In which we check one off: North Cascades National Park

For my birthday Jeff gave me a map of the US with all of the National Parks on it because he knows of my love of travel, my love of the outdoors and most of all, my love of checking things off lists.

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We hit a few of them on our way out here a few years ago (though sadly I didn’t know about the Wind Cave in South Dakota even though we were so close to it! Ahh!), and this weekend we checked another one off – the only one we were missing in Washington State: North Cascades National Park.



It’s only three hours drive north of Seattle now that WA 530 state route is back open after the Oso mudslide. We drove through the devastated area where 43 people died when the side of the mountain came crashing down one morning back in March. The road was early quiet – like driving through a graveyard.

State Route 530, opened one week ago on June 20th.

State Route 530, opened one week ago on June 20th.

The side of the mountain that came down and the destruction underneath.

The side of the mountain that came down and the destruction underneath.

We left after work on Friday and after fighting Seattle traffic, rain and some bad directions, we made it to the campsite with the last bit of our long Pacific Northwest daylight around 9:15pm, just enough to pick a spot and put up the tent. We had planned to use our air mattress like we had before in Yellowstone, only we hadn’t factored in that we had bought a larger size to replace the old one that died on my trip up to Whistler in January. It did not fit at all. But in the dark and pouring rain, all we could do was deflate it halfway and cram it in as best we could to get out of the wet – it filled up probably half of the tent by volume. We climbed in and managed to balance ourselves somewhat, now much closer to the tent roof and constantly readjusting our lopsided selves on top of the squishy behemoth. The air mattress at this point took on a life of its own; it was the third creature in our three-person, three-season tent. It felt like sleeping in what Jeff described as a half inflated fun house. It’s been years since I’ve slept outside where it rained hard throughout the entire night. I remembered that I do not miss that.

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John Muir in a letter to his sister, 1873

The next morning I managed to light the camp stove in what had let up to a light drizzle and we made coffee in the French press – it was much needed after the soggy, squished night. We then decided to hike up nearby Thunder Creek to the 4th of July Pass (it being close to the holiday and all and one of the only trails the park ranger said wasn’t covered in snow). We made it about 5 miles in the rain before deciding that we had had enough fun. A steep ascent had left us exposed on the side of an open mountain face and Jeff did not have adequate rain gear, so I made the call to turn back. It wasn’t fun rain. It wasn’t just deal with it rain. It was beat at you without tree cover, soak you to the bones rain. I’ve had hypothermia once before, many years ago and I wasn’t willing to repeat it.

Sometimes knowing when to turn back is just as important as knowing when to push on, even when it’s hard. We were close to the Pass and close to the top, but it was just getting too dangerous. It paralleled an experience I had had with a patient just the day before: a sweet kid with a medical condition that I could have easily precipitated into a medical emergency with a little stress of dental treatment. Sure, we could’ve gone ahead with the filling, and maybe nothing would have happened, but the conditions that day were just right for the makings of something more sinister and I had to make the call not to risk it. Same with the hike – we could have made it. Or because of today’s conditions, one of us could have gotten seriously hurt in the storm. The older I get, the easier it is to make the call. I think they call that maturity or something? Anyway, we got a few pictures of the old growth forest and Thunder Creek on the way down:


Very wet Elise


The water is milky blue green - from when the park's many glaciers have crushed the hills into fine power. This "mountain flour" mixes with the water and reflects the light to make it look this way.

The water is milky blue green – from when the park’s many glaciers have crushed the hills into fine powder. This “mountain flour” mixes with the water and reflects the light to make it look this way – it’s surreal.


We ate lunch back at our campsite and spent the rest of the day driving around looking at things. A lot of the trails still aren’t open yet because of snow – crazy to think that even after the official start of summer things are still thawing out here!

The old faithful Jeep - still trucking.

The old faithful Jeep – still trucking after 189,679 miles..




Overlooking Ross or Diablo Lake

It was freezing cold and still raining.

It was freezing cold and still raining.

Diablo Lake

Diablo Lake


More clouds moving in – time to get back in the car



Peaks peaking through

Around this time I began to feel very sick from lunch. We had grabbed to-go sandwiches from the grocery store since this was a last minute camping trip and we hadn’t had time to prepare well. Something in mine did not sit properly with me and I was struggling. This, coupled with the prospect of another rainy sleepless night in a deflated fun house of a tent, was too much. I called it again, for the second time in one day. The reason there are no pictures of our very picturesque campsite in Colonial Creek (right by a very blue lake in an old growth forest, really a spectacular spot) is because we packed everything in ten minutes of this decision and headed home.

I was fully reminded and humbled that June is not a summer month here. No matter what the calendar says, July 4th is the official start. This post on reading it highlights a lot of horrible things on our 28 hours trip up north – but it was in fact actually really good to 1) check off a new, and beautiful National Park and 2) get our bearings for when we come back. It’s too close and too pretty not to return. When it stops raining.

In which it’s a rainy Friday

We did it Seattle! We broke the March record for rain with 8.60″ today. It made for some wet errand running:

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But that’s okay because with our REI dividend and the current 20% off sale, I was able to pick up some straps for $1.76 to hang our anniversary hammock. I’m determine to make the last of this Spring Break tropical yet:

A balmy 54 degrees meant two blankets accompanied me into the hammock.

A balmy 54 degrees meant two blankets accompanied me into the hammock.

In which there is a Sunday

Sundays are for…


Coffee and homework

Football (starts at breakfast over here in the PST)

Football (starts at breakfast over here in the PST)

And Spaghetti Squash casserole dinner

And Spaghetti Squash casserole dinner

Spaghetti squash is our new favorite over here, especially since the return of the cold and rain. It’s all the squash/pumpkin-ness of Fall with all the deliciousness of melted cheese. We roast ours, combine it with a jar of Trader Joe’s Spaghetti Sauce and diced onions, top with mozzarella slices and stick it back in the over for 10-15 minutes to heat up. Yum!

Excited about the first full week of classes and then going to North Carolina to see my dear friend Molly and Colin tie the knot this weekend! So pumped!

In which I stay dry

I don’t really shop for new clothes all that much as a resident. For one, our uniform of grey scrubs pretty much dictates what I’ll wear every morning – don’t get me wrong, when picking out an outfit at 5:30am I’m thankful all I have to do is make sure I grab a top and a bottom. And for two, since we’re new to Seattle all my old clothes are “new” to people here – yay unfamiliarity!

A year’s worth of walking combined with our wet weather has done a number on my business casual ballet flats and so today I ventured out to find a new pair. Our closest shopping area is University Village which reminds me of North Carolina’s Southpoint in number and types of stores except that IT IS ALL OUTSIDE! What moron built a shopping mall completely OUTDOORS in one of the rainiest places in the United States?!??!

Rainey Sunday

Rainey Sunday at UVillage

While dodging between stores in the deluge that was this Sunday afternoon I discovered that someone had either thought of this or come up with a solution a posteriori: free umbrellas everywhere.

Free Umbrellas

Free Umbrellas

The premise is you pick one up where you are if it starts raining and carry it to a store and leave it outside. Then you shop around and if you still need it, pick it up again and walk to where you’d like, leave it, shop and repeat as necessary. It’s how I imagine bike sharing programs in large European cities.

Rainey Sunday

Their bright yellow colors are a nice dose of sun. What an ingenious, dry solution to living in the rain!

Also: To get you in the mood for some holiday cheer, check out this Instagram from the Duke University chapel my friend Molly sent. If this doesn’t brighten your rainy Monday I don’t know what will. Love it!

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In which I offer gratitude for the sunshine

It happened briefly yesterday as I was walking along Lake Union from a meeting at U-Dub. And again, crisply, this morning on my drive to work. The sun! It came out! And there was glimpses of blue sky!

It did my heart so much good.

Boats sunning on Lake Union

I was fully aware of what I signed up for when I put down Seattle at the top of my Match list. And as if I was somehow the last person on Earth who hadn’t heard this area is a little on the wetter side, EVERY SINGLE PERSON whom I told we were moving out here responded with some variation of “Oh I hope you like rain!”. So yes, I had mentally prepared  for months and knew this was going to be a little rough coming from sunny Carolina, but it doesn’t make it any easier some days.

The weather here reminds me of a short story by Ray Bradbury; a little one he published right before his better known Fahrenheit. It’s a quick read and you can find the full text here. Poetically called “All Summer in a Day” it’s about school children who live on a rain soaked Venus and only see the sun once every seven years. PBS made a video that while a little 1970’s chic, has a happier ending than the real story  (you can find it on YouTube). The story itself is a little sad, but like a great piece of science fiction work it also raises some broader questions – such as, is it better to have never seen or know the sun and not know the pleasure of it on your skin so you don’t know what to pine for? Or is it better to have felt it’s kiss and remember its warmth and joy to get you through the next seven years of rain?

Sunrise on my way to work
Rays breaking over the Cascade mountains across Lake Washington

I think it would be better to know and love the sun like the story’s protagonist Margot and not like the other children who rely solely on sunlamps, no matter how sad you are when it’s gone. Experiencing true beauty and warmth, even if all you have is a memory of it is preferable to substituting a lie. Plus, that William kid is a jerk.

Living here does make me appreciate every second of sunlight that I can gather though. I hope I never lose the feeling of gratitude for it that I have begun to cultivate living underneath these clouds.

{Follow up: All signs point to Referendum 74 passing – yay!}

In which the rains have come

We’ve been so lucky and our luck has held while waiting it out, but the gorgeous blue October skies have finally given way to this view off our balcony:

I knew deep down it was coming.. but ugh. Time to start shopping for a sun lamp!

In good news the Northwest foliage is gorgeous:

And makes for some great weather to warm curry deliciousness:

Trader Joe’s: Brown jasmine rice + green curry simmer sauce + shrimpy shrimps = YUM!

And doesn’t make me mind curling up on the couch and be on call (aka babysitting the pager):

I have an unhealthy fear that the pager is going to go off when I’m in the shower. It not usually a standard toiletry.


I noticed today my tan lines from North Carolina have already faded, so guess it’s time to fully embrace the Pacific paleness. Oh summer and sunshine – I’ll miss thee!


In which there was no rain and there were no vampires.

After our gigantic kayak fail last weekend we decided to take a trip that left navigating water to the professionals. From our balcony we can see the glaciated tops of the Olympic Mountains and so today we took advantage of the gorgeous weather and took a trip out to the Peninsula. Nothing like sunny day to inspire a trip to one of the rainiest spots on earth!

We left early and caught the ferry from Edmonds to Kingston – the first time I’ve ever driven my car on a boat!

As you can see, it was a little foggy. Looking through the windows of the boat you could see little more than a thin line dividing similarly colored heavens and water. This blank background made it easy to pick out orangey pink jellyfish floating in the sound and we briefly giggled at a passing otter that Jeff spotted.

Once on the Peninsula we drove west, a direction that after the past month or so we thought we had run out of. This took us through the town of Forks of Twilight fame. Lots of kitsch, but no vampires – maybe because by this time the sun had come out.

(and no we didn’t go on the tour – I like being married and I’m pretty sure forcing Jeff on the Twilight tour would have ruined this good thing we have going)

 There isn’t a whole lot on the Olympic Peninsula; it boils down to mostly a big chunk of inhabitable rugged mountains making up the Olympic National Park in the middle circumnavigated by the 101, a highway that starts up here and goes all the way down to the East Los Angeles Interchange (the world’s busiest highway interchange, btw). The 101 took us past Lake Crescent on our way to the Western entrance to the Hoh Rainforest.

It was really pretty, really blue and really clear

 We finally made it to the Hoh Rainforest in the Olympic National Park around lunchtime. Yay for our America The Beautiful pass for getting us in for free (we’d broken even on buying it at Glacier National Park but now we’re saving money on it!). This is the rainiest spot in the continental US, averaging 150 inches of rain a year – that’s 12.5 feet! From our visit you’d never know it though because it was gorgeous and sunny.

Phone booth!

We walked the brief Hall of Mosses trail which looked like it was straight out of the Dagobah system.

Many massive trees!

In a temperate rainforest there is a lot of moss

This was a skinny tree

Trees growing out of trees!

Massive trees and moss!

Little blurry, but that’s what you get with the auto timer

After lots of green and sunshine to recharge my soul, we headed back to Seattle on a much clearer ferry ride with great views of Puget Sound.

My car – ON A BOAT!
(i was wearing flippie floppies)

Good day trip 😀

After a long day of driving all over creation we settled into a nice chicken dinner at home and past episodes of The Office.

So today’s lesson: sometimes there is no rain in the alleged rainforest and when it’s sunny there are no vampires in Forks.

Also we found Twilight beer at our corner market and thought it was an appropriate end to a day spent visiting Forks.

Jeff saw this picture on my phone right after I took it and immediately said

“Well you won”.
“Won what?”
“Won Instagram.”
“You took a picture of an ironic picture of an ironic Twilight beer (which was probably already ironically named) with Instagram while in Seattle. If that doesn’t win I don’t know what does.”

So I drank one for winning. And it was delicious. The End.