Road Trip with Jess’ Family | A Week in Tacoma | June 2021
We left Portland at 11AM on Monday and began the 3 hour drive to Tacoma. Knowing that we couldn’t check into our rental home until after 3, I suggested that we drive out to see Mount Saint Helens. We would be limited on what we could do with the dogs hiking wise, but at least we could enjoy the forest scenery on the way and find somewhere to get a closer view. We left I-5 and started heading East on WA-504. As we started heading East though, road signs informed us that most of the visitor centers and observatories were closed, including the furthest one along this highway. We instead drove only about 20 minutes until we came to one that was open and had a view of the mountain.
While driving, we crossed paths with a giant log truck, and as it drove by a branch that was short but thick came flying off and hit our windshield. We all kind of ducked instinctively and prepared for the worst — but it only made a loud noise when it hit, and no damage was caused, thank God! We definitely looked at those trucks differently for the rest of our time driving around Washington!
We spent around 30 minutes enjoying the views from the visitor center/gift shop, and let the dogs sniff around. From where we were, we could see Mt. Saint Helens and the valley where the lava flowed during its 1980 eruption. Supposedly it’s common to see elk grazing down there, but we didn’t see any today. We eventually piled back in the car and finished our drive North to Tacoma.
For our week in Tacoma, we stayed in a small rental house in the Hilltop neighborhood. It was small, cozy, and clean, central to all that we did around Tacoma, and worked out great for us. The best part was that there was a fenced-in backyard for the dogs to run around!
On our first evening in Washington, my brother Joel came to meet us after his work day ended, and took us to Point Ruston for dinner. We ate at Mio Sushi, walked along the waterfront and enjoyed views of Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, and the Olympics, and finished the night with ice cream at Ice Cream Social.
On Tuesday, we drove out to North Bend, which is East of Seattle in the foothills of the Cascades for some hiking and sightseeing. We visited Snoqualmie Falls and marveled at the raw power of the water flow, and took time to walk the trails to all the different look outs. I had some ideas for longer and harder peaks in the area, but after we started walking around with the dogs we decided it was probably too hot to do something more strenuous with them. We were fine with that, because even just walking through the forests feels magical here!
Next, we drove into North Bend and stopped at Twede’s Cafe, a place featured in the TV show Twin Peaks. Neither my sister Gina or I have seen the show, but we were happy to wait with the dogs while mom and dad went inside and got some pictures. After that we got some ice cream at Scott’s Dairy and walked around town.
Wanting to enjoy the beautiful views in the foothills some more before heading back to Tacoma, I navigated us to a park outside of town called 3 Forks Park. After a quarter mile walk through the woods, we came to the Snoqualmie River with great views of the nearby peaks. There was a wide open area where we could walk on the rocks and along the river, and the dogs wasted no time in getting their feet wet. They both enjoyed being in the water, but Archie especially liked running and splashing around.
On Wednesday, we crossed over to the Kitsap peninsula and hiked to Dickerson Creek Waterfall. The morning started out cloudy and cool, and since it was much better hiking weather than the day before we made a bigger loop around the area. We enjoyed seeing wildflowers along the trail, and had the waterfall to ourselves.
That afternoon, we went shopping around Tacoma, trying out a few thrift stores that Joel had recommended. After dinner, we went to Point Defiance and walked around the gardens. We spent a good amount of time there, but afterwards while driving around, we realized how big the park was and that we could’ve spent much more time hiking and visiting other gardens, a zoo, and a fort.
On Thursday, we drove Southeast to Eatonville and hiked the Bud Blancher trail to Little Marshal Falls. This was a 5 mile round-trip hike that was mostly shaded. It started out flat and easy, then started gaining in elevation, but it wasn’t until the end of the trail that it got narrow and more challenging. We had to climb over some fallen logs, get past some places where the trail was a little washed out, and cross a creek, but at the end we were rewarded by a tall and very full waterfall. The waterfall gave us a refreshing breeze and again the dogs enjoyed wading through the water. Mom and Gina climbed up the rocks and made it up to the top of the falls while Dad and I stayed with the dogs. I think it’s best that all our hikes revolved around water this trip, as the weather was warm and this gave the dogs a way to stay cool.
That evening, we were able to meet up with Joel again. This time, he got us sandwiches from his favorite deli and we went to Chambers Bay for a picnic. After eating, we walked out to the water and along the rocky shoreline, watched the boats and birds and enjoyed views of the Olympics.
Friday was our last full day in Tacoma, and also the day that Gina would be flying home and Curtis would be joining us. We decided to drive up to Seattle and walk around downtown for a few hours before taking Gina to the airport. We walked around the waterfront, Pike Place Market, and to the Olympic Sculpture Park, and saw the Space Needle. We concluded that since we weren’t that interested in shopping, eating, and didn’t want to spend money or time on tours that there wasn’t a need to spend much time there, but at least we all enjoy playing Pokemon Go so that made our time more interesting.
We said goodbye to Gina and dropped her off at the airport that afternoon, and then picked Curtis up a few hours later. For dinner, we went to Ivar’s Seafood, which was recommended by someone to my mom. We weren’t that impressed (though I had the chowder in a bread bowl and liked that) and we decided it’s better to get seafood suggestions from people who actually say they like seafood. We returned to the rental house and started getting ready for our departure the next morning.
Overall we had a great time visiting Tacoma and hiking in different areas. The only thing I wish we could’ve done here was visit Mount Rainier National Park. I had several hikes picked out in the national forest near all of the different entrances that dogs could do, but up until this week the park still had so much snow, much more than is usual, and several entrances weren’t opened and I knew that we weren’t prepared for hiking in snow. We also didn’t think it was worth it to drive 2 hours one way to the park only to say we visited, and either not be able to hike with dogs, or have to leave them at the house for an extended amount of time. If we had visited the next week, however, it would have been a very different story because the Northwest was about to experience some extreme heat. Oh well, just another reason to come back, and one less thing for Curtis to be jealous about. 😉