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September 5, 2012

Crater Lake National Park

A few weeks ago we drove down to south-central Oregon for a long weekend in Bend and Crater Lake. Bend has a lot of excellent breweries (Deschutes, 10 Barrel, etc) and Crater Lake is, well, Crater Lake. It’s been on my to-do list for a few years, and despite the amazing images of the lake used in the Oregon Tourism ads, I was still floored by its beauty and size.


Panorama taken from Watchman Peak.

The caldera that Crater Lake occupies formed approximately 7,700 years ago when the volcano Mount Mazama erupted. Subsequent rain and melting snowfall filled the caldera, creating Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the United States.

We drove the 33 miles around the rim, stopping at various points to take short hikes. Strangely, the park did not seem very crowded, at least compared to places like Rainier or Olympic National Park.


Wizard Island, a volcanic cinder cone created by subsequent smaller eruptions.


Wizard Island’s cone.


View of the small island known as the “Phantom Ship”


The Pinnacles.


The tour boat in Crater Lake. We tried to get tickets, but unfortunately they were completely sold out.


View from the Watchman Lookout Station. Well worth the hike uphill!


The fire lookout station. Built in 1932. Elevation 8,025 feet.

Crater Lake is definitely a “must see” and well worth the long drive. We are planning to take another trip there in the winter, when the road that encircles the caldera is buried under feet of snow and open to snowshoers and crosscountry skiers.

The rest of the photos are here.

July 15, 2012

Exploring San Juan Island

Last weekend we made an impromptu trip to the San Juan Islands, an archipelago located between Washington state and Vancouver Island, Canada. There aren’t any bridges connecting the mainland to the San Juan Islands, so the only way you can get there is via ferry or airplane.

We opted for the ferry, and when we arrived at the loading terminal were met with this considerably long line:

Thankfully the ships are enormous and can hold a very large amount of cars, so we got on the earlier ferry and didn’t have to wait an additional two hours. Pricewise, the ferry is a pretty good deal. It was under $80 for roundtrip transportation of the car and an additional passenger.

The ferry ride itself is the worth the trip to the San Juans. Leave your car while the ferry is underway and head to the topside for some amazing views.


Mt. Baker


Approaching Friday Harbor

We chose to stay on San Juan Island. No particular reason why, it was just the first one that came to mind. After an approximately hour long ferry ride, we arrived in Friday Harbor. Friday Harbor is the largest city in the San Juan Islands, and the commercial hub of the archipelago, yet it still remains a quaint island town with a little over 2000 residents.

All of the hotels in Friday Harbor were booked solid (and those that weren’t were going for $250 per night) so we opted to camp instead. A quick Google search directed us to Lakedale Resort, which had available campsites for $45 per night. Quite extortionate for a campsite when compared to state and national campgrounds, but there aren’t many options on San Juan Island.

On Saturday morning were up early to start a full day exploration of the island (after a camp breakfast of bacon and eggs, of course). Our first stop was the English camp, which was built by the British in 1859 after the killing of a pig. Yes, a pig. The “Pig War” was an interesting piece of history that I had been completely unaware of until this visit. For more on the Pig War and subsequent showdown between British and American forces, check out this Wikipedia article.


Garden at the British camp

Driving south of the British camp…


Olympic mountain range off in the distance

And further south to the American camp. This is Cattle Point:


Cattle Point Lighthouse


Out here in the Pacific Northwest we don’t have very sandy beaches, so you have to entertain yourself by building stuff with driftwood, which we have plenty of.

We also went on a whale watching cruise, but we didn’t actually see any whales, which kinda sucked. Thankfully we can go back in the future and take the cruise again for free. But we did see some more of the islands:

And this random Chinese junk boat:

And Mount Baker:

After the unsuccessful whale watching cruise we drove back to camp and sat around the fire drinking beer and eating hot dogs and smores.

The next morning we got up early and headed back to the mainland via ferry.

This was a nice, relaxing weekend and great escape from the city. We definitely plan on returning to the San Juans.

The rest of the photos are here.

June 26, 2012

Olympic Peninsula: Dungeness Spit

Our last stop during our extended weekend trip to the Olympic Peninsula was Dungeness Spit, a natural sand spit that juts out into the Strait of San Juan de Fuca. With a length of 5.5-miles, it is the longest natural sand spit in the United States. And yes, in case you were wondering, that delicious Dungeness crab takes its name from this area of Washington.

We didn’t make the roundtrip 11 mile hike, but you certainly can if you are willing. At the end of the spit is the New Dungeness Lighthouse, built in 1857.


If you look closely, you can see the lighthouse

View all the Dungeness Spit photos.

June 25, 2012

Olympic National Park: Sol Duc Falls

After hiking and kayaking for the past few days, we decided we needed something a little more relaxing, so headed to the Sol Duc Valley area of Olympic National Park. Our main purpose for going there was to spend some time soaking in the Sol Duc Hot Springs pools, but first we made a detour to see the Sol Duc River’s famous waterfalls.

There are several ways to reach the waterfalls, either through a six mile hike or one mile stroll. Since we had done plenty of hiking the day prior, we opted for the shorter route. The scenery did not disappoint. It was just so…green.

As for the Hot Springs resort itself, I can’t say I was very impressed. The weather was quite chilly, so the warm water felt great, but the pools were packed wall to wall with people (then again, to be expected, as it was Memorial Day weekend). The water didn’t seem very clean and the women’s locker room was pretty disgusting. I think next time I’ll stick to the trails.

View the rest of the waterfall photos.

June 21, 2012

POTD: Snowshoeing Mount Rainier

While the rest of the United States is suffering from a heatwave, the Pacific Northwest seems to be permanently stuck in winter. Sure, we’ve had a few nice days where the sun has actually made an appearance, but otherwise we’ve endured rain and temperatures in the low 50s for the past few months. Apparently spring does not exist in this part of the world. Of course, no matter what time of year it is, it is always winter at the higher elevations of Mount Rainier. Although the above photo was taken in February, not much has changed since then. Most of the Cascade Range is still covered in snow as well, although the ski resorts have closed down for the season. If you are already looking to plan your winter activities for 2013, click here to visit Snowtrex.co.uk.

At a height of 14,411 feet, Mount Rainier is the tallest mountain in Washington state and is the most heavily glaciated peak south of Alaska. This isn’t your typical mountain, however. Mount Rainier is actually a stratovolcano and is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world due to its location near the most populated area in the Pacific Northwest. Despite this danger, Seattleites are appreciative of Mount Rainier, affectionately calling it “The Mountain”. On a clear day, Rainier provides a beautiful backdrop to the Seattle skyline and Elliott Bay. The recreational opportunities that Rainier presents are also unparalleled. Whether you enjoy hiking, camping, snowshoeing, skiing, or climbing, there is something for everyone. If you are visiting Seattle, it is a “must see” – just be sure to dress warmly, even if it is August.

June 21, 2012

Olympic National Park: Lake Crescent

Drive seventeen miles west of Port Angeles and you’ll arrive at Lake Crescent, a 12 mile long glacially carved lake nestled in the foothills of the Olympic mountain range.

We were looking for a place to kayak during our Memorial Day Trip to the Peninsula. Our initial research on places to rent kayaks led us to the Log Cabin Resort on Lake Crescent’s northern shore, however when we arrived we were met with a large “CLOSED” sign. So we next stopped at Lake Crescent Lodge, a National Park owned resort that features a rustic lodge surrounded by adorable little cottages. It was here that President Franklin Roosevelt stayed while touring the Olympic Peninsula in 1937. He later signed legislation designating the area as a National Park.


The only thing missing is a cold beer

Thankfully, the lodge rents kayaks (2 hours for $30) so we were able to spend some time out on the actual lake (although sitting on the shore was pretty nice).


The brilliant blue waters of Lake Crescent rival those in the Caribbean.


Attempt at self portrait in choppy waters


View of the lodge

If you’re on the Olympic Peninsula and looking for a place to kayak, or just relax on some comfy Adirondack chairs while enjoying amazing views, definitely check out the Lake Crescent Lodge.

More photos here.

June 18, 2012

Olympic Peninsula: Cape Flattery

After hiking the Ozette Loop, we headed to Cape Flattery. Located at the western tip of Washington state, Cape Flattery is where the Pacific Ocean meets the Strait of Juan de Fuca and is the most northwesternmost point of the contiguous United States (Cape Alava being the most western point by a mere 360 additional feet). Cape Flattery was named by Captain James Cook on March 22, 1778 while searching for a harbour (he made the wise decision to not approach the cape any further, as this would have meant certain disaster).

Unlike Cape Alava, Cape Flattery is not a part of Olympic National Park, but rather located on the Makah Indian Reservation. Upon entering the reservation you are asked to purchase a recreation pass. The pass costs $10 and is valid for a year. You can’t purchase the pass by the Cape Flattery trailhead, so be sure to stop at the mini-mart in Neah Bay (or there are a few other places in town) and purchase it prior to driving all the way out to the cape.

Once you arrive at the Cape Flattery parking lot, there is a short 3/4 mile hike over boardwalk that leads to viewing platforms and these views:


Tatoosh Island, home of the Cape Flattery Light

More photos here.

June 10, 2012

POTD: Central Park in New York City

The above photo was taken in August 2008, when I met up with my dad and brother in New York City so that we could see a Yankee game before they tore down the old Yankee Stadium. (At the time, direct flights to New York from Los Angeles were quite a deal; I, of course, took the bus up from Washington, DC).

Located in the United States’ most densely populated city, Central Park is an oasis of greenery that offers a place for New Yorkers to relax and play on a warm summer’s weekend. Opened in 1857, the park has since served as a model for other North American cities to emulate, such as San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and Vancouver’s Stanley Park. The park receives approximately 37.5 millions visitors per year, making it the most visited urban park in the United States. Although the park isn’t the largest in the United States (a mere 843 acres compared to the 24,247 acres Franklin Mountains State Park located in El Paso, Texas), it is definitely the most beloved and famous of any American city park. Valued at $528,783,552,000, it is likely the most valuable park, real-estate wise, as well.

The park itself contains several artificial lakes and ponds, ice-skating rinks, a forest, running track, garden, playgrounds, playing fields for various sports. and the famous Central Park Zoo. An outdoor amphitheater is home to the popular “Shakespeare in the Park” summer festivals. Central Park is definitely a “must-visit” attraction while you’re visiting New York City, whether you are just strolling through the park, lounging on the grassy meadows, or joining the hordes of joggers for some exercise.

June 10, 2012

Olympic National Park: Hiking the Ozette Loop / Cape Alava

With the Cascades still under a thick layer of snow, we’ve been craving the chance to get out and do some hiking sans snowshoes. Thankfully, the Olympic Peninsula offers plenty of opportunities to do so and we were able to get a nice, long hike in during our long weekend trip there.

We opted to do the Ozette Loop, a 9.2 mile hike that takes you through thick coastal forests dominated by large cedar trees, meadows blanketed by wildflowers, and raw shoreline covered in tidepools and driftwood. Aside from being incredibly beautiful, Cape Alava is also the most westernmost point in the contiguous 48 states.

After an early departure from our hotel in Sequim, we arrived at the trailhead around 9:30am. The skies were blue and the sun was shining, a welcome relief from the weeks of clouds and rain that we had just experienced in Seattle.


Most of the trail is actually a boardwalk, which is nice, because if it weren’t for the planks we would be wading through mud and brackish swamp water. Be careful on the boardwalk, though, as it can be very slippery if it has recently rained.


The boardwalk continues through Ahlstrom’s Prairie…


and then through more forest…


Finally the beach comes into view, and, unsurprisingly, a thick layer of coastal fog. Hey, where’d the sun go? Welcome to the Pacific Northwest.


Sea stacks at low tide


Hiking along the shoreline can be a very slow process. There isn’t any elevation gain, but the slippery seaweed and rocks can present a few difficulties. Oh, the decomposing seaweed and crabs smells pretty bad.


There is a lot of driftwood to climb over and under


The beach is littered with maritime debris; fishing nets and buoys are everywhere


One of the most interesting parts of the hike was the stop at Wedding Rocks. Members of the Makah tribe carved petroglyphs into these rocks some 300-500 years ago.


Salmon


Orca!


Yours truly


Looking through a sea stack


If hiking during high tide, some of the headlands become impossible to walk around so you must go over with rope assists. We weren’t hiking during high tide, but Jay decided to hike over one of them anyway so I followed. In retrospect, this was a really dumb idea because I slipped down a particularly muddy trail and acquired a few scrapes and bruises. I would highly recommend timing your hike with low tide. Print your tide table from this site.


View from the top headland


Looking toward Sand Point


The tide is starting to come in


Turn inland, and follow the boardwalk back through the forest


The end! The 9+ miles took us exactly six hours to complete. Overall, a great hike and worth doing if you want some excellent views of Washington’s wild coastline.

The rest of the photos are here.

June 5, 2012

Olympic National Park: Hurricane Ridge

One of the reasons why I love Olympic National Park so much is its diversity; the park is home to rugged coastline, sandy beaches, rainforests, hot springs, and glaciated mountains. You can surf, hike, ski, kayak, snowshoe, or just lounge on the beach. There really is something for everyone here.

Located 17 miles south of Port Angeles, Hurricane Ridge provides amazing views of the dense forests and snow-capped mountains that make up the Olympic Mountain Range and, on a clear day, a view of Canada across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

When we visited Hurricane Ridge in mid-May, there was still plenty of snow around the visitor center area. The weather up here is extreme; the area receives 30-35 feet of snow per year and winds can top 75mph (hence the “hurricane” name).


Wildflowers blooming


Some of the local wildlife, with the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the background


Nothing but trees for miles and miles


Near the visitor center

More photos here.