Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Pacific Northwest trip report

"Looks like you're about to declare war on Canada." -- me in Port Angeles, on a kid's firework stash

I just got back from Oregon and Washington with my parents. This was our first visit to the Pacific Northwest in several years. It was pretty exciting!

Day 1

The trip began with an afternoon flight to Portland. Following our arrival at Portland International Airport, my father rented an SUV and took us to our hotel, located in a quiet place in the suburbs. We went for a stroll around the area after unpacking. The weather was nice, and people were sitting outside enjoying the fresh air. I spent the evening playing Field & Stream: Trophy Bass 4 and Hell to Pay on my laptop.

Day 2

The first stop of the day was Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens was one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in modern times. Dad knew I loved geology and thought I'd like this place. The view from the Johnston Ridge Observatory was breathtaking.

We checked into our hotel in Enumclaw before going to Mount Rainier National Park in the afternoon. The mountain was an amazing sight. Another point of interest was Ohanapecosh Hot Springs, the site of a former resort. The springs are quite small, but I still saw water bubbling up.

Day 3

Happy 4th of July!

The three of us went back to Mount Rainier National Park after breakfast. Our first stop was the Sunrise Visitor Center. An interesting item at the gift shop was the topographic jigsaw puzzle, one of which was laid out on the table. Though it was designed to be difficult, Mom and I managed to put some pieces together.

Olympic National Park awaited us in the early evening. The highlight of our visit was Olympic Hot Springs. The round trip was a little over 4.8 miles. Because the sun sets early at this time of the year, my parents and I were able to get there and back before it got too dark outside. We even got our feet wet at my mother's suggestion. There was virtually nobody else the whole time. This was a surreal experience and the best part of the trip.

Our final destination of the day was Port Angeles. Lots of people started lighting fireworks after sunset. Some even shot them from their boats in the harbor. It was unlike anything in California. But because we didn't know fireworks were legal here, I didn't buy any and had to miss out. This was my biggest regret.

The city's own fireworks display was also nice. Someone blared "Take It to the Limit" during the finale, adding to the atmosphere. On the whole, Port Angeles was quite enjoyable. Looks like we'll have to come back here in the future.

Day 4

We took a walk along the harbor and made a short stop at Safeway before heading to Vancouver, Washington. While the day was uneventful, the beauty of the Pacific Northwest made the drive worthwhile. Upon arriving, Mom noticed there were traffic enforcement cameras at every intersection. Holy crap. Just how much money do they make from citations?

Day 5

Our journey brought us back to Oregon. A sign for a U-pick blueberry farm caught our eye as we arrived in Hood River. The berries weren't only dirt cheap, but also juicy and delicious. The downside is that we didn't have anything to clean them with. Speaking of which, Mom said her tongue felt numb after eating the berries. I'm glad we didn't get sick or anything.

One of the best-known attractions in Oregon is Multnomah Falls. The three-tiered waterfall was an incredible sight; my parents got some great pictures as we hiked the Multnomah Falls Trail. I also enjoyed browsing the gift shop at the center even though nothing was cheap.

The next stop was the Bonneville Fish Hatchery in Cascade Locks. Unlike most hatcheries, this one had a natural feel and was quite beautiful. It was a nice place to relax before heading to Portland.

Day 6

The flight back to San Francisco was in the early afternoon. Given the schedule, there wasn't much to do besides check out the airport shops. I wish the trips wasn't over so soon, but all good things must end.


All in all, this was one of our best vacations in years. Hiking through the forest to Olympic Hot Springs was very rewarding. The fireworks show in Port Angeles was another memorable moment. The same goes for picking blueberries. It's hard to say which was my favorite part of the trip. The Pacific Northwest is easily one of the most scenic places in the world. I guess I'll have to move there when I retire. :P

Currently listening to: "Take It to the Limit" by the Eagles

Historical note: Pictures from the trip are available here.

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