Monday, December 07, 2015

Ebey's Landing

The day after Thanksgiving, I had little interest in shopping and a great deal of interest in getting outside in the beautiful fall weather. M had some other commitments, so I headed off in search of ferry boats and beaches.  I wound up on Whidbey Island, where I spent several hours hiking both south and then north from Ebey's Landing along the beach.

The hike north is the wonderful loop out along the edge of the bluff and then back around Perego's Lagoon on the beach - which I last did in its entirety with D on the weekend after Thanksgiving back in 2008 - in a thick fog (Whidbey Island 2008).


I think this is the smallest Thanksgiving we've ever done! There were only eight of us for dinner this year, although several others joined us later for games. The 20-somethings are out of college and on their own in Madison WI (our first Thanksgiving without D) and Brooklyn NY. Our aging parents don't travel as well as they used to, even across town. But smaller is a little less crazy in the dining room - we can actually all sit comfortably around the table. And smaller means the bird was less than 18lbs - not counting stuffing.

D joined the games via text, which I hope was as fun for him as for us. J shared her Apples to Apples cards with him and gave him some of the credit for her occasional small victories. At the same time, A set up a chess board on the floor and spent a couple of hours texting moves back and forth with D.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Lloyd District

The Conference was held at the Convention Center in the Lloyd District on the east side of the river. The only previous time I had been in the Convention Center was for the National Elementary Chess Tournament back in 2003 (as a parent, not a player), which was considerably larger and very much different!

I took advantage of a break in the dreary weather to spend lunchtime on Wednesday walking around the Rose Quarter, the Moda Center, and down towards the river. But overall, there was little time to do much exploration on this trip, between the meeting and the late dinners.


I spent several days in Portland last week, attending the CERF Conference. It was gray, often drizzly, most of the time, but the sun still made a few brief appearances. The whole thing was basically one big train trip, since I took Amtrak both ways and did most of my getting around on MAX.

Portland does not suffer from a lack of places to eat and I spent a fair amount of time taking advantage of them. Between meals, I also made it to both Blue Star and Voodoo Donuts (one visit each) and to Stumptown (several times).

MAX makes getting back and forth between the convention center and downtown fairly quick and it meant many trips across the Steel Bridge, which is just over 100 years old. It's somewhat unique in that the decks can be raised independently, which I think means that they can raise the lower portion, at least a little way, without having to disturb traffic on the upper deck. The upper deck is for cars and MAX. The lower level is for the railroad - and now for bikes, as they hung a pedestrian walkway off the side a number of years ago.

At first glance, this seems a bit far from the coast for a conference on coasts and estuaries and it's true that salt water is a long way away, but the Columbia is influenced by tides as far as upstream as Bonneville, as is this lower section of the Willamette. So maybe the coast isn't really that far away after all.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Gothic Basin

Gothic Basin lies just 50 miles almost due east from my last post at Point No Point. And what a world of difference - landscape, weather, geology. M was grading papers all day Saturday and I figured I had time to get in a hike and still get back with time to shower before we met friends for dinner. Barely, as it turned out, in part because I didn't get as early a start as I normally do and partly because the hike was harder, or I was slower, than I anticipated.

I kept my fingers crossed that the sun might break through the overcast by the time I reached the top, but no such luck. Fortunately, it only rained for about 30 minutes -- the 30 minutes I spent sitting on a wet slab eating my lunch above Foggy Lake. It looked like it did eventually clear - from the view in my mirror as I drove back out the Mountain Loop Highway towards Granite Falls after hiking out.

I think I see why this place is called Gothic - particularly on a bleak day like this one!

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Point No Point

In my previous post, I noted the lack of routine in my work, and I guess this drives that home. That post was from a downtown meeting on Monday (Sept 28th). This post is from the next day, when I caught the ferry to Kingston late in the day for an evening talk in Hansville.

I had a little extra time before the event, so I wandered out to the lighthouse. For weeks, there have been reports of humpbacks and just a couple of hours early someone had tweeted about Orca headed south past Bush Point, so I was hoping for a chance to watch whales.

No whales, but it was a beautiful late afternoon and the beach was lined with fishermen not catching very much. Mount Baker was visible to the north and Mount Rainer loomed over Seattle to the south. The view of the Seattle skyline was a nice contrast to yesterday's lunch downtown.


My work routine (routine is probably not a good description of my job, thank goodness) often sees me driving past downtown Seattle on either I-5 or the viaduct (may it eventually rest in peace), or catching glimpses of it from distant shores (or ferry boats), but it rarely offers me chances to actually go downtown. But a morning meeting was a chance to grab coffee and check out the 17th floor of the Russell Investments Building before the sun could even peak around the corner. And then I came back with colleagues to eat our deli lunches a few hours later.

What a cool space - and how cool that it is both public and free! Thank you. Unlike the Space needle and the Columbia Tower, you don't have to pay amusement park ride prices to visit. But you do have to know about it - and I had learned of it only a few weeks before.

There is plenty of space, both inside and out -- and I had it almost to myself at 8 in the morning (not so much at lunch time). The outdoor space is larger than many neighborhood parks, although it isn't well suited for tossing a frisbee. The roof deck is only on the 17th floor (measured from 2nd Avenue, higher if seen from 1st), but it feels higher. The Russell Investments Center rises 42 floors above the Seattle Art Museum, with which it shares the block.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


We spent a day or two last week pondering options for an impromptu weekend, but settled on Vancouver. We found a reasonably affordable room (fortunately, everything in Canada is 30% off these days). We refreshed our list of highly recommended restaurants and M sent out a call on Facebook for more ideas.

Friday afternoon we drove up. It was pretty gray and wet all weekend, but that wasn't too much of a problem. The Subaru, the Canada Line, and all the places we went were waterproof - with just short patches of drizzle in between.

Our rooms were at the Sandman Signature in Richmond - we all used to routinely stay here before heading for Salt Spring so we could play in the pool with the big slide. Friday night we took the train into town and headed for Gastown. We checked out a couple of galleries of First Nations Art where I could lust after pieces by Susan Point (others, too). We checked out the beach at Crab Park. And then we had dinner at Cuchillo, which was really, really good.

We took the Canada Line back to Richmond and walked over the Night Market. Which was very, very different. Sort of a big Asian midway - although mainly booths, not rides. We were too stuffed to eat anything, although there were plenty of options (many quite strange, at least to us). And the merchandise definitely had sort of a corny asian theme - cell phone cases, tinted contact lenses, very cheap short socks with cartoon characters. We were able to leave without spending anything.

Saturday, we drove into town, had Belgian Waffles at Nero's on Robson, drove around a very wet Stanley Park and then checked out the downtown library (or at least the atrium, where M splurged at the used book sale, spending at least a couple of dollars (Canadian dollars) to buy several books. Then to Kitsilano and Comedy of Errors at Bard on the Beach. Which was really nicely done - and I loved the steam punk setting. We hung out at a coffee shop for a bit (for WiFi - our cell phones don't work in Canada) then had dinner at Maenam (Thai, also very good).

Sunday, we drove back into town again and had brunch at Twisted Fork on Granville. From there we went over to Canada Place to Fly Over Canada, which was fun, but would have been better had it been much longer!

And then we drove back to Seattle. And that was it.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

UW Tacoma

I love the way the UW Tacoma campus has built itself around the historic legacy of its neighborhood. This area along Pacific, across from the old Union Station, used to consist of light industrial facilities and warehousing. The buildings stair stepped up the hill, cross-crossed by the rail line that served them.

The University of Washington has remodeled many of the old buildings, turning the spaces into classrooms and offices and labs. They've left much of the old structure - the old beams, the windows, the brick facings - but added atriums and new materials and modern era utilities. And they've done a wonderful job with the spaces between the buildings, including the diagonal that follows the old tracks and a great terraced series of steps that mark the core route through campus.

Here's some photos from a few years ago, taken on the other side of Pacific down towards the Foss Waterway.

Tacoma: February 2011

Seattle Waterfront

I had been wanting to get out of the house, probably figuring I needed some distance between me and my little backyard landscaping project. And I'd been curious for a long time to see the progress on the new seawall. M was willing to join me and we spent an hour or two walking the waterfront with the tourists and the cruise ship crowd.

It's a real mess right now, since they're trying to replace the seawall out from under all the activity and the existing piers and buildings. But it's also fascinating seeing how they're doing this.  I admit it will be nice when it's done. And being done isn't just the seawall - it's the new boulevard and park that will emerge after the viaduct comes down (assuming Bertha can back to work digging her tunnel under downtown).

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Thunder Mountain Lakes

Summer weekends always seem to fill up with road trips and family things and Saltspring Island and house projects and work stuff, so getting away for a long weekend to go backpacking never happens. But less than a week after getting back from Saltspring, I realized that it might actually work. The forecast was pretty good - cool and overcast on Friday (rare this summer) and then clear and not too hot on Saturday and Sunday. The only mystery was what direction the smoke from the Okanagan fires would drift.

I planned this hike two falls ago, but an early October snowstorm blanketed the Cascades and I headed for Vancouver Island (October 2013) instead. So this was my first overnight in the mountains since D and I hiked into Tuck and Robin Lakes (August 2011) four years ago.

From Nimbus Peak

Mt. Stuart
Thunder Mountain Lakes are on the east side of the Cascade crest, a short distance south of Trap Pass, and about a six mile hike in and up from Tunnel Creek on Route 2. Although it lies only a mile or so off of the Pacific CrestTrail, it gets little attention, partly because there isn't a formal trail and it's probably not a great destination for casual hikers - particularly if you had to find your route back out in poor conditions.

The cool weather Friday made the hike in much more pleasant than it might have been on a sunny afternoon. The side trail from Trap Pass was relatively easy to find, although route finding through the talus was tricky (again, might be a problem if trying to hike back out in fog or snow). I set up camp above the north end of the lake around 3 PM and had the whole basin to myself until two guys arrived at 7:30.

Friday night was cold and windy - or at least colder than I'd come prepared for - so I spent a less than comfortable night wishing I'd brought a warmer bag. But Saturday morning the sun came up with perfectly clear skies - not counting a brown smoke layer at lower elevations far off to both the east and west.

I spent the first part of Saturday climbing the peak immediately north of the lake (Nimbus Peak, I think), then finding a way up the peak on the south side of the lake (apparently Thunder Mountain itself is another bump south). I was back in the campsite trying to rig a sun shade by the time the smoke started wafting back in.  By sunset, it was apocalyptic, with a yellowish brown haze blocking all but the closest peaks. Four other people showed up by evening, but all camped down near the lake, leaving me some privacy. But it's amazing how well voices carry in a rocky landscape like this.

I got up early Sunday, packed, and was on the trail out by 7:30. The smoke was thick all the way out. I reached the trailhead by 11 and had lunch and texted M from the Sultan McDonalds.  I was back in Seattle a little after 1:00 - where the smoke was even worse than in the mountains.

Hiking out on Sunday morning