Mt Rainier Up Close and Personal

Did you know there is a Paradise on earth?  Well yes, there is!  And it can be found at Mt Rainier National Park!

After being teased by beautiful local views of the mountain we decide to take the drive to the National Park for an up close and personal look at Mt. Rainier.  No, not for the first time, but for the first time this year.  A sunny day is promised and the roads are clear.

We arrive at the south entrance to the Park at Longmire, and after lunch at the historic National Park Inn, take the drive up to the Paradise Visitor center.

Mt Rainier National Park was established in 1899 and was the fifth U.S. National Park.  It was the first to be designed from a master plan to include entrance arches, rustic buildings, scenic lookouts, trails and visitor centers, becoming a pattern for National Parks to follow. We stop at many viewpoints and waterfalls on our way to Paradise.

Near the top we spot a red fox by the side of the road who wisely climbs the snow bank to safer ground.

We arrive at the Visitor Center at 5,400 feet and enjoy close-ups of the 14,410 foot volcano, the second highest mountain in the continental U.S.  It is also one of the snowiest places on earth.

It is from Paradise that climbers make their way to Camp Muir at 10,188 feet so they can rise under the darkness of night for the climb to the top. Over 10,000 people a year attempt the climb and almost half as many make it.  With binoculars, you can already see climbers making their way up to Camp Muir. Others are content to play in the snow a little closer to the ground.

After our visit we head back down for a short hike at Longmire in an area where meadows meet the forest. We take the boardwalk through hot springs, skunk cabbage and fragrant woods.

Under the tree canopy I tell Bob to look for the buried treasure ahead.   ‘X marks the spot’ I say, but he walks on by.

We complete the loop, following the trail into golden meadows where more views of Mt. Rainier await,

until we are finally back to where we started.

On the drive home we pass by the Recycled Spirits of Iron Sculpture Park near the small town of Elbe.  For just a donation you can walk among the unusual sculptures created by artist Dan Klennert which we did,

finishing up with a song.

And so after a wonderful day under sunny skies at the most beautiful mountain in America we head back home, once again counting our blessings that we live in such an amazing part of the world.

~  Susanne

One Year with Cats and Trails and Garden Tales

Has it really been a year since I started this blog with just a few cat stories in mind, along with a lot of fear and trepidation?  Well, yes it has! And a wonderful journey it has been!  I am honestly pleased (and somewhat surprised) to have made it this far and am happy to have you along for the ride!

So on this anniversary of Cats and Trails and Garden Tales, with post number 134 (in case you were keeping track), it seemed good to reflect on where we’ve been together. First, did you ever wonder about the name?  I chose it because as the song goes,  “these are a few of my favorite things!”


It’s no secret I love them.  When I started this blog a year ago, I only had one cat in residence: the handsome Tiger, who had some things to say.  He is still talking.

Then there were two.  We brought home Benji from Seattle Humane Society as a companion for Tiger.  It turns out Benji has something to say as well.

I love watching them individually and together.  They truly enjoy their cat life.




I love to hike (though the trails are getting shorter) and I love to travel to places both far and near.  In this part of the blog I try to convey the beauty of the Pacific Northwest where I live.
 as well as the beauty of these United States of America, and sometimes distant lands.




Finally, I love gardening and I love gardens.  I love to share pictures of my own,

and  those I visit.


Throw in some rain, a few sunsets and other reflections on life and you’ll have a good idea of where we’ve been.


Yes, I am still learning.  Learning to write.  Learning photography.  Learning how to use the blogging technology.  It’s worth the effort.  So here’s to another year of Cats and Trails and Garden Tales.  Thank you so much for following along.


Susanne, Tiger and Benji

A Daytrip to Lincoln Park and Alki Beach

We finally got the rain free day we were waiting for and decide to spend it on a trip to Lincoln Park and Alki Beach in West Seattle.

After a short drive we arrive at the park and hike a lovely trail through some patches of old growth forest to the bluff overlooking Puget Sound.

A slight wind is blowing as we descend to the beach below where it is crisp and cold,  and the Olympic Mountains are seen in their full glory. The fresh air and saltwater do us good!

On our return through the park we come across this giant and stately maple tree.

Then it’s onward to Alki Beach where the first group of white settlers landed and founded the City of Seattle in 1851.

We stop to eat at nearby Spud’s Fish and Chips for the best fish and chips in Seattle.  Founded in 1935 it’s also Seattle’s oldest fast food restaurant.  On it’s walls are pictures of early Seattle history including Luna Park, considered the Coney Island of the West, which operated at Alki Beach from 1907 – 1913.

I was pleased to see photographs taken by O.T. Frasch, an early Seattle photographer who also happens to be my great grandfather.  (Maybe that’s where I get my interest in photography?)

After lunch we move on for views of Seattle’s skyline, starting with a sneak peak at the Space Needle and the Cascades behind.

Speaking of mountains, in addition to the Olympics and Cascades we also find nice views of Mt Baker to the north;  while Mt Rainier can be seen blending into the milky sky to the south.

This outing should tide us over until the next rain free day which according to the current weather forecast may be a week out.

Such is life in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

~  Susanne

Postcards from Maui

Greetings from the valley isle of Maui!  I’m here to answer the burning question, which Hawaiian island is my favorite? After visiting all four major islands at least once over the past few years I had settled on the Big Island for the number 1 spot but thought Maui deserved another chance.  And she sure is putting up a good fight. 

Take the beaches for instance. Plentiful. Accessible. Gorgeous beaches.

Or  Haleakala, where you can travel from zero to 10,000 feet in less than an hour and be on top of the world! And gaze into her otherworldly  crater where astronauts trained for moon walks.

And the Road to Hana delights with its twists and curves through tropical jungle, waterfalls, charming seaside villages and colorful eucalyptus trees. 

And say hello to this friendly tree!

I recently read a readers poll from Hawaii magazine that ranked the travelers favorite islands in this order: Maui, Oahu, Kauai, the Big Island. The number 4 ranking of the Big Island surprised me; I guess it is an acquired taste. The number 1 ranking of Maui did not.
Maui has it all.  She has everything you would want in a tropical island vacation. With all the beautiful beaches and exotic terrain nearby and easy to get to.

And so as our wonderful trip is winding down I have to say Maui has nudged out what had been my sentimental favorite, the Big Island of Hawaii, for the number 1 spot. At least until our next trip! 

Aloha!  Susanne

Favorite Hawaiian Island?

It’s a hard call but somebody has to make it. I’m willing to give it a try.  First, some background. It wasn’t that long ago that Hawaii was just a dream to me, a place for only the lucky or the rich. But ten years ago we decided to celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary with a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii and Oahu. Wow and wow!  I was immediately and forever smitten. After that trip I was determined to see all of those beautiful islands at least once, if only so I could pick my favorite.  Thus I found myself coming up with more reasons to go.

‘Why don’t we go to Hawaii to celebrate my birthday?’ or  ‘let’s go to Maui for my retirement present!’  Both worked.  Last time it was, ‘we’ve got to see Kauai; how else will we know which island is the best?’  And so we finally completed our mission (okay, mainly my mission) to visit the four major Hawaiian islands:  Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island. I loved everyone one of them but which is my favorite? They all have so much to offer.

There’s Oahu where we stayed at Waikiki, climbed to the top of iconic Diamond Head and looked down upon Honolulu.  We paid our respects at Pearl Harbor, drove to the North Shore, and went to the Dole Pineapple Plantation.20150909_154924-2


20150910_163239On the Big Island (so called as the other three islands would fit into its massive size with room to spare), we hiked through lava tubes and watched a glowing volcanic vent at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. We enjoyed the turtles at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach (perhaps my favorite beach in all of Hawaii) and stopped by the Waipio Valley Overlook. 20141019_164559_burst03


20141020_1447173We loved Waimea Canyon and the rugged Napali Cliffs on the island of Kauai, the oldest and smallest of the islands.  It was there we woke up one day to an amazing sunrise when a hurricane was expected to arrive (but thankfully didn’t.)  What’s not to like?20150914_122733_burst01


20150917_063411On Maui, the second largest island, we went to the top of Haleakala, drove the winding road to Hana (one of America’s most scenic drives), and visited many gorgeous beaches, including our favorite snorkeling beach, Maluaka. 122



468598_10150658595327335_342349669_oAnd every night whenever we could we watched a beautiful Hawaiian sunset.024How on earth do you choose between these beauties?  Of course you really don’t have to but isn’t it fun to try?  So if I am pressed, I would say that the Big Island is currently my favorite, with Maui running a close second. But we’ve been to the Big Island multiple times and to Maui only once.  To be fair, it seems another trip to Maui is in order. And so we will escape the winter rain and snow of the Pacific Northwest and make our second trip to Maui to settle the matter once and for all.

‘Love is lovelier the second time around,’ goes the old song.  Will the same be true of Maui?  Will it take the top spot from the Big Island?  It’s going to be tough but I’ll let you know the verdict when we return.  Either way, we are the real winners.


Aloha!   Susanne

February Sky

Just before sunset tonight I took a brisk walk in the neighborhood and was reminded again of how much beauty there is in the ordinary everywhere.  I love to travel but if I wasn’t able to I’d be happy knowing that all of this exists outside my door.  Just give me the sky, clouds, trees and sunset and it is enough.dsc03028-2




~ Susanne

Hawaii – the beginnings

No, not the beginning of the islands themselves.  (Though you can still witness them grow as molten lava flows into the ocean.)  I’m talking about my own humble beginnings with these wonderful Pacific islands collectively known as Hawaii.

It started sometime after my 20th wedding anniversary when I said to my husband, with a smile on my face and stars in my eyes,  “Isn’t it wonderful that we will celebrate our 25th Anniversary in Hawaii?”

His laughter indicated he didn’t know this to be true at the time.  In fact, I knew my husband had little to no interest in Hawaii, why I do not know. Nevertheless, I continued this prophetic speak when the occasion so warranted, wisely and judiciously until the message was heard; until he deduced from my unabashed hinting that I wasn’t kidding, and yes it may be time for such a trip.

“Honey, if you really want to go, we will go.”

And so my planning began in earnest as we settled on the islands of Oahu and Hawaii  (aka, ‘the big island’) to celebrate our anniversary almost 10 years ago.

I won’t bore you with too many details from that first trip.  (For I have been making up for lost time ever since.) I can only tell you that I was immediately smitten; it was everything I hoped it would be and much, much more. I can find no word more suitable to describe this magical place than Lush. 

Lush.  Hanging vines.  Coconuts. Papayas and mangoes.  Banyan trees. Waterfalls. Rich fragrances of fruits and flowers filling the moist air.




And so while the Seattle winter rains are heavy upon us I am making final preparations for our next trip, the second to the island of Maui. It may be our last, who knows?  But I am so glad I spoke that first trip into being many years ago, by a few simple words.

“Isn’t it wonderful that we will celebrate our 25th Anniversary in Hawaii?”

Yes.  It was.

~  Susanne

via Daily Prompt: Lush