Sunday, July 30, 2017

Water Walks

Sol Duc Falls

Well, of course, water doesn't walk.  It flows, erodes and quenches one's thirst.

"Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it." Lao Tzu

Mr. Tzu, the Chinese philosopher got that right!  Certainly Tim and I could not resist the watery allure of Crescent Lake or Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park.  So on two separate days we pulled on our hiking boots and went in search of water.

Sol Duc Hot Springs and Resort

Lovers' Lane, the trail to Sol Duc Fall, begins at the Sol Duc Hot Springs and Resort.  The imposing Sol Duc Hotel once stood at the site of the current hot springs resort.  Opened in 1912, the five-star hotel drew visitors from all over the world before it was destroyed by fire in 1920.  We planned a celebratory plunge into the mineral springs' soothing waters upon our return.  But first there was the trail through a lush rainforest landscape to explore.

I thought we'd found the Sol Duc Falls when we stumbled upon this waterfall, but other hikers told us that was still ahead.

But this was just the warm-up act for the main attraction.  And what a performance it was!  We could hear its roar way before it came into view.  

Sol Duc Falls

Split into three cascades, Sol Duc plummets 48 feet into a narrow, rocky channel.  

Its spray cooled our faces and dampened our clothes, a welcome respite for our sweaty bodies before we looped back to the resort.

Crescent Lake

Along Highway 101 midway between Forks and Port Angeles, Washington was the other watery draw, the aptly-named Crescent Lake shaped like a new moon.  

Its turquoise waters drew us to return to its shore for an easy hike along the Spruce Railroad Trail, named for the wood it hauled to mills to build the frames for World War I aircraft and subsequently for the next 40 years commercial logging interests.  

There we walked along the shore, 

through the McFee tunnel 

and up ledges cut from the rock before winding our way back to the parking lot.

So, there you have it!  Two watery walks that wowed us!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Victoria, B.C.

"There is a view, when the morning mists peel off the harbor, where the steamers tie up, of the Houses of Parliament on one hand, and a huge hotel on the other, which is an example of cunningly fitted-in waterfronts and facades worth a very long journey," said Rudyard Kipling describing a 1908 visit to Victoria, the provincial capital of British Columbia.

Tim and I decided to add a smidgen of international travel to our Pacific Northwest trip so we booked walk-on tickets for the 90-minute ferry ride across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to this city so admired by Kipling.  Opting for the earliest departure possible, the 8:15 a.m. ferry, we tried to see as much of the British-flavored city as possible before we needed to be back at the dock at 3:00 p.m. 

Therefore, our visit was cursory, but armed with a copy of Frommers walking tour, we did our best to do the city justice.  

I didn't take as many photos as I would have liked--I was too busy try to orient ourselves to the route, not to mention, my desire not to walk head-on into a streetlight or worse still, a passing vehicle--but perhaps the lack of photos is a good thing since I have plenty of wordy prose with which to praise this pretty place.  

"Welcome to Victoria" in glowing, living color greeted us as the ferry docked at the Inner Harbor.  Petunias planted in letter form were just one example of the floral window boxes and hanging baskets that gussied up the town like a string of diamonds above a dowager's decolletage.  

The Fairmont Empress

The huge hotel Kipling mentioned is the Fairmont Empress, built between 1904 and 1908 as the terminus hotel for the Canadian-Pacific steamship line.  I could just imagine women in lacy afternoon gowns partaking of tea in the Lobby Lounge, an activity that still takes place today, although in much less formal attire.

Craigdarroch Castle

One of Canada's finest stately mansions, according to my Lonely Planet's travel guide, is Craigdarroch Castle, once the home of the Vancouver Island coal and railroad capitalist, Robert Dunsmuir who built it in the late 1880s and died just before it was completed.  

Only his widow Joan and three of their youngest children lived this mansion where sunlight streams through stained glass windows in almost every room.  

Joan Dunsmuir, left; Robert Dunsmuir, right

Dunsmuir's death stirred up strife in the family.  Contrary to promises made to his two sons, he left his entire estate and business holdings to his wife.  This was a blow to both James and Alex (then in their thirties) who had worked in the family business all their lives.  Years later because of the estrangement, neither felt a compulsion to attend their mother's funeral.  

Bastian Square, a public space where restaurants and street musicians beckon tourists, stands on the site of the Hudson Bay Company's original Fort Victoria.  The fort, demolished in 1863, was established by the Company in 1843 as a depot for the northern Pacific trade.  The Company's main headquarters, Fort Vancouver, was too far from the British Columbia interior and coast to serve fur trappers and traders efficiently.  Moreover, once the international boundary was set at the 49th parallel, Fort Vancouver was no longer under British authority; thus, the need for Victoria's fort.  

We hustled through Trounce Alley, where miners and sailors once visited ladies of the night.  Now it's a gaslit pedestrian walkway lined with European-chic shops,

Then we hurried over to Victoria's Chinatown, second only to San Francisco as the oldest Chinese conclave in North America.  Fan Tan Alley was originally a gambling district and undoubtedly a place where opium dens flourished.  Tim and I squeezed through its narrow width, notably 35-inches in one spot, to view the small shops and take-out food establishments that do business there today.  

The Parliament Building

The Parliament Building, the province's legislature, is a dramatically handsome confection of turrets and domes with a statue of Queen Victoria standing before it, a fitting tribute to the sovereign for whom the city is named.  There's a free, behind-the-scenes tour of the building, but we walked up to the kiosk  at 2:10 p.m., too late to join it before our ferry's departure.  Maybe some day we'll return.  I hope so.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Olympia National Park

"From the mountains to the prairies to the oceans white with foam, God bless America, my home, sweet home."  Irving Berlin

I doubt that Mr. Berlin would have considered substituting the word rainforests in place of prairies.  That would have messed up his iambic pentameter, not to mention spurned the middle of the country.  But if he had wrote the lyrics that way, he would captured the diversity of Olympic National Park.

Within its boundaries are rocky coastlines, old-growth rainforests and alpine mountains.  Tim and I observed them all and I have the photos--too many photos, in Tim's opinion--to prove it.  So the following needs editing, but I am reluctant to cut any.  I'll leave it to you to skim through this.

As a postscript, let me say that having two base camps from which to explore the park was key for us.  We camped near Forks, Washington giving us great access to the coast and the rainforest on the west side of the park.  Then, after three days, we moved the Dawntreader to Port Angeles, gateway to the Olympic Mountains.  Otherwise, the distances within the park might have prohibited us from enjoying all three ecosystems.

Now, ready, set...skim!

The Beach

The Rainforest

The Mountains

"God bless America, land that I love."