Seattle, continued

Seattle from Kerry Park

Because I went to bed at 7 PM I wake up before 5 AM the next morning. I am an early riser in every time zone so it doesn’t surprise me. I still get a decent amount of sleep last night. The early start gives me an opportunity to do my list of exercises and stretches that can make me feel like a normal human, a list that I have saved in a google doc. Let’s hope I can keep this up with some sort of consistency.

I have a to do list of things I could do right now but the only problem it is a holiday today for many in the USA so not a great day to take care of business.. I’ll have to make all my phone calls tomorrow. I could do some travel bookings for future travel but it is 6 am and I’m hungry so I am heading downstairs for a coffee and continental breakfast.

I can get an early start today but the sun rises late in this part of the country; did I know that? I finally plan out my day. I decide to first travel over to Kerry Park for a spectacular view of the city. I map out the route on Google maps. It seems easy enough. Short walk, public transit, then short walk – probably uphill. However when I see a number 1 listed on the transport I realize later it is the number 1 bus I need and not the number 1 line light rail, a thing I realize when I am going in the total wrong direction but not at first. I get off the light rail first in Capital Hill and then reverse the route only to realize I am supposed to be on a bus. I exit at Chinatown and find a good bus from there that will take be where I want to go.

Danger! In Chinatown.
Chinatown very early in the morning

The bus drops me off at the bottom of a hill. I climb a few blocks then hit a set of stairs to the park.

Found my dream home on this street

I realize at once that sunset is probably the best time to visit this park. The view is still pretty but you are looking at the sun. Today is looking like it is going to a cool beautiful sunny day.

I head back down the hill to catch the bus to The Museum of Pop Culture. In retrospect I could have walked there. It isn’t too far from where I catch the bus.

I walk though the Seattle center area. There are a couple museums and some people are heading to what I believe is an ice hockey game. The famous space needle is here but I am not going up top today. I took the trip to the top in the late 90’s when I visited my high school BFF that was living in Washington at the time.

Look at those young things. We were both in our twenties but we look like teenagers. Circa 1998 or 1999.

I’m not really visiting museums this stop in Seattle but I do want to check out the museum of pop culture. I spend a couple hours here seeing movie and music props, topped with a little nostalgia. Seattle grunge was all the rage when I was coming of age so of course the music exhibits have a profound affect on me.

I am hungry so I take the monorail to get some soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung.

Monorail station

The food is served family style but I am solo. I only order two dishes and that is more than enough. I try the signature bao dumplings and the recommended green beans along with a lychee cocktail. It is all very good. This is the first time I’ve ate at a soup dumpling place that came with an infographic on how to eat.

I take the bus to Capital Hill to wander the neighborhood and to view the apartment building that appears in the movie Singles. Singles was an important movie at a time where I was at an age to “get it”. The movie, the music, everything about it screams nostalgia to me. This visit was a great sightseeing stop for me.

The rest of the neighborhood is pretty cool. Nice old houses and architecture of apartment buildings. The architectures in the neighborhood are pretty divergent but they all seem to fit somehow. There is a strong lgbtq+ and ethnic restaurant presence. Basically I can see myself living in this diverse area. Until I get spooked a little…..

I need some more emergency cash for the international portion of my travels so I decide to stop by an ATM while wandering around capital hill. The ATM is noticeably slower than normal but I go through step by step. I get to the point where I am selecting the amount I want to take out and all of a sudden a man comes up behind me and hangs over me to push my buttons. I freak out thinking I am getting robbed. I scream “get away” and back my body toward him to push him away from the keys. He comes back at the keys. I scream “help, help” and push him away once again with my backside. He is mumbling something indecipherable. He finally touches the side of the ATM and walks away. I look around and there are two women nearby with campaign signs. They have noticed the situation and ask if I’m ok to which I reply “yes”. I finish my transaction and walk over to the women and we observe the man. It appears he has extreme OCD where he must press all the buttons he walks by. I slowly calm and start to feel embarrassed at my reaction to the situation. It is now clear what had happened – he “needed” to press my buttons and I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. You never know how you will react in a seemingly dangerous situation; now I do.

I’ve done my fair share of yelling today

All the places I eye to eat aren’t open yet in capital hill so I take the train back near the hotel but first I go in the wrong direction once again. I think this is the third time today I’ve made a travel blunder.

I find a place that has a pizza happy hour. It is just what I need for an early bird dinner. I call it another early night.

I am up early the next morning and decided to try the highly recommended biscuit bitch. It reminds me of a restaurant back home.

This morning I take a bus to Freemont to sell the troll art installation there. It is a cute town area that is home to some major employers. I enjoy my time wandering around, seeing the houses on the water and boats passing under a drawbridge.

I have a tour of the underground city scheduled so I take the bus to pioneer square. My tour guide is fun. We are a small group because I guess post holiday weekend and post covid. He tells lots of poop jokes, right up my alley. We learn the history on how the underground came to be. Along with stories of corruption, prostitution, taxes and of course poop.

I finish off the afternoon with a reservation at the Pink Door. I am unable to get a reservation at a time where there is entertainment which is a shame. I’ll have to come back and plan better next time. I did enjoy a nice meal before heading back to the hotel to take care of packing and last minutes things. Going to bed at decent hour but not as quite as early as last two days.


I wake up at 3 am to leave at 4:30 AM for my 7:00 AM flight. I am exhausted and of course did not get enough rest. At some point in my sleep deprived state I must have removed more items from my backpack because the next day I can’t find the pants I want to wear for sightseeing. How is my backpack so full even though I keep removing items and it is at least 10 liters larger than my previous one, that I loved and had seen better days.

I digress. The kiosk at Alaska airlines will not give me the luggage tag and errors out, a problem I seem to keep having with these kiosks. I have to get in the long line for the desk. Things are already not going as planned. When I get to security the lines are very long for 5:00 AM at the airport. I am thankful that I took the time for TSA pre check. While still a wait, at least I don’t have to wait as long.

I grab another coffee while I wait for my flight because I think it will help. It doesn’t really seem to make much difference. I am still tired and cranky and afraid the extra coffee will upset my stomach for the travels, I end up throwing away half of it.

I finally get to my premium economy seat next to a nice lady – a luxury I award myself because the base cost of the flight was free due to credits gained from a cancellation to Portland last year. I forget the aisle seat has reduced area under the seat so I end up putting my backpack in the overhead anyway. I fail to take advantage of the free alcoholic beverages that the premium class provides because it is 7:00 AM and I have seemed to lose my ability to consume alcohol easily anymore. I do pre-order a cheese plate for the fight and brought my own Brie to join the mix.

I arrive at Seattle after a pretty much event-less flight. I did even catch a nap of at least 30 minutes. After I claim my bags I take the walk over to the light rail station. While the light rail is a long ride of about 40 minutes, it is much cheaper than a cab or Uber and there is a stop a 5 minute walk from the hotel.

As I suspect I am way too early for check in. I drop my bags and wander. My plan is to go to the Freemont Sunday market today but it is cold and rainy and quite frankly I am not in the mood for it. I decide to visit the Pike Place Market which is right by my hotel & covered from the rain. At the market I watch the fish mongers throw fish (sorry no photos, they are too fast for me). I also witness food tours. It is busy. The market definitely caters to tourists and has kitschy stores but that is ok. I am a tourist. I need to return later to try some foods but now I have a one track mind.

The sight of all the crabs makes me crave crabs. I feel like I haven’t eaten for days so the hanger slowly starts in. I reject all of the wonderful suggestions of great places to dine given by my friends and head to a tourist crab place along the water.

On the way to getting some crab I pass the disgusting gum wall.

I finally get to a seafood place on the water that has crab on the menu. Luckily there is no wait and I get a reprieve from the cold and rain. I order the Snow and Dungeness crab combo. The Snow crab is good but the Dungeness is just ok. I am not sure if I am just not familiar with that type of crab or it was a lackluster day for Dungeness crabs. It doesn’t matter. I shoved as much crab in my mouth as possible. I definitely regret eating my weight in crab as well as the sourdough table bread when I am uncomfortably full the rest of the evening.

After I eat I wander around by the water. It seems to be the area that you take kids. There are carnival things to do and a curiosity place that seemed to be more of a store with weird things to purchase.

Still not time to check in, stop at a bar for a drink. Someone working here must really like Dua Lipa because her songs are on repeat for like an hour.

I head back and finally check into my room. It is nice , clean and simple. And I have an amazing view of a … ac unit. I can sort of see pike’s public market and the water but the pretty view is sort of obstructed. Later I go to the roof terrace and get a nicer view. It’s cold and rainy though so I don’t stay long.

I love the wallpaper in the lobby and hallways. It is designed by a local artist inspired by the city.

I pass out at 7 PM and go to sleep. I know I am supposed to force myself to stay awake for jet lag or something. I don’t care, it is going to be a long time before I am on a normal sleep schedule again. Before sleep I realize there is still a couple days before I can register with the Singapore government about my vaccination status – It’s been on my mind I may be denied entry due to the incorrect form of documentation. I guess I get to deal with it later.

Georgia Road Trip: Springer Mountain

It is early in the morning and I hear a drum beat outside my room. We must be expecting a great sunrise this morning. I go to the kitchen to get some coffee and walk down to the sunrise observation area.

The sunrise is amazing this morning. I feel very lucky. The lodge at Hike Inn is mostly quiet but some guests play Here Comes the Sun from their phone and the sunrise group sings along.

After sunrise it is time for breakfast. It is very filling and I am offered extra servings of bacon. I would never pass up extra bacon.

grits, bacon, eggs, peach spoonbread

I talk to the front desk staff about how long today’s hike should take. There are two dinner times scheduled this evening and I am assigned to the early one. I know I am a slow hiker so I ask if I can be moved to the later dinner. I never know how long a hike will take me and I want to be safe. Luckily they can move me.

I ordered a trail lunch yesterday and pick it up at the front desk while I get ready for my hike today ($8 three sandwich choices ~meat, veggie, peanut butter; plus trail mix, and a large cookie).

My cookie. I end up eating it later after my hike.

I start my hike today at 9:20 am. I am hoping that gives me enough time for the return trip.

The hike today is to Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, a 4.4-mile hike (8.8 miles round trip) from the Hike Inn.

The first part of the hike is mostly downhill which is nice but I am warned to save energy for this part on the return trip.

I reach a gap where there is an open area. I cross this area to continue my hike. It is here that I start the hike uphill. Luckily the climb is pretty gradual.

There are a couple springs where I can refill my water bottle with fresh water but my camelback is still 3/4 full and already heavy enough. Good to know that on a hot day there are options for refills.

I finally get to the top. I stop to take some pictures then sit down to enjoy my sandwich. I chat with other hikers.

Sandwich time

There are ladies from the lodge up here who brought their own wine in a water bottle. What a fun idea!

I try not to rest too long because I want to allow enough time to get back in time for my late dinner. While hiking back I meet a barefoot hiker from Florida. It takes a brave person to hike barefoot in the woods.

I love the fall colors and slightly barren trees.

The last couple miles on the way back is hard because there is about a mile of inclines to hike toward the end. I need to stop frequently.

I eventually arrive back at the inn. I am not as late as I anticipated. In fact, I could have made it in time for the early dinner. I decide to take advantage of this extra time and shower so I am cleaned up for dinner. I can go to sleep soon after eating. I am so tired I forget to photograph my dinner.

My body is sore so I proactively take pain relief so I get a good night sleep. I despise being woke up by aching muscles.

Next Morning

I do wake up a few times during the night but I otherwise am well rested. We are woken up for sunrise but it isn’t as lovely as the day before. Fortunately I scheduled two nights at the inn and had at least one full sunrise.

After sunrise I take one last look around the grounds.

Since I burned so many calories yesterday I am excited about breakfast this morning. No bacon today but I enjoy the sausage and biscuits and gravy. After breakfast I get ready to checkout.

After I pay my bill I sit at the front entrance tightening my shoes and such getting ready for hike back. There are a group of ladies getting ready to hike back to the parking lot “the long way” (all the way to Springer mountain and then to the parking lot for a total of about 12 miles). One in the group is not up for the long hike (nor would I be) and asks if she can walk back with me. Its been a long while since I’ve had a hiking companion. We have a nice hike back and talk about lots of different things. We make it back to the parking lot safe!

Never been so happy to see a sign that I have reached the parking lot. I have another smaller hike scheduled for later in the trip but for now I am heading to Helen to relax.

Georgia Road Trip: Hiking to Len Foote Inn

Amicalola Falls waterfall

I am checking out of the beautiful Limelight Inn and making a short stop at a waterfall before I start a 5 mile hike to an inn where I will spend the next two nights. While planning my trip to Georgia my aunt mentioned Springer Mountain as a multi-day hike. She has fond memories of hiking to this inn that can only be accessed by foot. The inn is also a starting point to hiking Springer Mountain, the start of the Appalachian trail in the south. The inn, Len Foote Hike Inn (named after Leonard E. Foote, a local conservationist), has limited capacity but luckily I am able to get a reservation for two nights. Most hike in for the day, stay one night, and hike out the next. I will stay for two nights so I can spend a complete day hiking to the summit of Springer Mountain. Some do this as very long hike to Springer Mountain to and from the parking lot but that is way too ambitious for me.

The check in for the hike is at the Visitors Center inside the Amicalola Falls State Park. They instruct hikers to start no later than 2:00 PM for the 5 mile hike to the inn. The check in deadline is to ensure all hikers arrive early enough for dinner and lodge check in. I plan start at about 11:00 am this morning after my visit to the Amicalola waterfall. Hopefully I have more than enough time, given how slow I am.

I stop at the first parking lot for viewing the waterfall. It is a short walk to the observation point. I notice a staircase to get different views for the waterfall. If I had more time I would go to different levels but I want to get my hike started. I take a couple photos and head back to my car.

Parking for the Hike Inn

There is limited parking nearby the trail. I’ve read I may have to park at the overflow lot at the nearby lodge. When I arrive at the turn the road for the parking lot it is blocked by service vehicles. I talk to the person at the parking entrance and tell them that I am trying to park for the hike (the same parking lot is used for viewing the waterfall from the top). They think the lot is full but let me in anyway. To my disapointment the lot is full. I park illegally for the time being and run over to use the nearby bathroom. I sit in my car and wait to think of what to do next. Luckily while I wait people return to their cars from viewing the waterfall and I am able secure a space right at the trailhead! This is where my car will live for the next 48 hours or so.

Parking lot for Hike Inn

I gather everything I think I might need for two nights into a smaller daypack and my hiking poles. I don’t want to carry extra weight but I kind of wish I had a bigger pack to bring more comforts with me. I’ve hiked the Inca Trail so two nights in semi-discomfort in a cabin should be a breeze to me at this point.

After the trail starts hikers have to cross a paved road which confuses some day hikers I run into. Eventually the trail splits in two: one heading to the Hike Inn (where I am going) and one heading directly to Springer Mountain (Blue trail, 7.3 miles one way). Some do the Springer mountain hike as an out and back day hike and some hike directly to Springer Mountain to start their Appalachian trail hike from the south.

The trail starts out relatively flat then is continuous inclines and declines. It can be quite tiring to an out of shape hiker. I stop along the way to rest and enjoy beautiful views. I feel blessed that I am able to enjoy fall foliage and have cooler air to hike in. I am warm but not overheated; I love hiking in this type of weather.

At one point I stop to watch the wind blow colorful leaves down all around me. It is magical.

I notice a skunk-like smell. I think some people are smoking pot on the trail. It isn’t until later that evening that I discover it is the plant called Galax that grows along the trail.

Most of the trail is flat but there are some rocky parts. There is a fun section with some bare trees that look like they are out of a horror movie. I am sure they look eerie at night.

I am also enjoying the signs that tell me how far I have gone. It is helpful to know when I should stop and take a break along the way.

Fun trees

I finally get to an area of flat paths at the last part of the trail. Wooden planks are elevated side by side to make a wooded trail. I assume this area must get wet at times. My legs are about to give up but I am just happy it is cool and flat here. I think I am getting close to the end.

Finally the trail leads me to the lodge where I am spending the next two nights. I catch my breath then head up the stairs to check in. My room is ready but my linens are not yet ready. The accommodations are minimal but they do provide bedding, towel, and wash cloth to use during your stay.

My room is a bunk bed room. I have the room to myself and no single supplement is required!

One of the main buildings houses individual odorless composting toilet stalls. Instructions say to only drop compostable items in the toilets and keep the lid closed when they are not in use. They are interesting to use since you feel air flowing below you; I almost thought it might suck me in. It is weird but you get used to it.

Nearby the toilets is a separate women’s and men’s washroom with sinks and two shower stalls. I thought it would be busy with only two showers but I really only had to wait once for a little bit for my shower opportunity. The water was warm which is nice.

I arrive early enough for the tour of the grounds at 5 pm. We learn the history of the lodge and all the efforts they put into reducing their carbon footprint – composting worms, reduced use of electricity and use of solar panels. There is no WIFI on site and although I could get a cell phone signal at the inn, they discourage phone and computer use.

Recreation room. During normal times this is full of games and books. They removed them temporarily due to covid.

Nice porch to read and waste the evening away.

view from the lodge
View of the lodge

There is a outdoor sitting area with a nice view of the range in the distance. It is a great place to watch the sunrise in the morning. If they expect a good sunrise, staff members will beat a drum gently to alert lodgers who want to see the sunrise.

They are all about conservation so you are encouraged to use the same mug for beverages during your stay. They have coffee, tea, water and juice available at all times. Food is only served at breakfast and dinner. You can plan for separate paid bag lunch ahead of time if you want something to take along for a day hike. Meals are typically served family style but due to covid they currently sit parties with only people they traveled with. I like my alone time but I need things like forced group activities to get me out of my shell. I guess for this trip I’ll do lots of reflection.

The food is plentiful and tasty. They are big fans of no waste so we are encouraged strongly to take seconds and even thirds. They even reuse some of the foods for the next day’s meals (i.e. extra ham is served at breakfast or as part of a lunch sandwich). Lets just say I did not go hungry during my entire stay.

After dinner it is pretty much almost dark (fall time). I go straight back to my room to unwind for the evening. Time to get rested up for my long hike tomorrow. I am doing the hike up to Springer Mountain.

Georgia Road Trip: Part 1

I’ve been back in the USA over 7 months and COVID has hit the world. I’ve spent many months quarantined in my room or doing an occasional outdoor activity. I haven’t actually caught covid so far but I am still scared to travel (I had one pretty nasty illness in May that my doctor insisted was not COVID). I really need to get out of the house for a week or so. I finally get the courage to book a solo road trip to the nearby state of Georgia. I’ve noticed a couple of friends taking trips up there to do day hikes and it looks like a safe and interesting thing to do.

My first stop is southwestern Georgia at Providence Canyon State Park, a place many refer to as a mini grand canyon. It is a canyon caused by erosion from poor farming practices. Fortunately/unfortunately the end result is a neat little place to visit for the day to view and take a hike.

I am driving in from central Florida and arrive in the evening. I book a hotel in a nearby town that is actually in Alabama. Eufaula, Alabama is a small town that is very low-key and seems safe enough to stay for an evening or two (it is a good thing I booked two evenings, more on that later).

Driving into Alabama from western Georgia

The drive north, mostly highway miles, is where I think I notice a strange noise from my car (my car is quite old but a very reliable model and current on maintenance). I essentially do the equivalent of putting my fingers in my ears and try to ignore it. If I pretend the noise doesn’t exist will it go away on its own? I eventually arrive at my hotel and my car still sounds strange as I pull in the parking lot. “Maybe it is just tired and if I let it rest for the night it will be fine”. I check into my hotel room and rest for the evening. The next morning I am heading to the Providence Canyon. I wake up and start the 30 minute drive to the canyon, still ignoring the noise (I know, totally irresponsible). I arrive as the canyon is opening (since I read warnings that there can be crowds and they limit visitors for the day). It is impossible to ignore the noise anymore. As I park I get weird looks from others in the parking lot. I do an inspection to see what the problem might be. Luckily another visitor in the parking lot is knowledgeable of my issue and points it out right away. I have eroded a break pad and that is what is causing the noise. I am confused because I didn’t think my break pads were that old. This seems like a problem I need to resolve right away. I find a repair place who will take me immediately and drive back 30 minutes to the town I am staying. I need new break pads and rotor. The cost is ridiculously expensive to fix but it isn’t like I can comparison shop at this point. I get the service done and pay the price. I could head back to the canyon but it is already late in the day. I decide to wander around Eufaula instead. Luckily I have one more night scheduled in my hotel here.

I end up on a little paved trail that is mostly empty. This town is on the water so I can see boats on the water from the trail.

After my walk I order a pizza to take back to the hotel and go to bed early to return to the canyon in the morning.

The next morning my brakes are working great again and come in handy when I need to stop to make sure I don’t runover a parade of hogs on the road.

I am back at the canyon, this time for good. I start along the loop trail which slowly descends into the canyon.

I have the choice to explore the inside of the canyons from below or head up the incline to do the 2.5 mile loop trail. Today I decide to do only the 2.5 mile trail because I am out of hiking shape and I have longer hikes ahead of me on this trip.

The area used to be a settlement that had to be abandoned due to the earth collapsing. Left behind are some old cars.

Most of the loop is shaded and like a forest hike but the last part is mostly open but offers great vistas of the canyon.

There is an old church and cemetery on the walk back to the parking lot. I can never resist a peek at an old cemetery.

Overall it is a great visit. My only wish is that I would have spent the time to hike some of the canyons. Perhaps if I didn’t have the car issues I could have split the hikes over two days to make it more manageable.

I drove up to north Georgia afterwards to be closer to Amicalola Falls, the place I will start my adventure for the next couple days.

The Limelight Inn in Dahlonega, Georgia is a beautiful place to spend the night.

I enjoy my lovely porch view of the fall for a little bit then head into the town of Dahlonega for dinner. I find a nice little outdoor restaurant to enjoy dinner in this cute college town.

Gyro at Capers on the Square

After dinner I head back to my Inn and enjoy the sunset from my porch since it is COVID times and most places appear to close early. It seems like a cute town to do some shopping in, maybe during another visit.

Tomorrow I head out on a 5 mile hike to a lodge I will be staying for two nights. More on that later.