Although this vacation included a lot of driving, I got to see so much of what Washington State has to offer. Travelled from cool Rialto Beach to sun-baked Wenatchee, then back to the moist air around Puget Sound.
by gowest youngman on March 7, 2010
On my first trip to Washington state, I was on the Olympic peninsula going up to Hurricane Ridge when I first saw Mt. Baker. Yep, it was miles and miles away but it was soundly on the horizon. It was my first and only glimpse of the giant.On my second trip to the area, I decided to try to get closer to Mt. Baker. So I drove the winding road and ended up at Artist Point. Here lies a small lake with the most photographed views from this spot on the globe. I didn't see Mt. Baker, but I got to see it's equally handsome brother Mt. Shuksan. And I took the obligatory photo with the small lake in the foreground. It was late September, and the fall hues were beginning to show.Further up the road lies Heather Meadows. Lots of trail opportunities abound, and a small walk provides plentiful views of Baker Lake and the other mountains. Although I still didn't see Mt. Baker, it was close enough to standing on the giant.Someday, I will see him again...
There are many ways to define "posh", but this hotel was exactly that in my opinion. Maybe it's because I've had back and neck problems for several years, but the pillow-top mattress on the king bed at this hotel was as "posh" as I can remember it. It was like sleeping on top of a really big Q-tip. Okay, maybe THATs my definition of "posh".The staff was very friendly and the hotel's location couldn't be better. Located a stone's throw from I-5, but far enough away and built solid enough that you won't hear the interstate traffic. Also, its location was only 15 minutes away from Anacortes and the Puget Sound.
I took the ferry from Anacortes, WA to Friday Harbor, WA to catch the Odyssey to do some more sailing on Puget Sound. Since seeing whales is not a guarantee (especially late September through winter) I was expecting to enjoy a boat ride and maybe see a seal or other wildlife. The crew was very helpful in explaining what to look for and where, and the boat was plenty spacious (although very loud toward the rear of the vessel).We ended up on the west side of San Juan Island, when we spotted our first whale breach. Then another, then so many I lost count! The orca were jumping out of the water and gliding along the surface about a football field or more away. My focus was on that when suddenly one of them surfaced just in front of the bow of the boat! So incredibly exciting to be just a few feet away from some wonderous creatures. But the excitement didn't end there.After the J and L pods moved on, the Odyssey and its occupants were headed toward Friday Harbor. We went through an area called Cattle Point when the water grew very rough. The boat was tossed from side to side and we all braced ourselves inside the boat, but the captain handled the waves very well and we all made it to port with lots of stories to share.If you want to whale watch with the best of them, hook-up with the crew from San Juan Excursions. I'm sure they'll take good care of you just like they did me.
After leaving Wenatchee, I drove north toward the North Cascades National Park. It's a haul, but definitely worth it! I chose to take Rt 153 which followed the Methow River, it was very hilly and curvy but offered gorgeous views. After turning onto Rt. 20 the mountains changed from bald to tree covered. A pretty steep ascent peaked at Washington Pass. The mountains are incredible as you wind between them down to Rainy Pass. If time allows, the Rainy Pass Lake trail is short and easy, and the destination is divine. I felt as if the Creator spent his vacations on Rainy Lake since it is almost like a natural cathedral without the ceiling. The lake is defined on one side by a mountain and the other by a moraine, and a waterfall slides down the mountain side to feed the deep blue water. The trail to and from the lake is lined with ferns, moss-covered trees, and several small waterfalls.Back in the car, headed west on Rt 20 and stopped at many pull-outs to take in the views. I started to take the Ross Dam trail, but met a young man who just passed a bear a few hundred yards back. Just as well, the trail is very steep on the return trip.Further west along Rt. 20 is an incredible overlook of Diablo Lake with its amazingly azure water surrounded by mountains. Continuing on to Newhalem where the visitors center is located, the road is at the bottom of the gorge with steep mountains on both sides.
Settled on the dry side of the Cascade Mountains is a city which is considered the apple capital of the world. But who would suspect such a supple fruit to grow in such arid conditions? The key to Wenatchee Valley's success is the high volume of sunny days equalled by the high volume of water available from the Columbia River.Speaking of the big river, I checked-out Rocky Reach dam just north of town. Inside I toured a dam museum (pun intended) and really enjoyed washing the fish swim through the fish ladder. The fish can be viewed from inside the dam in a room with glass windows, as a fisherman I found it very interesting to watch. Best of all, it was FREE entertainment!Back in town, I sampled the apples (my favorite variety was the Gala) at one of the numerous fruit stands along the state routes into town. Far less expensive than back home, and much more fresh.The downside to this wonderous area is that very little is green, in fact there are so very few trees on the hills and mountains due to the dry climate.
Travelling alone has its disadvantages, especially when trying to navigate a city with so many one way streets as Seattle. But I did manage to see lots of coffee shops and the Market on the way to the Space Needle. I couldn't find any available parking near it, so I did the valet parking. The valets were very courteous and helpful, and it only cost $12. The Space Needle trip to O deck was an additional $16.The views were worth the price of admission. The Space Needle easily allowed views of Puget Sound, the ferries, lots of downtown Seattle, even a sea plane making a landing on Lake Washington. But just enough clouds hid Mt. Baker and Mt. Ranier from this trip.
I don't think I could handle a week long cruise, so taking the ferry from Bainbridge Island across Puget Sound to downtown Seattle was the perfect fit. In September, it was a sunny and cool morning, but nothing was going to keep me from walking to the front of the ferry to get spectacular photos of the Space Needle and surrounding sky scrapers of Seattle. The price is right too...only $14.95 provided me with a memory I won't soon forget, and transported my rental car as well.
I parked at the Storm King Ranger Station along Hwy 20 to access the Marymere Falls trail. Although I have seen more spectacular waterfalls, this trail is very enjoyable for its flora and fauna. Beautiful, large ferns and moss-covered trees are along along the trail. In total, the trail is 1.5 miles roundtrip.
Rialto Beach is easy to access from Port Angeles, albeit about a 2 hour drive. The parking lot adjacent to the beach has accessible bathrooms and picnic opportunities.Be ready, this part of the Pacific is anything but calm. Large waves are crashing onto a small-stone beach constantly. In the distance are sea stacks, large rocks/small islands in the ocean, many of them with trees growing in impossible places.In my opinion the best destination is just a mile hike north on the beach to Hole In the Wall. This area is a great place to see wildlife in its natural state. Many tidal pools are filled with sea anemone, hermit crabs, shrimp, and starfish of all colors.Be sure to wear sturdy shoes or hiking boots, as the rocks are extremely slippery when wet.
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