This Labor Day we decided to visit family out on the west coast. We spent the first half of our trip visiting my husband’s aunt and uncle at their beautiful home on San Juan island, a small island off the coast of Seattle in the Puget Sound. The second half of the trip we spent with my brother George and his wife Aimee. They were unfortunately (but understandably) unable to make it out to our wedding the Caribbean last spring, so part of the impetus for this trip was to spend some time with them to celebrate our marriage, but also to celebrate theirs. They moved out to Oregon from Michigan after they were married two years ago and I hadn’t yet been out for a visit. We decided to rent a cabin together near Mount Hood so we could spend our days hiking and being active and our nights making dinner together and relaxing. We had a fabulous time.
The photos below are a more in-depth view of our trip. I hope you enjoy–feel free to put any comments or questions in the comment section at the bottom. And a fair warning: this is an extremely photo-heavy post, so please give everything a moment to load before diving in.
To get to San Juan Island, which is about 100 miles north of Seattle in the Puget Sound, you can either take a very slow car ferry or fly in a very small plane. Our plane, a cessna operated by Kenmore Air that fit about 12 passengers, made the trip in about 40 minutes. We got to sit right behind the pilots (everyone is in the same cabin/cockpit area) and watch them fly the plane.
After we landed and said our hellos we immediately went out on Uncle Mike’s boat to pull up the crab pots and see what he’d caught. The pots contain some bait and a door that allows crabs in but not back out again. There are small escape holes on the sides for crabs that are too small to keep. The rest get hauled up and inspected.
There are certain regulations on what dungeness crab you can keep and what you have to put back. They have to be a minimum size and they can’t be too soft (as in, they can’t have just shed their shell).
This is an angry red rock crab that found his way into the pot. He got tossed back into the Sound.
This is a dungeness crab. We kept him.
Aunt Cookie and Uncle Mike have an amazing amount of wildlife around their house: eagles, seals, blue herons (named Herbert and Henrietta), red foxes, the list goes on. They even have a sitka deer that will come up and eat carrots and apples right out of your hands. They’ve named him Danny. On the right you can see his “sister” (a female deer that hangs out with him). She’s a bit more shy.
The next morning we headed out to fish for king salmon around midday. Uncle Mike likes to fish at slack tide, which is the time right between low tide and high tide when the water isn’t moving too much. Salmon like to feed when they don’t have to fight the tide. Curtis is wearing a Grundens fishing jacket in this picture. Click the photo for the link!
Sadly we didn’t catch any fish that day, but we did get to feast on crab. Uncle Mike butchers (slaughters?) them himself (very humanely).
Watching the crab harvest. Next to me is Uncle Mike’s boat, Sunspot.
The next day the boys left before 6 AM to fish. I, lazily, slept in. While I was still in bed they caught a 19-pound white king salmon. White salmon are rare–they have slightly different genetics that cause them to not turn pink despite eating the same diet as regular king salmon. I was very happy for Curtis and excited because they caught it with enough time left in the trip for us to actually eat it before we had to leave.
To celebrate we drove up to the north side of the island for oysters. They were brought in that morning to these ocean water tubs. We bought 3 dozen and ate them all. They were delicious.
The next morning, frustrated by missing out the previous day, I went out with the boys once again. We went out onto the open side of the island into some “rollers” (bigger waves). It was a successful morning–Curtis caught another king salmon (this one slightly smaller). Given my land-lover constitution, I was feeling a bit sea sick by the time we got back, but it was definitely worth it. Watching the sun come up over the ocean was beautiful. Here you see Curtis with his fish and Uncle Mike being a goofball.
We rewarded ourselves for our early morning fishing in the rollers with breakfast up at Rocher Harbor on the north side of the island. I had eggs Florentine.
After breakfast we walked around the harbor looking at the various yachts docked there.
Aunt Cookie and Curtis at the Roche Harbor Company Store.
After we left Roche Harbor, we went on a mission to find Curtis a hoodie at Friday Harbor which is located in the middle of the island. Sadly, it wasn’t a fruitful expedition, but I did find this adorable crabby baseball cap and we got ice cream at Friday Harbor Ice Cream Co. I very much enjoyed my cone of sea salt caramel and birthday cake and I also got to try black licorice ice cream (I was too chicken to get a whole scoop) which was delicious! If you’re ever in Friday Harbor, I’d highly recommend them–they had a ton of great flavors!
To our left you can see the car ferry that docks in Friday Harbor.
Feeling stuffed after my huge breakfast and ice cream I went for a hike up Mount Finlayson that afternoon.
When I arrived home after my hike dinner prep was in full force with Uncle Mike filleting the white salmon and Curtis and Aunt Cookie pulling crab meat from the shell.
Dinner prep took a pause for Mike’s delicious hickory and alder home-smoked fatty salmon belly. This is probably the best thing I’ve ever eaten.
The cap to an amazing trip: the white king salmon. It was so much fresher than anything we get in Chicago, and it had a flavorful taste unique to white kings. So delicious!
We flew Alaska Airlines from Seattle to Portland in a Turboprop. During the flight we had some pretty clear views of the larger mountains in the area, including Mount Rainier, which you can see here. I was very impressed that in the 40 or so minutes in the air they did a full beverage service with the choices being (for free, mind you) a local beer, a local wine, and local apple juice.
After landing in Portland we drove our rental car, a tiny Prius C (Hertz totally messed up our reservation–I can’t recommend against them enough) over to Troutdale for lunch at their General Store–the oldest general store in Portland. It was a decent lunch, but nothing to write home about. A bit touristy, honestly.
We had a few hours to kill around the Portland/Columbia River Gorge area before we could drive out to our rental cabin near Mount Hood Village. We took the old scenic gorge highway from the General Store in Troutdale and very much enjoyed ourselves taking in the breathtaking views from The Vista House and stopping at several waterfalls, including the spectacular Multnomah Falls (which we dubbed the Malt-o-Meal falls for… reasons).
We booked a lodge (dubbed Moose Manor by the owners) near Mount Hood using vrbo.com, one of our favorite ways to find a place to stay. It was a roomy two story lodge nestled deep into the woods near Mount Hood Village. It had a brisk mountain stream running behind it, a hot tub, a full kitchen, and an enormous wraparound porch. Overall, it was a great place to stay. Curtis and I and my brother and his wife stayed here for the duration of our time near Mount Hood and we had a great time making meals and hanging out together. After driving to the nearest large grocery store in Sandy to procure provisions for the week we settled in, had some amazing steaks, and nice local wine, and a delicious French plum tart made by my sister-in-law for dessert. George and Aimee were generous enough to share lots of their home-grown and home-canned veggies and jams with us during our stay. We settled in to bed early for our hike the next morning.
We stopped in to the Zig Zag Ranger Station before our first long hike in Mount Hood and I’m so glad we did. The amazingly helpful and knowledgeable ranger suggested to us that we do the Paradise Park Loop starting at the Timberline Lodge rather than the Paradise Park Trail. It was a great suggestion–rather than slogging through miles of deep forest and constant incline we drove through most of the elevation change and just hiked around the timberline with spectacular views the whole way. Overall we hiked 13 miles over the course of 6 hours.
Being a Midwest girl, it amazed me how lush the forests are in the Pacific Northwest. There was dense moss on nearly everything. I particularly like the moss on these trees–I called it mustache moss. Who is this man on the right? Your guess is as good as mine. We met him on the trail and asked him to take a group shot of us. After taking several good snaps he also took a stealth selfie that I didn’t notice until we had returned home. All I know about him is that he’s currently hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. He started in Mexico and has been at it for 140 days. I wonder how many other day hikers like us have stealth selfies from him. God speed.
After our long day of hiking we decided to have an easy day and drove up to Hood River to do the Fruit Loop, a 34-mile loop around the Hood River valley with 31 different orchards, vineyards, farms, bakeries, and unique shops along the way. We stopped in Hood River itself for a beer to kick things off. This is Big Horse Brewery’s (the oldest brewery in town) dunkel. Very tasty.
My favorite stop was the The Gorge White House–they had an amazing cider flight. From the left, in the back row, it’s: apple, apple cherry, apple-pear, apple blueberry, pear, lemon pear, and apple mixed berry. In front we have a flight of their beers, but those were less notable. I liked all the ciders, but the apple cherry was my favorite. I liked it so much I bought a “growlette” (a 32 oz. growler).
We had lunch at The Gorge White House. This is their pear, brie, and bacon quesadilla. I only could finish about half of it.
I found my favorite apple (Macintosh) at the Mount View orchard. Check out their stellar view.
For our final full day in the area we went on another long hike. I had considered doing the Yocum Ridge, but after another chat with our extremely helpful ranger we decided to do the McNeil Point hike plus the Eden Park/Vista Ridge Loop. It was stellar–exactly the type of hike I was after: lots of include, gorgeous views, beautiful Alpine meadows. It took us 7 hours to hike the 14 miles in full, and the only low moment was when I got stung by a bee during the last few miles of the trip.
After saying goodbye to the trail we went home for a quick shower and then went out to dinner at Rendezvous, a local restaurant that I can’t recommend highly enough. They had wonderful service, a nice selection of entrees (duck breast, salmon, seafood salad with dungeness crab) and huge desserts. We went home stuffed and happy–something I can say about the trip as a whole as well. We had a fabulous time in the Pacific Northwest; I can’t wait for our next trip out there, whenever that may be.