A June road trip has become an annual tradition for the bf and I. This year marks the third year in a row we packed up the car and hit the road to explore. Our plan for this years road trip was to visit Portland and Seattle and explore the Pacific Northwest. We’ve visited Vancouver and Vancouver Island numerous times but have never been down to that part of the States. When I realized Portland was only a 15-hour drive from Edmonton that decided things and we started making plans.
It was such a great trip. We had a nice mix of city exploring, outdoorsy hikes and meeting up with blogger friends who conveniently lived nearby!
Waterton Lakes National Park
Since the fastest route to Portland took us down through Southern Alberta, we figured we would spend a few days in Waterton. It’s a gorgeous little town nestled in the Rocky Mountains. It’s actually the Canadian side of Glacier National Park. I’ve only been once (as a super unimpressed, pain in the ass teenager) and the bf had never been. Such a good idea. I love the mountains, and we try to make it to Jasper or Banff at least once a year for a long weekend. Both are expensive though and always packed with tourists. Waterton isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s much quieter and less touristy than other national parks I’ve visited. The town itself is tiny but provides all you need on a smaller scale.
I had booked the hotel in Waterton as soon as we added it to our trip and the original price was $189 per night. Pricey, but not terrible for the mountains. I often keep an eye on hotel rates if I have free cancellation because they can fluctuate so much. And luckily I did that for this trip. Just a few days before we left, I checked our room rate, and it had dropped to $87 per night. What?! I quickly canceled our existing booking and rebooked at the lower price, saving $200 in the process.
The day we arrived we wandered around the townsite and the lake, grabbed a pizza and beer, and hit up the free historical talk at the Prince of WalesHotel (aka the fancy one on the hill.) The discussion was interesting (wildfires and ghost stories) and since the hotel is a must see stunning views, it’s worth timing your visit to catch the talk.
In 2017 Waterton was devastated by the Kenow Wildfire that destroyed almost 40% of the park. Luckily most of the townsite was saved, but you can see the impact of the fire all over the park. Don’t let that scare you away! It’s a unique experience to hike through a burned forest; kind of eerie but also cool. On our full day there we hiked up to Bertha Lake, and you now get these stunning views all the way up because all the trees were burned. Nature is also doing its thing. The wildflowers and vegetation are coming back with a vengeance. If you haven’t been to Waterton recently, then it would be an excellent time to visit.
Bertha Lake Trail
The Bertha Lake hike was a highlight. When we went (June 3rd), there was still some snow on the upper trail, and the lake was partially frozen, but no less impressive. About halfway up you pass Bertha Falls. Up to that point, the hike is relatively easy, but it does get steeper and start to switchback as you approach the lake. On our way down we were still feeling good (downhills have a way of doing that!) so we added on the section down to Bertha Bay. It’s also beautiful with a dock you can sit on and dip your feet in the freezing water, but the trek back up was a little painful. We survived and recovered by spending the whole next day in the car. Yay.
After Waterton, we headed towards Portland. We spent one night in Spokane to break up the drive and then arrived at our Airbnb in Portland. We stayed right by the Alberta Street Arts District, and it was a good call. The area is super cool with lots of restaurants and boutiques, and it was significantly cheaper than staying closer to downtown.
Bethany and Charles from HisandHerFI live in the area, so they met up with us for dinner that first night and then took us out for a hike the next day. Big thanks to Bethany for basically planning our itinerary while we were in Portland. All her recommendations were on point! We had Indian food at the Bollywood Theatre, blue cheese ice cream at Salt & Straw, spent hours wandering around Powell’s books, and donuts at Blue Star.
Two tips for Canadians…Don’t be like me and forget your credit card in a restaurant and if you’re planning to sample the local beer make sure you keep your passport with you as some places won’t except a drivers license. But really, how weird is it that in the States they still take your credit card away in restaurants instead of using the portable machines? I’m so used to our system that I didn’t even think to grab my card back from the billfold.
Our hike with Bethany and Charles was exactly how I picture the PNW. A little damp and drizzly, grey skies, and so much green. And no snow, so bonus points for that! Post-hike was tacos and beer at a local brewery, and of course, we remembered our passports and didn’t even need them. It was so great to spend time in real life with people I’ve followed on the internet!
The Good Kind of Weird
The next day we wanted to check out all that Portland had to offer, which meant a lot of eating and drinking. We headed downtown and made Powell’s our first stop (as you do), then we took a donut break, wandered down to the waterfront, stopped for lunch, wandered and shopped a bit more, grabbed a coffee, went to the Mercado and ate again from the food trucks and pretty much crashed from many steps and too much food. Everything people say about Portland is true, it’s very weird but in the most charming way!
On our way out of town the next morning, we drove the Historic Columbia River Highway, and if you’re ever in the area, you have to add it to your list. It follows along the gorge, and you can stop at all these waterfalls along the way. Most of them have viewpoints right off the highway, but others also have longer hikes you can do. We were a bit pressed for time but would love to come back and do some of those hikes. Every single waterfall we stopped at was incredible. They are huge! Like hard to fit in one picture huge!
Next stop was Seattle and this time we crashed the house of Angela from Tread Lightly Retire Early. Who would have thought that blogging about money would result in a network of friends willing to put us up?! See, blogging can be a frugal hobby 😉
Angela was kind enough to host a bbq so that I could be reunited with my Cents Positive roomie (the wonderful and colorful Felicity!) and meet A Purple Life who is also based in Seattle. It was a fun night, and the ladies were again full of tips on what to do when we were in Seattle.
Up for the View, Down for the Eats
The next day we hopped on the bus to downtown Seattle to do all the touristy things you do. Angela and fam had never been up the Space Needle, so we convinced them to join us. You have to do it once! Luckily the weather was perfect, and we had clear skies (and no rain!) the whole time we were in Seattle. The views from the Space Needle are amazing, and the rotating glass floor is pretty cool too.
Then we walked back over to Pike Place Market and continued the whole ‘eat everything in sight’ trend. Fish and chips, greek yogurt from Elleno’s, mac and cheese from Beecher’s (that I will dream about until we can go back), etc. If I lived in Seattle, I would pretty much live at Pike Place. We seriously spent hours walking up and down the market. Highly recommend.
After we’d had our fill (literally and figuratively), we hit up Target and Macy’s. I know, lame, but it’s what us Canadians with our lack of good department stores do when in the US. Randomly enough, I actually bought a pair of Frye boots that were 78% off! I didn’t exactly need a new pair of leather boots, but I live in Edmonton where it’s basically always winter, so they will get used. A lot. And they’re pretty, and Frye, and I love them. This was not a shopping kind of vacation, so this was one of the few purchases I made that wasn’t food related.
A piece of advice for my fellow Albertans: in Washington State, they will waive the sales tax when you buy non-consumables. This applies to anyone visiting from somewhere in Canada or the US that doesn’t have a sales tax. It can be a bit of a process, but it does work. And this time you will need that Alberta drivers license.
After we’d checked off everything on our Seattle to do list, we met up back up with Angela and her dudes for sushi dinner and beer at a local brewery where they were actually playing the Stanley Cup Finals!
The next day we were back on the road and made it home to Canada just in time to watch the Raptors not win, and then win the NBA Championship. I’m not a huge basketball fan. I was happier about the Blues winning the Stanley Cup. But the Raps have won over Canada, and you couldn’t help but cheer for them.
I planned well again this year by taking a few extra days off work when we got home. It’s really nice to get back into real life leisurely.
This post was proofread by Grammarly.