Springtime in Seattle

Read on to learn about my weekend in beautiful Washington!

Hey, everybody!

This post is part two of my spring travels post-Salt Lake City.  After the trip to the Northeast, my next adventure was a weekend in Washington (state #35 for me)…

The weekend started with a flight into SeaTac airport and my first car rental ever.  The airport was rather navigable, in my opinion, and I found Enterprise to be a great service to choose for a first-time car renter (although $200 would normally have been hefty for a single weekend if I hadn’t been desperate).  I drove a blue Hyundai Elantra for the weekend, and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it after the first 20 minutes of adjusting.  I left the airport with relative smoothness and headed north, delayed only by a cool drawbridge before arriving in downtown Seattle.  I stopped by the Pike Place Market (because you pretty much have to in Seattle and definitely should) and picked up some cherries and dates after perusing most of the market.  I didn’t really have the budget or resources to buy and use fish, so I settled for fresh fruit.  I also would have liked to try Turkish Delight, but the restaurant’s hours didn’t match my schedule.  If you are grabbing lunch in the Market, I strongly recommend Michou Deli; I had a dangerously delicious chicken sandwich with fresh toppings and smooth aioli.

After touring the Market, I headed north through the city and went to the Seattle Arboretum.  The Japanese Garden at the entrance (featured below) was a treat in and of itself, and the Arboretum beyond that was more than I could have seen in a single day.  I lost myself throughout the miles of trails and trees; that’s really the only descriptive phrase I can think of at the moment.  It was truly so amazing that I am speechless to describe its elegance.  One thought I can clearly form is that magnolias are probably my new favorite trees.  I don’t know that I had ever seen any before, but being surrounded by a forest of flowers above my head was truly heavenly.

SeattleGarden

Ducks

RedFlowers

After my time at the Arboretum, I passed over and through the Cascades of Wenatchee National Forest to reach my KOA in Leavenworth, WA.  The drive was stunning the whole way, with mountains, rivers, and waterfalls at every twist and turn (just take a look!).  Washington may be my favorite state now, although the nearly-$3-per-gallon fuel and NASCAR-style drivers were definitely downsides to the journey.

WashingtonRiver

I ate dinner at a seafood restaurant in the Bavarian-style town of Leavenworth, which is interesting despite being super cliché and gimmicky.  I tried sleeping in my tent on Friday night, but since I had packed so light for my flight, I was unable to stay warm enough and woke up for the day at 4:00 Saturday morning.  I drove the short distance from Leavenworth to Wenatchee and caught an hour of sleep in the car before my big day.  I also stopped long enough to put a pin for Waverly, IA, in the world map at a local fruit farm, and I was surprised to find that pins were there from all over Europe and Central America.  Fruit farms and orchards lined much of the highway space between Wenatchee and Leavenworth, so I had to find a scenic shot to share as well.

WashingtonOrchard

On Saturday, I attended a writing conference at Wenatchee Valley Junior College called Write on the River.  This, of course, stands for the beautiful Wenatchee River, from which I plucked some shiny rocks for my friends back home.  The conference covered topics on poetry and nonfiction, and even though I was more pumped about Washington than I was about the conference, it was a wonderful experience.  I have to give massive thanks and credit to Dr. Amy Nolan at Wartburg College, as she used the funds from our literary magazine (The Castle) to help me attend the conference.  Without her boost, I probably would not have made it out to Washington so early in my life.  If anyone wants to hear more about the conference, feel free to shoot me a message!

After the conference, I headed back to my campsite and explored the nature a little bit.  I had hoped to get in a run and possibly swim in the river, but I didn’t find much for trails, and the rocky shore and rapids of the river would likely have massacred my body without anyone knowing how I’d died.  As a result, I headed back to my car and charged my phone while reading.  I managed to finish Ready Player One, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who likes science fiction and/or nerdy dystopian novels.  It was the perfect read for where I’m at in life, and it made for a lovely night.

PurpleFlowers

I caught some z’s in the car that night, and I headed out at about 6:30 a.m. Sunday for my final Pacific Northwest adventures.  I took I-90 this time, in order to see some different sights than before.  The mountains still loomed at me as I left the Wenatchee Valley, and I found the whole drive to be fascinating.  I spontaneously turned off at Snoqualmie Falls, and boy am I glad I did!  The Falls were perhaps not the most interactive tourist attraction ever, but any natural creation that makes its own rainbow is a winner in my book.  I explored the trails a little bit too, and then I hit the road, to try and hit Tiger Mountain State Park before my flight home.

SnoqualmieFalls

It turned out that Tiger Mountain is an extended hike that takes hours for a round-trip summit.  Trying to do it without a map or a clue in a little over an hour proved unsuccessful, and I turned back partway up the path.  No one can say I didn’t give it the ol’ college try though!

I returned the car without much hassle (other than the $2.95/gallon fuel I had to put in the car), and my flight with Alaska Airlines brought my home in time for late supper.

Nostalgia for the Northeast

Read on for my travels to Omaha, Nebraska, and the American Northeast!

Hey there, friends and followers alike!

My apologies for the lack of posts as of late; I’ve graduated and visited six new states since my last post!  As such, this part-one post will be a sort of tribute to my spring travels, and it will hopefully inform and entertain in the meantime!

A few weeks after my Salt Lake City trip, I drove down to Omaha, Nebraska, to see the Henry Doorly Zoo.  I was glad to add state 30 to my list, but the zoo itself was underwhelming and not entirely worth the four-hour drive.  Most of the animals were not yet available for the summer (in mid-April), but I was able to admire many nocturnal and aquatic animals.  My favorites were probably the tigers and the peacocks (although, ironically, neither fit into the categories I just listed), and I caught a nice shot of a young lad sleeping (featured above).

About a month after my Salt Lake City trip, a coworker and I drove out to some of the eastern states we hadn’t seen.  From Waverly, IA, we drove through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania the first day.  I really enjoyed driving through the Amish communities in northern Indiana, but the first day was mostly just a long drive and a short sleep at a KOA in Erie, PA.  We packed up and left at around 4:00 or 5:00 a.m., as the just-starting rain pushed us eastward.

On the second day, we made it to New York and drove up much of the western border of the state to reach the Adirondack Park.  We saw Syracuse around midday, and we stayed at a gorgeous cabin-like hotel in Lake Saranac, NY.  We didn’t really care for the restaurant at which we dined, but the town itself was rather nice.  The waterfall below is sadly my only picture from New York, and it was simply a part of the roadside nature off the edge of the highway.

NYWaterfall

Day three kept us very busy, and we opted to drive further than our original plan.  We continued out of the Adirondacks past Lake Placid, and we drove all the way across Green Mountain National Park to the eastern edge of Vermont.  The Green Mountains were a strange and thrilling experience for me, as all technology failed us in the terrain, and we became much closer to the beautiful nature around us.  This area of eastern New York and Vermont was much more rural and agricultural than I anticipated, and Vermont was incredible, to say the least.  We crossed over the border into New Hampshire, and we stayed only briefly at a state park, wherein I snapped a picture of the woodland treasures.

NHForest

From New Hampshire, we continued back through Vermont and crossed through the northwest corner of Massachusetts.  For those keeping track, this makes NY my 31st, VT my 32nd, NH my 33rd, and MA my 34th state.  We drove through the Catskill Mountains in southern New York, and this was hands-down my favorite part of the trip.  The Catskill Mountains are extremely underrated, and though I captured no pictures of their beauty, they are an American treasure not to be missed.  We left the Catskills with bittersweet hearts, as we knew that the exciting portion of our journey had reached its end.

Day four brought us back through NY, PA, OH, and IN; and we stayed on the Indiana-side outskirts of Chicago.  I managed to delay us on Friday morning by running out to the Indiana sand dunes, which are actually really neat and completely underpublicized, before we stopped in Chicago for some deep dish pizza.  I, personally, didn’t really think the deep dish was any better than regular pizza, but we made it back through Illinois and into Iowa City, IA, in time for me to attend a Peace Corps send-off celebration at the University of Iowa.  Our travels concluded shortly thereafter, but the northeast left a longing in me to finish off the few states I have left out there.  Maine, I cannot wait to see your beauty someday soon.

California

Click the link to read my second epic travel ode, this time about the longing of California.

This is the piece that I consider to be my second “epic,” as I’ve come to term the travel experiences I [en]jam[b] into longer-than-usual poems.  I finished it on January 16th, 2017, after reflecting upon my recent Christmas trip to the southern California coast and my life changes shortly following.  I hope it gives you the sense of wonder and longing that I now associate with California, and I hope it inspires you to journey away from your own homelands as well.

CoastalClosure

Reminiscent

Click the link to read about my experiences in and adoration for the southern United States.

This poem was my first completed “epic,” as I would term it.  Two trips to the American South I compressed into a single poetic experience, and I completed my painstaking work on November 11th, 2016.  The memories in the poem are very personal, so I understand that parts may be challenging to relate to, but I hope you’ll enjoy it and long for the South all the same.

Reminiscent