Road Trip 2022, Part IV: Rainforests and Beaches

Part I

Part II

Part III

The next morning, full of energy and optimism, we went to the Hoh Visitor Center to get our ONP passport stamps. And discovered that the visitor centers are only open Fri–Sun this time of year. It was now Monday morning and we had missed all our chances for stamps and souvenirs. Devastating.

And yet, somehow, life goes on.

We chose the Hall of Mosses trail for our rainforest hike. It’s a good hike, but this is definitely an experience that would have benefitted from some rain. Everything was dry from several days of no precipitation.

Near the start of the trail is a pond. At first glance it looks like any random bit of flooded woodland, but look closer and the perfect clarity of the water is startling. Little creatures swimming in it look like they’re levitating.

The rainforest itself is unlike anything I’d seen before. Bright and airy, but covered in strange mosses and symbiotic plants. It looks like an alien planet.

When I was younger, I used to love going to the zoo. I never got tired of walking around and looking at all the animals and the elaborate landscaping. Now zoos just make me sad. All I can think about is what empty, frustrating lives those captive creatures must endure.

That’s how I felt walking through this rainforest.

Like I didn’t belong there. That gravel path didn’t belong there. This entire vast region used to belong to these strange trees and mosses and now there’s just this little bit of park left for them, encircled by roads and human structures.

Like they’ve had their dignity and their privacy taken from them and now they’re just exhibits in a “tree zoo.”

Which brings me to the thing that bothered me most about the Olympic Peninsula and the Washington coast.

This rant was going to happen at some point on this blog. This seems like as good a place as any. <Grabs soapbox and clears throat>

From the time we drove onto the peninsula until the time we crossed the Astoria-Megler Bridge into Oregon, almost every business and tourist spot we visited was festooned with Indigenous-style art, totem poles, carvings, the whole works. From all of the very popular leaping-salmon depictions to hundreds of native-art-style Sasquatch paintings and totems (holy crap is Washington obsessed with Sasquatch), the ambiance was carefully crafted to make tourists feel like they’re walking on tribal land. Which was exactly how I felt, but in the worst possible way.

I dislike the term “cultural appropriation.” I think it’s natural and beneficial for different human societies to learn from each other and share their crafts and developments. But that’s very clearly not what happened up there. And yes, I know the entire country was founded on indigenous genocide from sea to shining sea. I’ve just rarely seen the spoils of a genocided culture so conspicuously on display as I did in Washington. It made me uncomfortable every time I ran into new examples of it. That is all. <Steps off soapbox and resumes tour of park>

We had reservations for that night at Lake Quinault Lodge, and some time to kill before check-in. We decided to go look at Ruby Beach.

This was our first experience with the wild northern beaches. I wish I had taken more pics here, but I was kind of overwhelmed by the absolute chaos of it. This is no serene SoCal beach, there’s nothing domesticated about it. It’s an untamed shipwrecker of a beach, the kind of shoreline that sailors feared. Big sharp rocks create a rough, dangerous surf far out into the sea.

The “driftwood” here is full-size trees. There are signs on Washington beaches warning swimmers that loose logs in the surf might knock them unconscious so riptides can drag them out to sea for the rocks to shred. These beaches have no chill. (Except temperature-wise. Northern beaches are very chilly.)

Cedar Creek wanders out of the forest here to join the sea. Every beach we visited on this trip had at least one river or stream emptying into it. Not such a strange thing; that’s what rivers do. But down in SoCal, water is too valuable to just let it escape into the ocean. I know there must be examples of rivers flowing into SoCal beaches, but I’ve never seen it firsthand.

Just down the highway, “Kalaloch Beach 4” is known for its tide pools. We were there at the wrong time of day for tide pools, but I’m glad we stopped to check it out. My favorite part of this beach is the path from the parking lot to the sand. There is an overlook at the top:

And then a staircase…

…to a wooden bridge…

…to a rock walkway…

…with a rope to help you climb down.

We didn’t really need to use the rope, but it felt like the thing to do.

Tangent: There’s a striking contrast between the outdoor clothing and gear I saw people wearing in Washington and what I’m used to seeing in Colorado. I don’t know if it’s the climate differences or just local trends. In Colorado, outdoor gear and garments tend to be more technical, with an emphasis on ultra-lightweight high-tech fabrics and designs. I hardly ever see big old-school leather hiking boots here, for example, but I saw them all over the Olympic Peninsula. At Kalaloch Beach 4, a man looked at Luke’s chartreuse Altras and asked him if he was from Europe.

The beach itself is unremarkable if the tide pools are underwater. We looked around and moved on.

A few minutes farther down the highway there’s a tree that’s had the soil washed away from its roots by a small stream looking for the sea. It’s kind of inspiring, this tree’s determination to survive.

Beneath the tree is a tiny cave containing a tiny waterfall and a tiny pool.

Did I mention there are wild berries growing all over the Pacific Northwest? They’re just everywhere. We were there too early in the season for any of them to be ripe yet, sadly.

It still wasn’t time yet to check into our room at the lodge, but the Roosevelt Room was open for lunch.

We had a really excellent meal there, and then killed some more time by going to look at the World’s Biggest Spruce Tree. It’s a massive Sitka. Elizabeth for scale:

When we got back from the World’s Biggest Spruce Tree, the lodge let us know that our room was ready and we could check in early. While Luke and Elizabeth settled in, I took all of our dirty laundry to a little laundromat that I’d seen on the way to the big spruce. Not sure why Lake Quinault Lodge doesn’t have its own laundry room, but it worked out anyway.

In the morning we had an amazing breakfast in the Roosevelt Room.

Afterward I explored the grounds a bit and followed a pretty trail along the shoreline of Lake Quinault, but we were all ready to move on.

Up next: the Oregon Coast!

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, environment, Family, food, Holidays, kids, Life, Politics, Road trip, Travel, trees, Weather | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Road Trip 2022, Part III: Waterfalls

Read Part I here

Read Part II here

Knocking out the Hurricane Ridge hike on Saturday afternoon instead of Sunday morning put us comfortably ahead of schedule on our planned itinerary. We indulged in a 5-star breakfast of hot ramen and cold pizza and broke camp.

We passed another ONP visitor center on the drive back to Hwy 101, but it hadn’t opened yet. No worries, plenty of others where we could get our park stamps and postcards.

Returning to the highway in Port Angeles, we followed it around to Olympic Hot Springs Road. This access road is closed to vehicles about two miles in because of a 2017 washout that has never been repaired. We would have liked to see the Glines Canyon Dam Spillway Overlook, farther up the road past the closure, but we didn’t want it enough to walk to it. We were here for the Madison Falls trail, which is as far as the road still goes.

I think ONP must be a giant network of river valleys. It seemed like every road or trail we took ran beside a creek or river with looming walls of forest rising on each side. Olympic Hot Springs Road follows the sparkling-clear Elwha River.

From the parking lot we found a short, paved trail through lush forest that glowed in the morning sunshine.

Madison Falls is very pretty; well worth the short walk.

It’s too bad photos and even videos can’t really capture the power of waterfalls. We saw some great ones, and none of them are represented well in these pics.

Luke found a cave.

After the Falls, we played in the river a bit and then drove back to the highway.

Our next stop was Lake Crescent, near the Marymere Falls trailhead. The waters of Lake Crescent are so crystal clear that they look like an optical illusion.

The trail to Marymere Falls is about a mile long and unpaved, following Barnes Creek through dense, mossy forest and across various wooden bridges and staircases.

Marymere Falls is hard to photograph well. It’s a lot bigger than it looks in this pic.

By then we’d worked up an appetite, so we drove up the road to Lake Crescent Lodge for lunch.

This meal began a trend that continued for as long as we followed the Pacific coast: fresh seafood and berry cobblers. Wild berries are ubiquitous and prolific in the Pacific Northwest; we saw them everywhere. And they are preserved and served in delicious cobblers in almost every restaurant we visited.

This was also the meal where we discovered that we’re not fans of raw oysters. But I highly recommend the lodge’s lavender lemonade, it’s amazing.

We had planned to spend Sunday night at Fairholme Campground on the shores of Lake Crescent. But we were so far ahead of schedule that it made no sense to stop. Luckily Fairholme is another first-come-first-served campground, so there were no reservations to forfeit. On to the next access road, a Forest Service road that follows the Sol Duc River and connects to Sol Duc Hot Springs Rd. We stopped in at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort to reserve a soak in their hot pools later in the afternoon. Then on down the road to the Sol Duc Falls trailhead.

The farther south we drove, the more lush and jungly the trails became. I started to wish for rain, because I feel like that’s the best way to experience these rainforesty woods. The weather alternated between sunny and misty overcast, but no actual rain.

The trail to Sol Duc Falls is just under a mile and very tropical.

A pretty creek crossing:

Sol Duc is another beautiful, hard-to-photograph waterfall.

After the Falls we returned to the resort for a blissful 90 minutes in the hot springs. The hot untreated pools smelled like sulfur and felt like heaven.

I forgot to mention in my last post that we did stop at a TA travel center in Snoqualmie for showers. We aren’t complete barbarians. And we showered at the resort before we got in their pools. In case any of my gentle readers were worried.

Thus refreshed, we headed back to the 101. It was late in the afternoon by then, and we were starting to think about where to spend the night. We drove through the town of Forks, where the Twilight vampires live, passed up a few campgrounds because it wasn’t quite time to stop yet, and then took the access road toward the Hoh Rainforest. This worked out perfectly: there is a visitor center, a campground and several trailheads all in a clump here. Had no problem finding an empty site at Hoh Campground. We were so tired and relaxed from hikes and hot springs that we didn’t bother to set up the tent, just put our open food into the campsite bear box and slept in the car.

Next up: rainforests!

 

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, environment, Family, food, Holidays, kids, Life, Road trip, Travel, trees, Weather, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Road Trip 2022, Part II: Hurricane Ridge

Read Part I here

Olympic National Park has no main road passing through it. Instead Highway 101 encircles it on three-and-a-half sides, extending narrow access roads like fingers into the park’s different ecosystems.

From the ferry we drove northeast to Hwy 101, followed that to Port Angeles and then took the first of the fingers, Hurricane Ridge Road, up to our campground in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains. Heart o’ the Hills Campground is first-come-first-serve, and we weren’t sure how busy the park might get on a Saturday in mid-May. We were anxious to secure a spot before the campground filled up.

We needn’t have worried. We never encountered any real crowds or lines or full campgrounds during our time there. It’s a beautiful park and I’m glad we visited in what is apparently the off-season.

By the time we’d set up camp it was mid-afternoon, still sunny and mild. The forecast called for clouds rolling in later in the day and hanging out for several days after that. I wished we could do the Hurricane Hill hike that day instead of the next, but it’s almost always a bad idea to start a climb in the afternoon in the mountains. We decided to just drive up to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center to check out the views from there, since it might be our last chance to see them while the visibility was still good.

The drive up was quite a lot farther than we expected. Port Angeles is of course at sea level; our campground was a little higher at 1771 ft elevation. Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center sits up at 5242 ft, at the top end of a steep and winding road.

The parking lot was clear but surrounded by feet of snow.

The road to our trailhead was also clear, but still closed to vehicles and unlikely to open in the next few days.

None of us really wanted to do the drive again in the morning. We asked a ranger what our chances were of completing the Hurricane Hill hike before the clouds rolled in that afternoon. He said the weather looked pretty stable and he saw no reason why we shouldn’t give it a try, as long as we were prepared to turn back if the situation changed.

By unanimous agreement, we immediately girded our loins for the ascent.

The walk to the trailhead is about a mile and a half of paved, gentle climb. In the spots where the snow borders weren’t too high to see over, the views were gorgeous.

The trail itself is another mile and a half, much steeper, and mostly buried in snow when we were there. But since it follows a gusty ridgeline the snow wasn’t as deep as on the lower slopes, and it got enough foot traffic to pack down nice and solid. Crampons would have been nice, but we managed fine in just boots.

The views continued to be gorgeous.

But the top of Hurricane Hill is the real payoff. It’s breathtaking. You can see Port Angeles and across the Salish Sea to British Columbia.

One of those peaks behind me is Mount Olympus, but I never did figure out which one.

Altogether about six miles round-trip. Perfect weather from beginning to end.

I think tourists must be feeding the local wildlife. This little birb came down and cheeped at me like a hungry hatchling.

When I didn’t give him anything he flew away with a look of disgust like I’d wasted his time.

Snowdrifts along the roadside:

The visitor center was closed by the time we got back to the car. We had been in such a hurry to start the hike, we hadn’t even gotten our national park passport stamp. But there are several other visitor centers in the park, so we weren’t worried about it.

We drove all the way back down to Port Angeles and picked up two pizzas from a nice little artisan place right on the waterfront.

We ate the pizzas at our campsite (but not in our tent, because that’s how you get bears) and turned in for the night. And were reminded that our nice little SunDome is a summer tent and does nothing to keep out the cold. Luckily we had brought warm jammies and more blankets than even I had thought we would need.

And that was our first day in Olympic National Park. More to come!

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, environment, Family, food, Holidays, kids, Life, Road trip, Travel, trees, Weather, Wildlife, Winter | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Road Trip 2022, Part I

The world feels a bit apocalyptic lately. There’s been a growing sense in the back of my mind that if I don’t make time soon for all the things I want to see on this earth, I’ll miss my chance and never get to them at all. So, on a gray morning in mid-May, Luke and Elizabeth and I packed up the car and headed north out of Colorado to check a few more items off the bucket list. 

In retrospect we brought way too much stuff with us, but you never know what you might need on a trip like this. My main concern was boredom in between the interesting bits. I brought books to read, a journal to write in, camp games to play, even the old family hymnal in case we felt like a sing-along. I’m not a fan of organized religion, but my issues with it don’t extend to those lovely ancient hymns. In the traveling days of my childhood, those were the songs that passed the miles.

The books, games, journal and hymnal sat untouched in the trunk for the entire trip. An audiobook reading of “The Fellowship of the Ring” brightened a few tedious stretches of road, but for the most part it was the journey itself that kept us entertained.

We brought boxes of nonperishable food, and most of it came back home with us. Canned and dehydrated provisions and energy bars could not compete with all the fresh local fare we enjoyed along the way.

We brought raincoats, rain hats, sun hats, an umbrella, LifeStraws and matches and never needed any of them.

For myself I packed something like twelve shirts, and then wore the same merino wool top for almost the entire expedition. On the other hand, I brought five different pairs of footwear – snow boots, chelsea boots, trail runners, water shoes, sheepskin booties – and ended up using and being grateful for all of them. You just never know what you’re going to need.

We stopped for lunch in a 1950’s-themed diner in windy Wyoming, skimmed through the northeast corner of Utah and spent the first night in a truck stop parking lot in southern Idaho, just trying to put the miles behind us on this first uneventful leg of the journey. We were on the first runthrough of our road trip music playlist and hadn’t got tired of it yet, so we turned it up loud and sang along.

Back in January when we started discussing the trip, we had planned to stop in Salt Lake City to see Temple Square. I’m no flavor of religious, but I can appreciate fine architecture. Unfortunately the Temple is buried in scaffolding now for renovations. We’ll visit it another time, when the construction is done and we can appreciate it in all its majestic glory.

The next morning we stopped in Twin Falls, Idaho, to see Shoshone Falls. The “Niagara of the West” is fed by the once-mighty Snake River, but agricultural diversion and drought have all but dried this part of it up. Here is what’s left of the Snake just upstream of Shoshone Falls:

The falls were flowing at a sad trickle when we arrived, just before the viewing area officially opened. That big dry riverbed tells a cautionary tale about climate change and unsustainable water use.

Some baby marmots were frolicking together on the viewing path, and there were several larger adults nibbling grass in the picnic area. We had never seen marmots before and had to consult the googles to find out what we were looking at. Yellow-bellied marmots are apparently common in the Twin Falls area.

Shortly after we arrived, the dam released a pleasantly noisy and scenic flow over part of the falls. I’m guessing this is done during the park’s open hours to attract tourists. The riverbed itself was still dry, but at least we felt like we had seen an actual waterfall. Birbs for scale:

Later we stopped for lunch in the Basque Block of Boise, Idaho’s Old Historic District. This colorful enclave is dedicated to preserving and commemorating the language and culture of Europe’s Basque region.

We bought a bar of chocolate in the Basque Market because we liked the wrapper. The excellent chocolate was a delicious bonus.

We had a nice lunch at Bar Gernika, named for a small town that was bombed by nazis during the Spanish Civil War in 1937. Picasso’s famous painting, “Guernica,” is referenced on a mural next to the pub.

The Snake River winds back up and around to mark the state line between Idaho and Oregon. We crossed the river for the second time and continued north.

At a rest stop in Oregon we found a little water mill that had once powered a tool shop.

We drove through Deadman Pass, where I-84 follows the old Oregon Trail. This is a steep and winding section of highway that loses 2,000 feet of elevation in six miles of hairpin curves. The views are great.

We crossed the Columbia River into Washington, and made a small detour in the sleepy town of Zillah to see a defunct gas station shaped like a teapot.

Fun fact: there is a “Church of God Zillah.” Presumably unrelated to the Japanese monster.

The weather was unpredictable on this first part of the journey. We’d had rain off and on ever since we left Denver, but so far it had hospitably followed a pattern of raining while we drove and being clear whenever we stopped to look at something.

I was obsessively following weather forecasts for the Olympic Peninsula. I wanted to hike Hurricane Hill via Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, but so far the seasonal road to the trailhead was still closed to vehicles due to an unusually snowy spring. Walking to the trailhead would add an additional three miles to the hike. But aside from that, the Hurricane Hill trail is all about the views from the top. It wouldn’t even be worth doing on a foggy, overcast day with poor visibility. So I watched the forecasts and hoped for open roads and one day of clear weather.

We spent the second night in a dirt parking lot on Snoqualmie Pass Summit, next to some (open and heated, yay!) public restrooms and a gift/coffee shop that had closed for the night. We left early the next morning, before the shop opened, which was too bad because I had read good things about their hot chocolate. The air was cold on the pass.

Tangent: in California I used to ride Stormy on the Pacific Crest Trail where it ran through Anza. Back then I just assumed that at some point in my life I would ride or hike the entire length of it from Mexico to Canada. At my age that project doesn’t sound like fun anymore, but I did enjoy seeing a trailhead for the PCT as we continued on through Snoqualmie Pass.

We took another short detour off the Interstate to visit Snoqualmie Falls.

Photos can’t capture the real essence of big waterfalls: the thundering roar, the fresh mist on your face, the sense of dynamic energy. Snoqualmie Falls did not disappoint.

Saw this colorful boi there! Love his little racing stripe.

In Seattle we stopped to see the Lenin Statue. It had been defaced with paint; apparently someone was mad at it about Ukraine. Maybe they got Lenin mixed up with Putin because they’re both named Vladimir?

Elizabeth for scale.

We also visited the Troll Under the Bridge.

Next we stretched our legs at Gas Works Park, which is what it sounds like: an old gas works that has been converted into a public park. 

The park sits on the shore of Lake Union and offers nice views of the Seattle skyline. The weather had turned clear and fine, and people were out playing with their boats and water planes.

From Seattle we took the Edmonds-Kingston Ferry across the Puget Sound to the Peninsula. It would have been faster to drive the long way around, just because of the wait times for boarding. But we had never taken this kind of ferry before, and this seemed like a good opportunity to check it off the bucket list.

Next up: Olympic National Park!

Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, Christianity, environment, Family, food, Holidays, kids, Life, Road trip, Travel, Weather, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Migration

Watching the big, noisy flocks of Canada Geese migrate overhead is another Colorado novelty that I haven’t gotten tired of yet. I see them every day now on their winter journey south.

Categories: Animals, Artwork, environment, Life, Uncategorized, Wildlife, Winter | Tags: | Leave a comment

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