Saint Edward State Park

With the new year upon us and a rather bountiful meal in store, we decided to prepare ourselves for gluttony by burning a few calories. The destination, St. Edward State Park which resides on the upper east bank of Lake Washington.

Winter in Seattle has been know to produce some cool weather and this day was no exception. However, the skies were clear and the air was dense, making for some crystal clear views perfect for pictures. We chose to hike the outer most loop around the park moving clockwise. The walk included a very steep decent along the south end of the park followed by a nice leisurely (and quite scenic) stroll along the lake and finally a much less intense uphill grade back to the parking lot. View Map

For those of you considering this hike, we recommend that you avoid the steep descent along the south end of the park. This would be much better hiking up assuming you are looking for a good, strenuous workout. As an alternative there is another trail adjacent to the steep one, with switchbacks that avoid the steep decline down to the water. We also found that muddy conditions make for a very slippery surface, so it would be best to take on the steep climb after a few days of dry weather.

Overall we both really enjoyed the hike. There were several others out that day so my guess is that the trail gets some good use when the weather is nice. It’s a great balance of wooded trails and water views, great photo opportunities and a pretty decent workout. There are also several trails in the interior that we plan to explore soon.

Now for the fun part – a few of our favorite photos:

To view more photos from this hike, St. Edward State Park Jan12

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A Marriage Proposal on Orcas Island

It had to be someplace different. A place that neither of us had been. Better yet, somewhere we had talked about going but had yet to make it happen. Once there, we should feel like we were away, truly away with ample opportunity for romantic adventure. Lastly, it had to be close enough to allow us to get the most out of our rather short trip. Fortunately there is no shortage of beauty in the Pacific Northwest so I didn’t have to look long before selecting Orcas Island as our destination.

Traveling to the island offered another great opportunity – float planes. Operated by Kenmore Air, this convenient and quick trip by air departs from the waters of Lake Union providing access to several destinations along the San Juan Islands. We’ve often watched them take off from a restaurant table, park or the deck of a boat so the intrigue was already there. I managed to keep the destination a secret which required that the mode of transportation also remain under wraps. On the morning of the trip, we boarded a rather small 7 passenger deHavilland Beaver and departed the waters of Lake Union bound for Orcas Island. Very exciting!

The lady just before our departure from Lake Union.

7-Seat Kenmore Air Float Plane.

Traveling by air along the island chains at such a low altitude offers a very unique vantage point of the Puget Sound. Here are a few pictures to give you a feel:

A shot just after lift-off from Lake Union.

The San Juan Islands from the air.

Landing in Deer Harbor, Orcas Island.

After dropping off the other passengers at Deer Harbor!

We landed at Rosario Resort and Spa. Walked up a dilapidated dock and climbed into a convertible Mazda Miata which I had rented from one of two car rental businesses on the island. A special shout out to Amy Masters who owns Orcas Island Shuttle for taking extra time to point out a few key attractions on the island. She is awesome!

Driving this little beauty was a blast!

A quick shot that turned out quite nice!

During our 2 night stay on the island, we drove to the top of mount constitution, had lunch at a fantastic Thai-inspired outdoor restaurant called The Kitchen, toured the entire island and saw a great concert performed at the Rosario Resort on one of the largest private air organs in existence. We stayed at the Inn at Ship Bay, which was very romantic and featured a restaurant that was arguably the best the island had to offer. That is where we had dinner on Saturday night.

 Driving up toward Mount Constitution.

At the top of Mount Constitution, Orcas Island, WA

 View from the Inn at Ship Bay Restaurant, Orcas Island, WA.

Perfect afternoon glass of wine at the Inn at Ship Bay.

More beautiful scenery from the Inn at Ship Bay, Orcas Island, WA.

After dinner it was time; the weather was beautiful, the moon was out and it was just Jen and I overlooking the tranquil waters of Ship Bay. As we sat there discussing what a great time we were having, sipping an after-dinner port, I pulled the ring from my pocket, told her I loved her and opened the box. This was no ordinary box – not just because it had an engagement ring in it, but because it also featured a small light that illuminated the ring showing off all of its sparkles despite the moon-lit darkness. I must admit, it was a bit humorous and we both laughed a bit. It was then that I popped the question; fortunately she said yes.

And so it went, the next day we drove down to Doe Bay, sat in a pair of Adirondacks soaking up the sun with a beer in hand. That vision pretty much encapsulates our time on the island. We both feel very fortunate to have such remarkable beauty just a short float plane away.

Doe Bay, Orcas Island, WA.

Maggie brought us home safe and sound!

To view more pictures from this awesome trip, CLICK HERE>>

Camping at Upper Johnny Creek, Washington

After a long wait, we finally got to enjoy a true Seattle summer weekend. Fortunately we had also planned a camping trip with some recently re-united friends from my old LA days, Steve & Jynn Romano. The result: 2 couples with no kids, a taste for delicious cuisine and an impeccable tolerance for booze.

Needless to say, the company was great and the trip did not disappoint!

That’s not to say we didn’t encounter a few challenges along the way. I’ll spare our readers the gory details (yes I know, it’s too late), but in summary the campground we selected happened to catch on fire; so it was inhospitable territory. Steve & Jynn being the good friends that they are, forged ahead with no knowledge of said closure, only to be stopped 2 miles short of our intended destination! Roughly 5 hours later they finally found a spot for us at Upper Johnny Creek Campground (near Leavenworth) – it was already 8:00 PM and we were still in Seattle. With the destination now secured, Jen and I hit the road for a 3 hour tour.

We arrived at around 11:30 and quickly poured ourselves some stiff drinks. It was Thursday night and we had 3 nights ahead of us – it was time to get our party on. In fact, we had enough moxie to keep the party bumping until 2:00 AM! Who said 40-somethings can’t party? And so it went; lots of delicious food prepared by our resident chef, Mrs. Jynn Romano, paired with an outstanding music experience by our resident DJ, Mr. Steve Romano. It was a fantastic time, one that we plan to repeat as an annual outing. A new tradition in our new home state.

Here are a few photos to share:

Paella on the grill? Oh yes she did and it was AWESOME!
Our humble abode for 3 nights – the Blue Coleman.
The pretty lady enjoying the nice weather & good company.
Steve is ready to kick some bug ass. Get em’ coach!
Kicking it camping style!
Icicle Creek looking very serene.
Great cascading river shot – really beautiful.
A rather spooky river-crossing apparatus – it was locked up (boo).
This section almost looked staged – incredible stuff.
A parting shot – until next time!

Next up – learn how Eric proposed to Jen! Check back soon for the full story…

Washington Park Arboretum

The sun was out in Seattle this weekend. To say it was warm would be an overstatement as the temperature barely reached 44 degrees. With fall coming to a close and winter threatening to take hold, it is important that we exploit each remaining weekend worthy of an outdoor excursion. With fall being arguable the most dramatic and colorful seasons in the Pacific Northwest, we were excited to take advantage of a great opportunity to work with a very forgiving canvas. So two photography rookies armed with a Canon T2i DSLR, as well as a versatile point & shoot, headed out to get some fresh air and snap a few beauties.

We chose a destination that has been “on the list” for some time – the Washington Park Arboretum – a Botanic Garden situated on the western shores of Lake Washington. The park is about 230 acres and features an impressive array of plants and trees from around of the world. The University of Washington and City of Seattle co-manage the property and have done a great job in maintaining the countless paths that meander through the park. In addition, all the plant and tree collections are clearly marked with their scientific and common names, making it easy to spot common characteristics across each family.

With winter approaching it is likely that some of the seasonal color has already faded away. That said we were still able to capture some great shots before losing our sunlight at 4:30. Here are few of our favs:

Footbridge just outside the park.
Walkway along the Lake Washington.
Low angle sun helped warm this view. 
Huskies Stadium from the Seattle Arboretum.
Winter is definitely upon us…
A little girl feeding the ducks in the Washington Park Arboretum
We hope to return before fall passes us and see more of what this park has to offer. Plus it would be great to contrast the browns and reds of fall against the vibrant greens, blues and yellows of spring and summer. This is also a great place to learn more about the art of photography, a virtual classroom of sorts providing so much beauty at every turn. In the few hours that we explored the grounds we didn’t come close to seeing all it has to offer. Expect to see more exploration from the Washington Park Arboretum soon.
Like two peas in a pod – ducks in the Arboretum
To see more photos from our day, CLICK HERE>>

Argosy Cruises – Ballard Locks

It’s been well over a month since our last post – shame on us. Time to kick it into gear over the next week and make up ground with our loyal readers; needless to say, we have plenty to catch up on.

My parents were in town in mid-September so we took the opportunity to book an Argosy Cruise through the Ballard Locks (otherwise known as the Chittenden Locks). It was a classic Seattle weekend with the weatherman calling for rain, yet somehow we managed to enjoy a full Saturday morning and afternoon of warm sun. We started our day the same way we often do when visitors come to town, breakfast and coffee at Fonte on 1st Ave. After filling our hungry bellies with delicious vittles, we departed for Pier 56 to board our vessel.

The cruise starts out with gorgeous views along the Seattle waterfront. We snagged a nice spot near the bow of the ship with unobstructed views of the Emerald City and plenty of photo opps; we didn’t miss a beat. Here are a few of my favorites:

Elliott Bay Marina, Seattle
Mount Rainier peaking out of the clouds.
Seattle fading into the distance…

The ship then made way for the beautiful Magnolia bluffs with the city ducking in and out of view as we maneuvered along the coast. As we looked back on the city from this vantage point the Space Needle appeared to be sea-side as compared to Seattle. The water was so calm and glassy it looked more like a painting than reality. As the ship veered starboard (right) and the sun warmed our faces, we collectively realized just how fantastic the day really was.

Soon after we rounded the point of Discovery Park – one of our favorite hikes to date – our bay of entry came into view. Homes along the beach adorned with private docks and beaches lined the coast and the local residents were taking full advantage of their good fortunes.

Homes near Salmon Bay, Ballard
A nice day for a paddle in Seattle!

After patiently awaiting our turn it was time to make our way through the featured attraction. It seemed a rather simple system with the ship entering the locks, the gates closing behind and the chamber filling until we were level set with the fresh waters of Salmon Bay. An ingenious engineering feat, certainly worth seeing for yourself. In just under fifteen minutes we departed and continued toward Lake Union through Salmon Bay.

Enjoying the sun and view at Chittenden Locks, Ballard.
Entering the Chittenden Locks.
The falls at Chittenden Locks, Ballard. 
The Ballard Locks closing behind us.

Along the way we passed several fishing vessels made famous by Discovery Channel’s The Deadliest Catch. Houseboats, sailboats and yachts provided the foreground with the vibrancy of Queen Anne’s green hillsides providing the perfect backdrop. And as we turning the last corner into Lake Union we were rewarded with stunning views of Seattle towering in the distance – a truly remarkable cityscape.

I believe one of these is the famous Sleepless in Seattle homes.
The “Catcher Processor” Starbound – Learn More>>
Kenmore Air has several destinations in Canada – on our “to do” list!
Our brave Argosy Captain – pulling into port.

A great adventure had by all and a big sigh of relief knowing that despite how the rest the visit went with my folks, we had one very successful outing under our belt. Thanks Argosy, and thank you Seattle!

To view more pictures from this great day, CLICK HERE>>

Run Ponies Run!

Really dig this action shot – made it our screen saver!

“Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people”, or so says WC Fields. Fortunately neither Jen nor I have the stomach to “go big” at the track, so when we loose it doesn’t break the bank – heck, it barely breaks a $5 bill. But I must say there is something exhilarating about watching those ponies round the bend knowing that if your pick shows, places or wins, there is a solid $2 riding on that horse. Yeah, $2 bucks.

Check out how dirty these guys get.

Emerald Downs is a local horse racing track that gets a pretty good turnout on the weekends. There is a great restaurant on the 5th level with views of the action and decent food. There are little TVs at each table just to make sure you don’t miss any of the gruesome details. Track side you’ll find a great mix of beers on tap, sun (on a nice day) and plenty of seating to just relax and take it all in. There’s quite a mix of characters that range from serious gamblers laying down some serious coin (several races at once) to families just looking to spend some time outdoors. I think the people watching was definitely on par with the races themselves.

Despite not having a the fancy camera with the rapid fire shooting and zoom lenses (still working with a point and shoot), we caught some pretty decent action shots! And with our collective winnings – around $7 – we will continue to work with the trusty point and shoot. But despite our showing at the betting cage, a great time was had, enjoying the sun, a few beers, and a great summer afternoon at the races! Check it out…

Some serious dueling ponies.

Bet on this guy, he lost.
View from the restaurant – not to shabby huh?

On your mark, get set…
Emerald Downs, in all its glory.

A Stroll on Alki Beach – Seattle

We’ve had a great flow of guests since moving to Seattle. It’s really nice to have people take us up on our offer as we do enjoy introducing friends and family to our new city. So when our friend Holly said she wanted to come to town, we were thrilled to pick a few fun destinations and do our best to show her a great time.

We had one full day to take advantage of (Saturday), so we put together a little itinerary and hit the road. When we left the apartment it was overcast, but the forecast called for sun at 12:00. Now I realize that meteorology can be a hit-or-miss science, but I put full faith in the hands of my iphone weatherman and proclaimed that we would have warmth and sun on that very afternoon. To pass the time, and more importantly feed our grumbling morning hunger, we stopped in at Fonte – a fantastic little café on 1st Avenue. OMG, their omelets rock the house down.
Breakfast ended at noon and we walked out into the sunshine. Yup, it appears the iphone is still good for something. We walked down to the dock, boarded a water taxi and just 30 minutes later arrived on the shores of Alki in West Seattle. After a short shuttle ride we reached the main beach area, which dare I say had some resemblances to a classic SoCal scene. There happened to be a wicked car show in full swing, so we strolled, snapped pictures and took it in (including a little too much sun)…
Shot of the Ferry from our Water Taxi
Alki Beach Point
Jen giving some local knowledege tips to Holly

After a two mile walk back to the docks, we stopped in for a little afternoon snack and beer at Alki Crab & Fish Co which was surprisingly tasty! If you are a sucker for deep-fried cod and spuds, I highly recommend that you put this little gem on your personal sin list.

View from our Alki Crab & Fish Co table
Upon arriving back in the city we took the 90 minute Underground Tour and learned a thing or two about Seattle’s past. I liked the tour but I wouldn’t necessarily say I loved it. Afterwards it was our favorite time, cocktails at our apartment! I made some delicious homemade Mojitos and got our buzz on. We capped our evening off with dinner at Quinn’s in Capitol Hill – what a great restaurant!
First stop during our Underground Tour
Um, an old toilette.
All-in-all it was a fantastic day. We ate, we walked, we drank and we laughed! I mean really, doesn’t that pretty much cover it?

Camano Island Life

The calm waters off Camano Island
With thoughts of a possible summer home in our future – yes we know, perhaps we should start with a primary residence first – we decided to explore the relatively quiet Camano Island. This resident community of just over 13,000 lies between the shores of the mainland and Whidbey and is known for its stunning views, national parks and fishing beaches. You won’t find any fancy resorts or pricey restaurants, rather a handful of modest eateries and mom & pop B&B’s.
Before arriving to the Island, we stopped at the Port of Everett for a bite. We settled on Anthony’s Woodfire Grill, ordering a few light lunches which were complemented by views of a rather large boat harbor. The food was “good” but the weather and views made up for any lack of taste. Typically one would expect to pay at least a 100% markup for similar views anywhere else – so we’ll chalk that up as a bonus!
View from Woodfire Grill
Our first stop on the Island was Cama Beach. It was a bit of a hike to get down to the park, but once there we were greeted by one of the largest stretches of beach that we have seen on the Sound. That said we both felt there was something just a little odd about the area. It didn’t take long for us to realize that it was the little cottages that were lined up along the south end of the beach that were throwing us off – kind of reminded us of Army barracks. But after looking on line at some interior views, perhaps we jumped to conclusions. Looks like some of the cabins, at least those that aren’t clustered together, are quite nice inside. There I go again, Judgey Judgerson.
Cama Beach goers!
Jen on the shores of Cama Beach
Anyway, as we continued to tour the island we came across several small boat launch ramps nestled among neighborhood beach side communities. Locals seemed to gather in these areas, taking advantage of the weather and calm waters that were just begging for boating enthusiasts. As for the people, they seemed kind natured and pleasant. I suspect they helped to promote the “Island feel without the hype” theme that the Chamber boasts as the island’s mantra. Let’s just put it this way; if you’re between the ages of 21-30 and looking to get rowdy, this would not be the location for you. But if you like kayaking, fishing or just lounging on the beach with a good book, this would be your kind of place. Hmmm, I guess we are getting a bit older now aren’t we.
Camano Beach Hood
One of the local harbors
We both realized that this destination would be best visited with a set of kayaks or bikes – that is the only way to really dig in to experience all the island has to offer. So even though we won’t be moving to Camano Island anytime soon, I personally loved the overall feel of the area, plus it made for a fantastic day trip! I guess one should never say never…

The Majestic Discovery Park – Seattle

One thing we really enjoyed in California was the hiking destinations in close proximity to our home. Now with roughly 7 months experience behind us here in the great Northwest, we are finding there are an equal number of incredible sights to be seen in our immediate area. It has also been interesting to see (as newbie’s) just how much the community embraces, respects and utilizes these natural treasures. One such location, Discovery Park, is perched on the magnificent Magnolia Bluff and offers the unique opportunity to experience a wide range of vistas over the course of a single hike!

Discovery Park is a 534 acre natural park with miles of trails that wind through its interior. There are several beaches, views of the Cascades and Olympics and dense forests that connect several worthy destinations. What we both really liked is that most of the spots cannot be accessed by car, which means you have to get out and walk to experience the park. I have read some reviews online where people complain that they can’t “easily access” the views…good, because personally we like the fact that you have to put in a little work for your reward – plus it keeps the crowds down!

Enough of the chit-chat, we’ll let some photos do the talking…

After winding our way through the forest and open meadows, we worked our way down to the beaches at sea level. Our first stop was a small beach with views of the harbor just outside Salmon Bay. The water was very clear on this particular afternoon and the area of teeming with activity as Seattleites capitalized on the first day of the warm season. We had heard from several sources that the summer would really begin on July 5th, and we were amazed to find that on that very day, around 1:00 in the afternoon, the clouds gave way to warm of the sun and summer officially began!

Our next and final stop was an incredible view from atop the bluffs, providing an opportunity to look back on Seattle from the north. We came into a clearing and marveled at a panoramic view of the Sound, the Olympics and the city of Seattle in one incredible scene. It was quiet and serine, so we spent quite some time taking it all in.

I think what really made this 3.5 mile hike remarkable was the variety of terrain and views that we experienced. During the hike, I also found myself thinking about all of our friends that would really love the opportunity to see just how amazing this area really is. But most of all, we both just felt very fortunate to have the chance to witness firsthand why so many residents truly love Seattle.

To view more pictures from this day, CLICK HERE>>

Scaling Rattlesnake Ledge

A Victory Pose atop Rattlesnake Ledge

We started this day with intentions to visit Snoqualmie Falls, but when we arrived the crowds were so overwhelming that we decided to change our plans on the fly. Now it should be mentioned that we do plan to visit the falls at some future point, perhaps combined with an overnight stay at Salish Lodge, but on this particular day it just seemed like too much. So what do we do when we need to buy some time? We go eat!

After a quick search on Yelp, we chose a well-reviewed restaurant called Boxley’s in North Bend. Not only do they have great food, but they also have a full bar, fireside seating and a stage featuring some of the best local Jazz musicians in the area – or so we have read. The service was spot on, the food was tasty (although I probably shouldn’t have gone with the creamy pasta dish before climbing a mountain) plus we ended up getting a local resident’s view on several popular hikes in the area. It was that discussion that ultimately led us to Rattlesnake Ledge.

This popular yet challenging hike is about 35 miles southeast of Seattle. And where is Rattlesnake Ledge? It’s near Rattlesnake Lake atop Rattlesnake Mountain of course. Come to think of it, we never did ask what gave the area its name.
Rattlesnake Mountain, a Nice Little Climb!

Anyway, after arriving at the park we decided to ask a nice couple where this little hike started. It was at this point that we realized we were in for a climb. The kind gentleman turned and pointed to a cluster of tiny moving specs on a rock ledge near the top of a mountain – huh, good thing we’ve been hitting the gym. One thing was perfectly clear; if we did make the journey, the views would be magnificent. So with that, we started off to conquer the mountain.

The path started off steep and in all honesty it never really let up. The nice thing about this hike is that most of it takes place under the cool protection of the forest. As you ascend the mountain, there are only a few spots in which the trees break offering views of your surroundings. It is these special moments that provide a true sense of how high you have climbed. In some ways it also gives your spirit a little boost by delivering a hint of what’s to come.

After about an hour we reached the ledge some two miles from where we started and we were ready to enjoy the fruits of our labor. But after speaking briefly with a family that just happened to be descending from a much longer hike, we learned that there was a second ledge just up the way that promised a more intimate encounter. So after a little sweet talk and coaxing, Jen agreed to make the trek to the next peak. A short 15 minutes later we arrived and it was definitely worth the effort. The views were incredible. We both starting snapping photos which I think do a pretty good job of capturing the moment.

One of the Rare Clearnings Climbing Rattlesnake Mountain
Looking Down on Rattlesnake Lake from the First Ledge
Snoqualmie National Forest from the Second Ledge
My Lady out on a Ledge

With that another great experience has been logged. In hindsight I realize that it’s times like these that remind us that there is so much out there to be seen. We were just talking with friends this weekend about how we tend to forget the beauty in our own backyard, no matter where you may call home. The fact is there is beauty everywhere; the trick is to get out there and find it!

To view all photos from Rattlesnake Mountain, Click Here >>