My wife and I have never driven I-5 through the Northwest in October. This year we did, en route to Southern California. The autumn leaves were gorgeous all along the interstate, mostly yellow with occasional spots of orange and red. They helped break up the monotony of having gone this route many times before.
Randolph E. Collier rest area (California), Interstate 5, just south of the Oregon state line
When I was in Southern California it dawned on me that we’d be passing through Portland later in the month on the way home. I tried to keep a close tab on the fall colors as they were developing in the Japanese Garden.
Trying to find out the current status of the maples wasn’t easy. The website japanesegarden.org didn’t do frequent enough updates to be helpful. So fortune would have to shine on us and it wouldn’t be too late by the time we got to Rose City. As it turned out this year, for best color, the third week was probably best. Yet when we arrived the following week, fortunately there was plenty to admire, in particular the stunning lace leaf maple whose glory I was able to capture on camera. Here is a view from a slightly different angle.
Portland’s Japanese garden is recognized as being the finest outside Japan. I’ve seen it grow and mature over the years, infrequent though my visits have been, and become the breathtaking ambassador it is today. My last time here was in early October 2013, a bit early for best fall color. So it was with great anticipation and fingers crossed that my wife and I arrived on Sunday (October 28). Because it was two hours before closing, we had to keep up a faster pace than we wanted, but we were still rewarded with splendor. The forecasts for thundershowers didn’t materialize; there was only an occasional sprinkle.
After leaving, we headed straight to Ataula, one of our favorite restaurants in Portland. Not wishing to get stuck in Portland’s awful rush hour traffic on Monday morning, we got a room for the night in Vancouver, Washington, just across the Columbia River.
If there is one outstanding beauty in Portland, Oregon, my vote goes to this laceleaf maple that shines the brightest in late fall at the Japanese Garden. I was fortunate to see it in its full glory when I passed through the city last Sunday on my way home to Seattle. Five years ago, I visited too early in October to enjoy the best color.
To say that I was privileged to see fall colors at Sequoia National Park is an understatement. This gift was totally unexpected. The plan was simply to experience the giant sequoias. While the ancient trees lived up to expectation, it was a bonus that the dogwoods, maples, aspens, cottonwoods, oaks and willows were changing color to give the forest understory a radiance, a shimmering glow of yellows, oranges and reds. Serendipity doesn’t strike often.
The hike itself isn’t anything special. It’s a nice easy tramp from North Beach Park to Glass Beach in Port Townsend. There’s no trail. You simply tread on sand, some of it rocky, along the shore flanked on one side by the Strait of Juan de Fuca, on the other by cliffs.
What you do get are tide pools abundantly covered in seaweed (of the kind known in Japanese cooking as wakame), anemones, little crabs, limpets and barnacles, seabirds and otters, and on a clear day a magnificent view of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan, two inactive volcanoes in the Cascade Mountain Range. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
Barnacles on rusty iron debris
Brent Jones is a friend who takes his Canon EOS 5D Mark IV on all his outings. He uses a telephoto lens quite a bit, taking pictures of many animals ‘up close.’ His recent visit to Woodland Park Zoo here in Seattle a week ago had many excellent subjects, none more endearing than the orangutan, who reminds me that we are close cousins.
Orangutan, Woodland Park Zoo, image by Brent Jones
Talk about alpine scenery, the Fitzsimmons Range in British Columbia has it in spades. A hike along the high trails will have you singing ‘The Sound of Music’ in spite of yourself. Whistler and Blackcomb, the two most well known mountains, not only have the best skiing in North America but are a major attraction for summer activities. Mountain bikers love it here. For a brief period, wildflowers abound. To boot, the hiking is exhilarating. Views are simply majestic.
By the way, Whistler Mountain wasn’t named for an explorer, like places tend to be around these parts, but after the hoary marmot. Its whistling calls can be heard throughout the range.
Hoary marmots sunning outside Blackcomb Peak facility