Saturday, November 22, 2014

Icy Morning

The Pacific Northwest wasn't immune to last week's arctic blast.  A week ago Thursday, I awoke to an ice-covered front yard.

Although still home recovering from foot surgery, I couldn't resist grabbing my camera and hobbling outside.

Still-warm ground quickly melted it's icy crust.  But on vegetation, the frozen droplets clung quite nicely.

My rhodie bushes sported tiny, thin icicles. 

The few roses left were encased in a glittering, frosty shell.

After sitting idle for two weeks, it felt great to get out and capture some images.  Sniff....I miss hiking already.  Can't wait until my foot is healed and I can get back on the trail.

Sharing with:  Today's Flowers.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Indian Heaven - East Crater Trail

The marathon was done.  Fall colors were here.  I had just a few short weeks 'till I'd be waylaid by foot surgery.  Time to get in some hiking!

All decked out in hunter orange!

The month of October was dedicated to visiting my favorite fall trails.  First up on the list, the East Crater Trail into Indian Heaven Wilderness.  I'd hiked here Labor Day weekend last year when the huckleberries were ripe.  But in early October, it was fall color I was after.

Cute mushroom family

The Indian Heaven Wilderness is a lovely high altitude plateau located roughly between Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens.  Numerous trails crisscross it's forests, the most famous being the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  Dotted with dozens of small lakes, this place is known for mosquitoes in July and huckleberries in August.  And, if you catch it just right, spectacular fall colors in October.

Nice pond reflection

My friend Mary Ellen was a willing partner for this latest adventure.  From past experience, I knew hunting was allowed in the Indian Heaven Wilderness, so we both made sure to sport plenty of orange attire.  Although an online check showed deer season wouldn't start until the day after our hike, I wasn't taking any chances.

Vivid red huckleberry leaves

The Indian Heaven Wilderness is located in southwestern Washington.  The East Crater trailhead was a long drive from Portland, so Mary Ellen and I got an early start.  Despite the nice weather, mine was the only car in the gravel parking pullout.

Nice color mix in the meadow

Autumn colors had started in earnest.  We hadn't traveled very far down the trail when the first reddish-orange huckleberry leaves were spotted.  Although the berries were long gone, the bright colors were a fine substitute.  From there on, my friend and I were treated to a continuous display of fall finery.

Junction Lake shoreline

We passed a couple of tiny ponds, their still waters providing perfect reflections of the trees towering above.

Monet painting?

After 2.5 miles, Mary Ellen and I reached Junction Lake.  Located at the crossroads for many trails (including the PCT) it was appropriately named.  Colorful huckleberry bushes circled the shore, brightening up the already beautiful woods.  Some of the red and yellow colors reflected in the lake's ripply surface, the mirror images resembling a Monet painting.

Mary Ellen relaxing at Junction Lake

My friend and I took a short break here, admiring the beauty all around us.  Such a peaceful place!

More colorful huckleberry leaves

After a short rest and snack, it was time to start our loop through the heart of Indian Heaven.  Leaving the East Crater Trail, we climbed short, steep path that led us over a ridge and down to Lemei Lake.  Puffing up the incline, my legs, not yet a week post-marathon, protested.  But happy to be out hiking on this glorious day, I ignored their complaints and soldiered on.

A patchwork quilt of color

We descended the ridge into a lovely alpine meadow, decked out in golden hues.  Lemei Lake, a shallow, but scenic water body became our lunch stop.

Lemei Lake outlet creek

After refueling with PB & J, apples, and some of Mary Ellen's sea salt butterscotch caramels (my new Trader Joe's fave!) my friend and I followed the trail's continuation, past Lemei Lake's scenic outlet creek.

This path leads to a junction

After two miles on the Lemei Lake trail, we reached a junction with the Indian Heaven Trail.  Our path to this trail sign was lined with more golden fall goodness.

Mossy old forest

We hiked through a gorgeous, mossy old growth forest.

Hiking past a talus slope

And past several talus slopes, complete with chirping pikas.  We stopped, looked, and listened, but were unable to spot any of the elusive rock rabbits.

Clear Lake's gorgeous shoreline

A short 0.3 mile romp brought us to the shores of lovely Clear Lake, and the PCT.  For 1.6 miles, we traveled an especially beautiful stretch of the PCT, past small, sparkling lakes and giant fir trees.

Vintage PCT trail sign

Mary Ellen spotted this vintage PCT trail sign nailed to a tree.  Cool!

This way to Lemei Lake

And then the PCT took us back to Junction Lake, where we'd started our loop.  The fall colors were so nice here, Mary Ellen and I thought it warranted another short break.

Colorful shore

With gorgeous scenery like this, who wants to head home?

New life from an old stump

But sadly, we couldn't stay forever.  My friend and I finally tore ourselves away from this special place, and headed back down the East Crater trail.

Yellow leaves light up the forest

Not only did we hit the fall colors at peak, Mary Ellen and I saw only one other hiking party the entire day (and no hunters).  The weather was warm and sunny and we had the place to ourselves - fall days didn't get any better than this!

Technicolor trail

With tired feet, but a happy face, I headed home.  My camera full of colorful images, they would provide good memories from this perfect autumn day.

Stats:  9.2 miles, 1000' elevation gain.

Sharing with:  Our World Tuesday and Wednesday Around the World.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Wildlife of Ozette Lake

A surprise was waiting for me at Ozette Lake campground.  Minutes after pulling in and securing a spot, I nearly collided with a young buck.

My new friend

It happened at the campground message board, while I was paying for our site.  I'd just finished, absent-mindedly turned around, and found myself face-to-face with the young deer.  The buck, not fazed in the least, nonchalantly sauntered over to a nearby bush.  I, on the other hand, dashed back to the truck to fetch my camera.

"Are you still following me?"

Hustling back to find the buck, I passed a Park service maintenance worker.  As I excitedly told him of my encounter, he shrugged and replied, "Oh yeah....there's deer all over here.  These guys are so used to humans, they're as tame as dogs."

Rubbing his antlers on a tree branch

The guy was right.  I soon caught up to my four-legged friend, rubbing his spiky head on a tree branch.  He didn't seem to mind me or my camera in the least.  I was able to get the best up-close wildlife photos ever.  After following him around for a good 20 minutes, the deer finally tired of this wacky paparazzi lady, and ducked into the forest.

Ozette River

Later that afternoon, after completing the Ozette Triangle hike, Roger and I relaxed at our campsite, drinking a well- earned beer.  Only a few of the campground's sites were occupied, and we were enjoying having the place nearly all to ourselves.  The peace and quiet was wonderful.

Lovely Ozette Lake in the evening

As the sun sank lower, I took a short walk along the shore, capturing images of this lovely lake.  Ozette Lake is huge, and I couldn't believe there were no boats in it's waters.  (The fact that is was late September might of had something to do with that).

I passed by a clearing on a small peninsula.  Designated a picnic area, it was a great place to spread out a feast.  The view couldn't be beat!

Sunrise on the lake (photo by Roger)

Back at camp, Roger and I were cooking dinner, when we noticed the park ranger drive by.  It was about 5:30 in the evening, and we figured he was doing an early check on the campers.  Little did we know that was the last time we'd see a ranger all evening.

Roger captured this cool pic of sunrise on a spider web

A half hour later, our serenity was broken by the sound of six vehicles roaring into the campground.  Each car was full of loud, obnoxious young adults.  They all parked next to the picnic area, and piled out.

To our disappointment, the group started carrying gear towards the beautiful picnic area (which was NOT a designated campsite).  We could hear them yelling and screaming as they commenced setting up tents.  Oh no....these jerks were here for the night.

Early morning mist on the lake

If there's one thing I absolutely hate, it's people who think campgrounds are for partying.  I go camping to enjoy the peace and quiet and commune with nature.  I think if folks want to party, they should just stay home.

Roger and I hoped the park rangers would return, but after a couple of hours, we realized that wasn't gonna happen.  These kids appeared to know what they were doing, and had probably timed their arrival to coincide with the ranger's departure.

It was a lovely morning

Near nightfall, Roger took a quick walk around the lake.  Upon his return, Roger reported that the group seemed to be breaking every rule in the campground.  He said the picnic area was trashed, and he counted at least 10 tents pitched in the small clearing, with others spilling out onto the path.  The group had constructed a huge bonfire right on the ground (no fire ring), had cases and cases of beer, and left lots of food just laying out.  One of the kids owned a large, red dog that ran loose through the campground.  Ugh!  Where was a ranger when you needed one?

Buck and doe wandering the campground

Ozette Campground didn't have cell reception, so there was no way to call the authorities.  The nearest town was a 25-minute drive on windy roads, which neither Roger nor I wanted to attempt in the dark.  And there was no way we were going to confront a group of drunk kids - we didn't know if they had weapons or if they would make trouble.  Roger and I realized we were stuck.  Luckily, both of us are sound sleepers, so after listening to the group's loud shouting for a short while, we both drifted off.

This guy had a nice rack

Despite the ruckus, Roger and I slept soundly, only interrupted once by something tripping over one of our tent guy lines in the middle of the night.  At first, Roger thought our intruder was an animal, but we later agreed that our "animal" was probably of the two-legged variety.  

More lovely lake scenes

We awoke the next morning to blissful silence, our rowdy neighbors all asleep (or passed out) in their tents.  Despite the past night's disturbance, the deer were back.  There were at least a half dozen of them moseying around the campground, chowing down on the bushes.  Delighted, Roger and I grabbed our cameras for more photo ops.  We had a great morning, capturing more images, even getting fairly close (but not too close) to a buck with a good sized rack.   The morning sun illuminated Ozette Lake's foggy surface for some great water shots.

Great reflections

After our photo session, Roger and I packed up camp in preparation for the long drive home.  Looking over at the tents of the still-slumbering partiers, I was sorely tempted to run by beating on a pan, and give those those hung-over a#*holes a rude awakening.  Upon our departure, as Roger pulled the truck by their site, I suggested he lay on the horn.  But Roger reminded me there were other folks in the campground, and we wouldn't be any better than those rude kids if we did that.  So in the end, we drove silently out of the campground, bidding Ozette Lake, and all it's wildlife (both two-legged and four), goodbye.

Pacific Ocean view near Clallam Bay

I got my final glimpse of the grand Pacific Ocean as we passed by the tiny town of Clallam Bay.  This fishing village hugs the Olympic Peninsula's northern fringe, and looks out over the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  The lovely blue sea was a grand finale to a wonderful vacation.  Despite the rain and rowdy campers, I'm already pumped for a return trip.

Missed any of my 2014 Olympic National Park posts?  You can access them at the following links:

Day One - Ocean Beaches
Rainstorm at Rialto
Day Two - Hikin' Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent Lodge
Day Three - The Ozette Triangle

Sharing with:  Camera Critters and Weekly Top Shot.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day Tribute

The year was 1998.  I was the fearless leader for a group of energetic 9-year old Brownies.  As leader, one of the challenges I faced was planning activities that the girls would find interesting, but also provide meaningful learning experiences.

A man in my neighborhood told me about Portland's annual Veterans Day parade.  Himself a Vietnam vet, he made attending this parade with his family an annual tradition.  The man remarked how nice it would be to have some young Scouts march in this event, as he had yet to see any.

I contacted the parade's organizer, and he welcomed my troop with open arms.  I was told the only requirement for participation was to honor the veterans.  No problem!  This would be a great learning experience for my Brownies.

In the days leading up to November 11th, my troop worked on creating a banner.  One of the moms had a great idea to decorate it with the girls' handprints.  I bought a mini flag for each Scout to wave.  We were set!

Portland weather in early November is usually not conducive to parades, but November 11th that year dawned clear and dry, but chilly.  A few moms and I ferried our girls to the parade starting point.  We lined up amidst the other participants, mostly veterans in uniform.  I encouraged the girls to tell these vets "thank you" for their service to our country.

The parade itself was short, only a half mile in length (perfect for a group of young Girl Scouts).  It terminated at a flagpole, erected by the adjacent funeral home.  There were speeches, a band played patriotic songs, and we were treated to a military jet fly-over.

The girls loved being a part of the Veterans Day parade so much, for the next four years, it became an annual tradition.  I spread the word amongst other Scout leaders I knew.  The last year we participated, I was pleased to see several groups of Scouts - both boys and girls - proudly marching in this parade.

Although it has been many years since I've attended, an article in our local paper recently caught my eye.  It said that this year would mark the 40th annual Veterans Day parade in Portland.  Reading the article brought back memories of chilly, rainy Veterans Day mornings, huddling with my Girl Scouts, waiting for the parade to start.  I really hope I made an impact on these girls, and that they too will always remember to honor the service men and women on Veterans Day.

(If you'd like more information, click here for the Portland, Oregon Veterans Day parade website)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Ozette Triangle

Day three, the weather gods smiled upon my hubby and I.

After surviving two dismally wet days in Olympic National Park, the weather forecast finally promised sunny skies. 

Beginning of the loop

Roger and I left Lake Crescent at sunrise, heading west to the final stop in our 2014 Olympic National Park tour - Ozette Lake.

Ozette Lake is a large natural freshwater body near the Northwest tip of the Olympic Peninsula (big enough that it shows up on the Washington State map).  Part of the National Park, it boasts a campground, ranger station, and one of the most beautiful dayhikes on the Washington coast - the Ozette Triangle.

Crossing a mossy bridge

This hike came highly recommended in my guidebook, garnering 5 stars out of 5.  Of course I had to check it out.  But Ozette Lake was located in a very remote part of the Olympic Peninsula, requiring a long drive down winding mountain roads.  It was mid-morning before Roger and I pulled into the campground.

Blue gentians

After claiming a lovely lakeside site, and erecting our still-wet tent to dry, it was time for some exploration.

Boardwalk through the coastal forest

The Ozette Ranger Station is located a mere three miles from the Pacific coast.  From here, two separate trails fan out through thick coastal forests to reach the ocean.  One heads north to Cape Alava, and the other leads south to Sand Point.  Each trail is about three miles in length. The trails are connected by walking the beach another three miles, which creates a triangle-shaped loop (and thus it's name).

Ancient boardwalk

To begin our adventure, my hubby and I started at the ranger station, and crossed over a mossy bridge spanning the Ozette River.  Just beyond the river, we reached a junction for the two trails.  Decision time.  Did we go south to Sand Point, or head north and visit Cape Alava first?  I let Roger choose and he picked the south route.  So off we went through the thick coastal forest.

Our first ocean view at Sand Point

One of the unique features of both the Sand Point and Capa Alava Trails is that large portions of their paths consist of an old, wooden boardwalk.  Constructed to keep hikers from slogging through marshy terrain, it follows ancient trails made by Native Americans and early settlers.  Although this plank road makes traversing the forest a piece of cake, it's wooden surface gets extremely slippery during rainy periods (which, around here, is most of the time).

Kelp trail along the rocky shore

The boardwalk was really cool.  It meandered through the forest, sometimes climbing or descending via wooden steps.  Most of the weathered wood looked like it had been in place for a long time, it's cracks sprouting moss.  But here and there we spotted portions of the plank road recently reconstructed with newer lumber.

The coastal forest here was amazingly beautiful.  Roger and I marveled at the huge cedar and spruce trees lining our path.  Huge ferns, salal, and numerous other thick undergrowth blotted out the sun.   Indeed, it was a magical place.

Sea stack reflection

The miles passed quickly, and before I knew it we were hearing the surf's faint roar, and smelling salty sea air.  Glimpsing blue sky between the trees, we emerged from the deep, dark forest onto a bright, dazzling ocean beach..

Making our way through the shoreline sea stacks

To reach the water, Roger and I first had to wade through thick piles of stinky kelp.  The kelp piles had been there for awhile, as they were decomposing and buzzing with flies - yuck!   We managed to detour around some of it, and moved as quickly as we could where crossing was the only option.  

Overland trail marker on headland

Then we reached the ocean's edge.  The tide was coming in, and waves lapped at the shoreline.  As with Rialto Beach, the beach at trail's end was comprised of small, rounded rocks.  Sea stacks of all shapes and sizes, rose from the surrounding ultra-blue waters.

The scenery was stunning!

If our forest walk was the main course, hiking along the beach was dessert with a cherry on top.  The scenery along this wild coastline was nothing short of spectacular.  The sun's rays reflected off the ocean, turning the water a deep shade of blue.  The seastacks towered above the crashing waves, forming all kinds of interesting shapes.  Taking frequent photo breaks, I trailed behind my hubby.

Roger finds a treasure

Because the tide was coming in fast, Roger and I didn't want to linger too long in any one place.  On our 3-mile beach trek we had to pass by two rocky headlands.  If we arrived too late, the beach around them would become impassable.  Cut off by rising waters, hikers must climb the headland via an overland scramble trail.

Roger investigates the hole in this rock

We made it around the first headland, with waves lapping at our feet.  Halfway around, Roger and I ran into a troop of Boy Scouts with four potbellied leaders groaning under huge backpacks.  The group was backpacking along the coast (a very popular activity here).  One of the older dads commented this was the last camping trip for him - his knees couldn't take it anymore.  As we chatted, one of the adults told us to look for a large seastack called the "Wedding Rocks" where there were supposed to be some ancient petroglyphs.

The Makah people established many villages on the Olympic Peninsula's northwestern tip, the largest being just north of Cape Alava.  These petroglyphs, created by Makah members, depict a variety of scenes, including a wedding.

Photo through the hole

Roger and I continued along the coast, looking carefully at each seastack to see if it was the Wedding Rocks.  However, we didn't discover any petroglyphs, so weren't able to confirm which one it was.  Roger did, however, walk out to one interesting seastack that had a large hole in it, and captured this cool photo of the ocean framed in the opening.

We had to hike around many downed trees

Due to the incoming tide, much of the flat, unobstructed beach was already underwater, forcing Roger and I to walk closer to the forested fringe.  That meant occasionally scaling obstacles in our path, such as driftwood piles, or huge downed trees.  Most of the trees we could just scramble over, but a couple were so large, we ended up crawling under on our bellies.

Wreckage from Japanese tsunami

Because this beach was only accessible by foot, I didn't expect to see much evidence of human interference.  But we found lots of washed-up debris buried in the beach sand.  One of the more interesting finds was a couple of plastic crates with Japanese writing on them.  Looked like wreckage from the 2011 Japanese tsunami.

Seagulls take flight

Reaching the second headland, the water level had risen high enough that continuing on the beach wasn't possible.  Locating the round, black and red sign that indicated an overland route, Roger and I scrambled up it's primitive trail.  The path over this headland was extremely rough.  The slopes up and down were steep, requiring use of any available hand hold (tree roots, bushes, rocks, tree trunks).  We bushwhacked through thick brush and hopped over a downed tree or two.  But in no time at all, we emerged onto the opposite end's beach.

Rocky bay

Safely on the headland's other side, we continued our journey north to Cape Alava.  The now-rising tide meant more scrambles over downed trees, and we had a couple more quick bushwhacks through the nearby forested hillsides.

During later research I learned to my surprise that Cape Alava is the westernmost point in the continental United States, beating out Cape Flattery to the north by a mere 350 feet.  Who knew?

Trekking towards Cape Alava

Tracking our progress via my gps, I noticed Cape Alava, and our return trail was getting close.  As we neared our junction, the beach again became covered with a thick layer of rotting, smelly kelp.  Ugh!  With nowhere to go, Roger and I had to wade through this nasty mess.  Flies were thick, and they swarmed our faces.  In some places, the goo came up midway to our knees.  I was so glad to be wearing long pants and hiking boots.  Definitely not the highlight of this hike!

Mossy stair steps

To our relief, the round, black and red trail sign finally came into view.  Happy to be free of the yucky kelp walk, Roger and I climbed the steep scramble trail up the bluff (where some nice person had left a rope to aid our ascent).  Heading back into the woods, we were happy to be walking again on more wonderful boardwalks.  After scaling headlands, worming around downed trees, balancing on slippery rocks, and wading through kelp, this plank path felt like a superhighway.

Impressive coastal forest

The three mile return trip went quickly.  We passed through more beautiful forest with lots of huge trees.  Were Roger and I not tired, hungry, and ready for a beer, we probably would've lingered a bit.  Finally, the trail junction came back into view, and from there it was merely a hop over the bridge back to the campsite and our now-dry tent.

Of all the places visited on our Olympic tour, the Ozette Triangle was by far the best.  It's coastline was extremely beautiful, and the plank trail through the forest unique.  Hiking along this gorgeous wild beach was a true adventure.  I felt fortunate to have dry sunny weather for this hike, but it would be spectacular in any season.

I'm not quite through with my Olympic National Park recap.  There's one final post coming, so stay with me!

Sharing with:  Weekend Reflections and Weekly Top Shot and Our World Tuesday.