Category Archives: adventure

It’s that time of year…

Air Kraken Trike; shooting fireSo it’s time for the annual pilgrimage to Burning Man.  Like so many other folks, I’m going.  Unlike a lot of people, I haven’t had the ticket scramble that the selling out process led to — I bought mine back in January.  Anyway, this post isn’t so much about tickets, as it is about the experience, and how I feel about the upcoming trip.

I’m super excited about it.

This year, I’m bringing my own big art project to the Burn.  The Air Kraken has been a ton of work this year, and I’m so happy that I’ve gotten it done, and that it’ll be on playa.  The project has gone really well due to help from my friends by way of Kickstarter contributions, INW’s Art Grant, and construction assistance.   I’m super appreciative to all their wonderful help!

Check out more about the Air Kraken on my project page.

So what else is going on for the Burn?  I’m planning on taking a ton of photographs this year, and that means bringing a lot of storage… I’m bringing 28GB of CF cards, and 6GB of SD cards for two cameras.  I’m bringing a cool selection of lenses, too:  Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 D, Sigma 21-35mm Alpha f/3.5-5.6, Nikkor 70-210mm f/4-5.6 D, and on my D80 the 18-200mm alphabet soup lens as backup.  There should be lots of cool stuff to see.

If you see me on playa, I demand you ask for a portrait. ;-)   See you in the desert…

(Not) Shooting the Perseids

So this past Friday, I went up with some friends to Rattlesnake Lake off exit 32 on I-90.  It was a lot of fun, and we laughed and talked and drank good wine.  It was a lovely time.  I shot a lot of photos, but didn’t catch any meteoroids.  The moon was too full and bright, and there just weren’t that many.  I saw about 10 trails in the sky, which was quite pleasant.   Here are some photos I did shoot.  Funny thing about the full moon… It’s a lot like the full sun. ;)

Specifically, 30 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 200 looks like a daytime exposure.  It’s pretty awesome to have images that look like daytime shots with star trails in the backgrounds!

One thing that I realized about this trip was that I was lacking a good release for my D700.  Fortunately, a quick trip over to Amazon and my Prime membership means that next time, that won’t be a problem for me.

Until next time…

Thoughts from MySQL Conf, Oracle’s Acquisition of Sun, and Meeting New People

I attended MySQL Conf, and it’s been an neat conference.  The most surprising thing was the news was the purchase of Sun by Oracle.  This sounds to me like a play for a solid vertically integrated market for Oracle.  I can appreciate that — they get Sun’s hardware and OS skills, they bring their own DB services to the table, and they get a lot of community with MySQL.

Lots of people have spoken about their fears that Oracle will suffocate MySQL, but I don’t think they’ll do that.  I think that Oracle realizes how centrally important to the web community that MySQL is.  I do think they’ll try to sell Oracle to high-volume MySQL sites, and that makes sense.  And I think they’ll continue MySQL to bring DB share under the Oracle roof.

MySQL is hugely popular, it wouldn’t make any sense to throw away that good will.

Other things from the conference have been that I’ve run into people I haven’t seen in a while, and I’m learning things.

One of the most interesting talks I went to was Rockyou’s talk about how they built their federated platform for supporting their Facebook applications.    Very neat to see their approach, especially since we’re buidling our own sort of Facebook applications, specifically Bejeweled Blitz.   Good times.

I met the photographer called Julian Cash, a very nice guy located in San Francisco.  He did a light painting portrait of me, which was fun.   We talked about various things for a while, and he talked to me about his project that he’s working on.  More to come later.

Today is the last day.  Things are winding down, and I’m preparing to go home.

(Attempting to) Hike from Richmond Beach to Carkeek Park

Amtrak #21 near Richmond Beach Park, Shoreline, WALast Sunday, my family and I went on a hike from Richmond Beach in Shoreline, WA down to Carkeek Park.  Or we tried to, anyway.

We started off by taking the 348 bus from near where we live to Richmond Beach, in Shoreline.  This trip also provided me with an opportunity to try out my new hydration pack that I’d gotten for my upcoming desert camping.

We started out a little later than we wanted; around 1PM.  We got to the end of the bus route, and walked to find the path to the beach.  Now, the 348 stops quite near the beach, but the end of the line is not the stop to get off the bus at.  You should get off earlier in the route before it winds its way down.  Use Metro’s trip planner.

We took the route to the end of the line, and had to climb back up hill some to get to Richmond Beach.  I was struck by how much the park there looks like it’s out of southern California.  The way the hills were covered with Scotchbroom, and the character of the day felt like my trip to SoCal a few years ago.

We ate a snack at the park before heading out.  There is a nice bridge out over the rail tracks, leading to the beach itself.  It was a beautiful day, and many people were out playing.     The kids decided to wade into the Puget Sound while we walked.  This was cool.  Sadly, one of them failed to give us his cellphone before doing so, so he trashed it.

Rail Sign and Tracks

We walked and walked.  As we travelled away from the park, the population of people thinned out.  Eventually, we were nearly alone.  Only a few people walked around as well, and they were far from where we were at.

Eventually, we came to an underpass that led into the forest on the other side of the railroad tracks.

We explored it a little, and found a nice place to sit down and eat.   From there, we continued to head south.  We went around a bend, which you can see it in the second image in this post; the camera is facing north, just past the bend in the background is where the tunnel under the tracks is located.  We continued to walk.  No one was around at this point.  It was around four in the afternoon, and the tide was starting to come in.  We got to about 2 miles from Carkeek before we elected to bail on the trail because the kids were running short on water and hadn’t planned well flagyl 400 mg.  The tide was coming in, and things were getting hairy.

On the way back, I climbed up to the rail grade, and took some shots along there.   I kept my eyes peeled for trains, and saw the Amtrak Coast Starlight when it was two miles away, so I was able to  position myself well, and safely.

We went through the underpass that we’d seen earlier, as it had an obvious trail up and out.

What we didn’t expect to find was big, locked gate on the other end.  Turns out that the underpass there goes to Innis Arden, a private community.  We had to be let out.  It was fortunate that there was someone working out in their yard, otherwise we’d have to go back down, and walk back to Richmond Beach.  The kids would not have enjoyed that. ;-)

We climbed out of the valley, following the road up.  We came across Shoreview park, were we refilled our water containers, and had a good rest.   Then we walked from there up, and came to Shoreline Community College, where we caught the Route 5 Bus, and eventually got home.

Whew, it was a fun hike, and I’m going to do it again, but with better planning so we complete it.

We learned about this hike from Metro Bus Hikes:  a web page by someone who wanted to know what hikes could be done without a car.

The Ballard Terminal Railroad

Jumbled Rail As continued from my previous entry about walking the rails in Ballard, yesterday I walked the rest of the rails in Ballard. I saw many cool things, and learned about this railroad.

This shortline railroad, which is officially the Ballard Terminal Railroad, is a shortline that acquired the trackage rights from BSNF after they abandoned the track in 1997. The company was formed to support the three local industries that this shortline serves: Pioneer Western (a fish processor), Salmon Bay Gravel Co., and Olsen Furniture.

It is, as far as I can tell, operated by three guys. There are two switchers that are owned by this railroad company, the most prominent is the #98, the red Ballard Li’l Beaver, a EMD SW-1 600 HP switcher. It lives in a lot just off NW 45th St.


  • http://www.docwightman

Click the image to go to my flickr set about the Ballard Terminal Railroad.

Exploring Ballard and meeting up with friends

RailSo today, Melissa and the kids went to explore Whidbey Island. That’s cool. But I didn’t go with them. I took a day for myself. A day where I explored what I wanted to explore, and did what I wanted to do. I’ll start with my conclusion: I had a great day; my legs hurt, but my heart is happy.

I started of the day at around 10 AM when we got up from bed. I fixed myself some cold pizza for breakfast, and got my stuff together to go out for a day walking. I took my camera, my rain jacket, and the purple knit had that Melissa made for me. All these things were needed today, for the weather was dynamic, and the scenery multidimensional.

I left the house at around 11:30AM, and walked west to the bus stop. Ten minutes early. I had to wait a bit for the bus to arrive. Someone I didn’t know walked up, and I struck up a conversation. Her name is Taren. She’s a recent graduate from the UW, looking for a job. I gave her my card, and told her about some job openings at my employer. We had pleasant conversation as we both rode the bus down to the University District, where the first leg of my adventure would truely begin.

I got off the bus at 47th & University Way. I walked a bit south, and went to Trabant, where I ordered a drip coffee from them. They’re apparently doing a special thing with their drop. It was a good cup of coffee, but was more than I wanted to pay for such a thing. After I got my cup, I walked around the corner in the place, and saw my friend Robin. He lives at Trabant, you know. He does IT, so he can do such things most anywhere. I sat down, and said “hi.”

We had good conversation for a while, and he inquired if I’d had lunch. I said no, and we went to Shultzy’s. I had a burger, and a water. Good food. He and I talked for a while. It was nice to run into him and going and being social. After lunch, we talked back up to Trabant, and I parted ways with him.

Hopper Cars by Salmon Bay Gravel coThen I went to go catch the 44 to Ballard across the street on 45th. The ride into Ballard was uneventful, and quick. Before I knew it, I was in Ballard. Ah, Ballard. It’s a lovely place. If you’ve never been, it’s one of the older parts of Seattle. It used to be a seperate community from the city, and was annexed many years ago. It has a strong norweigen heritage, with old men smoking pipes, and eating lutefisk. My trip to Ballard had neither old men with pipes, nor lutefisk. I’m thankful for the absence of the latter. I got off the bus at Market and Leary, and went to the ATM, where I got some money out for my adventure.

Then I went to Cupcake Royale. I love their cupcakes. I bought a 16 oz drip coffee (my 2nd 16 oz for the day), and a Plain Jane (lavender icing on a vanilla cupcate), paid, and left. I then walked down into “Old Ballard”, and looked at the Sunday Market. There were lots of neat things to see. New spring peas being sold in pots for $3, smoked salmon that the fish monger was handing out handful sized samples of to passersby (“Yum!”), many things.

I figured roughly after getting my treat that the day would be one not focused on Things, but on Experiences. I wanted to do stuff, to see things, to have memories of the day to look back on, and to write about here. And so I did. I looked at the things at the market, but didn’t end up buying anything. I spoke with some of the merchants. It was fun.

Then I went to look around. I popped into Second Ascent, which is a great new and used hiking gear shop. I remember the sunlight streaming in through their back windows, shining down on the rows of clothes and shoppers. I thought for a minute that they’d moved everything around the place. But that wasn’t it. It was just well lit, and full of positive feelings. Then I left.

My feet took me down the hill, down towards the water, and towards the old local service rail sidings that serve the industry there. I took some pictures of the hoppers in front of Salmon Bay Gravel Co, and of the tracks. Then I decided to follow the tracks, and see where they met up with the mainline. I started to the west, following the rails where they led.

I passed a lot of boat repair shops, and other sorts of industry. I saw geese lounging on the grass, and lots of lovely graffiti on the buildings and vehicles back in the secret places of the city. It was neat to follow the rails through those backgrounds of industry. Often the puddles along the tracks would be huge, and I’d have to skirt around them. Once, a car came along quickly, and made a huge splash into one of them. I laughed at it.

folding railroad bridgeAs I followed the tracks, I saw that the way in fact led in front of the Ballard Locks, which are used to raise and lower ships between the Puget Sound, and Lake Union. There’s a dam and a fish ladder there, but I didn’t explore that today. I walked along, and followed the tracks. And walked. I passed two older latino men outside a restaurant. They were having a smoke, and I said hello. They responded in kind, and I continued on. The path led along farther, and I came to pass under the rail bridge across the ship canal. This bridge is cantilevered, and is usually in the raised, up position, except when rail traffic passes. I saw that the siding went under the the tracks, rather than meeting up with it. Interesting.

I followed the tracks a ways longer. I was on the Burke Gilman trail at this point. Eventually, I got to the end of the BG trail, where it turns to go down along Seaview Avenue. The tracks continued to the north, and were coming closer to the mainline rails. I wanted to go see where they met up, but I didn’t. It would have meant trespassing on BNSF space, and they’re not keen on that. Up until that point, I’d seen no “NO TRESPASSING” signs, which I was quite happy about. There was a trail that ran under the tracks, to a set up steps.

Graffiti'd PathwayThese steps climbed up perhaps 30 feet onto 64th street & 34th ave NW. I climbed up, and walked along the sidewalks. I kept to a path that followed the rails. Trying to see where a good place to see trains might be. I never did see a train pass today. I would have liked that, especially if I’d been close when it did so. But it wasn’t to be.

I found a good spot, where a road dead-ended near the mainline, and at grade level with the rails. This spot is one I’ll come back to later in the spring or summer to photograph trains from.

At this point, I was really thirsty, so I walked back down (going south at this point) to the crossing of 35th & market. I went to the 7-eleven, and got a water. Yum, nice cold water. Then I walked back into Ballard, and caught a 44 back into the U-District.

From there, I took a 66 to Northgate, and ran an errand. I came home, tired and happy after my long day exploring. All told, I walked about seven miles today. Not bad.