100 Days of National Parks: Day 30 – Doe, a Deer; Olympic National Park

Wildlife encounters when you’re in the backcountry can be some of the most exciting, and unexpected times that you can spend in the wilderness. When I’m hiking or backpacking, I’m often lost in my own thoughts, and invariably get surprised when I come across another life along the trail, be it person or creature. Most of the time these moments are fleeting, an elk bounding up fern-covered incline above me, or a marmot scurrying behind a rock as I walk past. Sometimes these moments are terrifying, like a bear encounter in the mountains, or lifting my pack to find a scorpion the size of my hand. Rarely, though, I get the chance to really observe the animal I come across, to connect with it for more than those few brief seconds it takes for it to run away.

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Doe, A Deer

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Wildlife encounters when you’re in the backcountry can be some of the most exciting, and unexpected times that you can spend in the wilderness.  When I’m hiking or backpacking, I’m often lost in my own thoughts, and invariably get surprised when I come across another life along the trail, be it person or creature.  Most of the time these moments are fleeting, an elk bounding up fern-covered incline above me, or a marmot scurrying behind a rock as I walk past.  Sometimes these moments are terrifying, like a bear encounter in the mountains, or lifting my pack to find a scorpion the size of my hand.  Rarely, though, I get the chance to really observe the animal I come across, to connect with it for more than those few brief seconds it takes for it to run away.

Continue reading “100 Days of National Parks: Day 30 – Doe, a Deer; Olympic National Park”

100 Days of National Parks: Day 18 – Night at Reflection Lakes, Mt. Rainier

Night at Reflection Lakes

One of my favorite things to do when traveling is staying up overnight to shoot the stars, or simply wandering through the park while everyone else sleeps. There’s a peaceful solitude to nocturnal explorations, and also an odd rush of adrenaline that courses through your veins, not knowing what lies beyond the shadowy outlines of trees just beyond the range of your headlamp.

In the summer of 2015, during my recovery from my Pacific Crest Trail injury, I took a wander up to Mt. Rainier. I’d often driven through the park, taken walks around the Paradise Lodge and seen the iconic mountain from various angles, but I’d never really allowed myself the opportunity to truly explore it.

I took this photo along the main road cutting through the park, along Reflection Lakes, a common viewpoint and oft-photographed collection of small lakes in front of the mountain. At night, the sound of frogs chirping and the rush of wind through the trees were the only sound, and I sat along the edge of the lake, waiting for my long exposure shots to capture, my car just of camera illuminating the lake with its headlights. The smoke from the new Mt. Adams Complex fires, which I’d been hiking through during the preceding day, obscured the vast majority of stars from view, spoiling my plans to get a shot of the Milky Way, but creating a hazy, moody effect to the sky, as the cool light of stars and moon on the eastern side of the mountain completed with the red-orange glow of towns further to the west.

Next time you’re out, I hope you take the opportunity to get out and wander in the midnight hours, and find a new perspective on places you’ve only seen by light of day. It can be a truly magical experience.

 

Night at Reflection Lakes

Night at Reflection Lakes
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One of my favorite things to do when traveling is staying up overnight to shoot the stars, or simply wandering through the park while everyone else sleeps.  There’s a peaceful solitude to nocturnal explorations, and also an odd rush of adrenaline that courses through your veins, not knowing what lies beyond the shadowy outlines of trees just beyond the range of your headlamp.

In the summer of 2015, during my recovery from my Pacific Crest Trail injury, I took a wander up to Mt. Rainier.  I’d often driven through the park, taken walks around the Paradise Lodge and seen the iconic mountain from various angles, but I’d never really allowed myself the opportunity to truly explore it.

I took this photo along the main road cutting through the park, along Reflection Lakes, a common viewpoint and oft-photographed collection of small lakes in front of the mountain.  At night, the sound of frogs chirping and the rush of wind through the trees were the only sound, and I sat along the edge of the lake, waiting for my long exposure shots to capture, my car just of camera illuminating the lake with its headlights.  The smoke from the new Mt. Adams Complex fires, which I’d been hiking through during the preceding day, obscured the vast majority of stars from view, spoiling my plans to get a shot of the Milky Way, but creating a hazy, moody effect to the sky, as the cool light of stars and moon on the eastern side of the mountain completed with the red-orange glow of towns further to the west.

Next time you’re out, I hope you take the opportunity to get out and wander in the midnight hours, and find a new perspective on places you’ve only seen by light of day.  It can be a truly magical experience.

100 Days of National Parks: Day 12 – At the Goblin Gates, Olympic National Park

The Goblin Gates of the Elwha River in Olympic National Park are fairly easily accessible, located just a few miles from the Whiskey Bend Trailhead in the northern part of the park. This dramatic start of the Elwha Gorge is breathtaking in person, as the narrow gap in the rocks funnels the river past in a rushing torrent, the swirling waters outside the “Gates” a dizzying eddy in the impressive, and important, river.
A few miles downstream from this spot, the Elwha passes through another, far deeper canyon, Glines Canyon, where the biggest dam removal project in U.S. history was completed in 2014, allowing access to critical spawning grounds for several species of salmon. This proved to be one of the most important ecological victories of the conservation movement in recent memory, and a testament to the importance of clear waterways. Since the dam’s removal, there has been a significant rise in spawning salmon and trout populations, and the ensuing increase in biodiversity has been directly linked to the removal of the dam. More information about the removal can be found here.
I look forward to my next trip up the Elwha, perhaps later this spring when the melting snow higher in the mountains pushes the flow through the canyon to its heights. It’s really an impressive place, and just one of many spectacular sights in the Olympic Wilderness.

At the Goblin Gates

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The Goblin Gates of the Elwha River in Olympic National Park are fairly easily accessible, located just a few miles from the Whiskey Bend Trailhead in the northern part of the park. This dramatic start of the Elwha Gorge is breathtaking in person, as the narrow gap in the rocks funnels the river past in a rushing torrent, the swirling waters outside the “Gates” a dizzying eddy in the impressive, and important, river.

A few miles downstream from this spot, the Elwha passes through another, far deeper canyon, Glines Canyon, where the biggest dam removal project in U.S. history was completed in 2014, allowing access to critical spawning grounds for several species of salmon.  This proved to be one of the most important ecological victories of the conservation movement in recent memory, and a testament to the importance of clear waterways.  Since the dam’s removal, there has been a significant rise in spawning salmon and trout populations, and the ensuing increase in biodiversity has been directly linked to the removal of the dam.  More information about the removal can be found here.

I look forward to my next trip up the Elwha, perhaps later this spring when the melting snow higher in the mountains pushes the flow through the canyon to its heights.  It’s really an impressive place, and just one of many spectacular sights in the Olympic Wilderness.

100/100/100: Day 7 – Three Fools Peak, North Cascades National Park

Three Fools Peak

Though technically just past the eastern boundary of North Cascades National Park, this impressive promontory is one of the last such peaks you see on the Pacific Crest Trail before making the descent to Canada from Hopkins Pass and the Devil’s Stairway. To me it is truly representative, however, of the dramatic vistas this off-the-beaten-path National Park has to offer. Only truly accessible in the summer, the mountains of the North Cascades are what I picture when I think of mountains: jagged peaks, sparkling lakes, and lush meadows abounding with wildflowers.

Following my broken leg in the Sierra section of the PCT in 2015, I spent my recovery in Washington, and attempted to get back on the trail by “flip-flopping,” tagging the Canadian border then reversing all the way back to the mountain that beat me, Mt. Whitney. I made it as far as this mountain, before the realization dawned on me that my injury was not completely healed, and I’d have to stumble back to a bail-out at Hart’s Pass some 25 miles to the south.

Three Fools Peak is my Northern Terminus, in many ways the end of the road for my thru-hiking dreams, but also the instigator for my subsequent section hiking for the following few months. I realized, after passing this mountain, that I would have neither the time, nor the physical ability, to complete my PCT adventure that summer, but that I could at the very least tag the highlights of places I’d always wanted to see, to pick up the pieces of a dream led astray. Every time I look at this picture, it reminds me that someday I’ll get beyond this point, someday I’ll make the full 2650 mile trek along the Pacific Crest Trail

Three Fools Peak

Three Fools Peak
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Marking the eastern edge of North Cascades National Park, this impressive promontory is one of the last such peaks you see on the Pacific Crest Trail before making the descent to Canada from Hopkins Pass and the Devil’s Stairway.  To me it is truly representative, however, of the dramatic vistas this off-the-beaten-path National Park has to offer.  Only truly accessible in the summer, the mountains of the North Cascades are what I picture when I think of mountains: jagged peaks, sparkling lakes, and lush meadows abounding with wildflowers.

Following my broken leg in the Sierra section of the PCT in 2015, I spent my recovery in Washington, and attempted to get back on the trail by “flip-flopping,” tagging the Canadian border then reversing all the way back to the mountain that beat me, Mt. Whitney.  I made it as far as this mountain, before the realization dawned on me that my injury was not completely healed, and I’d have to stumble back to a bail-out at Hart’s Pass some 25 miles to the south.

Three Fools Peak is my Northern Terminus, in many ways the end of the road for my thru-hiking dreams, but also the instigator for my subsequent section hiking for the following few months.  I realized, after passing this mountain, that I would have neither the time, nor the physical ability, to complete my PCT adventure that summer, but that I could at the very least tag the highlights of places I’d always wanted to see, to pick up the pieces of a dream led astray.  Every time I look at this picture, it reminds me that someday I’ll get beyond this point, someday I’ll make the full 2650 mile trek along the Pacific Crest Trail

Bordeaux Ghost Town

I find that it’s often the greatest explorations that happen on the spur of the moment, without preplanning or research. Simply getting into the car or stepping out onto the trail without knowing what you’re going to find can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. Often, I forget the simple joy of these unplanned wanderings, the emotional high that I can get just from setting out and driving through the woods, looking for something interesting.


I find that it’s often the greatest explorations that happen on the spur of the moment, without preplanning or research.  Simply getting into the car or stepping out onto the trail without knowing what you’re going to find can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can have.  Often, I forget the simple joy of these unplanned wanderings, the emotional high that I can get just from setting out and driving through the woods, looking for something interesting.

Continue reading “Bordeaux Ghost Town”