Leavenworth to Spokane with Santa’s Reindeer

Sometimes when you travel you stumble upon things you would never expect. Heck, that’s why we travel. But we never expect reindeer to be part of the story. Recently we spent time in Leavenworth, Washington as part of our Pacific Northwest roadtrip. As before we were based at a Thousand Trails campground. This one was quite a drive from the closest town, Leavenworth, but the surrounding area was spectacular. 

While in the area we took a day trip to Chelan, one of Washington’s premier resort towns. On the south shore of Lake Chelan, this town is all about the water. We checked it out, had a picnic, and then found ourselves at a local cidery to try out the local stuff. On our way to this area, about 75 miles from our campground, we drove through miles and miles of nearly ripe apple orchards. The cider, made locally, comes from those fields. Yes, we bought a few bottles to bring home!

One of the big highlights of our time in Leavenworth was a visit to the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm. While normally a holiday event, the local herd was happy to greet us and the local family that runs the farm told us all about the reindeer. Did you know a reindeer is really a domesticated caribou? We were introduced to each and every member of the herd and given a chance to feed them. These were some very friendly reindeer! We even had a chance to meet the farm’s flock of chickens.

Leavenworth is a German-themed tourist town, and it was packed the day we went to explore. In an effort to avoid the crowds, we just hit the local brewery and a nearby winery. We would definitely return to this area as there is so much to do. 

After a few days in Leavenworth we drove about four hours east to the Spokane area. Our first stop was at Walter’s Fruit Farm, a Harvest Host property, which allowed us to park in their field.  Along with one other RVing couple who parked next to us, we enjoyed the beautiful farm views and visited a local brewery that was just down the road. This area north of Spokane is called Green Bluff and has over 20 farms open to the public. Fruit and vegetables of all kinds were available right out of the ground. Too bad we were only there one night!

We heard there was great biking in the area and it did not disappoint! Twice we drove from our Thousand Trails campground to Spokane to explore the 37-mile, paved Spokane River Centennial Trail. The trail begins at the Idaho border and runs through Spokane to Riverside State Park alongside the Spokane River. First we focused on the downtown Spokane portion and took in Spokane Falls and the many bridges that cross the river.

On the second day we headed to Riverside State Park and jumped on the trail again. Views of Spokane and the Spokane River were incredible, and if we had more time, we would have covered more miles on this gem of a trail.

Some folks have been asking how we spend our “downtime” while on the road.  Well, Steve is sticking to his exercise routine and either biking or running from the campsite every day.  That gives me time to write, clean up, or pursue my newest “hobby,” needlepoint! I type that with sarcasm because I really don’t know what I’m doing but it’s been fun to fiddle with something while icing my foot. I can’t say this is going to be a life-long hobby but it’s kept me busy.

We’re headed east into Idaho next. Stay turned for more pretty scenery pictures and probably more reports of breweries!

North Cascades National Park

In our continuing quest to visit as many national parks as possible, we ticked another off the list–and this one was beautiful!  North Cascades National Park is located in the northern part of Washington State in the middle of the Cascade Range. IMG_0444It’s brimming with old-growth forests, hundreds of glaciers, swiftly flowing rivers, and alpine lakes. You kind of have to want to come here, as it’s not a park you just drive by. Certainly the remoteness makes it all the more special.IMG_8870We visited just one day and saw what we could from the car and short trails. However, the real way to see North Cascades is on foot with a pack on your back. We are not traveling that way these days so we settled for the tourist route and it was still spectacular.  We can’t help but wonder what we missed by not being able to get to the back country.IMG_0461From our campground in Concrete, Washington the park was about a 30 mile drive. Of course the visitor center was closed due to COVID-19 but rangers still greeted us outside with maps and suggestions. Our first official stop was the town of Newhalem. This old village was once the “company town” for Seattle City Light, the power company that has transformed the power of the water in these mountains into electricity for Seattle and the surrounding areas. As such, there are large power lines, old pump houses, and hydroelectric dams throughout the park.IMG_0460Not far from Newhalem we came across the Gorge Dam and Gorge Creek Falls.  While man has certainly altered the landscape here, it is still a spectacular natural site.IMG_8877The most incredible views were found at Ross Lake. We could have spent days here if we were down at water level. Instead, we soaked in the glacial-topped peaks and glacial-green waters. The Ross Lake National Recreation Area, at over 100,000 acres, is a lot to explore!IMG_8884.jpegWe took in a few short hikes that gave us a flavor for what the back country might look like. The Ladder Creek Falls trail features a suspension bridge over the Skagit River, gardens, and a 1920’s powerhouse. IMG_8894

The powerhouse was constructed to produce electricity for homes in Seattle as part of the Skagit Hydroelectric project.IMG_8905The Trail of the Cedars was a short, 0.3 mile loop starting on another suspension bridge and weaving through an old-growth forest along side the Skagit River. Just lovely.

Lunch beside the river in a shady spot and a quick stop at the Cascadian Farms Organic Farm Stand for the best chocolate ice cream on the planet rounded out the day. We left feeling like we saw a lot but left much yet to explore.

IMG_8914Steve also made a habit of picking wild blackberries from the bushes around our campground. With so many berries he made his first pie! We were in this area for just a few days and spent the rest of our time shopping for an internet jetpack, barbecuing, and enjoying the cooler-than-Arizona weather.  From here we begin to travel eastward.

 

Berries and Bikes North of Seattle

We’ve spent the past ten days exploring the valleys and coastline north of Seattle. Our destinations were somewhat defined by the locations of our Thousand Trails campsites. This isn’t an area we had on our bucket list, but it should be on yours, and it’s one we are happy we explored. We have really enjoyed driving the country roads, discovering farm stands, u-pick berry sites, and local bike trails.

 

After we left the Olympic Penninsula we headed to Monroe, WA and the Thunderbird RV and Camping Resort. Monroe is about 35 miles northeast of Seattle and our campground was located on the Skyhomish River. From our base we explored the cute town of Snohomish and found the incredible Centennial Trail.

The Centennial Trail is a rails-to-trails route that covers a 30 mile route through cute towns and fertile valleys. We rode on the trail on two consecutive days.  First we started in Snohomish and rode north to Macias. The next day we went further north and rode a section near Lake Stevens.

We rode a third day too!  Our final outing was from the northernmost trailhead of the Centennial Trail. The trailhead is defined by the Nakashima Heritage Barn, a 1906 structure owned by the first Japanese-Americans to farm in the area. They operated it as a dairy farm until 1942 when they were forced into internment camps and sold the farm. We really liked this trail!

In between the bike riding we stopped at a number of farm stands to explore the area’s fresh produce. IMG_8845Steve bought and pickled cucumbers he said tasted like candy. We also visited the Loggers Inn in Sultan. They claim to be the “oldest in the west” but we’re not sure what that meant since the building was built in the 70s. Nevertheless, Bob and Mia enjoyed one more beer garden.

For four days we camped at the La Conner RV and Camping Resort in La Conner, WA. La Conner is on the coast about 70 miles north of Seattle and less than 10 miles south of the port city of Anacortes. One day we ventured even further north to the very cool city of Bellingham to do a little shopping and sight seeing. Wandering the Whatcom Falls Park in the center of the city reminded us of New York’s Central Park. Greenspace in a city makes all the difference.

More beautiful scenery and a stop at a shellfish farm punctuated the day. Steve got oysters from Taylor Shellfish Farm and enjoyed them the next night.

The little town of La Conner was a fun hangout right on the water. We had lunch, strolled the main street, and watched the boats float by. Evenings are usually filled with a sunset walk and maybe a campfire.

We’re getting pretty good at making s’mores. All in all we’ve had great weather and for that we’re thankful.IMG_8852