Saturday, August 30, 2014

Hell on Wheels Twitter Roundup

It's been a busy summer for the Hell on Wheels cast and crew! They're currently filming season 4 around Calgary, and I've JUST started watched season 3. It took forever for the library to stock it, then I had to get in the queue. It started off a bit slow, but it's picking up the pace by episode 4. My favourite thing about it is the Alberta scenery, I think. And Eva is my favourite character. It's fun to keep an eye on Twitter and see what they're up to, even if there are minor spoilers.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Washington State 2014

For our holiday in 2012, we went to Seattle, and this year we decided to visit some other places in Washington, based totally on where KOAs are located. First up was Lynden, which has what's probably the most beautiful campground I've ever been to. The campsites are in a ring around a large pond, which makes it feel more open and spread out. The people of Lynden are some of the friendliest I've ever seen - if you go into a store, EVERYONE wants to help you, and you don't have to play 'hunt for an employee' the way you do in Calgary!

The best thing is that Lynden is only 30 minutes from the coast, a little community called Birch Bay, which has lots of public beach access as well as a state park. We got delicious sandwiches from the Lynden bakery, and spent a day at Birch Bay. It's really beautiful - it reminds me so much of my favourite beach, Rathtrevor Provincial Park on Vancouver Island. The view from Birch Bay, on a clear day, is of BC's Gulf Islands, that's how close it is to Canada.

Birch Bay at low tide

Birch Bay with the tide in

At Birch Bay

Birch Bay State Park

After a couple of nights in Lyden, we headed south, hitting our favourite outlet mall, Seattle Premium Outlets, on the way. I love it because you walk around outdoors, in shady breezeways, so I don't get a headache from florescent lights the way I do in regular malls. And I scored a pair of TARDIS earrings from Hot Topic, which was very exciting. We also took a slight detour for Krispy Kreme.

On the Kingston-Edmonds ferry from just north of Seattle over to the Olympic Peninsula

Taking the Kingston-Edmonds ferry cuts out having to drive all the way south of Seattle to connect to the Olympic Peninsula. It was only a 20-minute crossing, and unlike BC Ferries, it wasn't expensive at all, and saved on a lot of gas.

There's a KOA located half-way between Port Angeles and Sequim. It's under new management, and you can tell the old management was letting it get run down, but the new owners are working on fixing it up. First they assigned us a TERRIBLE site, but they were great about letting us move to a less-trafficked area of the campground. Putting a tent on a tiny site at the convergence of three roads, right beside the main office/bathrooms is not a quiet way to spend the better part of the week...but the second site was big, green, and most importantly, quiet.

Now I had, rather naively, as it turns out, thought that we would be surrounded by beaches, seeing as how we were surrounded by ocean, and based on how many beaches there had been around Seattle. That turned out to not be the case, and we spent three days pursing my dream of sitting quietly on a beach, reading.

Dungeness Spit, near Sequim, Washington

I had seen that Dungeness Spit was a long peninsula sticking out into the ocean, and that there was a wildlife sanctuary there, so we headed there after church on the Sunday, our first full day there. Alas, you had to pay a fee to hike what was an approximately 9K trail each way, with no beach. As you can see from the photo above, the Spit has sheer cliffs. So, no beach there, although very beautiful scenery. I ended up just reading at the campground that day.

I was also surprised by how small Port Angeles is. Since there's a large ferry that goes to and from Victoria, I was expecting to find a city of a similar size. Alas, PA doesn't even have a Target. So we did the historical walking tour. PA has a history similar to Seattle's in that they had to raise the city because of issues with tides and sewage. They don't have as extensive an underground as Seattle, but there were some bits of it in the tour. The guide was really great and knowledgeable. The other two couples on the same tour, all older Americans, were slightly entertaining. The couple from Jersey had never heard of Alberta ("Oh, it's in Canada! That's why I've never heard of it!") and the couple who had been to Banff exclaimed not over our pristine mountain scenery...but over the cleanliness of the public bathrooms.

Mural in downtown Port Angeles, a stop on the walking tour

This very cool mural is of a ferry called the Kalakala, built in the 1930s. The artist is Cory Ench, and he did several murals around PA. The mural has an optical illusion that makes it looks like the ferry is moving as you cross the parking lot, and it looks like an airship, so it was worth the stop.

The underground bits of the tour were interesting, including a massive two-walled mural in what used to be an underground mini golf, but there was no way I could get a decent shot of it. There's one wall here and one wall here, though. The tour wound up in what's now a shoe store, but used to be a brothel, and we got to go upstairs and check out all the vintage detritus lurking in the dusty corners. That was my favourite part. I love Old Stuff. :) This lady's got some really good photos on her blog, including of the old theatre which we didn't get to see because it's closed on Mondays.

Port Angeles' octopus

Port Angeles' real live octopus at the Feiro Marine Life Center

PA has a little aquarium called the Feiro, much smaller than Seattle's, but it had some interesting critters.

Nudibranchs, otherwise known as sea slugs, at the Feiro Marine Life Center

I've been fascinated by nudibranchs ever since National Geographic did a special on them a few years back, and I've never seen any in real life before. They're also known as sea slugs, for obvious reasons.

On Ediz Hook by Port Angeles

PA has a long spit you can drive out on, and at the very end there's a coast guard station. Unfortunately, it was far too open and windy to sit and read, but we did see an Osprey landing and taking off from the station. It's a very cool aircraft, because it can land and take off like a helicopter, but then once it's in the air it can re-position the propellers and fly like a plane.

An Osprey taking off from the Port Angeles coast guard station

On the Tuesday, we went into the national park to hike one of the trails from Crescent Lake. We chose the Marymere Falls trail, and it was beautiful. 

Marymere Falls

Then we were off to a beach - or so we thought. I had read about Salt Creek Recreation Area, which in addition to being on the waterfront, had some old military bunkers and a campground. I just assumed there was a beach there, but there wasn't, just more cliffs.

View from former Camp Hayden

We did drive by a beautiful long crescent-shaped white sand beach - but it was privately owned by an RV park and only guests could use it! I don't think you can own beaches in Canada? I was pretty disappointed! Not to mention the fact that our Garmin seems to have a thing for the scenic route rather than the straightforward one, so by this point it was getting late in the afternoon.

Finally we ended up at this boat launch, which had a tiny strip of beach on either side of it. It had some good beach combing, and later on we saw otters.

Otters at Freshwater Bay boat launch

On Wednesday, our final full day in the PA area, I finally found my favourite place in Washington. It's called Port Townsend, and it's by Fort Worden State Park. It was about an hour from where we were camping, so it was a trek for just a day, but oh my...

The mini castle at Fort Worden

The main feature of Fort Worden, beside the beach, is Artillery Hill, which is mazed with hiking trials that loop around the old artillery placements. There are also several small museums, and did I mention the beach? They have a campground, and many of the old homes and military dorms are now available as vacation rentals. We didn't even have time to get to the museums, or explore charming and historic downtown Port Townsend. Sign me up for a return trip!!!

Military decay at Fort Worden

Deer crossing

At the top of Artillery Hill

Mount Baker from the top of Fort Worden's Artillery Hill

The beach is everything a beach should be. Long and white, with great views, and lots of nice clean bathrooms. We had to pay $10 for parking, but I was totally ok with that.

Fort Worden State Park beach

At Fort Worden beach, you can see Mount Baker to the left...
...and Mount Rainier to the right!

We grabbed some lunch at the Chinese restaurant in Port Townsend, which is just so charming. In fact, the town and the state park remind me irresistably of a much smaller, more American version of Halifax and its Citadel Hill, which might be one of the reasons I feel so drawn to it.

Port Townsend

Port Townsend

And that was the end of our adventures in Washington. Thursday morning we packed up and caught the Coho to Victoria. I lived in Victoria for years, and I was born on the island, so it was a nice feeling of going sort of home.

On the Coho, heading back to Canada

Eating Ivar's clam chowder on the Coho

Ivar's is a really excellent Seattle-area chain of fast seafood, which I highly recommend...

We won't be going back to the States next summer, but hopefully in 2016 I will get to spend more time in Port Townsend/Fort Worden!

That wasn't the end of my summer adventures though - last weekend I went to a local reader con, and this week I'm off to visit my family in NS, so hopefully there will be more adventures coming here soon!