Health, Hiking, Humor, National Parks, Travel

Hoh Rainforest in the Olympic National Park Tips

Among the Giants

Journey with me to Olympic National Park to the Hoh Rainforest as we explore this plush green wonderland.

The Mighty Quinault Lodge

I decided to make it a two-night trip. I had always wanted to see and possibly stay at Quinault Lodge, made popular by the book Snow Falling on Cedars. It seems like a mystical place. When I called to book a reservation for the trip dates, I couldn’t get a reservation for both nights, only one. I didn’t want to break up the trip so I checked further north and I happened upon the Kalaloch Lodge. It was about the same price and on the beach although I picked a unit that did not have an ocean view. My husband really does not like that, but the room was cheaper and the bed looked more comfortable than the ocean view unit pictured on the website. Sometimes the pictures are helpful and sometimes they are not. Usually, the pictures make everything look better. It’s funny how you don’t know what a location is really like until travelling there yourself and experiencing it.

We did, however get to stop at Quinault Lodge and it was rather stately. I loved the main part of the lodge that had a fireplace and comfortable chairs that looked like you could curl up and read a book and sip hot cocoa or tea and look up every-so-often and reflect on the ambient light in the room.

Ruby Beach

We stayed a short time and then headed to our destination. When we first arrived out room was not quite ready, so we took a short drive to Ruby beach. I guess the rocks on the beach look like rubies when reflected by the sunlight during a certain part of the day. The north has a different type of feel. It feels beautifully desolate and a little forlorn. We spent a short time there and actually decided head further north to the Hoh Rainforest to catch the late afternoon sunlight. I have anticipated taking this trip for a long time and the forecast called for rain. I really wanted to see the abundant mosses in the sunlight.

It took about a half hour from Ruby Beach to get there. The entrance is pretty nondescript. When you turn into the entrance, it is another 12 miles or so to the entrance booth. We arrived around 4:30 pm and the visitor center closed at 6 pm. We presented our Discover Pass which we purchased online that week. The park ranger said we needed an America the Beautiful pass which was good for all U. S. National Parks. The Discovery Pass is good for all Washington state parks. The parks system can be confusing at times. Surprisingly, since my husband is now a senior, we ended up purchasing the America the Beautiful pass for $20 and it is normally $80. We were able to purchase it at the booth, thankfully.

Hoh Rainforest

After passing the entrance booth, it was another 10 miles to the parking lot. We were treated with mossy tree branches sticking out like fingers wrapped in a mossy gauze. We parked, went into the visitor center to get a map and proceeded to the Hall of Mosses. It was truly enchanting. I fell in love with the pool of water before entering the Hall of Mosses. It reminded me of the Ophelia painting by Sir John Everett Millais. The pools of water are so clear and inviting to look at just like in the painting. I could stare at the pools all day. I imagine myself laying in the pool (alive, of course) just contemplating life. That is originally what I thought the women in the painting was doing.

We were able to make it through the Hall of Mosses with time to spare. There is another trail, and I didn’t want to rush, so we decided to come back the next morning. The park ranger mentioned that it is best to come in the morning, especially since it would be the weekend and a holiday weekend to boot (Memorial Day weekend).

Kalaloch Lodge

We drove back to Kalaloch and ate a dinner of cold cuts, veggies and such. Tip #1 Bring your own food in a cooler. The lodge had a restaurant, but it was not open all hours and it was very expensive. We never ate there. A disappointment of mine – the lodge’s website that you would be greeted with a fire in the fireplace in their main building but we were not. I asked about that, but the desk attendant said they could start one but that would take a while.

We stayed in a unit which had several hotel rooms (not pictured). The majority of the property had cabins which were all separate. They have fireplaces which would be cozy.

Mosses and Banana Slugs

Back to the Hoh the next morning. We arrived before 9 am. It was very drippy and expected to rain that day. We took the Hoh River Trail and were the only ones on the trail for a good bit of time. The pine needles and moss underfoot padded our footsteps. The forest was quiet. The trail took us to the river and then circled back. Again, we walked through the Hall of Mosses and the Spruce Nature Trail. I like to capture scenery during different times of the day and in different lighting. It was so green!

I set my sights on finding the all-elusive banana slug, which can grow quite large. There is one pictured below from the visitor center. It was a little early in the season to see them plentifully crawling about the soft forest terrain.We decided to take the trail which leads to Mt. Olympus but it proved to be hugely muddy and impassable without the right footwear. Hikers before us, just observed a banana slug and told us where to look for it. It was not very big and this one was not very bright, but definitely a different shade than what I have ever seen before. I was excited about finally seeing one.

More and more people began to arrive and there were buses of people. I am glad we had the forest to ourselves at the onset of the day. We ate our lunch that I packed in the truck. It was beginning to rain. As we were driving out of the park, the ranger station was letting one car in as one went out. The cars were snaked back about a mile.

Tip #2 Arrive early to the park.

Rialto Beach

On our way home, we decided to take a loop of the Olympic National Forest area and return via I-5 through Seattle. I will write about that in an upcoming blog post. On the way home, we drove through Forks made famous by the Twilight book and movie series and then onward to Rialto Beach which was covered with washed-ashore tree stumps and logs on a rocky shoreline. Beautiful and mysterious at the same time.

Tip #3 Bring a winter coat. I layered with a t-shirt, sweatshirt, rain-resistant jacket, and winter coat plus I carried an umbrella. I don’t like to be wet or cold so I guess it depends on your tolerance level to the elements. If you are like me, you won’t be sorry that you came prepared.

There is so much to explore here, I couldn’t cover it all in one blog post.

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Health, Hiking, Inspiration, Lifestyle, Travel

Hiking Harry’s Ridge at Mount St. Helens Amongst the Summer Flowers

“I see you and you see me.”

Greeted by Magnificent Wildflowers

I feel fortunate that I am able to visit some pretty spectacular places living in the Pacific Northwest. My recent trip to Mount St. Helens (yes there is an ‘s’ at the end) proves to be a magnificent day. On the morning drive to Mount St. Helens, she (I like to attribute the feminine gender to mountains) is behind a shroud of clouds and I was unsure whether they would burn off before we hit the trail. The day turns out to be an all-day event hiking at Harry’s Ridge near Mount St.Helens amongst the summer flowers.

We entered the Johnston Ridge Observatory parking lot mid-morning. I laced up my hiking boots and we were off to check in that morning. The park rangers were welcoming and told us about the 15 minute movie detailing the eruption that took place in 1980, the year I graduated high school! I have seen the movie a couple of times over the years of visiting and I think they updated it a bit. In the short 15-minute film you get the gist of what took place but it is hard to comprehend the destruction of the blast. At the end of the movie, just below the screen, you are surprised by curtains sliding open to reveal the majestic volcanic backdrop.

A majestic display

Encountering the Blast Zone

I did not live here in 1980 but remember that we could see ash in the upper atmosphere in the Midwest. I survived the Mount St. Helens hike another time as well. I have climbed the mountain on another occasion right to the rim to look over it with a bit of trepidation to see the steam from the inner mound. The mound was continually increasing in size and still is! Thank gosh our party was safe. I wouldn’t want to be the Baltimore man that falls into Mt Vesuvious after attempting to rescue his falling camera phone. I understand that man was safely rescued, thankfully.

On this cloudy day you could clearly see how the blast carved out the mountain and surrounding land. When the sun broke through, remnants of blasted down trees littered the hillside like orderly matchsticks. Dead and decaying tree trunks congregate on the shoreline of Spirit Lake. Trunks from the snapped-off trees leave all manner of deformity jutting skyward,

Harry’s Ridge

The Harry’s Ridge trail hike took us about six hours roundtrip. It was a Friday and we were not alone on the trail. There were couples, families, and also quite a few solo travelers. It was comforting to know that there were other people to share in the experience. At the observatory there is a trail called xxxxx trail and this lead to a couple of other trails. In fact, you can hike all the way to Windy Ridge.

It was a cloudy day with many sun breaks (a common term in the PNW) and a perfect day for hiking and photo-taking hiking—not too hot, not too cold. The scape of the land has changed forever and it is interesting to look at. After 42 years, there is also new life abounding.

Get Your Elevation On

One of my all-time dreams is climbing Mt. Everest. I guess hiking and surviving each hike is one step closer to the dream. I am calling it a dream and not a goal. I am not sure, I want to risk my life climbing into the Death Zone on Mt. Everest, though. We had a 970 ft gain to reach Harry’s Ridge from Johnston Ridge. I wore my hiking boots and was glad that I did because there was a lot of loose gravel and sediment. When we climbed Dog Mountain, I wore old tennis shoes because they were lighter and the terrain is steep so I think it made it a bit easier. The only think is, I slipped a couple of times on the loose gravel there. I guess, I need to invest in some different gear.

Day is done!

Does Age Come into Play

I turned 60 this year. I have come to conclude that it is just a number. Sixty is the new 40, right? You get out of life what you put into it. I have had some sedentary jobs lately—the plight of the modern lifestyle, and need to get back into a routine of exercise. I do like working out at the gym but, in the summer, I like to be outdoors. Climbing in elevation gets the heart pumping and makes me feel like I have accomplished something.

When climbing to Harry’s Ridge, we followed a trail up and down hummocks, deposits of displaced land left by the blast, and through green groves (I am not sure of the variety of plant) and vast gravelly fields of wild flowers that were very sweet-smelling. I could not detect which flower was producing such a sweet, delicate fragrance.

I reviewed a flower guide and found some of the flowers that I photographed: penstemon, harsh Indian paintbrush, bramble, lupine, white avalanche lily, and what looked to be a wild lavender. I go gaga over wildflowers, and I feel like I can never take enough photos much to my husband’s dismay. He does have a point about not taking so many, but the reason I take photos is to share them.

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Health, Hiking, Inspiration, Travel

Dog Mountain Bliss Awaits As you Reach the Top

Finding your bliss

If you live in the Pacific Northwest or even if you have ever thought about travelling to the Northwest, take a look at Dog Mountain for your ultimate hiking adventure. If you are an avid hiker or even if you are not but would like a challenge, this could be for you.

If you happen to be here in the months of April through June, depending on the weather patterns, you will be greeted with an amazing display of wildflowers against an equally amazing backdrop of the Columbia River gorge and mountain views when you reach the top on a clear day. This year, we are having a late spring—and a rainy one at that. We lucked out on the day we climbed it. There was a threat of clouds rolling in but they arrived later in the day.

The hike is not for the faint of heart. I don’t do a lot of hiking but would like to do more. I am one that has a dream of climbing Mount Everest. I will be turning 60 this year so my time for doing that may be running out. After climbing Dog Mountain, it made me reconsider whether I may be living a pipe dream.

Transportation Options to Dog Mountain

A hiking permit is required to climb Dog Mountain on the weekend. You must reserve these online and they are limited. That is why we took the shuttle. I suggest that you take the shuttle from Stevenson, WA. The shuttle takes you right to the trailhead plus you get a free wrist band that allows you to hike the mountain. You can also drive and park if you have the Discovery Pass but parking is not guaranteed.

It is nice to get an early start to climbing so you can have a bite to eat from the lunch that you should pack. We only brought one container of water. Luckily, it wasn’t a very warm day. Always bring enough water! There is no bathroom at the top, so be advised to possibly ration your water intake or find a private spot to go, I suppose.

Decisions, Decisions! Which road to take.

There are two directions that are available up the mountain. There is the difficult route and the more difficult route. As we came upon the fork in the road and hesitated about which route to take, a young couple came by and encouraged us (or at least I took it that way) to take the more difficult route because it was more direct. We took the more difficult trail and it was pretty much a vertical climb all the way. We took it slow and steady stopping frequently to catch our breath and grab a sip of water. Along the way, I experienced many cleansing breaths, which are the type of breaths you get when you are running. It made me feel good that the younger people climbing also stopped occasionally to do the same.

My legs felt it on the way up but descending the mountain was harder for me and my legs were shaking. I did not wear my hiking boots and wore my old tennis shoes because I thought it would help since it was such a steep climb. I did OK going up but there was loose gravel and fell about three time on the way down. The first time I fell was at the top and a drone (which are not allowed there) probably captured my gracefulness as I waited for my husband to come and assist me to my feet. It was kind of embarrassing falling. Oh, well!

Do Research Before You Go

I poured over websites and googled information on the best time to go as well as the weather conditions which have been very unseasonable for the PNW this time of year. The morning we were supposed to go, we woke up to clouds and my phone said it was going to be cloudy. The location of the mountain was an hour away and I viewed the weather for that location which said partly sunny. It came down to my gut. Of course, I wanted it to be perfect weather and somehow it worked out to be just that. It’s only because it was the all-famed Dog Mountain and I wanted it to be perfect on my first climb. There are so many variables when hiking. I guess that is why it makes it so much fun.

For use of any photo on this blog post, please contact me for permission. Thank you.

We took the road less traveled.

The flowers were just starting to come on and I feel like I would like to go a little later to see the lupine and Indian paintbrush in full bloom. The abundant, yellow balsam root was magnificent, though! I felt like the hill was alive with the sound of music!

The map below from shows the green dotted line as the hard trail and the trail pictured to the right as the less difficult trail. The trail to the left is a little overgrown I’ve heard. It looks more wooded for sure. I had this idea of climbing Dog Mountain in the back of my mind for some time now but never really made the effort to do it. We did not see very many children on the trail. There were a few early teens but expect to take your time if you don’t hike frequently or the possibility of turning back if your child doesn’t want to continue. Of course, it didn’t help when a park guide said they saw a rattlesnake earlier and people were asking us on our decent if we had seen any. We had not.

I didn’t realize how extensive the website is. That is where I got the trail map. Check it out!

I know one thing—Dog Mountain has made me want to experience other hiking trails. Come back to this blog for another adventure we took recently.

Of course, what would Dog Mountain be without a dog or two hiking.

There were a handful of dogs that accompanied their owners. I asked a couple if their dog also experienced the same expenditure of energy climbing up a steep hillside. They seemed to think so. I suppose the dogs probably whether it better than humans.

Summer is here! Check out the latest gear for exploring the Outdoors Below. Click on the word hiking boots. Happy shopping!

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Food, Health, Valentine's Day

Green Valentine Smoothie

I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I have blogged. I have been working full-time and trying to maneuver my various blogs around by consolidating and reorganizing. We’ve been busy remodeling the house and I have been hanging out on Facebook–a lot!

I bought some ingredients to make a green veggie drink and the lettuce began wilting in the fridge, so today I got to it. I have never had pulverized lettuce before. I have used kale in smoothies and I have juiced other vegetables like carrots and cucumbers in a juicer.

I thought the flavor was good but the consistency was a little odd. I used apple and banana and it had the consistency of thick sludge. Supposedly, this green drink is supposed to be very good for your skin. I think I prefer to chew my lettuce.

Green Valentine Smoothie Ingredients

  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • 1 apple
  • 1 banana
  • 1 lemon
  • Celery
  • Coconut water

Health, Inspiration, Lifestyle

Let your Brain Relax with a Media Cleanse to Decrease Anxiety and Create Peace-of-Mind

Let it all spill out.

Now more than ever, we need to detach from the media, especially if you are feeling anxious. Most times the media just provides opinion and speculation and I always feel that I have to do my own fact-checking. I really don’t have time for or the desire for that.

We spend a LOT of time on our phones. Our smart phones keep track of so many things in our lives and we often carry it wherever we go. Many of us spend upwards of 3 to 4 hours a day or more of personal time on our phones. Just think of all the things we could accomplish if we didn’t cave to the little black screen.

Part of the obsession we have with our phones is that we often look for likes and retweets so that we can stroke our ego. Science shows that the dopamine boost we get from Facebook likes is the same as we get from scoring a jackpot at a casino.

Now would be a good time to take a break for a while since there is so much negative “news” compounded by a kind of vitriolic debate out there which could be the cause of increased anxiety. Here are some surefire ways to lessen anxiety that you might be feeling right now.

Eliminate the Temptation of Picking Up Your Phone

Turn off notifications on your phone unless it’s for work and you are required to have notifications on. We don’t need to respond to someone at the drop of a hat. You can set a time convenient for you to respond if you choose to. Move apps that open on your home screen so that they are harder to access. Leave your phone behind or if you use it to track mileage walked, take it with you but keep it in your pocket.

I never played into the social media game so much until recently. I figured I needed to jump on the bandwagon so that I could remain “social.” I do like getting a glimpse of other peoples’ lives on Facebook but it has turned political recently and posting your views is probably not worth losing a friendship over. Take a break for a week and see how you feel at the end of the week. Set a specific schedule and time limit that you will look at your social media each day and stick to it.

Some people have eliminated social media platforms. You can let your social media friends know that you have decided to change course. Focus on the relationships that surround you and for people who look out for your best interests. Life is short and social media can act as a thief of our free time and often as a thief of our peace-of-mind. You can go on an extended break or delete your account altogether.

If you have decided not to scrap social media during the pandemic it helps to maintain social contact. You can do that in-person while social distancing, having a conversation over the phone, or chat on Facetime or Zoom.

Set Accomplishable Goals

Write down some goals you have and then break them up into actionable steps to get there. Take time to dream about how you want your life to look or what you would like to accomplish. Even though we are collectively going through a pandemic, identify what you would like to accomplish in one week, one month, one year and five years. You may want to begin planning an overseas trip. You can open an account to save money for it, plan the cities and sites you will see or take an online or college course in a foreign language to help you prepare for it.

Think of Different Ways to Relax

Listen to music. I used to listen to music more and I often go through phases with it. The other day, I was doing a repetitive task and decided to listen to music on my phone using headphones. It really lifted my spirits and took me back to a different time based on what time period the music was from. It made the time go faster and I felt joyful listening to it. The only problem is that it was in a work environment so I couldn’t share it. This is a whole other topic but since we all seem to tune into our own individual music, it makes it more lonely since we don’t often share listening to music together.

Curb Screen Time Before Bed

Oh, and I am often guilty of this: viewing social media before bed, during the night and first thing when I wake up. Wow! How did my life lead to this? I use the argument that I am checking up on the news, especially since there are so many volatile situations going on right now. Keep your phone away from your bedside and allow for better sleep. The light emitted from electronic devices before bedtime makes it harder to fall asleep, suppresses levels of melatonin and can affect REM sleep and may reduce alertness the following morning.

We all seem to be in a bit of a slump lately but we need to wake ourselves out of it and create the life that we want even in the midst of a pandemic and a barrage of negative comments.

Now, I just need to follow my own advice.