The last time Josh and I were choosing orders, we had a two options: Georgia and Washington. Georgia, hot, muggy, buggy Georgia, sounded good because we’d already lived there, and we loved the beach and living sort of in between our families. Washington on the other hand was something new. Something different. Neither of us had ever lived here, and while I had visited once or twice as a child, neither of us really knew what to expect. So inching up on his twenty-year point, we decided to take the plunge and PCS to Washington. Boy, were we in for a surprise!
You probably won’t live anywhere near the ocean.
I grew up in landlocked Arkansas, but ever since I moved in with my sailor nearly two decades ago, I’ve lived (surprise, surprise) near the ocean. Navy equals boats equals ocean, right? Not so much in Washington. If you’re stationed at NBK you’ll live near Puget Sound which leads to the Strait of Juana de Fuca which eventually leads to the ocean. If you’re stationed at NAS Whidbey, you’re much closer to the ocean but still you have to go through the strait to see open waters.
You can get to the ocean, of course, but it may not be what you’re expecting.
Before we moved to Washington I had really only known beaches on the East Coast, and I looooove them. Hot sand, hot sun, and refreshing ocean waters. Those beaches are the best.
But that is NOT what you’ll find in Washington.
Don’t get me wrong, the beaches here are beautiful here, but they are different. Many beaches are rocky instead of sandy, and Western Washington doesn’t really get HOT very often period. On our first visit to Point No Point in the height of summer in 2011, we saw teenagers playing volleyball … in jeans and long sleeves, and that’s pretty common. The beaches are lovely, but the water is too cold to ever really swim in, and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll break a sweat unless you’re working out.
This is Long Beach in July. Is it a sandy beach? Yes, but notice we’re both wearing jackets and NO ONE is swimming. About half an hour after this picture was taken, my youngest, Alli, took a header into the ankle deep water and nearly froze!!!
Does it really rain as much as they say?
Yes. And no.
Fall and winter and sometimes part of spring are indeed overcast and wet. Very, very wet, in fact. But it doesn’t actually rain here like you’d think. Big rain storms are few and far between, and thunder and lightning are completely rare.
Washington is just wet and dreary. All the time. During the winter there just seems to be a prevailing mist that never quite goes away. It’s why you never see real Washingtonians carrying umbrellas. Because it’s not raining; it’s just wet.
Sidenote: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real thing, and lots of people suffer from it after moving to Washington. Please do not hesitate to seek help if the changes in the weather (or the prevailing gloom) begin to affect you.
But it doesn’t rain ALL year.
Summers in Washington are spectacular! Days are epically long and sunny, and usually temperatures are pretty mild. (True Washingtonians are sneering right now because of this past summer’s “heat wave.” All those weeks of temps in the upper 90s were actually quite lovely to me.) In the summer, mornings begin in the 4 am range, and you can expect daylight until 9 pm or later, which can be good or bad depending on two things … your kids and their bedtime. Bonus tip: If you have little ones who have an early bedtime, invest in blackout curtains right away. You’re welcome.
Driving here can be … frustrating.
Driving. Ugh. It’s the worst here for so many reasons. For one thing, everyone fears the speed limit, and they do their best not to go near it. If you like speed, you won’t like driving here. Another problem (for me) is the exit signs for major roadways … or rather the lack thereof. Driving north on Interstate 3 in Kitsap County, you will see exits with street names, randomly numbered exits, and one exit simply named “exit.” Giving directions is so frustrating here. Even when you get off the main roadway, it seems the streets were named just to confuse you. Many of the have at least two if not more names. If you drive on State Highway 303, you’ll also find yourself on Waaga Way, Warren Avenue, and Wheaton Way. Having navigation in your car or making friends with Siri is a good idea for life here.
They call it the Evergreen State for a reason.
Of course that’s partially because of all the Evergreen trees. They’re everywhere, and they are majestic! I had never seen trees this tall outside of national forests before. This tree is in my backyard, and it’s nowhere near the biggest in my neighborhood.
Notice how it towers over my two-story house?!?
I, however, suspect the second meaning of “Evergreen State” has to do with the fact that it really is so green here. It’s not just the trees. It’s the moss that covers everything. Everywhere. All year long.
Green trees, green plants, green moss covering anything that will stand still for a moment or two.
It may not snow very often or very much …
It doesn’t snow often here, and when it does it usually isn’t much and doesn’t hang around long. Usually it rains soon after a snowfall and melts it all away, but it will still stop traffic and close schools regardless. Bonus tip: If it snows at 8 pm, let your kids stay up late to play in it; it might be gone by the morning.
But it does get cold here.
The cold here is … different. It may not dip into the single digits, but because of the damp air, the cold is COLD. We’re not near the ocean, but the wind blowing off Puget Sound will cut right through you.
Washington loves a festival or a parade…
As Spring arrives so does festival season! Just in our little area, you have Viking Fest, the Armed Forces Day Parade, Whaling Days, the Blackberry Festival, Allyn Days, and more. If you venture outside of Kitsap County, you’ll find even more festivals from the Tulip Festival to the Lilac Festival to the Washington State International Kite Festival. There’s pretty much a festival for every reason under the sun here; you just have to find it!
And they also love live music and farmer’s markets.
Each town in our area offers weekly or monthly concerts featuring local bands, and during the spring and summer, most towns have farmer’s markets. From Bainbridge Island all the way down to Port Orchard, Washingtonians like to listen to music and buy their goods outside, and they do it right! Some of our favorite summer moments have been strolling through the Bremerton Farmer’s Market at Evergreen Park and kicked back in camp chairs at Port Orchard’s Concerts on the Bay.
Last time we chose orders we chose Washington, and after reading some parts of this list you might think we’d be scrambling to head back east as soon as possible. But … you’d be wrong. Josh recently negotiated orders specifically so we could stay! Yes the winters are dreary, and yes, the drivers make us crazy, but Washington as a whole is a pretty great place to live.