Into the Wilderness of Washington State
Internationally, when you mention Washington, people immediately think about Washington DC. The majority of tourists come to the west coast of the U.S. to see California and they don't know anything about the other two States above it: Oregon and Washington. I had the chance to spend some time in Olympia, the capital of Washington State because my husband was born in this city. His parents bought a cabin in front of the ocean and in fifteen years they were able to build a mansion, with their own hands. The house is surrounded by the deep green of trees and the crystalline blue-gray of the lagoon. The deep emerald color is maintained by the large amounts of rain that falls every year, in fact, the nickname of Washington is Evergreen State. Winters are cold and wet, but in summer, you get your reward.
You can start your day with breakfast on the balcony looking at the water and you will have unexpected company. Seals come up from the water to wish you a good morning and eagles pass above your head to remind you of the power of wildlife. The ocean is too cold to swim but you can enjoy some time in the water kayaking. It's an easy sport that everybody can do. It's great for your muscles and it also quiets your mind, like a purifying meditation. You are surrounded by the gentle sound of the water and occasional birds chirping. Seals are around looking for food, and if you are lucky you will see their little heads coming out of the water. Always respect wildlife, don't get too close.
Washington has a lot to offer. I have already mentioned the wine country area in a previous article and this time I just want to concentrate on the wildness. California is overpopulated and touristy. Don't get me wrong, I love it. Who doesn't love the Golden State? But Washington has the appeal of an unexplored land. If you want to get away from people, in California you can drive miles and miles with no luck. But in Washington, your special retreat is at your fingertips.
Olympic National Park - The park is one hour drive from Olympia. It's a gem in the Olympic Peninsula. If you are willing to hike for a while you will find countless camping areas in the middle of nature and you won't see human presence for miles. But if you're not a hiker, an easy trail that you can do, just to have a taste of the park, is Staircase.
San Juan Islands - This is an archipelago located between Washington State and Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Pick an island and go! My husband and I camped on Orcas. August is a busy time for the island so camping reservation is recommended. Obstruction Pass is a camping site fifteen minutes walk from the parking lot. This site can't be reserved in advance, its first comes first base. When we arrived we knew we had found our jewel in the middle of the forest. The majority of people want to camp and have their car next to them, but if you are willing to challenge yourself a bit more you won't be disappointed. We could easily find a free spot and we chose to build our nest in front of the beach. On the island, the other not-to-miss place is the top of Mount Constitution. On a clear day, the view is stunning: the San Juan islands emerge like emeralds from the water. In the distance, you can see the mountains that protect this hidden treasure with their shield.
Special mention goes to Deception Pass. This is a strait separating Whidbey Island from Fidalgo Island. It is two hours away from the San Juan island and you can easily stop by on the way back to Seattle. The view from the bridge is one of the most spectacular I have ever seen. It caused me physical and emotional vertigos. The current under your feet would have no mercy if you fell. It's so strong that it can lead to standing waves, large whirlpools, and roiling eddies. Park your car and walk both sides. If you are lucky there won't be fog. Curiosity: George Vancouver gave it the name "Deception" because it had misled him into thinking Whidbey Island was a peninsula.
Top off your visit to Washington with a small airplane ride with Glacier Aviation! It was my birthday present. We flew above Olympia and the Olympic Peninsula. The view was stunning. The emerald green, the crystal blue, the puffy white with golden touches, mixed in harmony in front of our incredulous eyes.