Sunday, December 22, 2013

Solstice Rambles

It has been a long and emotionally wrenching year. Our most fervent hope is that, just as the shortest day of the year comes to a close and the hours of daylight gradually increase, life follows suit and brightens a bit more each week.

With that thought in mind, we decided to chuck all responsibilities while the Resident Teen was out of town with a friend's family, enjoying a snowy getaway up near the border, and just go wandering in our new neck of the woods.

But you know what they say about mice and their best laid plans. At first, Things Were Not Cooperating. We'd planned to center our outing on a visit to Sliders Cafe in Carnation, where Tony would bring his banjo and enjoy a bluegrass jam.

However, this goal was thwarted by the fact that, despite a chock-full calendar of events on the cafe's website, the forbidding news that it was closing down (which we'd learned a few weeks ago) came true, and instead of the bluegrass jam, yesterday was actually the Big Move-Out Day. Showing up with a banjo would've been just silly.

We decided to haul the dog with us and go for a walk in the Carnation area anyway, though I think partly the resident Banjo Player wanted to see for himself that Sliders actually was closed. Driving past the darkened building without a name on it anymore was a pretty good clue that it was.

"Hey, why don't we go to Remlinger Farms and get a pie for later?" suggested the disappointed musician. So we headed east, driving a route we took many times when the Resident Teen was a little one and a farm park with ponies, old-fashioned sweet rides, a fire truck to climb on, and baby goats to pet--with the promise of an ice cream cone before going home--was all that happiness required.

We knew the park would be closed, but thought perhaps the big produce and gift store would be open. We were wrong. No pie for us.

Well, at least we could go for a walk. Or could we? The first two pull-outs on the main road demanded that we have a Discover Pass to park there and set foot on the trail. Lacking said pass, we pushed farther south. And there we discovered a little gem that made all the dead-ends worth while: Tolt Macdonald Park and Campground.

The dog bounded out of the car (as much as she could bound with a leash around her neck) and nearly hyperventilated snuffing up all the rich new smells as we followed a path along the Tolt River. The river, roaring thunderously, galloped along like a herd of mustangs.


We hadn't walked for five minutes before we  heard the creaking cry of a bald eagle. It settled in a tree just ahead of us on the trail.

Across the river, its mate perched  near the enormous nest the two had maintained for years. Another walker told us they'd raised an eaglet there last year and she'd come every day to see the story unfold.

Another bit of walking took us to a curve in the trail where the Tolt joined forces with the Snoqualmie River. A suspension bridge over the roiling waters led to a lush green campground complete with yurts.

A cheerful sign warned us of the usual dangers to expect (oh, you know, little things like cougars and bears), but the only perils present were a pair of off-leash Doberman pinschers. I think Luna would've preferred the cougars and bears to the investigation she got from the Dobies.

As it was, she didn't appreciate walking across slats and having to spread her webbed Labrador toes wide, so she carefully walked like a trapeze artist on the little wooden "sidewalk" that ran down the middle of the bridge to facilitate rolling wheelbarrows full of camping gear across the river.

Finally, the low-lying white strips of cloud sank to ground level, creating that particularly Northwest variety of snow-globe-style drizzle.

Wet and muddy, we returned to the car, drove home, tidied up, and went out again, this time to Willows Lodge for an evening by a roaring fire complete with a glass of wine, a plate of antipasti, and thumping good music played by a young acoustic guitarist and his drum-playing friend. Christmas lights twinkled inside and out, laughing at the darkness of the longest night.