Thursday, August 30, 2007

2000 Letterbox finds!

I am starting the month of September only 5 letterboxes away from 2000! Wow, what a milestone. I thought to myself, I really should make the 2000th box a really neat one. It should be very special....So I have a little while to think this over and I am going to ask for advice from all of you. What letterbox do you think should be my 2000th find?

I don't plan to make any special trips out of Washington State for the next 5 letterboxes, but I will entertain the idea of letterboxes as far away as Portland, OR or Vancouver, BC, Canada, maybe even Spokane, WA.

One box that I have thought of doing for 2000, is the Mailbox Ho! letterbox --it is on Mailbox Peak outside of Seattle and this is a very challenging hike. I know that Ryan would want to come with me to do it. And it would be very challenging for me.

but I am looking forward to what letterboxes you folks think would be worthy of find Number 2000!

Amanda from Seattle

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Last Mile

I woke up Tuesday with only one more mile to hike to make my goal of 50 miles for hike-a-thon. I had thought of going over towards the East of Seattle to hike a really interesting trail, Snoqualmie Falls, or Rattlesnake Ledge maybe. Or perhaps North up to Whidbey Island and hike something at Ebey's Landing or Deception Pass. Well, I got up late because I had flown in from Philly the day before and we were late as usual. And I made the mistake of getting on the computer to take care of some things that needed to be done. Paying Bills and Listing things to sell on Ebay and answering Emails from the past week...etc etc

And the day just slipped away from me. Now it was too late to drive across to Snoqualmie Falls or up to Whidbey Island. I would have to think of a mile close to home that I could quickly get to and hike. Of course, there is always the Alki Beach trail! The trail along the beach here in West Seattle. It is always interesting. It has wonderful signs and images in the pavement and on posts all along the trail. For example, this photo is of an image of a black bear on the pavement and the writing reads:
"The black bear, smallest of the three north american bears, measures only 3 feet high and 5 feet long but weighs 200 to 500 lbs. Bears eat fish, rodents and plants. Outside Alaska, the Pacific Northwest has the largest population of black bears in the U.S."

You can get lots of interesting information from walking around Alki! Maybe that is why Ryan is so smart, he reads the plaques along Alki Beach.
So I quickly walked my mile and came back to write up this blog and then it is off to work (Madrid tomorrow).
Miles Hiked: 50
Pledges: $1105
Pounds Lost: 7
Don't forget to get your pledge in to me by September 3rd!
Thanks so much

Monday, August 27, 2007

More Car Troubles...

But before I get to the car issues....after criss-crossing the country a few times, it was time to go across the ocean again. I was supposed to go to Glasgow, but I traded at the last minute for Munich. Gotta love the flexiblity of the Flight Attendant lifestyle.

Once in Munich, the weather was cloudy and dreary, not unlike what it had been like in Seattle. So what to do on a dreary day in Munich? Take the train to Dachau. Now, I was surprised that more people don't know about the WWII Concentration Camp at Dachau, Germany. I thought that when I said I was going to Dachau, that people would automatically know that I was going there to see the Concentration Camp Memorial. But that was not the case, so I am going to give you guys a little history lesson for a moment.

Dachau was the first Concentration Camp to open for business in March 1933 and it operated as a prison, work camp, extermination center and training camp for the SS Guards until it was liberated by U.S. Troops on April 29, 1945. It was actually the model for all the Nazi concentration camps that would come after it. The ironwork on the gate when you enter the camp says Arbeit Macht Frei, "Work will make you Free." At this camp the prisoners were exterminated through work. They were slaves for Hitler's war effort. I was amazed by the size of the facility. It was on the grounds of a abandoned munitions factory from the First World War. It served as a refugee camp after the war and until the 1960's when Holocaust survivers initiated the drive to make the site a memorial. The entire place has been turned into a museum and memorial to the people who died there. It is free to enter the memoria and a lot of new exhibits opened in 2003 with everything labeled in German and English. Except for this stone located by the crematoriums it says in German: "Think about how we died here"

Back in the USA, I had a day off and hiked the Lake to Lake Trail for hike-a-thon. This trail is located over in Bellevue, WA. It was a dreary day here in Seattle. It just would never stop raining, so I decided not to let a few raindrops stop me from getting in some mileage. The thing about a rainy day in Seattle, you generally get the trails and playgrounds to yourself. I hiked from Robinswood Park all the way to the Lake Hills King County Library. The Library is a great place to stop and turn around. I got to check out the books for sale to support the library and they have nice clean bathrooms. It had been about a year since I had last hiked along the Lake to Lake trail and there was a new Farm Stand near the P-Patch Garden just past Phantom Lake. On my return, I had to stop and buy some flowers for my apartment.

This week, I decided to go down to check out Point Defiance Park in Tacoma. Since my car had been having trouble, I decided to give it a break and I drove Ryan's car down to Point Defiance. I parked at the Rustic Picnic Area and decided to hike the Outer Perimeter Loop Trail. It is marked by squares on the tiny little trail signs. And it can get kind of confusing in the interior areas of the park when the Outer Trail merges with the Inner Trail and crosses and joins the Spine Trail! All are represented by symbols on these tiny little trail signs, as you can see in this photo. If you are walking at a quick pace, you can sometimes miss a trail intersection. The trail meanders along the cliffs above Puget Sound and there are great views of the Tacoma Narrows Bridges. These Bridges are at the site of the famous Galloping Gertie Bridge that collasped in 1940 after being in service for only 4 months! The newer bridges are nicknamed Sturdy Gertie. The newest bridge opened this summer and I believe it is a toll bridge, but I don't know for sure because I have not been over it yet.

I also saw some wildlife while I was hiking around Point Defiance Park. A mama raccoon and her 3 babies were trying to cross the road. I caught this photo of Mama and one of her babies!
So I know you are wondering about the car troubles that I alluded to in the title of this post. Well, I'm out at Point Defiance Park and I had driven Ryan's car, which I don't do that often. Ryan's car has automatic locks. My car is older and has manual locks, plus my Volkswagen won't let you lock the driver's door from inside, you have to lock it with the key from the outside. Can you see where this is heading?
I was out on the trail when I first noticed that I was missing the car keys. I was frantic. I thought I had dropped them somewhere along the way. I backtracked for quite a while. I didn't see anything. I was convinced it was hopeless and the keys were lost in the woods. But wait, maybe the keys fell when I got out of the car and are lying in the parking lot beside the car. So I hike back to the car and look all around the driver's door. No keys on the ground. I am really frantic now. I look inside the car and there are the keys hanging from the ignition. Boy, do I feel like a dummy. I'm gonna have to put AAA on speed dial. Well, all's well that ends well. The AAA locksmith was out there in less than 30 minutes and I was able to drive back to Seattle without any further incident.
I have 49 miles under my belt for hike-a-thon. Only one mile to go. And pledges are up to $1105. Thanks so much to everyone who pledged this year! Don't forget, I need your money (checks made out to WTA) by September 3rd. If you want to paypal me, just drop me an email and I can give you the info for that.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hike-a-thon 2007 stats so far!

Here are the latest stats from my Hike-a-thon 2007. The month is more than half over and I have already hiked 43 miles on 31 different trails. I have pledges for $855 dollars from 25 different people! And I have collected over $500 so far. I have lost 5 pounds! Only 7 more miles and $145 dollars more to go, another 15 pounds wouldn't hurt either. Thanks so much for everyone's support. I still have lots of books left for pledges:

All my John Sandford books are from the Prey series: titles that I have available are: Night Prey, Mind Prey, Secret Prey, Certain Prey, Easy Prey, Chosen Prey, Naked Prey, Hidden Prey, and Broken Prey.

All of my Nevada Barr books are from her Anna Pigeon series: titles I have available are: Ill Wind, Superior Death, Firestorm, Blind Descent, Blood Lure, Flashback, and High Country.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Kudzu and Beer and Cornfields Oh My!

I traveled from Seattle to Philadelphia to attend a letterboxing gathering on Saturday the 11th. (and to go to work flying to Brussels) It started out not so good when I did not get a seat on the redeye flight from Seattle to Philly. As a flight attendant, I travel stand-by and if there is not a seat available, then I can't go. But the airlines have cut back on service and they do not fully staff the airplanes anymore, so there is always a flight attendant jumpseat that is available for qualified crewmembers to sit on. The downside of the jumpseat is that you are no longer a passenger, you are now an auxiliary member of the crew, so you can't drink and you can't sleep. But when no other seat is available, it is still a way to get where you are going and so that is where I was seated Friday night on my way to Pennsylvania.

When I arrived in PA, I immediately jumped into the rental car and made my way down to Ridley Creek State Park.
The gathering was not going to start until about 10am and I was early, so I started my day hiking the Multi-Use trail that circles the park for 5 miles. It is a broad paved path and actually utilizes roadways that were there when this area was a village in the 18th century. Some portions run along the creek and there were some flyfishermen out this morning. When I completed the Multi-Use Trail, I still had some time to kill and I found a couple of letterboxes along the Yellow Trail. It was now 10 am so I made my way to the picnic area for the Letterboxing Gathering.

I got to see a lot of letterboxers who I had not met before and I also got to see some old friends who I had met at previous Gatherings in Pennsylvania. My sister and I had been to Ridley Creek State Park a couple of years ago to find letterboxes, but there were a lot of new ones planted recently for this gathering, so I hiked the Blue Trail and the White Trail looking for more boxes, some of the trails were almost overgrown with Kudzu! In many areas, I thought the vines were reaching out to grab me. It reminded me of that Scott Smith book, The Ruins, creepy. I returned to the picnic area for lunch.

I should note that I had not had any sleep for at least 24 hours and I was pretty much running out of steam. As long as I kept moving, walking and hiking I was okay, but once I stopped to sit down I would feel like I was going to drop. I left the park early, with letterboxes still to be found! Maybe another day. Back at the airport I was able to get in a little nap before my Brussels flight. All in all, I hiked 8 miles at Ridley Creek State Park and found 10 letterboxes.

The flight to Brussels was a long 7 hours from Philadelphia and I was operating on only a few hours of rest. I had huge plans to get to a park in the southern part of the city and hike some more miles for hike-a-thon, but I was just too tired to attempt it! I slept most of my layover away. I did get out of the room to explore the Central part of the city. I had never been to Brussels before! It was a Sunday and the Grand Plaza was crowded with tourists. I really wanted to find the manneken pis. This is the symbol of Brussels.

It was only a few paces off the main square and was surrounded by tourists trying to take pictures! There were a lot of street performers all along the cobblestone streets leading up to the Grand Plaza. I was especially fascinated by a man creating silhouettes. I even had him make one of me! I had to stop for a beer at one of the cafes along the way. You are supposed to eat Mussels and Fries with your beer. I love mussels, but I didn't have enough money for the full meal deal, so a beer would have to do it. The Belgian beer is amazing. I had no idea it was so extensive and diverse! Here in the states, I always think of Fat Tire Beer and that's it. I bought a couple of bottles of different beers to bring home and try later. I will be reviewing them for the Atlas Quest website later this week.

I walked around a lot, but none of it counted for hike-a-thon.
Monday, we worked back to the USA and I flew down to Charlotte to stay at my mom's house. I got in just in time to take a walk on the Davidson Greenway for 2 miles for hike-a-thon. This is a brand new hiking and biking trail, but it already gets a lot of use from the folks who live around here. It runs along cornfields for the first 1/2 mile. This corn is not for eating, it is drying on the stalks, and I think they use it for feed. Then the trail meanders through some woods in a really nice housing development. The sun was setting as I finished my hike and returned to the house. Next stop is Las Vegas, but if you think I'm going hiking in 105 degree heat, you obviously don't know me very well!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Trails Closed?? They must not mean me...

Well, to continue with my adventures this week, I hiked a couple of miles over at Cougar Mountain. When I arrived at the trailhead, there was a notice about bear sitings. People had been seeing a momma bear and her 2 cubs almost everyday during the month of July along the Redtown and Quarry trails! Wow! I might get to see a bear. So at first I am hiking along quietly and looking every which way hoping to see a bear. But what if I surprise the momma bear and she gets angry? So, then I start talking to myself and singing little songs just to let the bear know that a human is walking here! Needless to say, I never saw a bear, don't know if a bear saw me. Not many of my photos turned out worth anything. It was kind of cloudy and underneath the canopy of the trees it was pretty dark. I was headed back to the trailhead along the Wildside Trail and I was taking a walk on the wildside this morning!

The next day, I decided to head out to Farrel-McWhirter Park in Redmond, WA. It is mainly a horseback riding farm and park, but they have a couple of hiking trails around the place too. There were some cute new baby goats at the barn and the trails all had nice new signs since the last time I had hiked around here.

Now today I was trying to get in a hike before I had to fly off for work and I always hike the Des Moines Creek Trail every year for hike-a-thon. It is convenient to the airport and it is a nice level paved trail. So I drive up and what do I see?? A Trail Closed Sign! Oh dear, what am I going to do now?? I happened to know that there are a couple more access points for this trail in the neighborhood and I thought I would go just check them out and see if they were closed off also. So when I drove around, there was nothing back there on the southern end of the trail telling me it was closed, so I hiked it anyway. I didn't get to do the entire trail because of the construction at the beginning, but I was able to get in one mile along pretty little Des Moines Creek.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Carless Hiking?? Not for me!

Well, when you last heard from me, car trouble had cut short my hiking adventures on the Olympic Peninsula. The next day I was wondering how I was going to get any hiking in for Hike-a-thon. Luckily, there is a terrific website that lists all kinds of hiking you can get to using the Seattle Metro System

As I was perusing the internet, checking out all my options, who should walk in the door, but the Green Tortuga himself! Fresh (well, kinda stinky actually) from his Volunteer Vacation at Mt. Adams. Terrific! I grabbed his car keys and left for my hike! Just a short jaunt down the Longfellow Creek Legacy Trail for only 2 miles today. The Longfellow Trail is relatively new and is quite close to my home in West Seattle. At the beginning of the trail is a really neat Dragonfly Pavilion and then a Fish Bone Bridge. I hiked a mile to the Greg Davis Park and then returned to the car.

The next day, I hopped into Ryan's car again (they won't even be able to check out my broken VW until Monday!!) and drove down to Maple Valley, WA to hike a couple of miles on the Green to Cedar Rivers Trail. I hiked from the Lake Wilderness Arboretum to SR 516 (aka Kent-Kangley Road) and back for 5 miles total. There was a terrific letterbox series hidden along this trail and so that made it a lot of fun to hike!

Today, I was able to drive out to Tradition Lake and hike 4 miles around the lake. I was worried for a moment, because there were signs about Bridges Out and Trail Work in Progress, but the smell of new lumber was in the air and I can happily report that the trails were in terrific shape! Two new bridges on the Around the Lake and Bus Trails! Logs and trees cleared from the trail by chainsaws. Even the drive up to the trailhead, which is usually strewn with potholes had been regraveled and scraped smooth. Not a pothole in sight!! These local parks were not immune to damage during last winter's storms and folks have really been out here working overtime to get them in shape for the summer hiking season. Bus Trail? Did someone say Bus Trail? You might ask, why do they call it the Bus Trail? So I have included one last picture. My question is, "How did it get here?"

The last 3 days have netted me 11 more miles and 8 more letterbox finds!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Hike-a-thon is off to a rousing start!

My sister, Alisa flew up from Folsom, CA to go camping with me on the Olympic Peninsula. I got in late, late, late on Tuesday night from flying a trip to Amsterdam and met up with her at my apartment. We only got a few hours sleep before we gathered our gear together and headed off for adventure.
First stop was a yummy and filling breakfast at Endolyne Joe’s here in West Seattle. It is located right near the Fauntleroy ferry terminal and I just love their theme food. This season it is Brazil!

We got on the Fauntleroy Ferry to Southworth over on the Kitsap Peninsula and began our journey. Once on the other side of the water, we stopped in Belfair, WA for a little hiking at the Theler WetlandsTrails. We hiked 3 miles on the River Estuary Trail and I was able to find one letterbox.

Next we drove up to the Staircase area for a hike in Olympic National Park. We immediately discovered evidence of the destruction of the storms of last fall. I had wanted to do a loop hike incorporating two trails, Staircase Rapids Trail and the North Fork Skokomish Trail, but the bridge was out due to the storms last fall. So we just did an out and back hike on the Staircase Rapids Trail for 2 miles total.
The day was beginning to dwindle down, so we drove over to Elwha Valley to find a campsite for the evening. Because we got there so late in the day, the Altaire campground by the river was already full, so we settled for the Elwha campground across the road. It would become our home away from home for the next two nights. A campfire and roasted marshmallows finished out the day.
Bright and early on Thursday morning, we got up and started hiking to Hume Ranch. This hike has many names in the different guidebooks I consulted. It is called the Hume Ranch Loop, The Elwha River Valley Loop and The Geyser Valley Loop. There are also many different mileage reports given for the hike depending on which side trails you take and how far down the river you travel. Alisa and I only hiked as far as the Hume Ranch cabin, looping down to the river and Krause Bottom and taking a side trail to see the Goblins Gate. We estimate that we hiked 6 miles total. We hiked along the ridge to Michael’s Cabin and on to Hume Ranch, then descended to the river bottom and hiked back towards the trailhead. Along the way, we met lots of hikers coming in the opposite direction. We discovered why when we had to hike up from Rica Canyon and it was straight up for a half a mile! It would have been much easier to do the loop in the opposite direction.

We were done with the Hume Ranch hike before lunch and we decided to drive into town for more urban hiking along the Olympic Discovery Trail.

This would also allow us the opportunity to eat lunch at a fancy seafood restaurant and perhaps after our urban hike we could take in a movie at the Deer Park movie theaters on Hwy 101. Green Guillemot had hidden some letterboxes along the Olympic Discovery Trail and we were able to find them as we walked the rails to trails corridor. Along the water we had wonderful views of Port Angeles and even Canada only 17 miles across the strait. A friendly burro was grazing in a field near the trailhead. After the movie, we returned to the campground and were able to enjoy another evening by the fire.

The next morning we broke up our camp and headed back to Seattle. The plan was to do a lot of little hikes along the way to the Bremerton Ferry terminal. We stopped in Silverdale, WA and hiked 2 miles along the Clear Creek Trail, and found another letterbox.

We were on our way to Anderson Landing Preserve when disaster struck! My car had been having symptoms of problems all month. It was slow to accelerate and it did not have any power on hills. I had been having a hard time climbing the hill on my street in Seattle and I would often just avoid hills with a lot of grade. We had even vetoed a trip up to Hurricane Ridge yesterday because I did not think my car could make it.

On the way to Anderson Landing, we found ourselves on a very steep hill and my car just could not make the climb. The rpm’s kept rising and the speed kept dwindling until we were stopped and the smell of the burning clutch filled the air. With only 2 bars on the cell phone, we were finally able to reach AAA and a tow truck was soon dispatched our way. Unfortunately, there would be no more hiking or letterboxing today! On the ferry ride back to Seattle, we were able to see some aerobatics airplanes practicing for SeaFair over the city. All in all, I found 8 letterboxes, hiked 16 miles and I have pledges for $765 from 20 people! I am still $235 away from my goal.