Our two weeks with a Japanese Home Stay guest flew by. I had been so anxious, but Hitomi turned out to be a wonderful guest and is now a friend. She was able to relax and feel right at home, fulfilling the philosphy of a foreign exchange program. Of course she was the tour coordinator and seasoned traveler, not a high school student on her first overseas trip, so it was easier for her. I heard that the high school students all had great homestays as well. We met one of the two teachers whom we took to Stitch & Pitch. This was her first trip outside Japan and she was having a blast. However, I heard that the other teacher was finding the whole trip kind of stressful. We taught Hitomi an American idiom to describe that sort of person: High Maintenance. She laughed and agreed.
Hitomi likes to hike, so what better way to show her around than to take her to the mountains. We did the easy Barclay Lake hike, with its dramatic view of Mt Baring looming 3000 feet over the lake. I didn't get any photos. Before coming home we detoured a bit on Route 2 to Skykomish, a small town with a big problem. For about 100 years, the railroad has dumped or leaked or spilled fuel and who knows what else onto and into the ground. In order to clean it up, just about every building in town is being picked up, the contaminated dirt dug out and hauled away, then clean fill poured in and the building restored.
Our second weekend we had more adventures. Saturday we hiked to Snow Lake, a popular hike with an easy access trailhead at Snoqualmie Pass. The parking lot (a large lot for the Alpental ski resort) was quite full and we had to wait in line at the trailhead at the self-register station (because we were bozos and didn't notice that there were two(!) registration stations) but the trail did not seem crowded and the lake front was even less so.
The Japanese student group had been to Snoqualmie Falls, but a local bus driver who got lost (argg) meant that they hadn't had much time to walk around. So we took Hitomi back, on the way home from Snow Lake. No pictures, but if you ever watched Twin Peaks, you've seen the Falls.
Sunday, our last day to be tour guides, we took a quintessential Seattle trip on a ferry boat. We took Metro downtown and walked on the Bremerton Ferry. Not that we wanted to do anything in Bremerton, we just grabbed lunch and came home, but because it's a pretty ride. This was the last day of the airshow and the Blue Angels buzzed the ferry as they were playing around getting ready for the show.
The water was full of jellyfish, more than I had ever seen. The view of Seattle was clear and pretty (yes, that's the space needle above Hitomi's head) but we didn't see any orcas. I don't think I have ever seen them from the ferry though.
Our tour-guide hikes with Hitomi served a second purpose. With an upcoming backpack, we especially need to get some hiking in for conditioning purposes.
Our family vacation will occur at the end of August, a 4 day loop of the High Divide in the Olympic Mountains. This area is popular, so to keep it from being overrun, the National Parks requires reservations and permit. Franz called and got our campsite reservations, plus information on the bear can requirements. Bears? Yes, checking the trip reports of the Washington Trails Association, black bears are common.
Yesterday, I took Zach to REI for new boots.
clerk: NOLS trip?
me: No, we're going to do the High Divide.
clerk: You mean in the Olympics?
clerk: Awesome. I was just there in June. In one afternoon we saw 7 bears and some cubs. They were having so much fun, eating berries and glissading on the snow.
me: Seven Bears! I'd heard they were around. Now I am really worried about getting eaten.
clerk. Nah, black bears don't eat people, they just maul.