Day 279 – Columbia River Road (Part 2) and Mount Hood – Columbia River Gorge Loop

Day 279 – Columbia River Road and Mount Hood – Columbia River Gorge Loop, September 21, 2011

Another wonderful day in the Pacific Northwest!  After a quick snapshot of Mount Adams, I took
a short jaunt west from Trout Lake to explore an ice cave.  I expected to be taken on a guided tour, but
instead found myself alone in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  Beneath the evergreens by a picnic area is
the entrance to a lava tube.  The cold air
from the winter is trapped inside the cave forming an ice pool with stalagmite
ice crystals poking upward from the floor.
Based on the information board map drawing there are two ice
pools, a natural bridge, a crystal grotto, a crack room, and a few pits.   I only
explored the first ten feet of the 400 foot cave as I was alone and had no
intention of falling on ice and sharp lava in the dark!  I also followed a path above ground which led
to the crack room and the pits.  Had I
had the proper equipment and a partner, I would have liked to see the crystal
grotto.  I bet it would be fantastic
especially closer to winter time.  The
weak beam on my flashlight just barely illuminated the area from a distance,
but neither my eyes nor my camera were successful in focusing on much!

From the ice caves, we continued slightly further west into
the forest where we found a natural bridge which looked like it was formed when
a lava tube collapsed.  Bushes whose
leaves were beginning to turn red with the fall weather blanketed the ravine as
Douglas firs, red alders, and hemlocks reached to the sky in the surrounding
forest.

Late morning, Petey and I finally left the forest and headed
back toward the river’s edge.  As we
followed along Highway 14, the moist forest climate turned arid upon reaching barren,
golden hills.  Amid these hills, is a
French-style chateau which houses the Maryhill Museum of Art.  The chateau, constructed of concrete, was the
inspiration of turn-of-the-century capitalist Sam Hill.  Paintings by Rodin and other European masters
can be found inside while a variety of sculptures can be found on the shaded,
manicured grounds where peacocks strut.

In addition we stopped at a few roadside viewpoints
including one near Celilo Falls, a sacred Indian fishing area, which now lies
beneath the dammed river.  Indians
accepted $26 million in 1957 in exchange for allowing the Dalles Dam to flood
and silence the falls.

Just a few miles east of the museum, we visited Stonehenge,
a concrete replica of the original, which Hill built as a memorial to
Washingtonians who fought in World War I.
Hill’s Stonehenge was the first monument in our nation to honor military
personnel.  It is said that the Quaker
pacifist began constructing the monument which was completed in 1929 after
visiting England during the 1914-18 conflict and was told it had been used for
human sacrifices to pagan gods.  Today,
the sacrifice legend is generally discredited, and it is believed Stonehenge was
a device used by stone-age astronomers to measure time and mark seasons.

After visiting the monument, we crossed the Columbia River
to follow its southern banks back toward the west in northern Oregon.    After
passing through The Dalles, I maneuvered VANilla along the historic Columbia
River Highway which switched back and forth up Oregon’s hills.  Ornate guard rails lined the winding
road:  some of painted white wood and
some of chiseled stone decorated with arches.
We enjoyed a lovely view from the Rowena Overlook on a still, calm
day.  It would have been tough to guess
that the Columbia River Gorge is one of the best windsurfing places in the
nation today.

We finished the day at a town campground along the river in
Cascade Locks.  I was pleased to happen
upon the quaint, sixteen spot area with free showers until I realized it would
be a noisy night.  I was camped about
twenty yards from active train tracks!
Still, it was a nice place to find.
ETB

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Day 278 – Columbia River Gorge

Day 278 – Columbia River Gorge

Today I headed inland along the Columbia River on the
Washington-Oregon border.  I spent my
time on the Washington State side and stopped to enjoy the panorama of Oregon’s
wooded hills and of the powerful river that lay at the foot vertical cliffs
from Cape Horn Viewpoint.

As I made my way east through this breathtaking area, I
reached Beacon Rock State Park where Petey and I followed a lovely trail
through the lush forest to Hardy Falls, Pool of Winds and Rodney Falls.  As we wandered along the trail, we came
across a bridge that crossed what was almost a dry creek bed.  A thin trickle of water rolled down the steep
hillside.  I thought to myself, if this
is the falls, I’m going to be one disappointed hiker.  Much to my relief, slightly further ahead, I
came across two signs pointing to the attractions.

Hardy Falls was nothing to write home about as the view was
relatively blocked by vegetation, but the Pool of Winds and Rodney Falls was
inspiring.  A path led us past a boulder
and up to a rock outcropping.  The falls,
tucked in the back of a cylinder of rock, cascaded down a mossy log into a pool
of water before it zigzagged down the rocky shelf to the creek.  Spray from the falls assisted by a tunnel of
wind cooled the air and dampened the rocks where we stood.

Upon return from our two mile hike, we stopped to admire Beacon
Rock situated across the road on the bank of the river.  This enormous monolith, almost 850 feet tall
and second only to Gibralter in size, is the core of a vanished volcano.  Lewis and Clark referenced the rock several times
in their recordings of their expedition.

From the park, we traveled about five miles or so to the
Bonneville Dam where, along with a cormorant, I got to watch salmon swim up river through the fish
ladders to spawn.  Humans count each type
of fish that passes through the ladders daily and post the counts.  The previous day nearly 19,000 fish passed
through the ladders and year to date over 2 million.  Salmon and Shad make up most of the count,
followed by Steelhead and Lamprey.lamprey
Lampreys look like eels that have a sucker mouth which they use to stick
to edges.

After a short time at the fish viewing, we stopped in
Stevenson for a stroll along the waterfront.
The windy day attracted several kiteboarders and windsurfers to the
white capped river.  In addition to the
water enthusiasts, a cruise line that offers an eight day journey on the river
was in port.  When I spotted the paddle wheeler,
I had hoped for a two-hour afternoon jaunt mentioned in my trusty book of
travels.  The operators told me those
types of trips were offered in Cascade Locks on the Oregon side.  I will be there in a few days.

If the drive along the river wasn’t scenic enough, I
followed the Cook-Underwood Road Loop up into the hillside for a spectacular
view of the Hood River Bridge and the majestic Mt. Hood.  Thereafter, I followed Highway 141 north to
Trout Lake where I found a county campground for the night.  ETB

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Day 275 – Travel Day

I had planned the morning to visit Hoquiam’s Castle and Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge before heading to Portland to visit some friends from my horseback riding days.  Both attempts turned out to be a bust.  Hoquiam’s Castle was built in 1897 by a timber tycoon named Robert Lytle.  It is a twenty room mansion, turned Bed & Breakfast.  I suppose I could have wandered into the lobby and looked around, but oddly I felt like taking a full-blown house tour to change things up on this dreary day.

Oh well, I snapped a photo from the outside and then headed toward the refuge which is known for its shore birds.  Sometimes 300,000 birds land here at one time and come from as far away as Argentina to feed on the shrimplike critters in the mudflats.  The gate was closed to the area and an airport was adjacent to the refuge.  It didn’t seem like an ideal place to spot birds unless I was looking for the manmade, metal type.

With that I turned south toward Portland and am currently taking advantage of a very nice highway rest area to blog before I meet my friends.  Rest Areas are interesting places.  I could probably write an entire page on people who stop at rest areas:  truckers, dog walkers, weary travelers, and those that simply HAVE to go to the bathroom…ETB

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Day 274 – Olympic Loop (Part 4)

Day 274 – Olympic Loop

I left the mountains and headed for the coast this
morning.  We took a brief drive through
La Push for a view of the harbor before returning to Second Beach, one of many
beaches in the Olympic National Park which seemed to encompass the entire western
peninsula of Washington.  I really can’t
imagine basking in the sun on Second Beach.
It requires a ten to fifteen minute walk along a trail which winds
through the rain forest before visitors can even set foot on the beach.  Aside the trail is a fallen tree with a root
system that has been turned into a shrine.
Rocks, shells, coins, marbles and even a bottle were placed in the tangled
roots to the south of the trail.  At the
end of the trail, beachgoers are greeted with piles of drift wood that must be
climbed.  Given I just impaled myself on
a log, crossing several logs was slightly disconcerting.  At least they were smooth.

Finally, I reached the beach and walked toward the
outcropping of rocks during what seemed to be low tide.  I found several orange and purple starfish
along with a few green anemones clinging to the rocks in the tide pools.  The crab and octopus eluded me on this
adventure, but I did follow a seagull around that did not want me to get to his
piece of seaweed or whatever object he felt was very important.  He hopped along the beach until I got too
close and then lifted into flight to land a hundred feet away only to repeat
the process once more until I snapped a decent photo.

From the beach, we turned southwest to the Hoh Rain Forest,
also part of the Olympic National Park. 
The Hoh is one of the best examples of a temperate-zone rain forest in
the world, and is one of the few coniferous ones in existence.  I took the Hall of Mosses trail that wound
beneath the shade of enormous trees covered in thick, hanging moss.  Ferns as well as a variety of other plants
blanketed the forest floor as woodpeckers poked at rotten trees.  I had hoped to spot the elusive Roosevelt
Elk, though it didn’t seem like an easy feat in the jungle of vegetation. I couldn’t help but think what this forest would look like in a few weeks with some of the leaves changing colors…I bet it is magnificent!

From the forest, we followed the Hoh River back to Highway
101 where we turned south toward Ruby Beach, so named for garnet crystals that
give the sand its pinkish hue.  I walked
north on the beach where a river and the coast meet to find a lot of rock, not
of pinkish color, and no garnets.  This
area of rock formations and drift wood seemed more interesting to me and all
the rest of the beachgoers.  Perhaps the
pinkish sand was to the south.  As the
white capped waves crashed on the shore, it appeared as if the tide was coming
back in, so after a brief visit, I rejoined Petey in VANilla.  Ruby Beach was actually a dog friendly beach,
and I considered taking him, but I presumed someone would fail to abide by the
leash law which would end up with me trying to keep a sometimes mean Petey away
from a bounding dog.  I was right.  As soon as I set foot on the trail to the
beach, I was greeted by a free roving dog.
I must say that is SO irritating, and I like dogs!  I feel sorry for those people that are afraid
of them.

Turning slightly inland, I headed to Queets Valley Rain
Forest.  My book mentioned a three mile
loop hike through the rain forest which starts from a campground located at the
end of a fourteen mile unpaved road.
With less commotion, there would be an easier chance to spot the
shy-natured Roosevelt Elk.  Well, I drove
what seemed like ten miles to find the bridge was closed to motor
vehicles.  I certainly wasn’t hoofing it
with Petey the rest of the way.

We turned around and aimed for a campground at Lake
Quinault.  On the way, we found another
road into Queets Valley Rain Forest, so we explored it for several miles until
it started splitting into a variety of directions.  We retraced our short tour in VANilla and
finally followed the north shore of Lake Quinault to what I had hoped to be a
nearby campground.  The road turned from
paved to dirt and from two lanes to one lane as it squeezed between enormous trees until we finally reached a split:
one direction to a campground and the other to the south side of the lake.  For such a large lake that was supposed to be
one of the most popular recreation spots on the Olympic Peninsula, the
campground seemed very far removed.  I
passed it up to find three of the next four campgrounds on the south shore
closed for the season!  By this time, I
had driven around so much, I thought I may as well drive another hour to
Wal-Mart, so I did!  ETB

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Day 273 – A Rain Day

We took the rainy day to blog, read, and just chill.

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Day 272 – Olympic Loop (Part 3)

Day 272

We spent the year anniversary of my journey in Olympic
National Park.  After a year, I’ve
obviously learned quite a bit about nature, geology, history, and geography;
but I’ve also learned a few things about myself, Petey, and Scout (when she was
with us) that I didn’t know.  I’ve met a
variety of kind individuals and feel very rewarded for them to have shared part
of their life with me.  My journey has
been interesting, fun, and at times both lonely and challenging.  Amazingly, after a year of traveling to the
lower forty-eight states, I still feel like there is so much more to see in
this nation and to revisit at more length.
Olympic National Park is a good example.
I simply sampled a few short trails in different areas of the park.

My first sample began at Hurricane Ridge, so named because
winter storms can whip up 100-mile-per-hour winds in the area.  Thankfully, it is just the beginning of
Fall:  overcast with a high in the
mid-sixties.  After stopping at few a
lookouts on the 17 mile drive that snaked through the park to the Hurricane
Ridge Visitor Center, I took one of many trails that began in the area.  The short paved path led me to a meadow of
wildflowers, to cloudy views of the mountains and water, and across a patch of
snow before I spotted a few deer.  I’ve
seen deer practically daily as of late, though I’ve failed to mention them.  I hope a year outdoors hasn’t caused me to
take them for granted too much.

From Hurricane Ridge we reversed our path back out of the
park to Highway 101 where we turned west toward Elwha River Valley, another
entry way into the enormous park.  The
main road was closed just past the first two campgrounds as crews are removing
a dam from the area, thus virtually the only area to visit was Madison Falls.   Due to my affinity for waterfalls, this was
fine with me.  I strolled down a short,
quarter mile trail to a moss covered rock, tucked beneath a canopy of trees,
with water sliding down its face into a pool of water.  A very tranquil place!

After a short visit at Madison Falls, I maneuvered VANilla
along the shores of Lake Crescent, ten miles long and 600 feet deep and one of
the largest bodies of water in Olympic National Park.  From the lake, a 1.8 mile trail leads through
dense forest with fern undergrowth to Marymere Falls.  A bridge crosses the river and the trail climbs steeply to the 90 foot falls.

I continued making the day about waterfalls, when I turned into another entrance to Olympic National Park and followed a paved road 12 miles to a variety of trailheads.  A 1.6 mile trail which followed the river through dense vegetation led to Sol Duc Falls.  These were just lovely.  The river splits into three sections at the
tops of the falls as it flows over rock outcroppings into a moss covered canyon
below.

As my day of visiting waterfalls came to an end, I found a
Bogachiel State Park, complete with showers to spend the evening.  ETB

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Day 271 – Olympic Loop (Part 2)

Day 271 – Olympic Loop

We started out the day taking a four mile dirt road up to
the Mount Walker Viewpoint.  There is
both a north and south viewpoint.  On a
clear day, the Seattle area, Mount Rainier (the highest peak in Washington), Hood
Canal with one of the longest floating bridges in the world over tidal waters,
Mount Baker, and several other peaks in the Olympic Mountains are part of the
scenic panorama.  Today, however, fog was
the only view.  Mount Walker is home to a
handful of caches, though, so we picked up a few before bouncing back down to
Highway 101.

A hop skip and a jump away from Mount Walker is the Falls
View Campground in the Olympic National Forest.
As the name implies, there is a view of a waterfall from the
campground.  We made a quick detour here
to take a look.  I started down a steep
trail and then opted to turn around because there was not a soul around, and I
didn’t want to risk falling on my stitches without being able to reach help.  It’s amazing how something so minor can induce
fear or change a thought process.  The
waterfall wasn’t that spectacular anyway so we moved on to Port Townsend and
Fort Warden State Park.

Port Townsend, located at the entrance of Puget Sound, is a
lovely coastal town.  Busy enough for
activities, yet quaint enough to be interesting.  We just stopped for lunch and visited another
state park.  I thought it was Fort Warden
State Park, but frankly, I’m not certain.
We walked down to the beach for a view of the water, a bridge in the distance,
and an industrial plant.

From Port Townsend, we turned west and followed the northern
shore of Washington to Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge.  I was hoping to spot some Dungeness crab or
at least find a place where they are on the menu – they are my favorite!  Petey and I walked along the bluff for a view
of Vancouver Island and the Strait of Juan de Fuca before Petey got relegated
to VANilla while I walked along the five and half mile Dungeness Spit.  Had I walked the entire length of beach which
was littered with enormous pieces of drift wood, I would have reached a
lighthouse, but an eleven mile walk was not in the cards for the
afternoon.  Instead, I inspected the
pebbles which had washed ashore, checked out the drift wood, and watched the
birds flit around.

For the night, I stayed in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Port
Angeles, the largest city on the Olympic Peninsula and near a main entrance to
the Olympic National Park.  I figured
this would be a good place to be in case there were any complications with my
sewed up fat!  ETB

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Day 270 – A Rest Day

I spent the day resting at Dosewallips State Park.  VANilla got a good internal clean, and I stayed near a shower in order to clean my wound.  I did meet a few interesting folks in the town bar where I grabbed dinner and watched part of the football game.  It would be the Patriots…UGH!  Anyway, most of the locals looked like the guy who sat across from me…though I didn’t meet him.

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Day 269 – Olympic Loop

Day 269 – Olympic Loop

Well, my first day on the Olympic Loop Tour was a memorable
one, though not in a very good way.
VANilla carted us several miles down a gravel road to the Staircase
Rapids Nature Trail, a four mile path that follows a cascading Skokomish
River.  It turns out, the hike was in the
Olympic National Park, where dogs are not allowed on the trails, and this
morning I really wanted to include him on a walk.  Therefore, we turned around and stopped at
Lake Cushman State Park for a trek to the summit of Mount Rose.

The prettiest part of the hike was the first two minutes,
where a waterfall trickled over rocks and a fallen tree.  I took two pictures and realized my SD card
was full, and thus erased the pictures because I thought I had downloaded them
all (to find out later that I didn’t…UGH!!)
The rest of the walk was up a very steep incline which resulted in the
trail being rated as difficult.  We
walked for almost an hour up and didn’t even make it the 1.8 miles to the loop
that circles the top.  Sweaty with flies
buzzing around my head, I opted to turn back, as I wasn’t enthralled with views
of vegetation and trees.  I was hoping to
keep the lovely creek in sight.  In order
to follow the trail downhill without running, I picked up a walking stick to
help slow my momentum.

Just before I reached the bottom, I ditched the stick.  With a can of Off in one hand and Petey’s
leash in the other, I only had to take two more steps before crossing the dirt
road to VANilla when I caught my foot on a log and fell.  The log’s sharp, pointy branches ripped my
shorts, cut my back, and one four inch piece the size of a pinky finger broke
off into my leg!  Being beneath my
shorts, I didn’t realize it at time.  I
just had a severe burning sensation and shredded clothing.  Upon changing my shorts, I noticed the end of
the wood chard poking out of the fat on my leg.
Lucky for me, I store my fat on my thigh!  It kept my attacker from damaging my muscle
or any other vital part of my body.  Of
course, at this point I had a feel-sorry-for-myself, panic session.  Frantic, I asked a guy where the closest
hospital was located.  He said, “Fifteen
miles south to Hoodsport”.  That was a family
practice facility, so I asked a lady in a store and she said, “Twenty miles to
Shelton”.  Naturally, she provided me
directions, but I don’t recall them.  I
just started heading south, trying to ignore the burn and hoping splinters
weren’t breaking off into my leg.

Then it donned on me that my GPS has a hospital icon.  I pushed it and Gina eventually got me
there.  I suppose the beauty of a small
town hospital is that I walked into triage, gave them my ID, and they had me in
an operating room in five minutes or less.  I think the entire procedure of shooting Novocane
into my wound, slicing my leg six inches, removing the branch particle,
flushing it, and stitching with twenty stitches (both internal and external),
and checking out took less time than driving there.  Or at least it would have if they could have
found all of the parts to the water gun that they had to assemble to flush the
wound.

My nurse, Jake, who is in the Navy and has been deployed as
a medic to Afghanistan and Iraq twice each, was super cute!  I kind of wish I didn’t stink so bad I could
smell myself.  No, he was married with
five kids and liked football, so at least I got to watch pieces of a few
football games while Dr. Hautala stitched me up.  Anyway, Jake graciously took photos of my
injury, and I thanked him for his service to our Nation which seemed
particularly fitting given it was September 11th.

Today also marks the six month anniversary of my dad’s
death.  I think the date of this injury
might be unforgettable.  If the doctor
could have only removed some of the fat with my enormous splinter!  Sadly, I’m more upset over deleting my
pictures than the beautiful scar that is going to grace the top side of my
right thigh!

Petey behaved relatively well while being left in VANilla
during my emergency room visit.  We stopped
at the Wal-Mart in town for an antibiotic and painkiller before calling it a
day at Dosewallips State Park.  I’m
currently waiting for my Vicodin to kick in.
We’ll see what tomorrow has in store for me.  I might take a few days of rest…ETB!

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Day 268 – Magnificent Mount Rainier (Part 2)

Day 268 – Magnificent Mount Rainier

I’m sitting here writing my post on Sunday, September 11,
2011.  I generally right them the day of
or the day after despite it sometimes takes even longer to get them posted to
the Internet.  My regular readers have
probably noticed that I always write the post as if I am writing it the “day of”.  Today, I have to say that I just noticed I
mistakenly deleted all of yesterday’s photos this morning off my SD card.  The card was full and for some reason as I
started my hike this morning, I thought I downloaded yesterday’s photos.  This event capped off a remarkably crappy September
11, 2011 which I will post next.  Anyway,
this post will have to be without photos…very disappointed to have lost my only
fox photo and my picture of Chris and his dog Bear.  Oh well, it could be much worse.

So today, Saturday the tenth, I spent another day in Mount
Rainier National Park.  Only to get to the popular area of the park, known as
Paradise, I had to drive from the east side of the park around its southern
border and enter from the west side due to the central road being closed.  On my way to Paradise, which was nice but not what I
would have called it relative to some other places I’ve been, I
stopped for a hike to Narada Falls.  The
falls were very close to the parking area, so I continued along the trail to two
more falls that were somewhat hidden by the surrounding trees.  Regardless, I was walking along a dirt trail
by the water where I only ran into a handful of folks on the weekend, so it was
my type of three to four mile trek.

From this hike, we followed the winding road past several
roadside waterfalls until we reached Paradise, complete with a visitor center
and Inn situated beneath Mount Rainier.
Many trailheads started at this location, thus I can see why it is such
a popular destination.  Several are short
and paved while others lead to hiking on the snow and ice.  Guided trips to the summit may also be
booked.  Had I spent another day in the
park, I probably would have explored a bit more in this area.

From Paradise, I continued east to Reflection Lake.  My first stop at Reflection Lake was sheer
disappointment.  The surface of the lake
rippled in the breeze and no reflection of Mount Rainier could be seen.  I did, however, meet Chris, a Harley rider
from Bend, with his dog Bear who sat perched on the back seat of the motor cycle.  It was so awesome!  Bear was happy as a clam just balanced there
as he cruised into the parking area with a crew of friends.  He told me to give him a call when I got to
the Crater Lake area again, so hopefully he will find my blog and we can
connect.  Besides, I need another
picture!!

A little further down the road was Box Canyon.  The narrow moss-covered, rock canyon was carved
by the grey river that flowed some 180 feet below the bridge.  The scenery changed so much in such a small
area: canyons, glaciers, meadows, pine forests.
Quite amazing!

Due to the road being closed, of course, I returned the way
I came, so as I passed by Reflection Lake again, the surface was close to
glassy.  I took advantage of the
breezeless moment and snapped a couple of fantastic shots of Mount Rainier
glimmering on its surface.  I guess I will
have to return to get them again!

Between Paradise and Reflection Lake is where I spotted the
speckled grey fox with a white tipped tail.
Technically, I believe it is known as a red fox, but its colors
vary.  He essentially smiled for the
camera!  I’ll find another one someday.

I spent until the late afternoon in the park before heading
west.  I passed through Ashford which was
holding the Mount Rainier Festival that mostly catered to kids and then
through Elbe, home to an old historic, white church.  The Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad, a
steam-powered train, launches its 14-mile roundtrip through surrounding forests
to Mineral Lake.  It was a cool looking
train, but it was a hot day with no shade for my precious mutt, so I continued
on to Tacoma for the night.  ETB

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