Monthly Archives: March 2011

Experience Natural Attractions in Colorado Bend State Park

I’m excited to offer you a glimpse of a wonderful park in Texas, written by one of my travel writer friends there. Colorado Bend State Park is a two-hour drive from Austin.  –Heather

By Beverly Burmeier

www.beverlyburmeier.com

www.goingonadventures.com

www.stripedpot.com

http://tinyurl/bevtrvl

Photo by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Towering rock canyons, more than 350 caves, and two spring-fed creeks make Colorado Bend State Park an absolutely fabulous place to explore.  With 16 miles of hiking trails and 14 miles suitable for mountain biking, there are plenty of opportunities for visitors to enjoy nature at its best, including beautiful scenery along river trails and at Gorman Falls. I was surprised by the various recreational opportunities available at this central Texas park for birding, fishing, hiking, picnicking, camping, and photography.

Located along six miles of Colorado River frontage, Colorado Bend is a large state park, covering 5,328 acres.  Partly because of its size, the intent is to keep it natural and easy to care for, says Park Superintendent Cory Evans.  At present it is one of the lesser developed state parks, although future plans may change that. Primitive tent camping is allowed in 38 numbered sites, and there are two backpack areas where guests can pitch tents.  No electricity is available, which makes it a great getaway from the workaday world.

Photo by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Native pecans, ferns, and cacti are abundant in the park, and beautiful wildflowers sprout up in the spring.  Wildlife includes coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions—although most visitors aren’t likely to encounter these species.  White-tail deer, armadillos, and squirrels are more common. You might also see wild turkeys, endangered golden-cheeked warblers (if you’re lucky), black-capped vireos, red-tailed hawks, and eagles (they nest on the canyon walls).

Several geological features in the park are unique to this region. Spicewood Springs is a popular hiking trail with numerous creek crossings that leads to a refreshing creek where families often picnic and swim.  Adding to the beauty of this spot are the painted rocks, formations colored by minerals seeping through. 

On weekends, staff will take visitors on a two-hour guided tour to spectacular Gorman Falls on the western bank of the Colorado River, approximately 10 miles above Lake Buchanan.  This impressive 90-foot-high waterfall, tumbles over a cliff and mists ferns and other lush vegetation as it descends. Comprised of travertine, the top layers of calcium deposits are extremely fragile, so the area is protected. A deck allows amazing views of the falls and the meandering Colorado River directly behind the viewer.

Photo by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Also available are guided cave tours.  Gorman Cave is the 40th largest cave in the state, and you can explore with staff on weekends or belly-crawl 800 feet into the cave on a self-guided tour. Other than the falls and cave, visitors are free to explore and enjoy the park—on its own primitive terms.

March is the busiest month—with April next–because that’s prime time for white bass fishing and birding (214 species of birds have been identified in the park).  Also flowers are beginning to bloom, and the weather is generally agreeable for camping or hiking. 

Originally an old Indian camp, the site near Gorman Falls is protected for archeological study.  During the 1950s-1970s that area was a fishing camp and RV park.  The state bought the land in 1984, adding more land from the former Lemons Ranch in 1987.  These areas were combined and opened to the public as Colorado Bend State Park in 1988.  Still, only 40,000 visitors per year journey the 18 miles from San Saba, through the tiny town of Bend, and over gravel roads to reach the park. But, it’s definitely worthwhile to discover the natural attractions of this Hill Country jewel.

The Woodmark Hotel: Very Dog-Friendly and Inviting

Woody is the Director of Complaints at the Woodmark Hotel

Woody, the Labradoodle, has his own private office at the Woodmark Hotel in Kirkland, but prefers to spend most of his time mingling with the guests, human and four-legged.

Located on the shores of Lake Washington at Yarrow Bay, the Woodmark welcomes dog guests and provides them with a bed, water bowl and a treat. You won’t be charged a fee for your pet, either. That truly is the purest in dog-friendliness.

As the warmer weather approaches, Woody hosts a Yappier Hour on Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Beach Café’s outdoor seating area. Dog treats abound. For those of us who eat with a knife and fork, the Beach Café focuses on Northwest cuisine in a casual and friendly atmosphere. The menu includes burgers, steaks, salads, seafood, chicken and more.

Hotel Lobby

For a more fine dining experience, Bin on the Lake serves local and seasonal delicacies, small and large plates, and 80 different wines by the glass.

Guestrooms and suites contain all the extras. Luxury bedding with down pillows and cashmere throws grace the beds. Complimentary high speed Internet access, a 32” LCD Flat Panel TV with surround sound and a computer docking station make it easy for those who need to stay connected. Soaking tubs and a rainwater shower along with a selection of bath amenities allow for self pampering. If you’re not inclined to use the make-your-own Martini Bar, call the desk and someone will do it for you.

Hungry late at night? You have complimentary “Raid the Pantry” privileges, from 11 p.m. – 1 a.m., to snacks that include sandwiches, soups, chips, desserts and juices.

Hotel guests can go cruising on the Woodmark II, a 28-foot Chris-Craft. The tour takes you through Yarrow Bay, to the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, by the University of Washington and in front of elegant homes on Lake Washington. One of those homes is owned by Bill Gates.

Tsunami in Japan, a Wake-up Call

Signs like these mark the evacuation to higher ground in Washington's coastal communities.

Washington doesn’t usually have extreme weather like tornadoes or hurricanes, but settles for a milder, more rainy climate instead. However, our coast was under a tsunami advisory after Japan’s 8.9 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami last week. We escaped without damage this time, but southern Oregon wasn’t so lucky. Brookings, Oregon, sustained several million dollars in damage.

We have “tsunami evacuation route” signs, in our coastal communities like Aberdeen, Hoquiam, Long Beach, Ilwaco and Ocean Shores, for a reason. They weren’t erected just to give a sign maker more business. The danger to us is real.

The Cascadia Subduction Zone, one of the largest active faults in North America, runs parallel to the Washington Coast – 32-70 miles offshore. Researchers say it will cause a giant earthquake and a tsunami. The question is when. No one knows the answer.                      

Sea Lions rest on a buoy in calm Puget Sound waters.

A tsunami can occur at anytime of the day or night and under any weather conditions. Being prepared can only help. Having an emergency kit handy, that you can grab if you have to evacuate, saves time and decreases some of your stress. For ideas on planning for an emergency and building a kit, visit:  http://www.govlink.org/3days3ways/

When warned that a tsunami is coming, please:

  • Head for higher ground
  • Don’t go to the beach to watch it come in
  • Save yourself – not your possessions

 

Congratulations to Mary Nida Smith who won a copy of the book “A Cowgirl Remembers When…”

A Cowgirl Remembers…

Book Giveaway

Win a copy of "A Cowgirl Remembers When..."

The Cascade Mountain Range divides Washington almost in half north to south. In Eastern Washington, on the east side of the mountains, the temperatures traditionally run warmer than over here on the west side of the range. Many differences exist between the two sides of the state. One of the most interesting to me is the number of ranches and the cowboys and cowgirls that run those ranches.

Through social networking, I met Dawn Nelson, one of those cowgirls, who is also an award-winning author. I’m giving away one of her books, “A Cowgirl Remembers When…” tomorrow. To be eligible to win, please follow the instructions at the end of this blog post. Now let’s hear from Dawn.

Where have you lived in Washington State?

Dawn:  I grew up in the small town of Danville, Washington with a population of well under 100. Now I live in Creston with 200 other people. It’s about an hour from Spokane. I love small towns!

What was your first experience with writing?

Dawn:  I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 and started writing letters to my daughter when she was born in 2005. I was worried that she would never get to know who her mother was. So I sat down and wrote the short stories of my life, which turned out to be my first book, “A Cowgirl Remembers When.” After writing that book, I realized that writing was something I could do while I was healing from my surgeries, so I kept on writing. After several years of surgeries, I’m almost back to normal.

Not only did Dawn write this book, she's also the cover model.

How many published books do you have to your credit now?

Dawn:  Since 2009, I’ve had five books published. I have a sixth at my editor’s now and thirty-six more at home in different stages of completion.

Do you have a western theme in your books because that’s what you know the best?

Dawn:  Besides being what I know the best, it is also what I enjoy the most. I am trying to branch out into other genres, but western-themed books are my comfort zone.

What is life on your ranch like?

Dawn:  It is full of adventure and inspiration for me. As I answer these questions, a cow is giving birth about 15 feet behind me in a calving pen. This time of year is when I can get most of my writing done. Calving season gives me lots of hours sitting here in the vet room waiting on a first calf heifer to calve. The rest of the year, I have to make time to write.

To win “A Cowgirl Remembers When,” which received the Academy of Western Artists’ 2010 Buck Ramsey Book of the Year award; please make a comment on this blog post by midnight, Friday, March 11, 2011. Be sure to include your e-mail address in the comments so that I can get in touch with you.   Thank you.

 

Pick-Quick No. 2 Opens

Tomorrow is the day that many of us in the South Sound have been waiting for – the day that Pick-Quick No. 2 opens in Auburn. Not only will we be able to get the high quality food and nationally renowned hamburgers already served at the sister or should I say “Mother” restaurant in Fife, but we can now enjoy them indoors and out of the rain as there’s seating for 35 people inside the restaurant.

 

I’ll let you in on a secret. Pick-Quick No. 2 opens at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow and if you’re one of the first 49 guests, you’ll receive a reusable cold drink tumbler with the Pick-Quick logo on it. To see what the tumblers look like, visit the restaurant’s Facebook page at:  http://www.facebook.com/#!/PickQuick.  The quick-service restaurant is located at 1132 Auburn Way North. The reason that 49 tumblers will be given away is because the Fife location has been operating and serving up delicious food since 1949.

 

Let’s talk a little more about the food this iconic restaurant will now be serving in two different locations. They are juice-dripping good created with flair out of 100 percent natural beef. Gastronaut Jay Friedman, creator of “Sexy Feasts,” named Pick-Quick’s hamburger the best in Washington State in a list for USA Today. Read more about his food finds and adventures at:  www.gastrolust.com.

The hand-cut fries are cut fresh throughout the day from locally-grown Russet potatoes.

My personal favorite has to be the blackberry milk shakes made with ice cream from Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream and when in season, made with fresh berries. Yum.

 

No. 2 has many very sustainable components to it, also, besides the quality and genesis of the ingredients used. The building itself awaits LEED certification, hopefully of the “Gold” variety. The chairs inside are made of recycled plastic Coca-Cola bottles, the parking lot and walkways are made with pervious concrete so rain water can be collected and used to water the landscape and the employees’ restroom has a shower so that employees can bike to work. Two of the parking spaces are reserved for fuel-efficient cars.

Pick-Quick No. 2 will be open Sundays through Thursdays from 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays form 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m.

Black Diamond: A Blast from the Past

A giant table and chair set at the Black Diamond Bakery.

When a local talks about Black Diamond, another local’s first response is, “Did you go to the Black Diamond Bakery?” That’s because the bakery not only sells very tasty bread that is fresh baked in their 107-year-old brick oven, but also has a fine restaurant, coffee shop, a Northwest shop, a gift shop and is a popular gathering place.

First opened in 1902, the Black Diamond Bakery answered the needs of the coal miners in town. A guy named Willard Hadley built and ran the bakery for years. He installed the special oven that is heated by a wood fire that makes the bread taste so good. Only five bakings can be done a day, which yields 500 loaves, so you don’t want to come at the end of the day hoping to buy some bread. It will be all gone. The frosted whole wheat apple cinnamon rolls are a family favorite and I highly recommend them.

If you want to enjoy your bread as part of a meal, you won’t regret it. Whether you opt for French toast or an omelette with toast, or one of those meatloaf sandwiches you’ll have trouble getting your mouth around, it’s all good. The restaurant also serves dinner, which I’m sure is wonderful, but I’ve not had the chance to try it myself.

A jail out of Black Diamond's history.

After loosening your pants you might want to take in some off the other offerings near the bakery. One of my favorite haunts is the Black Diamond Museum, which is open on Thursdays from 9 a.m.-4p.m., Saturdays and Sundays (winter) from 12 p.m.-3p.m. From the train caboose to the jail to the “Danger” sign in sixteen languages, lots of history can be explored both inside and outside the building. Chances are whoever mans the desk when you visit will be glad to tell you some delightful stories.

A caboose in front of the Black Diamond Museum.

Pick up “A Tour Guide to Historic Black Diamond Washington” at the Bakery and treat yourself to a driving tour stopping at points of interest like St. Barbara’s Catholic Church which cost $2227 to build in 1911 or the Mine #14 Hoist Foundation, believed to be the only artifact left from the Black Diamond Coal Company that is still in place.

Visit www.blackdiamondbakery.com and www.blackdiamondmuseum.org for more information.