Wednesday, January 01, 2014

A Road Trip Exploring Washington's National Parks

Pictures from my previous post, Arc'Teryx in The Summer

Remember my previous post, Arc'teryx in the Summer? Majority of the guesses if where were we summer of 2010 was Alaska. Not a single one was able to guess Washington. The clues were the pictures above. Indeed, the first State probably that would cross our mind when we think of ice and snow in the middle of summer and of glaciers is Alaska. However, those familiar with the West Coast would not be surprised to see lots of snow to ski in the mountains in the middle of summer. 
taken from inside the plane during our flight to WA: bottom left- Mt. Shasta, California; top right - Crater Lake, Oregon; middle right photo- Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens, Washington; bottom right- North Cascades, Washington

What is unique with most of West Coast is that, though there may be no snow along the coast ( especially in coastal California), but the accumulation of snow in the mountains last until the summer. Glaciers are present in most higher elevation mountains. The Southernmost glacier is Palisades, in Eastern Sierra, California. Summer is the best time to visit these places, because in the winter, most roads are not passable because of heavy snow. 

Anyway, let me share with you now the details of this road trip.

Length of Road trip: 11 days and 11 nights, 3 Washington National Parks + Columbia River Gorge and staying in 5 different hotels/ lodges

Arrival Airport: Seattle, Washington from San Diego, CA
Departure Airport: Portland, Oregon to San Diego, CA

Route of Road Trip: 

1. Seattle, WA- 2. North Cascades National Park, WA - 3. Bellingham, WA - 4. Olympic National Park, WA - 5. Mt. Rainier National Park, WA- 6. Columbia River Gorge, OR- 7. Portland, OR
Our Trip Coverage


Day 1: Arrival at Seattle, WA from San Diego, CA. Explored Seattle a little bit, then, we drove to Marblemount, WA, our place of lodging for 3 nights to explore North Cascades National Park.

Memories from Seattle, Our Arrival City, But Not our Destination

We arrived at Seattle about noontime. North Cascades National Park is about 2 hours drive, North East of Seattle. Before driving to North Cascades, we did some exploring and sightseeing at Seattle first. Because we were active explorers ( meaning, we do not spend a very long time inside restaurants for food ), we were able to explore the following places at Seattle for less than half a day:

1. Art Museum Olympic Structure Park- I love this museum, one of a kind. It's a 9-acre outdoor sculpture museum and beach, with view of water and mountains. The red steel structure with lots of flowers you see in the above picture is from Olympic Structure Park.

2. Space Needle.

3. Hiram M. Chittenden Locks - it's another beautiful free outdoor must see park in Seattle. Of course, aside from watching how boats and ships are moved from lake to Puget Sound through the locks, we also enjoyed watching wildlife here, such as lots of jumping salmon, a lot of birds, and seals. It's a beautiful outdoor park in the city. It's kind of amazing to see water level changes to move the boat and the gates lock to prevent mixing of fresh water from canal with salt water from Puget Sound.
Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, Seattle, WA
(we had fun watching for jumping fish in the fish ladder allowing salmon to pass between fresh and salt water )

4. Went grocery shopping for our hiking nourishment needs for 11 days. :) We bought the following for nourishment and hydration: Water, Gatorade ( for the hikes), and hiking nourishment dry foods.

After Seattle, we drove to North Cascades National Park. There is no lodging inside North Cascades National Park, so we chose the nearest lodging town, Marblemount, Washington, about 2-3 miles away from North Cascades National Park Entrance. Though Marbletown is a very small town with a few lodges serving North Cascades visitors, but we were pleased to find out they serve really decent foods, and they have wide vegetarian choices. Though not all of us are strictly vegetarians, but all of us have vegetarian appetite. I also love it how they could change their dish to adjust to the requests of their customers.

Day 2: Easy Pass Trail, North Cascades National Park
Our Kind of Family Bonding, Hiking and Exploring

Between Marbletown and North Cascades, there were so many ohhs and ahhs before we got to the trail head. We made stops at Ladder Creek Falls, George Creek Falls and many more, before we did the 7 miles, 2500 ft ascent hike to Easy Pass. We had to cross some snow fields and creeks on our hikes. 

Day 3: Diablo Lake Hike and Sightseeing at Ross Lake @ North Cascades National Park
The Diablo Lake is a very beautiful 7.6 miles round trip hike that traverses cliffs above the lake. It was very cold and windy in some places during our hike, but just like what Sir Ranulph Fiennes say, "there is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing."

Day 4: Heather Meadows at North Cascades National Park and Bellingham, WA

We were supposed to hike the 9 mile Galena Chain Lakes Loop Trail at Heather Meadows Recreational Area. Prior to the trip, I was imagining beautiful heather meadows. Heather is the name of the wildflower that blooms and carpets the beautiful meadows. However, when we got there, we were greeted by all white stuff. 
Heather Meadows in July 2010, North Cascades National Park

Heather meadows were still deeply covered in snow. Lakes were still frozen. The trail was still closed for hiking. :(  Hiking in deep snow that is slowly melting underneath due to warmer temperature of the summer  is the unsafest condition for non-technical ice climbers. Conditions like this have higher risk of avalanches, that's why they had to close the trail for hiking. Because we did not bring ice trekkers, in fact, not even hiking poles for we wanted to fly without any checked-in luggage, we were not geared for an icy hike thus we were done with Heather Meadows too early. Snow may look beautiful and pristine, but truth was, it ruined our plan to hike and see the very beautiful Chain Lakes Loop. Prior to the trip, I imagined the hike to be one of our bests if not the best of the trip. It was a miss. :( The dangerous conditions did not allow us to explore the Chain Lakes Loop. 

But we did not let the dangerous trail conditions ruin our day. Using our cell phones and iPads ( thanks to technology ), we were able to find replacement activities at Bellingham, our place of lodging for one night, as we move closer to Olympic National Park. 
Whatcom Falls Park, Bellingham, WA 
( the fish in the above picture are spawning salmon )

They say, when a door closes, more windows open. That was very true for us on that day. The Galena Chain Lakes Loop Trail was closed, but two trails welcomed us. Whatcom Falls and Larabee State Park, both in Bellingham, WA. 
Larrabee State Park, Bellingham, WA

We describe our adventure at Whatcom Falls and Larrabee as blessings in disguise. We would have not known about these 2 beautiful places had we hiked the Chain Lakes Loop. But definitely, one day, we would go back to North Cascades to hike the Chain Lakes Loop. 

Day 5: Drive from Bellingham to Forks, WA and exploring some parts of Olympic National Park. Forks was our place of lodging for two nights to explore Olympic National Park. 

We left Bellingham raining and it was very foggy. We kind of expected our summer trip would have lots of rain. After all, Washington is probably one of the rainiest States. We had rain and windproof jackets, rain pants, waterproof hiking boots, so we did not mind if it was raining since we were ready for hikes, rain or shine, calm or windy. The first hike in Olympic National Park according to our planned itinerary was Hurricane Ridge. However, when we got to the visitor center of Olympic National Park in Port Angeles, we were told that Hurricane Ridge was snowing, and there was very poor visibility. There was a live view cam at the Port Angeles Visitor Center showing the current conditions at Hurricane Ridge. What was shown was all gray, maybe a few feet visibility because of strong snow fall and blizzard. Hiking was not recommended unless we were crazy about snow, because we would not see anything but fog and snow flakes. 

We definitely were not crazy about snow, especially after missing Chain Lakes Loop Trail in North Cascade. So, my next question right away was: "what time is low tide?" Because if we could not hike at Hurricane Ridge, I was thinking of going tidepooling. I always love exploring the sea at low tide. Olympic National Park is not only a park of mountains, of glaciers, of rain forests, but also, of the rugged Pacific Coast. The low tide was early morning, so we saved the tidepooling for the next day. The Park Ranger advised us to hike to Solduc Falls on our way to Forks. Sol Duc Falls was really in our itinerary after Hurricane Ridge, it was a joy to hear from the Park Rangers their recommendation, for it kind of affirmed our choice of trails.

We did not know Port Angeles was a very small town. After a short drive, we were on a very silent highway to Solduc Falls. The drive was very beautiful, so we were enjoying it and took many stops. We definitely love our first glimpse of Olympic National Park. Along the way, we got very hungry. Though we had foods in the car, but because we were driving, not hiking, we did not have appetite for hiking bars and other dried fruits. We wanted hot foods. Using our cellphones, we searched for nearest food. The nearest food was at Lake Crescent Lodge, it was not really near, but it brought us to Lake Crescent.
Having Fun @ Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park
( we had fun skipping rocks )

Because we were not in a hurry to go to Forks ( after-all, it was past low tide already), and Sol Duc Falls was described to us as a short hike, we decided instead to relax at the lake after lunch. While enjoying Lake Crescent, one of us saw the sign, "Moments in Time trail". Whenever we see the name "trail", we get excited. It meant we could burn off the calories we had at lunch. Despite it was actually raining on and off, we still got inside the forest to take the trail. No one among us was afraid of rain since we all had rain gears. Even our cameras have waterproof bags. It was such a pleasant surprise after we entered the "Moments in Time" trail. Just like Larrabee and Whatcom Falls, Moments in Time trail was another blessing in disguise.
Lake Crescent and Moments in Time Trail, Olympic National Park

God is so good, we may not be able to hike Hurricane Ridge as we planned that day because of ice storm in the summer, but we were brought to an old growth forest next to a very tranquil lake. It was like paradise. We were enchanted big time by the rainforest. It felt like we were hiking with the rain forest fairies. 

After we had enough of Lake Crescent and Moments in Time trail, we continued driving West towards Forks. Before hitting Forks, we took a very short detour and a hike to Sol Duc Falls. Just like Moments in Time Trail, the trail to Sol Duc Falls in the midst of old growth forest was equally enchanting.
Sol Duc Falls Hike

After Sol Duc Falls, we continued driving Southwest towards Forks, Washington. When we got to Forks, we were greeted by so many people posing at the sign, "Welcome to Forks". I and family were obviously National Park people, as we did not understand all those giggly faces while posing with the "Forks" sign, whereas, we chose to pose at "Olympic National Park" sign.

For us, Forks was just our lodging place, the center of our hikes and exploration at Olympic National Park. We failed to connect that most of those visiting "Forks", were there also for "Twilight" mementos. We finally realized that when we checked in our hotel. There were just so many "Twilight" signs for "Twilight" tour. Outside, there was a store with a lot of people, because it was a "Twilight" store and museum.  We did not sign up for "Twilight" tour since we were there to explore more of Olympic National Park! We loved the first few hikes we already did at Olympic National Park, such as Lake Crescent, Moments in Time, and Sol Duc Falls. We looked forward to love more of what Olympic National Park has to offer. 

~Anyway, I will continue in the next post our hiking and tidepooling at Olympic National Park for Day 6 and part of Day 7, hiking and sightseeing at Mt. Rainier National Park part of Day 7, days 8-9, then, at Columbia River Gorge for Days 10-11. More about this road trip in my next post. ~

For Days 6-8, Click here, and for Days 9-11, please click here
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  1. Awesome! beautiful captures! I wish I can get there too one day

  2. OMG! I love ur photos and travel stories! How I wish I have the travel fund, opportunity and time (now) to explore what's outside the PH :)

  3. Wow all your photos are breathtaking Sis. I am so jealous. Someday I will do all of these.

  4. Wow na wow talaga!!! Superb! I can only dream of these places for now! Sana someday, I can click my own shutter as I take scenes that are ever gorgeous, just like your captures, Ms. Betchai! Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience with us, as always!

    Happy New Year 2014! <3

  5. Simply breathtaking! There's so much to explore and see in America.

    I totally forgot that yes, snow can be seen in the summer in the west coast. When we went to the Sequoia National Park there was snow in some parts of the park. I thought that was in Alaska talaga.

  6. Very nice trip within Washington area. You've got what it takes to experience the beautiful places.

  7. that lake crescent looks so peaceful and relaxing!! those snow as well! wish i can see them in person one day!

  8. Thank you Sis for showing us another beautiful state you visited, the Washington :-) I have never been there but heard a lot of beautiful spots to explore :-) The pictures are really beautiful, loved them all :-)

  9. Another wonderful travel on nature you have here, it's the best way to relax with the family indeed.

  10. Whew!! Nature's best as always!! I love the thought of hiking with fairies in the rainforest :) and those joyful moments you had exploring makes me wish I too could go for more outdoor activities! :)

  11. It's freezing down here Ate and looking at your snowy pics gives me chills to the bones lol. Beautiful photos as usual.

  12. YOU continue to amaze me, Te Betchai! I never got the chance to explore and travel anywhere longer than 5 days. LOL! You have got 11 long days to do that! It must be awesome! And what beautiful sights to behold! Simply breathtaking! Life is indeed beautiful when you get to explore God's creations.

    May you have a beautiful 2014! Love and hugs!

  13. Oh Seattle! Reminds me of Christian Grey! ♥

    This post just simply inspires me to take a break from my hectic work sometimes. Thank you Ate Betchai!!! Happy new year! ♥

  14. Ah, just what I want at this very read one quality post...Thanks Bet Chai for giving us good, fun posts to read.

  15. That's one thing I envy about the place. We don't have beautiful national parks kasi in the PH. :( I love your photo collages.

  16. Seattle is my dream city. If I am single, I would probably be living in this city.

  17. Washington is a wonderful place. I hope you have a good time.

  18. Life on the trails, must feel like indiana jones or something like that huh?