“Go West, young man, Go West and grow up with the country,” urged Horace Greeley, a New York Tribune editor and promoter of manifest destiny who edited and reprinted the injunction. The year was 1865. The United States was destined to stretch from coast to coast.
Thomas Jefferson’s dream of Americans on the Pacific would be fulfilled. “Great joy in camp we are in view of the ocean,” wrote William Clark in November 1805, although the Pacific was still more than 20 miles away.
I recently sat in a small house on China Retreat Beach in Ilwaco, WA. looking out from 35 feet of window, overlooking a marsh and the mouth of the Columbia River. Several miles to my right was Cape Disappointment where Lewis and Clark sited the Pacific. (Footnote: Dissapointment refers not to Lewis and Clark but an English Captain John Meares who failed to cross the river in 1788.)
President Jefferson purchased much of the American West from France in 1803 — check out the Louisiana Purchase. He had no Congressional authorization. Spent about $15 million then, quarter of a billion in 2016 dollars. Imagine. Federalists (the other party) objected but the past is history. Jefferson got the territory. And in 1804 he engaged Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the territory. It became part of the United States.
The journey, about 3,700 miles from Saint Louis, Missouri to the Pacific, was made by the Corps of Discovery, 33 individuals, including York, an African American slave, and Sacajawea, a Shoshone woman who would help guide the expedition. They forded rivers, ran rapids, and climbed mountains. Wow, too much. Diane and I got to China Beach Retreat on a different route.
We flew west on American Airlines frequent flyers miles that I’ve had for decades. School vacations always matched blocked dates. But after an internet search months ago, I had 2 round trip tickets for 50,000 miles. We had to fly to Raleigh, NC, then to Seattle. How many hours, time zone changes, forget it. But quicker than the Corps who took over two years. Their stop overs were improvised.
China Beach was one of several overnights in our trip to the Northwest. We arrived in Seattle, rented a car (Enterprise), drove to my sister’s house in Boston Harbor, outside of Olympia. Traffic on Route 5 from the airport to Olympia was amazing, and we were told it never stops.
Marylee is my third sister — check out a recent blog, “Number 3.” She lives alone (recently seperated) in a warm, comfortable house in Boston Harbor, about 10 miles from downtown Olympia. The gas fireplace, music, garden views, mission-style furnishings, friendly kitty, personal arts and crafts from childhood, family and travel, we could spend our two weeks right in Boston Harbor. Check out my recent blog, Number 3, for a full profile.
After a few days, we headed out for our China Beach Retreat experience. One day was spent exploring Cape Disappointment, light houses and the Lewis and Clark Intrepretative Center. Our first night we ate in town at the Shelburne Inn, owners of our retreat. I had razor clams appetizer, excellent. First time I ever had them. In conversation with another couple, they recommended another place for a razor clam entry. In fact they came back year after year to celebrate their anniversary and eat razor clams.
As always food is big for us. I learned that the waitress and her husband, made and sold sausage. So I ordered 2 pounds of smoked and Italian, delivered at tomorrow’s breakfast. Next day after a Shelburne breakfast, we went to a local museum that was featuring their cranberry festival. Small town. Crafters. Enjoyed some local history and bought a huge bag of cranberries. After lunch at the docks, a few shops, knitting and of course local bookstore, we took a drive to the northern end of the pensiula. Found a park with trails to the beach but I was too tired to walk.
On the way back to the retreat, we stopped in Oysterville. A small historic district. Old cannery that now sells oysters and other seafood. I bought cans of smoked oysters, tuna and razor clams. That evening we went to our Razor clam restaurant, 42nd Street. Razor clams can be on the tough side but tasty. Met the owner, drank some local brew. Weather was rainy most of the day so we went back to the house, fired up the gas stove, watched birds and rain in the marsh.
Next we spent a few nights in Olympia, local explores. Marylee invited fellow kayackers for dinner. An interesting group. Very nice. On Sunday one friend took us on a motor boat explore from Boston Harbor. It was raining lightly. But this is expected. For me the concern was, can I climb in and out of the boat? Made it. Button up, settle in. Diane saw otters, probably the highlight of the two weeks for her. Can’t say I really saw them. We anchored in a small cove and enjoyed a picnic lunch. Wind and rain got heavier so we headed back.
The next day off to Seattle. We dropped Marylee off at the Convention Center where there was a nursing conference. Diane and I dropped baggage and car at the Inn at Market. Seattle. Coffee time. Always it seems. On Pike Place, in front of the market, we crawled past a Starbucks, crowded with Asian tourists, cameras snapping. OK, I get it, this was the first Starbucks. A block away, almost as crowded as Starbucks, we settled down in Cafe Capagne for coffee and croissants. At home, my coffee is black, but on the road, I’ll go for change, cafe mocha, delicious.
Now for the Public Market. We’ve been here before but love markets, indoor or outdoor, particularly food markets. Pike Place doesn’t disappoint, it’s rich in seafood and vegetables. Fish, salmon of course, halibut, scallops, mussels, oysters, clams, Dungeness crabs, all carefully displayed, overflowing, piled high on chipped ice. It’s beautiful. One stand is famous for the theatrical throwing fish when sold to the person who will wrap it up. The team may shout 20 pounds of halibut to Philadelphia. Ship away. I also noticed quite a few unknown vegetables — the Asian influence maybe. And many speciality shops — hazelnuts, honey, pickles and jams, tea and of course coffee. Then there are t-shirts and other not edibles. In fact our purchases were limited to t shirts with Native American drawings — not a lot of room in our suit cases.
The entire market is actually several levels of shops down to the waterfront. I got directions to Elliott’s several blocks away. Working our way along a highway and industrial buildings, Diane doubts. Do I know what I’m doing? Do I know where I’m going? I mumble, “I think. . .” Elliott’s it turned out is huge, I’d read about it being a classic downtown seafood, on the Sound. Quite a few people having lunch. Whatever else we ate, I remember the plate of oysters — a dozen, from mild to salty. Alaskan Red is also becoming a favorite on tap, local almost, beer.
We wander back to the hotel, stopping in a few shops — amazing chocolate, Native American crafts, maps, spices. We crashed mid afternoon.
When investigating Seattle restaurants online, I was intrigued by The Walrus and the Carpenter in the Ballard neighborhood. Sharing the name with Diane I found out that the owner-chef, Renee Erickson was featured in a recent Food and Wine magazine (and Bon Appetite). Even more amazing we had her cookbook, “A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus: menus and stories.” This was a must. But NO reservations. About 5, Marylee was back, we called for the car and drove to Ballard. In a block of run down industrial buildings we found “The Walrus.” In the same building was Marine Hardware, a Nathan Stowell (another foodie name) restaurant on my short list.
The Walrus had a small bar, baskets of oysters, a few tables and another room with a few tables. Intimate. Cozy. We started with raw oysters — Fanny Bay and Hump island. I am slowly recognizing and tasting differences. Sweet, salty, or just tasty. I had octopus for my main course. Cured Salmon and fried oysters for the women. Delicate squash. A bottle of Chablis. And we shared a Maple Bread Pudding for dessert. Beautiful, delicious. As we drove out of Ballard, a few blocks away, we drove through a “hip” busy, blocks of restaurants and shops. Note for another trip.
The next day, full sun (this is Seattle in October?). I joked with people, “I’m from Philadelphia” and it’s always sunny in Seattle. We walked several blocks to the monorail, to the Seattle Center and the Space Needle. A new experience. Great views, could see snow covered Rainer and Baker mountains.
Next to the Needle was Chihuly Glass Garden. I’d seen one of his large hanging glass sculptures in the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia. The museum and gardens were amazing. We were reminded of some Steve Tobin glass sculpture. There is another Chihuly museum in Tacoma. On the list.
For lunch I’d discovered that Taylor Shellfish had a restaurant within walking distance. They are a very big seafoood farming company. Various farm locations, the headquarters is in Shelton not far from Olympia. The place was empty. Too far for the Fall tourist walk I guess. Diane had an oyster stew and I got to try local mussels, large, sweet, not the kind we get at home. Diane’s getting to like hard cidar on tap. Our waiter said the restaurants were a new idea, an attempt to show how shellfish should be served. Not a money maker for the company. On our way home from Port Townsend we did stop at the headquarters in Shelton. Note, tours available.
Back at the Inn we crashed. Dinner was downtown at at Wild Ginger. I thought some variation from tradition seafood would be good. Diane informed me we has eaten there before. Although my blackened scallops were great; the Thai chicken didn’t sit well with her.
The Northwest offers so many trip options. We went back and forth for months planning the trip. The Columbia river, San Juan islands, Portland, Olympic peninsula, Oregon coast. After Seattle, we headed north to Deception Pass and the bridge to Whidby Island. Again traffic around Seattle was awful. At the bridge we stopped at an overlook. Someone’s phone rang. It was Eli and Viv on FaceTime. We described how on the rapids below, Marylee’s kayak was hit by another kayak in the fast waters. But there was a good ending to the story. The kayak was repaired and she finished the trip. The guy who hit her was a doctor who made kayaks on the side. He designed and built her first hand crafted wooden kayak. These are beyond beautiful. What craftsmanship.
We spent two nights on Whidbey. The Boatyard Inn was a B.and B. Marylee had stayed at before. On the Saratoga passage, our room looked out on small harbor-dock area. Very warm and comfortable. Not much in town. We had a kitchen, so dinners were right there. A nice change. One day we explored Coupeville. Renee Erickson, The Whale and Carpenter experience, was photographed in a pier there. Why? Local, Penn Cove mussels. Of course I had a bucket of them. Diane and Marylee enjoyed the shops — quite a few.
The weather was turning. A major storm was expected. High, very high winds. Rain. At the Boatyard we watched the weather turn. Dramatic. Exciting. Could we get the ferry in the morning? I called and we were able to board a 10 a.m. ferry to Port Townsend. By mid afternoon, the ferry was closed.
Our ride was smooth. The ferry was bigger than expected. But we arrived early in Port Townsend. Marylee immediately took us to a boat building school on the docks. Very neat. Especially the computer generated navigation simulation on the third floor. Computer programs generated screen conditions, that the student navigated with a wheel. We lunched in a small waterfront cafe and headed to our B.and B., The Old Consulate.
Although the Inn was a satisfactory Victorian, the Inn Keepers were a bit overboard. They dressed in costume, had period spiels, and many rules. Diane was particularly put off by the communal 9 a.m. breakfast. But the weather was the big story. Both nights we ate in the Silverwater Cafe, a place Marylee liked. It was quite good. We explored the docks as the winds and surf wipped up. Drove around, watched a guy wind surf in the gathering storm. I saw a more daring sister than I expected, as she navigated the wind gusts to take surf pictures. Back at the Old Consulate the windows rattled, one blew out. But by morning the storm had passed and we headed back to Olympia.
One stop was at the Hama Hama oyster farm. Renee Erickson buys oysters from them. Do you detect connections. It was noon, we ordered a dozen, and took home a pint. Diane would make a delicious oyster stew — flavored with some smoked salmon.
We spent a few more nights in Olympia. A small town really, market, a few blocks of shops, waterfront. More important was the time spent with Marylee. Getting to know her better. Sharing stories from the past and hopes for the future. Boston Harbor was relaxing.
I had worried about travel. I’m sure the first explorers of the Northwest worried. For me pouches and drains. For them, hardship, weather, sickness, the unknown. But they made it. I made it. I had discomfort some days; but overall excitement at new experiences. There is a lot more to explore in the Northwest. I want to continue my read about the Oregon Trail, Lewis and Clark. And hopefully I will make another trip.