Pacific Northwest Exploration

I wanted to cover a few of my favorite places that we got to explore this last fall. September Eric & I traveled up to Orcas Island with our friends Chrissy & Tom and stayed at the Doe Bay campgrounds–a deluxe camping experience. November, I went up to Mt. Rainier with some of my incredible gal-pals, rented a cabin, cooked dinner, made puzzles, and roamed the woods.

The Northwest folk will, undoubtedly, show you all of their Mt. Rainier photos or stories. Flying into the city … on lucky moments and if you diligently purchase window seats like me–you will see this shining mountain surrounded by clouds or sky all around, crystal clear her peak and the presence it has on the region.  Expeditions 

Mt. Rainier

Linzy Witherspoon has gathered ladies every year for four years to go into the woods and connect. It started out in November of 2016 with the sole purpose of connecting about the power of female energy. 

Deemed “The Like Minded Ladies Adventure Club”, in year #4 we choose to return to Packwood, WA where we started at the first gathering. Getting out of the city is important.   

We found a hike that would be fun and suitable for everyone, looking for locations that would be good for newbies exploring the woods—“The Grove of the Patriarchs” a not-so lady-positive name that we overlooked for its acceptable mileage and promised views. (Just imagine a group of old guys kicking around, walking into the forest with their wives carrying the children, leaning on staffs and saying ‘let us call this… the grove of the patriarchs..that is a truly good name..-EW)  

This was 2/10 level difficulty hike. 

“2” for the scary bridge you had to cross. 

7/10 in total: length felt short (but I could have wandered for hours), difficulty was low as well as an exploration of terrain, but the trees were gigantic, as you would imagine - a lesser version of the Red Wood Nt. Park in CA. But still a show of spectacular elderly grandfathers of nature to behold. 

On Sunday, the group split: Chrissy, Cat, Linzy and I set out to find a hike around Mt. Rainier – Cat suggested the hike near Rainier: “High Rock Lookout” 1.6 miles. I had no idea or any expectation of this hike going into it. Mark your maps for this one, it’s a stair master but manageable for most humans, I am not in spectacular shape right – and I managed just fine with many short stops. Now it was pure luck that once we climbed to the top–Mt. Rainier was peeking its head out surrounded by clouds. 

We hung out a bit at the top, clouds rolled in and out. If you are in the area and want to explore Rainier Valley – save this hike. It’s quite the stair-master (be ready) but it is only 1.6 miles so it’s quick & doable!–Worth the expense, I’d say from the shots I got on my Mamiya C220 at the top.

  • Mount Rainier was first known by the local Salishan speakers as TalolTacoma, or Tahoma. One hypothesis of the word origin is ‘mother of waters’ in the Lushootseed language spoken by the Puyallup people. Rainier is a large active stratovolcano in Cascadia located 59 miles (95 km) south-southeast of Seattle, in Mount Rainier National Park. With a summit elevation of 14,411 ft (4,392 m), it is the highest mountain in the U.S. state of Washington, and of the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest, the most topographically prominent mountain in the contiguous United States, and the tallest in the Cascade Volcanic Arc.

Mt. Rainier is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, and it is on the Decade Volcano list.

Orcas Island

In September we took a trip up to Orcas Island with our friends Tom and Chrissy, we were bound for the Doe Bay Campgrounds on the east side of the Island. 

Doe Bay is special, serene, full of fallen apples and the deer who come for the apples. They are fearless and wander the grounds in family units of two or three. 

The grounds are an array of drive-up spots, walk-in campgrounds, group campgrounds, cabins, yurts, sea-side views, soaking tubs & sauna, shared communal kitchen, picnic spots, gift shop, and a cute cafe right by the water. 

Sound dreamy? 


  • If you haven’t been up to the San Juan Islands before, you will need to schedule your ferry reservation to the Islands, usually from Anacortes, WA. Especially in the summer, book this in advance, AND more importantly, book your reservation for your campground! (Jan-Mar perfect time to book.)
  • Of note: fires are not permitted in the campgrounds. Have no fear though, like I said, there is a free, open kitchen to use, full of every pot, pan, and utensil you will need. Or just bring snack-able items that don’t need heat! Or a camp-stove. Those are allowed too. 
  • There is a cove to walk down to, past some of the showers, we saw a family hanging out - dad ventured out for a brisk morning dip. Sounded envigorating. 
  • Bring a swimsuit if you don’t want to go skinny dipping – which is totally an option and know that it is welcomed & encouraged. Or be unprepared like us, to find your boyfriend ass naked around your friends in a hot pot – these are valuable memories. 
  • I was on an elimination diet at the time, so I can’t comment on the cafe, but Chrissy said it was pretty good - she did send back one pasta dish that was too salty, as I recall. But everything at the cafe is grown on the premises.

We went and explored a hike around Mt. Constitution: the highest point on the San Juan Islands 2,409-foot-high  is a great spot to see all around the Puget Sound. 

We traversed the lake hike which I would rate a 5/10 difficulty - says the 32 year old, relatively healthy woman. A hugely lauded state park for its architecture which was specifically (and in a difficult way) built out of local stone so that it blended into the environment. The drawings of the tower were particularly arresting to folks who like to see how things are made, and the care that can be taken into something that seems as simple as a square tower on a hill.

Overall Orcas was incredibly beautiful. But I would like to explore other places. Eric & I aren’t really glamourous campers. We like it a little rough and dirty. I’d say if I go back to Doe Bay, I’d either bump it up to full GLAMP and rent a yurt and spend some more time on the island OR find some other Orcas campgrounds. The island itself is quaint & gorgeous, being up at the San Juan Islands is always a retreat (almost to the furthest corner) the views of the ocean are nothing but optimistic. I look forward to going back.

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