In which we took a day trip to Mount Rainier

You know you’re going to miss a place when you can go on a random Thursday afternoon road trip with your awesome neighbors to say goodbye to your favorite mountain.

It started off cloudy

It started off cloudy

We stopped at the Box Canyon on the way - it was such a steep and narrow drop that a picture doesn't adequately encompass it.

We stopped at the Box Canyon on the way – it was such a steep and narrow drop that a picture doesn’t adequately encompass it.

We hiked the short Grove of the Patriarchs that we think should be renamed - or at least get us our own Matriarch Grove.

We hiked the short Grove of the Patriarchs that we think should be renamed – or at least get us our own Matriarch Grove.

The trail was short, but full of giants.

The trail was short, but full of giants.

And required crossing a cool bridge.

And required crossing a cool bridge.

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There were plenty of photos taken, but none do it complete justice.

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Anna's water bottle to commemorate her first time at Mount Rainier matches mine.

Anna’s water bottle to commemorate her first time at Mount Rainier matches mine.

The largest trees had a built walkway around them.

The largest trees had a built walkway around them.

You couldn't help but look UP.

You couldn’t help but look UP.

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Giants.

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So lucky.

Is this real life? Is this Thursday?

Is this real life? Is this Thursday?

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When we emerged from the forest we caught our first glimpse of the Mountain. She had been obscured by clouds all day.

When we emerged from the forest we caught our first glimpse of the Mountain. She had been obscured by clouds all day.

See?! She is SO BIG!

See?! She is SO BIG!

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I have amazing friends

I have amazing friends

After stopping at all the view points, we popped into the Paradise Visitor’s Center. Seattle may be getting ready to slide into the sea in the coming Big Earthquake, but we’re safe if Rainier erupts:

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The clouds obscured the summit before we were done - so we headed home.

The clouds obscured the summit before we were done – so we headed home.

I will miss this Mountain and all her beauty. I will miss my dear friends. I will miss all of this so much. But how lucky am I that I have so much good to miss?

I will miss this Mountain and all her beauty. I will miss my dear friends. I will miss all of this so much. But how lucky am I that I have so many amazing things to miss?

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In which my mom came to visit – Part I

My mom had a big birthday last year and our present to her was a plane ticket out to see Seattle. We’ve been here a little over two years now, but the timing hasn’t been quite right to get her out here to see it. That combined with a busy summer and a need to put in vacation requests 6 months early, we had to wait until this summer season was almost at an end for the trip.

It was well worth it – every other visitor (Graham, Molly, Kuppy, Teresa and Larry, Roy and Nell, our Duke friends for the wedding) made the perfect practice for our amazing time. As Jeff put it so well: We did ALL of the stuff and things. If it was to be done, we won Seattle. Our amazing itinerary:

On Saturday we…

Picked mom up at airport mid-morning | Had her lashes done at Lash Noir | Ate a late lunch of chicken and waffles at the Bugundian | Walked down to Green Lake | Had tacos and quesadillas at TNT Taqueria & adjusted to Pacific Standard Time zone by going to bed early.

{No pictures apparently exist for this day because we were too excited to see each other – it’s been almost 2 years!}

On Sunday we…

Brunched at Bastille | Explored the Farmer’s Market and various cute shops in Ballard | Walked on the beach and enjoyed Puget Sound at Golden Gardens | Watched the boats, salmon and sealion (!) at the Ballard Locks | Visited a PNW Trader Joe’s | Said hello to the Fremont Troll | Made delicious BLTs with the fresh homemade bread and Benton’s bacon that mom brought in her suitcase along with farmer’s market heirloom tomatoes & then walked our dinner off around Green Lake:

Ballard Farmer's Market

Ballard Farmer’s Market

Fresh blackberries

Fresh blackberries – isn’t she adorable? I’m going to age so well!

Golden Gardens

Golden Gardens

Ballard Locks - we loved this public sculpture!

Ballard Locks – we loved this public sculpture!

Boats in the locks waiting for the water to fill

Boats in the locks waiting for the water to fill

This picture is for Graham and Nick who wanted to steal this sign when I brought them back in the Spring.

This picture is for Graham and Nick who wanted to steal this sign when I brought them back in the Spring.

Selfie with the boats - we could not have gotten luckier with the weather!

Selfie with the boats – we could not have gotten luckier with the weather!

Fremont Troll

Fremont Troll

Delicious dinner! Yes, my dear Southern mother loves me enough to bring me Benton bacon and 10 lbs of White Lily flour.

Delicious BLT and green bean (fried in bacon grease) dinner! Yes, my dear Southern mother loves me enough to bring me Benton bacon and 10 lbs of White Lily flour.

Walking off the BLTs around Green Lake

Walking off the BLTs around Green Lake

On Monday we..

Took an Uber downtown to explore the tourist district | Drank a chai tea from the Original Starbucks | Ate sweet and savory pastries from Piroshky Piroshky! in Victor Steinbrueck Park overlooking Elliot Bay | Were disgusted by the Gum Wall | Used the buggy escalator at the multi-level City Target | Rode the monorail down to the Seattle Center | Visited the extremely cool Chihuly Museum | Took pictures in front of the Space Needle & then, if that all weren’t enough – drove 2.5 hours to go hike up to Glacier View in Paradise at Mount Rainier:

{This day’s itinerary convinced me that this trip needed to be spread out over several blog posts, not just one!}

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

Inside the Original Starbucks

Inside the Original Starbucks

Chai lattes in front of the mermaid with boobs Original Sign

Chai lattes in front of the mermaid with boobs Original Sign

Gum wall - thoroughly disgusted

Gum wall – thoroughly disgusted

Seattle Center - the line was way too long to go up in the Space Needle, plus, we had a lot to do this day!

Seattle Center – the line was way too long to go up in the Space Needle, plus, we had a lot to do this day!

Very cool Chihuly museum

Very cool Chihuly museum

We've been to Chihuly exhibits in Knoxville and Nashville stretching back decades. It was very fun to see him in his hometown.

We’ve been to Chihuly exhibits in Knoxville and Nashville stretching back decades. It was very fun to see him in his hometown.

I had never wanted to pay the $20 to go in because I just thought it was the garden area - but the other exhibits were totally worth the price of admission.

I had never wanted to pay the $20 to go in because I just thought it was the garden area – but the other exhibits were totally worth the price of admission.

These boats reminded us of the ones he did at Cheekwood mansion in Nashville

These boats reminded us of the ones he did at Cheekwood mansion in Nashville

View from the atrium

View from the atrium

Reflection in the garden's glass balls

Our reflection in the garden’s glass balls

On the way up I could tell it was going to be an amazing  hike - the top of the mountain was so clear!

On the way up I could tell it was going to be an amazing hike – the top of the mountain was so clear!

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iPhone photos don’t even do it justice.

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We chose to do the Skyline trail and since it was after 5pm and a weekday, we almost had it to ourselves. It was so much less crowded than the last time I was up here.

We chose to do the Skyline trail and since it was after 5pm and a weekday, we almost had it to ourselves. It was so much less crowded than the last time I was up here.

Only part of it was paved, but it was all straight up.

Only part of the trail was paved, but it was all straight up.

Views from all sides were perfect - we kept feeling like we were Maria in the Sound of Music

Views from all sides were perfect – we kept feeling like we were Maria in the Sound of Music

Because it was so late when we started, we decided just to get to the start of the glaciers, not more and stopped at Glacier View

Because it was so late when we started, we decided just to get to the start of the glaciers, not more and stopped at Glacier Vista

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Feet on the snow!

Feet on the snow!

On the way up we saw a couple of deer, and on the way down we saw a marmot!

On the way up we saw a couple of deer, and on the way down we saw a marmot!

He was a fat little guy, ready for winter.

He was a fat little guy, ready for winter.

As we left we had an awesome view of the sunset from so far up

As we left we had an awesome view of the sunset from so far up

Don't be completely fooled by the gorgeous scenery though - Mount Rainier is an active volcano!

Don’t be completely fooled by the gorgeous scenery though – Mount Rainier is an active volcano! This is the first of several Natural Disaster signs we encounter – the Pacific Northwest is a dangerous place.

All this, and we were only on day two!

In which Graham comes to visit

My little brother Graham got back from Afghanistan in May and he’s on his way out of the Marines next month!

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Fresh off the plane

On his way to Tennessee, he and his friend Nick stopped by for a few days in Seattle. I feel like I’ve been practicing for his visit every time others came through and now we have the Seattle circuit just about perfected. We haven’t seen each other in over a year, since our grandmother’s 90th birthday in Nashville, so we had some catching up to do. Here’s what we accomplished:

Gas Works Park

Gas Works Park

Gas Works Park

Gas Works Park with the Seattle skyline and Space Needle across Lake Union.

The Fremont Troll under Aurora bridge

The Fremont Troll under Aurora bridge

Both Nick and Graham are in the 1st Marine Battalion - Engineers whose symbol is a castle. It took a lot of convincing for them not to steal it.

Both Nick and Graham are Marine Engineers whose symbol is a castle. It took a lot of convincing for them not to steal this from the Ballard Locks Engineers.

Ballard Locks

Fish ladder – Ballard Locks

Ballard Locks - in the Seattle rain

Ballard Locks – in the Seattle rain. At this point I don’t mind the misting, in fact, when a visitor comes I hope that it rains a little. I don’t want people thinking that I complain over nothing or that I’m lying about the meteorologic properties of this place.

Graham is going to hike the Appalachian Trail at some point in the next year or so, maybe even Nick will go with him. We visited the REI headquarters downtown so he could stock up on some gear and also bask in the outfitter wonderland that is that store. Naturally we needed to test out his new purchases out on a hike, and where better than Mount Rainier National Park? Unfortunately the Mountain was obscured on our drive down, so the boys couldn’t see her glory. We ended up going to an area in the northern end where I hadn’t been before to hike a trail called Green Lake.

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Graham and his new backpack – checking one National Park off the list. We stuffed it full with everything we could find in the car to simulate the real thing.

On the trail

On the trail – that is a fallen tree above Graham, they grow them big here.

Old growth forests, plenty of moss and waterfalls did not disappoint along the way.

Old growth forests, plenty of moss and beautiful waterfalls did not disappoint along the way.

Nick, Graham and I

Nick, Graham and I – Ranger Creek Falls

Green Lake - a little different from the Greenlake in Seattle we live near.

Green Lake – a little different from the Green Lake in Seattle we live near. A little more alpine-y and snowy.

It was about 10 miles up and back - a lakeside picnic broke up the trip.

It was about 10 miles up and back – a lakeside picnic broke up the trip.

Wubby and I.

Wubby and I post-hike in the valley 

On the way home, after stopping by the Carbon Glacier Distillery that was on the way from the trailhead, the clouds parted just as we were entering the city. I told the boys to look out the back window of the Jeep and there was stunned silence at the sight of Her. All day Graham had been joking that we should go to the top of Mount Rainier and I kept telling him that was impossible in May, but he hadn’t believed me. Now he did. It reminded me of my first glimpse when I was up in Seattle for the pedo interview so many years ago. She still takes my breath away – I swear one day I’ll wreck the car from staring at Her too much when I’m driving.

The next day we started playing tourists in my own city, starting with the Space Needle:

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View of the Mountain from the top.

View of the Mountain from the top. When I first went up in the Space Needle when I came out for the interview, there were clouds between it and downtown, so I had no idea there was even a huge-ass mountain yonder. Now I know that the Space Needle is not worth the $20 “airfare” unless it’s a clear day. We couldn’t have picked better weather for it though – 360 degree views from Mt. Rainier to Mount Baker to the Olympics, Sound and even our tiny Greenlake.

The boys enjoying the view.

The boys enjoying the view.

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To continue playing tourist in my own city, we took the Monorail downtown. For $2.50, it's worth it to get the 15 clocks downtown from the Needle.

To continue playing tourist in my own city, we took the Monorail downtown. For $2.50, it’s worth it to get the 15 blocks from the Needle. It was my first ride too. 

We started off in the Market with my favorite drinks - Rachel's Ginger Beer. I'd never actually been to the flagship store, we buy it at our local farmer's market (yes, I just hated myself a little for typing that), but it's super cute and they taste so refreshing - especially with rum!

We started off in the Market with my favorite drinks – Rachel’s Ginger Beer. I’d never actually been to the flagship store, we buy it at our local farmer’s market (yes, I just hated myself a little for typing that), but it’s super cute and they taste so refreshing – especially with rum!

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Then on to the Market itself.

Then on to the Market itself. Please note the ferry boat going across to Bainbridge.

We saw the trinkets, and watched the thrown fish.

We saw the flowers, and the thrown fish.

And took in views of Elliot Bay and the Cascades..

And took in views of Elliot Bay and the Olympics…

..and downtown with the waterfront from the pier.

…and downtown with the waterfront from the pier.

The boys liked the gum wall - Graham added to it.

The boys liked the gum wall – Graham added to it.

And they weren't too impressed with the original Starbucks. I blame the spoiling them with Rachel's Ginger Beer first.

And they weren’t too impressed with the original Starbucks. I blame the spoiling them with Rachel’s Ginger Beer first.

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The next day I had to go back to work, but not before dropping the kids off for kayaking in Lake Union at Agua Verde:

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Not pictured of the things we accomplished: running around Green Lake, eating Mighty-O doughnuts, taking shots of absinthe at Carbon Glacier Distillery, touring my work at the Center for Pediatric Dentistry, eating Paseo sandwiches, drinking at the Moon Temple and on Murphy’s back porch, eating home cooked meals, visiting the EMP museum and recovering from all our adventures in the hammock. We. Did. It. All.

Cheers to an excellent visit. Come again soon Wubby!

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In which we took a trip to Mt. Rainier

Over Labor Day weekend we took a trip up to Mt. Rainier (pronounced Rah-neer, not “rainy-er” despite the weather situation up here). It was a gorgeous weekend, but unfortunately every other person and their brother thought it would also be a great idea to spend some time on what Seattleites affectionately call “The Mountain”.

I’ve had a slight obsession with this gorgeous volcano since I first came out to Seattle to interview. Before catching my red-eye back to Chapel Hill, Sandra Fisher and I took a walk down by Lake Washington and she pointed out what I thought were high clouds in the distance. Those clouds were really the snow capped slopes of Rainier and I was fascinated by a mountain that could be so high it had snow all year round. My beloved Appalachians in contrast only have snow in the deep of winter and the blanket is dirtied by the trees that cover their hills.

We visited probably the busiest part of the park – the Paradise area which is famous for its alpine wild flowers. Below are some pictures of our 5.4 mi loop hike.

This is my imitation of Maria in the Swiss Alps

Jeff is not as willing to reenact the opening scene of The Sound of Music

During our entire hike, the 14, 410 ft peak remained an elusive site behind clouds. The Mountain makes its own weather it’s so tall. Right as we were about to head out of the visitor’s center the clouds parted briefly for a look at her summit.

Despite the crowds it was nice to get out of the city for a little bit. Oh! And we saw a bear! I didn’t have a really nice picture of it, so nothing to post, but it was cool to see one. Don’t worry, we took a quick survey of the other people watching it and Jeff and I decided we could at least out run three of them. I was also really excited to walk on some glaciers after not getting to see any at Glacier National Park on our trip out here (that long delayed post will come soon!).