Seattle Center and the Space Needle


The most ubiquitous symbol of Seattle is undoubtedly its “Space Needle,” but virgin visitors to the “Emerald City” may be surprised to discover that the tower takes up only a small portion of a much larger complex called “Seattle Center.”  The 74-acre “campus,” linked by a monorail system not unlike Disneyland's, is chock-full of attractions for tourists of all ages.  While the Pacific Science Center, designated by its intricate lattice work exterior, may be a must for the kiddies, the Experience Music Project / Science Fiction Museum is surely a favorite of their aunts, uncles and parents!  Elsewhere, Key Arena, a repertory stage, and IMAX theater (funded by Boeing) bring in a dazzling roster of entertainment throughout the year.  You had better pray to the parking gods during your visit as there are more things to do within Seattle Center than you can even fathom!

And yet, a hefty $18 elevator ticket - and options to valet your car (!) - suggest that it’s the Space Needle’s impressive 360-degree panoramic views that are still the Center’s biggest draw.  Standing at 605 feet, the Space Needle was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River when it was constructed in 1962 for the World’s Fair.  Conceptualized by architect John Graham as a “spaceship on a stick,” some of the original, more grandiose plans had to be scrapped as they were just not feasible - or safe enough for sight-seers.  Today, even fortified by 30 ft. deep cement pilings and over 250 tons of reinforced steel, a stroll along the observation deck feels somewhat precarious.  (If you are the least bit prone to vertigo, the Space Needle is not for you.)

Those who do wish to reach the top via one of two elevator banks can expect to spend at least 15 minutes to an hour in their effort.  Once at the top, snacks, sandwiches and spirits are available, yet at “higher elevation” costs.  (As if the steep price of the elevator ticket hadn’t already stung enough!)  Visitor information that sizes up the “Needle” to other world landmarks spans the curved walls of the interior.  (These days it appears many towers and world landmarks will take you higher than the Needle, and your “Set of Drifters” have watched every last one of them crumble to the ground on the History Channel’s doomsday Life After People series!)

While the history of the Space Needle is mildly amusing, it’s ultimately the views that you’ve come all this way for.  Perhaps a bit frenzied by the brisk wet wind of Seattle, time spent on the “O-Deck” is ultimately enchanting, particularly at night when the views of the city skyline and adjacent harbor unfold in a glittery carpet of yellow sparkles . Looking to romance that special someone?  So are many others.  Reservations are available at Sky City, a revolving restaurant that spins guests 360-degrees along the rim of the Needle.

After about 30 minutes, and another wait for the elevator back down, a short 43-second ride delivered me right into, you guessed it, the “SpaceBase” gift shop!  It was getting late, so I opted instead for a nighttime walk around Seattle Center.  Lit up by a series of floodlights, the legendary design of the Space Needle is unavoidable from below, no matter where you turn.  I was surprised to see a seemingly ancient kid’s amusement park lying in the shadow of the tower, complete with bumper cars and a "Sea Dragon!"  One wonders if it is this junky plot of land that will soon transform into Dale Chihuly’s “Garden of Glass?”  Seattle Center was quiet by night, but on a return visit the following Sunday, it was hoping with people, easily making the “campus” a contender for Seattle’s ultimate "tourist hell."  Plan your visit on a weekday to avoid incredulous masses.

The Space Needle is open daily from 9:00 AM until 12:00 AM (midnight), though the ticket booth closes at 11:30 PM.  Admission prices are $18 USD for adults and $11.00 for children aged 4-12.  (Children 3 and under are FREE.)  A special “Day & Night” ticket is also available for $24 USD, allowing you to visit twice in a 24-hour period to see the impressive view in a different light.  The Space Needle’s revolving restaurant, Sky City, is open Monday through Friday for lunch from 11:00 AM until 2:45 PM and daily for dinner from 5:00 PM until 9:45 PM.  Brunch is also served Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 AM until 2:45 PM.  Keep in mind, a dress code is enforced!

To learn more about the Seattle Center’s vast offerings, check their informative website, though a write-up of the Experience Music Project / Science Fiction Museum follows below.

Set of Drifters tip:  If you can stomach it, make sure you look directly down from the top of the Space Needle.  This bird’s eye view through the heavy steel grating is almost better than the panorama, as the lines created by the tower’s safety and the streets below make for some rather interesting geometric patterning.



Seattle Center – 305 Harrison Street, Seattle, WA  98109, (206) 684-7200, http://www.seattlecenter.com/

Space Needle - 203 6th Avenue, Seattle, WA  98109 (206) 905-2200, http://www.spaceneedle.com/



Experience Music Project / Science Fiction Museum

Had you figured out yet that your “Set of Drifters” are both fans of Sci-Fi and music?  Ahem, I think this speaks for itself.  On the only Sunday of the Seattle trip, it most certainly was time to check out the conjoined Experience Music Project/ Science Fiction Museum, located just next to the infamous Space Needle inside Seattle Center.

The building that houses the combo pack is absolutely stunning!  Designed by architecture darling Frank Gehry, the edifice has so many different angles, colors and sides to it, visitors will have no idea where it begins and where it ends… (nor where to enter!)  Visual competition is certainly the name of the game for Gehry, and his wavy metallic shell exterior will keep your camera working overtime as the sun and errant clouds that pass overhead create varying degrees of light and shadow.  I particularly loved the patina of the metal siding as it looked entirely modern, yet terribly weathered at the same time.  The same effect is carried inside as well through a series of undulating walls and alcoves that are just as fantastical as the exterior.

Once inside, ticket admission gives you access to both attractions.  I headed first to the Science Fiction Museum and descended a set of stairs that are designed to make you feel as though you have just entered a spaceship and are using it to leave planet Earth behind.  (Sorry Duran Duran!)  While somewhat more condensed than I would have liked, the Science Fiction Museum was totally rad!  Homages to Star Trek and Star Wars were in high supply.  (Check out that model of the “Death Star" from the front and from behind?)  Elsewhere a cavalcade of interesting props, life-size costumes, toys and yes, robots celebrated everything from Blade Runner to Battlestar Galactica.

The Science Fiction Museum also features rotating exhibits.  A room in the basement during the March 2010 visit showcased “Gelatine Lux,” an exotic collection of glass “space sea creatures” that rotated in unison to an eerily intergalactic soundscape.  Who doesn’t love a “space octopus” with anthropomorphic tails made out of fiber optics?  (Maria Grazia Rodin was the artist behind the project.)  While we certainly wouldn't mind a room like this in our house, we suppose it would not be very practical in the end. 
Set of Drifters video:  Check out our YouTube channel for video from this event!

Since I am really just a Sci-Fi geek at heart, it should be no surprise that I spent about 3X more time at the Science Fiction Museum than I did at the much larger Experience Music Project.  Here, galleries devoted to Seattle’s storied music scene populate much of the real estate.  (Hey, grunge is not just for college kids anymore!)  If you are running short on time like I was, there are a few spots you may want to hit first.  The large performance space with a very tall LED screen is surreal.  From time to time it features karaoke performances of EMP guests taped from somewhere else in the museum.  The weird flower light fixtures on the ceiling are actually umbrellas with disco balls in the middle.  (They completely reminded me of the Tulgey Wood from Alice in Wonderland.)  If you have kids in tow, this is a really fun space for them to run around for awhile and let out some steam.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the EMP however is its odd swelling tower of guitars and other music paraphernalia that shoots up from the ground floor up to higher levels.  Don't bother craning your neck for this one; you'll never get the full scope, though hordes of shutterbugs make the attempt. 

Set of Drifters tip:  Make sure to also stop by the “Sound Lab” so that you can leave your own musical mark!  Record a video that described how music has affected you, or take to the mic or drums and record your own song to be played for future visitors of the museum!

The EMP/ SFM is open daily in the summer from 10:00 AM until 7:00 PM, though closes earlier at 5:00 PM in the “winter” (September through May).  Weekday ticket prices are $18 USD for adults and $12 for youth aged 5 to 17.  In a strange turn of events, ticket prices jump by $2 USD on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays.  (We do not approve!)  Save time for the EMP / SFM gift shop.  It’s stellar (pun intended).



Experience Music Project / Science Fiction Museum – 325 5th Avenue N, Seattle, WA  98109, (206) 770-2700,

http://www.empmuseum.org/index.asp



Kerry Park's famous view

Looking for that quintessential view of Seattle’s port and downtown area?  You know, the one that features the Space Needle out front and center?  Well, look no further than the picturesque neighborhood of Queen Anne, certainly one of the most coveted enclaves in which to live.  Here, immaculately appointed Victorian homes show-off impressive floral landscaping from each side of the tree-lined streets.  And then, of course, there’s that view, offered to Queen Anne residents (and visitors lucky enough to find it) courtesy of a series of rather steep hills!

The best vantage point to experience the famous Seattle vista is from Kerry Park, a public garden that comes complete with a promenade, half-basketball court and children’s playground.  The view from here offers visitors, and shutterbugs, many opportunities to soak in the dramatic surroundings, from the quaint villages on Elliott Bay’s Bainbridge Island all the way out to the sailboats and barges floating on out to the Puget Sound.  Kerry Park was donated to the city in 1927 by Mr. and Mrs. Albert Sperry Kerry, Sr. “so that all who stop here may enjoy this view."  And enjoy, you will… unless it is raining.

On the morning I visited, weather reports suggested it would pour all day long, and while that prediction certainly came to fruition later in the day, while photographing the impressive “Emerald City” scene from Kerry Park, I was given a much-appreciated reprieve.  Still, the clouds above moved so fast that I had to work overtime to change camera settings in hopes of optimizing the shots.

Kerry Park is a FREE public park, though parking nearby is metered.  Try to keep quiet since Queen Anne is densely populated neighborhood.  Set of Drifters tip:  Many of the streets here, and elsewhere in Seattle, are ONE WAY.  Plan your trip ahead so you don’t end up traveling up and down unnecessary steep hills.



Kerry Park - 211 West Highland Drive, Seattle, WA  98119, (206) 684-4075

http://www.seattle.gov/parks/park_detail.asp?ID=342



Olympic National Park

Those hoping to tap into the Pacific Northwest’s majestic beauty have chosen the right place when selecting Seattle, the starting point to any number of day-long or weekend nature trips.  To the east lies the Cascades and Mt. Baker National Forest.  To the South, Mt. Rainer and Snoqualmie are popular destinations, and to the west lies the massive Olympic National Park.  I chose this location as my weekend jaunt solely on one photo I had viewed of the impressive Sol Duc falls (see below).  Since I was unsure how long it would be before I returned to this region, I wanted to soak in as much as I could.  My plans truly crammed way too much into a day and a half, and any other “drifters” planning a trip here should make a full weekend, if not more, out of their trip to Olympic National Park. 

After my rather marathon journey from Seattle (see “essentials”), I nestled into the forests of the park by nightfall.  It was not until the next day that I really was able to catch its “pulse,” easily more rough ‘n tumble and gritty than the modernity offered by nearby Seattle.  While driving along Highway 101 (which circumnavigates the entirety of the Olympic Peninsula), I noted many rather attractive Indian Casinos tucked into the hillside.  The Quileute tribe has called this peninsula home for centuries, though these days, they have to share territory with teenagers on the hunt for vampires!  (See “Forks” below.) 

A flock of condemned houses, many surrendering to the encroaching moss rapture of “Mother Nature” revealed another side of the park I was not expecting.  This stunning mass of land is actually home to a number of communities that are dependent on the logging industry.  Here, cutting down trees is simply a part of life.  Signage that tells the history of nearby parcels of farmed forest land dots each side of the Highway.  Their date and year information underlines what the surreal topography only hints at.  Visitors to this region will be amazed by the impressive geometry created by logging crop rotation!

Many of Olympic National Park's best kept secrets are miles off 101, but don’t let smaller wiggly roads on the map deter you.  The sights found at their termination are often like any you have ever experienced!  The aforementioned Sol Duc falls is simply thrilling upon approach, while the sea stacks of the western shoreline set the stage for peaceful reflection.  The Olympic National Park also happens to be "rain forest country,” perhaps surprising when juxtaposed against a nearby snow-capped mountain range and mostly dry river bed that winds through the park.  A trip to Hoh Rain Forest – see below – is a must, particularly if you are a fan of Primordial Eden!

According to their website, Olympic National Park is open 24 hours a day and 365 days a week, though expect various “attractions” to have their own operating hours.  (Check their website for a complete listing of temporary closures.)  Visitors arriving to Olympic National Park via car are asked to pay a $15 entrance fee that is valid for seven days from the date of purchase.  Those on bike, motorcycle, or on foot are asked to pay $5.  (RV and campground fees may also apply at certain locations.)  Entrance tickets can be purchased from any of the five Visitor Centers found inside the park, though keep in mind not all of them retain normal business hours.  Again, check the park’s website for more information. 

Set of Drifters tip:  Rain gear, not included in the price of admission.

Olympic National Park – west      of Seattle via the Edmonds-Kingston Ferry and Highway 101, (360) 565-3000, or (360) 565-3131 for recorded road information

http://www.nps.gov/olym/index.htm






Sol Duc trailhead and waterfall (Olympic National Park)

The idea for the side-trip to Olympic National Park came about after I viewed a single stunning photo that depicted the incredible waterfalls of Sol Duc River (named as such by the Quileute phrase for “sparkling waters”).  After securing accommodation at the nearby Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort (see "digs"), I spent the week prior to my departure looking forward to the trek, and believe you me, I am not much of a hiker!

While the Sol Duc River floats gently through much of Olympic National Park, you can only access its majestic falls by driving up to the hot springs and then taking the trailhead at the end of the road.  After an hour or so fighting for space in the thermal waters of the aforementioned resort, I got myself together and made the short drive to the trailhead.  (I had to get to the falls by 12:30 PM if I was ever going to stay on track with all of the other spots on my list that day!)  Sadly, my breakfast would have to consist solely of one banana and a Starbucks vanilla frappuccino!

The forest that envelops the Sol Duc Valley is a place of such extreme beauty it’s almost hard to imagine that any of it is really "natural."  Foliage of all shapes and sizes compete for your attention.  Though Sitka spruce, big-leaf maples, Douglas firs and western hemlock dominate the comforting landscape, here, moss is king!  The region has certainly felt the heavy hand of nature throughout the years.  So much of the growth thrives on the challenges suffered by others (lighting strikes, fires, etc.)  Many of the tall conifers have toppled over one another, exposing giant root systems that attract a bevy of parasites.  The fecund scene proves that plant-life will grow on pretty much anything if given the chance, and ultimately offers a sneak peek of what may happen to the world if humans were ever to die out once and for all.

After only a few twists and turns of the mostly accessible terrain, I came to the odd conclusion that I had never really seen ferns in nature before.  Surprisingly, they look just as waxy in person as they do in stores like Michael’s and Joanne’s Fabrics!  Elsewhere, hearty mushrooms were sprouting all over the place.  I could not help but wonder if gnomes, trolls or Ewoks lived around here somewhere?  In fact, the entire Sol Duc Valley felt very “forest moon of Endor,” and yet, this was no movie set at all!  Every twig, branch and spore was 100% bonafide the real thing!

About half way to the end, trekkers will come to a tiny baby waterfall.  Though incredibly picture-perfect, this is just the overture.  Many a shutterbug stop to take photos here, and I certainly followed suit. I was so happy that it was sunny this morning since the golden rays petering through the canopy certainly added extra magic to the environs.

A little further on, a small cabin covered in moss signals your proximity to the ultimate finale, the Sol Duc falls  (As if the increase in sound hadn’t already tipped you off!)  This is a very dramatic place indeed.  The river breaks off a rocky ledge that is level with the forest floor as you make your approach over a sturdy bridge.  In other words, as you have traveled along the trail the entire time, the river has been so well hidden by a steep grade that once you get to the falls, your view is actually from above!  A narrow gorge forces the water from the upper level into the basin of the lower river beneath you.  (I suppose it is a little hard to explain – which is why we have provided video for you below!)  Though perhaps not quite as impressive as Brazil’s Iguassu Falls, it is still a pretty invigorating experience, especially considering the falls location in the middle of an otherwise silent forest.

Sol Duc falls blow you away by its sheer magnitude.  The trailhead is FREE, and at only two miles round-trip, is well worth the hike.  But be careful, topsy-turvy tree roots and fallen logs engulfed in damp greenery make this a slippery walk, even before you reach the falls!  Hold onto the railings if necessary, but realize they too may be slickened with mist!  You are hereby advised to carefully watch your step - and bring a device to wipe the water from your camera lens!


Set of Drifters video:
  Check out our YouTube channel for video from this event!




Sol Duc trailhead – about 14 miles south from turn-off from Highway 101, Olympic National Park



Hoh Rain Forest
(Olympic National Park)

Your “Set of Drifters” always try to cram in as much as possible in any given day.  Thus, after completing trek to Sol Duc falls, I drove to almost the opposite side of the park to check out the haunting rain forest known simply as "Hoh."  The drive to the trailheads takes a bit longer than expected once consulting a map.  Slower speeds accommodate razor sharp turns and rolling hills that eventually deliver you to a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Along the way, fishermen seeking the day’s catch stand knee-deep in the rushing waters of the Hoh River.  Tremendous views of "Mount Olympus" loom in the distance.  (Hikes from the forest floor to the top of the 7,980 ft. peak are available, though I would have not the time, energy, or bravery for such antics during my short visit.)

There were hardly any other motorists on the road to Hoh, making it easier for me to stop off at almost regular intervals to capture the bizarre landscape with my camera.  The first oddity along the journey may have been a simple proliferation of birch trees!  Out here, moss grows on just about anything, and thus, it was somewhat bizarre to see these guys so well preserved.  Their white bark contrasted so beautifully against the verdant hues that surrounded on all sides.  (Further inside the preserve, the birch trees would fare much worse.  At the Visitor’s Center, even the “old-fashioned” Pac Bell telephone booth was covered in parasitic leafage!)

As you descend down into the forest proper, the terrain changes instantly.  Fallen trees that took root 200 to 1,000 years ago compete with a thick carpet of moss that clearly has its mind set on serious annexation.  Hoh is one of the few temperate rain forests in the entire United States, and also one of the largest, protected from commercial interests under the laws of the National Park system.  Annual precipitation inside Hoh ranges from a paltry 12 to 14 feet!  (No wonder this place is so green!)  Even though it was not raining on the day I visited, it was not uncommon to feel drips from the tree canopy above.  In fact, every year 30 inches of “tree drip” fall from condensed fog alone!  At any rate, the combination of temperature, moisture, elevation, and canopy cover all conspire together to create an intense form of natural magic.  Quite frankly, this place is unreal.

Hoh Rain Forest offers a trio of different treks.  You are kindly asked by the Visitor’s Center to pay entrance to hike any of them.  Since I certainly did not have the time allotted for more than one, I opted for the hike that sounded the most promising, the .8 mile loop known as the "Hall of Mosses!”  Here, dominant species like the mighty Sitka spruce and western hemlock reside alongside, above, or in some cases, below coast Douglas-firs, big-leaf maples, western red cedars, red alders, vine maples, and black cottonwoods.  (Watch out for the trees’ sinewy roots, often entangled in one another and slickened by the considerable moisture present in the air.)

Like the trip to Sol Duc earlier in the day, the trail inside the rain forest was punctuated by incredible tree snags and fallen logs.  These seedbeds for shrubs and other foliage are called “nurse logs.”

So, what else may one find inside the so-called "Hall of Mosses?”  How about hundreds of varietals from the over 12,000 species of the bryophyte family?  The setting is truly a Primordial Eden that is as soothing as it is unsettling.  Swaths of velvety green close in on all sides, but have no fear; dinosaurs really are extinct!  On the contrary, it must be said that after just a few minutes inside the "Hall of Mosses," a sense of nausea may come over you.  Is it the effect of too much rot?  Too many lichen?  Too much fecundity?  Whatever the case, trust me, if you suffer from chlorophobia, this is not the place for you!

Signage posted along the route helps to tell the tale.  Mosses do not produce seeds, or flowers for that matter.  It is their spores that help them to propagate their species . And through the lush greenness of this landscape suggests that light is a key player here, mosses are chiefly found in areas of low light.  The thick canopy of the Hoh Rain Forests plays a key role in warding off unnecessary luminance and ultimately ensures the heavy moss carpet found here.  Set of Drifters tip:  If you want to grow your own moss colony at home, buttermilk, yogurt, and urine-stained wood (or other porous surfaces) are good ways to get started!

If you were a troll or gnome, the Hoh Rain Forest just may be your ultimate paradise.  There are so many hidden nooks and crannies, a game of hide and seek could take years!  In truth, the region is home to an assortment of Pacific tree frogs, cougars, Roosevelt elks and Northern spotted owls.  I did not see any of this wildlife while I visited, and yet, when surrounded by such radical flora, who needs fauna?

Treks into the Hoh Rain Forest cost $15 USD, though that admission, payable at the Visitor Center, covers you for seven days inside the totality of Olympic National Park.  The park is open “24 hours,” but the Hoh trails are only available during daylight hours and dependent on the season.  The Visitor Center may be closed on Saturdays so bear that in mind if you are looking for a place to relive yourself!

Set of Drifters photo tip:  “Nurse logs” offer many an opportunity to play with perspective.  One photo I lensed from inside a fallen tree snag more resembled a miniature Japanese hillside than a piece of rotting wood.  Just be careful when leaning against surfaces.  Touching the two-inch thick mosses that hug the sides of trees is like putting your hand into a leafy sponge!  Brushing up against any of this pungent foliage will leave you wet!



Hoh Rain Forest – approximately 31 miles south of Forks off Highway 101, Olympic National Park, (360) 374-6925

http://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/visiting-the-hoh.htm






it's always "Twilight" in Olympic National Park

Aside from “bustling” Port Angeles (and we use that term very loosely), the other main conurbation located in the northwestern quadrant of Olympic National Park is the village of Forks.  Somewhat equidistant between Sol Duc falls and the Hoh Rain Forest, I hoped Forks may offer some decent mid-day lunch opportunities.  What I had not expected was the fact that the sleepy (read: dumpy) town had another trick up its sleeve!  Who knew that this trailer park-infested burg also happened to be the setting of the literary and film phenomenon known as Twilight?  I’ll tell you who knew... the town's Chamber of Commerce! 

These days, every single block of Forks features a little shop or restaurant that had been re-dressed with a nod to the popular saga.  Sadly, not one of them looked the least bit enticing.  (Perhaps yet another nail in the coffin that proves I am not a 13 year-old girl after all?)  In fact, the village's shabby appearance frightened me away quicker than any vampire ever could, but not before a brief stop off at the “town museum."  The spot beckons sight-seers off the road with a (slightly) interesting piece of wood and an old rusty pick-up truck that featured in the Twilight film.  During my short “stretching of the legs,” a different car of young, giggling female tourists arrived every few minutes, as if magnetized by the metal of the truck.  (If that beaten-up old thing really was Bella’s wheels, she most certainly needs a mechanic!) 

“Twi-hards” can spend money to take one of the many new tours that have popped up in this “neck of the woods” (pun intended).  The half-day long treks ferry fans to nearby filming locations.  Simply by accident, I ended up at many of them, the first of which was the much ballyhooed beach at La Push, home to both the indigenous Quileute tribe - and “Team Jacob.”  One might suspect that the film has brought a lot of new visitors, and thus tourist dollars, to the small reservation town that boasts a population of only 371!  Unfortunately, it seems the Native Americans here are not ready (or willing) to accept the invasion.  The town is somewhat of a dump, and again, offered no viable options for food.  Many of the establishments that appeared to be restaurants were either “closed for the season,” or boarded up for good! 

At least, the landscape is stunning! 

The three beaches at La Push feature striking views out to a number of “sea stacks,” natural “mini-islands” built through processes of "coastal geomorphology."  Wind, water and a whole lot of time are the only ingredients necessary in the formation of these beauties that stand proudly in the middle of the ocean, crowned in a layer of conifers.  While sea stacks are found in coastal regions throughout the world, from Australia to Scotland and Canada to Thailand, the ones at La Push were the first I had ever seen.  Thanks to a natural tri-fecta of calming waters, lush velvety seaweed and rustic driftwood, the setting was entirely serene even when crawling with sight-seers.

Those with an eye to the ocean may even spot a spout every now and again.  This is gray whale territory between March and May, and while I did not witness any whales, I did catch a few glimpses of a seal monkeying around in an inlet of "First Beach" at La Push.  I enjoyed inspecting the multitude of seaweed varieties that flourish in this bizarre ecosystem of wind and water, and spent about a half an hour here photographing the interesting formations of driftwood, both natural and man-made.  (One set of large twigs was arranged in such a manner that I wondered if the famed "Blair Witch" had not just camped here?) 

A study in water, stone and wood, La Push is famous for its sunsets, and yet, because I was a wee bit early that Saturday afternoon, there would be no sunset for me here.  Instead, I took my chances on Rialto Beach, a spot further up the coast from La Push that also features some pretty impressive sea stacks of its own. 

The landscape at Rialto, also another filming location for Twilight (as noted by the tour bus in the parking lot), is more rugged and furious than peaceful La Push.  And if you thought La Pus was littered with fallen driftwood, you ain’t seen nuthin' yet.  From tiny branches to huge overturned tree stumps, Rialto Beach is a West Elm catalog prop dresser's dream come true!  If it weren’t so dangerous, this would be a child’s ultimate jungle gym! 

Looking out to the embattled coastline, Rialto is a place of high drama with twisted wind-swept tree boughs, crashing waves, gnarled root systems, and those impressive sea stacks holding their own against the relentless pounding of the Pacific Ocean.  Nature sure has a way of arranging things, don't it?

Alas, I had to forgo the sunset at Rialto as well since my ferry back to Seattle was still 2 ½ hours of driving away!  If you are in the area, try to make a stop at one of the sea stack beaches, yet don’t feel pressured to hit all of them.  La Push is easily more accessible by car and foot, though Rialto may be more impressive in scope.  Set of Drifters tip:  Don't lose anything here, including your balance!  Proceed with caution as these rocks and tree stumps are slippery!  There are signs posted warning people to not walk on the fallen trees, but at Rialto, it is almost inevitable in order to get from the parking lot to the beach!



Forks – about 233 miles from the Kingston ferry on Highway 101, http://www.forkswa.com/

La Push Beach – about 15 miles west of Forks on La Push Road, http://www.forks-web.com/fg/quileute.htm

Rialto Beach - about 11 miles north of La Push via La Push Road and Route 110, http://www.portangeles.org/rialto-beach.html

Twilight Tours - 51 North Forks Avenue, Forks, WA  98331, 360-374-8687, http://twilighttoursinforks.com/



nature "closer to home"

If you are running short on time, or simply do not have the patience for ferries and treacherous mountain roads, there are still plenty of opportunities to experience the fecundity that envelops this region.  Since this was my first visit to the Pacific Northwest, I was so eager to soak in that green conifer vibe that I headed to the first forest preserve I could find on my first afternoon in town.

Kirkland’s Bridle Trails State Park is a lovely setting usually reserved for those on horseback.  And yet, since it had rained only an hour or so prior to my visit, the park was empty of nearby stable owners who would have to live out their equine fantasies another day.  Nevertheless, the park’s inherent popularity showcased itself in a series of rather daunting piles of manure!  But I digress…

It has been previously reported time and time again that green is “Set of Drifter” Brady’s favorite color, and that he is also a fan of moss and lichen!  Bridle Trails State Park is no slouch in either department, bursting at the trunks with colorful creepers that grow on top of one another.  I was somewhat surprised to see such natural beauty located just blocks away from suburban Seattle. Then again, this section of Bellevue/ Kirkland is pretty darn upscale.  After about an hour or so wandering through the trails, my feet were soggy and cold.  It must be stated that after viewing so much lushness, I almost felt physically ill from the cool leafy hues.  (Perhaps I just needed a banana!)

Nearby Marsh Park, also in Kirkland, was a nice change of pace.  Bordering Lake Washington with views out to the city, this is a pleasant spot to catch a Pacific Northwest sunset.  It was spring and that meant, thankfully, cherry blossoms in full bloom.  I watched a bad of kayakers practicing polo out on the lake as the blossoms silhouetted themselves against a purple haze sky.  They say Seattle is part of the "Pacific Rim" and hints of Japan and Hawaii are not at all unusual to witness throughout much of the region.

The 482-acre Bridle Trails State Park is open in summer from 6:30 AM until dusk and in winter from 8:00 AM until dusk.  Entrance is FREE, unless you plan on bringing your car inside the park.  See their website for more information.

Set of Drifters tip:  The trees at Bridle Trails State Park are verrrry tall, and remind once again that one should always strive to look upward as you never know what you could be missing.  Just be careful to watch out for pea-sized droplets of rain that cull within the thick canopy of the forest only to be released at the most inopportune of times!



Bridle Trails State Park - 5300 116th Street, Kirkland, WA  98033, (360) 902-8844, http://www.parks.wa.gov/parks/?selectedpark=Bridle%20Trails

Marsh Park - 6605 Lake Washington Boulevard NE, Kirkland, WA  98033, (425) 587-3000, http://www.kirklandwa.gov/depart/parks/



Seattle’s vintage signage

Perhaps because the rest of the city seems so hip and modern, the existence of vintage signage throughout Seattle feels somewhat punctuated, not that we have any issues with that!  Your “Set of Drifters” love logos from the past that retain original fonts or impressive handiwork that has since fallen by the wayside in more “progressive times.”

While examples of vintage signage can be found in virtually every enclave of the city, the biggest proliferation seems to be in the Fremont District.  Here “Pro100% beef” can be found at Dick's Burgers while the highly ironic “Sun Cleaners” lies just down the fog-laced road.  Another good example of visual artistry can be found at the nearby 45 Guild art-house cinema, a location we hope can withstand the test of gentrified time!

Another noteworthy conglomeration of vintage signage lies within Seattle’s downtown.  Here, a stroll by night will reveal a series of neon gems from yesteryear.  Perched high atop buildings constructed over the last 100 years, the signs advertise locations that have long since been re-purposed.  You may have to crane your neck to view some of them, but since when has a little effort not been required to capture the secret treats of any location?

Crumbling roadside signage from decades past can also be found throughout Olympic National Park (see above).  Somewhat depressing examples can be found alongside Highway 101 outside the backwards burg of Port Angeles.  But don’t stop for too long as you never know who just may have a shotgun nearby at the ready!  (See "essentials" for a more detailed description of Port Angeles.)