Archive | November 2014

Oysters on a Sunday

Let’s face it – Jon’s schedule sucks.  While I am an 8 to 5’er, with weekends and holidays off, Jon has an extremely unpredictable schedule.  He works an endlessly flip-flopping schedule of days, afternoons and evenings, with the occasional two or three week stint of graveyard shifts.  He gets one weekend off per month, and he is supposed to get one other Sunday off each month (but he usually doesn’t).  The only predictable part of Jon’s schedule is the fact that I typically have no idea when he is working the next week, or even the next day.

One weekend off per month, and one Sunday.  Let that sink in…  That means, that unless we are on vacation, Jon and I get a maximum of three days off together each month.  That sucks…

Earlier this summer, Jon did get a Sunday off, and we took the opportunity to do a local hike to Oyster Dome.  There are two different starting points for the trail, depending on if you want to take the long, hard way, or the short, hard way.  We did the long one.

The trail starts out with a series of switchbacks, with steep sections and not so steep sections.  But there are enough switchbacks in the woods that you begin to wonder if they will ever end.  The answer is no – I really believe that they just continue on forever.  There are a few places along the way where you are greeted with beautiful views of Bellingham Bay, the San Juan Islands, and the Skagit Tide Flats.  Stunning!

The day that we were there, it was threatening to rain, which made for an extremely humid day.  The humidity enveloped the woods in an ethereal mist that was really beautiful to see, but difficult to capture in photos.  The cloud cover also meant that parts of the woods were fairly dark, giving it a foreboding horror movie feeling.

Hiking in the Misty Woods – that’s Jon up ahead

Hiking in the Misty Woods – that’s Jon up ahead

The switchbacks eventually end, and we hiked quietly through the woods for awhile, over a few small creeks and boggy areas, until we were greeted with a scramble straight up the hill over tree roots and loose rocks.  It is the hardy hiker that doesn’t resort to grabbing a tree branch here or there to steady himself.

Then comes more wandering through the woods, past huge, old chains that once helped loggers haul gigantic trees out of these woods.  When logging operations ceased, they just left some of the bigger equipment there.  We also saw the old marks on tree stumps made by the springboards; loggers would make notches in the trees to insert boards to stand on.  This allowed them to cut high enough where the tree was narrower and the saw could fit around it.  Of course, this left stumps between 6 and 10 feet tall that are still standing today.

Evidence of Century Old Logging

Evidence of Century Old Logging

When you finally get to the top of Oyster Dome (I have no idea why it is called that), you come out of the woods to stand on a huge, bare rock overlooking the Bay and the Tide Flats.  The view is beautiful and peaceful.  This is always where I realize that the grueling hike was worth it.

Looking Out Over the Tide Flats of Skagit County

Looking Out Over the Tide Flats of Skagit County

Skagit County Farmland – With Ominous Clouds Above

Skagit County Farmland – With Ominous Clouds Above

The hike back down is the same trail – so it is the same steep, tree root and rock scramble in reverse, and then we hiked down the never-ending switchbacks to the bottom.  By the time we reached the road, my legs were jelly and I swear I used muscles I never knew I had.  I was soaked in sweat, but I was proud of my accomplishment.  This is one of my favorite hikes at home; it is beautiful and a great workout!

Note: The entire hike is 6 miles roundtrip and is listed in the hiking books as strenuous.  But if you decide to do it, the views are spectacular!

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Thankful…

I hope you are all reading this after spending a day filled with family and friends, good food, and of course, fabulous wine.  Before everyone arrives, I just wanted to take a minute to reflect on everything I am thankful for.

1.  Family – I am blessed to have a wonderful family filled with people who love me for who I am.  And I won the in-law lottery – I scored an amazing second family of people who are warm and caring and fun.  And then there is Jon; I can always count on him to steal the first sip out of any glass of wine he pours me, but I wouldn’t trade him for anything.  He’s a wonderful husband!  Enough said.

2.  Coworkers – Spending 45 hours a week of your life with someone could drive you crazy, but fortunately, I am blessed with an amazing group of people to work with.  They are the smartest, most grounded, and funniest ladies I could ever hope to be surrounding by.  We get things done, but we don’t forget that work without some fun is just plain tedious.

3.  Animals – My fur-babies make me happy.  I love seeing them first thing when I wake up and last thing before I go to bed.  And I love their different personalities; from Ollie wanting to snuggle to Oscar who begs for pets in the kitchen.  And then there’s Biz, who might not be the smartest horse, but his antics have kept me busy all these years.

4.  Home – I consider myself lucky to live where I do.  The scenery is gorgeous, my commute is nothing, and I find nature right in my backyard.  The land is green, the weather is mild, and we can afford a good quality of life.

5.  Opportunity – My parents taught me that I could be anything I wanted and do anything I set my mind to.  I took that to heart, got an education, and set about on a career path that I love.  But in my spare time, I have had the opportunity to travel and see this great Nation and parts of this beautiful world.  I treasure the experiences that I have had, and always look forward to more.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!  I hope you have joy, and that your hearts are as full of blessings as mine.

 

There’s Less Competition for the White Wines…

I’m still working on the wines from the mixed case, and I have much more success getting some tastes of the whites!  Jon isn’t quite as interested in white wines, so I can open them at my leisure.  Here are my notes on the few I have tried lately.

2013 Gerald Talmard Chardonnay.  This wine is from the Mâcon Uchizy region in France and it is an unoaked Chardonnay with lemongrass and a hint of floral and herbal notes on the nose.  On the palate, it has a bright acidity with tart, light citrus and lemongrass flavors.  I like a good, crisp white wine anytime of the year, but this would be an excellent summer wine, enjoyed out on the deck with with BBQ chicken.  Ahh… now I want summer back, instead of this rainy, windy storm going on outside my window.  $11.99

My Mixed Case of Wine – I sampled the Scaia on the far left, and the Gerald Talmard , which is fifth from the right, with the bright yellow label.

My Mixed Case of Wine – I sampled the Scaia on the far left, and the Gerald Talmard , which is fifth from the right, with the bright yellow label.

2013 Scaia white wine.  This wine from the Veneto region of Italy is a blend of 50% Garganega, 30% Chardonnay and 20% Trebbiano di Soave.  However, there was some conflicting information on the internet, so those percentages might be somewhat different.  It also seems that the blend changes with each vintage.  This wine had flavors of peach, grapefruit, and pineapple with good acidity.  It also contained a nice balance of sweetness on the front of the tongue and tartness on the back of the palate. $10.99

Scaia is another wine that would be great in the summer, but would also be wonderful with spicy Thai food or stir fry.  The fact that Garganega was a grape I hadn’t tried before was just a bonus!  I loved checking a grape off of my Century Wine Club list!

Thanksgiving is almost upon us, and you can be sure I’ll be enjoying some wines at our table.  What will you be having?

 

A Quick Trip to a Volcano

Have you ever hiked on an active volcano?  Would you be worried that it would erupt beneath your feet?  Back in June, Jon and I decided to take an impromptu weekend getaway and we made a stop at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.  Mount St. Helens is best known for its May 18, 1980 eruption that was the most deadly and economically devastating volcanic eruption in U.S. history.   You can read my post about it here.

Welcome to Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Welcome to Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

On our drive up the mountain, there was quite a bit of fog, which gradually melted away to reveal a gorgeous blue sky and big, white, puffy clouds.  And a huge, puffy cloud hanging directly in front of the signature crater of the mountain that stuck around for our entire visit.  How’s that for ruining a photo op?  I have heard that this cloud is a common occurrence at Mount St. Helens, although I’m not sure why.

 

The partially recovered valley below the volcano.

The partially recovered valley below the volcano.

We visited the Johnston Ridge Observatory, which was named for David Johnston, a volcanologist who was monitoring the mountain on the morning of the 1980 eruption and was killed that day.   The observatory has several exhibits on volcanoes and what happens in an eruption, and a great (albeit a bit cheesy) movie about the eruption and the subsequent changes to the landscape that have occurred.  The movie also details the return of life to the area in the years after the eruption.  At the end of the movie, the curtains at the front of the theater open and you are greeted with a spectacular view of the mountain through the floor to ceiling windows.  Amazing.

Jon and I went outside and began a hike from the observatory towards Spirit Lake.  Spirit Lake was one of the lakes that became superheated and flashed to steam during the eruption.  It was filled with trees and debris that were blown down from the eruption, and the trees still cover much of the surface of the lake today.

A view of Spirit Lake, off in the distance. In the lower right corner, you can see trees that were buried by the ash.

A view of Spirit Lake, off in the distance.
In the lower right corner, you can see trees that were buried by the ash.

We didn’t hike as far as the lake because we hadn’t come prepared with our hiking shoes, but we enjoyed what we did do.  The number of people on the trail dropped considerably once we got even a few hundred yards away from the observatory, and we were able to get great views of the mountain and the devastation that is still visible in the valley below.  Grasses and shrubs grow there now, and even a few conifers, but you can still clearly see the evidence of the huge landslide that tore through the area.  It just looks like a blanket of mud on the ground even now.

Piddles the Owl reflects on the many owl lives lost in the eruption.

Piddles the Owl reflects on the many owl lives lost in the eruption.

There was a volunteer docent with a telescope trained on some elk that were grazing down in the valley, but I couldn’t see them when I looked into it.  I’ll just have to trust that they were there.  We did see lots of prairie lupine, Indian Paintbrush and wild strawberry plants.  And bees – they liked the lupine.

One of my favorite wildlife pics ever!

One of my favorite wildlife pics ever!

When you look on the ridge opposite Mount St. Helens, you can see thousands of trees that were laid flat by the force of the blast in 1980.  Their weathered and gray skeletal remains almost make you believe that the trees just died naturally and fell, until you consider that there are none left standing.  A barren wasteland of dry, gray logs.

Trees flattened by the blast in 1980

Trees flattened by the blast in 1980

This NASA website provides an intriguing series of satellite photos documenting the devastation from before the eruption to the modern day.  It shows how barren the mountain was after the blast and how time has gradually healed the landscape.  I find it fascinating that you can see the carpet of logs moving to different areas in Spirit Lake during the photo series.

On our way back down the mountain, we stopped at Coldwater Lake, a lake that was created by the eruption when the landslide dammed Coldwater Creek.  The Army Corps of Engineers created an outlet channel to drain water from Coldwater Lake to prevent the possibility of the lake overflowing and creating a catastrophic flood, but other than that, the lake has been left to develop naturally.  It is now a scenic day-use area with an interpretive trail and fishing opportunities  (the lake was stocked with rainbow and cutthroat trout).  Boats with electric motors are permitted on the lake.  I thought it was a very peaceful place.

Coldwater Lake – a lake created by the 1980 volcanic eruption.

Coldwater Lake – a lake created by the 1980 volcanic eruption.

I will certainly return and spend more time here; Jon and I are both interested in hiking to the summit of this now 8,365 foot volcano.  You can climb it in a day (most hikers take between 7 and 12 hours) and it doesn’t require any technical climbing.  My kind of mountain climbing…

A Trio from the Mixed Case

We have had several days, and several wines that went by pretty quickly.  Although I don’t have detailed notes on them, I still wanted to share my impressions.

Atteca Old Vines Garnacha – 2012.  This Spanish red is 100% Garnacha, and luckily I got to taste it at the wine shop when I bought the case.  It has flavors of red pepper and significant peppery spice.  But I only got a few sips because Jon stole most of the bottle – he loved it.  This is certainly a wine we will buy again – $14.99

H-Henriques – 2011.  This French wine from the Côtes du Roussillon region is 50% Carignan, 35% Grenache, and 15% Syrah.  When I first tasted this wine, I wasn’t a huge fan.  It tasted highly of alcohol, with very sharp tannins.  After letting the wine sit for an hour, it settled down a bit and it was much more pleasant, but it wasn’t one of my favorites so far.  Jon liked it quite a bit more than I did though. – $7.99

Scaia Corvina – 2012.  This wine comes from the Veneto region of Italy and is 100% Corvina.  Corvina was a new varietal for me, so I was excited to cross it off my wine century club list.  Sadly, there will be no check mark for me.  Jon snuck in while I was working my way through another wine over the course of a couple days,  and drank it all!  I never even got a sip.  Jon loved it though, so we will buy it again – and next time I’ll get some! – $10.99

Happy Wednesday Peeps!

2013 Linen Sauvignon Blanc

The first white wine that I tried from the mixed case was the 2013 Linen Sauvignon Blanc, by Bergevin Vineyards in Walla Walla, Washington.  The wine is a nice, light straw color, with light tropical notes and a lemongrass scent.  On the palate, it is a crisp, clean, wine with flavors of melon, lychee, and crisp citrus.  The flavors are nicely balanced, and the result is a wine that has a lot going on, in a good way.

The first night, I paired this with simple baked fish and vegetables, and it was still fabulous the next day when my girlfriend and I finished off the bottle with an appetizer assortment of fresh vegetables, cheeses and crackers, sushi and hummus.  The flavors in this wine offered something for each food we tried.  And although my friend is a self-professed red wine drinker, she really enjoyed this wine.

2013 Linen Sauvignon Blanc

2013 Linen Sauvignon Blanc

At the $10.99 price point, this was an amazing value.  I will certainly buy this again!  And it is on my list of tasting rooms to visit next time we are in Walla Walla.

Have you had this wine?  What did you think?

The Day the House Trembled

I was four years old on May 18, 1980. It was a Sunday, and my brother and I were playing in our room that morning. Suddenly, my mom was yelling down the hall at us to stop kicking the walls. Only we weren’t. We had been playing quietly, not arguing or fighting and certainly not kicking walls. What was going on?

It wasn’t until later that we learned that Mount St. Helens had erupted at 8:32 that morning. It was the most significant eruption in the United States since the 1915 eruption of Lassen Peak in California. And it was only a few hours away from us. A 5.1 magnitude earthquake created by the rumblings under the mountain triggered a huge landslide that morning. Most of the north face of the mountain slid; it was the largest landslide ever recorded.

Mount St. Helens on May 17, 1980, one day before the eruption.   (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Mount St. Helens on May 17, 1980, one day before the eruption.
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

The landslide filled the valley with earth, water and trees that had been flattened by the impact. It moved at speeds between 110 and 155 miles per hour. When the landslide stopped, the debris had moved 13 miles down the North Fork Toutle River; the debris reached heights of 600 feet tall covering an area of about 24 square miles.

The landslide triggered a volcanic eruption within a few seconds of the landslide; volcanic gases, pumice, and ash exploded through the landslide, and the blast knocked down all the trees nearby. Over 230 square miles of trees were simply laid flat by the heat and force of the eruption; many more trees further away were killed because of the heat but remained standing.

A second explosion occurred when the superheated eruption material turned all of the water in Spirit Lake and the North Fork Toutle River to steam. That explosion had a “quiet zone” immediately surrounding the mountain where the explosion was not heard. However, areas further away were not within the quiet zone; the second explosion was heard as far away as British Columbia, Canada, Idaho and Northern California. That was the explosion that my mother heard and felt that morning.

By the time the mountain was finished that day, the column of smoke and ash reached 80,000 feet into the air and deposited ash in 11 states. Day became night in cities along the path due to the falling ash; cities were covered with anywhere between 0.5 inches in Spokane to 5 inches of ash in Yakima, Washington.

The immediate area had been closed off for several weeks before the eruption due to increasing earthquake and eruption activity on the mountain.  But even still, 57 people lost their lives, including a volcanologist named David Johnston, who was working for the US Geological Survey. Others killed included Harry R. Truman, a lodge owner, Reid Blackburn, a photographer from National Geographic, and others who either lived or were camping or hiking in the area. Most of the people who died that day died of asphyxiation, although several died of burns. Several bodies were never found.

It wasn’t just people who died that day; researchers estimate that up to 7,000 elk, deer and bear were also killed, along with countless smaller mammals. Bird populations were devastated. Over 12 million young salmon were killed when hatcheries in the area were destroyed.  Yet remarkably, some burrowing rodents, frogs and salamanders managed to survive because they were burrowed underground when the eruption occurred.

And the trees? In all 4,000,000,000 board feet of timber was destroyed. That’s enough to build 300,000 homes.  About 25% of the flattened trees were salvaged beginning that fall, but the majority were not harvested.  Additionally, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railroad track and 185 miles of highways were wiped out.  Massive devastation.

After the blast, the area was acquired by the federal government and the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was born. Areas not under federal control (most were owned by Weyerhauser) were replanted soon after the eruption, but the lands of the new monument were left as is; allowed to recover naturally.

The mountain in 1982, with a steam plume, and the now famous crater.   (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

The mountain in 1982, with a steam plume, and the now famous crater.
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

When you visit now, 34 years later, there are signs of rebirth. Meadows and shrubs have grown, and elk and larger mammals move through the area once again. But you can still see the absolute devastation caused by the eruption. You can see thousands of trees, lying flat along the hillside, remaining where they were blown down all those years ago. And you can clearly see where the landslide raged through and covered the valley, leaving ugly scars and trails of earth and mud.

And my brother and I?  Well, my mom apologized later that day for getting mad at us when she saw the news and realized what had happened.  You really can’t blame her; after all, her conclusion seemed more likely than a mountain exploding.

We visited in June of this year, and were fascinated to see the changes that are occurring on this once beautiful, then absolutely barren landscape. I’ll post about our visit next.

Do you remember where you were when Mount St. Helens erupted?  Were you close enough to feel it?