A Travellerspoint blog

Bigfoot, beaten paths, and bubbly: A West Coast Road Trip 5

Port Orford to Arcata, CA: Walking with the giants.

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It was a beautiful morning and we wanted to hit the road.

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We made our way to a nearby bakery and grabbed gooey, cheesy, eggy bagels loaded with tons of bacon and hit the road.

Tasty Kate’s was one part bakery and one part 1973 museum, but all delicious.

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We had a 3 hour drive and it would take us from Oregon into northern California and through the Redwoods National Park, where we planned to do some hiking if time and weather were agreeable.

What we didn’t realize was that the views along this stretch of coast would be so jaw-dropping that we would creep along the road at a snail’s pace, stopping constantly to “Ooooo…” and “Aaahhhhh….” at every turn.

The beauty of it was ridiculous.

There. Are. Not. Words.

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We knew we were getting close to the Redwoods Park when we passed a 60 foot tall Paul Bunyan and his anatomically correct sidekick, Babe the Blue Ox. File this under the best roadside bathroom stop of all time.

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We made a detour to take the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway through the Redwoods, planning to stop and do a 12 mile hike along the James Irvine Trail to Gold Bluffs Beach.

The magic of the James Irvine Trail wasn’t just the enormity of the trees (they were) or the deep greenness of the forest (it was), but that the trail was virtually empty. We saw almost no one else and, after a few miles in, we felt completely immersed in an ancient, primeval forest. There was no sound – not even the sound of birds. It was hushed and still and we felt immersed in a fairy tale.

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We fully intended to set off at a brisk hiking pace, but we literally spent the first 15 minutes doing a snail crawl, necks craned skywards, guffawing every 2 minutes like Jed Clampett seeing his first skyscraper.

There was a weight and a power to their presence.

“The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.” -John Steinbeck

That. Exactly that.

The massive redwoods began to thin as we grew closer to the ocean, replaced by alder and spruce.

And then, as though the forest had never existed at all, we suddenly found ourselves on an immense beach scattered with driftwood and elk.

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We found a piece of driftwood that was only slightly smaller than our house and decided it would make a perfect place for lunch.

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The 6+ mile hike back to the trailhead was equally awe-inspiring, despite aching feet and fading light. We hiked in silence, tired and pensive, overwhelmed by the magic of this place.

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We emerged from the forest weary and dusty but invigorated by all we had just witnessed.

We piled into the car, pulled off our dusty boots and headed back down the road.

When I chose Arcata, CA as our stopping point for the night, I only knew it was based close to the redwoods. I was sucked in by clever marketing, “Arcata’s lovely downtown, proximity to the expansive redwood forests, and laid back style is sure to put a smile on anyone's face.”

What I was blissfully unaware of was the fact that Arcata is the Napa Valley of cannabis, better known for its free-spirited culture than its redwoods.

Home to the Mushroom Fair and the Hemp Festival, it is a place to find gypsy jazz bands and bohemian drum circles. Apparently, the town even passed a law that women can go topless around the town plaza if they so choose. It’s known as a place where stoners, nudists, and hippies can live in relative peace without being too bothered by the rules of conservative society.

It seemed ironic, given that I am pretty sure I am the sole member of my generation that has never smoked pot and who would rather eat a live cockroach than expose her breasts in public.

The heart of Arcata is its town plaza (maybe because you can see boobies there….), so this is where we chose to stay (BOOBIES!). We found a cozy little apartment with a terrace right on the square.

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The upside was that, due to their abhorration of “outsider influence,” the good people of Arcata didn't allow chain stores or restaurants. What we found in their quaint town square was a unique, delightful, one-of-a-kind experience.

And it wasn’t all hemp shoes and henna. We found PASTA!

But no boobies.

Abruzzi Ristorante was located in the basement of the historic Jacoby Storehouse. It was dimly lit and invited us in warmly with the smells of freshly baked bread and roasted garlic.

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We stuffed ourselves with warm, local olives; fresh bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar; grilled peppers; and hearty pasta, washed down with local red wine.

We passed a drum circle, an artisan cooperative, an herb store, a bead shop, and a yoga studio on the way back to our little apartment, but I never spotted any boobies.

I was beginning to think that, much like the colorful sunsets and tales of a giant-ape man in the forests, the Boobies of Arcata were more myth than reality.

Posted by vicki_h 13:36 Archived in USA Tagged oregon northwest washington napa rainier olympic redwoods west_coast pacific_northwest Comments (2)

Bigfoot, beaten paths, and bubbly: A West Coast Road Trip 4

Cannon Beach to Port Orford, OR: Feeling a little crabby.

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We woke up to rain, rain, rain. And drizzle. And fog. And rain.

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I should not have been surprised, as I know this is the weather that dominates this region, but we had a 6 hour drive along the coast to endure and rain wasn’t going to make it amazing.

We set out for nearby Manzanita to grab a quick breakfast.

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“Do you want it wet or dry?” the young woman with dread locks, a nappy sweater, and wellies was asking me about my cappuccino.

I couldn’t answer because I was distracted by the bakery counter filled with freshly baked black mission fig and walnut bread, chocolate croissants, and orange walnut cinnamon rolls that were as large as my head.

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Matt and I couldn’t make up our minds, so we ended up with 2 giant cinnamon rolls so delicate they melted in our mouths; a strata made with eggs, grits, cheese, and pancetta; and a breakfast sandwich on a ridiculously delicious roll that was crispy, soft, and chewy all at the same time.

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And then we drove.

When breakfast wore off, we stopped at Nye Beach for a bowl of thick hot chowder with a giant pad of melting butter floating on top.

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And then we drove more.

Next up was Local Oceans Seafood in Newport where we found a creamy garlic bisque loaded with hunks of fresh crab, fresh fish tacos, and savory crab cakes.

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This day was definitely making me crabby.

We heard a lot of “barking” as we left the restaurant and headed down to the docks where the fishing boats were lined up, fishermen in boots hosing off the decks, hand painted signs proclaiming each to have the freshest tuna or the best live crabs.

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We finally saw the source of all the racket.

Apparently, the rain made them crabby too.

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After lunch, we still had 3 hours of driving to do, so we wound our way slowly down the misty coast.

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We had originally planned to make a stop at the Dunes Park in Oregon but the weather simply didn’t make that possible. We headed straight for Port Orford where we would stop for the night.

I can’t tell you how happy I was when we reached Port Orford and the skies cleared.

I had chosen our accommodation for the night based on the view.

And what a view it was.

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The single loft above the Redfish Restaurant had a view to die for and the loft itself was posh and elegantly decorated with original artwork from the owners’ gallery.

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It had been a long day and a lot of driving, so we simply relaxed, walked on the beach, and took in the views until it was time for dinner.

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Redfish was an obvious choice, particularly since we didn’t want to get back in the car, all we had to do was walk downstairs. The restaurant was warm and cozy, the drinks were strong, and the food was just what we needed.

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Okay, maybe we didn’t NEED it since we had done nothing but eat all day, but it was perfect all the same.

Posted by vicki_h 07:01 Archived in USA Tagged oregon northwest washington napa rainier olympic redwoods west_coast pacific_northwest Comments (2)

Bigfoot, beaten paths, and bubbly: A West Coast Road Trip 3

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It was time to head down the coast toward Oregon, but first....breakfast.

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Before leaving Olympic National Park, we decided to do a short hike called the Maple Glade trail. It was stunning.

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I am pretty sure the witch that ate Hansel and Gretel lives here. Right here. In this tree.

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It was going to take us a little over 3 hours to drive the 150 miles we had to cover to get to our destination for the day: Cannon Beach, OR.

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Our drive would take us through prime Goonies country. Those of you who grew up in the 80s will know what I am talking about. If you didn’t grow up in the 80s, I feel sorry for you. The 80s were epic.

Matt was not particularly enthusiastic about the Goonies, but he was pretty excited that our drive would also take us through Washington state’s prime oyster farming territory.

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We were cruising through the quaint town of South Bend when he spotted a sign proclaiming South Bend as the “Oyster Capital of the World” followed by a hand painted sign for FRESH OYSTERS.

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We immediately pulled over and followed the smell of woodsmoke until we stumbled onto a roadside stand called the Oyster Shack.

Being the planner that I am, I remained dubious. This was not a place I had scouted out in advance. I always consider unplanned stops risky. Unplanned stops are how you get e coli and have your wallet stolen.

Then I reminded myself: this is what a road trip is about. Besides, where else could I see the World’s Largest Oyster? Maybe it wasn’t Jake the Alligator Man, but it was at least as good as the Two Headed Gopher Museum.

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The cozy little shack was shucking oysters and grilling them on an open fire. It smelled amazing. Next door were two little girls selling lemonade for $1.

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This was West Coast America at her best.

We sat down at a brightly painted wooden table under a tarp and sipped our lemonade.

When #5 was called, Matt took our oyster shell and exchanged it for 3 platters of oyster perfection: 8 freshly shucked raw oysters with nothing but lemon, 4 oysters cooked over the wood fired grill, and a basket of grilled oysters dredging in a light battered topping.

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We sampled 2 flavors of the grilled specialties: the Swine Around a Bi-Valve with bacon, cream cheese, and garlic butter; and the Hot Tijuana with fresh cilantro, olive oil, jalepeno, lime, and Tabasco.

I had only recently become a fan of oysters, and these quickly moved to my “best oysters in the universe” list. They would forever be the standard by which all other oysters would be measured.

Oyster snack over, we continued our drive down the coast.

As we crossed an enormous bridge from Washington to Oregon, we passed a sign welcoming us to Astoria.

I silently said, “Heyyyyy you guuuuyyysssss…..” to Astoria as we passed through and kept driving.

To his credit, Matt did ask if I wanted to drive through Astoria and see the Goonies house, even if he was rolling his eyes as he said it.
I took a pass.

I was hoping to get to our final destination in time to do a hike along the Oregon Coast.

We rolled into Cannon Beach in the early afternoon and stopped a fresh seafood market for a quick lunch.
Ercola Seafoods had a seafood counter filled with dungeoness crabs and fresh fish as well as a walk up counter where you could order hot chowder and sandwiches. The thick sliced smoked tuna was to die for.

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It was a gorgeous day and we had been cooped up in the car for most of it, so we drove to Ercola State Park to stretch our legs with a short hike.

It was Labor Day, so the park was packed. However, most people chose to lounge on the warm sand at the beach and we found the hiking trail relatively quiet.

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The hike was about 3 miles and took us along the coast from Indian Point to Ercola Point. Much of the hike was in deeply shaded forest with the ever present roaring of the ocean only feet away. The trail hugged the coast affording constant views of the ocean below.

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I still did not see Bigfoot.

I did see a banana slug.

The Pacific Northwest was teaching me to be happy with what I had rather than wishing for what I didn't.

We finished the hike in the early afternoon, just in time for check-in at our hotel.

I had chosen the Hallmark Resort because the rooms came with an unbeatable view.

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Our view was dominated by the iconic Haystack Rock. Which was in the Goonies. And that is important. Since we didn’t have time to squeeze in a visit to Astoria.

These coastal beaches were so different than what I was accustomed to. Even though it was a holiday weekend in summer, the beaches weren’t covered up in people with suntan oil and kids with beach balls. The beaches were vast, empty, windswept stretches of sand. Even during the warmth of the day, there was a brisk chill to the air.

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In the evening, it turned downright cold and a layer of fog began to settle over the ocean. Wind and wave battered rocks jutted out of the water like mammoth beasts.

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We grabbed some jackets and a blanket and settled in with some wine to watch the sunset. I still didn’t see a colorful sunset, but I did finally find Bigfoot.

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Apparently, I was channeling my inner Bigfoot when Matt snapped this photo. The resemblance is uncanny. (Note to self: file this in the "When bad photos happen to good people" file)

If you can’t FIND Bigfoot, BE Bigfoot.

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When Matt started giving me the “If you take one more picture….” face, I decided it was time for dinner.

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Unfortunately, all of our top picks for dinner were closed for the holiday (what’s up with that???) so we ended up at the Pelican Brewing Company located across the street from our hotel. What they lacked in unique atmosphere or creative menu options they made up for with a tower of giant onion rings.

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A lot can be forgiven in the face of a giant tower of onion rings.

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Posted by vicki_h 13:47 Archived in USA Tagged oregon northwest washington napa rainier olympic redwoods west_coast pacific_northwest Comments (1)

Bigfoot, beaten paths, and bubbly: A West Coast Road Trip 2

Mount Rainier to Olympic National Park, WA: Hey, y’all….squatch this.

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Just before Olympic National Park, we passed the Humptulips River and into the town of Humptulips proper. Apparently, it wasn’t bad enough to name one thing Humptulips.

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Because two Humptulips are obviously better than one.

It was at the Humptulips grocery that I found this little gem.

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When I was 7 years old, I saw an episode of “In Search Of” about Bigfoot. All it took was the calm, rational voice of Leonard Nemoy telling me, “A giant hairy creature, part ape, part man. Indians call him Sasquatch. They believe he is as gentle as he is powerful and mysterious. He’s been seen many times in the rugged mountains and deep woods of the Pacific Northwest,” to make me a believer.

When Dr. Spock tells you something, you listen.

And then there were those eyewitnesses. Their passion and conviction was very convincing.

“I seen something up in the woods and I thought it was either a dawg or a bear or something you know just by the way it was movin, an then I got to lookin at it and it was uh ever bit a six foot tall and uh anyhow I got to lookin at it and I kept thinkin Well dang, you know, it was awful tall to be behind that bush and still be able to see it. It were 7 foot tall or better. It purt near smelled like a wet dawg and none of my dawgs had been in the creek or nuthin like ‘at. I ain’t sayin’ it was a Bigfoot, but I'm purty sure it was a Bigfoot.”

How could my 7 year old self NOT believe in Bigfoot after compelling and heartfelt testimony like that?

So, naturally, when I realized we’d be doing some hiking in the Pacific Northwest, I immediately thought we might see Bigfoot. Sightings always seem to be reported by crazy rednecks, so I figured Matt and I had a good shot.

Humptulips confirmed that I had officially entered Sasquatch country.

I was ready to see Bigfoot.

But first, it was time to get to our cabin and get settled in.

With limited lodging options, I was instantly thankful that I had opted for a small cabin located on Lake Quinault instead of a lodge room at the historic park lodge. I wasn’t ready for another lodge room.

The cozy 1920’s cabin was a welcome respite after our day of travel.

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We took in the lake views, relaxed by the fire, and cleaned up in a shower that did not require the use of special sanitary shoes before heading to the Lake Quinault Lodge for dinner.

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Sure, it was typical park lodge food, but the setting was beautiful, the wine was plentiful, and the views of the lake were majestic.

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We ended the day at the cabin, listening to the sounds of the fire crackling in the fireplace.

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After breakfast by the fire, I packed us a trail lunch and we headed out for the day.

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Our destination of the day was the Hoh Rainforest visitor center, about an hour and a half away, but our first stop was at Beach 4 near the Kalaloch Lodge on the coast. I wanted to do some tidepooling.

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Apparently, at low tide, the beaches of the Pacific Northwest become microcosms of the ocean, miniature sea-stacks filled with oceanic wonders, barnacle flanked rocks, and stranded starfish and sea anemones. As the ocean recedes, the ocean habitat becomes visible for a brief period of time, allowing visitors to see what is normally hidden beneath the blue-gray waves.

I forgot all about Bigfoot as I hopped from rock to rock, staring at giant ruby and tangerine colored seastars and bright green anemones. The more I looked, the more I saw.

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The beach itself was an experience worth savoring: it was huge and gray with mossy covered boulders, giant driftwood, interesting rock formations, and pebbles as smooth and colorful as marbles.

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I could have stayed all day…….if I hadn’t slipped on a giant pile of slick snails and submerged my sneakers in water that smelled like a day-old fish.

I needed dry shoes and we still had an hour drive to get to the Hoh Rainforest where we would be doing a 10 mile hike. We needed to get moving.

The Hoh Rainforest is massive. The trail that runs along the Hoh River is just over 32 miles long. We had decided to do the first five miles, stopping at was aptly named “Five Mile Island,” to have lunch before heading back.

Maybe Bigfoot isn’t real, but I went into the forest armed with pockets filled with beef jerky just in case, because, according to the commercials, Bigfoot likes beef jerky.

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I was ready to find Bigfoot.

And this looked like the perfect place to spot him.

The Hoh Rainforest was otherworldly. You could easily picture Bigfoot behind every giant fern or mossy draped tree. Or a dinosaur. Everything was so BIG. We felt so small. Like we had accidentally stepped into some kind of prehistoric world that man was never meant to see.

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At the five mile mark we indeed found ourselves at Five Mile Island, where we spread our blanket on the banks of the river for a sun soaked lunch siesta.

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I kept an eye out for Bigfoot the entire 5 miles back to the trailhead, but I never saw him. I’m pretty sure it’s because I was carrying my good camera.

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I realized too late that he only shows up when all you have is one of those homemade cameras that you make out of a shoebox and a pinhole.

That would explain a lot.

So, I hiked 10 miles in the deep Pacific Northwest wilderness and I did not see Bigfoot. I’m pretty sure it’s a hoax. I just ended up with tired feet and pockets that smelled like beef jerky.

The next time someone mentions Bigfoot, I’m going to respond, “Big Food? Yes, please.”

Big food is a way better prospect.

The drive back to our cabin was an hour and a half and it was already late in the day. We decided to stop at Ruby Beach for sunset and then head to dinner at the Kalaloch Lodge before going back to the cabin for the night.

I had seen photos of the epic sunsets at Ruby Beach.

This was my vision:

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This was my reality:

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The Pacific Northwest was constantly reminding me to leave my expectations at the door and simply enjoy what was before me.

Okay, maybe the beach wasn’t bathed in golden light, with the sky painted in shades of crimson and purple, but there was a beauty all the same.

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We bundled up against the chill, grabbed our blanket, our plastic wine glasses, and our CANS of Oregon wine (you gotta’ love a state that cans wine) and settled in for sunset.

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Because dining options were quite limited in this remote neck of the woods, we stopped at the nearby Kalaloch Lodge for dinner before continuing the drive back to the cabin.

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For the third night in a row, we found ourselves faced with typical national park lodge food…..but they had tater tots covered with cheese and BBQ pork. If that isn’t a southern fried pile of white trash goodness, then I don’t know what is. Maybe I hadn’t seen Bigfoot and my sunset was a little grayer than I had hoped, but I had TATER TOTS, people.

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We drove the hour back through the park in COMPLETE AND UTTER DARK.

I kept an eye out the window….you know….just in case….

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Posted by vicki_h 06:34 Archived in USA Tagged oregon northwest washington napa rainier olympic redwoods west_coast pacific_northwest Comments (4)

Bigfoot, beaten paths, and bubbly: A West Coast Road Trip 1

Seattle to Mount Rainier, WA: Two tickets to Paradise

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The trip didn’t start well.

Our flight from Knoxville was delayed for over 3 hours leaving us stuck in Knoxville until after 11:00 p.m. This caused us to miss our connecting flight to Dallas, leaving us stuck in Charlotte for the night. The worst part wasn’t missing our connection. No, the worst part was that the first game of the UT Volunteer football season was on and all of the airport TVs were set to CNN.

I worried for Matt’s sanity.

Arriving after midnight, we grabbed 4 hours of terrible sleep in a cheap hotel next to the Charlotte airport and flew to Dallas the next morning. It was looking like we were finally going to make it to Seattle when they announced that our connecting flight to Seattle was delayed.

Sigh.

I was beginning to feel like this trip would be spent entirely in airports and we would arrive in Seattle just in time to catch our flight back home.
After much grumbling and more delays, we finally made it onto our final flight to Seattle.

At least the plane had seatback digital drink orders. Yes, please.

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Twenty-four hours after arriving at the airport in Knoxville, we finally landed in Seattle.

Let the road trip begin!

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First up was a 2 hour drive to Mount Rainier National Park.

With only one day to visit Mount Rainier’s 236,381.49 acres, choosing where to stay was a daunting task. I had chosen the area called “Paradise,” because, well, with a name like Paradise, I figured it would have to be at least moderately breathtaking.

I had also chosen to stay at the Paradise Inn, a historic no-frills park lodge. I felt staying at the Paradise Inn would be like taking a step back in time. The rooms are tiny, the beds are hard, there is no air conditioning, no TV, no wi-fi, no Keurig, and no cell phone service, but they do have free cookies and tea in the afternoon.

Basically, we would be staying at my grandmother’s house.

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Thanks to the delayed flight fiasco, we arrived at the park too late to do the short, but scenic, hike we had planned. No matter. We were too tired and it was far too cloudy to hike back to a reflective lake anyway. We noticed it growing cloudier and cloudier as we entered the park.

This would be a good evening to do nothing more than relax in our room and catch up on some rest.

This would have been possible if I had paid better attention when I made the reservation and hadn’t put us in a room the size of a shoebox. Mind you, I didn’t realize we would be arriving on 4 hours of sleep when I booked the room. I figured our accommodations didn’t really matter.

I was aware that we were staying in a historic lodge and that, just like the lodges in Glacier National Park, they were less about frills and luxury and more about utilitarian practicality.

What I didn’t expect was that our room would be so small that we could barely squeeze between the tiny twin beds (yes….TWIN BEDS) and the wall. Matt could lie on his bed and touch both walls at once. This didn’t stop him from lying down and instantly falling asleep, feet hanging off the end of the bed.

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It was about an hour from dinner, so I let Matt sleep while I decided to clean up. I felt horrific and I needed a shower. Unfortunately, I had also failed to notice the fine print on my room reservation that indicated we did not have a bathroom.

WE DID NOT HAVE A BATHROOM.

While they did not offer private bathrooms, they did provide a complimentary pair of size 14 foam slippers for the shower as a pathetic consolation. I found myself sliding down the hall in a bathrobe doing my best not to lift my feet but instead to simply shuffle them along the carpet like a 97 year old man headed for a game of pinochle, so that my giant foam slippers didn’t fall off.

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When I found the shower, I was not surprised to find that, much like my room, it too was absurdly small. I am not a large person, yet even I found it entirely claustrophobic. It is important when sharing a communal shower not to let any part of one’s body touch any surface, but this is practically impossible when the shower stall was designed for a Lilliputian.

Apparently, everything in this lodge was tiny with the exception of the bath slippers.

To add horror to an already uncomfortable experience, my NBA sized foam slippers started to grow in the shower, much like those Magic Animal Growing Capsules we used to get when we were kids. You know, the little things the size of a peanut that we would drop in water to watch them get bigger and turn into something? My slippers were the size of small Volkswagens by the time I finished my shower.

I was forced to abandon my slippers in the shower, because they were too large and heavy and WET to step out of the shower with. Instead, I was forced to stand there, dripping and cold and naked, while I created an intricate maze of towels on the floor, using significantly more than my allotted share, I am quite certain, to ensure I could get to my clean, dry socks without my feet touching the tile.

I managed to get dry and dressed without compromising my cleanliness and fled back to the safety of my tiny bedroom.

Dinner was by the large fireplace in the dining room, looking out the windows at views of the fog enshrouded peaks surrounding the lodge. The food was typical lodge fare, decent, but nothing to write home about. But it was warm and it allowed us to escape the tiny capsule of our room for a couple of hours. We lingered over blackberry pie and spiked coffee, finally realizing that it didn’t matter if it was only 9:00 p.m., we were exhausted and really wanted nothing more than to go to sleep.

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What our room lacked in size, it made up for in comfort. The beds were soft, warm, cozy nests of tranquility. At least until I woke up at midnight from drinking all that coffee and suddenly remembered the bathroom was down the hall.

Sweet heavenly Moses.

I made it through the rest of the night without incident and I woke up excited to get this vacation turned around by doing an awesome hike.

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We only had one day to hike in Rainier, so I had chosen the Skyline Trail. The descriptions made it sound perfect.

“If your schedule allows you time to hike only one trail at Mount Rainier National Park, we recommend the Skyline Trail, If there’s a single day hike inside of Mt Rainier National Park that offers a little bit of everything to visitors, it’s the Skyline Trail at Paradise. This 5.5 mile loop is an excellent chance to see many of the beautiful treats of Mt. Rainier all at once; from the summer wildflowers to the year-round glaciers. This hike yields close-up views of Rainier, multiple waterfalls, alpine meadows, and the opportunity to catch a glimpse of neighboring peaks Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and, on a clear day, even Mt. Hood.”

I couldn’t wait for those epic and sweeping views.

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I looked out the window and saw….fog.

I wasn’t worried. It’s always foggy in the morning in the mountains. By the time we had a good breakfast, I knew the sun would be peeking through.

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We hit the plentiful breakfast buffet with gusto. A day of hiking must always begin with a feast of carbohydrates. At least that is what I tell myself as I shovel forkfuls of pancakes into my mouth.

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Each time I looked out the window, in between bites of sausage and pastry, I was almost certain it was getting foggier.

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No one ever hopes for a rainy hike in the mountains. No one wishes for wet shoes or soggy backpacks or muddy trails. Everyone knows that vacation hikes are supposed to take place under blue skies, with gentle breezes and abundant sunshine. It’s supposed to be this, for goodness sakes:

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Not this:

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Apparently, no one told the state of Washington this. We pushed our hiking time back another hour, lingering over the breakfast buffet with an extra trip or two, hoping the skies would clear.

Despite a brief moment when the sky teased us with a glimpse of blue, the fog simply kept rolling in, thicker and heavier with each passing minute.

We waited ten minutes. Fifteen. Maybe the fog would lift? Eventually it became clear this was not just a passing cloud. This was here for the day.

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Unfortunately, our extra trips to the buffet had sealed our fate. We couldn’t skip hiking now that we had filled up on two extra plates of bacon and blackberry waffles.

We were going hiking in the fog.

To be honest, hiking in the fog wouldn’t have been so bad. Fog adds and eerie quiet to everything, making the forest deep and mysterious and beautiful in its own way.

It was when the steady, slow drizzle began to fall that it really turned a slightly unpleasant hike into total suckage.

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We were too far to turn back, and, if I am honest, we still held that glimmer of hope that everyone faced with crappy weather on vacation holds to - that inane hope that maybe, just maybe, it would still clear up at some point.

We were fools.

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I trudged through the endless fog and drizzle, silently cursing every review I had read of the stunning views this trail offered.

“This is one of a very few trails that offers wonderful vista virtually every step of the way.”

“The views go from wonderful to breathtaking.”

“Your trip along the Skyline Trail will be filled with views of cascading waterfalls, mighty glaciers and subalpine meadows brimming with colorful splashes of wildflowers.”

Liars.

Views...no. Splashes...yes.

We slogged down wet trails, through waterlogged wildflowers, past giant snowfields, and up slippery slopes. While the hike was supposed to be dominated by stunning views of Mount Rainier, this was the only glimpse of Rainier that we got all day.

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It’s like Mount Rainier decided to peek through one tiny hole for one tiny moment just to flip us the bird.

Several hours into the hike, we reached Panoramic Point, a 360 degree view of …………...absolutely nothing.

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The view was – not there. It was hidden in thick soupy fog. There was no view. We did see a marmot guarding the summit, however, and that was pretty okay.

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The hike out was uneventful, slipping and sliding down the path, stumbling over wet rocks and roots, and passing the occasional marmot. At that point, I didn’t give a rip about seeing Mount Rainier, I just wanted dry socks.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. I had been prepared for jaw-dropping views of the mountains, a stunning look at Mount Rainier, and alpine vistas that stretched for miles. What I had gotten were damp feet and a serious wedgie from wet hiking pants.

Despite not getting the magnificent views of Mount Rainier that I’d anticipated, I was reminded of something I continue to learn in the wilderness: I am not in control, nature is, and any effort wielded to make things anything other than exactly what they are is wasted.

Wishing never makes the rain stop. Hoping and praying won’t make the sun shine. Fog is fog, rain is rain, and the views are there or they aren’t. The hike shouldn’t be about the destination. What is it they say? It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey? Wasn’t that what this entire vacation was about?

Cliché? Maybe. But true. My reward was found in the time spent in God’s creation, listening to the sound of my boots crunching on the gravel, hearing my heart beat in the silent wilderness, breathing the fresh air deep into my lungs.

Okay, whatever. My true reward was simply burning off enough calories for pie.

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We changed into some dry socks and headed out of Mount Rainier National Park toward the small town of Ashford, WA where juicy burgers and blackberry pie a la mode were waiting.

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It was worth every, wet step.

We set off for Olympic National Park with renewed vigor. Okay, maybe it was just pie-belly, but pie-belly can often be mistaken for renewed vigor.

We headed west, equipped with happy hearts, Trader Joe’s snacks and an iPod full of tunes.

Posted by vicki_h 12:16 Archived in USA Tagged oregon northwest washington napa rainier olympic redwoods west_coast pacific_northwest Comments (3)

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