Awesome Portland: Baby Wolves and Snow Leopards at Chasing Tail

19 Jul

Snow leopards, wolves and Malaysianfishingcats, oh my!

The main reason we went on the Portland trip was to visit Chasing Tail (recognise anyone in those photos? =D), a wildlife conservation center near the border of Washington and Oregon. I’d highly recommend it – James and I learned a lot and had an amazing experience.

James was originally interested in visiting with the adult wolves, but when the website put up a notice that they had puppies that they needed help socialising, I made reservations in a flash.

Wolves

There were two timber wolves and one arctic wolf. It was funny how much they’re like overgrown puppies – they love chewing on things, running around and licking us. They’re surprisingly powerful, and even James was knocked off his feet when they threw themselves at him. His favourite was the arctic wolf but unfortunately the arctic wolf wanted nothing to do with him.

IMG_3952Look at how happy James is and how much that arctic wolf could not give a shit.

I was the clear favourite (James has been calling me “Kayeby: Friend of the Wolves” ever since). All three wolves fell in love with my leather belt and, to a lesser extent, my leather shoes.

This is pretty much the precise moment they discovered their new chew toy.
IMG_2241They kept shoving each other aside so they could get at my belt and used it to pull me around. They are tiny but super strong so I was flopping all over the place. I felt a bit bad (though not too bad) because as soon as they discovered my belt they had eyes for no other.

IMG_2277If you’ve never been the victim of a wolf puppy feeding frenzy I highly recommend it.

IMG_2270In case you’re curious, this is what my belt looked like afterwards. I hope one day someone asks me why it’s so messed up so I can be all like “freaking wolves, man” (nobody will ever ask).
IMG_4152Malaysian Fishing Cat

Her name was Malaysia and she was very young so we all had to disinfect ourselves before going near her. I remembered her being super tiny, but looking back at the photos she was about kitten size – I guess she felt especially fragile after the rambunctious wolf puppies. She made these adorable squeaks, and after getting fed she had milk all over her face. She also pooped on the other guy there – oops!

Did James fall in love with her derpy little face? I think he did!
IMG_3969Did she and James make kissy faces at each other? I think they did!IMG_3980

When there was a gust of wind she would start shivering and I would try to shelter her by folding myself around her. She loved climbing on shoulders.

Oh hey girl, hey!
IMG_2295Snow Leopards

James came for the wolves but stayed for the snow leopards! Apparently there is a very small window where you can handle snow leopards without getting attacked – when they get older they often turn on their zoo keepers so everyone has to be very careful. It really was awesome to be able to see them up close.

The male was called Viktor and the female was Marishka. Here I am cuddling little Viktor.
IMG_2327We got to bottle feed the snow leopards (I noticed that the other couple took turns but James hogged it all to himself. I think he was still a bit stung that the wolves hated him so much). But James was sooo happy that I didn’t mind letting him have all the glory.
IMG_4058Look how jealous that dog is (it reminds me a bit of my profile pic to the right, ha!)

Marishka was totally blissed out guzzling her milk – she’s grabbing James’ wrist with her GIANT PAWS all like “keep the milk coming”. But afterwards she’s like “oh man … where did my life go wrong?”
IMG_4075After they were fed they kind of lost interest in us and went wandering around. We watched them for a little while but then James scooped them back up. He does this double hug with our cats too.
IMG_4129They tolerated it for a surprising amount of time but after awhile Victor got sick of sharing James with Marishka (just like our cats!)
IMG_4147Soon after that it was time to go. I’m super tempted to go back to learn about the sloths and penguins but James is like “why? We’ve already seen the best animals there”.

Between the hike and Chasing Tail, Friday was by far our busiest (and best!) day in Portland. Saturday was comparatively low-key – catching up on shopping and then relaxing in the hotel lobby and drinking free booze until it was time to catch our Bolt Bus home.

I’m glad we got to do more than just Powells and tax-free shopping this trip. Oregon is a beautiful state and I’d love to go back again to see things we didn’t have time for, like Crater Lake (and sloths and penguins).

 

Awesome Portland: Hiking and Tax Free Shopping

15 Jul

The last time James and I went to Portland we had an awesome time and wanted to stay for longer. So this time we stayed for two nights to see a bit more of the surrounding area. We took the Bolt Bus again and this time it was a mere $24 return for both of us – $12 each!

Thursday

We stayed at Hotel Monaco, which I’d highly recommend. It’s part of the Kimpton hotel chain, which we’ve always had great experiences at. They do a cool happy hour between 5-6pm with free wine, beer and even a signature summer cocktail.

Our room was small and cute (note the bear on the bed – $35 if you wanted to take him home!).
IMG_3858We headed to a nearby food truck pod to grab lunch – a Korean bowl for James ($6ish)
IMG_2194and a Mexican combination platter for me ($7ish). It was very generously portioned and even came with tortillas so I needed James’ help to finish it.
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Sufficiently fortified, we headed to Nordstrom Rack for some shopping. James picked up some shoes and socks and I found this giant boot (size 16!) that James refused to let me buy as a bed for Mouse.

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We pre-gamed a little bit at the hotel happy hour before heading to Andina for dinner.

It. Was. Amazing.

Definitely one of the top 5 meals of my life. The service was fantastic and the food was swoonworthy. It’s listed as one of the more expensive restaurants in Portland but it only worked out to $50 a head (including multiple delicious cocktails) before tip. Given the quality I would have expected it to be twice the price, and at that price point it was phenomenal value.

I took some photos but decided they didn’t do justice to the food. Everything was fresh and delicious and if you ever visit Portland (which you should!) you must, must eat here – and make sure you order the anticuchos.

After that amazing meal we walked to an Amazon locker to pick up a shipment of goodies. James was very jealous of my noise cancelling headphones so we got him his own pair. I also may or may not have bought a Kindle Paperwhite.

Friday

The next morning James and I got up at 6am to go hiking. We walked to a Zipcar and drove an hour to do the Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls hike, which is supposed to be one of the signature Oregon hikes.

I heard it can be really busy in Summer so definitely wanted to do it early on a weekday. We hardly saw anyone on the way up, so it was absolutely perfect. =)

Early into the hike we took a quick detour to Punchbowl Falls.
IMG_3868The water felt quite cold but otherwise it looks like a pretty nice swimming hole. We walked along the creek and even though we lingered at the Falls we had the whole place to ourselves.

IMG_3873There was a second, smaller, waterfall a bit further down the creek.
IMG_3875Then headed back to the main trail and traversed some creeks and bridges. It was starting to get sunnier but we were mainly walking in the shade so it was nice and cool.

I think this section was called the Potholes. They were very soothing to walk on.
IMG_3882Soon after, we turned a corner and there was Tunnel Falls. You can see the tunnel which leads behind the falls – so we actually got to walk behind a waterfall, which was super cool.
IMG_3886And even better, we had the whole falls to ourselves! I don’t mind busy hikes but it’s so much nicer when you’re the only ones around. I imagine that goes tenfold on a narrow hike like this one.

Look how massive it is!

IMG_3905For a sense of scale you can see the tunnel going behind the waterfall halfway down. And for extra scale here I am at one of those tunnels:

IMG_2211Some crazy people actually do cliff jumps into the water below. I think it’s something like a 70 foot fall, which is high enough that you can actually injure yourself if you hit the water wrong.

A lot of people turn around at Tunnel Falls but if you keep going a little while longer you can catch another waterfall. The narrow path there is called the Vertigo Mile and I definitely noticed James looking a bit nervous at parts.
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You might remember that he is a little nervous around heights. Most of the really high, narrow parts had cables (which he made ample use of) but he said he was fine as long as he didn’t look down. I didn’t have any problems – partially because heights don’t really bother me but I guess I’m also smaller so the path was relatively wider.

After a short walk we saw Twister Falls, which was predictably twisty and totally worth the small amount of extra time it took to get there.
IMG_3909After that we turned around and started heading back. Unfortunately by this time it was starting to get really warm in the sun, so the walk down was much more unpleasant. We also saw a lot more people heading up, so an early start was definitely the way to go.

The hike took just under five hours going at a leisurely pace, detouring to Punchbowl Falls and taking a lot of photos. Afterwards we went to Pok Pok, which is a fantastic Thai restaurant (seriously, Portland food punches sooo far above its weight) and back to our hotel for a nap before heading out again to see … BABY WOLVES AND SNOW LEOPARDS. 

But that is a subject that deserves its own blog post =D

Skillet Diner

1 Jul

Skillet Diner
1400 E Union St, Seattle

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I’ve been meaning to go to Skillet Diner for ages, and last Friday James and I were in an eating out mood. It was Pride Weekend, so the whole neighborhood was celebrating and rainbowed up.

We arrived about 20 minutes early for our reservation but there was room so they seated us straight away.

We ordered cocktails to start – I had a Brunch 75 ($9) with vodka, st. germain, prosecco and grapefruit juice and James ordered a Smoky Paloma ($10) which was basically a grapefruity margarita. Later in the meal he ordered a Basically a Fancy Old Fashioned ($9) which used jicama-infused whiskey. They came in cute, teeny tiny hipster Mason jars.

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I had the ultimate grilled cheese ($11) with bacon jam ($2) and fried chicken ($5) and a side of poutine ($3). I could have gotten a side salad instead but I prefer the “heart attack on a plate” look.

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The poutine was crazy dense. It was also only a bit above room temperature, so even though it was tasty the combination of lukewarm-ness and sliminess was a bit off-putting. I probably would get fries next time.

The grilled cheese was amazing! Perfectly browned and I loved the combination of the cheese, bacon jam and chicken thigh. I ate half the sandwich and maybe a third of the poutine. James polished off the poutine and I took the rest of my grilled cheese home for breakfast the next day.

James ordered the special of the day – Denver lamb ribs – juniper coriander crust, yuzu marmalade, adobo marinated grilled pineapple, grilled corn, frisee, english peas and charred spring onions ($29).

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It came in a skillet (“how eponymous!” James might say).

The meat was super tender and had a really interesting flavour. I think James particularly liked the marmalade, which added a touch of sweetness and wasn’t nearly as marmalade-y as you’d expect. It’s exactly the sort of meal I love ordering at restaurants – delicious with PITA flavour combinations that you would never consider making at home. Definitely worth ordering!

We were super full at this stage – and remember that I’d only managed about half my meal. But when we eat out I always want to have dessert! James ordered the doughnut holes ($6).

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They were light, warm and fresh. Also way more massive than he had anticipated.

There were a lot of awesome-looking desserts but because I was so full I ordered what looked like the lightest option – the cheesecake in a jar ($6)

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It was nice but not outstanding; I’ve definitely had better cheesecakes. The strawberry layer was a bit too gelatin-y and I think it suffered from not having the usual ratio of topping to cheesecake.

James definitely got the best of the ordering competition that night, but overall we were both really pleased with the meal. There were multiple menu items that I wouldn’t mind going back to try – namely the boozy shakes, some of the fried desserts and the fried chicken.

The walk home initially started as a waddle, but the food wasn’t heavy in our stomachs for long – impressive given their fried-ness. I was expecting to feel way worse afterwards. Perhaps it’s because we were in a good mood but we both agreed that Skillet Diner was one of the best dining experiences we’ve had in Seattle. It’s one of the few places here that’s lived up to the hype for me (the others that come to mind are Paseo’s and Shiro’s) and I’d highly recommend it.
Skillet Diner on Urbanspoon

Just So I Don’t Forget!

23 Jun

James was watching the new RoboCop the other night. Afterwards he was telling me about the movie and said:

James: You know, the real heroes were the software engineers who wrote the program that detected who the bad guys were. Even though RoboCop was the one shooting everyone, all the real work had already been done by then.

The more I smirked the more indignant he got.

I also remember aaaages ago when he finished watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes he was like:

James: (in a really thoughtful tone) That was a really inspiring monkey.

And every time I bring that up he’s always super defensive – “well he was an inspiring monkey!”

James has odd movie heroes.

The Quintessential Seattle Hike: Mount Si

12 Jun

A few weekends ago it was a beautiful day and we needed to use our Zipcar quota for the month so James and I decided to hike Mount Si. It’s a 3150 foot (960 meter) elevation gain over 8 miles, so a nice leg workout.

I read somewhere that it’s the most hiked trail in Washington, so we were prepared for crowds. We arrived in the parking lot around 9:15am, snagging one of the last available parking spots.

As you can see it’s not particularly scenic on the way up. The majority of the route is through the trees, so at least you don’t have the sun on you.
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Most people on Yelp said they reached the summit basin in 2.5 hours, one guy ran up in under an hour, and someone said that 2 hours was reasonable for someone in decent shape. James wasn’t feeling 100% (getting over a cold and some lingering asthma) but we made it up in 1.5 hours.

I often had to trot to keep up with James. It was pretty much constant uphill broken up by slightly steeper uphills. I do feel that my hill sprints paid dividends here – I definitely couldn’t sustain a jog but it wasn’t a huge deal to break into an uphill run every so often to catch up to James.

Also, and I’m sure this is only interesting to me, but my glutes only started getting sore during the last 20% of the ascent. I’m super quad-dominant so I think that’s how long it took for my quads to tire out and stop doing all the work.

As predicted, it was a really busy hike. We were constantly passing people on the way up and there was a steady stream of people on their way down. This is how many people were at the entrance to the summit basin, and by the time we left it was 2-3 times as packed.
IMG_3682It was entertaining doing some people-watching. Hikers ran the gamut from young kids to the elderly, the super fit to the obese. Some people were in jeans and others were kitted out with massive packs and hiking poles (and James got a fair few comments about his Vibrams). We also passed a brave little chihuahua.

We spent some time exploring the area; scrambling over rocks and finding nice views (protip: pretty much everywhere had a nice view).
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The good thing about the summit basin was that it was really spread out, so even with the crowds it was easy to find somewhere secluded to sit and admire the view.

This was where we had lunch (I may have taken James by surprise when I took this photo).
IMG_3708After lunch we decided to climb the Haystack, which is the true summit of Mount Si. When we were hiking up we hadn’t decided either way, but once we saw it we thought it was doable.
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On a sunny, dry day like ours it wasn’t difficult (lots of easy handholds and places to put your feet), but it is a little scary because if you lose your footing you can fall a long way, and apparently people have died doing it. Plus sometimes people higher up would accidentally kick loose rocks down.

There were a lot of people attempting it but not many people made it all the way up. I don’t think we saw any of the people in this photo at the top.
IMG_3716Funnily enough, although James is afraid of heights – he doesn’t even like being in a chairlift – he was fine climbing the Haystack. He said he doesn’t like relying on things that aren’t himself to keep from falling.
IMG_3717Although the WTA website recommends against climbing the Haystack I was really glad we did it, and James said it was his favourite part of the hike.

The view at the top was pretty similar to the basin, but I guess a bit more panoramic. I don’t think it’s worth climbing to get the slightly less obstructed view, but if you feel like some additional work and are a completionist it’s nice to get to the true summit.
IMG_3723It’s also a lot less crowded at the top – maybe 5-10 people at a time compared to 100+ spread around the summit basin. We chatted to the others up there and had a nice time just looking around and taking everything in.

IMG_3726Going down the Haystack was trickier than going up, but there weren’t any worrying parts. Some bits it was easier to do facing the wall and other parts it was easier to face out.
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But yeah, not technically difficult by any means – just a matter of taking it slow and making sure you had good footing.

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By the time we’d finished mucking around on top it had gotten massively more busy at the summit base as a several big groups arrived. Mount Si is the wrong hike if you’re after a solitary experience, but it’s as challenging as you choose to make it with a phenomenal view (and optional fun climb) to reward you at the end.
IMG_2100We trotted the whole way down, but it didn’t make much difference to our time – maybe because I was in the lead. A slow jog down, not even fast enough to start breathing heavily, was about as fast as I felt comfortable going, and our descent took 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Afterwards we met up with Rian and Sandra for dinner at Marination Ma Kai in West Seattle for victory fish and chips, fries and sliders.
IMG_3759I don’t think the food is as good as their other locations (still tasty!), but it makes up for it with cocktails and the view across the water towards Seattle. It was a beautiful end to a beautiful Seattle day.
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Hike at Poo Poo Point

2 Jun

Hee. Poo Poo.

A couple of weeks ago some friends organised a hike at Poo Poo Point. It’s a 7.4 mile (12 km) round trip with a 1650 foot (503 meter) elevation, so probably the easiest of the hikes we’ve done in Washington. It’s a very popular hike through a forest and quite narrow for most of the way. There was a sign warning about bears and cougars but we didn’t see any. =(

This was near the start and one of the widest parts of the trail:

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Since I skipped hill sprints that week I tried to jog up some of the hills. It was surprisingly okay, especially since then I got longer breaks while I waited for people to catch up.

Poo Poo Point is definitely one of those hikes where the payoff is at the end. I kind of don’t mind hikes like that – on something like Yosemite’s Mist Trail I definitely want to stop to ooh and aah, but on trails where the scenery is a bit same-same I like to challenge myself a bit.

We did find a nice bridge though:
IMG_3617About 2/3 of the way through the hike James was assigned baby-carrying duty. James said it was like having a little furnace strapped to his chest. He was a good little baby though, and apart from some slight awkwardness when he tried to suck on James’ boob, was content to dangle there in quiet confusion.

IMG_3626I think at this point we saw a sign that made us worry we’d taken a wrong turn (we hadn’t). Notice TJ looking like a vengeful ghost in the background. You stoooole my baaaaaby …

The view from the top was beautiful. We were fortunate because it was a clear day so we could see Lake Sammamish and surrounds. There was also a green strip that hanggliders and paragliders use to launch.

IMG_3653This is my James. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

We set up at a picnic table and had some snacks, which attracted scavengers.
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Victory photo!

IMG_3658The descent is always a bit boring because you’ve already seen the scenery and it isn’t the same physical challenge that going uphill is. I did get a chance to test out my new (to hiking) shoes going downhill and they were fine – much better than my old runners (toes jamming against the front) and my Vibrams (even worse – toe webbing jamming against the front).

Afterwards we had Victory BBQ. That’s right, Victory BBQ is a thing. A delicious, delicious thing.

 

James Takes a Day Off and We Go to Restaurant Roux

22 May

Restaurant Roux
4201 Fremont Ave N, Seattle

IMG_3596James has been working super long hours recently, so he took a day in lieu to partially make up for it. It was a good opportunity to try out Restaurant Roux in Fremont, since I’ve heard it’s good but the weekday lunch menu is the only one that strikes my fancy.

Restaurant Roux started as the Where Ya At Matt food truck, which was rated one of the best food trucks in the country. I’ve never gotten round to visiting, even tough the food truck parks near our place on Mondays.

My only other experience with Creole food was when we went to Brenda’s in San Francisco so I was pretty excited about Restaurant Roux. James got a lunch cocktail, because why not. He ordered the Battle of New Orleans ($10), which was bourbon, anisette, absinthe and various bitters.

IMG_3597He said it was good, but we both definitely raised an eyebrow when it arrived looking like dirty mop water. It really could have done with a garnish or something to make it look a little less gross. But when your cocktail comes out like a bag of brown I guess there’s only so much you can do.

Pretty-toad

James and I were both trying to decide between the same two things on the menu so we decided to split them. We ordered a fried oyster po’boy ($12)

IMG_3601and a Creole pork po’boy ($11)

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They arrived already conveniently cut in half.

The oyster po’boy was the clear favourite. There were fewer oysters than on the po’boy from Brenda’s, and I didn’t like the bread they used as much (it was kind of flimsy), but I think the actual oysters were nicer and the batter was nice and airy. Although I enjoyed the oysters more than I did at Brenda’s, it confirmed that fried oysters just aren’t my thing. But if they’re yours, I think Restaurant Roux does them well.

The Creole pork po’boy was super messy to eat and had a kind of bitter aftertaste that I didn’t like. I gave some of mine to James when I realised I wasn’t going to have room for dessert afterwards.

We also ordered some fries to split ($4):

IMG_3600No complaints about the fries! I also like the fries in mayo thing – is it a Southern thing?

For dessert we just had enough room for some beignets. Unlike Brenda’s they only had plain beignets ($4) so that’s what we ordered:

IMG_3602They came covered in a lifetime supply of icing sugar.

James said they reminded him of the Vic Market donuts, but I think beignets are less dense (and obviously they don’t have jam). I enjoyed them but preferred the flavoured beignets at Brenda’s. Nothing against the quality of the beignets at Restaurant Roux – the plain ones were my least favourite flavour at Brenda’s too.

We left feeling very full, and it was super nice having a leisurely weekday lunch. I think overall I wasn’t wowed enough to make a special trip out for it again, but if I’m feeling sandwichy on a Monday I’d definitely go to the food truck to try a muffaletta.

Restaurant Roux on Urbanspoon

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