VicTORIA!

My friend Weeble and his new girlfriend High-Maintenance Redhead (HMR) were going on their first vacation, and for some reason, they chose to travel around Victoria, BC.  I had never been there, despite it being a 2.5 hour ferry ride, and it seemed like a good excuse to see people and a new place.

People will tell you that Victoria is like a mini-England, and despite all the signs being in French, I’d say that’s an accurate statement.  There are botanical gardens (didn’t go), a castle (went), a lovely parliament building that lights up at night (went), a butterfly garden (didn’t go), a marina full of tiny houseboats (went), a really fun Chinatown (went), and a thriving food and beer culture (definitely went).

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It’s a cute little city – easily navigable both by car and walking, and there are some truly lovely sights to see.  And if all else fails, there’s always the food.  Fresh seafood, craft beer, incredible Asian food, and inventive cocktails.  And it’s all in dollarettes!

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Night Market

When I lived in China, going to the Night Market and haggling with the vendors, eating the food, and people watching was one of my favorite pastimes.  You can’t really replicate that here, but when Lt. Dan  and her boyfriend Granola invited me to the Vancouver Night Market, I jumped at the chance.

It’s not a terribly long drive – just going over the border and then finding a parking place takes a little bit.  We got the multi entry card for $30, which allowed 7 admissions to the market and no lines, and then we wandered around.

Lt. Dan was a little hangry, so we got food first.  There are a hundred different things to choose from, but being an occasional Korean, I opted for jap jae and pajeon.  Fast-food-stand Korean is the best.  It was delicious.  Then I saw the hundred other stands with Vietnamese, dim sum, meat on a stick, Thai, Japanese, Indian…did I choose poorly?  Maybe, but I’ll just have to go back.

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We walked around, and I decided we were in the real-life, overpriced version of ebay China.  Everything you find on ebay that ships from China was at these stalls:  cute USB drives, scarves, printed t-shirts, toys, silly lamps, you name it.  I bought two scarves (I was freezing), but we decided to head back when we failed to find me a panda carnival prize.

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At least now, I know if I don’t want to wait the four-week shipping time, I can just head to the Vancouver night market!

Birthday Hike!

Birthdays are rarely a treat for me.  Growing up in New England, it was always cold, caked with snow, and generally forgotten (I’m looking at you, 21st birthday).  But here in the PNW, I was lucky enough to get a sunny and 52* day, and a visit from my dear friend Jade.

Jade lives in San Antonio, and she visited specifically for this event, so we had to show her a good time.  And so, Sandwich, Louboutini, and I took Jade hiking at Fragrance Lake.  We parked at the parking lot to Larrabee State Park, and the trail head was conveniently right across the street.  Chuckanut Drive is really fun when there’s no one on it, and I was having a super time.

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It’s rated as Moderate on Alltrails, so we figured it would be just challenging enough so that we could burn off all the birthday dinner calories we’d later consume.  Let me tell you.  My butt felt GREAT after this one.  The above photo was taken before my quads were on fire – stairmaster, eat your heart out.

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I think the 50s are my favorite hiking temps, especially when working on elevation gains.  This one isn’t too bad, only 1100′, but it can hit you with some steep inclines.  I tell you, I have never been so excited to wear a t-shirt in March.

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The lake itself seemed so drab to me – colors will come out in a few months – but Jade loved it.   I suppose there’s something peaceful about the reflection on the water, but I can’t wait for all the green!

The best part of the hike, however, was a little lookout over Bellingham Bay.  I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of this view.   And the best part is that all it takes is a little leg work (literally)!

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Dam.

After the waterfall we were hot and sweaty, but there was still time for one more short hike.  We found one that was barely 2 miles out and back, and because we had about two hours to kill, it seemed fine. After all, at CDB’s pace, we’d need both hours…

We were going to do the Staircase Rapids hike, which promised a little loop and some pretty water.  Louboutini, the Ginger, and I wanted to do something a bit more challenging, but CDB’s incessant whining prevailed.  The hike was quite simple, but very pretty, mostly because of what lay under the bridge (cue RHCP song).

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We made our way down to the water, which was easier said than done.  Being me, I took the most direct, if not the harder way, down, scrambling over trees, straight down the side of the mountain.  But the water below was cold, and green, and worth it.

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There was a big beaver dam from the driftwood, and of course, I wanted to climb it.  It was a success, but there are no photos.  It was not my most fashionable or graceful moment.

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We spent a good hour cooling off, playing in the water, and relaxing before the mile walk back to the car.  These rapids were lovely, the weekend was lovely, and I think it’s an absolute truth that hiking is good for your soul.

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After making our way back to the car and dusting off a bit, we set out to drop the Ginger and CDB off at the airport.  Overall, it had been a good weekend, though I think my next trip will end up being a long weekend with a group that is about the same fitness and ambition level.

As we drove off, I turned around and saw the remains of Lake Cushman out the window.  No, sir, it truly does not get better than this.

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Staircase to Heaven

The Ginger and CDB wanted to get to their flight by 4pm, which meant we had time for only one short hike.  We chose to go to Staircase Monument, since it was on the way to SeaTac, but still promised a lovely view of a waterfall.

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Again, CDC bitched about everything, despite the Ginger and my urging to get a move on (to about 3 mph).  He was more interested in breakfast oysters and beer than seeing any more of the national park, so at some point we hiked ahead left him.  Louboutini kept him company, much to his chagrin, and we secretly thanked him later for taking one for the team.

The waterfall was not a hard hike, but it was gorgeous, even if the water flow was drastically reduced.  The Ginger mentioned that it was a perfect place to propose to someone, and he isn’t completely wrong.  It’s secluded and romantic, and aside from the fact that you’d be sweaty, your hands would likely be swollen, you’d smell bad, and if you are anything like CDB you’d be hungry, thirsty, whining, and upset with everyone, it truly is an ideal place to pop the question.

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Editor’s Note:  I care about being sweaty and smelly, so if you are ever planning on proposing, please don’t do it when I look like I have Muppet Hands.

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American AirBNB Horror Story

Because the Ginger and CDB were taking advantage of transportation, the Ginger decided to book us all an AirBNB in Sequim, so that we could have two days of exploring the park.  He found a place that was moderately priced, owned by “William,” and we all figured it would be fine.

It was a cute house from the 1930s, easily located, and in a quiet area of town.

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When we looked up the address, however, we found out that it was not a house, per se, but a business.  A hypnotherapy business, owned by “Brian.” It was called Life 391 (which now redirects to a company called The Memory Detectives).  There was a photo of Brian:

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We were spooked.  There was a bedroom with quite possibly the most uncomfortable bed on the planet, a waiting room with a futon, and an attic with a mattress.  There were several locked doors, the basement and attic had bars on the windows, and we were pretty sure we were going to be dissected in our sleep. We were on the lookout for weird hypnosis things – experiments, sleep talk, anything.  You never know.

You know what I do know?  They always kill the small one first.  AKA ME!

We spent fewer than 12 hours in the house – we would have spent more time, but a) we were scared and b) we did want to hike a good deal of the park.  When you have a face like that, and can scare four 30-somethings, perhaps you might want to rethink your rental.

Next time I’m booking the accommodations….

What a Hoh

When I moved from Texas, everyone said they’d come visit.  However, the only one I believed was the Ginger; he said he would come visit to go hiking.  The Ginger is from the Dirty Jerz, and has lived all over the country, so it’s not surprising he is less inclined to enjoy the rolling flatness of Texas, and he’d take the opportunity to escape the oppressive southern summer.

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We planned to meet at Olympic National Park, which would be my first trip there.  After picking him up around the University of Washington campus, we had a three-hour drive to figure out where to start.  After some deliberation between the Ginger, Louboutini, and the Ginger’s travel friend, Cheap Douchebag (CDB), we decided on the Hoh Rainforest (insert “hoe” jokes here).

CDB is not athletic, he is cheap (thus the C), he’s a haughty elitist (“Iiiii went to Harvard Laaaaaaw”) and he does not appreciate nature.  Nor does he appreciate people going out of their way to make it easier for him.  Needless to say, he was a very large damper on the whole thing – complaining, whining, going slow on purpose, not chipping in for anything, and repeatedly mentioning how he liked being in Seattle proper a lot better, with the restaurants, girls, and booze.  Despite his best efforts, however, he still couldn’t ruin the incredible experience we were about to have.

We chose what amounted to a seven-mile hike, that started in the Hall of Mosses.  It wasn’t difficult, but damn, was it beautiful.  Not everything that is gorgeous needs to be hard.

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The main hike would be through the rainforest, and be an out and back.  The trees are so much taller and wider than I’ve ever seen – this is what ants must feel like when they come across a twig.

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Yes, I realize how phallic this all seems…

Summer 2017 had been awfully dry in the PacNW, so the “rain” part of the rainforest was lacking a bit.  Only about 100 inches of rain so far, in an area that usually gets 200 inches a year.  I’m glad we didn’t get rained on, but I cannot imagine the area being even MORE green.  I felt like I was stuck in Kermit the Frog – not that it was a bad thing.

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