Many of you were so helpful in the last 6 mos. helping us plan our ambitiously planned sight-seeing vacation that I wanted to provide you a recap of our action-packed time. We were there for 12 days starting right after Labor Day and let me say, the NW is AWESOME!!!!
Day 1: Flew into SeaTac and promptly went to Pier 50 to take the ferry to Bainbridge Island (by the way as several posters correctly warned, Budget Rent A Car at SeaTac is HORRIBLE...pay more and save your sanity and time). Our first ferry ride was really cool taking in Puget Sound and the Seattle skyline. From BI, we drove to Pt Angeles, WA, arriving early evening. We took in the pier and had dinner at the Outrigger, which we really liked...great view of the Strait and fine salmon. Our Pt. A hotel that night was the Olympic Lodge...very nice...friendly staff, modern rooms, nice decor, reasonable price (there was that peskly middle of the night wrong number phone call from China, but otherwise....)
Day 2: Fantastic breakfast at nearby Cafe Garden...highly recommend this establishment. We proceeded to the top of Hurricane Ridge in ONP. Half way up, it became rainy and cloudy. Sadly, our view at the top was blanketed in fog. Nevertheless, we hiked the easy trails at the top in the rain, fog and mist. It was a blast. The deer hardly seemed fazed by our presence. A very mystical feeling amidst the fog. Sunrise Point was definitely lacking in the sun, but still great being in the outdooors. From there, we drove to the HOH tropical Rainforest and did two trails there. A little wet, but the forests was amazing...large trees draped in moss and ferns everywhere. We saw elk having dinner as we hiked the trails. That evening, we stayed at the Pacific Inn in the Twilight-haven called Forks. Small town....plain accomodations...but it appears to be the best in town and met our expectations. Limited dining options in Forks, but the pizza at Pacific Pizza was very good.
Day 3: Breakfast across the street from our Forks hotel was okay...then we took in the mandatory Twilight shoppes before heading to La Push...specifically, Rialto Beach. It was like a beach lost in time...natural, unspoiled, untouched....driftwood, pebbles on the beach...I didn't realize there was a shore like that in the US. After Rialto, we did the long drive down Hwy 1 to SW Washington. This drive was not-so-pretty and had numerous highway construction stoppages. Much of the trees were missing from logging or storms. Finally, we arrived at Cape Disappointment in Ilwaco, WA. The Lewis & Clark interpretive center was nice, two great lighthouse views (one was an easy hike) and a fine view of the jetty where the Columbia River meets the ocean. From there, we crossed over to Astoria, OR. I climbed the Astoria Column and it spiraling staircase. We moved on to Seaside, OR where we could hang our hat for the day. We saw the TurnAround at the L&C monument both that evening and the next morning. Our dinner was fantastic at McKeown's a few blocks from there...exellent lemonade and a trio dinner of crab/snapper/salmon. We stayed at our favorite lodging of the trip...the Rivertide Suites. Wish it had been more than 1 night. This condo/hotel is just about perfect.
Day 4: Breakfast at another of our faves, the Pig N Pancake (everything is good there) in Seaside. We bid this cool beach town 'goodbye' and headed south down hwy 1. Cannon Beach's Ecola Bay and Haystack Rock were mandatory. Ecola offers great views and panoramas and I can see now why movies love to film there. I didn't realize you could just about walk right up to Haystack...very impressive. Next was Tillamook Cheese Factory....forget the cheese, that was the best ice cream cone ever!!!!!! Continuing south, we say both lighthouse near Newport...Yaquina Head and Yaquina Bay. Y.H. was the coolest ($8 car fee) to view...the flies at the observation point by the lighthouse almost overwhelmed you however. Since Newport was our stopping point on this day, we went down to the historic waterfront and saw the seals behind Dock 1 (thanks half-brit for the suggestion). They put on quite the show. We had dinner at A Whale's Tale there and it was excellent. Great service and food. The lodging was at the Elizabeth Street Inn. The Bad: It was an unusually hot day (and I'm southern) and this hotel has no A/C, which their ads don't really mention. Our room was incredibly hot around our 7pm check in. The Good: By midnight, the ocean had cooled it down enough to sleep with the help of a boxed fan. Reality Check: Now, it's 2009, for $150 a night, you'd think they could have a/c as a backup to the ocean.
Day 5: Again, at Pig N Pancake for b'fast. Yum!!! We left Newport to see the rest of the OR central/south coast. An extra coast day would have been nice...We went to the top of Cape Perpetua but the view was completely fogged in. From the vistor center, however, we hiked down to the ocean and saw the sprout and hung out on the rocks...very nice time. We saw the incredible dunes south of Lincoln City. There was Cape Kirwanda. A little stop in Bandon. Plus, we went out to Cape Blanco to see the lighthouse and the Hughes House. It was free and nobody was there. Great views and this is supposedly the western most point in the continental US. The far, far South coast looks alot like Big Sur. Incredible bridges, hills, ocean views draped in fog. Way cool!!! Our stopping point was Crescent City, CA after declaring to the CA checkpoint guards that we weren't running fruits and veggies into their state. In CC, we ate at Northwoods and while I was skeptical at first, the macedamia crusted halibut was fantastic. We stayed at the Lighthouse Inn...a good value...big rooms....staff was so helpful in directions and plannings....not fancy, but served it's function well.
Day 6: Breakfast at Northwoods was a weak buffet. Then, we saw Battery Pt Lighthouse and moved on to Trees of Mystery in Klamath (it was okay, but half-brit was right...nothing great...most of the trees were okay...sky buckets to the top was nice). Then we went to Howland Hill Rd per half-brit's advice, and we were floored at the massiveness of the redwoods there. This 6 mile road was free and recently the dirt road was graded, so it was in good shape. This little road was truly one of the trip's highlights for me. From here, we headed to Grants Pass, OR for the night. We hung out some in Medford and ate at McGraths's Fish House. Apparently, it's a regional chain, so my enthusiasm was dubious. But, we had a world class waiter and fantastic meal...their salmon is excellent. Our lodging in GP was at Motel Del Rogue on the Rogue River. It is very eccletic...I liked it, and my travel companion hated it. Old 1930's style cabins/rooms with furniture pieces from yesteryear. However, the beds were comfy with cotton sheets and it had 'character'. The owners were very nice...this property is not for everyone.
Day 7: After a fine b'fast at DJ's Cafe in GP (lots of Coca-Cola memorabilia for a GA boy like me), we headed to Crater Lake Nat'l Park. This was truly another highlight. Absolutely beautiful and stunning. And to think, at one time, I was planning to skip Crater on this trip. We did a few easy hikes and took millions of photos. You don't see water this blue in a caldera no less every day! We moved on to Bend, OR. Drove to the top of Pilot Butte and took in the view once I could drive by all the rude locals who were ignoring car traffic, walking in the middle of the road. Apparently, Bendies get their evening exercise here. We ate at the Pine Tavern which is way over-rated...the food and portions were both disappointing. We stayed at the Shiloh in Bend. The property looks nice....almost like an apt complex and is on the river. However, the rooms were so-so and the A/C did not work properly.
Day 8: B'fast buffet at the Shiloh was free and excellent. We went to the Newberry Volcanic Park. While the lakes seemed blah after viewing Crater, the big Obsidian Flow was indeed a spectacle to walk. Also, Paulina Falls is pretty and easy access. Apparently, parts of this park are now closed on Mon/Tue. From Bend to Sisters, great mtn views along the way and a real feel of the High Desert. Sisters is a neat little western town to shop and spend some time. The whole area has such a TV western feel to it. Then we headed to Portland via Mt Hood. We stopped and checked out the Timberline Lodge even though we weren't paying customers (apparently, lots of folks do this)...we took a photo of Jack Nicholson's axe from The Shining. Finally, arriving in Portland, we stayed at the City Center Marriot Courtyard on SW Oak...it's a fantastic property only 4 months old with 16 floors. The staff here was awesome! And, for the first time on the trip, we stayed in the same hotel for 2 nights in a row (LOL). We ate at Jake's Famous Crawfish Restuarant. I thought it had the best lemonade ever but the food was only fair and WAY overpriced. Service was just fair. We also stopped by Powell's Bookstore--BIG! and went to Voodoo Doughnuts but the line was too long. Portland has a homeless problem that in my experience outrivals NYC or SF. They are really aggressive. We did not fall in love with Portland, but I hope it's because it didn't get a fair chance by us.
Day 9: Stopped at Shari's for a quick breakfast near Troutdale as we headed into the Gorge on the old highway. What beautiful waterfalls along the way!!! I hiked everyone of them up to, and including, Multnomah Falls (but was spent after climbing to the top of Multomah on this hot day). Trust me, the awesome view of Mult from the bridge is all you need to see....the climb to the top was great for my 'resume' but didn't offer any more of a spectacular view :) Bonneville Dam and the Fish Hatchery are must as well...check out Herman the Sturgeon. We drove back to P'land along the parallel hwy in Washington but the OR side is far superior. Dinner in P'land was at the Red Star Tavern and, again, it was an embarrassingly small portion with a big price. I certainly would not recommend this establishment.
Day 10: We headed north up I-5 and ate b'fast at Peachtree's in Vancouver, WA. It was pretty good. Moved on to Mt St. Helen's for the day. Extremely interesting learning about that disasterous spring of 1980. Johnson Obervatory is worth the cheap admission...the movie is excellent. It was foggy at the initial welcome center, but their webcam showed you could see the crater clearly once you arrived at Johnston above the clouds. Great views at the top and worth the trip! We headed on to the end of the line in Seattle. We stayed at the Marriot Waterfront on Alaskan Way for two nights. While this was a nice hotel with a helpful staff, the Portland Crtyard was nicer. The pillows were really small and the nearby elevator motor was loud, but it was fine overall and a great location. On this night we ate at Ivar's Acres of Clams on the waterfront. It was somewhat expensive but excellent and worth it! Fantastic salmon, chowder and dessert. Great service, too.
Day 11: Our last day, and guess what? We never cranked the car!!! Our day in Seattle was by foot, bus and monorail. Lowell's at Pike's Mrkt for a yummy breakfast. The Mrkt is a lot of fun! We checked out Fran's Chocolates nearby in the Four Seasons. Then, we caught the monorail to the Space Needle--not a big deal, but I can now say I've been to the top of it. We then went to Pioneer Sq and the Elliot Bay Book Co. Back to Pike's, then on to dinner at Cutter's. The food was very good...try the crab dip and salmon chowder. Our waiter was excellent, too. Service is very good in Seattle.
Day 12: Back to SeaTac and onward to Hartsfield.
This trip was better than last fall's venture into lovely New England. Just alot of adventure!!! Great trails and photo opportunities that never end. I think we took 600-700 pictures. The grilled seafood is so fresh and tasty. The people are the most friendly, too, that I've encountered on trips. I quite enjoyed the full-service gas stations in Oregon, too LOL (but, be warned, gas in OR/WA is about .90 more a gallon than down South). And we were quite surprised and lucky at the nice weather. The only real rain was on Day 2; otherwise, once or twice we experienced some light drizzle. Many mornings had fog. The temps were warm except for atop Hurricane Ridge and Crater Lake, so we can't complain. Sunny Seattle on Day 11 almost felt and looked like GA without the humidity.
In a perfect world, I would add an extra day to ONP, one more day to the OR coast, an extra day to do the loop near Bend, and a day to explore Portland. Now, I know....
Thanks for all your contributions!