Friday, September 25, 2009

SUP With You

A few weeks ago, my summer 2009 goal of Stand Up Paddle boarding became a reality when Tanya and I hit Shilshole Bay with a couple of rented SUP boards from Cheka Looka Surf Shop. The rental was $25 for 2 hours.

There were many things that intimidated me about my first SUP trip. First of all, large bodies of water scare me, especially those that contain orcas and other man eating wildlife. Secondly, the waters of the Puget Sound are freezing, and I don't like being wet or cold and definitely not both at the same time. And, finally, there is a scene in one of the Gidget movies, where Gidget gets tangled in seaweed while surfing with the boys and almost drowns, that has always haunted me. But, having made mental peace with the assumption that I'd be spending the whole of those 2 hours in the water (plus, having confirmed with the surf shop dude that he hadn't lost any customers to orcas), I was up for this challenge.

Of course, the surf shop dude created a new fear when he said there was a sea lion nosing people's boards. As a fan of Arrested Development, the idea of a loose seal in the water had me scared of losing a hand. But, a few Buster references later and I was back in the game.

Upon hitting the water, armed with my mental preparedness for being an utter failure, I didn't spend much time on my knees, in the beginners pose. Instead, I jumped right up on my board and began to paddle around like a pro. Surprisingly, I spent the whole 2 hours mostly upright and didn't fall into the water once.

We saw the sea lion almost immediately upon entering the water but it didn't nose either of our boards. It did, however, get uncomfortably close and it wasn't responding to either the cougar defense (big and loud) or the bear defense (play dead). But, it did get bored with us and move on rather quickly, though we kept an eye out for it the whole time.

Undoubtedly, my first SUP experience was one of the best times on the water I've ever had. Tanya & I couldn't stop laughing. Plus, given much more practice, I feel like this is definitely a sport I could master.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Noodle Ranch

The Noodle Ranch is located on 2nd & Bell in Belltown. It is one of a string of cheap eateries that fill this block, next to Lava Lounge, Mama's Mexican Kitchen, and Shorty's. Mike & I were never regulars here when we lived in Belltown but we always wanted to be.

Recently I was reminded of the awesomeness that is the Noodle Ranch happy hour. They're "happy hour size" offerings are generous and their drinks are cheap. Plus, with their location near other cheap eateries, when happy hour ends at the Noodle Ranch one can simply stumble into the neighboring establishment to continue the revelry for basically happy hour prices.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mt. Rainier

This past Saturday, we headed to Mt. Rainier, another national park in our backyard that we have woefully neglected for all these ten years. We've visited Mt. Rainier only twice since moving to Seattle: the first time was accidental and occurred during our first year in the area whilst attempting to explore our new surroundings; the second time was a few years ago when we enjoyed a free, ranger led snowshoeing excursion at Sunrise.

This time we had planned on exploring the Paradise area, but when we got there it was so crowded that we decided to keep driving. After a lovely drive across the southern section of the park, we wound up stopping in the Ohanapecosh area, in the southeast corner, for some hiking. Our first hike was to Silver Falls, along the Ohanapecosh River.

Honestly, the river and our surroundings were much more impressive than the waterfall. The hike was of easy to moderate difficulty (paved trails, 300 ft elevation gain) and just gorgeous. As a matter of fact, we were enjoying ourselves so much on this 3 mile loop trail that we decided to extend it another 2 miles by taking a detour to the Grove of the Patriarchs, an island of towering, thousand-year-old Douglas firs and western red cedar trees.

Though these trees were enormous, we kept comparing them to the size of the giant sequoias we saw at Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park a few years ago. Although Douglas firs and western red cedars are not giant sequoias, we are not arborists and those sequoias were freaking HUGE! and have made an indelible impression on us. We imagine all large trees we find in the future will always be compared to those amazing giant sequoias at Mariposa Grove. Though unimpressed with the Grove of the Patriarchs, the Ohanapecosh River that surrounded the island was beautiful. While the "one person at a time" suspension bridge was occupied with families taking advantage of some late summer hiking, we skipped rocks and waited patiently for our turn across, absorbing our surroundings and one of the last outdoor summer activities before another long, dreary Seattle winter.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Discovery Park

Yesterday, in another attempt to add more activity into her life, Desi commuted via bicycle to work (5.1 miles) and to Discovery Park (5.0 miles), where she and a friend hiked for 2 hours.

Discovery Park, located along Elliott Bay near downtown Seattle, is an oasis for city dwellers, encapsulating the varying ecosystems available throughout the Pacific Northwest within one small area. The plan is to continue hiking after work, at least once a week, until it starts getting dark at 3PM, as it does here in Seattle during the winter months. Once those months roll around, though, she'll have to develop a new plan for combating lethargy.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Olympic Peninsula

We started our Labor Day weekend with intentions toward activity. The past two weekends we've been sedentary and we needed to do something dramatic to break the cycle. Desi planned a day of hiking on the Olympic Peninsula, specifically in the Hoh Rain Forest, and a day at Mt. Rainier, specifically at Paradise. The idea was to hike on Saturday, rest on Sunday, and hike on Monday.

We started out leisurely on Saturday morning, hitting the 11:25AM ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. We stopped in Port Angeles for lunch and at the Olympic National Park visitors center near Hurricane Ridge for a map of the park. Afterwards, we were off towards the western side of the peninsula, trying to hit the Hoh before it got dark. We paid our $15 park entrance fee and arrived at the Hoh around 5PM. We spent about 1.5 hours on a leisurely walk, taking us along the Hall of Mosses Trail (.08 miles) and the Spruce Nature Trail (1.2 miles), both loop trails. The Spruce Nature Trail took us along a piece of the Hoh River, which was lovely. Now, if we'd planned this day better, we would've brought an overnight bag, because we were about 4 hours from home and it was quickly getting dark. Plus, we weren't done exploring. But, since we didn't plan the day very well at all, we headed back to the ferry and got home around 1AM.

Sunday morning we awoke to torrential rain. We were pretty anxious to hit the trails again and wrestled with a rainy mountain hike (Mt. Rainier) or heading back to the Olympic Peninsula, where we'd already paid our park admission fee (good for 7 days) but would also have to pay the $35 ferry fare again. Both being equidistant from our abode, and experiencing the same weather, we decided to head to the Olympic Peninsula again because the forests would provide excellent coverage from the rain, whereas we weren't sure of Mt. Rainier's forests and didn't want to hike in mud.

We caught the 12:20PM ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island and stopped in Paulsbo for lunch. We also stopped in Sequim to see the Strait of Juan de Fuca and check out the Dungeness Spit. We didn't walk the spit, but we did do a nice bluff hike along the shoreline.

Afterwards, we headed to the Elwha River Valley.
We stopped right at the entrance for a super short hike to Madison Falls.
Then we headed to the trail head for Olympic Hot Springs. The hike was 4.9 miles round trip and took us 2.25 hours.
There were three river crossings: the first one with no assistance, the second one with a primitive wooden bridge,
and the third one with a solid footbridge.
Though the trail was paved for the most part, the distance and river crossings made this a moderate hike.

We could easily spend a week on the Olympic Peninsula. In the 10 years we've lived in Seattle, this was only our second time in the park. We'd like to spend at least one more weekend there before leaving the area next year. Perhaps exploring the Lake Crescent and Sol Duc areas next time.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Anxiety and Anticipation

So, here we are. We've now reached the pivotal stage of our Two Year Plan. Mike applies to the University of Edinburgh mid-September, a very short few weeks away, and our future hinges on his acceptance. If he's accepted, we're able to continue with the final stages of The Plan, which is to begin preparing for the move across the pond.

Mike has, or will, accomplish the three requirements the international student recruiter enumerated for us last year.

1) He has requested a letter of recommendation from his painting instructor and his sculpture instructor, both of which appear happy to comply. He should have these in a few weeks.

2) He's maintained at least a 3.0 GPA (he's actually at 3.87). And,

3) he will have completed a year's worth of credits (approximately 45 credits) by June 2010.

He has also managed to update his portfolio and his resume by undertaking a couple of paid art jobs. Mike is currently working on his personal statement and should have all the pieces in place for a mid-September application submission, which is as early as Fall 2010 applications are accepted. We should know whether he's accepted within a month from application date. Until then, we're wrestling with both anxiety and anticipation.
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