Sunday, May 3, 2009

Advice from a Quasi-Seattlite

Traci and I had the good fortune to meet up with a friend who shares a past with me from Collinsville High and preschool in Collinsville. She moved to the area in the early thousands, aughts, double zeros and had been here ever since. Her mother had been raised here and snatched terribly from the area by a well meaning husband, forced to spend thirty five years in the Midwest only to return to her native lands for retirement with the same well meaning man. She gave us many ideas for activities in the area for this we are eternally grateful.

One of her ideas was to spend a day at the Chittenden locks separating salt water in the sound from fresh water in Lake Union. This is where water levels are raised or lowered to accommodate the passage of vessels from the lake to the sound. A fish ladder has been incorporated into the dam to provide a way for salmon to get back to fresh waters to spawn. The entire area is surrounded by gardens boasting trees and flowers brought here from all over the world. The gentleman who started the gardens, Carl S. English Jr., requested seeds from ship captains and crews. He was adept at making these seeds grow and has left a grand display of vegetation surrounding the locks.

We stayed to watch several crews manage their boats through the process of tying on, lowering down in the locks and floating through the open gates. It was an interesting process with smaller boats latching on to larger boats. After the initial shouting of instructions across the locks the crews would gather together with other boat crews talking across their boats.

We talked the kids into seeing the troll under the Ballard bridge. The rain had just started so we walked back to the car, buckled in and began navigating the streets of Fremont toward the Volkswagon chomping beast. The kids actually moaned and groaned a little, put on their headphones, dropped the television screens down from the ceiling and were significantly distracted from the challenging course through the angled streets in the rain. We stopped the car just past the bridge, turned of the engine (thereby shutting of the t.v.'s) and the grumbling resumed without a missed beat. We drug them out of the car and walked them across the street where they immediately climbed the arms of the ferocious beast.

We made it home safely, thank goodness. Slept and the next day took up the trip to Snoqualmie Falls, a large waterfall east of Seattle near the Cascade Mountains. We had some challenges again with navigation as the normal exit to one of the highways was closed for construction. We followed the detour signs into Seattle where they promptly disappeared among the strange angles of intersections. An hour later, we had a nice tour of the eastern Seattle area, we found the highway and were off to the falls.

The children give us plenty of opportunities to exercise creativity. We are constantly under pressure to develop euphemisms for hiking and outdoor experiences, forever reminding them of recent hikes they would grumble upon hearing about then rant with delighted fascination once they experienced them. They did not disappoint. My clever wife prefaced the hike with an attempt at predicting which child would carry the grumps on the hike. Each hike has one child responsible for the grumps. The walk begins and two out of three kids are enjoying themselves wonderfully while one whines, complains, begs, and lags. Today we tried to predict which one would be "the one". This allowed the kids to focus their attention on the way they carried themselves on the hike as no one wanted to be the foul one.

Nothing could have fouled up the falls. The kids were amazed and we hiked the half mile to the bottom of the falls. There were brief tests of tolerance but most of the kids' behavior allowed for an enjoyable hike for all. We spent some time at the bottom of the falls, watched a few kayakers get started on the river, Sophia dug in the dirt and we hiked back up the hill. They all hiked up the hill with minimal grumbles.

The weekend was forecasted to be rainy and cloudy it turned out to be partly sunny...bright with a few clouds.