North Cascades, Mount Rainier, and Olympic National Parks of Washington State

Sep 28, 2022My Store Admin

What a year to experience nature’s beautiful landscapes. A year ago, I was tired of waiting and planning what I wanted to do. It was time to put things in motion. I booked a series of trips to lock me in and not allow “work” to prevent me from getting away.


I prefer to hike alone (unless it’s with my favorite hiking friend, Betty). I can go at my own pace which is relatively fast uphill and slow downhill (not by choice, I need to work on running downhill rocky terrain). I don’t like to take breaks or stop for meals - I feel it’s more difficult to get going again if I stop. My happiest is hiking/trail running 8-9 hours straight. I like to pack snacks I can eat on the go. I personally don’t overpack food and found my ideal amount to include 2-3 bars like Aloha Bars, Clif Builder Bars, or Nelly’s Peanut Butter Bars, 4-5 liters of water with electrolytes, and 200-300 calories of salty snacks like Bada Beans. If I eat more than 300 calories every few hours, I feel sluggish. Hiking/running oddly makes me lose my appetite. I'm not fast, so I’m only able to cover about 18-20 miles during 8-10 hours. My next goal is to be able to do 30 miles in 10-12 hours, but I don’t know what I’m doing and should really seek a trail running coach! I think I may need to learn how to eat more, so I can go faster and become stronger. I wish I could say the same when working from home all day sitting at my desk. I have no problem eating all day when I’m not active!


One of the best refueling tricks I learned from hiking is eating 250-300 calories every few hours. My goal is to see if I can maintain the strength and leanness from hiking without spending all day hiking/running 60-100 miles/week. I’m finding that by keeping my meals around or under 300 calories, I no longer feel bloated, my energy levels remain stable, and I never am so hungry that I will eat anything or everything in sight. Since I’ve been home, I’m not nearly as active, but trying different hill interval workouts and speed drills, along with consistent at-home strength training to see if I can rev up my metabolism.


Here's a quick video of my favorite snacks, protein powder and dehyrdated meals!


North Cascades National Park - “American Alps”


I flew into Seattle-Tacoma International airport and drove about 2 hours straight to Marblemount, Washington. Marblemount is a good home base to many of the best trails in North Cascades National Park. Most trails will be within an hour drive. The trails are not far, but the roads are single lanes and drivers tend to abide by the slower speed limits, so expect longer driving times.


My hotel at North Cascades Inn was simple, yet comfortable and conveniently located to trail heads. They even stocked the fridge with hiking-friendly snacks and food which was very thoughtful! Some were vegan/gf-friendly and much appreciated.


This was my first experience seeing alpine lakes. The pristine beauty of turquoise lakes was worth the drive. I had no idea we had bodies of water like this in the U.S.! I didn’t even see lakes this beautiful in the European Alps.

Next stop was still part of North Cascades National Park, but on the opposite side of the park. These national parks are so expansive. It takes about 2-3 hours to drive around these majestic mountains. I booked a few nights in Twisp, WA which was one of the most wonderful hotel stays. There isn’t much around the town and it’s not near the best hiking trails, so I wouldn’t recommend staying in this town for more than a night of travel. I happened to stay here because all the other towns were fully booked.


Views from the Cascade/Sahale Pass of North Cascades.


Twisp River Suites truly embodied the heart of hospitality and went out of their way to make me feel welcomed and comfortable. They upgraded my room to a full apartment suite to make room for another family that wished to extend their stay in my originally assigned room. They made me vegan breakfasts, provided complimentary Kind bars/energy bars in the lobby, and the apartment even had a full washer and dryer which was perfect for me to launder my clothes. I even had a balcony with a view of Twisp River. Lastly, the owner, Joe, even offered me a gift card to a local breakfast spot in case I was hungry. I LOVED TWISP SUITES! They were one of the highlights of my trip. The town of Twisp reminded me of the desert mountain town version of the show “Virgin River”.


There was also a conveniently located organic market in Twisp to refuel or stock up on supplies called Glover Street Market.


After Twisp, I drove another 2 hours to Leavenworth, Washington. The mountain town with a Bavarian theme. It wasn’t quite my scene because I don’t drink alcohol or eat meat, but they did have an organic market called Sage Mountain Natural Foods and the most amazing restaurant called Mana recommended by family and newly met Seattle friends. I stayed at a bed and breakfast called Fox Den Bed & Breakfast just outside the main street of Leavenworth which had a menagerie of friendly dogs, cats and mini horses! You know any place with animals is a place I had to try. The owners made me the most wonderful vegan/gf breakfasts. I mostly sustained on bars, salty snacks, electrolytes and dehydrated meals during my 2 weeks of hiking, so these occasional, well-prepared meals were perfectly timed when I was starting to feel hungry for fresh food.


Two mini rescue horses named, two rescued German Shepherds and a handful of rescued cats were always ready to welcome you!


Mana Restaurant made me a delicious vegan tasting menu. It was the best vegan meal at a restaurant I've yet to experience. The dessert was a miss, but everything else including the mocktail pairing were mind blowing. They can accommodate any dietary preference. Service was fantastic and it was worth every penny!


Mount Rainier National Park


This was the costliest part of my trip! The hotels near here were very pricey due to the high season and were rather remote from grocery stores. Stock up before you reach your destination! I booked a few nights at Alta Crystal Resort which wasn’t really a resort, but very close to one of the entrances to Mount Rainier. I always love a hotel stay with a kitchen (to prepare my own meals) and a living room (for stretching and work) and the staff were very attentive and responsive. Just don’t expect any cell service!


While I didn’t think the views could be any more spectacular, getting up and close to Mount Rainier was unreal. There were no alpine lakes to be seen, but the different terrain, trees and vastness of Mount Rainier were spectacular. The trails so far have been such a pleasure compared to the east coast. These trails are soft and generally free of rocks and roots with the exception of a few spots, but those obstacles are not the norm.


I visited Mount Rainier from two entrances: Sunrise and Paradise. I believe Sunrise has more dynamic day trails, but Paradise is the more popular entrance with more user-friendly trails. Whenever trails are more accessible, there will be more crowds. Maybe that's why I'm hooked on the longer trails - so I can hike in peace. Just need to get faster and stronger to be able to do more distance in a day!


After 10 days of exploring trails on my own, it was time to experience the part of the trip that spurred this whole itinerary. I wanted to learn how to backpack and eventually thru-hike on my own without needing a guide. Andrew Skurka leads and organizes the best backpacking trips. He and his professional team of guides teach you how to pack, navigate and lead successful and happy thru-hike trips. After Mount Rainier, I drove to Port Angeles, WA to meet Andrew, my amazing guides, Joe and Nicco, and the rest of my group for a 2-night/3-day backpacking trip into Olympic National Park.


I enjoyed the camaraderie of my fellow group members and adored our guides. I learned enough to feel I have a basic understanding, but now I need to put my knowledge to the test. I’m still not sure if I enjoy camping, but I feel grateful to be equipped with proper planning skills and gear if there’s an unbelievable trail to be discovered that requires camping.

I kept hearing about the High Sierras in California. Maybe that’s my next exploration. I also have my sights on GR20 in Corsica next year with my best hiking friend, Betty. These upcoming goals will hopefully be the carrot to keep me motivated and moving forward with training.


I am so thankful to our staff at P.S. & Co, my family and friends to support me while I experience the natural wonders of our world. This world is beautiful. I hope you’ll also explore all of nature’s beauty while we still can.

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