We love this post from Explore Hood Canal with great ideas about things to see and do! Waterfalls, oysters, restaurants, scenic pull outs, fun hikes, and a touch of shopping are all the hallmarks of a good day on the Hood for the whole family. Read on!

Hood Canal Events

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The Hood Canal Region is filled with recreational activities all year round. Whether you come to Hood Canal for a special event, to revel in nature or to be pampered and relaxed, the options abound. Sometimes there are so many opportunities and activities it’s hard to plan and decide. If you’re looking for an adventure low key or exciting, but the options are just too overwhelming, never fear. Local entrepreneurs, Kerry London Myers and Jeff Nunnemaker, have created an amazing company that focuses on event planning specific to our region. Whether you are interested in a small, intimate kayaking tour, a corporate event or even attending one of their large scale events like the Traveler 5K Run/Walk, Kerry and Jeff have something great planned for you.

The core services they offer include: Core Services – Event Consultation, Local Personal Concierge Desk, Private/Corporate Event and Tour Planning, Lodging and Accommodations, Transportation, Outdoor Recreation & Activities, Exclusive Venues, Dining and Catering.
Their special event services include: Special Event Services – 5k/10k, Half/Full Marathon, Pace/Peddle/Paddle Triathlon, Polar Plunge, Overnight Hiking and Camping Expeditions, Rafting, Fishing, Winery and Brewery Tours, Golf Tournaments, Foraging and Survival Expeditions.

Their expertise and dedication have given them exclusive access to caterers, venues, accommodations and even transportation. The Hood Canal Events team can take on just about any request and challenge and create an unforgettable experience.  I had the pleasure to attend their Traveler 5K Run/Walk and it was a top notch event.  But see for yourself – below are just a few examples of experiences they offer.

The Pack & Go – HCE will plan a customized Hood Canal experience based around your budget and interests. All you have to do is simply respond with your answers to the bulleted items below. We’ll take care of your travel and accommodation arrangements – all while keeping your destination experience a surprise.

  • NUMBER IN YOUR TRAVEL PARTY – IS EVERYONE OVER 21?
  • WHAT ARE YOUR DESIRED TRAVEL DATE(S)?
  • WHAT ARE YOUR INTERESTS (HIKING, KAYAKING, CAMPING, TOURS, TASTINGS, ETC.)?
  • WHAT IS YOUR GET AWAY TRAVEL BUDGET?

Mini Traveler Day Camp – “#OptOutside” It is our goal to enforce environmentally responsible behaviors in our youth that derives directly from participating in such ‘wild nature activities’ as playing independently in the woods, hiking, kayaking, and exploring at an early age. Mini Traveler Camp is committed to getting kids to #OptOutside enjoying the Hood Canal on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, please join us!

The Ridge Motorsports Park GoKarts – Olympic Grand Prix Package Includes

  • Roundtrip Transportation on the HCE Bus
  • Locally Prepared Lunch for your experience
  • Safety and Race Training prior to race
  • Safety Helmets for your race
  • Three 12-Minute Races per participant
  • Beer/Wine/Non-Alcoholic Beverages and Bottle of Champagne for the victor!

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SNOW LAKE

Although there are pretty much endless hiking opportunities in and around the Olympic Peninsula area, sometimes it’s good to head east for a different perspective and visual stimulation.  The hike to Snow Lake is located in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness near North Bend.  A $5 Northwest Forest Pass is required for this visit.  Park in the Alpental Ski area lot, which can fill up rather quickly on the weekends.  My friends and I decided to make our journey there early on a Monday morning mid-July.  There was plenty of parking, but there were tons of people making the same trek.

I was looking for a hike that wasn’t too terribly far from home.  (Approximately 2.25 hours from Union.)  I also wanted it to be tougher than a paved path, but not so tough I could not handle it.  In addition, it needed to have a view of something spectacular!  Now for a casual, out-of-shape hiker like myself, when a hike is rated average, I have to translate that in to fairly difficult.  After much research, we narrowed down the options to Snow Lake.  7.25 miles round trip, 1,800 ft elevation gain, and fairly easy.  Fairly easy if you’re young, agile, in good shape and were never a smoker!  The first 1.75 miles of narrow, rocky, rugged paths are a steady low incline with moderate elevation gain.  As you climb up these first few miles you get incredible views of the opposing peaks including Chair Peak.  We could see the two chair lifts running up the mountain sides across from us.  As you climb there are occasional breaks in the trees where you can see far behind you the buildings around the Alpental Ski area and the parking lot where your car is just a tiny looking cube.  And as you look at the ground you’ve covered and you look up to see where you still have to go, you wonder how on earth are we climbing to a lake?  It’s also difficult to tell exactly where you’re going up to as the path blends into the visual of the mountain side.  Unless of course there are hikers ahead of you…then you can really get a good idea of how high you’re going to climb!

At the 1.75 mile mark, there is an off-shoot of the trail that leads to another lake.  But Snow Lake was our destination, so we took the path to the sharp right and continued on.  At this point in the journey, the trail gets pretty steep.  It is another mile of steep, rocky switchbacks.  Now remember, this is coming from the mind of an unseasoned hiker.  Other hikers were gliding uphill like it was nothing.  One cool guy was carrying his dog like a baby to protect the dogs paws from rocks!  I could barely get myself up there, let alone carry a full grown pup!  There are not many places along this trail to step off to the side to rest and catch your breath, so if you see one and need one, take it!  All of the hikers we encountered were kind and courteous, encouraging even as I huffed and puffed my way up there.  One kind man on his way down reminded me it didn’t matter WHEN I got there, just that I arrived!

After the mile of steady switchbacks, we reach the end of my journey.  When the ground levels out, the path splits left and right.  To the right there is a path that leads to giant boulders, a dead end.  And to the left, the path curves around and starts to descend.  We went left.  We climbed onto the boulders and were treated with a beautiful and amazing view of Snow Lake from above.  For a 95 degree day down on the ground, the weather up top was extremely different.  It was very windy, cold and damp and a misty, cloudy fog continued to roll across the lake in spurts immediately driven away by the wind to be followed by a new burst of fog.  But the view was stunning.  We sat on the boulder, enjoyed our snacks and lots of water while we watched the weather perform a ballet across the lake.  If you continue on the trail, it will lead you down to the lake itself, but my tired little legs could not handle going all the way down.  Round trip to the boulder is about 6 miles.  And of course, the way down was much easier, although not too gently on the knees.  So while the journey may not have been easy (for me), I will admit it was about as easy as climbing the side of a small mountain could ever be!  And it was most definitely worth the sense of accomplishment and stellar views.

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Finnriver Farm & Cidery

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The Finnriver Farm & Cidery is an 80 acre family farm & orchard in Chimacum, WA.  They are located in a rural farm community about an hour and a half from the Alderbrook Community.  The drive is beautiful and scenic, mostly along Hood Canal on Rt 101.  Be sure to get directions from their website.  The final turn on to Barn Swallow Rd is easy to miss if you’re not ready.  There is a long, windy, bumpy road that will lead you to the farm.  Be aware, the road travels through and past other private farmlands & neighbors.  Be respectful, drive slowly and enjoy all of the cautionary rhyming signs traveling through.  The farm landscape is beautiful, but private.  One can only assume from the number of clever signs, the neighbors often find people trespassing on their properties, hopefully by mistake.  At the end of the road, park and follow the path around to the right which is where the entrance is to the tasting room.

 

The tasting room is open daily from noon-5pm.  Inside the building, the room is small or shallow with a long counter.  The room is deliciously fragrant.  There are not just ciders and fruit wines, but also soaps, lotions and other odds & ends.  The tasting is a $5 fee which is a bargain for the service, education and history you’ll receive.  We were treated to 6 ciders and 2 fruit wine samples including how each was made, where the different ingredients came from and some of the science behind production.  As she poured our samples, our server told us farm anecdotes, personal thoughts & favorites and some great history of the Finnriver Farm.  And if that was not fantastic enough, we were also permitted to taste other ciders that had not been a part of the tasting in order to finalize our selections for purchase.  It was tough to decide, there were so many amazing flavors including a seasonal selection.  After selecting 5 different bottles within my group, we added some other items as well including a Finnriver Farm & Cidery sticker for the bargain deal of 50 cents!  They accept cash & credit, wrap your purchases in tissue paper and put them in handled paper bags decorated with a stamp of apples.  They then invite you to wander around and check out the rest of the farm, there are even some trails to walk.  Our visit to Finnriver was perfect, 5 stars.

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Festivals & Festivities

Pretty much year round there is bound to be some sort of annual celebration or festival from the Olympic Peninsula area to the Kitsap Peninsula area.  And this list doesn’t even include the heavy hitters in Pierce, King and surrounding counties like the Washington State Fair or Bumbershoot!  So here is a month by month list of the different festivities happening in our “neck of the woods” January through December.  Be sure to check websites for dates, admission fees, etc.  If you see one we’ve missed, be sure to let us know and we’ll add it on the list!

January:

February:

March:

April:

May:

June:

July:

August:

September:

October:

November:

December:

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!

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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!

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!

 

And hello again!  I’m back here on my mission:  Why live anywhere else?  Let’s talk coffee, beer and wine!

As every coffee lover knows, Washington is pretty much the coffee capital of the United States.  Starbucks, the biggest coffee chain in the world, was founded in Seattle.  The original Starbucks can be found at 1912 Pike Place.  We have more coffee bean roasters per capita than anywhere else in the US.  And if you’re in to small, independent coffee shops and cafes, there is no shortage of them here.  State routes, highways and even the small back roads are often filled with small, drive through coffee stops, reminiscent of old photo huts.  And because there are so many coffee entrepreneurs out there, these places are constantly working to push the envelope of creativity.  So whether you like your coffee “black as midnight on a moonless night” -Agent Dale Cooper via Twin Peaks, a crazy caffeinated concoction or a fancy frozen frappe, you’re bound to find something new and unique to broaden your cuppa joe horizons.

And for the beer lovers, Washington State is the nation’s #1 hops grower.  We grow 70% of the nation’s hops used to make countless numbers of beers.  And 2/3’s of the hops grown in Yakima Valley are exported to countries all over the world!  There are 146 active breweries in Washington, now that’s a lot of beer.  And there are even entire books written on beer in the Pacific Northwest.  Wikipedia will provide a complete list of the breweries in our state, but here are some main attractions:  Elysian Brewing Company, Pike Brewing Company, Pyramid Breweries, Redhook Ale Brewery, Rogue Ales and Scuttlebutt Brewing Company.  And May through October, there are more than 30 beer festivals state wide, throw Oregon in the mix and there are over 40.  If you love to celebrate beer, there’s no place better to celebrate than Washington State.    Interested in a complete list of Washington’s breweries and brewpubs?  Check out these guys:  The Washington Beer Blog

Finally, for the oenophiles out there, Washington State is the second largest wine producer in the nation, home to over 750 wineries.  Our state’s vineyards lie at the same latitude as the classic wine growing regions of France.   Washington wine touring information is broken down into 8 regions and the industry welcomes 2.4 million visitors annually.   The South Sound/Olympic Peninsula area has more than 20 wineries alone!  There are several annual events throughout our region including Olympic Peninsula Wineries Red Wine & Chocolate in February, Northwest Wine and Cheese Tour in April, Lavender Celebration in July, Dungeness Crab and Seafood Festival in October and the Harvest Wine Tour in November.  Check out http://olympicpeninsulawineries.org for for information on those.  And be sure to visit http://washingtonwine.org for more wine information and a free Washington State Wine Official Tour Guide.

Perhaps next time we’ll move on to everyone’s favorite:  FOOD!