outdoor adventures


Adventures in the Pacific Northwest

The full articles are found in chronological order in my blog, click on "read more"  to view the whole article.
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Deep in the woodland hills of the Northern Oregon Coast range can be found many hidden valleys with tumbling streams - the quiet of this forest realm broken only by the roar of many falls and the song of forest wrens. However, the unfortunate truth is that much of this country lacks protected status, let alone trails. One of the few exceptions to this rule is the verdant canyon of Gnat Creek, along which several miles worth of trails may be traveled - the star attraction of which is the small, yet impressive cascade of Barrier Falls. In season it is a cauldron of boiling white froth that dwindles to a trickle of crystal in the dry months of summer.



The art of humans and the art of nature - both unique and wonderful in their own ways- are found here in a misty valley on the shores of Willapa Bay. Not so long ago, this whole region was blanketed in virgin old growth forest, but now after decades of logging, nearly all of it is gone. Willapa National Wildlife Refuge protects what little is left, as well as forests that will now be allowed to grow until one day they may be as grand as they once were. 



I said it would be an easy bike ride followed by a short and easy hike. I said we would see hardly any people. I said these things to entice my teenage siblings up the Westside Road of Mt. Rainier to the Gobblers Knob Lookout, and even believed them myself. As we pushed our bikes up the long hill to Round Pass we were passed by many swift and unencumbered hikers – yet again my rose-tinted planning glasses had let me down. 



Tucked away in a quite corner of Willapa Bay may be found one of the last remnants of the titanic ancient forest that once blanketed the Pacific Northwest. It is a wonderful thing indeed that even this little grove of giant trees was saved, thanks to the efforts of local activists. Wander beneath these behemoths that have stood since before the dawn of the Roman empire, and imagine how it must have been to visit in the time of Lewis and Clark when there were trees like this everywhere.
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Mt. St. Helens is best known for its cataclysmic eruption in 1980, but on its southern flank lies the entrance to the longest continuous cave in the contiguous United States: Ape Caves. Many wonders may be found here in this tube formed in an eruption that occurred millennia ago; Giant caverns, natural railroad tracks, and even a giant meatball suspended high above the tunnel floor. Fellow visitors passing by lit the cave and formed startling light trails in the air as they passed. 
By allowing others to unwittingly provide me with illumination I was able to avoid the harsh light that would have been cast by a flash. What follows is a photographic journey into a surreal world of darkness and light.

Mima Mounds Prairie


The southern reaches of the Salish Sea are bordered by an ecosystem not typically associated with the Pacific Northwest. Here in a land fabled for its dense and dripping rainforests may be found vast prairies, though in the modern day they are not as plentiful as they once were. Mima Mounds is one of the few prairies open to the public in the region, as well as perhaps the most unique. For miles the terrain is made up of rank upon rank of rounded mounds, the origin of which is often guessed at but has never been definitively proven. Was it ancient gophers, glaciers, or bigfoot that built these mounds? Perhaps they are the barrows of ancient kings, their grand halls long fallen to ruin and decay. Whatever the cause it makes for interesting speculation as you wander through this strange landscape.
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Trip Report: Snowshoeing at Paradise


The frozen slopes of Mt. Rainier make for epic adventuring!
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Bench Lakes Trail

The fog lay over the lake like a downy blanket as I laced up my boots and quietly threw a few essentials into a rucksack. With the dim pre-dawn light to guide me, I made my way through the gloom to the trailhead. The sign showed four miles to Bench Lakes, and I had until 11 AM to get there and back again......... 
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Mt. Rainier Northern Traverse

Standing high above the White River, I gazed up at the looming heights of the Willis Wall, a vast snow encrusted cliff of black rock towering over verdant mountain slopes. Every now and again, a stream of ice would come tumbling down its flanks, adding to the frozen river that is the Carbon Glacier. Despite the magnificence of our location, the view was not so lovely as to lessen the trepidation brought on by the lateness of the hour and the length we had yet to go to reach that night’s camp. That our campsite was visible, only a few miles’ distance as the crow flies, did not lift our weary hearts. For though the waters of Lake James sparkled tantalizingly in the distance, between us and its azure surface lay the shadowy depths of the valley below. Read More.......


Wildflowers and Waterfalls in the Columbia Gorge
I’m an impatient hiker; I don’t care for the long wait till the snow melts and flowers bloom in the high country. When the first warm sunlight of spring breaks through the rain clouds of winter, I want to hit the trail, and not the dim forest paths to which I have been restricted throughout the winter. To get my fix of open air, wide views, flowers, falls and bright sunshine there is but one destination that beckons: the Columbia Gorge. Read More.........
Saddle Mountain

Ascend to alpine prairies and far ranging views atop Saddle Mountain, the highest and most northerly summit of the Oregon Coast Range.
Read more at seattlebackpackersmagazine.com
Silver Falls State Park

This is the time of year when most residents of the Pacific Northwest turn their minds towards escape. The damp, dreary months of winter bring thoughts of trips to Hawaii to the minds of cabin fevered lovers of the great outdoors. But I say, rather than run from the precipitation exuding from the sky and the land all around us, it’s time to embrace it. Resist the tourist covered sunny beaches, and head for the solitude of the rain forest. Forget an afternoon sunset watching ocean waves, and slip behind the cascading sheets of a raging waterfall. Abandon the glamour of a glitzy, full service, wallet-draining hotel, and discover the joy of a rustic log cabin with reduced rates and a tiny electric heater that feels better than all the sunshine in Hawaii after a day spent hiking in the drenching rain.
Read More at Seattlebackpackersmagazine.com
Coldwater Lake
The shimmering waters of the Fjord ripple below ragged, tundra-clad peaks, its waters lined by the stunted forest of the high arctic. The lonely cry of a Loon echoes across from a far shore and, seemingly in answer, a mournful howling sounds from the autumn-tinted copses of alder and wind-blown firs. Where is this rugged wilderness, you ask? Is it some forsaken corner of Alaska, accessible only by the most intrepid of bush pilots? Or is it, perhaps, one of many fjords in the troll-haunted wilderness of Norway, Svalbard, or Iceland? It is, in fact, Coldwater Lake, situated smack dab in our own proverbial backyard; an Arctic paradise created by the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Read More.......
When I was growing up, my parents would regale me with stories of their adventures in Alaska— particularly their accounts of glaciers, which they visited by foot, ski or kayak. I have since been enamored of these ice rivers, but most of my hiking has been done in Southwest Washington or in Idaho, where there are few easily accessible glaciers. I have seen them in the distance— on the slopes of Rainier or in the crater of St. Helens— but for the most part they have been too far away to make a deep impression. My quest to encounter a real, crevasse filled, blue tinged, rock crushing glacier finally led me to Heliotrope Ridge on Mt. Baker, where the awesome spread of the Coleman Glacier lay waiting. Read more at seattlebackpackersmagazine.com


    Hiking Harry's Ridge
  Is it the Alaskan tundra? The high moors of Scotland? No, it’s the desolate high country of Mt. St. Helens— seemingly barren from a distance, yet teeming with vibrant life when observed closely. Perhaps the best trail on which to experience the bleak splendor of the monument is the winding path to the top of Harry’s Ridge. Read More......


The weathermen were out to get us again. Just a few days before our planned trip to the Enchanted Valley, the forecast had turned from mostly sunny to solid rain and clouds for the foreseeable future. We awoke Sunday with barely 2 days of sunshine before us and no time left to get ready for a long trip. A split-second change of plans and 30 minutes spent throwing gear into backpacks put us on the road underneath the wobbling length of a borrowed canoe. Two hours later we had arrived at the headquarters of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, and with the canoe wallowing through the receding tide, crossed the channel to the wild bulk of Long Island. Read More.......

   

Mist rolls through the spreading limbs of the tall, silver Sitka Spruce trees that flank the verdant shores of a small creek, its tumbling waters hidden beneath the emerald fronds of ferns that fill every hollow of the forest floor. The low clouds embrace the rolling heights of the Southwestern Willapa Hills, where adventure can be found in any weather and at any time of the year.  Read More.....



Like the prospectors of old, I lust after gold. I leave everything behind in the endless hunt for “all that glitters”. But my treasure is no hard, cold metal-found in tiny grains amidst the pebbles of the stream bed or sequestered deep within the bowels of the earth. Mine is the glowing yellow shine of the waning day, filtered through the translucent needles of the alpine golden larches. Mine is the golden flash of scales deep within the azure waters of the mountain lake. Mine is the glow of golden granite, splitting the sky and lining the creeks. Gold is never found with ease. In the winter the landscape is buried beneath a shroud of snow. In summer, rainbow meadows blind the eyes with color. Only in the waning months of autumn is the gold rush possible in the North Cascades Read More.......







Pulling into the Bowman Bay campground after dark with the light of the full moon streaming through the trees, we discovered that Deception Pass had been appropriately named: on the Washington State Parks reservations website, our campsite had been portrayed as secluded, nestled among the bushes and trees-a great distance from any neighbors. In reality, our tent site was exposed and crowded beside similar sites, each occupied by a hulking motorhome, their windows shedding baleful light that overwhelmed the comforting moon glow. So tired were we from our 5 hour drive (which included the rigors of the Puget Sound rush hour), that we barely grumbled about our surroundings, and collapsed quickly into our sleeping bags Read More.......
            

The gentle patter of rain on the roof of a tent is a calming sound that lulls weary campers into deep and welcome sleep. Awaking to find oneself immersed in a small lake formed overnight by aforementioned seemingly gentle, but constant, rainfall is somewhat less appealing. Winter backpacking on the Olympic Peninsula can hardly be described as a comfortable or even pleasant experience, but when Cabin Fever descends during the interminably dull winter months that characterize Western Washington, an insane lust for adventure may seize the heart, and the mystery of the Olympic Rainforest offers ample opportunity to quench that desire.....Read More

                                     Lake of the Angels

                                                                         

Lake of the Angels is perhaps the most beautiful lake I have ever visited. Set in the Valley of Heaven amid jagged snow-clad peaks and verdant meadows this is a place of wonder. However those intent on visiting this Paradise should be prepared for cliffs, scree and scares......Read More



First published in The Longview Daily News

January and February are the months of cabin fever when I dream of the rainbow fields of the high country in summer, but "flowers" of another sort still bloom high in the Cascades. Born of eddies of the ice-laden gales, monochrome lilies of frost and powder carpet the slumbering meadows. Alpine firs, already twisted by the summer zephyrs, are rendered yet more Suessian by the drifts of winter. For those brave enough to venture into the howling winds and blowing snow, winter does hold its wonders..........Read More


First published in The Longview Daily News

Below my feet, the wooded slot canyon of Oneonta Gorge plunges to dizzying depths. A storm is blowing in and gusts of wind scented with autumn and tinted with rain fill the air with a rainbow storm of falling leaves. Loud with waterfalls; brilliant green with moss and ferns; bonsai trees clinging to the walls — the canyon is like something out of a fairy tale. This is only one of the many great trails on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge. Even in winter this is one of the top hiking options of the Pacific Northwest.......Read More


First published in The Longview Daily News.

I'm a dreamer. I dream of mountains, lakes and meadows, deep forests and high peaks. In the dark months of winter such dreams are sweetest. Backpacking adventures will grow in my mind. I make lists, draw maps, memorize guide books and glue my eyes to Google Earth. Most plans fade into oblivion; some stay and morph with time.
A recent expedition had been formulating since sometime last year — a five-day trip into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, introducing my family to some of the most beautiful lakes in Washington. Over time, other responsibilities and bad weather shrank the trip to four days, then to three, then two, until it finally looked to have disappeared altogether. But suddenly, midway into October, the clouds parted and the sun shone. The forecast was for freezing temperatures, but with the sunshine, we decided it was now or never........Read More

Exploring the scenic views of Utah

First published in The Longview Daily News.
Where was the tent? Only a few hours before we'd left it atop a southern Utah plateau covered in fantastic sandstone fins with views stretching all the way to the Sierra La Sal. Now all we saw were just a few scattered, lonely tent stakes. An English couple informed us that they had seen it blow past like a tumble weed. We later found it running with a herd of wild sagebrush and it took some effort to lasso the wild beast and haul it back to camp.
With all the fantastic beauty around us it had been all too easy to forget to properly stake the tent down and be reminded of how wild this land truly is.........Read More


First published in The Longview Daily News.
"Watch out for the hamsters!"
With this dire warning from a tourist, we started our hike to Palisades Lakes, and a paradisaical lake-dotted plateau in Mount Rainier National Park...........Read More

Exploring century-old Fort Columbia


First published in The Longview Daily News.

A century ago, Fort Columbia guarded the mouth of the Columbia River from would-be invaders, with fierce guns and a string of underwater mines that stretched across the river. The fort's massive fortifications and two old guns have been preserved in what is now a Washington State Park. With the deep-forest wilderness of Scarborough Hill above the structures, Fort Columbia represents one of the finest recreational opportunities of the lower Columbia River........Read more