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Ebb and Flow

 

Standing on the shores of the Puget Sound this weekend, the ebb and flow of the sea visually reminded me that life is constantly changing but there is beauty in each moment.  As the New Year draws nigh, thoughts drift to memories of the last year while energy builds in anticipation of new things to come.  How fortunate we are, here in the Pacific Northwest, to be so close to the force and grandeur of the ocean.  May it draw you to its shores where you too can breathe in its inspiration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walkers Landing, Shelton Washington

 

Wishing you hopeful renewal as you welcome in 2019.

 

 

‘Tis the Season

Last Christmas, (and suddenly the words “I gave you my heart…” sing out in my head), my company Christmas dinner was hosted by Ricardo’s restaurant right here in the heart of Lacey.  I confess, I had not been to Ricardo’s restaurant when they were originally located on Lacey Blvd.  This new location on Woodland Square Loop has been my only experience dining there.

The atmosphere is upscale yet with a warmth that made me feel at home.  The food is amazing but no convincing is necessary there.  You will find that out for yourself with your first delectable bite.

 

 

My favorite parts of the experience were the bar which is perfectly located with several stools aligned in a row but with proximity to half the restaurant seating so diners can enjoy the camaraderie even while at their table.  I couldn’t help be dazzled by the bartender who possessed a magical blend of efficiency graced with artistic flare.

The new location is not only a fine dining restaurant but also a venue for large banquets, receptions and business gatherings.  Their lobby is stunning with colorful flames dancing about in the rock lined fireplaces.  Seating is ample and cozy, luring me over on my walk back from the ladies room causing my co-workers to later come searching for me.  It was just a perfectly relaxing place to breathe in the experience.

 

 

They are open for lunch but if dining in the evening, you will want to make reservations.  Word has spread and this gem is no longer a local secret but rather a local hangout.

http://chefricardo.com/

 

 

 

Safe Harbor

~ Photo by Julie Brannberg

Those of us in the Pacific Northwest have been inundated with warnings of wildfires by the news carriers and weather forecasters.  It’s hard not to let your mind wander and pretty soon the worry and fret can permeate one’s thoughts.  Not a good place to be – fearing the worst and not really feeling like much can be done about it.

I found myself in need of a break from these thoughts this last weekend so I retreated to one of my favorite places – Percival Landing in Olympia.  It was early on a Sunday morning.  The stillness calmed my spirit as I sat on a dock and breathed in the salty, sea-scented air.  Two kayakers were casting their fishing lines into the inlet waters as the seagulls chattered about.  One curiously playful sea otter entertained us – popping his head up every so many minutes and then disappearing just as the kayakers tried to get up close and personal.

I sat in the marina surrounded by the seafaring vessels which call this place “home”.  Their anchors steady them while the rhythmic waters gently rock them like a lullaby sung by the sea.  In those moments, I felt safe – somehow wrapped in the security and predictability of the harbor.  I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the beauty.  The silence drowning out the noise I was retreating from.

Before I had to slip back to reality,  I walked over to admire my favorite tugboat – The Sandman.  On display for our annual Harbor Days festival, she always makes me smile.  Such personality and presence.  Cared for by a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring her into a floating museum – preserving her memories of maritime history.  Check her out the next time you retreat to the harbor:  The Sandman Tugboat.

Whatever life brings your way, remember how close we Olympians are to the beautiful serenity of the sea – our safe harbor.

Taking Refuge

Nisqually Wildlife Refuge

Is life running at a higher speed than you’re comfortable with? Have you forgotten what a rose smells like? Maybe it’s time to take refuge from the daily grind and escape for a bit.

The Nisqually Wildlife Refuge is located just off Interstate 5 at exit 114 and I can guarantee this will be a visit you will cherish and most definitely add to your list of local favorite places. Established in 1974, the Refuge offers protection to the wildlife of the Nisqually River Delta. One of the larger populations inhabiting the estuary is the migratory bird. “Over 200 species of bird visit the Refuge over the course of a year.” I never thought I would enjoy bird watching but I must say that until you have tried it, don’t rule it out. It can be rather fascinating and also add a “treasure hunt” feel to your visit if you bring along a bird watching book and a pair of binoculars.

It’s not just for the birds, though. The Nisqually River borders the Refuge on the east and McAllister Creek borders on the west nearly ensuring you will spot fish, amphibians, reptiles and other mammals during your visit as well. Newts, frogs, beavers and the endangered Coho salmon are just a few of the Refuge’s inhabitants.

Throughout the Refuge there are many well maintained trails. You can walk for a short while or for hours depending on the length of time you wish to spend in this glorious retreat. The trails are open daily from sunrise to sunset but the gates will close after hours. If you’re up for a longer walk, there is a wooden boardwalk extending out to the northern tip of the estuary allowing you to take in amazing views of the Sound.

Next time you’re needing an escape but are limited on time or distance, find some refuge at Nisqually Wildlife Refuge.

Nisqually Wildlife Refuge

Got summer?

“A Stone Has No Choice But Accept The Rain”
West Bay Drive NW, Olympia

I’m looking for summer. Have you seen it? The stone in this picture may be resolved to accept the rain; however, I am not. “Then why do you live in Western Washington?”, you ask. For starters, the initial decision was made some twenty-five years ago with promises and assumptions that never came to fruition.  Meanwhile, the four most important people in my life, who all call me “Mom”, live here and will not be moving anytime soon. Thus, I have become one who tries my best to see the brightness in my world regardless of the color of the sky or its omnipresent precipitation.

In Olympia, we officially celebrate Summer Solstice on Tuesday, June 20, 2017 at 9:24pm. It will be the longest day of the year – the sun rising around 5am and burning above us until well after 9pm. While the sun’s presence we can count on, its elusiveness here in the PNW means we do not always see it with the naked eye.  Experience has taught me that planning around the forecast causes me to ride an emotional roller-coaster of anticipation, then excitement followed by inevitable disappointment.  However, I’m going out on the proverbial limb here and letting you know that it does appear we will have temperatures in the 80’s on Monday which lower slightly into the 70’s Tuesday.  Both days are showing sunshine emoticons trying their best to emerge past those stubborn clouds. 

Find more about Weather in Olympia, WA
Click for weather forecast

Check first, but if the weather gods decide to have favor on us Olympians, consider some outdoor dining at the beginning of your week. Have a backyard BBQ with your friends and neighbors or visit one of our waterfront dining favorites which also has the option of outdoor seating. Anthony’s Hearthfire Grill, Budd Bay Cafe, Anthony’s Homeport, or Tugboat Annie’s are some good options. Our gorgeous waterfront, framed by a snow-capped mountainous backdrop, makes Olympia one of the most beautiful places to live, despite the rain. Maybe we should, like the stone, choose to accept the rain – acknowledging its sustenance which allows nature to thrive. But thank goodness, the earth cannot live by water alone.

Sun… we have missed you.

Hidden treasure

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Porter Creek Falls ~ Elma, Washington. Photo taken by Julie Brannberg in April 2016

Did you know something so beautiful was just a little bit south of Olympia? Porter Falls is located at “the confluence of Porter Creek and the West Fork of Porter Creek” inside Capitol Forest. Many times these natural beauties are located such that we have to admire them from afar but Porter Falls invites you to get up close and personal. You could even get your feet wet at several spots along the trail if you’re the type that likes to venture off the beaten path.

The hike is perfect for all types of hikers:  families, those pushing jogging strollers or if Fido wants to tag along on his leash.  The Porter Creek Campground is nearby and can be camped at from May through November – no fee and no reservations.  Just make sure to bring along your Discover Pass and maybe a roll of toilet paper as porta-potties are as civilized as it gets!

Check out these links to this hidden treasure:

http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/porter-falls

 https://www.campendium.com/porter-creek-campground

 

The “other” Gorge

Columbia River Gorge

Photo taken by Julie Brannberg – April 9, 2016

I have lived in the Pacific Northwest since 1993 and have never made a trip to the Columbia River Gorge until last weekend.  What an amazing place!  Traveling along the Historic Columbia River Highway (US Route 30), we passed more waterfalls that I could count.  Although Multnomah Falls is a tourist destination, we opted for the less populated Latourell Falls where we were able to walk almost right into the waterfall itself.  Talk about living!

From Olympia, the drive is about three hours south and east – just enough over to the other side of the state to get a feel of that warmer weather.  The Columbia River divides Washington and Oregon so you can view the Gorge by traveling in either state depending on which side of the water you prefer to be on.

Check out the website below for more detailed information and next time you’re in the mood for a change of scenery and want to get out of town – check out the Columbia River Gorge!

http://traveloregon.com/trip-ideas/scenic-byways/the-historic-columbia-river-highway/

So close, but yet it feels so far away…

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Photo taken by Julie Brannberg – March 29, 2016

 

If you’re limited on time, or have all the time in the world for that matter, and want to feel like you’ve really gotten away from it all for awhile – check out the William Cannon Footpath on Olympia’s Westside.

Just a hop, skip and a jump off of Madrona Beach Road, this trail takes you to a spot where you will be smitten with breathtaking views of the southernmost reach of the Puget Sound and likely be able to observe wildlife while there.  If you think you may want to get your feet wet, consider bringing some rain boots or footwear that can get muddy as “Mud Bay” didn’t get its name due to lack of better options!

For directions and more detailed information, visit:

https://walkolympia.wordpress.com/tag/best-walks-olympia-washington-loop-trail-mud-bay-pilings-douglas-fir-great-blue-heron-undeveloped-salt-waterfront/