Dates: July 3-12, 2023
People: Mark, Sarah, Luke, Jonah, Seth
7-3 (Travel Day)
7-4 (Seattle, Deception Pass)
7-5 (North Cascades)
7-6 (Lake Chelan)
7-7 (Mt. Rainier)
7-8 (Mt. Rainier)
7-11 (Point Defiance, Seattle)
7-12 (Travel Day)
This was a novel type of trip for us. To fly across the country and to camp at the same time. A lot of thought and decision-making went into how to pull this off. In terms of gear we boiled things down to the essentials: tents, sleeping bags, mattress pads, pillows. We didn't bring chairs, a screen tent or any other usuals for camping. We did bring some of our basic LED illumination lanterns and string lights as they were very small. During the trip we kept all the camp gear in two bags to be pulled out each night. This kept the back end of our minivan fairly organized.
The big question then became food. Do you try and camp cook during the trip? We opted for no. We decided the focus would be on the travel and sightseeing. If we camp cooked every evening we would be obligated to pull into camp by dinner time to allow for cooking time. We didn't want this pressure shortening our days. So we opted to do dinners along the road. For lunch we decided to go picnic style and kept sandwich supplies and portable fruit cups as well as bags of chips. For breakfast we had breakfast bars as well as a gallon of milk and a box of cereal. This all worked quite well. We had two days where we flip-flopped the lunch and dinner plans. Where we would buy a big lunch meal at places like Stehekin or Mt. Rainier we would then come back to camp and do our picnic for supper. To not have to pack all the cooking gear or worry about it affecting our daily itinerary was a good decision for this trip.
The other positive about camping was it allowed us to stay within the national parks and closer to our objectives. If we stuck to hotels we would be stuck to the towns and cities every night or would pay large amounts of money for a National Park lodge.
When our original plan had us travelling with all seven of us we had rented a 10-passenger van through the Turo.com site. We changed this for two reasons. One was that we didn't think our credit card rental insurance would apply with Turo. The other was the decision to leave the two littles home. We downgraded to a normal minivan. We had a Chrysler Voyager. This worked great. The minivan had the right seats and the right room in the backend with half the bench folded down for everyone's personal luggage bag as well as the two camp bags. It was close to full but we kept everyone's stuff contained in their bags and this kept the back end modular and easy to work with.
The only other big challenge we faced was the question of showers. Each of the first two nights camping we had campgrounds with showers but they required either tokens or quarters. The first night we didn't bother and the second night we didn't have any quarters. This pushed us into a third night and fourth night where there were no showers. We made do. Needless to say by the end of this opening streak of days camping we were very glad to finally be out to a hotel and to get cleaned up.
MONDAY JULY 3
With an evening flight we had most of the day today to take care of business at home and at work and finish getting packed. I worked the morning at Grace getting things wrapped up and prepared for my absence. Around 425p we dropped off Anya and Ben at Mom and Dad's house and said good byes and then Dad followed us back to our house for the airport drop. We left our house 510p to head out. DTW had no line at security and things didn't look too busy at any gate. We had a 730p flight so plenty of time to relax. We walked over to the Chick-fil-A and the Pei Wei and had supper there around 630p.
We departed DTW on time for MDW. Sarah and I used drink coupons in flight. Sarah tried a lemon vodka seltzer drink, I had a rum and Dr. Pepper. We got into Chicago a few minutes early. We walked around a bit and finally decided to settle at our gate. It was a 2+ hour layover. While we waited I made calls to the hotel and Alamo rental car to make sure our late arrival wouldn't be an issue. The hotel noted it and said all was fine. Alamo said they had our flight info, and even though they closed at 1am they would have people there late to accommodate us. Even so, we made the decision to use two of our free upgraded boardings from our SWA card to get seats near the front of the plane. The plan would be I would get off and immediately head to the rental car to be there close to 1am while the others all did bags.
We left Chicago on time and were able to see fireworks going off in all the neighborhoods. You don't realize how low fireworks pop until you're in an airplane flying far above them. In flight the pilot warned of storms over Montana and there may be turbulence in spots. We ended up doing a bit of a reroute that would add some time. In the end I think we would have been 20 minutes early, but with the reroute we just ended up being on time. During the flight Sarah and I both did drinks again, similar choices to our previous leg. I watched episode 2 of Marvel Secret Invasion and several What If episodes. I then tried to sleep for most of the last 90 minutes of this 4 hour flight.
When we arrived in Seattle, splitting up was absolutely the right decision to do. From the plane I immediately made my way to the car rental shuttle. The others went to baggage claim. Both took a fair amount of time. I found the car rental shuttle and rode that out to the main base where all the car rental companies are. Most of the counters on the main floor were shut down but they had directions to send you down a floor to the kiosks where you pick up the cars. So I went down there and the Alamo one was completely shut down. Thankfully as I hovered around and prepared to call Alamo, whose phone service was already shut down for the night, a lady saw me and said go to the National counter because we're the same company and they can help. I did and the lady immediately went and found a minivan for me from Alamo. I checked it out and began to drive to the gates. They were doing all of the registration and questions for the vehicle at the checkout gate. Unfortunately I had four cars ahead of me and each of them took quite a bit of time. When my turn came the checkout went fairly smoothly except she was emailing me my rental agreement and the email never arrived. So I hovered around waiting 15 minutes and then asked her to print it, and the moment she began to print it the email arrived at the rental agreement. All of that being said the checkout for the car and the getting of the car took at least an hour. The others have been waiting with the bags for probably a half an hour at least.
Thankfully the hotel was only about 5 minutes from the airport, we got over there with a smooth check in, got to our room and settled in. I think it was around 2:30 a.m. when we were all finally trying to get to sleep. We were staying at the Comfort Inn & Suites Sea-Tac Airport.
TUESDAY JULY 4
I was up around 7:30 a.m. this morning. Even though this probably didn't total more than 4 hours of sleep for the night I actually feel decent this morning. I think my body clock just decided with daylight I'm getting up no matter the time, no matter how much sleep. I went downstairs grabbed a quick bite of sausage and eggs and then outside for a nice walk.
I came back and now tried a waffle while I waited for the rest to get up. As it neared 840 I went upstairs to coax everyone down to breakfast before it closed. This Comfort Inn had standard Choice Hotels breakfast fare. After breakfast we went back up to the room to relax. We ended up watching the latter 2/3 of X-Men: Days of Future Past. We checked out shortly before 11am.
We drove to downtown Seattle and parked at 1530 Alaskan Way just by the Pike Market place. We walked through the market for awhile taking it all in but it was overwhelmed with people. We headed down to the Waterfront and did some more walking there. The Seattle Aquarium is right down there as well as a few outfits running harbor cruises. We did lunch at The Salmon Cooker. A little pricey but hard to avoid that. Seth and I both tried a smoke salmon fish and chips. Their "chips" they called "Jo-Jos" and they were basically thick potato wedges fried, pretty good. We did a little more walking around after lunch and then headed back to the car. We made it out of the parking garage just before our 2 hour mark passed. It was $4/hour. On our way out of downtown we drove by the Space Needle.
We headed out of Seatte and on our way north to Deception Pass. We stopped at the Walmart in Marysville to load up on groceries and snacks for the next week. The plan is to do breakfast and lunch from this supply. The drive further into northern Washington was pretty and we enjoyed all sorts of views along the way. We drove up to Burlington and then went west on State 20 onto Fidalgo Island. The drive into Deception Pass State Park was also quite pretty. When we reached the double bridges at the "Pass" there were a ton of cars parked and plenty of people walking the bridges for views and photos. We could also see people down at the north beach. It was around 430p when we arrived at the Park.
We got into our campsite in Lower Loop A, Site 130. They didn't charge us a day use fee since we had the campsite. It was a lovely campground and state park. We parked at our campsite, got settled a bit, and then decided on a walk over to the west beach area. You could tell it was a holiday. The 4th of July crowd had the parking lot full and tons of people. There was beach for Cranberry Lake on one side and plenty of people in the water swimming. There was also ocean beach on the other side, fewer in the water as it was pretty cold. We spent a good amount of time down here exploring and enjoying it.
We returned to our site, go the tents setup and food unpacked onto the table. Since we had such a big lunch we opted to to "lunch" for supper and we did sandwiches and snacks. After supper we relaxed for a bit and played cards til it got closer to sunset. Around 8:30p we walked back down to the beach to enjoy the sunset. The boys spent a good amount of time climbing on rocks and exploring again. Sarah and I took photos. Plenty of others were down there to also enjoy sunset. We were back to camp by 943. By 1030 most of us were in the tent and ready for bed after last night's short night.
WEDNESDAY JULY 5
Sarah and I were both up naturally early this morning. It was like 5:45 when we walked to the light. I took a walk to the bathroom and then walked on down to the camp store and follow the West Beach Trail all the way to the West Beach and then back to camp. We didn't like the boys up until 7:45. So we took the morning fairly easy. We had our light breakfast and tore down camp. We then went back down to the beach to explore for a few more minutes. It was amazing how low the tide was. We saw a couple bald eagles down there. It was 9:40 when we finally hit the road.
We got gas at the Fred Meyer in Burlington and also picked up more ice. We then continue to east on state 20 to head into North Cascades. The visitor Center was in Newhalem. On the drive-in we are already getting some views of some pretty spectacular peaks. We also crossed a single line bridge over the Skagit River to get into the VC. We check things out there and then out the back door of the visitor center was the Sterling Munro Trail, the short point 1 mile boardwalk to a viewing area of the Picket range of mountains. Spectacular and jagged.
It was here we finally settled the decision that we would do the Maple Pass Loop this afternoon. So it began to set out our afternoon itinerary. We wanted to be starting on that hike by 1:00 or 2:00, assuming the hike would take 3 hours, and then eating another 2 hours to drive on down to our campsite tonight. We knew we needed to be there by 8:00 in order to keep our site. We also wanted supper before everything closed.
After leaving New Haven we stopped at the gorge overlook Trail. Sarah and Jonah walked towards the bridge to get pictures there. Luke Seth and I started on the loop trail and walked that around. We met up at the end. We drove onward and intended to stop at the Diablo Lake overlook but must have missed signage or the turnoff and so kept driving. It was amazing how narrow the gorge was that we drove through on the highway. But the views are still spectacular with peaks ahead of us.
We made it to the rainy pass picnic area at 1:40 p.m., and we were pretty hungry for lunch. We paid our $5 US Forest service day use fee. We used table in the picnic area to eat and then the boys and I got ready for the hike up to the Maple Pass Loop.
I found Sarah back at the car and it started the drizzle a bit. The drizzle continued with us for the first bit of driving. We intended to stop at the Washington Pass overlook and somehow missed that as well. So we continue down in our driving for the rest of the day. As we left the mountain driving and entered into some of the flat and ranch lands we drove through an interesting town called Winthrop. Almost all of the buildings looked like they had built a hundred years ago and there were quite a few tourists walking the sidewalks there.
It was about 7:15 when they rolled into Chelan. We tried to call the campground to see if we could check in after 8:00 but nobody was answering. So we decided to make the 15 minute drive out to Wapato Lake and set up our tent. As we arrived there it said campground host off duty, so no one was watching anything. We set up our tent and then turned around and headed back into town.
We had supper at Company Creek pizza. Decent food but we had a good meal. We got talking to some nice locals and they were telling us about different places to see and correcting our pronunciations on a number of difficult words.
Back at the campground we only set up the half dome four tent tonight. The campground seemed very strict on only allowing one tent and the site was fairly small. Though the campground is probably only a third full.
It had been a warm day in Chelan and it was still 84° around 10:00 p.m. that night. Thankfully the humidity was low and there was some air moving. We tried playing cards around the table, but the little gnats loved our lights so much it became nearly impossible. That's what you get for Camping next to a little lake. It was fairly warm when I climbed into the tent and it made falling asleep a little difficult, but it did seem to cool a bit overnight.
THURSDAY JULy 6
As up at 6:15 this morning as we intended to have an early and quick morning. We had a time schedule to keep with the boat. I knew this is going to be a tough day to get in my step goal and so I took a number of laps around the campground just to get the legs moving this morning and get some steps in. Sarah and I both worked on breakfast at 7:00 and it was a beautiful morning there by Wapato Lake. I got the boys going shortly thereafter. I move things quickly and got camp struck and we're on the road by 7:45 as planned.
On the drive back into town we made a quick stop at Safeway for ice. That took a few minutes longer than expected, we still made it to the parking for Lady of the Lake at 8:15 as needed. We boarded the boat, the Lady Express, and found some seats on the main level. The upper level seats were already full. The check-in was fairly informal, I had passes from them on my Google wallet, but they simply asked for first name and found us on the list and checked us in without us actually showing any sort of pass or identification. We had paid 75 and a quarter per adult.
We departed Chelan at 8:35 and we're on our way. Every once while the captain would come on and explain where we were or any sites to see. At 9:15 we made our first stop at Fields Point Landing and picked up another 20 passengers or so. The boat was fairly full at this point. Most of the seats taken and the back portion of the lower deck had quite a bit of luggage and other packages to be delivered along the way. They talked of a rainbow falls tour that people could sign up for when we got to stahekin. We looked into it but decided we just wanted our free time for the 90 minutes we had up there.
The early portion of the ride was fairly scenic enjoying the sidewalls rising up above the lake. Early on they were mostly covered with short shrub grass. Later on they would become more mountainous and covered with evergreen trees. I would spend my time between sitting and enjoying some of the views out the window, and standing on the back deck and the open air and taking in the sites that way. The breeze off the water was quite cool in the morning enough that I couldn't stay in the breeze full time without getting cold.
We made our second stop at Prince Creek and dropped off a pair of backpackers. I talked to them before they left and they said they were hiking the Lake shore Trail back up to Stehekin from there. It was 10:50 when we made our third stop at Lucerne to drop people off. It was evident here we were going to be a little late getting into Stehekin. Your schedule to arrive at 11:00, but it end up being 11:15 when we arrived. We still got to keep our 90 minutes up at Stehekin.
I got off the boat and looked around for a little bit and then decided to do lunch. We looked at the lodge Cafe and the prices were quite outrageous, not surprisingly. We went into the shop next door and found they had some lunch sandwiches and microwavable sandwiches in their refrigerator. So we all did a couple different things. And ended up doing a bacon cheeseburger which I could throw in their microwave. I also tried a Georgetown brewing Johnny Utah pale ale beer. Luke and I did go over to the lodge Cafe and got an order of fries with beer cheese for $10. At the lodge Cafe Sarah tried the hummus and pita order. We sat outside to eat and enjoy the beautiful views towards the Cascade peaks to the northwest.
We walked up the hill to the visitor center and enjoyed looking around there. We bought two stuffed animals for Anya and Ben. When 12:30 came we walked back down the hill as this was time to board on the boat. By the time I got on the boat was half full already. We departed Stehekin at 12:45. We remarked how very similar Stehekin was to Isle Royale in the sense that both of them are at the end of a long boat ride. Both are these beautiful remote locations. You get a small taste of civilization at each with good food and beer.
On the return trip we made another stop at Lucerne but we did not stop at Prince Creek. Luke and I passed the time most of the way back playing a football game on his Android phone that was reminiscent of the old Tecmo super bowl. We were intrigued to learn along the way that Lake Chelan is the third deepest lake in America, just beating out Lake Superior which is 4th. Crater Lake in Oregon is of course first. Lake Tahoe is second. It was 3:22 when we made port in Chelan to get off.
It was over 90° there and we got into a very hot car. We hit the road to make our drive all the way to the west side of Rainier at Alder Lake. Along the way we got to enjoy the beautiful Columbia River gorge. We drove over Blewett Pass as well as Snoqualmie Pass. By then we were nearing the end of our gas tank, we had been holding out to try to find a price that was under $5 a gallon. We did so in North bend where we stopped at a Shell station and paid $4.92 a gallon. We also did supper there at the Popeyes.
It was a lot of driving tonight, totaling over four and a half hours. One of the highlights as we drove further south was seeing Rainier out to the east and just wondering at how big it was. It was consistently jaw-dropping to take in the look of it. We made it into camp at alder Lake Park 8:30 p.m. and it was nice to have a little bit of daylight still to set up our camp. We also had time to walk down to the lake edge and walk out on the dock. It was here we got another view of Mount Rainier as well as a little bit of cell signal.
After dark we had a good time just standing outside having fun conversation and playing trivia by the van. Sarah and Jonah slept in the car for the second night in a row so we only had to set up the 110.
FRIDAY JULY 7
I was up at 6:30 to a foggy and reasonably cool morning. I took a walk around a camp and then on down to the dock and the lake again so I can get a bit of cell signal for a few minutes. The lake was all socked in with fog and you certainly could not see towards Mount Rainier.
I spent some time in the visitor center and marveled at how the building was built to withstand the hundreds of inches of snow they received there in the winter. We decided at this time to flip-flop our meals today and to do lunch there in the cafe and then to do our picnic for supper at camp. And the cafe I tried their three pork tacos with rice for the side. It was decent. We also decided that we would do our hike on the skyline trail immediately after lunch.
As we return from the hike we found that Sarah had also started some hiking and made it to Myrtle Falls and back. We joined up with her and headed back to the car. We drove on down to reflection lakes and walk the trail along the lakes for a bit. It dawned on me that this was the Wonderland Trail while we were on it. We enjoyed a number of good pictures there at the lakes. After the lakes we decided to head on down to the campground and get things set up there. We arrived at camp around 4:30 p.m. and had plenty of time for the rest of the day.
At the Cougar Rock campground we were in Loop W in site 18. The rangers at check-in emphasized the need for careful fire care and food care to keep things away from the bears. For the third night in a row Sarah and Jonah both decided to sleep in the van and so we still only set up the one tent for the night. It was a really pretty sight but it was also very close to the road. During the early evening we could hear all of the traffic of the cars leaving Paradise. As the evening drew later though things quieted down. While the website for Krueger Rock laid out specific dimensions for the tent pads, our site had no specific place for the tent and plenty of room for a big tent or multiple tents. We did see other sites however had very small or unique tent pads. One even looked like an island.
Around 5:30 we did our picnic supper and finished off the bread and the lunch meat and the cheese. After supper the boys and I did a hike on the Wonderland Trail down to Longmire. Sarah drove down and joined us. We used the time down there to hop on the Wi-Fi at the museum and to do some research for our plans tomorrow. We had decided to not drive over to the sunrise side of Rainier and instead are going to try and drive and get close to Mount St Helens for views there. We really interested in trying to drive to the Spirit lakeside, but the road is long and windy and not very good condition. It was just going to take so long to drive in there. So we decided to come in from the west side. This had been our original plan until a mass of mudslide wiped out the upper portion of the roads that you can't get to the Johnston observatory. In fact a number of people's cars are still stuck up there until they repair the road. It does appear though that we can drive up the road as far as the Coldwater Ridge visitor center and so that will be our plan.
Back at Camp we enjoyed some snacks and family time together and played cards until it was dark.
SATURDAY JULY 8
I was up at 6:45 a.m. this morning. I hopped onto the Wonderland Trail for my morning walk. I walked towards the Nisqually River I wanted to see how the trail crossed over the river. It was fun how the trail did enter into the big wide river basin. It meandered through the rocks and the dirt and eventually a very large log bridge helped the trail across the river. The morning sky was all fogged in so there would be no views of Rainier.
We took a very relaxed approach to the morning, almost too relaxed. We didn't end up getting out of camp until 10:30 a.m. made me to stop at a small town grocery to pick up bread, lunch meat and cheese for lunch today. We then drove all the way out to Toledo where they were having a big cheese fest going on which slowed up the traffic in town. From there our route hooked us south to the Spirit Lake highway heading into Mount St Helens.
At 12:50 we found the St Helens Forest learning Center and decided this would be a great place for the picnic lunch. The clouds had opened up by this time and we were getting some pretty great views of Mount St Helens. We walked around and took pictures for a while and then we had it inside to tour the learning Center. They had a great video about the blast in the Eruption Theater. It seemed even the boys were intrigued by learning about the volcano blast from 1980. After touring the learning Center we headed outside and did a picnic lunch at one of the picnic tables.
Driving further down the road a few more miles we found the elk rock viewpoint and these were the best views. You could see an open view of the mountain itself and some of the desolation zone. A few more miles down the road from that was the cold water Ridge visitor center and we stopped there. That was the end of the road today. A major mudslide in May 2023 knocked out the road between this spot and the Johnson observatory.
It is a cold water were good, but not as good as from elk Rock. The Johnston Ridge was starting to block a little bit of the foot of the mountain from here. We did walk around the visitor center a bunch taking it all the information. I also walked to the winds of change loop which was a paved trail through a beautiful wildflower Meadows taking in more views. It was 3:15 when I left the visitor center. They're absolutely pleased with a decision to do Mount St Helens today and it worked out wonderfully.
At 4:25 we are in Rochester Washington and made a gas stop. $4.79/gal here. Just before 5:00 we made it to our hotel at the Quality inn and suites in Lacey Washington. On the drive-in we were very near Olympia and I think we saw the Capitol building from the far. First order of business in the hotel was for all to take showers. That had been one of the challenges of this trip so far was making it through those days of camping without showers. Well some of our campgrounds did have showers early on, we were lacking the quarters to pay for them.
Well everyone showered I spent the time researching ideas for tomorrow in Olympic as well as supper tonight. For supper I ended up finding this fun place called Hops-n-Drops. They seem to have a nice mix of food as well as beer choices and the reviews spoke very well of them. There was one just three miles from the hotel so we drove there for supper. Sure enough the food and beer was pretty good. I tried a Mac and Jack's African Amber and absolutely loved it. So much so I was willing to pay for a second one. Here's the description their menu offered of it:
Description: The Northwest’s original, unfiltered and dry hopped amber ale. African Amber’s pioneering and innovative style is proof that drinkability does not have to be achieved by sacrificing flavor. This beer erupts with a floral, hoppy taste, followed by a well rounded malty middle, finishing with a nicely organic hop flavor. Locally sourced two row grain and a blend of specialty malts give our amber its rich taste. Further complexity is achieved by leaving the beer unfiltered, providing exceptional flavor, as well as giving our amber its unique...
For the meal I tried their patty melt with cheddar and with fries in the side. It was very good. It's a great meal. Everyone enjoyed their stuff. The only downside was it turned out to be very pricey, After tip I think we are $155.
We're back to the hotel by 8:30 to settle in for the evening. We ended up watching Beverly hills cop 3 on the television. I think Luke enjoyed it.
SUNDAY JULY 9
Being in the hotel last night I actually slept in a little bit this morning, it was 7:30 when I got up. Had a bit of a headache this morning so I headed down to breakfast right away to get a little bite to eat and some orange juice and some Advil. It took a walk around the neighborhood for a little bit and then headed back inside. I got everyone up around 8:30 so we could do breakfast before closed at 9:00. Then we came back to the room for a bit to relax.
We left the hotel shortly after 10:00 and hit the local Fred Meyer to get a few more lunch groceries. We then began the drive out to the Pacific Coast. We headed for the Kalaloch area at Beach 4. Listen to a nice podcast along the way talking about the Olympic coast. Beach 4 seem to be a well-spoken of area and had some fun tide pools for exploring.
I got out to Beach 4 just before 1:00. The lot was only half full so that was good. The only picnic table there was taken though so we just picnicked out of the back end of the van. We then took the forest trail walk down to the beach. At the end of the trail is a nice long bridge which spits you out on to a rock pile which you have to do a very short amount of scrambling to get off of.
The beach was fantastic and we spent just over 2 hours there. Nice sand to walk on and we loved enjoying the tide pools in Rocky area. Plenty of time for exploring and finding starfish and an enemies and even the small family of crabs. The temperature in the mid-60s with the breeze off the water it had a coolness to it, so we were all wearing long sleeve shirts. I left the beach around 3:30 to drive to the Hoh rainforest.
On the drive-in they were signs about the parking being full but we assumed that was from earlier in the day. Other signs are warning about a 30 minute to an hour wait to get through the entrance station. Thankfully arrive there is no wait but the parking was just slightly full. A few minutes of watching people walk out to cars and we were able to find a spot. It walks through the small visitor center for a few minutes, and witnessed a number of backpackers coming out off the river trail. We then chose to walk the Spruce Nature trail.
It was a nice mix of old growth in New growth Forest. Gave the boys a taste of the rainforest and the Monty trees while we also got a nice view of the river. We took the loop nice and slow and took lots of pictures.
After driving out of Hoh we headed for Forks Washington. This was the only main town in the area and we decided to get supper there before heading out to our campground. We had supper at Pacific Pizza. Luke's Seth and I split a large sausage, pepperoni, and salami pizza. They're very busy that night it seemed like everyone in the area was going to them.
I made it to our campground at the Mora campground at 8:05. I got camp set up with both tents for the night. Jonah decided to try the two-person tent by himself tonight. Jonah and Seth proceeded to spend the next 2 hours playing a standing on the post game. Well the rest of us played the golf card game till after dark. Got nice and cool here in the evening probably load them in '50s.
MONDAY JULY 10
I was up at 7:00 a.m. this morning to a peaceful campground. I walked around for close to an hour and walked the James Pond Trail Loop that started from the ranger station at the front of the campground. As we packed up camp this morning I packed up the tents completely for storage and to be ready to fly them home in a couple days. It wasn't until 10:30 that we left camp and drove the couple miles down the road to Rialto Beach.
It felt cool at the beach and we all kept our long sleeves on. It was cloudy and a little bit breezy. Jonah and I set about walking north on the beach hoping to get to this Island. The beach narrowed to where you had to climb on the large rocks or walk through the surf. The rocks were slimy and wet and very slippery from high tide. It was a challenge getting out there. But worth it, we found some tidepools, hermit crabs and enjoyed exploring an area that not as many people walk out to. The map called this Little James Island. It looks like at high tide it gets cut off. While Jonah and I were out there the others found a dead sea otter and were doing their own exploring.
Knowing we had a light schedule today we spent a good two hours exploring around the beach. We finally left at 12:30p. We began the drive toward Crescent Lake. We stopped at The Beaver Grocery store to get a few more supplies for lunch. I then found a picnic area just down the road at the Lake Pleasant Rec Area and we picnic lunched there.
Around 2p we drove around Lake Crescent and it was quite beautiful. At the Lodge area we followed some roads down to the lake front to take pictures and walk the beach there a few minutes. We then drove over to the very crowded Marymere Falls trailhead area which is also the Storm King Ranger Station area. We found some parking. The boys and I headed out for the hike up to the falls while Sarah stayed with the car.
After the Falls hike we drove out to Port Angeles. We were hoping to get to drive the road up to Hurricane Ridge. But we couldn't. Back in May the main visitor center up on the Ridge burnt down. They closed the road for a month and a half. Recently they opened it up but they have a daily quote of 350 vehicles they allow up there so they don't overload the temporary bathroom facilities. We didn't make it there til 4pm today and didn't have high hopes about making the quota, and we didn't. The NPS was saying the quota likely gets met by noon every day. So we toured the main Olympic NP visitor center for a bit and then hit the road.
We began the drive out to Tacoma. We drove over the Hood Canal Floating Bridge and then also drove the Tacoma Narrows bridge paying a $5.50 toll. We also stopped at an Arco Gas in Poulsbo for a fillup. We made it to our hotel at 6:30pm. We were staying at the Comfort Inn & Suites Lakewood near JBLM. It was new in 2020 and a very nice hotel, great condition and modern. We waned seafood for supper and found the Ivar's Seafood Bar close by. It looked liked a chain in the Seattle area and somewhat comparable to a Long John Silver's. Several of us tried the salmon fish-n-chips. Back in the hotel for the evening we watched Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 on TV.
TUESDAY JULY 11
Today was the last full day of the trip. I did pop up at 5:20 a.m. to do our flight check-in, and then back to sleep. We got everyone up at 8:00 to head downstairs to breakfast. We checked out around 9:30 and then drove up to the Point Defiance zoo. We bought tickets online the night before for 22 a person. Parking was free at the zoo. Point Defiance reminded us a bit of Forest Park in St Louis. A massive city park with the zoo in just a section of it. We could see pretty quickly that it was not a large zoo but it was still a nice zoo. It was mostly built on a hill and at the top of the hill we had beautiful views out over the water. We took our time at the zoo and did a number of these scheduled keeper talks. The talk in the Asian rainforest is really interesting as we watched the lady feed a tiger and talk about it. The talk we hit in the afternoon at the Red Wolf area was also interesting learning about the program they are doing to keep the red wolves from extinction. We did lunch at the cafe in the zoo. Several of us tried the Rainier burger. Zoo had a very nice area for seals and sea lions. It also had a nice exhibit with a couple of polar bears who are very active. In fact we found most of the animals fairly active today and had a good time with it.
We were done with the zoo around 3:00 p.m. and then drove up to the Owen Beach area of Defiance Point. I hung out here for an hour and a half and we're amazed at the views we could get of Mount Rainier from here.
We left there around 4:30 for the drive up to the hotel by the airport. We are staying at the rodeway inn right next to the airport. It was a dumpster. But it was affordable and close to the airport. The room smelled like an old wet dog. I did a test walk from there to the bridge walkway over the highway that we would use in the morning to get into the airport. It all looked good. I drove up to a nearby Taco Bell for supper around 7:00 p.m. After that we grabbed frosty's at Wendy's and then I dropped everyone at the hotel. Jonah stayed with me and we went to return the rental van. The facility was just over a mile from the hotel. I returned the van and then made the walk back to the hotel.
We found with the rental return that we had driven just over 1500 mi for the trip.
The All-Star game from Major League baseball in the home run derby were taking place yesterday and today in Seattle. I actually looked at getting tickets but they were in the range of $300 a person.
WEDNESDAY JULY 12
We're up at 2:50 a.m. this morning and little did we know we are in for one of the longest days ever. It was a quick getting ready in the hotel room and then we are out walking to the airport. The first of many surprises would hit us when I got to the elevator in stairs for the walkway over the road. The elevator did not work and the stairs were locked. Even though I had scouted this out yesterday we didn't realize that they would lock this all up overnight. This led to a quick moment of panic and decision making. I was looking around at our options even considering walking to one of the airport parking places or a hotel and begging to use their shuttle. But we did see on the map that we could walk about a half mile down the road and walk into the airport via the arrivals and departures lanes. So that is what we did. When I got down to those lanes we were pleased to see there was a sidewalk heading into the airport and the edge of the terminal.
Once inside we made it to the baggage check and that went fine. Then we got to the security lines which were already quite lengthy and ended up spending 45 minutes waiting in security. We got out to our gate just as they started the boarding process for the flight around 4:50 a.m. We were in the second B group and so it worked out.
Once boarded and pushed back from the gate we sat on the taxiway for 15 minutes as they got flight path changes from Chicago. Here again, little did we know what was in store for us. We would end up in flights moving around a big storm headed for Chicago that would take us almost to Green Bay and then down south along the edge of Lake Michigan to get into Midway.
The highlight of the day was getting to see Mount Rainier, Mount Adams and even Mount Hood as we flew by them to the north. In flight we also flew over Yellowstone and were able to see the Teton range.
We got into Chicago about 20 minutes late. Here we found out that our flight leaving Chicago was already delayed by 40 minutes. We took her time getting lunch and walked all the way to the Akon course to eat at the Billy goat tavern. Their prices were actually reasonable by airport standards. I did the Italian beef and sausage combo. The beef was okay, the sausage pretty good.
As we sat and waited in Chicago our flight grew increasingly delayed. From 45 minutes it grew to a 2-hour delay. We were leaving from the gate b24 area which was shared with four other gates and that area grew almost entirely full of people. Eventually our gate was given to another flight which maybe helped to push our flight even later. At first it seemed all of this was due to the storm which was coming through. But in the 3:00 hour there seem to be a window in the storm where many flights could have left, but I'm not sure that was happening. They must have had all sorts of cascading problems.
We finally boarded our flight at 5:00 p.m. once boarded for some reason we weren't pushing back. We just sat and sat and sat. As we neared the 6:00 hour they finally came on and said they had been waiting another 40 minutes for bags from connecting flights to make it onto our plane. We finally began our taxi towards the runway. It looked like we were close to the runway and getting to take off, when basically everything shut down. It was around 7:00 they said they were tornado warnings in the area and the airport was essentially shut down. The tower had been evacuated as policy from the FAA. We heard later they were reports of a tornado touching down near O'Hare airport.
I think it was shortly after 7:00 that we began moving but it was only the taxi to another part of the tarmac. They said they were beginning to allow flights to take off but only for westbound flights. So we had to get out of the way of other planes. We sat here for almost another hour. The pilots were seemingly trying their best to keep us in communication and give us updates. eventually they acknowledged that people needed to get up and use bathrooms and so they said they told flight control that for 20 minutes we would for sure stay put so people could move around.
I think it was close to 8 when they came on and said the best flight plan that we could get routed us around Kentucky but we wouldn't have enough fuel for this and the pilots hours would time out, so we would have to return to the gate. On the downside this of course meant much much more time. On the plus side they still gave the impression that this flight was going to happen.
As we sat at the gates they gave updates that they were looking for a new set of pilots. Thankfully the crew was not timed out and they didn't need three new crew members. They did allow for the fact that some people would want to cancel and leave the flight and I think almost a dozen did. We were certainly thinking through our options and whether it was worth trying to find a later flight. It seemed like that also would have its own complications. We even considered the option of whether Dad should drive to Chicago to pick us up. But since they kept giving the impression they were going to try to make this flight happen that sure seemed like the simplest answer.
We waited and waited some more. At one point they had one pilot but were waiting for a second one who was supposed to be in route. It was after 9:15 when it appeared we had both pilots and they began to go through some procedures giving us the impression that we were good to go. I said it would be another 10 to 15 minutes cuz of paperwork. On the plus side this sure felt like we were going to get to take off tonight, but nobody was celebrating until we were off the ground and even ready to land in Detroit. It was 9:45 p.m. when we finally pushed back from the gate. There was great relief when we finally took off from Chicago. It was a quick flight and they didn't do any service during the flight. We landed at 11:40 Detroit time and finally touching down in Michigan was a delight. There was a slight delay getting into our gate, which by now we were just simply used to.
I remember making the comment to Sarah around 6:00 p.m. as the waiting continued and said at this point time had become irrelevant. As delays continued to mount and time continued to fleet we had reached that point of defeat where it didn't matter how late we got in as long as we got in tonight. Little did I know at 6:00 that we still wouldn't be getting into Detroit for another 5 hours. Officially our delay was just shy of 8 hours.