About an hour drive from where we were visiting in Tacoma, WA is Ballard Locks. The official name is Hiram M. Chittendom Locks, but I don’t think anybody knows that.
Ballard Locks is more than just a shipping channel. On the shore are beautiful gardens, with rare trees and plants. Parks to sit and watch the activity on the locks, have a picnic, or roll down the gentle slopes, as a number of children (and adults) were doing. There is also a walking path through the gardens and a museum. We had a personal tour guide: Tim, a ranger, took us around and pointed out features of the gardens and locks. He pointed out ginko trees, dawn redwoods and sequoias in the gardens.
He showed us the difference between the stronger, original cement and gravel construction of the buildings and the newer cement benches, which were already cracked and crumbling. He explained how the locks functioned as we watched them in action.
He showed us the fish ladders where the salmon migrate from their ocean home, back to fresh waters to spawn. Cables, much like clotheslines, are strung across the locks to protect the spawning salmon and smolts from seagulls and other predatory birds.
We watched as kayakers paddled through the locks from fresh water into Puget Sound and yachts motored from Puget Sound through the locks.
Even sculptures are displayed at the locks.
Across the dam, there is an underwater viewing area, where you can watch the locks and fish ladders, if you’re lucky you’ll see some fish. Of course, it helps if you’re there during spawning season.
Before leaving Portland, OR, we went in search of chocolate covered bacon. We had heard that it was unbelievably scrumptious, but had no luck in locating a food stand that was open, serving it. This, however, was a common sight along Highway 97 in Washington. Produce stands everywhere! We finally stopped at a u-pick orchard and scored 35 pounds of the most luscious sun-ripened peaches, nectarines and plums right off the trees! Total damage was less than 50 cents a pound. What we didn’t eat, we froze at our next stop, to be enjoyed by our friends long after we are gone;)
The EMP in Seattle, WA is a quirky museum of music, science fiction and pop culture. Mostly pop culture. The “gallery companion” is a must. For $3 you can rent an ipod with earbuds which will block out most of the loud noise (um, music) inside the museum, and give you a self-guided tour, extra stories about the exhibits, and additional music playlists. We spent much of our time in the Avatar exhibit. Pulling up the videos we made in the interactive sections was a bit tricky, later, but with a few emails to helpful museum staff we were able to accomplish it. We passed on the opportunity to perform live onstage; we were far more entranced with the sound labs, where we could go into a soundproof room and jam to our hearts’ content on guitars, keyboards, drums and synthesizers. There’s even a rec room for the little (and not so little) ones to play with guitars and bongos, make buttons and color. Afterwards, it was time for cocktails at the Pop Kitchen and Bar. A non-drinker, myself, I had a rare craving for a virgin margarita. This seemed to baffle my friend. I had to explain to her how they were made, and still she eyed me with incredulity. This just made me giggle more. You’d think I was the one drinking…