~Paul & Amber
We're back in Southern Utah! So far, the itinerary has allowed for hiking in Zion National Park & Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Tomorrow we head out for a day-trip to Bryce Canyon National Park and in a few days we hike the strenuous Angel's Landing in Zion…I better hydrate! Today's post is just a little taste of what's to come as we explore one of our favorite places in the US! Enjoy!
~Paul & Amber
Over the years, La Conner Washington has become one of our favorite Washington towns. Located in the 'Up & Over' and in the Skagit Valley, it's just over an hour northwest of Seattle. It's got good beer, cute shops, comfy B&Bs, galleries and museums, great restaurants, and you can even park a sailboat here - the town sits along the salty Swinomish Channel.
We're gonna point out a few of our favorite La Conner hotspots - some new, some more established, all great and ETC approved. Most of them we visited last summer & Fall, although, we drove through a few weeks ago to see what's new (and 'cause we love the place!).
Sample some of Washington's best wines at Hellam's Vineyard, located on the main drag in the Lime Dock building. Sample, buy, & enjoy a drink outside on the waterfront patio. Great selection!
Craft Ale Syndicate
We were so impressed when we found the Craft Ale Syndicate in La Conner last summer. A small and friendly place, it offers local and interesting beers on tap, Bob Marley vinyl spinning in the corner, and and TV above the bar to yell at while watching some soccer. Hip is not exactly what you'd expect in La Conner, but that's what makes this place perfect. We hope it sticks around!
Seeds Bistro serves great local food at all meals - breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We stopped by for a quick burger and loved it. Not to mention they built their entranceway around the oldest beech tree in Washington. They care about food and serving good food to you - it shows!
What tiny town has 3 museums? Make sure to check out at least one while you're there - The Quilt & Textile Museum, the Skagit County Historical Museum, or the Museum of Northwest Art.
That's just the start of things to do in and around La Conner. There's the book store, the antique store, the newly located Nell Thorn restaurant…and more! Definitely worth a visit and easy to spend the day exploring rain or shine.
~Paul & Amber ETC
*More info about La Conner here
*When we paddled the Skagit River to La Conner…without much planning;)
*Paddling the Swinomish to Hole in the Wall
*B&B Review in La Conner
*South Fork Skagit River kayaking near La Conner
A quick little hike from Orcas Island's Mountain Lake brings you to Cascade Falls. Depending on the season, this little San Juan Island waterfall can flow. We've been there before, and always love to stop by when we're close. Roundtrip hiking to the falls from Mountain Lake took us a little about 2.5 hours. Plan for 1/2 day in the woods hiking & exploring this waterfall if you're leaving from the Mountain Lake campground like we did. It's totally worth it!
~Paul, Amber, Sis, Mom
I've got to be honest, it's a little tricky to enjoy swimming in the Pacific Northwest. There's water everywhere here in Western Washington, but it's chilly. When summer comes around again this year I'll finally be ready…because I finally found a lake…a warm lake!
To get there…wait for summer, then catch a ferry out of Anacortes…to Orcas Island in the San Juans!
Stop at some island viewpoints and shops along the way. Above: the road up tos Mt. Constitution. Below: views of Volcano Baker and shopping at Crow Valley Pottery.
We've arrived! A little lakeside campground in Moran State Park called…Mountain Lake!
We took a few laps around the lake in our 2 person Innova kayak and had a blast. The water was surprisingly warm - much warmer than Lake Washington in Seattle (where we usually swim in the summer).
The campground has only about 10 spots with parking spaces, and a lot more for groups (not to mention sites in other parts of the park). We made a reservation online here. We didn't have that much trouble getting a reservation on a week day in the summer. There aren't showers onsite - that could be part of it (there are bathrooms & water though).
More than one trail leaves Mountain Lake for lookouts, other lakes, and waterfalls (we've been to one). Canoe & kayak rentals are also available.
So, if you're looking for a warm summer lake to swim in, even in the chilly Pacific Northwest, be sure to book a night or two at Mountain Lake on Orcas Island!
~Paul, Amber, Mom, Sis
Anacortes Lady of the Sea Sculpture (& a great kayak launch at the Cap Sante Marina - Seafarers Memorial Park)
We recently spent some time in Anacortes reviewing an Inn for an upcoming 'Inns you can paddle and sail to' post and got a few good looks at the gorgeous Lady of the Sea sculpture. Located in Seafarers' Memorial Park (map), the lady and child await the safe return of their seafaring loved ones. Deborah Copenhaver sculpted the statue in 1994.
The sculpture also happens to sit adjacent to a great small boat launch - perfect for kayaks. With lots of parking close by this is a great place admire the sculpture, pay your respects to the sea and those who have lost their lives to it, and get out [safely] on the water yourself!
~Paul & Amber ETC
I'm pretty sure there are a crazy amount of Washingtonians who haven't paddled the Yakima River in Eastern Washington. It is one of our favorite 1/2 to full day paddles/floats. It's a blast! The last time we paddled we took the easy route, from Umtanum to Roza (just south of the town of Ellensburg, WA). This time, paddled during last summer, we knew we wanted to do a little more and decided to try Ringer to Roza.
First thing's first, we dropped off people (there were 6 of us on this trip) and gear at the Ringer boat launch (outside of Ellensburg, on Ringer Loop Road, upriver from the Umtanum launch site). Now, there are a lot of ways to do this, but we had half of our team take cars A, B, & C to the end at Roza. The other half stayed and got the kayaks ready to go at Ringer.
Cars A & B were left at the end (Roza), and everyone came back (to Ringer) in car C. Car C was left at Ringer. We spent the day kayaking downriver and when we finished we jumped into cars A & B and came back to Ringer and exchanged people/distributed gear back to cars A, B, & C. This worked well with the 6 of us, including our 5 inflatable kayaks...and gear...and refreshments.
The paddle was a dream - in the summer the air is warm, sun hot, water cool, and the river moves at a pretty normal speed. We paddled the approximately 15 miles from Ringer to Roza in about 5 hours. We stopped once for lunch.
If you plan to go it's always a good idea to check the river (here's a greatlink to a handy map and a local company you could contact about conditions). Also, prepare to pay small fees to park at both locations - one is the Department of Fish & Wildlife and the other is BLM...bring a little cash, read the signs and you're good to go! Don't forget your PFDs and just a tip - most folks don't recommend starting any higher than Ringer on this portion of river unless you've got some experience. Taking out lower isn't possible, due to a dam...see you on the river this summer!
~Paul, Amber, Keith, Vic, Mandy, Karl ETC
I had so much fun taking pictures on our Autumn paddle of the Skagit River in the North Cascades that I had to share more of them with this quick, mostly photo post. Catch all of the info on this paddle and more in our previous post - we can't wait to paddle this river again!
~Paul, Amber, Karl, Mandy
As the weather warms up around here and you prepare for some summer/late summer Pacific Northwest adventures, don't count out the Skagit River. The river snakes some 150 miles from Canada into Washington, through the North Cascades and empties into the Puget Sound. We catch up with it downriver from Lake Diablo and Ross Lake, around the towns of Marblemount and Rockport. These towns are located on highway 20, just before a popular entrance to the North Cascades National Park.
We've paddled it before (post here & the river mouth here) and this time we wanted to paddle a little more upriver from our usual launch site at Marblemount (map to usual launch site…the parking lot just over the bridge). After leaving one car at Rockport (free parking but pay a minimal launch fee when you land), we (4 of us this trip) loaded up all of our gear and drove up highway 20 looking for a safe place to park and a decent place to launch on the river. Luckily we were all paddling inflatable Innova kayaks or we and our gear wouldn't have fit into the one compact car! There were a lot of places to leave the car and we settled on a not too scary place to launch (7.4 miles past the bridge at Marblemount…After mile-marker 113).
Amber and I are not whitewater kayakers by any means and although it was late summer and the water looks refreshing in these pictures, it's cold…really cold and moving fast. We trusted ourselves and our experience, packed everything in our boats and set off. We hit some pretty good whitewater right at the beginning but we made it - staying dry!
And then it started pouring rain. Yikes. So much for dry. It quickly passed and we had great weather the rest of the paddle!
There are quite a few places to stop for a rest and bite to eat. The lighting was perfect for a wifey-hat photo-shoot.
The river was slightly more challenging than the last time, Amber and I almost tipped! It wasn't from splashy whitewater but from high-centering our boat on some shallow rocks and being pushed by the fast current. Instincts kicked in - she turned one way and I counteracted by shifting by bodyweight to the other… we ended up safe and dry!
We ended up paddling over 15 miles! It took around 5-6 hours with a lunch break and lots of picture time. Afterward we got both of the cars together and stopped midway at the Cascadian Home Farm for some flowers, ice cream, berries, and espresso. A gorgeous Northwest adventure!
Some tips if you go:
1. Dress warm, even in the summer. I always carry an emergency blanket just in case someone gets dunked and can't quite warm up.
2. Make sure whatever boat/kayak you are using is rated for this type of river.
3. A leash connecting you to your boat/paddle is a pretty good idea.
4. Wear your PFD at all times!
5. If you are paddling a narrow kayak like ours, a rudder or skeg helps greatly with tracking (steering).
6. Call and ask either the Ranger Station at Newhalem or possibly an outfitting company nearby about the condition of the river before you paddle. We paddled this time in early October. Some years it's fast, slow, shallow, crazy. Shallow wouldn't be fun.
7. Make sure you can fit all of your gear and folks in one car (or you'll have to take two cars to the drop off, drop off the gear, then take two cars downriver, leave one, and come back in the other…I've gone cross-eyed.
8. Don't leave your keys to the downriver car in the upriver one;)
9. As with all adventuring - better to take more snacks & water than you think you'll need.
10. Don't want to drive back to the city? Look for lodging in both Rockport or Marblemount.
11. Don't let this trip be your first time kayaking…it's a touch tricky for beginners!
~Paul, Amber, Mandy, Karl
While gathering photos & videos from our last kayaking trip down the Skagit River, I discovered this group of flowery pics taken on the trip last Autumn! A new-ish tradition for us is to kayak the Skagit at the end of summer/beginning of Autumn every year. Afterward we stop by the Cascadian Home Farm and grab some blueberries, flowers (pictured), and ice cream…yum.
I thought since today's Valentine's Day it would be fitting to post this flower-extraveganza! In Monday's post we'll share our adventure from the 15 miles we paddled down the river! Also, it's seeming more and more like Spring is close in the Pacific Northwest - time to start planning some new adventures!
~Paul, Amber, Mandy, Karl
Our mini Oregon road trip wouldn't have been complete without telling you a little secret kept in the quaint, historic old town section of Florence (map). Not the sprawl part of town…I'm talking near the Marina/RV/Campground exists...free showers!!! Boo-yes stinky travelers!!! We had been camping at nearby Waxmyrtle, exploring the Dunes and other stops (here & here). Our campground didn't have showers so we were on the lookout. We stopped at a pay to do laundry/shower place in the newer part of town and a nice gentleman told us to search for the free showers near the port! He was right!
Old town Florence has lots more to offer (not just the showers) - cool restaurants, coffee, shops, river walk, and more. It's a great 1/2 day trip if you're close! A clean ending to a great Oregon Coast adventure!
~Paul, Amber, Mom ETC