~Paul, Shelly, Jon, N ETC
I've been going through the massive amount of photos from our Northwest travels this summer and I stumbled upon this beautiful monster! This guy was hiding in the woods in Seattle's Carkeek Park, part of an annual outdoor art exhibition (that sadly came to an end in mid-October…we actually visited on the last day!). Check out past works and info about the artists here: www.cocaseattle.org. Great stuff. Imagine if you were on a stroll through the woods and you didn't know the exhibition was going on…spooky!
~Paul, Shelly, Jon, N ETC
Well, Autumn is officially here in the Northwest. October is usually a mix of gloomy and rain and perfect sunny days. If your day off happens to be on one of those sunny days (sometimes we get lucky and it's the weekend), a great way to spend the afternoon is at the Washington Park Arboretum. We've kayaked there many times but a hidden gem for a land adventure is the 3.5 acre Seattle Japanese Garden. These pics were taken in the Spring, but now is the time to catch the gorgeous Fall colors. Admission is low and plan to spend 30 mins to an hour to see everything. Head over and stroll the grounds!
~Paul & Amber ETC
Our exploration of the San Juan Islands continues with a little trek to the tallest point on the islands - Mount Constitution. Located on Orcas Island (Orcas is the mountain-y one), Mount Constitution sits in Moran State Park, a 5,000 acre or so state park with lakes, mountains, waterfalls, lots of hiking trails, camping & day use areas.
Mt. Constitution sports an awesome stone lookout tower (built in 1936). The views are excellent, you can actually go inside and up in the tower (as opposed to it being locked up like some sites in the NW), and there are bathrooms in the parking lot.
Although you can park lower on the mountain and hike up (the popular trail is about 7 miles with a 1500 ft elevation gain), you can also just drive and park on the very top. Just know you'll need a Washington State Discover Pass ($10 a day or $30 a year) to park a vehicle at the park. We usually purchase ours each year at REI in Seattle and keep it in the glove box.
Also, if you are hiking up, know that sometimes there isn't portable drinking water at the top so plan ahead! We highly recommend heading to the top and checking out the view - it's amazing!
~Paul & Amber ETC
Nice map of Moran State Park
Check here at the State Park website for current info
Jeez, it's been about 10 years since we've been to the Seattle Aquarium. We don't really have a good excuse, only that when you're a Seattle local you tend to stay close to your cozy neighborhood on the weekends. Who wants to drive down into the waterfront tourist trap?
Eventually the cozy wears off and we head downtown. When we're there, we usually say, "Man, why don't we come down here more often?".
We almost always feel that way when we explore the waterfront & the Pike Place Market. So many cool spots to explore and photograph. The aquarium has the super cool giant Window on Washington Waters tank with diver presentations throughout the day, a great Crashing Waves wave pool, cool jellyfish and octopus exhibits, a series of touch pools, a sea & shore bird exhibit, and tons more. Super cute otters and a newly renovated harbor seal exhibit top things off. Definitely worth a visit…especially if it's been 10 years!!!
~Paul & Amber ETC
I've been meaning to stop by Gig Harbor for awhile now to check out the Harbor History Museum (and see T-bird #1!). A small protected harbor in Washington's South Sound, Gig Harbor is located on the Kitsap Peninsula (we call it Kitsap Island…dude, make it an island already!). It has a quaint, historic district with shops, restaurants, & cafes, places to launch & rent kayaks and SUPs (check out Lee's), & several marinas. We walked around town a little, snapped a few pictures, and grabbed lunch.
The Harbor History Museum is around the bend, a little far to walk from the main part of town so we drove. We thought it is reasonably priced, has a nice layout, and has just the right amount of artifacts.
As I mentioned before, I was super excited to see the first Thunderbird sailboat, a Northwest classic originally designed in 1958 using primarily plywood. Its designer, Ben Seaborn, drew up the plans by request of the Douglas Fir Plywood Association out of Tacoma Washington. Their attempt to make a small Northwest cruiser/racer that sleeps 4-ish & could be built by amateurs was a success. Can you think of anything else made from plywood that is this pretty?
The museum was hosting a special exhibit on prehistoric underwater sea creatures. A little gimmicky for the museum - come see our savage sea monsters!…I'm pretty sure we stopped calling dinosaur-like creatures monsters in the 60s - but hey, it's effective and great for kids. I love dinosaur exhibits. OK, these aren't technically dinosaurs. Whatever. Look, a giant turtle!
Be sure to wander outside and check out the one room school house.
All & all, a great place to spend the day. Little shops and cafes, kayaking and sailing opportunities, museum. Spend time here and live the Northwest dream!
~Paul & Amber ETC
Spending a lot of time paddling the Northwest's waters has given me a renewed appreciation of the Puget Sound's native tribes. I was getting ready to launch the other day when someone mentioned the new Suquamish Museum. We sail Suquamish/Port Madison waters regularly and drive through the community every time we take the Bainbridge ferry to Kitsap and continue to the Olympic peninsula. With the ferry ride, Suquamish is about an hour from downtown Seattle. It also happens to be the location of Chief Sealth's (Chief Seattle) gravesite.
The new $7.5 million, 9,000 square foot Suquamish museum is a tribute to the Suquamish tribe and culture. It's a snapshot of the tribe and details the past & present, and looks to the future of the Suquamish Nation. Artifacts are beautiful & nicely laid out. Admission prices are low and there's a quaint gift shop. There is a little room for more artifacts and I'm sure future exhibits will fill the space. They have one permanent gallery and one that periodically rotates.
What makes the stop even cooler is a visit nearby to Chief Sealth's grave. Sealth (the city of Seattle was named after him) was a Suquamish chief who led negotiations (or whatever you want to call them) with the white settlers in the 18oos. There were some interesting power plays going on among local tribes around this time, made way more complicated with arrival of the white-folk to this area. It's an interesting and sometimes controversial history that's worth a read. Anyway, the gravesite is beautiful & powerful and just a short walk from the museum parking lot.
The big question for a lot of our Seattle readers - is the Suquamish Museum & the Chief Sealth gravesite worth the ferry trip over from Seattle? I mean, can you make a day of it? Not quite. The museum is great and I highly recommend it but it could use a little more exhibit space. It might help if there was a special event happening at/near the museum. The museum website talks about future workshops, storytellers, and other events held on the grounds or in their sweet 50-seat auditorium - that would really add some content and complete the experience. Also, it would be great if their were more hands-on artifacts/exhibits for kids (there's not much at all).
Already on the Kitsap Peninsula with an hour to kill? Need a break from the casino?Haven't seen Chief Sealth's gravesite or the museum yet? Definitely worth a visit. Check out the museum and tribe websites below for more info and upcoming events.
~Paul & Amber ETC
The Suquamish Museum
The Suquamish Tribe
In an effort to explore more of the South Sound, we recently took an afternoon to walk around the small town of Ruston, Washington. Pretty much indistinguishable from Tacoma, this little town is close to Point Defiance (we recently visited here too), and sits on Commencement Bay.
There's a few great businesses here to check out - we always like stopping by the Jungle Fever Exotics. Unfortunately our garden dreams are on hold (besides our boat farming operation!), but it's still fun to walk the grounds. We grabbed a snack and coffee next-door at the Antique Sandwich Co.
We browsed Ruston Galleries & Antiques, walked a few blocks and peeked into Don's Ruston Market & Deli, and luckily I saved a little room for a Tatanka burger at Tatanka Take-Out! As you can see, the town has a little mural thing going on (I'm a sucker for murals…especially crazy jungle ones).
Ruston has an interesting history - it began as a company town for the employees of W.R. Rust in 1890. He established the Tacoma Smelting and Refining Company (I mean, with a name like Mr. Rust…why not?). Later, ASARCO took over smelting operations down by the waterfront. The company polluted the heck out of the area while under operation (it turns out that ASARCO is kinda known for that). A massive Superfund cleanup has been ongoing at the site for years. The transformation is pretty much complete, now it's condo time. The area has been renamed Point Ruston and condo and housing development is underway.
If you do hit up Ruston for an afternoon, make sure to drive down by the water on scenic Ruston Way. There's still traces of Ruston's past combined with new construction paving the way for the future. There's a great waterfront restaurant down the road a bit called Harbor Lights. It's been here serving up seafood for over 50 years! You could definitely spend a sunny afternoon on the waterfront alone walking, kayaking, skateboarding, sightseeing, and more.
~Paul & Amber ETC
Captain wifey and I have been really excited to check out the newly relocated MOHAI (Museum of History and Industry) here in Seattle. The new location is perfect - nestled in the South Lake Union neighborhood, right next to the Center for Wooden Boats, there's restaurants, it's close to the Space Needle and the Seattle Center, there is free parking around the corner, it's on the lake, and the museum is about stuff we're interested in - boats, the Northwest, & Northwest history.
Also, before I got into teaching (my current day job) I worked a little in the museum world. After spending hours on the museum floor and interacting with guests it was easy to see both what works, and the many challenges local museums face. From that experience I can say that the new MOHAI was carefully thought out by people who know museums - it shows.
Another cool thing about the location of the museum is its access to Lake Union from Lake Union Park. There are boat tie-ups everywhere - you could actually sail up, tie-up, go to the museum, eat lunch, and sail off into the sunset (that may be wishful thinking, the actual tie-up rules are a little confusing, read more here & I'd call ahead). It is also right across the water from the new-ish kayak put-in (pictured below). We've set off from here in the past.
It seems there's always something going on around the outside of the museum - from FarmBoat drop-offs, to toy sailing races, to the carving of a traditional Native American canoe (check out the plans for a new Northwest Native Canoe Center at Lake Union Park!).
Once you head into the museum you'll be in a giant great room. This building used to be a Naval Reserve Armory back in the day. The museum has a open layout in the middle with exhibits on multiple floors in the rooms along all sides of the building.
One of the highlights of the great room is John Grade's massive wooden sculpture "Wawona". It was made from old planks salvaged from the hull of a ship (named Wawona). It actually extends below the floor into the lake and above the ceiling/on the roof…it's amazing.
There's lots of hands on stuff (a.k.a. great for kids). Touch screens galore, a periscope on the top floor with views of lake and city, railroads to pound on, things to turn, pull, push, & move. Make sure to try the educational old-school slot machine!
The exhibits are nicely organized, not too cramped (with artifacts), and there is a nice flow. Lots of cool stuff. Definitely worth the visit!
~Paul & Amber ETC
P.S. The food at the cafe is good and reasonably priced - you could museum it up, have lunch, then go back for more...
Vashon Island. Heard of it? We have. Every Sunday we head over to our local Ballard Farmers Market (Ballard is a neighborhood in Seattle) and buy our meat from the Vashon Island butcher there. The legend is that his animals are raised on a beautiful & quaint island just a 20 minute ferry ride from West Seattle. An island we've always known about but have never visited. This island must be farmy - the Sea Breeze Farm produces eggs, meat, & milk that is sold year round at the University & Ballard farmers markets here in the city.
I imagined farms and trees. Maybe some hills? A lot of my cyclist friends speak of riding the ferry over to Vashon (that's the pretty part) then biking up a giant hill that leads to town (that's the sweaty part).
Well, we explored the island last weekend in the winter sun (remember the sunny Saturday?). We found farms, hills, lighthouses, coffee roasters, exercise bikes, marinas, lots of kayak put-ins…but no UFOs (that's a different Vashon legend we'll talk about later).
Town is cool. Lots of restaurants, some of them a little wacky. A local movie theater, a music store, hardware store…lots of shopping. Restaurants for breakfast, lunch & dinner, coffee. Spend some time walking around with coffee in hand - make sure to check out the Treasure Island consignment shop - it's awesome and full of every vintage thing you could imagine.
Other notable stores? We like Island Quilter…my wife loves it because she's a quilter and loves to browse fabric (Katie from Sewkatiedid was there!). I also found it intriguing due to the Luke Haynes feature - I was pulled in by his giant Kanye/Jay-Z quilt in the window. I'll say that again - Jay-Z on a quilt…in a quilt store.
We grabbed a quick bite in town at Pure Organic Cafe. I had a coconut smoothie, my wife had some warm Ginger Tea, and we shared a giant piece of leafy pizza.
Just down the road a mile from the shopping district is a historic coffee roaster with tons of Northwest history. Long story short - this used to be Seattle's Best Coffee but now it's independent…and yummy. It's the Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie. You can spend time here browsing the mini-museum scattered around the cafe and shop, shop for tea, herbs, groceries, beer, and of course, coffee. It is a great pit-stop for cyclists or for anyone who loves a good cup of Joe. Next door is a little grocery shop (Minglement - pictured below) with gifts, oils, food, and other goodies.
Keep driving south from the coffee & you'll hit Quartermaster Harbor. We went left over the portage, towards Maury Island & Dockton. At the intersection of Dockton Rd SW & Portage Way SW you'll find one of the many mysteries on the island…the abandoned exercise bikes on Tramp Harbor.
From there we continued onto Maury Island (not really an island anymore since the Army Corps of Engineers filled in the bridge connecting it to Vashon back in the day). It's absolutely worth stopping by the Point Robinson Lighthouse, pictured below, and we also found a nice kayak put-in at the Dockton Marina.
Maury Island has some fun history too - my favorite is the 1947 alleged UFO sighting. The Maury Island incident as it's called, created a lot of buzz in the media and was one of the first UFO/Flying Saucer sightings (it was even before Roswell)…It was also one of the first mentions of the Men in Black…read more here…Some folks are even making a movie about the incident! Support that project and learn more here...and remember, you didn't hear it from me:)
Heading back over the portage leads you towards the other side of Quartermaster Harbor to the community of Burton. They also have a marina and a nice little marina-grocery store with boaty provisions. Jensen Point is the best kayak launch-site over here, and in the summer you can even rent boats for the hour, day, or longer. Look for full-moon paddles on Quartermaster Harbor in the summer months, 5 days each month around the full-moon.
Worth a day trip from Seattle? Yes! Did we even see every park and kayak put-in on the island? No! Will we be back to paddle? For sure.
~Paul & Amber ETC
We thought we'd take one more little paddle on our quick-trip to the coast North Carolina last Fall- a visit to the quaint little town of Beaufort. First of all, this ain't no South Carolinian town of Beaufort (bew-fert)…this here is Beaufort (boh-fert - soft -t at the end there). Glad we cleared that up.
Beaufort is a scenic, quiet, & friendly seaport village near the southern section of the Outer Banks. From our point of view it is perfect - cute small town with nice restaurants and places to explore on foot, cool history, and some great paddling nearby. The town's Front street is just across a skinny waterway (Taylor Creek) with the Rachel Carson Coastal Reserve on the other side - an awesome sanctuary to explore by kayak (wild ponies anyone?).
Added bonus: the town was once upon a time a hangout for some special guests…pirates. Blackbeard had been to the town and although he wasn't that impressed back in the 18th century, his beloved ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, grounded & eventually sank near Beaufort. They recently found her & the Maritime Museum in Beaufort gets first dibs on all of the artifacts being resurrected from the sea. Arrr.
You get a taste of the history of this place when you check out the Beaufort Historic Site. Located right in the middle of the historic part of town, the site has several historic buildings/houses to explore. Gorgeous stuff.
There's lots of other places to check out in town - we stopped by the Beaufort Coffee Shop (Cru Bar & Coffee Shop) for a cup of Joe. When you're on the road in the South and you hear the sound of a real espresso machine you go there...we're from Seattle after all! We also strolled the General Store & Taylor's Creek Antiques.
While walking along the waterfront in town you'll notice signs for the Rachel Carson Reserve - just across the Creek.
After exploring town we finally drove down a few minutes to a nice boat launch. We launched from the Beaufort boating access ramp on Lennoxville Road. There was a parking lot and it turned out to be a great place to set off. We paddled against the current eastward (which felt like northward), out past the end of Carrot Island. The current was pretty swift here. Without too much planning, we always paddle against the current first - that way it's an easy ride back (you don't want to try it the other way around!).
As you paddle, there are great beach houses and nice boats to check out on the mainland side, and pretty wildlife scenes from the reserve on the other. A reserve boardwalk, pictured below, is right across the creek from the boat launch. Taking it gives you views of the other side of the island.
The put-in is also right next to The Boathouse & Front Street Village - a future residential area with boat storage, marina, boat fuel, groceries, and more. There is a lot planned for this area, check out more here. For us, it was a great place to grab a snack after our paddle & check out the old fishing net wheel, left over from when this was once part of Beaufort Fisheries.
Do we recommend a visit to Beaufort? For sure. Great paddling and a quaint, historic town…perfect! Just don't call it Bew-fert.
~Paul & Amber ETC