abstracts animals buildings digital flowers landscapes people snow sun travel_rollover water

Seattle, Washington

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Seattle 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. Cozy.

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 there—really 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.

Our 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.


Mt. Ranier during snowstorm


George freezing on Mt. Ranier


Skunk Cabbage



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