Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

And now we come to the end.  It happens with every vacation, tragically, and it happened to Steve’s and my great adventure in the Pacific Northwest – time to come home and start thinking about the school year, the holidays, and – eventually – where to go next.  But not just yet.  We had two days in Seattle, and we were determined to fill every moment and to take in as many of the highlights as we could.  Get ready for a monster recap post.

Alaskan Way and the Seattle Aquarium

Starting with – the aquarium!  After a morning navigating the jam-packed Chihuly Garden and Glasshouse and the rest of Seattle Center, Steve suggested we check out the aquarium.  It felt a little weird to visit an aquarium without the kiddos in tow, but I think we were both missing the intertidal zone.  So we headed over to the aquarium, had some delicious veggie chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, and checked out the sea life.

These colors!

Of course, I had to snap a picture of the octopus to send to my sister-in-law Danielle, who loves cephalopods as much as I love cetaceans.  I think she may have been the kraken in a past life.

The highlight of the Seattle Aquarium had to be the sea otters.  They were loafing around, playing, acting generally adorable, and I could have watched them all day.

Outside of the aquarium, Alaskan Way was a sight to see.

We watched people loading onto this gigantic cruise ship for awhile, prompting a spirited debate about whether we would ever go on an Alaskan cruise.  I said, emphatically, YES (although I have reservations about cruises in general, an Alaskan cruise is one of the few I’d make an exception for) and Steve said he didn’t see the point of spending five days at sea looking at nothing when you could fly.  (I have since discovered that Disney Cruise Lines have an Alaskan cruise option that does not include multiple days at sea – it leaves from Vancouver and sails up the coast, so there is always scenery – and while I’m not a Disney fan, the kids are, and one of my sorority sisters just did the Disney Cruise to Alaska with her kids and gave it a rave review, so – stay tuned.  I will continue to press this issue.)



Pike Place Market

Of course, no visit to Seattle is complete without a stop by the iconic Pike Place Market, right?

Steve and I were kind of still in our “civilization immersion therapy” mode and the crowds were pretty overwhelming.  Steve also was feeling a little iffy, and all the competing aromas of the market were a bit much for him.  But we gamely trotted through the market, snapping pictures.

I wanted to eat all of these berries.

The flower stalls were my favorite.  Look at all these gorgeous peonies!

And everlasting statice, which is one of my favorites.  It’s the kind of flower that Anne Shirley would find friendly – don’t you think?

Naturally, we picked up a few bags of Chukar Cherries to take home with us.  These are long gone – I want more.

And stopped by the gum wall on the way out.  This was kind of gross, but in a really impressive way?  I was impressed by people’s commitment to add their chewed up gum to the wall, even if I couldn’t really breathe near it.

Much more appetizing: we ended Saturday at this romantic table, overlooking Puget Sound, at Place Pigalle.  Fish were flying on the other side of the wall, as we sipped cocktails and wine and ate delicious bouillabaisse and cheese.

Ballard Locks and the Farmers’ Market

On Sunday, we were looking for a good walkable spot to explore, and the internet suggested the Ballard Locks, so we headed over to check them out.

Saw several very impressive yachts cruising through the locks, but far more interesting were the fish ladders.  Go, little fishies, go!

After the locks, we wanted to keep walking, and it was farmers’ market day.  I am always into checking out the farmers’ markets when I travel, and Steve was up for it, so we walked over.  I missed my BFF, Rebecca, who is an avid farmers’ market tourist.

I would have liked to take ALL of these cherries with me.

Steve was still feeling a bit off, so we grabbed some kombucha to settle his stomach (and because I am always up for kombucha), walked around a bit more and then looked for someplace quieter.

Lake Union and the Center for Wooden Boats

Having not had enough boats all week (who am I kidding, I never have enough boats) I suggested that we explore the shoreline of Lake Union for a little while and check out the Center for Wooden Boats.

This motorboat is the dream, right?  Can’t you just see yourself packing a vintage picnic basket full of wine, apples, bread and cheese and gingersnaps, and cruising the lake on a sunny summer’s day?

Indoors, we watched boats being expertly restored and checked out nautical art, like a series of stunning photographs of wooden boats in action, and:

This incredible handmade wooden paddleboard with an orca totem detail and a great backstory.

Gardens and Art

Apparently the weekend was a theme: hitting all of our favorite things, Seattle-style.  Aquarium?  Check.  French food?  Check.  Farmers’ market?  Check.  Industrial architecture?  Check.  Boats?  Check.  Botanic gardens?


We spent a peaceful hour wandering between the rows at the Volunteer Park Conservatory, then headed back to Puget Sound (yes, if you’re wondering, we did zigzag all over Seattle in our Uber) to check out a sculpture garden.

Oh, Seattle.

We finished Sunday evening at Café Flora, eating a fabulous vegetarian dinner.  Steve had the Italian burger with a side salad, and I had the mushroom wellington – yum.

Whenever I travel to a different city, I wonder what it would be like to live there.  Don’t get me wrong – I love living in Washington, D.C., and I never want to move, not really.  But it was hard not to picture myself wandering all the verdant gardens, hiking the lakeshores, and spotting dorsals in Puget Sound – not to mention nipping up to the San Juans for a weekend getaway.

Thank you for a beautiful trip, PNW.  You’re truly a wonderland and I can see why people love you.  And now – back to reality, on the blog as in life.  And back to planning and scheming the next adventure.  As I hinted, something is already in the works for next summer, but it’s not a done deal yet.  It’s my parents’ 45th wedding anniversary, and they want a family trip.  My mom has floated a destination idea and I was very much on board with it, but others need to sign on.  So – stay tuned.  In the meantime, there will be weekend trips, and maybe some longer getaways sprinkled in.

That concludes the PNW adventure recaps!  I already want to go back.  Right now.


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When Steve and I arrived back in Seattle for the final leg of our trip after a week in the Islands, we were exhausted and pretty grimy.  After checking into our hotel and taking the longest showers ever, we felt like new people, and a night in a cushy hotel bed felt almost too luxurious.  (I didn’t actually sleep very well!  I guess it doesn’t take long to get used to a sleeping bag on the ground, and then a floofy {<–technical term} bed is almost too much.)  Anyway!  We woke up on Saturday morning relatively fresh and ready to reintegrate ourselves into society after a week of remote island camping.

And what’s better for re-integration into civilization than a crowded city attraction?  I wasn’t really in the mood for museums, but I had it in my head to visit the Chihuly Garden and Glasshouse, so that’s what we did.  Turned out, it was located at Seattle Center – home to the famous Space Needle and so many other Seattle attractions – so we headed down there for what we jokingly called our “civilization immersion therapy.”

I was vaguely aware of Dale Chihuly, and he’s such an iconic artist in the PNW, that taking in his work over the course of a morning seemed like just the thing to do.  But I didn’t know what to expect at all – I really wasn’t familiar with his art, although I had the idea I might have seen some of it in Boston once? – and I was blown away by the fanciful glass creations and stunning large-scale installations.

Like the Venetian ceiling – I mean, WOW.  Just… WOW.

I don’t know how much of this splendor really registered with Steve – he is colorblind.  But he was a good sport and let me take all the time I wanted, and I know he appreciated the artistry of the shapes and the fine detail work, even if he couldn’t take in all of the spectacular color.

This wooden canoe, heaped with blown glass balls of all sizes and colors, was my favorite piece in the museum.

A close second was the glasshouse, with its stunning orange and yellow flower installation and views of the Space Needle.

We took our time wandering amid a crowd of what felt like forty million people and gazed in total awe at all of Chihuly’s incredible creations.

I couldn’t stop snapping pictures.  I couldn’t help myself!

After we’d seen everything there was to see inside the art museum and glasshouse, we ventured outside into the gardens.  I remarked to Steve that my mom’s best friend, Denise, would love this place – she has a great love for modern art and has an incredible eye for shape and color.  I was sending her pictures in real time as I clicked and snapped my way through the museum and garden.

Modern art isn’t my thing, at least not quite as much, but one contemporary trend I love is the juxtaposition between bright colors and natural elements.  The Chihuly Garden had that in spades.

After we’d gotten our fill of modern art, we wandered out into the rest of the Seattle Center.  Obviously, we spent plenty of time goggling at the Space Needle.

As we approached International Fountain, grunge music was blasting from an industrial-sized speaker somewhere on the square.  As Steve remarked, it was the most Seattle thing ever.

So were the street murals.  An orca and a cup of coffee.  Y’all, it literally does not get more Seattle than that.  Especially if you are taking it all in to the sounds of Nirvana.

Seattle, I am sort of in love.

Next week: one final vacation recap, in which I attempt to cram all the iconic sights of Seattle into one monster post.

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I woke up on Friday morning, the fifth day of our paddling adventure, with mixed feelings.  On the one hand, I felt decidedly grimy – ready for a hot shower, clean laundry, and lunches that consisted of something more exciting than a powerbar.  But on the other hand – man.  Over four days of paddling through all weather, currents, waves, I had fallen in love with the Salish Sea.  I wasn’t ready to leave these waters.

I think everyone felt that way.  We shoved off from Jones Island and everybody seemed to be in quiet, reflective moods.  We hung together closely as a group, although several boats paired off.  Steve and I had become especially close to B and M, the two English guys in our group, and we mostly paddled alongside them.

We pulled over on a rocky beach for an early lunch break, and Ben turned on the whale watch radio and got the news that the Southern Resident Killer Whales – J, K and L pods – had been spotted on the west side of San Juan Island.  Unfortunately, we were… on the east side of San Juan Island.  There was some talk of sprinting the approximately two miles it would take to cross overland to the west, but instead we scurried back to the boats in hopes of seeing J pod from the water (ultimate dream).

It wasn’t to be.  We all kind of knew it – they were heading north, all the way on the other side of the island; it looked like this was just a short visit.  Not surprised, but maybe the tiniest bit sad, we continued our paddle past a big seal haulout, headed for our final destination – the beach, and then the Sea Quest van.

We landed the kayaks a little after noon and pulled together one final time to get everything unloaded and cleaned out.  The boats, we left on the beach for the next group, who were meeting up and taking them right back on the water.  I tried not to be jealous, and to focus instead on the good part of the paddling being over: being reunited with my Birkenstocks.  After a week in Keen sandals that never quite dried out, I almost cried with joy when I slipped my Birks back on.  (They’re the Mayari vegan, if you’re interested, and I basically live in them.)  After the van dropped us in town, we all went our separate ways – a few people to the ferry, a few people to bum around town until the Clipper left, and Ben to the two-person tent he lives in while not guiding.  Steve and I lugged our heavy backpacks, full of waterlogged clothes, around Friday Harbor until we found a restaurant that would seat us.

Afternoon, and the Clipper, came too soon.  B and M had tickets too, so we made plans to meet up and share a table.

They claim to have fought off several people while saving our seats.  I believe them.  We settled in together and began discussing who would get first shower when we got back to our hotel rooms.  I asked our friends who smelled worse – me, or Steve – and they promptly answered, in unison, “Him.”

Eventually B, M and I headed to the upper deck to watch the Clipper steam out of the harbor.  Steve stayed below to guard our table and – this is important – the beers.

Chugging out of Friday Harbor.  I’m not ready, please don’t make me leave!

As we steamed out of the harbor, we watched a seaplane land.  I tried not to be jealous of the pilot, just arriving on San Juan Island instead of leaving.

We were determined to soak up all of the scenery on the way back to Seattle.  No matter how cold and windy it got.  We’d all been living rough for five days.  We were committed.

As the Clipper steamed through Boundary Pass, I spotted a coffee cup rolling around on deck.  I’d never have forgiven myself if it blew overboard, so I snatched it up and rushed down the stairs to throw it away.  Stopping by our table to check on Steve, I spotted out the window –

ORCAS!  I flew over the table, slammed myself against the window, shouted “ORCASORCASORCAS!” and the boat listed to starboard as everyone on the upper level rushed to look out the window.  The Clipper’s on-board naturalist came on the radio and announced that the T065 family was swimming off the stern of the boat.

I ran up the stairs, shouting to B and M, “Orcas, guys DID YOU SEE THEM DID YOU SEE THE ORCAS!”  They laughed, said they had seen the orcas, and were very relieved that I had seen them too.  They didn’t know what they were going to say to me if I’d missed them.  I was surprised M hadn’t flung himself overboard; his dream is to swim with them.

Still sad, still leaving a piece of my heart in the islands – but it felt right to have been seen off by the Biggs.  They’re incredible, majestic, beautiful creatures and it was my great privilege to see them twice on this trip.

Next week: hello, civilization – Seattle!

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July 4th dawned sunny and beautiful, and we prepared to do battle with the raccoons of Jones Island.  It being Independence Day, the Americans in the group were ready to celebrate!  I wore my stars and stripes headband under my hat, and a fellow kayaker tied an American flag bandana to her bow – and we pushed back from Point Doughty ready to do battle for Old Glory against the raccoons.

The views of Turtleback Mountain were beautiful from the water.  I shouted over my shoulder to Steve, “It’s Te Fiti!”

The paddle from Point Doughty to Jones Island was relatively short, but as we glided by the shorelines on the way we counted a total of seven bald eagles!  We saw eagles almost every day, but the sightings never got old, and it felt especially appropriate to see so many of them on Independence Day.  It reminded me of the first time I ever saw an eagle – Steve and I were visiting Mount Vernon, and as we walked behind the Mansion to look at the sweeping views of the Potomac, an eagle soared low overhead.  It was as if the spirit of George Washington was looking down on us.  So what I’m saying is – these eagles really seem to know how to choose their moments.

We stopped for a long lunch on a private island that allowed for public access to its bluffs.  Most of the group spread out across the shoreline, looking out at the expansive views – always on dorsal watch.

After lunch, back in the boats, we cruised on over to Jones Island.  As we hugged the shoreline preparing to land, we saw two large raccoons scamper over the rocks in the 2:00 p.m. sun, prompting yelps from several boats: “I thought they were nocturnal!”  Clearly, these were no ordinary raccoons.

We landed on Jones Island, which was clearly a popular spot for Independence Day camping and cookouts, and quickly claimed a campsite near the water.  We unpacked our gear and Ben solicited a vote from the group – would we rather go for a hike, or get back in the kayaks and explore the surrounding islands?  We had one vote for a hike, but the rest of the gang (including Steve and me) cast our votes for the kayaks: still hoping we might see some Biggs killer whales in their prime hunting waters.

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the islands surrounding Jones – didn’t see any orcas, but there was plenty of other beautiful sights to keep us busy, and we hardly noticed that we’d paddled 17.5 nautical miles over the course of the day.  Everyone was hungry when we got back to camp, so Ben quickly fired up the camp stove and started an “appetizer course” of grilled cheese sandwiches before moving on to our regularly planned dinner.

Side of sautéed bull kelp with soy sauce and a dash of sriracha.  I tried some – pretty darn good.  I balked at trying the rockweed, though.

Although we didn’t see orcas, the other wildlife on Jones was not so shy.  No confirmed raccoon sightings after dark – there was some rustling near the tent, but no visual so I’m pretending it didn’t happen – but a black-tailed deer came into our campsite and stood within feet of us for several minutes.  (We think it was the same deer that one of our group caught some fellow campers petting in a different campsite.  Later in the evening I encountered a teenaged girl in line for the restrooms, who proudly recounted that the deer had followed her family around and they had pet and fed it.  I read her the riot act.  Don’t pet the wildlife, and definitely don’t feed them!  They’re unpredictable wild animals and it’s dangerous for them to get too comfortable with humans.)

Home sweet home.  Last night in the tent!  I was already starting to miss this simple life.

As the sun went down on the Fourth of July, I think we were all feeling a bit nostalgic and sad about parting ways the next day.  Our group really worked, and we are already feeling like old friends.

Next week: The Biggs say goodbye (sniff).

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The third day of our kayaking adventure dawned grey and cool, but dry – a definite improvement from the previous day’s paddle.  We had a slow morning – Ben was planning the shortest paddle of the trip, a mere 5.5 nautical mile “blue water” crossing from Patos to Point Doughty on the back of Orcas Island.  So the gang slept in while a few of us got in an early morning hike, then we all enjoyed a leisurely breakfast around the picnic table before breaking camp and pushing off for Orcas.

Fortified with toad-in-the-hole and a lighthouse hike, ready for a short day of paddling!  Let’s do this!

The water was calm and gorgeous, almost like a mirror at times.  There was very little wind and very little current – just smooth sailing across the Salish Sea.

It almost felt like we’d just hopped into the boats, and before we knew it, we were navigating a treacherous passage of whirlpools and boulders to land on the beach at Point Doughty.

The landing was so narrow that only three boats could pull in at any given time; the rest had to idle out on the water while we unloaded a few at a time.  Steve and I went in with the first batch, and I promptly took a knee on the slippery bull kelp.  It’s not a vacation until someone is gushing blood, right?

Eventually, we got all the boats in and Ben announced to the entire group that I had “an owie situation.”  Thanks, man.  I cleaned my knee, verified that it wasn’t a barnacle cut (which tend to get infected) and then we turned our attention to the problem of how to get all of our gear – including the tents and the camp stove – up a narrow and slippery path to the campsite on the bluff.  No one was keen to scramble up and down, so (cementing our place as the most cooperative and cohesive kayaking group ever) we formed a human chain and passed everyone’s gear from paddler to paddler until we had the beach cleared.

Set up camp, then wandered off to explore.  It was a fairly small campground, so we covered the scenery quickly, then Ben called the group together to review options for the next day’s paddling.  He told us we had a few options: we could return to Stuart Island and do a bioluminescence paddle (tempting), set up camp near civilization and pick up some beer (pass) or hit Jones Island, which would take us through prime Biggs killer whale hunting waters and be the best chance of seeing orcas from the water.

The group unanimously voted for Jones Island.  Ben frowned and cautioned us that the island was home to a brigade of aggressive raccoons who were known to pillage campsites and rip hatches right off of kayaks, and orcas were no guarantee.  One of our fellow paddlers assured Ben, “We know there’s no guarantee of wildlife.”  Ben shook his head.  “No, orcas are not guaranteed.  Raccoons are guaranteed.”  We decided to risk it, and came up with a plan to sleep in shifts and use our kayak paddles to slapshot the raccoons into the water, ideally into the mouths of the waiting orcas.  What could go wrong?

Ben left the rest of the group to continue planning for day four, which was now officially named “the Battle of Camp Raccoon,” and he and I headed up to the top of the bluff to do some birding.

We discovered that the hilltop at Point Doughty is the best birding spot ever – a perfect confluence of shore birds, cliff-dwellers, and woodland birds.  We probably saw a dozen different species.

The view was also on point.  I made sure to keep an eye out for dorsal fins while Ben and I did our bird nerd thing.

Stayed up on the bluff for hours and took in a truly spectacular sunset.  Oh, Washington, why do you have to be so fabulous?

(My mom saw this picture and said, “Oh, finally, you got some booze!”  Ha – if only.  This was chamomile tea.  I was still warming up after the previous day’s rain.)

We passed a slightly restless night – unbeknownst to us at the time we pitched our tent, we were sleeping on a slight incline, and I kept slipping into the downhill corner of the tent.  I woke up several times with the distinct sensation that I was going over the bluff – I wasn’t, but it didn’t make for the best sleep of the trip.  Once the sun finally rose, Steve and I got our campsite broken down quickly, and after I’d helped pack up the kitchen, I wandered down to the beach to do some tidepooling before it was time to go.  On our way from Stuart to Patos, we’d passed gorgeous purple ochre sea stars, and I wanted to see one up close.

The rocks down on the beach at Point Doughty were dotted with them, and I spent a blissful few minutes going from sea star to sea star, getting acquainted.  It was a peaceful way to begin the day on the water – and then I joined the group, armed myself with my paddle and got ready to fight for the Stars and Stripes in the Battle of Camp Raccoon.

Next week: Indepedence Day, and the Battle of Camp Raccoon!

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Gone to Carolina In My Mind

When Steve and I sat down to discuss summer vacation plans, we knew that in addition to our planned parents trip to the San Juan Islands, we wanted to do something with the kids.  We kicked around a few ideas and ultimately decided that a trip back to our beloved Outer Banks was in order – after all, we hadn’t been down that way since Nugget was a baby.  But knowing that it was just going to be our family – no grandparents, aunt and uncle, or family friends along for the ride this time – we decided to mix it up and go somewhere different; we figured if we went back to our regular stomping grounds, we’d spend the whole week missing the rest of the family.  I’d heard good things about Duck – one of the northern OBX towns – and we decided to give it a try.

Our first stop upon rolling into town was the iconic Duck Donuts.  I know it’s not that big of a deal anymore – there’s a Duck Donuts in the shopping plaza where my kids get their haircuts, for goodness sake – but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get Duck Donuts in Duck.  Peanut got cinnamon sugar with frosting and sprinkles, Steve had a glazed with salted caramel drizzle, and I got chocolate with graham cracker crumbs.  Nugget insisted that he didn’t want a donut, then proceeded to eat three quarters of mine.  Oof.

After fortifying ourselves with donuts (or a quarter of a donut, in my case) we headed to our beach house – home for the week.  I spent a lot of time searching for the perfect house – tried Airbnb, VRBO, and the traditional realtors.  The main requirements were: not too exorbitantly priced, soundfront, and with a deck.  I finally found a house that fit the bill, right on Currituck Sound and about a half mile’s walk from the ocean beach.

Little people loved the screen porch, and spent quite a few hours playing out here (while Mom relaxed with a book and a La Croix – the life).

Down the stairs from the deck, we had a beautiful boardwalk right down to a little private beach on Currituck Sound.

The kids spent a decent amount of time splashing in the warm, shallow sound waters, while Mom took in the views (and picked up trash from the beach, because I have to be me).

Of course, while we loved our sound mornings, the real highlight came in the afternoon each day – the ocean beach!

Duck Beach was a long, beautiful strip of pristine white sand, dotted with colorful umbrellas.  The one downside to vacationing in Duck, we found, was that there was no public access to the beach – if you couldn’t walk to an access point for your neighborhood, you were pretty much out of luck.  Unlike in Frisco, where we stay with my parents, there is no public parking or beach access.  But we had a beach access point for our neighborhood about a half mile’s walk from the house, which was very easy – and the upside to the beach not being as accessible as some others was that it was a lot cleaner.  I barely saw a speck of trash on the ocean beach all week, and the water was clean and fresh.  I’ll take that bargain!

Wave jumping was the activity of choice.

And dancing, too.

We did have some weird weather roll in during the week, so I filled up the non-beach hours with a few mandatory OBX activities.  Nugget and I stopped by Kitty Hawk Kites (just the Duck outpost, not the huge flagship in Kitty Hawk) and picked out kites for both of the kids.  And whenever you’re in the Outer Banks, you have to visit a lighthouse, right?

We had one dreary morning that wasn’t sound material, and I needed to get the kids out of Steve’s hair so he could work, so I loaded them in the car and drove them about half an hour to Corolla, to check out the Currituck Beach Lighthouse.  Although I’ve been to the Hatteras and Ocracoke Lights many times, I’d never seen Currituck’s version – this lighthouse connoisseur was suitably impressed.  Nugget wanted to climb, so I bought a ticket, and we made it about halfway up – a success, I think.

Saturday dawned drizzly and dreary, too, so we pulled out our other rainy-day plan – a drive to Roanoke Island, to visit the North Carolina Aquarium.  (Making it a two-aquarium trip… we stopped at the Virginia Aquarium, in Virginia Beach, on the way down to Duck, to break up the trip.)

Peanut almost touched one of the stingrays in the touch tank.  Almost!  She put her hand in the water – nowhere near a stingray, but in the water.  Which, I have to tell you, is a hell of a lot closer than I’ve ever gotten to touching any of the animals in any touch tank, anywhere, ever.  I prefer to stay at least twenty-four inches from the edge.  So I was fist-pumping her bravery.

Sharks were a major highlight – there was a huge shark tank, which was super cool.  The whole aquarium had a shipwreck theme, and the animals swam in tanks that were decorated with sunken wrecks – very on point for the Graveyard of the Atlantic.

The highlight of this aquarium, though, was seeing the sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation center.  I had no idea this was a thing the North Carolina Aquarium operates, so it was a total surprise and delight to walk through the doors and watch the wildlife rehabilitators at work.

Each turtle was floating in its own little tank, with enrichment toys and a carefully controlled environment.  Nugget raised his hand and asked the volunteer interpreter what the turtles’ names were and what parts of their bodies were sick.  (Good question for a four-year-old, right?)  The interpreter explained that the turtles have a variety of health issues that they are working through, and showed us one that had a chunk of its shell missing from a boat strike.  (SOB.)  She also explained that the rehabilitators work through themed names and that the current group all had names from Harry Potter.  Not having read the books or seen the movies, she had a hard time remembering the names, but she pointed out Longbottom, in tank number 7, and Bertie Bott, in tank 2.  (The rehabilitators haven’t named any turtle after Harry himself, yet.  As it was explained to us, they have to be really sure that they will be successful with that turtle.  After all, Harry Potter is the Boy Who Lived.)

We just loved seeing the turtles, hearing about the rehabilitators’ work to heal them and return them to the wild, and reading about the aquarium’s efforts at sea turtle conservation.  Second only to cetaceans, sea turtles are my favorite ocean creatures.  What a delightful surprise to find this work going on at the North Carolina Aquarium.

It was a lovely week.  Not restful, exactly, but the change of scenery was much needed – and it was good to get some time away as a foursome.  I had no idea how much we’d been missing that until we made it happen.

The perk of staying soundside, of course – evenings on the deck watching the sun set over the water, a rare sight on the East Coast.  The sunsets weren’t especially spectacular while we were there, thanks to some weather systems that always seemed to roll in at dinnertime.  But we caught a few light shows.  The best, by far, was the first night of our trip:

Such a gorgeous spot!  I wish I was back there right now.  Thanks for the memories, Duck!  I’m sure we will be back – maybe not for a full week, but at least en route to and from Hatteras.  We have such a long history with the Outer Banks, I always know we’re going to return.


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Having passed on the sunset hike the first night of our trip, Steve and I definitely didn’t want to miss the next hiking opportunity – which came on the morning of our third day in the kayaks.  The night before, Ben suggested an early morning hike to a remote lighthouse out on the tip of Patos Island.  Always up for adding another lighthouse to my life list, I was especially gung-ho.

Early morning view!  The sunrise wakeup call was no hardship for Steve and me – we’re used to kids who wake up with the sunrise.  Ben was just a slightly bigger version of Nugget.  Also, when you unzip your tent flap and see this, who can complain?

We set off into the woods, and after a very short, very gentle incline, it was all level ground and smooth sailing.

Our group was small – just Ben, Steve and me, and the grandfather/grandson duo from our paddling group.  The rest of the gang decided to stay back at camp and sleep in.  Ben pointed out tree and plant varietals as we walked along this gorgeous red trail.

Before I knew it, we’d broken out from the trees and could see the top of the lighthouse, perched on a little bluff.

Ben brought his first aid kit.  I decided to believe that he brings that on every hike, and it wasn’t just because I am accident-prone.

The long approach to the lighthouse – so beautiful.

Gotta love a moody sky, amirite?

We finally made it to the lighthouse.  Most of our little band occupied themselves with exploring around the building.

Meanwhile, always on dorsal watch, I wandered over to the bluff.

The view over the rocks was gorgeous.  I sat for awhile, watching violet-green swallows swoop through the sky and harbor seals and porpoises play in the waves off the point.

It was a perfect way to start the day!  We had a short paddle ahead of us – just 5.5 nautical miles straight across from Patos to Point Doughty on Orcas Island, a far cry from the 12.5 and 13.5 of our first two paddling days – and I can’t think of a better place to spend a morning relaxing and exploring.

Next week: up close and personal with a sea star.

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