Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Rainstorm at Rialto

Who's bright idea was it to camp in Olympic National Park - a place known for abundant rainfall?

My hubby and I had a great first day touring some of the local beaches (if you missed the recap, read about it here.)  That is, until dinnertime, when we headed back to Mora Campground to set up camp and have some grub.  As we were leaving our last destination, the rain began to fall in earnest, pelting our truck.

Where the Quillayute River meets the Pacific Ocean

Pulling into our campsite, Roger and I sat inside the cab, waiting for a break in the weather.  After several minutes with no change, we decided to bite the bullet and get our tent up as quickly as possible.  It was a challenge, but we managed to erect our shelter without getting it wet inside.

But now, what about dinner?  Should we try to cook something in the pouring rain?  Or snack inside the tent and hope it held us 'till morning?  I ended up preparing two backpacker meals over a soggy picnic table - trying to stay dry under a flimsy umbrella.  We gobbled our food down quickly, and then dived into the tent.

Nice big sign!

Our campground was full of fisherman, in pursuit of the salmon running in nearby Quillayute River.  All of them were sleeping inside some type of hard sided vehicle - we were the only fools using a tent.  Although I usually love tent camping, (I used to think sleeping in a trailer wasn't "real" camping) I found myself looking longingly at the dry, cozy little trailers in our loop. 

Rialto Beach was rain-free at first

After dinner, it was only 7 pm, but the sun had already gone down, and the torrential rain outside wasn't conducive to outdoor activities.  Since we'd had an early morning, and long day, Roger and I decided to call it a night and settled in our sleeping bags.

But sleep didn't come easy.  And when I did manage to drift off, the pounding rain and strong wind whipping our tent would rouse me from a sound slumber.  I've never camped in such a downpour.  I thought for sure for our tent would blow over or spring a leak, and kept expecting to wake up with water dripping in my face.  The deluge continued all night long.  Neither one of us slept much, worrying when (not if) we'd be flooded out.

Footprints in the rocks

But, after one of the longer nights of my life, the sky finally began to lighten.  Roused by a full bladder, I finally wriggled out of my cozy sleeping bag and steeled myself for the wet, cold walk to the potty.  And.....my sleeping bag was dry.  The tent floor was dry.  Our duffel bags we'd set on the floor were dry too.  Our tent had held up to the night's monsoon!  The only casualty was my shoes, left by the doorway, which were now sopping wet.

Colorful rounded beach rocks

Roger and I were amazed our little tent had withstood the night's storm.  It's an old, off-brand that we've had for many years.  Later, I chatted with a couple of young ladies taking refuge inside the restroom building after their Walmart tent sprung a leak.

Walking the beach at low tide

We were happy to find dry skies that morning.  Although Roger looked longingly at the fisherman heading out to the river (apparently after the rain, fishing was quite good), he suggested we take advantage of low tide to hike along Rialto Beach.  Yesterday, we'd tried to hike at high tide, but there wasn't much beach area for walking.  So I grabbed my camera, raincoat, and a garbage bag or two, and we headed over.

Seagulls bedded down

Roger and I started our hike to cloudy, but rain-free, skies.  Since my shoes were wet, I wore sandals.  They would've worked well for a sandy beach, but Rialto Beach is composed entirely of rounded rocks.  The smaller rocks kept getting in my sandals, digging into my feet.  Progress was slow, as I had to make many stops to shake rocks out.

Then....the rain came in!

Our goal was Hole-in-the-Wall, a natural tunnel carved in a rocky headland, 2.5 miles down the beach.  About  a mile into our walk, the clouds began to thicken, and I began to feel sprinkles on my jacket.  Not more rain!

Roger spied me through this driftwood hole

The sprinkles turned into a shower.  Not wanting to ruin my camera, it got hastily packed away to protect it from the dampness.  By the time we reached the halfway point at Ellen Creek, the rain was again coming down in buckets.

Dead trees near the parking lot

From the information I'd read, Ellen Creek was supposed to be an easy ford.  But the large amount of precipitation from the previous night's storm had swollen it's channel.  The once placid creek was now a fast-moving mass of brown water.  It didn't look safe to cross at all.  Assessing the situation, neither Roger or I wanted to risk walking through such a strong current.  We turned around and headed back.  Hole-in-the-Wall would have to wait for another time.

Looking across the Quillayute River to La Push

Our return was another slow trek across the rocky beach (picking rocks out of my sandals as I went).  Back at the truck, I noticed another trail leading to the banks of the Quillayute River.  Not done exploring yet, I followed this path to a nice view across the Quillayute's wide channel.  I could see the buildings of La Push on the far side.

Fall color spot on the opposite bank

Heading back the campground, we stopped at a pull out along the river, and I captured a few great pics of fall colors, just starting to turn.  There was also a nice (albeit foggy) view of the sea stacks at the Quillayute's mouth.

Foggy, soggy river

Back at camp, we pulled down our soggy tent, and threw it in the pickup's bed.  I crammed everything we didn't want to get totally wet into the cab.  With rain still pelting our windshield, Roger and I decided to take a break from the coast and head east.  We'd driven by Lake Crescent on our previous trip, but never stopped.  Today, it was decided we'd go check it out.  There had to be someplace drier than the Olympic Coast!

Or was there?  You'll find out in my next post....

Sharing with:  Our World Tuesday.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Olympic National Park - Ocean Beaches

In the fall of 2010, I made my first visit to Olympic National Park.  Located on the Olympic Peninsula (a huge arm of land directly west of Seattle) this incredible area totally enchanted me.  I vowed to return soon for more exploration.  

Well, it took four years before I finally got my act together, set a date, and made the journey north again.  The last week of September, my hubby and I made a long-overdue repeat visit.

Ruby Beach and the Pacific Ocean peeking through the trees

Olympic National Park is a land of diversity.  This park offers spectacular glacial mountains, mossy rain forests, swift wild rivers, and unspoiled ocean beaches.  The last visit I'd sampled a bit of each ecosystem.  This time, I wanted to spend more time exploring the coastline.

Ruby Beach

Roger and I packed his truck with food, camping supplies, and rain gear.  Although the PNW was experiencing a hot, dry autumn, the Olympic coast is known for it's frequent and plentiful rainfall.  Stopping at a ranger station just inside the park boundary, we checked the local weather forecast.  Although only a 30% chance of rain was predicted for that day, the lady staffing the station laughed and said "Up here a 30% chance of rain means it will rain 30% of the time."

Sea stacks at Ruby Beach

Our destination for that day was Rialto Beach, located directly west of the town of Forks (featured in the "Twilight" books and movies).  Enroute, we made a quick stop at Ruby Beach, one of my favorite places from our last visit.  Ahhhh....it was great to walk this picturesque stretch of coastline and take in it's towering sea stacks, white-capped waves, and perfectly smooth rounded rocks covering the beach (no sand here!).  Luckily, the weather cooperated long enough for me to snap a few pics.

Waves at Rialto Beach

Then it was a long drive, through alternating second-growth forests and clear cuts.  Olympic National Park is fragmented - it's boundaries cover the interior mountains of the Olympic Peninsula, and fingers of parkland jut out from this center, following rivers.  There's a gap between the mountainous center and the ocean beaches (which is where all the logging takes place).  Then a narrow band of the National Park follows the Washington coastline from the Queets River, north to Shi Shi Beach.  Except for a couple of Indian Reservations, all of the coastline within the National Park is wild, undeveloped, and unspoiled.

No sand - only rocks on this beach

After a quick lunch at a crummy hamburger joint in Forks (besides Subway, the only fast food place in town), Roger and I headed due west, towards Rialto Beach and Mora Campground.  After a quick tour of the campground, it was time for more coast exploration.  We followed the wide Quillayute River to its end, and here, where river met ocean, was Rialto Beach.

Driftwood pile

Climbing up from the parking lot, the first thing I noticed about Rialto Beach was the huge amount of driftwood lying everywhere.  And it was another of those beaches with round rocks covering the shores, instead of sand.

Roger finds some kelp

Unfortunately, we arrived when the tide was coming in, so there wasn't much beach area to walk upon.  Roger and I tried to explore the coastline, but frequently had to clamber over piles of driftwood.

The waves were fun to watch

But incoming tides meant lots of huge, cool waves to watch.  The turbulent ocean was mesmerizing. 

Lone dead tree

Checking the tide charts, low tide was at 7 pm that evening (but it would be dark by then) and 8 am the following morning.  Roger and I decided we'd rise early tomorrow and hike Rialto Beach then.

Big tree on the trail to Second Beach

Luckily, the afternoon was still young, and there were other beaches nearby to check out.  Following the Quillayute River upstream, we crossed and headed along it's south banks.  A series of ocean beaches, First, Second, and Third Beach could be accessed south of the river.

Twisted tree roots

Roger and I chose to explore Second Beach, mainly because there were still places to park at it's trailhead.  A lovely 3/4 mile walk through a dense, coastal forest took us directly to the ocean shores.

Steps down to the beach

We passed huge old-growth fir and cedar trees, large ferns, and trees with massive, twisted root systems.  Then a set of well-constructed wood steps led visitors down to the sandy plain of Second Beach.

Forested sea stack

Second Beach was another lovely spot on the Olympic Coast.  It has a lot in common with neighboring Rialto - huge piles of driftwood, and amazing sea stacks jutting up from the surf.  But instead of rocks, this beach was covered with soft sand.

Lots of driftwood here too

I loved the huge sea stacks, rising up from the ocean floor.  Some of them were large enough to have full-sized trees growing on top.  Although Oregon has lots of sea stacks along it's coast, none of them sprout trees.

Second Beach had beautiful sea stacks

Roger and I walked along the ocean for about a mile, admiring views.  But by the time we reached this beach, the sunny blue skies had given way to murky clouds.  On our return trip, the clouds began to thicken and turn dark.  I remarked to Roger, "I think it's time for our 30% of rain."

There was actual sand here!

We beat the rainstorm back to the car.  Wanting to check out First Beach, the road took us into the Quileute Indian Reservation, and the tiny town of La Push.  Here, the road ended at First Beach.

Fishing boat dock at La Push

It appeared the people of La Push made their living fishing.  Dozens of colorful vessels were tied up at the main dock.  There were signs all over town advertising places to buy smoked fish and salmon, all of them private homes.

Grounded seagulls

Driving by the parking area for First Beach, I noticed a huge flock of seagulls, all sitting on the ground.  An interesting photo op, I hopped out of the truck for a few shots.  That's about the time all those heavy clouds decided to let loose.

Parking next to the boat docks, Roger noticed some pelicans swimming around with the gulls.  I stuck my zoom lens out the truck window, and caught a couple shots of a pelican flying away.  Really neat to see a few of these birds in action!

A pelican takes flight

By then, the rain was really coming down, and it was nearing dinnertime.  We headed back towards Mora Campground, hoping for a break in the moisture to erect our tent, and prepare a quick supper.  But - Mother Nature had other ideas.

To be continued......

Sharing with:  Saturday's Critters and Weekly Top Shot.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Portland Marathon - Round 2

I had high expectations for marathon number four.

In 2012, I ran the Portland Marathon with my friend Cami.  (Read about it here)  Cami had a tough time, and I ended up slowing down and staying with her (totally my choice, and a decision I don't regret).  But I felt good that day, and since then I've always wondered what could have been.

Fast forward to 2013.  My son and I spectated at that year's Portland marathon, cheering his old college roommate (who proposed to his girlfriend at mile 26).  Seeing all those runners streaming by rekindled previous year's memories.  The marathon bug bit hard.  A month later, I was clicking "register" for Portland 2014.

Roger and I in the wee hours prior to start time

What seemed like a good idea at registration time, by late summer became a huge time-sucking obligation.  At first, I had high hopes of taking care of 2012's unfinished business.  I wanted to break my previous fastest marathon time of 4 hours and 30 minutes.  However, by September, I was so tired of running, my training started to flag.  I missed hiking, and began to substitute hikes for training runs.  By the time race day rolled around, I was ready to get this thing over with.

Mill Ends Park - Smallest park in Portland

Early the morning of October 5th, Roger accompanied me into downtown Portland.  I found my designated corral, and began a long wait until the 7 am start.  To pass time, I took advantage of closed streets to investigate Mill Ends Park, Portland's smallest City park, located in a tiny median island in the middle of a normally busy road.

Sunrise over Mt. Hood and Willamette River

And I witnessed a lovely sunrise silhouetting Mt. Hood in stunning shades of orange.  (Too bad I had only my point and shoot camera to capture the moment).

Ready to run a marathon!

Anticipating cold early morning temps, I'd brought a jacket and arm warmers.  But the air was so warm, I was comfortable in short sleeves.  This wasn't a good sign - I was afraid by mid morning things would heat up.  It's no fun to run in hot weather - especially for 26.2 miles.

Inching towards the starting line

My corral started to shuffle towards the starting line, so I bid Roger goodbye, and plunged into the crowd.  It was a high-spirited bunch of people, whooping and cheering.  I got caught up in the revelry.  Crossing under the start banner, I never felt more ready.  When the crowd began to spread out, I let 'er rip.

Marimba band on an overhead pedestrian bridge

The early morning air was still cool and fresh.  My body, rested for most of the past week, was ready to go.  The pack of runners headed south of downtown Portland, then circled back after three miles.  Early on, there was lots of entertainment.  Bands, cheerleaders, singers, and a wonderful marimba band stationed on an overhead pedestrian bridge.

Golden morning light bathes runners

Heading back into downtown, the sun rose above the hills, bathing runners in a lovely golden light.  I tried to capture a few photos on the run, but only a few actually turned out.

Liked this guy's shirt

From the very beginning, I got caught up in the crowd's energy.  Looking at my watch, I ran the first few miles at sub 10-minute mile pace, which is fast for me.  My plan had been to start slow, and then gradually increase my speed.  But at the starting line, all that went out the window.  I was feeling good, and started having visions of beating my previous personal best.  I also knew it was going to get hot later, and wanted to bank some time against a slowdown in the later stages of the race.


Mile 4, I passed back through downtown, and I was surprised to see Roger in the crowd.  He'd come down with a nasty cold the night before, and was feeling lousy when he dropped me off at the start line.  I didn't expect him to hang around!  It was nice to see him one more time before I headed out of downtown, not to return until mile 26.

One of many funny signs

Miles 4 through 11 passed quickly.  There was lots of entertainment along the course, complete with more bands, cheerleaders, and my personal favorites - the pirates.  Miles 11 through 13 routed runners through mixed residential and commercial areas.  Lots of spectators lined the streets, holding funny signs.  One neighborhood group had erected a tent, and offered cups of PBR to runners  (uhhh......no thanks!)

We ran through some of the more "interesting" parts of town

I passed the half marathon mark with a time of 2:08, which in a marathon, is a fast time for me.  Although I was still feeling good and running well, tiny alarm bells were sounding in my head.  A little voice kept nagging "you'll pay for this fast pace later!"  And the bright morning sun was beginning to heat up the course.  I made the decision to slow down.

Wonderful aid station volunteers

About the time I decided to back off, I noticed a very enthusiastic lady, cheering and smiling.  I love running with upbeat people, and sidled over to her.  We began a conversation.  The woman's name was Leigh, she was from Seattle, and was running her very first marathon.  I began to chat with her about my past experience with this race.  Mile 14, 15, and 16 quickly slipped by, and before we both knew it the St. Johns Bridge came into view.

Military men and women cheering for the runners

The St. Johns Bridge is a very lovely span that crosses the Willamette River.  Running over this bridge was the highlight of my 2012 Portland marathon experience.  But first runners have to climb up a steep on-ramp, the only significant hill of the entire course.

Crossing the St. Johns Bridge

But Leigh and I chatted away the entire climb and we reached the top of that ramp in no time.  Easiest hill I've ever run!  And then it was time to soak in the sights from the bridge deck.  Leigh grabbed my camera and got this great shot of me running towards the St. Johns' Gothic towers.

I tried to reciprocate and get Leigh's photo, but it didn't turn out quite as well.  She's the one in the Seahawk green hat and t-shirt (a diehard fan!)

My buddy Leigh on the St. Johns Bridge

Mile 17 occurred mid-span of our bridge crossing.  As I hit the ground on the opposite side, my quad muscles began to complain.  Hmmm......this wasn't a good sign.  I still had a long ways yet to go.  Somewhere between miles 18 and 19, my legs began to hurt.  My pace, which up until then had been holding steady, slowly began to decrease.  Instead of running, I felt as if I was now shuffling.

Leigh and her brother

Passing by the University of Portland campus, I got an unexpected boost.  My neighbor and morning running partner Penny, materialized out of the crowd, and ran with me a short distance.  It was great to see her and I appreciated the encouragement.  After Penny left, Leigh's brother jumped into the street, and kept us entertained for another mile.

Almost at the finish - and I'm dying!

Leigh and I wound through the neighborhoods surrounding the U of P campus. The people who live here are great marathon supporters, and they were out in force!  Lots of cheering, more funny signs, and some folks even offered food, drink or aimed their sprinklers at the road.  At this stage of the race, very much appreciated by this tired, hurting runner.

Finish line celebration with my new friend Leigh

By now the temps were downright toasty.  The combination of heat, my fast start, and undertraining had caught up to me.  I was dying.  My legs felt like there was no energy left.  I wanted to walk so badly, but Leigh kept egging me on, saying "C'mon! We are not walking!"  I continued on, shuffling alongside my new friend.  Leigh, although not feeling good either, kept up her positive banter.  It helped so much - by then I was starting to feel tired and grumpy (I'm afraid I wasn't great company, it's a wonder Leigh stuck with me!)  As we crossed over the Broadway Bridge, en route to downtown Portland and Mile 25, a fellow runner commented to us: "All this suffering for a lousy t-shirt!" 

My son Cody came to watch

Back into downtown Portland again, the crowds began to thicken.  Spectators cheered loudly.  But I was overheated and beyond tired.  My legs kept shuffling along, but it felt like I was barely moving.  Leigh, on the verge of completing her first marathon, was getting excited.  A half mile from the finish, she began to pull ahead.  I kept her in sight and willed my legs to follow.  The last few blocks were pure agony.  But, finally, the finish line came into view.  With a final burst, I propelled my tired feet over the timing mats.  I was never so happy to be done.

Boy did I earn these!

Leigh and I celebrated with a high five and sweaty hug.  I thanked my new friend for her help, and then we headed towards the crowd to find our families.  Roger and Cody were waiting, and I was so very happy to see them.  I headed home for a well-deserved beer, and a huge slice of cheesecake Cody had made especially for me.

Although I didn't beat my personal best time, I came awfully close.  Despite the dramatic slowdown over the final seven miles, I finished with a time of 4:32:30.  Not too shabby for a fast start, hot day, and slack training.  I owe a lot of this to my new buddy Leigh.  If not for her encouragement in the final miles, I'm sure this time would've been lots slower.  Thanks friend!

Am I ready to run another marathon?  No....I'm quite done for now. 

Time for some fall hikes!