Falling behind...

The past few months I've struggled with keeping my blog current. Between geocaching and hiking (and quilting), there's not been much extra time. I've enjoyed getting out of the house more, especially now that the weather is turning and we're heading into winter. Still, I've missed the time spent editing photographs, and writing. Hopefully I'll catch up in the next couple of days, because we've been to some pretty cool places lately.

And hopefully I'll find some balance again, with time for all the things I love.

They say we should have a dry and cold winter. I don't know about you, but my fingers are crossed for snow!



In a season where leaves turn gold and brown and fall from the trees, it's rather amazing to walk through the woods and come across brilliant moss on a stump, covered with the unfurling tendrils of brand new ferns.

It's a reaffirmation of nature, taking every chance to spread and grow, even at the end of the season.


Winter pears...

The hot, dry summer this year brought a bumper crop of Macintosh apples, yellow plums, and winter pears. This small orchard, with trees just head-high when we moved into the farmhouse, produces more fruit than I can hope to use.

Our one pear tree was a slow bloomer, and it was years before it produced more than a handful of pears. It had been poorly pruned when small, and we had no clue how to prune fruit trees, so it was years before we knew enough to try and fix the shape of the tree. Ever since, it's done very well. I love to watch the tiny green pears grow all summer long, finally reaching full size in early October.

One of my favorite things to fix at harvest time is brie with pears. Just mix brown sugar and melted butter together, spread it over the top and sides of a round of brie, and bake until the cheese turns soft. Place the cheese on a fancy plate, surround it with slices of winter pears and tart apples, and cut a wedge out to give you access to all that yummy, gooey cheese.  My mouth is already watering.

This is the first pear in more than thirty years that matured with a shiny, red-blushed skin.



We spent my birthday night at the cabin, and watched it rain (and watched a couple of movies). We fell asleep to the sound of rain on the metal roof, one of my favorite sounds in the whole world.

I must have slept soundly, because I was wide awake three hours before DW. He slept on while I finished the last few pages of  "The Lying Game," then sewed, and played solitaire. It rained, then cleared up with brilliant sunshine that lit up the woods. Dave finally got up at 9:00, and we packed up. With nothing but a tiny cooler and our bags, it was pretty quick.

Dave has two geocaches that I've not found, how did that happen? We stopped to get one on the way to Belfair, then stopped at the Union River salmon project to check the count. We walked down the riverbank and didn't see any fish, but a record number of chum have gone up the river so far.



I love to take my birthday as it comes, and every year it's different. We usually take a long road trip in September, so we could be anywhere on my special day. Sometimes we're on the road, discovering some place new. Sometimes we're with family, sometimes we head off to a favorite place. However it comes, I'm content to embrace the day and enjoy it to the fullest.

September has been a wild and crazy month, with wildfires and hot weather and cold mornings, just nine degrees above freezing. I missed the mild days and the soft air of autumn evenings.

Today we started working our way toward home, driving a forest service road that brushed up against Olympic National Park, through dense forests of fir and hemlock and spruce. There are no views in a forest this old and untouched, no hint of being so close to mountain peaks. It was a beautiful day, until we were just a couple of miles from Hood Canal and finally dropped back down to sea level. That's when the rains we've been waiting for finally came, and it rained until the sky turned dark and Highway 101 looked like a ribbon of wet tar.

We stopped at Dosewallips State Park for lunch, parking in an abandoned campsite by the river and watching the salmon swim upstream. There were hundreds of fish in the river, more than I've seen outside of Alaska. It was an amazing sight.

One last night away from home. Armed with a pizza and wine from one of our favorite wineries, we headed for the cabin to build a fire, play cards, and watch a movie. Tomorrow we'll be home, but I'm glad to have this one last day to relax, and to fall asleep listening to the rain on the roof.


Sol Duc Falls...

I first saw a photograph of Sol Duc Falls on Instagram, a couple of summers ago. It seems that photographing waterfalls was the thing to do that summer, and every time I opened up IG, there were more photos of waterfalls. There were so many waterfalls that I drooled over, and vowed to go see for myself. Most were in the Columbia Gorge, but Sol Duc Falls on the Olympic Peninsula really appealed to me.

Last March we spent our anniversary weekend in Port Angeles, and early one morning, we tried to hike to Sol Duc Falls. But we were a week too early, and the road was still closed. So we made sure the road was open for this trip, and this morning we shouldered our day packs and headed up the trail.

It's a short 8/10 mile to the bridge over the river, with a picture perfect view of the three separate cascades that flow over the basalt cliff. The trail was popular, and cameras and tripods were everywhere. But I managed to get a few shots without a lot of people in them.

Before we walked back out, we stopped to see the trail shelter that stands on a ledge above the falls, built of logs with an ingenious covered fire ring and chimney just outside the doorway. The shelter is closed for restoration, and the inside has been stripped of bunks and shelving. It's a historic building, and a marker sign explains its history.

I am happy to check this waterfall off my list.


Pouring wine for the moon...

A weekend away, after a tough and stressful three weeks, feels a lot like heaven.

The getaway is for my birthday on Sunday, but every day is about doing what I love... photography, geocaching, hiking, good food.

And wine tasting.

After a jaunt up the mountains to Hurricane Ridge, where we could see the line of smoke clouds above the Cascades, we coasted back down the hill and went to one of our favorite wineries, Camaraderie Cellars. We're members there, and have been visiting since they were just getting started 25 years ago, wine tasting in their garage. Today they have an amazing winery, in a beautiful setting of lush gardens and outdoor rooms to relax in. And the wines are just as good as they've always been.

Tomorrow we're going hiking, and exploring, and geocaching. I can hardly wait.


12 degrees from freezing...

This morning I lay in bed and watched the sky lighten toward sunrise, then rolled out of bed and climbed into wool socks and jeans and a sweater... the first this autumn. It was 44 degreesthis morning, the coldest it's been so far this season. It feels shockingly close to the 30s, and winter. I know it's because it was clear overnight, and that the day will be warm. Still... it's coming.

We're going to the lake this weekend, and may stay some extra days and get more pruning done before winter. I already have a huge stack of twigs and branches to burn, but that will have to wait until the rains come, and it's safe.

And maybe I'll start on the steps down to the water. I have concrete blocks set aside to replace the timbers that are failing, and it's an easy (although long) process to dig them out, use the mattock to cut each step level, set the blocks, and backfill with the gravelly soil.

I'll enjoy sitting on the slope down to the beach, watching the squirrels collect fir cones for winter, keeping an eye out for the eagles nesting across the lake, in one of the tallest trees.

Watching for signs of winter, which is fast approaching.



A couple of weeks ago we spent the weekend on Whidbey Island, then another day or so exploring the back roads of Skagit County. Along the way we found a fun string of geocaches, and this beautiful barn. So while DW looked for the cache, I walked across the road with my camera and took a few photographs. I never could resist a beautiful barn, especially one that's freshly painted.

This barn reminds me of the one behind Parkdale, with Mount Hood in the background. Same color, same shape. Just the mountain is missing.

Linking with Tom's Barn Collective today. Check out the link for a tour of this week's barn photos.


Grey skies...

This morning I walked outside with my mug of tea, a habit of long standing. We've been under a cloud of smoke the past couple of days, with winds from the east blowing smoke our way from the Jolly Mountain fire near Cle Elum (and maybe also from the Norse Peak fire near Mount Rainier). This morning we got something new:  ash blowing in the breeze, covering my porch and the cars. We're 50+ miles from both these fire complexes.

I can only imagine what it's like to be close enough to smell smoke all day long, and see the glow of the fires at night. Still, it's an unsettling reminder of just how bad the fires have been so far this season.


Yellow... for August's Scene & Story

I have a love of yummy, buttery yellow.  It isn't my best color to wear, to my deep regret. But I am drawn to it anyway.

The day my boss came into work wearing a beautiful yellow wool blazer is a day that sticks in my mind with vivid clarity. With a white turtleneck and blue jeans and her blond hair, it was perfection. I fell in love instantly with that jacket. Soft and warm, incredible color on a cold winter day... yummy. (I later asked if she'd leave it to me in her will. I completely expect to receive it one day.)

In the late 90's we bought property on a lake, and spent the first summer cleaning up the place and dreaming about building a cabin. One day we were out floating on the lake after a hard day of work, and our neighbors invited us over for a beer. As we walked into their cabin, the door to the deck was open, and the lake was spread out in front of us. But all I could see in that moment was the vintage yellow Formica table in the kitchen, surrounded by mismatched wooden chairs. I felt immediately at home, and knew that one day we'd own this cabin. A year later, Bob and Lois sold us the cabin they'd built in 1968, and she gave me the table as a house-warming gift. I've treasured it ever since.

My passion for yellow hasn't changed, not in all the intervening years. Yellow roses, yellow kitchens, yellow Depression glass, yellow quilts, yellow transferware. Right now, I especially love vintage yellow suitcases, and am searching for graduated sizes that I can stack, to serve as a nightstand in my guest room.

Linking today with Sarah and Lee's Scene & Story.


Whidbey Island barns...

A couple of weeks ago, DW and I spent the weekend on Whidbey Island, camping out with the family on our niece's wooded 5 acres. I heard the wind blow during the night, and raindrops fall on our tent, so I didn't have much hope for an early morning photo tour of the island. But when I got up and dressed and zipped the tent behind me, it was dewey but not wet. So I grabbed my camera and keys and quietly slipped off to explore as the sun came up.

Just around the corner from my niece's little cabin in the woods, I found this old farmstead with red barn, chicken coop, tractor shed, and farmhouse, all with white trim. And a perfect view east toward the rising sun, with clouds reflecting in the pond.

I lingered for half an hour, hoping for the sunrise to bring color to the sky, but it never happened. Just the bright morning light behind the clouds, as the night brightened into day.

Linking up today on the Barn Collective.


On fire...

Because of smoke drifting south from the B.C. fires, we didn't get to use our Crystal Mountain gondola tickets for the Perseid meteor shower on August 12. Instead, we planned to come up and celebrate my birthday early in September, with dinner at the restaurant on top of the mountain.

When we used to ski here, there was a chairlift that brought skiers to this high ridge overlooking Mt. Rainier. I'll never forget the first time it was clear and I was able to see this stunning view. Today, there was a faint haze in the air from two lighting-caused wildfires: the Jolly Mountain fire near Cle Elum, and the nearby Norse Peak fire, burning just over the ridge near Chinook Pass. Both are zero percent contained.

When we drove up to Sunrise this morning, we could see the smoke tower rising from the Jolly Mountain fire.

And as the gondola rose up the mountain from the ski resort, there was the Norse Peak fire, closer than I imagined.

We walked to the overlook and gazed at the spectacle of Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Rainier, all in one place, gleaming in the afternoon sun. We also spotted Suntop, where a fire lookout still stands. We volunteer for lookout duty at Suntop each summer, and will be back up there the end of the month for another couple of days.

Then we hiked up to the end of the ridge, where a fire lookout once stood. Today it holds radio antennas and satellite communication dishes, discretely tucked behind alpine trees. One of our caching friends hid a geocache at the end of the ridge, and we've wanted to find this one for a while now. Not many caches are hidden at 7000+ feet! And as we turned to scramble back down the loose rocky slope to the lodge, we saw the towering column of smoke that indicates a fresh fire in the Norse Peak complex.

Hot from our scramble up and down the ridge, we wrangled a seat outside on the patio and had a glass of icy cold wine, chatted with a couple who moved here from Ukraine, and watched smoke from the fires blow across the ridges. Then it was time for our dinner, with a window-side table.

We lingered, enjoying our halibut and asparagus, waiting for sunset. Then we took our places along the edge of the patio, watching the sun drop toward the mountains.

Mount Adams

Mount St. Helens (in the distance, hiding in the smoke layer)

Mount Rainier

Last light lingers up here at 7000 feet. As the sun set, the moon was rising.

We waited and watched, until the last gondola cars headed down the mountain at 8:30. As we watched the ridge where the fire was burning, we could see one bright patch of flame. I hope the rains return soon... just rain, no thunderstorms.


Late summer...

The first feeling of autumn in the air has arrived already. I look out the kitchen windows at the orchard, and it just looks like autumn. The vinemaples are changing color, and the big leaf maples in the pasture are already losing their leaves.

But the biggest clue is waking up at 6:00 a.m. to mornings in the mid-40's, but the afternoons are still hot and dry.

All the tell-tale signs of a season in change, balanced so beautifully with late summer flowers.

I welcome the change. I put the garden to bed, then don't have to worry about it until spring. I welcome having the extra time for quilting and for photography.

Autumn is my favorite season.


Deer at PT...

When we drove into this side road in Coupeville, ready to hop out and look for a cache, we weren't the first ones there. First an almost-grown fawn wandered up to the door, then a very small fawn, and already grazing on the grass we spotted the doe.

The older two weren't the least bit bothered by having us there, but eventually the little one got a bit spooked and trotted off across the driveway, heading for the tall grass of a vacant lot.

The other two kept on grazing on the landscaping, just as though they were waiting for their appointed time at the physical therapy clinic.


Chuckanut fossils...

A geocache brought us back to Chuckanut Drive south of Bellingham a couple of days ago. When we read about fossils being here, we had to see it for ourselves. So south we drove, parked on the wide shoulder, and crossed the narrow highway to look up on the cliff. I never knew about the fossils that were exposed when the road was built, but I bet my sister does... she has a minor in geology from Western.

In one place you can see a variety of tropical plant vegetation, including palms. There's also an embedded tree, now petrified wood.



We took the long way home from Bellingham yesterday, exploring parts of the Skagit Valley we'd never seen before, all in the name of geocaching. Chasing a string of caches down a windy wooded road in the eastern county, we came around a bend and stopped on the shoulder. I was just about to hop out of the car when Dave told me to close the door... quickly. Something in his tone made me do it without asking "why?"

Glad I did. I looked out the side window and saw hundreds, maybe thousands of honeybees swarming around the Pilot. We sat there and watched, in awe, at the sheer number of bees. With the world's dirtiest windshield, it was tough to get a photo.

I put the palm of my hand against the glass, and gradually a few bees landed on the window.

Outside the Pilot was a stand of  tansy, the good kind of tansy with the bright yellow button flowers. And every flower head was literally covered with bees, so you could barely see the flowers.

It's the second honeybee event I've seen this month, and it makes me hopeful that these little creatures are making a comeback.



I never lived here, but Bellingham will always feel like a second home to me. Both my sisters went to college at Western, and when I was in high school, my dad took a job as campus architect there. My parents rented the third-floor apartment in this building on High Street, which took up a quarter of the third floor. The broad staircase rose through the center of the building, with wood steps and handrails darkened by time and polished by hundreds of hands.

Our apartment had high ceilings and built-in cupboards, and had a killer view out over Bellingham Bay. I loved visiting my dad there, spending a week or so every summer. I'd watch out the windows as college kids walked past on their way to campus, and in the afternoon I'd take a blanket and a book across the street and lay in the sun for a few hours. When I think very hard, I can almost feel what it was like to walk in through the big glass door and climb those stairs, surrounded by dust motes dancing in the sunlight and the faint scent of an old building.

The past few years, we've gotten in the habit of staying in town whenever we pass through, to give us a chance to get reacquainted. Bellingham has changed a lot from those high school visits, but so much is still the same. The great downtown core, with one-way streets and views over the water especially. It's a hub for micro-breweries these days, fun to investigate. And there are great restaurants.

Before we left this morning, we drove past the old apartment building, the only one on this long street of bungalows. When we lived here, the houses were in pretty sad shape. But not any more. There are still couches on the front porches, and I imagine the college kids still hang out there on nice evenings. But the houses are painted and the yards are green with grass, and the whole of college hill looks like someplace you'd love to live.