In Travels in 2013, Part 1, I covered where we went in the first part of the year, and now I’m covering the second half, which was just as fun, if not more so.
View our travels by location, rather than chronological order:
- Pacific Northwest
- Asheville, NC
- Athens, GA & Blacksburg, VA
- Wilmington, NC, Again
- Atlanta, GA, Again
- Salt Lake City, UT
WASHINGTON & OREGON – JULY 2013
We spent a week in my husband’s home turf, hanging out with his parents and quite a few friends. We traveled all over the Pacific Northwest, fitting Seattle, Olympia, Lake Cushman, Hood River, and Portland into our one-week itinerary.
Our first day was spent in Mount Rainier National Park, which is, at least so far, my favorite national park in the country. It’s just hard to compete with the gorgeous green scenery and the snowy, craggy backdrops! And yes, we did find some snow in July. Hooray for big mountains!
Don’t worry, it was like 75 degrees out. Shorts were a good choice, even though Mirror Lake wasn’t living up to its reflective name on this day, due to the sheet of ice covering much of its surface.
In fact, there was enough snow to call for this notice below. Our lack of “avalanche assessment skills” kept us off some trails we had planned to hike. We were also disappointed to find that the peak of Mt. Rainier, called Paradise, was cloud-covered and obcured from view.
But we didn’t let that disappointment stop us from seeing the other beautiful sites in the lower part of the park. Just because “Paradise” was off limits didn’t mean we couldn’t find our own little piece of paradise. After coming down from the snowy, cloudy peak, we stopped for a beautiful view of Christine Falls.
After the falls, we hiked Carter Trail, a tiny offshoot of the Wonderland Trail. When we first began, Rainier was still playing games with us, with just enough wispy clouds covering it to mask its full glory. But by the time we finished the hike, it was out for all to see!
I just can’t get enough of it. That photo stuns me every time I see it. And it’s even more spectacular when it feels like you can reach out and touch it from the trail.
Also, I highly recommend this area, where Carter Falls flows into the Paradise River to meet up with the Wonderland Trail. Not only does it offer a majestic view of Rainier, on a hot July day the frigid Paradise provides a nice respite from hiking. I greatly enjoyed plunging my legs into the rushing water. (And then promptly, with loud squeals, pulling them right back out, for fear of being the only person to contract frostbite on an 85-degree day in July.)
Next up, we headed to Lake Cushman to a friend’s lake house for some hammock and boating time.
If only the water hadn’t been like ice, I might never have been convinced to leave the peaceful atmosphere. I’ve never been on a lake so fully surrounded with mountains. It makes you feel cocooned and remote, in a good way.
As if we were afraid having fun might go out of style, next up we went to Seattle for the evening to see a Sounders soccer game versus DC United. I’d never been to an MLS game before, so I was pretty stoked. The Sounders are definitely a great way to experience soccer – so full of energy! They won 2-0, and it was awesome!
The next day, we hit the road for Oregon. Hood River is considered a huge destination for windsurfers, as you can see below. It’s not bad scenery either. (Although the way my husband talks about Oregon, like a red-headed stepchild, you would not guess it.) Hood River was a choice destination for us to see friends, but it’s a great day trip from Portland, with yummy restaurants and beer, at places like Double Mountain Pizza and Full Sail Brewery.
Hood River also offers beautiful views of Mount Baker.
Multnomah Falls was midway between Hood River and Portland, and we made a quick stop to see it. It is so much taller than this picture suggests, but the people on the bridge give you some idea.
Not surprisingly, my favorite thing in Portland was spending most of the morning at Powell’s Books. I only bought about half a dozen books (which is keeping things in check for me!), and probably would have bought many more had my stomach not been growling.
We ate at the food truck block at Alder Street and SW 10th Street, and I had some pretty spicy Thai food. We didn’t have anywhere near enough time in Portland, as we had to catch a plane in Seattle to head back later that night, but we did make it to Stumptown Coffee for a delicious shot of espresso.
It was the perfect way to prep for our red eye and say sayonara to Portland. A few hours later, we were on a plane back home. This trip, more than any other I’ve taken since knowing my husband, solidified my PNW adoration. I mean, I knew I loved Seattle, but now that love affair has extended to the whole coastline. It was hard to let Rainier, the Sound, Seattle — and probably to my husband’s horror, even Portland! — go this time.
ASHEVILLE – SEPTEMBER 2013
For our first wedding anniversary, we made our way to Asheville, which is hands down our favorite place in North Carolina. I love me some Blue Ridge Mountains, y’all!
On our way to Asheville, we took a detour to the Parkway to do some hiking. Just as we reached a beautiful overlook, a strong storm broke out and we took a short break to watch lightning dance across the mountains (and to wait out the short, but torrential downpour.) It didn’t last long, though, and we were still able to hike Mount Pisgah.
Just outside of Asheville in a small town called Burnsville, we stayed at the Buck House Inn, which I cannot recommend enough (and I have here and here on TripAdvisor), and they sweetly provided this heart wreath on our door in celebration of our first wedding anniversary. Debbie and Sam are some of the most lovely inn owners you will ever meet, and the Buck House is a beautiful building with gorgeous grounds, settled towards the top of Bald Mountain. The past two times I’ve been there I’ve stayed in the Chestnut Room which allows you to hear the creek flowing past your room. Debbie is also an amazing cook, and I can promise you that if you stay here, breakfast will be delicious!
On our actual anniversary, the next day, we headed into downtown Asheville to explore. Our first stop was at a place that I can’t wait to get back to, the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. This isn’t just any chocolate store. They offer liquid truffles that are unlike anything I’ve ever had — not quite your regular hot chocolate but not quite a truffle, either. It’s rich and creamy and delectable. They also offer many other chocolate (and non-chocolate) goodies and desserts. This is a must-stop if you have a sweet tooth.
For lunch, we ate at Chorizo, which was some of the most authentic South American food I’ve had in some time.
We rounded out our afternoon with drinks at the top of the Flatiron Building at the SkyBar. You ride up in an old-school elevetor and step out onto a patio about five floors up. This places offers excellent panoramic views of the city and the Blue Ridge Mountains, along with inventive, delicious drinks.
FOOTBALL IN THE FALL: ATHENS & BLACKSBURG – SEPTEMBER & OCTOBER 2013
We attended our fair share of college football games in the 2013 season. We started with ESPN GameDay in Athens for UGA vs. LSU in September. In an attempt to get on T.V. (which sadly didn’t happen), we made some awesome signs.
And we experienced GameDay craziness on the quad. (At 8 a.m., I might add. My brother was insistent that we had to be there early. You know you love football when you get up at 7 in the morning on a Saturday for an afternoon game, just to show your support for your team.)
It was an absolutely perfect fall day for a football game. Clear, sunny, not too hot, and not too cold.
After what might be the best college football game I’ve ever seen — it was a tug of war all the way up until the very end — the DAWGS WON!
Then, a few weeks later, we headed north to Blacksburg to see a Virginia Tech game. And I learned to chant H-O-K-I-E-S as we sat in the student section. (And might I say, I learned it much faster than some of our native Hokies fans in the student section. That’s right, Elizabeth, I will never let you forget.)
Even though they didn’t win, it was still pretty fun.
WILMINGTON – OCTOBER 2013
Thanks to an awesome Groupon with Mahanaim Adventures, we kayaked the Cape Fear River just outside of Wilmington. I highly recommend their tours! These photos are courtesy of their GoPro cam.
While we were in Wilmington, we visited Blue Asia, which is an all-you-can-eat sushi establishment. Not only is it very fresh sushi (and nigiri – which we ate plenty of!), it’s an unbelievable deal if you just want to eat as much sushi as you possibly can. Between my husband and me, we managed to eat five sushi rolls, 11 pieces of nigiri, and some miso soup — for $20 a person! If you love sushi, this is a must-do while in Wilmington. (Pictured, left to right: Rainbow Roll, Kiss of Fire, and Mango Roll.)
ATLANTA – NOVEMBER 2013
After visiting with my family in Augusta for Thanksgiving, we spent the last Saturday of November in Atlanta. We were mostly there to see the Georgia vs. Georgia Tech game, but we also did a few touristy things in ATL. We started our day at Henri’s Bakery for some delicious breakfast and coffee with my aunt and brother, and then made our way to the World of Coke.
The last time I visited the World of Coke, I was a young child, and I remembered very little. I definitely don’t remember it being as interactive as it is now. Of course, the main reason you go is for the huge and limitless tasting room, but the other exhibits are fun. Also, if you have any appreciation for Coke’s history, there is tons of paraphernalia from every decade and every part of the world and almost every language, which is neat to see.
It’s also kind of fun to see the vault, where they keep the secret recipe…supposedly. (Personally, I am not really convinced it’s at World of Coke. Conspiracy theory, anyone?)
And you’ve got to get a photo with the Coca-Cola polar bear. Of course. Who could resist the cuddliness?
And if you go at Christmas time like we did, Coke is decorated accordingly.
But, like I said, the main reason you go is for this:
All kinds of crazy flavors from all over the world, plus a wall of Coke Freestyle machines where you can create your own combinations. Personally, I was a huge fan of England’s popular soda, Kinley Bitter Lemon. I was sorely disappointed after quite a bit of googling to discover that it’s pretty hard — if not impossible — to find in the U.S.
Next we headed to Bobby Dodd Stadium for some very heated football on an otherwise chilly night. (See picture of my face wrapped in a scarf.) Georgia Tech fought hard, but after double overtime, the Dawgs pulled out another win. 2013 was like a heart attack football season, every game had me on the edge of my seat, wondering if we could pull it off this time.
I’m no Georgia Tech fan, but I’ve got to say, the stadium has a pretty sweet view.
After shivering our way through the game, we had a delicious meal at The Optimist, a seafood place in Midtown. I needed to warm up, so I got a delicious gumbo. We had heard about The Optimist on the Food Network, and it was pretty fancy, but not overwhelmingly so. Very fresh seafood prepared in both traditional and surprising ways. We each had soup — gumbo for me and chowder for my husband — for a starter, and then we split an entrée, swordfish with brussel sprouts. All of it was excellent. The menu changes regularly as the restaurant is always serving up fresh and local seafood and meats.
SALT LAKE CITY – DECEMBER 2013
We closed out the year with skiing in Utah, which isn’t called the “greatest snow on Earth” for nothing. I’ve tried quite a few places in the U.S., but Utah is my favorite by far. Now I just need to see if European skiing is all it’s cracked up to be, and then I guess I’ll be able to say that with authority.
You can’t beat empty slopes and gorgeous mountains. This is at Park City.
And of course, I had to ski my own trail at Deer Valley, Little Kate.
After a long day on the slopes, we were thrilled to have a great sushi place right next to our hotel in Midvale, Sushi in Joy. The sushi was fresh and they had a lot of inventive specialty sushi rolls with flavor combinations I haven’t seen before. The service was also very friendly and helpful. You’d easily pass over this place, as it’s in a strip mall in front of a hotel, but it’s worth a visit if you’re in the area!
After a few days on the slopes, our muscles needed a break so we went into Salt Lake City.
First we went into the Utah Capitol building, which is one of the largest historical preservation projects in the country. It’s beautiful, full of classical architecture and paintings.
After the Capitol, we headed over to City Creek Center and Temple Square. As it was Sunday, City Creek was closed, which was a little sad, as we didn’t get to see the indoor creek running through the mall, but we got the idea from the beautiful fountains and creek outside.
As always, the Tabernacle and surrounding grounds are lovely.
After Temple Square, we went to Red Iguana, which I highly recommend. The best molé I’ve ever had! Be sure to ask for the plate of different molés so you can determine which one you like the most before ordering. My dad, an avid cyclist, liked the bike sculpture outside.
Next up, this was my favorite place in Salt Lake City: the City Library. (First Powell’s in Portland and now the City Library in Salt Lake, is anyone surprised? I make a habit of finding libraries and bookstores.)
Look at this interior! It’s five stories, lots of glass, and it has a spiral staircase and a four-story fireplace (that is just one large fireplace actually, it’s quite unique). One entire side of the library is dedicated to desks and sitting areas, and the floor to ceiling windows reveal the Rockies in all their glory. I wanted to move to SLC just to have access to this library. I feel certain I’d always be inspired with those gorgeous mountains in view.
“…culture is a pyramid to which each of us brings a stone.” I thought it was a fitting quote in between a library and a museum.
The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit makes you feel like you’re stepping back into a lost time period. It’s surreal. Not much photography was allowed, and where it was, it was pretty dark, but I doubt my camera would have been able to capture just how fragile, and yet complete and well-restored the scrolls are. (Not to mention they are protected behind some pretty thick glass!) I did think the quote below was neat, though. At the beginning of the exhibit they put you in a dark room and all of these voices come on with quotes flashing around the room, speaking and displaying in lots of languages, including English, Hebrew, Arabic, and a few others. The amount of history they have uncovered around the Dead Sea almost makes this feel so real.
“…And it always seems to me that if we dig deeply there, we will reach that layer of soil on which God’s footprints are still engraved.”
After our day of sightseeing, we spent the next two days skiing. And we wrapped up our trip, at my parents’ suggestion, with a selfie at Solitude, which turned out to be a great park. Smaller, but it’s very quiet and full of great runs. What could be a better way to end 2013?
I can’t think of too many better ways! Onward to 2014 and the adventures it holds!