A weekend trip to Seattle proves to be more than worth the red eye.
"I'm not sure this is the right way," I gestured to my girlfriend who, seated in the passenger seat next to me, was fiddling with the Waze app on her phone.
"No I think it's right. Look, Olympic National Park is two hours away," she arches her arm in front of my eyes as I pull out of the Four Seasons; I glance at the screen.
"Damn. 2 hours. Ok, let's do this."
I turn on the windshield wiper. 5 minutes later I turn it off.
We pull under a bridge and to our surprise, realize our next step is to board a ferry. I squint my eyes as we roll up to the ticket booth. TO BAINSBRIDGE ISLAND, it reads. Still on track apparently. I follow the other cars onto a parking lot with several long lines drawn on it, as if the asphalt were wearing pinstripes; rows for cars to pull into. We pull up to row 10 and park behind the car in front of us.
"What now?" I ask. Unbuckling my seatbelt, foot still on the brake in case we pull forward. I don't drive a lot.
"I guess we just ... wait?" She retorts. Both of us confused as to how this works.
I shrug. We look on. People are out of their cars, sauntering over to the edge of the dock.
"The whole car goes onto a boat? There's like a million cars here," I wonder aloud. "That seems dangerous as hell."
She laughs, half out of amusement and the other nervousness. But she's very excited to go on a ferry, she'd been asking for us to make it on one since we landed in the city.
"I'm getting out," I tell her. "I wanna walk around."
I open the car door and venture over to the edge of the dock with my camera like the other tourists. The air is extremely crisp, the cool rain earlier having succumbed to sunlight, the sea breeze wiping away any excess humidity. Across the water, the ferry we are to hop aboard chugs along towards us. Beyond that, what seems like dense forest and island after island. I snap a few photos.
Merrymere Falls is supposedly a 15 minute walk from the Ranger Station, and we've just arrived.
Moss is everywhere. The trees seem engulfed by it, green, lush moist. I'm reminded of the lava lumps in Iceland with their pillows of the stuff. This is the same, but very, very different.
We can't read the map. We're city slickers and trail map doesn't seem to work with a brain used to looking at a grid all day. A man spots our confusion and points us in the right direction.
"Family and I are going the same way, so just look for us," he says, following his 3 young kids and wife.
Related: Buy the 'Olympic' filter preset now.
The path leads under the road, through what looks like a storm drain. I grab a few photos of her.
Emerging on the other side of the road, we are greeted by a thick forest, trees dwarfing their NYC counterparts. On the trail we are not alone, as people pass us left and right, but we try to find a pocket of space in which we can imagine we are alone in this wilderness.
The sound of falling water fills the forest air. We know we're close.
I take as many pictures of her as I can. Within one of America's most famed nature reserves, Olympic National Park, I still only have eyes for her.
Seattle is a complex city. But perhaps it is my lack of prior knowledge that handicapped me. After all, Frasier wasn't even shot in Seattle.
Yet it is incredibly easy to adjust to your surroundings. The atmosphere oozes an inherent calm, as if it were constantly reminding you that the exquisite landscape of the Pacific Northwest is just around the corner. As such, a New Yorker finds peace--for once--in the slowing of time in Seattle. Coffee is meant to be sipped, rainy days meant to be enjoyed inside, and the Danish word 'hygge' seems extremely appropriate.
The city is also extremely cosmopolitan. Rich with Asian and Hawaiian influences, you can find Filipino diners, Hawaiian brunch spots, and fresh sushi all across the city.
My hypothesis is that it benefits from being slightly forgotten, so close to Vancouver you don't often think about it. In the shadow of larger cities and tucked away in the most Western corner of the country, Seattle exists in a bubble, of sorts. Like a drizzly utopia, the air is rich, fresh from the forest and surrounding water, new-age dispensaries on corner streets, commutes that often entail morning ferries.
I'll be back.