In July, 2019 we flew out to Seattle for a 10 day trip with four very different objectives. Initially we went to visit an old friend and his wife who live on Bainbridge Island. Then we drove to Mt. Rainier National Park for 3 nights of hiking after which we drove to Leavenworth, WA for 4 nights at the triannual CYTYC family reunion. We then drove back to Seattle to spend 4 nights on the San Juan Islands north of the city before flying home.

Bainbridge Island

The ferry ride from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island is a nice way to see part of the beautiful harbor, especially on a nice summer day. We were lucky to have excellent weather almost every day so Mt. Rainier was easily visible from the ferry. We visited Mark Shaffer, an old high school friend who lives on a small farm on Bainbridge with his wife Susan. They are both avid out-doorsman and have an amazing garden of many different species of trees and vegetables. It is incredible that weeds do not grow on this island! 😉 We spent a day driving up to the Port Townsend area where we visited the small but very well-done oceanarium, the Point Wilson lighthouse and had a nice dinner in Port Townsend at the Alchemy Bistro and Wine Bar.

Mt. Rainier from the ferry to Bainbridge Island. This was shot with a telephoto lens (400 mm), which magnifies the apparent size of the background mountain.

Tall trees on Bainbridge Island. Many, if not most, of these trees were planted by Mark and Susan in their back yard.

Point Wilson lighthouse with Mt. Baker in the background. Lens compression with a telephoto lens makes the mountain seem larger (compare with next photo).

Point Wilson Lighthouse with Mt. Baker framed in background with wide angle lens.

Light and shadow

Two boats…

Relaxing in their beautiful garden

Mt. Rainier National Park

We then drove down to Mt. Rainier NP where we had reserved an Airbnb near Ashford, which is just outside the south entrance. We took day hikes, each day exploring a different part of the park. As I mentioned earlier, we had good weather on most days. About 20 years ago we had hiked in the same park with our kids but never saw the peak of Mt. Rainier until we flew back home and saw it peaking out over the clouds from the airplane. This time we saw it from all different directions. We were also there when the wildflowers were out, perhaps not the peak but pretty good, especially the bear grass.

A surprising find just outside the entrance to the park from Ashford was a Tibetan restaurant, called the Wildberry Restaurant, with delicious Tibetan cuisine. The owner of the restaurant, Lhakpa Gelu, is a famous Sherpa guide who has the fastest ascent of Mt. Everest on his resume. In the restaurant there are pictures of him on his climbs as well as his complete climbing clothes and gear. He is retired from being a Himalayan Sherpa and guides climbers on Mt. Rainier. In addition he runs an expedition/trekking company called Adventure Ascents which guides climbs in Nepal, Tibet, Alaska, etc. It was such a surprise to find a genuine Tibetan restaurant in this location.

South view of Mt. Rainier from the Paradise area

An avalanche of lilies

South face of Mt. Rainier at sunset from the Kautz Creek area

South view of Mt. Rainier from Paradise area

Indian paintbrush

Bear grass

A hillside of bear grass

Bear grass and Mt. Rainier

A nice place for lunch

Mt. Rainier peeking through the clouds

Rainier panorama

Glaciers at the peak

A chipmunk surveys his domain

Mt. Rainier at Reflection Lakes

South side of Mt. Rainier at sunset from the Myrtle Falls hike at Paradise.

Northeast face of Mt. Rainier and the White River canyon

Northeast face of Mt. Rainier from Emmons Vista

CYTYC reunion at Leavenworth, WA

The ostensible reason for coming to Seattle was to attend the triannual CYTYC reunion held at the Sleeping Lady Resort. This year was CYTYC X, as the first one was in 1993 in Asilomar, CA. This year there were 69 attendees from all over the country

Here’s the final group picture of the whole group.

Whidbey Island with Richard and Grace

We drove back to Seattle with Richard and Grace and spent one night at an Airbnb on Whidbey Island with them. Before boarding the ferry to Whidbey Island we also toured the Boeing aircraft factory and “Future of Flight” tour at Everett, WA. Actually the plant is in the small town of Mukilteo which is also the departure point for the ferry to Whidbey Island. We were there on a Sunday afternoon so there wasn’t that much work going on. The tour is very interesting, especially if you are an engineer, and gives you a good sense of the complexity of those aircraft though you are quite a distance from the work itself. Such a tour also gives you a sense of how many things can go wrong, though the tour didn’t emphasize that aspect. There was no mention of the troubles with the 737 Max, which is built at a different facility. It would be interesting to hear what the company line on that controversy is. You are not allowed to take pictures during the factory tour, understandably. You can get an idea of what it’s like at the Boeing on-line link

After lunch at one of the many Ivar’s seafood restaurants, we took the ferry to Whidbey and checked into our very comfortable Airbnb, which was not far from Clinton, the town where the ferry lands. Our dinner experience was unexpected, and good. We got a few recommendations from our host and also I had looked up a few places on-line beforehand. But it was a Sunday night and all of the places were either full or had very long waits. So we drove around a bit hoping to come upon something and there began to be talk about stopping at a pizza joint or getting take out. Anyway we happened to see a sign for the Freeland cafe and lounge, which has a very unpretentious retro 1950s diner look to it. I don’t think any of us were very optimistic about the place, but we were sort of out of options. Well, it turned out that the mussels and clams were excellent. The waiter said the mussels were from a town nearby. Richard and Grace had just been on an extended tour of Italy with their family and apparently Richard told his kids that the mussels were better than anything they had in Italy.

My original plan was to drive back to Clinton the next morning as Richard and Grace had to catch a flight out of Seattle in the early evening. However, while we were on the ferry, we saw a limo that advertised rides from Whidbey Island to the Seattle airport directly. This seemed like a much better deal since they wouldn’t have to deal with getting a taxi or Uber from the ferry to the train station to catch the light rail to the airport. It also gave us a chance to explore the island a bit before they had to depart. So they made reservations for the limo for a pickup on the northern end of the island, where we had to be to catch our ferry onward to San Juan Island. So we drove slowly north, stopping at the Whidbey lighthouse and a couple other places along the way. The only wrinkle in the plan was that we were not aware that the pickup point they had chosen was on a Naval airbase to which we were not allowed access.. So they hurriedly arranged for another pickup point. This was a good situation for having cell phones. After they were picked up by the limo, Lil and I headed north to Anacortes to catch the ferry for San Juan Island.

Breakfast at the Airbnb

Young bald eagle resting near the Whidbey lighthouse


Driftwood city

Mt. Baker from the Anacortes harbor

San Juan Island

After dropping off Grace and Richard at the pickup for the shuttle to SEATAC, we continued over the bridge at Deception Pass State Park on the way to Anacortes since we had a reservation for a ferry ride to San Juan Island. The ferry system of Washington State is well organized and very efficient. Since we arrived at the ferry stop early, we decided to have  dinner at a small seafood diner in Anacortes rather than waiting to eat after the 45 minute ferry ride and check in at the Airbnb which was located a bit outside of the main town of Friday Harbor

 The next morning we got up bright and early for a guided kayaking tour. Since Lil didn’t want to go on a day-long tour, we did the morning tour, which only explored North Bay on the east side of the island rather than the west side where the chances of seeing Orcas were much higher. But as it turned out there was little hope of seeing an Orca on this tour since this summer has been a terrible one for spotting the resident Southern pod that usually frequent the Juan de Fuca Strait on the western side of the island. So our kayaking trip was pretty underwhelming though we did see a few sea lions at a great distance.

We had hoped to see some Orcas from San Juan Island since Lime Kiln State Park is reputed to be the best place in the world to see whales from land. There are of course many whale watching boats that operate out of the area but it has become controversial whether the presence of boats is detrimental to the welfare of the whales. In the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the western side of San Juan Island there is a very deep channel just off shore so that Orcas can usually be seen without going out in a boat. There are three pods of Orcas that make up the so-called Southern resident pods which usually spend their summer months in the area hunting the chinook salmon. However, this year 2019 the Southern resident pods were absent: at the Lime Kiln lighthouse they keep a calendar with all of the whale sightings for each day and almost all of the entries for this year were zeroes. Apparently this is unprecedented.

So while looking for Orcas, we did see a few porpoises and a seal in the water off shore of the lighthouse at Lime Kiln Park. At the Fourth of July beach, there was a great blue heron that I watched catching a fish and then flying away.

On our last night we took the ferry from San Juan Island back to Anacortes and booked a night in a farm stay near Anacortes. The Airbnb had a herd of big horn cattle which were impressive and a nice view from our bedroom.

Gull from the ferry

Lime Kiln State Park lighthouse

No Orcas, but a small porpoise glides by.

Blow up of the porpoise fin.

Kayakers and porpoise from Lime Kiln State Park

Great Blue Heron with lunch


Leopard seal near Lime Kiln lighthouse

Ferry departure from Friday Harbor

Resident seal in Anacortes Harbor

Bidding Mt. Ranier adieu from the airplane

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