Researcher Ingrid Ahlgren headed west to Seattle for a week, and shared her favorite experiences:
We went beneath Seattle’s streets on the Underground Tour mentioned in our March 2006 WorldWise quiz. After an 1889 fire destroyed much of the city, officials ordered streets to be raised above the original grade to avoid the flooding that had plagued the early city. Some stubborn businesses remained underground until the early 20th century, however. The tour begins in a restored saloon before it heads into the areas belowground. Our guide told colorful tales of Seattle’s early sewage system (toilets didn’t always flush the right way), and the city’s ‘seamstresses,’ who were actually prostitutes. The sidewalks were uneven in parts, and this isn’t the tour for you if you hate stairs.
The next day we drove down to Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument. We gawked at the active crater from afar (due to current activity, it’s closed to hikers) and watched a scary video in the visitors center about the volcano’s 1980 eruption. If you don’t want to make the two-hour drive from Seattle, check out VolcanoCam‘s live views of the mountain.
Our next journey was to San Juan Island. We drove from Seattle to Anacortes, and from there took a Washington State Ferry to the island. In Friday Harbor we crashed at a hostel called the Wayfarer’s Rest. It has private and shared rooms, and is walking distance from the ferry. We got a four-person room for only $75 per night. There were fresh flowers in the shared bathroom, the common areas were nicely decorated, and even the bedroom had homey touches, like a driftwood railing on the bunk. (None of us tried one of the more interesting features: a coin-operated shower!)
The highlight of the San Juan jaunt was whale watching. The first day we took a four-hour tour on the Odyssey and saw everything except whales—eagles, harbor seals and porpoises. Since whales were guaranteed, we got a rain check from the company. The next morning we visited the Whale Museum. The whale skeletons were cool, but the $6 entry fee seemed steep for the small exhibit. That afternoon, due to mechanical problems, we ended up on another boat, the Island Commuter. This time there were lots of orcas out and about. We even saw a mother with her baby."
All IT can say is that we wish our commute had that kind of view….
- Nat Geo Expeditions