Though you will invariably enjoy Seattle, you have to get out of the city to really see Washington State. Get out to the Olympic Peninsula and down to Mt. Rainer. They're only a few hours away and could be done as day trips, but why rush back when there is so much to see and do. Linger awhile, you won't regret it.
Fondest memory: We had been gawking at Mt. Rainier for close to a week. This was half way through a five month trip around the western states and tired from incessant hiking, we enjoyed the easy city life. It was so special from far away, but we figured we would hit it on the way down to Oregon. Of course, when we finally did get there the weather had taken a turn for the worse. After seeing it from hundreds of miles away, we were now engulfed in clouds. We camped nonetheless and hoped for a clearing.
After a few days, we decided to abort the mission but having not showered in a few days, we headed up to the visitor center where the showers were. It was partially up the massif and as we drove up, we could see the sun trying to peer through. And then as we came up to the level of the visitor center, it was totally clear. Showers would have to wait and the Birkenstocks were exchanged for boots and up we went. As we got higher and higher, you could see all the surrounding peaks jutting through the thick cloud cover including in the far distance, Mt. Saint Helens. We wound up sliding down on our butts to save time and strain on the knees.
I learned that day that the weather is not always the same at 10,000 feet as it is below.
Favorite thing: Puget Sound is the inland waters between the Pacific Ocean and much of northwest Washington. Seattle is on the shore of Puget Sound. The sound was explored by George Vancouver in 1792. Vancouver named it after one of his officers, Lieutenant Peter Puget. The San Juan Islands can be found within its waters and offer an off the beaten path location to explore. Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island is the highest point on the San Juan Islands. Its summut of 2409 feet offers commanding views. Puget Sound can be traversed by a collection of ferries. Some of the ferries connect the United States to Canada.
Fondest memory: This was supposed to be a picture of Mt. Ranier, but as you can see, it did not turn out. It still is a nice pic, so I decided to keep it. A lot of Washington looks like this, especially around the cascade region.
Fondest memory: My fondest memories of being in Washington state are always when my family discovers places we've never been to before. During a trip to La Conner back in July of 1998, we drove over the bridge to Whidbey Island and discovered Fort Ebey State Park. While Fort Ebey State Park is rather small, it's a gorgeous rocky beach on Puget Sound with fantastic panoramic views. Unfortunately I had a can of pop with me, and the wasps were driving me crazy... but the next time I go to Whidbey Island, I'll definitely come back here! It's the perfect place to relax in the summer.
To enjoy western Washington in February you have to either head to the mountains for snow or out to the beach for a taste of salt air. In the latter case, you'll want to find a weather window that will give you the greatest probability of sun -- or at least no rain. Luckily, the Internet age has made home forecasting not only possible but very enjoyable.
In this tip I'll show you what a February weather window looks like. All of the information is available at either the National Weather Service:
or the Atmospheric Sciences Dept. at the UW:
I always begin with the forecast discussion from the NWS site. On Saturday, February 21 I saw this:
IN THE NEAR TERM...THE UPPER RIDGE PRESENTLY OVER THE PAC NW WILL MOVE OVER THE ROCKIES ON SUN...ALLOWING A SPLITTING PAC STORM SYSTEM TO APPROACH THE COAST. THE LOW LEVEL OFFSHORE GRADIENT WILL ALSO TIGHTEN THIS WEEKEND IN RESPONSE TO FALLING PRESSURES OFFSHORE. THE RESULT WILL BE MILD WEATHER WITH PLENTY OF SUNSHINE OVER THE CWA... ALONG WITH A TREND TOWARD LESS NIGHTTIME FOG FORMATION. EXPECT SOME INCREASE IN PRIMARILY HIGH CLOUDINESS LATER TONIGHT THRU SUN AS THE UPPER FLOW BECOMES SLY. THE OFFSHORE GRADIENT WILL WEAKEN ON MON AS A WEAKENING TROUGH MOVES ACROSS THE AREA.
Sounds like a winner -- upper level ridge, offshore gradient with sunshine and less nighttime fog. For any stretch of reasonable weather this time of year we need to be under a ridge. The offshore gradients mean that the wind will be from land to sea, rather than the other way around. This means warmer air and less chance of fog formation.
Fondest memory: The NWS zone forecast will give us some temps and wind speeds (windy can make it too cold at the beach):
WAZ001-002-005-009-212330-SAN JUAN ISLANDS - WESTERN WHATCOM COUNTY NORTHWEST INTERIOR - ADMIRALTY INLET AREA -
INCLUDING THE CITY OF...
MT VERNON - ANACORTES - OAK HARBOR - PORT TOWNSEND - FRIDAY HARBOR
415 AM PST SAT FEB 21 2004
.TODAY...MOSTLY SUNNY. PATCHY MORNING LOW CLOUDS AND FOG. HIGHS IN THE MID 50S. LIGHT WIND. .TONIGHT...BECOMING PARTLY CLOUDY. LOWS IN THE 30S. LIGHT WIND. .SUNDAY...PARTLY SUNNY. HIGHS IN THE MID 50S. LIGHT WIND
This forecast for the Whidbey Island area looks pretty good for February: sunny, mid 50s, light wind
The UW site has links to all the satellite imagery and model runs you could want. I've grabbed a chunk of the current IR image with overlaid fronts to put the preceding discussion in perspective (and have in image for this page). In it we see a nice High over Washington and very little cloud cover except some light, wispy, cirrus clouds to our south.
So it's definitely a weather window! See my Ebey's Landing page for where we went this weekend and how it turned out.
Washtingon, like BC, has some amazing scenary.. Make sure your digicam is fully charged, or that you've brought lots of film..
Fondest memory: Driving down south on my big adventure, and seeing a snow-capped Mt. Baker in the distance..
Favorite thing: Hiking in the beautiful Wenatchee range in the Central Cascade mountains was a great experience. The weather was cool and the only people we saw were bow and arrow hunters. We didn't see any elk as they were already in hiding -- they know when it's hunting season.
Fondest memory: Washington State’s Scenic Loop Highway. This 400 mile self-guided driving tour circles through the heart of Washington from the waters of Puget Sound across the Cascade Mountains and into the high desert climate of the Columbia River Valley. You will see incredible scenery, National Parks, quaint towns and enjoy diverse activities. Explore the entire Loop, or just a day’s worth! (check out with my travelogue for more informations and photos)
The OLYMPIC NATL.PARK is a very unusual place which is definitively worth to visit. Here in the north of the USA, you'll feel like if you are in a...jungle !
Huge trees and dense vegetation will make you feel really in untouched nature. Be aware that this Park is one of the wettiest place in the USA, it rains and rains and rains.
The pretty port of PORT TOWNSEND is worth to stop just to have a distant and global view of the Puget Sound (waters around Seattle area).
OLYMPIA is the state capital and that's it ! Nothing interesting except of course the Capitol.
TACOMA is a very industrial city not really great for a tourist...but on the way to Seattle.
SEATTLE is one of my favourite US cities, nice downtown, the famous Space Needle Tower where by taking the elevator (very expensive fee !) you'll have a wonderful view of Puget Sound, the city of Seattle and the bay, and by clear weather, the Mount Rainier and ajdacent mountains.
On the south-east part of Seattle Metro area, there's a huge mall (hundreds of shops) great to go if you are into this...it's located in the city of Auburn.
If you drive the Interstate 90 east of Seattle, don't miss on the way a beautiful waterfall next to Snoqualmie Pass (on the highway...).
The city of YAKIMA is the largest city inland Washington state, and is purely an industrial and mining city. There you'll find cheap motels to stay before you go to MOUNT RAINIER Natl. Park.
Mt Rainier is the highest mountain in the state and one of the highest in North America. It's all-year-round covered by snow. The Park itself is very beautiful with nice mountain views (like in Switzerland...my home country). Be careful about closing time of roads due snow.
North of Seattle is located EVERETT where you can visit the largest building in the world !!! This is actually the Boeing Plant where they make the B777 and other big ones. The visit is interesting and free but be prepared to walk a lot and don't expect to be too close from the planes due to strict security regulations (no camera..etc..). Keeping north of Seattle on the way to Canadian border, you'll find BELLINGHAM, pleasant city and last big town before you reach the border.
I recommend on the way to drive the State Road 20 to Oak Harbor going on Whitbey Island (bridge). On this road is a very very beautiful place called DECEPTION PASS which is actally a narrow arm of water. You cross the 'arm' by taking a scenic bridge very high above the sea. Walks available in the area to go down to the water edge (steep trails...). OAK HARBOR is a nice place to stop as well.
Last part of the state which I visited is the SPOKANE area. I don't know why but I fell in love with the city of SPOKANE !! I can't explain the feeling. The location is great with mountains around, the city isn't as big as Seattle, there's lots of things to do and the Columbia river running through the city with some small falls is scenic. We loved it so much that we almost thought about moving there !
The area from Spokane, east to Idaho border is full of malls, cheap accomodation (motels) and restaurants.
If you have some free time, drive north of Spokane on US2 and State Road 31 to Metaline Falls area and the Canadian border. If you like forest scenery, you'll be happy !
Fondest memory: S P O K A N E (on the picture)
Go see Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens. Definitely a before and after kind of sequence. If you have a choice see Rainier first. It will help you to appreciate what an erruption of a volcano can do to an area.
Also a must see is the Puget Sound and the towns around the 'Sound' as well as the incredibly beautiful San Juan islands in Puget Sound, where the awesome Orca 'killer whales' roam every summer.
Fondest memory: My fondest memory of Wasington State ( apart from visiting my wonderful sister Micki and her family there) was the Fourth of July parade we saw in Anacortes (town along the eastern coast of Puget Sound). The celebration there was very simple, the usual small town celebration...BUT the climax of the parade was when several of the Senior Citizens from a local 'rest home, or convalescant home' were wheeled along in the parade by their cheerful aids in wheelchairs that were decorated with red, white and blue and flags everywhere. They got the BIGGEST cheer of the parade, as they 'performed a parade 'pinwheel' maneuver for the crowd of onlookers. It did my family good to see the more mature residents treated with such trespect and affection. You can tell Anacortes is a very special community.
If you are a sailor or just like sailboats you have to take in the Whidbey Is. Race week in Oak Harbour it is a must.
The scuba diving is great and the Penn Cove muscles are mouth watering.
Fondest memory: My fondest memory is XXX rated but my second fondest memory was each year my buddies and I charter a 38' power boat in Vancouver Canada. We would cruse down to Seattle up through the locks and into Lake Union power around Lake Washington moore the yacht out side of a restaraunt where we could enjoy good food great music and dancing and party the night away.
Every May 24th. Sorry I don't know the name of the restaraunt we always get there from the water and don't see the sign.
Go to the ocean beaches. Then drive east until you hit Idaho. Until you do that, you will have no clue as to what kind of place Washington STATE is.
Fondest memory: The mountains and the water are what make Washington STATE special. There are only a few places that you can't find one or the other, unlike many states that don't have either one!
Favorite thing: Notice that many buildings in downtown Seattle have below streetlevel floors. In 1928, street levels were raised and a seawall was built to save the town from 12 foot high tides.
Hike the cascade pass. It is a beautiful hike that can be completed by all levels of hikers. The reward for your labors is a beautiful view of a valley and beyond!
Fondest memory: Taking the ferry to Olympic National park and seeing whales in the channel.
Favorite thing: Olympic National Park has some 50 miles of wilderness beaches, and while most are out-of-the-way, Second is relatively easy to reach via a 0.75-mile hike through Sitka spruce and hemlock rain forest from the town of La Push.
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