It was the last day of my visit to Seattle. Younger daughter and I were walking down Beach Drive SW, on our daily exercise walk, looking for something interesting to see or do. She mentioned a park that we would soon be walking past that had some very nice features, and more of an old growth, untouched atmosphere. We decided to venture into Me-Kwa-Mooks Park.
Me-Kwa-Mooks is an Indian name meaning “shaped like a bear’s head”. If you use your imagination, you might say that about the West Seattle peninsula, especially if you had a map or a good aerial view. The entrance to the park is on the east side of Beach Drive in a small clearing with several picnic tables. The trailhead is identified by a sign and several plaques that are covered with brush and barely legible. Like most other parts of West Seattle coastline, this park is located on uphill slopes that end with a rather steep climb up a bluff. It’s about 20 acres of heavily wooded, undeveloped land.
Undeveloped, perhaps, but there are trails and some evidence of work having been done on them. Someone had been pulling out piles of English ivy, an invasive plant, and there was an irrigation line visible along the path in places. But there was no signage, and some of the trails ended abruptly. Having been there before, younger daughter knew one trail led to another entrance farther down on Beach Drive. She also knew that there was a trail that led to the top of the bluff. That was the one we wanted.
The trail to the top, naturally, was the trail that kept going up in switchbacks, becoming steeper and less easily navigated. It eventually went straight up, a dirt path with no natural hand holds or places for feet to rest. But, lo, there was a hose – the flat, cloth covered kind – and it came from somewhere up above and held our weight, so we grabbed it and climbed. And just when the hose no longer followed the path, we saw a rope that finally helped us to the top.
The Wikipedia article about the park states that in 1994 a bunch of 4th and 5th graders from a local school helped make the park. That’s exactly the feel I got from our experience. It was a mythical, magical forest, perfect place for tree forts, treacherous paths, and dangling ropes leading to “who knows where”, a kid’s dream playground.
We made it to the top, mostly because there was no way we were going back down some of the places we had been. It was clearly not everyone’s “walk in the park” and I was a little surprised that it was accessible in this day of lawsuits and litigation. Risk was involved. We had fun, but I’m thinking most people take the other path. Just sayin’…
We didn’t walk very far on Sunday, but we made up for it today. We took Charlie with us. He is a curly haired Wheaton terrier who generally likes to go out for exercise.
The first hour was a city walk, past houses that face out to Puget Sound. As you might expect, they were on the expensive and extravagant side, but so interesting to look at. Built on the bluff with creative driveways and staircases, and landscaping that had me taking pictures every few minutes. We walked south from Alki and ended up at Lincoln Park. For us it was around 10,000 steps, for Charlie it was considerably more and he was thirsty. We were looking for a water bowl, which can commonly be found around fountains, since so many people are walking their dogs. Charlie found one.
Next we headed east through the park in the direction of California Avenue. It is the main business street that runs down the middle of the West Seattle peninsula. Our only stop was to buy water at a gas station, again sharing with Charlie who was beginning to act a bit tired. Our walk north toward home ended up going through Schmitz Park. It was like entering a different world.
I’ve written something about Schmitz Park every time I’ve visited Esther in Seattle because it has an access right behind her house. I ALWAYS visit this park. I’ve not been anyplace like it and consider it a magical, singular experience. It’s an old growth forest with trails following a large ravine from the top of the bluff, down to lower elevations near Alki and the beach. The trails are not fancy, not paved. There are no signs directing where to go. No railings on the steep portions. Click this link for more visuals of Schmitz Park.
The forest and the ravine insulated us from the noise and heat from the city street. It was shady and dark, with the sounds of water flowing into the central stream. Many parts of the path were wet with cool mud and took some navigating. It must have felt good on Charlie’s paws. And 20 minutes later we were home, having done nearly 20,000 steps total. A good walk, I’d say.
My people in Seattle have an affinity for vintage things – clothing, furniture, Airstreams, and a truck. Yesterday we took a ride in the vintage truck.
Bench seats are kind of a thing of the past, although I’m not sure why. The fun of searching for seat belts, finding the right spot for sitting in the middle (straddling that big lump on the floor), and the comfy lean off the edge of the passenger seat – I kind of miss all that, and it was fun to be reminded. Come to think of it, any vehicle where I can look to the side and see two people in front with me, instead of just one, is kind of special, don’t you think?
Our outing was to an island, which is also kind of exciting. Southward from West Seattle, right below Lincoln Park, is the Vashon Ferry landing where two large ferries go to and fro on a constant schedule. The distance is short and takes only about half an hour, including the loading and offloading of cars, trucks and buses. It was not a particularly busy day so we did not have to wait in line (that happens, and did happen on the way home).
The truck was the chosen vehicle for this trip because there was a task. Our first stop was to re-position the vintage Airstream that Esther and Ryan have on their property. It didn’t take long and I don’t have pictures of this complex, logistical feat of trucking. Suffice it to say that I heard Ryan lovingly commending his truck for doing a good job.
Next, for the daily walk, we drove down Vashon Island to a connecting island park – Maury Island and Maury Beach. It was a lovely place to get close to the water and I totally satisfied my obsession with rocks and driftwood while there. The walking part was not as horizontal as we would have liked so we didn’t get in lots of steps. The beach was entirely smoothed stones with no sharp edges. It might seem that would make comfortable walking, but no. The stones roll out from under your feet with every step. They are fascinating to look at though, and I kept finding favorites.
Before heading back to the mainland we had dinner at Casa Bonita Mexican restaurant. So good! I’m even getting hungry now thinking about my leftover fish taco waiting in the fridg.
It was another fine day in Seattle, spent making memories with people I love. I may even have spoke lovingly to the truck myself, for the nice ride, just sayin’…
The waters of the Pacific Northwest (PNW) are home to many kinds of sea mammals. Some of the most exciting ones to encounter are the pods of whales that roam around the islands of Puget Sound and the Canadian boundary waters. On our recent trip to San Juan Island we were hosted on a small excursion boat with a crew of one, Captain Jim. Many thanks to Ryan’s parents for setting up this unusual outing, and for ordering perfect weather for carrying it out.
Our boat departed from Snug Harbor Resort – a place I would definitely go back to for a longer stay.
Our excursion started the west side of San Juan Island, the small harbor of Mitchell Bay. The whale watching boats are independently owned and operated by men who know the islands and surrounding waters well. We were six in number and a pretty good fit for the captain’s boat. We set out from the harbor with no idea of where to look for whales – a problem which was solved by communicating with numerous other boats on the water. The closest pod of orcas that had been spotted was about an hour north, close to the Canadian border so off we went.
The sun was out, the temperature was moderate, the water was relatively quiet. All this was not the usual. We went north and west to the Strait of Georgia. You really need to look on the map sometime in order to know how crazy the international boundary is in that part of North America. It zigs and zags through the islands and is connected to some little known history of the Pig War. I had never heard of this war but most of the islanders can tell the story and it is rather colorful. By the time we located the orcas we were in the Strait of Georgia within sight of Vancouver, in Canadian waters.
The Strait is a very large area and often has ocean size swells, but as I said, it was almost glassy still. We had Dramamine with us but didn’t need it at all. There were three or four other boats watching the pods with us as we followed them along. The orcas are not whales but are the largest mammals in the dolphin family. They travel in social groups, as large as 40 members, that get numbered and are recognizable by individual dorsal fin characteristics. They are often called killer whales because they are skilled hunters and feed on other marine mammals. They cooperate in the hunt, acting a bit like a pack of wolves.
If I remember right, we were watching pod 34 and possibly pod 37, which were both resident pods. They stay close year round, whereas other pods travel through as transients. A number of dorsal fins would appear as the orcas came up to breathe, and we would hear the rush of air as they exhaled. They would dive again and reappear farther ahead. We kept hoping they would find something to feed on and actually breach completely out of the water, but that didn’t happen. Boats are restricted from getting closer than 200 yards from orcas and are not to block their path or be closer than 400 yards ahead of them but we still got good views. Captain Jim had binoculars for everyone which helped.
After an hour or so of watching, we headed back through the islands, often slowing to photograph the awesome views. Mt. Baker is the volcano visible in many of the photos. What a perfect day it was to be out on the water in the PNW!
I love seeing evidence of people being productive in basic ways, and nothing is more basic than providing food. That is why I enjoy farmers, coming to market to sell to the end user.
San Juan Island is one of many islands in the Puget Sound area of Washington. Ferries are as common as buses around Puget Sound. We took the ferry from Anna Cortes to the small port of Friday Harbor – it happened to be on a Friday too, but that had nothing to do with the name. We arrived late in the day so it wasn’t until Saturday morning that we returned to Friday Harbor for the San Juan Farmer’s Market.
Living on an island prompts many people to value independence. They like to produce their needs locally so they don’t have the extra cost of importing from the mainland. The many small farms on the island grow crops, raise animals and bring products to the market in hopes of selling them. I think they enjoy the sense of community as much as anything else. The vendors get to talk with their customers, face to face, explain their wares and answer questions. Shoppers get to see and learn about many interesting products and processes. We were looking for breakfast.
In and around the community center building is where the market is held. It didn’t take us long to find the inside table of baked goods, manned by a couple of local ladies. They were selling all kinds of pastries, quiches, brownies… it all looked like breakfast to us. I bought a pastry and a generous slice of something made with egg, cheese, potato, veggies and pasta. I’m glad we got there when we did because their table was sold out by the time I came back hoping for a brownie. Oh well.
There were vendors selling crafts as well as food. A potter, some water color artists, some jewelry makers, all gave us shoppers something to look at and consider. There was a trio of musicians providing festive tunes – way better than “elevator music”. Around the perimeter were tables and chairs for eating and visiting. The sun was shining, children were playing, laughter and conversation abounded. Makes you want to go there, doesn’t it? Maybe you should find a farmer’s market near you and check it out this week!
I come from a place where you hardly ever call anything an island. People tend to laugh if you call it anything but a “key”. Here in the PNW there are lots of islands around and in Puget Sound. People will laugh if you call the place we went to this morning Vashon Key. It’s an island.
We rode the early ferry from West Seattle to the dock at the east side of Vashon. The ferries are part of the transportation system and very well maintained and operated. Cars, buses and semi-tractor/trailers were lined up on deck for our 20 minute trip across the Sound. It’s Friday, so there isn’t a crowd like there probably will be on the weekend.
This was the morning that Ryan Bruel was scheduled to receive the keys to his new property. But first things first – breakfast at Cafe Luna in the town of Vashon. The signs on the way warn travelers that this is a rural area, although I’m not sure what danger that poses. The small town has a library, numerous businesses, a grocery, some artist shops, a school – pretty much what is needed is what is found there. I imagine there has to be some degree of self-sufficient mindset for a person to live comfortably on an island.
At Café Luna we ordered breakfast burritos, fresh quiche, hot from the oven and our latte’s. Esther walked around the corner to her favorite bakery for a Bob’s Burger. The food and the atmosphere were good introductions to the island.
Ryan’s cabin is midway between Vashon and the ferry dock, so we back tracked and pulled into the drive marked by the mailbox with the red butterfly. The roughly 3 acre property was owned by an elderly man until it got to be a project he could not keep up with. It is mostly forest, except for the drive and the clearing where the cabin, garage, and small studio sit. I’m sure the buildings were built back when there were few codes to follow, and there have been additions and remodels since then, none of professional quality. This is to say that there are quaint surprises in many rooms of the main cabin.
The realtor and some helpers were there taking away some of the old appliances, and removing layers of old carpet. There were newspapers between the layers dating from the early 1990’s. It will be a cabin suitable for camping and will provide years and years of interesting renovation projects for Ryan and Esther.
Codes now will prevent them from building new structures on the property but they can fool around quite liberally with what is already there. The separate studio is a sturdy one room log cabin and even though it has only one chair in it at present, it stirs my imagination in all kinds of interesting ways.
The forest around the clearing has numerous giant, old growth trees. There is also a protected wetland and a green algae pond. The predominant ground cover is blackberry bushes. The clearing has been recently cleaned of growth but I can envision how fast it will come back and become wild again. For people who have been living in the city, working at tech jobs in stressful environments, the Vashon Island get away is going to be an adventure of a whole different sort. That’s what they’ve been wanting.
I don’t remember when I first began to like lighthouses but I’m going to blame St. Vincent DePaul and the oil painting I picked up for almost nothing in his thrift shop. It exemplifies the drama of stormy seas and skies, and the comfort and safety afforded by the warning of the watchful lighthouse. That’s what they’re for and symbolically I take them to stand for protection and warning in other situations as well.
Lots of people are lighthouse fans and after finding this painting I began to notice lighthouse paraphernalia everywhere I went. I haven’t gone crazy with this collection but I have gotten a few gifts that are special. They include my lighthouse in crystal from St. Augustine, lighthouse bookends, notepads, mini prints and calendars.
There is a lighthouse in Seattle near my daughter’s home that I know better than the others because I have been in it and spent time reading its history. I was able to go up to the actual light room and view Puget Sound and West Seattle. On a visit to Pikes Place Market the next day I was going through the watercolor paintings of a local artist and found this one of Alki Point and had to have it.
There are a lot of stories written about lighthouses and I think it’s because they are unusual places built around dangerous waters and were often inhabited by strange people. Most lighthouses today are no longer tended by people but are automated, but the stories live on. One of the better ones I’ve read lately is “Lighthousekeeping” by Jeanette Winterson. The characters in this book are everything I would want as far as intrigue and mystery and the writing is often quotable in its beauty.
Many things in the modern world have influenced our way of navigating dangerous waters, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But I think we still need lighthouses.
Have you been in a lighthouse? Have you read a good lighthouse book?
“This is the first time in my 35 years that I have heard that peanuts are not nuts.” he said.
Esther’s friend made dinner for us tonight and we were standing around in the kitchen talking about “the diet project”, the AIP. He had been interested enough to read up about it and had chosen a couple recipes from our cookbook to make, giving us the night off. He did a bang up job and we appreciated it, a lot!
We have been following the AutoImmune Protocol for almost two weeks now, and although I think it is going fairly well, we are starting to have serious cravings for things on the “no” list, things we used to love to eat, things high on fun, satiety and comfort, but low (possibly devoid of…) nutrients. It’s a little early to know if we feel healthier, but how could we be otherwise? That’s what I’m asking myself.
For certain, more food has come through the door of this house in the last two weeks than in similar time periods. We seem to be shopping all the time. Yet, it’s a struggle to figure out what to eat when mealtimes come around. Sometimes what we have is not the mental picture of a meal that we have been used to, so it doesn’t seem like a meal. Thankfully, mental pictures can be changed – in fact, that is what it’s all about when you decide to take on a new way of eating. Can we stick with it until we’ve had time to change our ideas of satisfying eating? Good question.
Breakfast is a difficult meal because traditionally, it’s all about grains, dairy and eggs of some sort, none of which are on our diet. We have avocado, sweet potato, turkey bacon. We need to work on our smoothie repertoire a little more.
We knew we were going to have to use more coconut in various ways so Esther ordered two young coconuts in our Amazon Fresh order. I googled instructions on how to get into them because, frankly, looking at them doesn’t give a clue. The steps seemed simple, just hack away the outer white layer until you see a light colored “spot” where you can press your knife and make a hole. I made quite a mess doing all that cutting and got to a rock-hard layer where no more cutting was possible. But, someone forgot to put a “spot” on my coconut and I had to drill a hole with the tip of my knife. So I had a hole, but nothing was coming out of it – until I made a second hole for air to come in. See, when you learn stuff like that in Physics class they don’t tell you that you’ll need it when you encounter coconuts.
There was at least 10 ounces of coconut water inside this coconut so Esther and I both had a good drink. However, there had to be more to eat than just the water. I knew it would take more than tiny holes to get the insides out so I took it out on the sidewalk and smashed a big hole with a hammer. The inside of a young coconut is soft, shiny, semi-translucent and white (pretty really). I like it. Esther… not so much.
Esther has discovered which meats she is able to tolerate most easily, and I have to hand it to her. For a vegetarian, she is doing great. She has had some kind of meat protein almost twice every day. As a vegetarian, she would eat burgers made of soy or black beans, and she would eat fake bacon, also a soy product. As an AIP girl she is bothered least by fake soyburgers (read real beef burgers) and fake soy bacon (real meat bacon) because they look similar to what she has grown accustomed to eating. See, it’s all in your mind. She eats tuna. I don’t know what it is about chicken though. For her, it begins with the smell and only gets worse with the sight and taste. I’m afraid I will be eating the roast chicken all by myself. Getting to like chicken will take some work.
I love meat and have no problem with cooking it, but I wish it were less messy. What to do with all the fat and how to get it off the dishes and counters is a battle. I’ve made three batches of bone broth but so far, no one has gotten into drinking it straight. It is kind of piling up in the fridge. I froze some of it in our ice cube trays, causing a near unhappy moment when Esther went to get ice cubes.
What else hasn’t worked… yes, the coconut Greek yogurt. I’m not sure you can make yogurt out of anything other than real milk, but there was a recipe, so Esther tried it. The black probiotic culture she added to it looked strange but we were able to think of it as specks of vanilla bean (also not on the diet). After culturing overnight in a warm place it was still coconut cream liquid. But it tastes great poured over bananas or the apple/cranberry compote we made. Fake yogurt, this also will take some work.
I don’t mean to say that we haven’t discovered some really good, simple recipes that I am happy to add to my regular cooking line up. I wrote about the Nomato Sauce in a previous post. Tonight we had a cauliflower dish that easily takes the place of fried rice, and some steak flavored with coconut aminos that was so flavorful. One good thing we have both noticed is that we do not feel distressed after eating, no uncomfortable fullness, and of course, we are not gaining weight. I am happy to see Esther able to tolerate meals without pain, and she is eating more good, nutritious food than I have ever noticed before.
Both my daughters are risk takers and dream followers, not every day in every way, but when it matters. It mattered recently that new life be given to an old dream, which is how youngest daughter, Esther, became owner of a 1972 Airstream. To be clear, it’s 27 feet of aluminum, pull behind, live in trailer with softly rounded corners for streamline movement. You all know what I’m talking about.
Where do we get notions like this? How do these dreams come about? We don’t always know, but when they’ve been around in our thoughts for years it becomes exciting to move on them, finally. Esther found Sylvia Path (subsequently named) at a dealership. They wanted to try out all the systems and appliances before she took possession, and part of her contract was ongoing help, coaching, should she need it. The dealer agreed to deliver her purchase to her when everything was checked out. She sent the cushions and mattress to an upholsterer – the first of several planned upgrades.
Having an Airstream in your backyard is kind of a trendy thing in many parts of the country (usually where it is warm enough to winter over in one). Many people don’t travel with them. They use them for an extra room, or rent the space for extra income. Many people just like to restore a beautiful piece of equipment for the joy of doing it. Esther wants to do all of these, but first, the challenge of where to put it and the actual move.
Esther assured me she had talked with the dealership about her plan to park the Airstream in her driveway. They had assured her it was possible in a “no problem” kind of way that guys often rely on. I wasn’t so sure, but I’m only an interested observer. There were a couple of delivery dates that got rescheduled and with each one, we began to get more anxious about the steep hills, narrow streets and small final destination. An ornamental tree had been cut to clear the way. In her mind’s eye, the Airstream was neatly parked against her fence with the door and canopy opening out on the cement drive, herself sitting inside writing her first memoir, a best seller.
On the Monday after Christmas, we finally saw Sylvia coming down the street behind a pick-up truck and ran out to greet her. But as we found out, the men delivering her had either not understood, or not believed Esther’s description. Turns out, they can’t really put it anywhere you want it, only where they can drive it with the truck. Backing in was the only option. Here is how it went – on the second try. (click link for 3 minute YouTube video)
The mind’s eye is the perfect place for a re-do. What you thought would happen can get changed to what actually happened with a minimum of cost and energy. The rest of the delivery process went smoothly as the trailer was leveled, electricity was connected, and the propane heater demonstration successfully concluded.
My first contribution to Sylvia was to remove the lavender bush we were trampling to get to the door, and place some stepping stones to keep us out of the mud. Esther is going to save pictures of the inside for the before/after shoots, because there is work to be done. It may be a while before the completion, but the dream has begun, and that’s what counts.
Come along. Charlie (the dog) and I are going for a walk.
West Seattle is a peninsula of sorts with a variety of geographical features. In previous visits I’ve posted about the Alki lighthouse, the stairways leading up the steep bluffs, the old growth forest in the interior, and some of the sights along the default exercise walk, Alki Drive. Today, Charlie and I went on that walk just to see what it looked like in winter. It has been so cold, wet and windy that we were glad to have time outside on a calmer, warmer day.
On Alki Drive one can traverse the western side of West Seattle from the lighthouse and Alki Beach all the way up to the northern point where there is a good view of downtown Seattle across the water. It’s hard to describe in words so you really have to look at a map. Puget Sound has many islands, inlets, peninsulas and bays and is a long body of water. There are some beaches but often the shoreline is rocky and steep. My daughter’s house is only a few blocks from one of the few beach areas so that is where my walk usually starts.
There is the water, a sandy beach which gives way gradually to a cement sea wall, then a wide grass and shrub strip, then the sidewalk for walkers, another strip of shrubbery, the wide paved area for bikers, skaters and long board riders, then the street, the sidewalk again, a row (sometimes two) of dwellings and finally a steep, unbuildable cliff covered with trees and vines. Every once in a while there is enough of an outcropping that someone feels safe attaching houses to it, but the roads to them are narrow, switch-backed and have very inventive parking areas.
Although it is cold here, it doesn’t freeze hard enough to kill many of the plants and shrubs. There is green grass, many of the trees still have leaves and the houses and condos along Alki Drive looked much like they do in the spring and summer. I passed the monkey tail tree, araucaria araucana, one of the oddest conifers I have ever seen.
This is the thought game I play while I walk past all the small summer houses, the old ones. Many of them are run down, poorly maintained, and some are uninhabited (condemned most likely), in spite of the high priced land they are sitting on. I look at them and plan what I would do first if I lived there. Give me a sledge hammer, some paint, a shovel. They beg me to pull the weeds, pick up trash and simply make them look like someone loves them. I know if they are not fixed up they will soon find themselves replaced with high rise condos. Some are fixed up and are very cute – showing that it can be done.
The goal today is to walk to the so-called “flower house”. Nestled between two high rises, a small house and adjoining building have become locally famous for being festooned with flowers throughout the summer, extremely festooned. The flower house is right on the sidewalk and the owner has seating for tourists to have their pictures taken surrounded by flowers. I’ve posted photos of my daughter and I in those very seats last year. This winter the décor is more sparse but still lovely.
A bit more flowery
in the summer…
On the way back, the house that wins my vote for Christmas prettiness is this one. I choose it mostly because of the blue lights which are my favorites.
I walk a little further and see another one of my colorful favorites, the Blue Moon Burger joint. They have some crazy good sweet potato fries there.
And then we head inland a couple blocks and are back to Esther’s house, “Ocean’s Arms”, immediately below the path leading into Schmitz Park. To end, I am showing you a picture of the Star of Bethlehem tree, which you saw in the dark a few nights ago. This is how it looks in the day, along the walk going up into Schmitz Park. Both pictures are from my bedroom window. We think they must leave the star up there all year, although Esther has not thought to look.
Out my window, the Star of Seattle, I guess.
Thanks for coming along on my walk down Alki Drive.