Pacific City

For our last day we headed to the coast again.  This time we went to Pacific City, the same place George and Stacie got engaged.  We wanted to climb the giant Sand Dune at Cape Kiwanda.

Cape Kiwanda Sand Dune

When we arrived there was a truck stuck in the sand on the beach.  The idiot had gotten stuck trying to pull in a Truck and Trailer stuck on the beachboat larger than the truck itself just as the tide was coming in.  We stood and watched for a few minutes while a cop showed up, and a few people tried to help, and we moved on.

View from the Sand DuneWe started climbing the sand dune and quickly learned it was a lot higher than it looked!  After getting to the top, the view was well worth it.  Rachel ran down but I had to keep the flying sand to a minimum, protecting my camera.  On the way down we noticed they’d gotten the truck out but only with the assistance of a full size tow truck (who was smart enough not to pull onto the sand, and used their winch).

We spent a great day at a beautiful place.  An absolutely perfect place to end a fantastic vacation.

Around Portland and Brewersfest

International Rose Test GardenWe slept in a bit on Thursday since we didn’t have anything planned until 2pm and we were driving all day Wednesday.  We started off the day by visiting the Portland Rose Test Garden.  I had no idea there were so many roses, wierd ones too.  They were all in full Bloom and so gorgeous!  Rachel got a few ideas and we found our Portland Magnet.  It was then time to head into the city to grab a bite to eat before our Portland Underground Tour.

After spending a fortune for parking ($12, there are much cheaper places but we didn’t find any right away) we headed to the Old Town Pizza, the first stop on the Underground Tour, to grab lunch and get tickets for the tour.  While I placed our order (a thin house special) Rachel called Portland Walking Tours to book it.  Unfortunately the Underground Portland tour was booked, something we hadn’t planned for.  Because we had plans for tomorrow we decided to take the Beyond Bizarre tour instead.

Portland Brewers FestSince we didn’t have anything to do for about 5 hours we decided to walk around and see a few things, the first being the Tom McCall Waterfront ParkAs we were walking along Rachel said something, my eyes glazed over, the skies opened and it seemed like there was a chorus of angels.  We walked right onto Portland’s Brewers Fest.

Mills End ParkAdmission was free so we went in (we would have anyway).  You pay for a mug with a bunch of chips, each chip is worth a tasting, 4 is worth a pint, but their tastings turned out to be much bigger than 1/4th of a pint.  They have a $10 mug which comes with 4 chips or a $20 mug which comes with 14 chips.  We each got 14 chips, what’s the point in only tasting 4 beers? After all, we had 5 hours.

Most of the beers were delicious, but we didn’t realize until the end that the beers were all west coast, not necessarily Oregon like we had originally thought.  Ahh well, still tasty.  We took a short break in between our 14 beers to wander around, and find the worlds smallest park which was neat.

Afterwards we met George and Stacie for Happy hour at Three Degrees where we enjoyed some great deals and good food (thanks Stacie!).  After that we took the MAX back to Old Town Pizza to catch our Beyond Bizzarre Tour.

EMFOriginally we thought the Beyond Bizarre tour was just the Underground Tour with some ghost stories and an EMF detector thrown in.  We were horribly wrong, and the tour sucked.  They hand out the EMF devices and it was mostly a ghost hunting exercise where they take you to these different locations and tell you why people think it’s ‘haunted’.  It was incredibly lame and we don’t suggest anyone do it.  I’m not sure if I would trust their Underground Tour either…  Perhaps If we had a coupon.

Back to George and Stacies, a glance at some pictures and bed… Another good day, despite the Tour Failure, mostly due to all the drinking.

Back to Portland

The DesertOur trek from Glacier National Park back to Portland was rather uneventful, and yet satisfying.  We drove all the way through, only stopping in Coeur D’Alene for lunch (which was a completely unexpected yet beautiful city in Idaho).  Again, somewhere in Montana we hit a giant hailstorm of bugs.  We seemed to literally drive through a wall of them with some as big as your fist.

As we drove through the dry areas, we watched the outside temperature gauge in the car reach as high as 106ºF.  Rachel wanted to know what that feels like, so at 70Mph we opened the windows and stuck our arms out.  It felt just like a blow dryer, and closed went the windows.

Dust DevilAlong the way we saw a ton of dust devils, which is kind of neat as I don’t remember ever seeing them this large before.  They look like mini tornadoes, and they seemed to tear across the skyline with a fury.

After crossing into Oregon we followed the Columbia River along I84, a large section of which we had taken before.  As the sun set, we were provided beautiful views of Mt Hood clear as day right over the river.  The most beautiful sight however was as we were passing Multnomah Falls and the sunlight was peaking through some clouds so only the falls were lit up.  It almost made us turn around, but we pushed on.

Mt Hood over the Columbia River

We arrived at George and Stacie’s with just enough time to show them some pictures and then head to bed.

Even just driving through, the scenery out here is beautiful and fulfilling.

Iceberg Lake

It just wouldn’t be right to go to the backpacking paradise that is Glacier National Park without doing some hiking.  To that end we decided to hike the 10 miles (round trip) to Iceberg lake.  The trail starts near Many Glacier Hotel which happens to be on the opposite side of the park from where we were staying, a mere 2 hours drive over the Going to the Sun road.  There was a Ranger guided hike at 8:30 in the morning so we went for that.

flowersOf course, the scenery from the road was beautiful but we also saw plenty of animals.  A herd of Elk were grazing in a field and 2 Coyotes were hunting mice or rabbits or something.  When we got to the trail head, we were a few minutes late so the Ranger and the group had already started off.  Not a big deal, we’d just meet them on the trail.  We grabbed our packs and off we went.  First thing we see? A bear, just a black bear but only about 50 ft off the trail and very startling.  Then we caught up to the group about a tenth of a mile in.  The group with the Ranger was about 25 strong and included an 80 something year old man and his family.  He had hiked this same trail about 30 years earlier and was looking to see how things had changed (or remained the same).

Iceberg LakeAbout a mile in we took a break and the Ranger started a game featuring the local flora.  She’d tell the person immediately behind her the name of some wild flower and that person would tell everyone that passed the name of the flower.  Then she’d tell the next person… and so on.  It was fun!  There were so many different flowers, we cycled through everyone about twice and only covered about half of them!

As with everywhere we’ve been, the scenery was amazing throughout the entire hike.  The hike itself was incredibly rewarding and the lake was the prettiest lake this side of Crater Lake.  I can now say I’ve stood on an Iceberg for the first time, although Rachel was afraid to jump across the small gap of glacier runoff water to join me.  I have to admit, the thought it would get bumped and float out into the lake leaving me stranded was definitely there.

A hike back, another bear and a restful evening.  A great day in Glacier!

Red Bus Tour through Glacier

Since we were only in the park for a few days, we wanted to see and learn as much as possible.   What better way than a guided tour through the entire park on one of the old Red Buses?

st-mary-lakeWe struck out at 8:30 on the Crown of the Continent Tour with our guide Matt.  Matt was a nice guy who introduced himself as someone who’d grown up his whole life wishing he had a place in the backwoods where he couldn’t be bothered.  He told us that once he saved enough money that’s exactly what he did.  His place is 8 miles from the nearest telephone, 4 miles from the nearest neighbor in the winter and 1 mile in the summer.  He parks his truck and ski’s 2 miles into his house in the winter time because that’s as far as it’s plowed.  He has a generator for power but no TV, no internet and no phone.  I’m sure I could live that way if I had to, but I’m not sure I’d want to.  Still, it has a certain appeal.  I could probably write a whole post just on Matt so we’ll stop there.  There is an funny story involving Laura Bush though so maybe I’ll write that up some day.

The tour took us over the going to the sun road and back into Many Glacier Hotel for lunch.  It was amazing, and informative and the going to the sun road takes you through some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve ever seen.  We saw 9 of the park’s 27 Glaciers from the bus and countless Perennial Snow Fields.  Matt informed us that a glacier has 3 requirements.

  1. It must have a surface area greater than 25 acres
  2. It must be greater than 100ft thick
  3. It must be moving

If a chunk of ice meats some but not all of these requirements it’s considered a perennial snow field.  Yes, perennial because it comes back (or remains) every year just like your flowers.  Speaking of flowers, we got a glimpse of some of the alpine wildflowers while stopped at Logan’s Pass and they’re amazing!

goatsOn our way back through we stopped at a little parking lot just past Logan’s pass where the Mountain Goats hang out.  They were everywhere.  In the parking lot, on the walkways, on the rocks nearby, in the trees nearby, hanging out on the man made walls… literally everywhere.

The downside to making land like this accessible to the masses is you begin to affect the wildlife.  The goats are no exception.  Anti-Freeze is now a delicacy in their diet.  Don’t worry though, they can’t ingest enough of it to hurt them, remember… they’re hard core.   They live above 7,000ft 365 days a year, avalanche’s and all.

After the tour we cooked some hot dogs and pasta to end the night on a good note (full) and drifted off to sleep.

Spokane to Glacier

After a good night’s sleep in the worst hotel of the trip so far (seriously! we had to get maintenance to open our door after we left for 30 minutes for breakfast!) we headed out of Spokane, glad to be on the open road again.

Lake McDonald from Hotel RoomThe trip from Spokane to Glacier National Park was relatively uneventful save the giant bug storm we drove through in Montana.  It seemed bugs the size of your fist were hitting the windshield every 5 seconds or so and they definitely left their mark.

After arriving in Glacier we were greeted with a beautiful view of Lake McDonald from our balcony.

The Lake McDonald Lodge was beautiful, and reminded me of a miniaturized version of  the Old Faithful Inn.  I only wish they had these sorts of places in the Adirondacks.  Come to think of it maybe they could trade.  The Adirondacks could use these sorts of structures and the national parks (or at least the Lake McDonald Lodge) could certainly use some Adirondack furniture.  The chairs at the lodge fit in just fine but they’re crazy uncomfortable.

After dinner we just sort of relaxed and went to bed early, ready to take on the park tomorrow.

Seattle to Spokane

IMG_7413Since we still had tickets to the Aquarium from the City Pass that we wanted to use, Saturday we woke up and went straight there.  There is a section of the aquarium where you can touch the underwater sea creatures.  Rachel’s favorite was the Sea Anemone.  They feel sticky but only because they’re trying to sting you and your skin is too thick.

Washington ParkIn Pikes Place we picked up a few more OMG Peaches for lunch, grabbed the car and headed towards the San Juans.  We ate a picnic lunch and took a quick scenic drive through Washington Park.  Then we were off through the Northern Cascade National Park on our way to Spokane.

While on the way through the cascades we happened upon one of the most beautiful sights we’ve seen so far.  We hit Lake Diablo at the exact time the sun was falling behind the mountains and below the clouds.  This caused rays of sunshine to fall on the lake in a scene like nothing We’d ever seen before.

IMG_7676

We drove from there on to Spokane where we spent the night on our way to Glacier.

Mount Rainier and Seattle Harbor

Mount RainierFriday we headed out for Mount Rainier.  After seeing the mountain hovering over the city last night at sunset we just had to.  It took longer to drive there than we expected, a little over 2 hrs to Paradise but it was well worth it.  The scenery and the view of the mountain were fantastic.

We would have gone for a good little hike but Rachel wore sandals on this of all days…  So we settled for a short trek out to Nisqually Vista, an overlook of the largest glacier on Mount Rainier.  However; while walking along we crossed several snow fields and talked to a few people that were coming back.  Apparently the trail was covered with even more snow ahead, and since we weren’t prepared for trail hiking we headed back.  The views were did have, through the alpine flower fields was still gorgeous.

Seattle Skyline

After getting back to Seattle we headed over to the shoreline to take the Harbor tour that came with the City Pass.  It was very interesting!  The most interesting thing we learned was how Seattle got it’s name and how it first started.  As it turns out, Seattle was first settled on a peninsula on the other side of the bay.  When settled (in the middle of the summer) it was very pleasant, but when the winter came it was anything but.  After suffering for a period of time the native Chief Sealth and his people came to the aide of the settlers and helped them move across the bay where the weather was a bit subdued.  They wanted to honor him by naming the city Sealth but in their culture their name cannot be spoken after they are past and having a city named after him would not allow this.  To compromise they named the city Seattle, essentially an Americanized version of the chief’s name.

After the tour we were a bit tired so we headed back to the hotel and enjoyed a nice relaxing evening.  We watched Saving Private Ryan and said goodnight.

Seattle

Fruit at Pikes PlaceWednesday was our first day in Seattle and what a fun packed day it was!

We started off by heading to Pikes Place (of course).  Wow! Their market rocks!  the OMG Peach truly does make you say ‘Oh My God’ and the fish do really fly overhead.  Walking into the building Rachel’s jaw dropped as she saw miles upon miles of flowers at rock bottom prices.

Seattle Space NeedleFrom pikes we headed to the next obvious choice, the Space Needle.  For the middle of the day on a Wednesday it seemed pretty busy, we waited in line for about 20 minutes while reading all about the City Pass.  It turns out to be a pretty good deal so we signed on.

The view from the top was amazing.  Mount Rainier was out and completely visible which we hear only happens about 100 days of the year.  Mount Rainier seemed even more impressive over Seattle than Mount Hood does over Portland.

The Science Fiction Museum was awesome (except for the lack of Firefly/Serenity paraphenaila).  Upon arrival we saw a sign for the Jim Henson exhibit which was only in town for a short period of time and Rachel’s eyes got wider than I’d ever seen before.  We learned a lot and saw a lot of cool Science Fiction effects.  My favorite was obviously the Star Wars junk but Rachel’s was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume.  I have no doubt in my mind that Matt‘s would be the real Enterprise D used in production of Next Generation.

Rainier over SeattleAdmission to the Science Fiction Museum includes admission to the Experience Music Project and so of course we went.  The Jimi Hendrix exhibit there was awesome and informative.  I loved his music before but I had no idea Jimi was so innovative.  One of the most interesting things I learned was about how his long drawn out notes were actually feedback which he could control with a custom built foot petal.

We ended the day with another trip up the Space Needle to see the sunset and the city at night.  It was very beautiful.  I especially enjoyed watching the colors wash over Rainier as it dissapeared and the sun dipped over the horizon.

Seaside to Seattle

We woke up and got on the road from our cute little Boat Theme Room after a good nights sleep (read: we slept in).  Along the way we passed a sign for the Lews and Clark National Park.  We’d seen stuff all over with the Lewis and Clark names on it and we figured this would be the best place to check out.

Fort ClatstopFort Clatsop isn’t that great.  It’s pretty much a visitor center and remake of a 6 room fort.  that’s it.  Not really much to look at.  There’s even a sign that says the fort’s location is only an estimation.  However; if you’re interested in reading or listening to information about Lewis and Clark its great.  We watched a little video and then determined there was nothing there we couldn’t get elsewhere so we headed on out.

Randy and Rachel in AstoriaFrom there we were on to Astoria where we stopped at the harbor and headed over into Washington.  Hurray! we made it!  After driving for quite a while up the coast of washington we were bored.  Route 101 doesn’t really follow the coast in Washington like it does in Oregon and it’s nowhere near as scenic.  After a while we decided to head inland to Seattle and call it a day.

Almost into Seattle we got a phone call from Heather who was in visiting from Portland for the day and we decided to meet up for dinner at Johnny’s Dock.  It was a little pricey but the food and the service was great!  Liam even got a private magic show!

We said our goodbyes after a great meal and it was on to the downtown Ramada for the night.