Seattle, Washington: a city synonymous with rain, cloudy skies, and rainfall. I’m not sure what I was expecting when I first visited the region in November 2014, but I certainly hadn’t prepared myself for ten straight days of weather-related doom. My next two visits, in November and December 2015, weren’t any better. I know, I was visiting Seattle, not St. Barts, but I cursed the fact I’d never once seen sunshine over Seattle. As someone who uses Instagram religiously, sure, I’ve glimpsed at photos taken of the Seattle area during summer, when all of the trees are in full bloom under bright blue skies. And, of course, Kevin has shown me countless shots of his hometown during the warmer months, taken throughout the sixteen years or so he spent living there.
For the first two and a half years of our relationship, we only visited the northwest during Thanksgiving and early December. From our previous home base of Washington, D.C., flying across the country to Seattle during the height of tourist season costs up to $400 per ticket, and we effectively found ourselves deterred from a summer visit thanks to this hefty price tag.
That is, until we moved to Denver. Living in the middle of the United States has a number of advantages, and chief among them is we can afford to fly nonstop to either coast during all months of the year. Kevin happened to catch discount flights from Denver to Seattle earlier this month, and a few hours later, we booked our tickets.
Of course, the first five days of our three-week visit brought weather in typical Seattle fashion: sixty-one degrees, windy, and rain drizzling from a heavy cloud cover.
“I’m starting to think the weather is always like this, save for a day here and there, but everyone optimistically waves it off as abnormal. I don’t know why people here expect it to be sunny because I honestly believe it doesn’t happen!” I exclaimed a few days after our arrival.
“I grew up here, remember?” Kevin replied. “I know what I’m talking about. Trust me. Summers are incredible in this region. Or, at least they’re supposed to be. This weather is weird, but it’ll clear up.”
Yeah, right, I thought to myself. I did keep my fingers crossed, hoping Mother Nature would prove me wrong. Oh, how I craved to be wrong.
Finally,. a week after our plane landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the clouds parted and the sun made its first appearance. Sure, the temperatures were still lower than expected – initially, they hovered in the high sixties to low seventies – but I put my marathon of The Mindy Project on hold and hit the trails with Kevin.
Our first hike of the trip? Twin Falls in North Bend’s Olallie State Park. Thanks to the winter weather during my prior visits, Twin Falls was actually my first hike in the entire Seattle area. Wild, I know, especially considering how famed Seattle’s outdoor sights are.
I was hooked after setting my sights on Twin Falls. The next day, Kevin and I completed the easy trek to Franklin Falls in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Franklin Falls quickly became one of my favorite waterfalls in the United States (if you’ve ever visited my travel website, you’ll know waterfalls my ultimate travel weakness), and the amazing summer skies provided a perfect backdrop to the approximately 112 photos I took of the falls.
Thanks to a combination of my seemingly limitless energy, the dependably good weather that finally managed to make an appearance, and a rather long sojourn in the Seattle area, Kevin and I completed two rather strenuous hikes the next week. Little Si, in the blossoming town of North Bend, and Rattlesnake Ledge, a hike Kevin enjoyed dozens of time throughout his adolescence. I genuinely enjoyed and appreciated both of these trails and the views they revealed at their summits. Each night, I found myself trolling the Internet, desperately searching for hikes and scenic vistas to visit in an effort to quench my newfound insatiable passion for this lovely part of the United States.
Two days after Rattlesnake Ledge, I managed to exhaust poor Kevin at Tiger Mountain, an intrinsically challenging climb with an admittedly mediocre summit. The jungle of a landscape leading to the top of Tiger Mountain, however, tells a whole different story. Beautiful doesn’t even begin to describe the serene surroundings of the trail – except when we nearly came face-to-face with a mountain lion on our way back down the mountain. We ran away, stepping as softly as possible, but a few minutes later we passed by a deer that we decided, with about ninety-percent certainly, was in fact our alleged mountain lion.
I’m more of a mountain than a beach person, but Kevin simply needed a break from all the rocky trails, so we hopped in the car with his mother and spent a day at Alki Beach in West Seattle. Now, I’m never one to pass up a photo opportunity of the Space Needle, and I’m also always curious to try and spot locales used in one of my favorite films, Sleepless In Seattle.
In case you’ve forgotten, Meg Ryan drives towards Alki Beach while engaging in some light stalking of Tom Hanks and dear Jonah.
Was I charmed by all of these hikes and sights? Absolutely. I agreed with Kevin when he said all those wintertime visits to Seattle failed to do his beloved city justice, and had a blast photographing truly impeccable scenery.
A few days before Kevin and I were scheduled to head home, that infatuation turned to love thanks to an afternoon spent trekking up to Snow Lake, another gorgeous locale in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The trail leading to Snow Lake is one of those that offer hikers immediate gratification: gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains stunned me from the moment Kevin and I started hiking the trail, and the panoramas only became more and more impressive as we gained in elevation. Nothing, however, could have prepared me for my first glimpses of Snow Lake. The lake’s unspeakable beauty left me, quite literally, speechless.
Suffice it to say, Snow Lake cemented my passion for summers in the northwest.
We arrived home in Denver early yesterday morning, and while I absolutely adore my new, adopted home state, I have found myself missing the distinguished and unique beauty of the Pacific Northwest. I’ll be honest: previous visits to Seattle left me less than impressed with Washington state. I’ve always been susceptible to cabin fever, which made the New England winters of my own childhood rather dreadful. (Although, I always did appreciate the respite from mosquitoes, ticks, and other creepy critters.) And for the majority of this summer adventure in the greater Seattle area, my hiking shoes replaced my slippers and lounge pants.
Now, my tune has changed due to these three fabulous, unforgettable weeks spent appreciating classic Pacific Northwest beauty. One of the reasons I love travel is because it can upend and challenge your lived experiences. For example, when I first visited Iceland in April 2015, I became immediately enamored with the north Atlantic nation. When Kevin and I visited again earlier this year, in March 2016, many of the rosy first impressions melted away as we experienced road bump after road bump – sure, the waterfalls were gorgeous and we enjoyed the trip, but that initial love had turned sour. Before my most recent visit to Seattle, the northwest only meant one thing to me: the chance to visit family. As a (prolific) self-taught baker, I appreciate any and every chance to offload my goodies on others and I enjoy spending more time with Kevin’s welcoming parents and horde of loud brothers.
After these past three weeks, the greater Seattle area has earned its rightful spot on my list of favorite U.S. destinations to photograph. And after looking at these photos, I’m sure y’all understand why.