Family Travel: Little Brother Visits Seattle

It’s been nearly two months since I turned 28 years old and that means it’s been two months since my little brother, Joel, came to visit me from his summer in Chicago. My brother, who was interning with his company at their head quarters in Chicago, was given the opportunity to fly out for an extended weekend. It would be his first time in the PNW and only my second family visitor since moving to WA in 2012. We have been discussing this trip pretty much since the moment I found out his company provided each intern with a free flight. In all reality, it was pretty much me telling him “You’re coming to Seattle”. My parents were also onboard with this plan to use the flight to visit his big sister, because we all knew he’d never come otherwise. I know I shouldn’t say never, but it’s hard for ue Lang siblings to travel to visit each other. So I was so excited when he actually booked the ticket. Plus, it was my birthday weekend too!

He landed pretty late Thursday night and I knew Friday was going to be an early morning so we didn’t do much once he landed. I love playing tour guide so I packed our weekend full of “typical” WA adventure starting off with a beautiful drive and hike in the mountains.

I’ve mentioned this before that the Cascade Mountain Range takes anywhere from a 45 minutes to 2 hour drive northeast/east/southeast from Seattle. For our hike, I selected one that I have been wanting to go on for sometime but haven’t been able to go. This summer has been all about alpine lakes and what better “Welcome to Washington” gift to my brother then to take him 4.1 miles up a mountain and make him jump/swim in one. This particular hike, called Lake Serene, is quite popular to many Seattlites and Washingtonians.

It’s a 8.2 mile round trip hike that climbs 2000ft, reaching the alpine lake at 2521ft. We started off on an old logging road before starting the climb up through  overgrowth forest, crossing over waterways and ascending upwards with the use stairs (yes, physical stairs built along the trail) until we finally arrived at the lake. We took a short break to refuel and then took a dip into the lake. The dip started off freezing, as the sun was beyond the mountain ridge and left us in full shade, but after several minutes became refreshing and much needed.

After the decent, we ventured to a local brewery in Everett, called Scuttlebutt, for some burgers and beers. It didn’t take us long after our arrival home before we crashed, as we knew another long day was waiting for us upon waking.

Saturday came quickly and before I knew it, my brother, my roommate and myself were heading down to CenturyLink Field for some pre-gaming at Pyramid Alehouse, where we met up with several other friends. This was my “birthday celebration” and what better way then to celebrate watching my beloved Seattle Sounders FC. The whole concept of our weekend together was to show my brother what it’s like to live here, and Seattle sports are a huge part of that. I don’t attend the Seahawks games ($$$) and rarely attend the Mariners, but the Sounders are a whole other story. My brother has never been to a professional soccer match and I loved being able experience it with him. The game was against Tottenham Hotspurs, a member of the English Premier League. Not only was this his first MLS game, it was both of ours first European match. It was a high scoring game of 3-3, but did end in a tie. I guess a tie is better than a loss.

After the game, the group ventured to a local pub for some grub. We didn’t last long before exhaustion set in, so we headed home for some RnR. The night was still young and as we were celebrating my birthday, we got ready and hit up the local bar scene in my favorite neighborhood, Ballard.

Ballard is a fairly popular night life spot that is only 10 minutes away from my home. It has one fun bar/dance club that my roommates and I are fond of, so after grabbing beers at King’s, another bar, we decided it was time to dance and DANCE we did, all night long.

You could imagine what Sunday consisted of after dancing all night long. If you’re thinking eating and lounging then you’d be correct. Joel and I left for brunch at popular joint called Portage Bay Cafe, per recommendation from one of my roommates. We weren’t disappointed and came home stuffed to the max. My original plan for Sunday was a microbrew tour throughout Seattle but being completely hungover (not going to sugar coat that fact) we didn’t make it very far from the couch. We did move later the evening and drove down to Tacoma to enjoy a delicious dinner at one of the local breweries and met up with our brother-in-law’s little brother, Joe, who is currently stationed at Fort Lewis. This particular day, we were blessed with meeting his new wife and her daughter. I have spoken with his wife on the phone very briefly but I loved being able to finally met her and we enjoy each other’s conversation. After dinner, we decided that we wanted to relax but still do a little brew tour. Luckily, many of the local brews bottle their beers, so we did a “stay-at-home” brew tour with 6 local brews and watched movies.

Monday, his last day, was our “tourist” day. We drove past the Fremont Troll, wandered around Pike Place Market, stuck gum onto the Gum Wall, visited the Space Needle via the monorail, and walked along the boardwalk. Before his final departure, we ate lunch at The Pike Brewing Company, located in Pike Place Market and brewing since 1943. I “made” him get the beer sampler as one last good-bye from the Emerald City.

It was a hard, sad good-bye at the airport, but I couldn’t have asked for a better packed-filled weekend with my brother, Joel. We hiked, watched sports, drank local craft beer, and saw the sights. Hopefully, someone else will want to come visit me next summer so I can show them the Seattle Experience. I love my city! Until next adventure…

Contiki Friends Visit Seattle

My April Mexican Adventure with Contiki Holiday was amazing and came with many new friendships. Two of these new friendships even made their way to the Pacific Northwest for part of their holiday adventure and I had the privilege to be able to play tourist/tour guide to Nicola and Todd, both who venture their way to Seattle. Talk about exciting!

Nicola, who is from New Zealand was venturing to Hawaii with several girlfriends after Mexico but given a few extra days between decided to come to Seattle. Reason…”I just always wanted to come”. Unfortunately, due to work conflicts and busy schedules (as this was just 10 days after I returned), I wasn’t able to spend an extreme amount of time with her. Luckily, we did manage to finagle a night, where I took her the Seattle Underground Tour in Pioneer Square. This is very touristy, not honestly not as touristy as you’d think. These tours take you to the original Seattle downtown, which as the tour title gives it away is underground.

If you don’t know already, Seattle’s original downtown is actually 1-level below the current street level. I could provide you with more details but quite frankly this is one of those learning experiences that you actually need to hear and see for yourself. Nothing I could write would explain it to you well enough, nor do pictures do it justice. This type of experience is one that I was very happy I got to share with someone who isn’t American and really didn’t fully understand what makes Seattle my favorite city. I love the history of this city and HIGHLY RECOMMEND anyone visiting Seattle to attend one of the Underground Tours.

After the underground, we ventured to a coffee shop close to where Nicola was staying and spent a good hour just talking. It was a very simple yet exciting time to spend with someone as lovely and kind as Nicola, plus she can make anyone laugh!

A few months after the Contiki tour ended, I had the chance to spend a few days with another tour mate, who to be honest with you, I only spend maybe 4 hours with him. He was on the second half of the tour, whereas I was on the first. Thankfully, Contiki provides a good chance to interact with people in that short amount of time.

One of the main reason Todd ventured south from Vancouver, BC, Canada was to watch the Seattle Mariners baseball game. Don’t get me wrong, I do love baseball, but I have always had a hard time with  the whole “American Baseball Experience” concept. At the same time, I’m never going to say NO or turn away from going to a sporting event, and I do love watching baseball. This was exactly what Todd and I did pretty much immediately after I met him at the greyhound station just outside the stadium!

We spent the afternoon chatting about our travels and enjoying some delicious beers watching the Mariners! After the game ended, we ventured into the heart of downtown and wandered the city before parting ways for the evening. The next morning was our “Extreme Touristy Day”, which is basically doing every typical Seattle tourist attraction within the downtown area. We walked through Pike Place Market, where we enjoyed delicious mini-doughnuts, Starbucks, and some Beechers cheese; spent some time being grossed out by the Seattle Gum Wall then headed off to the Space Needle. At this point, I was suppose to head off to work but due to unfortunate circumstances, I was blessed with the entire day off.

So what do you do with an unexpected day off with an Aussie…well I took him to one of my most favorite places to eat…”The Crab Pot”. Let me explain. The Crab Pot is a restaurant overlooking the Puget Sound and you can select from various mixtures of seafood, which they proceed to dump the food directly onto the table. You are given a mallet, a wooded board and bibs. Get it Crab Pot. It was quite delicious and very messy. After lunch, it was time to send Todd back to the greyhound station for his return to Vancouver. I didn’t know Todd much before this quick trip but I’m thankful for Contiki Holidays for allowing us to create such a wonderful friendship! Now it’s my turn to visit his city: Sydney, Australia. A girl can dream…one day, one day!

A Hiking Adventure: Little Bandera Mountain

Two weeks ago my life went from routined to busy and full of new adventures and it all began when I joined my new church’s outdoor group. This group sets up various outdoor adventures throughout the year and last weekend they planned to head to the southern Cascades for a moderate (or difficult) hike at Bandera Mountain. Since moving the Washington, I have became very interested in researching places I’m going and this was no exception. What I learned about Bandera Mountain wasn’t nearly enough to prepare me for what I was about to experience.

This hike, Little Bandera Mountain, located in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (Snoqualmie Pass Corridor-West), was a 7-mile round trip with a total elevation gain of approximately 2,850 feet, totally at 5,050 feet above sea level. Below is a quick summary, click here for more information.

Little Bandera Mountain tricks you at first with a gradual elevation gain/incline on an old logging road through the trees, but slowly turns into a steeper path. As you continue to climb, the scenery becomes less dense turning from trees/forest to meadows and flowers before hitting the point of no return- the 2-mile marker. Here is where the fun begins. The meadow/boulder-like trail runs right straight up the side the mountain to the ridge compiled of granite boulders, which you have to physically climb over at times (well, I did. Camera in hand too, mostly). At the summit of Little Bandera, you can enjoy panoramic views scanning the Cascades and an overview of Mason Lake, which is a break-off trail from Bandera. And if you think I’m joking about the “side of the mountain bit”, go check out the photos here.

Besides the amount of effort this trail took, one of the best parts to this hike was that I wasn’t alone. I was joined by 15 fellow Christian hikers, who I learned more and more about as the day went on and a few who became good friends. It was a different experience for me to hike with that many people but it felt pretty wonderful having others to share in the beautiful of Mother Nature and experience some of the beautiful land God created for us to enjoy. We all might have had different levels of skills and endurance, but the final destination was the same. Hiking alone might be something I’ve done in the past, but I quite enjoy the company and am excited for another Outdoor Group adventure.

A Hiking Adventure-Birthday Edition: Kendall Katwalk

Moving to Washington wasn’t too tough of a decision for me to make and I can honestly say it was the right move. I have grown in my faith and learned quite a bit about myself, including the fact the I love HIKING. I could spend hours reading hiking books trying to figure out where I want to go next and how far or high I can push myself. And realistically, it’s nice to know that when nothing is set in stone for a Saturday, the Cascade Mountains are a quick 45-60 minute drive.

Over the 5 weeks, three have been spent on the top of a mountain (you can read about Summiting the Si here), including the day I turned 27. Since I had recently moved to a new city, I didn’t know a lot of people, so celebrating my birthday the “usual” way (as in going out to a restaurant/bar) was kind of out of the question. I wasn’t too heart broken about it because I knew the mountains would, and will always be there, to help me grow another year older. And that’s exactly what they did this year.

I decided on a hike, known as Kendall Katwalk, which is a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. If you don’t know anything about the Pacific Crest Trail, a.k.a PCT, here’s a brief summary. The PCT is a 2,650 mile trail that runs along the west coast, connecting Mexico to Canada running through California, Oregon, and Washington (more details, click here). The portion of the trail I completed is located in the Snoqualmie Pass area; approximately 75-minutes from my home. It totals up to about 11-miles round trip with an elevation gain of 2,700 ft, ending at 5,400 ft above sea level and is rated at a 4/5 for difficulty.

This hike starts out at a moderate pace through old-growth forests, thinning out to meadows, before becoming a large boulder filled area, blasted out of the side of the mountain. This was my favorite part, because little did I know, that hitting the boulder filled area would mean a perfect view of Mt. Rainier. It took me by such surprise that it took my breath away. Of course this wasn’t the end of the trail. From this point, I still had another 1.5 miles or so to go.  The trail continues to climb high, wrapping along the west side of the mountain and ultimately ending  up at broad shelf on the east face of the ridge, known as the Katwalk.

It’s hard to explain the beauty of this particular landmark or to the flood of emotions and pride I was feeling when reached the Katwalk, as this was (and still is) my longest hike I’ve completed, but I can say this…it was breath-taking. This hike was exactly what I needed to start my 27th year off on the right food and I felt nothing but blessed overlooking valleys with mountains all around. God continues to amaze me with this beautiful land we call home and each lesson He knowingly/unknowingly placed into this world.

What lesson you ask? I’ll explain. While standing on the edge of a cliff looking into a valley, I realized that life is like a mountain range. You might feel that nothing is going right, you’re at a low point (e.g. in a valley) and that life has all these challenges (or mountains) preventing you from moving forwards. But nothing is what it seems. God places these “mountains” in our path, not to discourage us, but to make us stronger and wiser, to teach us and to guide us to Him and His love, as with Him anything can be overcome and conquered. I wander what He has planned for me next. Stay tuned to find out.

Pictures from this adventure, click here.

A Hiking Adventure: Mount Si

Summer is FINALLY here in the state of Washington which means…it’s hiking season once again and this girl is over the moon ecstatic. To start off this summer, my friend Sydney and I chose to hike a mountain that rises sharply above the Snoqualmie River valley with views of the Cascades, Mt. Rainier, and Seattle in the far distance. Mount Si is a 4-mile hike full of steep switchbacks, has an elevation gain of  of 3150 feet (topping off at 3900 ft.), and at the end has a couple large rock formations.

Mount Si is a fairly common hike for many people within the city and can attracts anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 visitors each year*. What was the most interesting part of this hike were the amount of trail runners running UP and down this trail. I struggled WALKING up this trail and couldn’t even imagine running 4-mile up the side of a mountain.

The first mile wasn’t extremely rough, but not an “easy” start to a trail. When I passed the mile marker, I was already feeling the burn in my calves and quads but was determined to push on. At about the 2 mile marker, there’s a location called Snag Flats, which is the location of an old wild fire that hit this Douglas fir filled area. Good thing about this location is that it’s a bit flat so it allowed for a little break in the climb.

Pushing on upwards for another 2 miles, the last of which was upward HELL, until finally reaching the summit’s basin, also known as the scramble. The scramble changes in terrain from the rest of the hike ,which is all trees/shrubs, to boulders/loose rocks. I say summit’s basin because the actually summit is a HUGE rock formation about 400ft above the basin, known as the Haystack, that requires a little bit of  rock climbing. We ended up forgoing this climb as our legs were already screaming at me and let’s be honest, the view was amazing where we were and didn’t really want to exert any more energy. After sitting at the top basking in the sun with a light breeze for nearly 2 hours, we decided it was time to venture back down the mountain. It was an amazing first summer hike to start the season and I’m ready to hit the trails again.

*Washington Trails Association