Working as a tour guide my favorite place to visit was Washington State. What a beautiful place!! I love Seattle, the Cascade Mountains, the San Juan Islands, the true outdoorsy feel of the state, and the people were always kind and generous. On my favorite tour I would spend a few days in Seattle, continue on to the San Juan Islands, then off to Port Townsend, stay in the Olympic National Forest, then on to Leavenworth, Winthrop, and the North Cascade Highway ultimately ending up back in Seattle.
My last Pacific Northwest and San Juan Islands tour group for the season was in late September that year before it was supposed to snow in the mountains. The company never ran tours here into the fall because you never knew when snow would come. I had 14 passengers, instead of the usual 30-40, and I loved having such a small group. I was able to really get to know them personally and do some stops off the regular scheduled tour (like visiting Snoqualmie Falls).
Taking the ‘small ship’ to the San Juan Islands was always fun. On that trip I always found out who was sea sick! We went with a captain and his crew to the San Juan Islands stopping in La Conner which had the cutest homemade crafts. The islands themselves were so peaceful. There really wasn’t much to do other than walk down to the main street and enjoy nature, how can you complain. We stayed in Friday Harbor and took the boat to Roche Harbor as well. We would also go whale watching while in this area watching the beautiful Orca’s as our nature guide would refer to them by name. I was extremely spoiled being able to see and get to know the Orcas week after week.
Arriving in Port Townsend we were docked in this small hippie town that was so mellow. I always spent time in a coffee shop relaxing over lunch while my group explored the area. While coming ashore we would always point out the area on the edge of town where they filmed ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ which starred Richard Gere, Debra Winger and Louis Gossett Jr. Traveling in this area we would pass the home town of the late great alternative rock singer Kurt Cobain, and go through what is now known as ‘Twilight’ country (Forks) where the book and movie series was set.
The Olympic National Forest was always an incredible spot to be and my favorite stop on the tour was Lake Quinault Lodge. Going there you take a step back in the past. President Franklin D. Roosevelt even stayed at the lodge once and they renamed the dining room after him. There is a game room, no televisions in most guest quarters, great trails for hiking, and the lake. I really hope I can bring my family here one day while my children are still young.
Continuing on Leavenworth was always a fun spot to visit. Arriving in Leavenworth you would see some people dressed in traditional German lederhosens, playing horns and drinking beer. The town also had great bakeries. It was a very different feel than Lake Quinault, but still very nice. We would continue on after a night stays to the Washington Apple Commission in Wenatchee and learn and sample Washington’s famous apples.
Winthrop, a Western themed town, was the last overnight stop. The sidewalks were made of wood and they had various historic artifacts around the town. We’d have a traditional barbecue dinner and quite night in the small town before driving along the North Cascade Highway viewing beautiful mountains to our right and left. That last tour the snow did land at 5,477 ft. and I did not have a winter coat. What a memorable way to end my days touring the beautiful state of Washington.