Utah loop road trip: La Conner to Yakima

We are off on our second road trip of the year (see Artie as Plan B for the first one), and this one has more structure and involves a lot more driving. We have about six weeks–the first two will be relaxed travel and the last four will involve some long drives and lots of one-night stays as we bounce from place to place.

We were already planning a trip with Artie to La Conner, Washington, for a week when we found out a bunch o’ relatives would be hanging around in Bend, Oregon, the following week. Once we decided to join them we started looking at other areas we could explore in the subsequent weeks, knowing we had to be back in Vancouver in time to park and winterize Artie and drive to Oliver, BC, on September 15 for a three-week house sit. We have never been to Utah, especially southern Utah where all the fabulous and iconic parks are. August isn’t our first choice for heading to that area, but since we would already be halfway there, more or less, we thought it was an opportune time to go.

At the time of writing, this is our rough route for August through mid-September.

We spent the first week of August in La Conner, Washington, at a campground on the West Coast, an area we have loved for decades. Seafood was the theme for the week.

We joined friends Karen and Mike in Birch Bay for a clam dig, followed by Karen’s delicious clam chowder made from Mike’s previous day’s catch.

Though a guided fishing trip with Ken’s cousin Ken (confusing, I know) fell through, the two Kens still wet their fishing lines in the Skagit and Sauk rivers, where even the tallest fishing tale couldn’t exaggerate their catches enough to make them respectable. Since it was Ken’s birthday (my Ken), we asked Ken (cousin) to join us for dinner out. After a good Mexican meal accompanied by margaritas, of course, cousin Ken snatched the bill (grrr, but thank you!) and informed the server it was Ken’s birthday, creating further entertainment for all of us.

Back at the campsite, we were twice gifted (thank you Ed and Joan!) with fresh-from-the-sea sweet and succulent crabs–once in time for our traditional seafood feast with family (oysters, crabs, clams, oh my!), and then again just before we left, allowing us to continue the seafood rapture at our next destination.

With a couple of days free between La Conner and Bend, Oregon, we took advantage of our Harvest Hosts (link includes 15% discount) membership and stayed at two different wineries in the Yakima area of Washington.

Our first was Wilridge Vineyard, Winery, and Distillery, where we parked up on a ridge with 360° views of the surrounding vineyards, rocky cliffs and valleys. Before dinner, we walked down to the tasting room and found a table outside in the shade where we tasted a few wines and relaxed in the refreshing breeze.

La Conner crab salad in the vineyard

The Yakima area is also known for its hops. And where there are hops, there are craft breweries. Of course, Ken had to check one out.

Our second vineyard was a toss-up between two, so we booked one to stay at and visited the other before heading to our stop for the night. Bonair Winery and Vineyards made for a pretty lunch stop.

We planned to purchase tapas there, but found they no longer prepare them. Instead, we were welcome to bring in our own food and pair it with their wines. With a tasting coupon picked up at the Yakima Visitor Center, we had a very pleasant and inexpensive lunch. It made it hard to decide which wine to purchase, though, since we quite liked all five that we tasted.

Finally, we headed to Paradisos del Sol, a small vineyard, winery, and farm. We took a walk on Paul and Laura’s 20 acres, coming across interesting fences and even a shed made from old wine bottles.

Paul offered us a plate of micro food samples and lots of wine and travel lore to go along with our tasting. Lots of yummy wines again, but Paul helped with the decision by suggesting a rosé to pair with our planned meal of sweet potato gnocchi with sage brown butter sauce. His suggestion was spot on. Paul also invited us to pick a bag of beautifully ripe peaches from his tree and then offered a bunch of kale freshly picked from his garden. Once the tasting room was closed, we moved our van to the parking area, where we had access to a lawn and live entertainment when the chickens and turkeys were fed.

And now we are off to Bend, Oregon, where we will meet up with family for a week of camping and general carrying on. Oh, and we’ll have to find time to put a bit more effort into planning our Utah trip since, at the moment, it is really only a route based on places we think we want to see. If you have been to Southern Utah, please drop us your recommendations in the comments!

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