19 April 2016

Joshua Tree

Last week we took full advantage of a preschool-free week and booked ourselves a trip to Southern California for a bit of sunshine and the opportunity to explore a National Park that we had never visited -- Joshua Tree National Park.  It was a quick trip -- Monday through Thursday -- but that gave us adequate time to get acquainted with the park and to tire ourselves out with two days of hiking and exploring from morning till evening.  We stayed in Palm Springs and drove up the to park each day -- about 40 miles.  I think Wyatt liked the drive most since it took us through an enormous wind farm with every type and size of windmill you can imagine.  We discussed turbines a lot.

The park was glorious -- as we had been told.  Our friends Jill and Mark have long loved this park and told us about it for years.  We finally got to see for ourselves, and we weren't disappointed.  We only hiked about five miles each day, but we managed to drive throughout most of the park -- entering at Joshua Tree visitor's center and looping through the middle of the park, down to the cholla gardens (which were just days from being in full bloom), then back up to Oasis of Mara and out of the park via the Twenty Nine Palms visitor's center.  Wyatt picked up Wyatt's Jr. Ranger workbook in the morning of our first day, and by day's end he got himself sworn in as an official Jr. Ranger at Twenty Nine Palms.  He was pretty excited.

We spent time hiking around Barker Dam, Quail Springs, and Jumbo Rocks, but my favorite hike was the Hidden Valley nature loop. Although it was only about a mile in distance it actually took us close to three hours since Wyatt kept whistling and beckoning us over because he was "exploring this thing here a bit" with his flashlight (it is dark behind boulders you know) or with his magnifying glass.  With just about every new stone he picked up he'd say, "hey, I think it's granite!"  His grandfather would have been proud of this little rock hound.

We did a bit of bouldering together, choosing routes that a five year old could also safely traverse, even eating a snack way up high above the valley.  It was remarkable how over the course of two days Wyatt grew more capable and confident in his climbing: shifting his weight, using his hands to steady himself, picking a route.  We counted lizards everywhere we went.  I think 12 might have been our single-hike record.

In the Mojave desert part of the park, we found the cactus and other flowers fully in bloom.  Our identification guide came in handy as we learned the difference between a hedge hog and mini pincushion barrel cactus and how a beaver tail prickly pear with magenta flowers and no spines differs from the yellow-flowering larger variety found in the Sonoran desert . . .  We found diamond cholla and creosote bushes.  Junipers and, of course, joshua trees.  We regularly mistook white- crowned sparrows for more interesting birds. 

In the Colorado desert part of the park we (very carefully) walked through the "jumping" teddy bear cholla garden, which was just beginning to bloom.  These cactus are the furthest thing from cuddly so I'm a bit mystified how they got their name.  We saw a cactus wren (the only creature that can safely touch the "jumping" cholla), and many other birds throughout the park -- although no road runners unfortunately.

By the end of two packed days we'd seen a lot of the park, hiked a few trails, watched climbers reach the top of many sheer rock faces, and identified all the flora and fauna we could find.  We came away with a Jr. Park Ranger (complete with a vest and badge to prove it) and a desire to go back and camp in the park another year . . . and bring our telescope. 

04 April 2016

Van City 2016

Each time I visit Vancouver, BC, I become more convinced that I could happily live there.  Our quick trip last weekend to "Van City" was no different.  We enjoyed a full and active couple days of shopping, good food, cherry blossoms, beaches, ferry rides, market meandering, and a few playgrounds mixed in.  Of course, first thing Friday we stopped for lunch at Vij's Rangoli where I wisely ordered the Bombay potatoes covered in channa dahl and Bengali curry. I definitely need to learn how to make this dish.  Wy's mango lassi and pakoras were top notch too.  Then we headed to the West End and Stanley Park for the afternoon.

And yes, more about the food . . . We discovered a nice brunch spot on Granville Street, the Twisted Fork.  My Asiago scones with fresh fruit and yogurt and Wyatt's banana-stuffed French toast got top marks.  I think Wyatt's favorite meal was actually the one we had at Earl's -- a Canadian stand by -- where he ordered crispy chicken and pasta alfredo and a passion fruit soda . . . and then also ate much of my Caesar salad.  He's growing I think.

One morning, we stopped in at Design House and its Marimekko shop where I snagged a couple lovely pillow covers.  While there, Wyatt fell in love with a well-designed floor lamp that he insisted he needed for his room.  Since he didn't have $600, however, he had to leave it behind.  He was visibly crushed (and there were tears), but after some sympathy from us, he agreed to take his picture with the light so he could at least remember it and look at it now and then.

Our first night in Vancouver, we headed back to the hotel early (since Byron was still getting over a cold) and after grabbing some jr. mints at the shop nearby, we tucked ourselves into bed and watched Zootopia until everyone fell asleep. Not a bad movie at all.

Our biggest day of sights took us wandering all over Yaletown, then finally to False Creek, where we caught the ferry to Granville Island.  After lunch and wandering around for a few hours, we took a ferry back to Yaletown and meandered back up to our hotel at Burrard and Robson.  Byron's fit bit claims we walked seven miles.  Wyatt too.

Wyatt and I took advantage of the hotel's Jacuzzi and pool to rejuvenate ourselves before we went out to dinner.  Apparently, it was such a relaxing prelude to the evening, Wyatt fell asleep at the restaurant before his entree arrived. Dinner turned into a nice date night with a sleeping child -- a belated anniversary dinner to celebrate our 22nd at Italian Kitchen

We came home Sunday via Kits beach and West Vancouver, including a self-guided tour through the lush, green, and rapidly growing UBC campus.  We arrived back in Seattle to a grandpa and two cats who had missed us, making me glad to live here -- at least for now.