Cascades, Mt. Rainier, Olympic, & Crater Lake National Parks. Oh my!

September 17th- October 9th

DSC02158We slumped our way over the Canadian border with our “squishy” breaks, broken slider door, and rain-soaked belongings.  Bellingham, WA is where we spent the next two days twiddling our thumbs while MichelVangelo got a brake upgrade (along with new wheel drums, axle seals, calipers, and an oil change).  Our van contingency fund got quite a shock after all of those repairs; this is the point in the trip where we have put more money into MichelVangelo than what we originally bought him for.  Can’t put a price on love, right?  IMG_20180920_121057

Anyway, we headed to Cascades NP for a quick trip before venturing in to Seattle.  Of all the National Park entrance signs, this one takes the cake.  We hiked the Diablo Lake trail.  It winds through a dense forest, there are mountains in the distance, and moss just about everywhere.  The hike was beautiful with a portion overlooking the Skagit river.  As we approached the end (out and back trail) we noticed we were just walking toward a massive dam.  The dam and the power lines are tremendous displays of human achievement and ingenuity but, not what we’re looking for in a hike.  All in all, it was a good workout but we would pick a different hike next time.

IMG_20180921_120004Seattle was our next stop to meet up with our friend, Hilary.  She was in Seattle visiting friends and it was so great that we got to see a little slice of “home” in Seattle.  Hilary took us all over Seattle, it was a perfect day to get out and explore the city: the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, tasty food and drinks.  Kate ordered oyster shooters at happy hour, thinking they would be oysters on the half shell.  Well, she was very wrong.  Turns out an oyster shooter is shot glass with vodka, tabasco, water, and a oyster dropped in it.  IMG_20180922_121853Hilary drank hers down and Kate took a small sip then just ate the oyster.  Seattle treated us well.  The next morning we were able to join Hilary and her friends at Little Si trailhead in Snoqualmie National Forest, which is just outside of Seattle.  Great little hike through lush, pacific NW forest full of banana slugs and our first salamander sighting!

DSC02364Our next stop was Mt. Rainier NP which we originally thought we would skip.  SO glad we didn’t!  The drive in to the park was a gorgeous precursor to what we’d experience over the next few days.  A winding, two-lane road with towering pines on either side with glimpses of Mt. Rainier getting larger and larger as we approached.  We hiked during the day and endured pretty cold temperatures at night. DSC02307 The park’s mountainous terrain is surrounded by moss-covered lowland forests that make for the most awe-inspiring hikes.  The Pinnacle Peak hike was the highlight.  A short but steep hike up the Tatoosh Mountain Range.  At the top, we could see Mount St. Helens on one side and Mt. Rainier on the other.  Apparently, the three days we had of sunny, blue skies is unlikely for Rainier as clouds usually set in around the mountain.  Well, we were due for some luck after our van repairs…

Next on our list was Olympic NP.  First, we stopped in Olympia to meet up with Katie’s friend from high school, Kacie, and her husband, Chris.  So refreshing to talk all things Iowa (sorry Chris) and to see more familiar faces on the road.  Side note: how does the West Coast live without scotcheroos, “back roads,” and walking tacos?  These are life’s greatest mysteries.

DSC0243420180928_193026Olympic NP was so diverse in it’s landscape.  Rugged snow- capped mountain ridges, coastal sandy beaches, and lush rain forests can all be found in this one park.  MichelVangelo made the drive to Hurricane Ridge with it’s spectacular views, but we decided to test him with a steep, narrow gravel drive to Obstruction Point.  He made it with flying colors and Kate’s heart rate went back down once we were there.  We hiked the Grand Pass trail, listed as a “hard hike.”  You start at the top of the mountain and hike down to alpine lakes, which means you need enough energy to hike back UP the mountain.  20180930_103849The views and picnic lunch at Moose Lake were well worth the “butt burn” on the way back up.  Celebratory beers on MichelVangelo’s roof deck were the perfect way to end the day.  There are 70 miles of coastal beaches that are a part of Olympic NP.  We checked out Second Beach and Ruby Beach on a cold and rainy day, but the views were worth it.  Our last stop in Olympic NP was the Hoh Rainforest, except it was closed due to construction.  Jason had been looking forward to this since we started planning this #vanlife trip.  IMG_20180930_115100Luckily, the Quinault Rain Forest scenic drive was open. Who knew that rainforests in the fall had so many different colors?  It was a moss-filled wonderland and we loved it!

IMG_20181003_140109We drove down Washington’s West Coast and crossed the border into Astoria, Oregon.  Yes, THE Astoria, Oregon where “The Goonies” was filmed.  While we didn’t find any pirate treasure, we did find Buoy Beer Company.  The beers were tasty, and the fried oysters were not (Jason’s opinion).  The star of the brewery though, were the sea lions that hang out all around the building.  There’s even a plexiglass floor in the brewery to watch them.  From Astoria, we drove into Portland to meet up our friends Matt and Sara.  Lots of catching up, too many laughs, and all the animal snuggles our hearts desired.  The next morning, Sara took us into Mt. Hood National Forest for a hike.  The best part?  Sara brought Gimli, their adventure dog, which made the hike even more fun.  DSC02526On the way back to Portland, we stopped at a couple breweries to complete the hike + beers combo we love so much.  It’s already a well-known fact but, just to make sure everyone knows, Oregon has really good beer.  We said good-bye to Portland the next morning and can’t thank Matt and Sara enough for their hospitality!

Driving down the Oregon coast is amazing!  Winding roads that hug the coastline and views of the endless Pacific.  We stopped in Canon Beach, where we explored the the town and walked the beach to Haystack Rock.  On the recommendation from Kacie and her husband we stopped at Tillamook Creamery.


Kate described this place as her “Disneyland.”  Cheese as far as the eye can see, free (yes, FREE) samples, the best cheese curds she has ever had (sorry Wisconsin), and a giant creamy ice cream waffle cone to complete the trip (pop probiotic pill now).  We capped off our wonderful cheese-filled day watching the sunset at our beach campsite at Cape Lookout State Park.

DSC02628The next day we made our way inland to Bend, Oregon where we met up with Scott: friend, beer expert, and avid Oregon outdoorsman.  He took us on a hike through Deschutes National Forest to Moraine Lake.  Afterward, we enjoyed post-hike beers at Crux Fermentation and Deschutes Brewery.  Again, Oregon has good beer.  From Bend, we drove south to Crater Lake NP.  The whole day was overcast and foggy but, we kept telling ourselves the fog would lift as the day went on.  The drive to and around the lake was saddled with the heaviest fog, so much so that we couldn’t see the lake.  DSC02689BUT, when we parked at the visitor’s center the fog lifted just enough to where we could see the lake!  We even got a rainbow!  Five minutes later, the fog was back and the lake no longer visible.  We spent the whole day at the park and got five minutes of the lake but, it was all worth it!

Oregon is known for it’s hot springs and Umpqua hot springs in Umpqua National Forest was one that Jason found to try out.  A short, steep hike takes you up to pools of hot springs in varying degrees of heat.  Little did we know, that most people choose to enjoy these in the nude.  So there we were, the only two people in actual swimming attire among a sea of flesh.  We don’t have any pictures from this experience, so you’ll just have to take our word for it…  From Umpqua, we traveled south to Ashland, where we met up with a old friend from Iowa.  Collin showed us all around the city of Ashland, most-known for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival that runs almost year-round.  Not as famous but also good, was the breakfast burrito we had the next morning. on our way out of town.

On to California!


K & J



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