Staying in the rain forest

Lake Quinault Lodge from the back lawn

I just love old western lodges, the kind that are built of logs or planks or stone and cedar shakes, that have large lobbies with enormous fireplaces in them. I loved staying in Old Faithful Inn, the mother of all western lodges, a few years ago, and my only disappointment was that the entire time we stayed there, I was never once early enough to get a seat before the fire.

Last summer I stopped twice with family at Lake Quinault Lodge in the Olympic Peninsula. The first time, my sister was taking me for a tour of the peninsula, and we stopped for lunch. The second time, I was touring around with two of my brothers and family when we stopped for an hour or so to look at the lodge. It’s a beauty, built in 1926 by the CCC.

I wanted Wayne to see this lodge and I wanted to stay in it, so I reserved us a room for two nights over our anniversary. We left late Thursday morning after dropping Luke off at the trainers to board and stayed until Saturday morning.

This is part of the lobby. You can’t see the whole effect, because the other side of the room has rows of leather chairs and small tables. When I was in there one time, there were probably about forty people in the lobby, but it wasn’t crowded at all. Everyone had a seat, and several groups were playing games.

The lodge is beautiful. The older section of it is from the 20’s. In that building are a lovely restaurant, a big lobby with lots of comfortable chairs and sofas, tables, library shelves, game tables, and so on. There is a ballroom on the end opposite the library, and then there are the historic rooms. Underneath all this is a game room, pool, and sauna.

We didn’t stay in the historic section, however. The lodge has several other buildings, where they have added on more modern rooms. We had a room in the Fireplace Room building, where each room has a gas fire. The fire was nice. It worked on a thermostat so that you could set a temperature for the room, and the fire would come on and go off when needed. I tended to overdo it and make it a little warm in the room. Our room was fairly large. We had a balcony overlooking the lake, and there was enough room to have put a small dining table and chairs in the main room, which we would have liked, because do what I would, I could not get Wayne to hang out in the lobby. We ended up playing dominoes in our room one afternoon. Another time, I took my book down to the lobby and read for an hour or so.

I took this picture from inside the restaurant on our last night as the sun was setting.

That was my one regret, that I couldn’t get Wayne out of the room more. He came out to eat, basically. I thought he would use the sauna and pool, but no. It rained all day Friday, but I did manage to get him out to do a drive around the lake. We didn’t see many views, though, because the lake is hard to see for most of the drive. After playing dominoes on Friday afternoon and waiting until it stopped pouring, I went out to do one of the hiking trails near the lodge. If you’re interested, I’ll be posting my hike information on Fat Girls Friday morning.

That was our big trip. I enjoyed it despite the rain (it was really pouring for our drive home on Saturday morning), and when I asked Wayne whether he liked it, he said, “Very peaceful.” There were quite a few people there, because it was Washington’s spring break, lots of kids, but the lodge is built so well that we heard almost nothing in our rooms. Also, although we were in a separate building on the second floor, the buildings were designed so that we could walk under cover from the walkway outside our rooms, around a corner and straight into the historic building. Then we only had to walk past a few of the rooms and down three steps and we were in the lobby. So, we didn’t even need our jackets most of the time.

We needed to get home around noon to pick up Luke at a specific time, but the restaurant at the lodge didn’t open until 8, so we knew we would have to stop for breakfast on the way home. So, we left really early. It poured all the way home, until about an hour away, when the sun came out. However, back in Yacolt, it was gloomy. We got home around 11, so I had time to unpack before picking up Lukey. He was ecstatic when he saw us, although his trainer said he had a blast boarding.

I kind of flubbed up my scheduling, because that afternoon I had tickets to the Magenta Theater. My friend Deb and I got season tickets because they were so cheap. So far, we have experienced fairly typical amateur theater. Sue was coming along with us that day, so I picked her up and we met Deb at the theater. The play was called Pack of Lies, and it was a drama based on a true incident of Cold War spying in England. Sadly, the acting was so-so, and the English accents were terrible. I was surprised to see they actually had an accent coach, and I can only assume that either the coach wasn’t very good or the actors just couldn’t do the accents. I think the latter, because they came and went. One actress actually attempted a more regional accent than the others, who attempted the plummy BBC approach. She was a little better than the others. We decided afterwards that the play wasn’t very good. We were all waiting for a twist, and there wasn’t one. We weren’t sure if we would have had a different reaction with better actors, however. I’m not sure why they keep picking British plays if their actors can’t do the accents. You may recall that the last play was a Jeeves and Wooster.

As before, we were impressed with the sets, which were pretty nice for an amateur theater. They were done in black, white, and gray, which at first didn’t seem right for a play set in the 1960’s, but the actors were also dressed in black, white, and gray, so it occurred to me that maybe they were trying to replicate film noir or black and white TV. It was a clever idea.

The rest of the weekend I was recuperating from our trip. I must have been pretty tired, because after taking Luke to Play and Train Monday morning and to his new class Monday evening, I slept until 10:30 on Tuesday. Unheard of!

When I first saw our orchard, it was this beautiful field of wildflowers with some hydrangeas along the driveway. We found out later that we had to keep it mowed because of the bramble that will grow in it if we leave it wild. Still, each year I’ve been planting wildflowers with the hope that briefly, before we have to mow, the orchard will return to what I originally saw. So far, no luck, but on Tuesday I planted another large bag of wildflowers. Last year, I followed the instructions on the bag of raking the ground, sowing the seeds, and covering them up. No additional wildflowers emerged. This year, by planted I mean I just threw them on the ground.


Island and peninsula

Happy 4th of July, everyone! Today I have reports of my vacation to the San Juan Islands, in particular, to San Juan.

Early Monday morning last week, my sister picked me up and we followed Ares, my niece’s nephew, and the kids to Anacortes, which is a bit north of Seattle. We stopped and had lunch at a touristy little chowder house and then we got on the ferry to Friday Harbor.

The ferry trip lasted about an hour. The kids were thrilled by it, which kept them occupied. I enjoyed myself picking out houses on the islands we passed and wondering what it was like to live there. I’ve always thought I would like to live on an island. It was windy and cold on the way over, but that just made the kids like it more.

The marina at Friday Harbor. You can see part of the ferry at the top right.

Friday Harbor is the main town on San Juan Island, which is the largest of the San Juans. The town is quite pretty, with a well-kept downtown and marina that, while a bit touristy, seem like places where real people could live, unlike some American tourist towns. Attention is spent to detail. There are lots of benches right at a scenic place above the marina, and the street lamps have flower baskets hanging from them. It’s a nice town.

Here are the two kids in our first sighting of the doe (next to the tree at the top). She was doing something with her nose in the grass. Later on, after we saw the fawn, we realized that she had been pushing the fawn with her nose to make it go back into the woods.

We hung around town for a little while and then drove to the house that Ares had rented. My sister Sue and I thought it was going to be a beach house, but it turned out that he and my niece purposefully rented a house that was not on the beach, although the ad implied it was nearby a waterway. It was, but it had no access to it. However, the house was very nice. It was large and had a capacious master suite and two other bedrooms. It had several living areas, including a play room with a foosball machine and air hockey. It also had all the implements and dishes you could ever want. Ares was really impressed by how well appointed it was. The house was in the woods, and we got quite a bit of wildlife back there, including a doe and her fawn. When we came home and jumped out of the car on our first evening, the fawn was nestled up against the house and we scared it. Later, it came walking through the back yard. These deer were the first of many we saw as we drove around the island, but they were not the only wildlife we saw. After a trip to the beach the next day, we left a live scallop on the front porch, and the next thing we knew, a raccoon was standing on the front porch holding it in his paws.

One of the lighthouses. That’s probably Canada’s Victoria Island off in the distance.

We spent the next two days driving and hiking around the island, visiting various sites, including lighthouses and the remnants of old forts. We also visited an alpaca farm. The beaches were beautiful, although most of them were stony. Views around the coast were spectacular. At one beach the kids saw a sea otter, but we didn’t spot any whales.

The mausoleum

Some of the things we visited were a mausoleum for one of the island’s founding families that was built with lots of Masonic symbolism. We had to walk through an old graveyard to get there, which thrilled the kids. We also spent time at a sculpture garden that was so large we only saw parts of it.

On Thursday, we boarded the ferry again. After lunch in Anacortes, we separated, Ares going home with the kids and my sister and I continuing on for a tour of the Olympic Peninsula. We had to catch another ferry leaving from Coupland. You are supposed to arrive at the ferry 1/2 hour early, and we were a minute late, so we thought that we were one of the last cars on board. But when the ferry left, we realized that in fact they had put us on the ferry before the one we were supposed to take. This ferry was much smaller, and the trip only took about 20 minutes.

Manresa Castle. From here, you can’t see the peeling walls.

The first thing I discovered when we arrived at Port Townsend was that my sister, who planned this part of the trip and made all the reservations, doesn’t read reviews. I think she picked Manresa Castle because she liked the idea of staying in a castle, but it wasn’t really a castle, just a rich man’s mansion. There was nothing actually that wrong with it, it was just a shame, that’s all. The outside of the place was impressive until you got close, when you could see the paint was peeling. The inside was all dark carved woodwork and antiques, and some of the public rooms were beautiful.

My sister in our suite. This picture makes it look pretty good. The devil is in the details, however. We thought it was a real shame that no one was paying a bit more attention to this place. For example, what you can’t see is that the top of that round table has almost all its finish worn off and there are lots of little strings hanging down from the upholstery of the chairs.

However, it was plain they were running the place on a shoestring. A little money spent to fix it up right would have been worth it. We had a large suite with a bed in one room with a sitting area and another bed in an adjacent room. Everywhere upgrades had been made, however, they were done cheaply. So, all the wood in the room was dark oak, but the doors put in sometime in the 50’s or 70’s to add the attached bathroom were framed in cheap white wood. For some reason, someone felt it necessary to open up the wall (besides the door) between the inner bedroom and the outer suite, so they cut a big hole in the wall and put a white frame around it. Not only did it look ridiculous, but it made it impossible for one person to go to bed in one room earlier than  the person in the other room. Presumably, it was to provide light into the bedroom, but why does a bedroom need any light. The other room with the sitting area had plenty of light. Then there were indications that no thought went into some things. For example, my bed, the outer one, had two nightstands and lights next to it, while Sue’s had none. She lugged the coffee table in from the sitting area to send them a message. Finally, there was a restaurant and parlor on the other side of the hotel that were beautiful and in wonderful shape but closed. Their web site says they’re trying to reopen the dining room and that’s what they told us, but I saw comments about it being closed from a year or more ago. We thought that if someone infused some capital to redo all the updates to look period, refinish and reupholster the furniture, improve the gardens by actually planting some flowers, and put in a good restaurant, they could be a lot more successful. As a final bobble, the next morning I went to make coffee and found that we had only cylinder coffee inserts in our room. The problem was that our coffee pot wasn’t the cylinder type. Just another example of shlockiness. The people working there were very nice, however, and the hotel was clean. It was just shabby.

Port Townsend itself seems to be a vibrant little community. They have a driving tour of old houses, which we took, and we saw some really charming and impressive ones. The downtown seems to be thriving, with lots of antique stores and restaurants and bed and breakfasts. Too bad we weren’t staying in one of them! And what could be bad about a smallish town that has four bookstores in about a two-block area? I would have liked to explore them, but I was physically tired from all the hiking the two days before (and no sleep–my room on San Juan was the kids’ room and it had lousy pillows), and Sue doesn’t like shopping. We had both done too much of it with Ares in Friday Harbor the day before. So, we just had dinner and went back to our room, where we decided that Caddy Shack, despite the cast, was a truly awful movie.

The next day we drove out into the Olympic Peninsula. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t with us on this expedition. First, we explored the eastern half of the peninsula. My sister had planned to drive up onto Hurricane Ridge, which apparently has a wonderful view of the entire area, but the clouds were really low, so we knew there would be no view. In fact, at one point when we were driving along the coast, we just started laughing, because all we could see was fog. We did get to see some beautiful beaches during this drive, even in the rain they were quite spectacular. The peninsula itself reminded me of parts of upper Michigan. Many of the communities were quite poor. A lot of the land that isn’t part of the Olympic National Forest is reservation land, and the Native American populations don’t seem to be doing very well, with an exception of one tribe at the bottom of the peninsula.

My sister’s taste in accommodations was even worse in Forks, because the second motel had no distinction at all. It was advertised as a suites motel, and in that case, you expect a working kitchen. We didn’t need a kitchen, but it was clear that families stayed there for that reason. Yet, the oven had the handle taken off, and there were absolutely no dishes or cooking utensils provided except a coffee pot and four cups. The suite itself was just dismal, all done in brown and burgundy, and pretty spartan, with drab minimal furnishings. Two queen-sized beds were crammed into the bedroom with no room for anything else except a small dresser. It looked to me as if someone back in the 70’s, maybe, had built this place to be one-bedroom apartments or condos hoping to sell them or rent them to tourists. I don’t think it had been updated since then.

I actually could drive down the short main street and pick out the motel I would have stayed in by its outside appearance, and it wasn’t the one we were in. In fact, when I looked up the reviews, the one I would have picked had the highest marks. Yes, we stayed in the Forks of Twilight fame. It seemed a little more prosperous than some of the communities we passed through. No vampires, though.

The next day we went hiking in a rain forest and saw some spectacularly large trees. We also stopped for lunch at the delightful Lake Quinault Lodge on the beautiful Lake Quinault. It was much more my idea of a place to stay on a trip up into the north woods, although probably a lot more expensive than the places we stayed. It rained all that final day of our trip. We started home after lunch at arrived back about 4:30 PM.

Here is Hillary admiring my gardening skills.

Although I had a very good time on the trip, I was happy to see my own bed and also happy to see that my broccoli and a few snap peas were ready to harvest. Unfortunately, a deer had been in my plants. One brussel sprout plant is a goner, and otherwise, the deer ate part of a cabbage leaf and some of the flowers off my eggplant, so that I only have the promise of one eggplant left. My husband and I started work on a fence the next day. I would have tried to put up something sooner, but we disagreed on the type of fence, and I was hoping the deer wouldn’t discover my garden this year. Now we are putting up the type of fence that I thought should go up in the first place. We have the poles in but haven’t started the actual fencing.



Getting back to normal

We are back to our normal life this week after entertaining like mad last week. We had my middle brother (MB) and his wife here for Wednesday, then they moved over to my niece’s house so that my little brother (LB) and his family could stay at our house. Then MB and wife came back for the next night, after LB went home to Seattle. The house was noisy and full of people, but it was fun. We had nine people to dinner on Wednesday night and fifteen people to dinner on Thursday. When you consider that it’s usually just the two of us, that’s a lot of activity.

We are noisy when we get together. MB is quite the raconteur, and LB’s family of five is just plain outgoing (sort of a family trait—most of us are super extroverts, and then there’s me, the introvert). But LB has quite the knack of just coming in and making himself at home. When he and his family arrived, he came out on the deck and helped me grill the steaks (when he was young, he had a job as a chef at a fancy restaurant) and his wife started roasting cauliflower. MB also assisted with the steaks, only he had LB saying to him repeatedly, “Don’t cut it!” (He cuts into the meat to see if it is done. Apparently, you’re supposed to tap it.)

It’s a good thing everyone brought something, because I thought steak, big baked potatoes, and salad were enough. Then when I came back in from eating, hoping for more green beans that my niece brought, literally every bit of food was gone except for some of the steak. After dinner, LB’s oldest daughter, a lovely 16-year-old, started making cookies for dessert. My niece and her husband took their youngest home and left her daughter with us, so that she and her cousin, nine and ten, could spend some time together. The two little girls were no trouble at all.

And in the morning, LB got up and started making breakfast. That was a nice start to the day. Then we went over to pick raspberries at my niece’s house before they had to leave. That night, the rest of us went out to eat and finished the evening in my sister’s hot tub.

All in all, there was mostly just a lot of talking and story-telling, but that’s what family get-togethers are for. It was a shame that the week they were here was one of the hottest on record, one day being 105, but no one seemed to be uncomfortable. We just couldn’t go on any hikes, which is something we usually do.

The lower steps, ending up at the wolf pen. Yes, that thing in the bottom center of the picture is a step.

Then yesterday the guys were back out to work on the very last project that we are paying for, the outside steps from the top level of the house down to the lower drive. I don’t know if I reported a few weeks ago that I almost fell down those steps when the asphalt guys were working on the driveway. They were very dangerous. Some of them slanted, some were unsteady, and one was a step that was twice as high as the others. I forgot to take a picture of them to start with, so here is a picture of some other ones we have that are actually safer than the ones we replaced. These steps go from the lower drive down to the bottom of the orchard. See if they even look like steps to you. I have been weed whacking them, but I haven’t done it recently.

The steps at the bottom are new, and you can see what the old steps looked like at the top.

Since I forgot to take a before picture, I took the following picture while they were in progress. You can see that several steps are already inserted at the bottom of the picture, but the top of the steps give you an idea what they were like. The only ways besides these steps to get down from the upper level are to go back in the house and go down the stairs, or to walk all the way down the driveway to the lower drive and back up again.

Our nice new steps

Finally, here is a picture of the finished steps. They forgot we asked for a rail, so they will have to come back and provide one, but in the meantime, these steps are much safer. We have already been up and down them several times, whereas I used to avoid the other ones.

That pretty much takes care of the projects we are paying for, except for the sauna, and the electrician is coming out next week to install the new part. We still have lots more to get done around here, though. My husband says maybe we can have our contractors come back and do the lower steps later, but we have already used up more of our house sale money than I wanted to. I want to have some left over for emergencies. We have to take down the wallless shed so I can put up my garden boxes, so there will be some gardening related activities to report later. And my niece’s husband has some plans for some more rustic, but still safer, steps below.

But in the meantime, now that the major work on the house is done, I’ll have to figure out some other projects to work on.

At the beach

It’s time to let up on our tales of toil to have a short vacation. But since it involves my family, it is not without complication.

Our little jaunt began with my sister’s birthday, one of the big ones. She decided to throw herself a party by renting a beach house in Gearhart, Oregon, about two hours away. She invited most of the family to join her on one night or the other, the nights being Saturday and Sunday.

Here’s what was supposed to happen. My middle brother (heretofore to be known as MB) and his dear wife were supposed to arrive from Madison, Wisconsin, late Friday night. They were staying at an airport hotel and then driving out to Gearhart to meet us. My husband and I were staying at the beach on Saturday night, and then MB and wife were coming to stay with us on Monday. On Wednesday they planned to go to Seattle to visit our younger brother (YB) and family. Then they would come back on Friday night and fly out Saturday morning.

Well, that was assuming that YB and family fell in with the plan, which is not a good assumption. Within our family, we call YB’s family the Cirque du S—, S— being their last name. We love them dearly, but there are five of them, and they are very loud and unpredictable. MB had not been able to pin them down to find out if his plan was going to work.

The first part of the plans went fine, except that my husband suddenly went off the deep end and started barricading the house. He hadn’t even taken his shower and was not totally packed when he started cutting poles to block all our doors and windows with. Keep in mind we live in a totally crime-free area. Our county crime map shows only a few “disturbance at house” entries in the entire north half of the county, where we live. He was sawing away when my sister arrived. I could see he had no intention of leaving on time, so we eventually decided that I should go with her. I put our suitcase in our car, though, because otherwise there would be no guarantee that he wouldn’t decide not to come at all.

Our timing was great. We found the house with some difficulty, but it was being cleaned, so we went to a little cafe a few blocks away. We had no sooner arrived there than my sister received a phone call from MB. He and his wife were at the house. They came to join us and within ten minutes my niece and her family showed up. We all had desserts and then we went to the house, quickly unpacked, and went down to the beach.

Part of the family watching my great niece fly a kite

The water was surprisingly warm, but I couldn’t go in past my ankles because my suit was with my husband and I had no change of clothes. However, we spent a couple of hours on the beach, and MB and my great niece went in the water. (Her parents are originally from California, so the water was too cold for them.) My husband arrived around six, which was a good time to go up to the house for dinner.

The difficulties began in the evening. YB called and had a great plan. He was taking his 16-year-old daughter to an Ed Sheeran concert in Tacoma and then they wanted to drive down to the beach house. The occupancy of the beach house was 10, and there were already 9 of us there. My sister kept trying to tell him to stop somewhere else for the night and come the next day, because my husband and I and my niece and her family were leaving. My niece was also concerned that they would come into the house in the middle of the night and wake everyone up. (They would have.) They finally agreed.

We had a nice morning on the beach, although the water was much colder, so I only ended up going in up to my knees. After lunch, my husband was itching to leave, although I would have liked to stay a few more hours. We have dubbed him the official party pooper.

Then we found out via phone that MB’s plans had completely changed because of YB’s plans. Instead of coming to our house on Monday, they got reservations at a hotel in Seaside where YB and his family were staying. They are coming today, and tomorrow we will be blessed by the arrival of YB and his family. We love them, but they are tiring, and since they are bringing their dog, which my niece is deathly allergic to, I get to have them as guests in my house instead of MB and his wife. It is a difficulty with us, too, as we have purposefully kept the lower floor animal-free because of my niece’s and MB’s wife’s allergies. My niece breaks out, but my MB’s wife can’t breathe. We will have to insure that the kids don’t let the dog downstairs. I don’t know why people travel with their dogs when they know their relatives are allergic to them.

I am a little disappointed, as I we have prepared for weeks for MB and his wife, and I was looking forward to having them. YB and his family have already stayed here. Also, my niece and I have been planning the menus for weeks to feed 9, and now we might as well throw them out the window, since we will have 14. Oh well, that is life among the Cirque. We will still have a good time.

On the home front, we finally finished splitting and stacking firewood. We did the last bit yesterday morning.