"U.S. Pacific Northwest & Canadian Pacific Coast" elbegewa's Profile
*** BULLETIN: December 09: We are finally retiring. After the new year I hope to gradually find the time to update this page and add others ... including some travel pages from our trips to Germany (twice), Ukraine, Czech Republic, Austria, & UK. Next trip (late 2010? 2011?) will be back to Germany for a month or two (Eggenhausen in Black Forest and Olbernhau and Borstendorf in the Erzgebirge - ancestral/roots visits) as well as Dresden and Berlin) ***
Last post from 2007:
Like many Americans, we (Lee & Ginny) haven’t traveled outside North America until very recently. Now in our early 60's, as we approach retirement, we are looking forward to the traveling that we didn’t do when younger.
In preparing for our first trips to Europe we’ve found tremendous help and advice not only from postings on here, but from exchanges of email as well.
In return, we’re posting this brief introduction to our corner of the world, the northwest coast of the U.S. and Western Canada. And we hope to be able to help those interested in the area.
We’re from Seattle Washington, U.S., but also have lived extensively in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
When we think of this region the first thing that comes to mind is its great and diverse natural beauty and opportunity for outdoor activity.
This map introduces our region that some call Cascadia: the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Rocky Mountains to the east. The State of Washington, and British Columbia Canada to its north, and the State of Oregon to its south almost seem to have more in common with each other both culturally and geographically than with the rest of their respective countries.
We only recently got digital cameras, so unfortunately our pictures are limited. We’ll improve the site over time. I’ve scanned a few of our old slides – please forgive the quality. To make up for the lack of photos I’ve added links to various sites containing great photos I found on the web. Here are several that give an overview of the region:
The west coast of Washington is marked principally by long swathes of beach backed up against hills and mountains heavily forested by northwest rainforests. Its very much less built up and crowded than most beaches in the US. During winter it’s very rainy, but the storms make the Pacific Ocean's surf spectacular. During summer it can be drizzly or foggy, intermixed with periods of sun. The best weather is likely to be found in the fall.
Because of the coolness of the water and the strength of the undertow there’s little swimming. But there is wading, and increasingly surfers and kayakers are finding it excellent, though only with protective wetsuits or drysuits. And there’s the ocean fishing and beachcombing, long the hallmarks of the coast.
As one goes further north into Canada, the coast becomes increasingly more rugged and isolated and less inhabited. It’s periodically broken by fjords and clusters of islands and beaches. Here’s a link to some great pictures I found while surfing the web.
As one goes south the Oregon coast becomes more spectacular, a mix of cliffs falling dramatically into the sea, intermixed with beaches, fishing ports, and developed seaside tourist areas. Here are two links to various photos:
To the east of the coast lie ranges of mountains throughout the length of the region - rugged alpine mountains on Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula, lower mountains elsewhere. These separate the coast from the populated valleys of western Oregon and Washington, Puget Sound, Straits of Georgia, and other inland waters of Washington and British Columbia.
Open your hand flat, keep all the fingers together except spread the thumb out. That forms the basics of a map of Vancouver British Columbia. It surrounded on 3 sides by water - your thumb forms the peninsula where downtown is and your fingers form the peninsula where the residential area lies. Across Burrard Inlet on the north lie the northshore mountains, with 3 ski areas in the winter and wilderness hiking in the summer, all within a 30 minute drive from downtown. To the west lies the Straits of Georgia separating the mainland from Vancouver Island. To the south, the Fraser River. Although founded in the 1800’s its always been small as cities go. But over the last few decades its become highly developed, so has an aura of newness. This photo hopefully captures a bit of the essence of Vancouver.
Two and a half hours south of Vancouver by freeway is Seattle. Seattle has been a larger city for longer, so has older buildings and rougher edges mixed in with its newer buildings.
On a clear day Mt. Rainier (14,411 ft. - 4,392 m high, always snow covered) dominates the skyline. Looking across Puget Sound you can see the Olympic mountains and looking east, the Cascade Mountains..
The metro area is home to Microsoft, Starbucks, the main plants of Boeing, Nordstroms, much biotech and medical research, etc.
Since the city itself is on a narrow isthmus with Puget Sound on the west side and Lake Washington on the east side and a number of lakes within its borders, it is very much oriented to water. Much of the Alaska and North Pacific fishing boat fleet is based here. (So there are lots of good seafood restaurants ... the northwest is famous for its wild salmon)
Top attractions include the Space Needle, Pike Street Market, Experience Music Project (museum and multimedia re rock music), Museum of Flight (outstanding, almost as good as the Smithsonian's flight museum), Pioneer Square, the waterfront, Government Locks (busy boat locks between the Sound and the lakes), ferries to suburbs across the Sound, and numerous parks.
The city is quite hilly ... some of the best viewpoints are from parks on Queen Anne Hill or from Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill. Discovery Park has great in-city nature walks and water views. The new huge sculpture garden on the downtown waterfront (still under construction) will hopefully be a great place.
And Lake Union is always interesting, with its kayaking, houseboats, and mix of marine industry, housing, and research institutions.
And 3 and a half hours further south is Portland, a bit smaller of a city that feels less rambunctious and a bit more sedate.
Its skyline is dominated by nearby Mt. Hood (11,235 ft high, always snow-covered). Its Timberline Lodge, one of the US grand timber lodges from the 1930's, is worth a visit.
Since its at the confluece of the Columbia and Wilamette rivers its a good starting point for trips to the Columbia River gorge and the dry eastern part of Washington and Oregon.
A series of islands and the Olympic Peninsula protect an inland waterway from the Pacific Ocean. This protected waterway stretches from Alaska, along the British Columbia coast, to Puget Sound in Washington.
The major cities of the northwest, including Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle, and Tacoma are clustered along it.
It’s a major artery for ocean shipping. Many ferry routes run across it. And it’s a favorite for boating, kayaking, diving and watching marine life.
And the inland waters are home to much wildlife, including Orca Whales, sea lions, seals, and other wildlife. In the adjacent picture the black things in the water are the fins of some Orca whales.
The San Juan Islands in Washington and the Gulf Islands in British Columbia are vacation and second home places. Because they are protected by the rain shadow of the Olympic and Vancouver Island mountains they get significantly less rain and are much drier than the surrounding area.
Some websites include:
Many people’s strongest image of the Northwest are the mountains.
The Cascade Mountains form a continuous spine roughly 150 miles east of the Pacific Ocean coast running from British Columbia Canada, through Washington and Oregon into California.
They are dotted by snow capped volcanic peaks periodically for their entire length, ranging in height up to 14,411 feet (4,392 meters) at Mt. Rainier.
The crest of this spine of mountains lies very roughly 50 miles east of the cities, 120 miles from the Pacific Ocean's coast - it lies closer to the coast north in BC, further from the coast as one goes south. The summit is apx. 50 miles east of Seattle ... 3 ski areas are within 1 to 2 hours.
Here is a website with good photos of the mountains of the northwest:
Roughly halfway between Seattle and Potland, on the crest of the Cascades, lies the volcano Mt. St. Helens. In 1980 a massive eruption reduced its height by 400m from 9,677 ft - 2,950 m to 8,364 ft - 2,550 m. A good website for the eruption is:
The mountains throughout British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon are well-known for any level of hiking backpacking, climbing, and skiing/boarding – or just sightseeing. For years I spent every weekend in the mountains, backpacking and clinbing in the summer, skiing in the winter.
A great collection of climbing & mountaineering photos from the Cascades that I found on the web:
The east side of the Cascades is vastly different from the west side. The land to the east is more dry, broken by rocky gorges. There are valleys full of fruit trees and orchards and vinyards and wineries. And there are vast areas of rolling dry wheatfields and miles of desolate area.
This side of the Cascades is *much* sunnier and drier, with far less rain, than the west side. It is also much hotter in the summer, and much colder in the winter.
Here are some very evocative photos of the drier areas of the Columbia Basin:
Finally, we'll conclude with Alberta, immediately to the east of British Columbia, and my wife' Ginnys home province.
It is well known for its Rocky Mountains on the border of British Columbia - and nowadays for its oil and gas. But much of the province is flat dry wheatland and cattle ranches stretching for miles, dotted by small farming towns.
The major coastal cities of the Northwest are very mild, only rarely getting snow, usually not getting much below freezing, and only *very* rarely reaching 20 degrees F (-7 C). But Alberta is much different. It is sunnier with far less rain than the coast, hotter in the summer, and much colder in the winter. The day I took this picture it was about 0 degrees F (-18 C). And its not unusual for it to get minus 40 F (- 40 C) for a few days each winter.
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