A Visit to the End of the Continent, Washington

The past few months have been pretty crazy with transferring to a new building and relocating into the city and somehow a weekend outing with my co-workers got lost in the mix. Back in March, on a rain Saturday, I ventured down south to Long Beach to explore the peninsula and Cape Disappointment. I know what your thinking…Cape Disappointment…really, what kind of name is that? I thought the same thing however it wasn’t such a disappointment. Let’s start at the beginning.

Although I have already visited Long Beach, this time was a bit different. It was raining and chilly and spending time on a beach with this kind of weather is not ideal. So as a back up plan, we hit downtown Long Beach and explored the cute  little shops including a antique museum, a candy shop, a bread shop and a kite shop. Let’s just say when you get 5 therapists together anything becomes a good time. “Fried Therapist” standing in front of a frying pan…now that’s funny. One interesting fact about Long Beach is that LB is the most western point reached on the Lewis and Clark expedition.

From LB, we headed further south towards Cape Disappointment. By this point in the day, the weather started to clear up a little bit and we actually was able to see up and down the coast line. Before actually visiting Cape Disappointment lighthouse, we made a pit stop at another lighthouse called North Head. These lighthouses located up and down the WA coast line also doubled as access areas by the U.S. Military and Weather Service. Quite interesting actually.

We finally made our way to the Cape Disappointment Headquarters, which also doubled as Fort Canby, built to defend the entrance of the Columbia River during World War II. Apparently this location was manned by specialized troops by the U.S. Army, who were trained to respond to all possible threats from enemy warships and operated high-powered weaponry that was the world’s best and most modern technology of the times. I had no idea that Cape Disappointment was also a large military fort, not to mention breath-taking.

Another interesting fact about this location: “Welcome to the Edge of the Continent”. I’ll explain (thanks to the park services). With the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Jefferson sent four exploring parties to chart the lands newly added to the United States. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led the most famous expedition, which ended here at the Pacific Ocean. Their expedition charted a well-inhabited land little known to Europeans and Americans. Just thought I’d throw a little history lesson towards your way.

It’s quite surprising actually when I start to think that I stood at the far western point of this country starring into the deep blue Pacific Ocean. Hope to enjoy many more of these mapless adventures. Stay tuned 🙂 Click here for pictures.

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

The best part of my job isn’t the routine day-to-day interactions and speech therapy component. It’s the part where my co-workers have became my family and we ENJOY each other’s presence outside of work, including overnight weekend adventures. One such trip included spending a Saturday at the Annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in Mount Vernon, WA. The title explains most of what the weekend entailed, however it doesn’t put the picture of rows and rows of beautiful, bloomed and color tulips in your mind. The Tulip Festival is in its 30th year and runs for the entire month of April.  Tulips are grown over 100s of acres in the region of the Skagit Valley. In 2012, the festival was privileged to have visitors from 49/50 states and approximately 53 countries, talk about popular!

Within the festival are two stunning gardens, RoozenGaarden (a Washington Bulb farm) and Tulip Town (the DeGoede farm), which are home to over 1 MILLION bulbs. The entire festival has more than 100+ tulip varieties and 150+ varieties in total- including daffodils, hyacinths, crocus, iris, and other types of flowers. This festival is more than just flowers. This festival has other special events (like signings), connected wine festivals, photo contests, art shows, tours, bike/running races, and food stands and farmer markets which make it worth a whole weekend!

Let’s be honest, I grew up in Phoenix so flowers can get fairly mundane after a while, which can only mean one thing…WINE! Yes, you guessed it, I found a local winery, Tulip Winery, and went in for a little tasting! I even meet the owner. Not a bad mid-day break from the flowers, if I do say so myself 🙂 For pictures, click here.

As a group, we decided we would stay up north in Bellingham, WA. Reason to stay that far north: we wanted to spend time wander/driving through the North Cascades National Park. It wasn’t the best of weather (well, typical weather for us here) but with cars and cameras the weather never crossed our minds! The day was spent driving along Highway 20 pulling off to the side of the road for waterfalls, farm houses and anything we thought would make a good picture. Oh, I probably should have mentioned my team members and I are a bit photographic obsessed 🙂 Can’t really ask for a better day with friends! Pictures from the NCNP

A Day with the Eagles in Skagit Valley, Washington

It’s quite entertaining when I think about how my friend, Sydney, and I make our decision on where we should go for our weekend adventures. This past week was no different; we were watching the Lord of the Rings and reading a book about the 1001 Natural Wonders You Must See Before You DieQuite the combination if I do say so myself. While  reading, we came across “Upper Skagit River, Washington, USA” and bald eagles; we were intrigued.  I knew it was somewhere I JUST HAD to go see. So we made the decision that for our first adventure of the New Year, we would drive 3.5 hours and visit the Nation’s bird in it’s natural habitat.

Waking up on a non-work day at 6AM, isn’t something I do weekly, but I knew it’d be worth it. The book told us that prime time for the eagles runs from December to Mid January and cloudy days are usually the best days. Lucky for us, the forecast was just that: cold, cloudy and chances of rain (okay, it was raining). We didn’t really know what to expect so first thing we did was head to the Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center to find some more information. They told us the eagles are best seen in four different locations located along highway 20: the center, mile marker 100, a county park, and a fish hatchery. Since this was an adventure, we decided it was our best bet to visit each site to try our luck (we did 3 of 4).

Each location was a bit different and the eagles we did see at each site, were so high up in the trees, it was hard to tell a mature bird (the ones with a white head and gold beak) from a juvenile bird (brown). At a few points on the way up the river, we managed to capture a few great views of bald eagles on the opposite bank of the river and we learned it was just have fun seeing them as it was searching for them. Sydney had the eye to spot them and luckily for her, I managed to snatch a few photographs.

Nothing could have prepare us for our way back down the river. A bald eagle sitting no more than 150 feet away from the river bank we were standing. Perching on a log pile, almost as if he knew people had come to capture such an image. I was blown away we the majestic composure this bird was giving us, almost as if he was saying, “this is me, your nation’s bird”. It was breath-taking and well worth the 3.5 hour commute. We saw a few more birds perched in the trees above the highway before heading out of river valley.

We knew our day was not up when we drove past an apple orchard/winery and knew we had to make a pit stop. I don’t think in my time here I’ve seen an apple orchard/winery combo, so I was hoping for something delicious. I wasn’t wrong, they had APPLE WINE and boy oh boy, was I in heaven. It was so sweet and tasty and overall a perfect way to end our journey to the Skagit River Valley. Eagles and wine tasting, who could go wrong with that duo!

Click Here for Pictures

Oktoberfest in Leavenworth, Washington

Wilkommen in Leavenworth. Washington’s Barvarian’s Village.

 Oktoberfest in Leavenworth was more that I could have hoped. It’s approximately 4 hours from Aberdeen to Leavenworth and working until 3 pushed our ETA further than I wanted, meaning we arrived in the dark of the night. I have been told quite a bit regarding the location, scenery, and Leavenworth itself, however nothing could have prepared me for what I saw, well of downtown, since I couldn’t see anything else. EVERY SINGLE BUILDING was designed in the barvarian theme and  majority of the people in the town were dressed in lederhosens and drindals. Sydney and I weren’t sure if we would venture into the actual Oktoberfest at first but we decided since it wasn’t too crowded that we should check it out! I was very glad we did because I was able to try 4 of the 12+ types of beer without the hustle and bustle of crowds and I have learned that a Drunkelweizen is my favorite type of beer (Weihenstephan and HB Munchen)! Other than beer, Oktoberfest hosted quite a few entertainment acts flown in directly from Munich. From dancing, to Cowbell Ringers to authentic German Polka, all around good times.

When the sun rose and Sydney and I finally looked outside, the view took my breath away. It’s hard to truly describe but I’ll try. Mountains surrounding the village, leaves of all colors, sun shining. Perfect start to a Saturday morning. Now Oktoberfest didn’t start until noon, which gave us plenty of time to wander around and shop (a past time of ours) while we wait for our friends to get into town from Seattle! Opening ceremonies for the festival began at noon with a mini parade (anti-climatic but fun none the less) followed by a keg tapping celebration! Entering the festival we realized how too crowded it was at that point and went to the wine tasting for some hot spiced wine followed by a crepe filled lunch with homemade cheeses in a little French style bakery- Pavz! Can you guess what we did next? Off too Oktoberfest of course and danced and drank the night away meeting people from all over the world! I will be back again…maybe next year my parents and friends will come and join me for this adventure!!

Ending the weekend with a walk in the park and fall leaves fun with my friend Kristin having way too much learning the ways of my camera! Check out the pictures from Leavenworth and you decide, join me next year or not???

Family Travel: Parents Visit Washington

I don’t even know where to begin this post. I haven’t seen my parents in six months, which is the longest we’ve EVER gone without seeing each other and this past weekend they came to visit the PNW. Oh yeah, and me! My mom came shortly after I moved, however her trip wasn’t really a “vacation”. This time was different. My goal for their PNW weekend vacation was to have them see why I LOVE the PNW and for them to love it too.  I thought long and hard about what to show them during their short 4 day weekend (not counting their 3 day adventure in Victoria, BC, Canada to visit a family friend) here in Washington. The results…well keep reading to find out.

Seattle, as some of you know, is not the “cheapest” location to stay so we decided to head east of Lake Washington where we stayed at a beautiful Marriott property in Bellevue, WA. What I found interesting is that the hotels here provide guests with van services that will take you anywhere within three miles of the hotel. Of course we utilized this service on our first night and found ourselves wandering through Downtown Bellevue Park before hitting up Happy Hour at various locations recommended by a friend and locals. Slightly anti-climatic but nothing less than a perfect and relaxing first night with the parents.

Seattle was the next stop in the adventure where we partook in a food tour, rode the Seattle Ferris Wheel, headed up the Space Needle and ended the night with a beverage overlooking Pike Place Market. I heard through the grapevine that a food tour is a MUST when in Seattle and Seattle Bites Food Tour was ranked #1 on multiple sites. Those sites didn’t lie. This tour took us through the history of the market; how it got started, how it was almost destroyed, and how it continues to thrive today. It gave us various tastes of the market; German brats, Indian chicken tikka masala, French crepes, locally grown fruits, and America’s Best Clam Chowder with Seattle’s Best Coffee and a local winery for refreshments. Ending with a unique outlook on the famous Pike Place Market with an additional stop at the Gum Wall, the second most unsanitary location in the world (second to the Blarney Stone). We continued to stroll Pike Place Market following the tour with a Starbucks in hand, where my mom and I decided it was entertaining watching my dad stare, with his mouth open, at everything going on in the market (if you know my dad you’ll understand why this was funny). Oh yeah, did I mention that one of my mom’s co-workers from Phoenix was on this tour with her husband and they had no idea? Small world!

The Seattle Ferris Wheel was next on our agenda. This attraction opened in June and provides the riders us with a beautiful view of downtown Seattle with the Space Needle peaking through the sky-rise buildings. Plus I learned that my dad squirms with heights, something I never knew before. We continued our tour of Seattle with the Space Needle. We took the 41 second ride up 520 feet to the observation deck where we relaxed and enjoy another fabulous view of the city of Seattle, Mt. Rainier, and the Puget Sound. By the time we ventured down the Space Needle, our stomachs began to growl so what better place to enjoy a sunset Happy Hour than at the patio of Hard Rock Cafe!

Saturday wasn’t as full packed as Friday but still adventure driving none the less. Following my parents morning 10 mile run (I slept), we headed out to Cougar Mountain for a short hike through Washington’s Wilderness! Hiking in Washington is a huge part of my life and spending time with my parents in the wilderness hiking was one thing I wasn’t going to pass up! Wine Country in Woodinville, WA was next on our schedule of events. We enjoyed a tour and tasting at Chateau Ste Michelle Winery,  lunch at Redhook Brewery, ending our day with a tasting at Columbia Winery. Well sort of ending…we actually ended our day at Costco for a little shopping therapy!

Off to Port Angeles, WA via Aberdeen and Ruby Beach. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to show my dad my home this trip, so when the opportunity presented to travel the extra few hours, I didn’t hesitate! I loved driving him around Aberdeen, showing him where I work, place I go, and even introducing him and my mom to my friends! Continuing on our WA adventure, we headed north on the 101 with stops at the Quinault Rain Forest, World’s Largest Sitka Spruce, Largest Red Cedar, and Ruby Beach. Port Angeles isn’t known for much other than being a gateway to Canada and the San Juan Islands, however there is one thing special about Port A. It is 17 miles north from Hurricane Ridge, a location that provides a spectacular view of the Olympic Mountains on one side and the Strait of Juan de Fuca with Canada on the other. When we woke up Monday morning, we didn’t know if we would make it up to the ridge as we were on a strict time restraint. Luckily, we had plenty of time to enjoy the clear air and views the ridge had to offer before I had to send my parents north to Victoria, BC, Canada. Saying goodbye sucks but It won’t be too long before I head home to AZ to support my dad as he competes in the Ironman Triathlon!

So, do you think I showed my parents enough of Washington for them to fall in love? Click for Pictures.