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 town 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 (so it goes). 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.

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.

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.

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.

Olympic National Park: Rialto Beach

We spent two weekends in May exploring various parts of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, and because the area is just so beautiful and quickly becoming one of my favorite places in the United States, I took way too many photos. The below shots are from Rialto Beach, a classic Pacific Northwest beach replete with barriers of driftwood, giant Douglas-fir trees, distant sea stacks, and, of course, fog.

The Olympic Range

I stuck my toes in the water. FREEZING!

All photos here.

Silver Falls State Park

Earlier this month we drove down to Salem, Oregon to visit my friend Erin (a classmate at the LSE) and her husband, David. We took a break from eating delicious food and drinking beer to visit Silver Falls State Park. As you might have guessed from the name, this park has a lot of waterfalls. If you are ever in the area, it is definitely worth stopping here. Just make sure you bring some rain gear!

More photos here.

Snowshoeing at the Snoqualmie Summit Nordic Center

A few weekends ago we went snowshoeing at the Summit at Snoqualmie Nordic Center located about an hour’s drive from Seattle. It was our first time snowshoeing and we loved it; the snow-covered Cascades were incredibly beautiful and it was nice to get out and exercise despite the sub-optimal weather. In fact we enjoyed it so much that we ordered snowshoes shortly after returning from our trip.

Here are a few photos from that trip…

At the start of the black diamond section of the trail. It was pretty tiring.

The snow was a bit deep 🙂

Keechelus Lake

After snowshoeing for six miles we were pretty tired and hungry, despite consuming a bunch of Clif bars, so we stopped at Snoqualmie Falls Brewing to replace all those burned calories with beer and “super” nachos:

The rest of the photos are here.