Saturday, August 23, 2014

Moving In Day at College

We sent Justin to college yesterday.

It is a not a brand new concept to him since he went to TAMS - a boarding high school.

But there are a few tangible changes from TAMS to college.

His distance from home changes from tens of miles to hundreds of miles. His away time from home changes from three weeks to a few months. Academic work will be much more rigorous, .....  On the first day at the college, we did not worry about any of these. We focused on move-in to the dormitory.

main building on Campus
The organization of the student move in at the university was very impressive - the process was well planned, no obvious traffic jams or slight indication of chaos. The administrators, student helpers for registrations were very capable of their duties. The student helpers and custodian staffs at the dormitory were friendly, helpful - two student helpers carried a few big boxes for us from unloading zones all the way to the room. A staff member promptly delivered a guard rail she promised. Beautiful campus, competent staffs! My favorable impression of the university just got a lot better.

We left the campus in about 90 minutes - the allotted time for unloading, then went to an off campus hotel. We went back to campus in the evening to pick Justin and two of his friends for a dinner at Hopdoddy Burger Bar - a trendy restaurant Justin picked.
Outside Hopdoddy
The restaurant is about 4.5 miles away from the campus. When we got there, there was a line outside the door - mostly young people. We waited for about 50 minutes to get to the counter to order the burgers and shakes. Another 10 minutes or so to have food delivered. The burger was good, the shakes were cold and tasty. The restaurant was crowded, noisy. But the college freshmen and a middle schooler all liked the place. One of them told me "It feels so lively!"

Inside Hopdoddy
We returned to campus around 9pm. The campus looked more beautiful at night!

In front of the dorm, mom hugged Justin longer than usual. We waved goodbye!  He started a new chapter of his life.We started a new chapter of our life as well.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Olympic and Mt Rainier Trip: Side Notes

Of course there were more than mountains, glaciers, flowers ..... the wilderness that we experienced during our trip. There were a few interesting episodes in the domesticated world as well.

Watching World Cup Game at DFW Airport Terminal

The day we left for the trip was also the final day of FIFA world cup preliminaries. There was one burning question for us - could Team USA advance to the round of 16? There was one more question for me - could my favorite team- Germany- win?

We checked the updates on smart phones from time to time while waiting for boarding our flight. USA - Germany were tied at the end of regulation, and overtime started. We could not bear the suspense any more, the boys went to a restaurant to watch the game live, and I followed a few minutes later. Germany won, and we stayed on to watch the Portugal - Ghana game wishing Portugal could win so that team USA would still advance. The latter game went to overtime as well ... one minute left and Portugal held a 2-1 edge .. but Ghana was getting close to evening the score,  the boarding of our flight started, and Lily's text came urging us to return to the terminal! Hold on just 30 seconds more, would you? Finally the whistle blew, the game was over and team USA advanced despite the defeat.

In about 8 minute span we watched 2 overtimes in two exciting soccer games - the suspense, the thrill, the excitement, the despair in defeat, and the relief ...

We were all satisfied with the outcome, and happy to board our flight to Seattle. It was a  good start to the trip!

Meeting friends at Seattle

We have a few friends at Seattle. Due to our tight schedule, we only had chance to have a get together with 2 of Lily's friends at a Korean restaurant on the evening we arrived at Edmonds, a suburb of Seattle.

With three families, 10 people, a full table of delicious food (we ordered too much food!) , a lot of conversations, it was a very pleasant dinner "party".

One will never get the tangibles in a face to face meeting from a social media connection.

Ferry,  Space Needle and Food court at Seattle

Lily and I have vivid memory of our first car ferry at Seattle some 20 years ago when we were still graduate students. The second ferry ride during this trip was from Bain Bridge Island  to downtown Seattle on a sunny day en route to Mt Rainier. The ferry was very fast for a big ship with hundreds of cars and their passengers.

Bridge to a Ferry
A short time after the ferry left the port, we saw a snow covered mountain in the southeast of Seattle, Mt Rainier! We knew that the mountain was close to Seattle, but did not expect to see it. This was a clear indication how tall the mountain is relative to its surroundings.

A few more minutes later, with a turn in direction by the ferry, Seattle downtown was in sight.

We walked around on the upper passenger deck to enjoy all the vistas.

Seattle Downtown
a Sculpture 
Space Needle was the main attraction for us at Seattle. It was worthwhile to get to the top of Space Needle - as we walked around the observation deck, we could see Mt Olympus in the Northwest, Mt Rainier in the Southeast, Mt Baker in the Northeast, ..... and of course the Seattle downtown under our feet!

When we looked far away from the haze, it was very beautiful all around.

Seattle Down tow with Mt Rainier in the background - view from Space Needle
Justin suggested that we went to a food court at Starbucks HQ for lunch after the Space Needle visit. Why there? I asked. He could not give a clear answer. I guessed that it was his curiosity combined with the myth and halo of Starbucks to young people. We went there.

a food truck at Starbucks HQ
The Starbucks HQ is situated at a non glamorous part of Seattle. There were 4 food trucks. There were a few tables along the pedestrian street outside the Starbucks building, a couple of tables were fully occupied - apparently some sort of lunch meetings. We ordered some Cajun food and ate at a table in the street. Not bad!

Good Food

We had only picnic food when we hiked in the mountains or along the coast during the trip, with exception for one lunch, which was at first beach of Olympic National Park, at Water's Edge, where we had great seafood, so I purposely steered the family away from fast food when possible. We had formal dinner almost every night during the trip: a Korean restaurant in Seattle; Log Cabin Resort Restaurant, Hungry Bear on 101, Pacific Pizza after visiting the rain forest, and the high end Lake Crescent Resort Restaurant - the setting was elegant, service was great, the food was delicious, and we were within Olympic national park. At Mt Rainier, we enjoyed great dinners at Paradise Inn Restaurant and National Inn Restaurant.

Water's Edge at First beach of Olympic National Park
Mt Rainier Indoor Activities

One great advantage and benefit of no wireless access or WiFi  is that we could focus on the real world, on the people we are with, and on things we do at the moment.

Because that there was no online chat, no Facebook, no online games ....the boys actually interacted with each other and played chess together - definitely a rarity.

Similarly Lily and I had no chance to check emails, LinkedIn, or read online newspapers. We went to a couple of rangers' programs in the evenings at Paradise Inn to share some interesting and enlightening moments with rangers and fellow outdoor enthusiasts. She read more chapters of a novel, and I enjoyed more sleep. It was total separation from work, and it was very relaxing.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Rivers, Water Falls and Lakes at Mt Rainier

Mount Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous U.S.A., spawning numerous creeks and rivers, and many water water falls along the course of rivers. There are also numerous glacier lakes at high altitude.

Navara Fall

Rainbow from the mist of Navara Fall
Glacier lake

another glacier lake


creek on the slop

frozen lake - water supply for Sunrise point

Suspension Bridge over a river

moss on the rocks in a creek

silver fall

bench lake

snow lake

river by the snow lake

Big suspension bridge at long mire

Christine Fall

Reflection Lakes

Sunday, August 3, 2014

An Early Morning at Lake Crescent

I woke up around 5 am on the first morning we were at Olympic National Park's Log Cabin Resort by Lake Crescent. Since the rest of the family were still sound asleep, I sneaked out of our lake front cabin for an early morning hike around part of the lake shore.

There was nobody else by the lake front or on the lake. I sat in front of our cabin, watching the clouds moving from east to west under the breeze, the lake rippling, and listening to the soft bird chirping which broke the silent early morning from time to time. 

As the clouds moved, the light on the lake varied and I noticed that there were two water fowls on a concrete slab - apparently a duck and a duckling. They preened themselves, looked around, and then rested their heads on their backs - lazily enjoying the quiet morning.

A corner of Lake Crescent
White Cloud
A duck and duckling

After about ten minutes, I walked west toward the shoreline, trying to reach the trail along the shoreline we saw the previous day while kayaking. At this corner of the lake, there was little wind, and the lake surface was mirror flat, reflecting the buildings and trees on the other side of the lake in the water. A pair of ducks disturbed the stillness of the water in the shallow, but the ripples they generated did not propagate too far.

A turn at the shore revealed a motor boat which was anchored by a rope tied to a post.

A creek blocked my path forward. I turned around and walked back to our cabin.
A couple in the lake

A boat at shore
I was still the only person at the lake front of the cabins. More birds were flying around, eating something on the beach, chasing one another, or resting on top of the warning sign at the beach. They were mostly small, seemingly the same birds. However, I could tell that there were quite a few different kinds of birds by their chirping. With the help of binoculars, I saw that the bird resting on the warning had yellowish breast, brownish neck, white stripped back and a bluish head; those frequent the beach looked similar, but had different color of feathers - brownish or grayish breasts. I suspect the noisiest birds were sparrows.

There were three or four pine trees by the pier of the resort which attracted a lot more birds. There was one black bird like a crow, which made beautiful sounds and had red patches on its wings; another bird had a black spot on top and a white band around its head, with a white breast, brownish back and black feathered tail. I believe that I saw a tiny humming bird in the tree as well, but I was not quite sure. The next morning as I was sitting in front of the cabin, a bird swished down from the roof and flapping its wings right in front of me  - a humming bird! Just as quickly it flew away, so I had no chance to capture it on camera.

I had the whole lake front and the world of birds all for myself for about 60 minutes -  totally immersed in the tranquility at Lake Crescent until the sound of the engine from a white car running on the south shore of the lake, over one mile away, reached me.

Another couple?

A curious black bird

Birds resting on a steel beam of an old building
Sky over Lake Crescent
Northwest Corner of Lake Crescent
Note: the next two mornings at Lake Crescent, I got up much later, and did not see many of the birds again.