Two Romantic Weekend Getaways in Washington State

Who doesn’t love a weekend getaway to celebrate an anniversary, Valentine’s Day or the solace of a long weekend off work?

We sure do! And we take advantage of time together whenever possible.

If you’re looking for trips on either coast, Midwest or anywhere else check out the Passport section of my blog for some awesome ideas and detailed itineraries. BOOM I’ve already planned it for you!

These two weekend trips are great for a three to four day weekend so you can drive out and really enjoy the areas. No matter what you like, there’s something for everyone. Check them out!

LAKE CHELAN, WA

Even though Lake Chelan would make the perfect warm weather destination for their lake activities, it was also a great Valentine’s weekend for hiding from the cold and wine tasting.

lake chelan

Driving in there are so many wineries and fruit fields!

We stayed at Campbell’s Resort which will commonly come up on your searches as the main place to stay. The location and restaurant were great and while the rooms were decent, they were not what we saw in the photos. There are several different sections to the hotel and we were fine with the cheapest room block just to have a place to sleep. You’ll be exploring, anyway!

Campbell’s is also a great choice because this area is so spread out. We prefer to walk to the bars, drink and eat our way through town then walk back so we will pay a little bit more to do that. There are a few options in town for you to choose from if you want to walk, otherwise grab a ride to venture out.

We have a habit of visiting a local Italian restaurant whenever we travel and if there were ever a romantically lit room with fantastic food and delicious local wine, Andante‘s is it! This intimate restaurant is packed with style and character and made for a great date night.

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We enjoyed a few more drinks at some nearby casual bar, Stormy Mountain Brewing and Local Public House. Super friendly staff and laid back vibe!

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“Designated as an official American Viticulture Area (AVA) in 2009, Lake Chelan offers a one-of-a-kind wine tasting experience featuring over 30 wineries hugging the shores of a breathtaking lake.” – Lake Chelan Visitor’s Website

Our plan for the first full day was to go wine tasting in the Manson area. so while we waited for the vendors to open up we explored local shops and grabbed YUMMY (seriously) pizza at Westside Pizza.

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Getting to and from the wineries was my least favorite part of the entire trip. There are several options to get taxis, limos or other forms of shuttles but we opted for a local casino’s shuttle.

Of course they will stop halfway at the Mill Bay Casino where you will have to wait about 30 minutes until the next ride comes along. We decided to grab drinks and play a few games while we waited (it is a free shuttle so this is what they bank on you doing).

 DO NOT load one of their stupid cards, just use your money elsewhere. If you do load the card play, play, play until you use all of your money!

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This was a fun thing to do together except I was 24 hours post Lasik surgery so the smoke was not friendly to my new eyes. Getting off the shuttle in the village center puts you right next to the local restaurants, bars, wineries and shops. This is a great little strip! While you could drive and easily find parking, it was also smarter to just use the shuttle.

Walk around, try the wines, pair them with food and chocolate, grab a beer and supper at Lake Chelan Brewing Co. and enjoy the night. We caught the last shuttle back and went out for a few more drinks on the town.

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We wrapped up the trip with a breakfast in Campbell’s Pub and Veranda. Service will be very busy pretty much all the time so expect to exercise patience.


LEAVENWORTH, WA

Oh, how I wish we had visited Leavenworth more than one time. Everyone has a little German town near them but Leavenworth is popular for wedding and event destinations, beer, wine, great food and a gorgeous, intricate town. It’s especially popular (and insanely booked up + expensive) over Oktoberfest and Christmas time.

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Leavenworth is a Bavarian-styled village in the Cascade Mountains, in central Washington State. Alpine-style buildings with restaurants serving German beer and food line Front Street. The Nutcracker Museum displays thousands of nutcrackers, some dating back centuries. On the Wenatchee River, Waterfront Park is a habitat for ospreys and eagles. The village is a gateway to nearby ski areas and wineries.

-Source Online.

As you drive into this small town, every home and business is decked out in the appropriate Bavarian style architecture. Our hotel, The Evergreen Inn, hosted us in the Jacuzzi/Fireplace Suite ( #51 ) which was an awesome, large space for us! The feel is definitely that of an old family cabin but it was still a space entirely our own and not the typical cramped motel room.

Private entrance to our suite at The Evergreen Inn.

It was walking distance to the main strip and, even though it was cold and still decorated from Christmas in February, we didn’t mind the walk one bit.

We stopped in for drinks at several awesome breweries and distilleries, one of our favorites being Icicle Brewing Company! We also got a tour of a local distillery.

I’m sure if you walk around you will end up in all of the same places as we did but a majority of these places you walk into for a drink will be casual; come and drink as you are. There are basement wineries, rundown pubs, karaoke, classical music, corner bar and cafe’s…something for everyone to enjoy!

If you want a beautiful view with a more upscale feel, the infamous Visconti’s will give you a gorgeous date night. You also need to have an empty stomach for the authentic German food at another popular choice: Andreas Keller. You will want to make a reservation at these two places, or anywhere that you visit.

Another bonus is this town is very family, kid and dog friendly. If you’re a couple or looking for a family vaca, head out to Leavenworth. You will NOT be disappointed!

There are so many stores, shops, shows and things to do in Leavenworth and just outside of town you don’t need to drink the whole time if that’s not your thing. On our way out of town we filled up on a breakfast at Sandy’s Waffle Haus and hiked riverside through knee deep snow at Wenatchee National Park just outside of town.

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No, not the most prepared compared to the snowshoing visitors but it was incredibly fun and we still laugh at memories we made there. We always love playing hard then getting out to work hard.


Hope you had a great time visiting! If you have any places we must visit on the east coast, please let me know.

 

Cheers to another year of traveling and exploring!

Marin

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Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Every April in Washington state there’s a liiitttllllee thing called the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. Even if you haven’t heard of it, I am sure you’ve seen the photos. We went April 22, 2018. 

Before going, I was curious about where the festival was, how much it cost, what there was to do and I had a few other questions.

First, you need to know this is an area full of tulip farms near a town where they host the actual ‘Tulip Town festival’. Because of the draw of the attraction there will be a lot of traffic so plan for extra drive time. We parked in the back lot near a bank and walked into the main street of the town for their festival which was more like a street of live music and vendors.

We stopped in for a beer and lunch at a local pub after checking out the tents and tried to decide which tulip farm we wanted to visit. There are several to go to and, from what I was seeing, for free. As you drive out there are loads of signs to turn into different fields but we only visited one. I was extremely pleased with the the one near Swinomish Village.

 

You’ll have to remember it is an actual working farm so it’s very muddy. I know you’ll want to wear a cute outfit but incorporate boots you don’t mind getting muddy into that outfit!

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It’s hard to understand just how gorgeous it is in person vs. photography. The fields are separated by colors, solid vs. mixed pattern flowers and toward the back were daffodils and other types of flowers.

 

For a majority of you, this will be several hours of a drive. Before you go you can check out the weather in the area, the bloom times, and other news updates. It’s worth taking your kids and friends up for a day trip! Note that pets are not allowed and walking in the fields is not allowed. More information begins here. If you’re looking to stay up there for a weekend there are several things to do in the area and the surrounding areas. One of which is Anacortes.

Cheers!
Marin

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Plan Your Visit To Seattle!

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For three years my husband and I lived just south of Seattle. While the city gets a bad rap for the gray skies and rain, it really is not that bad! For a majority of the fall and winter you’ll find the PNW is buzzing with locals on the hiking trails but in the summer months downtown is filled with cruise ships, tourists and long-term visitors.

We absolutely loved living in Washington and once our friends and family came up to visit they were just as excited to come back. There’s no shortage of things to do or places to see. It’s a great place if you love wine and beer, a large variety of food, family-friendly and children’s activities, party groups and your beloved dog. Can you really go anywhere without them? 

If you’re looking for things to do in Washington or any neighboring states check out the Passport section of the blog. Right now I’ll just focus on downtown. It’s easiest to go through the neighborhoods so you can pick and choose what works best for your trip. If you have any questions just ask!

WHERE TO STAY

We never stayed in an Airbnb while in downtown Seattle and instead opted for the Mediterranean Inn in lower Queen Anne. Living on the outskirts or suburbs would have been too much of a hassle to get in and out with the traffic and busy streets. The Inn was always a great experience and comparable in price (if a bit lower) to other hotels near Pike Place. We also loved it because it was across the street from Dick’s for a late-night snack or early-morning hangover cure, walking distance to the Monorail in Seattle Center and city views from your bedroom window or romantically lit rooftop.

 

DRIVING IN

Whether you’re coming in from the north or the south you will get an awesome view of the skyline on your way in. You can also expect traffic. If you’re coming in from the north you’ll likely see the Space Needle first and a view of Fremont and Lake Union on your right.

Driving in from the south

If you’re coming in from the south (like from Sea-Tac) you will turn a corner and immediately see the skyline of Seattle as you wind your way in on I-5. As you near Seattle, Boeing will be on your left. If you have time stop in at their Museum of Flight for air and space artifacts or for a guided tour. We loved what they had to offer and being able to walk through aircrafts like Air Force One! Family friendly and interesting for anyone in your group. Tickets run about $25/adults but the first Thursday of every month is free admission!

Walking off Air Force One at Boeing’s Museum of Flight

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QUEEN ANNE

Speaking of Queen Anne, this historic area is well-known for it’s gorgeous homes and prime views of Seattle and Alki Beach from Kerry Park. Drive to this little strip of grass and get your photo opp in. It’s IG worthy at any time of the day in any weather. A few blocks up is the resident’s house from Grey’s Anatomy. This is an actual residence so enjoy the view but don’t get creepy trying to get inside.

Kerry Park

I already mentioned you can stay at the Mediterranean Inn, Dick’s and other restaurants. It’s also minutes walking distance from Seattle Center which we will get to below.

FREMONT

Make a point to ride your bikes or drive your car over to the Fremont Troll. This is another highly residential area but they have free parking spots on the streets near the top of the hill. You will have to walk a short distance to get to the Troll under the bridge. While you can’t graffiti it you can climb up for a picture.

Fremont Troll, June 2017

I hope you’re thirsty because you’ve got some drinkin’ to do! It’s a five-minute walk down the hill to 34th street and turn left until you see Fremont Brewing Company. They are pet and child friendly with indoor and outdoor seating, merchandise, snacks and a board full of brews to choose a drink from. While sitting out here you’ll see several sea planes land in Lake Union and Duck Boat tours driving by.

Fremont Brewing

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SEATTLE CENTER

No matter what you will be spending at least a day here! Seattle Center is home to the MoPOP Museum, the Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center and much more. One thing we didn’t end up doing here but is very popular is the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum and the Seattle Children’s Museum. We have visited the Pacific Science Museum and had a great time (without kids!) It’s actually a really well-done area.

Children’s Science Museum

The Armory is a multi-level building full of play places, events and food stands if you need a pick me up.

MoPop Museum

The MoPOP – Museum of Pop Culture- Museum ( or whatever else they change the name to every year) is the metallic colorful structure with the large playground next to it.

They rotate exhibits from the underground music scene Seattle is known for cranking out, artists, fashion and much more. Have fun taking a few hours walking through and playing the instruments.

The Space Needle is next; you ready?! I recommend ordering tickets online so you have a reserved time to go up otherwise order the Seattle City Pass to get the best value for all the main attractions. When it’s your time to go up head to the back of the Needle, walk up the ramp and head through security before taking a walk through time. They take a photo of you and your group before you enter the elevators and on the way up a tour guide will give you some facts about the needle.

Once at the top walk all around the interior so you can enter your name on the Visitor’s Board, tap the interactive panels for help on facts around the city and check out your photo to email to your account!

Always windy at the top!

Interactive Checkin at the Needle

Walking around outside will be windy (see the above photo) and a bit cold but there are markers for you to orient yourself and free binoculars for you to check out everything you can see. If you’re lucky the mountain might be out!

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You can also check out the International Fountain and walk around the lawn they’ll host several events and concerts on throughout the year.

International Fountain

If you choose to walk around you’ll run into the Belltown area which we will talk about in a minute. But if you want to give your feet a break, hop on the monorail.

The Seattle Monorail is next to the Armory in between the EMP Museum and the Space Needle. Tickets are $2.50 for adults or $1.25 for military. All prices are one-way so just buy before you ride. The monorail has never been packed and runs anywhere from 7:30 am to 11 pm depending on the day of the week.

Hop down to Westlake Center if you want to stay on the Monorail for now. Otherwise you can-and should at least once-walk through Belltown.

 

BELLTOWN

One of the most quaint and quirky, residential and comfortable areas in Seattle for us was Belltown. We walked through consistently to and from the Needle and Pike Place. As you’re leaving the needle you can choose to stop in for the game at the local sports bar in KOMO Plaza or you can cross through the lot (They used the roof of that building to film the rooftop helipad scenes in Grey’s Anatomy) and over the street to a street of bars and restaurants.

The authentic wood-fired pizzeria Bambino’s Pizzeria is at the corner on the end to your right. We always had the most accommodating service, authentic, delicious food and a large beer selection. I remember they also had a large wine selection though I never drank wine there.

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Belltown is also home to a Biscuit Bitch location. I have seen kids in here but just be aware that the menu, language and surroundings are full of colorful decor and language. Having said that the food is delicious and the coffee specialty drinks match. I enjoyed their unicorn latte (maybe only during pride month?) and the Seattle Fog.

Belltown Biscuit Bitch

 

WESTLAKE CENTER

The Monorail has two locations to hop on and off the monorail: Westlake and Seattle City Center. Once you step into the Westlake Plaza area you’ll see several food trucks across the street. You HAVE to try out a Seattle Dog! They’re a hot dog topped with cream cheese and sauteed onions.

Seattle Dog

Nearby is the Nordstrom #1 flagship store. I’ve been in a couple but I can say this is a BIG store and the cafe had great cocktails upstairs!

A few blocks down to the water and you’ll be at Pike Place.

 

PIKE PLACE

Another Biscuit Bitch location is located above Pike Place. It was much smaller than the Belltown location and was just wide enough for one line up and a shelf on the side of the wall where we were able to stand and eat. Otherwise expect to stand outside or take your food to another location to eat.

On your way near 5th street you’ll come across the flagship Top Pot Doughnuts. They are one of my favorites and there are dozens of locations around the city so just google one near you. Top Pot  has hand-roasted coffee and hand-forged gourmet doughnuts. I didn’t meet a doughnut or iced coffee here I didn’t like. They’re great to grab a box and take home for breakfast the next day.

Seattle street signs around the city.

Another must-see, must-do, backbone of Seattle. There will be a fairly steep hill before getting to the market. The Market opened August 17, 1907, and is one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers’ markets in the United States. Expect this place to be shoulder to shoulder crowds near the vendor tables especially during the summer months. You will probably also be in a few lines for the more popular attractions. At the ‘main entrance’ you’ll see Rachel the Piggy Bank for the market foundation. You’ll also get the up front prime viewing of the Pike Place Fish Market fish throwers. When we have been they only throw the fish when someone makes a purchase.

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Walking down the alley past the donut stand you’ll see a small Indian food stand called Saffron Spice. This is where we were introduced to samosas and, once we did, we returned each time we were in town.  Pop some gum in to freshen up (plus you’ll need it in a minute) and walk back toward the fish market.

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To your left there will be a staircase that leads you down to the gum wall.

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This wall is cleaned every few years (once lasting a 20 year span) because the sugar from the gum erodes the brick walls. You’ll see tickets, ID’s, names and initials spread out, some on the ground and some so high up you wonder how they were placed there. Take your boomerang blowing a bubble or the picture of you adding to the saliva-filled colorful wall and NOW it is time for a drink!

At the left-end of the alley is the Pike Brewing Company. The most fun thing about this bar for me is the location and I enjoyed a few of their beers from local grocery stores or from a flight on the bar.

In front of Post Alley

Back up on Post Alley you can walk on the far side of the alley and you’ll come across Pike Place Chowder.

THIS CHOWDER is the BEST I have ever had (seriously I would pay you for a bucket right now) and there will always be at least a short line but mostly a long line backed up to Rachel’s Ginger Beer. *Rachel’s is hand brewed and the sting of ginger is real. Fun drinks on a hot day though!

July 2017 Rachel’s Ginger Beer

Sept 2015 Rachel’s Ginger Beer

We usually split a few small cups of chowder since we like to eat around the market. At the front counter you can turn around and the shelving with utensils has a basket on the top filled with inside of the sourdough bread bowls. You get the best part of a bread bowl for free and you don’t even have to order the filling bread bowl! Usually the inside seating is sparse and filled constantly so your best bet is a picnic table outside.

If you don’t feel like going to Pike Place Chowder there is a pizza counter next door called LoPriore Brothers Pasta Bar (if it’s still open) that serves large slices of New York style pizza and Italian food made in front of you.

Take a walk down the market eyeing the fresh bakeries and seafood, the colorful (and huge variety) of produce and you’ll eventually come up on Beecher’s. They’re famous for their handmade cheese products and you can watch from the corner windows as they make it. I’ve had their cheese on other occasions but never straight from the store (not a huge straight cheese person) but I have heard great things about their legendary mac-n-cheese.

You want to try a place with some bomb food that might take my #1 favorite in the market? It’s Piroshky Piroshky Bakery. Usually there is a short line but in spring and summer you’ll have to wait in a roped off line for a two minute transaction inside the no seating alley shop. But my gooodddnessss is it worth it. I LOVED the Smoked Salmon Pate for a great Seattle take on the Russian pastry. If you’re in a sweet mood I enjoyed the Chocolate Cream Hazelnut Roll. I don’t think you could really go wrong.

You’ll need the snack during your wait right next door at the ‘original’ Starbucks location. The original Starbucks was actually a few blocks north at 2000 Western Ave but then moved to this location five years later during construction. Giving the monster that dominates the coffee industry today this is still a fun experience for visitors.

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You’ll wait in line before entering a quaint wood planked, narrow coffee shop. To the left is a wall of merchandise where you can grab a location mug or a bag of coffee. When you order notice the names and locations of the baristas: they are from all over the world. You will then stand in a crowded corner while you wait for your drink. I encourage you to order a drink you can only get at the roastery or reserve areas.

If you’re traveling buy your coffee in beans so you can fly with it. Once you’re at your location any Starbucks (or coffee shop) will grind the beans for you at no cost if you don’t own your own grinder. I purchased several bags of the specialty Pike Place Special Reserve which is only sold at two locations.

The Pike Place Blend OR the Pike Place Roast are also available in other locations but this is different than the above two. Coffee, right? 
Once you have your drink and the photo to prove you’ve also been there, walk through the market and get the view at the back looking over the pier.

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My favorite thing to do in the market is pick up a bouquet of flowers at the end of the day. For $5-$20 you can get the most incredible, HUGE bouquets of flowers. If it works out grab the bunches before the market closes in the afternoon so you don’t have to walk around with them all day but they will wrap them up with a bag of water to stay fresh.

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If you’re near Pike Place market in the evening I recommend going! The streets clear out and you can find drinks up and down the streets. We had a large Mexican dinner at El Borracho Pike Place Market and some Uli’s sausage  (they have their main vendor location in the market) and beers at Old Stove Brewing. It’s fun to see the neon sign and walk around the romantic, glistening streets at night knowing how busy it is during the day.
Purple Cafe and Wine Bar is also near the area. I went with two girlfriends and the atmosphere was great for our night and a few girly drinks but we weren’t crazy about their food.

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PIER 57
You can get to the pier by walking down through the gum wall alley and turn right. There will be a set of stairs and a street to cross under the bridge but the Pier is a fun place to walk around.

View of Seattle Aquarium

While I never went in you could hide from a rainy day at the Seattle Aquarium or hop on the Great Wheel. Tickets are a bit pricey at $14/adult but it is a one-time experience that you can choose to do.

On top of the Great Wheel, June 2017

Afterward take a walk through the Miners Landing building. This building is like walking through a two-story covered pier with a carousel, shops, ice cream stands and restaurants. Outside to the right is the infamous Ivar’s. If you didn’t already getcha some fish and chips in Sea-Tac then this is the place to snag some up. It’s a walk up window with a nearby enclosed eating area. They also have yummy chowder!

Pier 57

PIONEER SQUARE

After our time on the pier we chose to walk the few minutes down to Pioneer Square. You can also catch an Uber if you wanted but the walk really isn’t that bad. You’ll have to walk up the tower to cross the bridge over the street and you’ll come across downtown area near the International District. Pioneer Square is trendy and filled with art galleries, coffee shops and a beautiful plaza, paved streets and lined trees.

I would have loved to take one of the underground tours in this area so if you have time go for it! Our favorite place to go at the edge of this area is Elysian Fields. Elysian is Seattle’s prime brewing company and home to Drew’s favorite: SPACE DUST IPA. Seriously he always orders it and if we find it on the East coast, he will buy it. They’re right next to Safeco Field where the Mariners play and CenturyLink field where the Seahawks and and Sounders play so on gameday this place is packed. It has a huge horseshoe bar, two seating areas and stacked bleachers with views of the game on TV. We always had great food -think upscale bar food- no matter what we ordered and I loved their seasonal beers or limited release. Check out their Capitol Hill location below.

On our way to a Mariners game we stopped at a tailgate popup in front of Pyramid Brewing Company which is conveniently across the street from the stadium. The beer garden we were in hosted several different breweries and I was introduced to one of my all-time Beerland worthy beers. A mango passionfruit IPA from Two Beers Brewing Co. They usually serve ciders because their owner was gluten intolerant but this IPA was MAGICAL. I really, really enjoyed it and I think people who don’t like IPAs would drink this all day. My only complaint was it was difficult to find afterward.

If you’re looking for a late night order of fries walk down a few blocks to The Lodge. While this bar drew us in because of the large wood doors and warm, lodge ambience inside it’s also trying to go for a sports bar and grille feel which it slightly misses for me. We’ve been twice for afternoon drinks and had a good time but I would say there are hundreds of other places if you’re only in town for a little while longer.

CAPITOL HILL

This is a town so easy to walk around in. I would say this is one of the most eclectic areas in Seattle because it’s packed with trendy, hip bars, gay clubs, indie stores and a drink-with-cats lounge all connected with rainbow crosswalks.

There are several artsy walls for your viewing pleasures like this…

Capitol Hill Wall Mural

Plus another Dick’s burgers location and Volunteer Park in the historic mansion district with walking trails that are always busy with locals and their dogs. It abuts Lake View Cemetery, where the city’s founders (and Bruce Lee) are buried.

This is a college district so you’ll see Seattle Central College near the Jimi Hendrix statue at 1604 Broadway, Seattle, WA 98122.

If you’re looking for restaurants check out Mezcaleria Oaxaca for their rooftop happy hour and taco truck or downstairs seating for their large menu. There are so many good places to eat a variety of food a simple google search for what you’re craving won’t disappoint. If you’re looking to start your day with brunch you need to go to Witness. The chicken and waffles are exactly what you want (even if you don’t know you want them) and the drinks are poured generously. It’s a simple, southern menu and adornments in a trendy PNW fashion.

If you’re here to drink, you will be overwhelmed with your options! Number one must visit on your list should be the Unicorn. It’s a no cover, gigantic, eclectic bar that’s sure to take you on a trip (if you’re not already…WA things.) Even if this isn’t your usual scene you still need to walk around and have a sugary, cereal flavored drink. The booming music, lights, arcade games and crowd are entertainment enough.

Across the street is Elysian’s Capitol Hill Brewery. Elysian has brewed over 350 craft beers since it opened on Capitol Hill in 1996. We visited their Capitol Hill location and it reminded us of Deschutes in Portland but more of a sports bar vibe. Since they had the pride parade recently before we visited they had their pride glitter beer on tap which was fun to try although it didn’t glitter like I was hoping. Another plus is they have their own Series of beer to choose from!

There are local gay bars, biker bars, specialty bars and late night menus we loved checking out.

You’ll see this area is jam-packed with every kind of awesome gastropub or bar you could ever want to visit. If you’re looking for more suggestions send me a message! 

CASCADE

Near Capitol Hill we’ve only been to the MBar here on the 14th floor for a fantastic view of the city and glass-walled rooftop. For this was a cocktail specialty bar where you are paying for the view and perk of the elevator, guided entrance experience. (Pictures of all this on Instagram.) You can expect a menu filled with portions of food that tastes great but you would see it on the food channel wondering if you would even feel full haha! This is a must visit for a date or girls night out. Even if you go for one drink it’s fun and quirky! Make sure to place your reservation ahead of time.

You can venture down the streets for a few more bars and pizza shops even though a majority of this area is business buildings.

 


Other things to do in Seattle that we did not end up seeing but wanted to were the Kurt Cobain bench (His childhood house is a few hours away here.)

Starbucks Reserve Roastery is at 1124 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101. When driving in from the south you’ll be able to sneak a peak at the logo on the towering building down past the stadiums. They have special drinks, wifi and light bites.

I decided to make a seperate post about Alki Beach which focuses on West Seattle. Check that out here!


 

We loved living an hour away from this city and we really enjoyed living in Washington. Don’t underestimate what this state has to offer in Seattle, the national parks or out west! It’s bordered by Oregon and Canada for your roadtrips and has direct flights to Hawaii. Whatever you choose to do I hope you have a great time and know this place has a very special place in our hearts.

 

Cheers!

Marin

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Day Trip: Paradise and Mt. Rainier

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If you’re familiar with Washington, you’re familiar with Mount Rainier
This stunning beauty is iconic whether you’re seeing it from I-5, on the  daily dog walk in my neighborhood, at the end of the parade field on Fort Lewis or visiting for the weekend. 

One of the many views of Rainier. This one from Madigan Hospital on Fort Lewis.

While my all-time favorite trip was hiking our way through the Olympic Peninsula, this is a close second.

Paradise is about 5,400 feet on the south slope of Mount Rainier in Mount Rainier National Park. This area includes Paradise Valley, Paradise Glacier (which is the source of the Paradise River), meadows, wildflowers, wildlife and much more.

I enjoyed the visitor’s center as well as how accessible the area is for all modes of transportation and ages of people. This was one of the most crowded, busiest places we had explored which made it feel very touristy instead of a sweet escape into wilderness but the further up you hiked, the more desolate it was. The only possible frustration here would be parking. There are several lots and roadside options (which we chose to do) so be prepared to drive around a bit and take the first spot you see if you don’t mind a small pre-hike warm up! 

Besides a fantastic view one of my favorite things about being on top of a mountain is the wind that silences out any other noise, the feeling of being on top of the world and the change of scenery as you climb from concrete parking lots to grassy meadows to sandy outlooks and rocky peaks. 

Paradise is so appropriately named because of this. Our friends were able to see a bear, deer and beautiful fall colors. Check out her Instagram and these photos she took! 

On August 20, 2017 we hiked halfway up Mount Rainier yesterday and agreed it was one of the MOST beautiful place we’ve been. To get there you’ll need a National Park Pass (free for military) or $30 per vehicle (includes all passengers, good for seven consecutive days.) You will get a map but follow signs for Paradise Road. The Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center is the busiest visitor center and is open year round. Next door is the Paradise Inn. Enjoy the views on the way in!

This area of Mount Rainier National Park is basically a glacier-covered volcano but it’s also home to the park’s most popular trails. We opted for the longest of the three options known as  Skyline Trail: 5.5 miles RT, 1700 feet elevation gain. 

View of Mt. Rainier through Paradise on the way down. 

While we didn’t see bears or deer we did see enough marmots they could consider renaming the mountain. Despite the endless warnings not to step on the grass there were still visitors climbing over to mess around. Hike Guides would consistently reprimand them and hikers coming down from the summit were passing us on the way down. After climbing the initial two miles you’ll get to Panorama Point which gives you an amazing view and an outhouse style toilet available to visitors (hilarious for jokes.)

As we kept climbing we wove in and out of grooved rock formations, gravel pathways, large rock navigation, snow and a few creative jumps across frozen creeks to maneuver where we wanted. We stopped a few hundred feet from where people were changing for the base camps to summit. In a matter of hours we had started in a sunny, hot August day and ended in a near-freezing winter wonderland. It’s the coolest experience! 

The end of Skyline Trail on Mount Rainier

Where was your favorite place to visit in the PNW? Leave it below in the comments and make sure to add Paradise to your next trip.

Cheers!

Marin

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The Mountains Are Calling: Mount Si

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Sigh…

Si what I did there? 

Okay. I’m done. Mount Si (pronounced sigh) was our last big hike we did before leaving Washington. As any other Sunday we headed out on July 8, 2018 around 11 a.m. to climb a mountain.

From a previous hike at Rattlesnake Ledge, another must do!, we had seen and heard all the rave about Mount Si. Si is in the Snoqualmie Area and is 8 miles round-trip. As far as elevation goes you’ll get a gain of 3,150 ft in under four miles. The highest point is 3,900 ft. From using our WTA app I found out this mountain was very important to the Snoqualmie people.

“In the legends of the Snoqualmie people, Mount Si was the body of the moon, fallen to earth through the trickery of the fox and the blue jay.”

 

This was a dog-friendly hike so we were taking our German Shepherd/Saluki Mix, Argo, and Drew’s pack. It was the ideal hiking day; maybe even a little too hot: Clear and 72 degrees. As soon as we got near the infamous peak and sheer edges were showing off for us. It’s intimidating to view this driving in but soooo satisfying when you’re driving away. Feeling like a badass=addicting. 

Post-Hike IG story. Can you see Argo’s tired head waiting for ice cream?
IG: @marinslocalcollab

It’s important to note that they have a parking lot but you might find it difficult to find a spot. If it’s a great day expect to create a spot like we (and many others) did. They also have a bus option to shuttle in and out if you don’t want to bother driving. They also have bathrooms and a water spout at the trailhead.

On the way up you have an opportunity to learn about the Snag Flat and how the mountain survived logging, mining, fires, and other natural causes. The trail you walk actually was once a 4×4 track. 

Finding squirrels and chipmunks

By the time we started our hike up it was 12:45 p.m. With a few stops to enjoy the view, catch my breath and dog breaks we reached the top at 1510 (or 3:10 p.m.) 

From the top we could see beautiful Mount Rainier, Snoqualmie Valley, Seattle, and the Olympics. If you look down and around you you can also see small wildlife.

We took turns holding the dog while the other navigated through jagged rocks to climb even further to the peak. If you’re able, go a little bit further up. The view changes with every few feet and you get closer and closer to a 360 view. The true summit is called Haystack.

In early spring, climbers getting ready for Rainier come here with weighted packs. Conventional wisdom says if they can reach the end of the trail in under two hours, they’re ready to conquer the state’s tallest peak. 

WTA

The top is mostly rocks so don’t expect shade for your lunch or snack break. I recommend lots of water, a hat and crouching down under the tree or large rocks you’ll find for shade. 

We started heading down at 3:45 p.m. and were back in the truck by 5:30 p.m. I remember how much my knees HURT so wearing proper hiking gear, layers and good boots will make a world of difference. No, we never used poles. 

As I shared on my Facebook and Instagram (FOLLOW ME FOR REAL TIME UPDATES!)

Conquered Mount Si today and HOLY KNEES AND CALVES this was no joke! 8 miles in 5 hours. We gained about 1,000 ft in elevation per mile and reached the elevation 3,500 ft. Perfect hiking day with clear views of all the cities and #mountrainier ! 😍
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#mountsi#climb#hike#explore#adventurer#getoutdoors#optoutside#pnw#themountainsarecalling#mountains#workoutcomplete#sundayfunday#upperleftusa

This kicked my ass!

Not only was it a steep and slightly challenging hike there were a lot of people on the trail (100,000 per year hike this trail) and I was at the battle of some health issues that would last a few months. But, as with all of our hikes, I was impressed that I was capable of handling something like that in good time and the view is always worth it.

Don’t let this scare you away though! Novice hikers are just as welcome and enjoy it just as much. We had so many friends who denied (and continue to deny) exploring the areas we live in. If you just get out and try you will be in awe. You have no idea what you’re missing until you go see it for yourself. 

Cheers to getting outside and moving today!

Marin

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Our Favorite View in Olympia, WA (And A Few Other Special Surprises)

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If you’ve visited downtown Olympia, WA, you are more than likely familiar with the charming farmer’s market, the eclectic shops, the vast amount of delicious food and local beers and the view of the water.

During our three years living minutes from Olympia we discovered as many easy hikes and places to see as we did new restaurants to try out in the state’s capital. Being from a land-locked state we were constantly in awe of the mountains and water; even in a crowded downtown area filled with concrete and surrounded by buildings.

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There are several short ‘hikes’ and walks you can do nearby and they are surprisingly enjoyable. They are all family, kid and dog friendly so it was great when we had visitors. Some of our frequent stops were Mima Falls (read more here), Tumwater Falls, try the restaurant out, too, Watershed Park, Priest Point Park which we frequently took guests of all ages, Capitol Lake Trail which is a surprisingly great hike with great views of the capital dome before filling your growler, Tolmie State Park, and the Chehalis Western Trail which was right next to our subdivision and offered a great place to walk, run and ruck on gameday weekends.

 

Just to name a few.

But they mostly revolve around the Budd Inlet: a deepwater shipping channel has been dredged providing access to the Port of Olympia. You can walk the boardwalk and Percival Landing in downtown, watch the sunset over the water while eating supper, check out the houseboats parked at the docks or enter from multiple trailheads. One of the hikes we did near the water was Burfoot Park which welcomes families, sunbathers and dogs alike.

 

Burfoot Park covers 50 acres of property with 1,100 feet of saltwater beach frontage on Budd Inlet. There are nature and beach trails (beaches in WA=rocks so wear good shoes) with clear views of the State Capitol and the Olympic Mountains. There are also shelters, a playground, a garden and bbq grills so I frequently saw birthday parties and events going on on the lawn.

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My husband, dog and I headed out on a gorgeous day for the three-mile trail and to play in the water. We had fun walking through the forest, reading signs as we went down the path and it opened to a rocky beach filled with driftwood, sailboats and others looking for a sunny day out.

There were a few large fallen trees we hopped over to travel further down the beach until we reached a ‘No Trespassing’ sign of private residents. There were some crabs and fish in the water including salmon jumping several hundred feet out. Argo was not a fan of learning to swim in the freezing cold water and we decided to turn around. By this time the water had crept up over the trail a bit and we made a loop back. It was fun to watch the dogs run around in the walks and see the salmon jump by sailboats with the mountains in the background.

To get all of these views only a 10-minute drive from our house and a few minutes walk down to the beach access was incredible. If you’re looking for a casual bite to eat in town we loved The Spar Cafe (McMenamins chain). If you go you HAVE to get their truffle fries, add cajun tots side to your entree and top it all of with, my personal favorite, a Ruby Ale. We also had delicious post-hike pizza and built our own six pack at the Oly Taproom.

If you’re looking for any other suggestions, send me a message for more recommendations!

I hope you have a great time in town and I know we can’t wait to come back up.

Cheers!
Marin

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Hiking the Olympic Mountain Range: Mt. Ellinor (This is a MUST!)

Summited July 30, 2017

One of my favorite hikes to date.

 

Is it ironic to rate a mountain on a five-star system? That’s what the Washington Trail Association Trailblazer app does….and we love it.

For the last two years I created a Goals Sheet (which you can download for free here!) One of those goals was to explore one new place a month. We used the Trailblazer app while living in Washington to find a new hike each weekend and the Olympic Mountain Range never disappoints.

Ellinor is located on the Olympic Peninsula near the Hood Canal; a favorite location of ours for weekend warrior trips with our dog. You can check out more in the Passport section!

Grab your Northwest Forest Pass and drive out, rain or shine (but hoping for shine!)

The pass is FREE for military and good for 12 months from date of purchase. Perfect for a one-time visit or a move to this beautiful state! If you don’t want to purchase one, enter at the lower trailhead on Ellinor.

Mt. Ellinor lets you choose from two different trailheads. If you find old growth peaceful like the set of a movie scene, choose the lower trailhead. If you want to cut off a few miles but go STRAIGHT UP immediately choose the upper trailhead.

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I’m a little scared of saying this was my favorite hike of all time but if the hiking boot fits then, yes, this is a MUST! This made my knees feel like I was 85 years-old, there were a ton of bugs, I started in summer clothes and ended in winter clothes, I trekked vertically up rocks, held back my dog from being an a**hole to other dogs, smelled wildflowers and slid down a snow and ice covered mountain…it was an entire adventure in 6.2 miles roundtrip.

Although it felt long with all the obstacles and it was surprisingly hotter than we thought, the mountain was packed. When it felt like my knees were made of rusted iron I told myself ‘kids, dogs and parents with babies were summiting so you can too’ 😉

There are several switchbacks that were in great condition. They are long and winding at the bottom but once you exit the growth to the rockier terrain it’s a more vertical and staircase type terrain.

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We came up on a large field of icy snow (end of July? Snow?) Yup.

We stepped off to the side to add a couple layers, gloves and Yaktrax. I honestly am not sure how much they helped but the traction was nice on the short snow field.

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Otherwise, a majority of the hike was dusty and there were several rock areas that took a second to navigate with other hikers. The steps were easily marked and the views were incredible throughout. If you find it easy to look around and enjoy where you are, you’ll be in heaven. This was one of those treks that had me counting my blessings: Strong legs, endurance, working lungs, the ability to climb and hike which is denied to many and the urge to explore with an able body that many deny. Think about that…

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It’s going to feel like you’re far enough and ready to head back down…but DON’T! You have made it this far and trust me when I say the views change and get better the further up you go! Yes, it’ll be steep but you can see every big mountain and city so just do it. K? K.

Another thing to note if you have kids or dogs, paths will be narrower the further up you go so be prepared to step aside especially in busy months. (It was pretty busy when we went). The ‘rule’ is the people coming up keep working and the people coming down step aside. Sometimes it’s nice to use that step aside as a breather though, ammirighttttt.

 

When we finally reached the top there was more snow that Argo immediately layed down for a nap in. It was hilarious because as it slowly melted, he slid down. There are a few rocky areas to sit or climb around on for that IG shot to show you did something cool and you can look down the sheer faces to valleys and water below.

Words and iPhone photos really can’t do this justice. You just need to experience it.

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You did it. You just gained 3,300 feet in 6.2 miles of crowded hiking paths through almost every terrain you could experience. You reached the highest point at 5,944 ft. with 360-degree views. You earned views of Lake Cushman, We also saw Mt Baker, Mt Adams, Mt. Saint Helens and Mt. Rainier. Careful on your way down–as your legs are probably shaking–and grab an ice cream at our favorite Hoodsport Coffee Company. You sure as hell deserve it.

 

Cheers from our post-hike snack to yours!

Marin

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Cross-Country Road Trip: Part Three of Three

If you missed Part One or Part Two follow those links to catch up and meet us back here.


Saturday, July 28: Colorado Springs, Manhattan, KS and Spring Hill, KS
We left Colorado Springs at 9 a.m. to head for my home state.

We knew we were in Kansas when we stopped in Wakeeney for gas and then drove through Western Kansas until we pulled into the our Alma Mater: Manhattan, Kansas. The Little Apple holds a special place in our hearts because we attended school and graduated from K-State, we met and dated here, we were engaged here and we had years of great memories. We thought it would be fun to take Argo around our campus and places that were important to our relationship.

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After walking down memory lane we pulled into my hometown, Spring Hill, Kansas at 9 p.m. We grabbed some ice cream at Sonic with my dad, sister and her boyfriend. After hanging out at dad’s house we went to my mom’s very late where Argo met cats for the first time and the family dogs….That went about as well as you think. We fell asleep to a thunderstorm which we had missed for several years living in the PNW.


Sunday, July 29


For anyone who grew up in 4-H you’ll know county fair week is a *little* insane. My cousins, Kylie and Claire, came over to bake for the fair and play with the dogs. They were able to babysit Argo while we ran around town visiting family.

It was a super nice day with post-storm humidity and overcast. We realized this was going to be a shocker after living in WA. Here we were thinking we were tough…

We spent the morning with my dad and tried out The Bean which is a new coffee shop on the Main street of our town. It was really weird to go through town and see people you didn’t recognize. My grandma was hosting dinner for us at her house and it was great to catch everyone on their fair-prep break and in one place.

Our one request while in Spring Hill was to eat at the infamous K&M BBQ. We were craving burnt ends (A KC classic and what we’re known for) but after we ALL ordered the same thing…found out they were out. If you can’t make it out you can order sauce and merch online so click their website link above!


Monday, July 30
One of the biggest things my mom taught me was how to bake and cook so we spent the morning making breakfast and cooking with Mom for fair.

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We met up with dad for lunch at the Salty Iguana and then we played a round of golf at Top Golf. It was my first time going and I decided I’m better at putt putt. We took Drew to the Johnson County Fair where they were kicking off fair week and he was able to see where we spent YEARS of our life as well as family and friends. We went to my Aunt Lyneda’s to see their baby goats, updates on their house and have a few Boulevard beers.


Tuesday, July 31: Spring Hill, KS to Nashville, TN
And then it was time to go. We left Spring Hill and, for having a few fights, it was really cute to see Argo and Ruger cry and try to play again while we were leaving. We had some rain driving through St. Louis (apparently we left at the absolute worst time to drive across the country.) We had some lights go on in Illinois but it turned out to be a false alarm that corrected itself and we made it smoothly into Nashville, TN. This hotel wasn’t bad except for some creepers outside. We were able to pick-up Panera with a gift card (thanks, family) and spent the night booking hotels and looking at houses.


Wednesday, August 1: Nashville, TN to Asheville, NC
If only we knew how awesome and popular Asheville would be…We made great time on our drive on a rainy, two-lane highway. Asheville didn’t have La Quinta’s so we stayed at a Best Western that turned out to be the nicest place we stayed at! It was a fairly quick drive to Asheville’s downtown area where we walked around past their beautiful buildings filled with stores, places to eat and drink and plenty of people. It was a perfect mix of historical and updated buildings.

We ended up eating at Pack’s Tavern which had the best wings we’ve ever had! (Try the bourbon wings, club grinder and pizza.) You can’t really go wrong here. Pack’s was the site of many blue-collar industries and services in the town including the lumber and auto industry while turning to the “South Bar.” You can learn more about their top-tier hospitality and service on their website.


Thursday, August 2: Asheville, NC to Raeford, NC
We would have loved to visit the Biltmore and explore the area but it wasn’t worth paying the entrance fee with a dog and the rain. We left before noon and it ended up raining so bad most people had their hazards and max windshield wipers on while doing 30 mph on the highway.

We finally got to the Quality Inn in Raeford where we would be spending SEVERAL days. Because of a big Kids U.S. Open event going on nearby, most all hotels were taken so we were stuck in a non-smoking (but definitely smoky) room. We would spend the next few days driving around checking out houses and neighborhoods, touring post, trying out new restaurants every night that we could bring back to the hotel room and FINALLY found our new home and move in 10 days later!

Iron Mike on Fort Bragg, NC

Iron Mike on Fort Bragg, NC

If you would like to see more posts on our home or another topic, let me know. Until then, let’s see how we can make your hobby a brand. Consultations are always FREE.

Cheers!

Marin

How To Visit Olympic National Park In A Weekend

For the last three years, Drew and I are lucky enough to live hours away from the most beautiful sprawling combination of ecosystems in the world. We’ve frequented nearby day hikes but having the time to travel and stay in the area gives you an entirely different experience. You have gorgeous, clear views of the Olympic Mountains, old-growth rain forests, the Pacific Ocean and natural wildlife.

A Few Tips Before We Get Started:

  • If you are within driving distance, know that we came from the South entrance near Aberdeen so our timeline will be simple to follow. If you’re flying into SeaTac you will need to rent a car and make sure to hit up Seattle while you’re nearby. (Stay tuned for some Seattle posts by following this blog.)
  • We used the four-day Memorial Weekend and it wasn’t as crazy-packed as we thought it would be. Keep in mind summer is the peak traveling season for this area because of the great weather and conditions so plan accordingly and be patient.
  • While it will be sunny and hot, you are in the PNW and on the coast which serves for freezing water and frigid breezes, night time is consistently cold, too. You will be near several fairly developed towns to refresh items but it’s mostly wilderness and nature which makes the views that much better! Bring lots of layers, pack food and plan on starting fires during the evening.
  • Through this post, I’m including times so you can get an idea of true-driving time and estimate how long you’ll spend at each location. Feel free to use the same outline for your own trip, if you’d like. It also might be helpful for tides and high traffic times. I hope this helps!
  • HI.KING.BOOTS. Really good hiking boots. They’re a must. I wear Salomon’s with a gel arch insert and I was still feeling sore in my feet after this. We covered well over 30-40 miles on our feet over several terrains and tennis shoes just wouldn’t cut it.
  • I got these on sale a few years ago at REI so if you have time, look around to get a discount.

  • Backpack. Even if you’re not backpacking, carrying in a small pack of snacks, map, layers and water will make the trip more enjoyable.
  • I wear a Camelbak with a built-in hydration pack. I usually carry 20-30 pounds if it’s full. Drew carries a Mystery Ranch larger pack with usually around 30-40 pounds. He loves his because he also uses it for work.

  • Bring cash. Many campsites only accept cash or check and there won’t be a front desk to run a transaction. If you’re using a card and coming from out of state you’ll want to have a back up in case it’s denied. Don’t forget to notify your bank of travel plans.
  • Discover Pass/Park Pass. Military get the pass for free; see if you’re eligible. There are several places to buy in person or you can pre-order and have it mailed.
  • The annual pass is $35. If you purchase this you get unlimited access and would save about $20 for this trip. Lots of options just look at the website to decide what you want to do.

  • Otherwise plan on paying $25/car/entrance. They prefer debit or credit cards at the gate unless you have exact change.
  • Trailblazer App. We use the free Trailblazer app by Washington Trails Association (WTA) in the app store for our hikes. You can search for criteria, length, trail closures or updates, etc. Hikers also leave reviews and post photos which is extremely helpful the closer you get to your planned hike. Download it for your trip or if you live here!

 

 

Let’s Get Started

Day 1

Many of the areas allowed on-leash dogs but you were restricted from bringing them to lookouts or trails in several locations if they weren’t banned completely. For this reason, we took our dog to a boarding kennel on Friday morning. From Yelm to Quinalt it was just over a three hour drive.

We stopped at the Quinalt Ranger Station which is right next to the Lake Quinalt Lodge. It was a historic-looking lodge and I’ve seen them offer discounts or complimentary rooms for military. We drove through the Quinalt Indian Reservation and arrived at Kalaloch Lodge at 2:30 p.m. You can pull over here to grab food or spend the night in their cabins. It offers an outlook of the beach for anyone just wanting to step out for a look. We weren’t planning on camping here since it’s first come first serve but if you drive over to the board you can see which lots are available, choose an empty lot and pay for your stay. We had a lot which was next to the beach and the restrooms. We were shielded from wind but still walked over to watch the sunset.

HEADS UP: Camping for one night at Kalaloch Campground was $22.

Kalaloch Beach is popular for it’s Tree Root Cave aka Tree of Life. Take the steps down to the  beach, turn right and walk a few hundred feet. Keep an eye on the right and you’ll see it along the bank. You can climb over driftwood and walk inside the shallow cave to look at the roots and layers of rock.

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This beach is also near Ruby Beach which we had visited in December a few years ago. Beautiful views that you should check out if you haven’t been before!

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We walked through the really fine sand for a while during low tide and saw many rocks, wood, crabs and tidepools filled with tiny creatures. During the summer, the sun doesn’t set until about 9 p.m. and even after it stays bright for a while. We setup camp, grilled hot dogs, s’mores, trail beer and a cigar from my husband’s collection. The sunset was gorgeous and it’s awesome to be the last ones in the U.S. to see it go down.

While we didn’t see any whales during this trip, keep your eye on the horizon and in the waves for blowholes and whales. People standing where we were earlier in the day saw a few!

TIP: Whale season is winter and early spring but summer has brought us some luck on the coast.

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Day 2

We didn’t set alarms during the trip but woke up at 7:30 each morning. We made a campfire to heat up pre-made breakfast burritos and walked to the beach for a last look before breaking down camp.

TIP: Breakfast burritos were awesome sources of protein, filling and delicious with taco sauce! Mine were wrapped in foil and the tortilla would stick when heated up. I would wrap them in wax paper and foil, freeze, let cool in cooler and before you heat them up remove wax paper. This might help.

We left Kalaloch Campground at 10:20 a.m. and an hour along the coastline to the Hoh Rainforest which felt like a long, winding drive until we reached the entrance of the Olympic National Park. At 11:40 a.m. we were parked at the overflow lot next to the Hoh Rainforest’s Visitor Center. This was one of the busiest areas we had hiked up here since it’s easy for families and offers longer backcountry hikes for the adventurous.

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I really wish we could have spent more time here to make it to Glacier Meadows and summit Mt. Olympus. We warmed up on the Hall of Mosses before heading out on the Hoh River Trail. We had a fairly easy trek out to Five Mile Island with a few elevation gains and minor obstacles. We stopped for a break at a waterfall on the way in where we climbed to the top for a quick snack.

During the hike there are a few chances to step out on the river and get a view of the Olympics. We didn’t see any large wildlife but made noise and conversation as we walked since you are in cougar and bear country. They have been spotted so the easiest way to avoid surprise is calling out or clapping now and then. It is a popular trail. Once we made it to Five Mile, I ate my first MRE next to the Hoh River. The edge of the river was filling up with campers settling in for the night but no one noticed a baby deer who came out to the meadow to graze.

Hiking to Five Mile Island and back is 10.6 round trip, added with Hall of Mosses we went a total of 11.5 miles in 4 hours 20 minutes. This was mostly taking pictures and stopping to look at the scenery but we keep a pretty good pace throughout.

 

When we got back to our car there was an elk just across the field who came out to graze. We left the Hoh and drove to Forks, WA. Forks recent claim to fame has been the Twilight novels and movies and there were lists of filming locations along with numerous shops and signs designated to them. We even got a radio station named Twilight. There’s a grocery store on the edge of town where we grabbed a few things then arrived at the perfectly secluded camping area, Last Chance Campground. Veronica owns the green pasture along with some chickens and horses we woke up to each morning. It had a port-a-pot, lots of space and running water for simple things like rinsing dishes or washing hands. There’s a wild elk herd that comes onto and nearby the campground so you will get plenty of close-ups of them. We also saw several bald eagles flying and perching in the trees.

This campsite is minutes from the highway and within 30-40 minutes of all hikes and beaches we planned on seeing for the next two days. Watching the sunset in this little valley next to the mountains was beautiful. The moon was so bright it drowned out the stars but s’mores with Reeses tasted just as good! I prepped meat for walking tacos with chip snack bags which were the perfect meal after a long day of hiking.

 

Day 3

We woke up to chickens, birds and a bright, hot sun. The elk herd was at the fenceline looking at me as I stepped out of the tent. Veronica gives you lots of free firewood so we were able to keep morning and evening fires going, no problem. Kalaloch had a grate over their firepit but luckily we had brought our own grate from our firepit. I warmed up cinnamon rolls in a pie tin, breakfast burritos, jetboil coffee and some watermelon. We saw an eagle fly overhead while eating and it landed in a tree above the elk herd. A baby elk yelled out and it was the coolest experience to be in the middle of it all like that.

At 10 a.m. we left for the iconic Rialto beach. We got there just before the scheduled high tide at noon so it was fairly simple to find a parking spot.

TIP: Make sure to check the tides before you go or else some locations will be impassable.

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This is all rocks so definitely wear your walking shoes and pack flip flops if you’d like. It’s 1.5 mile hike out to Hole-in-the-Wall but you’ll see lots of cool rocks, driftwood, fallen trees, campers and hikers along the way.

We sat down on some fallen trees right in front of the rock formations to air out our shoes (those waves will sneak up on ya) and have a snack. I believe the rock formation was Cake Island. While we were there we saw eagles, a sea otter, lots of birds/ducks and a seal! By the time we got back to the truck it was PACKED. If you’re able to go earlier to avoid the crowds, I would suggest it.

There were lots of leashed dogs allowed here, in case you were wanting to bring your pup along.

We left at 2 p.m. for Second Beach and arrived there at 2:30 p.m. It’s out on a two-lane road so your best best is the overflow parking at the top of the hill (you’ll see a sign). The regular lot was full but it does drive through to overflow, heads up if you decide to check them out. Just allow a few minutes to look and take the first open spot you see. It’s a novice hike, about two miles in, with a few steep inclines and switchbacks but I saw so many people do this, you’ll be more than fine.

It’s the best beach we’ve been to here so highly recommend this is a must-see for you!

The hike through the forest is standard PNW but you will hear the ocean as you get closer before you see it. As you breakout on the ridge you catch a glimpse through the trees then the base of the trail opens into an arched entry to the beach, perfectly merging the ecosystems together like a dream. We loved this beach because the only way to get there and see it is a hike. You also have to climb and jump over a wide area of driftwood to get to the sand. The water was freezing. We saw tons of hermit crabs, urchins, and anemones in the tide pools and tons of eagles in the sky flying mainland to the Crying Lady rock and islands.

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This beach was covered in really fine, soft sand and it was huge! There are lots of campers and visitors on this beach but it’s very expansive so you’ll have a lot of space to play or walk around.

We ended up climbing up a smaller looking Crying Lady rock (maybe 50 feet tall?)

We hiked back up to the truck at 5 p.m. ready to try out a restaurant Veronica had told us about. She said ‘a restaurant’ and it was clear there was only one when we got into La Push. The tribes have a strong presence in these areas and there are several signs with their language, images and historical markers to represent them.

We ate at the Rivers Edge and were amazed at how much wildlife we saw in the span of a few minutes. We watched sea lions and seals catch and eat fish by slapping them against the water. Each time they did this, seagulls and birds would flock over to try and mooch off them. Fisherman would throw their chum in the water and the animals would go NUTS trying get a piece of the meat. That’s when the eagles would swoop down and catch the fish with their talons. It was the best dinner show we’ve ever seen! The food was fresh but don’t expect five-star service here…it’s a small fishing and lumber town, they have their own ways 😉

That night at 7 p.m. we stopped at their creek store for some ice and goodies. They had several paintings and totem poles here and was one of the more convenient options before you drive back into Forks from the North.

 

Day 4

Four days?! Yep, we like getting a lot done on our trips and filling our days while we’re at places. This was Memorial Day Monday so we were going to head up North to close out the loop of what we’ve seen before and hit some old favorites. By this day my sunburn was hurting very bad (LOL) even though I continually put on sunscreen. siigghhhh, cue ‘That’s Life’ song.

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We heated up the usual cinnamon rolls, breakfast burritos, instant coffee and cleaned up camp. We were out at 10 a.m. heading north toward Lake Crescent. It took us about 40 minutes to get there. I really wanted to visit the Sol-Duc Falls & Hot Springs but that would require more time than we had. The highway drives you along the lake for miles and seeing the blue of the water and the tall mountains around it is serene. This is another popular area for water sports, hikers and vacationers. There’s lots to see including parts of the Discovery Trail, PCT and the Lake Crescent Lodge. We did a short, easy almost two mile hike to Marymere Falls. This waterfall was easy to get to and offers a great view that would be occurring whether people are looking or not.

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I would have loved to do the Storm King hike that you access from this trail but we had other hiking plans for the day. We already talked about going up another time.

We took the end of the trail to the Lake Crescent Lodge which we were so glad we did because of the history. The lobby, bar and screened in porch have a quaint lodge feel with the historical colonial-style cabins lining up the sidewalk. While there we found out the lodge was built in 1915 as one of the first buildings in the Olympic National Park. Franklin D. Roosevelt stayed there and discussed the proposed Olympic National Park with Park Service and Forest Service advisors. Following his tour of the Peninsula, the President signed authorization for the creation of Olympic National Park in 1938. We found all this out from photos in the lobby but you can get more history here.

After all the walking around it was 12:40 when we got back to the truck and a quick 20 minute drive over to Port Angeles. We had been to Port Angeles two years ago when Drew’s family visited. We drove up for a day trip to go whale watching and ate at the Next Door GastroPub before heading to Hurricane Ridge and back home.

The next summer Drew and I took the ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles during sunset and saw several whales pop up.

This time Drew and I decided to go back up to Hurricane Ridge hoping for a clearer day

(It seems that there are always clouds in the mountains but the weather has always been different when we break above them. No matter what, drive up!)

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Our last visit was during July so we were sort of surprised to see snow up there during May. It was covering many of the paths we hiked last time. You are high up and it’s named ‘Hurricane’ because of the wind so wear something warm, no matter the time of year. Deer walk freely around the parking lot and trails. This is an area you can have dogs at one lookout next to the Visitor’s Center but not at the Northern lookout point. We heard a few disappointed visitors so if you did bring your dog I would suggest finding a playdate/daycare for the day. The trails are simple but do get a little steep. You can get to several points for valleys, meadows, to view Canada and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

TIP: I did get Canadian roaming charges and you can pick up Canadian radio stations so if you’re worried then put your phone on Airplane mode.

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During this trip, Drew and I looked out and saw some amazing ridge trails. We decided to go check it out and found the Hurricane Hill Trail. Drive to the back of the Visitor’s Center and there is a very narrow, no guard rail, winding road about one mile to the trail entrance. We had to find a spot in the overflow lot but it was 1/4 mile walk so nothing awful. We wore our packs and you will be working so we wore minimal layers. Hurricane Hill might be one of my favorite hikes and it’s definitely in our Top Five.

It’s 3.2 miles roundtrip but our GPS told us we walked about 4 miles in 1.5 hours. It was a gorgeous day, well-maintained trail with some snow to easily navigate over and lots of people. We saw several deer and chipmunks on our way up and I spotted a black bear in the meadow across the valley where we were headed (he was gone by the time we were going back down.)

At the peak we noticed several marmots and you can hear them squealing. From a distance this does look like you’re on a narrow ridge, making for steep views and great perspective photos but you never feel like you’re in trouble up top. We stopped a lot for photos and just to look at different areas the farther along we hiked in.

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Hurricane Hill Summit

While most hikes in the PNW have you going through deep forest switchbacks, this was a gravel and dirt path and you’re out in the open for nearly all of it. When at the top you’ll definitely be throwing on your coat but sit on the outcrops to look down at PA, across the Strait at Canada or over the range and down at a further river trail.

Hurricane Hill Summit

It’s breathtaking. This isn’t so steep that it kills your knees on the way down but another hike that will be more comfortable with proper shoes. If you have kids or just wanted to get out for a view you can always go out part of the way before heading back in.

We had to go back to the Next Door Gastropub for ole times sake and, even though it was super busy, we waited thirty minutes to sit down and we’re glad we did. We got a few local beers, Tiger eings (small but SO good!) then burgers and fries we long-awaited all weekend. We judge places based on their fries and Next Door ranks in our Top List for Washington. (Wow. Huge honor, right?!)

We had enough sun to drive back home to Olympia/Lacey and went through Hoodsport as we had a million times. There are lots of hikes here if you’re looking for a place to stop and visit. We always end Hoodsport hikes at the Hoodsport Coffee Company to treat yo’self with coffee and/or ice cream before heading back. There were also Orcas reported in the Hood Canal recently but we didn’t spot any during our drive.

 


That was our 4-day weekend trip exploring the Olympic Peninsula! It is such a unique experience to be around people who are there to enjoy the scenery and adventurous nature of the upper left corner. If you have kids (maybe middle school or above?) they would easily be able to navigate these hikes but we saw everyone from toddlers to elders in walkers getting out to explore.

Nearly everything was free. We filled up gas one time and besides food and drink, didn’t pay a thing for any other activities making this a super valuable low-cost trip for couples or families.

We’ve lived here for three years and are sad to go. Although we’ve used every available weekend to explore the area there is always more to do. Every single day here leaves me grateful and I hope my friends and family get to experience it. I hope this gave you insight for your trip and please let me know if you have any comments or questions. Let me know what you think!

 

From our trail beer to yours, Cheers!

Marin

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