November 6 2022- April 30, 2023
Toward the end of the year, we had a decision to make: extend our time in Seattle or head somewhere warm for the winter. Santa Barbara is always a good choice, we thought. But I think we can both agree, staying in Seattle was really the only move for us. It’s felt like home for years- the hospital, the city, the northwest. I can’t imagine how I would’ve felt if we left back in December. A story with too abrupt an ending. A savage rug-pull. We had so many things left undone, and many more that longed for a replay.
Artist Point in the Mt Baker Wilderness is only a few hours north of the city, and we set out for a day trip with Charley one weekend morning. Without skis or ski prowess, snowshoeing fit the bill for us. We bought a couple sets at REI and gave them the test run among the bald knolls and slopes between Mt Baker and Mt Shuksan, the glacial bash brothers of the North Cascades. Artist Point is well known for its excellent return on investment of energy expended. A gentle grade up its pillowy wrinkles affords extensive views in all directions, and we moseyed for a few hours with no true destination in mind.
One of the great things about the northwest is its access to snowy peaks and rugged temperate coastline within a couple hours drive. We took a trip up to the north side of Whidbey Island, a geographically erratic landmass in the Puget Sound, and visited Deception Pass State Park. With deafening jets from the nearby Naval Air Station cruising above ceaselessly, we walked the coastal trails and took in the silence when the military exercises paused for a moment or two.
Leaning into winter once again, Jamie Charley and I took a day trip to Leavenworth with our friends Hannah and Alec and their dog Fitz, for Hannah’s birthday. A Bavarian mountain town, known for showing out during Christmastime, Leavenworth never disappoints. We bopped around to a few eateries for food and drink, and took in the bustle of the village.
Jamie and I were able to finagle the holidays off from work, and we took advantage of the time off to head back to the northeast to visit her family. Charley would be spending a couple weeks at Kerrys Dog Ranch, back in Marysville WA.
It’s always cozy to be home for the holidays, and we enjoyed the company of family and seeing the little sprout Elliott, who seems to have boundless energy. Would love to put a pedometer on him for a day.
Our next destination would be Phoenix, the day after Christmas. My family was gathering there for a week, close to where Kaivan lives. We spent the week hiking, golfing for the Mr Mangouris, spa for the Mrs Mangouris, and taking the boys to the zoo, aquarium, and other hotspots around the valley.
My Auntie Susie had the ever-growing Mangouri family over one evening, and we spent the night catching up with cousins, aunties, and uncles. So great when the timing works out and nearly everyone can make it.
We returned to the northwest after the New Year, eager to continue our mountain adventures with our new snowshoes.
Kendall Peak Lakes are situated in the Snoqualmie region, a bit over an hour east of Seattle along I-90. We lucked out with a beautiful day, as the sun poked through the clouds and lit up the wonderland around us. We were concerned Charley might get too cold on these winter expeditions, but she quickly confirmed her snow-joy, rolling in the fluffy stuff at every opportunity.
At the time, we didn’t know the Wenatchee Crest hike would likely be our last snowshoe outing in Washington. An easy walk along the ridge from Blewitt Pass, we looked across the valley floor at the Enchantment range staring back at us. The mountains looked as if God had been plucking at the earth.
On a whim in early February, I booked a flight back to Phoenix. Kaivan had told me he signed up for a 35k trail race the following weekend. I registered and found myself unexpectedly running with him through the arid landscape of Cave Creek Regional Park. Man, I missed the desert. We had a blast, and all that running allowed us a shameless feast of bbq after the race.
We hadn’t made it out to the Olympic Peninsula yet on this go-around in Seattle. Having several days off, we booked two nights at an Airbnb outside of Forks and made the trip out. We took the ferry across the Sound to Kingston, then pushed through Port Orchard and Port Angeles along the northern side of the Peninsula to Forks in the northwest. The Olympic Mountains were relatively off-limits, covered in snow and requiring chains for Archie to get up to Hurricane Ridge. We spent our time along the coast, walking out to remote Shi Shi beach along a muddy 8 mile out-and-back, and visiting Neah Bay and Cape Flattery, the northwestern-most point in the contiguous US.
Later on, into March, and Jamie and I decided to sign up for a trail race outside of Seattle, at Dash Point. I’d be running the half marathon, and Jamie would be logging her first race in the 10K. I corralled a couple buddies, Lee and Beau, to join me in the half, and we had a blast meandering along the cushy track beneath giant fir and cedar, alongside rows of ferns and budding saplings. It was an excellent day with excellent people.
There was one big box left unchecked as we started to approach the end of our time in Seattle. Vancouver Island is a massive hunk of land, larger than Massachusetts, off the coast of mainland Canada and just north of the Olympic Peninsula. Mostly remote wilderness, the island is home to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. We drove up just south of Vancouver, opting to go through the boarder crossing on the mainland, and took the ferry across to the island, just north of Victoria. The weather was a bit wet, so we opted for a quick dinner in town and an improvised driving tour of the city, before heading back to our campsite 30 minutes outside town.
Our time on Vancouver Island was fantastic, spent driving through lush temperate rainforest, along massive wild lakes, and beneath snowy sheer mountainsides. We hiked a bit, ran along the beaches, and enjoyed campfires and peaceful evenings. It was cold though, about 30F on any of the nights, so camping in the Nest was a constant battle to keep warm.
The rugged coastal towns of Ucluelet and Tofino offered some human interaction, and we sampled some of the local beer and food. It felt like we were worlds away from Seattle. As the crow flies, we were only maybe 100-150 miles. But the journey was nearly 9 hours. Worth every minute, as the drive was part of the adventure.
This post had to be a brief snapshot of our last 5 months in Seattle. There was simply no way to dive into more detail with such a volume of time. But I’m confident we covered most of the highlights, and will be able to look back on this time with textured memories because of the blog.
Seattle will always be our second home.
I’ll miss seeing the Mountain- its presence on any given day humbled my ego- the Mountain doesn’t care.
I’ll miss Wallingford- the neighborhood that felt like we belonged right away, the perfect intersection of family homes, access to activities, and restaurants.
I’ll miss the city parks- any of them feel like you’re transported out of the city into a remote forest.
I’ll miss our friends- the relationships we’ve made here are ones I hope to hold onto. Truly wonderful people call this place Home.
I’ll miss Harborview- for all its chaos, its the best place we’ve worked, full of kind and hard-working folks and a mission to help the underserved.
Finally, I’ll miss all the mountains, oceans, and trees. The wild spaces in Washington are why I’ve always called this the best state, pound-for-pound, in the US. Whatever you like to do, Washington has a place for you.
We’ll miss you Seattle. Forever thankful for the time and memories.
This post was written in remembrance of Grammy Judy Neureuter, who passed away shortly after the new year. She’ll always be our #1 (and perhaps only) fan, to the point where it felt like we were always writing the blog with her in mind.
I’ll remember that snowshoe to Kendall Peak Lakes forever. We recall thinking how the sun battled the clouds until their concession- light eventually pouring down onto us. It was a couple hours after Grammy had passed, and she was already sending us her sunshine.