If you get the chance to see the Olympic Peninsula (my favorite spot in the Pacific Northwest), then you’re going to want to make the absolute most of your time. The area’s only sin is that there’s too much to see in a short time, unless you have a good game plan. Luckily, Amanda Parshall of Rainshadow Escapes is there to help you do that.
I found Rainshadow Escapes on Twitter and was immediately struck with jealously over the fact that I hadn’t thought of the business idea first. The feeling was short-lived, though. Parshall would have had a significant leg up on me in competition. She’s been in the travel business, leading people all over the world, for a long time.
What’s different about her current venture is that this time she’s focusing her expertise on the area she calls home, bringing a combination of personal and professional experience that you’re not going to find anywhere else.
I asked Parshall if she’d be interested in discussing her new business, the Olympic Peninsula, and Washington state’s beaches. She agreed.
Thanks for your time, Amanda, and for the beautiful photographs.
Interview with Amanda Parshall of Rainshadow Escapes
Northwest Nomad: What inspired you to start Rainshadow Escapes?
Amanda Parshall: I find that the best businesses start with a passion, and Rainshadow Escapes is no different.
For over 10 years, I worked as a Travel Coordinator for expedition travel, helping people to reach exotic places all over the world. I loved that work. However, I started realizing that some of my most memorable travel moments happened in my own, impressive backyard: the Olympic Peninsula.
I also recognized that, while the Peninsula is one of the most special places on the planet, there is a real need to get the message out. Rainshadow Escapes is my platform for sharing this amazing region with the rest of the world, and to help everyone traveling here to discover the side of the Olympic Peninsula that will resonate the most for them.
Northwest Nomad: What are your personal favorite attractions along the Peninsula?
Amanda Parshall: For me, the Peninsula has it all: incredible scenery, abundant wildlife, endless opportunities for adventure and, most importantly, a deep history and culture. There is a strong connection to the past here, a past that locals are prideful of, and that echoes through every aspect of daily life in the small towns and enclaves throughout the region.
Of course, a major draw for many people, including myself, is the vast and varied landscapes. From beaches to mountains to rainforest, there is no shortage of places to lose yourself in solitude and pure beauty. I also love that you can truly get away from it all, but not be too far from civilization when the need for modern convenience arises.
It’s hard to deny the lure to the popular attractions (Hurricane Ridge, Lake Crescent, the Hoh Rainforest…the list goes on). However, some of my personal favorite spots are a bit more off the beaten track, and show a side of the Peninsula that the main tourist route sidesteps.
Port Gamble, for example, is a captivating port town just minutes from the Hood Canal Bridge. It’s a tiny town, but it’s big on history and charm, and is home to some great restaurant, shops and a wonderful logging museum.
The Peninsula is home to many little surprises like this, and those surprises are what I get excited to share with people.
Northwest Nomad: How do you sell wintertime travel along the Peninsula?
Amanda Parshall: It’s true that visitors dissipate quickly after the summer season is over, and the Peninsula becomes a different scene. This is not just a challenge, but a great opportunity for Rainshadow Escapes to highlight the benefits of traveling to the area in the off season (or what we would affectionately call, the “value season”).
Not only is it quieter, less crowded and cheaper to travel outside of the summer months, but every season has something unique to offer. I am personally a shoulder season traveler, and right now we are in the height of one of my favorite times of year on the Peninsula: fall. The autumn leaves are at the peak of color, days are clear and crisp, and area restaurants are serving up the bounty of the local harvests.
Winter is the perfect time to spend a relaxing few days on the coast, cozying up to a fire and watching the storms pound the surf from the comforts of your rental cabin.
And spring brings stellar wildlife viewing opportunities, allowing the best chance to see elk, bear and birds, among others. One of my goals with Rainshadow Escapes is to encourage people to experience the Olympic Peninsula in new and different ways, and to take advantage of these amazing seasonal opportunities.
Northwest Nomad: In addition to general travel, does Rainshadow Escapes work with specific interests, such as anglers, hunters, etc.?
Amanda Parshall: We don’t specialize in any specific type of travel. Our focus is to know all that the Peninsula has to offer, understand individual traveler’s interests, and match the two together. As a travel concierge service, we aim to cater to any interests and travel styles.
Northwest Nomad: If you had a client who asked for one Washington beach to see, and one only, which would you pick?
Amanda Parshall: Our travel planning service is designed around the idea that no two people are the same or are looking for the same trip experience, so this is a difficult question to answer. But if someone was looking for the iconic Washington coast beach experience, I might recommend Second Beach.
A personal favorite, Second Beach requires a short but scenic hike in, and offers rewards of sea stacks and tidepools. And if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of one of the estimated 800 sea otters that lives on the Quillayute Needles National Wildlife Refuge, which is within eyesight of the beach.
Northwest Nomad: What is something about the Peninsula that you don’t feel gets promoted enough?
Amanda Parshall: I believe one of the more unique attractions in the Peninsula that gets less attention than deserved is the Olympic Discovery Trail.
The trail is a 130-mile path spanning across the Peninsula from Port Townsend to the Pacific Ocean. Whether you’re interested in a multi-day bike tour or a short stroll, the Olympic Discovery Trail is an exceptional way to take in views of old growth forest, snowy mountains and picturesque seascapes.
Northwest Nomad: What annual Port Angeles events do you consider “must see;” or, at least, “really, really should see”?
Amanda Parshall: The Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival in October is a huge event in Port Angeles, and is another great reason to visit the Peninsula in the fall. Not only does the 3-day event highlight a local culinary favorite, it showcases local art, music and cultural activities. If you’re interested in the local scene and love seafood, this event is a must-do!
Northwest Nomad: Is there anything else you’d like to tell people about Rainshadow Escapes?
Amanda Parshall: Rainshadow Escapes makes planning a trip to the Olympic Peninsula easy, whether it’s a quick weekend getaway or a 2-week adventure.
Our Trip Questionnaire makes it simple for you to share your personal interests and travel style, allowing us to customize the itinerary just for you using insider knowledge. The Peninsula is a magical place and we would love the opportunity to share our home with you!
(All images in this article are property of Amanda Parshall.)