7/21/14

Back to Business

We're back from our weekend at Mt. Rainier, and I have a few things to show you. The weather was lovely, and the mosquitoes didn't bother us too much. We're thinking of it as a little warm-up for our trip to Minnesota in September. It was a good trip for the most part, although there was a lot more snow on the mountain than we anticipated. It was quite surprising given that we've been to Mt. Rainier at almost precisely the same dates on the calendar and found it warm and clear.

We stayed at an little RV park just about a mile from the national park entrance. We've stayed there a few times before. It's quiet and peaceful. The park is under new ownership, and they had us packed in a little like sardines...unnecessarily so, we thought, since there were empty spaces that would have allowed everyone a little more breathing room and privacy.


Here's what we saw looking the other direction. I love the tall trees this park has to offer.


There was a small but reliable wi-fi hot spot in the little building you see just beyond where those men are walking. Any pictures I posted while we were gone were from there. There was also a laundry and a nice public shower in the same building. 

The public shower would have come in handy had we been more fastidious about our personal hygiene. We had a plumbing leak that required bypassing our water heater, meaning we had no hot water on this trip. My father, the consummate RVer even before RVs became very popular in America, had a saying: "Never let an RV problem ruin your day." It's very good advice, and we heed it regularly. 

The camper is our third RV and each one has had its little bugaboos left over from the manufacturing process. For this camper, plumbing has that role. Fittings are either not tightened enough, or, like this one, tightened too much and broken. Mike tried a temporary fix with electrical tape, which only succeeded in turning a drip into a spurting disaster, and so we simply bypassed the water heater and lived with cold water. Oh well. Once we had resigned ourselves to a cold water trip, we took a little walk around the campground, and the pictures I posted earlier were the result.

Saturday morning we settled on the Upper Paradise Valley trail, thinking it was new to us. It starts with this little short leg called 4th Crossing. (I believe this refers to where the road crosses the Paradise River for the 4th time.)


It leads to a junction with the Skyline Trail, where one must decide to turn either left or right. We've made the left turn on a previous visit, but haven't yet gone right, and that was the plan. It started out nice enough with heather in bloom.


And here is the cascading Paradise River.


But we hadn't even reached the junction when we encountered a lot of snow.


Contrast the image above taken July 19, 2014, with the one below, taken on July 23, 2005. 


This is approximately the same section of trail, and the difference is pretty amazing. We have no explanation for this since we've had quite a bit of warm weather this summer. Obviously, there was more snowfall over the winter. 

Mike forged on ahead for a little ways to see if it continued the same way. While he was gone, I happened to glance up, and I saw this:


The sky was so blue, and it smelled so good...very piny and clean.

Mike returned with the bad news that the trail was impassable...at least for our old knees...and so we went back to the truck and drove the loop road from the Nisqualley entrance (where we came in) to the Stevens Canyon entrance. Despite not being able to hike the trails, the scenery was breath-taking, and we enjoyed our day.


We turned out at one of the parking lots. To the west, was the view in the image above. To the north was Mt. Rainier. It was obscured in clouds at this point, but they were sailing by so fast, we stood for a time hoping it would clear for a picture.


As quickly as one cloud blew by, another formed, and the view remained mostly obscured while we waited.


Our shadow selves made an appearance here. They were kind of short at this time of day.


Another five minutes or so passed, 


and we finally gave up and drove on to the Reflection Lakes, where we could see the mountain unobscured.


Here, we took the requisite selfie.


It was so pretty here, and we were able to pick our way over the remaining snow drifts and walk along the lake shore part way.


Also, we got our best up-close views of the wildflowers. There weren't as many as we'd hoped to see since many were only just starting to bud. Still, there were some pretty ones. These reminded us of trilliums. While trilliums have three petals and three leaves on the plant, these had more. Otherwise, they're essentially the same flower. These are known as Avalanche Lily:


The orange Indian paintbrush were well represented, as well as the pink guys you see in the image below. I don't know many of these, and so if you do, then please chime in.


Another purple one I don't know:



I'm thinking these white ones below might be False Hellebore, not completely opened, but I'm not sure.


Here's a common thistle. I wasn't expecting to see these, but there you go.


These next ones are called Beargrass. They were about the size of a softball.



Big clusters of white flowers:


Buttercups:


We saw the lake from different sides as we walked around, then headed back to the truck and drove on.


You know, we love our tunnels. This one was blasted out of solid rock.


Just beyond the tunnel we came to the half-mile Box Canyon Trail, and we got out and walked the short loop.


If you can't read the sign, it tells you that the trail crosses a deep river gorge and follows in a glacier's path. "Rock slabs have been 'polished' by sediment-rich water flowing beneath the glacier. . . Plant life has had a tough time getting a grip" on the smooth rock, although you can see lichens and mosses taking root. Here's a good example:


We crossed over this little bridge


where we could look into the deep river canyon. This picture doesn't capture the depth very well, and of course, hearing the rushing river was very dramatic.


Watch your step:


Would you believe we saw a mother holding her toddler standing on this wall for a picture? Mike joked, "And this is the last picture we have of Matilda." 

From there we left the park and drove a forest road back to the RV park, and then just relaxed for the rest of the day. We were disappointed not to be able to do much hiking, but it was a nice weekend just the same.

And now, here we are at Monday again. Let's just pause here for a moment and consider that July is nearly 2/3 over and my list of goals is barely touched. Oh well. I knew it would be that way, and there is no use stressing over it. I have some housework to do, and I absolutely must get back to my exercise routine. The last couple of weeks have been quite a disruption, but they've been so much fun that it's hard to get too worked up about it. Still, I'm determined to get back on the horse today. Also, I'm hoping to get my doll quilt finished. 

Tomorrow I'm doing the first of three observations of the Coffee Creek Quilters teaching quilting to the inmates at the Coffee Creek Correction Facility. The observations come first, and if I decide I want to continue, there will be quite a bit of training both by the volunteer organization, and the Oregon Department of Corrections. They want to be sure folks are serious about becoming volunteers before investing a lot of time and effort. Thus, the three observations.

I'm meeting one of the volunteers in Newberg, not far from where I live, and we'll ride there together. Some dress code rules: No blue denim, no light blue or lime green tops, no heavy jewelry, and no underwire bras. (What?!?!?) They set off the metal detectors and then you have to be patted down by a corrections officer. Hm. A sports bra will have to do.

Also, tonight is our guild meeting. Karla Alexander is tonight's speaker. Karla was with me when I made my trip to Ireland, so I'm looking forward to seeing her at the meeting. And with that, I guess I'll get on with it. 

What's on your agenda for today?

7/18/14

A Few Things I Saw Today




Heading Out and a Winner!

Before I get started on the news for the day, I need to choose a winner from my Blogiversary Giveaway. Thanks to all who left such sweet comments. Honestly, I'm glad you enjoy reading. More than anything, however, I'm grateful for you because I enjoy writing so much. Even without my many bloggy friends, I would still write. It just wouldn't be nearly as much fun. So, thank you.

All right. Here we go. There were 250 comments left, and the random number generator came up with:

#111--beaquilter

Congratulations, beaquilter! I've sent you an email, so check your inbox! And thanks to everyone who helped me celebrate.

This morning I'm getting my ducks in a row to take off for Mt. Rainier National Park, about 3 hours north of us. We've been to Mt. Rainier several times, but not for several years. It's sort of interesting driving up to the park from our direction. The mountain is huge, and yet, one must drive almost all the way to the park before it becomes visible. It's a case of not being able to see the mountain for the trees.


Yesterday I packed all the food with the exception of some marinade for our steak dinner tonight. This morning I baked some muffins from some zucchini I found in the freezer. (Who knows how long it's been in there?) These are Lemon-Zucchini muffins. I happened to have all the ingredients on hand (nothing exotic, thank goodness). We can eat them for breakfast and for snacks.


Yesterday I got a little more done on my July doll quilt. The most time-consuming part of the quilt is finished now. I just need to add borders, and the top will be finished. I figure I have another day's work on this until it's completed and I can send it off to my partner in Australia. I can't show you the whole thing, but here's another little peek:


"Curiouser and curiouser," cried Alice. Any guesses? Here's a hint: The theme is "On My Bucket List".

The last couple of days have been pretty easy-going by design. I just got back from five days in California on Monday, and now today we're taking off for Mt. Rainier. I kept Wednesday and Thursday pretty low key. Yesterday I did some watering and took a little walk around just to see how things are doing. And look at this! Raspberries!


Something the deer and racoons missed! Also, the little cherry tomatoes are beginning to ripen. We've eaten a few, but they need just a couple more days. This is an orange variety, and so this is their color when ripe.


This is the time of year when we start seeing the work of our industrious squirrel friends...the ones dumb enough to stay around, that is. They collect the sunflower seeds from our bird feeders in their cheeks, dig a hole in my whiskey barrels (or other favorite spots), then spit about a hundred seeds into the hole and cover it up. Eventually a thicket of sunflowers sprouts from their efforts.


Pull it up, and the seeds are still attached.

Also, the butterfly bush is in full bloom. The bumblebees love it.


While I was out there, two Shasta Swallowtail butterflies were flitting around, um, making butter, if you know what I mean. I kept the camera at the ready waiting for them to light somewhere. After twenty minutes, they were still flitting. As far as I know, they never came in for a landing. Butterfly love. Sigh. But no matter. I have some really great pictures of a Shasta Swallowtail that I took on Mt. Rainier back in 2006. I was only just barely getting interested in photography then, and this was the shot of my dreams at that time.


The wildflowers are the stars of the show at Mt. Rainier this time of the year. I've taken some of my prettiest pictures while hiking in July.



It's always an adventure hiking, and I'm looking forward to seeing it again. It's been quite a while since we've been to Mt. Rainier in summer.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Smitty's life has just taken a turn into major Suckville. He was out this morning. Twice he tried bringing in a vole. I caught him and made him take it back outside. When he came in the third time, empty-mouthed, I shut his door. Now he's in for the weekend. He's pacing so much I can't get an in-focus picture of him.


To listen to the caterwauling, you'd think he was being murdered by invisible demons right before your eyes. He's sitting in the window of my office as I write this, sure there must be some mistake. 


If looks could kill... Better yet, if looks could open the door, that'd be great.

So I'm off for the weekend. I won't be blogging while we are away, but I will be back on Monday. I'm not sure about wi-fi or cell phone service, but I'll post a couple of pictures if I can. And with that, it's time to get packing...literally.

Have a great weekend!

7/17/14

Giganti-cat

Good afternoon. Smitty here with an impurrtant safety tip:


There's been some weird goings on here at the Three Cats Ranch. A few days ago, I saw the biggest, most gargantuan, hugest, most enormous, most massive, most colossal, most mammoth, most immense, monumental, mountainous, titanic, towering, elephantine cat I've ever seen in my entire life!!!!! And I'm not exaggerating either! And my mom has seen it too. Just feast your eyes on this monster sitting there with that gopher-eating grin of his:


Impressive, huh?

So I consulted my friend, Gracie. She's real smart. She knows everything about the Three Cats Ranch. She's been living here much longer than I have.


And she told me that's what happens to cats that catch and eat the red dot. Whoa! I nearly tossed my mousies when I heard that.

So I'm keeping a weather eye out for that brute.


Smitty, signing off. Be careful out there.