August 2, 2002 - Mt. Rainier!
I've been back on the road now for less than a month and I feel exhilarated and at peace again all at the same time. When I think back on my time in Austin and how distressed I was over things I could not change and that all worked out in the end anyway, I am slightly ashamed of myself.
Thanks to a fortunate conversation I had with a fellow RV couple when I was in Idaho, we are now in Puyallup in the fairgrounds' RV park. Definitely fortunate, because the daily rate we are paying here for full hookups ($12) is less than what we paid for a monthly rate ($340) in Austin. When I found out local RV parks don't offer the cheaper monthly rates during August, the last month of their 2 month peak season, I was really concerned because there's no way I could afford the average daily rate of $26.00 a day. And since I really wanted to just devote my time to seeing the beautiful sights here this month and not get back to the grind of working until next month, I needed to be more frugal with my money. So, while the park is not beautiful, it's really not so bad, especially since this is the first state we've been in since we left Texas where we didn't have to have the air conditioner on. It's been so nice just having the windows open again and not having your breath taken away when you walk outside from the heat. And no matter what they say about the desert dry heat being more tolerable than the humidity of the south, when it's 102 degrees, it's pretty miserable no matter what. So the fact that we actually have to close the windows at night and turn on the heater a little in the mornings to take the chill off of getting up, is a real bonus. We laugh and say we're freezing to death because it's 72 degrees outside!
The only unfortunate thing is that Don just cannot get the hang of the pronunciation of this town's name. The proper (as best I can tell) way to say it is "Pew-all-up" all run together. But Don likes to rearrange the letters and constantly calls it "Pully up" or in his best Texas accent "Pooh Y'all Up."
August 6, 2002 - Downtown Seattle & Tacoma
During some of Seattle's inevitable gloomier weather days, we've visited some of the area's indoor delights. We went to downtown Seattle and toured the Experience Music Project. The guy who started it was Bill Gate's partner and a huge Jimi Hendrix fan. He had collected so much memorabilia that he built a 140,000 sq. ft. museum to house them. It was fun to relive my psychedelic memories and see some of the costumes and instruments of my generation's rock 'n rollers, who seem quite tame compared to the "kill your mother and eat your father's heart out" lyrics that are prevalent today.
We really enjoyed some of the less known attractions in the area such as the magnificent rose gardens in Tacoma's Point Defiance Park and the Art Glass Museum where you can see live demonstrations of artists creating incredibly detailed "sculptured" glass.
August 10, 2002 - Hiking Rainier
We made it back to the area's main attraction for me - the Most Magic Mount Rainier. We went to the Sunrise Rim vantage point and started our climb at 6,400 feet and treked up to 7,400 feet and back down in 7 miles, round trip. The views were amazing - the perspective that altitude affords is so sweepingly beautiful it could drive you crazy just looking around! I thought it was funny just about then that a young guy came bopping along passing us up practically skipping on the edge of the precipice. Both Don and I laughed at how fearless youth is - I remember many times that my mother would practically have a heart attack at how close I would come to the edge of high places in my younger days. Now here I am hugging the mountain breathless from the beauty as well as the perceived danger, and wanted to sound a warning to him, but caught myself just in time. I knew if I shouted to the kid, "please step back from the edge, now" that the sound that came out of my mouth would have been my mother's voice and that may have just startled me right off the edge. I already find myself turning into her more than I'd like as I get older. (Only kidding, ma...) (Not!!!)
Maybe it's also a factor that as you age, your fear not only increases, but your sense of balance seems to decrease. In any case, it wasn't until we got back that we realized we had wound up on the most strenuous trails, so we were pretty exhausted when we were through. It was an amazing day, and my only complaint was that there were too many clouds around Mt. Rainier itself that the tip of his head was not visible throughout the day, although he finally did doff the cloud hat as we were coming down his sideburns.
On Wednesday the skies were much clearer, but we were still recouping from the hike, so the best we could do was take a drive to Carbon Lake to see the mountain from that different vantage point. That was a day that proved the adage of the journey being as worthwhile as the destination. We drove though a gloriously spooky, old-growth forest to get there. The mix of the standing and fallen trees depicted life, death and regrowth perfectly. The massive, monumental trees stood impossibly tall, looking like wizened ancient wizards in disguise with long flowing beards of dripping moss. The sun that just dappled through the overgrowth painted beautiful sparkling pictures during the day, but it is definitely a place I wouldn't want to be at night - the spooky factor would multiply and the wizened wizards would turn into malevolent demons, I'm sure.
On Friday we were raring to take another shot at the mountain especially since the skies were completely clear and Rainier was hiding nothing. My only complaint then was that there was no escaping the sun and it got too warm, even though we had to walk through snow again sometimes to stay on the path. I had to laugh at myself that I had complained 2 days before about it being too cloudy and today I was bitching about it being too sunny. Sometimes I wonder what it would take to make me content enough with what I have instead of wasting time wanting something better.
Anyway, I was taking zillion pictures of each mountain, the different varieties of wildflowers, the pheasant and the marmot we saw and commented that there's no way photos can possibly capture the beauty of Rainier and all that surrounds him. Don said, "Yeah, and the pictures don't let you hear the sound of the waterfall we're walking beside." So true, Guru Don! Nor can you smell the freshness of the pine trees. It's times like this that I truly recognize how rich I am even in the midst of the worrying I do about money. I'd still not give up this lifestyle in trade for financial security or anything else.
When I sit outside looking at the billions of stars that thrill me to see, and even when the Milky Way is visible, I know there are billions of more stars and galaxies out there that my vision cannot detect -- likewise I know that no matter how many places I see, there are so many other places to be seen. I haven't even really started exploring America yet, much less the many other wonders that exist in the rest of this world. But I am content with the start I've made.
August 21, 2002 - Olympic National Park, Orcas Island
We've been in Chimacum for a little over a week now and have thoroughly enjoyed our ventures in and around the Olympic National Park.
On the way down from Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island, we decided to hike around the Cascade Lake Loop, described as an easy 2.7 mile hike that would take us to a picturesque wood bridge that spans Rosario Lagoon. Well, that easy little hike was the longest 2.7 miles we've encountered so far, and my determination to see that bridge resulted in our missing the ferry we had intended to take back from Orcas to Anacortes. Not too worried at that point since there was still one more ferry that would get us there on time to catch yet another little ferry nearest to the tiny podunk town where we now live. However, that last ferry was 50 minutes late, so we missed our connecting ferry, and wound up having to drive over 80 miles in order to catch another connecting ferry in another location, almost to Seattle. We were blithering idiots of exhaustion when we finally got home and I was forever cured of the romantic notion I had entertained of using the ferries to commute to work.
Today I acknowledged the fact that I have to get back to work soon and went into Port Townsend to hand out my resume to a few lawyers there. It's a pretty small town and most offices aren't even manned all week there, but are only satellite offices from larger towns. We'll probably head to Olympia at the end of the month, where it seems like my best prospects will be. Where there's a state capitol, there's bound to be loads of lawyers.
We're hoping to make it to Victoria and Vancouver for an overnighter before we leave here, though, since this area affords the fastest ferry ride there. Time sure has a way of slipping away, though, and there never seems to be as much of it as you think when you arrive and start making plans for all you want to see. Not only time slips away, but energy begins to be sapped and we need to take little mini-vacations of rest from our sight-seeing. More reason I'm glad to have decided to spend the winter working here so I'll have more time at the beginning of next spring in this wonderful area of our country.
August 24, 2002 - Hoh Rain Forest
Loving trees as I do, it is hard to see the spots where the land has been stripped of them. As you drive along looking high up at the mountains crammed with unimaginably tall evergreens, and it's lushly green everywhere you look, it's a real jolt as you turn a corner and see the naked hills and the mess that's left after the logging companies depart. Sometimes they leave nice little signs informing us that the area had been "commercially thinned." That's PC terminology meaning "profitably plundered."
September 3, 2002
We had originally planned on leaving Chimacum today, but while we were in Port Townsend a couple of days ago, a lady we got to talking with told us we shouldn't miss the Wooden Boat Festival this upcoming weekend. It's apparently a highlight of life in Port Townsend and I know we'll enjoy seeing the boats on the gorgeous water here and I always love the street artists, vendors and junk food that accompany a fair like that.
I also know this is my last final hurrah of unemployment for a while, so I've been making the most of it. I'm so grateful for the inheritance I'll be receiving as my dad's last gift to me, as it is what has made it possible for me to play this past 2 months and not worry about money as much as I usually do. But it's time to rejoin the working class, so I've been sending out faxes and making calls to employment agencies in Tacoma, Olympia and even in Portland and Eugene, Oregon. My niece lives in Eugene and I'd love to spend more time with her. However, the woman I spoke to at the temp agency there was not too encouraging as it's a small town with a small pay scale. The feedback I've gotten from Portland agencies is better and I like the idea of spending the winter working in Oregon and seeing the sights there on the weekends. Then return in early summer to Washington as homebase for exploring Alaska and more of Canada.
We've met some really great people here at the Escapee park, and it's been fantastic being so accessible to this great little Victorian town and all the wonders of the Olympic National Park and coastline, but I will also be glad to wander off again and see where I end up next. We leave here in less than a week and I still don't know exactly where we're going. God, this is truly the good life - I love this! As Alan Watts said, sometimes there truly is wisdom in insecurity.
September 6, 2002 - Can't get enough of Victoria
We went to Victoria again yesterday since our first visit a couple of weeks ago was consumed by the heavenly Butchart Gardens and we didn't get to see enough of the city itself. The harbor area where you dock upon arrival is so charming that you could spend half a day just walking around it, touring the majestic Parliament building, and the inner harbor that is lined with vendors, artists and musicians. The streets themselves are beautiful as there are massive hanging baskets overflowing with brilliantly colored flowers hanging from all the old fashioned lamp posts lining them. We ate a great Italian meal el fresco and then walked all along the downtown streets. We visited the Crystal Gardens, where a tropical environment is created for the birds and butterflies to fly around in. Even though we've seen several of these type of gardens now, I always enjoy being that close to the animals and plants that I miss so much from Hawaii. By the end of the afternoon we were so tired we joined the other tourists lounging about on the sloping Parliament park grounds. I got so relaxed listening to the sounds of the harbor and the seagulls that I actually fell asleep on the lawn. I slept for about an hour and was awakened by the sounds of the churchbells tolling the time. Don was so sweet and funny - I asked him why he hadn't gone to sleep and he replied, "I needed to stand guard over you and make sure security didn't come arrest you for snoring on the governor's lawn." It was just another picture perfect bon jour!
September 7, 2002 - Wooden Boat Festival
We attended the world famous (grin) Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend today. I have to say it was a bit of a letdown. I suppose if you're a huge fan of wooden boats it would have been a treat to get to board and tour some of them and attend some of the maritime workshops, but we thought the price of admission was too much for our interest level, so we just walked around the vendors' booths and was mostly disappointed when we couldn't find food booths selling funnel cakes or kettle corn. Now what kind of a fair is that??? But we were still glad we stayed here longer. We spent a little more time just enjoying Port Townsend and other close by attractions and state parks. We toured the Palace, an elegantly restored Victorian hotel on the main drag, Water Street. The history of Port Townsend is pretty interesting and we've really enjoyed getting to know her a bit. Originally a small settlement in the 1800's, she evolved into a thriving but notorious international seaport, mostly known for gambling and shanghaiing and the number of saloons on Water Street. The Palace Hotel was a well known brothel at that time and the names of the present suites reflect the names of some of the "Miss Kitties" who worked there then. The town boomed with the promise of the railroad coming, but a downturn in the economy in the 1890's and the failure of the railroad to show up left most of the majestic Victorian buildings abandoned and neglected. Now designated as a National Historic Landmark, the town is regarded as one of the best preserved Victorian seaports in the United States. It really is one of the prettiest little waterfront towns I've seen and it's been a perfect homebase for our exploration of the Olympic Peninsula.
We've enjoyed a good mixture of getting out and then just resting. Besides what I've already written about, we've gone up to Mt. Walker where the gray jays landed on and ate from my hand, drove through the Olympic Wildlife Safari and got the car windows slobbered on by elks and where I was thrilled when the sweet deer ate gently from my hand. This is where a lot of the movie star grizzly bears live and are trained. When you drive by, they will stand on their hind legs, growl, or wave to get you to throw them bread.
We can't pronounce a lot of the names of the places we've been and most of them don't sound like they look like they should sound from their spelling. I find it ironic that we kept the Indian names for most of the places we kicked them out from. Mt. Rainier is the one place that really should have retained its Indian name, Tahoma. Its meaning is "place where God lives." I can certainly buy that, and I will miss seeing him, but we've decided to head to Portland (Oregon) when we leave here on Monday. Mt. Hood will be a worthy substitute view, though, I am sure.
September 8, 2002
Working the winter in Portland began to make sense to me once I really understood how bad the traffic in Seattle is and how few and expensive the campgrounds are within reasonable commuting distance. I didn't get much positive feedback from the attorneys and temp agencies I contacted in Olympia and Tacoma. An attorney I spoke to recommended a temp agency owner in Portland as being very reputable and aggressive in getting work for legal assistants there. After I sent her my resume, she said she really believed she could keep me busy all winter, and so that's all the encouragement I needed to make the move.
I'm excited about getting to see more of Oregon than I had originally anticipated and will also be closer to visit my niece in Eugene. I did a little net surfing to get info on Portland and there's a lot of really neat stuff to do and see there, and I am sure we will have fun seeing what we can on weekends and when the winter weather allows. But we'll also be close enough to easily head back to upper Washington in the spring for our planned Alaska and Canada adventures next summer.
Need I say I am overjoyed at the prospect of hitting the road again tomorrow?
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