Saturday, August 27, 2016

Goodbye to Washington

Tonight is our last night in Washington state for this part of our trip.   We've been here for a month, much longer than I would've thought it would be interesting.   I think I have mixed feelings about Washington.   It can probably be summed up as the most beautiful place I'd never want to live.

The view from Echo Bay on Sucia Island

Nature dominates, and this state has it all -- beautiful mountains, rain forests, great sandy beaches, interesting tide pools, hiking, biking.   The national parks here are amazing, each worth its own vacation.   Still, as beautiful as it is, I don't think I could live here, for two main reasons.   First, the weather is dreary.   We've been relatively lucky, and even with that we spent much of August in long pants and sweatshirts.   It's the coldest summer I've ever had.   Second, the parts of Washington affected by humans are... not great.   The roads are not good, Seattle is a mess and should probably just be bulldozed, and the small towns in the center of the state tend to be very run down and dreary.

Mount Rainier

There are two towns we liked: Port Angeles and Long Beach.   The towns themselves are nice enough, very livable, with access to the perks of modern life, yet a quick escape to remote locations that make you feel like the only person on earth.  But that weather....

Dungeness Lighthouse dwarfed by a distant Mount Baker

Anyone who wants a cheap RV should come to Washington.   We've seen more seemingly abandoned RVs here than I thought existed in the whole country.   They are everywhere.   You could probably just knock on the owner's door and take it for free.   Of course, it may be cheaper just to buy a new one by the time you fix it up, but with that many dead ones, I bet there are a few bargains in there, too.

The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, looking south toward distant Oregon

Overall, Washington has been great.   Crescent Bay is an amazing place for an RV traveller, and the San Juan Island National Park is a bucket list item for sailors.   Mount Rainier, Mount Saint Helens, Olympic National Park -- breathtaking.   I feel like we've missed so much, even after a month.   Just sailing in the San Juan Islands could be a summer project by itself.  I have a feeling we will be back to Washington.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A couple of dramatic weeks

After all that has happened to us on this trip since we left Minnesota, and all we've seen, we thought we were getting used to scenery and traveling and change.   But these last couple of weeks have been crazy.

My mother-in-law and my older son Reese joined us in Seattle for two weeks.   The first week was spent on an Alaskan cruise, the second week sailing on a 45' Jenneau sailboat.

There were so many cool things that I could write many pages about these two weeks.   I'll try to resist and just do a few of the highlights.

On the cruise, our first stop was Ketchikan.   I suggested to their Chamber of Commerce they should use the slogan "Ketchikan: Catch it if you can".   They said they'd be sure to send the royalty checks to me right away.    In Ketchikan, Reese and I did a rain forest zipline tour.    We soared about 150 feet in the air, above the trees, plus we got to cross a rickety foot bridge.   The longest line was over 700 feet.
A rickety bridge, 150 feet in the air

The next stop was Juneau, another beautiful small town.  On the way to Juneau, we went up a fjord to see a glacier.  The captain spun the cruise ship 540 degrees to give everyone a view of the glacier.   The whole fjord was spectacular in a way that can't be captured in words or photos.   Here's a try anyway:

Around a half mile from a glacier

The glacier would calve giant chunks of ice, and we'd hear the booming sound a few seconds later.   The sides of the fjord have waterfalls everywhere, and the mountains were thousands of feet almost straight up.    After a month of seeing mountains, I didn't think I could be impressed anymore, but this took it to a new level.

This doesn't begin to capture the real beauty

Once we made it to Juneau, we did a whale watching excursion, and this may have been the highlight of the cruise.   They took us to a pod of humpback whales that does bubble feeding, a complex group behavior to round up the fish.  There are apparently only about 70 or 80 humpbacks in the world that can do it.  They disappear for a while, then suddenly they all came up at once.   It's hard to capture on video because they give no indication where they are coming up.   Once again, there aren't enough words to explain how cool this is to see up close.   Here's a video, I missed the first rise up, but still, you can see how close we were:

Video of whales feeding next to our boat.

The next day was Skagway -- an unimpressive town.   After a day at sea we landed in Victoria, B.C., and took a tour of Butchart Gardens.   Once again, the words can't capture this.   I never thought a man-made garden could match the splendor of what we had just seen, but this place is amazing, almost worth a trip just by itself.   It's built in a limestone quarry that exhausted its limestone.

Butchart Garden at dusk
A tiny piece of Butchart Gardens in Victoria

So, that's enough for a while, right?   Apparently not.  From the cruise, we went to a sailboat, and sailed the San Juan Islands for a week.  Once again, the scenery is amazing.    We sailed among the tops of underwater mountains, each one with it's own personality.

The view from Sucia.  Notice snow-capped Mount Baker in the background.

The rough shores on Sucia Island

We saw orcas up close, had a great hike on Sucia Island, and stopped at a couple of beautiful marinas.  

By the end of the two weeks, it all seemed like a dream.   There is too much big, too much to overwhelm us.   I think our little brains are not big enough to absorb such a big adventure.