(2010) Seattle Sojourn

While Dan and I now live on the East Coast, we still enjoy the thought of living on the West Coast again some day. We took advantage of the long Labor Day weekend to head back to the Pacific Northwest to visit some friends and take in some more of the beauty that is so abundant there.

September 3rd – 8th, 2010
New Jersey to Seattle, WA

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Individualism

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A fairly accurate representation

I’d spent 13 years living in Seattle. I’m not one to just sit idly at home so I’d gotten to know the Pacific Northwest rather intimately. I wanted Dan to get to know the area as well, even though we were working with very limited time. So we planned out an ambitious schedule and took our best shot at accomplishing what I’d put on “the list”. First off was to spend a couple of days in the city proper, walking and driving through various neighborhoods. After all, a city is best defined by the people who live in it, and what better way to get to know that then to see where and how they live?

We went to the REI Flagship store, both of us being fans of this outdoor adventure supplier. Dan was suitably impressed. Being in the neighborhood, we then walked through the Cascade neighborhood (more commonly referred to as South Lake Union) and checked out the Center for Wooden Boats. Having taken some sailing lessons while living in California, we really enjoyed seeing the care and effort put into restoring some of these classic boats. Paul Allen (of Microsoft fame) has taken a keen interest in the Cascade neighborhood and is working on making it a hot spot for biotech research. There were dozens of new buildings, a few older buildings incorporated into the design, and a couple of bull dozer-destined houses looking sadly from their yards.

It was also fun to see an increased number of scooters throughout the city. However, the sight of watching an instructor “teach” someone on how to ride the rental scooter was frightening. I couldn’t imagine this rider being able to cope with downtown traffic, hills and pedestrians. I hope that things improved after we had walked by. In addition to the scooters, I saw the Seattle Street Car in action. I had to laugh when I saw it, as its first name was the South Lake Union Trolley. T-shirts were put out that said “Ride the S.L.U.T.!” They changed the name rather quickly after that…

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A house with a limited future

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Old and new construction, working together

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Public space with a work-in-progress mural

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Scooter rentals – they needed more training

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What has Dan found?

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Oooo – Electric cars from Palo Alto, CA

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Sexy and fast

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Multiple cars were visible through the windows

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Ride the S.L.U.T.!

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Biodiesel and espresso – Seattle at its finest

The Center for Wooden Boats is located next to the future Naval Museum on South Lake Union. The changes to this area are impressive and once all of the buildings are completed, the park is finished and the big boats moved back into place, it should be a very fine showcase for Seattle’s naval history. There were some beautiful boats on display today.

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Canvas

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A thing of beauty

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Wood detail

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Props to the owner of this boat!

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A fast boat being restored

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We refrained

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Check out the old rotary phone and rusted safe

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Boat coming in from sailing on Lake Union

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The Arthur Foss, built in 1889

We took the Jeep we were borrowing up to the Capitol Hill neighborhood to see another facet of life in Seattle. Broadway is the main drag through this area and it’s known as being diverse and alternative. It looked pretty calm that day but it was still fun to see the shops and the people enjoying the beautiful day.

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A new fountain in Cal Anderson Park

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“Downstream” from the volcano fountain

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Public art

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Typical Seattle condos and landscaping

It had been a long day and now it was time to relax. We took our hosts, Katherine and Ralph, out to Ray’s Boathouse for a fantastic fresh seafood dinner and hopefully a nice sunset behind the Olympic Mountains. We got the first part, but not the second. Fortunately, the dinner was so good we barely noticed the lack of a decent sunset. We were staying with Katherine and Ralph for a couple of nights before moving on to stay with another friend, but we had their Jeep for the duration of the visit. I have great friends…

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Katherine and Ralph

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View from Ray’s

Time for the traditional “Three Pass Blast!” This is a loop often enjoyed by local motorcyclists and involved heading through the Cascade Mountains over Stevens Pass, Blewett Pass and Snoqualmie Pass. It wouldn’t be as much fun in the car, but it was a chance for Dan to see a lot more of the area. We started by heading over Highway 2 with a quick stop at the Sultan Bakery in Sultan, WA. This was a bad choice. Not because of the food (they have the best fresh-baked pastries and bread) but because of the sugar crash that Dan experienced after eating his pastry. He slept for a good portion of the drive after that. So I enjoyed the climb up over Stevens Pass, the views limited due to low clouds and periodic rain. The drive down the east side of the Cascades lead to growing sunshine and dry roads, typical of the “dry side” effect. I pointed out the Alpine-themed town of Leavenworth, but we both decided that it wasn’t important to stop there. Instead, I stopped a few miles outside of town at Smallwood’s Harvest fruit stand. It’s a little commercial, but they did have a good price on cherries.

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Views along Highway 2

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More Highway 2

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Getting closer to Leavenworth on Hwy 2

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1929 – I want to drive it

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Fruits of all kinds

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Riding the Cow Train!

After the fruit stop, we headed south on Blewett Pass. Again, this road is much more fun on a bike. Traffic wasn’t too bad, but the roads were by no means clear. It was an uneventful ride and we stopped for a quick bite to eat before getting on I-90 for the final pass over Snoqualmie. Traffic was practically stopped as we merged on to I-90. Katherine had warned me of “end of the long weekend holiday traffic”, but this was ridiculous. I could only hope that it was caused by some obstruction ahead and it would soon open up. That wasn’t to be the case, as the traffic remained inexplicably jammed for quite some time, and then opened up for no apparent reason. This happened a couple more times but by the time we reached the Pass proper, traffic was wide open and we were flying down the mountain.

In order to alleviate some of the frustration of sitting in traffic, we took a quick detour to the town of Roslyn, WA where they filmed the 1990’s hit “Northern Exposure“. It was a nice little diversion, although the traffic hadn’t cleared up while we were gone. We managed to make it back into town to my friend Kathy’s house in time to help her set up for a BBQ. Despite the light drizzle, many of my friends showed up and it was great to catch up with them, introducing Dan to many of them for the first time.

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Burgers at the Twin Pines. Not really worth the stop

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Roslyn, home of Northern Exposure

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Today was the big day: I had planned an ambitious tour of the Olympic Peninsula for Kathy, Dan and myself. We got up early to catch the ferry out of downtown and headed directly to Bainbridge Island. The weather cooperated only in that it wasn’t actively raining. The view of the city was muted and there were no mountains to be seen in any direction (the Cascades are often visible to the east, the Olympics to the west, Mt Rainier to the south and on a really good day, Mt Baker to the north). The prospect of seeing the peninsula again was exciting to me, and I was extremely excited for Dan to see what I had in store for him.

The drive across the northeastern portion of the peninsula isn’t very dramatic. The road is fast and comes close to some tidal bays. A couple of small towns off to the sides, an Indian casino or two and that about covers it. Until you reach Sequim. Then the population density increases and there are a couple of towns of considerable size. We made a quick detour in Sequim and drove to Dungeness Spit, home of the famous Dungeness crab, before continuing on our way.

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Seattle fading into the distance

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Alki Point, West Seattle

The next stop was Port Angeles, probably the largest town on the peninsula. Ferries crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria, British Columbia, logs were cut and shipped from massive yards and shipping vessels were docked along the shoreline. It was also the gateway to the phenomenon of Twilight, the latest Vampire craze. We were highly amused at the window displays in some of the stores, but eventually tired of such things and found lunch in a restaurant overlooking the strait and watched the Black Ball Ferry come in with its load from Vancouver Island.

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Welcome to Port Angeles

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Twilight – for all your decorating needs

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Well, IS it where Bella bought her book on vampires?

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I had no idea…

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Nice mural along an alley

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Public art

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Slag-woman

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Dan disapproves of the wolf puppies

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Salmon art

Lunch was over. It was time to get moving. We’d already taken one of the hot spots off my list (Hurricane Ridge), as the low cloud cover guaranteed that nothing would be seen from the top of the mountains hidden from view south of us. We went west, shunning Hwy 101 for the much more remote (and much slower) Hwy 112. This would take us north and allow us to follow the coast line directly, hugging the edge for every bay and point. I’m very glad that Kathy doesn’t get motion-sickness, as the back seat was no place for someone faint of stomach on this stretch of road.

There were some dedicated surfers at one point but not much else was to be seen. I was trying to remember riding this road, as I knew I’d been on it once before, but it had been probably 10 years since then. It is a good road for motorcycling. The weather was playing with us, hinting that there were mountains nearby but not showing us more than glimpses.

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Low tide

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Northern shore of the peninsula

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Shore art

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The happy travelers

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Our borrowed Jeep in Sekiu

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The town of Sekiu

The far northwestern corner of the Olympic Peninsula is also the most northwestern point in the continental United States. This was an item on the list for today – Cape Flattery near Neah Bay. We kept on driving, the road opening up somewhat after it joined with Hwy 113. A few miles past the town of Neah Bay the road dead ends at a parking lot. We’d reach the end of the continent by walking the rest of the way. The trail was nicely maintained and crossed over wetlands on a raised boardwalk. By the time we reached the end the clouds had lifted ever-so-slightly, giving us a glimpse of Tatoosh Island and the sea stacks off the coast. A local volunteer was at the lookout point with a telescope and showed us where a couple of immature eagles were perched on a tree on one of the sea stacks. One of the eagles later flew overhead and I was impressed by the wing span – I don’t know if I’d ever been this close to an eagle in flight and it was much larger and I expected.

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The trail to Cape Flattery

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Boardwalk trail with Dan and Kathy

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Kathy admires a tree

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Boardwalk to the water

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Sea stacks in the Pacific Ocean

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Sea caves in the Pacific Ocean

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Banana slug – quarter for scale

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Tatoosh Island, off Cape Flattery

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More boardwalk trail

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Hwy 112 along the north coast

One more item, ticked off our list. There were two more to go. We hopped back into the Jeep, retraced our route through Neah Bay and then dropped south on Hwy 113 and headed for Forks, WA, home of Twilight fame. We had a room reserved there and checked in before heading back on the road, through Forks and on to the Hoh Rain Forest. I was really excited for Dan to see this area. It is one of the best remaining examples of the temperate rain forest that used to stretch along the coast from Alaska to California. Imagine a place where the average annual rainfall is 12-14 feet! It makes for some green scenery. It was raining slightly when we parked the Jeep (no surprise there) and it made for a wholesome adventure as we walked the Hall of Mosses trail.

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Time to phone home

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The clearest water I’d ever seen

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Trail through the Hall of Mosses

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Hall of Mosses in the Hoh Rain Forest

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Fallen logs over the trail

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Greenery in the rain forest

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Nurse stump

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Bigleaf Maples

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Hall of Maples

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Bigleaf Maples with epiphytic mosses, ferns, and spike-mosses

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Moss-covered maple – Dan for scale

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Banana slug – Army dude for scale

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More green stuff

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Dan checks out a nurse log (trees grow in a line on a fallen log)

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This fallen Spruce log that went on forever

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Tall trees make for long logs

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The Hoh River

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Dan standing on the Big Spruce Tree

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The road out of the Hoh park

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Sunset as we drive back to Forks

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Twilight at twilight in Forks

We finished up our tour with not enough time to get to the last place on the list: Rialto Beach. I had really wanted Dan to experience this Pacific coast beach, with its sea arch, sea stacks and massive driftwood logs. It would have to wait until next time, as the sun was setting even as we reached Forks, and the beach access was still another 20 minutes away. We ate at a Chinese place (a friend had recommended to eat “at the Chinese place”; seeing as there was only one, we figured that this must be it) and it was ok. Huge portions, which I really didn’t need, but it was enjoyable. We went back to the motel and went to bed early. Tomorrow would be a busy and very long day as we made our way back to Seattle and then caught our flight back to New Jersey. It was a great vacation and I think I need to do it again.

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Coming back on Hwy 101

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Lake Crescent along Hwy 101

Tell me what you think! I want to know!