Feature Foto Friday: Colorful Skagit Valley Tulips

Featured “Fotographer”: Erin Deardorff

Website: Saving Memories by Making Memories

Background: I met Erin about five years ago in Denver.  We share the love for traveling and photography.  Erin and her husband, Brian, are self-proclaimed traveling science geeks that are Saving Memories by Making Memories (their blog’s name)! Erin started their blog to capture their charity bike ride a few years ago for Alzheimer’s and has kept it going.  Hikers, tandem bikers, skiers, and science lovers, Erin and Brian travel both near and far documenting their experiences in words and photography.  I’m fortunate to have shared a variety of trips with them.

Image Title: Colorful Skagit Valley Tulips

Location: Skagit Valley, Washington

Fun Fact(s):  After years of talking about it, Erin and Brian finally attended the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival and captured this shot.  The festival takes place during the month of April.  Blooming tulips signal the arrival of spring.  I’m ready to see those almost perfectly symmetrical flower buds!

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Day 278 – Columbia River Gorge

Day 278 – Columbia River Gorge

Today I headed inland along the Columbia River on the
Washington-Oregon border.  I spent my
time on the Washington State side and stopped to enjoy the panorama of Oregon’s
wooded hills and of the powerful river that lay at the foot vertical cliffs
from Cape Horn Viewpoint.

As I made my way east through this breathtaking area, I
reached Beacon Rock State Park where Petey and I followed a lovely trail
through the lush forest to Hardy Falls, Pool of Winds and Rodney Falls.  As we wandered along the trail, we came
across a bridge that crossed what was almost a dry creek bed.  A thin trickle of water rolled down the steep
hillside.  I thought to myself, if this
is the falls, I’m going to be one disappointed hiker.  Much to my relief, slightly further ahead, I
came across two signs pointing to the attractions.

Hardy Falls was nothing to write home about as the view was
relatively blocked by vegetation, but the Pool of Winds and Rodney Falls was
inspiring.  A path led us past a boulder
and up to a rock outcropping.  The falls,
tucked in the back of a cylinder of rock, cascaded down a mossy log into a pool
of water before it zigzagged down the rocky shelf to the creek.  Spray from the falls assisted by a tunnel of
wind cooled the air and dampened the rocks where we stood.

Upon return from our two mile hike, we stopped to admire Beacon
Rock situated across the road on the bank of the river.  This enormous monolith, almost 850 feet tall
and second only to Gibralter in size, is the core of a vanished volcano.  Lewis and Clark referenced the rock several times
in their recordings of their expedition.

From the park, we traveled about five miles or so to the
Bonneville Dam where, along with a cormorant, I got to watch salmon swim up river through the fish
ladders to spawn.  Humans count each type
of fish that passes through the ladders daily and post the counts.  The previous day nearly 19,000 fish passed
through the ladders and year to date over 2 million.  Salmon and Shad make up most of the count,
followed by Steelhead and Lamprey.lamprey
Lampreys look like eels that have a sucker mouth which they use to stick
to edges.

After a short time at the fish viewing, we stopped in
Stevenson for a stroll along the waterfront.
The windy day attracted several kiteboarders and windsurfers to the
white capped river.  In addition to the
water enthusiasts, a cruise line that offers an eight day journey on the river
was in port.  When I spotted the paddle wheeler,
I had hoped for a two-hour afternoon jaunt mentioned in my trusty book of
travels.  The operators told me those
types of trips were offered in Cascade Locks on the Oregon side.  I will be there in a few days.

If the drive along the river wasn’t scenic enough, I
followed the Cook-Underwood Road Loop up into the hillside for a spectacular
view of the Hood River Bridge and the majestic Mt. Hood.  Thereafter, I followed Highway 141 north to
Trout Lake where I found a county campground for the night.  ETB


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Day 275 – Travel Day

I had planned the morning to visit Hoquiam’s Castle and Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge before heading to Portland to visit some friends from my horseback riding days.  Both attempts turned out to be a bust.  Hoquiam’s Castle was built in 1897 by a timber tycoon named Robert Lytle.  It is a twenty room mansion, turned Bed & Breakfast.  I suppose I could have wandered into the lobby and looked around, but oddly I felt like taking a full-blown house tour to change things up on this dreary day.

Oh well, I snapped a photo from the outside and then headed toward the refuge which is known for its shore birds.  Sometimes 300,000 birds land here at one time and come from as far away as Argentina to feed on the shrimplike critters in the mudflats.  The gate was closed to the area and an airport was adjacent to the refuge.  It didn’t seem like an ideal place to spot birds unless I was looking for the manmade, metal type.

With that I turned south toward Portland and am currently taking advantage of a very nice highway rest area to blog before I meet my friends.  Rest Areas are interesting places.  I could probably write an entire page on people who stop at rest areas:  truckers, dog walkers, weary travelers, and those that simply HAVE to go to the bathroom…ETB


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Day 269 – Olympic Loop

Day 269 – Olympic Loop

Well, my first day on the Olympic Loop Tour was a memorable
one, though not in a very good way.
VANilla carted us several miles down a gravel road to the Staircase
Rapids Nature Trail, a four mile path that follows a cascading Skokomish
River.  It turns out, the hike was in the
Olympic National Park, where dogs are not allowed on the trails, and this
morning I really wanted to include him on a walk.  Therefore, we turned around and stopped at
Lake Cushman State Park for a trek to the summit of Mount Rose.

The prettiest part of the hike was the first two minutes,
where a waterfall trickled over rocks and a fallen tree.  I took two pictures and realized my SD card
was full, and thus erased the pictures because I thought I had downloaded them
all (to find out later that I didn’t…UGH!!)
The rest of the walk was up a very steep incline which resulted in the
trail being rated as difficult.  We
walked for almost an hour up and didn’t even make it the 1.8 miles to the loop
that circles the top.  Sweaty with flies
buzzing around my head, I opted to turn back, as I wasn’t enthralled with views
of vegetation and trees.  I was hoping to
keep the lovely creek in sight.  In order
to follow the trail downhill without running, I picked up a walking stick to
help slow my momentum.

Just before I reached the bottom, I ditched the stick.  With a can of Off in one hand and Petey’s
leash in the other, I only had to take two more steps before crossing the dirt
road to VANilla when I caught my foot on a log and fell.  The log’s sharp, pointy branches ripped my
shorts, cut my back, and one four inch piece the size of a pinky finger broke
off into my leg!  Being beneath my
shorts, I didn’t realize it at time.  I
just had a severe burning sensation and shredded clothing.  Upon changing my shorts, I noticed the end of
the wood chard poking out of the fat on my leg.
Lucky for me, I store my fat on my thigh!  It kept my attacker from damaging my muscle
or any other vital part of my body.  Of
course, at this point I had a feel-sorry-for-myself, panic session.  Frantic, I asked a guy where the closest
hospital was located.  He said, “Fifteen
miles south to Hoodsport”.  That was a family
practice facility, so I asked a lady in a store and she said, “Twenty miles to
Shelton”.  Naturally, she provided me
directions, but I don’t recall them.  I
just started heading south, trying to ignore the burn and hoping splinters
weren’t breaking off into my leg.

Then it donned on me that my GPS has a hospital icon.  I pushed it and Gina eventually got me
there.  I suppose the beauty of a small
town hospital is that I walked into triage, gave them my ID, and they had me in
an operating room in five minutes or less.  I think the entire procedure of shooting Novocane
into my wound, slicing my leg six inches, removing the branch particle,
flushing it, and stitching with twenty stitches (both internal and external),
and checking out took less time than driving there.  Or at least it would have if they could have
found all of the parts to the water gun that they had to assemble to flush the

My nurse, Jake, who is in the Navy and has been deployed as
a medic to Afghanistan and Iraq twice each, was super cute!  I kind of wish I didn’t stink so bad I could
smell myself.  No, he was married with
five kids and liked football, so at least I got to watch pieces of a few
football games while Dr. Hautala stitched me up.  Anyway, Jake graciously took photos of my
injury, and I thanked him for his service to our Nation which seemed
particularly fitting given it was September 11th.

Today also marks the six month anniversary of my dad’s
death.  I think the date of this injury
might be unforgettable.  If the doctor
could have only removed some of the fat with my enormous splinter!  Sadly, I’m more upset over deleting my
pictures than the beautiful scar that is going to grace the top side of my
right thigh!

Petey behaved relatively well while being left in VANilla
during my emergency room visit.  We stopped
at the Wal-Mart in town for an antibiotic and painkiller before calling it a
day at Dosewallips State Park.  I’m
currently waiting for my Vicodin to kick in.
We’ll see what tomorrow has in store for me.  I might take a few days of rest…ETB!


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Day 268 – Magnificent Mount Rainier (Part 2)

Day 268 – Magnificent Mount Rainier

I’m sitting here writing my post on Sunday, September 11,
2011.  I generally right them the day of
or the day after despite it sometimes takes even longer to get them posted to
the Internet.  My regular readers have
probably noticed that I always write the post as if I am writing it the “day of”.  Today, I have to say that I just noticed I
mistakenly deleted all of yesterday’s photos this morning off my SD card.  The card was full and for some reason as I
started my hike this morning, I thought I downloaded yesterday’s photos.  This event capped off a remarkably crappy September
11, 2011 which I will post next.  Anyway,
this post will have to be without photos…very disappointed to have lost my only
fox photo and my picture of Chris and his dog Bear.  Oh well, it could be much worse.

So today, Saturday the tenth, I spent another day in Mount
Rainier National Park.  Only to get to the popular area of the park, known as
Paradise, I had to drive from the east side of the park around its southern
border and enter from the west side due to the central road being closed.  On my way to Paradise, which was nice but not what I
would have called it relative to some other places I’ve been, I
stopped for a hike to Narada Falls.  The
falls were very close to the parking area, so I continued along the trail to two
more falls that were somewhat hidden by the surrounding trees.  Regardless, I was walking along a dirt trail
by the water where I only ran into a handful of folks on the weekend, so it was
my type of three to four mile trek.

From this hike, we followed the winding road past several
roadside waterfalls until we reached Paradise, complete with a visitor center
and Inn situated beneath Mount Rainier.
Many trailheads started at this location, thus I can see why it is such
a popular destination.  Several are short
and paved while others lead to hiking on the snow and ice.  Guided trips to the summit may also be
booked.  Had I spent another day in the
park, I probably would have explored a bit more in this area.

From Paradise, I continued east to Reflection Lake.  My first stop at Reflection Lake was sheer
disappointment.  The surface of the lake
rippled in the breeze and no reflection of Mount Rainier could be seen.  I did, however, meet Chris, a Harley rider
from Bend, with his dog Bear who sat perched on the back seat of the motor cycle.  It was so awesome!  Bear was happy as a clam just balanced there
as he cruised into the parking area with a crew of friends.  He told me to give him a call when I got to
the Crater Lake area again, so hopefully he will find my blog and we can
connect.  Besides, I need another

A little further down the road was Box Canyon.  The narrow moss-covered, rock canyon was carved
by the grey river that flowed some 180 feet below the bridge.  The scenery changed so much in such a small
area: canyons, glaciers, meadows, pine forests.
Quite amazing!

Due to the road being closed, of course, I returned the way
I came, so as I passed by Reflection Lake again, the surface was close to
glassy.  I took advantage of the
breezeless moment and snapped a couple of fantastic shots of Mount Rainier
glimmering on its surface.  I guess I will
have to return to get them again!

Between Paradise and Reflection Lake is where I spotted the
speckled grey fox with a white tipped tail.
Technically, I believe it is known as a red fox, but its colors
vary.  He essentially smiled for the
camera!  I’ll find another one someday.

I spent until the late afternoon in the park before heading
west.  I passed through Ashford which was
holding the Mount Rainier Festival that mostly catered to kids and then
through Elbe, home to an old historic, white church.  The Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad, a
steam-powered train, launches its 14-mile roundtrip through surrounding forests
to Mineral Lake.  It was a cool looking
train, but it was a hot day with no shade for my precious mutt, so I continued
on to Tacoma for the night.  ETB


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Day 267 – Magnificent Mount Rainier

Day 267 – Magnificent Mount Rainier

I think we drove close to seventy miles through farmland and
along the Naches River which runs through the trail laced Mount Baker
Snoqualmie National Forest before we climbed over Chinook Pass and rounded the
bend for a magnificent view of Mount Rainer.
The ice-capped Mount Rainier, a dormant volcano, stands at 14,411 feet
and towers over everything around it; lakes, evergreens, meadows of
wildflowers, and additional peaks.

After entering the park, we turned north and climbed the
winding road up to Sunrise, the highest point in the park accessible by
car.  The road provided countless views
of Mt. Rainier, the Cascades, and the four mile long Emmons Glacier, the
largest glacier in the lower 48 states.

From Sunrise, we backtracked down the mountain and continued
south toward Silver Falls Loop, a three mile trail I wanted to hike today.  The falls, which gushed through a slot in
ancient volcanic rock into an aqua blue pool below, were only about a third of
a mile from the roadside pullout.  As
such I didn’t complete the three mile loop that appeared to turn into the
forest, but instead followed another trail that paralleled the Ohanapecosh
River, as I prefer hiking by the water.
The out and back trek was only about two miles, but plenty in the
shaded, yet humid forest.

I steered VANilla to one of the park’s campgrounds for the
evening and noticed the main road to many of the popular attractions I planned
on visiting tomorrow was closed for ten miles.
It looks like I will have to take a sixty mile detour…BOO.  ETB


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deception falls

Day 262 – North Cascades Loop

Day 262 of a Year Long Road Trip Along America’s Scenic Byways

Petey and I went on the neatest hike this morning.  It was so unsual, interesting and scenic.  To get to the trailhead near Stevens Pass, VANilla took us through valleys of fruit orchards, followed alongside the Wenatchee River, and climbed a 4,000 foot pass before turning onto a gravel road which took us four miles to a parking area at the old town site of Wellington.

The trail runs along the old Great Northern Railway passage still marked with mile post numbers representing the distance from St. Paul, Minnesota.  We walked about 1.5 miles to mile marker 1712 where we found a cache to complete finding a cache in each of the lower 48 states.  Along the way we walked through a concrete snowshed that stretched nearly 2,000 feet and was somewhat eerie.