Category: U.S. Pacific Northwest


Pike Place market bench

It’s no easier to imagine Seattle without the Pike Place Market than without the Space Needle, but in 1963 private interests came close to demolishing the 56-year-old structure to build in its place a complex of office buildings, apartments, and a hockey arena.

They were prevented by the intervention of a group of public-spirited citizens who succeeded in having the Market designated an historic preservation zone and returning it to public ownership.

A restoration of the Market’s historic buildings in succeeding years honors the original 1907 blueprints and building materials, and the Market is now 105 years old.

Late in the morning of this August Sunday it feels to me like tourists outnumber locals among the shoppers and browsers. The crowd is packed to just this side of discomfort.

No red meat here!

The waterfront is tightly woven into the character of this place.

Waterfront dining

Through windows behind the stalls and restaurants on the Puget Sound side of the market, giant wharf cranes tower above ocean-going freighters and ferries churn up wakes.

Flying fish

Just inside the market I see a continuously restaged performance of fish-tossing at the Pike Place Fish Company.    A hefty whole fish flies through the air for twenty feet with neither pitcher nor catcher losing a grip on the slippery missile.  I’m sure there was a time when fish was routinely off-loaded from boats in this fashion, but these days it seems mostly a tourist spectacle. (Photo below; just in front of the green banner at 1 o’clock!)

Eat it here!

It’s a particularly colorful market.

Incomparable cut flowers

Neon signs of classic design point the way to stalls and restaurants, and brightly colored produce and flowers seem also to be painted from an electric palette.

There’s great neon everywhere

This market, though, is as much about artisan crafts and artisan foods as about fresh fish and produce.

Artisan pastas

There are foods to tempt any gourmet.

Hand-crafted wooden cutting boards

There are arts and crafts in just about every imaginable medium.  Some of the works are artful twists on useful items. Others are a bit more fanciful.  Most of them can bring a smile to any face.

Cigar-box guitars

Totem pole just outside the market

 

I pop out into the outdoors near the tallest totem pole I’ve ever seen, thinking I’ve run out of market before I realize that there’s plenty also happening in specialty shops and restaurants on the opposite side of the street.

I’m reeled in by a shop specializing in flavor-infused oils and linger long enough for a tasting of truffle oil.  It’s decadently delicious.

Native American street musician

No public gathering is complete without live entertainment, and street musicians here run the gamut.

Street musician across from the Market

My favorite, though, is a very entertaining guy who plays the guitar behind his back while also playing a harmonica and twirling a hoola-hoop!

It must be time for a latté because this is, after all, Seattle, and there are more espresso machines within a couple of blocks than stop signs.

The next morning I fly out of Sea-Tac still flush with the memory of 10 fantastic summer days in the Pacific Northwest and I promise myself that this won’t be the last visit.

Read the other two posts from this trip to the Pacific Northwest:

Portland’s Alberta Street

Magnificent Mount Rainier

Etched glass bus stop shelter on Alberta Street

Before I begin four days of camping and hiking around Mt. Rainier I head to Portland, Oregon for the weekend, catching Amtrak’s Cascades train just a stone’s throw from Sea-Tac airport.

Artist with flowered hat on Alberta Street

The trip takes a bit more than 3 hours, the train is spacious and clean, and the route winds through great forest and waterfront scenery, ending in gem of a train station that’s right out of a ‘40’s movie.

“Art On Alberta” trailer studio

The first thing that hits me is how green it is here.  More shades of emerald green than anywhere else, speckled in August by the blooms of flowers and wildflowers.

The second thing is that there’s an economy to the layout of this town.  Almost no part of it much more than 20 minutes from any other, and the local light rail and bus service sets a standard.

The third thing is that Portland is an uplifting example of a community which has so passionately embraced the values of community, diversity, and sustainability that they’re woven into the fabric of the place.

To say that Portland is pedestrian-and-cycle-friendly is a gross understatement. This weekend there’s also a bicycle event that routes 20,000 local cyclists back and forth across every bridge that joins the city across the Willamette River, where windsurfers scoot along the river’s surface.

Jubilantly recycling!

There are more great neighborhoods, microbreweries, and wineries than I can possibly see in a weekend, but it’s my good luck to arrive during the annual Alberta Street Festival, which promises to pack as much of Portland as possible into a single event.

Wall mural

Muslim henna tatoo artist

This is not your typical neighborhood street fair. Originality rules here, and along the entire 20-block midway no two of anything is alike, with plenty of it likely to be seen absolutely nowhere else.

Co-op grocery

It’s hard to escape the feeling that the best of the ‘60’s counter-culture lives on here, if updated for the new century.

Faux flowers on sidewalk tree

The aura of jubilation here is nothing if not mellow, a celebration of an historic neighborhood revived and reinvented and a harmonious community.

People of every persuasion mingle comfortably and unaffectedly, and no age group seems to be unrepresented.

Black Cat Café

There are plenty of coffeehouses and taverns stocked with microbrews.

Caffé Vita

Bug-headed balloon sculptor

There’s hardly a block without some kind of street performer, and they run the gamut from jugglers to musicians.

Street musician quartet

Street jugglers

Island food truck

The foodservice here is nothing if not electic. Great eats from international cuisine to American comfort food is offered in everything from sit-down restaurants to food trucks.

The Grilled Cheese Gril

Pedi-cabbie

Pedi-cab taxis are are about as “green” as you can get!

Gargoyle…. purse not included

Vintage clothing and furnishings scream “recycle me” from resale shop windows

Art lamp chandeliers

Art and crafts in wood, leather, glass begs for a closer look at every corner, and the artists and artisans are engaged in animated conversations with passers-by.

You don’t have to be a shop-a-holic to end up buying something to take home.

Box-banjo player

Quirkiness is a virtue here, and if elsewhere it can be an annoyance here it’s almost always endearing.

The Hempress Café

The weekend runs out far too fast, but as I board the train back north I’m already looking forward to the next few days camping and hiking around Mount Rainier.

Mt. Rainier, WA from White River Campground

I’ve seen Mt. Rainier from the air on countless occasions, but nothing compares to the experience of approaching it on the ground.  At 50 miles away its 14,000-plus feet already dominate the skyline, and by the time we reach our campsite at its feet on the White River it dwarfs us.

Before dawn the sky here is pitch black and covered densely in stars that shine brightly through the thin mountain air.

Mt. Rainier at sunrise

As dawn ripens into sunrise, snow-capped Rainier glows in rosy hues.

Mt. Rainier at sunrise

The White River flows brightly and turbulently from its invisible source at the foot of the glacier, carrying ancient and ashen volcanic pumice and rock through emerald forests at the mountain’s feet. Along its bank cairns built by hikers from river stones stand like miniature prehistoric monuments.

White River footbridge, Mt. Rainier Nat’l Park

Rock cairns on the White River

Riverbank rock cairn, White River

Wildflowers and rock cairn, White River

We’re only 6 miles from Rainier’s summit as the crow flies, but there’s no straight line route anywhere within its surrounding park, and distances are measured at least as much in altitude as in linear miles.

Wildflowers along the White River

The day’s hike covers connecting trails about 6 miles long.  The route ascends 1,100 feet from the Sunrise Visitors’ Center at 6,400 feet and then descends 3,000 feet back to the campground.  The hike will take more than 6 hours, but with no wireless coverage and no clocks time is measured only by the sun’s position and its shadows.

Wildflowers, Mt. Rainier Nat’l Park

The first leg of the climb winds through shallow elevation and dense evergreen forests broken by meadows covered in a riotous carpet of wildflowers.

Brown bear, Mt. Rainier Nat’l Park

Not an hour into the trip a young brown bear grazes his way slowly on a converging path not 150 feet away, and we slip quickly and quietly past and ahead before the trail narrows.

White River from Burroughs Trail, Mt. Rainier Nat’l Park

The route begins a steep ascent, at times shrinking to no more than a couple of feet wide above steep drop-offs.  The August skies are sunny and the temperature is T-shirt warm, but at one point we work our way gingerly through remnants of winter snow.

Mt. Rainier and Shadow Lake

Rainier and its surrounding peaks loom ever larger across the White River valley, and Shadow Lake sits far below us, its waters turned bright aquamarine by mineral-rich runoff.

The pines become shorter, slimmer, and fewer until they vanish at the tree line, leaving only grasses and the riotously colored carpet of wildflowers.

Wildflowers, Burroughs Trail

Looking eastward from Burroughs Trail

Burroughs Mountain, the highest point of our climb, sits between the fingers of two of Rainier’s many glaciers, and as we approach its summit ridge a stiff wind cools us from the rigorous climb and glaring sun.

Here a breathtaking panoramic view unfolds across all points of the compass.   To the east rows of mountains stretch as far as the eye can see. The Cascades are draped across the horizon to the north and Mt. Rainier still towers more than 6,000 feet above us only three miles away, the details of its glaciers now crisp and clear.  Only to the west do the mountains subside into a flat skyline. The terrain is rocky and desolate here.

Burroughs Trail summit, Mt. Rainier Nat’l Park

Mountain goats on Burroughs Mountain

A small herd of mountain goats, the only animal that can survive in this inhospitable terrain, grazes in a closely-cropped meadow on a plateau separated from us by a shallow valley.

We begin our descent through a grade more than twice as steep as our ascent, weaving through a seemingly endless series of tight switchbacks.

Beginning the descent, Burroughs Trail

Wildflowers and grasses are the first to reappear, followed by pines which grow steadily taller and sturdier as we drop below our departure altitude.  Within a couple of hours we are hiking among trees up to three feet in diameter packed so densely that only occasional patches of sunlight filter through to the forest floor.

Burroughs Trail, Mt. Rainier Nat’l Park

Here all is quiet except for the ever-present sound of rushing water and tumbling stones in the White River far below.

Burroughs Trail, Mt. Rainier Nat’l Park

Small creeks begin to appear out of the mountainside, tumbling downward toward the river through pint-sized waterfalls that we sometimes ford and sometimes cross on narrow log footbridges.

Burroughs Trail, Mt. Rainier Nat’l Park

Burroughs Trail, Mt. Rainier Nat’l Park

By the time we reach the campsite we’ve crossed through several microclimates and geographic formations layered upon each other like some giant archeological dig.

It’s hard to experience nature as we have without reflecting upon man’s brief existence on this planet and his insignificance in the face of the forces of nature.

Mount Rainier is a memory that will remain vibrant for the rest of a lifetime for all who are fortunate enough to experience it.