As I mentioned before, I grew up pretty isolated out in the Hill Country. While i didn't personally see much outside our ranch growing up, I was very fortunate to have access to a pretty impressive set of National Geographic magazines. By thumbing through those pages, I got to see what the world looked like outside our front gates. Many times I spend my time in a saddle riding fence line, or some other mundane task, day dreaming about the outback of Australia, the deep dark jungles of Africa or the splendor of the Grand Canyon. My unique upbringing fed my wanderlust as I got older. Having grown up in the outdoors and always wanting to see more has led me to truly appreciate what the world has to offer. While home will always be Texas, I am happiest when I am exploring. Which brings me to Washington state. First let me say this; from my week long experience, I am happy to declare that rarely have I been to a more beautiful country (Texas being the main exception). I was constantly drawn to the trees, green spaces and of course, the bodies of water. If you can appreciate the wonder that nature has to offer, then let me offer my heartfelt recommendation to visit Seattle and the surrounding areas.
Seattle itself is a wonderful city. While the reason why escapes me, I had Seattle on my list of places to visit since an early age. Now having been there, I can say that it did not disappoint. For me, Seattle is an intoxicating blend of modern city balanced with the nostalgia of a bygone era. Walking the stalls of Pike Market gave me the feeling of ancient routine. So many people had walked these same steps and sampled these same foods, you couldn't help but be caught up in the moment. Speaking of foods, the fruits and vegetables were amazing and bursting with flavor. I tasted cherries that were familiar and foreign at the same time. Familiar in that I knew them to be cherries, yet foreign in that I had never tasted cherries so alive with flavor! The seafood was no different. I have had great seafood in San Francisco, Greece and even on our Texas Gulf Shore, but I was blown away by the variety in both flavor and abundance. A trip to Seattle without a stop at the Pike Market is a trip wasted. We of course did the touristy things; the Space Needle, the Fremont Troll, the Aquarium and the Seattle Great Wheel, as well as a harbour cruise. All where wonderful and memorable. This was our first trip with our son, so it was very special to share it with him. However, as an avid outdoorsman, *pardon the pun, one semi-touristy place did stand out to me and that was the flagship REI store. This place was amazing! I think it might be worth a post of it's own so for now I will say this; WOW!!! It has it's own Ranger Station! It's own climbing wall and it's own mountain bike track!!! Yeah, I think it's worth it's own post so stay tuned for that. So now lets move on to more a natural mindset. Cool mountain breezes flowing through the open windows of your rented mini-van...yup, on to Mt. Rainier!
Mt. Rainier dominates the skyline. Sure, the Olympic Mountain Range can be seen in the skyline as well, but everyone's attention seems to be drawn to Mt. Rainier. Even when apologizing for the weather you might hear, "It's a little overcast today. Sorry you can't get a good view of Rainier." Perhaps it is so prominent because of it's sheer size and beauty. Perhaps it's just because everyone who comes to Seattle asks about it. Either way, I am so glad to have been able to make the day trip to the National Park. It's a really easy day trip, especially if you don't do what I did and just google map Mt. Rainier National Park and ignore your wife when she tries to explain that we're going down the wrong road. Now of course you can do what I did and say "Honey, google maps say to go this way." All that will get you though is a smirk from your wife and an icy stare from your mother in law, when you do in fact go into the backwoods entrance instead of the main entrance and end up in a isolated campground down 20 miles of dusty gravel roads. I sure hope the rental company got all of the dust off before the next rental. After realizing *admitting my mistake, we took the trip around to the more common entrance. Now while it is true that we like to say that everything is bigger in Texas, that's not always true. Especially when it comes to mountains and trees! We drove into the park and were immediately hit with the beauty and peacefulness that only true wilderness can evoke. We were also hit with a traffic jam. Yup, let that sink in. A traffic jam. The park roads were evidently being resurfaced so we had to wait while 70+ cars passed us going in the opposite direction before being able to proceed into the park. Finally we pulled into the Longmire area of the park. After a quick bathroom break we started exploring. Gus, my son, thoroughly enjoyed being outdoors after so many hours sitting in the van. We took plenty of time to stretch our legs and peruse the gift shop and historical markers before loading back up and driving on up to Paradise. Literally, Paradise. The Paradise Visitor Center and surround area is about as picturesque as you can imagine it to be. The views were amazing! We could see snow on the peaks around us and we had a clear view to the peak of Rainier. Trails ventured off from the area to what I am sure equally picturesque vistas. Unfortunately, because of my earlier misstep, we just didn't have the time to really explore as it had already been a long day of car seat riding for little Gus. So down the mountain we went, winding down through the huge trees, over bridges that spanned river beds still flowing with water from snow run off. We stopped for pictures and for one last look around before heading back to Seattle.
It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day of our normal lives. Work life, home life, kids activities and our daily routine. It is harder to break out of that routine to do something out of the ordinary. We are so blessed to live in a country with so many natural areas for us to visit and to take advantage of. It is my distinct belief that it is VITAL to occasionally unplug and explore the bounty of nature. It is our responsibility to expose our children to the wonder of nature and foster their curiosity, not matter what age. Take that time. Do these things. #LiveLifeOutside