Captivated by a Landscape: Four Special or Ordinary Places to Take Your Breath Away

Spectacular rainforests are closer to home than you might think. The entire North American coastline from southern Alaska to central California is home to some of the last intact coastal temperate rainforests in the world. It is a stunning landscape, riddled with glaciers and stark, snow-capped peaks in the north, giant coastal redwoods in the south, and everywhere the dense, intense green of rainforest.

Coastal temperate rainforests at Cape Flattery, WA and Juneau, AK
Coastal temperate rainforests of Cape Flattery (left) and Juneau (right). (Credit: Patricia Tillmann)

In recent months, I’ve been lucky to spend time in four impressive places throughout this landscape. Check out the photos and information here, then connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, or the comment boxes below to share the special or ordinary places that take your breath away! And do consider visiting our regional page, where you can learn more about how I’m helping preserve these beautiful places through my work with the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative.

Juneau, Alaska

  • Why it’s special: Alaska is home to some of the last remaining true wilderness. It is a dynamic and liberating landscape, home to the spectacular Tongass National Forest, whales, bald eagles galore, and hundreds of migratory birds. It is not unusual to spot a humpback whale (or whales) tracking a school of fish through the water, the water peppered from above by birds (Arctic terns in my case) eating their fill of the fish.

    Cove at Cape Flattery, Washington
    The deep aqua hue of the water at Cape Flattery was unique and beautiful. (Credit: Patricia Tillmann, Hipstamatic print)
  • What I did: Hiking around Juneau and the Mendenhall Glacier; shrimping
  • Ease of replicating experience with limited time, money, and/or know-how: Once you’re in Juneau, the hiking is free and public transit will get you to the glacier. Shrimping will require a buddy with a boat.

Cape Flattery, Washington

  • Why it’s special: In addition to being the stunning gateway to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and a culturally-significant location for the Makah Nation, Cape Flattery boasts the cleanest recorded air in the contiguous United States. It smells amazing.
  • What I did: Hiking and camping at Cape Flattery and on Makah Nation land. Bike riding from nearby Port Angeles to Sequim.
  • Ease of replicating experience with limited time, money, and/or know-how: Once you’re in the Puget Sound area, a car and camping equipment are the easiest ways to replicate the experience. Campsites are usually inexpensive (<$20). An extended bike trip is also a possibility.

 Arcata, California

Redwood Park and Lodge, Arcata, CA
Standing in the trees ahead, I felt miles away from the town. (Credit: Patricia Tillmann)
  • Why it’s special: Look west to the ocean and east to giant redwoods. Even with homes in view, the sound of children playing in a nearby park, and students training to climb the giant trees, ambling through a stand of redwoods makes you feel as if you’re in the middle of a forest miles from anyone. Redwoods are magical, it’s as simple as that!
  • What I did: A short walk through the city’s Redwood Park. I was in Arcata for work, convening a workshop of land and resource managers, conservation practitioners, and researchers to help inform climate change adaptation efforts in the region.
  • Ease of replicating experience with limited time, money, and/or know-how: Arcata, like Juneau, can be expensive to get to. Once you’re there, Redwood Park is a short walk up the hill from town. Highway 101/1 would be a beautiful way to drive or bike here.

Skagit Valley, Washington

Three pictures from Tulip Festival, Skagit Valley, WA
Myriad shades of red, yellow, and purple abound at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. (Credit: Patricia Tillmann, Hipstamatic prints)
  • Why it’s special: Skagit Valley boasts some of the most fertile and beautiful farmland in Washington State. The gleam of Puget Sound is visible to the west, the Skagit River winds its way through the Valley from the mountains to the east, and every April, thousands of tulips decorate the landscape in a panoply of bright color.
  • What I did: The Tulip Festival! Twice!
  • Ease of replicating experience with limited time, money, and/or know-how: From the Puget Sound area, the Skagit Valley is accessible via car, public transit, and bike (depending on your starting point). There is a small entry fee for Roozengarde and Tulip Town, but you can tour the fields for free.