Wednesday, October 12, 2005

It's been a while! Apparently, I've been busy. This week has flown by, and I have so much to catch up on that it's a bit overwhelming.

The first fun thing that happened was that Emma and I went on the annual "Apple Raid" last weekend. This is a Lab tradition, where everyone at the Lab is invited to go over to Shaw Island to a Lab property that has a very old and neglected apple orchard. We pick apples and basically fill a 15 passenger van, then spend several hours the next day pressing them into cider. The trees haven't been pruned or cared for in ages, but they have great apples.

This is Emma's first year going on the Apple Raid, and she had a blast. We take a sailboat over (though there was no wind and we just motored), and she thought that was pretty cool, although she was a little too interested in looking over the railing for my peace of mind. Luckily her lifejacket had a strap on the back that made a convenient handle!

She enjoyed running around the orchard picking up apples, and was a great help (not) with loading the apples into boxes. It was very fun to pick an apple off the tree and eat it right away!

So that was fun, and then on Monday, the three of us up and decided to take a mini-vacation! We were going to go on Saturday and Sunday, but Shaun had to work, and there was the Apple Raid, so we went Monday and Tuesday instead.

We took the ferry to the mainland, and drove out Rt. 20 over Washington Pass to Winthrop. It was raining buckets on Monday, so we didn't get the full effect of the sweeping views, but it was still gorgeous in the rainy Pacific Northwest style.

Here's a view over Diablo Lake:

When we got to Winthrop, we found a hotel and had a late lunch/early dinner in town. Winthrop is an old mining town, and is tiny and touristy and cute. I expect that it's swarming with people and very irritating in the summer, but it was nice this time of year. There is only one road, and everything is old-timey, with false fronts on the buildings and wooden sidewalks, and it looks very much like a movie set of the old west. Lots of little shops.

After walking around a bit, we went back to the hotel. Shaun settled in for a nap, and Emma and I went for a walk along the Methow River. It was lovely. The rain had stopped, but it was still overcast and cool and moist. I saw two (!) new species for my bird Life List, the black-billed magpie and the American dipper, bringing my total to 380 species seen. The magpie is a pretty common bird in the western US, but we don't have them west of the Cascades, so it was new to me. It's a little surprising to see this big tropical-looking bird in this area! We do have dippers in the San Juan Islands (apparently there's a stable population on Orcas Island), but I've never seen one, despite looking several times. The magpie I was expecting to see on this trip, but the dipper was a surprise. I heard it before I saw it, and was very excited. It has a beautiful song, and was doing all its neat dipper behaviors- bobbing up and down, hopping around on the rocks and tree roots, and foraging underwater for insect larvae. We also saw lots of steelhead salmon in the river.

On Tuesday, we packed up and started driving back west. The clouds were completely gone, and the views were stunning! I've never seen mountains like this before. East coast mountains are geologically older, and more worn down. These mountains are pointy and steep and amazing.

We were total tourists, driving slow and pulling over at the overlooks to oooh and aaah. The temperature at Washington Pass and Rainy Pass was 34 F, and the road and some of the trees were frosty. Unbelievable views.

We took a little hike on the Rainy Lake trail, back through the woods to the lake, which lies in a cirque and is fed by the Lyall glacier. Emma saw her first chipmunks and squirrels, and kept calling them monkeys.

The walk through the woods was lovely. The trail is paved to prevent erosion and allow wheelchair access, so I wouldn't really call it a hike, but it was a nice mile-long walk.

The rest of the drive back to Anacortes and the ferry was similarly lovely. We did one more little hike, to the Gorge Dam overlook, but Emma was in the middle of her nap for that one. Shaun carried her and she didn't even wake up, except once, to ask for her blankie. When we said it was back in the car, she said "OK," wrapped her arms around Shaun's neck, and went back to sleep. She really is a remarkably good little girl.

Lots of fall color, though nothing really compares to New England, and wonderful crisp, cool air. When we stopped at the Diablo Lake Overlook again, I thought I saw a Clark's nutcracker, but didn't get a good look at it, so unfortunately can't count it on my Life List. Ah well, I'll just have to go back!

Then we returned to civilization, a quick stop at Costco, and boarded the ferry. Back to reality.


Kris said...

Thanks for the Washington pictures. I've been losing my "nerve" this week regarding the move. These help me keep moving forward. Thanks so much!

Strange Washington question: Regarding rain.... is it true that it when its raining in Washington it will often clear up in the afternoon? (Please say yes!!!!). the winter on Puget Sound just non-stop gray and low hanging clouds (and rain)?

yoko said...

Love the expression on Emma's face!

And I love this time of year. Let us know how the cider pressing turns out!

Liz said...

Sounds like a fun-filled few days. Your pictures were's hard to imagine what that scenery was like in 'real life'.