Monday, August 11, 2008

Notes from Seattle

Another wonderful conference and visit to a great city. Barbara and I spent Sunday visiting the Olympic peninsula, beginning with a ferry ride across from Seattle. The day started overcast, but cleared up into a glorious sunny day. The environment is very different, dominated by evergreen trees, lushly green, and bodies of water all around. We stopped off at an authentic Native American store/gallery and a lavender farm, where we picked some lavender, before heading into the Olympic National Park. The center of the park is full of huge snow-capped mountains, so there is no road through the park. You can just drive around them and take various roads in towards the mountains. With our time limit, we did two of these drives.The first was to Hurricane Ridge, through an amazing old growth forest, up quite high with a magnificent vista of many of the mountains, including Mount Olympus itself. You could see that it and a few others are covered by glaciers. They have a lot of blizzards up there and the snow just gathers and never completely melts. As we took a hike around, we came to a couple of spots that still had snow. The other thing that was incredible up here was the variety of wildflowers – blue bells, blue lupines (one of my favorites of all time), Indian paintbrush, including a pink variety that is unique to this area, and many more.

The second drive was in along the Elwha River. We could drive in around 10 miles up the mountain and then we had a 2.5 mile gently sloping hike in to some natural hot springs. The drive was through a forest in areas thick with huge ferns and trees overgrown with moss. Once we started hiking we could really appreciate the immensity of the trees. We got to ford a few streams and finally got to the hot springs flowing out of the mountain side in a half a dozen places. At some, people had put up stone barriers to create a shallow basin to catch the hot water. The first and largest already had a few people in it, another had a single gentleman, but we found one we could have to ourselves. What a wonderful feeling after the long climb, even if we did smell a bit like sulfur afterward.

The only thing with ferries is that they have a limited capacity, and as many people were heading back to the city, there was a three hour wait at the ferry, so we ended driving around the southern tip of Puget Sound and getting back to the hotel fairly late.

The conference was held at the University of Washington student union, a 20 minute walk from our hotel. The campus is beautiful with interesting old (and new) buildings, huge trees and lush bushes and flowers everywhere. As one local said, things grow so well, you almost have to struggle to keep it trimmed back.

In the center is a huge fountain and over that on a clear day you can see Mount Ranier. It was really clear only on Monday, Tuesday morning I was still able to take a picture, after that it disappeared into the mists.

Barbara and I had different opportunities to see downtown Seattle. She attended the reception at the Oly mpic Sculpture Park, I walked around it later. We went into the Seattle Public Library (maybe a separate post), but only I got to see the guys throw fish at the Pike Place Fish Market.

The most surprising thing to both of us was the hilliness of Seattle, it reminded us of the steep streets of San Francisco – made for interesting driving. We left plenty of things to visit if we get back here for ACRL – the Space Needle, art museum, aquarium, Science Fiction museum, etc.

I do feel obligated to mention the weather. While we were there, we had beautiful, sunny, even hot weather. Since this was an assessment conference, they had “assessed” when to hold the conference and showed us charts on precipitation, where it is usually very high, except in July and August. The town isn’t all air conditioned, as I saw in a home I visited, or even the student union, where we had to stop using one of the ballrooms, as it was too hot. And it doesn’t get that cold. There aren’t heavy freezes, so people can grow palm trees, but on the other hand, it is hard to grow tomatoes, as there isn’t enough sun. I also understand that there is a lot of variation. The town of Sequim (pronounced Squim) is one of the sunniest places and a favorite retirement town. That’s where we visited the lavender farm.

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