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Showing posts with label Festivals and Events. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Festivals and Events. Show all posts

Learn Backcountry Basics At Alpental, WA For Free

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If you are an avid backcountry traveller, you know that you must have "the standard " avalanche gear: beacon, probe and a shovel. But unfortunately, there are lots of people who think that having the right gear is all they need to venture beyond ski area boundaries. But just like the great American writer Mark Twain once said, "Knowledge without experience is just information".

Best Place In Washington To Try Hot Air Ballooning

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In 2010 I put "Fly In A Hot Air Balloon" on my Bucket List.

Since I was a kid, I've been dreaming about floating above Mother Earth with an inexplicable feeling of freedom that an open basket provides. Years later, after having tried skydiving, parasailing, paragliding, and flying a small aircraft, I still hope a hot air balloon flight will be a different and, in its own way, unique experience.

Two years ago when I was searching for information on balloon flights, I came across the Winthrop Balloon Roundup, an annual festival that takes place every March in Winthrop, WA

Winthrop Balloon Roundup

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Along with Leavenworth, Winthrop is another great theme town to visit in Washington state. Winthrop is a spectacular vacation destination with a Western flair.  Known for the American Old West design of all the buildings in town, this small town offers amazing adventures all year round.

Winthrop is home to the nation's largest cross-country skiing location, with over 120 miles of groomed trails. In winter,  Winthrop is home to an award-winning outdoor ice rink, an alpine ski area, backcoutnry skiing, fat biking, snowshoeing, sledding and world-renowned snowmobiling.

In spring, this town hosts its annual ( now 17th ) three-day Balloon Festival. During the first weekend in March, the skies of Winthrop brighten with the brilliant colors of over a dozen hot air balloons flying over the magnificent Methow Valley.  It's an incredible visual display as the balloons fly over the old western town of Winthrop and with the snow-capped mountains of the North Cascades as a backdrop.

For those wishing to go aloft, Morning Glory Balloon Tours offers flights once a day, approximately one hour after sunrise when the winds are calmest.

Paralyzed Wheelchair BASE Jump!

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I wrote about Bridge Day a few times already, but this is the first time I heard about Lonnie Bissonnette, a Canadian BASE jumper, who was injured in 2004 while making his 1,100th BASE jump.

It took him a year to get back into the sport. As of today, he's the only paralyzed athlete who has jumped from all four objects in BASE-(Building, Antenna, Span, Earth).

Below is a video of Lonnie Bissonnette rolling his chair off the bridge at Bridge Day in WV in 2010.

I came across an interview with him on basejumper.com where he talks about his life before and after the incident, his life philosophy and his passion for BASE jumping:
" I have always believed that I was going to die BASE jumping; from when I stood on the edge for the very first time in doing my first BASE jump."

Brdige Day 2011 Video: BASE Jumper Survives 876 feet Drop

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I learned about Bridge Day a few years ago, and shared my excitement about its celebration in this post.

Yesterday I was shocked to find out that this year's celebration had a horrible accident:
Christopher Ryan Brewer, 27, of Pensacola, Fla., was among hundreds of BASE jumpers who parachuted from the New River Gorge Bridge during Saturday's annual festival. Emergency officials said Brewer's parachute didn't fully open and he plunged into the New River.
"Lucky" for him, he "walked away" with a pelvic fracture, lung injuries and a spine injury. Right now, Brewer remains in stable condition at a Charleston hospital.

The Register-Herald reports emergency responders estimate Brewer struck the water at a speed between 60 and 80 mph, and that his wingsuit, designed to allow a jumper to glide forward instead of falling straight down, may have helped slow his descent.

The Puyallup Fair Fun : Zorbing, Mountain Boarding and Bull Riding for 3 year olds

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I really do hate it all : traffic jams, long lines, unhealthy foods, unreasonable prices... Yet, every year I'd go there because its a "family tradition", I'd get disappointed, and would swear I'll never go back again...

However, this year was different...

In addition to a bunch of lame fair events, there were a few that got me especially excited !

This is the first year in our state when mountain boarding was introduced to "the Average Joe".
MBS brought the excitement of Freestyle Mountainboarding to the Fair with its unique Pro Ramp set-up, and I think it was a pretty big success ! With a lot of high-flying action, the show attracted a big crowd every time it was on.

I mentioned Zorbing a few years back, and this year I was absolutely stoked to see it live at the Fair ! Though it was just one of the variations ( sometimes called " hydro-zorbing "), according to my son it was awesome !

What kind of a father would put his 4 year old on a "raging sheep" that's as unpredictable as a bull ? A loving one !

Until this day I've never heard of Mutton Bustin', but as soon as I saw a video, I knew I'd love to try it ! Too bad I wasn't under 60lbs anymore, but I knew somebody who was !

"Son, you wonna ride a sheep ? "
"Are you nuts ? Why the hell would I want to do that ? OK, whatever, I'll ride your stupid sheep..."
"That's the spirit ! I'm so proud of you !"

I'm sure that's the dialog we'd have if he was older, but at 4 you don't really have a choice... Just kidding, he said "no" to many rides I suggested, but when I showed him the video, and explained what he would have to do, quietly but firmly he said "yes".

And for me, it was the BIGGEST moment in my life !

My Bucket List : Mardi Gras in New Orleans

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Honestly, now I don't even remember where I got the idea to go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. But if you've been following my blog for some time , you remember that in 2009 I started my first Bucket List, and one of the ideas was - Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Well, two years later, I've made it happen !

Partly inspired by Rio de Janeiro 's Carnaval, partly by articles like " 10 Best places to get drunk in public", I wanted to experience this celebrated -around -the- world event first hand.

I had only a couple days to spend in New Orleans, and being ExtraHyperActive, I wanted to see/do everything ( or at least as much as possible). After surfing the net and checking out some of the Lonely Planet books, I found... tons of absolutely useless information.

So here, I'd like to offer a few of my own tips, and I hope they'll be useful:

- If you are not planning to "get wild and out of control" try not to go there the last weekend/Monday/Tuesday or at least avoid the famous Bourbon Street

- The cheapest way to get from airport to Canal St is by bus ( instead of taking taxi/shuttle for $33)

- The cheapest place to stay is 10 minutes away from downtown along Tulane Ave ( I got a room on the day of my arrival for $70 )

- The famous drinks to try - Hurricane/Hand grenades/Bloody Mari/anything with alcohol in it

- The famous food ? Don't even know where to start. I've never been a big food snob, but trying out "authentic southern cuisine" was one of my reasons to visit New Orleans. Got to try : po-boys ( basically a seafood Subway sandwich ); Jambalaya ( spicy fried rice with sausages/seafood); Cajun cuisine ( everything spicy); Beignets ( powdered doughnuts )

Things to do ?

River boat tours

As a kid growing up in Western Siberia, I was fascinated by Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn/ Tom Sawyer, and never thought that one day I would travel on the mighty Mississippi River, where Twain operated a steam-powered riverboat.

Swamp tours

A unique journey back to the early days of Louisiana bayou and swamp explorations is a "must do" during your visit. Just 3-4 hours long, these trips offer a quick look at the Louisiana Wetlands, the inhabitants of the swamps, and particularly the life and habits of the American alligator.

Walking Tours - The French Quarter History Tour. A better alternative - check out one of these books, pic what you want to see, and go for a walk.

Turned out, I am not a big fan of carnivals. But the French Quarter made an unforgettable impression on me ! If visiting Paris/Brazil seems like a "dream that won't happen", New Orleans is a cheap ( "off season" ) and a great alternative.

P.S: There was another "heavily promoted " tour - Hurricane Katrina tour, traveling through neighborhoods affected by the hurricane.

Jazzland Amusement Park after 2005 Hurricane Katrina 

I wasn't sure if I wanted to ride around on a bus looking at other people's devastation...."they say that money goes towards families affected by this disaster"...If you believe in something like that, aside from Mardi Gras, that's another reason to visit this wonderful town. If not, here are " Top 10 reasons to travel to New Orleans "...

Ski to Sea : Why Do I Keep Doing This To Myself ?


They call it the Bellingham Olympics here. There is no drug testing, no prize money, no sponsor endorsement, and no fame and glory. Then, why hundreds of people, from elite athletes and weekend warrior to outdoor enthusiasts, torture themselves every year to compete in this crazy, seven-sport adventure relay race ?

To me the Ski to Sea race is not just an endurance event and definitely not a competition. It's about challenging and pushing myself not just physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. It's about gaining knowledge of sportsmanship and teamwork, it's the place where limits are tested, friendships are made and confidence is found.

The Ski to Sea race is one of the country's most creative, unusual sports events. Though, the event brings in some of the best amateur athletes and some pros, for most people it's all about having a good time !

From my first time participating in the event, I got hooked. Apart from the competition, it's the area that brought me back for the second year.

Named as one of the best adventure towns by National Geographic Adventure magazine, this area offers numerous outdoor opportunities : hiking, mountain and road biking, skiing and kayaking, sailing and diving.

The Ski to Sea race is a team event : families, co-workers, friends, competitive athletes - representing all levels of ability.

I want to thank all members of team EPIC for their participation and support. You all gelled and pushed hard the entire time, crossing the finish line with smiles on your faces. I look forward to next year’s challenge with all the returning racers and hope to encourage more people to take part in next year 100th anniversary of the first Mount Baker Marathon !

Tough ( or suicidal ) ? Try one of these races !

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Marathon ? Triathlon ? This is so not cool nowadays ( especially, when you see a 90 year - old grandma, running next to you ). Looks like "complete marathon/triathlon" is on everybody's to-do list... And I am not an exception... Except that, I want something more than just to say " I've done a marathon" ( who hasn't ?! ).

These days, one of the most popular endurance events is adventure racing. Adventure Racing is a multi-sport team activity that usually involves running, mountain biking, paddling and orienteering ( sometimes climbing and other "Mystery Events" that are unveiled mid-race). Comparing with triathlon competitions, Adventure Racing is more of a team sport. When you do a team sport you can only go as fast as the slowest (team) member, but in a triathlon it's all on you. Adventure Racing is meant to test participants both physically and mentally in multiple activities over varied lengths of time – from a few hours to many days.

But you don't have to go for days to test yourself.

" The Tough Guy Race" is " only " eight miles long and takes 2-3 hours to finish , but it claims to be the "World’s Most Brutal Race". Why ?
The organizers claim that running the course involves risking barbed wire, cuts, scrapes, burns, dehydration, hypothermia, acrophobia, claustrophobia, electric shocks, sprains, twists, joint dislocation and broken bones.
Although the course is adjusted each year, its features have included a 40-foot crawl through flooded underground tunnels, balancing planks across a fire pit, and a half-mile wade through chest-deep muddy water. Marshals dressed as commandos fire machine-gun blanks and let off thunder flashes and smoke bombs over the heads of competitors as they crawl under a 70-meter section of barbed wire.

If "Tough Guy" doesn't sound very intimidating, why not try " The Death Race "?

Not being tough ( or suicidal ) , and not wanting to deal with barbwire or an eclectic fence, I set my eyes on the The Men's Health Urbanathlon last year.

The Men's Health Urbanathlon is a rigorous race and obstacle course that incorporates challenging urban obstacles at iconic city landmarks ( this part really got my excited ). The event takes place annually in three different cities - Chicago, New York or San Francisco. Comparing to AR or the races described above, the Urbanathlon is not that extreme ( challenging-yes, extreme ? not so much ). But the chance to experience one of these beautiful cities in a fun, challenging and memorable way, is more rewarding for me than testing my self-confidence.

New Year night celebration at Crystal Mountain

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How did you meet 2010 ?
Was it the night to remember or "just another night " ? Aren't you tired of the same old routine ( watching the ball drop at The Times Square on TV ; celebrating at home with your relatives and friends ; watching fireworks shoot off of the Seattle Space Needle ) ?

For years, it's been a tradition for my family to celebrate New Year at the Bavarian village of Leavenworth. Besides holiday atmosphere, the town offers many adventures and outdoor activities : moonlight snowmobiling tours, romantic sleigh dinner rides, cross country skiing, local hatchery snowshoeing walks, ice fishing on Lake Wenatchee.

But this years we changed our plans, and spent our New Year night at Crystal ski area. The celebration kicked off with beautiful fireworks, followed by booze and dancing at the Bullwheel with DJ Super Dave.

Another reason to be outside that night was ... blue moon ! ( if you missed it , the next blue moon will be Aug. 31st 2012. However, there won't be another blue moon on NYE until 2028 ). You can read here about 2010 Rare New Year's Eve Occurrence.

Oyster Run Motorcycle Rally in Anacortes, WA.

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It's been my dream since the first time I saw "Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man". My own "Harley". For me, Harley Davidson has never been just a motorcycle. It's a symbol. The symbol of freedom, social rebellion and anarchy. And the first place I would take my Harley? Sturgis, South Dakota, where the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally (an all- American motorcycle rally) takes place during the first full week of August.

The second motorcycle trip on my list, would be the Oyster Run in Anacortes,Wa. Just like the Surgis, the Oyster Run has been an annual event (this year it will be 29th), and now ,it's the largest motocycle run in the Pacific Northwest (the Oyster Run expects 20,000 bikers to take over town this year). It's held on the last Sunday of September. And though, this is a one day event, a lot of folks come early, stay in the area and make a week-end out of it!
Don't get it wrong. This is not "bikers only", "motorcycle gang members","sons of anarchy" type of event. It's a gathering of like minded people.They are people of different social and professional backgrounds, but they all share one thing in common-the love of motorcycle riding. Last year the run attracted dozens of biker clubs : Christian groups, war veterans from the Korean War to the current Iraq war, groups associated with specific motorcycle brands and even one for deaf bikers.
The performance of the Seattle Cossacks,a not for profit, motorcycle stunt team, is the signature event of this Run.The Seattle Cossacks have been performing for the public since 1938 and the oldest member riding with them is 74 years old ! They still ride vintage Harleys of the 30's and 40's.

Besides, Anacortes is a beautiful little town with lots of things to do and to see. All within walking distance you'll find casual cafes to elegant dining, quirky to sophisticated shopping, art galleries to antique shops and unique accommodations. Whale watching tours, kayaking excursions, sailing, boating, birding, fishing, crabbing, hiking or biking are among a few outdoor activities in that area.

The Greenway Challenge 2009

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I wrote about Greenway Days 2009 celebration at the beginning of the summer, and I sincerely hope that you've been taking full advantage of those events. I will remind you,that Greenway Days will last all the way till October, and hopefully, you will be able to attend an event or two if you haven't done it yet.

As for me, just like last year, I will take part in the Greenway Challenge for a chance to win cool prizes ( last year, it was a $300 gift certificate from EXOFFICIO).
But prizes are not the only reason I like this challenge. It gives you a chance to discover beautiful places, learn about the history of our state, meet new , interesting people, not to mention -to spend a lot of time outdoors!

Here are some of places I've recently visited:

So far , this is my favorite - train trestles along the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. There are 5 trestles withing the first 6.4 miles, starting from the Rattlesnake Lake trailhead.The John Wayne Pioneer Trail is an awesome place to go biking ( hiking along perfectly straight trail- boring!).This trail goes from North Bend to the Columbia River. With some more (planned) additions, it will soon stretch all the way to Coeur d'Alene or Tekoa. Biking from North Bend to Yakima is on my "to do" list!

Traveling to Snoqualmie is like stepping back in time. This city is a place of small town charm, historic landmarks, scenic beauty, and community growth. Best known as the home of Snoqualmie Falls and Mount Si, it has another interesting historic landmark- the Northwest Railway Museum. Visitor will learn how the railway changed Washington and influenced settlement, see and feel the excitement of a working railroad, experience what travel was like before Interstate highways, hear all the bells and whistles.

My another favorite place - Mercer Slough Nature Park, Bellevue’s largest park and the largest of Lake Washington’s remaining fresh water wetlands. It has 7+ miles of trails, visitors center, environmental education center, picnic areas, waterfront.
My favorite way of exploring this park is by kayak or Stand Up Paddleboard in summer.
These pictures I took from the viewpoint of the The Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center and while kayaking:

Honestly, I am not a big fan of museums ( when I was a kid, my mom would take me to every museum in every town we were visiting), but this is my second time coming back to The Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum. This is the oldest operating museum in King County. It's interesting to see how people lived just 100 years ago, to see household items not used in our days, like wooden stoves,kerosene lanterns, under the bed chamber pots (actually, I am still using those).

Withing the next couple weeks, I will try to visit more places , and who knows, may be a will be a lucky winner again.

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