Parks, Parks, Parks

If I had to sum up the past two weeks in one word, it would be – parks. To start off with we watched 4 seasons of the hilarious Parks and Rec series focusing on America’s Parks. As hilarious as the show is, it also gave me a newfound appreciation of our National Parks Service and how much natural beauty America actually has.

Our two trips focused on what else – some National Parks! Since we had done the touristy things in Seattle during Tanay’s last visit and wanted to focus on more of seeing the rest of the State, we picked out two areas, the first one being Mount Rainer National Park. Set across 236,000 acres, the Park is centered around the tallest peak at 14,000 feet in the Cascade mountain range. The active volcano and the mighty Mount Rainer is only a 2 hour drive away from Seattle making it a great trip to see the iconic mountain peak in person that is featured in all the postcard shots of Seattle.

There are a few entrances to the Park including the Nisqually entrance near the town of Ashford, but we decided to enter through the Ohanapecosh entrance. We stayed in Packwood since we found a great hotel recently renovated for a decent price and because the entrance to the park was reasonably close which meant we could sleep in that much longer in the morning. ;O. The other decent hotel is Paradise Inn near the main visitor center – founded in early 1900s and recently renovated, but it is quite expensive, and Nisqually Lodge near the Nisqually entrance.

The next morning we did manage to get up early since it was our only real day to explore the park and the weather was supposed to be sunny with no chance of rain. Entrance to the park is an easy process, you pay $20 through the toll booth upon entry and the ticket is good for 7 days with in / out privileges. The price is per car so the more people you have, the cheaper it is. They usually give you a map and I was awed by how vast the park really is and the variety of the wildlife and nature found within. Since we had an idea of where we were going and what we wanted to do – our first destination was Reflection Lakes, followed by Paradise Point, some paved and unpaved hikes and finally the Narada falls. We even got to see a bear cub!! It was the first time for me and what a treat! I checked off a bucket list item I didn’t even know I had!

That night we were incredibly tired after a long day of exploring in the hot sun and didn’t want to go too far for dinner. Luckily Packwood is tiny and had a total of 4 restaurants to choose from. We opted for good ol’ Pizza at Cruisers. Even through it was quite expensive ($30 for a large), it was worth it. They definitely did not skimp on the toppings and we ended up eating it for a few meals. We tried the pepperoni with bell peppers and toasted cashews. Interesting but delicious combination. That night we ended up chatting to the owner of the Packwood Lodge and found out they had recently renovated the place after buying it in Feb. We really loved the warm hospitality of a locally owned business, and the free wine and wine glasses were also a great addition 😉

The next part of the trip was towards Eastern Washington covering Leavenworth and Wenatchee with a quick stop at Snoqualmie falls on the way back to Seattle. Along the way we saw incredible varied scenery as we passed through the state. Sometimes it was hard to imagine that we were still in Washington. From the high altitude of mountain range to gorgeous lakes at the sea level to dry desserts and wine country and back again to greenery through orchards, we felt like we saw it all within a 3 hour drive.

Leavenworth is a wonderful lovely German town oddly placed in the middle of the state. The town was historically a railroad town but after the industry died down, they reinvented themselves as a Bavarian town to attract tourists… and it’s worked! It’s one of the most popular destinations within the State both in summer and winter. Our time here was mostly spent shopping in the cute boutiques, beer tasting and snacking on repeat. The town in not too big and can be done in a day or so and is really great to visit during the various seasons – Oktoberfest in autumn and Christmas markets in winter. To finish off the weekend we explored the city of Wenatchee which is famous as the Apple Capital of the World, checked out some orchards and picked up some delicious fruit for our ride home.

The second park of our trip took us to the other side of the state, the Olympic Peninsula and the northern most parts of the continental US. We boarded a ferry to Bainbridge Island and drove across making Sequim our first stop. There is a lot to do on the Peninsula especially for a weekend so we ended up picking a few things and hopping around to see the most in a relaxed amount of time. Our day started off with breakfast at a typical 60’s diner, followed by a visit to Hurricane Ridge which offers gorgeous views of the Olympic Mountains. Next was lunch and checking our the Dungeness Spit – where the famous Dungeness crabs were originally started to commercially fish from. This was a bit disappointing since I had expected something a bit more touristy here or to be able to see crabs on the beach. Oh well – there weren’t so many photo opportunities but the area was extremely peaceful with a number of bed and breakfasts along the coastline offering great views of the Ocean and Canada in a distance. We finished off the day by checking out Lake Crescent – the water looked like we were in the tropics (but the outside weather reminded us we were not!), and attempting to find the hot springs we had located on our drive towards the lake. But when we got to the top of the trail head for the hot springs, it was already nearing sunset so we ended up walking a bit (probably half way) on the trail but decided to turn back since we weren’t really prepared for a night hike – no flashlights, no water etc. A bit disappointing since the hot springs would’ve been great to soak our tired bodies in but definitely something for next time.

The last part of the trip was a very relaxing one at Lake Quinault. There are a few places to stay around the lake (with a lot more camping grounds) but we chose the cabins vs. the hotel. What a treat! It was absolutely gorgeous, luxurious and homely at the same time. The room was a good size, had a jetted tub in the bathroom, a fire place in the living room and a gorgeous view of the lake from the balcony. There are a number of trails ranging from easy to hard that start from the lake, a few grocery / supply stores that look very small town and plenty of open space around the lake. I would highly recommend this as it was just a great experience to be on the lake, the gorgeous cabin, the trails were easy enough making it a great option for family, friends or a loved one!

http://visitrainier.com/

http://www.packwoodlodge.net/

http://www.leavenworth.org/

http://www.nps.gov/olym/index.htm

http://www.quinaultrainforest.com/

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