June 29 weather report: 61 degrees, 41 mph winds.
Greetings from Seattle, Ellensburg and Mt. Rainier, Washington. This is day five of our visit here. The big event and main reason for coming was to support Katie and Hilary on Saturday when they ran the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon in Seattle, all 26.2 miles!
Their goal was to finish not be the fastest. Their time wasn’t impressive, but they stopped often to twitter and take pictures.
Let’s face it. The weather plays a big role on a vacation, especially if you’re visiting a city with a reputation for being one of the rainiest places in the country (Seattle). So I’m happy to say everywhere we have traveled in Wa. the weather has been perfect: blue skies and temps in the 60’s. The one weather anomaly is the wind in Ellensburg (KittitasValley). It’s like something out of a horror movie. Gusts of 35 mph rip across the landscape and whistle through the trees as if a hurricane were approaching. At home schools would be closed and emergency evacuation plans would be underway by now. Katie can count on a constant breeze through her apartment, no need for A/C here. Today I am wearing a light jacket and shorts and thinking about changing into long pants – it’s that cool.
On Friday, the girls spent the morning at the Race Expo; a big part of the race experience is the Expo for shopping and freebies. While they did that, Dave and I took a Duck Tour of the city. A Duck is a military landing vehicle. D stands for 1942, U for Utility, K for front wheel drive, and W two rear drive axles. Ducks swim and a waterfront tour is part of the Duck experience. The other part of the experience is the overly silly guide. Ours was Justin Credible – just incredible, get it? So we were instructed to shout on cue that our guide was just incredible!
Hilary said she thought we were going on a tour to see ducks – mom and her crazy gardening ideas! Later we all walked around Fremont made famous in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You. We took pictures of the troll under the Fremont Bridge and shopped in all the cute boutiques.
Saturday, race day, began at 5 a.m. It was a hurry-up-and-wait day. These events are big; there were 21,673 runners and moving that many people takes a long time – it took 45 minutes for K & H to get to the start of the race.
Meanwhile we were standing at mile 13 (the half-way mark) ready to be their mid-point cheering squad.
Katie and Hilary were running, tweeting and taking pictures all along the course. Even with tweeting somehow we missed seeing them as they ran past mile 13. Once we realized we missed them, we were left to kill time for the next few hours until they finished. We walked around Pioneer Square and visited several art galleries, ate brunch while watching the World Cup Soccer game between the U.S. and Ghana in the restaurant. Outside someone had set up a big screen TV and chairs in an alley so a crowd of street people and passers-by were cheering and watching the game too. At the end of the day, the US was not victorious over Ghana, but our girls were victorious finishers! And we headed back to Ellensburg for a Sunday of recovery.
Monday we went to Mt. Rainier National Park. If I had known that I could see glaciers in Washington State, I might not have traveled to Alaska three years ago. Okay, not really. James Longmire’s daughter-in-law upon seeing the vistas at Mt. Rainier said, “This is must be what Paradise is like.” The snow-covered peaks against the clear blue sky look almost surreal in their beauty. The trick is to get out of the car and look up. You can’t really appreciate the enormity of the landscape until you make yourself part of it.
The highlight, however, was the four feet of snow still on the ground. As we traveled to higher elevations, we encountered more and deeper snow. We ate lunch and then planned to walk the Nisqually Vista Loop that promised to lead to a meadow of wildflowers. When I asked the ranger at the information desk about it, his raised eyebrows should have been a clue that I would be in for a surprise. He said there would be no wildflowers at this time of year – despite what the travel book said. What he didn’t say was the trail would be marked by ski course polls and we would be walking through snow. I have to say we considered turning back upon seeing the trail. But where’s the fun in that? Hilary, who has never played in the snow, insisted that she build a snowman.
After building a diminutive snowman, we decided to go for trail blazing through the snow.
I am so glad we did. We got an impressive view of the Niqually Glacier. We didn’t see any wildflowers but the views were as wide and high it was as if we were looking out of a plane window — only without the plane and the roaring engine noise. It was quiet and the air actually smelled like Christmas because of many conifer trees. We considered going to Mt. St. Helens after that, but by then it was 3 p.m. It was still a 3.5-hour drive away. It was too late, so we headed home. It turns out that Mt. St. Helens closes at 6 p.m. and thus, we would have made the trip for nothing. I guess we’ll have to leave that for our next visit.
My lasting impression is how the landscape changed dramatically as we came down from Mt. Rainier into Yakima. The cliffs of the mountains jut out along the roadside like columns stacked side-by-side containing massive boulders. The trickle of glacial melt we experienced at the top of the mountain transforms into a stream and then a raging river and then is dammed forming a massive lake. A comparatively tame river appears on the other side of the dam and continues following the road all the way into the Kittitas Valley. After experiencing the mountain, the valley is just as striking for its lack of trees on the miles of rolling hills. As I mentioned before, the wind rips across the landscape at an almost continuous 30 mph. In fact, the local power company has erected miles of windmills 16 miles outside of Ellensburg.
Today we decided just to hang around at Katie’s apartment. Tomorrow we’ll spend our last days in Washington seeing the sights in Seattle. That will be blog post part II.