Tag Archive | hiking

Hood Canal 2017: Staircase

Day 3, Monday, July 3, 2017

On Monday morning, Lelani joined us fairly early, and we decided to do a day trip up to the Staircase area of Olympic National Park. Lelani, Brent, Joel and I were going along; Brandon and his daughter stayed back at the cabin to relax. We packed up some lunch and snacks, and headed out.

We stopped at a viewpoint for our first look at Lake Cushman, which was going to be one of our destinations for the day. Lake Cushman is huge, and stunning! We looked down at it, and the clouds, and then continued on our drive.

Lake Cushman beneath the clouds

The Staircase area of the park is located down a gravel road, and we drove along the edge of Lake Cushman for awhile. The giant rocks on the edge of the lake are amazing!

The view of Lake Cushman

We arrived at Staircase, and after we paid our fee (with my annual pass, of course), we embarked on a 2.2 mile hike; the Staircase Rapids hike.

Olympic National Park

The hike travels along the North Fork of the Skokomish River, both along sections of rapids (an aptly named hike!), as well as quieter sections of the river. Lelani and I were so into the scenery along the trail that we accidentally missed the turn where we were supposed to turn right to head over the bridge. We eventually turned around after realizing our mistake, but stopped along the edge of the river to look back at the view of the bridge along the rocky bank of the river.

The North Fork Skokomish River, with the bridge in the distance

When we got back to the bridge, the boys were wondering where we were, and standing on the bridge waiting for us. Oops! It is a beautiful bridge though, so it was worth seeing from a distance!

We crossed the bridge, and took photos. Then we spied the rocks in the river, and decided to go climb on them for a spell. While sitting on the rocks, near the bridge, in the river, we had a snack and entertained ourselves. This picture of Lelani giving me the side-eye at my antics is one of my favorites!

 

We finished our hike, climbing on the giant log, and crossing a couple little creeks, and making it back to the trail head. It didn’t take too long, as it was only a 2.2 mile hike, but of course Lelani and I did add a little distance with our detour.

Me at one of the overlooks

On our way back, we wanted to do some more sitting on the huge boulders along the side of the road, so we parked and found a nice big rock to sit on. And then we drank beer… What good hiking party doesn’t pack a cooler with some nice, cold beers! We cracked them open and watched the teenagers on the next rock over jump off into the water! It did look fun! Just sitting and talking with my friends was very relaxing, as we discussed travel, music, concerts and whatever came to mind.

 

Our drive home was uneventful, with another stop at the farm stand for ice cream! Interestingly, I’m not even that into ice cream, but this was some good stuff!  What a day, and it wasn’t even done…

 

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West 2016: Theodore Roosevelt NP

Day 2: August 6, 2016

I have been itching to visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park for awhile; ever since I found out about the park’s history and all the wildlife that live within its borders.  And I was almost there!

We woke up in Glendive, Montana, with the park as the destination on our agenda for the day.  We got on our way and stopped at the grocery store to get a picnic lunch, and then the drive to Theodore Roosevelt National Park took about an hour.  The awesome thing about the highways out there is that they are wide open, so we made great time!

We didn’t check out Medora, North Dakota while we were there, but it looked like a fun little tourist town with lots to do for families.  The town has an Old West theme, and lots of entertainment for all ages.  It seemed like a great place to hang out for a few days on a vacation in the area.

The West Entrance to the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota. And me!

The West Entrance to the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota. And me!

Once we got into the park, we stopped in at the Visitor’s Center – we got our stamps and postcards, and we watched the park’s movie.  I love watching the park movies.  We also saw Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross Cabin, which has been moved to its current location right behind the Visitor’s Center.  Theodore Roosevelt spent $14,000 to establish his cattle ranch in North Dakota in 1883 and the cabin was built during that winter.  He came back out after his wife and mother both died on Valentine’s Day, 1884 and spent time recovering from the loss.

We listened to the Ranger Talk about Roosevelt and his time in North Dakota – the cattle ranch was basically a disaster.  The winter of 1886-1887 was a devastating one and most of the cattle starved to death when they couldn’t get to the grass beneath the snow.  Roosevelt wasn’t there at the time though, having already returned East.  Although Roosevelt didn’t last long in North Dakota, his legacy remains.  The cabin is open for people to poke around in, and there are a couple of pieces of furniture that are believed to have belonged to Roosevelt -his rocking chair and his trunk.

Theodore Roosevelt's Maltese Cross Cabin - Built 1883

Theodore Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross Cabin – Built 1883

I found a couple of hikes I wanted to do at the park – although I decided not to do anything too long or strenuous because of time restraints, and the fact that the temperature was in the high 80s that day.  My hikes were an opportunity to see some of my first Badlands views of the trip!  Rather than hiking, Mom opted to stay at the car and do some journaling and sketching while I went off.

The first hike that I did was the Ridgeline Trail – a 0.6 mile (roundtrip) hike that offered great views of the badlands along the ridge.  At this point, as the badlands is just beginning, they are much greener and lush than they are further east.  There was a marked difference in the views here and the badlands that were visible further east when we went to Badlands National Park later in the trip.  The views were gorgeous and it was well worth the climb.  It was very windy here, so my selfies were a bit challenging!

The view of the badlands from the Ridgeline Trail

The view of the badlands from the Ridgeline Trail

 

Me with the badlands in the background - Ridgeline Trail

Me with the badlands in the background – Ridgeline Trail

 

Piddles posing with the badlands

Piddles posing with the badlands

The second hike that I did was to the Buck Hill Viewpoint – it is a 0.2 mile (round trip) climb to the highest point in the park. The view was amazing – there were similarities to the Ridgeline Trail, yet there were subtle differences too.  I could have looked at that view for awhile…

The view from the top of Buck Hill - the highest point in the park

The view from the top of Buck Hill – the highest point in the park

 

A lone tree at the Buck Hill viewpoint

A lone tree at the Buck Hill viewpoint

The last hike that I did was the Wind Canyon Trail.  It is a 0.4 mile (round trip) out and back hike with wonderful views of the Little Missouri River, and its oxbow bend (where the river bends in a U shape).  This viewpoint is well known for its fabulous sunsets; I would have liked to have checked out the sunset from there, but since it was the middle of summer, we needed to be on our way before the sun was due to set.  The views of the river and of a large herd of bison grazing in the distance were both spectacular!  I even found a kind man to take my photo at the viewpoint.

The Little Missouri River, from the Wind Canyon Trail. There is a large herd of bison in the far upper left corner of the photo.

The Little Missouri River, from the Wind Canyon Trail. There is a large herd of bison in the far upper left corner of the photo.

 

Me at the Wind Canyon viewpoint, overlooking the Little Missouri River

Me at the Wind Canyon viewpoint, overlooking the Little Missouri River

We saw a lot of wildlife while we were in the park too, but I am saving the wildlife for my next post though!

 

Olympic National Park: Ozette Triangle Hike

In early June, I headed out to the Olympic Peninsula to hike the Ozette Triangle hike. It is a 9.2 mile loop hike, that can be done either as a day hike or as a multi-day camping trip. I did a day hike, but there are two campgrounds, and one day I would like to go back and camp there.

The ferry to the Olympic Peninsula

The ferry to the Olympic Peninsula

 

Olympic National Park!

Olympic National Park!

From the starting point, you can choose either of two spurs – the one to Cape Alava (3.1 miles) or the one to Sand Point (3.0 miles). If you are camping, the spur you choose will probably depend on which campground you are planning to stay at – one allows campfires and the other does not. The hike is mostly flat, so there isn’t going to be much difference in elevation changes, although the Cape Alava spur has slightly more up and down.

The boardwalk on the spur trail to Sand Point

The boardwalk on the spur trail to Sand Point

The spur to the beach is mostly on raised wooden boardwalks through boggy forest, but I was surprised at the fact that there weren’t any mosquitoes. Perhaps they get worse later in the summer, and in the evenings. There were shady parts and sunny parts, depending on the number of trees in the immediate vicinity. It was very peaceful.

As I got closer to the beach, I started hearing the waves– I’m sure in the winter on a windy day, the sound would be very loud. I love the sound of waves on a shore, and the waves of the northern Washington Coast are wonderful.  To me, it is a truly peaceful sound…

The beach at Sand Point

The beach at Sand Point

I walked south on the beach a little ways, to find a beautiful sandy beach, with some driftwood at the tree line. I even found an intact sand dollar! The day was gorgeous, sunny, and hot! An absolutely perfect day!

Elwell and Piddles enjoying the view at Sand Point

Elwell and Piddles enjoying the view at Sand Point

The beach hike – 3.1 miles – is the hardest part of the hike. There is some hiking on packed or softer sand, but further north you are walking over rocks covered with kelp and barnacles, so you have to be careful. It can certainly be slippery.  Make sure to time this portion with a lower tide or else you’ll be doing a tougher hike through the forest above the tide line.

I love this wild beach!

I love this wild beach!

It was fun to poke around in the tide pools and find shells, and seeing the sea stacks in the distance was amazing. When the wind is blowing in the right direction, you can hear the sea lions on their offshore island perch. I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t brought my binoculars.

I love this wild beach!

I love this wild beach!

There are Native American petroglyphs visible on the rocks as you travel from north to south, but I did the hike in the opposite direction and ending up missing them. Oh well, just a reason to return!

A Bald Eagle feeding on a fish at the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge

A Bald Eagle feeding on a fish at the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge

After three miles on the beach, it was time to re-enter the woods on another set of raised boardwalks. These woods are home to lots of animals, including bears and cougars, but I didn’t see any during my midday hike. On the way back on the Cape Alava spur, I passed a boggy meadow, which once was a homesteader’s farm. He pastured sheep and cows in the meadow, but there isn’t much evidence of its history now.

The whole hike took about 5 hours at a leisurely pace, with a couple of stops for snacks and beach combing.  I loved it, and will certainly return!

 

Fragrance Lake Hike

Memorial Day weekend, my friend and I got together for a local hike up to Fragrance Lake. The hike is about 5.2 miles round-trip (hiking guides disagree, estimating the total distance between 4.9 and 5.5 miles), in the Chuckanut Mountains near my home. It begins like other hikes in the Chuckanuts, with a series of switchbacks to take hikers up the steep hill without hiking straight up.

I love how the trees just find a way to grow over the rocks.

I love how the trees just find a way to grow over the rocks.

Unless you are an Ironman, you definitely have to stop and rest a few times on this hill. My friend hadn’t done this hike before, and I hadn’t been in several years, so I forgot about the tough beginning. It is a fairly popular hike, so you will encounter dozens of other hikers – you get used to the “pass and be passed” rhythm that develops as you each take breaks at different times.

Dappled sunlight through the canopy.

Dappled sunlight through the canopy.

Once near the top of the hill, there is a bit more gradual hiking before reaching Fragrance Lake. It is a small lake with a 0.75 mile trail around it, offering several spots where visitors can dip a toe in the water or even go swimming, making it a perfect summer destination. There are also several benches to hang out and sit for a while.

A peek-a-boo view of Fragrance Lake

A peek-a-boo view of Fragrance Lake

On the way back we took the 0.2 mile spur trail that leads to a spectacular view of Bellingham Bay and the San Juan Islands. Stunning!

Girlfriend selfie at the overlook

Girlfriend selfie at the overlook

 

An amazing blue sky over Bellingham Bay

An amazing blue sky over Bellingham Bay

Joshua Tree 2015: A Failed Quest for Bighorn Sheep

In December, I flew down to Los Angeles for a quick long weekend trip to Joshua Tree National Park. It was not extensively planned; tickets were booked just a couple of weeks before. But despite that, it was a fabulous trip.

Day 1: December 5, 2015

Willow Hole Trail – 7 miles RT

The first day I started at the Visitor’s Center for some trips on where to go in the park. I wanted to see Bighorn Sheep. The Ranger said that they often hung out at the Willow Hole, which can be reached by a 7 mile round trip hike through several dry washes that connect to the popular Boy Scout Trail. I went. The trail was mostly flat, taking you by a popular rock climbing area; it was fun to stop and watch the climbers try their trade on the giant boulders in the park.

Me on the Willow Hole Trail

Me on the Boy Scout Trail

 

Joshua Trees everywhere!

Joshua Trees everywhere!

 

There are climbers on that rock!

There are climbers on that rock!

After leaving the Boy Scout Trail, I was entirely alone – I did not run into anyone else on the entire hike. It was quiet, save for the birds chirping, letting me know I was getting closer to the spring. Sadly, I did not see any Bighorn Sheep on the hike, but I saw some songbirds and it was a nice pleasant hike nonetheless.

A cute bird near Willow Hole

A cute bird near Willow Hole

 

The clouds gave way to sunshine

The clouds gave way to sunshine

Barker Dam – 1 mile RT

Barker Dam is a dam that was built by homesteaders in the early 1900s, to provide a consistent water source for their cattle grazing in the area. The dam is still there – the National Park Service left it intact when they took over management of the land, and it now provides water for the wildlife living in the area. It is another spot that Bighorn Sheep are known to frequent in the park. Except when I was there; then the Bighorn Sheep are not…

Barker Dam

Barker Dam

The Barker Dam hike also leads past several ancient petroglyphs. Unfortunately, they have been damaged by vandals. They are still neat to see, but keep in mind that the paint colors and outlines were the result of the vandalism, and not what these petroglyphs would normally look like.

Petroglyphs near Barker Dam

Petroglyphs near Barker Dam

As I was finishing the short Barker Dam trail, the sun was sinking lower in the sky. The birds and the rabbits were finding their way to their shelters for the night. I was able to find a good vantage point along the main road to watch the sunset. It wasn’t a spectacular viewpoint, but it did let me get some photos of the Joshua Trees silhouetted against the setting sun.

The golden light before sunset

The golden light before sunset

 

The sun sets over Joshua Trees...

The sun sets over Joshua Trees…

Dinner that night was pho at Pho 85 restaurant in Yucca Valley. It really hit the spot after 8+ miles of hiking that day! I finished off the day with some wine and TV in the room before heading to bed.  Peace…

Virginia 2015: Compton Gap and Mary’s Rock Hikes

Day 4: Wednesday, October 7, 2015

We were going hiking! Hiking days are usually Jon’s favorites, but we were both excited to see Shenandoah National Park!

We drove into the park about 9:30 am, after packing up and having breakfast at the hotel (and Jon went for a run).  First thing as we drove in – my obligatory entrance sign picture.  This pic is one of my favorite pics of me! Our first stop was the Dickey Ridge Visitor’s Center, for stamps, postcards, and a t-shirt! We also talked to the ranger and got some advice on which hikes we wanted to do. We got a great recommendation on a couple and then set off to find the first one.

Me posing with the Shenandoah National Park Sign

Me posing with the Shenandoah National Park Sign

Our first hike was the Compton Gap Trail. The hike was two miles roundtrip (it would have been 2.4, but we missed one of the side spurs to another viewpoint, which ended up being ok, because we weren’t short on mileage that day).

We hiked along the Appalachian Trail for about a mile of this hike.  The Appalachian Trail is an approximately 2,200 mile scenic trail, that goes from Georgia all the way to Maine.  Hikers can hike sections, or  they can attempt to thru-hike, which means you hike the entire length of the trail in a season.  The idea of the Appalachian Trail was first conceived in the 1920s and was completed in the 1930s.  The first documented thru-hike was completed in 1948, and in 2014, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy reported that 653 hikers completed a northbound thru-hike, with 76 completing the more difficult southbound thru-hike.  As intriguing as it sounds, this is not on my bucket list…

Jon hiking ahead (as usual) on the Compton Gap Trail

Jon hiking ahead (as usual) on the Compton Gap Trail

Back to our Compton Gap hike – about a mile up the trail leads to a wonderful viewpoint, with a vast tree canopy, and a river in the far distance. It reminded me of the tree filled views at home, only with deciduous trees instead of conifers.  Also rewarding was the fact that we were alone for the majority of the hike!  The total elevation gain on this hike was 835 feet, so it wasn’t too strenuous.  I enjoyed getting a taste of the rocky terrain; we passed by several huge boulders, and the trail was made up of rocks too!

The view at the top of the Compton Gap Trail. Trees, as far as the eye can see!

The view at the top of the Compton Gap Trail. Trees, as far as the eye can see!

There wasn’t much wildlife aside from birds who didn’t hang around long enough to be found or photographed, but I did find this caterpillar – I didn’t touch him. I guess their hairs can be irritating to your skin; we only have orange and black woolly bear caterpillars at home – I had never seen a white one!  We also saw a millipede, which is probably only notable for me because we don’t have them back home. 

The cute Wooly Bear Caterpillar I found

The cute Wooly Bear Caterpillar I found

After Compton Gap, we had lunch at the picnic area at Elkwallow Wayside, and listened to a few Appalachian Trail hikers swap stories of their experiences. There was a little store there that sold hamburgers and a few other hot food meals, so I’m sure it was quite a popular stop for hikers who had been in the woods for days!

Our next hike was Jon’s choice for the day – the Mary’s Rock Trail; it departed from the aptly named Mary’s Rock Trailhead at milepost 31.6.  It was a 3.7 mile hike up to the top of – you guessed it – Mary’s Rock. The trail was similar to the one we already hiked, with gigantic boulders and smaller rocks making up a lot of the trail. It was longer and steeper though, with a 1,210 foot elevation gain.  The rocky trail made for careful hiking, because you wouldn’t want to twist an ankle!

Me on the Mary's Rock Trail

Me on the Mary’s Rock Trail

 

Jon waiting for me to catch up on the Mary's Rock Hike

Jon waiting for me to catch up on the Mary’s Rock Hike

The Mary’s Rock hike had a lot of switchbacks, and was a little steep in places. However, the view at the top made it all worthwhile – it was amazing! There is a giant rock outcrop at the top that gives you a 360 degree view if you climb up on it. Despite my fear of heights, I scrambled up the rock, and was really glad I did.  We sat up there for awhile, and saw a couple of turkey vultures soaring over the treetops. 

Me embracing my inner nerd on top of Mary's Rock

Me embracing my inner nerd on top of Mary’s Rock

 

A Turkey Vulture Soaring above the trees at Mary's Rock

A Turkey Vulture Soaring above the trees at Mary’s Rock

Although we had already done two hikes that day, we had more we wanted to see and do!  I’ll tell you about the rest of the day in my next post! 

 

 

 

Colorado 2015: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Day 4: August 4, 2015

Have you ever heard of the Gunnison River and Black Canyon of the Gunnison? I don’t blame you if you haven’t – I really hadn’t either until a couple of years ago. But after hearing about a canyon that rivals the Grand Canyon in terms of its awe-inspiring beauty – I knew I had to see it.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park has two main roads, one on each rim of the canyon. Driving to the other rim is about a 90 minute trip, because you have to go outside the park and drive around. We chose to visit the South Rim, based on what worked for our trip route, which has a Rim Road that is about 6 miles long with several viewpoints along the way.

A view of the Gunnison River

A view of the Gunnison River

We went to the Visitor’s center, which has a fabulous view of the Canyon from an overlook. Jon and I also went on a 2 mile hike, the Oak Flat Loop Trail, which took us through stands of Gambel Oak trees, and descends a short distance into the canyon. It gave a great perspective on what the canyon walls look like from below. At one point of the trail, there is a sheer wall of granite – you can look up and see the sparkly rock, and see the swifts leaving and returning to their nests high above.

A butterfly on the Oak Flat Loop Trail.

A butterfly on the Oak Flat Loop Trail.

After our hike, we did the scenic drive, and stopped at several of the viewpoints, which have overlooks between 100 and 600 yards from the parking areas. Each viewpoint has a sign marking how far the walk is. Each overlook offers something different, showing various features of the geology of the canyon.

Rock formations at Black Canyon

Rock formations at Black Canyon

The Pulpit Rock Overlook has a unique rock formation jutting out into the canyon, giving a great view of the river.  Another of the overlooks, the Painted Wall overlook, gives a view of the Painted Wall to those who are willing to walk the 200 yards, which at 2,250 feet is the tallest cliff in Colorado, and 1,000 feet taller than the Empire State Building.

The Painted Wall with its unique features.

The Painted Wall with its unique features.

The view of the river below the Painted Wall

The view of the river below the Painted Wall

The last overlook on the South Rim Road is at Warner Point; it offers a 1373 yard hike (about 1.5 miles round trip), to a panoramic viewpoint.  In one direction, you can see the canyon, in the other, you get a spectacular view of the farmland outside the park.  Jon and I really enjoyed ourselves on this hike, and we were virtually alone the whole time!

A view of distant farmland from the Warner Point Trail

A view of distant farmland from the Warner Point Trail

After hiking the overlooks, we decided to take the 5 mile road down to the Gunnison River.  The road is extremely steep, with over a 16% grade, so we had to shift into low gear and take it slow (it did take us a little while to figure out how to get the rental car into the lowest gear).

Once at the river, we sat for a little while and relaxed, watching a fly fisherman further up the river.  Only catch and release is permitted.  We also saw a small branch floating down the river, and when it got just past us I realized it was actually a river otter!  I didn’t get any pictures though, because I was caught completely by surprise.

A fly fisherman in the Gunnison River.

A fly fisherman in the Gunnison River.

We had a fabulous day in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, taking in the amazing views, and spending some time hiking along the rim.  Jon would like to see the south rim as well, but that will have to wait for another trip.

We couldn’t stay at the park too late, because we still have quite a long drive ahead of us – we were going to be visiting Great Sand Dunes National Park the next day.  We had dinner on the road, at the Blue Mesa Grill in Gunnison, which had an assortment of dishes.  I mixed and matched my dinner, with a Philadelphia sushi roll with mango and a cup of Baked Potato soup.  Jon had a Tuna roll, and shared his dad’s burger.  It hit the spot!

My Philadelphia Roll and Baked Potato Soup at the Blue Mesa Grill

My Philadelphia Roll and Baked Potato Soup at the Blue Mesa Grill

Obligatory pic at the Continental Divide

Obligatory pic at the Continental Divide

On the rest of the drive, we saw lots of magpies and rabbits, plus two bighorn sheep!  No photos though, as it was dusk and we were moving at a good clip along the highway.  What a great day!

Total driving distance on Day 4: 195 miles – Montrose – Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park – Alamosa
Hotel for the night: Super 8, Alamosa – dated, strange room configuration, smokers right outside our window (YUCK!), decent breakfast.