The Nick and Riah Experience

This blog was created by Nick and Riah soon to be Mrs. Nick.  We have had the privilege to stay at the American Alps Ranch with Uncle Rick and Aunt Brenda.  Our journey began on Tuesday 3/24/09 in sunny and warm Bakersfield, California.  I convinced Riah that it would be fun to just drive straight through.

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Twenty two hours later with only one hour of sleep and five tanks later, we finally arrived!

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 Thursday, Nick and I went sight seeing in Rockport which is eight miles south of Marblemount.  This picture was taken on  the Skagit River Trail.  Can’t beat the scenery here!  We don’t get to see this much in California.  I was so amazed to see how clear the water is and how lush the forest is.

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Saturday, we ventured up river on Highway 20 towards Newhalem and wound up at the Newhalem Visitors Center, to our dismay it was closed.  That didn’t discourage us so we went for a hike on the River Loop Trail.  About ten minutes into our hike we heard a strange siren that reminded us of a tornado warning ( that we’ve only heard in the movies because California isn’t tornado country), that was when we started to get concerned.  Not knowing the area and the fact that we were the only people out in the woods, Nick had called his aunt Brenda which wasn’t much comfort to us because she said one long continuous siren meant that the dam had broken.  Fortunately for us, it was a short siren which we still don’t know what that was all about.  We brushed it off and continued on with our hike.

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 We just can’t get over how clear the water is here!

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This is a first, I’ve never seen this sign before in California!

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 This is the result of an avalanche, a beautiful waterfall was formed!  This was one of many avalanches we came across that day.

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The Snow is Finally Melting

We are beginning to see signs that spring may arrive here soon.  Areas that were covered with snow just a few days ago are now clear.

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 Here are the  remains of our winter garden still covered in snow three days ago.  We covered this row of broccoli, carrots and lettuce in December to protect it from the weather and let it winter over.  It was a really good plan, except for the huge amount of snow we got this year.  Our PVC pipe and clear plastic were no match for the 5 to 6 feet snow and ice.

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Our supports ended up looking like some kind of wierd modern art sculpture.  Sadly the broccoli and lettuce were terminal.

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The carrots survived.  If we get some sunshine they will probably do well.

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After the snow melted, we uncovered the rest of the garden rows to let them get some sun.  It is still far too cold to plant anything outside, but I am starting my seedlings indoors.

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As the snow began receeding on the front yard, we noticed some very interesting patterns.  mole-tracks-grass

Apparently we have moles.  They have been very busy under the cover of the snow tunneling – or whatever it is moles do – all over our front yard.  How do you get rid of moles?

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There is still snow in patches, especially on the north side of buildings and in the shade.  It may be April this year before it all disappears.

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There is still quite a lot of snow – 2 to 3 feet – in the back meadow and pasture.  Rick couldn’t wait to try out the Scout in the snow.

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 With it’s re-built engine and new tires and all the other stuff he did to it, the Scout did very well in the snow.  We drove it to the post office later and there were no loud backfires; really kind of boring.

Aggies Visit North – part 3

Megan and Brandon’s trip concluded with a visit to Pike Place in Seattle. If you have ever seen the guys in Seattle throwing fish and singing songs for the tourists, that is at Pike Place.

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There are also some great restaurants there, this is one of our favorites and has a great view of Elliott Bay too.  The boat behind Megan is one of the Washington State Ferries heading towards the islands west of Seattle.  Many people live on the islands and commute via ferry into Seattle every day.

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There is awesome seafood available at several seafood booths.   They will pack it on ice to last up to 48 hours or ship it aywhere for you.

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Steelhead are in season right now.  I wonder if these started out in our local hatchery?

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There are also many, many other booths and shops at the market.  They carry all sorts of local foods, crafts, artwork, and whatever else you can think of.  All the food and edibles are produced locally and very fresh.

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Who doesn’t need a pair of cow boots?

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These local jams, jellies and sauces are wonderful. The blackberry honey is my favorite.

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There are ethnic ingredients and cuisines available as well.

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The pastries are a temptation.

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I didn’t know that many types of pasta even existed.

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The fresh fruits and vegetables looked really good.

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And the tulips and daffodils came from our own Skagit Valley.  There are fields and fields of them in the Mount Vernon area that will be blooming in the next couple of months.  They also have large greenhouses where they force some of them for early availability.

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There are also some quite unique characters wandering around.  Some sing, some tell stories.  I have no idea what this guy does – maybe balloon animals?  He won the prize for the most interesting person we saw on this trip.

And then the Megan and Brandon got on a plane for the long red eye flight back to Texas.  They arrived safe and sound in Aggieland and are now hard at work on the rest of the spring semester.

Aggies Visit North Part 2

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To continue with Megan and Brandon’s visit here, we walked over to the fish hatchery that is across the river from our place.  Brandon is a fisherman, but I don’t believe there are a lot of salmon or steelhead in south Texas.

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These are the incubation trays where the eggs are hatched.  There is a whole room full of these racks of trays

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Then the fish are moved to another room filled with these big tanks.  Rick is standing in front of a tank filled with Chinook Salmon.

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There are a LOT of tiny fish in each tank.  When we were there for the open house last spring they had cards on each tank telling how many fish it contained.  Many were 700,00 to 800,000 with some up to a million fish per tank.  They are so thick that when you first look into the tank it just looks dark – until you realize that dark blob is thousands and thousands and thousands of fish.

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As the fish get larger they are moved into the outside tanks.  These tanks are covered with the nets to keep the eagles and other birds from having them as a snack.  The bears also have a habit of hanging out close to the hatchery. . . as do the hunters looking for bear.  Seems kind of unfair to me, but I guess that is another blog.

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The last stop before the fish are released into the river are these large grow out tanks.

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These are rainbow trout.

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After the fish hatchery we were on our way back to Seattle so Megan and Brandon could catch their flight back home.

We have been experiencing lots of difficulties with our internet connection lately, making it really hard to upload pictures for the blog.  Hopefully our service is going to improve, in the meantime I’m going to try some shorter ones with fewer pictures.  So stay tuned for our visit to Seattle and Pike Place in part 3.

The Aggies Visit North, Part 1

Megan and her boyfriend Brandon flew up from Texas for a visit during their spring break.  It was Brandon’s first visit to the Pacific Northwest and Canada, so we tried to show him a lot of the area.  It was great to see both of them and a busy week.  We drove to Vancouver, British Columbia which is about a two and a half hour drive from our house.

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Vancouver is a great city that feels very international to us.  You hear lots of different languages spoken and lots of ethnic cuisines are available.  There is a nice harbor where the cruise ships heading to Alaska dock and a huge park.  Stanley Park is a green oasis on the edge of  the city- it reminds me of Central Park in New York City.

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We didn’t have a lot of time to spend in Vancouver, but it was fun while we were there.  We took the BC Ferry from the city of Vancouver – actually the ferry terminal is in Tsawwassen, British Columbia – over to Vancouver Island where Victoria is located.

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British Columbia has their own very nice ferry system.  The BC Ferry we took was the largest one we had ever been on.

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Like the Washington State ferries, there are large and small sizes, depending on the amount of traffic on a run.

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We were on one of the largest ones, holding about 250 cars on one deck with semi-trucks, buses, motorhomes, etc.  on the lower deck.  A total of about 400 vehicles per trip, plus the passengers. cars-parked

The inside feels like a parking garage – one that moves.  The seas were very calm that day and it was a beautiful trip to Vancouver Island.

The Fairmont Empress Hotel sits at the head of Victoria harbor.  It is a beautiful, old hotel; a landmark of the city.

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While we were in Victoria, Megan and I took afternoon tea at the very elegant Empress Hotel.  Rick and Brandon were not impressed or interested in afternoon tea, so they went to watch an IMAX movie.  We had a nice visit to Victoria, then sailed back to Tsawwassen and crossed the border back to the U.S.  We enjoyed our time in Canada and both the Aggies got stamps in their passports.

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After we returned to Washington and rested for a day, we drove up to the Mt. Baker Ski area.  If we could travel straight over the mountains it is only about 20 or 25 miles from our house.  Unfortunately there are no roads that way, so we have to drive all the way down our valley, north to the next valley and up to the ski area.  It takes about two hours to get there.  There was a lot of snow on the ground and at the edges of the road it was piled high where the snowplows had cleared.  It was raining / snowing the whole day.

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Not the very best ski conditions, but having come all the way from Texas the Aggies were determined to ski.

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The shiny plastic things over their jackets are rain vests.  The conditions were so wet it would penetrate even your “rain proof” ski jackets.

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After a couple of runs, they were both soaked.  So they came inside and bundled up some more before venturing back out in the rain, snow and slush. Mt. Baker is a nice ski area and they had a good time skiing in spite of the conditions.

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Not getting enough of playing in the snow while skiing, they went sledding on our little hill the next day.   Most of our land is pretty flat, but Brandon is heading down our one little hill.

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It was over 80 degrees when they left Texas, and the weaather there is consistently hot and humid, so they enjoyed the snow and cool weather here for a change.

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Even falling off the sled, Brandon is a true Aggie – note the Gig’em sign.

For those of you not familiar with Aggie culture, there are several other Texas schools with which they enjoy a  long, heated rivalry.  Their hated arch enemies are the University of Texas Longhorns, followed closely by Texas Tech and Texas Christian (TCU) and pretty much every other university in Texas.  They have a long tradition of derogatory gestures, symbols and sayings for each of these enemy schools, some of which we will not print in this family blog.  The one for the TCU Horned Frogs (yes, that is really is their official mascot) is Gig’Em!

Snow, Snow, Snow

I must admit we really didn’t think there would be this much snow still on the ground so late in the season.  Last year everything was melted off completely by the second week in March.  Much to the dismay of everyone here but us, we still have a good 18 inches to 2 feet on the ground, higher in the drifts . . . and more is expected this weekend.

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The skiers and snowboarders (and maybe the resort owners) are the only ones who are happy about the snow.  It is really beautiful though.  And the air is crisp and clean and there are some incredible cloud formations.

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This is a little clearing we call fern meadow.  It is covered with bracken ferns all summer.

Doesn’t it look nice in snow?

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All the snow and ice this winter has done some damage.  We have several broken trees and branches.  Firewood for next year.

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Just because the snow looks beautiful doesn’t mean it is easy to maneuver around.  Our walkway was completely covered, so Rick had to shovel it out.  After all the rain and freezing weather it was frozen solid.  I think this having to dig things out part is why our neighbors are so sick of the snow.  From my position in the rocking chair on the porch it didn’t seem bad though.

Back to the Ranch

We have finally arrived back at the ranch safe and sound. It feels like we have been away a long, long time. It is good to be back.

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We have gone back in seasons as it is still winter here and we had full spring in California.  The weather was warm and the orchards were full of blossoms and bees.

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The colorful blooms were a very pretty sight driving up the valley.

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Here is my view of Rick’s truck towing the Scout as we travel north on I-5.

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The farther north we traveled, the more the weather turned cold and rainy.  The passes in Oregon were snowy.

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There is a foot to two feet of snow on the ground at the ranch.  In some drifts it is closer to three or four feet.  There has been up to five or six feet of snow at a time during December and January.  The folks around here are thoroughly sick of snow.  We don’t mention that we think it is kind of neat to see as we have spent most of the winter in California – I don’t think they want to hear that.  We had almost an inch of rain and light snow flurries last night and this morning.  There is more snow expected on Saturday.  Not a popular forecast, but it is coming again!  Nevertheless, we are happy to be back.