Friday, July 31, 2009

Old Seattle: Pioneer Square

Those early Seattle settlers I mentioned yesterday moved to the eastern shore of Elliott Bay when the West Seattle peninsula winters got too rough. Pioneer Square is where they settled. It's a trendy, thriving piece of the city now, but when urban activity moved north in the 1930s, (around the same time Pike Place Market opened), Pioneer Square was abandoned. Developers had an eye on this area in the 1960s: they wanted to make it into a parking garage. Its citizens were able to preserve it citing its precious architecture from the late 1890s. After a devastating fire, Pioneer Square was rebuilt with many of its new buildings designed by architect Elmer Fisher.

[This sounds a lot like my hometown, Cape May: the devastating late-1800s fire, city rebuilt in Victorian style, contemporary developers wanting to level our favorite landmarks for parking!]

This landmark, the J&M Cafe & Cardroom, was unfortunately closed whe I visited.
So was this building, although less permanently closed than the cardroom. However, I saw no evidence other than its name that it has anything to do with quilts.

This is a cool part of town, even in a heat wave (did I mention this week's record-breaking heat wave?). I could only afford to window-shop after I blew my travel budget in Elliott Bay Books, but what a cool bookstore. [Cape May needs something like this!] I researched book events here before my trip and found author talks there almost daily with even more events in collaboration with the public library and area cultural organizations. I could only feasibly fit in one event, so I chose an author talk by Rick Bass, author of The Wild Marsh and a number of others. I enjoyed a peach smoothie in the Elliott Bay Cafe before the talk. Rick Bass came out at 7:30ish and talked about his book describing the wild place where he lives in Montana. I enjoyed knowing that people outside the place he writes about read his writing. [I've been warned that people outside Cape May are not going to read anything creative I write about my place.] But Rick Bass writes so descriptively and lovingly about his life in Montana's Yaak Valley with his wife and daughters that his book is a joy to read. [I can do it!] He wrote good wishes to me and my writing in my book afterwards.

Pioneer Square has a nautical feel to it thanks to the nearby waterfront and sailors on leave walking around town. (I saw lots!) This store, CuttySark, was devoted to nautical antiques and collectibles, and luckily was closed when I discovered it or I'd have yet another box of shipped Seattle souvenirs arriving at my house next week (besides the books and quilt fabric).

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Seattle: I Covered the Waterfront

In spite of temperatures climbing close to triple digits, or perhaps because of the heat, I spent the first part of Tuesday on the Seattle Waterfront. I like how in summer there is a cool breeze coming off the water and out on a boat I can feel chilly even on a hot day. I started at the Seattle Aquarium, a small but interesting aquarium relatively speaking. There are no trained dolphins here as the emphasis is on education and research. That sounds dull, but the aquarium isn't. I still can't say I've seen a live octopus, but I saw one of the arms of the aquarium's Giant Pacific Octopus called Buster. I hung around the octopus tank for the Octopus Talk and learned a few things: the octopus changes color from snowy white to a bright coral, and it uses its tentacled arms to pull food into its beaked mouth which is actually on its underside. The speaker showed us the mouth on a puppet since Buster the Seattle Giant Pacific Octopus was not coming out of his den no matter how many creepy crustaceans they tempted him with. We could see him change color, though, and that was something.

Near the octopus tank is the arch of jellyfish called Moon Jellies, a plexiglass arch filled with water. Jellyfish swim through this and are lighted with different colors. It is an imaginative way to display jellyfish, not my favorite sea creatures. The Sixgill Shark Research Station is in this section, too. The sixgill is the kind of shark found in these waters, evidently a docile member of that family.

A scenic overlook leads to the Harbor Seals and Sea Otters along with other mammals. The Sea Otters were particularly playful. At the beginning and end of the walk through the aquarium is the Window on Washington Waters, a cool display of local fish.

I took this shot from the cafe balcony. I ate lunch there with a gull, a little fancier than the New Jersey gulls I know.

And then my ship finally came in.

It's called the Harbor Cruise, but technically it takes visitors around Elliott Bay. This company, Argosy, is celebrating their sixtieth anniversary this year. A knowledgable guide named Raymond told us all about the skyline, the waterfront, the industry surrounding the waterfront (grain is big along with fish), and the early history of the area. The original pioneers from Chicago thought they'd make a new, western Manhattan on the peninsula of (now-called) West Seattle, across the bay from what is now Seattle. The winters here were brutal, so they gave up and moved to what is now the Pioneer Square section of Seattle (tomorrow's blogpost). Now West Seattle is a bedroom community for the city, and its citizens get to work by ferry. Bridges wouldn't be feasible because the bay is quite deep. We saw quite a few US Coast Guard ships (making me feel at home--all those guys trained at Cape May, you know), enormous gantry cranes shipped here whole on special ships from China, and a floating drydock. I liked the Harbor/Bay Cruise: it's amazing what you can learn in just an hour. In fact, did you know that it takes one day less to get to Asia from Seattle than from Los Angeles? It's called the Seattle Shortcut.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lakota Wolf Preserve

Way up near the Delaware Water Gap in Columbia, NJ, there are wolves to visit. I met Tony at the Lakota Wolf Preserve yesterday for a look around through Nikon (me) and Canon (him) glass. Through two layers of chain-link fence, we managed to get some great photos of these beautiful animals.

After registering at the little store, we were driven up to the Wolf Preserve in a bus over "unimproved roads." Dan Bacon, a co-owner of the preserve, gave a long interesting talk about the tundra, timber and arctic wolves while tossing them dog cookies. Dan insists that the wolves are harmless to humans and demonstrated their friendliness by scratching their chins through the fence. There are four fenced-in areas, each with its own resident wolf family. Each group has its own alpha. Alphas are determined while the wolves are just pups. There are no auditions; they just know. These wolves eat nothing but venison (and dog cookies), and this would explain why there is little roadkill on Warren County streets and highways.
I was dumbstruck by The Howl. Over twenty wolves all around us howling at the same time: just imagine it!
After a generous wolf talk and lots of photos, we went to see the bobcats. They look like big housecats. This is what their former owners thought until the cats matured and displayed their wild tendencies (and fragrance). Their owners are allowed into their front yard because they usually carrying food. In this shot, the food is turkey franks, but this is only a part of their diet (don't ask).
The red foxes also eat turkey franks plus lots of fruit. I didn't know that red foxes aren't always red, but the white tip of their tails identifies them as this variety. Neither of the two red foxes at Lakota are actually red: one is blonde and the other black with white. This is Sierra, the blonde girl, with a beat-up basketball.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Leaming's Run

I've passed the sign for Leaming's Run hundreds of times on Route 9 just north of Cape May Court House dozens of times and always meant to stop in and see what they offer. It would be hard to beat the gorgeous blooms of Hereford Inlet about which I blogged earlier (see below). As it turned out, Leaming's Run is an entirely different kind of garden...

First, the flowers here are predominantly annuals. There's not a purple cone flower in sight! Most are arranged in color-coordinated flower beds viewed from a wooded trail. But before you finish saying "ho hum" consider that part of this forest is bamboo! These very tall, perfect-looking stalks create an unusual environment as you walk the trail. Their leaves create a canopy high above human heads, and the older leaves carpet the ground.

Crowing roosters announce that a barnyard setting might be just ahead, and sure enough, there's a replica of the seventeenth century two-room house the first Mr. Leaming may have lived in. The current owner and gardener, Jack Aprill, created a replica farmhouse, barn and chicken coop among the farm-style gardens here. The chickens are actually special breeds from arround the world with fancy crests atop their heads and silly-looking feet.

Moving along the wooded trail, the next surprises are in the landscape: ponds, bridges, and natural tableaux perfect for photographing flowers, reflections and each other. I was lucky that these blue-clad ladies were visiting the gardens when I was there. They gave some of my photos interesting color contrast. (This area of the gardens kind of reminded me of Monet's gardens at Giverny!)

After walking through another section of the bamboo forest, the visitor comes upon the original permanent Leaming residence built in 1706. Mr. and Mrs. Aprill bought the house in 1957 and raised their family here. Mrs. Emily Aprill happily greets visitors in the Cooperage where she sells her own dried flower arrangements and a selection of books they have written about gardening and Leaming's Run in particular.

The whole walk takes about ninety minutes, but it's definitely worth the stop. Cameras are a must!

Monday, July 13, 2009


Look at those eyelashes!!

On Saturday, Amy, Jeff and I took a ride to visit an alpaca herd at Jersey Shore Alpacas. This is a very friendly farm in Green Creek, (near Rio Grande) New Jersey with twelve much-loved alpacas roaming in a paddock. Once they suspect that their visitors might have carrots, though, they approach the fence and try to look their cutest. Tish and Jim, their human “parents” supply visitors with the coveted carrots, and the alpaca ladies in the front yard good-naturedly compete for the tasty treats. We couldn’t help smiling at these friendly creatures with their giant eyes, long eyelashes and comical hairdos (called top knots).
Jersey Shore Alpacas is a great place to visit for something different to do at the shore. We were thinking of going to the Cape May County Zoo for the afternoon, but I had been by there a few days before and the traffic waiting to get in reminded me of that at the Holland Tunnel! The secret of our great (free) Cape May County Zoo seems to have gotten out, so it might get relegated to my list of things to do during the off-season months.

The alpaca farm (also free) satisfied our need for animal interaction, especially since Tish and Jim both came out to visit with us and tell us about the alpacas. This spring, three babies, or crias, were born, so we heard all about them while we watched them romp around the yard.
Zelda, General Patton (born on Memorial Day), Miss Sera are the three cute new family members born this spring:
One of the moms, Andina:
It’s kind of hard to look at woolen items on a hot summer day, but we did in their Absolutely Alpaca! store. I’ll be back when it’s cooler to get some winter gifts, I’m sure. There’s even sumptuous yarn made from the award-winning fleece of some the resident alpacas which would be a cool gift knitted or crocheted into a luxurious scarf or hat. Tish does some of the knitting for the shop herself, and I may take advantage of her skill when I go back to shop. also had a laptop set up in the store with pictures and videos of the recent shearing and the birth of General Patton.
Jersey Shore Alpacas is open on Saturdays year 'round from 10-4 and in July they are also open on Thursdays and Fridays. There's no admission charge, but if you go, tell them Margaret sent ya!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hereford Inlet Lighthouse and Gardens

Wow! I have been meaning to visit the Hereford Lighthouse in North Wildwood for years now, but just haven't gotten around to it until now. An online gardening friend tipped me off that their gardens are spectacular and should be at peak right now. The gardens are really spectacular with plenty of flowers that grow in the shore climate such as hibiscus, hollyhocks and hydrangea. So here's a taste:

There was a shaded path leading to the inlet. I'd never been here before and it looks like a great place to walk the dog, bike, run, or sit on a bench and read. Here's a photo from the ground, and one from the top of the lighthouse.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot! We toured the lighthouse, too. they call it "The Victorian Lighthouse" as it's built of wood more like a house than a traditional lighthouse. Very interesting!