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Mt. Rainier: Longmire

The trail begins directly across the road from the Longmire Inn and loops around a marshy bog created by the mineral springs that burble out of the meadow. The path brings you close to a couple of the springs and when the trail nears the stream alongside the meadow, you’ll find a few beaver dams. Halfway through the loop, you’ll pass in front of a tiny log cabin, built in 1888 by Elcaine Longmire, James’s son. The trail passes a junction with the Rampart Ridge Trail on the right just before closing the mile-long loop.

A short and sweet hike in addition to touring camp Longmire. The museum features glass cases filled with plants and animals, including a stuffed cougar. Historical photographs and geographical displays provide a worthwhile overview of the park’s history. The adjacent visitor center has some perfunctory exhibits on the surrounding forest and its inhabitants.

During the summer this is a fun little rest stop and a nice prelude of things to come deeper into the park. Because of its relatively low elevation at 2,760 feet, Longmire is one of the few areas of Mount Rainier National Park which remains accessible year-round. During winters of heavy snowfall, three to five feet of snow may cover the ground. This is great for snowshoers and novice skiers when blizzard conditions exist higher on the mountain.

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The Willows Inn on Lummi Island

The Willows Inn has been serving guests for 103 years in a place that feels stuck in a rural island life; where eagles soar, grey waves crash, and days fuse quietly together. On this quite isle, Chef Blaine Wetzel takes locavorism to delightful and unexpected levels. If there was a book for your taste buds to read it would be found at the kitchens of The Willows Inn.

The tasting menu lasted for three hours, with each course stopping somewhere in the San Juan Islands. All of the prix fixe menu is locally fished, foraged and farmed — this means the meals are dictated by seasonal ingredients. Assistant chefs visited us table-side and described where the food came from and how they prepared it.

It’s unfortunate that I’m allergic to shellfish, but my husband reports that the oysters were sweet, the scallops tender in milk and the mussels smoky yet savory served in its own wooden box. My course substitutions complimented their mollusk counterparts: sweet beets, foraged then smoked mushrooms and umami root crop wrapped in seaweed. There was smoked salmon belly, crisp kale chips with black truffle and rye, venison tartare with wild herbs, crispy crepe with steelhead roe, nettle soup, madrona tea, caramel bites with flax seed, celery roots, and hearth bread with pan drippings and butter.

At $165 per person (drinks are extra) you are paying for a seat at a culinary theater show, not just having dinner. Kitchen is in full view, and if you stay for the weekend they’ll take you on a tour of the farm – which of course we did. They have a number of on-island sites, of which we selected the Watermark House – a well-furnished luxury house with three suites and very nice views of Orcus Island and Cypess Island, and perfectly romantic for two lazy home bodies.

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Mt. Rainier: Skyline Trail

This is a 4.5 hour route that loops around the broad Edith Creek basin, leading through alpine flower fields, past thundering waterfalls, and over high, craggy peaks. By heading northeast from the lodge, you’ll enter the lower reaches of Edith Creek basin on the Skyline Trail. There are several junctions along the way, but Skyline Trail is always well marked. Head straight through two junctions about 1/4 of a mile from the start. The steep trail then gains 200 feet over the next 1/4 mile to a junction with Dearhead Creek Trail. The enticing views of Mount Rainier and Nisqually Glacier on the early portions of this hike are just a taste of things to come.

Stay to the right through the junction with Dearhead Creek Trail, then make a left at the next junction with Alta Vista Trail, 0.6 miles from the start. Leave the pavement behind as you hike straight toward Mount Rainier. Cherish the next 1.25 miles, which climb 850 feet to Panorama Point. The trail ascends a rocky ridge overlooking Nisqually Glacier

We did not go this far and we did not get to Panorama Point. We ended up just shy of Sluiskin Falls and had to head back because it was getting dark. Regardless, it was a beautiful hike with the season just starting to turn Autumn. I want to get to Panorama Point someday, but would need to leave early in the morning to make it.

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Ballard: Patxi’s Pizza

A new pizza place in Ballard just opened its doors a few months ago bringing a San Fran style Chicago deep dish pizza to the Seattle area. This Patxi’s (pronounced “pah-cheese” in a Spanish kind of way) is one of 16 storefronts, the others located in mostly California and some Denver. It’s a California chain that started a little over ten years ago.

We roamed there on a whim one late week day evening after work. They touted natural and healthy ingredients, some source locally and organic when possible. They also cater to those with special diet restrictions without the extra charge that most places do. The tomato sauce is in-house made and the cheese is whole milk – a bonus in my book. Dinner for two is a 10-inch deep dish takes about 30 minutes to produce with a base cost of $16 and about $3 per additional topping.

We ordered a sausage and roasted mushroom pizza. The sausage came from Zoe’s meats and the cheese from Point Reyes Farmstead. There were four different kinds of mushrooms including portobello, chanterelle, shitaki and cremini. And for kicks, I also had a side salad of warm brussels sprouts made with diced apples, sliced grapes, pancetta and sherry vinaigrette.

Overall it was a solid pizza with a nice crust. The sauce I liked the best since it wasn’t overly sweet. Roasted mushrooms needed to have their stems trimmed – chanterelles can get annoyingly chewy. My husband loved the garlic fennel sausage. The brussels sprout salad tasted common.

They don’t serve desserts, and instead tell you to save your pizza crusts and pour liberal amounts of honey over them. They call it “honey bones” or something goofy-hipster like that.

I’m not yet certain it’s worth the above average “Ballard” price yet; I’d have to go few more times to see if they’re consistent in flavor and quality. But I do suggest heading there during happy hour (3-6pm, 7-days, bar only) and order a $3 drink with a $5 personal single topping pizza.

Website: http://www.patxispizza.com/location/ballard-pizza/

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Mt. Rainier: Shadow Lake-Sunrise Camp Loop

The trail head is located on southwest side of the visitor center parking lot and follow it west toward Sunrise Camp, ignoring any faint side trails. At about 0.5 mile out, you’ll notice a well-signed trail leading to the left (this is the Wonderland Trail) dropping down to White River. Continue straight ahead toward Shadow Lake and the Sunrise Camp.

Shadow Lake is about 1.2 miles from the trail head and is a haven for wildlife. The trees provide perches and shelter for birds and good shade and cover for beasts. Deer frequent this pond, as do mountain goats, so approach it quietly if you want to see any visiting critters. After passing a short spur to an Emmons Glacier overlook, you reach Sunrise Camp at about 1.8 miles. At the junction on the far side of camp, turn right–the left fork leads to Frozen Lake and then steeply up the side of First Burroughs Mountain. The right fork leads you along the wildflower meadows below Burroughs for 0.6 mile to reach yet another trail junction. Go right here and follow this main path 1.4 miles back to the trail head.

We did not go right! We went left for some amazing views of Mt. Rainier, but only after a sharp hilly climb and up all the way to Frozen Lake and part way up Mt. Fremont Lookout. We then backtracked to Sourdough Ridge toward Dege Peak, then back down to Sunrise Visitor Center. The hike took us all day and at that altitude we were out of breath. But it was so worth it.

Note: There are many old, decommissioned trails in the area. Stay on the main marked paths at all times.


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Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

CHOCOLATE-HAZELNUT SPREAD

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups (8 oz) hazelnuts
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar or honey or splenda
  • 1/2 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons hazelnut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees F. Place hazelnuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until fragrant and dark brown, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through roasting. Transfer hazelnuts to medium bowl. when hazelnuts are cool enough to handle, place a second bottom side up medium bowl on top and and shake vigorously between the two bowls to remove skins.
  2. Process peeled hazelnuts in a food processor until their oil is released and they form smooth, loose paste, about 5 minutes scraping down bowl often.
  3. Add sugar or honey or splenda, cocoa powder, oil, vanilla, and salt. Process until fully incorporated and mixture begins to loosen slightly and becomes glossy,, about 2 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  4. Transfer spread to jar with a tight-fitting lid. Chocolate-hazelnut spread can be stored at room temp or refrigerated for up to 1 month.
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Candied Nuts

CANDIED SPICY NUTS

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups (12 ounces) pecans halves, unsalted
    OR roasted almonds
    OR walnuts
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a flat baking pan with parchment.
  2. Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and cayenne to a large bowl. Whisk until evenly combined. Set aside.
  3. Beat egg white in medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Add pecans and egg whites, and gently toss until combined and the nuts are evenly coated.
    Add in the sugar mixture, and toss until combined.
  4. Spread the mixture out in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  5. Remove from the oven, and let the baking sheet cool on a cooling rack until the nuts reach room temperature.

CITRUS CANDY NUTS

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups whole almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups pecan halves
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a flat baking pan with parchment.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk powdered sugar, lemon juice, orange peel, lemon peel and nutmeg.
  3. In another bowl, beat egg white with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Add almonds and pecans with the egg whites. Gently toss until combined and nuts are evenly coated.
  4. Add in the sugar mixture, and toss until combined.
  5. Spread the mixture out in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake 30 minutes, stirring after 20 minutes.
  7. Turn off oven and let nuts stand in oven 15 minutes more.
  8. Immediately remove nuts from pan to sheet of foil and cool completely.
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Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge runs east to west on the northern side of the Olympic Peninsula, along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The tallest mountain – Mount Olympus – is 7,965 feet high. The ruggedly carved mountain range contrasts with the soft fields of wild flowers in the subalpine meadows below. And the best part is that there are numerous trails and walks to enjoy it all.

Since it was a short day trip, we walked the Meadow Loop Trails adjacent to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. I plan on going back to walk the Hurricane Hill Trail, which is a 1.5-mile ascent to panoramic views, and the Heart of the Forest Trail, a 2-mile trail through old-growth forest.

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Farewell Microwave

Dearest Microwave,

You lasted for 11 years. Faithfully you heated leftover curries, even when we forgot to cover it with plastic wrap and made explosive messes. You boiled water when our kettle broke. You’ve popped many a popcorn. You even disinfected my dish-washing sponges.

When your internal light failed to turn on, I looked the other way; I could warm foods in the dark. After all your table still turned and you told me the time each morning.

But then one cold Autumn day, instead of heating my hot coco, you smoked fine grey wafts of ozone. Out of fear of fire, we quickly unplugged you and left you that way for a day. We thought you were gone and made plans for your burial.

We soon realized we still needed your venting abilities when cooking on the stove top. We plugged you right back in. We believed it was hopeless, but we had to try. You turned on and devotedly sucked heated air and cooking smoke away. We tried heating a burrito with you: beeping and booping as we punched in time and power. But afterwards, you only left us with a frozen brick.

And now we must replace you with a new microwave. Thank you for your hard work and years of service. Rest in Peace my friend.

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Frenchman Coulee

Frenchman Coulee is one of the most beautiful features left behind by the great Ice-Age floods. It is also a dual coulee and cataract system. Like its neighbor to the north, Potholes Coulee, Scabland floods created Frenchman Coulee: during the first stages of flooding, the water levels between the flood-filled Quincy Basin and the Columbia River immediately west of Evergreen Ridge approached 700 feet over just a few miles. This incredible difference in water levels caused flood waters to relentlessly eat away the underlying rock layers. Erosion continued for at least as long as it took for the water level in the Columbia Valley to rise to about 1200 feet, or until the floodwater supply was exhausted

I highly suggest visiting this site in either the spring or fall, not in high summer when the heat can be killer. Hiking early morning when the air is cool will allow you a longer window for viewing the amazing rock samples and structures.