The Conclusion to our Tour of Washington, With a Brief Foray into British Columbia

From Seattle, we headed north again so we could visit our neighbor to the north.  Before driving all the way to Canada, we stopped for two nights just outside of Bellingham, easily one of my favorite towns in Washington.  We spent a lazy day walking along the water, checking out the downtown, and watching Van play with lots of children on a playground.  In addition to being a great town in a beautiful location, it’s within close driving distance of this:

North Cascades, Washington

North Cascades, Washington

If Bellingham received more snow and sun, it may have made my short list.  But one thing we’ve realized is how important snow is to both of us.  Not just snow that you can drive to, but snow that falls right outside your front door.  And lots of it!

From Bellingham, we headed north to Vancouver.  We set up home at the most beautiful campsite of our trip.  The site was small, squished next to a number of other campers, and required that we walk all of our belongings in a fair distance, but the views more than made up for that.  We camped right beside the beach of a magnificent fjord.  Breathtaking.

Views from Porteau Cove Provincial Park, BC

Views from Porteau Cove Provincial Park, BC

This view was just steps from our campsite, as you can see below.

Our Campsite in Porteau Cove Provincial Park, BC

Our Campsite in Porteau Cove Provincial Park, BC

I could have spent hours, no, make it days, just sitting along the shore on one of the many drift logs and watching the water.

Porteau Cove Provincial Park, BC

Porteau Cove Provincial Park, BC

But, we came here to see Vancouver, so off we went.  We parked in Stanley Park beside a very nice neighborhood and took off for a long walk around town.  The first few hours of our walk left us marvelling at how nice this city is.  Beautiful gardens, nice shops and restaurants, lots of friendly people walking around town.  The only time I took out my camera was in Gastown, a historic (and hence, touristy) part of town with cobblestone streets and smaller buildings, so I don’t have much to show from our day in the city.

Gastown, Vancouver, BC

Gastown, Vancouver, BC

From Gastown, we decided to head to Chinatown, excited to partake in some delicious food that the city is known for.  We didn’t realize that the couple of block stretch between Gastown and Chinatown is not a great place for tourists, especially tourists with little children in tow.  I have never, in all my life, seen anything like it.  We later learned that this is the most poverty-stricken zip code in Canada and has the highest concentration of drug usage in North America.  None of that is surprising after we saw it.  There were junkies (and tons and tons of them) everywhere.  And there didn’t seem to be too many other people around.  Just us, and maybe a stray other person or two.  It was very disconcerting and threw us into a hasty retreat to the nicer areas of the city we had been in earlier in the day.  But to get there, we wound up running into a few other unsavory situations (a blatant drug deal about three feet in front of Van’s face being one of several things we encountered).  Ah, city life…

We spent much of the rest of the day enjoying Stanley Park and checking out some of the other neighborhoods in the city, but nothing to match the excitement of earlier in the day!  Reluctant to leave our beautiful campsite, but with no option to stay given that it was fully reserved for the weekend, we headed south for a long day of driving through much Seattle-area traffic to Mount St. Helens.  While we didn’t camp at Mount St. Helens (we camped about forty miles away), we spent a beautifully foggy day exploring the area.  Once we drove up in elevation, the fog settled in the valleys and we had a beautiful view of the volcano.  A fitting conclusion to our month in Washington. 

Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens

 

Golden Friends in the Emerald City

Me and Elizabeth at Snow Lake in the Central Cascades, Washington

Me and Elizabeth at Snow Lake in the Central Cascades, Washington

One of the best parts of this adventure is having the opportunity to spend time with friends and family who live in far-flung locations around this country.  We are lucky enough to have several friends in the Pacific Northwest who have graciously welcomed us into our homes, making this portion of our trip even more fun and relaxing.  Breaking our habit of only staying with Smithies or family, we spent a long weekend with our friend Elizabeth who lives in Seattle.

The Seattle Skyline from Gasworks Park

The Seattle Skyline from Gas Works Park

Elizabeth and I met as classmates in an environmental clinic while students at Georgetown Law.  We spent the entire semester sitting at a small table, not much larger than a desk for one, with two other people (four people total!) while we worked on representing a long-standing clinic client in their water rights lawsuits.  There is absolutely no one better to share such close quarters with, and I feel eternally grateful that she and I wound up working on the same project that semester.  After sharing such close quarters all those years ago, it felt natural to move right into her home for a long weekend.  In addition to being a fantastic friend, Elizabeth also holds the honor of being the human companion of the world’s best dog.  Seriously.  All the dog owners out there reading this may argue with me and tell me your dog is the best, but I’d challenge all of you – and win.  Radar is seriously the best dog ever.  And Van agrees!

Two Boys in Heaven

Two Boys in Heaven

While Elizabeth was busy bringing home the bacon for that cute pup, Van, Alan, and I struck out for the bus to the Pacific Science Center.  Once again, we got great use out of our membership to The Boonshoft Museum in Dayton, Ohio.  Free entrance to the Pacific Science Center and a full day of fun for the little guy (and us).  This was a fantastically large and well-done museum.  It took the promise of riding the bus again to get Van to leave voluntarily.  Speaking of the bus, even though I’m generally not a city person, i do love me some public transportation.  I always have.  Taking the bus made me realize how long it’s been since I’ve ridden the bus or the metro, which used to be a regular occurrence during our days in the DC area.  We soaked it all in while visiting the most urban-feeling city of our travels thus far.

Once we had Elizabeth to ourselves, we spent some time exploring an Asian grocer, checking out her neighborhood, eating Pho, spending hours catching up, and falling asleep in this beautiful hammock.

Home to a relaxing couple of hours

Home to my Saturday afternoon nap

We were also lucky enough to secure an invitation to dinner at another friend’s house, who also happened to be a classmate at Georgetown.  She and her family were so kind to welcome us all into their gorgeous modernist home.  Her boys were immediately welcoming to Van, and we had a great time chatting about our various travels (including their recent camping adventure in Yellowstone).  It was so great to spend time with friends and see familiar and lovely faces on our journey.  Thanks, Kymberly, Aaron, Lucas, and Jack!

Before our weekend was over, Elizabeth’s boyfriend Bobby rolled into town and Van was immediately infatuated.  As background, Van named our recently deceased van, Bobby.  He likes the name, yes, but this infatuation was about much more than the name.  He did spend several days after we left Seattle asking for Bobby (and Radar, who he continues to ask for – sorry Elizabeth)!  We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to see Bobby again as we continue to roll down the west coast.

Bobby and Van Hiking to Snow Lake

Bobby and Van Hiking to Snow Lake

The six of us (Elizabeth, Bobby, Radar, Alan, Van, and me) struck out on a gorgeous Sunday morning for a beautiful but crowded hike in the Central Cascades.  We decided to hike up to Snow Lake, and apparently many other folks had the same fine idea on the first Sunday after Labor Day.  It was beautiful, seriously beautiful!

Snow Lake in the Central Cascades, Washington

Snow Lake in the Central Cascades, Washington

Views from the Hike to Snow Lake, Washington

Views from the Hike to Snow Lake, Washington

Enjoying the Water

Enjoying the Water

Thank you Elizabeth, Radar, and Bobby for a wonderful, relaxing, and fun weekend.  See you in San Francisco?!?!

Family Time in the San Juan Islands

Feeling a bit bedraggled, we were refreshed with the beautiful sunshine that greeted my parents as they arrived in Washington.  Unfortunately, their arrival was met with phone calls from home informing them that my grandmother passed away while they were en route to visit us.  This was not unexpected, she had been ill for some time, but it was incredibly sad for all of us and especially difficult for my parents to be so far from home.  On the other hand, I felt fortunate to be able to be with my parents during such a sad time.  Van worked hard to cheer them up and we tried to support them the best that we could.

I love you and miss you, Grandma.  I look forward to putting many of the interests that we shared into practice when I settle down into a home with land to dig my fingers into.  I feel so, so lucky to have had so much time with you over the years, and I am happy that you’re no longer suffering.  Rest in Peace, Bertha Marie Duffie.

Although my grandmother’s death was never far from any of our minds, we were able to have a wonderful and relaxing week with my parents in the San Juan Islands.  We did lots of cooking and eating, went on a few sunny hikes, spent some time staring at the water, warmed up in front of the fireplace, and spent many, many hours doing genealogical research.

Our week began with a ferry ride from Anacortes to Orcas Island.

Van Enjoying the Breeze

Van Enjoying the Breeze

The Puget Sound and Mount Baker

The Puget Sound and Mount Baker

Dad, Van and I explored Rosario Inlet.

We all checked out Orcas Island Pottery – Van especially enjoyed their multi-story treehouse.

Can’t forget the dance party.

It was an incredibly beautiful and relaxing place to spend time with family.

Upon our return to the mainland, we had some fantastic chowder and visited Deception Pass for a walk over the bridge to peer down at the green water far, far below.  It was here that we said our goodbyes and traveled south to Seattle (for us) and to the airport (for them).

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for an absolutely wonderful week!  We love you and miss you.

Wet, Chilly, and Gray: Olympic National Park

Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park

Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park

Wet, a little bit chilly, and gray.  What a way to celebrate the end of summer!  We spent the last week of August camping on the Olympic Peninsula in Olympic National Park.  We got some hiking in and had a glorious time on the banks of Lake Crescent, but were otherwise bundled up in warm socks, sweatshirts, and coats at night and in rain jackets during the day.

Hiking in Olympic National Park

Hiking in Olympic National Park

The Happy Family in Olympic National Park

The Happy Family in Olympic National Park

After our night in Staircase, we headed up to camp at Heart O’ the Hills campground, which is on the way to Hurricane Ridge, the most mountainous part of the park that is accessible by car.  We enjoyed some ridgeline hiking and the first real blasts of cool fall air.  The real highlight of camping in this area was visiting Lake Crescent.  The hikes nearby were a lot of fun, but just sitting and staring at the lake was the best part.  At least for me.  For Van it was probably the hours of rock throwing that he was able to do on its banks.

Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park

Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park

And from here our trip proceeded to get wetter and wetter.  I guess that’s what happens when you head into a rain forest.  We camped near the coast at Mora campground, in close proximity to a beach with great sunset views.  The beach was beautiful, but the sunset was shrouded in the mist that marked all of our visits to the coast.

Washington Coast

Washington Coast

Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park

Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park

Sea Foam

Sea Foam

Rock Throwing is Not Limited to Lakes and Rivers

Rock Throwing is Not Limited to Lakes and Rivers

We headed inland to the Hoh Rain Forest, excited to explore the moss-covered trees and lush green forests.  We put up our hoods and had one great hike through the pouring rain, but decided to cut our second hike short when the skies opened up even more.  I like rain – I really do.  But it’s hard to like it when you’re living out of a tent and you have no prospect of being dry at any point in the next couple of days.  That being said, we had a great time playing games in our cozy tent with Van and listening the pitter patter on the nylon above.

Glistening Ferns

Glistening Ferns

Our Site in Mora Campground, Olympic National Park

Our Site in Mora Campground, Olympic National Park

Olympic is a neat place, noted for its vastly different terrain – glaciated mountains, lush old-growth rain forests, rocky coastline, and sunny days in the Olympics’ rain shadow.  Even so, between the wet and chilly weather (to be expected, I suppose) and a run-in with a less than savory character along the coast, I was for the first time on our trip, beginning to question how much longer I wanted to travel.  But in the spirit of explorers who have come before, we pressed on, looking forward to five luxurious days with my parents in a beautiful home in the San Juan Islands.

Tour de Smithies: Olympia Style

Sarah and Me in Olympia

Sarah and Me in Olympia

The Boys!  Elliot, Emerson, and Van

The Boys! Elliot, Emerson, and Van

Rolling into Olympia, Washington, we continued our pattern of staying with friends from my days at Smith College.  Anyone who knows me even slightly knows how much I absolutely loved Smith and how much I love my friends from Smith.  Apparently, the love doesn’t go one way.  Our incredibly generous friends Sarah and Scott (and their lovely and energetic sons, Emerson and Elliot) invited us to stay for an extended period.  They hosted us for a record eight nights.  Yes, you read that right – EIGHT nights!  They should be sainted.

Love these peeps!

Love these peeps!

It was so incredibly wonderful to have a bed to sleep in, a shower to use, access to laundry facilities, and to not have to worry about the weather.  But more than that, Sarah and Scott are a walking party.  Literally.  We haven’t socialized that much since…I can’t even remember!  We attended a total of four parties that week – and Sarah and Scott attended two additional parties (for a wedding) – so we were seriously not keeping up.  It was such a fantastic change of pace.  But, even better, I got to spend some excellent quality time with a wonderful friend who I haven’t seen in ages and her equally awesome husband.  And Van had the chance to play with the big boys and all of their exciting toys.  I think he was most excited by having a table to sit at that was just his size.  Mental note for when we no longer live out of a tent.

Festivities in Olympia

Festivities in Olympia

Between the parties, we had the chance to check out a bunch of different places in the area.  We hit up the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge and the Farmers’ Market with our friends, and when they were busy at work, we headed to Gig Harbor, Bremerton, Bainbridge Island, the Bainbridge Island Japanese-American Exclusion Memorial, the Foulweather Bluff Preserve at the northern end of the Kitsap Peninsula, and the Olympia Hands-On Children’s Museum.

We also spent a day in Seattle exploring and were lucky enough to meet up with Sarah in the afternoon so she could show us around.  On our very last day in Olympia, Sarah, Scott, and the boys accompanied us Staircase in Olympic National Park.  We took our second hike of the trip with friends (the first with another Smithie and her son, Rebekah and Rhyer), and had our very first campsite visitors.  So fun!  It reminded me just how great it is to camp with friends.  Something I hope to do lots of in the future.  Any takers?!?!

Note the bench we found on our hike – we joked that it was a casualty of the sequester.

Bench in Staircase, Olympic National Park

Bench in Staircase, Olympic National Park

Thank you Scott, Sarah, Emerson, and Elliot for an absolutely wonderful week.  We miss you all already.  Please come visit wherever we wind up settling down!!!

DSC_1002_01

DSC_0987_01

Van and Elliot

Van and Elliot