Saturday, March 31, 2012

National Forests

I wasn't sure I would be posting here anymore, but I've been working on a project for the US Forest Service to rewrite campground and cabin descriptions for, and I'm learning a lot from it. For me, national forests were always places I drove through on my way to somewhere else. (This seems particularly true of our trip from Seattle to Travis Air Force Base in California last summer, when we were driving through national forests for nearly our entire time in Oregon.) Oh sure, we might have stopped at a scenic overlook here and there, but we never stayed.

 This project opened my eyes and allowed me to see that they are worthy destinations in and of themselves. I've written about campgrounds in Gifford Pinchot (Washington), Shasta-Trinity (California) and a variety of other places - mostly in the west. And now I'm working on cabins, fire lookouts and historic ranger and guard stations that have been converted into recreation rentals. Some of these places, while primitive, offer phenomenal views. Look up Girard Ridge Lookout in Shasta-Trinity or Deadwood Lookout in Boise National Forest, and you'll see what I mean. Who wouldn't want to wake up on top of the world? (Unless, of course, you're afraid of heights.)

 I'm getting ideas for my own travels. Now that we're on the East Coast, we'd like to see the fall foliage in New England. I know that White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire is one of the best places in the US for that, specifically the Kancamagus Scenic Byway. I wrote about a rental cabin there.

And I've been researching some national forests a little closer to home. There are none in Maryland, sadly, but there's always Virginia.

 Our national forests have a lot to offer in both beauty and recreation. National parks too, of course - covers more than just national forests. If you're not already booking through, I highly encourage you to do so. Your accommodations can be as primitive or as modern as you want them to be. There is something for everyone.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

So...I haven't blogged here in 2 months.

In that time, I traveled in a car from Seattle to Washington DC, with a brief detour to Mount Rushmore and 2 extended stays with family along the way.

Now, we're getting settled into our new home in southern Maryland. We live in a tiny rural town in a house that's surrounded by woods, about 5 miles from Chesapeake Bay. It's so peaceful and beautiful here - a great place to think, reflect, and write.

While I unpack and find new places for our things, I'm thinking about whether I should continue blogging here or not (it also looks like some of my photos have disappeared while I've been gone - including my profile photo - and I have no idea why). I've felt more removed from online life and more a part of the real world lately, and that's not a bad thing.

For now, I'm looking forward to getting settled in and exploring the area. And I also look forward to seeing some old friends again who have also landed in this area and meeting friends from online who live around here. I may come back here someday. I don't know. For the time being, I'll probably just leave this here as a record of where I've been. Right now, I'm not sure where I'm going, but I'm looking forward to the journey.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dungeness Recreation Area and Port Gamble

Ever since we ate at the Oak Table Café in Sequim this past July, my husband has talked about how much he wants to go back there. They served the best breakfast he ever ate in his life, and he wanted to get one last taste before we leave.

So we headed to Sequim this morning. I figured we might as well make a day of it. We have less than two months to go, and this may very well be our last trip to the Olympic Peninsula.

First stop: Dungeness Recreation Area and National Wildlife Refuge

Dungeness National Recreation Area

This was a nice little detour, and I’m glad we did it. The GPS actually took us to a different area than the one I was trying to get to. But that’s fine, because I was actually able to get a picture of the lighthouse from there. It was really far away, so the picture turned out fuzzy, but the lighthouse was much, much further away from the viewpoint we had a little later on.

Dungeness Lighthouse

Using the GPS for the car and the one on my phone, we found the main entrance to the Dungeness Recreation Area off of Kitchen-Dick Road (I guarantee you won’t forget this name, but it is, apparently, difficult to find on a GPS).

After driving through the entrance and stopping for a bit to walk on the scenic bluff trail, we drove back to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. From the parking lot, it’s about a 3/8 mile walk through a wooded area to get to an overlook where you can see Dungeness Spit (you can walk down from there to the spit, if you want, but we opted not to).

After admiring the view for a few minutes, we turned around and walked back. It was pretty chilly (and I left my gloves in the car…oops!) and we were both getting hungry.

Next stop: Oak Table Café!

Breakfast for lunch was perfect on a gray, chilly Saturday. I got Eggs Benedict with potato pancakes (applesauce and sour cream on the side) and some fresh-squeezed orange juice. Absolutely delicious. I believe these were the best Eggs Benny I ever had. Lance got the same thing he ordered last time – a puffy bacon and swiss omelet (oven-baked) with three buttermilk pancakes.

Seriously, if you’re in Sequim around breakfast or lunchtime, eat at Oak Table Café. I promise you can’t go wrong. The food is exceptional and the service is great. Lance mentioned that he wants to sneak one more trip back here before we go. I have my doubts, but we’ll see.

After our meal, we didn’t really have any plans. However, I missed a chance to go to Port Gamble back in August and it was only a slight detour, so I suggested that we stop on the way back. Good plan.

Last stop: Port Gamble

Port Gamble General Store

A bit about Port Gamble: it’s a mill town – founded in 1853 - that’s now a National Historic Landmark. Browse the shops, which are located in historic buildings. The General Store was my favorite. Even though I think it’s too early for Christmas, it was so festively decorated and they were playing a cheerful mix of holiday tunes. Plus, they offered us free cookies when we came in. What’s not to like? They have a café in the back, as well as a museum. If you go up the stairs, they have some sea life displays that are interesting to look at. Even though we weren’t in Port Gamble for very long, we spent most of our time here.

They were doing a wine tasting too, but I didn’t partake, sadly. It was a bit crowded there. Looking at their website now, I guess they had a holiday open house. That would explain the crowds.

We spent maybe a half hour there, but the weather was looking threatening, so we decided to head home. The skies opened shortly after we left.

All in all, a great day. I didn't take as many photos as I would've liked, but here's my Flickr set.


- Dungeness Recreation Area
- Oak Table Cafe
- Port Gamble

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Boehm's Candies

We have less than 3 months to go until we move to Washington, D.C.

Of course, that means there is too much to do, and not enough time. And so I won't be posting here too much for the time being. We have very little time left for traveling, although Lance mentioned wanting to take a day trip somewhere soon to get the dogs used to traveling in our new Subaru. We'll see if we end up having time for that or not.

We did get out for a few hours today. Lance and I celebrate 8 years of marriage on Tuesday, and since that's a normal workday, we decided to celebrate a couple days early. But we only had a few hours.

So we started with brunch at one of my favorite restaurants - Red House Beer and Wine Shoppe & Tapas Bar. They started serving brunch this weekend, which means they added a few breakfast items (and mimosas!) to their regular lunch menu. As tempting as the brunch menu sounded, the allure of the salmon BLT on grilled focaccia was too great. So that's what I ordered, and it was just as good as I expected. Lance got macaroni and cheese (which I tried, and it was super delicious - creamy with just the right touch of sharpness). The ambience was great, as always. They were playing Dean Martin, which just seemed right on a damp, gray morning.

After our meal, we headed to Issaquah to visit Boehm's Candies.

A little bit of the Swiss Alps, right in the Issaquah Alps. Of course we bought some chocolate (chocolate-covered coffee beans, fudge, and some salted caramels), but we took a little time to walk around the cute little park. At the end of the park is a replica of a 12th century Swiss chapel - the original is in St. Moritz.

The chapel seemed to be closed, so we only got to see the outside.

During the week, you can take self-guided tours at Boehm's and actually watch the chocolates being made. They also offer chocolate-making classes. And there are guided tours as well. None of these things were going on today, but I still enjoyed our visit.

And naturally, I ate the salted caramels almost immediately after we returned to the car.

For our last stop, we went to Rattlesnake Lake Recreation Area. We had no intention of hiking up to the ledge, like I did back in August. It seemed kind of pointless, since it was foggy and I'm not sure we'd get much of a view from there today. But we walked out to the lake. It wasn't nearly as beautiful today as it was back in August.

We didn't stay long. It was drizzling and chilly.

I had hoped to see some fall color today, but we're having kind of a disappointing autumn. Bummer. There are a few stunning trees here and there, but most of them have changed very little. The most color we saw today was actually around Boehm's Candies.

If you want to visit Boehm's Candies, click here first.

Also, if you're near Renton and want a great place to eat and drink, I can't recommend Red House more highly.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I Love Germany. I do not, however, love Oktoberfest

As promised, a link to the Matador article that I mentioned in my last post.

5 things that suck about Munich's Oktoberfest

Please note: I didn't put the word "resort" in quotation marks in my original draft (which would imply that I actually don't think of it as a resort). Those were edited in. I do actually consider Edelweiss to be a resort!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

If you write it, they will come

By it, I mean this:

This is a guest post that I wrote for Pam over at Nerd's Eye View. She posted it in April 2010. This is actually my first time linking it here, but the story may already be familiar to long-time readers, because I posted a lengthier version of this narrative back in 2007. And those who know me have heard me give a rather hilarious (so I've been told) narration of this story.

Yeah, I'm getting a bit of mileage out of my horrible Oktoberfest experience.

Anyway, the "they" that I refer to in my title is Matador Nights, which is part of the vast Matador Network - one of the largest travel sites on the Web.

I received an email from an editor there yesterday who had read my guest blog post and decided that I was the perfect person to write a piece on why Oktoberfest sucks/is overrated or something similar. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to do it.

So there we are, folks. Sometimes, great writing assignments do actually fall in your lap. (The Seattle Times did too, by the way, but I haven't mentioned that here before since it's not related to travel. But I'm currently working on my second piece for their NWjobs section.)

I'll post the link here when the article goes up. But seeing as how it's about a month until Oktoberfest time, it won't take long.

But first I have to write it, so...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Langley - Whidbey Island

An island getaway seemed like an obvious choice when we were planning Aunt Sue's visit, seeing as how this area has several to choose from. I hadn't been to Whidbey Island yet (other than a brief visit to Deception Pass last year), and Sue wanted to visit wineries. So I chose Langley. Last Sunday, we headed out there with the dogs.

To get to Langley, you catch the Mukilteo-Clinton ferry. The ferry terminal is next to Mukilteo Lighthouse.

Mukilteo Lighthouse

It's a short ride - about 15 minutes. From Clinton, it's a short drive to Langley - about 6 miles.

Honestly, it was so easy to get there, I don't know why I never got around to doing it before now.

We arrived in Langley's beautiful city center. We got there a bit before the visitor center opened, so we went into the Langley Village Bakery (one at a time, so one of us could be outside with the pooches) for hot beverages and biscotti.

What can I say about Langley? It's charming and beautifully landscaped. A place to wander. To poke into shops and talk to the locals.

Langley garden

Langley is also dog friendly. Reece and Blitz were even invited into one of the shops! The owner of that shop talked very enthusiastically about the outdoor performance of "Romeo & Juliet" that was taking place that afternoon. I would've loved to have gone, but dogs weren't allowed there.

We had no particular agenda in mind. We just walked around the town center before heading out a few miles to Taste for Wines - a tasting room featuring wines from Blooms Winery and Spoiled Dog Winery. Reece and Blitz were allowed here, too, and they were treated every bit as well as the humans. Treats for them. Wine tastings for us. They got lots of attention from everyone there.

It was lunchtime when we finished up there, and we had heard rumors that The Star Store (the town grocery) was a good place to get sandwiches. They had outdoor tables, so I grabbed one while Sue ran in to get our lunch. As I waited, people stopped to say hi to Reece and Blitz and make conversation. Sue finally came out with 2 delicious turkey sandwiches from the deli, some pesto & parmesan kettle chips, and sparkling lemonade.

We wanted to take the dogs somewhere special where they could run around a bit, but before we did that, we stopped at Whidbey Island Winery, which we passed on the way into Langley.

Whidbey Island Winery

After a tasting there, we headed out to Double Bluff Beach. They have an off-leash area there. It's one of the few sandy beaches I've seen in Washington. Needless to say, the dogs loved it.

We spent maybe an hour there before heading back. The line to the ferry was long, so we had to wait awhile, but the weather was nice, and we were in no hurry.

It was a great visit! I hope to get back and explore more of Whidbey Island soon. Maybe Coupeville, if I can make it back.

As always, I have some pictures up on Flickr.


- Taste For Wines

- Whidbey Island Winery