Posts Tagged With: outdoors

How to Give A Gift of Adventure and Memories

Josh and David. Really, he was happy, lol.

Josh and David. Really, he was happy.

Christmas is coming. Do you have that person in your family that is hard to buy for? They either have everything, or buy what they want when they want it, or they’re very particular? Well, here’s an idea that I did a few years ago and it was a big hit.

David is that person in our family. So trying to shop for him is a chore. But he kept saying that some day he would like to take an airplane flight over our house and see it from above and see how it fit in with the rest of the terrain. So it hit me as a great idea, and I called the Olympia airport asking for scenic flights. I was worried that it would be very expensive but it wasn’t at all. So I ordered a gift certificate and presented it to him on Christmas morning. Success! He was very surprised and very happy!

Nancy riding in the front seat

Nancy riding in the front seat

We decided to wait to use it until better weather so finally one day in June we just showed up at the airport and were able to schedule a ride (that doesn’t always happen, it’s recommended to check ahead.) The pilot, Joel, was extremely nice. I had booked the flight for all three of us, even though it was David’s present, because I knew he wouldn’t want to go alone. However, I’m terrified of flying. So Joel wanted me to sit in front, he thought it might help me. Josh was not thrilled about this, he wanted to be in front. (I think Joel was more worried I’d get sick in his pretty plane than anything else…)

Josh happy to be in the plane, but not happy he's not sitting in the front seat.

Josh happy to be in the plane, but not happy he’s not sitting in the front seat.

It was a beautiful sunny day, clear skies forever. Joel explained everything as he was doing it, to help ease my stress. What I did discover about myself though, is that flying in a little plane, being able to see the ground the whole time, was not nearly as terrifying for me as flying in a jumbo jet.

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First we flew north to check things out, then back south to look over our property. It was amazing! We could see that to the east of us was nothing but forest for miles and miles! We certainly wouldn’t want to get lost there!

Then we flew down over Mt. St. Helens looking into the crater. We couldn’t get as close as Joel would have liked because she had let out a few puffs of smoke.

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1-102_1583Then we flew over Mt. Rainier – that was a nice unexpected surprise and another fabulous view. We ended up extending our flight and paying for an extra half hour and it was SO worth it! David finally got to see our home and all around it from the air, plus more, and he was thrilled.

Yes, he finally smiled - he loved the scenic ride!

Yes, he finally smiled – he loved the scenic ride!

So if you want to give that hard-to-shop-for someone in your life, call your local airport and find out about scenic rides. You’ll be giving them a special gift, not “stuff” that would eventually break or wear out, but a gift of adventure and memories that will last a lifetime.

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Categories: Keatons Out and About, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Uphill Both Ways – Latourell Falls, Oregon

Family at Latourell Falls

Brandy, Josh, and Anden at Latourell Falls

One Saturday recently we went to Oregon with my daughter, Brandy, and her family (son Anden, boyfriend Jason). We intended to go on a hike around Multnomah Falls. We didn’t think to check any website to see what might be going on that day. Apparently it was the 100th anniversary of the building of the Benson Bridge that crosses over the lower Multnomah Falls. How many visitors show up when it’s the 100th anniversary of this iconic bridge? Hundreds, maybe thousands. How many parking spots are there are Multnomah Falls for these hundreds, maybe thousands of people? Much less than that.

Now, I will say that I’m glad the falls gets so many visitors, but sad it was on the day we decided to go. So we headed west on the Historic Columbia River Highway hoping to find someplace else to hike and then suddenly we see a parking spot with a sign that said “Latourell Falls” and there were a couple of parking spots! We needed two, so we grabbed them. We saw a walkway heading downhill that looked like it went to the lower falls, the one we could see from the road, and so we headed down it. It was a nice, short walk, and the falls were beautiful! It was a short walk back to the parking lot, short enough it just gave us a taste of hiking and we wanted to go more.

Let's all take pictures! (Anden, Brandy, & Jason) Latourell Falls

Let’s all take pictures! (Anden, Brandy, & Jason)

So we decided to head to the upper falls. Now, looking at the map, to me, it’s never very clear how far or how strenuous the walk is, but what the heck, right? So off we headed – uphill. Steeply uphill. Both ways. OK, kidding – sort of. Brandy, Jason, Anden, and Josh took off ahead of me and David. Bless David’s heart for staying with me and my slow pace. I think he just didn’t want to have to carry me out of there…

Unofficial Lookout Point, Latourell Falls

Unofficial Lookout Point

View from Unofficial Lookout Point, Latourell Falls

View from Unofficial Lookout Point

The trail kept going. And going. Through a lush green Pacific Northwest forest, with that woodsy smell you associate with camping – and s’mores. That smell alone will keep you going. Finally, the rest of our group came back to meet us. They figured we were still at the parking lot (now why would they think that?) and they didn’t think there were more falls, but we assured them there was. Hours and hours later (kidding again, but it was a bit of a hike) there they were! The beautiful upper Latourell Falls! We made it! Of course, so did a lot of people with small children, but hey, it’s hot and we’re delicate.

Josh behind Latourell Falls

Josh behind Latourell Falls

Time to head back down and it’s a loop so just follow it, right? Yep, right up until there’s a side trip to a sort-of look out. It dead ends so obviously that’s not the way back so we head back up the trail on around the loop. But it keeps going up and up! See, I said it was uphill both ways! We figure that can’t be right, we’re supposed to go down to the parking lot, so we turn around and go back by the lookout and down another trail there. It becomes obvious very quickly that it’s not right either because it’s not maintained. Oh, and it’s a dead-end. Back the other way again. Uphill. Again. Finally, we see the trail below us and know there is hope. Suddenly it does quickly head back down and we end up, alive and well, at the parking lot. We were all hot, sticky and exhausted, but felt we had a great workout and it was beautiful scenery. So even though we intended to hike Multnomah Falls, we were glad our plans were changed for us and we were able to see the two falls that we might not otherwise have taken the time to stop and see. It turns out it really was only a 2.4 mile hike.

If you like hiking to waterfalls, you need to check out the book, “Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon: A guide to the State’s Best Waterfall Hikes,” by fellow travel writer, Adam Sawyer. He refers to himself as a “Professional Gentleman of Leisure” but I refer to him as “one of the nicest guys you will ever meet.” Adam’s book just came out this July and he is busily working on another one for Washington. You can find it on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Hiking-Waterfalls-Oregon-States-Waterfall/dp/0762787279/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1407106247&sr=8-1&keywords=Waterfall+hikes+of+Oregon

Categories: Historical, Outdoors, Parks, Roadside Attraction, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Observation Loop Trail, Yellowstone National Park

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Josh watching Old Faithful erupt for the first time

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Old Faithful

There are several fun hikes to take in Yellowstone National Park. A short one is the Observation Loop Trail. This one starts behind Old Faithful and is a 1.1 mile round trip hike. It takes you up 160 feet so it is rather steep. But the reward is worth it.

On our first visit to Yellowstone National Park as a family, we had reservations at the Old Faithful Inn for dinner. We first stopped to watch Old Faithful erupt. It was so much fun watching Josh see it for the first time – he was very excited and impressed!

Then we had some time to kill so David said we needed to take this hike because he had been on it before and wanted us to see the view. So off we headed crossing a footbridge over the Firehole River which is where the trailhead begins. First of all it is a beautiful walk through trees and flowers, watching for birds and the little critters. I would recommend hiking shoes. Sandals do not work as well and aren’t very comfortable as Josh discovered. You can see from the pictures that trail is dry and a bit bumpy and steep. It’s considered a “moderate” hike in terms of difficulty, but Josh was seven-years-old at the time and did just fine, so families can easily do it. There were only a few other people on the trail, so we had it mostly to ourselves. It was a great place to be away from the crowds that were around the geyser.

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Nancy and Josh hiking up the Observation Loop Trail

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View from Observation Loop

Once at the top, the view is gorgeous! The Old Faithful Inn actually looks quite small from that viewpoint. We stood there marveling at the expansive view of the basin until we realized we had about 20 minutes until our dinner reservation. So unfortunately we worried we wouldn’t have time complete the trail and David took off running back down the trail and Josh and I followed a little more slowly. We took what we hoped was a shorter route to get there and it actually was – we were just minutes behind David as he was making sure we wouldn’t lose our reservation. We arrived sweaty and breathless, but we made it in time.

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David and Josh relaxing after the hike and a great meal

After a delicious and elegant dinner in the Old Faithful Inn we headed back out to enjoy the evening and look up at where we were earlier and think of the different view of the area that we had. We know from the lack of crowds up there that many people miss this experience on their trip to the Old Faithful area. So next time you are there, take the opportunity to take that hike and see the view from a different vantage point and away from the masses. It’s a sight not to be missed.

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Water, Wine, and Friends – Girls Weekend, Poulsbo, Washington

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View from Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort Patio

A sunny weekend, dark blue waters, drinks on the patio, and old friends – what more could a girl want?

Joanie, Brenda and I have been friends for over 20 years but because we were all busy raising families during that time, we never really thought about going away together. But now we’re there. So for our first Girls Weekend, we decided to head up to Poulsbo, Washington.

Poulsbo (pronounced Pauls-bow) was settled in 1892. In case you’re wondering what on earth kind of name that is, it’s Scandinavian. The location on the bay with the Olympic Mountains in the distance reminded the first settlers of Norway. The town has made a great effort at keeping the heritage alive in the architecture of the buildings as well as the local events, such as Lutefisk dinners, and the big one – The Viking Fest held in May each year.

We stayed at the Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort, mainly for the location and nice rooms. It’s situated right on Puget Sound across from Seattle and the patio looking out over the water is beautiful and classy. We could walk down the beach and look for critters or rocks. We could just sit outside and enjoy a drink from the hotel bar right inside the door. It was perfect. We did go into the casino to enjoy the buffet and play some Keno.

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Kayaking in Liberty Bay

Joanie had researched activities to do and we all wanted to kayak. So the next day awoke with some fog so we were a little worried that our kayaking plans might not work out. But we headed on down to Liberty Bay to Olympic Outdoor Center and the sun started coming out. It turned out that we were going to be going out in 2-person kayaks and tour the bay looking for wildlife with a guide. Since there were three of us one of us had to share a boat. Luckily, there were three young men who were there to go out in the kayaks as well. Two of them were from California and were visiting their friend who had moved to Tacoma. Brenda joined one of them in a kayak.

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Seal Sunning on the Docks

I love that feeling you get immediately when you hit the water and start floating. It’s so freeing and relaxing. We slowly paddled out and away from the marina to start looking for wildlife. Birds were everywhere. Seals were lying around and I swear they were smiling as we floated by. “This is the life,” they must be thinking.

The water was smooth as glass, the temperature was perfect, the company was fun. We got everything out of that experience that we wanted. Our guide was friendly and knowledgeable and, turns out he is a local chef by night.

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After paddling around the bay for about an hour, we headed back and then went into the little downtown area of Poulsbo (also known as “Little Norway”) and its adorable little shops. Craft, antique, nautical décor and yarn shops, bakeries and restaurants were set up in the historic old buildings. Of course we were good tourists and supported the local economy by eating lunch and buying trinkets and souvenirs!

We headed back to the hotel for more drinks on the patio and another delicious dinner in the casino. Later were amused by a bachelorette party that had WAY too much to drink and provided interesting entertainment (what happens in Poulsbo stays in Poulsbo?)

On our way home the next day, we decided we had so much fun that we started making our plans for the next Girls Weekend. So if you’re looking for a place for a quick getaway, Poulsbo is the place to go. The range of activities available in the area will keep you entertained and occupied for that weekend trip, whether it’s with family or with those cherished long-time friends.

Categories: Boating/Kayaking, Outdoors, Washington | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Bicycle Riding on the Pt. Townsend to Whidbey Island Ferry – Washington

Ferry

Ferry Kennewick

Having recently bought decent bicycles, one thing we have been talking about doing is taking our bikes on the ferry  system. So while vacationing in Port Townsend, Washington, we decided to start small and go on the Pt. Townsend to Whidbey Island ferry.

Nothing we do seems to be without adventure of some sort. We got up on an overcast Friday morning, checked the ferry website to make sure the ferry was operating on normal schedule. It was. Well, OK, the website just didn’t mention there was a problem. We took our car to the Safeway parking lot in town to park. We could have chosen to ride public transit down to the ferry dock but decided just to ride. When we got there we found out the ferry was broke down. They said it would be out the rest of the day and the next day was questionable.

Disappointed, we decided to ride around downtown Pt. Townsend. We had lunch at a little restaurant on the water and when we told the waitress about the ferry, she said, “Oh, yeah, that happens a lot.” Gulp – I’m not sure I want to go on a ferry that breaks down a lot! We continued riding, looking at the detailed architecture of the great old buildings, bought some delicious cupcakes at a little cupcake store, then rode up a hill to look out over the water. There we saw the ferry moving around so we went back down to check it out and it was fixed. David was excited to be able to go on it. I was still nervous that it would break down again. But of course, we bought our tickets.

Pt Townsend

Pt. Townsend

While waiting to get on, I went into the little building that amounts to a “terminal” and saw three young girls just staring at the vending machine. Turns out they had come over from Whidbey Island the day before, planning to spend just two hours there. Anyone remember Gilligan’s Island? Well, they decided to have dinner and by the time they were done, a storm had moved in, kicking up high winds, so the ferry was cancelled. Of course, they had to spend the night in Pt. Townsend. So the next morning they went to the terminal at 6:00am to catch the ferry back. Nope, by then it was broke down. This was now 3:00 in the afternoon. But the worst part? They had left their dogs in the car back on Whidbey. They ended up to be OK, but I’m sure there was a nice mess in the car and if it had been sunny and warm, that could have been disastrous for the poor dogs.

So now I’m really nervous, worried another storm will kick up and we’ll be stranded on Whidbey Island. David said, “Stop worrying, it’ll be fun!” I said, “If  we get stuck over there I am going to be sleeping in the softest motel bed you can afford.”

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Submarine with escort ships

The time came to get on the ferry. We were able to just park our bikes at the front of the boat and head upstairs. It was a great, short 30-minute ride. It was a beautiful day, not too cold and we even got to see a nuclear submarine being escorted down to the Bremerton submarine base. It was interesting to watch several coast guard boats racing up to private boats and having them clear the way for the sub.

Getting off ferry

Ready to get off the ferry

We landed at Whidbey and took off on our bikes up the hill to Ft. Casey. We spent about two hours bicycling around the fort, checking out it and touring the lighthouse. Since it was getting to be late in the afternoon we decided that we better head on back just in case the weather picked up again.

Waiting in line for the ferry we started talking to another gentleman on a bike. It turns out he was from San Diego, had flown up to Bellingham and was riding all the way back to San Diego. He was riding alone and said this was the first time he had ever done anything like this. One of the most interesting things we do is just talk to people. I love learning their stories.

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Bicycle Ramp

Back on the ferry, this time the staff said we had to take our bikes upstairs where there are bicycle racks. You can see on the picture that there is a ramp, which works  fine for some people but I wasn’t strong enough to take my bike up myself, Josh had to help.

Ferry Bicycle Rack

Another smooth, short ride back and we were done. We rode back to our car, loaded the bikes on and headed back to our RV and slept in our own bed that night, much to my relief.

Us on Ferry

Nancy and David

Ultimately, the ride was fun, I loved taking the bikes and easily getting on and off the ferry. Eventually we would like to do more of it with the following cautions: NEVER leave animals behind and always be prepared to get stuck on the other side. Then just relax and enjoy!

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Willapa Hills Trail, Chehalis to Adna, Washington

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Trailhead in Chehalis

Bike Trail

If you’re looking for a flat, relatively short walking or bicycle trail in southwest Washington then the Willapa Hills Trail will be perfect for you. Part of the Rails to Trails System, the trail is built on the footprints of an old railroad. It actually runs 56 miles from Chehalis to South Bend but at the moment a couple of trestles are not usable and not scheduled to be replaced until 2014. However, this is where the relatively short part comes in. The trail is 5.2 miles from Chehalis to Adna so a round trip is just over 10 miles. Of course you don’t have to go that far if you don’t want to.

Beginning behind the Centralia-Chehalis Steam Train, there is plenty of parking as well as restroom facilities (better than a port-a-potty, less than running water). As soon as you get on the trail you immediately pass over the Newaukum River via an old railroad bridge. If you’re lucky you might see the otters that sometimes frequent the area.

Bike Trail View Field

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Chehalis River Bridge

Continue on the flat trail enjoying the country scenery, the flowering trees, and massive green fields of the farms. Pass over the Chehalis River on another old train trestle. Often you can see families down at the river swimming or rockhounding.

The trail crosses a couple of roads, but it’s easy to see what little traffic there is and cross safely. Careful though – if you decide to go as far as Adna, you will need to cross Highway 6. You want to be sure to get near the corner where you can easily see traffic in both directions before you cross. Or if you decide to turn around, you’ve had a nice walk or ride just going that far.

End of trail at AdnaOnce you cross over Hwy. 6 you pass through some nice wetlands where the birds welcome you with beautiful sounds. You’ll pass by a private man-made lake that is used for waterskiing competitions, then behind the Adna High School. Just past the school there is another parking lot for the trail and there are more restrooms at this spot. Cross over Bunker Creek Rd. to the last part of the trail which ends at the unusable trestle.

With such an easy trail, it’s great for taking the kids for a walk, teaching little ones how to ride a bike, going slow and enjoying the views, and admiring the great old houses. On weekends you might even get to see the steam train out for a run.Trail RR Crossing

From I-5 take exit 77. Turn left at Riverside Drive, then a slight left on SE Newaukum Ave. Take a left on SW Sylvenus, then a right on SW Hillberger Rd. to the parking lot. You can also just follow the signs to the steam train, but instead of turning into the parking lot for the steam train, continue south on the road until you enter the parking lot for the tail. You will have passed the entrance to the trail as you enter the parking lot.

Categories: Outdoors, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tunnel Zip Lines, Chelan, Washington

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Nancy in full zip line gear

ZipLining“Should I give you a little surprise push?” Brianna asked. “Yes,” I squeaked with as much confidence as I could muster at the moment. Suddenly my feet were out from under me and I was in the air. Then I felt the straps catch me and I realized I was flying along. I actually had time to start enjoying looking out over the cliffs and the mighty blue Columbia River. At 52 years old I was on a zip line for the first time in my life and I was loving it!

I’m a nervous-nelly, a worry-wart. So I’m obviously not a dare-devil or any kind of extreme sport person. But last summer David, Josh and I had the opportunity to try out the new Tunnel Zip Lines just outside of the town of Chelan in central Washington. Since I had never been on one before, I stressed about it for days because the brochure said, “…an 880-foot sheer drop from one of the cliffs down to the highway.” Sheer drops are normally not my idea of a good time.

We had reservations for 4:00 and arrived right on time. We spent several minutes talking to Loretta Kelley, who, along with husband, Richard, own the zip line. She proudly explained that the zip line was all his idea. Currently there are four lines and they plan to expand that over the next two years, and will also expand to include a winery, wine tasting room and viewing patio which will look out over the river.

We met our guides, Brianna Larson, Trever Larkin, and Joey Frazier, along with our fellow “zippers”, Lisa Lingenfelter and her daughters, 15-year-old Brooklyn, 13-year-old Alison and 11-year-old, Madison. “Are you scared?” I asked them. Lisa wasn’t, she had zipped before in Mexico. Alison was really nervous. OK, that made me feel better, I was as nervous as a 13-year-old but if she could do it so could I.

We got our gear on and first went on a practice line. I liked this one – it just went straight across for a few feet. Then Richard picked all of us up in a van and drove us up to the next station. Along the way he gave us a little history lesson about some of the old items on the property such as “The Teacher’s Cabin” that gave us a fascinating look at the past.

Zip Line StageWe arrived at the second station. The three girls went first. “Good job, Peanut!” Lisa shouted to her daughter. OK, I thought, if Peanut can do it so can I. However, Josh went after the girls and there was a little glitch with the brake after he landed. So for safety considerations, Lisa, David and I walked back down and up another small hill to get to the second station so we could zip to the third station. This time, no problems and we all completed it. I was feeling pretty good. But now was the time for that 880-foot drop. David went first. My turn. The line did not go straight down a sheer cliff like I had imagined but I was still having second thoughts. Oh, but I couldn’t chicken out in front of the kids, could I? Brianna hooked me up and noticed my hesitation. “Should I give you a little surprise push?”

Zipline View

Amazing Views!

And I was flying – freely and safely. My fears were all for nothing. It was simply fun. At the end I asked the girls if they had fun and they all eagerly said yes, their fears were gone as well. It will be exciting to go back in 2014 to try out the new lines that will be added and see all the Kelley’s other plans take shape.

Getting there: Tunnel Zip Lines is located at 19840 Hwy. 97A, Chelan, WA 98816 (509) 682-0152. From Chelan, go south on Hwy. 97A for about three miles to just before the tunnel. Tunnel Zip Lines will be on the left. From Wenatchee go north on Hwy. 97A for about 32 miles and just past the tunnel, the zip line will be on the right. www.tunnelziplines.com

A word of caution: If you have any back or neck problem, make sure to discuss it with the guides. The last line jerks you a bit as you hit the brake at the top, so depending on your medical issues, you may want to skip the 4th line.

Note: As is common in the travel industry, we were provided with complimentary admission for the purpose of review. While this has not influenced this review, we believe in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.

Categories: Outdoors, Washington | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Razor Clam Digging on the Washington Coast

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Razor Clams

If you ever get the chance to go clam digging, jump on it!

Razor clams are found on the coastline along the Pacific Ocean from California all the way up to Alaska. Each state sets their own requirements. In Washington State, the Department of Fish and Wildlife determines when the digs are and posts the dates, along with the time of the low tide. The best clamming is one to two hours before the low tide.

Then all you need to do is purchase your clamming license, a shovel or clam gun, and head to the beach! Licenses currently cost $8.60 for a three-days or $13.00 for an annual license. You can get a limit of 15 clams per day per person, just be sure you keep each limit in a separate container.

Several years ago I watched a friend dig for clams but didn’t participate so for me it wasn’t much more than going for a walk on the beach. This was my first time ever actually digging. I was in for a wonderful treat.

Josh Clam Digging

Josh loves getting his hands in the sand!

We drove about an hour and a half to Ocean Shores, Washington, to try our luck. We stopped at a little convenience store just outside of town and I bought my license. David and Josh already had theirs. I asked where to go and the clerk said just follow Hwy. 115 into Ocean Shores and it would take us right to the beach. So we did and boy, were we surprised by everyone else who was there! The cars were lined up on the beach for miles and so were the people! I was a little concerned there wouldn’t be any clams left, but I imagine that’s why there is a 15-clam-per-person limit. Still, it just looked like there were SO many people, it didn’t seem possible there would be enough clams.

The day was absolutely beautiful, which can be rare on the Washington coast. Sunny and clear, but with the usual brisk wind, we were prepared. We had layered clothing, coats, gloves, and hats. We also made use of the hip waders David had bought us all for Christmas last year. They kept our feet and legs completely dry while adding an extra layer of warmth.

David and Josh Clamming

David using the home-made clam gun, Josh waiting to stick his hand in the hole

We headed out to an area where we didn’t see too many people. Of course I worried that there was no one in that spot because there were no clams there. But we crossed a small current of water and came out on some higher ground and started looking for holes in the sand. Josh immediately spotted one and started digging with one of the clam guns that David and Josh had made from PVC pipe. He was very excited when he found one! Then another. Then another. He was VERY good at this! David and I were a bit slower but started finding them pretty quickly as well. I would dig with the gun and pull the sand out and if the clam wasn’t right there, David would stick his hand in the hole to get the clam. I just couldn’t do that part – it freaked me out to think about sticking my hand in a place where I couldn’t see what I was touching. Weird, I know.

Josh quickly reached his limit then helped us by running around looking for the holes and yelling, “Here’s another one! Shoot, Elizabeth, shoot!” (Yes, the boy watches a lot of Swamp People.)

It took us a little under two hours to reach our three limits. Then it was out to dinner and a late drive back home. But we had a very fun time and can’t wait to do it again. So I was very happy to wake up to a post online listing two more upcoming clamming dates. They’re on our calendar!

Categories: Keatons Out and About, Outdoors, Uncategorized, Washington | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Tumwater Falls Park

IMG_0853Located just south of the capitol city of Olympia, Washington is the historic town of Tumwater. Just east of I-5, exit 103, sits the Tumwater Falls Park. The river that runs through it is the Deschutes River, which ends in Capitol Lake.

Once it was an area where Native Americans gathered. Years ago I took an archaeology class through South Puget Sound Community College and we took a field trip to the shores of the Deschutes River, to a spot just north of the park. There we were shown an old shell midden, which is basically a dump area for meal leftovers for local Native Americans. It was fascinating to find and touch old shells that were remnants of the people who had once inhabited the area.

Then in 1845 a group of pioneers settled in the area and built around the falls. Later, as it becameIMG_0828 famous for its artesian water, the Olympia Brewing Company was built right next to the falls. The building now stands empty but doesn’t detract from the beauty of the falls. The park is now on the historic register and is maintained and operated by a non-profit organization, the Olympia Tumwater Foundation.

You enter the park through the parking lot, located at 110 Deschutes Parkway. This part of the part has a nice lawn, picnic tables, restrooms and play structures for the kids. Nearby is a fish hatchery-holding area to process migrating salmon from the fish ladders. Until 1954 fish were unable to get over the falls so fish ladders were built.

There are actually three falls on the river – Upper Tumwater Falls, Middle Tumwater Falls, and Tumwater Falls. It’s easy to quickly get out and look at the Upper Tumwater Falls first, and to think that’s all there is, but plan to take the time to explore all of the falls. There is a nice lightly IMG_0836graveled walking trail that goes along the river and falls for about ½ mile with two foot bridges to get you over the water. Benches along the way provide a comfortable way to relax and take in the vivid, almost glowing greenery of the surrounding native plants or to be mesmerized by the sound of the rushing falls.

If you are looking for a quick outdoor experience, whether you live in the area or are just passing through, Tumwater Falls Park is the perfect stop. It provides the fresh air, exercise and beautiful northwest foliage that can improve even the most gray-dreary moods!IMG_0835

Categories: Historical, Outdoors, Parks, Washington | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

White Pass Ski Resort

Josh getting ready for snowboarding lessons.

The snow is falling, the snow is falling! Time to head up to White Pass Ski Resort and hit the slopes. I say that like I know what I’m doing but I’m a newby. This year I will be trying to ski for the first time. Last year we bought our then 13-year-old son, Josh, snowboard lessons. It was a great deal. Three lessons with equipment rental (either snowboard or ski, you get to choose) which can be taken on non-consecutive days. This year the cost is $129.00 for ages 5-12, over age 12 is $139.00.

I have never skied before or even been to a ski resort. I was in for a bit of a shock. First was ALL the people there! I don’t think I’ve seen so many people in one spot expect during Christmas in downtown Seattle! Next was the “lodge.” It’s called the base lodge. Having only seen ski lodges on TV I was picturing a nice quite romantic room with a crackling fire and soft couches. Uh, no, it was more like a junior high cafeteria. The top two floors were jam-packed and noisy. The food is also rather expensive, but you are welcome to bring your own.

The bottom floor holds the store, equipment rental and repair, restrooms and daycare. The store actually has surprisingly affordable items. For instance, jackets were less expensive there than at the Helley Hanson factory outlet store in Centralia.

But – the lodge has great windows looking out onto the slopes. That’s where we waited while Josh had his lessons and after watching people skiing who obviously had various levels of expertise, I decided maybe I could try it so that’s my goal for this winter. Josh finished out his snowboard lessons, slowly increasing his skills. This year he will try skiing as well to compare which will work best for him. I plan on giving a couple of other family members the lessons for Christmas as well (shhh, don’t tell them!)

A new lodge up high on the ridgeline called High Camp Lodge was built when White Pass Ski Resort was able to expand an additional 767 acres last year. I hope to get up there after I learn to ski and see it so I can tell you more about what it has to offer in the way of amenities and views.

There is lodging with kitchens available on the mountain as well as nearby towns but there really aren’t any other dining options on site besides the lodge.

So check it out at skiwhitepass.com for the latest conditions and other options for lessons and we’ll see you on the slopes!

Getting there: From Interstate 5, go east on Hwy 12. From eastern Washington, go west on Hwy. 12.

Categories: Outdoors, Skiing, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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