To all of our fellow world family travelers, we hope you are safe, happy, and together this holiday.
We are actually going to have a traditional Thanksgiving feast this year! Turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, string beans, and pumpkin pie! I am already starting to fast to make room for all of it.
In England, we could not get turkey, cranberries, or pumpkin pie. Instead we had lobster. I remember reading that the original Pilgrims thought that lobsters were garbage fish and wouldn’t eat them unless they were starving. We had no problem.
In Germany, we ate ham. Since the Germans love swine, it was easy to get one. They pound, bread, and fry it into schnitzel and then cover it with mustard sauce. We prefer the old American honey glaze style. I’m not sure if schnitzel even qualifies as ham after the German cooks get a hold of it.
In Cost Rica, we stuffed a chicken. It kind of qualified as a small cousin to the turkey. I still prefer the good old turkey though.
In Canada last year, we decided to try some different carnivorous delights. We tried roasted elk, bison, alligator, kangaroo, ostrich and python. I must admit, they were all tasty, except the python. Sorry, no vegetarians in this family.
What are your holiday favorite dishes?
We are extremely thankful for family, friends, and our lives. We feel very blessed. No matter where our family travels takes us, we have each other and all of you.
Let us know what you are thankful for.
Entrance to the Ape Cave
Everyone always asks, “Why are they called Ape Caves?” Keep reading and I will try to explain.
Our Boy Scout troop just returned from another camping expedition! We try to go camping every month: rain, shine, snow, or heat. The boys are usually up for getting out in the wild regardless of the conditions. The dads, however, are a little bit less adventurous. I am positive that the ground gets harder and the air colder every year. Luckily, there are enough of us to take the duty, so we rarely cancel a trip. So, even though night-time temperatures were 21F, off we went.
Seaquest State Park Visitor Center
The destination this time was Seaquest State Park near Mt. St. Helens, Washington. Seaquest is a great area to camp. It is the gateway to Mt. St. Helens and easily accessible off of I-5. The park is over 6,000 acres of old-growth forest with lots of wildlife.
Before/After Post Card
Mt. St. Helens is an awe inspiring sight. The mountain was 9,677 feet high until at 8:32AM on MY 18, 1980 it violently erupted. With the force of 5,000 nuclear bombs, the fatal blast literally vaporized the top third of the mountain. Today, its remaining crater rim is a mere 8,365 feet. The cataclysmic force of the explosion blew the upper top soil off exposing the bare bedrock underneath. Over 1 million trees for 40 miles around were snapped and blown over like match sticks. The surrounding area was covered in over 20 feet of ash. The ash plume rose to over 96,000 feet and encircled the globe. The eruption was heard as far ways as Florida. Tragically, 62 people died on the mountain in an instant on that catastrophic day.
Today, the caldera still periodically releases smoke and lava. Slowly, nature is repairing the damage. Some smaller plants are striving to gain a foothold on the bare rock. Animals are returning one by one too. Over millions of years, the mountain will probably again regain its lofty height.
David Johnston’s Famous Pictures
You can drive all the way to an overlook directly across from the mountain. The overlook was named in honor of David Johnston, who died taking some of the most famous pictures of the eruption. He was standing on the same spot as the new visitor center when the mountain erupted. They only found his melted camera with the film inside.
Let’s hope Mt. Rainier stays quiet.
Tip: Watch the short video about Mount St. Helens at the visitor center, it is worth it!
Another unique geological feature created by the eruption are lava tubes. They are created when fast moving lava flows downhill and its outer skin cools into hard rock. The rock insulates the hot molten center, which continues to flow. The lava flows out of the tube creating a hollow straw as it progresses down slope. These lava tubes can be miles long. Many of them are completely buried and hidden. However, the ceiling of some eventually fall in revealing the cave like tubes.
Deep Inside the Ape Cave
These lava tubes are a young Scout’s dream come true! They offer an eerie, yet irresistible attraction to curious boys. Inside, the caves are a consistent year-round 42F. They are dark! I mean total lack of all light once you enter. Without a flashlight, you are blinder than a bat.
Tip: Bring an extra light. If your only one doesn’t work, then you will really be in the dark!
The floor can be very slippery due to water seeping in, so you must be careful. Good hiking boots are a necessity. In some places, you need to crawl on all fours to get through, while in other places you can walk 10 abreast. There is a section in one cave where the floor raises up 6 feet unexpectedly. You need to hoist explorers up with ropes to keep going. One particular cave goes on for 2.5 miles. You can probably imagine that for a group of adventurous Scouts, the experience is like the world’s coolest combination of hide-and-seek, jungle-gym, and treasure hunt!
Sorry, no wild apes in the area, except maybe the hyper-active boys. So, why are they called Ape Caves? The answer is simple, in 1951 a group of Boy Scouts from the local troop’s Ape Patrol discovered them. The National Park Service named them in their honor
One more race…
Leading at the half-way mark!
Last Thursday, Aaron, our oldest son, competed in the district cross-country championships at Lower Woodland Park in Seattle. Between Oregon and Washington, the Pacific Northwest is home to some of the fastest runners in the country. His district is arguably the fastest in the state. Needless to say, he was in a very competitive field. We wished him good luck and stood by the course finish line in the rain waiting to see how he would do.
One of the nice things about cross-country races is that they are over in a short time period, usually less than 20 minutes. So, you do not have to endure cold, wet weather for too long. There are also no referees making controversial calls or over-zealous parents coaching from the sidelines.
It is a simple race of speed and endurance where each runner gives all that he can. As a parent, all you can do is watch, cheer, and be there at the finish line for either congratulations or sympathy.
Time: 16:24 (5K course), congratulations this time!
We have never been the neurotic parents who try to live their lives through their children or gain validation by their performance. We enjoy watching him run and pushing himself to his full potential. Good parenting is always walking the fine line between gentle encouragement and incessant nagging. We probably cross the line occasionally. I am sure Aaron feels it is more than occasionally. Oh well, he can thank us later.
I remember when we lived in Costa Rica Aaron came to us wanting to join the running team at his school. I was a little surprised, but glad that he wanted to join a sport. I think that sports help foster physical fitness, a competitive spirit, and a sense of teamwork. He definitely has gotten that out of his years as a runner. He loves the whole atmosphere of a race: the team bonding, the coach’s pep-talk, the friendly competition among runners he has raced against many times, the rush of adrenaline when the gun goes off, and the exhilaration of flying across the finish line.
The district championship this time was the last local race of his high school running career. It was an exciting, but nostalgic time for him. He raced this course before and knows it and the other runners well. He wanted to go all out one last time.
Competitors and friends
This is one of the reasons why we are very glad that we came home from traveling abroad. Traveling when your children are younger is fun and relatively easy. However, when they reach teenage years they start to come into their own and want more than just to be with mom and dad having adventures. As hard as that is to accept for many parents, it is part of the natural process of growing up. Our family travels are not over, just entering another chapter.
He is a senior in school who will soon be off to university and on his own. This is his time. We are very proud of him and know he will do well.
As for the race, he placed 15th out of a field of over a hundred. We will head off to the state championships next week in Pasco, Washington. Wish him luck!
Next week I will let you know how he did!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY ELIJAH!
Horseback Riding at Eagle Creek Ranch
We have always believed that birthday should be about experiences, not objects. So, we usually try to find activities to give each other for birthdays gifts as a way to celebrate another age milestone. Our youngest son, Elijah, just turned 13 (another teenager in the family!). Being our nature lover, we knew he really wanted to do something with animals. Last year, we had a special day behind the scenes at the Cougar Mountain Zoo (way cool!). This year, we decided to go horseback trail riding up in the Cascade Mountains.
Fall has returned to the Pacific Northwest and with nature’s annual color show. The leaves have just started to turn from plain greens to bright reds, oranges, and yellows. The air is a little cooler and the sky is a little greyer. What better time to saddle-up and hit the open trail? Elijah brought his best- friend, Kaneda, and off we went!
I researched on the internet and found Eagle Creek Ranch in Leavenworth, Washington. I have written before about this quaint little Bavarian-like village in the Cascade Mountains, so you can read up on it if you like. Eagle Creek Ranch is about 8 miles north-east of town nestled in a small picturesque valley. On the drive there, I could feel myself start to decompress and relax. The scenery along Highway 2 is magnificent.
Eagle Creek Ranch was amazing! It was everything I hoped it would be for Elijah’s birthday. The ranch was reminiscent of the old west days of the area, with a large barn, old wooden ranch house complete with a pick-nick area, and all sorts of cool antique stuff to look at. The hills and mountains surrounding the ranch created a beautiful backdrop to complete the scene. You really got the feeling of an authentic working ranch. Best of all, standing idly around waiting for us were the horses!
When we got out of my truck, we were promptly greeted by a group of chickens looking for handouts. They seemed to know that visitors usually mean free food. While everyone else walked around and took in the atmosphere of the place, I went to look for our hosts. I went into the ranch house and was warmly greeted by the owners, Susan and Mike.
We were a little early, so we decided to have a pick-nick lunch. Mish laid out a spread on the tail-gate of my truck so we could eat and enjoy the view. The chickens quickly gathered around hoping for some hand-outs, which of course they got. They were obviously quite well fed. I had a nice chat with Susan and Mike and got all of our necessary paper-work in order. Luckily, they had a horse that could carry me too.
After lunch, we were introduced to our horses, Elijah’s was Money, Kaneda’s was Valentine, Mish’s was Oden, and mine was Terminator. I was warned that Terminator had a wonderful habit of releasing a lot of gas while on a ride. Great! Yes, he did live up to his reputation. Oh well, at least I got to go.
Once we were all in the saddles, we followed Susan up onto the trail. We went in single file with me bringing up the rear, for obvious reasons. The day was perfect! We slowly worked our way up into the foothills. As we ascended, the view got better and better. Soon, we were able to see the ranch far below us in the valley. The Wenatchee Forest is filled with Large Leaf Maples, Ponderosa Pines, Mountain Hemlocks, Quaking Aspens, White Oaks, and a variety of colorful wild flowers.
Mish’s horse, Oden, kept helping himself to a snack of the native plants as he walked. Mish tried to keep him from having a continual buffet, but it didn’t work. He was determined to eat his way along the trail. So, we were a merry band of eating, farting, and pooping horses wandering through the forest up into the hills. The entire time, Susan entertained us with stories and information.
I don’t think that we were the most graceful of riders, but we certainly had a wonderful time. The hour and a half went by far too quickly. Before we knew it, we were headed back down to the ranch.
Once we arrived at Eagle Creek, the horses knew exactly what to do. They obediently went to their respective posts and waited patiently for us to dismount. We rewarded them for their effort by feeding them apples and carrots, which they gratefully accepted. All in all, it was a perfect birthday present for Elijah, much better than some over-priced toy that soon would be forgotten. This memory will last a lifetime.
Thank you for the awesome experience Susan and Mike!
Roche Harbor – A Step Back in Time
Day 2 3/4
We left one historical site on San Juan Island and headed for another. One of the many joys of visiting the San Juan Islands is the feeling of being in another world or era. Even though modern cosmopolitan Seattle is less than two hours away, it feels like it is across the ocean. Time seems barely to have touched the tranquil beauty of the islands. Some places on the islands feel anachronistic, as if they belonged to another generation.
Roche Harbor is such a place. It is located on the northwest side of the island about an hour drive from Friday Harbor, more if you take your time to enjoy the trip. The natural harbor is widely considered among boaters to be one of the best moorages on the west coast. It must be because we saw some very expensive yachts in the marina. Seriously, who needs a 200 foot personal boat? OK, I would buy one if I could too.
Fact: Local Seattle-ite Paul Allen’s Octopus is 413 feet!
The marina has a customs house for all of the visiting foreign boaters along with personal attendees to help moor your boat and confirm your booking. We had fun walking along the dock gawking at the over-sized luxury toys and wondering who could possibly own them. I was a little jealous, but Mish reminded me that I have a boat too, albeit I have to paddle mine.
Tip: You can rent kayaks and paddle around the harbor!
On the shore is the historic Hotel de Haro built in 1886. It has hosted President Theodore Roosevelt and actor John Wayne, who had a personal extra-large bathtub installed in his regular room for visits. Outside, is a magnificent English garden where you can have afternoon tea. In the evening, you can eat in its elegant dining hall and enjoy days past. We opted for a romantic pick-nick on a bench overlooking the marina.
Around the hotel is the quaint village of Roche Harbor. We got ice-cream cones and strolled around the area. During the summer, there are artisan booths set up along the water where local artists showcase their crafts. There is also the old school house and Chapel to the Lady of Good Voyage, a popular wedding site. Also, check out the historical sites and learn about the history of the area. There is also a very cool sculpture park!
We left Roche Harbor and meandered back to our bed-and-breakfast house. Along the way we stopped into Lime Kiln State Park. This park has the reputation of more Orca spotting than anywhere else on the west coast. We were not disappointed! Off in the distance, we saw two different pods of these magnificent creatures jumping and rolling in the water. No matter how many times I have seen them, seeing them free in the wild still gives me goose-bumps. We also saw some Dall’s porpoises, a Steller sea lion, and many birds.
Fact: Orcas are not “Killer Whales,” they are actually dolphins.
Mish and I did something we rarely do, just sit and relax. We were in no hurry to go anywhere. As the setting sun slowly sank in the horizon, we simply enjoyed letting the natural beauty, tranquility, and serenity engulf us. Sometimes that is all it takes to recharge your soul and put life into perspective.
We thoroughly enjoyed our last night on the island. We toasted our 20th anniversary with some champagne back at the guest house. It was the perfect present.
Tomorrow, back to reality…
…and another family adventure!
The Pig War
Day 2 1/2
We set off from Friday Harbor to explore the rest of San Juan Island. Mish really wanted to visit the American and English camps from the not so great Pig War at either side of the island. Ok, the Pig War isn’t exactly mentioned in most American or British history books to be honest, but it did really happen. So, a little history lesson is probably in order.
Most of the Pacific Northwest was first explored by the Spanish. To this day, many landmarks still bear Spanish names, like the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the San Juan Islands, and Mount Diablo. By the early 1800’s however, Spain abandoned its claims in the region. The Anglo-American agreement in 1818 provided for joint occupation of the region by the United States and Great Britain. Although treaties were in place, tensions mounted among those living in the then Oregon Territory. Americans considered the British presence an affront to their “manifest destiny.” In turn, the British believed they had a legal right to lands guaranteed by earlier treaties, explorations and commercial activities of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
In June 1846 the Treaty of Oregon was signed in London, setting the boundary at the 49th parallel, from the Rocky Mountains “to the middle of the channel which separates the continent from Vancouver’s Island” then south through the channel to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and west to the Pacific Ocean.
Difficulty arose over the vague language of the treaty. The “channel” described in the treaty was actually two channels: the Haro Strait, nearest Vancouver Island, and the Rosario Strait, nearer the mainland. The San Juan Islands lay between, and both sides claimed the entire island group.
The Hudson’s Bay Company claimed all of San Juan Island for Great Britain. Concurrently, the islands were claimed as U.S. possessions in the newly created Washington Territory. Settlers from both countries soon established commercial ventures on San Juan Island. By spring 1859, 18 Americans had settled on claims staked on British prime sheep grazing lands. They expected the U.S. Government to recognize them as valid, but the British considered the claims illegal. Tempers grew shorter by the day.
The American Camp on San Juan Island
The inevitable crisis came on June 15, 1859, when Lyman Cutlar, an American, shot and killed a British pig rooting in his garden, thus starting the Pig War. When British authorities threatened to arrest Cutlar and evict all his countrymen from the island as trespassers, a delegation sought military protection from General William S. Harney, the American commander in the region. Harney responded by ordering Company D, 9th U.S. Infantry under Captain George E. Pickett (of later Civil War fame) to San Juan.
The British responded by dispatching Captain Geoffrey Phipps Hornby, commanding the 31-gun steam frigate HMS Tribune, to dislodge Pickett. Hornby was soon joined by two more warships, the HMS Satellite and the HMS Plumper. Pickett refused to withdraw and wrote Harney for help.
Throughout the summer, both sides amassed small armies on the island. By August 31, 461 Americans were encamped on the south side of the island, protected by 14 field cannons. In addition, 8 more naval guns were removed from the USS Massachusetts and installed in a redoubt excavated under the direction of 2nd Lieutenant Henry M. Robert (future author of Robert’s Rules of Order). On the north side of the island, the British established their camp, complete with a proper English garden.
The English Camp on San Juan Island
While the Americans dug in, the British conducted drills with their 52 total guns, alternately hurling cannon balls into the bluffs and rocks along Griffin Bay. It was all great fun for tourists arriving on excursion boats from Victoria, not to mention the officers from both sides who attended church serves together aboard the Satellite and shared whisky and cigars in Charles Griffin’s tidy English home.
When word of the escalating crisis reached Washington, officials from both nations were shocked that a pig murder had grown into a potentially explosive international incident. Alarmed by the prospect of all out real war, President James Buchanan sent General Winfield Scott to solve the issue faster than a greased pig (sorry).
Scott proposed a joint military occupation until a final settlement could be reached, which both nations approved in November. San Juan Island remained under joint military occupation for the next 12 years. In 1871, when Great Britain and the United States signed the Treaty of Washington, the San Juan question was referred to Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany for settlement. Why the German Kaiser is unclear. Perhaps because the German are fond of pork?
The Kaiser referred the issue to a three-man arbitration commission who met for nearly a year in Geneva. On October 21, 1872, the commission ruled in favor of the United States, establishing the boundary line through Haro Strait. Thus, the San Juan Islands became American possessions and the final boundary between Canada and the United States was set. On November 25, 1872, the British withdrew from English Camp. By July 1874, the last of the U.S. troops left American Camp. Peace had finally come to the 49th parallel and San Juan Island would be long remembered for the “war” in which the only casualty was a pig.
The National Park Service maintains both camps in beautiful condition with an interpretive center. So, we learned a lot of mostly forgotten history. To be fair, we visited both camps. Mish and I both agreed that the British camp was far more comfortable than the American counterpart. Only the British would plant roses in the middle of a military compound.
After our history lesson, we left wars and pigs behind and headed for Roche Harbor. More on that next week.
The Pelindaba Lavender Farm, Friday Harbor, and a Mocha
Pelindaba Lavender Farm
We woke up early (sort of) and enjoyed the morning sunrise view over the lavender fields. Pelindaba Lavender Farm is truly a beautiful and tranquil place. It is only 10 minutes outside of Friday Harbor at 45 Hawthorne Lane on San Juan Island. Being out of the town and tucked away on a private road, added to the tranquility. The stars the night before were amazingly bright! We could see the Milkyway and look for shooting stars. This morning was cool and clear with just a slight trace of mist rising off the ponds. The farm was peaceful. We could feel stress starting to melt away as we relaxed and soaked in the atmosphere.
Mish wanted to walk the lavender fields while the day was fresh and cool. The smell of lavender permeated the air. Mish immersed herself in the lavender flowers and soaked in the scent. Unique sculptures punctuated the fields at random points. Some of them were very artistic. I personally liked the silver whale tale that stuck out of the ground.
We casually strolled over to the gift shop and display garden. I never knew there were that many varieties of lavender! Mish really likes looking at all the different lavender themed gifts. You can buy lavender soap, lavender oil, lavender chocolate, lavender tea, lavender spray, lavender lotion, lavender jam, and lavender everything else. I was more interested in the lavender oil extraction process on display personally. At least that involved something manly, like tools and machines. After all the lavender, I was starting to feel my testosterone levels dropping.
As we were leaving, the very nice owner surprised us by giving us a bouquet of lavender for our anniversary. We placed it on the dashboard of my truck, so it now has nice lavender smell. I am sure the guys will appreciate it.
After we were thoroughly saturated with lavender, we headed into the town of Friday Harbor. This quaint little water front town has many unique coffee shops, restaurants, and stores. The first order of business was to find me my morning mocha. While Mish shopped around the local farmers’ market, I took the dog, Albie, in search of my morning fix. Albie was of no use sniffing out a coffee shop. He was more interested in people watching. Despite his hindrance, I got my mocha.
Meanwhile, Mish had bought some fresh bread at the farmer’s market for our pick-nick lunch later. So, both satisfied, we went on to explore Friday Harbor. The town is small, but has some fun places to visit. We window shopped and looked in some of the many art galleries. We decided to pass on renting a trike or mopeds and go scooting about the area. They look fun, and dangerous, but we were content to just meander around and enjoy walking. Plus, I do not think that Albie would have enjoyed hanging on to the back of one.
Friday Harbor can be seen in a couple of hours. Since the day was still young, we decided to head out and explore more of San Juan Island. More on that next week!
Tip: Definitely make reservation before going! Every place to stay books early out, especially in summer.
Our 20th Anniversary Getaway
19th wedding anniversary
Family travel is wonderful. It truly is. We cherish every opportunity we get to spend together, especially since our oldest, Aaron, is headed off to university next year. A short four years later, our youngest, Elijah, will probably follow. We are not ready yet to be “empty nesters.” I am always amazed at how the little buggers worm their way into our hearts. I never imagined being a dad and now I cannot imagine not being a dad. Isn’t it funny how life works?
However, as much as we love being parents, we also love being a couple. Good or bad, we can probably count on both hands how many times our boys have had a babysitter in their lives. The only time we have spent a night without them home is when they have gone to Boy Scout camp or a friend’s sleepover. So, my wife decided for our 20th anniversary we would get away on our own. Since the boys were going to another scout camp out, it was a perfect time for us to sneak away and enjoy “our time.” However, Albie somehow managed to follow along.
I have to admit, I felt a little odd, and guilty, going without them, but we figured that they would enjoy camping with their friends more than hanging out with some middle-aged lovey-dovey couple. As much as I go on most Scout trips with them, I think they need some time on their own to fly solo too. Plus, I sometimes think that the ground is actually getting harder every year to sleep on. Global climate change phenomenon? Age?
My wife had her heart set on the beautiful San Juan Islands as our getaway destination. We had not been out to visit them in too long. These somewhat hidden gems lie just off the coast of Washington. They make up an archipelago half-way between mainland Washington, United States, and Vancouver Island, British Columbia Canada. Although they are completely in the boundaries of the United States and part of the state of Washington, their proximity to Canada caused some issues earlier in their settlement resulting in the often forgotten Pig War with Britain. No humans and only one pig died in the 14 year period. Eventually, the British ceded their claim in the islands to the United States in 1872. No records survive to show if the poor pig received a medal for heroism.
To get to the islands, you can take the 45 minute Anacortes ferry to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island or fly in from several nearby airports. Either way, the voyage out to the islands is magnificent. You may see otters, seals, sea lions, eagles, blue herons, and, if you are lucky, whales! The main islands serviced by ferry are San Juan, Lopez, Orcas, and Shaw. However, if you have your own boat, you can visit many more of the smaller private islands. You may even find one all to yourself!
The San Juan Islands have been a magnet for human habitation. Their location at the crossroads of three great waterways, plus sheltered harbors, open prairie and secluded woodlands, drew people wanting to find rest and relaxation amid an abundant food source with ample resources in a mild climate. They were first settled by the local Salish people over 2,500 years ago. These early Native Americans enjoyed canoeing the sheltered waters around the island to fish, trade, and hunt. Their indelible spirit helped shape the culture of the islands and much of the Pacific Northwest.
Since the islands are in the rain shadow of the majestic Olympic Mountains, the climate is very mild, ranging from high 30’s and low 40’s in the winter to high 70’s and low 80’s in the summer with half the rain of Seattle. Snow is very uncommon. So, even though summer is by far the most popular tourist season, the islands really are a year round destination.
Friday Harbor on San Juan Island
Our quaint bed-and-breakfast house on the farm
Mish in the lavender fields
My wife found a wonderful bed-and-breakfast house outside of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island on beautiful Pelindaba Lavender Farm. We both took off of work Friday. Something about missing work together and running off to an island added to the spirit of adventure. We meant to get an early ferry, but missed it in favor of sleeping in. The next ferry was completely sold out, so we were forced to take the third ferry outbound. After a round-about course, we finally arrived at the farm at 8:30pm. Too late and tired to explore, we decided to go to bed early. The cool, fresh island air with the quiet, peaceful farm atmosphere quickly had us under its spell and we snuggled in for a deep sleep.
Next week, Day 2 of our getaway on the islands!
Summer is (not) over!
Although Labor Day has come and gone and school is back in session, the weather here in Seattle is definitely still summer-like. The days are warm and sunny with plenty of blue sky. That means hiking in the beautiful Pacific Northwest is still an awesome experience. So, we decided to take advantage of the good days while they last and enjoy an almost end of summer hike to one of my favorite destinations, Mount Rainier.
For those of you not familiar with this iconic and magnificent mountain, here are a few facts. Mount Rainier sits just 54 miles south east of Seattle. It was named in honor of Rear Admiral Peter Rainier. With an elevation of 14,411 feet (4,392 meters), it is the second tallest mountain in the contiguous United States (Mount Whitney in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California is a mere 94 feet taller). Unlike many taller mountains that sit atop tall plateaus or mountain ranges, Rainier rises like a colossus from sea level to dominate the landscape. It is a large stratovolcano. The International Association of Volcanology considers it one of the ten most dangerous volcanos in the world because of its proximity to a large metropolitan area and history of violent eruptions. Great! Oh well, we still love to live in its shadow.
The Mountain, as many locals refer to it, is very alluring. Each year, about 8,000 people attempt to summit The Mountain. Of those, about 50% are successful. Unfortunately, the mountain claims on average two lives a year, an implied tragic sacrifice to the mountain gods. Our oldest son, Aaron wants to climb it. We will wait and see. For this summer outing, we chose a less strenuous hike on the mountain’s knees.
If you only get a chance to hike one trail on or around Mount Rainier, I highly recommend the hike from Mowich Lake. Mowich Lake is nestled in a small glacier valley at 4,929 feet (1,502 meters) on the northwestern slope of the mountain. From there, you can take several trails. We chose the Tolmie Peak Trail because it offers the best views of the mountain. However, the Spray Park Trail is also fabulous and has some good vistas of the mountain too. It also ends at Spray Falls, a magnificent 354 foot tall cascade of cold glacial water, a nice reward for the effort on a hot day.
Elijah, our nature loving youngest son, always likes to lead the way, so we let him. Both boys are very experienced Scouts and have grown up hiking and camping. I feel pretty confident in their wilderness survival abilities. That still does not prevent me from being a worrying dad. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed in the national park, so Albie had to stay and guard the car. I felt really bad. He loves to pretend he is returning to his far-off wolf ancestry and lead his pack. He is brave until he realizes he has gotten to far ahead or behind and cannot see us and panics. The wolf genes are not very strong in him.
The Tolmie Trail is fairly easy. It meanders along a small ridge going gently up and down for the first 2/3 of the 3 ¼ mile trek. The last 1/3 is moderately difficult as you gain elevation quickly. At the top of the switch-backs you arrive at beautiful crystal clear Lake Eunice. This is a wonderful spot to stop to catch your breath, have a snack, and take in the breathtaking scenery. From the lake shore you can see your final destination, the Tolmie Peak fire lookout. The lookout is another ½ mile of climbing steep switch-backs. You will be well rewarded for the extra effort with an up-close amazing view of Mount Rainier. On a sunny day, The Mountain ominously stands directly across the lake from Tolmie Peak. You will be able to see the glaciers and crags of the mountain as well as the surrounding wilderness. I guarantee you will not be disappointed!
Please remember, you are in a wilderness area. So, there are bear and mountain lions. The trail can have loose stones too. All of these make for potentially dangerous situations. We want you to have safe family travels. You can read up on wilderness safety in one of my other posts.
Have fun and be safe!
The United States Navy Blue Angels are back in Seattle for Seafair 2014!
After having to miss last year for budget constraints, the Navy’s elite aerial acrobatic team returned to the annual maritime celebration. If you have never seen the Blue Angels before, they are amazing! Watch the video and enjoy!
“A total of 16 officers voluntarily serve with the Blue Angels. Each year the team typically selects three tactical (fighter or fighter/attack) jet pilots, two support officers and one Marine Corps C-130 pilot to relieve departing members.
The Chief of Naval Air Training selects the “Boss,” the Blue Angels Commanding Officer. Boss must have at least 3,000 tactical jet flight-hours and have commanded a tactical jet squadron. The Commanding Officer flies the Number 1 jet.
Career-oriented Navy and Marine Corps jet pilots with an aircraft carrier qualification and a minimum of 1,250 tactical jet flight-hours are eligible for positions flying jets Number 2 through 7. The Events Coordinator, Number 8, is a Naval Flight Officer (NFO) or a Weapons Systems Officer (WSO) who meets the same criteria as Numbers 2 through 7. The Marine Corps pilots flying the C-130T Hercules aircraft, affectionately known as “Fat Albert,” must be aircraft commander qualified with at least 1,200 flight hours.
Today, the squadron flies the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet and the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules.” -courtesy U.S. Navy Blue Angels