Wednesday, April 24, 2013

2012 Washington--Chimene's Class Reunion

Chimene, the Hot Chick and friends at her 30th class reunion

Chimene had never been to any of her class reunions.  Since the advent of the internet and things like Facebook and other social networking sites, it has become increasingly easy to connect with old friends.  Some of Chimene's high school friends contacted her and she expressed her desire to attend her 30th class reunion.  She planned and saved for it for months and had things worked out so she could carpool up to Seattle with a friend who was also attending, but at the last minute the friend backed out and she had no way to go.  I decided to drive up with her because I didn't want her to drive up alone for that long of a trip.  I'm glad I did.

We lived in western Washington for about six years in the mid to late 90's and we loved it up there.  We had a lot of friends and a lot of favorite places to go while we lived there.  Chimene had been back a time or two since we moved to Idaho in 2000 but I never had.  It was high time I went.

Day 1
We were in quite a hurry to get up to Washington and so on the way up we didn't stop for any photo ops.  We just drove straight through.  It's about a fourteen hour drive to get to where we were going,  We just had to soldier on.  I will say that the scenery on the northern route is much prettier than it is on the southern route.  The northern route goes through Montana and across eastern Washington whereas the southern route goes through the desert of Idaho, then up through Oregon and the Tri Cities area of Washington.  The northern route is about two hours shorter as well.  That was how we opted to go this time.

Chimene had already made contact with her brother Bryan to stay at his home while we were there, and on the way up I made contact with one of my very best friends, Tom, and told him we were going to be up and wanted to see him and Kris, his wife.  We arranged to meet up for lunch the next day.

We arrived at Bryan's house late in the evening on Thursday and visited for a short time and then went to sleep.

Day 2
We got up the next morning and drove around the area for a little while, then we made our way up to Lake Stevens, Washington to meet up with Tom and Kris.  While we were waiting for Tom, Chimene shouted for me to stop the car and pull over.  I did and she jumped out and ran over to a wild blackberry bramble and started picking the berries.  I got out and had to start eating them too.  I'd forgotten how well everything grows in Washington.  I used to tell her when we lived up there that it wasn't fair that in Washington, even the weeds looked good.  We told Tom where we were and he came and guided us to his home.

Wild blackberry--They are everywhere up there

More blackberries

The Hot Chick at the blackberry bramble

The line of plants just above her head is a single blackberry bramble

Some of our very best friends, Tom and Kris

When he found out that we were coming up, Tom called in and took the day off work.  He can do that, he's the boss.  We went to lunch on the waterfront in Everett, Washington with Tom and Kris.  Chimene had to go to her reunion dinner down in Seattle, and Tom said he needed to take me out on his boat.  Chimene didn't figure she'd be gone long.  She said she'd stay until everyone started drinking, then she'd come back for me.  Not much fun being a non-drinker at a drinking function.

Tom and I went out on the Puget Sound on his boat and planned to catch a salmon or two while we were there.  We went out to the marina, boarded the boat and headed off into the sound.  For some reason, everything conspired against us catching fish that day.  It didn't matter though because I had a great time with my friend.

We navigated through the slough, to the Sound, but the drawbridge was down and we had to wait for a very long time for a train to pass.  When it passed, the sun was already on it's downward arc as we headed out for deep water.  As we were approaching the fishing grounds, the boat started acting up.  Tom had just had it serviced and the mechanic assured him it was good to go.  I don't know what the problem was, but it seemed like a fuel pump issue to me.  We got to cast into the water a few times, but didn't get a bite.  The boat issue was vexing to Tom and he tried and tried to get it resolved.

The issue kept getting worse and we were stranded out on the Puget Sound for a long time.  He could get the boat going for a short time and we'd go for as far as we could but eventually it would stall and we'd drift back out to sea.  We were going two steps forward and one step back.  Finally we called Vessel Assist and at eleven o'clock at night, we were towed back to the marina.  It was vexing to Tom, but I didn't mind.  I got to spend some time with my buddy whom I hadn't seen for ten or so years.  Even though there was the boat problems, we had a very nice visit.

When we finally got back to Tom's place, Chimene still wasn't back.  She had been having such a nice time with her friends that she opted to stay longer.  Seems like everyone had grown up a bit and no one was getting drunk.  She texted me several times during the evening asking if it was okay for her to stay.  I told her the reason we came up was for her to go to her reunion and to stay as long as she liked.  Besides, Tom and I were stranded on the Sound.

When we finally were rescued, Tom took me to a garage where he showed me his hobby cars.  Have to say I was a little bit jealous.  Chimene finally came to pick me up at about one o'clock in the morning and we drove back to Bryan's home where we slept.

Tom's boat

Waiting for the train

Finally getting out on the Sound

The sunset over the water

The wake from the boat

More sunset action

More sunset action

Attempting to fish

Vessel Assist

Day 3
We spent the morning with Bryan and Kara and his family.  They have a good strong family and their children are bright and cute.  Great kids, well mannered and well behaved.  They are doing a very good job with them.  Of all Chimene's family, I have bonded with Bryan and D'Lynn the most.  We are very good friends, and we love to talk politics and smack.  We're hopeful that Bryan and Kara will bring their family to Idaho for a vacation so we can show them around Yellowstone.

Chimene became the favorite auntie to the little girls because she had cool shoes and let them wear them.  She also fixed their hair and I think put a little make-up on them.

The nieces in Chimene's shoes.  They were an instant hit

Well behaved kids (take after their mother)

The nieces

Ring around the rosie

A good family

Zombie kids.  No wonder I liked them so much

Chimene, Bryan and Kara

We drove down to Kirlkand where the second day of the reunion was going to take place.  It was in one of the waterfront parks on Lake Washington, a favorite place of some of her classmates who used to go and get inebriated there.  Seemed like a good sentimental choice to me.

Chimene spent a great deal of time getting reacquainted with her friends and I visited some, but spent some time in the park taking pictures of the flora and fauna.  I figured this event was about Chimene and not me, and I didn't want to get in the way.  I also didn't want to hurry her because this was her trip, this was what we came for.  She had a great time and I'm glad we could do this for her.

Chimene's friends

Table full of friends

Chimene in her element.  As you can see, this party went on until dusk

More friends

The parks in and around the Seattle area are always beautiful, and this one was no different.  At the time of this posting, I can't remember which park we were at, but it really doesn't matter because they are all spectacular.  I spent a great deal of time enjoying the nature of it.  Some of her friends thought I was daft because I was taking close-ups of tree bark.  I've been called daft before, so it didn't bother me.  As a designer, I love texture.  Always have.

Footbridge.  Idyllic

Tree bark and moss

Someone's home


Living and dead together
Light and shadow

Sunset over Lake Washington

Mount Ranier

Day 4
After breakfast, we thanked Bryan and Kara and their children for sharing their home with us and Chimene and I left for home.  We did stop in Seattle for a short time because we wanted to see Pike Place Market.  I hadn't been there for a long time.  We kicked around Seattle for a couple of hours and went to a waterfront park to take some photos.  While we were there, all these people wearing pink were walking along the parkway.  There was a walkathon for Breast Cancer awareness going on.  We talked to a few of the ladies who were all survivors.  They were delightful and so very optimistic.

The nephew

Bryan and Me

Pike Place Market

Big fish

Flying fish--what Pike Place Market is famous for

The Hot Chick on the boulder beach

Me at the same location

The ferry on the Sound


Then came the grueling drive home.  We stayed in Seattle too long, and we drove most of the way home in the dark.  It was tough, but I wouldn't change it.  We made it home safe and we had a wonderful time.

Somewhere along the way, we stopped at a Carls Jr. for a burger.  Since I am allergic to everything good in the world except meat, I ordered a special sandwich.  The meat was bacon and the buns were two hamburger patties.  The guy at the counter got a kick out of making it for me.  It was well tasty.

My sandwich

I am glad we got to do this for Chimene.  I had been away from Seattle for far too long.  I was glad to see some old friends.  I didn't realize how much I missed it there until I went back.  I hope it won't be so long next time.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

2012 Idaho--Sand Creek

The Idaho sky.  Not quite as big as Montana's, but big enough

I took a hiatus from blogging for several months.  I won't go into any details, but life got in the way and the wagons had to be circled for awhile.  Time to catch up.

Last fall, my son had a campout at a place called Sand Creek.  It worked out that I was able to go with him.  I like to go with my sons on campouts as often as I can.  Sand Creek is about thirty miles north of where we live, near Ashton, Idaho. 

The campsite is situated on the flanks of the largest volcano in the world, the Island Park Caldera.  Essentially, if it ever decides to erupt in an explosive style again, we live in the 100% kill zone.  Everything, including bacteria would be wiped out where we live.  We'd have just enough time to kiss our backsides goodbye.  It isn't the tallest volcano, but it's footprint is.  Before the last eruption, this volcano made Mount Rainier look like a wannabee.  Geologists say that when it blew up the last time, the top two thirds of the mountain disappeared.  The eruption was so violent that pieces of the mountain ended up in orbit around the planet, and there have been samples of it collected as far away as Israel.  This is a big deal.

When we arrived at the campsite, it made me think that this area was at one time a ranch that had reverted back to forest service or BLM control.  They had made it a wild bird refuge.  There was an old ranch house where the caretaker lived and a few fields of sunflowers and other crops to entice nesting birds to come and stay.

The campsite is situated around several manmade ponds.  I believe they were placed there to be watering holes for the cattle.  Today they host many varieties of waterfowl in the springtime.

One of the ponds

We arrived around five or six o'clock and began setting up camp.  When the tents were set up, the boys immediately went to the pond and began fishing.  One boy caught a fish, but otherwise the whole group was skunked.


The flanks of the largest volcano in the world

The one and only fish

A hapless fisherman

While we were eating, we watched an electrical storm progress steadily towards us.  It was pretty eerie and cool all at the same time.  I figured it was about thirty miles away at that point. 

There was an interesting astrological phenomenon that night.  When the moon rose, it was considered a "Blue Moon".  Apparently it was the second full moon in a single month.  It is very rare and the term, "Once in a blue moon" was coined because of it.

Later that night, as we lay in the tents, the lightning would flash and I'd count the seconds to see how close it was.  When it was within a mile, I told the other leaders and the boys to get into the cars, which we did.  We waited in the cars for about an hour, waiting for the lightning to pass.  When it finally did, we went back to the tents.

The lightning passed but later that night we were subjected to torrential rains.  My tent has waterproofing on it, but even that wasn't enough to repel all the water.  The tent grew saturated and we got very wet.

Lightning strike

Another one

The "Blue Moon"

Dinner--My boy is the one in the skull shirt

The next morning, we struck camp.  One of the boys refused to get out of his sleeping bag, so the boys dragged the sleeping bag out of the tent with him in it.  He stayed in the bag, they all went fishing.  I went exploring.

There's a boy in that bag

My son and my friend fishing

One of the most beneficial plants in the wild.  If you know how to use a
cattail, you can survive most things.  They can supply nourishment, insulation, the leaves
can be woven to make mats or baskets, fuel.  Great plant.

I don't know what plant this is, except that it is most likely poisonous.  The old scout rhyme comes to mind,
"Leaflets three,
Poisonous tree.
Berries white,
Poisonous sight."

Still waters, beautiful reflection


The old footbridge

When it became apparent we weren't going to catch any fish, we opted to return home. 

On the way home, I spotted a hillock with a half a dozen or so large cairns on it.  We stopped and my son and I went exploring.  I like cairns and have built them in the wild on several occasions. 




My son next to a cairn to show scale

I have no idea what the cairns were marking.  I don't know if they were covering remains, marking a trail or just as a monument to an unknown builder.  What I do know is they were cool and I needed a picture of them.

This was a fun campout, even though we got rained on, we didn't get rained out.  I'd like to visit here in the spring when the migratory birds are nesting.