Posts Tagged ‘Washington’


            “A great book that comes from a great thinker – it is a ship of thought, deep freighted with truth, with beauty too.” — Theodore Parker

Mercy Thompson. Briggs' fictional character, lives in Washington not too far from this view of the Columbia River. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Mercy Thompson. Briggs’ fictional character, lives in Washington not too far from this view of the Columbia River. — Photo by Pat Bean

Mercy Thompson

            I discovered Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series a little over a year ago. It’s an urban fantasy that is normally not one of my favorite genres. While fantasy is one of the genres I read, I’m more into dragons and wizards than werewolves and vampires.

But I was at my older daughter home and looking for something to read.

“Try this,” Deborah said, and handed me “Moon Called.”

Perhaps on a clear day, Mercy can see Mount Rainier. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Perhaps on a clear day, Mercy can see Mount Rainier. — Photo by Pat Bean

“I doubt I’ll like it,” I said.

“Yes you will. Now read it,” Deborah demanded.

“OK, OK,” I said, thinking I would read a few pages and then go looking for something else in my daughter’s huge library. Instead I ended up staying up until 2 a.m. because I couldn’t put the book down until I finished it.

Briggs’ Mercy, a mechanic with a native American heritage who lives next door to a werewolf, has a vampire friend and can transform herself into a coyote, was a fascinating character whose actions both surprised and delighted me.

The writing was good, the plots complicated, the heroine strong and sassy, and the book had enough depth that it made me both laugh and cry. Within a few weeks, I had read all six of the Mercy Books, which in addition to “Moon Called,” include “Blood Bound,” “Iron Kissed,” “Bone Crossed,” “Silver Borne,” and “River Marked.” I also have now read many of Briggs other books – she’s a prolific writer.

It’s my normal reading scenario when I come across an author who can have me giggling one moment and looking for a tissue the next.

And just now I discovered, while looking up the order of the Mercy Thompson books, that there is a new Mercy Thompson book out, “Frost Burned.”

It’s downloading on my Kindle even as I finish this blog. I suspect it’s going to be a late night again.

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 My Favorite Places: Lake Mayfield

Mayfield Lake in Mossyrock, Washington -- Photo by Pat Bean

“I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.” – Ernest Hemingway.


NaNoWriMo Update, 12,512 words.

Very difficult writing today. I kept thinking of all the changes I wanted to do to what I had already written. My first half hour of writing yielded only 10 new words, because I went back and did a bit of editing. Since I always overwrite, a lot of words got chopped. I had to slap my hands to stop it.

Part of the problem getting started today was that I ended writing yesterday with a finished scene and wasn’t quite sure where to go next. I finally asked my main character what she was going to do. She then fixed herself a bowl of soup and took it and the local paper out on her ocean-front deck to read and think. I had already established that she talks her ideas over with the dog “of uncertain lineage” that she inherited when her grandmother died.

I now find in addition to establishing a character chart, I also need a timeline chart. I couldn’t remember this morning whether the murder had occurred three or four days earlier.

But when I finally started writing, it went well. I started writing at 6:15 a.m. and had a little over 2,000 words written before noon. And today I left a place to start for tomorrow.

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“The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.” – Ashley Montagu

A piece of the Great Wall of China in Walla Walla, Washington. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

Call me weird if you like, but I think the ladybug I find on the rose is even more beautiful than the rose itself. And it’s not just because I know that ladybugs eat the aphids that eat the roses. It’s mostly because coming across a ladybug is usually a surprise.

I like surprises. Seeing things I don’t expect to see. It’s actually what I enjoy best about travel.

Now that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy seeing the magnificent sights travel is all about. One wouldn’t want to go to Yellowstone and not see Old Faithful, or to New York and not see Niagara Falls.

But the little unexpected things along the way are what put the magic in any journey.

One of the more surprising surprises I got in September took place in Walla Walla, Washington.

I went there with my friend, Sherry, who lives in Milton-Freewater, Oregon. As we drove the eight miles from her home to the larger town to do some shopping, we got to talking about the places we wished we could afford to visit in the near future.

“Ayers Rock in Australia and the Great Wall of China top my list,” I said.

“Oh! Would like to touch a piece of the Great Wall,” she asked?

She then took me to the Walla Walla University, from which she had graduated.

The UFO above an eye exam sign on a Wal-Mart in Roswell, New Mexico, was a jolly fun surprise. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Hidden in a bushy alcove, on the brick wall of a campus building, was indeed a piece of the Great Wall. It had been incorporated into the building as one of the bricks. Above it was a plaque that read: “A piece of the China Wall, donated in 1941 by John L. Christian, Class of 1936, missionary to Burma.”

The touch of the rough, gray rock felt magical, and my fingers tingled.

My brain, however, was thinking that such casual taking of a piece of history today could land one in serious trouble. Of course things were different back then, when everyone was expected to bring home “real” souvenirs, like a piece of lava from Craters of the Moon or a rock-hard log from the Petrified Forest.

Back in the 1940s,  the “Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints” motto hadn’t yet become conservation’s cry.  While I’m glad it’s now the standard, I’m also glad I got to actually touch a piece of China’s history.

It was a magnificent surprise to add to my travel memories.

Perhaps one day I’ll get to touch the actual wall. Of course, given my current economic reality, that would indeed be a surprise.

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‘Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavor.” — William Cowper

Patriotic birds at Silver Beach RV Resort -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

I spent my last two nights in Washington at two commercial RV parks that were as different as a rude log cabin and a modern new home.

The first was Silver Beach RV Resort off Highway 12 right next to Rimrock Lake, an emerald gem that I first saw on my way to Mount St. Helen’s and Mount Ranier. I decided then that I would explore it more fully when I retraced my route back to Interstate 82.

The park had a rustic ambiance about it that took away its commercialism, as did the tiny, faded American flags flying from birdhouses. It cost me $20 for the night, which upon paying I was assigned campsite 34. .

By the time I located it, since the numbering was a bit odd, I had driven in a circle three times. I found the electrical outlet attached to a tree trunk. It was only 20-amp instead of 30-amp provided at almost all RV parks. Fortunately I had an adapter that I use when I occasionally park in one of my kids or friends’ driveway.

The view of the lake and the robins and warblers singing among the trees made up for any lack in facilities, however, and a breeze blowing through my open windows from off the lake lulled me into a sound, peaceful sleep.

Rimrock Lake view from Highway 12 -- Photo by Pat Bean

The next morning, Maggie and I hiked a forest trail that began near my camp site before once again heading east on Highway 12. Several times I stopped to take pictures. Rimrock Lake ran parallel to the highway for about 10 miles, until passage through a rock tunnel across the road erased it from view.


I reached Yakima in early afternoon, where I treated myself to lunch at Red Lobster (I had been craving crab for several days) before seeking out the Travelers Inn RV Park. It was the kind of place where you camp on asphalt with a young lone tree and three feet of manicured lawn between you and other RVs – usually 40-footers. I always think of canned sardines when I’m put in this position, for which this night I paid $35.

So why did I stay here?

Two weeks of dirty clothes and the fact I was wearing my last pair of clean socks. Places like this always have clean laundry rooms. Sometimes a nature-loving-soul has to take it on the chin for the sake of cleanliness.

 I went to sleep this night with the buzz of some boring cable TV program in the background. It felt good to be back on the road early the next morning.

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Baskets of pink pansies add color to a small town's Main Street. ... Photo by Pat Bean

Baskets of pink pansies add color to a small town's Main Street ... Photo by Pat Bean

“It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end.” — Ursula K. LeGuin 

 Travels With Maggie

I was too early for the annual Loggers Jubilee that will be held for the 68th time later this month in the small town of Morton Washington. Between Aug. 12th and the 15th, the town’s expected to be booming with parades, logging shows, flea markets, lawn mower races and of course crowning of the Jubilee Queen. 

 The recent July day I visited the town, for a bit of breakfast at Cody’s Cafe before heading on to nearby Mt. Ranier National Park, Morton was quiet and sleepy.

  This southwestern logging town once claimed itself the “Railroad Mill Tie Capitol of the World.” Ties are those things railroad tracks sit on. Each mile of railroad track requires about 3,000 ties. More and more of the ties these days, however, are being made of concrete instead of wood. Morton’s claim to fame was the huge tie dock – Wikipedia says the “world’s largest” — that was located along the railroad tracks east of the town. 

One of two murals on a fire rescue station in Morton, Washington, that captured my attention. ... Photo by Pat Bean

 After an excellent butterhorn, warm and drenched in butter as it should me, but served by a gray-haired waitress who never smiled – I suspected her feet hurt – I took a quick walk down the city’s downtown.  It was a short walk whose main attractions were sidewalk pots of blooming pink pansies and a couple of murals that colored the walls of the town’s fire rescue station. 

 While not exactly what one could call great art, the murals were interesting and brightened up an otherwise dull building. They were painted by a man named Kangas, according to a signature at the bottom of  one of the murals. I later Binged the name on the Internet and came up with the artist Larry Kangas, who according to his Web site has painted thousands of murals over the past 35 plus years. 

 I suspected these weren’t the first piece of Kangas art I had seen in my travels. They looked too familiar. I also hoped they

Artist signature ... Photo by Pat Bean

 wouldn’t be by last. There was a feel about Kangas’ murals that said the artist enjoyed painting them. That suspicion heightened my enjoyment in viewing them. 

My travels take me to well-know and spectacular places , but its the unexpected sights and experiences,  such as pink pansies, a melt-in-the-mouth butterhorn, surpising railroad trivia and art along the way that give the journey meaning. 


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 “As you grow older, you’ll find the only things you regret are the things you didn’t do.” — Zachary Scott. 

Mount St. Helens … Photo by Pat Bean 

Travels With Maggie
Looking out at the gaping mouth of Mount St. Helens from a point once known as Coldwater Ridge triggered goose pimples on my arms. I knew that David Johnston – the first to report the volcano’s eruption with the words “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is It!” — had been standing on this same ridge that deadly May 18, 1980, morning when the mountain exploded.

 I also knew from the many reports I’ve read about that day that those had been Johnston’s last words. Although six miles away from the volcano, he had still been directly in its blast zone. Johnston was one of 57 people who lost their lives to the angry mountain. 

 Johnston’s body was never found, and the ridge I was standing atop had been renamed in his honor, as had been the visitor center, the Johnston Ridge Observatory, that was built on the ridge so people like me could gaze on the mountain. 

Scarlet paintbrush colors the ground in front of a tree stump near the top of Johnston Ridge ... Photo by Pat Bean


It was a solemn moment for me as I pondered if the 30-year-old Johnston, a trained and enthusiastic volcanologist who knew the risks, would have thought his brief moment in destiny’s grasp was worth his life. I wasn’t sure. Could anybody ever be. 

Daisies once again flourish in the volcano's blast zone ... Photo by Pat Bean


I do know, however, the great respect I have for Johnston and others who are unwilling to hold back living their lives to the fullest. And as I look at nature’s beauty surrounding me, and the verdant life that has returned to Mount St. Helens, I’m also grateful that the fears I’ve overcome in my life have been less life threatening. 

 Travel has as much to do with internal discovery as it has with seeing the world. New places, new sights, new experiences wash away stereotypes. Standing here on top of this ridge, surrounded by tree stumps whose tops were swept away with the mountain’s roar and where a life was blinked out, touched my soul. 

 I know that for a long time to come I will think of this moment when I looked out on Mount St. Helens from Johnston Ridge. It will remind me both of how precious life is and how important it is to savor every moment because tomorrow may not come. 

 “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.” — Braveheart

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Lake Mayfield at Harmony Lakeside RV Park in Mossyrock, Washington. ... Photo by Pat Bean



If you look closely you can see my RV on the other side of this small grove of trees at Harmony Lakeside RV Park ... Photo by Pat Bean

 Cat’s Motto: “No matter what you’ve done wrong, always try to make it look like the dog did it.” — Unknown

Travels With Maggie

 On my way to Mount St. Helen’s, I stopped at Harmony Lakeside RV Park in Mossyrock, Wash. I planned on making the scenic park my base for three days while I explored the volcano and surrounding area. The park, however, had no record of my reservation, which had been made a month earlier.

 Their computer suffered a melt down and I was most likely, the friendly mother and daughter running the office said, one of the glitches they were discovering after getting back online. To give them credit, they did the best they could for me on this fully-booked Saturday night. I was squeezed into the one remaining vacant site, which the pair apologetic explained was seldom used because it was so small and close quartered, they apologized.

This totem pole that sits beside a small pond full of koi gives the park a northwest flavor ... Photo by Pat Bean

Hermit thrush ... Wikipedia photo

My evening was spent with only a view of six large RVs that had a return view directly into my windows. To get any privacy, I had to pull down my RV shades. I hate doing that.

Thankfully, things got better the next day. I was reassigned to a large site that had a view of Mayfield Lake out one side and its own small forest grove – four large trees, three double-trunked smaller trees and several bushes – on the other.

 That evening, as I was sitting at my dining room table catching up on my e-mail, a hermit thrush made its appearance in the grove. Now I’m always excited to see any bird, but this one was special, both because it’s not one I often see and because it was a new addition to my 2010 bird list. I first suspected it was a hermit thrush when I saw its plain brown-back and rusty red tail. The identification was confirmed when it faced me and I caught a glimpse of its white-rimmed eye and the dark brown spotches that decorated its white chest.

I had been watching the thrush for several minutes from inside my RV, which makes a perfect bird blind, when a sudden rustling in the underbrush scared it away. The noise was accompanied by a tiny mouse scampering up one of the larger trees. Immediately on its tail was a a black and white cat.

The pair both made it about 30 feet up the tree trunk before the cat stopped and appeared to realize where it was. The hesitation gave the mouse time enough to escape. The cat quickly reversed its direction and them jumped to the ground. It landed two feet away from my RV, took time to lick one of its paws, then casually strolled away, as if to say “I didn’t want that mouse anyway.”

I laughed out loud. As much as I had been enjoying my birdwatching, I had to admit that the sight of the cat and mouse running up the tree had been an even better show. I never saw the cat or the mouse again, but the hermit thrush made several more appearances in the grove.

Watching the world outside my RV window is always better than television.

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“Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame! “ — William Butler Yeats

Mount Ranier from White Pass ... Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

I got my first good look at Mount Ranier from Highway 12 while crossing White Pass, whose 4,500 foot summit looks out over the Cascade Range of the Rocky Mountains. The view of the 14,411-foot mountain was impressive. My look was shared with a couple of scruffy looking motorcyclists riding Harley Davidsons.

 I smiled at them and they smiled back. The magnificence of Mother Nature’s mountain gift vanished all differences between us. I’ve experienced this uniting phenomenon time and again. Besides, I had an inkling these two “Hogs” were probably doctors or lawyers in another life – since they could afford to own what looked like brand new Harleys.

Mount Ranier, which sits about 50 miles southeast of Seattle, is considered an active volcano, just like Mount St. Helen’s which erupted in 1980, killing 54 people. While Helen’s eruption had been expected, its roar was larger than expected. Ranier could one day throw a similar temper tantrum. It’s a sobering thought.

 But what amazed me this hot July day was Ranier’s shining whiteness. The mountain, which is Washington’s tallest, has

Mount Ranier ... Photo by Pat Bean

 numerous glaciers and a snowfield that never melts completely. From my current viewpoint its white cap was made even more prominent by the forest of green trees that stood between it and me.

 Finally, both myself and the two motorcyclists were able to turn away from the mountain view and get back on the road. We waved at each other before they headed east and I headed west, all three of us in search of more of Mother Nature’s wonders.

 I knew, from experience, that we wouldn’t have to travel far.

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