Fourteen States to Go and Countdown to Alaska!

I never intended to visit all fifty of these United States of America but once I realized I’d already made it to thirty-six of them, the remaining fourteen seemed a worthy goal. What are those states you may wonder?  Well they are last for a reason.  Most of them appear on someone’s list of least visited states (with the exception of Alaska, my apologies to them.) Here they are by region.

The Far West

  • Alaska – That big beautiful icebox up north.  I’m from Seattle so I have no excuse.  I mean come on, it’s just up the coast from here. I’m a bit late, but I’ll finally check it off the list when we set sail for the Inside Passage soon!  (Yes, it’s my first cruise too.)  I plan to take way too many pictures and hope to share the best with you.  A bit more on that later.

The Middle West

  • North Dakota –  A great place to be from, my mother in law used to say.  She should know. Born and raised in the small town of New Rockford, she moved to Seattle during the War to work at Boeing.  She met her husband and the rest is history; rather good history it turns out for me. I’ve already been to the best of the Dakotas but I hope to see this one someday too, if only on the way to somewhere else.
  • Nebraska –  Because it’s there, and like every state, has something worth seeing, like landmarks from the Oregon Trail (Chimney Rock, Scott’s Bluff.)  And for what it’s worth, my dad was born there.
  • Iowa –  ‘You really ought to give Iowa a try!’  this from my favorite musical, ‘The Music Man.’  So I’ll try. I really will.
  • Oklahoma –  Another one of my favorite musicals.  I’m afraid I expect it to look like the movie and will be disappointed. (And not to mention, they took our basketball team.)

Great Lakes Region of the Upper Midwest

  • Michigan – It’s easy to forget Michigan, as I almost did!  You might think only of Detroit and who goes vacationing there, am I right?  But look a little closer and you will discover the Upper Peninsula and Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior.

The Northeast

The remaining northeastern states are small and off the beaten path so I will group them together. They also have something to offer in the way of quaint towns, fall color and another National Park – Acadia, in Maine.

  • Maine 
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
  • Rhode Island

The Deep South 

A whole different culture to be experienced and explored. If our cruise to Alaska goes well, we may try another one down the mighty Mississippi and tackle a few of these at once.

  • Arkansas
  • Alabama
  • Mississippi
  • Louisiana

There you have it, a list of states I need to visit to see all fifty.  I admit some of them will be challenging.  Hopefully I won’t lose my resolve!

I’ll start with the easiest first, the great state of Alaska, by cruise through the Inside Passage.  Itinerary includes Glacier Bay National Park, and stops in Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan.  Stay tuned for that!

~ 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

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

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

Wonderful Whidbey Island

Forgive me in advance for overdoing it with the ‘W’s, but we had a Wonderful visit to Whidbey Island on Wednesday this Week!  Since my husband and I are no longer working (I don’t like the “r” word; retired sounds old, even to me) we like to take mid-week excursions and avoid the crowds and traffic.  This week we opted for a day trip to Whidbey Island, an hour or so north of Seattle.

On the way we stopped by Anacortes, an unassuming working town on Fidalgo Island, known mainly as the gateway to the San Juan Islands.

From Fidalgo Island we crossed over to Whidbey Island at Deception Pass. The view from above is amazing but neither of us had the courage to cross the bridge on foot.  With the skinny walkway and at 181 feet, it’s too high up for us!

On the other side, we stopped by Deception Pass State Park, the most visited state park in Washington, complete with campgrounds, beaches, lakes, hikes, and views of the bridge.

Then it was on to the charming town of Coupeville, first laid out in the 1850’s and part of Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve.

In downtown Coupeville, Penn Cove has great views of the floating Mt. Baker to the north.

The next stop was Fort Casey.  According to the Washington State Parks website: “Constructed in the late 1800s, Fort Casey was equipped for defense and used as a training facility up to the mid-1940s. The fort houses a pair of rare 10-inch disappearing guns. While the guns were the height of technology in the early 1900s, improvements in warships and the advent of airplanes soon rendered them obsolete.”

A boy’s playground, no?

We left the fort as the cloudy sky was preparing for sunset.

We headed toward Clinton on the southern end of the island where we took the ferry to Mukilteo, for dinner and home, just as the sun was setting.

A wonderful Wednesday trip!

~  Susanne

A Visit to Bellevue Botanical Garden

One sunny day earlier this summer my husband had to be in Bellevue so I hitched a ride and had him drop me off at the Bellevue Botanical Garden.  He was longer than we thought he would be, so I got to enjoy a very leisurely 3 hour visit, strolling through the garden at a snail’s pace, starting with the centerpiece, the Perennial Border.

The award-winning Perennial Border has year-round displays of flowers and according to the brochure, “is an example of a distinctively American-style-mixed-border and a living demonstration of what works best in Northwest gardens.”  I walked the paths through this living work of art admiring the variety of plants, their unique shapes and sizes, textures and colors.

I wandered through the Waterwise Garden and the Fuschia Garden,

the Native Discovery Garden and the Yao Garden, pausing to enjoy the hydrangeas along the trails that took me from one to another.

From the Lost Meadow Trail, I was delighted to discover this.

A nature trail through pristine woods, complete with a 150 ft suspension bridge over a steep ravine where you enjoy views of native understory and second-growth forest without trampling the forest floor. Oh, there is nothing like the Woods!

As much as I love cultivated gardens, I am partial to the Northwest Woods.  I was happy to wander alone on the peaceful paths under a canopy of big leaf maples and western red cedars, where birds and other wildlife make their homes undisturbed.  I was thankful these woods had been preserved and added to the Bellevue Botanical Garden. And I couldn’t help but wonder: what if the 22 acres known as the Tiffany Park Woods in Renton, those woods that were recently razed to the ground so ninety plus houses could go up; what if those woods had been preserved for all to enjoy, even as these woods in Bellevue had been?  I guess we will never know.

I continued back up the trail and waited for my ride and promised myself I would come back again to this wonderful place.

~ Susanne