Super bloom, Super Awesome in Death Valley!

Trail and I were enjoying southern Arizona and planning to continue making our way deeper into the state when I got a Facebook message from our good friend Dennis. He was saying there was a Super Bloom likely to happen in Death Valley this year and that he was thinking of driving down for it, wondering if we might be in the area.

One of our guiding principles is to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves and staying flexible in our travels. This seemed like one of those moments so I floated the idea to Trail of changing course and heading north to check out this event. After a little research we were convinced and Trail changed our reservations to a resort just outside of Death Valley National Park in the town of Pahrump, Nevada. The next day we were on our way there!

A Super Bloom is an event when Death Valley has an explosion of wildflowers in areas that normally appear almost completely barren. It requires a sizable amount of rain both in the fall of the prior year and the early winter/spring of the year of the bloom. The first rain washes off chemicals from wildflower seeds which otherwise keep them dormant. The second rain gives them the nourishment they need to grow and bloom.

And bloom they do, from mid February through May successive waves of wildflowers spring up in vast numbers and carpet the landscape with vibrant color. They aren’t found everywhere and they come in waves with the lower elevations going first, and then successively higher elevations as time goes on. Each area and time period has its own sets of flowers.

As of February 29, 2016 here’s a list of where we found flowers blooming:

  • Furnace Creek Wash
  • Badwater Road – especially between Badwater Basin and Mormon Point
  • Ubehebe Crater – inside the crater we mostly found mostly Desert gold poppies
  • Beatty Cut-Off Road
  • Highway 190 north – just after Zabriskie Point heading east

I’m happy to say we were not disappointed. At first we only found small patches of yellow and purple flowers by the roadside, pretty but not especially dramatic. However traveling south down the valley we were treated to successively more abundant displays until whole sections of the desert were carpeted in vibrant yellow flowers known as Desert Gold. The contrast of the harsh desert covered in flowers and knowing it is a rare event that only lasts for a short time really makes the experience feel special. If there is any way you can come check it out, you absolutely should. The displays should continue into April.

Even were there no flowers here, Death Valley is simply an amazing place. It’s going to take a lot more blog posts to give you an idea just how amazing this place is. We’ve been exploring at a breakneck pace and we’ve already decided to stay a second week to take it all in.

Golden Desert Snapdragon Broad-Flowered Gilia Purplemat Notch-Leaf Phacelia Scented Cryptantha Pebble Pincushion Caltha-leaved phacelia Brown-eyed Evening-Primrose Golden Evening Primrose Desert Five Spot Desert Gold Gravel Ghost Desert Gold

Puttering through Portland

Stop number two on our journey saw us arrive at Silverton, Oregon which is between Portland to the north and Salem to the south. On arrival, we were greeted with pretty miserable weather as a storm blew in bringing lots of rain and considerable wind. Flood warnings were issued and sure enough many of the local rivers here in the flat-lands swelled up and in some cases spilled over their banks. While it remains warmer than it was in Seattle we continue to pine for warmer points south and are headed that way soon.

Our primary mission here was to visit some folks on our way south. First up was our good friend Jake who rented a room with Trail (Anne) and I for a while and who is just generally a great guy and fun to hang out with. We had dinner at the Sasquatch Brewery, which turned out to be a fine establishment and home to very rich and tasty comfort food. We ate, talked, and lingered for quite a while catching up. Since we were up in the Portland area we also decided a visit to Powell’s City of Books was in order. It is a store any book lover should visit, something akin to Labyrinth of Crete but with lots more books and pretty good cafe drinks. The rare book room is especially nice as they have many over sized and beautiful photo books to ogle at. Anne got a couple of National Park Guides and I picked up The Manga Guide to Electricity. I really like it and recommend the whole series. I wish they had these when I was young, but it’s never too late to learn and grow.

The next day we visited with my all time favorite cousin and her family. I expected I’d enjoy the visit, and I did, but I also found our conversation one of the most interesting I’ve had in quite some time. I was moved by their strength, intelligence and the love they clearly have for one another as a family. This kind of experience is one of the things I was hoping for, getting out and connecting with folks I’ve not seen recently, or in some cases ever. As much as travel lets you see places you have never been, its really the people you meet that ultimately change your life and open your eyes. By the by, my cousin is quite a talented artist and if you like colorful and vivid oil paintings I recommend checking them out her at her gallery.

Oregon is not a state I am much familiar with though I have been here on a few occasions. The differences in character between Washington and Oregon are often subtle. The terrains and culture have a lot of similarities. Seattle itself is a bit different in that its a pretty booming big city, and Portland while considerable and growing feels more like Seattle of 20 to 30 years prior, more genuine and grass roots, less diluted by an influx of new residents and metropolitan sensibility. While I like the shiny shiny of modern Seattle, I also remember the slightly grungier and homier feel it had when I was a kid and Portland reminds me of that strongly.

While I was here the Portland Timbers won the MLS championships. Folks here were pretty excited not having had a major sports victory in their city for some time apparently. Always good to see a city celebrating!

Portland Oregon Old Town Sign

Portland Oregon Old Town Sign

Powell's Book Store

Powell’s Book Store

Powell's Rare book Room

Rockslide Larkspur

Give me Delphiniums for Dragons Please!

I have traded the Dragons for Delphiniums and the Dungeons for Dahlias. Eight months have passed since I last had a regular D&D group.  Sig was our last remaining DM of the group, and when the demands of his work picked up, the group fell apart. Do I miss it?  Maybe a little.  Although, my D&D time was quickly replaced by other activities, including gardening.  My garden is coming along nicely and my efforts in March are really starting to show in the form of bright leafy edible greens.

I also feel pretty lucky that I live near a strong gardening community, the Kruckeberg Botanic Garden. Everyone I’ve met so far is nice, polite and very eager to share their knowledge of pacific northwest plants.  They have a wonderful selection of plants in their nursery to help fill my garden with lovely textures and colors.

What the heck are Delphiniums anyways? These flowers are known as Larkspurs here in Seattle. Delphinium cultivars are perennials grown for showy spikes of colorful summer flowers in gorgeous shades of blue, pink, white, and purple. Since they prefer moist, cool summers they are a nice addition to a pacific northwest garden. They also attract a lot of bees and butterflies.

If you walk the subalpine ridge trails of Mount Rainier in July, you’ll find sprinklings of Rockslide Larkspur (Delphinium glareosum) with its distinctive bright blue flowers.

This season, I plan to just stop and enjoy the flowers. I hope you do too.

Mixed Lettuce Dragon's Tongue Arugula full sun

Veggies in the Shade

My garden is in part shade.  What does that mean?  We’ll here’s my cheat sheet


Full Sun 6 to 8 hours of full sun. That sun doesn’t need to be consecutively, it could be a minimum of six hours could be a mix 3 hours of sun in the morning and 3 hours late in the afternoon.
Partial Shade Also called “Partial Sun.”  This means 3 to 6 hours of sun.  Early morning is better than afternoon. Partial Sun means there’s a greater emphasis on its receiving the minimal sun requirements. Partial Shade means the plant will need some relief from the intense late afternoon sun, either from shade provided by a nearby tree or planting it on the east side of a building.
Dappled Sun Similar to partial shade, but the sun makes it way through branches of a tree. Examples of plants that do well in dappled sun are woodland plants which are use to indirect light
Full Shade 3 hours or less of direct sunlight, with much of the sunlight being filtered during the rest of the day. Full Shade doesn’t mean there is no sun.  Only mushrooms can survive in the dark.


There are only a handful of vegetables and herbs that will go in part shade, but the varieties of each plant type are nearly endless so I feel I don’t need to restrict myself to one type of seed.  But in general I can’t grow any fruit crop (peppers, cucs, eggplants, tomatoes) because they need at least 6 hours of sun to ripen. There are exceptions but I have to search high and low for cultivars (a plant variety that has been produced in cultivation by selective breeding) that were bred for partial shade or shade tolerance.


Arugula At least three to four hours of sun per day. Arugula welcomes shade, as this crop is prone to bolting as soon as the weather turns warm if in full sun.
Asian greens At least two hours of sun per day. Asian greens such as pak choi, komatsuna and tatsoi will grow wonderfully with a couple hours of sun plus some bright shade or ambient light.
Chard I mainly grow it mainly for the tender baby leaves so 3
hours of sun per day will be enough.
Expect chard grown in partial shade to be quite a bit smaller than that grown in full sun. Baby chard leaves are excellent cooked or served raw in salads.
Culinary herbs At least three hours of sun per day. Of the herbs: chives, cilantro, garlic chives, golden marjoram, lemon balm, mint, oregano and parsley
Kale At least three to four hours of sun per day. You’ll notice only a small reduction in growth if comparing kale grown in partial shade with kale grown in full sun.
Lettuce At least three to four hours of sun per day. Lettuce is perfect for shadier gardens because the shade protects it from the sun’s heat, preventing it from bolting as quickly. Often, the shade can buy a few more weeks of harvesting time that you’d get from lettuce grown in full sun.
Mesclun One of the best crops for shady gardens. Grows in as little as two hours of sun per day and handles dappled shade
The delicate leaves of this salad mix can be harvested in about four weeks, and as long as you leave the roots intact, you should be able to get at least three good harvests before
you have to replant.
Mustard greens At least three hours of sun per day for baby mustard greens. Mustard grown for baby greens is best-suited for shady gardens.
Peas and beans At least four to five hours of sun. If growing these crops in partial shade, getting a good harvest will take longer. Try bush and dwarf varieties rather than pole varieties.
Root vegetables At least four to five hours of sun per day for decent production. Beets, carrots, potatoes, radishes and turnips will do okay in partial shade, but you’ll have to wait longer for a full crop. The more light you have, the faster they’ll mature. Alternatively, you can harvest baby carrots or small new potatoes for a gourmet treat that would cost an arm and a leg at a grocery store.
Scallions At least three hours of sun per day. This crop does well in partial shade throughout the growing season.
Spinach At least three to four hours of sun per day. Spinach welcomes shade, as it bolts easily if in full sun. If you grow it specifically to harvest as baby spinach, you’ll be able to harvest for quite a while as long as you continue to harvest the outermost leaves of each plant.



Spring Cleaning. Spring Planting.

Last year left me with a lot of planting pots. This is a good thing because I love starting plants by seed and the square ones fit nicely on my indoor grow table. Seeds and cuttings need a warm moist environment to grow and take root. Unfortunately, this is also the perfect environment for mildew and molds. Late February and early March is the perfect time to clean recycled containers. I also have to clean my seedling table to prevent spores from taking hold as seedlings grow. A simple and mild 1:1 bleach-water solution works out great for cleaning surfaces and reusable pots. I like to soak the pots for a bit before giving them a good scrub. Giving the pots a good rinse and setting them out to dry in the sun is a good idea too. I also apply the same cleaning regimen to my sturdy and decorative plant containers.


Outside in my planting beds, I’ve learned that now is the good time to set out slug traps before I transplant seedlings or plant seeds. Most of the Pacific North West slugs will lay eggs in the fall. Slug eggs can stay in the ground for roughly 100 days until the temperature and humidity are just right for hatching, thus baby slugs run ravage in March and April. I prefer to use a cornmeal slug trap. Cornmeal is cheaper, but may not attract as many slugs. Add a tablespoon or two of cornmeal in a jar, then lay the jar on its side. Keep the cornmeal dry, and it will kill slugs by expanding inside them once eaten.


I’m really big on succession planting. I’ll start my seedlings indoor as early as mid-February and then again in early March. By around mid April, when the average last frost date has passed, I’ll do a single set of planting outdoors under cloches. If the weather looks promising in early April, I may sow directly outside some hardy winter crop like arugula, kale or Swiss chard.

I will also start hardening indoor starter plants, which takes about two weeks. For the first day of the first week, I set them out for about two hours then bring them back in. For each following day, I’ll increase the time they spend out, such that by the 7th day, they’ve spent a full 8 hours outside. On the second week, I’ll leave them outside in their pots, with a row cover material to protect them from wind and insects. On the third week, I set them out on the garden bed. Add a bit of mulch around it to prevent weeds and maybe cover with a cloche if the weather is not warm enough at night. A decent cloche will trap warmth in the soil to keep the plant happy.

Tomato Experiments

Last year my Sungold tomatoes grew like mad; so much I ended up with way more than I could eat by myself. This year I’ll be growing less tomatoes, but more variety. I’ve added Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes along with Sungolds. I may try Indigo Rose if I can find the seeds in time. I will note, I only have a few spots in my garden where I can get 6+ hours of sun light. Tomatoes need a lot of light, heat and water. So I use a self-watering container system for my tomatoes.

Arugula and Other Tasties

I was happily surprised by the flavor of arugula that I grew in mass last year. This year I’ve decided on two kinds: Rocket (pretty standard, found in supermarkets) and Dragon’s Tongue – having I tried at a posh restaurant last year, I loved its peppery and sharp flavors. I’m also growing various lettuces and kale, much like last year and expect them to do well. I had a nice modest batch of carrots previously. So this year I’ve decided on a Carrot Calliope Blend (colored carrots), Tonda di Parigi, and Red Cored Chantenay. Tonda di Parigi are tender, sweet, small and round shaped – good for growing in shallow soil. Red Cored Chantenay grow up to 7 inches long and are good for soups and stews.

Newer plants in my garden are radishes: Crimson Red Radish (similar to the ones found at supermarkets) and Radish Watermelon Mantanghong – a hybrid variety which has a beautiful rosy-red interior filled with a sweet flavor and a tender-crisp texture. These might do okay in my partly shaded garden, but they do need quite a bit of sun to produce a nice root crop. I expect smaller root size than normal for harvest…or complete failure.

Another new experiment: artichokes. In the Seattle area, the can be grown as perennials but only with a lot of love. They need a lot of food in the form of additional compost and even regular fertilizing. And in the winter, their roots need to be protected with a lot of mulch or straw. If it works out well, I’ll have a harvest next year in the early summer.

I also want to grow onions and garlic. I will try green onions, but bulb onions do need a lot of sun. If I did plant them, I would expect a small yield. Same with Garlics.

Herbs grow very well in my small plot of land. I learned quickly that Basil needs to be planted outside in summer, when the ground is warm enough. Too early and they die off. I love oregano, not only because it smells good, but because of the way it attracts bees. Broadleaf Sage and English thyme were the only herbs that survived the winter. I was hoping my Russian Sage would survive, but sadly I think it died due to improper drainage. I’ll try again later this season, but in a different spot in the garden. I can’t seem to grow rosemary, they need sandy soil and at least 8 hours of sun. If I grow one, it will have to be in a large pot in the front yard.

Plants vs Pests

One experiment I’m eager to try are what I call “sacrificial” and “guardian” plants. Sacrificial plants are plants that pests prefer over the ones that I want to survive. Guardian plants are plants that repel pests by emitting a fragrance or smell. In my research, I found a few potentials, I am unsure of which to plant:

  • Marigolds – Mexican marigolds are said to offend a host of destructive insects and wild rabbits as well. If you choose marigolds for your garden they must be scented to work as a repellant. And while this plant drives away many bad bugs, it also attracts spider mites and snails away from precious vegetables
  • Nasturtiums – repels whiteflies, squash bugs, aphids, many beetles, and the cabbage looper. Aphids will try to eat the young flower buds, but something about the plant causes the bugs to die after having their fill. I’ve also read that nasturtiums ward of fungal diseases
  • Petunias – These repel asparagus beetles, leafhoppers, a range of aphids, tomato worms, and a good many other pests.
  • Borage – I love borage! It repels tomato hornworms and cabbage worms and attracts beneficial bees and wasps.
  • Citronella – This plant is a part of the geranium family and is also called the mosquito plant. It carries the fragrance of citronella in its foliage. When a leaf is crushed and rubbed on the skin, it smells wonderful and helps naturally repel mosquitoes and some other flying insects.
  • Catnip – This plant repels just about everything, except for cats. Keeps away flea beetles, aphids, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, ants, and weevils. You can even use sachets of dried catnip to deter ants that invade your kitchen… but be warned they may end up some place else if you have cats. There is a breed called ‘Six Hills Giant’ which has a nice proliferation of sky blue blooms.
  • Basil – The oils in basil are said to repel thrips, flies and mosquitoes. Bees and other pollinators love basil. Planting basil near tomatoes creates a larger, tastier crop.
  • Red Clover – slugs, snails, and other pests love to eat red clover. Luring them away from your food crop.
Driftwood Beach Cabin Trail Boat Launch Wanted! Dead or Alive Beach Driftwood Texture Saratoga Passage

Camano Island State Park

For our first trip of 2015, we took a short jaunt out to Camano Island. Camano Island State Park is a 173-acre camping park with 6,700-feet of rocky shoreline and beach. The park provides sweeping views of Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains, and Mount Rainier. We decided to comb the beach and look out for birds on the Saratoga passage. There are forest loop trails to hike, but we decided to save them for later.

As we walked we saw a Great Blue Heron, a number of Surf Scoters and Goldeneyes. Along the way I learned that 60% of the Lesser Snow Geese that breed on Wrangle Island, Russia make a yearly migration to Washington state. Camano Island is one of those areas where the geese like to during the winter months. There were no snow geese at the park, but they can be found on other parts of the island and near Stanwood, WA. I’ll have to go back to find some snow geese.

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Tree walker fun Tree Hugging Just before the cliffwalk Old Growth Tree On the Cliff Walk Tree Walk Capilano Suspention Bridge

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

If you visit Vancouver and Whistler-Blackholm, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a fun place to stop. They have three main attractions that make the entry fee worth it.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge stretches 450 feet across and 230 feet above Capilano River. Originally built in 1889 by George Grant Mackay, a Scottish civil engineer and park commissioner for Vancouver, its first incarnation was made of hemp ropes with a deck of cedar planks. In 1903, a wire cable bridge was built as a replacement. The bridge was completely rebuilt in 1956 and pretty much in the state you see it today and with repairs.

In 2004, Treetops Adventures was installed and consists of seven footbridges suspended between old-growth Douglas Fir trees on the west side of the canyon, forming a walkway up to 98 feet above the forest floor. Just a present walk for enjoying trees

In June 2011, an attraction called Cliff Walk opened and features a cantilevered and suspended walkways that jut out from the granite cliff face above Capilano River.

Apart from those heart pounding show stoppers, they have smaller “safer” attractions. Of them I really enjoyed the rain forest walk around serene ponds and tall old growth trees.

Some of the kiosks feature interesting history and stories about the park, but most are trivia bites meant to entertain children. One particular story stood out: in 2006, a 300-year-old, 46-tonne Douglas fir tree toppled during a heavy snowstorm. The tree fell across the western end of the bridge and the park had to be closed for repairs. They kept part of the tree where it fell and you can walk over it along the boardwalk trail.

The best part of course is walking over the bridge trying to steady yourself as it bounces with each step — not just your step, but also the steps of everyone else on the bridge. On that particular day, we were lucky to see a bald eagle swoop about 10 feet above the center of the bridge while we were on it. I had to call out to Sig who was staring intently at the bridge floor, “Look up! Look Up!” He turned up just in time to see the eagle fly over his head.

On the Cliff Walk, we saw more bald eagles hunting for fish in the river. That walk was particularly tough, but worth views which I’ve never experienced in my life. Now I want to go see more touristy sky walks such as Glacier Skywalk in Jasper national park, Alberta, Canada or the Grand Canyon. Even brave those old suspension bridges found in Costa Rica.

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Dungeness Light Station Dungeness Spit Beach Dungeness Spit Driftwood Dungeness Spit Dungeness Spit Out on the Dungeness Spit Out on the Dungeness Spit Out on the Dungeness Spit Don't let the hat blow away Low Tide Low Tide Beach Combing

Dungeness Spit

The Dungeness Spit was formed by wind and water currents that forced river silt and glacial till to arch into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Over the centuries the spit has grown to over 5 miles. You can hike all the way to the tip, where a lighthouse has been keeping guard since 1857. The extreme tip, however, like the Dungeness Bay side of the spit, is closed to public entry to protect important wildlife habitat. Because the spit is protected and managed as a wildlife refuge, many recreational activities are restricted.

The best time to go is obviously low tide. The entry trail is 0.5 mile and before descending to the beach, theres a sweeping views of the spit from an overlook. At the base of tall bluffs is the start of the spit with a straightforward hike to the lighthouse. Pack plenty of water and sunscreen. If the 11-mile round trip seems daunting, any distance hiked along the spit will be rewarding.

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Temple Fish Black swan of hawaii Buddha & The Temple Stone Buddha Temple Temple bird Gardens Temple pillars Zen Garden Buddha & The Sig Bamboo Gardens The Byodo-In Temple The Byodo-In Temple

O’ahu: Byodo-In Temple, Valley of the Temples

The Byodo-In Temple is located at the foot of the Ko’olau Mountains in Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. It was established on June 7, 1968, to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. The Byodo-In Temple in O’ahu is a smaller-scale replica of the over 950-year-old Byodo-in Temple, a United Nations World Heritage Site in Uji, Japan.

This leisurely walk through the temple grounds includes a lushly landscaped paradise nestled in a cleft of the pali and is home to wild peacocks and hundreds of  Japanese koi carp. The beautiful grounds include a large reflecting pond, meditation niches, and small waterfalls; a beautiful, peaceful, and restful place.

Amida, a golden Buddha housed in the temple, falls solidly in the “awe inspiring” category.  The Buddha is possibly the largest figure carved outside of Japan. Towering more than 9 feet, the immense figure is an original work of art carved by the famous Japanese sculptor, Masuzo Inui.

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Camano Island Drift Wood

Where Have the Games Gone?

Where have the Games Gone? Up until about a year ago (or has it been two years?) I played a lot of games. I even ran a podcast dedicated to a game. You may have noticed that my blog’s name has changed from “Anne, G4m3r W1f3ling” to “All things Anne.” So what happened? What have I been up to?

Hikes and Walks

Since October 2014, I’ve written regularly about my hikes and walks in and around Seattle with my two friends Janice and John, and of course with my husband. I know! Who new that the fun exploring in real life exceeded that of exploring in an MMO world? My husband has an aversion to roughing it in the great outdoors, and we call him Mr. 2% for various reasons. Apparently, he feels that I indulge him in nearly all of his hobbies that it would be only fair to reciprocate for mine.

My impetus for travel is two fold; the first is having friends eager and willing to join me on adventures. Secondly, I’ve found medications that relieve me of nasty allergy and asthma symptoms. Friends make for excellent motivation, entertainment and fun when wandering about ogling at nature. Combine that with being unchained from psychical restrictions, and now I have an impulse to put one foot in front of the other just to see lush vegetation, majestic views, and animals frolicking in the wild.

If you’re interested you can view my posts and pictures of our adventures.

Of course there are more reasons involved for less gaming, but I’ll save that for later blog posts.

 Saratoga Passage

Saratoga Passage