We woke up in Missoula, Montana ready to drive straight to Seattle, Washington. The drive is about 7 hours total! After discovering a cute breakfast diner in the downtown area, we headed on our way.
A couple hours later, we found ourselves driving back through the state of Idaho—except the northern “panhandle” this time! Incidentally, we were in Idaho at the same time as Taylor’s sister, Bethany, without even knowing it! She was visiting family in Boise, so it was too far out of the way to have a reunion.
As we were driving along I-90, we came across a tiny mining town next to the highway called Wallace. From the highway, we spotted historic Victorian houses, one of our favorites, so we decided to take a quick detour.
We walked around the quaint little town and found a converted car repair shop that served huckleberry ice cream, not realizing we had crossed from Mountain Time to Pacific Time! The employees must have thought we were crazy to have ice cream at 11am!
After getting back on the road, we finally arrived in Washington. At this point, the ice cream had worn off (they were small scoops, ok!) and we were starving. Meandering around the town of Spokane, which is on the eastern border, we found a restaurant to suit Taylor’s palate.
Sweeto Burrito had epically flavored burritos…Tay’s was even filled with tay-ter tots!
Everyone (mostly Griffin) had told us that it always rained in Washington, so we were pleasantly surprised when our day was filled with sunlight. For a driving break, we pulled over to take a brief stretch in Royal City, which is in the middle of the state.
The terrain was so different than where we had been driving so far! Over the course of this trip, we’ve been able to see so many different parts of the country and it is amazing how drastically different each place is. It is exciting to be on such a grand tour of the beautiful West.
I took over the driving duties while we went through Snoqualmie Pass and we were literally in the middle of two mountains. With lots of snow! We conveniently had downloaded the White Christmas soundtrack and put on the song “Snow” every time we have driven through any mountain pass.
A few hours later, we made it to Seattle and were still greeted by the sun! We picked up Griffin from his apartment, and at the last minute decided to head to Safeco Field for the Mariners vs. Angels game. Why not, right?
We took public transportation (the train in this case), which is in walking distance from Griffin’s apartment in Capitol Hill, one of the trendy neighborhoods. The transit system is so much cooler than New York (sorry MTA fans)! Seattle has incredibly clean stations, as well as buses and streetcars that still connect to electrical lines. I digress…
Griffin was able to get cheap tickets, and we had a great view from behind home plate. In case you were wondering, the Mariners won.
In a very gracious move, Griffin gave up his bed for the weekend, and we all had a restful night of sleep.
As Griffin is a teacher, he has to get up early, which was perfect timing for us to get on the road to Vancouver, British Columbia! As we drove north towards the border, we made a pit stop at Birch Bay, where Taylor’s mom (Cindi) and her family used to go for vacation when they were kids.
It was one of the most beautiful places we’ve been so far. So much green! And it smelled like spring.
We also drove through the town of Blaine, which is on the border of the US and Canada, and is where Taylor’s grandpa (Tony) grew up.
Before we crossed the border, we took a picture with the Peace Arch, symbolizing the peaceful relationship between the two countries.
Our first stop in Vancouver was the Capilano Suspension Bridge. We arrived, paid for parking (which is the worst!) and found out that in order to walk on the bridge, it was $44 per person! To walk over a bridge?! Nope.
Apparently, they have turned the bridge into a tourist attraction. Even though we were disappointed, we decided it wasn’t worth the money. Come on, we’ve already walked the Golden Gate Bridge! For free…
Continuing into the city, we stopped at Stanley Park, a beautiful park overlooking the water. We also saw the historic Round House where the trains used to depot, and walked around downtown.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t check into our AirBnb until 4pm, and it was about 30 minutes outside the city. Vancouver (and Seattle, which we soon would learn) isn’t the most car-friendly, meaning there isn’t much parking and you have to pay for it all the time.
It would have been fun to get to our place earlier, but it worked out fine! After checking in, we walked to the “SkyTrain”, which is the monorail-type transit system in Vancouver, which took us right into the heart of downtown.
We walked around the historic Gastown district, which is Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood, dating back to the 1860s.
They even have a steam powered clock in the middle of the square! Dinner was delicious-we ate at a restaurant called The Flying Pig.
The best part was dessert: “Maple Sugar Pie”. Canadians certainly know their maple!
The next morning it was raining, so we decided to check out Granville Island, which is a large shopping and restaurant district, partly under the Granville Street Bridge.
After a healthy breakfast of donuts and cinnamon rolls, we walked around to see the various shops and found a bread bakery. The smell filled us with happiness, and we bought a fresh loaf of sourdough.
On our way back to Seattle, we stopped at the Skagit County Co-Op and got amazing sandwiches (also on sourdough-can you tell we love it?).
After picking up Griffin from work, we made dinner and played an intense game of Ticket to Ride, our favorite board game of late. Taylor would like to add that he won.
Griffin, Taylor and I were determined to check off all the Seattle tourist attractions we could, so we woke up early and walked around Pike Place Market, which was created in the early 1900s as a public market where Seattle-ites could come for local produce, flowers, fish and other goods.
The market is also the location of the original Starbucks! We checked out the “Gum Wall”, where people have been sticking their chewed gum for years, as a sort of artwork (?).
After an important stop to the flagship REI (Recreational Equipment Inc) store (which has it’s own rock wall!) we headed to Pioneer Square, Seattle’s “original neighborhood”. This neighborhood had its beginnings in the 1850s, but had to be completely rebuilt after the Great Seattle Fire of 1889.
For our daily history lesson, we toured the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. Since the actual park is in Alaska, this “park” is Seattle’s branch, which is a museum. The museum tells of Seattle’s role in the Klondike Gold Rush between 1896 and 1899.
Seattle was as a port city for those headed to the Yukon in search of their fortune. We learned some interesting and crazy things:
1. The journey was so long, cold, and difficult, that the mounted police of Canada required all that embarked take a year’s worth of food with them, which included 400lbs of flour and 125lbs of beans. In total, it was about 2,000lbs of supplies with tents and clothing included. Can you imagine hauling that up a mountain?
2. There were many ways to get to the site of the gold rush, and the “rich man’s way” was to take the water route from Seattle, around Alaska, and through the Yukon River. But for those with less resources, they took a ship to the port towns of Skagway or Dyea, Alaska, and then had hundreds of miles to travel through the frozen tundra on foot. Over 100,000 people set out to find gold, but many died from exposure, avalanches and starvation, or turned around to head back home.
3. Through all of those hardships, 40,000 reached the Klondike. Out of those, only 300 struck it rich! Even though most didn’t find success, the gold rush helped in developing tourism to Alaska, as well as railroad routes.
After taking the streetcar (so fun!) back to Capitol Hill, we met up with Ryan, our step-brother, who had flown in from Florida that afternoon!
We ate delicious tacos-maybe too many-and went to explore the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (also known as the Ballard Locks).
The locks were created in 1917 so boats and ships could make the transition from the Puget Sound, which is salt water, to Lake Washington, which is fresh water, with minimal disturbance to the ecosystem. Also, the two bodies of water are at different levels, so the locks act as an “elevator” for passing ships.
It was fun to watch the locks fill up with water so quickly to raise the boats to the proper level. At the locks, they also created a “fish ladder”, which allows migrating salmon to pass through the locks without disrupting their natural pattern.
On the way home, we stopped by Discovery Park to see a magnificent sunset!
Sunday morning we headed to the ferry to Bainbridge Island, which is about a 30 minute ride across the water from downtown Seattle. We had the experience of driving our car on the ferry-something I hadn’t done before!
Since it was the morning, it was pretty chilly up on deck, but we had a stunning view of downtown Seattle.
When we arrived, we set our sights on the parks. First, we went to Fay Bainbridge State Park, and walked along the rocky beach. We also found a playground and pretended we weren’t too big to play!
For lunch, we had packed homemade PB&Js, and we ate while hiking through a trail at Gazzam Nature Preserve. The trail went all the way down to the other side of the island, and we thoroughly enjoyed basking in the sun and climbing trees.
With a less chilly ride back on the ferry, we enjoyed the sight of Seattle once more, as well as seeing Mount Rainier in the distance.
Before heading back to Griffin’s apartment, we stopped by the Starbucks Roastery, which is a pretty neat place. You can watch them roasting the coffee beans and they serve all sorts of fun drinks, like a cold brew float!
For dinner, we had the biggest pizza I’ve ever seen in my life! As you can see, Taylor definitely enjoyed it.
We woke up early and headed to Mount Rainier National Park, which is about two hours south of Seattle.
Besides checking off another National Park on our list, we were excited to see the mountain up close, as you can see it so clearly in the distance from downtown Seattle.
It is over 14,000 feet in elevation, making it the highest point in Washington.
We entered on the southwest end of the park, as the northern entrance roads are still covered with snow! We parked in the historic district of Longmire, which has been a base for the park for over 120 years.
The trail we embarked on is called the Wonderland Trail, and meets up with the looped Rampart Ridge trail to get a view of the giant mountain. The trail was also still covered with snow; it was so bizarre to be walking through snow but not be (that) cold!
After about 3 miles, we made it to the view point! It was surreal. We were surrounded by huge peaks and we sat for awhile, just observing nature.
Our total mileage in hiking was about 5.5 miles, and of course we were all hungry. Conveniently, there was a Baja Fresh on the way home. For those that don’t know, Baja Fresh is Taylor’s all time favorite restaurant, and in his opinion, has the best bean and cheese burrito in the world. Obviously, that was our post-hike meal…and it was pretty satisfying!
Before ending the day, we stopped at Kerry Park to see the “classic” view of Seattle.
We sadly said goodbye to Ryan, as he was taking the bus down to Portland the next day to visit friends, but we were lucky to have three days spent with the two coolest brothers! We shared many laughs and created lasting memories together.
Our last day in Seattle was more low-key and we checked out a few places we hadn’t been yet.
First, we went back to Pioneer Square to meander around and found a courtyard with free foosball and basketball!
We also checked out University of Washington. We definitely blended in and passed as current students.
After a hearty snack of huckleberry ice cream, we sat in Gas Works Park to get yet another beautiful view of Seattle.
What a privilege for Griffin to show us around his new city, and all of the places he has discovered. Taylor and I are so proud of how he has said “yes” to every adventure, climbed out on a limb on his own, and been successful. It’s tough to move to a new city on your own, but Griffin has found a great group of friends and figured out how to be a Seattle-ite. Even though the sun has mostly been hidden by the clouds the last few months…
PS: when you go to Seattle, don’t bring your car! Parking is impossible. Even in the neighborhoods!
Next on our adventure: Oregon, the Redwoods & catching up with friends!