Part I: Seattle

August 7th

Before we reach Alaska we spend a few days in Seattle. I have been planning to visit the Pacific Northwest for a while and see an old college friend, Anton, and this trip presented a perfect opportunity. Seattle is usually rainy but we arrive to a beautiful sunny evening. Just by looking out of the plane window as we descend to Seattle airport I cannot help thinking how green it is in contrast with agricultural Midwest or industrial East Coast, no wonder Seattle is called “the Emerald City.” We finally arrive and after meeting Anton decide to bypass all the tourist attractions and instead just explore the Fremont neighborhood and the local eateries. On our first night in town we go out for dinner at a local Belgian bar, where I order duck spread and a soup, both delicious, and then on the way back stop by the Lenin’s statute unassumingly standing at one of the intersections. And no there are no communist party headquarters nearby.

The following morning Gilad gets up early for a workout just down the street from the house and Anton and I discuss the plans for the day. We settle on a day trip to Mt. Rainier National Park and an evening get together with Anton’s friends at a local bar.  There are several National Parks in the Washington state with Mt. Rainier and Olympic being the most famous ones. Given Olympic is a bit further away and we only have one full day to explore, I pick a trail in Mt. Rainier going up to Camp Muir, which is a base camp at about 10,000 feet for anyone climbing to the summit. Before the trip I looked into options to do a summit climb but it required a permit and all the organized tours were booked. I am by no means an experienced mountaineer but Mt. Rainier is one of the easier climbs that can be done in one day and is a good place to try the sport out.

Mt. Rainier weather, as any mountain region weather, is completely unpredictable, It can be sunny one moment and the next second you would be stumbling through a snow storm at higher elevations. Luckily on the day of our visit  the weather is beautiful, sunny and warm, even too warm for the steep uphill trail. Only after walking for a couple hours through wildflower meadows does the trail rise above the clouds and it becomes noticeably cooler. The trail to Camp Muir is steep and narrow but doable without any equipment  and only traverses little snow patches here and there until you pass the creek and get to a large snow field, which is a last obstacle on the way to the camp. The snowfield is massive and ultimately proves too steep and icy for us to continue without using crampons. We stop the hike at the snowfield but at least we get to do a couple downhill slides on the snow that are especially fun to do in the middle of the summer!

The way back is all downhill and takes only half the time. We rarely stop except to take a couple of marmot shots feeding on wildflowers next to the trail or posing on the rocks. Just minutes from the trailhead, we see an elk grazing on the opposite side of the creek and several chipmunks begging for food. We finally return to the visitor center and start the drive back to town. Perhaps next time we are in the area and have better equipment, we can attempt to get all the way to the Camp but even the 6-7 mile hike accomplished this time is absolutely beautiful.

Mt Rainier

Back in downtown we get two crepes at the street stand and then join Anton’s friends at a German pub for late night drinks.  The following morning we grab a couple sandwiches at a famous Caribbean sandwich joint Paseos requiring us to brave a 20+ person line and eating a tasty giant most messy sandwich ever. We then take a short walk to take a tour of the Theo chocolate factory filling the air in the vicinity with a pleasant chocolaty smell. Theo is a brand of organic fair trade chocolate and their factory is quite small compared to chocolate giants like Hershy’s but their factory store has the best sample variety. We consider driving to one of the state beaches to see the ocean but with just a short time left before our evening flight to Anchorage, we go straight to the airport.

We leave Seattle behind as the city lights disappear from the aircraft window and the plane continues on in the darkness with only wooded Canadian landscape beneath us. While we only spent a few days in the city we enjoyed our visit, especially the food part. Just the diversity of cafes and restaurants alone was impressive and we never had a bad meal as opposed to hit or miss restaurants around the East Coast.

Three more hours to Anchorage..

 

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