Don't hate me, but this was our second vacation in October. Second this month!! I'm not taking it for granted, in fact I am wincing at the thought of how hard we worked to earn a vacation, and I'm so glad we made it work. If we hadn't taken a second vacation I would be stirring in Seattle, yearning for mountain wilderness.
Our trip was short, but very sweet. We spent four days nestled at the southern end of the Sawtooth National Forest in good company. When my friend Lili moved to Idaho it was only a matter of time until I would meet her there. Back in college we studied abroad together in Italy and we were both training for our college cross country season. Late nights at the Piazza Pubs would have never resulted in 6am runs if we didn't have each other to drag our butts out of bed and through the busy streets of Florence. Ever since then our friendship has been tied together through running and I have dubbed her as one of my running sisters.
We were so happy to get out of the car after a 10 hour drive, stretch our legs and see Lili and Eric with two of the most lovable pups. We dropped our stuff off and then headed into town for Thai food at Rickshaw. The bonfire out front was ablaze and kept me mesmerized while we ate from inside the cozy restaurant, which was about the size of a cubby. Since we had arrived in the dark our surroundings were shaded. Little did we know how enchanted we would be when we woke up and looked out the window the next morning.
Our daily routine usually started by marveling over trail maps until we would finally choose a route and be trailbound the rest of the morning. We would all convene in the early afternoon at the house to eat and nap. The first afternoon we grabbed some towels and ventured out to Frenchman Bend's Hot Springs. This was by far my favorite spot in the valley. Orange and red leaves that were half-fallen off trees hung over us while we soaked in small pools next to the river. I felt like I was in magic fairy land with snow falling gently on my eyelashes and the breeze sending shivers down my neck, only to be warmed by the bubbling geyser below me.
The next afternoon I jumped into Lili's Barre class that she was leading at Gather Yoga Studio. I figured it would be a good core workout, until I realized how pathetic my core muscles are. I got my butt kicked by everyone in the class! I was clearly the weakest link at 6,000ft. My trembling muscles barely stood a chance for an hour of strength work.
I was lucky to still be walking after the class so we could wander around town through the ski shops and boutique stores. I could drool over outdoor recreation gear for hours, but my favorite store was Huck and Paddle. Justin and I fantasize about our future home on a daily basis (small cabin in the mountains that we build ourselves) and this store hit it on the nail with a modern rustic theme. You know you're dating a woodworker when you envision your husband making wooden ores by hand for your future living room.
A trip to Sun Valley isn't complete without a stop at Lefty's to feast on 2-for-1 burgers during Monday night football. One of Justin's high school XC teammates coincidentally lives in Sun Valley and joined us for a round of beer and burgers. I can only imagine the satisfaction of Lefty's pub food after a long day in the mountains when your legs are tired and chest is cold and the only thing that will suffice is a greasy burger with a yard of IPA. I guess we'll have to come back in the winter to experience the magic.
We took one last run the next morning before leaving and the sun couldn't have been more golden. My teeth were chattering from the icy air as I gazed in awe at the dripping yellow sunrise. I was by myself weaving through the quiet neighborhood to the trail head but I wanted to shout out Wake up everyone!!! You have to see this!!! But I'm sure this particular moment was one of a million that Sun Valley experiences each year. The picture below has 10 filters on it - but believe me - it was a 14 karat sunrise!
Justin had one last snuggle with Belle (Lili's dog below) and then we were up and out of paradise. You've probably gathered we fell in love with this small town. You know if Scott McCoubrey lives there then it's nothing short of trail running heaven. Hopefully our next trip to Sun Valley is in the winter for some Nordic skiing!
This is the perfect spot for a late fall run in the Pacific Northwest for so many reasons. The lowland old growth forest is dripping with moss and feels mystical as you parallel the winding river. The overwhelming growth of decaying matter on the forest floor is comforting to a Northwest native and rings a wild tune. If we weren't running I would have brought a large satchel to collect the countless edible mushrooms we spotted.
The trail is 11 miles out and back. A great option in running this trail is to make a loop and connect to the Surprise Creek trail by going over a short (but steep) pass which will then take you back to Highway 2. You don't necessarily need a car shuttle if you don't mind running on the road briefly.
We stopped at a few bends in the trail to stare at the river, which is becoming a common theme during our trail runs. You always have to stop to smell the roses. The climbing happens in one swoop above the river (~1400 ft) and is fairly technical. I'm glad I wasn't wearing my Hokas, otherwise I likely would have rolled my ankle. Salomons were a good choice for this trail.
This trail was empty with no sign of previous tracks. It didn't have any "extreme" climbing involved and no mountain vistas, but every now and then I'm drawn to trails like this so I can enjoy the serenity of a towering forest. It was also nice not to huff out a lung while going up a mountain. I imagine this trail is run-able in the winter months since it is in the lowlands of the Cascades.
Deception Creek (#1059) and Surprise Lake (#1060)
Distance: 11 mi+
Elevation Gain: 1400ft; 4500ft with Surprise Lake
It's not a trail story if there isn't a dog involved. Many people expect to see a different pup with us wherever we go since we are constantly dog-sitting, and this particular one was a winner. Sawyer the sweet little border collie that loves trails as much as we do was our companion for the weekend. We couldn't have asked for a better fuzzball to keep us company.
Justin had much anticipation for this race weekend (as did I before I was injured), but things went askew when we both got sick on Thursday night. I guess that's what happens when your body is need of a vacation! Nonetheless, Justin had a great attitude and was going to race no matter what. While Justin hammered away at a muddy 13 mile course that brought him a 4th place finish, I jogged a measly 3 miles around the lake with Sawyer. Justin was certainly happy to finish this race and move on to other events encompassing the weekend. I was proud of him for finishing!
One of the most exciting pieces of the race was watching local Maria Dalzot take the big win for the women. It was such a thrill to see an amazing athlete from the trail community have a strong performance over the road runners in the field. Nice work, Maria!
After the race we went to the after party and mingled with other runners while stuffing ourselves with pub food. As much as it kills me not to be competing at the moment I still love surrounding myself with runners and the trail community (I guess that's a big duh); it keeps a positive light to my training, no matter how minimal it happens to be at the moment.
The next morning we met with a great group of people that Tad and Maria pulled together to explore the Chuckanut trails. It was a great way to start our Sunday morning and set a relaxing tone. We had a perfectly sunny day that lit up all the changing colors on the trails. Bellingham Bay was pretty spectacular and we caught a good glimpse of Canada at the top.
After our Chuckanut high we hopped in the car to make a few stops on our way back to Seattle. Mt Vernon is an obvious gem along I-5. If you haven't been there make sure to plan a pitt stop on your next road trip! While growing up, my family would take trips to the Methow and we would always stop at Calico Cupboards in Mt Vernon. This hip cafe has a rustic flare with top notch comfort food and about 15 decadent desserts to choose from in their display case. The homely store connected to the backside of the cafe makes things that much cozier while you snack on your cinnamon roll and sip on your coffee.
We indulged in half the menu and barely made it out of the cafe.
Afterward we made one last stop at Gordon Skagit's Farm to pick apples and meander through the pumpkin patch. I want to say this was mostly for the dog to romp around but I can't deny that I had to please my inner child. We sipped on apple cider and soaked up the spirit of fall while wandering through the apple orchard.
As whimsy as the whole weekend was I loved every minute of it! I'm certain that we'll be back in Bellingham before Christmas to get our Chuckanut fix. I felt like we barely scratched the surface of what Bellingham has to offer and I can only imagine the expansion of the Chuckanut trails that we are yet to discover. Small town charm always wins me over!
I am an outdoor and travel junkie who is currently completing my doctorate in occupational therapy overseas in rural Fiji. On Sweet World Travels you will find stories of my life with my husband, the communities we serve, and the many adventures we take.