Olympic Peninsula Town & City Edition

While the Olympic Peninsula is abundant with nature and beauty in almost every square inch it covers, sometimes we feel the need to rejoin mankind, take in a show, enjoy an exquisite meal, mingle at a festival or art walk.  And there is plenty of that in the Olympic Peninsula too.

Sequim– Pronounced “Skwim”, Sequim is located less than 2 hour from Union. A trip to Sequim will provide both plenty of outdoor activities and more city-life cultural activities. There is hiking, golfing, fishing, geocaching, boating, birding, even hot air balloon rides. Sequim is also well known for its berry and lavender farms. The city of Sequim also has a wide variety of shopping, restaurants and the Olympic Theatere Arts to catch a live performance. And every July they host the Sequim Lavender Weekend.

Port Townsend– Located less than 2 hours from Union, Port Townsend is a town with “maritime heritage, artist spirit, and a touch of urban chic”. “National Geographic calls Port Townsend ‘one of the most sophisticated places west of Seattle,’ and arts and entertainment is a large part of the reason why.” Centrum (non-profit for the arts), Copper Canyon Press (poetry publishing house), Northwinds Art Center and the Key City Public Theater provide a hub of arts and creativity here. Almost year round, Port Townsend is chock full of events and festivals including farmers markets, film festival, public theater, food festivals, gallery walks and the very famous annual Rhododendron Festival. There’s no shortage of outdoor activities either between hiking, biking golfing, kayaking and camping! And there is also a considerable amount of Victorian and nautical history in Port Townsend. Spend at weekend here exploring all this great place has to offer.

Port Angeles– Located just over 2 hours from Union; Port Angeles is situated on the northern edge of the Olympic Peninsula along the shore of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and is the headquarters for Olympic National Park. If it is history you’re interested in, Port Angeles is “the site of the ‘largest prehistoric Indian village and burial ground found in the United States,’” which was discovered in 2003. Port Angeles offers an assortment of outdoor and indoor activities. You can spend your day hiking in the Olympic National Park, bird watching, kayaking, fishing, golfing or even charter a whale watching expedition. For indoor recreation there are several casinos, a symphony orchestra, a community playhouse and two movie theaters. And if you’ve got a little extra time, catch a ferry to Victoria BC, only a 90 minute crossing time. For more information and a list of scheduled events and activities, check out their website linked above.

Next time, we’ll venture a little further north and see what new adventures await us in the San Juan Islands!

Olympic Peninsula Nature Edition part 2

As promised from our last blog post, we’re continuing our Olympic Peninsula Nature Edition today.  This area is just so chock full of natural beauty goodness, we had to break it into two posts!  So, without further ado….

Dungeness Spit– Located less than 2 hours from Union, the Dungeness Spit is part of the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge founded in 1915. Formed in the Vashon Glacial era, ten to twenty thousand years ago, it is one of only a few such geological formations in the world. There is a 10 mile roundtrip hike along the spit to the tip, which will take you to the lighthouse that was built in 1857! The hike can take between 4-6 hours, so be prepared with food, water and sunscreen. As this is a wildlife refuge, there are dozens of migratory birds and other wildlife. To keep these critters protected, there is limited recreational activity permitted. If you’re looking for a rewarding nature hike, make this journey.

Cape Flattery– Cape Flattery is located near Neah Bay and is about a 4 hour drive from Union, but worth the trek. Here you can hike to the northern most point in the continental US. Recently the Makah Tribe rebuilt the once treacherous trail leading to the Cape’s breath-taking views. The Makah’s have declared Cape Flattery a nature sanctuary. Here you have the opportunity to see more than 239 species of birds, otters and even whales! The area also offers a variety of places to

Lake Crescent– Located about 2.5 hours from Union, Lake Crescent is the second deepest lake in Washington State. A lack of nitrogen in the water prohibits the growth of algae in the lake resulting is pristine, crystal clear blue water. Both camping and lodging are available. Hike numerous trails, old logging roads and even old railroad tracks.

Sekiu– Located on the way to Cape Flattery and about 3.5 hours from Union, is the town of Sekiu on Clallam Bay. Enjoy the peace and quiet of the bayside fishing village, take a hike or hop in a canoe, even watch for bald eagles, sea otters and gray whales. Renew yourself in this peaceful and friendly small town.

In our next post, we’ll cover the Olympic Peninsula-Town & City edition for those looking for a more cultural and less outdoors driven get-away.

Olympic Peninsula Nature Edition part 1

If you love to experience nature and the great outdoors, there is certainly no shortage of opportunities in Washington.  As a matter of fact, there are boundless options without even leaving the Olympic Peninsula!  So many in fact, that I had to break up this info into 2 parts! So whether you’re new to the area or looking for a great reason to break away from daily monotony, here are some suggestions to get out there and make new discoveries.

Olympic National Park offers a million acres of adventure with 3 different settings including 73 miles of ocean beaches, rain forest valleys and alpine meadows all at the foot of glacier capped mountains. 95% of the park is designated wilderness with over 600 miles of trails for hiking, climbing and exploring. To incorporate learning into your adventure, visit the marine center or even join a guided hike, bike, paddle or tour. The closest point in ONP is only 29 miles from Union, WA.

Surrounding the Olympic National Park with over 633,000 acres is the Olympic National Forest. There are more than 200 miles of trails, many of which wander through old growth forests. ONF also operates 17 campgrounds on a first-come, first-served basis.

While there are dozens of worthwhile nature excursions in the Olympic Peninsula, here are some recommended highlights.

Hurricane Ridge– Located about 120 miles from Union, Hurricane Ridge is the most easily accessed mountain area within Olympic National Park. 12 miles north of Hurricane Ridge is Heart O’ the Hills campground with 105 year round campsites in old growth forest. There are a number of hiking trails from ridge top traverses, to steep trails that descend to sub alpine lakes and valley.

Sol Duc River & Valley– The valley and hot springs are about 137 miles from Union. Visiting the Sol Duc Valley, you will encounter old growth forests, explore Sol Duc Falls and Salmon Cascades or relax in the hot springs. And if you like salmon fishing, this seems like the place to go. The hot springs are open about mid-March to late October and do require reservations & booking. Otherwise there are 82 year round campsites available.

Hoh Rain Forest– Hoh is located about 170 miles from Union. The rainforest receives and annual rainfall of 12-16 feet! The rainforest is home to lush vegetation including for deciduous and coniferous species. There are 88 year round campsites available at Hoh. There are two short trails that start at the visitors center for those looking for an easy stroll, but there is also a major 17.3 mile hiking trail that leads to Glacier Meadows on the shoulder of Mount Olympus.

We will cover more great sites of beauty to visit in our next post!

Hiking in Western Washington

There are an unbelievable amount of opportunities for hiking in Western Washington.  If you enjoy the great outdoors, unique and lush flora, fauna and even some unusual insects, we have an abundance of beautiful settings to explore. There are hikes for the novice, hikes for the enthusiast and hikes for the lifestyle hiker. You can adventure on a rugged ocean front, mountains and meadows, lakes and waterfalls, rainforest or river, grasslands or gorges, even a volcano or hot springs! There are limitless options; the question will never be “What is there to do?” Instead it will be “How do I decide?” Washington has 5 National Parks/Monuments, 9 National Forests, 31 Wilderness areas, and 23 National Wildlife Refuges, and that doesn’t even include State Parks or land. Over 20,000 square miles of the state is federally owned and there to explore. There are tons of great resources to help you decide!

 

To start your hiking adventure close to home, check out these highly rated hikes near Union.

  • Mount Ellinor Trail, Lilliaup, WA 5 stars about a 60 minute drive.
  • Lena Lakes Trail, Lilliwaup, WA 4 stars
  • Lower Lake Lena, Lilliwaup, WA 4 stars
  • Staircase Rapids Trail, Lilliwaup, WA 4.5 stars
  • Green Mountain Trail, Bremerton, WA 4 stars less than an hour drive

Explore Hood Canal!

OR take a grand hiking adventure!  These example are just the tip of the iceberg exemplifying the vast variety of adventures out there to help satisfy that wanderlust.

  • The Enchantments– This is THE hiking/backpacking destination in Washington located in Leavenworth (appx 4 hrs from Union). The hike is 18 miles and will take several days to complete. Camping permits are required and you’ll be justly rewarded for amazing views of all types of terrain and nature.
  • Goat Ridge Loop Hike– Enjoy wildflower meadows, mountain views, a pristine lake and waterfalls on this hike. This is an 11.6 mile, full day hike of moderate terrain and is located on the southeast side of Mount Rainier (appx 3 hrs from Union).
  • Rialto Beach Hike– For mixed difficulty levels, optional camping and rugged ocean views, this 7.7 mile hike will take a full day. This hike is located near La Push (appx 3.5 hrs from Union)
  • Goldmyer Hot Springs– Located in Snoqualmie Pass near North Bend (appx 3.25 hrs from Union), this 24 mile hike has limited access throughout the year. Reservations are recommended for access to the hot springs. This amazing hike will take you along the Snoqualmie River and across several creeks the closer you are to the hot springs. The level of difficulty increases and the trails progress, but well worth the journey.
  • Hoh River Five Mile Island Hike– Take a hike in the only rain forest in the continental US, located in Jefferson County near Forks (appx 3.5 hrs from Union.) This 10.6 mile roundtrip hike will give you gorgeous views of the river, old growth trees, quiet and serene views and maybe even some elk!
  • Ape Caves– For a truly unique experience check out the Ape Caves, 2,000 year old lava tubes located on the south side of Mount St. Helens. The caves are located near Cougar (appx 2.75 hrs from Union). The hike is short, under 3 miles, but the terrain is difficult and dark. There are great views of the volcano and re-growing vegetation from this area.

2015-12-30 03.53.05

Pacific Ocean Destinations

 

While our area of Mason County is filled with water access to Puget Sound, Hood Canal and Mason Lake to name a few, sometimes you get a yearning for the proper ocean.  Endless waters with no land on the horizon.  Crashing waves and tumultuous seas.  And maybe  you’re interested in surfing, boating or tide pools? A night on the town? Hikes and views of the Pacific Ocean? Take an afternoon or a weekend get-away and visit one of the spectacular Pacific Ocean destinations.

 

Grays Harbor Area– Located only 58 miles away from Union is Grays Harbor’s largest city, Aberdeen. Aberdeen has plenty to explore:   parks, museums, theaters, and walking trails. Just a little further along, Hoquiam is a great place to see migrating shorebirds. The Grays Harbor area is filled with history and arts, and there is also hiking, camping, walking, 50 miles of beaches, sport fishing, charter boats and much, much more. And if you’re feeling lucky, there are 4 different casinos within a reasonable distance of The Harbor. Also check out Grayland, Westport (for the surfers!), Ocean Shores, North Beach and Tokeland, all within a 2 hour drive from Union.

“A destination for all seasons…where memories are waiting to be made!”

 

Kalaloch– Located on the coast, and about 2.5 hours from Union, Kalaloch is just north of the Quinault Reservation. Kalaloch is one of the most visited areas in Olympic National Park. Hiking at Kalaloch is an excellent way to see the many species of nesting birds and other wildlife. Due to the protected nature of the area, it is considered a safe haven for thousands of marine species. Camping is available at Kalaloch and for more amenities the Kalaloch Lodge is right on the beach with rooms and cabins available.

 

La Push Beach– A scenic 3.5 hour drive from Union on HWY 101 will bring you to La Push, WA. La Push Beach is a series of beach chains called Beach one, two, and three. Beach one is fourteen miles, beach two is thirteen, and beach three is twelve miles away from the town of Forks. First Beach is the only beach in La Push that can be accessed with a vehicle. In addition to beachcombing, First Beach offers, fishing, surfing, hiking and storm watching. To get to Second Beach, there is about a mile hike from the Quileute Reservation. Half a mile offshore is an archipelago. Sea stacks are mixed throughout the small islands and are known as the Quileute Needle. Third Beach is a 1.6 mile hike from the road with views of Strawberry Bay. Third Beach is one of the Olympic Peninsula beaches which tend to consist of seastacks and driftwood. In the isolated non-developed cove at Taylor Point, there is a waterfall that falls directly onto the beach where tide pools are also featured on the north end. Being the Third Beach down the La Push, Washington coastline, it is the most secluded. However, there are multiple camp sites that put campers within 5 minutes’ walk of the ocean where Teahwhit Head blocks the way to Second Beach.

There are so many amazing places to go and see without having to travel too far away.  The ocean beaches just barely scratch the surface.  Oh the places we will go!  Stay tuned!

What’s it like living in a small town you may ask?  As I’ve mentioned before, I moved out here from the east coast, Philadelphia to be more precise.  I’d spent many summer trips here in the past, but this move is my first experience living out here full time as an adult.  I knew I’d be more than happy to leave behind the traffic and smog ridden roads, filled with litter, blaring horns, sirens and risky drivers.  But what about all of those other things I’d miss?  Corner convenience stores, restaurant take-out, Grub Hub deliveries, near-by concerts, museums and festivals?  How would I live without these amenities?!?  As it turns out the answer is, quite spectacularly!  I live in a place where, as Agent Cooper from Twin Peaks said best, “a yellow light still means slow down, not speed up.”

Every day on my way into the office, I pass a man taking a walk along Hood Canal and he takes the time to wave at each driver that passes.  I saw a woman watering her plants the other day, dancing while she watered.  I see people on epic cycling rides, people gearing up for great camping adventures, kayakers, sea planes coming in for a landing, seals and herons fishing, mountains, water and of course majestic evergreen trees.  There is fresh air, beauty and friendly faces surrounding us here in Union.  There is also quiet, solitude and peace.  There is a feeling of community here, a neighborly embrace.  Members of the community stop by for social calls, just for a friendly hello, a quick chat to see how the day is going.  And people here are sincere.  When someone asks you how you’re doing, they genuinely want to know!  My east coast brain was so geared toward the brief, “Fine, how are you?” reply, that I was taken aback to have people further inquire after that.  “What are your plans for the weekend?”  “How have you been enjoying your week?”  In Philadelphia, people often don’t make eye contact with each other, even when it is warranted.  And the longer I’ve been here I’ve realized that I don’t need to be able to walk to a corner store or order food delivery to be happy, I need this life.  A life where strangers wave and smile in passing, a life where there are community get-togethers, like a salmon dinner at the fire hall.  A life where you can go down to the resort and take a ukelele class or a mycological class for a mere $10!  And of course, there are places to go for dinner & drinks, take out, wine tasting, open mic night, spa treatments and all of the things that make life great,and it is all here, in this place of boundless beauty and lively personalities.

I cannot even count the number of times I’ve had the big city life at my finger tips and chose to stay home.  I didn’t want to be bothered with traffic, parking and long lines.  I have seen more amazing things and gone on more epic adventures since I moved here than I ever did in the big city.  And while we may be off the beaten path, the road less traveled, we are right in the middle of everything.  Nature, history, exotic dining, explorations, you name it and you can most definitely get there from here.  And I intend to show you how.

Until next time!

If you’re a food lover interested in discovering some new and unusual local dining experiences, read on!

If you ever thought doughnuts were getting boring, never fear!  I’ve recently discovered Legendary Doughnuts in Tacoma.  “We have taken doughnuts to the next LEVEL”.  They are not kidding!  Legendary Doughnuts boasts a menu that would rival a full scale restaurant.  They have Amateur, Famous, Legendary, Specialty Legendaries and the Extraordinary.  When you offer this many  choices, you not only have to be creative in your preparation, you also need to be creative with names.   The Albert Einstein, the Bill Gates and even the Bill Cosby are just a few of the options. To find out more about these crazy doughnuts, you’ll just have to go and check them out.  Be sure to bring a sweet tooth and several friends to share with.  Their hours vary by day, but they open every day at 5am.  Get some!

McMenamin’s is also another great dining experience unique to the Pacific Northwest.  Each of their locations showcase completely different and  fascinating interiors and exteriors that will having you feeling like you’ve traveled back in time.  Take a ride to Olympia, Tacoma or Centralia to experience their nearest locations.  There’s really no way to summarize what these guys are all about, check out their website and see for yourself.

 The Robin Hood Restaurant and Pub is located right here in Union, WA.  It is a great place to go for food, cozy and inviting atmosphere, lovely people and quirky decor.  The Robin Hood has been around since 1934!  They offer a menu of local and organic Northwest cuisine.  I recommend the lemon drop prawns, wow they are delectable!  They have a great happy hour, Fireball Fridays, Acoustic Saturdays and an open mic on Wednesdays.  Check this place out, you’ll really feel like your dining in Sherwood Forest.

I could quite literally spend days talking about the amazing foods and restaurants that fill the highways and byways of Western Washington.  And as many different  cities or locales often have their own famous food specialties, we too excel at one thing in particular.  Chicago may have pizza.  NYC may have bagels.  Philly may have cheese steaks.  But we have seafood and lots of it!  Salmon, cod, oysters, mussels, clams, geoducks, shrimp and the list goes on.  We’ve have highly rated standards with multiple locations like Anthony’s, Ivar’s, Duke’s for starters.  And for well loved, fairly local seafood sensations, head to the Fish Tale Brew Pub in Olympia.  The Fish Tale is Olympia’s oldest brewpub and revered by the locals.  But if you’re more interested in enjoying these delicacies in the comfort of your own home, we can do that too!  The Hama Hama Oyster Company is located in Lilliwaup, less than 30 min from Union.  While oysters are their specialty, they also offer clams, crab cakes and a few other assorted goodies.  We are also proud the be the home location of Taylor Shellfish.  They are located in Shelton, also less than 30 min from Union.  You can visit the Taylor Shellfish retail location to pick up fresh oysters, Manila clams, geoducks & mussels or an assortment of  frozen quality fish and shellfish.

Happy dining fellow food lovers!