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THINK HEALTHY – BE HEALTHY | GET OFF THE COUCH!!! | The Pacific Northwest – By Vic Gronek

It has been quite awhile since I posted an article from some of our travels but, this trip that we took nearly sixteen years ago was one of our more memorable and fascinating trips. I hope you enjoy the read.

By Vic Gronek

The Pacific Northwest

Monday August 15, 2005 7:25 PM

Kim (our daughter) had more anxiety than one person should ever have in a lifetime, both of her parents, her daughter, her only sibling along with his wife and son, as well as her brother’s father-in-law AND a niece were boarding the same plane in Detroit bound for a cross-country flight to Phoenix, Arizona with a connecting flight from Phoenix to Portland, Oregon. She would not sleep until she received a phone call that we had landed in Portland, sometime after 3:00 AM Eastern standard time. We were going to be away for roughly eight days.

Lisa, Ryan and Vic II, who originally came up with the idea of taking this trip.

It was nice to feel the landing gear touch down as our plane landed in Portland, Oregon at 12:30 AM Pacific Standard Time on Tuesday morning. Now, all we had to do was retrieve our bags, pick up our rental cars, locate our hotel, and check in to the hotel. It was close to 3:00 AM local time and the first order of business was to call Kim while we were waiting for our luggage. It would be about 6:00 AM back home but, no matter, we were calling.  Kim was so relieved and told us she could not sleep until we called to say all was well. We were going to be on the road before the breakfast buffet, which normally starts at 6:30 – 7:00, so any sleep we would get tonight would be minimal at best.

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Our alarms went off about 5:30 AM and, although it seemed like we had just fallen asleep, we had to be on the road by 6:15 to begin our drive into the mountains. We were going to Crater Lake National Park where we would be spending the night. This would be followed up by driving to the redwoods in northern California followed by a long drive north along the Pacific coast to Seattle, then on to Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens, before heading back to Portland for the flight back home in about a week’s time. This was also going to give Carol and me the opportunity to get to know Jim Ritchie, our son’s father-in-law. Jim lives in Davison, Michigan and, while we had met a handful of times, this was not sufficient for us to get to really know each other. Spending several days in close proximity would be good for all of us…. we hoped…..

Just one of the sights on our way to Crater Lake.

Tuesday August 16, 2005 6:30 AM

Our drive south to Crater Lake took about four or five hours, as we stopped numerous times for the many scenic views on the way to Crater Lake. There were countless beautiful places we stopped at on our way, waterfalls, streams, and mountains. It was all so breathtakingly beautiful and each one simply took our breath away.

Crater Lake was created roughly 7,700 years ago when the volcano that created this first erupted. It’s estimated that the mountain was roughly 12,000 feet in elevation prior to the eruption, but once the hot magma blew out of the mountain, the mountain collapsed in on itself and the height was reduced to what it is today, roughly 7,100 feet. Today this is the deepest freshwater lake in America at roughly 1,949 feet in depth and it’s fed completely by rain and snowfall. The average amount of snowfall here is approximately 43 feet per year.

During our drive up toward the rim, everything became a little more barren and desolate (as you can see in the above photo) and we stopped to stretch our legs and see what this barren land actually felt like. Virtually everywhere we walked consisted of this dry hard material similar to a pumice stone you would purchase at a drugstore to remove calluses. Once we left this barren piece of land and reached the top of our drive, the last thing we expected to see was this vast deep dark blue lake stretching over five miles away from us. When we looked over the rim of the crater, the view was indescribable. We were looking over the rim and saw the darkest blue lake we could have ever imagined stretching between five and six miles across and close to 2,000 feet deep. This lake is so incredibly large yet, while there are no streams for this water to drain off, the water seepage amount is estimated to be a whopping 2 million gallons per hour. Additionally, the park service has not been able to trace this seepage to see exactly where all this water is going.

We were staying at a place called Diamond Lake resort and, in 2005, it was a very nice place to rest our weary bodies. One of the nice things about this was it was only about a 20-25 minute ride from Diamond Lake to the rim of Crater Lake.

Wednesday August 17, 2005 8:00 AM

We had just finished breakfast which we cooked in our kitchenette, did the dishes, and loaded up the cars for the drive to the Redwoods in Northern California with Crescent City being where we would spend the next night. As we were leaving, we took the time to drive completely around the rim, stopping at a couple of locations to take in the many different and unique views.

As we drove through this park we stopped to take a couple short hikes on the trails and we were truly dwarfed by these large trees as can be seen in the photo above.

On to Crescent Beach, California. We were surprised to see that Vic had made reservations at a beachfront hotel called Crescent Beach Motel and while this might not have been the Ritz, it was very comfortable and we could walk right down to the beach and do some exploring, seeing numerous Starfish, crabs and lots of surf. What a beautiful location.

Our stay overnight was relaxing. We had supper at a local restaurant, went back to our motel, and took another walk along the beach. One of the things that really surprised us was the quantity of kelp at the water’s edge. I had never seen kelp before and was surprised to see that they consisted of long green stringy, slimy leafy things ranging in length from four feet to well over twelve feet in length with a ball at one end. There were literally hundreds of these things on the shoreline stretching away as far as we could see. I’m sorry that I did not get a photo of these.

Thursday August 18, 2005 7:30 AM

On the road to Lincoln City, Oregon and we were going to pass through Coos Bay, Oregon. This town has always had a little bit of a draw for me as it used to be an old logging town. Additionally, an ex-coworker by the name of Bill Doerr that I worked with in the past had moved there years ago to work at one of the lumber or paper mills. I had hoped to see him, but there was no time or way for me to get in touch with him, plus our time was limited in this town anyway. We ended up eating lunch at a restaurant that had buffet-style meals. There would be no excuse for any of us to be hungry after eating here.

Just another one of the sights on our way North.

It was going to be about a six-hour drive from Crescent City to Lincoln City, Oregon, more if you factor in the numerous times we just pulled over to take in the views of the coastline. The views were just like you see in landscape calendars that have photos of the northwest coast, with the large hotel size boulders being slowly eroded away in the pounding surf.

Whenever we went on vacation and ended up renting a vehicle, we would always have a small stash of food in the trunk or back of the vehicle. It was during one of these long stretches between stops that I did the unthinkable. I have always been a bit of a practical joker and during this stop, it would be no different. The trunk of the car containing the food and snacks was open while some of our party was using the facilities at a rest stop. I was standing near the back of the trunk talking to my son when his father-in-law reached into the trunk to grab something to eat. Seeing an opportunity, I placed my hand near the vicinity of the trunk and when he slammed the trunk shut with an amazing amount of gusto, I immediately began screaming as though my hand was caught in the trunk. The look on his face was priceless as his mouth was opening and closing with no words coming out. At this stage, both my son and I began laughing and he realized it was all a joke. This has been a source of humor at times ever since and my son’s father-in-law (Jim) will occasionally bring this up. To this day I do not know if he holds a grudge against me but, my wife Carol certainly saw no humor in this. To this day she cringes when the story is retold but, it is what it is.

We ended up making it to Lincoln City for the night and all the way there the views of the coast were just breathtaking. We stopped numerous times to take in the sights of the ocean and surf and each stop held its very own unique and breathtaking scenery.

Friday August 19, 2005 7:30 AM

On the road again with today’s destination being Cape Disappointment. This was the end of the Western journey for Lewis and Clark when they made their journey from St. Louis to this location. The reason it was called Cape Disappointment was because they had hoped to see cargo ships sailing up and down the coast and potentially catch a ride back to the East coast of the USA, rather than risk returning the same way they had just come from. Needless to say, there were no ships and no easy way for them to return, hence the name Cape Disappointment stuck.

We would finish the day by arriving in Port Townsend where we were going to take a whale watching trip from Port Townsend through Puget Sound and North to Friday Harbor. We had to be at the dock no later than 7:30 AM for an 8:00 departure time on Saturday morning.

Saturday August 20, 2005 7:30 AM

Our boat (The Glacier Spirit) was scheduled to leave promptly at 9:00 and returning roughly at 5:00 PM, While it was a bit rough on the water, those of us who needed it had some Dramamine to combat seasickness and this seemed to prevent those who may have been susceptible to this nausea and ruining the trip for them. We were not going to be disappointed as we did see some whales, the weather was fantastic and it was just nice to leave the driving to someone else for a few hours. We were simply going to be along for the ride and the two-hour layover in Friday Harbor worked out well to have a nice lunch at one of the local eateries.

We were not scheduled to return to the dock until roughly 5:00 PM at which time we were heading to Seattle for the sights and sounds of this great city. See some of the photos from this trip below:

The Moore Hotel in Seattle.

We stayed at a hotel in the center of the city called the Moore hotel which was an old hotel located in a perfect place for the festivities we had in mind for the next day. Initially, the parking for this hotel was directly across the street from the hotel and at first glance, the parking lot did not look too safe to me. I remember telling our son that I would be shocked if our cars were still there in the morning as my inner voice was just screaming ‘Don’t park here!!!’ Although if I were to stop and think about it, where else could we park…..In any case, we woke up early the next morning and imagine my relief at our cars still being where we had left them the previous evening.

An interesting side note about our stay here was when we checked into our hotel, we initially had separate rooms, There would be six in one room with Carol and me in our own room. We took the elevator measuring about 42 inches square to our room on the fourth floor and looked for our rooms, our son and five others were located in a rather spacious room first then, we all went in search of our room which ended up being down a loooong hallway, which then turned right with our rather small room located at the very end of that hallway. Our room key consisted of one of the old skeleton keys that were used fifty years ago, and upon inspecting the room, we found that outside our window was a large ledge about three or four feet wide where people (if they wanted to) could easily go from one room window to the next. I remember taking the clothes rod from the closet and prying it up against the door as I did not feel too safe in this room. To make an already long story longer, our son soon afterward came back to our room to tell us he had gone down to the desk to have our room moved closer to theirs, this worked out well as we were almost across the hall from them and we could interact with them much more easily. We ended up ordering some pizza delivered to our hotel which was about the easiest thing we could do after our long day whale watching and then driving up to Seattle to find our hotel and check-in.

Sunday August 21, 2005 7:30 AM

We managed to get up early the next morning before the rest of our party and I went down alone to see about getting some coffee at one of the local coffee shops, I asked at the desk and was told there was a Starbucks about a block away where I could get three coffees (my son, his father in law and myself) to get a good start to our day. Once we finished our coffee, we decided to walk around and take in some of the sights and sounds. We ended up walking to Pike Place Market which should be on everyone’s must-do list if they go to Seattle. One of the nice things about our hotel was that it was centrally located and we could easily walk to the different places we wanted to see, Pike place market was no more than a few blocks away and we did not have to worry about parking, traffic, etc. Pike place market is a large indoor/outdoor type of place that had new and used merchandise, fruits and vegetable restaurants, fish markets, and just about everything else you could imagine. The restaurant where Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan had dinner in the movie Sleepless in Seattle was filmed in Pike Place Market and it was kind of neat looking in the windows of this restaurant. You could easily spend the majority of the day in this market if you wanted to take in everything.

Pike Place Market.

We were here until roughly early afternoon at which time we headed out for the next destination which was going to be Mount Rainier. This is yet another beautiful place that everyone should see at some point in their lives. The snow capped top of Mount Rainier and the surrounding vistas are too beautiful to try and put into words. 

We drove as high up as our cars could go at which time we drove to our hotel which was called Nisqually Lodge located on the flanks of Mount Rainier. This place looked like it was only a few years old at the time and had all the amenities you could ask for. On our way to the hotel we noticed a small restaurant called Copper Creek restaurant (shown below) and Carol and I wanted to treat our group to a nice meal, we all sat around a long table joking around and enjoying our time together. We even asked the server if they would be gracious enough to take a photo of our group which I included below.

Monday August 22, 2005 7:30 AM

Upon checking out of our hotel, we now had to head in the general direction of Portland for our return flight back to Michigan on Tuesday. On the way back to Portland, we had a little extra time on our hands and we stopped for two to three hours to take in a place called Northwest Trek which is a wildlife refuge sort of place. We boarded a bus with open-air windows and took a nice ride through this somewhat large park to see some of the scenery and wildlife. Lots of deer, elk, buffalo in their natural habitat, and while this was kind of nice, looking back we probably could have spent this time doing something different. It was worth the time spent but, I doubt if we would do this again in the future.

Once we finished this, we drove up toward Portland to get a hotel for the night, we were going to stay in a Ramada Inn close to the airport so there would be no issues in turning our cars in and getting to the airport for our flight home with a connecting flight in Phoenix. Our flight was scheduled to take off at around 2:30 PM, landing in Phoenix around 4:00 with our next flight to Detroit scheduled to leave around 6:15 PM. While we were waiting for our connecting flight in Phoenix, I remember waiting for our plane in the terminal and watching some rather dark ominous clouds that were moving in, thinking that we would love to get in the air before they moved in to cause problems or delays with our flight. We ended up taking off on time but, I do remember a little turbulence before we were able to get enough altitude to get above the weather. We landed in Detroit around 1:00 AM and after getting our baggage and getting to our cars in long-term parking, then driving an hour or so to get home, it would be around 3:00 to 4:00 am before we would turn in for the night.

BUT what a trip…..We would relive some of these moments in the years to come and we desperately would love to get back to the Pacific Northwest again in the future. One of the lasting memories we had from this trip was the lack of litter along the roadways. No matter where we drove, there was never any litter or debris along the highways. The scenery was literally breathtaking no matter where you looked, along the coast, the redwoods, Crater Lake, Mount Rainier, etc, the list goes on. We loved this trip and everything that we experienced in these past few days.

There was so much to see and do on this trip and in this article as well. Places that I did not reference but we loved seeing were the Devil’s Punchbowl, which is a section of the coast where the wind, surf, and erosion have created this large punch bowl of sorts right on the coast. This is an area where if you were not paying attention, you could get trapped with the rising tide and you certainly would not want to be stuck inside the punch bowl with the tide in.

Another honorable mention was the harbor seals on our way North. We stopped at this one section of the coast, walked down some stairs and trails to an overlook where the seals were lounging on the rocks in the surf. They were making sounds like a pack of dogs that were barking. Not only that but, if we were to have been too close to them, they could easily be intimidating. They were large and did not look clumsy at all, even if they gave you the first impression they were not too agile at first glance.

Mount St. Helens was also something to see. During our ride from Mt. Rainier to St. Helens, we drove past some of the dead trees and logs leftover from this volcanic eruption. I remember one of these logs alongside the road that must have been eight feet in diameter, although it was laying on its side, it towered above us standing next to it by another three feet or so. To think that there were literally millions of trees similar to this that were knocked over like they were matchsticks. The river down below us was still littered with rotting trees twenty years after they were ripped from their roots and I have no doubt it looks the same way today.

Everyone should try to get to the Pacific Northwest at least once in their lifetime.

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