Noctilucent Clouds

I am so in awe of nature. Sometimes it stops me dead in my tracks and I get tears in my eyes. I am just so grateful that I am able to live on this planet, and I’m equally ashamed that humans seem to be so hellbent on destroying it. Nature is miraculous. The things that are happening every single day in nature are things we could never reproduce ourselves, even if our lives depended on it (and they do).

Don’t believe me? Create a vegetable from scratch. I dare you.

And take, for example, noctilucent clouds. I didn’t even know these things existed until about 24 hours before this writing. Once again, the sheer quantity of things that I have yet to learn slaps me upside the head at the most unexpected of times, and I’m so grateful for that. Thank you, universe, for that insight.

The way I learned about this amazing weather phenomenon was by being shown the two pictures that appear below. They were taken by my friend Bill Wainwright at approximately 3 a.m. on two separate nights. Aren’t they beautiful?

I had never seen anything quite like that in all my 55 years. With a little research I found out that they are called noctilucent clouds, and they are still barely understood. According to Wikipedia, there’s no confirmed record of their sighting before 1885 (two years after the eruption of Krakatoa), and yet it seems that their occurrence is increasing in frequency, brightness, and extent.

A whole series of circumstances have to come together just right in order for you to be treated to a sight such as this. First of all, it has to be the summer months in your area, and you need to be between latitudes 50 and 70 degrees above or below the equator. (That means, sadly, that I will not be seeing noctilucent clouds from my back yard. Bill lives a lot further north than we do.) There need to be sufficient ice crystals in the atmosphere, and the sun needs to be below the horizon.

Noctilucent clouds are the highest clouds in our atmosphere, about 50 miles higher up than any other clouds, and they are so wispy that you can’t see them once the sun has risen. Apparently they require water vapor, dust, and very cold temperatures (around -184 degrees Fahrenheit) to take shape.

No one knows where this dust comes from. It could be from micrometeors or from volcanoes, but those are just theories. We still have a lot to learn about noctilucent clouds.

But even as I wallow in my ignorance about this particular subject, I remain in awe. Nature is spectacular. Regardless of how they come about, I’m happy that noctilucent clouds exist, and I’m grateful for those who manage to take pictures of them.

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The Deadliest Avalanche in US History

As we drove across Stevens Pass here in Washington State, my husband told me the story of the 1910 Wellington Avalanche, the deadliest avalanche in US history to date. This was sobering, because it was May, and there was still snow on the pass, and here I was wearing shorts because we had come from, and were heading to, much lower, warmer elevations.

Back in 1910, weather forecasting was even less exact than it is today, so the passengers and crew aboard the Great Northern Railroad, along with a mail train that was following them, really had no idea what they were getting themselves into. They just thought they were taking a train from Spokane to Seattle, no muss, no fuss. (People really believed in engineering, and man’s ability to tame nature, back then.)

And it’s true, the railroad had employed snowplows to keep the tracks clear, and that had always done the trick until now. But now the two trains were stuck in Wellington, just west of the Cascade Tunnel. They couldn’t go forward. They couldn’t go back.

The snow kept falling, sometimes a foot an hour, for 9 whole days. One day saw an 11 foot accumulation. The drifts got up to 20 feet high, and avalanches were occurring to the east and west of them. The trains and their passengers sat there for what must have been a very scary 9 days.

Some of the passengers, in utter desperation, walked out of there in their street clothes, sliding down the hills on their behinds. All of those that chose to do so survived. But there were families with children aboard. There is no way that children could slog through those drifts. So they waited. They waited as the coal that heated the train and the food ran out.

And then early in the morning of March 1, 1910, the snow turned to rain and warm wind, and thunder began to rock the mountain, which was already not very forested due to a fire. Suddenly lightning struck, and a slab of snow, 10 feet high, a half a mile long, and a quarter of a mile wide, swept into Wellington and knocked both trains into the Tye River valley below.

A rescue effort began, and indeed 23 people survived, but all efforts had to be abandoned due to the weather. In the end, 96 people were killed, including 61 railroad employees and 35 passengers. Some of the bodies weren’t recovered until late July.

For some really interesting accounts from the survivors, read this Seattle Times article.

Later that year, the railroad renamed the town Tye, and built concrete snow sheds to protect the tracks from snow. In 1929, they built a longer tunnel at a much lower elevation, and the town was abandoned.

The old track is now called the Iron Goat Trail, and you can hike it and still see the snow sheds and remnants of the track. Some of the railroad employees are buried in the Everett Cemetery, their stones facing toward Stevens Pass, almost as if they can never quite be free.

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Let’s Hibernate

By now, this Shelter in Place/Quarantine/Lock Down, whatever you want to call it, is driving most of us up the wall. Fewer and fewer of us are complying, which makes it even more frustrating for the rest of us, because at this rate we’re never going to flatten the curve. If we don’t ensure the health of the more vulnerable amongst us, none of us will ever truly be safe.

I wish I could just go to sleep and wake up when all of this is over with. I wish I could hibernate like a bear in winter, or even better, Æstivate, which is a kind of hibernation during the hot months. That would be awesome. But then, sleep is one of my favorite things in the world.

I was thinking about this when I stumbled across an article on one of my new favorite websites, Eurekalert. I’m learning so much from perusing all the science articles on this site. It helps me believe that we are making progress after all.

The article in question is entitled, “Hibernation in mice: Are humans next?” It describes a fascinating study that came out of the University of Tsukuba, in Japan.

As with all scientific inquiry, this study started with some questions. Why do some animals hibernate while others do not? Do all animals have the potential to hibernate?

When a creature hibernates, its metabolism slows down, its temperature drops, its heart beats more slowly, it breathes more weakly, and there is less brain activity. And yet, when they wake up, they’re still healthy, albeit thinner. (Another plus, in my opinion!)

Mice do not normally hibernate, but this study shows that if you activate a cell in their brains called the Q neurons, they would do so for several days. They were able to produce these results in rats as well, in spite of the fact that they don’t even normally go into a daily torpor as mice do.

The implications of this study are rather interesting. If humans could hibernate, this could ease their pain during emergency transport. It could do wonders for space travel, as the amount of food and oxygen would be reduced, and there would be psychological benefits of “sleeping” through long journeys.

But if I let my imagination run wild, I think of people taking “hibernation vacations” (you heard it here first) to lose weight, or during times of upheaval and great stress. Sign me the heck up, is all I’m saying.

I could also see how having a reduced need for oxygen would be a wonderful thing for COVID-19 patients, who are struggling for every breath they take. It very well might buy them time to let the virus run its course. I’m no doctor, but I’d say this is worth investigating. It certainly couldn’t be worse than injecting oneself with bleach. (Do NOT inject yourself with bleach!!!)

As long as human hibernation was a voluntary thing, it could be quite beneficial to mankind. I hope this study continues. I look forward to hearing more about it.

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Seattle’s Volunteer Park

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Seattle’s Volunteer Park for the first time. I don’t know how I missed this gem after living in this county for nearly 6 years. This is definitely a place I’ll be bringing visitors from out of town to from now on.

Volunteer Park was designed by the Olmstead Brothers, the same guys who brought us Central Park in New York City. That had to be the coolest job ever. They got to travel around and design huge city parks that are still appreciated today.

In this era, it’s too late for that. Everything has already been built up. You’re as likely to see a new city park as you are to see a new major airport. I’m glad cities had the foresight to carve out natural spaces while they still could, or no city would be livable today. (But nothing in life is that simple. More about the eminent domain atrocities in Central Park in an upcoming post.)

The City of Seattle bought the land for Volunteer Park in 1876 for $2,000. That land is priceless today. Consider this: This mansion, right across the street from the park, is for sale. You can buy it for a cool 6.3 million dollars. (If you want it, here are the details. My realtor husband can hook you up.)

Mansion

To design the park, they had to move a cemetery, and I sure feel sorry for those bodies and the people who had to dig them up, because they had been relocated once before. They started in what is now Denny Park, moved to what is now Volunteer Park, and were then shunted right next door to Lake View Cemetery. May they finally rest in peace. (Bruce and Brandon Lee are also buried here.)

Volunteer Park was once called Lake View Park, but folks were confusing it with the cemetery. J. Willis Sayre, who fought in the Spanish-American War, convinced the city to rename it for the volunteers who fought in that war. And it has been so called ever since.

The park is 48.4 acres, and includes lawns and wooded areas, and has a wide variety of trees and flowers. It’s about 1/20th the size of Central Park, but still seemed massive to me. There is a gorgeous conservatory, currently closed due to the pandemic, which was built from a kit purchased from the Hitchings Company of New York. A lovely carriage drive winds through the park, and it is easy to imagine the horse drawn carriages that must have once used it.

The park also has a concert grove with a small stage, and a water tower which I’m told has spectacular views of the city… when it’s not closed due to the pandemic. There’s also an intriguing Seattle Asian Art Museum in a cool Art Deco building, which is, yeah, yeah, closed. There is also a very large and placid reservoir in front of the museum which greatly enhances the view.

Between the museum and the reservoir is a piece of art called Black Sun which I was told inspired the song Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden. If you line your camera up just right (which I did not, exactly), you get a great view of the space needle through this sculpture. (A few years ago, I also visited Seattle’s Sound Garden, which inspired the band’s name. Alas, the wind wasn’t blowing at the time, so the sound garden remained mute.)

Apparently there are also some tennis courts on the grounds of Volunteer Park, but I didn’t see those. In season, there are also dahlia gardens, koi ponds, and a wading pool.

I look forward to visiting this lovely park again and again. Here are some photos that we took during our visit.

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A Deep, Deep Dive into Nerddom

Holy Cow, am I ever in nerd heaven right now! I just stumbled upon a news release distribution platform online called EurekAlert! It’s operated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and therein you will find legitimate scientific press releases. These are stories that often don’t make the mainstream news, but they should.

This site is restoring my faith in mankind. It shows that there still are intelligent people out there. There are people who believe in the value of scientific inquiry, and don’t consider science some demonic conspiracy. They understand that knowledge is power and ignorance is weakness. They pursue facts and obtain answers. I’m finding this fascinating.

Best of all, they only post articles that adhere to their strict eligibility guidelines, from institutions involved in legitimate scientific research. No fake news here. No pseudoscience. No political agenda. How refreshing.

I just finished reading an article entitled “Chimpanzees help trace the evolution of human speech back to ancient ancestors.” In it, they’ve determined that Chimpanzee lip smacking behavior (and, indeed, that of gibbons and orangutans), averages 5 cycles per second.

The reason that’s interesting is that that’s the same average speed as every language the world over. Every single one. This means that human speech rhythm was built upon existing primate signal systems, and therefore has ancient roots within primate communication.

I mean, wow! Just… wow.

This website breaks its news releases down into the following categories: Agriculture, Archaeology, Atmospheric Science, Biology, Business & Economics, Chemistry & Physics, Earth Science, Education, Mathematics, Medicine & Health, Policy & Ethics, Social & Behavior, Space & Planetary, and Tech & Engineering. So there’s something in there for every nerd who ever walked the earth.

To heck with current events! It’s time we focus on current data. It’s time for us to rise up, rather than be bogged down in the foolishness. (And this site will also provide me with a great deal of blog fodder, so brace yourself.)

If you have a curious spirit and an inquiring mind, I urge you to check out EurekAlert! I’d write more, but I’m off to read an article entitled, “New study finds cannibalism in predatory dinosaurs.” Heaven only knows where I’ll wind up after that.

If you don’t hear from me, follow the bread crumbs through the delightful maze of pure science.

Nerd Glasses One

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Doin’ the Cascade Loop (Sort Of) Part One

During the last bit of our Roamin’ Holiday, we decided to drive the Cascade Loop here in Washington State. No day trip, this. It would require an overnight stay somewhere. I had mixed emotions about that in this era of pandemic, but I was also itching to go somewhere, anywhere, and do something, anything. So off we went.

This road trip is something I’ve been meaning to do for quite some time. I’ve done bits and pieces of it, but never the whole thing, and I can now say that it’s highly recommended. It was a refreshing getaway that increased my love for this state.

The first thing to do is check out this awesome website that’s dedicated to everything related to the Cascade Loop. It breaks down the loop into 9 regions, and is full of amazing photographs, recommendations as to where to stay and what to eat and what to do, and it also goes into great detail about the history of each region. They even offer a free guidebook, which I dearly wish I’d had.

Map

One of the first things they recommend is that you drive the loop counterclockwise, as you get to see more spectacular views that way. Oops. We didn’t do that. That’s what I get for not doing my homework. Maybe next time. We also skipped the first region, Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands, because we had just explored that area a few days before.

Since we were choosing to skip that leg of the journey, we decided, instead, to take a brief detour to explore Camano Island, the next island to the east of Whidbey. It’s a lot smaller than Whidbey, and has fewer amenities. It seems like a quiet, rural community. It did have a few intriguing shops, galleries, restaurants, a grocery store here and there, and some wineries. All but the grocery stores were closed due to the pandemic. We felt bad about not financially supporting this community, but in these viral times, we decided it was more socially responsible to remain socially distant. But Camano also has several parks, beaches, and fabulous views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, so it was still well worth the drive.

We picked up the Cascade Loop again in Skagit Valley. This is farm country. I love this area particularly in April, when the tulips are blooming and there are vast swaths of color in the fields. It makes me feel like I’m back in Holland again. I love looking at the farm houses and the barns, and imagining what life would be like out here. Quiet, but hard work.

I love the little town of La Conner, with its quaint little waterfront shops, and the Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, housed in an amazing Victorian mansion. But again, those things are for healthier times.

Hamilton is probably full of tourists in normal times. We had the whole small town to ourselves. Sedro-Woolley is a loggers paradise. Apparently they host an annual Loggerrodeo. That sounds intriguing.

In fact, there are a plethora of festivals at different times of the year, all along the loop. It is a good idea to plan accordingly. But keep in mind that the North Cascades section is shut down in the winter, due to snow. We took our trip in May a few days after the road opened. A lot of places close down in the winter.

The North Cascades section is probably my favorite part of the loop. With its mountains and valleys and waterfalls and lush greenery, it reminded me a lot of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. Well, sort of. Here, the mountains are taller and more jagged, the valleys are deeper, and the predominant trees are evergreen, not deciduous. But you get the idea. There are also 300 glaciers along the route. Hard to imagine that I’d never seen a glacier 6 years ago. The lakes and rivers are spectacular as well. There are a lot of camping and hiking and fishing opportunities here.

We passed through the town of Concrete in about 5 seconds. As you can probably guess, it used to be a cement production center. I just love that there’s a town called Concrete somewhere on earth.

Coming down from the mountains and entering the Methow Valley, we were feeling kind of peckish, and decided to stop in for some takeout pizza. One thing I’ve learned is that you can always count on pizza, even in a pandemic. We ate a lot of pizza in our travels. This time it was East 20 Pizza in Winthrop.

I hope to visit Winthrop more extensively in better times. It feels like you’ve been transported back to the wild, wild west. You can walk along its wooden sidewalks and explore tons of cute little shops. It’s also known for its fine dining. But alas, every single thing was closed while we were there, except the pizza place. I half expected to see tumbleweeds piling up in the corners. What a sad state of affairs to find ourselves in.

Then we continued on to the town of Twisp, where we spent the night. Can I start off by saying that I adore the name Twisp? I’d move there simply to be able to say Twisp multiple times a day. It sounds like a cross between the sound a potato chip makes and a squirt of honey in your mouth on a hot day.

We stayed at the Idle A While Motel. What a blast from the past. These buildings were built in the early 1900’s for the forest service. And now they have been converted into individual motel cabins along with a two story strip of rooms that looks like your typical 1950’s cheap motel. You could kind of tell that about half the place was occupied by seasonal residential types, but it was clean and felt safe, and they allowed pets, so I was happy. That, and we were able to do our check in over the phone, and I sanitized the place obsessively before and after.

Internet was sketchy and it was a bit chilly out, so we hung out and watched cable TV that evening. We watched Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, which was filmed in 1963, and it now seems quaint, like the hotel, rather than scary, as it seemed to me as a child. (Given our setting, I’m kind of glad they weren’t showing Psycho.) After that, we drifted off to sleep.

Here are some photos from our travels. More about day two in a day or two!

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Mount St. Helens

If forced to choose a favorite day of our Roamin’ Holiday, I’d have to say our day trip to Mount St. Helens has that distinction. I love any opportunity to look nature in the eye and say, “Yeah, you win. It wouldn’t even be a fair fight.”

When this volcano famously erupted on May 18, 1980, I was 15 years old and 3000 miles away, on the other side of the continent. I was fascinated by the event, and read everything I could about it, but somehow it didn’t seem real to me. It was something that was happening “over there”, in a place that was practically a foreign country, and one I was certain I’d never visit. I knew no one who had witnessed the event, and it didn’t impact me directly in any way.

Little did I know I’d be gazing upon this very volcano two days prior to the 40th anniversary of its eruption. And what a stunning sight it was. I don’t know what it is about Western vistas, but the horizon seems 10 times farther away out here, and this mountain is so… mountainous… that it makes me feel even smaller. I love that feeling. It makes me realize how insignificant my problems actually are, in the overall scheme of things. A short respite from my cares and worries is always welcome.

Thanks to the pandemic, I didn’t get to see the state park visitor center at Silver Lake. There was, however, a little shack that had been converted from a snack bar to a gift shop, so I was able to remotely point at and purchase a magnet for my fridge and a postcard or two. The Forest Learning Center, operated by Weyerhaeuser, was also closed, as was the Science and Learning Center operated by the Mount St. Helens Institute, and the Johnson Ridge Observatory operated by the U.S. Forest service. I also couldn’t get my coveted National Parks Passport Stamp at the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

All of this was a disappointment, as I do love visitor centers. They teach me a great deal, and therefore enrich the travel experience, but hey, there’s still the internet, and the interpretive signs at the various overlooks along the route were still there. I just had to wait, patiently, and properly bemasked, at a distance, if anyone had arrived there before me. And for the most part, we had the park to ourselves. The Pandemic certainly has changed the travel experience.

But the star of the show, the volcano, was certainly there, and we were lucky enough to be there on a day when it wasn’t obscured by clouds. Some of the photographs that we took at the time appear below. As good as I think they are, they don’t really do it justice.

What really impressed me was how much the area has recovered in the last 4 decades, given the scope of the destruction. I’ll let Wikipedia describe what happened.

Mount St. Helens is most notorious for its major eruption on May 18, 1980, the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in US history. Fifty-seven people were killed; 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles (24 km) of railways, and 185 miles (298 km) of highway were destroyed. A massive debris avalanche, triggered by an earthquake of magnitude 5.1, caused a lateral eruption that reduced the elevation of the mountain’s summit from 9,677 ft (2,950 m) to 8,363 ft (2,549 m), leaving a 1 mile (1.6 km) wide horseshoe-shaped crater. The debris avalanche was up to 0.7 cubic miles (2.9 km3) in volume.

An eruption column rose 80,000 feet (24 km; 15 mi) into the atmosphere and deposited ash in 11 U.S. states and significant ash in two Canadian provinces. At the same time, snow, ice and several entire glaciers on the volcano melted, forming a series of large lahars (volcanic mudslides) that reached as far as the Columbia River, nearly 50 miles (80 km) to the southwest. Less severe outbursts continued into the next day, only to be followed by other large, but not as destructive, eruptions later that year. Thermal energy released during the eruption was equal to 26 megatons of TNT.

Hundreds of square miles were reduced to wasteland, causing over $1 billion in damage (equivalent to $3.4 billion in 2019), thousands of animals were killed, and Mount St. Helens was left with a crater on its north side.

So, yeah, I’d say that this destruction was rather a big deal. And you can still see evidence of it everywhere. The mountain used to be a relatively uniform cone shape. Very picturesque. But the eruption reduced it’s height by 1314 feet. To put that into perspective, the shorter of the two twin towers, prior to 911, was 1362 feet. So that was a heck of a lot of mountain to be there one minute and gone the next. And now there’s this giant lopsided crater marring the previous symmetry. And you can see where the slide went in many of the photographs below.

It’s also quite obvious when you enter the blast zone. That area has been reforested, for the most part, but there’s a very abrupt change between old growth forest, and, for example, the acres of trees planted by Weyerhaeuser, which are so identical in height and shape that it makes your eyes do a blurry double take. You can also see a lot of dead and flattened trees still floating in the area waterways.

But life will out. The trees are, indeed, growing. Wildlife abounds. The waterways flow again. It would be easy to forget if we had no video of the disaster, and no written history. To the untrained eye, there would only be hints here and there. For example, the A Frame house pictured below still stands, and the upper floor can still be seen. The mud flood that came through there, just two days after that house was built, was 5 feet deep and 100 degrees. It was the consistency of wet cement and was traveling at about 35 miles per hour. Now that whole area is at a higher elevation, and people, ignoring history and wanting to profit from tourism, have rebuilt all around it.

If I could sum up what I learned from this trip in one sentence, it would be, “Time marches on.” And when it’s nature that’s doing the marching, you’d best get the hell out of the way.

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A Scenic Drive along the Hood Canal

The first thing that you need to know about the Hood Canal, which is a body of water that lies between the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsulas here in Washington State, is that it isn’t a canal in the strict sense of the word. It’s not an artificial waterway. Far from it. It’s actually a fjord that was created 13,000 years ago by the Cordilleran Ice Sheet.

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The hood Canal is part of Puget Sound as well as being part of the Salish Sea. Recently I had the pleasure of riding along its westernmost shoreline for about 50 miles. It was idyllically rural, following the natural coastline with forested hills on one side and the waterway on the other, though the occasional one intersection town. If I had all the money in the world to play with, I’d love to retire to one of the waterfront homes there and watch the orcas swim by.

We started off on the north end of the canal, crossing the Hood Canal Bridge. We stopped in the community of Quilcene to pay a socially distant visit to a friend who recently bought a retirement home out there. This little community has a population of about 600, mostly nestled deep in the woods, with gorgeous views of Quilcene Bay. On a good day, you can see Mt. Rainier off in the distance. I left, wishing this friend would adopt me.

The booming metropolis boasts a brewery that apparently makes phenomenal wood fired pizza, but thanks to the pandemic, it’s only open for a few days a week for takeout, and we weren’t there on one of those lucky days. So on we went, to explore the canal.

The Hood Canal is 177 feet deep, and has an average width of one and a half miles. Its surface area is nearly 150 square miles. The natural beauty there is beyond words. Unfortunately, due to humans, the canal has suffered from a number of algae blooms due to lack of oxygen in the water. Much of this is the fault of septic tank run off and global warming. But on the day we were there, the water was crystal clear.

Many of the rivers that flow into the canal have typical Pacific Northwest names. Skokomish. Hamma Hamma. Duckabush. Dosewallips. Tahuya. Dewatto. Just traversing this area makes one feel poetic.

It was a glorious drive on a glorious day. I’m so happy to live in such an intensely varied and beautiful state! Here are some pictures we took during our ramble. Enjoy!

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Deception Pass

During my recent visit to Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands, I had the opportunity to have a small but intriguing taste of Deception Pass State Park. This is the most visited state park in Washington. Sadly, because of the pandemic, the campgrounds were closed, and the Civilian Conservation Corps interpretive center at Bowman Bay was as well. I’d have dearly loved to have checked that out. I hope to do so in happier times. No boat or kayak rentals were available either.

It sounds like I did nothing. But in fact, the trails were open, and they provide spectacular views of the pass. You wander among some of the oldest growth forests still extant in the state. You walk under and/or over the breathtakingly high bridge, and look down upon the waters rushing through the narrow pass when the tide is going in or out. The current can get up to 8 knots, and can produce standing waves, whirlpools and eddies. You might even catch a glimpse of seals or whales going through (we didn’t). You’re even more likely to see boats waiting for the tide to change direction before they make transit.

The park is 3,854 acres, some on the Whidbey side, some on the Fidalgo side, and it also includes 10 islands. There is plenty of fishing, camping, hiking, boating, beaching and tidepooling (which isn’t a word, but you get the idea) to do. I’m particularly intrigued by the rentable cabin that is only accessible by rowboat.

Deception pass was named by the explorer George Vancouver, because he felt deceived by that narrow pass. He thought it was simply a river, and didn’t even realize that Whidbey was an island until his lieutenant, Joseph Whidbey, circumnavigated it. That’s why Vancouver named the island after him. But as with all European “discoveries”, the Coast Salish tribes had already settled the area.

If you’re ever in the neighborhood, I highly recommend that you visit Deception Pass State Park. Here are some of the pictures we took during our all-too-brief visit.

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The Demise of the Hula Hoop Tree

After a storm passed through Amber, Iowa in 2015, someone noticed that two hula hoops were suspended in a tree on County Home Road. No one is sure how they got there, but over time, dozens, hundreds maybe, were added. This tree, nicknamed “Her Majesty”, was adorned with so many colorful hula hoops that it became a tourist attraction. People came from far and wide to see the Hula Hoop Tree.

Unfortunately, the tree was on the side of a highway, with no parking facilities. People would often come to a dead stop on the road to take pictures. Poorly supervised children would run across the road. People would attempt to add hula hoops to the collection, and those hoops would often overshoot the tree and land in the road, or, worse yet, in the cattle field of the farmer nextdoor. His barbed wire fence was often trampled by people attempting to retrieve their errant hoops.

Needless to say, Her Majesty was an accident waiting to happen. Because of this, very recently, the Hula Hoop Tree was cut down. The community has been left with very mixed emotions about it.

I wish I had seen Her Majesty before her demise, but it makes me happy to know that for 5 years, such a thing existed in this world. If you have a Facebook account, check out this gorgeous slideshow comprised of stunning and colorful photographs of the tree by Nikki Engelhardt.

Hula Hoop

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