Olympia, Washington

30 June 2019

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Port Angeles with the skyline of Olympic National Park

On our trek across Washington State we stopped for the night in Olympia. Today we planned to briefly visit downtown, drive up the Olympic Peninsula coastline, explore Olympic National Park, and take the ferry to Canada.

The day started as planned with a quick visit to the State Capitol Building and downtown. Olympia is a nice small town that served us well as a spot to rest and retool for a night. The State Capitol Building and surrounding grounds are worth a visit.

We had enough time to drive up US 101 to Port Angeles and visit Mount Olympic National Park before the 5:20 PM ferry to Victoria. The problem arose when I did not make a reservation far enough in advance and our only option was to wait in the first-come first-serve line. Fearing we’d miss the ferry if we didn’t get in line early, we skipped the national park and instead killed three hours in the Town of Port Angeles. Port Angeles is nice enough but after an hour and a half we got bored and went back to the ferry terminal. Ultimately all the drive ups appeared to make the ferry but we didn’t want to risk having to wait for the 9 PM departure.Travel Hint - Victoria FerryWe arrived in Victoria for a late dinner just in time for Canada Day celebrations tomorrow.

Washington State Capitol Buildings

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Mount Rainier National Park

29 June 2019

Pic 2019-0629 16 Mt Rainier NP (7) e2
Mount Rainier National Park exceeded our expectations. We debated which we enjoyed more, the better known Rocky Mountain National Park or Rainier. Mount Rainier, at over 14,000 feet, is the tallest mountain in the Cascade Mountain Range and can be seen for miles in all directions. While the mountain is the main focus, the park has a lot to offer. We entered the park from the east side at Stevens Canyon Road and left on the west side at Longmire. There is plenty to see and do along the way but the main attraction is in the aptly named Paradise. Because we visited early in the season, snow still covered much of the Skyline Loop. We managed to do a little less than half the trail including Panorama Point and Myrtle Falls. The Paradise Valley Loop Road was closed due to a rockslide which was disappointing but a risk we took coming before Independence Day. Mount Rainier will be one of our highlights of the trip.

Mount Rainier National Park including Grove of the Patriarchs Trail (top left), Reflection Lakes (middle right), Skyline Trail (bottom left), and Narada Falls (bottom right)

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Columbia River Gorge, Lewis and Clark Highway

28 June 2019

Pic 2019-0628 15 Lewis and Clark Highway (6) edit2

After driving the tourist route and I-84 on the Oregon side, we crossed the toll bridge in the town of Hood River.  On the Washington side of the river, we continued eastward along the Lewis and Clark Highway, making several stops along the way.  We had planned to follow the river all the way to Kennewick, but short on time, we took the US-97 shortcut to Yakima where we spent the night.

Lewis and Clark Highway

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Columbia River Gorge, Historic Route 30

28 June 2019

Pic 2019-0628 03 Columbia River Gorge (5) edit2

The Columbia River Gorge is an area I have been anxious to visit for a long time.  It did not disappoint.  The Columbia River serves as the border between Oregon and Washington.  On the Oregon side, Interstate 84 travels along the river and rivals the I-70 corridor through Colorado as my favorite interstate drive.  But we didn’t come all this way to drive past quickly so we took Historic Route 30.  The western end of Route 30 starts in Troutdale, Oregon and goes eastward parallel to the Columbia River and I-84.  Along the route there are several lookouts, waterfalls, and hiking trails.  At Dodson we jumped onto I-84 to ride along the river.

Travel Hint - Multnomah Falls

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Latourell Falls

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Bridalveil Falls

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Multnomah Falls

Horsetail Falls, Upper (top right and bottom) and Lower (top left)

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26 & 27 June 2019

Pic 2019-0627 02 Portland (31) edit
Portland, named after the city of the same name in Maine, is the largest city in Oregon. It has several nicknames, Rip City, Stumptown, Bridgetown, and the City of Roses. We visited 20 years ago on a trip down the Pacific Coast. We were not impressed. Over the years Portland’s reputation as an up and coming city has been growing. It’s hard to find a similar list on the internet that does not include Portland, so we were excited to come back and see what all the excitement was about. I hate to report, we were not impressed this time either.

Portland compared to San Francisco or Seattle is an affordable West Coast option. Its motto is ‘Keep Portland Weird’. It has a thriving craft brew market, legalized marijuana, progressive politics, green environmental policies, access to nature, and bike lanes – lots of bike lanes. In short, it is Hipster Utopia. What they also have is terrible traffic, unpleasant weather, out of control homeless population, and crime. The downtown has a lot of energy and several vibrant districts. The parks and walking paths along the river are severely underutilized. Overall the city does not live up to its potential and certainly does not come close to the hype. Normally I take hundreds of pictures and share a few on this blog, but there was not much of the city worth sharing. If you want to find a home base from which to explore Oregon, Salem, Bend and Eugene are all much better options.

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Smith Rock State Park

26 June 2019

Pic 2019-0626 02 Smith Rock State Park (54) edit2

Travelling from Bend to Portland, today was planned to be all about Mount Hood.  Nature had other plans.  Mount Hood was cold, rainy, and no place we wanted to hike when we had the chance.  Luckily we stopped at Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne, about 30 minutes north of Bend.  When planning this trip I under estimated Smith Rock.  It was awesome!  Had we known Mount Hood was going to be a washout, we would have hiked the aptly named Misery Trail.  Instead we walked the trails down into the gorge and along the river thinking we did not have time for a strenuous 4 hour hike.  We might need to come back someday for that one.

We arrived in Portland ahead of schedule so we used the time to stock up on supplies and get ready for our final days in Oregon.

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Cascades Lakes Region

25 June 2019

Pic 2019-0625 02 Lava Lake (6) edit.JPG

Lava Lake

The town of Bend is only 30 miles north of La Pine, where we stayed for the night.  We’re not here to take the direct route, so instead we took two and half hours on Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway.  The highway ends in Bend but we took another diversion to hike the Rim Trail of Lava Butte at Newberry National Volcanic Monument.  When I planned the trip I expected the scenic byway to be the day’s highlight and tacked on Lava Butte as a fun side trip.  The scenic byway was nice but the Rim Trail became today’s highlight.

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Devil’s Lake

Newberry National Volcanic Monument has several places to visit.  We chose Lava Butte, a 500 foot tall volcanic cone.  You can hike or take the park shuttle bus to the top.  We opted to take the shuttle up and walk down.  The Rim Trail is an easy walk but it provides great views of the lava field and surrounding landscape.  The Lava River Cave also looked interesting but I was warned by my wife years ago – no more caves! – so we took the short drive to Bend.

Lava Butte

Bend is an idyllic small town tucked between the mountains on the Deschutes River.  There is not a lot to do in town but it serves as a great base camp for exploring the area.  Bend is also known as the location of the last Blockbuster store in the world.  It has become a bit of a tourist destination for the nostalgic.  Inside they have a display of Russell Crowe’s movie memorabilia bought at auction and donated by John Oliver’s from HBO’s Last Week Tonight show.  The movie props were originally donated to a store in Alaska but when it went out of business, they sent most of the items to the last store standing.  All-in-all, we had a great day.

Last of Its Kind

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