Italy and the Crossroads of the Adriatic

We landed in Rome to begin our next adventure, 2 weeks in Pitigliano a small hill town in southern Tuscany followed by 5 days in Rome before joining a group in Dubrovnik for a 3-week tour through the crossroads of the Adriatic – Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Slovenia.

A friend made our stay in Pitigliano possible and we are indebted to her for inviting us along.  Our home away from home, Villa Belpasso, belongs to the chef and caterer our friend works for part time; it was an opportunity we could not pass up.  Thank you Tina!

Pitigliano is a lovely medieval town in the Maremma region of Tuscany. It sits dramatically perched atop a tufa ridge with Etruscan tombs dotting the cliff face and valley and is normally less touristed than northern Tuscany but we have arrived during the week of their annual Wine Festival. With just a couple of days before the festival began we made a point to explore the town early before the crowds descended on the usually quiet little town.

During our stay were able to take day trips to many of the surrounding hill towns, to Porto Santo Stefano on the Tyrrhenian Sea where we had a 5-star dinner in the restaurant owned by Danilo’s family.  We visited a delightful family run winery, found ourselves hopelessly lost in the middle of a vineyard on a road fit for only donkeys, found our way out and enjoyed a wonderful overnight stay in Sienna.

The weather was mostly very good although very hot in the beginning with temperatures in the mid 90’s. There was some rain but nothing that interfered with our plans. I really loved the quiet of southern Tuscany before hitting the frenetic eternal city of Rome where we tromped all over town seeing lots of neighborhoods and a few monuments of note. I don’t usually like big cities but we did enjoy our time in Rome.

Finally towards the middle of September we said goodbye to our travel companions from Italy and we flew to Dubrovnik, Croatia where we spent a few days on our own along the crystal clear Adriatic Sea before joining our group.

I hope you enjoy our journey.

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Ohanepecosh – Mt. Rainier

Last night we had a delicious dinner in the dining room and fell into bed tired yet exhilarated  from a day of hiking and fresh air, my favorite combination.

We awake to a beautiful clear blue sky today and a better look at the Man on the Mountain that our friend had pointed out to us.

Man on the Mountain

After breakfast we said our goodbyes to Paradise and drive the Stevens Canyon Road around to the Sunrise side, stopping along the way at many of the pullouts.  It is a beautiful drive with many photo ops so while it is only a 23 mile drive it can take a few hours especially if you stop to hike any of the trails along the way and we are in no hurry.

Our first stop is Reflection Lake. A little bit of wind ruffles the surface of the water but on a still day this is a beautiful photo op. Nearby by is little Louise Lake and we wander down the trail to the shore to take a look. It’s a quiet little lake, not much going on other than a trail lined with wildflowers – gorgeous!

Reflection Lake

Next stop is Box Canyon where we run into our friends again as we leapfrog our way east stopping anywhere there is a view and there are many. We walk along a short loop and then are on our way, saying goodbye to our friends who are heading to Crystal Mountain for the night and we continue on to Ohanepecosh Campground where we will camp the night.

Box Canyon Area

In camp  we quickly set up the van before hiking to Silver Falls. It was very hot and this easy hike became a bit of an endurance test for me but the falls was beautiful, as always, and we made it back to camp out of water but without incident.

Ohanepecosh River

Silver Falls

Below Silver Falls

On entering the campground we saw a European, like ours and just had to stop and saw howdy. It was a lovely couple from Santa Rosa who had rented the van to see if they really wanted to make the investment in one of their own. We talked for quite a bit about the joys of van ownership and the freedom of the road then left them in peace to fix dinner. Next morning they stopped by to check out our van before heading to Sunrise and we packed up to head home after a visit with friends who live along the way.

View from our Campsite Ohanepecosh

Another quick but glorious get away to my happy place, Mt. Rainier, she never disappoints.

 

 

Paradise – Mt. Rainier

Our yearly pilgrimage to Mt. Rainier has finally arrived and I can hardly wait, Mt. Rainier is definitely my happy place. With most of the winter snows gone I am hoping for a spectacular show of wild flowers but in truth I will love it flowers or none it is just such a beautiful place in any weather, any time of the year, the mountain has an energy that I cannot describe you just have to go there and feel it for yourself.

Mt. Rainier from Paradise Visitor Center

When we arrived at Longmire, about 25 miles from the top of the road at Paradise Inn, the sign said the parking lot was full at Paradise and that is never good but it is Sunday and summer weekends are packed, everyone out to enjoy the mountains. We took a chance, as did many others, and drove to the top, we have a reservation at the Inn for the night so knew that at some point we would find a place to park it was just a matter of how far we would have to hike back up.

All of the trailhead parking spots were full and nearing the Inn the picnic parking was full and cars were parked in every possible spot alongside the road . . . not looking good. We made a couple of passes through the parking lot hoping someone would leave but no such luck and then I saw a man with a clipboard at the entrance to the parking for the Inn . . . perhaps an “in”. Sure enough he was allowing registered guests in to park even though we had arrived early WAHOO!

Paradise Inn is a classic National Park Inn, built in 1916. The rooms are small and simple, some with and some without baths but the rooms are not the main attraction here, it is the mountain.

Paradise Inn at Mt. Rainier

We were meeting friends who had driven up yesterday and we quickly found them, grabbed a bite of lunch then headed off for a hike. The clouds were welcome, making hiking a delight as we climbed above the tree line.  We started out on the Myrtle Falls trail and then headed east for a short distance on the Skyline Trail before being turned back by a stream crossing.

Myrtle Falls Trail

Slogging back uphill we continued in the other direction playing peek-a-boo with the mountain as the clouds rolled in and out. At elevations above 5,500 feet we were feeling challenged by the steep trail and thin air but we persevered seduced by the views and meadows of blooming wildflowers (avalanche lilies, glacier lilies, magenta Indian paintbrush and lupine.

 

 

Whidbey Island

I visited Whidbey Island in May for a reunion of friends who were in Vietnam with me and while I was on the island just part of a day I longed for more. We found a couple of days free loaded up the van and off we went to reacquaint ourselves with island life.   Whidbey is really very close to home so why hadn’t we camped there?

It is a long (55 miles) thin island set in Puget Sound and just a 20-minute ferry ride from Mukilteo to Clinton where we began our trip across the pastoral island of rolling farmland, small towns and beautiful views of Puget Sound.

First stop was the quaint little town of Langley on the south end of the island; Langley overlooks Saratoga Passage and is where I spent many a Friday evening picking up my son where he lived there with his father I remember those Fridays and how after long workweek I could always feel myself decompress as I drove off the ferry, islands have a way of doing that.

Langley hasn’t changed much, the buildings are the same, they have been repainted, the shop owners have changed, there are more flowers and more art than in the late 1970’s and with that more tourists but it has remained small and retained its charm. This was George’s first visit so we walked the waterfront, poked our heads into some of the shops and managed to find the ice cream shop.  The main street is lined with cars on both sides making good photos impossible, darn those tourists.

We had reserved two nights at Fort Ebey State Park, the first visit for both of us. The park is near the northern end of the island and the town of Coupeville. It was originally built as a coastal defense fort in World War II and the remnants of the gun batteries remain but we were interested in the 28 miles of hiking trails and the possibility of biking.

This lovely greeted us at registration

After we set up the van we headed out to explore the trail system and specifically to find the bike trails. It was confusing at first, many trails heading off in different directions but they were all well signed and after about an hour we decided this was really mountain biking territory, large roots in some places made even walking precarious, some steep hills coupled with the narrow trail and we decided it was not our kind of biking so we gave up on that idea and just enjoyed the hiking which was fabulous.

Coming out of the forest, not far from the campground, we found our way to the gun battery hill with a beautiful meadow of freshly cut grass sun dried creating a patterned carpet sweeping down to the edge of the bluff, beautiful against the blue of the water and the sky!

The Bluff Trail

Gun Battery Area

The next morning after breakfast we had seen a trail leading to a beach access and headed north on the Bluff Trail to near the northern border of the park. It didn’t look like a long hike but gadzooks the ups and downs were numerous and some quite steep with most of the ups waiting for hikers returning from the beach ugh.  It was a really nice hike despite the ups, made up of a mix of forest with openings to views of Puget Sound; we finally made it to the beach access point where we walked the short expanse; it was rocky, the tide was out and the panorama of Puget Sound was awesome. I looked up at the cliff, thinking about the climb back up and noticed a bald eagle atop one of the tree snags just sitting contentedly. I would have loved to capture him in flight against the blue sky but he did not seem interested in moving.

Bald Eagle

There was a lake nearby but my legs were tired and when we started downhill again to the lake all I could think of the uphill hike back to the van so we skipped it for now and began the uphill slog.   At a rest point we looked out to see another bald eagle perched in a fir tree, such a majestic bird.  The return trip wasn’t really as bad as I had imagined but I admit to a few “water” breaks.

Ravenous after our hike we drove into Coupeville for lunch.  It is a small town in an idyllic setting on Penn Cove, well known for its mussels.  Today the cove was filled with sailboats so we walked the pier to watch for a bit . . . oh I do miss sailing sometimes especially on a beautiful day like today.

Like Langley Coupeville hasn’t changed a lot other than the buildings being prettied up and more tourists but it is still a fun place to wander around.

Coupeville Pier and Marina

Downtown Coupeville

 

A friend had told us we must eat at Toby’s Tavern and obedient little children that we are we found Toby’s, it wasn’t hard in this tiny town and at 3 p.m. it was not crowded so we took a booth by the window to enjoy the view.   Once inside I did recognize the place from former visits, many, many years ago, I just hadn’t remembered the name. We sat by the window and watched the sailboats enjoying lunch and adult beverages, very pleasant afternoon.

Toby’s Tavern

Toby’s has a lot of history and the walls are adorned with all sorts of memorabilia. Above our table hung an old 5 man racing shell built by George Pocock for the University of Washington back in the early fifties, it has been raced all over the globe. Small world, I had met Stan Pocock, George’s son, on a snorkeling trip in Belize and did not know his history until late into the trip. Coincidentally he and his wife had lived within blocks of us in the 1970’s.

Pocock Shell

The back bar was brought around the horn in 1900 and was a presence in other businesses in the area before coming to rest at Toby’s.  Sorry, didn’t get a photo.

 

Back at camp, we were stuffed from lunch so no need for dinner just time to relax and maybe a hike later in the evening.   Around 6 p.m. we heard “hello neighbor” and our camping neighbor invited us over to share their fire that evening. We accepted and had an enjoyable evening in their company and the company of their dog Max show who made himself right at home in my lap.  It was a pleasant evening and after 4 hours of hiking I think we will sleep well tonight.  Sweet Dreams.

 

 

 

 

Deception Falls

On the west side of Stevens Pass there is a hidden gem of a waterfall.  We’ve stopped there many times to stretch our legs but never at this time of year, after a major snow melt.  This rather ordinary but pretty cascade becomes a spectacular torrent of water crashing down multi-tiered waterfalls, culminating when the falls slam into a granite wall – making an abrupt 90-degree turn to the right before joining the Tye River.

Deception Falls

Right Turn

George

 

Leavenworth

On the return home we stopped in Leavenworth, a cute little town in a stunning location, you feel like you are in the Alps.  There is a beautiful river walk behind town, the trail winds along the river, through quiet forests with little beach areas for a cool dip in the river but on this day we were forced off the river by a blizzard of cottonwood!

We still wanted  to walk so we strolled through town, much quieter than it was on Sunday when we drove through.  After our walk we had  a really good lunch at Pavs Bistro, one of our favorite little places in town.  It was always our “go-to” place for crepes after skiing.  They have expanded their menu to include salads and a few signature dishes but have not skimped on quality, still a favorite.

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Lake Chelan

With Memorial Day behind us and the kids not yet out of school it was the perfect time for a visit to Lake Chelan, a summer haven for kids, and adults, with all forms of water sport, hiking, wine tasting, good restaurants and guaranteed sunshine, the hills are still green and the weather warm.

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Lake Chelan

Friends had just moved into their new home above Lake Chelan so we headed east for some fun in the sun and a visit with former neighbors.

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Chelan River

 

Flowers along the river walk

We had dinner at Sorrento’s Ristorante  in the Tsillan Winery where one of our friends is lucky enough to work.  The winery and grounds are beautiful and dinner was delicious, a must stop if ever in Chelan.

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Tsillan Winery