Tag Archives: tour

Delightful Diablo Dam Boat Tour

Last weekend, my husband and I took the Skagit Tour on Diablo Lake, located just off the North Cascades Highway near Newhalem. I remembered taking the same trip in my tweens and it stuck with me. Then it combined a ride up a pulley contraption, a boat tour and a farm-style chicken lunch where you passed around platters of chicken and bowls of mashed potatoes (even then that was my favorite part).

Diablo Dam


I’ve been wanting to go again to see if it was how I remembered it. Because Diablo Dam and two other dams in the area create the majority of the power for Seattle City Light, they had always handled the tours before. Then last year, the economy forced them to cancel for the year. This year Seattle City Light partnered with the North Cascades Institute and the North Cascades National Park to bring the tours back.

The day begins with a healthy buffet lunch, organic salad makings, soups, macaroni and cheese, plus a variety of desserts. After a short orientation by one of the park rangers, you’re free to wander the grounds, check out the gift shop or hike down to the boat launch. I visited the gift shop and found out a mama black bear and her two cubs had been sited on the property just four days before. I sincerely hoped I didn’t meet up with her.

We boarded the Alice Ross III (she’s had two predecessors) at 1 p.m. for the narrated boat tour of Diablo Dam, which was built in 1920 and Diablo Lake. We passed by two islands – one named Deer Island, because deer actually swim out to it to sample the grass and another named Monkey Island.

Ranger Lauren telling us about Monkey Island and other stories

J.D. Ross was the supervisor of Seattle City Light when Diablo, Ross and Gorge Dam were built. The story has it that he was quite a showman. So he populated one of the islands with monkeys and when the boat tour went by passengers saw monkeys swinging through the trees. In no way is this a climate monkeys like so every night a zookeeper had to take them to a warm place to sleep. Now the monkeys are gone.

When you go on this tour, you’ll hear lots more stories like the one about Monkey Island. I highly recommend it as informative, educational and above all, very pleasurable. It’s not the same tour of my childhood, but it’s still a very good one.

Letting Someone Else Drive: Olympia During the Holidays

View from the dining room of the Budd Bay Cafe

Yesterday I tried something new – a tour with seniors sponsored by the Federal Way Community Center. And I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I loved the luxury of having someone else drive and being able to watch the sights instead of the road and traffic signs.

As a bonus, I saw an elf running down the road and Santa in his sleigh. Might have missed both had I been driving.

We took back roads and avoided Interstate 5 as much as possible. Roy, McKenna and Yelm passed by the van window slowly – small towns you never get an opportunity to see from the freeway. The driver told us Yelm has been totally unaffected by the economic downturn. I wonder why that is. But all the businesses did appear to be thriving.

Our first scheduled stop was for lunch at the Budd Bay Café, which boasts a 180-degree view of Budd Bay. Anytime I can dine and watch the sea while doing so makes me calm and joyful. Add to that a Dungeness crab and shrimp Louie that attained perfection and I will definitely be returning to this restaurant. Others in our party savored gigantic bowls of clam chowder, French dips and salmon. Most any local seafood you can imagine graced the menu. Just the names of the desserts – mile high chocolate cake and white cake peach pudding – made me salivate, but alas the salad was all I could conquer in one sitting.

On to the Capitol Legislative Building where we gazed and commented on the Christmas tree filled with lights and ornaments obviously hung by professionals. It makes our trees at home seem like pathetic miniatures. But then we could all enjoy this tree without having to exert any effort in getting it ready. That was the good part.

The decorated tree is located in the Rotunda which features the largest chandelier ever created by the Tiffany Studios in New York. Our driver (yes, I do feel a little like I was chauffeured) told us a Volkswagen could fit inside the chandelier.

Christmas tree in the Rotunda of the Olympia Capitol Legislative Building

The marble, Tiffany chandeliers, heavy red velvet draperies and elaborate décor in the Reception Room scream opulence, is hard to swallow given all the budget cuts currently being considered by the legislature. But I have to remind myself that the building was designed long ago when that was the norm. And it really makes for an elegant and beautiful building.

Public tours of the Legislative Building are free and offered hourly from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information about sites, dining options and activity options, visit www.visitolympia.com.

Haunted Happenings in Yakima

I love free, fun activities and here’s one that shouldn’t be missed this month.

Shorty, a stage hand has been caught haunting the Capitol Theatre. Hear all about his handiwork on this tour.

Yakima's Capitol Theatre courtesy of the Yakima Valley Visitors Bureau

The P.A.S.T. is Present Paranormal Investigation Team is offering free guided, narrated walking ghost tours in downtown Yakima. Are the rumors of ghost-like activity on the third and fourth floors of Yakima City Hall actually true? Find out on this tour. Confirmed paranormal activity has been detected in the Yakima Valley Sports Center and The Depot Restaurant.

The Depot Restaurant courtesy of Karl Corpron

Recently published and written by Heather Caro for Yakima Magazine:  “The Depot was built in 1910 by the Northern Pacific Railway to be a focal point for the growing city of Yakima. Over the years, an untold number of people have passed beneath its signature white tiled dome (including a famous traveling hobo who used the pseudonym “A#1” to escape capture by the authorities … his signature is carved into the marble of what is now the ladies bathroom).”

The paranormal investigators who host this tour seek out the truth of spiritual claims by using commonly practiced scientific methods. They rule out all naturally occurring phenomenon, human influence, environmental factors and scientific based processes so what’s left is either inexplicable or paranormal in nature. Since the Yakima-based group formed in August of 2008, they have conducted investigations at private residences, businesses and historic outdoor locations throughout Washington State. http://www.pastispresent.net

Tours take place each Friday in October at 6 p.m., and Saturdays at 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Reservations are requested, but not required. However, a minimum of five people are needed to conduct a tour. To make a reservation, call 509.945.9830.

While you’re in Yakima, visit the Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail, have a spa treatment, shop or engage in any of the many outdoor activities like fishing, hiking or golfing. Find out more about what’s happening in Yakima at http://www.visityakimavalley.org.

Take a “Twilight” Tour

The Chamber of Commerce is your best bet for a starting point for all things Forks/Twilight

As you may know, the “Twilight” books are set in Forks, Washington, because the average yearly rainfall there is 10 – 12 feet (yes, that’s not a mistake – Forks measures precipitation in feet, not inches). Vampires, who dominate the story in each of the books, don’t tolerate sunlight, but thrive in rain-soaked Forks.

Although none of the “Twilight” movies were or will be filmed in Forks, you can still visit many of the places mentioned in the books – where the characters go to school, play, eat, sleep and work. You can pay for an organized, narrated tour offered by the folks at the Dazzled by Twilight store in Forks or you can pick up a map highlighting “Twilight” icons at the Forks Chamber of Commerce and take a self-guided expedition.

What you’ll see

Driving north on Highway 101, you’ll know you’ve reached the “Twilight” zone when you see Bella’s (the heroine of the books) rusty red Chevy pickup truck parked in front of the Chamber of Commerce. The “Bella” vanity plate gives it away.

Stop at the Chamber office and pick up a tour map and check out the “Love Bites” jewelry crafted by the administrator at the Forks Hospital and her sister.

The self-guided map points out:

  • Bella and her dad’s house
  • The police station where Charlie Swan (Bella’s dad)works
  • Forks High School where Bella first meets her love interest, Edward
  • Forks Community Hospital where Dr. Cullen works and has his own reserved, well-marked parking space
  • The Cullen’s home, which is an actual bed and breakfast that usually has a note on the front door saying where the Cullen’s have gone
  • Forks Outfitters, aka Newton’s Olympic Outfitters in the books
  • First Beach in La Push where the high schoolers get together one Saturday and hike


Drive a short distance to Port Angeles where you can sample mushroom ravioli (what Bella ordered in the first book) or whatever you like at Bella Italia Restaurant. It was the site of Bella and Edward’s first date. Bella Italia offers fine Italian cuisine and an extensive wine selection.

Shop for Memorabilia

Take home a souvenir to remind you of your “Twilight” adventure. Tee-shirts, mugs, Twilight brew coffee, emblems, bookmarks, jewelry, post cards, Twilight-themed signs, posters, sound tracks and even the Twilight books are available. Some businesses will stamp your book “Bought in Forks,” which makes it a collector’s item.

Beauty and serenity abound in the area surrounding Forks. Side trips to the Hoh Rain Forest, Lake Crescent, La Push and Hurricane Ridge are highly encouraged.

To find out more about Forks, visit www.forkswa.com.