One of our new favorite places to visit in the USA is the Emerald State of Washington. We’ve now visited 3 times in the past 3 years. This time our excuse was a family wedding. The bride and groom organized several events for people to gather outside of the actual wedding so Bekah and I had lots of time hanging out with her cousins, aunts, and uncles. The actual ceremony was at a beautiful venue outside of Snohomish. They exchanged vows in a cozy grove of pine trees and the grounds around the reception were full of flowers in bloom. The next day, the extended relatives got together again for brunch before people went their separate ways. We even got a boat tour around the Bellevue coastline of Lake Washington. All that time with family was really refreshing, especially after a tough couple years during the height of the pandemic.
Between the festivities we also squeezed in a few trips around Seattle. We rode the ferry to Bainbridge Island and walked around the town of Winslow. Coming directly from downtown Seattle, the island felt so much quieter. The unobstructed views of the city slowly shrank as the boat crossed the Puget Sound, but never disappeared. After landing, we explored town on foot since we didn’t have time or a good way to get to some of the island’s larger parks. Between lunching on pizza and snacking on ice cream, I picked up a fun screen printed shirt of a seagull wearing headphones. It felt too perfect to pass up and a unique momento.
The public transit around Seattle felt so close to being easy to use. There was a simple transit app for ticketing, low fares, and buses every 15-ish minutes directly to downtown. But as we walked up to the stop, a bus was driving off. The next bus was at least 10 minutes late, which lead to us missing the ferry by probably 5 minutes. After watching the boat pull away from the terminal, we burned an hour walking around downtown and spent less time on the island. I am thankful we arrived early for the return ferry to Seattle because it left the dock 5 minutes before its scheduled departure time. I wish San Diego had better public transit options, but it seems hard to have a system robust enough to be economical for riders.
We also hiked in Discovery park. That morning felt more like the stereotypical overcast Seattle weather. I took a silly number of pictures of plants that lined the walkways. I love being able to look up the different kinds of flora from photos because it’s easy to miss the incredible diversity of life right under our noses. Even with the meadows mostly brown, the park lived up to Washington’s evergreen reputation. Compared with San Diego, the ground was so lush with vegetation, every inch covered by something soaking up the ample rain, and filtered sun.
Olympic National Park
Following the wedding, we drove out to Port Angeles on the Olympic peninsula and to a private cabin rental just outside the park. This rental was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. The owner had installed an 8 foot wide pipe into the hillside and turned it into a cosy one room cabin with some impressive woodwork. There was an outdoor kitchen with instant hot water, a stovetop, and minifridge. Our host even provided us with a bottle of wine and homemade hot chocolate to enjoy by the fire. We grabbed a ready-to-cook steak meal from the grocery store and had lovely dinner watching the sunlight fade over the hills. From the hillside path you could even see the water of the Straight of Juan de Fuca.
There were too many great places to visit in Olympic and too little time, so we focused on some of the shorter hikes closer to Port Angeles. Our first hike was just under 2 miles round trip out to a waterfall. I loved the quiet walk under the giant pines even with plenty of people on the trail. The tranquility was contrasted with the intense sound of the stream rushing into the narrow ravine as it went over the falls.
We also hiked to another waterfall around sunset. Even though the sun was still visible, the forest was noticeably darker and there was much less traffic on the trail. This waterfall was notable for its 90 feet (27 m) height more than it’s force. The trail out is less than 2 miles long and we were probably some of the last people to hike the trail for the day. Unfortunately, as we got to the falls, the group behind us jumped the fence to play in the water which kinda ruined the experience for us. We also passed another strange group on the trail doing something with capes and candles so we might need to reconsider next time we consider doing a similar hike at dusk. 🤔
At over 600 (185 m) feet deep, Lake Crescent is a sizable body of water with steep banks. The main road, Olympic Highway Route 101, follows its southern coast so we had already briefly admired the views going to and from our morning hike. After a snafu trying to rent kayaks in town, I arranged a rental at one of the in-park lodges. It wasn’t until we rowed out from shore in our canoe that I realized how steep the sides of the lake really were. In many places within 10 feet of shore, the water was already around 20 feet deep. This depth gives the lake its deep blue color, and according to the lodge employee, keeps the water cold enough to quickly cause hypothermia. We ate lunch on the water and explored the shore for a while before paddling up-wind back to the dock. An employee let us swap our canoe for a stand-up paddle board which we traded off. I even jumped in the water for a few minutes, though the temperature near the dock wasn’t nearly as cold as they suggested.
Our last hike in Olympic was Hurricane Ridge. It’s a 3 mile hike round trip on a paved trail, but with about 900 feet (275 m) in elevation gain. The drive up to the parking lot from the park entrance took over 15 minutes and I suspect Bekah may have been feeling some altitude sickness. Still, the views on the drive alone were great and we saw 2 groups of deer on the roadside. We arrived around 9 AM, which was early enough for us to get a parking spot right by the trailhead. Even at that hour, the sun was already shining brightly. The hike basically started at the treeline so there wasn’t a lot of shade. But that also mean plenty of open views of the stunning Olympic mountain range.
All along the trail were wildflowers that attracted swarms of Fritillary butterflies. There were also less welcome bugs like the large black insect which collided with my shirt at colossal speed wanting to hitch a ride, and a bee that followed us for probably a quarter mile. Still, it was a really beautiful trail.
The last half mile to the summit was the steepest. The paved path gives you the impression it’s an easy hike, but it was a solid workout. And even though the views along the way were great, the summit provided more satisfying views out over Port Angeles to Victoria, Canada. I also learned some new things too. While we were at the top, a local on the trail talked about the local history of different countries sneaking into the straight and scooping up fish before the Canadian military would run them off. There were also some helpful placards highlighting the visible peaks like Mt Olympus and Mt Baker. Despite being hard on your knees, I would highly recommend this hike to anyone going to Olympic. Even if you don’t like hiking, consider at least driving up to the visitor center for some of the views.
The last few days of our trip were spent with Bekah’s coworker. They had met up before on a work trip but this was my first time meeting her, and her husband’s first time meeting us. They had already been incredibly welcoming and helpful with logistics but it was great to have time with them in person. We ate lots of delicious food, played some fun games in the afternoons, and started work early in the morning.
We worked together from a WeWork north of Seattle. It was my first time in a coworking office and found it quite nice. There were drinks available and meeting rooms to collaborate in. The views of the office were great and it was nice being back in a social, working location again. But WeWork’s prices seemed pricy and after working from home for so long even a short commute felt incontinent. Still, coworking spaces seem like they fill a need for many people and I’ve long wondered if there were ways to make remote work more social.
One of the fun activities we did with Bekah’s coworker and her husband was going to a pinball arcade. Up until that point, my experience with pinball had mostly been limited to playing the computer game included with our family’s Windows XP computer when I was growing up. This arcade had dozens of differently themed models. Even the tables in the booths of the bar were made from lit up pinball machines. We also had fun playing Skee-Ball. We traded high scores, and my highlight was turning one of my worst starts into my best round by sinking a bunch of the highest targets several times in a row. The back and forth was fun and a great ending to an exciting week.
Thanks to everyone who hosted us during our time in Washington this year. I hope to be back soon.
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