Just returned last Friday from a two-week journey from Colorado to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state.
Boulder to Brigham City, UT - I-25 to the 287 cutoff west of Fort Collins meant we didn't make it up to Fort Laramie, one of the rest/refuel stops on the Oregon Trail so I had to be content with following the contour of the trail as it arced up to Casper, WY and then dropped down to cross the continental divide at South Pass. We crossed the Divide ourselves after Rawlins (where we ate lunch in pretty Washington Park) and before Rock Springs. We hooked up with the trail at Ft Bridger, and then left it to stop over at Brigham City (north of Salt Lake) where we spent a glorious morning at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and a glorious afternoon at the Golden Spike National Historic Site in Promontory where the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads met on May 10, 1869. We talked to an awesome ranger there who told so many entertaining historic stories.
Brigham City to Boise, ID - A short drive to Boise took us along the Snake River, which the trail followed closely. We had a wonderful stop at Glenn's Ferry (Three Island Crossing), where thousands of pioneers attempted to cross the Snake, and some made it. We got to Boise with plenty of time to visit the World Center for Birds of Prey, which has a successful condor breeding program, helping to bring condors and other endangered birds back from the brink of extinction.
Boise has loads of charm - We stayed at the Modern, which is a revamped 1950's era motel, and felt hip and healthy (one of the very best hotel breakfasts ever!). We enjoyed walking around the downtown area, watching lots of people catching Pokemons.
Boise to Hood River, OR - Mostly followed the trail, and had a great stop in Baker City, OR where we visited the Oregon Trail Interpretative Center and bought way too many books. Lunch in Pendleton at the Great Pacific Wine & Coffee Company, which is a favorite stop on our frequent treks to WA. Then, we hit the Columbia--what a gorgeous river. By the time we checked in at our river view room at the Vagabond Lodge, we didn't want to leave so we just hung out, watching the river slowly fade to darkness (it gets dark late up here in the summer!).
Hood River to Lake Quinault, Olympic National Park - Hood River was also a charming little town and we explored it a bit before heading down river, only to get sidetracked at the Bradford Island Visitor Center, just west of Cascade Locks on the river. They have underwater viewing of the fish that migrate upstream, lots of info on locks and dams and other nerdtastic stuff. After leaving the trail at Portland, we headed directly to the coast and had lunch at the Buoy Bar in Astoria, before heading up to Lake Quinault, our first stop on the Olympic Peninsula.
Lake Quinault - Absolutely gorgeous. Two days of hiking through temperate rainforests with enormous trees that were shaggy with moss. Stayed at the Lake Quinault Lodge--love the national park lodges, and this one had tons of charm and personality (i.e., almost non-existent wifi, tiny bathrooms, windows that don't want to open, but lovely and old and mellow).
Port Angles - Three nights here, with hikes up Hurricane Hill in Olympic National Park, and whale watching in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The captain of the Puget Sound Express (out of charming Port Townsend) heard we were birders (or twitchers as our UK friends call us) and he swung by Discovery Island so that we could see puffins! For dinner, let me recommend the Next Door GastroPub - a fun place, with outside dining, great service, and outstanding, upscale pub grub. We went there twice!
Heading home - we stopped in Tacoma, one of our favorite towns, and where our oldest went to college for a wonderful stay at the awesome Silver Cloud Inn. We did a pass through Point Defiance Park, with a walk through the bloomless rhododendron garden, and then we did more walking along the shore of lovely Commencement Bay. We spent the night in Boise again, and retraced the Oregon Trail back to Fort Bridger, stopping this time in Park City instead of Brigham City. I wasn't thrilled with Park City--I think Colorado does the mining town to ski resort thing better than Utah, but then I am prejudiced and probably ready to be home!
Loved, loved, loved our trip.
Happy trails to you!