A Visit To Wellington, Washington – Great For Railroad Buffs!

Stevens Pass was again the site of a quick road trip recently.

Located just off Highway 2 is the former town site of Wellington, Washington. This tiny spot, once a small railroad community, is situated near the east entrance to the original Cascade Tunnel that ran beneath Stevens Pass. The community was found in 1893 and was an instrumental location for the early railroad days in the region. It is more famous today though as the site of the March 1, 1910 Wellington avalanche, the worst avalanche in United States history.

You can reach Wellington by taking the first road on the west side of the summit of the pass, right across the highway from the entrance to the ski area’s lower parking lot. That road is known as either the Tye Scenic Road or the Old Cascade Highway, depending on who you talk to.

Roadtrip to Wellington Map
Roadtrip to Wellington Map – Click to Enlarge

After reaching the parking lot, we went to the left first, or headed east, for the chance to view the western entrance of the original railroad tunnel. This structure looks great. The trail leads to a nice viewing area and has some good information on historical markers along the way. There are also some old foundations from various railroad related structures still visible too. Water flows at a pretty good rate out of the tunnel mouth now and it is well marked as too dangerous to enter. Still, seeing it from the outside is very cool.

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After this viewing opportunity, we returned to the parking lot and continued on the same path, this time to the west. Down this path, past a small meadow, is the entrance to the old snowshed. Early in the season, water flows down the mountain near the mouth of the snowshed at a pretty good rate. We were there late in the summer and there was very little water running. This is also one of the entry points to popular Iron Goat Trail that goes through the area.

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The snowshed has aged some since it was built in the years following the 1910 avalanche. It was dark inside and if you look past the small amount of graffiti, it’s very impressive to see such a huge structure that was built so long ago. This is a great piece of history that I and my kids both enjoyed being able to walk through.

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About halfway through the snowshed, there is a pathway that leads to a observation deck that overlooks the forest. Reading the markers there tells you that what you are actually looking out at is the avalanche field where rail cars and occupants were moved down the mountain with the flowing snow and debris. There is quite a bit of good historical information on the markers there.

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Continuing on down the path through the snowshed makes you feel more and more isolated. It’s a very interesting experience. By the time we reached the end, it was nice to see some open sky. The point where the trail leaves the snowshed is interesting in its own way. Here you will see a portion of the snowshed going through a slow collapse. Even my son said that the suspended chunks of concrete in the twisted rebar had an almost artwork look to them.

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From here, you can continue on down the Iron Goat Trail to a couple of different exit points. We went a short distance down the trail and then turned around and returned through the snowshed and back to the parking lot. On the way back, one feature that was very interesting was the leftover evidence of railroad tracks inside the snowshed. There are no rails left there but there are plenty of railroad ties, most of them in some sort of decay.

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The 1910 Wellington Avalanche was responsible for the deaths of 96 people, some of them passengers on the train and some railroad workers who had been working to clear the tracks of snow. The avalanche and the massive death toll made the newspapers across the country. Later that year, the community of Wellington was renamed Tye, after the local Tye River, in an effort to distance itself from the memory of the tragedy. The depot that the community was centered around closed in the late 1920s with the opening of the second Cascade Tunnel which exited the mountain further to the west.

Even though we had been there before, we had a great time at Wellington again. The combination of history and nature is perfect. It’s a great destination for a road trip and also works nice for a stop on US 2 if you’re on the way to somewhere else.

The Washington State Ferries

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When we’re roadtripping around, we generally think of our activities taking place on the road, or at least on land. A little known fact though is that Washington State’s ferry system is operated by and considered a part of the Washington State Department of Transportation. It is the largest passenger and automobile ferry fleet in the entire United States, and the third largest in the entire world. Ferries arrive and depart from terminals in locations like Seattle, Bremerton, Bainbridge Island, Vashon Island, Point Defiance, Clinton, Mukilteo, Edmonds, Kingston, Keystone, Port Townsend, Anacortes, and all of the major San Juan Islands. You can get pretty much anywhere in the Puget Sound area aboard any of the Washington State Ferries.

Riding on the ferries is not only part of your transportation, it can be part of the fun. When you get on one of the longer routes, you have time to get out, walk around the decks, sit and enjoy the view, or hang out at the railing where you can enjoy the sound of the huge ship going through the water. There are all kinds of photo taking opportunities when you ride the ferry. I make use of that, probably a little too much, each and every time I get on one. There is seating available both inside and out, and depending on the weather, you can enjoy the ride from either spot.

Whenever possible, I love to add a ferry ride into a road trip I’m taking. The last time I did this, after a trip around the Olympic Peninsula, I took the ferry from Bremerton to Seattle. The weather was great which gave us some awesome views of Mount Rainier and the city of Seattle. There were a lot of other boats out on the water that day too and it’s always fun to check them out. Like every other time, it was a great time and so much more than a means of transportation. It was definitely one of the better attractions we experienced that day.

The Crab Pot – An Awesome Place to Eat on the Seattle Waterfront

The Crab Pot

It’s no secret that Seattle is one of the top road trip destinations or stop offs in the entire Pacific Northwest. It deserves this attention because it has an incredible list of things to do and see. It is also very easy to access and has a very diverse population. The locals are very friendly and you can easily have a great time there.

One of the most popular spots to visit in Seattle is the Seattle Waterfront. Here, you will find all kinds of great businesses and also have a nice opportunity to view the very active waters of Puget Sound where they meet the city of Seattle.

The Crab Pot

In addition to the sightseeing, the Seattle Waterfront also makes for a great place to go to get a bite to eat. There are all kinds of great places to eat on the Seattle Waterfront, but one of my favorites is The Crab Pot.

The Crab Pot has an awesome atmosphere, friendly servers, and some of the best seafood in the city.

Our last visit to the Crab Pot also coincided with a visit to the Seattle Aquarium and a nighttime ride on the Seattle Great Wheel. This combination made for a great afternoon and evening and the Crab Pot was the perfect way to top it off.

I started my meal off with a cup of clam chowder. I mean, how could I skip that necessity? I also had a share of some sourdough bread that had been ordered for the table. We then took advantage of one of the best parts of the Crab Pot, the Seafeasts.

Seafeasts are sold by a set price per person, then butcher paper is put down on your table, and a whole variety of seafood is poured out in front of you. There are a variety of options for the Seafeast. We went with The Alaskan that night. This included king crab, Dungeness crab, snow crab, shrimp, steamed clams, Pacific mussels, sausage, corn on the cob, and red potatoes. What a delightful mix!

By the time I left, I was stuffed. Stuffed and happy, that is. I hadn’t been to the Crab Pot for a number of years and had never eaten in the Seafeast style before. Now that I have, this is gong to have to be a semi-regular thing.

The Crab Pot is a great way to perfectly complete a visit to the Seattle Waterfront.

A Great Vacation Rental in Sequim – 3 Crabs Beach House

I love going to Sequim. Any road trip on or around the Olympic Peninsula should definitely include a visit to Sequim. This small city is famous for its sunny weather, Dungeness Spit, lavender farms, easy access to the Olympic Mountains, and of course the Olympic Game Farm.

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In need of a place to stay, and wanting to do something other than a hotel, I checked for some sort of vacation home that might be close to the water. One of the first options I stumbled upon was the 3 Crabs Beach House. I didn’t have high expectations, seeing as it was the first place I’d come across, but the more I checked it out the more I thought it would be pretty close to what I was looking for.

It was extremely economical, especially considering I quickly found out it was actually right on the water. It also looked like it had some great views. I booked our stay for two nights and got ready to enjoy some time in Sequim.

This was a very simple house, which was perfect, with some very cool features. First, there’s a hot tub on the deck which allows for viewing of the tankers and cruise ships that pass by all day and all night. The interior was very clean and had everything necessary to make for a pleasant stay. The best part of the whole thing though was outside. A short walk of 15-20 feet takes you from the deck to the sandy shore. We then had a pretty long stretch of open shore we could explore, hunting for shells and whatever other treasures had washed up.

To be honest, the house was so cool that we ended up spending more time there, because of the hot tub, deck, and waterfront, than we did scouring the local area for attractions. We still made it out to some of the biggies, but definitely left some to come back and check out later.

Our time at the 3 Crabs Beach House was a definite plus for our road trip.

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A Classic Tavern Experience at Bern’s Tavern in Prosser, Washington

The small town of Prosser is right in the middle of Washington’s Wine Country. It’s a fun little destination with lots to offer, including an engaging atmosphere and some interesting shops to hunt through. There is a relaxed way of life there that is impossible not to embrace.

My experience in Prosser was top notch. We must have visited seven wineries the first day we were there. This led to us sampling tons of great wines and getting the chance to eat some tasty morsels. The wineries there all have unique decors which makes for a cool experience too. One minute we were standing in a Spanish courtyard and it seemed like the next we were in a French chateau.

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After a day of touring wineries, I wanted a little something substantial to eat. That evening we set out into Prosser’s small downtown area and stumbled upon Bern’s Tavern. After walking in the door, we immediately felt like we were in our own hometown bar.

Bern’s Tavern is the perfect tavern experience, and to think, it comes in the heart of wine country. There were a lot of different beers to try out and they served top notch bar food. Grabbing a booth, shooting a pool, and the loose flow of chit chat that followed was perfection.

Prosser was a fun place to visit and many of my best memories came from the hours we spent at Bern’s Tavern.

5 Fun Facts: Washington – Grand Coulee Dam

I’m a fan of dams. I have been since I was a kid. I remember Mom taking us for day trips, as she called them, to large and small dams throughout the state of Washington. Most of these were dams on the Columbia River of course, but we’d also go see minor ones too. The king of all of these dams though was always Grand Coulee Dam. There is so much to enjoy there but it all starts with just staring at this huge, man made, awe inspiring structure that has harnessed the mighty Columbia River. Was that corny? Oh, well… here are five fun facts about this very cool place to visit.

1. Grand Coulee Dam measures in at 550 feet high from base to top. The original plan was for a low dam to be built that would be just over half that high at 290 feet tall. At that height, it would’ve produced electricity but would not have contributed to the irrigation system that the surrounding area relies on.

2. Due to the rising water behind Grand Coulee Dam, known now as Lake Roosevelt or Franklin Delano Roosevelt Lake, more than 3,000 people had to be relocated, many of them Native Americans.

3. The reservoir behind Grand Coulee was officially recognized as full on June 1, 1942 when the first water flowed over the dam’s spillway.

4. The Columbia River Treaty is a treaty between the United States and Canada that allows for water storage where backed up water of the Columbia River behind Grand Coulee Dam extends north of the Canadian’s border.

5. 1952 saw the United States Post Office issue a commemorative Grand Coulee Dam stamp with a face value of three cents.

Take a Ride on the Portland Brew Bus!

With a name like the Portland Brew Bus, let’s just say I was intrigued at what lay ahead for my afternoon excursion one day in Portland, Oregon.

Portland is known as the microbrewery capital of the United States, with more microbreweries per capita than anywhere else in the country. I found myself in the city and wanting to go check one of these microbreweries out. Then the Portland Brew Bus was recommended to me and that sounded like a whole lot of fun.

I boarded the bus and we immediately set out on our excursion. The driver was extremely knowledgeable, and in addition to giving some great background information on craft brewing and the city’s microbrewery culture, he provided some nice general Portland knowledge as well.

Stop after stop, I kept finding great tasting beers that I wanted to remember later so I could purchase some. Lucky for me, the Portland Brew Bus provided a beer scorecard so I could keep track. Afterwards, it was very easy to find outlets that sold these fine beers. I also found my way back to one that was my favorite the next night.

If you are a beer drinker and will be finding yourself going through the Portland area at anytime, I highly recommend this fun and unique way to get out and about in the city and sample the high quality beers of several microbreweries.

Give the Portland Brew Bus a shot at entertaining you!

Check Out The Great Northern & Cascade Railway In Skykomish

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While driving on US 2, west of Stevens Pass, I got lucky and found a nice little attraction in the little town of Skykomish.

Skykomish is the last community you pass by when you travel eastbound over Stevens Pass. Or, I guess, it could be the first community on the west side that you reach when heading over Stevens Pass from Eastern Washington. Regardless, it’s a cute little town and definitely worth a quick pull off from the highway.

Skykomish has some nice ties to the railroad and logging industries, and though I’d stopped there before, what caught my attention this time was some small signs along the highway promoting “Free Train Rides”.

Having kids in the car with me on this trip, I decided this was worth some investigation. Truth be told, we were about due for a snack anyway. As we crossed the Skykomish River, we saw that the signs led to the small historic train depot in the center of town. We pulled into the parking lot just in time to see the train leave the station. The train in question that day was a miniature narrow gauge train run by an engineer and ferrying children, some “disguised” as adults, around on a fairly good sized track. We’d just found the Great Northern & Cascade Railway.

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The train passes over a bridge, goes through a tunnel, and passes by several full size rail cars and railroad equipment. Needless to say, the kids had an excellent time.

The town’s historic depot, dating back to 1898, contains some interesting things to see too. Restoring the depot and bringing the railroad history to visitors and locals is a big project and you can support that project by purchasing some of the shirts, books, and other souvenirs found inside. There are also other things to see there including a historic train bell waiting for you to ring it, replica train cars and engines done to scale, and more.

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The Great Northern & Cascade Railway is located at 101 North 5th Street in Skykomish, Washington. The facility is open Saturday and Sunday from the end of May to the end of October. It’s great for a quick stop, especially if you are traveling with kids or have an interest in history. Plus, you can’t pass up the feeling you get supporting small community projects like this.

Follow the Great Northern & Cascade Railway on Facebook!

Or check out the Great Northern & Cascade Railway website!

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