Monday, September 1, 2014

my whirlwind tour of the pacific northwest...part one

A little background for those who don't know me well....

*I love traveling to new places
*I love flying in planes
*I don't get to do either very often
(teacher salary + paying down debt = lack of travel funds)

A wonderful aunt of mine recently passed away, and a couple weeks ago when she was still able to have full conversations with us, she told me about how she had traveled to every state except for two.  As she said, it was one "regret" she had that she didn't get to all fifty.  Someday....I'll find a way to travel to those two states for her.  And I'm sure Aunt Marie will be with me in spirit.

When we got back from our trip, the first thing she asked me was "How was your trip?".   I gave her a quick recap, gushing how gorgeous it was there, and showed her several pictures on my phone.  So, in honor of my Aunt Marie who loved to travel and who I'm named after (Marie is my middle name), I'm going to share some of my favorite things about my way-too-short trip to the Pac NW. 

As I posted on's my trip by the numbers:

Four Days.
Three Major Cities.
Two Countries.
One National Park.

All photos were taken on my iPhone 4s, since I always had my phone with me and was constantly in awe of the beauty around me....and I think I came back from this four-day trip with about 400 more pictures on my phone.  

Let's just say....I won't be showing you everything.

But honestly, photos can't truly capture what it is like to be there.
There's just something about being there.....surrounded by landscapes and environments I've never seen in person, breathing in the clean air, listening to the gentle sounds of was just magical.

And....although you'll only see me in any of the pictures, I promise I didn't take this trip alone.  ;)

I went with my sister and for a couple days we met up a friend of hers that lives in that area....but they are both "off the grid" kind of people, so I didn't think I should post pictures of them on a public blog.

At O'Hare airport....I found a Coke bottle with my name on it.
And I paid over three dollars for it.  
I really needed some caffeine.
And I love Coke.


There was a delay on one of our connecting flights, which....long story short....meant we actually got switched to an earlier flight into Seattle.  Although that also meant we were split up on the plane.

Luckily, we got in two hours earlier than expected...early enough to explore the city for a couple hours before we had to drive to our hotel in Olympia.  
Even though my sister had been to Seattle before, I had not.  So we did the tourist-y thing. 

First, we parked near the Seattle Center and the Space Needle, took the monorail to get closer to downtown and walked to the famous Pike Place Market.  We had a few samples of delicious local food, and actually were there just in time to have dinner at one of the fish stands who cooked up fresh fish.

My sister's dinner....the whole trout....staring back at her.
Deep fried goodness.
I got a less-impressive-looking fish and chips combo.  Still delicious.

We then took the monorail back to the Space Needle and waited around for our trip up to a 360 degree view of the city.  Totally worth the money....and the wait.

Mount Rainier peeking up in the distance.  We saw it from Seattle, Portland, and driving through other parts of this area.  It was even peeking up above the clouds when we flew in that afternoon! It's a presence that can't be missed.

There was some boat race going on that evening....pretty fun to watch from up above.

We stayed in the Olympia/Lacey area of Washington that night....and woke up with a view of the tallest trees I've ever seen in a hotel parking lot!  Notice the tops of the trees aren't even shown in this picture.

Day Two....Olympic National Park

This was my favorite day of the trip....easily.
When I read info before going here about how this park is basically "three parks in one"....I knew it would be awesome.  Actually being there to witness these things in person....priceless.

A Rainforest.
Ocean Tidepools.

Words can't describe.

You would think I was a crazy person who had just been plopped down onto a different planet or  something.   I kept saying "NO WAY!" "OHMIGOODNESS!" or "It's just so PRETTY!!"

Good thing I don't care too much about what strangers think of me.  :)

And now....a few of my favorite pictures. I say a few because I took over a hundred that day.
Not exaggerating.

After stopping at the Welcome Center near Port Angeles, we took the crazy winding road up the mountains to the Hurricane Ridge stop.  

At one point, we had to stop so I could take a few pictures from the side of the road because I didn't want to run off the road from trying to look up and over at the mountains.

We went on a couple hikes in this area, and I could definitely feel the change in elevation. I had to walk a little slower than normal, and stop to catch my breath more often. 
I guess you could say it was literally breathtaking.

Looking back at the Hurricane Ridge information center and the Olympic Mountains!

Loved all of these mountain trails- such an exhilarating adventure!

Next stop was Lake Crescent....a gorgeous, glacially-carved lake among the mountains.

The water was pretty cold, but a few brave souls were jumping in for a quick dip.

From here, we drove to the small nearby town of Forks for dinner.
And a few dorky photos.
Yes, Twilight fans....*that* Forks....home of Bella and Edward.

Bella's trucks.  ;)

We stopped for a late lunch at Pacific Pizza....who had a lot of Twilight-inspired menu items.

It was a quick stop in Forks, but enough to satisfy my YA-fiction-fan-geekiness.

From there, we drove to my favorite FAVORITE stop of the day....
The Hoh Rainforest!!

The tall trees, over 200 feet high, provided a canopy for the rest of the rainforest below.

One of the trails, the "Hall of Mosses" was like stepping into a different world.  I kept saying I felt like I was on some futuristic, sci-fi movie set.  Like some blue Avatar creatures were going to pop out at any time.

Everywhere we walked there was evidence of the interdependence and competition in a rainforest.....huge logs that had fallen many years ago that are now the feeding ground for other living things.

Another trail took us through a less "mossy" part of the rainforest, but just as beautiful.  This also led us to the Hoh River, with more gorgeous mountain views from the river.   I wished we could have stayed and set up camp was so relaxing and we were blessed with the absolute BEST weather that day!

Selfie #2.  :)

We had one more stop we wanted to make that the Pacific Ocean to see some tide pools and hopefully get there in time for the sunset.
We made it!

The closest spot to stop was Ruby Beach, and it didn't disappoint.

After it started getting pretty dark, we made the late drive to our hotel for the night (a few hours away) since we had a long drive ahead of us the next morning.

And more about my next post!  :)


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