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Showing posts with label Best getaways. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Best getaways. Show all posts

Snowskating Ski Hill In Leavenworth, WA

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As you might know , Leavenworth is one of best adventure travel destinations in Washington state all year round ! But I'd say that winter time is my all-time favorite to visit this little adventure hub.

While many people flock to this Bavarian theme town to see holiday lights, enjoy beautiful scenery, and try (somewhat ) "authentic" Bavarian food, others come here for outdoor adventures and activities.  And Leavenworth has a lot to offer !

Rafting And Bald Eagle Watching On The Skagit River


Birdwatching or birding is the observation and study of birds with the naked eye or through a visual enhancement device like binoculars...
WOW ! It even sounds boring ! Makes me fall asleep half way through that sentence.

But, combine something as dull as bird watching with rafting down a scenic river while enjoying the spectacular views of snowpacked mountains in the background ( and of course the eagles !) ...you get yourself an epic adventure !

Scenic Drives Washington : Historic Columbia River Highway 14

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Sometimes it's the journey, sometimes it's the destination—and sometimes, it's both. From the dramatic California coast to history-lined thoroughfares of New England, there are countless scenic drives across the country—and some stellar standouts.

The federal government has declared more than 100 roadways to be "Scenic Byways" because of their "outstanding archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic value."

Highway #14 is part of the Lewis and Clark Trail that travels along the north side of the stunning Columbia River Gorge and offers a wide variety of sights and scenes.

My main destination was Hood River, an official windsurfing capital of the world, which is located on Oregon side of the Columbia River. But to get there I decided to travel on HWY 14 to Maryhill, and then to jump on HWY 84 to admire the Gorge from both borders.

Explore Ape Caves At Mt. St Helens National Volcanic Monument

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At 8:32 Sunday morning, May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted and blew down or scorched 230 square miles of forest. Shaken by an earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale, the north face of this tall symmetrical mountain collapsed in a massive rock debris avalanche. In a few moments this slab of rock and ice slammed into Spirit Lake, crossed a ridge 1,300 feet high, and roared 14 miles down the Toutle River.

The eruption is considered to be the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States
In 1982 the President and Congress created the 110,000-acre National Volcanic Monument for research, recreation, and education. Inside the Monument, the environment is left to respond naturally to the disturbance.

Visitor centers along highway 504 tell the story and provide stunning crater views. Trails let visitors explore the rebirth or access areas slower to recover.

Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument is within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Numerous viewpoints and miles of trails have been created for you to explore by car and foot. During the summer Forest Interpreters lead a wide range of activities, from short walks to amphitheater presentations, to help you understand and enjoy this area.

The Best Surf Towns In America - Westport, WA

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The beauty of great surf towns is that they combine great waves with a laid-back beach atmosphere.

The West Coast is dotted with dozens of diverse and attractive surf towns. While California and Hawaii remain the most popular surfing destinations, their PNW neighbors - Oregon and Washington - are gaining popularity and respect among the more hard core crowd of cold water surfers.

Wesport's Westheaven State Park is probably the  most popular surfing destination in Washington state.

Winter Activities In Leavenworth, WA : Snowmobiling

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North Central Washington is the most startling and diverse region of our state, and Leavenworth is an ultimate adventure travel destination year round. No matter what season is outside, you can always find tons of exciting and adventures things to do in this beautiful town.

Winter in Leavenworth is the perfect place to capture the magic of the Christmas season !

Couple some of the best snow and terrain in the country with a charming Bavarian village complete with activities, events, dining and lodging and you have the ultimate winter getaway.

Leavenworth has a long and rich winter sports heritage. Winter brings the opportunity for all kinds of snow activities including downhill and cross country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, horseback/sleigh riding, and snowmobiling.

10 Adventures To Try In The San Juan Islands

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The Essential San Juan Islands Guide

I call the San Juan Islands - "Hawaii of the Pacific Northwest" !

The coastal waters of the Pacific Northwest, between mainland Washington and Vancouver Island, contain hundreds of islands, some little more than sandbars, others rising 3,000 feet. Among these, the San Juans are considered by many to be the loveliest.

The San Juan Island offer something for everyone. The islands are especially attractive to adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts.

We spent a few gorgeous early fall days, exploring the two of the most fun islands - Orcas and San Juan. Below, I offer a few suggestions if you plan to do more than just sitting on the beach and enjoying the sun :

Tips On Visiting The San Juan Islands

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The San Juan Island Archipelago consists of a staggering 172 islands, some only visible during extreme low tide, and well over 300 miles of shoreline. The three largest islands are geographically unique: Orcas being the hilliest, Lopez the flattest, and San Juan Island is a combination of both.

Though, there are a few bigger islands that are popular among see kayakers and boaters, the three big ones ( Orcas, Lopez, and San Juan ) are most visited by "leisure travelers" ( with Lopez Island being more popular among "recreational cyclists" ).

Below I want to share a few tips that I wish I new before visiting Orcas and San Juan Islands this September :

1 - When To Go

Any time !  There is no better time than island time !
Ideally, the best time to visit the islands is during summer : the views are simply amazing !
But summertime is also the busiest ( not to mention more expensive ! ). You can always travel during the week, but even that won't guarantee you short lines at the ferry terminal, or a camping spot on the same day.

That's why, for this particular destination, in my opinion, the best time to travel is either early fall or spring.
In Washington state, summer "extends" well into September/October : the weather is still warm, and the sun is still shining ! Plus, it's less crowded, and the hotels and local businesses start charging "off-season" prices.

2 - Taking A Ferry To The Islands

The trip by a ferry is an adventure of its own !
The trip from Anacortes to San Juan island is about an hour long, with a few stops at Shaw, Lopez, and Orcas islands.
In summer time, the lines are long, and you're recommended to arrive to the terminal at least an hour before the departure time.In September we got on a ferry just 30 minutes before its departure.
Though in Anacortes you pay for round trip, if you want to travel from Orcas to San Juan, it will cost extra ~$20 ( round trip ).

3 - Take a car...or not

At some point I was debating whether to take a car or not. Since my son and I were camping for 3 days, and we had our bikes and a kayak with us, I had to take a car.
But some adventurous people do choose to take just a bike to explore the islands. This way, you can pitch a tent at one of many camping spots ( or even better, anywhere by the water ! for FREE ! ), or get a room at a hotel/resort.
Just keep in mind, Oracs Island is considered to be the largest, and the hilliest ( with Mount Constitution at almost exactly a half-mile elevation ). But you always have an option to rent one of the islands' cute scoot-cars from Susie's Mopeds.

4 - Where To Stay

The islands  offer you a whole world of choice when it comes to where you want to stay. Depending on your preferences you can choose from primitive camping to high priced hotels and resorts, or somewhere in between ( B&B's, cabins, bungalows ).
Since the islands are extremely popular, even prices for camping go as high as $25 + per night. Plus, reservations ( even for camping ! ) are recommended week(s) ahead.
But again, in early fall, we were lucky to get a camping spot right by the water on the same day !

Best Biking Seattle Has To Offer

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If you have out-of-state friends or family who love to ride visiting Seattle for the first time, where would you take them ?

My personal picks would be : Colonnade Bike, Elliott Bay, and Burke-Gilman Trails.

These places have a lot in common : conveniently located in the heart of Seattle, easily accessible with lots of parking, suitable for riders of all ages and fitness levels, and all three of these places offer great sightseeing opportunities !

Also, if your friends/family are ExtraHyperActive ( like us ), you can bike all three spots in one day !

We started our "Seattle bikothlon" in Ballard on Burke-Gilman trail, rode our bikes to Magnuson park, hitched a ride to Colonnade park, where my 7 year old got to learn his first basics of technical mountain biking, and then we made our way from Smith Cove to downtown Seattle to enjoy the beautiful city at night !

There is something special ( and spooky ) to walk around your favorite Pike Place Market at night.

Did you know that in the Market stands the city's first mortuary, part of an old graveyard, and a former brothel that still has a red glow cast on its side ? And that it has been voted the most haunted location in the northwest ?

Even if you don't believe in paranormal activities, walking around the market is a very exciting experience ( not to mention the lack of crowds is perfect for taking iconic pictures ! ).

Have You Visited Yellowstone National Park ?

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I had a great opportunity to visit Yellowstone NP during my road trip around US a couple years ago. Unfortunately, due to lack of time I didn't have a chance to explore this amazing park the way I wanted.

 I call Yellowstone NP " - "all American experience". And it's not only because it's one of the places in our country every American must see, it's also because it's very "convenient" to visit it. You can see/visit all major interest points/landmarks almost without leaving your car. Just drive to the next viewing point, get out of your car, walk a few steps, snap a few pictures, and you're done !

 Only for me, it's not the way to explore a new place. I want to immerse myself into the environment, and the best way to do it is through activities like hiking, backpacking, or camping.

 Next time, I plan to visit Yellowstone in winter ( everything looks better when covered with snow ), and to explore the park on skis or snowshoes.



Sailing Adventure On Historic Tall Ship Lady Washington

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The Lady Washington, a replica of the original 18th century ship Lady Washington, was built in Aberdeen, Washington, USA in time for the 1989 Washington State Centennial celebrations. Named Washington State's Tall Ship Ambassador, as well as the State Ship, it is operated by a professional and volunteer crew under the auspices of the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority. The Lady Washington portrayed the HMS Interceptor in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Learning how to sail has been on my Bucket List for quite some time. 
As I've read somewhere: "Sailing is the closest we can get to nature - it's adrenaline, fear, a constant challenge and learning experience, an adventure into the unknown."

Unfortunately, it's not always the way you expect it to be...

We signed up for what was promised to be a "Battle Sail" - "Our popular three-hour Battle Sails feature booming cannons, close-quarters maneuvers, and a taste of 18th century maritime life aboard tall ships. Passengers are invited to raise the sails, verbally taunt their opponents, and sing the chorus on a sea shanty."...

Instead, we got to sail ... 200 feet away from the dock, circle around and shoot guns ( do you know the difference between cannons and guns ? That's probably one of few things I learned during the sail ), tour the area where the crew sleeps ( that conveniently had a "store where you can buy useless knick-knacks ), and listened to the crew sinning songs, and telling stories.

It wasn't completely waste of time. We did learn a few interesting facts, like where the word "knot" originated from, how to use a sextant, or where the phrase "son of a gun" came from.

Bedsides, it was pretty cool to sail on a famous movie ship !

I would say their educational part of the sail was more interesting than the battle sail itself. So, may be next time we'll sign up for an actual sail...

Exploring Guler Ice Cave Near Mt Adams, WA

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As I wrote in my previous post, Mt Adams area is another great place for outdoor enthusiasts in Washington state to explore. Along with climbing, skiing, hiking, camping, mountain biking Mt Adams, the area around Trout Lake is famous for another landmark - Guler Ice Caves. Since attracting notice as a source of cocktail ice in the high summers of the 1860s, the Guler Ice Caves have been a favorite local attraction for travelers to the area for over a century.

Guler Ice Caves in Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest provides spelunkers a chance to mix a little ice into their routine. In the lava tubes of the Mt. Adams volcano, caves formed and ice filled up the space with winter spectacles. Noted for their coldness, the caves were, at one point, nearly turned into a cold food storage area by Mr. Christian Guler. The failure of Mr. Guler’s attempts leave us with spectacularly undisturbed caves that are transformed annually by a fresh coat of ice. Join the ranks of those brave enough to venture underground and into an exquisite winter wonderland.

The caves consist of six hundred and fifty feet of beautiful formations of rock and water that can be explored by cavers of all experience levels. The footing is rocky, however, so be certain to bring footwear with adequate ankle-support. Also, be prepared for the chilly air (they are ice caves, after all!) and low light. Flashlights, warm clothing, and head protection for the low ceilings are highly recommended.

 The caves are conveniently located just a mile away from Trout Lake Ranger station. Very accessible in summer, but, as I heard, in winter requires a two-mile over-snow trip, either with cross-country skis, snowshoes or snowmobile. The Gifford Pinchot National Forest has built a stairway down to the cave, but the steps can be slippery during winter.

Many of the ice formations are just inside the cave entrance, so it's not necessary to explore deep inside. In late summer, as I was told, many ice formations start to melt.

The parking lot is big enough to accommodate cars even on a busy weekend. Since the caves are located on the National Forest property, National Forest Recreation Pass is required.

If you are into caving/spelunking, another famous caves - Ape Caves of Mt St Helens, are located just and hour and a half away ( in summer ).
But honestly, in my opinion, both caves are pretty mediocre, and unless you combine visiting the caves with other outdoor adventures in the area, they are not worth the drive from Seattle.

If you liked this post, you may also like:

Inside Guler Ice Cave Video

Exploring Mt St Helens: Camping, Hiking, And Caving

Climbing/skiing Mt Adams

Washington Best Getaways

Long Beach Peninsula: surfing, biking, camping

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This was my first trip to the Long Beach Peninsula, and now, it has become my favorite coastal destination in our state. I found a whole lot more to do here than at other small coastal towns like Ocean Shores or Westport. It is a perfect vocation destination for families and outdoor enthusiasts.

My original plan was to check out local surfing scene here. Though, recognized as one of the longest and most drivable beaches in the United States, it's not that easy to find a good break. A few places I heard about are : Seaview , Klipsan Beach, and Leadbetter State Park. Surf conditions are the same as at Ocean Shores - small, foamy , but consistent waves. Dangerous rips are a hazard of surfing here, so I wouldn't go any deeper than waist high. If you are a beginner, a local area surf shop Skookum Surf Co. offers premium surf lessons, and surf gear rentals.

Since recently, on every trip I go, I take my bike with me. I found it to be easier, healthier, more fun ( and you save on gas ! ) to discover visiting area by bike.

One feature that completely blew my mind here was the Discovery Trail.

This 8.2 mile trail stretches from the northern city limits of Long Beach and goes all the way to Ilwaco ( a small fishermen town, also known as " Fishing Capital of the World " ). This is the best leisure biking trail I've ridden so far ! The trail is paved, relatively flat, and the scenery is amazing ( with the ocean just a few feet away ) !

Cape Disappointment State Park is the most visited park in the Washington State Parks system. The park's most famous and visited landmarks are two lighthouses ( North Head Lighthouse and Cape Disappointment Lighthouse ) and Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center. A Lighthouse Keepers Residence is now offered as a vacation rental through Cape Disappointment State Park. Fronted by the Pacific Ocean, the park offers breathtaking ocean views, great camping ( tent, RV and yurts ) and it's only minutes away from Long Beach. The park links a few short hikes ( I did Westwind Trail, which gets wet and muddy when it rains and really unpleasant to hike ).

All in all, I had a great first impression from this area. Besides the activities that I've listed, there is something to do for everybody : horseback riding, kiting, fishing, paddling, clamming ( something that I haven't tried yet :)...

The Long Beach Peninsula is remarkable for its continuous sand beaches and dotted with many small towns along the way, so if you can't find what you are looking for in one town, you can always just go to another one. Once in Seaview, stop by local Visitor Bureau ( Intersection of Highways 101 and 103 ) to get more detailed information.

Surfing In Washington : Kids Have Fun In Cold Water

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While thoughts of surfing may evoke summertime and warm, sandy beaches, there also exists an entirely separate sect of surfers who brave freezing temperatures to catch waves on frigid waters.

Washington is not Hawaii, and though, surfing remains an outdoor activity for a very dedicated and tight group of people, the sport is growing in popularity !

A new generation of surfers brave cold water, gusty winds, and pouring rain to get stoked catching mushy waves at the popular Wesport's Westheaven State Park, Washington most popular surfing destination.

As I wrote in my previous posts, the best way to introduce your kids to surfing is to do it in some place warm. But if your kid is brave/crazy enough to surf in the cold waters of Pacific Ocean, you know you have a life-long surfer on your hands.

My son celebrated his 7th birthday by learning how surf in the most miserable conditions one can only imagine. Yet, the smile on his face told me he had the time of his life !

You might also like:

5 Tips To Teach Your Kid To Surf

Mountain Biking Mt Adams, WA

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Mt Adams area offers more than one thousand miles of trails that are woven throughout the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, and many are open to mountain bikers.

If you're ExtraHyperActive like me, Mt Adams is a great little getaway from Seattle for a perfect multi-sport weekend.

Though my main goal was to climb/ski Mt Adams, having heard a lot about the abundance of opportunities for both road and mountain biking, I decided to take my bike along to explore the area and a few local mountain bike trails.

Conveniently for me, Cold Springs trail #72 was located at the same camping ground as the main climbing rout - South Climb #183

Open to mountain bikers, hikers, and equestrians, Cold Springs trail is  3.7 miles long, and offers amazing wildflowers viewing and the sights of A.G. Aiken Lava Flow.  Much of the trail travels through an area heavily burned in the Cold Springs Fire of 2008.

The trail interacts with a few other major trails making a great way to explore the area by bike. If you decide to ride this trail one way, keep in mind, it's pretty steep, and the way up could be more  than you bargained for ( especially if you have to climb Mt Adams the next day like I did :)).

But riding my bike with Mt Adams in the background was one of the highlights of my trip !