Washington (Mt Rainier to La Conner)
Updated: Sep 3, 2021
The second half of our June 2021 two week trip to the Northwest took us first to Mt. Rainier, Washington. It was a beautiful drive, a little over 5 hours from Bend, Oregon. As we entered the town of Morton we stopped to eat at Spiffy's and then picked up some groceries before heading to our cabin. Dave and I rented a cute one bedroom cabin approximately 3 miles from the southwest entrance to the National Park. Although there was no cell phone service, wifi or cable it was nice to unplug and enjoy the nature. We spent 3 nights in the cabin where we cooked and ate most of our meals. On our first night we finished some delicious blue crab soup that we brought with us from Newport, OR from Local Ocean Seafood. Even though for the past two nights our previous hotel in Bend did not have a refrigerator it was so cold outside (35 degrees) that we were able to preserve the soup in the trunk of our car and enjoy it here in Washington.
The weather was so beautiful and clear as we arrived at our the cabin that after transferring our luggage out of our car, we decided to head straight to the National Park. Like all National Parks it cost us $30 to enter and the pass was good for 7 days. It wasn't until we drove almost 10 mins past the entrance that we were finally able to see the mountain. It was on this first day that we got our best pictures of it. When we entered the park they gave us a map of all of the scenic places and trails. There was a beautiful picture of a place called Reflection Lakes and we decided to make that our destination for the day. At 20mph it took us about 45 minutes to drive there. When we got to Reflection Lakes we found the sign however we had a hard time finding an actual lake. We finally realized that we had to climb over a 6ft wall of snow only to discover that the lake was still frozen over. In June!
The next morning we packed some sandwiches and snacks and decided to drive to the eastside of the park where we hiked the Grove of the Patriarchs Loop. It was an easy 1.1 mile loop that took us over the Ohanapecosh River to where the oldest trees in the park live, some are over 1,000 years old. These massive trees are protected from fires since they live on a small island. On our way back West out of the park we took our time and stopped at the other various beautiful sites. It was a little cloudy, which we were told is normal out there and the drive took us from 70 degree weather to the 30's.
Mt. Rainier National Park is home to over 150 waterfalls, many you can see from the main road or by taking a short hike from your car. The water in the streams and lakes has a beautiful cloudy bluish tint to it that comes from the melting glacier. We stopped at Narada Falls, and climbed down the snowed over icy steps to get a view of it. When the sun came out we were able to see a beautiful rainbow at the base of the falls.
After spending the majority of the day in the park we headed back to our cabin to regroup before opening up Timber Patch Brewing at 4pm. The brewery is located in the closest town of Morton, WA. Morton was about 24 miles from our cabin but it took a little over 30 minutes to get there. We arrived a little early so we decided to visit the local police station to trade patches. Well, we were definitely surprised to see that the station was closed with the hours posted on the front of the building. So, it was back to the brewery where we enjoyed a flight of beer with the best tasting IPA we had all trip. After speaking with some locals they convinced us to get a pizza from the food truck outside, Mountain View Wood Fired Pizza, so naturally we had to order some more beer to go with it.
The next day we took a local road called NF-52 to the town of Packwood. The road is a beautiful single lane road that is open seasonally. As we drove we saw many campers along the way. The town was a 45 minute drive although only 25 miles away. We first stopped at the Presbyterian Thrift & Gift store followed by the Packwood Spirits and Quilts shop. (Yes, a liquor and fabric store in one). We went to Cliff Droppers for some of the best burgers in town followed of course by a stop at the Packwood Brewery where we once again shared a flight of 7 beers. From Packwood it was a short drive to the Stevens Canyon Entrance of the park (SE Entrance) so we decided to see what was on that side of the park. We drove North to what was supposed to be another beautiful "reflection" lake called Tipsoo Lake however, with the rise in altitude (5432ft) we found ourselves in 36 degree windy and rainy weather. The ground had over 5ft of snow and the lake was frozen over.
The next morning we set out for Seattle which was only about an hour and a half away. We were running a half marathon on the island of Bainbridge the next day so we thought we would do some recon on where to park for the ferry before checking into our next vacation rental. The day was beautiful and we could see the mountains of Olympic National Park across the water. The city however, was not what we remembered from 10 years ago. There was a lot of boarded up buildings and graffiti throughout the area. The Covid-19 numbers were on the rise over there so the restaurants and coffee shops were operating on a limited capacity. We spend about an hour in the city and then headed 25 mins north to our apartment in Edmonds, WA.
We rented an awesome apartment on the side of a cliff overlooking the Puget Sound. I choose this place specifically to see bald eagles, since they are known to nest in the area. Within the first hour we spotting some. Dave was lucky enough to snap a shot of a juvenile bald eagle in flight as we stood outside on our balcony. Besides bald eagles we saw seals, various birds and even a whale! We also enjoyed some beautiful sunsets over the Sound.
During the next three days we ran in the Great Ferry Race and visited some great coastal towns. And, of course we visited a couple of breweries: Diamond Knot Brewing Company and La Conner Brewing Company. But, we spent most of our time sitting on the balcony of our apartment looking at the scenery. The yard had a bunch of bunnies hopping around and there was also a train track that ran along the water.
On our last full day in Washington we drove an hour north to the town of La Conner. Known as the "most romantic getaway in Washington State". It is also home of the La Conner Daffodil Festival in March and the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival during the month of April. Since it was June, we missed both. We walked the quaint town and shopped at many of the local stores. While we were there a couple of fighter jets even circled the area!
The morning that we left we had an 11am flight however, since we wanted to beat the Seattle traffic we left early and decided to have a big breakfast close to the airport. I found the perfect location, 13 Coins restaurant. It was literally a block away from the airport. Dave had a Dungeness crab benedict and I had the Dungeness crab omelet. Both delicious! A perfect end to a great vacation!