Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Washington's National Parks Road Trip, Part 2

Before I continue to Day 6 of  my previous post on "A Road Trip Exploring Washington's National Parks" summer of 2010, let me share with you first the link to Part 1 of this trip, where you could find the summary of the trip and itinerary for days 1 - 5.
Seattle, North Cascades National Park and Olympic National Park, during Days 1-5, summer 2010 Washington's National Park Road Trip 

Now, continuing to Day 6...

Day 6: Hiking and Exploring Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park
Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, CA- summer 2010 Washington's National Park Road Trip 

I would love to say that this is my favorite part of our Washington exploring. Olympic National Park really had blown my mind away, and Rialto Beach tops them all. 

If you come however to frolic in the beach with fine sands, you would be disappointed. Rialto Beach is not for the sand and sun lovers. It's not for those who prefer to sun tan in their 2 piece swim suits. The sands are rough, and not meant to be walked on barefoot. The waves are very powerful and unforgiving. This is a wilderness beach, popular for hiking and backpacking. It's a beach meant for hiking shoes. You would not only walk on rough sands, but also on rocky terrain, slippery rocks, and scramble past drift woods.

The day before we came here, we checked the low tide, and it was at 8:00 am. Checking low tide is a must to allow more exploring of Rialto Beach's geological and ecological features. At high tide, some areas would not be accessible, such as Hole in the Wall. To reach Hole in the Wall, we would still have to hike 1.5 miles. It meant we should be at the parking lot by 7:30 am. It meant waking up earlier than 7:00 am if we wanted to start our day with a nice hot shower and hot big breakfast. Skipping breakfast, or eating very little contradicts active exploring which requires a lot of calories to do more. Right nourishment is very essential to keep an active and healthy lifestyle. 
Rocky Shore, Driftwoods,  Giant Sea Stacks, and Natural Arh @ Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park - summer 2010 Washington's National Park Road Trip 

In the above picture ( bottom left), you'd see hubby's niece (in blue sweater) walking towards the rocks, while my cousin ( in hot pink sweater ) was busy taking pictures. We noticed the youngest in our group walking back and forth, which was not so usual for her not to take pictures. Like us, she is into nature photography as well, maybe, since she was 7 years old. We asked her what kept her busy walking back and forth. She showed us so many sea stars ( or star fish ) washed on shore, slightly covered by sands. She was returning the sea stars back to the sea by putting them back on rocks that were in the water. We realized, we, the older ones, were swept by the magical landscape right away that we forgot to take notice of the helpless little ones such as the sea stars. We stopped from what we were doing for a while, and helped her return the sea stars to the sea.
Returning Washed Off Sea Stars Back to the Sea - summer 2010 Washington's National Park Road Trip 

Hubby's niece told us that if we simply throw the sea stars away to the sea, they may simply end up on sand. They would have not something to cling strongly to when the strong waves pound them. They may again be washed off to the shore. Returning them to the rocks would help the sea stars have better ground, since they could cleave tightly on the rocks. The rocks are their refuge from the very strong pounding waves. Looking at the other sea stars, we noticed they cling to each other on rocks, like holding each other's arms, so, we would look for a group of sea stars to return the washed off sea stars.

Lessons from the Star Fish: How glad we were later to learn that indeed, when sea stars are together, they are stronger. Grouping together is one of the sea stars defense mechanisms to protect themselves from the pounding waves as they can easily be washed off shore by the very strong waves. As the star fish cleave together on rocks, their strength multiplies exponentially that they will be able to hold on together defying the pounding waves that crash on them. The star fish exemplifies best the quote, "Together we stand, divided we fall."
Some of the Tidepool Creatures At Rialto Beach ( anemone and sea stars ) -summer 2010 Washington's National Park Road Trip  

After we had returned the washed off sea stars we could see back to safety, we resumed our hike to Hole in the Wall. At the same time, more paying attention to the little creatures around, if some of them may need help returned back to the sea. We had so much fun time exploring the tidepools, and we were awed by the giant sea stacks. It felt like we were in another world! Olympic National Park is truly an embodiment of a stunning variety of landscapes, plants and animals life. From glacier-capped mountain peaks, to mystical rain forest, to roaring waterfalls, to giant sea stacks and MORE.

Day 7: Hiking and Exploring Quinalt Rainforest, Olympic National Park, then, drive to Mt. Rainier National Park
Quinalt Rainforest, Olympic National Park - summer 2010 Washington's National Park Road Trip 

We had two rainforest options, the more popular one Hoh Rainforest vs Quinalt Rainforest. Before we made a decision, we checked the weather at Mt. Rainier. It says, "mix of rain, strong winds and snow". If cancellation of lodging was allowed, we would actually cancel our stay at Mt. Rainier National Park because the weather forecast wasn't very good. However, cancellation policy that time was at least 14 days before arrival. That was tough, since the weather forecast before we left for Washington was not bad at all. Indeed, the mountains have their own mind. Storms, could come in anytime. Snow storm could come in even in July. 

Because of bad weather forecast, we decided to drive to Mt. Rainier as early as possible, so that, we won't get stranded on the road due to bad weather. We therefore decided to take Quinalt Rainforest instead of Hoh Rainforest. Quinalt is South of Forks and really along our way to Mt. Rainier National Park. We had a great time at Quinalt. At Quinalt, we felt like we were transported back in time, to many ages ago. Look how busy all of us above taking pictures, and taking picture of others who were busy taking pictures. :) That's us. There's really so much to see in our wonderful world if we leave the main roads and move our feet. Hiking is a very therapeutic exercise. It is an exercise that consumes so much energy, with so many therapeutic rewards. 

After Quinalt Rainforest, we went to a Beach that was referred to us by one of the hikers in Quinalt Rainforest. He said it is so unique because it is the widest beach with some sand dunes. When we heard sand dunes, we were so excited, we said, "let's go for it, after all, Mt. Rainier is snowing!" But when we got there, we forgot to tell the hiker that we are from California with too many beaches and well, too many sand dunes. The beach may be unique, it was indeed a very wide beach and with some sand dunes, but really, nothing so special for our eyes, not something like the beach sand dunes in California, and definitely, not something like the sand dunes in the desert. We just instead had lunch at one of the beach side restaurants. 

After lunch at the beach, we continued our drive to Mt. Rainier National Park.
A Snowy Summer Hike At Mt. Rainier National Park - summer 2010 Washington's National Park Road Trip 

We reached Mt. Rainier early enough, thankfully, the drive was not that bad, it just slowed down when we were approaching the mountain. When we got there, it was snowing. It felt surreal for us to see snow fall in the summer. If it was spring, we would not be so surprised, but summer, in July? Some of us decided to call it a day, and decided to just relax in the hotel. While some of us (including me), decided to explore and hike as far as we feel safe because the visibility was very poor. We did not really spend a long time hiking, because the combination of rain and snow made the hike very slippery. Without ice trekkers and trekking poles, we felt so inadequate. We decided to call it a day too and joined the other members of the family who already were having fun telling stories, haha! That night, while watching TV, we saw in the news several hikers lost due to the blizzard. We were glad we only hiked up to the point we felt safe.

Day 8: Hiking Comet Falls, Some Sightseeing and Snow Fun at Mt. Rainier National Park
It was still snowing on and off at the higher elevation of Mt. Rainier. Because there was nothing to see but fog and snow, we decided to explore the lower elevation. We did not want to be defeated by bad weather, so, we just explored the best that we could. The trail to Comet Falls was very steep, in the top left picture above, I was just a few steps ahead of others, but they already looked so far below me. Some trails still had snow from accumulation, but were hard packed already, thus very slippery. Some trails were on slippery rocks. Unlike the hike up on snowy trails the other day where hikers were very well geared for icy climb, there were a lot of casual hikers in this trail. Some of them, when they saw us with our hiking shoes, rain pants and rain jackets, would tell us: "Oh, I wish I could get your shoes! You just don't know how many times I fell. I don't have your pants and jacket too, I am so cold and wet. I feel like dying in this hike! " 
Hiking Comet Falls, Mt. Rainier National Park - summer 2010 Washington's National Park Road Trip 

Indeed, if you are not prepared to explore the outdoors, the experience could be horrible, that you may feel like dying in the hike. I know several others who swore not to go hiking anymore because they suffered a lot of blisters and broken toe nails, had to take several "ALEVE" for a few days for very painful legs, and more. Somehow, if you want to have a very pleasant experience exploring the great outdoors, you have to give up your common casual gears, such as sneakers, cotton shirts, hoodies and jeans. Sneakers and bad socks are oftentimes the cause of blisters and broken toe nails. Though sneakers are good enough for most trails but not on rough terrains. Cotton shirts, hoodies and jeans are just not warm enough especially when it is windy, and they are very heavy especially when it is raining and had collected a lot of water. Outdoors specialists in outdoor stores usually are very helpful in finding the right gears for your needs. 

Our Comet Falls hike was probably the highlight of our day. We told ourselves we had been hiking for 8 days already, so, even with snow at high elevation, we should not complain because we had seen so much beauty in Washington already, even in Mt. Rainier, because Comet Falls is still a very beautiful hike. We actually passed by so many waterfalls in the hike, only that they were nameless waterfalls probably. :)

After our Comet Falls hike, we went back to the hotel for lunch. We decided to just relax after. However, for some of us, relaxing meant still going outside. We did not go hiking anymore, but we decided instead to not let the snow make us feel down. Instead, we did some more sightseeing ( we took pictures when visibility improved) and used the snow for some fun!
 Sightseeing and Having Snow Fun Instead - summer 2010 Washington's National Park Road Trip

Though we were not able to hike the trails we wanted to, but nevertheless, Day 8 was still a very beautiful day, of some rain, some snow, some fog, some clearing, but no sun! We did not let the bad weather hold us indoors in our rooms, instead, we made instantaneous fun, mixing some low elevation hikes with sightseeing and sliding on snow. 

What's Day 9, 10 and 11 like? I will continue in my next post......see you in part 3 and conclusion of this Washington's National Park Road Trip Series. 
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  1. twas indeed an awesome experience, how i wish i can see those places too :)

  2. So love your joyful photo on the second collage right lowest part. Whew, I had huge smiles reading the part where one could think of dying during the hike...I may be one when not prepared hehehe...the little kid was so thoughtful helping the starfishes back to the sea and even putting them on top of stones to be with other starfishes...indeed there is strength in unity...and of course I loved the series of waterfall shots, I wonder too though what their names are...I have yet to see snow! and those gleeful shots playing there using proper gear is making me want to really explore national parks there one sweet yah Betchai..happy first week of the year! :)

  3. Man, you travel a lot. I don't really mind if the beach has rough sands. I enjoy any place where I can see water. :)

  4. Oh wow! These are all great photos! Those starfish looks nice. My favorite would be the last picture, the one where you and your family plays in the snow. So candid

  5. I so love those colorful starfish AteB, reminds me of our fun times in Korea.

  6. wow!!! i'm so jelly with your experiences sis, i wish i was close to that place, me and hubby would definitely seeing those places... breathtaking indeed. just amazing. thanks for sharing sis.

  7. those sea stars I would freak out seeing them myself hehe im kinda scared to slimy things if its slimy hehe also those snow! i would love to experiencethem!

  8. I can't get enough of these awesome nature shots. You really take good pictures.

  9. I love the lessons on star fish, Ms. Betchai! The same is a must in us, in our characters as humans....

    I am, as always, super WOWED by your adventure! I can see myself enjoying such great treks in the nature, too! Just amazing!

  10. catching my breath here! so much nature love to take in...

    busybusyhan mode. :D

  11. Another great hiking experience. As always awesome photos.

  12. Sis,
    You had a blast from the pictures, so free, so playful especially with snow pictures. The star fish looks so colorful and am intrigue with them :-)

  13. Those look like some of the most beautiful places on Earth. I've never been to a national park. I don't like to travel far from home, but I would to see a national park like those.

  14. I love the quote you associated with the star fish ate! It's another trip that you will not forget. Good luck sa mga travels and visits mo sa beautiful places like national parks..

  15. I am so wowed! Apart from the captivating pictures, I was so engrossed reading the very detailed and comprehensive narration of your beautiful adventure, Te Betchai. I felt like I was also there! I can't wait for Part 3! Thanks as always for bringing us with you on your trip by virtue of this online tour ;-)

  16. That is the most awesome hiking experience I ever read! Pictures looked great!

  17. I am so jealous ** I love those starfish and the colors. They are awesome! What a great experience.

  18. Your nature photos are always such a spirit lifer for me!
    There is so much life in them, comparing to what we have to deal with here in Michigan...

  19. Such picturesque place is worthy to be visited. Awesome!