The bluest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle? or did you mean Saguaro?

The bluest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle, or so sang Perry Como back in the sixties.  Which really begs the question;  have you ever been there?  First of all let me say that I am a native and as such reserve the right to talk about the touchy subject of weather. (Sorry you transplants are not allowed to.  After all, you made the conscious decision to move here, didn’t you?)

So I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but let me say it outright.  No, the bluest skies you’ve ever seen are actually not in Seattle.  Perhaps the grayest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle.  Just look at our weather forecasts and you will see.  (Honest. I kid you not.)

Overcast. Cloudy. Partly cloudy. Mostly cloudy. Cloudy with a chance of rain.  Morning showers.  Scattered Showers.  Increasing showers. Afternoon showers.  Showers in the PM. Rain.  Rain likely. Rain and drizzle.  Heavy rain at times. Rainy and breezy.  Rain tapering off.  (Yay!)  Occasional sun breaks.  (One can only hope!)

I don’t mean to sound bitter but we just broke the record for rainiest October in Seattle with over 9 inches to date.  Of course it seems like we are always breaking those kinds of records.  It’s hard to keep up. And we are only half way through fall.

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The fact is the days are growing shorter and darker and colder and grayer. Is it any wonder I find myself longing for the places where the sun always shines?

While the fortunate among us may flee to the desert when winter arrives (those lucky snowbirds) the rest of us poor locals must content ourselves with the occasional jaunt to sunny places, only to return and pore over the pictures when the going gets tough. Now is such a time.

Last winter we escaped the area’s cold and gray for a few days in Arizona and a visit to Saguaro National Park.   Now that’s what I call blue skies!  And how about those majestic Saguaro cactus, symbol of the American West!

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And doesn’t this beautiful owl from the nearby Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum look great against that same blue sky?

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Okay I am starting to feel better already.  Sometimes that’s all it takes.   A reminder that the sun is always shining somewhere!  And as I look out my window I see the promised sun breaks appearing.  Yay!  I think this should carry me through until our next escape to sunny locales.

~   Susanne

 

Observations from Benji the teenage cat

Hi.  This is Benji and here are my observations on life so far. I am not yet one year old in human years but in cat years I am a teenager and thus, very smart.

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Do you think my chopped ear looks good?  It makes me feel different and self-conscious. This came from my 1st life when I was trapped from the crazy house where I was born.  I like my 2nd life and new home much better.  And I love Sue and Bob and Grandma. I also like my big brother Tiger and hope someday he likes me too.

I want to play all the time.  Sometimes this gets me in trouble with Sue.  Why, I do not know.  She used to play mouse on a string with me though she could never keep up with my speed.  I am very, very fast.  (Much faster than Tiger if I do say so myself.)  It turns out many, many things have strings attached to them, both thick and thin.  They are everywhere. Computers and cameras.  Shoes and purses. Window blinds and necklaces. When I play with these Sue yells NO! and sometimes squirts me with water from the bottle.  I don’t understand this at all.  She’s the one that taught me to play with things on strings. It seems not even the best humans can always be trusted or completely understood. Maybe Tiger will teach me about these things when he starts talking to me.

Anyway, now that I am a teenager I get to go outside and chase things that move on their own without strings.  Sometimes I catch them.  I am very, very fast.

dsc01901-3I learned I can go in and out whenever I want just by standing at the door.  Tiger taught me this.

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I always come in at night before it is dark because I am only a teenager. Tiger has outside dark privileges.  It’s okay because I don’t like the outside dark.

I also don’t like rain.  It reminds me of the squirt bottle.  In my life so far there was not much rain.  Now there is more and more and more.  I don’t know why.  I will ask Tiger if he ever decides to listen to me and answer my questions.  He still hisses at me when I try to talk to him.  If I jump on him to get his attention, he takes a swat at me but he is not a good aim and always misses.  Maybe because he is old.  Either way, I am always the one who gets in trouble not the Tiger.  I think they favor him though they may not admit it.

I still like Tiger even if he is old and doesn’t want to play with me.  I hope he will someday.  I can’t wait for us to become good friends.

from the Benji

Dance of the leaf

I stepped outside this morning and saw this lovely dance ..

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Six months and 50 posts ~ but who’s counting?

Well I guess I am.  Counting that is.  I was an accountant after all, a long time ago in a galaxy, far, far away.  Now, enough of the numbers. The main reason I started this blog was to encourage myself to write and to have a fun place to do so. My goal was to publish one or two posts per week when I started last April.  I didn’t know if that was realistic or not but figured there was one way to find out. Say it. Jump in. Make it happen.  So I am happy to report that after six months in blog land (26 weeks if you want to know) I have met my humble goal and this will be post #51.

Now I must give credit to where credit is due, to my boys, the cats. You probably know them by now if you read this blog.  There’s Tiger the handsome 8 year old tabby, with all his charms, observations and cat life accounts.  He can be seen below. (Don’t you wish you could relax like that?)

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dsc01845And there’s the new cowboy Benji, still just a teenager and a bundle of soft and sweet gangly arms and legs.  Though quite active, he knows how to relax too. Doesn’t he make it look easy?

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My cats were and still are a source of inspiration for this blog and I will continue to report their ramblings and goings on, as well as the progress of their slow but budding brotherhood.  I will also share stories and pictures from our travels and road trips, of forests and mountains and parks and gardens. Such a big and beautiful world to explore!  I will also occasionally venture out into musing on life and words and memories and whatever else strikes my fancy!  That is the fun of having a blog!   So come along with me as the journey continues on cats and trails and garden tales.

~  Susanne

North Cascades Timed Right

October means fall and time to celebrate our anniversary.  We decide to head up to the North Cascades for a couple days while we have good weather before the big storm hits. Timing is everything.

The first day we stop for lunch at a restaurant in the small town of Marblemount and enjoy the views of the nearby Skagit River. Hundreds of bald eagles will arrive here this winter as they do every year,  to feast upon spawning salmon. It is one of the largest such congregations in the United States.  I make a note to self to come back in January to see this feast.

Next up is the small town of Newhalem, owned and operated by Seattle City Light, whose employees run the generating plants that produce cheap hydroelectric power for Seattle. There are 3 dams on the Skagit River: Gorge, Diablo and Ross. Because of this the river seems to disappear from sight as it is diverted through the powerhouses. Further up the road we enjoy the views of Diablo Lake, the reservoir created by Diablo Dam.

Continuing east on the Cascade Loop Highway we enjoy many fall colors on display.

At  Washington Pass Overlook we stop to enjoy the views of Liberty Bell Mountain. While always beautiful in the summer the mountain is even more dramatic this time of year when the golden larch trees provide contrast to the dark evergreens. There is a fresh dusting of snow on the ground as we walk the short trail to the overlook. The brilliant views of the mountain and surrounding area reminds me of cold steel and burnished brass all set in October ice.

After a short walk my fingers are frozen from taking pictures and it’s time to move on. We cross over to the east side of the mountains where all is golden again.

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We spend the night in Winthrop where we find these views of the Methow River from our hotel room.

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The next day we pass through the small towns of Twisp and Chelan, then follow the Columbia River into Wenatchee, the apple capital of the world, to spend the night. We stop by Cashmere on the final day of our short trip to buy fresh apples and kettle corn from one of the many fruit stands in the area and to pick up souvenirs at the largest antique mall on the west coast. Time to head back home over Blewett Pass.

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All in all a lovely trip to reflect upon as we are snug inside our home listening to the heavy rains and gusty winds. Timing is everything.

~ Susanne

All Dressed up for Fall

Awed by the beauty of the trees dressed in fall color at Gene Coulon Park….

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Ten Random Words I Like

  1. Harmony – Different musical notes played or sung together at the same time with a pleasing sound or result.  Also used metaphorically to describe how different things or persons blend or go well together. Living peaceably, or in harmony I like harmony.  Both kinds.
  2. Timbre – No, not timber.  Timbre.  As in the characteristic quality of a musical sound or voice. Let me say it for you while you visualize the word spelled correctly. Timbre. Can you hear it’s richness?  Now picture the word timber and think of trees, stripped. Notice the difference.
  3. Luminescence – Light coming from a non heat source; like a glow worm which I have not seen or a firefly which I have.  Or the sparks that fly when chewing a wintergreen lifesaver in total darkness deep inside the Lewis and Clark Caverns. I recommend you try it if you are ever in Montana, although other caverns may be substituted. (Please note that firefly and glow worms not found here.)
  4. Effervescent –  Bubbly! Sparkly!  Like the champagne that is sipped slowly after a wedding toast. Unfortunately this wonderful word has been hijacked by advertisers and applied to the cleansing action that occurs on stubborn denture stains when white tablets are dropped into water. We can do better than that.  We must reclaim this word.
  5. Flora – A lovely word describing the plant life of a particular region or time. Much better than saying, ‘the plant life of a particular region or time.’  Almost always paired with fauna.  See # 6.
  6. Fauna  –  The animal life of a particular region or time.  I can never remember the meaning of fauna unless it’s  paired with flora, and even then it’s a slow recall. Flora and Fauna, that’s how it should be.  Not bad names for twins, either. (Tell them you got the idea here.)
  7. Ebb – To wane, or recede; a low condition, typically related to the tide. When paired with flow (see # 8) it becomes a far more hopeful and encouraging word.
  8. Flow – The opposite of ebb, the incoming phase of the tide. Waters rise and things are looking up!  Ebb and Flow.  But notice how ebb comes first.
  9. Flotsam –  Marine debris from a shipwreck. I just like the sound of this word though I’m pretty sure I never used it before.  Until now.  It’s another one of those words that has a mate. Flotsam and jetsam.  See #10 below for jetsam.
  10. Jetsam.  Also marine debris from a vessel but with intention to lighten the load in distress.  Turns out these have legal meaning in maritime law which I will not go into as I have no interest in salvaging any wreckage from the sea. Flotsam and Jetsam. They pair nicely but are probably not good names for twins, unless applied to a type of ‘fauna’ (e.g. bunny rabbits) similar to  ”Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter.”

What words do you like?

Tiger and Benji, Almost Brothers

This is Tiger and after much consideration and with some resignation, I have decided the new kit known as Benji shall be allowed to stay and share with me in my domain. Not equally of course but in part and only after maturity has been reached. Never let it be said I was unreasonable.

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He still has much to learn (everything in fact) and if and when he settles down I shall be happy to teach him. In the meantime Sue promises to sequester him when I need to be left alone. She knows when that is.  I shall try to be understanding but I have my dignity. I refuse to defend myself against that boy’s mischief.

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And if we don’t exactly become friends perhaps we can still become brothers. Brothers may pester and brothers may fight but brothers will also understand and forgive. Maybe that is better after all.

From Tiger and Benji, almost but not quite, brothers.

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Reflections on the Snohomish

A beautiful day for a walk along the Snohomish River….

~ Susanne

Most Popular US National Park – Surprised?

I know you can google it but why don’t you guess?  Of the 59 US National Parks, which one is the most popular based on number of annual visitors?

My guess was Yellowstone National Park.  Established in 1872 and considered to be the world’s first national park, Yellowstone continues to impress visitors with bubbling mud pots, shooting geysers, and rainbow colored hot springs. Located in the northwest corner of Wyoming (with small portions in Idaho and Montana),  it is a mountainous region where pristine rivers run with trout, and grizzly bear, bison, and moose roam among ponderosa pine and in expansive valleys.  I’ve been there many times.  Wish I was there now, in fact! But it’s not the most popular as measured by annual number of visitors.

My second guess was the Grand Canyon, knowing that people travel from around the world to see one of nature’s greatest vistas.  I went there once (too long ago to have a good picture to share) and it was grand indeed, though it doesn’t make my own favorites list. It’s too, I don’t know, grand.  Inaccessible. But it comes in at #2 on the list of most visited National Parks for 2015.

How about Yosemite with its world famous valley and enormous chunks of solid granite, El Capitan and Half Dome. Can you top that?

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Well apparently you can, because Yosemite shows up as #4 on the list according to numbers published by the National Park Service.

How about Olympic National Park one of my own local favorites?

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Or Glacier in Montana?

No and No.  Okay then.  Which National Park comes in at #1?

Unless you googled it I suspect you didn’t guess correctly (though I am a westerner and may be biased.)

The winner for most visited National Park in the USA is:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park with 10.7 million annual visitors!!

Surprised?  I was.

I mean, aren’t the most gorgeous, jaw dropping sights in the US found in the west?  Well, yes, I believe so.  (See western bias mentioned above.)

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Great Smoky Mountains straddles the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. The gentle, ancient mountains are covered with hardwood forests and filled with diverse plants and wildlife.  Fog hangs over the region like a blue, hazy smoke giving the mountains their name, and the historic, rustic, cabins of settlers remain. It is a beautiful area and I liked it a lot. But #1?  Grand Canyon which is #2 on the list isn’t even close, coming in at 5.5 million visitors. How can the number of visitors be almost double that of any others on the list?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Here’s my theory.  There are very few national parks on the eastern side of the country and Great Smoky Mountains NP is in close proximity to large population centers.  It is therefore the “go to” park for millions.   Yellowstone, on the other hand, is way out there, up in Wyoming which happens to be the least populous state in the union, and not on the way to anywhere. You have to really want to get there.

For the record here’s the official list of the 10 Most Visited National Parks for 2015 according to the National Park Service

  1. Great Smoky NP       10.712 million
  2. Grand Canyon NP      5.520 million
  3. Rocky Mountain NP   4.155 million
  4. Yosemite NP               4.150 million
  5. Yellowstone NP          4.097 million
  6. Zion NP                        3.648 million
  7. Olympic NP                 3.263 million
  8. Grand Teton NP          3.149 million
  9. Acadia NP                    2.811 million
  10. Glacier NP                  2.366 million

And here’s the list of my own current favorites:

  1. Yellowstone         Perhaps you could tell?
  2. Olympic                What can I say? I live in Washington State.
  3. Mt Rainier             Practically in my backyard.
  4. Glacier                  Wish I had more time.  Just go.
  5. Yosemite              You saw the pictures.
  6. Zion                       Yosemite in color.
  7. Redwoods            Perhaps the most beautiful trees in the world.
  8. Arches                   Red rock country!
  9. Great Smoky         Surprised it was #1 but it really is gorgeous.
  10. Saguaro               Love the cactus in the Arizona desert!

Finally, one more thing.  If you include the 400 plus sites administered by the US National Park Service (parks, monuments, historic sites, parkways, etc.) guess what tops the most visited list?  No need to google, I will give you the information right here, right now.  At over 15 million visitors a year, it’s the 469 mile Blue Ridge Parkway which runs from North Carolina to Virginia and is right next to ….  you guessed it, Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

As with the Smoky Mountains, it’s amazing to me that this is the most visited site in the National Park system.  But I’m sticking to my earlier theory.  This gorgeous parkway is in close proximity to major population centers of the east, accessible to millions and “on the way” to other places. We took the parkway once and I really did love it. If I made an expanded list that included all sites, it would definitely be near the top!

Of course this isn’t a competition and it doesn’t matter if your favorite parks ever show up on the Most Visited list.  I expect my personal list will continue to change and grow as I visit new parks and revisit the old, as old memories fade and new ones are created.  But I hope I have inspired you to go and see some of these national treasures.  Visit as many as you can.  Soon you’ll be making your own top 10 list and memories for a lifetime.

~ Susanne

 

Tiger woes

From the Tiger ~ 

I don’t mean to complain but I gotta tell you the new boy is getting on my nerves. I’m talkin’ about the one they call Benji (aka, Squeaker and Stinker, Sue’s words, not mine.)

She must have known I was lonely ever since Shadow went away (may he rest in peace.)  Yes, I do miss my brother.  He was the greatest friend and confidant a cat could ever have. Always looking out for me.  Always there for me to lean on.

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And who can forget all the fun we had together exploring the great outdoors?

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So a companion would be nice.  But can this new kit on the block really take the place of Shadow?

The problem is, he never stops moving!  Pestering!  Stalking!  Can’t he see I’m twice as big as he is?   Only my hissing keeps him at bay and I don’t want to hiss everyday the rest of my life! It’s against my better nature.  I’m gonna have to bop him one real soon because despite all my warnings he cannot seem to stay away from me.  He’s always lurking somewhere ready to spring.

And get this.   I found him sleeping on the big bed which is definitely against the rules!  I’m gonna have to teach him a few things and the sooner the better!

From the Benji ~

I think he likes me.

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Surprise visitor to the Fall Garden

While strolling in my garden this fine day I came across an unexpected visitor..

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It wasn’t this squirrel storing up supplies for the coming winter…

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And it wasn’t this pair of kinglets who stopped by for a drink and bath.

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It wasn’t Tiger who drank the flavored water after they left..

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Nor this spider who made a home in the rosemary..

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The turtle stands daily, stone cold on the stream’s edge,  so it was not him.

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No.  It was in the woodpile.

Where I found the visitor hiding.

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E.T.

How he got there I will never know.  But I shall let him stay.

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