Written by sararevell on 17 Aug, 2007
Since 1962, Tillicum Village on Blake Island has played host to millions of guests in search of Native American Indian-style dining and cultural entertainment. With boats leaving twice daily through the summer from Pier 55 on the Seattle waterfront, access to Blake Island is made…Read More
Since 1962, Tillicum Village on Blake Island has played host to millions of guests in search of Native American Indian-style dining and cultural entertainment. With boats leaving twice daily through the summer from Pier 55 on the Seattle waterfront, access to Blake Island is made easy on this four-hour tour.We decided to join the tourists and try this experience for our wedding anniversary. We signed up for the 4.30pm departure (there’s also a lunch tour leaving at 11.30am) and about 40 minutes later we arrived at Blake Island, but not before slowing down to photograph a couple of sea lions sunbathing on a yellow buoy. There’s a bar on board the boat so we were able to enjoy a bottle of Mexican beer although others opted for cocktails as well as ice cream and popcorn snacks, which were popular with the children.On a sunny August evening, Blake Island is without a doubt, a beautiful place to be. As the boat pulls in to Tillicum Village, the painted longhouse with its winding, clam shell white path and green lawns comes into view. We disembarked and formed a trail up the footpath to the lodge. En route, we were served small cups of fresh clams, steamed in a refreshing butter-onion broth. Visitors are encouraged to dump out the clam shells on the ground where the shards are bleached by the sun and help regenerate the footpath.The group quickly moved into the longhouse, where an orderly queue is formed for the salmon dinner buffet. The dinner highlight is the salmon. Baked around alder wood fires and held vertically on four-foot cedar stakes, the salmon is prepared according to ancient Indian custom. The fish is cooked around fires inside the lodge although they’re located rather awkwardly behind the serving tables, which means they are somewhat obscured from the queues of diners and by the time we had a chance to pass by the fire pits again, all the salmon and cedar stakes had long since been cleared away.The salmon and dark bread were delicious but the offerings of red potatoes, wild rice, and salad were a bit uninspiring (the salad looked like it was bought in bulk from Costco). Each person was handed a fish-shaped serving plate ahead of the buffet and the lines certainly moved very quickly so that within minutes, we were seated at one of the dining tables in the long house. At one end of the hall is the stage where the performance takes place and the rest of the space is taken up with dining tables set on raked levels. We were shown to our seats and started to tuck into our meal. Lemonade and water jugs are pre-set on every table but you can order other drinks, including wine and beer, from harried servers running from table to table. When the lady came to our table she immediately overlooked us after the group of four, two seats away from us confirmed that they were OK with lemonade and then she looked a little put out when we caught her attention to ask if we could order a drink. A glass of Cabernet-Merlot is $7 a glass and I must admit that considering the $79 adult ticket price I was a little surprised that they couldn’t provide at least one complimentary drink per person.Oil lamps decorated the long tables adding a pretty glow to the windowless hall, which is constructed entirely of wood with tall walls painted with giant Indian murals. Each place was set with a jumping salmon-shaped chocolate, which turned out to be the meager dessert offering.Second helpings at the buffet table were available so we went back for a little more salad and bread by which time almost all the salmon was gone. Shortly after, an emcee announced that the dance presentation would begin shortly so we finished up our food and waited for the lights to dim.The presentation that followed was a series of dances and reenactments, all set to music and a pre-recorded voiceover. The stage was outfitted as a clearing beside a rock face in the midst of a forest. A statue deer and eagle looked on as the show opened with a kayak being pulled across the stage. Two actors sat in the canoe, pretending to row as the voice of God began the narration. Other attempts at stage mechanics included an opening and closing cave door, a (fake) smoking wood fire centre stage, a rain shower and thunderstorm, and a giant wooden mask, which was lowered from the ceiling at the end of the show and opened up to reveal an inner mask. The show was extremely colourful and illustrated the beauty of various Indian stories, such as the raven who created the sun, moon and stars by dispersing a sacred light source when fleeing from an eagle.The striking costumes, masks, and props were all impressive but I got the impression that at times, the young actors weren’t taking the show seriously. Many of their actions seemed half-hearted and at the beginning of the show I saw one actor grinning at another, as if he was trying to get a reaction. The presentation was more of a tourist sound and light spectacle and it felt like it was a far cry from any traditional Native American Indian gathering. I’m sure that the simplistic, dynamic presentation has greater tourist and kid appeal but for anyone hoping to see something raw or with real cultural integrity, it was a disappointment. I noticed one spectator had written in big letters in the guest book that it was superficial and I sadly had to agree.By the time the show ended, our group had only half an hour before the boat was scheduled to leave for the return journey back to Seattle. I was surprised at how fast the time had passed by and disappointed that we had such a short amount of time to explore any of the island trails. We snapped photos of the totem poles and of the hazy view of Mt. Rainier and took a short walk north of Tillicum Village. All too soon the boat was sounding its horn, calling all passengers back to the dock.The ride back was significantly cooler so we took shelter at the back of the boat. This time the bar was offering Peppermint Patties with schnapps and other tempting nightcaps but we managed to hold back. We were back in town by 8.30pm and as I walked home, I was already planning my next trip to Blake Island. The next time though I hope to make an independent trip with plenty of time to hike around the island and enjoy all that it has to offer. It seems a shame that in a place of such natural beauty and cultural importance that for the most part the Tillicum Village tour has turned into an enclosed experience of artifice and tourist cliché.www.tillicumvillage.com Close
Written by sararevell on 20 Jun, 2007
I’d not been to a baseball game since moving here and to be honest, the people I’ve met haven’t given me much incentive to go. Coming from the UK, the only sports I could liken it to were rounders, which I played as a child,…Read More
I’d not been to a baseball game since moving here and to be honest, the people I’ve met haven’t given me much incentive to go. Coming from the UK, the only sports I could liken it to were rounders, which I played as a child, or cricket, which is even slower and duller than baseball sounded.But when we were offered a couple of free tickets, I thought it would be worth checking out. I’d already been a season ticket holder for the beleaguered Seattle Supersonics basketball team and had been to more than my fair share of Seattle Seahawks American football games. I could appreciate basketball for the fast and furious action. American football I’m not sure I’ll ever understand (what kind of sport has the players stop and chat every 30 seconds?)The Mariner’s play at Safeco Field, a 19.59-acre outdoor park with real grass and a retractable roof. It’s also right next door to Qwest Field, home of the Seahawks. If you want to get the full game experience, you should arrive at 7:05pm for the national anthem. If you don’t, you can show up at 7:15pm, which is when the game really starts.The rules of baseball seemed fairly straightforward although a friend and I got some pointers from people in front of us. We had great seats; about 28 rows back from the home plate. Ticket prices range from $7 to $55 for a single game and obviously the cheaper the ticket, the higher up and farther away you are.Safeco Field is a great stadium to see a sporting event, especially on a summer’s day where you can bask in the sun for a while. As far as the facilities go, it’s a haven for fast food and beer-lovers. Beer and soda is available everywhere you look and the food choices are pretty much limited to pizza, burgers, and hot dogs, although there is a nod to Mariner’s player Ichiro Suzuki with a sushi bar. We grabbed a couple of lukewarm hotdogs and a soda, which set us back $13. Fast food definitely does not come cheap at game time and a pint of beer costs $8.Bad food aside, the true point of going to any match is to experience the spirit of the crowd and even with the Mariner’s losing 3-5 to the Pittsburgh Pirates, people were waving complimentary t-shirts in the air before the final inning in the hopes that it would pull another home run out of their team. The game attracts all types of families and friends of all ages and sizes. Some dress up and dance in the hopes of being captured on the large screen beside the scoreboard.One guy in our group was lucky enough to catch a foul ball hit by Mariner Richie Sexson. I ducked for cover (I swear it flew higher than the stadium) as our friend jostled to grab it. He got away relatively unhurt although I think most fans who catch a foul ball end up with a bruised hand at the very least.Many people leave the stadium after the seventh inning to avoid the end game traffic congestion. We left after the eighth, which was just as well as there was no scoring in the final inning, and by that time it was 10:15pm. With a running time of 3.5+ hours I can see why a lot of people think that baseball games go on a bit long, especially given that there are 162 games to get though in just one season.seattle.mariners.mlb.com Close
Written by sararevell on 16 Jun, 2007
Pike Place Market is the heart, soul, and stomach of downtown Seattle. Without it, Seattle would probably be just another built-up city with the usual cluster of big name clothing stores. I find it a bit frightening that this wonderful site was almost sold off…Read More
Pike Place Market is the heart, soul, and stomach of downtown Seattle. Without it, Seattle would probably be just another built-up city with the usual cluster of big name clothing stores. I find it a bit frightening that this wonderful site was almost sold off for commercial development in the 1970s. Like any self-respecting market should be, Pike Place is the place to come to experience food at its best, particularly Pacific Northwest produce. In the summer, tourists swarm to the market, marveling at the throwing skills of the fishmongers at the corner of Pike Street and Pike Place, or shuffling along from stall to stall to admire the elephant garlic and Bing cherries. Having lived in Seattle for the past four years, and worked just behind the market for two, I have a few great lunch spot recommendations although it’s hard to keep the list to just ten!1) MARKET GRILL. 1509 Pike Pl #3. Seattle, WA 98101Tel: 206.682.2654 One of my very favorite spots is Market Grill. The menu choice is a fillet of salmon, halibut, shrimp or chicken, grilled in Cajun seasoning and served in a crusty baguette with onions and tomatoes or with a side of green salad and brown rice. They also serve what I believe to be the best clam chowder in the market, and a side of what may also be the best coleslaw I’ve ever tasted! Sandwiches and salads run at around $6, making a great value meal. You can take out, or if you’re lucky, grab one of the very few bar stools available at their counter. Here you can watch the staff cook fish and shrimp on the grill while you wait and listen to your neighbor's conversations or admire the many wall posters, including a lovely portrait photo of Ronald Reagan. 2) ULI’S FAMOUS SAUSAGE. 1511 Pike Place Market. Seattle, WA 98101 Tel: 206.839.11000Directly opposite Market Grill, you will find the sausage emporium of Seattle. Uli is a German Master Butcher who somehow ended up in the Pacific Northwest. I’ll be honest, I’ve never actually seen him behind the counter although I have seen photos of him and his splendid mustache in the shop window. You can buy different varieties of lamb, chicken, and pork sausages to take home or pick one out and they’ll cook it on the spot. There are maybe two or three seats beside the service counter but given that they’re right on the busy market thoroughfare, you’re better off eating it on the hoof, even if it does mean spilling onions and mustard as you go. The sausages are hot and juicy and Uli’s supplies to an impressive list of Seattle restaurants in case my recommendation isn’t convincing enough. 3) SABRA MEDITERRANEAN SANDWICH. 1916 Pike Pl #14. Seattle, WA 98101Tel 206.441.4544Sabra, and the nearby Saigon are little oases of peace. They both serve exotic comfort food and they’re both set back from the main market street. They’re a bit tricky to find but I’d advise asking for directions to the Starbucks store and then look up at all the shop signs until you find Sabra’s mixed in there somewhere. The lady who runs Sabra must be the warmest and calmest person in the market, which immediately puts you at ease. I usually order the lamb shawarma sandwich. The pita bread is warm and fluffy and the meat is tender and flavorful with tzatziki sauce, which usually drips all over my hands. 4) SAIGON. 916 Pike Place #17, Seattle, WA 98101Tel: 206.448.1089Almost opposite Sabra is the delightful Saigon. The kitchen counter is tiny but Saigon has a lot of seating available. On a colder day, I’d recommend a big bowl of Chicken Pho soup. It’s heart- and tummy-warming, served up with plenty of noodles, bean sprouts, thick chunks of chicken, slices of onion, a sprinkling of coriander leaves, and a wedge of lime and a small pot of mixed spicy and plum sauce on the side. Great to share are the fresh rolls, which come with tofu or shrimp. Note that Saigon doesn’t accept debit/credit cards so be sure to take cash. 5) LE PANIER. 1902 Pike Place, Seattle, WA 98101Tel: 206.441.3669Le Panier on the corner of Stewart Street and Pike Place is always busy. Touting itself as “a very French bakery”, Le Panier delivers. Flaky croissants come plain or filled with raspberry and baguette sandwiches are ready to go. If the choice seems limited, I’ve never found this to be a problem. My favorites are ham and butter, crudités, turkey and Brie. About once a year I’ll treat myself to their “Napoleon” mille-feuille. You really have to eat this dessert in the privacy of your own home or hotel room as the second you bite into it, cream and custard shoots out at all angles and a lot of it ends up around, rather than in your mouth. There’s a very small amount of seating available at Le Panier so you can wait for a stool or take out and eat in the small outdoor plaza behind Sabra, if the weather’s good. 6) THREE GIRLS BAKERY. 514 Pike Place #1, Seattle, WA 98101Tel: 206.622.1045Three Girls Bakery (not to be confused with Three Sisters in Post Alley) is run by Groucho Marx and a group of hip, young students. OK, so it’s not really, but if you eat there you’ll see where I’m coming from. Working in a kitchen the size of Luxembourg, the staff serve up sandwiches the height of the Space Needle. Sandwiches are made to order and there’s usually a healthy soup selection, all of which are excellent, although I really recommend their mushroom barley soup. There’s a small bar at the back with seating and the turnaround is usually fairly fast so it’s worth waiting. I’d also suggest trying one of their cookies and a pain au chocolat, although possibly not all in one sitting. 7) JAPANESE GOURMET. 82 Stewart St, Seattle, WA 98101Tel: 206.728.6204 Half way up the hill to First Avenue, you’ll find the energetic Japanese Gourmet. Don’t be put off by their window display, the food served inside is real and fresh. The lunch menu offers great deals such as a big daily bento box and five- and eight-piece sushi plates. The edamame is a favorite of mine and on a good day it comes with a generous sprinkling of salt crystals. I also really enjoy the tempura: squash, potato, asparagus, shrimp, and sometimes other unidentifiable vegetables that are equally tasty. The sushi is fairly standard but after having tried sashimi at Tsukiji Fish Market, I’m not sure anything quite compares but it definitely satisfies a craving for Japanese food. 8) FALAFEL KING. 1509 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101 Tel: 206.381.0857 For anyone planning an evening date, I would not recommend lunch at Falafel King. This is because garlic is the friend of Falafel King. If fresh breath isn’t an issue then I would definitely urge you to try their menu because it’s all fantastic. The chicken shawarma sandwich (which also comes as a plate), the hummus, the baba ghanouj, and the lentil soup that I’ve tried here have all been outstanding. The sandwich is thick, garlicky (of course), filled with juicy chicken and crunchy red cabbage, and necessitates a two-hour nap after consumption. Seating at Falafel King is almost non-existent but, again, I could recommend the courtyard behind Sabra if you get stuck. 9) BACCO CAFÉ & BISTRO. 86 Pine St, Seattle, WA 98101 Tel: 206.443.5443Bacco’s been going through some changes recently. The lunch menu, unfortunately has lost a little of its appeal (I’m lamenting the loss of their Strawberry Vinaigrette Salad) but I have to give Bacco some kudos. This personable café is split between two levels and offers an impressive and imaginative list of fresh fruit and vegetable smoothies. For lunch, I can recommend the Caesar salad with crab. I also enjoy their creamy tomato-basil soup, which is often on their menu. As mentioned, my favorite salad is now no longer available but they have a decent list of alternative salads and panini, wrap, and regular sandwiches. 10) SESTOS. 1518 Western Ave, Seattle, WA 98101Tel: 206.652.5809 I want to give a mention to Sestos because if I don’t, you’ll visit the market without even knowing it’s there. Below the market is Western Avenue, which you can access by walking to Victor Steinbrueck Park and then continuing downhill towards the waterfront, or by taking the hidden elevator close to Market Grill. It’s a small, bright café with friendly staff, who take pride in offering specialty Louisiana fare, such as daily gumbos and chilis, along with a great selection of hot and cold sandwiches. If you’re around in the wintertime, ask if they’ve made clam chowder, as it’s the only one I know that rivals Market Grill. My favorite sandwich is the chicken salad sandwich and they produce amazing bagels, which come with a luxurious cream cheese whipped with honey.www.pikeplacemarket.org Close
In January 2007, one of the most exciting projects to happen in a long time in downtown finally opened to the public after eight years in the making. Posters for the Olympic Sculpture Park had given anxious downtown residents more lead time than a Michael…Read More
In January 2007, one of the most exciting projects to happen in a long time in downtown finally opened to the public after eight years in the making. Posters for the Olympic Sculpture Park had given anxious downtown residents more lead time than a Michael Bay film. I say anxious because if you visit the city of Seattle, you may notice the distinct lack of green spaces. I live in Belltown so the idea of having a large park within walking distance was a very exciting prospect! The Seattle Art Museum and the Trust for Public Land purchased the land between Western Avenue, Alaskan Way, and Broad Street in 1999 for a modest $16.5 million. That same year, Microsoft alum Jon Shirley and his wife, Mary, pledged to fund operations so that the park could remain free to public visitors. Two years later, Weiss/Manfredi Architects in New York were commissioned as lead designers and the park you can see now is the result of these collaborative efforts. The park spans a road and a railway line, drawing your eye from Western Avenue to the waterfront view, which on a clear day allows you to see the magnificent Olympic mountain range. On your first visit I would definitely recommend entering the park from Western Avenue entrance and walking down towards the waterfront as opposed to starting on Alaskan Way. Being as new as it is, most of the vegetation in the park is still young so you have to see the potential. Fortunately, Seattle is blessed with plenty of sun and rain so it shouldn’t take too long for shrubs and grasses to settle in. Probably the most striking sculpture at the park is Eagle, by Alexander Calder. It has pride of place in the park and is visible from almost any angle. The PACCAR Pavilion at the top of the park is worth a look to start your tour. You can stop in for a coffee and check out two installations by Pedro Reyes. Next on the trail is Richard Serra’s Wake, which seem totally at home in a setting where you can look out at the Puget Sound and see huge cargo ships running in and out of the Port of Seattle. There are 21 pieces currently at the park, some I think are wonderful and others not so much. But part of the fun of the park is walking the zig-zag path and considering the different sculptures on the way. On the corner of Broad and Elliott is the Neukom Vivarium by Mark Dion. It’s essentially a 60ft fallen tree that’s been laid to rest in a greenhouse environment and visitors are allowed to observe the different life forms now living off the tree. As you might expect of a greenhouse, it’s a very warm and damp environment. The only element that seems to be missing is a scattering of exotic butterflies. If you follow the diagonal paths all the way down, you’ll pass Love & Loss by Roy McMakin. It takes a few seconds to put together the pieces of the puzzle but if you stand at the correct angle, you’ll be able to make out the different letters subtly painted onto trees, benches, a table and what has now become a wishing well of sorts. The Olympic Sculpture Park eventually joins up with Myrtle Edwards Park, where you can continue walking along the waterfront for another mile or so. On a warm summer’s evening, taking in the two parks is an uplifting experience even if it does get busy with joggers and bikers (fortunately there is a separate bike lane.) The two parks are also very popular with dog-walkers and young families, understandable with the many well-paved paths connecting Western Avenue with the waterfront. If you want to round off the evening in style, I’d suggest ducking into the bar at the Waterfront Seafood Grill on Pier 70 (2801 Alaskan Way) to watch the sun set. Try one of their mojitos, they’re delicious and you can’t beat the Puget Sound and mountain views although at $11 each, the pleasure comes at a price. The Olympic Sculpture Park is open and free to the public 365 days a year.May 1-Sept 30: 6am-9pm dailyOctober 1-April 30: 7am-6pm daily Olympic Sculpture Park2901 Western Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121Tel: 206.654.3100www.seattleartmuseum.org/visit/OSP/default.asp Close
Discovery Park is possibly one of Seattle best kept secrets, and to be honest I hope it stays that way. You need to take the bus (#33 towards Magnolia from 4th and Pike/Pine) or to drive out to Magnolia Bluff where there are at least…Read More
Discovery Park is possibly one of Seattle best kept secrets, and to be honest I hope it stays that way. You need to take the bus (#33 towards Magnolia from 4th and Pike/Pine) or to drive out to Magnolia Bluff where there are at least three, free car parks available to the public. Be sure not to drive down private access roads in Discovery Park though, as military housing is still in use within the 534-acre park.As described on the City of Seattle website, "the site is one of breathtaking majesty. Situated on Magnolia Bluff overlooking Puget Sound, Discovery Park offers spectacular view of both the Cascade and the Olympic Mountain ranges." If you’re fortunate enough to visit the park on a clear day, you will understand that the statement is no understatement and even if you can’t see the mountains, the views through the forests and over Puget Sound are worth going for alone.We parked in the North parking lot, close to the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, which is home to an art gallery. From here, you have a choice of trails to follow. All are well marked and most markers also indicate distances. We followed the trail to North Beach on Shilshole Bay. At 1pm on a Saturday the tide was out but on the turn. We watched people on sailboats out enjoying the sun, dragging their feet in the water. A large heron stood in the waves, no doubt taking advantage of the abundance of seafood. We saw multitudes of clams spurting water out of the sand and many discarded shells. Clam digging and other fishing activities are prohibited in this park so the beach is obviously a prime spot for herons.We walked up towards the small lighthouse where North Beach meets South Beach. In the instant that we turned the corner, the noise from the boats in Shilshole Bay dissipated and the beach widened, Rocks and pebbles give way to smooth sand and a scattering of families who made the trek down were picnicking with young children. It’s from here, looking roughly southeast on a clear day that you get an incredible view of Mt. Rainier. It would very easy to loiter on South Beach. Even on a sunny day, foot traffic is fairly light and the beach is quiet and serene. The road that comes close to South Beach is for authorised vehicles only which helps keep out the crowds.From the beach we picked up the South Beach Trail. All paths are well maintained, with wooden stairways for the steep cliffs that lead down to North Beach and up from South Beach. There were a fair number of joggers and dog walkers on the route and if you’re planning to hike for a while, it’s worth taking a bottle of water and a snack along. At the top of the South Beach Trail in an overgrown meadow we joined the Loop Trail and headed north back to our car. There are a few fields in the park and most are left to their own devices, giving Discovery Park a wonderful air of being abandoned so that you do often feel like you’re on a journey of discovery.The Loop Trail took us past some of the military housing and through a cluster of woods and brush before we rejoined the paved road back down to the parking lot. For any visitors to Seattle who don’t have the time to visit the mountains or the San Juan Islands, Discovery Park is definitely not a bad substitute. Here you experience magnificent mountain views, get close to the glacial waters of Puget Sound, and all in a location that feels much further than a 15-minute drive from downtown Seattle.Discovery Park3801 W Government Way, Seattle, WA 98199www.cityofseattle.net/parks/Environment/discovparkindex.htm Close
Written by creekland on 20 Nov, 2006
Trees, trees everywhere - and beaches - and temperate rainforest - and mountains. One National Park. Which one? Olympic National Park in the "evergreen section" of the Evergreen State. We were here to see - and camp next to - the Pacific Ocean - our…Read More
Trees, trees everywhere - and beaches - and temperate rainforest - and mountains. One National Park. Which one? Olympic National Park in the "evergreen section" of the Evergreen State. We were here to see - and camp next to - the Pacific Ocean - our planet's largest body of water - a landmark all should take the opportunity to see.
Olympic National Park has three totally different areas within it. The section we were mainly after was the 50+ miles of coastline on the Pacific - or at least the section of it that Kalaloch campground was near. My nephew had never seen the Pacific Ocean - so it was our goal to get there before he and my mom had to travel back home. We made our reservations the first day - the first hours of that day that one could - just so we'd have an oceanside campsite - and yes, it was worth it. (See Kalaloch Campground journal entry for more on that.)
The afternoon we arrived had a great display of sea fog... something else my nephew had never seen... so I'm not sure it was a good "first impression" for him. The fog erased all traces of the ocean from our view. So much for our great campsite (sigh). It also let a seeping cold crawl through our bodies... a GREAT reminder that it's always best to be prepared for all weather conditions. We survived, and were thankful for a fire circle and later, our warm sleeping bags. We hoped to wake up to bright sunshine - but that was not to be.
Our "plan" here was to simply relax and let the boys play on the beach for a good part of this - their last non-traveling day of vacation together. Don't misunderstand - the Pacific in the northwest is COLD. One doesn't go swimming - at least - not without wetsuits/dry suits, or in general, a good tolerance for the frigid. In this area, swimming can also be dangerous due to riptides. However, my boys long ago figured out how to amuse themselves on a beach simply by playing in the sand or with creeks that enter into the ocean. They make up all sorts of games, build dams, etc, and we were eager to have them include my nephew. My mom and I had planned on enjoying a good book with a nice view. The cold dampness of the sea fog got to us all, so we needed Plan B.
With some discussion, Plan B ended up with us going to a Ranger's beach talk at the nearby Kalaloch lodge. While some of what was said was interesting, the ranger talks here (we did two) were incredibly disappointing . To all who have been there - water is NOT magnetic! One ranger told her audience it was - and reinforced it quite a few times. Though her other info was quite interesting at times, this was incorrect. I'm a science person myself - but I ran it by the Chem teachers at school just to double check my facts... It takes a LOT to get ANY magnetic response from water. Water IS cohesive... but for more on that, google it. I really dislike it when our national park rangers teach incorrect info...
So... we're planning as we go here... how about a hot lunch at the Kalaloch lodge to warm up? That sounded good... we all voted for it. Don't. The food was overpriced and mediocre at best. It also wasn't warm inside. While there were positives about the ranger talk, I honestly can't think of any about lunch. Even the waitress didn't seem friendly - more "matter of fact" type. Oh well.
Plan C. We're here and it's our last day. Let's drive around and see what we can see. The "magnetic water" ranger had mentioned some sea caves at Ruby Beach. To nature lovers, caves are always interesting... and sea fog SHOULDN'T block their view, so off we went (drive to it).
Ruby Beach was REALLY neat - in any weather. There's no sand here, instead, it's all varying sizes of water-smoothed rocks - some of which are red. The ocean "rattles" these as waves come in and out. Stop and listen and you'll hear a true "rock band." Offshore, there are "stacks" (huge rocks left standing after the ground around them eroded). By walking along the beach we also found the sea caves, small, but fun to explore - all in all - a fun place to visit. The best thing? The sun came out! It had finally burned through that section of fog - and did it turn pretty! The ocean sparkled; everyone's spirits perked up. We walked and enjoyed the ocean view now as well as the beach and stacks. Farther off shore, there were even islands to be seen!
At some point we decided we should return to our campsite and let the boys enjoy their time playing on that beach. Kalaloch's beach is sand - and driftwood - not just driftwood, but DRIFTWOOD - pieces, branches, and whole tree logs - and TONS of them. To even reach the sand, you have to walk over them from our beach entrance. The boys loved it. It added to their game as they made pretend forts, houses, and hiding places - exactly what brothers and cousins SHOULD have free time to do. Many campers built fires right on the beach - and this is fine. One would think after a while, the driftwood would be all used up, yet it isn't. Then one starts to thinking about how much driftwood there would be WITHOUT the fires. Miles? (see campground journal entry for more).
So in the end, the boys had a blast. We adults had our time to gaze on the ocean and stroll along her for miles admiring nature and feeling a little bittersweet that this part of our vacation was coming to an end. Overall, we were all pleased to have a snippet of what the Olympic coast can be like with the sun - yet the sea fog was a good "nature" event for us too.
The day we left we drove around the park heading towards the ferries to Seattle (the airport they would leave from). A short section of beach can be seen, but the view on this drive is mostly of trees. There are lots of logging trucks - only the edge is National Park. One can visit the temperate rainforest along the way, but we opted not to due to time constraints. On another visit, we'll check it out.
Instead, when we got there, we opted for Hurricane Ridge and a view of this section of the Cascade Mountains - including the North American version of Mt Olympus. The drive up is gorgeous. Stop at the overlooks for some grand vistas - one in particular gives a spectacular view of the Sound - and parts of Canada. Keep a lookout for deer... like deer anywhere they seem to prefer the center of the road and act as if they've never seen a car before. We think it's a game the teenaged deer play... sort of akin to the human game of "chicken" or "truth or dare."
The top was both pretty and interesting. The sea fog of before was instead a cloud bank which obstructed our view of Mt. Olympus herself, but it was still neat to see the clouds move in the valley, and there were still gorgeous wildflowers for our visual pleasure. The Visitor Center had a REALLY nice video to watch along with some other educational information.
Be prepared for all sorts of weather. At the bottom of Hurricane Ridge it was 74 degrees - at the top, they had 48 - and dropping quickly. As we left, a light snow was falling. A sign in the center said 2 - 6 inches were predicted. The day before they had had 84 degrees at the top! One can never tell I suppose.
Overall in Olympic, people come to hike, fish, chill out on the beaches, and enjoy the mountain scenery. It seems less crowded than other national parks (but that may be because we were there at the very end of the season). There are tall trees that rival some in Mt Ranier NP. Both of these parks contain some of the last known old growth forests in the US. Much of it is a temperate rainforest - the only one in the US (Hawaii's are tropical, not temperate), so one needs to be prepared for the possibility of wet. As far as nature goes, we enjoyed her here - even with our initial disappointment. When the sun shines, this place glistens. When it doesn't she's still rugged in her beauty. Be flexible - and enjoy!
Written by creekland on 18 Nov, 2006
Wow - for a while - that's all we could really say about Mt St Helens as we looked, read, and learned about her and her survivors/victims. None of us were "new" or "uninformed" about her history. We adults were alive and well when she…Read More
Wow - for a while - that's all we could really say about Mt St Helens as we looked, read, and learned about her and her survivors/victims. None of us were "new" or "uninformed" about her history. We adults were alive and well when she erupted in 1980 - and all those "warnings" and minor eruptions since. All of us had watched TV shows about her for general information, I even teach about it at school at times, but none of those prepared any of us for what we saw or felt when we were there in person.
As mentioned in a couple of my other journal entries, Mt St Helens was a late addition to our trip - spontaneous really - due to having seen Mt Rainier, and of course, because it was famous. My nephew really wanted to see it (having just watched a show on TV about the 1980 eruption), so we figured, why not? This part of the trip was supposed to be for him anyway as he was a newcomer to traveling in general. We allowed ourselves half a day to drive out there, then get going to our planned (reserved) stop at Olympic NP. What was there to really see (?) (we thought), it was "just" the top blown off a mountain - and 26 years ago at that... We'd see it and be on our way...
Well, we REALLY underestimated the time we'd want. In hindsight, I'd have wanted at least one WHOLE day just to see the sights in leisure - and possibly two to do some of the longer hikes. I want to go back... and to think we almost didn't go at all!
Mt St Helens is run by the Forest Service and is jointly run in places by Washington's State Park system. Therefore, don't count on your regular National Park pass to work here. Our Golden Eagle pass worked just fine though - and saved us the $3/$6 per person entrance fee (based on one or multiple sights visited). For those not familiar, Golden Eagle passes are just $65 for the whole family for a year and allows one free access to all National Parks, Forest Service, BLM, and Fish and Wildlife sites - basically all Federal Recreational Area places. For those who travel, these are a great deal. Normal National Park passes ($50/year/family) allow one only into official National Parks - not Mt St Helens.
Anyway, we were figuring things out for this park as we went along - having done no research on it at home... We found three visitor centers on Rt 504 - and all have different things in them. We briefly stopped at Silver Lake - the main state center and one that is generally always open. They appeared to have several personal stories of survivors and victims along with geological exhibits, etc.
Being short on time and wondering what was closer, we then went to Coldwater Ridge and read more. On the way you enter the "blast zone" a really eerie feeling... You can see the mountain - and crater - well. You can see the downed trees - as well as regrowth from planted forested areas. You can see lakes that didn't exist prior to 1980 - and the debris in the creek that is left over. It's incredible. Coldwater Creek also has a slide video presentation on regrowth in the area. As you approach Mt St Helens, all the regrowth is natural - towards the way out, much of it is planted for wood production (as it was prior to the eruption). We ate at the small (fast food type) restaurant here and enjoyed our view of the crater immensely. By the way, if you want to eat - THIS is the place. There's no food service closer.
Then it was on to the Johnston Ridge Visitor Center - so named for the scientist who gave his life monitoring the volcano on "D-day" so to speak. He has the famous last words, "Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it!" This place is the closest you can get via car - and can sometimes be closed if they believe more action from the mountain is imminent. I believe it also closes in winter. Check locally for details. It's crowded, but well worth the visit. Inside they have a great video presentation you should watch - and more info on survivors and victims as well as the volcano itself. You can spend hours inside if you like exhibits (as we do).
Outside everyone continues to gaze on in awe. The sheer destruction of this eruption is amazing - it took more than 1300' off her height and turned a magnificent "Rainier-like" picture of woods and dense life into moonscape - with just a few plants struggling back as they can. Glaciers melted and debris piled up to heights of 500' in places. You can still see the debris - and if one allows enough time, you can hike to a bit of it too. It made us wonder about the Lahar warnings in Rainer to get to 160' in height. What good would 160' in height have done if 500+' of debris were left from a smaller mountain?! (See journal on Ohanapecosh campground for more info.)
Outside one can also hike along the valley/ridge rim as far as you like (well, there probably IS an end, but on a short visit, you won't find it). Don't go off the path, rangers aren't afraid to chew you out for destroying those plants brave enough to return (either brave or they have no clue what happened to the earlier plants that grew there!). We hiked a little just because we HAD to. We didn't want to leave.
Along this rim we were taking photos when, inside the crater, there was a large rock slide! We didn't realize what we were looking at at the time as there were always puffs of steam there, but this one produced a large "instant" cloud. The ranger stationed outside informed the crowd of what we were looking at. Checking our photos afterwards, yes! We caught it in the background. One has to wonder though, when the rumblings might get a bit TOO dangerous for comfort - and the blast zone edge is a few miles down the road yet. It's an eerie feeling. Everyone this close to the volcano when she blew didn't live to tell about it - nor some farther away.
One can't help but revisit Mt. Rainier mentally... all those information signs about how she, too, is a volcanic mountain building up inside. All those beautiful forests and glaciers, valleys, campgrounds, rivers, streams, tall trees, wildlife - all with a ticking bomb inside - and one man can't control - even if he tried. Mt. Rainier is also roughly 5000' taller than Mt. St Helens was... an interesting thought... and more than enough reason to see both as they are for a great testament to our planet's fury when she gets in the mood.
As an aside for those who might be planning a trip... there are state run campgrounds here, but other lodging is limited to a few motels along Rt 5. Food is quite limited as well. Restrooms are at all the visitor centers.
Spectacular... in one word, that has to sum up our overall opinion of Mt Rainer. It's a gorgeous mountain volcano with glaciers and snowpack - tall, towering trees, idyllic campgrounds, and miles of hiking trails. If you couple this park with Mt St Helens -…Read More
Spectacular... in one word, that has to sum up our overall opinion of Mt Rainer. It's a gorgeous mountain volcano with glaciers and snowpack - tall, towering trees, idyllic campgrounds, and miles of hiking trails. If you couple this park with Mt St Helens - on different days of course - you also get a very REAL understanding of the power of nature's volcanoes - an understanding that simply can't be felt from a video or book. You have to experience it.
Mt Rainier towers more than 14,400 feet - the tallest point in Washington State - at least - for now - it's another of earth's ongoing projects that someday will drastically change. The question is, WHEN? Try to see her as she is now. I doubt you'll be disappointed.
We added Mount Rainier as more or less of an afterthought. We were coming up on a weekend - every "lengthy-time" traveler's bane, esp if you have a crowd allergy! It's far less crowded at practically any tourist destination during the week, but you can't just "skip over" a weekend when you're out for two months... so where DO you spend it? For us, looking at a map at home, we opted to camp at Mt Rainier for Friday night and mosey on towards Olympic on Saturday. We'd see the mountain (we thought), then spend the time on the road - more or less killing time. It really worked out rather well...
Ohanapecosh Campground, while crowded, wasn't overly noisy, and had a great setting (see separate journal entry). We were limited in our hiking at this point - mainly due to my middle son coming down with a low grade fever, so while we wistfully looked at a few more trails than we did, we didn't miss them due to lack of time. (One could spend more time here hiking more trails.) The Grove of the Patriarchs - the one major trail we did do - was a very easy one - even for my middle son. (It was great for it's viewing of tall, old firs and cedars - see separate journal entry).
The downfall to the park is its roads... They BADLY need upkeep in places and will probably keep many a tire alignment place in business. We had to go rather slow to try to help soften the bounces on my middle son's aching head... the rest of us weren't exactly enjoying that part either. If there were one thing I could change about Rainier - the roads would be it! Since there are only two major roads and no real way to bypass them, I'm not quite sure how quickly repair will come. A couple of areas were under construction while we were there - but many, many more needed it.
Mt Rainier is also a close destination to a major portion of Washington's population, so expect a crowd. Parking lots fill early - especially on weekends - so expect longer hikes to reach places like visitor centers. The "plus" side to the proximity is that Seattle/Tacoma, etc., have a great mountain backdrop for a view! Visit Seattle and you'll see what I mean... This gorgeous mountain is visible for miles - literally.
The Friday of our arrival was my son's worst day for the fever, so we pretty much set up camp and stayed put. The other three boys, hubby and I did the short interpretive trail at the Visitor Center at Ohanapecosh. They have a written guide to the trail - it takes you past some of the old building (spa) sites as well as gives you info on the woods (see more in Ohanapecosh Campground journal). That night the boys all did the Ranger Program in the amphitheater while we adults chilled and relaxed.
Saturday morning we were up fairly early to pack up - then set off to do the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail (must do early to avoid crowds). Afterwards we simply drove to all ends of the park. We stopped at the Visitor Center at Sunrise for lunch and an awesome view of the mountains - as well as seeing the exhibits. It's VERY informative inside and highly recommended for its educational value as well as its view. The drive up to it has some spectacular mountain and valley scenery. Let someone drive who isn't afraid of heights and will keep their eyes on the road! The first step would be a dozy (in many places).
Then we retraced the drive back south and cut east to head to Paradise. That area is currently under construction and was incredibly packed - even for the shuttle buses. Our crowd allergies kicked in - so we just admired the view there and added it as a "must see" section next time we visit. The view is of the "other" side of the mountain - all views are awe-inspiring.
Besides the mountain itself, one sees mountain waterfalls, creeks - from glacial melt and run-off (learn the difference at the visitor center), and miles of old growth forest - the type not seen elsewhere - literally - as pretty much all others have been cut or burned. Rainier and Olympic have much of the last remaining old growth forests. When the volcano rumbles to life, many of these will be gone forever as far as our lifetime is concerned.
Before the trip we hadn't decided on what to do Saturday night/Sunday, but seeing Rainier - and with our nephew having watched a show on Mt St Helens - we spontaneously set out to Rt 5 and down to a motel setting us up for a quick Sunday visit to Mt St Helens before heading to Olympic. We HIGHLY recommend seeing both parks - with Rainier first - AND allowing more than just half a day to see Mt St Helens! We thoroughly underestimated that park (see separate journal).
Back to Rainier... This park works for a quick visit just to admire her beautiful scenery. However, one could spend a bit more time than one night there - especially if one wants to hike more than one trail. Hikes range from short and easy - suitable for all - to several miles (and days) long. Many people also climb to the summit, however, that's not a quick decision to make! It's not an easy summit. You need special permits (and experience), etc., to do that climb. Check into it separately if you're a climber.
You do need to realize that there are places of "danger" here - including the campground we stayed at. You're visiting an active volcano that can awaken at any time. While there generally are signs of restlessness - such as earthquakes - 'tis not ALWAYS the case for things like glacial melt - so one COULD be in for the adventure of their lives (signs warn of this)... If this scares you - admire her from a distance - however, the chances are rather remote (much greater chance of being in a car accident around home)... and if one doesn't live with a LITTLE risk - does one LIVE? Enjoy!
P.S. Should add at the end that the in Nov 2006 rains/floods did some massive damage to the park in places... which hopefully will be fixed quickly. Check with www.nps.gov for current visit info. My writing is based on our pre-flood visit.
Written by creekland on 17 Nov, 2006
Riding a passenger ferry on a two mile wide, 50+ mile long ribbon of deep water slicing through mountains to reach a mini-village on the other side - this can be your experience in North Cascades National Park... and it sounded REALLY neat.
To back…Read More
Riding a passenger ferry on a two mile wide, 50+ mile long ribbon of deep water slicing through mountains to reach a mini-village on the other side - this can be your experience in North Cascades National Park... and it sounded REALLY neat.
To back up... when planning this trip, we looked at where we would be (Glacier National Park) and our semi-final destination (Washington Coast at Olympic National Park) - then looked in between. Aha, a huge lake bordering Cascades National Park... then to the Internet and research. We found we had the option of driving through the upper road of Cascades National Park or driving to Chelan (the town) and taking a day trip on a ferry the length of the lake (50+ miles through mountains) to the little village of Stehekin. Chelan is on the border of the park, Stehekin is in it (and has a visitor center, etc.). Being the water lovers we are, we opted for Chelan.
The trip there from Glacier was long (10+ hours) but varied in terrain and was very pretty in areas. When we cut across Idaho we saw our first - and only - moose on the trip - out in a pond eating. If one had time, this could be divided into two days with more time spent meandering on the way... 10+ hours in the car was long for all of us. There is no direct highway route to shorten the length much.
As we reached Washington and saw "The Evergreen State" on signs, everyone remarked that one really has to use their imagination to see anything green. Most of this area of Washington is dry scrub from what we saw. We took back roads (our custom), and even took small back roads to take a more direct route. In some fields there are neat "piles" of black rocks that go on for miles - an interesting sight. Other fields are farmed.
Ah, but I digress... back to Chelan. Accommodations for 7 were a little hard to come by with trying to make reservations just two months in advance. Having camped in Glacier and planning to camp afterwards, we wanted an inexpensive motel for a couple of nights... inexpensive ended up costing us in excess of $200 a night - at the Parkway Motel - a place where the "free wi-fi" didn't work (had to go into town and park outside a business, leaching), and a place where, if you rented just half of a total room, you had merely a paper thin door between you and the next guests - meaning my mom involuntarily stayed up to the wee hours listening to the group next to her - and with listening - she could repeat their conversations word for word. This was one of the cheaper places... you can get very expensive and waterfront if you desire, but plan to make reservations early.
To be fair to the Parkway, if you rented the whole room (as we did with my nephew), the place wasn't half bad and noise wasn't an issue. It also had 2 bathrooms - and a decent kitchen - a big plus which makes me inclined to recommend it if one takes the whole room. However, they wouldn't let us put 7 people in a room designed for 6. We didn't know ahead of time, but it would have been easy to sneak a youngun in instead of renting the other (small) half unit - saving money and the hassle of excess noise. Of course, I never told you that...
Chelan itself is a tourist town complete with mini-golf, shopping, and crowds (but not big city crowds - just typical tourist town crowds). The ferry leaves from a nearby dock (drive to it - free parking).
There are no roads to Stehekin. You either go by boat or float plane. Most tourists take the Lady of the Lake Ferry. On our visit, there were two options - one two hours, the other four (one way). By combining the two hour ferry there with the four hour one back (around $60 per person), you get the longest time possible there without spending the night. That time, however, is a mere 3 hours... You can spend as little as one hour if you want the 2 hour ferry both ways.
You don't really see the forested majestic scenery until about halfway there - and then - the end of August - there wasn't nearly as much snowcap on the mountains as in their photographs. Nevertheless, it's still very pretty on the Stehekin end - and pretty sparse on the Chelan end. The Lake itself is the third deepest freshwater lake in the US - and according to the ferry company, has the deepest gorge in the US (measuring from top of mountains to the bottom of the lake). An interesting tidbit for us trivia folks...
The "nature" claim to fame in Stehekin for a short visit is a trip to Rainbow Falls - via bus (or you can rent a bike) - for an extra fee ($7) per person. The falls ARE neat - tall (300+ feet), wonderful noise, beautiful view. However, with the tour you have a very short time there and with a decent sized crowd. All too soon you hear the "Everyone back on the bus" order (sigh). The bus trip there is short - a couple of miles at most (on an old school bus) - and is narrated, but pending where you sit on the bus, it can be hard to understand the speaker. I heard noises, but had trouble figuring out what the words were. Hubby heard it all and easily.
Since we had the 3 hour time, we opted to get off at the Bakery on the trip back and buy/eat our lunch there. That was a superv decision. They had a nice offering of soups, sandwiches, salads, and baked sweets. Following the relaxing tasty lunch, we had about a mile walk along the lake to go back to the dock - and from there - had time to explore the Visitor Center's exhibits and a small "local made" gift shop. This section of time was my favorite - the time from leaving that bus to getting back on the ferry. The walk was easy, very peaceful, very pretty, and relaxing.
Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the ferry ride back (for me). Four hours is a long time... when you've already seen the same sights on the way in. Add to that some children that were obviously bored (not mine, but other younger kids who were not amused with a long boat ride or the scenery). Some people slept. Others read or played cards. I counted landmarks as they went by - trying to remember them in reverse order... Hubby - our TRUE water person - spent the time outdoors and rather loved it all. My Mom - a non water person - was totally bored. I was in the middle. I much preferred the two hour ride there, but I can't imagine having just one hour of time in Stehekin.
Looking back on our trip (with all of us), we'd have changed our minds and chosen the driving option through the North Cascades - considering the time we had. Travelers we met in Olympic told us they had gone that route and it was, indeed, beautiful. It also would have saved us approx $900 between lodging and ferry costs, etc.
If we were doing Stehekin again, I'd have looked more closely into staying there for at least one night to allow for hiking and/or simply enjoying the peacefulness of it all (instead of staying in Chelan). Three hours there was too short of a time for 6 hours on a ferry (for most of us). There are camping and a couple of lodging options there. You would have to enjoy nature though as there's nothing else there for amusement. This would have been great for hubby, myself and our boys (I possibly would have had rave reviews of the whole area instead of "so-so"), but my mom felt she'd have been really bored - so know which "type" of person you are before planning.
For Chelan, the town, it seems to be a lake vacation destination for the northwest. Considering the other (large) lake options close by (few or none), I can understand the need to want to be around a decent sized body of water.
If you're from the east, there are plenty of other options and prettier places to go to for a lake destination (such as Lake Champlain) rather than make the long trip out west just for this lake (my opinion). For us, since we were already on a western trip, it was nice to see, but in hindsight, we'd have modified our plans as detailed above.
Written by timmcgrawfan17f on 07 Jul, 2006
We rented a sailboat for a day and night from the Bellingham harbor. For 4 people it cost $125/person. It was definitely worth the money, what a great experience! We got there around 6pm and stayed the night in the harbor on…Read More
We rented a sailboat for a day and night from the Bellingham harbor. For 4 people it cost $125/person. It was definitely worth the money, what a great experience! We got there around 6pm and stayed the night in the harbor on the sailboat. The boat was beautiful, 31' long and gorgeous wood on the inside. Our boat slept 7 people, but there was only 4 of us, so we had plenty of room.We took off about 9am and motored out to Inati Bay since there was no wind to sail with. As soon as we got to the bay and anchored the wind picked up so it was a wonderful afternoon for sailing.Inati Bay was beautiful, only accessible by boat so it had lots of walking trails and trees. We saw a seal on the way out to the bay and starfishes along the shore on the bay.We spent most of the time on the boat, just relaxing. It was wonderful.I definitely recommend going sailing in Washington and I will definitely do it again sometime. Close