Don't get fooled by the title. As you will soon realize, most of my trip was spent in the beautiful area surrounding Seattle. With that piece of clerical work out of the way I'll get on to the telling of my trip.
The trip started out with a morning bus ride to the Boston airport. I got there extra early since just two days prior Britain had arrested some people they suspected were planning to blow up some airplanes. This caused the US airports to go into security lockdown mode. This time airports weren't allowing any liquids, gels, or pastes to be part of your carryon luggage. I was only taking a carryon so this posed a bit of a problem for me. While I'd never admit to carrying one of those highly dangerous substances like toothpaste or deodorant in a public forum; I will take the stance that it's stupid of them to make rules they can't reasonably enforce on a most passengers. Anyways after some long lines and an even longer flight I arrived at Seattle.
My first day was spent around Seattle just seeing some of the big sites with Christy, Dan, and Michelle. The main attraction for the day was the Seattle Aquarium. While it isn't as big or as cool as the Boston Aquarium, it was a good visit since it's so different. For some bizarre reason the Seattle Aquarium focused more on the Pacific Northwest sea life than the Boston Aquarium does. In Seattle's tropical exhibit I saw some cool fish I'd never seen in Boston. That night I met up with Emily (one of my best friends from my sabbatical to Glacier National Park). Emily brought along her uber cool friend Kumara.
The next day all of us who didn't need to work went out to Rainier National Park. I'd never been to Rainier before and let me tell you it's awesome. Almost freakishly so. In one day I came to realize that I'd have no problems entertaining myself for an entire summer in this park. We picked a relatively short hike (only 8 miles) to Shriner Lookout, but it did have a good amount of elevation gain. While it was a struggle, Michelle conquered the summit that day. We did a lot of pushing to get Michelle there (both figuratively and literally), but at the end of the day she was very glad she made it. The bigger the obstacles you overcome the bigger the reward at the end. Plus the beautiful terrain that was below us was a huge bonus. While we were at the top we did a lot of talking with a local hiker who summited at the same time we did. He had a bunch of incredible stories. It's amazing the number of great people you meet on the trail.
The day after this Emily and I went out to Olympic National Park. Olympic was every bit as beautiful as Rainier. This sure made me think that Seattle would be an awfully nice place to live. We choose to do the Upper Lena Lake trail. It was a longer trail (14+ miles) and had a lot of elevation gain. There was a little risk because we only had about six hours to do the hike since we had to pick up Kumara from the ferry since she was camping with us that night. But since Emily and I are practically professional hikers we decided we could handle it. This was probably my favorite hike during the trip. It had scenic overlooks and beautiful mountain meadows. It had mountain streams and gorgeous lakes. The only problem was that Emily and I weren't quite as "professional" as we thought and to put it bluntly the mountain kicked our asses. Eventually we reached Upper Lena Lake stuffed a P&H (peanut butter and honey) sandwich in our mouths and proceeded to jog down the mountain so that we wouldn't be too late when picking up Kumara. It turned out we were pretty late, but Kumara was very cool about it. Well that is until she threw a large cup of tea on me :-)
That night we camped in the Olympics. Actually we carped which means camping from the car. I used to be all about hiking in with my overnight pack and pitching a tent in the middle of the backcountry and I still enjoy that from time to time. However now days I usually just carp. Carping lets you see more of a park in a limited time since hiking with a day pack is much faster than hiking with an overnight pack. We had some very interesting religious debates before our heavy eyes finally got the better of us. The conversations reminded me of the sorts of discussions I had back in college and it amazes me how much I've changed. Anyways it was a great night.
The next day the three of us stayed in the Olympics and did the Little Quilcene Trail and ended with a summit of Mt Townsend. It wasn't a super tough hike which was good since the past two days of hiking had started to wear me out. Once we got to the top of this one, we had much more time to admire the beautiful scenery. Since it hadn't rained in a long time in Washington State the air was a little hazy, but even so it was awe inspiring. I've got pictures and they do a better description than works can, but they still fall short a 1000 fold. Even if someone could somehow completely recreate the beauty of these vistas in some kind of futuristic display it would never be nearly as awe inspiring as the real thing. For me a large part of my love of these places comes from the journey I experience while getting there.
We all took the Kingston Ferry back to Seattle from the Olympics. This was quite a story in and of itself. It involved a foot race, the fairy girl, one submarine, womanly charm, and of course tuna sandwiches. But this is a story for another time.
The next day was spent with Christy, Dan, Michelle and two beautiful Old English Sheepdogs. We did a very popular hike just outside of Seattle to the top of Mt. Si. It was a good hike to keep my legs from getting too stiff from the large amounts of hiking I did the past three days. It was an 8 mile hike with a few thousand feet of elevation gain, but we took it nice and slow since the puppies insisted on lots of sniffing. The top was not accessible to the puppies and involved a 500 foot climb up a 60% grade rock slope. Everyone else waited with the puppies but I felt the need to make it up the "haystack". Again we had some spectacular views. I really got luck that none of my hikes into these high elevations took me into a cloud which would have obscured my view.
The next day everyone except Michelle and I had to work so we decided to test out the Seattle busing system. I can proudly say that with a few minutes of research on the web I didn't end up getting lost. A big help was my GPS which I used to figure out where to get on and off the bus. Without my trusty GPS using the busing system would have been much more difficult for a visitor to the city like me. Anyways with my excellent bus navigation skills we made it to the Museum of Flight just before it opened. After they let us in the door we spent many hours exploring the museum. It's a great museum and I'd suggest it to anyone who happens to be the Seattle area. It seems to focus on airplanes, but they also have a good amount of coverage on space flight. I'm a big fan of these subjects so I had a great time learning some new things about it. After this we took a 3 mile walk to Kubota Garden. This is a public park in Seattle that uses native plants, but is sculpted after what I would think of as a traditional Japanese garden.
My last morning in Seattle was spent exploring a few more sites downtown and then the afternoon was spent at Adrienne's birthday party on the beach. Adrienne is another one of my friends from my time at Glacier National Park. It sure was great seeing her again.
All in all it was an awesome trip. I want to give a ginormous thanks to everyone out in the Seattle area that made my trip out there as fun as it was. Thanks guys!
P.S. I'll post more pictures about my trip sometime in the future.