Monday, November 18, 2013

Adventures in the Pacific Northwest!

This post is long over-due. In late July Ian and I visited our families in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. We started in Oregon where most of what we did wasn't photo-worthy. We did take one glorious hike up Lookout Mountain. The trail was thick with wildflowers, and Mt Hood was visible almost the whole way up!

Now that Ian has more than one pair of shoes, he knows the agony of choosing which to wear!

Yellow flowers!

The lupine was in full bloom. It lined the road on the way to the trailhead, and then it followed sections of the trail as well.

Mt Hood!

Red wildflower #1.

Red wildflower #2. I could never live in the Pacific Northwest because I can't ever remember the names of wildflowers (except for a handful, like daisies, lupine, and dandelions).

This one I remember: it's called Cat's Ear flower because the petals are shaped kind of like cats' ears, and they're fuzzy.

Ian likes climbing mountains!

Vicki Nebel climbed that mountain!

Mt Hood, no obstructions.

More lupine along the trail.

Ian was King of the Mountain that day!

Some wildflowers are green!

Lots wildflowers in all the colors!

The trail to the top!


From Portland, we drove into the Olympic National Park for a few days. We stayed first at Lake Quinnault Lodge and saw bits of the southern and western parts of the park.

Our first stop, naturally, was the Big Cedar Tree. It's a short hike from one of the access roads, and it's very nice to be in such a big, quiet wood! Along the trail we saw lots of nurse logs (fallen trees that are being used to launch and sustain new forest life) like this one that has a healthy batch of huckleberry bushes growing out of it!

Ian Zaur: Pure Function Man. He's wearing safety orange barefeet shoes, a woolly poncho, and the camera backpack, complete with tripod. It's a look he carries off rather well!

Parts of the trail were regular dirt forest floor, but several bits incorporated the roots of trees to be used as fancy staircases.

This is the Big Cedar Tree! It's tall as well as wide, but the topography made it impossible to get a better photograph.

Luckily we had the tripod and could take this prom-style photo overlooking a gorgeous grove of cedar, maple, and huckleberries!

How many Ians can you count in this picture? The Big Cedar Tree is partially hollowed out. It's big enough that Ian could stand up while passing through!

The next three pictures are from the inside of the cedar tree (taken with a flash). It was beauty in semi-decay.

After seeing the Big Cedar Tree, we headed to a place called the Maple Glen. It is very near the Big Cedar Tree as the crow flies, but it's in a slightly different ecosystem, and you can see the difference (even in just a few photos) of the topography and the plant life. Besides beautiful big leaf maples, the Maple Glen will eventually be home to a restored farmstead to give visitors a sense of what pioneer life was like on the Olympic Peninsula in the 19th century.

The Maple Glen is shot through with wide, flat streams and was positively boggy in places -- very distinct from the land around the Big Cedar Tree.

In addition to stunning trees, the auxiliary flora -- sword fern in this photo and moss in the next -- are also amazing!

This is a complex maple tree.

This long, straight, fallen tree will likely soon be a wholly useful and beneficial nurse log.


Here Ian gives a sense of scale of the root spread of a fallen tree. These are very big trees.

Big maples, cute picture.

Here I am trying to give a sense of scale to the girth of a fallen tree. I'm not as tall as Ian, but that's still a big tree!

This may be the world's best big leaf maple tree.

Looking up a big leaf maple at the leaves and the mosses. The moss weighs an almost unbelievable amount, but apparently it doesn't damage the trees.

Look at the size of that tree trunk! And with all the exposed roots!

I was there! With the sword fern!

Such a pretty place!

I think this is a tree that grew up around a nurse log that has since disappeared. This tree is very much alive, but it has a permanent space beneath it!

This is the stunning Hoh River Valley. The scale was much too big to capture, but it is wild and wonderful (much more so than West Virginia!).

Ian is beautiful, too.

Shelf fungi on a fallen tree.

We took a short walk late in the afternoon in the woods above and behind Lake Quinnault Lodge and saw more cedars, maples, and huckleberries.

The walk home took us past a cute little creek with a rather impressive waterfall, and we finally got a good view of at least part of the lake.

This is the main lodge at Lake Quinnault. I believe it predates its Depression-era counterparts in other national parks, but in some ways it is very similar. It was filled with families playing games on the lawn and basking in Adirondack chairs (in sweaters and fleeces). It was very charming.

Normally in our family, Ian is the Yeti and Hugo (the cat) is Sasquatch. But who could resist making Ian get behind a cut-out Sasquatch?

OK, I did it too!

It was foggy in the mornings, but the clouds burned off by mid-morning. It is a rain forest, after all!

The Olympic Peninsula is bounded on the west by the Pacific Ocean, and so we went to the beach for a short walk! The Washington coast is way more rugged than the Oregon coast, and it's also very pretty! The short walk to the beach from the road (incidentally, through the town where the Twilight movies were filmed) is deeply wooded. Ian spotted Indian pipe along the way!

The beach makes big trees and complex root systems, too!

The beach is pretty if chilly, and the number and shape of the rocks in the water is a little daunting!

Look! We have almost the same haircut!

We went through Sol Duc hotsprings on our way to Lake Crescent, and one of the guides recommended a short hike to a pretty waterfall. The waterfall was beyond pretty, and we had a wonderful time there.

After the elegance of Lake Quinnault, we found ourselves at the thoroughly campy and delightful Log Cabin Resort on Lake Crescent. It is right on the lake, and there were (again) a number of family groups who are clearly regulars there every year. It was lovely in a very different way from Lake Quinnault!

Lake Crescent is used more by vacationers than Lake Quinnault. There were always canoes, paddle boats, small sailing boats, and stand-up paddle boards running by the hotel.

Sunset on Lake Crescent.

Early morning on Lake Crescent. I woke up in the middle of the night once and looked out the window. The fog was nearly on the ground, but the moon was shining through, practically like a spotlight, on a place halfway across the lake. The play of the clouds and the hills and the water was breathtaking!

Our last big hurrah in the Olympics was a hike at Hurricane Ridge, home to Mt Olympus. We hiked up Hurricane Hill which was still pretty brutal but much easier (obviously!) than climbing Mt Olympus! We had a perfect day for it and saw all the peaks of the Olympic range. There were traces of mist in the river valleys below (this is the Elwha Valley), and lots of clouds over the ocean when we looked north towards Canada and the San Juan Islands, but we had lovely weather.

Here is Mt Olympus. It's basically two peaks and a saddle between them.

Mt Olympus with flowers.

Ian and the mountains!

These are other peaks in the Olympic range with a field of clover in the foreground. The wildflowers were amazing on this hike. The clover was scented, and with the flowers, the sunshine, and the views it made the hike a sensory overload!


After leaving the Olympics, we pulled off an extraordinary feat of multi-family organization. Ian and I drove to the Anacortes ferry to San Juan Island. There we met his parents who arrived on the pedestrian ferry from Seattle about an hour before we got there. Finally, Ian's brother and his family drove in from Idaho and got the ferry after ours so we all ended up together in a place none of us had ever been within about three hours. It was a great kick-off for a family vacation!

We took a short walk along the beach and the bluffs at Cattle Point on the southeastern tip of San Juan Island. Compared to the rest of the island, Cattle Point is practically arid, and its vegetation is almost completely different. This is looking east.

This is the view from Cattle Point straight out the Strait of Juan de Fuca towards the Pacific.

Poppies by the beach with driftwood in the background

Limpet shells!


Baz on the bluffs!


Ian, Molly, and Veda

Molly and Paige

Paige and Veda

Molly and Veda

There were lots of thistles growing at Cattle Point!

And my Scottish blood loves taking pictures of thistles.

One day we went on a whale watching excursion! We followed two transient orcas up the eastern side of San Juan Island while they rested.

The easiest way to spot ocean wildlife is to look for the boats cruising slowly along, all in the same direction....



Veda, Molly, Baz

We took another day trip to English Camp on the western side of the island. The San Juans changed hands between the United States and Great Britain several times during the 19th century until they finally ended up as part of Washington state. The walk we took wound its way through a grove of madrones trees; they were peeling in a most fascinating way!

Another madrone tree

Veda in the field at English Camp

Baz and Molly, photo by Veda

Paige, photo by Veda

We took a nice family photo at Lime Kiln State Park on the western side of the island.

While there we saw a bright purple starfish and a bunch of seals!

We also saw unnatural ocean life: lots of big tankers moving up the straits.

We all got ice cream at the end, and Ian found his next pet!

Back at the rental house, Baz kept busy training for the basketball season. Check out the look of concentration on his face!

Finally on the last afternoon there, we found a cold but ostensibly swimmable beach! It was very nice to be by the water for a while!