They’re Back

After an interminably long and dry summer the rain and clouds have returned to the Pacific Northwest just in time to welcome fall. Though we desperately needed the rain, the change was rather abrupt and will take some getting used to.  Still, I love the clouds.

~ Susanne

Scenes from a day at the Fair!

And a full day it was at the Washington State Fair, formerly and affectionately known as the Puyallup Fair, by all who grew up here!  We arrived just after the gates opened and stayed until the sun had set.  We walked what seemed like miles around the grounds enjoying the sights, the sounds, the tastes, the colors, the animals, vendors, and aromas of the Fair, just as we have each year for as long as I can remember. The pictures tell all, I think.

~ Susanne

Apples and Dahlias and Tiger in the Garden

Today I took a stroll through my garden and this is what I saw.

The Apple

One would think it’s easy to grow apples in Washington State, a major exporter of the delicious crop.  One would be wrong (unless one lives in Wenatchee which calls itself the Apple Capital of the World.)

I planted a semi dwarf apple tree two years ago in my garden, and added another pollinator tree this year.  I was encouraged to see several promising apples earlier in the spring.  See picture below for the only healthy apple that remains on my tree. I’m hoping it will not go the way of the others, scabby and dropping prematurely to the earth.  I will give it a few more days before I harvest it.   I plan to savor every bite.

The Dahlias

The dahlias on the other hand, are at their best this month, faithful and eager to please.

I cannot take credit for them.  These came from my mom’s garden a few years ago and she even planted them.  The (expensive) ones I planted next to them earlier this spring did not come up; maybe they were waterlogged from the record rainfall this year.

Tiger

This is Tiger with the lone healthy apple.

Here he is again in the barren spot which had been allotted to the aforementioned dahlias that failed to appear this year.

And that is all from today’s walk through the garden.

~ Susanne

A Visit to the Woodland Park Zoo

Today was perfect for a walk through Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. While still summer weather, the kids are back in school, leaving most of the trails quiet and peaceful.  I’ve been coming to this zoo since I was a child, but this is not the zoo of my youth, where animals were segregated in drab concrete enclosures.

Today’s zoo is beautifully landscaped and the animals live in areas designed like their natural habitats.  Buildings are mostly hidden and walkways connect the areas in a style known as ‘landscape immersion’ first pioneered here in the late 1970’s with the gorilla exhibit. It has now become the industry standard.

According to their website, “Woodland Park Zoo’s 92 acres are divided into bioclimatic zones, featuring different natural habitats ranging from humid tropical rain forests and coastal deserts to temperate rain forests like those of the Pacific Northwest.”

We spent almost four hours walking through the Zoo, observing the beautiful creatures who live here and still didn’t see it all.  But here is some of what we enjoyed.

African Savanna

The African Savanna replicates the grasslands of East Africa and includes giraffes and zebras, hippos and lions. It was especially fun to see the new baby giraffe (Lulu) who was born in June.

The hippos rested in the pool nearby to keep their skin moist and protected from the sun, their eyes bulging above the water.

Around the corner we found this handsome lion resting and the missus behind.

Tropical Asia Trail of Vines

This area houses the highly intelligent orangutan.  The raised boardwalk lets you walk among the tree tops where they frequently reside.

Northern Trail

Representing the wilds of Alaska, this is home to the brown bear, river otter, elk, and the gray wolf.

Historic Carousel

And who doesn’t like to ride on a Carousel, this one built in Philadelphia in 1918?

Round and round the beautiful horses go carrying the young and old on their backs. You can even catch them in reverse as I did taking this picture.

All in all it was a lovely day, walking the pathways and enjoying so many magnificent creatures.  And yet whenever I visit a zoo, no matter how good it is, there’s always a little sadness at seeing the animals confined. If I had my way, they would roam free and wild in their natural habitat in their native land. Unfortunately those habitats are shrinking everywhere. So I must content myself with the fact that a quality zoo provides a home for them in a setting as natural as can be, while also supporting conservation efforts around the world.  It will have to do I think.

~ Susanne

Red Sun Gray Ash

Today we woke up to hazy skies through which a red sun glowed.  Though eerily beautiful it is not normal and attests only to raging fires everywhere in the Northwest; ironically at the same time that flooding engulfs the Southeast.

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Other evidence of the fires can be found in the ash floating in the air and landing on our cars.

A strange end to summer to be sure.

Praying and eagerly awaiting rain in the Northwest and sun in the Southeast!

~ Susanne

Just Another Day Trip to Mt. Rainier, at Mowich Lake

We’ve visited Mt. Rainier more times this year than any other that I can remember. Maybe we’re finally taking full advantage of not working? (Okay, we’re retired, though I don’t like that word.)  Or maybe it finally dawned on us how very close and accessible that wonderful Mountain is?  Today we got off to a late start and when we arrived in Enumclaw, we learned the route ahead on Highway 410 was closed. No matter. We put Plan B into effect and headed south on State Route 165 to the less frequented Northwest corner of the Park.  Into the wilderness and onto a gravelly, pitted road we went (oh yes it was) towards Mowich Lake. The views of the mountain were worth it.

After 11 miles of a bumpy, dusty, ride, we entered the National Park without any fanfare, save a self-service box for the entry fee, and a sign that told us we were in for a rough ride up the gravel road. (Yeah, we noticed; next time we’ll bring the truck.)  Dusty cars lined the side of the road the last two miles, and we realized just how popular the area was to the locals. Still we carried on and arrived at Mowich Lake (el. 4,929 ft.), where my husband kindly dropped me off while he went to park the car, his first hike of the day.

Notwithstanding the number of cars, peace could still be found in secluded spots next to the pristine lake, the largest and deepest in the National Park.  The temperature was in the nineties so the smart ones were swimming or boating in the lake.

The trails in the area are part of the Wonderland Trail that encircles the base of the mountain for 93 miles.  We saw a few well equipped hikers on the trail hiking 12 to 15 miles a day (sturdy young men with large backpacks, strong legs and determination), but mostly we saw day hikers like ourselves opting for shorter hikes, including families with children.

We stopped to eat our snack in a shady spot on the lake, before taking the hike to Ipsut Pass, which followed the lake through the woods, providing great views of the Mountain, before turning away and gaining some elevation.

On the trail up to the Pass we encountered many hikers coming down, mostly from Eunice Lake which was further than we intended to go.

‘How much farther?’ we would ask and always got the same general answer.  Eunice Lake and Tolmie Peak were a couple of grueling miles further but well worth it (though not to us.)  Ipsut Pass being half as far, was ‘just a little bit further’, ‘maybe 3 more switchbacks ahead’ and the trail was ‘not too steep’ though ‘rocky and rooty,’ a description I rather enjoyed. I suggested to my husband that we stop asking ‘how much farther’ as it only disappointed us when the estimates proved inaccurate.

Still, the camaraderie with other hikers is what makes hiking fun and that was the easiest thing to say to one another.  One family coming down had two little girls, covered with dirt from the dusty trail, no more than five years of age, and cute as can be. They had come from Eunice Lake.

“How much further?” one of them asked us.

“You have a way to go to the bottom,” I replied having already learned the disappointment of bad estimates, “and actually we were going to ask you that very question!”

While we were chatting, she glanced at my watch and her eyes lit up as she exclaimed, “Oh what a beautiful watch!  A blue watch!  Blue is my favorite color!”

Charmed by her exuberance, I was almost tempted to give her the (cheap) watch.  She surely appreciated it more than I did.

As they moved on down the trail she hollered back to me, “I love your necklace!” and I had to laugh.

We continued on under the shade and cover of the woods, though one short section sent us into the brilliant sunshine and onto a ledge with craggy rocks above, where the trail overlooked the valley below.

Shortly afterwards we passed the cutoff to Eunice Lake, and arrived at Ipsut Pass,   a rocky area which dropped sharply below us where the Wonderland Trail continued on.

After a quick visit with a couple of backpackers who were taking the pass down to the Yellowstone Cliffs for the night, we headed back finding the way much faster and easier than coming up.

Back to the car and down the dusty, bumpy road we went, but not without a stop for another view and photo of the Mountain.

The long summer drought shows on her.  But it won’t be long until winter will return and the mountain will be covered with snow once again.

Looking forward to it.

~ Susanne