wandering washington

Washington Travel Blog

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view from the plane...almost there
I hadn't been out to Washington state in about ten years, so an unused flight credit plus my friend Kevin's stand by flight that had to be used by the end of April resulted in a trek out west. Washington was, as always, just gorgeous.

We based ourselves mostly from our friend Derek's house in Tacoma, which ended up being pretty central for where we wanted to go. Our first full day there we went to the zoo, where Derek works, and got a pretty thorough tour of the place. Then it was on to a car ferry to Vashon Island, where we just kind of tooled around exploring. Vashon is pretty, and pretty quiet. Nice to live on probably and nice to visit for an afternoon, which is exactly what we did. Tacoma itself is pretty commercial - lots of strip malls and chains.
another view - think this is mt. rainier
The waterfront of Tacoma, however, is breathtaking. Our first evening there we had a clear view of Mt. Rainier from the dock of the restaurant we had dinner at. How do you top that?

The next day we got an early start to head to the Olympic peninsula for some beach camping. We stopped in Port Townsend to browse through the many quaint little shops and to grab lunch and a few microbrews. Port Townsend would have been easy for us to lose a day or two in, but we pressed on to La Push on the western side of the peninsula. La Push basically consists of the most beautiful, rugged coastline you could ever hope to see and a Native American tribe that pretty much owns the whole town. We set up camp directly on the rocky beach, even though it was going to be in the 30's (farenheit) that night; there were a few rv's set up by the coast and a couple of what looked like long term tenters, but not another soul dared to brave actually setting up camp on the beach. We hiked a path through some forest down to an isolated beach only to discover that it was the very same beach I had visited over ten years ago - there were the famous sea stacks just offshore, along with this amazing looking rock arch that stretched into the sea. I couldn't believe that we just kind of stumbled onto it! We caught the sunset there, resulting in some pretty phenomenal pictures, then headed back to camp to make a dinner of mac n cheese with hot dogs on our little propane burner. The night's entertainment consisted of bundling up in the tent and playing drinking games with a deck of cards we bought at the general store. Good times.

The next morning we awoke to a steady rain, so a breakfast of pancakes on the propane stove was out of the question. We packed up our gear and then headed to the Hoh rain forest, the only temperate rain forest in the United States, I believe. Hoh (or Ho - oh, as we called it) was essentially empty to visitors and we had the place to ourselves for the most part. We walked the paths around the forest, checking out all the verdant vegetation and posing in hollowed out tree trunks. Next time I go back I'd like to do the hike to the glacier and set up camp there - 18 miles was a bit much for this trip.

At the end of our hike we came across a few female olympic elk browsing in the forest. We thought that was pretty cool, but later we came across two male olympic elk with full racks of antlers in the closed campground. The whole scenario is hilarious now, because we started out just taking photos of them from the car, then got out and hid behind trees - careful not to scare them off, and then after about twenty minutes or so we ended up within feet from them. These elk just didn't give a crap about our presence so close; they actually were dozing off to sleep as we snapped away! At one point I was actually laying down about ten feet from one of them, taking his picture; probably not the smartest thing to do, given that I was eyeing his imposing antlers the entire time, but for a little while I got to play National Geographic photographer.

From there we headed back to Tacoma, taking a detour halfway up to Hurricane Ridge (not the whole way, since the road was closed - avalanche season). We also stopped in Sequim and tried to see this game park some friends had recommended, but missed the closing by ten minutes. We spent the early evening walking the Tacoma coastline along the beach, taking pictures of the many harbor seals who kept popping up to check out these two crazy humans who were walking the coast in the chilly weather. Dinner was late that night, but good - pizza and some more of that tasty Washington microbrew. The entertainment this particular night was this irate chick who was very dramatically angry with her (much!) younger boyfriend. We actually heard her say the phrase, "my baby daddy...." Classic.

The next day we got up and headed to Mt. Rainier. It was crazy to see the weather change from relatively mild and rainy to cold and extremely snowy as we made out way closer to the mountain. We drove to Paradise, I think the farthest up you can drive, but it was white out conditions and you couldn't see a thing! We headed back down to about two or three thousand feet and strapped on our snowshoes Derek had lent us to explore some of the trails in the area. Snowshoeing the Wonderland trail was a blast, since we saw only a handful of other snowshoers and it followed the snow clogged river. Unfortunately my straps were too tight and I got blisters on my heels three quarters of the way into our trek, so I had to jerry rig bandages with an extra pair of gloves in my shoes. Still a fun experience!

Our last day together (Kevin was heading back to Florida a day before me) we went into Seattle to explore a little of the city. Of course we did the obligatory Pike Place visit and then we went to the science fiction museum (which was actually pretty cool and interesting - not just a geek haven!) and then to the Music Experience, a museum dedicated to music and especially the Seattle music scene. Here my favorite thing was the room where you could learn to play instruments; they had little booths set up with actual instruments hooked up to computer programs; I tried the drums, the guitar (which I have at home but can't play yet), and the keyboard. I also tried the vocal room. What did I learn? That I can't sing and I suck at playing instruments. But it was still a blast! Went to the REI store and got Derek and his girlfriend a gift card for all they did for us; one of these days I'll come back and climb that wall! The last night was spent at this Polynesian restaurant where we discovered a cheap happy hour and some cool waitstaff and regulars. They suggested a non-touristy bar called the Alibi Room and we finished our night off there, drinking too much and getting into the kinds of arguments that you seem to only get into when you've had too much to drink.

The next day after dropping Kevin off at the airport at the butt crack of dawn, I just kind of tooled around Tacoma - taking more pictures and just kind of absorbing being there. I had intended on going to Vancouver for the day to visit my friend Chris, but I was way too hung over and sleep deprived for the three hour one way drive. Had one last dinner with Derek and his girlfriend and then crashed before my 6am flight the next day. All in all, a great trip. I love the Pacific Northwest!

*Postscript: As for my headline "why are there so many ben franklin signs in washington" - when we first arrived I saw all the state road signs with this colonial looking shadow profile on them. I guess to me it looked like Ben Franklin and I asked Kevin "I wonder why there are so many Ben Franklin signs here?" His answer: "Um...what state are you in? Do you really still think that is Ben Franklin?" Yeah, in case you're wondering, I am a blonde. : )
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view from the plane...almost there
view from the plane...almost there
another view - think this is mt. r…
another view - think this is mt. …