Friday, October 27, 2006

Orca watching

One of my best friends from college (sns) came up to visit me the last weekend of September, so we thought it would be fun to take a whale-watching tour. The boat departed from Anacortes a bit later than normal because they'd had a private group come through earlier in the day.

We got geared up - which meant full-body "comfort suits" to keep us warm, and then got assigned seats on the boat. We were on the high-speed boat so our trip would only be 3-4 hours instead of 5-6. Luckily, sns and I got seated near the front.

Our guides had heard from other people in the know that the pods were hanging out up in the Strait of Georgia - practically even with Vancouver (in Canadian waters!). So away we went, up the Rosario Strait, past Orcas Island, and up up up. That part of the ride wasn't super exciting. I kept thinking I was seeing dorsal fins, when really it was just more waves in the water.

Finally we caught up with the "southern resident pods" - there were three pods all hanging out together. Apparently they were in some kind of hurry because they moved right by us pretty quickly. We followed one pod for a little bit, then let it go by and waited for the next one. The guides said there were 90 whales in the area - I think we probably saw 30 or so. Not bad!

After the last pod had passed by, we had to head back to Anacortes. We had ventured out some 60 miles or so, which was only possible because we were in "the fastest boat in the Washington whale watching fleet". Nonetheless, we still had to high-tail it back to beat the setting sun. Instead of coming back the way we came, we went through the San Juan Islands. We ran into some Dall's porpoises en route, just before we passed back into US waters.

As we passed by Spieden Island, we got to see some of the resident Fallow Deer and Mufont Sheep. Apparently some guy used to own the island and brought those species to it so he could hunt them. Now they just roam around. We also spotted a harbor seal shortly thereafter.

The sunset was spectacular as we motored on back to the harbor. The rest of my pictures are here. All in all, it was a pretty awesome day!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Albertsons update

Noticed this sign on the ex-Albertsons building by my house the other day. Looks like they're going to turn the space into residential units with retail on the ground floor... surprise, surprise!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Marmot Pass

Well, it appears that I'm getting quite behind on my blogging! It was already a month ago that I spent the weekend on a quick backpacking trip up in the Olympics with ks and new friend evw. We departed on Saturday morning after stopping by the lab for a brief cell feeding, and headed down to the downtown ferry terminal, destination: Bremerton. None of us had ever taken the Bremerton ferry before, and it turned out to be really nice! The ferry actually goes into the islands of Puget Sound, sa opposed to just crossing open water and then docking on the other side.

After we unloaded at Bremerton, we drove up to the Hood Canal Bridge and then back down on 101 to the Big Quilcene River. The hike was pleasant - a river walk through lush woods (and this is the DRY side of the Olympics!) before climbing up the side of the valley and along the craggy peaks of Buckhorn Mountain and its neighbors. The fall colors were just starting to turn. When we reached Mystery Camp, we decided that we would set up camp and make dinner and then do some more exploring the next morning, bright and early. Sleep, however, didn't come easily, as there was something large and alive outside our tent for part of the night (I wasn't the only one who heard it - ks did too!).

Needless to say, I didn't get a lot of sleep that night. We evetually got up in the pre-dawn hours, grabbed our breakfast, water, the stove, and the pot, and headed up towards Marmot Pass and beyond. The sun rose on our way up to the pass, and the views of the Cascades and Puget Sound were amazing. We decided to head up further, to the top of Buckhorn Mountain. When we got up to the ridge above Marmot Pass, we could actually even make out the skyscrapers of downtown Seattle! We could also see Mt. Baker, Glacier Peak, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Mt. St. Helens. We couldn't see Mt. Hood, but we are convinced it is because it was hiding behind one of the other mountains, perhaps Mt. St. Helens. We could also definitely see a number of peaks in Canada!

Following our summit of Buckhorn Mountain, we stopped to make breakfast (oatmeal all around). I have to say, that was one of the most spectacular places I've ever eaten breakfast before :) When we finished, we made our way back down to the campsite, packed everything up, and headed back towards the car. The first part of the trail was slow-going for me, as I had to keep stopping to take pictures of the beautiful scenery. I'm convinced that the trees got noticably yellower and redder overnight. The sky was perfectly blue. Once we were back in the forest, my shutter quieted down and we made our way back down to the trailhead.

We decided to take the faster Kingston ferry back home, and timed it just right so we could grab a bite to eat at a local carry-out grill place (the sign stated that there were no refunds if you had to leave to catch the ferry before your food was ready). We enjoyed our cheeseburgers and cokes and then boarded the ferry for another spectacular crossing of Puget Sound.

All in all, it was an awesome weekend! As always, you can find the rest of my pictures here.

Friday, October 06, 2006


A few weekends ago I went out to Leavenworth for the Pathology departmental retreat. The department always puts us up in the Sleeping Lady, which I really like. We listen to science talks and then have a nice dinner (cafeteria style, but with really good food), followed by a scientific poster session and wine and cheese. This year I ended up eating dinner with an old labmate, and it was really great to catch up and reminisce about old times. The poster session was good - I got a fair amount of traffic - but I didn't get a chance to read anyone else's posters. The evening ended, as it usually does, with everyone hanging out at the "Grotto" - the on-site bar.

The next day we had more talks and then were given lunch and let loose. I had been planning to stay out there and camp that night, but it was pretty cold and no one was available to stay with me, so I decided to just go for a dayhike instead. For that adventure I convinced my two labmates ks and jg to come along. We headed up to Eightmile Lake out along Icicle Creek road. We headed up the trail through the open forest - the area has been hit by forest fires from time to time - and then reached Little Eightmile. It wasn't more than a pond, being the end of summer and all, so we headed up another half mile to reach the main Eightmile Lake. It was bigger than I expected - and had some nice craggy snow-dusted peaks surrounding it.

The air temperature was a bit too chilly for my companions, so we spent only a little time at the lake before heading back down. On the way back to the car it started to rain, and then when the sun came out, we had a rainbow right in front of us. It felt like the rainbow was very close - not sure I've ever seen one like that before. The valley to the south was very pretty as well, having been dusted with snow the night before. Before too long we reached the cars and headed back home. I made the (poor) decision to go down 97 to 90 instead of taking 2, thinking it would be faster, but instead was met with a torrential downpour at Snoqualmie Pass. Doh!

Click here for the rest of my photos from the weekend.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Dexter Deli and Sushi Bay

It appears that some change has come to the culinary organization on Dexter north of Mercer. The Dexter Deli, which was previously up by Starbucks, is now down in the new Neptune apartment building. Taking its place at Highland and Dexter is "Sushi Bay" - perhaps a welcome alternative when eating lunch out at work!