Travel

The Pacific Northwest (Part 2)

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It’s a short drive from Portland to Seattle, less than three hours. It was a pretty day and not too warm so we decided to drive through Olympia, have some lunch and check out the capitol. The capitol building is traditional and nicely landscaped.

Driving into Seattle we are immediately reminded that a major drawback to this metropolitan area is the awful traffic. As pretty as the skyline of Seattle is, it seems like no matter what direction you’re headed I5 is the major road to get you there.

As a result we generally asked Google to route us off highways. It usually didn’t take us much longer and we got to see a lot of the city neighborhoods. As I mentioned previously we were in Seattle to check in on my sister who has dementia and lives in a lovely memory care unit at Aegis on Madison. I spent the better part of the month sorting out details for her. But with most of the tasks under control, we were thrilled when my friend Rita came to vist at the end of the month and we could relax and take in the sights.

Our Airbnb was about 45 minutes north of downtown in Edmonds. Located right on the Sound, the view was spectacular. When the weather wasn’t too hot we enjoyed spending late afternoons on the deck and watching the traffic on the sound as well as Washington state ferries travel back and forth Kingston to Edmonds.

Unfortunately we also were there for their heatwave. We’re not sure what we’ve done to anger the gods but we’ve managed to experience weather extremes in an incredible way for all of 2021. First, we were in San Antonio for the great power outage and for most of the spring and summer we were in parts of the country with severe drought and now we can add the Northwest heat wave to that list. We didn’t even consider visiting California where the wildfires and drought are having major impacts on the locals. Seattle, we read, is the least air conditioned city in the country. We’ve noticed in the past that when the weather pushes 60 people are out in tee shirts and shorts, and when it gets to the middle 70s, folks complain about the heat. This stretch of weather in the high 90s and in some places exceeding 100 was unheard of! We were among the fortunate, however, our airbnb was air conditioned!

So what to do for fun? We had hoped to go to the Seattle Art Museum but as luck would have it there was a special exhibit coming the very week we wanted to go. So next on the list?

Pike Place Market is the first place many think of when you say Seattle. We’ve been there many times and always find it interesting. It’s usually mobbed with people and jammed pack with every sort of kitschy item you can possibly imagine. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I’m not sure if it was because of Covid or the unusual heat but many fewer venders and shoppers than usual. While there were still some flower stalls, and fish sellers, the fish hawkers weren’t throwing fish and the usual hustle and bustle of the market were missing!

Feeling disappointed, I thought we needed to find something else uniquely Seattle. I had it! Let’s show Rita the troll. There is a legend in the Fremont area that a troll has lived under the Aurora Bridge ever since its construction in the early 1930s. In 1989 a competition was held to rejuvenate the area under the bridge that had become an area for dumping and drug dealing. The result was an 18 foot troll who is crushing a Volkswagen Beetle in his left hand. He is awesome!

The Washington Park Arboretum at the University of Washington has a lovely tranquil Japanese garden that folks had suggested we visit. It was a lovely place to stroll on a warm morning and surprisingly not real busy.

From there we decided to take in the Hiram Chittenden Locks near Ballard. I find locks fascinating. These go from salt water of the Sound to fresh water of the ship canal at the end of Lake Washington. Not having a science background it is difficult for me to understand why, after more than a hundred years of boats going between the two bodies (Lake Washington and Puget Sound), that the water is not all the same level of salinity. The afternoon we were there we saw pleasure boats, a tug and even a coast guard cutter go through.

There were lots of workers who eagerly answered our many questions. It seems hard to fathom that boats continuously use the locks 24/7. Knowing how expensive it is for many boats to travel through the locks at the Panama Canal, I inquired about the cost folks have to pay to traverse these locks, the response was, “Nothing. Passage is free to all boaters!” Wow! It’s also amazing how so many boats are able to move in and get tied up in such an efficient matter. I saw online there are videos for boat owners to watch explaining the process. I think it would be pretty intimidating for a novice. I was also fascinated by the safety gear worn by those working directly with the boaters. they were teathered to the railing protecting them from accidental falls in the water below.

Crossing over to the other side of the locks we were disappointed to learn that the fish ladders were closed for maintenance. But as we stood looking for seals in the water, one decided to show us what he had just caught for dinner!

Mountains are a big part of everyday life in Seattle. We were reminded of that on most days when we drove into the city and Mount Rainer loomed in front of us.

I never tired of the view and I don’t think most Seattleites do either. Several folks had suggested we visit Leavenworth, a Bavarian style town, in the Cascades. We made the mistake of going on Fathers Day, along with several thousand other folks. The best part of the day was the drive through the Cascades which still had patches of snow. The town had nice little shops but not much else. Unfortunately, everyone was driving back into Seattle at the same time and two lane mountain roads aren’t equipped to handle the traffic.

The Washington State Ferry System carries more vehicles than any other ferry system in the world! And given the heat we figured a trip over to Kingston from Edmonds would be a nice way to spend a Saturday. It’s quite a wait to board the Edmonds ferry anytime but especially on a Saturday. I read this past week that the ferry we rode, the Walla Walla, was taken out of service for mechanical issues so I guess we were lucky to only have to wait for an hour and a half. These ferries are large. Ours carried 206 vehicles and 2000 passengers. It’s was a short 20 minute ride and we could see Mt Baker to the north!

The ferry docks in Kingston on the Kitsap Peninsula. We continued on to Poulsbo, a charming town of about 11,000, known as Little Norway to the locals, honoring its immigrant history. There we found the main street, next to Liberty Bay Harbor, lined with a variety of shops with the main emphasis on all things Scandinavian. Of course, Rita and I found many items too good to pass up. The ferry ride back was a welcome break from the continuing heat!

The Seattle Center is a touristy destination built for the 1962 Worlds Fair. We decided we’d first visit the Seattle Sculpture Garden because of its close proximity to the Center. There we found several interesting pieces but were surprised that they all seemed very modern in nature and few in number.

We purchased our tickets for the Chihuly Exhibit on machines outside in the bright sunlight and were surprised when we realized we had purchased tickets for the Space Needle as well. This was something that interested Rita so Bob and I told her to go ahead and we would meet her in the Chihuly exhibit. Dale Chihuly is from Seattle and his work was greatly influenced by Native American tribes. We’ve seen Chihuly’s glass in Minnesota, North Carolina, Michigan and it all begins to look the same to my untrained eye. But what I really enjoyed in his Seattle exhibit were the baskets. These were all made by Native American weavers from Pacific Northwest Tribes. They are absolutely breathtaking.

Snoqualmie Falls is a scenic destination about 30 miles southeast of Seattle. The Snoqualmie Tribe believes this is where life began! And today the 270 foot high falls produces hydroelectric power for the Puget Sound area. There’s a walkway that takes you down along the side of the falls and of course, as we returned to our car, we found the ubiquitous gift shop!

We find that whenever we are near the sea we have to check out seafood restaurants. We have a couple of favorites in Seattle: Arnies in Edmonds and Chinooks in Salmon Bay both for their selections and their views. But we also really liked Ivars Mulkiteo Landing. It was a hot afternoon when we were there and there was no place inside, but we were able to sit at a table under an umbrella and had a wonderful meal with a great view.

It was time for Rita to fly home and the sun is soon setting on our time in Seattle. It’s been a lot of fun to have a good friend to share some of our explorations with us. The Canada border remains closed, at least for the next month, so instead of heading to British Columbia and the great cities of Canada, our next destination will be Helena, Montana.

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