Crystal Mountain

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Our visit to Crystal Mountain was one of many pleasant surprises on our road trip. In planning for our Mt. Rainier hike, Maria had stumbled upon information for Crystal Mountain, a ski area located in the Cascade mountain range, southeast of Seattle.

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First up, the scenic gondola ride up the mountain. While it was a cool experience to soar above the trees, the occasional motor stops and the swaying of the gondolas in the wind sure made us realize just how high up we were! After ascending the 6,872 feet to the peak, we were greeted with stunning views. The kind of views that look like superimposed green screen photos! The most stunning glimpses of Mt. Rainier.

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We also hiked along the ridge of the peak and back. There is nothing like that crisp and refreshing mountain air!

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While we waited for the gondola ride back to base, I spotted a cool quote that really resonated with me. Lessons learned on the road!

 

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Next, we get up close and personal with Mt. Rainier!

Olympic National Park

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Little known fact about me: I’m obsessed with the US National Parks!  It started with a class project in the third grade, when Mrs.Dixon assigned each of us a National Park to research. I got Shenandoah, which is one of the few (two at the time, three currently) on the East Coast.  Being pre-internet times, we had to write letters to the National Parks Services department and await an envelope full of brochures and pamphlets. There is a bit of a running joke in my family about “The Great Shenandoah National Park Project,” because while most other kids glued some stuff onto some cardboard, I used one of my dad’s old work binders to create my masterpiece, and made a model of the park using various train set components I found in the basement. This is probably not surprising to anyone who knows me – I love a good project! My parents, being good sports, actually took me and my sister there on a road trip that summer!

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All this to segue into the fact that when drafting our plans for our epic two week road trip, Maria and I decided that we’d hit up a bunch of National Parks. The first stop was Olympic National Park, just a two hour drive south and west of Seattle. To be honest, this was probably the one we were least prepared for, both because we didn’t decide to go there that specific day until the day of, and also because it was our first park stop and didn’t really know what to expect. However, none of that really mattered as we had a great time.

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We entered the park through the South entrance, which is preceded by 30 minutes worth of breathtaking views of Lake Cushman. It really made me feel nostalgic for the lake trips we do with my extended family!

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A very helpful park rangers suggested that we start in the Staircase region, and pointed us towards a shorter hike, with optional extension.

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It was a good first day’s hike! I would estimate that it was 4-5 miles total, which is moderate; however, the extension portion of the trail was STEEP! The sign we found at the bottom of the trail noted a 4000 ft elevation change in the span of 2.5 miles or so. We probably only made it halfway before turning around and taking a different loop back to the ranger station.  The shaded/flatter hike around the base was much easier!

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This view is quite deceptive; the ledge we were standing on was very high up which you can somewhat tell if you use the bridge in the distance as a reference.

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A fun way to kick off our visit to our country’s National Parks!

 

Chihuly Garden and Glass

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The Chihuly Garden and Glass museum turned out to be a pleasant surprise on our tour of downtown Seattle. After a day of sightseeing, we still had a few hours left to utilize. We turned to TripAdvisor, which has proven to be a great resource on this trip, and found that the number one attraction in Seattle is the Chihuly exhibit. Despite stellar reviews from 4,988 people (!), I was still a bit wary that this would  be a total tourist trap. After all, it’s located at the bottom of the Space Needle.

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But with nothing to lose, other than the $21 admission fee, we figured we’d give it a go. If you’re a fan of art and sculpture,  you will immediately fall in love with the brightly colored pieces filling the exhibit. So inventive and creative!

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But the real star of the show, in my opinion, was the outdoor garden, which was truly like walking through a technicolor wonderland. The works were enhanced by the soft glow of lights against the dark night sky; I definitely suggest checking out the exhibit at night to get the full effect!

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Bainbridge Island, Washington

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After our morning run through the city, we decided to take a ferry boat out to Bainbridge Island,  located in the Puget Sound. We had beautiful weather, which made the 35 minute ferry ride to the island lots of fun! Great views while enjoying the sea air and the wind in our hair!

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The first stop on our tour was Eleven Winery, where we sampled some local Washington wines.

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As you can see, Charles and Homie got in on the fun too. Which was all fine and good until Homie fell into my wine glass. Needless to say, Maria was not happy with him and gave him a stern talking-to!

After that, we set off to find off some late lunch/early dinner.  We ended up at Harbour Public House, which was awesome! Fresh ingredients and local beers on tap. We shared a root salad and the fish & chips – hit the spot. Great views too!

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We walked around the island for a bit and then capped off our trip with a stop at Ale House for a rousing game of UNO before heading back to the ferry.

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We had a blast visiting Bainbridge Island, and it made for a fun excursion from downtown Seattle!

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Downtown Seattle and Olympic Sculpture Park

 

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Right out of the gate, we were excited to explore Seattle! Our hotel was a straight shot down to Pike Place, about a mile away, so we started there. I asked a couple locals where we should go, and we were pointed towards a cobblestone alley just north of the market. We picked San Patricio, which was a good first stop to kick off our trip!

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I’d also like to introduce you to our two travel buddies, Charles Darwin and Homie. If you’ve followed along on my travels, you know that Charles likes to come along (to conduct his research, of course), and Homie tagged along with Maria. I think it’ll be a fun group, don’t you?

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After happy hour, we headed up to the Capitol Hill, where we sampled the artisan cocktails at Tavern Law. Worth the walk up the hill!

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We capped off the night at Vero Pizza! If you know me, you know I love pizza. The bartender was a lot of fun (see him in the background of the photo below?). We split a margarita-style pie. One interesting thing about this spot is that you cut your own pizza… with scissors!

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The next day, we woke up pretty early thanks to the time difference, and decided to burn off those carbs by going for a run downtown. Always a great way to see a city! We ran from our hotel down to Pike Place, and across to the Olympic Sculpture Park.

 

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So much ground covered, and it was only 9am!