The Mystical Mount Rainier

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Standing 14,410 feet tall and located about 2 hours South of Seattle, Mount Rainier stands like a giant in the sky-line. It’s the 5th highest peak and tallest volcano in the lower 48 states and I’m lucky enough to be able to see it everyday that the weather is clear.  I love how majestic and mysterious it is.  You can be riding a long on a nice day, look over and suddenly you see a very large, breathtaking mountain in the distance, then just as suddenly it appeared, it disappears behind the trees as you’re driving. I love to watch the way it changes through the year, from bare spots showing to almost completely white, the landscape is ever evolving. The only thing better than seeing the mountain from afar is seeing it up close and in person. Mount Rainier has 5 regions, Paradise, Longmire, Sunrise, Ohanapecosh and Carbon River.  We’ve always entered from the Snoqualmie entrance to Longmire. It takes a little while before we come across an interesting spot to stop on our drive but the landscape on the way up is beautiful and momentarily changing as you catch glimpses at peaks, valleys and cliffs.

Some of the best photo ops on “The Mountain” are the waterfalls. Christine Falls is always the first spot we come to on our trip up to Paradise.  It’s a beautiful 69 foot tiered waterfall with parking nearby so you can get out and take a photo. Next is the beautiful Narada Falls, a 188 foot waterfall.  There’s a little bit of a trek to get down to a good picture taking spot but we’ve taken our children along with us down the path and they did fine.  Also, remember to bring a water bottle or empty gallon jugs to fill up with fresh water from the spout in the parking lot.

The aptly named Paradise at Mt. Rainier has a new welcome center with clean restrooms, a gift shop, a limited (and pricey) cafeteria along with general information.  The Paradise Inn that offers lodging, but closes for the Winter.  Also located at Paradise are is a ranger station and the Climbing Information Center where you can obtain climbing permits and hiking and backcountry camping information.

It took a little exploring before we found some of the lakes, the mirror lakes are beautiful and although I haven’t made the hike to Snow Lake, I hear it is spectacular. We didn’t come across Tipsoo lake in our adventures yet but it’s top on my list for next visit.  Also be warned that there is no cell signal around the mountain so having a map is a good idea! There are all kinds of hikes and sights if you have time to explore.  Every trip to Rainier is different, every day brings different weather and views and snow accumulation, but every trip is spectacular.  I would advise to avoid high traffic times like weekends during the Summer and to try to arrive in the morning to avoid afternoon crowds.  Whether you live in the Northwest, or just plan on visiting it, you must put Mt. Rainier National Park on your bucket list!

Need help planning your trip to the Mystical Mountain?  Check out the official Mt. Rainier site.

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Snoqualmie Falls

Located about 35 minutes East of Seattle, Snoqualmie Falls is a must-see for anyone in the Pacific Northwest. A great part about visiting the falls is the gorgeous drive there and the beauty of the mountains and lush green forests that surround you.  Make sure to check the weather ahead of time, we were lucky enough to go on a warm sunny day. There’s a lot of hiking and fun things to do in the area but we wanted a short trip with the kiddos so we pretty much stuck to the falls.  We got there around 10:30 on a Sunday and the parking lot was filling quickly.  We had to park in the lot across the street but luckily there is a small bridge over the road so you don’t have to worry about dodging cars and it’s pretty entertaining for the kids.

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The Salish Lodge is located to the left of the park.  I’ve heard it’s a great (but pricey) place to stay.  To the right are restrooms and the gift shop with t-shirts, trinkets and coffee. Head up a set of stairs to get to the falls. There are 3 viewing points at the upper falls.  It got a little crowded but there were plenty of chances to get good pictures.  There is also a trail where you can hike down to the lower falls but the little ones weren’t very cooperative so we didn’t chance it. You are also able to drive to and park at the lower falls but we were told there are about 20 spots and they fill rather quickly.

After gazing at the beauty of the falls, we stopped off at the Snoqualmie Brewery for some pizza and then let the kids loose at the nearby Sandy Cove Park.  Located along the river, Sandy Cove is a small, natural spot with an open grassy area, perfect for picnics and letting the kids run around.  Apparently there are 35 parks in Snoqualmie so check out The city of Snoqualmie parks site before going, to plan your picnic.

How to Spend a Day in Tacoma

We started our day in Tacoma by going to Shake Shake Shake.  I’ve had it on my list of “restaurants to visit” for a while and it came highly recommended by several friends.  We walked in and I instantly loved the decor of this retro-themed restaurant.  After perusing the menu, I decided on the Nutella shake (I obviously had to order a milkshake) and it was love at first sip.  We arrived as they were switching over to lunch, around 11, so we were able to order from the breakfast and lunch menu. The burgers were good, the breakfast was awesome and their shake was fantastic. My daughter ordered the waffles and they tasted like a yummy and crispy donut/waffle hybrid.  From their friendly service to their crispy shoe-string fries, I loved everything about this place and so did my kiddos.  I can’t wait to go back. I totally get what all the hype is about.

Stadium High School was our next stop.  Just around the corner from Shake Shake Shake, this Tacoma landmark looks more like a castle than a high school. You might recognize it from the movie “10 Things I hate about you”. It has a huge stadium (hence the name) with lots and lots of stairs.  There is a nice big parking garage with plenty of parking (as long as school’s out) and a good view for taking pictures.  There were a lot of people working out, going up and down the stairs and running around the track/football field.  My kids had a blast racing around the track, just be careful on the stairs, you wouldn’t want to fall down those!

After our workout at the stadium, we took a drive down Ruston Way and found a little store on the waterfront called Northern Fish http://northernfish.com/retail-locations.  They have fresh fish to take home or you can order a hot meal like fish and chips, to eat at one of the nearby picnic tables.  If you take a left as you are walking out of the building, you will quickly find a nice beach and a little further down is the Chinese Reconciliation Park http://www.tacomachinesepark.org/.  This is a great area to explore, whether you’re walking hand in hand on a date or with your kids who insist on playing in the sand and throwing rocks in the water.  It was a perfect way to end our day.  Have you been to Tacoma recently?  What places would you recommend?