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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)

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

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When I was a kid, we didn’t take a lot of vacations. We didn’t have a lot of money for travel, and there were 3 kids in the family, so when we did head somewhere, flying was out of the question. “Vacation” meant loading up the car with suitcases, a large brown paper bag of sandwiches, and some 8 track tapes.

Sure, we spent as much time getting there as we did actually enjoying our vacation destination, but I remember that time in the car as much as I remember where we went. Maybe more. My brothers and I would sit in the back of the brown Buick and play “I spy” out the windows and eat Little Debbies while Mom and Dad listened to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. We would fight over who had to sit in the middle, with their feet on the “hump,” because mini-vans and cushy SUVs with DVD players were not part of our 1977 reality. We ate scattered, smothered, and covered hash browns and pecan waffles at Waffle House and stayed in mom and pop motels along the way. We talked and laughed for hours on the road. We fell asleep in the floorboard with the sound of the road beneath us.

As an adult, Matt and I don’t have the luxury of time, and “vacation” means picking a location and getting there as quickly as possible so we can start enjoying our destination.

Like us, the time of road trips has come and gone for many people. Most people would prefer to hop on a plane and get to their destination in a few hours, instead of wasting days in a car.

We’ve lost the beauty of driving down the beaten path, stopping at the small towns along the way, and finding what secrets they have to offer.

With modern travel and busier lives, the simple pleasures of the road trip have been left behind for some of us. But should they? Maybe it’s good for the soul to slow down and take the road less travelled once in a while.

That’s why Matt and I decided to road trip our last vacation.

We have both wanted to see the Pacific Northwest and what better way to do it than by driving Highway 101 from Seattle to northern California?

The easy part was deciding on a road trip. The hard part was choosing an itinerary. That area of the country is packed with so much to see.

Should we just focus on the big national parks? What about the coastal islands? Do we go north to Vancouver or south toward California? Should we make it an urban trip and visit the big cities of Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco or go small and try to see things like the world’s largest frying pan and Jake the Alligator Man? There were so many options my head was spinning.

After much deliberation, we decided to focus on hiking and parks, because that’s our thing. We would start in Seattle and end our trip in Napa Valley, spending the last few days recovering from all the hiking by drinking copious amounts of wine in the golden sunshine.

Even with the trip we chose, we could only make so many stops. There were too many things to see and not enough time to see them all. I can hear you now, “You mean you didn’t stop at the Tillamook Cheese Factory??? Are you insane?” Despite my insatiable love for all things cheese and my almost overwhelming desire to have my photo taken next to a giant fiberglass cow, we simply did not have time for the cheese factory and some other hundred stops that would have been awesome.

Sorry, cow. Sorry, cheese. Sorry, Jake the Alligator Man.

We had to choose what we thought would be our “best of the best” and the rest would have to wait for another trip.

The itinerary was set.

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We’d start in Seattle and head to Mount Rainier National Park. From there, we’d head west to Olympic National Park. Next, we planned to drive south along Highway 101 with stops along the Oregon coast until we ended up in northern California, where we would leave the coast and head for the sundrenched hills of Napa Valley.

The trip was epic. It was one of those trips where every single moment buzzed with life and beauty and gratefulness. The view, the company, the weather, the world — it was all magnificent.

I’d love to share it with you.

Want to go on a road trip?

Posted by vicki_h 10:56 Archived in USA Tagged oregon northwest washington napa rainier olympic redwoods west_coast pacific_northwest Comments (0)

Going Out on a Limb - Taking Our Anniversary to New Heights

Matt and I have made it a tradition to go somewhere unique for our anniversary.

Some years, it’s somewhere tropical like Jost Van Dyke.

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Other years, we stick to romantic places like Savannah or the Banner Elk Winery in Blowing Rock.

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And don’t forget the time I made him go “glamping” in the woods.

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Last year’s glamping experience was so enjoyable, I decided to take it to an entirely new level, and by new level, I mean about 20 feet up.

This year I found the ultimate anniversary getaway.

The day I ran across an Airbnb ad for this treehouse in the middle of Atlanta, GA…I knew I needed this treehouse in my life:

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Maybe I read Swiss Family Robinson too many times as a child, but sleeping in a tree that had all the comforts of home seemed like the ultimate romantic getaway to me.

I will admit I worried a little. I have read some Airbnb horror stories like the one about the guy that rented a house only to have some huge Russian show up in the middle of the night asking him what the hell he was doing in his house and threatening to crush him. Seriously, that’s not only a good way to ruin a weekend, it’s a good way to ruin a perfectly good pair of underpants.

While reasonably confident that this was, indeed, a romantic, lovely treehouse in Atlanta, there was a small, secret part of me that worried it was actually nothing more than an oddly elevated shed that looked out over some guy’s lawn and his kid’s trampoline.

Those twinkling fairy lights had me, though. I was willing to chance it. If the treehouse was even half as adorable in reality as it was in those photos, it was going to be worth it.

It was a beautiful spring afternoon and we found ourselves travelling down busy Howell Mill Rd. in Buckhead. The GPS said our destination was less than a mile away.

Could this be right?

The treehouses looked like they were in the middle of nowhere in the photos, and here we were in the middle of Friday afternoon rush hour in Atlanta.

As we passed a strip mall with a PetCo and a Chipotle, the GPS said we were only .5 mile away.

Seriously?

Had I made a mistake?

Was our magical treehouse adventure going to be nothing more than a garden shed on stilts overlooking I-75?

Suddenly, we found ourselves turning into a beautiful, residential neighborhood, one filled with huge trees and lush green lawns. We crept through the quiet streets and came to a long driveway that took us back into the woods.

Within seconds, we were literally transported from the hustle and bustle of Buckhead to the quiet of an urban forest.

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It was extraordinary.

It was as though Peter and Katie Bahouth had created a portal to another dimension rather than simply build a treehouse in the woods surrounding their Buckhead home. A dimension that was darkly lush and green and filled with the sounds of a hundred birds.

The treehouse was nestled in the woods in the heart of Buckhead, but it was as removed from the City as a country retreat would have been. It was made up of three different structures connected by swinging rope bridges and decorated with dainty white lights.

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The first structure was a living room complete with a chandelier and 80 year old windows with pressed butterflies and a balcony overlooking the forest. A basket had been left for us filled with chilled water, snacks, and wine.

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The middle structure was an uber romantic bedroom with gauzy white curtains and a super soft double bed that could be rolled out onto a platform to sleep under the stars. It was like walking into an Anthropologie catalog.

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The third structure was a deck that wrapped around the “Old Man,” an 80+ year old massive pine tree. There was even a hammock for afternoon naps.

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I was instantly enchanted.

I couldn’t believe all of this was ours for the weekend.

We immediately popped open the wine and celebrated our good fortune.

“To 16 years!” We shouted, the Old Man nodding approval from above.

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We had late dinner reservations at The Local Three. Who could resist a restaurant with the following philosophy:

“People Matter Most, Local Is Priority, Seasonal Makes Sense, Authenticity Rules, Quality Governs, Delicious Trumps, Pretense Stinks, Comfort Feels Good, Appreciation Tastes Better, Prudence Sustains It All.”

I knew that Local Three was located in an office building, so I wasn't expecting the location to be very dazzling. What they failed to mention was that it was a gorgeous Tuscan inspired office building, complete with manicured lawns and a giant villa towering in the background.

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We ran around for a moment, doing our best Taylor Swift video impression. What I really needed was a vintage convertible and a golf club.

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We had reserved the Chef’s Table. Not your standard Chef’s Table, the Local Three puts a private table right in the kitchen, where you can be front and center to all of the action. We were shown to our table, decorated romantically with mason jar candles and a special menu that was a tribute to the late Prince, who had died just the day before.

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Their goal is to provide you food and wine pairings until you cry “Mercy!”

I knew it was going to be good when the first question our server asked us was, “Do you have someone who can drive you home? If not, I can get you the number for a taxi before we get started.”

Mercy!

The evening began with a toast with some bubbly, Le Dolci Collini Prosecco.

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Then the onslaught began.

The first course was “OOH, THIS YOU NEED.” I did need it. It was the “O.G.” Truffle Parmesan Popcorn. I was pretty sure “O.G.” stood for “Oh, goodness….” Because that’s what I kept saying as I ate it.

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The popcorn course (I think all meals should have a popcorn course, frankly) was followed by the “RASPBERRY BERET.” This was a beautiful salad of Atlanta Harvest greens topped with radish and basil and the most tender, salty slivers of country ham imaginable. This was paired with a Beckstoffer “Hogwash” Rose.

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Next up was “IF I LOVE U 2 NITE.” This was ahi tuna with papaya, avocado, coconut, macadamia, and sesame paired with Gianni Gagliardo Fallegro Favorita.

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And the dishes kept coming.

So did the wine.

The fourth course was “HOT THING,” grilled asparagus with parmesan, chopped egg, and sourdough paired with a William Fevre Champs Royaux Chardonnay.

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Because Matt is not a huge fan of bubbly, rose, or white wines, I had been finishing his as well as mine, and I had been significantly overserved by this point.

I had no intention of crying “Mercy!” Mercy is for wimps.

I powered on.

The fifth course, “TILEFISH & COFFEE,” was a delicious serving of fish with fingerling potatoes flavored with fennel, kale, and sour cherry paired with an Andre Dupuis Bourgogne Pinot Noir.

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Still not ready to throw in the towel, we dove into the sixth course, “LITTLE RED CUTLET,” a rare prime strip with spring onions, barley, carrots and peppercorn, paired with a Justin Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Course seven (YES….SEVEN!!!) was “CREAM,” a cheese plate that included 4 delightful selections along with flatbread, jam, and honey. This was paired with Turley “Juvenile” Zinfindel.

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Just as we were about to cry, “MERCY!” they brought out the “CHOCOLATE INVASION,” so instead, we cried “Merci!” and gobbled down the sweet, creamy torte that came with a shot of Buffalo Trace bourbon cream.

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I wasn’t crying mercy, but I was crying, “Lord have Mercy,” which in southern speak is the phrase you use when something is just so unbelievable that there are simply no other words that will do. It is also important to note that one must always shake her head 'No' while saying it in order to get the full effect.

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Because I drank all of my wine and half of Matt’s, we did not need help driving back to the treehouse, but Matt might have needed help getting me up across that rope ladder.

It was a cool April night and the cozy bed was heated, so we snuggled in, wondering what sleeping in a treehouse would be like.

I’ll tell you what it was like. Instead of being in a hotel trying repeatedly to get the curtains to shut all the way so the lights from outside didn’t seep in while we slept and listening to the guy in the next room flush his toilet, we were in a quiet forest, cocooned in a canopy of green with nothing to disturb the silence other than the occasional frog down by the babbling creek below.

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Yeah, it was good.

We woke up the next morning and found it hard to get out of bed. No, that wasn’t the wine talking, it was just that cozy. The bed was crazy soft and warm (can you say "heated mattress pad?)," like a little nest. We could hear the birds softly twittering in the trees. I never wanted to move.

At least until I heard Peter’s little bell. That meant coffee! I'll move for coffee. Hell, I would have jumped up and swung through the trees Tarzan-style for coffee.

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I fetched our little basket and it was filled with a thermos of hot coffee for me, sugar, cream, and a thermos of hot water with cocoa for Matt.

We could have eaten one of the nice granola bars that Peter had left for us in our snack box from the day before, but, thanks to my wine stupor the night before, I had forgotten to latch them in the plastic bin, as Peter suggested. I found them hidden under the sofa with suspicious chew marks on them and decided they were best left for the squirrels.

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No matter. We had breakfast plans that included a significant tally of fat and carbohydrates, so I really didn’t want to ruin my appetite with a granola bar anyway.

After a peaceful morning in the treehouse, we made our way into the bustle of the City and headed straight for Buttermilk Kitchen. Open only for breakfast and lunch, Buttermilk Kitchen is the vision of Suzanne Vizethann whose mission is to nurture people through food using sustainable, local ingredients. Almost everything in her kitchen is made in-house from scratch and it shows.

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Matt must have been hungry. This is all his: caramelized banana oatmeal, grits topped with over easy eggs, and just in case that wasn’t enough, a side of bacon.

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I simply went for the fried chicken biscuit with cheese grits and a tasty little side of bread and butter pickles.

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We spent the day shopping our way through Buckhead, which was super awesome, except for the 45 minutes I was tortured inside The Fish Hawk, a giant fishing store that made me feel like I was trapped in a Turkish prison with no chance of escape unless I could figure out how to hang myself with some fishing line.

I suppose Matt can only do so much shoe shopping.

When the hungries hit, we made our way to Antico Pizza Napoletana in Atlanta. This place was nothing to look at, but it is known as the best pizza in Atlanta. We entered the spartan, warehouse-like building and found ourselves ordering at the counter, being given a number, and then wandering to the back, which was filled with family-style picnic tables that overlooked the pizza making operation. Stacks of San Marzano D.O.P. tomatoes, bags of 00 flour, and pizza boxes rising to the ceiling flanked the walls. A wood fired oven glowed in the back, while several men tossed pizza crusts in the air.

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We watched as our pizza was tossed, spread, sprinkled, and baked. The finished product was shuffled from the oven onto an aluminum cookie sheet lined with paper and placed rather unceremoniously in front of us with a roll of rough brown paper towels.

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How was the pizza?

Transcendent.

The crust was crisp and blistered from a mere two minutes in the oven. A zesty sauce was scantily smeared on and topped with gooey fresh buffalo mozzarella. A few leaves of basil and a little drizzle of olive oil transformed it into perfection.

We took our pizza bellies back to the treehouse for a nap under the rustling leaves.

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We had dinner plans that evening with friends who live in Atlanta, so we dragged ourselves out of the cushy bed and spruced up a little.

NOTE: Stilettos and rope ladders do not mix.

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Our friends took us to Cape Dutch, a newer restaurant on the Atlanta dining scene with an South African flair and warmly sophisticated décor.

The “thing to order,” I was told, was the braai, a South African grill.

After an appetizer of tuna that was as beautiful as it was delicious, I dove into the braai filet mignon and a side of crispy perfect fries.

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Then it was back to the treehouse for another peaceful night.

We rolled the bed out on the platform so that we could sleep under the stars.

Pure magic.

After sleeping in as long as we possibly could, we enjoyed another coffee basket and said our goodbyes to the treehouse.

We waved “farewell” to the Old Man as we headed to West Egg to grab some breakfast.

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Apparently, everyone else headed to West Egg at the same time, so there was a bit of a wait.

Waiting makes us hungry, so we felt justified when we ordered 3 breakfasts for 2 people:

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A stack of sour cream pancakes with spiced honey butter to share as well as the eggs benedict for Matt and the Peachtree Plate for me. The Peachtree Plate was loaded with eggs, a biscuit, bacon, cheese grits, and fried green tomatoes.

We remembered what our moms told us about starving children and made sure we ate every single bite.

We spent another day shopping before heading to Alpharetta for the night.

Why Alpharetta?

Aside from the fact that I GREW UP THERE, we had concert tickets for Van Morrison that night.

Sure, Alpharetta is all “big city” now and is simply considered an extension of Atlanta, but I remember it “back in the day” when the only place to eat out was the Dixie Diner and we were super excited to get our first fast food place, nearly going out of our minds when we got a Hardee’s.

Alpharetta may have on her city slicker pants these days, but to me, she’s still just a simple girl in overalls.

I made Matt do the obligatory “drive by my old house” before we made our way to Pure Tacqueria, our favorite place to grab dinner before a show at the amphitheater.

Housed in what’s left of an abandoned 1920’s Pure Fuel Oil Station, this little restaurant serves up strong margaritas and stellar tacos.

After a fantastic meal (and that’s not just the tequila talking!), we headed to the amphitheater.

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Matt, a man who has never been able to properly keep his personal taste within his own age demographic, LOVES Van Morrison. Since the early 60s, Van Morrison has been churning out music that could be called anything from soulful to jazzy to blues-rock to folk music.

If you don’t think you know Van Morrison’s music, you do. Think Brown Eyed Girl, Dancing in the Moonlight, and Crazy Love. Try watching a movie and not hearing at least one Van Morrison song on the soundtrack.

With “Van the Man” being 70 years old and doing very limited performances in the US, I knew this might be Matt’s one and only chance to see him live, so I had gotten him 4th row center tickets for our anniversary.

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I think it was everything he hoped it would be.

After a final breakfast at our old standby, The Flying Biscuit (yes, I ate everything in that picture), it was time to head home.

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We have 16 years under our belt. I hope the next 16 are as amazing as these have been.

Here’s to us!

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Posted by vicki_h 05:59 Archived in USA Tagged georgia atlanta treehouse buckhead Comments (3)

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