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goode mapWhen I was growing up — in the Antediluvian Age when everyone smoked Lucky Strikes and cars all had clutches and carburetors — the maps in my grade school rooms had 48 states on them.

Those classroom roll-down maps were beautiful to my young eyes — all that green, yellow and ruddy brown in wood engraving density. They are maps that have never been equalled, and I knew, looking at the map, pulled down in front of the black chalkboard, that I wanted to go to every one of those states and see if Colorado were really the color of chestnuts, if Florida were really Kelly green. It seemed so lush.

Over the years, I’ve gone to — and written about — all 48 contiguous United States, seven Canadian provinces, a couple of edgings into Mexico and a few places in Europe and Africa.

In each of the places I’ve been, there is a top sight to see, like the Grand Canyon in Arizona or Yellowstone in Wyoming. And I’ve loved them all.

But there are also smaller, less well-known places that have quietly become some of my favorites. I’m sure everyone has the same: places where something special happened, or that sum up the qualities of a state or region, or that just seem so relaxed and beautiful that they draw you back over and over.

For me, such places are often remote from normal tourism attractions. I am a sucker for unspoiled grasslands in the Great Plains, for alligator-filled swampland in the South, for backcountry roads in the Appalachians. Others may look for happy crowds to join, for music and dancing or roller coasters. My favorites, however, tend to be empty of people, silent and to provide long views over a significant arc of the planet.

So, here are a few of those places, listed state by state.

edmund pettus bridge

Alabama

If you want to learn about the Deep South and how much it has changed, you should visit Selma. It is where the great Civil Rights march of 1965 began, crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge and heading on to the state capitol at Montgomery. If you think the battle is over, you should visit Selma and see, despite how far we have come, how distant is the horizon.

Badger Springs Road 1Arizona

Of course, the Grand Canyon is on our license plates, but almost any other square foot of the state is nearly as wonderful, from Hoover Dam to Douglas, from Four Corners to Yuma. But I have a special place in my heart for an obscure exit ramp from I-17 north of Phoenix. Badger Springs Road is a bit of largely undisturbed desert, with trails and cactus, and I can always pull off the highway and find a bit of peace and quiet.

Arkansas


The state is rich in rural areas, craggy in the north, flat and muddy in the east through the Mississippi flood plain, steamy with hot springs toward the south. But the little town of Toad Suck in the center of the state seems even a little quieter, a little more remote than most, and is graced with a state park as well, along the Arkansas River. No hotels, but friendly people.

manzanar

Northern California

California is too rich; I have to split it in two. Even then, I could name a dozen places in each half: In the north — Tule Lake National Wildlife Reserve, Mono Lake on the eastern side of the Sierras, Lassen National Park, the Humboldt Redwoods, the tule marshes along the Sacramento River. But I keep coming back to Owens Valley, just below Mt. Whitney. From the soda-flat Owens Lake north to the ruins of the Manzanar Relocation Center — where Japanese-Americans were interned during World War II — the valley is both picturesque — the Alabama Hills where so many Western films were shot among the wonderland of rocks — and historic — in addition to the concentration camp, there is the sorry and violent tale of how a thirsty Los Angeles stole the valley’s water earlier in the century.

Southern California

East of San Diego is one of California’s most pristine deserts. It is called Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and it is the primordial home of all those Washington palm trees that line the streets of Phoenix. Borrego Springs is a surprisingly kempt little town in the middle of it, but the rest of the park usually seems as empty as a college campus during spring break.

Pawnee Buttes 5 copy

Colorado

For most people, the state probably brings to mind skiing or expansion baseball, or an over-hyped beer, and certainly Colorado is best remembered for post-card mountains — all those “fourteeners” — but I love the Pawnee National Grasslands, one of the best places to get a sense of what the West was really about, what the Great American Desert was — not desert, but the Great Plains, vast, sweeping and grassy.

Connecticut

There is no more peaceful a river valley in the nation than the Housatonic north of New Milford. The Appalachian Trail winds along a portion of its banks. There are covered bridges, meadows and not too far away, near Cornwall, there is a large stand of virgin white pine, called the Cathedral Pines. U.S. 7 parallels the river most of the way.

Delaware

Delaware is a tiny state, and most people notice it, if at all, for the chemical plants and refineries that stick their bellowing smokestacks into the air, and the highways that pass through it on their way elsewhere, up over the twin Delaware Memorial Bridge. But there are the “Hooks” — Prime Hook and Bombay Hook national wildlife refuges, swampy and woodsy on the broad mouth of Delaware Bay.

Florida

If you cannot get enough of the Everglades, or if the national park is too crowded, head north off U.S. 41 on any of a dozen gravel roads into Big Cypress National Preserve. Or take the loop road to the south, through incredible cypress wetlands, with sagging Spanish moss and blackwater swamps.

Okefenokee

Georgia

The Okefenokee is my favorite swamp. That’s saying a lot. I’ve seen more wildlife in it than in any other. Drive up Georgia 177 from Edith into the Stephen C. Foster State Park and rent a canoe. Paddle within inches of swimming alligators. Look into the trees for the snake birds — anhingas — with their darting necks and their wings spread out in the sun to dry.

Idaho

With its camas prairies, steep mountains and gaping canyons, the Nez Perce Indian Reservation is one of the most beautiful parts of this beautiful state. You can see the valley where Chief Joseph began his tragic 1,500-mile unsuccessful flight to freedom for his people in 1877.

Mississippi barge

Illinois

Chicago has big shoulders in the north, but down at the very bottom are the forlorn toes of Cairo, one of the most memorable of Mississippi River towns. It is aging, with peeling paint and boarded up storefronts, but you can feel in the humid air the history behind it. And you can see the conjoining of the muddy Mississippi water with the clearer, faster moving Ohio River. Boats and barges move past in the misty mornings like iron dreams.

Indiana

If you want to find the prototype of Disney’s “Main Street U.S.A.,” you couldn’t do better than to see Paoli, in the southern part of the state. No more perfect quiet little Middle-American village can be found. There are no tourists and nothing to do, but imagine what it must be like to live there, under the spreading chestnut trees just off the town square.

Iowa

Iowa is sometimes surreal: At the bottom of the bluffs of the Mississippi are cities filled with Victorian architecture. There are trees and vines. On top of the bluffs, there are endless rolling farms, with silos instead of trees, like some Grant Wood painting. The best of the cities is Dubuque, one of the greatest surprises of my travels. It is one of America’s most beautiful cities.

Kansas

If you want to get away from civilization, you can hardly do better than the middle of Kansas. Just north of Lebanon is the “Geographical Center of the Conterminous U.S.,” which is a highly qualified title to be proud of. But    you stand there, looking out over the grass and wonder, if they dropped the Big One here, would anyone hear it?

harlan county ky

Kentucky

   The state is mud in the west, limestone in the center and coal in the east. Among the stumpy, round-bumped mountains of coal-mining Harlan County and neighboring Letcher County, are some of the poorest homes and interesting people of the country.

atchafalaya thicket

Louisiana

It surprises even me, but one of my favorite places is along the Interstate. For 20 miles, I-10 rises on piers over the Atchafalaya Swamp. Take an exit into the dark woods and drive along the river into old, mossy river towns, built where the terra is not so firma. Even the pavement seems squishy beneath your feet.

Schoodicwaves2x

Maine

Everybody heads to Bar Harbor, where the T-shirt shops and frozen yogurt stores are chock-a-block. Pass on that and head to Schoodic Point further north. Also part of Acadia National Park, it is one of the ruggedest, rockiest parts of the rocky Maine coast.

Maryland

Antietam National Battlefield, near Sharpsburg, is the most emotional Civil War site I have visited. Every aspect of the fight, and all the blood and bullet-holes, seem spread out graphically, and the spirits of the dead and suffering seem almost palpable at the sunken road called Bloody Lane.

Greylock Mt from Melville home Mass

Massachusetts

Arrowhead is the one-time home of Herman Melville in Pittsfield. The house is actually a character in many of his stories, and you can look out the second-floor window of his study, where he wrote Moby Dick, and see the saddle-back peak of Mt. Greylock to the north, “Charlemagne among his peers.”

Michigan

The Upper Peninsula is a big place, but everywhere you turn, there are forests, lakes and rivers, including Papa Hemingway’s Big Two-Hearted River. It’s hard to pick a single place, but there is always the drive on U.S. 2 along the southern shore of the peninsula along Lake Michigan.

Minnesota

A river doesn’t really start from a single source, but the agreed fiction is that the Mississippi begins at Lake Itasca, southwest of Bemidji. The lake is not that large, by Minnesota standards, and seems quite placid. The “father of waters” begins at a reedy little outlet that you can step across and brag you crossed the Mississippi on foot.

Mississippi

The blues began in the Mississippi Delta, and they are still played in the shabby juke joints of Clarksdale, one of those old, cracked-concrete, grass-in-the-railroad-ties, dying-downtown Deep South county seats. Everybody you see, sitting on their porch fronts, seems more human, more profound. Maybe it’s the blues.

Missouri

The Ozark Mountains can be beautiful, with lichen-covered limestone and rivers that disappear underground. Like at Big Spring State Park on the Current River, where the river comes gushing back out of the rock like a fountain.

bear paw surrender site

Montana

Chief Joseph began his three-and-a-half month trek in 1877 in Idaho, he ended it on the flat, grassy, empty plains of northern Montana, at a place called the Chief Joseph Battlefield near the Bears Paw Mountains, only 40 miles from the safety his Nez Perce Indians sought in Canada. He was captured by the U.S. Army, and promised “From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”

bailey yard nebraska

Nebraska

People look at me funny when I tell them that Nebraska is probably my favorite state to visit. The sand hills, the puny “national forest,” the Platte River and Scotts Bluff — they all seem unbearably windblown and lonesome. I love them all, but in North Platte, you cannot feel alone at the biggest railroad freight yard in the country. You can watch trains all day.

Nevada

If Nebraska is my favorite state, Nevada is probably my least favorite. It is empty, true, but its emptiness seems hard and thoughtless, like a biker at a roadside bar and casino. But I cannot deny the beauty of such places as Big Smoke Valley, between the Toiyabe and Toquima mountains, and the wide sagebrush plains where you don’t see a car for hours, but maybe a dozen dusty pickups.

New Hampshire

The Kancamagus Highway is one of the most beautiful drives in the country, winding through the White Mountains along the Swift River. It goes from Lincoln to Passaconaway and passes some stunning stony waterfalls.

pulaski skyway copy

New Jersey

This is the state where I grew up. I came to despise the suburban banality of most of the state, but I loved two things: the northwest corner, with its minuscule mountains and bucolic forests; and most of all, the industrial corridor of the Jersey Turnpike, with its refineries, chemical plants and the always-beautiful Pulaski Skyway.

New Mexico

At the top of the Sacramento Mountains, in the Lincoln National Forest is a place called Cloudcroft. There is great camping, wild animals and — usually — clean air that is so clear, it could cut diamonds.

Bear Mtn Bridge

New York

New York offers more than any other single state except California. There are dozens of favorite sites, from Montauk Point to Niagara Falls. But I will always have a special affection for Harriman State Park, along the Hudson River, and Bear Mountain, that looks down at the gorge, just south of West Point and its military academy. Seven Lakes Drive, through the park, is what nature in the East is all about.

Ashe County road, creek &dogwoo

North Carolina

No question here: Ashe County, tucked up in the northwest part of the state, above the Blue Ridge, is away from the normal tourist loop, but more beautiful than any other place north of the Smoky Mountains. Any gravelly back road will take you to something surprising and there is the New River to canoe down.

Sunflowers Zap North Dakota

North Dakota

It hardly counts for anything, and there is no real reason to visit, but I cannot get enough of Zap, a tiny crossroads, where the roads don’t go anywhere. Between Beulah and Golden Valley, Zap sits among the rising and dropping swell of the grasslands, with the occasional pond for cattle to drink from.

Virginia Kendall SP, Ohio 3 copy

Ohio

Just south of Cleveland, there is a small bit of woods and rock called Virginia Kendall Park. It is right next to the larger Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, and benefits from more people going there than here. There is a rocky bluff in the middle of the park and echoing voices in the forest among the leaf litter.

Oklahoma

One of the worst massacres of the so-called Indian Wars took place just outside of Cheyenne, along the Washita River. The site is now nothing but grass, a line of trees along the water, and some outcroppings of rock. But the surrounding Black Kettle National Grasslands can give you a real sense of what the land looked like 121 years ago.

Columbia River Gorge Oregon-Washington

Oregon

The Columbia River Gorge is one of the scenic wonders of America, and one of the most scenic drives is along the old, outmoded Columbia River Gorge Scenic Highway, which rises up the mountainside above the interstate highway, and takes you through more waterfalls than any comparable stretch of road outside Hawaii.

falling water

Pennsylvania

The second most famous house in America — after the White House — is probably Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, a vacation home he designed for Pittsburgh’s wealthy Kaufman family beginning in 1934. It is also one of the most beautiful buildings in the country, sitting literally atop a waterfall and jutting out over the small forest glen.

Rhode Island

If you’re on the A-list, you’ll naturally gravitate to Newport and its extravagant mansions. I’m not on that list; I prefer the more humble Conanicut Island, where real people live. It sits in the middle of Narragansett Bay and gives you a good sense of what life on the bay is like.

South Carolina

Myrtle Beach gets all the traffic and spring-breakers, but Huntington Beach, 10 miles further south along Murrell’s Inlet, is the better place to be. With Huntington Gardens just across the street, with all those animal sculptures of Anna Hyatt Huntington, and a fresh-water alligator pond next to the salt marsh, Huntington Beach is a great — a great — place for seeing birds.

pine ridge rez

South Dakota

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation may be poor, but it is beautiful. And as with many places noted for its poverty, it is very real. The people take the time to talk to you and there is history at every turn in the road — not all of it very comfortable for an Anglo to remember.

Tennessee

Most of the crowds at Great Smoky Mountains National Park gather along U.S. 441 across the crest of the range, or in Cades Cove in the southwest of the park. But one of the great drives, and less crowded, is up the Little River Road through the back side of the park. It follows the cascading Little River most of the way, and finds its way back to the visitors center at Sugarlands.

lbj ranch grandparentshouse

Texas

Even Texans will tell you the center of their state is the best part: The Texas Hill Country is an oasis in the middle of a state that sometimes seems like nothing more than the world’s largest vacant lot. And the best part of the Hill Country is found at the LBJ Ranch near Johnson City. It is no wonder that our 36th president loved his ranch so much. It is a jewel in a perfect setting.

Utah

Is there a square inch of the state that doesn’t deserve to be a national park? I haven’t found it. But one of the most overlooked gems is the ride along Utah 128 from Moab to Cisco. Through most of its route, the road seems to be the one you would imagine at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Well, perhaps that exaggerates it a wee bit. But it is special.

coolidge plymouth

Vermont

Near Plymouth is the birthplace and homestead of Calvin Coolidge, who has recently lost his title as the president we made the most jokes about. In fact, Silent Cal was a smart cookie and not at all the buffoon stand-up comics make him out to be. He was raised in a tiny Yankee village that is preserved as a state park.

Monticello Entrance Hall copy

Virginia

Virginia is another state that seems to have more than its fair share of special places. Perhaps it’s history, perhaps geography, but almost anywhere you turn, there is something that will draw you back over and over. Still, there is something special about Thomas Jefferson’s mountaintop home, Monticello, a monument to just how profoundly beautiful a little nuttiness can be. The Age of Reason meets Henry Thoreau.

Washington

Eastern Washington is largely a blank spot in America’s consciousness. Seattle, the Olympics, the Cascades, Mt. Rainier — they are all in the west. But there is hardly an odder or more peculiar and spooky landscape on Earth than what is called the Channeled Scablands east of the Cascades. The Grand Coulee Dam blocks the Columbia River there, where a prehistoric flood scraped the earth clean for hundreds of miles.

West Virginia

The Hawks Nest, on U.S. 60 between Gauley Bridge and Ansted, looks out over the deep declivity of the New River Gorge and is one of the great scenic views of the eastern U.S.

Frosty dawn Wisconsin

Wisconsin

Southern Wisconsin has many treasures, including the Mustard Museum in Mt. Horeb, and the world’s largest six-pack of beer at La Crosse, but nothing can beat the genuine zaniness of the Dickeyville Grotto, a religious site in Dickeyville created out of broken bottles, seashells, stones and broken crockery. It is one of the great “outsider art” sites, and don’t miss the tribute to Columbus.

Wyoming

What’s the highest, most alpine road in America that actually goes somewhere? Undoubtedly, it is the Bear Tooth Highway, U.S. 212 from Red Lodge, Mont., to Yellowstone National Park. It climbs up over Bear Tooth Pass at 10,940 feet and provides more long Rocky Mountain views than any other road. Look out for the marmots.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

point roberts shoreline

Point Roberts is one of those funny little anomalies you spot on the map and wonder about. It is an exclave — a place that cannot be reached by land without leaving the country to which it belongs. Like the Northwest Angle on Lake of the Woods in Minnesota, that tiny bump in the U.S.-Canadian border.

It is a tiny community on the end of a small peninsula that sticks down from British Columbia like a uvula into the Straits of Georgia south of Vancouver. But by a historical oversight, Point Roberts is not in Canada, but in the United States — the county of Whatcom in the state of Washington.

When the border between Canada and the United States finally was agreed upon in the 1846 Treaty of Washington — brokered, by the way, by that 19th-century Henry Kissinger, Kaiser Wilhelm I — and the 49th Parallel became the official boundary line, it cut across the Tsawwassen Peninsula, slicing off a teensy 4.9 square miles at its end, leaving the tip accidentally in the United States. Point Roberts map

Now, Point Roberts might as well be an island. It is surrounded by water on three sides, with the Canadian border on the fourth. It is a 23-mile drive through British Columbia to get from Point Roberts to the rest of Washington.

It has made life interesting for the 950 people who live there.

For one thing, all electrical power and telephones have to be contracted from Canadian companies; yet when there is a repair problem, American companies are responsible.

And when a crime is committed — admittedly not a common occurrence — the miscreant must be helicoptered or boated back to the mainland; he cannot be squired by road through Canada and back into the United States.

The police blotter of Point Roberts is worth mentioning.

In the four months from August through November, as reported in the All Point Bulletin, the local newspaper, the majority of reports were of three types: drunkenness and drunken driving; trying to cross the border with marijuana; and burglar alarms that went off accidentally. Sometimes a power surge is blamed.

There are also a few nasty tales of domestic violence: A daughter got into a fight with her mother and ”knocked a bunch of books off some shelves,” and a girlfriend threw a brush at her boyfriend.

But amongst the reports are a few worth quoting whole.

”Sept. 20: An individual reported that Camp Ruth Morton had been broken into and three fire extinguishers were stolen and recovered on the property empty. Fingerprints were taken. Case under investigation.”

”Sept. 21: A park manager in the 1400 block of Gulf Road reported that after having a dispute with a tenant, the tenant exposed his buttocks to him and his young children. The manager wished the information to be documented and the tenant contacted. Tenant denied any wrongdoing.”

”Sept. 22: A 46-year-old Vancouver, B.C., man was arrested for assault in the fourth degree after police, who had been called to the residence in the 1500 block of Panorama Drive for a possible domestic dispute, witnessed the man jerking a female by the collar and would not allow her to get up. The man was escorted back to Canada.”

U.S.-Canadian border

U.S.-Canadian border

”Sept. 29: An individual in the 100 block of Monte Road reported that his next-door neighbor had plugged a travel trailer into his house without asking. The individual does not know how long it had been plugged in. A note was left for the neighbor who had said no note was found. A summons will be sent to the neighbor for theft in the third degree.”

”Oct. 1: An individual advised that around the first of August, an unknown subject entered the U.S. from Canada and requested political asylum. The subject was Canadian and did not meet any requirements. The subject ran back to Canada leaving a bicycle and has not returned.”

So, you see, life is not uneventful in Point Roberts, especially in late September.

Point Roberts was named in 1792 by Captain George Vancouver after his longtime friend Captain Henry Roberts. Point_Roberts guard sign

It was settled by Icelanders, who scraped out a living by fishing and farming, although the soil is some of the worst in Canada. Later, canneries opened up to process the haul of fish from traps set into shallow Boundary Bay. Point Roberts reached the apogee of its fame during Prohibition, when the community was a hotbed of rumrunning.

Tables turned after the repeal of the Volstead Act, when Canadians began to come to Point Roberts on Sundays to drink. At the time, it was illegal to serve alcohol on Sundays in Canada. A thriving saloon business began that survives to this day, with the addition of bingo, although the bars advertise it as ”gambling,” because bingo just doesn’t sound illicit enough.

Things begin hopping in Point Roberts in the summer, when vacationers from Vancouver swarm the place, quadrupling the population. A marina is the central attraction. boundary obelisk

But hidden in the northwest corner of the enclave, along Roosevelt Way, is a monument of historical importance: the westernmost boundary marker along the 49th Parallel. It is a worn, lichen-crusted stone obelisk marking latitude 49 degrees north and longitude 123 degrees, 3 minutes and 53 seconds west. The surveyors who fixed the border started from this point and worked their way east.

Small customs offices are on both sides of the border on Tyee Drive. The Canadian office is newer and slightly larger. But the United States, not to be outdone, has built a new $5 million facility to replace the old one.

In the basement is a jail, needed to hold criminals until the boat can take them to the mainland.

 

This brings to an end the series of entries for “California and the West,” chronicling the drive from Tijuana, Mexico to Vancouver, Canada.

seattle aquarium rainy day

It is one of the unexpected symmetries of nature that the tropics should spawn the zillions of exotic flowers and vines that are its trademark, but that the abundance of ocean life grows where the water is cold. Puget Sound is cold year round.

A short list. Puget Sound has: 50 species of sponge; 200 species of annelids; 20 species of anemone; 70 species of shrimp; 25 species of hermit crab; 20 species of seastars; 36 species of sculpin; 24 species of rockfish; 16 species of limpet; and four species of octopus, including the world’s largest at up to 20 feet across and over 100 lbs., the Octopus dofleini.

And the animals of the Sound are often as exotic and lurid as any humid liana or dripping orchid.sea pen 2

There is, for instance, the Ptilosarcus gurneyi, or seapen. This has nothing to do with the spiny bivalve of the East Coast. It is not even a bivalve. It is an aquatic plume with its nib in an inkwell, buried in the sandy bottom of the Sound. It is bright orange with a fringed plumage that stretches up to a foot long. It is luminescent and produces a bright green light when stroked.

Seapens belong to the same general group of Cnidarians as the sea anemones, but the fact that their polyps are small and organized into a featherlike colony obscures that relationship somewhat.

What binds most of the invertebrates of the Sound together is color. The richness of the colors on the seabed shame the peacock. There are the three sea urchins each a different lascivious hue. Stongylocentrotus purpuratus is dayglo purple; S. droebackiensis is forest green; and S. franciscanus is 6 to 8 inches across and bright red and purple. It is a basketball among urchins.

The white sea cucumber is white as milkglass with electric orange thorns along its length. starfish pile

The starfish were manufactured by Binney and Smith. The Solaster stimsonii has 10 legs and each is striped with blue showing brightly against the field of ocher. The bloodstar is blood red; the rose star is pink; and Leptasterias hexactus has six legs and shows the color of a pomegranate.blood star

The sunflower star has up to 24 fat legs and is a dull yellow with bright orange rays.

The sea lemon is a 7-inch long nudibranch that is lemon yellow — a translucent yellow back with amorphous scores of lacy tubefeet. Puget Sound has more kinds of echinoderms than anywhere else in the world.

There are lavander abelones; 8-inch-long gumboot chitons; light blue filaments on algaed rocks that are an annelid, Thelepus crispus; crimson anemones; giant barnacles (Balanus nubilus) that are over 3 inches across; red-tissued scallops with rock colored shells and dozens of black eyes peering through the feathery antennae around the seems of the shell; gordian-knotted basket stars; warty, transparent, hairy sea squirts and sea pork; a red and pink anemone that is 12 to 15 inches across its waving tentacles.Green anemone

There is the edible pride of the Sound, the Panope generosa, or geoduck clam (pronounced as “gooey-duck.”) It is a bivalve that weighs up to 20 lbs. and, with its oversize siphon, looks like a bratwurst on a sliced kaiser roll. The meaty parts of the geoduck are so large that it cannot close its shell.geoduck

The other edible wonder is the sweet-meated Dungeness crab. Others may brag on their Alaskan king crab, but to those who have tasted the Dungeness, so much bragging on a thing merely because it is large is gauche, fit only for a Texan. The Dungeness makes the AKC seem like a can of tunafish.

So far, I have barely mentioned any fish. But they are as abundant and varied as the invertebrates. There are prickleback, gunnels, tubesnouts, pipefish, sea horses, sculpins, clingfish, and spiny lumpsuckers among the odder finny wonders.striped greenling

The painted greenling has zebra-stripes of cobalt blue on a salmon field with random purple and white spots. The Gobiesox, a clingfish, is round and fat with a flat head and a sucker on his bottom and is tan, netted with purple and with white spots or freckles. One tubesnout, Aulorhynchus flavidus, is translucent and yellow-green. It is 3 or 4 inches long, but narrow as a drinking straw and one can see his organs twitching on his insides.

By far the best place to see these zoological delights is the Seattle Aquarium. It is the best aquarium I have ever seen, making even the Coney Island show look bush league.

And the most wonderful feature of the Seattle Aquarium is the dome.Aquarium big room

Inside a huge tank of seawater, there is a many-windowed dome looking up and into the fish-filled water. The tank is decked out to look like the bottom of the Sound, one side complete with harbor pilings to gather barnacles, and the other strewn with rocks and sand. And swimming around are many of the aquadynamic shapes common to Puget Sound.

The sides of the tank scintillate with the wavering colors of sunlight broken up by the prisms of the waves on the tank surface. Through the spectrum swim trout, tomcod, salmon and catfish. The silvery salmon look like something manufactured by Boeing, like unpainted airplanes with scales for rivets. The glint of sun runs from nose to tail as the fish whips its body, propelling itself through the fluid.

The brown trout show an irridescent green when the sunlight hits.octopus 2

Huge scrotal octopods, all valves, siphons and tentacles, are strangely graceful.

A lime-white seastar rests on the sandand over it a flounder, like some Arabian magic carpet, flies, wavering its Persian body.

There are tomcod with supernumerary fins and charcoal gray dogfish with white-limned fins.

Looking sleepy among the rocks is a wolf eel with its prizefighter’s prognathous face. He is metallic blue with black coindots in bands across his body. He slithers around the floor boulders prehistorically.wolf eel 2

A sculpin stares straight at me from behind the glass with two Japanese fans for fins. A round, flattened seaperch floats slowly past the window. He has neon blue skin showing through rows of brown scales. Fom a distance he just looks brown, but up close, he is a vision.

Near me on one of the seats (church pews, I almost wrote) were four children, kicking their legs back and forth, ready to move on to whatever was next along the wall, and their shepherd, an older woman who must have been an aunt, asked almost of no one, but talking to the kids, “Isn’t it restful to watch them swim?”

But it is only restful to the adult, who has need of it. The children cannot yet understand the longing for such things.

coup de soleil, Puget Sound

coup de soleil, Puget Sound

Morning in Seattle and the drizzle slowly brightens in the dawn.

For those of us who wake up early, cities can be a problem. For although a city has a special attraction in the hours before traffic and business, it is also an oddly dead time. At 5 a.m., the light from an overcast sky slowly turns the glass on the empty bank buildings snow white; the downtown streets are vacant.Seattle roofs

And there’s really no place to find a good breakfast.

Sure, there are 24-hour chains like Denny’s, but I’m talking about a real breakfast. The fact is, a city is a slow riser. Like a groggy sleeper that first hits the snooze button, later spends a long time rubbing its eyes and finally stands under the shower half asleep, the city really takes all morning to get ready. Museums and the aquarium don’t open till 10. That’s five hours from now.

That’s one of the attractions of camping. No matter how early you get up in the wilderness, it’s open.

But there are secrets the urbanite knows. There are places he finds where he and his truck-driving buddies can get a plateful of scrambled eggs and a cup of coffee. The kind of place you don’t want to wander into and ask for Evian water or eggs Benedict.

Seattle is one of America’s great cities, or at least it was before all the Californians started moving there, before every streetcorner was anchored by a designer coffee stand.

It was a city that had a waterfront, with docks and boats. Most of the waterfront is now a tourist attraction, but the seafood companies and shipping wharfs can still be found, a little north of the aquarium and Ivar’s Acres of Clams.

In the early morning, before the tourists hit, the railroad switcher still shunts boxcars up and down a rain-shiny Alaskan Way and workers still pile fish into the backs of trucks.

There is an industrial clatter and clang along the road, under the viaduct, and steam mixes with exhaust in the mizzle.

And the city’s most beautiful breakfast can be had beginning at 5:20 a.m. on board the Kitsap.

MV Kitsap arriving in Seattle

MV Kitsap arriving in Seattle

One of the jewels of Seattle is the Washington State Ferry System and the huge, 2,000-car ferries across Puget Sound start operating each day at that hour. For a round-trip ticket of $7.70, you can board the Kitsap (or Walla-Walla, depending on which one starts the morning in the city) and take the one hour ride to Bremerton on the Kitsap Peninsula.

On board, there is a cafeteria line where you can get eggs and bacon, or a sticky bun and a cup of coffee to take to the table by the thick-painted window where you can watch Alki Point glide by as you leave Elliot Bay and enter the sound proper.

From the water, Seattle shows itself off as a seaport. You pass Harbor Island and its 10-story tall orange cargo derricks, you pass the waiting Japanese freighters anchored in the bay, and you see the working wharfs along the waterside.Seattle docks and cranes

The ferry rumbles through the water with its great diesel engines rattling the floors and windows. It churns a frothing wake through the water behind you and your coffee seems more leisurely. You get a chance to observe the weather as you eat and notice the deep slate color of the water and the patch of sunlight that breaks through near Vachon Island. Maybe the rain will break, you say to yourself.

If you’ve been here long enough, you know better.

The ferry curls around the southern end of Bainbridge Island and through the tight passages of salt water running between red cedar trees.Tacoma head on

When it docks in Bremerton, you can just stay put and wait to take the boat back to the city.

If the 2 1/2-hour round trip to Bremerton is too much time for you to spend, the ferry to Winslow costs the same and takes only 35 minutes each way. For that trip you ride the Tacoma or Wanatchee.

Either way, the trip is Seattle’s greatest bargain.

Seattle skyline, Elliott Bay

Coffeemania has abated slightly in Seattle.

There are still ”espresso” signs in drugstores and hardware stores and a local radio station advertised ”egg nog latte” at Christmas. But there used to be a Starbuck’s or a coffee wagon on every street corner. Now, they are on only every other street corner.

And the image Seattle projects through movies and Frasier of an upwardly mobile society surviving on caffeine is still at least partly true.

But there are other Seattles. There is Ballard, for instance.

Ballard is a section of town where the Norwegians live. The tourist brochure actually says, ”Velkommen til Ballard,” in ekte Norsk.

And although most of Seattle is notoriously hilly, Ballard is flat. It is looked down upon, literally and figuratively, by most of the more trendy portions of the city.

Ballard

Ballard

I remember living on Phinney Ridge, directly above Ballard, and looking down at night to see the whole city illuminated below me. ”Ah, Ballard, City of Lights,” I used to sigh.

The point being that Ballard was entirely too dull a place for anyone to actually live.

But although most of Seattle, at least in the media, is a white-collar town driven by Microsoft wonks and Boeing engineers, Ballard is uncompromisingly blue-collar. Along the Salmon Bay waterfront are working fishing boats. They pass under the steel-girder railroad drawbridge and through the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks that connect Salmon Bay with Puget Sound.

Hiram Chittenden Locks, Ballard

Hiram Chittenden Locks, Ballard

The main street, Market Street, is lined with stores where you can buy useful things, like tools and food, and the people who live there are soft-spoken and decidedly normal.

The locks are the main tourist attraction, with the salmon ladder where, in the proper season, you can watch coho and chinook salmon swim upstream to spawn. And in another season, you can see steelhead trout come back downstream and head out to sea.

May 17 celebration, Ballard

May 17 celebration, Ballard

The Nordic Heritage Museum is a large and somewhat dusty collection of Norwegiania. Some of it is genuinely cultural, much of it has more to do with the folkways of second- and third-generation immigrants whose knowledge of the ”Old Country” is confined to woodcarvings in the form of trolls and funny-looking cookies made at Christmas.

Ballard is also a good place to shop for Norwegian cooking implements.

But if Ballard sounds more neighborly than exciting, then Bell Town may be more to your taste. That is, if you wear black clothes, tattoos and have parts of your body pierced. Belltown sign with space needle

In the area around Bell Avenue, between Second and Fourth avenues, there is a kind of neo-Haight-Ashbury growing up.

In the Speakeasy Cafe, you can order a vegetarian sandwich and sit down at a computer and check your e-mail or do the Internet research you need for the article you are writing on the resurgence of Marxism in counterculture music.

On certain days of the week at the Speakeasy, there are poetry readings and live music by bands you have not yet heard of. Belltown street

Up the street is Sit & Spin, a combination cafe and laundromat. Its walls are plastered with handbills for local bands and revolutionary art lectures.

”The Cacophony Society,” reads one, ”is a randomly gathered network of free spirits united in the pursuit of experiences beyond the pale of mainstream society. We are the irreverent industrialists of mirth, gleeful unionists struggling for the liberation of daydreams and special interest groups of absurdity. You may already be a member.”

While your underwear is in the spin-dry cycle, you can wander up to the counter and ask for homemade five-bean vegetarian chili on brown rice with cheese — $2.10 per cup — or the hummus plate, with cucumbers and pita bread, for $4.10. bell street belltown seattle

The place is decorated eclectically. Coaxial cable is a unifying motif, alternating with loops of old clothes-dryer exhaust hoses. There are video games, jigsaw puzzles and a lot of young, sturdy women in black wearing Doc Martens. The men are in black, too, with the occasional plaid shirt and jeans. There is an ethnic mix, although Seattle is predominantly white. Tans are even hard to find up here where it rains all winter.

Olympic mountains precipice

Washington’s Olympic Mountains are wet. Their slopes are covered in rainforest, with broad ferns and tall redcedars with soggy, mossy bark. When it isn’t raining, it is drizzling and when it isn’t drizzling, the fog is so thick it soaks your clothes.

The western slopes of the mountains average 140 inches of rain per year; its highest point, Mount Olympus at 7,965 feet, receives the equivalent of 220 inches, most of it snow.

The Olympics are also steep. Everything in the Olympic National Park is vertical. Nearly every mountain is a towering cliff. Driving the 17-mile park road from Port Angeles to Hurricane Ridge, one side of the car views an uplift of rock only inches from the window while the other side looks out over cirques whose centers plummet thousands of feet straight down.

Mountain goats manage to dance up the sheer wall of rock as obliviously as dervishes.Deer at Hurricane Ridge Olympic NP

Hurricane Ridge is the place inside the park most accessible to the outer world, with a parking lot at the end of the road and a lodge and snack bar looking out over the Elwha Valley and the wall of peaks on the other side.

Even in June, the spring wildflowers are just beginning to poke through the snowbanks on Hurricane Ridge. Clouds blow over the mountaintop and sometimes in the middle of a white out, when you are inside a cloud and cannot see what your feet are stepping on, you are treated to the peculiar vision of a hole in the scud, a circular opening that will drift past through which you can see 15 miles to the sunlit peaks across the valley.Hurricane Ridge, Olympic NP, Wash

But my favorite spot in the Olympics is not Hurricane Ridge with its car exhaust and souvenirs, but the trail to Lake Angeles.

Beginning at Heart O’ the Hills, it climbs 2,379 feet in 3.7 miles, or an average loft of about one foot for every eight feet. That is a grade steeper than any freight train can manage.

And the first time I made that hike, I went with a friend who was a bicycle messenger in Seattle, with a stainless steel cardiovascular system. I made the first two or two and a half miles just fine, but the fatigue began to do me in, while my companion might as well have been riding an escalator.

I continued, walking ever more slowly and thinking of Sir Edmund Hillary making those last steps up Everest at a snail’s pace, stopping to breathe after each choppy step.Near Lake Angeles, Olympic NP, Wash

As the altitude changed, so did the weather. What was a pleasant 55 June degrees at the trailhead became sleety as we moved from the Hudsonian biozone, out of the Douglas fir and into the subalpine zone with its spruce and cedar.

When at last the path flattened out and we turned out of the last cove and over the last ridge, we saw Lake Angeles. We had climbed from 1,879 feet to the lake at 4,196 feet and still above us, at the opposite side of the lake, were the triple peaks of Mt. Angeles rising to 6,454 feet.lake angeles

A sheer rock wall, partially obscured by mist, rose straight up to the jagged tops of the peak, like something from a Bierstadt painting.

In the middle of the lake was an island covered with Caspar David Friedrich trees and the colors of the whole scene were Thomas Moran’s.

I was standing in the mizzle, my glasses blotted out with droplets and my clothes too wet to wipe them clear.

Across the face of the cliffs beyond the lake was a line of falling water like a John Martin lightning bolt zagging its way 400 feet down the rocks and silently roaring at its half mile distance into the gray waters of the lake.

“We shouldn’t look at angels too long,” I said and we turned to descend.

pacific coast highway

The Pacific Coast Highway travels up the western edge of the North American continent like the vein down the back of a shrimp. 

It has claim to being the single most scenic road in America, passing between the mountains and the sea for 1,500 miles from Southern California to Puget Sound in Washington. 

There may be shorter sections of other roads through the Rocky Mountains or the Appalachians that are equally stunning, but nothing approaches the Pacific Coast Highway for glory over so long a haul. 

If you pick it up in San Francisco, you cross the Golden Gate Bridge and north of the city, you take the cutoff for California Highway 1, leaving behind U.S. 101, and head for the hills. The road to the coast is so curvy and filled with switchbacks, you swear to give up driving altogether. But it finally breaks out onto the sea, and the ride is one of the best in the world.PCH north of SF

The northern half of the Pacific Coast Highway is notable for its quiet emptiness, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to do. 

Among the attractions you will pass on the Pacific Coast Highway driving from San Francisco to Olympia, Wash.: 

Marin Headlands National Recreation Area — Within sight of the Golden Gate Bridge, the headlands rise above the frequent fog and provide hiking, beaches, history and a Nike missile silo. golden gate bridge in fog

Muir Woods National Monument — One of the great groves of redwood trees, just a short hop from the city and great place for a quiet walk in the woods. 

Bolinas — The small town at the south end of Point Reyes doesn’t encourage tourism. Its citizens have been known to take down the road sign out on the highway to mislead travelers. But it so beautiful a town you can understand why they want to keep it to themselves. 

Point Reyes National Seashore — California 1 rides literally atop the San Andreas fault along the eastern edge of Point Reyes. On the other side, a renegade tectonic plate slowly has floated from Southern California to its current location north of San Francisco. Its hills, beaches and farms eventually will move north to Alaska, but give it a few million years to do so.

We’ll take the road further north, but let’s now consider the southern part of the route. We’ve already covered the glory of the Big Sur, but not all of the southern half of the road is quite so sublime. 

It is, of course, not a single highway, but a confusion of roads, for the PCH, as it is known in LA, is not an official name but a popular one, and it covers several U.S. and state route numbers. 

It is best known, for instance, as the beach road in Santa Monica. You will hear natives say they are going to take the PCH to Point Dume or Leo Carrillo State Beach, but the map of the area shows that the road they drive actually is called Palisades Beach Road. 

What is more, when it was cut through the bluff bottom in 1929, it was called the Roosevelt Highway. That is still its secondary name. 

It is also California Route 1. Through most of the state, the PCH follows California 1 and U.S. 101, hugging the coast and its scenery. 

The PCH is born haltingly and in patches south of Los Angeles. 

If you drive north from San Diego, you will be able to skirt the ocean through the city suburbs. California S21 goes through Del Mar and Cardiff-by-the-Sea, but north of Oceanside, you have no choice: You have to get on the interstate. Interstate 5 goes through Camp Pendleton and San Clemente to the actual origin of California 1 near San Juan Capistrano. 

As it travels north through Orange County and Los Angeles, California 1 is just a city street, blocked with stoplights and suffocated with traffic. It isn’t until Santa Monica that it develops its character. The spiritual beginning of the highway is where Interstate 10 ends and dumps out on the PCH under the muddy slumping palisades past the Santa Monica Pier. PCH begins at santa monica

This is the beach California is famous for — surfers and frozen yogurt shops, lifeguard stands and parking lots crammed to the gills with shiny Hondas and Toyotas. The land of swelling bikinis and glistening sunglasses. 

On summer weekends, the traffic is bumper to bumper through Topanga Beach and Malibu. It doesn’t let up — and then only a little — till past Point Dume. But the wait is worth it as the natural world reasserts itself at El Matador, El Pescador and Leo Carrillo state beaches. PCH at_Gladstones Malibu

And if you are lucky enough to be there at midweek in midwinter, you can have the beach all to yourself. Los Angeles is just a bad urban memory. 

For the next 100 miles, the road alternates between beach and city, passing Oxnard, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo on one hand and Point Magu, Refugio Beach and Pismo Beach on the other. The road takes a long inland detour around Vandenberg Air Force Base, through Lompoc, beloved foil for W.C. Fields, and although the ocean is hidden, the grassy golden hills of California make a fitting substitute. 

It is north of Morro Bay, however, that the PCH earns its reputation. It would be hard to find a more stunning stretch of coast road anywhere. 

California 1 rides a shelf above the sea cliffs with the ocean on the west and the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains to the east. At times, the mountains crowd on the highway; elsewhere, the broad grassy plain widens out, pushing the mountains back. Farmhouses and pasture fence off the flats and some of the country’s best campsites are just beside the road. 

William Randolph Hearst’s castle, San Simeon, is the biggest single attraction in the area. The original yellow journalist and the newspaper publisher who brought us the Spanish-American War spent more than a quarter of a century building the mansion, turning it into a grandiose monument of risible bad taste. 

So much for the comic relief: The grand climax of the entire West Coast rises out of the water north of San Simeon. Big Sur, it is called, and it is the very model of the rocks and sea fighting over territory. Bixby Creek Bridge Big Sur

The highway through the area wasn’t opened until 1937. Men died cutting the road from the mountains. It corkscrews in and out of coves and headlands, up and down, with precipices to one side and breakers to the other. 

Writer Henry Miller lived in the area in a little shack on Anderson Creek for years. 

”Often when the clouds pile up in the north and the sea is churned with whitecaps, I say to myself: ‘This is the California that men dreamed of years ago, this is the Pacific that Balboa looked out on from the Peak of Darien, this is the face of the Earth as the creator intended it to look.’ ” 

Miller also said, ”It was here at Big Sur that I first learned to say amen!”  

Everything beyond the Big Sur is anticlimactic: The land slowly uncurls and flattens and the real estate becomes populated. Carmel-by-the-Sea is a town of tourists and the slumming wealthy. Coffee shops replace redwoods and couture replaces granite. 

Just outside of town, there is Point Lobos State Reserve, a jutting peninsula filled with sea-weathered rock and Monterey cypress. 

And in the town of Monterey, the aquarium is a perennial favorite. 

But the landscape seems hopelessly mercantile after the sublimity of Sur. Monterey Bay is one vast, flat, muddy estuary given over to the growing of garlic and artichokes. 

North of Santa Cruz, nature reasserts herself, though less majestically. At Point Año Nuevo, there is a state reserve where elephant seals breed each winter. Access is by ticket only, and reservations are a necessity. Pigeon Point lighthouse PCH

A few miles along the road, Pigeon Point Lighthouse is the site of a hostel run by American Youth Hostels with a hot tub perched on a rocky cliff. 

The landscape is green and wet, with creeks gathering from the mountain runoff and pouring into the ocean in sandy deltas lined with beach. There is little traffic most of the year, despite the proximity of San Jose, less than 10 miles away but shielded from the coast by impassable mountains. PCH Pacifica headland

But the closer you get to San Francisco, the more development you find. North of Half Moon Bay, there is only one more brief run of wildness, as the road has to bend around San Pedro Mountain. At the place called Devil’s Slide, where the road cuts through a very unstable portion of the mountain, the road often has been closed by landslide. It is now bypassed by the Tom Lantos Tunnels, which are more efficient, but less adventurous. 

The southern half of the Pacific Coast Highway alternates between the most asphalt-choked cities and the most untamed nature, culminating in the great crescendo of the Big Sur. 

It can be seen as a kind of symphony, building to a grand outburst of brass and timpani, then quieting down to a final city cadence. From Los Angeles to San Francisco — something like 500 miles by this circuitous route — you can forget the planet is filled to the breaking point with humanity. You can reacquaint yourself with the elemental forces of rock, water and air and recharge your batteries. 

But there are some people who say it gets even better. North of San Francisco, there is almost nothing but nature. golden gate bridge

If the southern half is a symphony of alternating moods, the northern half of the PCH is more like the Bach cello suites: solitary, quiet, sublime but reflective. At times, you may feel as if you are the only car on the only road in the hemisphere. 

There are state beaches and parks along the way, and a few towns, like Fort Ross and Albion, but for the most part, this is a road between a green interior and a rocky blue sea: a ribbon of innigkeit. At least until you come back to quasi-civilization at Eureka, and the road (now U.S. 101) heads north into Oregon. 

Along the way, there are punctuations. 

Fort Ross State Historic Park — North of the Russian River, you find explanations for the name: Russian architecture speaks of the days when that nation attempted to colonize the western rim of North America. Sonoma Valley fence

Mendocino — One of the most beautiful of the small towns along the PCH, Mendocino is in grave danger of selling out to tourism. It still is worth visiting, but it will not be long before it goes the way of Ferndale to the north. 

Fort Bragg — Much more blue-collar, and therefore much more real, than its tourist-funded neighbors, the town is home to lumber mills and commercial fishing. In it, you can catch the flavor of what actual living is like on the Northern California coast. Mendocino County, Calif Fort Bragg

Leggett — At this little town, not much more than a point on the map, California 1 rejoins U.S. 101 for the trip through the heart of Redwoodland. It is also the home of the ”original” drive-through tree (there are several others). 

Avenue of the Giants — A 33-mile side road that parallels the main highway from Phillipsville to Jordan Creek, California 254 is an old byway that takes you through the heart of the old tourist redwood areas. There are lots of places to buy clocks made from redwood, and several old-fashioned tourist traps for kids. It is hokey enough to be worth visiting. It is also beautiful. 

Humboldt Redwoods State Park — One of the largest stands of redwood, with 50,000 acres along the Eel River, this is the true heart of redwood country. Camping, hiking and just sucking in the ether makes this one of the best stops along the route. 

Scorched redwood, Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Scorched redwood, Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Ferndale — If you really, really want a place to buy souvenirs and ”old fashioned” candy, the likes of which no old-timer ever saw, Ferndale is the place to do it. Like a chunk of gingerbread Disneyland set down in paradise, it reminds us, if we are ever in danger of forgetting, that America runs on money. 

Eureka — The largest town on the route north of San Francisco, Eureka is another gritty blue-collar town, and a healthy dose of reality after the ersatz huckstering of Ferndale. It is also the home of the Samoa Cookhouse, one of the great eating places in the state, where food is served family style and in huge doses. 

Redwood National Park — Spread out in discontiguous patches through Northern California like spots on a Holstein cow, the park protects about 100,000 acres of redwood. It isn’t the best or most impressive stand of redwoods — I recommend Homboldt for that — it still is worth stopping for, especially for the parts that front the ocean. 

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area — For 50 miles north of Coos Bay, the oceanfront consists of mountainous sand dunes. At Honeyman State Park, 10 miles south of Florence, a 150-foot dune rises over a reflecting pond. 

Sea Lion Caves — Just north of Florence, the waves have cut a monster cave in the sea cliffs and thousands of stellar sea lions come there each year to breed. It is the only such rookery on the American mainland. It is a much worthier stop than it might sound like: The tourist trap angle is played down and the animals are real and fascinating. 

US101 Near Yachats

US101 Near Yachats

Yachats — This small town is the perfect seaside vacation resort, with all the restaurants and motels, marinas and beaches that implies. Oregonians come here to rent ”cottages” for a week or two in the summer. 

Oregon Coast Aquarium — In Newport, the aquarium is an up-to-date modern facility with wonderful exhibits and a must-stop location along the highway, just under one of Oregon’s great, green bridges, this over Yaquina Bay. 

Tillamook — One of the few places where the highway steps back from the water, Tillamook is the home of a cheese factory with tours and the world’s largest all-wooden building, which is, in fact, a blimp hangar with an airplane museum inside. 

Seaside — Actually, the whole piece of coastline from Rockaway Beach through Cannon Beach to Seaside more closely mimics the New Jersey shore than anyplace else in America. It is a place for frozen yogurt, saltwater taffy and bicycle rentals. 

Fort Clatsop — When the Lewis and Clark expedition finally made it to the Pacific in 1805, they stayed in a tiny wooden fort they built and named Fort Clatsop after the local Indians. The re-creation of this fort is one of the great historic sites and gives you a chance to learn how the 40 men, one woman and a baby spent the miserable winter before heading back to civilization. 

Aberdeen — The Aberdeen, Hoquiam bi-city area is built on the lumber business, or at least it used to be. The factories and docks are still there, although not always busy. This industrial town is also the birthplace of Kurt Cobain and you can visit the high school he attended; a scholarship has been set up in his name, sort of the equivalent of a good citizenship award named for Vidmar Quisling. 

Olympic National Park seashore

Olympic National Park seashore

Hoh River Rain Forest — The western side of the Olympic Peninsula gets nearly 12 feet of rain annually, making its temperate forest of hemlock, cedar and Sitka spruce luxuriant beyond all bounds. Giant ferns catch the humidity and green out the understory and all winter long – the rainy season – drops of water spatter from the leafage. 

Olympic National Park — North of the Quinault Indian Reservation, the highway pokes out to the ocean once more, and the Olympic Coastal Strip, part of the national park, follows the shoreline for 57 miles, making this the longest wilderness coastline in the continental U.S. 

Hurricane Ridge — The northern entrance to Olympic National Park sits just south of Port Angeles and the long climb up to Hurricane Ridge is one of the great alpine drives. You likely will pass mountain goats, elk and tons of yellow marmots, and it is not unlikely you will come across snow all year long. 

Olympia — Home of Olympia beer — called ”Oh-lee” by the locals – and the end of the route. It is the state capital, but, most of all, it’s a good place to have a beer and celebrate the end of the drive.