So You Travels: PNW Road Trip Part 1 of 3 - Seattle, Mt Rainier National Park, Fort Casey State Park, and Whale Watching from Anacortes

Getting There

I always start my travel photography with the actual journey. It makes for better storytelling and gives some context to the fact that my Floridian family all of a sudden shows up dressed in sweatshirts in August in front of mountains and waterfalls. The clouds from the plane were amazing as we chased the sunset from East to West.

Day 1 - A day in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Our first stop was Chihuly Garden and Glass. We are lucky that Chihuly’s work has been displayed twice at our local Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, and a lot of the work here was similar, with the shapes and scale. Reeds and bulbs and spheres and towers and sculptures. I absolutely love bright colors and fun shapes, and his work has both! I especially enjoyed the videos at the end which show him and his team in action creating their glass art. The scale of the glass work is just incredible. I appreciated that the staff photos here and at the Space Needle are included with admission.

Space Needle

The line was long on a warm day, and when we got to the front, our photo was taken in front of a green screen. The views from the top are nice, but what really makes this a special place to visit is the rotating glass floor. It makes one full rotation every 45 minutes, and I’d always wondered if that would be fast enough to sense it’s movement. Yup, you can totally tell, but not so much that you get dizzy or anything. And you can see the gears through the floor, which is pretty cool for an Engineer who is interested in how things work! And I took one of my favorite photos of the trip from up there - a double exposure of the boys’ silhouette, overlayed with the city below.

Pike’s Place Market and Gum Wall

Our next stop was Pike’s Place Market. I booked an Air BnB Experience photo tour with Cameron Thomsen Photography, who is responsible for these images. I always take the photos, and thus rarely appear in them, and knowing these are must-have Seattle photos, I treated myself so I could be in front of the camera instead of behind it. He did share a cool fact about how the Seattle gum wall started, which is that it is outside of a theater, who told its’ patrons they couldn’t chew gum. So they started sticking it to the wall outside! Ben started to feel ill during our experience, but he powered through, and Cameron was able to shift from portrait to documentary mode.

I created one more double exposure with Jaron before we headed out of the area.

Pacific Science Center

Ben needed some rest after Pike’s Place Market, so dad rested with him, and Jaron and I spent the afternoon exploring more of this city. Since we are members of our local science museum and it was a warm day, the Pacific Science Center was an easy air-conditioned choice, as our reciprocal membership got us in for free. We enjoy getting to see other science museums when we travel. The highlight of this one is the fun architecture in this outdoor water area. Jaron also really liked this exhibit which used ping pong balls and a large funnel to demonstrate the forces of planetary orbit.

Olympic Sculpture Park and Jump Bike Ride

I’d seen pictures of this colorful wall at Olympic Sculpture Park, so wanted to check it out. We walked through it, and spent some time relaxing in the soft, thin, short northern grass, which Jaron enjoyed (at home we have really thick grass). And we got such a beautiful selfie!

At the bottom of the hill when we left the park, there were Jump Bikes for rent. Jaron requested a ride, and after brief consideration, I obliged. It’s an activity I enjoy as well, and I was so proud of him for initiating the request! We rode along the water, and then along the railroad tracks, where we happened to see Boeing plane bodies being transported, which was pretty cool.

Ben rested, and since we weren’t sure what was wrong, he was quarantined to the spare air bed. He slept well. After a quick trip to urgent care for ear pain the next morning, and some prescription antibiotics for an ear infection, he was thankfully ready to rock!

Day 2 - Mt Rainier National Park Day Trip from Seattle

Silver Falls in Ohanapeecosh

We started the day at the Ohanapeecosh Visitor Center in Mt Rainier National Park to get information on hiking to Silver Falls, as recommended by 2 Travel Dads, whose info on travel in the Pacific Northwest (PNW for short) was extremely detailed and helpful!. Since our time was cut a bit short by the doctor visit, we took the shorter hike from the northern end, rather than the longer loop trail from the visitor center.


Paradise is the closest spot you can get to the top of the mountain by car without hiking days through the snow, and it’s wildflower season. Actually, they were all over the roadsides for most of our trip, but, with this gorgeous mountain as a backdrop, it was pretty spectacular. Again, wanting to appear in photos, we had Conchita from Conchita Sophia photography along with us to capture our family. I can’t wait to update this post once we get our images back! Here’s one sneak peek from my camera, because I worked so hard on finding the right outfits for the location!

Day 3 -Fort Casey State Park and Whale Watching from Anacortes Day Trip from Seattle

Fort Casey State Park

Another awesome 2 Travel Dads recommendation was Fort Casey State Park on Whidbey Island. It was on our way up to Anacortes for Whale Watching. Getting there was half the fun, as we got to take our car on a ferry! I know it’s probably annoying for the commuters who have to do it on the regular, but we enjoyed the novelty of it! And we still can’t figure out how all those cars spread out in the pre-ferry loading parking lot (which seems a lot bigger than the ferry itself) all manage to fit on board!

Fort Casey State Park was just awesome. It has a really long stretch with 3 floors of World War II bunkers. From the top you can see the ocean, and on the bottom, we used the flashlights on our phones to see and make it less scary. We enjoyed the magic of the beach, and skipping rocks, and I only wish we’d planned more time to further explore the beach and lighthouse!

Whale Watching

Our first big family trip was in 2013 to Boston, where whale watching was on the agenda. It was a long time ago, the boys were young, and those were humpbacks, so I wanted to repeat the experience with the Orcas in the Pacific Northwest. As it turns out, if I had to choose between the two, the humpbacks were a bit more exciting to watch, since they came closer to the boat, and you saw their breath as well as their tails. We still enjoyed our day with the Orcas though, as any time you get to see an animal in the wild, you experience a piece of that wild. We also saw birds, harbor porpoise, seals, and a nice view of Mount Baker. My 35 mm lens didn’t do them justice, but we met a fellow photographer on board who was equipped with longer lenses, Holly Cannon, who was kind enough to share her images with me!

Part 2/3 of the trip continues in Olympic National Park. Click here.