Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Port Angeles and Olympic National Park

We left Eatonville, Washington and Mt. Ranier and headed for Port Angeles. A 20 minute ferry ride took us across Puget Sound and over to Olympic Peninsula. It rained that day while we were driving, and that was the only rain we experienced during our entire eleven days in the Pacific Northwest. Surprising, really. They have such a reputation for rain there. That first day on the peninsula was basically a travel day, but there were a few highlights. Like the lavender farm along the way.

I love lavender. I walked into the gift shop and the scent of lavender overwhelmed my senses. Lavender soaps, potpourri and sachets, lavender herbs and oils to cook with, body lotions and shampoos . . . heavenly. I was disappointed that I wasn’t the slightest bit hungry because they had lavender infused ice creams, and I would have loved to try one. Chocolate, of course.

We checked into our hotel, Olympic Lodge, and set off to explore the town and find something to eat. Port Angeles is on the northern edge of the peninsula on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It’s a small town, quaint, and complete with everything a small town needs. Organic grocers, dance studios and dress shops, books stores, antique stores, candy shops, Tee-shirts, souvenirs, restaurants and pubs. And of course, gardens.

There’s even an anime/manga shop, which our sons would have loved.

We ate dinner at a fabulous little place called Next Door Gastropub. They had great beers on tap and the most awesome bleu cheese fries. We watched a dart tournament on the television.

One of the things that caught me most off guard on the trip, being from the northeast originally and now the gulf coast, is how there are mountains so high they are snow-capped year around right next to the coastline. This is a shot of Port Angeles from the Strait, but the Pacific Coast is only around an hour west.

We would have loved to explore the mountainous areas of Olympic National Park – we heard Hurricane Ridge is a must-see – but we only had one full day in the area, and we had just come from Mt. Ranier, so we opted to drive to the Pacific Coast and hike through the Ozette area of the Park.

We knew we had a full day of driving and hiking, so we got an early start. A thick blanket of fog hugged the coastline.

We walked down this incredibly green and beautiful trail. Just like in the woods at Mt. Ranier, everything is covered in moss and ferns . . .

and fungi . . .

and banana slugs. They are a good four inches long.

We knew the trail ended at the beach. After three miles through the woods, yes, there it was. The Pacific Ocean.

It was low tide. We clamored over rocks slick with sea weed, ducked under or over dozens of fallen trees, whitewashed by the salt and surf, and explored tranquil tide pools.

After many miles on the beach, we walked back through the woods on a different trail. According to Bob’s Map My Hike app, we walked around 12 miles that day. I won’t lie. We were exhausted!

Sunlight slips past pines
Illuminating forest floor
Elves and fairies dance

Friday, September 19, 2014

Pacific Northwest -- Mt. Ranier

Bob and I recently traveled to the Pacific Northwest. It was our anniversary vacation (22 years!), which, as of last year, since we became empty-nesters, is now a tradition. Neither of us had ever been to this part of the world, so we were quite excited about it. I should have started this blog series sooner, but I’ve been daunted, stymied really, by the sheer volume of photos my dear husband took on the trip with his phone – over 1000!! I’ve been culling through them, deleting the doubles (and triples and decaruples – is that a word?). And the blurry ones and the ones I just don’t like. It’s been a week and a half, and I’m still not through them all.

But it’s time to get started.

We flew into Seattle. Our first stop was Mt. Ranier National Park.

We stayed three nights in Eatonville, 25 miles west of the park, in a little motel called Mill Village. Nothing fancy, but clean, comfortable, and adequate. We were told we could see the impressive mountain from the balcony outside our motel room. But that first morning was cool and cloudy. All we saw was this.

Our first day in the park, we drove to the area called Paradise (and with good reason). We drove up, up, and more up through an enchanted-like forest, resplendent with age-old pines and waterfalls originating from either glaciers or snowmelt. We learned how to tell the difference. Glacier water is a milky green color because it is full of minerals and finely crushed rock. Like this dam.

Snowmelt is crystal clear. Like this stream.

This lovely Christine Falls I believe is from glacier melt.

Narada Falls I believe is from snowmelt.

All morning long as we drove, we looked and looked for Mt. Ranier. Overlook after overlook, we knew it was right there. But heavy clouds obscured the grandeur. It was like a cruel joke from Mother Nature. But the countryside was nonetheless incredibly breathtaking.

This is what much of rural Washington State looks like.

We arrived in Paradise and went first to the visitors center. We watched a film on the history of the park and learned that, because of the crazy weather and frequent cloud cover over the peak, some visitors come and never get a glimpse of that mammoth rock. That was the last thing we wanted to hear.

The lodge there is a beautiful historic building. Being a Sunday, we were thrilled to enjoy their popular brunch.

It was chilly that day, in the 40s, and I wasn’t prepared. I bought a knit cap in the gift shop before we set off hiking.

We hiked up and up into the foothills of the mountain. We had heard about the beautiful wildflowers that grow there. We expected that it was the wrong time of year to see them. Wow, were we mistaken. Incredible! Our Creator, what an amazing gardener!

As beautiful and breathtaking as it all was, we KNEW the mountain was RIGHT THERE. But we still couldn’t see it.

We hiked and drove and hiked some more, well into late afternoon. It was nearing time to head back to Eatonville, and we’d mostly given up on seeing the mountain, at least for that day. And then . . .

Soon after . . .

Look how happy we were to finally see the peak! Stunning, breathtaking, awe-inspiring . . . adjectives and superlatives in our English language are inadequate to describe this national treasure.

That evening, we ate dinner at a humble little restaurant next to the motel called Bruno’s. The Seattle area is well-known for craft beers and micro breweries. It was here at Bruno’s that I discovered my new favorite beer – Quilter’s Irish Death. I have no idea why they call it that. But it’s good. I haven’t looked around town yet, but I hope I can find it in Lake Charles.

Here’s what the view from our room balcony looks like on a clear day.

Here are a couple fun facts we learned about Mt. Ranier.
  • The Park was established in 1899.
  • Mt. Ranier boasts 26 active glaciers; more than any other mountain in North America.
  • Altitude 14,410 feet

·      The following day we returned to the park. This second day, the sky was clear and we could see the majestic mountain all day long.

More hiking, more trees, more waterfalls. Bob wanted to hike a bit farther than I did that day, so while he climbed higher, I parked myself against a boulder in the shadow of this lovely waterfall and wrote several haikus. Yes, I carry pen and a pad of paper everywhere I go. Just in case the muse strikes.

Water crushes rock
Rushes, roars, cascades to sea
Mist kisses my cheek

Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 11, 2014

I've read many thoughts and memories of September 11 on Facebook today. So I'm re-posting my own account here, first published on this blog on 9/11/11, the 10th anniversary of that day.

I've not been to the 9/11 Memorial in New York, but my friend Carolyn was there recently. See her thoughts and photos here.

We do have a beautiful 9/11 Memorial right here in Lake Charles, near the Civic Center and Bord du Lac. These are two beams from the Twin Tower wreckage, set to look like the towers. There is a brightly-colored tile mosaic circling the beams, which are hard to see in this photo.

Feel free to post your 9/11 reflections in the comments.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Imagination Celebration -- Raising Funds for the Lake Charles Children's Museum

When it comes to events in Southwest Louisiana, fundraisers are nearly as popular as festivals. We love to throw parties to raise money for anything and everything! Cures for countless diseases, animal shelters, arts organizations, churches, and every non-profit group you can think of. And trust me, these organizers know how to put the FUN in fundraiser!

Last Saturday, I attended a fundraiser for the Lake Charles Children's Museum.

Brief aside -- when we lived in Pittsburgh, we practically raised our sons at the Children's Museum. It was housed in an old historic building and offered several floors of fun, entertaining, and educational things for kids to do. One of our favorites was a giant climbing monstrosity called the Luckey Climber. The kids would spend what seemed like hours crawling through it. Invariably, they'd climb all the way to the top and get stuck. Then Bob would have to squeeze through and rescue them.

Thomas W. ("Tom") Luckey (January 6, 1940 – August 19, 2012) was an American architect and sculptor, best known for inventing abstract playgrounds called Luckey Climbers.[3] Luckey also created furniture, merry-go-rounds, and interiors. Huh, I did not know that until just now when I looked it up.

Now I'm completely off topic, but it's important to say that, when we moved to Lake Charles, even though our boys were a bit "old" (7th grade) for the Children's Museum, it's one of the first places we visited. It's a fantastic asset for Lake Charles' families. Website here.

Okay, now back to the fundraiser. They call it Imagination Celebration and they had an '80s theme.

Slash was there.

And Madonna costumes were quite popular. I got a kick out of going to the secondhand store and looking for outfits. I found a top that had shoulder pads (required in the '80s) and a ridiculously large clown-like collar. (Why did we do that?) I tried to make my hair "big" but heck, I didn't know how to do it in the '80s. Getting ready for this event was a nightmare of hair spray and gel. Felt like glue in my hair.

 I was going for the Don Johnson/Miami Vice look for Bob, which also was very popular at the event. Loose slouchy light-colored jacket. Turned up shirt collar. Pleated pants. Skinny knit tie.

A DJ duo played '80s tunes. There was incredible food from over 20 local eateries. 

Love these guys from Pops and Rockets. They make the most incredible awesome unique gourmet ice pops. Check out their Facebook page here.

And like most all fundraisers, there was a silent and live auction, karaoke contest, and 50/50 Split the Pot (we called this something else in Pa., and now I can't remember. Help me out, northern readers.)

What's your favorite good time for a good cause?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Light Sport Aviation -- Flying Over Lake Charles

As a journalist, I have the opportunity to do some pretty exciting things sometimes. Recently, as part of an interview for a story I’m writing on Light Sport Aviation, I got to fly in this little two-seater airplane for a bird’s eye view of Lake Charles. It’s a fascinating perspective!

As you can see, plane owner Larry Roach is a big LSU fan.

In a lightweight plane like this, take off takes about two seconds.

We flew over my neighborhood.

The 210 Bridge

L’Auburge Casino Resort getting ready for the Weezer concert, Party by the Pool.

Lake Charles and the I-10 Bridge

Downtown Lake Charles

The Capital One Building and the Civic Center

Sun shining over the 210 Bridge

Approaching the runway at the Lake Charles airport.

Mr. Roach loves talking to people about Light Sport Aviation. For more information, call him at the number below and check out this website.