Sunday, September 26, 2010

Traveling the Pacific Northwest: Mt Rainier and Seattle

The last of our 6-hour driving days brought us to Mount Rainier National Park. We changed our itinerary to include this detour and it was such a great idea! It helped that the weather was absolutely perfect. There were lots of little things to see on our trip through the park to make it to the main parking lot at Paradise.

As we made our way into the state of Washington the views along the road were incredible.

As we got closer, we were so excited at each glimpse we could catch of the huge mountain.

Once we got to the park we stopped at all the different view points that didn't require any major hiking. =)

The view was so amazing that this photo doesn't even come close to doing it justice.

As we headed out of the park we spotted a momma bear and two cubs passing through a valley.

Since it was such a clear day as we left the park, we headed straight to this amazing view point once we got to Seattle to capture this view.

The next day we roamed around Seattle. Our first stop was the top of the Columbia Center Skyview. We decided to go up and see the view from the 73rd floor of the tallest building on the Seattle skyline instead of going up in the Space Needle. If you look closely you can see that the Space Needle looks tiny from this height.

To fully get the Seattle experience, we rode a ferry over to Bainbridge Island. The view of the skyline was just gorgeous!

Then the famous Space Needle.

Our last day in the Seattle area, we drove up to Anacortes for a whale watching tour in the San Juan Islands. We had a really long day on the water (6 hours) but it was great to see a handful of Orcas. I only wish we had been able to get closer to them.

The views out on the water were just gorgeous.

The naturalists on board the boat can identify each individual whale by their dorsal fin and markings. The first whale we saw was Ruffles, who was the star of the movie "Free Willy". He was around for most of the day because he apparently likes to have his picture taken.

We even got to see one Orca do a spy hop and a few others do some flips in the water.

This really gives you an idea of the size of these creatures.

And here is one last photo as we headed back to Anacortes.

We had a great trip, but as with any trip, it was exhausting and it's always great to get home.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Traveling the Pacific Northwest: Napa and Crater Lake

Our next leg of the trip involved driving from San Francisco to Napa and then up to Oregon to see Crater Lake National Park. It was our first of three 6-hour driving days. I guess that's what you get when you take a "road trip". Once we got to the Napa area we headed straight for the winery that we had signed up to tour. I was only able to take a few photos out the car window before we arrived and ran in to meet up with the tour group.

After driving the Silverado Trail, this sums up what most of the area looks like this time of year.

The tour we took was at the Frog's Leap Winery in Rutherford. The owner took part in one of the wine competitions that put California on the map when it did so well against the better known French wines. They are known for all the organically grown grapes and for their "green" approach to running their winery. Here are a few photos from our tour of the grounds and the barn.

After leaving Napa we made our way through Northern California on our way to Oregon. For most of our drive through Northern California, the roadsides were filled with golden fields.

We also saw a mountain that I'd never heard of, Mount Shasta. After living in Florida for so long, snow capped mountains are such a nice change of pace.

Once we made it to Oregon, we headed on to Crater Lake National Park. The day we visited Crater Lake was the worst weather we encountered on our trip. The problem was that it was a cloudy day, and when you're at 8,000 ft you are IN the clouds. The first time we took the 33 mile loop around the lake we weren't able to see much.

We decided to wait in the visitor's center for a couple hours for the fog to mostly blow over before we headed out on the loop again. The second time was much better and we stopped at a number of view points and could see all the way across the gorgeous lake.

On our way down the mountains the weather magically became perfect again.

Stay tuned for the next part of our trip, which was the state of Washington.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Traveling the Pacific Northwest: San Francisco

Last week we flew out to the west coast of the country to take a road trip from San Francisco up to Seattle and see a few things in between. We started our trip by flying into San Fran and staying there for a couple days. We left the tropical storms of Florida and were met by much cooler temperatures and lots of wind.

On our first night we decided that the hilly streets were a bit much and opted for some touristy public transportation, the Trolley Cars. Our first destination was the crooked Lombard Street. It was quite the tourist hangout and we saw a good number of people take the drive down the curvy street.

The view from the top of the street was pretty amazing.

The next day we wandered down around the Embarcadero Plaza area and took a few pictures of the Bay Bridge. It doesn't seem to get as much attention as the Golden Gate but it is really beautiful as well.

Our next tourist visit was to the Coit Tower which sits on top of a hill that you can see from the top of Lombard Street.

It is quite the vantage point to see all parts of the city. From the lookout you can see all the way from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate.

We decided to do the Alcatraz night tour which included a boat tour that circled around the island as the sun was going down. This was probably the coldest part of the trip because the wind was so intense and brisk.

We even got to see the sunset behind the Golden Gate from our spot on the island.

For our last full day in San Fran we rented bikes and rode along the water and up to the Golden Gate bridge. If I haven't stressed it enough yet, that city is hilly! The views along the water were really gorgeous as we made our way toward the bridge.

Riding across the bridge was quite an experience with it being so crowded and the wind blowing so hard.

Then, inevitably, the fog began to roll in as we headed back toward the city.

Stay tuned for the next part of the trip.

Visitors since 1/20/2008