locks.

After the fish ladder, the salmon swim through this genius viewing area. Cool!
Kayaks entering the locks.

Old friends and Space Age architecture.

The Huddles with a view of Seattle from 600 feet up.

Us as part of the Seattle skyline.

 The weekend proved to be another wonderful, action-packed adventure with friends!

[Photos courtesy of John Huddle and Tess]