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Published: September 28th 2014
An almost full flight, a norm these days, saw me in Seattle by evening a day before labor day. A Link light rail ride from SeaTac airport to Westlake station put me near my hotel of choice, Hotel Moore, in Seattle downtown. It is a budget hotel in downtown. Comes without AC.
Upon arriving in downtown Seattle, one thing you can't miss is the number of homeless people out on the streets. The city seems to be friendly towards them, I guess. A first time tourist can get a little spooked while walking back to a downtown hotel at night. Anyway, I got a little comfortable after first night's walking in downtown.
This trip was my first to the pacific northwest. Idea was to roam around Seattle, sample the pacific coastal regions and then come back to Seattle after stopping over Columbia River Gorge area and Mt Rainier. One of Seattle's main attractions, Pike Place Market was closed on labor day. First couple of days were spent walking along the waterfront, taking a Ferry to Bremerton, taking another Ferry to Brainbridge Island, going up the Columbia Tower and Smith tower observatories. I got a chance to visit
Pike Place market the next day. Shops selling fresh seafood, flowers and other things line up the market. In one such shop, fishmongers shout in unison when a sale is made. One fishmonger guy will throw a fish at other guy who catches it. Their shouting in unison is an entertainment in itself. Thousands of tourists come daily to watch this drama. Media certainly has helped the popularity of this place.
I did experience the infamous Seattle rain during my second day. However, if you do a fact check on annual rainfall in US cities, Seattle is nowhere at the top. The three months of Summer here are usually dry here except for some occasional rain storms. Winter should be a different story.
I was in a rental car after spending a couple of days walking and ferry riding around Seattle. First stop was the Squalnomie Falls 45 min just east of Seattle. It has rained in the area a day before so the fall was at its misty best. In fact, so much mist was around that there was a constant drizzle in the viewing area. After a hearty breakfast at Salish lodge & Spa,
I headed towards my next stop, Port Townsend, a town in the northeastern edge of Olympic peninsula. Upon checking in at Waterstreet hotel in the afternoon, I drove to Hurricane Ridge area of the Olympic national park. A winding uphill drive saw me arrive near top from where I could see the Olympic peaks. The afternoon sun mixed with an absence of rain during summer had created a hazy landscape. Glacier covered peaks were visible but not looking photogenic. I arrived back in Port Townsend around 8:30 pm only to find a dead town. This is one problem with small town America from a late arriving tourist's point of view; the Close sign comes out too soon! So if I stayed out to soak the sunset views and then drive back to town, I'll have to be content with the contents inside a grocery shop rather than a restaurant that can provide a hot meal! A situation I contend with on some nights of my trips.
Next day, it was time to do some whale watching aboard a Puget Sound Express boat. A 6 hour boat ride gave me some glimpses of a transient Orca pod and
a few humpbacks. I think it is better to do whale watching out of Anacortes or San Juan Islands as the whales are then closer to the starting point of the boat tour. However, on this day it did not matter as the whales were not spotted in the San Juan islands. These operators keep in touch with each other and some spotters and fishermen to locate the whales on any particular day. So some tour boats starting from different locations may end up at the same location.
Next town to stop was Forks, Washington. A very small town that is gateway to the Olympic park beaches. I visited Rialto beach at sunrise. It was a bit chilly. Saw just one person the whole time who was probably doing some treasure hunting in the morning low tide. I also visited First and Second beaches. There is a Third beach too nearby! Afterwards, I visited Crescent lake and had breakfast at the lodge restaurant. I also visited the Hoh rainforest. Trees here are covered in moss. I visited in the afternoon on a clear day. Maybe, a foggy or misty day can create some visual delights here. In
the evening, I was in Ruby beach trying to photograph some sunset vistas. I stayed there till dark. I was back in town after 9 pm to the aisles of a grocery store looking for some food and drinks. Small towns do have their charms!
I continued on to the town of Astoria. The drives are long along the Oregon coast. Or at least they seem so. Max speed limit is 55 but I was going below that most of the time. Around Astoria, I visited the Fort Stevans State Park. It has a sandy beach. It also has the wreck of Peter Iredale, a ship that ran aground in 1906. More than 100 years on, the tides of Pacific have reduced it to a piece of corroding metal. In fact much of the metal is also gone. I tried pushing a piece of iron jutting out of the sand. It won't budge. The thing is buried firmly in sand.
I stayed at a Best Western in the touristy town of Seaside. This town offered some hope of a hearty dinner as the place was abuzz after dusk. But I ended up going to
Cape Perpetua, Oregon
a grocery store! I guess, being a little jaded I just wanted to crash on the bed.
Ecola State Park offers some good vistas but next morning the view was tempered by grey sky and some drizzle. I hiked along a trail that went to a secluded beach. Only Seagulls could be seen on that beach. I was tempted to go there but the trail was downhill, muddy and slippery. After a couple of failed attempts, I decided not to take a chance. Next stop was Cannon beach, a popular beach town on Oregon coast. Oregon coast is known for rugged coast with Sea Stacks lining the coast in many places. Sea Stacks are just columns of rock near the coast. cannon beach has one big rock named Haystack rock.
Much of the coastal route 101 stays a bit away from the coast in the north and central sections in Oregon. So you cannot just drive and 'see' the coast. You have to stop, walk or hike to some point to enjoy the views. There are many state parks or scenic areas along the route. Hug Point state park, Oswald West state park, Nehalen
bay state park, Cape Meares state park, Cape Lookout state park, Cape Kiwanda and others dot the north and central coast. There are lighthouses too. The famous ones being Yaquina head and Haceta head lighthouses.
In the evening, I was in a small town named Yachats. Stayed at Deane's Oceanfront lodge. The owner of the place guided me to the location of 5 restaurants in that town that could be open at 9 pm. I tried locating them at night. But this being a small town, I just settled again for the grocery store!
Next day, the weather was cloudy. Cape perpetual is a national scenic area just south of Yachats. It has sights like Devils Churn and Thors Well. Thors well is a well shaped rock structure just at the edge of the coastline. During high tides and storms, the well fills up and empties which is a sight to behold. I tried getting some shots at high tide. With little experience of taking photos right at the edge of an ocean at high tide, I was not destined to do well. Sun had come out and was behind me so I could
Olympic national park
not see much details on the LCD screen. I had the tripod set up and I started clicking. Then one rouge tide came. It just startled me a bit. It also put a sea spray on my ND filter. And I could not see those droplets in the camera viewfinder due to the position of the sun. I just kept clicking! A thrilling experience nonetheless. Initially, I was alone there. Then people started appearing. One hardy guy even stepped right at the edge of the well to take a pic.
You can see grey whales and other whales too along the Oregon coast. I witnessed only one whale which looked like a gray whale very near the shore. There are many points along the Oregon coast where the gray whales can be spotted year around.
There is a Sea Lions cave just south of Cape Perpetua area. $12 entrance fee. And no sea lions. They come during winter. So if the Sea lions are not there, maybe just skip this place.
South of Sea lions cave area, you come to the town of Florence. Sand dunes are the main attractions here. You can do buggy rides. Later
in the evening I arrived in the town of Bandon. The coast around it and to the south of it, is one of the most scenic stretches along the Oregon coast. I stayed in Table Rock motel. It is right near the coast. The ocean seemed a little more active here. A morning stroll on the beach at low tide revealed the usual suspects of mussels, clams and star fish clinging on the rocks, waiting for the next high tide. There was even a dead Sea Lion.
I bid adieu to the Oregon coast and left for Columbia river gorge area near Portland. Arriving just around 9 pm, I managed to break the spell of going to the grocery store to feed myself. Google and TripAdvisor led me to Bollywood Theater, an American joint serving Indian cuisine. No Indian in the kitchen or outside! Bollywood celebrities from the 70s and 80s adorned the walls. There was even an old Indian movie playing on a screen. Food was not what I would call authentic Indian but it was flavorful nonetheless. Interesting joint. Portland seems to hold some promise for vegetarians like me. It does seem to have a
good food scene.
Columbia river gorge is a scenic area east of Portland and runs parallel to the river. Main attractions are a bunch of gorgeous waterfalls that dot the historic route 30. I also visited Bonneville dam which is in the area. Before entering the gate, the cop asked me to open my trunk and asked me if I was carrying any guns! The day was Sept 11 so I guess he wanted to be sure after looking at my Indian face!
Interesting thing to see in Bonneville dam are the hundreds of Salmons trying to navigate upstream via the fish ladders built for them. Dams built on such rivers can effect the young salmons who return from the sea to the place they were born in the river. Salmon ladders is human solution to restore salmon population. At the viewing area, some salmons just seemed to be struggling swimming against the flow.
Next stop was Mt Rainier national park. The wildflowers, which the park is known for, were mostly gone by the middle of Sept. I visited Paradise and Sunrise, two locations in the park, that provide gorgeous view of the
mountain. By the time I reached Sunrise, it was mid day already. Harsh light does not make for good views or photographs. As the name suggests, you should come here at sunrise!
Next day, I returned my rental car in Seattle and spent the rest of the day roaming around, doing a Seattle harbor cruise, visiting Kerry park again. Last stop - Space Needle. It was time to cap my trip with the night views of Seattle from the top of the Space Needle.
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