Sunday, February 19, 2012

HAWAII: Beyond Puget Sound

    As many of you know, this blog focuses mainly on adventures around Puget Sound, but this post is more like a "beyond" portion of the blog. Recently I landed in sunny, glorious, jungle-intensive Hilo on Hawaii's Big Island. Since many of you folks from the West Coast make the trip to the islands every year I'm here to give you a few new ideas of where to explore next to make your trip worthwhile. I'll introduce you to some familiar and some off-the-beaten-path adventures that will be right at your finger-tips when you arrive on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Big Island of Hawaii map 

Onomea Bay
    Just 10 minutes north of Hilo you see a sign for the "Scenic Route" which will take you on on a portion of the Old Mamalahoa Highway. This twisty old highway used to be the only route to travel the Hamakua Coast of East Hawaii until the 1950's. In those times, it took an hour or two to drive 10 miles from the plantation towns to Hilo. On this side trip, you'll enter into dense jungle which was used in scenes from the most recent Indiana Jones movie. So, if you're feeling like you should be seeing monkeys leaping through the trees--you're not too far off ...
Stunning Onomea Bay, just north of Hilo, HI on the Big Island

    Under the dense canopy of branches, palms and vines, you'll pass over rivers on one-lane bridges, see waterfalls, and snap pictures of amazing tropical plants. Then you'll round a bend and you'll see Onomea Bay below you. Park on a shoulder along the roadside, get out and enjoy the view. You'll notice a mostly paved foot trail that goes downward toward the ocean. This is a walk to experience. It's only about a quarter of a mile long and completely worth your time. If you veer off to the right you'll come out at a rocky beach, but if you continue straight on the path you'll pass along the side of the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden (worth the price of admission back up on the road) on an easement trail that's open to the public.
It's off the beaten path, yet one of the most beautiful spots on the whole island...

If you go just a little farther you'll soon see a river. If it isn't too deep you can cross or go for a dip under the waterfall. Walk around and explore. The combination of the jungle pushed to the edge of the crashing ocean swells, with palm trees and amazing geology makes this one of my very favorite spots on the entire island. On a sunny morning there's nothing like Onomea Bay!

Laupahoehoe Point
    If you continue north on Highway 19 for another 20 minutes you'll pass through the town of Laupahoehoe. There's an overlook where  you can look down on the ocean and see Laupahoehoe Point.  Drive a few minutes farther on the highway, through the deep valley and up the other side, where there's a sign and turn-off to the park at Laupahoehoe Point. Turn right from the highway, then immediately right again. The old road hugs the cliff to the park on the point below. Bring a picnic lunch, and choose one of the great vantage points on the shore to watch the swells blast and surge against the rugged lava of the point. When the surf is up and the sky is blue you'll be knocked off your feet by the scenery.
The view of Laupahoehoe Point from up above

    When you reach the sea level you'll be greeted by natural black lava formations and lots of places to go walking, beach combing, and grassy places to lay out your towel and tan, if you like. Trust me, it's the perfect place for a picnic, family gathering, to snap pictures, or meditate--whatever sounds good. 
Laupahoehoe Point from sea level--enjoy the lava formations and the natural scenery that surrounds

Hapuna Beach Park
    Now here's a beach that isn't so "undiscovered" but I had to include it because it's been voted one of the top 10 beaches in the world many times before and it truly is a gem--it shouldn't be missed. Hapuna Beach Park is located on the NW side of the Big Island and if you've been looking for a white sand beach to sink your toes into then this is the beach for you.
A look at Hapuna Beach--check out that sky

    Hapuna is a luxuriously long, sandy beach park enjoyed by locals and visitors from all over the world every day of the year. On a calm day you can go snorkeling at the north end of the beach, but on a slightly wavier day body boarding/boogie boarding is the sport of choice.
Body boarding on the supple waves--I can't get enough of it!

Things To Know:
  • If you're planning to take a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii there are some months to visit when you'll find cheaper airfare--January, May, September, and October are often less expensive
  • Papaya Sunrise just north of Hilo and 5 minutes from Onomea Bay is my vacation rental of choice
  • There is so much to see on the Big Island--the volcano, the observatories, tons of beaches, loads of hikes--there's something for people of all ages and interests
  • To learn more about what's really going on on the island check out: Hawaii Moku Nui (which means "Hawaii Big Island" in Hawaiian)
The ocean just goes on and on and on...(another view from Laupahoehoe Point)

Have a fantastic trip full of adventures and relaxation!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Hiking at Twin Falls in North Bend

    If your looking for a hike for this weekend that isn't too far from the city, Twin Falls is the hike for you. The waterfalls will knock your socks joke...
    The trail begins next to the Snoqualmie River as it winds along the river's path. Giant boulders are fixtures in the rushing water as you travel along. The first 1/2 mile of the hike is flat and easy-going. After that, you'll begin to climb up a tall bank in the forest only to find that you're walking back down on the other side. Be on the look- out for the old growth Douglas fir tree that you'll soon find beside the trail. The tree must be a few hundred years old (if not older) and is truly a spectacular sight. Take Note: This hike is great at any time of the year, but Autumn allows you to enjoy the fall colors of the maple trees in this mostly evergreen forest.
The hike begins along the Snoqulamie River, where you'll have several chances to get down by the riverside

    After another hill climb (where you'll be right next to I-90 for a short stretch), you'll have the opportunity to take a set of wooden stairs down toward a look-out perch to see the falls or continue along the higher ground to another vantage point. We suggest going down the stairs first to get to the jaw-dropping view of the main falls. When we reached the platform at the bottom, our friend, that we were hiking with remarked, "Well, this is definitely more than I was expecting!" And it's true, it's difficult to capture Twin Falls with a camera. This is a must see in-person kind of place.
The view of the 150ft Twin Falls from the platform that stands high above the river

    The water comes cascading down the rocks and plunges into the river pool at the bottom. There you'll see a cave filled with water that should only be appreciated at a distance (this is some icy water). It's amazing to look down from the platform at the river and realize just how high up you actually are.
The main falls is so large that you can't quite capture it all in one shot--it's a stunning drop

    Head back up the wooden stairs and along the upper trail. There you'll reach a bridge where you'll get to see the river water just before it plummets down the waterfall. You'll also see two smaller falls higher up. The atmosphere here is so relaxing--rushing waterfalls, cool mountain air, and inspiring doesn't get much better than this...and only 1/2 hour from Seattle!

Things To Know:
  • You need a Discover Pass to park in the lot or $5.00 for a day pass at the trailhead (checks accepted)
  • The hike is 2.7 miles round-trip
  • This is a great hike for any time of the year
  • We saw a bunch of kids on this hike from toddler age up
  • As long as your dog is on a leash, you're good
  • The pay-off is incredible!
    Take I-90 East toward Spokane
    Take exit 34 and turn right onto 468th Ave. S.E.
    Drive for 1/2 mile and turn left just before the bridge
    Continue on S.E. 159th St. for 1/2 mile until you reach the end of the road 
    The trailhead will be right there

The extra prizes you'll find if you walk above the main falls: more waterfalls!

Enjoy the falls!
Head on out Around Puget Sound...and Beyond

Monday, January 23, 2012

Snohomish Washington Public Market and Wine Cellars of Washington

    We love how during the summertime people are encouraged to visit farmers' markets and support local businesses--get fresh produce and buy crafts from local artists. But once winter hits much of that mentality is lost because most of the markets close down for the season. Up until recently, we didn't think there was a farmers' market-like place we could go in the winter...that's why we were so excited to learn about the indoor Washington Public Market that runs every Saturday and Sunday in downtown Snohomish.
This was one of our favorite displays: Nostalgic Bay had a wonderful collection of enchanting merchandise

The Market
    The market features local businesses with vendors who sell everything from handcrafted jewelry to handmade alpaca clothing to Washington wine to truffles. The market just started up in November of 2011, so if you haven't heard of it, you're not alone. We were impressed by the variety of items of the nearly 100 vendors and artists at the market--we spent several hours browsing around admiring it all. 
Alpaca critters--all are irresistibly soft--you can't help but pet them

It's All Here
    The Snohomish Market is a one stop-shop. You'll find antiques, gifts, massively discounted new furniture, cooking shows, people spinning alpaca wool to make yarn, and 25 Washington wine vendors selling one-of-a-kind wines from all over Washington. It's best to not be in a rush when you visit so you can take it all in, so feel free to spend your afternoon there so you have time for it all--especially the wine...
You'll find a variety of flavors among these wineries--here's Scott after talking with Pat with Elevation Cellars

The Wineries
   Since the Wine Cellars of Washington features 25 wine cellars all in the same building, you're in for a real treat. For $5.00 a person, you can get access to all 25 wine cellars and the best part is, you can cycle back through as many times as you want in a day because you're given a bracelet for the entire afternoon. This allows you to explore lots of flavors, explore more of Snohomish and the market, and then come back to enjoy all of your favorite wines from before. Take note that the $5.00 is a door fee and some of the tasting stands charge an additional dollar to taste their wines. Whether you're tasting the complimentary wines that some stands have to offer or you pay the additional $1.00 for other wines, the overall cost to you is so much less than if you go to most other tasting rooms around the area. Plus, if you buy any bottle you get your 5 bucks back. 
You never know what kinds of goodies you'll find at the Washington Public Market in Snohomish

    The Washington Public Market and Wine Cellars of Washington is a fantastic place to spend an any kind of day, especially a rainy one!

Some of the Artists:
Eclectic Treasures -- Inspiring glass treasures that serve great as gifts.
Elevation Cellars -- One of the 25 cellars you'll find, with fantastic wine and very friendly people.
Nostalgic Bay -- "Supplies the unusual and the unique," definitely worth checking out.
Silver Wears -- Beautiful pieces of jewelry, many made from silver that you wouldn't expect to see...
Creative Jewelry By Martin -- Martin has a variety of lovely jewelry and some very neat steampunk-inspired gadgets and jewels.

Things To Know:

  • The Washington Public Market is open every weekend: Saturdays 10am to 6pm and Sundays 10am to 5pm
  • The Wine Cellars of Washington is featured at the market every weekend as well: Saturdays 12:30pm to 6pm and Sundays 12:30pm to 5pm
  • This is a relaxing and fun way to spend an afternoon with family and/or friends
  • Snohomish is located just east of Everett
    1010 & 1011 2nd Street
    Snohomish, WA 98290
    (888) 415-9567

License plate signs, made from license plates from lots of different states--too cool

Let us know what your favorite part of the market is!
Head on out Around Puget Sound...and Beyond

Thursday, January 19, 2012

iFLY Seattle: Learning to Fly

    We ventured back to iFLY Seattle to celebrate Scott's birthday with a friend of ours, since we hadn't yet had a chance to officially try indoor skydiving yet (check out our first blog article to learn more about iFLY.) Well, let us tell you there is nothing like flying and it is completely worth going indoor skydiving!
Our Arrival
    When we arrived, we got all checked in for our first flight and went upstairs to watch the flyers in action. Our excitement level grew with each new flyer in the tunnel.
    We watched a short movie, with our group of 10 flyers, on how to fly and what various hand signals meant. The whole experience felt a little like stepping into Hogwarts in Harry Potter, since were being told we could fly. The woman on the video said, "To assume proper flying position, have your legs slightly bent with your arms stretched out in front of you..." Wait what?! Fly?! It all seems so contrary to how we spend every other waking moment of our lives. People can't fly! Our minds kept telling us--oh, but yes they can.
My first flight at iFLY Seattle, wow, it's hard to believe that I was actually flying!

Suit Up 
     We were given jumpsuits, goggles, ear plugs, helmets, and shoes. We were able to use the lockers at iFLY to stash our belongings. Our instructor, Chris, rallied the troops in our group again and said, "You may have already forgotten everything about positioning and hand signals, but who cares--you're about to fly--let's go have some fun out there!"
Getting ready to fly: Jumpsuits? Check.

The Chamber
    We entered the airtight chamber and sat down. Everyone was going to get a chance to fly twice, for one minute at a time. It was warm in there, or maybe it was just because I was--I'd never done anything like this before. There were three kids in our group and they all went first. As soon as they stepped into the tunnel, you could tell by their faces that they were loving it. Chris did a great job of making everyone feel safe, but gave people enough room that they were able to fly a bit on their own.
Up, up, up and away!

The Tunnel
    Then, it was my turn. I approached the door, gave a nervous smile to Chris who gave a high-five. I put my hands in two fists against my chest, the way I had just been taught and stepped through the doorway. I spread my arms out in front of me and the rest of my torso, legs, and feet followed.
    My body was stiff; I was aware of the air rushing past me. I could tell that I wasn't touching anything, but my mind wasn't quite sure what to make of it all...Am I flying? No, that's impossible. Am I dreaming? Maybe, but isn't flying impossible. Despite my confusion I kept going.
    I tried to follow Chris' hand signals...Stretch your legs out more, arms closer together, back less arched... as I did, I flew better and higher as well.
    At one point I flew so high that I began to worry about how I'd get back down. That was the moment that everything clicked for me--I'm flying. I'm really up in the air kind of flying! I couldn't stop smiling.
Our friend enjoying her first flight at iFLY Seattle

    On my second flight Chris started to challenge me a little by motioning to me to tilt my hands from side to side. As I experimented with tilting my hands, I began to twirl. I'm controlling my flight. By the time I thought the thought, my flying time had come to an end. 
    We all had the feeling like we were just starting to get the hang of this flying stuff. iFLY offered that we could buy another minute of time for $20.00, but we said no thanks, we'll just have to come back another time.
    This was one of the most incredible experiences of our lives. And yes, we definitely had an adrenaline rush, before, during, and after flying. We're still running on the flying high...
Soaring about 15 ft in the air--the highest I've ever flown

Things To Know:
  • After the fact: It feels kind of like a dream that we were actually flying; we'll have to go back again to know for sure
  • This is an opportunity that we believe everyone should experience at some point in their lives--it's amazingly safe and there is absolutely nothing else like it
  • To learn more about iFLY Seattle, check out our original blog article
Have an awesome flight!
Head on out Around Puget Sound...and Beyond

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mountain Biking at Paradise Lake Conservation Area

    Prepare to get lost in the woods, away from traffic, email, and the busy side of life. Okay, maybe not too lost, the Paradise Lake Conservation Area has tons of signs labeling where trails go and how long they are...but this park gives you the chance to escape into the mountains without going past Woodinville. This is a great place for beginner and experienced mountain bikers alike to try the trails. With over 13 miles of trails you're bound to find a path that fits your ability level just right. My husband and I had an awesome time, even though this was my first time mountain biking and he has gone on lots of trails before--we just each took it at our own pace.
   The dirt terrain is relatively smooth with small hills to travel up and down. Some areas have roots and rocks to dodge, adding to the fun. If you take the same route we took and bike the mile trail through the trees to Mt. Bike Park, you'll find some more challenging trails with hairpin turns, that are advised for more advanced riders.
One of many sign posts leading you around the park; this is about as bumpy as the trails get

   The conservation area is perfect for horseback riding. The parking lot is set up with two parking stalls for trucks and horse trailers to park although we've never seen trailers while we've been there before. Just be aware that you will most likely be passed by bikers on the trails, but everyone we've passed has been very respectful.
  The Paradise Lake Conservation Area is set-up for hiking as well--the forest is lovely, but be aware there isn't any destination to hike to. If you are looking for a great walk or jog through the woods, this is the place for you.
The park's map full of 13 miles worth of trails

   The Paradise Lake Conservation Area is only about 10 years old, so many people don't know about it yet. We've been there on sunny Saturdays and there are usually only 7 other cars in the parking lot, giving us the feeling that this is a one-of-a-kind gem that can be practically all yours on a beautiful day.

Things to Know:
  • Great park for beginner/advanced mountain bikers, horseback riders, and joggers
  • There are over 13 miles of trails
  • Parking is free
  • 2 horse trailer parking spaces in parking lot
  • Dogs on leash are allowed on trails
  • Porta Potty located before trail head
  • This is best as a dry day activity (mountain biking isn't as much fun on a rainy day)
    Take highway 522 east toward Monroe. 
    Turn right onto Paradise Lake Road at the stop light. 
    Drive 1.9 miles to the parking lot and turn right. 
    (There is a sign marked "Trailhead and Parking" just before the parking lot to give you a heads up.)

Have a great time on the trails!
Head on out Around Puget Sound...and Beyond

Friday, January 6, 2012

Waterslides at the Lynnwood Pool and Recreation Center

    It may be January, but that doesn't mean you have to stop living life like you did a few months ago: when the sun was high, the weather was warm, and all you could think to do was go to the beach. The Lynnwood Pool and Recreation Center allows you to enjoy some of the best parts of summer in a warm indoor experience, even in the winter months.
    This past summer we were bummed out about the rising costs to get into Wild Waves Theme Park, "$39.95?!" We said, "That's creeping up on the price to get into Disneyland!" 
    Ok, maybe that's a bit of an overstatement, but it's true, we chose to not go to Wild Waves simply because of the price. But that didn't stop our hankering to go down a water slide. We recently found out about the Lynnwood Pool and Recreation Center (which opened in Spring of 2011), which has not one, but two full blown indoor water slides.
A view of the two water slides from outside of the Lynnwood Recreation Center

   For the bank-breaking admission price of $4.50 for adults and $3.50 for kids (ages 2-12--kids, 2 and under are free)--you can access over two hours of fun including: two huge water slides, a lazy river, a water playground, water basketball, a six-lane lap swimming pool, kiddie pool, hot, did we forget anything...oh yea, a gym and two racquetball courts to top it off. We were absolutely stunned when the cashier told us the total for the two of us would be $9.00--talk about an inexpensive and awesome date!
Check out the lazy river and the water playground

    This really is top notch facility. We saw at least six lifeguards on duty, maybe there were more--we lost count. There are two major water slides, one that's a body slide and the other you can use inflatable tubes on--there are single and double person tubes. We tried it all and have to say that the green slide for tubes is our favorite. Going in a double or single tube is fast and fun. The ride starts off quick, with lots of twists and turns, then it slows down a bit, right before it speeds up and you hit the end with a splash! The best part is, there are hardly ever lines for the slides. Plus they keep the whole pool area heated and the water's warm enough you're unlikely to feel cold.
Having fun on the slide! We seriously went down about 15 times

    For more details about the swim schedule visit the City of Lynnwood's Recreation Center website. 
    After swimming, we looked around at the racquetball court and we spoke with a visitor who was working-out in the gym. She said, "This is a brand new facility. It's been so great to see more and more new people coming every weekend." You don't have to wait until next summer to come here. A rainy day is the perfect kind of day to check out the Lynnwood Pool and Recreation Center. People of ALL ages will find something to enjoy here.

Things to Know:
  • There are seven family locker/changing rooms
  • There are several showers and tons of lockers in the main bathroom (bring your own lock)
  • There's a good size six-lane lap pool
  • 3ft kiddie pool and another 1-3ft pool with a water playground
  • Two water slides, a lazy river, complete with rapids, fountains, and a basketball hoop
  • You'll find fully outfitted gym and two racquetball courts
  • Admission is $4.50 for adults, $4.00 for youth (13-18), $3.50 for seniors and kids (2-12), and free for kids under 2 years old.
  • For addition information visit:
Looking in on the pool from outside at night; there's a playground outside as well, for nicer days
Believe us when we say, we'll be back!
Head on out Around Puget Sound...and Beyond

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Small Town Destinations -- Longbranch and Lakebay, WA

   Every year in December, a family of good friends of ours put on a bluegrass Christmas variety show in their hometown near Gig Harbor on Fox Island, WA. They've been doing this show for the last 25 years. The family of performers brings in some of the best bluegrass musicians around to make the performance a smash hit. This year we were lucky enough to join them and participate in the show by swing dancing during one of the numbers, which was quite a treat!
Making The Trip
    Instead of driving all the way down to the Gig Harbor area from the North end of Lake Washington only to arrive in the dark for the evening show, we decided to make a day trip out of it. We're glad we did because we had a chance to better appreciate life in the Puget Sound Islands and on the peninsula. We wound up spending the day with a couple who run an organic farm and at a Mom and Pop winery that makes and sells what we believe to be the very best wine we've ever tasted.
Creviston Valley Farm's farmhouse in Longbranch, WA with their beautiful view of Mt. Rainier in the background

The Drive
    It was a spectacularly sunny December morning when we set out to visit Creviston Valley Farm in Longbranch, WA. The drive to the farm was breath-taking with twists and turns as we passed saltwater inlets and views of placid sailboats docked in Puget Sound waiting for their next run. We were completely enchanted by the hobby farms we drove by and blown away by the views of Mt. Rainier. When we arrived at Creviston Valley Farm, we were graciously welcomed by Lalaine and Greg, the owners of the organic farm.
Creviston Valley Farm raises local beef, meat, fruit, vegetables, and eggs

A Piece Of Heaven
    As we talked with Lalaine and Greg they showed us around the farm. We watched them feed the cows and sheep, we saw the pigs, and we watched the flock of several hundred free range chickens scurry around. Lalaine called the farm their "little piece of heaven," and she wasn't kidding. The farm is 40 acres and the nearest neighbors are 1/2 a mile away in each direction. Talk about peaceful. The only sounds we heard were the mooing cows in the background and the chickens pecking in the foreground. Lalaine and Greg have owned the farm for the last three years now--they originally bought it as a retreat. Although many people would claim that farming isn't much of a vacation, Creviston Valley Farm allows Greg and Lalaine to escape their busy jobs and enjoy growing and nurturing local delicious meat, fruit, and vegetables. The farm allows them to appreciate where their food comes from--a luxury many people don't have these days.
At Creviston Valley Farm, one of their specialties is healthy locally raised grass-fed beef

Waste Not
    We were happy to see how content the animals were. They were just going about their lives with plenty of space to roam, not confined by tiny cages, or virtually piled on top of each other, as most mass-produced American livestock are these days before slaughter (see the movie Food Inc. for more information on where our food comes from.) 
    Lalaine and Greg operate their farm with the the mantra: "Don't waste anything, because there's value in everything." All of their animals are fed leftovers from whatever the Mexican restaurant down the street, or the local  brewery, or the close-by elementary school, or the nearby tofu shop couldn't sell or use that day. Instead of letting all of this perfectly good food go to waste, they feed it to their livestock and boy, do the animals look healthy. It's reassuring to think that much of the food in the Gig Harbor area isn't getting wasted because the animals at are Creviston Valley Farm are enjoying it. If only we could adopt this model throughout more of the country...
It's a good life for the animals on the Farm: sunshine, grass, and local left-overs

 How To Enjoy The Farm
    Lalaine and Greg rent out the five bedroom farmhouse on the farm at a rate of $100 per night per couple. Once you reach a rate of $500 per night, you can have up to 14 people sleeping in the farmhouse, comfortably. The house has a beautifully remodeled professional kitchen. You can find more details about the vacation rental and also book your stay at VRBO.
     The farm is also rented out for weddings, so wedding guests can stay in the beautiful farmhouse and you can use it as your wedding venue as well, right on this organic farm.
     You can purchase some of Lalaine and Greg's delicious local meat through their website or at a local farmer's market in the Gig Harbor area from May to September.  
Harvest Festival
    We're looking forward to returning to the farm next October for the annual Harvest Festival that goes on during the first Saturday of October. This is a free event that invites the community to come and spend the day on a farm. Kids play with chickens, watch baby pigs, and everyone is welcome to taste some homemade jams and jellies. Creviston Valley Farm is the perfect get-away for so many occasions.
Trillium Creek Winery's quaint tasting room cottage lit up for the hoilday season

Trillium Creek Winery
     While you're staying at the farm or otherwise in the area, be sure to check out the Trillium Creek Winery. It's just down the street from the farm. This stop was one that we didn't expect to make on our trip to the Longbranch area, but Lalaine and Greg had so many good things to say about it that we had to check it out.
    The winery is only 5 minutes north of the farm. You'll turn down the road just across from the only restaurant in Home, WA: The Home Port Restaurant and Lounge. Then, you'll follow the signs to the winery and you'll end at a traditional French style house in the forest. There you'll meet Claude, a Frenchman, and his wife, Claudia at their vineyard. You'll most likely find them in the wine tasting room that's right next to where you will park your car or perhaps they'll be in the house, just down the drive. Claude and Claudia are extremely friendly and helpful, and are, without a doubt, wine connoisseurs. They'll offer you a free tour of their vineyard and free tastings of their estate wines made in their fifteen hundred square foot wine cellar.
The French style home and vineyard in the winter at Trillium Creek Winery in Lakebay, WA

What Sets The Winery Apart
    The couple will teach you how to how they pair delicious local cheese with the wine, and you won't have to spend a penny. You'll learn what types of foods would go best with the a glass of Merlot, Riesling, Syrah, and so on--making this as much an educational experience as it is delicious. One of our favorite parts was when Claude poured us a glass of Syrah and said, "Take a sip," so we did, "now have a bite of this double cream cheddar cheese," so we did, "now taste the Syrah again and it will be as if you're tasting it for the first time." Oh, and it was!
    Trillium Creek Winery is unique in the fact that they choose to use fewer sulfites, as a preservative, than other wineries. Trillium Creek does not sell their wine in stores, which makes this possible. Using fewer sulfites in wine keeps people from experiencing headaches, feeling flushed, dizzy, or "tipsy" too easily from wine.
    As customers, we are not easily convinced about topics like this, and honestly, we didn't quite believe Claude until we experienced the effects of the lower sulfites for ourselves. But it was true: no headache and no feeling flushed in the face--it was amazing to sip our wine and taste it for its true flavor. Claude told us that this is how most wine is made in France. We bought a bottle of Merlot and have enjoyed every sip. We're planning on make a trip back soon for more of their specialty wine.
A look inside the wine tasting cottage--we love the architecture of this place

Things To Know:
  • You can get amazing meat, jams, and produce from Creviston Valley Farm
  • Have your wedding at the farm or enjoy the night away at the farm VRBO
  • We've never tasted wine as good as we did at Trillium Creek Winery--their Apple Ginger dessert wine is especially delicious  
  • Longbranch is only half an hour or so from Gig Harbor and 45 minutes from Tacoma
  • This is the perfect place to have a get-away! 
The view of Puget Sound at sunset near the winery and the farm

It's completely worth the trip--have a relaxing stay-cation!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Yellowstone Trail: Seattle to Boston -- Red Brick Road Redmond, WA

    Not long ago, we were talking with one of our neighbors about the adventures we've gone on for our blog. His excitement level began to rise as the conversation continued because he hadn't heard of many of the places we had blogged about. After saying, "Thanks for the tips," he started wracking his brain to think of cool places that he's heard of in our area, but has never checked out during his 40 years of living in the Washington State.
   The destination he thought of sounded more like a myth than something that could have actually existed. "The Yellowstone Trail," he said, "I think it's out in Duvall somewhere, but I've never gone. Supposedly back in the early 1900's the road went all the way from here to Yellowstone National Park." Our eyes lit up, but with some skepticism. How could, and why would, there be a trail going from Seattle to Yellowstone Park at that point in history? We were determined to find answers, and thus began our Yellowstone Trail journey.

Map of the Yellowstone Trail, credited to the Yellowstone Trail Association

The History of the Route
    Through the wonders of the internet, we learned that the Yellowstone Trail was indeed real, and not only did it go from Seattle to Yellowstone National Park, but all the way to Boston Massachusetts. It was the first automobile road in the northern part of the United States that went from coast to coast. The trail was formed in 1913 and was active until about 1930. The Yellowstone Trail was made possible by a grassroots organization, called the Yellowstone Trail Association, which was made up a group of mid-westerners who were tired of not having good, all-weather government roads to use. Together, they pressured the government to create better roads as cars became more popular. Decision-makers came to the conclusion that having a national route that took drivers through the scenic Yellowstone National Park made the most sense. (Learn more from the active members of the Yellowstone Trail Association.)  
The one-mile authentic remnant of the Yellowstone Trail in Redmond, WA

The Yellowstone Trail Today
    We set out on a cloudy wet winter morning to the historical trail with our jackets and chocolate lab. Google Maps and Bing informed us that we were looking for Red Brick Road (196th NE Ave.) in Redmond, just off of Redmond/Fall City Rd--does Red Brick Rd. remind you of The Wizard of Oz? Yeah, it did for us too. As we came into the valley after driving through downtown Redmond, we knew we had almost arrived when we spotted an old farm house we'd seen in a photo online taken in 1975 of the trail--the same farm house still remains today.
    We chose to drive the authentic Red Brick Road first, as it's only a mile long at this point. While bumping along we imagined what it would have been like to be on this exact route in a Model T nearly 100 years ago. The road still maintains the same speed limit as it did back in 1913--25 mph, and we have to tell you, even in today's cars, on a brick road, 25 mph seems pretty fast! We enjoyed the countryside: the horses, donkeys, Great Blue Heron, miniature horses, wetlands, and farm houses. It really is scenic. The rest of the Yellowstone Trail technically still exists, but the majority of the other portions have been repaved and turned into highways and residential streets. 
The Red Brick Rd. really is quite picturesque as you drive along--that's golden grass in a nature preserve in the background

    When you arrive, breath in the country-fresh air and wrap your mind around the history. This was the only way to travel from Seattle to the East Coast nearly a century ago. 
The only identifying sign you'll find at the Yellowstone Trail landmark in Redmond

It Was Worth It
    After driving the trail, we jogged it with our dog, who decided that this was an extra-specially good idea. We enjoyed taking the Yellowstone Trail at a slower pace and thoroughly appreciating the scenery around us. When the road turned back into asphalt, we have to admit, we weren't ready for it. You just can't find brick roads around here, and certainly not with this kind of history. The Yellowstone Trail marks an important time in the development of our country's highway system and it's just outside the city. You don't always have to go far to find something new and different.
Our chocolate lab after our jog, loving the trail and loving the exercise

Things To Know:
  • To find the Yellowstone Trail: Turn left off of Redmond Way (Highway 202) going toward Fall City onto NE 196 NE Ave. (or Red Brick Rd.) the trail will connect you to NE Union Hill Rd.
  • There is one small historical landmark sign that you might miss if you aren't looking for it, right after the road turns into a brick road
  • You can drive, ride your bike, walk, or jog on the trail
  • The brick road portion of the trail is one-mile long

Bring your dog and go enjoy the historic Yellowstone Trail

Not many people know the Yellowstone Trail exists--go make it your own!
Head on out Around Puget Sound...and Beyond

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Flying Heritage Collection -- Paine Field -- Everett, WA

    My grandfather came into town from Minnesota last week to visit; he's been a pilot for over 50 years. My husband and I always like taking Grandpa on flying-related outings whenever he's in town. Last year we explored the Future of Flight together and he's visited the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field in the past. This year we needed something different. Lucky for us we recently heard about Paul Allen's airplanes at Paine Field in Everett: The Flying Heritage Collection. When we arrived at the Flying Heritage Collection, we were escorted back through history and it has now become one of our favorite museums.
A look at the Paul Allen's historic WWII collection of war-time airplanes

The Flying Heritage Collection 
    Next to all of the giant Boeing hangars, Paul Allen's hangar doesn't appear very big.  But, once inside the museum hangar, you'll find they have fit 16 aircraft--mostly from the World War II era-- two WWII army tanks, and two missiles.  They also have a replica of SpaceShipOne, the first private-venture rocket ship. State of the art restoration techniques have been used to refurbish these vintage airplanes and other artifacts. Many of the planes have stories. For example, the Messerschmitt BF 109 E-3 (Emil), was found in several pieces buried in sand along the English Channel by a man walking the beach in the late 1980s. With time and the right replacement parts, plus liberal funding, it has been returned to its original form. The planes look as sharp as they did when they were manufactured over 70 years ago.
The WWII tanks at the museum--yes they can still fire and they have armor that's a good 3 inches thick

Free Fly Days
    Our tour was lead by a docent, Jack.  Jack was extremely well-prepared and superbly informed about each exhibit in the museum. One of the first things Jack told us was that all of the planes were in flying condition and the all tanks could still be driven and fire ammunition, making this more of a functional collection than simply a museum. As we walked around in the museum, mechanics were working on several of the planes, ensuring that they would be in good operating condition for the yearly Free Fly Days that happen every summer. The "Free Fly Days" don't afford the public rides in the plane, but allow you to come and be part of history by witnessing the operation and flight of these historic planes as experienced pilots take off and land the planes just outside the hangar.
Curtiss P-40C Tomahawk: it really was painted with a shark face back during WWII

Plane Stories
    Thanks to our docent we learned a great deal about the story behind each plane.  Jack offered not only information about the make and model of the plane, but the history of the individual aircraft that stood before us. Every plane narrative was completely unique. From how the plane was used in the war, to what each country wanted to accomplish with their aircraft, to when and how the plane was found and eventually bought by Paul Allen to be restored.  The following is one that captivated us and we wanted to share with you.
The Night Witches
    The "Night Witches" were female Russian pilots who flew PO-2 biplanes during WWII. These bomber pilots were part of a unit that was entirely operated by women. As you know, for women to fly in direct combat was extremely rare at this time in history. The Soviet Union was the first country to allow women in combat after Stalin approved a plan to use this regiment of young women against the invading Germans.  Many of these female pilots were teenagers at the time. The "Night Witches" would fly low over the German soldiers, with the darkness of night on their side, and conduct daring raids on the Germans. They would fly the PO-2 close to the ground, cut off its engine, so as not to attract attention, and release their bomb load as they glided.
    While the Night Witches didn't end up causing too much damage, their incessant bombing missions kept the Germans up all night, and reportedly stressed and demoralized the German troops. The German troops were also put out by the fact that these were women conducting the raids, and thus they gave them the name, "The Night Witches." These Russian pilots earned high honors in Russia as being "Heros of the Soviet Union" during the war.
The PO-2 flown by "The Night Witches" during WWII in Soviet Russia

Sworn To Secrecy
    Jack told us that even though the Night Witches were seen as heros, they had been sworn to secrecy after the war and were forced to resume their lives as housewives when the war concluded, never to unveil the fact that they were pilots, let alone that they had flown in the war. It wasn't until the late 1980's or 1990's that these female Russian soldiers were able to tell their story. You'll learn even more about the "Night Witches" at the museum when you visit.
Curtis JN-4D Jenny air-craft manufactured in 1918--Amelia Earhart flew a plane like this one 

Back To The Collection
    We highly recommend asking for a tour guide when you arrive.  Your docent will make the history of the airplanes come to life in a way that they may not otherwise. My grandfather, who has studied and known WWII aircraft for many years, said that he learned a great deal from our docent. We are looking forward to returning to the Flying Heritage Collection for their Free Fly Days to hear the planes' motors roar and watch history soar. 

Aircrafts in the Collection 

  Scaled CompositesSpaceShipOne 
Newly added pieces include a collection of popular WWII sidearms carried by many pilots in their aircraft to offer some defense in the case of a crash-landing behind enemy lines.  These include the venerable Colt M1911A1, the German 9mm Luger P08 pistol carried by many of the German officers and the 9mm Walther P38 pistol.  Some of these models are still actively used today in militaries around the world. 
Polikarpov I-16 Type 24 "Rata"--this was a very sturdy plane that could handle being shot at much longer than many other planes
Things To Know
  • Hours: Open daily 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • This is a great outing to take your kids on, especially if they're studying WWII history in school
  • Free parking on-site
  • Admission fees: Adults $12, Seniors/Military $10, Youth (6-15 years) $8, Children (5 and under) Free
  • Free Fly Days: There's usually one in June and in July, and a couple in August and in September—they take out different planes on different days
   From I-5 take the exit to Highway 525 toward the Mukilteo Ferry
   Highway 525 will become the Mukilteo Speedway
   Turn right onto Beverly Park Road 
   Follow the "Flying Heritage Collection" Signs to the parking lot
   End at: Paine Field 3407 109th Street SW EverettWA 98204
The "Jenny"--used as a military trainer during WWI and as an airshow plane

There's nothing like experiencing the "real-deal"!
Head on out Around Puget Sound...and Beyond

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Holiday Time -- Molbak's Nursery at Christmas -- Woodinville, WA

    Molbak's Nursery in Woodinville was not the first place we thought of when we were looking for a holiday-related adventure this December. My husband's mother, who is a garden designer, was the one who suggested we make the trip to the nursery this year to fill ourselves with some good-ol' Christmas spirit
    For many years we thought that Molbak's was a place that only garden enthusiasts could truly enjoy. But our preconceived notions were put to shame when we arrived and walked into their winter-time paradise at the nursery.
Molbak's has stunning displays of holiday colors, plants, and decorations

    For those who haven't been before, Molbak's is huge--they've connected dozens of greenhouses together to create a warm environment with flowers and plants of all varieties. Their holiday arrangements are fantastic--we couldn't stop snapping pictures next to all of the snowmen, poinsettias, and elaborately decorated Christmas trees.
 The jolly snowman wishing everyone Happy Holidays, with vibrant colored plants all around him

    One of Molbak's traditions for the last 40 years has been to serve free Danish Kringle that's from Larsen's Dansish Bakery in Ballard and coffee to all their customers. Yes, we really do like free things. The best part is...this Danish Kringle is the most amazing pastry either of us had ever tasted! They'll be serving the Kringle and coffee from 11am to 3pm every day until Dec. 23rd.
 Danish Kringle--the most incredible pastry we've ever had (get a box for $13)

    You can also buy your Christmas tree at the nursery. They have lots to choose from. If you get inspired you can even create a display that looks something like this at your house...
 Another beautiful holiday scene at Molbak's

    There were more free samples--this time of Ice Apples. Ice Apples are harvested after the first frost to give them an even juicier and sweeter taste. These are Fuji apples that are left on the trees until late October and harvested in Wenachee, WA.
 Samples, samples, we love free samples

    The nursery has an extensive gift shop, full of lots of holiday items. We've always been enchanted by the miniature Christmas villages. This one had the set up of the town from "A Christmas Story", thus the leg lamp in the background.
 "A Christmas Story" village--Molbak's had an extensive collection

    Molbak's is a very kid friendly and dog friendly store, other than dogs aren't allowed in the in-store cafe. It seemed as though everyone was enjoying their time there. 
    Take note that Molbak's has lots of events that happen at this time of year. Many are free or are less than $10 per person for admission
    What caught us most by surprise was to find a plethora of tropical plants at the nursery. Banana plants, hibiscus flowers, orchids...we have family that lives in Hawaii so it made us feel a little like we were back in a tropical place for a few seconds to walk through this section of the store. It was fun to mix the tropical feeling with the Christmas-time experience. Thank you Molbak's for having variety.
A hibiscus plant--just one of the many tropical plants at Molbak's

Things To Know:
  • Definitely a fun place to come, walk around, and take some good holiday pictures
  • They have free Danish Kringle and coffee served from 11am to 3pm everyday until the 23rd of December
  • Bring your camera and get your picture taken with Santa from 11am to 3pm on weekends
  • Molbak's is a dog-friendly business
  • You can get your dose of paradise by walking through their tropical plant section
  • There is a cafe with lots of seating
  • You can find lots of holiday gifts at the gift shop
  • Learn more at
Love those winter-time scenes!

Happy Holidays to one and all!
Head on out Around Puget Sound...and Beyond