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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

an unforgettable Pacific Northwest experience

The Pacific Northwest is a treasure trove of unforgettable places and experiences. However, as a native Washingtonian, if I had to choose one experience that cannot be missed, I would choose riding a Washington State ferry.

These behemoths carry passengers all over the Puget Sound and connect the Olympic Peninsula to the mainland. Passengers can walk on, drive on, or bicycle on to the boats. The 10+ routes vary in duration, but all are exceptionally beautiful because the whole Puget Sound is dotted with tree-covered islands and lined by the Olympic Mountains to the west and the Cascade Mountains to the east, not to mention Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier. Orca whale sightings, along with all other kinds of sea life, are not rare either!
I think any Washingtonian who grew up along the Puget Sound has their favorite route; mine happens to be the Edmonds - Kingston route, mostly due to nostalgia (I grew up in Kingston and spent years of my life commuting to and from work and school on this route) and the specific views of the mountains and water it offers (especially during sunrise or sunset). While this route is busy with commuters, it is not nearly as busy as the Bainbridge Island - Seattle route, which is bustling with so many commuters it can be hard to find a seat.

However, since most visitors to Washington start their trip in the city, I would recommend the Seattle - Bainbridge Island route. It also has beautiful views, and Bainbridge Island is a great little place to explore (trust me -- I also lived there for one year while commuting on this route to work in Seattle). The other route that leaves from Seattle goes to Bremerton, which, in all honesty, is the kinda armpit of the Puget Sound.

The cost to ride the ferry depends on how you embark and your age. For example, if I walked onto the boat today, a round trip journey would cost me $8.20. Note: if you walk on, you only pay to ride west. The ride east is free. That is not true for driving on; in that case, you pay both ways. If I drove onto the boat today, I would pay $14.30. The cost of the rides are always controversial to Washingtonians; remember: a lot of people pay these costs everyday to go to work, which can really begin to add up.

What's there to do on the boat?

Well, my number one recommendation would be to head up to the open deck and admire the view. Just make sure you take off your hat and scarf; otherwise, you might lose them for good into the cold, blue waters of the Puget Sound. If it's a dreary day, most of the boats have local art and history hanging up on the inner walls of the walkways, but still, go to the upper deck. The mountains and water look so beautiful shrouded in clouds! Many boats also have information centers. The cafeterias, while overpriced, sell delicious mocha chocolate chip muffins along with other goods like soft pretzels with dipping cheese and coffee.

I take great pride in where I come from (for both its liberal tendencies and luscious nature), and I love watching people from out of town ride a ferry of the Puget Sound for the first time.

It is, after all, a mesmerizing experience.

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