January 8, 2014

A Place to Call Home (Part 7): Visiting Washington

Sitting on driftwood on the Dungeness Spit National Wildlife Refuge outside of Sequim
In July of 2012 we decided to take our first fact-finding trip to find a place to call home based on the results from our criteria project. (Click here to read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, & part 5 of the series.) Based on our initial rankings: Sequim (pronounced Squim), Port Angeles, and Port Townsend on the Olympic Penninsula of Washington came in numbers 1, 2, and 6 respectively. Based on these results we felt that this region should be the first for us to visit.

View of the Olympic Mountains from the dock in Port Angeles
We were also able to turn the trip into a family outing. Kristy's parents, Les and Cindy, were able to join us on the trip and we all rented a house outside of Sequim and were able to spend 3-4 days exploring the region (Thanks to Les for taking all of the pictures shown!).

Kristy's wonderful parents, Cindy and Les, with the Olympic Mountains as backdrop
A little background on the region and why we zeroed in on it. The Peninsula is bounded on the west by the Pacific Ocean, the north by the Straight of Juan de Fuca, and the east by Hood Canal. The Olympic Moutains as well as Olympic Nationa Park and Forest. These towns lie in a rain shadow caused by the close-by mountains. This allows for a much drier climate than most of the surrounding area. (For instance Port Angeles gets 25 inches of moisture each year, Forks less than 60 miles away gets 118 inches!) The climate is also very mild, it doesn't get very cold and it doesn't get very hot. So it has a very long growing season but it ironically doesn't get hot enough to easily grow crops such as tomatoes and peppers. It is a beautiful region bordered by water and mountains. Scroll to the bottom of this post for some of the specific data on these three towns.

Our trip started when Kristy and I drove up to Sequim and met Kristy's parents who had driven from South Dakota. Before we went to the rental house we went for a hike at the Dungeness Spit National Wildlife Refuge. It is a beautiful and ecologically important piece of land that juts into the Straight of Juan de Fuca a few miles outside of Sequim. It felt like being at the ocean even though the Pacific Ocean is an hour and a half away.

View of the Dungeness Spit

Looking south from the spit
The next day we spent some time in Sequim. It is a small town of about 10,000 people that is known for its abundance of lavendar farms. It has a small farmers' market and a charming library. 

After Sequim we visited Port Angeles. It is a town of about 20,000 people and is a working port. It actually reminds me a bit of Astoria here in Oregon where my parents live. It was nice being on the waterfront with its crystal blue water. It had an even larger farmers' market and library.

The Port Angeles Farmers' Market
Looking into town from the dock in Port Angeles
We ended the day in Port Townsend. It is a very interesting town that mixes Victorian architecture with a seaport. It is a beautiful town of 10,000 people but does not have much land around it that we could afford.

Some of Port Townsend's impressive architecture
For me the highlight of the visit was our trip the next day up into Olympic National Park. We spent the day at Hurricane Ridge which is the "dry" mountainous portion of the park (as opposed to the rainforest part). Hurricane Ridge is surrounded by the Olympic Mountains with wildflowers as far as the eye could see. It takes less than an hour to get there from Port Angeles. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

On our last day as we drove home we saw this view of the Olympic Mountains. It was a lovely reminder of the beauty we found on this trip.

So it was a great trip. And we got a good sense of the area. Port Angeles in particular seemed like a town we could base ourselves out of. The combination of the water and the mountains was spectacular. The growing season and farmer's markets were encouraging. We would also be able to catch fresh seafood here, which wouldn't be possible eleswhere.

But ultimately as much as we liked the area, we are concerned that we may not be able to find the type of land we need for a price we can afford. There is technically land we can afford in our price range, but almost all of the lots we found were parts of larger developments or subdivisions. There is an increasing amount of development in the areas outside of Sequim and Port Angeles in what probably used to be farmland. Even if we found some stand-alone land, it seems likely that the land around us might be developed at a later point. And living the lifestyle we wish to in a developed area  may not be possible (i.e. living in a subdivision, our neighbors might not be appreciative crowing roosters). That being said, we have not completely ruled the area out since it does have so many other good things going for it.

My next post in this series will look at our fact-finding trip to Northern Idaho.

And if you are as geeky as us here are some stats that we looked into for the towns in the area...

SequimPort AngelesPort Townsend
Sunset Zones5 5 5
USDA Hardiness Zones7b 7b 7b
Annual Moisture (inches)16.45 2518.74
Annual Snowfall (inches)
Avg. Last Frost DateMarch 28May 6 March 28
Avg. First Frost DateOctober 31  October 18October 31
Freeze Free Days234 174 234
Avg. Min. Temp. Winter32 35
Avg. Max. Temp. Summer72 6871
Avg. Min. Temp. Summer50 52 52
Wettest MonthDecemberDecemberDecember
Driest MonthJulyJulyJuly
Hours of Sunlight on longest
day of the year
15.9 15.9 15.9
Elevation18332 120
Price to buy 5-10 acres of landTBDTBDTBD
Average Property Tax rate0.74%0.74%0.65%
Average Combined sales tax rate8.86%8.86%8.86%
Distance to RecreationLess than 10 miles Less than 10 miles10-20 miles
Population Density (by county)41 4116
Distance to Closest Hospital10-20 milesless than 10 milesLess than 20 miles
Humidity (100=most comfortable89 9179
Air Quality (100=best)99 9997
Water Quality (100=best)59 6153
Superfund Sites (100=best)888999
Days with Precipitation122 143146
Distance to Closest ServicesLess than 10 miles Less than 10 milesLess than 20 miles


  1. What a fascinating and clever way to pick your spot! Thanks for sharing your outdoor post this week on The Maple Hill Hop!

  2. This wonderful post was featured on "Tuesdays with a Twist" blog hop! Congrats! If you have a chance please stop by and grab a featured button.
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  3. I just realized that I put the wrong link in the comment that I just left - it should be "Tuesdays with a Twist" - so sorry!

  4. No worries Angie. Thanks for featuring us!


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