Pacific Coast Highway

As interview season rolls on, Bae found herself with interviews in Sacramento and Santa Barbara that were perfectly split with a weekend between them. We decided it was a no-brainer to turn this into a mini weekend road trip!

I flew into the Sacramento airport Friday after work and Bae picked me up and we hit the road (she drove while I gave her a full on concert straight out of the early 2000’s, consisting of an infinite amount of R&B aka baby making music). We drove through the night (only a couple hours) and decided to stay in Santa Cruz. We grabbed some dinner at Soif where we split a burger and a charcuterie board, all which was very satisfying. You should definitely check out the little “downtown” area of Santa Cruz if you get the chance, there are a lot of little restaurants and shops to poke your head in and grab something tasty to eat.

In typical fashion, we woke up early the next day and went for a run! We ran down to the beach and checked out the wharf, boardwalk, and lighthouse. There were amazing views to get us started on our trip!

 

We also ran into some seals down on the wharf! It was entertaining watching them swim around and attempt to jump up on the boards and also to listen to the bigger ones barking, almost as a wake up call to all the slackers sleeping in! Seals aren’t something you see everyday in the Pacific Northwest, so we were excited to be able to see some new wildlife.

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After getting back to our room, we showered and hit the road for San Luis Obispo (SLO)! This was the bulk of our trip, and we wanted to make sure to take the scenic route along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH)!

Our first pit stop came in the form of a major pitstop at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We both love animals and it was perfectly on our route, so it was an obvious choice to make a stop in.

 

I would have to say that Bae’s favorite part was probably the Sea Otters. She definitely loves the Sea Otters. I think I enjoyed the jellyfish. Between the colors and slow, silky movements, they were mesmerizing to watch.

After our exploration of the aquarium, we popped into Cannery Row Brewery for some lunch. Food was nothing to write home about, except for the huge pretzel they had. Another one of Bae’s favorites is soft pretzels, so for that alone, it was worth stopping in.

After fueling up, we set forth for more driving! This was my favorite part of the trip. We really go into the bulk of the allure that the PCH has to offer. It was one beautiful view after another for the next couple hours. We decided to stop along Big Sur portion of the highway. There is a nice walkway (some may call it a mini-hike) that we ventured down.  And we coincidentally did so right around sunset. You can’t beat west coast sunsets in general, but these views were really something special. Bae likes to considers herself a lucky person (like usual), she just keeps being right!

Reluctantly, we decided we better continue our journey for SLO. We did however have to make one more noteworthy stop to check out the elephant seals. They were all over the place! The wildlife on this trip really did not disappoint!

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Check out the two on the right, neck to neck, fighting?

About an hour or so later, we finally arrived to our destination for the night in SLO. The next morning we backtracked a bit and headed to Moro Bay. Moro Bay is a cool little beach town, probably swarmed by tourists (like ourselves) in the summer months, but in December, it was quiet and a great town to check out. We parked our car and started running along the boardwalk, and to our surprise… Sea Otters! Bae was extremely excited and couldn’t stop counting them and pointing out the baby ones. It was extremely entertaining to see.

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After the excitement, we continued out to Moro Rock where we got to see some awesome crashing waves and more natural beauty.

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Finally, we decided it was time to reach our final destination, Santa Barbara. We hit the road and arrived into sunny Santa Barbara. We grabbed lunch at the delicious (and inexpensive) La Super-Rica Taqueria. HIGHLY recommend this little taco joint. Very, very good food. After lunch, we went down and walked along the beach to soak in some California sun rays. Coincidentally, Santa Barbara has their arts and crafts show along the beach every Sunday, so we got to check out some local art along the way.

After our walk along the beach (which I carried Bae across the finish line because she forgot her walking shoes), it was time to get me to the airport and for Bae to get to her pre-interview dinner. She dropped me off at the little Santa Barbara airport and just like that, our weekend in California had come to a close. If you have the time and resources, you’ve got to drive along State Route 1. It is full of breathtaking views, and is just overall very relaxing. It really makes you appreciate some of the natural beauty of the west coast!

San Francisco – Sore feet, full bellies

Mid-october we took a quick trip to San Francisco to celebrate being done with externships. PC was able to get two round trip tickets to San Francisco for only $200 since  I got a special coupon for Alaska on a Mariners baseball ticket. It just so happens that October is the best time to go to San Francisco because the weather tends to cooperate that time of year and there are less tourists than in the summer. Its very hard to find a hotel room in our budget in San Francisco so we stayed at an AirBnB in Nob Hill, which was reasonable.img_7163

We departed from Seattle at 6AM so we arrived early to San Francisco and took the BART into downtown to meet up with some good friends of ours who just so happened to be in town for the day. Once we meet up with them we grabbed some bagel sandwiches (very hardy) and walked through Chinatown. The streets were lined with fresh produce, various trinkets for sale and lots of people.

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After walking through Chinatown we made our way over to Land’s End and hiked through the park down to the Sutro Baths. The park has amazing views of the ocean and the Golden Gate bridge and is definitely a must-do when you are in San Francisco!

Even though it looks cloudy out the sun was so powerful it was making our eyes water as we tried to keep them open for this picture!

Behind us you can see the Sutro baths. If you walk down closer to them there is a cave you can go into. That building on the cliffs is appropriately called “The Cliffhouse” and has a restaurant inside.

From the Sutro baths we followed the trail over to Baker Beach, getting closer and closer to the Golden Gate Bridge. Bakers beach is also a must. Try to go on a sunny, non-foggy day if you can because there are great views!

That night we went to a cute little place called Stones Throw for dinner and headed to the Tonga Room. The Tonga Room is a tropical themed bar hidden in the basement of the Fairmont hotel and it happened to be very bumpin’ the night. An old pool has been filled in to make a lake and there was a boat with a live band in the middle of the lake. We indulged in several group tropical drinks.

The next day we had a tour scheduled for Dylan’s Tour that would take up most of the day so we got up and grabbed some treats at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse beforehand. Mr. Holmes is famous for its cruffins and sure enough there was a line out the door waiting for the them. What people don’t talk about is how good all their other baked good are too! PC may have sent me in after we’d agreed to get two pastries and I may have come out with way to many… The cruffins were strawberry Nesquick flavored plus we also got some filled donuts, a decadent monkey bread treat and a piece of savor breakfast bread. We somehow found a way to eat all of them and they were so delicious.

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Then we had to truck it up and down hills with our box of treats to meet up with our tour group down at the fisherman’s wharf. We had heard really good things about Dylan’s tour. We opted for “Dylan’s Famous Tour” but there was also an option that included Alcatraz, it just wasn’t available that day. Their claim to fame is that they are led by locals. Our guide Rolando was fantastic. Great enthusiasm and very knowledge-able about the city and its history. He was also really helpful for asking about dining recommendations.

We started out by driving through the North Beach neighborhood and then went to the Mission were we got out and walked around to see some of the murals. I loved the bright colors.

Next it was a up to Twin Peaks for some 360 views of the city.

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Then we headed over to Haight-Ashbury and got out to grab a mission style burrito for lunch. Next it was drive through the Presidio and down to Crissy Field for some great views of the Golden Gate Bridge. You can see that Carl the fog is partially coming in but not too bad!

Then we all got back in the bus/big van and drove across the bridge through Sausalito to Muir woods.

We had an hour to walk around and explore. This is where they had the first United Nations meeting.

Our last stop on the way back to San Francisco was the Marin Headlands. It sure was windy and chilly up there on the bluffs but there was a great view of the bridge!

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They dropped us off back at the fisherman’s wharf and we walked around to see the sites. This is the most touristy area of San Francisco but it was good to see it. We ended up getting some fish and chips at one of the restaurants down on the water which were good! Then we swung through the famous giant Ghirardelli shop. I wish we had the stomach room for one of those massive sundaes that look so delicious but we didn’t and instead we just ate the little squares they hand out for free. Then it was early to bed because we were worn out for our day of adventures!

The next morning we woke up and went to pick up bikes that we had also rented from Dylan’s Tours for only an additional $15/bike for the entire trip as an add on to our tour. But first we had to hunt down the Bowld Acai food truck to get an acai bowl for breakfast because that just sounded really good.

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We then proceeded to pick up our bikes and bike a nearly 30 mile loop around the city. We started by going up to Coit tower. Unfortunately it was cloudy and the tower wasn’t open yet so we didn’t go to the top.

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We then biked down by the water over to Crissy Field.

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And then it was over the Golden Gate Bridge and back.

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From there we encountered some steep hills as we biked from the Golden Gate bridge through the Presidio and some neighborhoods until we reached Golden Gate Park. Golden Gate Park has a ton of random stuff in it like windmills and bison and various museums. To be honest we were a bit too hungry to stop and further explore anything in the park. Instead we biked over to the mission and had some amazing Burmese food at a restaurant called Burma Love. They were on our radar because they have a tea leaf salad made famous when Sunset magazine named it the best salad in the west. The salad was great but we liked the lunch wraps with some sort of tasty meat, slaw and coconut rice. It was sooooo good. I’d love to be eating another one right now.

Then it was over to Dandelion chocolates. We picked their chef’s taster which has 5-6 tasty bite-sized desserts on it but we were then told they didn’t have everything to go on it  😦 They made up for it though because they refunded us, gave us a free hot chocolate, piece of celebration cake and discounted their s’mores tart. So basically, super tasty treats and good customer service.

Next we headed down the block to Tartine, arguably the most famous bakery in San Francisco and managed to split a ham and gruyere croissant despite being so stuffed!

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I wish we had more stomach room because there were so many delicious looking baked goods. The line is often out the door. Then we cruised back over to the bike shop and dropped off our bikes and went back to our AirBnB to take a nap.

After a bit of a rest we took an Uber to the mission to grab some dinner at the Southern Pacific Brewery. We got an awesome flight of house beers to sample and played cards at the bar. It had good vibes and the food looked good so we decided to stay for dinner. We got burgers which were tasty and then managed to have room to get ice cream at the famous Bi-Rite which was only a few blocks away and called it a night.

The next morning we put on our backpacks and hiked over to the area around Alamo square. On the way we stopped at the San Francisco chain, Philz Coffee to see what they had to offer.

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They have coffees like mint mojito and other funky things. It wasn’t our favorite but it was nice to try. They we continued on our hike and went to The Mill for their famous toast and OMG it was so good.

Possibly the best thing we ate the whole trip which sounds ridiculous because it is just toast, but boy, it was good. We got three different toast to share: their whole wheat raised bread with butter and cinnamon sugar, a grainy bread with cream cheese and pesto and another slice with plum jam. There bread is thick cut and the toppings are perfect.

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After toast we went to see the famous “painted ladies” which were just around the corner. Alamo square, across from the painted ladies, was all tore up but we still got a decent pic.

Next we headed down to the ferry building which contains a good assortment of food stalls and shops. By this point we were pretty tired but we got lunch and then it was time to ride the BART back to the airport. Yet another packed, fun-filled trip for PC and Bae! We are so lucky to be able to travel and see the world 🙂

Overall grade: Bae: B+, PC: A-

Mount Rainier National Park

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August 25th marked the 100 year anniversary of the National Park Service. The celebration started on Thursday and lasted through the weekend. To celebrate, the NPS was allowing free entrance into all parks for the extended weekend. Coincidentally, Bae finished up her month working at Swedish Hospital in Seattle on Thursday and had the weekend free! We planned  on going to the park regardless this weekend, and just happened to get lucky being that it was Centennial Weekend.

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Bae has an insatiable desire to take photos of me eating. I have an insatiable desire to eat, so it works out well

As usual, we set our alarms for 5:30 and were on the road by 6 o’clock! Our plan was to enter through the southwest corner at the Nisqually Entrance drive through (with a few stops of course) and exit back out through the northeast corner at the White River Entrance. Once we got off the busy freeways we made a pitstop in Puyallup for our white chocolate iced americano (PC) and Abominable white mocha (Bae) at BigFoot Java. Across the street we noticed a little donut shop and we had to stop in. It was called Epic Donut. They had a pretty cool galaxy/space theme and an assortment of donuts. Bae and I went with the maple bacon bar, and it hit the spot. They did bacon crumbs instead of the bacon strip, which I find to be quite the difference maker between an average bacon maple and a good bacon maple (shots fired at VooDoo).

Fueled up (both the Corolla and us), we were ready to make our way into the park!

Near the park entrance, Bae once again saw wildlife, deer this time, and started getting very excited, so I had to pull over. We turned into a small bed and breakfast area, and Bae got some picture of the two baby deer. Luckily, she was quick with the draw, because the people who worked there quickly came up to our car and bluntly told us to leave. Apparently, they weren’t too fond of us “trespassing” on their property to see the deer. They were old and crotchety and could have been a bit more polite, but oh well.

When we arrived we were handed a map and a park newsletter as our souvenirs of the centennial. Our first stop was Kautz Creek. we parked our car and crossed the street and got a great view of the mountain. There were a handful of other people doing the same, but it was still early and the park was still pretty empty. We then briefly checked out the Longmire Museum Visitor Center and made sure we understood our plan before tackling the rest of the park.

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Bae taking a photo of Mount Rainier along with our park map at Kautz Creek

Next was the meat and potatoes of our trip. We settled on a 6 mile hike starting at Narada Falls and taking us east to Reflection Lakes and Louise Lake before looping back around and taking us back to our starting point. Once again, fully equipped with our WTA guide, we were ready to go!

We started out at Narada Falls and were one of two cars in the parking lot. Once again, very smart of us to get an early start, especially on Centennial Weekend. The first mile and a half was slightly uphill and in the shade and really a piece of cake. It was a good way to get the day started. We were covered in shade most of the way, and actually a bit chilly (this quickly subsided). Once out of the shade from the fir trees, we were ready to take on the lakes portion. We crossed the street and hiked through some shrubbery and made it to Reflection Lakes!

 

After getting taking the time for our photo op, it was back to business and finishing the hike!

Our next landmark was Faraway Rock. There was a bit of an elevation gain through the forest and when we came to the opening, it was quite the view. We could see Louise Lake below, Stephens Canyon to the east, and the Tatoosh Mountain Range to the souther horizon.

Once we took in the beauty from above, it was time to get back on our trek and finish strong. We continued on about a half mile or so and then things got interesting. We ran into a mother daughter team who were coming from the direction we were headed. They told us they just saw a mother and baby black bear about 5 blocks (wtf is 5 blocks in the wilderness?) ahead. They decided it would be best to turn around and head back down. Turning around really wasn’t an option for Bae. I was on the fence. I wanted to see bears, but on the other hand I didn’t want any trouble with the bears. We pushed forward. Eyes peeled and heads on swivels, we kept going talking loud so if we came across any bears, we wouldn’t startle them. I kept kicking my feet and Bae was laughing at me cause she thought I was being ridiculous. We reached a fork in the road and our directions told us we should go left. Bae analyzed the situation and figured 50% chance we wouldn’t run into the bears was pretty good, we kept going. Now to be honest, I REALLY wanted to see the bears, but I also REALLY sorta wanted to turn around. But I was with Bae and up for adventure, so I was 100% on board with  continuing.

We kept going until we climbed over some trees and found ourselves in a valley of rocks off the trail. Now to recap, we were well past 5 blocks from where we met those woman (but still weren’t convinced that the term 5 blocks was relevant because we were hiking, not going to the local market to pick up groceries for the week) but also off the trail. After pushing forward hoping to find the trail, we turned around and headed back. About 20 feet prior to the trees we climbed over, we found that the trail veered left when we went straight. Whoops. So we were back on track.

We ran into some nice gentlemen who looked like they made trips out here quite frequently and asked if they saw any black bears. They chuckled and said no, and if we saw any we shouldn’t be worried. The black bears aren’t as “curious” as brown bears, which were all removed from this part of the park years ago (by removed, I mean transported, nothing harmful). So it looks like back at the fork in the road, the bears were to the right. We were both disappointed we didn’t get to see any black bears (although I was partially relieved). After all, experiencing the thrill of the potential of seeing bears is a bit deflating if you don’t actually get to see the bears. Hopefully next time we’ll safely run into some bears.

We made our way back through the forest and found ourselves back at Narada Falls. A couple hours had passed and the parking lot was absolutely packed with people! Most came just for the photos and not to actually hike, so the trails weren’t too packed, just the parking lot and last 0.1 miles of the hike.

Back in our car, we continued our journey and made our final stop for lunch at the Henry Jackson Visitor Center. It was absolutely packed with tourists. There were buses of people being shipped in from all over! We got fruit and a hotdog (Bae loves hotdogs, and they’re growing on me) from the cafeteria. We then checked out the gift shop which had some cool items, but nothing we had to have. There is also a cool interactive portion on the second floor. There is very good information on the park as well as the Henry Jackson for which the center gets its namesake. Henry Jackson was a senator from Washington who was a large advocate for environmentalism and played a big part in expanding the protection of land for the 3 national parks located in Washington.

After letting our meal digest by walking around and reading, we were ready to get back in the car and head home. On our way out, we saw one viewpoint we couldn’t resist and made one final ill-advised swerving stop into the viewing area for one final shot of Mount Rainier.

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Chuckanut Drive

To start off Bae’s month of working in Seattle, we decided we would spend the first Sunday going for a day adventure we’d read quite bit about and needed to go on. Per our M.O., we were up and on the road before sunrise. After a pit stop for coffee, we were on our way North to checkout the locally famous Chuckanut Drive.

Located just off of Interstate 5 around Burlington, Chuckanut Drive is located on Highway 11 and is a 2o mile drive curving through the cliff of Chuckanut Mountain. It is known for it’s breathtaking views of the Puget Sound and leads you on an alternate route to Bellingham. It’s highly recommended if you have some spare time, or are making the drive around sunset.

As I mentioned earlier, Bae and I like to get an early start on our day, 1) because we both wake up pretty early anyway, and 2) we don’t always have the most time together, so there’s no point in spending it sleeping! We got our iced coffees courtesy of Big Foot Java and we were on our way! Our first stop was the Oyster Dome hike. Located around mile marker 10, the hike is about 6.5 miles. It contains more switchbacks and elevation than the alternate entrance off of I5. Bae was a bit skeptical that this was the proper entrance because it wasn’t too well marked, but I did my job to assure her that we were in the right spot (after quickly double checking with our good friends at wta.org).

Since we were already on the trail before 7:30 am, it wasn’t quite sunny out yet and not hot either (which was actually not a totally bad thing). We saw yellow, brown, and black slugs on our way and that was pretty cool if you’re into those slimy guys. Other than that, there wasn’t much to see on the trail. Regardless, it was nice to get out and enjoy some crisp morning air. At the top the fog was rolling quite a bit so we didn’t get to take in the view of Samish Bay and the Olympics Mountains as we had hoped, but getting to the top and taking time to relax and eat our protein bars was still nice. On our way down, Bae took off running and so naturally I followed. We made it down in world record time. They will be etching our names in that stone at the trailhead in the near future!

 

Our next stop was Bellingham! We continued up Chuckanut Drive and found ourselves in Bellingham. We contemplated and ultimately decided to stop for some coffee and doughnuts at Rocket Donuts and Acme Ice Cream. It ended up being a great decision. We ordered their daily special which had berries and icing and a regular maple. We also had Moka Joe’s cold brew coffee which was new to both us of and not too bad. Overall, it was a great decision to stop in and grab some fuel to give us a little boost after our morning hike!

On our way back home, we decided to stop at Larrabee State Park. It wasn’t part of the original plan, but because the fog from our hike subsided and sun was shining, we had to stop at the beach for some rays and whatever else it had to offer.

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Larrabee State Park

We got there, walked down the walkway toward the beach, and we got to the beach and Bae started going bananas! She couldn’t even speak just pointing and ‘ooh-ing’ and ‘ahh-ing.’ I thought there was a whale or something. Turns out it was even better… A little family of sea otters! They were perched on some drift wood and were taking turns diving in, very  majestic and smooth! I’ve never seen her so excited! PC knows the way to Bae’s heart, and it includes a pet sea otter in the future!

After the excitement died down, we combed the beach and found a handful of starfish clinging to rocks, crab shells, and various other marine life (namely hermit crabs) in the tide pools. I highly recommend taking the time to check out tide pools if you’ve got the free time and beach accessibility, you never know what you’re going to find!

Our last big stop on the way home was the village of Bow, WA. We drove down a small little one lane road that looped through the main shops, parked our car and got out ready to explore. We saved room from our stop at Rocket Donuts for an actual meal, so we decided now was the perfect time to eat! We heard quite a bit about Breadfarm. Breadfarm is a local bakery that is known for it’s decadent treats. We went with a handful of shortbread and fig cookies and a loaf of their Sour Cherry Lemon bread (that was delicious!).

Baked goods in hand, we went next door to Slough Food. Slough Food is an extremely cool little spot that you need to check out. The owner is passionate about wine and cheese and a real cool dude. We went out back and sat at a nice picnic table and got to eat in solitude. We ordered a meat and cheese plate that was frickin delicious! We brought our bread and cookies with us and had quite the meal. It was our own charcuterie plate with dessert! Bow was a 10/10 and a must stop for anybody who is in the area, or even not in the area, but looking for some good food and good people!

Our final stop was Samish Bay Cheese. Samish Bay does a lot of organic cheeses and has 100% grass fed beef as well. The folks in there are very kind and are willing to let you try whatever you’d like to make sure you enjoy the cheese. Being a smaller operation, they are also the ones who make the cheese and are very knowledgeable with any questions you may have. Bae and I went with the Aged Ladysmith, a Gouda, and the Mount Blanchard Cheddar. You really can’t go wrong with any of their cheeses (except maybe the Aged Ladysmith), and they have so many options, they have something for everyone. They can also be found at local Farmer’s Markets ranging from Lake Forest Park to West Seattle if you’re not able to make it all the way up north.

Overall, Bae and I had a great Sunday day trip exploring Chuckanut drive. We may have gotten a bit too early of a start and experienced more fog than we would have liked, but all in all a great day.

Overall Grade: Bae: B-, PC: B

A Weekend At Chelan

To celebrate being done with my exam and spend some time with my family PC and I made the drive out to Lake Chelan for the weekend. We ventured through the beautiful and highly underrated North Cascades National Park on our way, which was filled with natural beauty every direction you looked, but I must say Lake Chelan is a natural wonder in itself, as it is over 1,500ft deep and 50 miles long. It is the third deepest lake in the country after Crater Lake and Lake Tahoe. Chelan is a popular vacation destination for Washingtonians and is nestled in mountains and surrounded by land that is used for growing fruits like apples, peaches, cherries and blueberries. Everyone thinks of Washington as being super rain but this part of the state is actually quite dry with about 12in of rainfall a year. Unfortunately the area was hit pretty badly by wildfires last year and you could still see some remnants of that on our way over.

There is a tiny town called Steihekin across the lake from Chelan, with a permanent population of only 100 people that is accessible by boat or hiking in, but not by road (sounds a little creepy/cool right?). There is a ferry that leaves from Chelan daily to go to Steihekin but the ride takes several hours one way. PC and I wanted to take the ferry, called Lady of the Lake, out to Steihekin and hike back to Chelan along a 17 mile trail but we just didn’t have the time, as it would be a two day venture where we would take the ferry out to Stehekin the first day and then leave early on the second day to hike back, so we will have to do that on our next trip to the area.

The house my family rented for the weekend was actually in Manson, a smaller town further down the lake coast than the city of Chelan. Manson is less commercial and crowded so I’m glad we stayed there instead.  The house had a beautiful view of the lake and you could often see boats zooming around. The evening we arrived I went down to the beach and jumped in the lake to swim around a bit with my dad while PC helped my mom and aunt make dinner 🙂 The water in the lake is so clear and refreshingly chilly, but not too cold since the temps run in the 80s and 90s during the summer months, making a dip in the lake feel quite nice. When we got back from the lake we enjoyed a nice family dinner with a lake view.

Every morning PC and I woke up and went for a run around town. We like to run in the morning because it makes us start the day feeling accomplished. Its a good time to talk and enjoy each other’s company before we get into whatever shenanigans we have going on that day. After our morning run we went to a famous local breakfast place for our morning meal with my sister and cousin. The four of us order a giant streusel muffin as an appetizer when we arrived (now you’re wondering if appetizers at breakfast are a thing). We also sampled the blueberry juice. For my main course I got the blueberry blintzes.

They were featured in The Seattle Times as breakfast worth the drive. They were delicious but so rich, so I made PC trade me for some of the tasty hash browns and sausage he got with his more tradition cowboy breakfast.

The restaurant itself is located on a family owned berry farm where you can pick your own blueberries so of course we had to do that afterward. It was so much fun!!

We picked only the biggest juiciest blueberries – I’ve never seen such big ones.They tasted amazing and it was hard to stop picking.

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Plus they were only $2.50/lb! I would say that Blueberry Hills is a must do if you are staying at Lake Chelan!

That afternoon we went to a few of the wineries in the area (there 30+ in Chelan) to do wine tasting, including Tildio and Hard Row 2 Hoe. Then we hit up Mystic Pizza in Chelan for some good pizza. Sun + wine + pizza = sleepiness so next it was time for a nap.

That night PC, my sister, my cousin and I made dinner for the family, including beer-boiled brats, hamburgers, corn on the cob, sweet potato fries and grilled asparagus. It was controlled chaos with all of us working on the meal but it was actually really fun! PC did a great job on the grill and I liked being his assistant. We made chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter s’mores cookies for dessert and we had a family game night. We played Blockus and Bananagrams, two fun ones.

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Baker boy with the peanut butter s’mores cookies.

The next morning we woke up and went for a run. When we got back PC and I shared some tasty sourdough toast with some of big juicy blueberries we had picked. That gave us the energy to go paddle boarding.

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Paddle boarding is actually pretty hard work because you have to constantly use your muscles to stay balanced and not topple off your board into the water. Its especially hard when there are lots of boats on the lake making waves. I must say that PC did not love it – he look pretty terrified the whole time he was on his board! But he was a good sport. We tossed a little football around in the lake too, which he liked better.

After all that paddle boarding we needed some refreshment so we went to a local wine spot to have some chardonnay while playing cribbage, then hit up the brewery in Manson and final stopped at Rootdown Cidery for some delicious cider samplers.

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Overall it was a fun trip to Lake Chelan, that went by too fast and we were sad to leave but we hope to back sometime in the near future!

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North Cascades National Park

On our way to Lake Chelan for the Fourth of July weekend, Bae and I decided to spend a day going through the North Cascades National Park. The North Cascades is home to hundreds of glaciers and actually has more than half of all the glaciers that exist in the US today!

To make the most of our trip, we decided to get an early start before sunrise and head north! I was a bit on the sleepy side for the first hour or so of the drive, until we stopped into a nice small little coffee shop for breakfast near Arlington. Once fueled with caffeine, we were ready to rock!
The North Cascades is actually located all along highway 20. When we were coming around a corner, the sign appeared and Bae shouted, “pull over!” Naturally, I did my best to pull the car over suddenly without accident. One hint for those deciding to make the trek, there is a nice flat iron platform the perfect size of a camera to sit on for those who don’t travel with either a personal photographer or a tripod 😉.

Our first stop in the park was Newhalem. Newhalem is a small company town owned by Seattle City Light. All residents are employees of the Skagit River Hydroelectric project.

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As soon as we stepped out of the car we could hear the crackling of the power lines above us.

In the evenings LED lights illuminate the small waterfalls in the area. Bae and I got out and wandered around the area a bit and it was the perfect intro to the park.

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Bae and the waterfall

Our first stop after Newhalem was the Gorge Overlook. This was a nice little 0.4 mile loop from the parking lot. It was quick and easy and a no-brainer if you are looking to make the most of your time in the park. It offers a great view and is quick and easy. Plus, there’s a restroom with a sturdy door, for a quick bathroom break before hitting some of the longer hikes.

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Gorge Overlook

The next stop on the trip was Diablo Lake Overlook. Located on the side of the highway, this requires no hiking or walking, so it is the next “must see”. It provides an amazing view of Diablo Lake.

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The water was a gorgeous teal color and the surrounding scenery was just as beautiful (including Bae). It was one of the “must see” stops on the trip when we first started planning, and it did not disappoint.

Diablo Lake Overlook

Next came the meat and potatoes of our trip. Our main hike. Since we only were making a day trip out of the North Cascades, camping was out of the equation, so we wanted to pick a nice challenging hike that would be equipped with rewarding views. Bae did her homework (as usual) and picked out a winner. Described as the best “bang for your buck”, we chose Heather Maple Pass Loop hike, a 7.2 mile round trip loop (duh).

We’re not sure if it was because it was a Thursday morning, it’s just a hidden gem, or the North Cascades are just a bit more empty than we expected, but it felt like we had the trail to ourselves. There were others around, but nobody was stepping on each other or passing each other constantly. Everybody had their own space and it was very relaxing.

The hike felt like it was 4 portions: forest, rocks, switchbacks, and snow – yes lots of snow in July.

We started out venturing through the shaded forest. And soon found ourselves under the sun walking through thin dirt trails and walking over rocks. Every so often there would be a tiny creek running down the mountain that we would walk through. We also saw A TON of lavender. Everywhere you looked, lavender! About halfway up the mountain, we stopped to take in Lake Ann from above.

Bae pointing out Lake Ann

We continued on through switchbacks until we made it toHeather Pass, about 2.5 miles from the trailhead, the first of two passes. After a quick water break, we plunged on!

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Now we entered snow territory. Equipped in our running shoes, we were ready to take on the snow! As we walked the snow just kept on coming. We got to a point where the trail was flagged to have us continue off the path to preserve growing wild flowers. Of course we abided (plus the trail was non existent at this point). The flags lasted about 30 seconds and then it was a free for all.

Bae and I trudged through powdery snow, packed snow, fresh snow, and bloody snow (brownish red snow). I thought it was brown, Bae called it red and that made me think it was blood, so we’re going to go with bloody snow. After climbing, falling, and siding through a mountain side of snow, we finally waved the white flag and deemed the trail un-explorable (plus we saw an experienced hiker standing about a quarter miles ahead of us staring at the mountain having no clue where to go next). We cut our losses and headed back down. But not before we managed to take in the beauty, not quite from the top.

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Bae making the trail for us


We made it down in one piece and avoided whatever animal stained the snow with blood. It was nice and easy going down, and we of course gave a heads up to our fellow hikers about what was up ahead.

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Overall, it was an excellent hike. We will have to make a trip back and complete the loop when it’s later in the summer season. The views are still worth the trip, and making your own way in the snow is actually fun. Even without completing the hike as written, we still enjoyed it and made the best of it. There is really nothing to complain about when exploring the North Cascades with somebody like Bae.

Finally, we ended with looking out over Washington Pass. It was the perfect cap to the park. Just a great view from up above with one side facing the lakes and the other facing the curving highway and Cascades. Bae and I took in the sights and felt very at ease and accomplished.

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We ended our trip with a pitstop in Winthrop for some burgers and coffee. To our surprise, we stumbled into an old candy shop after our meal. Bae introduced me to seafoam and I must say, it is quite the treat. Foamy sugary candy covered in chocolate. What’s not to like?! We also ate chocolate covered gummy bears (on my Mount Rushmore of candy) and reminisced about our childhood while we ate Zotz, the foaming hard candies. And no trip in Winthrop would be complete without a little artwork – both wood carved and chalk!

Overall, our trip to the North Cascades National Park was an outstanding one. We would both highly recommend it to anybody looking to get away from Seattle and take in some beautiful sites and enjoy some hiking. The only complaint we both shared – not enough nachos or cheeseburgers! 1 down, 58 to go!

Mini Seattle Adventure

After a long week of studying for Step 2 of the boards PC and I took 24 hrs off to enjoy a relaxing evening and then hike the next day. We started off with dinner at The Cheesemongerer’s Table in the Edmonds downtown area. PC and I have been meaning to go there for quite a while since we love simple meals of meat, cheese, bread and accompaniments (aka charcuterie, the best food ever). This weekend was our last chance to go before PC moves out of the neighborhood to West Seattle. The Edmonds downtown is actually really nice, right on the water with lots of mom and pop shops and restaurants. The Cheesemongerer’s Table is one of those shops and is a deli that specializes in fine cheese, wine and meat. We ordered a cheese and meat plater with charcuterie and it was very satisfying.

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The cheese and meat platter at The Cheesemongerer’s Table.

Next it was time for dessert! We ventured over to Hello Robin on north Capitol Hill since PC had never had any of their treats. Hello Robin specializes in the most delicious ice cream sandwiches. They have a variety of fresh- baked cookies including “Mackelsmores”, whole wheat chocolate  chip with sea salt and sugar cookies, just to name a few. They also carry Molly Moon’s ice cream. You pick two of their cookies and an ice cream flavor to be combined into a delicious ice cream sandwich.

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PC and I decided to share one since they are so rich and we were already pretty stuffed. We chose one strawberries and cream cookie and one birthday cake cookie to go with earl gray ice cream. PC was skeptical about the ice cream flavor but ended up liking it.

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You can’t tell me that doesn’t look tasty!

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Two cookies, one birthday cake and the other strawberries and cream, with earl grey Molly Moon’s ice cream.

It didn’t take us long to finish it off! Plus I like that their spoons and dishes are compostable.

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Next we went over to Volunteer Park, just a few blocks away, even though it was raining since PC had never been there. I have spent lots of time at Volunteer Park since my aunt and uncle lived nearby when I was growing up and I went to Seattle U which is only a mile away.

First we went up to the top of the water tower to enjoy the few.

Then we walked over to see the conservatory. It was closed but I’ve been inside before and its cool if you like plants.

There were also baby ducks, a cool sculpture framing the Space Needle and the Asian Art Museum to check out.

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When you look through this sculpture the other way it frames the Space Needle but it was cloudy at the time.


The next day, we got an early start and headed north to tackle Mount Pilchuck. We’d been exciting about going on a hike for a while now and we figured Mount Pilchuck was a great candidate for our first adventure! It was a bit of a rocky start (literally) as we made the drive. The detailed write-up described the drive as finishing up with 7 miles of paved road followed by 1 mile unpaved, but in actuality it was the reverse! Luckily, the Corolla can handle anything thrown her way, and it wasn’t anything we couldn’t conquer. We parked our car, loaded up our backpack with some water and a couple nutrition bars, and we were off!

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At the Mount Pilchuck Trailhead

The hike itself was the perfect start to the season. It was intermediate in difficulty and was a good start to the season for us. It’s about 5.4 miles roundtrip (2.7 each way). What makes this hike so special is that at the top is an old historic fire lookout that has since been restored. From the lookout, you have 360 degree panoramic views of Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, and the Olympics. When we went up, it was definitely more cloudy than we would have preferred, but nonetheless it was a great trip.

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Mount Pilchuck from about 1.7 miles below

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“Look! It’s snow in June!”

Once you reach the top, there are plenty of great photo opportunities. You can let your feet hang, stop for a snack, or just enjoy the views (we did all three)! The last mile and a half or so was the most intense part, it was definitely worth it! We would recommend this to anybody looking for a good hike that isn’t too far away from Seattle.

After finishing our hike we were famished! It was definitely time for lunch. We decided it was only proper that we reward ourselves with dumplings! Bae and I are HUGE fans of dumplings. One day we are going to open our own restaurant that serves dumplings from every culture (patent pending, don’t even consider taking this idea). Today, we decided to try out a place called Dough Zone that my (PC) sister recommended to us. They have all sorts of Chinese dumplings and “comfort food” as they call it. We went in with high expectations and they did not disappoint. We had steamed dumplings, fried dumplings, hum bao, some with pork, and some with chicken. We even had Chinese Doughnuts, pot stickers, and pickled green beans! Overall it was delicious and extremely filling; I think it won’t be our last trip to the Dough Zone.

Overall, it was a great mini-adventure in our own backyard. With Bae away at school so much, its easy to forget that we have so much available to us in Seattle and the surrounding areas. It’s nice to take advantage of all it’s beauties. We have an on-going checklist of all the things we want to do in our own hometown (“I’m bored” is something you’ll rarely here us say), and we recommend you do the same!