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Seattle to Alaska's Inside Passage on the Carnival Spirit - Seattle Edtion - Mt. Rainier
Here we go with my first attempt at a travelogue; totally out of my genre of political commentary and philosophy but since I just got back from a nice trip, I thought I would give it a shot. The vacation was a cruise on the Carnival Spirit, which sailed out of Seattle, Washington, and spent seven nights travelling through the Inland Passages of Alaska; returning to Seattle. Every person I have ever talked to who has been on an "Alaskan" cruise or has talked to people who have been on such a cruise gushed all over it and said how overwhelmed they were by the trip. I am here to report that I was ... underwhelmed, sorry to say.
That is not to say it wasn't beautiful, for it was, but let me set the stage a little bit. I have been on five other cruises: two to the Caribbean one from Rome to Ft. Lauderdalevia Spain; Funchal, Portugal, and Saint. Martin; another from Vancouver B.C. to all of the islands of Hawaii, and from Long Beach, CA to Mexico. I have also made land trips to England, Northern and Southern Europe, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia (mostly courtesy of the federal government. I had a two-week stay in Slovakia, also courtesy of the Air Force, that I highly recommend to you; I thoroughly enjoyed my stay there, above and beyond my work, and intend on going back someday. Finally, once I make it to North Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin, and Michigan for a period of two days or more, I will have managed to have visited every State in the U.S. Did I say I had timeshares and that I was old? My point, of course, is I have a wide base for comparison and as it pertains to the Inland Passage Alaskan Cruise, it fell a might short.
As an aside, before moving on, let me say one of the things I regret the most in life is not having a talent in taking good photos; in fact, I a barely reach the level of bad photos; and in writing good travelogues. I have had the very good fortune to have seen an extraordinary amount of things in my life and it is almost a crime not having the ability to share the myriad of the sights, smells, and sounds I have experienced with others; it is not all that much fun keeping them to myself.
Seattle ViewsClick thumbnail to view full-size
We began our trip by arriving in Seattle, WA a few days early to take in the sights. I was in the are once before, 35 years ago when I as stationed at Fort Lewis, an Army post South of Tacoma, WA after returning from Vietnam; Seattle has changed, it has a skyline, more of one anyway, for starters, and traffic!
My wife was very surprised, she was actually expecting a large fishing village, I am not sure why, but if you are familiar with Gainesville, FL, near where we are from, that would be a metropolis compared to with what whe had in mind; maybe a little village on the coast of Maine would be a better description. Nevertheless, she was pleasently surprised and really enjoyed the city. The weather also cooperated very nicely; mid-70s to mid-80s with cloudy to partly cloudy to sunny skys on our arrival; to the 80s and unusual 90s with sunny skys on our departure a week later. The pictures you see to the right were taken on our arrival.
We arrived late on Friday and stayed at a neat little hotel we found on Priceline, so it was a surprise, called the Paramount on Pine between 7th and 8th. For a downtown hotel near the Pike Street Market Place it was very reasonably priced at around $115.00. The hotel had comfortable, elegant, relaxed feel about it. The concierge was entertaining and informative; the rooms, though small, were nicely laid out and comfortable; the view of the wall of the building next door was a bit of a downer but given we weren't in our room very much, we didn't miss much.
I have to comment on the resturant at the hotel, the Dragonfish Asian Cafe, is to, as they say, die for. It has a menu made of what are effectively appetizers which are intended to be shared between two people. Consequently, dinner is made up of a selection of these "appetizers"; and, what appetizers they were! The Dragonfish was so good, we ate there twice. The first time we had dishes called GRILLED MISO RIBEYE, tempura vegetables, sweet miso sauce (this was so good we each ordered our own course the next time we ate here); THAI DUNGENESS CRAB CAKES, cilantro aioli; THAI EGGPLANT, fish sauce, thai basil, vegetable broth; MISO SOUP, tofu, scallions; and SHRIMP & CHINESE SAUSAGE FRIED RICE, vegetables, egg, onion, garlic, ginger, mushroom soy sauce. The prices ranged from $7 to $10 with the soup being $2. We ordered different things the second time around, except for the steak but while still wonderful, didn't approach these in taste.
Pictures from Mount Rainier National ParkClick thumbnail to view full-size
ON SATURDAY, we drove down to Mount Rainier National Park. (TIP - if you are on the older side like me, you can get a life-time senior pass for under $20, I think, and sail right through the kiosk with your family.) The weather getting there, as you can see in the top picture to the right, is as overcast as it was going to get for our stay in Seattle, but, indicative of our whole trip in Alaska. On our way to the mountain was the Northwest Trek outside Eatonville, WA, a wild life preserve, as well as a place to stop to catch a small guage railroad train, the Mt. Rainier Senic Railroad in Elbe, WA. that travelled up into the mountain; we didn't stop at either; I wish we had as the mountain was clouded over and we saw next to nothing, a couple of dear, a bear at a bear crossing, some dolphin, and what turned out to be two stuffed mountain goats on the side of a mountain (more in the Alaska edition) in the way of wildlife on our trip.
After stopping in Ashcroft for a bite to eat Ashford, WA, and then entered the Mt. Rainier National Park (second picture from the top)in the SouthWest corner and sailed through the gate with my lifetime old-age er ... Senior pass. We had no particular plan, if you read my hubs, you will see I am an INTP and planning is not in my make up. We travelled along route 706 toward Paradise at the base of Mt. Rainier. We were advised not to drive all of the way to Paradise as parking was limited but to park at Longmire, WA and catch a free shuttle; I almost couldn't find parking there either but finally did. I also found my only picture of Mt. Rainier without clouds on top (third picture from the top).
We caught the shuttle to Paradise and along the way we stopped at Narda falls; a really beautiful falls; the pictures are the fourth and fifth pictures from the top. To get to the bottom where the second shot is from, it is a short, 1/10 of mile hike down a pretty steep path, but, as you can see, even for old, overweight people like my wife and myself, it is worth it. We then went to Paradise.
Our time in Paradise was short; it is basically a park visitor center and the Paradise Lodge complex. The area is one of the jumping off point for treks up the mountain and for hiking in the area and generally playing in the snow. If you look at the picture labeled "How Mt. Rainier Should Look ..." (6th picture) and imagine, if you would, panning down a bit and you would be looking at some of the buildings in Paradise. That picture, by the way, is a picture of a picture hanging outside the visitor's center at Paradise. The 7th picture is Mt. Rainier from the stern of the Carnival Spirit just before we sailed.
We had lunch of sorts, the main dining at the hotel was closed at that time, but the deli was open; there was another buffet at the visitor's center as well. With nothing to do, we are not snow people, just like to look at it, we left the park and headed back with a stop Tuyalip Casino North of Seattle,
The next hub will move on to day two where we went South and West to Fort Lewis, WA and Olympic National Park.
© 2011 Scott Belford