Thursday, June 6, 2013


  • The San Juan Islands: Forested mountains rise up from the cold waters north of Puget Sound to form the archipelago known as the San Juan Islands. Bald eagles circle overhead while orca whales dive for salmon below. Such natural beauty is a powerful magnet and despite hordes of tourists in summer, the San Juans are Washington's top summer vacation spot.
  • Olympic National Park: This park has the only rainforests in the contiguous United States, and they comprise a fascinating ecosystem. Living plants stake out every square inch of space, from towering Sitka spruce trees to lush mosses and giant ferns. The park preserves miles of pristine, fog-shrouded beaches, as well as beautiful alpine and subalpine scenery with lush meadows.
  • North Cascades National Park Complex: Comprised of one national park and two national recreation areas, this rugged and remote region is among the state's least explored. The North Cascades Scenic Highway has stupendous views on clear days, but is closed by snow for nearly half the year.
  • Mount Rainier National Park: With its glaciers and easily accessible alpine meadows, Mount Rainier is Washington's favorite mountain. Sunrise and Paradise are the two best vantage points for viewing the massive bulk of Mount Rainier, and in these two areas of the park, you'll also find some of the best hiking trails.
  • Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument: Mount St. Helens is slowly recovering from the 1980 volcanic blast that turned one of the Cascades' most beautiful peaks into a scarred landscape of fallen trees and fields of ash, but it remains the only active volcano in the contiguous U.S. Several visitor centers portray the events of the 1980 eruption and what has happened since.
  • Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area: Carved by ice-age floods 1,200 feet deep, the Columbia Gorge is a unique feature of the Northwest landscape. Waterfalls by the dozen cascade from the basalt cliffs on the Oregon side of the gorge, but the best wide-angle views are from the Washington side, which is where you'll find Beacon Rock, one of the largest monoliths in the world.
  • Dry Falls: It has been thousands of years since any water flowed over this central Washington waterfall (thus the name), but it is still a very impressive sight. Created by massive ice-age floods, Dry Falls was once 400 feet tall and more than 3 1/2 miles wide.

  • Sunday, October 21, 2012


       In Greek mythology, Mount Olympus was a place from which gods ruled.    Homer wrote in The Odyssey, “Neither is it shaken by winds nor ever wet with rain, nor does snow fall upon it, but the air is outspread clear and cloudless, and over it hovers a radiant whiteness.”
        In Washington state, Mount Olympus is the highest peak on the Olympic Peninsula and none of this is true — winds pummel and rains soak and the mountain has been carved and cracked by the third largest glacial system in the Lower 48.
        And, even though it’s the highest point on the peninsula, it’s not particularly high: 7,980 feet.
        Still: Stand atop it, or even near it. Look over jagged peaks and lonely basins, over river valleys and alpine meadows; watch fog stream past; see first light set the highest points of rock afire; watch the sunset dowse them once again in darkness.
        It is not difficult to imagine Olympus as a throne for gods.
        Fittingly, then, the top is hard earned and not for everyone.
        Yet, that’s what makes a trip to Mount Olympus so fantastic; somewhere on the long trail into its glaciers, there’s something for everyone.
       The trail starts at the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, elevation 573 feet. From there, it’s 17.5 miles to Glacier Meadows, where climbers camp. But you don’t have to be a climber to camp there, and you don’t have to haul in all 17.5 miles to camp. There are plenty of other spots to tent.
        The first 13 miles of the trail are flat and easy, rambling along the river through temperate rain forest and some huge old growth cedars.
        The national park service invites people to camp on gravel bars near the river, which is simple and low impact, or at established campsites (listed in order of hiking distance, from shortest to longest) at Tom Creek, Five Mile Island (about five miles from trail head), Happy Four, Olympus Guard Station (nine miles), Lewis Meadow (11 miles), Elk Lake (about 15 miles from trail head) and Glacier Meadows.
       Permits are required for all camping, and can be obtained in person or reserved over the phone (they still have to be picked up in person). Reservations are required for groups of more than six people.
        Between the trailhead and Lewis Meadow, the trail only gains 400 vertical feet. Between there and Elk Lake, it gains 1,600 feet, crossing the Hoh River on a footbridge above a dramatic gorge.
        Along the way, it bears witness to one of the grandest forests left in the country, a place of more greens than rightly exists. Moss creeps and clings, and ferns spear from the ground.
        From Elk Lake, the trail continues climbing steeply to Glacier Meadows, elevation 4,300 feet.
        Past the meadows, the trail continues three quarters of a mile, climbing another 700 feet to the lateral moraine above Blue Glacier.
        Unless you’re climbing, that’s the end of the road. If you’re climbing, you’ve only just finished the approach.
        Either way, the view from the moraine is a spectacular panorama. The glacier snakes away, its source to the left, its terminus to the right. It is a fractured, crumpled, compressed artwork of ice and time and pressure. It’s not simply the radiant whiteness of Homer’s Olympus, but the dirty rock fall of moraine, the glowing azure of ice fissures, the deep blue-going-black of bottomless holes filled with achingly clear water.

    Tuesday, July 17, 2012


        Washington State is an aquatic wonderland of coastal waters, tide pools, saltwater inlets, glacier-fed rivers, low country and alpine lakes, reservoirs, protected wetlands and estuaries teeming with fish, birds and all sorts of watchable wildlife. It is also home to thousands of waterfalls, including some as dramatic and spectacular as Palouse Falls and Snoqualmie Falls. Located about 35 miles east of Seattle, Snoqualmie Falls had a big pop culture moment when it was featured in the opening sequence of the hit ‘90s TV showTwin Peaks.
        Washington State offers almost unlimited opportunities for boating, kayaking, canoeing, whitewater river rafting, swimming, fishing, hiking, sightseeing, bird watching, duck hunting or just pondering as you watch the sun set over water.

        What makes Washington “the Evergreen State”? Millions of acres of national parks, wilderness areas, forests, recreation and scenic areas, state forests and parks, reserves and preserves. Washington’s forests are diverse ecosystems densely populated with cedar, hemlock, Douglas fir, pine, spruce and other evergreens, with just enough deciduous trees to make fall spectacular.
        Old-growth forests still stand tall in places like Olympic National Park, where you can look out from the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and see a rare and beautiful panorama of old-growth–covered mountains and river valleys. And in places like the Hoh Rainforest, an environment so beautiful and otherworldly you have to see it to believe it—and even then, you won’t believe it.