Friday, August 31, 2007

Mt. Rainer - Skyline Trail

Yesterday we went on one of the most spectacular hikes I've ever been on. Skyline Trail is in a section of Mt. Rainer park called Paradise. After driving 2 hours to get to the trail head, we reached the 5.2 mile loop. It ascended 1500 feet in the first 2 miles and is considered a moderate level hike. We were literally right next to Mt. Rainer. Many hikers who summit Mt. Rainer use this trail to begin their climb. We passed many of these hikers and their huge backpacks of gear going both up and down. We saw pheasants, chipmunks, marmots, and deer. We hiked above the treeline to see uninterrupted views of the mountains and alpine meadows. At the end of our hike was a beautiful little waterfall with Rainer in the backdrop. (Special note, if you plan to hike this high up and above the treeline, don't forget sunscreen. I now have a very red farmer's tan.) I've posted tons of pictures below, but really you should just plan on visiting me next summer so that I can take you there personally.

Deer at the beginning of our hike

Mt. Rainer at the beginning of our hike.

Mt. Rainer at the beginning of our hike.

The ice flow coming down behind us is Nisqually Glacier.

Marmot sunning on the rocks.

Me and Mt. Rainer near the top of our hike.

Mt. Rainer (notice again the glacier).

Mt. Rainer as we are coming down the mountain, notice the terrain changing.

Alpine Meadows
Alpine Stream
This bench is a monument to the men who first made a successful summit of Mt. Rainer.
Myrtle Falls
This is a view of Mt. Rainer towards the end of our hike.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Job Hunting Woes

For those that are interested, I have been applying for jobs. I think I'm averaging about 10 job applications a week. Granted, since moving here I've only been doing this hardcore for a week and a half. (I applied for several jobs before I moved here, but had little luck. Whether or not it's the reason, I choose to blame the Florida address.) But I've been applying mostly for jobs with local nonprofits and the state of Washington. Most of the jobs for the state of Washington are based in/around Olympia, which is an hour commute, but these jobs just sound too good to pass up. I continue to look at the cities and counties around here for local government positions, but haven't found much that I can apply for (or would want to apply for). Need a program director, development assistant, or management analyst...I'm your girl.

On a related note, if you're ever in a position to hire people, for the good of humanity and just to be a professional person, please acknowledge when you receive a resume. I know that these organizations are probably receiving dozens or hundreds of applications, but it would be nice to know if my email was received and not sent into the Internet void or junk mail box. At the end of every day you could send a mass email to those people who you've received resumes from to let them know that theirs got in. Just be courteous and think about all those people who took the time to write great cover letters and resumes.

Starting next week I plan to look into temp agencies. I'm getting antsy sitting at home (or spending money touring the Puget Sound area) and not working/making at least some money. So while I continue on the career hunt, it'd be nice to have a temporary job.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Ballard Exploration

On Saturday we decided to stick around Federal Way for the Federal Way Festival Days. The town closed down one of the main roads for a parade, festival rides were set up in the mall parking lot, and booths of food were set up. It was one of the most pathetic festivals I've ever seen. So to make up for out terrible local disappointment, we decided to head to Ballard on Sunday for a day of exploration.

Ballard is a neighborhood in Seattle that seems to have a little bit of everything. After spending the day there, it is one of my favorite places so far. We started our day at the Farmer's Market, which we first visited last weekend. (Well on our way to Ballard we tried going to Red Mill Burgers to get some amazing onion rings, but they don't open until 12 on Sunday and we were there at 11:15. So no onion rings this week. It's interesting to know that I will never be able to eat onion rings anywhere else again. If I do I'll be so disappointed!) So we bought some veggies for the week at the farmer's market (Farmer's Market pictured below) and stepped into a couple of local boutiques. We went to the Chai House to get some chai tea. I've been on a mission to find the best chai, since I don't like coffee. It's a really cool looking place, and while Robb liked his chai, I wasn't a huge fan of mine. We ate lunch at Hi-Life. I think it's known for it's breakfast and wood-fired pizza. However, I got a tostada and Robb got a chicken sandwich. My tostada was wonderful. Robb's sandwich was horrible. However, we will go back at some point and try the breakfast and/or pizza. The restaurant was very busy and the breakfast platters did look delicious.

After lunch we walked down Market Street, popping into local shops; but out true destination was Archie McPhee's ( When researching what to do in Ballard I came across this store and thought it sounded perfect for Robb. Little did I know that since he was a kid, Robb has been ordering toys from Archie McPhee's. When I told him where we were going, he was very excited. This store has the weirdest items: boxing nuns, bacon flavored candy, librarian action figures, pink flamingos, etc. Robb resisted buying the kitsch crap and just looked around in childhood glee. Next we headed further down the street to visit Hiram M. Chittenden Locks. The locks allow boats to pass from Lake Washington into Puget Sound (think of the Panama Canal when imagining locks.) We took a free tour and learned a lot about how to keep the salt water and fresh water from really mixing, saw the water levels rise and fall as boats passed through, and most interestingly, saw migrating salmon. This is the season when salmon go back to their breeding grounds in fresh water after spending years in the ocean. We saw salmon jumping over the steps in the lock and fighting against the current. I'm not going to bore you with everything I know about salmon now, but, believe it or not the whole process is fascinating.

After that we headed back to the car, stopping at Cupcake Royale to try the yummy cupcakes. We then drove a few miles to Golden Gardens Park. This Ballard park has a beach with beautiful views of the Olympic Mountains (although cloudy yesterday, you could still just make them out) and Puget Sound. It was already early evening, but the park was crowded, but still felt intimate. We sat on the beach and looked at the water and mountains. Have I mentioned how much I love it here yet?

Mt. Rainer - Carbon River Entrance

On Thursday Robb and I set out to Mt. Rainer to hike Skyline Trail. Our Hiking Mt. Rainer book said Skyline Trail would have a beautiful view of Mt. Rainer, glaciers, a waterfall, hiking above the treeline, and a good chance of seeing deer. I decided to drive and pointed out our directions to Robb so he could navigate. Well after driving for a couple of hours I really felt that we should have arrived. I asked Robb what was going on and it came out that we were looking at two different set of directions. We were a good couple of hours away from where we should've been and it was already early afternoon, so we decided to head to the Carbon River Park Entrance, which we were fairly close to and the entrance we went to last time we hiked with my Dad.
The Carbon River Entrance is closed to cars right now because of massive flash flooding in November 2006. We decided to park outside the entrance and walk through the area to see the flood damage. When we first started walking along the road we saw a few potholes in the paved road, but nothing special. I told Robb if they closed the road because of a few large potholes, that would be pretty pathetic. We took some pictures of the trees. It's a little scary to hear the creaking of the trees as they sway in the wind in the quiet of the forest. The creaking is sometimes so loud it sounds like someone is taking a small chainsaw to the forest. Below Robb is pictured sitting between a couple to give you an idea of their size. They go quite a bit higher than where the picture stops too. Then we finally came across the real flood damage. The road was completely gone. A little walking pathway was created by the park rangers alongside where the road used to be. It was hard to decide if the former road was actually a road, there were tons of river rocks, broken trees, giant gashes, etc. No road was left. Below you see the rocks on the left. That used to be where some of the road was. To the right of me is an uprooted tree. That's right, that's a tree trunk/root system. I'm 5'5'' for those that don't know. Obviously the flood damage was pretty impressive. I've never really seen what flash flooding can do before. Even though we didn't make it to Skyline Trail (we will be trying again for that this upcoming week) this hike was very worth the trip.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Weather And Flannel Sheets

I finally get to use my flannel sheets. I love flannel sheets and piles of blankets. Robb did not appreciate the flannel sheets in Florida (I suppose with good reason), but I finally get to use them here and it's not even winter yet! Keeping the windows open at night, with temperatures dipping into the low 50s means lots of blankets and snuggling.

The highs have been in the 60s and 70s lately. Tomorrow the high is supposed to get up to 78, a positive heat wave. A couple of weeks before I arrived in Washington the temps. got up to the 80s and it was an honest-to-goodness heat wave here. People are still talking about it. It has rained a few times, but nothing extraordinarily Seattle-like yet. When it does rain, it rains during the night and the mornings and usually tapers off by the afternoon to become real sunny.

I do NOT miss the Florida heat, maybe I will when my tan goes away. But I LIKE wearing jeans and long sleeve t-shirts. I LIKE snuggling under the blankets. And I definitely LIKE being able to step outside and not immediately start sweating.

I will resist using my electric blanket until the winter. And we haven't tried out the fireplace yet. After all, we don't want our neighbors to think we're crazy.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Seattle Neighborhood Tour

For all intents and purposes we are done unpacking. A few odds and ends need to be put away in the office, but it's going to take some time to finish that up. We chose not to bring our desk from Florida, so we have a lot of those desk drawer items lying around the room in piles. We intend to buy some real bedroom furniture by the end of September, so some of our mismatched dressers will be transfered to the office in the fall.

So on Sunday we celebrated our unpacking accomplishments by going into Seattle to check out a farmer's market and some of Robb's favorite foods he tried while I was still in Florida. The high that day was about 65 and was supposed to rain most of the day. We were very disappointed that by the time we got to Seattle it had stopped raining. Both of us have new raincoats and have been looking forward to trying them out. I'm sure that there will be plenty of opportunities for us to break in our raincoats. It just wasn't yesterday.

First we went to the Ballard neighborhood to catch the farmer's marker where we bought some beautiful vegetables and a tomato plant. We didn't spend a lot of time in Ballard because we were hungry and wanted to get lunch, but we'll go back soon to check out some of the local restaurants and shops. After Ballard we went to the Phinney Ridge neighborhood to eat at Red Mill Burgers ( This little restaurant is considered one of the best places to get a burger in Seattle. Robb promised that the burgers would be good and the onion rings even better. So we shared a burger and an order of onion rings (we planned on eating at several places that day). Burger...pretty good. Onion rings...heaven on earth. I swear they were the best onion rings I've ever had and I cannot explain why. It's a good thing that Seattle is so far away from us, or else I'd be eating there every day.

After resisting ordering a second batch of onion rings we headed to the Fremont neighborhood for another farmer's market. This farmer's market was more of a flea market and was not quite as impressive as Ballard's vegetable and fruit stands. But we walked around Fremont to check out cute little independent shops (they've got some great record stores, art stores, various knick-knacks, etc.) I was really looking forward to eating at Yak's to try a hum-bow (or something of the sort.) Robb says it's like an egg roll but in a more pastry-like form. Unfortunately we found out they were closed on Sundays. We then headed to the Greenwood neighborhood and ate some tapas at Olive You, a little Greek joint. We tried some stuffed mushrooms (good, but not $7+ good) and spanakopita (wonderful!) At this point it was pretty late in the day and we decided to head back to Federal Way.

We decided to cap off our day of eating at a local restaurant in town called La Casa Bella. We are always on the hunt for good local restaurants, and Federal Way tends to be lacking in that department. But Casa Bella looks like it may be a winner. While I thought my pasta was a little boring, Robb had a beautiful seafood saffron ravioli. It was one of the most interesting and well done pasta dishes that we've tasted in a long time. And the prices were reasonable. We look forward to going back and trying more local deliciousness.

I suppose we should get jobs so we can support our eating habits.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Since August 8

(I've finally updated my blog. Please scroll down to read the posts about my trip in proper sequence. I don't want to be Captain Obvious here, but start with Day 1.)

My Dad left early in the morning on Wednesday, August 8. It was really hard to say good-bye to him. My parents plan on visiting for Thanksgiving, but going this many months without seeing them will be difficult. So we said our good-byes and I dropped him off at the airport (which was not easy, this airport is a nightmare!) Since then Robb and I have visited Ikea to scout out the furniture we’ll need to buy (we already bought a dining room table and four chairs for $129, a steal until you add the sales tax which is 8.9% because there is no state tax). We also have our eye on a desk/bookcase and a TV corner stand.

And we’ve been unpacking. Slowly but surely. While this apartment has a lot more square footage than any other place we’ve lived, the layout makes it difficult to find space for everything. The kitchen has no closet or pantry, the living room has a fireplace on one wall and a sliding glass door on the other, the bedrooms have very long closets that take up an entire wall, etc. So we’re unpacking, but we’re also spending a lot of time together exploring the town and running to Target to buy this and that storage device. And we also have spotty internet service, which is why it is taking me so long to post updates on my blog. The job search starts in earnest again on Monday, August 13. We hope to be done unpacking by the end of the week so that we can tour Seattle or the mountains again without feeling guilty about what is left to do at home.

Mount Rainer Kicks My Butt

My Dad really wants to visit the mountains while he’s here, so we do some research on trails and head for the hills. It turns out that Mount Rainer (which is snow covered during the summer and you can see from our town) is huge and doesn’t have a million entrances. So we decide on a park entrance that is closest to Federal Way and pick out a trail that is kid-friendly (because we haven’t hiked in a long time) and had a pretty waterfall. Well we get to the park entrance and it turns out you can’t drive into the park from this entrance because of massive flash flooding damage from November rainstorms. We talk to the park ranger and she told us about a waterfall hike right next to the ranger station and we decide the 3 miler will be perfect for us.

Turns out, this hike was not so kid-friendly. It was an extremely tough hike, especially for Florida flat-landers and out-of-shape, McDonalds-eating ME. It was a pretty steep climb and I will admit that I had to sit down a few times and catch my breath. However, getting to the top was worth it. The waterfall was impressive and so were the vistas. It is impossible to convey how tall the trees are. Part of the reason Robb and I wanted to come to this part of the country was to get back into hiking and outdoor sports. This hike was a great introduction. We hope to go to the mountains and hike at least 2-3 times a month. (Dad, Robb, me)

Touring Seattle

Robb decides to take Dad and me to Seattle for the day. It is 20-some miles away to the city limits and the traffic is not peachy-keen here. We make it to the city (during the drive I’m talking on the phone with our moving company rep) and stop in the Fremont neighborhood to walk around a bit. Robb spent quite a bit of time there because it was fairly close to the house he subletted. It’s a cool little neighborhood with lots of restaurants and music shops. Just Robb and I will be going back soon to spend more time in the unique shops and visit the farmer’s market.

We then headed over to Pike Place Market, a huge farmers/artisan market and a top tourist destination in Seattle. We got a great little pastry filled with potatoes and cheese (similar to a perogi) and then went for coffee. (Well Robb and Dad drank coffee at Seattle’s Best Coffee, see the pic, – I drink chai tea.) It is in Pike Place where the original Starbucks is and the original Seattle’s Best Coffee. We walked around the market for a short bit, but it’s very crowded and my Dad and I don’t really dig crowds. So we headed back to the car, stopped at local coffee house for Robb’s favorite local coffee, and then headed to REI. REI is a camping/outdoors chain that my parents loved to spend time in while in Texas. And they were founded in Seattle and my Dad’s major goal while here was to visit their flagship store! While my Dad didn’t find the hiking boots he wanted, he did get my Mom and me Seattle REI t-shirts.

Day 5: Bozeman, MT to Federal Way, WA

The farther west you go in Montana the more trees you see. And then you hit Idaho and it’s all green (see pic to the left). Robb told me that Arbor Day was founded in Boise, Idaho, which makes sense now. I just never pictured so many trees in the state where the Idaho potato is from. And then as soon as you leave Idaho (we only drove across the tip, like 1 hour), you hit Spokane. Washington, I was home!

But the five hour drive from Spokane to Federal Way was a little unnerving. Eastern Washington is NOT pretty. In fact, it looks just like Kansas. Flat plains and nothing going on (picture on the left). Not at all how I pictured my new home. The most interesting thing going on was a 14 mile stretch along the interstate that had crops growing and signs by the highway to let you know what the crops were. We saw alfalfa, peppermint, peas, wheat, hay, seed (what the heck is seed – aren’t they all ‘seed’) and corn (picture on the right of sweet corn). It was a test of my “taking pictures while in a moving vehicle skills” to catch a picture of the crops and a sign.

And then all of a sudden we hit mountains and trees. And as we were going over (what I believe to be the Cascades) I was struck by the Washington scenery that I have so long envisioned. We were driving through winding mountain roads that were flanked by giant pines. So green, so immense. I believe it was the most beautiful scenery of the entire 3,200 mile drive. It looked just like the mountain roads in Germany and Austria. And then I realized that I felt like I was home. Everything felt familiar and I felt like this is where I belonged. How strangely comforting, to come home to a place you’ve never been before!

Once we hit the mountains is was only about another 1.5 hours before we found our apartment. Robb was there, boxes piled high from the movers earlier in the day. It was nice to be near him again and he toured us around the apartment and then around Federal Way. We are only a couple of miles from Puget Sound. First impressions: a lot more hilly than Florida, a lot colder than Florida (no air conditioner in our apartment and it is NOT missed), and a lot more trees. Perfect.

Day 4: Boulder, CO to Bozeman, MT

I woke up in a bad mood. The cats have gotten loud and obnoxious during the nights, I guess to get out pent up energy from the long car rides. I wake up anytime they make a noise to try to quiet them so they don’t wake up my Dad, who has to be alert for the road. And Jack threw up. That’s not unusual. He’s a binger and purger who has not figured out the weight loss thing yet. So after getting up way earlier than I planned on and then stepping in and cleaning up cat barf, we got on the road to get our doughnuts. Which were not there; a Subway stood in Tastefully Toasted’s place. I seriously had looked forward to these doughnuts for 2 months, and they weren’t there. Bad mood continues.

We drive out of Colorado, and see the mountains, but don’t really drive through them (see pic to the left). We get to Wyoming and feel a bit like Kansas again. The scenery is very mundane and unchanging. Rolling plains and small hills, barely any trees, tiny towns, no radio or cell phone signal. However, I’ve never seen so many deer before. And for the record, Wyoming and Montana could compete with Kentucky for sheer number of horses seen.

Sidebar: I think it was somewhere in Wyoming when Robb called me and told me the movers had arrived, but the driver of the truck claimed that he couldn’t fit his 18-wheeler into our complex. This is the same guy who complained about getting his truck into our complex in Orlando, but managed to do after a little bit of effort. Robb offered to help move items himself, even if the truck was parked farther away. He offered to go door to door in the apartment complex to ask people to move their cars. He yelled. This guy didn’t even TRY to get his truck in. So they charged us $370 to put the stuff in a smaller truck and deliver it the next day. We are not happy and are arguing with the moving company. Our apartment complex has written a letter for us saying that they’ve had 18-wheelers in here before. And I’m filing official complaints and trying to get our money back.

So my Dad and I get to Bozeman, Montana and it’s been a pretty horrible day. In addition to everything else, Malibu seems to be done with traveling. While she’s still doing good by most cat standards, you can tell she’s starting to stress out more. My Dad’s been looking forward to steaks in Montana, but this tiny college town only has a couple of steak places and they’re a little out of our price league. So we stop in a Montana pizza chain, which looks promising, but our pizza is cold, even after it was reheated at our request. And to be honest, the Montana scenery (see pic to the left) disappoints me a little. I don’t know what I imagined, and while it was beautiful, it wasn’t especially impressive. A lot like Wyoming.

Dad and the cats have bonded at this point. Dad is impressed with their traveling ability and is especially fond of Jack because he doesn't bother us at all. Dad is a little disturbed that Jack has chosen to sleep in the litter box on occasion, but tonight he allows them to cuddle briefly on his bed.

Day 3: Topeka, KS to Boulder, CO

One of the most exciting parts of this trip was our planned stop to Boulder. Probably about 10 years ago we had a family trip to Colorado and Boulder was one of our favorite places. It’s a great college town with a lot of personality and a fun walking district. So we wanted to see that again. And I saw on the Food Network this little bit about a doughnut store called Tastefully Toasted that was in Boulder. So the plan was get to Boulder early in the day (it was only an 8 hour drive) and hit up the walking district. The next morning, get doughnuts on our way out of town.

But before we get to Boulder we first have to make it through Kansas; which is the most boring drive someone could ever experience. (Please note the pictures.) And it takes a long time too. There are no good radio stations and really no civilization. Well the radio is good if you’re in the mood for fire and damnation talk. Interesting to note: on the Western edge of Kansas is when Mountain Time goes into effect; and there are no mountains in sight. During your entire drive through Kansas you can’t wait until you hit Colorado because you’re sure that it will be more exciting than Kansas. Not true. Eastern Colorado looks just like Kansas. You have to drive a couple hours more before you hit mountains.

We stayed in a La Quinta in a town just outside of Boulder and it was our nicest room during the trip. We decided to go to downtown Boulder, even though there were warnings of flash flooding and didn’t feel a drop of rain the entire night. We walked around a bit, ate at a pretty good Tex-Mex joint and went to bed, looking forward to our doughnut stop in the morning.

Day 2: Clarksville, TN to Topeka, KS

We planned to stop in Topeka so that I could go out to dinner with my mother-in-law. The drive is fairly mundane. We drove past the St. Louis arch. And as my Dad grew up with a family that loves Budweiser, we took some important photos to commemorate our Missouri drive. The cats were again fantastic. Even better than the day before. Can I believe my luck? I went to dinner with Pat, my MIL, at South of the Border and we bonded over our pet discussion (obsessions?) While I really wanted a burrito, I decided to get a salad. Breakfast and lunch on both Day 1 and Day 2 involved McDonalds. I was in need of some veggies and non-greasy food.

Day 1: Largo, FL to Clarksville, TN

This day is our longest, estimated to be about 12 hours. We leave at 5:30 in the morning; it’s still dark so I can’t see the water as we cross the Howard Franklin bridge that takes you from the peninsula to mainland. The cats seem to be doing well. Maybe it’s because we left so early and it was dark out so there wasn’t that much to scare them. Jack (the 20 pound, white and gray cat) just finds a place to settle down. Malibu is a bit more jumpy. While she’s not meowing a lot or panting (which has been her move in the past) she moves around trying to find a way out. She did make a valiant attempt when she stepped on the switch to open the window. We then ride the rest of the trip with the child-safety locks on. But overall they’re doing well.

We started listening to a Tom Clancy book-on-CD. Tom Clancy may write very good books. But I do NOT recommend listening to them on CD. It is extremely hard to follow. So after a couple-hours attempt, we gave up and started Hemmingway “To Have and To Have Not.” Much better.

This drive is familiar for both my Dad and me. My Granny lives in Tennessee and I went to college in Virginia, so this part of the drive is basically autopilot. My Dad drives the entire way because he doesn’t want to deal with the cats when they decide it’s time to move around again. We stopped in Clarksville, TN and stayed at an Econo Lodge that is fairly gross, but had good pizza at Old Chicago.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

I'm Home!

First thing's first: I'm here, I love it, and I have no regrets!

In the next couple of days I will post highlights and pictures from the roadtrip and my first couple of days in the area. My computer is currently having some internet connectivity problems, so once that is straightened out, I will download my pictures and regal you with my stories.

Key points:
  • I love my husband and am very happy to be near him again.
  • The weather and scenery reminds me and my Dad of Germany. The high yesterday was probably 69. It feels like fall in the middle of August. It's wonderful!
  • The cats were the most amazing travelers you could ever imagine. They were so good and I'm so proud of them!
  • We're unhappy with our moving company right now, but we're working on resolving our issues.