The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #166


A reader writes:

Such a classic-looking American lake photo, especially that flag.  At first was thinking Lake George in the Adirondacks, but the mountains are too big, so I shifted to the Rockies. There is very little development on the lake and peculiarly no boats anywhere, despite being a beautiful day and seemingly temperate time of the year (else there’d be more snow visible).  So I thought of Lake Yellowstone in Wyoming, which may be “protected” to some degree from boat usage, and images of the lake (e.g. this, this) suggest that may well be the case, as they feature the same combination of low altitude forests with high altitude mountains nearby.  There are at least some hotels and restaurants allowed on the lake, and so this photo may have been taken from one of those.

Another’s guess:

Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri? My Great Uncle Robert would take us out on the lake when I was a kid. He had a grill on his pontoon boat. The burgers tasted like lighter fluid. Good times.


This guess honors my brother, who loved boating on Lake Strom Thurmond, Georgia during his posting at nearby Fort Gordon. I’ll guess the military marina.  The area is littered with sites named to honor racists – including Richard Russell State Park and Calhoun Falls Recreation Area – and Lake Strom Thurmond is itself the subject of a naming controversy, as Georgia still refers to the lake as Clarkes Hill Lake.

Another provides a bit of trivia:

Could be anywhere, so this is a wild guess, but it appears to be Lake Mille Lacs in Minnesota.  Ah, but which town? Ummmm, Garrison? Sure. Oh, that’s right, amazing facts must be included: Garrison is the smallest town to have a McDonalds.


It looks like the Chesapeake Bay to me. It’s too rural to be Baltimore, but the raven statue would seem to mean a Baltimore Ravens fan lives there, so not far from Baltimore. The water seems to be narrowing, so I’ll go with northeast of Baltimore. Looking at the map of the west coast of the bay north of Baltimore, I happen to see … Romney Creek, just north of Bush River. But that is Aberdeen Proving Ground, so the flowers and raven statue are a little too personal. I’ll go with Carroll Island, Middle River, Maryland.


That looks like Lake Charlevoix, where I spend my summers and the place I’m currently missing desperately as I’m taking a SuperShuttle van from BWI into DC. I’d guess it was taken from a cottage on the north arm of the lake, looking west towards Charlevoix and the channel to Lake Michigan. It could be any number of lakes in Northern Michigan, but the clouds, trees, and shores look just like Charlevoix.


In the Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence river, possibly taken from the Canadian side. I’m taking a guess based on two summer vacations there.  The picture makes me want to go again; it’s a beautiful place.


This could be any of 50,000 places in Minnesota. The lack of development around the shore would suggest it is a place with lots of shoreline available and/or far from the Twin Cities. Swan Lake, halfway between Grand Rapids and Hibbing is as good a place to guess as any.

Another assumes too much:

Mitt Romney’s deck on Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire!

Another gets on the right track:

Well, you threw us a bone with the American flag (unless you’re really sadistic and this is some ex-pat flying a flag in Canada or Norway or Japan or Patagonia). As such, it focuses really quickly on the San Juan islands north of Seattle. Snowy mountains? Check. Ocean-y-looking water? Check. Easily identifiable features? Uh …

It appears to be a view to the west, based on the length and direction of the shadows. Beyond that? Who knows. If you need a tie-breaking decision on the exact location (although I’m sure I’m way off) here’s a link to my approximate guess. I’m sure I’m off by a lot, though.


I’ve seen an iron raven like that before – unfortunately, it’s on a stick in my wife’s back yard garden.  That might make me think this is an Alaskan scene, but the view seems more Puget Sound or the San Juan Islands than Alaska.  The mountains in the back are almost certainly the Olympics, and the lack of sodden wood in this deck makes me think we are in its rain shadow, so let’s go with Orcas Island (second choice would be somewhere around Port Townsend).  No time to look today … summer is running out.


It sure looks like my neck of the woods: the San Juan Islands in Washington state. Which island? Not sure. Which inn or window? Again, not sure. I know, I’m kind of worthless. I have a bet with my daughter that before I die, one of my bad answers will appear at the top of the list of wrong guesses. I’ll let you know when I’m on my deathbed, so you can grant me this bucket-list wish.

Too long to wait. Another reader:

I’ve never entered A VFYW contest, because I really, really suck at it. I friggin’ LIVED in Ulaanbaatar, when you had the photo from there. I saw it, thought “hey, that’s UB,” the noticed the trees (of which I think there are two in the whole town) and decided, “nah.”

But here again, I looked at this picture and just KNOW it’s somewhere on the Puget Sound. I grew up in Tacoma, and my father is a scuba instructor, so I have been in every nook and cranny of that place with any kind of claim to a beach. But honestly, I don’t have a clue as to where on the Puget Sound. It does look to be somewhere around the Tacoma area, so I’ll say Gig Harbor, though it could be Poulsbo, Bremerton – who knows? I’m just thrilled to death I recognized the Sound.


My instant reaction was Puget Sound/Olympic Peninsula/San Juan Islands. We were fortunate to live in the Seattle area for a bit in the early ’80s and there is nothing like seeing the Olympic mountains, or the Cascades, on a clear day.

It took a bit of digging through Google Earth to discover that the mountains in the background were not the Olympics, but the Cascade range, beyond Seattle. The view is from Sinclair Island in the San Juans, looking more or less SSE, with Cypress Island on the right and Guemes Island on the left and center. My best guess, based on lining up the end of the dock, is the house circled below:



The proximity to land, decrepit dock and snow on the mountain peaks (the Olympic Mountains) – it is Vashon, Washington. Vashon lies in Puget Sound between Seattle to the north and Tacoma to the south. With access to the mainland only by ferry, Vashon has a remote, country feel while being a 15 minute (or so) ferry ride into the big city. Lots of small farms, artsy types and cars you might see in Havana (meaning old). Here is a NY Times travel piece from last year that captures the place very well. Come visit! Coffee on me at the Burton Coffee Stand at the south end of the island.


I’d guess looking West up Nisqually Reach towards the Olympic Mountains, maybe from Steilacoom. A view from a free and tolerant state that recently legalized both pot and gay marriage.

Another gets the right city:

I am hopeful that this is 5538 Marian Drive NE in Olympia, and I’m certain this view is from a home in that neighborhood – just around the corner from the Nisqually Delta in the South Sound. What a nice view. My partner and I moved four months ago from Seattle to a dried out, dusty little farm town in the Oregon Wine Country and we have been really missing the water lately.

An accurate aerial view from a reader:

VFYW Olympia Aerial Marked - Copy

Another nails the right address in Olympia:

Longtime lurker, first time entrant in the VFYW contest. Whenever a photo is posted on your blog, I hope to see a place I know well or a place I’ve been to. Today’s photo is both for me. In fact, I was just on a ferry today, sailing across the Puget Sound from my home in Seattle to Bremerton to pick up half of a pastured hog. Needless to say, I instantly recognized the locale of today’s photo.

I believe this photo was taken from the living room window of a house located at 5534 Crestview Loop NE in Olympia, WA. The dots in the water that resemble geese are actually the remnants of an old shipwreck. The majestic Olympic mountains are in the background.

BTW, you posted one of my photos in the Weirder Windows category a month or so ago, taken from under a beach umbrella at Priest Lake, Idaho. We’ve just returned from our annual visit. I’m an atheist, but that place is holy.

A correct guesser of a previous difficult view provides a precise visual:

view of 5534 Crestview Loop NE

Answer: The picture was taken from the rear of 5534 Crestview Loop NE, Olympia, WA 98516 looking northwest towards the Olympic Mountains.  The rear of the house seems to have a set of glass doors and a bay with three windows.  I think the contest window is the west most window in the bay (left most when looking out from the house).  Attached are two pictures identifying the window.

The only other “correct guesser” gets more detailed:

One look at this week’s VFYW and I knew it was the USA’s Pacific Northwest.  I’ve never lived there, but I travel there occasionally for work and I love the place.  I so wanted the picture to be in one of my all-time favorite places, the San Juan Islands, but I couldn’t find that dilapidated pier anywhere on Google Maps, so I decided to put a little more thought into my search.

First, the shadows cast by the porch furniture are short, indicating midday.  Since midday shadows point north here, the photo looks northwest.  At the far end of the reach are snow-capped mountains, which looked to me like the Olympic Mountains of Washington.  The area between Olympia and Tacoma has two or three broad saltwater reaches aiming northwest toward the Olympic Mountains, so that’s where I resumed my search for the broken-down pier.  And there it was, on the southern shore of Nisqually Reach, between Butterball Cove and De Wolf Bight, near Lacey, Thurston County, Washington, USA.

The next challenge was determining the location of the window, and I struggled for a while because I focused on the wrong cluster of nearby houses.  A seemingly unimportant item in Google’s satellite image came to my rescue.  Google’s satellite photo shows the skeleton of a sunken boat about 400 meters southeast of the pier.  Sure enough, a few pieces of the wreck are sticking out of the water in the VFYW photo, directly in line with the landward end of the pier.  Drawing a line on the satellite image from the landward end of the pier through the wreck brought me to the correct cluster of houses.

Then, noting the staircase, the neighbor’s white fence, and the hint of a gray gravel path bordered by shrubbery on the other side of that fence, I concluded that the photo was taken from the northern end of the house at 5534 Crestview Loop NE, Olympia/Lacey, Washington, USA 98516.  In case the house number is incorrect (although both Google Maps and MapQuest agree on it), in the lineup of six waterfront homes along Crestview Loop, the VFYW home is the third from the left (West) end.  Furthermore, both Olympia and Lacey seem to be valid city addresses for the location.  I lack the skills to capture a picture with an arrow pointing to the house, so my description will have to suffice.

So far I’ve had a few correct VFYW Contest submissions, but no tie-breaker yet.  As much as I would love to win the book, with this VFYW I don’t care.  I enjoyed being transported back to a place I love.  Even if I lose, I will have been rewarded.

The tie-breaker this week is one of the closest ones ever, between the last two readers cited above. Since they more or less provided equally accurate answers, and since they have both gotten a difficult view in the past without winning, the determining factor has to come down to the total number of contests entered. The last cited reader has entered 9 total contests, but the reader with the visual has entered 14 contests, so he wins the prize this week. Thanks to everyone else for the wonderful entries. See you again on Saturday for the next contest.

But here’s one more impressive entry, from a first-time contestant:


A friend of mine said I should follow up with some details of how I narrowed down the location of this week’s photo. In all the excitement, at first I focused solely on the foreground.  The flag was a give-away for the country, and the chairs and water made me think this was on the east-coast somewhere.  After a little while I noticed that there were large mountains in the background, which immediately made me switch my focus to the Seattle area (I’m from Vancouver so the combination of water, mountains, and evergreen forest suddenly looked very familiar).

I next focused on the direction that the photographer was facing.  Short shadows from the furniture suggested that it was around noon.  The shadows also suggested that the porch faces roughly north, and the photographer was looking north-west.  This reinforced my hunch that it was near Seattle as this is the only place that I could think of in the US where you can face north-west and see large mountains across a large expanse of salt-water surrounded with evergreen forests.  It had to be in Puget Sound looking at the Olympic mountains.

Next I looked at other photos that showed the Olympic mountains from different areas around Seattle to get an idea of how large or small the mountains would appear depending on how far away the photographer was.  This let me know that the photographer could have been as far away as Tacoma.  I next focused on channels in Puget Sound, searching Google Maps along the north-facing shores for a combination of an old broken-down dock and adjacent houses with north facing porches.  After an hour or so of searching, I found a likely dock and house combination.

What really sealed it for me was the fact that there was a shipwreck on a tidal flat directly between the houses and dock – a feature which can be seen in the photo.  Running a ruler from the near end of the dock, over the shipwreck to the houses let me pinpoint a house, which had a back porch with stairs in the same configuration as the photo.  Further confirmation was obtained by comparing the treetops on the shore directly above the dock with street-view images taken from up the road behind the house.  In street-view I could also see that the neighbour house has a white fence with the same fence-post style as the photo, and that the house I pinpointed had a back porch with the same style of railing as the photo.

I hope that’s not too much information!