Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Home Leave Part 3 - Washington State

We drove into Seattle and picked up Sophie's sister and spent the day checking out Seattle. Of course, we drank a lot of coffee. We really didn't have any ideas on what to do in Seattle, so we went with the typical tourist ideas: Pike Place fish market, coffee, food, and the Space Needle. When we got to the Space Needle, we found a Dale Chihuly exhibit next door. Sophie knew this was there, but I guess I just hadn't been paying attention. Strangely, we had never heard of Chihuly until the week before, when Sophie's parents were watching a PBS special about his work. Basically, the guy is a phenomenal glass blower and has created some of the coolest works of art I've ever seen. I'm the kind of guy who goes into the Louvre and says "yea, ok, can we eat yet?" but man is Chihuly's stuff different. It's just fascinating.
those boats are real boats - so, this stuff is quite big
just to be clear, that big green thing on the right is mostly glass, and was made for an exhibition in Phoenix (I think)
After the Chihuly exhibit, we went up into the Space Needle, which was fun, although now that I've done it, I probably won't do it again. heh. On our walk back to our hotel, we found a great place to eat that had great food and great beers. The US really does have the best beer scene in the world.

The next morning, we drove up to Anacortes, Washington to take the ferry over to our next destination: the San Juan Islands. Sophie had been there before, and she was gushing about the beauty of the place and the whales. Sophie loves whales. On our ferry ride out there, we passed a few harbor seals swimming by. When we got to San Juan Island, we immediately got into a van and made our way to the put-in for our sea kayaking whale watching tour. Of course, they can't guarantee that you will see the whales, so Sophie was prepared to do whatever was necessary for us to see whales, even if that meant extending our time in the San Juans and doing kayaking trips every day. Luckily, this turned out to be a non-issue, because a pod of whales swam by as we were packing up the kayaks. Our tour guide was probably in her 50s or 60s and I really have never seen a person of that age as downright giddy as she was when she saw the whales. She has lived there for the past 5 years, sees the whales on most days, and still gets excited to see them. Hopefully I'll have the same zeal for the world around me when I get to be her age. Our sea kayaking trip was fun - we paddled down the coast for about an hour before stopping and having lunch. After lunch, the whales swam back by, so we got to see them once again, although this time they were much closer to shore. On our way back, we saw seven harbor seals sunning themselves and a bunch of purple starfish. Good stuff.
kayaking amongst the bull kelp
a whale passing by another group of kayakers
We spent the night in a state park right on the water, hoping to hear whales go by at night. Alas, this didn't happen, but one can dream, right? On the first night, our campsite was next to a group of a bunch of boy scouts. They were very well behaved, but the next morning, the leaders seemed to be complaining to the camp host about raccoons getting into their stuff, seemingly implying that the camp host should have told the scout leaders about raccoons. Come on, man. As an Eagle Scout, it was annoying to hear a car-camping scout leader complaining about wildlife bothering him. Sigh
nighttime at the campsite

We spent the rest of our time on San Juan Island checking out English Camp, American Camp, and enjoying Friday Harbor, the tiny town on San Juan Island. Apparently, there was a serious land dispute between England and the US over who owned the San Juan Islands. This lead to the Brits and Americans both stationing troops at opposite ends of the island. Luckily, there was no war about it, and the disagreement was solved peacefully. While in Friday Harbor, we went to the whale museum and learned about the fascinating subject of marine mammals. Essentially, it is believed that marine mammals actually lived on land for a long period of time before returning to the water. Pretty neat. I also learned that the orca whales in this region were placed on the endangered species list in 2005, which is really sad. Washington state is removing some dams on rivers that used to have large salmon runs, but it may be too-little, too-late, since many people think that the population size is small enough to where the ill-effects of inbreeding may restrict population growth. Hopefully they're just being pessimists, but regardless, I am very grateful to have seen these beautiful creatures swim by.
a butterfly in English Camp
After Friday Harbor, we took a ferry over to Vancouver Island and Victoria in British Columbia. We spent 3-4 hours in Victoria before catching another ferry to Olympic National Park back in Washington State. Victoria at this time of year was gorgeous, and I got some great pictures of your everyday Canadians.
sharing a 'pink cow' (ice cream + pink cream soda) in Victoria. The B.C. parliamentary building is in the background. Note the Canadians.
the harbor in Victoria
I had heard of Olympic National Park, but to be honest, I'd never investigated what we were going to see there. The prominence of the mountains there is amazing. They basically rise from sea level all the way up to 7,980'... and there are tons of peaks. We dropped off tents at the Heart o' the Hills campsite before driving up to Hurricane Ridge. We got extremely lucky, because there weren't many clouds obscuring our view from Hurricane Ridge. It's really pretty up there - in one direction, you see nothing but peaks. In the other direction, you see the ocean. Pretty neat.
the Olympics as seen from the ferry
Hurricane Ridge
After spending the night at Heart O' the Hills, we headed out the next morning to check out Sol Duc Falls. We had a great hike there. Again, it's hard to complain when you're surrounded by such huge, majestic, covered-in-green, trees. After our hike, we made our way to Forks and Rialto Beach. Sophie and her sister were both obsessed with the Twilight series, so we got lots of pictures of Forks, even though the little town isn't that interesting. The city does have a pretty good humor about it - they have signs warning of werewolves and vampires. They've definitely taken advantage of all of the press.
Sol Duc Falls

Rialto Beach is simply stunning. I spread out a camping pad on the stones, read, and took a nap while Sophie and her sister ventured up the beach to see some more sea stacks. You really could not have asked for a nicer day at Rialto Beach - blue sky with a few clouds, warm-ish temperatures, and, of course, the beautiful sound of the ocean. Rialto Beach is also covered in huge driftwood trees, making for a uniquely-Washington experience.
quite a large drift-tree
Sophie's sister climbing on a sea stack 
sea stacks seen through a hole in the roots of this ancient tree
We spent the night at a campsite near Rialto Beach. We woke up and started driving towards our next destination: Oregon. Along the way, on a random stretch of road without much around it and still inside Olympic National Park, we came across a few animals that looked to be dogs. It was a bit strange to see a group of obviously-from-the-same-litter dogs in a deserted stretch of road, so we laughed that maybe these were actually wolves. Well, it turns out that there are wolves in Olympic National Park, and we found pictures of these wolves that looked exactly like the 'dogs' we saw. So, I'm going to say we saw wolves. Cool! We didn't chase them into the woods to get pictures, but maybe we should have.

Our last place to visit in Washington state was the Quinault Rain Forest. Of course, it was gorgeous. We were sad to leave Washington, but we were also excited to see a new state for all of us: Oregon!


  1. Replies
    1. I think Team Edward, but after having to watch one of the movies, I have no idea why anyone would be interested in such a pasty guy.