Aug 25, 2014

Olympic National Park, Hurricane Ridge

We were able to spend a week exploring Olympic National Park while we stayed at a park in Port Angeles, WA. Our first day in the park, was like every other one of our first days in the National Parks...first it's all excitement and awe as you drive through the gates, flash your pass, get your map, drive in and be funneled into the driver's "highlight reel" of the park. Which is absolutely stunning, of course, but...not the solitude we're looking for.

Hurricane Ridge

And to my left...

We jumped on the first trailhead we saw, fewer people, but still busy. We could see Canada out there past the water.

We didn't want to waste much time in the crowds so we immediately turned around and headed back down the mountain. The funny thing we've found about hiking trails is that you have to be a little bit in the have to be searching for them. Most national park guides will have the paved nature trails, the family friendly trails, and perhaps a few day hikes marked out, but typically that's it. The good stuff is a little bit secret, or just simply overlooked by most. I suppose one could do more research beforehand, but apparently that's not our style, ha.

Thanks to a friendly ranger, we were able to find this trailhead that was actually just before the Hurricane Ridge gate. We only hiked to Lake Angeles, but we were racing the sun, uphill the whole way.



Subalpine forest

Lake Angeles. Just amazing. Mountain lakes are the best.

pretty island in the middle

We didn't have too much time to explore the lake, so we just climbed out on this mess of logs, and settled down for dinner (it was another trail mix and cliff bar type of day :)

We had been getting caught up in weird silk-worm strings most of the way up, even our spider-swords were futile (a spider sword is a stick you wave in front of yourself as you walk. It catches spider webs, so your face doesn't have to. It doesn't make you look silly at all.) It wasn't so bad though, just a little gross and annoying. It didn't stick like spider webs, and on the way back down it had all cleared up. The season was over I guess? It made the forest glimmer in the setting sun though. This was a particularly webby branch. Is this where the term fairy floss comes from?

A handrail! Not all the bridges we've come across are so accommodating. Ed demonstrates this amenity while representing LBD and  the Clubhouse.

A successful introduction to Olympic State Park. Rainforests and beaches to come...

Aug 19, 2014

Mount St. Helens

We drove up to Johnston Ridge Observatory to get a look at Mt. St. Helens. Admittedly, I wasn't expecting more than to marvel from a distance at the giant crater left from the eruption. But by the end of the day, I left completely fascinated with this remarkable place.

National Volcanic Monument - it's a thing. And the sign is ash-colored, not brown! You can see Hodor parked in the back.

The parking lot was full of people tail-gating the volcano with bbq and kite flying. We followed suit with beer and sandwiches. Bowie holds down the fort. 

 Here's a view from the observatory. The clouds were hanging over the top most of the day, so we weren't able to get a full look at it. Although, I suppose there's not much to see above the cloud-line anyways? That part of the mountain is gone. You can see right into the crater though.

We are about 5 miles away! I looks huge, of course, but even being there, it's still hard to perceive just how gigantic it is. The crater itself is a mile wide.

The Volcano and The Ed

Here's a closer shot of the landscape below. You can see the Toutle River re-establishing it's route through the pyroclastic material which was deposited by the volcanic lahars.

 Equipment for monitoring volcanic activity, set among the ruins of the forest.

The entire area was forested before the eruption. Young trees are growing back among the old white tree stumps, and there are wildflowers everywhere.

“The Eruption of Life” is the park motto, and it is a great contrast to the “moral of the story” that we've found throughout our national park tour. That bluntly being “Everything Dies.”

57 people were killed. The death toll would have been much higher though, were it not for David Johnston (he was a scientist who died in the eruption, the observatory is named for him) and the USGS convincing authorities to close the area to the public, despite heavy local pressure to re-open it. (It's usually a good idea to listen to those scientists..) There are moving stories and accounts of the eruption in the Johnston Ridge Observatory interpretation center. I think the USFS struck a perfect balance in their presentation between the life and death that this volcano has brought. 

But life finds a way. These prairie lupine flowers were the first signs of life to return to the barren area.

The eruption of Mt. St. Helens took everyone by surprise, in that the damage was so much further-reaching than expected. It was a lateral explosion, meaning that all of it's fury was consolidated in one general direction. This was the first time in recorded history that such a phenomenon was witnessed by anyone who lived to tell. 

Because of this, we've learned a lot about volcanic activity that was previously a mystery, along with the explosion of life that grew back from the ashes. It's a brand new landscape, and we get to see exactly how the geology is forming and the wildlife is progressing. (hint: a lot faster than anyone predicted!) The park newspaper encourages you to come back throughout your life to witness and compare the changes you see.

Fancy new facilities! Love that USFS seal.

Research area! The entire place is a giant science lab. We hiked around the hummocks and got to see this brand new landscape close up. 

I love the park interpretive centers, but after that, you've got to get out IN it to find yourself a deeper understanding than a textbook can give you. Open the pic below in a new tab to read about similar hummocky landscapes around the world..and how we now know much more about them thanks to Mt. St. Helens.

We were standing on the red part - it was once part of the mountain!

New life grows among the rubble.

New ponds a little lakes have filled up among the hummocks. This is my favorite picture, you can see right into the crater.

We've been seeing these beautiful foxglove wildflowers all over the PNC, finally got a nice shot of one

There's so much more of this park I wish we could have seen, namely the Ape Caves. They're not technically caves, but lava tubes over two miles long! You can hike through them, but we were on the wrong side of the park for that.

On our way back down the mountains, we made a stop at the buried A-frame roadside attraction - the picture doesn't show very well how deep it was actually buried. The new, higher ground from the volcanic lahar flow has since washed out from in the front of the house, but that line you see on the door is the new ground level around the rest of the house.

There's also this fellow, along with a friendly kitschy-tacky gift shop, which is not even close to the kitschy-tacky you find at the roadside attractions back east! It's kind of hilarious to realize how gaudy things are, east of the Mississippi.

Check out this crazy time-lapse of the lava dome growth from 2004-2008. (In the previous blog post, video didn't want to embed here for whatever reason) The lava squeezes out like play-dough!

Aug 11, 2014

Brews, Bikes, State Parks, and Waterfalls. Oregon, we love you.

After staying in Florence, we headed inland to see what we could see. We were hoping to make it to the Oregon Country Fair, it would have been perfect timing, but we didn't know it in time to figure out a place to park - every campsite in a 30 mile radius was booked. Super bummed! But we've already resolved to return to Oregon again someday, soon as we can (and often as we can). Our friends Kate and Joe tipped us off to the fair and a bunch of other great spots that we didn't get to see because we had already passed it/didn't have the time. There is SO MUCH more that we want to explore out here in the upper left. Not to mention everything that we want to see again :)

Luckily, Oregon is my new favorite state and it is way too easy to find awesome everything everywhere.

So we spent a long weekend roadtripping it from Eugene, on up along I-5, through Corvallis and other little towns towards Milo McIver State Park just outside of Portland. Before being out here, I have never seen more craft breweries and wineries in my life! We enjoyed a mom-sponsored brew-tour, along with a stop at Silver Falls State Park. (THANKS MA!) Not many pictures from the breweries, (too busy enjoying beverages) and I can't even remember all the places we visited because there were just so many to choose from. Every restaurant had a great selection of local stuff on tap as well. Here are a few of our stops off the top of my head - Steelhead Brewery, McKenzie Brewing CompanyTap and Growler, McMenamins (in Corvallis), and Sky High Brewhouse to name just a few!

Comfy seating with a great view of all the weird and wonderful bike traffic in Eugene

Hanging out on the roof at Sky High Brewing

Another cool keg delivery bike

We spent a day visiting Silver Falls State Park. This place is a glowing example of what a State Park can be. We arrived to find some festival or another and a couple wedding and birthday parties in the picnic shelters, so it was quite busy that day. After hitting up the park gift shop -which was absolutely fabulous and full of local crafts and classy gifts- We got to sit and listen to a story-teller, and learned a lot about the history of the park. The forests were once stripped to the ground by the lumber industry, nothing was left but hills covered in white stumps, it looked like a graveyard.

The land was exploited as much as it could be, a previous owner even made money charging people to watch him push junk cars over the falls. Later, a daredevil named Al Fausset came through, he made a living going over waterfalls in his home-made canoes. Eventually, the land was allowed to renew itself, and was given back to the people through a combination of efforts from the National Park Service, and a variety of other preservation movements and private donations

What a gift!

"Conservation of our natural resources and conservation of our human resources, both are sound investments for the future." -President Roosevelt

It was a hot day, so it felt pretty great whenever the trail led behind the misty falls.

We got to see 7 of the 10 falls in this area of the park

Fern hallway

CCC was here :)

On Sunday, we rolled into our campsite at Milo McIver State Park, another outstanding place with lovely park hosts, sparkling facilities, and the most legit collection of disc golf courses I've ever seen. Our campsite was walled in with greenery and totally private. We spent the week biking around the park, eating s'mores by the fire, and had fun practicing our disc golf skills (which despite a very helpful lesson from a friendly local, are still lacking).

Outdoor plumbing at the picnic shelters!

Free re-usable bags for keeping the river clean, provided by the Clackamas River Basin Council.

Jeez Oregon, stop being so awesome and sensible in your bike friendly, local economies, and environmental preservation and restoration efforts. You're making everyone else look bad.

Aug 1, 2014

Hobbit Adventures in Oregon

After our casino stint, and the campgrounds cleared out a bit, we got a spot at Harbor Vista, a Lane County Park. Can I just say that Oregon has the most incredible park systems we've seen? They are outstanding.

All of the infrastructure is so thoughtfully laid out, tastefully designed, and has been well maintained throughout the years. There are almost always flush toilets, drinking fountains, and garbage/recycling cans available nearby. You'll often find recycled plastic bike racks, free-to-use life jackets for kids, and re-usable garbage bags provided for keeping the parks clean. And from what we've seen, they are overwhelmingly clean (which is more than a lot of states can claim *cough-ALABAMA-cough*). The park systems seem to receive good funding and a lot of community support.

Another great thing is the park host system! It's not just for campgrounds, but for day-use areas as well. Bandon even had a host in their city park. The hosts are volunteers who camp for free, and take care of the parks, keeping them tidy, taking care of daily maintenance, and providing a security presence. More info here 

And the rules! There are a lot of rules and safety warnings posted in every parking area, and building. But they are all perfectly rational with clearly explained reasoning, and items provided to help you comply. The courtesy guides are just great, and it all seems to work! I know you cannot make blanket statements about a population, but we've found Oregonians to have especially kind and considerate demeanors. Their campgrounds have been the most quiet and peaceful places we've stayed. Each campsite is clean and private, carved out of the rhododendron forests and the thick shrubbery between the trees.

And on top of all that, there is a trail named the Hobbit Trail, which leads to Hobbit Beach in Carl C. Washburne State Park. So, we HAD to do that one (even though everyone knows that Shire Hobbits are not fond of the water). It was just a short trip up the coast. 

Hodor the Majestic

Bowie awkwardly stalks a seagull  

Instead of parking at the trailhead off the 101, we parked in the day-use area (where there was a free RV dump, Oregon just keeps racking up the points) and walked to the Valley trailhead near the campground. This added 3 miles to the short (½ mile) Hobbit Trail. I definitely recommend this route if you ever visit, it's very Middle Earthy. You do feel small, and the trees sound different.

Along the trail

A Short Cut to Mushrooms

Hobbit tunnels lead to the beach. This one was decorated with seashells and feathers. There is an entire network of them winding around, we could have spent all day exploring.

Hobbit Beach

Strange marine life

Geology - it's happening! Video here

All along the edge, there were little carved-out moss-covered dripping grottos, little waterfalls draining to the sea, and other such strange formations to discover.

Back on the trail. Everything is blanketed in moss

Bowie still loves watching the ocean

Heceta Head Lighthouse

Heading back to our campsite down highway 101