was the sandwich bread for this trip to the Northwest in that
we spent a couple of days on both ends of the trip in Seattle.
Upon flying in to SeaTac Airport on Wednesday, May 18, we situated
ourselves in a no-frills Rodeway Inn close to the airport and
a bus stop to downtown. Having visited Seattle once before, we
knew our way around a little and planned on spending the day wandering
around the Pike Street Market, then seeing what trouble we could
get into from there--on foot or by public transportation.
May 19 dawned bright and spectacularly
clear--also warm by Seattle standards for May. We lucked out.
Never having even glimpsed Mt. Rainier on our previous visit,
we headed for the restaurant perched atop the neighboring Holiday
Inn and prepared ourselves for a spectacular sight. Well...for
a mountain that was 90 miles away, I guess it was pretty spectacular,
but the 90 miles caused a bit of haze, in spite of the cloudless
day in the present vicinity. That was our one and only glimpse
of the great mountain; even when we were actually on it a week
later, we never would have known it was there but for the signs
that said so.
After breakfast, we boarded the local
bus for downtown and enjoyed observing people. The closer we
got to Seattle, the more interesting the viewing became. The
folks in Seattle are somewhat more colorful than those in our
more familiar Washington, D.C. The nation's capital is known
for its historical landmarks, monuments, and museums, not its
exciting people (unless you consider tired-looking, Nike-clad
civil servants trundling to and from work each day exciting).
The closer we got to the center of Seattle, the more diverse
and unusual the personalities getting on and off of the bus.
If you've never been to Pike's Market
on the waterfront, it's well worth the visit. We spent the morning
poking in and out of shops and collecting various bits of this
and that for our lunch. I was itching to do some outright grocery
shopping, particularly as our plans for the next week included
a five night stay in a remote Canadian cabin; however, we didn't
think Canadian customs would look kindly on toting vegetables
and fish into Alberta as carry-on luggage. Our small lunch turned
into a feast.We joined a large hoard of corporate Seattle who
turned out at lunchtime on this unusually nice day to populate
every square inch of space on the grass in the waterfront park.
In the afternoon, after spending a couple
of hours in the Seattle Modern Art Museum (interesting, and
worth a visit if you go to Seattle), we discovered the underground
metro system, having thought all along that it was a system
based on trains. Not so. We found buses down there. The public
transportation system in Seattle is less than intuitive. Not
only is it difficult to figure out how to get from here to there,
but you need to understand the "no charge" zones in
the downtown area and which type of vehicle to take--trolley,
above ground bus, or underground bus. (Or, for the less brave,
taxi.) The schedules don't help much either. We relied on information
from helpful Seattlite commuters, most of whom had conflicting
opinions on how to get to any specific location. It took us
the better part of the afternoon to make it from downtown to
the Arboretum, where we had hoped to spend some time at the
Japanese Gardens. Unfortunately, we got there too late and it
was too far of a walk from where we landed. We satisfied ourselves
with a long walk along the most convenient (nearest) path until
it was time to head back downtown (an hour's trip) to meet friends
for dinner. An adventure.
That was the top piece
of bread. The bottom layer of the sandwich occurred two weeks
later when we flew back into Seattle from Calgary. This time
we rented a car because we wanted to range farther than downtown,
plus we had two whole days before we had to head back east.
Soggy weather conditions the first day necessitated an indoor
activity, so we decided on a visit to the Boeing Flight
Museum. Ended up spending the entire day therereally fascinating
if you enjoy the history of flight. The museum is well laid
out chronologically, having everything from information on the
earliest days of flight to space travel. There was too much
to see in one day, but we tried.
In Seattle, the saying is, "if you
don't like the weather now, wait 15 minutes." The second
day dawned bright with lots of puffy clouds. We took off for
Mt. Rainier. That day, we experienced sun, clouds, rain, heat,
and cold. We had no idea how close or far away from Rainier
we were at any time as the mountain was at all times blanketed
in a dense layer of clouds. Our
only indication of the presence of a mountain was that we passed
under a gate that announced we were now entering Mt. Rainier
National Park. The park ranger informed us that most of the
roads in the park were still closed due to winter weather. Very
soon after entering the park and climbing upward, we noticed
(along with the disappearance of vegetation) signs recommending
that vehicles should stop
and put on tire chains!
We soon found out why! By the time we
reached the Paradise Visitor's Center, we were in a blinding
blizzard. The road disappeared into a 10
foot wall of snow where the snow plow had stopped clearing park
roads. It was darned cold out there. The Visitor's
Center was closed! Needless to say, there wasn't much to do
but turn around and go back down. The consolation prize was
an unexpected little glen near the bottom of the mountain that
contained a stream populated with skunk cabbages sporting bright
yellow flowers. I set up my tripod there and shot until the
sun, which was darting in and out of clouds, finally disappeared
for keeps behind a snow cloud.
advice: unless you plan to do some winter weather hiking or
skiing and are well prepared both in gear and expectations for
harsh weather conditions, wait until the summer months to see
Mt. Rainier. Otherwise, there just isn't much to do or see there!
Once back to our home-sweet- home Rodeway Inn, we consoled ourselves
with a second visit to one the many teriyaki places scattered
around the Seattle area, Happy Hut Teriyaki and prepared for
our trip back home.