Tacoma's historic Union Station
Just west of downtown is the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, a unique structure that allows vessels to transit between Lake Washington, Lake Union and Puget Sound. The fresh water lakes are between 20 and 22 feet above sea level and the locks ensure they don’t drain into the Sound. At the locks you can watch as boats enter and see the water level adjust so they can proceed onward. An interesting note: since these locks are federally operated there is no charge for boats to use them. Just to the south of the locks is a fish ladder; in season you can watch through underwater viewing windows as salmon move up river to spawn.
After returning to Highway 101, we proceeded north to the town of Forks. This small village has been made famous in recent years by the series of books and the subsequent video series, The Twilight Saga. Forks also lays claim to being the wettest town in Washington with an average of a bit under 100 inches of rain per year. It has a unique information center celebrating both of those as well as providing a rest stop and lots of local information.
We continued on Highway 101 as it went north and then east until reaching the turnoff to Sol Duc. As we went in toward the resort and trailheads we stopped at the Salmon Cascades where, in season, salmon leap the cascades on their journey to spawn.
Part of the travelling Mammoth Exhibit
We took a side trip from Seattle down to Tacoma to visit Bob's college roommate and took time to explore downtown Tacoma and the Glass Museum. The highlight of the Museum is watching artists create glass sculptures. On the walk from Union Station over the bridge there are more Chihuly sculptures. In the Museum itself are many glass pieces by a number of very talented glass artists.
A carving from the distant past at the Royal Museum
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Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and has a long and colorful history. The center of the town, right near the ferry terminal, has the government center (Parliament), the famous Empress Hotel and the Royal British Columbia Museum. The hotel has a regal architectural look and the museum has wonderful traveling exhibits as well as a superb permanent collection of First Nation (Canadian aboriginal people) artifacts. During the summer, the Parliament building not only presents photo ops but also historical re-enactors delivering regularly scheduled presentations chronicling British Columbia history.
Another very popular spot is the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit at the Seattle Center, just across from the iconic Space Needle. This is well worth the admission price as it affords some great opportunities for photographers as well as for the art lover.
The lodge tracks rainfall with a whimsical "rain gauge" It measures up to 17 feet. 2015 showed 12 feet, about average.
The Black Ball Line ferry
When we left the Lodge we headed north on Highway 101 with the destination of Port Angeles in our plans. The road continues on through the rain forest eventually breaking out at the coast. This section of the Park allows visitors to see the rugged coast with its sea stacks and driftwood piles deposited by the frequent Pacific storms.
South of the downtown area is one of the major Boeing plants. Adjacent to the plant is the Museum of Flight. This collection includes aircraft from the earliest days of flight through the world wars to the days of supersonic passenger aircraft with a retired Concorde that you can actually go in. The museum has static displays as well as hands-on exhibits.
Entrance to the Empress
The historic waterfront in Coupeville
Fisherman’s Terminal in the Port of Seattle is just up the ship canal from the locks. This area has some interesting fishing vessels for photographing as well as some good seafood restaurants.
Further up the road, as Highway 101 turns inland, is the turn off to the Hoh Rainforest. This road goes in about 20 miles to a visitor center and several trails. Two of the trails are relatively short “nature” trails: The Hall of Mosses (0.8 miles) and the Spruce Nature Trail (1.2 miles). Both provide photo opportunities ranging from mushrooms and mosses to Roosevelt elk.
Images of Nature - Instruction - Workshops
An authentic First Nation exhibit
North of Victoria, near the town of Sidney, lies the Butchart Gardens. This world famous botanic garden is a reclaimed cement quarry first built in 1904. The cement plant quickly exhausted the limestone leaving a large open pit. Jennie Butchart, wife of cement industry pioneer Robert Butchart, took on the project of transforming the quarry into a lovely sunken garden. After WWII, grandson Ian Ross took on the project of expanding and making the gardens self-sustaining by not only bringing in visitors to see the garden (over a million a year today) but also by adding restaurants, opera and theatre productions and other events. Today the Gardens are family-owned by Jennie’s great granddaughter.
Our trips to Washington have been very rewarding but we have only scratched the surface both photographically and experientially. We will be going back!
Views of Nature Photography
The lodge as seen from the shore of Lake Quinault
A ferry line goes from Port Angeles to Victoria, British Columbia. We took advantage of this quick way to cross the Strait and spend a couple of days in Victoria.
View from Hurricane Ridge Road
The Olympic Mountains in Fall from the Strait of Juan de Fuca
Coming in to Victoria
There are several trailheads at the end of the road near the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. We chose to walk the 8/10-mile trail to Sol Duc falls, arguably the prettiest falls in the Park. Even in the rain the hike was pleasant and the images of the falls more than worth the effort.
Along the road are large numbers of hydrangeas, a remnant of a "beautification project from the early days of the lodge.
The "Hot Shop" demo lab
The Empress Hotel as seen from the Royal Museum
A ferry service from Sidney back to Anacortes, Washington provided an easy way to our next stop on Whidbey Island to the small town of Coupeville to visit a friend. Whidbey is one of the San Juan Islands. There are vacationers, year-round residents, as well as military personnel and their families from the expanding Naval Air Station.
Port Angeles is home to the Port Angeles Whale Watching Company, a provider of excursions into the Strait of Juan de Fuca (see our links page for more information on them). The Strait is home to migratory humpbacks as well as transient and resident orcas. We had the pleasure of seeing a number of humpbacks during our five hours on the water. Orcas, although fairly common, go where they please and may or may not be seen. One of the humpbacks we saw was a mother with a calf so we were glad no orcas were around to attack the little guy. Gray and minke whales also pass through the Strait on occasion.
After spending time in Seattle we needed a break from the big city crowds and traffic (Seattle has terrible traffic jams). To get away we headed east to two very unique places. The first was just over Snoqualmie Pass on Interstate 90. Turning off at Cle Elum we drove a couple of miles to Roslyn. This tiny little village was transformed into Cicely, Alaska during the filming of the TV series Northern Exposure (1990-1995). Several of the store fronts remain as they were in the series and it’s possible to download a map that shows the locations of all of the buildings featured in the programs.
Just inside the Park from the Lodge lies the Quinault Rain Forest. Although this feature is less well known than the Hoh Rainforest, it is equally photogenic. A word of warning, this part of Olympic National Park is a rainforest! Plan on it raining part, if not all of the time you spend in the western section. That moisture is what allows moss and ferns to flourish.
One of the re-enactors
Parliament Building and the lovely park in front
During the past few years, we have had opportunities to visit several places in Washington and British Columbia. The first time we flew to Seattle then went south to Tacoma, north to Port Townsend then west to Olympic National Park. This year we started our journey by taking the southern route to Olympic National Park. We traveled Interstate 5 south and west from SeaTac Airport to Tacoma as before but then we went southwest to Olympia. U.S. 101 goes northwest from there and we took it a few miles until we could turn off on State Route 8. This scenic byway goes west toward the coast through a variety of small towns. We stopped in Aberdeen and learned of a picturesque lighthouse at the south entrance to Grays Harbor. We continued on Highway 8 as it turned north toward our home for the next two nights, the Lake Quinault Lodge. This marvelous rustic lodge is on the shore of Lake Quinault, a lake that is owned and managed by the Quinault Indians whose triangular-shaped reservation extends from the lake to the Pacific Ocean.
After our visit to Roslyn we continued on I90 to the Yakima Valley. This valley is very much different from the Seattle area in climate, scenery, agriculture (it’s the heart of Washington’s wine country) and politics!
After leaving Sol Duc, we rejoined Highway 101 and drove to the town of Port Angeles, our base for the next couple of days. Port Angeles is home to the Park Headquarters and the start of the road to Hurricane Ridge. This Ridge is the highest road in the Park and affords great views of the Olympic Mountains and surrounding forest.
From Whidbey Island there is a highway going back to the mainland and the greater Seattle area. During our visits there we went to several, but nowhere near all of the fun places. One of the most visited places in Seattle is the Public Market at Pike’s Place. Although famous for its fish market, it also has many other great little shops and a variety of restaurants providing many interesting photo ops. A walking tour is a great way to get oriented to this area. See our links page for a recommended tour operator.