Author Archives: Heather Larson

Now That’s a Train Ride

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In the first half of the 1900s, cooking for loggers fell to a few women. Some of them also washed the lumbermen’s clothes and cleaned their cabins. Known collectively as “flunkies,” they lived in their own shack. At the Logging Museum in Mineral,

FlunkyCabinthumbnail_20160722_133306Washington, you can visit a re-creation of one of their cabins complete with a wood burning stove, iron, nylons hanging on a clothesline and even a period radio.

You’ll board the Mount Rainier Railroad in the small town of Elbe. The turn-off from Highway 7 is easy to miss. Watch for the restaurant in a train car and make the next possible right turn, then park behind the train car. Buy your tickets inside the designated building or better yet, get them online to ensure you and your party have a seat on the train.

On our ride, a lady came through the cars selling authentic train whistles, something you might want to give to a child who doesn’t live with you. When the engineer puts the train in gear, you can sit back and watch nature pass by outside your window. The steam train chugs along as you travel through forested land, over Mineral Creek and alongside the Upper Nisqually River. MountRainierRailroadDSCF1954

The first half of the two-hour experience stops at the Logging Museum in Mineral. Besides the flunky cabin, you’ll have time to tour other buildings where loggers lived and ate plus a restoration shop and engine room. The authorities give you plenty of opportunity to look around and talk to the staff. Then you hop on board for the return trip to Elbe.

If you’ve already made plans for the rest of summer, no worries. The steam train becomes the Wine Express on September 24th with tastings provided by three local wineries. Later in the fall, the Great Pumpkin Patch Express takes over with Snoopy and Charlie Brown aboard and for the holidays the train transforms into the Polar Express.

Have you ridden the Mt. Rainier Railroad? What did you think?  MountRainierRailroadDSCF1946

Disclaimer:  My granddaughter, daughter and I were generously hosted on this trip.

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What’s New and Cool in August, 2016

Sorry, that I’m a little late with this. Where has the summer gone anyway?

August 3-7:  Thurston County Fair  in Lacey, a little north of Olympia, visitors will eat traditional fair food (Fisher Scones, please), watch 4H competitions, play games, watch Professor Bamboozle and participate in a craft beer, wine and hard cider tasting event, if you’re over 21.       D2H5881

August 5-7:  Seafair Weekend , a signature event in Seattle for decades. The weekend includes parades, neighborhood celebrations, hydroplane racing and a performance by the Blue Angels over Lake Washington.

August 5-7:  Stanwood-Camano Community Fair offers a parade, country fair, contests and exhibits, a carnival, Lego-building contest, make it and take it sewing demonstrations, youth mechanical science quiz bowl, animal shows, lots of live entertainment, and much more.

August 11-14:  Northwest Colonial Festival – Port Angeles invites you to watch daily reenactments of famous battles taking place at the George Washington Inn and Washington Lavender Farm.

August 11-14:  Morton Logger’s Jubilee 

August 12:  An Evening with Jackson Browne  at Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery. Reserve your place. Tickets go fast.

DSC_0018 Ste Michelle Winery

August 12-14:  If you missed the other tastes and bites experience A Taste of Edmonds makes a more-than-adequate replacement. The 33rd annual event is among the top three festivals in the state and among the top 100 North American festivals. Arts and crafts, food, a kid’s area with rides and entertainment, three stages with live music, and a beer and wine garden can all be yours a little north of Seattle.

August 15-24:  Washington State International Kite Festival on Long Beach Peninsula. The sky blazes with color this time of year. Look for a full, entertaining program of kite competitions, exhibitions and demonstrations, kite making and flying lessons, mass ascensions, indoor kite ballet, a teddy bear drop and more on the spacious, sand beach.

August 23-27:  Benton Franklin Fair and Rodeo A demolition derby, concerts, rodeo, carnival, Mutton Bustin’, BBQ Cook-off and much more in Tri-Cities.    Photo-Gallery--element67

August 25-September 5: Evergreen State Fair , one of the very biggest fairs in the state – you need two days to see it all. Pro West Rodeo contests, Speedway racing, competitive exhibits in 4-H and FFA, Evergreen Youth Livestock Show, contests, and food galore. Free gate admission on opening day until 1 p.m.

August 27-28:  Olympic Peninsula Air Affaire presents hot air balloons, skydivers, wing walkers and other aeronautical treasures at the Sequim Valley Airport.

 Just Plain Cool

Whale Watching the Best in Years:  The Strait of Juan de Fuca has had extraordinary numbers of humpback whales and sightings of a rare-to-these-waters fin whale. Orcas are very active.

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Chuckanut Drive in Bellingham turns 100 this year. Video courtesy Bellingham Herald.

Watch for news about Thurston County’s new Bountiful Byway.

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What’s New and Cool in July, 2016

Enjoy Yourself in Lynden

You might not have heard of this small town located just three miles from the Canadian border. In years past all their stores closed at 6 p.m. and remained closed all day on Sunday. Tourists couldn’t find much to do.

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Now all that has changed. The city’s first boutique hotel, the Inn at Lynden, opened just six months ago. I was hosted there the first part of June. You’ll not find ordinary lodging here. Instead all guests receive Nordstrom-quality treatment. Room amenities include a plush mattress, LCD high-def TVs, personal climate control, windows that open and luxurious bath products. But that’s not all.

 

Off the lobby you’ll find full-size stores for your shopping pleasure. Village Books with its wide array of reading material, décor and gifts; Drizzle Olive Oils and balsamic vinegars plus an out-of-this-world dining option, Avenue Bread with pastries, breakfast and lunch menus and the Bellingham Baby Company with everything you need for infants and toddlers. Next to the Inn, Overflow Taps serves craft beer and wine. My room was located above Overflow Taps and I can tell you that’s a happenin’ place in Lynden. They don’t serve food, but you can bring in your own food.

A charcuterie and fromage board at Drizzle

A charcuterie and fromage board at Drizzle

Back to the wonderful, caring service at the Inn. The owners actually work the desk so any complaints are handled immediately. They also have four complimentary bicycles guests can use to explore the town.

 

Eight years ago this building, Waples Mercantile, was almost totally destroyed by a fire and left abandoned. Now it has been restored and holds a place on the National Historic Register, thanks to the efforts of Matt and Teri Treat and Jeff and Deb McClure.

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Why not visit this summer for the Northwest Raspberry Fest from July 15-16 (2016) or for the Northwest Washington Fair (the grounds where Donald Trump addressed the community) from August 15-20 (2016)?

 

Mary Krauszer, new Pt. Defiance Ranger

What’s New and Cool in June, 2016

I can’t even fathom how long a comprehensive list of every event taking place in Washington might be. It would probably break the Internet. So what I’m posting is can’t-miss festivals, new activities and darn it, my personal favorites.

June 2:  Alderbook Resort & Spa, where the spa happens to have doggy massages on the menu, presents the “Spirit of the Canal” Distillers Dinner. Make reservations through Edible Seattle or the resort which has discounted overnight specials for this occasion.

June 3-5:  Edmonds Waterfront Festival

 Edmonds ferry

Edmonds ferry

June 4:  Oddmall Emporium of the World, Everett. If anyone goes to this, please let me know what happens there. I’m intrigued.

June 4:  The town of Lynden will try to break the Guinness Book of World Records by making the world’s longest strawberry shortcake. This is where I’ll be.

June 4:  National Trails Day means free State Park admission in Washington on this Saturday. Should you want to combine visiting a state park with hiking, may I suggest looking at the Washington Trails Association site or check in with one of the most prolific hikers around, Craig Romano.

June 10-12:  Craft Wine Fest featuring beer as well in Vancouver, USA.

June 10-12:  Maple Valley Days, Maple Valley. My old stompin’ grounds so I’m partial to this town’s celebration.

June 11:  Cama Beach State Park on Camano Island is hosting a fishing derby for kids 16 and under. No license is required and because this is also National Get Outdoors Day, once again you don’t need a Discover Pass because all state parks offer free entry that day.

June 17-19:  Marysville Strawberry Festival

June 18-19:  Walla Walla Onion Festival. I wrote about this and several other Northwest festivals in the May/June issue of Northwest Travel & Life Magazine.

June 24-26:  Taste of Tacoma. My hometown and where I first tasted alligator on a stick. Travel Tacoma recently unveiled their spiffy new website where you can look for other attractions to visit.

June 25-26: Spokane’s Hoopfest, one of the biggest 3-on-3 basketball competitions in the nation. For lodging, restaurants and other activities in Spokane, look at their tourism site.

Just Plain Cool

You can now take a tour with a park ranger at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma. Don’t mess with Mary Krauszer because she’s also a jammer for the Dockyard Derby Dames.

Mary Krauszer, new Pt. Defiance Ranger

Mary Krauszer, new Pt. Defiance Ranger

The San Juan Islands  recently introduced an app, San Juan Islands Insider, that gives you tips on where to explore, how to gather points and then trade those points in for goods and services on the islands. Available on either Google Play or at the App Store.

See Friday Harbor on the Jolly Trolley instead of hoofing it everywhere. By taking a riding tour, you can better scope out where you want to spend more time.   Jolly Trolley

As if Lakedale in Friday Harbor, doesn’t have enough different types of accommodations, this year they installed new canvas cottages.

Did I forget anything you absolutely love? If so, please let me know and I’ll add it.

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Olson Farm, updated May 2016

When I bought tickets for “Outlaw Days,” I wasn’t sure what it was. But the tickets were only $5 each and I’d heard so much about the Mary Olson Farm in Auburn and the activities there, I thought I couldn’t miss. Although “Outlaw Days” aren’t on the Farm’s calendar this summer, plenty of other activities are.

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Every Saturday and Sunday, from noon ’til 5 p.m., June 25-August 28, you can tour the farmhouse, meet up-close-and personal with the cows, chickens and donkeys and even bring your picnic basket full of goodies to eat on the grounds. That’s all free.

Also, at no cost, let the kiddos, ages 3-12, participate in a themed activity hour any Wednesday in July at 10:30 a.m.

But the piece de resistance must be the overnight stay, July 15 and 16, for those 7-12 years of age. Visit Overnight for details and to register.

The Farm holds numerous events throughout the summer including summer camps for kids, group tours, concerts and special events like “Outlaw Days.” A project of the White River Valley Museum, the Farm originally operated as a subsistence farm. In 2011 it was restored to its current state and opened to the general public. The interior of the house is furnished just like an old farm house.

Ride a Washington State Ferry

Until I’d read enough articles telling me I should be more businesslike with my email names, mine started with ferryprincess@. I love ferries and feel privileged to live in the state with the largest ferry system in the US. Besides collecting anything ferry-related, we even said our wedding vows on the Seattle-to-Bremerton run. Getting married on a ferry is free, if you’re interested.

The Point Defiance to Vashon Island ferry.

The Point Defiance to Vashon Island ferry.

Given a choice, I always choose riding a ferry over “driving around.” That’s what natives here call it when you opt for the highway system that takes much longer than the vessel transportation system. But alas, costs less.

Here’s why I prefer a boat ride:

  • Once you’ve parked your car, bike or motorcycle on the lower deck or walked onto an upper deck, you no longer have to worry about traffic congestion or road rage. You can enjoy the sailing, no matter how long it takes. I prefer the longer crossings like Anacortes to Friday Harbor or Seattle to Bainbridge Island. Many first-time ferry riders say they can feel their blood pressure lower when they spot the vessel approaching the dock.
  • On the busiest of all the runs, the one between Anacortes and the San Juan Islands, you can now make reservations. That’s also true for Port Townsend to Coupeville (on Whidbey Island) and international service between Anacortes and Sidney B.C. Here’s what you need to know about making reservations.
  • The scenery can’t be beat. No matter which town or city you leave from, you’ll have a view like no other once you leave the dock. Look for whales, dolphins, sea lions or other marine life, stunning skylines, beautiful yachts and nature at work.
View of the ferry while dining at Anthony's on Point Defiance.

View of the ferry while dining at Anthony’s on Point Defiance.

My favorite ferry destinations are: Mukilteo to Clinton on Whidbey Island, Anacortes to any of the San Juan Islands, Seattle to Bainbridge Island and Tacoma to Vashon Island (this route is short, but very scenic). Many folks that live in Washington commute to their jobs by ferry, so you’ll be wise to plan your trip outside of regular commuting hours which are typically from 6 am-8 am and from 4 pm-6 pm.

Happy sailing. Anyone want to share a ferry story here?

A ferry mailbox on Day Island.

A ferry mailbox on Day Island.

Somewhere Out There, by Amy Hatvany

Somewhere Out There

By Amy Hatvany

DSCF1861Not only does Hatvany hail from Seattle, but she set her latest novel, “Somewhere Out There” in the Emerald City. Kirkus Reviews dubbed it “uplifting and heartwarming” and they’re a hard nut to crack. A positive blurb from them is the gold standard for any author.

Personally, I loved the story, the characters, the plot line and of course, the scenery. The story follows the lives of two girls, given up by their mother because of her dire circumstances. One is quickly adopted, while the other jumps from one foster home to another until the people in charge finally give up on placing her. Each grows up under very different circumstances but distance-wise they’re quite close.

Hatvany peppers her plot with phrases and place names like “a gray and drizzly late September afternoon,”  “Capitol Hill,” “Hiawatha Park,” “Pioneer Square,” and “Georgetown, an industrial area in South Seattle” to orient you. You’ll find other familiar settings amidst some made-up ones.

Once the sisters find each other, the thoughts of why their mother gave them up haunts them both. Until finally, they go visit. I’m not giving away the plot, but the book puts forth some endearing messages. It’s about family in all its forms, even dysfunctional.

If you’ve not read a novel by Hatvany before, I highly recommend this one as a good start. You’ll quickly lose yourself in the story, because her words flow naturally, and she keeps you guessing.

 

 

 

 

Dine Out Vancouver Festival

On January 16, 2015, Canada’s Largest Food and Drink Festival began and lasts for 17 days. If you’re looking for someplace to visit, definitely put Vancouver, British Columbia on your radar. Special “Dine and Stay” packages are available starting at $78 Canadian a night. You can’t beat that for quality lodging and entertainment.

 

Soup Experiment

 

Dine Out by the numbers:

277 participating restaurants (more than any other year)

29 hotels offering discount rates and special packages

84 culinary events taking place during the fest

17 days of food, fun and drink

80,000 meals will be served

$18, $28, $38 menu prices

 

What else will draw you across the border?

Film Feast gives you gourmet popcorn while you watch a screening of “Big Night,” a story of a failing Italian restaurant and a gamble the owners take. This is followed by a four-course dinner inspired by the meal in the film. Includes a welcoming cocktail.

 

Here’s a course I could use:  Food-tography, where you learn the correct way to take pictures of your food. You also get to eat the food and sip the beverages after you photograph them.

 

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For you spirit lovers, try the Cognac Masterclass with Lauren Mote. You will be given a welcome cocktail, followed by two additional tastings paired with just the right small plates and recipes to take home.

 

The food trucks that have been a standard in this city also have their own event. Returning for a fourth year, Street Food City, Vancouver’s original street food pod, is your opportunity to sample from a collection of Vancouver’s Street Food carts all in one, convenient location.

 

Most of the events repeat several times, so you won’t miss the ones you really want to experience.

 

So much food and drink, so little time. This is a not-to-be-missed event.

 

 

Are You Half of the “Missing” Couple?

WPGBarnWedding431[1]Eighteen sponsors have banded together so that one lucky bride and groom can say their wedding vows on beautiful Whidbey Island in Washington State for free.

Some of the details have been prearranged. The wedding will take place on Saturday, January 17, 2015. The invitations, a venue that accommodates 48 guests, a cake, flowers, a photographer and a musician are all set and ready to make your day a memorable one. Gloria Mickunas, a professional wedding planner, promises to work with you on the rest of the elements you want.

This prize has a value of more than $15,000.

Would you like to get married on this picturesque island just 25 miles north of Seattle and 70 miles from the Canadian border?

If so, you can nominate yourself by writing what this wedding would mean to you and your significant other and submitting a photo of the two of you before the entry deadline of October 31, 2014 at midnight Pacific Daylight Time. Then get your friends and family to vote for you, maybe even the grocery clerk. The public’s votes will narrow the contestants to 10. Then one lucky couple or the “discovered” couple will be selected in a random drawing.

Voters won’t be left out either. They have a chance to win a two-night getaway on Whidbey Island in a random drawing.

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Mickunas says the date is rapidly approaching and might seem a little crazy. But there’s always some drama leading up to weddings. “We’ve made most of the tough decisions for you and now you can personalize the details.”

To find out more about winning a fairy tale wedding in a dreamy destination, visit WinAWhidbeyWedding

Please come forward if you’re part of the “missing” couple.