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Last week my daughter and I ventured up to San Juan Island for a six-hour kayaking trip. Kayaking in the San Juans is amazing, and with the calm water it's an ideal place for beginners to learn.  Crystal Seas is one of the best kayak outfitters on the island; offering a good value as well especially friendly and knowledgeable guides. On our journey we saw more than a few bald eagles and lots of harbor seals and their pups. One of the highlights was holding a moon jellyfish - although it's a little slimy, it's much firmer than I'd ever imagined. We even got to taste a sample of seaweed, apparently it's rather nutritious if you ever find yourself stranded on an island. 

Paddling on the waters here, among such incredibly scenery and abundance of wildlife, is always a memorable experience. If you're lucky, you might even spot the majestic Orca whales who call this region home; even if you don't, gliding on the water is a wonderful way to relieve stress and forget about your worries -the repetitive motion of paddling is almost like meditation.

Life just doesn't get much better than this, and it's right here in the Pacific Northwest.



 
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If you're a Washington Huskies fan you probably already know that Husky Stadium is under renovation this season and won't reopen until 2013. If you're wondering what the tailgating situation will be like at CenturyLink Field, I'm sorry to bring the disappointing news that it reminds me a bit of of Sombertown, the 1970 Christmas movie in which the Burgermeister Meisterburger decides to declare toys a danger to the town's citizens and exclaims, "Toys are hereby declared illegal, immoral, unlawful AND anyone found with a toy in his possession will be placed under arrest and thrown in the dungeon!"

Yes, virtually no fun allowed in the parking lots at CenturyLink Field. This season you'll probably be better off heading to one of the nearby pubs and bars like Pyramid Alehouse, Hawk's Nest Bar and Grill and Sluggers Sports Bar. They'll likely be more welcoming and less grinch-like.

For rules and specifics, read more on my Yahoo Sports article found here: 
Washington Huskies 2012 Tailgating Rules at CenturyLink Field




 
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With summer now at its peak, there is a lot to experience here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. This weekend, over August 10-12, the 2012 Stillaguamish Festival of the River & Pow Wow will be held in Arlington, Washington at River Meadows County Park. This event is  wonderful for the entire family and is a celebration of the environment and our diverse cultural communities. 

Just some of the activities include: 

  • Live music with Los Lonely Boys, Lee Brice and Jana Kramer
  • A circus troupe
  • Pow Wow
  • Salmon bake
  • Children's storytelling
  • Interpretive salmon habitat tours along the river and forest edge
  • Environmental and wellness exhibits
  • Fly-tying
  • Pacific Science Center show
  • Stillaguamish cultural exhibit
  • Food and craft vendors
  • Logging show and more



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If tattoos and eclectic art work is more your style, head to the 2012 Seattle Tattoo Expo. The festivities include a wide variety of fun activities as well as tattoo contests and the best tattoo artists throughout the world.You'll also find live music, gourmet food, a beer garden a cigar lounge, burlesque, side shows, seminars and much more.

For those who like to people watch or enjoy unique and as well as skilled art work, the Seattle Tattoo Expo may be the place to go. It will be held at the Seattle Center with a goal of exposing new talent, showcasing existing fan favorites and providing enthusiasts with a gathering place to share their love for this enduring art form. 

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In Port Townsend, the 75th Jefferson County Fair will take place from August 10-12. There will be lots of free entertainment in this Victorian Seaport & Arts Community, including bands like Ranger and the “Re-Arrangers” who are said to evoke the spirit of a Paris cafe or a Gypsy campsite with their unique twist on “gypsy jazz.” Other bands include the "Magic Carpet Ride," "Shady Grove," and several other uniquely talented bands fitting the image of the weird and wonderful characters that often fill this beautiful city.

In addition to entertainment you'll find Barrel Racing, Draft Horse Pulls, 4x4 Mud drags, 4-H/FFA exhibits, and a wide variety of food and arts & craft vendors.

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In Port Angeles, Jet Sprint Boat racing will take place on Saturday, August 11. Not only can you watch jet-powered boats race in their first event, but a major fireworks display will take place after the races along with local bands. Fresh, delicious local food and a beer garden will be also be available.



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If you're looking for the basic must-see tourist stops in the Pacific Northwest, this article should also be of some help: Eight -Visit Places in the Pacific Northwest.

 
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Summer has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest. While many have wished for warmer temperatures, it was finally granted with near 90 degree readings in the Seattle area and 80 degrees here on the northern Olympic Peninsula. It seems a bit funny that many are complaining about the heat now, but this is our chance to really enjoy the great outdoors and especially the many spectacular lakes we have to swim in.

For nearly half of July, I was in North Carolina covering the Disc Golf World Championships with 95 degree temperatures and nearly 100% humidity. Now that's intolerable. I was never happier to return home to one of the most beautiful, and much more comfortable, places on earth!

If you're looking for a great way to cool off, of course you can head to Wild Waves in Federal Way. It's definitely a fun and exciting water park, but I prefer to avoid the crowds and spend my time in a more natural, pristine setting. 

Some of my favorite lakes to swim in on the Olympic Peninsula include:

  • Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park. This is an ideal place to dip your toes when the weather gets too hot. It's a clear, lapis blue colored lake and you can swim just about anywhere along the shoreline. The water is cool, but it's also very refreshing.
  • Gibbs Lake near Port Townsend is a beautiful, peaceful lake set in the hills.
  • Sandy Shore Lake and Teal Lake near Port Townsend are also nice swimming lakes.
  •  One of the most scenic swimming holes is located just a few miles from Brinnon and the Hood Canal up Dosewalips Road at Rocky Brook Falls. The water here is rather chilly, so you may not last long but you'll definitely cool off quickly!
  • If you prefer saltwater swimming, there are numerous beaches around the Olympic Peninsula.


 
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If you like beer, head to the Emerald City this weekend for the Seattle International Beerfest. This event started today and will run through Sunday, July 8. It features rare and hard-to-find exotic beers like the Shastafarian Weed Porter from Shasta Brewing Company in Weed, California. Over 200 world-class beers from 16 different countries will be available, and many come from right here in the Pacific Northwest. Along with sipping some great brew, you'll be able to listen to live bands playing all weekend.

$30 will get you admission to the event which includes an official SIB glass and 10 beer tickets. Live music begins at 1:30 p.m. each day with bands like the Black Crabs and The Rainieros.

Bring a blanket and relax on the lawn while enjoying a good beer and soaking in the sunshine. You can't beat the gorgeous weather in Seattle this weekend with sunny skies and temps in the upper 70s and low 80s. The event is held at the Seattle Center Fisher Pavilion and Lawn, about 200 yards NW of the Space Needle.

If you plan on indulging in more than a couple of beers, consider staying at the Silver Cloud Inn on Lake Union, just a little over a mile from the Space Needle right on the lake. Many rooms offer a view of the Space Needle, and they offer a free shuttle so you don't have to worry about getting behind the wheel.


 
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Summer on the Olympic Peninsula is filled with color, from the dazzling turquoise waters of the Strait of San Juan de Fuca to the moss-covered trees of the rain forest and brilliant lavender fields that stretch for miles.

One of the big events focusing on the area farms that have made the Sequim-Dungeness Valley world famous for its lavender, is the Sequim Lavender Farm Faire that will be held over the weekend of July 20-22, 2012.

This annual festival brings a fun celebration that includes Lavender in the Park at Carrie Blake Park/Reuse Demonstration Park. This beautiful park will have booths offering delicious fresh and local food, a wine and beer garden, exhibits and more than 100 lavender, handmade crafts as well as lots of activities and nature programs that are fun for the whole family. 

During this weekend, visitors can tour all seven area lavender farms for one low price, while admission to the festival is free!




 
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I almost feel a little guilty that here in the Pacific Northwest we're enjoying ideal temperatures in the low 70s with sunny skies while much of the country is experiencing a horrific heatwave. I'm very grateful to be here as I have a hard time tolerating 100 degree heat unless I'm in the water.

If you're trying to endure the scorching temperatures you might want to think about a little escape by visiting one of the beautiful towns on the Olympic Peninsula. A kayak tour is a great way to experience the wide variety of marine life found here, and if you're lucky you may even get to see a killer whale while you're paddling. Port Townsend Outdoors offers two and three hour kayak tours, perfect for the whole family.

If you'd rather not exert a lot of energy during your holiday, consider taking a whale watching trip on the Puget Sound Express. Their signature tour is a daylong cruise that combines orca watching with an onboard naturalist who will take you on a tour of the breathtaking San Juan Islands.

The Olympic National Park is just 45 minutes from Port Townsend, offering miles of trails that weave throughout the moss-covered trees, leading hikers to a number of spectacular waterfalls and several pristine lakes. In my article, Top 5 Activities for Families at Olympic National Park, you can read about some of the highlights and best things to do with the kids in this beautiful park that is home to the only temperate rain forest in the northern hemisphere.

Come to the Pacific Northwest and say good-bye to that scorching heat!

 
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Crabbing season began in Washington state just yesterday. If you've never been crabbing, now is your chance to to check it out! There are few better things than catching your own Dungeness Crab for dinner.

An annual license is just $16 for Washington residents and $35 for non-residents. You'll probably pay a lot more than that for a crab dinner-for-two at any restaurant. Be sure to check state regulations before heading out.

Piers and jetties are great places to drop a crab net, and the Olympic Peninsula has some of the best spots. Of course, the town of Dungeness, named after the famed delicious crab, is just west of Sequim. One of my favorite places to go crabbing is the dock at Sequim Bay State Park.

What you'll need to catch your own crab

A crab ring can be rented or purchased at many hardware stores, bait shops and marinas, and even Walmart or Fred Meyer. You might have to experiment to find the right bait, but turkey parts can be used with great success and sometimes your local grocery store might give you chicken or turkey parts that they would have thrown away anyway if you ask politely.

Crabbing also requires using something to secure your bait to the ring, and wire hangers work very well for this. For obvious reasons, heavy gloves are a must for handling crabs as well as a bucket to hold the keeper crabs. You'll also have to purchase a crab ruler, as you can only keep male crabs that are 6 1/4" width across the back of the shell.

Tips for successful crabbing


Its best not to go crabbing after a heavy rain storm as the crabs move away from the fresh water and further into the ocean. Check the tide tables (found at most beach or bait shops) and go when there is the least difference between the low and high tide.

Once you've found your location and have all of your equipment, all you need to do is lower your crab ring with the bait attached into the water. Bring a picnic and hang out and enjoy soaking in the sun (if you're lucky) and taking in the amazing views.

Allow 15 to 20 minutes before raising up the ring to check for crab. When you've pulled it up, release any females and male crabs that are under 6 1/4" width (again, across the shell). You can tell the difference between the male and female by looking at the underside of the crab. The male piece is about 2 1/2 times larger than its width, and the female piece large and broad.

Crabs are fast and pinch very hard with their claws and will need to be handled quickly by grabbing them towards the tail. Put any keepers into a bucket and be sure to keep them alive until they are ready to be cooked.

Enjoy!




 


In much of the Pacific Northwest, we're lucky to have the moisture and cooler temperatures that allows those who live here or visit to enjoy firework displays and even put on our own shows right at home. If you're looking for a fun spot to watch a dramatic and exciting show this year, here is a listing of a few of the best.

Seattle, Washington

Watch this incredible show in the Emerald City with fireworks shot from its famous landmark, the Space Needle. Visitors can spend the day in Gas Works Park at Lake Union, where vendors and a beer garden will provide outstanding picnic fare and live music will take place throughout the day.  

Seaside, Oregon

The Painting the Beach and Lighting the Sky, is one of the most popular 4th of July events in Oregon. Arrive early in order to find a good viewing spot and a parking place. Enjoy a parade at 11:00 a.m. in downtown Seaside, with an Old Fashioned Social, hosted by the Seaside Museum, from noon until three. The Social features a food court , live music, face-painting, games and more. At approximately 10:00 p.m, or just after dark, the breathtaking fireworks display, set to patriotic music, will begin with a dazzling show of lights over the beautiful expanse of the Pacific Ocean.

Port Townsend, Washington

In this "Victorian Sea Port and Arts Community," the big Fourth of July celebration includes kids' games and lawn pinball at Fort Warden State Park at 5 p.m., with the fireworks show kicking off at 10 p.m.

For some of the best displays across the country, see: Top 5 Destinations for Fourth of July Fireworks

Look for more listings coming soon!