Saturday, September 21, 2013

Tumalo Falls, Up Close and Personal

I've been to Tumalo Falls a few times, and have a few photos of it, from a few angles.  But I've recently learned that there is apparently a geocache that involves going BEHIND the falls, which I hadn't even known was possible.  Today, Nathan and I ventured out to find it.

We hiked up the trail toward the falls overlook, but kept seeing that the trails that veered off in the right direction had been blocked off.  So I wondered if we were supposed to head back to the bridge and try from there.  Got there, and no passable trails again.  Nathan thought he'd been there before with one of his relatives on his dad's side, and he thought we needed to go further up the trail than we had before.  I was dubious, but what else were we going to do?  And worst case, we'd still see the falls from the top, and have a nice hike regardless.

Turns out Nathan was right.  There was another trail that did have some logs across it, but not in an obvious "do not enter" sort of way, so we set off on it when no one was looking, and sure enough, it took us right to the edge of the cliff, then along it and down toward the base of the waterfall.  I was nervous about both Nathan and myself hiking on pebbly trail so close to a cliff, but we survived.  It probably wasn't nearly as sketchy as my nerves made it seem.

All these photos are from my phone.  They don't seem very "pretty" to me on the computer--they definitely don't do the actual scenery justice.

The geocache is a two-parter.  A pill bottle near the base of the waterfall was supposed to hold the coordinates to the actual cache.  The description of the geocache made it clear that the coordinates for the waypoint (the first find, which points to the second) were impossible to pin down because the cliffs made it impossible to lock into enough satellites to get an accurate reading.  But it had pictures of the area and indicated where the cache would be.  Unfortunately, I don't get cell service up there, so we had viewed the photos online at home, then had to rely on our memories out at the site.  We searched everywhere that could have possibly been where the photo was showing and plenty of places that weren't.  We searched near the waterfall, and right UNDER it.


I even tried going to the other side of the waterfall, but it didn't look anything like the pictures, and the trail petered out and it would have been really unsafe to proceed any further.  We ultimately had to give up.  :-(  I've messaged the cache owner to see if they'll give me any more hints, so maybe we'll try tomorrow, or I'll try next weekend.  Once it starts snowing, we won't be able to go on that trail for sure, and eventually won't be able to drive to the trailhead until next spring/summer.

Oh well.  That's geocaching.  It wouldn't be so much fun to make a find if you found all of them easily, right?  :-)  

We both got SOAKED, so it was nice to get home, change into warm clothes, and warm up. It made it really feel like fall. 

Here are some more photos:


Cool fungus on a snag 

Sunday, August 25, 2013


So, this weekend my dad brought Nathan back to me (Nathan had the privilege of spending the past week with my dad and my brother) and stayed overnight.

Saturday, we went McMenamin's and watched Now You See Me, which was really good, and had a snack of tots (cajun for me and my dad, plain for Nathan) while we watched.  On the way home, we witnessed that GORGEOUS sunset that all my local friends are posting all over Facebook.  By the time I got home and got my camera out (plus I'd been driving, even if I'd had my camera with me), we'd "missed" most of it (we saw it from the car), but here's a photo of the tail end of it:

We had a late dinner of steak (for the men-folk), green beans (with pine nuts and blue cheese for those of us that wanted it), and rice.  We played a card game or two, then went to bed.

This morning, I made eggs and potatoes for breakfast, then we headed out to the High Desert Museum.  They used to have only one sad, lonely otter who only ever sat in his den and slept, but now that they've gotten him a friend (also a boy, so no baby otters on the way, I guess), they're BOTH really active and playful, which is so nice to see.

This is one of the scarfing down his lunch
We managed to see the whole museum pretty quickly (my dad needed to head back home), but it was still well worth the price of admission, since my office has a pass so we got in free.  :-)

A hen at the homestead area

When we got back home, we said goodbye to my dad around noon, then I went out for a little geocaching.  It started raining right about when I left the house, but that was okay.  I found one with no problem, then the second one had me stumped for a little bit.  I took some photos, which both helps me think and helps disguise what might otherwise make it look like I'm up to no good.

Then I remembered that the description talked a lot about fishing, and after wandering around the area a bit, I spotted a line going from beneath the dock into the water.  Sure enough...

Went to Pioneer Park to look for another one, but didn't find it.  I think I know what I did wrong, but they were setting up for a wedding (hope it wasn't scheduled for much later, as there was quite the thunder/lightning/hail storm when I got home!), so I headed home, but took this one photo while I was looking:

All in all, a very nice weekend.  Nathan goes back to his dad's tomorrow, so it's also nice to get a little time with him since dropping him off in WA a week ago.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Vacation, Days 7 and 8 - Qualicum Beach to Bend, via Renton

We had reservations on the noon ferry from Sidney, BC to Anacortes, WA.  However, it's a long drive to Sidney, especially because you have to go around a bay instead of being able to go directly there.  So we woke up at 6:30.  Well, I woke up then, and tried to get Nathan to wake up, but waking him sometimes seems like an exercise in futility.  (It's slightly easier in the morning, at least, when it's light out and his body clock is a little more ready to get up.  I've had to wake him late at night or in the middle of the night before (to take medicine, etc.), and it's nigh on impossible.  He's a SOUND sleeper.)

Anyway, we got up, got packed in less time than I thought it would take, and hit the road.  We didn't stop for breakfast along the way, but rather high-tailed it to the ferry and hoped for the opportunity to grab breakfast while our car sat in line.

Well, it turns out the Sidney ferry port is more remote than I anticipated, plus their system is WAY less efficient than that in Port Angeles.  In Port Angeles, we showed up, lined up, went through a booth and showed our reservation info, paid the rest of our fee, then parked as instructed in line for the ferry.  We were then free to roam around until 10 minutes before boarding time, and there were a few coffee shops and tourist shops and such nearby.  In Sidney, we lined up, showed our papers to a guy, and he gave us a slip of paper that told us what lane to park in.  Ultimately.  But in the meantime, there were two lanes (compared to Port Angeles' one, but it was still less efficient) of traffic through the booth where we actually paid.  I tried to hand over our passports and such, but she didn't want them, just the reservation info.  Paid the remainder, THEN still had to wait in line for another booth, this one for customs and immigration.  Finally made it through THAT, and then we were ushered into our final lanes for lining up and parking.  Luckily, there was a little gift shop on site, because having gone through Canadian customs/immigration, they weren't going to let us back out into the real world even if there HAD been any shops nearby.  (We still had to go through US customs/immigration in Anacortes--on the other trip, the people on the WA side looked at our paperwork briefly while also processing payment, then we had customs/immigration on the Canadian side, but it was much more efficient at every step, in addition to having fewer steps overall.)

The little gift shop had freshly baked pastries, including scones, and hot chocolate, which tided us over fine.

Finally, we boarded the ferry and found ourselves a window seat with a table, and played cards for the entire journey.  Unlike the prior journey, which just went straight across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, this journey wound through the San Juan Islands, so it was quite scenic.

Finally, we were within site of Anacortes.  Nathan and I stood at the front of the car deck to watch the approach as long as they let us.

After clearing customs, it was 3:00, and we'd only had our small breakfast snack at the ferry dock.  So we moseyed through Anacortes looking for places to eat.  We stopped at a Greek place, but they close between lunch and dinner, so we continued on.  Finally, we found an Indian place that was open.  The food was delicious, though Nathan's salmon was originally undercooked (but they fixed it quickly).  My eyes were bigger than my stomach, so I ordered samosas, papadum, and entrees for each of us, THEN found out that Nathan doesn't like either samosas or papadum.  Sheesh.

From there, we headed to my dad's house in Renton.  He's done some remodeling on his house, so we got a tour, then settled in and chatted a while.  My brother wasn't supposed to get off work until after 9 p.m., but he got off early and came over, so that was nice.  Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to see him much, if at all, on this trip, as he also had to go to work first thing in the morning.  We had a late dinner at Red Robin, chatted some more, then headed to bed.

In the morning, I finished up the laundry I'd been doing (so I wouldn't have to do it at home before heading to work the next day, and Nathan's laundry, too, as he was staying at my dad's for the coming week as well), we lazed around and chatted and had breakfast, then I hit the road.  I had some geocaching trackables that I'd picked up in Bend but hadn't yet gotten rid of on the trip.  I wanted to leave them somewhere somewhat far from home, so I looked up some caches that had trackables I could take home (also if they HAVE trackables, they're more likely to be able to fit trackables--LOTS of caches out there are tiny!).  The first one was not far from my dad's house, and claimed to be a "puzzle" cache.  I'd solved the puzzle at his house, which gave me the coordinates, so I thought it would be pretty straightforward.  However, when I got to the coordinates, near this pond:

The container I found had a key and instructions to go to different coordinates.  The first container had been along a paved trail.  However, after crossing a road, the trail split into a paved version and a non-paved version that nearly paralleled each other.  I chose the paved version because that was consistent, but the compass was pointing me away from the trail, toward the un-paved trail.  So I backtracked to that trail.  (In western WA, it's MUCH more difficult to go off-trail or take shortcuts, due to all the underbrush and the threat of some of that underbrush being stinging nettles or devil's club.  It's much easier to bushwhack in central OR.)

When on that trail, I was closer, but the arrow still pointed off trail.  However, there was a "game" trail (or "geotrail" as they call it in the geocaching world) heading in the right direction, and some of the previous logs mentioned things that matched this trail.  The "hint" on the key tag was that it was at the base of a maple tree.  There were a TON of maple trees in this area--not helpful.  I poked around quite a while, getting sweatier and sweatier in the humidity, but eventually had to give up.  Not only did I have to give up, I also had to backtrack to put the key back into the first container.

I drove around to a few more caches, and found those, at least, and swapped some trackables.  The only one I had left from Oregon was one that wanted to be placed in a cache starting with J, K, Q, X, or Z.  With restrictions like that (plus it needed to be a large enough size, plus I needed to actually be able to find it), I had to search a little harder for a cache that I'd be able to use.  I hadn't seen one in the Kent/Renton area, so was hoping to find one along my journey.

I finally set off in the general direction of home, driving through the towns where I'd gone to high school and where I'd grown up.  Both have changed a TON, but especially so the 15-minute drive between them.  I stopped by the house I grew up in, and which my dad built.  There used to be some small aspens growing weed-like around the small pond.  Now the aspens are multiple stories tall, and shade the pond so much it seems dark.  The other properties have changed a lot, too.

I went over White Pass, and while I don't remember seeing "The Mountain" (Mt. Rainier) before then, so it must have been overcast, I finally got a glimpse of it at a viewpoint turnout.

Later, from the "dry side," I got an even better, nearly complete view, but it's of the "wrong" side of the mountain.  :-)

I stopped in Yakima for dinner, and for more geocaching.  While eating, I located a couple caches with names that fit the requirements for the last trackable I had.  The first was called Juggernaut, and was located in a cemetery.  Seems like an ordinary cemetery, right?

However, not many cemeteries, even those honoring veterans, sport this kind of ornamentation:

The cache is supposed to be somewhere within reach from outside the chain fence, but I couldn't find it.  :-(

I went to a different cache that also met the criteria, and DID find that one, so I was finally able to drop the trackable I'd taken with me on the whole trip.

Finally, I hit the road for the home stretch, with only potty stops planned for the rest of the trip (did stop once, in Biggs).  Here's a photo of the nearly-full moon I took without looking through the viewfinder, while driving, outside of Goldendale.

I got home at about 11:45 p.m., having driven 1831.5 miles (some of those were driven in kilometer form, though), found 24 geocaches, NOT found four geocaches, visited one state and one province in addition to our own (for Nathan, Canada was a whole new country), and had a wonderful time.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Vacation, Day 6 - Tofino and Ucluelet

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for all three of you reading this), I didn't take many pictures on this day, because it was raining the entire day.

We got up early, because we had a lot of kilometers to drive and a lot of sights to see that day.  We hit the road without breakfast, and started out for the first of a few geocaches I wanted to make a point of seeing.  It was a little out of the way, but worth it.

Hm.  That photo doesn't really do it justice.  How about this one:

They claim this is Canada's largest ammo can cache.  The ammo can is a very realistic, very large replica made by the local high school's shop class.  The clasp actually works exactly as a real ammo can, but they found it made the lid too heavy, and people were likely to bonk their heads on it, so they modified it to latch in a different way, but the clasp can still be opened and close, it just isn't connected to the lid anymore.

The loot

The "log book"

The actual log book inside the "log book," and the oversized pencil to log with.  Yes, I used the pencil.

From there, we headed toward Port Alberni, but first we stopped for another cache.  The web research I did told me that the Cathedral Grove was a don't miss stop, but it was drizzling, and both Nathan and I had seen enough lush forests on this trip, though it WAS beautiful.  So we walked on the trail for a minute...

Then homed in on the nearby geocache, which was called "Bearly Visible."

I actually placed the little guy more visibly to take this photo--he was hiding way back inside his cave.

In Port Alberni, we finally ate at Tim Horton's, the Canadian classic.  We each ordered a breakfast sandwich, hashbrowns (Nathan didn't like them, but I did), a donut, and some hot chocolate.  The hot chocolate was SO hot neither of us even started drinking it until we got back to the car and it had a chance to cool down.

This river was much prettier than the photo portrays, and tumbled through a cool little canyon.

We made ONE more stop for geocaching--a very challenging one that involved first finding a box of tools, then looking for the "microscopic" cache itself.  We were unsuccessful, but then when I finally logged the cache a few days later, it turns out that the cache had been missing, so Nathan and I will never know if we would've found the cache or not.  But regardless, we didn't, so we proceeded along the highway.

Finally, we reached Tofino, and not a moment too soon.  We needed to have a nice hearty lunch before heading out to go sea kayaking.

Unfortunately, the place we chose only had ONE menu item that was vegetarian, and it wasn't very hearty.  I love a good salad, but it doesn't exactly stick to your ribs for kayaking in the rain.  But it was all they had, and we didn't really have time to bail and find a different restaurant (and this one was right next to the kayaking place).  However, the salad was HUGE, and delicious.  It had goat cheese, beets, radish, various greens, fennel, and all sorts of fruit, both fresh and dried.

(Nathan enjoyed combining his two favorite foods, though--duck and cheeseburgers.  They had a burger made with ground duck.)

The waiter reminded both me and Nathan SO much of his dad.  His looks a bit, but moreso his personality and waiter...persona, for lack of a better word.  We chuckled at every interaction he had with us and other customers.

The sea kayaking was AWESOME.  We saw a harbor seal's head bobbing in the swells when we first started, and it was low tide so we also saw some sea stars (aka starfish).  Which was nice, since I'd intended to go tidepooling at some point, but we hadn't, and this was our last full day in BC.

I was afraid I'd get really tired really fast.  But Nathan actually got tired faster than I did (it's only fair to mention, though, that he had done the ropes course the day before), so we moseyed back rather than continuing further and rushing back.  It was peaceful at times, just gliding through the water with the waves lapping at our boats and at the shore, and it was exhilarating at times, when we were dodging much larger boats in the main travelling lanes and dealing with the wakes the left us in.

We took both my main camera (in a dry bag) and Nathan's waterproof little compact camera, but were too busy paddling most of the time, and I had all the wrong exposures when I did bust out my camera when we were sitting still for a minute.  So unfortunately, no decent photos of the kayaking.  :-(

After that, we tried in vain to find another geocache.  We couldn't even find where to park, or the trailhead, or anything.  See, I tried (successfully) not to use my cell phone at all on the trip, and a hand-held geocaching GPS doesn't help much for navigating roads (it points you in the right compass direction, but has very few roads, at least for Canada and with the maps loaded on mine), so we were going by instincts, road signs, and a paper map that did not zoom in very far on Tofino.  So after spending probably too much time looking for a route to the coordinates, we gave up.

We headed to Ucluelet (pronounced You-Clue-Let, but locals call it You-Kee), and headed straight to a trail that contained a geocache, before we lost the light.  Again, it was raining on us (more than a drizzle by this point), so we didn't walk any further than necessary, but I wish we'd had more time, more light, and you know what?  I LIKE hiking in the rain, so I'm not going to wish for less of it.  But Nathan would have wished for less rain.  :-)

Regardless, the trail was beautiful, and it would have been nice to enjoy more of it, and make it to the lighthouse it leads to.  I didn't take many photos because of the rain, but here are the ones I did take.

We successfully found that geocache, but did not successfully find dinner.  The restaurants were either really ritzy (and likely expensive, so we didn't even check them out), really casual (i.e. a hot dog stand), or if they were a happy medium, were PACKED.  So Nathan and I agreed to hit the road and head to Port Alberni instead.  By the time we got there (through POURING rain), it was pretty late for a small town, and many restaurants were closed.  Finally, we found a hotel with a restaurant in it, and though the sign said it closed at nine and it was a few minutes past, the waitress and kitchen kindly allowed us in.  We had a really nice dinner there, then made the rest of the journey back to Qualicum Beach, where Nathan and I both headed straight to bed, exhausted again.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Vacation, Day 5 - Nanaimo

We had stopped by the Wildplay Element Park in Nanaimo the prior day, but they'd already quit doing the ropes course for the day, so we said we'd be back the next day.  However, on the way south, I wanted to check out a place I'd seen a sign for the night before when we went to dinner--Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and MooBerry Winery, all lumped together at the beautiful Morningstar Farm.

The farm is small, but immaculate and well-run, and welcoming to tourists.

We toured the calf barn, where babies just separated from their mamas live.  I don't like this part of dairy farming, but these babies didn't seem traumatized in the least, and this guy was very happy to have his ears scratched.

You can't read it, but the words at the bottom of the sign that says "Maternity Pens" says "where the real work happens."

Not sure if this mama was still pregnant, or recently post-partum, but check out that hip bone!

They also had four horses for their own pleasure (the sign mentioned trail riding, but they also had a lot of ribbons from little local shows), bunnies, goats, a cat we didn't see, and some weird creatures that looked like the ugliest turkeys you ever saw, but with bills like ducks.

They have a creamery, and Nathan and I tasted a variety of cheeses.  I chose a firmer cheese, and we both chose a spreadable cheese with berries in it to buy.  But then I realized I didn't have the ice chest with me, and we were heading to Nanaimo and wouldn't be "home" for hours, so we needed to eat the cheese right away.  We went to a grocery store, chose some bread and bought a sharp knife that would also work to spread the soft cheese.  The firm cheese was REALLY stinky, but tasted good.  However, it stunk up the car for the rest of the trip!

We ate the cheeses and bread in the car in the parking lot, then headed to Nanaimo.

When we got to Nanaimo and the play park, the guy remembered us from the day before, and looked shocked, probably because he assumed we wouldn't be back.  I grilled him on the different activities they have, both to determine which I wanted to pay for and for which of us, and to estimate how long we'd be there.  The guy said the zip lines took about 40 minutes, and scheduled us both for those and Nathan for the ropes course 40 minutes after.  We had some time to kill before our appointed time, so we stood under the bungee jumping bridge and watched both that activity and people zip-lining.

This zip line goes under the bridge along the top of the canyon wall.  This guy stopped "zipping" and had to be towed in by a "guide."

A guy and a bunch of kids (all his?  family friends?) were standing there, too, and it turns out a daughter and son of his were both bungee jumping, so Nathan and I stood and watched and cheered for them, too.  There was very little hesitation--they were very brave.  This is the son's jump:

Soon enough, it was our turn to get put into harnesses.  Their harnesses are all one size, but adjustable.  I had reviewed on their website that I did happen to fall under their weight limit, but hadn't actually gotten out a tape measure to see if I would FIT in the harnesses (they give their waist and leg measurements on the website, too).  So it was embarrassing enough trying to wriggle into the harness, but could have been exponentially MORE embarrassing if I ended up not fitting.  I did fit, luckily (though not comfortably).

We were given a demo on how to "zip," then taken to the top of the first zipline.

This is the view down the first zipline, way up high over the river.

People under 100 pounds had to go tandem with a guide.  Nathan is slightly under 100 pounds, but they let him go solo on the first line because it's fast enough.  Here's a kid going solo with the first guide to go, though.

My view just before departing on the first zipline

I asked how many ziplines there were.  Apparently only two.  So when the guy at the counter said it would take 40 minutes, he was counting getting fitted with the harnesses, going through the "training," and waiting at the top and/or bottom of each zipline for the group to finish.  So that was disappointing, but honestly, I'm still glad I paid the $25 each to do it.  Once.  This is the view of the bungee jumpers from the bottom of the second zipline, where I waited for Nathan to come down.

This is a pair of guys jumping, bear-hugging each other.  Also, apparently this is the only legit bungee jumping place in North America that will calculate the rope length to dip you in the water according to your desires--just your hair, just the top of your head, or all the way up to your waist.

I got photos of Nathan coming down this zip line toward me:

All but one of the people/pairs in our group stopped before arriving at the platform and had to be towed in by the guides.  Tandem riders got pulled in hand-over-hand by the guide they were with.  Those of us flying solo had a guide slide out to us, latch one of their carabiners to our pulley, and tow us in.  Could have been very humiliating if I was the only one with that problem, but I wasn't, so...only mildly embarrassing.  :-)

After only a few more minutes, it was time for Nathan to gear up for the ropes course.  The harnesses were similar, but with slightly different gear.

They also had to go through a brief training session, to remind everyone that they always needed to have at least one carabiner around the orange guide cable at all times, and showed how to hook up the pulled and rest the carabiners safely on the "tail."  The guide watched the people do a small and low course to make sure everyone was following instructions, then everyone was turned loose.  There were rules about how many people could be on a platform at a time (three) or on a "game" (one), but as long as those rules were followed, you proceeded at your own pace without a guide.  People could even pass each other if they wanted, at the platforms.  A guide or two watched from the ground, but otherwise it was fairly independent.

One of the training obstacles

When I saw the first real obstacle, I was SO glad I hadn't opted to do the ropes course myself (not that I ever seriously considered it--I know my limits!).

Nathan starts off on the first real obstacle

The first zipline (there are a lot!) on the course--check out how expert he looks already:

Nathan hamming it up on some swinging logs:

More videos:

He's looking like this is really easy!

One of the longest ziplines on the course:

This was one of the coolest obstacles:

This was probably the second hardest obstacle:

This was intended to be THE hardest obstacle, I think (shovel handles dangling like stirrups), but Nathan had his own way of tackling it:

Okay, that's all the videos.  How about some still photos for those prone to dizziness?

These were all hinged, but free-moving so they were quite squirmy

Nathan LOVED the ropes course.  I think it was the right balance of fun and challenging, with the fun ziplines dispersed between the more challenging obstacles to provide a break.  His hands got really sore, partly because of all the extra hand-over-hand completion of obstacles not really meant to be done that way :-) but he was very glad he'd done it.  He looked really at ease up there, too.

After all that fun, we got a late lunch/early dinner, then headed back to our resort, where Nathan did some more swimming (and watersliding), even though it was rather cold out.  In fact, when I went to watch him and see how he was doing, he was BLUE.   Not just his lips or under his eyes, but even the skin on his torso was visibly blue.  I made him come in and take a hot shower, and we stayed in the rest of the night.  The next day was going to be a busy one!