Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Washington Coast

. . . Upon leaving Olympic National Park I headed south on Hwy 101 straight down the Washington Coast. The seascapes were quite impressive with the lush vegetation leading right up to the shore. The rocky shoreline is a sight to see and the haystacks in the sea are always impressive. I stopped by several lighthouses, touring one of them and photographing each that I saw. The most intriguing area was at the border of Washington and Oregon where the Columbia River empties out into the open sea. At this location there have been over 200 shipwrecks and more than 700 people have lost their lives. This is due to the strong currents where river and ocean exert their force upon one another, and the heavy winds that exist in this region (and yes, the winds were quite strong and quite chilly to my surprise). Couple that with the rocky shorelines and disaster is waiting to happen. Hence, there are two lighthouses within a few miles of one another in this region. . .

Monday, August 25, 2008

Olympic National Park

. . . after spending the day on Mt. Rainier I decided that it was time to move on to Olympic National Park. I had not received much sleep and was extremely tired as I drove through the washington countryside, so much so that I determined that it was too dangerous for me to be driving as my head was bobbing up and down as I was fighting to stay awake. I pulled off on the side of the road the first chance that I had and slept in my car for a good half an hour before continuing on my journey.
I arrived on the Peninsula and began driving on hwy 101 north on the eastern side. I pulled off on the side of the road in order to explore the shoreline as the rocky and wooded slopes dove into the sea. To my amazement I discovered a bald eagle in the treetops just above where I had parked. I got a few less than spectacular photos of the bird, but it was still cool to see it. I ended up camping just outside of Olympic National Park and the next day I was driving up the mountains within the park, arriving at the highest point that one may drive to within the park. It was truly a beautiful scene and there were many "friendly" deer up at the top. As a matter of fact, one of the deer seemed like a model, posing for all of the cameras. While the scene was spectacularly beautiful, it did not compare with the likes of the Grand Tetons or Glacier National Park. If the mountains here could not compete, then I thought it was high time I checked out the forests and the western coastline. My drive to the northwest corner of the peninsula was nothing short of amazing. The rolling hills, wild flowers, forests, and of course the ocean made for a spectacular drive winding along the coast.
I finally arrived late in the afternoon at a lake that is three miles from the coast. There is an awesome hike that one may take from the lake to the coast (3 miles), then along the coast (3 more miles) and back to the lake (3 miles). Unfortunately, I arrived too late in the day to hike the triangle, so instead I simply hiked to the coast and back. This was one of the coolest hikes that I took on my entire trip. What made it so amazing was that the hike is in a rain forest. The vegetation was thick and a wonder to behold. It felt like I was hiking through a jungle in Africa or South America (not that I really know what that would be like, being that I have never been to either of those two continents). And just when I thought the scene could not get any better, the coast appeared. It was a wondrous view and I was kicking myself for not getting a backcountry camping pass in order to camp on the coast itself (next time I am certainly going to do that). The dense forest creeping along the rocky coast with the famous haystacks out in the sea was breathtaking. I was in my own paradise, soaking up the beauties of nature and feeling a deep sense of Gratitude for God's amazing creation.
The evening hours were fast fading by time I began the three mile hike back through the rain forest to the lake. The shadows were long and the forest as dark as could be without it being night. It actually made for good photography as there was no speckled light to provide too great a contrast between light and shadow. By the time I returned to my car the last rays of light dissipated and I was left trying to figure out where I would stay for the night. All of the campgrounds were full and I drove further south in search of something. There was nothing available--even the hotels were sold out. It was another homeless night of sleeping in the car. . . I found a parking lot at the beginning of a trailhead at which to park and hoped that no ranger or police would come by as there were signs that forbade sleeping in cars or camping in unmarked campgrounds. I literally had nowhere to go.
The next morning I explored more of the Olympic coastline and headed into another area of the rain forests, exploring a trail that lead to some ancient mosses growing all over the rocks and trees. It was truly a splendid sight, and while Olympic National Park cannot compare to Glacier and other parks as far as mountain ranges are concerned, there is no other park that I have been to that can compete with the forests of the Olympic peninsula and the coastline is awe-inspiring. This is truly a location that all should visit. Even if you do not like hiking, the hikes that are available are flat and easy for anyone who is interested in exploring this amazing landscape. . .

Friday, August 22, 2008

Cascades, Crazies, and Volcanoes. . .

. . . it was at this point that I took the longest drive of my trip and had some "interesting" experiences along the way. I was driving on some back-road highway in Montana, hoping to reach either Idaho or even washington before I found a place to sleep for the night. The scenery in Montana was amazing--it was a countryside that wound its way through forests and hills which had many lakes dotting the landscape. I was in the middle of nowhere when things got a bit erie. Dusk was soon approaching, but before its arrival a huge windstorm arose, blowing in ominous looking clouds and creating a strange haze that had a dreamlike quality or rather an other-worldly quality. It is hard to describe the scene, but I had to stop just to get out of the car and experience it. I pulled over next to an old barn that was nestled in its own little valley between some of the forested hills. Nothing else, other than nature, could be spotted. The tall, wild grasses danced wildly in the wind, creating interesting patterns as they bowed to and fro. The trees on the hills looked as if they were attempting to stretch their tops to the ground below.
I returned to my car and continued on my journey, arriving in a small town around dusk. According to my map this little town was the largest piece of civilization for hundreds of miles in any direction. I was hungry, tired, and in need of filling up my gas tank when I pulled into the community. The town seemed strange to me for some reason or another, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. When I pulled into the gas station, which had the feeling of abandon, I discovered that I could not pump the gas. A woman came outside and informed me that the power for the entire town was out and that there was no means by which to pump gas here. I would have to travel on to the next town and hope that they had power. As I continued to drive through the town I discovered that even the stop lights were out--there were no back-up generators for anything. It felt as if this were the perfect cliche for a horror movie. . . I just needed to find some little old motel or go wandering through the woods or something. . . well, we all know how those movies go!
I was loving it! The ambiance was as foreign as could be felt in America--circumstance has a funny way of dictating feeling, and this was truly making an adventure for me. As I was driving out of the town, perhaps I mile or two past the outskirts, I drove past a man on the side of the road with a chainsaw. I could not help but laugh hysterically at the sight, all things considered. Never fear, there was no blood strewn across his clothes. . . the man was actually cutting down trees in the wood. It was perfect though.
I arrived at the next town, the power was in tact, so I fueled up and headed on my way. Upon arriving in Idaho I stopped in some town on a river. I was extremely hungry with no food. Everything was closed, but fortunately they had a casino and while the restaurants were closed inside (it was quite late now) there was a little snack shop open for the slot players. I ordered a sandwich, ate, and continued on my way, stopping in some other small town an hour away in Idaho.
The next morning I continued on my way through Washington. Once more, I was taking the lesser traveled highways and I ended up near the Canadian border, passed a forest fire that had just been put out and continued the long trip to North Cascades National Park. I camped that night in some small mountain community just outside the National Park. The next morning I packed up my tent and headed for the mountains. I ended up doing some hiking to a place called pyramid lake. It was a relatively short hike, just a few hours up and back. The North Cascades are a beautiful mountain range, but as far as National Parks are concerned, well, it tells you something that they do not charge anyone to enter and there are no visitors centers. . .
As I drove out of the North Cascades I had to stop at a little roadside shop that was selling homemade ice cream from fresh blueberries and raspberries--it was awesome! After savoring the flavors I continued on toward Seattle. About 40 miles outside the city nature began to call and with a vengeance. I quickly pulled over at a rest stop, entered the bathroom and did my business. As I was sitting on the throne I noticed a little whole that had been cut out of the bottom of the divider. Strange, I thought but didn't much mind it until I thought I saw something shimmering down there. I thought it was awfully low for the toilet paper rack in the next stall to be that low, and I thought to myself, if there is some pervert with a mirror or a camera down there. . . I looked more closely and discovered that it was the rims of some perverts glasses trying to get his jollies through a peep-hole. I was livid! Not desiring to get into a confrontation with my pants down, I acted as if I did not notice, finished my business, and on my way out of the stall (when my pants were back up) I kicked the little peep-hole. I was too disgusted to say anything to this pervert and I looked over my shoulder as I washed and dried my hands, thinking to myself, "If that pervert comes out of that stall while I am here, I am going to kick his @?!" Needless to say, the dirty-old-man (who is actually middle-aged), slowly stood up and peeped over his stall door, saw me looking over my shoulder with the look of death, and sheepishly sat back down. Creepy, crazy pervert! The guy was much bigger than me, but I swear my viking blood was boiling and I would have unleashed a fury that Erik the blood-axe would have been proud of had that fool not sat back down!
I continued on to Seattle and randomly picked a spot to pull off of the freeway in order to get some photographs. I stayed in the city for several hours exploring new spots. Around 10 pm I figured it was time to head out and find a place to stay the night. Mt. Rainier was next on my list and it didn't seem all that far away so I drove there with the intention of finding a camping spot on the mountain (which happens to be a volcano for any of you who are not aware). I arrived at several campgrounds within the National Park, and all were full. Not having a backcountry permit, I couldn't just plop down anywhere in the wilderness, so I drove to the top of the road, arriving around 2 am, and ended up sleeping in my car for the night.
The next morning, I arose and spent the day exploring the mountainside. It was spectacular! A glacier covers the volcano and snow was all about the mountain which dominated everything around it. It made the other mountains that surround it look like little mounds. It was unbelievable! Needless to say, I went wild with my camera taking a number of photos, eating up the hours in this revery before heading on to Olympic National Park. . .

Monday, August 18, 2008


. . . After passing through Yellowstone, having seen the wondrous landscape of geothermal activity and experiencing such wildlife as coyotes, bison, and elk, I travelled on through Montana. I actually stayed at a motel that night as I would have one of the longest drives of my trip ahead of me the next day (I wanted to ensure a good night's rest before the long haul). The next morning I drove up the center of Montana through a landscape of open fields that were lush green, winding through rolling hills and a magnificently wide, blue sky. It was truly beautiful to travel through this part of the state, which most of the locals feel is inferior to the western part of the state which is wooded. Personally, I like to mix up landscapes and enjoy all types from prairie, to woods, to mountains, to deserts, to ocean, and so forth. I find that each landscape has its own unique qualities and beauty.
Anyhow, I arrived at Glacier National Park in the evening. I had just enough time to get a little photography in before the sun would set. I ended up traveling over the mountains at dusk and found a nice little campground with which to spend the night. The following morning I went back into the mountains of Glacier where I experienced my favorite landscape of the trip. My two favorite landscapes are Ocean and Mountains (mountains actually winning out due to the fact that I love to hike). The mountains of Glacier are nothing short of magnificent. The beauty rivals anything that I have seen in Europe and I was in awe of the many waterfalls, cascades, lakes, peaks, woods, glaciers, and all of the snow that was softly nestled in the mountains despite it being the middle of July.
The hiking here was awesome! The one hike I really wanted to do was closed due to all of the snow, but I was able to do an alternate hike which took me through the snow itself and which was a great experience as I was hiking alongside a mountain goat for a good stretch of the hike. Another hike which I embarked upon took me up along a mountainside overlooking a pristine lake. The hike itself led to a number of cascades and waterfalls which were amazing to behold.
When my hikes were completed, I packed up and was ready to continue on my journey, having loved my entire experience at Glacier, but bummed that I did not come across any bighorn sheep. I had to drive back over the mountains in order to continue on my desired course and as I crested the highest pass, to my surprise and joy, I discovered a herd of bighorn sheep. I was able to get some photos and consider my time well spent and my journey through Glacier complete. . .

Sunday, August 17, 2008


. . . it had been well over a decade since I had last been to Yellowstone National Park. The scenery and experience was far more beautiful than I had remembered as I travelled through mountainous landscape that some speculate is a super-volcano. It is certainly as foreign a sight as one might see any given place on this planet. The bright colors that fill the various hot springs, mud flows, geysers, and lakes with the steam floating about like specters in the night is oddly wondrous and captivating. This is certainly one location that everyone must experience at least once in their lifetime, if not more often.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Start of an Adventure. . .

As promised, I shall begin the tale of my most recent adventures that have transpired over the summer of 2008. As many of you are aware, it began with a trip through Nevada into Utah where I visited various relatives and friends, the highlight being my stay with my 100 year old grandmother. I've already posted a blog on my backcountry adventures in Central Utah and I shall pick up with my departing from the Utah on my spontaneous roadtrip through Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and down the California coast. . . over a series of blogs, of course. . .

It was late in the afternoon, or rather early evening when I finally finished packing up all of my belongings and said goodbye to my relatives and friends in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was hoping to drive to Pinedale, Wyoming and do some camping in the Wind River mountains (it has been some 13 years since I served as a missionary in that little town nestled at the foot of that beautiful mountain range). Unfortunately, I was pressed for time as I had to be back in California by the end of July in order to go on a high adventure trip with the boy scouts (I volunteer as a scout master for a local troop). Needless to say, I skipped Pinedale and went straight for Star Valley, Wyoming. I arrived late and having no place to stay and no campgrounds in sight, I found a road that looked like nobody would be traveling on during the night, pulled off on the side, threw down my sleeping bag and slept under the stars. It was amazing! I don't believe that anyone could possibly see more stars then from this location--it was truly breathtaking. I could hear some cows nearby lowing throughout the night and was awoken by the sound of a tractor sometime around 4 a.m. I packed up and headed for the Grand Tetons National Park, arriving around dawn.
I saw a huge bull elk as I was driving--it ran right in front of me on the road, but I was unable to get my camera out before it ran off over the hillside. It was truly a majestic animal. I did find a nice little area where there was a hiking trail, a river and a lake at the base of the Tetons. It was truly beautiful and I began walking around and photographing the scene.
As I did so, I suddenly heard a loud cracking sound from across the river. It was a familiar sound--the exact sound that I had heard the night I was alone in the backcountry worrying about a mountain lion or bear or something big within the dark. I decided that I wanted to see what made such a sound, so I began following the noise in the brush across the way. Suddenly it appeared--a light tan color flashing between the leaves of the bushes. And then it came into view--it was a bear! I saw it walk down to the water's edge and slip itself into the river, swimming across to my side of the river. Recognizing this a chance of a lifetime to get some good bear pictures, I snapped a few photos then ran over to where the bear was swimming in order to get some more photos at a closer range.
It came out of the river about 20 feet from where I stood. I watched it as it crossed the trail and began to forage for food, grabbing an old log with its paws and systematically tearing it apart in search of some grubs to eat. It displayed its power as it tore the log to pieces--its brute strength was an amazing thing to behold! It is no wonder why man would not want to face such a beast as it would easily crush, tear, and dismantle a human body.
I never felt any danger as I stood near the bear, taking photographs. I maintained a safe distance, though, if the bear really wanted to it could have easily run me down and done its bidding. I was in awe of such a beautiful creature. I later saw a second bear which was a bit bigger. The two seemed to be foraging together--I attempted to follow for a short way, but this bear seemed less inclined to have an intruder present, so I backed off without getting a good shot and continued on my way to Yellowstone National Park. . .
I'll write of Yellowstone in my next blog. . . in the meantime, I hope that you enjoy the pictures from the Grand Tetons.