Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wrapping things up in Douglas County: 10/15 - 16


Waterville Hotel
Shower's down the hall...
I did get to bed that night - spending the night in the historic Waterville Hotel.  I've driven by it several times, and I'll say it actually was a nice stay.  They've got fancy (clawfoot tubs in room) or not fancy (here's your robe and slippers -  the showers down the hall) depending on what you need.  It was fun to read through their literature about how the hotel was renovated, and how it is renovated each year when they close during the winter months. 

I just realized that I'm skirting the line between talking about my trip and giving reviews now... oh no... I am completely unqualified... Well, lets say that this is the guy-who-just-wants-a-place-to-stay review.  For $50, it was a great deal.  Pastries and juice and coffee for breakfast, and a comfy bed.  Two grubby thumbs up (I skipped the shower in lieu of getting out the door).

Oh!  And dinner the night before.  I ate at the Harvest House Art Gallery and Supper Club.  I do know good food, and the corn soup was awesome.   They serve dinner at a big long table - you're seated with your 12 closest friends that you've never met!  It was a nice time chatting with a Ballard couple who had read about things to do in Waterville from a Seattle newspaper.  I wish I'd done the ribs - they do a backyard BBQ at this home - instead of the fish.

After dinner I found my way home.  Not easy, as the restaurant is hidden away on a residential street.  Lost in Waterville is hard to do, but anyone who has been reading my blog knows that I am capable of such a feat.  This was another night of hitting the pillow and falling right to sleep.

Sunday in Douglas County

Spokane, or Wenatchee?  Main Street - Waterville
 The proprietor of the hotel asked when I made the reservation what the nature of my stay was.  "Birding".  "So... hunting? Or birdwatching?".  "The latter", I had replied on the phone."  When I arrived, and they figured out it was me, his wife passed me a map of the area, with a couple of nice stops and a hike I didn't get to (up the closed road from yesterday).  We also talked a little about owls, and she told me of Great Horned Owls nesting in the cemetery in town, although she had not heard reports of them this year (I slept right through owl O'clock anyway.)

Can you find the Marsh Wren?
After waking and grabbing breakfast, I decided to hit the sewage treatment plant outside of town.  I drove past it first, then turned around and drove down the gravel road to the ponds.  There were hundreds of ducks on the ponds!  Then I got out of the car and hundreds of ducks took flight to parts unknown.  I settled for some birding along the edge of the ponds at first - finding my first Marsh Wren in Douglas County, as well as some Killdeer on the rocks on the edge of the water.

Killdeer are shorebirds too!
After making one round of the ponds, I found some birds had returned, including some Northern Shovelers, and a single Green-winged Teal.  Some of the mud looked like it might pull in some interesting shorebirds in the right season, but this was not that season (no offense to Killdeer, which were interesting enough to get me to buy my first field guide to birds years ago!).

Badger Mountain

All right everyone... what kind of bluebird?
From here, I made my way up towards Badger Mountain.  Yup.  Douglas County, up on this big plateau, has a bump that goes even a little higher.  It's even big enough for a ski area.  It was, of course, closed today, but I parked at the bottom and got ready to hike up.  Before I got going, I encountered another bluebird.  This one puzzled me.. and frankly the ones from the previous day have now too.  Oh to get a male in breeding plumage!  They can be so easy, but they were all just kind of grayish on this trip!

View from the ski area - Badger Mountain
It was a nice walk up Badger Mountain.  The views were huge - looking down at Waterville and the rest of the plateau - and I found a few birds that I hadn't seen yet:  Evening Grosbeak, Varied Thrush, and a Townsend's Solitaire at the bottom.  I was hoping for Northern Pygmy-owls here too - no luck.  Also no grouse, but the Varied Thrush at the top was certainly a nice consolation prize.  My favorite bird was singing, but not coming out of the deep Ponderosa Pines at the top.

Townsend's Solitaire
Apple Bliss at the Orondo Cider Works - Douglas County
Back down to the car, and I had one more stop to make on the way out of the county.  The Orondo Cider Works!  We stop nearly every time we're in the county, and I had made a promise to the family that I would come back with apple cider donuts.  They actually had pumpkin donuts this time as well, and they were delicious too.  I ended up having an apple lunch of sorts - apple cider, apple cider donuts, and the best apple I have ever had.

I grew up in Yakima, and actually spent some summers working in an apple warehouse.  It was hard work, but work I enjoyed, especially for the people I worked with.  There was Maria, who would offer apples with a shake of chili powder on them - actually very tasty.  There was the other Maria, who called me 'guero' - which by the best translation I've found means 'whitey', but was delivered in a way that may have been closer to 'pudding'.  And finally, there was Maria, who would always laugh and correct me at the end of the day when I would wish the ladies "Hasta mansana!" after a day of repacking apples for shipping.

This is where I learned that there were more than three kinds of apples (Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith).  One summer, we started to pack Galas.  I couldn't believe that an apple could taste that good.  Whole warehouses would be full of crates of Galas, and the perfume of it was overwhelmingly delicious.  It's still my sentimental favorite apple for the taste, although I realize that they can get a little on the soft side if you get them at the wrong time.

But in Orondo, I got a hold of something that was advertised as a "dessert apple" - a Rubens.  I saw that there were piles and piles of the other varieties, but only four of these left.  "A cross between Gala and Elstar" the sign said.  I took three.  My son agreed with me that this was an awesome apple.  It tastes like a Gala in a lot of ways, but it was crisp, and very sweet, but with enough acidity to be a well-balanced apple.  Apple nerds... if you can put the Honeycrisps down for a second and find a Rubens.. they're pretty good.  Too sweet for my wife's taste, and too sour for my daughter's taste, for what it's worth.

Chelan County - stopping just long enough to lose...

I've checked all of the pictures for my scope
already... don't bother
My spotting scope!  I made a stop at Wenatchee Confluence State Park, and somehow set my scope down (it's pretty compact) and walked away from it.  Several calls since, and I haven't gotten a return call from the park, and don't have much hope of finding it.  The Chelan list got past 50 for the year, but it wasn't a stop I'll remember very fondly... rushed through, had a hard time finding the trail over the Wenatchee River at first, and lost my scope.  Uggh..

Kittitas County
Foliage at Blewett Pass

Kittitas County was also in the 40's for species seen this year, so I stopped on the way home a couple of times.  The highlight here was a very brave American Dipper on the Yakima River near Cle Elum that let me walk to within ten feet of it.  No camera in hand at the time, but it was very cool to see the little guy dipping for me.  Of course when I tried to get the scope out to take a look at a pond was when I realized it was gone.  Not a real pricey one, as spotting scopes go.... but pricey enough, and it may make some work in November a little challenging as I try to find waterbirds in Franklin County.  Kittitas County... 49 species for the year now. :) 

Made it home safely again.  Knock on wood, but I've been blessed to be able to say that after an awful lot of driving this year.

No comments:

Post a Comment