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  • Writer's pictureJessica Stough

Pacific Northwest Adventure – Washington & Oregon Vacation – North Cascades & Mt. Rainier – Part One

“The world's big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” – John Muir

Have you ever had your schedule actually seemingly open up dramatically, only to then feel more busy than you had ever felt before? I’ve been feeling like that all through the summer and still do as we head into fall and winter. It’s nearly November, and I have no idea where 2023 has gone.

That being said, when I started this blog, I was cranking out new content left and right. I’ve dramatically slowed down on the posts, but am excited to say that this is officially blog post number seventy-five! To those of you who take the time to read these, thank you so much. Whether you share that you read them or do so quietly without bringing it up, I cannot say how much I appreciate it.

Now, a recap of our end of September trip to the Pacific Northwest is long overdue! I will not waste any more time talking about what we have been up to (right now anyway – maybe it will be its own blog post later), and will jump right into our trip!


Day One –

We were not off to a great start when our flight out of Des Moines was delayed. However, we weren’t initially panicked because our connecting flight was also delayed. With both flights having the same timeframe for delays, we were confident we could still catch our connection and make it to Seattle. Quickly, though, we heard rumblings from the airport staff that the delay may be worse than expected. What was originally a “very minor” mechanical issue actually grounded the plane and canceled the flight entirely. We rallied, though. We found a different flight out with a new connection, and were to Seattle just a few hours later than originally expected.

We got just a few hours of sleep that night, but I woke up wide awake and ready for adventure well before the sun was out anyway. As soon as we were packed back up and showered, we were on the road. We had nothing officially planned between Seattle and our first Airbnb near North Cascades, so we decided to just find things to do along the way.

Our first stop was Deception Pass State Park, boasted as Washington’s most-visited state park. As soon as we entered the park, we were immediately in love. A large portion of the park is actually a small island connected via bridges. We did some forest hiking and beach exploration all in about thirty minutes. It had a little bit of everything there.

Next up, we made a stop at Rockport State Park. We had purchased a Discover Pass, which gave us access to all of the Washington state parks, so we figured we might as well make the most of it.

"Grandma Cedar"

We searched for a short trail to hike and stretch out our legs. Zac chose the hike that would take us to see “Grandma Cedar,” a huge, aged cedar tree deep in the park. As we looped back to the beginning of the trail, a police officer came flying up the main road of the park. He stopped right in front of us and got out of his vehicle, approaching us quickly.

Something about a police officer in an unfamiliar state rushing toward a person can automatically make them wonder what they did wrong, even if the answer is nothing. I was reeling through my mental catalog to figure out if there was, in fact, something we had done wrong when the officer spoke. He asked us, “Have you two seen a guy walking around shirtless?”

Zac and I both looked at each other, then looked back at the officer to reply, “No.”

The officer nodded his head, and said, “Okay, good. Just a word of advice – stay away from him if you do.”

Zac then proceeded to ask what was happening, somewhat jokingly, “Why? Is he running around attacking people or something?” To that, the officer responded that he had, in fact, been known to attack people and that the police had been searching for him for a while.

Thankfully, we were nearly back to the car by the time we had the interaction with the police officer. As we left the park, the police officer was camping at the only exit to the park. We both waved at him and were on our way. However, I still wonder if he found the man and what happened after we left.

After the crazy adventures at Rockport, we were ready to make the final portion of the trek to North Cascades National Park. Knowing we were nearing the end of the day, we wanted to head into the park just to grab some maps and make some plans for the following day.

After, we headed to our first home away from home of the trip (not including the hotel that we stayed in for just a few hours before leaving Seattle the first night), North Cascades Safari Tent #1.

When we visited Alaska a few years back, we really hoped to stay in a “Glamping” tent then. However, the weather had other plans for us at that time and dropped to lows in the 20’s, causing us to change plans just before the trip. With this vacation, we were more than ready to finally get our glamping experience. Even better yet, the tent was located on a farm so the front of our tent was only around 10 feet from an incredibly friendly group of goats.

Day Two –

Something to keep in mind as I continue with the retelling of our vacation is that I had (of course) made a fully booked agenda for the entire trip. By day two, we were already probably six hikes behind per the agenda. This was due in part by the fact that I had seriously overestimated how much time we would have to hike and underestimated how much time we would need for driving. Additionally, I had found shortly before the trip that I had gifted myself with a running injury. With those things all combined, our hiking adventures were much more minimal than anticipated.

All that being said, as Monday rolled around, we were still ready to explore. We woke up, made some coffee, then got ourselves out of our glamping tent and back to North Cascades for some serious exploration.

Our first hike, Thunder Knob Trail, was absolutely gorgeous. It took us to the top of a wonderful lookout over Diablo Lake and highlighted many mountain peaks as well. The hike took us just under a few hours, and the views were easily worth it. The trail was really well maintained all the way to the top. The rock “trail” at the top was clearly marked and set in a way that there were no loose stones or rocks. We took in the views at the top, then made our way back down.

After Thunder Knob, our next adventure was just driving through the park. North Cascades is extremely vast, and much of the park is only accessible on foot by backcountry hiking. With that, we were able to explore a huge section of the drivable part of the park, which led us into two small towns: Twisp and Winthrop for our lunch break. Both towns were cute and seemingly friendly.

I had hoped for some more time to explore the two towns, but we had food on our minds and stopped at a bar and grill first. By the time we finished our food, we had mapped out how long it would take us to get back through the park and to our Airbnb. We decided against too much time-wasting and headed straight into the drive back.

On the way back, though, we did stop to stretch our legs again at the cute, short, and (partially) wheelchair accessible Happy Creek Forest Walk. A short section of the trail is wheelchair accessible, while a larger portion branches off to walk along a creek and get multiple sights of a waterfall.

Day Three –

We made it back to our Airbnb, got some rest, and were off bright and early. We were ready for our nearly four-hour drive from North Cascades to Mount Rainier National Park.

By the time we got to Mount Rainier, we were ready to stretch our legs again! We got out and explored the Longmire area, which even had a museum. We were able to check out the museum, get some maps, and continue through Longmire. Finally, we decided on the Carter Falls Trail – a short, 2 mile out and back trail that has excellent views of a large waterfall.

By the time we got to North Cascades, looked around, and hiked to Carter Falls, it was about time to head to our new Airbnb for the night. On the way, though, we decided to head out to lunch. Options around the area were limited, so we made our way to a highly-rated pizza place a bit out of the way, Myles Pizza Depot.

When I say Myles Pizza was worth it – I completely mean it. As I’m writing this, I just looked over to Zac, and told him that I’d love to have that pizza again (perhaps this is because the pizza was so good, or maybe it is because I’m kind of hungry). Either way, we ate the pizza to fuel up for the next day, then headed to our next home, Private Suite by Mount Rainier.

Now, all of our Airbnbs on this trip were great, but this one was so cute. The hostess had added so many adorable little touches from overnight oats for the morning to fun signs in the bathroom. Plus, I was ecstatic to have a great shower in a warm home after our glamping experience (we had a shower there that we had to leave the tent in the cold and rain, shower, then walk back to the tent in the cold and rain once cleaned).

The location of the Private Suite was just outside of the national park, the feel was incredibly cozy, and the hosts were very quiet (for being just a wall away from us in a separate section of the home). We had a good night's sleep, preparing ourselves for the next morning.


That's it for now, but days four through seven of the trip are coming soon (they're ready already, actually, but I want to break the trip up into easier-to-read sections). Now, for something fun! If you've read this far, again, I thank you! With this being the 75th blog post, I want to do something fun and special.

Until October 31, 2023, for those that like and share the Wandering to Get Lost Facebook Page and also like and comment on the Facebook post for this blog post, I will have a drawing to give away one of my favorite winter hiking and running items, a fun combo Hand Warmer / Phone Charger (or similar). The drawing will take place November 1st.

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