Denali

July 10th, 2009

We left the North Cascades on Tuesday morning, heading for the Washington “border town” where we were storing our home for the next few weeks.  After getting the camper settled, we set out for Vancouver, the first leg of our Alaska Adventure.  It was a long day by the time we checked into our hotel and the weather was less than cooperative, so we opted to grab a pizza and chill in the hotel room instead of walking the town.  We know, we are lame 🙂

It was an easy day of air travel from Vancouver to Anchorage and we were in our rental car by 2:15.  We still had to decide if we were spending our first night in Anchorage or further up the road. After a quick loop around the city, we decided to start making our way to Denali, a 4½ hour drive north.  Not knowing where we were spending our first night in Alaska, we hadn’t made room reservations so once again, we were flying by the seat of our pants. On the drive north, Kim put in a call to Kathy at the Meandering Moose B and B and Cabins in Talkeetna, hoping she still had a cabin.  Luck was with us and she had one left.  Talkeetna started as a mining town, became a riverboat landing for gold miners, and then played an active part in the construction of the Alaska railroad.  Today it is on the National Register of Historic Places and is known for being the “flight” town for Mt. McKinley climbers.  Climbers set out from Talkeetna by plane, landing about 7,000 to 8,000 feet up to start their assent up the 20,000 mountain, tallest in North America.

Famous Talkeetna sign....not sure why

Famous Talkeetna sign....not sure why

Summer in Alaska brings more daylight than us “Outsiders” are used too.  We got a kick out of doing “tourist” research on our porch at 11 PM in full sunlight… Our first night in Alaska (Talkeetna) was a good one.  Kathy was more than friendly, the accommodations were very comfortable, and the town offered some nice choices for a walk and dinner.

From Talkeetna it was off to Denali National Park.  We were less than impressed by the drive, expecting it to be much more picturesque.  Smoke from active wildfires, combined with some cloudy weather, obscured most of the impressive landscape. Numerous viewpoints along the road had signs about Mt McKinley in the distance, but we never did see it. When we arrived at Denali, we were a bit concerned with the “smoke” situation and its probable negative effects on seeing what we came to see.  We booked a shuttle trip into the park for the next day nonetheless, as the weather report was promising. 

Grizzly in Denali

Grizzly in Denali

The shuttle system, although a bit pricey, is a great way (and the only way) to get into the park to see the “mountain” (Mt. McKinley, know by locals as Denali) and many of its friends. Personal cars are only allowed 15 miles into the park, while the shuttles go up to 93.  The drivers were great and actually provide more of a tour than a shuttle.  Anytime wildlife is spotted en route, passengers shout “STOP” and the bus will screech to a stop and everybody whips out the cameras. We stopped to capture images of a variety of wildlife along the way.  We actually saw the “big 5” of Denali; Grizzlies, Moose, Wolves, Caribou, and Dall Sheep- plus a few bonus animals like a little Red Fox and many Artic Squirrels (one even posed for us in front of the mountain).

Our first view of Mt McKinley

Our first view of Mt McKinley

The elusive Mt. McKinley didn’t disappoint.  According to the park information, only 30% of the visitors to the park actually get to see it.  Due to the location and height it is usually clouded in, having its own weather system. Well, we got lucky once again… Today the skies were blue and the mountain was visible for much of our day.  Our shuttle turnaround spot was the Eielson visitor center. We took the opportunity to hike one of the few hiking trails in the park, with 1000 ft elevation gain (felt like straight up). It was rewarding as it gave an even more incredible view of the mountain. We returned to the park entrance after a 10 hour day, 8 of it inside a bus. Once again we were beat and finished our evening with dinner in our cabin. 

Are we really going up there?

Are we really going up there?

Our last day in Denali brought a bit of haze.  We were very happy that we chose to do the shuttle tour the day before, as “the mountain” would be hard to see today.  We opted for one of the strenuous yet established hikes in the park.  The Mt. Healy overlook was a 2.3 mile quick assent.  We had fun complaining on the way up. 

We Made It

We Made It

Although it was a bit hazy, we still enjoyed the views from the summit. It was hard to capture the grandure in a photo.  Tomorrow it is off to Seward and Kenai Fiords National Park.

North Cascades NP

July 6th, 2009

We dropped the kids off at the Seattle airport on Thursday after a fun filled visit.  Our plan upon their departure was to grab a few necessities from the outlet mall, then pay a visit to Chateau St. Michelle winery (home to one of Kim’s favorite chardonnays).  Much to our chagrin, being a much larger winery then we are used to, the place was a tourist trap (very nice grounds) and we decided to leave without even tasting 🙁  No worries, literally across the street was Redhook Brewing Co.  We had a nice time tasting their beers and enjoying their patio.

On Friday, we packed up camp and were off to North Cascades National Park. Now that Lindsay was gone, we could get back to some more serious hiking.  After setting up in our new temporary home, we had the afternoon to explore the park.  We stopped at some pretty overlooks and enjoyed a short walk along Thunder Creek.

20090704-029xThe next day was the 4th of July.  Our plan was to ride through the park on the motorcycles and do the Marble Loop hike around Lake Ann. 

20090704-031xThe hike started from the Rainy Lake Picnic Area, where we found ourselves being the “picnic” for a wide array of bugs that were enjoying making lunch out of us.  Unfortunately, we left the bug spray at the camper. As we worked our way up the trail we found some nice people who were willing to share some of their spray, hence the smiles on our face.  Or could that be due to the views of Lake Ann from above?

20090704-052xLooks like a good place for a bear to have lunch, huh?  We once again found ourselves trying to capture yet another bear picture for the book.  Mom, you’ll be happy to know we were too far away to get a picture worth posting. We thought this was a nice filler:)  By the best of our (limited) animal identification ability, we think this bear was our first grizzly. 

20090704-055xRight about the time we spotted our furry friend we were stopped by deep snow on the trail.  What the…? It’s the fourth of July, there shouldn’t be any more snow! We were a little bummed about not completing the loop, especially since we had done most of the 2,800 foot “up” of the hike.20090704-069x  

On the way back down we had to take advantage of the timer shot op.  The North Cascades are described as the “North American Alps”.  As we hiked and toured the park we understood why. 20090704-126xWhen we finally made our way back to the camper, we were able to enjoy the fireworks from our campground.  Apparently this was the happening place to see the local display.  They did a very good job and many locals were in attendance.  We would say it was comparable to small town displays back home.  It was a nice ending to a good day!

20090705-011xOn Sunday, we set out to tackle Cascade Pass – a drive to a hike that was recommended by one of the rangers.  On the way, we spotted the road to Hidden Lake – a hike we wanted to do, but were told the road to the parking area was washed out.  Well, they apparently fixed it recently so we switched gears.  We set out on the 4.5 mile (one way), 3,200 ft elevation gain trail to find Hidden Lake.  The views were outstanding.  We tried not to break out in song too often “the hills are alive with the sound of music…” (Pretty corny, huh?) 20090705-014xThe trail brought us through a variety of different terrains from deep forest to open meadows (all on the VERY steep side of a mountain).  As we worked our way up, up, up, we noticed that some people in the distance had stopped by the snow line.  We had been next to snow for a while now, so we assumed they were resting. As we mentally prepared ourselves for the continued trek, we noticed they had set out across the ice field, having stopped to put on their snow/ice gear. Once again we were foiled by the snow.  Hidden Lake will continue to be hidden from us.  Looks like we may have to invest in some crampons. 20090705-024x

There was a great deal of glacial run off which made for several fun stream/creek crossings. 20090705-029x

Chris decided to find out how cold the water actually was.  VERY!  By the time Kim snapped the shot his feet were numb! 

We ended the day completing the drive up to Cascade Pass.  We didn’t have another hike in us after doing about 2/3’s of Hidden Lake but we still enjoyed the views from our “auto tour”.  Kim even spotted two young black bears playing on a patch of glacial ice in the distance.  Once again, too far to capture a good picture…

Today is our last day in the Cascades.  The plan is to clean the camper and get packed up for ALASKA!!!  Tomorrow we put the camper in storage and head to Vancouver BC where we will catch our flight on Wednesday, YEAH!!!

Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens

July 1st, 2009
It has been a very busy few days since we left the Olympic Peninsula. On Monday, we headed southeast to check out Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens.  After setting up camp in our less than desirable campground, we went to Mt. Rainier right away. Luckily, we had gotten an early start and had a relatively short drive, leaving the whole afternoon to explore the park.  Mt. Rainier was quite impresssive.  The size and scope made you feel pretty small and every view looked fake.  We took a few short walks and had fun trying to get a timer shot of the gang once again.
More wildflowers with the other side of Mt St Helens
More wildflowers in front of the blast side of Mt St Helens

The next day we set out early to visit Mt. St. Helens (no need to hang in the parking lot of a campground with the Clampits patrolling with shotguns, really).  On the way, Lindsay shared fond memories of learning about Mt. St. Helens in third grade.  Chris and Kim found the blast side interesting and quite different than the southside they visited a week or so ago.  We stopped at the visitor centers, got some souveniers, and took a few walks/hikes to check out the views.  The wildflowers were great again, the sun was shining, and Lindsay was whining:) She was less than pleased when we embarked on a 2.5 mile loop through hummocks created by the 1980 eruption.  She later agreed that the views were pretty cool though she could barely enjoy them due to the hiking part.  She faked it well for the timer shot though. It’s ok, a little shopping and a good dinner worked her out of her mood. 

Since the campground was so yucky (tech term), and we had visited both parks we wanted to check out, we all decided to head to Seattle for the last day.  We got up super early and, while the kids slept, Kim and Chris packed up and relocated to a park near Seattle. We had a fun afternoon checking out Pikes Place Market, where they throw the fish, and spending time in the (much nicer) campground playing ladderball and having a fire.  Tomorrow the kids are off… We will miss them.

More of the Olympic Peninsula

June 27th, 2009
Kayaking in the shadows of Mt Olympus

Kayaking in the shadows of Mt Olympus

The past few days have continued to be filled with outdoor fun.  Friday started off fairly sunny so we wanted to take advantage as the weather is a gamble every day around here. Lindsay experienced yet another “first” when we went kayaking.  We rented a double kayak, which Chris and Lindsay manned while Josh and Kim paddled the singles.  We had a nice afternoon exploring Lake Aldwell and the surrounding scenery. After our kayaking adventure it was home for a fire, dinner,  video, and of course some smores:)

Harbour at La Push

Harbor at La Push

Interestingly enough, we have all read (or are currently reading) the Twilight series.  Unbenown to us when we planned our visit to this area, it is “Twilight” country.  We spent Saturday visiting the Hoh Rain Forest section of the park and hitting various locations from the book.  Lindsay loved the hiking (NOT!), so after a few short walks through the rain forest we set out to see the town of Forks and La Push (the 2 main towns in the series).  Forks was uninspiring but we had a lot of fun walking along the beach in La Push collecting rocks (sorry Bren, we couldn’t find a shark tooth but we will keep looking). We ended the day with dinner and a video.

The last day on the Olympic Peninsula was spent dividing and conquering.  Chris and Josh set out to tackle Mt. Storm King and Merymere Falls.  They had perfect weather for riding the motorcycle to their destination and hiking the 6 miles (give or take).  They enjoyed lunch on top of Mt. Storm King and relished in the views.  While they excercised, Kim and Lindsay did some girly hair dying (scary pink), ice cream eating, and ended thier day with a visit to the Olympic Game Park.  Lindsay loved the animals and had a blast feeding the Bison, llamas, Elk, Bear, and other large game from the truck.  Chris was not pleased with the drool  all over the truck but loved the stories.  The boys were pretty pooped after their day so after dinner they chilled with a movie while Kim and Lindsay had a fire and made smores.  Another fun, full day was had by all.  Tomorrow we move onto Mt. Rainier.

 

The Attack of Josh and Lindsay

June 25th, 2009
The wind was really blowing on the ferry ride back from the airport

The wind was really blowing on the ferry ride back from the airport

We were ready… It was a long time coming but Josh and Lindsay finally made it.  The countdown is over.  The ride to the airport was uneventful and the kids landed as we hit the airport loop.  After exchanging our hello’s and hearing the stories from the kid’s day of travel, we started heading back to the Olympic peninsula.  We chose the “ferry” route, which was a bit faster than going around Puget Sound.   We just missed the next ferry when we got to the terminal so we found a little Chinese restaurant nearby to grab some lunch.  We were all pleasantly surprised at how good it was.  The kids had never been on a car ferry so it was a novel first experience. The kids were a little pooped with the travel and time change so, after some grocery shopping, we headed home to chill for the evening.

Today we started out with a walk along the tidal pools at Salt Creek.  There were lots of great creatures to check out; starfish of varying colors, crabs of varying sizes, sea anemones of varying ugliness, and many other creepy crawly swimmy things (including Chris at one point…oops).  This was another first for Josh and Lindsay, as they had never experienced tidal pools before.   Our next stop after lunch was a short hike to Sol Doc Falls within Olympic National Park.  Although it wasn’t the best waterfall we have seen of late, we had fun trying to capture the perfect timer shot with the kids. Since we are located in the same place as the Twilight series takes place, the kids wanted to rent the movie and watch it (for the 20th time). We finished our day with a great steak dinner and a movie.

 

Olympic National Park

June 23rd, 2009

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We  arrived on the Olympic Penninsula in Washington yesterday, a few days before  Josh and Lindsay were due, so we could set up camp and get the lay of the land. Olympic National Park is HUGE and has several different entrances with a wide variety of geographical points of interest. 

Hiking up Hurricane Ridge

Hiking up Hurricane Ridge

The nearest park entrance to our camp is Hurricane Ridge, seemed like a good first stop. As we made our way up there, we watched the temperature drop from the low 60’s to 39 degeees and the clouds were quite ominous.  We were not prepared for the cold, so we opted for a shorter hike then planned.  We were pleasantly surprised  when, near the summit, the clouds parted and allowed the sun to shine on us.  We enjoyed our hike up to Hurricane Hill, which we shared with Pat and Matt, a father and son enjoying their father’s day together.

Wildflowers again, this time in front of Mt Olympus

Wildflowers again, this time in front of Mt Olympus

We had fun taking pictures and watching the wildlife.  There were several black tail deer and marmot  playing in the fields. We were again  inspired by the beautiful wild flowers against the panoramic mountain views.  

On the ferry to Victoria, BC

On the ferry to Victoria, BC

As we were only a Ferry ride away from Victoria Canada, today we had to take advantage.  As the crossing was costly, we doubled up on Chris’s motorcycle. We set the alarm for 6:30 (YUCK!) and were on the water by 8:15 coffee in hand.  The ferry ride was enjoyable.  We met some nice guys from Canada who were finishing up a two week motorcycle tour of the Northwest US. 

The Empress Hotel in Victoria from the Harbor
The Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC

We were very impressed by the Victoria Harbor and the city itself.  Many people had told us how beautiful the city was, and it didn’t dissapoint.  Victoria really had the feel of being in another country, unlike Canada near our home.  We spent the day touring the coutryside on the motorcycle and walking the city around the harbor.  It was a long, full day and we were happy to get home and to bed.  Tomorrow,  Josh and Lindsay arrive and more adventures begin.

The Columbia River Gorge, Part II

June 19th, 2009
Mt St Helens and wildflowers... and us

Mt St Helens and wildflowers... and us

After spending much of the past few days hiking and hunting waterfalls, we decided to take another scenic motorcycle loop.  This time we went north trying to get a view of Mt. St. Helens, the volcano that erupted in southern Washington on May 18, 1980.  To our surprise, we actually found a southern entrance to the Mt. St. Helens National Monument.  There were several hiking trails, some with interesting volcanic information. 

The exit of Ape Cave

The exit of Ape Cave

We checked out Ape Cave, which is an extensive lava tube discovered in the 1950’s from an age old eruption.  Chris did a little exploring but Kim didn’t make it much farther than the entrance, as it was very dark especially with the mini flashlights we just happened to have with us.

Mt St Helens and wildflowers...take 1

Mt St Helens and wildflowers...take 1

Another area in the park, Lava Canyon, offered incredible views from a new growth field. 

Mt St Helens and wildflowers...take 2

Mt St Helens and wildflowers...take 2

After taking a short hike to a waterfall in the Canyon we both took turns trying to capture the moment.

Upper Multnomah Falls

Upper Multnomah Falls

Today we woke up to torrential rain, which we thought would last all day.  Around noon there was a break in the nastiness, so we set out on foot once again.  After 200 miles of riding doubled up on the bike yesterday, we were ready to get back out on the walking trails.  Multnomah Falls, the highest waterfall in Oregon and right down the road from our campground, was our starting destination for another loop hike.

Wahkeena Spring

Wahkeena Spring

The 5 mile trail looped through old growth forest and several different springs and creeks that feed the waterfalls.

Clowning around in front of Fairie Falls

Clowning around in front of Fairie Falls

The sun didn’t last for long, hence the hats.  This weather makes for bad hair days (Kim’s Walmart haircut doesn’t help either!).  It was actually fun walking in the rain, but a bit chilly.  We were happy to have a camper to go back to instead of a tent today. As it turns out, after watching the news later, today was record setting day for rain in this area, go figure…

Tomorrow we head north into Washington.

The Columbia River Gorge

June 17th, 2009
Latourell Falls

Latourell Falls

After leaving Silverton, we headed north to the Columbia River Gorge, an area recommended by several people. We found a very nice State park with full hook ups right on the historic Columbia River Highway. After a very brief travel day (we were set up and had lunch by 2),  we set out to explore the area.  We started with a drive up Larch Mountain Road.  After a 14 mile drive we took a brief hike to an overlook that showcased 5 major mountains; Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. St Helens. The views were pretty good considering  it was the first relatively sunny day we have seen in about 3 weeks.  Unfortunately, it was too cloudy/overcast to get a good shot of any peaks.  Next, We dropped back down to the scenic highway to visit some waterfalls. Our first stop was the Latourell Falls, one of many in the area that were quite impressive. 

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Our second waterfall stop was Bridal Veil Falls.  After a short 1/2 mile jaunt through the woods we came upon a nice waterfall hidden in the woods.

Motorcycles and Mt. Hood

Motorcycles and Mt. Hood

The next day we took off on the motorcycles for a scenic tour of the area. We followed a 150 mile recommended loop and improvised on a few roads to make it more interesting for the bikes. We had great views of Mt. Hood (the highest peak in Oregon) for a good part of our ride. 

Ponytail Falls

Ponytail Falls

Today, we decided to set out on foot from our campground to check out some more local waterfalls.  Our first stop was Ponytail Falls.  From there we followed the gorge trail to several other falls. 

Oregon wild flowers along the trail

Oregon wild flowers along the trail

The wild flowers were very pretty along the trail. 

Triple Falls, go figure...

Triple Falls, go figure...

The “summit” of our 7 mile roundtrip hike was Triple Falls.  We were wondering where they got the name from:)

Horsing around at Horsetail Falls

Horsing around at Horsetail Falls

Although you can only see part of the falls in this shot, it was actually quite tall.  We had fun joking around trying to capture a timer shot.  From here we headed home to shower and check out the town of  Hood River.  We heard Naked Winery was very good and we needed to find a place to ship some of our ‘grape’ purchases before heading into Canada.  We had a great night tasting wines at Naked and beers at the Full Sail and Big Horse Breweries.

Trail of Ten Falls, Silver Falls State Park

June 12th, 2009

Hi, 20090612countI’m The Count from Sesame Street and the first post guest host!  Although I enjoy the dark and cold weather, Kim and Chris do not.  After spending time along the coast, they were happy to relocate to an inland location looking for some sun.  They were even happier about finding a good hike. The Ten Falls Trail at Silver Falls State Park (the largest state park in Oregon), seemed like the ticket. The 8 mile loop brought them through old growth forest and to (go figure) ten different waterfalls.  Though there wasn’t as much sun as they were hoping for, there were glimpses and it was in the upper 60’s, which was perfect hiking weather!  20090612-065x

#1, Upper South Falls, AH, AH, AH…

 

 

 

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#2, Lower South Falls, AH, AH, AH…   

 

 

 

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#3, Lower North Falls, AH, AH, AH… 

 

 

20090612-020x#4, Double Falls, AH, AH, AH…

 

 

 

 

20090612-092x#5, Drake Falls, AH, AH, AH…

 

 

 

20090612-101x#6, Middle North Falls, AH, AH, AH…

 

 

 

 

20090612-108x#7, Twin Falls, AH, AH, AH…

 

 

 

20090612-119x#8, North Falls, AH, AH, AH…

 

 

 

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#9, Upper North Falls, AH, AH, AH…

 

 

 

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#10, Winter Falls, AH, AH, AH…

 

 

 

 

 Today’s post was brought to you by the letter F, for Falls, and the number 10, for the amount of waterfalls photographed today.

 

Seriously, we had a ball finally hiking again. We are just outside of Silverton, OR. The Ten Falls trail was a large, well maintained loop trail with great waterfalls and views. Not sure why, but at the first waterfall, one of us started counting like the Count…laugh and all. It continued at each waterfall all the way up to number 10. Naturally, we had to document this silliness, hence our ‘guest host’.

After completing the hike, we drove over to Mt Angel, a nearby town with a strong German heritage. While there, we found a local german sausage maker. We bought a variety of flavors and raced home to grill our feast. All were very good, and most of what we bought is now keeping our fish company in the freezer. It’s getting crowded in there, we better get eating…

The rest of the Oregon coast

June 11th, 2009
Haceta Head lighthouse

Haceta Head lighthouse

We heard rumour that route 101 along the northern half of the Oregon coast was even more twisty/turny and picturesque then the southern part.  Sounds like a perfect excuse for an overnight road trip on the motorcycles. We setup camp just outside of Florence and after a good night’s sleep, we loaded up the bikes for a trip up the coast to Astoria. As has been the norm since we hit the coast, gray, cold, and misty rain accompanied us the whole trip up.

Rogue Brewery Public House

Rogue Brewery Public House

Astoria is the northernmost town on the Oregon coast and sits along side the Columbia River.  There is a great deal of history and we enjoyed checking out the beautiful old victorian homes.  A bonus of this destination was the fact that Rogue Brewery has a satellite “Public House” right on the water.  After finding lodgings for the night we stretched our legs walking the 2.5 miles along the river to get there.  We had fun sampling the beer and pub fare.

A rare sight, the sun on the Oregon coast

A rare sight, the sun on the Oregon coast

We took the ‘more’ scenic route on the way home, the 3 Capes Scenic trail. The sun even came out at one point. We were a little startled to see these odd black shapes moving all around us. Then we remembered what shadows look like and stopped at one of the many wayside areas to enjoy our few minutes of sun. 20 minutes later, we were back to our familiar gray. Missing the sun more than ever now, we are headed back inland in hopes of seeing it again one day 🙂