Washington Park Arboretum

 

Volunteer Park – Seattle

The day after our adventures through Discovery Park, my husband started his conference and I was on my own to explore Seattle. Well, not quite. On discovering that I was planning on visiting Volunteer Park, our friends decided to join me, along with their dogs. We had agreed to meet in front of one of the many coffee shops, grab a cup and walk to the park. Along the way, we stopped at a local Farmer’s Market to buy strawberries and cherries for a shared snack later on.

Once at the park, we had to dodge our way around the barriers set up for a bike race before we could ramble along the greenery. We circled a reservoir, which had a nice view of the Space Needle. After passing the reservoir, we stopped at a small pond to watch the ducklings hiding among the vegetation before continuing on. Deciding it was time for a snack, we sat on a stone ledge near the Thomas Burke Monument enjoying the garden views and the fresh fruit purchased earlier in the day.

Refreshed, we made our way to the water tower within the park, where we climbed over 100 steps to the observation floor. There were wonderful 360 degree views of Seattle, the Space Needle and the mountains beyond (at least that is what I was told since I could barely make out the mountain range and certainly no Rainer). Around the observation floor was the story of the Seattle Parks. Here I learned that Olmsted was a key factor in developing many of the green spaces in Seattle. It was a gift that the local residents still enjoy today.

Once down from the water tower, we continued meandering through Volunteer Park past the conservatory and the temporarily closed Asian Art Museum. Behind the conservatory we let the dogs run a bit before leaving the park. From there, we crossed the street to step foot in another green space which I believe was Interlaken Park. We stayed a few seconds to look at the views before calling it a day.

Discovery Park – Seattle

Our out-of-state adventure this year was to head west and explore Seattle. Before leaving on this expedition there were plenty of well-meaning acquaintances recommending things that we absolutely had to see; places such as Pike’s Market (it was okay), Pike Brew Pub (meh), and the Space Needle. Not being the kind of people who like crowds, we quickly crossed those items off our list then made our way towards the green spaces of the city. The son of one of our close friends resides in Seattle and he graciously agreed to spend some time with the “old folks”, recommending places to explore while guiding us through the transportation system.  Our first stop was Discovery Park.

Discovery Park was exactly our idea of exploring a new area. Our guides led us through a number of trails within the park system that took us through several different habitats. The first portion of our hike went through a wooded section where one of our friends pointed out western sword ferns and other local vegetation which I quickly forgot.

Our meanderings eventually brought us to the information center where we picked up a trail map to better contemplate the best route to the shore. This path first went through some additional forested areas before depositing us in a field with views of the water and hazy images of the mountains beyond. Our friends proclaimed how spectacular the mountain views were on the clear days, stating that you could see Rainer, the Cascades and the Olympic Mountains from the city but we never did see them. During the course of the week our failure to see any mountains in the area became a running joke.

We crossed the meadow and a road before taking a trail towards the water. As the trail curved around up a small hill, we found a cleared area overlooking the beach below. It was here that I took my first fall, tearing the knees of my slacks and hurting my pride. Looking around, I noticed some small holes around the area (possibly from a child digging in the dirt). It was one of these holes that tripped me up and for whatever the reason I could not recover and just went down. I fell once more during this trip, with a near miss a third time, each time the result of an unevenness in the ground. The only explanation I could come up with is that when I am hiking in the woods I know the ground is uneven and therefore pay closer attention to what is happening on the ground as opposed to an area that by all appearances should have been flat (at least that is my story and I am sticking to it).

After my mishap, we continued walking by the shore until we reached the lighthouse at the western point of the park. From there we took a shuttle to one of the park entrances where we caught a bus back to town. Our two parties split up for a bit before regrouping at a local wine bar before dinner.

Gorge Trail – Acadia

A few days after hiking Beech Mountain in Acadia National Park, I found myself heading up to Mount Desert Island once more to make use of the 7 day visitor pass (the park does not issue day passes). I had offered my unexpired visitor pass to a co-worker and she mentioned that we should attempt the Gorge Trail on our next day off.

When I researched this trail, which heads up Cadillac Mountain, I found descriptions such as, “dogs are permitted on this trail though the upper section of the Gorge Trail is too steep and dangerous for many dogs”, or after reaching the top of the gorge there was still “500 feet to rise in only four tenths of a mile” . Huh? At this point I turned to my friend at said, “are you out of your mind!?” She swore that she was not interested in reaching the summit of Cadillac Mountain, she only wanted to reach the top of the stone steps and turn around. Given this assurance I agreed to attempt the hike.

Once at the trail-head, we descended a set of stairs towards Kebo Brook. We paused a few minutes to study the brook and the stone bridge spanning the flowing water. It was here that I realized I had found my new hiking partner; a kindred spirit who also wanted to take the time to meditate on her surroundings and photograph her observations.

After ascending a short series of steps on the opposite side of the brook, we continued on our adventures through a dark forest, crossing a bog bridge along the way. It wasn’t long before the terrain began to take on a rocky appearance and we were climbing alongside a stream. We stopped many times along the way to study the granite walls around us, wondering who lived in the cave-like holes carved in the stone. We also took delight in the numerous waterfalls along the trail. We certainly had amble opportunity to admire those waterfalls since the trail crossed the water many times. Near the top of our climb, we found the most beautiful cascade of our hike. With water rushing over the rocks, stairs ascending nearby and the surrounding greenery, we had truly found the spirit of nature. We certainly spent a bit of time meditating on the view.

At this point I was in the lead and, as a looked ahead I noticed that the trail was becoming more vertical. The flat stones used to pave the path were disappearing. I informed my friend that I had reached the end of the line but she went on for a  short distance before turning around. While I sat on a rock and waited, I noticed some vegetation growing on another boulder nearby. I went over to study the greenery, able to determine that there was definitely some kind of lily in the greenery. I later identified this as a Blue-bead Lily. Once again, two kindred spirits took some time practicing photographing the flowers before heading back down the trail. Our round-trip adventure was a little under 3 hours.

 

Beech Mountain

After our short visit to the Charlotte Rhoades Butterfly Garden, we headed towards Beech Mountain and the Beech Mountain Loop trail. When planning our trip to the Southwest Harbor side of Acadia, I had researched several hiking options in the area. Given all the rain in previous weeks, and consequently, our lack of getting out to exercise, I knew our endurance level would be low. There were a number of options that would take us to the top of Beech Mountain, but when I saw someone’s description of the “short-and-sweet Beech Mountain Loop” I knew I had found our trail.

Arriving at the trail-head we opted to walk the loop in a counter clockwise direction, which would take us up the longer trail first. A short way into our hike, we stopped to examine the flowers hanging underneath the leaves of some unidentified tree. I researched this flower after our trip and I believe the tree was a young striped maple.

In between the typical granite composition of the Mount Desert Island trails, there were some areas that were a bit muddy, but nothing that we couldn’t handle. The black flies were still around as well. I did not really notice the flies until I discovered a large bite later on. Despite all this, the day was sunny and it just felt good to be outside.

As we made our way up the path, the forest thinned out and allowed us some wonderful views of Long Pond. I believe I photographed this pond several times during our ascent. Soon the trees gave way to granite ledge, giving us a clear view of Long Pond. Following the trail around the ledge, we re-entered the forest for a bit. Here we found an old structure that had the appearance of an outhouse, now locked and decommissioned.

Pretty soon, we ascended a short flight of stone steps which deposited us just beneath the summit. We scrambled up the last section to the top of Beech Mountain and the base of an old fire tower. There was plenty of ledge for us to sit and rest a bit while we enjoyed the views of the Cranberry Islands and our snack.

After our snack, we decided to continue on the loop rather than return on the same section of trail we had just completed. This side of the loop was a bit more challenging, with a more rocky portions to scramble down. In a few places that required a long stretch, I used the sit and slide approach to make my way down to the next rock. My philosophy has always been that there are times when it does not pay to try and appear graceful. This was one of them. Since this was the shorter section of the loop, it wasn’t long before we had completed the loop. A few more feet and we were back at the parking lot. The clouds were beginning to return, so we called it a day and stopped for lunch before heading home.