Pacific Northwest (part 2)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Greetings from Illinois!

I just got a new role within my company and I have 2 straight weeks of training in Bourbonnais, IL that started yesterday. I haven't done much exploring because I'm busy 12 hours a day but this weekend I plan to go on an adventure or 2.
Stay tuned for a potential post about that!


So. Where was I.

When we left our cozy mountain cottage in Port Angeles, WA we made our way West towards the beach. It was a short 1.5 hour drive through lakes, mountains, and moss covered forests.

We stayed in another cozy cabin at a campground this time in none other than the infamous Forks, WA.
You know what that means....

Yep. The tiny town Stephenie Meyer based her Twilight series off of...and boy do they take full advantage of it. Those treaty line signs were right at our campground!

Which was also next door to....

Jacob Black's house! They even had his motorcycle parked by the mailbox. You can actually RENT this home as a vacation rental...pretty neat for you Twilight fans ;-)

I like Twilight - I think it's a really neat sci-fi story. But I'm not a die hard fan like some of the people that visit this town. It's a very, veerrrrryy small town. I believe they were on the verge of bankruptcy pre-twilight days. But now? They are doing well thanks to the flock of tourists who come to see Bella's stomping ground

After we checked out downtown Forks we finally made our way to Second Beach in La Push.
To get there you have to park near the road then walk about 2 miles through the woods...

The hike is a little on the strenuous side with many hills, but once you finally reach the beach.......

Heaven. Just pure bliss. As soon as we saw the ocean peak through the trees, we ran down the hill then stopped on the sand and just looked around, silently, with our mouths wide open.

We looked at each other.
Looked back at the beach.
Kicked off our shoes & threw them on some drift wood
Then ran.

At the snap of a finger we turned into two little kids in a candy store.
It was like seeing the ocean for the first time all over again.
The same rush I got when Mitch & I were in elementary school and sat next to each other on the bus on the way to a circus ;-)

There weren't many people on the beach so we practically had the place to ourselves. As you can see there also wasn't a cloud in the sky so I was anxious to catch the sunset here.
After a few thousand pictures and deep breaths of fresh, salty air we finally cleaned off our sandy feet and headed back to town to grab some dinner.

As the sun started to set we packed up our camera equipment, bundled up, and marched through the now dark woods back to Second Beach for the big sunset finale.

And boy, did it deliver.

I think I walked around this beach with that grin on my face all evening. Didn't speak much, just walked and smiled. I can truly say I was happy inside out. Sheer joy. Pure bliss.

Our moment of meditation was soon interrupted by reality; the sun was setting, the trail through the woods back to the car were nearly black, and we had no flashlights.

So we grabbed our stuff and headed for the trail. But right before we entered the trail head, I stopped and turned around to take one last glance. Soak up one last moment of peace...
The intense orange color lighting up the sky. The smell of the Pacific Ocean. The sound of the waves rolling back to sea with the tide....

I totally bottled up this moment in my mind & in my heart. In this moment, life was so, so good.
Here I am, 25 & feelin' alive... in the Pacific Northwest, watching a sunset over a quiet beach on an Indian Reservation!! Seeing nothing but a colorful sunset in a place that is usually pure fog and rain.
I have a happy, healthy family.
I'm healthy and have a job that allows me to afford  food, shelter and travel.
Get this, I even have a husband that accepts me for who I am AND embraces my need for adventure..
So this is what winning the lottery feels like.


We woke up to sunny blue skies again on our final day in the Pacific Northwest. We headed down to the Quileute Indian Reservation to grab some coffee from the locals and enjoy it on the quiet beach.

In this moment I had freshly washed hair that was still wet, enjoying an all natural blow dry from the ocean breeze. I had fresh hot coffee in my hands, the most handsome man next to me enjoying the view, and life was so good, yet again.
It's becoming apparent that the older I get the more & more I appreciate the little things.
I love it.

After our moment of caffeine enriched solitude, we hopped in the car and made our way South, eventually making our way back to Seattle to catch our early morning flight the following day.

Along the way we stopped at a place called Ruby Beach - A beach that a Canadian couple we ran into had recommended to us. Just as they promised, it was nothing short of a scene from a movie...

You know I pondered something while we were slowly exploring this beach. We were the youngest ones there by at least a few decades. Why don't other 20 somethings want to get out and explore natural beauty like this? Maybe they come in the evening. Maybe they would rather be in the city?
Maybe me & Mitch are just two old souls....

.... who would rather stack rocks than stack beers.

The rest of the day was spent driving around the quiet countryside and enjoying each others presence in a place just last year we could never imagine visiting. If September, 2013 you would have told me I would be driving the Olympic Peninsula next year, I would have looked at you and let out the biggest HA!!! Yeah right!
Ha, and if you were to tell me Hey Steph, this time next year you will have a new job that is going to send you to Illinois for two weeks of training!
My eyes would bulge and I would have spit my water out.

Makes me wonder what I will be doing this time next year...where...and with who. You know?
Maybe I'll be on an African safari? Maybe I'll own a house? Maybe I'll live in California?
You just never know.
When I have bad days I'll remind myself of this; nothing lasts forever.
Not good times,
Not bad times.

So that's the lesson I went home with.
In life you'll have times where it feels like your world is completely crashing down. Everything that can go wrong, goes wrong. But I can promise you from experience, it will get better and it won't last forever.
Nothing does.

This goes for good times too. Times where you're so damn happy you want to just freeze time and live in that moment forever. But it won't last, as a matter of fact it will fly by so fast you will feel like it was all a dream.
So when you're having a 'happy time' watching a gorgeous sunset or enjoying coffee with your best friend...enjoy it. Take a deep breath, really capture that moment in your mind, because nothing lasts forever and soon it will be a distant memory....

Pacific Northwest (Part 1)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014
When I was growing up, my mom was a nurse at our local hospital.
Being around people suffering from poor health really puts a perspective on your own life.
And she once told me a story about one of her patients that really stuck with me...

He was a 65 year old man with a wife around the same age. Parents, grandparents, hard working people who were good with their money... they were really nice folk.

Married in their early twenties, they had big dreams of saving up every penny they earned to retire at a decent age and travel the country in a Winnebago.

So, as newlyweds, they really pinched pennies and lived below their means. They soon became parents and constantly withheld on taking their family on vacations because they needed to save in case of emergencies and, of course, for that golden dream of retirement.

Flash forward 40 years. They did it! They saved up a great deal of money to retire and live comfortably but most of all: TRAVEL.
They get to see places and spaces they always dreamed of since they were young.

So they called it quits on the workforce, purchased that Winnebago, packed up their belongings and hit the road to discover what's out there.

The night before they leave, the man suffers a serious stroke. He is rushed to the hospital but it's too late; the stroke caused permanent nerve damage and he is now disabled.. For the rest of his life.

No more golfing. No walking around the Grand Canyon, through the Redwood Forest, or on the sandy Florida beaches.

Just like that, their dream is shattered. Their funds are drained from medical bills and there will be no travel.

The End.


This is a very sad but true story. The man and his wife kept telling my mom how upset they were that they waited all these years, always said no to taking trips in their youth, just to end up with this. With nothing.

Moral of this story; you are only young once. Take advantage of it. Don't try to rush through life to get to the 'golden road'.  Enjoy this time, this youth and vitality, to the absolute fullest while you can because tomorrow, no matter what age you never guaranteed


Earlier this Summer, on a rare cloudy & cool day, my random mind thought; 'How cool would it be to have my first pumpkin spice latte of the Fall season at the original Starbucks... in SEATTLE?'

So, with that sad story in mind, I did this:

I went.
And it was everything and more that I could have imagined.

Pike Place is so cool. A giant, hipster-themed Farmer's Market is a great way to explain it.
You can buy fresh seafood from the bay, large bouquets of flowers for 5 bucks and of course, get the most delicious coffee at the original Starbucks. I sware it tastes 10X better.
Placebo effect? Maybe.

The cobblestone alley is lined with extremely talented local artists selling their work. Everything from pottery, to paintings and the occasional cloud of marijuana smoke, Pike Place had it all.

It's legal in Washington.

So after we hopped off the plane and took in Pike Place, we drove over to Bremerton across the bay to crash. Boy was I pooped. I'm getting too old for all this travel.

Said me.

We woke up Wednesday bright and early (Thanks Jetlag!) and hit the road to our next destination:
Port Angeles, WA.

This town was my favorite throughout the entire trip. So quiet & quaint. The locals were all so friendly (and extremely happy about the sunny weather)

Port Angeles is a seaside town that has a major ferry system that takes people to and from Canada. Definitely adding that to my bucket list for next time.

Before we checked into our cabin, we decided to check out Hurricane Ridge. I will note that when I book these somewhat spontaneous trips, I don't plan anything. I literally book a flight. Book a hotel. Then wing it.
And somehow, it always ends up way funner than anything I could have planned.

So how did we find Hurricane Ridge?
I was browsing hashtags at the hotel in Bremerton, checking out PNW (Pacific NorthWest) photographers feeds and noticed a lot of them went to this Hurricane Ridge place to take photos.

So, off we went!

On your way up to the top there are several viewpoint stops. This one was my favorite because of the wildlife and view of Canada. I had no idea I captured that bird until I uploaded my photos to my computer - pleasant surprise ;-)

You know when I booked this trip I did it with the intention of getting several great 'fog' shots.
Didn't happen.

After a short 20 minute drive to Hurricane Ridge, we arrived to one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen in my life.


There is a visitors center at the top where you can buy lunch and enjoy it with this view. Several other short walking trails wrapped around the mountain tops. Artists had their easels set up in the sun, peacefully painting the mountains. It was absolutely perfect. Add this place to your to-do list if you ever make it out here.

After Hurricane ridge it was starting to get late in the evening so we ventured to our cozy mountain cottage to check in....


I died and went to heaven. The man who owns it, Darin, is a great guy who opens his home to travelers passing through. I've stayed in so many 5-star hotels, penthouse suites, you name it.
Nothing compares to this place.

It has two lofts with the coolest ladders to climb up, the cutest little kitchen and bathroom....


I looked high.

I looked low.

There were cats everywhere you go!

Needless to say I was in cat lady paradise.
Mitch wasn't a fan of me bringing them all home.
I tried.

This cottage has full access to a sauna Darin built himself, a grill area, a fire pit area, gardens, and so many other recreational activities.

I think I connected to this place so much because it reminded me of my childhood in Indiana... minus the gorgeous mountain views. ;-)
This little farm is home to several 'misfit' animals. A blind cow, the sweetest mini horse, a flock of geese, llamas, and two pups. Did I mention this place is heaven? I would love to own something like this someday..

Rescue unwanted animals, AND give travelers a cheap, cozy place to stay?
I need to get on this.

We ended our day with the most delicious dinner at Bella's Italian Restaurant downtown Port Angeles where, yes, Edward & Bella had their first date in the movie Twilight. You can order 'Bella's Mushroom Ravioli' just like in the movie ;-)

After eating a full size plate of the best smoked salmon alfredo I've ever had in my 25 years of life, Mitch rolled me to the car and took me back to our cottage where me & 10 extra pounds spent the rest of the evening re-living childhood memories in a tire swing while the sun set over the mountains...

So happy.

We woke up early the next morning and took a walk around the farm in the frosty grass. We bid a cold but sunny farewell to all of our animal friends, hopped in the car and headed West to the beach....

....To be continued.
Designed with ♥ by Nudge Media Design