Amazing Sunset at Sunset Lakes

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Sunset over Sunset Lakes in Washington.

July 13, 2018

We saw the most amazing sunset the other night over the lake at our campground.  We have been thoroughly enjoying this lake.  I kayak a few times a day to check out the wildlife along the shore.  Regis went snorkeling for awhile again today.  I like to go out for an evening kayak and sit in the middle of the lake and watch the swallows feed and drink.

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Young swallow. Did mom or dad just fly by with something to eat?

The night sky here is brilliant.  You can see the Milky Way and you can see stars almost to the horizon.  The limited lighting in this area makes for a beautiful view at night.  We just need to avoid the rattlesnakes when we are out and about in the middle of the night enjoying the stars.

We drove around the area yesterday checking it out and saw great views of the Cascades from around Oroville.  Regis wanted to check out some property in the area and this picture is a view from that vicinity.

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View of the Cascades from just east of Oroville, Washington.

I saw an adult quail with a bunch of small quail this afternoon.  The young ones are so small, they must have hatched recently.  Momma quail is very skiddish, so it is tough to get a good look.  We’ve seen A LOT of quail around and some of them are young ones, but the ones I saw today where very tiny.

It’s been warm yesterday and today (in the 90’s).  It’s nice when you sit outside in the shade because there is a breeze.  Because they continue to shoot cannons to scare the birds, we can’t let Dart sit outside with us.  He doesn’t like it.  I keep trying to get him outside because he generally loves it out there, but as soon as he hears a boom, he’s done.

I went to the laundromat today and then the grocery store.  When I got back, Regis put the groceries away while I put the clothes away.  We ate lunch and then I tried taking Dart out to sit in the shade.  That’s when I saw the little quail.  After the third boom, I took Dart back in the motor home and decided to get some of the ice cream I just bought.  I bought two kinds, but could only find one kind in the freezer.  It hit me, I left a bag in the car.  I rushed out to the car that was sitting in the hot sun since I returned and sure enough, the ice cream was in there and totally melted.  It didn’t leak outside the container, so I put it in the freezer to see if it could be saved.  I mean, it’s Tillamook limited edition Waffle Cone Swirl.  It must be saved.

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Dragonfly
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Turtle keeping an eye on my while I drifted by in my kayak.
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Goldfinch taking a bath.

 

Grand Coulee Dam

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Grand Coulee Dam

July 11, 2018

Yesterday we drove to see the Grand Coulee Dam.  It is such a contrast to see the Columbia River against the dry countryside.  It makes the water look particularly refreshing.

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Reservoir behind Grand Coulee Dam.

Sadly, there is no way for fish to pass the dam.  Instead, the dam funds three fish hatcheries in Leavenworth, Winthrop, and Entiat where they produce over 2 million fish.  In 2016, Reclamation took the first steps to developing the science to look into the feasibility of fish passage and reintroduction.  When the study is complete, Reclamation will decide what to do.

We continue to enjoy the wildlife around the little lake at our campground.  I have been kayaking everyday and often we sit in the shade by the lake and watch the bird activity.  There are lots of juveniles being fed by their parents.  I’m including some favorite pictures from yesterday and today.

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Eastern Kingbird
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Northern Flickers
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Juvenile Canadian Goose
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Killdeer
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Downy Woodpecker
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Bullock’s Oriole nest
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Robin with berries.
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Bullock’s Oriole
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Hawk (not sure what kind)
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Hawk (not sure what kind, same as above)

Through the Cascades

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Loon

July 10

We left Burlington yesterday morning and drove through the North Cascades.  It was the toughest drive the motor home has had to do.  The mountains are huge and there was endless climbing, following by endless going down.  The temperature rose significantly as we reached the east side of the mountains and it is dry.  When the heat hit us, I was skeptical that I was going to enjoy this week.  We drove through a lot of area that was devastated by wildfires in the not too distant past.

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Chickadee

We arrived at a very small campground on a small lake.  It turned out to be a very lovely spot.  We sat in the shade in the afternoon and it was not so hot.  In fact, it was very pleasant.  We enjoyed visiting with our neighbors, especially the 87 year old woman who lives next door.  She’s delightful.  Since she has lived in the area since she was 12, she has lots of information to share.

Dart is not as happy with the place as me.  There are many orchards in the area and some of them have cannons that go off to scare the birds.  Dart has had enough of the noise with all the 4th of July fireworks, now he has to put up with this!

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Northern Flicker

I rode the kayak slowly around the edge of the lake yesterday evening and saw lots of birds.  The water is very clear.  Regis went snorkeling while I was kayaking.

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Northern Flicker

There are lots and lots of swallows.  As the sun was going down,  they began to roost in the trees.  A lot of them were closing their eyes.

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Sleepy swallows.
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Swallows

 

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This Red-Winged Blackbird is having a bad hair day.

I got up before the sun this morning and got some pictures.  It was beautiful and quiet except for all the bird sounds.  Although it was a little chilly, it was a warm chilly if that makes sense.  I think it might be because the air is so dry that it is very pleasant.

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First light in Omak, Washington.
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First light in Omak, Washington. That is my kayak at the base of the tree.

 

Church Mountain Trail

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Banana slug (maybe?) on the Church Mountain Trail in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

By Regis. July 7

So we tried a third mountain hike today. On the drive to the trail head, Linda was thinking out loud “Why is it always cloudy and rainy when we go for hikes?”. Then without skipping a beat “oh yeah it’s Washington”. The weather had a better chance today than our Sauk Mountain hike . Today it was just highish clouds hung from the mountain tops, no rain and a bit warmer than 40.

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Columbine on the Church Mountain Trail in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Linda had heard about this hike, Church mountain trail, on her recent whale watch trip. There was snow in the meadow and we thought it would be great for Dart to have some fun. Seemed like a great plan until I located a trail description from The Washington Trail Association (www.wta.org).  I’ll let their description speak , emphasis mine;

“From the trailhead, the route up Church Mountain starts deceptively easy with a 0.5-mile stroll up an old forest road. Then it gets right down to business with lots of switchbacks winding up and around the west side of the mountain. The trees are fairly dense, which you’ll actually appreciate on warmer days, though they obstruct any big views until later—look for the occasional peek of Mount Baker above or the North Fork Nooksack River below as you continue to climb.

At 3 miles, the trail finally eases its grade and opens up into sprawling meadows. This is your first chance to glance back at the spectacular view of Mount Baker. As you meander through the meadow, you will not see any of those notable golden larch trees, but the vibrant fall colors brought out by the abundance of huckleberry bushes that blanket the meadow and the ridge above in hues of green, red, purple and gold.

From the meadow, the last 1.2 miles of the climb get steeper, but the trail takes you directly through a large huckleberry patch for some possible late-season treats. The last 200 feet are a scramble up loose rock. Take advantage of the cable to hold on to going up this last section. From the peak, you will get a fantastic 360-degree view of Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan, Damfino Lakes, Border Line Peaks, Goat Mountain, Excelsior Pass and Skyline Ridge in the background.”

If you were counting thats 4.2 miles UP. I knew we would not be doing a 8.4 mile round trip, but 3 miles up to the meadow seemed doable. Oh how could I have been so wrong! To be fair the description listed lots of switchbacks. OK we did lots on Sauk Mountain. What it didn’t say was how STEEP the west side of the mountain was! Once we started hiking we were going up and a very steep up it was!

We started the hike at 2300 ft. and got to the meadow just short of 5000 ft. For the mathematically challenged thats 2700 ft. This hike was steep! The switchbacks were much longer and steeper than Sauk Mountain. In fact, each switchback was probably higher than the total height of Florida! The trail NEVER gave us a break. It was a long steep slog up probably the steepest side of the mountain.

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A rare glimpse down the mountain on the Church Mountain Trail in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. There were lots of clouds.

We paced ourselves and took many breathers at the switchbacks. We were dog tired and about to give up but we had glimpses of a meadow through the trees and and decided we would go 500 more feet and turn around.

We did get to the meadow and within the 500 ft. Dart had been off leash the whole trip and was great. We were a bit disappointed with the snow. It was just smaller patches much higher up in the meadow. If Dart was going to romp, he was going alone. I think we snapped a couple of pictures, snacked, watered, started getting eaten by bugs, and started back down. Going down was almost as hard as going up but without all the heavy breathing and sweating!

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Meadow at the 3 mile mark on the Church Mountain Trail in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

On the way down, we met a couple going up.  She was carrying a baby in a sack on her chest.  He was carrying a young child on his back.  It definitely made us feel unfit.

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Fungus on the Church Mountain Trail in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

We also determined that Dart has no age issues to prevent him from hiking.  He has temperature issues.  If it is warmer than 70 degrees, he’s a quitter.  Otherwise, he can outdo us any day.

 

Another Great Day on the Water

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Orcas among the San Juan Islands.

July 6

I went whale watching again today, but this time from Bellingham, Washington.  This puts you in the midst of the San Juan Islands.  It was a great trip and I was fortunate to see another pod of Orcas.

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Orcas by the San Juan Islands,

We saw transient Orcas.  There are transient Orcas and resident Orcas in Puget Sound.  The naturalist told us that the transient Orcas, many of which eat seals, live to about 40.  The resident Orcas have been documented to live to 100 and they eat salmon.  Unfortunately, the salmon stocks are so depleted that the resident Orcas are struggling.  But, the transient Orca numbers are increasing because the seal population is also increasing.

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Orcas hunting for seals by the San Juan Islands.
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Orcas hunting for seals by the San Juan Islands.

Apparently, sometimes you get to see the transient Orcas actively feeding.  Our Orcas were traveling a regular route where they are often successful in getting a seal.  When they do, they drown it and then split it up between the pod.  We saw a pod of about 4-5 whales that included a juvenile.

I also saw some seals.  They are just beginning to have their young.

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Seal mom and pup.
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Curious seal watching our boat.

 

I saw lots of seabirds including these Oystercatchers.

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Oystercatchers.

And, there were great views of Mount Baker and the San Juan Islands.

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Mount Baker.
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San Juan Islands.
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Lighthouse on Patos Island.

 

Vashon Island

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Nashi Orchards Perry and Cider. Yum!!

July 5

We joined Jason, Dan, and Coco on Vashon Island for July 4th.  We left the motor home in Burlington and stayed in a lodge on the Island.  We planned to do some “beach” things like sit in the sun, kayak, and paddle board.  We brought the beach umbrella for Dart and Coco to sit in the shade.  It was windy and cold, so we walked the beach in our jackets and enjoyed the views of Mount Ranier.  Dan found us something else to do for the afternoon.

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It may have been too cold to do beach things, but at least we got a great view of Mount Ranier.
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The shorelines around here have LOTS of driftwood. 
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Hmmm. Looks like someone didn’t read the sign.
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While we were enjoying the view, we saw this Osprey plunge into the water and catch this fish. It was windy, so this Osprey was having a lot of difficulty bringing this fish back. Also, the Osprey was only using one talon the whole time it was transporting the fish.

Dan hit the jackpot for us and found a place to do a cider tasting.  We went to Nashi Orchards which accommodated the six of us (4 adults and 2 dogs) for a cider tasting and tour of the orchard.  Nashi is a word for pear.

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Fuzzy pear growing in the Nashi Orchard waiting for it’s chance to be transformed into a Perry.

It was amazing.  I had no idea that cider could taste that good.  Some of the ciders have pears.  The orchards use a lot of their own fruit but will sometimes add fruits from other local farms.  The ciders were more like a fine wine.  After getting a taste of about six different ciders, all good, we toured the orchard.  The gardens were beautiful and we got to see the fruits beginning to grow on the trees.  We met the sheep that do a lot of the maintenance around the trees.  It was so beautiful, I was ready to move in.   The owners were very enthusiastic about what they do and were happy to share lots of information with us.  (I obviously didn’t absorb it all so I have to go back for another tour.) It was a great experience and we all felt that maybe we lucked out that we didn’t want to kayak in the cold.  It just goes to show there is always something interesting to do.  We, of course, purchased some cider to take with us.

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Apples growing in the Nashi Orchard.
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Sheep that helps keep the orchard “trimmed”.

We ate a a farm to table restaurant called the Bramble House. They offered cider from Nashi Orchards and well as other local options.  The dinner was amazing and the deserts were even better.  It’s probably a good thing I don’t live next to this restaurant.

We went to the area where the official fireworks were being set off for the Island.  We took the dogs so that we didn’t leave them in strange lodgings with all the booms.  It was crazy.  We were warned it would be crazy and it was.  There were so many “unofficial” fireworks going off that we weren’t sure we would know when the official ones started.  Good fireworks like that are not cheap, so I was amazed at how many people were shooting off big fireworks.

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Waiting to watch fireworks while the neighbors were setting off their own fireworks. Crazy!!

Coco was okay as long as they weren’t going off over her head.  When we were in the thick of things, the fireworks were going off around us, so we had to back off to give the Coco some space.  Dart wasn’t happy from the start and Regis took him around the neighborhood.  That gave Regis an opportunity to see just how many fireworks were going off all around Puget Sound.  And, most of those were probably not “official”.

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“Unofficial” fireworks.

We were able to tell when the official fireworks started.  They were a little bigger and better.  As soon as they started, all the “unofficial” fireworks stopped.  As soon as the last official firework finished, all the “unofficial” fireworks started up again.  We could hear them long into the night, much to Dart’s dismay.  I’ve never seen 4th of July fireworks on the West Coast before and it is the wild, wild west out here.

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Official fireworks.
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Official fireworks.

Sauk Mountain Trail Flora

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Flora along Sauk Mountain Trail.

Yesterday I mentioned that we saw a lot of flowers and plant life on the Sauk Mountain Trail.  With all the fog, there were no views and  we spent out time appreciating the flora around us. In this post, I’m simply sharing some of the pictures of that amazing floral scenery.

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Flora along Sauk Mountain Trail.
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Flora along Sauk Mountain Trail.
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Flora along Sauk Mountain Trail.
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Flora along Sauk Mountain Trail.
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Flora along Sauk Mountain Trail.
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Flora along Sauk Mountain Trail.
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Flora along Sauk Mountain Trail. Notice the water droplets from the fog setting on the flower.