Turns out I'm going to graduate this May (insert-your-deity willing). If you follow my exploits at all, you know that I do an inordinate amount of traveling for my research: Tennesee, California, Maryland, Washington. This was a mixed blessing in that it has taken longer than I would have liked to finish my degree, but afforded opportunities to meet and network with many different people at different places of potential future employment.
First on the list was the lab in eastern Washington state. Well, I take that back--I always thought my best prospects would be the lab in eastern Tennessee, but a serendipitous job posting in WA (basically my thesis in job format) changed the game. This had the unplanned side-benefit of making the relatively remote Tri-Cities area look like prime real estate to the copilot in comparison to the dirrrty south. I went out for an interview last week, and the copilot joined me for the weekend. He did a project in Seattle for a couple of years, but this was his first trip to the eastern region. Just to provide some perspective, imagine your stereotype of Washington state--lush green trees, mountains, the overcast weather at a constant drizzle--now imagine the complete opposite. That's eastern Wash, arid and sunny, rolling hills, ideal for growing grapes. Hooray for Wine Country!
Another enticement for the copilot (and me, I suppose): drive as little as 80 miles, and you're in snow capped, ski-able mountains. We decided to go backcountry skiing, meaning find our own route and climb up the slopes instead of using lifts at a resort, near Alpental in Snoqualmie Pass. For Saturday, the copilot and I chose an alternate route from the one we had discussed earlier in the week based on the avalanche danger conditions. On the map, it looked like a short hike up to the treeline, then more hiking (with the skis on, called 'skinning') up to the summit, Granite Mountain.
We met a friend who lives in Seattle in the parking area at the foot of the mountain. Optimism was high.
|Gearing up with our buddy in the parking lot|
With no snow visible, we strapped our skis to our packs and hiked.
|This doesn't look like enough snow to ski on...|
|Fording one of several streams|
And hiked, and hiked, and hiked.
|The false dawn.|
Hey, some snow! We must be getting close...about an hour later, more hiking, and closer examination of the map indicated we were about halfway to the start of the real snow line. Carrying skis and walking in ski boots is worse than listening to Rick Santorum talk about his version of 'family values'. It was too late in the day to start another route, and by the time we got back to the car we gave up and bought a couple of lift tickets at Alptenal.
When the copilot and I got married a couple of years ago, we honeymooned in New Zealand during what was their winter. One of our many adventures was a trip to the one of the club ski fields called Craigieburn. The concept of the club fields is a good one: cheap operating costs and little overhead make for affordable skiing in a small area--but in reality it ended up being a miserable time. The unplowed one-lane gravel road turned into a sheet of ice near the top and we almost slid off into a ravine (they don't believe in guard rails in NZ), the snow was shit, and the lift was difficult to operate. Long story short, my day ended after the 40th or so unsuccessful attempt to ride the upper lift with me laying in the snow and quietly sobbing.
|Post-Craigieburn, circa 2009|
After that, the word 'Craigieburn' became synonymous with 'fiasco'. Granite Mountain = the next Craigieburn?
|Post-Granite Mountain, circa 2012-hey, same jacket!|
We managed to get some good turns in after all:
|Alpental 'side-country' saves the day|
Over some apres-ski drinks, our Seattle friend happened to mention that the nearby town of North Bend was home to the real-life site of the 'Double R Diner' used in the filming of the show Twin Peaks. Netflix had really been pushing Twin Peaks on me (we predict five stars for AC!), so I gave in and watched the whole series about six months ago (20 years after everyone else I was asking with anticipation, "Who killed Laura Palmer?") and became an instant fangirl. I may have clapped my hands in glee and made a little high pitched noise. The copilot took the hint and drove the 15 miles to North Bend.
|ZOMG best day ever!!!|
I tried reeeeally hard not to make a total ass out of myself despite the almost irresistible urge to immediately order some cherry pie and a damn fine cup of coffee. I played it cool. If you're ever in North Bend, I'd recommend Twede's Cafe (its actual name) not just for the novelty, but for an excellent selection of burgers and homemade fries.
We also planned on ski touring the next day...