Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mt. Rainier!

I wonder if I'll ever get so accustomed to seeing Mt. Rainier in the distance that I won't even give it a second glance when it comes into view. It's usually hidden behind mountains and trees and buildings and fog but occasionally when we're driving around or climbing a mountain or at a great spot on the lake (like Seward Park) suddenly there it is in all it's volcanic snow-capped glory and someone inevitably shouts, "Mt. Rainier!"

Last weekend was National Park fee-free weekend, so we decided to drive to Mt. Rainier's Nisqually Entrance and see the mountain up close.

We quickly realized that fee-free weekends during peak-season aren't the best times to visit a National Park. It was packed! Next time we'll pay the $15 entrance fee (it's for a good cause anyway) and enjoy the parking spots and vacant port-a-potties. Nevertheless, we managed to see some sights and go on hikes.

The kids kept asking if they could go to the the top and play in the snow. It looks easy enough, since it's right there, but as you meander around the woodsy green part you realize how far away the snow is, how severe the terrain is, and how long it would take to get there, especially since the roads stop where the glaciers start. We were content with exploring the wilderness around it.

They're vast in their own right. Our first hike was around the Trail of the Shadows across from the Longmire Museum; a nice easy loop through the woods with a real live beaver-gnawed tree:

For real! Check it out:

The next time we're there it'll probably be toppled, so we captured some pictures for posterity's sake. Way to go beavers! I wish we could have seen them at work.

But we walked on, got back in the car, and drove to see Christine Falls.

Poor Christine, she should be more careful! Haha. That's a real joke Sage and I came up with when we saw the sign. Sleepy McKenna missed these falls. She also missed Narada Falls:


and got a bad case of carseat hair...

Erik carried her all the way down this path and back.

Next, we drove to the area of the park known as Paradise and checked out the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center.

Then explored some trails.

We were lucky to be there during the short window of time these wildflowers are in bloom. For the majority of the year these fields are either green or covered in snow. Here's a view of Paradise Inn.

and other surrounding mountain ranges.

And then it was time to go home. Here are some views we saw on the way out...


Then we ate a late dinner at Jack-in-the-Box and since there isn't anything majestic or beautiful or wholesomely natural about that, we left the camera in the car.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Walk Around Seward Park

One reason I love it here? Erik doesn't work ridiculous L.A. animator hours and is finally home in time to do things with the kids besides tuck them into bed. On Friday, we decided to check out Seward Park.

It's  a 300-acre peninsula south of Seattle that sticks out into Lake Washington. We walked the 2.5 miles around the park, but there are also several trails within the wooded middle. We saved those for our next visit.

The entrance of the park offers one of the best views of Mt. Rainier that I've seen so far - right below it it is the town of Renton, our soon-to-be home.

Look kids, ducks!

and turtles!

 and a water wolf!

Oh wait, that's not a  wolf, that's our dog Kali (with the Bellevue skyline in the background). Another reason I love it here? All the dog friendly parks and trails.  

And trees! Glorious trees!

And swimming in the lake. I've come to the conclusion that I prefer lakes to oceans - no pesky waves to knock you down and pull you under, no nasty saltwater to go up your nose, and no sharks to bite your arms off.

Another reason I like it here? Times like this:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

VanHorns Visit Vashon

Say that ten times fast. Last Sunday, cloudy Sunday, we decided to visit Vashon Island. You have to drive onto a ferry to get there. I like driving through neighborhoods near the water to see all the kickass views some people have and wonder what it would be like if I lived there. Fauntelroy is a nice neighborhood. It's fun to say too - Fauntelroy. Here's the ferry at Fauntelroy:

$27 for a car and family of 4 to ride it. Now I know why Vashon isn't considered a tourist destination. How do people who live on the island afford to come and go? The attendant told us residents get a small discount , but not much. There must be something special about this place that people are willing to be stuck out in the sound to live there. Goodbye mainland:

Here's our car. On a boat!

And here we are coming into port. I look like I'm going to a heavy metal concert.

Vashon is interesting. Beautiful and hilly and woodsy with great views of the sound.

No real tourist attractions though, and I get the impression they're just fine with being a small town in the middle of the sound. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. It's refreshing, really. We surmised that the inhabitants were either 1. artists, 2. retired, 3. small business owners, 4. sustainable farmers, or 5. rich. It was also nice to see their library open on Sunday. (In L.A., due to budget cuts, the libraries were closed on the weekends.) Next to their library was Ober Park, and this great playground:

with cool local tile work embedded all around. I love it when it's obvious that a community supports local art and encourages their artists to put their unique stamp on an otherwise run-of-the-mill spot, like the footrest beneath a bench.

On to another spot, Point Robinson Lighthouse.

Where apparently, visitors are compelled to create their own driftwood installations along the shore:


Just because.

Erik and I have been talking about getting a boat (after, of course, we get a house and a washer and dryer and a t.v. and a tortoise). The boating lifestyle is so appealing.

Driving around along the shore and over the hills and through the woods, we came upon The Quartermaster Inn and Restaraurant just in time for dinner. (My recommendation - the steamers with a nice leafy green mojito.)

We were treated to a lovely patio concert by this guy. (Note to self - write down names.) The live acoustic soundtrack couldn't have been any more perfect for that time and place. He played all my favorite songs - old folk ballads, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, the Beatles, plus a Christopher Robin song and the obscure "I Love Trash" (by Oscar the Grouch) for the kids.

Sage is in the foreground with his two addictions - that hat, which he never takes off, and a Goosebumps book, which he never leaves home without.

Time to go. We were on the opposite (south) side of the island by this time, so we took the ferry to Tacoma. Exiting ferries are free, or at least we think they're free since no one asked us to pay. I suppose it's included in the entering ferry fee, which makes that $27 not such a bad deal after all.

Lastly, here's the sunset over the sound...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pacific Science Center -- Mr. Wizard Would Approve

I finally felt some of that famous Seattle rain on Saturday. It felt nice. Not nice enough to stand around in though, so we decided to spend the afternoon at Pacific Science Center near the Space Needle.

We were starving when we got there so we found Center House Bistro and Bar in the Seattle Center just outside the Pacific Science Center, a much mellower venue that the PSC cafeteria.

I recommend the ABC Sandwich (apple slices tossed in honey, applewood smoked bacon, and cheddar cheese on toast) and a Manny's Pale Ale. Mmmm. It's always good to start an outing on a full belly. Beer makes mom and dad a little more laid back too. Okay, we're ready to get our science on at the...

Outside there were fountains and quick! look! Blue Angels zooming by.

Sage is a science nut. He devours books on insects, ocean creatures, dinosaurs, machines, The Way Things Work, skeletons, and the human body and it's functions. This place had all of that.

Plus live creatures to bother, I mean pet:

And a butterfly room:

There's something for everyone...

And if that weren't enough, there was an entire exhibit dedicated to the science of the Circus.

We stayed until closing time and got back to the car to find a $72 @$##$% parking ticket. In our hunger and excitement, we forgot that Seattle parking garages make you pay first, at a little kiosk hidden on some other floor. We're used to paying an attendant as we drive out... but not $72!

That's a crappy note to leave on. Here, this is better:

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