Pacific Northwest!! (Post 4 of TBD)

Days 5 and 6

Of all our trips, the days are when we just get in the car and go without a plan.  When I say without a plan, I really mean, we are going to a general area and if we see something cool we are going to take that path.  Often times, these paths are representative of the Robert Frost poem.  We almost always like to take the path less traveled by.  During our last two full days in the Glacier, WA area we decided to head back towards Bellingham and also towards the Cascadian Farm.  Some of our visits these days include:  Cascadian Farms, Baker Lake, Chuckanut Drive, Taylor Shellfish Farms, The Filling Station, and GeoCaching!

Cascadian Farms

If you are like us, and have kids, you have tried to purchase all organic groceries.  In addition, like us, you probably haven’t been successful in incorporating this into your every day life.  However, that didn’t stop us from wanting to visit the Cascadian farm in Concrete, Wa.  One thing we loved about Washington was all of the farms and gardens people had in their yards.  It definitely got us in the mode of wishing we could have gardens here like they do in Washington.  Here we have two pictures, the first being the obligatory picture of the small building on the property.  In the building they sell a few snacks and milkshakes and ice cream hand made on site.  It was definitely delicious.  We sat out back, enjoyed our treats, and the view.  In the second picture, we have a row of new growth starting up.  There actually wasn’t a sign to say what it was.  However, the more interesting part about this picture is the woods to the left.  To the left on the mountains and directly behind the Cascadian Farms building is all protected forest land.  What’s even better is the land was designated as such by local families that owned the land.  They chose not to develop the land, but to set up a natural habitat.  Who is this natural habitat for you may ask.  Bald Eagles.  In the winter they come by the thousands to this one area.  It is so popular that the town of Concrete, Wa has a Bald Eagle festival every weekend in January!

Baker Lake

Baker lake was not one of those places we planned to attend.  However, we are so glad that we did!  It was truly a beautiful, quiet, and peaceful area.  We were driving around looking for places we might be able to cast a line in the water in the Skagit River.  For the majority of this trip, we did not have any cell phone signal, so if we didn’t know 100% where we wanted to go in advance, we had to use a paper map.  Yes I said a paper map.  I am thankful that as a kid I was forced to learn how to read a map.  Not just a driving map, but essentially any map you put in front of me, I can read it, understand it, and know where I am.  As we were looking for fishing spots I looked on the map and saw this lake as well as a road that wound is way around varying high points of mountain points, which typically signals there are trails present.  We decided to just take a chance at a side road in the town of Concrete and it led to a road up the mountain.  When we go to the top of this initial road we were blessed with a 3 second view of mountain ranges in the distance to the south.  We then proceeded on the other side of this mountain where we entered the Baker Lake area.  In one of the more picturesque places of our entire trip we snapped several photos that as usual don’t even do the area justice.  I could have stayed here for days just enjoying the view.  The first stop we made was Panorama Point Campground.  Yes you can camp with this view.  It is absolutely amazing, stunning, and literally unbelievable.  We stopped to have lunch here at the campground and just enjoyed the view.  After lunch we drove across Baker Lake Dam.  By the way….the Dam is super cool and eery at the same time.  When you drive across, you feel like you are only a couple feet above the water level.  My wife had her eyes closed and just kept repeating please drive please drive.

So of course I slowed down for some amusement.  This was a quick stop, but not the last of our Baker Lake area adventures.  We saw a side road that didn’t appear on the paper map, but seemed well traveled.  On my All Trails app, it showed a trail at the end of the road, so we decided to give it a shot.  It was definitely a long, bumpy, pot holed covered dirt road.  I don’t really know how long it took us to get to the end.  We never even made it because the road turned to complete snow.  Other cars parked where we had and walked the 3/4 of a mile more to the beginning of the trail head.  We definitely have added it to our bucket list because the pictures we’ve seen from others hiking this trail are amazing.  Do a quick search or click here and check out Park Butte Lookout.  You will not be disappointed.

The long random drives and stops for lunch made our day go by quick, so we took a nice drive back to the timeshare and stopped along the way to do some GeoCaching!

Bellingham – Part Deux

Let’s see if we can keep this narrowed down a bit since I’ve already chatted a bit about Bellingham.  Even though it took our second trip to Bellingham to visit these areas, you absolutely MUST visit these.  First, a winding drive mostly covered by State Park protected land, Chuckanut Drive.  I can see this being a beautiful relaxing drive by bicycle.  In the rain, the car was much better.  Again, even in rainy weather this drive was incredible with stops overlooking the water, numerous trails and amazing houses in places along the way.

We just happened to be driving down Chuckanut drive when I saw a sign for Taylor Shellfish farms.  About a half mile back I had stopped at an overlook and saw massive Oyster Shell Farms located in the water down below.  It was really quite interesting reading about them and the value they play to the ecosystem out there.  With the issues our local waterways and ecosystem are having here, it was really neat to see how valuable the Oysters can be people are placing here.  In typical fashion for our trips I decided to turn off.  Don’t be alarmed, yes there is a straight down hill driveway, yes you cross the rail road tracks where there is a small rail port holding area that you drive right along.  It seems as though you shouldn’t be allowed to drive down there.  If you keep driving, eventually you get to Taylor Shellfish Farms.  It’s a very neat place, selling all types of Oysters.  We got 2 Dozen of varying types, I shucked them all and we downed them in no time.  I grew up eating Oysters (in Florida only in months ending in R).  My wife and mother-in-law on the other hand did not.  This picture and video says it all  at the link to the right. This was an experience for them.  It was rainy and cold outside, but you shuck em and eat em and toss em all outside onto the shore below their dock.  Really you must stop here and if nothing else learn about the local culture and history.

The Filling Station

For lunch we decided to stop and eat somewhere.  I think we only did this for lunch twice in our entire 3 week trip as eating out is very expensive out here, especially with kids.  That being said, this was a pretty neat place.  They had Bloody Mary buffet so you could build your own.   They bring your glass with Vodka in it (yes they have Bacon Vodka!!!) and you go up to the bar and pick your own ingredients and fill your glass yourself for your own custom Bloody Mary. Really quite a neat perspective and way to get people to try something unique.  They had a really good tea that day made with mint, lavender and perhaps one other thing I can’t recall, but it was delicious.  The food was good as well, several unique items to choose from that made it difficult to pick just one.  All told, we highly recommend you give this place a chance.

That pretty much concludes our last two days in the northern half of Washington State.  Up next…our drive from Glacier, Wa to our “home” for the next week, Packwood, Wa.


Pacific Northwest 2017! (Post 3 of TBD)

Days 3 and 4

So we’ve given you a brief overview of our trip to Washington as well as our first two days.  Now we are going to give you a quick look at days 3 and 4 of our trip.  Up on tap:  Scenic Highway 20, Thunder Knob Trail / Diablo Lake, North Cascades Visitor Center, Washington Pass Overlook, Heliotrope Ridge Trail, and Chair 9 Restaurant!

Scenic Highway 20

We began our 3rd day in typical fashion with a stop at the Wake ‘N Bakery.  From there we proceeded south toward the town of Sedro Wooley.  We then picked up highway 20 to head east.  The drive is absolutely beautiful and winds through several small towns.  On a clear day you can catch glimpses of Mt Baker and many other peaks.  On this day we were fortunate enough to have one of our few completely sunny days.  Our first stop was the North Cascades Visitor Center.   The turn off is relatively obscure, but the center itself is pretty neat.  Boasting a 3D topographical map, video about the area and a gift shop with the usual Park Service trinkets.  A short jaunt down a boardwalk out the back of the center leads you to a nice little view of a glacier.  After this quick pit stop, it was time for our first  hike of the day, Thunder Knob Trail

Thunder Knob Trail

Round trip this trail is about 3.5 miles.  It is also almost completely straight up.  It’s a pretty steep climb once you really get into it.  However, the work is well worth it!  We didn’t see many animals, just a few chipmunks, but the stench of possibly some bobcats was nearby.  About half way up you get to a clearing where you get a glimpse of something so spectacular it makes you want to sit there and just stare all day.  Alas we needed to move on to see what was at the top!  This hike most definitely worked the calves toting a little one on the back, but our Deuter Kid Comfort III saved my back and shoulders!!!  Once you get to the top though, you are rewarded with a gorgeous view of Diablo Lake.  There are numerous sub trails you can take at the top to walk around for differing views.  If you are lucky enough you can get a chipmunk to come up to you.  This is another spot in which you can sit and stare for hours.  It’s extremely peaceful and you’re lucky if you pass two other groups of hikers on the whole trail.

Washington Pass Overlook

Drive a little further, and by a little I mean a few hours further, and you reach the Washington Pass Overlook.  At 5,400 feet it’s the highest point you can drive to in Washington State.  On the day we drove up we were forced to park right at the entrance off Highway 20 due to snow covering the road way.  However, that made for a more fun walk up to the boardwalk lookout.  The road was pretty clear, but the kids had more fun running in the snow and throwing it.   As with every stop we made this trip, the views were unbelievable.    With an amazing view of Liberty Bell mountain and the surrounding snow covered woodlands, this was well worth the several hour drive.

Heliotrope Ridge Trail

In what was perhaps one of the most fun hikes we have done with our family, the Heliotrope Ridge trail did not disappoint!  The access to this trail is just down the road from the Visitor Center for the Park Service in Glacier.  Once you turn down the Forest Service road, it is quite a long drive up a very narrow road.  Regardless, the drive is pretty bumpy, but oh so beautiful.  Once you arrive to the end of the road you have reached the trail head.  I will post a few pictures here of the trail, but they don’t even come close to doing it justice.  Determining the full length of this trail was difficult due to all the snow.  Based on our trek using the All Trails app tracking our GPS location, roundtrip we hiked 5.8 miles and exceeded 2,800 feet in elevation climb.  Our 6 year old Evan hiked the entire trail roundtrip with no problem.  Our 3 year old Olivia hiked the first 1.75 miles on her own before finally succumbing to our Deuter Kid Comfort 3 carrier.  Pretty impressive from both kids as the hike was almost entirely straight uphill.  From the moment we hit the trail we had to deal with snow.  Three areas in particular where both sketchy walking across and beautiful at the same time.  The first is at this small location of a waterfall where everything else is covered in snow and you have only a small thin path in the snow to walk, one slip and down you go to the bottom!  Even more astonishing was the view as you look the opposite direction from the waterfall.  For as far as you can see there are snow capped mountains and the view is just awe inspiring.  The second was right before crossing the creek leading down from another waterfall.  The creek was harder to cross on the way back as the snow melt later in the day had increased the water flow.  Lastly, when we got to the stop, the snow was so deep, but as we were walking we could hear the water just rushing underneath us.  It was very neat to hear, but at the same time a little scary knowing at any moment you could fall through.  Lastly, at the top you are again blessed with an assortment of views with more snow and beauty.  We took a break at the top to enjoy some snacks before heading back down.  At this point we were covered in snow.  Thankful we had some great hiking shoes and waterproof clothing…well most of us did anyway.  My poor son’s pants were not waterproof, but he was a trooper!  All told the hike took us approximately 4 hours roundtrip.  We began after lunch around 1pm or so and made it back to the car around 5pm.  When you have kids, hikes always take longer, but we wouldn’t have changed it for anything.

Chair 9 Restaurant

After a long tiring hike we didn’t want anything to do with cooking dinner.  We were fortunate Chair 9 restaurant was on the way right outside the trail and right before Snowater, where we were staying.  With free wifi, ice cold beer, and coloring pages and crayons for the kids, we were set!  The pizza was excellent, the staff friendly, and the environment was really great.  We couldn’t say enough nice things about this place.

That does it for days 3 and 4.  We hope you enjoyed this post and look forward to our next post!