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After three weeks in the Pacific Northwest, I’m back in Cleveland for a spell. (5 days, eek!) I’m really thankful that I have so much family in this beautiful region who let me stay with them for weeks :) I also got to celebrate with family members reaching milestone birthdays this summer–70, 80 and 90 (!)–which was really incredible to be a part of. But first, the beach:

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Beaches in the PNW aren’t what people normally think when they hear the word “beach”–no white sandy shores here, mostly rocky, damp and cold ones! But these are the beaches where I spent my childhood summers, so I wouldn’t have it any other way. We were lucky to have great weather almost the entire time, and went on some great walks exploring the beach.

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My Grandma Pam turned 70 this summer and her sister turned 80 earlier in the year. We celebrated.


One activity our whole family enjoyed was taking a scenic ride on a steam train around Mt Rainier. It can be tricky to find things to do with 4-year-olds, teenagers, and 80-year-olds, but this was a great idea. The train stop is in Elbe, WA (population 29) and the route goes up to Mineral, a restored historic mining town, and then back. Historians walk the length of the train throughout the trip and tell stories.


Unfortunately, Mt Rainier was hiding both times we passed by, but you can get a glimpse of it through the clouds. We had some better views while driving up, but nowhere to stop and take pictures.


After a week, my sister and I arrived via ferry in Seattle to spend 10 days with my Uncle.


Can we just talk about the Seattle skyline for a second? I could stare at it forever.


Our luck with the weather continued, and we really enjoyed exploring the neighborhood with my uncle’s two golden retrievers. IMG_7899IMG_7930IMG_7937IMG_7938

Lake Washington was a favorite destination. I liked to wave across the way at Bill Gates :)


Another favorite Seattle find was the arboretum. If you’ve been following my blog a while, you know I love a good arboretum. We explored the Japanese gardens, which were a peaceful place to reflect, sheltered from the busyness of the city.


With a different uncle, we visited Mt St Helens. While its peak isn’t as dramatic as some other nearby mountains, I was astounded to be standing next to a volcano that erupted while my mom was a senior in high school. She lived in Aberdeen, WA at the time, and remembers waking up on that Sunday morning to see the sky completely filled with cold ash. It’s chilling to think of what could have happened before we had the technology to predict eruptions like that. You can see a short video about the eruption here.


However barren it may look, life is returning to Mt St Helens.


Astoria, Oregon is a city I’ve heard a lot about, but this was my first time visiting. I expected something different, but discovered that its charm is in the details, like the vintage lettering they use for huge chains like Sears.


Of course, the view from the Astoria column doesn’t hurt its charm, either.



Finally, we made it to the coast to visit family in Aberdeen and Grayland.


(The man in the neon green lost his catch just after I took this photo)


My Great Grandma Mary turned 90 this year, and while (inexplicably) I didn’t take a picture of her, she looked in great shape at her party and wore purple nail polish on her toes. We did walk along the beach behind her property, and finally got some proper PNW weather.

IMG_8149IMG_8168It was a great way to end the summer. Stay tuned for my next post from Athens, Greece!