Saturday, November 27, 2010
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.
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, 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 ForbesTraveler.com 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 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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 tulips.com.
Below is a YouTube video that gives you an idea of what a Skagit Valley tulip field looks like...
Monday, November 1, 2010
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.