Archives for posts with tag: views

The season is rapidly changing.  Unlike the garden, which changes slowly and gradually, the seasons seem to turn abruptly.  So far in September, we’ve had mostly summery days with one or two fall preview days thrown in for interest.  And then today, a switch was flipped and it is fall.

To celebrate the transition (which I heartily welcome), we made a visit to Stonecrop Gardens.  We haven’t been here since early summer (see June 2, 2012) and had meant to come last week (when the weather was much more summerlike) until our plans changed.  We thought we had missed the summer peak.

Well, it turns out that we missed nothing.  Everything was amazingly colorful and lush, much more so than we expected for mid-September.  The gardeners have clearly been busy the last three months and there were many blooming flowers on display.  The variety of plantings continues to impress me.

They have a particularly good collection of dahlias, for instance, and must have dozens of specimens in different sizes, colors and configurations.

Also of note were the groundcovers (I’m probably using that term imprecisely), the leafy plants that fill in the beds around the more showy flowers.  Some have large leaves, some small; a few have flowers of their own, of different sizes; and most are green but others are veiny and red or gray-blue.  There was very little bare earth to be seen.

And some of the plants had been confused by the cool nights we had earlier in the month:  clustered around a tree were scores of crocuses in full bloom.  They were very pretty but I do not envy them when they realize that winter still lies ahead.


Architecturally, Seattle is a beautifully diverse city draped over a hilly strip of land between Puget Sound and Lake Washington.  Its climate is moderate and, contrary to the perceptions of many, not that rainy.  At least it hasn’t been rainy when we have been in town.  After several visits, I can count on one hand the number of days we were affected by showers and I don’t think we have ever had to deal with full-out rain.  It helps that we usually visit in spring, summer or fall.

Winter is definitely the rainiest season and one year, we made a trip to the Northwest at the end of October, just before it began.  We experienced no rain while in Seattle but after spending a few days here, we drove up to Vancouver, BC.  We took the long way (we rented a car that time) via Vancouver Island, a scenic voyage that involved three ferry crossings (Seattle-Bremerton; Port Angeles-Victoria and Nanaimo-West Vancouver).  We made the final passage into Vancouver on a sunny October 31 but on the next day, November 1, the rain began almost like clockwork.  It was wet for the remainder of the vacation.

But we have had no rain on this trip.  The days have been sunny and warm (70s) and the nights cool (50s), quite a relief compared to the conditions back home.  To make the most of the pleasant weather, we made a trip to Bremerton today by ferry.  Although the ferries are utilitarian in their primary purpose—many people commute this way every day and vehicle travel to the west would be impractical without them—they also provide a valuable service to tourists.  For a very modest fare, visitors can enjoy a sightseeing cruise of Elliot Bay, Puget Sound and the fjords of the Kitsap peninsula.  In other words, getting there (and back) is at least half of the fun.

In Bremerton, we took a quick walk around downtown but found that most of the activity was happening on the waterfront.  The Puget Sound Naval Shipyard looked busy (for a Saturday) and most of the restaurants with a view of the marina were full.  We particularly liked the beautifully-designed Harborside Fountain Park.  Its main attraction is a group of five structures that each look like a cross between a Richard Serra sculpture and a submarine conning tower (an actual example of which is on display outside the nearby Puget Sound Navy Museum).  At short and unpredictable intervals, huge bubbles of water erupt from the top of the structures and splash into the basins surrounding them.  It is very exciting—especially the first time—and delighted the many children wading in the fountains.

On the return trip across the sound, I was startled to see Mt. Rainier looming to the south.  How could we have missed such a huge mountain on the way over or during the last two days, for that matter?  It was always there, of course, but there are two reasons we didn’t notice it sooner.  First, it is often foggy or cloudy in Seattle (but not rainy!) and sometimes, the sky doesn’t clear until the afternoon.  Second, in a city—especially a hilly one—sight lines are easily obscured by terrain and buildings.  Theoretically, Mt. Rainier would be visible from our 31st-floor hotel room window.  Unfortunately, the building across the street is in the way.

With a visiting friend in tow, we took another hike in Fahnestock.  We consider this state park an extension of our back yard and we have several favorite routes.  Today, we chose the Dennytown Road trailhead (which I love for the name, if nothing else) and another Three Lakes/Appalachian Trail loop (see January 1, 2012 for the other).

The last time we hiked this trail, we missed the turnoff for the Appalachian Trail and ended up at the turnaround point for the loop that starts at Canopus Lake.  That essentially doubled the length of our hike and left us exhausted when we finally got back to the car just before sunset.  This time, we were sure we would stay on track and get back to where we started after an hour or so.

Well, we paid close attention to the blazes and other trail markers (including some pretty blue metal diamonds with a red cattle-brand-like HT blaze, for the Hudson Trail) and did not stray from our chosen path.  But this time it was our memory that failed us.  The loop was much longer than we remembered and took us almost two hours to complete (albeit at a leisurely pace).  We returned home tired, hungry and ready for homemade waffles.

Usually, when the weather is as hot as it has been, we rely on cooler overnight temperatures to keep the conditions inside the house bearable.  We have fans blowing fresh air in through the windows all night long and it is often comfortably cool—chilly, even—by the time we get up in the morning.

That’s usually.  This summer there has been very little weather that could be described as cool, at any time of the day or night.  Even with the fans running continuously (we almost never turn them off, June to September), it has remained warm in the house.  We wake from fitful sleep only partially rested, even when we have turned on the air conditioner.

And after yesterday’s heat, humidity and haze (perhaps the most unpleasant day so far), we were expecting another warm night and muggy morning.  To our surprise, however, the temperature dropped, the moist air blew out to sea (or wherever it goes) and the sky cleared.  The morning dawned cool and crisp, at least by August standards.

Energized by the favorable conditions, Rachel suggested a hike in Fahnestock.  We grabbed our boots and a water bottle and drove to the head of one of our favorite trails.  Actually, the loop we planned to walk comprises three different trails that traverse striated rock outcroppings, blaze through patches of overgrown wild azaleas and lead us back past sun-dappled, fern-covered meadows.

At the half-way point, a short spur disappears into the underbrush and emerges beside a pond.  The ever-thoughtful volunteers who maintain this trail have provided a bench here which awkwardly straddles an older raised concrete slab (the foundation of a previous bench, perhaps?) and allows weary hikers to sit and enjoy the view of an active and well-maintained farm across the way.

When we arrived, the morning was still and the pond’s surface was flat and mirror-like; the trees and their reflections looked like big green Rorschach inkblots.  We sat quietly, resting and snapping photographs.  Later, as we were leaving, a flock of Canadian geese came in for a landing, honking a warning as they descended.  Dragging their feet across the water to slow their momentum, they sent ripples across the surface that disrupted the reflections before slowly dissipating.

We left the pond to the waterfowl and started back towards the trailhead, feeling centered by the peacefulness of the woods and meditative calm of the views.