Summer Travels Part 2: Whale of a Tale Edition

The end of summer is nigh…and there is so much to catch up on from just a few days of traveling!  And since a picture is worth a thousand words, probably the best way to tell you what Chris and I have been up to is to show you what we’ve been up to.  How’s that?  This post will be mostly about the trip we took at the end of July, which we split between Seattle and San Juan Island.  Ready for the recap?  Swell!

First up, Chris and I stayed at Tulalip for three nights so that we could [both get pedicures and] attend his high school class 20th year reunion in Seattle.  It was weird – even though I didn’t know anyone there, I could still see all the cliques and kind of tell who was who.  Everyone was trying to impress everyone else.  I can’t say that I’m terribly disappointed that I missed mine last year; between Chris and me, one 20 year reunion was enough!  But Chris was happy that he went because catching up with a couple of old close friends was worth it.

DSC00756The next day was Chris’ 38th birthday.  Now he’s only two years younger than me and can’t make fun of me for being super older than him.  I took him out to a really nice dinner, because I’m sweet like that ❤

We spent Sunday traveling over to the San Juan Islands.  We caught the ferry at Anacortes and took it to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island proper.  The weather couldn’t have been more beautiful!  We stayed at a nice little bed and breakfast right downtown, where we had our own little apartment complete with private hottub and magically-appearing fresh-baked cookies.  And the breakfasts were Ah. Maze. Ing.  Nom nom nom!

One of the highlights of our trip was taking a five hour sea-kayaking tour.  There were only six of us on the tour, plus our guide, Owen.  We left out of Roche Harbor and kayaked completely around Henry Island, which was about 11 miles in all.  The weather was completely fantastic – sunny, a slight breeze, and warm.  We saw a pair of bald eagles, and a little red fox joined us on our lunch break.  We also saw plenty of harbor seals, but whenever I got my camera out, they dunked underwater.  Why do they have to be such camera haters?  The most amazing part of the trip happened about halfway through our day when we saw approaching orcas – K-pod, to be exact.  I don’t know how many we saw, but they did come fairly close; one female swam under our kayaks to get to a younger orca that was headed toward us along the shoreline.  It was really cool being so low on the water, watching them surface and blow, and even breach.  It was Chris’ first time kayaking (my second) and I’d say it was a success!

But wait!  There’s more, yes, still more!  The final full day of our vacation was spent driving around the Island, stopping wherever we thought would be interesting.  We saw both English Camp (hip hip hooray!) and English Camp (sad) AND I got my NPS passport stamps at both places, we stopped for an unexpected visit to some tidepools, said hi to a few shy alpacas, were astounded (and slightly dismayed) by the gastrointestinal parasites of pinnipeds at The Whale Museum, and bought a few treats at a lavender farm (the lavender ice cream was nom-tastic).  Here’s a quick tour!

Thanks for joining me on my little vacation retrospective.  We had a great time, plus I got to meet this guy and his dog!

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Arizona Day 4: Ahh, there’s the Sedona I’ve Heard About!

Sunday was our last full day in Sedona – so sad!  However, we still did have a full day to enjoy.  We decided to go on a short hike, because how can you go to Sedona and not hike on the red rocks?  AND, the weather was still sunny and in the mid-70’s – so perfect (especially after having spent a few months in the cold, rainy, cloudy Pacific Northwest).  We ended up near the Sedona Airport, in the Brewer Trail / Coconino and Yavapai Loop area.  We hiked up to a couple of vista points and greatly enjoyed the scenery!

And…here we go. We rounded a curve in the trail and found a group of people meditating to the sounds of a Native American beating a drum. Rich white new-age people crack me up.

We had such a great little vacation.  It was a fantastic way to celebrate my birthday, and Valentine’s Day, and beat the Seasonal Affective Disorder blues.  We’re back in Vancouver now, but I’ll always have a bazillion pictures to look at (even if they all look mostly the same!).  Cha cha cha!

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Arizona Day 2: The Grand Canyon (Kind of Subjective, Yes?)

Now, don’t get me wrong – I think the Grand Canyon is pretty friggin’ spectacular.  And I also think it has definitely earned its place on the 7 Natural Wonders of the World list.  I’m just saying, “grand” is kind of subjective, and it could be a perspective that some people might not necessarily agree with.  I, however, am not one of those people.

Yay Grand Canyon!!!  Bright and early, we headed northwest from Sedona up to the South Rim for our Valentine’s Day adventure.  Chris had never seen the canyon before, but it was on his bucket list, so we wanted to do it right.  And you know what that means…

HELICOPTER RIDE!!!

And neither of us had ever been on a helicopter, so that was a first for both of us.  The most fantastic part of the ride was flying about 100′ over a flat expanse of Ponderosa pines, and then all of a sudden we were flying 100′ PLUS another few thousand feet above the ground!  The helicopter stayed level, but of course, our stomachs dropped (along with our jaws).  I managed to take some video of the flight, which also features me acting like a complete spaz (as per usual, so don’t be surprised):

(REALLY???  Out of all the screen shots that could’ve represented this clip, THIS picture was the one selected???  REALLY?????)

Me and Chris in the helicopter!

After the flight, we stopped off at some of the view points to take a look around from the ground (and to collect a few stamps for my National Parks passport, which I actually forgot at home – d’oh!).  All of the views were spectacular, and they all looked something like this:

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It is amazing how the brain can barely process the visual field of depth of the Grand Canyon – when you’re looking at that much space in front of you, it’s hard to believe that you’re not looking at a photograph or a painting.  It hardly seems real!  Of course, we had to take a gazillion pictures, even though they all kind of look the same, and a picture will rarely ever do the real thing any amount of justice.  But I can show them all to you, just let me know if you want to see them (j/k!).  I won’t torture you with all of them right now, but here are a couple of my favorites:

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By the time we made it back to Sedona, the sun was on its way down and we were ready for our Valentine’s Day dinner (which was delicious – we both had the lobster).  I hope that you had a pleasant VD experience, and are looking forward to hearing about the rest of our mini-vacation in Arizona!  More to come soon…

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Vancouver in February? Screw That! Hellooo, Arizona!

February is the PERFECT time to escape the Pacific Northwest.  It’s rainy, overcast, gray, possibly snowy (or slushy, more likely) and you’re probably itching to see the sun right about now.  Seasonal Affective Disorder makes me so SAD!!!  So, why not go somewhere warm and sunny?  It’s Valentine’s Day weekend, AND I’m turning 40 later this month, so Chris and I decided to turn mid-February into a Sunny-VD-BD Extravaganza by heading out to Sedona, Arizona!

I did a lot of hiking, camping and backpacking in the arid desert canyon-country parts of the US while I was in grad school (Fort Collins, CO, by the way) and I haven’t seen these parts in YEARS.  I really miss the desert – as I biologist I’m completely fascinated by how various life forms have evolved and adapted to survive in such a harsh environment.  Further, the rock formations make you feel like you’re on a completely different planet.  So, I’m very excited to get back to the desertish parts of the country and enjoy the sun, fresh air, and warm temperatures!  Happy birthday to ME!

We left EARLY on Thursday morning, flying out from Portland, stopping in Phoenix, and arriving in Flagstaff.  We picked up a car and decided to eat lunch at MartAane’s Burrito Palace, which was AMAZING…if you like BLTs and grilled cheese sandwiches and guacamole, the Ultimate BLT is for you.  I highly recommend the curly fries, as well.  And a strange aside, they DO NOT offer diet soda!  Oh well, I’m on vacation, right? Yum!

The smallest baggage claim ever, discovered at the Flagstaff Airport.

I ate this whole thing. Do I regret it? My answer is no. I know you are jealous.

MartAnne's - Amazing artwork by Emma Gardner graces the walls.

MartAnne’s – Amazing artwork by Emma Gardner graces the walls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had some time to kill before our hotel room was going to be ready, so we headed over to Williams and spent a couple of hours at Bearizona, where you can ride an open-air bus (or drive your own car, should you wish to exercise that particular insurance risk) around the park and see wolves, bears, sheep, buffalo and all sorts of other critters.  We had a good time feeding the goats in the Bearizona Barn Yard, but watch your fingers!  Chris almost came away with only nine of his!

Just a few pictures of Bearizona...if you request them, I can send you about 200 more.  Lemme know.

Just a few pictures of Bearizona…if you request them, I can send you about 200 more. Lemme know.

Finally, we headed down 89A through Oak Creek Canyon and arrived in Sedona at the Amara Hotel.  Just in time for sunset.  Just in time for desert and drinks (the Almond Joy actually does taste like Almond Joy candy bars, and I had to get three of them just to make sure that this assessment was correct).  What will the rest of this vacation bring?  You’ll just have to wait for the next installment to find out!

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And I didn’t take a single picture!

Oh, Reno, how you love to take our money away.  It’s ok though, because we enjoy your biggest-little-city can-do attitude, complete with sprawling casinos and “European” gymnasiums (whatever that means).  Also, your lack of homeless people hired to shove little pictures of naked ladies at passers-by is non-Las-Vegasly refreshing, so Thank You, Reno, for that.

This year, it just happened that my birthday, Valentine’s Day and President’s Day (yes, President’s Day) fell reasonably close together to have a four-day weekend out of town.  Chris and I have stayed at the Peppermill Casino three times now, and it’s rather lovely – it’s all Italian-themed (except for their Chinese restaurant, Chi, which is Chinese-themed) and they have a fantastic spa, casino and restaurants (including Chi).  We arrived Thursday night and spent much of the weekend losing money, enjoying drinks (perhaps a little too much on Sunday night), and luxuriating in our ridiculously over-sized suite.  Well, the suite itself wasn’t over-sized, just the furniture.  But it was awesome!  Also, someone might have eaten the Famous Amos chocolate-chip cookies from the honor bar.  I’m not pointing any fingers, but that someone might have been me, or as Chris identified as the culprit, Snacky McSnackerton.

Anyway, here is a picture of the slot machine that ate all my money.  If you see it, I suggest walking in the opposite direction.  The tigers are tricksy and false…their fancy jewels flash and you hear them roar, but they just take without giving.  Damn you and your scatter bonuses, Siberian Storm!!!

Additional Reno places of interest that took our monies:  the spa (hello, facial and pedicure…I’m pleased to meet you!  Why yes, I’d also like to have one of those luxurious robes as well, thanks!), Romanza the Italian restaurant (so happy that we got in on Valentine’s night, although the lobster and shrimp and sea bass that we enjoyed might not have been so pleased), Atlantis casino (just a quick jaunt down the street and…why, I’m so happy to meet you, Sumo Kitty slot machine!  Here, take some more of my money!), and the Peppermill Poker Room (Chris can fill you in there, although I will say that the craps table was most uncraptacular.  Chris scored pretty well with the dice!).

We were having such a good time that I insisted upon staying another night in our suite instead of heading home late in the evening.  And it all worked out…the cats were even happy to see us home.  Happy birthday / Valentine’s Day / President’s Day to us all!

A Fish Ladder, Finally!

Chris’ Grandma Lois turned 80 on July 19th, but since he was on tour with his army band, I took the train up to Seattle to represent.  I met up with Chris’ Aunt Carol, Uncle Bruce and cousin Terra before our big family lunch and they took me to the Chittenden Locks and fish ladder on Lake Washington.  I think this was actually the first time I’ve really seen a functioning fish ladder up close, which seems kind of silly to me at this point in my career.  But it was pretty cool – they had the ladder that you could walk along side of, and then you could go inside to see the fish in the ladder through a viewing window.  As it was in the middle of July, it was the height of the sockeye upstream migration, and that’s what most of these fish were.  But it was the beginning of the Chinook migration, and we saw a big old Chinook hanging out in the fish ladder too.

Here are some boats going through the Chittenden Locks into Lake Washington.


This is the upstream end of the fish ladder, looking towards Lake Washington.


Sockeye salmon, for the most part.


Hey you fish, you’d better hurry up or you’re going to have to wait until tomorrow to get to the lake!


There were also seals lurking very close to the entrance of the fish ladder,
filling up on breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The mini Gyger family reunion was a great time – I think everyone had fun at Ray’s Boathouse, and I know I had a good time chatting and drinking with Aunt Kim, Uncle Bruce and Bumper later that evening.  Here’s a link to the photos I took if you’d like to check them out!

Grandma Lois’ 80th Birthday