It is good to be back in the Lower 48. Alaska is so far away, it is easy to forget that you are still in the US. We arrived in the Lower 48 in the small border town of Sumas, Washington, where we spent the night then moved on to Bellingham, just north of Seattle.
Our first jaunt in Bellingham was to take the Chuckanut Drive, a scenic route along the Washington coast, about 20 miles of spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and the San Juan Islands in the Chuckanut Mountains. And drove around the towns of Bow and Ferndale enjoying the awesome views of the ocean and the Cascade mountains. We had not been in this part of the country; the scenery is stunning. One of our favorites was Mt. Baker. We drove all around the area looking for the best view of the mountain.
Don wanted to visit the Olympic Peninsula so we drove the coach to Edmonds to catch the ferry to Kingston, then on to the fantastic town of Sequim (pronounced Skwim). We totally loved Sequim and had so much fun there. For one, our next-door neighbors were two ladies, Canadians, one originally from England, the other originally from Australia. They were both named “Val;” we spent three evenings together telling stories and enjoying the company. One evening another neighbor came over and his name was “Don!” So there I was with Val, Val, Don and Don!!! Good Grief.
Sequim brags about their wonderful, dry weather, especially since it is less than 100 miles south of Seattle which is known for its rainy weather. The reason for Sequim’s dry climate is the town lies in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains. The mountains wring precipitation out of the air so effectively that areas on the northeast corner experience a rain shadow and get very little rain.
We totally enjoyed walking on the Olympic Discovery Trail, which traverses more than 130 miles. We walked several miles and met a friendly goat along the way.
Sequim is home to many Black Tailed deer and we would see them as we walked and drove around the town. We were told an Elk herd hangs out in Sequim so we spent a lot of time “Elk hunting.” We never found the herd but saw a number of Elk Crossing signs equipped with big lights. We asked about the signs and learned that some of the cows in the herd had been tagged so when they are in an area the lights would start to flash to let drivers know to be careful. Elk live in herds of up to 200 and travel as a herd. When they decide to cross the highway, they ALL cross the highway at their slow pace while the drivers watch and wait and the Elk lights flash! Would love to have experienced that. One of our Elk hunts took us to the John Wayne Marina. The actor loved sailing his Wild Goose in Sequim Bay and decided it would be great place for a marina so he donated the land for that use.
One morning we went to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge to walk along Dungeness Spit, a natural wonder. We had just spent a week on the Homer Spit, so we at least knew what it was. This one was quite different. It is one of the largest natural spits in the world extending over five miles into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. As wind, waves and eroding bluffs add sediment to the Spit, it continues to grow about 13 feet a year. It is covered with rocks, lots of large driftwood, seaweed, and is home to many species of birds and ducks.
We spent some time walking along the docks and harbors of Sequim and its neighboring city, Port Angeles. Logging is a major industry in Washington state which is evident in the pic below of a huge freighter being loaded with logs. Lavender is a huge industry there as well, along with all kinds of berries. In fact, Sequim is the lavender capitol of North America!
On “Eclipse Day” we went whaling, leaving from Port Angeles for a 5-hour trip. We could see the eclipse from the boat. The route for the trip was to head toward Victoria, Vancouver, about 40 miles across the bay. After a couple of hours, we had not seen a single whale and the staff was getting worried. (We had all paid a good sum to see whales!) Suddenly, they began getting phone calls from fishermen and other whaling boats so we made a quick right and joined a flotilla of whale watchers. What a spectacle it was. They explained we had run into a “Tea Party” of whales, meaning several “pods” of whales had come together to socialize and mate. Mating does not occur within a pod, so the Tea Party is part of the mating process. These were Orcas, however, before we left a humpback showed up. The staff was overjoyed, especially the Marine Biologist who was educating us. According to her, there are only 5 Humpbacks in those waters and they know each of them by sight and each has a name. For a stranger Humpback to show up really “rocked their boat!” She took lots of pics so this new whale can be named and added to their Humpback resident list.
We saw so many whales, it was unbelievable. They were showing off for each other and the action was non-stop. I took hundreds of pix and have included the best ones. I never got a really good “in the air” shot. Like most wildlife pics, it is difficult to get a good shot; you end up with pix of behinds and of water or woods. I could do a display of wildlife behinds!
Our last excursion in the wonderful Sequim/Port Angeles area was to drive up into the Olympic Mountains to Hurricane Ridge to enjoy a panoramic view of the mountains and where we had to stop for a black tailed buck who wanted all the road. Local legend has it that the beautiful, wild, Fireweed which blooms from the bottom up, the last bloom (top) dropping off signals the end of summer. You can see from the feature pic that we still have a few weeks before we have to “cut and run.”
The Olympic Mountains, because of their location to the coast, get lots of rain and snow (and provide the rain shadow for Sequim) creating many glaciers. The literature about these glaciers provided an interesting fact that helps to explain a little bit about glaciers vs snowbanks….”In the company of these glaciers are perpetual snowbanks that have the superficial appearance of glacial ice.” So, not all snow patches on the mountains are glaciers, some are just snowbanks. How does one know the difference? I still am not sure.
Next stop, Newport, Oregon.