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.

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.

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.

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.

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.