Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sol Duc Falls, Olympic National Park

Sol Duc Falls, Olympic National Park, WA
( taken from the foot bridge)
The hike: 1.8 miles round trip, with easy ups and downs

Do you underestimate easy hikes? We don't. We do not choose our hikes because they are the most challenging and most strenuous, or the opposite. Rather, we choose our hikes on scenic rewards. Others will skip an easy hike, such as this one probably, not knowing the rewards they would miss.   

The trail to Sol Duc Falls is one of those easy hikes that is filled with ohs and ahs from trail head to destination. The trail head was beautifully adorned with rhododendrons, 
Beautiful Pacific Rhododenron inside the Forest
and the trail meanders through old-growth forest.
Sol Duc Falls Trail
Sol Duc Falls trail is actually a get-away to a number of more ambitious trails. Those who are into backpacking can apply for wilderness permit, carry their camping gear, and continue to hike further up the mountain. There were several streams to cross in the trail, and at one point, we were so awed by the flowing stream on mossy rocks that we spent some time taking pictures, nourishing our spirits with inspirations from nature.

With the very low light inside the forest, I had to shoot with longer exposure. Since we were lazy to check in our luggage, we decided to only carry what is allowed for carry on, and that meant leaving behind our tripod and trekking poles too. Without a tripod, it was very challenging to take decent picture without camera shake. I made my own tripod by kneeling down and putting my elbow down on the ground. I was in that position to take the picture below, when a well meaning older guy passed by and told me,
 Some of the Streams We had to Cross, with mossy rocks

 "continue will see more wonder".

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Easy Pass Trail, North Cascades National Park

Easy Pass Trailhead, North Cascades National Park, WA
Trailhead Location: milepost 151, Washington State Route 20;
Hike: 7 miles round trip, 2800 ft elevation gain
The first 2 miles of the hike climbs steadily and the trail meanders through hemlock and Pacific silver fir forests.
Hemlock and Pacific Silver Fir Forest
300 yards from the trailhead, there is a neat footlog to cross the Granite Creek.
Footlog to Cross Granite Creek
Despite it was already middle of summer, there were no one else in this trail that made the hike really special for us since the trail was all to ourselves. I guess, one of the advantages of going to a less crowded National Park is having solitude. There were several people who turned in at the parking lot, but after reading the signs at the trailhead, they turned around and drove away, maybe, Easy Pass was not the trailhead they were looking for, or maybe they were just visiting the park from the road. However, the extreme solitude we found in the trail does not mean this is an uninteresting hike, for many believe the Easy Pass and Fisher Basin area to be one of the most superb places in the North Cascades. The short but steep trail is not really that "easy" as one may presume from the name "Easy Pass". Inside the forest, I saw several variety of fungi growing on the trees' branches and some little creeks that their cascades create little waterfalls. They may not be permanent waterfalls, but were just created from all the melting snow.
Group of Brown Fungi
Small Waterfall
( shot without tripod )
After about 1000 ft climb, the trail becomes snow covered and it was hard for us to determine trail.
Snow Covered Trail At Higher Elevation
Our Foot Marks on the Snow 
There were several creek crossing, that added more fun to the hike.
Crossing Easy Pass Creek
(yeah, we had to cross the creek this way)
After 2 miles, the trail emerges into avalanche paths on the flanks of the ragged ridge, with the all the snow however, it was hard to identify the trail.
The Easy Pass Trail was lost in these snow fields, and an ice axe is advised through early summer.

Road Trip Fun

Enjoying a Beautiful Sunset While on The Road
We love to take road trips once a while, may it be on a weekend, or during vacation. In fact, our kind of vacation is always "on the go" type, since we wanted to explore different places. We are the type who are not satisfied with viewing the place from the road only, we prefer to see and experience what is deep within, far from the main road. It is always a different joy to be able to see and experience wonders of nature that most do not see because they choose not to move their feet as much. Whenever we get a chance, we explore our world by car, and by foot.
However, in instances that we needed to fly, we had to rely on rental cars to get to places. Thankfully, there are many reliable rental cars around. There are many cars to choose from, from economy to luxury. If there are just the two of us vacationing, we would usually rent an entry level car such as the mitsubishi lancer. Mitsubishi Lancer is a wonderful car, it is actually my first car, and I love it. However, if we have longer rides, and if there are 3 or 4 of us, we prefer to have a large sedan such as nissan maxima, or a cadillac cts. 
Powerful nissan maxima cruising the road
Sometimes, by the time we get our car, the car we chose would not longer be available and we get an upgrade such as mercedes benz cls for the same price, how lucky can we get? There is just so much in this world to see, and I am glad for these reliable cars to bring us to our destination, and am glad for our feet to bring us further to places where cars can't go. Indeed, life is beautiful.
Hiking at Hidden Canyon, Zion National Park, UT

San Diego's Hillcrest

Whenever I think of good eclectic foods in San Diego, Hillcrest always come to mind. Whether it be Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian, Persian, Mid-Eastern, American, Italian, Mexican and what else my wandering mind can think of, Hillcrest has them all.
Real Good Mexican Food at Ortega in Hillcrest
Hillcrest is a bustling San Diego neighborhood of ethnic restaurants and coffee shops, the atmosphere is fun-loving, and where locals and tourists go to people watch, party, enjoy the night life and/or simply enjoy walking around its stylish thrift stores and artsy bungalows. 

Hillcrest is well known as San Diego's gay and lesbian Mecca. Here, one will experience a very friendly community of tolerance. Here, whether they may be gay or straight, local or tourist, diverse group of people simply welcome each other, spend their night and weekend for some clean and lively fun. 

Every July, Hillcrest hosts the annual San Diego LGBT Parade, which is the 5th largest in US and attracts 150,000 cheering spectators.  After the parade, it is followed by a two day festival at Balboa Park. Balboa Park is right next to Hillcrest, and is the nation's largest urban cultural park. 
Reflecting Pond, Balboa Park
Balboa Park is home to 15 major museums, performing arts venues, beautiful and lush gardens, and of course, of the world famous San Diego Zoo.
Nursing Panda at The San Diego Zoo
 Being close to downtown San Diego, and part of the heart of San Diego, finding nice places to stay or hotels at Hillcrest is not a problem. There are many hotels close by so that one just just stroll in this lively and friendly San Diego neighborhood. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Our Foggy Reality at Mt. Rainier

There is a situation where fog is beautiful, and very dramatic, this is the kind of fog I love.
Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
However, there are situations also, that fogs scare me especially when driving on mountain roads that meanders over cliffs with several thousands feet vertical drop off. What caused this fear in me? Maybe, because  in San Diego, it is very common to have the airplanes not land because of the danger due to nil visibility. So, whenever we are driving on mountain roads and encounter very thick fog we do not see what is in front of us, nor around us, I can't help that fear to get in me.
Our Rented Car Surrounded by Fog
I would usually say a prayer for our safety, and everyone else on the road to be safe. Most of the pictures you see in my previous post about Mt. Rainier National Park was taken on our first day. Our reality was, we did most of our activity in the first day, despite not so good weather, but it was good enough for us to take our chances to hike and explore around. The second day, was a different story. Near Sun Beam Creek is the Reflection Lake,
Reflection Lake, Lost in Fog
where we are supposed to see this inspiring landscape on a beautiful summer day.
Reflection Lake ( picture taken at the poster in Reflection Lake) 
this is how Reflection Lake is supposed to look like on a clear summer day- and when all snow has melted 
Well, we could not even see the trees which are supposed to be in front of us. The lake has not completely thawed yet, but that's all we saw, the ice close to us. Several feet from us, we just have to guess what is in there. We waited, and waited for fogs to clear, but with no hope. It thickened, and thickened  until visibility became poorer and poorer. We decided to drive back to Paradise until hopefully the fogs will be lifted a little bit even just a few feet from the ground that we can at least see what we are walking on. We would walk back and forth between the Visitor Center and Paradise Inn. A lot of people dressed in their winter clothing ( it is in the middle of summer, but with winter conditions) and hiking boots were inside the Visitor Center or the Inn, like us, killing time. Park rangers were not advising to hike because of the very poor visibility and blizzard, and two days before that, a hiker was lost in the trail and the poor visibility is not helping the search team to find the lost hiker. We felt for some tourists who came in for a day ( some by tour buses who will be there for a day only and then drive back to the city), since they would pose in front of the Visitor Center trying to make it still a jovial picture day yet not even the Visitor Center Building would probably be seen in the picture because of almost zero visibility. Some thought of better solution, that is to take picture inside the visitor center! It was a very crowded visitor center. All we did was shop, watch their movie presentation, eat, and get bored. We decided to have fun in the snow ( just no pictures since it was impossible to take pictures) instead of sulking indoors at the Visitor Center and the Inn. However, it was not fun at all when the visibility is so low you're afraid you will hit a tree or a rock, or fall off a cliff as you slide, and the blizzard and icy wind would whip our face. We decided to go back and sulk at the Visitor Center again. About 4:00 pm, the parking lot at the Visitor Center and the Paradise Inn were almost empty, visitors probably left already and had given up. We decided to follow, left the higher elevation and went down. Down at Longmire, at least there was no blizzard, no thick fog that makes visibility zero, just rain. We hiked in the rain, and RAIN IS BEAUTIFUL and REFRESHING!!! We were glad we went down, left the snow and bathe in the rain. 

My Potato Chip Rock At Mt. Woodson

Let me take a break from sharing our fun and wonderful summer trip at Washington and Oregon to go back to what is closer to heart and home. I know some may find the picture below scary, but it's not really that scary when you are up there. That slab or rock is pretty strong and not as narrow as you might think.
On Top of The World at Potato Chip Rock
click here for the different hiking trail options  to Potato Chip Rock in Mt. Woodson.
What are the different options to reach Potato Chip Rock? Clicking on the link will lead you to various trail options hiking Mt. Woodson, where the Potato Chip Rock can be found near the summit.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mt. Rainier National Park

Our Hike at Mt. Rainier :(
Frankly, the picture above (and some more below) is the very reason why I am not that very excited to post yet about Mt. Rainier National Park. I still do not feel like leaving my pictures of star fish with the sea stacks, and the enchanted kingdom-like rain forests in my Olympic National Park post. It is not that Mt. Rainier National Park has nothing to offer, for Mt. Rainier is an amazing nature wonderland and National Park. Only that for 2 days we were there, we had gray sky, had mostly thick fogs the visibility was so poor, we had rain, snow, and some sort of blizzard blowing on us. How was the visibility like when we were there? It was like these.
( the picture above with the wide landscape of Mt. Rainier is what we were supposed to see in front of us, but in the picture, you will only see some snow and nothing, thick fog in front of us that won't let us see a few feet away from us)
Now, I do not really dislike fog, in fact, I love waking up to it most of the time in the morning here in San Diego, especially when the sun breaks in middle of the day. But not when we spent for 2-nights lodging and get thick fogs, rain, on and off snow and blizzard for 2 days we were there. But then, of course, this is not the fault of Mt.Rainier National Park, for the park is really a natural beauty and a source of inspiration, even when we were there at one of Mt. Rainier's worst days in the middle of summer. So, let me count the ways how we enjoyed the park despite having bad weather......
1. stopped on the road for whatever waterfalls we hear ( we can't see it from afar because of fog), and true enough, it was as joyful to listen to the sound of nature.
What is He Taking a Video Of? 
This Waterfall Below....
Waterfall in Fog Beside the Road
2. Hiked despited we did not know if we will be seeing anything because of visibility. But then, the thick fogs were lifted once a while for a brief moment for us to take pictures.
Does This Look Like a Summer Hike?
( Love it when fogs are lifted higher and can take some pictures)
But we were rewarded in some of our hikes, such as:
What? We See Mt. Rainier Now :)
Fogs Slowly Rising, Ice, River and Comet Falls
Blocks of Ice and Comet Falls
(it's such a joy being here, after 1500 ft uphill hike on icy snow packed trail in some parts, steep rocky strewn trail in other parts, and a not so good weather )
320 ft-tall Comet Falls Behind Me
( even despite dark skies and storms, you never know when the heaven will lift the fog to open up to you a world of wonder )
3. Focused on waterfalls and wildflowers, something that you can still take pictures up close when visibility is poor.
Christine Falls
Narada Falls
Despite a bad weather when we were there, nevertheless, we were still able to have some fun, and enjoyed Mt. Rainier our way. 
Sliding Down Instead of Hiking Down
Definitely, we will be back here at Mt. Rainier, and we will call it, Mt. Rainier take 2, hopefully, the next time we go back the weather will be on our side to explore and experience Mt. Rainier at its beautiful best.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Trip to Portage Glacier

Guest post from: Joe Castro

The best thing about taking a day trip is the fact that you get to spend time away from home. Whether I go with friends, family, or alone, taking a day trip to Portage Glacier is always wonderful. I remember when I was young and there were a great deal more glaciers here, but due to warming of the environment and natural causes, there are not many glaciers.
When I was younger I went with my parents. I wasn't old enough to drive but I loved to go! I would marvel at the many types of birds that I could see, the beautiful ice blue of the glacier water, and the refreshing wind that blows off of the glaciers themselves.

Today when I go there are few glaciers, but the water is still the pristine blue color that I remember. This is a very low population area and it gives me time to think about the things that are important to me. There is a great research facility that allows people to visit and check out ice worms, animal life near the glacier, and even some of the sea life such as otters and whales that call this area home.

No matter what stress I am dealing with, it is virtually wiped away after I set my home security system and set off on the two hour drive to this majestic landscape with my fiance.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Dreaming of a Weekend Get-away, with Family and Friends!!

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of Hampton Hotels. All opinions are 100% mine.

Whenever I am home, my mind wanders to having fun out of the doors, always thinking where to go, where to kick my feet, where to relax, and where to have fun. My kind of fun is a combination of both hiking and the ocean. I love to hike, and at the same time, I love to ride the ocean's waves and feel the oneness with the wave. However, my most memorable vacation each time is those spent with family and friends. It is always a joy to share the beautiful gifts of nature and feel its power with family and friends. Though I also treasure the moments where it is just my husband and I exploring the outdoors, but then, we do this most times of the year. Everyday is a vacation for us in San Diego, just the two of us. Thus, when we take vacation, we always invite family to share the fun and memories.
Now, if only I can invite a lot of friends in our nature get-away to share the gift of nature and the great outdoors, without having to worry about hotel bills. But there is something to dream about for me, that is winning the Hampton Chain of Friends Sweepstakes.

Click Here
Now, if I win the grand prize, I will receive a free stay at Hampton with 100 of my friends for one weekend. To help pay the tax, the grand prize winner will also receive $5000. It would be fun and exciting to invite my friends to a weekend get-away and we have the whole of 100 rooms of Hampton to us. We would find a Hampton Hotel closer to nature trails where we would enjoy hiking and ocean together! I am thinking of Monterey or Carmel, CA! These are the places I love to spend my weekend, what with the mountains kissing the sea, enjoying the redwood forest on land and the kelp forest in the sea. And those who are not into hiking or ocean exploring can stay in any of these two beautiful cities close to the sea and mountains and still find so many things to do.

Now, even if I do not win the grand prize, I still could win one of the 100 first prizes which is a weekend stay with 3 friends given away daily. The good news is, this contest is open to everybody! You do not have to be a Hilton Honors member to enter. You do not even need to have stayed previously at a Hampton to enter. This is a sweepstakes with nothing to lose. All you need to do is enter some contact information so they can tell you when you win! Now, would it not be great to spend another weekend get-away with family and friends?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

We Were In Washington!!

Mt. Shuksan, North Cascades National Park, Washington
In my previous post, Arc'teryx in the Summer, Icy, Karen, Kirigalpoththa, Rainfield and Diane guessed the State we went exploring this summer is Alaska. Ebie guessed the place must be somewhere in the Salt Lake City Area in Utah which was the place for 2002 winter Olympics, while Amanda and Jag said they were clueless or can't take any guess. I really had fun in my previous 2 posts, and I thank everyone for participating and throwing their guesses. In my follow-up post, More Clues, I made the pictures a little bit more obvious, especially the picture of myself at the Key Arena. Ratty, who came in late to guess in the first post, was the first one to name the Washington State correctly in the follow up post. So, yes, we were in Washington from June 28- July 5. We then moved to Oregon late of July 5 up to July 7. Perhaps had I used this picture below in my first post, no doubt, everybody will say with confidence we were in Washington around Seattle area.
Space Needle, Seattle, WA
(perhaps the most famous symbol of WA)
I also thought that aside from the Key Arena, the orange structure of the Eagle in Olympic Scultpure Park in my follow-up post would give away the identity of Washington. 
Eagle, steel sculpture by Alexander Calder
Sharkbytes mentioned that the orange steel sculpture looks like that of Calder in the Grand Rapids. Very true, the sculpture above is one of the masterpieces of Alexander Calder, a world distinguished American sculptor and artist. The Seattle Art Museum uses an icon of Eagle to indicate the location of the Olympic Sculpture Park on its map of Seattle.This orange steel sculpture is also the most popular spot in Olympic Sculpture Park for people to take pictures.  
Calder's Eagle Sculpture and the Space Needle 
 Now, if you ask us, did we go to the top of the Space Needle? The answer is NO! First, they won't let us take the stairs for free or even for a reduced fee :( , haha! We prefer to go to the top using stairs, since we want to be different, plus what is climbing 650 ft anyway comparing it with climbing or hiking several thousands feet up in the mountains? Also, the fee is $18 per person to take the elevator? Well, not our kind of fun :) or we are simply cheap. :( Besides, I did the Empire State Building before in New York and was not thrilled at all with the experience of going up a building using elevator and fight with the crowd for a space at the top. I very much prefer a more peaceful walk. We opted to photograph Seattle from the ground, and waited for the following days to do real climbs in Washington's mountains and be one with nature. We had a great time at Washington, our trip was filled with numerous roaring waterfalls, most of them nameless as there are just too many waterfalls in its mountains. Aside from waterfalls, we tread on snow packed mountains and forests, beautiful alpine lakes and meadows, gushing river fed by glacier melts, wonderful ocean scenery at Olympic, wildlife such as salmon, deers, bald eagles, among many others. 
For my next post, I will bring you to North Cascades National Park, Washington.
The Joys of Hiking, North Cascades National Park, WA
Hope everybody is having a great weekend.

Friday, July 09, 2010

More Clues

To continue the guessing from my previous post, Arc'teryx in the Summer?,  just for fun, here are more clues and this time I am making the clues a lot more obvious. For those who are into sports, the second picture will probably give it away!
Now, this looks a lot warmer than the previous post
That's Me Having Fun at Key Arena
And The Snowy Mountain Peaks are quite at a distance from this city's pier

Special thanks to Amanda, Icy, Rainfield, Ebie, Blessing Reflections, Jag, Mei, Karen and Diane for guessing. Perhaps, with these new set of pictures, some would be able to easily identify the State now. Still guessing, or sure now?