Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum

Sunday, August 13, 2017

This large museum building is tucked away in a corner of Paine Field in Everett, Washington.  I visited in August 2017 on the way home from a long weekend in Portland to visit Antiques Roadshow!  The museum is the lifelong dream of Paul Allen, one of the founders of Microsoft – he has long had a passion for historic aircraft, and set about acquiring some of the rarest examples of military aircraft in the world.  Many of the planes are in restored and flyable condition – and they are spectacular!

The museum has excellent information on each plane, both the make and model of the particular plane on display, as well as the particulars of the plane that is sitting before you, and how it was acquired.  I am a nerd for that kind of detail, so I enjoyed reading all the signs and taking good long looks at the planes.


Allen branched out into collecting other types of military vehicles as well, and eventually had to change the name of the museum to reflect the fact that it wasn’t all planes.  The museum has all sorts of Jeeps, tanks, transport vehicles, rocket launchers and other types of combat armored vehicles.  It is really interesting to see.


There is a great exhibit on World War I and II; and the history of events that led up to the world being embroiled in battle twice in less than 30 years.  There was a lot of information in that room, as well as replicas of the Fat Man and Little Boy atomic bombs.

Fat Man and Little Boy (replicas)


There is even the trophy for the X-Prize that Paul Allen and his team won in 2004 – for being the first non-government organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks – it came with a $10 million prize too, but that wasn’t on display.

Some of my favorite planes though, are the ones with the nose art.  They are so beautiful – and really represent the character and personality of the pilot who flew the plane.  I have seen some really nice nose art at various museum, and loved the artwork here.


The museum is well worth the $16 cost of admission, and even Shelley’s teenage son Jack, who was pretty blah about going, had to admit in the end that he really enjoyed it.  It was a great end to a nice long weekend.


Antiques Roadshow 2017: Portland

Friday, August 11-13, 2017

I have blogged about my hike through Ape Cave, which occurred on this trip, but I haven’t had a chance to tell you about the rest of the weekend trip to Antiques Roadshow last August!

My friend Shelley won tickets to Antiques Roadshow in the annual lottery that PBS does, and she was kind enough to take me!  We decided to take Friday off, make it a long weekend and stay a few nights in Portland.

We did the Ape Cave hike at Mount St. Helens on our drive down to Portland, stopped in Vancouver, WA for a pizza dinner at Bortolami’s – they had delicious pizza and good beers on tap!  Then we drove the last few miles and checked into the hotel after dinner for an early night, so we could get to the Roadshow first thing in the morning!

Saturday morning, we were up early and headed out, leaving Shelley’s son Jack sleeping at the hotel.  I knew how the process works, because I went in 2013, but it was interesting to see it again!  I won’t go into detail about how the event is staged, but if you want to check it out, you can see my description here.  Or rather, don’t “see” it, because they don’t allow photos inside, but at least read my description and imagine it.

Shelley and Me at Antiques Roadshow

Shelley brought a couple of items for a friend and the Antiques Roadshow people were pretty interested in a silver concho belt.  They took photos of it, had her sign a release, and she had to explain what she knew about it, how much she paid, etc.  And then they gave her a yellow lanyard that indicated that she had an “interesting” item.  It turns out that the belt was worth what the friend paid, but the appraiser loved seeing it, as it was apparently made by a famous southwest Native American artist.  It was also really neat to see part of the process!

I brought a set of prints by Alaskan artists.  They were a bank promotional back in the 1970s, so they are printed on regular paper and have the bank name on the border.  I didn’t pay a lot of money, but have never seen them any other time.  The appraiser hadn’t seen them before either, but appraised the value at about 5x what I paid.  I can’t retire, but that was pretty exciting!

I also brought a painting that belonged to my grandmother.  Sadly the appraiser wasn’t able to find any information on the artist.  It wasn’t worth big money, but obviously it has sentimental value for my family, so is priceless.

Shelley and I took some selfies to commemorate our visit, but in true Antiques Roadshow fashion, we weren’t there that long.  They run an efficient operation!

Shelley and Me at the Feedback Booth

After the roadshow, we headed back to the hotel to pick up Jack (and wake him up as it turned out!), and then headed down to Portland’s Saturday market.  This is such a great market!  I had what was probably the best gyro of my life at one of the food vendors there.  It was made to order (no onions please!) and so delicious!

The. BEST. Gyro!

We wandered around and I bought a couple of pairs of earrings; a blue blown glass pair with a helix inside, and a green stone pair, as well as a couple of gifts.  It is always nice to treat yourself and others!

After the market, we headed back to the hotel and spent a bit of time at the pool.  I do have to admit I took a little nap in my chair there.

That evening, we decided to go over to the Kennedy School.  The Kennedy School is a historic elementary school, that was built in 1916.  It closed in the 1970s and was eventually purchased by McMenamin’s, an Oregon based company that buys historic properties and converts them into brewpubs, restaurants, and hotels.  Their properties are all very unique and awesome, and the Kennedy School is no exception.  I had a steak, cobbler and a cider there and they were all soooo good!  I love that place!  Sorry about the quality of the photos – I clearly needed flash and didn’t notice at the time.



Sunday morning, we headed for home.  We had planned on stopping in Seattle at the Science Center to see the Terra Cotta Warrior exhibit there, but when we looked online for tickets, they were already sold out until late in the afternoon!  Plan B was to stop in Everett at the Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum.  What a fantastic place!  The museum has a number of rare and unusual planes and military vehicles of all sorts. It also has the X-Prize trophy, and a replica of the Fat Man and Little Boy atomic bombs.  There was so much to see there, that I will post about it next.

And with that, we wrapped up a lovely long weekend.  I always love adventuring with friends.

2017 Ape Cave Hike

Friday, August 11, 2017

In August, I took a trip to Portland with a friend and her son for a long weekend.  We made a stop on the way on the south side of Mount St. Helens, to do the Ape Cave hike!

Shelley and I sign posing

Ape Cave was formed when about 2,000 years ago lava erupted down the south side of Mount St. Helens. As the lava flowed the outer edges of the lava cooled and formed a hardened crust which kept the lava underneath in a molten state.  As a result the hot lava flowed in a lava tube and continued flowing for months during the eruption.  The Ape Cave lava tube is 13,042 feet long, the third longest lava tube in North America, and the longest in the continental United States (for people who pay attention to these sort of statistics…).  A lava tube like this is rare at Mount St. Helens because the mountain typically has thicker lava which tends not to result in lava tubes; instead it builds up pressure which then causes explosive eruptions like the eruption in 1980.

We got to Ape Cave about 1:30 in the afternoon after a several hour drive.  It was definitely time to stretch our legs and get moving.  There are two options to hike Ape Cave, the upper cave and the lower cave.  The lower Ape Cave is about 0.75 miles long with a flat floor and is considered “easy,” appropriate for kids and people that are not up for doing the upper cave.  The upper Ape Cave is 1.5 miles long, with approximately 27 boulder piles that must be climbed over.  When the lava tube finally cooled, the molten lava drained out and the ceiling began to shrink and crack.  Boulders fell from the ceiling, in some places leaving the piles and in others leaving the entrances.  Even where there aren’t boulder piles, the hardened lava is uneven to walk on.  There are also two rock wall obstacles in the cave that need to be scaled too, only one of which was in the website literature we read…

The entrance to both the lower and upper caves

We decided to do the Upper Ape Cave, because who wants to do the easy hike?!?  Pretty quickly we were absolutely alone.  In the dark…  With just our headlamps to keep us company.  We made our way through the cave, climbing up the boulders and then back down the pile on the other side.  Over lots and lots of rock piles…  Over lots of uneven lava floor.  The walls of the cave were fascinating.  There was cave slime and interesting colors on the walls and the boulders.

I mentioned before that there are two spots in the cave that are more than just moderate.  This is where the cave gets its “difficult” rating.  The first spot we came to is about a 7 foot rock wall that you had to scale.  Lucky for us, a ranger happened along at that point and let us know where the two footholds are.  They don’t seem like they are allowed to help by giving you a boost though…  The footholds help you get high enough up the wall that you can hoist yourself over, but you still need some strength to make it happen!  I had strained my knee the weekend before, so I was a little worried about it, but managed to hoist myself up and over on the second try.

It doesn’t look like much looking down, but that wall was taller than me…

The second challenge was a bit different.  You had to use a foothold to get up on a natural step – that part wasn’t hard – but then you had to scoot between the wall and and rock and then scoot your bum up and over the rock to get up to the higher level.  The other option was to just pull yourself over the rock from the foothold, but I wasn’t strong enough for that.  In short, if you don’t have the upper body strength, you have to be slender enough to scoot between the rocks.  This obstacle was the hardest part of the cave for three short weaklings!

Toward the end of the cave you reach a little garden oasis, where the ceiling has fallen in and allowed light and soil to reach into the cave.  There are ferns and other plants growing there.  We took some photos there and continued on, since we knew we were getting close to the end!

A view of the skylight – close to being done!

Due to all the climbing over rock piles, it felt like way more distance than a 1.5 mile hike.  The elevation during the hike moves from about 1,900 feet to about 2,400 feet, but you won’t notice the elevation gain with all the climbing over boulders…  We reached the end after about 2.5 hours in the cave, which the literature says is the expected time.  Admittedly, we took a lot of breaks along the way…  We were tired at the end, but we still had to climb out of the cave using a ladder.

The ladder you climb to exit the cave


The exit – we made it out!

Once we were back above ground, we hiked back to the trail back through ashy soil and the remnants of the 1980 eruption all around.

The surface hike back


Me! With a really cool dead tree

If you go…  Dress for a 45 degree cave – there’s no sun to warm you up.  Wear pants to protect your legs and closed toed shoes, preferably hiking boots or hiking shoes – trust me on this, you will appreciate the leg protection and parts of the cave are slick.  Bring a headlamp; you will want to be hands-free as you climb over the boulders.  If you can, bring someone tall and strong!  That would have made the obstacles way easier…  And lastly – you can do it, mind over matter my friends!

What a fun hike!