The Washington state expedition

photo-69We recently returned from 10 days in Seattle and the surrounding area. It was a great trip! A few highlights:

Eating clam chowder at one of Seattle’s best spots near Pike’s Place. We didn’t know that — and we were eating early so there was no crowd. It was only after I sat down with my chowder that I realized there was suddenly a line snaking out the door. Also near Pike’s Place: fresh donuts, hot off the grill. An octopus sitting in ice at a fish store. Beautiful heirloom tomatoes. Mmm….

Going to the top of the Space Needle. Yes, it was rainy, but the kids still thought it was cool. Of course, they also thought the elevators in the Embassy Suites later on were pretty cool, too. You’d think my 6-year-old didn’t spend the first 4 years of his life living in a Manhattan high-rise riding elevators multiple times per day.

Getting to meet blogger Anandi (House of Peanut), and her adorable children, in person during a trip to Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. We saw lions prowling around their exhibit, and got to see an elephant getting a bath.

Going on a boat ride with some friends around Mercer Island. The owner of the boat let my two boys “drive” for a minute, at which point he picked up the speed and my toddler started howling. Much concern. Was the wind bothering her? The cold? Nope — she saw her brothers taking the wheel and she wanted a turn, too. So the captain gamely sat there with a 20-month-old on his lap as she steered us up toward the freeway bridge.

Spending the solstice somewhere where it was light from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Finishing the Seattle Rock n Roll half-marathon. My time wasn’t great (2:22 — I’d done 2:19 in Philly 7 months before) but at least it was sunny, clear, and 70 degrees. It was perfect running weather. We could see Mt. Rainier better than we could later on when we were on the slope! I ran the first 10 miles with my husband before he decided to speed up for the finish. Our nanny (she came along — a highlight in its own right!) was standing with our children about a quarter mile from the finish line. It was so motivational coming up that last hill to hear the kids shouting “Mommy!” Of course, they weren’t so clear on the concept of competing against your own times. My 3-year-old asked before the race if we were going to win.

Staying in a friend’s beautiful beach house on Bainbridge Island with views of Seattle and the mountains. We did long walks ambling along the beach (when it appeared — dramatic tides!) looking at crabs and clam shells. We also went canoeing with the older kids.

I spent a lovely few morning hours before people woke up (multiple days) working on my novel. The good thing about traveling westward is that the time change makes me a real morning person. It’s amazing what you can get done before breakfast. Someone should write a book about that 🙂

At the Bainbridge Art Museum, my 6-year-old got to quiz children’s book illustrator Barbara Helen Berger about how she made her pictures. The answer — which involves water color and colored pencil — sounds like it might be doable as a home project for us.

On the Olympic Peninsula, we hiked in the Hoh Rain Forest. The kids did very well on two short hikes (0.8 miles and 1.2 miles) and the Sitka spruces and dangling mosses were utterly fantastical. We got a photo of all of us trying to put our arms around a giant spruce. We also found out why many giant spruces appear to have gaping holes at the bottom with their roots branching out. They start growing on fallen trees (“nurse logs”), sending their roots down around the old trunk. Eventually the old tree rots away, leaving that space.

I got a kick out of all the Twilight related signs and stores in Forks, Washington, which is an old logging town turned into a teen vampire destination. It was fascinating to see how a book series (well, and the movies) can draw visitors to a region. That’s a new source of cash in an area that’s continuing the old battle over logging vs. preservation. We saw lots of signs saying “Working forests = Working families.” And some pretty ugly clear cut tracts.  

We had lunch sitting in a restaurant on the Pacific Ocean off Highway 101: clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls. Unfortunately, the beach was too cold and rainy to stay on long, but the view was powerful: cliffs, and huge logs from fallen trees washed out toward the sea.

Lake Quinault Lodge has a very well-heated indoor pool. This was nice when it rained a lot. The kids were good troopers when we got caught in a downpour during a hike in the Quinault Rain Forest.

We stayed at Paradise Inn in Mt. Rainier National Park, which was up high enough that there was still snow everywhere. My kids found it incredible to be able to walk on snow on June 26 and June 27. I spent some time early one morning snuggling with my two little boys in a cozy bed, looking out at the snow. That was strange past the summer solstice, but very special to experience. We talked to some of the hikers who were headed up to the summit of Mt. Rainier, and studied their crampons and other gear.

Embassy Suites have pools, two room suites with fold-out beds, included breakfast, and free drinks during happy hour with — key for the kids — popcorn and other snacks. My kids were honestly just as happy staying in the hotel near the airport as they were seeing the mountains, coastline, and temperate rainforest. At least they were well-rested and fed before what turned into a very, very long flight home. But I’ll try not to have that be my take-away from vacation!

Photo: Snow outside the window, on the morning of June 27 at Paradise Inn, Mt. Rainier National Park

7 thoughts on “The Washington state expedition

  1. Sounds like you had a great trip!

    You were actually in Seattle the same time as my husband–his trip was specifically timed so his (nationwide) team could run the mini-marathon together.

    I remember hitting up the Embassy Suites happy hours with my parent when I was a kid…now we still do it, but I’m the parent in that scenario. It all comes full circle…. and my kids are with your kids: Mt Ranier is cool, but so is happy hour.

    Glad you had a great trip. Welcome home!

    1. @Anne – hope your husband’s time was better than mine! The funny part about running a 2:22 half on a course that’s split marathon/half is that you wind up crossing the finish line right around the same time as some of the fastest marathoners… my kids got to see the winners go by. Who are, yes, running twice as fast as me.

      I’m considering just taking my kids to the Embassy Suites for their next vacation. No need to leave Philadelphia.

  2. Awesome! I think you have seen more of my state than I have, and I’ve lived here for almost 15 years!

    We went to Forks for a weekend trip pre-Twilight so I’d love to see how it’s changed (or maybe not since I HATED that book so very much). Alas, our lovely B&B was “no kids” so I’ll have to find different accommodations.

    Glad your trip went well, and it was lovely to meet you guys.

    1. @ARC – There was a lot of random Twilight related stuff on the peninsula. Like there’d be an old souvenir store that clearly wasn’t doing that great a business, and the owner decided to rebrand it as a Twilight themed store. We saw a hotel that advertised “Edward Cullen didn’t sleep here!”

      What I found most interesting is that some of the teenagers wandering around just looked like Bella from the movie — kind of pale, dark hair, wispy. Maybe it’s the Evergreen state teenage look. Like post-grunge.

      It was lovely to meet you too! Hope everything went well that day.

  3. When I was 10, the family went to Expo in Montreal. Don’t remember ANYTHING about Expo, but the hotel! Due to the housing service’s debacle with our reservation, they put us up in a 2-room penthouse suite with foyer, where room-service ginger ale came with little umbrellas and monkeys hanging off the edge, we overlooked a copy of St. Paul’s, and the “delicate thin pancakes” were our breakfast delight. 45 years later THAT’S what my brothers and I remember LOL! Oh, and the subway (we don’t have a subway in the ‘burbs)

    My neighbors who take the kids for the weekend to local hotels with a pool or waterpark are pretty smart — they don’t even have to get a pet sitter, one just stops by the house a couple times a day.

    1. @nother Barb – I recall reading a statistic (which may or may not be true) in a Disney World guide finding that 60% of preschoolers said their favorite part of the Disney vacation was the hotel pool. I’m not quite sure how one would conduct that survey so I quote it with wariness. But I imagine the sentiment is correct, and the moral is that one should be careful about saving up and assigning a lot of significance to a Disney vacation if you have young kids. If it’s what the parents want to do, great. But don’t delude yourself that it’s primary to the children’s happiness.

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