“People ask the question, ‘What separates the Pacific Northwest? What makes this place unique as opposed to the other places you have traveled?’ To be honest, I haven’t found one single thing.
It’s never just one thing.
It’s the culmination of events over an amount of time that makes something special. A truly unique experience does not happen all at once.
In our time together, we have seen bubble-netting humpbacks, tidewater glaciers, glacially carved landscapes, coastal brown bears, killer whales, majestic undersea, felt the magic of a UNESCO world heritage site, and experienced intimate interactions with cultures that were almost completely destroyed. In this time together, we have experienced something real and something truly unique.
A great friend once told me that you could spend two lifetimes in this region and still not know enough to do it justice. Another friend told me that it is the stories, and not the statistics. With this in mind, I hope your experience with us has left you a story that lasts a lifetime and even more than that, that the story you leave with is different from the story you expected.”
With these words, expedition leader Patrick Duggan addressed the group on the final night of National Geographic Sea Lion’s two-week southbound voyage from Sitka to Seattle.
I heard these words from National Geographic Sea Lion’s bridge and was touched by what he had to say; from the helm, I nodded and agreed with Patrick completely. In addition to the more quintessentially photogenic and scenic moments, what has made this trip stand out has been the unexpected conversations over cups of coffee, the new friendships fostered while being shuttled ashore by Zodiac, and the joy of being greeted by hot chocolate-wielding Vikings. It is the experience of the first time “topping” your boots while getting pelted by rain, and simultaneously needing to keep an eye out for signs of bear. These were the moments that could not be advertised by brochure. These were the moments that gave this trip personality and depth.
Tonight, as the vessel is making its way south towards Seattle, the hope is that you have formulated your own answers to the question, “What separates the Pacific Northwest?” What was it that made this place unique for you?
Our final day on board started with crossing back into U.S. waters, discovering exotic wildlife on Spieden Island, and watching a pod of killer whales from the bow. An afternoon of excursions on San Juan Island’s Friday Harbor were highlighted by warm September sunshine, and concluded with Captain’s Dinner in the dining room.
Over the past 14 days, we covered over 1,700 nautical miles together.
That’s just the fact of travel: Telling the rest of the story is up to you.