The Elwha Loop

First of all, a big thank you to those of you who have stayed with us! We did not, quite, drop off the face of the earth–just had to sit back and weather the storm for a bit. On the plus side, Jim has made an incredible recovery from his second-degree burn. I really thought he might be out for the whole summer, but he has almost completely healed. As long as he slathers 50+ sunscreen on his leg, he is good to go!

One of latest adventures was the Elwha Loop just past Port Angeles. Because of Jim’s injuries, we haven’t done as much this summer and we were looking for something not too strenuous. This was a great hike–quite easy and very beautiful. A bit of a drive for us but easily done in a day.

One of the things that struck me most about this hike was how quiet it was. This is an easy hike in the Olympics, and we went on a Friday in late July–prime tourist time. And yet we saw very few people on the hike–just the way I like it!! Contrast that with a recent hike to Lake Serene in the Cascades, also on a July Friday, which was like I-5 at rush hour through Seattle. More on that adventure later! This is described on some sites as a heavily trafficked trail, so we may have just been lucky, or maybe some people are still not sure what’s going on after the removal of the dams on the Elwha. Whatever the reason for the lack of people, it worked out for us!

The trail itself was well maintained and shady most of the way (we also lucked out with weather and had an overcast and cool-for-summer day). We took the lower part of the loop to start and made the very short and definitely worth it detour to Goblins Gate, which is stunning! The color of the water is spectacular. Could get really crowded very fast, but we saw only two others people there. Perfect!

IMG_2116

Another detour worth making is the Dodger Point Trail to the suspension bridge over the  Elwha. This is another beautiful spot–nice place for a bit of lunch if you didn’t already have it at Humes Ranch. You can check out Michael’s Cabin on the way back, though it appears that local rowdies party there. The sign out front said you might be able to find remnants of spearmint in the garden. I just found some skivies and nasty old socks. I think someone had too much fun there. Lots of rat poop on the porch too, so be careful where you sit. You are more daring than I am if you choose to climb the ladder and look in the loft!

All in all, it was a good hike. Worth the drive. No blisters either!!

IMG_2114

Close to Home

Last week we took a short trip to Mason Lake with the kayaks. I had wanted to go to Twanoh, thinking that Mason Lake was just the slough out to the big lake. Beautiful but full of boats and often rough. Thankfully, Jim talked me into the lake. Little did I know the wonders of the lagoon and creek off to the left of the boat ramp. Lily pads, herons, ducks, flowers, and absolute tranquility awaited us. We even headed down a little creek, with a definite flow and a bit of a paddle back! Too far down and you lose your head in a culvert under the road. We didn’t get that far! But what a gorgeous day. Never underestimate the little secrets close to home. Sometimes the best adventures are fifteen minutes away.

That little adventure can be all that it takes to reset your balance in life. You don’t always need an exotic trip or an intense hike in the mountains. Take that path across the street, bike that easy trail you always pass up, kayak that little lagoon. Find yourself in those small moments of beauty and peace. Namaste!

 

 

#masonlake #kayakingadventures #stillwaters

 

 

Icicle Canyon

Jim and I had a very short but wonderful trip to Leavenworth just over a week ago. One night, two delightful hikes. We almost didn’t go, but I am so glad we did. Not only was it a good break from the constant drama that seems to be our life now, but it turns out, it also might be the last hiking we do together for several months.

I postponed a blog post about this until after the long holiday weekend, thinking that many people would be out either enjoying the great weather or attending services in remembrance of loved ones. But on Monday, my husband had a nasty little accident (honestly, no alcohol involved) with a fire. It had been going well but he got tired at the end and a little careless. He now has second degree burns on his left elbow, wrist, and a really big one of the outer leg, from just below his knee to a few inches above his ankle. He is lucky in many ways–it could have been much worse, but he had the presence of mind to stop, drop, and roll (yes, those childhood lessons do help) and he had a running hose readily available. Sadly, his hiking days are over for awhile.

IMG_9850

It’s been hard to start this post, but it is, after all, a blog about dealing with cosmic crap. It happens to all of us. I’ve been depressed this week (more so than usual), thinking about how our summer plans will be changed dramatically, but honestly, this kind of stuff happens to all of us. I just need to suck it up and move forward. At the least, I can share some words and images from our little trip–sharing some spectacular scenery (though from comments I’ve heard from friends, my husband and I may be the only people in Washington that haven’t been to Icicle Canyon before!).

Our first hike was the Eight Mile Lake hike. What an interesting hike! We saw mountain goats, chipmunks, and a marmot who posed quite a bit for us. Wildflowers were blooming in abundance (lovely to see as it’s still early here on the west side of the mountains!). The landscape is a fascinating glimpse of the incredible power of the elements. Earth, wind, fire, and water have been at work here, reshaping the environment. The water is flowing fast and furious and you can always hear its roar from the trail. There was still quite a bit of it on the trail itself but only a tiny bit of snow left way up by the lake. Cold and windy at the lake, but we managed to find a nice protected spot (near the marmot) for a quick lunch before heading back down. Ended the hike with some beautiful Western Tanagers flying around the parking area.

We took it easy the second day, as we had a long drive home ahead of us that afternoon. The Icicle Gorge Trail is a very pleasant four-mile stroll up one side of the river and back down the other. As with every “creek” we saw in Icicle Canyon, the water was raging, and spectacular to view! This day was warmer and not as windy so the bugs were out, especially in one marshy section of the trail. Once you got through that, it wasn’t bad at all. Again, lots of wildflowers everywhere, including an abundance of fairy slippers. We had lunch on a wooden bridge about halfway through the hike and spent some time there watching a water ouzel in the creek.

Honestly, you can’t miss in Icicle Canyon–everywhere you look it is stunningly beautiful. Lots of campgrounds and trails and climbing areas and river rafting (and on and on). An outdoor paradise for sure.

IMG_9888blog

Lower Big Quilcene Trail

We hit the Lower Big Quilcene River Trail a little over a week ago, on one of our rare non-rainy days this year in the NW. We got lost on the way but saw a bear crossing the Penny Creek Road, which made the extra time worth it (I would rather see a bear from the car than on the trail right in front of us!). The directions we followed weren’t great–actually the signage in the area isn’t great. Stay left when Penny Creek Road splits. Follow the signs for the trails, even though Lower Big Quilcene isn’t on the sign. It is marked once you get on the right road, and it’s the first trail you come across.

IMG_9668blog

This is one of those trails we put off, as it wasn’t rated highly in our Day Hikes book, but it has the advantage of being open most of the year! We have found that these easier trails are quite lovely in the spring. Not crowded at all and lots of little waterfalls everywhere, which will probably dry up later in the year. They also have a bit of sun, as the deciduous trees haven’t fully leafed out yet. And quite honestly, sometimes you just need to get out and commune with Mother Nature. It’s amazing what it can do for high blood pressure and depression. Try it!! This trail was pretty easy, with no major elevation gains. It is long if you do the round trip (almost ten miles for us) to and from Camp Jolley. You don’t always get that close to the river but you can always hear it it–sometimes a distant melody, sometimes a raging torrent. Always beautiful!!

IMG_9667blog

We saw quite a few Trillium that have survived our recent downpours. Also lots of yellow violets and even a few bleeding hearts in the sunnier areas. Salmonberries are flowering as well. Rhodies should be blooming soon, but maybe a bit later than usual with our weather this year.

We usually try to be well prepared for our hikes, and generally they are not that difficult. So far, we are definitely day hikers. But sometimes we over look little things. I wore the same hiking boots I have had for the last several years, with no problems at all, but I recently purchased a new pair of fairly spendy lightweight hiking socks. They did not work!!! Try new things on short trails! I ended up with four blisters and a bloody toe, simply because of my socks, which didn’t breathe as advertised and moved around too much because they weren’t as thick as my normal socks. Won’t be wearing them hiking again!

IMG_9677blog

http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/lower-big-quilcene-river

Twanoh State Park

One of the wonderful things about living on Hood Canal, or anywhere on the Olympic Peninsula, is the ability to start your hike in the forest and end the day at the beach. Our beaches are more likely to be covered in rocks than sand, and they might be windy and cold, but they can still be pretty fascinating, especially when the tide is out.

April hasn’t been the best month for us, but we did manage to get out to Twanoh State Park for a great day with a dear friend who came to visit earlier this month. Twanoh is small and close by, which makes it an easy trip when everyone forgets to set alarms for an early morning! The weather was perfect for hiking and we enjoyed the walk. Things have been blooming a bit late this year, due to our record amounts of rain and cool weather, but we did see some Trillium and Salmonberry beginning to come out. We even saw the sun make a rare appearance for part of the day!

IMG_9404blog

IMG_9408blog

After our hike up the service road and back down the trail above the creek, we headed across the street to the water’s edge. We caught a very low tide and had a great time exploring. Lots of people were out gathering oysters (FYI, you have to shuck them at the beach). We saw oysters, clams, mussels, barnacles, snails, tiny crabs, and even what appeared to be small eels under some rocks.

Twanoh offers camping on the forest side and day use on both sides of 106, with a swimming area, picnic tables, hiking trails, and a boat launch. Bring your Discover Pass! Be sure to check it out in the late fall when the salmon return to spawn. It is an amazing sight (and it’s a little smelly!).

IMG_9459blog

IMG_9457blog

http://www.stateparks.com/twanoh_state_park_in_washington.html

http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/twanoh-state-park

http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/beaches/270460/

 

Disc Golfing in March

Western Washington springs are usually pretty wet, but this one is starting off to be a whopper. Walking in my yard is like walking on a giant sponge. The dirt access road behind our property still looks like you could kayak on it–it even has some mild rapids. Trails in the area sometimes look more like creeks. If you are hiking out and about in this weather, bring extra clothes, especially shoes and socks!

Mother Nature did give us a lovely little break on Saturday and we jumped at the chance to get away for an afternoon. Jim had a shoulder surgery and two wrist surgeries recently, so he hasn’t been able to enjoy one his favorite past times–disc golf. We also haven’t been on many hikes lately so we combined the two and headed up to Hoodsport Hills, on the way to Lake Cushman.

The whole area around Lake Cushman is beautiful, with trails galore, but Jim has wanted to check out the new (and still unfinished) disc golf course that we always pass on our way up to Staircase. We arrived late morning with the sun working hard to warm us up, though layers were necessary to start with. There is a parking lot with a surprisingly clean and well stocked port-a-potty (always good to know for us ladies!). The course starts on the near side of a lovely little creek and continues on into the forest. So far, there are only nine holes completed and they are not in order (you go from hole 5 to 15)! Signs can be confusing, as they still have lots of work to do. Your best bet is to go to DGCourse Review and print out their 2016 review. Jim found it very descriptive and helpful.

I don’t play disc golf, but I do like to tag along, as the scenery is often very nice. This one is by far the prettiest course I have been on. It would be a nice area just to hike around, and in fact, there is a trailhead for some very short hikes nearby. The hikes and course cross over each other a few times. We saw eagles flying overhead and several small woodpeckers in the trees. Jim loved the course and is looking forward to its completion. I will certainly go back when he plays, just for the walk. As far as a disc golf course, I will say this–it doesn’t look like the easiest course in the world! If you love the game, I think you will enjoy this course. It seemed fairly challenging to me, and at this point, most of the underbrush hasn’t leafed out yet. When it does, it’s going to be even more difficult. There is also the creek, which Jim had to fish a disc out of! It’s running rapidly right now, so we’re pretty happy he found it.

For those who don’t know much about disc golf, here are some good resources to check out:

http://www.wsdga.org

http://www.dgcoursereview.com/reviews.php?id=8481&mode=rev

http://www.pdga.com

It’s a fun and inexpensive way to enjoy the outdoors.

Dreaming of Summer Trails

Tubal Cain

Trailhead for Tubal Cain Mine trail #840

It’s March 7, and it’s snowing at our place in Belfair. I love the snow, but come on Mother Nature! I am so ready for spring. If you are out hiking in the Northwest today, you are far more hard-core (and hopefully more prepared) than we are. Today I am inside, trying to keep my cat off the keyboard and dreaming of my favorite hike from last summer–the Tubal Cain Mine trail in the Olympics.

We’ll be heading back there this year, as there is so much more to see. We didn’t see the plane wreckage from the 1952 B-17 (we missed the turnoff) and we didn’t get past the mine. We did, however, time things just right for the rhodie bloom by hiking in mid-June. If you like to see flowers on your hikes, this one is spectacular. About 2.5 miles of solid beautiful rhododendrons in full bloom. I think I drove Jim crazy by stopping every few feet to take pictures (there are some dangers involved if you are married to a photographer!). Luckily, there weren’t many others on the trail, which surprised me a bit (although we did go mid-week).

The trail itself is easy, though the scramble up to the mine took a bit more effort and I hear the trail to the wreckage is also steep, but not too long. Roundtrip to the mine and back is a little over seven very pleasant miles. You can get some good info on the Washington Trails Association site (http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/tull-canyon ). Be aware of a few things. Plan ahead, as not everything is well marked. There are no facilities at the trailhead so be prepared. Don’t pick any flowers, so they will be there for the rest of us to enjoy! The road to the trailhead is an adventure in itself. Personally, I think someone should open a little kiosk at the bottom and sell straight shots and tee-shirts that say “I Survived Forest Road 2870!” To say the road is full of potholes just doesn’t quite cover it. I swear some could swallow a Mini Cooper. It doesn’t help that Jim thinks “rally car” whenever our Subaru hits a dirt road. If you don’t like heights, you might want to close your eyes in a few places (but not too many, because the views are beautiful!). If you are the driver, ignore that last bit of advice.

We will hopefully have some new adventures to report in the near future, but for now, enjoy some photos from last summer (some are available for sale if you are interested!).

IMG_7264forFB

The tunnel of rhodies on the Tubal Cain trail

Steam Donkey Trail

img_2981blog

Steam Donkey Trail in Dosewallips State Park is one that I’ve been looking at for much of the winter, simply because of its low elevation. We kept putting it off because reviews made it seem a little basic. I do suspect that it is not nearly as much fun in the summer. It starts right out of the campground and it’s pretty easy, so I bet it’s packed with people and dogs all summer long. On a sunny day in February, however, it was just delightful. We only ran into two other groups–one a group of friendly twenty-somethings; another, two older guys with a pack of rather vicious sounding tiny dogs.

The trail has quite a bit of debris from recent bad weather, but most of it is smaller branches and such. It’s also pretty wet still. My guess is that during rainy spells, the trail itself becomes one of the many creeks in the area. We wore hiking boots and stayed perfectly dry, but I wouldn’t wear tennis shoes at this time of year! The water features were the highlight for us. Lots of creeks, the sound of water everywhere, glimpses of the river toward the end (the Maple Valley Trail side), and some lovely little waterfalls. Phantom Creek, which you cross twice if you do both trails, is gorgeous right now. Not sure what it will look like by the end of the summer.

For a complete change of scenery, you can hop over Highway 101 to the Canal side and catch the beach life (though it’s not a sandy beach). You can hike out quite aways at low tide, but probably not so much when the tide comes in! It’s interesting, but I would save it for after the main hike. We did see several sea lions and tons of birds. This is also where our boots got wet–with lovely (not!) sea-smelling mud from the tide flats. The boots are now hanging out in the garage for awhile!

Since we had some time left, we decided to head up river to the Dosewallips Rec Area. We haven’t been there in years, long before the road washout. We had no intention of hiking up there so late in the day, but we did want to check out the parking situation for later in the year. Even at this early date, there were five other vehicles at the end, and not a whole lot of room. Again, it could get pretty crowded on the summer weekends. Also, please note that it is still definitely winter up there! Snow on the road for the last mile or so. There have been lots of people up that way so it wasn’t too bad, but we did put the Explorer in 4-wheel drive just in case. We saw a small herd of elk in a pasture on the way up.

All in all, a very good day, especially with a stop at the Hama Hama Seafood Company Oyster Bar on the way home!

steamdonkeybloglr

Dungeness Spit

Dungeness Spit February 2, 2017

Our first hike for February was the 5.5 mile trek out to the New Dungeness Lighthouse on Dungeness Spit in Sequim. We’re not hard core winter hikers or snowshoers, so we were looking for a nice winter hike that doesn’t require any specialized winter gear. This is a good one. One bonus for this hike at this time of year–far fewer people! It’s easy to get to and very popular in the summer, so if you like a bit of solitude, avoid it during summer vacation.

I will say this about the hike. If you have not kept in great shape over the winter, it’s not quite as easy as it looks! Hiking in sand and gravel always gives you a bit more of a workout than you may have been expecting. This is 10 miles of nothing but sand and gravel (or practicing your balance beam moves on driftwood), with a bit of a slant so you feel like one leg is shorter than the other by the time you reach the lighthouse. It also looks much closer than it actually is. If you are hiking with kids, there may be a lot of “are we there yet?” There may be some of that even if you are not hiking with kids!

It can also be very windy. Very, very windy. This might actually be helpful on your way back from the lighthouse. Spread your arms out and see if that wind might help propel you a little bit! Guess it will depend on how baggy your coat is. I am sure the wind is generally worse in the winter, but we went there several times in the summer when our daughter was young (and no, we never made it to the lighthouse then!). I always remember it as being windy. Anyway, be prepared for it. I wore just about the same clothes yesterday as I did to Crystal Mountain last week, minus the ski pants (though I still had on two bottom layers). I was colder at the beach than I was at Crystal.

It was, however, very clear. The views were amazing. The Olympics in all their glory behind us. Vancouver Island to the north, and Mt. Baker, looking like you could just reach out and touch it. The views were even more spectacular from the top of the lighthouse. That’s the reward for going the whole way. They have guest keepers out there who will show you around and take you to the top. There is a lovely lawn and several picnic tables, and a clean bathroom with running water (it’s even hot, which is really nice when you feel like you might be close to frostbite!). Lots of history too. Bring a few dollars if you think about it. Donations help keep it in good shape. If you are so inclined, you can also rent the place for a time (there is a house too; you won’t be sleeping in the lighthouse). You get a unique experience for a reasonable amount of money in exchange for showing people around and general upkeep.

The tip of the Spit past the lighthouse, and most of the south side, is a wildlife refuge, so it’s off limits. We saw a few sea lions in the water. Depending on the time of year, you might see whales as well. And always lots of birds. Since most of the beach is as much rock as it is sand, you won’t find much in the way of whole shells, but we found a few pieces of beach glass and quite of few agates (at least I think that’s what they are!). And there is a ton of driftwood. Do watch the weather and the tides though. You’ll want to head out to the lighthouse when the tide is going out, not coming in!

http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/dungeness-national-wildlife-refuge

http://newdungenesslighthouse.com/hiking-to-the-lighthouse/

dungenessphotosbloglr