Smoky sun

There have been a lot of days this fall when the sun was a big ball of redness, just another visible sign of the forest and range fires burning. In Bend, in Sisters, and closer to home in Wenatchee and Ellensburg, whenever the wind blew the smoke over the sun, it turned a spectacular red. We even had days of easterly winds that drove smoke over Snoqualmie Pass and into Western Washington.

But driving over the Umptanum/Manastash ridges today, I was finally able to capture the color of the sun behind a shoud of smoke. I was lucky to get this one: it was shot out the window of an SUV traveling at freeway speeds, just as the sun set behind the ridge. No filters, no cropping, no manipulation at all. Just as I shot it.


Elk Lake

Today we have a mission (besides trying to escape the choking smoke of the Sisters forest fire). We're going to drive the Cascade Lakes highway, take photographs, and enjoy all the lakes on Century Drive. We're also going to look for the old log house where we spent one long-ago week with friends.

After 30 years, this vacation exists as a series of random memories, although there are photographs packed away from the days of slides. One day I'll scan them, and add some to this post.

The memories are widespread: the long drive south from the Tri-Cities, climbing up over Mackenzie Pass, and exploring the lava rock lookout tower with its windows aimed at each mountain mountain peak in the area. Cathy admiring my button-front sweatshirt in grey with teal and burgundy trim. The long drive on gravel forest service roads to finally arrive at the log house on the shores of Elk Lake. The pair of cables that ran from the cabin to a huge concrete block, holding it upright. The division of rooms:  couples with babies in the log house, those without had the bunkhouse right on the lake, complete with wood stove. Dave & I cooked dinner the first night for everyone: my homemade Merlot pasta sauce over noodles, a huge tossed green salad, garlic sourdough bread, and brownies for dessert. Each night after dinner we'd sit on the shore, playing guitar and singing with the group. Cathy had a really nice voice, and so did John, and he knew all the songs I did. John Denver, Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg. It was here that I realized the magic of singing by a lake, and the amazing acoustics the water provides.

During the day, we'd hike the nearby trails or go fishing, or just catch up on our reading. One long hike I was torn, wanting to stay with the girls and get better acquainted with them, but finally chose to hike with the guys because the girls walked too slow. On our last day before heading home, we went to a nearby lake to fish with Dave, Gary, and Cathy. At least, the guys fished. Cathy and I spread our beach towels and read and talked. The guys kept coming to check on us; we were pretty sure it was because they wanted to see their wives in bathing suits!

It was the first time we'd been here in the summer, and the scenery was unforgettable. The blue skies and sun each day, and the inky velvety black skies at night, full of stars.


Hiking Crater Lake

Well, this was a first. I've been to Crater Lake several times in my life, the most memorable up to now was the year my family camped here, and on the way from the bathroom to our campsite I ran into a mother bear and cub. A long detour later, I finally made it back to camp.

Today there were no bears in sight (except for the carved ones in the gift shop). But we did have an adventure of a different kind: hiking the trail from the rim down to the lakeshore. Our friends had never been to Crater Lake, and this was the perfect chance to get out of the smoke of the Sisters fires, and do some sightseeing and hiking.

What can I say but "Wow!" You know all those professional photos you see of Crater Lake, the ones with the impossible blue color? These were taken from this trail. You don't get the deep blue from the rim, unless conditions are perfect. But as you walk down the trail, the closer you get to the lake, the deeper the color becomes.

You also see... very clearly... how very pure the water is. There's one place on the rocky shore where people stand to jump into the water, and from that spot it looks like you're making a long leap down. But you're not: the water is so clear, you can't tell the surface from the bottom of the lake. A few times, this clarity fooled my digital camera, keeping it from finding the correct focus.

It's a tough walk back out, but the views are worth every single step.


On the Bend Ale Trail

Birthday. Exploring. Sampling brews from some of the best of Bend's micro-breweries. In one of my favorite towns with Davey and good friends, Jim & Julie. What can I say? It was a great day!


Wine umbrellas

One of the best things about retirement? Not having to wait for the weekend to do our favorite things! Especially this September, when the weather has been perfect, mild, sunny, and amazingly beautiful.

Today we fired up True Red and headed for the Woodinville wine country, where we spent a happy couple of hours enjoying the sun, sampling wine, with no crowds of people anywhere.

The wine club deck at DeLille Cellars is one of our favorite spots in wine country. Today the sun was bright enough to have all the umbrellas out... but I noticed the tall propane heaters are waiting in a corner of the deck... a reminder of the cold weather that's just around the corner.


Frog in a box

What do you call a frog in a box?
Charlie or Willie or Sam?
Probably not.
He came in from the lawn one day
Decided to stay
In a garden trunk full of cool stuff.
Cushions for chairs and buckets and tubs,
Hoses and tools and pruners for shrubs.
Lots of hiding places for a frog and his friends,
in quite an enormous space.
He comes and he goes through a crack in the side,
But always returns to the quiet inside.
So what do you call a frog in a box?
Jack would make sense,
but he seems to like George.


Jellyfish in glass

As we walked past this gallery in tiny La Conner this morning, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I'm not much of a gallery person, except for photography and water color paintings. But I know my jaw dropped when Dave pulled me back to look.

I can't begin to describe how spectacular these pieces of blown glass are, so I'll let the photo speak for itself. The piece in the center is the most amazing, with two jellyfish at different angles and tentacles interspersed, and with bits of glass sand and shells in the bottom. I wanted this piece of art glass in the worst way, but it's out of my price range. Way, way out of my price range.

Is there a kayak in our future?

Penn Cove was flat calm today, and as we wandered through Langley all I could think about was getting out on the water. Sailboats came and went, and a pair of kayakers came in to explore the shoreline. I was envious. We once were sailors, and we have a canoe for the small lake where we have a weekend cabin. But I think there may be a pair of kayaks in our future. They'd be perfect for exploring all the nearby lakes, for exploring Hood Canal on calm days, and for taking on vacation.

This road trip is nearly done. We've been all around the state, and this drive around Whidbey Island is the last leg before we merge into the traffic of I-5 and come back to reality.


A riot of peacock color

“For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive.” David Herbert Lawrence

It was most unexpected, pulling into a tiny roadside station to fill up the MX-5, and spending a half hour chatting with a hawker of peacock feathers. He was sitting on a picnic table, surrounded by containers of feathers, the blues and greens gorgeous in the mid-afternoon sun. While he and Dave talked about sports cars (he loved the brilliant red-orange of my little roadster), I turned my lens toward the riot of color.

I always thought peacocks would be a perfect addition to our little farm. One of our neighbors has a large flock, but also has an aviary for them. I expect ours would make themselves at home on the front porch and patio, where the afternoon sun is the warmest. I wonder if their nocturnal screams would deter the wandering coyotes in our valley. Somehow, I suspect the two species would give each other a wide berth.


September is my favorite month

I’ve always loved autumn. Maybe it’s because my birthday is in September, so I grew up with a sense of anticipation about the end of summer, the beginning of autumn. But there have been some other great “firsts” in September. It was when I “test drove” my first horse, a Thoroughbred named Deelee, and brought him home. In September a year later, I rode him in my first three-day event, at Donida Farm in Auburn. September was when we bought our little farm, where we live to this day. Best of all, September was when I fell in love with Dave, and knew I'd spend the rest of my life with him.

I love how fall smells, that crispness to the air, especially in the morning, that you can practically drink in with each breath. Starting in mid-August, I test the air every day as I walk out of the house, and when I can finally smell fall in the air, it brings a smile to my face.

We’re getting ready for winter now. I’ve been doing the fall pruning, and am ready to pick the apples and plums (they're late this year). We’ve brought home truckloads of firewood from the cabin, and it’s stacked in the barn. Soon Dave will clean chimneys, and we’ll be ready to light the woodstove. I’m looking forward to packing away the shorts and tank tops, and bringing out my favorite sweaters and jackets. I’m also looking forward to having more time for indoor things, like quilting and sewing.

We’re lucky to live in a place that has four distinct seasons, each with its own rhythm and beauty. Autumn in the Northwest brings shorter days, but it also brings color to the woods as the leaves turn red and orange and yellow, thick carpets of leaves to kick as I walk the trail, and more time to spend with friends and family.

Oh, and in case you were wondering... my umbrella lives just inside the front door, all year round... just in case.