Sunday, September 30, 2018

Mount Defiance

Saturday was a nice fall day to go for a long walk in the mountains. The Ira Spring trailhead is only a little more than an hour from the house and I got there by 8AM, before the main lot filled up (as usual, the cars were parked a quarter mile down the road by the time I left at 2PM).

Seven years ago, D and I hiked up to Bandera and Mason Lake (Bandera: June 2011). That time, it was pretty early in the season and the lake was still snowed in. This time, the snow was long gone, replaced by fall colors.

The trail to Mason Lake is very good and relatively fast, despite the climb. The trail on up to Mount Defiance is steeper, particularly the final stretch up its southwest ridge. The clouds were beginning to come in, but the temperatures were perfect.

Woodland Park Zoo

It was a significant birthday and worth taking the day off. I lingered over coffee, multiple times, puttered around the house, and then spent the afternoon wandering around the zoo.

Some of the more charismatic fauna (grizzlies, tigers) were hiding, but many were not, and I wasn't counting. I still find it neat to know that such a range of critters live within less than a mile of our house (but also happy that they aren't allowed to range too freely).

North Kitsap

The last bike ride of my 50s was a big group ride that began and ended on the Edmonds ferry, but that took in Kingston, Hansville, Port Gamble, and Poulsbo. I guess there were close to 1000 riders - which made sense looking at the crowds on the ferry, but was harder to judge when strung out along 50+ miles of North Kitsap countryside.

I was on the first ferry at 8:50 and assume a majority of others were, too. I made it back to Kingston with enough time to grab ice cream at Mora before joining the crowd waiting for the 2:30 boat.

Seattle Center

From 2000 until 2011, the strange building (Frank Gehry) below the Space Needle housed the Experience Music Project. But then EMP became MoPOP (The Museum of POP Culture), which I guess reflected the fact that its theme was broader than just music.

But EMP or MoPOP, we had never gone. Maybe we were locals too cheap to buy tickets to a major Seattle tourist attraction. Or just middle-aged folks out of touch or unengaged with either music or anything related to popular culture.

But last week, we joined a large crowd inspired by a viral Facebook promotion that offered free admission. We had to pay extra to see the Marvel exhibit, but Pearl Jam and Frodo's sword came with the deal.

Dad wasn't too pleased when I came home one day with comic books bought with my allowance (apparently financial independence had to wait a couple of years until middle school and a paper route). Maybe I never would have gotten interested in comic books anyway (I guess I watched TV versions of some of them). I was middle-aged when Marvel got rediscovered by the modern movie business and I just wasn't really paying attention. A couple of years ago, I began watching Jessica Jones on Netflix, but most of what I know about Marvel characters I learn from overheard conversations among 20-something baristas

I doubt I'm going to go out and start buying comic books, but I think I need to go back and pick up another season of Jessica Jones on Netflix and maybe watch Black Panther.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

St. Charles

Dad grew up in Glen Ellyn and his family was always talking about places like Geneva and Batavia and Elgin. I suppose they were the end of the commuter and trolley lines. And the Fox River sort of marked (sort of still does) the western edge of Chicago and the beginning of the prairies.

We left Madison in the morning, but our flight didn't leave O'Hare until late afternoon, so we had some time to explore. I had always wanted to see this string of towns along the river, so we left the Tollway in Elgin and worked our way south.

We stopped and walked a little along the river in downtown St. Charles. The river was running pretty full (not that I have much idea of what normal looks like). The bridge is nicely framed by the Hotel Baker on the west and the Art Deco (1940 Moderne?) Municipal Building on the east bank.

It wasn't part of the plan, but we stopped again south of town at Mt. St. Mary Park and wandered through the outdoor sculptures. I would have liked more time to explore Geneva and Batavia, but we needed to get back to the airport and weren't sure how bad traffic might be.

Devil's Lake

Devil's Lake State Park is an hour north of Madison, up near Baraboo. It's actually got some fairly sharp relief, which distinguishes it from the more gently rolling hills of the rest of southern Wisconsin.

D's been coming up here now and then to run up the rock steps to the top of the bluff and this was a nice chance for us to spend an afternoon in pretty spot, get some exercise, and check out some of his world.

There's some neat geology - the lake lies in a gorge between rock cliffs comprised of maroon quartzite that's more than a billion and a half years old. The valley has a much more recent history, some tied to the last glaciers. I added a little more about this over on Gravel Beach.


The primary reason for our long weekend in Madison was to visit D, but we took advantage of the fact that his apartment is near a large mini-golf course and a frozen custard shop. A couple of years ago (Madison: April 2016), we tried out the indoor course, but this time we took advantage of the nice weather and played outside.

M found us a nice place for dinner Saturday night where D and I could celebrate our respective birthdays (his was a couple of weeks earlier, mine a couple of weeks later) with good steaks. Then M had found us an Escape Room (something new for us), where we spent a frantic hour just barely getting out of the cargo hold of a jetliner sinking in the North Atlantic (no photos, and I won't share the details, other than our group really needed the hints).

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Alaskan Way

Seattle's waterfront lies on top of what was once a gravelly beach at the bottom of a steep, forested bluff. It doesn't look much like that today, but it still offers amazing views west over Elliott Bay.

The shoreline was developed for very practical uses. Loading and unloading ships and transferring cargo - to wagons, to trains, and to trucks. Before Alaskan Way, there were several rail lines paralleling the shore on trestles over the beach, but these were later filled in, the seawall was constructed, and the current version of the road took shape. Highway 99 and it's gray, double-decked viaduct came later, not because it served the waterfront, but because it was a convenient path for a highway through the city.

Decades later, the waterfront has evolved, as has our collective vision of what an urban shoreline should look like. The viaduct is still a quick way through town, and I'm not the only one who has enjoyed wonderful views of sunsets over the Olympics while stuck in northbound dinner-hour traffic, but it's ugly, it's noisy, and it cuts off the city from it's spectacular waterfront.

And then, in 1989, came the pictures of the Cypress Street Viaduct in Oakland after the Loma Prieta earthquake and we learned that the same thing might happen here. Since then, we've seen other cities tear down waterfront freeways and create beautiful, vibrant public spaces. It takes money. And engineering. And a few mistakes. But by early next year it will be gone. Traffic will flow in a new tunnel underground and over the next few years, Alaskan Way will be transformed into something really special.

Green Lake

Early Monday morning (Labor Day), I swung by Green Lake on my way to the coffee shop. It's nice to be so close - I should come down more often.

I just did a quick search of the blog for Green Lake and three posts come up. From January 2014, January 2017, and January 2018. You'd think I never came down here in warmer weather.