Monday, December 30, 2013

Walking to Great Wolf

My children's favorite places on earth is Great Wolf. Why? Because they can literally climb the walls there. They run around playing MagiQuest, going down water slides, playing at the arcade, and singing along with animatronic trees. Several of them already have plans to move to Grand Mound when they grow up.

The closest Great Wolf is located in Grand Mound, WA, an 86 mile drive from our house. It takes us about an hour and a half to drive there from Bellevue, barring traffic. But this summer, my 7 year old and I plan to take a week to walk the entire distance, and learn just how far away Great Wolf really is.

Although we won't leave until it is warm out, I have started planning the route. The first few steps are easy, since the area around Seattle is dense with lots of hotels to stop at and convenience stores to stop at for water and food. The current plan is to leave Friday evening after school and make the short 4 mile walk to downtown Bellevue to stay at the Hyatt Regency. We'll have a fancy dinner and sleep in a big comfy bed with a view of Seattle.

Friday: Hyatt Regency
Walk: 4 miles

The next day we'll get down to business, and try to make it all the way to the airport. My thinking is that we might as well get the longest day of hiking out of the way up front. We can see if we're up for the adventure while we're still close to home, and there will be plenty of back up hotels that we can stop at along the way if we decide to give up early.

Saturday: Cedarbrook Lodge
Walk: 18 miles

From SeaTac, our next stop will be Tacoma, at the Emerald Queen Hotel and Casino right next to the Tacoma Dome. If we arrive early we can play some slots. The biggest challenge up to this point will be finding walking routes that have some semblance of a sidewalk. I think we'll probably spend a fair amount of time walking on the side of large roads and trying to keep out of the way of traffic.

Sunday: Emerald Queen Hotel and Casino
Walk: 15 miles

Planning at this stage becomes more difficult, because there is a large military base with restricted access to contend with. One option is to try to go south of the base. However, there are fewer houses or stores that direction, and the one hotel I could find seems positively terrifying. It receives 1 star on Yelp, and has multiple reviews along the lines of: "The room was hideous with stains on the carpet and the mattress was sunken in. There were crack heads hanging around the parking lot. I wouldn't let my dog sleep there!!"

Instead, I think we'll try to figure out how to pass through the base east to west. With a little careful route planning, we can get to a hotel at the eastern edge of the base called the Thornewood Castle Inn and Gardens. As a bonus, the hotel looks awesome. If we walk fast enough, we will arrive in time to enjoy it a little.

Monday: Thornewood Castle Inn and Gardens
Walk: 16 miles

After spending the morning at the Inn, our next day will be devoted to figuring out how to cross through the base. The walk to the closest hotel on the other side is short, but getting to the appropriate Visitor Center to get a permit to do so will almost certainly add miles (and hours in line) to the trip. Online I can only figure out how to get a vehicular permit, and am hoping they'll let us walk through instead. Worst case, we'll resort to taking a cab the six miles to our next destination.

Tuesday: Hampton Inn & Suites
Walk: 6 miles

After we successfully pass the base, we'll be close to Olympia, the capital of Washington State. Olympia is an important milestone on the drive to Great Wolf that usually means, "We're almost there!" Cale and I, however, will still have three more days of walking ahead of us.

Wednesday: Holiday Inn Express Hotel
Walk: 14 miles

At this point, things become a lot less dense and finding a hotel becomes a challenge. We'll probably veer away from Interstate 5 to take a pretty hike along the Chehalis Western Trail, and stay in a cabin on a small little lake called the Offut Lake Resort. Because the area is fairly remote, I was worried we might need to bring enough food for two days with us to the cabin. But it looks like we are in luck -- the place just opened a restaurant called Lady of the Lake.

Thursday: Offut Lake Resort
Walk: 12 miles

Finally, we'll begin our last stretch, traveling down Old Highway 99 through the small town of Tenino straight to the doors of Great Wolf. There we'll take two nights to recover at the waterpark before heading home.

Friday: Great Wolf Lodge
Walk: 15 miles

All in all, I expect our walk to end up being a little over 100 miles. It's not nearly as efficient to walk as it is to take the Interstate. After our stay, it will just be a "short" 6 mile hike to the Centralia Amtrak Station where we can catch the train back to Seattle.

Please chime in with advice and suggestions, particularly if you know good walking routes or points of interest along the way. I am also very interested in figuring out what I might need to do to get permission to walk through the Joint Base Lewis-McChord, since we really don't have to cab that leg. Thanks!

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