Solo Hike Up Baldy Mountain

The previous day’s hike just wasn’t enough for me.  I wanted something with just a little more challenge.  I was in the mood for some serious exercise.

I didn’t necessarily want to walk a lot of miles.  I was looking for some climbing – something to stretch my abilities, a little.  What I ended up with was something that was supposed to be a 5 mile hike with a 2000 gain.  It’s called the Baldy Mountain Trail and it’s located between Yakima and Ellensburg in the Yakima River Canyon.

Big Pines Campground from Above

This was my first solo hike of any significance.

It started off a little rough.  When I had researched the hike on the internet, it said that the trail head was across the highway from the Big Pines Campground.

I parked in the day parking area, posted my Annual Pass on my rear view mirror, and walked across the highway to find the trail head. All I found were a number of lightly defined trails that appeared to be something more like animal trails.

I picked one that seemed to be more heavily traveled than the others.  It led me to some steep inclines and some treacherous scrambles up some scree. By then, I was certain that I had made an error, but I was too far to turn back.  Not only that, but it looked like the return down would be scarier than what I had just come up. I continued on up with the intent (hope) that I might find an easier way back down.

Hallelujah! About two thirds of a mile up, I found the Baldy Mountain Trail.

My shortcut eliminated about 3/4 of a mile from the total length of the correct ascent.  The gain didn’t change.

By the way, the trail head is across from the other end of the campground.  Not across from the day parking area.

Anyway, the rest of the trip up the hill was about what I had imagined it would be. I liken it to a stair case that keeps going up.  I think Led Zeppelin had a song about it.

The trail was damp, with a little snow in places. The trail was packed with enough rock to keep it from becoming overly muddy.

At the top, I felt like I could see forever in every direction.  I’m so glad it was a relatively clear day.  There were high clouds, but I could still see a great distance.

Selfie from the top of Baldy MountainFor the next two days after this hike, my calves and thighs reminded me of how much value I get from hiking.  Pain is gain, right?

Must Visit Shops in Leavenworth

First off, I’m a guy. Yes, I enjoy shopping, but my shopping is way different than my wife’s shopping. My wife can spend 2 hours in a children’s clothing store, touching every garment on every rack, putting together matching ensembles. She may, or may not buy anything. I walk through the store, look for something cute/funny/unique/exotic/interesting. If I happen to find a garment that says something cool about how much the child loves their Papa, I might buy it, but then I’m done. In and out in 2 minutes, and on to the next shop.

The last time I went to Leavenworth, we spent about 3 hours shopping on two different days. We walked and browsed through a lot of unique shops. I wait for my wife, while she tries to keep up with me.

I enjoy the kind of shopping (browsing) that we do in Leavenworth. Much of what I enjoy the most involves food. When we have the time, we’ll walk from shop to shop and explore each one. When time is limited, I seek out my favorites. Here are mine, in no particular order.

The Hat Shop is a regular stop, especially when we have the grandkids with us. Find the funniest hat…and…picture time!

Schocolat, Fine Handmade Chocolates is basically just one small counter in the back of Ganz Klasse, which is a home furnishings boutique. If you visit Schocolat, you will be offered samples of their artistry. You will find that their chocolates are absolutely heavenly.

Munchen Haus is an outdoor restaurant with several options of the best brats. They have dozens of different mustards and sauces to douse your brat with, along with their warm apple cider sauerkraut. For years, we have selected Munchen Haus as our first choice for dining in Leavenworth.

Fresh Burger Cafe is a new favorite on my list. We discovered it on our last trip to the city. It may be one of the best burger/sandwich/soup/salad cafes anywhere. They have a small inside dining area, but more seating outside on their patio.

The Kris Kringle Shop has more Christmas decorations that you ever imagined could be available. I’m not a decorator, so I’d probably never buy anything there. My wife is the decorator in our house. She buys stuff.

The Cheesemonger’s Shop offers samples of a number of interesting cheeses.

A Matter of Taste has samples of hot sauces, flavored honey spreads, mustards, dips, etc. I especially like the flavored honeys.

The Metal Waterfall Gallery is a shop that I’ve walked through many times, but I always go back. I just find the sculptures to be fascinating enough for another look. They catch my interest as I walk through the store.

When we stay at our Worldmark condos (and there is one in Leavenworth, which we utilize on occasion), we go through a lot of coffee. They used to provide us with all the coffee we needed for our stay, but they changed their policy, and now we have to purchase our own coffee. When in Leavenworth, we make Alpine Coffee Company one of our first stops so we can get a pound of coffee to get us started for our stay in the condo.

My wife and I spent a couple weeks in Russia, a few years ago. We bought a few souvenirs to bring home with us. Gifts From Russia is reminiscent of our souvenir shopping in Moscow.

Here’s a comprehensive list of the shops you’ll find in Leavenworth.


Adventure in Nicaragua

Volcano Boarding

My son, Austin, is attending a university in Costa Rica for a semester. While there, he and his friend, Ben, took a short break for a little side trip to Nicaragua.

I was a little nervous about it when he told us what he was planning. I’m so living in the 80’s still. I remember when Nicaragua was a place that was saturated with rebellion, political unrest, and guerrilla warfare. I guess it’s nothing like that anymore. It has become a very safe place to travel, and a favorite destination for American tourists.

I was pleased that Austin and Ben returned to their homes in Costa Rica safely. They had lots of stories to tell. Better yet, Austin showed us their story. Watch the video below.

They traveled by bus, slept in hostels, played on the beach, went volcano boarding, and released baby sea turtles into the ocean. They visited Managua, Leon, San Juan del Sur, and Playa Hermosa. In all, they had 5 days along the Pacific coast of Nicaragua and Austin proudly admitted that he spent less than $300 (of my money) during the trip.

It sounds like the trip of a lifetime to me. I’m glad Austin had the opportunity to experience it.  I would have loved to share the experience.

Big Sur – Julia Pfeiffer Beach and McWay Falls

Waterfall at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur

Waterfall at Pfeiffer Beach in Big SurI was speaking with a business acquaintance and mentioned to him that I was planning to scour the northwest for all the best waterfalls in the region.  I told him that I am going to ride my Goldwing around my region to find all the most spectacular falls in my area.

He asked if I had ever seen the waterfall at Big Sur.  I had not.

This photo is one he emailed to me to show me what it was like.  He took the photo during a recent visit to the park.

I did some quick searching online and found that this is McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur to the south of Monterrey, California.

Based on the photo, I think it is a beautiful location.  Reviews from other people who have visited the beach are considerably positive.  It sounds like there are lots of interesting rock formations that some of the older kids like to climb around on.  There is some purple sand that people find very interesting.  Also, many people come in around sunset to take pictures of the sunset over the rocks.

I would definitely like to visit this area.  I have it on my bucket list to ride my motorcycle down the Pacific Coast from the northwest corner of Washington state, all the way to the southern point of the California coast.  I expect that we will stop here for a bit while we are on that trip.

Have you been here, before?  What can you tell us about this area?  Are the reviews from other visitors accurate?

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Waterfall Adventure Coming Soon

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah FallsLeslie and I have decided that whenever we pull our Goldwing out of winter storage in the spring, we are going to begin touring Washington state and surrounding areas in search of the most spectacular waterfalls of the pacific northwest.  Our plan is to venture out about every other weekend through the riding months.

According to Northwest Waterfall Survey, there are around 2000 waterfalls in Washington and about 1200 in Oregon.  There is no possible way that we will see all of them in one summer, but we want to find the biggest and the best of all of them.

One of the most popular is Multnomah Falls.  I’ve been to that one many times, as has everyone who has driven down the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge on I-84.  It is a beautiful sight to behold and I would highly recommend stopping by the visitor’s area and walking, at least, up to the Benson Bridge.

When we find our waterfalls, we plan to view them, take some pictures, and move on.  Don’t expect us to do any waterfall hucking during our adventures.  Our pleasure is in traveling together with a destination in mind, and finding the destination.  The bonus is in the beauty of the waterfalls that we explore.

7 Reasons to Visit the Yakima Valley


Yakima, WA, from Lookout Point
Yakima, WA, from Lookout Point (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yakima may not be the first place that comes to mind while planning a trip, but they have so much to offer.

I’ve lived in the Yakima Valley my entire life.  Most of what this valley has to offer, I take for granted.  In fact, when we have guests from outside this area who ask about things they should see while here, I’ve had difficulty coming up with suggestions.  I had to stop and think a bit to come up with my thoughts for this web page.

While researching the topic, I found this short video by the Chamber of Commerce.  It a promo video that gives a quick overview of a number of things to see and do in the Yakima Valley.

Whenever I’ve taken week long vacations with my family to some of the Worldmark resorts, of which we are members, we try to balance our activities with some good old-fashioned relaxation. We want to see some sites and do some activities, but we don’t want to try to cram too much into a short period of time.

Typically we restrict ourselves to one activity per day, during our vacation. The rest of the time, we spend at our condo eating, swimming, playing board games, watching movies, and then eating some more. That way, we don’t return home from our vacation more worn out than when we left.

This list is what I might line up as our daily activities if  I were a visitor to the area.

Water Recreation

One of the most popular activities for Yakima residents in the summer is to float the Yakima River Canyon.  Every summer, thousands of people spend the day relaxing and partying as they casually drift down the river on their rafts.

For those who prefer excitement over relaxation, you may wish to try your hands at white water rafting on the Tieton River when the flows from the Rimrock reservoir begin to increase in the late summer and early fall months.  During this time, this stretch becomes the fastest white water rafting in the state.

Capitol Theatre

The Capitol Theatre in Yakima, Washington
The Capitol Theatre in Yakima, Washington (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Capitol Theatre is a historic building that continues to offer concerts, broadway shows, and a variety of performances throughout the year.  It may be hit-and-miss as to whether or not they have something playing during your trip to Yakima, but if they do, it would be one of the activities you should consider.

When I was young, the Capitol Theatre was being used as a movie theater.  At one point, the building caught fire and was badly damaged.  It sat vacant for quite some time before a group came in and renovated the building.  They’ve done a fabulous job and the theater has continued to operate in it’s current fashion ever since.  It is a great asset for the community of Yakima.

Wine Tours

I’m really not even a wine drinker, but I’ve added this to the list because the winery business plays such a strong role in the Central Washington agricultural scene.  I’ve been to a number of the winery’s in the valley and find the business to be very fascinating.

The Yakima Wine Association provides a list of suggested wine tours that are recommended.  I could probably get away with driving myself around to the various locations, but for some others, it may be recommended that you enlist a limo or a bus to assist you on your tour.  Stay safe.


Yakima Valley Museum
Yakima Valley Museum (Photo credit: Frank Fujimoto)

The Yakima Valley Museum is located in Franklin Park on Tieton Drive to the west of downtown Yakima.

I had driven by the museum probably a hundred times without ever stopping to go through it.  Recently, I joined a group from my workplace that held a social event in one of the meeting rooms inside the museum.  We were allowed to wander around the museum while we were there.  I was completely surprised as to how much history they housed there.

The Yakima Valley Museum is the best and most interesting place to go for learning about the history and culture of the area.

Recreational Sports

All year round there are a number of sport tournaments and events being held in Yakima.  From the high school district volleyball and basketball tournaments that are held in the Sun Dome in the fall and winter, to the baseball at Kiwanis Park, to the Hot Shots 3 on 3 basketball tournament held in the middle of Yakima Avenue in the summer, there are sporting events for everyone all year ’round.

As I write this post, the city is preparing for the Pirate’s Plunder Adventure Race.  This obstacle course will require extreme strength and endurance in the contestants.  This October 5, 2013 event is just one example of the quality recreational events held in this area.

Old West

Toppenish is a half an hour south of Yakima, along the I-82 corridor.  It’s a small town where the west still lives.  It also just happens to be the town that I was born in.

Shortly after I graduated from high school and moved away from this little town, they began a couple new initiatives.  They adopted an “old west” theme, and they started painting murals around the town.  In fact, every June, they hold an event that they call Mural in a Day where a number of artists band together to paint a new mural.

Today, nearly every business in town sports an old west look and as you walk around the town, you can find more than 70 spectacular murals painted in various locations.

On top of all that, they have a number of fascinating museums, including the Rail & Steam Museum, the American Hop Museum, and the Yakama Nation Cultural Center.


It hardly makes any sense at all to come to the Yakima Valley and not pick up some locally grown produce. Many people come to Yakima from around the state just to stock up on the local delights for canning or just eating good fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Yakima Farmer’s Market is open in downtown Yakima every Sunday from early May through late October is a great place to find your produce, local crafts, and much more.

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High Tide at Birch Bay, WA

4th of July fireworks (2013) at Birch Bay, WA
4th of July fireworks (2013) at Birch Bay, WA (Photo credit: WXRob)

During our short stay, the tide was low and there was about 1/4 mile of exposed beach.  People were out playing in the sand all over the place.  Many people appeared to be digging for clams.

We took a peaceful walk along the sidewalk, looking for interesting shops or restaurants.  Quite frankly, we didn’t find anything along the main road that we were overly enthused about.  We did, however, find a nice little flea market sort of setup in the park.  It was worth taking an hour to peruse the vendor’s wares.

While we were visiting Birch Bay, I’m just glad we didn’t see anything like the people who recorded this video experienced.

I sure wouldn’t want to be here during a tsunami!  This place would disappear.

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Overnight Trip to Birch Bay, WA


Mount Baker & Birch BayA cousin’s wedding in Lynden, WA area later this summer will take us to the northwest corner of the state.  We’ve booked one night at the Worldmark Birch Bay for our accomodations while there.

A quick online search for things to see and do in the Birch Bay area brought me to their Chamber of Commerce website and revealed some options for us, but we’ll have to be pretty selective due to the limited amount of time we will be there and the time occupied by our primary reason for being there in the first place.

United States side of the Peace Arch monument....
United States side of the Peace Arch monument. Blaine, Washington, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blaine, WA is nearby and I wouldn’t mind stopping in to see the Peace Arch State Park.  The only problem is that the park is situated between the US and Canadian border stations.  It seems that I would need my passport updated in order to enter the park.  Time is too short to get that taken care of before the trip, so I’ll just have to enjoy the photos that others have taken.

Another option would be to stop by the Blaine Marine Park where we could take a ride on the Plover Foot Ferry.  Ok, probably not, due to our time constraints, but we may take part of the 2 mile waterfront walk around to the marina and enjoy a little bird watching and the views of the San Juan Islands, or looking the other direction, a view of Mt Baker.

Birch Bay has a public market open on weekends through the summer.  There is something about a public market that is intriguing to me.  It might be the entrepreneurship represented by each of the vendors.  I usually end up spending most of my time quizzing the vendors about their businesses.  Anyway, it usually don’t cost anything to walk through the market to look around.

Because I enjoy perusing a museum, the Drayton Harbor Maritime Museum might be a place to stop in for a look-see.  It would take us out onto the Semiahmoo Spit and it houses a restored sailing boat among their collection.  I think access to the museum requires a ride on the Plover Foot Ferry, so again, time may be a constraint to visiting the museum on this trip.

If we had kids with us, I’m sure they would want to go to the Birch Bay Waterslides water park.  Besides the Northwest Washington Fair, the water park is probably Birch Bay’s premier tourist attraction and draws over 60,000 paid guests each year.

Due to the time element, I may bypass all the local sight-seeing this trip and just leave early the next morning and make the return home over the North Cascades Highway. It is one of the most beautiful mountain passes I’ve ever experienced, but it’s been awhile since I’ve taken that route.

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The Worlds Longest Beach – Long Beach, WA

Jake the Alligator Man, a Northwestern pop cul...
Jake the Alligator Man, a Northwestern pop cultural phenomenon, on display at Marsh’s Free Museum in Long Beach, Washington. Photo taken on March 29, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After spending a week in Las Vegas, last month, I’m ready for a low key vacation.  Sometimes, you just need to get some rest and relaxation, right?  After we join our extended family for a barbeque and some socializing at a family reunion in Winlock, WA, we will make the 2 hour drive to Long Beach, Washington and spend a week of R & R.  We’ll be joined by a couple of our grown children along with their babies – (someday I’ll tell you about our grandkids).

This will be another trip where we will stay at one of our timeshare Worldmark resorts.  We are booked at Worldmark Long Beach, which is the newer/remodeled (and, I’ve heard, the nicer) of the two WM resorts at Long Beach.  According to the description, they have direct beach access, so that will be a plus.  I intend to take some long walks on the beach.

I decided that I would compile a list of things that I want to see while here.  Keep in mind, that this will be a low key and relaxing vacation, so we don’t plan to pack in too much over the week, but we do want to get a flavor for what goes on around the area.

Cape Disappointment

On the Washington side of the mouth of the Columbia River and on the southern most tip of Long Beach, is a state park.  I hope to spend a few hours at the park.  They have the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, two lighthouses, Fort Canby, and if that isn’t enough, they even have something that they call Waikiki Beach.  Let’s see if it measures up to the Hawaii version.  I suspect that since it’s supposed to be about 20 degrees cooler than it will be in Hawaii, this beach will be much less crowded then the tropical version.


It’s a ghost of a town that was thriving from the oyster trade back in the gold rush days.  The inhabitants of Oysterville made their mint by shipping their oysters to San Francisco and catering to the gold seekers.  At one point in Washington history, it was even the county seat.

From what I understand, they boast a number of historic homes, churches, and other structures that are camera worthy and have stories to tell.  I’m anticipating a walking tour of the town.


Lots and lots of museums.  We’ll start with Marsh’s Free Museum.  Their claim to fame is the alligator man they call “Jake”.  It seems to be something like the petrified man at the Olde Curiosity Shop on the pier in Seattle.

Then there’s the cranberry museum and the kite museum.  If we decide to cross over into Oregon, it’s not so far to the Columbia River Maritime Museum.  I’ve been to that one before.  It’s not so large, but it was very interesting.  I may take the family there one day during our visit to the area.


Depending on when we decide to go to Long Beach, there are a number of festivals and activities.  This website has a list of upcoming events.  They seem to have a year round party at Long Beach with a number of activities going on at various times throughout the year.  Fortunately, it’s much more of a low key party than at Las Vegas.


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