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Remember, Relish, and Rejoice

As the seasons change and it feels decidedly like Fall, I’m remembering we had several wonderful grace-filled experiences before the summer ended. I just didn’t get them all recorded.

To remedy that, I will go backwards by events and make up for my slacking off.

Bob’s Seattle Vacation

2 September 2019

To end the summer festivities, we brought my youngest brother up to our place for a little vacation before he had to go back to work at the beginning of the school year. We picked him up from Enumclaw on Sunday evening, September 1 and Monday bright and early we began our stay-cation in the city with Bob.

We cracked out of bed early on Labor Day and found free holiday parking on the street right next to Pike Place Market. Some of the vendors were still setting up their stalls. We brought sweaters because the morning seemed gray and cooler than the day before. But, we shouldn’t have worried. The sun came out and the temperatures reached their summer glory.

Lots of people decided to join us at the market, but we got there first. We walked the length of the market and Bob perused the collectibles store, which is what he had most wanted to see. A tiny, little 8 table Chinese restaurant – with stunning views of Elliot Bay – beckoned us to enter as no one else had laid claim to it. We decided it must be time for some lunch as the BBQ pork on a stick and the hum bows called out to us. It was the perfect market lunch. It fortified us just enough to finish walking the market and make it back to the car.

Next stop was Daiso in Ravenna, for a walk through the Japanese dollar store. How I love that store. Bob wanted to see it. We both found some items that had to go home with us.

Arriving home ahead of the holiday rush, we made it with just enough time to put strip steaks on the BBQ for dinner. Two of our sons joined us and one of them and his family brought the makings for root beer floats for dessert. We had a last of summer holiday party. After dinner Bob and I took a walk while the rest of the party played checkers in the backyard.

3 September 2019

Today we hopped out of bed and into the car to go explore Pioneer Square. Bob wanted to see Seattle’s underground. Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour did not disappoint. We easily found a parking place on the street across from the tavern where the tour begins. We walked right up to the window and bought our tickets – no waiting. However, we just missed the first tour, so we had about 45 minutes to wait for the next one. Forty-five minutes is not hard to spend in Pioneer Square.  We went right to Magic Mouse Toys (a favorite toy store when our kids were little) and used up all our time.

While we waited for the tour to begin, about 50 more people joined us and we were escorted to an upstairs room for some initial history and orientation. The guide should have been a stand up comic. Or, maybe he was one. We were all laughing before we even left the staging area. He took us on a winding tour into the underground of Seattle, created after the great Seattle fire of 1889, when the streets were built up above the first floors of the buildings. Largely, it was an effort to solve a sewage problem. So, you can imagine the bathroom humor that accompanied the tour. Historically, the underground was a by product of the new modern convenience, the crapper – er, toilet – to us modern folk. Invented by Thomas Crapper, the toilet was wonderful, but because Seattle was built at sea level, whenever high tide came . . . there were problems with sewage coming into homes through the – you guessed it – the new toilets. So Seattle’s solution was to built the city one floor higher so the sewage wouldn’t back up during high tides. But, what is amazing is, the first floors of all the main buildings in Pioneer Square still exist below what is now the first floor entrance to those buildings. The first floors are abandoned – and had been for almost 100 years when Bill Speidel discovered their existence around the 1960’s. So began Bill Speidel’s Underground Tours – which continue to this day.

The most fascinating moment was when our guide turned off all the electric lights and showed us how the underground remained lit by the natural light coming through three or four inch purple glass blocks that were embedded in the sidewalk above our heads. These walks were built long before the underground was abandoned. And the rooms below were perfectly lit without electricity.

Following our tour, Bob and I walked over to the International District while my Driver moved the car closer to where we were headed. Bob had never been to Uwajimaya, the Japanese department and grocery store – so that was the next stop on our tour. Bob found a lovely silk panel of a traditional Japanese dragon that he had to take home with him for his front room.

We found a new Chinese restaurant and Bob treated us to some very delicious sweet and sour pork and Mandarin beef for lunch. Then we made our way home. Today was also going to have a cooking lesson. Bob wanted to learn how to roast a turkey breast; which he did and we happily ate for dinner; two of our sons and one girlfriend joining us for the party. It was a nice evening – and a very good turkey breast!

4 September 2019

The Museum of Flight was on our calendar of events today. After breakfast we packed a picnic lunch of turkey sandwiches, chips, apples and cookies, anticipating the time when we would need to rest for lunch. Knowing there were lovely grounds around the museum and that the small cafe there wasn’t much to write home about, we thought a picnic would serve us well.

We walked the museum learning about the history of flight and the many iterations of aircraft and famous pilots until we needed to stop and rest.  We ate our prepared lunch and continued on to the new aviation pavilion, where they have several historic aircraft on display. Among them were a Concord; and Airforce One; a B-52; a 747; and a B-17F from WWII days. The planes are immaculately kept and lovingly restored; making us want to do more than just look. We wanted to be able to go inside them. Some were open and one could walk through them, but unfortunately, not the B-17, which was the one we truly desired to enter. As we were reading about the history, a docent joined us and I asked her if it were ever possible to be able to go inside the B-17. We had a long conversation, ending with her offering to make special arrangements for us if we would call ahead and ask for the privilege. I wrote down her name and number and must remember to do that in the future.

We leisurely walked through the WWII gallery as well as the WWI gallery where Bob and I had to stop and try to fly a WWI biplane in their simulator. It was surprisingly difficult! But we both had fun. After our attempts to take off and land, the simulator would show us what we had made the aircraft do . . . which was crash it in most instances! There was a lot of laughing.

Leaving the museum, Bob requested stopping at a comic book store; Fred Meyer across the street, and a Big 5 Sports store. To Bob’s delight, he found several things he had been looking for. After shopping, it was almost 6:00, so we decided to stop for pizza before going home for the day. We went to Patxi’s Pizza in old Ballard and tired their deep dish pizza with sausage and pepperoni. It was like a lasagna in a crust, and equally delicious. Needless to say, we had to bring some home with us because between the three of us, we couldn’t finish one pie.

There was resting in front of the TV for the evening hours and another day of stay-cation logged in Seattle. It was great fun to have Bob with us and explore places we had not been to in ages.

5 September 2019

Bob’s days in Seattle were coming to an end. We made arrangements to meet up with our oldest son during his lunch hour on our way to take Bob home to Enumclaw.  We arrived in Issaquah where our son works at Costco and he directed us to Fat Burger for lunch. We’d never been to a Fat Burger before! Our son assured us they were delicious, but we all ordered a “baby burger” since we had been eating so much with Bob during the week. They were good burgers – but a baby was certainly enough.

We dropped Bob off, stopped to see the folks, and shared one last dinner together with Bob at the folks’ place.

I have to say, we were exhausted after so much fun – but in a good way. It’s so easy to forget that relationships are built and fostered by sharing and doing things together. Time spent together exploring, learning, talking, eating, and even walking and shopping can be grace-filled time. I had never before spent so much time with my brother Bob as an adult. He was born after I left home for college and the years have separated us. These days together were wonderful reminders that even families need to take time to just be together; explore together; and share in the wonders of the universe together. Without sharing experiences we become strangers to each other and look for objects to satisfy our need for human connection.

Take the time. Connect with someone. Share the grace. Be a part of the unfolding wonder of life.

All of Summer in a Day on San Juan Island

28 August 2019

Some days are just meant for an escape. Such was the 28th of August. We had actually planned our escape. We had checked the weather forecast. My Driver made reservations on the Anacortes ferry. I made egg and cheese sandwiches and packed juice and grapes for a breakfast on the road – or in the ferry line. I charged my cameras and made sure I had extra chip space; ice water; a jacket and snacks for the meantime. We went to bed early, anticipating an alarm that would ring at 5:00 a.m.

By 6:00 a.m. we were on the road headed for Anacortes and the 9:05 ferry through the San Juan Islands to Friday Harbor. The drive north was exquisite – we saw the sunrise over the Cascade Mountains and all the mountains were clearly visible while ground fog hung in the lowlands of the Skagit Valley.

Our reservation was gladly accepted at the ferry toll both and we queued up in the lane to disembark at Friday Harbor. With an hour before we sailed, it was the perfect time for a breakfast picnic. When the ferry arrived we boarded, parked the car, and went up on deck to enjoy the ride amidst the wonderful sunshine and extremely clear views in every direction. Never before have we experienced such a clear and beautiful ferry ride through the San Juan Islands. We’d seen lots of fog and rain before – but nothing like the picturesque, starkly gorgeous day that was today. With every mile out into the straits between the islands, the current events of the day and any anxieties we carried, drifted away with the marine breezes.

An hour and a half later we were driving off the ferry onto San Juan Island at Friday Harbor, making our way to American Camp. The camp was the spot where American troops had made their settlement in 1860 to lay claim to the island. We walked out into the prairie at the southern tip of the island and marveled at the 180 degree views. We could see every island, every mountain from east to south to west. It was breathtaking. We walked the grounds of the old camp, examined the officer’s quarters, and climbed to the highest elevation for better views of the distance. It was as if we were alone on top of the world, with beauty unsurpassed in every direction.

Leaving American Camp, we traveled west and north to find Lime Kiln State Park on the western shores of the island. The park is well known as a popular whale watching spot, however, there were no whales to be seen today. We hiked a trail up and down along the coast until we came to the Lime Kiln Lighthouse. Every view was a keepsake picture. The day was like a treasured postcard.

By the time we found our car back at the state park, we knew we had to find some nourishment. One picnic a day is sufficient, so we were looking for a small cafe in Roche Harbor for lunch. When we found it and found parking for the car, the line for service at the cafe went out of the building and down the wharf. Since there were no other establishments that suited our tastes, there was nothing to do but wait in line. Thankfully, the line moved quickly and soon we were ordering and locating a table. The lunch was better than expected and we both enjoyed it along with a signature homemade doughnut from the cafe’s bakery. It was definitely worth the wait in line!

After lunch we walked the tiny wharf area and explored some of the local artists’ booths as well as the remains of some of the old lime kilns. There was some interesting history there. Fortified with lunch to continue exploring, we headed back south just a short way to find English Camp.

This was the site where the English settled in 1860, hoping to lay claim to the island. The 49th parallel had not yet been drawn across the San Juan Island, so who the island belonged to remained in conflict. There remained an uneasy peace between the American and English settlers until 1859, when an American soldier shot and killed an English pig that was rooting in his garden – and the dispute known as the Pig War began. Both countries sent troops to the island in 1860 and it was not until 1871 that peace was declared with an arbitration agreeing on the 49th parallel. Thus, the island became part of the United States. It remains a famous “war” in local history, where the only casualty was a pig.

English Camp was strikingly different from American Camp. There were manicured gardens and officer’s quarters on the cliffs above a cove, lots of trees and hills rising from the bay. The English obviously had more “settlement” houses and amenities for their troops, while the Americans had much more of an old Western style fort on the prairie. Both camps remain as a testament to history that conflicts can be worked out with civility.

Our last stop completed our circle of the island and we returned to Friday Harbor, the largest town on the island, to get into the ferry queue. Since it was only 5:00 and our ferry reservations were not until 6:30, we had time to walk the town and the harbor. We found an ice cream shop and enjoyed a delightfully cool treat in the shade looking over the harbor. After walking a few blocks, we realized we were totally out of steam and went back to the car to rest and wait for the ferry. The day had climbed in temperature and it was now 80 degrees – even in the islands. That’s a hot summer day, and we felt every degree of it. But, without the full sun and the lack of clouds, we would have never seen the glorious scenery we saw during our tour of this delightful, tucked away gem; the once disputed island that lay between Canada and America.

The ferry ride home was an experience all its own. The sun was setting over the islands and the water gleamed a clear vibrant blue. The bow of the ferry provided some natural air conditioning and the most remarkably stunning views of Mt. Baker I have ever seen. As we approached Anacortes, the ferry came to a complete stop. I walked to the bow to see if I could discern the problem. As I suspected, the previous ferry had not yet left the dock, so we could not approach. The ferry captain took us on a wonderful little side trip closer to Guemes Island and views of Mt. Baker. As we turned back west to dock in Anacortes, the sun was disappearing behind the hills of the islands and the sky was turning a soft, peaceful, golden, magenta. There are not words to describe the beauty and pictures do not do it justice. It was grace painted across the sky, the water, and in our hearts after such a summer’s day.

We drove home in the darkness remembering all the highlights of creation we had seen during the day. It felt like a gift of summer all in one, long day. And it was glorious.

Cascades Calling

A mini Trip into the North Cascades

31 July 2019

Without major plans to leave the state this summer, we settled on making the effort to see the national parks in our own backyard. It wasn’t difficult to pick the one we had never seen before –  even after living here for 40 years – The North Cascades National Park.

After a slow start packing the car and stopping to mail voter’s ballots and picking up some coffee to go, the traveler’s friend, we were on the open road traveling north. It was a lazy schedule, stopping and shopping and eating along the way. We’ve always enjoyed going north out of the city.

Our respite for the nights was an Econo Lodge in Mount Vernon. Nothing spectacular, but certainly adequate – a place to stay. As we got closer to the park, accommodations were rarer and more exclusive, so a stay in Mount Vernon seemed reasonable, even though we would have to head out very early each morning.  We watched some of the Democratic debate, and I got out my watercolors and passed the time by painting sunflowers.

Following the debates, we walked out into the local environs and stopped for a burger and BLT at a Burgermaster in the area. It was actually quite good.

In all the excitement to get going this morning, I found I forgot the book I was reading and planned to finish, and only brought the next book I intended to start. Well, nothing like the present. We made an early evening of it as we set the alarm for 6:00 a.m.

1 August 2019

The alarm did ring early – especially after a night in the worst hotel bed ever! However, that didn’t dampen our excitement to be headed for our cruise on Lake Diablo.

The morning was sunny and warm – even at 7:30. Our drive up into the mountains and toward the North Cascades park was beautiful. We made the requisite comfort stops along the way and checked in for our boat ride at 9:47 at the North Cascade Environmental Learning Center located beyond Newhalem.

About 50 of us (the geriatric crowd-all but one of us! And we the most junior of most of the seniors.) The boat ride was scheduled through Puget Power and was a lovely, lovely ride up the length of Lake Diablo to Ross Dam. The boat was small, but with plenty of room and large windows to accommodate sight seeing. We sat outside the cabin on the stern and watched the rugged mountains peek out and retreat as we sailed through the pristine beauty that is Lake Diablo.

The lake was a deep, yet mellow, teal green/jade green from glacial rock silts. It was like a story book picture – shockingly beautiful. We saw the dam up close that created Lake Diablo, then sailed up the length of the lake to the dam that created Ross Lake, still elevations above us. At Ross dam we had an unexpected surprise side trip. We were invited into the generator house and workings of Ross dam. It was pretty amazing. We all had to don hard hats and ear plugs, but the experience was not to be missed. Hydro electric energy in the making. I’d never felt so small and insignificant before as I did standing in the housing of this gargantuan power plant. The roar of the power alone (even with ear plugs) impeded even the smallest of thoughts.

After about two and a half hours on the lake, the boat took us back to the Learning Center and we were served a delicious lunch in the Learning Center dinning room, obviously built for just such occasions. The buffet table was filled with local produce and fresh made dishes that smelled and tasted wonderful after a long morning in uninhabited wilderness. Fresh salad greens, hot turkey pot pie; French onion soup; and a mound of fresh baked cookies filled the vacuum a morning of exploring on the water had created. Interestingly, not many of our fellow explorers were very friendly as many of them had come together in small groups and basically stayed in their small groups. Well, I guess we were a group of two, and we were happy to stay in our small group as well.

After lunch, we explored along the lake shore and walked some very short trails. It was extraordinarily peaceful as there were so few humans about. All we had to do was soak up the quiet and the beauty, and we enjoyed every minute and every sight. Along our walk back to where we had to park the car, we saw someone’s bumper sticker which read: “Humankind. Be both.” What an appropriate motto for a day such as today. After all this peaceful, wild beauty, we must be sure to take humanness and kindness with us back into the towns and cities where all this energy from the hydro electric plant flows.

On the way back down from the lake, we stopped at the North Cascades Park Visitor Center and checked out the hiking possibilities. We chose the River Loop and set out for the 1.8 mile hike along the Skagit River with our trusty hiking sticks from the Makah. The hike took us down to the shores of the Skagit River, laced with the teal/jade color of Lake Diablo. It was beautiful.

We made it back to the Visitor Center in time to see the last showing of the park film for the day. Somewhere along the hike, my Driver had lost his feathers from his Makah walking stick. This we did not know until we were leaving the Visitor Center well over an hour after our hike had ended. In an amazing stroke of grace, another hiker was entering the Visitor Center as we were exiting at 5:00 after seeing the film. She recognized us (with our sticks) and offered the lost feathers to their owner. She must have picked them up along the trail and carried them with her. It was a beautiful gesture of humankind. And, being both. We were grateful even for such a small kindness.

Back on the road shortly after 5:00, we drank all the water we had packed. About 6:10 we stopped in Sedro Wooley at Double Barrel BBQ for a sandwich and more water. While our wait for our meal was unusually long (50 minutes!) before we were served, the food was remarkably delicious. The plates were so large, we packed half of our meals to take with us, as well as the complimentary chocolate cake that was offered for having to wait so long for our food.

We rolled back into the car and found our way back to the Econo Lodge in Mount Vernon. Since we’d already walked over 14,000 steps during the day, we peeled off our shoes and socks and sat in front of the TV to watch CNN until sleep overcame us.

A final though for the day: Along the way we saw a woman wearing a T shirt which read:

“Let’s eat grandma.”

“Let’s eat, grandma.”

“Commas save lives.”

I had to laugh out loud. Hilarious!!

 

2 August 2019

Rain was predicted and rain obliged. We stayed close to civilization today and went exploring in and around La Conner. We walked the shops of this renowned artist’s haven; both of us loving the woodworking store where everything is handmade out of local woods.

We visited the Skagit County Museum and enjoyed some of the local history, as well as stories and artifacts from the not too distant past. Around 2:30 we walked down along the canal and found “The Waterfront Cafe” for some nourishment. It was fair, but filled us up, so we kept walking along the water through the town. About 3:30 the misting stopped and the sun broke out. We stopped at a few more shops and made our way back to the Econo Lodge to ready for tomorrow – another early day in the North Cascades.

3 August 2019

Another 6:00 a.m. rally call to be on the road by 7:30 to make it up into the mountains to Newhalem. It was another morning of unbelievable beauty with the morning fog laying in the lowlands as the sun rose in front of us. Today we had scheduled a tour of the Newhalem Hydro Electric Power Plant, which serves most of Seattle’s power. Again, this was a Puget Power tour and as Newhalem is a company town, everything was geared around Puget Power.

Our morning drive was beautiful. We took Highway 9 out of Concrete and followed the river out to the main road up into the mountains. Small farms and valleys spotted the landscape as the mountains guarded us on every side. After yesterday’s rain, morning fog hung in the valleys while the sun graced the mountain tops and dappled the trees. Sun sparkles on the river as we drove along were animated like sprites, beautifully lively and stunning.

We arrived in Newhalem and signed in for our tour of the power plant, then waited in the garden until the prescribed time. About 30 people gathered and we were given an introduction and safety warnings, then led along the river to the main power plant located on the Skagit River. Once again, we all were required to wear hard hats and earplugs. And, once again, like the tour of Ross Dam, the power plant was amazing – this one much larger and more involved than the last. We learned about the history, the mechanics, the worker’s responsibilities, and the extent of the power this plant provides. Once again, it was an exercise in feeling small. Very, very small. This picture shows one pipe that brings water from the river into the generator to create electricity – one mighty huge pipe!

Following our tour, we were led back along the river to a park with benches and tables and the park ranger met us with a wagon of ice chests carrying a picnic lunch. There was plenty of ice water; fried chicken; potato salad; pickles; apples; and cookies to satisfy any hungry explorer. The setting by the river was exquisitely pastoral; the gurgling of the river playing soothing music for our dinning pleasure.

That completed the end of our tour, but we were invited to stay as long as we wished. And, we wished to stay longer. We elected to go on a hike up river behind the powerhouse to the site of a waterfall and old gardens. While being a very steep hike, it was not difficult, with nicely maintained trails. It was lovely, and well worth the effort involved.

Feeling like we had adequately explored this one small area of the North Cascades National Park, we decided to make our way toward home.

There is nothing quite like finding the spots of beauty and restful quiet close to home. And, nothing quite like discovering how humankind has used the natural resources of an area to promote growth in cities farther away. It is difficult sometimes to see the comparability of both of these interests – pristine wilderness and populated habitation. Yet, somehow we have to find the balance for both of them to exist if humankind is going to prosper and advance. Strikingly, it seems the wilderness of the North Cascades has figured out the grace of that delicate balance. Here there is maintained wilderness and beauty. Here there is energy captured from nature to power our major cities without massive disruption or destruction. It is a graceful balance. And one we need to advocate for and foster for the future. Both for the future of our lands and the future of our lives. There is a powerful grace in balance.

Day 6: The Return

The last day of a lovely trip is always the hardest. I always want to stay longer, but the pull of home and the familiar is also strong.

We had a quick yogurt for breakfast and packed out of our motel early, setting our sights toward Seattle. As we left town my Driver asked, “Do you want to go to Second Beach? We’re passing right by it.”

“No,” I answered firmly. We’ll just have to come back again another time. I learned my lesson on this trip. Beauty is everywhere and Second Beach will be there – still beautiful – whenever we make it back.

Completing the giant circle around the Olympic Peninsula, we went north on Highway 101. As soon as we left Forks the skies began to open and the fog cleared. The temperature rose and we were enjoying a beautiful summer day in the Northwest. We traveled along the shores of Lake Crescent again and through Port Angeles.

About 11:30 we stopped in Sequim at The Oak Table for a second breakfast. Since we had not found overly tasty food in the past six days, we looked forward to a familiar favorite spot and some delicious nourishment. The Oak Table did not disappoint.

Following second breakfast we walked a few blocks through the town so my Driver could get a coffee for traveling. Carrying on, we made the ferry line in Kingston just as the ferry in dock was leaving. That left us a good half hour to listen to more of The Pioneers.

We sailed back across the Puget Sound on the State Ferry Puyallup and were treated to one more moment of grace. Mount Rainier was visible in all her glory, majestically keeping watch over the brilliant blue waters and the lush green forests of the Sound. The perfect exclamation point for a perfectly wonderful exploratory journey of the Olympic Peninsula.

Day 5: A Day in Three Movements

ONE:

The morning was a little foggy-cold as it has been here the past four days. So, instead of traveling toward La Push on the coast for pictures and on to Ozette to see one of the original fishing villages that is now an archaeological dig, we changed plans. The mountains had been so much fun yesterday, why not return, but to a different area? We chose Lake Crescent and after about forty minutes of our Pioneer’s story, we had arrived at the lake. It was not yet noon.

There was plenty of parking and an icy blue-green lake beckoning us to its shores. Needless to say, Crescent Lake is a long crescent shaped lake with mountain slopes for a shoreline. At only a very few spots is there level enough ground to pitch a tent, much less build a lodge. But, build a lodge they did. And cabins and trails. It is a most welcoming little settlement. Who knew? Certainly not us.

We walked down to the lake and admired its crystal ripples through which we could see the rocks on the bottom as if looking through a window pane. It was lovely, shimmering silver and green and blue all at once. Kayakers were paddling, kids slapping in the shallows and ducks inviting themselves among the picnicers. We walked to the lodge and admired the sun room that looks out on the lake. Truly, someone had the right idea. How restful everything was.

Checking out the literature, we decided on a short hike to Marymere Falls, a mere mile and a half through the woods with only 400 feet of elevation. My Driver actually put on shoes and a brace to protect his knee and we set out into the woods for another magical walk in Nature’s Wonderland. It was almost more beautiful than yesterday, if that could be imagined. Tall, old-growth trees with weeping moss adorning every arm. A babbling stream following faithfully beside the trail. Ferns, dead trunks, exposed root balls, vines and every kind of lichen attracted our attention. The sunlight played in all the open spaces between leaves, branches and hanging moss.

We crossed the stream and journeyed toward higher elevations. Some while later, we had to cross the stream a second time, but now on a bridge made of a narrow log. Thankfully, someone saw fit to add hand rails. I know I would balk without them. And then there were stairs. A kind couple coming down saw us hesitating at a fork in the path and advised us to go left. From that trail we would be able to see the falls as we approached, they informed us. Left was the next direction we took.

Marymere Falls appeared in our sight after only a few minutes of hiking. Water fell from 80 feet off a rock shelf to the forest floor. It is as beautiful as any falls; as every falls. There were brave hikers who had jumped the rails and crawled down into the cascading pool. But these sedate hikers enjoyed the view from the overlook along the path. A kind fellow offered to take our picture and we accepted. We journeyed back toward the car seeing all new wonders on the return hike since we were going the opposite direction. It was like having an entirely different walk through the neighborhood simply by walking on the other side of the street. The view and what we notice changes completely.

TWO:

In search of nourishment, we arrived at the tiny coastal village of La Push around 3:30. Once again we marveled at the change in climate, geography and vegetation from where we were only hours before. It was foggy here, but the sun was fighting valiantly for exposure. We rested ourselves into “The River’s Edge” restaurant on the Quillayute Reservation and anticipated the arrival of our dinner. While waiting we looked out on the coastline of the Pacific Ocean and watched the fog swirl around the giant sea rocks off the coast. It was gorgeous.

The dinner was excellent – the best of this trip, and the location was thrilling. We were sitting at the edge of the world with all the beauty of the day wrapped around us. Full, and satisfied, we walked back to the car thinking we would head back to the motel. But, I simply couldn’t rest until I had seen at least one of the famous beaches at La Push. We were here and so close, I didn’t want to miss it. “Couldn’t we just drive over there?”

My Driver took a right instead of the left he was planning and we turned into a large parking lot. Pulling into a parking place I realized this IS the beach. I got my camera and got out of the car. Amazingly, at 5:30 the sun was just beginning to break through the coastal fog that had hung here all day. I happily snapped pictures as the sun played hide and seek among the wisps of fog. Finally content after dozens of photos, I was ready to go.

THREE:

Yet, my Driver was certain there was one more beach, Second Beach, where his information was telling him was the favorite spot of photographers. “We’re going to go right by it, do you want to stop?” I wasn’t sure. We’d already hiked three miles today and I didn’t want to tax my driver (or myself.) “I’m fine,” he kept assuring me. “It’s only a .7 mile walk to the beach. We can do it.” I softened, allured by the possibility of pictures in the sun when it actually did make a full break through the fog. “Maybe we could just stop and see what it looks like,” I hedged.

There was little signage and no visible information. We guessed we were in the right spot. There were other cars parked along the roadside. I was still waffling. My Driver said, “I’m just going to get out and read that sign over there.” He came back, informing me, “This is it. It’s only a .7 mile hike. Do you want to go?”

I wanted to say “Yes,” but I kept thinking about my Driver’s bad knee. “No,” I whined, “we can come back tomorrow.” But, I also knew that by tomorrow morning the fog would be thick and there would be little opportunity for good pictures. And, the sun was beginning to pierce the cloud cover now. It could be perfect picture taking light by the time we reached the beach. Perfect!

“I’m fine,” my Driver assured me again. “You want to go. Come on. It’s a short hike.” I really, really, really did want to see this famous beach. I wanted more than anything to see it in the setting sunlight. It’s as if I couldn’t help myself and my desire for one more beautiful experience before the day was done and we left the area. Just one more.

We got out and began the hike. Again, it was more majestic trees in lush undergrowth with mossy limbs reaching out to each other over our heads. We walked on and on. And on. At one point I could hear the surf crashing and I was encouraged. But something felt wrong. I said to my Driver, “If I were by myself, this is the point at which I’d turn around.”

“Why?” he questioned surprised. “Then you wouldn’t be able to see the beach.”

But, I knew we were not close to the beach and we’d certainly walked more than .7 miles. Yet, we carried on. After a time, I questioned him again. “What beach is this we’re going to?” He calmly assured me it was Second Beach, the one the photographers love. Yet, I knew somewhere deep inside me, it was not. About this time my walking app on my phone announced “One mile.” We had already gone beyond .7 miles and still no beach in sight.

We met a family that overtook us and their pre-teen son was running ahead and then back again to meet his parents and I asked him, “How far is it to the beach?”

“I don’t know,” he said flatly. “It’s a really long way, I think.” And, I have to admit, I thought the same. But, we walked on. The sun came out in full force and fell among the tree tops to the forest floor before taking it’s time to retreat again into the fog. And we walked on.

“If we turn back now, we’ll miss it.” Certainly, my Driver was right. So we walked on, the path winding one way and then another. I suddenly had my first realization of how easy it would be for a person to get very lost in woods as dense as these. There is no possible way to know which direction you’re going or where you have been. After a while it all looks the same.

The trail started to slope downward making the walk more difficult, but at least that meant we must be getting close to the beach, I thought. We met a woman coming up the trail, huffing and puffing. “What beach is this?” I asked her. “Third Beach,” she reported definitively. “So,” I stated, “this is the longest trail to the beach.”

“Yes,” she affirmed. “But, the beach is just straight down there.” She pointed behind herself to where the trail fell off in the distance. “But it’s really a crawl back up. I mean, it’s really steep going down.” She gasped for air as she talked, catching her breath after her ascent. I thanked her kindly and we walked on for about 20 more feet. We could now see the trail drop significantly and the beach was almost visible through the thick trees about 500 feet below us.

Having climbed 400 feet to the waterfall this morning on a staircase trail I knew I was not going down this one. “I’m not doing it,” I reported to my Driver. “I’d never get back up.” He agreed. So, after walking 1.7 miles we turned around with nothing but a slice of sight to the water below between the thickness of the forest.

FOUR:  AFTER THOUGHTS

I had lots of time to ponder on the 1.7 miles back to the car. What does it take to be satisfied and when is enough enough? I simply wanted to see one more beach and I thought the sun would be perfect if we went ahead and tried for it tonight rather than returning tomorrow morning. My Driver is such an optimist and is always so supportive of my creative pursuits. He wanted this for me; I wanted this for me. We led each other on.

I realize now, I was just being too greedy; as if Mother Nature wouldn’t share her gifts with me again tomorrow. As if this day had not been glorious enough. I wanted more. It was as if I was a beauty glutton. It wasn’t enough to have this morning and this afternoon; not to mention all day yesterday and the day before; I still wanted more. I was drunk on wonder and stupefied by beauty, simply craving more.

In my disappointment at missing Second Beach in the setting sun, walking back to the car I thought about what I learned in the failed attempt.

  1. Just because you want to do something doesn’t mean you should do it.
  2. All information received from others is not necessarily correct. Double check your sources.
  3. Don’t get too greedy for something that is overflowingly plentiful on a daily basis.
  4. Be satisfied with what you have seen and experienced.
  5. Trust your own instincts and be willing to act on them. Turn around if you have to.
  6. Don’t be afraid to encounter the locals.
  7. Enjoy all you can with every step.
  8. Stop and listen to the silence along the way, even if you don’t know where you are or if you will get to where you are going.
  9. Always take your best friend with you.
  10. Laugh a lot together afterward.

After hiking 3.4 miles in about an hour and a half, we returned to the site of the famous sign that said it was .7 miles to Second Beach. I examined the map closely. Indeed, it did say .7 miles to Second Beach. But, just a tiny distance to the right it said 1.4 miles to Third Beach and accompanying that was added information in a box stating: YOU ARE HERE.

The only problem with the information on the sign about Second Beach was: WE WERE NOT THERE.

Day 4: Two Faces of Olympic Park

There’s no other way to begin a vacation day than with fun. So that’s what we did. We walked across the street to “The Place” and had a breakfast that any Denny’s customer would recognize. But it was quick and filling and set us up for the day.

Our exploration of the Olympic National Park would take us to two different locations today, but mainly, we wanted to discover the Hoh Rain Forest. It’s hard to know what a “rain forest” is when it is 65 degrees and sunny, but it was not hard to imagine what a rainy day would involve. We drove south from Forks and east toward the interior of the great Olympic Peninsula. The roads were winding and narrow; trees growing right up next to the asphalt, as thick as patches of grass. And on the trees – monstrous trees, I might add, were mighty branches all laden with temperate rain forest moss. On every one. The rain forest here averages 120 inches of rain a year. The place is definitely ripe for growing mosses. The look reminds me of some fairy tale or Disney movie. It’s absolutely fascinating.

We found the Visitor Center, got our map and chose the Hall of Moss Trail for our hiking pleasure. Not surprisingly, because it was Saturday, there were a few more visitors in the park today than we encountered the past two days. There were lots of families with children, both behaved and not; foreign visitors; and chatty visitors. But, we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless. We were able to speed up or slow down to accommodate our need for silence in the woods.

Seeing nature in the raw is always so inspiring and completely mystifying. There were so many species of plants; hundred year old trees growing on top of fallen two or three hundred year old trees; mosses and lichens growing on every branch and trunk; roots tangled every which way; and water traveling under and over whatever was in its way.

I couldn’t help but think of the profound interconnection of all of life in such a place. Somehow we have forgotten how necessary this is for our survival.

The sun shone through the dense canopy of leaves and mosses, dappling its golden magic wherever a crack would allow it entrance. I was entranced and could hardly make myself move fast enough to make it farther along the trail. The rain forest in sunshine was a delight to behold. Tiny birds flitted among the leaves; tiny fish darted through the stream; and tiny wild flowers graced the forest floor, along with what seemed like an endless variety of ferns. It was beautiful. The silence in the middle of the forest was certainly the sound of grace.

Refreshed, yet tired from our hike, we elected to head back to Kalaloch to see the beauty of the coastline in this vivid sun. I have to admit, I was greedy for some pictures of the ocean in the sunlight.

But, as we approached the coast the sunlight bowed and retreated, leaving only low lying clouds and mists. We did stop at Ruby Beach, however, and I couldn’t help but capture its distinct character in some photos. Even though it was gray, it was extraordinarily beautiful. It was COLD walking down to the beach today, which caused me to move quickly and return to the car promptly. At Kalaloch it was much the same. And only an hour and a half before we were perspiring in the sunlit woods and peeling off our light jackets.

By this time it was after 4:00 and we were getting a little “hangry.” We purchased a bottled coffee and a candy bar from the Kalaloch mini mart and headed back toward Forks to find some dinner. Unfortunately, this day that was so anticipated and so longed for, simply escaped the planning stage. I forgot to bring water, snacks, or even sunscreen. (Thankfully, we always keep some bug spray in the car.)

We drove back through the thick coastal fog into the sunlight and back into fog again before we reached Forks, listening all the while to “The Pioneers.”

“Sully’s Hamburgers” was our destination. Because we were so hungry we ordered way too much and ate way too much, but every bite was satisfying. I took my after dinner three mile walk through town and halfway into the country and back again before checking in for the evening to write.

What a day! Two different climates; two different ecosystems; two different experiences of sacred beauty; but only one park. Such is the stunning nature of The Olympic National Park. And, there is so much more to discover.

Day 3: Exploring Our Own National Park

We have spent so much time exploring our nation’s National Parks, but strangely, have spent little time discovering the Olympic National Park located right in our own backyard. Today we planned to rectify that, if even in only a small way.

It was cold and lightly raining this morning when we packed the car in Long Beach. We walked back to “Benson’s By the Beach” for a hot breakfast fit for a road journey into unexplored territory. By 10:15 we were heading away from the coast and traveling north on old highway 101. At 12:30 we made a quick comfort stop in Hoquiam and traveled on through thick forested lands with little population. Humptulips was a blip along the road, as was Neilton before we turned into the Olympic National Park’s southern most point of interest: Lake Quinault.

We had visited Lake Quinault once when the kids were little and we camped along the lake shore. But that was over 30 years ago. We wanted to take the time to reacquaint ourselves with the wonders of the area and just take a little time for absorbing the beauty. And, it was stunningly beautiful; more beautiful than I remembered from 30 years ago. The shocking surprise was while we were there the sun broke through the cloud cover and instantly turned the lake a vivid blue and the trees bright vibrant greens. We walked a little way down to the edge of the lake and marveled at the sights. Then we visited the lodge and inquired as to the possibility of securing a room there sometime in the future. For a Friday in the middle of June, there seemed to be precious few people around. It was such a different experience from any other National Park we have ever visited.

There was a room available for tonight, we learned, but we had already made plans to continue on to another spot in the park before calling it a day. Next time we will certainly be more alert to the possibilities when planning a visit. I would love to stay in this little piece of heaven.

Traveling on, by 3:00 we were pulling into the parking for the Kalaloch Lodge. The lodge sits on a bluff above the waves at a most gorgeous spot along the coast. We pulled the car right up the edge and parked, sitting several minutes in silence just soaking up the incredible views. Deciding we didn’t really want to move, I got our picnic out (leftover pizza from last night; grapes and sparkling water) and we dined in Nature’s Cathedral.

As my Driver rested for his midafternoon nap, I walked the area and halfway down to the beach. It was lovely in every direction. Other than the beach itself, the main attraction is a series of tiny individual cabins that can be rented for overnighters. Once again, we realized we knew nothing like this existed so close to home and we vowed we would soon return to stay longer. And, once again, although it was a Friday late afternoon and people were checking in for the weekend, there were very few people around. Nothing like other National Parks we have visited.

By just after 5:00 we were checking into the Forks Motel along highway 101 and thinking about our plans for tomorrow. As we settled in I decided I needed a longer walk and took off to explore the length of the town which is only about a mile long and perhaps four or five blocks wide. Little, but more than adequate. And our room for the night is far superior to where we have been for the past two nights.

My walk allowed me to canvas the area restaurants and we selected a local Chinese restaurant for a light, late meal of some soup and mushu pork. It was certainly fine and much better than expected, but could never measure up to our favorite places in the city. Still, their handshaved noodles could hold their own. We enjoyed it and were glad we took the risk.

So, another day of exploring and learning about what our own back yard has to offer. There is boundless grace and beauty that we must plan to come back and enjoy at length.

Day 2: A Lazy Beach Day

Needing to open all the windows last night to make the room comfortable, we woke to a bit of a chilly morning. First order of business was to close the windows. But we did have a very restful night. Something about the beach air and a walk along the boardwalk contributed to restful sleep.

So, we continued to sleep well into the morning and set out almost at lunchtime for some breakfast. It was a short walk across the street to “Benson’s By the Beach” for a very satisfying country breakfast. My serving of bacon was so large I couldn’t even eat it all and had to ask for a doggie bag to bring it with me. It was way too good to leave on the plate.

Then we took a slow and leisurely drive the total length of the Long Beach Peninsula. While the weather was overcast, it was still lovely. I especially liked visiting Oysterville at the tip of the Peninsula. It is a tiny little community that just seems trapped in time. The church there was constructed in 1889 and is still being used to this day.  I had to take a little time and stop for the photographic opportunity. It’s a picture postcard kind of place located on the Willapa Bay side of the Peninsula. The only thing that would have made it nicer was a little sunshine.

We drove out to Leadbetter State Park, to the beach, past the place where my folks used to live and all the way down to Cape Disappointment and Ilwaco before turning back toward the main streets of Long Beach.

At this point, my Driver required a little rest, so it offered the perfect opportunity for me to explore the shops along the main drag in Long Beach. There are a few that are the same as 25 years ago, like “Marsh’s Free Museum” and “Dennis’ Supply and Hardware,” while others have certainly changed many times. Dennis’ is the most amazing store that carries almost everything in the world. It’s a joy and marvel just to walk through the store and see all manner of things that we never see in a city hardware store. Items such as shoes and clothing; canning and cooking supplies; every possible nut or bolt; screening; weed and feed; as well as toys and art supplies. It’s an excursion all its own to visit Dennis’.

Part of my job in walking the town was to scout out a place for some dinner. I had a few propositions for my Driver to make a decision. We ended up walking around the corner of our hotel to “The Long Beach Tavern” where my Driver had the best clam chowder he’s ever eaten. Enough said. My pizza was wonderful, too. Mission accomplished.

Not being able to totally divorce ourselves from the world, we made it back to our room in time for the CBS news. It’s far too chilly and misty tonight to walk the beach in the shorts and light jacket we packed when when we left Seattle on a predicted 95 degree day.

So, we are having a lazy beach day by the beach, reading and writing this evening. There isn’t a lovelier way in the world to spend a vacation evening.

Happy Birthday, dear Driver

Today is the day my dear Driver turns Medicare Age. Of course, we had to celebrate. Last week we planned for a little trip out of town just to mark the day.

Yesterday he had his first of three “knee shots,” and we had enough faith that it will work, we decided to test it by driving to the Pacific Ocean at Long Beach. It has been many years since we had been here and it was an exciting proposition.

We hastily packed small bags and threw them in the car, setting out for the road at 10:45. It was a little later than we had wanted, but no matter, we’re on vacation now. The weather was calling us to the beach as it was 84 degrees as we passed Tacoma. And, it would certainly get warmer.

Our first comfort stop came West of Olympia where we buzzed into a Barnes and Noble Store (a very nice one, actually) and also found ourselves in the check-out line with several titles. One of them was David McCollugh’s “The Pioneers” on audio. We promptly put it into the now ancient CD player in our little Dixie, and we continued on while learning more about the early history of our country and its expansion into the Ohio territory.

By the time we hit Montessanto, it was 91 degrees and my driver needed to rest his eyes for 20 or 30 minutes. I braved the heat and took a short walk around the tiny town. To my surprise, they had one of the most finely stocked Thriftway stores I’ve ever visited. There were more ethnic choices, and fresh baked assortments than we have in our neighborhood in the city. Plus, they had screamingly cool air-conditioning, which made me want to extend my visit.

Back on the road to the coast, one hour later we stopped in Raymond, a familiar stop from when we used to drive this route with our kids on the way to their grandparents. It was still the same, even 25 years later. Does Dairy Queen ever change?

One more hour, passed an extremely low tide on Willapa Bay, and we were checking into a funky motel in Long Beach. Amenities are scarce, but there is a bed and pillows, the most necessary items. We refreshed ourselves for a few minutes and set out again to meet a very unusual cousin. She was discovered by my dear driver during his ancestry research. What’s so interesting about her is, she is related by DNA to both my driver and me. How unusual is that?

She welcomed us to her little beach cabin and we sat for an hour just taking ancestry. When the time was right, we took her to the local Mexican restaurant, and we continued to talk. We found we had many more things in common than simply our shared DNA. Dinner was pleasant, and the conversation even more so.

Returning to our motel, with the air cooling down with the setting of the sun, we walked down to the boardwalk along the longest beach in the world: Long Beach. Needless to say, it was a lovely walk. Our sons called their father to wish him a happy birthday, and our celebration for today was complete.

A Birthday; a trip out of town for a change of scenery; meeting a new cousin related to BOTH of us, a Mexican dinner and a walk along the beach at sunset. What could be better? Now we can rejoice in the grace of being officially “old” together. Happy Birthday my dear driver, companion, lover, and friend. Happy Birthday.

Relishing the Familiar

The Yakima morning greeted us with light rain and gentle temps. We packed the car and set out looking for some canning supplies. For some reason, while driving through the countryside yesterday, we decided we should consider doing some canning again this summer. I had given all my canning equipment away when we moved to D.C. thinking I would never use it again. (At that time it had probably been about 20 years since I had used it . . . easy to think I wouldn’t use it again.) But, know it seemed like the most natural thing to do with our summer crops that are growing in our garden.

The exploration for canning supplies took us to three different establishments before we found an old-style canner like the one I had given away. I had thought a rural community would have these things; apparently they are not as easily found as I had thought.

With our new found canner and several boxes of jars, we pointed the car north and west toward home. The rain poured and made driving difficult for about an hour. Never before have we encountered rain while driving from Yakima to Snoqualmie. The hillsides that are so familiarly brown and arid were even a little green with young growth! The clouds made shapes and moved across the wide open skies dramatically. It continued to rain in the mountains (as it so often does) and we stayed alert by finishing our listening to Barack Obama’s book, which we enjoyed immensely.

A stop at North Bend allowed for a comfort stop and we went on to also stop in Issaquah where we met our son for a few minutes after his work day.

To wait out the commuter traffic at the end of the day, we found a pizza restaurant that fit the bill nicely. By this time we were quite hungry and Tutta Bella’s filled us with hot and savory flavors atop a chewy crust that could not have been more perfect.

The final miles flew away behind us and we were once again home: that comfortable and familiar place that is even now more welcoming and more comfortable for having left it for a few days and nights. What words are there to describe that feeling which allows us to relish and appreciate something more simply because we have been far from it for a time? Pick whatever name you like, but I will call it grace.