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Sightseeing the San Juan Islands and Vancouver, BC

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This summer’s vacation took me to Mt. Rainier in the Pacific Northwest (see this post), I also ventured into the waters of the San Juan Islandsas well as over the border to Vancouver, BC.

From Anacortes, WA, we took a ferry to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. From this spot, we took a kayaking tour with San Juan Kayak Expeditions in the Haro Strait. We were lucky to get glimpses of seals and wildly jumping salmon. However, the only Orca I saw was below!

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Okay, while we didn’t see a real-live Orca, they are prevalent in the Puget Sound and I spotted a few from afar while driving to the start of the kayak expedition.

 

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA

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We ferried back to Anacortes and then drove north and across the Canadian border to Vancouver. This bustling west coast seaport in British Columbia is among Canada’s most beautiful and most ethnically diverse cities.

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With its gorgeous scenery and accessibility to the great outdoors, it’s no surprise Vancouver is “consistently named as one of the top five worldwide cities for livability and quality of life. In fact, it is the first city to rank among the top-ten of the world’s most livable cities” .

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Surrounded by mountains and water, Vancouver is the epitome of great city planning. Wonderful neighborhoods, great ethnic restaurants, a vibrant gay scene, and one of the most beautiful city parks (Stanley Park).  It is a great walking city and an even better biking city. The morning we arrived, we took a 5-hour bike tour led by Cycle City Tours.

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Over the course of the 5 hour tour, we encountered musicians, bustling streets, local flavor, and even my personal favorite…

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Note: I don’t think this is a real Canadian Mountie.

Reconnoitering Mt. Rainier

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My summer vacation took me to the Pacific Northwest this past month.  Getting to visit my son who recently moved to Seattle was the impetus for the trip, but being a lover of the outdoors, one of the highlights was exploring the wilds of Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park.

Mount Rainier looms over the relatively flat terrain only 50 miles southeast of Seattle.
On any clear day, the 14,410 foot mountain is visible from the city.  It is also an active volcano that last erupted approximately 150 years ago, and is supposedly due to erupt again…

 

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What makes Mt. Rainer NP so fascinating is its unbelievable diversity of ecosystems. Since the park has a 12,800 foot elevation gain from the lowland entrance to the summit, the vegetation as well as the scenery changes with every step. Above you can see me amongst subalpine firs and wildflower fields with towering pinnacles taking up the rear. Also note my trés chic New York-New Jersey Trail Conference baseball hat, adding a bit of the East Coast style to the West Coast vibe.

 

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Speaking of wildflowers, these funny fellows are known as Western Anemone aka Hippie Sticks, Pasque Flower, and Towhead Baby, though I prefer Cousin It, considering their remarkable resemblance to the classic Addam’s Family character.

 

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Not only were the flowers and mountain scenery stunning, but the forests were enchanting. These primordial woods give you the feeling of walking through time, to a place untouched by humans.  Hiking through this old growth forest, I was struck by the age, height and beauty of the 300 year old trees, many over 20 stories tall such as Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, and Western Red Cedar.

I would go back at the drop of my NYNJTC baseball hat…

Visiting Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe, PA.

Strange name for a town. It’s original name was Mauch Chunk, which is quite a mouthful. Seems the city fathers were looking around for something better and the widow of the famous Native American athlete, Jim Thorpe, was looking for a place to build a monument to her late husband. Both sets of interest coincided and now there’s a town named for Oklahoma-born Jim Thorpe, who had absolutely no connection with Mauch Chunk.

It’s situated in a crease in the western Pocono mountains, where the Lehigh River makes a gorge. The town is nestled against the steep slopes of the mountains and it has become a tourist destination as the coal industry has disappeared. There is whitewater rafting on the river, a scenic railway and biking on the Lehigh Gorge RAIL-TO-TRAIL.

The cave is a leftover of an old train tunnel and the bike trail is on a narrow berm that lay between the Lehigh River and the Lehigh Canal.

The town is an eclectic mix of brick and wood Victorian mansions built by the coal owners on the higher slopes and the workers houses down below. I can report that the bike riding was beautiful and the food in town was superb…think gourmet and artisanal, but since it is Pennsylvania, the portions were large. No tiny little nuggets on a decorated plate here.

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