(We’re trying to get back into reno mode, but after two weeks of vacation it’s tough. I’m trying to prolong the trip by drooling over all the pictures and memories: Willamette Valley and Portland/Mt. Rainier)
Olympic National Park
A friend at work went on (and on and on) about the glories of Vancouver Island. Try as I might, I couldn’t fit it into our schedule when we knew we wanted to go as far south as the Willamette Valley. A little investigation led me to believe that we could get the same stunning sights stateside (wow… tongue twister much?) on the Olympic peninsula.
The plan: Hike beaches and the rainforest, take lots of pictures.
The lodging: It was hard to know where to launch our ONP adventure from, but Forks won out when we found this awesome, modern VRBO. Plus it put us the closest to the beach (!!) and in easy distance of the rainforest. 2 Things: 1. No, I’m not a Twilight fan. 2. I had no idea the novel was set there when we booked this. I figured I had to get that out of the way because we’ve been asked A LOT. The Twilight craze seems to have calmed down in this one stoplight town save for some random stores like “Indian to Twilight” and “Twilight Firewood.”
Rialto Beach: On our transition day from Mt. Rainier to the Olympic peninsula we grabbed lunch in Port Angeles and decided to check out Rialto Beach before check in at the VRBO. I didn’t realize at the time, but this foggy, rocky beach would totally steal my heart. From the parking lot, you weave through a pile of white washed logs, tossed ashore like Lincoln logs onto the rocky beach. It was foggy when we went and that seemed perfect. We walked two miles north to Hole in the Wall and arrived at low tide, allowing us to climb out and explore the tide pools. This place was pure serenity.
Shi Shi Beach: One hike stood out among the rest when I was planning this trip: Shi Shi Beach. Revered in the guidebook and online as THE BEST BEACH IN WASHINGTON, it instantly jumped to the top of my list. But it wasn’t going to be easy. Getting to the holy land involved a 2-mile trek through a rain forest that created boggy trails and descending something that’s a cross between a hill and cliff (if takes the assistance of a rope to get back up if that helps you understand the incline) before you hit the beach. Then it’s another 2 miles down the sand to some gorgeous sea stacks. So said the book. So said everything.
Here’s what really happened: We had to drive 90 minutes, which I spent blissfully dreaming of the beauty of Shi Shi Beach. The last bit of that drive is through an Indian reservation, which creeped me out with its desolate look and “Get off drug” signs at every post. We were diverted around the downtown area due to a parade and couldn’t get our “required” pass. Thankfully, a local at the trailhead said we didn’t need it for a day hike and our car was still there when we returned. Admittedly, not the best start. We tackled the rainforest hike with a spring in our step. Being the somewhat dry season, we were able to easily navigate the huge bogs in the trail and going down the cliff/hill wasn’t too bad. We sprung out from the treeline to find a beach… a sand beach – no perfectly smooth stones from Rialto, no line of white driftwood protecting the shore… just a beach. So we started south… and walked… and walked… and walked down this sandy, unimpressive, cloudy (but in a sad way) beach for two more miles.
In case you’re not keeping track, by the time we reached the sea stacks we were 4 miles – ONLY HALF WAY – in. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. We had some lunch and took some pictures. Aaron is still optimistic that we’ll love the images, but he agrees that the 8 mile slog was not worth it. It was the biggest (really the only) disappointment of the whole trip. Is it pretty? Sure. Is the MOST GORGEOUS BEACH ever and worth an 8 mile hike? No.
We approached the last day of hiking with very weary legs. We knew the Shi Shi slog would be our last long hike. So we scaled back our rainforest tromp to some easy 1 mi loops near the visitor center. It was pretty, but we’ve seen the redwoods in California and they totally win in the “big tree” category.
Ruby beach: We decided to end this leg of the trip with lunch and a covert bottle of wine on Ruby beach. I doubt there is a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than drinking red wine on the beach. We had some sandwiches, picked up too many rocks/souvenirs (can we blame the midday wine buzz?) and watched the tide roll out and the fog roll in. It was one of those moments you just want to soak in and save away to remember on a day that’s gone to hell.
Our direct flights (seriously, I never want to have a connecting flight ever again) brought us in and out of Seattle so it seemed like a natural way to end our trip.
The plan: Bring on the seafood! Bring on the sights! Bring on clothes that aren’t meant for hiking!
The lodging: We scored a sweet VRBO with the view below and direct access to Pike Place Market. It included free parking and owners that sent the most helpful guide to the condo and the area. They even let us check in early!
The food: We took full advantage of the Market and our proximity to Belltown in order to enjoy some delicious food. On our first day we popped into Beecher’s for cheese and Piroshky Piroshky just because the smell was enchanting (we walked out with breakfast rolls.) We also grabbed lunch at Three Girls Bakery. (Get the reuben.) For our last night, we grabbed fresh seafood to grill and enjoyed a lovely dinner at the condo.
List: We also enjoyed a few restaurants outside the Market. Aaron found List and we took full advantage of their happy hour menu – ordering 5 plates of food and a bottle of wine for just $50. (Dear St. Louis – Please take a note from Seattle, because your happy hours blow.) Everything was outstanding. The spicy meatballs were actually really spicy! The grilled romaine salad was perfect and the lemon arugula salad is going into permanent rotation at our house.
Bathtub Gin: We met a college friend for drinks at Bathtub Gin (his suggestion) and loved the ambiance!
Chihuly Garden and Glass: We’ve been lovers of Chihuly since his exhibit at the Missouri Botanical Gardens so we strolled around his gorgeous museum for a few hours.
The Original Starbucks: We couldn’t pass up the chance to visit the original Starbucks in Pike Place Market and buy mugs that you can ONLY GET at the original Starbucks. Clearly, we are huge nerds.
Boeing tour: Aaron is a fan of all things air and space travel so our original plan was to visit the Museum of Flight in Seattle. But when we discovered that Boeing offered tours at their plant north of Seattle, I gave him the choice and he opted for the Boeing tour. I have zero pictures of this place because they literally make you lock your purse and cell phones in a locker before taking the tour. I’m not huge into science, but this was pretty cool! You get to go in the biggest building in the world (by volume) and see lots of planes being assembled. It was totally worth the admission price and short drive from downtown.
After that we headed back to the Lou, picked up a very excited Dane from my parents house and spent the weekend recouping and starting to think about work/renovations. (Note to self: Always come home on a Thursday and take the Friday off.)
So that was our summer vacation. Did you head anywhere exciting or new this summer? I will admit that while hiking in Rainier we were already discussing our next trip. (Is that like cheating on your current vacation?) Our 10 year anniversary is next year and we’re totally up in the air on where to celebrate. Thoughts? Suggestions?