I Ate the State – Snohomish County (Part II – The Sea Side)

Alllllllllrighty! We’re back with more Snohomish County action!

If you haven’t checked out Part I – The Mountain Side, give it a read HERE.

*A quick note if you’re reading this on 5/11/19 and are in or around the Mukilteo area:

May 11th is Opening Day of flying season at Kilo-7 and the Historic Flight exhibit. (Fully restored/operational planes from 1927 – 1957.) Most importantly, you’ll get to bid bon voyage to their Douglas C-47B/DC-3 as it departs at 3pm for Normandy, France to participate in the 75th anniversary of D-Day. WOW!!

And now back to regularly scheduled programming…

For the second part of my excursion, I visited the “sea side” area of Snohomish County. This part of the county is easily accessible from many points off I-5 as well as many excellent backroads; a collection of which are referred to as the “The Seaside Loop.” For this portion of my adventure, I decided to head north via I-5 and start my loop tour in the small town of Stanwood.

As Stanwood is on the way to Camano Island, it can sometimes be taken for granted as a thoroughfare to the Salish Sea, also commonly known as the Puget Sound. (Note: Camano Island is part of Island County, an area of which I’ll be soon covering!) While Stanwood is indeed the gateway to Camano Island – and Camano Island is a beautiful place to visit – don’t count out Stanwood! There are many reasons to spend a bit of time wandering around the area.

A mix of Native American heritage, Scandinavian traditions from mid-1800s settlers and a good bit of easy-going, coastal charm, Stanwood is a delicious combination of flavors. Initially coined “Centerville” in 1866, it became Stanwood in 1877 after the maiden name of the postmaster’s wife. It was well-situated as a trading post with its position at the mouth of the Stillaguamish River, where it flows into Port Susan and the Skagit Bay and it remains a pivotal location today. In 2009, Stanwood gained an Amtrak train stop in the downtown area, further cementing its ongoing relevance and accessibility.

If you’d like to learn more about the history of Stanwood, check out the D.O. Pearson House Museum in the downtown area. Home to Stanwood’s first mayor and built in 1890, it’s a beautiful Victorian “period house museum” and remains quite grand to this day. (On the National Register of Historic Places) Who doesn’t love a good museum??

For further adventure through the historic downtown center of Stanwood, consider adding these places to your list:

  • Get your glogg on at the Uff Da Shoppe located in the quirky Viking Village, just off the main route through town, SR-532. Stock up on Scandinavian foods, housewares, collectibles, GNOMES, holiday goodies and MORE! (Dad – they have gnomes!)
Uff Da
They’ve got gnomes!
  • Just a block behind Viking Village, you’ll come to the first section of old-town Stanwood. The street is lined with several shops and restaurants to check out. One of my favorite stops was Polska Kuchnia, a delicious Polish restaurant featuring all the Polish hits. I tried the pierogis, stuffed cabbage and farmer’s cheese cheesecake – all topped off with a Warka blackcurrant radler. Suffice to say, I was stuffed. (Like the cabbage – ba-doom-ching!) But that doesn’t mean I didn’t also make room for some delicious cupcakes from Stanwood Cupcakes, just down the street. YUM!! (Okay, maybe I waited to eat them later in the day. Maybe.) Note: Many of the shops are closed on Sundays.
  • Just a couple blocks up, you’ll find the Stanwood Farmers Market. Stock up on fresh produce and other tasty treats – enjoy the local bounty! (June 6 – Oct 11, Fridays – 2p – 6p)

Heading further west on SR-532, you’ll pass by the more recent additions to Stanwood – the newer chain restaurants, grocery stores and assorted retail shops. Stanwood has all the modern conveniences, but don’t miss out on the next section of old-town Stanwood, about a mile west on SR-532. An entire day of exploring could very easily take place within a couple square blocks…

  • Located about a block off SR-532, the Stanwood Hotel & Saloon (c. late 1890s) is a cool spot to grab a meal – or an overnight stay in their haunted They feature pub-style food, live music on weekends, period-decor rooms and it’s in walking distance to the great old building of Stanwood – including the D.O. Pearson House Museum. And it’s haunted!
  • If you’re looking for classic diner fare in a classic diner setting, head to the Stanwood Café – about a block away from The Stanwood Hotel & Saloon.
  • Crow Island Farms offers rustic, farm-to-table dinners in old-town Stanwood – Just across from the Stanwood Hotel & Saloon and down from the D.O. Pearson House Museum.
  • Should shopping be on your list, there’s a cute antique shop, Brick Road Antiques (Closed on Sundays) near the Stanwood Café as well as the urban-funky, Urban Trends. They have an online store, too!

There’s something to be said for getting outside and enjoying the fresh air and Stanwood has no shortage of opportunities. The Stanwood Camano Fair is the state’s largest community fair and takes place the first weekend of August. (8/2 – 8/4) Also in summer, the city hosts free movies in the park at Church Creek Park and concerts in the downtown area – as well as the Stanwood Camano Summer Arts Jam, July 12-14. (Watch the city Events page for more information and official dates.)

Since I wasn’t traveling onto Camano, I turned off SR-532 onto the scenic Pioneer Highway and headed towards the little town of Silvana. The Pioneer Highway is a great trip in and of itself if you’re into beautiful farmland, winding curves, old barns – that kind of thing. (Gross!) To drive the entire stretch, enter via Exit 208 off I-5 or at Exit 221 to Conway, further north in Skagit County. It’s definitely one of Washington’s more wonderful backroads – and a great pick for motorcyclists.

Directly off the lovely Pioneer Highway lies the equally lovely and very tiny town of Silvana. Packed into its small bit of township are several worthwhile stops to make. You could in fact head home with the ingredients for a pretty amazing farm-to-table meal from just a quick Silvana visit. Some of the places to hit up:

  • Stop by Willow & Jims Country Café for the classic, country diner scene. It seemed like the entire town of Silvana was there when I visited. Popular place! Serving breakfast and lunch from 7a – 3pm. (Closed Monday/Tuesday)
Silvana Five and Dime
There’s stuff in there I NEED!
  • Snohomish County is well known for its strawberries. That said, they’re also growing some pretty amazing blueberries, too! Check out Hazel Blue Acres for U-pick blueberries – and hazelnuts! (Note: Check their hours before you go as they have special hours during the off-season.)
  • Head to Silvana Meats for all the meats! Locally sourced meats, fresh sausages, ham, Landjäger, jerky, BACON, pickled herring – you name it, they’ve got it! They’ll also process your wild game, duck, goose and fish!
  • Heading out of Silvana proper, all one block of it, you’ll come to the Old Silvana Creamery, located on Pioneer Highway East. I will admit to not being a super huge milk fan, but they have me intrigued. They specialize in raw milk from grass-fed Jersey and Guernsey cows and people rave about it. (As opposed to the common Holstein cow.) Very interesting…

After exploring Silvana and ooing and awing over the truly gorgeous countryside, I headed back towards I-5, down south to Exit 206 and west towards the North Lakewood area. I was specifically heading towards Lake Goodwin and towards the coastal Marine Drive, but was pleasantly distracted along the way by more beautiful scenery, idyllic old barns and picturesque farm scenes. The small town of North Lakewood is located along SR-531 and offers the usual modern conveniences, but I was most drawn to the scenery past the city hub as I drove closer towards Port Susan.

My first stop was at Lake Goodwin Community Park for some beautiful lake views and then nearby Lake Goodwin Resort to check out their cabins, RV park, boating and rental opportunities. Between the two properties, it’s possible to spend a very enjoyable few days – or more – in the area, soaking up the lake vibes, boating, swimming, water skiing, jet skiing and MORE! There is some serious fun-in-the-sun to be had in the Lake Goodwin area.

If you’re up for a meal and a good cocktail while you’re in the area, check out The Paddle Club for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s located directly along SR-531/Lakewood Road and is a good place to relax after a sunny visit to Lake Goodwin. Sure, the area is ripe with opportunities for picnics on the lake, but just know there’s a sit-down, cocktail-friendly option right across the road…

Paddle Club
Stop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

A little further up Lakewood Road, you’ll come to the junction of 92nd Avenue NW. Take a left and make a quick jog onto 176th Street NW and you’ll hook up with Marine Drive. It’s possible to take this coastal-hugging road from Stanwood all the way to Marysville, but there are a few points to sync up to it from other areas along the way. It’s a gorgeous, winding drive and it’s worth a trip alone to make. And just like nearby Pioneer Highway, it would be exceptionally nice on a motorcycle…

Not too far south on Marine Drive, you’ll come to the beautiful Kayak Point County Park and their awesome Yurt Village. (They have a regular, drive-in campsite section, too!) Stay in a cool yurt, hike down to the beach looking out over Port Susan, take in a spectacular sunset, get in some fishing or crabbing and maybe bust out some windsurfing – Come on – who doesn’t want in on this?? I know I do. Pretty much all day, every day… Sign me up.

Since I was doing the “Seaside Loop,” I continued south down Marine Drive to where it meets up with I-5 in the Marysville area. It’s a beautiful, tree-lined drive with views of the water peeking through here and there, as well as gorgeous stretches of pastures and farm land as you get closer to the I-5 corridor. Between Marine Drive and the Pioneer Highway, it’s the perfect lazy weekend drive…

As you drive along Marine Drive, you’ll enter the lands of the Tulalip Reservation. The Tulalip Tribes are comprised of descendants of the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish and other allied tribes who were signatories of the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott. The treaty is a lands settlement between the US government and Native American tribes of the Puget Sound area in what was then known as the Washington Territory. Noted signees of the treaty include Chief Seattle, Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens (I attended Isaac Stevens Junior High) and Chief Patkanim. To learn more about the Tulalip Tribes, visit the excellent Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve for an in-depth look into tribal histories, lands and customs.

Before leaving the Tulalip area and heading back down south, I might have hit up the Tulalip Resort and Casino, located just off 1-5. And I might have won (or lost) a few dollars… I’ll never tell. But what I will say is the Tulalip Resort and Casino is quite grand and if you’re looking for a quick shot of that Vegas vibe without leaving the state, they can hook you up. Nice onsite lodging, a spa, great restaurants, entertainment and opportunity to win (or lose) a little cash…

Further south on I-5, you’ll come to several exits for county seat of Snohomish County, Everett. Since Snohomish is quite large, this trip definitely required several days of hard-hitting “research” and for the Everett portion, I brought along one of my dearest friends and longtime travel buddies, Emily-Suzanna. We’ve hit up some pretty amazing places around the world together, but it was time to do some exploring in our own backyard. Plus, we can handle each other for long periods of time, cooped up in a vehicle together without punching each other. Bonus! And whenever someone joins me on a quest, we get to sample WAY more tasty foods and beverages… Road trip buddies for the win!!

To make the most out of Everett and the most out of our day trip, we got an early start. Even on a sunny day, the area between Edmonds and Everett can get foggy in the morning, making an eerie start to the day. The Union Slough is a marsh mudflat area on the way to Everett and early in the day, there’s often low-lying layer of fog covering the area. It can certainly feel a bit haunting as you make your way up I-5 – into the misty embrace of adventure… (I’ll be right back. I think I need to go drink tea and read some Tolkien.)

If you’d like to explore the slough and observe all of the great wildlife and water birds, the Union Slough Mitigation Bank & Trail is accessible off of I-5 or downtown Everett. Also in the area are the Langus Riverfront Park and its two loop trails and the bird-watching haven of Spencer Island.

Union Slough
An eerie morning on the Union Slough near Everett

Our first point of investigation was downtown Everett. Covering roughly 10-blocks, the downtown core is filled with businesses, restaurants, entertainment and a great collection of historic buildings. The Historic Everett Walking Tour, courtesy of our friends at the Granite Falls Historical Society, is a cool way to check out the scene. Click here to get started with your smart phone adventure!

Since it was still relatively early in the day, I was convinced I needed more caffeine to fuel the adventure. I’d hear about a great coffee shop downtown called Narrative Coffee so we made it our first stop – and I’m absolutely glad we did. It’s a cool space in an older building with exposed brick walls, an open-air design and a super friendly staff – And the coffee was excellent! I’m a devoted lover of coffee and have tried a variety of styles, beans, add-ins, etc. over the years, but I’ve settled back on either an Americano or Espresso Con Panna. (w/extra whip. Duh.) On this occasion, however, I was inspired to try their mocha made with Ritual Chocolate and I have no regrets. It was delicious and just what I needed to perk me up in the foggy morning.

Feeling alive and ready for adventure, we walked up a couple blocks to the amazing, over-the-top, glorious, SUPER FUN, spectacularly kick-ass Funko Headquarters & Store. If you’re unfamiliar with Funko, they make the collectible block-headed figurines modeled after all things pop culture and beyond. (Golden Girls figurines anyone??) In addition to selling pretty much all of their figurines at their store, they also feature an impressively large variety of collectible gear from movies, sports and more. A visit to the Funko store is like a visit to the pop-culture mothership! They even have a section of the store where you can custom-make your own Funko doll. And even if you don’t want to nerd out over their wares, they also feature the most elaborate displays inspired by movies, comic books – you name it – all around the store. It’s a store AND a pop-culture museum – and fun for ALL ages. If you can’t find something you love at Funko, I’m worried for your soul. (Special props to Emily for helping me differentiate between want and need while perusing the Funko treasures. For the record, I did put a few things back. Because I know I’ll be returning. Heh heh.)

If you’re hanging out downtown, Everett has a variety of eateries. A few places to check out while you’re in the area:

  • Head over to Capers & Olives if you have a passion for delicious pasta, seasonal dishes and local ingredients served by a knowledgeable staff. (Owner/Chef Jimmy Liang has credits including Café Juanita, Serafina and The Herb Farm) Closed Sundays.
  • If you’re looking for a dive bar with loud, live music and a good burger, check out Tony V’s Garage. They’ve also been known to host School of Rock concerts on weekend afternoons. (All ages) My nephew played his very first gig there, in fact. Kind of weird to see a 15-year old playing behind a chain-link fence in a bar, but hey – get ‘em rockin’ out young! (PSA: It was all on the up and up. NO underage drinking took place – or any other teenage shenanigans. Other than 15-year olds bustin’ out Led Zeppelin… Quite nicely, I might add. Aunt Dayna was proud!)
  • Cookies, cakes, fresh bread, pastries, macrons, sandwiches… If any of these made-fresh-daily items sound tasty, stop in at Choux Choux Bakery and get your bread on!
  • If you’d like to enjoy a sauna and some delicious Pelmeni (And who doesn’t?), hit up Downtown Banya for all your Russian spa – and cuisine – needs. (Closed Tuesdays)
Capers & Olives
Delicious pasta at Capers & Olives

Everett has an extensive waterfront area, as well as one of the west coast’s largest marinas, Port of Everett Marina. (Important note: They allow live-aboards at this marina – something not available at many NW marinas. And one day I WILL live on a boat…) There are many things to do, restaurants to appreciate and views to enjoy on the waterfront. We had a great time investigating the scene during our Everett adventure. A couple of the highlights – and more:

  • Scuttlebutt Brewing Co. is located near the marina, looking out towards the water. They have great beer, make excellent cocktails (try the Bloody Mary!) and feature a varied menu of very tasty treats. They also host events and recently featured a very unique afternoon filled with Baby goats and Pints! I had hoped to check it out and was unable, but my friend and co-worker, Kara attended got to snuggle up to an adorable 2-day old baby goat. Awwweee!
  • Just next door to Scuttlebutt Brewing, you’ll find Bluewater Organic Distilling. My dear friend, Lorrie was pretty bummed not to be with me on this adventure as she raves about the place. It’s understandable given their great organic spirits, distilled onsite along with their tasty cocktail and bistro menus. Enjoy one of their cocktails from their patio seating while looking out over the Everett Marina and waterway.
  • During the summer months, check out the free Music at the Marina They run Thursdays and Saturdays in the summer with children’s concerts on Thursday mornings.
  • For an enjoyable day on a sandy, mini-island, take the free ferry over to Jetty Island. Lounge on the beach with a picnic, build a sandcastle or try a bit of kite-boarding. A few important items of note: There are no cars, no electricity and no running water – And it’s a good idea to reserve your ferry crossing in advance. (7/5 – 9/2)
  • Starting this weekend, check out the excellent Everett Farmer’s Market on the waterfront at Boxcar Park. Sundays, 11a – 4p (5/12 – 10/6) They’re also located at the Everett Station Transit Center on Wednesdays from 4p-8p. (6/5 – 8/28)
Everett Marina
I could definitely live here…

One of the industries for which the Northwest is best known is aviation and Snohomish County is its biggest supporter. In addition to Boeing’s enormous presence, there are airports, museums and fascinating exhibits to enjoy. There are many important spots in both Everett and neighboring Mukilteo. We’re heading to Mukilteo next, but while you’re in Everett, here’s a good handful to get you started:

  • Paine Field is located in both Everett and Mukilteo and has a rich aviation history dating back to 1936. Originally planned as a commercial airport, it instead provided support during WWII and the Korean War and militarily into the 60s. In 1966, Boeing purchased land north of Paine Field to build an assembly plant large enough to accommodate their new 747. Most recently, Paine Field has finally realized its longtime commercial flight plan and they now offer limited flights to and from several west coast locations. I’ll be flying into the airport next month and am very excited to check out the scene! (And to not deal with Sea-tac traffic.)
  • The Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum is located on the southeast corner of Paine Field and features painstakingly restored WWII era aircraft, tanks, combat armor and related exhibits. (Tues – Sun, 10a – 5p)
  • Tour the museum and chat with volunteers working on the intricate restoration and repairs of vintage aircraft at the Museum of Flight Restoration Center & Reserve Collection (Wed – Sun, 9a – 4p)
  • Created in 1997 out of the need for both airport expansion and still maintaining important wetland areas, the Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary was born via a process called mitigation banking. After checking out the vintage planes, stop in for a peaceful walk along the 2 miles of public trails.

Everett has a great downtown core, a beautiful waterfront area and a huge stake in the vibrant aviation industry, but it’s also got a quirky side. Should you be feeling quirky, consider these options on your next Everett adventure:

  • If you’d like a different take on the local aviation scene, head to High Trek Adventures for a high-flying zip-line adventure, a round of mini-golf or go night-owl and check out their Night Zip & Climb. They even have a Fear of Heights Class!
  • My friend Lorrie was sad about missing Bluewater Organic Distilling, but she was particularly forlorn to have missed scouting out the Twin Peaks Laura Palmer House. I am a fan of Twin Peaks, but Lorrie is a SUPER fan. Don’t despair, Lorrie – we’ll go back! (708 33rd Please be respectful and admire from a distance.)
Laura Palmer's House
Don’t worry, Lorrie – I promise we’ll go back. (You Twin Peaks super fan, you!)
  • Not only can you get great Irish and American fare at Shawn O’Donnell’s American Grill and Irish Pub, they also work with local travel agency 58 Stars to host – or help you plan your own – trips to Ireland. Enjoy a pint of Guinness in the land of its birth!
  • The AFK Tavern is a local haven for gamers, nerds, geeks and all manner of combinations. Food, drinks, a casual and comfortable atmosphere and they’re open late! I’m quite happy you can get a ‘Dragon Burger’ with ‘Red Ring of Death’ sauce – or perhaps the ‘One Ring’ burger with ‘Mt. Doom Sauce’ is more to your liking. If you can’t decide what you want, don’t worry – the menu has tooltips.
  • For a bit of classic Everett kitsch, stop by the Totem Diner for all manner of diner staples – plus BBQ. They have an extensive breakfast and lunch menu and are also open for dinners Wed-Sat until 8pm. Since 1953.

Just a little further South down the I-5 corridor is the cozy town of Mukilteo. For this adventure, I took I-5, but if you’re looking to avoid traffic and enjoy the scenic water views, taking Broadway to 41st Street out of Everett and then Mukilteo Blvd along the water is a nice way to go. It will also conveniently lead you down to the iconic Mukilteo Light Station (c. 1906 – On the National Historic Register) and adjoining Lighthouse Park.

I typically only visit the area when I’m boarding the Mukilteo/Whidbey Island ferry, but I’ve made a promise to myself to visit the park more often. It’s a beautiful area and there is plenty of shoreline to enjoy the fabulous views of neighboring Whidbey Island and the Puget Sound. Tour the lighthouse, learn more about the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott at the spot it was signed, stroll the Mukilteo Walking Tour, bring a picnic and watch the sunset next to one of the beach fire pits – or use the boat launch to head out on your boat. (Take me, take me!) Lighthouse Park and the Mukilteo Light Station are excellent spots to spend the day. (And you might even randomly run into one of your best friend’s mom while you’re hanging out. Thanks, Judy for giving me more of the hometown Mukilteo scoop!)

If you forgot to pack the picnic basket, there are several great dining options near the lighthouse and ferry terminal. Grab a quick bite while you’re waiting to board the ferry or take a load off and enjoy the easy-going pace of Mukilteo while enjoying the view. A few places to meet your Mukilteo needs:

  • I much enjoy the Diamond Knot Brewery & Alehouse. They have a great ice cream and coffee shop up front for the quick treat as well as a family-friendly dining room and large bar area for the adults. Plus – you can get a GIANT stuffed tater tot! Seriously – a giant stuffed tater tot, a couple pints of their Kolsch Style Ale and a bowl of Seafood Chowda’ and you’re set! The rest of their menu is also pretty stellar – including their breakfast menu. Make time before your ferry calling to try their customizable eggs Benedict… Also, their servers called me “miss” – and that’s just adorable. (And a fine way to get a good tip.) In addition to their location on the water, also check out their Production Brewery & Taproom near Paine Field and their Brewpub in nearby Mountlake Terrace.
  • For the classic NW dining experience, check out Ivar’s at Mukilteo Landing. Ivar’s acres of clams in Mukilteo! And if you only have a small bit of time while waiting for the ferry, head to their walk-up window for fish-n-chips, their famous chowder and soft-serve ice cream. And then make a mad dash back to your car before they start boarding and you end up being “that guy.” (Nobody wants to be “that guy”…)
Ivar's at Mukilteo Landing
Grab your fish-n-chips and race back to the car before the ferry loads!
  • I’m sure that Arnie’s has more on the menu besides prawns and shrimp – and their seafood bisque – but I actually wouldn’t know. I’m a life-long lover of prawns and the fact that Arnie’s actually hosts a Festival of Prawns every October-November pretty much seals the deal for my ordering preferences. All prawns, all the time. (I’m pretty sure the rest of their menu is quite delicious.) Located a block up from the ferry terminal – in Edmonds, too!
  • Good vegan restaurants can be hard to find, but Mukilteo’s Sage and Cinder, just up from the ferry terminal accomplishes the task. Lovely late lunch and dinner options and brunch on the weekends – give them a try!
  • Enjoy a nice steak or tasty pork loin while looking out over the Sound at John’s Grill. Just up from the ferry terminal, family friendly and a cozy atmosphere – Enjoy!

There are many ways to work off all the great food options in Mukilteo. You could check out the yearly, city-wide Mukilteo Garage Sale (4/27) or maybe hit up the Traxx Indoor Raceway for a few laps in one of their custom go-karts. If you’d instead like to lap through the lush greenery of the shoreline areas, try the Japanese Gulch Trailhead. And for the ultimate walking tour, head to the Boeing Future of Flight tour located at Paine Field

The tour at the Boeing plant, in the largest building in the world (by volume), is a must for any aviation aficionado and enjoyable for all. The tour lasts 90-minutes and takes you through North America’s only publicly accessible commercial jet assembly plant. They also have a pretty amazing Aerospace Gallery, gift shop, café and observation deck – And don’t forget to check out the Destiny Module Exhibit for a taste of life on the International Space Station. A few important items of note: You must be at least 4-feet tall to join the tour, 16-year olds and under must be accompanied by an adult and it’s highly recommended to book tours in advance. No cell phones or cameras allowed. (There are fee lockers available onsite.)

While in the area of Paine Field, be sure to stop in at Kilo-7 to visit the Historic Flight exhibit of fully restored/operational planes from 1927 – 1957. Note: If you’re in the area on May 11, be sure to stop by for Opening Day of flying season. Most importantly, you’ll get to bid bon voyage to their Douglas C-47B/DC-3 as it departs at 3pm for Normandy, France to participate in the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Boeing Factory
The largest building in the world! (by volume)

Another Snohomish County ferry harbor and one of my favorite spots in the greater Seattle area is the charming town of Edmonds. I love Edmonds for its great downtown area, its proximity to the Sound and its great support of the Arts. It’s only a 20-minute drive from Seattle, but when I’m hanging out in the downtown area, I feel like I’m visiting a quaint, coastal community.

For the artist, Edmonds is very welcoming and supportive. As a musician, I’ve had the privilege of participating in many Edmonds events over the years and I hope to be a part of more to come. (My nephew has even gotten to play at the Edmonds Art Festival! Again, Aunt Dayna is so proud.) If you’re up for enjoying a fine performance, taking in a cool gallery or checking out any number of artistic endeavors, here are a few of my favorite options:

  • The Edmonds Center for the Arts regularly hosts great concerts as well as local theatre, film series and more.
  • The Edmonds Art festival is an absolutely wonderful way to spend the day. Check out a large variety of regional and national artists and craft vendors, local food trucks and food specialties – and great local music. (June 14-16)
  • Check out the Taste of Edmonds for great food, craft vendors, entertainment, rides and more. There’s something for everyone! (Aug 16-18)
  • The downtown Edmonds Farmers Market offers an excellent selection of NW produce, artisan foods and crafts and more. Check out their website for specific hours and locations. (Saturdays from May – Sept)
  • The Edmonds Theater (c. 1923) is awesome. Period. Not only do they show first-run movies in their historic location, they also regularly feature special showings and hard to find shows. (For example, they’ve celebrated Wookie Life Day with the once-aired TV spectacle, Star Wars Holiday Special. RIP, Peter Mayhew.) I love the Edmonds Theater.
  • For a monthly dose of art, hit up the Edmonds Art Walk in the downtown area. Galleries, shops and cafes are showcasing their wares along with music, written word, culinary treats and more. (Third Thursday of the month, 5-8p)
Edmonds Theater
The awesome Edmonds Theater

The Edmonds downtown area is a great place to while away the hours. There are so many shops, restaurants and things to do, one day is never enough. Some excellent diversions to enjoy while visiting the downtown Edmonds area:

As I’m sure you’ve probably gathered, I like to travel. I love it, in fact. Traveling to places far and near, meeting new people, trying new foods, listening to new music – these are the things that bring us all a bit closer. It is for this reason I first visited the town of Edmonds, home to none other than, RICK STEVES, travel god.

Just a block off Main Street in downtown Edmonds sits the Rick Steves home base and mothership. It’s a great place to learn about all the tours they offer, but also an excellent resource for planning your own adventure. They offer classes, books, information – all the things you need to get your foot out the door and onto a plane. (Or train. Or boat. And so on.) I would’ve been lost (literally) had they not been around while I was planning my very first solo trip abroad. (Years ago – when the Internets weren’t quite as robust as they are today) And if you ever have the chance to attend a Rick Steves lecture or event – DO IT. The man is a dynamic whirlwind of information.

As if the Rick Steves shop weren’t enough, there are countless other great shops, restaurants and more in the downtown area. Just a few to occupy your time:

  • To learn about all things Edmonds, visit the beautiful Andrew Carnegie Library and Edmonds Historical Museum and find out about life in early Edmonds. (On the National Register of Historic Places)
  • The Spangler Book Exchange is a great bookshop in downtown Edmonds, which I’m sad to say is closing after 30 years! Their last day of business is May 29th and they have big sales going until then. I hope whomever takes over the spot keeps the awesome book murals on the building exterior.
Spangler Book Exchange
A sad loss! Get there by May 29th! I really hope they keep the exterior paint job…
  • If you have a great love of fancy soaps as I do, visit The Papery and revel in their offerings. They also have a great stationary selection as well as coastal décor and other assorted goodies.
The Papery
All the soaps!
  • Salt and Iron, located in the center of downtown offers local oysters, great steaks, craft cocktails and other delectables such as grilled octopus and roasted bone marrow. Mmmmm…
  • Located in a cute shopping strip a couple blocks south of the downtown core, The Cheesemonger’s Table offers a great selection of local and European cheeses and meats as well as a full menu of sandwiches and other tasty fare.
  • In the same group of shops as The Cheesemonger’s Table, check out Otherworlds for a taste of geeky goods, steampunk, Sci-fi, arts, games and more!
  • For coffee, pastries, sandwiches and more, visit Café Louvre and enjoy a lazy afternoon. Dream of Paris while reading that Rick Steves guide you picked up earlier…
  • The Red Twig Café and Bakery is a great stop for brunch, lunch and all-day crepes. Crepes! More dreaming of Paris…
  • If you’d rather read that Rick Steves guide while drinking a great local pint, check out the Salish Sea Brewing Co. They feature a great locally-crafted beer selection and pub-style menu. (I like their Honey Golden Ale!)
  • If you’re craving a taste of the Islands, Barkada, located just south of downtown is a great new addition to the Edmonds food scene. A mix of Filipino and Hawaiian tastes, their menu offers everything from Spam Musubi to Sisig to fresh oysters. They also have a brunch menu on Sundays – and a great specialty cocktail menu. I can’t wait to try more!

Walk just a couple blocks from downtown and you’ll come to the Edmonds waterfront and the Edmonds/Kingston Ferry Terminal. Aside from waiting in line for the next ferry, there are many things to occupy one’s time on the waterfront. (That are much more enjoyable than hanging out in your car, playing Candy Crush. But I would never do that.)

  • Check out Marina Beach Park and the Edmonds Marina Boardwalk area and enjoy the local beach. There’s also an off-leash area where you can take that road-weary pooch for a quick break before boarding the ferry.
  • If scuba diving is your jam, dive into the Underwater Park and check out its hidden treasures. My friend, Beth (and earlier Snohomish County travel-buddy) used to spend quite a bit of time exploring the area and always had great stories about friendly octopi and other sea creatures – as well as cool sunken vessels.
  • I mentioned their Mukilteo location earlier, but don’t forget about Arnies Restaurant for all things seafood. Did I mention they have a festival of prawns in October and November?? Enough said.
  • Open on weekends for tastings, the Scratch Distillery offers some very distinct spirits. They started with gin, which they still feature, and also do vodkas, whiskey and a very unique bier schnaps. (Dog and kid friendly)
  • 190 Sunset is a newer hot spot on the Edmonds Waterfront. Featuring fresh seafood, great steaks and chops as well as a great bar and weekend brunches, they’re definitely a good reason to miss your ferry.
  • For a relaxing pint on the waterfront, head to Brigid’s Bottleshop. They’ve got several beers on tap as well as local ciders and snacks. Fill up your growler or grab some bottles for the homestead. (Pet friendly, 21+)
Edmonds Ferry
Watching the ferries come and go from Edmonds

Just walking around Edmonds and the waterfront is a great way to get in some exercise and a few steps. If you’d like to make it more official, there are several great trails and walks around the area. A great area just off of Main Street as you’re heading towards the downtown core is Yost Park, Shell Creek Trail and the Highline Trail. It’s an intricate set of trails located in Shell Creek ravine – Download a map for the trails HERE. (Definitely check out the map if you’re unfamiliar with the area) For a little more of a walk/hike, you can head over to Pine Ridge Park for more trails and woodsy scenery.

On the way out of Edmonds, I often like to take Highway 99 back towards Seattle. Not only do I get to avoid I-5, it also takes me through another great Snohomish County town, Lynnwood. But before we make it to Lynnwood, there are a few cool spots along the way:

  • If you have a passion for fusion cooking, like I do, Bar Dojo is the place to go. Featuring Asian and Chino Latino cuisine, Bar Dojo is a one-of-a-kind place. Spicy chorizo ramen, ginger hoisin prawns, pork belly nachos, Banh Mi tacos – WHAT?? That’s just amazing.
  • Should you like to feed your inner – or outer – geek, hit up Another Castle – Arcade Edition right off Highway 99. They feature all manner of old-school arcade games, pinball, snacks and beer! Family friendly. They also have video game stores in Lynnwood and Marysville – by the Tulalip Casino.
  • Known as “The Starbucks of Taiwan,” the 85°C Bakery Café chain is taking the NW by storm. First in California and now with several NW locations, this is one of my favorite bakeries of all time. The variety of pastries, cakes, coffees and teas they feature is impressive – including items definitely not found in your standard US bakery. (I recently tried a ham, corn and tuna grilled sandwich/pastry. Oddly good.) Their location on Highway 99 is now open with their official opening on May 17th. Go now, before the line gets too long. Seriously. There’s always a line.
  • If you’re in need of great local produce, but don’t have time to hit up the farms directly, check out Country Market on Highway 99. (Also in Everett, Lake Stevens and Burlington)

Rounding out my excellent Snohomish County is the close-to-home, always-has-what-I-need, very lovely Lynnwood. The area is often thought of for its large amount of shopping opportunities, but there is so much more to be found. Great food, great parks and a great central location to get to all of the Seattle-area hot spots – it’s great! From downtown Lynnwood, you are easily within 20-minutes of downtown Seattle, downtown Bellevue, Everett, Snohomish and more. But there are many other things to enjoy within Lynnwood proper.

If shopping is indeed on your list, Lynnwood has what you need. (The area gets particularly busy during the holidays – Yowsa!) Here are a few of the mainstays:

  • Alderwood Mall is your usual mall setup, but with the addition of nice outer and inner courtyards, lined with hanging lights, trees and places to sit and enjoy a coffee. If I have to go to the mall, Alderwood is often where I head. They also have a great REI store, a state-of-the-art movie theatre, Nordstrom’s and several restaurant options. Including the aforementioned 85°C Bakery Café. (Get in line now.)
  • Just across the way from Alderwood Mall is one of the most amazing grocery stores EVER. H-Mart, the ultimate Korean grocery store, not only features an extensive array of Asian foods and home goods, it also hosts a great food court, various side shops, and the Le Bon Patisserie. (Try their Buttercream filled buns, matcha rolls, hot dog pastries and custard buns) Also, don’t miss Beard Papa’s crème puffs and Hometown, a great Korean spot in the food court. (Their Bibimbap is excellent!)
  • Located in the same parking lot as H-Mart, is one of best places to get a burger in the known universe, Katsu Burger. I honestly can’t rave enough about this place. There are several locations in the greater Seattle area, but this one is my favorite as it gets crowded, but never as much as say, the Capitol Hill or Ballard locations. Come for the deep fried katsu burgers, stay for the Korokke or the Nori Fries. For the record, the pork katsu Ninja Deluxe burger rocks my world. It is amazing.
  • And if you didn’t get enough to eat at H-Mart or Katsu Burger, check out Taste of Korea for tasty beef bulgogi, hot pot dishes and more delicious Bibimbap. Located in the same parking lot as H-Mart and Katsu Burger.

While I do often shop in the Lynnwood area, there are also many lovely parks and hikes to check out. After all, I have to go somewhere to work off the Katsu Burgers and pastries from the 85°C Bakery. If I’m in the walking and exploring mood, here are a few of the places I enjoy:

  • Not too far up from the shopping core, you’ll find the beautiful Heritage Park. The grounds are lovely and home to several early Lynnwood structures. (Then known as Alderwood Manor) Tour the grand Wickers Building, the NW Veterans Museum, the Interurban Trolley Car #55 and more. Sit under one of the gorgeous willow trees and just relax…
  • Head down to the beach and Brown’s Bay via the lovely Meadowdale Beach Park and Lunds Gulch Native plant-life, salmon, salmon berries and more. Beautiful!
  • Lynndale Park is Lynnwood’s largest park with 22-acres of native forest and has great trails for hiking and walking. It also has a skate park where I’m pretty sure my nephew recently left a couple teeth – and bit of skin – behind. Eeesh.
  • Scriber Lake Park is a quiet, natural preserve in center of town. It features a floating boardwalk, walking trails and is an unexpected spot of peacefulness in the center of town. Nearby is the Scriber Creek Park and Trail. It’s a much smaller area than the lake park, but there are some beautiful spots to check out.
  • If you’re really in need of a walk or jog – or maybe prefer to commute via bike, hit up the Interurban Trail and earn several days’ worth of steps. It runs from Everett to Lynnwood at 11.8 miles and is great to hop on for a short stint or the longer haul. (But remember – that’s 11.8 miles one-way…)

And with that, I’m all worn out – and full of Katsu Burger… I’m heading back to my home base in North Seattle, just across the border from Snohomish County, to take a nap. It’s wonderful knowing that just a short drive away are so many amazing and beautiful things to see and do – and eat! Snohomish County is an area of great contrasts and resources and well represents the broad diversity of Washington State and I’m happy to be a neighbor. I will admit it’s sometimes difficult to go too far past its borders as Snohomish County truly has so much variety to offer. It makes it a bit hard to venture out to all of the other amazing counties in Washington State… But not that hard – I know what I need to do. What I must do… I gotta EAT THE STATE! And that’s what I’m going to do… Stay tuned for more adventures!

Cheers!

And to accompany you on your road trip –

I Ate the State: The Playlist – check it out on Spotify

  • Keep on Runnin’ – Journey (from Escape)
  • Half-Life – Duncan Sheik (from Daylight)
  • Crooked Teeth – Death Cab for Cutie (from Plans)
  • Wait Until Tomorrow – Live at the Nokia Theatre – John Mayer (from Where the Light Is: John Mayer Live in Los Angeles)
  • The Most Beautiful Girl (in the Room) (Live) – Flight of the Conchords (from The Distant Future)
  • Wonderboy – Tenacious D (from Tenacious D)
  • Only Happy When It Rains – Garbage (from Absolute Garbage)
  • Good Morning! – Duncan Sheik (from Daylight)
  • Someday You Will Be Loved – Death Cab for Cutie (from Plans)
  • I Think I’m Paranoid – Garbage (from Absolute Garbage)
  • Still They Ride – Journey (from Escape)
  • Robots (Live) – Flight of the Conchords (from The Distant Future)
  • Stop This Train – Live at the Nokia Theatre – John Mayer (from Where the Light Is: John Mayer Live in Los Angeles)
  • Wherever Is Your Heart – Brandi Carlile (from The Firewatcher’s Daughter)
  • Are You Alright? – Lucinda Williams (from West)
  • Merry Go ‘Round – Kacey Musgraves (from Same Trailer Different Park)
  • Come with Me Tonight – Bob Schneider (from I’m Good Now)
  • 3×5 – John Mayer (from Room for Squares)
  • Step Off – Kacey Musgraves ((from Same Trailer Different Park)
  • Wayside / Back in Time – Gillian Welch (from Soul Journey)
  • Speed Trap Town – Jason Isbell (from Something More Than Free)
  • The Moon Is Made of Gold – Rickie Lee Jones (from Balm in Gilead)

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For more I Ate the State Adventures:

Kayak Point
Beautiful greenery on the Beach Trail at Kayak Point

I Ate the State – Snohomish County (Part I – The Mountain Side)

Greetings!

Looking back over my lifetime in Washington State, there are many places I know I’ve taken for granted. I’ll initially contribute some of that to being young and without means – or transportation. Unfortunately, there was also a fair amount of time spent in Eastern Washington, for instance, where I really wish I’d given it more of a chance. The grass is literally greener on the western side of the state, but that doesn’t mean there are lesser prospects for finding beauty and adventure. Every time I go back to visit the “other” side of the state, I am constantly blown away by the full palette of opportunity. (A huge part of this travel project is not only to share the beauty of this state with others, but to ensure I never again take any part of it for granted.)

This oversight has never been the case where Snohomish County is concerned. I’ve now lived in Western Washington for quite a while and have spent several years straddling the border between King and Snohomish Counties. (Bothell represent!) I can say with total honesty I’ve never gotten bored with the area and have never been at a loss for something to see or do – or eat! One of my favorite, lazy-weekend activities is to jump in my car in search of random backroads and tasty treats. I am never disappointed with the hidden gems and unexpected opportunities that cross my path while wandering around Snohomish County.

Sauk River
The beautiful Sauk River

I’m going to divide my Snohomish County adventures into two sections; the “mountain side” and the “sea side,” with Part I tackling the mountainous portion of the county.  Both sections are spectacular and contain an amazing amount of adventure potential, with the overall county being very accessible from most parts of the state, at most times of the year. (The mountainous areas do pose a few more obstacles during the winter.) If you happen to live in the western part of the state as I do, Snohomish County is even more accessible. You very well might live in Snohomish County, considering it is the third most populous county in Washington State, behind King and Pierce Counties. (And 13th when ranked by size.) For extra coverage on Part I, I’ve consulted with a couple locals – AND brought along my long-time adventuring buddy (and WA State transplant) Beth, to help me explore some of the backroads. All the coverage, all the time – Snohomish County is BIG!

As it is one of Washington’s most populous counties, many people are familiar with the beauty within its boundaries. That might not seem apparent, however, once you make your way towards the mountains of Snohomish County. Just heading a few miles out of Bothell towards Monroe takes you away from the urban sprawl and into idyllic, rural farmlands and foothills – often without another soul in sight. It is completely possible within a few hours of exploration to experience the vibrant pulse of city life, serene suburban neighborhoods, gorgeous coastal shorelines, vital farmlands, sweeping forests and towering volcanic masterpieces. Snohomish County is like a ‘greatest hits’ tour of Washington state!

The North Creek Trail
Peaceful beauty on the North Creek Trail

Since a large part of Bothell is in King County, I’ll be covering it later in the project. (I’m saving King County for the end, on account of it being quite a behemoth.) The area of Bothell heading towards Mill Creek is generally Snohomish County, so that’s where I’m starting. And since that portion of the county sits on the east side of two of its main south-north thoroughfares, I-5 and I-405, I’ll be heading off in the direction of the beautiful Cascade mountain range.

When heading to Mill Creek, I typically drive north on the Bothell-Everett Highway (SR-527), through the Bothell and Canyon Park areas. It’s a main route and can be a useful alternative to I-5 and I-405. Heading through these areas, you’ll be met with a corridor of commerce with many great options for shopping, dining and general day-to-day needs.

A few of my go-to spots along the way to Mill Creek:

  • Russell’s Restaurant offers rustic dining in a renovated 1920s dairy barn and is a lovely place for a cozy lunch or dinner when in Bothell. You can find a more casual version of the fare at Russell’s Garden Café & Wine, located inside Molbak’s Garden & Home in nearby Woodinville.
  • If you’re looking for a great Bloody Mary with brunch or a tasty burger, the Crystal Creek Café in Bothell, just off I-405 is a good place to stop. In fact, you could pretty much just have the bloody Mary – it’s a meal in and of itself!
Crystal Creek
A very tasty Bloody Mary at the Crystal Creek Cafe in Bothell.
  • You’d never guess this unassuming sports bar on Bothell-Everett Highway would have a kick-ass, all-you-can-eat Dungeness crab feed on Monday nights, but they certainly do! Check out Thrasher’s Corner Sports Pub for all your sports bar – and Dungeness crab feed needs.
  • The Original Pancake House chain is always a great stop for traditional pancakes as well as their amazing Dutch-baby oven pancakes. I’m also particularly fond of their homemade corned beef hash. Mmmm… Located right off the Bothell-Everett Highway.
  • Local favorite Burgermaster, with their locally-raised, grass-fed and hormone-free beef, is one of my favorite places to get a quick burger – all from the comfort of the front seat of your ride. And those fries… And that tartar sauce… And the malts! Dreamy. (This location is conveniently situated directly off Bothell-Everett Highway)
  • Oprah loves it – and so do I! Ezell’s Famous Chicken is delicious. And so are their mashed potatoes and gravy, rolls and mac-n-cheese… (Uhhh, I’ll be right back – need to take a trip to Ezell’s) Bothell-Everett Highway for the win!
  • I’ve got a punch-card for Patty’s Egg Nest – and I am PROUD! Their Swedish pancakes are glorious. I occasionally venture off into their other breakfast masterpieces, but I’m a pretty devoted fan of the Swedish pancakes. Sigh… ALSO right off Bothell-Everett Highway.
Swedish Pancakes
Mmmmmm! Swedish pancakes at Patty’s Eggnest.

Heading into Mill Creek proper via the Bothell-Everett Highway, the area makes way for peaceful neighborhoods and parks, ample shopping areas and a great variety of dining options. Mill Creek is a pleasant community and is perfectly situated for commuting both into the Seattle area as well as locations on the ‘Eastside.’ (Kirkland, Redmond, Bellevue) In recent years, the Mill Creek Town Center has brought much commerce into the central area of town. There are quite a few great options to check out in this area. Some of my favorites:

  • In need of a delicious Bundt cake? WHO ISN’T?? Check out Nothing Bundt Cakes to handle all your Bundt cake needs. Bundt cakes always remind me of this scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
  • Enjoy delicious Mexican and Caribbean fare at the Azul Restaurant & Lounge. Stop in for brunch on the weekends!
  • The Saw Mill Café is a great place for diner-style breakfasts, tasty burgers and classic comfort food.
  • Looking for homemade gelato, crepes or classic pasta dishes? Delizioso European Bistro & Wine Bar has a great selection of all the things – and wine!
  • Offering regular tasting events, small plates and a great Washington State wine selection, de Vine Wines is a cozy spot to check out. (Closed Sunday/Monday)
  • The classic UW staple, University Book Store has a Mill Creek location! A great place to grab a book and do some learnin’.
  • Central Market is one of my favorite locally-run grocery stores. I typically hit up the Shoreline location, but the Mill Creek location is pretty spectacular. An excellent seafood section, beautiful local produce, an amazing deli (the cheese!) and hard to find international items are just a few of my favorite aspects of this market.
  • If you’re a fan of maple bars AND bacon, you can have them at the same time at FROST This place makes delicious donuts as well as cupcakes and macrons. I won’t lie. I dream about their bacon maple bar…
  • A little further north on Bothell-Everett Highway, you’ll come to the Gateway Shopping Center and home to the Mill Creek McMenamins. A NW institution, McMenamins restaurants and hotels are some of my very favorite places to visit. (The Bothell Anderson School McMenamins property is fabulous and I’ll be covering it in the King County article) The Mill Creek property features outdoor seating, a brewery, (I love their Ruby Ale!) and a great menu featuring local ingredients. I’m particularly fond of the Quantum Leap BBQ pulled-pork sandwich with TOTS – or the blue cheese Captain Neon burger w/bacon. Yowsa!

The Mill Creek area has no shortage of beautiful parks, nature trails and outdoor opportunities. If you happen to be out and about in the area, a few great options to consider:

  • I am a great fan of Bocce Ball and the Buffalo Park – Bocce Ball Court is an excellent outdoor spot to knock your friend’s balls out of play. Yeah!
  • The North Creek Trail is a lovely walking/biking trail rambling from Everett through Mill Creek and into Bothell. The wetlands and wildlife are plentiful and there is much beautiful scenery to enjoy. Some of the trail markings and directions can be a bit elusive, but in general the trail starts at McCollum Pioneer Park (600 128th Street SE in Everett) and heads through Mill Creek to North Creek Park in Bothell. (1001 183rd Street in Bothell – AKA: The Sammamish River Trail at Blythe Park) You can enter the trail in Mill Creek just west of the Mill Creek Town Center.

I don’t normally head from Mill Creek over towards Stevens Pass (US-2), but for purposes of covering my favorite areas on the “mountain side” of Snohomish County, let’s head up nearby SR-522 out of Bothell towards the tiny town of Maltby

Maltby is a small stop off the highway, but it is a very worthwhile stop to make. All within a few hundred yards you can enjoy a solid day of delicious foods, shopping and adventure. Start off at the always amazing Maltby Café for a delicious breakfast or lunch. (Stop there on the way to the ski hill at Stevens Pass!) The side of bacon comes on a platter and their homemade cinnamon rolls are the size of a dinner plate… Nearby Maltby Antiques and Collectibles has an excellent selection and I’ve picked up many things I’ve absolutely NEEDED from them over the years. Cross hot air balloon rides off your bucket list and hop a ride with Over the Rainbow. (Passengers picked up at Maltby Café) And lastly, end your Maltby adventure with creamy, dreamy ice cream and custard at the Snoqualmie Scoop Shop. (Opens on 5/14 for the summer – I love their French Lavender ice cream!)

Maltby Cafe
A giant platter of breakfast goodness at the Maltby Cafe!

Heading out of Maltby, continue west on SR-522 and head towards the turnoff to US-2, to get to our next point of interest, the mountain-gateway town of Monroe. (For the record, I pronounce it MON-roe. My goofball brother thinks I’m ridiculous and says Mun-roe… The battle wages on. MON-roe. MON-roe. MON-ROE!)

Monroe is a smaller town, but the largest one you’ll hit until arriving in Leavenworth, just over Stevens Pass. What I like about Monroe (MON-roe) is it’s strategically located to still be a reasonable commute to the Eastside and also closely situated to excellent skiing and hiking opportunities. (My family often stops there to or from the ski hill) Additionally, it’s a great kick-off point for driving the stunning Cascade Loop via US-2 along with offering many great points of interest all its own.

Some great picks when visiting the MON-roe area:

  • For a good old-fashioned county fair experience, check out the Evergreen State Fair from August 22 thru September 2. (The fairground has events happening year-round!)
  • The Twin Rivers Brewing Co. / Adam’s NW Bistro & Brewery has a great selection of local craft-brews and tasty NW bistro fare.
  • For an excellent tap selection, check out the Route 2 Taproom right off US-2. They’ve also got some pretty tasty Smoked Pork Mac-n-Cheese and tots loaded with BBQ pulled pork. Awwweeeee yeeeaahhhh… (Looks like they’re opening a place in Woodinville as well – Route 522 Taproom. Going to have to check it out!)
  • Soooo, you like the creepy-crawly reptile thing? The Reptile Zoo just past Monroe on US-2 is the place for you. All things reptile – just waiting to creep up on ya! You will never run into me there, however, as I’m not into the creepy-crawly reptile thing. No. No. NO.  But hey – you do you!
  • For a leisurely stroll in the MON-roe area, check out Lake Tye. There’s a nice walk around the lake and there are all sorts of events going on year-round in the area.

A little further west on US-2 you’ll come to the small towns of Sultan, Startup, Goldbar and Index. They are all located directly alongside US-2 and can be a bit blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, but it would be a real shame to pass them by. There are many great spots tucked along the way and many excellent reasons to stop and spend some time. A few destinations to add to your US-2 adventures:

  • Spada Lake is a great stop located not too far off of US-2. There are several easy-going trail options, but it’s also a jumping-off point for several other cool trails, including Greider Lakes and The Sultan River Canyon Trail.
  • Beautiful Wallace Falls State Park is an incredibly popular spot for hiking, snowshoeing and camping. There are five cabins for rent (Book early!) as well as walk-in tent sites along with backcountry sites available at nearby lakes. (5-6 mile hike away) One-day parking fee or Discover Pass
  • There is much watery adventure to enjoy in the greater Sultan area. Rip Tide Fish is a great resource for options in the Skykomish River area and check out Outdoor Adventures for all things river-rafty. If you need a place to stay while adventuring on the Skykomish River, the lovely Bonny Sky Lodge is located right on the river.
  • I love the old Washington State fire lookouts. You can stay at the Heybrook Lookout, located in the greater Sultan area. It’s high on my bucket list to score a reservation!
  • The Mountain View Diner in Goldbar serves hearty, made-from-scratch breakfast, lunch and dinner in a cozy little spot right off US-2. YUM!
  • I love the classic Zeke’s Drive-In. They’ve got great burgers, fries and shakes and are conveniently located directly off US-2. (I must also mention they’re one of the last places to stop with a restroom before you reach the top of the pass. This is important to note.)
  • I have sworn testimony from a Sultan native that the Sultan Bakery is beyond compare. She’s been a companion on many of my recent foodie adventures and is also a pretty excellent chef in her own right. I trust her taste implicitly and so should you… Thanks for the tip, Ellie!

Taking it to the Snohomish County border, we end up in the tiny hamlet of Index.  In addition to the beautiful forests and mountainous areas, Index is also a filming location of 80s classic, Harry and the Hendersons. Check out the quirky Espresso Chalet for a shot of espresso and film nostalgia. Should you be looking for more of an adrenaline shot, Index Town Wall is a popular trail for rock climbing. It’s a beautiful area, but if you have an aversion to heights, you might consider shying away from this one. The same can be said for the lofty heights of nearby Mount Index.  It’s going to take a bit of training, but the Mount Index East Route is on my bucket list. One of these days…

For more adventure past Index and into the beautiful, neighboring Chelan County, check out my recent I Ate the State article for the tasty scoop.

Downtown Snohomish
Onto lovely downtown Snohomish!

Back near the Maltby area, head up SR-9 towards the beautiful county namesake, Snohomish. Known as the “Antique Capitol of the Northwest,” Snohomish nicely mixes the modern conveniences of a big-city suburb with the classic charm of a well-established small town. The entire downtown “historic district” and nearby Snohomish River Bridge are in fact listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Long inhabited by the Lushootseed Native American tribe (now known as the Snohomish tribe), it became first known as Cadyville by western settlers in 1858 and later in 1871 as Snohomish. (Note: Snohomish the county was established in 1861.)

Strolling down 1st Street in the historic district in an absolutely lovely way to spend the day. Parking can get hectic on weekends, but it is entirely worth the effort. 1st Street alone is chock full of antique shops, boutiques, restaurants and quirky bars and saloons, while the surrounding neighborhoods are filled with beautiful homes and strolls. (Note: Some of the establishments on 1st Street aren’t open on Sundays. This is the case in the off-season – summer might be different…) For a unique tour of the area, check out the Snohomish Walking Tour designed for your smart phone and download the handy accompanying brochure. (Courtesy of the Granite Falls Historical Society) For a detailed look at early Snohomish life, visit the Blackman House Museum (c. 1878) located just off 1st Street.

There are so many excellent shops on 1st Street and around the historic district. I will fully admit to girding my wallet on my last visit as there were many bits and baubles I positively needed. BUT – I was really, really good and only picked up a few necessities. Pretty much… A few spots to get you started on your Snohomish visit:

  • It’s the tiniest shop in Snohomish (true story!), but Lather and Salt is big on delicious smells from their amazing soaps and more. (I have a weakness for handcrafted soaps. I cannot say no. And I didn’t. But come on – everyone needs soap!)
  • Faded Elegance made me want to sit in the middle of the store, in a cozy chair, enjoying a spot of tea… just taking in the lovely antiques and home items. Like it was my home or something!
  • Worthy is very worthy of your antiques browsing endeavors. SO many lovely items to bring home… Stay strong!
  • When I find myself (finally) decorating my dream home/cabin, I’m heading to Retreat home store to help outfit my digs. So many dreamy items to choose from. They have a “bar” where you can create your own terrarium!

There are many fine options for dining in the Snohomish area. 1st Street in the Historic District is a goldmine of restaurants, but greater Snohomish has many additional selections. A few places of note for your Snohomish visitation:

  • Snohomish Pie Company. It’s a company that makes PIES. Need I say more? They also have soups and sandwiches – and cookies. My work here is done. Located on historic 1st (Now also in Mountlake Terrace!)
  • Larry’s Smokehouse is an excellent place to check out for great BBQ and delicious smoked salmon. They also do great catering and are an incredibly nice bunch of people to work with. I’ve driven out of my way on more than one occasion to procure their smoked salmon. Located on SR-9.
  • If you’d like your lunch with a side of ghostly super-sauce, The Oxford Saloon is the place for you. Serving pub-style food and tasty drinks, The Oxford Saloon has been in operation since 1910 and is purported to be haunted. Spooky! They’re family friendly during the day and offer music in the evenings. And ghosts. Located on 1st Street.
  • Also located on 1st street, The Repp features tasty NW bistro fare and cocktails with regular live music. Closed Mondays.
  • The Center Public House is an exceptionally cool, non-profit pub serving great food and drinks. Their proceeds benefit local charitable organizations such as Take the Next Step, Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services, Snohomish Community Foodbank and Sarvey Wildlife Center. Right around the corner from 1st Street. Family friendly, closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

If you’d like to check out the beverage offerings of Snohomish, there are many options. Just a few of the hot spots:

  • Trails End Taphouse & Restaurant – Located a few minutes away from the 1st Street core, they have a great tap list and a tasty menu.
  • The Skip Rock Distillery offers an excellent selection of spirits and tastings and is located in a very quaint brick shop just off of 1st Street. I’m a fan of their Skip Rock Rye Whiskey. (Closed Sundays)
  • Randolph Cellars tasting room is located on 1st Street and is a lovely stop amidst the antique browsing. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly and the tasting room relaxing. I very much enjoyed their 2015 Petit Verdot. Delicious!
  • For a great overview of Northwest beverages, check out the Snohomish Wine Festival on March 7, 2020 or hit up the Snohomish Ale Trail for a taste of all things Northwest and hoppy.

Walking around 1st Street and checking out all the antique shops can indeed offer some exercise, but chances are, you’ve added a bit of food and drink into the equation. While the overall combo might even out, add a few more steps to the Fitbit with one of the great walks and hikes in the Snohomish area. A few popular options:

  • Centennial Trail – Walk, bike or ride (a horse) on 30 miles of trail connecting Snohomish, Lake Stevens, Arlington and the Skagit County border.
  • Lord Hill Regional Park – Hike, bike or ride (horses!) around this beautiful nature preserve and check out one of the many ponds within the wetland areas.
  • Snohomish Riverfront Trail – Walk along the winding Snohomish River and enjoy the peaceful scene. It forms a one-mile loop trail with 1st Street and Maple Avenue. A good one for walking off that wine-tasting and dinner!

The Snohomish area has many beautiful stretches of farmland and with that comes many options for visiting the local farmers. Fall and winter bring with them a score of pumpkin picking, corn mazes and Christmas tree gathering, but many of the farms have events going on throughout the year. A few of the prime (pumpkin) picks:

  • Check out Bob’s Corn & Pumpkin Farm during the harvest season for their corn maze and U-pick pumpkins. They also have a great country store open mid-August thru the end of October.
  • The Thomas Family Farm also features corn mazes and a pumpkin patch and is open during the fall. Additionally, they host events throughout the year. Two intriguing upcoming events are the whiskey distillers’ night, Snohomish on the Rocks (4/27/19) and the Snohomish Hard Cider Festival (8/11/19).
  • In addition to corn mazes and pumpkins, Stocker Farms also has Christmas trees, as well as a country market. (All open seasonally) In October, be sure to check out their “Stalker” Farms
  • The Farm at Swan’s Trail has all the usual fall farm activities with the addition of U-pick apples and early-bird breakfasts on weekends. They also have a concession stand in the fall. (Open end of September thru end of October)
  • Craven Farms rolls out all the fall hits from September 21st thru October 31st and also plays host to cool events during the year including NW Vintage & Vino (May 17-18) and the Antique Tailgate Sale. (6/29)
  • Hagen Farm doesn’t do the corn-maze/pumpkin-patch bit, but they DO sell grass-fed, naturally raised meats as well as offer up the farmhouse for “haycation” rentals. They also have private hiking trails and a roadside store called Milk House Mercantile.
Snohomish County Backroads
Beautiful scenery on the Snohomish Co. backroads (Photo credit: B. Skoczen)

Next up on the tour is a visit to tiny Granite Falls, in the shadow of beautiful Mt. Pilchuck. From Snohomish, we took SR-9 up to SR-92 and into Granite Falls. There are several other back-road routes into Granite Falls, but this one works best for me when coming from the greater Seattle area. (The Jordan Road-Canyon Creek route is an option when coming from Arlington.) It is on the drive to Granite Falls, when the roads become much less traveled, that I really start to feel the tug of mountain adventure. (This is also the case when heading out of MON-roe, but as US-2 is a state thoroughfare and often quite busy, it can be harder to achieve the desired level of peaceful exploration.)

Mt Pilchuck
Granite Falls, in the shadow of Mt. Pilchuck

Mount Pilchuck is definitely the most imposing Cascade peak as seen from Granite Falls, but in reality sports about half the elevation of the highest point in Snohomish County. Seen looming in the distance from Granite Falls is the beautiful Glacier Peak, towering over the area at an impressive 10,541 feet. Glacier Peak is the most remote of the five active volcanoes in Washington State, a list which includes Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker and Mount Adams. Its threat potential has been labeled “very high” by the USGS, along with Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier and Mount Baker. (Mount Adams is slacking and has only made it on the “high” threat potential list.) Additionally, the threat levels of Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier are currently listed as 2nd and 3rd in the US, behind Hawaii’s very active Kilauea. It’s never a dull day for the geology of Washington State.

Eruption Awareness
Important info regarding the local volcanic situation.

If you’re interested in hiking or climbing in the area, there are many options. For a good workout, hike up to the Mt. Pilchuck lookout via Mt. Pilchuck State Park or try one of the many hikes in the Glacier Peak area. If climbing is your thing, consider the Glacier Peak / Disappointment Peak Cleaver route. Start training!

If you’d like to get fueled up for your hiking adventure, check out Hanky Pies for a delicious cup of coffee and a spot of breakfast or lunch – Or PIE! They also do a lot of great community work and sponsor local events. (Closed Sundays) For a great pizza pie, hit up Omega Pizza just around the corner for delicious pizza, salads, gyros, calzones and more.

The Granite Falls Museum and Historical Society (open Sundays, 12-5) is a great resource for not only the Granite Falls area but for all of Snohomish County. Stop by the museum proper for a well-curated look at local history or strike out on your own with their Granite Falls Walking Tour. Just download the brochure from the website, call the number listed and enter your stop number from the brochure for a guided tour! They have additional tours for the Snohomish County area, one of which is the Snohomish County Living History – Guided Mobile Tour, covering all the museums in Snohomish County. Download the brochure from the site and follow along with maps and info. Very handy!

Just out of Granite Falls lurks one of the coolest roads in Washington State, the Mountain Loop Highway. (And we have a lot of cool roads!) It is only fully traversable in the warmer months (unless you’ve got a beefy snowmobile or are rockin’ snowshoes), but even then it can give you a go as portions are a bit narrow and graveled. Who’s up for an adventure?!

Mt Loop Highway
Get ready for an adventure!

The Mountain Loop Highway heads out of Granite Falls towards Verlot, past the ghost towns of Silverton and Bedal (formerly Monte Cristo) and ends as you near Darrington. It’s a serious mountain trek filled with beautiful hiking, camping, backpacking, fishing, climbing and general communing-with-nature opportunities. It’s truly unique and removed from the city hubbub only a couple hours away. Check out the Granite Falls Museum Mountain Loop Tour for commentary along the way. (There’s very spotty cell service, if any, so download the brochure before you head out. GPS should still work on your phone.) For the record, on this particular journey, part of the road was still closed due to winter conditions. We did, however, go as far as we could on both sides of the closure. (There was a fair amount of driving involved as well and several times Beth and I looked at each and agreed we should probably turn around. Sporty Spice is AWD and good in snow, but sometimes you gotta make the icy roads call… We’ve learned our lessons over the years.)

There are indeed many great hikes and adventures to be had along the way on the Mountain Loop Highway. Here are a few cool spots to get you going:

  • Lake 22 Trail is a beautiful jaunt with lush views in the Granite Falls area near Mount Pilchuck. It can also be a good snowshoe trail in the snowy months, but due to avalanches on the road, travel in the warmer months is recommended.
  • There aren’t many structures or remnants of the old mining settlement left, but the Monte Cristo Ghost Town is definitely worth investigating. It’s a nice round trip hike out of the Barlow Pass area. (Only accessible in warmer months due to this portion of the highway being closed during winter.)
  • The Big Four Ice Caves are located out of Verlot and offer a great view of Big Four Mountain and the icy caves at its base. (Don’t walk on or in them!) The hike is fairly easy, but not really accessible in the winter months.
  • For great snowshoeing with beautiful forest scenery and views, hit up the Mallardy Ridge trail area just past Verlot for great winter adventure.
  • Bedal Campground is a low-key, drive-in campground near the Sauk River with a great hike to the North Fork Sauk Falls located close by. (Also easily accessible out of Darrington)

Popping out on the other side of the Mountain Loop Highway, you wind up in the little foothills town of Darrington. Nestled right at the edge of beautiful forest land and framed by spectacular mountain peaks (Spectacular!), Darrington is a great place to hang out as well as an excellent jumping-off point for local adventures.

Part of Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, the Darrington Ranger District has long been safeguarding the area.  The Darrington ranger station, Miners Ridge Lookout and Green Mt Lookout are all on the National Register of Historic Places. The ranger station is located right in town and is a great resource for learning all about the local hikes, fishing, camping and more. On our recent Darrington visit, we spotted the local forest ranger taking it to the streets – with cross-country skis in tow.

On the topic of hiking and adventuring in the beautiful local forests and mountains, here’s a list to send you on your way:

  • You can’t miss the amazing Whitehorse Mountain rising up behind Darrington. It dominates the skyline and is truly mesmerizing on a sunny day. The Neiderprum Trail 653 is a good trek, but the ascent of the actual mountain should only be attempted by experienced mountaineers.
  • Yet another spectacular point in the Darrington skyline are the peaks of Three Fingers. It’s a stunning site just viewing it from town, but there’s a cool trail which provides quite a day’s work-out and stunning views from Tin Can Gap if you’re willing to make the trek. (Or backcountry camp overnight if you want to break up the work-out!)
  • The historic Green Mt Lookout (c. 1933) is accessible by a relatively moderate trail and provides excellent views and lush forest scenery.
  • The Old Sauk River Trail is an easy going, family-friendly trail through lush forest with streams and the Sauk River in the background.

In addition to the stunning natural beauty of the Cascades, Darrington is also well known for its contribution to the state’s music scene. Every 3rd weekend of July, Darrington welcomes musicians and fans from around the world for the Darrington Bluegrass Festival. It’s a great time to visit, but arrange lodging early.

If all the hiking, driving on crazy backroads and basking in the local beauty makes you hungry, there are some great options in Darrington to curb your appetite:

  • The Burger Barn is an old-school burger joint in the center of town with great burgers, fries and shakes. Outdoor seating available – great for taking in the mountain view while enjoying a burger.
  • Check out the Hometown Bakery Café for delicious baked goods, pizza and salads.
  • River Time Brewing is a cozy spot with locally crafted beer, tasty sandwiches and flatbread pizza.

SR-530 is the main route out of Darrington towards Oso and Arlington. In the hopefully not-too-distant future you’ll also be able to hike, run or bike the 28 miles to Arlington via the Whitehorse Trail. (With a connection to the Centennial Trail.) Currently, only 6 miles of the Whitehorse Trail are open to the Swede Heaven Trailhead, but it’s a nice, family-friendly jaunt in the meantime. Keep an eye on the project website for updates on trail status and openings.

On the way towards Arlington and the I-5 corridor, you’ll come to the tiny – and mighty – area of Oso. On March 22nd 2014, Oso experienced a horrible, catastrophic landslide directly alongside and across SR-530. An enormous part of the hillside came careening down across the valley, taking with it homes, livelihoods, a mile of SR-530 and most tragically, the lives of 43 people from the community of Steelhead Haven.

As of March 2019, the 23-mile portion of SR-530 between Arlington and Darrington been renamed the “Oso Slide Memorial Highway” in remembrance of this tragedy. A mailbox sculpture near the site pays tribute to the nineteen mail and newspaper boxes that was once a neighborhood gathering spot.

On a happier note, there are many wonderful spots to be found between Darrington, Oso and Arlington. Check out the Boulder River Wilderness area and in particular, its namesake Boulder River Trail, set with beautiful waterfalls and river views. Also in the area is the old Trafton School (c. 1912), located on Jim Creek Road. The one-room school house is sadly no longer open, but I’ve read it’s been sold and may soon have a new mission. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and is worth a stop, if only to check it out. If you’re up for a unique dining experience while in the area, stop in at Rhodes River Ranch and dine while looking out over their indoor horse-training ring. They also feature regular entertainment and brunch on weekends.

Rounding out the mountain side of my Snohomish County journey, I spent a bit of time in Arlington. In addition to exploring the area on my own, I also hit up my good friend and Arlington native, Mallen, for a few deep-root tips. The Arlington area has a lot to offer and it was good to get a few secret-squirrel tips from a local. (Thanks, Mallen!)

Located near the Stillaguamish River (named for the local Stillaguamish Tribe) and the Sauk River Valley, Arlington is well-situated for great outdoor adventures as well as being an important contributor to the state’s agricultural bounty. Its close proximity to the I-5 corridor also makes it easily accessible to Seattle and Vancouver BC and a great jumping-off point for travels around the county, in addition to neighboring Skagit County. (I Ate the State article coming soon!)

Backroads
Beautiful scenery on the way to Arlington

If you’d like to sample the local wares, consider checking out one of the area’s farms to experience the bounty firsthand. A great way to plan your path is to consult the Red Rooster Route for a list of family farms in the Arlington, Oso and Darrington areas. Take Exit 208 off I-5 to follow the entire route. A few suggestions if you’d like to do things à la carte:

  • A Northwest classic, Biringer Farms (since 1948) is the quintessential place to visit if you love strawberries – and the other berries, too! Check out their Strawberry Fest in mid-June and sign your kids up for their “Be-A-Farmer” tours from mid-June thru mid-July. To further celebrate your love of the strawberry, hit up the famous Strawberry Festival in neighboring Marysville, June 8th – 16th.
  • For crisp fall air, farm-fresh produce, pumpkins and corn mazes, visit Fosters Produce & Corn Maze from September 15th thru Oct 31st to get your harvest fill.
  • You say you don’t really dig the strawberry? Head over to Bryant Blueberry Farm & Nursery for U-pick blueberries and lovely flowers! (July 2 – Early Sept) Also, how do you not like strawberries?
  • The Garden Treasures Nursery & Organic Farm has an excellent selection of organically grown produce. Check out their U-Pick page for harvest details.
  • For a taste of all the farms together, visit the Arlington Farmers Market for a sampling of all your favorites. (June 1st thru Labor Day Weekend – Legion Memorial Park, Saturdays, 10a-3p)
  • Learn about the history of the valley and all the stories that make it the beautiful and bountiful area it is today at the Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Museum. (Open Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays from 1p-4p. Closed December and January.)

Given its proximity to rivers and forestland, Arlington is situated for some pretty spectacular outdoor activity. Hiking, biking, camping, fishing, boating, hanging out with kangaroos – Arlington has it all! I’ve heard some pretty entertaining stories from my friend, Mallen about his youthful exploits… Arlington seems like a great place to grow up with potential adventures around every corner.

A few cool places to enjoy the fresh Arlington air:

  • As if kangaroos in Washington weren’t interesting enough, the Outback Kangaroo Farm also has wallabies, lemurs, llamas, peacocks Nigerian dwarf goats, miniature donkeys and MORE. Check out their 40-min tour and say hi to their very unique menagerie. (Closed Mon-Wed, open 10a-4pm during rest of the week)
  • Located on the Stillaguamish River (affectionately known as “The Stilly”), River Meadows Park has traditional campsites as well as a yurt village! They also host a Stillaguamish Tribe event every year called the Festival of the River, featuring live music, a fun run and a traditional alder wood salmon bake. (August 10-11)
  • Looking for a cool, capped full-pipe? Who isn’t?? Hit up the Arlington Skatepark at Bill Quake Memorial Park and get your moves on – And wear a helmet and pads. Aunt Dayna cares.
  • Haller Park, where the north and south forks of the Stillaguamish River converge, has a lot to offer. The Centennial Trail follows along the old Burlington-Northern railroad tracks and there are great tide pools to check out near the river. The Great Stilly Duck Dash and the Pedal, Paddle, Puff Triathlon events over the 4th of July are great for the whole family. (My friend Mallen says you can win lots-o-money at the Great Stilly Duck Dash by purchasing a duck for the river “race.” If your duck is the fastest – you win!)
  • Head over to the Arlington airport for the annual Arlington Fly-In. (Aug 16-18) Classic air-show attractions and festivities for the whole family.
  • If you’d like to cast a line in pursuit of the “big one,” Arlington has many great opportunities to help you on your path. (Or maybe you could just kick back in your rowboat with a beer… And then stop at the fish counter on the way home. Your call.) Lake Armstrong, Lake Riley, Twin Lakes and the North or South Stillaguamish River all offer a chance at making your dreams come true.
Downtown Arlington
Great old buildings in downtown Arlington

There are many great places to grab a bite in Arlington. I recently had one of the best burgers I’ve had in a while – at a very unassuming spot. While there are many more places I’d like to check out, we’re pretty lucky to have the list rounded out by an Arlington foodie.

  • Hit up the always packed Blue Bird Café for classic diner fare. I’ve been assured it’s the go-to breakfast in Arlington.
  • If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, head to Bistro San Martin for a nice meal on your next date night.
  • I love that the Moose Creek BBQ is located in Smokey point – How could you not get a smoky perfect brisket with a name pedigree like that? “Pretty legit old-school BBQ,” says my friend, Mallen.
  • Chinese food on pizza? Sign me up! Hit up the very unique Pedeltweezers if you’re curious.
  • I’ll admit it. I have a long-time affection for both bowling and bowling alley/diner food. Rocket Alley can hook you up with both – as well as some entertaining eating competitions. Additionally, I’m told the owner is also a sawyer, who sells the wood rounds he cuts up mixed with sawdust for self-burning campfire wood. Bowling, tasty food AND campfire goods – that’s a turkey right there! (Yes. I just made a bad bowling joke. Carry on.)
  • The hidden-away Ellie’s at the Airport is a great place for lunch or breakfast. Airplanes and omelets – good morning!
  • For an excellent burger, fresh-cut fries and a delicious milkshake, head to Nutty’s Junkyard grill. It truly was the best burger I’ve had in a long time and the décor is worth checking out in and of itself. I can honestly say, I’ve never seen a bathroom floor laid with pennies. Very cool!
  • Head over to Skookum Brewery for locally crafted beers in their Smokey Point taproom. They also host local food trucks and events. (Closed Mon/Tues)
  • I’ve seen some good shows and actually won a few dollars at the Angel of the Winds Casino & Resort. They have a nice selection of restaurants, an onsite hotel and are easily accessible from Seattle or Vancouver BC. You can’t go wrong! Well, except maybe at the craps table. I suck at craps.
  • Set in a historic Arlington building (c. 1898) that’s seen many incarnations over the years, the Mirkwood Public House hosts live music, a café with vegetarian and vegan options, gaming, drinks and a tattoo shop called Mordor Tattoo. All the orcs love it. Sauron would be proud.
  • Looking for a dive-bar kinda night? The Cedar Stump is the place to go. (But my buddy, Mallen tells me everyone just calls it ‘The Stump.’) I’m betting the farm it’s named after the famous Big Cedar Stump, now located at Smokey Point Rest Stop off of I-5 North…
  • If you’re out for a ride on your Hog, check out the Longhorn Saloon. It was voted one of the 5 best biker bars in the greater Seattle area by KISW!
  • For drinks, pool and the Hawks, check out the Whitehorse Saloon in downtown Arlington.
Mirkwood Public House
Where Sauron goes for lunch! (Photo credit: B. Skoczen)

Arlington is a tight-knit community with a great local focus, but they also reach out on the larger scale. Until recently, my friend Mallen was a Volunteer with the Arlington Fire Department. He spent many years on the force and was also able to witness and participate in much of the great community work the department performs. One such event involved the somber endeavor of the department traveling to New York City to bring back a piece of steel-column from the World Trade Center to honor the tragedy of 9/11. The piece is now housed at local Fire Station 46 where the public is welcome to visit.

This brings to an end my “mountain side” adventures in Snohomish. Time to hit up I-5 South and head home… Stay tuned for Part II where I’ll mosey around the beautiful “Seaside Loop,” starting at Stanwood and heading down through Everett, Mukilteo and Edmonds. There are SO many more amazing spots to check out in the diverse lands of Snohomish County. DO join me!

See you soon!

I Ate the State: Snohomish County – The Playlist – Check it out on Spotify

  • Keep on Runnin’ – Journey (from Escape)
  • Half-Life – Duncan Sheik (from Daylight)
  • Crooked Teeth – Death Cab for Cutie (from Plans)
  • Wait Until Tomorrow – Live at the Nokia Theatre – John Mayer (from Where the Light Is: John Mayer Live in Los Angeles)
  • The Most Beautiful Girl (in the Room) (Live) – Flight of the Conchords (from The Distant Future)
  • Wonderboy – Tenacious D (from Tenacious D)
  • Only Happy When It Rains – Garbage (from Absolute Garbage)
  • Good Morning! – Duncan Sheik (from Daylight)
  • Someday You Will Be Loved – Death Cab for Cutie (from Plans)
  • I Think I’m Paranoid – Garbage (from Absolute Garbage)
  • Still They Ride – Journey (from Escape)
  • Robots (Live) – Flight of the Conchords (from The Distant Future)
  • Stop This Train – Live at the Nokia Theatre – John Mayer (from Where the Light Is: John Mayer Live in Los Angeles)
  • Wherever Is Your Heart – Brandi Carlile (from The Firewatcher’s Daughter)
  • Are You Alright? – Lucinda Williams (from West)
  • Merry Go ‘Round – Kacey Musgraves (from Same Trailer Different Park)
  • Come with Me Tonight – Bob Schneider (from I’m Good Now)
  • 3×5 – John Mayer (from Room for Squares)
  • Step Off – Kacey Musgraves ((from Same Trailer Different Park)
  • Wayside / Back in Time – Gillian Welch (from Soul Journey)
  • Speed Trap Town – Jason Isbell (from Something More Than Free)
  • The Moon Is Made of Gold – Rickie Lee Jones (from Balm in Gilead)
Mt Loop Highway
Beautiful views on the Mt Loop Highway

For more I Ate the State Adventures:

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:

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)