Lake Valhalla

I hiked to Lake Valhalla with FIUTS (Foundation for Understanding Through Students). We hiked a little more than ten miles, starting from the Steven’s Pass parking lot. The first part of the hike was on the Pacific Crest Trail. We walked a straight, narrow dirt path with hardly any elevation gain, flanked by short plants with broad leaves. In many sections, the shrubs along the trail hung over the narrow path, so that it was like walking through a field. If I were still in New Jersey, this would be an absolutely awful idea, because I would end up with a hundred ticks and Lyme disease. But thankfully, ticks are not an issue in the Pacific Northwest.
We walked through a forested area, with views of surrounding mountains throughout. We even saw a few grouse. They flew away when we approached, and since they are relatively heavy birds, their flaps were loud and thunderous to lift their meaty bodies off the ground. I can see why they’re easy to hunt, because they kept about their business until we were just a few feet away.
We reached Lake Valhalla, made some viking jokes, and took in the view.

Cedar Butte

I hiked Cedar Butte with J. The path was narrow, fitting only one person at a time. It was a lovely hike. The fall foliage was in full display, painting the old-growth forest orange. The trail was steep in sections, but overall it was a short, easy hike. At the top, we had lunch and soaked in the view of rolling mountains and blue sky.
Cedar Butte geodetic survey marker
Finding geodetic survey markers is a more intense hunt than geocaching
Cedar Butte is a few minutes walk from the popular Rattlesnake Ledge hike. We stopped by the lake, which looks absolutely surreal right now. Since last winter was pathetic and had hardly any snowfall, the lake has dried up, and now Rattlesnake Lake has become Rattlesnake pond. Massive tree trunks that were once hidden below the water are now exposed.
-_- trunk
-_- trunk
Rattlesnake Lake
Rattlesnake Lake

 

Geocaching part 2

I’m really addicted to geocaching now. Each cache takes a nontrivial amount of effort to walk to and find, so I feel very proud each time I find one.

HERE ARE SOME GEOCACHES I FOUND!!!!!!!!!!!!

This cache was on a picnic table on the shore of Lake Washington, a short walk from where I live.

Cache under a picnic bench on Mercer Island
Cache under a picnic bench on Mercer Island
Mercer Island magnetic key case cache
Mercer Island magnetic key case cache

I had some time before a Mariners game, so I walked around Chinatown looking for geocaches. This cache was hidden in an electricity box at a playground. I could tell some of the parents were wondering what I was doing, examining the electricity box so closely.

Geocachers call people that do not geocache “muggles”, since geocachers are enlightened and in-the-know that these secret stashes exist. But alas, I never got that letter from Hogwarts,

Cache hidden under an electricity box
Cache hidden under an electricity box
Seattle Chinatown playground minicache
Seattle Chinatown playground minicache

This cache was cleverly camouflaged on a telephone pole.

Disguised cache on a telephone pole in Chinatown
Disguised cache on a telephone pole in Chinatown
The log was hidden on the other side
The log was hidden on the other side

This cache was visible from far away.

Geocache in Surrey Downs Park, Bellevue
Geocache in Surrey Downs Park, Bellevue
Magnetic key cases seem to be a trend
Magnetic key cases seem to be a trend

 

 

Geocaching part 1

I recently started geocaching. The Seattle area has so many parks and trails, and geocaching is a good way of discovering them.

It was really easy to get started. There is a geocaching phone app that has a map of all the nearby caches and their recent activity (like if the cache was found recently and is in good condition). It was surprising that there are caches nearly everywhere, even in places I’ve been to many times before.

The first cache I found was at a bus stop. It took two search attempts. The first attempt, I went with my coworkers and we felt we combed the area, even checking under the trash bag and looking at the bus stop across the street. But we couldn’t find it. The problem was, we had no idea what we were looking for. We found the cache on our second attempt. It was a magnetic case, smaller than a fingertip. We were expecting something bigger.

Geocache under a bus stop bench
Geocache under a bus stop bench
Geocache under a bus stop bench
Geocache under a bus stop bench

I proudly signed my name on the log.

 

After the first find, it was easier to find other caches. The trick was to go to the exact coordinates and search for any loose object with no preconceived notion of what to look for. Geocaches can have tricky hiding places, like this one embedded in a gate.

The geocache was hidden in the gate
The geocache was hidden in the gate
Geocache on the 520 bike trail, Redmond
Geocache on the 520 bike trail, Redmond

This geocache was disguised as a rock. The rock was hollow and contained a logbook and trinkets.

Geocache disguised as a rock in Pioneer Park, Mercer Island
Geocache disguised as a rock in Pioneer Park, Mercer Island

Some caches are more obvious than others.

White bucket in Luther Burbank Park, Mercer Island
White bucket in Luther Burbank Park, Mercer Island

Vegas

I went to Las Vegas, ostensibly to play video games, but also because I had never been there before. I walked around the casinos, and was amazed by the decadence, the elaborate decor, the disorienting lack of sense of time (especially when a blue sky is painted on the ceiling). It was mind-boggling that these palaces of consumption and vice exist in the middle of the desert, occupied by throngs of tourists and generating thousands of jobs.

Strolling through an indoor garden
Strolling through an indoor garden
It's always daytime in Venice
It’s always daytime in Venice
A dress made of flowers
A dress made of flowers

I watched an aquatic acrobatics show called Le Rêve – The Dream.  The stage is a pool in the center with platforms that lower and raise from the floor. The audience circles the stage, so the sizable roster of performers create aesthetic magic for all angles. The performers had to be immensely talented in gymnastics and swimming, pulling off incredible trapeze tricks and high dives. From prop trees, ropes, and cages, they would jump and spring from branches, do pommel horse maneuvers, flawlessly execute flips. It was all very beautiful. At first I was trying to follow all the characters – the devil, the demon, the sage, the clown suitors, as they led the female protagonist on a journey through her psyche, but then I realized there was not much of a plot. Different aspects of the show and symbolism resonated with me and my friends, and we each interpreted the show differently.

Le Rêve - the dream is over, everyone woke up and left
Le Rêve – the dream is over, everyone woke up and left

Anyway, I was in Las Vegas to play Smash Bros. Melee at Evo. I had not played in a few days, did not warm up, and got destroyed. I wasn’t expecting to make it out of pools, but I was very disappointed with my performance. There weren’t a lot of friendlies setups, so we left to play some blackjack and ate a lot of good food. The food eased the pain of being a loser. I recently started watching Masterchef, so we went to Gordon Ramsay Steak to try the beef wellington. It was delicious. We went to the buffet at the Bellagio, also delicious, especially the desserts.

Beef wellington at Gordon Ramsay Steak. "This side dish tastes like SHIITake mushrooms."
Beef wellington at Gordon Ramsay Steak. “This side dish tastes like SHIITake mushrooms.”

It was fun to watch the final brackets, even for games that I do not play. The crowd was so hyped and energetic, they would cheer for any cool looking combo or surprising turnaround. These were the best of the pros, the pinnacle of their respective games. Most were sponsored. I wish I could be as good as them, but I know it would take hours of practice each day.

Anyhow, I had fun. There was New York City, a volcano, escort card distributors, Walgreens. The Bellagio Fountains was my Fountain of (Broken) Dreams, my favorite stage. Vegas was everything I expected and more.