Saturday, July 30, 2011

Olympic National Park

Sea Stars and Sea stacks, Olympic National Park, WA
In my previous post, I mentioned about sharing some of the hikes we did at North Cascades National Park. However, while I was reviewing our pictures from our recent Washington trip, my excitement to share my favorite National Park among the three National Parks we visited seems to explode. So please pardon me if I just have to give in to this excitement and write about the joys I found in Olympic Peninsula, found in the Northwestern corner of Washington State. I will however go back to sharing the joys, hits and misses we have in each trails after I write about all the three National Parks in Washington.
Hole in the Wall, Olympic National Park, WA
Now, what makes Olympic National Park very special for me? First, this park has my favorite part of the world, hiking and the ocean! As much as I love the challenge of hiking up the slopes and see the different geological formations of the Earth, I also love listening to and riding  the ocean's waves with the fishes (and sometimes dolphins). And just like Big Sur and Redwood National Park, two of my favorite places in CA, here, the forested mountains is also kissed by the sea! It is for this reason perhaps, that there are more backpackers here than beachcombers. Though there may be no giant redwoods and redwood  forests here, but temperate rain forests mantle the western portion of the peninsula.
Quinalt Rain Forest, Olympic National Park
Walking along the trails inside the rain forest feels like being transported back in time. 
Maple Grade Trail, Quinalt Rain Forest, Olympic National Park, WA

I felt like I can stay here forever with probably the ghosts of the past guiding me. And since this is close to the ocean, whenever I felt like swimming with the fishes and be energized by the ocean's waves, like the bald eagles or the vampires in Twilight, I can probably just fly down to the sea :)

American Bald Eagle at Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, WA
But unlike the bald eagle waiting for fish,
 Two American Bald Eagles Perched on Rock Ready to Fish @ Rialto Beach
( you have to click to see clearly the bald eagles)
I will be probably just join the fishes enjoying the waves, or enjoying the tidepools at low tide. 
Sea Stars, Tidepool Area at Hole in the Wall, Olympic National Park, WA
The sea stacks here at Olympic National Park, also reminds me of Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve in Lee Vining, California. 
Sea Stacks, Olympic National Park, WA
These sea stacks, just like the tufas at Mono Lake, look like eerie guards of an Alien Kingdom. The sea stacks and the mossed branches and trunks in the rain forests,  
Mossed Maple Tree

together make this place very mystical for me. No wonder why the story of Twilight was inspired from here, in Forks, which is a little town by Olympic Coast. But Olympic National Park is more than just the ocean and temperate rain forest, this is a peninsula of great contrasts and diversity. Aside from the Pacific Ocean Beaches and rain forest valleys, there are gushing river and waterfalls, 
Sul Doc River and Falls, Olympic National Park, WA
glacier-capped mountain peaks, glacial lakes, wildflower filled meadows, 
Meadow at Lake Crescent
and a stunning variety of plant and animal life. 

In my next post, I will be sharing Mt. Rainier National Park, and after that, will be the different trails and activities we did at these three National Parks and other parks of Washington. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Life is Beautiful!

Life is beautiful, jump!
Me @ Lake Lucille, Wasilla, Alaska
Life is beautiful, like a hike, it has lots of ups and downs, crossing trails, winding switchbacks and beautiful scenic turns. However, like a hike, some people are afraid to explore life. Some are afraid of taking taking chances because of the uncertainties. But isn't life about taking chances ever since? Had we not taken that first step when we were still toddlers, we would not end up where we are, how we are, why we are, and who we are today. Though we had grown older and taller, but we still keep on wondering, stumbling, struggling, pursuing and growing in many aspects that make us, well, forever young! Young, but not childish, with a child-like heart that always seek for answers to our inherently curious minds. Like a child, we explore our world and ourselves. We seek understanding, because we know that in our understanding of the world we live in, we will be more prepared to make decisions on which crossings to take. We will be more prepared to handle failures that will bring us to success. Life is beautiful, the risks are what makes it even more meaningful and beautiful. Yes, life is not without risks, and it requires us to jump! However, we don't jump blindly, but rather, we jump with smart preparations. Now that we are older and are more aware of the many risks in life we go through each day, we simply do not jump without preparing for our loved ones we may leave behind. One of those preparations we secure is life insurance, not for us, but for our loved ones. We do not want to burden our loved ones with our disappearing cost, which sadly, may cost them financial ruin if we do not prepare for it. But how do we chose which life insurance is best for your family needs? For a start, you can ask for free Life Insurance online quotes that will match your personal and family needs. There are various kinds of life insurance, each catered to personal and family needs. Insurance Information Exchange is also another site where you can make more informed decisions.
So, when we walk armed, do we turn around when we encounter manageable obstacles? Or do we jump? 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hiking Harding Icefield

Hiking the Harding Icefield Trail is one of my most memorable hikes ever. A hike and a place I will never forget. Harding Icefield connects a network of 38 glaciers. One of these glaciers is the Exit Glacier which you can see below me in the first picture. I will show some of the other glaciers in a later post that flow out of Harding Icefield. Harding Icefield is about 4000 ft thick of ice, but it does not bury completely the underlying mountains as you can see in the picture.
Me, Jumping for Fun at Harding Icefield Trail, Kenai Fjords National Park, Seward, Alaska
(did not know I jumped with my camera dangling on my neck)
High On Ice, Hikers on Exit Glacier
A Closer Look of Exit Glacier
The trail however is not all about ice. The trailhead at the valley floor where the Exit Glacier terminates is a forest of cottonwood and alder. In about 1000 ft elevation the forest disappears to allow a hike that overlooks the Harding Icefield.
Harding Icefield Trail at about 1 mile of the hike and 1000 ft elevation gain
Above the treeline, thick wildflowers start to appear, and the combination of alpine glaciated peaks, the forest below, glaciers, river flowing across the valley floor and wildlflowers made it feel like almost hiking in heaven. Despite the trail seems like a continuous steep staircase of rock strewn slopes, gaining 1000 ft elevation for every mile, yet the challenge is worth it all.
Wildflowers Lining the Trail Above Treeline
At about halfway of the hike, the rocky staircase gave way to snow covered slopes.
Us @ The Harding Icefield Trail
The above picture was taken by my husband, capturing the moment where we would pose for photo opportunities, each of us taking turns to pose. In the above picture, I was photographing my cousin ( picture below).
Though raising of the trekking poles mean we have conquered the trail, but in this spot actually, we only have walked 3.5 miles and climbed 2800 ft. We still had to walk 0.7 miles and climb 700 ft higher.
Almost There, Reaching the Sea of Ice
After climbing 3500 ft and walking 4.2 miles, we reached the end of trail,  where after that to continue means to cross the Icefield.
Me @ the End of Trail
It is extremely windy and cold at the top, I feared the wind will blow me down to the Icefield. There was no way for us to repeat our jumping pictures at the end of trail since we even have to sit sometimes to avoid being blown by the wind. To learn more about the nature, science and hiking Harding Icefield, please visit Kenai Fjords National Park site here.  

Meanwhile, you can also check my other blog, for some of my firsts in Alaska. 

Of course, after reaching the top, means to go back down. 
Hiking Down
When we reached the valley floor, we added more distance to our hike by continuing to the edge of Exit Glacier. You can find my post about Exit Glacier here.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lost To Summer Waves

It is my summer break, and I am supposed to have a lot of free time!! But how come it seems I am updating my blog less often than when I was busier before? I could no longer blame my lack of posts here and absence in blogosphere to my busy schedule of balancing both teaching and studying since I am now free from the classroom both as a teacher and as a student. And I could not blame it on Facebook either, even though I spend a million times over in FB than in this site, but then, it's my summer break and I am supposed to have a lot of free time. So, where did all my free time go? I spend them mostly with the waves :)

Since my school break, life has been chasing the waves mainly for me. For about a month now, I have not put on my hiking shoes :( I miss hiking, but whenever I plan to hike, I would see the ocean. I tell myself to boogie first for an hour or so, and hike after. But what happens is, once I am in the water, I forget about time! I end up body boarding for hours, and when I am done I feel my legs and arms so tired I hardly have energy to hike because I spent it all kicking and paddling to have a free ride with the waves.
Anyway, this summer waves won't last. Soon, the water will turn cold again, and I would not be motivated anymore to jump in and have fun with the waves.
So, while the water temperature is comfortable this summer, I might as well have fun with it! And yes, I am enjoying my staycation in San Diego. I may take a break from the waves though to go back to my other interests in life. Yes, back to hiking and clicking away. Did I not say before that my July 4th post will be that of my pictures of San Diego Zoo's Safari Park to follow my post on Faces-Part 2 that featured my husband's pictures of various animals' faces? Well, truth is, I have not been back to Safari Park :( I really had been conquered by the waves.
Maybe, next time. Meanwhile, I have to go back to wearing my hiking shoes again and swinging my trekking poles.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Last Minute Travel Planning

Larrabee State Park, Bellingham, WA ( July 2010)
Serendipity! That's how we discovered the inspiring beauty of Larrabee State Park, which is located 6 miles South of the city of Bellingham, Washington. Last July 2010, we had to cut short our trip to North Cascades National Park because we were unprepared hiking in deep, solid snow with avalanche warning. Ice axe were needed in the trail and we haven't had experience climbing on ice. Our experience is snowshoeing and skiing which is far from ice climbing. Because we have covered most of North Cascades that we could cover safely without using ice axe, we decided to look for an alternative place for us to explore instead of spending several days sitting around at North Cascades. We looked for a place that is in between North Cascades National Park and Olympic National Park, since we were going to Olympic National Park the next few days. Our last minute accommodation search brought us to Bellingham, WA.
Larrabee State Park, Bellingham, WA ( July 2010)
While driving from North Cascades to Bellingham, some of us were searching high and low for last minute hotels in our cell phones and iPads that will give us a good deal. After finding a place for us to sleep in, we again searched for places to hike near Bellingham. Thankfully, it is not difficult to find scenic places in Washington. Having less time to search for more information, we came to Bellingham with less expectations. We felt so lucky on finding out that the last minute hotel we found was near Whatcom Falls Park.
Because the water was too cold for us to swim, we finished exploring Whatcom Falls park early. We again looked for a place to explore near Bellingham by typing the phrase: "State Park near Bellingham". Google referred us to Larrabee State Park, we went to the state park site, and finally decided that Larrabee State Park will be our next place for exploration and sunset watching. On reaching the park, we were not disappointed, in fact, we had so much fun scrambling on rocks next to the water, and we were so excited even to see tidepools! We went to small beach inlets, found our place to relax and take in the scenery. We may have failed to conquer the icy slopes of North Cascades, but we were rewarded by such peaceful and inspring beauty at Larrabee!
Serendipity- I so believe in it! Last minute travel plans- though we do not do it often, but I believe in it as well :) In fact, just a week ago, I was happy enough to make successful last minute flights reservation. Last minute travel planning can be fun especially with the hottest deals around. Who does not want the best accommodation for the cheapest cost?
“Serendipity. Look for something, find something else, and realize that what you've found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for.”- Lawrence Block