Near the north end of Boeing Field is the old Georgetown Steam Plant. This is an old power station that was decommissioned decades ago. I had been curious to see what it was like inside. I had thought about going a while back and then the pandemic put paid to any visits for a couple of years. The opening hours have now been established and they open on the second Saturday of each month. That proved problematic for a while as that clashed with travels or other plans. Consequently, I put the first opening in my calendar and tried my best to make sure I could go.
The Saturday came around and it was a gloriously sunny day. This shouldn’t matter much since I was going to be indoors but it does make for a nicer day to be out anyway. It was due to open at 10am so I decided to get there right at the beginning. Turned out this was a good idea. The parking lot was already looking pretty full and more were arriving. I have no idea why it was so busy. Sure, a nice day encourages people to go out but how many people see a sunny day and think “let’s go to a decommissioned power plant”? I asked a docent whether this was normal. He said they normally get about 30 people over the day and they had four tours of 50 people booked plus those, like me, that didn’t take the tour!
The power plant was built at the beginning of the 20th century. It had three steam turbines of different vintages, powers and technologies. The first two are vertical and the third horizontal. These are fed from a large boiler room. There are balconies with the control electronics which you can see but are not yet accessible. I was happy to let the tours concentrate people in various locations which meant it was quieter wherever they weren’t so I could wander around casually.
I had figured wide angle was going to be my friend in the building so had a wide zoom and a fisheye zoom with me. I used the fish a little initially but soon concluded it wasn’t that useful to me so I swapped it out with the 70-200 to allow me to get some detail shots of the machinery. Older machinery has a lot of character with polished metals, complex mechanisms and multiple gauges. It is a great look in to a bygone era.
These shots are few of the overall layout of the building. There are some details from within the plant that will have their own posts to come so I can focus on them. I don’t want to try and squeeze it all in to one post and lose some of the curious elements in the larger story.
Nancy has been busy planting in our back yard at home and one of the plants she has gone with is a lavender plant. Some of the plants take a while to get established and even longer to attract the wildlife but the lavender seems to be an instant hit. It has had a steady stream of bees visiting it as well as other creatures. Bees are the focus today.
I spent a little time lying on the ground by the plant with the macro lens fitted. This is not necessarily an ideal choice as my macro is not a high end lens and it has pretty slow focusing motors. The camera tries to drive it but often it can’t keep up. However, stick with it and you can get some shots that work out. One of the things I had not anticipated was the proboscis that the bees have. Maybe they tuck it away when not on plants but, as they move between parts of the plant, it stays out and it is rather an intimidating looking item!
I have taken a ton of photos of the hummingbirds that come to our feeders in the back yard. However, a cooler shot is one that involves real plants rather than a metal feeder. We have hanging baskets which have sometimes provided food for the little critters but the majority of the flowers in our baskets this year do not seem to have interested them. Only one of the flowers seems to get some of them to feed and it is a narrow trumpet shaped flower that seems to thrive on the far side of the basket away from me and the light.
Of course, the sun does move so, with a little patience and forethought, it is possible to get in position and try to stay very still so as not to scare away the blighters. I have had some backlit results but they aren’t very appealing photos. They are better than nothing but getting on the right side of things is the goal and one I have finally managed to achieve. If I could get better angles, that would improve things but there are a good start. Now to spend more time waiting for them and try to avoid freaking out the neighbors in the meantime.
We were taking a walk around the arboretum in Seattle. It is owned by the University of Washington I think (if not, let me know in the comments) and it is laid out with various areas to spend time if you choose to stop walking for a while. There is one open-sided building which could be used for a picnic of you were so inclined. What caught my eye was just how much there was growing on the roof of the structure. If you were looking down on it, it might be totally camouflaged!
As we walked through the grounds of Chateau Ste. Michelle after the Avants car event, we came across this tree. As we looked at it we concluded that it was a single tree that was coming out of the ground in various places. However, we are not arborists so could be completely wrong. It just looks like it springs from a single source under ground and breaks the surface in various places. If you know about trees and more specifically this tree, let me know.
Down in Federal Way, there is a rhododendron garden. It is next to the bonsai garden I have posted about previously but we hadn’t visited it before. We took a trip down when the rhododendrons should have been getting into bloom. The garden is a strange location since it is tucked in between two freeways. While you are walking around lots of lovely greenery, you can’t escape the rumble of traffic nearby.
Unlike some gardens that have a very manicured feel to them, this feels a lot more organic in the layout. I am sure there is a lot of planning that went in to the design but it feels like it is a natural growth. Supposedly, it has the largest collection of rhododendrons in the world. Not sure who verifies such things but it was certainly large.
It isn’t just rhododendrons, though. Lots of other plants are scattered around the place. They have a meadow that has blue poppies in it. They are lovely looking flowers if a little fragile looking. There is a glasshouse in the middle of the garden and we took a wander around in there but, with the sun out, it was pretty hot and humid in there so we didn’t spend too long.
The blooms were not extensive when we visited so it didn’t have the same feel as we got on our first visit to Meerkerk, for example. However, as a garden with a wide variety of plants and color, it was certainly a great place to wander about and I suspect we will be back there in the future.
While walking around on the grounds of Bloedel Reserve, we came across these ferns. The shape of most ferns is pretty familiar. These were unlike anything I had seen before. The ends of the ferns split out into multiple mini fronds. They looked like some sort of lace work that people would have created. Maybe this is nothing new to some of you but I was quite taken but the ornamental nature of these fronds compared to what I have seen previously.
The Grand Coulee Dam was one of my planned stops on my trip. I had been interested to see it for a while having read a little about its history. It is a bit of a trek from home so a specific trip was not something I had planned but, since I was going to be only an hour away, I seemed like the perfect time to visit. I drove across from Brewster and the route brought me in over the hills overlooking the town and the dam. Crown Point park is situated up on the hills so I made that my first stop.
The dam is enormous. The problem with structures that large is that it is hard to appreciate their scale. You tend to see them from a distance so you can’t judge them very well. Even so, from up on the hills, you weren’t left in any doubt that this is a big structure. I was the only one up in the park aside from a guy looking to go off-roading but, since it was a Friday in Grand Coulee during a pandemic, maybe that isn’t such a shock.
Dropping down in to the dam takes you on a road that crosses the edge of the structure itself. From the road you get a view across the top of one section of the dam. Then you drop down the hill to the visitors center. A nice park area sits below the dam and this was the spot I chose for my lunch break. Looking up at the two sections of the dam, you really couldn’t get the scale. I felt like Father Ted needed to explain to Dougal about scale (reference for a few people there I’m afraid).
I had seen some images of tour buses (when tours were being run) on top of the arches at the top of the dam. The buses looked small compared to these arches and, from where I was observing, the arches looked tiny. That was the only way I could get some comprehension of the size of things. There was a little water running down the face of the dam but there wasn’t much overflowing at this time of year so no great falls of water to watch. I guess the majority of the water was going through the power generation side of things. The dam is the largest capacity generator in the US!
When things are more normal, there are light shows projected on to the face of the dam. People gather in the park and surrounding areas to watch the light show after dark. I assume this is not happening at the moment. However, the lighting rigs are down on the shoreline in the park. I imagine it might be quite a fun thing to see.
In the parts of Washington where there is heavy tree cover and plenty of rain, you can get some serious growth of moss on the branches of the trees. Go to the rainforest out on the Olympic peninsula and there are plenty of examples of this but even in the hills around Snoqualmie, you can see such trees. The softer light during the winter helps show up the moss well with it almost appearing to glow in the shaded areas.
I saw one tree across the river from us and in direct light and it really stood out from the surrounding trees so I figured a shot had to be taken. On our side of the river there was plenty of moss too so here you have a single tree and then some close ups of other trees to show just how the moss dominates the trees. Of course, it isn’t very dense so doesn’t overwhelm the tree but it really makes the structure seem much beefier!
The Dearborn factory required a large power generation facility and, in days gone by, this was provided by a large steam engine driving generators. This machine is now nicely preserved. The scale of it is a bit hard to represent. The cylinders are huge and the controls are substantial. You can climb up on top of the whole thing to see how it went together. Surprisingly, this is not a place that was getting too many visitors which meant I was able to nose around in relative peace. It is hard to imagine what it would have been like when this enormous piece of engineering was in use and was generating the power for the plant. Now it is idle but it still looks imposing.