Exploring Washington - Part I | by Taylor McNelis
Updated: Jun 30, 2022
So, here we go again. I'm on my second backpacking trip out west after I survived the first one in Northern California/Oregon but this one was bound to be tougher with bigger hikes and rougher terrain. We’re exploring the state of Washington and all it has to offer; which I admit is way more than I was expecting coming into the trip and the end result was a newfound respect for the state. Mount Rainier is cool and all but in my opinion it’s the radio pop music station of places to see; Washington has some deep cuts if you're willing to explore and they will blow you away. First up however, is Mount Rainier.
We landed at the airport in Seattle very early in the morning and hit the ground running with the rental car and headed straight to Mount Rainier. But first, breakfast. C’mon, you know our crew, do you REALLY think we’re going to skip out on food? The whole point of you reading these blogs isn’t for you to read about all the exciting places we hike, but to discover the best food around the nation. Bruchelle’s Bistro delivered. Located in Covington Washington, this small brunch spot is south of Seattle on the way to Mount Rainier. I had the Bagel with cream cheese & lox with a side of greek yogurt and honey; and in the great words of Guy Fieri, it was “gangster.” Now that we’ve fueled up for our hike we head to the mountains.
We hiked glacier basin which was a pretty easy hike, some elevation gain but nothing too extreme and I think anyone could definitely make it a quick day hike if you just wanted to get a view of Mount Rainier. The trail is heavily covered by trees and has a few creek crossings using natural bridges. The terrain is fairly even throughout and doesn't require any extra equipment for as far as we were going. We did run into a group on their way down from the summit who had ice picks for climbing and I think their journey took them a few days. Mount Rainier is massive, you can do what we did on Glacier Basin and there are long trails that branch off of that, including continuing onward to reach the summit which does become difficult and requires climbing gear.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get a great look because of the cloud coverage which was a huge bummer but the journey itself was fun and we had a great time exploring the base of the mountain and taking some photos. Hiking Rainier on such a cloudy day is a bummer because when people ask how it was to see Mount Rainier so close I don’t have an answer. I think it needs to be it's own week long trip because sunny days don't happen very often in Washington and if you want a clear shot at Rainier you're going to need more than 1 attempt. I’ll definitely have to go back one day and try again and hike the Wonderland trail or something because there are numerous vantage points to check out and it’s one of those locations where you can’t get everything done in a single trip.
We had a successful first night camping and it felt like a good primer for the real treks coming up in the next couple days with Sahale and a special hike up in the North Cascades National Park. The next day was pretty low key as we headed north and made a quick pit stop at Snoqualmie Falls which I have actually been to before. Years ago when my brother was looking at schools we visited Washington U and spent some time checking out Seattle. Made a stop at Snoqualmie Falls back then and it’s funny because I remember it being a little cold and cloudy and fast forward 7 years it was cold and cloudy again…I’m sensing a theme here.
All jokes aside, Snoqualmie Falls was just as cool the second time which is about a 6 on the 1-10 scale. I guess I rate it so low because it's not like a waterfall you find on a hike in the middle of nowhere, it's right off the highway just southeast of Seattle but it is really cool and it’s super easy to get to. In fact, you don’t even need to bring hiking shoes, you could complete this in flipflops as it's about a 50 yard walk to the platform to see the waterfall from the parking lot. It’s still worth it because of how close you can get and experience just how powerful waterfalls can be. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous you can work your way around to the bottom of the waterfall and in the river and snap some cool photos down there too or just get a new perspective looking up at it.
The hike down Mount Rainier and the pit stop at Snoqualmie Falls took up our entire morning until about 1:30pm-2:00pm. We made the move up north with a much needed food stop in Burlington at the 'Train Wreck Bar.'
Ok we only hiked 10 miles in the last 24 hours, was a food trip actually “much needed”?
But it was much wanted.
And bang! 2 for 2 on restaurants this trip as we devoured burgers and some of the best onion rings I’ve had. I don’t usually order onion rings because I don’t care for them but these were dank. The beer was good and the atmosphere was one of a kind.
So why do they call it the Train Wreck Bar? Because it sits practically on top of the train tracks in the middle of Washington and when the train comes roaring by…it’s a crazy sensation that is both exciting and a little frightening. I think I speak for the group when I say we are glad we made the stop.
Speaking of the group, we are down a member this trip, Charlie is severely missed. He’s alive, just not with us as he had some family things to take care of but we’ll get him on the next one no doubt. Definitely not the same without his presence and to get annoyed when we stop to take photos every 20ft. So if you read the last blog and were wondering where the pics of Charlie were, we didn’t make a cardboard cut out of him to bring with us.
So that was the first 2 days, pretty short blog but the real adventure begins with the next hike up Sahale mountain and a stop at Baker Lake where we met some locals and threw the football around. This trail on Sahale is the one hike I am most excited about but also the most weary about knowing how difficult it will be. We all struggled going up Shasta Trinity in California and this will be an even slightly steeper climb but there’s a unique photo opportunity at the top we want to take advantage of, so…do it for the gram.
Thanks for reading everyone! Stay tuned for part 2 coming very soon and be sure to like it and share it with your friends. Hopefully you found it half entertaining, half informative and come back for more.