Shortening days and colder air mean that the holidays are near. I think the early nights bring out the best in the season's activities. Trick-or-treating in broad daylight just isn't the same, there's more time for lights, and the early starts means you can take part and still get back for bedtime.

Pumpkins and Halloween

Fall is one of our drier seasons and with the sun angled just right we get some of the prettiest days of the year. That certainly was the case when we made it to our first local pumpkin patch: the Farm at Swan's Trail.

Mira loved the extra speed of the burlap sack.

Pumpkin patches, of course, are more than day in the field. There the slides, swings, tractors, and bouncy mats that make it a full day activity.

This reclaimed material horse swing was one of the favorites.

This tractor ride went along the entire length of the farm.

One of the highlights of this farm was their giant corn maze that was in the shape of Washington with the paths through being the major highways. Easy enough, but there was the complication that some of the highways were shut down, just like their real life equivalents during ski season.

Each bridge mapped to a real counterpart. We're about to cross the Columbia River here.

This version of Galloping Gertie was equally shaky, but did not collapse.

The farm did an incredible job with the maze and covered all the highlights. Their version of Seattle was notable for the tin plate rendition of the Space Needle and their recreation of the infamous Gum Wall near Pike Market. The prize for making it all the way through was the opportunity to climb the haystack that took the place of the San Juan islands.

Mira and I climbed to the top. A worthy prize for a trip through the fields.

With the day drawing to a close it was time to explore the pumpkin patch part of the farm and find our prizes.

Mira thought this white one could make a good ghost Jack-o-lantern.

Obligatory kid sitting on pumpkin picture.

We all picked out our own pumpkins. I think the final products came out pretty well.

The Jack-o-lanterns for the year.

Thanksgiving

Inspired by our trip to the top of the hay bales, we decided to spend Thanksgiving with Sonali's brother and his wife out on Orca's Island in the San Juans. We'd gone on a labor day trip the near by Lopez Island last year and found the entire area stunningly beautiful. Orca's was the same.

Trying to get a picture in before our hats and scarves fly away.

On a clear day the evening ferry ride out to the San Juans is one of the highlights. The boat cuts between all the little islands displaying post card views in every direction. None more so than the pink slopes of Mount Baker, who's snow perfectly reflects the fading sunlight.

This trip is worth it just for the ferry ride.

Of the many things we were thankful for, the sunny days were one and we took advantage by spending ample time outdoors. Although it was too cold to enter the water, there was still plenty to do. Both parts of the island have state parks, with the largest on the island (and the state of Washington) being the Moran State Park.

Hiking through the forest in Moran State Park.

We picked a reasonable looking hike up through the forest to the summit of Mount Constitution.

Gauti and Aparna at the first rest stop. This view teased what was about to come.

Some in our party were concerned that the elevation change would be too strenuous. The humans were fine, it was the dog that first through in the towel. He had enough of the cold ground and the high winds and made it very clear that he wanted back in the car.

Thankfully the summit was accessible by road and we were all able to regroup at the top, Ajax safely nestled under his blanket in the car.

Mount Baker.

The view from the top is stunning. The final elevation is only 2,400 feet but being on an island in the middle of a water body, there is nothing to block the view in any direction. To the east one can see the full expanse of Mount Baker. To the north east, it's possible to make out the skyline of Vancouver, BC and of course to the west and south, Vancouver island and the remaining San Juans.

Family pictures, part one, in front of Mt. Baker.

Family pictures, part two, in front of Mt. Baker.

The hiking party felt they earned the view a little more but we all felt we earned Thanksgiving dinner and Thanksgiving whiskey that night.

The following day was just as nice however the windy island roads made Mira car sick and the dog wasn't having any of the outside time, preferring to camp out on his bed next to the fire, so Gauti, Aparna, and I set out to explore the eastern side of the island in the Turtleback Mountain Preserve.

On the western slope of Turtleback Mountain

It was another climb and we made it to the local summit, though the best views were on the western slopes where we could see more of the sound and the other area islands.

The view south west from Turtleback Mountain.

That evening was our last on the Orcas. We went to the Doe Bay restaurant, which was both close by and excellent.

The following morning it was time to catch the ferry back to Anacortes and the drive to Seattle with the island giving us a nice parting gift.

The sunrise on our last island morning.

Holiday Lights

Seattle's high latitude results in fall days that get shorter quickly. Fine by me as it leaves more time for Christmas lights and we packed in a double lighting one weekend.

The first was our local lighting ceremony and Christmas market down in the West Seattle Junction.

The kids decorate the tree with hand created ornaments.

One of the highlights of living in a more compact part of town is meeting neighbors and friends in unplanned settings. This year we even saw Mira's teacher out and about.

One of the area's most known Christmas tree lighting is the lighting festival in Leavenworth an "Alps" town a few hours outside of Seattle.

The entire main street is closed for the event.

The town takes a Christmas tree lighting and makes it a full day event, including lots of free sugar for the kids as many of the businesses participate in a cookie scavenger hunt.

Finally the sun goes down, the speeches start, and the lights come on.

Lights on.

More than just the tree, the entire town is lit for the festivities.

The other side of the downtown district.

So yes, it's been dark since 4:30, but at least we got to see the lights and were able to arrive back in Seattle before bedtime. Every dark day has its silvering lining too.