Archive | June 2015

Two Wines for Scorching Hot Days

The last several days have been scorching hot.  The lowest highs have been in the low 80s.  The highest have been in the high 80s!  As we generally only get a few days in the 80s all summer, this is very unusual, especially so early in the summer.

To keep cool, we have had our fans going all day long, and are trying to strategically open and close windows and blinds to let in cool air and keep out the heat.  It is only sort of working.  The first floor of our house was 80 degrees when we went to bed last night.  Our bedroom was several degrees hotter.

All that heat means summer whites!  I found a great New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  The Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc It is a pale straw yellow, with crisp acidity, and flavors of grapefruit and lemongrass.  It was so good!  A perfect patio sipper, and a steal at less than $10!

A couple days later, I opened the Evolution White by Sokol Blosser.  A kitchen sink blend, with Pinot Gris, White Riesling, Muscat, Gewürztraminer, Müller Thurgau, Semillon, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner, and Chardonnay, this wine has nice tropical flavors of peach and citrus.  Though not as crisp as the Monkey Bay, it is a great summer white with its crispness balancing out the sweet, tropical notes.

Now if only I were on vacation!

Mount Rainier 2015: Snowshoeing!

Did you know that Mount Rainier is one of the snowiest places on earth?  Jon and I visited in April – a new National Park for both of us!

At the beginning of National Parks week, when the parks have their fee-free day, Jon and I decided to make a weekend trip down to Mount Rainier National Park. We didn’t plan for our trip to coincide with fee-free day, as we have a National Parks pass, but it just happened to be Jon’s weekend off and we wanted to make the most of it. We got up really early – 5:15 am, and were on the road at 6:30. Driving was easy and we reached the park just after 10 am.

View of Mount Rainier - a cloudless sky!

View of Mount Rainier – a cloudless sky!

We went in the southwest entrance of the park and passed by the National Park Inn in the Longmire Historic District – that’s where we would be staying the night. We decided to first go to the Paradise section – so we made our way up the Paradise Road. It is a really gorgeous drive, past bridges and waterfalls and old-growth forest.

We parked at Paradise and went to the Visitor’s Center to figure out what we wanted to do. There was still a covering of snow on the trails, so we decided to rent snowshoes! For $14.50 per person, you can rent snowshoes for the day – they aren’t particular pretty, made of blue plastic and rubber straps, but they do the trick.

Jon straps on his snowshoes.

Jon straps on his snowshoes.

We talked to the ranger about a couple of snowshoe trail options and headed out. The snowshoes took a little getting used to; you have to walk with your feet farther apart than you normally would and of course, you have to pick up your feet higher, as you are walking on snow. All in all though, they were easy to use and we found walking in the snow was much easier for us than others without snowshoes.

Me as we set out for our first hike on snowshoes!

Me as we set out for our first hike on snowshoes!

The first trail we did (about a mile round trip) was the Nisqually Vista Trail. In the summer, this is a 1.2 mile paved trail; half of it was closed when we were there, so it was a slightly shorter out and back hike.

The trail took us over a little bridge, along a small creek that was visible through the snow and out along a section of trail that had amazing views of the mountain and the Nisqually Glacier. We also had a view of the Nisqually River Valley. We loved the scenery!

Me with a view of the Nisqually River Valley in the background

Me with a view of the Nisqually River Valley in the background

After we finished the Nisqually Vista Trail trail, we decided we still wanted to do more snowshoeing. We decided to hike a bit out the Edith Creek Basin trail, which in the summer offers spectacular views of scenic meadows with wildflowers and crosses over one of Mount Rainier’s famous waterfalls, Myrtle Falls. The weather was beautiful, with lots of sunshine and temperatures in the 60s! It was crazy for April in Washington State!

Edith Creek looking up at Mount Rainier

Edith Creek looking up at Mount Rainier


We went about a mile out, crossing over the bridge over Myrtle Falls and heading a little higher up the mountain. Many snowshoers and cross country skiers go much further to Panorama Point, but we stopped and turned around for a couple of reasons. This late in the season, we would be heading into a section that has a high risk of avalanches. The spring weather with the melting snow makes the heavy, slushy snow that is well known for sliding down the mountain, and we didn’t want to be anywhere near it!

Looking down at the top of Myrtle Falls

Looking down at the top of Myrtle Falls

After we made our way back to the Visitor’s Center, we decided 3 miles was enough snowshoeing for the day, because we wanted to do some hiking as well! We had a great time snowshoeing and would definitely do it again! Plus, I want to return and see Myrtle Falls and the wildflowers in summer!

After snowshoeing, we headed back down to a lower elevation to hike and check out some waterfalls! Have you been to Mount Rainier? Have you snowshoed at Paradise?

Happy 5th Anniversary!

Jon and I have reached a milestone!  Five years of marriage!  That’s right, the wood anniversary!  I did not get anything wooden for Jon, but I did treat him to a romantic evening of flushing my horse’s mouth with salt water.  Jon got to man the syringe, while I held Biz’s mouth open.  Jon definitely got the better end of the bargain – and I got a couple of squirts of salt water in my face and ear!

Of course, it needed to be done, and wound care doesn’t wait for an anniversary celebration.  Fortunately I’m not particularly sentimental, and neither is Jon, so we’ll likely just pretend that our upcoming long weekend trip to Whistler is our anniversary.  Sometimes a little substitution works just fine!

I hope you are all enjoying your weekend, and celebrating whatever milestones come your way.  Cheers!

Biz gets drugs, I get beer…

This morning, Biz and I made the trip up to his vet clinic for his latest surgery.  Biz has EOTRH, a degenerative disease of the teeth that causes them to break down.  His incisors have been getting worse with the progression of his disease, and over the last four years, he has had three of his lower incisors pulled.

Biz looks a bit like a toothless Mr. Ed here!

Biz before his surgery – about a week ago.

With his last set of X-rays, it was clear that his upper incisors had deteriorated significantly over the last year.  We made plans to extract four of his six upper incisors, leaving only his two center top teeth.  I have to admit, I was a bit anxious, as pulling four teeth at the same time is much different than just pulling one.  Plus, the upper incisors are more complicated than the lower ones, because the nerve block is much more dangerous.  The nerve that affects the upper jaw is very close to the optical nerve, so if the nerve block is administered incorrectly the horse could be blinded.

Today’s surgery went well.  Once again, the nerve blocking was the hardest part, as Biz on his best day doesn’t love having his face messed around with.  Getting the nerves blocked on each side involved heavy sedation, one vet holding the needle, two other vets holding his head and me and the vet tech pushing on him to keep him standing straight in the stanchion – plus a blindfold, and a numbing agent under the skin at the location of the nerve block.  Oy!

Once the nerve block was done and had taken effect, the work of removing his teeth began.  The first one ended up being the hardest – he was not happy and kept tossing his head around (you find out how sedated they really are when you start the hard work!).  The first tooth also had the largest ball of cementum – which is where the tooth has tried to repair itself by creating a ball of extra growth to try to shore up the deteriorating root of the tooth.  However, the ball of cementum presses against the gums and the nerves in the mouth and is painful.

The rest of the teeth came out relatively easily – three of the four simply broke off when they applied the forceps, so the vets had to do a bit of digging around in the hole to get the remaining pieces of the root.  Once they thought they got it all, they did a new round of X-rays to make sure, and then packed the holes with Plaster of Paris and antibiotic tablets.  The sutures will hold for a few days, and eventually the plaster plugs will fall out.


A very sleepy Biz.

A very sleepy Biz after his surgery

I’ll be doing aftercare for several weeks, flushing his holes with saline solution daily.  I’m grateful that he is a remarkable healer.

Biz is now officially missing more incisors than he has left.  This evening he enjoyed a small meal of super soggy beet pulp and hay, and was pissed that he didn’t get more.  And I’m enjoying a relaxing craft beer.  It’s the little things…

Four to Go on Wednesday

Biz saw the vet for his annual checkup a few weeks ago.  At 28 years old, he is remarkably healthy.  No comparison of horse age to human age is truly accurate, but a 28 year old horse is generally believed to be about the equivalent of an 80 year old human.

His weight is great – his blood work is good.  His eyes are clear and bright with no sign of cataracts.  The only exception to his great health is his teeth.  Followers to this blog will know that Biz has had 3 teeth pulled over the last couple of years – this Wednesday he will have 4 more pulled. His disease, EOTRH, has progressed, and his teeth have deteriorated significantly in the last year.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little worried – he has done really well with the extractions so far, but he has only had 1 pulled at a time previously.  4 is a much bigger deal.  This will be our first round with his upper incisors too – I am not sure if there will be differences with the extractions or in his healing process.

Biz looks a bit like a toothless Mr. Ed here!

Biz looks a bit like a toothless Mr. Ed here!

I wouldn’t be doing this (and the vet wouldn’t be recommending it) if there wasn’t a big chance that Biz is enduring a lot of pain due to these diseased teeth that are hanging on.  As horses are prey animals, they mask their pain – it has got to be pretty bad before a horse will let you know…  We are hoping that this surgery will relieve him of the pain.

I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly, and that he heals quickly.  Please keep us in your thoughts on Wednesday!

Mount Rainier National Park History

Mount Rainier wasn’t the first National Park, but it was the first park created from an already established National Forest (then called National Forest Reserves). At the time, the Forest Reserves were intended to protect land under Gifford Pinchot’s philosophy of “conservation through use,” which conflicted with John Muir’s preservationist mindset. Lucky for us Washingtonians, we had Muir on our side. He had visited Mount Rainier in 1888 and felt re-invigorated by his trip; he rededicated himself to the cause of preserving nature through a series of National Parks.

With support from the Sierra Club, the National Geographic Society, the Northern Pacific Railroad, and business leaders in Seattle and Tacoma, WA, the Pacific Forest Reserve (designated in 1893 and enlarged and renamed Mount Rainier Forest Reserve in 1897) was converted by Congress and President William McKinley to Mount Rainier National Park on March 2, 1899. It was this nation’s fifth National Park.

Mount Rainier from the Longmire Historic District

Mount Rainier from the Longmire Historic District

Today the park encompasses 236,381 acres (369.35 square miles), and its main feature is the 14,410 foot stratovolcano Mount Rainier. The mountain is the highest in the Cascade Range, and has valleys, waterfalls, sub-alpine meadows, old-growth forest and over 25 glaciers; Rainier has the highest number of glaciers in one place in the lower 48 states.

Several Native American tribes have used the park for hunting and gathering for thousands of years, but there is no archaeological evidence of permanent habitation within the boundaries of the park. Artifacts found within the park include projectile points and hunting artifacts (the projectile point dates to 4,000-5,800 BP) and a rock shelter.

In its early days as a National Park, Mount Rainier was popular for its mineral springs in the Longmire District of the park. James Longmire was largely responsible for the first development in this section and the entire park is designated as a National Historic Landmark District today. Later on, hiking, skiing and snowshoeing became more popular with tourists, especially after the opening of the road to Paradise and the Paradise Lodge in 1916.

The Wonderland Trail draws many adventurers – it is a 93 mile hiking trail that circles the park. You can hike the whole thing, camping along the way, or choose a section for a day hike. Mount Rainier is also popular with mountaineers, with over 10,000 summit attempts each year – about 50% are successful. Unfortunately, since Mount Rainier became a National Park in 1899, 116 people have died climbing the mountain. A total of 411 have died within the park boundaries; this total includes those who died climbing and those who were engaged in other recreational pursuits.

Sadly, some of the people who are drawn to the wilderness don’t come for benevolent purposes. On January 1, 2012, Benjamin Colton Barnes murdered Park Ranger Margaret Anderson while trying to flee into the wilderness. Barnes had shot 4 people at a New Year’s Eve party in Renton, WA – two critically – before arriving at the park heavily armed. After a manhunt involving 200 law enforcement officers and a swift water rescue team, Barnes was found dead of drowning (hypothermia contributed) in Paradise Creek.

I mention Ranger Anderson’s murder because it was so significant for us in the Pacific Northwest.  It is the only time I know of when an entire National Park was closed and evacuated during a manhunt.  It was huge news and a true tragedy when considering what our National Parks stand for.  However, 1,038,229 people visited the park in 2011, so despite the dangers of mountain climbing or accidents, the mountain is still very safe for visitors.

The entrance to Mount Rainier at Longmire - sparkling in the light of a gorgeous spring morning!

The entrance to Mount Rainier at Longmire – sparkling in the light of a gorgeous spring morning!

Jon and I spent a spectacular sunny and warm weekend there in April, staying at the National Park Inn in the Longmire District. Despite growing up so close, neither of us had visited Mount Rainier before!  I will tell you about our visit in my upcoming posts!