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Friday, July 24, 2009

Sun Mountain - Day 2 (Friday)

This was day 2 at Sun Mountain lodge in Winthrop, WA, 7/24/09. Read Day 1 here.

The boys and I got up early (early for us is before 9:00) and went to breakfast at the Sun Mountain Lodge. Cam and I ordered the Eggs Benedict (the hollandaise was a little too sour for us -- too much lemon?) and Drew got the pancakes.


After breakfast, we went to the game room, where we played ping pong, pool, and foosball. Cameron really got into learning how to play pool, but Drew kept interfering. So we left.


Smoke Jumper base


After playing in the game room, we drove to Winthrop -- about 10 miles from the Sun Mountain Lodge -- and then on to the North Cascades Smoke Jumper base. This is the actual base where smoke jumping was invented. In short, Smoke jumpers parachute out of airplanes and then create a fireline against a current blaze. As you can imagine, it's dangerous, difficult work.

Smoke Jumper base

On this particular day, there was a lot of activity around the base. Thunderstorms from the night before had started fires all over the Cascade Mountains, and smoke jumpers from Oregon and elsewhere were coming to help out. Helicopters were landing to pick up water to drop on fires, and other airplanes were landing.

Smoke Jumper plane 

One of the great things about going to the smoke jumper base is you get a tour from a smoke jumper. The smoke jumper paraloft, where they store their equipment and parachutes, always reminds me of the shellhouse at the University of Washington. Smoke jumpers and oarsmen also have similar personalities and physiques.

Smoke Jumper paraloft

Chasing wildlife

When we got back to Sun Mountain Lodge, we found a bunch of Blue Grouse on the grounds. The boys kept trying to get close to them, which made it difficult for me to get good pictures. Here's what the females look like:

Blue grouse

Later, when we came back from lunch we found a lone deer standing on the grounds. A bunch of people got pictures with the deer (as if she was a celebrity), but I told the kids to stay away from her.

Then, the deer did something totally unexpected: She lay down. This made me realize how comfortable they are at Sun Mountain -- even if tourist do like to take pictures of them.


BBQ and swimming

Due to more thunderstorms and rain, the barbeque that's usually held at the lake was moved to the lodge. This was the same place we'd eaten the night before.

We ate with the chair of the board, his wife, and their two grandchildren -- as we were going to watch the kids after the BBQ so Bud and Bonnie could hold a wine tasting in their room.

The kids went to the pool and swam until close to 10:00 p.m.! I went in with them, but the pool was surprisingly cold due to the cool weather we'd been having. I spent most of the time in the hot tub.


 Chapel (L) and Cameron (R)

After that, the kids watched a movie and when the grandchildren left our room, Cam and Drew fell asleep in minutes.

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posted by AndyO @ 10:26 AM   1 comments links to this post

Thursday, July 23, 2009

North Cascades Highway to Winthrop (Thursday)

This was day 1 at Sun Mountain lodge in Winthrop, WA, 7/23/09. Read Day 1 here.

On Thursday, we drove to Winthrop Washington for a conference for Brenda at Sun Mountain Lodge. Our route took us 200 miles on the winding North Cascades highway through lush forests -- and the occasional town or gas station -- ascending into some of the most beautiful alpine scenery in the United States.

When we stopped at a bathroom for Brenda and Drew, I saw a group of teenage hikers getting their gear together. I asked where they were going, and one of them told me "five days in the Cascades."

At the bathroom in the North Cascades 

Unfortunately, Drew fell down as he ran back to the car, and Brenda and I had to bandage him up.

Drew has a bandage

As we drove on, Drew was inconsolable, complaining about the bandage we'd put on his leg. He told us we were going to have to carry him everywhere -- and at one point demanded that we turn around and go back to Seattle. He finally stopped crying when Cameron let him draw on his Nintendo DSi.

Then came my favorite part of this journey: a 180-degree turn that signals the descent into the Methow Valley. The grade is so steep, we continued driving along at 75 mph without any gas for 10 miles. It's probably the closest I'll get to flying an airplane.

We finally made it to Winthrop by 5:00 p.m. It's always interesting to see Winthrop's wooden sidewalks and Old West architecture. We then drove along a winding, 10-mile mountain road to our final destination: Sun Mountain Lodge. The brochure says it's the only Triple-A rated Four Diamond hotel in Washington (for 15 years straight).

There are few hotels that match the spectacular views you get here.

The view from Sun Mountain

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posted by AndyO @ 10:41 PM   0 comments links to this post