The Bradism Top Ten Things about the Pacific Northwest

As I travel through time on my flights from Portland back to Adelaide I reflected on my top ten highlights of the Pacific Northwest.

Elk Meadow, Mount Hood

image 1917 from bradism.com

There are many great day hikes in the Pacific Northwest, and Elk Meadows on the southern slope of Mt Hood is where we'll start. The moderate trail first offers a river crossing under the looming gaze of the Hood summit, before switchbacks take you deeper and higher into the forest.

Elk Meadows wildflowers.

Elk Meadows wildflowers.

The trail loops around the meadow, which opens up from the trees to a wide expanse of (depending on the season) grass, a carpet of wildflowers, or a plain of snow). If you are very lucky you may also see Elk.

Mt Walker Summit

Steeper than it looks.

Steeper than it looks.

Somewhere on the drive between Olympic National Park and Seattle is Mt Walker, an hour south-east of Port Angeles. Walker is short, relatively, compared to some other Olympic peaks but the walk to the top is one of the most challenging. Over 625 metres of elevation is achieved over just three kilometres of switchbacks through towering Douglas firs and flowering ferns.

image 1933 from bradism.com

The reward at the top is panoramic views of the Olympic mountain ranges on one side, and ever more panoramic views of Puget Sound to the east, as well as the satisfaction of conquering the brutal incline. Just be careful stepping off the track to pee while descending, because you do not want to slip on a wet log and take the shortcut down.

Voodoo Doughnuts

Two quote/unquote gourmet donuts on some gourmet paper.

Blue Star Donuts' attempt.

If you're ever researching things to do in Portland you will uncover online debates about whether Blue Star Donuts is better than the longer established Voodoo Doughnuts. I figured I'd be willing to eat both to decide for myself
In my opinion it's not even close. Yes, Blue Star's gourmet donuts can be described with words like "hints" and "dashes", but while that's all very grown up Voodoo Doughnuts is plain fun. I understand why the line up goes around the block any time of the day.

image 1921 from bradism.com

The pink store, and its giant menu, produce huge, delicious doughnuts with toppings ranging from sprinkles and chocolate, to Captain Crunch, Graham Crackers, Oreos and Peanut Butter (together). The dough, icing and custard cream has all been perfected. The apple fritter, cinnamony and crispy and packed with flavour, was exceptional.

Second Beach, La Push in the Mist

image 1922 from bradism.com

The Pacific beaches on the west shores of Olympic National Park have an edge of the Earth feeling to them. Shrouded in mist, protected by dense, towering trees, before ultimately crossing a field of driftwood logs each the size of a whale, by the time you reach the sand you have left the world behind.
Second Beach at La Push is one such beach. A short descent through coastal forest leads to the ocean, swirling around the archipelago of tiny, teeth-like islands crowned with more firs that somehow survive the salty winds. Visit at low tide, so you can stroll further into isolation, and at sunset, if you're lucky enough for the fog to lift enough to notice.

Flatstick Pub, Pioneer Square

image 1923 from bradism.com

If you love historic districts, mini golf and craft beer, Flatstick Pub in Seattle's Pioneer Square will bring you joy. Not far from Pike Place Market and the waterfront, the Pioneer Square neighborhood streets are lined with late 19th and early 20th century buildings including Smith Tower, one of the oldest skyscrapers in the USA.
Flatstick Pub hosts a huge, rotating collection of local craft beers on tap, and a challenging 9 hole course of mini golf to enjoy with your drinks. There's also board games, mini-basketball and other mini games to try.
There's also a Flatstick Pub south of Lake Union, close by to some of Seattle's big tech offices. The course there is different, and good, but the location has more of a corporate team building vibe there.

Deer Lake and Sol Duc Falls

image 1924 from bradism.com

In the temperate rainforest and old growth forest around Sol Duc hot springs is a day hike with nearly everything. Starting with a temperate rainforest stroll to the beautiful Sol Duc River falls and canyon, the trail turns up the mountain through more spruce and ferns and increasing elevation.

image 1925 from bradism.com

All kinds of flora is on display as you climb, crossing streams, fallen forest giants and rocky inclines. Then, inexplicably, a lake appears through the trees. Already over 1000 metres up the mountain, the still lake is surrounded by meadows climbing up a ring of even taller peaks, with a little glimpse of snow, and maybe in the blue sky a bald eagle circling. A short trail loops around the lake, passing camping and lunch spots, plus a long drop latrine. The way down is easier, and the ferny, dappled rainforest corridor known as lover's lane follows the Sol Duc back to the hot springs resort. There, if you don't mind other people's skin cells, you can sink into the mineral pools and watch the sunset play across the tree covered slopes all around.

Portland Bookstores

image 1926 from bradism.com

There's a famous bookstore in Portland named Powell's which you may have heard of. I visited it, and it was fantastic, and I even got $2.75 credit for my copy of a JG Ballard paperback at their buying counter. It also made me happy to see so many people in downtown Portland carrying books from Powell's.
That said, Powell's felt a little sanitized, particularly by Portland standards. It sold a lot of classics and stickers and quirky greeting cards. There was a Wholefoods a couple of blocks down.
Half a neighbourhood away, in a tiny store with fading signs was the best bookstore I've ever visited. Cameron's Books & Magazines is an eclectic collection of books and stacks of magazines consuming almost all available space. The prices are cheap, the range unbelievable. I bought a bunch of old Asimov's magazines ranging from 1975 to 2016. If you love words, check out both.

Paradise in June

image 1927 from bradism.com

There's something magical about snow. Well, there's something magical about snow when it's summer and the sky is blue and you can go hiking around on it wearing shorts. (I myself did not wear shorts, but I saw more seasoned locals who did.)
There was plenty of snow near the peaks of Mt Rainier and Mount Hood. The Timberline Lodge was abuzz with skiers and snowboarders in the first week of July. But it was Paradise, on the southern slope of Mt Rainier that won me over. At the heart of a dozen trails, the Paradise visitors centre is spectacular in its own right. You don't need to hike far to find snow beneath your boots.

Replace with DSLR photo later.

Replace with DSLR photo later.

The white trails lead to stunning vistas, glacial waterfalls, and lookout points worth the high altitude exertion. The snow is slippery, but safe to cross if you follow the rule of sticking to others' footprints. After watching your feet and fighting the slope, you can then turn around and see why they named the place Paradise.

Craft Beer

image 1929 from bradism.com

I don't think it's an exaggeration to say every small town in the Pacific Northwest has at least one craft beer microbrewery. And the ratio of one variety of IPA per thousand people in the country continues in the built up metropolises of Seattle and especially Portland. Everywhere you turn is a brewery or pub serving up seasonals and the Pacific Northwest specialty: the IPA. Beer is everywhere. You can even buy six packs of craft beers at supermarkets, pharmacies and gas stations.

The beer in this photo has a street value in Adelaide of half a million.

The beer in this photo has a street value in Adelaide of half a million.

The craft beer market is saturated, but I did my best to dry it out. A full review will come shortly. Stand out places to sample include Fremont brewery, Deschutes, and Ten Barrel Brewing.

Hurricane Ridge at Dusk

image 1931 from bradism.com

There's a webcam feed which shows the visitors centre, perched 1600 metres high, at the top of Hurricane Ridge. You can use it to check if the skies are clear, and if there's space to park your massive car. If those conditions are true, take advantage of America's willingness to pave roads to the tops of mountains and visit right before the sun sets.

image 1932 from bradism.com

As the golden hour begins, take in spectacular, 360 degree views of the Olympic mountain ranges, watching elk crossing the alpine meadows, breathe the thin, crisp air and marvel at one of the most beautiful places in the world.


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Castaway

image 1899 from bradism.com

How I looked after four days without internet...
And another week of holidays with internet.

image 1901 from bradism.com

We stayed in Sol Duc Valley - world wide web dead-zone - the past three nights and, surprisingly, I did not miss the internet all that much. It's not like I prepared with much offline content. I just did lots of hiking, listened to an audiobook, sat in hot-springs and drank $1.49 cans of craft beer from the resort store to get through.

By my second day offline, woodland creatures were literally visiting me.

image 1900 from bradism.com

This morning I ate breakfast at a waterfall. Eventually we emerged from the valley to free motel WiFi and a bunch of notifications that were almost all completely dismissable. What is the value of the internet, really?

Posting pictures of breakfasts at waterfalls I guess.

image 1902 from bradism.com

Worth It

image 1896 from bradism.com

After flying to the other side of the planet, then driving to Forks, Washington, we woke at 5am which was more pre-dawn gloom than twilight.

image 1897 from bradism.com

After another 54 miles of driving on the wrong side of the road, followed by 4 miles of hiking through temperate rainforest, we came to a washed up tree on a misty beach we had nearly all to ourselves.

image 1898 from bradism.com

It was breakfast time. Fruit, yogurt and cereal. Because some things you never need a holiday from.


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The Precipice

image 1888 from bradism.com

We've been balancing a fine line the past months between living in the present, and planning our hiking holiday. Fortunately I don't need to learn any new languages to order beers this time.

Part of that balance involves the occasional practice hike to ensure equipment and processes are all good for the real thing. We've been up and down the Adelaide ranges testing shoes and learning lessons.

Lesson one: when taking a pre-walk selfie, find a background nicer than the toilet block.

Lesson one: when taking a pre-walk selfie, find a background nicer than the toilet block.

This weekend we did Lofty the long way, an 18km walk starting in Chamber's Gully. I don't think there will be many cafes with hot, fresh coffee on the summits of the mountains we're going to, but when we reach the top you can always rely on a view to make all the hard work worth it.

image 1890 from bradism.com

Kept My Chin Up

image 1883 from bradism.com

A month ago my physio told me that I should remove pressing, pushing and lifting exercises from my gym routine, in addition to his previous ban on riding the stationary bike. This was on top of the bans on running and leg exercises that my hamstring doctor had already enforced.

During most of my previous gym comeback tours this probably would have been enough for me to suspend my direct-debit indefinitely and never return, but in 2019 I decided to stay strong and continue exercising anyway. I divided my workouts into pulling/upper-back exercises, core, and rehab. Instead of giving up, I decided I was going to focus on pulling up.

The last time I performed a pull up was in 2008, when I was 23 and had never had surgery. Since then I believed I would never pull up again. But in the last six months I have watched Vanessa's progress from someone who watches fitness documentaries on the couch, to someone who competes in novice CrossFit competitions. While parts of my body have betrayed me, that's nothing compared to the rigour and violence Vanessa has suffered through chronic endometriosis, a shattered shoulder, and countless other undeserved afflictions.

Vanessa was the one who inspired me on my own journey the last few months, and when I pulled my chin up over the bar on Saturday for the second time it was her I immediately messaged to share the news. (Because you haven't done something until you've done it twice.)

It takes strength to pull yourself over a bar from a dead hang, or snatch an olympic bar over your head, or get out of bed and go to work when your insides are in chaos and your head and body ache. Vanessa has that kind of strength, I see it everyday, and she gives it to me, and I try to give it to her. We give each-other power. Together, we are strong.

Daylight Sandings

Tonight Vanessa and I took what was probably our last barefoot, work-night sunset stroll at the beach this side of the Spring Equinox. Daylight Savings ends this weekend. The coast will cool. The rain will come. Dinners will soon be eaten in the dark under blankets.

image 1872 from bradism.com

When we got back I cleaned the sand off my feet with the brush head of our vacuum cleaner.

image 1873 from bradism.com

It worked pretty well. And it's cordless, you could bring it to the beach!

Seven Years Toll

Seven years ago today Vanessa and I got married.

If I was to think about everything that decision has cost me...

I would say it adds up to about $7 in greeting cards. Although this year I did splurge on the $2 one with glitter on it.

image 1871 from bradism.com

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