2020 was a crazy year and 2021 was no different. With many undocumented adventures, I have decided to relive a few experiences that I began to document, but never finished writing about. May I present- a long weekend in the PNW with perfect weather and beautiful views!
My heart was longing for travel. Like most with itchy feet, I am dreaming of travelling freely again. My memories of travel are the most exotic place I have been recently, thanks COVID. Luckily 2019 held many adventures and I have yet to write about many of them!
My awesome brother and sister in law live in Washington (yes, the state). I hadn’t seen my brother in over a year and decided it was time to change that. We had an epic trip planned for the Olympic National Park. Just me, my brother, his dog and the glorious evergreens! Once we realized how little time we actually had together, we opted for an experience a little closer to his home base of Ellensburg. On the agenda for the 3 day weekend, camping, hiking and getting to know his then girlfriend and experience their life together.
My flight there was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had in my entire life. I had a seat next to someone who couldn’t move from their seat and I always go for the window. Somehow they were smack dab in the middle. I couldn’t get over to my seat, so I switched with the brother. But turns out he wasn’t in his assigned seat. So it was one big embarrassing disaster that led to a delay and 2500 airline loyalty points for my rotten experience. I can’t imagine how the brothers must have felt. Why would you separate them? Why would you not give them a seat that would be more manageable to maneuver from? Airlines are not disability friendly at all. Anywho… /endrant. On the bright side, I am proud of myself for traveling in a single carry on bag! No personal item!
If you haven’t already read my blogs, let me introduce myself, I am the woman with a plan, and usually a thorough plan. My brother is the exact opposite. More go with the flow spontaneous type. Maybe it has something to do with all of those years of following my ideas, sometimes willingly, sometimes more because of me tending to be a bossy big sister? Wanting to keep it more relaxed for the both of us, we went with the flow.
I landed very late and we had a two hour drive back to his place. Needless to say we just crashed and then not too bright and early we went shopping for the trip necessities. Once we got off to a (pretty late IMO) start, we opted to get lunch in a charming little town on the way to our campground for the night. If you haven’t heard of Leavenworth (no not that Leavenworth), you should Google it now!
Leavenworth, WA is a beautiful town nestled in the mountains. It used to be a logging community, but when that industry went bust, they quickly knew they had to reinvent themselves entirely to attract income for their beloved community. The story goes that someone decided their mountains looked like Bavarian mountains. So they remodeled their entire town with Bavarian architecture, beer gardens and restaurants serving all the wursts. The town is now full of shops, restaurants, hotels, wineries and local artists all vying for the business of locals and tourists alike.
You could spend a whole weekend wandering the shops, sampling cheeses, oil and vinegar, pretzels, spreads and wine. We’ve been enough times now to know our favorite stops! A trip to Leavenworth is not complete without a visit to Schocolate! The best small batch chocolate shop I have ever been to, hands down! Thoughts of their earl grey chocolates make me swoon.
After the wurst we made our way to Lake Wenatchee State Park.
Lake Wenatchee is nestled among beautiful mountain peaks. It’s almost always windy, which makes for interesting swimming but beautiful white noise for sleeping. The park beach faces west and the potential for stunning sunsets is high. I ended up sleeping in my hammock it was so gorgeous and just the right temperature for snuggling into my sleeping bag. I woke up on EST, predawn for PST, to little chipmunks running all around me and I watched the world come alive.
Once my brother woke up we had a typical camping breakfast and broke camp. We made our way up, down and around beautiful mountain roads to shoulder parking at the base of our hiking trail. Whoever named the peaks and lakes in this area was certainly a fan of Greek Mythology. The nearby peak was Labyrinth Mountain, but what brought us on this hike was Minotaur and Theseus Lakes. These alpine lakes are beautiful each in their own right, but being grouped so close together make it a must see if you are hiking in the PNW.
We parked our car with a few others that beat us on the trail and made our way up and up and up. The first mile of the hike you gain 1500 feet in elevation. Pretty steep for this sea level girl who isn’t used to anything above 800 feet, and that’s on an adventurous day. If I hadn’t bagged a Munro in Scotland a few months before, I likely would have thrown in the towel, but I knew I could do it. The key was just stopping when I needed to stop. Drinking when I needed to. Catching my breath when I could.
We leveled out for a bit, and then gained some elevation again. We were passed by the same groups of people who went up and also came back down. We went very slowly, but we enjoyed each brutal step. The truly amazing thing was all of the flora! We went from thick evergreens to sub-alpine meadows and up to craggy peak.
The lake opened up in front of us and I almost cried. It was exactly what I had in mind for hiking in the PNW. A small, but beautiful lake surrounded by small evergreens and mountains. We ran back into a pair that passed us from the Netherlands and we made sure they went up to the view we actually came for.
Less than half a mile from Minotaur lake was Theseus lake. A lake nestled in the saddle between two peaks, seemingly perched right on the edge of the cliff. The long range mountain views were to die for, just keep your kids and pets close!
After soaking in the view and chatting with our international trail friends, we made our way back down. I half ran down the parts that weren’t too steep and we made it to our car exhausted.
After cleaning up and slothing around for a while, we went out on the town. My brother and sister in law took me to their favorite night life spots in town. There are some great places to hang out in Ellensburg and neat history to go with all their charm. I came for the mountains, but enjoyed hanging out with the “younger kids”.
The next morning we packed up my bags and headed to a Mariners game, but not without stopping at Owens Meats in Cle Elum, WA first. They have a great meats selection and even more fun, meat vending machines scattered about in the neighboring towns.
Beautiful weather and blue skies greeted us in Seattle. We also ran into our Netherlands friends outside of the stadium. They took our advice from the day before and went to a baseball game while in the US. I was a little disappointed in the fans though, I have heard more cheering at Charleston Riverdogs games, and they are the local lower 1A team. What is not to be missed though, is the crab fries. Seasoned with Old Bay and topped with delicious crab meat and lemon wedges, they were worth every overpriced ballpark food penny.
After the game it was time me to be dropped off at hotel with an airport shuttle. My trip home was pretty uneventful, except for the beautiful sunrise view and I was back in the land of heat and humidity once more.