Pacific Northwest 2017! (Post 2 of TBD)


As our previous post mentioned, we spent the first week of our trip staying in Glacier, WA.  What we didn’t say was we did a great deal of driving and exploring.  We enjoyed ourselves so much we are hoping to come back next summer.  Enough rambling, we’ll get to the details we hope you enjoy as much as we did.  At the end of this post we will post a link to our Google Photos folder from the first week of our trip.  To the right is a picture of the kids standing in front of a giant Douglas Fir on display at the Glacier National Park Service Center.  They couldn’t believe trees grew that big!

Day 1 – Deception Pass & Bellingham

In what became a seemingly daily ritual, the sky was cloudy and the rain misty. It was that type of rain that really doesn’t even get your clothes wet, just a little damp.  We started our day with a stop at the Wake ‘N Bakery to grab a couple magic cookie bars and we were off toward Bellingham.  After an almost two hour drive we arrived at our first stop…Deception Pass.  One can only imagine what the views are like when the clouds disappear.  Even so, the views were phenomenal.  The kids enjoyed climbing the rocks and walking the short trails.  The view from very entrance at the park front he bridge is even more fascinating and again one can only wonder how amazing it looks in person when the sun is out or even better at sunset.  Anytime you can take a minute to go somewhere different, experience something new, and see God’s true wonder and beauty, it’s as though it takes your breath away.  These scenes made me just want to sit there and stare at them for hours.  From there we took a short little jaunt to Boundary Bay Brewery in downtown Bellingham.  The beer was excellent and the food just as excellent.  There was a really great farmers market going on right across the street that was filled with anything you could think of from the local community.  Since this was our first full day in Washington we spent the rest of the day going to the grocery store and heading back to condo to get situated for the rest of our trip.  This was a great first day to get acclimated to the time change (3 hours) and experience some local culture.

Day 2 – Horseshoe Bend & Mt Baker Ski Area

We decided to begin our northwest hikes with a relatively simple trail, Horseshoe Bend.  This trail follows the Nooksack River for approximately 2.5 miles roundtrip.  There is virtually no incline of any significance, but the beauty of this trail was phenomenal.  Our kids really liked this hike to get us started.  Evan is six and Olivia is three.  On our entire trip Evan did every hike, faster and better than us adults!  Olivia did as well as she could for most hikes, but really it was a 50/50 chance whether she’d want to hike or not.  She did enjoy this one very much though for it’s relative ease.  The flow of water here is absolutely unbelievable.  The power behind this river is  unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  I have no doubt there’s greater, but this was really amazing.  After this little hike we pulled off the side of the road and had a picnic lunch at the Shuksan Picnic area.  This was a really nice place with picnic tables and areas to walk down to the river and throw rocks and walk along the water.  From lunch we proceeded our trek toward Artist Point Ridge trail.  The drive up was absolutely stunning.  The one problem….we could only make it to the Mt Baker Ski area.   Everything continuing on was blocked by snow.  This area received 271 inches of snow this winter, that combined with a late snow and unusually cool temperatures has made the snowmelt end later in the season.  So our entire plan of hiking the Artist Ridge trail was foiled by all the snow.  We didn’t let that stop us though.  We decided to attempt to just start hiking in the snow to see how far we could make it.  We didn’t make it very far, but the views were absolutely spectacular! The drive up was well worth it just for the views alone.  We headed down the mountain and made a quick stop to see Nooksack Falls.  There is no hike to these falls, you park and walk maybe 100 feet to the viewpoint.  It was beautiful and the history behind the falls and the attempts at delivering power to the area were very interesting as well.  There’s a road that continues from the falls, but is off limits to vehicles.  You’ll need to walk from there.  We didn’t walk up this way, but Glacier Service Center recommended it to us for a rainy day as it’s mostly covered with trees and can keep you dry.  It’s just a nice little walk to see the sights and apparently animals frequent this trail.  When Mother Nature changes around you and delays your plans, you just roll with it.  This was a great day and the views were truly spectacular.  We definitely recommend doing the Artist Ridge hike in July – September.  If/When we make it back this way, this is going to be tops on our list and we will be more prepared with snowshoes!!


Pacific Northwest 2017!!! (Post 1 of TBD)

Intro to our Pacific Northwest Adventure!

With these next series of posts, we are going to take you on a voyage to the Pacific Northwest of the United States.  Seeing places different from Florida is simply awe inspiring.  Of all the places we have been, this is the first place my wife would seriously consider moving to.  The trip extended 17 days departing from Orlando International Airport and flying into Vancouver International.  If you read our most recent post on booking airfare, you know we got a really good deal.  Our adventures encompassed so many different activities and places, and we want to make sure we tell you about all of them.   To keep it well organized, we are breaking it up into probably 4 posts.

On the way Flight & Airport Reviews

Let me begin this sections with this, if you can avoid making a connecting international flight in Toronto DO SO!!!  Our connection was in Toronto and it was very confusing, and time consuming.  We had two hours from the time we arrived at our gate until our boarding for our next flight, and it took every bit of it to get there!  In partial defense to the Toronto airport, they are going through a lot of construction.  That being said the entire transition and customs process and directions were very confusing.  Our flight to Vancouver, Canada from Orlando was with WestJet.   WestJet is well known in Canada as the low cost carrier of Canada.  They are relatively unknown to us in the United States.  I will add that I would definitely fly WestJet again.  Their customer service was top notch from the time of booking issues I mentioned in our previous post on the flights, to even letting us check extra bags for free at the counter.  I couldn’t be more pleased with WestJet, and they specifically advertise that they NEVER OVERBOOK their flights!  The Vancouver airport is a descent walk to baggage claim and it took a long time to get our bags.  However, all our bags and car seats arrived with no problems.  The best thing about the Vancouver Airport is the free luggage carriers.  In Orlando you have to pay $5 USD to use one.

Rental Car Pickup

We then headed over to the National Car Rental Emerald Club Section.  I can’t say enough good things about National, I have used them for work and personal rentals for a few years now.  If you book a midsize car under the free Emerald Club program, you can pick any vehicle from the Emerald Club Aisle.  We walked over and picked out the first minivan we saw and proceeded on our merry way.  Like I mentioned before, I searched for weeks to find the best rental car rate and for this entire trip we paid less than $500 TOTAL for this minivan.  That price is almost unheard of, especially for a minivan.  The Emerald Aisle section at the Vancouver Airport was loaded with Quad Cab Pickups, SUVS, Full Size cars, and even a full-size Excursion.

Snowater Resort

The first week of our stay we used a timeshare exchange to stay at the Snowater Resort.  I’d hardly call this place a resort, but nonetheless it’s located right outside the National Park on the way to Mt Baker Ski area so they call themselves a resort.  We had a 1 bedroom loft unit that was supposed to be 2 private bedrooms, but it definitely wasn’t a private bedroom as it is open to the living room below.  Nooksack Creek from Snowater Resort - Pacific NorthwestThe scenery is gorgeous with views of the raging Nooksak River out back made for an awesome sound machine at night.  It was a down time for the resort so it was really quiet.  Two big negatives with the resort.  The upstairs loft room gets very hot during the day and takes a while to cool off.  There is no fan up there so regulating the air flow was very difficult.  There was also a cleaning fee of $130, yet they ask you to throw all the trash out at the dumpster down the street, wash all the dishes, and take all the linens off the beds.  All in all the resort met our needs, the location was good, and we lived to see another day.  When we come back we’d probably seek out an AirBNB in lieu of this place.

Glacier, WA

We can’t say enough good things about the town of Glacier, WA.  First on the list is the Wake n Bakery!!  This place was so neat.  Wake 'N Bakery - Pacific NorthwestThey make a really good cup of coffee and several desert bars and cookies.  Our favorite was the Magic Cookie Bar.  In fact, we liked it so much, we bought a half sheet to take with us the Friday we left Glacier for our next destination so we could have some every day!  The owners are very nice, the place just has a cool vibe that makes you feel welcome and the food is great!  If you are passing by or staying anywhere near Glacier, WA, the Wake n Bakery has to be on your list of places to visit.  Give them a follow on Facebook so you don’t forget too!!  Our second favorite stop was the Glacier Public Service Center run by the National Forest Service.  The folks there are very knowledgeable of the entire area, they can point you to some good hikes to check out, road closures, as well as some neat information about the history of the area.  Last but not least, Chair 9 Pizza and Sports Restaurant.  We stopped in here after one of our difficult hikes (more on this later), the beer was good, the pizza was good, and the kids colored while dad got to watch sports, plus they had free WiFi, which in an area with no cell signal is a welcomed site to help plan your next day adventures.

Since this post was pretty long, I figure it’s best to let you read through this and digest it before overloading you.  Don’t worry there is more to come!  The next post will focus on what we did each day the first week as well as direct links to the Washington Trails App as well as All Trails app and my subsequent reviews and pictures of each trail.  For now enjoy the info in this post and if you have questions, shoot them to us in the comments.  Thanks!

Hawaii 2007

When we started this blog, my wife and I had discussed we would only include those trips we had taken with our kids.  The more we thought about it, we had a lot to tell about all other other trips as well.  So let’s kick this thing off with our first trip as a married couple!  As the post title suggest, yes we went to Hawaii!!

This was our very first real trip together, atlas one that required quite a bit of planning.  I’ll be honest, we did not do a great job with planning, but we learned a lot.  For the first week we were there, we stayed at the Park Shore Waikiki.  Make no mistake, the website and the pictures make this hotel out to be FAR more than it is.  Yes, I realize this was 10 years ago.  However, based on my research, this hotel has not undergone significant renovations since.  The best part about the hotel was it’s location.  Our room overlooked the alley and trash dumpsters below, and the room was the smallest hotel room I had ever been in.  That being said, we didn’t go to Hawaii to spend money on the fanciest hotel.

To spend an entire week on Oahu was definitely a mistake on our part.  However, we got a great deal on the hotel room, and I haven’t mentioned this yet, but we also had planned a cruise for a week around all the Hawaiian Islands leaving out of Honolulu.  My Aunt and Uncle essentially planned the cruise portion of the trip as they were renewing their vows on Maui, so we tagged along.  Since this was so long ago, I am going to quickly recap in bullet point format the things we did on Oahu.

Oahu Activities!

  • “Hiked” / Walked up so many stairs to the top of Diamond Head at sunrise.  Truly spectacular and worth the time
  • Snorkling at Kailua.  It was a little rough the day we went, but we were able to rent gear for $20 each and had a nice time.  We got the bus schedule mixed up on the way back (before UBER) and ended up being on the Bus for probably 2 hours.
  • Dole Plantation.  Just a neat place to see all the Pineapple and learn the history
  • North Shore, a nice drive there from Waikiki if you rent a car.  Extremely calm in the summer, the big waves are in the winter.
  • Polynesian Cultural Center – The best part was the evening cultural dance, being able to see the various performances from the cultures was really neat.
  • The Beach….was very crowded, but pretty neat in that there were so many boogie boarders right at this walled pier area all going at the same time.  In addition one night there was a live band that we could hear and see from the Hotel Pool balcony.
  • Last, and certainly not least, Pearl Harbor.  Just visiting a place like Pearl Harbor can send chills down your spine. The fact that there is still oil bubbles coming from the bottom of the water where the ships are sunk is kind of surreal.

Royal Caribbean Cruise

Now onto the cruise.  First, I will never travel on a cruise by Norwegian Cruise Lines again.  It was the worst experience ever, especially for a first time cruise. They advertise Freestyle Cruising…it is anything but Freestyle.  My vision of freestyle and a Hawaiian cruise is board shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops 24/7.  That is not the case, especially if you want to eat dinner somewhere on the ship other than the buffet line.  I actually had to spend time at our first stop of Hilo to go to Walmart and buy pants.  We only spent 1 day at each stop which made it difficult to do anything.  However, we did spend 2 days on Maui.  The first day was spent with my Aunt and Uncle for their vow renewal, a truly beautiful ceremony with just family on an off the beat path on the beach followed by dinner at Roys.  The 2nd day we did an excursion bike ride down Mt. Haleakala .  It was by far the highlight of our trip.  At the top the temperature is in the 40’s in the summer and you are above the clouds.  As you transcend down the mountain, you only have to pedal one time for about 400 yards, you literally coast the entire way down.  Not only is it a thrill, but as you go down the mountain it is as though you are experiencing all four seasons.  Pictures and words do not do it justice, you have to experience it for yourself.  On this trip to Hawaii we didn’t truly experience Kauai like we should have, we did a kayak excursion which was great, but not what we expected.  We would have to save Kauai until summer of 2012.

 Boogie Boarders Just me trying to win a golf ball chip in contest (I got 2nd) on the cruise.

 Maui Maui Uncle & PastorThe Ceremony & Family (Me, Uncle, Aunt, Cousin, Island Pastor)


 Kauai Top of Mt Haleakala Just a Sea Turtle – Kona Kauai Na’Pali CoastKauai Na’Pali Coast Concert from hotel Pool Deck Pearl Harbor Pearl Harbor Park Shore Waikiki Waikiki Beach Kailua Kailua Dole Plantation Dole Pantation North Shore Polynesian Cultural CenterDiamond Head