Friday, February 25, 2011

The Olympic Penninsula

After leaving Mt. Rainier NP, we drove west and then north into the Olympic Peninsula. On our first afternoon in the peninsula, it was sunny and cool. We explored the snow town of Port Townsend and then settled in at a hotel in Port Angeles.
The following morning, we journeyed up to Hurricane Ridge (5,242 feet) in Olympic National Park. The large peaks stood out on the horizon with the dark clouds of a massive storm just to the west. We spent the day skiing and snowshoeing. Hurricane Ridge lived up to it's reputation...the winds were brutally cold and threatened to blow us north into Canada!

On day 3, the storm caught up to us. In the lower elevations, it rained heavily with extremely wild and gusty winds. We still managed to do a couple of short hikes to waterfalls and even in those short times outside, proceeded to get soaked! That evening, we stayed with our friend Chiggers who lives in a cozy house in a remote area of the peninsula along the Bogachiel River just south of Forks.

On our fourth day in the peninsula, the rain continued. We drove along the dramatic coast on our way to the Oregon border and in a couple of days, home.

Mount Rainier

In early February, we found ourselves in one of the snowiest places on earth, Mount Rainier National Park. Last winter, a location called Paradise (which sits at 5,400 feet and has a summer-only lodge and visitor center as well as access to alpine hiking and climbing), saw 650 inches of snow. In the winter of 71/72, 1,122 inches of snow fell!

We spent two nights at the National Park Inn, which is located in Longmire (elevation 2700 feet). On the first afternoon of our stay, we snowshoed on Rampart Ridge Trail and the Wonderland Trail. The lower slopes of Rainier alternated between sunny and snowy. The summit was covered in a thick blizzard of snow. We got back to the lodge right as darkness fell and quickly huddled up by a roaring fireplace.

On day 2, we left Longmire under foggy conditions but drove up to Paradise under piercing blue sky. The snow was so deep, that cars were dwarfed by the drifts. We spent the morning xc skiing out to Reflection Lakes. Once out to the lakes, we sat down in the snow for a winter picnic. As soon as we opened our backpacks, several Gray Jays came swooping in, hoping to steal some food. They landed on our ski tips and watched us closely.

In the afternoon of day 2, we snowshoed through some fantastic powder on the slopes of the mountain. We left Paradise near sunset, as fog began to once again envelope the mountain.

On the morning of day 3, we watched the glorious pink alpenglow from our lodge room window. We then spent the morning snowshoeing up Christine Falls Trail, before leaving the park en route to the Olympic Peninsula.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Sunny Coast

The winter months along the northern coast of California are typically full of rain. The sun may shine here or there, but rain is the norm. This year has been the exception! Since the beginning of January, we have had day after day of sunny weather. In fact, we have had just two storms in 2011. One lasted a few days and the other lasted less than 24 hours. Every other day has been sunny! We've taken advantage of the weather by hiking and biking a lot. Our main focus of hiking has been Redwood NP and our main focus of biking has been the nearby Hammond Trail (which we can access right near our house). We also had a wonderful hike to Elk Head near Trinidad, which we did with 15 people from church.

Well, with that said, it's sunny out, so I'm heading to the beach!