Going on vacation during a never-ending pandemic is tough, especially with one unvaccinated member of our family. With the Delta variant surging and mask mandates making a return we opted for a roadtrip around Washington state. Planning this was a challenge, since nearly everyone seemed to be thinking the same thing and most of the places we wanted were booked. In the end though, we were able to string together enough interesting stuff to both see something new and enjoy some family time.
Day 1: Seattle to Port Angeles, via Hurricane Ridge
We got the most ambitious day out of the way early. With a 6:30am wake up and a 8:05 hard ferry deadline, we certainly did not start relaxed. There were a few morning crisis as well. We seemed to have misplaced the AV bag with Mira's car goodies. Sonali also wasn't feeling well the night before so we had scrapped the plans of making a picnic, since we didn't know what she might want to eat.
We did make the ferry in time and soon we were driving up the Kitsap peninsula. One stop at the Poulsbo Target later we were fully restocked for the remainder of the trip and the remaining drive to port Angeles was uneventful.
Downtown Port Angeles.
There was a lot of procrastination going on for this hike. Rather than getting picnic supplies the girls wanted a sitdown lunch. We had Thai food at the Jasmine Bistro. The food was good but the service was slow, which is a general theme through late-COVID.
With full bellies and all out of delay tactics, we made it up to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park.
We look at the Olympics every day; they are the backdrop of our side of West Seattle. Seeing them up close was something else.
Looking back towards Port Angeles.
Unlike some of the other easily accessible locations, Hurricane Ridge puts you right into the middle of the mountain range. There are peaks in every direction. The trails are all on ridges as well, so you are always staring down into a valley on one side.
Mira and I at the photo-op spot on the walk up to sunrise point.
Even with how popular the trail is there was plenty of wildlife around. We especially liked seeing the deer.
One of the many deer sightings near the visitor center.
We walked all the trails near the visitor center then did a few miles on the actual Hurricane Ridge trail before the girls decided that they were a little tired of climbing and it was time to head back.
We got dinner and a few drinks (all well earned, 21k step day!) at the BBQ place down by the pier, followed by a little sunset walk.
Sunset over the port in Port Angeles.
Day 2: Port Angeles to Ocean Shores
The weather changed overnight with the blue skies replaced by fog and cooler temperatures.
Port Angeles in the morning.
We started off at Elwha Beach, where the Elwha River empties into the Sailesh sea. There wasn't much to see because of the poor visibility, so we watched the surfers and the birds for a bit before setting off.
The flock finding a new resting point in the basin.
We opted for the scenic route 112 over the 101 which was amazing. It rivaled Hawaii for how lush and scenic it was, even with all the fog. However it did not sit well with the girl's tummies so by the time we got to the hike point, they were both in deep Dramamine slumber.
To amuse myself I took a detour on the Quinalt Loop Road which became gravel after a few miles. Sonali woke up right as I was taking the Tahoe over a wooden bridge, rightly confused about where we were and concerned if we were lost.
Despite all the gravel noise Mira did not wake up till we got to the "trail head" for the giant spruce. She was still too sleepy to get out. Sonali and I just took turns to go see it.
It was a bit of a busted day in the end, with pretty much straight travel. We stayed at the Judith Ann Inn in Ocean Shores which was nice. Ocean Shores itself had a very Florida-panhandle-in-the-winter vibe (keep in mind this is the middle of August). It's all 4 lane divided roads with no sidewalks, because of course you want to pile into the truck to go the 300 yards to the sushi restaurant. But hey, at least you can drive on the beach.
Driving the Tahoe on the beach. The car probably had the most fun this day.
Day 3: Ocean Shores to Aberdeen
Everything was booked in Ocean Shores for Saturday night, which we really should have taken more seriously. The next best alternative was to spend that night in Aberdeen.
Our plan for the day was to backtrack to the Hoh Rainforest since the passengers were asleep the day before.
Now that everyone was awake we made a quick stop at the giant spruce for some pictures.
Giant spruce, humans for context.
It really is a very large tree. The Olympics features a few of the largest examples of their respective species.
The drive North felt interminably long. Backtracking always feels that way, though all the construction reducing the roads to one-way and the soundtrack of Police, Boyzone, and Bryan Adams hits didn't help (Sonali drove this leg and got to choose the music (this also might be an effective strategy to get me to drive)).
Arriving at the rainforest was an immense disappointment. There was a 2 hour wait to get to the parking lot. After a day and a morning in the car, staring at the RV in front of us for another 2 hours had zero appeal, so we turned around and stopped at the cafe for a burger.
The burger was simple and the fries were a little over-salted, but out on their porch in the middle of the forest, it was the highlight meal of the trip. The day started turning around as well.
The Cafe put together a little nature trail which ended up being a lot of fun.
Mira found this bridge a little more adventurous than expected.
It went through the forest, across a few streams with interesting bridges (some wood, some hopping stones) and out to the river bed.
The Hoh river.
Still a little disappointed we stopped for some quick pictures at Ruby Beach and ended up spending an hour and a half.
The Washington coast is foreboding and moody.
The atmosphere of the beach is perfect PNW. It was gray, moody, windy, and full of people having fun.
Mira was convinced she could climb this rock. She got about a third of the way before reality set in.
We made our own rock art before leaving.
It was a busted day that ended up being unexpectedly great.
Day 4: Aberdeen to Kalama Harbor via Astoria
The drive into Aberdeen setting what you're going to be in for. "That's seen better days" is a frequent thought.
Everyone we interacted with was great, but it just didn't have the feeling of a place one wanted to be. The city was empty of the types of people you'd expect to see on a Saturday morning, like dog walkers and joggers, which end up giving the sense that something is wrong.
Aberdeen's most famous former resident is Kurt Cobain and we did stop by his memorial on the way out of town.
The Kurt Cobain monument in the Memorial Park.
Our midpoint stop as Astoria, OR. Aberdeen's history shares some traits with Astoria. Both boomed due to industry, especially port traffic, that started to wane in the 80's. However where Aberdeen was desolate, Astoria was happening.
The top three picks of where we wanted to go were slammed, so we ended up at a fish restaurant off the waterfront. Though it was named "The Salmon Grill" only Sonali had the salmon, which was quite good.
It's nice to see people out and small local businesses doing well, even though it is clear that many of them are having trouble getting enough staff. A vibrant main street does change the character of a neighborhood.
One item on our list was visiting the Astoria Column. Mira and I climbed to the top to get some photos.
The mouth of the Columbia River and the town of Astoria.
Mira didn't love how windy the top was
After the Column, we followed the population of Portland day tripping in Astoria back towards out hotel. McMenamins is a local chain of quirky establishments. There's always a brew-pub and there's normally a hotel and a few other amenities.
Arriving at the McMenamins.
The parent's were happy that everything we needed was on site, which is a welcome break from all the planning that normally goes with traveling. Mira was excited because there was a playground where she could practice her work on the monkey bars.
Mira on the monkey bars.
McMenamins enthusiasts love finding the secret rooms which we never got around to. We stayed in the John Kalama room, which was on the southwest corner of the second floor and spent the evening enjoying a growler and watching the river.
The Harmony river cruiser on the way to the next port of call.
Day 5: Kalama Harbor to Walla Walla
After very tasty in-room breakfast of Corned Beef Hash, Crunchy French Toast, accompanied by OJ and a Bloody Mary, it was off to Walla Walla.
Since I was doing all the driving I didn't get a chance to take many pictures, not that I could take any that would do the area justice. I-84 from the eastern side of Portland to where it intersects with US-97 is an incredible stretch of highway that follows the Columbia River through the gorge. It's worth a drive.
When we got to Walla Walla, we visited the Kontos tasting room (didn't like the whites, the reds were good) and got the long-promised pizza for Mira.
Then another quiet evening of sipping wine, reading, and working on the pictures of the last few days.
Day 6: Walla Walla
This was the last full day of vacation. We wanted to hit a few more winery's, but found that they were all either overbooked or closed. Mira and I hit the hotel pool, then we all visited a few of the major parks, including Pioneer park which was nicely done with plenty of picnic places, pretty flower beds, a fountain, and an aviary. The weather was perfect, warm, sunny, and most importantly, no smoke.
Mira at the fountain in Pioneer Park.
We went back to downtown for lunch at a great little Mexican place called Grandma's Kitchen. It was just one guy doing everything.
The only winery we were able to get to was Canoe River. We had a good time with their tasting and decided that laziness was in order. We bought a bottle and took it back to our hotel to nestle in with our iPads till dinner (Mira watching Winx, Sonali reading, and me catching up on La Vuelta).
Day 7: Walla Walla to Home
It was a 4:30 minute ride back over the Cascades to home, with the last 30 minutes being exclusively dedicated to the last 2 miles over the Duwamish River due to the continued shutdown of the West Seattle Bridge.
The drive was mostly uneventful. Most of the work was keeping the smell of wildfire smoke in the car to a minimum. To summarize this trip in list form:
Would Do Again
- Hurricane Ridge
- Staying at a McMenamims
- Walla Walla
Probably Won't Revisit
- Ocean Shores
- Non-standard menu items in small towns
What we wanted to do, but didn't
- Visit a brewery in Astoria
- Visit more wineries in Walla Walla
- Stop at a Yakima winery (it was too smokey)
- See the maritime Museums in Poulsbo and Astoria