Saturday, July 31, 2010


Today was the day to return my RV and make my final preparations for heading home. 

I was up early to shower and finish up my RV chores – pack, clean, dump, fill with water, etc.  I left the campground at 8 and headed back to Everett, an hour away!  Once in Everett I got propane to replace what I’d used and filled up with gas before returning to Cruise America.  My check-in went flawlessly and soon we were on our way to Seattle!

The plan was to hit the two biggest Seattle tourist attractions: Pike Place Market and The Space Needle.  We were heading to the Needle 1st, but it was cloudy so we decided to go to Pike Place.  Took a bit of navigating – with 1 iPhone, 1 Driod, 1 Jeep Navigation System, and 1 paper map – to find parking, but once we did we headed up to the market. 

What a cool place! The flowers and fresh fruit and veggies were so pretty! There was fish and meat all on display too!  I could spend all day exploring all the other little shops!

After we wandered through the market we went to Etta’s for lunch!  Mom and Dad had eaten at Etta’s when they were in Seattle 10 years ago and have raved about it ever since.  Salmon is their specialty, and it was really good! :-)

After lunch it was still cloudy, but the weather channel said it was going to be sunny later and the sun was trying to break though the clouds so we decided to go to the REI Flagship store for a little while then hit the Space Needle. 

The REI store was very nice and very big, but it had all the same stuff they have at home so I didn’t need to spend a lot of time there.  Also, we were at the end of 3 weeks of hiking, I don’t need gear now!

It was almost 4 before we headed over to the Needle.  As we were walking up to it we noticed preparations being made in earnest for this evening’s Torchlight Parade.  People were beginning to line the streets, claiming the good viewing spots, police were barricading streets…hmmmm…we hadn’t planned to stay in Seattle that late, the parade looked like fun, but we really needed to get out!

We got our tickets and waited about an hour to get up to the top of the Needle.  It was very cool!  It’s only 570 feet, but it seems so high!  Many of the hikes Dad and I did over the last 3 weeks went much higher than 570 feet! You could see everything!  Mt. Rainier was out, but not Mt. Baker.  You could also see the Olympic Mts!  Lots of folks up there had no idea what they were looking at and I educated a number of people about the Mts!

We came down and checked out the tacky souvenirs in the gift shop then prepared to head out.

By now the parade was really getting going – the convertibles were lines up ready to go, the balloons were being inflated, and people were descending on the city.  The parade was set to start at 7:30 and it was now 6:30.

We got the car and made it back to I-5 in less than 10 minutes.  We did have to detour from our original plan, but we made it back to the highway very quickly.  I challenge anyone to even try to get out of DC moments before a major city event!

We had dinner at Bahama Breeze – very good also – then after dinner we made our way to the Coast Gateway hotel where Mom and Dad dropped me off to catch my flight in the morning!

I’m ready to go home, 3 weeks is a LONG time and I miss my friends, my house, my bed, etc….however, I LOVE Washington and I can’t wait to come back! :-)


Friday, July 30, 2010

San Juan Island

This morning we took the ferry out to the San Juan Islands!  There are hundreds of islands, but only 4 are serviced by the Washington State Ferry – San Juan/Friday Harbor, Shaw, Lopez and Orcas. 

Since we only had one day we decided to just stick to San Juan/Friday Harbor. 

We were up early to get to the ferry terminal to get the 9 am boat.  We’d debated bringing the car or renting a car on the island, but when the ferry had room for cars we decided to take the car.

This ferry was MUCH bigger than yesterday’s ferry!  It had 2 levels in the car hold and 2 levels of passenger decks! It was pretty full too!

When we set off from Anacortes it was very foggy.  We couldn’t see a thing!  And it was cold! About 1/2 way to Friday Harbor the fog broke very suddenly and just like that it was sunny and clear!  I still have 3G service on my phone so I was able to use google maps to attempt to identify the islands.  It’s very hard because they all have jagged coastlines and there are lots of little islands. 

It totally reminds me of Maine!  The islands are rounded and filled with evergreens and exposed rock.  I see why a friend mistook one of my pictures from Acadia for the West Coast! 

We arrived in Friday Harbor and found a good place for lunch and then wandered a bit before we ate!  I can’t remember the name of the place we ate, but it was great!  Lovely curry chicken salad and chocolate cream pie!

After lunch we began our “Speedy Gonzalez” tour of the island.  We had to catch the 6:40 ferry back to Anacortes!

We went counter-clockwise from Friday Harbor.  We drove out to Roche Harbor where we visited a cool sculpture garden!  There were hundreds of sculptures, but we only had time to check out a few!  We also watched several small planes land and take off from the airstrip just behind us.

The next stop was Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm!  The Alpacas were so cute! They had a great gift shop too!  The lady who was staffing it also hand knits many of the products they were selling from hand dyed Alpaca yarn! Rather than buying an outrageously expensive pair of socks, I got a skein of yarn and a scarf pattern that the owner made up – looking forward to making my own scarf!

Up next was Lime Kiln State Park – they had a lighthouse and whale watching opportunities!  There’s a pod of killer whales – Orcas – the frequent the Strait of Georgia right by the park.  Dad drug the spotting scope out but didn’t see any whales, just a few dolphins.  I checked out the rocky tide pools, but there was nothing interesting. 

Off to the next stop!  We did get a bit sidetracked by the view of the Olympic Mts, and the possibility of more whale watching, but eventually we made our way around to the Pelindaba Lavender farm.  WOW.  Huge fields of lavender! Amber waves of purple! I took a whole bunch of pictures and then checked out the gift shop.  It was nice, but it was lavender run amok.  Everything you can think of with lavender – lavender soap, cleaning products, honey, cookies, shampoo, lotion, wreaths, everything.  It was neat, but it was a little much!

We started heading back to Friday Harbor – we’d missed the 4:50 ferry so had to wait to 6:40.  We thought we might have seen Mt. Rainier, but it was clouds.  We had some awesome views of Mt. Baker. 

Back in Friday Harbor we had some time to kill before the boat so I checked out the bookstore and then we got some dinner.  The service was slow and we still hadn’t gotten out food when the ferry pulled in so we got it to go and ate in the car! We had plenty of time before the boat left, but we didn’t want to risk it, especially with the car sitting in the loading lane!

The trip back was clear the whole way! I stood out on the deck and took about a hundred pictures!  Great views of Mt. Baker!

Once back at the campground I finished up my packing and headed to bed!

San Juan Island

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Travel Day

Today was our last big travel day!  We headed out from Salt Creek early to get to the Ferry Dock in Port Townsend to wait our turn to ride across to Keystone on Whidbey Island. 

It was very foggy the whole way, but otherwise uneventful. 

When we arrived at the Port Townsend Ferry dock we were told that we wouldn’t make the 11:15 crossing because they were too full – too many large vehicles already in line.  They let us in the holding area though and we were able to make lunch and enjoy some American cell phone signals!  We all caught up on emails, facebook, etc. 

I’d never driven my car onto a ferry before, I’d been in cars which were driven onto a ferry, but never as the driver, so it was exciting!  Since we are driving RVs we had to be sure the propane was turned off so Dad had to show me how to do that! Soon it was our turn to get on.  They loaded him on 1st and then loaded some cars and then me.  It was really easy, just pull in and park! 

I was parked in the middle and couldn’t see anything so I got out and went up to the deck where I could watch them load the rest of the cars and then watch the water, and the fog, as we crossed. 

Loading the ferry is a job for people whole like puzzles! You have to see the cars you have and figure the best way to get them all  on so that the most cars fit!  I’m thinking it would make a good story problem about measurement for my kids! We could even use matchbox cars!

As soon as we were arriving on Whidbey Island the sun came out!  Doesn’t that figure!

We drove up WA20, the same road we’d driven through the North Cascades 3 weeks ago! At one point we must have been by a Naval or Air Force base because fighter jets were flying overhead.  One fly directly over my little RV and I nearly wet my pants.  It sounded like it was coming right at me and I couldn’t see it!  Those things are LOUD!!!!

We arrived at our campground and got parked up.  It was now very sunny and warm and we had seen views of Mt. Baker – North Cascades resident volcano – so we went to walk on the beach at the campground to see if we could get some good pics – we couldn’t, there’s a refinery or something industrial right in front of it!

Later we were walking on one of the campground roads and we saw what looked like another snow capped mountain to the south.  Mt. Rainier!  I took a bunch of pictures!  Then when we were walking back it looked like Mt. Rainier had moved.  Hmm…maybe I had just moved…better view now…more pictures.  A little while later we were driving out of the campground and what we thought was Mt. Rainier had grown – it was now a huge mass of towering white!  Unless it erupted and we didn’t hear it or feel it, our Mt. Rainier, was a bunch of clouds!  :-)

We were headed back to Deception Pass, we’d come though there earlier and it looked neat.  We decided to stop for an early dinner 1st though because the place we wanted to eat at closed at 8.  After dinner we headed down to the pass.  As we approached we noticed the fog.  The thick, impenetrable, fog.  When we got to Deception Pass you couldn’t see a hand in front of your face!  Oh well!  We drove back to the campground – where it was sunny and clear – for an early night.  We all had stuff to do – Mom and Dad had computer stuff and I needed to pack!


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Olympic: Olympic Hot Springs & Hurricane Ridge

Today we went on what I’m pretty sure will be our last hike.  I’d looked through my guidebook and decided that Olympic Hot Springs would be a good hike – it was only 5 miles, not too much elevation gain, and I’d never hiked to a hot springs before!

We decided that Dad and I would take my little RV to the trail so Mom could have the Jeep to go into Port Angeles to get the mail and a few other errands.  We were going to meet up with her later in the afternoon. 

The trailhead is at the end of the Olympic Hot Springs Road – a twisty, windy, narrow, and in some short place not paved.  I’m pretty sure Cruise America would not recommend me driving their RV on it, but we made it!

The book said the trail followed the old road – there used to be a resort up there, similar to the one at Sol Duc, but they tore it down. I have hiked many old roads in Shenandoah and they are simply wide trails so we were both surprised when this old road was paved.  And not only just a little, pretty much the whole way!  There were sections of this trail/road that were in better shape than the road we drove in on!

The good news was that it made the walking easy and we got to the springs quickly. 

The hot springs were a bit disappointing.  They were very shallow and very muddy.  We walked all the way back and tried to find a good pool to soak in, however most weren’t very inviting.  We finally went back to the 1st one, which we thought was the coolest (temperature wise) and chatted with some folks who were getting out.  They said it was very very hot, but that your body gets numb and then it feels good.  ok. 

I put my feet in and it was so hot it hurt and I couldn’t imagine putting more of myself in.  Dad got his legs wet and kinda sat on a rock, but he didn’t really get in. 

We ate a quick lunch then headed back down to the RV.  Once again the paved road and lack of much scenery helped up get back to the RV faster!

As we drove down the road we came to an overlook at Mills Lake where both our cell phone connected!  Dad called Mom to set up our meeting place and I took pictures and checked email!

Back in the early 1900’s the folks living in the Elwha Valley dammed up the Elwha river, creating 2 lakes that I’m guessing they used as reservoirs for drinking water.  This dam interrupted the salmon migration up the Elwha River so the park service has decided that they will remove the dams and restore the river to the salmon habitat it once was! 

As we made our way to the Olympic National Park Visitor center we stopped for gas. I went to pay at the pump and saw that they only took debit at the pump and you had to go inside for credit.  This is the second time I have encountered this and it’s my only complaint to the State of Washington?  What’s up?  Why can’t I use my credit card at your gas pumps?  Fred Meyer lets me do it!

Once we met up with Mom we drove up Hurricane Ridge to the visitor center there.  We climbed to about 5000 feet!  Olympic is such a HUGE and diverse park – Coast, Rainforest, & Glacier covered peaks!  At the Hurricane Ridge visitor center area there were alpine meadows just like at Mt. Rainier. 

We grabbed a quick snack at the snack bar before they closed and then went out to explore the paved loop trails around the meadow.  Yes, that’s right, more paved trails.  There were more wildflowers here and views of the entire snow covered ridge.  The sun was in exactly the wrong spot, but we got some pictures anyway. 

One of the loops, the one that looked down into Port Angeles and the Strait of Juan de Fuca had a HUGE snowdrift in the middle of it!  Odd because it was the only place there was snow!  The woods around the trail had no snow, only the trail! 

After we walked we drove out a dirt Jeep road to Obstruction Point.  No idea why it’s named Obstruction Point as the view is fabulous!  The road was rugged – narrow, windy, big holes.  Funny that the closest thing to a trail that we went on was a road that we drove down!

It was car hiking at it’s finest.  The views & the wildflowers were abundant.  We also saw several Spruce Grouse, a Marmot, a deer – that for some reason was licking our Jeep, even left tongue marks – and some bunnies. 

When we got back to the visitor center it was already after 9.  Our campground claims that they lock the gates at 10 and you can’t get in.  If you have the car you can just park outside the gate and walk in, but I had my RV out!  I needed to get it back to it’s campsite or I wouldn’t have a safe place to sleep tonight! I hopped in and hightailed it back to the campground, arriving at about 9:45!  Mom and dad were right behind and also got in before the gates closed. 

Olympic: Cape Flattery

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Olympic: Cape Flattery

When we were planning the Olympic portion of our trip Mom kept saying she wanted to go out the “pointy thing” and kept pointing to this place WAY out on the end of the state. Looked like it was a million miles from anything.  Dad and I kept telling her it was too far and we weren’t going.

Then we met someone on the top of Dege Peak in Mt. Rainier and he was saying how spectacular Cape Flattery was.  The Makah tribe had built a nice trail and you could walk out to the overlook and see all kinds of stuff.  Ok, I guess we’d have to go!

We decided to go later in the day because it seems like it’s foggy in the mornings and the late evenings and we wanted the best chance for it to be clear on the point. 

Low tide this morning was at about 9 so we decided to walk out to the check out the tide pools on Tongue Point before heading out to the Cape. 

The tide pools here weren’t as interesting as the ones on Rialto Beach, there was more seaweed and mussels, but we did see purple sea urchins and a HUGE orange orchre starfish! It was a nice walk, although rocky and slippery!  There were a number of “thunder" hole” places where the waves crashed into holes in the rocks and I got a little to close to one and got my shoes and pants wet with a rogue wave!

We got back around 11 and started getting ready to head to out to the Cape. I think it was about 1 when we left. 

It took 2 hours to drive out there.  The road was windy and slow! But there were some great views of the Straight of Juan de Fuca!

Cape Flattery itself is not part of Olympic National Park, it’s on land owned by the Makah Nation and they have built and maintained a trailhead and trail.  To get to the trail you have to go though the small town of Neah Bay – also part of the Makah Nation.  The Makah do charge visitors $10 a carload to come in – your permit is good for the rest of the calendar year from when you bought it though.  The money from these permits goes back into the community, and from driving through I can say that this town is in dire need of some money.  Poverty runs high on the Makah Nation.  :-(

The walk out to the Cape was nice!  It was .75 miles out, most on boardwalks, with several overlook points.  Dad hauled his spotting scope out there and we stood at the last overlook for a long time seeing what we could see. 

When we got back to the car is was dinner time!  We’d brought a picnic, but I think Mom was hoping to find something.  I would have liked to find something in Neah bay, support the economy of the struggling Makah, without whom our walk would not have been possible! But, unfortunately, despite their trail building skills the Makah didn’t offer and good places to eat!

We ended up eating our picnic at a picnic table on a hill overlooking the Strait.  In one of Mom’s books she’d read about the Running Fish, we thought it was in Callum, and we were hoping to see it.  When we parked at the picnic table I looked up and there it was!

After dinner we we were getting back in the car when Mom and Dad spotted what they thought was a Golden Eagle.  We watched it in the bincocluars and Dad got out the spotting scope.  It flew away so we got in the car and were about to drive off when it (or another one) came back!  Back out of the car, pull the scope back out.  This time they got a better look, didn’t look like a Golden.  Hmmm….  Better get out the bird book.  They stood there and debated which of 2 hawks it could be.  The thrill of seeing a relatively rare bird had worn off for me and I was in the car reading.  I glance up from my book and see a Bald Eagle fly by.  That’s when they realized that it was a juvenile Bald Eagle.  Not that exciting.  Finally, everything was packed into the car and off we went back to the campground.

Olympic: Cape Flattery

Monday, July 26, 2010

Olympic: Sol Duc

Today was a move day! We had 3 nights in Forks so we could see the stuff on the western side of Olympic and now we have 3 nights here in Joyce (near Port Angeles, kinda sorta). 

We left Forks around 10:45 and headed north and east.  It was only supposed to be an hour, but road construction and waiting for pilot cars made the drive take 2 hours! 

We are staying at a county park in Joyce, WA called Salt Run.  It is right by Crescent Bay and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Our campsites are up on a hill and this afternoon we had awesome views of the strait and Canada! 

When we arrived I was waiting for Dad to figure out what he was doing, where  he was going etc and I picked up my phone – on the top it has information about network and signal strength.  Right by the bars it usually says “AT&T” and next to that it says either 3G or E depending on the network.  When I picked it up in the campground it said “ROGERS” where the AT&T belongs.  A few minutes later it said “TELOS”.  Turns out those are Canadian networks!!!!!  I do not have “roaming data” turned on so I have no data coverage on those networks – and don’t want any, AT&T sent me a text when I 1st connected to the Canadian network and told me “Unlimited Data does not apply in my location using roaming data will cost me $15 a Megabyte!!!!  Yikes!  Luckily Mom and Dad’s aircard (Verizion) works so we have wifi!  My one question though is text messages – I’m wondering if I will have to pay a surcharge on the texts I send/receive while using ROGERS or TELOS?   I plan to fight the charges if I do, I’m not in Canada and my phone isn’t giving me the choice or warning me of the consequences like it did for the data.  I don’t get that many texts anyway!  And, we aren’t just sitting at the campground – as soon as we get back to Highway 101 I have AT&T E! In fact it comes and goes here – no provider is solid. 

While we were eating lunch I saw a Coast Guard ship going up and down the strait and it made me wonder – do the crab fishermen head out this way to to get to Alaska and the Bering Sea?  Would it be possible to see the Nothwestern heading out from this campground?  I’m thinking I need to send Capitan Sig a Facebook message or a tweet and ask if he’s going this way in the next few days so I can watch for him!

After we got some lunch it was off to the Sol Duc area of Olympic.  We decided to go back through all the construction because it was probably faster than the other route we found which was double the mileage! While we were waiting for the pilot car we got great views of Crescent Lake and I even climbed over the guardrail to dip my feet in the lake.  I would have gone for a full swim if I’d had my bathing suit on!

Our first stop in Sol Duc was the short, .8 mile trail out to Sol Duc Falls.  The trail was a bit hillier than advertised and Mom wasn’t as happy about that, but she made it!  The forest was really pretty – tall evergreen trees, moss covered rocks, although not as much moss as in the Hoh Rainforest, little creeks running everywhere.  It seemed much wetter than the rainforest was!  The falls were pretty cool – especially when the spray made a rainbow!

After the hike we went over to the Sol Duc resort for dinner and a soak in the Hot Springs pools! This was our 2nd meal at a National Park Resort in Olympic and I must say I’m impressed with the quality of the food.  The service has been slow in both places, but the food has been surprisingly good!  The pools were nice – there were 3, a very hot, a medium hot, and a chlorinated swimming pool.  I went in all 3.  It was very nice, even though the smell of sulfur is pretty nasty!

When we got back to the campground the fog had rolled in pretty thick.  It was still daylight, but you couldn’t see the Strait at all.  It was 51 degrees when we got out of the car! I’m huddled in my RV all bundled up in long underwear ready for a chilly damp night!  Sounds pretty good! :-)

Olympic: Sol Duc

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Olympic: Beach Day

I am NOT a beach person. I enjoy maybe a couple hours max at the beach swimming and reading and then the sun and sand start to get to me.  I HATE the sand the way it sticks to everything like a coating of shake and bake! As soon as you get wet, as I always do, I can’t resist, the sand launches it’s attack.  Well, anyway, the beaches here in Olympic are NOTHING like that.  They are awesome!!!!!  And coming from a non-beach person that’s a big statement!

Dad and I wanted to hike to the Hole-in-the-Wall from Rialto Beach – it was only 3 miles round trip, but it was a better hike at low tide.  Low tide yesterday was at either 6:58 AM or 6:58 PM.  Well, 6:58 AM was never going to happen, so this was going to be an evening hike!

We needed something to do all day though. 

Mom had seen that there is a lodge/restaurant on the ocean at Kalaloch, about 30 miles down 101. So we headed down there for a little exploration, and lunch. 

When we got there the ocean was ensconced in it’s usual fog.  But as we hung around a bit the sun worked it’s way through and the fog lifted.  

Down on the beach there were lots of people enjoying the day despite it not really being “beach weather”.  There were some folks building a fort out of driftwood!  How freaking cool is that? 

Dad and I walked down there and I noticed that the beach was more sandy than Rialto beach that we’d been to.  It was a fine sand, very dry on top, but very wet just under the surface.  Just under the surface it’s very packable too, much better for sand castle making! I ended up getting my feet wet (and the bottoms of my pants, is anyone surprised by this?) and I was worried that the sand would get hopelessly stuck to me feet, but it didn’t.  We sat for a minute on a long and I played in the sand with my feet. Very quickly all the sand had wiped right off my feet!  Non-stick sand!  How cool is that?  (maybe it’s teflon coated – the sand is black after all!)

We wandered up to the restaurant for lunch – it was very good, better than we were expecting!  While we were waiting for our food Dad noticed something white in a tall flat tree.  I picked up the camera and zoomed in on it – sure enough it was a Bald Eagle!  He was still sitting there after lunch so we were able to check him out in the binoculars and the spotting scope!

After lunch we headed back up the road toward Forks, stopping at Ruby Beach.  Ruby Beach has tiny pieces of garnet stuck in the sand giving it a red appearance.  We ended up nor going down to the beach, just checking out the overlook and the view from the parking lot.  It was very foggy and it was getting late, Dad and I needed to get back to get ready to head out Rialto Beach. 

We left the campground about 4:00 and headed over to Rialto Beach.  When we got there it was totally engulfed in fog.  You couldn’t see the sea stacks we’d seen the 1st first night.  You could barely even seen the ocean.  Thick, dense, impenetrable fog.

We headed out up the beach in this pea soup fog.  Slogging through loose rocks that are almost like walking on snow.  Finally the rocks gave way to packed hard sand! YAY!  As we walked it looked like the sun was making an effort to clear the fog.  It was definitely looking brighter!

As the fog started to lift the sea stacks became visible!  Just before the 1st sea stack there was a big rock and I saw people on it so I guessed that there must be tide pools!  I climbed up and the saw a family – a mom, a dad, and a 2-2 1/2 year old little girl.  The mom had a purple starfish in her hand that she was showing to the little girl. 

PURPLE STARFISH????  It was all I could to wait patiently and not try and snatch it away from the mom so I could look at it! They finally put it back in the pool, but I didn’t want to pick it up right away so I took a few pictures, checked out everything else in the area and then went back and picked up the very cool purple starfish!

Finally we had to move on and as soon as I rounded the corner of the big sea stack I could see the Hole-in-the-Wall! 

As we got closer to it there were more and more rocks and when you climbed up on the rocks they were full of tide pools!  I saw a bunch of starfish, both purple and orange! Just as I was heading into the official “Hole-in-the-Wall” another gal handed me the prettiest purple starfish!  It was dark purple – kind of like the purple in my living room, only darker!  I wish I’d put him on a rock and gotten his picture before I put him back in the water, once he was in the water he was holding on tight and I couldn’t pick him up!

On the other side of the Hole-in-the-Wall there were tons of tide pools, with starfish a plenty.  On almost every rock, in every pool there were starfish!  All purple and orange.  I probably saw close to 100 but didn’t take pictures of them all! 

It was early, we’d gotten to Hole-in-the-Wall around 6:30, just before the official low tide.  Since we had time and the sun was now out, we walked up the beach a little ways over some different rocks. These looked to be clearly made from lava, although there were 2 different types.  And they had tide pools, but no starfish.  None.  I guess they don’t like that kind of rock!

On the way back I walked back over to the tide pools to look for the starfish again.  They were gone.  I couldn’t find any of them.  What?  Where did they go?  I also noticed that the rocks were drier and there was more seaweed.  My best guess is that as the tide goes further out, we were now at the height of low tide, the tide pools drain and the starfish end up under the seaweed. I didn’t lift the seaweed looking for them them.  The ones that we’d found in deep pools of water were still there though.  I’m glad we got there just before low tide, apparently if we’d gotten there even just 5 minutes later I wouldn’t have seen the purple starfish!

The trip back was nice! The sun was mostly shining – still hazy and there was fog way out at sea – the waves were crashing and packed sand was easy to walk on!

When we got back to the parking area the sun was sinking low and glowing red! We decided to stay for sunset!  I changed my shoes, I’d wisely worn my hiking boots for the hike, and headed back to the beach.  This time I was going to get wet.  I’d been wanting to wade since the 1st time we got to the beach, but I wasn’t wearing clothes I could get wet in.

Walking across the rocky beach barefoot was painful, the water was like ice, my feet were red instantly, and then frozen.  After 2 waves I hobbled up the beach away from where the waves crash, sat down in the rocks and put my shoes on! So much for wading in the Pacific! :-)

The sunset was the best yet!

With beaches like this, I just might change my opinion.  Maybe I could be a beach person yet! :-)

Olympic: Beach Day!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Olympic: Hoh Rain Forest

Olympic is a tough park to see.  It’s HUGE but most of it in the interior, meaning you have to drive 20-30 miles in to get to trails, visitor centers etc.  Also, the trails all seem to be either really long backpacks – across the middle where there is only wilderness – or short 1 & 2 mile nature trails.  As a result we are doing a lot of “car hiking”.  The good news though it that mom can come!

I got up and and was taking my time getting ready and noticed that I hadn’t seen or heard from Mom and Dad.  Finally about 9:30 I made my way over to see what what going on – turns out Mom had some computer issues and they were up most of the night trying in vain to fix it! They were packing their stuff to go, it seriously reminded me of what Mr. & Mrs. Howell must have packed for their 3-hour tour! We hauled several big bags of stuff to the car and headed out.  It wasn’t long until we realized that we’d forgotten the map.  All that stuff and we still didn’t have what we needed!  Oh well, they had another map at the visitor center. 

The rainforest is pretty cool!  Big trees, lots of ferns and moss growing on everything! It was very dry though, I expected it to be wet and foggy.  It was a bright sunny and hot day and I’m guessing that has been the weather pattern for awhile. 

We had a nice picnic on an moss covered picnic table. I found a slug on the path to the picnic area took a great picture and then we discovered he was dead.  :-(  As my dad points out, dead animals are easier to photograph, they don’t move as fast!

After lunch we all headed off down the Spruce Trail – 1.25 miles, mostly flat.  It was a nice walk through the moss covered forest.  After that Dad and I walked the Hall of Mosses trail – this one was only .75 miles and it had some uphill, but not much. 

Having done everything there is to do at the Hoh Rainforest Visitor center we headed back down the road.  There were 2 little gift shops along the road and we stopped at one of them – Dad got new hiking clothes and I got some t-shirts. 

We got back to the campground early which was good because Dad could try and fix Mom’s computer and Mom and I worked on making meatloaf. 

After dinner I headed out by myself to go back to Rialto Beach to catch the sunset.  It was nice to do something by myself! :-)  There was less fog tonight and the sunset was a lot better!  I walked around a bit on the rocks and the driftwood and took pictures of the sunset until my battery was almost dead. 

Olympic: Hoh Rain Forest

Friday, July 23, 2010

Drive Day

I usually wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and last night was no exception – I was up about 2:30 am.  I had just dozed off when I heard something fall and hit the floor.  WTH?  I was suddenly wide awake.  My 1st thought was “geological hazard” – all the signs warned us over and over about if we felt the earth shake or heard a train – shaking earth at 2am *could* make things fall on the floor.  Did I mention that the idea that Mt. Rainier could erupt while were sleeping and send mud & ice down the river that was just feet from us terrified me?  I didn’t sleep well the whole time we were there. Anyway, that was my 1st thought, that my worst fear had come true! I laid there a minute or two, listening.  I didn’t hear anything else, so I reached for the flashlight to see what had hit the floor. All I could see was a Diet Dr. Pepper can. Also there was other stuff on the table that would have fallen over and rolled around had the earth been shaking, so I quickly ruled out “geological hazard” and breathed a sigh of relief!  But there was still the issue of how the Diet Dr. Pepper can had gotten from the table to the floor.  I scanned the RV with my flashlight – sleeping in the cab-over makes this particularly easy!  As I swept my flashlight over the cab area I saw the culprit.  Right between the 2 front seats was a tiny, and rather scared, mouse.  I kept the light on him as he (or she) ran into one of the crevices along the floor.  I then decided to take the granola & cliff bars out of my backpack so the mouse wouldn’t chew a hole in my pack.  This morning I found a nibbled cliff bar on the table!  When we were at Fred Meyer we bought some of those scary the mice away with a high pitched noise thingys that I had plugged in – I hope it works!

This morning we were heading out early to drive to Olympic NP – about 250 miles! Since it was so cold I just got up and put some clothes on over my long underwear and decided to put on “regular” clothes later when it warmed up! Since getting ready was so easy we were able to roll out of the campground right around 8am. 

We got to the Bonny Lake Fred Meyer about 9.  Dad put gas in the Jeep, Mom and I hit McDonalds for breakfast, then we went to Fred Meyer to get groceries for the week.  It was about 11:30 before we headed out down the road!

The drive was pretty good, especially after we got past Olympia! Dad’s GPS kept giving him bad information which was causing us to continually change lanes – I felt like I’d signed up for “lane changing in your RV 101”! :-) Once we got past Olympia it was all 2 lane highways so no lane changing issues!

We arrived in Forks around 4:00.  It’s not particularly scenic here – lots of logging and clear cuts and the campground is an open field with a trailer park on one side, but we have full hook ups and great wifi! What more could you want?

We got an early dinner and then headed out to check out the Forks Outfitter – grocery store, hardware store and clothing store all in one – pretty nice!

After the store we drove out to Rialto Beach in the Mora area of Olympic National Park.  Very cool beach.  It has huge piles of drift wood – huge dead trees that have washed up, and lots and lots of rocks!  In fact there was very little sand – and the sand that was there was black.  Out in the ocean there were islands with trees on them that would get covered with fog and disappear, then reappear.  I of course stuck my feet in the water – it was cold! But it was so nice to walk back on rocks rather than sand – no grit between my toes! The air temp there was cold too, especially with the wind whipping! The sunset itself was underwhelming – there was a low line of fog that obstructed it.  The beach is WAY cool, we are planning to go back and walk up the beach to a hole in the rock or something, probably Sunday!

I’m ready to crawl under the covers – it’s chilly here – mid-50s, but not as cold as it was in Mt. Rainier!  I’m looking forward to a good nights sleep now that I’m not right under that scary volcano! :-)

Olympic: Rialto Beach Sunset

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mt. Rainier: Dege Peak

There were a few good hikes in the Sunrise area, but Dad and I decided that the short-ish, only 4.5 miles, trek to Dege Peak was the best bet!

Despite the fact that it was a short hike, we started early in hopes of getting to Sunrise to see the early morning sun hitting the mountain.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t any early  morning sun today because it was cloudy!

We left the campground before 9 – something we hardly ever do – and headed up the mountain.  We stopped to take a picture of the cool sign for the park/national forest.  When you are traveling WA410 heading north the sign over the road says “Entering Mt. Baker- Snoqualmie National Forest”, if you are driving south on 410 it says “Entering Mt. Rainier National Park”

We got to the Sunrise parking area and headed off up the trail.  The trail goes up through a meadow, which should be covered with wildflowers at the peak of their season right now, however it’s been a late spring this year as much of the snow has just now melting!

It was a fairly gentle climb to the ridge and then we went up and down a little as we walked the Sourdough Ridge. The views could have been spectacular, however there were low clouds clinging to the mountains blocking most of the views. 

Soon we came to a spur trail that took us to the top of Dege Peak.  It was a great view, but again obstructed by clouds.  It was sunny and warm on the peak though!  While were hanging out on top eating lunch and chatting with some other folks who were up there the clouds finally cleared away from Mt. Rainier!  They were hanging on tight to the other ridges though!

As we walked down we had awesome views of Mt. Rainier, now totally “out” with no clouds anywhere near her! This was the best way to do it as we couldn’t have really seen the Mt. on the way up anyway (our back was to the mountain)!

On the way down Dad pulled ahead so he could have some time to look at the mountain in his spotting scope and I enjoyed a leisurely walk down listening to my iPod.  When I got to the bottom he was just settling in with his scope so I went to find some wildflowers to photograph.  When he was done we went to the snack bar for some soft serve!  It was only vanilla and it was VERY soft, but it was tasty.

After we ate our ice cream we walked out the Emmons Glacier views.  The Emmons Glacier is the largest Glacier in the lower 48 and it runs into the White River, which is what runs by our campground.

Even though it was only 3:00 we headed back down the mountain.  I was glad to have a little “down” time in my RV to read, look at my pictures etc.  The only little glitch is that it is FREEZING outside down here!  The temp is only in the high-50s! And the wind is blowing.  brrrr.  I could turn the furnace on my RV, but for now I’m sitting here in my fleece pants and long underwear! Supposedly it’s going down to 45 tonight!  Sure beats the heat wave that won’t end that’s going on in DC right now! :-)

Mt. Rainier: Dege Peak

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mt. Rainier: Ohanapecposh & Sunrise

We weren’t able to get a reservation at Cougar Rock for the whole time we wanted to be in Mt. Rainier so we had to move over to the Silver Springs Campground, a National Forest Campground on the White River near the Sunrise area of the park. 

I was up early this morning – 7 am – because I was freezing.  Not sure what it was about last night that was so cold, but I was freezing!  I got a shower, made coffee and read my book for book club until about 8:30 when I started getting ready to go.  Mom and Dad were pretty much ready then too so by 9 we were on the road. 

We were driving through the park to get to the other side – so we headed back up toward Paradise but went beyond into parts of the park we hadn’t seen yet!  We stopped at a few overlooks along the way but mostly drove straight through to the other side of the park. 

We climbed and climbed the mountain and when we got to the top and started to go down my phone sprung to life!  It was going crazy getting texts, emails and facebook notifications!  I haven’t really missed my internet much except for Monday night when we got back after being lost and I really wanted to tweet about it and connect with my friends, but it was good to hear the phone doing it’s thing again!  I resisted temptation to stop there and read facebook, emails etc and we continued on to Ohanapecosh.

Ohanapecosh is the southeastern section of the park and it’s very quiet – there are fewer “services” there, just a campground, a picnic area and a small visitor center.  

After we checked out the visitor center we headed up the road a little bit to take a walk on the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail.  This is a short trail with a boardwalk loop that features old growth Cedar, Douglas Fir and other big evergreen trees.  Some of these trees were already 500 years old when Columbus “discovered” America in 1492!

After our walk we went back to where we’d parked the Motorhomes and had lunch before heading up the road along the eastern edge of the park to get to the campground.

We began to climb out of the valley and guess what?  My phone had a connection at the top of the mountain! This time I pulled out so I could get through all my emails and post a tweet.  As I was pulling into the pull out I saw a Ranger behind me with his lights flashing!  YIKES!  What did I do?  I truly didn’t know.  Other than pick up my phone to LOOK at it I hadn’t broken any laws.  Turns out there was another car between me and the Ranger that I couldn’t see and the Ranger was pulling them over!  Phew!

I spent a few minutes sorting through emails and sent my tweet before continuing down the mountain.  It was only a few minutes later when we got to our campground and guess what?  I have coverage here!  It’s slow and not very reliable, but it’s there!

Many of the campgrounds we camp in have sites that you have to back into.  Our 1st night at North Cascades I just backed my RV right in with no problems, and no help. Later I moved to another site, and Mom and Dad were both helping me – they were screaming directions, most of which I didn’t understand and did the opposite of which resulting in yelling and frustration on all parts.  The next time I needed to back in, Dad helped and again it dissolved into fighting and frustration because I just didn’t understand what he wanted me to do.  I finally asked that they let me do it myself and that they couldn’t watch or provide input. I assured Dad that I’d get out and look and make sure I wasn’t going to hit anything. 

When we arrived at out campground we discovered that our campsites are very far apart – he went off to get his MH parked and left me to my own devices to get myself parked.  Guess what?  I did it!  I got my little RV into the site – on the 1st try, got it positioned just right and better yet – didn’t hit anything! :-) 

As I was walking up to see what the plan was for the rest of the afternoon I see Mom on the ground with Dad next to her!  She’d tripped over the edge of the road and cut her hand, bruised her arm and her leg!  Nothing was broken – just bumped and scraped. 

After she got cleaned up we went to check out the Sunrise area of the park.  The road is about 10 miles in and of course it has excellent views of the Mountain!  This time we are viewing the east side and there is a lot more snow on the mountain here – oddly enough not as much on the trails though! We checked out the ranger station and the day lodge (the visitor center there is under construction). Also while we were there we made a plan for tomorrow!

As we were driving back we realized that we needed gas in the Jeep – we have enough to get to to Sunrise and back but that’s it.  We had no idea where the gas station was so I pulled out the phone and google mapped “gas stations” and found one close, then got directions to it, then we even called it to see if they were open (we didn’t want to drive all the way down there and use up all our gas to discover they were closed) – I really wondered how in the world we’d survived 3 days without the phone working! ;-)

Mt. Rainier: Ohanapecosh & Sunrise

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mt. Rainier: Narada Falls & Wonderland Trail

We were very lazy this morning – not really getting moving until about 10:00. 

We started the day driving back up the road to Paradise so we could check out the Nisqually River bridge, which Dad and I could see from the trail yesterday, and other sites along the road.  We’d seen several overlooks and waterfalls to check out. 

We stopped a Narada Falls to use the porta-potties and as we were getting back into the Jeep Mom spotted a mouse in the car! My parents had a bit of mouse problem that we discovered in North Cascades but they caught a mouse when we were at Mt. St. Helens so we assumed that the problem was taken care of.  We chased the mouse around the car for a few minutes, then mom saw it run out across the parking lot – we assume that was the mouse from our car!

We continued down the road checking out overlooks and such before heading back up to Paradise.  We had lunch at the Paradise Inn, it was ok – pretty much what I would expect at a National Park Inn. Then we walked over to the Visitor Center.  When I walked up to the information desk the Ranger was discussing the Paradise area trails with a guy – I overheard part of their conversation when he was telling the guy that the Skyline Trail was closed.  I strongly advised the guy NOT to try and hike it.  The Ranger said that they had people out there today marking the trail but that it was in fact closed.  I related to him what the other Ranger had told me and suggested that they communicate more clearly when trails are closed.  Dad and I NEVER would have gone down there if we’d been warned that is was snow covered and clearly the Rangers knew that the trail was hazardous. 

After lunch we headed back to Narada Falls and Dad and I headed down the trail and Mom drove back to the campground.  Our plan was to hike down to Narada Falls and then continue on the Wonderland Trail back to the campground.

The Wonderland Trail is 93 miles and it goes around the perimeter of the park – the movie said that it had 23,000 ft of elevation change!  That has to be up and down as Mt. Rainier is only 14,400 – so that number doesn’t make much sense! 

The Wonderland Trail is much lower so there was no snow at all!  This trail was impossible to  lose! It was wide and even flat in places!  It followed the Paradise River but you really couldn’t see it.  There were 2 waterfalls, both were pretty big.  The scenery was not quite as impressive as the alpine hike we did yesterday, but it was nice! This hike was in the forest and there were tall trees and moss covered rocks and ferns! It was a nice gentle hike – all downhill, but not uncomfortably down hill!

At the end of the hike we crossed the Nisqually River and had great views of Mt. Rainier. Clouds were now covering the summit and big clouds were rolling in from the East – which seems strange, we’ll have to see what they do!

Mt. Rainier: Narada Falls & Wonderland

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mt. Rainier: Skyline Trail

The Skyline Trail is one of the most popular trails in the park.  It also has some of the best views in the park!

Yesterday when we were in the visitor center I asked one of the Rangers at the desk for a map of the trail (there are lots of trails in the area and my map was very hard to follow) and she informed me that the trail was snow covered, but entirely passable.  She suggested that we bring trekking poles.  We talked about how much fun snow in July is and I walked away looking forward to a great hike!

Dad and I got on the trail about 11 am – he got a new backpack and so it took a bit longer to get ready, also we had to stop and buy a new topo map because the other one we had got lost.

We began heading up the paved portion of the trail.  We quickly reached the place where the snow covered the trail.  Soon the entire landscape was covered in snow! 

It was a picture perfect day!  Clear blue sky, warm but not hot.  Mt. Rainier was out in her all glory. As we climbed views of the Tatoosh range, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and even Mt. Hood came into view!

There were lots of people hiking up and it became like a party.  We were all chatting with each other and enjoying the view together. 

A little more than 3/4 of the way up we came to a switchback where people had been sliding down the steep mountainside in the snow rather than walking the switchback.  We watched a group of climbers come down and watched them all slide – some sitting, some standing – and I decided that I had to try it!  It did mean walking up the hill twice, but I decided it was worth  it!  I was right!  I left my pack at the top and picked my chute – the tracks were carved out like bobsled tracks! I zoomed off – it was so fast!  I was laughing the whole way!  Even when I hit a big bump and caught air! :-)  After my ride I hiked back up and we headed to Panorama Point.

At Panorama Point you could see everything! The Tatoosh Range, Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood. Mt. St. Helens, and of course, Mt. Rainier.  We enjoyed lunch there with several other hiking parties.  There was a college/HS age daughter hiking with her parents and she and I were talking – she said that the ranger they talked to told them not to hike beyond Panorama Point because the trail is snow covered, not marked, and hard to follow.  I related what my ranger said about the whole trail being hikable. 

After lunch we started out with another couple – don’t know their names but he was wearing an orange Clemson shirt and she had on a Kentucky shirt.  Their daughter was working at the lodge this summer and they were here visiting.

We began the descent down snow covered, but well marked trails.  We were chatting with the other couple and having fun!  There were numerous places where the snow covered trail was steep and we took to just sliding down, making our own chutes – none as long or as much fun as the one on the way up, but still fun!

Soon we came to a cool snow cave that had been carved by the melting snow and it was here that we were talking with Mr. Clemson and he showed us the map he’d gotten from the ranger that morning that showed the Skyline Trail as closed after the Golden Gate trail and said the ranger had told them to go down the Golden Gate.  Interesting that my ranger didn’t tell me that – oh well, maybe they decided to close it after I talked to her. 

When we reached the junction of the Skyline Trail and the Golden Gate trail we saw our Clemson/Kentuky friends heading back up.  They said that there was no sign saying the Skyline Trail was closed and the Golden Gate looked steep so let’s go that way. So we headed off down the Skyline Trail behind them. 

Right way things seemed different.  There were a few places where you could see just how much snow was covering the trail - 7+ FEET in many places!  Also the trail wasn’t as heavily traveled, we only passed one other group of people!  Very quickly the trail became hard to locate.  It was not marked like the trail had been on the other side. In one place we saw another other group coming up and that lead us where we needed to be, in another place there was a bridge across a creek. 

It was after the bridge that things got interesting.  We stopped to have a rest and a snack and I looked at the map.  It looked like we were almost to a trail junction and a memorial to the 1st guys who climbed Mt. Rainier. We kept hiking thinking we’d see them soon.  We didn’t. 

We hiked on, following footprints assuming they were the trail.  In a few places the snow was melted an we got confirmation that we were near the trail.  There were a number of places where we couldn’t tell where the trail went so we followed the footprints down. 

Eventually we realized that we weren’t going in the right direction at all.  We were lost.  We consulted the map and couldn’t figure out where to go.  We decided to continue following the footprints because there was another trail in the area that would lead us to the road, although it was really far from where we’d parked the car. 

Eventually the footprints ran out.  Uh-oh.  At this point we decided to walk parallel with Mt. Rainier as far as we could.  We knew where the visitor center was, we just had to get across a gully to get there.  This plan didn’t last as once we got to the ridge it was a steep drop off.

I’d been thinking about how mom was supposed to call the rangers if we weren’t back by 7 (it was 5:30) – and I thought it would be a good idea to at least be closer to where we were supposed to be – the Skyline Trail.  If we were off that area even a bit it would make it harder for rangers to find us. 

I was also remembering the cardinal rule of getting lost – stay put and do not get yourself even more lost, I was worried we were doing exactly that.

So as much as we didn’t want to, we headed back up the ridge. This time we stayed close to the trees, out of the snow as much as we could – it was much easier walking!  We consulted the map and determined that we were likely on the ridge that the trail crosses so we decided to continue to stay up close to the trees that way we could spot the trail as it crossed the ridge to descend the other side. 

At this point it was getting late in the evening and both of us were seriously considering a night out on the trail.  I wasn’t too excited about losing the trail again and was considering just sitting down and waiting for help when I knew I was close to the trail, since I knew mom would call the rangers and I figured the 1st thing the rangers would do is look on the trail.  We were only 2 miles from Paradise so I figured it wouldn’t take long!

Then, finally, Dad said “Trail”.  It sounded like he was calling it like you call a dog, so I said “It won’t come when called!”  Then I saw what he’d seen – we had in fact found a trail.  It wasn’t the right trail, but it was a trail.  We kept walking up – scanning the trees for the Skyline Trail. It took some eagle eyes and a lot of luck but we spotted the trail where it went through the trees to go down the other side!!!!!! 

We headed down, always making sure we could see the next trail marker – the rock barriers, a water bar, the gravel trail bed. At one point we were having a hard time locating it and we saw two guys walking in the woods.  In shorts and t-shirts heading up.

We questioned them about the trail and they assured us that if we just followed their footprints and stayed by the river we’d come out at the road. Right, because following foorprints has worked so well. I offered them any sum of money they wanted to lead us out, but they didn’t bite on that one. 

We followed their footprints – occasionally seeing evidence of a trail – along the river and finally to the road!!!!! 

We’d gotten off on a different trail from the Skyline Trail and come down to the road at a different place from where we’d parked the car. We were looking at at least 2 miles of uphill road walk, which is usually a bad thing, but today I was SOOOOO happy to walk the road!  Hard to get lost walking on a road. 

We were in luck though! I spotted a retired couple walking to their car – they both had big walking sticks and looked friendly. I explained our predicament and asked if they could drive us to Paradise.  They graciously agreed!  Joyce and Howard were retired and live in Packwood – just a few miles down the road.  They’d been up at Paradise a few hours earlier when Joyce had noticed my RV – the sun was hitting the graphic on the front in way that made the green really pretty.  She said it was the only thing she’d noticed – and here we were the owners of the RV!  It was wonderful meeting them and I thank them so much for being willing to pick up 2 wet, muddy, and very tired hikers!

Back at the RV we took off wet socks, got drinks & snacks and started heading down the Mt.  A top priority when we got back was to check in with the rangers in case Mom had called and they were out looking for us.  We didn’t see any rangers at Paradise, but on our way down, right before we got to the campground we saw a NPS Ranger SUV heading up.  I fully expected him to turn around and follow us, but he didn’t. (seriously the graphics on this thing are hideous, but make it easy to know if that’s who you are looking for!).  When we pulled in the campground there was a ranger guy getting into his golf cart so we flagged him down – sure enough mom did have the Rangers looking for us!  They called dispatch and called off the search.

I will admit that once we found the trail and I figured we’d get out without spending the night in the woods, I was kinda hoping a Ranger would come find us 1) because they know the trail and would make it easier and 2) because we might make the NPS Morning Report!

We aren’t sure what happened to our Kentucky/Clemson friends – we never saw them again.  Hopefully they made it out last night. 

We got back to camp about 8:00 and ate dinner and I’m heading to bed.  Long day, but boy am I glad to NOT be sleeping on the side of Mt. Rainier. 

Not sure what the plan is for tomorrow, but I’m thinking a short hike at a lower elevation – no more snow! Or at least make sure it’s a VERY well marked trail.  

Mt. Rainier: Skyline Trail

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mt. Rainier: Paradise

This morning we drove about 100 miles from Castle Rock to Mt. Rainier NP.  This morning was my “last chance” internet since I was fully expecting not to have coverage here – and we don’t. 

The drive was uneventful, we stopped at a grocery store in Morton to pick up a few “must haves” then came into the park. 

It was very crowded at the entrance station – long lines of cars trying to get in!  Luckily we have National Park Passes and were able to go in the express lane.  We drove up the park road to Cougar Rock campground – lots of cars and traffic on the road!

At the campground things got a little tense as my Dad was trying to get his MH into the campsite!  This campground has a strict 35 ft limit – and they mean 35 ft, not an inch over!  My parents MH is 36 ft! It was a bit harrowing driving it through the windy tree filled campground road and then backing it into the pull through!  He got it in with no permanent damage to the trees or the motorhome!

I was quite excited because my site was also a pull through and I was able to pull right up and park! No stress! :-)  And, I’m perfectly level!

We got some lunch and then took advantage of the weekend shuttle to Paradise.  Paradise is where there is a lodge, a visitor center, restaurants, and many trail heads.  There are also views of Mt. Rainier (when it’s clear!) and the Tatoosh Range.  Needless to say this a very popular area and the parking lot quickly fills up on weekends, especially sunny weekends!  The shuttle only runs on Friday, Saturday & Sunday so today was the only day we could use it!

One the way up we had the bus to ourselves! The bus driver works in the transportation office of a local school district and like Acadia many of the shuttle bus drivers are school bus drivers making some extra summer money!

Paradise was crowded with people!  And snow.  Much of the famed wildflower meadow is buried under snow! 

We checked out the visitor center, the gift shop, and the movie! It was a good introduction to the park & the mountain!

We rode back on the bus with a few other folks who had hiked up from Longmire!  That sounds like a good plan to me – it’s all up, then mom can come get us!

After dinner we went to the Ranger program here in the campground.  It was actually pretty good – the Ranger told about her grandmother’s journey to the park in 1914 and the adventures she had!

One thing about Mt. Rainier that I hadn’t focused on is that it is an active volcano. There was a display in the visitor center today showing what types of damage would be done to different areas should the volcano erupt – we are solidly in the “everything gets swept away or buried under mud” zone. Tonight at the Ranger program, the ranger told us how to evacuate the campground should we hear the sound of a train – the rumble would be followed by a siren – we are supposed to go up the ridge – here’s hoping there’s not lava and stuff gushing down the ridge! I assume that the NPS has scientists watching the mountain carefully – especially since a major eruption would be catastrophic to the Tacoma/Olympia area!  Probably shouldn’t have visited Mt. St. Helens 1st!

Mt. Rainier: Paradise Visitor Center

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mt. St. Helens

I can’t say as I was truly interested in Mt. St. Helens before today, it was one of those “gotta see it” things that was close to where we were and fit with plan we had. 

I didn’t know much about it, just that it erupted in the 80’s and that the eruption was a big deal.  In fact prior to a few weeks ago I didn’t even know it was in Washington – I knew it was over here somewhere, but not sure exactly where. 

The history and the geology and the stories behind the event & the mountain made today very interesting!

We started at our campground and headed out down The Spirit Lake Memorial Highway – a road built by the State of Washington just so people can get out to the National Volcanic Memorial!  It replaced a road that lead to a summer camp on the shores of Silver Lake was destroyed by the eruption. 

There are 5 visitor centers along the road!  One was a Washington State Park, we didn’t go to that one and one was closed. 

At the 1st visitor center (I can’t spell or find online the name of it) there was lots of information about the YMCA camp that was on the shores of Spirit Lake that was completely destroyed.  There was also a nice overlook, although the view was obstructed by low clouds. 

The next visitor center was all about forestry and it was put together and staffed by the Weyerhaeuser Paper Company.  Weyerhaeuser owns much of the land surrounding Mt. St. Helens and the eruption impacted them in a big big way!  The visitor center was a combination of telling the story of Mt. St. Helens though the eyes the company and educating the public on the logging practices they use and how logging is actually good for the environment.

I wonder how much of their “this is a good thing” is real and how much is propaganda! Do they really do all the good stuff they say they are doing? And, is the “management” of forests and trees a good thing?  Are the humans trying to control nature too much?  I have read enough Carl Hiaasen to know not to trust big business, especially in the area of environmental responsibility! One of the things I saw that made me raise my eyebrows was that they feed the bears! When the bears wake up in the spring they are hungry and they frequently eat the bark off the trees which damages them and sometimes kills the tree.  Well, naturally they don’t want that, so they put out bear food until the berries ripen and the bears switch to eating berries. 

After taking in the exhibits there we traveled back to the 1st visitor center because they had a restaurant for lunch! While we were there the clouds lifted and the mountain showed herself!

We spent the rest of the afternoon driving down the road, stopping at overlooks and taking pictures! 

At the end of the road is the final overlook and visitor center, this one is run by the National Forest Service, although it looks and operates like a National Park! This visitor center was more focused on the earth science and geology behind the eruption and was really interesting!

Dad and I walked a few short trails and got some up close views of the Mt and the surrounding destruction.  It’s been 30 years and the area around the volcano is still very barren!  The areas owned by the paper company were replanted and “restored”, however the the area under the ownership of the National Forest Service has been left to it’s own natural devices. 

Dad and I were able to catch a glimpse of Spirit Lake, where the famed summer camp used to be. 

After we finished at the last visitor center we headed back down the road to our campground! We stopped at Mile 19 – a little family owned restaurant for some outstanding burgers and wonderful homemade cobbler!

Today I also learned that all my mountains that I have come to love are actually volcanoes! Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Adams, all active volcanoes!  After seeing the power – being able to compare Mt. St. Helens to the others and see the difference having it’s top blown off makes helped me see the immense power – makes me think twice about wanting to live where I can see them all! I’m sure that location is firmly in the blast zone!

Tomorrow we are heading to Mt. Rainier National Park – definitely a highlight of the trip that I have been looking forward to, however, I’m anticipating not having any internet or cell coverage the whole time we are there! YIKES!  We will be there for 5 days.  Sunday – Fri.  I’m seriously starting to twitch. Going cold turkey! It’s probably a good thing to unplug and put the iPhone away, but it’s like part of me, and it’s my connection with my friends and I’m having a hard time imagining going 5 whole days without knowing what’s going on. The good news though is that once we get to Fri I will have coverage or campground wifi the rest of the trip!


Friday, July 16, 2010

Portland: Emily, Phil, & Lila

Picture it: North Tarrytown NY, Christmas Eve, 1979 –neighborhood Christmas Party.  Two little girls, both 4 years old at the time, hiding behind their mothers – both a little shy and both probably more than a little overexcited about the coming of Santa Claus and both likely up past their bedtimes!  

That was when I met Emily! After that night we quickly grew to be friends! The following Fall when we were both enrolled in Kindergarten our moms made sure we were in the same class! As the years went by we did all kinds of things together – we went to see Goonies, in the theater, we had many outings to the Crest (local swim club), we even went away to camp together! We played on the rocks, had Barbie weddings, sleepovers, and were tormented by her big brother John. 

Then just before 5th grade Emily and her family moved away.  2 hours away.  We still saw each other occasionally, but the distance was great and it was hard. 

Right after we both graduated from high school in 1993 we managed to get together for lunch when we both happened to be back in North Tarrytown on the same weekend.

After that we lost track of each other, but thanks to the wonders of Facebook we have found each other!  Emily’s parents have moved and now live about 2 hours from me on the Eastern Shore.  Emily has gotten married and has a 9 month old baby girl Lila.  They live in Portland now so making sure we worked a visit to Portland into this trip was a priority!

Fast forward 31 years from the Christmas Eve: Today I hung out with Emily after not seeing her for close to 20 years! We went out to lunch and got to see a little of Emily’s neat neighborhood! Then we sat and chatted all afternoon, while Lila napped! It was so much fun reconnecting and seeing the house that she and Phil have fixed up and of course meeting Lila!  It’s great to fun to know that even after 20 years we can still hang out and enjoy the afternoon together! :-)

Emily and Phil are coming to the east coast in August and we are making plans to get together again then too! 

As we were driving back to the campground from Portland this afternoon we got some great views of Mt. Hood – we were stuck in traffic on the Interstate Bridge (as soon as the traffic screeched to a halt, I remembered Emily’s warning about Friday afternoon traffic being horrible!) so I had a few opportunities to snap a picture.  Now I’m wondering if there is a place I could live where I could see Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, & Mt. Hood?  Hmmmm….wherever that might be it’s closer to Portland and I already have some friends in Portland! ;-)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Drive Day

This morning we headed out from North Cascades and back into “civilization”! 

It took about 2 hours to drive back to Everett, we hadn’t planned on going back there necessarily, but my parents needed to pick up their main which had been delivered to general delivery there.

We arrived back at the Fred Meyer – the one we were at a few days ago that I thought needed it own “People Of” site – and as soon as we arrived I set about getting my pictures uploaded and blogs posted (and I’m glad I did because the wifi here isn’t as reliable as it was in Everett!). Then Mom and I went in to do our shopping and Dad went to fetch the mail. Unfortunately, the mail wasn’t there, we aren’t sure why, but it’s not my problem!

It was 1:00 and Mom and I were still wandering the aisles looking at everything – I decided that I wanted to get back to my computer and get some lunch so I quickly finished up my shopping, paid and went to put the groceries away. 

It was close to 2 before Mom and Dad were done with their shopping and we got some lunch and then I went to put gas in my RV, then we headed out from Everett about 3:00.

Before we left Dad had checked Google Traffic on his phone and he said “There are few red spots, but I-5 looks mostly clear” – so we headed down I-5. 

All was moving along for about 10 miles, then things came to a screeching halt.  We were close to Seattle and I was guessing it was normal traffic.  It wasn’t so bad inching along, every so often I caught a glimpse of Mt. Rainier in all her glory and that was exciting!

I didn’t realize how enormous Mt. Rainier is.  She’s HUGE!  She’s also sitting out by herself which makes her seem even bigger! Today the top was very clearly visible, but the bottom wasn’t so it almost looked like the mountain was an illusion!

I also killed some time trying to adjust my mirrors, especially the passenger side one – it has a regular mirror and a convex wide angle mirror.  There is no way to relay on just the regular mirror because it has a huge blind spot, so I played around with the position of the mirror so that I could use both mirrors effectively. 

Then we were stopped right under the exit sign for Federal Way, which is where my good friend Andy and his family used to live so I had to take a picture and send it to them.  Since we weren’t moving at all here I was able to send them the text!  Andy, Sherry and I texted back and forth a bit (I was only typing when the RV was completely stopped, which unfortunately was frequently!).

I’d thought that as soon as we got passed Tacoma things would open up.  I was wrong. It actually got worse.  We were totally stopped.  I pulled out my phone to check Google Traffic – it was read all the way to  Dupont - 10 more miles!  ugh!  And we’d turned south a bit and I could no longer see The Mountain.

At this point I started doing the math – we’d gotten on I-5 in Everett, mile 189, and we were currently close to mile 116….hmmmm….we’d traveled about 80 miles in 2 and half hours.  That had to be some kind of traffic record – shortest distance gone in the longest time!

Now, we must keep things in perspective here – yes, it was a LONG day of sitting in traffic, however we had attempted to traverse the entire Greater Seattle/Tacoma/Olympia Metropolitan area during rush hour.   It took 2.5 hours.  Let’s consider doing the same thing in let’s say DC – I dare anyone reading this to leave Baltimore MD at 3:00 pm EDT and drive to Fredericksburg.  I’d bet you wouldn’t make it under 4 hours!

No, sitting in traffic wasn’t high on the fun meter, but it did give me a chance to understand what is where in Seattle and see how it all works!  Most of the urban development is very concentrated – as soon as we drove south of Olympia there was nothing!  Well, that accounts for most of the traffic right there – a big city in a small space!  I was also able to see for myself where Seattle is in relation to other places and now I feel more like I "know” Seattle! 

We weren’t very far from Olympia when another big mountain came into view.  I thought it was Rainier again, but it looked different.  The biggest difference is that this mountain had no top! It must be Mt. St. Helens.  Not sure what I expected with Mt. St. Helens, but it’s HUGE also!  And it sits out by itself as well.  Like Rainier, St. Helens is covered in snow!

Even despite my day getting intimate with Seattle traffic, I’m currently thinking that the place to live might be between Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens – where you can see one out the front and one out the back! :-) 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

North Cascades: Hidden Lake Hike

After 2 days of clouds and some rain, today was finally sunny!  Brilliantly sunny in fact!

Dad and I had planned to hike to Sauk Mt. – a four mile hike to the top of a mountain that promised 360* views of the Cascades as well as opportunity to see Mt. Rainer and Puget Sound on a clear day, which today was! 

With high hopes for a great walk we headed out toward Marblemount – the town just before the road enters North Cascades and the sign says that it’s the last “major” services for 69 miles! These major services consisted of 2 gas stations – one of which was closed and 2 family owned resteraunts.  Yep, North Cascades is remote! As soon as we entered Marblemount Dad’s phone beeped at him – he had coverage here! I, however, did not!  Dad needed gas in the Jeep so we stopped at the Shell Station, while he was pumping gas he checked his messages and had a few people to call back.  While he was dealing with the phone calls, I went to check out the ladies room in the store! 

Soon we were headed to the trailhead! We found the Forest Service Road we were supposed to go up, and when we got there there was a sign: Sauk Mt Trail Closed July 12-15 for trail maintenance.  WHAT????? 

The extra frustrating part here is that on Sunday we were at the visitor center and the ranger had highly recommended this trail to us, and told us nothing of it’s impending closure.  The reason for the lack of information I realized is because we were talking to a National Park Service Ranger, the majority of the hiking trails, and overlooks and such, in the area are operated and maintained by the National Forest Service, as was obvious from a number of interactions with NPS personnel, the two government entities do not seem to communicate with each other!

Ok, going back to today… Luckily we had a few other options – and luckily the hiking books I’d bought were on my Kindle App and I could get them from my phone! After consulting the book and the map we decided to head to Hidden Lake.

At this point we decided we needed to let Mom know we’d changed the plan, just in case something happened and we didn’t come back on time – we decided to call and leave a message on her phone in hopes that she would travel into Marblemount to get help to find us.  It later occurred to us that she likely wouldn’t drive the Motorhome and that was the only vehicle she had!

My book claimed that this hike is the “best hike on the face of the planet” – so needless to say the expectations were high! We headed down 2 Forest Service Roads to get to the trailhead and were way back into the wilderness!

The trail started out in a deep forest with tall cedars and lots of moss and plenty of creeks to cross! It was a steady climb, up, up, up!  Eventually the trail came out of the forest and into an avalanche chute with expansive views! The trail continued to climb through the meadow and as we gained elevation the views got better and better! 

The trail was 4.5 miles long ending at an old fire tower that looked down on Hidden Lake.  Neither my dad nor I was really up for a 9 mile hike so we’d decided before we left that we weren’t going the whole way and that we’d probably walk for 2 – 2.5 hours and then turn around.  This ended up being a good plan because at about 2.5 miles in there was a snow covered stream crossing that I wasn’t too excited about crossing.  Dad went across and said it wasn’t too bad, but when I wouldn’t cross it he came back and getting back was much harder! 

We settled into lunch right on the trail – I’d found a ledge to perch on and Dad just sat on the trail.  While we were eating a man came down the trail coming from the top – as he crossed the creek he sunk into the snow up to his knee! He said he’d only made it about a mile beyond where we were before the snow got too deep and treacherous.  Since it has been warm, the snow is soft in some places and hard in others and sometimes it’s melted underneath and you can’t see it on top! We knew then that we were for sure done going up and were heading down after we ate!

The downhill actually went fast and seemed relatively easy!  I usually hate the downhill part, but this wasn’t so bad!  Soon we were back at the car and heading back down the Forest Service Road to the campground!

Today I did something I have never done before – hiked with my iPod.  I have always thought that hiking was about listening to the sounds of the forest and enjoying being outside, and usually it is, but having my iPod today really helped!  Just like tunes help a road trip, they also help a good hike! Dave Matthews, Lady Gaga, & Rusted Root make great hiking companions!

North Cascades: Hidden Lake Hike

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

North Cascades: Miscellaneous

We decided that we needed to go back to Washington Pass so Mom could see it, so the 1st part of the day involved driving back out Highway 20! 

As we drove this time stopped at all the interesting things we’d seen the other times we’d driven the road but not been able to stop and look at!  We looked at all the overlooks and waterfalls and took lots of pictures.

When we got to Washington Pass it was much cloudier than it had been yesterday, but it was still impressive and Mom was impressed! We had a picnic lunch there – in the car because it was so windy & cold!  It was 48 degrees!

After lunch we drove back to the Newhalem area, once again stopping to look at interesting flowers and pretty views!

When we got back we stopped at the Skagit General Store in Newhalem – it was just your basic middle of nowhere convenience store, but Mom found some stuff to buy!

There are a number of small, relatively flat trails in the Newhalem Campground area and one can walk from the general store the campground via the “Trail of Cedars” trail.  Dad and I sent mom back to the campground in the car and he and I headed out down the trail. 

We took a side trip to Ladder Creek Falls, which wasn’t that impressive, and then continued on to the Trail of the Cedars. 

The Trail of the Cedars is a flat, almost paved trail that winds through a grove of big cedar trees!  Almost everything is covered with moss and it looks a lot like a rainforest! The moss seems to have attacked anything that is on the ground like kudzu!

It was only about a mile or maybe 2 back to the campground and since it was flat we walked it quickly!

When we got back I had some RV chores to take care of – my water tank was just about empty, I needed to fill it and treat it with chlorine to kill anything that might be in it (who knows what the person before me put in the water tank!) and the battery was low so I wanted to drive it for a little while to charge it up!

Dumping the RV is one of those things that sounds like it would be awful, but really it’s not too hard, or too gross.  This dump however was the exception!  It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it sure was stinky!  The good news is that now I know which valve is the black tank (toilet stuff) and which is the grey (shower, sink water) tank which will make the process a lot neater next time!

I got it all taken care of and Dad helped me get it parked back on my site!

North Cascades is an interesting park. I think it may be the best kept secret in the whole national park service  It’s huge and the scenery rivals, or is better than, anything seen in the “big” National Parks like Denali, Glacier or Grand Teton, however, there is almost no one here.  There are only a handful of campers in the campground, the overlooks have been almost deserted, and we have never seen more than 2 or 3 cars at the visitor center.  I find this amazing considering that Grand Teton or even the Smokies are likely teeming with people and have huge traffic jams and crowded campgrounds! We have been discussing why this is and the best we can figure is that it’s because of the remoteness of the park.  Yes, the park is about 2 hours from Seattle, but to get to the high country it’s a long day trip. Other than campgrounds, there are no places to stay, I’m sure that keeps the tourists away! I’m betting that most the vacationers are down at Mt. Rainier NP and that our week there will be a whole different experience!  I’m really glad that we came here and that we stayed for 5 nights as it gave us a chance to really get to know the park! 

The other interesting thing about North Cascades is that the NPS has a very small foothold here, they pretty much run the campground, visitor center and 1 overlook – the majority of the area falls under the jurisdiction of the National Forest Service!

North Cascades Misc.

Monday, July 12, 2010

North Cascades: Blue Lake

This morning was cloudy and cool and the weather forecast was calling for a 30% chance of rain.  We weren’t sure what to do, but we knew that a hike to a high vista with views probably wasn’t a good option. 

Yesterday when we hiked to Heather Pass we encountered some other hikers who suggested we hike to Blue Lake.  We looked that up in our guidebooks and it was a 4.4 mile round trip hike – sounded perfect!

Dad and I got our stuff together and headed back down Highway 20 – the Blue Lake Trailhead was just on the other side of Rainy Pass so we had to go back the same way we’d gone yesterday. 

The weather was rapidly deteriorating as we drove, the clouds were rolling in thick and low and threatening rain.  Ahead of us though there was blue sky, but I was expecting that the clouds were headed that way. Once we got past Rainy Pass however the clouds vanished and it was blue sky all around! 

We quickly noticed that the mountains had changed, it was a lot more barren – looking like a desert!  We quickly surmised that the rain rarely makes it over the ridge.  The rest of the afternoon proved that hypothesis as we watched the clouds build on the horizon, however very little moisture fell and us and the day was mostly sunny!  It was however, very cold – the temps were in the 40s!

The trail to Blue Lake was well worn and somewhat boring.  It wound through the cedar trees until we came to a bowl that looked like it had been recently cleared by an avalanche! We could see several mountains and as we climbed more mountains revealed themselves!  We had some more winding through cedar trees before coming out in the bowl yet again, only higher!

We’d gained about 1,000 feet from the parking lot and that was obvious by the snow patches!  I think there was actually more snow on this trail than there was on the Heather Pass trail! A few of the snow patches were rather scary to cross as there was tiny ledge to stand on and it dropped off, but we made it!

After what seemed like forever, especially for a 2-mile hike in, we finally made it to Blue Lake!  Interestingly enough, Blue Lake was not blue! It was more green, but it was very clear!  It was also not very big.  We found a nice rock and pulled out lunch!

We were just finishing up lunch when I noticed there was something white blowing in the air.  I asked Dad what it was, his thought was seeds or maybe pollen.  I had just pulled out my gloves because the wind was making it really cold and one of the white things landed on my gloves and I noticed that it melted…hmmmm….the next one that landed I put on my tongue, it was cold….hmmmm…that white stuff, falling from the sky must be SNOW!  In the middle of July it was SNOWING! AWESOME!  The light snow/sleet showers continued pretty much the rest of the day, although it was still mostly sunny. 

We made our way back down the trail and back to the car.  It was about 4:00 when we got back to the car so we decided we go over and check out Washington Pass, the highest point on Highway 20.  I admit that I didn’t have high hopes, Rainy Pass was a bit of a disappointment in the views department, so I figured Washington would be the same.  Boy was I wrong! 

Washington Pass is just amazing!  There’s a huge valley surrounded by peaks that are probably 8,000+ feet high!  The overlook was a giant rock with a barricade around it – when you walked right up to the barricade you could see the road far below with the mountains soaring high above it!  It was a breathtaking view! We decided that we had to come back and bring Mom!

North Cascades: Blue Lake Hike & Washington Pass #1