Vol. 19, No. 3/Spring 1997
As long as you're out in the Pacific Northwest...
By Linda Henderson
Last fall, I spent a week with a college friend who has lived in Seattle for the last four years. Because I had not seen a whole lot of the area, she decided that we should do a tour of as much of the Pacific Northwest (PNW) as possible in four days. The trip that we took was easy to do in the time that we allotted ourselves, but you'll see more if you take more time. Remember that you are travelling between two countries and allow time for short customs stops. Also change money before you leave the States, so you have Canadian money for the road.
We started our adventure on Monday morning in Seattle. Nancy got on the phone to Vancouver, BC, and found us a reasonable hotel room in downtown Vancouver for Monday and Tuesday nights. We had decided that it would be much more relaxing to know that we had a place to sleep before we headed off. The trip to Vancouver from Seattle takes about three hours on Interstate 5. We passed through the Snoqualmie Valley north of Seattle, which is flat farmland with mountains looming over it. (Mountains loom over every bit of the PNW). Had we wanted, we could have stopped at the Boeing plant in Everett, where tours are available, and other interesting places along the way.
We reached Vancouver in time to take a walk around downtown and orient ourselves. The city is clean and safe-feeling and has great shopping. That evening, we found a terrific restaurant within a few blocks of our hotel and indulged ourselves with a gourmet feast. The stores were open late, so we were able to shop our way back to our hotel after dinner. The next morning, we walked down to the water taxi which took us over to Granville Island. The Granville Island Market is a hodgepodge of shops, galleries and snack bars, surrounded by water. For higher-brow fare, we climbed up onto Granville St. and poked into the art galleries and antique shops.
That evening, we drove up to the Grouse Mountain ski area, just north of Vancouver. The ride up to the top of the mountain in the gondola is fun (we even saw a bear!) and the view is exquisite. The lodge was undergoing extensive renovation when we were there, but we could still have a casual dinner and enjoy the sunset. From our breathtaking vantage point, we watched the cruise ships bound for Alaska depart from Vancouver (they apparently all leave at the same hour).
On Wednesday morning we got up early and caught the ferry to Vancouver Island from Horseshoe Bay, north of Vancouver. The ferry lands at Nanaimo, north of Victoria. It was an easy drive down to Victoria and for lunch we found a little roadside restaurant that had a porch overlooking a million-dollar water view.
We bypassed Victoria and went on up to the Buchart Gardens. If you're a garden lover, this is a must-see when you're in the area. We spent about two hours and covered all of the gardens, but you could easily spend the day poking around the flowers and dropping serious money in the gift shop.
We drove back down to Victoria for an early supper and a walk while we waited for the ferry to Port Angeles on the Olympic Penninsula of Washington. Victoria is well worth a longer stay. It is a beautiful city, quite British-feeling and chock-full of museums, restaurants and shops. We happened on a Victorian atrium building, called the Crystal Garden, that has been restored and turned into a tropical paradise, full of exotic birds, orchids and butterflies. It sits directly across the street from the majestic Empress Hotel, which is right on the harbor.
The ferry to Port Angeles is quite a long ride (I think it took about 3 1/2 hours). We had fortunately made a reservation at the Red Lion Inn, which is right on the water and has nice rooms, some with balconies overlooking the harbor. When the ferry docked at about 10 p.m., it seemed that everyone headed for the inn and people with no reservations ended up with no rooms.
The next morning, we headed up to Hurricane Ridge, just outside of Port Angeles. The drive up is fun, with lots of scenic overlooks to stop at along the way. Once on top, you realize just how high you've climbed. The view from the deck of the visitor's center is of glacial mountain peaks. One of the views down is of the Elwha River Valley, which was the path of the first explorers into the interior of the peninsula. For non-explorers there are well-marked trials for hiking or strolling.
From Hurricane Ridge, we drove down to Route 101 and headed for the Hoh rainforest. The Olympic Penninsula is one distinct ecosystem after another and seeing it all in one day, as we did, emphasizes this. The trip from the mountain/glacier environment of Hurricane Ridge to the tropical humidity of Hoh takes you through the alpine beauty of clear lakes and towering cliffs, which is reminiscent of the Adirondacks.
The Hoh rainforest has a series of trails overhung with Spanish moss and huge old Sitka spruce. It is hauntingly beautiful, almost like a fairy-tale setting. The visitor's center explains the rainforest ecosystem, which gets about 140 inches of rain per year (as compared to Seattle's 30 inches).
From Hoh, it is a short trip down to the Pacific ocean and a series of wonderful beaches. We stopped at Ruby Beach and waded in the ocean, playing chicken with the tide. For a time reference, we had left Port Angeles about 8:30 in the morning and were at Ruby Beach about 4:30 in the afternoon. That was the end of our sight-seeing. We headed down Route 101 to Aberdeen, where we picked up the highway that linked us to Interstate 5 and home. We got back to Seattle at about 9:00 Thursday night.
If you're looking for an easy day trip, another fun destination is the San Juan Islands, which sit between northern Washington and Vancouver Island. The ferry from Anacortes (about 1 1/2 hours north of Seattle) to Friday Harbor is a beautiful ride through the islands. Friday Harbor is on San Juan Island and has become quite artsy in the last few years. There are galleries and shops to poke into and if you have a bike or car, you can explore the rest of the island. I have been to the San Juans several times, and they never fail to enchant me.
Linda Henderson is the librarian at the Providence Journal. You can contact her at linda_henderson@ProJo.com.
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