Rainier Day 1: Hiking in Paradise

Rainier Day 1: Hiking in Paradise

Near the end of Day 1 in the Mount Rainier National Park, we stopped at the satisfyingly appropriately named Paradise, Washington, for some hiking and then a picnic dinner. The views were beyond description! And the weather for us was perfection, as the fog burned off Rainier just as we started on the trail. When you visit the park, Paradise is a must-see!

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Rainier Day 1: Narada Falls

Rainier Day 1: Narada Falls

Up the road from Longmire and the Trail of Shadows is spectacular Narada waterfalls on the Paradise River. There are two sections of the falls, with the larger just under 170 feet long. Impressive! You can pull right off the highway to see it. Additionally you can hike down a short trail to the Inspiration Point viewing area near the base for a better view; it's a little steep but well worth it. 

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Rainier Day 1: Trail of the Shadows Hike, Longmire

Rainier Day 1: Trail of the Shadows Hike, Longmire

After lunch we entered the Mount Rainier National Park and took the Trail of the Shadows hike across the road from the Longmire National Park Inn. It's a short hike, but with lots of quick changes of scenery to make it interesting to all ages. As you leave the inn, you get breathtaking views of Rainier and then you travel through swampy meadows and into the forest whose giant fir trees give the trail its name. There are also several springs along the trail, including the vibrantly colored and slightly poisonous Iron Mike spring, and even a restored homestead cabin from the 19th century.

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Rainier Day 1: Lunch at Wildberry Restaurant, Ashford

Rainier Day 1: Lunch at Wildberry Restaurant, Ashford

On our last stop before entering the Mount Rainier National Park, we pulled over for lunch outdoors at a lovely roadside cafe called Wildberry. It offers "authentic Sherpa-Himalayan Cuisine of Nepal" and has a big outdoor seating area. I most enjoyed the sunlit prayer flags fluttering in summer breeze. Our morning fog was finally burning off.

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Rainier Day 1: Ex-Nihilo sculpture park

Rainier Day 1: Ex-Nihilo sculpture park

Between Ashford and Elbe, Washington, there is an outdoor gallery for an artist named Dan Klennert who builds animals, people, machines, you name it, out of old iron parts or driftwood. Some of it is truly astonishing to see. He calls his park Ex-Nihilo, meaning "something from nothing." And exploring Ex-Nihilo was a real treat.

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Rainier Day 1: Mt. Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum

Rainier Day 1: Mt. Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum

Continuing my coverage of my July 2016 adventures for Travel Tacoma and Visit Rainier... On the first day of the Mount Rainier section of the "instafam" trip, we stopped in Mineral, Washington, at the Mt. Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum where we got a private tour and learned a ton about steam engines and logging practices. Pretty darn fascinating. And gave me new appreciation for how hard the work was.

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Tacoma Day 2: Heritage Distilling Company

Tacoma Day 2: Heritage Distilling Company

In between singing gondola rides and a tour of the Gig Harbor Museum, it was a very busy morning for our "instafam" tour, but we managed to squeeze in a tour and tasting at the Heritage Distilling Company, It is, in their own words, "the most awarded craft distillery in North American by the American Distilling Institute 3 years in a row (2014, 2015 and 2016)." Read more about them on their press page. Pretty cool stuff! Anyway, it is quite an impressive operation there at the distillery, and their spirits are smooth and flavorful, leaning toward the sweet side, which is just the way I like it. We tasted most of their spirits, and my favorite is the award-winning brown sugar bourbon. Definitely check it out sometime.  

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Tacoma Day 2: Stadium High School

Tacoma Day 2: Stadium High School

One of the coolest building exteriors in the Pacific Northwest is Tacoma's Stadium High School. Built as a "French chateau"-style hotel in the 1890s, it never opened; instead, it was sold to the Tacoma school board who converted it to the facility we see today. Students get to enjoy not only the beautiful, funky Victorian building, but also spectacular views of the Pugent Sound. Famous alumni include Dale Chihuly, whose photo hangs in the main entrance. And movies like 10 Things I Hate About You have been filmed here.

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Tacoma Day 2: Bluebeard Coffee

Tacoma Day 2: Bluebeard Coffee

Day two of my Travel Tacoma / Visit Rainier "instafam" adventure was a long day full of kayaks and gondolas and going back and forth between Gig Harbor and Tacoma proper. We therefore decided to make a quick stop for caffeine at local favorite Bluebeard Coffee Roasters (renowned for their pistola mochas), and I got to snap a few portraits through their big, shiny windows (one of my favorite pastimes). And of course, no hip coffee shop these days is complete without a man-bun.

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Tacoma, Day 2: Gig Harbor Gondolier

Tacoma, Day 2: Gig Harbor Gondolier

The second day of the July 2016 Travel Tacoma and Visit Rainier "instafam" tour was packed. The first thing (after breakfast at the Hotel Murano and checking out) in the morning we went to Gig Harbor, Washington, and met John "Cinque" Synco and his authentic Venetian gondola, Nelly. He runs Gig Harbor Gondola. John rowed us around the tranquil harbor, singing us Venetian songs and giving us a detailed history of gondoliers in America. Pretty great stuff! And the weather was truly perfect, as I think you can see from my photos below.

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Tacoma: Day One of the "Instafam" Tour

Tacoma: Day One of the "Instafam" Tour

For Travel Tacoma and Visit Rainier, five of us bloggers/instagrammers took part in an "instafam" tour of the greater Tacoma and Mt. Rainier areas in July 2016. Here is a look at the first day, which includes flying there, checking into the hotel, walking around Tacoma (including a stop at the lovely little Tacoma Art Museum), and having a nice group dinner together at the Hub.

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Tacoma, Day 2: Five-Mile Drive in Point Defiance, July 2016

Tacoma, Day 2: Five-Mile Drive in Point Defiance, July 2016

For Travel Tacoma and Visit Rainier, five of us bloggers/instagrammers took part in an "instafam" tour of the greater Tacoma and Mt. Rainier areas in July 2016. Here is the first of several blog posts about the trip. One of the true must-sees when you're in Tacoma is the Five-Mile Drive through Point Defiance Park. You'll find hiking and biking trails through lush forest; you'll relax on serene Owen Beach with wonderful views of Pugent Sound and Mt. Rainier alike; you'll see thriving wildlife... particularly raccoons (one of my favorite animals). 

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Alaska: Mount Roberts Tramway, Juneau

Alaska: Mount Roberts Tramway, Juneau

On June 30, 2016, four of us walked up the Gold Creek Flume Trail and Basin Road area east of downtown Juneau, Alaska, enjoying the gorgeous rain forest, and then circled back to then ride the Mount Roberts Tramway to watch the golden "hour" light shimmer over Gastineau Channel and the surrounding mountains. (That lovely pre-sunset light in the Alaskan summer can last an impressively long time!) Atop the tramway we followed more trails to have an evening picnic above the city.

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Alaska: Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in the Anchorage Museum

Alaska: Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in the Anchorage Museum

After exploring the Juneau region, we headed to the mountains around Anchorage. But first I made a quick stop after getting off the plane at the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in the Anchorage Museum. It houses a wonderful collection of native arts and crafts as well as photos, maps, videos, and other educational materials. A great experience. My eyes were opened to the wide range and beauty of the native work here. (I particularly loved the masks, as you can see in my photos.)

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Alaska: North End of Douglas Island

Alaska: North End of Douglas Island

On June 29, 2016, during my trip through Alaska, we explored the northern end of Douglas Island, across from Juneau. The water and sky were matching shades of bright, light blue.  The air was calm and smelled like seaweed (in the best possible way). We drove North Douglas Highway to the end stopping along the way at beaches and overlooks.

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Alaska: Fourth of July "Olde Time" Firefighter Hose Races

Alaska: Fourth of July "Olde Time" Firefighter Hose Races

As part of the annual Fourth of July festivities in the beautiful town of Douglas (next to Juneau, capital city of Alaska), the volunteer fire department challenges Juneau firefighters to what they call an "olde time" hose race. Teams roll out and connect groups of fire hoses as quickly as they can, in order to douse the opposite team before they douse you. This activity is repeated several times until everyone is happily exhausted. It's all in the name of fun, with a prime objective to also drench the onlookers on this warm summer day.

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