Thursday, December 30, 2010

Seattle's Personal Ad

This morning's Seattle P-I had an amusing blog post by Amy Rolph.

In a post titled "How Seattle ranked in 2010: Not so sexy, but gay-friendly and smart" Ms. Rolph wondered what a City of Seattle Personal Ad would be like, taking into account the various 2010 polls and ranking lists that have "lauded and lambasted the city in 2010."

Below is the City of Seattle Personal Ad...

"Even though I'm getting up there in years (I was born in 1869), I'd like to find a young companion. A college student, maybe. Don't let my age fool you; I've been told I'm pretty cool and fairly romantic. I've also been told I need to work on my personal appearance, but I'd rather read a book than pick out clothes. Our first date probably wouldn't be too extravagant, and we'd probably have to take the bus. (I'm not a good driver, and bad traffic only makes things worse.) We'd probably go for coffee, or maybe to the nation's best cocktail bar. Or maybe we'll just read a book. Did I mention I like to read? You should know I'm especially good with men and extremely gay-friendly."

Below are the article titles of the various articles that ranked, listed and polled Seattle, for various reasons, to various degrees of positive and negative....

Sunday, December 12, 2010

David Letterman Points Out Sedro Woolley on a Map While Almost Pronouncing the Name Correctly

When you grow up in Washington the names of places do not seem unusual or difficult to pronounce. Often it is names based on the Native American name that are a bit difficult to pronounce.

Like Puyallup. Rather than pronounce Puyallup as Pew-el-up, I have heard many bad manglings, like Pie-a-loop.

Sometimes it can be a non-Native American name that can befuddle someone.

When my mom and dad moved to Eugene, Oregon, where I was eventually born. upon arrival they were embarrassed to find they'd been mispronouncing one of the main Oregon rivers, it being the Willamette. My mom and dad were pronouncing it Will-a-meet-ee.

Mom and dad were born and raised in the Northwest. There is no excuse for them not knowing Willamette was pronounced Will-am-met. A Frenchified version of name for a Clackamas Indian Village.

This morning Betty Jo Bouvier, she known as one of the Wild Woman of Woolley, as in Sedro Woolley, with Sedro Woolley being a town in the Skagit Valley of Washington., sent me a video in which David Letterman tries to say a couple Washington place names, like Sedro Woolley and Anacortes.

Correctly pronounced See-dro Wool-lee and Anna-Cort-s.

The best part of this video is the Osama Bin Laden commercial for Vicks Vapo-Rub that runs before Dave goes into map reading mode...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Western Washington Braces For A Strong Pineapple Express Today

You are looking at what Granite Falls looked like in November of 2006, when the Stillaguamish River and all the other rivers of Western Washington went in to flood mode brought on by several Pineapple Express Storms in a row.

Washington is scheduled to get hit with a Pineapple Express Storm this afternoon, dumping 8 inches of rain in the mountains, with 3 inches expected to fall on the lowlands.

Along with the rain the temperature will rise, with melting snow adding to the flood.

I don't remember when the term "Pineapple Express" was first heard by my ears. It seems it was during the Thanksgiving Day Storm back in the 1990s. That was the worst flooding I remember ever seeing. I'd been up well past midnight, helping sandbag downtown Mount Vernon. The flood was expected to go over the sandbags and flood downtown Mount Vernon.

That would have been a real bad thing. When the Skagit River runs high, downtown Mount Vernon is like New Orleans, well below the water level.

During that particular flood a large crowd had gathered to view the crest of the river, from elevated vantage points. But, just as the time of the predicted crest arrived, the Skagit River dropped a couple feet. The dike had broken down river, flooding Fir Island, saving downtown Mount Vernon.

Two weeks after the Thanksgiving Day Flood, which was supposedly something like a 100 year, or more event. It happened again.

I hope today's Pineapple Express is not a real bad one. But I suspect it may be. There is a lot of snow on the Cascades, ready to melt.

"A Chinook" was what warm tropical air hitting the Pacific Northwest used to be called before the "Pineapple Express" phrase became the popular term used to describe the weather phenomenon in which a strong flow of atmospheric moisture forms near the Hawaiian Islands and then extends to any location along the Canadian or American Pacific Coast.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Spokane's Street Crossing Signal Middle Finger Malfunction

Last week drivers and pedestrians in Spokane were surprised at the new "bird flipping" don't walk signal that had appeared on one of the Eastern Washington town's street crossings.

This new signal was not a Spokane experiment in search of a replacement for the raised hand universal signal to stop.

What it was was an electronic malfunction due to snow, in which all the hand's fingers, except for the middle one and thumb were missing.

Which took awhile for Spokane city workers to get around to fixing, due to the need to get snow off Spokane's roads being a more important priority.

In the meantime Spokane drivers and walkers were greeted with an obscene gesture that likely had some Spokanians amused, some perplexed and maybe one or two greatly offended.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Mega-Disaster Eruption of the Mount Rainier Volcano

Above you are looking at a simulation of what a Mount Rainier volcanic eruption might look like, with a lahar of pyroclastic material, rocky debris and water racing towards Puget Sound.

Due to being so close to the Seattle-Tacoma Metropolitan Area, 14,411 foot tall Mount Rainier is the most dangerous volcano in the continental United States.

When you drive in the Puyallup zone you see Volcano Evacuation Route signs.

Using past Mount Rainier eruptions to determine what would happen when Mount Rainier erupts again, scientists project that the wall of sludge and mud flowing to Puget Sound would inundate the towns of Puyallup, Enumclaw and Kent, before it slows down and thins out as it enters Commencement Bay in Tacoma.

With the flow of mud only stopping once it reaches Elliott Bay in Seattle, 60 miles from Mount Rainier.

It is estimated that a major eruption of Mount Rainier would injure 31,000, kill 18,000, do $2 billion worth of agricultural damage, $4 billion worth of residential damage and $5 billion worth of commercial damage.

Making a Mount Rainier Eruption the worst Natural Disaster in American history.

Below is a map showing the lahar flow's projected area of coverage on its way to Tacoma's Commencement Bay.

Mount Rainier is one of what are known as the world's 16 Decade Volcanoes. Named Decade Volcanoes due to a United Nations initiated project which is part of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. The world's 16 most dangerous volcanoes were determined by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior, also known as IAVCEI.
The Decades Volcanoes Project's goal is to support studies of the volcanoes, raising public awareness of the dangers posed by the volcanoes.

The History Channel  has done its part in raising public awareness of the dangers posed by Mount Rainer, by looking at what would happen if Mount Rainer erupted, in an episode of the History Channel's Mega-Disaster series. You can view part of the History Channel Mount Rainer Mega-Disaster below....

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Slipping & Sliding in Seattle During the Pre-Thanksgiving Icy Snow Storm

Last week's, pre-Thanksgiving 2010 snowy, ice conditions, in Western Washington, brought some hazardous driving conditions. Like what you see in the KING 5 News Video below. I assume this video was shot in Seattle. I assume, most likely on Queen Anne Hill. But I suppose the video could have been shot on any of Seattle's hills, or steeply sloping roads.

Drivers in Seattle, and the lowlands of Puget Sound, do not get very much snow, icy conditions driving practice. Unless you make an annual winter trek into the Cascade Mountains, where, incidentally, the North Cascades Cross State Highway is now closed until next year's spring thaw, you can go years without experiencing driving in icy conditions.

I have not read the dollar figure on how much all that car banging added up to after last week's storm. Seems like auto body shops must be being very busy. As well as insurance adjusters.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Long Journey to Recovery of the MV Kalakala

That is Big Ed in front of the MV Kalakala at her anchorage on Lake Union, before getting evicted.

Prior to being towed through the Ballard Locks to Lake Union to its temporary home by Ivar's, the Kalakala had a prime spot on the Seattle Waterfront, where she got a lot of attention.

Prior her arrival in Seattle, in 1998, the Kalakala was discovered by Peter Bevis to be a rusting shell of its former self, run up on a beach in Kodiak, Alaska.

The Kalakala was retired from Washington's ferry fleet in 1967, sold to a fish cannery company which took the ship to Alaska where she was turned into a fish factory. Her insides were gutted, cement flooring added and fish processing equipment installed.

The Kalakala was beached in Kodiak in 1970 and for a few years was used to process shrimp.

After Peter Bevis found the rusting boat, recognizing her from her glory days as a stream-lined, art deco styled, popular, luxury liner of sorts, he went to work to take possession of the Kalakala and bring her back to Seattle.

In 1998 it became big news that the Kalakala had been successfully re-floated and was making its way to Puget Sound. There was concern that the ship would sink before it made it back to Washington.

But, the Kalakala made it to Elliott Bay and became a big attraction on the Seattle Waterfront. I remember when I first saw the Kalakala, up close, I was surprised at how small she was, compared to the Super Ferries. And at what terrible shape she was in. And I thought it was a goofy looking boat.

Much effort was made to raise funds to refurbish the Kalakala. But that effort was in vain, eventually leading to the eviction from Lake Union. In 2004 the Kalakala was sold to an investor who moved her to a new anchorage in Neah Bay, courtesy of the Makah tribe. But, that arrangement soon went awry, with the Makah evicting the Kalakala, suing the owners.

After its Makah eviction the Kalakala was moved to Hylebos Waterway in Tacoma, where it is currently supposedly going to be restored.

I have been in Tacoma at least 4 times since 2004. I have never seen the Kalakala. I think I have driven all over the Tacoma waterfront.

The Kalakala was born in 1926, originally named Peralta, working as a ferry on San Francisco Bay. In 1933 the Peralta was badly damaged by an arson fire. She was then bought by a Seattle company and brought north to be restored as a ferry and renamed Kalakala, which is Chinook for bird.

The redesigned, streamlined ship had some problems. The ship was hard to pilot due to the bridge being set back for the streamlined effect, making it impossible to see the front of the boat. Pilots had to look out of round portholes, rather than the usual big window.

The Kalakala was known for its rumbling vibration that shook the ship when she was moving. It became known by many nicknames, like Silver Slug. Seattle's Scandinavians called the Kalakala "Kackerlacka," which is Scandinavian for cockroach.

It has now been over 12 years since the Kalakala returned to the Puget Sound. It will be interesting to see if she successfully floats out of Tacoma.

In the below video you can see the Kalakala floating during its glory days. I don't know where it is floating. I assume it's somewhere in the Seattle zone. You see the Kalakala for a bit, then the rest of the video just seems to pointlessly scan the waterfront....

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Long Beach Washington: One of America's Best Beach Towns

Long Beach, Washington, is both a beach and a town. The town has a population of 1,283, at last count. The Long Beach Peninsula is a very popular tourist destination. Long Beach, the beach, claims to be the World's Longest Beach. You can drive on a lot of Long Beach.

The town part of Long Beach has plenty of lodging options, with fun shops, museums, great seafood,  the best breakfast I have ever had at a place who's name escapes my memory and a lot of what my brother and I used to refer as "Gyp Joints," known more commonly as souvenir stores. We loved to hunt for good stuff in Washington's Coastal Gyp Joints.

The most famous, or infamous, of the Long Beach Gyp Joints is also a sort of a museum, called Marsh's Free Museum. It is in this "museum" you will find Jake the Alligator Man. Half man, half alligator. The mummified remains of Jake are on display, among other interesting oddities.

Long Beach is a prime razor clam digging destination. Upcoming Long Beach Razor Clam digging tides are Dec. 4, Sat. – 5:29 p.m., (-1.2 ft.), Dec. 5, Sun. – 6:14 p.m., (-1.3 ft.), Dec. 31, Fri. – 3:40 p.m., (0 ft.) and Jan. 1, Sat. – 4:31 p.m., (-0.4 ft.).

Multiple entities have named Long Beach on Best Beach type lists, such as an article in which picked Long Beach as one of "America's Favorite Beach Towns."

The Washington State International Kite  Festival takes place every year during the 3rd week of August. This is a week long celebration that attracts an extravaganza of kites of all sizes, shapes and colors, along with thousands of spectators.

You can fin info about the Long Beach International Kite Festival and the Long Beach World Kite Museum on their website.

The Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau has a good website with a lot of information about Long Beach.

Below is a YouTube video that gives you a look at Long Beach and the International Kite Festival...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Grand Coulee Dam: One of the Wonders of the World

Grand Coulee Dam is the biggest dam on the Columbia River. It is the biggest concrete structure in the United States. And America's highest producer of electric power. And the 5th largest hydroelectricity producer in the  world.

There are several hydroelectric dams in the United States that are on the Top 50 list of the World's Top Hydro-Electric Producers. The majority of the American dams, in the Top 50, are on the Columbia River. On the Top 50 list, on the Columbia River, in addition to Grand Coulee Dam, there is Chief Joesph Dam, John Day Dam and the Dulles Dam. Other American, non-Columbian electricity makers on the World's Top 50 Hydro-Electricity Producer list are Niagara Falls, Bath County PSP and Hoover Dam.

It took a long time and a lot of debate to get the Grand Coulee Dam built. Some wanted a dam which would only provide an irrigation canal. Others wanted a high dam, producing electricity and a pumping scheme for additional water storage and irrigation.

The high dam won out after President Roosevelt visited the dam construction site in August of 1934. When FDR visited construction was well underway, but the design was such that it could be changed to a high dam. FDR returned to Washington where he got Congress to approve the high dam in 1935. Grand Coulee Dam was completed in 1942, with the first water running over the spillway on June 1.

World War II changed Grand Coulee Dam's primary irrigation function to increasing electricity production. Huge amounts of power were needed at the Hanford Site of the Manhattan Project to build an atom bomb.

As power demands in the Pacific Northwest increased, additional electricity generating capacity was added to Grand Coulee Dam, with a third powerplant added.

Grand Coulee Dam stopped the migration of salmon to their upstream spawning grounds. The Canadians, and others were not happy about that.

Due to FDR's role in making Grand Coulee Dam happen, the reservoir behind the dam is called Franklin Delano Roosevelt Lake. You can go houseboating on Roosevelt Lake.

As the Columbia rose behind the new dam, over 3,000 people had to be relocated, including Native Americans, who had been living on this land for thousands of years. The Indian fishing grounds were covered by the rising water. Kettle Falls, a prime fishing grounds, disappeared under water. The average number of salmon caught per year went from 600,000 to zero. In June of 1941 Native Americans of the many tribes of the Northwest met at Kettle Falls for a Ceremony of Tears, lamenting the end of fishing and the loss of Kettle Falls, which disappeared a month later.

Years later, in the 1990s, the federal government took responsibility for the impact Grand Coulee Dam had on the native lifestyle, giving the Colville Indians a settlement of $53 million, with annual payments of around $15 million.

Grand Coulee Dam flooded over 21,000 acres. Land as far as 150 miles upstream from the dam had to be taken, sometimes by condemnation, otherwise known as eminent domain. In the flood zone were 11 towns, 2 railroads, 150 miles of country roads, 3 state highways, 14 bridges, 4 sawmills, cemeteries and miles of power, phone and telegraph lines.

Water is pumped from Grand Coulee Dam, up to Banks Lake, which is key to the Columbian Basin Project's ability to irrigate a large area of Eastern Washington. A pleasant side effect of Banks Lake is seeping water creating a series of small lakes in the Grand Coulee, like Sun Lakes.

Grand Coulee Dam is nearly a mile long at 5,223 feet. The dam is 550 feet tall. At the top the dam is 30 feet wide. At the bottom it is 500 feet wide. On average Grand Coulee Dam generates 21 billion KWH per year.

At Grand Coulee Dam you will find a visitor center with many exhibits and a theater. You can
tour the Third Powerhouse and ride a glass elevator to view the generators. Pre 9/11 you could take yourself on quite a tour of the dam. Security concerns have changed that.

In summer, since 1989, a 37 minute long laser light show, with music and narration, is projected on the face of the dam. This is one of the largest laser light shows in America. It runs from Memorial Day through September 30.

Below you can listen to Arlo Guthrie sing a love song to Grand Coulee Dam, one of the Wonders of the World...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Beacon Rock State Park: Hiking to the Top of the World's 2nd Biggest Monolith

You are looking at Beacon Rock on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.

No matter what the measuring criteria, Beacon Rock, at 848 feet, is one of the largest free standing monoliths in the world. According to some, only the Rock of Gibraltar is larger. It depends on what is being defined as a monolith, whether Beacon Rock is the 2nd biggest, or not.

Devils Tower, in Wyoming is bigger than Beacon Rock. However, Devils Tower is an igneous intrusion, where Beacon Rock is simply a big rock.

Lewis and Clark made note of what became known as Beacon Rock, in 1805, but at that time the pair of explorers referred to it as Beaten Rock. Later the rock became known as Castle Rock and then, in 1916, the name was changed back to Beacon Rock.

In 1915 a man named Henry Biddle bought Beacon Rock for $1. He then spent the next 3 years building an elaborate trail of switchbacks, with bridges, plus handrails to keep hikers on the trail in treacherous parts. By 1918 the 3/4's of a mile trail to the top of Beacon Rock was finished, terminating at the top with a 360 degree view in all directions.

The Beacon Rock Trail quickly became a popular tourist destination.

And then the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers came up with a dire plan to destroy Beacon Rock to use the rubble to make a jetty at the mouth of the Columbia River, by Astoria. In preparation for blowing up the rock the Corps dug 3 massive holes into the rock.

I don't know how the Army Corps of Engineers was able to think they could take Henry Biddle's rock in this manner. Did they use eminent domain?

While the Army Corps of Engineers was working towards destroying Beacon Rock, the Biddle Family was trying to get Washington to take it as a state park. Washington was not interested in the offer, until Oregon indicated it was. And thus Beacon Rock State Park was born.

Beacon Rock is in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, accessed via State Route 14, around 35 miles east of Vancouver, Washington. In Beacon Rock State Park you'll find Hardy and Rodney Falls on the trail to the summit of Hamilton Mountain. There is a 1 1/4 mile nature trail and 9 1/2 miles of hiking trails, including the 3/4 mile hike to the top of Beacon Rock.

I have only made it to the top of Beacon Rock once. The trail to the top is the most complex system of bridges and switchbacks I have ever experienced. This trail would likely not be too much fun for anyone a bit acrophobic. But, for those who are non-acrophobic, if you are visiting Washington, and are in the area of Beacon Rock, you will want to take the trek to the top. You will be glad you did.

Below is a YouTube video that gives you a fairly good idea of what the trail to the top of Beacon Rock is like...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mount Baker Ski Season Opens With Snow Falling on the Puget Sound Lowlands

Saturday, November 20, snow flurries have been dropping flakes on the lowlands of Western Washington. Tootsie Tonasket in Tonasket, on the east side of the Cascades, also is seeing snow falling.

With snow falling in the Puget Sound lowlands it seems like today was a good day to open the Mount Baker Ski Season. With 35 inches on the ground at Heather Meadows and 45 inches at the Base at Pan Dome, Mount Baker was ready to go today. Tomorrow all 8 chairlifts will be operating out of both base areas.

Mount Baker is the second most active of the Cascade Mountain volcanoes. With only Mt. St. Helens doing more rumbling than Mount Baker.

Only Mount Rainier has more glaciers than Mount Baker. If you don't count Mount Rainier in the equation the volume of ice and snow on Mount Baker is greater than all the other Cascade volcanoes combined.

Mount Baker is 10,778 feet tall, making it the 3rd highest mountain in Washington and the 6th highest in the Cascade Mountain Range.

Mount Baker is often the snowiest location in the world. In 1999, the Mount Baker Ski Area, which is actually about 8.4 miles to the northeast of Mount Baker, set the world record for snowfall in a single season, stacking up 95 feet of the white stuff.

The mountain road to the Mount Baker Ski Area is not for those who have any fear of heights. Or are unnerved when the road gets a bit slippery. I remember one winter sliding off the road on the way back down the mountain. A group of Canadians kindly lifted my antique 65 Mustang back on to the road.

In the below YouTube video you will get a little look at the drive up to the Mount Baker Ski Area, during heavy snowfall. And you'll get a real good look at the ski area and skiing. At one point you'll see that the snow level is way up in the fir trees, enabling a guy to ski through the branches....

Friday, November 19, 2010

La Conner Washington: One of Washington's Most Popular Tourist Towns

I can remember way back in the last century when La Conner, in the Skagit Valley, was a rundown, impoverished fishing village, with a rickety wooden bridge that crossed the Swinomish Channel to the Swinomish Indian Reservation on the west side of the channel.

I don't know what it was that sparked La Conner turning into a booming tourist town.  I know the change occurred some time after Leavenworth resuscitated itself from a dying logging town to one of the most successful tourist theme towns in America.

Maybe the changes to La Conner started when the old rickety bridge across the Swinomish Channel was replaced by what is now the iconic La Conner Rainbow Bridge.

La Conner is named after Louisa Ann Conner. You can figure out where the La comes from. LA's husband, J.S. Conner, bought the new settlement's trading post. At the time the town was called Swinomish, after the local Indian Tribe. The Conners moved to what became La Conner back in the 1870s.

The 2010 version of La Conner has a population of 761, at last count. This population soars, daily, due to all the tourists, and swells hugely during the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.

La Conner is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Swinomish Tribe has also prospered, along with La Conner. You can visit the reservation by crossing the Rainbow Bridge. The Swinomish are a very friendly tribe.

At the north end of the Swinomish Channel, where the channel empties in to Padilla Bay, you will find the Swinomish Casino. At the Casino the Swinomish also operate the Northern Lights RV Park. In the casino you will find the best seafood buffet I've ever had the pleasure of enjoying.

La Conner has a reputation as an artist's colony. In the YouTube video below you will get a look at La Conner, hear from some of the locals, and hear mention made of some of the resident artists. But, no mention is made of author, Tom Robbins, he of multiple book fame. One of Robbins' more popular books, Another Roadside Attraction, sets some of the tale in the La Conner environs.

The Swinomish Channel sees a lot of boating action. There are multiple places to dock your boat along the town waterfront, giving you easy access to the La Conner galleries, shops, restaurants, coffee shops and brew pubs.

You can also arrive in La Conner via seaplane, landing gently on the Swinomish Channel. That is the Rainbow Bridge you see in the distance through the spinning propellers, as the plane lands.

Watch the YouTube video below to get a bird's eye view of the Swinomish Channel, the Skagit Flats, the Cascade Mountain foothills and La Conner...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Taking The Ferry From Seattle to the 2nd Best Place to Live in America: Bainbridge Island

Above we have just left the Coleman Ferry Dock on the downtown Seattle Waterfront, heading across Elliot Bay to Bainbridge Island.

Bainbridge Island is about 10 miles long and 5 miles wide, covering around 17,778 acres, making it one Puget  Sound's larger islands.

The city of Bainbridge Island took over the entire island on February 28, 1991, gobbling up the city of Winslow. Somewhere around 23,380 people live on Bainbridge Island ,with many of the residents commuting to Seattle to work, on a 35 minute ferry ride.

Bainbridge Island is connected to the Kitsap Peninsula by a bridge carrying State Route 305 over Agate Passage. The only other public transportation way off the island is via a Washington State Ferry taking you from Winslow in Eagle Harbor to Coleman Dock in Seattle.

Bainbridge island is very hilly. Every February, since 1975, the Pacific Northwest biking season kicks off on the island with the "Chilly Hilly" bicycle ride.

In 2005 CNN and Money magazine picked Bainbridge Island as the 2nd Best Place to Live in America.

Below is a YouTube video showing you some of the ferry ride to Bainbridge Island. You'll see the ferry leave Coleman Dock, with a very good look at the Seattle Waterfront and skyline, including the Space Needle, a Crusie Ship, the Seahawk Stadium and the Mariner's Safeco Field Ballpark. In the video I don't think we make it out of Elliot Bay, let alone all the way to Bainbridge Island. Towards the end of the video you will see a seagull flirting for food with ferry passengers....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Driving Over the Cascade Mountains via Snoqualmie Pass

You are looking at Interstate 90, in Washington, as it winds its way around Lake Keechelus on the east side of Snoqulamie Pass.

I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass is the most traveled of the three, open year round (except for avalanches), major east/west routes over the Cascade Mountains in Washington. The summit of Snoqualmie Pass is the lowest elevation of the 3 passes, at 3,022 feet.

The other mountain passes in Washington that the highway department endeavors to keep open through the winter are US 2 over Stevens Pass, and US 12 over White Pass.

There was one winter back in the last century when the snowfall was so light in the Cascades that the North Cross State Highway, through North Cascades National Park, did not close.

I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass is the main commercial route from Seattle to the east, carrying almost 30,000 vehicles a day.

At the Summit of Snoqualmie Pass there are four ski areas operating, all managed by Boyne USA Resorts.

I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass has been continually improved over the years. And made safer. In the 1970s an engineering marvel placed west bound lanes on an elevated highway, away from avalanche danger.

Currently there is an unfunded plan to upgrade I-90 east of the summit. Below is a YouTube visualization of that upgrade. If you have never driven over Snoqualmie Pass this gives you some idea of what the scenery and highway looks like on the east side of the pass...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Washington State Ferry Ride from Anacortes to the San Juan Islands & Sydney British Columbia

You might be able to guess, due to the Mounties, that the above photo was taken somewhere in Canada. Your guess would be correct. The Canadian Mounties have dismounted from their horses and are overlooking a crowd enjoying festivities celebrating the annual first run of the Anacortes/San Juan/Sidney Ferry.

Sidney is on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, which is a province of Canada.

Anacortes is a port city in Skagit County in the state of Washington.

The Washington State Ferry System operates several ferries out of Anacortes, making runs to the San Juan Islands and to Sydney, B.C.

The San Juan Islands are part of an international archipelago of over 450 islands in the Salish Sea.  The Canadian part of the archipelago is called the Gulf Islands. Fifteen of the islands are connected to the mainland (and Vancouver Island) by passenger ferries. The British Columbia Ferry System connects to 9 of the Gulf Islands, while the Washington State Ferry System connects to 6 of the San Juan Islands.

You can park and ride from Anacortes, walking on board.

Trust me, if you have never ridden a ferry and you are taking a vacation to Washington, you will want ride on a Washington ferry.

The Washington State Ferry Fleet is the largest in the United States and the 3rd largest in the world.

In Anacortes you can buy an outbound ticket to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island and hop off for a visit at any of the island stops, like Orcas Island, and then catch the next outbound ferry.

Catching the last ferry of the day, in Friday Harbor, after dark, makes for a very fun ride back to Anacortes.

Below is a YouTube video of the first sailing of the year from Anacortes to Sydney...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Year Round Festivals & Fun in Leavenworth Washington

That is Leavenworth, Washington, in winter, above, with a large crowd of people under the starry night sky.

Leavenworth is Washington's #1 Tourist Theme Town. With the theme being a Bavarian Village.

With the east side of the Cascade Mountains as a backdrop, it is easy to imagine you are in the mountains of Bavaria when you are in Leavenworth.

Leavenworth has festivals all year long, with the Leavenworth Oktoberfest believed to be the biggest outside of Munich, Germany.

Watch the video below to get a real good idea of the fun to be had in Leavenworth, Washington...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Planning a Vacation in the Washington State Theme Park

Below is a video from the people who promote tourism for the State of Washington. The state also has a very good website that shows you the HUGE variety of what you can do in the theme park known as the State of Washington.

In the Washington Vacation Planner video below you will see Skagit Valley Tulips, the Cascade Mountains, Mt. St. Helens, Mount Rainier, the Pacific Ocean, Seattle, Skiing, Kayaking, River Rafting, Hiking, Horse Riding, Mountain Biking, Pacific Northwest Native Culture and Leavenworth.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Betty Jo Bouvier & the Skagit Valley Food Co-op in Mount Vernon Washington

A few weeks ago I verbalized the sad lament that in my current location in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, with around 6 million people, there is nothing quite like the Skagit Valley Food Co-op.

The Skagit Valley Food Co-op is located in Mount Vernon, in the Skagit Valley of Washington.

There are Whole Foods Markets here in the D/FW zone. And Central Markets. And a lame "health food" store or two.

But nothing like the Skagit Valley Food Co-op.

I don't remember, exactly, when the Skagit Valley Food Co-op first opened. I know it was in the early 1970s. I do remember the location, near the County Courthouse. At that point in time the Co-op was a totally hippie affected, counter culture, very granola, Mother Jones, Mother Earth type of place.

The original Skagit Valley Food Co-op was the first place I ever saw a baby being breast fed.

Over the years the Co-op became more and more mainstream. At some point in time the Co-op moved to a new, big location in the old J.C. Penney's building. Modern cash registers showed up. You could use your debit card.

In the new location a restaurant was added to the Co-op. I remember Friday's Spaghetti Night as a real good thing. I wonder if they still have Spaghetti Night.

It is at least 11 years since I set foot in the Skagit Valley Food Co-op.

After I lamented the lack of such a store here in my zone of Texas, Betty Jo Bouvier, she being one of the Wild Women of Woolley (that's Sedro Woolley to you unfamiliar with the Skagit Valley), mailed me the Skagit Valley Food Co-op's November advertisement.

So, the Skagit Valley Food Co-op has gone even more mainstream since I moved. I don't recollect seeing Co-op ads when I lived in the Valley.

The Skagit Valley Food Co-op also now has a very well-done website. That also did not exist when I lived in the Valley.

The Co-op also has a blog. Blogs had not yet been invented when I still lived in Washington.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Wingsuit Bat Flying Over Seattle and the Space Needle

Just this morning I found myself saying I was thinking it was time to move from Dallas, back to Seattle. Here in Texas I can not go Wingsuit Flying by a Space Needle. It has been so long, I really can not remember the last time I jumped out of a plane to fly my Wingsuit by the Seattle Space Needle.

I miss that type of adventure. And I miss Seattle. Seattle is scenic in a way that the towns I see in Texas are sadly lacking. Seattle is like being in one big theme park. Where the rides include flying a Wingsuit over the city.

Just minutes ago I blogged on one of my other blogs, DurangObese, about America's Fattest and Fittest Cities. Four cities in Texas are in the Top 25 Fattest. Only one is on the Top 25 Fittest list, that being Austin.

Seattle is the 8th Fittest.

Watch the YouTube video below and you will see why I greatly miss Wingsuit Flying over Seattle...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tiptoeing Through The Skagit Valley Tulips

You are looking at a field of tulips in the Skagit Valley in Washington. Up til about 11 years ago I lived in the Skagit Valley. The Skagit Valley, even without all the flowers, is one of the most scenic areas in America, which makes it one of the most scenic areas of the world.

The Skagit Valley is also one of the most productive agricultural areas of the world, growing all sorts of produce besides flowers. And blackberries grow wild, free for the picking.

For many many years now the Skagit Valley has been flooded annually with around a million visitors, coming to the valley to experience the month long Skagit Tulip Festival, April 1 through April 30.

Traffic can get a bit heavy in the valley during the Skagit Tulip Festival. That problem used to be much worse, but solutions were devised that keeps the traffic moving.

I remember a few years when it was so bad I wished the Skagit Tulip Festival would go away. I remember having to go from Mount Vernon to La Conner, while the festival was underway, several days in a row. It made what should have been about a 15 minute drive into well over an hour.

I recollect going to an Easter sunrise service at Roozengaarde, with my mom and dad. I don't know how I got talked into that. I do remember it was foggy. Roozengaarde is such a big deal in tulip world that their website domain is simply

Below is a YouTube video that gives you an idea of what a Skagit Valley tulip field looks like...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fort Casey State Park & the Keystone Ferry to Port Townsend

You are looking west, across Admiralty Inlet at the Olympic Mountains, from Fort Casey State Park.

Way back in the 1890s Admiralty Inlet was determined to be a vulnerable point on Puget Sound, strategically speaking. To protect Puget Sound from an invasion from the sea, three forts were built to create a "Triangle of Fire" with really big guns that would put a stop to any fleet up to no good.

The three forts were Fort Casey, on the Whidbey Island side of Admiralty Inlet, Fort Worden on the Port Townsend/Olympic Peninsula side of Admiralty Inlet and Fort Flagler on Marrowstone Island.

By the time the three forts were built they were already obsolete due to airplanes becoming part of the military arsenal.

There are also abandoned gun emplacements and pillboxes at Fort Ebey State Park. Fort Ebey was a World War II coastal defense fort.

If I remember right the last time I was at Fort Casey was when my nephew Joey and I rode our bikes on to the Keystone/Port Townsend Ferry. I remember it was a real rough rock and roll passing on the way back to Whidbey Island. When the tides get a bit on the extreme side it can create rough seas in Admiralty Inlet. So much so, that sometimes the ferry can not sail. I have crossed twice in rough seas. It's an incredible experience. Better than any carnival ride I've ever been on.

The Keystone/Port Townsend Ferry is my favorite of the Washington Ferry routes.

You can explore all over Fort Casey and Fort Worden. Fort Casey is the bigger of the two. There is a maze of underground passages, above ground catwalks, ladders, stairways, underground rooms, gun emplacements, ammunition depots and a lighthouse to explore.

A flash light is a necessary accessory when exploring Fort Casey.

Below is a really good YouTube video, waiting to get on the Keystone Ferry to cross to Port Townsend.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Watching the Seattle Skyline Grow

This video was made to show off Seattle's newest skyscraper, I think it is called the 5th Columbia Tower. Or maybe it is Seattle 5th Columbia Building.

What I do know, for sure, is this is a very cool video. It starts with a view of downtown Seattle from out in Elliott Bay. Beginning in the 1950s, you watch as the Seattle skyline grows, with the Space Needle popping up in 1961, or was it 1962?

In 1969 the box the Space Needle came in shows up, soon followed the Kingdome. Soon after the turn of the century you see the Kingdome disappear, replaced by the new Seahawk Stadium.

After seeing the Seattle skyline grow all the way to the present, the video takes you to the future, to 2011, to a close up look at the new skyscraper. Very nice-looking addition to the Seattle Skyline.

Click the "Full Screen" option on the lower right of the YouTube window. If you don't, the Space Needle is going to look very small.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Maxine Hikes Over Cascade Pass To Courtney Ranch in the Stehekin Valley

A few weeks ago Maxine did something I've long wanted to do. Hike Cascade Pass from the west side to meet the Courtney Ranch bus on the east side and stay at the Courtney Ranch in the Stehekin Valley.

That is Maxine crossing Cascade Pass, heading east, in the picture.

I have stayed in Stehekin, at the National Park Lodge, getting there via the Lady of the Lake from Chelan.

I webaged my 4 day Stehekin experience with bears, bikes, bakeries, bus rides to Courtney Ranch for dinner, hikes and more.

Maxine did not hike back over Cascade Pass to head home to the Skagit Valley. She took the Lady of the Lake out of Stehekin.

Below is Maxine's brief account of her Stehekin Adventure....

We had a good trip to Stehekin. It was supposed to rain on Friday (the 1st day of the trip) but we had partial clearing so it was beautiful. Heard the glaciers calving just like the hiking book said.

It poured at night but we were in a tent so it was ok. By then we had crossed any creeks that would have been difficult if they had been higher. We talked to 2 fellows who came over after us who had a hard time crossing Doubtful Creek because it was so swollen.

Because of the road washout we were picked up at Bridge Creek by the Courtney Ranch folks as a courtesy, but this is part of the park service run, too.

Part of our group hiked out the Bridge Creek trail to Rainy Pass, they left at 8 a.m. and reached Rainy Pass about 4 pm. The rest of us took the boat to Chelan, we left Stehekin at 2 pm and arrived in Chelan at 6. It was a 3 ½ ride from there. The boat ride down the lake was beautiful but next year I want to hike out.

I loved Stehekin, fantasized about living there but I’m sure I’d miss amenities. We took a day hike to Agnes Gorge and bicycled down the Harlequin Campground Road to the end and back – had to exercise to eat all that good food at the ranch. I loved talking to the PCT hikers and the other people at the ranch. There was a large Sierra Club group staying as well as some angry lesbians.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Coldest La Niña In Over 50 Years Has Pacific Northwest Preparing For A Severe Winter

You are looking out my bedroom window from my house in Mount Vernon, Washington, at the deepest snow I remember seeing in the flatlands of the Skagit Valley, in all my years of living in Washington.

I was stuck on my hill for almost a week. At night it turned into a Winter Wonderland with people sledding down the hill under the street lights.

To get groceries I cross-country skied to the nearest grocery store, at the time, Thrifty Foods, a couple miles away.

I learned this morning that the conditions are in place to send record breaking storms to the Pacific Northwest this winter. A La Niña has formed near the equator with the coldest temperatures in more than 50 years.

Last winter the Northwest had a very mild winter. This winter is forecast to be the opposite. Western Washington counties are amping up their emergency preparedness with a "Take Winter by Storm" campaign which starts up today.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Seattle is the 3rd Coolest City in America According to Forbes' Harris Poll

A few days ago Seattle woke up to find Men's Health ranking the town lower than other parts of the country, like Boise, Indianapolis, Columbus, Cincinnati and Salt Lake City, in terms of the degree to which citizens of Seattle partake in adult pro-creative activities, using such scientific criteria as condom sales and birth rates to determine their rankings.

Meanwhile, Forbes Magazine hired the Harris market research company to conduct a poll of Americans across the country to find out which of the nation's 40 largest metro areas the people consider "The Coolest."

New York City came in #1, followed by Las Vegas, with Seattle #3.

The entire list of Top Ten Cool Towns....
  • New York City
  • Las Vegas
  • Seattle
  • Chicago
  • San Francisco
  • Orlando
  • San Diego
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Washington, D.C.

  • Seattle is a cool town, one of my favorites. But, cooler than Los Angeles? Hollywood is in Los Angeles. Hollywood is pretty cool. It is easier to escape Seattle to something cool, like mountains, than it is in LA. Both have saltwater, but LA's saltwater has big warm surfable waves. Seattle is way more easy to get around in than Los Angeles, its downtown more concentrated, with the sports stadiums downtown. Both town's traffic is terrible, with LA's being a bit worse.

    I remember way back when San Francisco was a cooler town than Seattle. I guess those days are behind us.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    In Washington Drinking Smoked Salmon Flavored Vodka

    I've never understood the point of flavored distilled adult beverages, like citrus flavored vodka, or peach flavored rum. Why not just mix in some citrus drink, like orange juice, into your vodka? Or peach juice into your rum?

    There is a new flavored vodka that I really don't know how one would make your vodka this particular flavor, other than buying the flavored vodka.

    I am talking about Alaska Distillery's Smoked Salmon Flavored Vodka.

    Apparently once you have a Bloody Mary made with Smoked Salmon Flavored Vodka, you'll never want to return to boring, flavorless vodka.

    It took several tries before Alaska Distillery successfully infused vodka with the essence of smoked salmon. Apparently early efforts were too oily.

    Currently the only states in which you can buy Alaska Distillery's Smoked Salmon Flavored Vodka are where it is brewed, that being the state of Alaska. And Alaska's good friend and almost next door neighbor, that being the state of Washington.

    I am currently in the state of Texas. Can it be long before some enterprising Texan comes up with Texas BBQ Flavored Vodka?

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    Sedro Woolley Founders' Day

    I have been informed by the Wild Woman of Woolley, Betty Jo Bouvier, that this coming Saturday and Sunday is Founders' Day in Sedro-Woolley, Washington. That is September 11 and 12.

    The Founders' Day poster you see on the right is from 2008, so the dates are wrong, but the events are pretty much the same, including the re-enactment of the Infamous Sedro-Woolley Great Bank Robbery of 1914.

    In 2007 the re-enactment of the Infamous Sedro-Woolley Great Bank Robbery of 1914 had to be halted when it was discovered there were real bullets in the guns instead of blanks.

    In 1914 the town marshal in Sedro=Woolley was Charles Villeneuve. In 2010 the great-great grandson of Charles Villeneuve, Chris Heck, will play the part of the marshal.

    The Sedro-Woolley Founders' Day events are put together by the Sedro-Woolley Museum.

    Founders’ Day Schedule of Events

    Saturday, September 11th 2010

    Founders’ Day Breakfast
    8:00 am to 11:00 aaam – Senior Center, 715 Pacific St
    Menu: Scrambled Eggs, biscuits & gravy, juice and coffee
    (Proceeds benefit Sedro-Woolley Senior Center)
    $5.00 per person

    Museum Video’s – Video of the 1914 Bank Robbery
    725 Murdock St
    10:00 am to 11:00 am

    Bank Robbery Reenactment
    12 Noon, in front of the Sedro-Woolley Museum at Woodworth & Murdock

    Museum Open House
    1:00 pm to 4:00 pm
    Honoring the Villeneuve Family

    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    Open Car Show
    9:00 am to 4:00 pm
    Riverfront Park
    2212 River Rd
    $10 registration fee – dash plaques for the first 350 cars.
    Sponsored by JJ’s Cruisers

    Community Picnic
    11:00 am to 3:00 pm
    Riverfront Park
    Featuring: Hot Dog, Chips, Cookies & Pop
    $3.00 Donation

    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    The Gorge Amphitheatre in George Washington

    You are looking at The Gorge by George, Washington.

    George is a town. The Gorge is an Amphitheatre that can seat 25,000, give or take one or two, concert goers in a scenic outdoor venue overlooking the Columbia River Gorge.

    The Gorge is considered to be one of the best, and most scenic ,concert venues in the World.

    Most of the World's top acts have played at The Gorge, including Red Hot Chili Peppers, Aerosmith, Shania Twain, Ozzy Osbourne, John Mayer (John Mayer is back at The Gorge this weekend, Saturday, August 28), Van Halen, Rush, The Police, The Eagles, Pearl Jam, The Dave Matthews Band (Dave Matthews will be back in The Gorge Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day Weekend), David Bowie, KISS, Coldplay, Blink 182, Britney Spears and many many more.

    Pearl Jam released a boxed set of their entire performances at The Gorge from 2005 to 2006, titled Live at the Gorge 05/06.

    The Dave Matthews Band released a recording recorded at The Gorge, called The Gorge.

    Brooks & Dunn's Only in America video was filmed at The Gorge.

    Keith Urban will also be at The Gorge, with The Dave Matthews Band, this coming Saturday, August 28. Brad Paisley shows up at The Gorge September 11, the 9th Anniversary of 9/11.

    The Gorge is also home to an annual Memorial Day Weekend event called the Sasquatch! Music Festival presented by the House of Blues, with a focus on indie rock bands, with some alternative rock, hip hop and comedy acts thrown in. Headliners from past Sasquatch! Music Festivals include Jane's Addiction, Nine Inch Nails, R.E.M., Coldplay, the Beastie Boys, Beck, Ben Harper, Bjork, among others.,

    Among the scenic attributes for which The Gorge is popular, concert goers also like the terraced lawn seating and the reliably good weather.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    Seattle One of the 10 Best Cities for the Next Decade

    Kiplinger Magazine conducted a search for the top cities in America poised to boom in the next decade, evaluating cities for growth and growth potential.

    Kiplinger found that some U.S. cities may have been slowed by the Great Recession, but, though slowed, they still have managed to thrive by "lifting good old American innovation to new levels."

    Seattle was #2 on Kiplinger's list of the Top Ten Towns ready to boom in the next decade.

    The #1 city lifting good old American innovation to new levels is Austin, Texas. Apparently Austin has a high fun factor, despite not having some of the fun things Seattle has, like a Space Needle, Monorail, Pike Place Market, Ferries, Cruise Ships.

    Austin has no team in the NFL or the major baseball leagues.

    Seattle is surrounded by water and mountains. Austin does have a lake. And hills.

    In the article titled "10 Best Cities for the Next Decade" this is part of what Kiplinger had to say about Seattle...

    "Rain City? We'd say Brain City. Home to a well-educated workforce, a world-class research university, über innovators Microsoft, Amazon and Boeing, and a host of risk-taking, garage-tinkering entrepreneurs, Seattle crackles with creative energy. "We only have two products here: smart people and great ideas," says Mark Emmert, president of the University of Washington.

    Seattle is revising its tax, zoning and permit policies to make them more business-friendly, says Johnson. Meanwhile, this sophisticated Pacific Rim city has other qualities to recommend it, including great food, a glorious setting, an outdoorsy culture, enough rain to keep the locals' complexions looking dewy -- and, yeah, plenty of smart people."

    Rounding out the Top 10, after Austin and Seattle are...

    3. Washington, D.C.
    4. Boulder, Colorado
    5. Salt Lake City, Utah
    6. Rochester, Minnesota
    7. Des Moines, Iowa
    8. Burlington, Vermont
    9. West Hartford, Connecticut
    10. Topeka, Kansas

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010

    Northwest Exposure Not In The Northwest

    You may be thinking this sign painted on the side of a building is maybe in Roslyn, Washington, with Roslyn playing Cicely, Alaska on the CBS hit TV show called Northern Exposure.

    Well, you would be wrong if you thought this sign is in Rosyln.

    You will not find this sign in Washington, or any of the other Northwest states, not in Idaho, not in Oregon.

    You will find this sign in Oklahoma. I was driving backroads in Oklahoma, making my way from Turner Falls Park to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

    I stopped at a convenience store in a town about 20 miles east of Turner Falls, about 40 miles north of the most northern part of Lake Texoma. The name of the town is Sulphur. When I exited my car I was surprised to see the Seattle Space Needle on the building next to the convenience store.

    The sign says "Northwest Exposure, An Oasis, Home of Lee's Drum On Arts & Crafts." With one more word I can not make out.

    I thought the two items in the lower right might be muffins, maybe they are drums. In addition to the Space Needle other Northwest iconic type images, on the sign, are a mountain that could be Rainier. A coffee cup. In the coffee cups sailboats sail. With a bald eagle in flight. There are a lot of bald eagles in Washington, but they are not an image one associates with Washington.

    Upon first glance I assumed this was a defunct coffee espresso stand of the sort that overpopulates Washington. I assumed this due to the big coffee cup in the middle of the sign. But the coffee cup is not filled with coffee, it's filled with blue water. And sail boats.

    The mystery of the Northwest Exposure in Sulphur, Oklahoma, will likely never be solved.

    Friday, August 20, 2010

    Cascade Days This Weekend in Concrete in the Skagit Valley

    This weekend, Saturday, August 21 and Sunday, August 22, the annual Cascade Days takes place in the heart of the Cascade Mountains in the Skagit Valley town known as Concrete.

    Hundreds of ducks waddling in the rubber duck races is one of the more popular parts of Cascade Days.

    There is also a pie eating and watermelon eating contest.

    Along with a pet talent show, firemen's muster, logging show and classic cars.

    Cascade Days Schedule

    SATURDAY, August 21

    9 to 11 a.m. — Parade line-up; west end of Main Street

    11 a.m. — Parade; Main Street

    1 p.m. — Parade awards; corner of Main and Baker streets

    12:30 to 4 p.m. — Classic car show; Main Street

    1 to 2:30 p.m. — Firemen’s muster; Town Park

    1 to 4 p.m. — Kids’ activities/games, fish tank, entertainment; Town Park

    2:30 to 4:30 p.m. — Log show; Town Park

    5 p.m. — Duck race; Main Street

    7 to 11 p.m. — Cascade Ramblers; American Legion

    SUNDAY, August 22

    (All events take place in Town Park)

    9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Information booths

    10 a.m. to 1 p.m. — Entertainment

    11 a.m. to noon — Pet Pride and Talent Show

    12:30 to 1 p.m. — Pie-eating contest

    2 to 3 p.m. — Watermelon-eating contest

    3 to 3:30 p.m. — Jams and Jellies judging

    3:30 p.m. — Button Drawing

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    Hiking the Sauk Mountain Trail to the Top of Sauk Mountain

    My favorite former sister-in-law has taken up the sport of hiking. Yesterday she emailed me pictures from the top of Sauk Mountain.

    In the picture you see here, I think we are looking south, with the Glacier Peak volcano being part of the Sea of Cascade Mountain Peaks.

    On a clear day, from the top of Sauk Mountain, you can see Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan to the north. Looking south you can see the afore-mentioned Glacier Peak and Pugh, Whitehorse and White Chuck Mountains.

    On a super clear day you can see Mount Rainer, to the south and the San Juan Islands, to the west.

    The last time I hiked to the top of Sauk Mountain it was not clear day. It was snowing. The trail was icy. I was hiking with my favorite former sister-in-law's youngest, Joey, who was 13 at the time.

    The Sauk Mountain Trail is known for its switchbacks. There are about 30 of them, gradually making an elevation gain of 1,200 feet to take you to the 5,537 foot high summit of Sauk Mountain. From the top you'll find other trails, like one that takes you down to Sauk Lake, or to the site of the long gone fire lookout.

    The trailhead to the top of Sauk Mountain is one of the easiest to reach in the North Cascades.

    To get to the trailhead drive Highway 20, also known as the North Cross State Highway, about 10 miles east of Concrete. Shortly before you get to Rockport State Park take a left and head north on Sauk Mountain Road, also known as Forest Road 1030.

    Sauk Mountain Road is a fairly steep road. Drive carefully heading up and down. After about 7 miles you will come to a junction with Forest Road 1036. Turn right on spur 1036 and in a short distance you will be at the Sauk Mountain parking lot.

    Due to its easy accessibility and great views, the Sauk Mountain Trail is very popular from the time it is snow-free, usually by late June, til the snow arrives again in late fall.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    Seattle's Cruise Ship's Economic Windfall Environmental Downfall

    When I moved from the Seattle zone, in 1998, I don't believe any cruise ships called Seattle home.

    That is no longer the case. I remember returning to Seattle a few years ago and seeing one of the cruise ships on Elliott Bay for the first time. The ferry boats are big. The cruise ships dwarf the ferry boats.

    The biggest cruise ship to dock in Seattle is owned by Carnival Cruise Lines. The ship is called Carnival Spirit. It is 13 decks tall, has 16 lounges and bars, 3 restaurants and 4 swimming pools, one with a water slide, for the 2,124 passengers on board.

    Seattle's Alaska bound cruise ships bring around 900,000 tourists to Seattle annually.

    I spent a day in Seattle, Thursday, August 7, 2008. Seattle has always had a lot of tourists on any summer day, but now, 10 years after I moved away, it had noticeably hugely increased. I assume a part of that increase is the docked cruise ships.

    Obviously having the cruise ships in town has generated a lot of money.

    But, apparently there is a downside, an environmental downside. The EPA estimates that on a single day a typical cruise ship generates 21,000 gallons of sewage, 1 ton of garbage, 170,000 of wastewater and up to 6,400 gallons of oily bilge water.

    Cruise ships dump incinerator ash and sewage sludge into the ocean. It is legal to dump untreated sewage if you are more than 3 miles from shore.

    Canada, with its penchant for dumping untreated sewage into pristine water, like Victoria's sewage dumping into the Straits of Juan de Fuca, is much more lax about what it allows to be dumped in its water.

    Most cruise ships burn a very cheap grade of fuel, called Bunker-C. This is a tar-like substance that burns dirty.

    WashPIRG estimates in one day a cruise ship with 3,000 passengers and crew spews out the air pollution equivalent of more than 12,000 cars.

    The overseeing agencies are getting pickier and the cruise ship industry is trying to clean up its act and is making some changes.

    I have never floated on a cruise ship. The idea has no appeal to me.

    Friday, August 13, 2010

    21st Annual Stillaguamish Festival of the River & Pow Wow

    This weekend, Saturday, August 14 and Sunday, August 15, the 21st Annual Stillaguamish Festival of the River & Pow Wow takes place in Snohomish County's River Meadows Park in Arlington, located at 20416 Jordan Road.

    The Live Music & Pow Wow are free, parking is $5.

    On Saturday you can enjoy The Neville Brothers, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Charlie Musslewhite and others.

    On Sunday it's Jake Owen, Emerson Drive, The Band Perry and more.

    The Stillaquamish put on a traditional Salmon Bake, you can run in the Stilly 5K Fun Run, there's a Logging Show. And the Stillaguamish Pow Wow.

    The Stillaguamish Festival of the River celebrates the Pacific Northwest's environment and diverse cultural communities. At the festival you will learn about water quality and salmon habitat.

    There is a giant storytelling turtle tent, interpretive salmon habitat tours, arts & crafts, the aforementioned Stillaguamish salmon barbecue and a lot of live music.

    Along with the music, food and pow wowing, you can watch wild bird shows with eagles, owls and hawks. There are crafts and games for kids, sawing competitions and a lot of Pacific Northwest Native American culture.