‘Zoo-iled’ Rotten No More?

posted in: Pacific Northwest, Washington | 6
Off to an early start!

When it comes to zoos, yours truly grew up spoiled rotten. The world-famous San Diego Zoo will do that to you. Especially when you’re a native San Diegan and grew up with this fabulous world-class zoo in your own backyard. But every once in awhile I find a zoo that can hold its own. Like the Woodland Park Zoo in north Seattle.

The sign says, “Please do not touch the porcupine.” In case you were wondering.
It was really, really bright!

Nestled in a serene, green park-like setting in north Seattle, the zoo’s 92 acres are divided into bioclimatic zones. Each zone features natural habitats from humid tropical rainforests and coastal deserts to temperate rain forests. Also Australasia, the African Savanna, and the Assam Rhino Reserve. The gorilla exhibit was closed for maintenance during our May visit, and the Butterfly House was slated to open in a few weeks. Bummer. But there’s still plenty else to see and do!

Hippo cooling off on a warm May afternoon!

We were there just five days after the brand new baby giraffe was born!  A male, the unnamed baby giraffe and his mom, Olivia, were out of view in the giraffe barn to allow what the zoo calls “a cozy, quiet environment for maternal bonding and nursing.” But the proud papa was strutting his stuff outside.

Besides the giraffes and the African Savanna exhibit – we even got to see the male lion snoozing out in the open! – Snuggle Bunny especially enjoyed the aviaries. There are a couple aviaries, with rainbow-hued birds flitting through the enclosure. So cool.

“Here, kitty-kitty”!
Benny, a certified good dog, helps combat poaching!

Check out Benny’s story: Rhino Lookout: Meet Benny, a Certified Good Boy.

Other nice things about the Woodland park Zoo:

  • Khaki-clad staff roam around assisting clueless lost tourists in getting unlost (don’t ask how I know that.)
  • The signage is excellent. Just keep an eye out for the Malayan tiger, meerkat and Komodo dragon exhibits. They’re easy to miss. Don’t.
  • The carousel!
  • The penguin exhibit is one of the first you see if you enter at the West Entrance. (I didn’t know penguin vocalizations sound like a braying burro. But they do!)
  • It’s $6.00 to park according to the zoo web site. What they don’t tell you is that that price doesn’t include “local and state taxes.” Plan on coughing up about $7.76 at the parking kiosk as of this writing. You’ll need a debit or credit card, as the machines don’t take cash.
  • Peak season is April 1 – September 30. Admission is $22.95 per adult.
Look at them tuxedos!
How cool is this carousel? Only $3 to ride!

There are also lots of places for parents with small children to rest and re-create, like the Habitat Forest. For the tired of foot, benches are plentiful. Also, water refilling stations are scattered throughout the grounds. Sometimes it’s good to know that. Like on the 90—degree day we visited. I’d bring a water bottle ‘fize you.

Outside the Komodo Dragon exhibit. (It kind of freaked me out, too.)

Tip: If you can swing it, plan on arriving in mid-afternoon on a week day, post- school field trips. The park closes at 6:00 p.m. It clears out like a hot knife through butter around three o’clock. So you can cover a lot of ground fast, unimpeded by crowds or waits. It also starts to cool off and some animals are a little more active at this time of day. Like the lion. We never did see my tiger, except on the way out. On the stall door of the ladies room (below). Go figure.

Aha!

This zoo doesn’t have some of my favorites: cheetah, elephants, or leopards. But it does have an excellent collection and a wide variety of exhibits and displays within a beautiful, carefully tended and well-maintained setting. It’s also thoughtfully laid out. Only a really, really stupid person could get lost. (And it took me about 20 minutes to find my way back to the rhino enclosure.)

“Wild animals have the right of way!”

Additionally, you wouldn’t even know you’re in Seattle if you can block out the traffic noise. (The zoo is also heavily P.C. But that’s par for the course in Seattle.)

Found it! Stalking the ever-elusive North American Cedar Park Bench – with my eyes closed!

For prices, hours and directions, click here.

These critters are almost IMPOSSIBLE to spot in the thick “jungle” foliage. Especially on a warm day.

True, the Woodland Park Zoo isn’t the San Diego Zoo. But what is? Woodland Park is still a top-flight zoo that’s definitely worth your while – and maybe even a little “spoiling.”

Eight hours later…

Sweet Northwest Town Echoes Old World

posted in: Pacific Northwest, Washington | 7

Ever felt like you got caught in a time warp? Whirled into a yester-year wind mill or stumbled onto Memory Lane?

“Toto, I have a feeling we might be in Holland…”

I felt like that when Snugs and I wandered into the town of Lynden, Washington last week. We were celebrating our 36th anniversary hiking and exploring Whatcom County in the northwest corner of the Evergreen State.

We didn’t know this town even existed until the nice folks at our hotel in Bellingham, about two hours north of Seattle, mentioned it.

Lynden wall mural.

So we zipped up the road a few miles north to the second largest city in Whatcom County. Lynden is about five miles south of the Canadian border.

It felt like I had just fallen into a pool of memory. I could almost hear my grandmother’s rich Dutch accent. See her bright tulip beds rippling in vibrant color. Or smell her Rode Kool Met Appeltjes (red cabbage and apples) sizzling on the stove. Taste her fabulous Draadjesvlees (slow-braised beef) and hearty Erwtensoep (traditional Dutch split pea soup).

How cute is this?

My maternal grandmother was from Holland. (You can read more about that at Hard Night: Growing Up in the Land of Endless Summer and The Small Things: What ‘The Waltons’ Taught Me About Writing & More.) So roaming the streets of this sweet little Dutch-themed town felt like I was tip-toeing down memory lane.

Proud of its Dutch heritage!

It was late in the day when we arrived. We were tired. the town was quiet.

How cool is this?

But what a treat, right down to the graceful leafy canopies of trees lining streets near downtown. We asked the locals what they were. No one knew. But I recognized them (I think). I remember them from my last visit to grandma’s house in Michigan. In 1967.

Dutch elms in Lynden, WA?

They’re Dutch elms. Go figure.

Indeed, Lynden’s Dutch heritage is on display everywhere. This town is So. Darn. Cute. It features wind mills, colorful wall murals, Dutch bakeries and restaurants, verbiage, tulips, and all things Hollandish.

A walk down Lynden’s Main Street is like stepping back into the Old Country. I half-expected a little Dutch boy to appear around the next corner, holding the sea back with his finger in a dike.

It’s been a long time. Remind me to thank those nice folks at the hotel in Bellingham.

Multiples in May

What’s your “multiples” month? The month that’s crammed with holidays, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and other special events?

For us, it’s May. 

May includes numerous birthdays, holidays, and special events. Like Memorial Day. Armed Forces Day. Mother’s Day. Our anniversary is also in early May.

Snuggle Bunny and I typically celebrate our May wedding anniversary with a hiking trip to Mount Rainier National Park. There’s just one catch: Mount Rainier is one of the snowiest places on earth. All our favorite hikes are buried under tons of snow.

Reflection Lakes! Kind of.

So this year we decided to celebrate some place different. Where we wouldn’t have to contend with trails under truckloads of snow. Like the coast. Whatcom County, to be exact. “Crew HQ” for the week was  in Bellingham, the county seat and largest city in Whatcom.

You can read more about that in Whirling Thru Whatcom: Washington’s Captivating Coastal Community.

But Mother’s Day is special, huh? Especially when someone says “hike,” “Mount Rainier” and “Mother’s Day” in the same sentence! Game on!

Mother’s Day at ‘my place’!

A family favorite since 1964, Mount Rainier is our go-to outdoor spot for… just about anything. It’s about a three-hour drive, one-way. But when you can hike the world’s most magnificent mountain on an 80-degree May day and the roads are open a week sooner than anticipated due to an unusually warm week, well, Mountain, here we come!

Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park.

So we roamed around Longmire’s historic district. Strolled across the Nisqually River Bridge and wandered the back roads of Longmire near Eagle Peak trailhead.

Picnicked at Narada Falls, running fast and hard during the spring thaw.

Narada Falls!

Then we zipped up to Paradise to suck in conifer-crisped air and some of the most glorious mountain scenery this side of forever. (Paradise is on record as one of the snowiest places on earth. It held a world record for most snowfall in a single season in 1971-72, with 1,222 inches in one year. That’s over 93 feet!)

Paradise at Mount Rainier is one of the snowiest places on earth!

We expected half the population of the western hemisphere to show up at the Mountain on this warm, clear, sparkling blue Sunday. And it did. Until late afternoon or so. Then the crowds cleared out and we almost had the place to ourselves.

Don’t you DARE do graffti inside MY park! Filling out a formal complaint at Jackson Visitor Center, Paradise.

We capped the day off with dinner at National Park Inn in Longmire, about 20 minutes north of the park’s Nisqually gate. We’ve visited the Inn’s Mother’s Day brunch in years past. Barron of beef. Citrus grilled salmon. Blackberry mountain salad with pears and raspberry viniagrette. Fresh broiled asparagus. New white potatoes and risotto with wild mushrooms.

The Inn’s ‘Mother’s Day Buffet’ was a big disappointment.

This year’s Mother’s Day buffet was advertised as running from noon to 6:00 p.m. Anticipating large crowds as in previous years, we made reservations for 5:00 p.m. When we arrived at the Inn, there were just two other tables in use. Moms got complimentary white and red roses, which I brought home and put into water.

Moms got complimentary roses for Mother’s Day at National Park Inn!

On the plus side, we enjoyed an uncrowded, quiet dining room. But the meal itself was a major disappointment. The roast beef and salmon were cold. So were the vegetables. I don’t know how long the food had been sitting out on the buffet table, but it was obviously too long. And not exactly appetizing. Especially when you’re shelling out $30 a plate.

The roses were lovely. The food… not so much.
Dessert. I chose pecan pie with whipped cream and crushed oreos and pound cake with strawberry-rhubarb suace.

Although friendly and efficient, the dining room staff seemed in a hurry to clock out. They tore down the buffet table a half hour early. Maybe they figured that since ours was apparently the last reservation of the day, they’d just serve up whatever dregs were available and call it good.

Not.

We’ve dined at National Park Inn several times over the last 15 years or so. This was the first time the food was markedly sub-standard. We’ve had better meals at Denny’s – for a lot less.

Anyway, we enjoyed a lovely post-dinner stroll around the Trail of the Shadows just across the street from the Inn. An easy walk of less than a mile, the Shadows loop is one of the easiest trail in the park.

Crowds dissipated. Bull frogs tuned up for a night time chorus. Purpled in shadow, Longmire Meadow stretched and yawned as the Mountain jacketed into a thin fleece of cloud, donned a golden tiara and bedded down for the night. A chilly wind raced off her shoulders, blue and bracing.

We headed home as night fell, grateful for the multiple blessings of Mother’s Day and May at my Mountain! Can’t wait to go back!

‘Multiples in May’ includes Paradise at Mount Rainier!

Whirling Through Whatcom: Washington’s Captivating Coastal County

Snuggle Bunny and I typically celebrate our May wedding anniversary with a hiking trip to Mount Rainier National Park. There’s just one catch: Mount Rainier is one of the snowiest places on earth. All our favorite hikes are buried under tons of snow.

On Hwy 11, en route to Larrabee State Park.

So this year we decided to celebrate some place different. Where we wouldn’t have to contend with trails under truckloads of snow. Like the coast. Whatcom County, to be exact. “Crew HQ” for the week was Bellingham, the county seat and largest city in Whatcom.

Birch Bay on a brisk Wednesday morning in May. That’s the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we’re told.

Tucked into the northwest corner of the Evergreen State, Whatcom County’s 2,503 square miles have a well-earned reputation for serene, stunning Northwest beauty. The county is bordered by Canada on the north, Okanogan County on the east, Skagit County on the south, and the Strait of Georgia on the west. It features some of the most stunning and scenic real estate in the state.  

Once you leave the I-5 in the rear view mirror, it’s not long until roads wind through rich farmland dotted with black and white bovine, purple lupine, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, state and county parks, and a vast network of choice hiking trails. Also historic sites, beaches, and great sea food with ocean-front views. We visited and hiked an average of about three state or county parks a day, averaging 10+ foot miles per day.

Overlooking the San Juans. (It was noon-ish and really, really bright!)

In no particular order, here are some highlights from our whirlwind tour this captivating coastal county:

Bellingham

Mount Baker from somewhere in Bellingham.

Bellingham has a “big” small town feel. It’s big, but not – gag me! – Seattle big. The city is large enough to have most anything you might want in terms of shopping, restaurants, an historic and business district, and a bustling waterfront. But it’s also small enough to feel friendly, welcoming, and kick back.

Whatcom Falls Park

If you only have time for one county park in Whatcom, check out Whatcom Falls Park.

Whatcom Falls gallops under a stone bridge built by the WPA in 1939-40.

Located in the City of Bellingham, this county park includes multiple waterfalls, picturesque ponds, marsh and song birds, picnicking, and a playground. Ditto a vast network of hiking trails – mostly brief, level, and easy – and lots of shade. Also a sweet little waterfall and stone bridge that was built by the WPA in 1939-40.

‘Swimming hole’ at Whatcom Falls Park.

There’s also a popular leash-free zone for dogs at the south end of the park near Lake Whatcom. Whatcom Falls Park is located at 1401 Electric Avenue in the Whatcom Falls Neighborhood.

Continue hiking north. Brave a busy street crossing and you’ll find beautiful Bloedel-Donovan Park where the lapping waters of Lake Whatcom kiss the shore.

Lake Whatcom!

Lake Whatcom

Yes, you can easily walk to Lake Whatcom from Whatcom Falls Park. They’re within shaking hands distance in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

It was in the upper 80s when we hiked from the falls to Bloedel Donovan Park and Whatcom Lake. Talk about a welcome, refreshing sight on a warm May day! We plunked our Camelbaks down on a picnic table near the water’s edge and watched ducks and geese frolic in the water while munching our lunch.

Within hiking distance of Whatcom Falls Park, Lake Whatcom is about 10 miles long!

Lake Whatcom is approximately 10 miles long and 1 mile wide at its widest. Its carefully manicured lawns and playgrounds are fringed by a truckload of additional outdoor opportunities including motor boating, swimming, fishing, and hiking.

Lake Whatcom.

From Lake Whatcom and Bloedel Donovan Park, you can do an about-face and retrace your steps back to Whatcom Falls Park. It’s an easy walk. Take a brief detour around Sudder or Derby Ponds on your way back.

For a complete list of Whatcom County Parks, click here.

Hello Birch Bay!

Birch Bay State Park

This park includes over 8,000 feet of saltwater shoreline and nearly 15,000 feet of freshwater shoreline on Terrell Creek. The Terrell Creek Marsh is one of the few remaining saltwater/freshwater estuaries in north Puget Sound. A natural game sanctuary sits at the park’s north end.

The state park adjoins the Birch Bay Beach and Tidelands Access Area. This 60 acre undeveloped wildlife conservancy protects heron nests and other local wildlife.

If you want to lunch on a pristine beach with sweeping views of the San Juan Island and the jagged spires of the North Cascades, this is the  place. Also camping an. We found lots of cars with license plates from Alaska, Victoria. B.C., and believe it or not, Texas.

Birch Bay State Park is located between Bellingham and Blaine. Take exit 266 off the I-5. Follow the signs to the park. It’s a pretty drive. The park entrance is on Helweg, just off Jackson Road and past the Birch Bay Beachwood Grocery and Deli. A Discover Pass is required.

Hovander Homestead Park

With its big red barn, cow pastures, farmyard animals, gently rolling hills, historic buildings and farm implements, this 350-acre park preserves the rich history of Whatcom County pioneer farming.

Hovander Homestead, Bellingham.

Tip: In early May, the lilacs draping the old Hovander house are at peak bloom. Lovely!

It also includes a Fragrance Garden, observation tower, and the Hovander River Trail.

Semiahmoo Park

Semiahmoo Marina.

Try saying that 10x fast. (That’s okay. I’ll wait.)

Whiterock, Canada across the water.

Located on Semiahmoo Parkway on Semiahmoo Bay, Semiahmoo County Park  offers jaw-dropping views across Semiahmoo Bay the Strait of Juan de Fuca into Whiterock, Canada. Picnicking within a stone’s throw of crashing ocean breakers. A superb, easy public walking path out to the Semiahmoo Spit terminating in sweeping views of Mount Baker, the Semiahmoo Resort, and U.S., Canadian, and Washington State flags snapping smartly in a crisp blue breeze.

The park isn’t large. But if you’re in the area, it’s a must-see.

Lynden

A few miles north of Bellingham, this sweet little town is So. Darn. Cute. Proud of its Dutch heritage, Lynden features wind mills, colorful wall murals, Dutch bakeries and restaurants and all things Hollandish.

Downtown Lynden, WA. I kid you not. (Even with my eyes closed.)

A walk down Lynden’s charming Main Street is like stepping back into the Old Country. I half-expected a little Dutch boy to appear around the next bend, holding the sea back with his finger in a dike.

Lynden wall mural. At a downtown parking lot.

We had no idea this city even existed until the good folks at our hotel in Bellingham recommended it. What a treat! Especially since my maternal grandmother is Dutch.

How cute is this?

Additionally, I noted several blocks of tree-lined streets near downtown. The leafy canopies formed a graceful arch over the street. We inquired as to the identity of said trees. No one knew. But I did. (I think.)

Dutch elms lining a Lynden street.

I saw them before. Lining my grandmother’s street in Michigan. In 1967. But you never forget Dutch elms.

Blaine

Peace Arch in Blaine, WA.

With its two-lane road through downtown, quaint shops and restaurants, upscale residences and beach-hugging real estate, Blaine is about as far north as you can get in Washington State and still remain in the U.S. It borders Canada. It also reminded me of the beautiful southern California town of Coronado.

Hello from Canada!

Blaine features another must-see: the famous Peace Arch, which is both a state park and a national historic site. The arch straddles both U.S. and Canadian borders and commemorates the long friendships between these two great nations and the longest undefended border in the world.

Located half inside Washington State and half inside British Columbia, B.C., the park features some of the most beautiful grounds and rolling green hills ever. Mighty impressive.

Stimpson Family Nature Reserve in Sudden Valley

This place is off the beaten path. But it’s worth the drive, with a 4.4 mile RT loop trail through a splendid mixed growth forest bristling with hemlock, Douglas fir, big leaf maple and a thousand shades of green.

You can lop 1.2 miles of your RT by eliminating the 1.2 mile loop trail around Geneva Pond. But then you’d miss this sweet pond (more like a lake). The trail parallels the pond along a ridge before dropping down to shore level. There’s a fine, smooth stone bench on the west end of the placid pond where you can take a breaker and soak in some serenity. We met just one other hiker on this loop before rejoining the mail trail.

You don’t need to be a world class athlete to take this loop trail, which is 4.4 miles RT if you include the pond. But you should be in decent shape. It includes some ups and downs. Bring plenty of water, especially on a warm day.

Geneva Pond. Worth the additional 1.2 miles!

There’s a small dirt parking lot at the trailhead that can accommodate maybe a dozen cars. Vault toilets at the lot. There’s a sign with a trail map at the trail head, just before the beaver pond.

Note: Cougars have been sighted in this area. So keep your head on a swivel.

Additionally…

It’s a bit of drive to get here, but this primo state park offers excellent hiking trails and A+ views of the San Juan Islands

There’s also Larrabee State Park, the Fragrance Lake Trail and the San Juan Islands lookout. But I’ll save that for another time. Cuz my fingers are about ready to fall off.

Wait. Did we do all that in just four days? Remind me to put in for honorary membership in the Cheetah Society of Western Washington.

Bon voyage!

Coming soon: Mount Rainier and the Month of Multiples, Zoofari at Woodland Park, and 800 Vehicular and 65+ Trails Miles in 5 Days: The Coast, Canada, and the Cascades!

You Know You’re From Washington When…

posted in: Pacific Northwest, Washington | 0

Hiking the Summerland Trail at Mount Rainier National Park, WA.

“No,” I replied, smiling sweetly. “Not D.C. I live in Washington State. You know. The Pacific Northwest. On the coast. Upper Left, USA.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve replayed that conversation with out-of-staters. To save time, let’s just cut to the chase, shall we? You know you’re from Washington State when*:

  • A Vitamin D deficiency isn’t just in your head. It’s all over.
  • You can pronounce Hoquiam, Sequim, Puyallup, Sammamish, Enumclaw and Issaquah without stumbling.
  • You avoid driving through Seattle at all costs.
  • You know what a Geoduck is.
  • You know Geoduck is pronounced Gooey-duck and not Geo-duck.
  • You consider swimming an indoor sport.
  • You know that s’mores is one of the basic food groups.
  • Your lawn is mostly moss and you don’t really care.
  • Your roof is mostly moss and you don’t really care.
  • Your dog is mostly… oh, never mind.
  • When you hear “The Mountain is out,” you don’t have to ask which one. You know.

Mount Rainier from Paradise in late September.

  • When visiting another state and asked where you’re from, you say “Seattle.” You know Seattle is the only city in Washington, according to the rest of the hemisphere.
  • You’ve eaten in the Space Needle. While it was delicious, you’ll never again pay $50 for a hamburger in the sky.

    Public domain
  • You know that washing your car is a waste of time.
  • Northface is always in fashion.
  • You take a warm coat and a hat with you for a day at the beach.
  • You have mastered the art of doing everything in the rain, because, well, Washington.
  • You play “no, you go” at a four-way stop.
  • You know that Mount Rainier is both stunningly beautiful and could also kill you some day. And you don’t mind.
  • You get a little twitchy if it’s been more than a week since the last rain.
  • You think Twilight ruined Forks.
  • You can say Humptulips, Lilliwap and Dosewallips without laughing. Too much.
  • You really know you’re from Washington State when you wouldn’t want to live anywhere else!

*Adapted from a Facebook post.

Hiking an Emerald Cathedral: Washington’s Spectacular Hoh Rain Forest

Ever visited a massive cathedral drenched in emerald green? Put western Washington’s Hoh River Valley and Rain Forest on your bucket list.

Indeed, the colossal conifers that dominate the Hoh Rain Forest make it one of the most spectacular examples of a temperate rain forest in the world. Though limited, it also offers good hiking and other opportunities for outdoor lovers. Like:

Picnicking and camping. Snow-studded ridges. Rushing rivers. Gurgling streams. Warbling song birds. Stands of sword fern and tree moss so dense they block out the sun. And a thousand shades of green.

Hoh River.
Hall of Mosses! A 1,000 shades of green!

Tucked within the pleats of Olympic National Park, the skirts of the Hoh Rain Forest are soaked in green. Green drips from logs. Drenches ferns. Laps at streams, rivers, and bridges. Hangs from soaring Sitka spruce and Western hemlock trees like bunting on a band stand.

On the Hall of Mosses Trail. And they’re not kidding!

The average annual rainfall in the Hoh Rain Forest is 138 inches. That’s eleven-and-a-half feet of rain. Per year.

Of course the best way to experience this vibrant verdure is along Hoh hiking trails. Two of the most popular are the Hall of Mosses (.8 miles) and the Spruce Nature Trail (1.2 miles.) Both are easy loop trails.

The Spruce Nature Trail meanders to the Hoh River before looping back to the visitors center and parking lot. With several downed logs to sit on and ‘E ticket’ views of the Olympic Mountains, it makes a great lunch stop.

But if you want to get a big taste of the lush, majestic landscape that is the Hoh Rain Forest, take the Hoh River Trail.

The total mileage on this moderate out and back trail – 32.8 miles – may seem daunting. But there are plenty of turn around options and lunch spots along the way, most with a pristine view of the river. Also two grand waterfalls.

One clearly visible waterfall is at about 2.9 miles at Tom Creek. The other, more hidden falls is a few minutes down the path and across a muddy creek. Neither are marked.

After hiking the Hall of Mosses and the Spruce Nature Trail, we hiked about four miles up the Hoh River Trail over Easter weekend. Shadows started to lengthen in late afternoon. The wind began to bite. We zipped into our fleeces while we rehydrated and munched snacks on a sandy spot by the river. Then we turned around and headed back.

On the shoulder of Mount Olympus, the Hoh River Trail is well maintained and wide in most spots. There’s an uphill climb about a mile or so before the first falls. But it’s brief and pretty mild.

Also, the road to the Hoh Visitor Center and all trailheads is a slow go. It winds and meanders some 18.5 miles off Hwy 101. Plan on about 30 minutes or so to cover this stretch. The good news: It follows the Hoh River for much of the way and is quite scenic.

 

Beware of mud and tangle foot early in the season. Creek crossings can be tricky, so use caution. Also, be Bear Aware! Bears are known to frequent this region. So keep your eyes peeled and don’t do anything stupid, okay?

Stuff You Should Know About the Hoh Rain Forest:

Olympic National Park Entrance Fee: $30 per car. Good for 7 days.
Hoh Rain Forest Entrance Cost: none
State Parks near the Hoh Rain Forest: Bogachiel
State Parks Admission: Discover Pass is required, $10 for one day, $30 for one year
When to Visit: The Hoh Rain Forest is open daily April – November, weekends only December – March, camping and hiking is accessible year round
Access: Road to the Hoh Rain Forest is open year round

Awesome Azure Lake, Thy Name is ‘Crescent’!

Hugging the northern foothills of Washington’s rugged Olympic Mountains, Lake Crescent is saturated in rugged Northwest beauty. Trails in this area, about 20 miles west of Port Angeles, lead to some fine day hiking and eye-popping vistas. Three top hikes out of Lake Crescent are, in no particular order, Pyramid Peak, Storm King, and the Spruce Railroad Trail.

South shore of Lake Crescent.

Crystal-clear Lake Crescent plummets to some 624 feet in depth. You can see it from atop some splendid peaks if you’re willing to do the leg work. Three top hikes in the area are, in no particular order, Pyramid Peak, Storm King, and the Spruce Railroad Trail.

A gentle walk along an old abandoned railroad track, the Spruce Railroad Trail is about four miles one-way. It’s part of the 134-mile-long Olympic Discovery Trail. The Spruce Railroad Trail follows the former Port Angeles Western Railroad grade and skirts the crystal-clear waters of Lake Crescent.

Ready? Set? Go!

The Pyramid Peak hike is, well. Let’s just call it an “adventure.”

Perched on the southern hip of crystalline Lake Crescent, the hike is about seven miles round-trip. It offers peek-a-boo views of the lake as well as “big views” to the north and the interior of the Olympics. For more, see How a World-Class Acrophobe Survived Pyramid Peak (sort of).

A short (2.2 miles, one way), steeeeep hike that switchbacks up Mount Storm King to a jaw-dropping view of Lake Crescent, the Storm King trail isn’t for the faint-hearted or the weak-kneed. But if you’re ready for a challenge, this hike delivers in spades. The elevation gain is about 1,000 feet per mile. So prepare to perspire.

Made it! Lake Crescent from atop Storm King. A short steep, hike. But so worth it!

A Tale of Two Washingtons

Tucked into the northwest collar of the U.S., Washington State is saturated in natural beauty, both lush and desert-dry. It’s like two states in one. Both are defined by water or the lack of it.

The Cascade Mountain Range separates the state into two distinct climates: cool and wet on the west near the coast; hot and dry on the east near Idaho.

Jefferson Lake in Washington’s Olympic National Park.

If you love sunshine and scorching summers, then Spokane, Pasco, or Moses Lake are for you. If you sunburn easily and prefer cool, wet weather, then you’ll love Seattle, Olympia, Puget Sound, or the state’s crown jewel: the lush, verdant Olympic Peninsula. Here, lakes, rivers, and water reign supreme.

Lake Crescent.

Lake Cushman

One of the peninsula’s crown jewels is Lake Cushman (above).

Nestled along the eastern elbow of the Olympic Peninsula off Hoodsport, Lake Cushman is a 4,010-acre lake and reservoir on the north fork of the Skokomish River in Mason County. It offers great recreational opps including picnicking and camping. Also some of the most challenging mountain hikes in the region.

Like: You don’t have to be part mountain goat to navigate the trails to Wagonwheel Lake or Mounts Rose and Ellinor. But it helps.

After your hike, soak your tired tootsies in the lapping waters of Lake Cushman. And lemme tell ya, if you’ve never seen the sun slide over the Olympic Mountains from the shores of Lake Cushman, now would be good!

Striking out on the Big Creek Loop.

In the meantime, additional choice trails in the Lake Cushman area include the Big Creek Loop (4.6 miles RT), the Dry Creek Trail (7.2 miles RT), and Spike Camp (7.2 miles RT). Don’t forget to pop into Staircase. Oh, the Staircase Rapids! Or the spectacular Hoh Rain Forest on the west side of the peninsula.

But I’ll leave that for another post. Think of it as another ‘two-fer.’ Stay tuned!

Taming the Wild Wynochee

“Let’s go hiking,” he said. “It’ll be fun,” he said.

Never mind that there was still enough late snow on the ground to give a Yeti cause for pause. Or the thermometer mercury was tickling the low forties.

I just smiled sweetly and chirped, “Great idea! Let’s go!”

It seemed like a good idea at the time. And that’s how Snuggle Bunny and I wound up hiking at Wynoochee Lake in March. At least the snow was hard packed. Easy to walk on. Not that I could feel my toes much after a couple hours on the trail.

That being said, this particular Monday adventure was one of a kind. (You can take that any way you want). For one thing, we had the entire lake to ourselves. It was pristine. Clear. Blue. Smooth as glass.

We also had the trails to ourselves. No one else was dumb enough to be out galumphing around the lake that early in the season.

Wonder Dog loved it. Because she’s… well, Wonder Dog.

Kimber the Wonder Dog loves playing in the snow!


The 16-mile Wynoochee Lakeshore Trail is open for hiking and mountain biking. Wynoochee Lake and Dam are located in western Washington at the mouth of the Olympic Mountains. It’s a great destination for families looking for a day trip. The nearest town is Montesano, just over an hour’s drive away.

There’s swimming at the day use area, which also has picnic tables and barbecues. I’d wait for warmer weather ‘fize you. But if you’re up for a little adventure and remembered to bring your gloves and Under Armour, you can tame the wild Wynoochee with a brisk walk amid a lush forest hemming a serene lake that will speak to you for days.

Wynoochee Lake can be reached from Highway 12 just west of Montesano by heading north on Wynoochee Valley Road/Forest Road 22. Follow Wynoochee Valley Road for 35 miles. Turn left to remain on Forest Road 22, and after around one mile, turn right at Forest Road 2294. Entrances to the Coho Campground and the Dam are along this road.

Visit the Olympic National Forest website for detailed directions and maps.



RADIANT Rhododendrons Spruce Up Spring!

posted in: Pacific Northwest, Washington | 2

Spring comes to western Washington with the alacrity of a three-toed sloth. Drooling skies and dripping clouds cling stubbornly to the landscape, wearing out their welcome. But on a crystal-clear day in April when the Washington state flower is in full bloom, spring’s Radiance la Rhodie is worth the wait.

Ah, spring! What took you so long?

The magnificient, multi-hued Rhododendron comes from a Greek word meaning “rose tree.” Affectionately dubbed “Rhodies” by the locals, these rose trees are referred to as the King of Shrubs because they’re considered the best flowering evergreen plants for the state’s temperate landscape.

Pink/white clouds of blooming perfume!

One of the best places to view these beautiful blooms is at the Rhododendron Botanical Gardens in Federal Way, a few miles south of Seattle.

This place is a photographer’s paradise! We took oodles of photos. I can’t fit them all in! But here are some of my faves! Whatcha think?

Home to one of the largest collections of species rhododendrons in the world, the garden displays over 700 of the more than 1,000 species found in the wilds of North America, Europe, and Asia, as well as the tropical regions of southeast Asia and northern Australia.

The beautiful blooms meander through 22 acres of well-maintained trails that include a garden pond, meadow, gazebo, and Conservatory. The grounds also house the Pacific Bonsai Museum.

The Rhododendron Botanical Gardens is a wonderful place to reconnect with nature, luxuriate in bright blooms and the joy of spring, and savor some deliciously fragranced Northwest breezes. It’s also a great place to rest up a bit and regain some sanity after fighting Seattle traffic. (Just sayin’.)

Can’t wait to go back!

Inside Conservatory.

Hours:

10 am – 4 pm
Tuesday – Sunday
Closed: Mondays

Closed : Thanksgiving,
Christmas Eve, Christmas
Day, New Year’s Day

Admission:

$8.00     General Admission
$5.00     Seniors (65+) &
                 Students (w/ school ID)
Free:     Children under 12 years, school groups, with ID: military personnel (active and retired), RSBG members and current Weyerhaeuser employees

For more information, click here.