Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hiking the Northwest's Greatest Hits: Boulder River Trail

On a breakout sunny spring day, here's my idea of nirvana: Walking beside a pristine mountain river swollen with spring snowmelt in a lush green forest. Throw in a magnificent waterfall streaming in rivulets down a steep cliff along the way. Cue a dramatic interplay of sun and shadow in equal measure filtering through the trees and down the canyon.

The Boulder River trail on a fresh spring day offers all this and more. 

Like the profusion of flowers, ferns, moss, and native shrubs lining the mostly level trail above the river. Delicate native maidenhair fern glow vivid lime green against a mossy rock face seeping water.

We arrived at the trailhead shortly after 9 a.m. on a brilliant Saturday morning to join the Alpine Trails  Book Club, an inspired creation of Alpine Lily blogger Ashley. Fellow blogger Laura of Tiny Pines is the current organizer, and she picked an interesting read and a lovely hike.

I was surprised we found a parking space just one car away from the trailhead this "late," especially since this hike was recently featured in Sunset Magazine. But there we were, and off we went upriver.

Basically the trail meanders on an old logging road through a verdant temperate rainforest about 10 to 100 feet above the river, which courses through a narrow canyon. Lovely western red cedar and other native evergreens intersperse with alders, bigleaf maples, and more native shrubs.

 At a few points along the way, steep side trails offer opportunities to scramble down to the river's edge. With a tweaky knee, I didn't go all the way down, although the others did.

But the real star of the show was the spectacular Feature Show waterfall about a mile up the trail across the river. Plunging well over 250 feet down to the river below, it widens into multiple streams farther down.

It was hard to get a decent shot of the whole thing with the bright sunlight. But I tried.

I hope you get an idea of how stunning this waterfall is, especially right now when the spring runoff is kicking into high gear.

After a couple hours hiking upriver, we stopped where the trail begins to meander away from the river's edge to snack and discuss the book. Laura and Andy said the trail is not as scenic beyond this point, about 3 miles or so from the trailhead.

Heading back downriver, we passed (and were passed by) increasing numbers of hikers. This is expected on a such a beautiful spring day not much more than an hour from Seattle. A few obstacles along the way were easily crossed, reminders that trees grow and die, fall over, and regenerate the forest floor.

Not far from the trailhead on the return, we passed a classic example of a nurse tree, with a gorgeous cedar growing out of the remnant old growth stump. I can only imagine the magnificence of this forest before the loggers came through decades ago and took most of the big trees.

By early afternoon we're headed back home, passing parked cars stretched about a quarter mile down from the trailhead. 

As usual, I felt energized and refreshed from the hours walking through such beautiful place away from the city. To paraphrase my friend Jenifer, "I wish I could breath in this clean forest air every day." Because really, the air out there truly smells, tastes, and feels so clean and nourishing.

Like I said, nirvana.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.  
When You Go
It took us about an hour and 15 minutes to drive to the trailhead from north Seattle. Bonus: No parking pass (Discovery or Northwest Forest) is required! From I-5 northbound, take the Arlington/Darrington exit 208, going right toward Arlington, then stay on Highway 530 through Arlington. At 23.6 miles from I-5, turn right onto French Creek Road, just after milepost 41. Follow the bumpy gravel road about 3 miles to the trailhead, which has parking for about 15 cars. While there is a vault toilet a mile in from the turnoff on French Creek Road, there are no facilities at the trailhead.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Pausing, Reflecting, and Gardening

Welcome to Pacific Northwest Seasons! Perhaps you're wondering why I've not blogged much this year?

My absence has been due to a combination of things: My freelance work has dramatically picked up and spilled into evenings and weekends. A troublesome knee has kept me from getting outdoors and hiking/biking/skiing as much as I'd like. 

And I've been reassessing what exactly my purpose is for this blog anymore. As a former popular local food blogger told me a few years ago, "I think the blogging moment is over."

When I started blogging in 2008, I was happy to share my secret places and encourage people to get outside and enjoy this special corner of the world.

2013, on an overly popular peak

Now many of our trails and beautiful outdoors destinations near Seattle and Portland are suffering from overuse. I've written about this before and my struggles with the explosive growth and changes in our region. I've become that crabby lady who reflexively scolds newbies for cutting off-trail between switchbacks. Ugh. I make myself inwardly cringe.

So I'm less inclined to write about it all right now. Instead I've been playing in the garden, just outside my front door.

The beginning, 2012

Some raspberry plants gifted from my stepmother inspired me to start the garden, which I wrote about a few years ago. (Although my eldest sister will claim credit too.) Since then, the raspberries are assertively trying to take over the whole front yard, and I dig up and give away many raspberry starts each spring.

Want any? I have about six thriving little starts waiting for new homes now. (No kidding. Message me in the comments below if you're in Seattle and interested.)

Interestingly, the garden has evolved into a major stress reliever. When I'm out there watering, weeding, or harvesting, it all feels so healthy and natural. Sometimes I get buzzed by iridescent-feathered hummingbirds. This thrills me.

It makes me happy to see things growing under my care, and of course, I enjoy eating and sharing the bounty. I've been having delicate spring greens salads for a few weeks now. Hmmm.

Don't consider me retired from getting outdoors, exploring the region, and sharing the experiences with you. In fact, I hope to go hiking to see the wild rhodies in Deception Pass State Park this weekend with fellow blogger and nature geek Dave of Wild Fidalgo.

I also have lots of ideas about environmental issues to write about, unique Northwesterners to feature, and more. And a blog redesign/update is overdue.

So tell me, what are your thoughts on gardening, getting outdoors, the Pacific Northwest, and/or this blog? Your feedback in the comments below gives me inspiration to continue.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.  

Monday, April 10, 2017

University of Washington Cherry Blossoms: The Quad in Bloom

I've always been very sensitive to my surroundings, so it wasn't out of character that I chose to attend the University of Washington. A beautiful campus is not a good reason to pick a college, but there you have it. It played into my decision.

For starters, there's that burst of cherry blossoms that rim the Quad each spring in an exquisite cloud of pale pink.

When I was a student there, I looked forward to cherry blossom time each spring. But I didn't think about taking pictures of them (it was the pre-smartphone era)

In the years since, it has become a Seattle thing, with hundreds of non-students crowding the Quad to see and shoot them at their peak. They even have their own Twitter account now (@uwcherryblossoms).

So last Friday I stopped by the campus on a rainy morning right before a windstorm that would blow down most of the remaining blossoms, already past their peak.

We arrived right after 8:30 classes started, so the Quad was pretty empty. Puddles were scattered around the wet brick walkways. With each gust of wind, delicate pink petals floated to the ground beneath the trees like spring snow.

These Yoshino cherry trees came from Japan, and many are quite elderly for such trees. They were originally planted in the 1930s at the nearby Washington Park Arboretum and moved to the Quad in the 1960s

“The cherry blossom represents the fertility and beauty of life,” said recently retired UW Professor Tetsuden Kashima in 2014. “In [Japan], the blossoms are a reminder that life is almost overwhelmingly beautiful, but it is also tragically short. When the cherry blossoms bloom for a short time each year in force, they serve as a visual reminder of how precious and precarious life is.”

I'm sure the thousands of students and sightseers dashing around on campus are hardly thinking such poignant and weighty thoughts. But in a Japanese art history class at UW (coincidentally, on the Quad), I was introduced to this concept, which the Japanese call mono no aware.

And as the years go by, this concept does resonate with me more. So it was especially sweet to visit these old friends, gnarled and aging, perhaps even more beautiful than in their youth.

As my girlfriends and I, long past our university days, walked past the trees, a student noticed me taking shots with a big camera in hand and came over.

"I'm about to graduate and have never taken a picture of these trees. Can you take some shots of me with them?"

I was happy to oblige.  


How about you? Have you been to see the cherry blossoms on the Quad, or somewhere else?  Jump in with a comment below and make my day. :)
Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.   

When You Go

While the Quad is lovely any time of year, the blossoms are mosty spent for 2017. It's still worth a trip, though, to see the tail end of the blossoms.  Click here for a live streaming view of the Quad (and indeed there are still some blossoms left on the trees as of today). Here is a link on how to get to the UW Seattle campus, which has a link to over 60 bus routes to campus.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

A Good Pacific Northwest Spring Rain

Outside a persistent, early spring rain is falling as I write this. Big puddles are overflowing and western red cedar boughs are weeping delicate tears.

A vigorous spring rain makes it feel like all is right with the world.

Author Timothy Egan perfectly captured it in the title of his 1990 break-through book: The Good Rain. Which is exactly how I've felt about our will-it-never-end rain this past week.

I usually do a "celebrate the rain" blog post each spring, but this year I'm especially feeling it. We're coming off our 9th coldest winter on record and a record-breaking rainfall in February. Signs of spring are late and especially welcome.

The first bloom on my camellia. Some years they start to flower in January.
Tiny raindrops cling to spring green chives shooting up in my garden.
Unfurling of skunk cabbage, a true sign of spring in a NW coastal forest.
 With the spring rains, unlike a bone-chilling winter rain, bird calls accompany the drizzle. I know by the particular cadence and songs that they're spring bird songs. I can't name all the birds, but I know their seasonal songs.

The little guy on the right refused to smile for the camera. :)
One of my earliest memories is wandering in the rain in my rubber boots, splashing in puddles. I think I gave my mother a scare once by wandering off alone in the rain.

Raindrops in puddles

So really, that's all I wanted to say. I'm grateful for our rains this year in face of drought elsewhere, climate change, and increasing threats to our environment. 

A good rain feels life-affirming. Falling asleep to a steady rain last night and waking up this morning to the same was like a balm to my soul.

And I didn't have to imagine it last night.

And how do you feel about rain?

Welcome to spring!

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.  

BTW, apologies for some font issues on this post! Blogger is being difficult. :(

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Keeping it All in the Family: Georgia's

Georgia Kazakos, founder of Georgia's Greek Restaurant and Deli

With the rapid transformation of Seattle from a mid-sized, affordable city into an expensive big city, I regularly see small businesses in humble little buildings slated for demolition. Within a year, they're replaced by big multi-story residential/retail units. 

These teardowns can drive small shops or restaurants out of business through months of displacement. I know, change is inevitable in the face of our booming economy and thousands of job openings that bring people here from all over the world.  

 But today I'm paying homage to a decades-old small family restaurant that's still in business despite the new pressures.
When I moved to Crown Hill/Greenwood in north Seattle in the late 1990s, it was NOT a hip area. That bothered me a bit because many of my "yuppie" friends could afford homes in more upscale neighborhoods with chic cafes. (I was younger and cared more about things like that back then.)   

The first time I wandered into Greenwood's
Georgia's Greek Restaurant and Deli for breakfast, I wasn't impressed by the industrial blue carpet and decor. But when the food arrived, none of that mattered. The signature Georgia's omelette with spinach and feta, soft warm pita bread instead of toast, and crispy/tender oregano-seasoned potatoes was just perfect.

So for years now I've stopped by for meals in and to go. For parties, I'll buy a big container of their tangy, excellent revithosalata (hummus). When I've got a cold and need some mom-like comfort soup, their creamy-lemony chicken avgolemeno soup with warm pita is what I crave. 
It's not fancy schmancy, but it's solid, savory Greek food that tastes like it was made with love by your favorite aunt, grandmother, mom, or foodie dad. In fact, namesake and mom Georgia Kazakos is often seated at the small counter up front, enjoying the goings on. Today her friendly son Laki owns and runs the biz.

Laki Kazakos
On some weekend evenings, live music and dancing get the place hopping, but I'm partial to those amazing breakfasts.

"They have the best breakfast potatoes in Seattle," says Neal, the son of a friend.

Opa! Laki finishes an order of saganaki with a dramatic flourish.

Somehow I missed several years ago that Guy Fieri stopped by and featured Laki/Georgia's on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Well deserved! (But they didn't talk about the breakfasts.)

Laki admits that a closed and fenced-in property next door hasn't helped business the last few years. But I'm happy he's still there, with mom Georgia stopping by and his daughter serving tables.

So if you're in north Seattle, swing over to Georgia's in Greenwood for a meal that tastes like home. Or grab some of their deli specialties like their organic quince jam or honey sweet baklava.

Apologies for being away so long. Look for more Pacific Northwest adventures, insider tips, and reflections in the weeks ahead.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news. 

When You Go
Georgia's is on NW 85th Street about a half mile west of the main Greenwood Avenue business district. They're open every day but Tuesdays and serve breakfast until 3 pm.  Check out their hours here. For take-out orders, call 206-783-1228. Health bonus:  Those tasty omelettes and potatoes are cooked in olive oil, not butter.