Dino-mite time in Vantage, Washington

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A year-round attraction, Gingko Gem Shop in Vantage, Washington was an absolutely fun stop (twice) during a road trip across the State of Washington along I-90. I am a fan of dinosaurs and anything pre-historic and this small shop was worth the stop because of the location, dinosaurs, treasures, and people.

My travel buddies and I excitedly exited our rental vehicle and headed straight towards – or at least I did – the dinosaurs and large stumps of petrified wood displayed throughout the front lot. The gravel lot allowed for plenty of roaming room to visit each statue and for parking. It wasn’t crowded the first time we visited on a Friday afternoon during our road trip, but there were more visitors when we visited the shop again on our way back to Western Washington on the following Sunday afternoon. However, despite the larger crowd of visitors in the shop, it wasn’t overwhelming. Everyone was in a relaxed mood which was great after a full weekend on the road and the drive ahead of us back across to Western Washington. It was nice to meet other travelers while in the shop and to chat with Bob, one of the owners of the shop.

After we got our fill of selfies and photographs and explored the cute shop, we had the opportunity to chat with owner Bill Rose and his cat named Trouble. I appreciated Bill’s stories, learning about Trouble, and getting recommendations of things to do when we reached Spokane. The price range for treasures will fit  any budget. I found great postcards, keychains, petrified wood, polished decorative eggs, and much more. Gifts for me and gifts for my family and friends. It’s always nice to pick up souvenirs for yourself, right?

Trouble is a sweet black and white cat usually found lounging somewhere close to Bill. Trouble does not look like trouble at all. Incredibly laid back, understanding of human need to fawn over fur babies, slightly curious, and, of course, very beautiful, Trouble lives quite the life at the shop.

Gingko Gem Shop in Vantage, Washington is such a time-enriching shop if you’re into nature, history, geology, paleontology, and basically anything cool. Enjoy the charm of a small business propped in the middle of a scenic area. Take a break from your drive, stretch your legs, and browse the gems in this cute shop before heading to your next destination. I look forward to visiting Gingko Gem Shop and Vantage, Washington again when I venture back that way as it is a nice grounding spot for me along my long road trips.

Tips:

*Mind the signs and do not touch the statues and petrified wood. Refrain from crossing over barriers.

*Be sure to take selfies with the dinos, it’s a must!

*Stop in and say hello, especially to Trouble.

*Browse all the treasures in the shop. I found souvenirs for myself and others!

*Check to see if they are open. They are usually open daily except for winter months. Call ahead, as needed. In any case, the dinos are outside for a fun visit. Hopefully you can visit both the dinos and the shop during your visit.

*There’s NO public bathroom (toilet) here, however, a very short drive next door is the Gingko Petrified Forest Museum where an outdoor public bathroom (multiple stalls/urinals) is available and picnic benches with gorgeous views surrounding the museum.

Links:

Gingko Gem Shop on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Ginkgo-Gem-Shop-Rock-Shop-104227362315/

Gingko Gem Shop website: http://ginkgogemshop.com/

**Thank you Debbie Rose for answering my inquiry. I appreciate your help!

Vantage, Washington:

http://www.visitvantage.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vantage,_Washington

 

 

 

 

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Resolution 2017

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I made a resolution this year. A big one. My resolution for 2017 is to do at least one scary thing each month that is outside of my comfort zone. {Side note: I’m an ambivert. The introverted side of my personality sometimes screams for me to just stay in my cozy cocoon until it’s energetically safe to come out. Plus, I’m an empath.} For years I have pushed myself in all directions – physically, mentally, emotionally – with a goal of personal growth, but this year is different and more challenging. I like to think of myself as always evolving and always challenging myself but I find that I need a bigger push and to pursue experiences that I have only dreamed about. Money, time, health, and other barriers are no longer acceptable in keeping me from pursuing ALL my dreams. Now is the time to go forward without (completely) testing the waters each and every time. I am fueled purely by faith and I see all of my successes in front of me.

It’s inspiring to continuously watch oneself bloom.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? If so, what is your resolution(s) for 2017?

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Vashon Island Day Trip – Summer 2016

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Vashon Island is a great local getaway for a couple of days or a day trip. Accessible only by ferry or other watercraft, Vashon Island in Washington State will provide plenty of activities and peace for those who love lighthouses, nature, beaches, wandering, discovering, sightseeing, and just being present in another one of the Pacific Northwest’s beautiful spots.

There are two ferry terminals you can take to catch a ferry to the island. I opted for the Point Defiance Ferry Terminal/Tahlequah in Tacoma, but one can also catch the Fauntleroy to Vashon ferry at the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal in West Seattle. *The Vashon Chamber of Commerce lists a third ferry option from Port Orchard. See the link below.* Check the ferry rates before you leave to be sure how much to budget, as needed. This ferry route only charges a fare for going to the island and does not charge one when leaving the island and heading back to either of the ferry terminals. Our round trip cost for two using the ferries was around $24.00 which was based on car length + driver rate plus one passenger. I highly recommend bringing a vehicle or some sort of other wheeled mode of transportation to the island in order to make the most of your day trip as points of interest are a ways from the ferry terminal, but there is bus service on the island. Bicycles are a great way to commute, too. I’ll consider that option should I get a bicycle in the future. You can bring the bike with you on the ferry and the buses have bike racks. What a beautiful way to explore the island. Be safe regardless of your choice of transportation.

Once we drove off the ferry and away from the terminal, we found ourselves exploring the island and ended up stopping at Jensen Point first where parking was easy and a very short walk from the shoreline. We were in search of low tide treasures to photograph and we were not disappointed. Although we missed the lowest tides of the season, we were still able to find great photo subjects and to just sit and drink it all in. At Jensen Point, you can rent kayaks as an option to see more of the island and shoreline. This would be a fun adventure for families and friends in addition to being a nice place for a picnic. The beach is rocky with barnacle covered rocks and set back from the shoreline the ground is covered in crushed shells. There is a grassy area and picnic tables available to enjoy.

Next we headed to Point Robinson Lighthouse where you navigate a short trail to the lighthouse from the upper parking area. We saw a sign stating that the lower parking area was closed but that may have been for those renting the Keepers’ Quarters nearby. (I look forward to staying at the Keepers’ Quarters in the near future and posting here about my stay.) The path down to the beach and lighthouse was lined with different types of fungi and plants. The grass near the lighthouse was high during our stay which provided for great photos and the wraparound beach was not crowded and provided views of all types of air and sea vessels.

The lighthouse has a donation jar to help with its upkeep so I recommend dropping a contribution sometime during your visit. The lighthouse was a star attraction for me with a very helpful guide willing and able to answer my questions. Exhibits are downstairs along with helpful maps and a great lighthouse poster. Up the narrow winding stairwell you may need to step aside for another group coming down as you are heading up. When you reach the top, it gets a bit more cozy near the lantern and then you can exit that room onto the walkway surrounding the top of the lighthouse for some great views. Chat with the guide, take a nice breath in, close your eyes, open your eyes again and enjoy that view. Spend as much time at Point Robinson Lighthouse. I have it filed under magical in my mental Rolodex.

I’m a fan of driftwood and there is plenty to view, sit on, and photograph. However, it was advised by the lighthouse guide not to remove any driftwood from the beach as it is a necessary barrier to erosion. I prefer to enjoy the driftwood where it lives and where it lives is usually pretty spectacular.

 

If you’re looking for driftwood souvenirs, I was told any of the driftwood at Quartermaster Harbor was prime for collecting. On our way to the lighthouse, we saw driftwood collectors at the harbor and the tide was low and I made it a point to explore when heading back to the ferry terminal. At Quartermaster Harbor, the tide was very low and the harbor was spongy to walk on with my water sandals and it was pretty messy but incredibly fun. I watched where I walked as the tiny crabs and other creatures were staying in the shallow water until the tide came back in. There was so much to photograph and just watch. I saw a crane, a mysterious barnacle-covered bottle (I left it there instead of packing it with the garbage I collected because of the live barnacles.), mussels, clams, plants, and many other beauties of low tide. This spot is worth another visit during the height of low tide season in the summer. Again, there’s a lot of driftwood here for the collecting as I was told and as I saw since the driftwood does not act as a barrier to erosion at this spot of the island. The tides just bring them in and push them up against the side of the road. My photo above shows low tide but doesn’t capture the amount of driftwood near the road.

To do next time: Visit the bicycle in the tree, get a photograph of a great truck or tractor we saw on our way to & from the lighthouse, and a chance to eat lunch at one of the island’s restaurants. I’ll be back to visit again and I plan on staying more than a couple of hours in order to explore and enjoy Vashon thoroughly. A trip like this would fill a relaxing weekend or a mid-week getaway just fine with hikes, lunches on the beach, lunches in town, photography, and the perceived slower pace of island life.

Enjoy and thank you for reading!

Tips:

*Bring some sort of wheeled mode of transportation or use the bus system to get around the island. Bicycles are welcomed per the Vashon Island Chamber of Commerce. See link below.

*Be mindful that this is an island and the community is protective of their island. Be respectful in all areas as possible. I pick up trash at beaches I visit as a way to give back to the community and the environment. Keep a bag for trash with you but the parks usually have a trash bin available. Wherever your adventures lead you, please leave the space in peaceful conditions, i.e. leave it better than you found it.

*Do not remove driftwood from the beach at Point Robinson Lighthouse per the lighthouse guide. The driftwood prevents further erosion.

*Pacific Northwest (PNW) weather encourages us to be prepared for sun, rain, cold, and heat. Be prepared as we have all the seasons in the PNW and sometimes you’ll experience all four in one day. 🙂

*Unwind and have fun.

Links:

Washington State Ferries http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/

King County Metro Bus Service http://kingcounty.gov/depts/transportation/metro/schedules-maps/118.aspx#weekday

Vashon Island Chamber of Commerce http://www.vashonchamber.com/pages/GettingHere

Point Robinson Lighthouse/Vashon Parks District https://vashonparks.org/point-robinson

 

Thank you, 2016…

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Dear 2016,

In all that has happened in these 366 days of 2016, I want to thank you for the gifts you have given us and the best wishes you have for us as we cross into 2017. Thank you for placing the challenges you placed in our paths. They aren’t always welcomed but I choose to look for the messages in these occurrences. I want to personally thank you for the challenges you knew I was ready to face and from those challenges I grew and will continue to grow each day. There are at least 365 reasons in 2017 to be filled with gratitude and embrace the new strengths and knowledge I have gained in 2016 to become bolder, louder, present, and purposeful. What I ask for friends and neighbors – ones I am blessed to have in my life and ones I am destined to meet – is to give them guidance where they may need it and faith that they have been heard.

With gratitude,

*Estella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carpinito Brothers Farm Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze Adventure

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I had the chance to visit Carpinito Brothers Farm in Kent, Washington last weekend. I was nervous about the crowds, commute, and parking but was pleasantly surprised at how organized and spacious the farm was for the event. I found that I couldn’t stop raving about my experience. My friend “A” did a great job picking this farm for our outing.

The commute was smooth even though we planned to meet on a busy Saturday afternoon. My commute was around 45 minutes and I used the Google Maps app to guide me to the farm. It was easy to find and plenty of free parking when I arrived. The main lot up front was full so those of us waiting to park headed just up the street and took our first left across from the pumpkin fields and maze area. There were two people handling the traffic flow so wait time was reasonable to make that turn. The parking surface was somewhat uneven and unpaved (it’s a farm after all), muddied up from the recent rains but still easy for the drive and finding the parking with guidance from employees of the farm. I got a choice spot at the end of an aisle which was easy to spot when returning to my car. Walking to the corn maze and pumpkin patch side of the farm was a little slow with lots of muddy spots but easy to navigate. I’m glad I wore pretty good shoes but rain boots would’ve been better to handle the mud and staining on pant legs and shoes. The farm provided wheelbarrows to haul our goodies to our vehicles which I thought was pretty neat. Everyone I encountered that day that worked on the farm was very helpful and friendly. They are pros when it comes to working with this number of visitors.

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The view of Mount Rainier is pretty spectacular from the farm. The weather stayed dry for this visit which was a nice change to our normal, and beautiful, rainy fall weather. (I’m pretty sure this is Mount Rainier but please correct me if I am in error.)

First stop was the Farm Fun Yard on the same side of the farm that I parked, across the street from the corn maze and pumpkin patch. It was busy with families enjoying the fun activities for the kids and perfect photo ops by the pumpkins. I noticed they brought in a lot of pumpkins in from the patch and placed them on both sides of the street for easy access and purchase. I didn’t explore the Farm Fun Yard but just wanted to get an idea of where it was and what went on in the yard. Next stop was browsing the produce stand and getting the layout down in my head. With my friends, we figured out that there were two spots to buy corn maze tickets: at the main registers by the produce stands which takes all forms of payment and the ticket booth in front of the maze which only took cash and check. Both lines moved smoothly and I’m grateful for my friend who paid for my ticket in cash so I didn’t have to go to the main register. Thankfully one of us in our group found a coupon on the Carpinito website for $1 off the maze ticket. That was a nice perk. A dollar is a dollar.

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Prices were reasonable and the maze was challenging. They had two different maze options: The Shark Maze was 2.1 miles and The Seahorse was 0.9 miles. I only did the Shark Maze but with all the backtracking to find the six (6) markers, I’m sure I did 3 miles if not 3.1 miles for a 5K finish. My Fitbit let me know I hit my steps goal for the day and I surpassed my goal by about a few thousand. It was muddy fun for the family and all ages. A flock (or murder) of crows flew overhead which added to the festive nature of the corn maze and season. My friends and I agreed it would be fun if they had an evening event in the corn field and pumpkin patch. Maybe bonfire, hot drinks, grilled foods, snacks, and corn maze and/or pumpkin patch crawl by flashlight and moonlight.

We worked up an appetite and craved a roasted corn on the cob. The lines moved swiftly at the concession stand and all forms of payment were accepted. I purchased a roasted corn on the cob for $3 and a bag of original (versus caramel) kettle corn for $6. I love how fast the lines moved and how organized it was to buy and pick up your corn and kettle corn. You can ask to not have butter on it which is how I usually eat my corn but I couldn’t pass up the experience. We headed over to the seasoning and napkin station near the corn pick up station. Here’s a trick I overheard from one of the employees, the corn is too hot to carry for even a short amount of time so fold over the corn husks still attached to the corn and use it as a barrier to the heat. Worked like a charm. Be forewarned that biting into the corn is going to be a bit hot, too. That corn was so delicious with or without butter. Wow! They had a selection of seasoning on the table: garlic powder, black pepper, and Johnny’s Seasoning. Two of us in our group tried all three seasonings on top of the butter and it was phenomenal. That was some tasty corn! It’s one of those things you have to do on a corn maze and pumpkin patch outing. Before we left, we decided to do our produce shopping at that time and the quality and prices were great and budget friendly. It was nice to be able to purchase farm produce before we headed back on the road. I recommend holding off on shopping until after you are finished with your farm exploration and eating. This way you don’t have to walk around with all your goodies. There’s a lot to explore on the farm so leave your hands free until you’re ready to go.

Check out Carpinito Brothers in Kent, Washington for a fun day with the family and friends. Easy to get to and lots of fun to be had. Oh yes, don’t forget your boots and rain jacket. ‘Tis the season!

Links:

Carpinito Brothers in Kent, Washington http://carpinito.com/index.php/pumpkin-patch/

What do you call a group of crows? http://crow.bz/main/murder.htm

The Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire – First Time Experience

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Throughout each weekend in the month of August, The Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire (WMRF) returned with a host of activities all centered at The Kelley Farm in Bonney Lake, Washington. The location was perfect with free parking, easy to find with help from Google Maps app, and a rustic atmosphere. Very warm (read as HOT!) weather graced us especially during my Saturday, August 13th visit. It hit at least 90 degrees that day and I physically melted. Melted! The heat plus humidity that day was a bit much for me but I had a terrific time watching, mingling, eating, and shopping at the Faire.

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I arrived around 11 a.m. after a reasonable wait in line to turn my car into the dusty and grassy Kelley Farm parking lot. WMRF was already open to the public as of 10 a.m. and bustling by the time I got there. Parking was so easy with the help of the park lot guides. My entrance was discounted through a Groupon offer and I am grateful for that offer. This was my first visit to the Faire and it was a great “try me” offer for first time attendees and great for returning attendees. The ticketing windows were aplenty including specific windows for electronic tickets (online orders & electronic daily deal vouchers). Entering the venue itself was easy with in-and-out privileges via a stamp on the hand on the way out. Lively actors were there to greet you and warn you of dragons nearby…

Once you are inside the entrance, the marketplace, food court, entertainment, and rest areas were spread throughout the grounds. The set up was all out in the open, no roof or tent for the event aside from the vendors, eating area, and some covered seating at the entertainment venues. It is a very walkable event but in the heat, it was very challenging. One of the wonderful vendors was so concerned for me and invited me to sit inside the tent to cool off. I explained I was fine but she advised I head to the first aid tent for water at the least. I headed over with my friend and there was a line. The water was running out but they were expediting resources to the tent as fast as possible. It was nice to see the first aid tent equipped with cots, as needed. The water mister next to the tent was not spraying well and if you were petite like my friend and me, the misting water bypasses you especially if there are taller people in front of you. We moved in the direction of the mist each time it changed in hopes of cooling off but it wasn’t very helpful. There wasn’t enough shade given the number of people and the temperatures in August, especially the weekend I attended and following Saturday. I brought an umbrella in my car but I opted to buy a parasol from one of the vendors since it was a good price and cute. Definitely something I would use many times over. WMRF had their own parasols but they sold out. Parasols were a hot item throughout the Faire that day and I’m sure the weekend. Funny enough, here in the Pacific Northwest, we typically use our umbrellas to protect ourselves from the sun and not the rain.

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Aside from the heat (not sure if I mentioned the heat already…), this was a very fun event! The jousting, musicians, actors, troupes, and vendors were very entertaining. They all fit in with the Renaissance theme in dress, products, services, etc. I watched a few musical acts, a jousting tournament (very cool!), browsed the vendors, and ate some tasty food. The prices for food and drink were in line with event and festival pricing so finding something to eat was easy as long as you were familiar with event pricing. I purchased a delicious grilled Polish sausage for $8 and a friend told me the turkey legs were going for $12 as of this year’s WMRF. (Bring foil, zippered bag, or some sort of container for the turkey leg if you don’t finish it. I was told they didn’t have anything available to wrap leftovers in. It took this friend and her daughter to finish the leg. It’s a tasty and big portion which I will try next year.) The lines for the food moved pretty well and there were multiple beverage stations throughout the grounds offering water or soda for $2/can. They ran out of cold bottles of water at the stand I visited but they were quickly getting some from another stand or somewhere else. Overall, this was a well-run event. I will definitely return!

I rambled a bit but there was a lot of information. In summary, the WMRF is an event I can see myself doing every year. I recommend checking it out at least once. You just might become a fan if you aren’t already a fan of the Renaissance Era. Despite the hot weather that made me melt, I plan to spend a weekend camping on the farm next year because I had so much fun at this event. WMRF offers camping packages and that’s a great option especially if you are driving from a distance and want a different experience than staying at a hotel or driving back and forth from home. Bonney Lake is a beautiful area and you will be greeted with a view of Mount Rainier upon your arrival into town. The drive was pretty easy and not too far off the freeway depending on which direction you travel.

Recommendations:

  • Bring water with you
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated if the weather is warmer than you are accustomed to
  • Umbrella for shade
  • Protection (lotion or clothing) from the sun and it could rain – weather can be unpredictable
  • Money – we used cash but the vendors we purchased from accepted cards
  • Foil/Large Zippered Bag/Container for leftover food in case vendors don’t have anything available (Those turkey legs are big)
  • Comfortable shoes (your shoes & feet will get dirty from the dusty ground)
  • Rest and take your take walking the grounds
  • Camera
  • Pet friendly venue
  • Feel free to wear a costume – Each weekend is themed. I went during Faerie and Fantasy Weekend.
  • Stay posted to the daily deal sites for any future Faire offers. I purchased mine in June of this year for the August event.

For more photos from this event, you can find them on my Facebook page:

www.facebook.com/EstellaPNW

Thank you for stopping by!

Links:

The Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire http://www.washingtonfaire.com/

The Kelley Farm http://www.thekelleyfarm.com/history

Bonney Lake, Weather in August 2016 http://www.accuweather.com/en/us/bonney-lake-wa/98391/august-weather/331377

Hello, My Name is Estella

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Let me introduce myself. I tend to gain clarity through writing so there’s a chance I’ll learn something new or forgotten about myself along the way.

My name is Estella and I am based in the Pacific Northwest – Washington State to be more specific. In this new decade of my life, I am embarking on another journey and making a living doing what I love – photography, traveling, and writing. This sits well with my health, personality, goals, and overall well-being. Photography has always been an interest of mine since I was a child but it was only in my daydreams I considered making a career out of photography. I saw myself as a photojournalist covering international stories, perched on the skid of a helicopter with camera in hand, trekking through the Amazon in search of new species of all life (plants, birds, etc.), and working with entomologists atop a rainforest canopy cataloging different species of insects. (I also wanted to be a flight surgeon but I’ll leave that story for another time.) My daydreams are pretty fantastic. Right? I still have plenty of them. The difference between my childhood daydreams and my adult daydreams is the realization that dreams can become reality. Life will lead you on many paths and it’s up to you which one to follow or create. I’m in the space of creating my own paths now.

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So how did I come to the decision to pursue photography and writing as a career?  What finally lit the fire for me to move forward with my daydreams? Earlier this decade I was injured on the job and subsequently laid off due to “downsizing” within the department. This afforded me the bittersweet opportunity to focus on my health and free my wanderer spirit. Through the generous gift of a new Canon EOS Rebel T5 camera and equipment from my siblings last year, I am now able to explore and capture images on film that convey a story  I have always wanted to share. I’m grateful for the opportunities that have already come across my path, opportunities that are in front of me now, and opportunities awaiting my presence in time. Gratitude is my choice in managing life’s challenges, so with gratitude I share my photographs, travel logs, writing, and my other creative gifts with you.

Thank you for reading.

*Estella

Introducing my new website

IMG_1046 crretcontr50Thanks for stopping by and welcome to my new blog! This is just an introductory post so I’ll keep it short and sweet.

I decided to start a blog because I want to share my travel and photography adventures. Plus, I love to write.

Once or twice a month I plan to write and share posts about my adventures, my travels, and photography. It’s pretty much my adventure journal as I skip along this new path and any other new paths along the way.

That’s it for now! If you’d like to be kept updated with my posts “Like” this post or subscribe to my blog.

*Estella 🙂

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