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Point Defiance Tacoma, Washington

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There is so much that can be said about Point Defiance Park. I have so many memories in this park. Out of all the parks I’ve ever been to in my life this one I think tops out as my most frequently visited. So much that I refer to it as my second home. I come here for business, pleasure, and exercise. Andy and I even had our wedding reception here at one of the lookout points. It’s my go to for outdoor entertainment for whatever occasion, it can be dressed up or down. The location and beauty make it that much more desirable.

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Point Defiance is a large urban park in north Tacoma. Topping out at 760 acres the park includes Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. A large rose garden, rhododendron garden, Asian garden, beaches, trails, a boardwalk, boathouse (complete with small craft boat rentals, fishing derbies, a store and supplies), five mile drive, Washington State Ferries has a dock/boat here that goes to Vashon Island.

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http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/

Fort Nisqually museum is here. Be sure to stop here for a walk down memory lane and see where this fort came from and the purpose it served to the area. It’s definitely a fun expierence getting to walk through all the buildings and learn about the area in the 1930s and the Hudson Bay Company.

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https://www.metroparkstacoma.org/fort-nisqually-living-history-museum/

An off leash dog area, tennis courts, boat launch and marina, then to top it off among all this, the old growth forest. Point Defiance receives more than three million visitors a year.  That is CRAZY!

Over the course of the past three years Point Defiance and surrounding areas have taken on a new look. A bit of a face lift for the North Tacoma area. Point Defiance will be connecting to Pointe Ruston and Ruston Way. A huge extension to the park as most of us have known it. The opening to this new connection in Tacoma will be happening this spring. I’m anxious to see the new areas and get to enjoy new views and aspects of the park. Looking for the day that Andy and I get ambitious and walk the entire water front with Point Def included.

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I have been coming to Point Def all my life. For tons of different reasons. Going to the zoo, picnics in the park or at the beach. Andy and I even had our wedding reception here as I mentioned… I bring tons of my clients here for photos many times of the year. Its a beautiful setting for a multitude of reasons. The park even offers a rental space for events. Four different areas in the park to get married. I have been there shooting a wedding once when there were three happening. The park being large enough we were never on each others toes either, so that made it nice.

https://www.metroparkstacoma.org/pagoda-rental-fees/

I highly recommend weddings here at this location. Its beautiful, the space they offer is amazing. I would say weddings that are less than 100 guests would be ample for the pagoda space. The gardens make for a great place to take photos of the bride and groom, the wedding party and family. Then there is even the beach and forest for a large variety of different possibilities of what can be offered at the park for options when it comes to weddings and photos. Plus the location is close to many hotels and the Sea-Tac airport if you have guests coming from out of state. Its easy to find and ample parking once your at the park.

  • The flower gardens come spring and summer are so amazing. The variety of different flowers. They’re even all conveniently labeled so you will know what you’re looking at. So many different patterns and colors. Gardeners layout great color schemes and patterns to the gardens that it makes it very pleasing to the eye.  There are many different paths and ways to walk to admire all the beautiful flowers and plants. The rose garden is in a fenced area since there is wildlife at the park they try keeping them out. A lot of these flowers would make a wonderful snack. This is also one of the locations where weddings are held. Out in the grass with the beautiful landscape and lush greens and colorful flowers as the backdrop.
  • There is a duck pond complete with an island and bridges you can walk over and admire different types of water dwelling birds. The pond is also stocked with huge koi and native turtles. Go on a hot summer day and you’ll see the turtles out bathing on the rocks in the middle of the water. This pond also has fountains and a waterfall. Seasonal of course.
  • The Asian garden is where the Pagoda is. There are also a few different water features in this garden, a small waterfall and ponds with an amazing arched bridge. Makes for the most wonderful photos. Again the ponds are complete with a vaiety of koi fish.
  • Owen beach is a wonderful place to stop at and relax for the day. If you come during the summer be sure to get an early start. Parking lot gets full. If you come late in the day be prepared for a long walk down the parking lot to the beach. And remember at the end of the day when your tired, the sun got the best of you, you have to walk back up that hill to get to your car. Can be quiet the hike. The beach is wonderful. Lots of things to see on the beach, can watch fishermen out in the sound, with an occasional killer whale sighting . Watch the ferry go back and fourth to and from Vashon Island, all while soaking up an amazing view of Mount Rainier in the distance. Also during the summer months there is a concession stand that is open, and a private operator that rents out kayaks. Definitely fun for the entire family down at the beach.
  • Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium is a fun place to visit also. All times of the year. They have a large variety of animals to see and events they put on. One of their more popular events is during the holidays. Zoo Lights. Definitely something you might want to take in at least once in your life. The zoo has got a few face lifts over the past ten years. Just this past year the aquarium was renovated and updated.

https://www.pdza.org/

Here is a link for upcoming events that are scheduled to be happening at the park this year,

https://www.metroparkstacoma.org/point-defiance-events/

 

 

Dechutes Falls, Yelm WA

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In Pierce County? Looking for something to do that’s off the beaten path? Check out this hidden gem in the woods. Dechutes Falls Park is located in Yelm. It’s a bit of a ride out there. The scenery is beautiful. Lots of farm land and once you get closer, there gets to be more rolling hills and mountains in the distance.

The parking area is small, come early in the day as it does get busy. Especially on those hot summer days. There is a great swimming hole, so don’t forget your suit.

In the parking lot there are a couple picnic tables which make for a nice lunch either before or after your hike. There is also a porty potty on site. No other facilities are here for the publics use.

The start of the hike is a pretty steep hill down a gravel pathway. Once at the bottom of the first hill you will be coming to the trails to get to the viewing areas to see the falls and the river. Fall, winter and spring seasons it gets super muddy, rocks are really slippery. If you have small children be sure to watch them close as the river is flowing heavy and one wrong move and they can end up in the river.

Once your go down the first trail to see the falls, go back up to the main trail and continue following the path. You will end up at a slower part of the river (during the summer) allowing for great swimming. This is glaicer water so it does get chilly. So refreshing on a 90* western Washington day.

Got to love the super blue water, little pools of water and the overall scenery. Remember if and when you go, leave no trace and be sure to pack out what you packed in. Contribute to keeping the park maintained and cleaned up. Be sure to watch your step too.

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Kalaloch, Washington

I had never been before I met Andy. He had always talked about it. Going as a kid. Playing on the beach, jumping around in the logs on the beach that would wash up. How he would tip toe through tide pools and look at all the sea life. I wanted to see this place he cherished so much as a child.

Finally he took me. I was anxious the whole ride out. Hearing about the way it was, the way it looked. I couldn’t wait to see it. This adventure, we took the shorter of the two ways to get there. We went southwest through Aberdeen. It’s about a 3 1/2 hour drive from our house. Not to bad, but still a bit of a ride. After we had made it through Aberdeen that’s when the landscape took a huge change. The trees changed, the light got brighter, the air smelled of the sea. Soon the trees were offering breaks allowing us to see out into the Pacific. Was a decently calm day. Blue skies, a breeze, and the sound of the ocean waves crashing as we drove along the highway. It’s truly a sound that never gets old.

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So a bit of a history lesson first. In 1920 Charles W. Becker purchased 40 acres of land. Where the lodge and cabins are. He was a resourceful man, used lumber from the timber that had washed up on the beach. Was able to construct the lodge, cabins, restaurant and a small store. The lodge opened in 1953 then Becker sold the land to the National Park Service. While a lot of things have changed at the lodge a lot of things still remain today.

Aside from the lodge and the cabins there is also a campground here. Has 168 sites to offer. Ranging in all different sizes and amenities. Each site has campfire rings, picnic table. Food lockers are available, fresh water, restrooms, and dump station. The campsite offers the basics. Which is just enough to get by a few days.

As we pull into the parking lot we are greeted by the camp supervisor. He was nice, told us about the happenings, openings at the campground, about the lodge a bit. We ended up parking, and getting out was nice. Having sat in the car that long my legs were more than ready for a good stretch. Getting out of the car I was immediately awoken to the fresh salty sea breeze rushing by my fave. It was cool, yet refreshing. A short walk down a path led us right to the beach. First it was a bit of a challenge to get over all the washed up logs, but once we did, the beach opened up to golden sand. Was windy, generally is at the beach, so a dry layer of sand was being blown across the top of the sand that was more packed down. The view looking out into the water was amazing in the far distance was Destruction Island. Complete with a light house warning all the boats at night not to get to close to the shore. Almost seems from Ocean Shores north in Washington, the coastline gets really rugged. The more north you go, expect seeing more large rock formations. We spent the entire day here. We had our daughters with us too. They enjoyed playing in the sand, making castles, playing in beach huts other beach goers had created with all the wood that washed up. Was a great way to wear them out. Full day at the beach, heck ya!

We walked the beach looking for gifts from the sea, we found plenty. Lots of little critters, shells, plenty of tide pools to look in. Kids loved seeing all the creatures, being able to look and touch. Was a fun experience for them and us. Took them to the little store near the lodge for ice cream and trinkets to bring home.

Kalaloch Mercantile is a small convenience store. Has some small grocery basics, camping basics, souvenirs, coffee and ice cream.  There is also restrooms here if you need to make a pit stop. There is another shop in the lodge offering clothing, jewelry and some fine art. The lodge is like home base of the area with the stores, cabins and campground it only seems appropriate to call it that.

For more booking information on the lodge and cabins, check this website out.

https://www.thekalalochlodge.com/?utm_source=googlemaps&utm_medium=local&utm_campaign=kalaloch

*** Camping

After having went a few times just for days trips, I wanted to stay at the campsite. For the next three summers Andy and I came here and stayed for three nights. Always in July. First time we came was for our anniversary, was just the two of us. The next two times we came, we brought Madison and the girls were at Girl Scout camp. The campsites are amazing. If you can get one that is right on the ocean, you’ll have the most amazing views. Front row seat to the most breathtaking sunsets. The middle of the campground is very forest like, heavy moss, campsites are very secluded from your neighbors. The sites closer to the road are much louder. And you are right up against the highway. Yes a small bluffer of brush and greenery, but still close with no fence enclosure. Consider small children and pets. Semi’s and passenger cars are traveling this highway at a high rate of speed.

There is an amphitheater where there are nightly shows and presentations with an Olympic Park Ranger. It’s definitely fun to sit through and learn about the area and all the critters and sea life. They also outline happenings that go on at neighboring beaches (Ruby Beach) with rangers.

When Andy and I stayed the first time we had an ocean view campsite. It was definitely an amazing time. The view was breathtaking. The sound of the ocean to fall asleep to, the cool salty breeze zipping through our campsite. Will be a moment I wont forget. The second time we were in the middle more in a forestry site but still had a view of the ocean. The third time we tried a roadside site. Wasn’t to bad. We had a good 150 feet from the tent to the road. So pretty far.  Was extremely forestry. I love it.

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We spent our days walking the beach, enjoying the beautiful Washington coastal weather in the middle of July. We checked out neighboring beaches which were just as beautiful. The huge rock formations out in the ocean, the tide pools once again. Absolutely amazing sites. There are also plenty of near by hiking that we were able to check out. The heavily green forests, trees had moss draped over their limbs, was growing on the forest floor, was everywhere. Such a vibrant hike in the forest.

It’s been a few years since we have been able to make it back out here to enjoy this beautiful beach. Hoping to make it out here again in the near future. I surely do miss the laid back feeling while sitting among the logs on the beach.

Tolmie Peak Lookout at Mount Rainier

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It’s a picturesque hike the entire family can enjoy together. Get your pack, grab your boots and don’t forget your bug spray. You’ll need it for this hike. This moderate hike will awe you with alpine lakes, fields of flowers, breathtaking views of Mount Rainier and a sense of accomplishment once you’ve reached the top. This would be the first lookout tower that I have made it to. I didn’t quiet make it on the last lookout hike I went on, so the satisfaction of standing on top of this mountain looking out was a huge deal to me.

The trail to the lookout starts at Mowich Lake, which is in Mount Rainier National Park boundaries. So upon arrival, if you don’t have the American the Beautiful Pass, you will have to pay to gain entrance. Also this access point is only open from June to October most years. Plan accordingly, the road to Mowich Lake is a gravel road that is heavily grated. It is that way for eleven miles. So a very dusty/bumpy ride. There is parking along the road along side Mowich Lake on either side of the road. Come early parking fills up fast. You’ll end up parking further down the road adding that much more to your hike.

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Mowich Lake is a stop for Wonderland Trail hikers. The Wonderland Trail is a ninety-three mile loop trail that goes all the way around Mount Rainier. Mowich is one of the campgrounds that those hikers use along their journey around the mountain. There is a ranger station here, food storage, compost restrooms and a campsite. Complete with the pristine clear blue Mowich Lake. Having never camped here one can only imagine the beauty and peace that comes in the night.

The hike is 7.5 miles round trip, about 4000 feet of elevation gain. It starts out relatively easy as we’re walking the bank of Mowich Lake. The water is so still, not a ripple, not a breeze. Being able to peer into the water from the trail perched above looking deep into it’s blue depths it amazing. The water is so clear, almost like it isn’t even there. The trail is dirt, every step you get a puff of dust engulfing your boots. Like I mentioned before, come early. This is a very popular trail. Can get busy at times. I also mentioned bug spray. The bugs here, are absolutely ridiculous. The mosquitoes in the beginning. Then when the elevation climbs you run into biting deer flies. They’re similar to a horse fly. But much more angry.

You’ll eventually get to a fork in the road. One direction continuing on heading towards the lookout and another heading towards Isput Pass. When you’ve got here, go look. Its amazing. Practically a cliff. Looking out and over that way the wind is whipping by hard and fast, the trail down, unforgiving and steep. It takes you down 5000 feet to Isput Creek Campgrounds at the Carbon River. Today were heading to the lookout, we’ll save that hike for another day.

Continuing on through the forest admiring all the old Alaska yellow cedar trees. The vast and distant fields of flowers and tall rock formations its hard not to stop to take it all in. Almost halfway into this hike the terrain gets a little more demanding. Needing to shuffle over roots, rocks, and navigate through the switchbacks. As the trees begin to thin, more wildflowers become present. We crest on a ridge that happens to be yet another alpine lake. This one is called Eunice Lake. There is usually snow here throughout the year. Makes for a nice way to cool down from the walk getting here. I always dunk my hat or bandanna in the ice. Its such a cool and refreshing feeling. Helps when you look up and see the lookout sitting ever so nice way above the lake on the edge of the bowl.

It’s the last mile of the hike. Its practically straight up. My legs are tired, my feet hurt, I always get blisters when hiking no matter the measures I take. I’m chewed up from the bugs, because even with spray they still love me. I’m a little grouchy and worn out. I know this last jaunt will be tough, but I’m not quitting now. Lots of people coming down. Giving encouraging words of “Your almost there!” My exhaustion must of been apparent on my face. Or maybe they heard me yelling about the bugs. Either way, was nice to hear we were almost there. I was so ready to take a load off and get my boots off and doctor my feet.

Again the trees start thinning. In the distance you can see Mount Saint Helen’s. Was a bit of a smokey day. We had been in the peak of fire season but was able to catch somewhat of a break in the smokey skies a bit close by. In the distance Helen’s was pretty choked out in smoke. Then the most pleasant sight. The lookout. It was wooden brown, stood tall on stilts to lookout over the mountain peaks afar for fires. This was the first time I had made it to a lookout. I was proud of my accomplishment. I really relished in moment and the view of the mountain. The bugs also subsided so that was a plus. Took a seat up on the lookout deck, took my boots off, decided to refuel on lunch, doctored my wounds and started thinking about our hike back down. What goes down, must come back up. The hike back was going to be just as hard as hiking in.

Took about two and half / three hours to get to the top. The trip back to the car was about forty-five minutes faster than the climb up. Was so nice to get to the car and sit down and relax my feet. Was definitely an exhausting hike, well worth it though. I would do it again. I’m actually thinking about another possible trip to the lookout again.