Walk #1: Finding Fremont

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Exploring Fremont’s alleys during my time as editor of FremontUniverse.com.

Call it a resolution, a challenge or a whim. On Saturday, January 6, I took a walk in Fremont and plan to do so every week I’m able to this year. Fremont, Center of the Universe, has been where I’ve lived, worked or written over the past five years. It, like the city as a whole, is undergoing seismic changes that will once again redefine this unique neighborhood.

The Puget Sound region is booming and it’s the talk of the town. The ever-present growth and change are overwhelming; occurring at a pace that is difficult for residents to comprehend. A wave of nostalgia has swept through many communities and social media (@vanishingseattle). Although I’m a relative newcomer (circa 2012), this is my attempt to document and process the evolution of my Seattle home.

Walk #1: Finding Fremont
Date: January 6, 2018
Distance: 0.4 miles
Route: 39th & Linden >> South on Fremont Ave >> Starbucks at 35th and Fremont Ave

Hiya, Fremont!

I found Fremont at age 22 when I moved to Wallingford, the next neighborhood east, after graduating college and traveling a bit. Tired of unpacking and thrilled about my new life in Seattle, I wandered out the door on a grey February afternoon and headed to “The People’s Republic of Fremont” to see how much counterculture was left.

In reality, not much, but the strong local community, quirky public art installations and plethora of watering holes I found delighted me.  I also loved the size of Fremont, I could see it all. Less than one-mile square, the neighborhood starts to the south at the historic Fremont Cut then drapes over a steep hill to the north where all roads lead to the Woodland Park Zoo.

I hadn’t gone that far yet though. That first wander on a quiet weekday afternoon I made several stops I’ll never forget. I bought a plant to kill at the Indoor Sun Shoppe where I still buy plants (fewer of which die). I discovered the cheapest microbrew happy hour at The Red Door, which in the daylight presents itself as a casual neighborhood pub but often became a sloppy party scene on the weekends. For a time when I still watched sports, their TV was my TV.

I also stumbled upon Brouwer’s featuring 64 ever-rotating taps, a mecca for beer fans from near and far. With tall bar chairs comfortable enough to sit and stay a while, I read that week’s issue of The Stranger, still one of my favorite solo pastimes.

I looked in shop windows, noted restaurants and took in the many other strange sights: the Rocket, the Lenin statue, and the Troll. There were also strange smells: soft notes of chocolate from Theo, the ripe smell of city dumpsters and on my way home, a warm whiff of hops. They were brewing beer here!

My last stop that day, now part of Seattle craft beer lore, was the original Urban Beer Garden (UBG) setup in Fremont Brewing’s load zone each afternoon. A fraction of its current size, the original UBG was clever, popular and often crowded. Perched with a good beer on a bench supported by kegs with my new plant and a list of more places to go, it hit me: this is gonna be a great adventure.

Ch-ch-changes

5 years in, including a year and a half as editor of the local blog Fremont Universe, I look at Fremont with a very different eye. I’ve seen things come and go, heard about what once was and often wonder, “what will come next?” Here’s what I saw on my recent walk:

20180106_1300133623 Fremont Ave N.After a fire in 2015, the Orange Tea Preschool and its owner, who also lived in the building, were forced to relocate due to extensive damage. Two 4-story apartment buildings are proposed for development on the lot. A demolition permit was reviewed in late 2017.

20180106_1301283601 Fremont Ave N. – Fremont Village Square has always been mysterious to me. In my time, several restaurants/bars have come and gone (Hunger, Kylie’s Chicago Pizza and It’s ALWAYS Happy Hour), the Fremont Health Club relocated and that’s just on street-level.

20180106_1301163601 Fremont Ave N (cont). – Built in 1996 and reportedly sold for a whopping $15MM in May 2017, Fremont Village Square lists approximately 6 suites currently available across three levels. I think we can expect some new tenants in 2018 and I’ll be curious what kind of businesses are attracted to this prime location that’s only 36% occupied.

20180106_130225resized3517 Fremont Ave N. – A sign from a different time. I covered the transition of the Dubliner (a dive-y Irish pub that got crowded on trivia nights) into the food and beverage branch of the Hotel Hotel Hostel located upstairs. Brick oven pizza and hip decor were introduced, both of which remain in the pub’s current incarnation: Fremont Tavern (it’s not the first to bear the name), focusing on sports and no longer owned by Hotel Hotel’s owners. Although it got a paint job, this was not the first Dubliner location. Ghosts of Seattle commemorates the original location at 3411 Fremont Ave N that drew a “diverse and family-like group of patrons that gathered there from the late 1990s to 2001.”

The Coffee Shop of the Future

My destination comes with a disclaimer: “I had a gift card.” Typically, this Starbucks would not be part of my route or routine but $25 worth of coffee and breakfast sandwiches is motivating and ultimately, inspiring.

Sitting in an armchair enjoying prime people-watching, I thought about how to take my constant observations about Fremont and do something with them. To write about the changes I see, to share them and maybe, to help process them. Now you’re reading the first installment.

One of the biggest changes I saw in that moment was how different Starbucks is from other local coffee shops. This efficient and modern Starbucks seemed more appropriate for an orderly academic or company campus. Not here, across from the blue and orange Fremont Bridge with the busy bus stop and Real Change vendor outside. Although it provided for my coffee and snack craving, this Starbucks did not reflect the Fremont community as I know it.

However, watching a variety of individuals, friends and families bustle in and out made me challenge that perspective. It occurred to me that maybe this Starbucks reflected a different part of the Fremont community. Coffee shops, especially in the Pacific Northwest, are a core part of people’s routines, neighborhoods and social lives.

So, as I observe and describe Fremont in flux, I will also discover the many sides of this community by ending each walk at a different coffee shop. Perhaps starting at Starbucks, an iconic Seattle brand that has achieved almost incomprehensible growth since 1971 is fitting.

Coffee empires aside, the very storefront I was sitting in has its own storyline of change: Starbucks moved into this corner suite of the Epicenter building a year after the Peet’s Coffee closure left the space vacant. Before the Epicenter building (commercial/retail on the ground floor, apartments above – you know the drill) rose up in 2004, a hundred-year-old building whose current and past tenants include The Red Door and The Old Dubliner respectively, was moved down the block. Just across the street, the Greek institution Costas Opa closed in 2012 after 31 years in Fremont to make for a financial institution: a Chase Bank. Fremont, constantly changing since 1891.

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This coffee mug makes me mad

I like coffee. I think I love it but, given the people who surround me here in Seattle, my coffee-affection pales in comparison. Whether coffee, tea or whiskey, the fun part is the mug, right?

Maybe.

Your dad’s favorite mug or a silly mug picked up while traveling can sure spice up the morning. There are funny mugs, cheesy mugs, “why did they print that?!” mugs and custom photo mugs. There are so many mugs, some are bound to go wrong.

In my book, this Beyonce mug has gone wrong. I HATE IT.

 

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Image via Pinterest

 

Why? Well, where shall I begin?

First off, Bey is great and all but she doesn’t have to do her laundry, go grocery shopping or figure out how to shave her legs in a 100-year old bathtub.

Beyonce and her fellow successful celebrities (and even some unsuccessful ones) don’t have to deal with weird utility or insurance billing, call 1-800 numbers, or double check their bank balance before making a purchase.

I also imagine that they don’t decorate,  coordinate gatherings, or lose their socks in the laundry they don’t do. So, each task you accomplish day in and day out, big or small, is still an accomplishment.

Sorry to be a pop culture grinch, but ladies are under enough pressure to “do it all”, they don’t need this smug mug reminder. The good news is that these mugs appear to be “currently unavailable”. Let’s hope it stays that way.

End rant.

 

Nice to meet you, Felicity Ann

This September we enjoyed one of Western Washington’s many festivals that shine a light on the unique culture that has been cultivated here. There’s the Tulip Festival in Burlington, the Lavender Festival in Sequim, Oktoberfest in Leavenworth, Salmon Days in Issaquah and our destination: The Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend.

3 days where boat nerds gather with beer gardens, maritime talks, gussied up boats on display, tall ships gliding by and a wooden boat building competition. It draws people with a deep passion for boats and their friends who didn’t know there were so many kinds of boats but like beer.

Soon after arriving, I saw the pleasing lines of a petite, spruced-up sailboat. Her white hull was partially obscured by scaffolding and signage. Unlike the other vessels, this boat held a place of honor, situated on a trailer in the very center of the festival grounds. Named Felicity Ann, she deserved to take center stage with a future almost as interesting as her past.

Built 68 years ago, Felicity Ann is a 23-foot long wooden sailboat originally named Pied Piper (I think Felicity Ann suits much better). Felicity Ann was Ann Davison’s vessel during her historic solo crossing of the Atlantic in 1953. Think of Ann Davison as sailing’s Amelia Earhart but keep in mind, Earhart’s craft of choice was 25′ longer than Davison’s and never made contact with the water.

Ann DavisonAnn Davison
b. 1914
Set sail from Plymouth, England on May 18, 1952
Began Atlantic passage from the Canary Islands on November 20, 1952
Arrived in Dominica on January 23, 1953, after 65 days at sea
Her journey is detailed in the autobiography My Ship is So Small 

Felicity Ann not only represents a milestone for women, it also represents the potential of collaboration. In this case, the collaboration of the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building (NWSWBB) and the Community Boat Project.

Credit is also due to an Alaskan owner who revived the boat from obscurity and began a partial restoration. NWSWBB and the Community Boat Project’s inspiring partnership continued his efforts and brought her to the Wooden Boat Festival for a fitting, post-restoration debut.

But Felicity Ann‘s voyage is not yet done. She will be sailed as an on-the-water training platform focused on empowering women, youth and other members of the community. Pretty damn cool.

My bookshelf houses the accounts of several other pioneering female sailors:

M. Wylie Blanchett, a widow who cruised the rugged British Columbia coast each summer with her children aboard a 25-foot vessel as early as 1927.

Naomi James who in 1977 at age twenty-nine, sailed single-handedly around the world via Cape Horn and did it faster than the original record holder, Sir Francis Chichester.

Tania Aebi who at eighteen, chose a 26′ sailboat over college and learned not only how to sail but who she was, all while becoming the youngest solo-circumnavigator at the time.

Her experience inspired Laura Dekker, who entered the records books in 2010 and remains the youngest person to sail around the world solo. I was exceptionally inspired by her humility and focus after our lunch together. In addition to her book, the documentary about her trip called Maidentrip is a great watch for ladies, and lads, of all ages.

But, Ann Davison was a new name to me. I’m so glad I’ve learned about her story and met Felicity Ann.


See Felicity Ann‘s new website here. She didn’t have that in 1953!

Learn about the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building here.

Learn about the Community Boat Project here.

And check out this video about Felicity Ann’s restoration (mind you, it was a fundraising teaser):

The New Northwest Passage

I could see the towering ice, imagine the unrelenting cold and felt in awe of the Arctic. Yet, the whole time I was sitting at my corner desk, tucked beneath the window and looking out on some of Seattle’s darkest and rainiest days.

For two weeks, while writing The New Northwest Passage: Century-old Challenges and Modern Day Changes in the Arctic, I immersed myself in another incredible tangent of sailing culture. Some (smart, tan, sane) people sail south, others never leave, but an inspirational handful sail north on a journey that can be more challenging than crossing an ocean.

Although it was tricky to track some of these adventurous souls down, I am very grateful to Dario Schwöerer, Harry SternMark Schrader, Michael Johnson and Guirec Soudée took for the time to speak with me. What does this group of various ages, experience-level and nationalities have in common? Crewing aboard one of the 193 vessels to have ever transited the Northwest Passage.

Thank you also to Victor Wejer, recent recipient of the OCC Award of Merit, who helped provide such up-to-date transit data (how many vessels have completed the Northwest Passage, how many were sailboats, which way they transited, etc.) that to my knowledge, it has not been published anywhere else.

So, take a break from this latitude and head north, very far north, in my latest contribution to 48° North on page 30 of the February issue.

Cheers,
Cara

Image: Voyage d’Yvinec/Guirec Soudée

Crossfire’s Close Call

While I have sailed across the Pacific, I can’t imagine racing across it; let alone in a 55-foot high-performance custom race boat like CrossfireLast month, I interviewed navigator Bruce Hedrick and boat manager Nigel Barron about Crossfire‘s 2016 Vic-Maui race and subsequent retirement.

The skills, logistics, and dedication required of both boat and crew to participate in a race such as Vic-Maui are impressive. By all accounts the resulting experience is one-of-a-kind and well worth the effort.

Bruce and Nigel’s extensive experience, natural comradery, and well-honed storytelling skills made this a great interview. Although I found their technical knowledge daunting, the core of this story is about good seamanship, teamwork, and instincts gained from years of sailing. I was also encouraged because, like many other sailors they agree, “there’s always more to learn.”

Read more in my latest contribution from the December issue of 48° North“Failing to Safety: Crossfire and Vic-Maui 2016”

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Lunch with Laura

Last month, I had the opportunity to visit the Portland Yacht Club with 48° North Editor Joe Cline and interview the world’s youngest solo circumnavigator. Most sailors reaction: “Woah, cool.” Most non-sailors reaction: “What does that mean?”

It means the quiet and thoughtful 21-year old woman having lunch across the table from me traveled 36,000 nautical miles, approximately one and half times around the world, on a 4o-foot sailboat by herself. Oh, and she did most of it between the ages of 14 and 16.

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Myself, solo circumnavigator Laura Dekker, and 48 North Editor Joe Cline.

From misunderstanding peers to lawsuits, boat refits to breakdowns, fierce storms to great loneliness, Laura Dekker experienced more in her first sixteen years than many do in a lifetime. Age is an abstract concept when speaking with Laura. I can imagine many describe her as an “old soul.” Knowing what I was like at ages 14, 16, and even 21 makes what she has accomplished even more impressive and thought-provoking.

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Walking the docks with Laura, this was her first visit to Portland, OR.

Regardless of the age of her soul, Laura is an incredibly unique person with a broad horizon of possibilities ahead of her. As she continues to travel, sail and occasionally speak, she shares her unconventional upbringing aboard boats, experiences exploring the world, and perhaps most importantly, her time spent alone with the ocean.

I completed my first long-distance sailing trip last year across the Pacific Ocean (Laura has sailed across twice!) and some days, as I go about my life here in Seattle it’s hard to imagine I did that and experienced such a different way of life. Laura remembers her trip with vivid detail but she is selective in the interviews and presentations she gives because it is her trip, her experience, and only the beginning of an adventurous life.

I sincerely appreciate Laura taking the time to have lunch and a long conversation with myself and Joe. It was entertaining, enlightening, and she’s a damn good sailor. Read my Q&A with Laura Dekker in the November issue of 48° North here, page 22.

For sailors and non-sailors alike check out Maidentrip, a documentary that follows Laura’s journey during her record-breaking solo circumnavigation.

Raven’s Roost

I am quite exhausted and sore but also very content. Since disembarking the ferry, we spent two nights at the house where my friends are caretakers. They affectionately call it “Dougland” and it is a mesmerizing place indeed. A fairly well-established homestead, it is just across the Wrangell Narrows from Petersburg and accessible by a small fishing boat, everyone calls them skiffs here.
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The net house (left) and main cabin.
“Dougland” is “well-established” as it has plumbed water in the main house, off-the-grid electricity, and a grand piano. We’re still not sure how they got that there. The main house is a snug log cabin filled with books, antiques, photos from Doug’s fascinatung lifetime, and many tributes to Alaska and classical music. It is so filled and layered that two days wasn’t enough to observe and process what we were surrounded by. And that’s only the main house!
Also on the property is a net house (used as a workshop and filled to the brim), a woodshed, a hobbit-esque sauna, a smoke house, a tower that houses the electrical and water systems, a gazebo with a Nordic style row boat stored in it, a guest cabin, and a partially built wooden rowboat museum. I enjoyed several rainy walks poking around all these structures and the garden. A creek runs behind the main house as well so we had waterfront views on every side.
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The tower that takes “Dougland” off-the-grid
Monday, our first full day in Petersburg, Ali and I stayed at the house with another friend, Cat, while everyone else headed into town on errands. As tends to happen at weddings when there are large gatherings, a mish-mash of people, and some wonky logistics, both failure and hilarity ensued.
Our task was dishes and dinner. And while that may sound easy enough, I have learned that nothing is simple on a homestead.
Admitted city-slickers, Ali and I were suppose to be supervised by Cat, an experienced farmer who had been staying in “Dougland” longer. However, while she was away on a phone call we managed to pick chard instead of rhubarb (Now I know the difference!), terrorized a garden bed for potatoes, cut my finger (it’s official, I need knife prep lessons), and caused a fireball to leap out and singe Ali’s arm hair while trying to light the old-school propane oven. No one was (seriously) harmed in the process except the poor chard plant but eventually we ate that too.
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Ali and one of our victory potatoes!
By the end of the day we had some successes though! Once we were directed to the actual rhubarb we made a rhubarb/apple/berry cobbler with an oat crumble on top. The potatoes, carrots, and turnips from the garden were roasted with onions and garlic. A fresh salad was concocted and the sockeye salmon was grilled. With some extra help we made dinner for 11, laughing and learning along the way.
But that isn’t the real reason I’m exhausted. The bride-to-be wanted to keep things simple for her bachelorette and have a ladies night at a nearby USFS cabin. Ok, no problem, sounds fun.
However, my body is accustomed to the demands of a desk and city and this backpacking adventure was definitely out of my element. The good news is I have a stubborn streak. After a half mile of uphill scrambling with my pack on and unused muscles expressing their opposition, it kicked in and I only thought about the satisfaction reaching the top.
4.1 miles in total, the hike to Raven’s Roost include 2 steep miles uphill in the lush, damp, and muddy rainforest. Our first reward was lunch at a look out where we could see the Wrangell Narrows, the creek by “Dougland” and some small islands called the Sockeyes. Some of the other ladies began gathering Hedgehog mushrooms and showed us how to identify them. We also learned about the various names for winter chantrelles and how to tell when Chicken-of-the-woods is too woody.
We also took turns lugging a 3-gallon gas can for the stove. It was especially tricky at times with all the slippery surfaces but these Alaskan ladies are tough and seem to have unlimited energy. My stubborn streak kicked into high gear again. Slowly but steadily I continued to climb at the back of the group.
After lunch, the trail was a little more level with some ups and downs as we crossed the Muskeg (peat bog) and occasionally wound into the forest. Parts of the trail weren’t in good condition though and without soil and roots to replace the boards, we had to cross large muddy gaps and puddles. Anyone wearing Xtra Tuffs, the signature Alaskan rubber boot, easily charged ahead. My hiking boots were tall enough in some spots but at others I tiptoed around with various levels of success.
After crossing this rugged, moist terrain we saw the cabin appear over a hill. Almost there! The views were definitely worth it and the cabin was sparse but comfortable. The final moment of torture though, was learning there were gallons of fuel stored in the cabin and our leaky, heavy jerry can was not needed.
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By dark, all the ladies had arrived, 11 in total. With the extra bodies and the Nordic stove was humming along it was warm and time for dinner. We made mac and cheese on the stove top. Cooked up more garden veggies (chard included!) and threw in the hedgehog mushrooms.
Cozy in our cabin, overlooking Mitkof and Kupreanof island, we sipped wine and shared stories. We toasted our dear friend who brought such a wonderful, interesting, and strong group of women together in this beautiful, remote place.
So, tired and sore I may be, but getting to share this experience and conquer that trail is more than content, it’s exhilarating.