2017 Year in Review – Hiking Edition

In 2016 I had the luxury of having four months off during the summer and fall. In 2017 I had to fit my hiking in mostly on weekends, so I was happy to be able to get in 74 unique hikes and 35 new hikes (vs. 84 and 52 last year). I covered 685 miles and climbed 179,000 feet. I also got some more use out of the backpacking gear I bought last year, bringing the amortized cost per night down from that of an oceanfront luxury resort to a Marriott in the suburbs.

Here are the hikes, with new hikes marked with an *. All hikes are in Washington unless otherwise noted.

Lake Serene – I was the first one to hit a freshly snow-covered trail on a clear and cold New Year’s morning.

2017-12-29 01 Lake Serene

Kendall Peak Lakes – Another snow-covered hike on a clear and cold morning, and the only hike I’ve ever brought my laptop to (because I was “on call” at work).

2017-12-29 02 Kendall Peak Lakes 01-17 084

Oyster Dome – That sunset though…

2017-12-29 03 Oyster Dome

Teanaway Butte* – I want to come back and do this on a clear day because I think the views would be incredible.

2017-12-29 04 Teanaway Butte

Mazama Ridge – An awesome place to snowshoe in the winter and then come back and see the wildflowers in August.

2017-12-29 05 Mazama Ridge

Silver Falls (OR)* – Oregon really knows how to do waterfalls.

2017-12-29 06 Silver Falls

Panorama Point – So many views of snow-covered volcanoes.

2017-12-29 07 Panorama Point

Fragrance Lake/South Lost Lake* – Sometimes a hike is just “meh” – these holes in the rock were the best part.

2017-12-29 08 Lost Lake

Gold Creek Pond – Took a friend to try out her new snowshoes.

2017-12-29 09 Gold Creek Pond

Hex Mountain – So much mud at the bottom, but the top makes up for it.

2017-12-29 10 Hex Mountain

Cable Line – Great if you like steep and muddy climbs.

2017-12-29 11 Cable Line

Wallace Falls – This is a go to rainy weather hike for me. Hard to believe I only did it once this year.

2017-12-29 12 Wallace Falls

Yakima Skyline* – First of several spring treks to the east side of the mountains for some snow and rain free hiking.

2017-12-29 13 Yakima Skyline

Cowiche Canyon – This has a side trail that ends at a winery. Enough said.

2017-12-29 14 Cowiche Canyon

Artist Point – Took a day off work to enjoy this one without the crowds.

2017-12-29 15 Artist Point

Ancient Lakes* – First night amortizing the backpacking gear in 2017!

2017-12-29 16 Ancient Lakes

Mt. Washington* – Nice alternative to Mt. Si.

2017-12-29 17 Mt Washington

Snow Mountain Ranch* – More Eastern Washington early wildflower chasing.

2017-12-29 18 Snow Mountain Ranch

Mailbox Peak Old Trail* – Did this on Easter so had mimosas at the top.

2017-12-29 19 Mailbox

Poo Poo Point – Left work early to take advantage of one of the first warm days of the year.

2017-12-29 20 Poo Poo

Mt. Si – I can’t remember why Plan A fell through, but when it did I ended up here for the first time in around 10 years.

2017-12-29 21 Mt Si

Falls Creek Falls Loop* – One of my faves to hit up when I’m visiting the Gorge.

2017-12-29 22 Fall Creek Falls

Coyote Wall Labyrinth Loop* – Exploring the Gorge, one hike at a time.

2017-12-29 23 Labyrinth Loop

Tom McCall Point (OR)* – This was my third hike of the day, and when I was done I realized I had covered 21 miles. Good thing I stopped for a cider tasting in Hood River between hikes 2 and 3.

2017-12-29 24 McCall Point

Rowena Plateau (OR), Dalles Mountain Ranch and Horsethief Butte – I’m not going to give myself credit for a new or unique hike since only hiked for about 45 minutes combined for all of these, but I wanted to share these pictures.

2017-12-29 25 Rowena Crest2017-12-29 26 Dalles Mt2017-12-29 27 Horsethief

Marmot Pass – First hike of the year where it was downright hot – Olympics on Memorial Day weekend.

2017-12-29 28 Marmot Pass

Navaho Peak – This hike the next day was also hot – shorts and gaiters is such a good look.

2017-12-29 29 Navaho Peak

Chelan Lakeshore Trail* – Take a ferry and walk the gangplank onto a deserted beach, then walk 17 miles to Stehekin and take the ferry back to civilization. There’s a beach full of butterflies along the way.

2017-12-29 31 Chelan Lakeshore2017-12-29 32 Chelan Lakeshore2017-12-29 33 Chelan Lakeshore2017-12-29 34 Chelan Lakeshore

Bodega Head (CA)* – Nice oceanside stroll.

2017-12-29 35 Bodega Sunset

Bald Mountain (CA)* – Not really a mountain, but it was pretty bald.

2017-12-29 36 Bald Mountain

Iron Bear – This is a good one to bridge the spring and summer wildflower seasons.

2017-12-29 37 Iron Bear

Lake 22 – Did this on a very rainy June day, and this was the only photo I took.

2017-12-29 38 Lake 22

Bandera Mountain – This one is all about the beargrass…for three weeks a year.

2017-12-29 39 Bandera

Earl Peak & Bean Creek Basin – I love this one for the views, wildflowers and random lady bugs at the 7,000 ft summit.

2017-12-29 40 Earl2017-12-29 41 Bean

Goat Lake – You know you’re a spoiled hiker when you aren’t totally satisfied with this view because the lake isn’t flat like a mirror.

2017-12-29 42 Goat Lake

Harry’s Ridge & Coldwater Peak* – I did not intend to go 14 miles on a very hot day with not a lot of water, but with the incredible views, I really couldn’t stop myself. Definitely a new favorite.

2017-12-29 43 MSH2017-12-29 44 MSH2017-12-29 45 MSH2017-12-29 46 MSH

Eightmile Lake & Lake Caroline* – The least celebrated of the Enchantments. Better than I thought, especially when I saw a chipmunk eating a mushroom like an ice cream cone.

2017-12-29 47 Eightmile

West Fork Foss River Lakes – Five alpine lakes in 7.5 miles (each way) makes this one of my favorites.

2017-12-29 48 West Fork Foss

Granite Mountain – I’ve always wanted to do this during beargrass season, and this year I finally did.

2017-12-29 49 Granite Mt

Bare Mountain* – You exit in North Bend and then drive forever to the middle of nowhere. If you want to avoid crowds, this is the place for you.

2017-12-29 50 Bare Mountain

Spray Falls & Spray Park – The flowers were great as usual, but the true revelation was the wood-fired pizza at Carlson Block on the way out.

2017-12-29 51 Spray Park2017-12-29 52 Spray Park

Spectacle Lake – It’s a long day hike, but the lake truly is a spectacle.

2017-12-29 53 Spectacle

Snow Lake – Did this as an after work hike and got tons of observations for the pika study I was doing, including a couple that ran across the trail right in front of me.

2017-12-29 54 Snow Lake

Royal Basin* – It takes a ferry ride, a long drive and a long hike to get here, but the destination is really worth it.

2017-12-29 55 Royal Basin2017-12-29 56 Royal Basin2017-12-29 57 Royal Basin2017-12-29 58 Royal Basin

Seven Lakes Basin* – There is so much to love about this hike, and at 22 miles, it really deserves more than a day. Next time…

2017-12-29 59 Seven Lakes2017-12-29 60 Seven Lakes2017-12-29 61 Seven Lakes2017-12-29 62 Seven Lakes

Mount Storm King* – Aborted this hike before the top because of fog…but it also had sharp drop-offs that make me think I won’t be attempting this one again.

2017-12-29 63 Storm King

Skyline Loop – Lots of fauna and flora on this smoky summer day.

2017-12-29 64 Skyline2017-12-29 65 Skyline2017-12-29 66 Skyline2017-12-29 67 Skyline

Bench & Snow Lakes –Ditch the crowds at Reflection Lake and hike to see the reflection in Bench Lake.

2017-12-29 68 Bench

Berkeley Park* & Second Burroughs – Berkeley Park is much less crowded than other areas near Sunrise, plus there may be wrestling marmots in the rocks as you head in.

2017-12-29 69 Berkeley Park2017-12-29 70 Burroughs

Naches Peak Loop* – Nice short scenic hike. Beautiful flowers and I’ll bet the fall colors are amazing too.

2017-12-29 71 Naches

Slide Lake (OR)* – This is in the middle of nowhere Eastern Oregon and was my home base for the eclipse. The pikas there have a different squeak from the pikas here.

2017-12-29 72 Slide2017-12-29 73 Slide2017-12-29 74 Slide2017-12-29 75 Slide

Strawberry Lake (OR)* – This lake is easier to access than Slide Lake so it was full of eclipse campers, including a guy who had wheeled a roller bag suitcase full of water 1-1/2 miles up the dusty and rocky trail to the lake.

2017-12-29 76 Strawberry

Maxwell Lake (OR)* – This was my consolidation prize after cancelling a three day backpacking trip to the Wallowas due to lightning storms and smoke. There’s always next year.

2017-12-29 77 Maxwell Lake

The Enchantments – Had to get my goat and pristine alpine lakes fix in.

2017-12-29 78 Enchantments2017-12-29 79 Enchantments2017-12-29 80 Enchantments2017-12-29 81 Enchantments

Sahale Arm – This is one of my favorite hikes, but this was the first time I didn’t see the Sahale bear.

2017-12-29 82 Sahale

Lake Ann – Another night of backpacking. Not a bad view from my tent.

2017-12-29 83 Lake Ann

Chain Lakes Loop – Nice hike out of Artist Point near Mt. Baker.

2017-12-29 84 Chain Lakes

Gothic Basin & Foggy Lake* – Last time I didn’t find the lake; glad I did this time.

2017-12-29 85 Gothic Basin2017-12-29 86 Gothic Basin

Sky Pond Loop (CO)* – I froze on the way up because it was 30 degrees to start and I only brought shorts, but it was so worth it.

2017-12-29 87 Sky Pond

Chataqua Loop (CO) – Nice series of trails in Boulder.

Church Mountain* – Was glad to finally knock this one off the list, especially with the fall colors.

2017-12-29 89 Church

Twisp Pass* – A very long drive for more fall colors and a stare down with a bear.

2017-12-29 90 Twisp Pass2017-12-29 91 Twisp Pass

Libby Lake* – This one is known for its larches.

2017-12-29 92 Libby Lake

Carne Mountain* – This had the greatest density of larches I’ve ever seen. It also has one of the worst forest roads I’ve ever driven.

2017-12-29 93 Carne2017-12-29 94 Carne2017-12-29 95 Carne2017-12-29 96 Carne

Lake Ingalls – I lucked out finding the perfect window with needles still on the larches, snow on the ground and the trailhead still accessible. First time not seeing goats though.

2017-12-29 97 Lake Ingalls

Melakwa Lake – First time I’ve done this one in the snow. It was fun to compare the picture I took this time with one from the same spot a few summers ago.

2017-12-29 98 Melakwa Lake2017-12-29 99 Melakwa Lake

Ebey’s Landing* – This little one and I both startled each other.

2017-12-29 100 Ebey's Landing

Deception Pass Headlands* – Second Black Friday/Opt Outside hike for the day – needed to work off the Thanksgiving dinner somehow.

2017-12-29 101 Deception Pass

Rattlesnake Ledge – It’s been awhile since I’ve done this, so I was impressed with the new permanent bathroom structure and armada of porta potties.

Heather Lake – I like doing this one in the snow.

2017-12-29 102 Heather Lake

Four Dances Trail (MT)* – Killing time in Billings, Part 1.

2017-12-29 103 Four Dances

Phipps Park (MT)* – Killing time in Billings, Part 2. This had a crazy Frisbee golf course built up and down a mountain.

2017-12-29 104 Phipps Park

Little Si – I used to do this one at least a half dozen times a year, so it’s hard to believe I made it to mid-December before doing it this year.

Teneriffe Falls – This one has grown on me.

2017-12-29 105 Teneriffe

Franklin Falls – I like it on ice.

2017-12-29 106 Franklin

Until next year!








52 Hikes (is a) Challenge

There is this thing called the 52 Hike Challenge that basically challenges you to hike once a week.  I don’t like to set recreation goals because I have enough of those at work, and recreation is supposed to be fun.  However, for the past three years, when I got near the end of the year I found myself scrambling to meet a goal I never set when I realized I was nearing a milestone.  In 2014 it was 40 unique hikes/52 total hikes, last year it was 52 unique hikes and this year it was 52 NEW hikes.  This year was I finally ticked #52 off the list on December 18.  This year I also did 84 unique hikes and 96 total hikes for 753 miles and 195,500 feet in elevation gain (which almost made me want to find another 4,500 feet in the last 5 days of the year…).  I did have to take nearly four months off work to accomplish these stats, however.

Here are the hikes, with new hikes marked with an *.  All hikes are in Washington unless otherwise noted.

Kendall Peak Lakes* – I never found the turnoff to the lakes, but I had a very peaceful New Year’s morning snowshoe until I got near the bottom and found half of Seattle there.


Big Four Ice Caves* – Another peaceful snowshoe until the snowmobiles showed up.


Little Si – An old standby I used to do a lot more than I do now.

Gold Creek Pond* – Not normally a peaceful snowshoe, but it was on this day because I got up super early to do it before a 10am Seahawks playoff game.


Mt. Erie & Sugarloaf* – There are so many different numbered trails in this trail system that it wasn’t wise to do it without a map like I did, but I ended up finding my destinations anyway.


Hex Mountain* – A really pretty snowshoe outside Salmon La Sac that pairs well with Village Pizza in Roslyn afterwards.


Heather Lake – I think most of this trail is pretty ugly, but I love the lake, and the upper part of the trail was really pretty covered in snow.


Mazama Ridge* – A friend and I headed to Mt. Rainier with an iffy forecast for Super Bowl Sunday, but we were treated to a bluebird day and minimal crowds.


Poo Poo Point – After work sunset hike – which means 4:45 in early February.


Lake 22 – Lots of downed trees and water on the trail for this one after some winter storms.


Oyster Dome via Chuckanut – I love winter sunset hikes.  Bonus – first time seeing a drone on a hike.


Baldy Mountain* – Bad weather on the Westside drove me to central Washington for steep climbs and sun.  I also saw a dead porcupine, a first for me.


Rattlesnake Dance Ridge* – Short and very steep!


Eagle Creek (Oregon)* – I think this is like the Mt. Si of Portland – relatively close to the city and really crowded.  Fortunately I did it on a weekday.  The day after I hiked it, I saw a 48 Hours about a woman who fell/was pushed to her death from one of the many sheer drop offs along the trail.


Umtanum Creek Ridge – Crazy steep in parts – bring hiking poles or plan to do some crawling.


Cowiche Canyon* – Includes a trail to a winery!


Rattlesnake Ledge – A much-maligned local hike, but I like it – there aren’t too many crowds on a weekday evening.

West Tiger 3 – Not as maligned as Rattlesnake, but I like Rattlesnake better.

Oyster Dome/Lily Lake via Samish* – Easier than the Chuckanut approach, but not ideal to watch the sunset from Oyster Dome since the road closes an hour after sunset.  But the sunset view from the Samish Overlook parking lot is pretty good.


Columbia Hills State Park – Crawford Oaks & Dalles Mountain* – Amazing spring wildflower hike that is so far from Seattle I recommend staying in the Dalles the night before.  I think you can hike up from Crawford Oaks to Dalles Mountain, although I didn’t do it this way.


Fall Creek Falls* – Short hike that ends with an awesome waterfall – and a good way to stretch your legs on the long drive back to civilization from the hike above.


Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area* – Yes, this is what it’s really called, and it’s a pretty expansive trail system.  It would have helped if I picked up a map somewhere along the way.


Wallace Falls – Perfect hike for a rainy day or, in this case, a morning when I didn’t feel like driving halfway across the state to hike.


Dog Mountain* – Another contender for the Mt. Si of Portland, known for its wildflowers and views of the gorge.


Goat Lake – A longish hike that isn’t too difficult, has interesting scenery along the way and has a nice payoff at the lake.


Colchuck Lake – I used to like this hike more before it become everyone’s go to Eastern WA hike, but the lake and the surrounding mountains are still breathtaking even when its crowded.


Navaho Peak – Hate the climb from the pass to the peak, love the views.


West Tiger Cable Line* – This is a rite of passage for Seattle hikers that is primarily used as a training hike and one I’m in no rush to repeat!


Annette Lake – Relatively close, short and easy hike to an alpine lake.


Skyline Divide* – Great views of Mt. Baker and Shuksan from the top.


Bean Creek Basin and Earl Peak* – The climb to the peak and views are similar to Navaho Peak, but I like this one better because the overall hike is shorter and has more to see along the way.


Harry’s Ridge* – My first time to Mt. St. Helens since 2001 did not disappoint.  So many signs of life in the blast zone.


South Colderwater Ridge* – This trail has cool rusted out remnants of logging equipment that was in use when St. Helens erupted in May 1980.


Windy Ridge to Loowit Falls* – I could have in theory hiked to the falls from the one of the St. Helens trails I took the week before, but driving to the mountain from a different direction provided much different scenery.


Mason Lake – Another relatively close, short and easy hike to an alpine lake.


Cub, Fern and Odessa Lakes (Rocky Mountain NP)* – This hike was plan C for the day after the first one seemed too ambitious at elevation and minimal sleep and the second one would have required a very long wait for a shuttle to the trailhead.


Lake Ingalls – I’ve never not seen goats on this hike, but I saw about 50 this time – a record for me.

Surprise and Glacier Lakes* – I did this on a dreary morning so didn’t get the full effect of the beauty of these lakes.


Sahale Arm – The forecast didn’t pan out as planned, but things cleared up on the way down so I got to see the jaw dropping views for half my hike.  Plus I got to see a bear dart up the slope after running across the trail.


Green Mountain – Second day in the row the forecast didn’t pan out as planned but cleared up on the way down.  The marmots didn’t seem to mind.


Gothic Basin* – Not an easy hike, but it was worth the effort.


Sourdough Mountain* – This is touted as one of the best hikes in Washington, but I didn’t think so on a cloudy-ish day.  It’s really steep right off the bat.


Lake Ann* – This is not the Teanaway version, but rather the Mt. Baker version that has in-your-face views of Mt. Shuksan.


Tom, Dick & Harry Mountain (Oregon)* – Five volcano view from the top.


Jefferson Park (Oregon)* – Pretty lakes and flowers in the shadow of Mt. Jefferson.


Crater Lake (Oregon)* – I did several short hikes during a whirlwind day trip – lots of great scenery and hikes of varying degrees of difficulty.


Smith Rock – Monkey Face/Misery Ridge (Oregon)* – Who wouldn’t want to do hikes with these names?  Poles are recommended because there are steep and slippery parts.


Tumalo Mountain (Oregon)* – Decent sunset hike.


Green Lakes (Oregon)* – A nice and not too difficult hike that gets really busy on the weekends – the Mt. Si of Bend?


The Enchantments* – Last year I went half way and turned around.  This year I hiked through the whole thing.  There is no easy way to get there, but it’s worth it if you can.


Heather-Maple Pass Loop/Lewis Lake* – I’m not sure we figured out the most efficient way to get across the boulder fields leading to the lake, but the lake sure was pretty once we got there.


Johnston Canyon (Banff NP)* – Too crowded!


Larch Valley (Banff NP)* – I would love to see this when the larches are turning…but I can’t imagine the crowds.


Emerald Lake (Yoho NP)* – Plan B when crowds/traffic made Plan A impossible.


Plain of Six Glaciers (Banff NP)* – My favorite part of this hike was learning that young girls who lived at the teahouse kept a pet marmot named Charlotte for eight years.  As they say, don’t try this at home.


Mt. Edith Cavell (Jasper NP)* – Speaking of marmots, this trail had some good ones.


Valley of Five Lakes (Jasper NP)* – This was a hidden gem just outside of Jasper – a short easy hike past five pretty lakes.


Park Butte and Scott Paul Loop* – Park Butte never disappoints with incredible views of Mt. Baker (except for on a cloudy day, I guess), but with the flowers pretty much done, I didn’t think Scott Paul was that great.  But this hike did yield a quart of huckleberries that made a fantastic cobbler.


West Fork Foss River Lakes to Angeline* – This was my first (and only!) overnight backpacking trip ever, so I had the time to extend my hike to Angeline and get six lakes in rather than five.


Thunder Knob* – The primary benefit of this short hike is to stretch your legs on drive across Highway 20, but the views are much better right off the road from the Diablo Lake lookout a little further east.


Blue Lake – This is another Highway 20 leg-stretcher, but it’s a fantastic hike that I would do more often if it wasn’t a six hour round trip drive for such a short hike.


Hidden Lake Lookout – It had been a couple years since I had done this, so I managed to forget how harrowing the road is.  Beautiful views from the lookout, though.


Tuck and Robin Lakes – The Robin Lakes area deserves a lot more exploring than I’ve been able to devote to it on a long day hike.


Salema Secret Beaches (Portugal)* – It’s always an adventure when you’re doing a hike based on a poorly translated description from a tourism website.


Yellow Aster Butte – A classic fall color hike I did on the first day of fall.  Added bonus – enough berries for another cobbler!


Skyline Loop* – A classic Mt. Rainier hike, but I like some others better.  Cool views of mountains peaking above the fog though, and also a marmot-palooza.


Bench & Snow Lakes – Nice short and scenic hike to two lakes in MRNP.


Cutthroat and Granite Pass – Wonderful and not too difficult hike for larches, fall colors, mountain views and seeing PCT thru hikers near the end of their long trek.


Grasshopper Pass* – Another wonderful and not too difficult hike for larches, fall colors, mountain views and seeing PCT thru hikers even closer to the end of their long trek.  VERY long drive from Seattle though.


Mt. Mc Causland & Lake Valhalla via Smithbrook* – First hike of the year with fresh frozen berries trailside.


Snow & Gem Lakes – Third Snow Lake of the year.


Twin Falls – Good short hike after a good long rain.


Granite Mountain – I didn’t get around to doing this during beargrass season like I wanted to, but I did get to see some snow.


Tronsen Ridge* – I was more impressed with the drive to the trailhead than the hike itself.


Umtanum Creek Canyon – Drove to eastern Washington to chase the sun, but turns out it was sunny on the westside instead.


Lime Kiln Trail* – Decent and easy rainy day hike.


Kendall Katwalk – I did my little turn on the Katwalk.


Mt. Dickerman* – Ended up doing this on a perfect day – it reached the high 60s in early November!


Melakwa Lake – I focused on the smaller details since the lake just isn’t as pretty on a grey day.


Crystal Lakes*– A snow hike to a couple pretty lakes the weekend before Chinook Pass closed for the season.


Lake Serene – Once I saw photos of other “opt outside” day hikes, I sort of kicked myself for doing this one, but it’s tough to argue it’s not pretty beautiful.


Mount Pilchuck – No views this day, but the hike up was pretty in the snow and the frozen lookout was a worthy destination.


Amabilis Mountain* – This was my 52nd new hike this year.  My friend and I must have missed a turnoff somewhere, because after 6 miles of this 9.5 roundtrip hike, the summit was nowhere in sight. On the way back down, it became clear most people also didn’t know where they were going.


Franklin Falls – So glad I visited this the day before the Seattle Times featured it on the front page.


And for you Washington hiking geeks who are still reading, here are the hikes I did twice (or more) this year:  Kendall Peak Lakes, Little Si, Gold Creek Pond, Lake Ingalls (3x – I like goats!), some Mazama Ridge, some Skyline Loop, Sahale Arm, Oyster Dome, Enchantments (out and back the 2nd time), Blue Lake, Rattlesnake Ledge and Annette Lake.



Food Trucks Strike Back

A transcendent food truck experience today prompted me to write a post about the food trucks I have come to love since last writing about food trucks in July 2015.  Here are my new favorites in alphabetical order.

Anchor End Pretzel Shoppe – Sandwiches on giant soft pretzels.  Need I say more?  My favorite from the short menu is the Dictator – pulled pork, pork belly and lots of melted cheese.  While looking up the name of my favorite on the website, I just saw they now have a chicken parm on a pretzel – next time!


The Dictator


Fire and Scrape – This stand at the Fremont Sunday Farmers’ Market serves traditional Swiss raclette, which is basically melted cheese over vegetables.  Maybe I could recreate this at home, but I love that a visit here smells and tastes just like Switzerland.



The process of scraping the cheese is more photogenic than the result

Kiss My Grits – This is the truck I visited today.  I was tempted by the shrimp and grits, but I went with the pork belly and grits, and it was amazing.  Will need to go back and try the other offerings.


Pork belly and grits

Mo Pockets – This truck features very tasty Asian sandwiches, but it’s elusive…at least for eastside workers.

Peach and the Pig – I really like the pulled pork sandwich from this place, and it’s HUGE and well-priced.  I was not a fan of the Brussels sprouts in the photo (they were barely cooked), plus the sandwich alone is enough for two meals.


Wood Shop BBQ – This place has grown on me as I’ve tried its pulled pork mac & cheese and its chili mac.


Pulled pork mac & cheese

For the next three months I’ll be working at an office that has at least two food trucks every day, so I may be broadening my horizons soon.

Lessons in Temporary Retirement

I just completed four months of voluntary unemployment/sabbatical/temporary retirement. As someone who had done something similar a couple times in his past predicted, I did about 60% of the things I wanted to do and then decided I wanted to go back to being a contributing member of society again. But even though 40% of my list didn’t get done, I feel my time off served its purpose, and I’m really glad I took it. Now that it’s over, I’m reflecting back on some of my lessons learned, some of which could probably be considered universal truths and some that are more specific to me. I’m sharing them here for those who don’t want to take such a drastic step to learn a few things or be reminded of what you already knew.

Even doing nothing requires structure. When I was working I made to-do lists – weekly work task lists, longer-term work project lists, weekend home task lists, longer-term home and personal project lists, shopping lists….really, if something could be put on a list, I probably had one for it. Once I stopped working, I still had almost all these same lists. Early on someone told me I shouldn’t be sticking to lists during this time, but I needed them to help create some structure for an otherwise very unstructured time. Sometimes the list for a day was “hike, get gas, go through photos” (which is sooo much better than “talk to employee X about performance issue, try to figure out the thing no one else has been able to figure out after working on it for two weeks, review accounting memo”) – but it was structure. I also found that I felt just as busy, if not more busy, when I was unemployed, so I needed to stay on top of everything somehow.

Go down a rabbit hole every now and then.  I don’t like to waste time, but since I had more of it on my hands during my sabbatical, I let myself go down a few rabbit holes.  For me, a rabbit hole usually involves the internet.  When I look up something online, often many of the hyperlinked words/phrases are tempting; when I watch a You Tube video, the other recommended videos on the right taunt me.  I can’t say I’m a better or more informed person because I allowed myself to click through, but I did enjoy wasting a little bit of time.

Once an accountant, always an accountant. This is also probably one of the reasons I wanted to keep making lists. During my time off I enjoyed the ritual of entering my expenses into Quicken (though it probably would have been more enjoyable if I had also been able to enter some income), and I REALLY enjoyed doing my monthly budget-to-actual analysis, which was something I didn’t do for my personal finances until my sabbatical. I took great pleasure in the fact that my year-to-date budget-to-actual variance through the end of September was $229. Like I said, once an accountant, always an accountant!

When things get old, they start to break down, and Murphy’s Law dictates many things will break at the same time when you don’t have an income stream. I put a lot of hard miles on my car. About a month before my last day of work, I took my car to the dealer for maintenance, and they gave me a list of costly recommended repairs. I took it to a local mechanic who did what was needed for much less, but I had to repeat this same exercise later in the summer after being presented with another list of dealer recommended repairs that totaled nearly $7,000 at dealer pricing. At some point in between these two major car repairs, some of my kitchen lighting stopped working. After I figured out that my condo is zoned commercial (and therefore only certain electricians are licensed to work on it) and then waited the three weeks until the one I found was able to come out, my lighting was partially fixed with the caveat that it was only a temporary fix, and I would eventually need to get new fixtures and switch to LED. Fortunately the temporary fix lasted closer to the top end of the “2 weeks to 2 months” range I was given. I had some other things break during my time off, but I think you get the general idea. I guess the silver lining is I actually had time to deal with it.


There’s no place like home. I know a lot of people travel for most if not all of their sabbatical time. As much as I love to travel, I knew this would never be in the cards for me. I took some fun trips, but by the end of each one, I was ready to get home. Sometimes it was because I missed my bed, sometimes it was wanting to hike in the mountains, sometimes it was the weather (believe it or not, some places have more miserable weather than Seattle, or at least it was more miserable when I was visiting), sometimes it was a strong desire to have people speak to me in English and sometimes it was a craving for a good cheeseburger.


This is the burger I dream of when I’m traveling

Washington is the smallest state west of the Mississippi, but it’s impossible to see it all. I had a very long list of hikes I wanted to do and places I wanted to visit around the state this summer. And while I got a lot of great hikes and exploring in, there were entire areas of the state that were high on my list to spend quality time in that I didn’t even get close to. There are definitely worse problems to have than to live in a place that has so much to see it will keep me busy for many, many years. Here are a few of the new places I was able to visit during my time off.


Always be on your best behavior because it’s a very small world. I already knew this, but it was definitely driven home during my job search. Everyone seems to know everyone, and while it’s somewhat comforting to be able to have a lot of common ties with someone you might want to work for some day, it’s also somewhat terrifying as you wonder what those common ties would say about you if asked.

People are kind and generous. I always suspected this, but watching the current election cycle and the news in general, I sometimes doubted it. During my time off, friends treated me to meals, gave me really detailed vacation advice, offered me a room during my travels (some of which I never got a chance to visit) and checked in with me periodically to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind. They were also very helpful in my job search, pinging me with opportunities that prompted me to really start thinking about going back to work, acting as a sounding board when I was thinking through my career direction, agreeing to be a reference, making introductions and, in one notable case, stalking me and tempting me by saying things like “come work with me, we have food trucks!”


Free lunch, Fred Flintstone style


Personal mini-bar in my favorite guest room in SW Washington

Old people need less sleep. I proved this during my time off with my inability to sleep in. As my time off came to an end, I forced myself to sleep until 7 a couple mornings just because I could.


Time to sign off because I have to get up early tomorrow…

Nine Lives

I am a crazy cat lady.

A couple years ago, a friend returned from Japan and told me about the cat cafes there.  These are wondrous places where you can go have a coffee and hang out with cats that live in the cafe.  I added this to my list of weird and cool things that warrant a visit to Japan some day.  Shortly after hearing about these cafes in Japan, I read about one opening in the US, and over the next several months I read about others.  I first visited one in June 2015 – the Meow Parlor in New York – and since then I’ve visited eight cat cafes in four countries.  They are now a new travel obsession of mine – before I visit a new city, I check to see whether it has a cat cafe. And for anyone interested enough to keep reading, I’m going to rank them.

But before I do that, let me give some more background on cat cafes in general so you know what to expect if you ever visit one.  First, you generally have to pay to visit one – either a minimum food purchase or a separate fee.  Some cafes let you stay as long as you want; some require you to pay by the hour.  Some require reservations.  Most have basic coffee shop drinks and treats, and some have fuller menus and/or alcohol.  Local health codes dictate how and where the food is served, but preparation is always separate from the cats obviously.  A lot of the cafes allow adoption of some or all of their cats.  And finally, a rule that’s highlighted on the website of pretty much every cat cafe – don’t bring your own cat!

Now for the rankings:

9 – Le Cafe des Chats, Paris, France – I had such high hopes for this one.  Unlike all the others I’ve been to that were places with cats that happened to serve drinks and sometimes food, this was a cafe that happened to have some cats.  This being Paris, I had to attempt to speak French, which generally doesn’t go too well for me.  There were only a few cats, and most of them were sleeping (which means do not disturb).  None of the other patrons were leaving their tables to play with the cats that were awake, so I followed those cues.  So basically my visit consisted of an overpriced piece of cheesecake with hints of litter box.

8 – Aqui Ha Gato, Lisbon, Portugal – This cafe is fine, but there weren’t very many cats out when I was there so it was sort of boring.  However, there was this long tube they could play in, and all of us got some entertainment watching them in that thing.  Added bonus – one of the historic Lisbon trolleys rattles right past the cafe.

7 – Purrington’s Cat Lounge, Portland, OR – The layout of this cafe was the same as the one in Lisbon – a long narrow room with the cats next to a separate long narrow room with the food – so I’m thinking layout has something to do with the ranking.  These narrow rooms limit access points to the cats, which are usually surrounded by people trying to pet and/or Instagram them (behavior that has been true everywhere but Paris).  I ranked this higher than Lisbon because there were more cats and the decor was more interesting.  I think anyone who starts a cat cafe has to be at least a little crazy, and I appreciate it when that craziness manifests itself in the decor.  This one had cool wall murals and a funny Donald a Trump doll as one of the cat toys.


6 – Cafe Miao, Copenhagen, Denmark – This is the site of my only unplanned cat cafe visit.  I was looking for the train station and found this.  Needless to say, I caught a later train. This cafe didn’t have too many cats, but for most of my visit I was the only person in there so I had the cats all to myself.  Plus, my minimum required food purchase was a tasty smoothie.

5 – Seattle Meowtropolitan, Seattle, WA – It pains me I can’t rank my local cat cafe higher.  I actually think of all the cat cafes I’ve visited it’s the best one for the well-being of the cats because there are a lot of elevated walkways and surfaces near the ceiling and hiding places that allow them to find their own happy place.  However, these cat happy places are often out of reach of the humans, which isn’t so great for the humans who want to interact with them.  Also, there is no real comfortable seating for the humans – just hard benches.  Paid entry comes with a coffee drink with cat art in the foam, an obvious plus.


4 – Meow Parlour, New York, NY – Since this was my first one, I have a bit of a soft spot for it. This is a pretty small space – this is New York after all – but there are a lot of cats in it.  The people who run it clearly have a sense of humor, posting a sign on a door that reads “Cats, employees and Taylor Swift only.”  (Taylor Swift is a big cat lady in case you didn’t know.)

3 – Blue Cat Cafe, Austin, TX – This place is huge, has lots of seating, has lots of cats, has crazy cat murals and lets you stay as long as you want for $3.  What’s not to love?  I didn’t order food, but there are some funny Yelp complaints about the food, which is either vegetarian or vegan.  Someone was shocked to order the “brisket nachos” to discover the brisket was actually tofu.  Seems like that would be a pretty big faux pas in Texas.


2 – Denver Cat Company, Denver, CO – This place is like the most comfortable living room ever that happens to be filled with cats.  You can also stay as long as you want.  It’s also in a cool neighborhood that warrants some exploring.

1 – Crumbs & Whiskers, Washington DC – I debated some of the rankings above, but this one is the clear #1.  It’s two stories of cat heaven in Georgetown.  There are a ton of cats that you already feel you know if you follow these guys on social media.  Comfortable seating and lounging space abound for humans and cats.  Not sure exactly what the secret sauce is for this place, but everything felt just right.  Need to find an excuse to get to DC again and go back.

As for that trip to Japan, it’s still on the list, because I don’t think I can find a hedgehog or owl cafe anywhere else in the world.

Adventures in Airbnb

Earlier this year I told a friend who was having a destination wedding that he could suggest Airbnb as an alternative for guests who were having trouble finding a hotel room.  His response surprised me – that many of his guests weren’t “adventurous” enough to do that.  I had never really thought of staying in an Airbnb as an adventure, but as I reflect back on the eight Airbnbs in six countries I’ve stayed in over the past two years, I realize there is some truth to that…unless you’re renting the $10,000 per night spots like Beyoncé and Jay Z rented for the Super Bowl.

I like Airbnbs primarily because they are cheaper than hotels, and in some cases a lot cheaper.  They also allow you to live more like a local – something that appeals to some people but not to others.  This generally appeals to me, but there have been times during all my Airbnb stays that I longed for the comforts of a hotel.  Here are some of those times.

My first Airbnb was in Italy, and I’m pretty sure I had a “professional” host – someone who has a bunch of properties he rents and has the process down to a science – and the place was cool.  So what made this an adventure?  Two things.  First was the damn front door – I couldn’t figure out how to open it from the outside.  There wasn’t any sort of handle, so opening it required a special pull-push motion that wasn’t at all intuitive for me during the 10 minutes I spent trying to figure it out before I had to message my host.  Of course, in accordance with Murphy’s Law, I figured it out a few minutes after I messaged him.  The second thing is actually my biggest Airbnb lesson learned to date – when you are in a country where you don’t speak the language, hotels provide you with certain services you take for granted until you don’t have them.  In this case it was getting an early morning taxi to the airport.  My Airbnb host was kind enough to book me one, but when you’re standing in a thunder and lightning storm for 30 minutes wondering if the cab that was supposed to come at 4:15 am will actually come, while an old woman across the street is giving you the stink eye from her window, you really wish you had stayed in a hotel.  Fortunately the cab did come and I made it to the airport on time (only to miss my connecting flight home, but that’s another story).

My next Airbnb adventure was in Texas.  It was a nice big place (it was Texas after all) and was really cheap, but how did I not notice in the listing that there was no TV?  I spent a good ten minutes opening cupboards and looking for hidden panels trying to find that darn thing until I looked at the Airbnb listing again and saw “TV” was not listed as an amenity.

I think my next Airbnb in Colorado (for the aforementioned destination wedding) had a TV, but I couldn’t get past the fact that I was staying in the host’s home that she had clearly just vacated for the weekend so I could stay there.  This is probably pretty typical, but it was weird to sleep in her bed (had she changed the sheets?) and have her clothes in the closet and her food in the fridge (which she said I could help myself to).  She also had an eclectic decorating style which I can best describe as “early post-college”.


Then there was Oregon. During my visit it was hotter than blazes, so some hotel AC sure would have been nice.  My host also lived in the unit right above me, and as I was leaving she popped out and started grilling me about the pros and cons of my stay.  Not exactly what I was in the mood for at 7am.  With a hotel I could have dropped my key in the box and silently slipped away.

Shortly after Oregon I was in Calgary in another unit that was close quarters with the host – a basement mother-in-law apartment.  When I arrived I couldn’t see the address on the house because the driveway was taken up by two fifth wheel trailers.  Wonder if those were also rentals?  I also learned upon arrival that the family’s laundry facility was in the rental unit – so glad I was just staying one night.  Finally, earplugs were provided in lieu of soundproofing.

In Portugal I got a huge place for a low price.  What I didn’t get was any lighting in the stairwell, which made having enough battery for the flashlight on my phone at the end of each day extra important to make it safely up the four flights of stairs and find my door.  I also didn’t get any type of fan to help with the sweltering summer heat.  It was so hot in the apartment I ended up sleeping on the deck one of the nights – thank goodness for the hammock!  I also looked into staying at another Airbnb in small town Portugal, but between reviews stating how emotional and unreasonable one host was to the host of an “entire home” listing noting that he would be staying in one of the bedrooms and “always around,” I opted for a hotel.

In Spain I also got a great bargain on a sleek space.  Entry was a little bumpy since my host brought her two young boys with her when she gave me the keys and showed me the place.  The boys were pretty energetic and talkative, although I couldn’t understand a word of their Spanish, so I just nodded and smiled.  I got a little nervous when one of them grabbed my passport and then worried a little more when one of them made the keys disappear, resulting in a frantic few minutes of searching by my host and me until she found them under a pillow on the couch.

My Airbnb in Paris was another one where I was staying in the apartment where the host normally lives.  Unlike my stay in Colorado, this time it didn’t faze me.  Maybe it was because the place was nice and in good shape.  I was pretty much in awe of how this compact space seemed to have everything I needed.  No real “adventures” here, although I avoided a potential adventure/mishap by not doing laundry – the host told me his first renter managed to have his laundry get sucked into the washing machine.  I was thankful I had done laundry in Spain.

All in all, I’ve enjoyed my Airbnb adventures.  None of them have been perfect, but they’ve all provided me with safe and comfortable places to stay, and often the host has provided me with helpful personalized recommendations.  Plus, I always appreciate a good travel story.

The To Do List

When I told people I was going to leave my job and take several months off, two of the most common questions I was asked were “What are you going to do?” and “Are you going to blog about it?” Now that I’m about a week into my sabbatical, I still haven’t fully hammered out the answer to the first question, but based on my experience so far, I’m pretty sure whatever that answer ends up being won’t be interesting enough to write about (please ignore the fact that here I am writing about it….).

But for those who were wondering, here is a partial list of things I’ve done, plan to do or contemplated doing so far:

  • Make to do lists – I was surprised this work habit has carried over to the sabbatical, but it is very ingrained!
  • Curse this PNW “summer” we’re having so far – how can the weather suck even in Eastern Washington?!
  • Find new ways to procrastinate my first backpacking trip – the weather is definitely helping here
  • Obsess over hiking websites and Facebook pages
  • Picket outside the GOP and/or Democratic conventions
  • Write cranky letters to the editor of the Seattle Times
  • Send complaints to customer service departments of Fortune 500 companies
  • Write comment letters to the FASB and PCAOB on proposed accounting and auditing guidance
  • Think of ways to save money
  • Master my mojito recipe (cheaper than wine)
  • Embrace my inner Martha Stewart by making homemade food
  • Get a tattoo
  • Learn how to design apps so I can develop a food truck app that is actually useful
  • Gossip with retired people in my building
  • See matinees with retired people
  • Start stockpiling cats to work toward Crazy Cat Lady status
  • Resume my tour of Seattle cheap eats – Bok a Bok hit the spot last week, and I’m hoping to try a ramen burger this week
  • Resume my tour of lower mid-range hotels of Eastern Washington
  • Watch TV shows from April that are still on the TiVo – don’t tell me who won Survivor….
  • Order travel books
  • Try to convince my working friends to join me for happy hour at 3 pm

Am I missing anything important?