Boom there it is- Mount Rainier! It doesn't even look real when you are looking at it, it's just larger than life. This mountain was in the background of our entire trip to Washington State over the July 4th holiday weekend, which is a good thing because that means great weather and clear skies, which doesn't happen as often as Washingtonians would like apparently. My friends who we visited commented that sometimes you forget the mountains are even part of the skyline, because it's usually cloudy, so when it's a clear day local traffic slows down due to people taking it all in. I totally understand why after our visit, I definitely tried to take it all in while I was there.
June 30: We flew direct from Philly to Seattle in the morning, and took a taxi to a diner in Georgetown, suggested by our friends, where we met up. After a quick brunch, we jumped in the car with them and headed to downtown Seattle- where we got most of the touristy stuff out of the way. Walked through and around the Pike Place market, watched the fish guys throw some fish, saw the original Starbucks (not impressive but good for a photo op), checked out the views from the market, walked through the gum wall alley- and then headed to Capitol Hill. This area was more residential versus downtown- but still had a lot going on for sure. Tons of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, new condo development- definitely looked already established but still a new up and coming neighborhood. It was only a couple of miles from the market too, so I could see why it was a desirable place to live. While there we checked out the Starbucks roastery - a massive Starbucks which has table service, tons of reserve coffees, and tours of how the coffee is made. It was pretty impressive. Seattle definitely takes their coffee scene seriously. After our tour of Capitol Hill- we headed to our friends' place in Fall City. It was about a 20min drive from downtown with little traffic. We stopped at a Co-op and bought food to cook dinner (Co-ops are the thing here, and our friends are pretty big health nuts, so I felt super healthy with all my food choices), but before we started cooking dinner we were treated to a quick swim in their nearby river. I did not participate in this swim, the boys had it all to themselves, but what a cool thing to have access to! Right by our river entry point was a place that rented tubes and SUPs, and we saw many people float by us as we negotiated the current. After the quick swim, it was dinner and rest in preparation for Day 2.
July 1: Our first hike! I was pretty excited to get out there and hike all these mountains around us. It really doesn't seem like you can go wrong with any hikes out here, we were able to get 3 in and they were all different and beautiful. For this hike which was called Oyster Dome, we drove north about 2hrs. For each hike, we stopped at a Co-Op to grab snacks for lunch, which was super smart- kept away the hangryness. The Oyster Dome Hike was about 5mi round trip, mostly through woods so not much exposure, a good amount of incline, took us around 2hrs. Once to the payoff point - we relaxed a little and ate our lunch while checking out the amazing views of the San Juan islands below and mountains off in the distance. We were so far up north, my iphone thought we were in Canada and started notifying me about roaming charges! The hike back was not as challenging, and once we reached the trailhead we were treated to a paragliding show from a few dudes. We literally watched one dude jump off the side of the mountain and start flying around, it was crazy. Those guys are really living. By about this time it was evening, and we were getting hungry again, so we stopped at a nearby town called Bellingham for dinner at the Aslan Brewing Company. This place was super cute- indoor and outdoor seating, lots of beers, and they had really good brussel sprouts with bacon, tomato bisque and sweet potato fries. A block away we found an ice cream place for dessert which was also super good. Bellingham is a college town, so it had a cute little scene going on with a few beer gardens, restaurants and bars. After our ice cream, it was back to Fall City for rest and relaxation after a long day.
July 2: Today after a healthy, home cooked breakfast, we set out of Snow Lake, located in a popular ski area about a 40min drive away from Fall City. With ample parking provided by the ski resort, we started our journey to the lake, which was a little more challenging than the hike the day before. More incline and more exposure, but totally worth it. We hiked through all sorts of terrain, rocks/snow/gravel/dirt, past waterfalls, up the side of this mountain to, finally, the lake. The lake lived up to it's name, still frozen with snowy patches all around it. We found a clear spot, had our lunch, and then headed back. This hike lasted a good 2.5hrs and was about 6.5mi round trip. We decided for dinner to treat ourselves to somewhere fancy, so we checked out the Woodman in Snoqualmie- right up the road from Fall City. Super old school spot- lots of deer and elk heads hung on the walls, a stuffed bear, a polar bear rug- it really lived up to it's name. It was definitely expensive- our friends split a $60 cut of steak, I got the signature seafood chowder that was $18 (really good though- enough for a entree), and the chocolate lava cake for dessert was a good portion for the 4 of us to split. After our Woodman experience, we checked out Snoqualmie falls nearby- which may look familiar because it was in the opening scene of the show "Twin Peaks". A lot of the filming actually took place all around that town. The falls were beautiful and we watched the sunset before heading back to Fall City.
July 3: Do you see a pattern forming for our trip? Breakfast, then off for our final hike in Washington - Crystal Mountain. About an 1hr 30min drive from Fall City, and another hike by a ski resort. Being our 3rd day hiking, we opted to take the Gondola up the mountain ($23 per person), and hike back down, which looking back was definitely the right move since the hike down was pretty steep. Another mostly exposed hike, about 6mi down took us 2hrs 15min. The start of the hike was pretty amazing, the gondola took us all the way up the mountain, where you were greeted with an amazing skyline view of basically all of Washington. Mount Rainier, Seattle, Mount St. Helena, the Olympics, everything stretched out before and below you. After taking that in, we began our descent through the open valleys and woods, past a few waterfalls and lakes. The boys had to make a quick pit stop for a quick dip into a beautiful, but freezing cold, lake. I was pretty impressed they actually got in since this hike was a little bit colder than our previous ones- but they did it regardless. At one point on the hike down, the trail actually linked up with the famous Pacific Coast Trail which I thought was pretty cool. We did not pick that one up however- maybe next time. After we made our way back to the car, it was back to Fall City for a change and final dinner at Black Duck Cask and Bottle. Another really cute restaurant- lots of outdoor, but covered seating, and the food was awesome. Joe and I split a pesto/bacon/chicken pizza and the 4 of us split the cookie ice cream skillet dessert- all SO good. A great way to end our trip.
July 4: Got up early to squeak in a 6mi run through a park in Fall City. Then a quick breakfast before a 30min car ride to the airport.
Takeaways from this trip:
-This time of year was perfect to visit Washington- we had amazing weather the entire trip. It started out cloudy in the mornings most days, but the clouds burned off by the afternoons. No humidity and no rain the entire time, and warm enough for t-shirts during the day/light jackets at night.
-Washington is so beautiful and so much more than Seattle! I have been to Seattle previously about 10 years ago- and on that trip I really explored just the city. I'm so glad on this trip I was able to revisit the downtown briefly, but then have the opportunity to go to so many other places outside of the city.
-I loved all the outdoor activities Washington provides. Skiing/snowboarding and hiking are obviously big out there, our friends are big mountain bikers, SUPing and tubing are options, the weather was great for running, and that's not even going into all the adventure sports like the paraglider we saw, base jumping, etc.
-We got really close to Canada on this trip, the next time we are out in the NW we are definitely hitting up Vancouver. If it is half as cool as Washington it will be worth checking out for sure!
Cost Breakdown of Trip (excluding airfare)
Food for house/lunches at Co-Op: $130
Food and Drinks: $200
Taxi to and from airports: $85
Gondola Ride: $46
Total for Joe and I: $461