• catherine

022 - PNW | part one

Updated: Sep 27, 2018

In other words, the Pacific Northwest or PNWonderland

We had really anticipated the great Pacific Northwest for a while. Both of us had seen inspiring pictures from this area leaving our minds filled with curiosity and wonder.

North Cascades National Park: August 7th - 9th

From the outskirts of Vancouver, BC, we finally crossed our last border back into the US into the state of Washington. Although the officer once again was very stern (as anticipated), asking questions like: "Do you both live in Switzerland?", "Where are you going in the US?", "Isn't this a long stay away from work?", "Do you have any fruit on board?", we weren't as nervous and managed to answer all of his suspiscious questions correctly. And because we had already received the extended visa stamp from the border in Alaska, we were good to go without any further formalities. Easy peasy, right?

In the nearest town across the border, because we crossed correctly once again, we filled up our empty fridge and gas at Fred Meyer before taking the exit off the interstate toward the North Cascades. After having spent the day in Vancouver, we were already craving the peacefulness of nature again, so we spontaneously added the national park to our non-existent itinerary prior to heading into Seattle. The weather was perfect, especially in the mountains.

We let ourselves be advised on the best half day hikes in the area by the most enthusiastic ranger yet, getting some really great suggestions and even making it a little hard to chose between our options, before driving on again to find a campsite for the night. At the second campground in the park we got lucky and were able to snag, once again, the very last spot. Although we could only book it for one night (it was reserved the following night), we were convinced we would find another the next morning. With half the day already having passed, and the great location amidst the trees, we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon filming our house tour of Henry; a better glimpse for our friends and family, as well as a nice little reminder of our little home for us (the clip is on our 'HOME' tab toward the bottom). We soaked up the rest of the warm evening sun down by Diablo Lake, only a short walk from our site, before turning in for the night.

The next morning, as predicted, most spots, especially on the other side of the campground were empty, so we quickly grabbed one before driving to the high country in the Cascades. We stopped at the breathtaking overlook from above, of the incredibly exuberant aquamarine Diablo Lake, before parking Henry at the trailhead to Lake Anne. The comfortable hike was exactly what we needed. The refreshing summer scents, switching from pine to wildflowers, lightly dashed with the summer heat, were nothing short of intoxicating. The heat was pesteringly warm, but when appreciated, it felt like a warm and gentle embrace by the sun. The uphill trail first took us through the forest, up a beautiful, steep, and wild meadow, with views overlooking the backdrop of the mountains, and finally through a dense shrub jungle, before leading us to the icy cold alpine Lake Anne.

Back at the campground, content and nourished, we swayed in our hammocks for quite a while before it was time for dinner, and again after, until the air started cooling off, letting us know it's shortly before bedtime. 

Seattle: August 9th - 11th

Regenerated by mother nature, we felt ready to explore Washingtons big city. Learning from our mistakes in Vancouver, we booked a spot at an RV park outside the hustle of the city and drove in with a combination of Uber (to the nearest Park and Ride) and the Bus. We managed to find an ATM in the area of the Park and Ride in order to hopefully pay our bus tickets (we were all out of cash otherwise). But of course the bus driver only accepted the correct amount of change, and because we had a 20 dollar bill in hand, the kind soul took us on for free. Our seat neighbor, being as muddled as us when it came to finding the right bus, started chatting us up as soon as we were back in motion. When the opening question of "Where are you guys from?" dropped, and our answer only left him with more questions, we ended up chatting the entire ride into the city. It turned out that Shaun is from the Olympic Peninsula, our next planned destination after Seattle. So after answering all his curious but welcomed questiones about our trip and journey so far, he gave us some great pointers and go to's for our upcoming week on the peninsula. As Shaun said, you never know the story of the person sitting next to you. So very true, thanks Shaun for the great chat.

Back off the bus, we quickly glanced at our Seattle map, courtesy of the RV park host, and steered in the general direction of the famous Public Market. The streets were crammed, the market even fuller, lots of foreign noises everywhere, even more flowers being sold, fish were literally being thrown, people pushed past the market stands. We grabbed a mouthwatering delicious and also extremely expensive fresh apple cider from the nearest stand, before scrambling through the market ourselves. We also found the notorious gum wall just below the market, which we found more disgusting than most other admiring and trend-following tourists. Gum upon gum, chewed by him, her, his brother, her sister, the father, mother, child, neighbor, college boyfriend, his boss and everyone imaginable, was stuck up on the walls, window frames, pipes, and even part of the floor of a small passage. Some still moist, others crackling dry, pulled long, or stuck on as a huge plumps. Yuck. And what we later came to learn, the 'wall' had been cleaned, every gum removed, just recently. It sure did not make a difference or the impression. The gum infestation was back in full swing. At least it brings business to the surrounding kiosks selling gum.

After our noses resumed their unwrinkled state, we started walking the streets of the city without a further plan. Turning down one street, walking up another, back down the next block. Until we finally headed into the direction of the pier, where we treated ourselves to a much needed drink. Not having eaten yet, we kept it at one, and returned to the RV park in the same combination as we came into the city, this time paying our tickets in exact change.

The following day unfortunately we had no choice but to drive into the bustling city. We had previously scheduled the appointment through our insurance to get the cracks in Henrys windshield fixed (our souvenir from the Yukon), as soon as we would arrive back in the states. And even though we left the RV park with plenty of time to spare, with all the city traffic and toll bridges (surely mailing their bill), we managed to arrive at Safelite ten minutes late (so very un-swiss of us). The technician, already a little annoyed from something else, warned us that he would have to do his job rather quickly now. Well, the cracks were fixed in twenty-five minutes, but the bigger of the two still looks exactly the same. At least we did not have to pay a dime.

Next up we went in the even more traffic-intimidating direction of downtown, because we had a lunch date with a friend from Sanibel/Germany, who actually lives in Seattle. Because we were still early, we parked Henry in the Freemont district for the maximum time allowed, and we strolled around the hip and upcoming blocks to "waste" (not wasted at all) some time, exploring the shops and the art alike. On Capitol Hill we also managed to find a somewhat suitable spot for Henry, and because Andy (the son of Dieter and Erika, whom we spent the couple of days with in Santa Fe) owns a nightclub, he first gave us a very thorough behind the scenes tour through the still quiet club before we headed around the block to the tasty Thai place for lunch. Thanks Andy.

After leaving Seattle once again, with Andy's suggestion we decided to take the Edmonds-Kingston Ferry across the Puget Sound to the Olympic Peninsula, instead of driving all the way around the bottom through Tacoma (driving time: 1 hour and 36 minutes). Unfortunately, what none of us suspected, was that the entire population of Seattle was also determined to take the ferry that day. So, we ended up waiting in line just to board the ship for an entire 2 and a half hours, not to mention the time it took us to reach the waiting line of the ferry. The ride across in the end (about a thirty minute 'sail'), was indeed very beautiful, and allowed us to stretch our legs for a bit and catch the warm sea breeze on the front deck. With the day now already taking an end though, once we disembarked the ferry, we drove to the nearest Walmart in Port Angeles for a free overnight.

Olympic National Park: August 11th - 14th

The next few days were spent at the extremely versatile and absolutely invigorating Olympic National Park. Although we did not see a thing driving up to Hurricane Ridge, the mountainous region of the park, (the mist was something straight out of a horror scene, admiringly still very beautiful, and once at the top the rain started pouring endlessly) we were still glad we did the drive, especially because on the way down we spotted our first black tailed deer. Due to the weather, we then decided to try the Sol Duc Hot Springs, but after just a quick glance at the sardine box of humans crammed into three tiny hot tubs, we decided to walk the short 1 mile loop through the ancient grove instead. And the rain could not have been more fitting here. Fully embracing it, although wearing my rain jacket, I decided to ditch the hood and let the cold drops hit me one by one directly in the face. Drenching my hair, splattering my glasses, but feeding my soul, was so incredibly worth it. The smell of the old growth trees sheltering us and towering high above us with their majestic stance and the softness of the wet moss under the touch of my hand is definitely a memory that will last. Sometimes (not always) it's nice to embrace the weather exactly as it comes, instead of whining that its too hot, too cold, always raining, or too windy. By now, I've come to learn to love and truly feel every single one of those moods that mother nature has and it's something so incredibly precious once honestly felt.

We set up camp at the Mora campground on the coast for the following two nights. Because we arrived the first night already as dusk rolled in, we explored the beaches in the area the next day. Although we were spared of coming in contact with vampires and werewolves (then again who knows, the three surfer guys at La Push sure fit the profile of vampires) we did get startled by the breathtakingly unique and completely mesmerizing pacific coastline. Arriving at Rialto Beach, our first stop, we were in the state of not believing our eyes. By the time we hit Second Beach it was a feeling of being so incredibly blessed to witness such astounding places, and once in Ruby Beach, we simply did not want to leave. The beaches, although all a little different from one another, they all feature these firm, dark, and heavy boulders just a few feet from the shoreline, breaking the flow of the continuous waves in fascinating patterns, allowing the water to spill past them quite a stretch, but in a very thin layer, in extent perfectly reflecting their form and the light above. We walked and walked until the beaches were broken by the cliffs at the edges, we let our feet feel the cold and firm sand below our feet, occasionally getting flooded by an icy shallow wave. Mattia even got artsy, building rock towers and driftwood feather boats. He climbed a boulder, I watched and admired the views from a comfortably fitting driftwood log, made specially for my back.

Our last day at Olympic, we camped directly overlooking the beach at South Beach, we hiked the short but sweet Hall of Mosses trail in the Hoh Rainforest, we marveled over the truly Big Cedar Tree, and watched the second night of the Perseids Meteor Shower. While Mattia's neck can do this all night long, he smoked his last cigar, courtesy of my dad, I went back inside the camper to watch none other than the sceneries most fitting film, the Twilight Saga (no shame here).

From here we drove south in the direction of Oregon, we stopped at the biggest spruce tree, which was indeed very massive, drove past the papertown of Seabrook, and through Kurt Cobains hometown, Aberdeen.

To be continued...

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