After our comfortable stay at DB and Kris’ Auntie Elena’s house in Damascas, OR, the three of us headed for the state of Washington. Our first stop was a Big 5 in the city of Vancouver which was just across the Oregon/Washington boarder. We picked up a Washington State Park Pass and then we made a stop at Panera Bread for some lunch.
The drive to the Merrill Lake Campground was full of beauty! The forest road was lined with so many trees that sometimes we couldn’t even find the sky.
When we got to the state park we were surprised to find that there wasn’t an official campground host. We spoke to a guy that looked like he lived there and he told us just to set up camp at any empty spot we want. There were not many choices, so we opted for the one that was closest to the parking lot because we had to walk our stuff into the site. We set up camp and we helped Kris put together his new mini tent for the first time.
Once our campsite was all settled, we headed for the Lava Canyon trailhead for a hike. On our way there, we made a stop to admire Mount St. Helens in all her glory.
All three of us really enjoyed the Lava Canyon hike! The trail was challenging without being too tiring, had lots of great views, and the 2 bridges were very cool.
After we were finished at Lava Canyon, we drove to the Ape Cave which is a system of lava tubes. We found ourselves at the mouth of a cave with a group of young adults with some even younger siblings. They were very friendly and chatty and were supremely eager to help us take pictures – they shined their flashlights on Kris when we were trying to get some shots in the cave. This was the first time Kris was in a lava tube and he was pretty impressed. However, we didn’t stay too long because it was rather cold down there, plus we didn’t want to get back to the campsite in pitch darkness.
We got back to the campsite and Marlaina made us dinner – instant mashed potatoes, tuna, canned green chilies, and tortilla chips. DB and Kris got a campfire going and we topped off the evening with some s’mores and hot tea. As we were getting ready for bed the slightest breeze kicked up and it smelled like sewer… turns out that our site was perfectly downwind from the vault toilets up the walkway. Needless to say, the conditions for a good sleep were not optimal.
When we woke up the next morning we packed up quickly and hit the road to visit Mount Rainier. The drive was gloomy as the dark clouds were thick in the sky and it occasionally sprinkled as we made our way out of the forest. The roads that lead us to Mount Rainier were desolate and by the time we finally made it to a main highway, Becky was nearly empty, and the three of us were famished. We were all thrilled when we saw the Mt Adams Café in the small town of Randle. For dessert, the three of us shared a slice of blueberry cheesecake made from scratch. Once all of us were filled up, we hit the road again.
DB had done quite a bit of research on the best spots to view the epic snow covered mountain. Unfortunately, the sky did not cooperate with our plans and we were not able to see Mount Rainier in its entirety. The huge, dark, wall of grey clouds loomed all over the massive mountain. Even though we did not get the views we came for, we made the most of it and checked out a few spots within the park.
First we did a hike called the Grove of the Patriarchs. The trail is very easy and it is a 1.5 mile loop that gets you up close and personal with some aged trees.
Next, we checked out Box Canyon. Then DB got out of the car to check out the mirror lakes, which are known for amazing views and a reflection of the mountain, but the mountain was still hidden. Lastly, we did a short trek to see the Narada Falls.
As we drove away from Mount Rainier, we kept looking back in hopes of finally seeing her, but we got no love from the weather gods.
We then headed to our next campground at Alder Lake. That campground was by far the best public camping facility any of us had ever been too! Everything was well maintained, the bathrooms were large and clean, and there was a gazeebo with a food sink in the center of the sites! Even with all that, the best part was the amazing view of the stars.
Marlaina made us a satisfying dinner: steamed rice and chicken sausage sautéed with zucchinis. DB and Kris once again took care of making us a fire and once again we treated ourselves to some s’mores.
The next morning, we packed up and headed to the lake to check out the view. We saw a ton of geese by the water! There were also lots of eerie tree stumps.
Then we hit the road and headed for the small city of Aberdeen – the gateway to the Olympic Peninsula.
Our lunchtime pit stop took place in Olympia, the capital of Washington. We decided to check out the capital building and did a free guided tour. While we were waiting for the tour to start, throngs of people started spilling into the marble building. Then there was a formal presentation of the colors by some state police. We then discovered that it was the state police cadet graduation and 100s of fresh-faced state police marched in.
The tour started and there were only 5 of us in the group. It was an interesting tour of a beautiful building. When we were finished we drove to the downtown area and found ourselves at a cool place called Oldschool Pizzeria. The three of us tore up a large pizza.
We then went to the funky second-hand store around the corner called Dumpster Values, which was more dumpster than value. Kris was very close to buying an old sweatshirt that smelled like grandmas, but Marlaina convinced him to use his money more wisely.
We arrived in Aberdeen and checked into the hotel. Then we decided to see Kurt Cobain’s childhood home and visit the park dedicated to his memory. As we drove through the city, it became very clear to us how Kurt Cobain found the inspiration for his dark tunes – the place is quite dreary.
For dinner, we drove to the next city over named Hoquiam to have some grub at 8th Street Ale House. Kris had their “Westport Burger” which was a big burger with a dungeness crab cake added inside – he really liked it. DB and Marlaina shared some crispy hot wings and fried cheddar cheese curds. We were all pleased with our meal. Marlaina took the opportunity to have a local brew. The ale house has a signature 8th street ale that is brewed by Dick’s Brewing Company. The ale was smooth and flavorful.
With nothing to do we decided to go to the movies and watch the new “Ghostbusters.” On our way to the theater, we came across Scoops ice cream shop and each of us got a scoop. Then we stopped by the Aberdeen welcome sign.
The movie theater was inside a small mini mall. There were only about 5 other people in the theater with us as we watched. The three of us enjoyed the movie and we all agreed that best parts were the incorporated cameos of the original cast members. After the movie, we headed back to the room to go to bed to get some rest for our next Washington adventure in the Olympic Peninsula.