La Push, Hurricane Ridge and a Goodbye to the PNW- Seattle, Washington

What do you do when it’s your last vacation day and you realize there is still just so much too see? Do you rationalize and prioritize and make plans for when you can come back? If you’re a more logical person than I, then yes, that would be exactly what you would do. If you’re me and/or you’re traveling with me (and you love me too much to explain why this would be a bad idea) you try and fit in everything you want to see in one day and get in the car and go.

Such was the case on our last day in the Seattle area. We had seen a fair amount already and the plans had been to spend our last day exploring the city, maybe hitting up a couple of bookstores and just relaxing. But after visiting Vancouver, I hadn’t been too enamored with Seattle in comparison (no offense to Seattle of course, we all have our favorite cities) and felt my heart calling out to go back to the mountains and for one last view of the ocean before we headed back Texas. So the morning of our last day we packed up the rental car and headed off to the first stop of the day, navigating to the Hurricane Ridge visitor center inside of Olympic National Park.

A leisurely 3 hour drive from downtown Seattle made all the better by the beautiful landscape and perfect weather. We didn’t intend to do any hiking or really much of anything that wasn’t just looking around in awe at the view once we got up there. Beautiful green mountains spread out in front of us and I honestly think the only comparable view i’ve had in a national park was when we visited Rocky Mountain Natl. Park, and even then there were no gorgeous bay views. We couldn’t stay too long as we had another 2 hour or so drive to make it to our next destination but on the way down back towards Port Angeles we still stopped at almost every lookout to take it all in, get just one last taste of this park we knew we’d have to come back to explore further one day soon.

La Push was the last destination of the day and the most exciting for me as I had looked up photos of the area the night before and kept showing them to the bf like, “Look! Isn’t this just amazing! We gotta go!”  till he said yes yes it was very nice  and agreed we would go even if the drive back from there to Seattle would be slightly painful. We arrived just a little before 5pm, later than we’d wanted but still excited to find our way to the beach. Parking by the trail for Second Beach we made our way into the forest for the short hike to the beach, less than a mile and pretty easy in most parts. We mostly only encountered people coming back so we hoped we had managed to avoid the more crowded part of the day and by the time we got close enough to hear the sound of the ocean and smell that familiar salty air there was more than a slight giddiness to our step.

Just beautiful, I honestly could have stayed there all day, walking along the sand with my feet getting splashed by the cold water and my jeans rolled up to my knees but we knew the sooner we started the 4 hour drive back the less we would hate ourselves the next morning. And so, with just one last look we clambered over the driftwood and headed back to the car and, after brushing ourselves off as best we could, we put on some music and started the long drive back.

We decided to take the south US 101 route back rather than head back up to Port Angeles again and just enjoy the views of the coastline. Passing through all the sleepy coastal towns (Humptulips!) and various signs for public beaches, thinking back on the past few days and all we’d seen and done, I knew that we had to come back for a much longer stay if not just somehow make a permanent move.

It wasn’t until almost midnight when we made it back to the hotel and as we walked from the parking garage over to the entrance, we passed by the Space Needle, all lit up against the dark night sky and we stopped there for a minute to look up. Tired and sweaty, the bottom of our jeans covered in sand and our shoes muddy as hell, we looked up at this landmark of the Pacific Northwest and felt just overwhelmingly content with the way this trip had gone. Maybe not perfectly planned, but more than perfectly adventurous for us.

~m

Wet Feet, No Ponchos and A Forest of Burls- Olympic National Park, Washington

We decided to head up to the Pacific Northwest region of the US on almost a whim. By the beginning of June the stress from spending almost all my free time studying to pass the Salesforce Administrator Certification exam had reached an all time high and like I told the bf, “If we don’t book some kind of getaway for next month I think I’m gonna end up running away to become a hermit in the wilds of Alaska.” Needless to say he was supportive of helping plan something and after some consideration we decided to head up to Seattle and possibly make a day trip to Vancouver as well since we’d never been to that part of the US before and I was very enthusiastic about the idea of heading to cooler climes.

By the time the trip rolled around I had thankfully successfully passed the exam (hooray) and we headed out on 5 days of adventure with enthusiasm and only haphazard plans of what we were going to do- which is pretty standard for us, because who needs plans?

The first day there, out flight touched down around 10am and after grabbing our rental car, we headed east towards the coast on HWY 101. Living in North Texas really makes a person eager to see the ocean, breathe in fresh salty air and hear the crashing of waves so off we went, no actual destination in mind apart from just the vague idea of driving until we couldn’t go further.


A leisurely winding 2 hour drive from SeaTac later found us gassing up at Queets and entering the outer reaches of Olympic National park, and we started seeing signs for trails with beach access. We planned to grab some snacks (and coffee!) at Kalaloch Lodge and then park and walk down to the easy access beach there but, I was curious about those other trails and convinced the bf to have us go back and take a look at where they might take us.

The trail for Beach 2 proved much too muddy and slippery for us, as unprepared as we were to do any kind of hiking, but the trail at Beach 1, the Spruce Burl Nature Trail, while having no cars parked at the trailhead looked level and relatively straight forward and and so, we started on our way.

We had no umbrellas, ponchos or hiking books and there was a steady misting rain coming down on us but we had the trail that leads through the woods, across a wooden footbridge and onto the beach all to ourselves, not another person in sight as far as you could see, just the sound of waves and the water rushing up the sand. It was perfect and though we were pretty soaked through by the time we headed back to the car, I don’t think I’ve been as carefree and happy as that in a long time.

(Fun fact- Neither me nor the bf had ever seen burls as big as these on trees before and there was both wonder and slight fright at the number of burls on these Sitka spruce trees in these woods.)

Instead of heading back the way we came to make it to our hotel in Silverdale, we decided to head north because per the GPS it would end up being the same length of time and we figured, why not see some more of this Olympic peninsula area? Funny enough we had completely forgotten that the town of Forks (used as the main setting in the Twilight books) was situated here and we pass right through and then doubled back to take a photo of the town sign because it was too fantastic an opportunity to pass up.

With that photo souvenir taken, we settled in for the rest of the drive back to our hotel, rain still lightly coming down and the almost everything around us surrounded by lush greenness.

~m

Whats Up? (aka the past 4 Months)- Frisco, Texas

Back in April I started posting about the trip me and the bf took to Europe together at the end of March and since then it’s been pretty much all i’ve posted about- both because I had so many photographs I wanted to share and because I do like providing a more linear kind of blogging experience vs sporadic postings all over the place. But, because of that and my reigning title as Exemplary Blogging Procrastinator, it’s now the middle of August and i’m just now finishing up posting about the trip (which isn’t even counting the fact that I didn’t do my usual Outtakes post but lets not get into that…)

So whats up?

A fair amount of stuff actually. Here’s a handy numerical list of things :

1- House sold. The bf and I decided you know what, as has probably been apparent for a good while, living in the suburbs isn’t for us so we decided after 3 years of living out there in a house much too big for just the two of us, to sell it and move closer to civilization. We’re now renting a 3bd apartment in the city of Frisco, Texas and it’s honestly been fantastic.

3- Fantasy books bought because my co-worker suggested them as we have the same taste in books. I still haven’t read the first one because this guy promised me they were a complete trilogy but a frantic late night discovery on his part reveled that nope, it’s an ongoing series. I didn’t commit workplace violence by throwing one of the books at him but, it was a close thing.

2- New places visited and marked off my bucket list- Washington (specifically the Seattle and Olympic Natl. Park area) and Vancouver. To put it simply- I loved it. Like no exaggeration here, i’m already making plans to figure out how to move out of Texas and live somewhere in Washington permanently.

1- Work related goal completed. I doubt i’ve mentioned this before but my day job (the one that I was offered last year while I was on vacation in Germany) consists of working in Sales Ops as a Salesforce Administrator and in June I finally put  my money where my mouth was and took the certification exam- and thankfully passed! Its not the first certification i’ve gotten for a job but it certainly felt like the hardest.

8- parcels/letters sent. Outside of work and traveling, i’ve a giant procrastinator. This definetly applies to my love of snail-mailing and after coming back from the aforementioned trip to Seattle and Vancouver, I sat my butt down and put together a bunch of packages to send to friends and realized as I always do when I get back into it, that I love and miss snail-mailing.

2- Unexpected work related things that happened in June. My director ask me if i’d be interested in going to the yearly Salesforce conference  (Dreamforce!) thats held in San Francisco and after I said yeah sure, why not? got issued a company credit card. Neither of these should be taken as a not-so-subtle humble brag though, because after that happened I had a deep existential crisis about what the heck i’m doing with my life and decided escaping to the PNW for a couple of days with the bf would be a good way to clear my head.

4- Pairs of weird and cool pj pants bought- one has whales, the other dancing cactuses and the third happy ice cream cones. The last one had otters on it that I sent to my friend Julia (the one who is amazing and let me stay with her when I visited her in Germany last year) and if thats not a sign of affectionate friendship that transcends international borders, I don’t know what is.

Countless- Cheeseboards eaten (because thats what you get when you realize you can either make them yourself or easily order them in place of a meal especially when you’re stressed as all heck)

And so thats, more or less, a compendium of whats been up in the last 4 months. Ideally the goal is to start posting about the trip to Seattle + Vancouver here sometime soon, but at this time i’m also navigating work (and studying up for my next Salesforce certification that I want to take in September at the conference), working on polishing up a manuscript to shop around to agents (query letter hell here I come), trying to get back into my art and snail-mailing, oh and also planning my next trip to Europe at the end of November. I think I forgot to mention that in the list above so here-

2- Plane tickets about. One roundtrip ticket from Dallas–> London and one from Budapest to London. 3- Hotels booked so far- cities include: London, Prague, Budapest.

Yup. Life has not slowed down and if anything it’s looking to just keep getting more and more interesting but apart from needing cheeseboard and coffee breaks here and there, i’m enjoying it.

Not drowning in my coffee cups yet,
~m

A Dream of Canyonlands- Finished (Finally, dear gods)

Truth be told, i’ve had this finished for almost a month now…i’ve been just been procrastinating on actually posting about it. Why? That lovely thing that is artistic conceit that gets you thinking that if you just keep tweaking at it and adding just-one-more-thing, it’ll be perfect.

Thankfully work, life in general and planning for my upcoming trip to Europe (more on that soon) has kept me from turning the finished piece into a messy jumble trying to achieve unknowable perfection. I’m actually…pleased, with the way this turned out. When I first started it, i’d never done a landscape drawing that wasn’t just mountains, mountains and more mountains but I was so enamored by the landscape of Canyonlands NP that I knew I just had to try my hand at it.  It started with the rough sketch of graphite, then entered the inking stage I love so much and thats where I paused because I didn’t know if I dared to dip into color, and if I did dare, what route should I take? Bold reds and oranges, what you would expect of this Utah landscape? Muted browns and greens for a more traditional feel? Those all sounded like good ideas but they weren’t me, and after I had done color sketch after color sketch, I finally found myself at the completely other end of the spectrum I had started on, holding purples, blues and pinks in additional to the predictable browns.

I’ve already started sketching out some ideas for the next project, either an Arches NP one or a Joshua Tree one (i‘ll post those a little later) but for now, i’m happy with the way this one turned out and I like that every time I look over at it i’m reminded of the way I felt when I first saw this park- like I was on another planet, a whole otherworldly experience of pure wonder.

~m

A Dream of Canyonlands- WIP

There’s a fair number of National Parks i’ve visited at this point now and even more that I plan to visit soon.. but I think Canyonlands NP in Utah will forever remain in my top 3 favorites. I visited last October and there are still days where i’ll be at work or getting ready for bed and some memory of it will flash across my mind and i’ll want to drop everything to go visit again now, soon. This is where the inspiration for this piece came from, the memory of my visit and the photos I took there.

I want to say I started this in…mmm….middle of March?And it was meant to be a weekend project but then that didn’t quite happen and now it’s July and i’m still not done with it. Which i’d love to say isn’t what usually happens but that would be a terrible lie. To be fair to myself though, I generally only get to work on any art projects of mine every other weekend or so and by “weekend” I mean about 4 hours on either Saturday or Sunday after I chugged my iced coffee and am feeling productive.

Materials:
Faber-Castel PITT artist pens
Prismacolor colored pencils (currently debating on splurging for some Faber-Castel colored pencils but haven’t decided if i’m feeling that artistic just yet)

I’d very much like to finish this one up soon so I can start on another that i’ve in mind- this time from a photograph that I took in Arches, but we’ll see how that actually goes. For now i’m just hoping the weather keeps giving me sun filled weekends and the bf keeps making me excellent iced coffees.

~m

p.s Don’t mind the fantastically low quality of this iPhone photo, I just didn’t feel this work in progress was worth hauling out the actual camera for, not yet.