WASHINGTON: Orcas, Seabirds and Salmon

At the present time EcoQuest Travel does not have a trip to Washington scheduled. The following itinerary is an example of trips we have conducted in the past and is similar to trips we intend to offer in the future. Please keep in mind that EcoQuest Travel offers many different itineraries to the Pacific Northwest – the trip listed below is just one example. If you are interested in Washington as a destination please contact us for further information.

The Wildlife of Washington

Orcas, Seabirds and Salmon

Natural History Trip, August 11 – August 20

10 – Day Itinerary

Day 1) Saturday, August 11: Raleigh to Seattle, Washington

We will arrive at Raleigh/Durham International Airport two hours prior to our scheduled departure time for our flight from Raleigh to Seattle, Washington. Upon arrival, we will pick up our vans and head for Seattle’s Ballard locks located on the shores of Puget Sound. The locks connect saltwater Puget Sound with freshwater Salmon Bay and Lakes Union and Washington and are among the busiest in the US. Our main objective at the locks is to view the salmon ladder that allow for the passage of migrating salmon. The large underwater observation windows should give us a great view of the salmon run. Summer chinook, or king salmon, should be running while we are there and the sight of these huge colorful fish heading to their spawning grounds is awesome. We may also see some opportunistic harbor seals and/or sea lions attempting to catch the salmon as they congregate near the ladder. Many of the salmon we observe are migrating to their spawning grounds in Issaquah Creek. After we leave the locks we will drive to the Issaquah State Salmon Hatchery for a presentation by hatchery personnel about salmon life history strategies and the economic importance of salmon to the Pacific Northwest. When we are finished at the hatchery we will walk across the street to Stan’s Barbeque for dinner. After dinner we will stay overnight at the Days Inn Bellevue. (D)

Day 2) Sunday, August 12: Port Townsend and Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge

This morning, after breakfast at the hotel, we will travel to the northern suburb of Edmonds to catch the ferry across Puget Sound. Once across Puget Sound we will continue on to Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula. Once in Port Townsend we will visit the Marine Science Center for a tour of their facilities. Although small, the Marine Science Center has a nice collection of marine fish and invertebrates that will help us prepare for the animals we might see while exploring tidepools later in our trip. The Marine Science Center also lies at the mouth of Admiralty Inlet, so we should get our first chance to observe several species of feeding seabirds such as red-necked grebes, Heermann’s and glaucous-winged gulls, pigeon guillemots, rhinoceros auklets and maybe marbled murrelets. We will eat lunch at Fort Worden State Park and have some more time in the afternoon to look for seabirds and perhaps marine mammals as well. In the late afternoon we will check into our hotel and prepare for an early dinner. After an early dinner we will drive to the boat docks to board our boat for our sunset cruise to Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge. Protection Island is an incredible marine sanctuary and is home to thousands of breeding seabirds including black oystercatchers, pelagic cormorants and pigeon guillemots. The high bluffs of this island are Washington’s main nesting area for rhinoceros auklets with an estimated 17,000 breeding pairs nesting each year. The other star attraction is a few pairs of tufted puffins and we will work hard to see these spectacular birds. We will return to the boat docks by 9:00 and return to the Harborside Inn for overnight. (B,L,D)

Day 3) Monday, August 13: Olympic National Park

We will have an early breakfast before departing for Port Angeles – the gateway to Olympic National Park. Olympic NP is a land of extraordinary contrasts – from the tidepools and sea-stacks of the Pacific Coast to the dense temperate inland rainforests to the wildflower filled meadows and gleaming glacial peaks of the high country. Today we will begin our exploration of Olympic NP by entering the northern entrance and driving to Hurricane Ridge. The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center is located at 5,230 feet and if we have a clear day we should have spectacular views of the Olympic peaks draped in snow and accentuated by glaciers. Wildlife is abundant in the high country and we hope to see Olympic marmots (found only in the Park), black-tailed deer, blue grouse, gray jays and maybe even mountain goats and golden eagles if we are lucky. We will have a bit of time to hike before driving along the mountain ridges to Obstruction Point. Lower on the mountain slopes in the dense forests we could spy Douglas squirrels, Townsend’s chipmunks, varied thrush and chestnut-backed chickadees. In the late afternoon, depending on the tides, we will leave the Park to visit Tongue Point. This promontory of land sticks out into the Straits of Juan de Fuca and during low tide is an incredible place to explore tidepools. After a full day we will return to our hotel and prepare to have dinner at Bushwhackers – an old well known restaurant serving local cuisine. Depending on our schedule we may take a night drive up Elwha River Road into the Park and try to coax a rare and endangered spotted owl into view. (B,L,D)

Day 4) Tuesday, August 14: Neah Bay, the Makah Native American Museum, Cape Flattery and the Straits of Juan de Fuca

After an early breakfast we will depart for the western-most point in the lower 48 – Cape Flattery. Along the way we will parallel the Straits of Juan de Fuca and will have several opportunities to stop and survey the kelp beds for gray whales, harbor seals and sea otters. The kelp beds also host a number of birds including mew gulls, harlequin ducks, surf and white-winged scoters and marbled murrelets. We should arrive in Neah Bay on the Makah Indian Reservation in time for a picnic lunch. After lunch we will enjoy a tour of the Makah Museum which contains many cultural and historical artifacts. A trip to the Pacific Northwest without an understanding of this region’s Native American culture and history would be incomplete. While at the Museum we will also have the privilege of meeting some of the tribal leaders and hearing some of their traditional stories. Later in the afternoon we will drive out to Cape Flattery and hike the trail to the observation deck. Overlooking the Pacific where the Straits of Juan de Fuca meet the ocean, the deck is a great place to spy wildlife. If the weather is clear we could see sea otters and lots of nesting seabirds on nearby Tatoosh Island. After our brief hike we will head back along the coast and then south to the town of Forks where we will spend the night and eat dinner at the Smokehouse restaurant – famous for their smoked salmon. (B,L,D)

Day 5) Wednesday, August 15: Olympic National Park – the Hoh Rainforest and the Tide Pools of Ruby Beach

Today we will explore the other habitats that Olympic NP is famous for – the rainforest and the Pacific shoreline. After another early breakfast we will head south to visit the Hoh Rainforest. One of only three temperate rainforests in the world the Hoh, and most of the lower western slopes of Olympic NP, receives over 12 feet of rain a year. This is a magical place were thick blankets of moss drape the Douglas fir, big-leaf maple, western hemlock and Sitka spruce creating an almost primordial scene. We could see Roosevelt elk in the Hoh River Valley and will spend most of the morning hiking some of the trails. Although herps are very scarce on the ground this will be our best opportunity to find some of the western salamanders and frogs such as: long-toed, Olympic, ensatina and Cope’s giant salamanders; and tailed, red-legged and spotted frogs. Pacific treefrogs are quite common and if we are really lucky we could find a couple of reptiles like a northern alligator lizard or a rubber boa. After spending the morning in the rainforest we will travel to the Pacific coast to the Ruby Beach and Kalaloch portions of the Park. These areas are renowned for their tidepools and during low tide an incredible array of marine invertebrates can be found. Anemones, urchins, limpets, sea stars, crabs and sometimes even octopus can be seen as they wait the coming tide. We will have a picnic lunch at the beach and have most of the afternoon to explore the tidepools. In the late afternoon we will head inland to Lake Quinault. If enough time allows we will drive along the Quinault River in search of bald eagles, dippers, elk and other wildlife. Tonight we will stay overnight and have dinner at the famous Lake Quinault Lodge. The expansive dining room looks out over the lake and it was after staying/dining here in 1937 that Franklin Roosevelt recommended adding this area to Olympic NP. We should be enjoying the excellent cuisine as the sunset adds splashes of color to the lake before slipping beneath the Pacific horizon. (B,L,D)

Day 6) Thursday, August 16: Lake Quinault back to Port Townsend

This morning we will eat breakfast at the Lake Quinault Lodge before departing for Port Townsend. We will make several stops along the way to explore more of the rich ecosystems found on the Olympic Peninsula. We will drive along both shores of Lake Quinault before driving north to Forks and west to La Push. La Push is located on the Pacific and should allow more opportunities to search tidepools and perhaps spy tufted puffins offshore and sea otters among the kelp beds. After lunch in La Push we will cut through Olympic National Park, past Sol Duc Hot Springs and along Lake Crescent on our way back to Port Townsend. We will stay overnight once again at the Harborside Inn. (B,L,D)

Day 7) Friday, August 17: Port Townsend to Whidbey Island and on to Anacortes

Today is mostly a travel day. After breakfast we will depart Port Townsend by taking the Keystone Ferry across Admiralty Inlet to Whidbey Island. We will explore Whidbey as we travel north toward Deception Pass State Park and Anacortes. Once in Anacortes we will settle into our accommodations at the Marina Inn and walk across the street to the Pizza Factory for dinner. (B,L,D)

Day 8) Saturday, August 18: Boating Among the Orcas and Kayaking the Coastline

We will have an early breakfast today before departing for the boat docks in Anacortes. We will depart by 9:00 on an incredible excursion to see orcas in the wild. It will truly be a privilege to spend time among these magnificent creatures! Our boat is very fast and we will explore the San Juan Islands and the coasts of Washington and perhaps British Columbia in search of the whales. There are both resident and transient orca pods in and around this area and chances are very good that we will be able to find them – especially the residents. The transient pods mainly hunt marine mammals and as a result they move over vast areas. The resident pods feed primarily on salmon and since the salmon will be running heavily at this time of year we should be able to not only find the orcas, but spend some quality time with them as well. Orcas are not the only mammals we could see as both harbor and Dall’s porpoise are quite common in these waters. Minke whales are seen frequently and seals and many species of seabirds are also prevalent. After a full morning of whale watching we will head to Deception Pass for a picnic lunch. After lunch we will enjoy an hour and a half of sea kayaking along the spectacular coastline of Deception Pass State Park. The waters of Bowman Bay are quite calm and should provide a great kayaking experience among the abundant wildlife and past the dramatic shoreline. In the late afternoon we will return to our hotel in Anacortes and prepare for dinner at the Rockfish Grill.  (B,L,D)

Day 9) Sunday, August 19: Travel to Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo and Dinner High  Above Seattle in the Space Needle

After an early breakfast at our hotel we will check out and depart for Seattle. We will try to arrive at Seattle’s famous Woodland Park Zoo as the gates open. This is a fantastic zoo that not only has a great collection of animals housed in very natural habitats, but it is also a leader in research and conservation. Woodland Park is known for their work with elephants, Komodo dragons, jaguars and many other species. We will spend most of the day at the zoo where we will also have the special privilege to have a look behind the scenes. We will have the opportunity to meet some of the zoo staff to learn more about some of the zoo’s global conservation projects. Once we depart the zoo we will travel south toward the airport and our accommodations at the Hampton Inn Seattle Airport. After we have checked in we will have time to change into our dressier clothes for a special farewell dinner high above the Seattle skyline. Dinner tonight will take place in the Space Needle one of Seattle’s most recognized landmarks. Built in 1962 as the centerpiece for the World’s Fair, the Space Needle soars 605 feet above the city. We will have a chance to visit the observation deck both before and after having a gourmet dinner in the revolving restaurant. (B,L,D)

Day 10) Monday, August 20: Fly from Seattle Back Home to Raleigh

We will have breakfast at our hotel before heading to the airport to turn in the vans and catch our morning flight back to Raleigh. We will likely try to pack a lunch to take with us as it is unlikely we will be fed on the plane. (B,L)

*Please note that EcoQuest Travel, Inc. will make every effort to adhere to this itinerary, but dates, times, activities and prices are subject to change depending on scheduling and availability.