There are a few things every vacationer going to the ocean wants to do. Some want to lay on the beach and soad up the sun. Some want to get out in the water and go swimming, snorkeling, or surfing. Plus, there are a lot of other things to do in the better ocean centered vacation destinations.
One of the things I love to do, especially if I have the kids along, is to go out and go whale watching. Whale watching is a great activity, it’s thrilling and educational at the same time. Plus, you get a good amount of time out on the open ocean and that is a lot of fun too.
Depoe Bay sits just south of Lincoln City and just north of Newport on the central Oregon Coast. One of the best whale watching excursions I ever had was when I went out with the folks of Whale Research EcoExcursions. I’d been out on the standard whale watching boats a number of times, but what attracted my attention here was that they offered a more intimate tour that takes place on a Zodiac boat. A Zodiac boat is the same type of boat that the Coast Guard uses for search and rescue type maneuvers.
We were lucky to see several whales surface and give the classic tail flip. Going out on the ocean in the Zodiac was nice because we could get so much closer to the whales than I’d ever been before. I could have literally reached out and touched two different ones that surfaced right next to the boat. The Zodiac also made it a fun ride on the ocean too as we skipped across the surface at high speed.
My time out on the ocean with Whale Research EcoExcursions was something I’ll never forget.
Once back on shore, these same great people, most of them actual marine biologists I learned later, operate the Whale Museum which was also very nice to spend some time in.
On the constant look out for fun things for the kids to do during a road trip, we stumbled upon the Odyssey I, a fun center for Tacoma children when got off of I-5 on a recent road trip. After checking into our motel, we headed right over and the kids had an awesome time.
There is something there for kids of all ages. The Game Center is home to a lot of great video games and ticket dispensing games. They also offer a Jungle Gym Soft Play area for kids 10 years old and younger. Here they will be allowed to play by themselves or in groups on all the apparatuses that are there. They can climb through mazes bounce, swing, and jump to their heart’s content. Laser tag is also available at Odyssey I and the older kids really get a kick out of it. When you’ve exhausted all of those options, you can pick up a pizza, eat it there or take it with you, and call it a day (or night).
Odyssey I was the perfect stop for us. A fun way to get some wiggles out and burn some energy. Back in the truck tomorrow, we’ve got some miles to put on!
Carved out of the former railway roadbed of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad that ran across the state of Washington, the John Wayne Trail is today a very valuable resource for those who like to hike or mountain bike. Here are five fun facts about the John Wayne Trail.
The John Wayne Trail measures in at approximately 300 miles.
Not What You Think
Though named the John Wayne Trail, it is not technically named after the legendary movie actor, John Wayne. It is actually named in honor of the John Wayne Pioneer Wagons and Riders Association for their assistance and participation in the creation of the trail.
The entire length of the John Wayne Trail, approximately 300 miles, is operated by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, along with the Department of Natural Resources. The legislation that created the trail also included a provision that would allow for it to refert back to railroad usage in the future if needed.
You’re in the Army Now
Part of the John Wayne Trail passes through the United States Army’s Yakima Training Center.
Largest in the World
A planned John Wayne Trail trailhead is set for the Malden, Washington location. On that site was once the largest railroad turntable in the entire world.
The Pacific Northwest has a wealth of incredible scenic sites. From north to south and east to west, it really is not that hard to find an incredibly beautiful place to visit or experience. One of the top ones to see first hand, and one that is entirely unique, is Crater Lake in southern Oregon.
Crater Lake is basically a water filled dorman volcanic crater at the top of a mountain. This doesn’t explain the beauty that you will find there though. As road trippers, we get used to driving through the mountains here in the Pacific Northwest. But here, as you ascend up the side of the mountain, you have something waiting for you that you don’t usually encounter at the top. A full alpine lake just waiting to be enjoyed.
I have two favorite parts about Crater Lake. First, the historic lodge that sits on the rim and overlooks this natural beauty. There is a beauty in some of these older forest service buildings that still stand in our region. I like having the opportunity to enjoy a meal there while looking at the history represented not only by the building itself, but also the photographs on the walls. Once outside, there are some viewing areas and picnic tables that allow you to enjoy the scenery, but I always take some time to enjoy the inside of the historic lodge first.
The other thing I truly enjoy at Crater Lake is called Rim Drive. This is the name of the road that winds completely around the lake at the top of the mountain. This road gets a lot of snow, naturally, so it is closed during the winter and quite late into the spring. My recommendation is that if this sounds like something you want to do, call ahead and find out if that road is open. There are several great vantage points along this road to get out, stretch your legs, and take pictures from. Rim Drive is a true treat that should be experienced at least once.
One thing that I’ve never done, but should, when at Crater Lake is get down and take a cruise on the water from the tour boat that operates there. How cool would that be?
Anyway, I cannot recommend Crater Lake more highly as a place to go when going on a road trip through southern Oregon. You are sure to want to go back again and again.
Loving road trips, I know there are few things that can measure up to just getting in the car and going for a drive. Seeing the region out the window of my vehicle has always been a highlight. Once you arrive at a destination though, there are other great ways to see the world around you.
I love boat tours for a number of reasons, but the main reason is that it allows you to see a location from a completely different perspective. On a recent visit to Vancouver, British Columbia, I was lucky enough to go on a boat tour put on by the incredible Accent Cruises.
Accent Cruises offers a number of different types of cruises that either have different themes or go along different routes. Their headquarters is located in Historic Granville Island, right in the middle of beautiful Vancouver. They are open all year long and have very modern ships and provide excellent service.
I chose to go on a dinner cruise with Accent Cruises and it was a real treat. I was welcomed warmly, had a fun time exploring the ship, and settled in for what was promised to be a great meal. That promise was well founded too as the grilled salmon and garlic teriyaki chicken were both excellent.
Just as excellent were the views of Vancouver’s skyline and the natural areas surrounding the city. At various points during our time on the ship, we would move around to get different perspectives. We saw houses built high on the cliff wall, marine life swimming by us, tanker ships entering the harbor, and historic sites that the ship’s staff helpfully pointed out to us. Between the meal and the views, this was almost the perfect dinner cruise.
Next time I’m back in Vancouver, I may just have to book a cruise with Accent Cruises all over again.
The most famous attraction in Seattle, and possibly in the entire Pacific Northwest, is the Space Needle. This amazing structure stands 605 feet tall and dominates the city’s skyline. When you go to Seattle as a vacationer, there are a few things that you seriously just must do, and one of them is go to the top of the Space Needle.
The needle is located at Seattle Center, adjacent to the city’s downtown section, and as part of a larger complex of attractions it is very easy to find parking. When you approach it, you can’t help but start to photograph it. It appeals to a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons. I like the Space Needle because of the angles of it and how it contrasts with the straight edges of the rest of the buildings that make up Seattle’s skyline. The needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and I guess I also like it for the sense of nostalgia that surround it.
The ride up to the top in one of the elevators can be a lot of fun. You will usually be accompanied by a guide who will tell you some details about the Space Needle and about Seattle. Feel free to ask questions, anything you’re curious about, these are very well trained and well informed people. Enjoy the view as you rise up. Keep taking photos too out the glass elevator windows because the scenery changes the higher you get.
Up at the top you will get the big payoff as you get to take your time to walk around the entire circular observation deck and enjoy the entire view that includes the city of Seattle, the mountains off in the distance, and the water of Puget Sound.
While the main purpose of the Space Needle is that of an observation tower, if you have the time, make use of the other purpose it has. At the top of this landmark is SkyCity, a revolving restaurant. Dining out at the top of the Space Needle is a special treat. One touch that I really appreciated was that the specialty at SkyCity is food of the Pacific Northwest. This adds to the experience of being in Seattle and dining high in the sky with the city far under your feet.
Our visit to the Space Needle was a hit, not just with me, but with the adults and kids I was with. Everybody had a good time, going up and down, and dining at the top. One of the nice things was as our visit to Seattle continued, every once in awhile each of us would look up at the Space Needle from different points in the city below and recall our visit up to the top.
Ancient Lakes is the name given to a hiking area located just west of Quincy, Washington and just off of Highway 28. This area was carved by the ancient Missoula floods. The coulee left behind was scarred with small depressions and these fill up with water to form several “ancient” lakes.
I showed up at Ancient Lakes for the first time recently and was looking forward to a classic Eastern Washington hiking experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love hiking in the Cascades and on the Olympic Peninsula, surrounded by high mountain peaks and lush green forests, but sometimes a change can be nice too. A hike like the one to Ancient Lakes is relatively easy over flat ground and allows you to see up close and personal a land of sagebrush and rock walls.
After hiking in on an old 4×4 road that now only allows horseback riding and hiking, we took a left and headed east into a canyon. After a quarter mile or so we reached the top of a small rise and were treated to one of the best views ever. As you look further into the closed off canyon you can see that you are almost completely surrounded by rock walls. We counted two waterfalls spilling over the edge and five small lakes. We hiked between the lakes to a wide open spot that was obviously a favorite to some overnight campers, then skirted one canyon wall south before following the trail up to a small saddle that provided us with a view into the next canyon and Dusty Lake.
The hike out was pain free too and we left with some nice photos and a great experience of being out on the trail in Eastern Washington. I appreciated the opportunity of getting a glimpse of what this land must have looked like to the first pioneers that went through it.
My hike through Ancient Lakes was a bit like stepping back in time. It was yet another reminder of how lucky I am to live in the Pacific Northwest.
When you think about it, the construction of a dam across a major river is pretty amazing. To stop the flow of water, or at least alter it significantly, so large crews can build a concrete structure on dry riverbed is something incredibly impressive. As roadtrippers, we pass by dams all the time. Some of them are small and some quite large. If you’re driving along the Columbia River, you are guaranteed to see one.
Just north of Wenatchee and spanning the Columbia River is Rocky Reach Dam. Construction began on this dam in 1956 and all these years later it stands as one of the more important pieces of the hydroelectric production grid in Eastern Washington. Rocky Reach Dam has 11 turbines and sits 473 river miles above where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. When built, it was a very important project for the region. It still is too.
You can access Rocky Reach Dam on the west side of the river from Highway 97A. There are climbing toys for kids as well as a picnic area and large playground available for anyone just after driving through the main gate. The visitor center is where all the really good stuff is and that is further north.
Once inside the visitor center you will see an information booth, a seating area, and a snack bar. Take the stairs down a level and you will find yourself able to view some exhibits as well as enter a small theater where some documentaries are usually playing detailing the construction of the dam, as well as how it works. When you go down one more flight of stairs (there is also an elevator), you will come to the fish viewing windows and during high volume times of the year this can be a fun place for kids and adults alike.
Rocky Reach Dam is also home to the Museum of the Columbia. Walk out onto the dam itself and gain entrance to this fascinating series of exhibits that detail the early days of the river and the inhabitants that lived along it. There are also some very cool displays of equipment used during the time of the dam’s construction. Continue on past the museum and come to a viewing window overlooking the generators that produce the electricity. At the end of that hallway is the large viewing window that gives you a close up look at the spillways. If you’re lucky, they’ll be open and white water will be raging through it on its way downstream.
I love stopping at dams and seeing the history on display as well as marveling at these manmade contraptions that briefly harnessed mother nature and got it working for them. Rocky Reach Dam is a great place to visit on your way north or south through the North Central Washington region.