Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Rest - To Move On to Better Things

In the interest of moving on, there'll just be lots of beautiful pictures from the last days of our summer trip. As we're well on our way into winter, this seems like the best thing to do.

Also, Erinn and I are getting married in less than a month, so there'll be lots of other things I'd like to talk about instead of a trip that ended over six months ago. So...

Time to move on!


One of my favorite memories from visiting Seattle as a kid was taking the ferry across the Puget Sound. I don't remember specifically why we needed to take the ferry, just that I loved sitting on the boat, watching the waves as I drank a cup of hot chocolate. So, in the spirit of reliving happy memories, I was eager to find a reason to hop on a ferry to anywhere while we were up in Washington and I jumped at my aunt and uncle's suggestion to take the Coupeville ferry to Port Townsend on our way to Olympic National Park. It's funny because it's probably one of the shortest ferry routes available in the whole area, but I was still very excited to do it.

After Port Townsend, we drove through sunny Sequim, which sits in a rain shadow next to the Olympic mountains and gets a Los Angeles-like 16 inches of rain a year. True to reputation, Sequim was bright and sunny while a few more miles down the road, at the entrance to the Olympic National Park, it predictably began to rain.

The Olympic mountains are amazing. We stopped at Hurricane Ridge, about half an hour up the road from Port Angeles. From the visitor's center up there, you can see mountains everywhere. It's a completely panoramic viewpoint.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Vancouver, BC

Despite travelling over a thousand miles, our journey north had not yet reached its pinnacle. Last year, the big loop we made in our travels went as far north and east as South Dakota before turning back to the west. This year, we'd leave the country, struggling for words to describe our jobs and where we lived to an impatient border security official who seemed a teensy bit confused when we said we were visiting Vancouver just to visit Vancouver.

"Who are you visiting in Vancouver?" she asked.

"No one. We're just going to visit Vancouver and see the city" I replied, a little worried that I might say something idiotic and have to answer more questions in an even more intimidating setting.

After a bit of brow-furrowing, she returned our passports and welcomed us to Canada, our minor bit of anxiety turning into excitement and then back to anxiety as we realized the speed signs used kilometers per hour, not miles per hour. The Prius, unlike many other cars, doesn't have an analog speedometer with both mph and kph, but just digital numbers on their own. After a bit of fidgeting with the controls, Erinn switched it to kph and we were back to being excited.


As with Seattle, our visit to Vancouver was much too short to do anything but skim the surface. We made the most of it by eating some bangers and mash at The Irish Heather, wandering around for miles inside beautiful Stanley Park, and trying some unique sushi at The Eatery.

The Irish Heather is a very cool pub on the edge of Gastown that has super tasty British/Irish food and specializes in good whiskey. My flank steak was delicious, but Erinn's bangers and mash was so good we still talk about it. I definitely recommend a stroll around Gastown, a quick hello to Gassy Jack, and some bangers and mash at The Irish Heather.

Gassy Jack
We started our second day with Stanley Park, the 1,000 acre park which sits right next to downtown Vancouver and which you have to drive through to pass over the Lionsgate Bridge to get to North Vancouver. It's a massive park to simply have sitting on such a prime piece of real estate, but it's wonderful that they've kept it like that. It's a beautiful park with cool trails all throughout it. We walked up and down it and went to the Vancouver Aquarium, also inside Stanley Park.

Other highlights from Vancouver were the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Granville Island, which is this tiny little island south of downtown Vancouver and sits, almost hidden, underneath the Granville St. Bridge. It's really this whole market of stuff, with a public market full of food, nice restaurants, a park, a brewery, wine tasting, a comedy club, art studios, and probably lots of other stuff we missed and yet it's all on this small, hidden island tucked away under a bridge.

Well, after a couple of days in beautiful Vancouver, we went back to America. There were a few things I wish we'd been able to do. I wish we'd gone up to Whistler, just to say we'd done it. I wish I'd gotten some french fries and gravy. And I wish we'd been able to stay a couple nights in Victoria.

Guess we'll just have to go north again!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Seattle Family

I love Seattle for many reasons. It's a beautiful city with lots to do, music is everywhere, and you can't beat Mt. Rainier as a backdrop. Seattle is so much different than my home town of Bakersfield. At home, nature is a few hours away, not part of our every day lives. We travel to nature, whether it's to the beach at Morro Bay or up to the mountains for Yosemite. Seattle is a big city, like many others, but nature seems to be all around. Whether it's heard in casual conversation or experienced as a walk at a nearby lake, nature is part of life here. Yet the best part of Seattle for me is being able to visit my family.

Waffles Caffe
We rarely make it all the way up to that corner of the world, but I am so thankful we made it on this trip. It had been way too long since I'd been to Seattle. Growing up, we'd make the long drive up north for long family vacations. A few times during Christmas break and once or twice during summer. But for Erinn, this was her first visit to Seattle and I was very eager to make a good impression.

After a quick breakfast of gluten-free waffles at the Waffles Caffe in Yakima, we took highway 90 through the cascades, stopping at Snoqualmie Falls for a beautiful view. For travelers driving through the mountains, Snoqualmie Falls is only a few minutes from the highway. For visitors to Seattle, it's only about a half an hour. Well worth the trip.

Snoqualmie Falls
That morning started a bit chilly, with a covering of clouds typical of the Pacific Northwest, but soon after leaving Snoqualmie, we were fortunate enough to have the clouds part and the sun shine through, brightening up the city as we drove in. We took advantage of the clear skies and rode the elevator to the top of the Space Needle, quickly crossing one item off our Seattle to-do list. Not long after, we made it to my Aunt and Uncle's house for a mini family reunion dinner.

That night we caught up around a dinner of salmon, talking about travel, all the cool things there are to do in Seattle, rock climbing, concerts, wine, Bainbridge Island, how badly Portland wishes it was Seattle, and how Erinn and I belong in Washington. We followed dinner with a walk along Green Lake, joining the hundreds of like-minded people who were also enjoying the beautiful weather, taking strolls of their own. Our own walk took us to the southern end of the lake where the bleachers sit, perfectly situated for kicking up your feet and watching the sun set. Everywhere I looked, people were outside, enjoying being outside. Running up the bleachers, jogging along the path, lawn bowling at the park, relaxing by the lake.

The next day we did a little more sightseeing. We rode the Great Wheel, got a crepe at a little shop in the back of Pike Place Market, saw the Fremont Troll, checked out some Daleks and Princess Bride costumes at the EMP, and spent the afternoon with my cousins at Bitterroot BBQ.

The Great Wheel
Fremont Troll
The Iron Throne
You've got red on you.
We barely scratched the surface in Seattle. More than anything, our two days there made me wish we could just stay. I know we'll go back again soon, but until then, I'll miss the mountains, the music, the clean air, and my Seattle family.


Around Seattle:
Outside Seattle:
The Ballard area:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


So far in our Northwest Adventure, we had seen two major volcanoes: Mt. Shasta and Crater Lake. Over the next couple days we got to see two more. One a desolate mountain devastated by a recent eruption and the other a beautiful mountain top, covered in snow and hidden behind clouds.

But first we made the short trip across the bridge from Portland, OR to Vancouver, WA. While Portland has its own weird sensibility, one it is actively embracing like a teenager who just discovered Nirvana, tattoos, and PBR, Vancouver is like Portland's nice older brother who has a real job and likes to drink coffee while watching the rain. We visited Vancouver's land bridge, walked around its modest downtown, and bought groceries before heading up to Mt. St. Helens.

The Johnston Ridge Observatory is about an hour off I-5, but it is definitely worth it. While there's a great visitor's center just a couple miles from the highway, the Johnston Ridge Observatory is just 5 miles from the volcano itself. I mean, really, just click here and look at these pictures. It's so close, I was just a bit worried about another eruption. What's great is that inside there's a big map of the area with little lights which show where the last eruption went and how it completely wiped out the ridge I was currently standing on. The whole place is a bit surreal and the views are unique.

Johnston Ridge Observatory
Unfortunately, the clouds surrounding Mt. St. Helens stubbornly covered the peak so we never got a fully exposed view of the mountain, but we'll go back again some day. Hopefully it'll still be there.

After another pleasant stay at a KOA, we left Mt. St. Helens for Mt. Rainier. I was looking forward to the flower-covered fields of Paradise with views of the snow-capped, 14,411 ft. mammoth, Mt. Rainier. For weeks I had been reading about all the different trails I could go on from the visitor center at Paradise. I was so excited to see the wildflowers and hike on the trails! But it seems we came a month too soon. The entire mountain was covered with snow from about 4,000 ft. up, meaning the fields at Paradise were blanketed with snow instead of colorful wildflowers. For a guy from California's central valley where June meant 100 degree weather, this was a bit of a surprise. I had been enjoying the 70 degree weather of the Pacific Northwest, but I didn't realize it would still be snowing, even on the mountains.

Visitor Center at Paradise

Taking a good, hard look at the snow
I was disappointed. When we got to the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise, Mt. Rainier was completely hidden behind clouds. It was raining so we went inside and ate lunch, hoping the weather would clear up soon. Instead, the rain turned to snow and we went down the mountain. Despite my disappointment, the whole area was still beautiful and Erinn led us to the Grove of the Patriarchs, a quick hike on a loop trail just off Stevens Canyon Road, southeast of Mt. Rainier. On the way down, a bear popped its head up on the road, took a little jog alongside the cars ahead of us, and sauntered off the road, back into the trees. That bear's quick little visit definitely brought our spirits up!

The Grove of the Patriarchs is a fun, short hike with a little suspension bridge that takes you across the clear blue waters of the Ohanapecosh River and into the Patriarch Loop. The trees are big, old, mossy, and beautiful. A good stop even if you're tired and bummed about the snow.

After the Patriarchs, it was still early, so we took our chances and went back up to Paradise, hoping for a better look at the peak. Eventually, the clouds did clear up enough that we could see the top of the mountain, if only for a moment. After that, we called it a day and went back down the mountain to the city of Yakima where we picked up french fries and Gluten-free burgers at Red Robin and watched The Mummy back at our hotel.

A moment of blue sky behind Mt. Rainier

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