Camping on Shi Shi Beach: The Place I Found Zen

I don’t have the words to adequately describe the breathtaking beauty of Shi Shi Beach in Olympic National Park. Nor could I have imagined a more perfect first backpacking experience. I will forever look at this hike as the beginning of my love affair with both backcountry camping and the Pacific Northwest.

Locked and Loaded
Our bags were packed and we were ready to hike!

We arrived at the parking area (which is literally someone’s yard, so you get to hike and support small business. It’s a win-win) around dinnertime. It was drizzling and a fog was descending, blanketing the forest in a fine mist. It looked like a fairyland; some magical, enchanted world in another dimension. It was absolutely haunting.

The first mile or so of the trail is primarily a boardwalk and series of bridges that wind through a mystical Sitka spruce forest, working its way to the coast. When the boardwalk ends, the trail becomes almost entirely mud. There are bypasses around the exceptionally muddy areas, but they’re only slightly less muddy. Mud on mud on mud. We were pretty filthy by the time we reached the beach, so be prepared to get dirty, in the most literal sense, if you choose to do this hike—which you absolutely should.

 

 

It was so quiet on the trail. It felt like the fog was holding in all the sound, providing a barrier with the outside world, almost like being underwater. That eerie silence only added to the feeling of isolation as we trekked farther and farther from civilization; the fog growing thicker and thicker with each step. It was the ideal setting for a horror movie or supernatural thriller, so I half expected a bunch of kids to come running out of the forest, screaming about alternate dimensions and a girl with superpowers.  Stranger Things have happened. . . (If you don’t get that reference, you really need to up your Netflix game.)

As we approached the coast we started to hear the distant sound of waves crashing on the beach. The sound got louder until the trees opened up to reveal giant sea stacks jutting out of the ocean on the shoreline below. The fog seemed to extend infinitely, giving everything it touched a muted tone and soft edges. With no man made structures anywhere in sight, this place seemed timeless. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a pirate ship appear on the horizon.

Sea Stacks
The view when we arrived at the coast was spectacular.

It’s not until you reach the descent to the beach that you officially enter Olympic National Park, leaving the Makah reservation behind (special thanks going out to the Makah people for sharing their beautiful land with us). There are ropes rigged up between the trees to assist with the climb down, though it wasn’t nearly as difficult or harrowing an experience as I’d expected, which was both a relief and a disappointment at the same time.

 

 

Once at the bottom we emerged from the forest through a small, tunnel-like opening in the trees (total Chronicles of Narnia moment), onto the massive expanse of sun-bleached driftwood covered sand that is Shi Shi Beach. We made it! I love the ocean and, as a Midwesterner, seeing it is always exciting. But coming out of the woods with all my gear on my back and walking towards the Pacific was a moment I’ll not soon forget. I felt strong, confident, and in total awe of the scene before me.

Victory
The ocean seemed to be calling to us when we arrived.

Looking out to the horizon, we couldn’t tell where the ocean stopped and the sky began. We stood in wonder, admiring the rock formations framing the beach on either end, before we set out to find a place to make camp. With only about an hour of light left, we didn’t waste any time. There’s no assigned camp sites on Shi Shi; you just park your tent wherever suits you. We found a spot about 100 yards from where we entered the beach in a small, stone cove tucked in along the treeline. It provided excellent protection from the elements, and privacy from anyone who may camp nearby. It was perfect.

There was enough driftwood scattered around the beach to get us through the night, but it was a project gathering and carrying it all back to camp. Our legs got one hell of a workout trudging through the sand while dragging giant logs behind us.

 

 

Once we got our fire going we set up our stove and made dinner. We each brought a can of soup; nothing fancy, but a hot meal nonetheless. It was our first time using the camp stove and we learned a very quick lesson about its stability. Namely, it didn’t have any. Lindsey’s can of soup toppled over, spilling half its contents onto the sand while we stood there helplessly, realizing we also didn’t have anything to grip the hot can with. Total backpacker fail. She managed to use her shirt sleeve as a hot mitt and salvage what was left of her soup. We’d been feeling like we were the most badass women in the world, so that was a good lesson in humility. After spending several hours in the rain and mist, even the half spilled, somewhat burned soup was a luxury, warming us from the inside out.

We sat around the fire for a while listening to the sound of the waves, huddled up in our rain jackets and long johns; not even talking, just absorbing our surroundings. I think it was the first time we felt truly relaxed on the trip. Kayaking and seeing Seattle had been a blast, but this was true tranquility. Listening to the sound of the ocean is hypnotizing. It has this incredible ability to quiet my mind, slow down my thoughts, and focus them. I hadn’t felt such pure contentedness and peace in a long time. We knew there were other people on the beach, but everyone was spread out enough that we barely noticed we weren’t the only people in the world.

Campfire
The view while sitting fireside at our campsite. Not too shabby.

Lindsey went to bed fairly quickly, but I wasn’t ready for the night to end. I love that time of night, when the world is asleep and everything is still. That’s my time. So I kept the fire going, burning all the wood we’d worked so hard to collect, and relived the day through the pictures I’d taken. I listened to the ocean as the tide rolled in, letting the sound of every wave wash over me. Each one washed away another anxiety, another worry; sweeping every negative thought out to sea with it as it receded. It left me feeling centered, like I now truly understood what it meant to be “zen.”

I never bothered getting out my sleeping mat that night, opting instead to sleep on the sand (inside the tent, of course). It took a minute to carve out the appropriate ditches (boobs, hips, feet—it’s like making a snow angel in your tent, then just not getting up), but once I did and was settled into my beach front, ocean view “room,” with my calm mind and exhausted body, the most wonderful sleep took me over. I drifted to sleep with the sound of the ocean putting me in an almost meditative state, restoring my body to prepare for the trek to Point of the Arches in the morning. It was hard to believe how much we’d already done considering how many adventures were still to come on our Washington Ladycation!

Be sure to check out my guide to camping on Shi Shi Beach for everything you need to know before you hike, and read the next installment: our hike to Point of the Arches!

Thank you so much for stopping by!

~Steph

Kayaking: Exploring the San Juan Islands

We were up early on our second day in Washington in order to get to the ferry in Anacortes by 9:00. The ride on the boat was absolutely beautiful; coasting past islands, passing sailboats and other ferries, as the sun rose higher in the hazy, wildfire smoke sky. What a great way to get us in the mood for our day on the water!

Ferry boat rides weren’t new to me. I grew up splitting my childhood between our home in Duluth, Minnesota and the parsonage of the church where my dad was the pastor, a two hour drive and ferry ride away on Madeline Island, Wisconsin in Lake Superior. This ferry boat, however, was a whole new experience. The boat itself was huge, like 6 of the ferries I was used to all stacked together. I was also used to a 20 minute trip as opposed to the two hour journey from Anacortes to San Juan Island. I thought I knew ferry boats. I didn’t know squat.

I researched several tour operators and decided on Outdoor Odysseys because they provided lunch and had the best price. We couldn’t have been happier with our experience. The guide was fantastic. He was so knowledgeable, and he made sure we got the most of our time on the water. We met him just beyond the ferry landing in Friday Harbor where a van was waiting to take us to the launch point at the Town Park. After a brief tutorial upon arrival we were in our double kayaks and headed out to sea.

Sea Explorations
Learning about the limestone quarry and mine as we passed by.

It was a gorgeous day. The sun was desperately fighting to break through the smoke that lingered in the atmosphere from the wildfires burning in Canada, and the temperature was perfect. It took us a while to find our rhythm, and it took me a while to figure out how to use the rudder, but that tour along the coast of the island was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I’d only kayaked once before and that was on a shallow, murky river in Ohio. It had been a blast, don’t get me wrong, but we ran aground twice, ran into one tree, and were run into by a canoe of Japanese tourists about 86 freaking times, and I swear they were doing it on purpose. So being out on the open water was a whole new world.

 

Michael, our guide, was a geologist who seemed to know everything there was to know about the islands. There were only three other people on our tour so we were all able to ask questions and he answered them easily. I was blown away by how much this guy knew: the types of trees, the different jellyfish, the minerals, he was like the Yoda of San Juan Island. I had a vibe from him throughout the whole trip: he belongs here. His passion and love for The Islands reminded me of how I feel about Madeline Island; like a piece of my heart is always there and I’m only truly whole when I am, too.

We paddled for about 2 hours, passing an old limestone quarry and mine before stopping at “Dead Man’s Beach,” in Lime Kiln State Park, just past the lighthouse, for lunch. The website advertised a “vegetarian” lunch which, although great for Vegan Lindsey, made me nervous. I’m not just a carnivore, but a carnivore who only likes about 10 foods, none of which are vegetables. I truly might be the pickiest eater on the entire planet. I sort of eat like a 5 year old, which is embarrassing, and gets really awkward on dates. “I know a great sushi place.” “That’s cool, but I know a place with awesome mozzarella sticks.” Much to my delight, the meal was delicious. Pita bread, organic peanut butter and jelly, fresh fruit, vegetables, cookies, cheese; it was exactly what we needed to re-energize our bodies for the paddle back.

 

The “paddle” back turned out to be more of a coast because the current basically carried us the entire way. We just kicked back and enjoyed the ride, gliding through the water, snapping pictures, admiring the coast and keeping an eye out for orcas.

Sadly, we didn’t see any whales. There was a cluster of a half dozen or so tour boats (with engines) about five miles off shore. Michael explained that those boats all went out in different directions every morning, and would radio each other when they found one of the resident orca pods so that they could all bring the tours to the animals. I think I was more disappointed about that than I was about not seeing any whales myself. I can’t imagine they like being surrounded by loud-ass boats that follow them everywhere, when they’re just trying to find some freaking lunch. They keep coming back though, so maybe they’ve just come to accept it as a part of life. It beats Sea World, I guess.

 

I suppose the best way to ensure whale sightings is to take a tour on one of the larger boats, but I’m glad we chose to kayak instead. Although we didn’t see any orcas, we saw harbor seals and a bald eagle, and were able to spend hours on the water, really experiencing, as opposed to just observing the islands.

The ferry ride back to the mainland went a lot faster than the ride there. After a glass of wine in Friday Harbor, I vaguely remember boarding the boat and getting two corner, bench seats. The next thing I remember is the announcement over the speaker system that we were arriving in Anacortes. I shot up, entirely confused, and looked out the window to see that we were, indeed, pulling into port. We’d been out cold since shortly after the ferry left San Juan Island, and had missed the entire ride.

Ferry Ride
A quick picture before we both passed out inside the ferry. What an amazing day.

Now that we were back on land all we wanted was to eat and sit in the hot tub. Once we got back to Winston House and had stuffed ourselves with pizza and breadsticks, we ate some CBD chocolates and climbed into the hot tub with a joint. We smoked and talked about our next day’s adventure: Rattlesnake Mountain. An hour later we were the picture of serenity; full, happy, excited and relaxed. An hour after that we were back asleep, but in our bed this time. Besties: out.

Rattlesnake Mountain Hike: Teenage Wasteland

Narrowing down our choice for a day hike near Seattle was tough. We only had one day set aside so we had to make it count, and there are so many options. Ultimately I decided on Rattlesnake Mountain so we could get used to hiking at higher elevations, because it had a lake, and because it wasn’t far from Snoqualmie Falls, another stop on our itinerary.

It was only a 40 minute drive, but by the time we’d gotten coffee and breakfast, and stopped at Pike Place Market to peruse the vendors, it was well past noon. The sun was beating down and the temperature had crept into the high 80’s. This was going to be a hot hike.

Rattlesnake Lake
A beautiful day at Rattlesnake Lake.

The lake was a brilliant shade of turquoise; crystal clear and shallow, with the mountain reaching skyward behind it. Standing on that beach in the blazing hot sun and looking out at that lake. . . we couldn’t resist. We ditched our shirts, swapped our hiking boots for water shoes, and waded into the cool, heavenly water. After we were sufficiently refreshed we laced our boots back up and hit the trail.

The trees were towering overhead, providing some much needed shade as we hiked. It wasn’t a secluded area, we passed countless hikers on our way up the trail. Many of them were teenagers which, I’m not gonna lie, I found annoying. I go into “Mom Mode” when kids are around, I feel responsible for them. I will most definitely be the old lady yelling at kids to “get off my lawn.” I’m not begrudging America’s children their right to be there. I actually think it’s awesome that they’re outside instead of sitting in front of the TV. I just prefer other people’s children in smaller, quieter doses and not when I’m getting my nature on. More remote trails are preferred, but it was a lovely hike nonetheless.

The Hike
Hiking up Rattlesnake Mountain.

The view once we made it to the top was beautiful. The lake looked so far away; the brilliance of the blue water on full display from such a distance. It was hard to believe we’d come so far!

Just like the trail, there were quite a few people milling around the observation area when we reached the top; the would-be peace interrupted by the chatter of half a dozen conversations and various teenage shenanigans. We found an empty boulder as removed as we could get from the crowds and sat down to enjoy the view. Despite the throngs of teens, it was nice to sit on top of a mountain, eating a snack, and soaking up the sunshine.

A little squirrel was scurrying around looking for handouts while we were chilling there. He was a ballsy little fella, came right up to people with no trepidation, sniffing thoroughly before moving on when he didn’t find what he was looking for. I got the feeling he knew how to use his cuteness to manipulate people, cause he didn’t look like he’d missed a meal in quite some time.

 

After another brief dip in the lake once we’d finished our hike, our next stop was Snoqualmie Falls and the Salish Lodge, which were used during the filming of Twin Peaks, a show Lindsey and I were both fans of. We meandered around the viewing area for a while, admiring the falls and making Twin Peaks jokes. We wished we’d had more time to hike around the area, but the sun was setting and we were starving.

We went up to the Lodge for dinner and immediately felt out of place. It was a pretty classy joint, and we were in our dirty, sweaty hiking clothes after trudging up a mountain and frolicking in a lake all day. Awkward, but not so awkward that we chose to go elsewhere.

 

We got a table at The Attic, their more casual restaurant, and Lindsey ordered a “Dale Cooper.” Named in honor of a character from the show, she said it was the best drink she’d ever had. We were still gushing about how good the homemade chips and dip were when our entrees arrived. I have to say, their pizza may be the best pizza I’ve had in my whole life. Lindsey finished off dinner with a “Damn Fine Coffee,” another reference to Twin Peaks, and we headed back to Seattle, deciding that had been one of the best meals we’d ever eaten.

We immediately slid into the hot tub when we arrived back at Winston House. We were relaxing after smoking a joint when the kid who was renting the room next door came outside. He was young, kind of nerdy, and just stood there looking out at the dark backyard, smoking his bong and pretending he didn’t see us.

He was one of those guys who undoubtedly hadn’t spent much time around girls. It was like even though he wanted to, he didn’t know how to start a conversation, so he just inserted himself into the vicinity, smoked his bong so we knew he was “down,” and waited for us to talk to him.

Clearly this was going to be a strained interaction that neither Lindsey or myself had any interest in participating in, but we felt obligated to acknowledge him. We said hello and he came over and stood next to the hot tub, staring down at us. He was only giving minimal responses between creepy stares and bong hits (which he never even offered to share—rude) so we were forced with deciding between peppering him with questions like he was a toddler, just to keep the conversation going, or sitting in awkward silence while Young Buffalo Bill leered at us like he was trying to figure out how many lampshades he could make out of our skin. We opted for door number one and ended up having the world’s most painfully boring conversation, during which we learned he was a “gamer,” and was in town for a gamer convention. Hello, Cliché.

The whole thing was starting to feel like the opening scene of a Law and Order SVU episode.

SVU Seattle: Two best friends go on vacation together, looking for fun and adventure. The young, disturbed man with the troubled past and extensive juvey record happens upon them in the hot tub at their [insert AirBnb knock off name here]. Camera shows the women exchange a concerned look when they start to sense danger. Switch to close up of Creepy Perv’s face right before he pulls out a knife. Screen goes black. Women scream. End scene. Next thing you know Mariska Hargitay and Ice T are pulling our chopped up bodies out of Puget Sound and piecing together our last known whereabouts through our social media posts and the GPS in our rental car.

Things were getting weirder by the minute and Lindsey was the first to call it a night. I wasn’t ready to get out of the hot tub, but about 4 seconds alone with the villain from an after school special and I was heading in as well. I’m sure he was a perfectly nice, harmless kid, but there’s a limit to how long I can tolerate being looked at as though being mentally undressed. . . And possibly dismembered. Besides, we had a big day ahead of us: backpacking to Shi Shi Beach, so a good night’s sleep was required.

I’d later decide that between the crowds at Rattlesnake Mountain and The Creeper on the deck, it was my least favorite day of the trip. Then I’d marvel at how fortunate I am to have “being around a few teenagers,” and “being looked at by a weird dude” be the worst things to happen on our entire vacation. Win!

Sleepless In Seattle: Tale of the Two Tired Tourists

By the time we left Winston House for some Seattle tourist stops I’d been up since 3:00pm (Seattle time) the previous day, 27 hours ago. I’m pretty sure the only thing keeping us going was adrenaline and sheer determination. A wise person would’ve called it a night. Call us fools, cause off we went to traipse all over the city.

Nirvana, Kurt Cobain's house in Seattle, Washington
Selfie outside Kurt Cobain’s former home.

Our first stop was the former home of the talented and tormented Nirvana front man, Kurt Cobain. It’s located in an upscale neighborhood, on a tree lined street that twists and turns past mansions with iron gates, and overlooks Puget Sound. The house itself is mostly obscured from view by trees and a tall fence that’s crawling with shrubbery. I can’t imagine living in a house you know will be gawked at by throngs of 90’s grunge fans. Maybe they’re Nirvana groupies.

The garage where Kurt ended his life has since been demolished. Near where it once stood is a memorial of sorts. Up on a hill, next to an old, tall tree, sits a single bench. I remember standing there and thinking that the whole place seemed to capture exactly who Kurt had been. It was picturesque, quiet under the embrace of the tree. The bench was covered in graffiti, poems and notes of sorrow and gratitude, half smoked joints and empty cigarette packs, the remains of burned out candles and long dead flowers. It was beautiful and messy; chaotic, anguished, yet filled with a simple kind of sweetness.

Our next destination was strictly for me and was a total nerd-out moment: the home used for the exterior shots of Meredith Grey’s house in the first season of Grey’s Anatomy. I love that show. And yes, I still watch it, so I was pretty stoked. We didn’t stay long, just long enough to take a couple selfies while I geeked out a bit before moving on in our explorations.

Kerry Park is a popular stop for tourists and is only a few blocks from the Grey’s house. The park is small, more of an observation area with a sculpture than a park, but the view was spectacular. High above the city, the park looks out over downtown and the Space Needle as well as Puget Sound. On clear days, which unfortunately, that day was not, you can even see Mount Rainier in the distance. But, with the smoke coming down from the wildfires burning north of the border in Canada, the entire western half of the state was blanketed in a haze.

We sat down and watched the ferry boats coming in and out of the city, taking some pictures and realizing how extraordinarily tired we were. The sleep deprivation was catching up with us hard and fast.

We needed to get moving so we left for dinner. We thought we’d have enough time to explore the downtown area before heading to the restaurant, and were counting on the walk waking us up a bit. Our reservations were at Matt’s in the Market which is downtown in Pike Place Market. I’d read Pike Place was a must-see when visiting Seattle and Matt’s had received stellar reviews. It was one of two dinner reservations I’d made for our trip, the other being for the final night. Somehow I’d convinced myself that our reservations at Matt’s were at 9:00 when, in fact, that was the time for our other reservation. I didn’t realize that until the restaurant was calling and asking if we were planning to show up for our 7:30 dinner slot.

No longer able to do any exploring, we drove downtown and parked at The Market right around the corner from the restaurant. However, despite the GPS telling us we had arrived, we couldn’t find it to save our lives. There are alleys and buildings on several levels all over the place and we couldn’t figure out which one housed Matt’s. We were feeling all kinds of embarrassed when we called the restaurant to tell them we were lost. The hostess looked out the window and saw us standing there, looking confused, and graciously directed us to their door.

The restaurant is in a renovated warehouse. It had high ceilings and large windows overlooking the market. It smelled incredible when we walked in and we probably would’ve been gushing about it had we not been borderline comatose from exhaustion.

We sat at a table by a window and struggled to make conversation throughout the whole dinner. We tried, but our brains were working so slowly that just absorbing the words the other person was saying was hard, and it didn’t leave any energy for translating the words’ meaning. Our bodies were shutting down and we had to fight just to keep our eyes open. I can’t even imagine what we must’ve looked like to onlookers. A lesbian couple who got in a fight on the way to the restaurant? Dawn of the Dead? Two terminally ill women eating their last meal? Not exactly the life of the party, that’s for sure. I was too tired to even drink.

The food was exquisite. We ordered the cheese platter as an appetizer, and my entree was an expertly prepared filet mignon that practically melted in my mouth. Unfortunately I was too tired to fully appreciate it and couldn’t stop thinking about that hot tub waiting for us back at Winston House. I wanted to savor every bite, but instead found myself scarfing it down in order to be finished and “home” quicker. I just wanted someone to come carry me to the car, drive me home and tuck me in. I felt a little guilty wasting such a delicious meal on someone who could barely taste her food because her taste buds had gone night night.

We didn’t stay in the hot tub for long after we got back. We were afraid we’d pass out in there and drown, so we only stayed in long enough to smoke a little indica and let the water soothe our achy, fatigued bodies. It was the most perfect way imaginable to end our first day of Ladycation. When we did finally crawl into bed that night we were out within seconds of our heads hitting the pillow. We had to rest up for our next adventure: kayaking the San Juan Islands.

Dispensaries and The Winston House: 420 Friendly Seattle

We made it! There are no words to describe how happy we were to finally have arrived in Seattle. We were already over an hour behind schedule when we landed. We had sights to see and dinner reservations that night, but before heading to our Airbnb to freshen up we had some serious business to attend to: cannabis dispensaries. I’d made a list of places to go while we were in town, the first of which being the closest to the airport. We plugged the address into the GPS and were there in less than 20 minutes.

Being a connoisseur of the devil’s lettuce who doesn’t live in a state with recreational cannabis laws, walking into a dispensary is like walking into a dream. We opened the doors and the aroma washed over us like a green wave, every pore in our bodies could smell it. It’s a little overwhelming, as a newbie, to have so many choices, but once I’d experienced it, going back to clandestine exchanges seems unfathomable and ridiculous.

On our way to our second dispensary stop, Dockside Cannabis, our AirBnb host, Sebastian, was texting with Lindsey. Turns out, he was already going to recommend we go to Dockside, and even had a coupon for us to receive 20% off. A weed coupon?! We didn’t even know that was even a thing. Sebastian sent us a picture of the coupon so we could use it when we stopped and we were all set.

There’s a reason both he and the internet recommended Dockside: it’s amazing. Not only is the selection one of the best you’ll find, but the prices are competitive and the staff is both knowledgeable and friendly. We spent over half an hour perusing their selection and asking questions about the various products and strains before making our purchase and heading to our accommodation—where we would learn the quality was also top notch.

Mary Jane
My goodies from Dockside Cannabis.

The Winston House is located in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle. Nestled on quiet, dead end street, the unassuming house is more than it seems when you pull in the driveway. We followed the path around the back of the house to our room’s private entrance, off the large deck. The deck, surrounded by grapevines and encompassing a large tree that towers over the property, has a table and chairs and a salt water hot tub that make it the perfect place to unwind after an adventurous day.

We stepped into our room and were utterly delighted. It was well appointed with a king size bed, desk, mini fridge, microwave and large, private bathroom with a luxurious double shower. We were blown away. It was so much more wonderful than we expected!

Once we settled in we went out to the sit on the deck and sample some of the greenery we’d purchased. We sat at the little table next to the hot tub, admiring the grapevines and the property beyond. A little while after we lit up a pre-rolled sativa joint, our host and his friend, Hannah Rose, came outside on the balcony above and greeted us. Sebastian was just as wonderful as we knew he’d be. Gracious and welcoming, full of helpful hints for navigating Seattle and its many attractions, and willing to help make our stay perfect in any way he could.

Hanna Rose was absolutely delightful. She was naturally beautiful, intelligent, free spirited, kinda whimsical, and seemed to emit a bright, positive energy. She was doing yoga stretches and asking us about our plans for the trip while we relaxed in Sebastian’s backyard oasis. She was charming. It was one of those times when we immediately felt a connection, like we were kindred spirits, with this random new person. Obviously, we were high, so that may have been contributing to the experience, but that doesn’t diminish the loveliness of Hannah Rose.

It was a hot August day in Seattle and we were getting pretty sweating. Our new friend had just the solution: a water pitcher dumped down our chests and the backs of our necks. It sounds strange, I know, we had a moment of, “uh, what?” but that cold water trickling down our bodies was invigorating.

Eventually Hanna Rose went back upstairs and left Lindsey and I to contemplate the rest of our evening. We were still sitting at the table when Sebastian came down and went into a small room on the back of the house. He came back out and over to the table to chat. We’d been conversing for a few minutes when he finally looked at me and said, “Sweetie, I’m sorry, I’m totally gay so don’t be embarrassed, but the snap on your dress is undone and your boob is out.” I looked down and confirmed that yes, my boob was, in fact, just hanging out for all the world to see (I mean, it was covered by my bra, but still). I’m one classy broad.

After we all had a good laugh at my wardrobe malfunction we got to talking about what Sebastian was doing in the mystery room. Turns out, he’s an alchemist. Lindsey was ecstatic, that’s right up her alley.

He took us into his workshop to show us what he was working on. It was a small room filled with beakers, hoses, vats and other sciencey stuff. It looked like some crazy, Breaking Bad type of thing, like Jesse Pinkman’s basement. It was actually a lot more innocuous than that: he was extracting the scent from lavender (I think) to be put in essential oils. His extraction process involved using methyl alcohol and the smell was overpowering. It felt like the fumes were seeping into my system through my skin and getting me high(er). I had to step outside for some air pretty quickly. Very cool to see that process in action, though, it was fascinating. We were honored that Sebastian shared it with us. It’s amazing how a boob slip can bring people together.

We freshened up and decided to explore the rest of Sebastian’s place before leaving for dinner. Through the door in our room that connected to the rest of the house we were led to a hallway. There was another guest room and laundry, along with a spiral staircase that led upstairs to the main floor of his home. We walked up the stairs, admiring the stained glass windows, and emerged in the kitchen; a large, open room with an island and separate eating area that opens onto the balcony. To the right was the living room with its vaulted ceilings, wood burning stove, and comfy couches.

Sebastian’s style is eclectic and bohemian. There is so much to look at in his home, from the books to the collection of pipes, bongs and vapes, the art and antiques, the entire place is interesting and fun.

Knowing what an incredible place we had to come back to made going out even better. Sebastian left everything we could’ve needed for our stay, even picking up a case of La Croix for Lindsey. We were so grateful for our time at Winston House. I will definitely stay there again on my next trip to Seattle.

Our Adventure Begins: How It Almost Didn’t Happen

The big day had finally arrived! After months of research, planning and anticipation, Ladycation 2017 was finally about to begin. Since 2017 marked my best friend, Lindsey, and I’s 10th year of friendship, we called this trip our “Bestieversarycation.”

Our flight departed at 6:30am, which meant a very early start to the day. We figured the chances were pretty slim that we’d be able to fall asleep early enough to be up by 3am so we went a different route. We napped the afternoon before our flight and stayed up all night, hoping to catch a nap on the plane. I worked third shift so it was my regular routine. Midnight was my noon. Lindsey, however, was used to normal person hours. I was amazed by her ability to rally.

Another reason I wanted to stay up was that once we returned from our Bestieversarycation, my life would be dramatically different. My daughter was leaving for her own adventure: college. So we planned a ladies’ (and one uncle) night at my place the night before our flight. That night will always be a special memory. We laughed, we cried, we reminisced. There was a lot of love in my house.

Last Night With Liv
Quality time with my beautiful, bright, driven and hilarious daughter, Olivia, before she left for college.

Leaving my daughter behind, I cried pretty much all the way to the airport. It was such a mix of emotions; excitement for our trip, anticipating all the experiences my daughter was about to have, anxiety over her being so far from home, and the mix of sadness and pride that accompanies your baby growing up and leaving the nest. To be honest, I don’t know how parents have been doing it for thousands of years, cause if I hadn’t been preoccupied with going on vacation I would’ve locked myself in the house for a week and done nothing but cry, eat my feelings and drink an exorbitant amount of wine.

We arrived at the airport around 4:45 and were immediately struck by the long line at check-in. It made us nervous, but not as nervous as the TSA line. It seemed endless, as if it wasn’t even moving. We watched the minutes tick by as we inched, oh so slowly, towards the body scanners and X-Ray machines. It felt like we were in slow motion.

Finally, after waiting seemingly for an eternity (I’m nothing if not melodramatic), we made it. Or so we thought… I went through the body scanner and, of course, my crotch set off the alarms. Why is it always the crotch? I don’t have anything out of the ordinary in that area, I assure you, but every damn time I go through that machine my crotch lights up like Vegas and I get an up close and personal encounter with a TSA agent. Every. Single. Time.

Between the long lines and my uncomfortable TSA groping we were running short on time. I went to grab my bag and put my shoes back on so we could run to the gate. No such luck. My bag was being taken by TSA for inspection. Of course. Our departure time was quickly approaching and here we were, stuck watching this man go through every single thing in my suitcase with painstaking scrutiny. It was my half ounce bottle of dish detergent, apparently, that looked nefarious, “Looked a lot bigger” on the X-ray, he said. I could not roll my eyes hard enough. Finally, we were cleared. I slipped on my flip flops, grabbed my suitcase and we literally ran all the way to the gate.

When the gate agent saw us running towards her she told us to slow down, we’d already missed our flight.

Traveling Besties
Making the most of our four hour delay by day-drinking at the airport bar.

I don’t even think I can list all the various emotions running through me at that moment. I was angry, felt sadness bordering on despair, was scared we wouldn’t be able to re-book, and was nervous about the time crunch this would put us in when/if we did get there. I was really trying hard not to do what I usually do when things don’t go as planned: throw a tantrum. But I was only partially successful. Though less than courteous to the gate agent who was (thankfully) able to get us re-booked on another flight, I didn’t verbally (or physically) assault anyone so I’m calling it a win. Unfortunately, we had four hours to spend in the airport until our new flight took off, so we did what any grown-ass women would do: we hit up the airport bar. We weren’t in Washington, but we were on vacation. Cocktails at 7am? Yes, please, and keep ’em coming.

Our newly booked flight’s layover on the way to Seattle was in Minneapolis and was considerably shorter than our original flight’s layover had been. That wouldn’t have been a problem except that the flight from Cleveland to Minneapolis and the flight from Minneapolis to Seattle were on opposite ends of the airport, and in completely different terminals. We were cutting it way too close for two women who’d just missed a flight.

Since our plane from Cleveland to Minneapolis was smaller than the plane we were originally supposed to take I had to check my carry-on at the gate. When we landed that meant waiting for them to bring it up from the belly of the plane. We had exactly 20 minutes until they ended boarding our plane to Seattle so, while I waited for my bag, Lindsey ran ahead to beg them not to leave without me.

Just The Tip
Mount Rainier’s peak was playing peekaboo above the forest fire smoke that blanketed Washington on our arrival.

The minute they finally brought up my bag I was off… and all out booking it. You know in the movies when you see people barreling through the airport, knocking people over and jumping over obstacles to catch their flight? That’s what I felt like. I could almost hear the dramatic music in my head. I was glad I’d taken up running the previous year so I was up to the task, but I was desperately regretting my choice of footwear. Do you know how hard it is to run like the wind while simultaneously trying not to let your flip flops fall off your feet? It’s a miracle no one was injured. And I made it to the gate with both my shoes.

When I arrived at the gate I saw that I could’ve slowed my roll a bit. The line to board the aircraft looked like the TSA line in Cleveland. I hadn’t missed it! We boarded the plane for the final leg of our journey to the Pacific Northwest, which, thankfully, was considerably smoother than its beginning.

Be sure to read what happened when we landed in the next installment!