Our long weekend in Victoria, B.C.

We love to travel, but as our son becomes more active and less interested in sitting in a car for long periods of time we are increasingly interested in quick and easy vacations from Seattle. Early one Friday morning, we drove a mere fifteen minutes from our home, boarded the Victoria Clipper and set out for a long weekend in Victoria, BC. It had been several years since we last visited Victoria and word on the street was Victoria is rapidly becoming a young, vibrant, fun and hip place to be. Due to sky rocketing real estate in Vancouver, BC many young families are relocating to Victoria making it a great place to visit, especially for young families like ourselves. We hadn't visited Victoria since we had become parents, so we were eager to see all Victoria had to offer. 

The biggest perk of catching the early ferry is you can hit the ground running once you are in Victoria. When traveling with a toddler two of the most important factors are food and speed. During our boat ride we were able to eat breakfast and then spend the rest of the time checking out all the boats and beautiful scenery out our window and chatting with the interesting people on board. Once in Victoria we took a short taxi ride to our hotel and without much fuss we were able to be settled into our room and get a bite to eat all before noon. Since it was so early in the day, we then had the rest of the day to explore Victoria at our leisure. We had such a long list of things we wanted to do we really appreciated being able to get up to Victoria so fast and with such ease on the Victoria Clipper

We stayed three nights at the newly renovated Magnolia Hotel. The Magnolia Hotel is located one block from the harbor and close to the city's best restaurants, shops and entertainment. The hotel's tag line is "Timeless elegance in the Inner Harbour" and we found that to be a true representation of our experience there. We stayed in a Diamond Harbor View room and found it be well appointed, thoughtfully decorated and provided a wonderful respite at the end of each day. 

We enjoy staying at boutique hotels for many reasons, but the biggest is the staff's ability to engage with us, give us advice and do all they can to make our stay more fun and enjoyable. When you are a parent, one of the most important things is how your children are treated by others. The staff at the Magnolia Hotel was quick to greet Jasper each morning and he got a real thrill out of seeing their pet fish each day at the front desk. It is hard to find this kind of undistracted, unmatched service you can experience at a boutique hotel. At the Magnolia Hotel the staff is interested in going the extra mile, they offer fresh fruit and bottled water during the day and a nightly turn down service where they leave miniature chocolates at your bedside at night.

The Magnolia Hotel is conveniently located in close proximity to all the places we were interested in visiting. And as an added bonus the hotel boasts stunning views of the harbor from many of its rooms. Shortly after we arrived it was evident Jasper would have been completely content sitting on the bed or with his nose pressed to the window watching all the seaplanes take off and land or the boats coming in and out of the harbor. 

When we stay at a hotel one of the most important factors is how comfy the bed is. I am happy to report the bed at the Magnolia Hotel was large, luxurious and provided the perfect place to rough house....I mean unwind, after a busy day of exploring. 

The view from our Diamond Harbor View room. 

Jasper is fascinated with planes right now, so he made certain to yell out and point whenever he saw one take off or land. 

Our room at the Magnolia Hotel was so comfortable, light and bright we ended up spending many an hour reading books or just enjoying our view. Traveling with a toddler is a much different pace then traveling with an infant so it was nice for Jasper to be able to have a familiar space he could enjoy each day. 

As an added incentive when you book directly with the Magnolia Hotel you are given breakfast vouchers. One morning we decided to take it slow and order room service. To this day, ordering room service still gives me a thrill. Having food delivered straight to your room always feels like one of the biggest luxuries to me because this is something we rarely do. 

During our entire stay we were fortunate to have gorgeous weather. Each day we experienced blue skies, sunshine and the temperature hovering between 75-80 degrees. Perfection!

One of the most memorable and fun activities we did as a family while we were there was utilize the Magnolia Hotel trail maps. We were able to take out the free hotel bikes and spend a relaxing afternoon biking up to Beacon Hill Park, making important stops at the Beacon Hill Drive In for burgers and ice cream and visit the gigantic watering can so Jasper could run around in the water. The best part of these trail maps is how they have been created to allow interesting experiences for their guests. One map shows shopping highlights while another map shows places to stop for small bites and drinks. We utilized their biking map to explore places in the city we had never visited before and also explored sections from their walking maps during our time there. 

My favorite part of traveling is the people I meet along the way. During our stay at the Magnolia Hotel we interacted with so many kind hearted, enthusiastic people whose only desire was for us to have a memorable vacation. From the door man to the bell hop each person gave us their undivided attention and helped us along the way. I had to laugh when it took five of us to figure out how to get Jasper properly installed into his bike carrier. It just goes to show you how important it is for their staff to get things right and that our safety was their number one concern. 

Beacon Hill Park is a treasure trove of ponds, bridges, a petting zoo, gardens, an outdoor stage etc. In our short time there, we saw peacocks roaming around and heard an orchestra performance in the park. 

Summer is a fantastic time of year to visit Victoria because the city is bursting with color, the harbor is buzzing with activity and you are bound to have a couple days of glorious weather.

Our favorite souvenirs are always the edible ones. We made it a point to head straight to Victoria Public Market once we arrived for a quick lunch. We loved being able to sample some of the local flavors and get a sense of a place through the local flavors we try. Roast meat and sandwich shop, Victoria Pie Co. and Salt Spring Island Cheese were some of our favorites. The Victoria Public Market is reminiscent of what you would find in The Ferry Building in San Francisco.

Beacon Hill Drive In had the best soft serve I have ever eaten. It is the kind of place I will dream about whenever it is hot and I am craving ice cream. 

We loved being so close to the harbor. We loved to walked down there at night and check out the various vendors and food carts. We never tried of watching the boat traffic or people watching. 

If it hadn't been for an uncooperative toddler I could have easily spent a fortune at some of the fantastic boutiques in Victoria. There were many stores that I walked into and felt like the pieces had been curated specifically for me. Even my husband, who is a hard guy to find clothes for had success shopping at several of the great men's boutiques. 

The best part of most vacations is always the food. There was no shortage of delicious, local and inventive things to eat in Victoria. The food scene in Victoria is on fire right now. Here are just a few of our favorites we tried during our stay: Olo, 10 Acres, gelato at Pour, and ice cream at Kid Sister to name a few. 

During our time in Victoria we had the opportunity to go whale watching with Prince of Whales. In a few short hours we were able to see orca and humpback whales, harbor seals, sea lions, a variety of birds and plenty of spectacular scenery. The boat was fast, the staff was knowledgeable and Jasper was so comfortable he was even able to sneak in a nap on our way out of the harbor. 

In order to make the most of our time in Victoria we teamed up with the experts at Tourism Victoria. With our attractions pass we were able to gain free admission or heavily discounted admission to most attractions in Victoria. In our three days there we ran out of time to do everything we wanted to, but we were able to enjoy the Sightseeing Victoria bus, the Royal BC Museum, enjoyed an IMAX about the National Parks, visited Miniature World, took a harbor cruise and went whale watching. 

In all the traveling we have done, we have never taken a hop on/hop off bus. We found it to be a great way to rest our weary feet and get the lay of the land. On our tour, we were able to figure out which places we wanted to come back to and visit when we had more time. 

Watching the sunset from our room at the Magnolia Hotel

When our long weekend was through and we boarded the Victoria Clipper to head back home we felt sad to be leaving such a fantastic place. On our way back home the Victoria Clipper all of the sudden slowed down and we were pleasantly surprised when they announced over the intercom we had come across two pods of orcas. The Victoria Clipper was kind enough to slow down not once, but twice in order for us to take in all in. And in that moment I was once again reminded the beauty is in the journey. 

This post was sponsored by the Magnolia Hotel and Tourism Victoria

Granite Mountain with a toddler

A few weekends ago we decided to tackle Granite Mountain. Our schedule has been jam packed with travel these past few months, so we have not been able to get out hiking as often as we would've liked to. Hiking Granite Mountain is one of our favorite things to do in the Summer and early Fall. And it never feels like Summer until we have tackled a handful of our favorite hikes. 

One of my favorite parts about hiking, aside from the gorgeous scenery and fresh mountain air is the ability to push my body. Oftentimes, it is easy to fall short and not realize our full potential. Hiking gives me the ability to to set a small goal like going on a particular trail and achieving it in a day or two. Now that we have children I think it is especially important to be a good role model of how to establish a healthy lifestyle when you are young. What I want more for my children than anything else is to have a full life bursting with activity and healthy eating. 

Jasper may not be old enough to summit a mountain on his own, but we try to give him an opportunity to run around exploring when we reach the top. Jasper is "all boy" and he loves to throw rocks, play with sticks and get dirty. During our lunch break we let him try out our hiking poles, eat extra snacks and drink out of our Camelbak to get the full hiking experience.

On this particular hike, I brought along some of his Itsy Bitsy cookies to help him work on his words. For example, I spelled out the word "hike" on a nearby rock. I am a big proponent of the allowing the world be your classroom, so I try to spend our time in the mountains as an opportunity to talk to Jasper about the names of flowers, lakes and mountain peaks. One thing Jasper has perfected without any teaching is the trail nap. Seeing him peacefully sleep on the top of a mountain is one of those moments which makes my heart soar. 

I am endlessly grateful we live in a beautiful place where we can enjoy being outside all year long. The number one thing I looked forward to about being a parent was the ability to take our child to all the spectacular places we have been. My most honored role in life is being able to show my child all the beauty I see in the world. Hiking is my escape and I love living less than a hour away from all this goodness. Especially as I get older, I am grateful for a healthy body which allows me to go and do and be without thinking much about anything else while I am doing it. 

Outstanding in the Field at Hama Hama Oysters

There is something utterly romantic about taking a mid week break from every day life, boarding a ferry and heading to a beautiful place to have a wonderful meal. Outstanding in the Field isn't about just food, it is about bringing people from all walks of life together. I really relished the opportunity to have an evening set aside to meet the makers, break bread with the farmers and celebrate some of the best things in life.

Outstanding in the Field has an ongoing tradition of encouraging each guest to bring their own plate. However, there is no need to fear if you forgot your own plate because there are always plenty to borrow. By bringing your own plate to the dinner, I felt it was a nice way to incorporate an element of home into the experience. 

A couple of weeks ago, on a sunny Summer afternoon we boarded a ferry to Southworth and took the winding road to the Hood Canal. Upon our arrival at Hama Hama Oysters we were greeted with delicious bites, colorful drinks and breathtaking scenery. The overall feeling from the guests was how fortunate we are to live in such a beautiful place. I really appreciated having an evening to step away from our routines to attend a dinner like this. This dinner allowed me the space and the time to really soak in my surroundings. 

Blue skies and good weather are something you celebrate every day they occur in the PNW.

Hama Hama Oysters is a fifth generation family owned and run farm. It was nice to hear from Lissa, one of the family members working hard to run Hama Hama on a daily basis. 

One of the littlest dinner guests atop the growing pile of oysters shells. 

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In order to reach our dining destination the guests had to walk down the highway and out onto a peninsula. This is a great example of how the journey there was half the fun! 

The table was set and our dinner plates were awaiting our arrival. 

Plates in hand, guests are given the opportunity to select where they will be sitting for the evening. Usually Cameron and I choose to sit by each other, but this time we opted to sit across from each other. In an unfamiliar setting such as this it was nice to be able to look across the table at a friendly face. 

Our meal started with a variety of spreads and hunks of homemade bread. 

Course after course our senses were delighted. 

The wine flowed freely and for those guests who were not drinking Dry soda was a delicious and local alternative. 

Even though Jim Denevan has been running Outstanding in the Field since 1999 you will still find him attending the dinners. With a glass of wine in hand he spends the majority of the evening weaving his way down the long table. He is eager to connect and spend as much time as possible talking to his 150+ guests. Now that is the sign of a gracious host! 

Outstanding in the Field draws a broad section of the population to the table. I believe just about every decade was represented at this table on the Hood Canal. 

Each dinner is in partnership with a local farm and a chef. On this particular evening, we had the privilege of being fed by Alex Barkley, the chef from Manolin in Seattle. 

Good until the last bite! At the end of every dish people were just about licking their plates it was that delicious. 

A simple, but stunning finale to the meal- poached apricots, rice pudding, pistachios, basil and edible flowers. 

Collecting our washed plates after our meal. 

As the dinner drew to an end we were bid adieu by changing light and pastels skies.

This post was sponsored by Outstanding in the Field. All opinions stated here are my own and I was under no obligation to write anything other than my personal experience. I will never write about anything I did not enjoy or find to be a valuable experience. 

Westcott Bay Shellfish Company

It all started with a visit to the San Juan Island Farmer's Market. As we were browsing the various booths and navigating through the crowds some barbecued oysters caught our eye. After we partook of the most delicious and gigantic oysters we have ever eaten we made a metal note we should visit Westcott Bay Shellfish Co. in the coming days while we were on the island. 

Later that day, the clouds parted, the sun was shining and we were driving around the island. Instead of waiting a day or two, we found ourselves at Westcott Bay Shellfish Farm the very same day. Since the tide was low when we arrived, we walked out on the pier to get a closer view of the oyster growing process.

Picking out our own oysters was a highlight of our visit. 

As I have gotten older I have developed more of a taste for seafood, in particular shellfish. Without even realizing it, whenever we go out to eat I usually end up with some type of fish. During our visit to San Juan Island last month our impromptu visit to Westcott Bay Shellfish Co. was easily one of my favorite activities during our trip. Even though I consider myself a planner, I have found these spur of the moment adventures end up being some of my most treasured memories from our trip. 

Eager to taste our oysters we made a campfire and barbecued them once we arrived back at Lakedale Resort. Oysters are most definitely the perfect meal for our first time glamping. 

Hours of operation: 11:00am - 5:00pm Daily 

They also have a booth at the Farmer's Market in Friday Harbor every Saturday from 10-1.

On Friday afternoons they BBQ oysters from 1:30-4.

info@westcottbayshellfish.com

 

Wolf in the Fog

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Some times you eat and other times you feast. Our recent anniversary dinner at Wolf in the Fog in Tofino was definitely the latter. Aside from the jaw dropping scenery from the top deck, the friendly and attentive staff and innovative dishes being pumped out of the kitchen Wolf in the Fog is a place whose food lingers in your mind. From the Potato Crusted Oyster to the Bamfield Seaweed Salad to the Moroccan Spiced Octopus to the Shellfish and Chicken Laksa each dish was a delight to all senses. 

Tofino is a small town on Vancouver Island off Canada's west coast. It encompasses a peninsula within Clayoquot Sound and is well known for its wild natural scenery full of lakes, inlets, sandy beaches and an abundance of wildlife. Tofino is nature at its best and Wolf in the Fog has done a brilliant job incorporating locally harvested elements into each of its dishes. 

Even something as simple as the bread and house made spread was innovative. Each day they have a different spread and on this particular day it was almond butter. 

Wolf in the Fog is a laid back restaurant with big flavor and an emphasis on sustainable, local ingredients. 

Just when I thought I had tasted my favorite dish another show stopper would arrive. 

Even the dessert, which is an often overlooked and disappointing end to many amazing meals I've had, was something for the record books. From here on out, the standard for all future Creme Brûlées is this Dulce de leche Creme Brûlée with homemade raspberry sorbet. 

After an amazing dinner we took a short stroll around downtown Tofino to watch the sunset and were reminded what a beautiful part of the world we live in. It was a night we will always remember and a good reminder how important it is to celebrate the happy moments in life like good food and a happy marriage. 

And I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but we enjoyed the Wolf in the Fog so much we came back the next night to try something on the menu called the "Block Party". Anything with the world "party" in it peeks one interest while on vacation and well, this did not disappoint either. Our only regret was that we didn't bring anyone else along with us to enjoy it. 

WOLF IN THE FOG

150 Fourth St, Tofino, BC V0R 2Z0
250.725.WOLF (9653) info@wolfinthefog.com

 

Beach day

It never quite feels like Summer until we spend a day at the beach. We met our friends on the first day of Summer for an epic day of surf, sand and togetherness. I am grateful for my friends who were brave and ventured into motherhood at a young age. For us it means we have a whole slew of potential babysitters at our disposal and so many sweet children eager to teach Jasper all sorts of cool things. 

I love how Jasper walks with such authority. It is clear to see his spirit is much larger than his stature. 

Jasper is my PNW boy through and through. Slimly seaweed, cold water and slippery rocks do not deter him from having fun. 

I love how Jasper is able to connect with people both young and old, male and female. He has the ability to see good in everyone he meets and I hope he remains this way forever.   

At times this blog feels a little self indulgent, but I am reminded what once started out as record of our little family has grown into much, much more. I am grateful for each and every opportunity this blog affords both me and my family. I could not do what I love without the support of so many of my readers. Thank you for your continued well wishes and interest in our lives.  

-Lisette

Duck Soup Inn

At the end of an unassuming gravel road on San Juan Island there exists a place unlike anywhere else. A quiet, unpretentious place which delights your sense, satisfies your belly, sparks your creativity and challenges you to rethink how you present food at your own home.  Duck Soup Inn is home to Kyle Nicholson, an amazing chef, who is known throughout the island and beyond as a food pioneer. Before taking the reigns at Duck Soup Inn Kyle has been the Executive Chef at the Friday Harbor House. After meeting Kyle I was impressed by his quiet strength and his calm presence. Throughout the island he is thought of as a creative force and I firmly believe he is on his way to making Duck Soup Inn a destination.  

As the sun sunk down low in the sky we made the short drive from Lakedale Resort to begin our food journey at Duck Soup Inn. We started our meal with a bang and began with fried brussel sprouts. They not only awakened our senses, but left us hungry for what lie ahead. Next came the most tender gnocchi I have ever eaten, followed by a locally foraged green salad and the most artful presentation of asparagus I have ever seen. For my entree the halibut did not disappoint neither did the desserts. During our time at Duck Soup Inn Kyle consistently put out the most inventive and delicious foods. Items as simple as an ice cream sundae were made better with thoughtful touches like homemade brittle. Inventive touches like fermented lime powder and edible flowers elevated each dish in the most amazing way. 

At the end of the night, I was reminded how simple ingredients can produce the most amazing dishes if given the space to shine. Each dish was a juxtaposition between well thought out and seemingly effortless. I left feeling inspired to be more creative in my own presentation of our nightly meal and more dedicated to making each ingredient count. After meeting Kyle I also felt a renewed desire to encourage my son to follow his own dreams. I am once again reminded how food is not just a meal, but an opportunity to connect with the ones we love and create memories which will last a lifetime. 

This post was sponsored by Duck Soup Inn.  All opinions stated here are my own and I was under no obligation to write anything other than my personal experience. I will never write about anything I did not enjoy or find to be a valuable experience. 

Picking our way through Summer

Picking our way through Summer

Jasper is just as crazy about eating berries as I am, so we have made an agreement to pick as many berries as humanly possible this Summer. So far we went strawberry picking twice, raspberry picking once and now blueberry picking twice. Jasper and I both love to be outside and it would not feel like Summer without spending ample time in the sunshine popping warm berries into our mouths. Picking berries will always be something I remember fondly from my own childhood and being able to carry on that tradition with my own child is pretty special.  

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Black Rock Resort

Black Rock Resort

Earlier this year, we decided it was high time we returned to where we spent our honeymoon- Ucluelet, B.C. For our eleventh wedding anniversary we spent a relaxing four days at Black Rock Resort as we celebrated each other and the awesome life we have created together. Although many people have never heard of Ucluelet, it is a ruggedly beautiful place located on Vancouver Island about four hours west of Victoria, B.C.

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Friday Harbor Farmer's Market

Friday Harbor Farmer's Market

One of my favorite things to do when I am visiting a place is to attend the local Farmer's market. Not only is it a good way to get a sense of the local cuisine, and interact with locals, but also gives you an opportunity to sample some local food you might not be able to try any other way. On our visit to Friday Harbor's Farmer's Market we were able to try our very first barbecued oyster which resulted in a subsequent trip to Wescott Bay Oyster Farm, sampled some of the first raspberries of the season and picked up some beet and radish seeds to fill the space in our garden once we pulled out the peas. In reality, I wanted to try almost everything and all the color and variety of the market made me very excited for the bounty which we call Summer.

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Raspberry picking at Harvold's

Raspberry picking at Harvold's

The temperatures in Seattle have been warmer than usual this May and June which meant raspberry picking has come a little early this year. Jasper and I made it point to visit our local u-pick on the very first day they started picking. We picked as many berries as we could, but little did I know he had every intention of eating more than he picked.

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Cruising around San Juan Island

Cruising around San Juan Island

During our stay at Lakedale Resort we had the opportunity to cruise around San Juan Island one day in a scoot coupe from Susie's Moped. It was a fun way to spend the day and see the island from a different perspective. We also enjoyed being able to leave our car for the day and explore the island in a more environmentally friendly way. If you have a couple of hours, half a day or a full day Susie's Moped is the perfect thing to do if you want to walk on the ferry and avoid the lines, but still see the entire island at your own pace. 

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Sailing Lessons with Lake Union Charters & Adventures

Sailing Lessons with Lake Union Charters & Adventures

On a cloudy, overcast day we met Captain Ron on the shore of Lake Union to take part in our very first sailing lesson. Many companies start their sailing lessons in the classroom, but Lake Union Charters and Adventures likes to get you out on the water and operating the boat immediately. I was little intimidated at the thought of sailing my own boat, but Captain Ron was patient, relaxed and fostered a non judgmental environment for learning.

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Lakedale Resort

Lakedale Resort

Do you ever want to visit a place where you can unplug? Where you can enjoy the great outdoors during the day and yet be able to come home to a few modern conveniences at night? A place where you can feel like a kid again either with or without your children? A quiet place where you can reconnect with your spouse? A place where you can enjoy quality time as a family or enjoy the serenity of nature alone? If you answered yes to any of these things, then Lakedale Resort is the place for you.

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Bergen

Bergen

On our recent trip to Norway we split our time between Olso and Bergen. Bergen is known as the gateway to the fjords and is truly a remarkable place to visit. Bergen is also the perfect place to use as your base for exploring Norway. From Bergen you can easily access the city, coast, and fjords for an all encompassing experience of Norway. Aside from prime location and breathtaking scenery at every turn Bergen also has a lot to offer in the way of culture and history. Our first stop in Bergen was the Tourist Information to pick up our Bergen card. The Bergen card gives you free or discounted admission to most of the city's museums, attractions, sightseeing, cultural events, bus travel and even parking! 

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Hiking with a toddler

Hiking with a toddler

Hiking can be tricky with a toddler. On most hikes it is a delicate balance between keeping them entertained, doing a hike that isn't overcrowded with other people and pushing them too far. The hiking back packs they make for children these days make for one comfy ride for them, but if your toddler is anything like ours he likes to get down and explore on his own two legs. We have taken Jasper on several dozen hikes and each time we learn a little something more to be better prepared next time. And if I had a dollar for every time someone said they wanted to be carried up the mountain in a back pack like we have for Jasper, I would be filthy rich! 

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Scandic Vulkan

Scandic Vulkan

When planning our trip to Oslo we knew we wanted to stay somewhere fun, hip and with a local flair. Making certain there were cool places to eat and fun shops nearby was also very high on our priority list. So when I stumbled upon Scandic Vulkan it was a match made in heaven. The Scandic Vulkan is located in the up and coming Vulkan neighborhood, surprisingly the area and its recent growth reminded us a lot of Seattle. In just a two minute walk from the hotel you are inside arguably one of my favorite spots in Oslo- Mathallen OsloMathallen Oslo has an endless array of delicious things to eat and pretty things to look at. Eating out is admittedly one of our favorite things to do and food is consistently at the top of our souvenir list. 

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A weekend retreat on Silver Lake

A weekend retreat on Silver Lake

Over Memorial Day we rented this cabin through Mount Baker Lodging for the weekend. We had never visited Silver Lake before, but it was such a beautiful property I can foresee us visiting again and again. Although the weather was not fantastic while we visited, it encouraged us to take it easy and recharge after our trip to Europe. After a busy month of traveling it allowed us to get back on our schedules. Despite the weather we still managed to go on a short hike, visited the nearby state park, spent an afternoon in Bellingham and even did a little strawberry picking at a local farm. 

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