22 June 2007

American Diary Part 22 - Seattle Episode 3

Friday June 22nd - Seattle Had a sleep in again - must be tired from all the camping. 9am had fresh fruit in the hostel for breakfast - trying a detox diet - see how long it lasts! I had signed up for the Beach trip to Alkai beach in West Seattle, but seeing how the weather is COLD and grey today, I took my name off. Instead, I strolled down 1st avenue towards the Pioneer Square to find the Klondike Gold Rush museum and learn about this aspect of Seattle's history. The Pioneer area is worth a second look - I dismissed it before but when you really look at the buildings and discover the stories from the 1890's it comes alive. The Excellent Klondike Museum is free to enter and has some really well done exhibits and lively guides to take you through this period of North Western American history. The depression of the 1890's hit hard and news of Gold in the Klondike of Alaska started a frenzy of activity in Seattle and other Western ports including San Francisco. Pioneer Square was the focal point of this activity with steam ships leaving from the nearby port of Seattle taking prospecters up to Alaska. I really had no idea just how brave and tenacious these people were in search for gold - but many were desperate. When news of the Gold broke, literally hundreds of people quit their jobs and left their homes to head north - including the Mayor of Seattle! Their story is amazing and I want to read more about it when I get chance. (Jack London wrote some great books) They had to battle with the extreme cold weather conditions of Alaska and forge a way through mountain passes dragging all their kit and food with them. when they finally arrived in the Yukon (over half didn't make it) they then had to sit out the winter and wait for spring in order to chop down trees and build their own boats so they could float hundreds of miles down a river towards the gold fields (mad!). This river was a major white water experience, and at the end, they had to start the harder work of setting up somewhere to live, then finding somewhere to pan for gold or dig for it (most of the stakes had already been claimed) and avoiding the many swindles and raketeers going on. I wish I was going to the Yukon, would like to visit - maybe next time. This museum is part of the National Parks so I got another stamp in my passport! It's midday in Seattle and I'm in the public library in the middle of the business district. The library is housed within a very angular shell of a building of lattice work using metal and glass - diamond shaped glass panels let in lots of light. I'm using the free internet here before going on a wander of the shopping malls and thinking of a plan for the rest of the day. It's also a chance to check in online for my flight tomorrow! UPDATE 9pm So the diet detox has not gone so well. After the library, I went back along the main shopping area and avoided all the empting food places along the way, but did buy some trousers in GAP - my stuff is getting a bit worn out and I may need to be smart in Calgary. My feet seem to lead me to the Piroshky bakery again.. and it was there that my diet cam to an end, just 5 hours after it started! I had a delicious Beef and cheese, then went back for a pudding version with an amazing filling of warm black cherries and white melted chocolate - divine! I still prefer the rhubarb one though. A quartet of barber shop/gospel singers was keeping the crowd entertained outside the original Starbucks shop and I watched them for a while, then back tot he fish market to check out the throwing action - a large crowd had gathered (more people in town on Friday?) so the fish throwing was in full swing. I bought a souvenie 100 year anniversary poster for my house - when I get one again - then dropped it back at the hostel. The sun decided to come out to play, so I walked down to the waterfront and took the water taxi across Eliott Bay to West Seattle - Seacrest Waterfront. For just $3 and 13 minutes it's a bargain. It's about 2 miles to walk to the beach, so instead I jumped on the free shuttle which operates all over the area. It drove me and several others over the top of the hill with great views of Seattle and an insight into the homes of those who live over the bay. Most of the houses are wooden clapper board style in various pastel shades. Arriving at the beach strip the homes turn into beach chalet dwellings with balconies for partying. It all looked very tranquil and chilled out. The beach is shingle and sand stretching for about a mile lookng west across Puget Sound. People were all over the sandy parts playing volleyball, having barbeques, sunbathing or chilling out with friends. I walked from one end to the other with a fresh pina coladao smoothy from one of the beach front cafes, and found the plinth for Seattle's Statue of Liberty - sadly she was not there and is being renovated - never mind. I need to see the movie sleepless in seattle again as I'm sure this stretch of beach is where Tom Hanks plays with his sun at sunet in the motor boat whilst Meg ryan is secretly watching them. Feeling a bit tired (a lot of walking today) I flopped onhe sand and closed my eyes listening to the breaking waves until around 6.30pm when it got a bit chilly. I walked back tot he water taxi - about a mile - and was soon back on Pier 56. I saw the Yact 'Obsession' leaving for the 7pm sunset sail, and managed to take some nice photos of her in full sail. Since my diet was ruined by the russian bakery, I walked back up to Pike Place Market and the Bolivian restaurant 'copacabana' which I visited on Monday night. As a farewell to Seattle treat, I ordered the prawns and garlic with potatoes and salad - it was yummy, then had a flan for pudding and glass of Washington State chardonnay to wash-ington it all down! Back at the hostel, I have to pack and get to bed for an early start. Need to be at the airport by 7am and I hope Alaska air don't screw things up again!

American diary Part 21 - Seattle Episode 2

Thursday 21st June - Longest day! happy solstice.... OK, so here are some more things that Seattle is famous for that I missed off the list: 1. Bill Gates and his HUGE mansion and the software company he owns 2. Amazon .com HQ building 3. Boeing - the airplane makers started up here and still have their own place with an airstrip, along with an Aviation museum 4. Mount Rainier (pron. Ray knee Yair - apparently - I have been pronouncing it wrong since I got here) This 14,400 ft ACTIVE - repeat *ACTIVE* volcano was my destination for today.... so if you want to hear about it, read on! Alarm at 6am - hot night in Green tortoise, so not much sleep. I have a fan above my bed but it's really noisy so i can't really use it 'cos the others in the dorm complain. Gathered my hiking, walking, snowing, raining, eating stuff and headed onto the street. Rain in Seattle. just drizzle really. My rendezvous was outside the hostel on 1st avenue and Pine, outside a bagel shop which was closed still, so I walked a short distance to my fave rusian Bakery... which was also closed! then found 'Seattle's Best coffee' which was open and ordered a coffee and muffin (by the way, ordering coffee here is tricky - e.g. 'I'll take a tall, double skinny, why bother to go') By 7.30am I was on the street and got picked up by the tur bus. Along with 17 others we were driven very well by TOM to the national park of Mt Ranier some 80 miles away in glorious Washington State countryside. It really is green here - on account of the rain. We passed small towns, big towns and plenty of pasture, wooden barns and bungalows with horses, RV's and trailers. Stopping mid morning for coffee at Eatenville, the weather cleared so by the time we made it to the park entrance there was only a little amout of cloud on the sumit. We made various stops for waterfalls, scenic locations, river valleys carved out by glaciers and snow melts and then made our way to PARADISE the highest point by road and the location of the visitor Centre. I got another stamp in my national parks passport, and ate a very poor burger from the Restaurant. The summit was totally clear so I took far too many photos. Mt Ranier is an *ACTIVE* volcano.. last eruption was 15000 years ago but every 50 yearsit 'does something' according to Tom and it is over due to 'do something'. Luckily it didn't do anything when we were there! It is part of the Pacific North Western 'Ring of Fire' and one of 5 seriously worrysome volcanoes in this area - Mt ST Helens being the main one. When these 'pyroclastic' volcanos erupt they don't spew out 'magma' (said in the style of Dr Evil) - they have massive super heated hot gas explosions which blast the top or side of the mountain away. The biggest worry for this region are the mud flows which follow an eruption, melted snow running in vast quantities down the slopes and into the valleys destroying and covering everything in it's path. As pretty as the meadows and homes are in this area, I would not want to live here just in case. Amongst the many things I saw, was a suspension bridge across a glacial river, a thermal pool bubbling with mineral deposits like those in Yellowstone and a tranquil forest hike caled 'trail of shadows'. The forest in this region is dense, wet and a circle of environmental perfection - everything has a place and a purpose. One exciting thing about the summit area - albeit only 6000 ft up, is the SNOW!!!! i have never seen snow in June before, so this was a novelty. The mountain has many climbers each year and approx. 3 die trying. Just this weekend a man was killed in a fall. We were told some amazing stories - one woman who made it aged 78 in a record time of 19 hours so she could be home in time to receive her weekly call from her son in New York and a man in a wheelchair who made modifications so he could wheel himself on skis to the summit - using his friends to put him back in the chair when he fell out - amazing! There is a ballot to make an attempt and as well as $1500 you need to pass a rigourous fitness assessment and climbing test.... don't think I'm ready for that ! On the way back out of the park we saw a female deer leading her very newborn calf across the road - just like Bambi it could hardly walk straight and toppled over! so cute! We then stopped at the Copper Creek diner for some seriously good blackberry pie - and i MUST tell you the story about this diner..... it's a long one......... In the 1950's a couple on holiday passed the log cabin at copper creek and noticed it was for sale - so they bought it in an attempt to change their lifestyle and set up as a diner to feed hungry lumberjacks. The husband was a cook and the wife did the waiting and paperwork. Things went really well, until the third week when he left his wife in the middle of the night. So, not knowing how to cook she took a bicycle and visited homes in the area asking for help. A woman agreed to cook until she found someone long term and kept this going with her Blckberry pie recipe. In 1994 this woman finally retired having never been replaced! The original lady owner has sold it since but they kept the secret recipe going and to this day the pie is still served - and it was delicious! apparently over 200 pies are eaten in a typical summer weekend. Where do all the berries come from I wonder? So that was my day at the volcano. no eruptions Some pie some Snow A Waterfall Hot springs A Bridge Bambi cool. Back at the city, I walked from 6th and Pike down to the hostel, bought a SEATTLE shirt from the excellent shop on the corner - you pick a shirt and choose your logo design... then enjoyed the free all you can eat buffet in the hostel. Cool again! I found out from TOM that I had luckily avoided police trouble all week in Seattle, Jay walking is a serious offence, as is crossing a street on red and not waiting for the 'white man'. Both incur heavy on the spot fines, but I so far got away with it! It's hot here tonight - think I'll be Sleepless in Seattle!! Ha ha - i had to get that in somewhere! Kx