Tacoma: Christmas & #auntybeth Adventuring

Sprocket and I made the long haul from southwestern Colorado up to Washington for Christmas. The trip was fairly short to give me some time back in Colorado to unwind (and also to work!) once I got back. While I was there though there was lots of #auntybeth time with my nephew, some Pokemon hunting in downtown Tacoma, and a hike with Andrew (Junior and Will were sick and couldn’t come).

Andrew made sure to snuggle with Aunty Beth as much as possible:

He also tricked me into buying donuts. I tricked him into going inside to get them while I waited with Sprocket.

Then he tried to trick me into buying him a book the day after Christmas. He’s cute but #auntybeth is strong. He did steal my hat though.

Then we went hiking in Pack Forest. It was a little rainy, a little overcast, and really green. Just like winter hiking in Washington should be.

Sprocket did not dig Andrew wanting to lead the pack:

Here’s hoping that on my next trip home all three boys can come!

Mt. Rainier National Park: Reflection Lake and Pinnacle Peak Trail

My sister and I had been scheming to get the boys out hiking during my trip home for months. When the day finally came around we had two of the three boys and got a much later start than we’d hoped but the webcams were showing absolutely gorgeous bluebird skies at Mount Rainier National Park so off we went.

Once we drove into the park, I woke up both boys from their naps so we could start looking at the views as we drove up to Reflection Lake. Will, the youngest, continually exclaimed “Look at the huge mountain!” This was not reserved for the grand dame, Rainier, but also bestowed on craggy Tatoosh Range peaks, and wooded unnamed peaks. His excitement was adorable and we all happily spilled out of the car and ate our sandwiches looking at Reflection Lake.

Reflection lake

Reflection lake

After a few photo opportunities, we headed up the Pinnacle Peak Trail. I never dreamed we’d make it to the saddle (okay, I dreamed about getting there and then ditching Emily and Kevin with the kids while I summited) but I was so impressed with the boys for making it almost a mile up the trail. 3 year old Will lead the charge up the hill on his first hike ever!

Heading up the trail

Will on the trail

Trail

Rainier mostly was out of the clouds for us and it was pretty hard to not just stare instead of climbing. Thankfully, our whole (tired) way down, she was in our faces.

Lady Rainier

I waved at Pinnacle putting it aside for another day with different goals. Today was about being outside with family.

Pinnacle Peak

Hiking with my nephew

Kevin Jr. and I even got in some bonus “scrambling” while we waited for his younger brother to descend the trail.

Beth and Junior

After the hike, we headed to Paradise for a quick swing through the visitor center and gift shop. Settled back in the car, it was clear that all five of us had enjoyed our day. There was hand holding hiking, exclamations of joy, and laughter disproportionate to our less than two miles traveled.

Hiking with nephews

 

Tacoma at Christmas: Sledding at Snoqualmie Pass

The day after Christmas, my sister and I decided to take all three of the boys up to Snoqualimie Pass to play in the snow. She said that Will and Kevin (the middle one and the little) didn’t really remember snow so we figured they’d like some sledding and playing in the fluffy white stuff.

They were a little rambunctious on the ride up (Will’s face just says it all about his older brothers…) but they were super excited when we hit snowline just outside of North Bend.

Nephews

Kevin (aka Junior)’s excited face selfie:

Junior

I kind of sent the two older boys to the first pile of snow I saw and they promptly lost gloves and got buried in waste deep powder. Fortunately, Junior was wearing my GoPro and captured some of the carnage.

GoPro

Will and Aunty Beth

The sledding hill that was going on was a little bit intense. There was a giant bump in the middle that none of the adults appeared interested in addressing. Andrew and Junior both tried it a couple of times and then they were pretty done with it.

Digging

Andrew made friends with another little boy who had a shovel and he proceeded to spend the rest of his time in the snow making tunnels and forts.

Junior and Andrew

Will

Junior mostly belly crawled around in the powdery snow.

Brothers

Digging

Will wasn’t totally sure about this whole snow thing but eventually he figured out that being pulled around in the sled was kind of fun.

Aunty Beth and Will

Eating snow

Sledding

Junior

We left with a very tired crew of boys who wrapped up the fun with some “Mick and Donalds” and headed back to Tacoma!

San Juan Islands, Part 2: Orcas Island and Mt. Constitution

As we were making plans for our weekend in the San Juans, my only request was that we hiked Mt. Constitution. I didn’t care where we stayed, what we ate and drank, but I really wanted to grab that county highpoint. Fortunately for me, Liz and Lauren were totally on board with the plan and we were all excited to check out Orcas Island. I think Liz was regretting her agreement to the plan when a 5am wake-up was planned to make the two ferry hop to Orcas. However, by the end of the day, I don’t think any of us were upset about getting up early because everything was glorious.

Washington State Ferries

The man taking this photo was very concerned with how small we were (and he was also probably a bit surprised at the young lady bouncing all over the boat handing her phone to him requesting a picture).

Ferry rides

Ferry Rides

When we arrived in Eastsound, we were all starving an indulged in second breakfast at Brown Bear Baking. We spent a little bit of time debating which three treats to get and someone brilliantly suggested we actually get four. A gentleman waiting in line with us leaned over and stage whispered, “The answer is always more” so we listened and ordered ourselves a slew of treats. Everything about this was a major yes and we made short work of everything. Brown Bear Baking, you deserve all the thumbs up.

Brown Bear Baking

After breakfast it was time to get started on our hike. The maps clearly showed a meandering hike along Mountain Lake before the trail began climbing much steeper to the summit. We rambled alongside the super clear lake exclaiming all the while about how beautiful it was and how it was still so early. (I mean, it was standard hiking time but it just felt like we’d accomplished so much already for a vacation day…)

Mountain Lake

Mountain Lake

The forest was classic northwest gorgeousness with the sun filtering down through the very green trees as we walked along the cushion-y path. (Seriously, no where else in the country has trails as pleasant for the feet as Washington and Oregon.)

Mount Constitution Trail

Mount Constitution Trail

Mount Constitution Trail

It was a little jarring to emerge from the woods onto a road for the final jaunt to the summit. After seeing just a couple of parties, the sheer number of people that had driven up was kind of overwhelming but the CCC-built observation tower was pretty cool.

Mount Constitution

Tower on Mt. Constitution

The view was absolutely astounding. Sadly there were some distant clouds on the Cascades and the Olympics but it was really cool to get a perspective on Puget Sound from 2,000′ up and from much more northerly perspective than I’d ever been.

Mount Constitution Panorama

Summit Selfie

Mt. Constitution Views

After the hike, we headed to Island Hoppin’ Brewery to have a sampler. Their brewery dog has a life that Sprocket definitely envies: living surrounded by water at a brewery…

Island Hoppin' Brewery

Brewery dog

After our beers, we hustled down to the ferry landing to make sure that we made our ferry. We were plenty early so we relaxed in Orcas Village while waiting for our boat.

Orcas Island

Orcas Village Ferry dock

Rose

Ferry dock

It was hard to object to the gorgeous weather on the ferry ride back to Anacortes.

Ferry Ride

Ferry ride

Once we were back on Guemes Island, while Lauren and Liz prepped dinner, I headed out for a run/hike to the highest point on the island. (The peakbagger in me gets the best of me sometimes.) I had such a great time traveling with these girls. I felt super fortunate to have a chance to check out the “other San Juans” (the Island type as opposed to my Colorado mountains), go for a hike, and mostly spend some time with people I feel totally myself around.

San Juan Islands, Part 1: Guemes Island

Friday morning, after getting a some what delayed start, we headed to the International District for dim sum (why have I not ever had this before??!?) and some great conversation. After $10 in food for each of us, we were all stuffed and headed to the car rental location and headed north for Anacortes.

Dim Sum

Despite growing up in Washington, I’d never been to the San Juan Islands (commonly known in Washington as the “San Juans” or just “the Islands”) and I was excited do do some exploring! After a little grocery shopping in Anacortes, we moved on to the next order of business: ice cream before the ferry at Mad Hatter where I sampled some Lopez Island Creamery and Edallen Dairy ice cream options.

Mad Hatter Ice Cream

We missed our intended ferry to Guemes by three cars but since it’s a pretty short round trip, we didn’t despair and instead soaked in some gorgeous Washington waterfront scenery.

Liz and Lauren

Lauren on Guemes Island Ferry

We couldn’t have been happier with the AirBnB we found. Nestled in the trees in the middle of the island, it was super quiet and a great home base for the weekend. (As much as I loved it, I’ll definitely get a place on the state ferry system next time.)

AirBnB Guemes Island

AirBnB, Guemes Island

Since we’d arrived fairly early in the day, we had time to drive around the island a bit (it’s not large so it didn’t take very long). We hung out on this beach at Guemes Island Resort for quite awhile staring at the water and the mountains in the distance.

Guemes Island

Guemes Island

When we stopped to check out the General Store, we found that they had a small bar (that was hopping for happy hour!) so we grabbed some beers and headed out to the deck where we enjoyed watching the ferry sail back and forth to Anacortes while the smell of lavender mixed with the salty air (that sounds so cheesy but it’s the absolute truth).

Guemes Island General Store

We continued our drive, giving a ride to a woman walking back to her daughter’s from the ferry, and then made our way back to the house. Just as the sun was setting, I stole a page from my friend Jenn, and we headed out for a sunset wine walk:

Wine Walk

Seattle and Friends: Summer 2015

After a few days in Tacoma, I hopped on the Sounder train and headed for Seattle. I’ve taken the bus between Seattle and Tacoma many many times but this was my first time on the Sounder. I had power outlets and I learned that if I choose my car better I could have wi-fi next time. It only cost me $1.25 more than the bus which was totally worth it.

Sounder Train

Once in Seattle, I booked it from King Street Station up to Seattle Coffee Works where I finally got to meet Lauren of Better In Real Life! Lauren and I have been internet pals for a long time but we haven’t ever actually gotten to meet up; she was super supportive of me while I fought against sexism in Idaho. She was absolutely wonderful and we had a great time chatting while waiting for another internet pal, also named Lauren. She had flown in from Boston to spend the weekend with Liz and I and then got to meet the other Lauren as a bonus!

Lauren, Lauren, and Beth
Photo borrowed from Lauren (Better In Real Life‘s Instagram!).

Lauren and I set out in search of food in Pikes Place Market but soon decided that ice cream was what we really wanted. Sadly, we discovered that Bluebird Ice Cream was closed but that Molly Moon’s was open. My vanilla bean and honey lavender scoops were so good that I devoured them before I grabbed a photo. Lauren and I headed to Elliot Bay Book Company to kill some time before wandering over to Taylor Shellfish. I’d been craving oysters so we got a bottle of pinot gris (a bottle that was both affordable and had won awards for pairing well with oysters) while we waited for Liz to get off work.

Pikes Place Market

Ice cream

Once Liz arrived, we ordered a spread of oysters and we toasted to the kick off of a great weekend. Anyone sitting at tables around us would never believe that the three of us had never physically been in the same place at the same time before. As we enjoyed our oysters (a nice selection of Fanny Bay, Kusshi, Kumamoto, Shigoku, and Olympia oysters if you’re curious).

Oysters, Taylor Shellfish

Apres oysters, we bused back to Liz’s place where she made us some scrumptious tacos and then we headed to Percy’s & Co. for some cocktails. My cilantro gimlet was delicious but the highlight was getting to meet Liz’s bestie Siiri who I feel like I know without ever having actually met. Our next stop was Conor Byrne where we watched Liz and Siiri’s friend Tom sing.

Tom Eddy

 

Liz had to work the next morning, so after Tom’s set we headed back to her house and bedded down for the night. I’d had such a fun day “meeting” people that I felt like I already knew and I could hardly believe the weekend was going to get better when Liz, Lauren, and I headed for the San Juan Islands.

Tacoma: Summer 2015

My trip to Tacoma was pretty brief but I managed to cram a whole lot in to a few days! After spending Sunday at the Rainiers, hiking in the Olympics on Monday, and a quiet Tuesday working on some projects at my mom’s house, Mom and I headed out Wednesday morning for an adventure: kayaking on the Thea Foss Waterway!

We’d gone kayaking a couple of times when I was a little kid and my mom wanted to share that experience with my nephew Andrew. She was a little worried about how much she’d be able to handle paddling the kayak so she recruited me for a practice run in a two man kayak. My job was to be a lazy paddler and see how it was for her to handle it for both of us and then to step up and paddle us back when she got tired. I was definitely up for some fun on the water in the sun and we headed down to the waterfront.

Murray Morgan Bridge

It’s been a long time since I was in a kayak and it took some time to figure out how to make it go in a straight line. Fortunately, the waterway was pretty quiet that morning so we didn’t have too much to dodge or worry about. This is my skeptical face about Mom powering the kayak on her own:

Kayaking with mom

I got a little wet but I was pretty impressed with how quickly my PFG pants dried out (review!).

Columbia Sportswear PFG

It really was a glorious day on the water. It’s not very often that I get a chance to look back on cities from the water and it really is the best. Tacoma has done so much work in the last 15 years to clean up downtown and it fairly sparkles from the water.

Murray Morgan Bridge

Beth and Mom

After our adventure, we had lunch at The Fish Peddler before taking a walk down at Point Ruston.

Lunch

Point Ruston

Our next stop was picking Andrew up at school! The one thing he asks for every time he sees me (and sometimes he calls me in Colorado) is to ask if we can go hiking. His excitement means that I make a very specific effort to get him outside when we’re together.

Hiking with Andrew

Hiking with Andrew

I think he’s learned that he can ask Aunty Beth all sorts of questions about how the canyon is made, what ants eat, and why there were no fish this time. We talked about what erosion is, what homo sapiens are, and how the decimals on the GPS watch I let him wear are just like dollars and cents (I guess that’s the only way that third graders see decimals!).

Wildflowers

Hiking Andrew

Hiking Andrew

Hiking Andrew

For the very first time, we reached the end of the trail. Instead of hiking out and calling my mom to pick us up, we continued up the canyon off trail. Andrew was totally tickled that we were able to scramble up to a road and then walk the rest of the way to Nana’s house to surprise her!

Hiking Andrew

Hiking Andrew

It might not be a high peak, but hiking with this little boy always makes me super happy:

Hiking Andrew

Sunset Tacoma

Tacoma Rainiers

Just after I landed in Tacoma, my mom and my oldest nephew (Andrew) and I headed to Cheney Stadium to watch the Tacoma Rainiers game with some other family members. My entire family loves baseball. The Mariners were always on the radio in the background of family gatherings and going to Tacoma Rainiers games (the Mariner’s AAA affiliate team) happens quite often.

Tacoma Rainiers, Cheney Stadium

Cheney Stadium got a major renovation in 2011 but I haven’t been back to see a game since they were completed. The place has been way more spruced up than it was the last time I was there! Renovations or not, I always love baseball stadiums. There are very few things in the world as beautiful as a baseball diamond in the sun:

Cheney Stadium

Rainiers Game; Beth and Andrew

We spotted the sign for the “Summit Club” parking and I explained to Andrew what a “summit” is and we decided to take a picture:

Summit club, Andrew and Beth

This is his summit face or so he explained to me:

Andrew at Rainiers Game

We don’t get to hang out very much but I really like being with my nephew. I think the feeling is mutual:

Beth and Andrew

My dad taught me a lot about baseball. Lots of my favorite memories with him were either practicing softball or watching the Mariners and Rainiers. After I moved away, I’d always call him to tell him about my games or about the stadium I was at. Andrew never got to really watch baseball with his Papi so I had so much fun spending a half inning teaching him how to keep score.

Keeping score

Once Andrew had enough of score keeping (although he was a really quick learner!) and wanted to go hang out with his cousins, I got to watch the game with my uncle. Uncle Skip is one of my favorite people to watch baseball with. We got to talk strategy and baseball history for a couple of innings before we headed over to join my mom, Andrew, my aunt, my cousin, his wife, and their two daughters for the rest of the game.

Beth and Uncle Skip

Cheney Stadium

The Rainiers won, I got to hang out with my family, and watch some baseball. We even wrapped up the night by heading over to my grandmother’s house for dinner.It was an awesome way to be welcomed back to Washington!

Beth and Andrew

Beer Tasting: Pacific Brewing & Malting Co.

As my mom and I were headed out of downtown Tacoma we noticed Pacific Brewing & Malting Co., a new brewery on Pacific Avenue. The brewery’s name came from a pre-Prohibition brewery in Tacoma. I looked up their beer list online and learned that they make a “Griswold’s Winter Warmer”…and the description was one of my most favorite quotes from Christmas Vacation:

Hey! If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I’d like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is! Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?

Mom decided since there was a Christmas Vacation inspired name on the menu that we really had to go and check it out. I’m so glad we did! The beer was all pretty darn good and their use of a vintage Tacoma brewing brand and it’s logo was excellent!

Pacific Brewing and Malting Co. logo

I did a tasting tray (which I did feel was a tad expensive at $14 for six tastes) to get a sense of what the brewery was all about

1897 Pale Lager: I was really skeptical about the chances of me liking this beer but I was told that it’s their flagship brew so I had to give it a shot. Surprisingly, I really liked it. The brewery needs to work on getting it on tap at the Rainiers because although I don’t think I’d sit down on a cold winter evening with this, it would be the perfect craft beer accompaniment to a summer baseball game. The original Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. was founded in 1897 which is honored in the name of this beer. Even better than this name, however, are all the vintage advertisements found throughout the tasting room. I found this one in the ladies bathroom pretty much awesome:

Pacific Beer ad

Moon Yard Ale: This amber was pretty solid. I used to really really dig ambers and browns but my tastes have definitely migrated to the hoppy and bitter. (Give me a Cascadian dark any day though!!) I enjoyed this but since the taster made up for being expensive with it’s generous pours this one probably got a little less love than it deserved.

As with all the beers on the menu, its name was derived from something T-town related. Half Moon Yard was the name of the rail yard located along the Thea Foss Waterway just below the brewery’s Pacific Avenue location.

Dirty Skoog IPA: I was a fan of this double IPA. It wasn’t overly bitter but had a good nose and was really drinkable. Besides, who wouldn’t be a fan of an IPA named after a semi-mythological blind pig speakeasy that operated in Tacoma during Prohibition. Someone please open something in Tacoma named The Skoog Saloon. I promise I’ll frequent it every time I’m back in the Northwest.

Donkey Puncher ESB: I am not a huge ESB fan but this was sort of a standout (for its style) on the tasting fleet to me. Deliciousness. I’m going to have a hard time deciding between the Dirty Skoog and the Donkey Puncher on return trips. A “donkey puncher” is another name for a steam powered logging winch (more commonly known as a “steam donkey” around here).

Griswold’s Winter Warmer: Pacific’s winter offering was a hit with both my mom and I. Mom doesn’t much like beer but she’s gaining a taste for “the darker ones.” I only got a few sips of this delicious malty Christmas beer because Suzy Snowflake was getting sort of possessive of Griswold but what I did taste was awesome.

Suzy Snowflake and Griswold's Winter Warmer

Grit City Porter: Compared to the brewery’s other offerings this one was pretty weak. I’m also not a huge porter fan so you probably shouldn’t take my word for it if this is the style that falls into your wheelhouse. It’s name is derived from a loving but slightly self-deprecating nickname for Tacoma—forever the less glamorous sister to Seattle.

I had a blast tasting with my mom and giving her my tasting notes as we went (and trying to steal sips of the winter warmer). I was so enchanted with the history, the naming, and of course the beer I even bought something to represent Grit City in beer loving Colorado. The sweet trucker hat only set me back $10. I totally give Pacific Brewing & Malting Co. status worth a visit…it’s going to get another visit from me sometime for sure.

Pacific Brewing and Malting Co. hat

Wine Tasting: Ginkgo Forest Winery

While out and about getting ready for Christmas, my mom and I passed Ginkgo Forest Winery‘s tasting room on N. 30th. I thought it’d be fun to do a tasting so we headed in and sat down at a table. The tasting room attendant was a little busy but was really friendly and did everything she could to make our visit awesome including bringing over a map of the Wahluke Slope AVA so we could see where the grapes were grown. Mom and I employed the ever useful tag team tasting technique to make two tastings of 5 wines ($6 for the flight of five) cover the 10 wines they had open.

ginkgo forest winery

Whites:

2012 Viognier

2008 Gewürtztraminer: Neither the Viognier or the Gewürtztraminer were amazing but neither were they horrible.

2012 Ginkgo Blanco: Both mom and I found this to be realllly sweet. I sometimes like my whites with a touch of sweetness but this was a little cloying even to me—it was almost dessert wine tasting!

2010 Riesling: This was my favorite of the whites. They said it was a “sweeter” Riesling but I didn’t find it too bad.

Reds:

2008 Pinot Noir: This wine smelled a lot more promising than it tasted, in my opinion. Then again, I think I might have been permanently spoiled by Willamette Valley pinots.

2011 Coalesce: The Coalesce was a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah. For a blend, I found it to be a little coarse.

2010 Malbec: This wine was delicious with big bold flavors. In fact, it was so bold Mom kept trying to tell me it was the Syrah (see below) but it was wayyy better.

2010 Syrah: About this point in our tasting, the wine maker himself came over to pour our wines. He was very proud of his award winning Syrah. It was pretty darn delicious, he was right. Not as good as the Malbec of the same vintage (see above) though.

2010 Barbera: Barbera was a new varietal to me. I enjoyed this wine but as is often the case with a new varietal it kind of takes your tastebuds by surprise and you don’t know how to process it. I’d totally drink this again though.

2010 Cabernet Franc: Yum. I really liked this wine. It was smooth and immensely drinkable.

I was kind of sad I wasn’t going to get to try their Cabernet Sauvignon since I’ve had some really good ones out of Eastern Washington (plus it’s one of my favorites) and the Wildwood Blend (it is 20% of that delicious Malbec). Mom and I debated for a bit and we decided the Wildwood was worth a chance and bought a bottle. She later decided to give it as her white elephant gift** in a family gift exchange. Fortunately, I drew “#1” in the exchange and gleefully made the final steal of the game. A Seahawks blanket or a bottle of wine? I think the right choice was made:

Ginkgo Forest

Oh, and the Wildwood? It was delicious.

 

**White elephant gift exchanges should be permanently banned.