North From Seattle

Cruising The Briefly Embattled San Juan Islands


From a cab hurtling down the West Side Highway en route to Newark Airport from New York City, I spied the looming superstructures of three giant ships. They were waiting to take on their complements of 2,000 or more passengers heading for weeklong Bermuda cruises. I was traveling to the other side of the country to join the 138-passenger Yorktown Clipper and sail along the isolated, rugged coast stretching north from Seattle to Vancouver, a journey of about 219 nautical miles.

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The Adventure Craze


At 14,411 feet Mount Rainier with its 26 glaciers stands a magnificent mile above the mountains that surround it. I first saw it some 30 years ago, when I was making a tour of the far West with my family. We drove north from California specifically to visit it and stay in Paradise Inn, which sits high up on the slopes next to the vast alpine Paradise Meadow. It was July, and we knew the meadows would be in flower.

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Save That House

Deciding to rescue a historic property is the start of what turns out to be a lifelong relationship as terrifying as it is exhilarating

The threat was distant but definite, like cannon rumbling beyond the next ridge. Mr. and Mrs. Bigelow were thinking of selling their house. I’d lived in the Bigelows’ neighborhood when I first moved to Olympia, Washington, and I knew that their gabled timber-frame house was by far the oldest in town. Built in the mid-1800s by Mr. Bigelow’s grandparents—suffragists, abolitionists, and ardent temperance supporters—it was one of the few Gothic Revival homes left in the Pacific Northwest.Read more »

For The Duration

The world about us is strewn with relics that are quietly eloquent of the struggle that ended half a century ago

Finger some old magazines from the world War II years. Among the earthy-scented, kaolincoated slicks or the brittle, decomposing butterfly wings of newsprint, advertisements acknowledge cutbacks in consumer goods while the advertisers produced war essentials “for the Duration.” Americans knew what that meant: The Duration was the duration of the war, an unknown length of time right up to the end in the Pacific. Read more »


The strange saga of a town that bragged, burned, and bullied itself into existence—and then became one of the most civilized places on earth

I’m a newcomer to Puget Sound, but I’ve lived here long enough to know not to brag about Seattle. Blow its horn too loudly, and some joker in New York or, God forbid, San Diego will hear you and move here with his family and tell all his friends about it, and before you know it, everything you love about the place will have vanished in a tidal wave of office buildings, condos, and malls. Read more »

Haunted Home

When the author moved into a 1905 house on an island near Seattle, he found himself sharing it with the uncommon people who had lived there before him

Bainbridge Island, Washington, where I live, seemed to me amazingly unspoiled for a suburb of Seattle until one afternoon last spring,when I borrowed a neighbor’s kayak and for the first time pulled my way up Port Orchard Channel. I was top-heavy and a little ungainly with my dripping paddle, so I kept close enough to the beach to wade ashore in case I capsized. But the water was clear all the way down to the barnacled stones scattered along the bottom, and it was agreeable slipping north among the widgeons and pintails, cormorants and gulls. Read more »