Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Memorial Day - Ballard and Fremont

So this is the last of my posts about my Mom visiting for Memorial Day Weekend. Even though we had two whirlwind days in Western Washington, there were no breaks for us. As soon as we drove the two hours back to Federal Way on Sunday, we picked up Robb and immediately headed for dinner in Seattle. My Mom recently decided to become a vegetarian, and Robb did some research to find the best vegetarian restaurant in Seattle. Cafe Flora was incredible. There was an adorable indoor garden where most diners were seated. If it had been any other day, we probably would have waited for a table in that section, but because we were tired, we decided just to eat in the main restaurant. We started with the quesadilla verde: Roasted yams, pumpkin seed-cilantro-scallion spread and Pepper Jack cheese in corn tortillas with salsa verde and lime crème fraîche. Deliciousness. Everything continued to be delicious, from the Caesar salad, to my Oaxaca tacos, to Robb's portobella wellington, to Mom's polenta concoction. We even tried desserts that were not the highlight of our evening, but not bad either. This is definitely the place to take vegetarians and even meat-lovers for something a little different and decadent.

On Monday Mom and I headed to Seattle. I wanted to show her some of my favorite neighborhoods: Ballard and Fremont. We went to the Locks in Ballard, walked around the semi-desolate main drag (because of Memorial Day, a lot of places were closed), and had lunch in La Isla on NW Market Street. This Puerto Rican restaurant was really wonderful. Mom had a plantains variety plate and I tried the pork empanadas. In addition to the main dishes being wonderful, the rice side-dish was incredible too. Sometimes it's hard to find good rice side-dishes. After our successful lunch, we headed to Fremont so I could show Mom some of my favorite stores, as well as the Fremont Troll. We headed home, with a slight detour to the flagship REI store. Visiting REI is always a requirement, even if we can't afford to buy from there often. We ordered in pizza that evening from our favorite Federal Way pizza place, Mom and Pop's, and called it a night so that we could get up early the next day for Mom's flight.

It was an exhausting long-weekend. But so worth the sleep deprivation I felt the rest of the week! I already miss my Mommy again!

Hiram M. Chittenden Locks: boats waiting to get into Puget Sound from Lake Union.

The Before: Boats waiting for the water to rise so they can head into Puget Sound. Depending on how busy the locks are that day, they could be waiting for hours in this cramped space!

The After: The picture is taken from the exact same place (notice the yellow line). The water has been added and now the boaters are preparing to go into Puget Sound. It's quite complicated to get going because of all the connections. Big boats are on the outside, and are tied to the docks, while smaller boats are in the middle and tie to the bigger boats.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Hurricane Ridge

After spending our morning kayaking on the water, we headed up to Hurricane Ridge. Hurricane Ridge is one of the high points of Olympic National Park. We planned on doing a short hike, but quickly discovered that the trails were covered with snow! So we just walked around in the snow for a little bit and took pictures of the views. While it was little hazy, you could still see the outlines of the valley and Port Angeles, the Straights of Juan De Fuca, and Canada if you looked really hard. My Mom was pretty excited to see snow; it had been about 6 years since she last spotted the white stuff. And it was just really cool that earlier that day it was warm enough for us to kayak and that afternoon we were in a totally different location, only 20 miles away, that required sweatshirts. After the Hurricane Ridge, our exploration of Western Washington came to an end. Four totally different locations in only two days was an interesting experience. I mean, where else but Washington can you go to the Pacific Ocean, the rainforest, a bay that if crossed would take you to Canada, and a mountain ridge in only 2 days. And that's only part of Washington, if we would've taken one more day, I could've shown Mom the desert and flatlands of Eastern Washington. This just, again, solidified why Robb and I decided to move here and why we love it.

Notice the blue water behind me in the background that hits the sky; on the other side of that water is Canada!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Adventures Through Kayaking

On Sunday morning Mom and I got up early and started the day at the Olympic Bagel Company for an incredible choice of bagels and cream cheese to start our day. We then headed to Adventures Through Kayaking. Mom and I signed up for a half-day of guided kayaking in Freshwater Bay (which was actually salt water in the Straits of Juan de Fuca). Besides the guide, it was just me, Mom, and a father-son combo. The father and son had lots of experience in kayaking. Mom and I had none. They gave Mom and me a tandem kayak to use, outfitted us in wetsuits, and taught us a couple of strokes. We had a fantastic time and quickly picked up on the kayaking coordination (our guide told us he'd never seen novice tandem kayakers work together so well.) As soon as we got on the water we spotted bald eagles in the trees. Then we saw something amazing: two eagles flying in the air, chasing each other, right over our heads. Really, really cool view of the eagles. We saw more eagles in trees and at the end of the day we saw two other eagles (different ones, these were brownish juveniles) flying around again. Our guide said it was extremely unusual to see so many bald eagles, he counts himself lucky if he sees 1 on a trip. On our trip we also saw beautiful iridescent seaweed, a variety of kelp, sea anemones (my Mom touched one, she's gross and brave), and dozens of starfish. These are amazing starfish that look fake and as though they belong in a Disney movie. It was a really awesome first kayaking experience. I can't wait to go again.

And, after our trip, we found it very convenient that a wine tasting room was connected to the kayaking company. We sampled four or five wines, Mom bought a bottle, and we headed back to the Olympic Bagel Company for lunch. (They should stick with bagels, their sandwiches were not as good.) Stay tuned for the next post describing our Sunday afternoon at Hurricane Ridge...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hoh Rainforest

So on Saturday afternoon, after we left Rialto Beach, Mom and I headed to the Hoh Rainforest. Another wonderful thing about the Northwest: rainforests! These aren't tropical rainforests with ferns and spider-monkey's scurrying about. These rainforests have moss carpeting the ground and suffocating the trees, with elk eating their way through the brush. We decided to hike for a little bit on the Hoh River Trail. This trail is actually 17 miles one way, but we decided to hike about 3 miles in (6 miles round trip) with promises of a beautiful waterfall to view. The trail was fairly flat, but for excitement we got to cross a couple of streams. And we were super-psyched to see elk along the trail. Actually, a whole herd of elk. There were at least 30 elk scattered next to the trail. And several were very close to us, 15 feet away. They weren't scared when people came along. They stood quietly for pictures and continued eating. Beautiful creatures. After our hike we drove two hours back to the city of Port Angeles. (It's the biggest city close to the Olympic National Park.) We stayed at a really nice Best Western and ate dinner at an excellent Italian restaurant. I had a smoked salmon ravioli with a sun-dried tomato and dill cream sauce. Really good. After hiking 3 miles in the morning and an additional 6 miles that afternoon, we fell asleep quickly that night to prepare for our next day!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Rialto Beach - The Pacific Ocean

My Mom was able to visit for Memorial Day weekend. I was so excited to see her because it had been since Thanksgiving and I was missing my Mommy! We missed my Dad joining us because of his work commitments, but it was nice to have some mother-daughter time. And while Robb worked that weekend, Mom and I decided to take a couple of days to visit the Olympic Mountains, a place neither of us had ever been to. We crammed four very different ecological areas into two days. And each half-day was so impressive, that every ecological site will have it's own blog posting. I'll be trying to get everything up about our trip this week. First up: Rialto Beach.

On Saturday morning we got up very early to drive almost four hours to the Pacific Ocean. The plan was to visit Rialto Beach because I wanted to view sea stacks, which I'd never seen before. They don't have those on the beaches in Florida! It was really interesting because we're driving in the forest, driving in the forest, driving in the forest and then wham! There's the Pacific Ocean. The forest butted right up to the beach, which was a really unusual site for me. We got to Rialto Beach at about 11:00am and decided to hike to Hole-in-the-Wall. This 1.5 mile (3 miles round trip) hike was along the beach and was really cool because it was a little foggy and gray. It was a fun little hike We had to cross a pretty large stream coming from the forest into the ocean. No sand on this beach, just lots of rocks that were actually very pretty. And thankfully the tide was low so that we could get through Hole-in-the-Wall. Apparently when the tide is up, you can't even pass through.

Stream we had to cross.

See that brown speck in the middle of the picture? That's me. Next to huge sea stacks.

That's the Hole-in-the-Wall, looking back the way we came through.