If you’ve ever wanted to be a writer, then no doubt you’ve heard the adage “write what you know.” And I’m here to tell you, it is, without a doubt, the best advice you will ever get when it comes to writing—yes, you’re welcome ; )
But seriously, although I have written about a gazillion topics over the years, some certainly more interesting than others, when it comes down to “what’s in my wheelhouse,” well, hailing from the Pacific Northwest, seafood and oceans and just about everything related to the beaches is my game. And recently, I was lucky enough to spend the better part of three days with my favorite man traveling up and down the northern part of the magnificent stretch of highway that borders the West Coast—U.S. HWY 101.
So … Gastro Gabe and I were driving along the 101 (well, we doing a little bit more than just driving along the highway but that’s content for another post 😉 Anyway … we were (more specifically, he was) trying to find someplace to eat that served good food, and, well, one that I wouldn’t roll my eyes or complain too much about …
Being the astute traveler that he is, he did a little research and we landed at Pickled Fish, a hotel-based eatery in Longbeach, WA, just 10-15 miles or so north west of Astoria.
We went for breakfast. I had grits and sauteed kale—which usually comes with an egg on top, but they gladly left it off for me. He had a Dungeness crab melt over house-made sourdough and I swear to God, the face he made when he first tasted it was unlike any face I’ve ever seen him make. OK, well, maybe not (wink, wink) but I could tell he was experiencing a moment of utter bliss.
And yes, I know what his face looks like when he experiences pure bliss, and no, I’m not going to explain it any more.
Anyway, the food was all sublime. So much so that we went back that evening for dinner, drinks, and live music. Literally, there is hardly anything on their menu I wouldn’t eat! But what’s so amazing about the Pickled Fish is the fact that it’s a complete and utter surprise … a welcome surprise at that. They list their local purveyors on the walls and believe it or not, this place is so damn hip you (kinda) feel like you’re in a big city. Like for real. I WANT TO GO BACK!!!!! (Gastro Gabe, are you reading this??) Now here’s more on the PNW section of the 101.
The 101 on the One-OH-One U.S. HWY 101 runs all the way from Tumwater, WA, to San Diego. Admittedly, even though I was born in Seattle, I haven’t spent much time on the Washington section … which spans 1,540-miles from Tumwater—a suburb of the state’s capitol, Olympia—directly north along the Hood Canal (Seattle is due east) before rounding west and eventually south towards Oregon. Most of the northern portion is surrounded by old-growth (and newly-planted) forest lands and the scenery is picturesque. If you drive straight, the Washington section is just over 350 miles and can be done in one or two days depending on how much time you spend exploring. Note, there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path spots you can stop, and you can veer off of the 101 and explore more, but this post is centered around the 101 specifically. With that being said, don’t be afraid to explore more. There are a ton of small, family-owned restaurants serving some of the amazing seafood and farm-fresh foods … like the Pickled Fish in Seaview, Washington.
Stop for West Coast Oysters Traveling north from Olympia, you should stop for fresh shucked PNW oysters from one of the following hotspots along the Hood Canal:
Hama Hama Oyster Saloon, which is right outside of the city, or one of these two eateries about an hour and a half north of Olympia: Dockside Grill or Salty Girls Sequim Seafood. Open the links and choose for yourself, you can’t go wrong at either place! Next up, you’ll soon make your way to Port Angeles—a great place to spend the night if you want to checkout the hotsprings.
Windsurfing and sailing are AWESOME on the Hood Canal and throughout Puget Sound
Olympic Hot Springs
Located approximately two and a half miles uptrail from the trailhead (NOTE, make sure you check with rangers to see if the trail is closed before you go), the pools are made from seven hot springs; some pools have mud bottoms, some rock. All are warm and vary in temperature from around 80 to 135 degrees fahrenheit … BUT …
… be aware that the springs aren’t regulated or maintained by the National Park System and in the summer when the water is stagnant, the pools can contain infectious bacteria. Also, if you do go, be prepared to bare all as nude seems to be the preferred bathing “suit” of choice.
For the record, yes, I have been … no I didn’t drop all, but I was in the minority. I didn’t come home with any infectious disease either. SO maybe there’s something to be said for a little, huh-hum, cover down there ; )
If you love vampires, stop in the rainiest city in the U.S. When you leave Port Angeles, you’ll make your way slightly inland until you hit the Twilight-famed town of Forks. I can’t tell you if there’s much to do in Forks, but if I were into the whole vampire thing, I’d totally hang out and check out this small town and who knows, maybe I’d even be inspired to write my own supernatural trilogy.
Mt. Olympus (the other one) No, not where Zeus and the other 11 Olympian gods reside, but the one in Washington—not that it wouldn’t be fun to visit the other one. The mountain, according to SummitPost.org, requires over 5,000 feet of elevation gain by its shortest route, and is, by no means, a summit hike that should be attempted by novice hikers …
… but there are some shorter hikes around the base as well as some lovely photo ops for the ever-necessary Instagram shot. I mean, hey, even if you don’t hike it, at least you can tell your followers you thought about it, er, um, sort of.
If you came to fish There are umpteen, no … there are a gazillion rivers and lakes and various bays where fishing is excellent along Washington’s coastline; and the town of Aberdeen is a fabulous place to spend some time if you want to fish. Named for a local salmon cannery, Aberdeen is situated at the mouth of two rivers: the Chehalis and Wishkah—both excellent for fishing. Aberdeen is also home to a full-scale reproduction of the 18th century American-flagged ship, Lady Washington—as part of the Boston-based Columbia Expedition, she was the first American vessel to round Cape Horn.
Hungry? Stop in at Brady’s Oysters for some of the best West Coast bivalves
Gray’s Harbor Lighthouse
I know, I said this post was strictly about the 101, BUT, this next section is pretty dismal so I suggest veering west along HWY 105. You can visit Gray’s Harbor Lighthouse and the Westport Aquarium and be back on the 101 within two hours. Oh, and if you’re hungry, stop anywhere. Ask locals. There are many places with fresh salmon, clams, crab and more.
Your last stop should be Cape Disappointment and the lighthouse within the state park. And no, I’m not going to tell you why it’s named Cape Disappointment, you can find out when you visit. But do note, this area sees more than 100-days of fog so be prepared to lose your way, just a little.
Astoria, Oregon Next up you’ll be driving over the longest bridge in the U.S. as you leave the state of Washington and enter Oregon. The Astoria-Megler Bridge is just over four miles and crosses the mouth of the Columbia River. It’s an impressive site and one you’re bound to remember.