Our Trip To Washington, June 2005

by Michelle Erica Green

We flew out of BWI, managed to finagle two seats together in row 13 and two seats together in row 24, so our kids were nearly half a plane away from us -- they insisted on sitting together because the Game Boy wireless adapter wouldn't work so many rows apart, and I was thankful for small favors. Then we had a layover for awhile in Chicago, our old stomping ground, and walked around O'Hare for awhile before boarding the next leg of the flight where we were only separated by one row and an aisle. It was a turbulent flight for about half an hour -- not in the emotional sense but in the plane-shaking-all-over sense -- but otherwise also uneventful, with gorgeous views of an oxbow on the Snake River and the Cascades, then Mount Rainier and the Space Needle as we came in. Once we finally had our luggage and our rental car we came to the hotel and took the boys to the pool (which had been the bribe to get them to behave all day).

Sunday our plan was to sleep in, but the hotel only served breakfast till 9, so since we were up and fed and ready to go at 9:30 we went to the celebration for Paul's grandmother's 90th birthday at her church. Clair is the oldest of five children, though Bill passed away a few years ago and his widow Linda could not attend; Granny lives with middle daughter Jean and her husband Bob, so they were there -- along with Clair's youngest sister Nadine; Jean and Bob's son Craig and his wife Lisa; Jean and Bob's daughter-in-law Stephanie and children Zack, Eli and Megan, though Stephanie's husband, Jean and Bob's son Todd, was managing the minor league baseball team The Boise Hawks and could not get away; Paul's youngest brother Jon, his wife Brooke and their twins Holden and Noah; and Clair and Cinda and the four of us (middle brother David and his wife Molly had just opened Madeleine Bistro in L.A. so neither of them nor their children Noelle, Maddie and Lukas were there).

Click here for photos from Bothell.

Then we went downtown and met my friend Chris, whom I last saw at the Seattle Zoo two years ago. This time we went to the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, something Paul and I have wanted to see since it opened! There were unfortunately no photos allowed inside -- it's housed in the infamous Experience Music Project complex, one of the most interesting buildings I have ever seen, which people either adore or utterly loathe and which is also the brainchild of Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen. Fortunately for us less wealthy geeks, Allen is a rabid Star Trek fan and had amassed a phenomenal collection including Shatner's and Nimoy's uniforms, Kirk's chair from the bridge, a host of phasers, communicators, bat'leths, etc.

The book collection is also wonderful, and there's an interactive starship exhibit where the kids made numerous famous vessels fly by one another (the Enterprise, Moya, E.T.'s ship and an X-wing all together!), plus at least a dozen other video screens including a round one near the entrance that shows clips from dozens of movies and TV shows; a discussion of the worlds of The Matrix, The Jetsons and Blade Runner by film critics; interviews with writers about zines and fandom; a Lost in Space episode; Spielberg discussing alien tech; Cameron discussing Aliens; and I can't even remember what else, but these are interspersed among various costumes, weapons, movie posters and stills, props, plus the entire enormous alien from Alien vs. Predator, a full-size stormtrooper, Robby the Robot, Schwarzenegger's Terminator costume, Fonda's Barbarella gun and far more besides than I can recall at the moment. There's quite a decent collection of SF by women, which pleases me, and a curious history of SF timeline with world events.

The kids had wanted to play in the International Fountain, but it was turned off for repairs (and it was a cool gorgeous day besides) so after lunch at a food court -- the usual chaos where everyone wanted to eat something from a different stall -- we walked over to the fountain, which is in a courtyard between the city ballet and the Key Arena where the Supersonics and WNBA champion Storm play. Then we said farewell to Chris and went back to the hotel so the kids could swim for awhile before the dinner barbecue in honor of Granny, attended by all the relatives in town. Jean and Bob have a big house with a good-sized yard so the kids could run around without getting into things, and when it started to rain late in the evening, the kids went down the basement to play Xbox and Transformers while the adults sat around talking!

Click here for photos from Seattle.

We had breakfast Tuesday morning with Cinda, Clair, Brooke, Jon, Holden and Noah, then said goodbye and drove to the ferry from Edmonds to Kingston, which we took across Puget Sound to the Olympic Peninsula. The ride was lovely and too short: we barely had time to explore the ferry, which has two levels of observation lounges above the cars, before we had to get back to the car to drive off. We went first to the Olympic National Park Visitor's Center in Port Angeles, then we drove up Hurricane Ridge to the visitor's center at the top, where we had lunch overlooking Mount Olympus and a host of other glacier-topped mountains. On the way up we saw a deer drinking from one of the many small waterfalls trickling through the pillow lava. From there we drove to Madison Falls by the Elwha River, a waterfall deep among evergreens. Not far past the exit to the national park, a tree had fallen across the road, and we and several other travelers all stopped and worked to clear it; fortunately one of the campers had an axe, and it wasn't one of the enormous evergreens of the Olympic National Forest! The road to Sol Duc went past Lake Crescent, a bright turquoise glacial lake surrounded by lupines and dozens of other wildflowers and birds.

Click here for photos of water on the Olympic Peninsula.

At Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort we checked in to our cottage and went to the pool complex, which in addition to a large swimming pool has three hot spring pools ranging from about 100 to nearly 105 degrees and smelling strongly of sulfur. We were advised not to spend more than 20 minutes in the hot springs but none of us lasted even that long, going to swim instead in the 81-degree swimming pool that looked up at the nearby hills. It was a cool evening and we got back in the hot pools before washing off and coming back for dinner in the cottage -- they all come equipped with picnic tables and plenty of room to barbecue, and the store in the resort had a wide variety of desserts. In the evening, since the sky doesn't get dark until after 10 at this time of year, we took a hike to Sol Duc Falls, a two-mile walk in the woods. There were enormous evergreens all around and a great many birds including ravens, robins and some kind of shiny dark blue western jay, though to my sorrow we did not see a marmot, just chipmunk.

Wednesday after breakfast in Sol Duc we drove to Rialto Beach on the Pacific Ocean, after a short wait for a mountain goat to cross the road going through the deep woods. At the shore we saw the sea stacks that used to be the Washington coastline back before it was Washington, and walked along the driftwood, which in this part of the country means "enormous downed spruce and red alder trees that form a barrier along the beach." We wanted to walk closer to the sea stacks and the rocks were slippery, so I took off my shoes to walk in the ocean and ended up getting soaked above the knees since the tide was coming in. After rummaging in the suitcase for dry pants and eating a picnic lunch near the driftwood, we drove through another part of the Olympic National Forest, where we saw lots of logging trucks and sections that had obviously been stripped in the past, but also signs identifying how often each area had been harvested, when it had last been harvested and replanted and when the current trees were due to be harvested. I really should know more about this and what it does to the soil, the risk of fire, the undergrowth and the erosion patterns, but there were none of the big empty areas I feared like we have seen elsewhere -- just sections of younger trees that had obviously been planted around the same time in between the big, mature trees.

Click here for photos of rainforests and trees on the Olympic Peninsula.

We went after lunch to the Hoh Rainforest, where many of the trees are nearly 500 years old and the ecosystem is extremely carefully preserved -- backcountry campers are not even allowed to take a dump in the woods without taking their droppings with them. The trees there are hanging with moss, ferns and epiphytes that live on the moisture in the air, so very little sunlight gets through even when it's not dripping (of course we had rain in the mountains and sunshine in the rainforest). We did not get to see any flying squirrels -- nor elk, from which the ranger station was warning everyone to stay away as they recently reproduced and have been attacking perceived threats to their offspring -- but we saw quail, some kind of black rodent crossing the road and assorted beetles, slugs and whiny flies. None of my photos do any justice at all to the size and shape of the Sitka spruce and Douglas fir trees in this spectacular region.

Click here for photos of animals on the Olympic Peninsula.

We spent the evening in Forks in a motel that wasn't nearly as scenic as our cottage in Sol Duc but had separate bedrooms with three queen-sized beds, plus a big living room, a full kitchen with stove and microwave and a bathroom that was off a hallway so what it lacked in glamour it made up for in space. It also had a little pool, which, again, while not as exciting as hot springs was enough to keep the kids happy for an hour, and for me, internet-capable phone jacks. We cooked macaroni and cheese and watched a little baseball before going to bed early so that we could fit in both Olympic Peninsula beaches and Tacoma tall ships the next day.

Click here for photos of mountains on the Olympic Peninsula.

In the morning we left Forks and drove to Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park, so named because of bits of garnet in among the sand, though it was overcast and looked pretty uniformly brown to us. We walked to where Cedar Creek turns to spill out in the Pacific Ocean, found banana slugs (and black foreign invader slugs) on driftwood in the trees leading to the shore and looked out at Destruction Island, so named because it was historically bad news for ships despite its lighthouse. Again I took my shoes off to wade over some rocks to the tidepools and got wetter than I expected, though it was worth it as there were starfish and anemones as well as mussels, snails and barnacles all over. We made a quick visit to the Kalaloch ranger station and big cedar in the woods near there, then had lunch at July Creek on Lake Quinault which involved a short walk through a rainforest. Then we went for what we expected to be a short walk but ended up being a strenuous hike to the Big Sitka spruce tree on the Quinault Indian Reservation, deep in the woods and requiring a sharp vertical ascent. That trip also allowed us to see our biggest banana slug yet.

It was a nearly three hour drive to Tacoma, where the opening ceremony of the tall ships festival had taken place at noon. I was sorry to have missed it but Dock Street was undoubtedly far less crowded and we had no trouble parking in the lot by the train station for the Museum of Glass. The museum closed soon after we arrived but there was a beautiful display by Dale Chihuly in cases along the bridge that crossed the highway to the marina. There were at least 20 gorgeous tall ships that we saw, unfortunately from a distance because they wouldn't be open for visitors until the next day, but they included Lady Washington (which played the Interceptor in Pirates of the Caribbean which is where the kids know her from), the Russian Pallada and the Mexican Navy's Cuauhtemoc which we had seen at Sailabration Baltimore 2004.

Click here for photos of Tall Ships Tacoma.

After walking the mile and a quarter or so along the docks, we drove to our hotel, stopping at McDonald's for dinner so the kids would have time to digest and swim before bed. The opening ceremony of Tall Ships Tacoma was on the news so we watched that for awhile as we packed for the flight home. In the morning we had breakfast in the hotel, then set off on the longest day of travel of my life. The flight from Seattle to Denver was uneventful: we had a lovely view of Mount Rainier taking off and of the Rockies coming down, then we walked around the airport shops and did some shopping. Several hours late, we boarded our plane...and sat for over two hours while various aspects of the cooling system were investigated. Finally the flight was cancelled, and we spent another couple of hours waiting for United to issue hotel vouchers, shuttle bus vouchers, etc. We had our fifteenth anniversary dinner at the McDonalds in Denver International Airport, because it was 9 p.m. by the time we got through the line and that was all that was open.

Click here for photos from planes and of airports.

After less than five hours' sleep at a Ramada about as far geographically from the airport as I can imagine one can stay and still be in Colorado, we woke at 4 a.m. to go back and wait for our 7 a.m. flight. This one was delayed as well, as there weren't enough flight attendants until one who had been flying all night on a flight from Alaska agreed to work our flight. We finally landed at BWI around 3 p.m. and drove home with both kids fast asleep in the back seat.