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Monday, July 29, 2013

Majestical part 2

If you missed it, here's Part 1!

The plan of attack for day two was nothing but hiking at the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park. Normally a 4 hour drive from home and as many miles as you can hike in a day, it was much better to stay the night close by and start early in the morning. We'd gotten back from Neah Bay at around 11pm and plopped straight into bed, waking the next morning at 7. With Hot Pockets filling our bellies for breakfast, we checked out of our hotel and started the 1 hour drive down to the Rain Forest.

Our first stop was at one of the biggest Sitka Spruce Trees in the US. ->
Yeah, I needed to use the panorama feature on my camera for that.

It was the perfect day for a hike. Catching the rain forest on a non-rainy day is tough, especially when you're four hours away. The day was more than perfect.
It was like walking though Jurassic Park. The trees were massive, and there were ferns covering every inch of forest floor. 
I even found a creek that resembled something like that which Norman slid down while trying to avoid the Dilophosaurus. 

There were a couple of water falls, but the real spectacle was the Hoh River. Although it was probably at its lowest point of the year, it was still quite beautiful. 
Once Justin and I reached Mt. Tom's Creek 2.9 miles in, we trekked to the river and I pulled out the smoked salmon and smoked trout I'd made a couple days prior. It was the perfect lunch while sitting on a log and watching the river. 

The hike itself wasn't difficult at all. It was mostly flat and fairly easy to traverse, although my trekking poles did come in handy a couple of times. I was also wearing my brand new hiking boots; a pair of Keen Gypsum mid-highs, which I hadn't even had a chance to break in. So far, I absolutely love them. I'll be doing a review on Amazon once I test them out a bit more (aka, Pinnacle Peak), but I believe they're quite good for the price. (REI is selling them for $140 but shhh, I got them for $84!)

After the hike, we went straight home, since it was a 4 hour drive. I was so glad I could do this on a Friday/Saturday so that I could have Sunday to relax! Luckily, I didn't get sore at all. 6 miles, in any terrain, is usually my limit!

I'll leave you now with a couple more pics!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Majestical part 1

Did I grab the attention of all the grammar nazis? Good, because I made that word up on purpose! Ha :P It's a mix of magical and majestic, and that's what my recent vacation was. It required a one night stay in the town known as Forks. Yes, that Forks.

My plan was to get off early at work and drive down to Forks. I got the cheapest motel in the area, and I do mean cheap. At $60 a night, it didn't even have a phone or a clock radio. But it did have a fridge, microwave, and a TV with dish network, plus free wifi, so good enough! I wasn't planning on spending any time in there anyway! It's a 3 hour drive to Forks, and we got there just in time for dinner. We tried to eat at this place called the Smoke House Restaurant but it was closed, sadly. We needed to drive up to Neah Bay anyway because I wanted to see Cape Flattery, so we decided to try and find a place to eat up there.

For those unfamiliar with Neah Bay and the surrounding area, it is at the tip of the most northwest point in the continental U.S, and owned by the Makah tribe. I don't know much of anything about spending time in a Reservation, but I do know this: I immediately felt unwelcome. Justin and I stopped at the first restaurant in town: The Warmhouse. It was a typical homey place. I was looking forward to some clam strips. We walked in, and there were about 5 people (yes, everyone inside were Natives) standing at a desk looking like they were waiting to pay. We stood around for a couple minutes and noticed the sign saying "please seat yourself", so we scooted past them and started looking for a place to sit. Then we heard, rudely, "Excuse me, we're waiting." I turned, and politely answered "Oh. The sign said please seat yourself," but started walking back anyway. I'm one to always avoid conflict when possible. They looked at it, didn't apologize or anything, and found a place to sit, and so did we. Within a couple of minutes we got our menus. But then we waited, and waited. And as we waited, I felt the stares. We were the only white people in there that I noticed, and I was starting to feel very uncomfortable. We were ready to order by the time the waitress brought us our water, but she never asked if we were ready and walked off without a word. I was beginning to feel as if we were being purposefully ignored. I told Justin to try to get the attention of the waitress, and as he was putting his hand up, so did the table behind us. She walked over to them instead of us, and by then I'd had it. We'd waited probably 10-15 minutes to get our order taken and she just didn't care. We walked out. And I could swear that group behind Justin had laughed as we left.

Luckily, that was the worst of the whole trip, though. We stopped at the very next place, called Linda's Wood-fired Kitchen and Motel. A motel was a good spot to feel more welcomed, as there were other races besides Native Americans there. Now, I have absolutely no problem with any race, least of all the Native Americans. And I have never gone out of my way to act as if they were any different than anyone else. Being on the receiving end of this deep-rooted hatred, or malice, or whatever you want to call it, was very unpleasant and I never hope to feel that way again. Linda's was perfect. We ordered a pizza and it was absolutely delicious. I was much happier giving my money to someone who showed no ill-will towards anyone, no matter what their race or ethnicity. 

After we ate, the sun was beginning to set, and we needed to get up to Cape Flattery in time to get some good pictures before and during sunset. But first we had to find out where to buy this so-called "Recreation Permit". On our drive around this tiny town, something was "happening", and we had no idea what the hub-bub was. The road down to the beaches were blocked, people parked beyond with surfing gear. We drove into the residential part of town where the road was stuffed with cars and tents littered everywhere, on everyone's lawn and beyond. It was the strangest sight. We found the town's store and paid for our permit, and headed up the road to the cape. It was a 3/4 of a mile walk, but they had made it very nice, adding a boardwalk similar to Lake Ozette

The walk up to the Cape was littered with very interesting trees, and a couple stops along the way to view the ocean. The sights were magnificent. I wanted to stay to see the sunset, and got a couple of good shots of Tatoosh Island.

This was a very popular spot, even for the locals apparently. It was easy to access and private. And the sunset was beautiful.
Afterwards, we headed back to our car in the dark, along with everybody else. There had probably been 15 people up there with us to watch the sunset. On our way out of town back to our motel in Forks, we noticed that their Gym, which looked huge and brand new, was surrounded with people. Hundreds of them were standing right inside/outside and in the parking lot. All we could think was "oookay" and move on. We never did find out what was going on down there!

Well, that was day one! Tomorrow, we travel to the Hoh Rain Forest!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review of JJ's Fish House

I wanted to like it! I swear, I don't walk into these restaurants with any preconveived notions. However, I was trying to find a fishmonger, not a restaurant. (Have you ever noticed when you're looking for a butcher, you can type in "butcher" and get butchers, but when you type in "fishmonger" you get a bunch of shitty restaurants?) But, we were hungry anyway, so might as well try them out.

A little background: I order calamari everywhere I go. If it's on the menu, I want to try it. I have found two absolutely amazing places that make calamari as an appitizer: The RAM and Duke's Chowder House, both on Ruston Way in Tacoma. Masa on 6th Ave also makes a good variety (their food is excellent, by the way), and I've had them at other places as well that were delicious. But JJ's Fish House? Sigh.

JJ's Fish House - 18881 Front St. Poulsbo, WA 98370

The location is central to downtown Poulsbo, which is horrid in terms of parking. Even though they were sitting right at the central parking lot, we had to park far away and walk in. The wait staff were kind and very attentive, although we only arrived 30 minutes after they opened. We ate outside because it was nasty humid inside the restaurant, and if I think it's hot, then it's damn hot. (here's why)

Appitizer: Calamari - Fresh cut rings of bay squid with a light lemon pepper batter and choice of classic Marinara or Garlic Aioli dipping sauces.

It was the worst calamari I've ever had. Their batter was bland and tempura-like. They either over-fried or under-fried the squid, which leads to a very chewy texture. The "classic marinara" dipping sauce was watery and flavorless. The Garlic aioli was decent.

For lunch, I had:

Delicate cold poached salmon fillet, dillsour cream aioli, capers, fresh sliced tomato and crispy greens on an open faced sun dried tomato foccaccia bread.

The bread was good. I liked it. I don't much care for the "open-face" concept (if I want a sandwich, I want a freaking sandwich) I assumed they would at least bring me the top piece so that if I wanted to eat it like a sandwich, I could. The bread was warm, but the salmon was cold. I know, that's how it comes. But as I was eating it (with a knife) I thought it would taste better if the salmon was warm. The aioli was tasty, and I loved the capers. All in all, not a bad dish. It certainly beat out the appitizer!

Would I come back? Not really. Not much on the menu really appealed to me. They seem like "the place to go" when in Poulsbo, but I just wasn't that impressed. I can handle food that tastes "good", if maybe not creative, but when they show that they can't fry calamari correctly, it's really disappointing!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

When is a Hike Worth It?

When you get views like this:

And like this:

And this:

This magical wonderland of breathtaking views is called Hurricane Hill, located at the top portion of the Olympic Mountain Range. And it was actually a relatively easy hike. Now, I often read "reviews" of people who go on hikes and tell you how easy or difficult said hike was. What they fail to mention is that they are usually avid hikers that backpack overnight, walk 12 miles a day, and do it all year round. I'm not that person. I'm 175 lbs, as weak as a puppy, and have the lung capacity of a marmot. (I have no idea how long marmots can hold their breath; maybe Google knows.) So when I say it was relatively easy, well, that might be a fairly accurate assessment! It was a 950 foot climb in 1.6 miles, but a lot of it was still flat, so it wasn't a straight shot up the whole time. Most of it was out in the open grassland though, which afforded a view almost the entire hike up, but also meant you were in full sun saturation. 

But considering how short the hike was (and how quickly you can get from Port Angeles to Hurricane Ridge), it was very little effort for a great reward.

Now I can finally cross it off of my Places I Visit Out of Spite list!

Monday, July 8, 2013

When Good Toilets Go Bad

I seem to be reading numerous blog posts today with some kind of poop and toilet theme. I'm not sure if this is a blog hop I'm missing or what, but it brought back old memories and I figured I'd share to join in the fun!

When I was a kid, I was scared of weird toilets. Sure, I could use other people's potties if I had to, but I surely disliked it. Whenever I entered a stranger's abode, I would look all up and down and from side to side as if I was trying to avoid a murderer hiding in the corner (nowadays I do this for spiders, but I digress). I was scared to death of all white toilets that had black seats. It was like I was setting my ass on a black hole. I thought I'd be sucked in. And a completely black toilet? Yeah, forget that! For the longest time I refused to use all porta potties. I don't know about you, but I always had to look down into them first before even attempting to sit, and that never helped the situation. Sometimes I'd fear shit crawling out of them, and I don't mean that in the literal sense!

I was going to post a picture of a porta potty here.
I would HIGHLY recommend you not type that in Google image search.

I would have toilet dreams when I was younger, too. Well, more like toilet nightmares. I remember this one specifically where my mom was trying to find me a toilet to use, and we were in this big warehouse room with every kind of toilet under the sun, but like Goldilocks, none of them were right! One was too big, one was too small, one was spraying water all over the place, one was cracked and leaking; and man I had to pee bad when I woke up!

I have really bad luck with automatic toilets. They seems to like to flush when I'm sitting on them - which is totally disgusting when your butt gets washed with dirty toilet water! This isn't a bidet, people! (People with bidets are weird. I mean, I get why they're neat, but a whole separate toilet-like device taking up a chunk of real estate in a bathroom? Seems a bit dumb to me.) And they never flush once I stand up! If I can't find the button to flush it with, or if there isn't one, I'll stand in the stall like a moron wondering what my options are. Should I wave my hand all stupidly in front of the sensor? Should I sit back down? Should I just... walk out? Ew.

I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.

Ever had to use a bathroom with stalls that had no doors? I did! At a freaking wedding no less! What the heck kind of place has a bathroom with no stall doors? I stood there all nervous, looking like I was a dumb teenager about to tag the walls and didn't want anybody to catch me doing it. It took me about 15 minutes to rack up the courage to finally go to the bathroom. And oh, pro-tip: if you ever find yourself in a stall with an unlock-able door, use a wad of toilet paper to keep it closed. It seems obvious, but back in HS we had a huge number of students, and during passing periods the bathrooms would have lines out the door. And no one ever used the stall with the broken lock like it was cursed or something. There were also a number of times where a jerk would try to be funny and lock a stall door and somehow climb out so that no one else could use it. I just shrugged it off and slid underneath the stall door to get in. Now that I think about it, that's probably why I didn't have any friends. But hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go!

Did you have any weird experiences with bathrooms? Share them in the comments!

I can't even...

Monday, July 1, 2013

Wait... we have marmots?

So recently I read an article describing this hike as [paraphrasing] "If you can only do one hike in the Olympics, this is it". Since one of my Internet friends is planning on a touristy visit soon and loves hiking, I mentioned this place, aptly named "Marmot Pass", because I guess there are marmots! So, I also decided to try it myself, but I knew this was pretty much going to be beyond my current abilities. I love to hike, but I'm not a "hiker". I don't have all the gear, and I don't overnight camp. I knew 11 total miles would be hard, especially going up 3500 feet in the process, but I was trying to psyche myself up for it. "Just take lots of breaks" "You can do this!" because apparently the views at the end are incredible. Plus, I wanted to let my friend know how the hike was.

I was also going at it alone because [sad panda face] no one I know wants or can go with me. Mom was very worried for me, but I knew I would be okay. On the rape and murder scale, I figure Upper Big Quilcene Trail (the actual name) is about a 0. Why? Well, several reasons:

1. It's located in Olympic National Forest, so it requires at least a $5 day pass.
2. It's about a 20 mile drive from the nearest town (Quilcene) to the trailhead, on National Forest roads no less, which include a lot of one-way roads at a max of 30 MPH.
3. No rapist in his right mind would climb upwards of 3500 feet to do his deed.
4. There was no where to hide. The Quicene River was always to my left down an embankment, and to the right was the other side of the embankment. (This also meant no where to pee if need be!) Plus, it's a popular trail and I often ran into other hikers.

I'm not dumb, however. I'd never hike a place like Banner Forest alone. Besides the possibilty of bears (which has been an issue there in the past) it's a huge forest with many trails and lots of places to hide. It's depressing that I can't even hike at a popular place like Pt. Defiance Park either, though.

The hike itself was beautiful. I was in awe of the splendor. I got several shots of the river, many of which were not sutible for posting, but still okay pics. It was a well-made trail with only a few issues of slippery rocks or muddy paths. I did have to cross three creeks though, which made me incredibly glad that my hiking boots are water resistant! 
<---- this is one of them. There was no way to avoid getting your feet wet!

Well anyway, long story short, I didn't reach the end. When I finally decided to turn around 2.8 miles in, I was angry and disappointed in myself. I did have several reasons for doing so however, and by the time I was .5 miles heading back the way I'd come, I was extremely glad I'd turned around when I did.

I was very ill-prepared for this type of hike. I didn't think 5.6 miles one way would be that big of a deal - but I was wrong. I didn't pack enough food or water. Blisters were forming on the heels of my feet, and on the decent? Oh, that was even worse. I have hard-toe hiking boots, and my toes were being crushed. That seemed to hurt even worse than the blisters and made my decent (of probably around 1200 feet) incredibly slow. On top of that, I had to pee. And actually, that was the worst problem of all, because although I was thinking "okay, I have ways to combat these problems I'm having", I've got no solution for needing to pee. As I stated above, there's not a lot of privacy out here, at least in the first 2.8 miles. How could I, or anyone, possibly make it 11 whole miles?!

On the plus side, I splurged on these Zensah compression sleeves for my calves that I'd read would help with soreness recovery time, and they seem to be working wonders. Since my hike at Pinnacle Peak had me sore for a good 5 days, I thought I'd give these a shot. So far, they're basically a miracle. I have a muscle fatigue issue where the calf starts shaking uncontrollably and I feel as though I might collapse, which was almost a non-issue this time. Also, they kept my legs cool even though it was a good 80 degrees up there in the sun. I have a good feeling that I won't be sore nearly as long this time either. We will see!

I do want to try this hike again, but I obviously need better equipment and more training. I'm hoping hiking poles will take some of the stress off my toes on my decent. I also think I need to splurge on some good wool socks and mole skin for my heels or some kind of wrap. Once those problems are taken care of, I should be good to go!

PS - If anyone has any hiking tips, I'm more than open to suggestions!!