Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Pacific Northwest

As a wrap-up to our trip to the Pacific Northwest, I wanted to share our tips and tricks.

CityPASS Seattle

We highly recommend this pass if you are interested in doing more than three of the included attractions. For $59, we got entry to the Seattle Aquarium, a 1-hour Argosy Harbor Cruise, The Pacific Science Center, The Space Needle, Woodland Park Zoo (or Museum of Flight) and the Experience Music Project (which we did not use). The adult admission to each of these attractions is around $20, so we saved $40 each on our visit.

We felt that 2 1/2 days was plenty of time to spend in Seattle. We could have filled additional time if we had it, but we were satisfied.

Olympic Peninsula

This is a place that we would love to visit again. In fact, I could easily spend a week in the area and I would still probably wish for more time. I would have really liked to visit other parts of Olympic National Park, especially the rain forests along the western edge.

Twilight has been pretty big here in Utah, but it does not compare to the obsession that Team Edward and Team Jacob have inspired in their supposed stomping grounds. The Twilight Series has obviously been a major contributor to the tourism in the area.

Vancouver, Canada

Once again, this is somewhere that I would like to spend a whole lot more time. We gave ourselves a little taste of the area and now we would love to return. Both Alison and I were amazed by the multi-cultural makeup of Vancouver. In our few minutes walking along the street, we heard quite a number of different languages and we were both surprised with the amount of French that we heard.

All in all, we traveled:
By air - 1,374 miles
By car - 634 miles
By boat - 13 miles
By foot - Who knows?

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Pacific Northwest - Vancouver, Canada

We really only had plans to do one thing while in Vancouver.
We took a short drive through Stanley Park on our way to Capilano Park.
This park is home to a 450 foot long suspension bridge that sways 230 feet above the river below. By the end of the bridge, your legs and ankles feel like jelly from having to maintain your balance on the swinging bouncing bridge for so long. The park is a nature preserve of rain forest just minutes from downtown Vancouver.
We also walked on the Treetops Adventure, a series of 10 or so treetop suspension bridges up to 100 feet above the forest floor.
Lastly we walked on the cliffwalk, which is a series of cantilevered suspended walkways high above the river below. This park is not for those afraid of heights. We wrapped up our visit to the park by sharing some delicious chocolate and maple swirled fudge.
After our time at Capilano Park, we begrudgingly had to jump back into the car for our drive back to Seattle, where we would catch our flight home. Luckily it only took us a couple of minutes to cross the border back into the United States.
The girls once again were champs on the flight home and it was sure wonderful to be back in our own beds. It was not nearly as wonderful to be back at work though.

The Pacific Northwest - The Olympic Peninsula

We started the morning out by heading to the Salt Creek Recreation Area. I had read about some tide pools at this Washington State Park and we were not disappointed.
This is Ada and our trusty rental car at the parking lot for the tidepools. There is a little piece of land that sticks out a couple hundred feet into the ocean. We scheduled our visit to coincide with low-tide so that the entire rock outcropping was above water. During high tide, I believe that the entire tongue is under water. This is the perfect setup for all sorts of marine life. Under every rock were many, many little crabs. It was fun to try and find the largest ones.
Kate walking along the mussels.
We hadn't planned on picking up any of the delicate wildlife, but some boys had pulled this one out of the water and let us hold it.
A couple more large starfish. No two were the same color.
This place was absolutely beautiful. We all enjoyed seeing the crabs, hermit crabs, anemone, starfish, etc. It was a wonderful place to spend a quiet Sunday morning.

We left the tidepools to drive up to Hurricane Ridge at Olympic National Park. The plan was to go from sea level to about a mile above sea level in around an hour. Instead, we had to stop a couple of times for Ada to puke. The drive up to the ridge was beautiful as the road wound through a couple of tunnels and through some of the densest fog and clouds.
Unfortunately we didn't have much time to spend at the National Park. This is the view looking south towards the Olympic mountains and the main area of the National Park.
This is the view to the north. On a clear day you would be able to see the strait and the Canadian Island of Victoria.
We were here on July 31st (which incidentally was our 8th anniversary) and there was still a ton of snow on some of the trails.
We then drove about an hour to Port Townsend on the northwest corner of the Olympic Peninsula. We caught a ferry across the Puget Sound to Coupeville and were on our way to Vancouver, BC.
Late the night before our ferry journey I decided to make a reservation for our ferry trip and as I logged onto the Washington State Ferry site, I realized that there were only a couple of spots left on the ferry. They leave every 45 minutes and I had expected to just go standby, but we were sure glad that we made a reservation because there were probably 50 cars waiting for the few standby slots. We would have been waiting for a long time.
The ferry was brand new and although the crossing only took around 30 minutes, the girls enjoyed some treats and being on the boat.
The longest delay of our entire trip was when we were trying to cross into British Columbia. It took us around 70 minutes to cross the border. August 1st is British Columbia Day or something and apparently everybody was trying to get there for the festivities.

We stayed in a Holiday Inn right downtown and we went for a stroll that evening along Granville Street (much of which was shut down for the holiday celebrations). The crowd was getting to be a little non-family-friendly, so we returned to the hotel for a late dinner.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Pacific Northwest - Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula

We began the morning Saturday with bagels from Safeway and a much needed haircut for me before making our first stop at the Seattle, Washington Temple.
The temple was very crowded so we took our first picture from the rear of the temple near where we parked.
Ada and Kate were happy to see a bride and her groom out taking pictures in front of the temple.
This was our attempt at re-enacting this sculpture. Of course Ada had to be the baby.

Our next stop was to another included attraction in the Seattle citypass, the Seattle Woodland Park Zoo. The zoo is smack dab in a residential area of the city, with very limited parking. Once we found a spot on a narrow street a few blocks from the zoo we were on our way.

The zoo reminded me quite a bit of the San Diego Zoo, with large animal exhibits and beautiful, dense forests, although the zoo itself is not nearly as large. We only wanted to spend a couple of hours at the zoo, so we picked and chose the animals that we (and the girls) wanted to see the most.
The girls' first choice was the flamingos.
They each took turns sitting on the flamingo nests (they are keeping the eggs warm under their bums).
It was good practice milking the cows.
Going for a hippo ride.
Kate's favorite animal is the elephant.

After another lunch of chips and snacks it was time to hit the road to drive to Port Angeles on the south edge of the Juan De Fuca Strait (or the northern edge of the Olympic Peninsula). We opted to take the driving route through Tacoma and Bremerton rather than one of many ferry shortcuts across Puget Sound. The drive was fairly uneventful aside from a 45 minute delay for a drawbridge that slowed us down.

Once we got to Port Angeles, we ate at a pizza joint before heading down to the waterfront to walk along the bike/walk/running path.

It was a beautiful evening and we enjoyed the chance to admire some sand sculptures from the previous week. These were quite impressive and the sculptors were from all over the world.

Kate climbing the stairs to an observation tower on the pier. She plans on being a plumber when she grows up.
The south view towards the beautiful Olympic Mountains.
As I mentioned earlier, we were traveling in this part of the country in the very height of tourist season. When we checked into our hotel, I overheard the attendant saying that our Days Inn only had 3 rooms left. We had to book our room in this 2-star hotel for over $150, as many of the other hotels were selling out and I didn't want to be stuck sleeping on the beach.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Pacific Northwest - Seattle Day 2

The second day (Friday, July 29) began with me and the girls running to Safeway for some doughnuts and other essential snacks. We ate our doughnuts at the hotel before getting ready for another big day.

We started the morning off with a gorgeous picture of pregnant Alison in front of her favorite skulls - those of the infamous Tyrannosaurus Rex, aka T-Rex, Rex, etc. Obviously, our first attraction of the day was the Pacific Science Center at the Seattle Center.

Our visit to the Science Center started off in the dinosaur room before moving to the...
Space and astronomy area. The girls enjoyed the planetarium show geared specifically for preschoolers. After that, we spent some time in the kids play area before making our way over to...
The bug and insect area. One of Ada's favorite attractions of the day was the...
LinkButterfly House. We got to see a ton of beautiful butterflies. Unfortunately none of them landed on Ada, but she was able to catch this great shot of one of them on me. Good balance, great composition, decent color - well done Ada.

We had a picnic lunch of potato chips before watching the lovely documentary Born to be Wild in 3D IMAX, after which we headed over to the Space Needle. We were walking through the plaza of the Pacific Science Center and many of the water features and little pools were drained as they were being worked on. There was a loose-chain barrier around the edges of the walkways and Ada was walking with us but staring up at an exhibit on the upper level. She didn't see the loose-chain barrier before walking right through it and falling face first onto the concrete about 30-36" below. Luckily she wasn't hurt, just extremely embarrassed more than anything. It made a loud crashing noise as the loose-chain posts and everything tipped over and crashed to the ground. We felt so bad for the poor girl.
Ada was still a little sad from her earlier mishap.
The line to go up the Space Needle was just over an hour, which is surprising considering the Space Needle is only the 7th tallest building in Seattle anymore.
We enjoyed the views from the top, but in my mind its one of those things that you've only got to do once in life. After the Space Needle we had dinner at McDonald's before driving across town to Safeco Field to watch the Mariners take on the Devil Rays. We had planned on just scalping cheap tickets to the game, but this strategy was deeply flawed. I had expected there to be a glutton of tickets as the Mariners had lost the previous 17 straight games. But, the cheapest three ticket levels were all sold out, the scalpers were not selling anything cheap and we were stuck paying face-value for much better tickets than we had planned on (to add insult to injury, the scalper said if we came on Monday night he could get us $20-$30 tickets for $5 each). The crowds must have been drawn by Sonics Appreciation Night.
They had all of the Sonics greats back to celebrate including Lenny Wilkins, George Karl, Detlef Schrempf, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Tom Chambers, Nate McMillan, Dale Ellis, Hersey Hawkins, etc. It seemed that half the crowd was there wearing Sonics jerseys in celebration.

Kate and Ada do well at the ball games for the first inning or two (then we give them our cell phones to play with...).
We sat high up in the upper deck directly behind home plate.
This was Alison's eighth MLB stadium and my fourteenth. We hope to add one more each before summer is over.