Checking Things Off My Lists

Aunt Jamie, Caleb, Grandma Kitty

Aunt Jamie, Caleb, Grandma Kitty

Today will be an accomplished day…just like every other day I choose to blog about. Tent, dogs, showers, car…blah, blah…morning routine. We don’t want to arrive too early to Grandma Kitty’s house (Caleb’s maternal grandma), so we take a dangerous trek into a diseased tree area where branches may drop and trees may fall. We knock on her door at 8:00 am and she has already eaten breakfast and we hear roommates moving around. I am so happy that Caleb gets to spend any amount of time with family since they are so distant and many without the means to travel like we do.

Caleb tells her about our trip so far, we take a look at her plants’ progress in the backyard, and then the photo books come out while we sit on the couch – the ones with pictures that you can’t have printed anymore. There are some of Terri giving birth to Jessi and of Grandma skinny dipping in the local watering hole. There are others of the kids at the zoo, at home, and at the lake – all of these taken over 20 years ago. Our visit is cut short because Grandma has an appointment and we get lucky that Aunt Jamie is picking her up.


We thought we would have more time to visit with her and then begin to wonder whether Grandma will make it on time as Jamie is running late. To us it seems she does it on purpose to avoid meeting us but for a moment – and that’s all it is…enough to take a picture and they are getting in the car. Her excuse was that she got railroaded (meaning she got rushed into doing something). But this encounter is enough for me to check meeting her off the list.

We’ve spent over two hours in SeaTac and it’s time for us to go to the middle of Seattle where the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park (Seattle Unit) is located so that we may cross another park off the list. The more we see, the more that are created. It may be more difficult than we thought to see them all in a lifetime. We find shaded parking across the street and $15 will buy us three hours to explore.

Seattle became a busy port of stampeders in 1897 preparing for their passage via ship to the trail in the Yukon that would lead them to gold. Out of the estimated 100,000 people who left for the Klondike only 20% found gold, only 0.003%  of them made more than $15,000 in gold, and only 50 of those people were able to keep it to amount to something. The ones who made the most money at these events were the people selling gold pans and hot coffee at highly inflated prices.

All this at the expense of the local tribes having their land sold to the States by the Russians who might still be upset that they didn’t find the gold first. Or how things might have turned out had the Indians never helped the miners over Chilkoot Pass. Or how much more of Alaska would still be unexplored had it not been for the thrill of the wealth hunt. Greed plays a bad role in teaching cultures and families about the best ways to get along.

July 22, 1897

July 22, 1897

Caleb got a picture of a book from the 5th Annual International Sourdough Reunion held in Los Angeles in September of 1933. This group is interested in the pioneers of Alaska and preserving the history of the north and is holding their 85th reunion in Seattle this year. We were glad to find such close parking to the Park and within walking distance of the Market Theater which happens to be home to the famous Seattle Gum Wall.

The tradition started in 1993 and as we walk up to it (realizing we have no gum to add) it’s just as big and sticky and artful as I could’ve imagined. We hear lots of ‘ewws’, and ‘it’s so gross’, and ‘nasty’, etc. but I find the wall enticing – and like all good ideas mine came too late. I thought about pretending to lick the wall (or did I) to see how many more people I could disgust at this expression of boredom and creativity.


I can now check off seeing one of the Top Five Germiest Attractions; though also on the list is placing your hand in the prints left by the famous in the Forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Maybe I’m just not a germiphobe like the writers of the article or the people they interviewed. If only we had more time and hadn’t taken the dogs out of the car that was starting to shine in the sun we could have ridden the Great Wheel that stands 175 feet tall and opened on Pier 57 in June 2012 with tickets costing $13 per person except for the gondola with the glass floor.

There are tons of shops, a few musicians, a couple making out, a fountain, and a line of traffic on every street and we still manage to walk Piggy without anyone hitting her. Caleb stays outside with the dogs to watch the city worker play knee-high chess while his coworkers do their job (perhaps he’s just the supervisor) while I go inside to Grand Central Bakery and Café to order us a veggie sandwich on Peasant Levain bread.

It feels nice to have so many bread options at what appears to be a simple café, but in a city of bakeries each has to have something special to offer. We split that and the pickle spear sitting at a metal table in the shade with the dogs at our feet. I like being in a big city, but having that romantic feeling that it’s just us floating through all these new experiences. We make our way past the Fallen Firefighters Memorial dedicated in 1995 to four that lost their lives.

On the other side of the park is CenturyLink Field – home of the Seahawks (football) and the Sounders (soccer), and then it’s back to the car to drop the dogs off after realizing we have more time on our paid ticket. It’s different being in a city that requires its guests to pay to park, but I suppose it makes the residents feel safer knowing visitors must have lots of money to visit and are less likely to rob them…or that when someone does lose their job they have lots of wealthy homes and cars to choose from.

Our first stop is Cow Chips Cookies for a Mock Baby Ruth for me and a Nutty Cow for Caleb. While walking we get to see a weird sculpture, the entrance to something that was moved, a water fountain (almost as ancient as payphones), some colorful murals, and Waterfall Garden Park (also the birthplace of UPS). The falls are at least two stories tall running over large rocks with bushes and trees creating shade to sit in the chairs and on the concrete bench that runs the length of the relaxing corner in such a busy city. That will end this visit’s tour of Seattle and we will miss being in a part of the world that has so much to offer to the ears, eyes, stomach, feet, buttocks, and brain.


We have a big map book that contains the U.S., Mexico, and Canada with little red squares of sites to see. I ask Caleb if there are any on our way to Wenatchee Campground where we will be spending the evening as we had a change of plans due to a phone conversation with Uncle Ed that gave us a heads up on the road closure in the Cascade Mountains due to forest fires and mud slides – and his reply is yes.

Unknowingly to my BEP list, #51 back home, I agree to visit Big Four Mountain Ice Caves. Even with some construction, which we will see plenty of on the trip, we make good time and are soon on one of the easiest trails because it’s mostly boardwalk. The railing is high enough to keep Piggy from falling over, but the sound of a bridge still makes her nervous. I could just carry her across, but she needs the exercise as much as we do being in the car for such long periods.

I know some people make short life lists – get married, have kids, live in a house with a picket fence, drive a fancy car, and watch the game on a big screen TV. Others want to climb the tallest mountain, dive the deepest ocean, or fall dangerously in a squirrel suit. Some people will accomplish all their goals and others will look back on a semi-failed life. Being able to say that I did something on my bucket list makes me proud. We should all follow our dreams – no matter how silly as long as the end goal is being smarter and happier and sharing that with others.


The path turns to gravel as we turn a corner and see the waterfall that carves the caves in the pit of ice covered in snow that remains in the shade each year never fully thawing before the next snowfall. Then come the signs that we may fall into the ice and die or that the snow may fall and kill us – not the safest attraction we’ve been too, but also not the most dangerous. There is another sign saying our decision can be the difference between life and death and that medical help will take an hour to get here.

We do go off the trail which is dangerous enough, but only close enough to get two pieces of ice – one for Sparky to ‘shave’ with his paws and one for Piggy to lick. The snow is in constant drip while in direct view of the sun. We leave as soon as an Asian dad and son begin to hike up on the snow and don’t feel so bad as we pass the wife and daughter further down the trail (afraid to get too close) and hope the wife’s a doctor.

I can appreciate this moment even more. I remember when my dad went to Alaska and I couldn’t wait to see a picture of him on a glacier, but then I saw the videos of what a tiny crack can do to such a massive amount of frozen water – it’s enough to redesign the area, even if only temporarily by killing whatever lays in its way. So lesson learned: pretty things that can be dangerous too should be admired from a distance, not tested once proven fatal.

boardwalk to Big Four Ice Caves

boardwalk to Big Four Ice Caves

On the way back I notice more flowers, more white-barked trees, and a northern green frog. Caleb notices a stick by the river that he can throw in the water for Sparky to catch. I never let Caleb throw it farther than he can jump in and save Sparky should a wave or current ever catch him off guard. The water is cold, but Sparky knows he has a lap with a blanket in the sun waiting on him when we get back to the car, and me another item to check off a list – my bucket list!

The caves were a bit of a detour and I’m starting to get hungry so we pull over into Doug’s RV parking lot in Sultan while Caleb makes me mac-n-cheese. Doug or some other creepy guy stood in the back door and watched us the whole time. I was waiting for him to walk over and ask us to leave and when he didn’t I should’ve thanked him, but I took the finished noodles from Caleb and started eating while I put the car in reverse.


sign in a shop in Leavenworth

There is such a difference, for me, between being a passenger or driver – perhaps it’s a control issue, but I can still appreciate where someone else has taken me. I remember the familiar road turns and mountain views as we near Leavenworth, WA – a city I was lucky enough to visit two months ago with Uncle Ed and Aunt Lorraine while taking this same route in the back of their jeep.

This time the street lights are on and the shops are closing, but we are still able to sample some hot sauce in the store on the end of the main street and I can show him the entrance to the restaurant where I had kasespaetzle. We walk along the road behind this one, but find more darkness, drunks on skateboards, and a wooden fountain. We stand near the car and stare up at a building lit with Christmas lights. It could be lit with flaming turds, but we’re together and that makes everything more romantic. We make use of a nearby trashcan for a few items before leaving.

Thirty minutes later and we are pulling up to a lit park ranger booth at Wenatchee Confluence State Park where the man inside is pleased to tell us that he has two overflow spots left – we’ll take one. We pay our $23 and he gives us directions – down the road, left by the fence, and park by the RV. So we go down the road, run over a six-inch-square log about four feet long, and park near a picnic table.

Sparky and Piggy

Sparky and Piggy

Caleb starts to set up the tent as I make my way to the little girls’ room across a large party with glow sticks, a projector, a theater-sized popcorn maker, a large dog, and plenty of beer. I notice that the showers need tokens, not coins, and make a note to tell Caleb. On the way back I pass another couple that is unsure where to camp, so I assure them any table will be fine, but really I don’t know and think it weird all these spots are available.

Upon returning to our site another car arrives and I realize I’ve parked us on two sites, but they park on the other side of the RV. Then the ranger approaches to let us know that the large group has paid for the site, bathroom included, and would appreciate no more guests using their facilities…oops. Caleb goes back to the booth to get enough tokens for us both to take six-minute showers in the morning. Now, it’s time for sleep.

This entry was posted in Animals, Art, Camping, Education, Family, Food, History, People, Photography, Places, Plants, Things, Travel, Water and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Checking Things Off My Lists

  1. If by recent you mean over 20 years ago, then yes.


  2. JWise says:

    Okay I’m not done reading yet, but I know that I’m being cheated from you not sharing grandma skinny dipping; that would be recent right?


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