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  • Writer's pictureAndi Johnson

Exploring Seattle During the Pandemic: A Unique Experience


Iconic Seattle Public Market sign early morning in June 2020

Back in June 2020, I embarked on a journey that took me across 6 states over 12 days, via a solo car camping trip.This well-researched adventure included a stopover in Seattle after a memorable visit to Yellowstone National Park. However, like many plans in 2020, mine didn't go exactly as expected. This blog post is all about how my visit to Seattle unfolded amidst the pandemic and how I adapted to the unexpected twists along the way.

 

The Journey Begins


Andi Johnson standing in front of the aquarium in Seattle during June 2020

After a long drive from Yellowstone, I arrived in Seattle and stayed overnight at a friend's family home. As someone who thrives on adventure and discovery, the thought of exploring a new city is always exhilarating. Yet, there was an undercurrent of anxiety. It was my first time in Seattle, and the added layer of pandemic uncertainty amplified those feelings. The normally bustling city streets were eerily quiet, a stark contrast to what I had imagined - although not altogether unwelcomed. This unfamiliarity, combined with the pandemic's looming presence, made the experience both thrilling and intimidating. I reminded myself to embrace the unknown, as it often leads to the most rewarding experiences.


Morning at Pike Place Market


Roadway in the public market, Pikes Place, in Seattle, nearly deserted due to the 2020 pandemic

Early the next morning, I set out to explore the iconic Pike Place Market. Normally teeming with tourists, the market was almost deserted. Walking through its historic halls with hardly anyone around was surreal. Despite the pandemic, some shops remained open - mostly food stalls - with strict safety measures implemented. I spoke with a fishmonger who shared how they adapted their business. Because I was car camping, I was mindful to only buy select items that would be of use to create yummy meals over a campfire, and snacks to keep me going on the road.


Fresh food stalls of Pike Place in Seattle with hardly any people due to the pandemic

As I wandered through the market, I reflected on the importance of gratitude. Here I was, in a historic location, witnessing firsthand how greatly the pandemic affected the City, and provided hope by seeing communities come together in times of crisis. It reminded me to appreciate the small moments and the resilience of people in tough times - including the resilience that had begun budding in myself. I felt a profound sense of gratitude for the opportunity to travel, even during a pandemic. The stillness of the market allowed me to observe the intricate details of the space, something I might have overlooked in busier times. Through unhurried eyes, I was able to see each vendor's story, each preserved tradition, and it spoke of determination and hope.


The Space Needle and Its Symbolism


The Seattle Space Needle as seen from the side of the road looking up

Next, I headed towards the Space Needle, another Seattle landmark. Unfortunately, it was closed, but I pulled over to street parking and snapped a quick picture.The iconic structure stood tall, a beacon of hope amidst the city's quiet streets. Seeing the Space Needle, I was reminded of the human spirit's ability to withstand adversity and still reach for the sky. This symbol of innovation and progress was a poignant reminder that we, too, would overcome the challenges of the pandemic.


Standing there, I couldn't help but feel a sense of awe. The Space Needle, built for the 1962 World's Fair, was a testament to human creativity and ambition. It reminded me that even in times of uncertainty, we have the capacity to build and create incredible things. This moment was a powerful reflection on the resilience and ingenuity that define us as a society.


Finding Solace in Nature at Discovery Park


West Point Lighthouse near Discovery Park in Seattle on a sunny day in June 2020

Seeking a serene experience in nature , I drove to Discovery Park. This urban oasis, located on the shores of Puget Sound, provided a tranquil escape. I took a leisurely walk through shaded trails to West Point Lighthouse, where I marveled at the stunning views. Families and couples explored the park, maintaining safe distances while enjoying the outdoors. I dipped my toes in Elliott Bay, searched for shells, and admired the smooth pebble beach. The sound of children playing and discovering the tide pools added a touch of normalcy to an otherwise unusual time.

Andi Johnson selfie with the Puget Sound behind her near Discovery Bay in Seattle on a sunny day

Nature has always been my sanctuary, and Discovery Park did not disappoint. It was a reminder of the importance of slowing down and appreciating the natural beauty around us. In a world that had been turned upside down by the pandemic, this slice of nature offered a sense of normalcy and peace. I felt immense gratitude for the opportunity to connect with nature in the middle of a big city, and for the chance to explore such a beautiful park. Each step along the trails brought a sense of calm and wonder as I heard birds sing their songs, and I found myself reflecting on the healing power of nature. It reminded me that, despite the chaos, the natural world remains a constant source of solace and renewal.


A Culinary Delight in Kirkland


Iridescent shimmers from the residual water with shells, seaweed, and pebbles

As the day progressed, I realized I needed to find lunch. Having been on the road and car camping for several days, I decided to treat myself to a sit-down restaurant. After much searching, I drove to Kirkland and discovered BeachHouse Bar and Grill, a lovely waterfront restaurant with great reviews. But the biggest plus was that they were open, ha! The staff were friendly and made me feel safe with all the protocols in place. I was seated by the water, where I enjoyed a delicious meal while watching people enjoy the sunny summer day at Doris Cooper Houghton Beach Park. As was the case with Discovery Park, it was so great to see so many people out, enjoying the sunny summer day and getting fresh air.


Feeling satisfied and at peace, I reflected on the importance of treating oneself, especially during challenging times. The meal was not just about sustenance; it was a moment of self-care, a reminder to appreciate the small joys in life. The friendly staff and the beautiful setting made the experience even more special. It was a reminder that kindness and hospitality can make a world of difference, especially during uncertain times. The warmth and care I received from the restaurant staff felt like a comforting embrace, reinforcing the notion that human connection and compassion are vital, even in the smallest of interactions.


A Surprise Ferry Ride


Feeling satisfied and happy, it was time to head towards Olympic National Park. I entered my destination into the map and set off, unaware that I was about to encounter a delightful surprise – a ferry ride from Edmonds to Kingston! It was an unexpected twist that added a touch of adventure to the day. Despite having to stay in my vehicle throughout the ferry ride, the experience was enjoyable. I watched the sun glisten off the water and the Seattle skyline fade into the distance. Although I had been on ferries before, I had never driven onto one so this was something new for me and I enjoyed the experience immensely.


As the ferry docked in Kingston and I continued my drive, the lush landscapes of Washington unfolded before me. The anticipation of exploring Olympic National Park grew with each passing mile. Known for its diverse ecosystems, from rugged coastlines to temperate rainforests, Olympic National Park promised to be a treasure trove of natural wonders.


The ferry ride became a metaphor for the journey itself – sometimes the best parts are the ones we don't plan for. It reminded me of the importance of being open to unexpected detours and embracing the unknown with a positive mindset. These unplanned moments often lead to the most memorable experiences, adding richness and depth to our travels.

 

Reflecting on the Experience

Pine tree standing tall next to the trail in Discovery Park in Seattle on a sunny day

As I drove, I reflected on the day's experiences. Traveling during a pandemic had its challenges, but it also offered unique opportunities to see places in a different light. The quiet streets of Seattle, the nearly empty Pike Place Market, and the serene trails of Discovery Park provided a rare glimpse into a city usually bustling with activity. It was a reminder of the resilience and adaptability of people and places.


The unexpected ferry ride was a highlight, a reminder that sometimes the best experiences are the ones we don't plan for! It added a sense of adventure and spontaneity to the trip, something that had been missing in the structured, socially-distanced world we were living in.


Gratitude and Positivity

Throughout the day, I made a conscious effort to stay present and positive. It's easy to let anxiety and uncertainty take over, especially when traveling alone in unfamiliar places during a pandemic. But by focusing on gratitude and the beauty around me, I was able to find joy in the unexpected.

Daisy stuck to a post in the trail in Discovery Park

I'm grateful for the kindness of strangers, the resilience of the market vendors, the beauty of nature, and the small moments of joy that made the day special. These experiences reinforced the importance of maintaining a positive mindset and being open to the unexpected.


I also reflected on how traveling during the pandemic had heightened my awareness of the fragility and interconnectedness of our world. Each interaction, each place visited, carried a deeper significance. I found myself more attuned to the subtle beauty of everyday moments, appreciating the resilience and spirit of the people I encountered.


 

Looking Forward to a Return Visit

Fresh produce stall in Pikes Place Market with only two people buying during the pandemic

As my journey continued towards Olympic National Park, I couldn't help but feel a deep appreciation for the entire Seattle area. Despite the challenges, I had fallen in love with the city and its surroundings. The unique experiences and the unexpected adventures made the trip unforgettable! I look forward to returning to Seattle when things are in full operation, to experience the vibrant energy of Pike Place Market, the stunning views from the Space Needle, and the tranquility of Discovery Park without pandemic restrictions.


 
Empty trail in Discovery Park in Seattle on a sunny June day

Be sure to subscribe so you can follow along for the continuation of this journey, where I'll share the awe-inspiring sights of Olympic National Park, from hiking through ancient forests to marveling at cascading waterfalls. This adventure is one you won’t want to miss!


Thank you for joining me on this unique exploration of Seattle during the pandemic. Despite the challenges, the city’s resilience and beauty shone through, offering a memorable experience that I’ll cherish forever. This blog post has affiliate links throughout, and I greatly appreciate you using them when you travel, explore, and shop as it provides me with monetary support. Until next time, happy roaming and stay safe!

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