After our race in Seattle, we headed north with a goal of meeting up with our nephew’s wife, Jessey. Branden is a Navy pilot stationed on Whidbey Island but he was deployed to Italy at the time of our visit. However, we were excited to have an opportunity to catch up with Jessey whom we hadn’t seen since our famous blizzard Thanksgiving dinner a couple of years ago.
At Jessey’s recommendation we boarded the ferry in Mukilteo, about half an hour north of Seattle. The voyage (which may be using that term generously) was speedy and scenic.
We met Jessey for lunch and talked non-stop as we reconnected. There are numerous wineries on Whidbey Island and after lunch the three of us headed to one that we had spotted along our drive.
The Spoiled Dog Winery sign had caught our attention because of our own spoiled dogs (see below).
We enjoyed our wine tasting and willingly each purchased a bottle.
As we departed the winery, Jessey hospitably invited us to spend the night at their new house,despite the fact that the movers had delivered their furniture less than a week earlier and she was still in the process of unpacking. We wavered only briefly (not wanting to impose) but had soon accepted her gracious offer. We followed Jessey north through Whidbey Island to Deception Pass where Jessey directed us to a perfect spot to park so we could walk onto the bridge for truly majestic views.
After taking in the vista and snapping a few shots we continued to Jessey and Branden’s new home where we enjoyed truly one of the best evenings of our trip…and we had a fabulous trip!
After leaving Jessey on Monday morning we drove south towards Mount Rainier National Park. Mount Rainier had been omnipresent since we had landed in Seattle and as we drove closer we became more and more enthralled with this truly majestic mountain. Although there are mountains in New England, our biggest mountain, Mount Washington, is less than half the size of Mount Rainier’s 14,410 feet..and it’s not a glacier-topped volcano.
As we neared the park we stopped at this rest area to take more photos.
Some Washington runners whom we had met in Maine earlier this summer had suggested that we go to Paradise. We had only a vague idea that Paradise was a location in the park and that was where the Paradise Inn was located. As we drove into Mount Rainier National Park and further from lodging outside of the park, we became more wistful for an opportunity to stay right on the mountain. I had tried to make reservations at the inn before leaving home but there hadn’t been any vacancies on the website. So when I dragged Mike to the hotel lobby just to check to see if there might be a vacancy, I was not too hopeful.
Once we entered the lobby of this historic old western lodge I was desperate to be able to stay. And luckily, we could! Our cozy room was clean and included amenities such as a gorgeous plaid woolen blanket laid across the foot of the bed and thick terry robes. It didn’t include a private bathroom but for the reasonable rate of $119/night and the chance to stay right on the mountain we didn’t mind having to walk down the hall to a bathroom that made me think of an upscale dorm.
After checking in we immediately headed out to explore the mountain.
The easy path from right behind the inn took us to a small waterfall with a stunning view. Because it was getting late we opted for just a short hike with plans to venture further the next day.
After returning to our room to change for dinner, we enjoyed the luxury of just walking down the stairs to the expansive dining room in the inn. Although the restaurant offers fine dining the atmosphere was unpretentious. Many diners,clad in their hiking boots and plaid shirts, appeared to have walked in directly from the mountain. It was perfect.
After dinner we settled into chairs in the lobby to await a presentation about Mount Rainier from a park ranger.
The combined effects of low lighting, plush chairs, and a couple of glasses of wine soon had us nodding off despite the informative lecture the ranger was providing. We slipped up to our room and as we lay in bed we contemplated the fact that we were sleeping on the slope of an active volcano. Undeterred by this slightly thrilling notion, we enjoyed a wonderful night’s sleep.
We awoke before dawn the next morning anxious to begin our hike. But wishing to avoid early morning encounters with wildlife, we drank tea and coffee in the quiet now empty lobby while we waited for sunrise. As the sun appeared I went outside to try to capture some early morning images.
Once it was light we began our climb up the mountain through the alpine meadows which were filled with acres of flowers and views that made us sigh and exclaim about the beauty surrounding us about every 30 steps. We definitely now knew what “Paradise” was.
I was delighted that we were able to ascend the mountain while walking on a gravel path that required no actual climbing. My family could readily recount a number of times when during a family hike they have had to kindly point out that my semi-hysterical declaration that “It’s too scary and I’m not moving” wasn’t actually going to be an option.
The only hysteria on this hike came in the form of hysterical laughter from Mike as he watched me crab-walk along small rocks in a stream so narrow that I could have almost reached across it and with water so shallow I doubt that my ankles would have even been wet had I “plunged” into it. I’m convinced that if I had been carrying one of the spiffy walking sticks that I had seen other hikers using I would have spared myself the humiliation and traversed the stream without hesitation.
When we retraced our steps back to the lodge we found the views that had been behind us were also breathtaking.
As we returned to the Paradise Inn and packed up to continue our northwest travels we were a bit sorry to be departing from this majestic spot. However, we left Paradise full of awe and gratitude for our unexpectedly wonderful adventures, eager to share our experiences and hoping to inspire others to make this a destination in their own journeys.