Welp, we took another trip. It was quick and pretty unplanned but it sure was fun. People ask how we travel so much and I'll always say it's because we make it a priority but that's a post for another day.
This time we headed out to the Pacific Northwest on a whim to watch the South Dakota State University women’s basketball team play in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament. I used to play for the Jackrabbits back in my prime but now I mostly listen to them on the radio, popcorn usually in hand, wondering how in the heck they make it up and down the court so many times.
We bought the tickets on Tuesday and left on Thursday for a week-long trip into the great unknown. Well, it’s pretty well known it’s just that neither Scott nor I knew much about the PNW. We flew into Seattle, rented a car, and drove to Portland the next morning.
DAY 1: PORTLAND, OR
The other 4 girls that were in my class also bought tickets and it was like a mini-reunion. I could go on and on about my basketball years and how forever special they are in my life. The people I met, the things I learned, the places I got to see...it’s all because of basketball.
The thing that gets me the most is my relationship with basketball now. Well, let’s be real my relationship with basketball is almost nonexistent except for the occasional shootaround at the local college, but what I mean is my relationship with my basketball family.
I’m forever fascinated by how things change but they really don’t. How my teammates and I always talked about our future husbands and kids and dreams and jobs and now we actually have and are doing those things. How we can go a whole year without seeing one another and pick up right where we left off. How it’s a completely new team and a new year and although I'm now a fan cheering from the sidelines, I somehow feel like I'm right out there with them too.
I told you I could go on and on but mostly, know this. I love, more than anything, getting to share my Jackrabbit family with my new family. How Scott throws on an old pair of my practice shorts every time the girls have a game. How the SDSU faithful ask where I’m living nowadays and I get to tell them Northern Michigan. How the girls (my teammates) love Scott because I love Scott. It just fills me right on up. My favorite people, all in one place.
It was a busy day of meeting up with the girls, getting to sit in on the team's shootaround thanks to an old teammate turned coach, catching up with all the faithful SDSU fans and then watching the team finally get to play. They lost to the Oregon Ducks by 10 but man oh man did they make us proud out there!
DAY 2: PORTLAND, OR
The next day Scott and I explored Portland. We made a whole list of things we were going to do that day and ended up doing none of them. Aren’t those the best kind of days? When you set out with something specific in mind but the day takes you in a totally different direction.
If you know Scott you know he thrives off of a mean breakfast so we started the day at The Gateway Breakfast House for some brunch.
We ate enough for 6 people and made our way to the Portland Saturday Market. We found out it's the largest continuously operated outdoor market in the US featuring different booths with all sorts of arts and crafts from different artisans in the area.
You know how sometimes you go to a market and the booths always seem to repeat themselves? Nope. Not here. I swear every booth was selling something different and unique and we got lost enjoying the sunshine and looking at all the vendors and crafts for hours.
Next we went to Powell's City of Books, the world’s largest independent bookstore. I’m pretty sure it was an entire city block. We didn’t go in needing anything but of course left with two new books. Scott: If Cats Disappeared From the World Steph: Bird by Bird
On the way to the bookstore, we went into a leather goods shop and rriiigghhhtt as we were leaving an employee from the back had made his way to the front and said goodbye as we stepped outside. Scott held the door for me and looked at the guy saying thanks and realized he knew him from Petoskey! They had gone to school together and he is now living and working out in Portland. How in the world was he in the back the ENTIRE time and jjuusssttt as we were stepping out the door, like legit hand on the handle, he said goodbye and Scott saw him. Crazy small freaking world.
To cap off the evening we took his friend’s advice and headed up to the Pittock Mansion. From the mansion lawn you get a great view overlooking the entire city of Portland with Mt. Hood smack dab in the middle in the background. As the sun sets, Mt. Hood suddenly starts to glow and you get to watch as the city comes to life in the darkness.
DAY 3: ASTORIA, OR
We left Portland early and made our way to the coast and up to Astoria. Astoria is where the famous Goonies was filmed. Hhheeeyyyy yoouuu guuuyysss.....
Oh and also Kindergarten Cop as well as a few other movies.
Goonies is the main feature though and you can tour the old jailhouse from the opening scene (it's now a film museum) but the main house in the movie is privately owned and is not open to the public. We read some reviews online that the owners are pretty much fed up with random people coming to take photos of their house so there's some pretty obvious signage saying "Keep Out". We kept our distance but managed to snap an over-the-shoulder shot from afar.
We hit up the Astoria Column, a 125 foot tower with 164 steps on top of a hill overlooking the Columbia River and beyond. I'm not going to lie, we weren't stoked about going to the column and more like "Meh, it's just a high up tower right?" but since everyone we talked to and everything we read said to see it, we went.
Turns out it issss just a column with a beautiful view of course, but like most things in life if you slow down enough to see the good, you can usually find it. They sell $1 little model airplanes that you can take to the top and send off and watch them catch the wind and twirl and soar and make their way back down to land.
We stayed up there for awhile watching kids and families GIDDY over the paths of their airplanes. It was so much fun. People were having picnics and playing tag and just enjoying the day. That's one thing I've come to realize with traveling is that it's not always about exploring crazy amazing places that are hard to get to or no one else has seen before. It's about spending time together, in the moment, enjoying right where you are and making the most of it.
We ate lunch at Rogue Ales Public House and got our first of many fish and chips baskets, then headed to the Riverwalk by the water where we saw a small gathering of people looking out at the Pier. Turns out there was a whole stretch of sea lions basking and barking in the sun. We pulled into the nearest parking lot and could see maybe 15 waving their little heads around. We grabbed our binoculars…..yes, we aka Scott travel with binoculars...and saw that THE WHOLE DANG PIER was allll sea lions. Lined up body to body almost stacked on top of each other, that wasn’t a brown Pier, it was a freaking sea lion Pier! We laughed as they jumped in and out of the water and barked and splashed and it was like we were watching the movie Andre but on steroids (you know... the one with the sea lion?).
It was too early to check into our bed and breakfast so we drove down to Sunset Beach, just south of Astoria. It's a looonnnggg stretch of sandy beach but what's cool is that you can drive out on the sand. We took the car and literally cruised along the coast.
It was finally time to check into our bed and breakfast and people, this was a legit bed and breakfast. Imagine Grandma's house and how there's someone always greeting you and cooking you a fresh breakfast in the morning. That was Clementines! There were other guests staying in the room across the hall and happy hour at night and breakfast in the morning and you could come and go as much as you wanted but there was always someone new to talk to.
After settling in and getting to know the house cat, Bruno, we headed down to Buoy Beer Company where again there were more sea lions! Buoy is right on the Colombia River and has a glass viewing area on the floor with docks underneath and a heat lamp that the sea lions like to crowd under. There were two curled up by each other and they were dreaming and twitching and it was just the coolest little scene.
We LOVED Buoy’s food. We splurged and got the Halibut collars, fish and chips...obviously and, the best one of the trip I might add, and Scott got the Sole. To top it off we asked for their dessert menu and they gave us their very best with a delicious warm brownie topped with heaps of ice cream, caramel, and brittle chunks on the side. It was even better than it sounds.
And to finish off the day, we fell asleep while watching The Goonies. I mean we had to right?
DAY 4: ASTORIA TO FORKS, WA
After eating that homemade breakfast I mentioned above with the other guests at our bed and breakfast, we took the host’s personal tandem bike and went riding on the 5 mile Riverwalk along the waterfront. It was a slow and peaceful morning watching the giant freighters pass, listening to the sea lions, and riding by all the friendly faces out and about that morning.
At the end of the trail there was a bench with some signage and we just sat there and read our new books and talked and listened to the sounds of the water and nature.
Suddenly we heard a small splash in the water and spotted a sea lion moseying its way past us. First up and then down and then disappearing into the water and reappearing 20 feet down. It was about the most graceful thing I’ve ever seen.
We headed back and returned the bike so we could hit the road for Forks, Washington. All you Twilight fans out there, yes, this is that Forks. We learned it's mentioned in the book but no filming was actually done there for the movie. There's still plenty of Twilight mania around the town but I think it has really died down over the years.
On the way, from Forks to Astoria we pulled over to Kalaloch Beach 4 and followed the trail down to the ocean. We discovered a pebbled beach and dramatic rocks jutting out of the sand, home to tide pools and sea life. After getting closer to the giant rocks, we realized EVERYTHING WAS ALIVE! It was like the rocks were breathing. It was spectacular. The rocks were filled with creatures and in every little nook and cranny you could find the brightest colors of anemone and starfish and life.
We got lost exploring and taking photos and picking up driftwood and putting the driftwood back down and just embracing the beauty of the ocean. We got to Forks later than expected but that’s ok because according to the gal at the front desk and from what we could tell, there wasn't much to do in town. We went to the local pizza joint and grabbed takeout so we could finish watching the Goonies in our room.
DAY 5: A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYWHERE
We like to ask people for recommendations on places to go and things to do but because it was so early in the season, hardly anyone had answers. We found what we could online and created a jam packed itinerary for the day. We were about to see temperate rain forest, rugged coast, and glacial mountains all in one day.
Heading south to the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park, we hiked the short and sweet Hall of Mosses trail. The entire time you're surrounded by giant, gnarled trees covered in a thick blanket of mysterious looking moss. It was like we entered the movie set for Jurassic Park.
Only staying slightly longer than our schedule allowed, we hopped back in the car and took off for Cape Flattery, the furthest northwest you can get in the lower 48 states. The drive there is a beautiful one winding along the coast and the Whale Trail (Yes! I guess you can see whales as they migrate through the season) but when I say winding I mean it. I don’t usually get affected by motion sickness but this one got to me. The whipping and turning and sharp curves. Blah. We had a tight schedule to keep and by golly we were bound and determined to keep it.
Cape Flattery was beautiful. It was just a short hike through the woods to get to the overlook. We stood in awe as the vibrant teal water mixed with crashing waves flowed up and over the rocks only to rush back down through the shells and same life we had seen in the giant rocks along the beach the day before. It was majestic.
We got the overlook to ourselves for a bit and I told Scott, "You can cross this one off your list." He pulled me in and said, "It’s not about that, crossing things off a list. It never is." He was right. Even though we had our next place to get to, that moment right there was the most important one. Being together, feeling, listening, touching the things right where we were. We took an extra half hour just to be and slow life down a little again.
We hiked back up the trail and headed out on the Mario Cart road for Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. By the time we got to Port Angeles, the beginning of our ascent up it was foggy and cold. We had a little bit of light left and the drive was incredible even without being able to see very far. We wound our way up the edge of the mountain and got out to hike part of the Hurricane Hill Trail. We had about 30 minutes before the sun set and quickly discovered it was allllll snow. Turns out they have snow up there until July sometimes! We didn't make it far, but it was still fun and a total change of scenery from the other two places.
It was dark and we still had to drive to Seattle. After checking into our hotel around midnight, we weren't going to pass on our only night in Seattle so we walked over to the Crocodile, the recommended bar from the front desk man. What seemed like a hometown dive bar with karaoke to us (heck yes!) turned out to be one of Seattle's best live music venues. We loved every second.
DAY 6: SEATTLE, WA
Our last day of the trip featured all things Seattle. We LOVED Seattle. We’re not too into cities, preferring to explore small towns and nature, but something about Seattle felt right.
We kicked things off by going straight to the Pike Place Market, the one with the flying fish and infamous gum wall. My friend, it was everything I ever thought it would be and more. Holy schmoley, at one point I was squeezing Scott's hand and jumping up and down saying "this is it, this is it!" I could have spent all day exploring the different booths and people watching.
After being mesmerized by the flying fish we of course had to partake in the gum wall. It's a wall turned entire alley, filled with chewed up gum on every single crevice. Even Scott who I think I've seen chew gum once since we've been together did his part in adding to the wall.
We grabbed lunch (yes, two more fish and chips baskets) in a little booth overlooking the water at the Athenian.
You know we'll take a tour any chance we can get and decided on the Seattle Underground Tour. We learned all about the history of Seattle and got to explore below ground with the rest of the group.
To finish the evening, we grabbed a sandwich and some chips and made our way to Kerry Park, an overlook spot featuring the entire city skyline. We took photos until the sun went down and had a mini picnic in our car (it was wayyyyyy cold up there) and then had to head back to the rental car place to catch our red-eye flight.
This PNW trip was quick and awesome and I would do it all again. It’s so easy to look at our trips overseas and think they are big and grand and awesome and different but we have all of that right here too. We find just as much joy exploring our beautiful country as we do others. America is one of the most diverse places in the whole world (aka temperate rain forest, rugged Pacific coast, and snow capped glacial mountains in a single day) and it’s so much fun to get to explore it more.
Happy travels my friend,