Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Breakfast in Kitsap

Inevitably when we PCS transfer to a new duty station, we end up crammed in a room at the Navy Lodge or a local hotel for some number of days, and we'll end up searching for someplace to feed our starving children when they get up too early in the morning.  (Aside:  It's especially painful if you ever move to Hawaii and the kids wake up at like 3 a.m. Hawaii time.)

Coming here to the Kitsap peninsula, we found ourselves in the Navy Lodge once again, and as expected, we embarked on a search for breakfast.  It was harder than I thought to find a nice local place for breakfast.  There are a few chains like IHOP, Shari's, and the Pancake House, but I had to cast my net pretty wide across the peninsula to find the unique family-run local joints.

If you end up on the Kitsap peninsula looking for some breakfast, here are my three favorites (so far) in no particular order of priority:

Oak Table Cafe in Kingston, about a half hour drive northeast from the submarine base.  It is sooooo worth the drive.  Their house special is a ludicrously ginormous apple cinnamon pancake, and it was fantastically delicious.  There were some other pretty wicked items on the menu like German pancakes (a.k.a. "Dutch Babies").  The cream they serve for the coffee is real, thick, heavy cream, and it was wonderful.  I look forward to going back here to try many of the other delicacies on their menu.  The service was top-notch - very friendly, attentive, professional, and courteous.

Big Apple Diner in Bremerton.  You'll hear people alternately refer to this as either the Red Apple or the Big Apple.  It's right next door to a "Red Apple" market, but the diner is actually the "Big Apple."  You can get there from Route 3 either by the Kitsap Way or Chico Way exit.

This is a traditional soda fountain / old fashioned diner.  While I continue to be annoyed by Pepsi's monopoly on the Pacific Northwest, here at the Big Apple Diner you will find a bastion of Coca-Cola products.  Not only that, they make caramel coke!

They have a nice variety of standard breakfast items from eggs benedict to cinnamon french toast.  The service was polite and prompt.  My food seemingly appeared like a flash of lightning on my table moments after I ordered it.  Watch out for ordering things on the side though.  I had a little sticker-shock when I got the bill because I ordered a side order of scrambled eggs and bacon with my french toast.  IHOP this is not.  The side order of eggs cost me about $2.50 and the side order of bacon cost me $3.25.  Even though the bill was a little higher than I anticipated, I totally got my money's worth.

Barbie's Seabeck Bay Cafe in, well, you guessed it, Seabeck.  Alright, so I must confess that I have not yet actually eaten breakfast here... yet.  However, it is one of those small-town, very personable and intimate type cafes with excellent food, and they had a really good-looking breakfast menu.

Several people who have lived here much longer than me have said they didn't realize there was a cafe there.  I found it through Yelp when I came down from my Green Mountain hike on Saturday.  In order to get to the cafe, you have to walk THROUGH the old-fashioned Seabeck General Store.  On the BACK side of the general store, actually on the bay is a very small cafe with seating for about 12 people (two 4-tops and two 2-tops if my memory serves me correctly).  I think there might be more seating outdoors if the weather was nice.

Their lunch and dinner selections are mostly burgers, sandwiches, etc.  I followed the waitress' recommendation and had a turkey Philly with a cup of the crab, corn, and jalepeno chowder.  Both were EXCELLENT, and I'm going to make a point of driving down here to try this place for breakfast.  Oh, their homemade desserts are positively sinful, too.  In a small setting like that, the cafe wouldn't stay in business if they didn't have excellent service.  The service was very friendly, attentive, and professional.  I'll definitely be going back here.

I'll keep you posted if I find any others, but given the quality of Oak Table, Big Apple, and Barbie's, you'd have to offer a pretty strong recommendation to pull me away to someplace different.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Green Mountain Hike - Gold Creek Trail

Although the forecast called for showers, scattered showers, and more showers yesterday, all I saw was sun, partly sunny, and more sun.  It was a refreshing change!  I decided to take advantage of it and try a local hike that didn't involve a 3 hour drive.  Two separate people have recommended Green Mountain to me, so I headed down there to check it out yesterday afternoon.

Green Mountain is the second highest point on the Kitsap peninsula.  (Aside:  Don't ask me what the highest point is.  I haven't learned that one yet.)  In searching for information about it, all that came up in my Google search was a website that rhymes with rails and ends in dot com (I don't want to advertise for them).  It annoys me and sets off alarm bells in the back of my head when a website insists on having my credit card information before they will activate my "free trial."  Nope.  Not.  All stop.  Do not pass go, do not collect $200. 

I found in Google Maps that there was a Green Mountain State Forest.  There wasn't anything else on my schedule for the day, so I decided to just wander around down there and see what I found.  I happened upon the Gold Creek Trail Head, and there I found a small kiosk which identified it as part of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and had a large trail map posted.  Upon returning home, I found that you can access the DNR trail maps in pdf format at this website (the trail map of Green Mountain is here).  I talked to someone in the parking lot who had just finished the hike, and he said it was 2.5 miles to the top, so I decided to give it a try.

There is actually quite a network of trails criss-crossing the mountain (see the trail map).  The trails are well marked and mostly hard-pack dirt or gravel.  It's a well-used recreation area, too.  I passed 18 other hikers, 2 horses, 3 mountain bikes, and one noisy, smelly dirt bike (or rather, they passed me). 

Along the way up, there were some very nice cascading waterfalls like this.  The foliage is so different from Northern Virginia.  I felt like I was on another planet because I didn't recognize any of the plants or flowers.  I even bought a pocket guide to Washington State Trees & Flowers, but I still couldn't identify most of what I saw on the hike.

I think these might be a type of geranium.  They were only about the size of the tip of my finger.

This could be serviceberry or trailing raspberry.  I think it is trailing raspberry based on the shape of the green leaves underneath.  Did you notice who's guarding it?  I didn't even notice until I got home later and was looking at the pictures close up.

Here he is zoomed in.  Looks ferocious, doesn't he?
Does anyone know what he is?  I tried, but haven't been
able to put a positive ID on him yet.

Here he is from a different angle (again, I didn't notice this until I was looking at the pictures at home).

These look a little like buttercups, but I'm used to buttercups pointing up like a cup, not sideways and not with space between the petals like these.

I think this is salmonberry.

Not sure what this one is, but it sure is pretty.  

Aside from the flowers, the view along the way up the trail was peaceful and awe-inspiring.

 The view from the top was extraordinary and well worth the hike up. That's Seattle off in the distance.

I used my sons' technique at distance photography, and this was the result.  (Taken by holding my camera up to the binoculars. :-) ).

Stats from the Gold Creek Trail parking lot up to the vista.

For some odd reason, on the way back down, I got the song, "C is for cookie, that's good enough for me," stuck in my head.

That's Gold Creek by the way.

End of hike statistics back in the parking lot.

What a great way to spend an afternoon!  It was good to get out, enjoy the fresh air and the beauty of nature.  It sure reminded me of hikes with my family like the Sugarloaf hike, and it made me miss my family.  This hike was totally doable with small children.  In fact, I passed two families on the trail - each a mom and a dad with two young kids.  I look forward to bringing my family to see Green Mountain when they arrive here in a couple of weeks.

Gold Creek Trail Hike Overview:
Distance:  5 miles
Elevation gain:  1,054 feet
Start Time: 1433
Moving Time:  2 hours 7 minutes
Stopped Time:  52 minutes
Finish Time:  1733
Weather:  Approx. 55F, light breeze
Facilities:  Outhouse in the parking lot at the trail head.  Outhouse in the parking lot near the vista.  No water or other facilities.  No trash cans either, so unfortunately there were bits of litter here and there.  I regret I didn't bring my Camelbak this time, because I carry spare trash bags to pick up litter along the way.
Pests:  Aside from the one noisy and smelly dirtbike that passed me on the trail going up?  There were a few bugs flying around my head at the top of the mountain, but they weren't overly annoying.  I didn't notice in situ, but when I got home I discovered I had about 5 bug bites on the backs of my hands.  I probably have some on my neck that I can't see or haven't otherwise noticed.  Next time, use bug spray.
Geocaching:  There are a few around this area.  I looked for the geocache at the top of the mountain, but had to log a DNF.  Maybe my boys will help me find it next time.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


This is a scheduled post, since I won't be anywhere near an internet computer this year for my 17th naviversary.

In previous posts I have been a bit more pensive and taken a stroll down memory lane. 
16 years - Short thoughts
15 years - Pictures from commissioning ceremony at USD NROTC
14 years - Goofy picture of me as an Ensign with coke-bottle glasses and a history of where I was on each of my previous years of service

I don't have much to add to the stroll down memory lane I provided in my previous posts, except to say I'd never have imagined where I ended up at this point in my career.  I've been very truly blessed with every set of orders I have received and every crew I've had the honor to work with, especially my current crew.  :-)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Silly Legal Disclaimers - Vol IV

Okay folks, get yourself a sheet of paper and some form of writing utensil. 

I just returned from a quick trip down to San Diego and back for a shipmate's retirement ceremony.  As I was boarding the plane in San Diego, I happened upon a sign at the end of the jetway...

Before I share it with you, take a guess.  If YOU were an airport or airline executive who was paranoid about the current litigious environment in America, what warning sign would YOU put at the end of the jetway just before your customers board the plane?  What do YOU think is the most likely reason your customers are gonna wanna sue you?

One might think it would be something fairly common sense like, "Warning: Don't walk off the end of the jetway if there isn't an airplane attached," or, "Stand Back!  Airplane door swings outward!" 


Not.  Even.  Close.

Before I tell you the answer, write down what you think belongs as a warning at the end of the jetway.  Be sure to post what you wrote down in the comments section at the end of the post, because I'm sure my readers can come up with at least a dozen more likely silly legal disclaimers than the one I spotted.

Okay, ready? 

Here's what I found...  (click on image to enlarge)

Seriously?  Gosh, I'm glad they warned me.

Ya know, if I was a pregnant woman... and I had been drinking... and my baby was born with a birth defect...  Do you really think I'm gonna sue the airline for not warning me about the hazards of drinking?  

Probably not, unless in my drunken stupor I fell off the jetway without an airplane attached.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Keurig Shopping

Over the years, my taste in coffee has diverged from my wonderful wife's taste in coffee.  I prefer more dark, bold, strong coffee (Starbucks Kenya for example) and espresso, and she prefers more regular brews like Dunkin Donuts.

We decided when we moved here to Washington that we should buy a Keurig coffee maker so we could each make our own preferred kind of coffee.  In case you aren't familiar with them, a Keurig uses a small pre-packaged cup of coffee grounds and makes individual cups of coffee instead of a full pot (with the accompanying mess of coffee grounds and filters).

So there I was...

Standing in the aisle at the Navy Exchange examining the different models of Keurig coffee makers.

Decisions, Decisions...

It was a hard choice.  An old shipmate of mine happened by just then, and he and his wife recommended the smaller model (in the left on the picture) that doesn't have a reservoir.  You just pour in one cup of water at the top, push start, and it makes the coffee.  They warned me the ones with the reservoir have to pre-heat the water before it will make a cup.  I regret that I didn't fully understand what they were trying to tell me.  I did some quick research of user reviews on my Droid phone, and some people who bought the smaller one wrote that they wished they bought the bigger model with the reservoir, so I bought the second model from the left - the first one with a reservoir.

Now I understand what my friends were trying to tell me about pre-heating the water.

If I had to go back and make the decision again knowing what I know now, then I would have bought either one more model up from what I got or the smallest one that my shipmate recommended.

Here's the problem.

I wake up in the morning.  I stumble out to the kitchen wiping the sleep from my eyes.  I wince as my bare feet hit the cold kitchen tile.  I push the power button on the Keurig, and I quick-step stagger back to the living room carpet so the angry voices in my feet will stop yelling at me, "ow, ow, ow, it's COLD!"

I wait.

Eventually, the light comes on the Keurig, signaling the water is warm and ready to begin brewing.  My feet say, "No, no, no, no, nooooooo!" as I step back onto the cold tile and push the start button for it to start brewing my coffee.  Then I go get in the shower and get ready for work, and the coffee is ready for me when I am ready to leave for work.

It doesn't take long to brew.  It's just frustrating that it takes 2 button presses and there is a wait in between. 

I now see the value of having the next model up that actually has a timer in it, so you can set it to start at a given time in the morning - NO button pushing NOR waiting NOR any angry cold feet.

My feet would be much happier if I had bought the next model up.

Okay, okay, so maybe I should wear socks.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Snowshoeing on Mount Rainier

Last week, I told my new shipmates that I wanted to start exploring the area with a hike on Saturday.  There was a sudden twinkle in their eyes and the gears in their noggins started churning on the plan for a most excellent outing to Mount Rainier National Park

They told me I would need snowshoes.

This excited me, because I've been wanting to try snowshoeing for a while, and I was disappointed there wasn't any snow on the ground when we arrived in NH for Christmas this year.

There is an excellent outdoor recreation place called Pacific Edge Outfitters at Naval Base Kitsap.  I stopped there on Friday and rented snowshoes and poles, plus some snow pants.  I thought the prices were pretty reasonable.  It cost me $20.75 to rent the gear for the weekend since they're closed on Sunday and I would have to return it on Monday.

We left the Kitsap area around 7 a.m. and started the approximate 2 1/2 hour drive to Paradise on the southern side of Mt. Rainier.  There was a pitstop at Starbucks, then a rendezvous with some members of our group at Krispy Kreme, then another pitstop at the Rainier Basecamp.  By the time we finally made it to Paradise, got suited up, and ready to set forth from the parking lot into the snow, it was 11:15 a.m. 

The snowbanks were about 3 times as tall as our truck.

View of the mountain from the parking lot.  Note how high the snow is on the lodge.

Tunnel entrance into the lodge.

It was pretty cold when we got there, too.  The thermometer on the truck said 31F.  I was glad I rented snow pants and brought my big snow boots.  There were 8 of us total.  Two members of our group had been here before and were experienced snow-hikers.  We got all bundled up in multiple layers of clothing and headed out.

 Time Stamp - Leaving Parking Lot

I didn't keep detailed notes on the trail, but the initial timeline went something like this:
11:16 a.m.  Set out from Paradise Visitor's Center parking lot.
11:20 a.m.  Snowshoes on, commence trudging uphill through the snow.
11:21 a.m.  If I were on the elliptical or exercise bike at the gym, then it would have dinged, saying, "Target Heart-Rate Reached, Resistance will change to maintain heart-rate at XXX bpm."
11:22 a.m.  Sweating.  Took off winter hat.
11:23 a.m.  Still sweating.  Took off gloves.
11:24 a.m.  Sweating profusely.  If I were on the exercise bike at the gym, it would be making angry beeps at me, "Reduce pace to lower heartrate."
11:25 a.m.  Burning up.  Took off jacket and removed fleece liner.  Stuffed fleece liner in backbpack, put jacket shell back on.
11:26 a.m.  Doing better without the fleece, but still wishing I had NOT put on that long-underwear and heavy wool socks.  Unzipped jacket.

Actually, from then on it wasn't too bad.  Next time I will definitely not wear as many layers.

On the trail, heading up the Skyline Loop Path clockwise from the Paradise Visitor's Center.

I'm pretty sure that's the TOP of a very TALL tree.

Looking back the way we came.  
Can you see the footprints going waaaaay off into the distance up the hill?

Right here, we are hiking over this waterfall.
(Click the link to see what it looks like in summer.)

The scenery was spectacular throughout, and I'm very glad we went.  Unfortunately, the battery on my Garmin Forerunner is dead, so I don't have a link for you to see our trip stats on MyGarmin dashboard.  Using Google Earth, I think we went approximately 2.1 miles and climbed approximately 800 feet in elevation (starting around 5,400 feet and going up to about 6,200 feet). 

Time Stamp back in the parking lot.
(Elapsed time almost exactly 3 hours.)
We made it back to the Visitor's Center just in time for a Park Ranger to tell us about the National Park.  I have yet to be disappointed by listening to a Park Ranger, and this one was no exception.  His description of previous expeditions to the summit was both educational and entertaining.  They show a 21-minute video at quarter-past and quarter-til the hour, and the video was excellent, too. 

Aside: < rant > Will someone please explain to me why Pepsi has a stranglehold on the Pacific Northwest???  EVERYWHERE we go, it's always Pepsi.  You don't have to read my blog for long to know that I'm a Diet Coke addict, so this has been a frustrating part about moving to the area.  As much as I hate eating at McDonalds, I will now go through the McD's drive through simply because it is one of the few bastions of Coca-Cola products in the state of Washington.

Case-in-point:  The Cafe in the Paradise Visitor Center

Recommendation:  Bring food and beverages with you, or be ready to shell-out movie theater prices at the Visitor Center.  $3.23 for a soda the size of a medium at McD's, seriously???  < / rant >

To end on a positive note, we were able to stop at the REI in Tacoma on our way back and take advantage of some of their end-of-winter sale prices.  Then we had some dinner at a Mexican place I hadn't tried yet and was very good.  I owe some of you a review of the various Mexican restaurants I've tried so far on the peninsula though, so I'll cover that in another blog post to come.

In the meantime, if you would like some beginner info on snowshoeing, check out the REI website here.  Next on my snowshoeing to-do list is Hurricane Ridge.