Monday, January 13, 2014

Washington's National Parks Road Trip Part 3

Days 1-8 of Washington's National Park Road Trip Summer 2010
North Cascades National Park, Olympic National Park, Mt. Rainier National Park

This is the conclusion of a series of posts on our summer 2010 road trip to Washington's National Parks. You can find the summary of itinerary and from days 1-5 in Part 1, and days 6-8 in Part 2

Now, to continue to Days 9- 11.

Day 9: Mt. Rainier National Park
If you recall in my previous posts, our days 7-8 in Mt. Rainier National Park were on snow and cold rain weather. However, we were still able to do some hikes and some snow fun. We did not let the stormy conditions beat us. It was however our wish to see the face of beautiful Mt. Rainier reflected, which we were only able to photograph from air during our flight to Washington.

Did the weather improved on our 3rd day at Mt. Rainier? After breakfast, when we went out, there was no rain nor snow, but the sky was not very promising. Anyway, we decided to do some more sightseeing. We drove North from Paradise. Here were some pictures from our sightseeing on that morning.
Roadside waterfalls, wildflowers and Fogs @ Mt. Rainier National Park

The visibility was actually very poor, maybe, just a few feet. We therefore did more up close pictures of wildflowers instead. If we were not paying attention to the sounds of nature while driving, we would not actually see the roadside waterfall above because of very poor visibility. However, when we heard the sound of raging water, we safely stopped at the road side parking lot ( which are view points, but no view, haha!), and walked a little bit to find the source of the sound. I believe among us, it was hubby who has the best eyesight, for he was able to find the waterfall. :) 

After the waterfall, we stopped by at one of the most photographed lake in Mt. Rainier, however, we did not see anything but ice and fog.
The top right picture above would have been the view if the lake was not frozen and the visibility was better. The top left and bottom picture above was the condition of the lake when we got there. 

Afterwards, more fog rolled in that we could hardly see anything. Fog is lovely if it is not as dense and when you are not on a windy mountainous road. But when it covers everything you see, it is different. We had driven quite a distance away from Paradise ( the center at Mt. Rainier) and we knew we drove a very mountainous road with drop-offs. Not seeing the road side, where our car could slip and fall down the cliff anytime was scary. We were thinking of waiting for fog to clear before driving again. However, there were news a night before about hikers lost in the blizzard, but rescue operations could not start yet due to terrible weather conditions. We did not want also to end up stranded on road. That was the point where we turned around and went back to Mt. Rainier's hotel and visitor services. We just drove very very slowly and very carefully.

When we got there, some snow started falling again, but unlike the previous days, there was very strong wind blowing also snow from the ground into the air making the visibility and conditions really worse. We laughed and told each other, "whew, what A SUMMER VACATION!" Usually, in National Parks, the food court, museums, theater, etc are not crowded at all because everyone would be outdoors exploring. But on that day, everywhere in the area was so crowded because where else would the stranded visitors go? Most hikers usually are not wimps, they would still hike in rain and snow, remember, we did for 2 days. But not when the conditions are very treacherous like that day, from misty to almost zero visibility. We kept ourselves busy watching the short movie on Mt. Rainier's Natural History, looking at museum displays,
the left photos above are from the museum- the right photos were taken by me(top and bottom ) and hubby(middle )

listened to talks, shopped for Mt. Rainier souvenirs such as hats and hoodies, and well, ate and ate....and had WARM SOUP after WARM SOUP. Despite however looking only at the pictures of Mt. Rainier in the museum, still, we love the place! We knew however, we needed to go back to Mt. Rainier some other time to see its peak beauty, like paradise in bloom!

The weather did not improve at all. It was our most relaxing day, physically that is. However, when you don't do anything actually, you feel more tired. There was just no rejuvenating energy pouring in from staying indoors, watching the bad weather outside. 

Day 10: Left Mt. Rainier National Park For Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Washington/Oregon.
Pictures from Day 10- A Better Weather Day

Before we left Mt. Rainier after breakfast, we checked the weather forecast first if there is a possibility of clearing. However, the forecast was not very inviting for us to linger longer at Mt. Rainier, that we decided to start heading South to Columbia River Gorge, where the weather may be better. We left Mt. Rainier without seeing the mountain. Although we were there, but we only saw parts of it. Despite the unpleasant weather at Mt. Rainier, we still had a wonderful stay there. Whatever we had explored convinced us it's worth coming back, someday!

Our first stop on our drive South was Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.
Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, From above and from Below Ground

Mt. St. Helens is not in the direct route to Columbia River Gorge, in Oregon. However, because it was kind of in the middle, we decided to take the route ( though a little bit longer ) that would make us pass by Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. We were blessed with a very good weather South of Mt. Rainier, that we were able to enjoy the scenery around Mt. St. Helens. Mt. St. Helens erupted May 18, 1980, being shaken by an earthquake. Its north face collapsed in massive rock debris avalanche. The eruption lasted 9 hours, dramatically changing Mt. St. Helens landscape. Mt. St. Helens is another hiking wonderland in Washington, however, we did not have enough time to really explore the area. We decided instead to explore Ape Cave, a 2000 year old lava tube that was formed by basalt flow from a vent on the southern flank of Mt. St. Helens. We're so used to hiking up the mountains in our hikes, that we decided instead to go down and see what is under Mt. St. Helens.
In order for us to explore Ape Cave, we had to go down several flight of stairs, in the dark. But because of time constraints, we only explored the lower tube. It is not possible to go directly to upper tube from lower tube. Instead, we had to go back to the opening of the lower tube, hike 1.5 miles inside the forest before entering the mouth of the 2nd tube again.
After Mt. St. Helens, our next stop was Columbia River Gorge, which was actually our destination.
Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Washington- Oregon

After taking in the beauty of Columbia River Gorge from the roadside viewpoints, we drove to Mt. Hood, hoping we could go skiing in the summer. Some of the ski slopes in Mt. Hood are still groomed for skiing even in the summer. We thought it would be our highlight of the day. But, when we got to Mt. Hood, we learned there were no rentals in the summer. Those who ski bring their own gears. Well, we did not pack even a trekking pole, so we would not have to check in our luggage during flight. We decided instead to just have another photoshoot and snow fun at Mt. Hood. 
From Mt. Hood, Oregon 
( the bottom right picture is Mt. Adams as seen from Mt. Hood )

After several days of stormy weather in Mt. Rainier, we had a blast of good weather in Mt. St. Helens, Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood. 

Day 11: Half Day White Water Rafting at White Salmon River and Drive to Portland, Oregon for fly out the next day
US (the one wearing red was our raft guide ), Ready to Take the Rapids

We had a blast in our half-day class III-IV white water rafting. It was both fun and thrilling to feel and ride the raging water. We had to pass one waterfall, however, we were asked before we started if we were up to it. If we are not up to it, we could skip the waterfall. We were warned that is the point where most fall off the raft. We were briefed however what should we do instead we fall off the raft in the waterfall and in the other more challenging rapids. We felt very confident after the briefing that we all agreed to pass through all obstacles, since that is the fun part of white water rafting. Did anyone fall off our raft? Happy to say, none. :) But there were several in the other rafts who fell off. 

The water was frigid cold, but we wore wet suits, and waterproof outer layers. Funny, during the orientation, we were told, "if you have anything cotton, like shirt or underwear, better change now, as cotton is the most unpleasant in this condition." Well, no one rushed to change, which meant everyone was used to outdoors that learned to unfriend any cotton clothing. Everybody came prepared, to enjoy and ride the rapids. 
 Us, White Water Rafting at White Salmon River, WA

White water rafting concluded our 11 days exploring of 3 Washington National Parks and Columbia River Gorge. We placed it at the very last day so that whatever happens, we already had explored all places we wished for this trip. :)

We definitely will be back in this part of the West Coast for more wonderful exploring. 
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  1. awww, too bad you were not able to ski. anyway, love love love your white water rafting experience. good to know nobody had to go and change undergarment. hahaha!
    love love love that close up smiling photo of you and your friend! your happiness when you are outdoors always radiates in your face.

  2. Oh wow! You had an amazing expedition, betchai! The weather on the 9th day looks awful, the temperatures must have been really low? Still, there is something about those drifting mists also that I love, it's beautiful. I am glad the weather improved for you the following days. All the sights are simply heavenly, I love those snow capped mountains - nature at its best. Thank you so much, betchai... I loved visiting Washington with you. :)

  3. Good luck for your trail and at the same time bonding time with family.

  4. i love to listen to the sounds of the water falls, thus it is the part of your journey that i like most :)

  5. well, even if you were not able to skii looks like ur still having an amazing time..I would really like to try Water Rafting. I hope I will be brave enough to do it since I don't know how to swim LOL!

  6. wow I say that the whole 9 days to relax and have fun is just worth it... amazing, whenever i see snow, it makes me feel so chill here..thank you so much for sharing your wonderful journey.

  7. Now, that's what I call an adventure. Wow! What an awesome experience it must have been for you :)

  8. i envy for doing all those things! I wish my daughter's school holiday will be fun and will try to book more tickets for travelling too

  9. I'd like to try white water rafting some time. It must be fun. The problem is: I don't even know how to swim kaya I fear the waters. Masyadong ambisyosa lang hahaha.

  10. How beautiful, a pitty of the fog in the first pictures.


  11. Wow, you are quite the trekker, explorer, adventure-seeking gal and really a good nature lover. I am always amazed by the sights you've seen and places you've been that I can only look at photos in the internet. Kudos sis! More trips for you this 2014 so you can share your experience to us.

  12. The weather may not be inviting at some points during your trek but still you produced nice photos. There is always a next time and I am so sure you will visit again these great sites.

  13. Wow! I'm so jealous. Such cool places Ate B! :)

    I look all the pictures, especially those in Roadside waterfalls, wildflowers and Fogs @ Mt. Rainier National Park.

  14. Chilling but exciting captures AteB. Love the slug shot.

  15. I'm sorry that your journey to Mt. Reiner didn't go as planned, but looks like the other places were fabulous. Mountains are notorious for tricky weather.

  16. Mt. Rainier is a must-visit place for us, Ms. Betchai! Hopefully, someday soon! Oh, I want to experience that underground adventure, too! How thrilling! :) As always, awesome shots you got!

  17. I bet after every trip, you are already planning for the very next escapade! Keep it coming! You have such awesome travels!