This trip was long overdue. My husband and I finally made an effort to go to Oregon and Washington. We’ve put the idea in the back burner because it’s just a few hours away from California. I knew that we could always go at the last minute. We went in October and as expected it was raining almost everyday. It’s probably one of the reasons why I’ve been delaying the trip.
Day 1: At first, we wanted to drive from California to Washington so that we could stop by Crater Lake National Park on the way. But the rental car was way more expensive than the plane tickets so we decided we’ll save that for another trip. Like most of our trips, we flew from California to our first destination. We took a flight from SFO to PDX and rented a car. We arrived around 2 P.M. and waited in line to pick up the car for almost an hour. All the other counters for the car rentals were empty except for Enterprise. Anyway, we eventually got the car and decided to go to Multnomah Falls. Finding parking was a challenge! We would’ve gone early in the morning to avoid the crowd if we had more time. We didn’t really plan on spending too much time in Portland. We only had the rest of the day to explore the area. To be honest, I find Multnomah Falls to be “too touristy” or maybe I just expected more. The people we encountered lacked the basic trail etiquette so we skipped the hike to the top of the falls.
Of course our trip would not be complete without visiting The Grotto. Again, I expected too much. I guess at least I could say I’ve been to Portland. It was already late in the day and we were hungry so we did not go to Columbia River Gorge, Forest Park, and Voodoo Doughnut as planned. We found this sushi place in Portland called Mirakutei. I don’t know why it only has four stars on Yelp because it’s an easy five. This had to be the highlight of our Portland trip. The place was pretty small but we didn’t have to wait to be seated. We got to sit at the sushi bar where we could watch them prepare the rolls and sashimi. The service was excellent and food was delicious. We ordered a lot of food that the sushi chef even made a joke saying, “ready for some more?” We all started laughing knowing I would have ordered more if I had more space in my stomach. Needless to say I highly recommend this place. We stayed at TownePlace Suites Portland Beaverton for the night. The facility is clean, spacious, and has plenty of parking space. They also served continental breakfast, which is always a plus. It’s too bad we only stayed overnight.
Day 2: Our first stop of the day was Ape Cape Lava Tubes. It started raining just when we were about to hit the trail. I wanted to make the most out of this trip so I had to suck it up and just put on my rain gear. The trail to the Lava Tubes is very easy and kid-friendly. We even saw a group of kids that looked like they were on a field trip. It might be challenging to have kids with you though once you get to the Lava Tubes. It is very dark, cold, and slippery. Proper footwear with ankle support and headlamp or flash light is a must. The trail is about three miles out and back and rated as moderate. There’s nothing much to see but it was a great experience.
We were hopeful to see the weather clear up as we drove up to Mount St. Helens. It took us about two hours to get to our first stop, Johnston Ridge Observatory. We were lucky it stopped raining, but not lucky enough to see anything. It was freezing cold and foggy at the Observatory. The least we could do was buy our National Park Annual Pass and look at the exhibit.
The rain was not letting up so we called it a day and checked in at Stone Creek Lodge. I absolutely love this place because it’s located five minutes away from Mt. Rainier’s entrance. I refuse to pay for a hotel or a lodge inside a National Park unless there are no other options. The lodge does not have wi-fi or TV so you get to disconnect for awhile. We had a family of deer chilling out in front of the lodge every morning which made the stay more enjoyable. The only downside to staying in a lodge is that they did not include breakfast. I’m always hungry so I always need to have a big breakfast or I’m not going anywhere. We had to settle for cup noodles for a hot meal because the lodge only had a microwave, toaster, and a fridge.
Day 3: It finally stopped raining. But that doesn’t mean anything because the mountain has its own weather. Either way we were still hoping to get a glimpse of the spectacular views from the Skyline Trail. It took us about 40 minutes to get to the staging area. It’s always a good idea to check the Visitor Center before hiking so you could get tips and ideas from the rangers. Unfortunately, the Visitor Center was still closed when we got there and would not be open for another hour. It was foggy and it looked like it was about to rain so we decided to just head out to the Skyline Trail. Visibility was reduced to merely 75 to 100 feet. I was 95% sure the weather wasn’t going to clear up but 5% hoping that I was in luck and the mountain would eventually make an appearance. The Skyline Trail is about six miles long with an elevation gain of 1788 feet. We did the loop counterclockwise. We did not get to see Mt. Rainier but we encountered a lot of wildlife including marmots and a black bear. It was an extraordinary experience being able to see a black bear just 100 feet away. If there’s anything I learned from this hike, it’s to always look up when running/hiking especially when it’s foggy. I almost ran into the bear had I not stopped running down the trail. The hike itself was not bad at all. I would definitely come back in a warmer season. After the hike, we checked out Paradise Inn and took a couple of pictures before heading back to the lodge.
Day 4: It was raining again and the last chance of seeing Mt. Rainier is gone. It was bittersweet leaving the lodge and leaving Mt. Rainier without actually seeing it. But another day is another adventure. We left the lodge early for a 3-hour drive to Port Angeles. We got there early enough to have breakfast before our 10 A.M. whale watching tour with Island Adventures. The tour was about five hours long. We saw Race Rocks Ecological Preserve and plenty of killer whales, humpback whales and sea lions. After the whale watching tour, we went straight to Olympic National Park Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. We waited until nine o’clock when it was pitch-black to stargaze. We would have stayed longer if not for the freezing temperature and high winds. We were able to see the milky way and even the International Space Station. Driving from Hurricane Ridge is so much harder at night due to its windy road and having to constantly look out for wildlife crossing. We stayed at Days Inn Port Angeles for the night. It’s probably the most run down Days Inn I’ve ever stayed at but it’s convenient because of its location.
Day 5: We checked out shortly after having breakfast to go to our next destination. We had to drive for 30 minutes to get to Lake Crescent. It is a lake located within Olympic National Park. At this point, we were just driving around and taking it easy. When we arrived at Lake Crescent Lodge we walked around and pretty much spent the rest of the day sitting by the lake. We wanted to try stargazing there too but it started raining later that night.
Day 6: The skies cleared up so we went for a quick hike to Marymere Falls before checking out of the lodge. The Marymere Falls Trail from the lodge is an easy, two miles out and back hike with an elevation gain of about 300 feet. I felt like it was more of a walk rather than a hike because we were back in less than two hours. After taking a couple of pictures at the dock we hit the road again and drove for about 45 minutes to our next stop– Sol Duc Falls. This is another easy, heavily trafficked out and back trail. The fall colors were starting to show which made the trail more interesting. We drove for the rest of the day with a couple of stops at Hoh Rainforest, Rialto Beach, Kalaloch Beach, and Lake Quinalt. After our long drive we checked in at SpringHill Suites Seattle South/Renton, where we stayed for the rest of our trip.
Day 7: We scheduled a tour with Boeing in Mukilteo. We paid $25 for each ticket for a ninety-minute tour. I have a fascination with airplanes so I was eager to see the factory. Before going on the tour, they showed us a short clip about Boeing and gave us a quick rundown of the do’s and don’ts. They divided us into two groups and had us ride a bus which took us to the location of the factory. When we got off the bus, they were very specific on having us stay in one lane because there were other tour groups ahead of us that were coming back from the tour. We had to walk for the entire tour and we also had to take a couple of freight elevators. The tour was everything I expected it to be. It made me want to stay and work for Boeing (not that I know anything about assembling an airplane). After the tour we went to Snoqualmie Falls and Space Needle. The Space Needle is something that you have to see to be able to say you’ve been to the city. I guess you could compare it to having to see the Golden Gate Bridge if you are in San Francisco. But for almost $40 a ticket, I am 99.9% sure that I will not be coming back.
Day 8: We dedicated this day to looking for good food and exploring the city. This day was also my birthday and our 3rd wedding anniversary. We found this hole in the wall restaurant called Tsukushinbo. I’ll probably write my experience in another blog post, but I highly recommend this restaurant for anyone travelling to Seattle. We waited in line outside the restaurant 30 minutes before they opened. It is that worth it! We spent the rest of the day walking around aimlessly. My husband made a dinner reservation at The Pink Door, which I wrote about in another blog post. We also wanted to try some desserts and drinks at Pike Place Market but by the time we finished dinner, most of the stores were already closed. To rub salt into the wound, it started hailing and raining. We could not walk anywhere without getting completely soaked so we had to call it a night. Let’s just say it was a memorable experience. We didn’t get to try a lot of the food so we’ll definitely be back.
Day 9: We took an early flight back to SFO.