Seattle & Olympic National Park – July 2015

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We had a late flight into Seattle, and our traveling was uneventful. We rented a car and drove to our nearby hotel. We had breakfast in the lobby the next morning, then it was time to get the vacation started in earnest! First stop – we had a sightseeing cruise in Seattle.

As we drove into Seattle, during morning rush hour, the kids were intrigued by the fact that different lanes had different speed limits, dictated by a changing, digital sign above each one. Definitely cosmic!

We found a parking garage close to Argosy Cruises and walked over to the dock. Of course we were quite early (yeah, we’ve covered this trend before. But we DID have to come through rush hour, and it could have been worse!)

Lily thought it was neat that the building next to the cruise port looked like a giant red barn.

We walked along the waterfront for a while, just taking in the sights. They had one of those giant sightseeing ferris wheels, but we had just done one in Vegas a few months ago and didn’t think it was worthwhile. Very pretty area, though.

Once it was closer to boarding time, we lined up back at the dock and got on the boat! The ride over was really nice – the weather was perfect and it was a gorgeous, sunny day. Apparently those are not so common around here, we seem to always bring the sunny weather when we come to the west coast 🙂

We were going to Blake Island, and Tillicum Village. But on the way we passed the Alki Lighthouse, and had great views of Mt. Rainier and downtown Seattle.

Once at the island and off the boat, we were immediately greeted with a clam-bake appetizer. We sat on the rocks outside the loghouse enjoying them – well the carnivores of the family did anyway! Owen was afraid to try one at first, but I sort of forcefully shoved one into his mouth, and he suddenly declared that it was so good he wanted more!

We had lunch inside the loghouse – a great spread of salmon and various veggies and salad. Then they performed a Native American dance show for us, it was al very unique and well done.

We had a little time after lunch to explore the island. Of course the views of Mt. Rainier were still spectacular! Owen played on a playground for a bit, and we generally relaxed and hung out, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere and nice weather.

Before long, we were back in Seattle and ready to head out of town already! But we would be back in a few days. First, we were of to the rainforest and Olympic National Park. Traffic getting out of town was tedious though, and it took far longer than I was hoping – about 5 hours.

But we got a quick dinner and were checked in at the Lake Quinault Lodge in time to get to bed reasonably early. The lodge was beautiful and I was already falling in love with it. We got to our room right as the sun was setting over the lake – I could tell this was going to be a magical place.

Our room was in one of the adjacent buildings to the main lodge, so we had a short walk whenever we wanted to go over there to eat. But it was along a path by the lake and just beautiful, so no complaints. And we LOVED the dining room here – we ate several meals there, since it was really the only thing around, and Lily says it is her favorite restaurant ever!

We headed out after breakfast to some of the nearby trails. We made sure to stick to short and easy ones since Lily hasn’t been in much a hiking mood lately and gets grumpy quickly. Ironic that Owen can hike farther than she will right now! Oh well. There were some good ones that were a mile or less though. Among other things we saw the world’s largest spruce tree.

On one of the trails, we had gotten a bit spread out as Lily went up ahead looking for good photo ops… a couple came along and offered to take a family picture for us, thinking it was just the 3 of us. They seemed a little alarmed when we mentioned we were missing a kid, lol! But we got Lily back quickly and I love the picture they got of us, so glad they came along right there.

We explored a few more short trails, marveling at how different this forest is to the ones we are used to at home – definitely a rain forest! There were ferns everywhere, and big, gnarly roots of trees exposed. It was like the whole forest was just dripping with green, every shade of it, in every direction.

There was even a hollow log that you could crawl through – of course Brian and the kids had to try it 🙂

But, as fascinating as it was, at some point the kids had had enough. So we headed back to the hotel to cool off at the lake. There was a big fire burning in the park, and the afternoon winds had brought in a lot of smoke from it. Glad we got to see the nice view of the lake that morning, because when we got back it was all smokey.

The lake was cold, but tolerable enough once you got used to it. There was a floating platform a little ways out, and even Owen got brave enough to jump off of it! At least we weren’t hot anymore

The kids really wanted to rent boats. When we got to the boat rental stand, it looked like he was just closing up, but agreed to stay open just for us. It was so smokey and windy that I think he assumed he wasn’t going to get any more business today. Lily really wanted to kayak, and Owen did too. But Brian had his heart set on a canoe. The boat guy said he was fine with the kids going in a kayak together with us in a canoe.. if we were! I was unsure, but Lily assured us she knew how to steer a kayak, she had done it at camp.

The first few minutes almost disproved that claim as she started panicking once we were in the open water and we almost went back. But she suddenly got herself together and did fine after that. We tried to stay close, but sometimes they would end up far enough away that we almost couldn’t even call to them anymore. We all enjoyed it a lot though, it was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

The kids wanted to swim for a bit afterwards so we spent some time in the indoor pool. They chased their dad all over the pool and played with the noodles. We had the place to ourselves the whole time!

We had another great dinner at the dining room, then spent a long time hanging out on the lawn behind the lodge. It was so quiet and peaceful. A wedding had just finished up out there earlier and several of the guests and even the bride and groom were still wandering around. The kids rolled around in the grass, and Owen played with the stuffed fish he had just bought.

As the sun started to set, we walked down closer to the water for a better view. There were also some plaques with more history about the lodge. It had been such a great day and wonderful evening it was hard to see it come to an end. Sometimes you find a place that is simply magical, and this was one of them.

The next morning we got packed up and headed back to Seattle. On the way we decided to make a quick side trip to the beach, since we were only about  20 minutes away. We used Google maps to find the nearest beach access point to our route… knowing nothing about that particular area.

When we drove up, there was a parking area, but the road kept going past there and since we didn’t know where we were headed, we continued on. And quickly realized that other cars had just driven right out onto the beach! We parked near a few others and got out.

It was one of the freakiest experiences of my life! Cold and windy… and FOGGY! We could barely see a feet in front of us. The beach was totally flat and barren, and since the tide was out, it extended a long way until the water. It felt like being on an alien planet. The kids hadn’t been thrilled about this excursion at first, but they ended up having a blast chasing the waves in and out. And Owen got more than just a little wet 🙂

An older guy with a big dog walked up to us after a while and struck up a conversation – he was a local and came here almost every day. He told us a lot about the area and was just genuinely nice. I had noticed that about Seattle – every region has it’s personality, and Seattle’s seem to be a quiet, non-assuming friendliness. I could get used to that.

We drove on back to Seattle, the traffic was just as bad as when we left though! That I wouldn’t like to put up with all the time. We made it to the Pikes Place Market just a little before 4pm, so I was hoping to see the fish throwers at the fish market. There was a huge crowd gathered around, but much to their disappointment, the fish guys were rather grumpily shutting down early. That was a bummer.

We drove on to our hotel – the Pan Pacific and got checked in. We were a little upset driving up to it because most of the building was wrapped in plastic! But our room was in an unaffected area, and we even had a nice view of the Space Needle out our window.

Which is where we were headed for dinner – we had reservations at the Sky City restaurant at the top! It was about a mile walk, but we made it and enjoyed seeing some of the city on the way there.

Of course the view from the top was spectacular, and the food was quite good too. People were putting little post-it notes on the window as the restaurant rotated, and the kids had fun taking them off, answering them, and putting them back.

We explored the observation deck afterwards, and had fun trying to identify things and find our hotel. There was one massive building across town that we were very curious about, never did figure out what it was. It was almost time in the vacation for Brian to leave us for his adventure, and it was starting to stress everyone out a little.

We made our way back to the hotel, taking a different route and stopping for a while at a musical fountain, and later a playground. Again, always fun to pick up on the different vibes of a city. this one was definitely more subdued that most big cities I’ve visited.

And then the night was done. The kids said their goodnights and goodbyes to their Dad as they probably wouldn’t be awake when he left the next morning. He was headed back to Olympic with a guided group to climb Mt. Olympus! bright and early, I went over to the nearby Einstein Brothers to get bagels while he got ready. Then I walked with him outside to wait for his shuttle pick up. With it there, it was time! All I could do was wish him luck, and head back inside to the still-sleeping kids.

They were up before too long, and we got packed up and ready to go. We were flying out later that evening, but had some time to spend in the city first. They decided that they wanted to go to the aquarium.

As usual, we were there before they opened. But that meant we got a head start on the crowds at least. it was right back down at the docks, where we had been a few days earlier for our cruise.

We watched a presentation at one of the big tanks, then spent the rest of the morning just exploring and wandering on our own. We really enjoyed the otters, they were being super cute and playful. And of course we watched the sea lions for a bit. Lily has seen so many sea lion training demos at this point though, that it was actually seeming a little “old hat” by now.

We did get to see an octopus up close though, and get our fingers “hugged” by a sea urchin!

After lunch at the aquarium, the kids decided they wanted to go back over to Pike Place Market again, since we hadn’t had much time there yesterday. We were hoping to have better luck with the fish throwers, but they were still being stingy and grumpy. I guess they don’t like being a tourist attraction! But we had fun just wandering around looking at stuff, and taking in the sights, smells, and sounds.

Then it was time to head back to the airport – afterall the kids had their first day of school tomorrow! We were super late getting home, but they did get some sleep on both the plane and in the car.

Brian of course stayed the rest of the week for his climb. He had a blast, though was disappointed that his team wasn’t able to summit. He learned a lot though, and said it was a great experience.