Sunday, 12 August 2012

Seattle

Conference finished, time to see some of Seattle.  First the Chihuly garden and glass, which was actually pretty impressive, and worth the steep entry price.





Glass leeches?
Next Em got in line for the Space Needle (meh, certainly not worth waiting in line for an hour), and I went to the Experience Music Project.  They had some decent exhibits (Hendrix, Stones, Nirvana, AC/DC) and downstairs there was an Icons of Science Fiction exhibit, which was interesting, but small.



To be honest I wasn't super impressed with the exhibits, the music ones seemed to be lacking in interesting content and rich detail.  They felt like larger-than-usual collections of fan memorabilia.


Least frackin interesting costume display ever, but I love my BSG


Next we got on the ferry to Bainbridge island with our friends J+B, recently back from Alaska.  The ride over was nice, but there wasn't much on Bainbridge to hold our interest.

This sculpture may have been the highlight of our Bainbridge island visit
And finally, back to the hotel via the Olympic sculpture park, which was a nice attempt at revitalising a shitty bit of land spanning a train line and a freeway, but didn't seem to quite hit the mark like, say, NYC's highline.

I promise I'll say something positive next :)  In general I actually really liked Seattle, we stayed in a great neighbourhood (Queen Anne) with nice bars and restaurants, and I loved the coffee culture.  Espresso!  Everywhere!


Maybe it's the engineer in me: I found Ballard Locks really interesting.  The city has built a series of fish 'ladders' to allow the salmon passage upstream to spawn.  It's basically a series of small weirs that the fish jump over to get upstream.  There is a viewing area where you can see the salmon underwater, and if you wait long enough on the walkway, you can see them jump the barriers.  Pretty cool.


There will be a test later



Sprinklers to keep the hordes of seagulls from eating all the little fish that tumble through the lock and end up on the surface when it opens.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Mt. Rainier day 2: more glaciers, same baby, even more wildflowers, mountaineers, and a few women in heels and makeup

We didn't think it was possible but 'Paradise' at Mt. Rainier lived up to its name, with even better wildflowers, and even more amazing views than we got at Sunrise.

I'm with you Mr. Muir, this is an amazing place


The downside was the ridiculous number of people.  Ella wasn't too keen on a long stint in the carrier after the day before, and we got worried about her eyes with all the snow around, so we only made it up to Glacier Vista.  Certainly further than the women in heels got, but not as far as the continuous stream of people with mountaineering gear heading towards Camp Muir and beyond.  We got a great view over the Nisqually Glacier, and stomped around on some snow.


The trail up the mountain from the visitor's centre is one of the stranger ones I've ever walked.  It's all paved, but ridiculously steep (not the section shown below).  Why no switchbacks?





View of Mt. Adams

This kid summited 14,411 ft (4,392 m) Rainier with his dad.  A couple of adults die trying to do that each year.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Mt. Rainier: take glacier, add baby and sprinkle of wildflowers

Anticipation builds on the plane ride to Seattle: great views of Mt. St. Helens, Adams, and Rainier.

Mt. St. Helens foreground, Rainier background
But first, a quick diversion to Snoqualmie Falls, which should remind you of plastic wrapped bodies and dancing midgets.


Em found us a great house on VRBO, and we quickly had some steaks grilling.




The next day we headed to the 'Sunrise' area of Mt. Rainier and the 8.4 mile (13.4 km), 2140 ft (650 m) hike to Summerland.

We started out with some tantalising views of peaks and snow through the forest, and some really nice waterfalls.


Then, bam.  Wildflowers galore.  Whole meadows of them.  The wildflowers were truly spectacular and really made this hike.  Em says it is her favourite hike in the US now.  I think I'm putting it at number 2 just behind North Dome.

Wildflowers and Little Tahoma and Rainier peeking through the trees


And some snowy bits, not too hard to navigate, even with a baby on your back.


More snow, and spectacular views at Summerland meadow 5,950 ft (1813 m).

Little Tahoma (pointy bit on the left), Rainier's summit and Fryingpan glacier (centre), and Ella, who likes ponies and glaciers.
Ella was a trooper once again, and spent most of the hike sleeping in the carrier.  We did this one in the Becco, which was a lot lighter and more comfortable than the external frame Vaude pack we used at North Dome.  I suspect our days of doing long hikes like this are numbered as walking gets more and more interesting for her.


On the way up someone told us that Ella was the second youngest kid on the trail today, which surprised us, but we met the 3-month-old at the top :)  Most hikers on the trail were either doing the very-cool-looking Wonderland trail loop, or mountaineering.  One group was putting on their helmets and crampons to step onto Fryingpan glacier right where we had lunch.  Their plan was to camp on the ridge and summit Little Tahoma the next day at 2am.

Before heading back to the house we stopped in at Sunrise point and took in the view, you get another great perspective on Rainier and Little T.