Olympic NP Day 1

Wednesday, 8/4

What an incredible day! We woke up, got breakfast at the local grocery store, and worked our way south toward Lake Quinault. We decided that we would try to keep this day as open and unplanned as possible, and this turned out to be a really good idea. Our first stop was at the “Beach 4” along the Pacific ocean and a part of Olympic NP that borders the water. This was such a cool spot!

On the path down to Beach 4 from the parking lot
Everything is so green!
Andrea makes her way down the path

The coastal fog blanketed the beach and the trees; the rocks along the beach were all round and smooth. The entire forest was moody and both literally and figuratively cool.

Andrea on Beach 4
Beach 4, shrouded in coastal fog

Oh yeah, and the bald eagles! As we hiked along the beach toward some of the tidal pools, I looked up and saw one bald eagle already perched in a tree. Shortly thereafter, his buddy joined him. They chatted for a little bit, which was so fascinating and funny to hear. Andrea took some great photos of both of them perched in the tree and we watched them for a long time.

A photo from Andrea’s camera
Eagle watching
The chatty pair
Zoomed in

It was a tranquil and quiet place, with beauty all around, and a perfect first location to visit within the Park.

Slow mo Pacific Ocean
Tidal Pool

From Beach 4, we got back in the car to venture further south along the Peninsula. Interestingly, as soon as we left the coastal area, the fog disappeared the sun came back out, and the temperature quickly went up 10 or 15 degrees.

I wanted to make it to Quinault, as my dad reminded me that we had visited there 1993, and I sat in the same chair as FDR! I’m so glad we were able to make that happen, for more reasons than one. Indeed. we were able to see the Lake Quinault Lodge, and take a look inside the Roosevelt Room restaurant, and I had forgotten how beautiful that Lodge was and still is, designed by the same architect who built the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone, Robert Reamer.

The Lodge
From the lakeside
A sign leading to the Roosevelt Room

We were also able to get in a really cool hike, that started along the lake, and then worked its way up into a rain forest. Amazingly tall trees, like the cedar and the western Hemlock and the Sitka Spruce. A good hike for two or three miles through some incredible scenery, this was a loop trail and brought us back to the lake. We changed into our suits, and jumped in the water, which was cool but not cold and incredibly refreshing! Obviously, a terrific way to cool off on a warm summer day.

Hiking near Lake Quinault
The beautiful rainforest
Andrea on the trail

We ended the day with a trip out to La Push to view the sunset along the Pacific. Dinner on the beach (pizza and a panini) and watching the sun work its way below the coastal fog and slowly to the horizon. We saw several people getting ready to camp on the beach before we trudged back to the car to get back to the hotel and crash. A long but incredible day with two trips to the beach along the Pacific and a walk down memory lane sandwiched in between!

Sunset in La Push
Andrea on the beach
A fallen tree into the ocean
The ocean along the rocky beach
A dead tree still standing

(Writing this as we take the ferry to Stehekin)


Leaving Paradise

Tuesday, 8/3

We left Paradise, and were sad to go. An unbelievably beautiful hotel and a gorgeous National Park with amazing views of Mount Rainier.

The Paradise Inn
The beautiful Grand Hall
Historic Grandfather Clock inside Paradise Inn

We weren’t quite done with the park though, as we decided to honor Andrea‘s grandfather and a trip that he made into the park a long time ago. From Paradise, we drove south and then east, descending as we went. Near the southeast corner of the park, we made a left and headed north in order to make it to Chinook Pass. It was there, in 1943, that Andrea‘s grandfather, Robert, stopped and took a photo with a camera that Andrea now owns herself: a Kodak Volenda 160, manufactured in 1938.

Andrea with her grandfather’s camera

We found the spot where he took that photo, or at least, we were very close to it. And to honor his legacy, Andrea took some photos with the very same camera! I took pictures of Andrea taking the pictures, although of course I took mine with my phone. I have no doubt that my phone won’t last nearly as long as Andrea‘s grandfather‘s camera has!

Views of Rainier from the East
Similar views to what Andrea’s grandfather had

Before leaving the park, we wanted to visit Sunrise and the Visitor Center at the highest point in the park accessible by car. It was a long drive up, with lots of switchbacks, but you were rewarded with cool views of the mountain that you couldn’t see elsewhere. Lots more snow, with more glaciers visible. It was crowded near the top, and we knew we had a long drive ahead of us, so we didn’t stay for too long, but I’m glad we made it to that park as well.

Wildflowers and Rainier

From Sunrise, we knew that we had to drive for about for five hours, to get out to the Olympic National Park and the Olympic Peninsula. For most of the drive, Andrea took the wheel, while I took a decent nap, waking up as we crossed Puget Sound north and west of Tacoma. We worked our way around the Olympic Peninsula, as we were trying to get to Forks. We stopped at Lake Crescent, which is technically inside Olympic NP, to stretch our legs and get views of this beautiful glacial lake. From there, we continued west and south until we made it to Forks. Staying at the Forks Motel was fine, although certainly not extravagant. Regardless, it was clean and convenient, and gave us access to the western section of Olympic NP.

Entering Olympic NP
Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent

(Writing this as we take the ferry to Stehekin)

Hurricane Ridge to Hurricane Hill

Friday, 8/6

Writing these out of order for the moment. But will get back to Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday at some point soon. Today we woke up in Port Angeles, at the Olympic Lodge. Very nice and clean and quiet hotel. Easy access to Olympic National Park, and the Olympic National Park Visitor Center, which is just outside of town.

Had breakfast in the hotel and got cleaned and organized and figured out what we were doing this morning. Took our time this morning after a few long days in a row, yesterday especially. At around noon, we drove from Port Angeles up past the Visitor Center and up Hurricane Ridge Road.

A beautiful and relatively quick drive took us up to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center. We stopped and got out and had a cooler lunch (tortillas and cheese and turkey and jerky) and explored the area around the parking lot and in the Visitor Center itself. From there, we drove to the trailhead for Hurricane Ridge up to Hurricane Hill. It’s a paved trail, but certainly steep in parts. We worked our way up to the top, pausing a few times to catch our breath, but views from the top are incredible. We were able to see down to Port Angeles and the Juan De Fuca Strait, all the way across to Victoria and Vancouver Island. On a really clear day, you can even see Mt. Baker, north of Seattle and close to the Canadian border, but it was just a LITTLE too cloudy today. Still, great weather at the top, with a few high clouds mixed with a decent amount of sunshine.

The sign at the trailhead
Views of the Olympic Mts on the hike up to Hurricane Hill
A helicopter flying below us through the valley
Curious hungry little ‘munk friend
Views down to Port Angeles
Andrea looks back toward Mt. Olympus and Mt. Carrie
The mountains and the mountains
A rock with a view

Spent a lot of time at the top of Hurricane Hill, which sits at 5757 feet. Saw a few black tail deer, including two bucks, and hiked a but of the trail to Elwha and the Elwha River (not paved). When it started to get too steep and too much of a descent, we decided to turn around to head back to Hurricane Hill Trail. Andrea took a time lapse video, so I am writing this post as the time lapses. Time, of course, always lapses, but as I write this, there’s a video of the clouds and the Olympic Mountains being recorded too.

(Insert time lapse video.)

The Elwha Trailhead

Bonus: after coming back down the mountain and into Port Angeles, we picked up dinner at the same Pho restaurant we ate at on Thursday night and headed BACK up Hurricane Ridge Road so that Andrea could attempt to get a few photos of the sunset from the mountains. The sky didn’t exactly cooperate, but it was still an amazing place to watch the sun go down and to see darkness creep across the park and the city down below us.

Dusk above Hurricane Hill
Victoria on Vancouver Island
The lights of Victoria as night begins
Cool little iPhone photo / video montage

Pinnacle Peak and the Tatoosh Range

Today we went on a hike that we originally planned on doing yesterday. The hike from Reflection lakes up to Pinnacle Peak. It’s just a short drive from Paradise Inn, so we left around 11 after getting some ice for the cooler, (thank you kind workers in the café!)

We both got some nice photos by Reflection lake looking back at Rainier. It truly does live up to its name!

The aptly named Reflection Lake
Great Blue Heron (?)
Heron in the foreground by Reflection Lake, with Rainier towering above

From the lakes, we started the ascent up to Pinnacle Peak.

At the trailhead
The Trail Description
You Are Here

It might’ve been a little more steep than the climb to Bench lake and Snow lake, but it was certainly less buggy. We took our time going up, stopping for a lot of photos looking back south at Rainier. We crossed over two or three mountain streams as we climbed higher and higher.

Andrea and Rainier, just off the path
Looking back toward Paradise and the summit
I’m a good wall guy

Upon reaching the pass, at about 6200 feet, we encountered amazing views looking south, toward the Tatoosh Wilderness. If not for the haze and smoky skies, we could have seen Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens. As it was, we still enjoyed incredible vistas of the southern end of the Park.

A familiar sign with familiar instructions
Looking south, beyond the pass

From the pass, there were a few options. You could hike along the ridge toward Unicorn Peak, if you were to go to the east. You could climb Plummer Peak, which was to the west. Or you could attempt to scramble to get up near the top of pinnacle Peak. We chose the latter, but quickly realized we wouldn’t make it to the summit. It was just a little too far and a little too difficult. Still, it was a fun, if harrowing, climb and took us right up to an edge.

A little scary with a big sheer drop just over that edge.

From this vantage point, we actually had cell reception. So Andrea was able to FaceTime with her parents, and I with mine. We shared with them the views, as best we could.

She crazy. She make me nervous.
Sitting is safer
Plummer Peak

We scrambled back down to the pass, over some loose rock, going low and going slow. And then from there, even though we were tired and hot and running low on water, we decided to hike up a little bit of Plummer Peak. It was an easier and more gradual hike, and much less of a climb. We reached a beautiful Alpine Meadow with flowing water and a small pond and amazing views back across the valley towards Paradise. And because we had our filter, we were even able to replenish our water supply (and cool off with the water from the high mountain snow and stream.)

Cool, both literally and figuratively!
Setting up the water filter in a beautiful setting
Not a bad way to spend an afternoon
Mountain selfie

At this point, it was time to start walking back down towards the trailhead. We were both pretty tired and hot and sweaty. But we felt pretty damn good!

Andrea on the way back down, with Pinnacle Peak in the background
A look back towards our perch on the edge below Pinnacle Peak
The walk back down; hiking poles are SO HELPFUL
More beautiful mountain wildflowers
A grassy meadow off the trail

We made it back down by about 5pm, with two cold drinks waiting for us in the cooler. Headed back up to Paradise Inn, where we’ll have dinner again tonight.

On the road in to Paradise, just below the Visitors Center and Inn

Once again writing this post from the tranquility of our sitting room. A beautiful corner suite (number 302) before we head into the dining room for our last dinner on the mountain!

Paradise (part 2)

After leaving Snow and Bench, we paused at Reflection Lakes for a photo but I stayed in the car to enjoy the AC and listen to the Beatles.

We attempted to check in to Paradise Inn but were about two hours too early, so we decided to go for a quick stroll above the Inn. That stroll turned into our second real hike of the day. A walk to Myrtle Falls turned into a “let’s go see those switchbacks” became “Panorama Point” and views of McClure Rock and the Nisqually Glacier. We only climbed about 2000 feet, and didn’t bring enough water; I didn’t even carry a backpack. But it was a great hike with incredible views of the summit of Rainier above us and to the north and the Tatoosh Range to the south!

We saw several bald eagles and even a mountain rescue as a helicopter had to be flown in to Medevac someone off of Panorama Point. We heard conflicting reports, from a broken back or leg to an overweight man experiencing cardiac arrest, but still don’t know exactly what happened. I feel bad for the person involved and for the Park Rangers and medical personnel who had to care for him, but I’m also glad it wasn’t me!

The emergency helicopter leaving with the patient on board

The views above Paradise were incredible, of course, and even though the hike itself wasn’t exactly planned, it ended up being a perfect way to spend the second half of our day!

Looking back down at Paradise Inn and Visitors Center
Summit of Rainier and McClure Rock behind us
Waterfall, summit and Nisqually Glacier
Chinook helicopters flying past Pinnacle Peak in the Tatoosh Range
Panorama Point
Only 7.610 feet up to the summit!
On the descent down to Paradise
Views of the summit
Mountain lerv

All in all, two great hikes in one great day! And we even made it back down the mountain in time for our 7 PM dinner reservation at the Paradise Inn (I had the bison bolognese and two glasses of Chardonnay). A delicious meal and a terrific way to end our first day in the park.

Writing this from the sitting room in our hotel at Paradise Inn. That’s right: we have a sitting room.

A view of Rainier above Paradise Inn from the sitting room in our suite

Ashford to Paradise (part 1)

First full day in Rainier National Park! After having breakfast at the Bunkhouse (and meeting Ollie the dog), we loaded up the outback and drove into the park. It was only a few miles from the bunkhouse to the park boundary, and as soon as we passed the Nisqually Entrance, Andrea couldn’t stop exclaiming how excited she was to see the trees and the moss and the green and the dense forest! We drove along in the Nisqually River, and worked our way to higher elevations.

Before too long, we started to get glimpses of Rainier herself. I had forgotten how massive she is. We were able to turn off along a one-way loop near Ricksecker Point, and get out to start getting photos of the peak. There was definitely some haze, and perhaps some smoke, so we couldn’t always see the summit. We drove along the main road past Reflection Lakes and Pinnacle Peak, and parked at the trailhead for Bench and Snow lakes.

Trailhead sign for Bench Lake / Snow Lake

This was a great first hike for our trip! It wasn’t too easy, but it wasn’t too overtly challenging either. The only real issue: a LOT of bugs! Fortunately, Andrea had read some reviews on Alltrails ahead of time, so even though it was really buggy, we had long sleeves and pants on.

There was an incredible array of wildflowers, everywhere you looked, and often behind us, great views of the peak. Fortunately, the trails themselves weren’t very crowded. After a few stops for photos, and one quick pee break, we made our way to Bench Lake. At one point, we made a left when we should’ve made a right, but that ended up being just fine. We worked our way down to the lake on the correct path and got views of a perfect reflection in a still lake with Mt Rainier hovering above!

Wildflowers on the way to Bench Lake
Bench Lake

From Bench Lake, we worked our way to Snow, with a small bit of strenuous climbing and a large bit of flies and mosquitoes. Again, the pants and long sleeve shirt were definitely the right call!

Andrea crosses a small footbridge on the way up to Snow Lake

Snow Lake itself was absolutely beautiful! Nestled in a bowl beneath Unicorn Peak in the Tatoosh Range, the lake was serene and, if we had to do it over again, worth jumping into! As it was, we hiked beyond the end of the “maintained” trail and past a beautiful and cold mountain stream: the perfect place to cool off by splashing my face and drenching my buff.

Signs are merely suggestions

From there, we hiked above the stream, across some glacial rocks and till. Getting views up above Snow Lake were certainly worth the climb, and the higher we got, and the more away from the water, the less buggy too. We hiked along the notion of where a trail might be and worked our way back through some trees to get views of Snow Lake.

Looking back down at Snow Lake
Tranquil sounds from the top

From there, we worked our way back down, passing the stream again and catching a glimpse of an osprey that had just caught a fish!

Mountain stream above Snow Lake
Nice marmot

We explored the other side of the lake and saw where the designated / official camping areas were, as well as a PERFECT spot for a swim. We decided against it, however, and recognized we should probably begin to work our way back down to the trailhead.

Andrea looking back across Snow Lake, seeing where we had just hiked up to.

Heading back down the hill is always a little quicker than the ascent, of course, but we did stop for a few glimpses of Rainier on our way to the car. This really was the perfect hike to start our experience inside this national Park. Little did we know, it wasn’t going to be our only hike of the day!

Views of Rainier in between Snow Lake and Bench Lake

Whittaker’s Bunkhouse

Woke up here as we get ready to head into Rainier NP. Good breakfast and hot coffee while we sat on the front porch. Saw a familiar site leaving the parking lot this morning…

RMI Expeditions

Still a little bitter I didn’t summit Rainier in 2016, but it wasn’t to be. Regardless, very excited to head back into the park today!

Seattle to Ashford

Woke up at the Moxy Hotel and walked around Lake Union to get to the Subaru dealer for the rental. Sea Plane! Lots and lots of sea planes. Very pretty walk, from downtown Seattle near the Space Needle, across the Fremont Bridge, through Fremont and to the dealer.

Fremont, the Center of the Universe

After getting the Outback, we returned to the hotel to get our bags and check out. Such friendly people working at the hotel!

Cruised over to Pike Place and the Public Market to do a little touristy sightseeing. The line for the original Starbucks was LONG! Sorry Hazel. Crowds were a little iffy so we didn’t stay long.

Pike Place

Walked down to the water and Elliott Bay with our first glimpses of the Olympic Peninsula! There was a GIANT cruise shop docked near the Seattle Aquarium. Walked back to the car and got some lunch at a nice pizza place, sitting outside. Hopped in the car for the drive south on I-5 toward Ashford and Mt Rainier. Writing this post from the Whittaker bunkhouse, where I stayed 5 years ago with Lauren and Tim and Carl.

Sunset from the Whittaker

Walked a lot today; experiencing some lovely chafing on my inner thighs. Other than that, a nice first day in Washington State! Tomorrow morning we head into Mt Rainier National Park and up to Paradise.