I Ate the State: Grays Harbor County

Greetings!

When I think of Grays Harbor County, I think of laid back beauty, of comfort, of long days on the beach and long hikes in the mountains. I ponder relaxing with a glass of wine while enjoying a delicious crab sandwich or perusing the most amazing Star Wars shop known to the galaxy. So many excellent opportunities pop to mind when thinking of Grays Harbor County; ones which don’t require fancy attire, but more likely a good windbreaker and some flip flops. In Grays Harbor County, you can simply come as you are.

There are many paths to and from Grays Harbor County. Bordering the beautiful Jefferson, Mason, Thurston and Pacific Counties with the mighty Pacific Ocean as its backyard, Grays Harbor is perfectly situated for endless adventure. To make the most of my travel time, I find I-5 is typically the quickest route into the area. (Check the WSDOT traffic site or app before you go – I-5 can back up, particularly around Tacoma, Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Olympia) I’m usually coming from the north, so heading down to Olympia on I-5 and then US-101 and SR-8 (turns into US-12) to Aberdeen is my standard approach. The same holds true coming up from the south… If I’m feeling more leisurely, I might hop the Bremerton ferry out of Seattle and take SR-3 to US 101 and on towards Aberdeen – OR – come up and around the Peninsula via Clallam County and down US-101 along the coast. The bottom line is Grays Harbor is very accessible and not far from many Washington counties.

Breakers at Westport
Crashing waves in Westport

For this particular adventure, I grabbed my longtime friend, Charsky and we started south on I-5. It was a grey, winter morning with rain on the horizon, but we were not deterred. We’re lifelong Washingtonians and a rainy day has never stopped us before. That said, we were prepared for all weather – especially since we were headed towards the mountains and the ocean. Hats, rain jackets, gloves, scarves, sunglasses – we brought it all!  Charsky and Hooch, on the road again and ready for whatever coastal weather shenanigans would ensue. Onward to the ocean!

Our first point of investigation was the small town of Montesano, located just off US-12. Serving as the county seat of Grays Harbor, Montesano is tiny, but important in the grand scheme of the area. (Grays Harbor has been a Washington State county since 1854, but before 1915 it was known as Chehalis County.) The downtown area is charming with the very pretty Grays Harbor County Courthouse located at its center. (c. 1911) Featuring beautiful architecture, a grand clock and lovely murals in the rotunda, the courthouse is open to the public. (The clock on the outside of the rotunda reminds me of Back to the Future. Just need to roll up in a DeLorean – or on a skateboard.)

Grays Harbor County Courthouse
The lovely Grays Harbor County Courthouse in Montesano

Located just a few miles from downtown is the scenic Lake Sylvia State Park. Perfect for a day trip filled with swimming and picnics, but also great for larger affairs or weekend camping adventures. There is a decent amount of parking along with picnic shelters, BBQ pits and showers. If you’re up for a hike, there is a great 2-mile loop around the lake as well as many trails breaking off from the loop trail. And like all Washington State parks, you will need a Discover Pass for parking. (There is also often an option to pay for the day, but it’s much cheaper and less hassle to get the yearly pass.) For more camping, fishing, hiking and picnicking opportunities, check out Friends Landing, located on the Chehalis River, just outside of Montesano.

Montesano and its smaller neighbor, Elma are surrounded by beautiful farmland and winding country back roads. A great way to appreciate the area and all its bounty is to go straight to the source.

  • Check out the charm of the Grays Harbor County Fair in August and visit the farm animals and produce all in one convenient location. The fairground has events throughout the year, one of particular interest being the Winter Wine Festival in late January.
  • Visit the Oak Meadows Buffalo Ranch for a close-up look at the mighty American Bison. (Closed Sundays)
  • Shaffner Farms has many seasonal activities to highlight their wares. A pumpkin patch and hay rides in the fall and fresh produce and berry picking in the warmer months.
  • Head down the back roads to visit the Running Anvil Carriage Museum. Check out how far transportation has come from horse-drawn buggies – not to mention how much easier transporting farm goods has become over the years. (Part of the Grays Harbor Museums passport plan. Purchase the passport for $2 at any Grays Harbor museum and receive cool discounts and gain museum cred around the county.)

There’s another type of farming very popular in the area during the winter holidays. If you happen to be in need of a Christmas tree, Montesano and the surrounding areas have quite a selection. A few of the options:

Me and Great Grandma Miner
Gratuitous holiday shot of me and Great Grandma Miner. We didn’t get our tree in Montesano.

Just a few miles west of Montesano sits Aberdeen, the largest city in the county. Billed as the ‘Lumber Capital of the World,’ it is also the birthplace of Kurt Cobain and the seminal Grunge band, Nirvana. (Formed with Aberdeen transplant, Krist Novoselic in 1987) Look to the right as you’re entering town to catch signage celebrating both the lumber industry as well as Kurt Cobain and Nirvana’s musical contribution. While I’ll admit Grunge isn’t and wasn’t my go-to musical style, it is hard to deny the profound influence Kurt Cobain and Nirvana had on not only the Seattle music scene of the 90s, but on popular culture overall. I also think it’s fair to say we can thank Aberdeen for the overabundance of flannel shirts and Doc Martens present in the 90s fashion scene. (Anyone remember the Vogue Magazine “Grunge” layout of 1992? Yowsa.)

On the topic of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, in addition to the “Come as You Are” sign, there are additional ways to pay homage to his memory while visiting the Aberdeen area. You can drive by his former home (which I will leave for you to find on your own) or visit the Kurt Cobain Memorial Park (On the 1100 block of East 2nd Street) and the adjacent Young Street Bridge. (On the muddy banks of the Wishkah, where it is rumored Kurt Cobain lived from time to time.)

Note on the memorial park and bridge: It is a very small area, located at the end of a neighborhood street with no official parking. Please be respectful of the neighbors.

After driving through the corridor of newer commerce as you enter Aberdeen on US-12, you’ll get to the older downtown section. While not a huge area, there are several gems tucked in amongst its streets. One of these gems is not only my favorite spot in Aberdeen, but one of my favorite spots anywhere. EVER.

Located on East Wishkah Street, the quirky, funky, awesomely chaotic Sucher & Sons Star Wars Shop is the stuff of nerd fantasies. That said, you don’t even have to be a Star Wars nerd to appreciate the place. My pal Char, for instance, is not a big Star Wars fan and was somewhat bewildered by my burning desire to make a stop. (You don’t like Star Wars, Char??? How are you one of my best friends?? :-}  Yet even she was amazed by the scope and character of the place. If you are a lifelong Star Wars junkie like I am, however, you could very well pass out in awe as you enter the store…

Tucked into every nook and cranny, mounted on every wall, hanging from the ceilings and lining the floors of the higgledy-piggledy aisles, Star Wars memorabilia from every era of the franchise is gloriously on display. Everything is for sale and this is definitely a store, but it could easily serve as a full-fledged Star Wars museum. Two of my favorite things in life – Star Wars and museums! (Swoon) I’m pretty sure I was walking around with a giant, doofy smile the entire time I was in the store. And if the sheer volume and variety of the extraordinary collection didn’t make me smile, hanging out and chatting with Don Sucher, the very enthusiastic owner certainly would have. The guy is made of stories and more than happy to regale you as you peruse the store. Additionally, he has an amazing collection of 45’s and concert posters lining the back wall – All shows he has seen!

I honestly could’ve spent all day here, but my credit card trigger finger was itching and we had many more miles of Grays Harbor County to investigate… But I WILL be back. Probably several times. Or more. (Someone please hide my credit cards…)

While initially waiting for the Star Wars shop to open, we stopped by Tinderbox Coffee Roasters for a delicious beverage. The staff was great, the space inviting and a singer-songwriter was setting up for an early Sunday set – very nice! We also entertained going next door to Steam Donkey Brewing Company and tasting room, but thought hot chocolate, coffee and beer might not be a good mix that early in the day. I shall save it for my next visit. It’s the first brewery in Aberdeen in 70 years and a nice addition to the downtown area – I’m intrigued! (Family friendly, closed Mon-Wed, outside food welcome)

Note: Sucher & Sons, the Tinderbox and Steam Donkey are all part of the Grays Harbor Museum Passport discount plan.

Additional places to visit while in the Aberdeen area:

  • Check out well-respected chef and owner, Andy Bickar’s Rediviva Restaurant in downtown Aberdeen. The restaurant features NW cuisine using locally-sourced and foraged produce, seafood, and meats.
  • For Washington State history buffs and fans of tall ships, be sure to visit the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport. Check out the sailing schedule before you go, but the state’s official ship, the Lady Washington is often in the harbor. The Lady Washington is a faithful, full-size replica of the original Lady Washington from the late 1700s. The original ship was the first American vessel to hit the shores of the west coast in 1788. She has been featured in many television shows and movies including Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Star Trek: Generations and Once Upon A Time.

The Aberdeen area is a fork in the road when deciding to head south on SR-105 towards Grayland and Westport or north on US-101 towards Ocean Shores, the Quinault Rainforest and the slew of northern beaches along SR-109. For this particular trip, we first went south to see what we could see…

SR-105, also known as the Cranberry Coast Scenic Byway branches off from US-101 in Aberdeen and goes down to the south coast. At Twin Harbors State Park, you can either head north a short ways towards Westport or go south and snake around the coast until you end up in the town of Raymond and back to US-101. Regardless of what route you take, there are stunning beaches and ocean views the entire drive as well as 1000 acres of cranberry bogs to investigate. Unfortunately, the winter isn’t the greatest time to visit the cranberry bogs, so we took a right near Twin Harbors State Park and headed towards Westport.

Traveling towards the coast on SR-105 and before coming to the fork to either Grayland or Westport, there are a few stops definitely worth visiting.

  • Wishkah River Distillery – Locally owned distillery featuring whiskey, gin and a very intriguing honey-distilled vodka. The tasting room is open Tuesday thru Saturday and well worth a visit.
  • Brady’s Oysters – Located right off SR-105 – Serving oysters and all manner of seafood directly from local waters.
  • Cranberry Road Winery – Situated at the fork between Grayland and Westport, they feature many varieties of wine, including their well-known cranberry wine. If you’re in need of lunch or dinner, they also feature wood-fired pizza along with NW-inspired fare.

Our favorite stop on the way towards the coast was the award-winning Westport Winery. (About halfway between Aberdeen and Westport proper) The winery grounds are nicely laid out and in the summer feature beautiful gardens and outdoor events. The in-house restaurant, the Sea Glass Grill features very tasty brunch, lunch and dinner options. Everything we tried on the menu was delicious and a very welcome accompaniment to the extensive wine tasting we did beforehand. Additionally, they have coffee and desserts to-go (including local ice cream) as well as a great gift shop. Both Char and I joined the wine club after our wine tasting session. Oh nooooooo – now we need to go back on a regular basis! What a tragedy. (They’ll actually ship your quarterly selections to you, but what a great excuse to take a beautiful drive!)

While we didn’t get to Grayland on this trip, there are many places I plan on further investigating in the warmer months.

Continuing north on SR-105, towards the town of Westport (and end of that section of the highway), the seaside vibe really starts to kick in. The coastal breezes bring with them the smell of the sea and you can see the sky widen as it opens up to the Pacific. Before arriving at the town center, be sure to check out the Westport Light State Park. Take time to explore the lovely Westport Light House (c. 1898 – on the National Register of Historic Places) and enjoy the rambling walk down to the beach. If you don’t feel like driving into Westport, take the 2.5 mile, largely paved trail north to Westhaven State Park and on to Half Moon Bay. (Near the town center and Westport shoreline.)

Note: It may initially seem odd to have a light house positioned so far off-shore. This is the result of large amounts of build-up due to the Grays Harbor jetty entrance, just off the beach at Westport. Originally, the lighthouse was positioned only 400 feet from shore, but presently sits 3000 feet away.

Westport Lighthouse
The stalwart Westport Lighthouse

The town of Westport, also known as the South Beach area, is a scenic peninsula flanked by the South Bay and Pacific Ocean. Known for its beautiful views, cool breakers and whale watching opportunities, the equally impressive Westport commercial fishing fleet receives the 5th largest delivery of seafood in the US. (Which means nothing but seafood deliciousness for Westport restaurants!)

It’s always a good time to visit Westport. A sunny day on the waterfront is lovely, but a stormy winter day can be breathtaking. Some of the cool things to do while visiting the area:

  • The observation tower at the north end of the Westport Marina, near Westhaven State Park is a great place to get a 360-degree view of the coast. It’s also a great place to watch the surfers braving the cold Pacific waters. Should you feel like braving the waters yourself, check out Bigfoot Surf School, the Sleepwater Surf Shop or Westport Surf Shop for information and rentals.
  • If you happen to be in town between March and May, you stand a good shot at seeing the grey whales come through the area. Check out one of the charter tours available in the area for a more close-up view. (From a respectful distance, of course)
  • To learn about marine life and the maritime history of Westport from the comfort of shore, check out the Westport Maritime Museum, located in downtown Westport.
  • The local waters are known for salmon, tuna, halibut and albacore. If you’d like to try your hand at catching your own, hit up one of the many fishing charters found on the main drag, across from the marina. Westport Charters and Deep Sea Charters are a couple of the many options.

Westport may be a small community, but there are plenty of tasty dining options to be found. Some of the spots are closed in the off-season, but you won’t have trouble finding something tasty year-round.  A few places of note:

  • Bennett’s Fish Shack is a very popular spot in Westport, located just across from the marina. They feature locally-caught seafood and I can’t say enough about their crab sandwich. DELICIOUS!! They also have a location in nearby Ocean Shores.
Downtown Westport
Fishing charters and donuts!
  • Granny Hazel’s Candy & Gifts is a funky, quirky and very fun gift shop located across from the marina. Need a Westport shot glass? Some crazy socks? DELICIOUS SALT WATER TAFFY? Granny Hazel’s has all the things.
  • Blackbeard’s Brewing – If seafood isn’t your thing, hit up Blackbeard’s for hand-tossed pizza and a tasty brew.
  • Merino’s Seafood Market & Cannery – Peek in on the inner-workings of this tiny seafood cannery and pick up some of their delicious wares while you’re at it. I grabbed one of their canned tuna variety packs and every single one was excellent. They also have a fish counter with delicacies such as smoked salmon and walking shrimp or crab cocktails. YUM!!
  • There are several ice cream options in Westport. What goes better on a hot day by the beach? (A margarita, perhaps? But I digress…) A few places to quell your cravings are Scoops (Reopens for the summer on 4/7) and Surfer Girl.

The South Beach area hosts many events and festivals throughout the year with late spring and summer being the most popular times. The Westport-Grayland Chamber of Commerce has a running calendar and the most up-to-date info. A couple of the more popular events are the World Class Crab Races, Crab Feed and Derby (4/20/19) and the Annual Seafood Festival and Craft Show at the end of August. If you happen to be looking for local lodging during any of the festivals, check out Chateau Westport Resort for comfortable options.

Westport
Beautiful waves crashing on the Westport breakers

After a very enjoyable visit to Westport, it was time to drive back towards Aberdeen on SR-105, over towards Hoquiam and on to the North Beach area.  I will admit to usually breezing through Aberdeen and its sister city, Hoquiam with more coastal destinations in mind. However, there are many wonderful spots to visit in both areas and I’m happy to have finally spent a bit more time investigating. (And embarrassed it took me so long)

Even if you also envision coastal destinations on the horizon, there are many entertaining places to enjoy along the way. The humble Hoquiam has some excellent options to add to your list:

  • Check out the historic, “atmospheric” 7thStreet Theatre (c. 1928) for a step back in time. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and has been beautifully restored beginning in the ‘90s. Check out the painted sky ceiling, featuring clouds and twinkling stars and enjoy classic films from many eras. (It was the first theatre in Washington State to show “talkies!”)
  • If migrating birds are your thing – and you’d like to check out upwards of one million of them in the spring or fall – Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge is a must visit destination.
  • For the crafter in you, the Grays Harbor Farmers Market & Craft Fair is open year-round for your crafting wants and needs. Not to mention produce, baked goods and more!
  • There are several great dining options in the Hoquiam area. Head to Hoquiam Brewing Co. for a great beer with a pizza or sandwich or the 8th Street Ale House for more great beer and a full menu featuring local seafood and pub favorites.

Just past Hoquiam, we turned off US-101 onto SR-109, also known as the Hidden Coast Scenic Byway. A good start to your northern beach tour is to take SR-109 and SR-115 over to Ocean Shores and then work your way back up north towards Taholah. However, on this particular journey, we initially went north on SR-109. If you have a few days and want to enjoy all the North Coast has to offer, start at Ocean Shores and work your way up north, stopping to take in the amazing beaches and little towns along the way.

Ocean Shores is a lovely peninsula town situated on the North Bay, at the north entrance to Grays Harbor and directly across the water from Westport. There used to be a ferry going between Westport and Ocean Shores which alleviated the need to drive all the way around Grays Harbor. There has been recent talk and movement towards reinstating this incredibly convenient and tourism-friendly route – I sincerely hope it happens. With horseback riding on the beach, camping, clamming, crabbing and much more to do in Ocean Shores, it would be amazing to quickly link up with neighboring Westport for a mega adventure!

A few trip ideas to get you started on your Ocean Shores adventure:

  • Known as the Razor Clam Capital of the World, the Ocean Shores area offers many opportunities to seek out and enjoy the delicious razor clam. Hit up the WDFW website for info about beaches and dates to dig. (Currently late March and specific dates in April) Note: You will need a shellfish/seaweed license for anyone over 15 years old.
  • Feel like driving your car on the beach? You can do it at Ocean Shores! (It’s actually considered a state highway with a speed limit of 25mph.) If something with two wheels is more your speed, rent a moped from Affordable Mopeds and hit the beach! Note: It is illegal to drive or ride horses through the marked clam bed areas.
  • I’ve yet to ride a horse on the beach and I’m going to do it next time I visit Ocean Shores! Check out Chenois Creek Horse Rentals for all your horse riding needs. (But don’t ride on the clam beds!)
  • Check out the Coastal Interpretive Center for displays of local habitats and to learn about the history of the coastal region and its native peoples
  • Hit up the North Coast Surf Shop if you want to get your surf on. Don’t forget to rent a wetsuit, too – it’s cold out there! Damon Point is one of the most popular surf spots in the Ocean Shores area.
  • Don’t miss the Ocean Shores Razor Clam Festival for all things deliciously razor clam! (Mid-March)
  • Chainsaws on the beach? Hit up Ocean Shores the last weekend of June and witness the Sand and Sawdust Festival – Carvers from North and South America carving up masterpieces on the beach! They’ve also got sandcastle building classes and a beer garden should chainsaws not be your jam. (June 28-30, 2019)

You’re going to need some good food and a roof over your head while visiting the Ocean Shores area. A few notable spots to help you on your culinary and lodging quests:

When initially traveling the winding, tree-lined SR-109 towards the north, it’s easy to forget a giant ocean lies in wait just up ahead. So close to the Olympic National Forest, you could just as easily be driving into the heart of the mountains. (Which are indeed in the opposite direction) SR-109 is a hidden gem of a Washington back road filled with old growth forest as well as beautiful, sandy beaches. It certainly makes sense why it’s referred to as the Hidden Coast Scenic Byway.

There are a multitude of perfect little beaches and towns tucked away along SR-109. Just up from Ocean Shores, you’ll find Ocean City State Park. Along with being able to drive on the beach, there are plenty of spots for clamming (in season and with permit), bird-watching, kite-flying, running like Rocky Balboa and general beach-going shenanigans. There is also a fairly large camping area with showers and bathrooms. (Discover Pass required)

Not too much further north on SR-109, you’ll come to Copalis Beach, home to some serious razor clamming pursuits. It’s a beautiful beach to visit, but if you’re interested in the clamming season or enjoying the beach in summer, definitely plan your stay well in advance. A great lodging option while in the area is the Iron Springs Resort. Built in the 40s, it’s been fully renovated beginning in 2010. Cabins, access to clamming and fishing, hiking, a general store and private beach – Everything you need! And if you happen to have a plane, you can land on the beach – the only legal beach airstrip in the United States, in fact! Copalis State Airport for the win! #LifeGoals

One of the most intriguing destinations in the Copalis Beach area is the eerie Copalis Ghost Forest. I actually haven’t visited yet, but it’s high on the list for my next adventure. The “ghost forest” is the result of a 6ft coastal land drop and flooding of salt water caused by the Cascadia Earthquake of 1700, which resulted in a deadly tsunami on the coast of Japan. The salt water created a marsh and the trees died very quickly, leaving behind a ghostly forest of silver trees and stumps. It’s less than a mile upriver from the bridge crossing the Copalis River on SR-109 and can be reached by canoe or kayak from an unofficial launch site in the middle of town. If you’re looking for local assistance with the somewhat obscure adventure, Buck’s Bikes in nearby Seabrook offers a guided tour.

Coastal Beaches
Beautiful Pacific Beach near Seabrook

Most of the “Hidden Coast” communities have been welcoming visitors to their shores for quite some time. A little newer to the lineup, however, is the seaside town of Seabrook. Being a planned community, one might think it would be lacking in charm. This is quite the contrary, however, as Seabrook’s classic Nantucket-style homes and seaside bluff location make for a charming and relaxing atmosphere. From the walkable town center to the quaint trail of gnomes leading down to the beach, Seabrook is a great addition to the stops along SR-109.

There are many things to do while in Seabrook. Some great options for your visit:

  • There are a lot of wonderful beach areas and coastal trails to explore in Seabrook. In addition to donning hiking boots, check out Buck’s Bikes for two-wheeled options – They also have surf boards and paddleboards.
  • Nearby Roosevelt Beach is incredibly expansive and a great place to take a walk or try out that paddleboard – and it allows vehicles. (25 mph speed limit – stay off the clam beds!)
  • If you’d like to stay in the area, hit up the Seabrook’s Washington Coast Rental site for beautiful cabins and homes in the area.
  • Seabrook has many events and activities going on throughout the year. Check out the free summer concerts on Friday evenings and stop in at the Savor Seabrook Seafood and Wine Festival (May 4) or the Bigfoot Brew Fest (Early Oct) to sample a local food and drink specialties.
  • There are several great dining options in the Seabrook area. Visit Mill 109 Restaurant & Pub for a tasty breakfast, lunch or dinner or Frontagers Pizza for a taste of brick-oven pizza and NW brews. Check out the Stowaway Wine Bar & Cheese Shop for a bit of wine-tasting or to stock up on goods for the cabin or beach and visit the Red Velvet Bakery by the Sea for coffee and baked goods. And don’t forget the obligatory ice cream and candy stop at The Sweet Life Ice Cream & Candy

Just a little ways north is the tiny seaside town of Pacific Beach. (Seabrook is technically part of Pacific Beach) There are plenty of camping spots at Pacific Beach State Park, not to mention one of the most amazing stretches of beach in the area. We were visiting that very beach when the tide was out and it seemed like we walked a half-mile out before we actually got to the sea. On a converse note, we weren’t particularly paying attention to when the tide was supposed to come back in or how quickly. That said, we ended up a good quarter-mile from shore – with our backs stupidly to the sea and lollygagging around – when we realized the tide was coming back in. We thought it interesting that a shallow swath of water was pushing well out in front of us… Gee, I wonder why??? For the record, we both knew better. Pro tip: Don’t stand with your back to the sea… Good grief.

In addition to the lodging opportunities of the Seabrook area, the Ocean Crest Resort (and restaurant!) and the Sand Dollar Inn and Condos are also solid options. If you’re feeling hungry after dodging the tides on the beach or writing your name in sand, head over to the Seagate Restaurant & Lounge for casual dining with a relaxed beach vibe. If chocolate is your thing, the Chocolate on the Beach Festival (Feb) celebrates the entire Hidden Coast community with all things chocolate.

Heading further north, you’ll come upon the community of Moclips and just a little further at the end of SR-109, you’ll hit Taholah, home of the Quinault Nation. Visit the Museum of the North Beach in Moclips to learn about the western settlements and swanky vacation lands of the early 1900s Pacific coast and definitely make time to visit the Quinault Cultural Museum in Taholah. The Quinault Nation is comprised of the Quinault and Queets tribes and descendants of the Quileute, Hoh, Chehalis, Chinook and Cowlitz tribes. This distinguished group of Native Americans have been the stewards of the Pacific Coast since time immemorial.

For this particular journey, it was time to head back home. However, we decided to first make a detour to the Quinault Rain Forest to get a dose of lush, otherworldly forest before the drive back. (The Quinault Rain Forest averages 12ft of rain a year and is one of only three temperate coniferous rain forests in the western hemisphere.) To get back to US-101 from SR-109, there are a few options. A popular route is to take the Moclips Highway back over to US-101. Since I’d never driven through the Humptulips area, we opted for Copalis Beach Road (off SR-109 near Copalis Beach) to Kirkpatrick Road instead. Both roads are beautiful two-lane drives which take you through forest and pastured land, winding along the Humptulips River and ending at Humptulips Grocery off US-101. The bonus to this route was getting the opportunity to say “Humptulips” at least 72 times. (Humptulips is an old Salish word of the native Chehalis tribe meaning “hard to pole” or “chilly place,” depending on the source. Come on – this is a family show.)

Humptulips Grocery
Humptulips, Humptulips, HUMPTULIPS!

After taking a left onto US-101 at Humptulips Grocery, we followed the road another half-hour to the turn-off for Lake Quinault Lodge. (Humptulips, Humptulips, HUMPTULIPS) Located two miles up the South Shore Road and inside Olympic National Park, the lodge is a an absolutely marvelous and hearkens back to an era of elegant exploration of the wilds. (Because even out in the middle of the forest, you still dressed for dinner!)

Built in 1926 and on the National Register of Historic Places, it played a very important role in the “Mount Olympus National Monument” (Created by Teddy Roosevelt in 1909 to help preserve the Roosevelt Elk habitat) becoming a national park. The rumor is Franklin D. Roosevelt, on a tour of the area in fall of 1937, was sitting in the lodge when he made the decision to create Olympic National Park. He officially signed the bill in 1938 and 634,000 acres became Park land. Most of the coastal wilderness was added later, in 1953, making the present park nearly one million acres. Olympic National Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as an International Biosphere Reserve. The Park is amazing, immense and filled with wonder. I can’t imagine anyone fully being able to explore its offerings within a lifetime…

We were visiting the lodge during the holidays and it was beautifully decked out for the season. It would be completely easy to cozy up inside the lodge any time of the year, drinking hot toddies or dining in the Roosevelt Dining Room or playing card games and listening to the lodge piano. Sign me up! However, it would be an absolute shame not to take in all the offerings of the lodge grounds – any time of year. (Albeit a little more wet during the winter) Plentiful hiking trails, boat tours on the beautiful Lake Quinault, paddle-boarding, kayaking and canoeing and general lounging on the grounds are just a few of the options. The lodge itself reminds me of a summer retreat, ala Dirty Dancing, but the grounds and lake area really put the icing on the ‘nobody puts Baby in a corner’ cake. Visit the Lake Quinault Museum located across from the lodge to take in more of the history of the lodge and check out the adjacent Quinault Mercantile to enjoy a quick meal or stock up for your area adventure.

The hiking opportunities are amazing in the park, but there’s also an amazing road trip to be had around the lake – no heavy backpack required. Drive or bike the 31-mile loop drive around the lake known as The Quinault Loop to experience some of the most amazing scenery in the country. It’s comprised of the South Shore and North Shore roads and winds through an amazing cross-section of the park. Visit Merriman Falls, part of the Olympic Peninsula Waterfall Trail, stop at the Quinault River and Quinault River Bridge, hike out to the Kestner Homestead (on the National Register of Historic Places) and generally revel in the breathtaking beauty of the Park.

To say there are A LOT of hiking and camping opportunities in the area would be putting it mildly. There are three National Forest campgrounds at Lake Quinault – Two are reservation-only, via the Recreation.gov site. (Walk-in sites may be available on a daily basis via the front desk at lodge) If you plan on backpacking into backcountry camping areas, you will need a wilderness permit from a National Park office. You will also need bear canisters to deter the plentiful local wildlife from raiding your supplies.

A few of the main campsite options in the area:

  • Willaby Campground – Located on the South Shore and appropriate for tents and smaller RVs. USDA Forest Service – Reservation only.
  • Falls Creek Campground – Located on the South Shore and appropriate for tents and smaller RVs. USDA Forest Service – Reservation only.
  • Gatton Creek Campground – Walk-in tent sites located on the South Shore – no reservations. Part of Olympic National Forest.
  • Graves Creek Campground – National Park Service site located on the Upper South Shore, deep in the rain forest. First come, first-served – No RVs or trailers. The trailhead to Enchanted Valley is close by.
  • North Fork Campground – National Park Service site located on the Upper North Shore. First come, first-served – not recommended for RVs or trailers. Close to the trailhead to the Skyline Trail. Another great trail located in the North Shore area is the 13-mile, round-trip Elip Creek Trail.
  • Consider checking out the Lake Quinault Mushroom Festival in October to learn all about the amazing stock of delicious mushrooms you might come across while hiking in the area. Yum!

Pro Tip: Make campsite reservations well in advance if offered. Some campsites are only open seasonally – check before you go.

Lake Quinault Lodge and the local campsites are all excellent ideas for an Olympic National Park or Forest getaway. However, as the area is incredibly large, there are of course several other stellar options available. Here are just a few:

  • Rain Forest Resort Village– Home of the world’s largest Spruce tree, the Rain Forest Resort Village has many things to offer. Enjoy a delicious meal at The Salmon House Restaurant and relaxing days hanging out on Lake Quinault. On a giant tree note, the spruce tree at the resort is one of the standouts in the spectacular Valley of the Rain Forest Giants. (Contains the largest Sitka spruce in the world, along with giant Hemlock, Douglas Fir, Western Red and Alaska Cedars) They also have a General Store and gift shop for your lakeside needs.
  • Lochaerie Resort(c. 1926) – Beautiful rustic cabins on the North Shore of Lake Quinault – Just inside the park off US-101.
  • Quinault River Inn – Located just off US-101 on the Quinault River, by the Amanda Park Mercantile, the Quinault River Inn features comfortable lodging and provides a great base from which to explore the Olympic Rain Forest. They also have RV sites available.

With the daylight long having faded and the rain long having kicked up, it was time to head home to Seattle. We would, however, soon take another “follow-up” trip to the area, just to make sure we didn’t miss anything. Okay, and also to revisit the Westport Winery. We’re wine club members, after all. We felt it important to check in on the state of our quarterly delivery. And maybe just pick it up a little early…

Just like the state of Washington, Grays Harbor County offers an amazing array of activity, scenery, history and opportunity within its lovely borders. I’d be hard-pressed to name another place where I could see one of the world’s most extensive Star Wars shops, walk on some of the world’s longest beaches, check out some of the world’s largest trees and enjoy some of the world’s best razor clams all in the frame of a day. Grays Harbor is a gold mine and I’m looking forward to returning again and again to uncover more of its beauty.

Until next time – Cheers – and eat the state!

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I Ate the State: Grays Harbor County – The Spotify Playlist (We were feeling a bit of the Yacht Rock vibe at the beginning of our adventure…)

  • A Horse with No Name – America (from America)
  • Reelin’ in the Years – Steely Dan (from Can’t Buy a Thrill)
  • Any Major Dude Will Tell You – Steely Dan (from Pretzel Logic)
  • Drift Away – Doby Gray (from Drift Away)
  • Sailing – Christopher Cross (from Christopher Cross)
  • Biggest Part of Me – Ambrosia (from One Eighty)
  • Steal Away – Robbie Dupree (from Robbie Dupree)
  • Love Will Find a Way – Pablo Cruise (from Worlds Away)
  • Escape (The Pina Colada Song) – Rupert Holmes (from Partners in Crime)
  • Come Sail Away – Styx (from The Grand Illusion)
  • Come as You Are – Nirvana (from Nevermind)
  • All Apologies – Nirvana (from In Utero)
  • Heart-Shaped Box – Nirvana (from In Utero)
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit – The Bad Plus (from These Are the Vistas)
  • Star Wars (Main Theme) – John Williams & The London Symphony Orchestra (from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  • Relatively Easy – Jason Isbell (from Southeastern)
  • These Days – Glen Campbell w/Howard Willing & Julian Raymond (from Meet Glen Campbell)
  • Killing the Blues – Robert Plant & Alison Krauss (from Raising Sand)
  • Wichita Lineman (Like at RAK) – Villagers (from Where Have You Been All My Life?)
  • HUMPTULIPS – The Shivering Denizens (from The Shivering Denizens)
  • Driving Without Purpose – Ylvis (from Stories from Norway: Northug)
Star Wars
Okay. I did buy a couple of things at the Star Wars shop…

 

More I Ate the State Adventures:

I Ate the State – Special Edition: SCOTLAND – Part I (w/special guests – London & Reykjavik)

As far back as I can remember, I’ve had a wanderlust. Whether as a child sneaking off to investigate the neighborhood or as a road-tripping adult discovering the next state over, exploring has long been core to my identity. I’ve always loved the sense of home and belonging, but it seemed so much more poignant upon returning from an adventure. I was excited to be home with family, but equally excited to share stories of the new friends and family I’d met along the way. Those feelings were exponentially intensified when I took my first trip abroad. The world suddenly became very large and very small, all at the same time and I was amazed at how connected I felt to people and places on the other side of the planet. The idea firmly took root that we all have many ‘homes’ and ‘families’ – all over the world. There was simply no turning back from the amazing sense of scope and wonder I had experienced.

I’ve been completely changed and moved by chance encounters with strangers over the years – some of whom I’d never see again and some who have now become dear friends and family. If only one of my tales has moved someone I’ve met along the way and inspired their own sense of wanderlust or of belonging on the other side of the world, I will count myself lucky among storytellers.

And on that note, a few tales from my most recent adventure abroad…

Morning Glow
A dreamy morning drive to to Loch Ness

As my friend Kristen and I embarked upon what we had dubbed our Scottish Tour of Destiny, I was a few days into a nasty cold, winter travel conditions were in effect, there were only a few hours of light per day in the areas we were headed and we’d planned an action-packed itinerary with multiple flights to make it work… What could possibly go wrong? (Which would soon become the catchphrase of the journey…) Throw in driving on the wrong side of the road (and the wrong side of the car) through torrential rain and gale-force winds and we had ourselves an epic adventure in the making.

We’d taken advantage of an airfare sale through Icelandair earlier in the year, so our outbound and return flights included layovers in Reykjavik. (I’ve always wanted to visit Iceland and why not do it for free!) On the day of our departure, we got to the airport in plenty of time, security was relatively easy-going and we had ample time to relax before boarding our flight to Reykjavik. But then, just as we were to begin boarding, it was announced we’d be departing FOUR hours late as the AC wasn’t working on the plane and they’d have to find us a new one.  This also meant we’d be missing our connecting flight to London and likely our entire first day in London. (Pro tip: Don’t plan anything for the first 36 hours of a trip that requires advance-purchase tickets. We almost opted to do the Harry Potter lot tour our first day and are SO glad we didn’t!)

While we lingered at our home airport, stretching out the $15 food vouchers the airline had given us, we chatted with fellow passengers and generally passed the time. It’s fascinating, the stories you’ll hear when randomly visiting with strangers. There were also a few passengers who were definitely of the ‘glass half empty (if that)’ variety and they had no trouble dragging everyone else into their world. Never mind we were all in the same boat, so to speak. (Insert eye roll *here*) Just be cool. Harassing the airline desk attendants isn’t going to get you there any faster… We did, however, meet some pretty cool people and make a friend or two along the way.

First Meal
Not quite Scottish fare, but we were stuck at our home airport for a bit…

One woman in particular, Karen, was on the way to help her son move to Finland. She was transporting a rather large load of belongings for him and was worried the luggage wouldn’t follow on her new route. We were all being placed on new connections out of Reykjavik, but the airline wasn’t updating anyone until we arrived in Iceland – and the way the flights were looking, it seemed like we’d be staying the night in Reykjavik while things were sorted. It all felt like a pretty nebulous crap-shoot…To make matters worse for Karen, she didn’t have a cell phone and had packed her list of phone numbers in what was supposed to be her carry-on. Which they annoyingly made her check at the gate… (Something similar happened to Kristen and our foolproof, don’t-have-to-worry-about-checked-luggage-not-making-the short-connection plan was thwarted. Airlines and their shrinking carry-on allowances… Gah!)

Because Karen had no phone or phone numbers, she was unable to alert her son to her travel changes and he would likely be very worried. She did, however, know the email address of her other son. I used my phone to email him – hoping he wouldn’t dismiss the message as spam – and alert him to the changes. He, in turn, got a hold of his brother, gave him the scoop and got back to me. Technology! When we finally arrived in Reykjavik, I let Karen borrow my phone to call her son – crisis averted and all was well.

I’ve definitely benefited from the kindness of strangers on my own journeys and it was nice to pay it forward this time. Because we’d chosen to strike up a random conversation and get to know a stranger, we were all able to pass the time more enjoyably, everyone got where they needed to go (and with luggage!) and we made a new friend. One with whom I ended up having much in common! I also have family in Finland, we both share a lifelong wanderlust and have a knack for meeting people along the way. You just never know when you’re going to make a new friend. (Her seat was even next to Kristen on the flight – kismet!)

After we finally boarded our flight, we were on our way to snowy Iceland. It was stormy, but things were off to a decent start when all of the sudden the turbulence began. I’m a pretty mellow flier, but this was turbulence the likes of which I’ve rarely experienced – some of the worst ever, in fact. (I overheard a flight attendant saying it was the worst she’d experienced in 24 years.) The oxygen didn’t deploy, but people were actually screaming – and I did find myself thinking, “Wow – is this how it’s going to end??” (We also weren’t even out of Washington State yet!) Things did eventually settle down, but it was one of those experiences where you make fast friends with the strangers next to you… Even more friends along the way! It may have also lead to a few glasses of wine during the flight… Heh.

While we didn’t end up staying the night in Reykjavik, we did spend an entire morning and afternoon hanging out at the airport waiting for our rescheduled connection. (The sun rose at 11am and set around 3pm!) Icelandair also gave us rather large vouchers to spend on food, so we entertained ourselves by sampling Icelandic fare and doing some shopping. The main part of the airport is quite modern and open and it was actually enjoyable to hang out and explore. The international departure section of the airport, however, was a long, narrow gauntlet of crowded confusion. I even had the “pleasure” of running through the airport, dodging other travelers as I attempted to get to my departure gate. (They only made ONE announcement and it happened to be the “final” one. My sickly lungs were not happy with the situation…) Once we made it onto our London connection, everything smoothed out. The flight was calm and aside from the one hour circle-tour we were forced to endure over Heathrow, we finally touched down in merry old England.

With the craziness of our journey to London finally at an end, we arranged an Uber to our first night of lodging. (Uber is now in most of the major UK cities) As it was now dark and later in the evening, it was a little tricky finding our way down to the 100-year old Danish fishing barge situated on the shores of the River Thames. With a little help from a local shopkeeper, we found our way and were greeted by our lovely hosts. You never know what gems you’re going to find on Airbnb and this was definitely one of them. Granted, for someone getting sicker by the hour, sleeping on a drafty, vintage barge might not have been the best laid plan. However, for sheer uniqueness, it was worth it and I’m glad we braved the cold. Additionally, our hosts were incredibly kind and very understanding about our late arrival and gave us several great tips about getting around London. It was also pretty spectacular to wake up to a brilliantly sunny morning on the Thames.

As we’d missed our first day in London, we were forced to pare down our sightseeing before heading on to Edinburgh that afternoon. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting London several times in the past, so it wasn’t a total tragedy – and we knew we’d have another partial day at the end of the trip. That said, we still wanted to make the most of the few hours we had and tried to pack in as much as possible. After a hot cup of tea and a round of DayQuil, I was ready to go!

Since we’d booked our train to Edinburgh out of London Kings Cross, we took the Tube over from our spot on the Thames. Once at Kings Cross, we located the Excess Baggage shop to temporarily stow our luggage (I love this service!) and immediately opted to check out the Harry Potter shop at Platform 9 ¾ . I’m not gonna lie – I took a few dorky pics of the Platform 9 ¾ wall. Being a bit of a Harry Potter fan girl, it was tough to make it out of the shop without making major purchases. However, since we knew we’d be hitting up the mother-lode Harry Potter studio lot tour later on our trip, we muddled through.

Pro Tip: Arrange your long distance UK train trips ahead of time using the Trainline app or website. Trainline is indispensable! Also invest in an Oyster Card once you get to London. You can find card dispensing machines in all major Tube stations. Another helpful travel aide is the City Mapper Transit Navigation app. It’s great for giving you the quickest route and transportation type to get where you’re going.  (Works in many major cities around the world!)

Next on the agenda was to grab a quick lunch while cramming in as much sightseeing as possible. We made a quick pit stop at the *Pret A Manger shop at Kings Cross, but our main foodie pilgrimage was a visit to one of my favorite places on the planet, Fortnum and Mason. (Supplying London with delicious wares since 1707!) I stop in every time I visit London and it’s near impossible to leave the store without a big basket of delectable goods. Sadly, as we were only on Day 2 of our journey and had very limited luggage space, I had to greatly restrain my purchasing. However, I did stock up for the train ride with a Scotch egg, shrimp sandwich, dreamy Turkish Delight and assorted baked goods from their downstairs deli counters. For the record, I don’t remotely care how crass I looked as I shoved that Scotch egg down my gullet while standing outside the store. Fancy store entry or not – that Scotch egg needed to be eaten and STAT. It was DELICIOUS.

* London has no shortage of delicious, grab-and-go food options, but the main train and tube stations are a fine place to grab tasty sustenance on the run. Not to mention, a great place to check out trendy shops, bookstore, pharmacies, etc. Very convenient!

After fueling up on Scotch eggs and a fresh round of DayQuil, we popped in next door to Hatchard’s bookshop. (Their nearby Piccadilly location is London’s oldest bookshop, c. 1787) Aside from taking in the multi-floor shop, Kristen was also on the hunt for an Edinburgh “pop-up” map and they had an extensive map and travel guide section. I was also hoping to stop in at The Royal Academy of Arts, located just across the way from Fortnum & Mason, but we were running short on time and needed to get back to Kings Cross. I’ve visited the Royal Academy on past adventures, but never tire of taking in the amazing displays. Also not to be missed in the immediate vicinity is the tourist spectacle that is Piccadilly Circus. Jumbotron advertisement screens, crazy traffic, double-decker buses – Take it all in!

Back at Kings Cross, while waiting for our train to begin boarding, we met a little boy and his somewhat weary grandmother. Not only was he incredibly chatty and animated, he took it upon himself to entertain us with several tunes from his school’s recent Christmas pageant. Sort of felt like a scene out of Love Actually… It was a fairly amusing way to pass the time and a nice accompaniment to contemplating all the things I love about London and places I’ve visited on past adventures.

(Note: This is but a tiny tasting. I’m pretty sure you could live a lifetime in London and never see it all!)

  • National Gallery – Located in Trafalgar Square. Hands down, a must visit gallery. Rubens, Titian, Cezanne, Seurat, Monet, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Michelangelo, Raphael, da Vinci, Botticelli – COME ON!!!
  • National Portrait Gallery – Also near Trafalgar Square and not to be missed!
  • The Regents Park and Primrose Hill – I used to stay at the nearby International Students House during my earlier visits to London and spent a lot of time at Regents Park. It’s lovely and also home to the London Zoo and the Open Air Theatre. (Shakespeare in the park – and more!) Also close to Regents Park is Baker Street and the Sherlock Holmes Museum (221b) and the original Madame Tussauds. (c. 1884)
  • Hyde Park – A London classic. You can’t go wrong with a visit to Hyde Park. It’s beautiful, expansive and always entertaining. The willow trees and swans of The Serpentine are stunning, the Rose Garden absolutely beautiful and Speaker’s Corner is never dull.
  • Greenwich Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site) – Stand on the Prime Meridian and experience the impetus of modern measurement. (Greenwich Mean Time has been the standard of timekeeping since 1884) Pop into the Royal Observatory (they offer classes) and check out the beauty of the Cosmos at the London Planetarium. The famous Cutty Sark is also “harbored” at the park.
  • Tower of London (UNESCO World Heritage Site) – The storied palace grounds, the imposing Tower of London ravens, the haunted chambers, the famous prisoners, the daunting fortress walls, the expansive armory, the British crown jewels – An amazing display of history and intrigue to explore!
  • Harrods – Quintessential shopping in the heart of London. Spectacle, excess, delicious treats, delectable dining, things you could never afford – all on 7 floors, in 330 departments!! Why not??
  • Marks and Spencer – Check out the Oxford Street flagship store for a bit of classic British shopping. I swear by their tights and their knickers are ever the UK favourite. I’m also fond of grocery shopping in their food section.
  • The British Museum – One of the most amazing museums of ALL TIME. I can’t say enough. Go there!! See statues from the Parthenon, take in the amazing Egyptian wing – marvel at the Rosetta Stone! Honestly. Don’t miss it!
  • Notting Hill – Ridiculously charming, funky and entertaining London neighborhood w/colorful houses, cool shops and clubs and meandering roads. Check out Portobello Road on Fridays and Saturdays for the full market experience, complete with amazing antique vendors. The spectacular Natural History Museum is nearby and a must-see for any lover of epic fossils – dinosaurs and more!
  • Buckingham Palace – For all things royal. Imagine yourself as an extra in The Crown or Victoria and channel the long history of the English / British monarchy. (Not all having taken place at Buckingham Palace, of course)
  • Westminster Abbey (UNESCO World Heritage Site) – Over 1000 years of history, the abbey is home to all British coronations since 1066 and has played host to a bevy of weddings, funerals and epic moments in world history.
  • Kensington Palace is one of my favorite places to visit in London. Former home of Princess Diana and present home to her sons and their families, it is also home to the lovely Orangery at Kensington Gardens and Kensington Gardens, If you’re in need of a traditional high tea experience, the Kensington Palace Pavilion and Tea Room is the only place you can have traditional afternoon tea on royal palace grounds.
  • Houses of Parliament – The counterpart to the royal set, the stunning Houses of Parliament with its iconic Big Ben is the governing arm of modern Britain and its constitutes. (Note: Big Ben is currently undergoing a 4 year renovation as of 2017, including the Elizabeth Tower / Great Bell (Big Ben) and Great Clock)
  • In addition to the incredibly convenient and extensive London Tube, take a Cruise on the Thames to see London from a different angle – or hop on/hop off one of the classic double-decker bus tours for a best-of-London extravaganza. There are so many ways to see and enjoy London!

Since we were leaving later in the afternoon, there wasn’t much scenery to enjoy along the way to Edinburgh. Winter nights fall quickly and most of the journey was spent simultaneously nodding off to NyQuil and defending my personal space from the guy next to me. I’ve taken this journey before and there’s nothing like rolling into Edinburgh and getting your first glimpse of the castle on the hill. This time, however, the scene was dark and groggy as we pulled into Waverly Station, located in the heart of Edinburgh and situated between the Old Town and New Town. (Both included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Upon disembarking from the train, we were hit with just how chilly it was that evening. I’m normally a giant fan of frigid temps (that aforementioned Finnish heritage), but this was some serious, countenance-challenging cold. Granted, I’m sure my worsening sickness (and all it was turning into) was partially to blame for my lack of tolerance, but the cold seemed to reach directly into my bones and squeeze. Our Airbnb wasn’t too far away, so grabbing a taxi seemed silly, but I’ll fully admit to lamenting each step as we slogged our way through the cold. However, since we were surrounded by the stunning winter beauty of Old Town Edinburgh, I was absolutely willing to power through.

For the record, Edinburgh is one of my favorite places in the entire world. I first visited Scotland in 1995 with the intent of working in Edinburgh as part of a university work-study program. (I ended up at a little inn in the Northern Highlands, but more on that later) As I mentioned earlier, there is nothing like rolling into Edinburgh on a sunny day and catching that first glimpse of Edinburgh Castle. I immediately fell in love with the city and those feelings have never since waned. Cold, hot, sunny, stormy – Any time of the year, Edinburgh is one of the most amazing, magical and intriguing places to be found. Adding it’s one of the most artist-friendly cities in the world and deemed one of Europe’s most haunted locales assures there will never be a dull day in Edinburgh.

Piper
Lone piper on the Royal Mile (Photo credit: K. Spoor)

Upon arriving at our very charming flat located directly on the history-laden Royal Mile, our equally charming Airbnb host greeted us with a personal tour of the flat and a lovely gift basket. Scottish hospitality is a wonderful thing and we felt very welcome in our temporary home. Looking out of my bedroom window and finding The World’s End pub located directly across the street was an unexpected bonus. (The World’s End used to mark the edge of the walled-city of the Old Town and was to many of the residents housed inside, the actual world’s end. It also plays into the story-line of Voyager, the third book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.)

  • Nerd Alert: Outlander is one of the inspirations that originally brought me to Scotland – along with the first Highlander And the Highlander television series. Time traveling and immortal Scotsmen?? Yeah, I was totally on board… Still am, in fact. Additionally, the Outlander series has now been fabulously adapted for television on the STARZ network. Check out this local Outlander guide for a good list of spots to investigate during your Edinburgh visit.

Since our Fortnum and Mason wares had worn off and we were bursting at the seams with the excitement of being in Edinburgh, we dumped our bags and headed up the Royal Mile to find some Scottish cuisine. Also on the agenda was to meet up with our friend, Piotr, who was joining us for the Edinburgh portion of our adventure. He was doing his own UK exploration with further travels in Poland, but had popped into Edinburgh for a few Scottish exploits along the way. Since he had arrived in town earlier in the day, he was able to procure a table at the crowded Deacon Brodie’s on the Royal Mile. (The duplicitous William “Deacon” Brodie inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) It’s a bit touristy, but classic and their fish pie and hot toddy were just what I needed to power up in the cold. (It should be noted that Kristen ordered her first meat pie (Of MANY) that night. And okay, I ordered my first hot toddy… (Of MANY) Suffice to say, we were both on personal journeys to hunt down the tastiest versions of each.)

After dinner, we braved the cold (snow was forecast!) and walked up and down the Royal Mile. Famously located at the top of the Royal Mile is Edinburgh Castle. We were planning on an official visit the next day, but wanted to check out its majesty in the brisk, Scottish night. The castle is always beautiful, but under a cold, starry sky, it was positively stunning and foreboding. To think of the near thousand years of history housed within its walls is absolutely mind-boggling. It’s hard to follow up that kind of pedigree, but walking back down the Royal Mile and taking in the activity still taking place along its well-worn cobblestones with adjoining closes, wynds and courtyards was equally remarkable. It’s also home to scores of excellent pubs from which to grab a perfectly poured pint or (another) hot toddy.

HotToddy
The first hot toddy of the trip!

On the topic of hot toddies, I furthered my research with a stop at the pub located on the street level of our flat.  No. 1 High Street is a cozy Edinburgh pub offering classic Scottish cuisine and tasty beverages. They are also more than happy to put your beverage in a to-go cup to add warmth to your outdoor escapades. No. 1 High Street would be our last stop before a much needed sleep, but this was good to note for the next day’s outings.

  • For a more detailed list of pub offerings in Edinburgh, check out the Edinburgh Heritage Pub Trail. (The World’s End is included on the list!)

The sun doesn’t rise quite as late as further north, but it still wasn’t until around 8:30am that light shown on the horizon.  When it did finally make itself known, the morning sky was bright blue and shot through with pinkish-purple clouds. It looked like a cold and lovely start to a full day in Edinburgh.

The first point of business for the beautiful morning was to enjoy a proper fry-up breakfast. I’d very much been looking forward to this for quite some time and was excited to check out our options. As suspected, there was no shortage of possibilities and we settled on a spot near the University of Edinburgh by the name of Brunch & Supper. (Famed University of Edinburgh graduates such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle help give Edinburgh its distinct literary flavor.) Following a brisk walk to the restaurant, we met up with Piotr and plotted the day over our tasty breakfasts. I have to say, I’ve greatly missed the hearty fry-up breakfast and it was especially enjoyable on a chilly winter morning.

A few more options for breakfast in the Old Town area:

  • The Inn on the Mile – A lovely boutique inn and restaurant directly on the Royal Mile. Formerly the British Linen Bank – reminds me of Gringotts!
  • The Edinburgh Larder – Cool spot on Blackfriars Street
  • The City Café – 50s-style diner with breakfasts my friends swear by (We tried to go on the day we left, but they weren’t open yet!)
  • The Baked Potato Shop – Okay, maybe not a traditional breakfast, but “jacket potatoes” are delicious any time of the day!

After gorging ourselves on breakfast, a bit of walking around was in order. On every visit to Edinburgh, I’ve wanted to check out The Scotch Whisky Experience (and barrel ride!) located just down from the castle. As Kristen sadly doesn’t like whisky (the horror!), she decided to venture around the city on a photography pilgrimage. (Some of her excellent shots are featured in this article) Piotr, however, was down for some late-morning whisky, so off we went. I mean, come on – we were in Scotland on a brisk winter morning. What frames the picture better than some whisky tasting?  (Pro Tip: Scotch whisky does not contain an “e” in its spelling. Don’t add one. DON’T DO IT. Case in point, if you happen to work at a tiny Highland inn and accidentally drop one in on the daily menu, you could very well be lectured for hours…)

Wow – what a fine way to spend the morning! The tour was very entertaining and educational. It involved riding in a giant whisky barrel while gently winding through whisky-centric presentations and fun displays. Think adult version of the Teacups ride… (Note: The ride is not jarring and you do it before the whisky tasting.) After the ride you get to explore additional displays as well as take in a well done video about the five distilling regions of Scotland and history of single-malts and blended whiskies. (Complete with a corresponding scratch-n-sniff card!) The tour then wraps up with a mini-class on Scotch tasting and a visit to the world’s largest, privately held whisky collection. Housed in a large room, the collection is comprised of several cabinets, stretching floor to ceiling. It was… breathtaking. #WHISKYGOALS

In addition to the tasting and souvenir whisky glass included in the standard tour, we opted to level up and invested in a bonus tasting at the end. (Because why wouldn’t you??) Appointed with a lovely bar, a beautiful view of the city and a fine selection of whisky, it was a great place to put our newly acquired tasting skills to the test. As I was ill and not quite myself – and a bit off in equilibrium – I sadly spilled one of my whiskies on the way up to our table. Embarrassing! (I’d only had ONE dram at that point, so it wasn’t whisky influenced…) The staff, however, was nonplussed and very kind about refilling my spillage. Wasting good whisky is pretty much a Scottish crime and I was very happy they were so accommodating.

In a nutshell, the tour was absolutely worth it and I’d do it again – and it really did aid in my whisky tastings along the course of our adventure. I wish I could’ve fit some of the golden nectar from their extensive gift shop into my luggage as well as checked out their restaurant/whisky bar, but I’ll be back. In the meantime – Slàinte mhath! (The proper Gaelic toast we learned on the tour. It means “Good health!” and is pronounced slan-ja-va.)

After the tour, we were a bit peckish, so we hit up the Café Hub in the Edinburgh International Festival headquarters, just a few doors down from the whisky tour. The Hub, formerly known as the Tolbooth Kirk, is a beautiful old church and dramatic contributor to the Old Town skyline. It was interesting to see the Gothic-style architecture and vaulted ceilings juxtaposed with the modern trappings of a festival and event headquarters. It was quite the lovely backdrop for the tea and scones with clotted cream and preserves we ordered in the café. They were rather tasty and a great way to prepare for the cold walk around the castle grounds.

From nearly every section of the Old and New Towns, it’s possible to catch a glimpse of the amazing Edinburgh Castle, perched high on Castle Rock. The imposing, stunning castle dominates the city, successfully having guarded it from a near millennia of action and upheaval.  I’ve made a point to visit the castle on every trip and am fairly certain I will make time on all future visits. It would be impossible to thoroughly take in everything on one visit, not to mention be completely exhausting. The castle grounds are extensive with winding cobblestone paths that navigate around a fully-functioning town within a town. A beautiful chapel, royal lodgings, military barracks, great halls, a prison/dungeon, the Scottish crown jewels, museums and fortified castle walls with armaments to protect the castle from all sides are some of the highlights of any visit.

After the castle, we walked down the Royal Mile, taking in the scene and visiting various tourist shops. One of the places I’d been curious about on past visits was the Tartan Weaving Mill, located directly across from the castle. It’s a bit of a tourist trap, but it was very cool to see the looms at work making true Scottish tartan. If you happen to be in the market for trinkets and souvenirs, this is a good place to one-stop shop. They also have onsite genealogists to help one trace their Scottish roots and all sorts of wares to aid showing off any heritage you should uncover. Check out the Heritage of Scotland site for an example of the types of textiles offered.

It had been a gloriously sunny day with bright blue skies, but the daylight was beginning to fade and the temperature was dropping. We decided it was time to head “home” to layer up with warmer gear before venturing down to the epic Christmas Market. A beautiful holiday tradition (and FREE!), the Christmas Market is located in the *New Town in the beautiful Princes Street Garden and across from Edinburgh’s quintessential shopping destination, Princes Street. (Not to mention the stellar Scottish National Gallery and the soaring Scott Monument) Taking advantage of the lovely to-go service at the pub downstairs, we stopped in for a hot toddy to help keep us warm on the walk. (It’s a well-known fact hot toddies are good for what ails ye. WELL KNOWN.)

*The New Town isn’t really that new – especially by US standards. It was built between 1767 and 1850.

Even though the temperature continued to drop and we realized how ill-equipped we actually were for the frigid cold, it was a beautiful night to take in all the Christmas Market had to offer. We wandered through the artist’s stalls and holiday vendors, marveled at the beautiful lights and carnival rides and partook of the delicious food and drink offerings throughout the market. There were SO many scrumptious options, including countless stalls selling hot toddies, Glühwein and tasty hot chocolate and coffee beverages. Not only were there delicious Scottish fares to enjoy, there were many vendors featuring food and drink from around the world. I’ll have to say one of the biggest downfalls of being sick was not being able to fully experience all of the amazing tastes and smells. Sigh… Guess I’ll just have to go back!

I normally love winter weather, but given my sickness, the cold seemed extra pronounced and I decided to invest in some warmer gear, right then and there. (I honestly can’t remember the last time I was quite that chilled to the bone – to the point where my feet felt like ice blocks and it was painful to walk… COLD!) In addition to the new hat I’d purchased earlier in the day, I also snapped up a set of lambswool shoe liners from a festival vendor and a toasty pair of fox slippers and lambswool socks from the “TK Maxx” across the street. (Admittedly, we also stepped inside the store to get warm! It was an added bonus they had a good selection of cold weather wear… And it’s not TJ Maxx, it’s TK Maxx.) Once we were all further bundled up, we braved going back into the cold to enjoy more of the festival. Along with some more hot toddy action… Don’t judge me.

The market scene truly was a winter wonderland and although it would be the only time we’d spend in the New Town area during this visit, it was a very worthwhile way to spend the evening. There are so many amazing things to see and do in this part of town and I wish we would’ve had some more time to visit even a few.

Some of the excellent things to check out in the New Town area:

  • Formerly the Nor’ Loch (now drained), the aforementioned Princes Street Gardens are a lovely place to take a stroll. The blooms and blossoms are glorious in the spring and it offers an excellent perspective of the Old and New Towns. The view of the Castle is also unparalleled and taking in the fireworks at the end of the Fringe Festival in August is one of the most amazing things ever. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra sets up in the valley of the park and music is piped around the city as the fireworks explode into the sky and cascade off the sheer cliff face of the castle. AMAZING!
  • The Balmoral Hotel – Even if you just walk in and look around, it’s worth it. A beautiful example of Victorian architecture, the Balmoral is the go-to hotel for swanky lodging and aristocratic hobnobbing. The bar is amazing and the Michelin-star dining is delicious!
  • In addition to the Scottish National Gallery, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art are beautifully curated and absolutely worth a visit.
National Gallery
Scottish National Gallery in the New Town
  • Close to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is Dean Village and The Walkway. An idyllic, peaceful area in a busy city with a rambling 12-mile trek through the area and alongside the Water of Leith.
  • Check out the thriving foodie scene in the waterfront area of Leith. 4-star Michelin restaurants, pubs, bakeries – Leith has it all! Stroll along the lovely waterfront area and look out onto the Firth of Forth and South Queensbury at the mouth of the Water of Leith and marvel at The Forth Bridge. (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

After saying goodnight to the Christmas Market, we trudged back up the hill to the Old Town. (Albeit a beautiful trudge) It was time to consider turning in for the evening as we had a morning flight to Orkney Island and Ms. Sicky McSickerson was very much starting to fade. However, on the way back to the flat, we noticed a Starbucks (so very Seattle of us) and I decided I really needed an Edinburgh “You Are Here” mug to add to my collection.

With my purchase hot in hand, we began to walk back to our lodgings, but noticed a large crowd of people in the street. They appeared to be singing and dancing to a holiday song, ala flash mob – and were coming down the road towards us. We stopped to watch and I walked up a little closer to film the scene with my phone.

They all appeared to be wearing headphones and there were a few people in the front who appeared to be directing the group. One of these pied pipers was looking in my direction and turned back to the crowd and gave some sort of signal. I was just merrily watching the procession when all of the sudden they all started coming directly towards me! I kept filming – and laughing – and sure enough, they came right up to me and gave me a personal performance! It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever witnessed and it made me absolutely and completely happy. It’s making me smile right now, just writing about it!

Before I knew it, they had wrapped up their performance and bid me adieu as they continued, singing and dancing into the Edinburgh night. I learned later they were taking part in a Silent Adventures event, a flash-mob sort of outfit that organizes “silent disco” street tours all over the UK. I will definitely look them up the next time I’m in town!

After ambling back to our lodgings, I settled into my cozy room across from The World’s End. While hazily drifting off to sleep (thank you, hot toddies), I was filled with thoughts of all the spectacular sights, sounds and tastes Edinburgh has to offer.

A few of the amazing places in the Old Town I’ve previously visited and a few I hope to visit on future adventures:

  • Victoria Street is a must-see street. Colorful, winding and filled with cool shops and restaurants, it was JK Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley. Victoria Street is part of the eclectic Grassmarket area. Classic architecture, unique shops and restaurants, the excellent Edinburgh Farmer’s Market and its darker history of being the town’s execution spot make it a fascinating part of town to visit.
  • Greyfriars Kirkyard – Noted as the most haunted cemetery in the world, Greyfriars Kirkyard is a must-visit for numerous reasons. Pay homage to the great loyalty of dogs with a visit to Greyfriars Bobby and his beloved policeman, John Gray. Check out remains of the Flodden Wall, one of the original walls built around the city. (c. 1560, built after the earlier defeat by the British at the Battle of Flodden) Seek out JK Rowling’s naming inspirations amongst the tombstones. (Tom Riddle, (Minerva) McGonagall, (Alastor) Moody)
  • Close to Greyfriars Kirkyard, you can find the stunning George Heriot’s School which is said to be JK Rowling’s inspiration for Hogwarts. Also located nearby are remains of the Telfer Wall, an extension of the Flodden Wall, built between 1628 and 1636.
  • Edinburgh has the reputation of being one of the most haunted cities in Europe with a dark and bloody history. In support of that mantle, there are many locations to investigate. One of the most fascinating – and tragic – is Mary King’s Close. During the Bubonic plague epidemic of 1645, the area was quarantined and many of the residents perished within. Check out The Real Mary King’s Close tour for a chilling journey through the re-opened close and alleyways. Another great way to learn about Edinburgh’s dark past is to join one of the well-done Mercat Tours walking tours.
  • The Writer’s Museum is a fabulous place to celebrate the rich literary history of Edinburgh. (Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson are the focus of the museum) Housed in a ridiculously charming building located down Lady Stair’s Close, it’s a must-visit for lovers of the written word.
  • Located on the opposite end of the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle, The Palace of Holyroodhouse is the storied former home of the iconic Mary Queen of Scots and the current queen’s official residence whenever in town.
  • Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Park – Technically not part of the Old Town, but within somewhat reasonable walking distance, Arthur’s Seat sports one of the best views around. Hike up to the top of this extinct volcano and take in the view of Edinburgh out onto the Firth of Forth and marvel at the centuries of history and expansion.
CastleView2
View of Arthur’s Seat from the castle

In addition to the never-ending list of places to visit and history to explore, one of the things I’ve come to love most about Edinburgh is its support of the Arts and ability to host spectacular festivals and celebrations. I’ve had the great fortune to take in the spectacular Arts festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which takes place throughout most of August (and throughout most of the city) and most recently, the excellent Christmas Market. Running adjacent to the Fringe Festival, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is full of epic pageantry and pipes and takes place on castle grounds throughout most of August. Also running during August is the amazing Edinburgh International Festival. If you happen to be around town for New Year’s Eve, be sure to hit up Edinburgh’s Hogmanay with its torchlight procession on December 30th and fireworks and ceilidh in Princes Street Gardens on New Year’s Eve.

Pro Tips: A great way to get around the touristy areas of Edinburgh is via the hop on/hop off bus tours. (Also good if you just want to take a break from walking and listen to the onboard host talk about the city’s history) I enjoy using the Edinburgh Bus Tour to easily check out the Old Town locations in particular. I also highly recommend getting the Historic Scotland Explorer Pass (discounted during winter months) to gain quick access to many of Scotland’s historic locations. (Edinburgh Castle, Castle Urquhart, Skara Brae, etc.) This can be purchased online before you go.

The next morning we were out of our flat before the sun rose, but could tell it wasn’t going to be another sunny day. It was cold, cloudy and the smell of snow was in the air, but we braved the chill for one last Old Town jaunt. As we were departing at noon to Orkney Island, an early breakfast was in order so we headed up the Royal Mile to find something quick and tasty. We met up with Piotr along the way and enjoyed a last breakfast together at the cheery Café Edinburgh. Regardless of my taste buds only partially operating, the Scottish lox with scrambled eggs and croissant was delicious and a good start to the day.

It was sad to say goodbye to Edinburgh, but it was time to go. As we hopped into our Uber to Edinburgh airport, it vaguely started to snow. My body shivered as I pulled down my hat and put on my gloves. I was looking forward to what would hopefully be warmer weather on Orkney Island…

And with that, I bid you a temporary farewell. Join me next time for the exciting conclusion where we battle gale-force winds and sideways rain, bask in the glory of ancient standing stones and Viking homesteads and commune in the land of epic highland fortresses and feral goats. All true stories!

Slàinte mhath!

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On a related note of cheers and toasting, I’ll leave you with my standard hot toddy recipe. It was given to me by the chef at the Highland inn I worked at several years ago. I was nursing a bad cold at the time and she swore by a “remedy” she’d learned from her mother. It absolutely did the trick and I now pass it on to anyone with even the slightest case of sniffles. Enjoy – and feel better!

 Hot Toddy

  • 1 healthy shot of good whisky (I prefer a less peaty variety such as Glenfiddich)
  • About a Tbsp of honey
  • A good squeeze of fresh lemon (a tsp or two)
  • Fresh lemon slice
  • 6 oz boiling water
  • A healthy dash of Drambuie (optional)

Add whisky, honey and lemon juice to a sturdy mug. Pour boiling water over ingredients and stir. Add additional whisky and honey to taste and top with a squeeze from a lemon slice – add lemon slice to mug. Nice options are to add a bit of Drambuie and a finishing orange slice rather than lemon…

~And for a nice bit of accompaniment to your soothing hot toddy…

I Ate the State: Scottish Tour of Destiny – The Spotify Playlist

  • It’s Oh So Quiet – Björk (from Post)
  • Untitled #3 – Samskeyti – Sigur Rós (from album () )
  • Prologue – John Williams (from Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  • You Do Something to Me – Paul Weller (from Stanley Road)
  • Then I Met You – The Proclaimers (from Sunshine on Leith)
  • Un Flambeau, Jeannette Isabelle – Loreena McKennitt (from A Midwinter’s Night Dream)
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Loreena McKennitt (from A Winter Garden – Five Songs for the Season)
  • Standing Stones – Loreena McKennitt (from Parallel Dreams)
  • Standing Stones – Jeremy Soule (from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Original Game Soundtrack)
  • Stonehenge – Ylvis (from Stonehenge – Single)
  • Who Wants to Live Forever – Queen (from Greatest Hits II)
  • Princes of the Universe – Queen (from A Kind of Magic)
  • Outlander – The Skye Boat Song (Castle Leoch Version) – Bear McCreary feat. Raya Yarbrough (from Outlander: Season 1, Vol. 1 – Original Television Soundtrack)
  • Bonny Portmore – Loreena McKennitt (from The Visit)
  • Hedwig’s Theme – John Williams (from Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  • Holding Back the Years – Simply Red (from Picture Book)
  • Whisper to a Scream (Birds Fly) – The Icicle Works (from The Icicle Works)
  • End of a Century – Blur (from Parklife)
  • Stillness in Time – Jamiroquai (from The Return of the Space Cowboy)
  • Birds – Kate Nash (from Made of Bricks)
  • Wings of Speed – Paul Weller (from Stanley Road)
  • I Miss You – Björk (from Post)
  • Svefn-g-englar – Sigur Rós (from Ágætis byrjun)
CastleDaisies
Lovely daisies in December! (Edinburgh Castle)

More I Ate the State Adventures:

RIP Seattle Viaduct – Ode to a Bygone Seattle (A Special Edition of I Ate the State)

viaduct
The last picture I took of the Viaduct (Dec 2018 – looking out from Quest Field)

 

UPDATE:

On the heels of lamenting the Viaduct loss, I decided to take part in the Tunnel to Viaduct 8k Run/Walk event on February 2nd. It was a fascinating, nostalgic, and close-up goodbye to the Viaduct and a (mixed emotion) hello to the new tunnel. The event attracted 29k participants and was the largest running race in Seattle history. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event and I’m extremely happy to have been involved. Even if it did involve getting up super early, parking way up on Queen Anne and walking down to Seattle Center… And walking back up Queen Anne after the race. (Ouch) Good ol’ Seattle parking!

My original intent was to actually run the race. I’ll admit to maybe running a couple hundred yards before deciding I’d much rather be enjoying the details and taking a few photos. I’m so glad I had the chance to get a last glimpse of a huge part of my Seattle memories…

Participants queued at Seattle Center and each wave made its way over to the entrance of the new tunnel to start the race.

After exiting the tunnel, we were routed through Pioneer Square and then onto the Viaduct. It was amazing getting the chance to walk on the Viaduct and take in those classic Seattle views. I’m going to miss those…

Walking through the Battery Street Tunnel was eerie, exciting and very cool. It felt like I was in a scene from the John Carpenter classic, The Warriors. It was also pretty crazy to see and feel just how aged the tunnel really was.  It wasn’t that long ago thousands of cars were passing through every day!  Yowsa! :-}

After exiting the Battery Street Tunnel, we walked/ran down SR 99 and back over to Seattle Center. And then my race legs trudged back up Queen Anne… But very worth it! Good bye Viaduct and Battery Street Tunnel – I’m really going to miss you!!

Cheers!

Another I Ate the State Special Edition is coming very soon: The UK, featuring London and a lot of Scotland – with special guest, Reykjavik! And then back to regularly scheduled Washington State with a Grays Harbor County feature… Please stay tuned!! 

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ORIGINAL ARTICLE (posted 1/13/19)

I’ve been a bit misty-eyed about the Seattle viaduct and its impending doom. So many Seattle icons have fallen to the march of time and progress, but this latest loss is hitting me hard. From my earliest childhood memories of family Seattle visits, the viaduct was always a thing of wonder, mystery and big city dreams. The double-decker wonder of it amazed me and the chance to peek into the lives of the big-city dwellers while driving south was always mesmerizing. And all of the shops, wacky parking, nooks and crannies located underneath on Alaskan Way were always a wonderland to explore… The viaduct always inspired me and motivated me to “move to the big city someday” and I’m so terribly sad to see it go.

This loss of yet another Seattle icon has inspired me to put together a list of the classic places, people and things I’m missing from Seattle days gone by. (Some only recently departed!) I know I’m forgetting a few…

  • The Kingdome
  • The O.K. Hotel under the viaduct (So many excellent shows!)
  • The Dog House diner (and later The Hurricane)
  • 13 Coins restaurant – The original one on Boren
  • The Old Spaghetti Factory on the waterfront (My childhood soul is STILL in mourning)
  • Trident Imports on the waterfront (I LOVED this store and spent a lot of allowance money there)
  • Ye Olde Curiosity Shop (The original one – not the one they built after the original burned down)
  • The City Center Hotel on Aurora (Before it became run down and scary)
  • Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour off Aurora on 130th (and later Mr. Bills 50s diner)
  • REASONABLE rent prices within Seattle city limits. Gah.
  • A rush “hour” that only lasts one HOUR (Not all day, every day)
  • Parking spaces (I think the last Capitol Hill space disappeared 15 years ago)
  • Reasonable drive-on prices on the Ferries
  • The existence of non-metered spots and non-zoned parking anywhere within Seattle city limits
  • The Bon Marché – Downtown location on 3rd
  • Italian Spaghetti House on Lake City Way
  • Zesto’s in Ballard
  • The Backstage in Ballard (So many great shows!)
  • Bass NW in Pioneer Square (They have, however, somewhat moved to West Seattle. Whew! Check out The Bass Shop for more details!)
  • Reasonably priced coffee within Seattle city limits
  • The Off-Ramp – Hash after the bash!! Great way to sober up…
  • The RKCNDY (Before it reopened as an all-ages club)
  • The Colourbox
  • The Sit & Spin – Do your laundry AND catch a show!
  • SUNSET BOWL (Yes, I belonged to the “Crappy Bowlers League” on Monday nights)
  • LEILANI LANES
kalakala
The Kalakala and it’s watery last days
  • Piecora’s Pizza
  • St. Clouds in Madrona
  • Frederick & Nelson
  • Summer Nights at the Pier (So many amazing shows!)
  • AFFORDABLE Bumbershoot tickets (I paid $7/day in 1992!)
  • The Fun Forest at Seattle Center (Flight to Mars, anyone??)
  • The Seattle Center Armory – the way it used to be w/the shops upstairs, etc. – And weekend public dances
  • The Twin Teepees restaurant on Aurora (Harland “Colonel” Sanders used to work there prior to creating his Kentucky Fried Chicken empire!)
  • Jim Hadley’s Experience Shoes – Under the Viaduct on Alaskan Way
  • Larry’s Market (Although I’m still hoarding their recipe for potato leek soup)
  • Stella’s Trattoria in the U-District (24/7 pasta and their delicious Caramello dessert. And their bread. Their bread…)
  • South Lake Union before Amazon and Google moved in
  • TOWER RECORDS on Lower Queen Anne (Ohhhh, the hours I spent on their free listening stations… I’m still sad.)
  • Silver Platters by Northgate Mall (But they do still exist in other Seattle-area locations!)
  • Bud’s Jazz Records in Pioneer Square
  • Lofurno’s Jazz Club
  • Sorry Charlie’s on lower Queen Anne (Howard Bulson!)
  • Warshal’s Sporting Goods (On family mini-vacations to Seattle, my dad and brothers would go to Warshal’s and my Mom and I would go to The Bon. :-}
  • Pacific Dessert Co. on Capitol Hill
  • The original Honey Bear Bakery (When it was in Tangletown/Wallingford)
  • The Last Exit (When it was on Brooklyn – in the U District. That place was amazing!)
  • CIBO Cheese (I used to work there when it was near South Lake Union and when it moved to SODO. I’m pretty sure I gained 20lbs working there.)
  • Two Bells in Belltown
  • The Lusty Lady marquee on 1st (Classic.)
  • The pink TOE truck – Lincoln Towing
  • Chubby & Tubby hardware store – and a little bit of everything else!
  • Seattle Waterfront Streetcar – So much charm!
  • THE SEATTLE SUPERSONICS
  • Washington Mutual – Is it weird to miss a bank? I am not a fan of Chase…
  • Elliott Bay Book Co. in Pioneer Square (That location was magical, but the newer Capitol Hill location isn’t bad…)
  • Teatro Zinzanni – Lower Queen Anne location (now relocated to Woodinville)
  • Mars Bar / Café Venus – South Lake Union

And a few classic Seattle / Seattle-area spots currently in the danger zone –

Please join me in a collective sigh… Give it up for bygone Seattle! Are there any spots you’re missing that aren’t on this list? I’d love to hear from you!  Misery loves company, after all…

It’s going to be interesting to see what transpires in Seattle in the coming years. I hope we can keep our remaining favorites untouched by corporate overlords. In the meantime, I plan to continue profiling places to visit and things to do in Washington State and of course, our beloved Seattle. Please keep following I Ate the State for the goods. I’ll be returning to regularly scheduled programming soon with a visit to Grays Harbor County – And a special edition visit to Scotland! Do join me!

Cheers!

Please check out these additional I Ate the State adventures!

 

I Ate the State – Clallam County

Greetings!

Clallam County has it good. So very, very good… Epic rivers, lakes and mountains, the UNESCO-designated Olympic National Park, sweeping oceanfront majesty, abundant wildlife and plentiful farmland – All steeped in Native American heritage dating back thousands of years. Clallam County has it all!  Please join me in celebrating the greatness of this Washington State wonder in this installment of I Ate the State.

Size and population-wise, Clallam County sits midstream in a comparative list of Washington State counties. This never occurs to me, however, when visiting the area. There are so many Clallam County roads I’ve driven, trails I’ve hiked and beaches I’ve combed that are nearly, if not completely, gloriously deserted – And I’ve only scratched the surface of areas to explore. Whenever I need to clear my mind and grab a bit of peaceful solitude, Clallam County heads my list of destinations; especially if I want to escape the ever-encroaching march of connectivity and technology. Aside from the major towns in Clallam County, I rarely have cell reception, etc. and it is absolutely, positively magnificent. (Unless it’s you trying to call me, of course… 😉

PhoneBooth
Phones don’t get as much use up in Clallam County…

There are many ways in and out of the Clallam County area. Car, bike, boat, plane – take your pick!

  • Coming from the Seattle area, I usually opt for a car/ferry combo and it’s always a beautiful trek. To get there from Seattle, take the ferry from Edmonds to Kingston, head over the Hood Canal Bridge on SR-104 and then connect to US Route 101 in the Discovery Bay
  • If you happen to be coming from Olympia or further south, a good option is I-5 to US Route 101.
  • From the Tacoma/Gig Harbor area, take SR-16 to Bremerton, then SR-3 north from Bremerton to SR-104 and finally, hook up with US Route 101.
  • If you’re coming from the north and don’t mind hopping a couple of ferries, take the Mukilteo/Clinton Ferry (Everett to Whidbey Island) then – Port Townsend/Keystone Ferry to Port Townsend and then onto US Route 101.
  • Pro Tip: A fun thing to do is to make a loop trip of your Clallam County adventures. For example, if I start out in Seattle and head over on the Kingston ferry, I like to return via US Route 101 and come up through Olympia and back to I-5. Each route is relatively close in travel time and it makes for a beautiful and interesting round-trip adventure. So many ways in and out of Clallam County!

Check out my Kitsap County and Jefferson County articles for adventures in the counties surrounding Clallam County.

For purposes of this journey, I took the ferry out of Edmonds and headed towards the junction of SR-104 and US 101. Not too far past the junction, you’ll enter the land of the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe. Native to the area for thousands of years, the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe continues to call the area home and watch over the land.

I always like to stop in this area. The view of Sequim Bay is beautiful, the local Longhouse Market and Deli has a great selection of supplies, including a rather good beer/wine/spirits selection and if you’re running low on gas, it’s a great place to fuel up. Additionally, if you’re feeling lucky, stop into the 7 Cedars Casino for a go at the gaming tables and slot-machines, enjoy a meal at the Double Eagle or Stymie’s Bar & Grill or take in a leisurely golf game in the Cedars at Dungeness golf course.

Heading further north on US 101, you many notice the air gets drier and the sun gets… sunnier. Sitting in the rain-shadow of the Olympic Mountains and known as a micro-climate, the Sequim area is rich in agriculture and enjoys loads of sunshine. Quite unique when compared to the perpetually damp city of Forks and other nearby, rainy-day Clallam County towns…

With all the sunshine, it’s easy to take advantage of Sequim’s many outdoor opportunities. Hiking, biking, camping, climbing, fishing and boating are all in easy reach of Sequim. The stunning Olympic National Park with its epic peaks and valleys is the perfect host to near limitless, adventure-filled prospects and Sequim is an excellent jumping-off point to such splendor. In addition, Sequim’s close proximity to coastline and waterways provide for sensational off-land explorations

Sequim is an excellent gatekeeper to Clallam County outdoor endeavors. Here’s but a small list to get you started:

  • Check out Sequim Bay State Park if you’re in need of camping and RV spots with access to a boat launch and moorage. There are also hiking opportunities, clamming, crabbing and oyster harvesting spots and access to the 120-mile, multi-use Olympic Discovery Trail. (Goes from Port Townsend to La Push!) Also located in the area is the Camp Ramblewood retreat center. With room to sleep 60 and a commercial-size kitchen, it’s a great place to consider for family reunions, school functions and more.
  • For a bit of hiking and climbing adventure, check out the highest point in Clallam County, Gray Wolf Ridge. On the way, you’ll also pass over Baldy and both summits will provide stunning views and wide stretches of wildflowers to enjoy. The access road to these areas is just east of Sequim Bay State Park.
  • Hit up the beautiful Dungeness Spit in nearby Dungeness if you’re in need of some serious sand. (The famed Dungeness crab is named for this area.) It’s the longest natural sand spit in the US and goes out more than 5 miles into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The area is part of the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge and is noted for its large variety of birds, mammals and marine life. There are many hiking, boating, clamming and crabbing opportunities throughout the area, but be sure to respect the protected areas within the refuge.
  • Located at the end of the spit is the historic New Dungeness Lighthouse. Built in 1857 and on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s now maintained by the New Dungeness Light Station Association. If you’re willing to pitch in, you can stay at the lighthouse as part of the Lighthouse Keeper Program. (1-week programs)
  • If you’re looking for a good place to moor your boat, the John Wayne Marina is located conveniently in the Dungeness and Sequim area in Sequim Bay. Built on land gifted by John Wayne’s family in 1985, the marina is an excellent spot to spur your coastal journey. (John Wayne used to love sailing around the Sequim area in his yacht, The Wild Goose!) If you’re looking for nearby campsites, cabins or RV spots, check out the nearby John Wayne’s Waterfront Resort. If you’d like to take a break from campsite or galley cuisine, the Dockside Grill at the marina can set you up. (Closed Mondays and Tuesdays)

If outdoor pursuits aren’t on your list, a fine way to enjoy the sunshine and not don hiking boots is to take in the area’s greatest agricultural tribute. In recent decades, Sequim has become quite well known for its contribution to the lavender industry. Gorgeous, fragrant lavender fields dot the farmlands surrounding Sequim and make for a delicious visit any time of year. (And even more so when the lavender is in bloom!)

One of the best times of year to visit is around the Sequim Lavender Festival, which takes place in July. The town comes alive with all things lavender and there are many options to fulfill all your lavender needs. Music, food vendors, dancing, crafts and ‘lots of the purple stuff – the Lavender Festival is a great event to take in. Of the many local farms participating in the local lavender scene, a few highlights:

  • The Purple Haze Lavender downtown store, their local lavender farm and farmhouse vacation rental make for a fine weekend in and of themselves. (Try the lavender ice cream!)
  • Representing not only the state of Washington, but paying homage to George Washington, himself, the Washington Lavender Farm, located on oceanfront overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca, is an absolute gem. If the gorgeous lavender fields and wildflowers aren’t enough to pull you in, stay for a spell in their Mount Vernon replica, the George Washington Inn & Estate and check out their full-size replica of the Old North Bridge.
  • Victor’s Lavender Farm is a large farm and retail store located outside the Port Angeles area. Their onsite farm store is set inside an old red milking barn and is open Memorial Day through September. They also have a vacation home called the “Candlelight Cabin” for rent overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
  • In addition to the beautiful lavender fields at Jardin du Soleil, don’t miss the beautiful gardens, fruit trees, onsite farm store and gorgeous grounds – located just outside of Sequim. If you’re in the area during July or August, be sure to check out their Jungible Music Festival on Friday nights.
  • If you’d like to get into the thick of it and experience Sequim’s beautiful countryside by your own steam, check out the Tour de Lavender bike tour through lavender country. (Aug 3rd, 2019) Sign up for either the family-friendly, more leisurely Fun Ride (35-mile loop) or go the distance with the more intense Metric Centric Ride. (62.5 mile loop)
  • In addition to the impressive number of lavender farms in the area, don’t overlook the u-pick berry opportunities of the summer. For example, not only does Graymarsh Farm grow beautiful lavender, they also have an excellent berry scene!
Lavender
Beautiful lavender at the Jardin du Soleil lavender farm. Lavender as far as the eye can see!

For those of you not looking to celebrate the purpley goodness of lavender, there are many other excellent adventures to be enjoyed in Sequim. A few for your list:

  • Sequim Open Aire Market – Local farmer and artisan market open on Saturdays, May to September. For the holiday shoppers, be sure to check out their special events in November and December.
  • Clallam County Farm Tour (end Sept/early Oct) – Dairy farms, lavender farms, produce farms – Farms of all kinds! The day-long tour takes place annually at the end of September / early October and is a great opportunity to check out the inner-workings of the some of the area’s most established farms. Great for families!
  • Sequim Museum & Arts – As I might have mentioned in previous articles, I love museums. LOVE them. The Sequim Museum is definitely worth a look and definitely on my list of museums to love. Not only do they have a great exhibit featuring a Jamestown S’Klallam Longhouse, they also have an exhibit featuring the Manis Mastodon. That’s right – A MASTODON. (Uncovered by Emanuel Manis in 1977 while digging a pond in his Sequim front yard. The bones are nearly 14,000 years old!)

If all of the hiking, boating, lavender sniffing and mastodon investigating has worn you out, take a break and enjoy some of the local dining options:

  • Tedesco’s – Cool Italian restaurant in downtown Sequim featuring fresh pasta and sauces with a full bar.
  • Salty Girls Sequim Seafood Co. – Right next door to Tedesco’s, Salty Girls feature fresh, local seafood including a raw oyster bar and homemade chowders. They also have a kayak guide service and fresh fish counter. All the things!
  • Peninsula Taproom – Also next door to Tedesco’s the Peninsula Taproom features NW craft beer and cider, both on tap and in bottle. They also host potluck / slow-cooker events on Sundays for your Seahawks viewing pleasure. Bring your best casserole!
  • Alder Wood Bistro – Local, farm-to-table, wood-fired cuisine featuring NW inspired recipes. They also host regular pairing dinners where NW vintners and brewers are featured.
  • Dynasty Chinese Restaurant – I’m fond of this place. They serve tasty, Cantonese-style Chinese food in a low-key, comfortable downtown spot. I’m particularly fond of their House Special Chow Mein Noodles and honey-walnut prawns.
  • Nourish – Lovely organic, farm-to-table restaurant with a dedicated gluten-free menu.

If you’re looking to stay in the Sequim area, there are plentiful lodging options. As one of the state’s more quaint areas, the overnight accommodations do not disappoint with their welcoming, cozy demeanor.

  • Lost Mountain Lodge – Bed and breakfast lodge situated on 10-acres of gorgeous land just outside of Sequim
  • Dungeness Barn House – Bed and breakfast overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the New Dungeness Lighthouse
  • Domaine Madeleine – Beautiful suites and cottages on a bluff overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the New Dungeness Lighthouse

Just up the road from Sequim, traveling on US 101, you’ll come to the largest city in the Olympic Peninsula and the seat of Clallam County, Port Angeles. Western settlers began arriving in the area around 1857, but the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe has been in the area for a bit longer. The west end of what is now Port Angeles Harbor was once home to a large village called Tse-whit-zen. It was unearthed in 2003 during work on a Department of Transportation project and is the earliest confirmed settlement in the area, dating back to 750 BCE. The Elwha Klallam Heritage Center is a great place to go to learn more of the area’s history and tribal heritage as well as view artifacts from the village and surrounding areas.

There are many things to do while in Port Angeles. I always enjoy strolling along the waterfront area (part of the Olympic Discovery Trail) and taking in the harbor scene.  Grab a cup of coffee at one of the nearby cafés and enjoy the scene. Check out – or hop aboard – one of the International ferries going to/coming from Victoria BC. It’s a 90-min trip across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and a great way to cross the border. Additionally, Victoria BC is one of the most charming spots on the planet. (Bring your passport!)

Other great options when hanging out in the downtown Port Angeles area:

  • Port Angeles Underground Heritage Tours – Located in downtown Port Angeles, tour the 100-year old tunnels and basements of Port Angeles’ underground history. Who doesn’t love a spooky underground tour?? (They have a special “haunted” tour during October!)
  • Maritime Festival – Celebrate the maritime history of the North Olympic History on the Port Angeles waterfront in June. Tour the beautiful tall ships and enjoy music, food and more!
  • NOAA Olympic Coast Discovery Center – Located on the waterfront. Stop in to learn all about the marine aspects of the Port Angeles and surrounding coastal areas. It’s an excellent local resource and it’s FREE!!
  • Olympic National Park Visitor Center – Check out the main visitor center and back-country permit office for the Olympic National Park. They have loads of information, friendly rangers and exhibits to get you started on your mountain adventure.
  • Jazz in the Olympics – Celebrate Jazz with NW artists in various venues around the Port Angeles area. (April)
  • Arts & Draughts Festival – Featuring 20+ local breweries, wineries and cideries, the Arts and Draughts Festival takes place in downtown Port Angeles in September. Mmm… Beer… And art!
  • Farmers’ Market – Operating year-round in the downtown area, the Port Angeles Farmers’ Market is a wonderful opportunity to snatch up fresh fruit and veggies as well as local artisan wares. (Saturdays – 10am to 2pm)
  • Swains General Store – A quirky, old-school hardware store that sells much more than hardware. Stop in for a look and you just may find something you never knew you couldn’t live without!
  • For a truly epic Port Angeles experience, don’t miss the sweet deliciousness of the annual Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival. Celebrating one of the region’s most famous residents, the Dungeness Crab, the festival offers three days of savory seafood shenanigans to enjoy. Happening in early October on the Port Angeles waterfront, it features glorious seafood, music, arts, crafts and more. And it’s FREE! (But you gotta pay for the crab, of course.)

It’s true. I like to eat. I like to eat and I love to eat good food. There are definitely some Port Angeles restaurants that accommodate this love in wonderful fashion. Throw in the fresh abundance of all things seafood and I’m hard-pressed to leave the area every time. I can honestly say I would eat Dungeness crab EVERY day if my wallet would allow… Some of my favorite local spots:

And what goes better with a delicious meal than a delicious beverage? There are several excellent options in Port Angeles and these are all high on my list:

  • Camaraderie Cellars – A well-established winery just outside of Port Angeles. I’m particularly fond of their Quadra. It’s an aged Tempranillo with a bit of Port added – rich and delicious! Quite lovely to enjoy by a fire while watching (from the cabin window) as the winter ocean storms roll in…
  • Housed in a lovely old barn, Olympic Cellars has been a mainstay of Olympic Peninsula wine-making for many years. Enjoyable wines and a cool weekend summer concert series to accompany said wine – check them out!
  • Barhop Brewing & Artisan Pizza – Looking for great pizza and a tasty brew down by the waterfront? This is the place to stop!
  • Harbinger Winery – I love this place. Great wine, super friendly staff and a cozy tasting room – located directly off US 101. I’m very much a fan of their El Jefé Reserve Rhone Blend and Rhone Rosé And if you feel the need to rent a kayak or mountain bike or sign up for a local outdoor adventure tour, you need only pop in next door to the very friendly Adventures Through Kayaking shop.
  • Harvest Wine Tour (November) – A great way to experience and learn about the wine and cider-makers of the Olympic Peninsula is via the Harvest Wine Tour. Camaraderie Cellars, Harbinger Winery, Olympic Cellars and Wind Rose Cellars (Sequim) are all part of the tour. The Red Wine & Chocolates tour in February is also fun to check out and is hosted by the same establishments. Mmm… Wine and chocolate! (And if red wine isn’t your thing, not to worry – I enjoyed some very lovely white wines and white chocolates when I did the tour earlier this year.)

If you’d like to extend your stay in Port Angeles or use it as home base for exploring the Olympics, Hurricane Ridge or any of the other beautiful nearby spots, I suggest these local options:

  • A Hidden Haven – Lovely forest cottages located just outside of Port Angeles.
  • Sea Cliff Gardens – Very charming and well-appointed B&B lodging with gorgeous gardens and views. Located in the Sequim / Port Angeles area.
  • Colette’s – Port Angeles B&B with stunning ocean views, delicious breakfast and beautiful grounds.

If you’re not already bowled over by the beauty of the Sequim and Port Angeles areas, head further west on US 101 or take a beautiful detour into Olympic National Park (via Mount Angeles Road/Hurricane Ridge Road) and head towards the spectacular Hurricane Ridge area. In the summer, a trip to Hurricane Ridge will make you think you’ve been transported to a scene from The Sound of Music. Wildflowers, sweeping views, plentiful deer and a lovely day lodge at the top of drive greet you like an old friend. Maybe there wasn’t a lovely day lodge in The Sound of Music, but if there were, Hurricane Ridge has nailed it. Grab a snack in the Visitor’s Center and learn more about the area’s plentiful hiking opportunities and miles of beautiful vistas and breathtaking scenery. If you’re looking to do some camping in the area, check out the Heart o’the Hills Campground about 12 miles before Hurricane Ridge. (Open year-round)

In the winter, Hurricane Ridge is open for skiing and snowboarding, Nordic skiing and snowshoeing and general enjoyment of the winter wonderland. The road is only open Friday-Sunday in the winter and definitely check ahead as the road can get dicey on snowy days. (All vehicles must carry chains – including 4-wheel drive) I will admit to not yet having skied this area, but it is high on my “Ski all the ski hills in Washington State” list – and I will get there soon. Big hills, small hills – I shall ski them ALL!

Heading further west on US 101 gives you access to the gorgeous and newly dam-free Elwha Valley. In the last few years, both the Elwha Dam and Glines Canyon Dam were removed allowing the Elwha River to again make its way to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The byproduct of this effort is a new, sandy beach that is growing daily.  After having been dammed for nearly 100 years, the valley is returning to its natural rhythms and the river is reclaiming its territory. The salmon are making a comeback, the flora and fauna are prospering and the water is flowing unfettered out to sea. It is truly a beautiful area to explore and an opportunity to witness first-hand nature’s resilience.

For a beautiful hiking or backpacking adventure in the area, check out the Elwha River Trail. Also in the area, located off of the Boulder Creek Trailhead, the Olympic Hot Springs are a very unique and invigorating destination. (All-natural springs and pools not maintained by the NPS) When hiking and adventuring in the Elwha River Valley, be sure to check the NPS website beforehand for road conditions and information on obtaining necessary permits. And as always, make sure you’re prepared for your adventure by bringing along the 10 Essentials.

Continuing west on US 101 will bring you to a truly extraordinary part of the state. (And that’s saying something given the Washington State bounty!)  I’m usually heading further on towards the coastline, but every time I make the effort to explore this area I am simply blown away. The scenery, wildlife and ecological diversity is overflowing and it would be easy to spend a week (or more!) marveling at the wonders of this section of Clallam County.

As you’re driving along US 101, you won’t be able to miss Lake Crescent on your right. The nearly 12-mile long lake is filled with beautifully clear, deep water and is home to many a water-filled adventure. Boating, fishing, scuba-diving or just a bit of recreational swimming – you name it – Lake Crescent represents.  A longtime destination for Washingtonians, Lake Crescent has been inspiring happy vacation memories for generations. Take the time to investigate what lies along the winding, lake-hugging highway as it heads toward the coast – you won’t be disappointed. (Note: The highway in this area can get icy year-round and the winds are often quite strong. Drive carefully!)

The list is long for this area, but here are a handful of can’t-go-wrong opportunities to explore:

  • Directly off the highway as you’re headed west, look for a small sign to the La Poel day-use/picnic area. Take the access road to a surprisingly extensive and winding loop snaking along the lake’s shoreline. There are many tucked-away picnic spots and it’s a great way to relax and enjoy a snack. (Note: The road is very narrow and not suitable for RVs and larger vehicles.)
  • Located on the north shore of the lake, the Spruce Railroad Trail is an easy-going 4-mile trek near and beside the lake. For those looking for a longer jaunt, the trail is part of the aforementioned Olympic Discovery Trail and is accessible via an extensive hike or bike ride from Port Angeles. For a quick hike, head about a mile into the trail until you get to the bridge. Look to the right of the bridge and check out the eerily calm waters of the “Punchbowl” – very much worth the trip!
  • There are good camping opportunities in the area, but the Log Cabin Resort is an excellent lakeside option if you’d like a cozy bed and a step back in time. (Although, the area has been recently renovated and features newly built cabins) The cabins are open end of May thru end of September.
LogCabin2
Lovely Log Cabin Resort on Lake Crescent
  • If you’d like to upgrade from a log cabin, check out nearby Lake Crescent Lodge for classic, National Park lodging. (Including charming cottages and cabins) Built in 1915, it has a storied past, including a very important visit from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He visited Washington’s coastal regions in the 1930s and very shortly thereafter signed the paperwork creating our beloved Olympic National Park. (Note: The Lake Crescent Store and Lodge are closed January thru April, but you can reserve the cabins on weekends during winter.)
  • Near the Lake’s midpoint, take the exit off of US 101 towards the historic Storm King Ranger Station / Marymere Falls parking area. Located just over a half-mile from the ranger station is the stunning Marymere Falls The hike to the 90-foot falls is fairly accessible and the falls are well worth investigating.
  • Not too far past Lake Crescent, look for the signs to Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. Featuring naturally fed mineral hot spring pools as well as a freshwater pool, Sol Duc Hot Springs is a wonderful spot to spend a relaxing few days. (Or more!) The lodge hosts well-appointed cabins and riverside suites and they also have camping and RV opportunities in the vicinity. Located close by are the beautiful Sol Duc Falls – not to be missed!

Next on my adventure path is an area very near and dear to my heart; La Push and its surrounding beaches and coastal lands. I’ve been coming to this area for years and while I will fully admit to having read the Twilight books, this part of the state has been a favorite travel destination for many years prior. (Which is why I initially read the books – A vampire/werewolf story set in Forks and La Push?? Come on!)

In recent years, the wave of Twi-hards has begun to subside and a peaceful calm is returning to the area. That said, the related tourism was a great boon to the area’s economy and if it exposed the beauty of this part of the state to a greater audience, all the better. The undeveloped coastlines and easy solitude have always drawn me in and I hope many more come to know the magical allure of the area.

As you’re traveling west on US 101 and getting close to Forks, look for the turn-off to SR-110 which will take you to the La Push area. The 25-minute drive to La Push is fairly uneventful with swatches of logged land along the way and I always lose my cell reception about half-way into the drive. (And don’t regain it until I head back out towards US 101. No cell reception in the La Push area for me… Heh heh…) Keep an eye out along the drive for locals selling firewood. This is where you’ll find the best deals for campfire happenings and it’s a nice chance to chat with the local residents. (Although some of the stands are on the honor system and you just drop the fee in a lock box.)

The first place you’ll come to along SR-110 is the Three Rivers Resort. (The Treaty Line) It’s a diner, store, gas station, resort with RV hook-ups and cabins and a fishing guide service. (And a good option for firewood and ice!) This place is a gem and I always make a stop. They have tots AND fry sauce, great burgers, a friendly staff and restrooms.  It’s also a great checkpoint before making the decision to head a few more minutes on to La Push proper or to head over towards Mora Campground and Rialto Beach.

Mora Campground and Rialto Beach are truly remarkable areas and I keep returning over and over again to take in their glory. The campground is extensive and usually busy, but the plentiful old-growth trees and coastal shrubbery make it seem fairly exclusive and it’s easy to enjoy your privacy. Rialto Beach is also a quick drive up the road or a very doable walk. Located just across the entrance to the campground is the trailhead for James Pond. (Pond, James Pond.) (That joke will never get old.) This is a fairly short hike leading to the absolutely stunning James “Pond” area and is very much worth the effort. For another nearby wetlands hike, check out the beautiful Quillayute River Slough area.

On Rialto Beach, it’s more than feasible to just hang out on the immediate beach all day and enjoy the ocean and spectacular driftwood deposits – not to mention the seals, sea birds and ever-changing weather. If you head about a mile and a half northwest on the beach, you’ll come to the Hole in the Wall sea arch. Beautiful any time of day, you can walk through it at low tide. (Always pay mind to the tidal charts! You can pick one up at the Quileute Oceanside Resort in La Push or at the Three Rivers Resort.) Once on the main beach, stroll to your left for a better view of nearby James Island and venture out on the rock spit dividing Rialto beach from 1st Beach in “downtown” La Push.

If you keep heading west on SR-110, past the Three Rivers Resort, it will lead you down into the tiny coastal town of La Push, home to the Quileute Nation. Calling the area home for thousands of years, the Quileute have a history rich in coastal stewardship and a deep respect for the land. There’s just something about this area that gets in your soul and it’s understandable how it could inspire devotion for thousands of years. The rugged coastline, dotted with gorgeous sandy beaches and a solitude not easily found in modern times make La Push one of my favorite places on the planet.

Some of spots I love to visit in this remote, beautiful area:

  • For easy beach access, check out 1st and 2nd beaches in the main part of La Push. (There is a short hike to get to 2nd beach, but it’s very worth it. Amazing tide pools!) These beaches are usually the more crowded in the area, but they’re beautiful and quite expansive. 1st Beach is a favorite of local surfers and it’s always fun to watch them battle the NW surf. If you’d like to try some surfing yourself, check out North by Northwest Surf Co in Port Angeles or at the Hobuck Beach Resort (in Neah Bay) for all your needs.
  • My favorite local beach is just a little south of La Push proper on SR-110. 3rd Beach is a relatively easy hike down to the coastline and is one of my very favorite spots to camp, pick berries, do nothing for hours while staring aimlessly out to sea, etc. Due to the hike required for beach access, it’s not as crowded as 1st or 2nd Beaches, but in can get a little busier on weekends. If you’re looking for near total seclusion, keep hiking down the beach and locate one of the rope ladders heading back up the bluffs. The adjoining trail will take you through beautiful coastal forest and eventually back down onto more beach. The quiet, the calm and the beautiful sand are overwhelming in their welcome and I could stay there indefinitely… (Note: It is absolutely necessary to know the tidal tables for this portion of the hike.)
  • If camping isn’t your thing, check out the Quileute Oceanside Resort for hotel and cabin lodging. The area can be a bit noisy, but the beach front location is beautiful and you get to wake up looking out over 1st Beach in the morning. Not too shabby!
  • Directly next door to the Oceanside Resort is the Lonesome Creek Store & RV Park. (And propane station. And post office.) This is the only store in La Push proper and they have a decent supply of all things you might need or have forgotten for your stay. As the hours/days of the local River’s Edge Restaurant can at times be fleeting or inconsistent, their deli and supplies are a good option for your next meal. (But do check out River’s Edge if it happens to be open as it is indeed the only restaurant in La Push proper.)
  • If you’re visiting the area in mid-July, check out the Quileute Days celebration and learn all about Quileute history and culture. If you happen to be in town on the 4th of July, you’ll need to embrace the boom or head further inland for quieter times. The main section of 1st Beach is filled with campers all trying to out-do each another with bigger and louder fireworks. It’s crazy. It’s loud. You’ll pay for the whole seat, but only sit on the edge!!

Ohhhh Forks, you quirky little town that I love so much… And even though you refuse to cave to my desire for a “Forks of July” celebration, I will still continue to regularly visit the area. However, as their annual Forks Old-Fashioned 4th of July celebration is pretty great and goes for a whole week every year, I guess I’ll let it slide… For now.

As a sole destination, Forks itself isn’t a hotbed of activity, but it’s a great jumping-off point for visiting Olympic National Park, exploring the surrounding coastline areas, embarking upon epic fishing adventures or just enjoying the peace of the state’s lesser traveled back roads and byways.

A few of the places I like to visit whenever in Forks:

  • Forks Outfitters – If you’re in need of all things grocery, the local Thriftway store can meet your needs. And if you also happen to be in the market for hardware/fishing/hunting supplies – or a generally interesting array of random goods – they’ve also got you covered. Need some Twilight souvenirs to bring home? They’ve got ‘em.
  • Highlighting the area’s largest industry, the Forks Timber Museum is an interesting look into the past and present of the Fork’s famous timber scene. It’s located on US 101 and conveniently next door to the Forks Chamber of Commerce. Pop in and chat with the locals about their favorite spots and learn about the history and interesting characters of the area. (And marvel at the floor to ceiling Twilight displays)

If you don’t happen to be staying in the area, Forks is a great spot to stop for a meal on your way to either the coast or over to La Push. Most of Forks commerce and business is located directly on US 101, so access is particularly convenient. Some of my favorite spots:

  • Sully’s Burgers – Classic drive-in with great hamburgers, fries and shakes.
  • The In Place – Home-style diner fare, including tasty breakfast, lunch and dinner options.
  • BBG – Blakeslee Bar & Grill – Good pub food and a full bar.
  • Golden Gate – Classic take on Chinese food favorites. I’ve eaten here several times and it’s always pretty tasty. And I shall eat there again…
  • Hard Rain Café and Campsite – Located outside of Forks proper at the Olympic National Park entrance to the otherworldly Hoh Rainforest. Not only do they have a cool café, they have lodging and serve as a great base location for Hoh Rainforest adventures. (Including close proximity to what is said to be the Quietest Spot on Earth. I haven’t been, but it is high on my list.)
  • Creekside Restaurant (At Kalaloch Lodge) – I actually included the Creekside in my I Ate the State – Jefferson County article, but as Kalaloch Lodge is technically listed with a Forks address, I’ll include it as part of Clallam County as well. Double-duty! Not only is the Creekside a great place to stop, but a longer visit to Kalaloch should definitely be considered. (Check out my Jefferson County article for all the details!)
Thriftway
Where I get all my food – AND hardware in Forks.

There are several options for lodging in the Forks area. Prices are generally reasonable year-round, but I always find particularly good deals during the off-season. Couple that with the plentiful winter storm-watching opportunities and you’re golden!

  • The Olympic Suites – Tucked back in the trees off of US 101, the Olympic Suites offer very reasonably priced lodging with modest suites that include full kitchens and spacious rooms.
  • The Dew Drop Inn – Nice hotel/motel located directly off of US 101 on the way towards the coast. Nicely appointed rooms, quiet and conveniently located.
  • For charming Bed & Breakfast options in the Forks area, check out both the Miller Tree Inn and the Misty Valley Inn.

Heading back towards the Port Angeles area, a fabulous detour and whole new leg of Clallam County adventure can be found via SR-113 to SR-112 and on towards Neah Bay. Turn off of US 101 onto SR-113 and follow the signs.

As the road twists and turns, leading you further into no-reception territory, it’s easy to become blissfully lost in the seclusion of this area. There aren’t a lot of travelers on this road and it’s common to go miles and miles without passing another car. This is especially true in the winter months. I’ve taken a couple of solo journeys during winter and on one occasion actually turned back towards US 101. Snowing hard, no one else on the two-lane, windy road, no cell reception, making solo tracks in the snow while gaining elevation… I have a lot of faith in my AWD Sportage, (AKA: Sporty Spice) but I do try and err on the side of caution. Sometimes… (Note: While unfortunately I don’t have a street bike, this road would be pretty amazing on one.)

About 10 miles in, stay left and SR-113 becomes SR-112/the Strait of Juan de Fuca Scenic Byway. (If you head right on SR-112 it takes you towards Joyce and back to Port Angeles – we’ll cover that route later in the article.) A few miles further on SR-113, you’ll come to the Clallam Bay and Seiku areas. If you’re in need of a quick break, stop and take in the beautiful view of Clallam Bay at the Clallam Bay Spit County Park. (Also one of the only public restroom breaks along the way…)

The Clallam Bay / Seiku area is relatively small, but it’s a cozy little place to visit. Some places of note in the area:

  • Hess Mart & Espresso – Great stop for a quick snack, espresso beverage, picnic additions, etc. (in Clallam Bay)
  • Sunsets West Co-op – Cool shop in Clallam Bay with organic foods, snacks, café treats, coffee, sundries, etc.
  • Clallam Bay / Seiku Fun Days – Fun festival taking place in mid-July with food vendors, music, fireworks and a parade.
  • By the Bay Café – Very cute little café in Seiku overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Great diner-style food – breakfast, lunch and dinner!
  • Mason’s/Olson’s Resort – If you’d like to stay in the Seiku/Clallam Bay area, hit up Mason’s/Olson’s Resort. They offer houses, cabins, camping and hotel lodging and are the longest operating fishing resort in Washington State.

Traveling on SR-112 will take you in the direction of lovely Neah Bay. An amazing detour along the way is to head towards Ozette and the beautiful Lake Ozette and Cape Alva. (Take the Hoko-Ozette Road off SR-112) Granted, the road can be slower going and it’s most worthwhile if you’re able to camp overnight, but even a day trip is justified the trek.

Located in Olympic National Park, Lake Ozette is a gorgeous and remote destination. The lake is crystal clear and there are numerous hiking and backpacking opportunities in the area. (Including boat-in campsites on the tiny islands of the lake!) Cape Alva, the westernmost point in the contiguous US, is an absolutely amazing place to visit. It is the site of a Native American village buried by mudslide some 300-500 years ago, recently rediscovered and unearthed in the 1970s. Several longhouses, scores of artifacts and examples of native culture were perfectly preserved in the layers of mud and silt. Many of these artifacts are now on display at the nearby Makah Museum.

A beautiful hike starting out of the Lake Ozette area is the 9.4 mile Cave Alva Loop. Along the way, stop to respectfully take in the 2000-year old petroglyphs carved into the “Wedding Rocks” by ancestors of the Makah Tribe. There is no signage, but they can be found while heading south, once you’ve reached the beach. For more camping details in the area, check out the NPS site. It should also be noted that the western terminus of the 1200-mile Pacific Northwest Trail is located at Cape Alva. #GOALS

Back on SR-112, keep heading west to its terminus at the lovely Neah Bay. As you travel along SR-112, keep an eye out for herds of elk grazing in the coastal meadows and soaring hawks and eagles stalking their prey along the shores. The views of the coastline are beautiful and rocky and on several occasions I’ve seen giant eagles casually perched on rocks taking it all in. (As an eagle does) I’ve also noticed that while I typically don’t have phone coverage in this area, I do often pick up roaming coverage from nearby Canada. To enjoy BC roaming coverage while checking out the eagles firsthand, check out the shoreline cottages at Chito Beach Resort for a lovely local stay.

Neah Bay, with its excellent coastal access is the home of the Native American Makah Tribe. Having called this area home for thousands of years, their culture and heritage runs deep in the coastal legacies. A fine way to learn more about the Makah history is with a visit to the well-curated and designed Makah Museum, located directly off of SR-112. If you happen to be visiting during August, make an effort to catch the Makah Days celebration to experience first-hand the traditions of the Makah Tribe.

If you’re looking for a bite or a cup of coffee, Neah Bay is small, but does indeed have some nice options:

  • Linda’s Wood Fired Pizza – In addition to wood-fired pizza, Linda’s offers fresh fish, soups, homemade pies and more!
  • The Warm House – Fresh fish and clam chowder, tasty burgers, waterfront location – serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Washburn’s General Store – A True Value hardware store AND a fully stocked grocery store. (And in keeping true to their name, they carry all sorts of other general items) It’s Neah Bay’s one-stop shopping store – and a great place to stock up for local picnicking and camping adventures. They also sell the Makah Recreation Pass needed for exploring several local sites.

To check out the most northwestern point of the contiguous US, head west out of Neah Bay on the Cape Flattery Road. Park in the parking lot and head down the well-maintained, but at times, very wet and slippery, Cape Flattery Trail towards the ocean. (Note: You will need a Makah Recreation Pass to park in the trailhead lot.) The trail down to the actual most northwestern point in the US is gorgeous and filled with beautiful old-growth trees and sweeping views. I continue to be stunned each time I stand on the edge of the bluff, looking out to Tatoosh Island and the Cape Flattery Lighthouse and back over to the breathtaking cliffs and coves on either side of the outcrop. The water is a striking teal green and it’s entirely easy to imagine pirates stashing treasure in the various caves and coves. I will never tire of exploring this part of the state and always find something “new” and amazing to take in.

For another amazing coastal adventure in the Neah Bay area, head up Cape Flattery Road and turn left onto Hobuck Road. (Before getting to Cape Flattery.) There you will find the Hobuck Beach Resort and beautiful Hobuck Beach. (A Makah Recreation Pass is required to park in the day use area.) There are cabins, camping and RV sites at the resort and surf rentals for enjoying the local surf scene. A great hike in the area is the 2-mile trek to Shi-Shi Beach and Point of the Arches. (To camp on Shi-Shi Beach requires a Makah Recreation Pass and a wilderness camping permit. And make sure you have a tidal chart with you.) The sunsets are exquisite and the remoteness of the beach is a reward in and of itself.

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Beautiful and winding Cape Flattery Road

Heading back towards Port Angeles on SR-112, take the left fork to stay on 112 rather than going right and back to SR-113 and US 101. (The turn is about 6 miles beyond Clallam Bay.) The drive is winding, beautiful and another great candidate for a street bike excursion.  Enjoy a picnic along the drive with a break at Pillar Point County Park or stop in the nearby town of Joyce for a step back in time at the Joyce General Store & Depot Museum. Over 100 years old, the charming store and museum features displays from the bygone Port Crescent days as well as offering food and sundries.

Check out these additional enjoyable distractions on the drive back to Port Angeles:

  • Joyce Days Wild Blackberry Festival – A local festival celebrating the town of Joyce and wild blackberries on the 1st Saturday of August. Local music and crafts and a lot of blackberry goods.
  • Blackberry Café – Open during the summer months (June – Sept), stop in for delicious pie and burgers.
  • Salt Creek Recreation Area – Check out the rocky tide pools and enjoy the sandy beaches, hiking trails and camping opportunities. The area also features remnants of the WWII era Camp Hayden – bring your flashlight!

Continuing east on SR-112 will eventually bring you back down to US 101 and into Port Angeles. It is completely possible to take in Clallam County on a very long, summer day trip, but I’d recommend taking a good few days to savor the area. (Or many more!) With miles and miles of unspoiled land, water and coastline stretching out across the county, the beauty is immeasurable and the opportunities for adventure are limitless.

It is rare these days to find areas untouched by modern endeavors, but Clallam County seems to corner the market. Take in the charm of its cities, but make sure to explore its back roads, towering mountains and sweeping shorelines. There is nothing like Clallam County. It never fails to rejuvenate, add perspective to these hectic and cluttered times and provide me with a much needed sense of calm. I hope you’ll find Clallam County as amazingly beautiful and revitalizing as I do.

Cheers!

Ferry5
See ya next time!

 

For a few road trip tune suggestions, check out my Clallam County playlist on Spotify:

  • You’re A Wolf – Sea Wolf (from Leaves in the River)
  • Satellite Heart – Anya Marina (from The Twilight Saga: New Moon Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  • Vengeance Is Sleeping – Neko Case (from Middle Cyclone)
  • Mixtape – Tift Merritt (from See You on the Moon)
  • Spotlight – Mutemath (from Spotlight EP)
  • The Long Way Home – Norah Jones (from Feels Like Home)
  • Shooting the Moon – OK Go (from Of the Blue Colour of the Sky – Extra Nice Edition)
  • Oh My My – Jill Barber (from Chances)
  • Tilted – Christine & the Queens (from Christine & the Queens)
  • Lay Your Head Down – Keren Ann (from Keren Ann)
  • Goddamn Lonely Love – Drive-By Truckers (from The Dirty South)
  • Harvest Moon – Jeff Peterson (from Maui on My Mind)
  • Love Throw A Line – Patty Griffin (from Impossible Dream)
  • Rainbow Connection – The Muppets (from The Muppets – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
  • I Can See Clearly Now – Holly Cole Trio (from The Best of Holly Cole)

 

For other delicious possibilities, check out these additional I Ate the State Adventures:

Kitsap County

Jefferson County

Mason County

Kittitas County

Yakima County

Chelan County

Special Edition – Puerto Vallarta

 

I Ate the State – Yakima County

I love to travel. I love seeing the world, meeting new people, experiencing new things – I love to explore just how I fit into the greater scheme of it all. Learning about this planet we share is at the core of what makes me happy, and the core of that core owes its existence and curiosity to the feature of this edition of I Ate the State.  Please join me in exploring one of my favorite areas in the entire world and place of my birth; the lovely, nearly always sunny, Yakima County.

On the topic of cores, it is impossible to discuss Yakima County without mentioning its profound contribution to the agricultural bounty of Washington State as well as the country. (Vague attempt at apple core/fruit humor. Check.) Yakima County boasts the largest amount of commercial produce crops in Washington State, including producing roughly 78% of the nation’s hops and comes in a close second to California in wine production. Amazingly, there are over 1000 varieties of fruit and vegetables grown in the Yakima Valley area!

Not only does Yakima County feature sweeping orchards, vineyards and hop fields, it is a land rich with rivers, rolling hills and geological wonders, all crowned by the beauty of the Cascade mountain range. Due to its proximity to the Cascades, Yakima County benefits from the resulting rain shadow and typically enjoys around 300 days of sunshine a year. (Giving the city of Yakima the nickname, ‘The Palm Springs of Washington State.’ It’s very official – There’s a billboard on the way into town…) For wine and beer lovers, this climate provides the perfect growing conditions for grapes and hops and contributes greatly to the burgeoning popularity of Washington State wine and beer. As the second largest county in the state with a size larger than the combined areas of Rhode Island and Delaware, there is much to explore and so much to enjoy.

If you’re venturing to Yakima County from the west, which is my usual trajectory, there are several scenic options. In the summer, one of my favorite routes is over Chinook Pass via State Route 410. As you wind towards the top of the pass, you’ll begin to understand why it’s closed during the winter months. It can be precarious enough on a rainy, foggy July day, let alone during the deep snows of winter. The views are absolutely stunning as you look out over the valley and follow the White River to its origin at the base of Mt. Rainier. Near the top, be sure to stop at Tipsoo Lake to enjoy the scenery and take a quick hike around the lake. Often times, when the pass first opens in late spring, the road seems like a gauntlet with snow towering up on both sides of the road. This changes by the time July rolls around and you’ll be met with an explosion of amazing wildflowers and color. It’s truly spectacular.

In addition to the Pacific Crest Trail passing directly across the crest of Chinook Pass, one of my very favorite hikes on the planet takes off from the top off the pass. The Dewey Lake Trail is beautiful and traverses down into the valley alongside Mt. Rainier National Park, arriving appropriately at the lovely Dewey Lake. Camping by the lake is an excellent way to spend a weekend, but as there are a few bodies of water in the area, be sure to bring bug spray. On a clear night, the view of the stars reflecting on the lake is sublime and is actually the inspiration for my upcoming novel, The Secret Galaxy of Stars. (Which I will be finishing soon. For realsies.) Dewey Lake, as well as the smaller, unnamed lakes in the near vicinity are great for summer swimming – bring your suit!

Hwy410
Once you get over Chinook Pass, the sky widens and the wilderness spreads out in front of you…

Heading over the pass and continuing east, the sky seems to widen and the trees begin to change from denser Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock to the more sparsely populated Ponderosa Pines. The air immediately lightens up and on a summer day, you can almost immediately feel the temperature change. Air-conditioners come on, jackets come off – welcome to Central Washington!

My family has been camping, dirt-biking, hiking and generally adventuring in this part of the state from a time long before I was born. These trees, these rivers, this land is an essential part of my identity and any time I travel through its corridors, a sense of peace and calm takes over. Memories of family and friends, food on sticks and whatever gash or scrape I was nursing from whatever trail I’d wrecked the bike on all come flooding back and the world, at least temporarily, seems right again.

There are so many parts of this area I absolutely love, but here are a few of my personal favorites:

  • In need of a winding, uphill trek on crazy mountain back roads, ending with a sweeping view of Mt. Rainier and surrounding peaks and valleys? Take Forest Service road 1900 (aka: Little Naches Road or FS 19) to Forest Service road 1902 and head up to Ravens Roost Lookout and enjoy the remarkable view. For those of you camping and in need of cell reception, it’s upwards of an hour trek to the lookout, but you’ll likely get a decent connection at the top.
RavensRoost
Late afternoon at Ravens Roost
  • Along the way to Ravens Roost Lookout, there are many campsite areas and scenic spots to stop and check out. (Cliff jumping anyone?) The Naches River is beautiful, with plentiful fishing and recreational opportunities and has been the centerpiece of my family’s camping adventures for decades. On a clear night, the stars are plentiful, the air crisp and the sounds of coyotes, wolves, bear, elk – or maybe it’s just a squirrel – keep the imagination alive and alert around the campfire. While my family does have a tendency to bring everything but the kitchen sink to the campsite bar and grill, there is something to be said for figuring out all the foods one can cook on a stick over an open fire… (Note: There are many excellent areas to backpack and hike in the area, but most of the campsites in this particular area cater more to RVs, ORVs, dirt bikes, etc. There are also several camps used as starting points for horse riding on local area trails.)
  • Bring a flashlight and head over to the Boulder Cave area for a nice hike through the Ponderosa Pine and basalt-walled gully leading down to the cave entrance. The cave is several hundred meters long and has an entrance and exit. Water streams through the cave system and it can be slippery with loose rocks – a flashlight is imperative. This is definitely a great area in which to check out the geology and makeup of this part of the state. And caves are cool!
  • If you’d prefer to not tough it out in a tent or even sort of tough it out in a RV, check out the lodging opportunities at Whistlin’ Jacks in the Cliffdell area. A main point of gathering, lodging and dining in the area since the 1930s, Whistlin’ Jacks is a beacon on the drive between Enumclaw and Yakima. They have a small motel as well as several cabins dotted around the grounds, all located alongside the Naches River. The dining room in the main lodge also features a great view of the river and they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. (Note: If you’re running low on fuel, gas up at Whistlin’ Jacks before heading over the pass – there’s no fuel until Greenwater if you’re headed west – 50 or so miles away!)

If you happen to be coming from the southwest part of the state, hit up US Route 12 (Goes from Aberdeen, WA all the way to Detroit, MI!) over White Pass for a beautiful mountain drive. You’ll pass through several small towns along what is also known as the White Pass Scenic Byway before arriving at the top of the pass and home of the White Pass Ski Area.

On the topic of skiing, White Pass is one of my all-time favorite spots to enjoy such snowy pursuits. The snow is excellent, the skiable areas are abundant and the main lodge has thoroughly maintained its old-school charm. Additionally, it’s still a locally-run operation, the lodge hasn’t changed much since I was a kid and I always meet the friendliest group of winter-enthusiasts every time I visit.

As if the sun and snow weren’t enough, the White Pass ski area also hosts one of my favorite winter destinations ever… Imagine flying down a run on a beautiful, sunny day. Your legs are feeling the burn and you realize just how much you’d love a cold beer and a quick rest… But the lodge is way down at the bottom of the mountain! WHAT DO YOU DO??  And then, just when all hope seems lost, you come around the bend and a delightful little scene appears before your eyes.  Behold the glory of the Mid-mountain Yurt! (Cue angelic choir) It’s usually not crowded and completely feasible to pop off your skis, walk inside and have a cold beer in your hand in total of one minute.  On nice days they often have a BBQ going outside and you can grab a quick brat for some extra energy. Mid-mountain yurt for the win!  (Only open on Saturdays through March 31st) There’s also the High Camp day lodge, with its outdoor BBQ and beer options, but there’s just something to be said for the best-kept-secret of the mid-mountain yurt. Sigh…

If you’d like to stay near the ski hill, there are several options:

  • White Pass Village Inn – Comfortable, condo-style and studio lodging directly across the street from the main ski lodge – with a year-round, outdoor pool!
  • “Lot C” – Camper/RV camping. There’s a parking lot just past the crest of the pass, heading east. It’s first-come-first-served and can get crowded on weekends, but it’s FREE and depending on time of year, you can ski down from the hill, directly to the lot/campsite. There’s also often a cozy, communal fire pit going on into the late night where you can hang out with fellow ski bums.
  • There are many cabin rentals available in the near vicinity. From small cottages to cabins that will comfortably sleep 10+, there are many great options. Hit up VRBO or Airbnb for a great selection. (The one we usually rent sleeps 9 of us, has a great kitchen and a nice outdoor hot tub – about a 20 minute drive to the ski hill.)
  • Packwood Lodge – About a half hour west of White Pass is the little town of Packwood. This is a nice spot located directly off the highway. There is also a RV/camper lot adjacent to the lodge.

In addition to the sacred pastime of downhill skiing and snowboarding, there are also many other outdoor opportunities in the White Pass area.  Hiking, camping, rock climbing, fishing and dirt biking in the summer and snowmobiling and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter, to name a few. There is definitely no shortage of amazing outdoor opportunities to be had in the White Pass area or its parallel adventure zone, SR 410 and the Chinook Pass area.

Heading east on either SR 410 or US 12, you will arrive in the small town of Naches. Gateway to the Yakima Valley, the sky further opens and the horizon begins to stretch out in front of you. Tucked into the hills overlooking the Naches area is the even smaller town of Tieton. Surrounded by beautiful orchards and vineyards, this area once (and still) dedicated to agricultural pursuits, is now also home to a growing Arts community called Mighty Tieton. They have regular events in the area featuring local artisans and the local cidery, Tieton Cider Works has a new tasting room close to the downtown Yakima area where they showcase their cider creations. (With bocce ball and cornhole!) And if you happen to make the trek over to Tieton Cider Works, also consider stopping into nearby Yakima Craft Brewing. They’ve been brewing great beer for the last 10 years and now have a new tasting room and events space. I’m particularly fond of their Good Monk Belgian blonde and their 1982 red ale. Delicious! (Kid friendly, too!)

When driving through the idyllic hills of the Naches Heights area, a good spot to enjoy the view and a nice glass of wine is the Wilridge Winery & Distillery.  The winery is located on a hill overlooking Naches and is nestled next to well-established orchards and vineyards. On a recent visit, many of the people visiting the winery had made prior stops at nearby “you-pick” cherry orchards to stock up on Rainier cherries and other local varieties.  (Check out Thompson’s Farm or Johnson Orchards for you-pick opportunities throughout the various fruit harvesting seasons.) The tasting room is set inside a 100-year old farmhouse and on summer days, it’s lovely to sit outside on the porch while enjoying your wine tasting. The staff is very accommodating and the tasting experience has a relaxing, homey feel about it.  They also have live music and themed events throughout the year. Additionally, they’re dog-friendly, put out fresh water dishes and like to indulge their four-legged guests with giant treats.

If you’re in need of a little adventure with your wine, there are also rock climbing and rappelling opportunities on nearby cliffs as well as quick access to the Cowiche Canyon Uplands Trails. I was much too interested in wine-tasting endeavors on my recent visit, but hope to check out those areas on my next trip. (Preferably before doing any wine-tasting…)

Driving out of the Naches area, there are many ways to head into Yakima proper. North 16th Ave and North 1st Street are two main thoroughfares available off of US 12, but for the most direct route to the downtown heart of Yakima, I’d recommend hitting up I-82. If you’re heading over from western Washington during the winter, chances are you took I-90 through Ellensburg. (Check out my Kittitas County article for more info about the Ellensburg area and I-90 corridor.) Since I-90 goes over the lowest mountain pass in the state, Snoqualmie Pass, this is hands down the most popular winter route between western and eastern Washington.  That said, I-90 is generally the most popular route year-round, which can make for long drives heading back to western Washington on Sunday afternoons. If you’re good with night driving, it’s often a much better deal to get on the road in the evening and plan for a later return. Stop at a nice restaurant on the way out of town and enjoy the sunset before returning to what very well might be a rainy evening…

On that note, there are many great dining opportunities and general distractions to enjoy in the downtown and greater Yakima area. Since Yakima is my hometown, there are many standards to which I’m loyal. However, with the expansion of the local wine and brewery scene, Yakima is exploding with new and exciting eateries to check out.  Here are a few of my new – and old – favorites:

  • Crafted– Trendy, but relaxed dining in downtown Yakima. Housed in one of Yakima’s classic brick buildings, Crafted offers seasonally-inspired NW cuisine and features locally sourced ingredients. Great food, delicious craft cocktails and a good wine list – A fine addition to the downtown Yakima scene.
  • Cowiche Canyon Kitchen & Icehouse – Located in downtown Yakima, Cowiche Canyon Kitchen & Icehouse is known for great steaks, hand-crafted cocktails and farm-to-table ingredients, all presented in a well-designed, modern setting.
  • Carousel – Right around the corner from Crafted, Carousel offers a NW take on classic French cuisine. Dinner, brunch on Sundays and a well-rounded wine and cocktail offering – check them out!
  • The Sports Center Restaurant & Bar – The Sports Center is classic Yakima and offers a classic American pub-style menu. They regularly feature music and it’s usually a pretty lively scene on the weekends. My dad and I both have played their stage in our early performance days – And back when my dad was a sign man in Yakima, he also worked on the artwork for their iconic neon sign. The Sports Center will always hold a special place in my heart.
  • Essencia Artisan Bakery – Stop by Essencia when downtown and in need of fresh baked pastries, breads, coffee or a tasty, café-style lunch.
  • Golden Wheel Restaurant and Lotus Room – Bringing Cantonese-style Chinese cuisine and powerful cocktails to downtown Yakima for the past 75 years, the Golden Wheel is another Yakima classic.
GoldenWheel
Part of the downtown Yakima scene for 75 years!

Even though Yakima has been rocking the nation’s hop scene for many decades, it’s really only been in the past 20 years that local breweries have come on the scene and started taking advantage of the hop bounty.  Some tasty options in the downtown area:

As thankful I am Yakima finally has a local brewing scene, I am extremely thankful to the vintners of the Yakima Valley for fully embracing the area’s vast potential for wine making. (Mmmm – delicious, delicious wine…) The wine-making efforts of Washington State have come to legitimately rival those of California and France and the Yakima Valley is key to this success.  If you’re in the downtown Yakima area, here’s a list of tasting rooms to check out:

  • Gilbert Cellars – Comfortable tasting room in downtown Yakima with a modern flair. I very much enjoy their 2017 Vin du Vallee and their 2012 Reserve No. 2.
  • Antolin Cellars – Across the street from Gilbert Cellars. A cozy atmosphere, friendly staff and tasty wine.
  • Kana Winery – Located in the beautiful, Art Deco style Larson building in downtown Yakima. Stop in for their happy hour tastings and live music.

Downtown Yakima is known for its classic buildings and many are featured on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the things I always loved checking out as a child were the various merchant advertisements painted on the sides of the classic brick buildings. Many of these are still visible and will hopefully continue to stand the test of time and urban development. Some of the gems in downtown Yakima architectural crown:

  • E. Larson Building – Beautiful, Art Deco style building, circa 1931. A true standout in the Yakima skyline housing various businesses. They also have a long-running light display on the side of the building at night which is regularly updated.
  • Hotel Maison – Looking for a classic place to stay while indulging in local wine and beer? Built in 1911 to accommodate the local Masons, it’s now home to Hotel Maison and is a wonderful tribute to the heyday of downtown Yakima. (Well on its way to enjoying the next heyday!)
  • Capitol Theatre – Built in 1920, the Capitol Theatre has hosted quite an amazing array of Arts and Entertainment over the years. (My grandfather performed there in big band shows!) After a horrible fire in the 70s nearly destroyed the theatre, it has been lovingly rebuilt and maintains its strong dedication to Arts in the Yakima Valley area today.
  • Fruit Row – Not really a building, per se, but more a series of buildings and warehouses which greatly helped define the importance of the Yakima fruit growing operation. (And still do!) There is presently a grant in place to fund exploration of making this part of town a National Historic District. I sincerely hope this effort succeeds. In the meantime, it’s an interesting drive through the area roads. Wooden fruit crates stacked tall, in far-stretching rows all the way down the street… My mom worked for the Washington State Fruit Commission back in the day as well as doing much seasonal work at the Snokist cannery. The fruit scene of the Yakima Valley is part of my history and I’m always proud to hear of Yakima Valley produce making its way around the world.

There are many ways to enjoy Yakima and several events and festivals throughout the year can set you on that path:

  • Craft Beverage Yakima Walk – November 10th in downtown Yakima. Walk around the downtown area and sample what all of the cideries, breweries and wine tasting rooms have been up to!
  • Fresh Hop Ale Festival – Takes place at the end of September and features many of the local area breweries. This year it was set up right in front of the historic Capitol Theatre.
  • Yakima Taco Fest – Happening mid-September, it’s a festival of Tacos! Enough said.
  • Yakima Uncorked – Visiting Yakima in June? Consider checking out the Yakima Uncorked festival to learn all about – and taste! – local wine and food.
  • Downtown Yakima Farmer’s Market – Buy directly from local farmers, check out local artisans, enjoy local food – all in the heart of downtown Yakima. (Sundays, May – October)
  • Yakima Valley Museum – There are a few sources responsible for molding me into the nerd I am today, but the birthplace of said nerdiness can be traced directly back to the Yakima Valley Museum. I continue to channel that same sense of wonder I experienced there as a 5-year old anytime I visit museums to this day. Thanks, YVM!
YakimaCycleShop
Now displayed in the Yakima Valley Museum, this neon song is classic Yakima. (My dad worked on the artwork for it!)
  • Franklin Park – Directly next door to the Yakima Valley Museum is the lovely, Franklin Park. I spent many a day with my parents, grandparents and friends enjoying its grounds and it always makes me smile. The terraces in the park are particularly cool in the winter and they have great concerts and festivals during the summer.
  • Birchfield Manor – Just outside of the downtown area, check out the Birchfield Manor inn and restaurant for a delicious meal, a cozy room and a step back into old Yakima charm.
  • Central WA State Fair – Here’s the deal: I LOVE the Central Washington State Fair. I love looking at incredibly intricate fruit/vegetable/agricultural displays. I love checking out vintage tractors. I love eating GIANT “elephant ears” (Fried bread with a lot of cinnamon & sugar on it – YUM!) and hand-dipped corn dogs. I love visiting the horses, cows, chickens, rabbits, goats, etc. and generally taking in the farm animal scene. I looked forward to the fair every year as a kid and I look forward to it presently. Crisp fall air, the smell of the harvest season… Bring it on. Bring me to the fair! (And please bring me another elephant ear. Thanks!)

Yakima is the largest city in the area and the namesake of the county, but there are several other interesting towns and places to visit in the nearby vicinity. Heading east out of Yakima, I-82 is the most popular and direct route. However, for an interesting (and potentially delicious) detour, consider heading out of town via the Union Gap area.

Often considered part of Yakima, Union Gap is its own town and brings important history and charm to the greater Yakima area. It also sits at the official gap in the rolling hills surrounding Yakima, welcoming travelers in and out of the area. Some noteworthy places to visit when in Union Gap:

  • Miner’s Drive-In – Classic burgers in Yakima/Union Gap. Miners has been around for 75 years and shows no sign of slowing down. I have the fondest memories of rolling through their somewhat awkward drive-thru with various family members over the years. The burgers are HUGE, they have awesome shakes and fries and they have the most glorious condiment ever created – FRY SAUCE. No arguments will be entertained. Fry sauce is the best.  Annnnnnnd… SCENE! Go to Miners. You don’t even have to hit up the drive-thru if you don’t want to as they have added ample indoor – and outdoor picnic – seating over the past many years. Go to Miners!