Monthly Archives: September 2019

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 booth 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.