Monday, August 19, 2013

Sunny Seattle Sojourn

Indian paintbrush, Mt. Rainier

Even though I saw English garden flowers at their best in Cambridge, Oxford and Bath in July, I hate to see a summer pass without hiking among American mountain wildflowers.  So, planning a trip that packed a number of highlights into a week, I flew to Seattle.  First stop:  Woodston Cottage (named after Henry Tilney's home in Northanger Abbey), in Snohomish.

Woodston Cottage

Me at Woodston

Woodston Cottage is the home of Laurel Ann Nattress of the Austenprose blog, but her justly renowned blog is not the only work of her heart:  Woodston is also her beloved creation, labor of love, and, it is not too much to say, a work of art, of English style and gracious living, albeit on a small scale.  But I, who have adored Little Houses since Laura Ingalls Wilder days, find in Woodston Cottage no less than an enchanted dream. 

Dinner table at Woodston
 Dinner at Woodston:  fresh picked local corn, salmon, salad, sourdough bread...Yum!

 Chandelier and sunflowers

The fortunate guest at Woodston Cottage is pampered like a queen, or at least as Jane Austen herself would be, could she come back to life.  Laurel Ann has the gift of knowing exactly what people like to eat, and of making her fresh and exquisitely prepared food look as beautiful as it is good.  Her breakfast table, out in the garden, is delectable to contemplate:

English breakfast in an English garden
Her home-made scones are the best I've ever eaten, and I speak as someone who has eaten a Bath cobblestone mile paved with them in England.  As for the garden:  Laurel Ann was a horticulturist in another life, and it shows!  The hollyhocks, the foxgloves, the roses...Agnes de Mille wrote of her mother's famous garden in 1910 California, "Many a homesick Englishman has stood silent before those beds until Mother led him in to tea."  They would feel that way at Woodston, too.
Evening at Woodston
Companion at Woodston - the beautiful, shy Herman
 Essence of Woodston:  flowers and cat
Snohomish is a famous antiques town, and we spent a day doing the rounds almost to my heart's content!  Here's just the yellow glass section at the Star, the biggest and most overwhelming shop:
What did I buy?  Why, Sadler teapots for my copper luster porcelain teapots collection, of course.  Here they are at home:

 On Sunday, Laurel Ann drove me to a meeting of the Jane Austen Society of Puget Sound, at the lovely home of Kimberley Brangwin, overlooking the Sound.  I gave a short talk, and then enjoyed reuniting with friends in the chapter.  Lovely glimpse of Seattle social life by the sea!
Laurel Ann and I with author Katherine Reay.
Me and Laurel Ann
Kimberly, our lovely hostess
After the meeting Laurel Ann (who had been madly driving me around all weekend) kindly took me to the airport where I picked up my rental car, and then I took off for the second half of my trip:  Mt. Rainier!

 I was to meet my longtime hiking friends Mike and Leelee, with their daughter Karen, son-in-law Matt, and granddaughter Bridget, at Alta Crystal Resort near the Sunrise entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park.  It was a lovely drive as the roads became more rural and after passing through the town of Enumclaw, I started driving up the mountain.
The inn's pussycat welcomed me, sitting on top of Mike's car.
A much wilder feline than Herman of Woodston.
Our first full hiking day, we hiked the Tipsoo Lakes-Naches Peak Loop, a relatively short and easy trail, very beautiful with everything I was hoping for:  wildflowers, lakes, views of Mt. Rainier, and none of it too hard on my bad knee.  Here are pictures from that hike:



Me with Leelee and Mike
The next day's hike was not as good for me; it was to Summerland, and was about 8 miles with switchbacks, so I bailed out halfway through and walked back by myself (having a narrow encounter with a bear).  After making myself eggs for lunch at the condo, I sallied out again and went up the gondola at Alta Crystal, for some nice views of Rainier and Mt. St. Helens. 

Afterwards I rejoined my friends for a very good hamburger dinner at a pub down the road. 

Me with Leelee, Mike, Bridget and Matt
Leelee, Mike, Karen, Matt and Bridget
And we finished off the day with a campfire and S'mores back at the Gateway.

The last day's hike was the best.  We drove around the mountain to the Paradise entrance, and the hike on the Skyline Trail was like Paradise indeed.  It was a loop of about five miles, with an altitude gain of 1,700 feet, up to an elevation of 7,100, so even though my knee kept me hiking very slowly, particularly on the downhill, I was no end chuffed to see that I could do it - anybody who could complete this hike, is still a hiker, no question!
The wildflowers were sublime as heart could desire, as witness this field of lupines.  More pictures from the hike: 
Matt and Bridget slid down the snowfields

At the top!  The Upper Skyline, above Panorama Point

Me and Mike, old hiking friend and fellow wildflower enthusiast

Flowers and snow - typical on Mt. Rainier

Alpine phlox

Peevish looking Western Marmot

Paradise Inn
Owing to my slowness, it was late when we got back to Paradise Inn, but we had a wonderful dinner in the elegant old dining room there - I had wild mushroom soup, salmon with wild rice, and blackberry pie with ice cream.  We hadn't been able to get rooms there, so we drove out the park entrance to the Gateway, comfy kitchy old cabins, spent the night there and had a good breakfast. After that we parted and I had a very fraught drive to the airport - got lost in a heavy rainstorm (good thing it didn't rain earlier and spoil our hiking!), was stuck in massive traffic in Tacoma, occasioned by the start of some outlandish Hemp Festival.  Made it to the airport with only half an hour to spare, but had a swift smooth flight back to my own dear home, boys, and cats.