Monday, April 21, 2008

We made it home safely from our Seattle expedition at about 2 am last night. And we're very thankful it was a safe return! Our drive on the way there was perhaps a little too exciting. We managed to get on the road by mid-morning Friday and stopped at Washtucna, WA for a little BBQ picnic. Unfortunately it was a bit too chilly to really enjoy the quaint small town park so Clay braved the elements to cook up some brats and we ate in the car. Shortly after leaving Washtucna we were sadly stopped by a fresh and tragic car accident. It was a sobering experience and we took an alternative route in thoughtful silence. The rest of the drive was beautiful...and some of it quite snowy. Snoqualmie Pass provided some tense adventuring. Though the scenery was gorgeous, heavy snowfall made the visibility pretty poor and the road pretty treacherous. The excitement peaked when our car got sucked into some snow slush and we careened sideways through the neighboring lane and ended up facing backwards on the shoulder. God was watching out for us. We could have gone the other direction and slammed into the cement wall to our left or been hit by the line of cars that passed us just seconds after we slid to a stop on the shoulder, or ended up in the steep ditch right next to the shoulder. At any rate, we were safe. Clay remained calm throughout the ordeal, we were going nice and slow, and we were even able to get back on the road without any pushing or more sliding around. It was certainly nice to descend out of the pass and into Seattle (although we hit some lovely rush hour traffic...)! After this eventful beginning to our journey we decided to call it a night and relax at our Days Inn hotel room. We decided to splurge and stay at a hotel instead of camping because we weren't quite brave enough to expose Margaret to the elements yet. And it was a good thing because Seattle got some record making weather this weekend....lots of snow and cold! Our captain for the Island Adventures whale watch claimed it was only his second time to see snow on the ocean in his numerous years of experience. Despite this the whale watch was a lot of fun. Margaret was about as bundled up as she could get (long johns, warm jammies, snow suit, hat, blankets) and she held up admirably. They did have a warm cabin to retreat into every now and then which helped. And we saw five gray whales! With some nice fluke shots and glimpses of pectoral fins as they fed in 10 foot deep water. What amazing creatures. And I added some birds to my life list: surf scoters, rhinoceros auklets, western grebes, glaucous-winged gulls... as well as lots of pigeon guillemots and a nice shot of a bald eagle (and some sea lions). The original plan for the remainder of the day was to wander around downtown Seattle (visit the Pikes Place market and whatnot) but it was so cold and we were so tired after our mornings adventure that we made a quick shopping trip to REI (an outdoor gear company, with a store reminiscent of the bass pro shop) since Clay had a giftcard there. Everything was way out of my price range but it was still enjoyable looking at all the outdoorsy stuff and Margaret soaked up a lot of compliments. And then another relaxing night at the hotel. It was a good thing the hotel was pretty empty because Margaret did her best to keep everyone awake.

Due to the resulting state of sleepiness we got a later start the next
morning. But we did get checked out of the hotel and on the Edmonds-Kingston ferry by 9ish. The ferry trip was short (30 minutes) but a neat experience. We enjoyed the view and entertained ourselves by taking pictures. Then another hour or so of driving before we reached the Olympic National Park. Snow covered and beautiful. Going off of a tip from a forest ranger we braved Whiskey Bend road to hike the trail near Elwha river. I was quite tense during that drive. It was possibly the narrowest road I've ever been on (and that's saying something), as well as snow covered (in places) and with an immediate, steep drop off on one side. We did finally make it and set off on the trail. We didn't make it as far as planned, however, because the snow was dropping from the trees so thickly that it felt like it was snowing heavily and Margaret wasn't exhibiting very happy behavior. After hiking for a bit I decided Margaret was being fussy due to hunger so I gritted my teeth, sat on a wet, snow covered log with chunks of snow falling on my head and shoulders and gave her some lunch. I hope to never have to repeat that experience. But while we were sitting there we did get to listen to the deep, resonating courtship call of some unseen grouse. When we got back to the parking lot we came across three very relaxed deer. We got within at least 15 feet of them and took some photos. Somehow deer are so much more exciting when you see them in a place like Olympic National Park. Next stop was Madison falls, which was a more enjoyable, shorter, warmer hike. Margaret seemed entranced by the waterfall and then showed her natural inclination towards biology by trying to stuff ferns into her mouth and grabbing moss covered tree branches.

Another short drive and we arrived at Lake C
rescent where we dug through the cooler in an effort to satisfy our hunger and picnicked in the car, once again. This was made highly enjoyable by the inquisitive presence of a beautiful Gray Jay. I was highly satisfied with this visit because it allowed me to identify the mystery bird whose haunting call we had heard in the Redwoods (it's much more haunting in the Redwoods, not quite so haunting after you actually know what bird makes the call). Clay displayed his photography skills by capturing several nice shots. Hiking to Marymere Falls after lunch proved to be another trying, but fun, adventure. Thinking that the trail was tamer and better maintained than the previous trails we decided to put Margaret on her jogging stroller in order to give her (and Clay) a change from the backpack. This proved to be an unwise decision. The stroller did do quite well for the majority of the trail, despite being pushed through a deep muddy slush the whole time. Our feet didn't manage quite as well, I didn't know we were supposed to bring rubber boots. And then at the very end of the hike we were seemingly thwarted by two narrow log bridges (literally made from one log, though with handrails) and a slippery, steep switchback up to the actual falls. We ended up taking turns, running up to the viewing point one at a time. Despite this inconvenience, and the fact that my feet were numb and squelching the whole way there and back, it was a good time and I'm very glad we went. Back at the car, with a change of socks, we were forced to make the sad (but perhaps wiser) decision to head home instead of doing more sightseeing. Hopefully someday we can go back to explore the Hoh rainforest, Mora beach (and tidal pools) and Lake Ozette - where archaeologists have dug up remnants of the Makah whaling culture and life. We were pretty apprehensive about crossing the pass at night but, though slow going and tense, we made it through without mishap and were able to stay awake all the way home (at least Clay was, which is the important part). And now we're trying to recoup from our fun weekend. All of our photos (there's quite a few) are posted on my online album ( Oh yes, a BIG update for Margaret! She finally figured out how to roll from her tummy and to her back and has done it several times now. I don't know if she'll ever learn to do the reverse role since she still detests tummy time....but we'll see.


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