Iceberg Lake

It just wouldn’t be right to go to the backpacking paradise that is Glacier National Park without doing some hiking.  To that end we decided to hike the 10 miles (round trip) to Iceberg lake.  The trail starts near Many Glacier Hotel which happens to be on the opposite side of the park from where we were staying, a mere 2 hours drive over the Going to the Sun road.  There was a Ranger guided hike at 8:30 in the morning so we went for that.

flowersOf course, the scenery from the road was beautiful but we also saw plenty of animals.  A herd of Elk were grazing in a field and 2 Coyotes were hunting mice or rabbits or something.  When we got to the trail head, we were a few minutes late so the Ranger and the group had already started off.  Not a big deal, we’d just meet them on the trail.  We grabbed our packs and off we went.  First thing we see? A bear, just a black bear but only about 50 ft off the trail and very startling.  Then we caught up to the group about a tenth of a mile in.  The group with the Ranger was about 25 strong and included an 80 something year old man and his family.  He had hiked this same trail about 30 years earlier and was looking to see how things had changed (or remained the same).

Iceberg LakeAbout a mile in we took a break and the Ranger started a game featuring the local flora.  She’d tell the person immediately behind her the name of some wild flower and that person would tell everyone that passed the name of the flower.  Then she’d tell the next person… and so on.  It was fun!  There were so many different flowers, we cycled through everyone about twice and only covered about half of them!

As with everywhere we’ve been, the scenery was amazing throughout the entire hike.  The hike itself was incredibly rewarding and the lake was the prettiest lake this side of Crater Lake.  I can now say I’ve stood on an Iceberg for the first time, although Rachel was afraid to jump across the small gap of glacier runoff water to join me.  I have to admit, the thought it would get bumped and float out into the lake leaving me stranded was definitely there.

A hike back, another bear and a restful evening.  A great day in Glacier!

Red Bus Tour through Glacier

Since we were only in the park for a few days, we wanted to see and learn as much as possible.   What better way than a guided tour through the entire park on one of the old Red Buses?

st-mary-lakeWe struck out at 8:30 on the Crown of the Continent Tour with our guide Matt.  Matt was a nice guy who introduced himself as someone who’d grown up his whole life wishing he had a place in the backwoods where he couldn’t be bothered.  He told us that once he saved enough money that’s exactly what he did.  His place is 8 miles from the nearest telephone, 4 miles from the nearest neighbor in the winter and 1 mile in the summer.  He parks his truck and ski’s 2 miles into his house in the winter time because that’s as far as it’s plowed.  He has a generator for power but no TV, no internet and no phone.  I’m sure I could live that way if I had to, but I’m not sure I’d want to.  Still, it has a certain appeal.  I could probably write a whole post just on Matt so we’ll stop there.  There is an funny story involving Laura Bush though so maybe I’ll write that up some day.

The tour took us over the going to the sun road and back into Many Glacier Hotel for lunch.  It was amazing, and informative and the going to the sun road takes you through some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve ever seen.  We saw 9 of the park’s 27 Glaciers from the bus and countless Perennial Snow Fields.  Matt informed us that a glacier has 3 requirements.

  1. It must have a surface area greater than 25 acres
  2. It must be greater than 100ft thick
  3. It must be moving

If a chunk of ice meats some but not all of these requirements it’s considered a perennial snow field.  Yes, perennial because it comes back (or remains) every year just like your flowers.  Speaking of flowers, we got a glimpse of some of the alpine wildflowers while stopped at Logan’s Pass and they’re amazing!

goatsOn our way back through we stopped at a little parking lot just past Logan’s pass where the Mountain Goats hang out.  They were everywhere.  In the parking lot, on the walkways, on the rocks nearby, in the trees nearby, hanging out on the man made walls… literally everywhere.

The downside to making land like this accessible to the masses is you begin to affect the wildlife.  The goats are no exception.  Anti-Freeze is now a delicacy in their diet.  Don’t worry though, they can’t ingest enough of it to hurt them, remember… they’re hard core.   They live above 7,000ft 365 days a year, avalanche’s and all.

After the tour we cooked some hot dogs and pasta to end the night on a good note (full) and drifted off to sleep.

Spokane to Glacier

After a good night’s sleep in the worst hotel of the trip so far (seriously! we had to get maintenance to open our door after we left for 30 minutes for breakfast!) we headed out of Spokane, glad to be on the open road again.

Lake McDonald from Hotel RoomThe trip from Spokane to Glacier National Park was relatively uneventful save the giant bug storm we drove through in Montana.  It seemed bugs the size of your fist were hitting the windshield every 5 seconds or so and they definitely left their mark.

After arriving in Glacier we were greeted with a beautiful view of Lake McDonald from our balcony.

The Lake McDonald Lodge was beautiful, and reminded me of a miniaturized version of  the Old Faithful Inn.  I only wish they had these sorts of places in the Adirondacks.  Come to think of it maybe they could trade.  The Adirondacks could use these sorts of structures and the national parks (or at least the Lake McDonald Lodge) could certainly use some Adirondack furniture.  The chairs at the lodge fit in just fine but they’re crazy uncomfortable.

After dinner we just sort of relaxed and went to bed early, ready to take on the park tomorrow.

Seattle to Spokane

IMG_7413Since we still had tickets to the Aquarium from the City Pass that we wanted to use, Saturday we woke up and went straight there.  There is a section of the aquarium where you can touch the underwater sea creatures.  Rachel’s favorite was the Sea Anemone.  They feel sticky but only because they’re trying to sting you and your skin is too thick.

Washington ParkIn Pikes Place we picked up a few more OMG Peaches for lunch, grabbed the car and headed towards the San Juans.  We ate a picnic lunch and took a quick scenic drive through Washington Park.  Then we were off through the Northern Cascade National Park on our way to Spokane.

While on the way through the cascades we happened upon one of the most beautiful sights we’ve seen so far.  We hit Lake Diablo at the exact time the sun was falling behind the mountains and below the clouds.  This caused rays of sunshine to fall on the lake in a scene like nothing We’d ever seen before.

IMG_7676

We drove from there on to Spokane where we spent the night on our way to Glacier.

Mount Rainier and Seattle Harbor

Mount RainierFriday we headed out for Mount Rainier.  After seeing the mountain hovering over the city last night at sunset we just had to.  It took longer to drive there than we expected, a little over 2 hrs to Paradise but it was well worth it.  The scenery and the view of the mountain were fantastic.

We would have gone for a good little hike but Rachel wore sandals on this of all days…  So we settled for a short trek out to Nisqually Vista, an overlook of the largest glacier on Mount Rainier.  However; while walking along we crossed several snow fields and talked to a few people that were coming back.  Apparently the trail was covered with even more snow ahead, and since we weren’t prepared for trail hiking we headed back.  The views were did have, through the alpine flower fields was still gorgeous.

Seattle Skyline

After getting back to Seattle we headed over to the shoreline to take the Harbor tour that came with the City Pass.  It was very interesting!  The most interesting thing we learned was how Seattle got it’s name and how it first started.  As it turns out, Seattle was first settled on a peninsula on the other side of the bay.  When settled (in the middle of the summer) it was very pleasant, but when the winter came it was anything but.  After suffering for a period of time the native Chief Sealth and his people came to the aide of the settlers and helped them move across the bay where the weather was a bit subdued.  They wanted to honor him by naming the city Sealth but in their culture their name cannot be spoken after they are past and having a city named after him would not allow this.  To compromise they named the city Seattle, essentially an Americanized version of the chief’s name.

After the tour we were a bit tired so we headed back to the hotel and enjoyed a nice relaxing evening.  We watched Saving Private Ryan and said goodnight.

Seaside to Seattle

We woke up and got on the road from our cute little Boat Theme Room after a good nights sleep (read: we slept in).  Along the way we passed a sign for the Lews and Clark National Park.  We’d seen stuff all over with the Lewis and Clark names on it and we figured this would be the best place to check out.

Fort ClatstopFort Clatsop isn’t that great.  It’s pretty much a visitor center and remake of a 6 room fort.  that’s it.  Not really much to look at.  There’s even a sign that says the fort’s location is only an estimation.  However; if you’re interested in reading or listening to information about Lewis and Clark its great.  We watched a little video and then determined there was nothing there we couldn’t get elsewhere so we headed on out.

Randy and Rachel in AstoriaFrom there we were on to Astoria where we stopped at the harbor and headed over into Washington.  Hurray! we made it!  After driving for quite a while up the coast of washington we were bored.  Route 101 doesn’t really follow the coast in Washington like it does in Oregon and it’s nowhere near as scenic.  After a while we decided to head inland to Seattle and call it a day.

Almost into Seattle we got a phone call from Heather who was in visiting from Portland for the day and we decided to meet up for dinner at Johnny’s Dock.  It was a little pricey but the food and the service was great!  Liam even got a private magic show!

We said our goodbyes after a great meal and it was on to the downtown Ramada for the night.

Crater Lake National Park

deerWe headed to Crater Lake National Park early Monday morning from Bend Oregon.  To get there we took the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway which circles Mount Bachelor along alpine lakes and meadows.  It took longer than necessary, but we’re out here for the scenery right?  We saw great views of snow capped mountains, Deer (likely Blacktail, a sub-species of Mule Deer), old lava flows and beautiful lakes and meadows. If you’ve got the time it has to be the best way to get to Crater Lake.

Once we were through the byway, Crater was only about another hour or so.  Knowing that we’d be facing hefty prices for food and drinks once in the park (which were certainly confirmed, $9 for a cold 6 inch ham & swiss sandwich!?), we stopped at a convenience store and grabbed some snakes and liquid.

craterOnce you enter the park, the first view of the actual lake is about 9 miles in past a pumice desert and some beautiful scenes of snow capped mountains.  I knew to expect beautiful blue water, but I was still shocked when we finally walked to the rim and looked in for the first time.  The landscape in Crater Lake National Park is quite possibly the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen.  This is very cliche of scenic landscapes, but honestly pictures cannot do it justice, it’s just something you have to see to appreciate.

We drove the rim road stopping at several scenic overlooks, took a quick break at the visitors center, and took a short hike which we thought was going to lead us to a lookout tower.  Unfortunately, we missed a turn due to some snow on the trail and ended up hiking along the rim trail for a ways until we reached a beautiful overlook and realized we were on the wrong trail.  We spent about 4 hours in the park and then headed back to Portland.  I could have spent all day there (all week!) but Tess and Roger had to fly out in the morning so we had to get back to Portland so they could catch their flight.

On the way back we took the Rogue Umqua Scenic Byway.  Another absolutely gorgeous drive, although I was the only one awake to enjoy it.  We took no fewer than 3 different Scenic Byways on our short trip to Crater Lake, and we could have taken more had we really tried.  Oregon truly is a beautiful state everywhere you look.

Made from Fire, Made from Water

Steam Vents

Today was rather rainy, but does that stop us? never. Today we hit up Volcanoes National Park. After a somewhat late start, the first stop was the steam vents where you could see steam plumes rising from the crater wall. Unfortunately due to the rain we couldn’t see into the crater.

Next we stopped at the Jagger Museum which had some nice views of the crater, some seismographs and a lot of information about the Hawaiian fire goddess Pele. As we drove around the crater rim the weather changed many times. A few times it cleared up enough for us to get a good look into the crater. At these times we could catch glimpses of steam vents and sulfur scars in the crater floor.

The most notable vantage point was the southwest riff. This scar in the landscape was spectacular in itself but it also provided us with the ability to get close to the rim for some spectacular views. We then had the opportunity to walk across the steam vent fields to get to another viewing platform. Once we got there we couldn’t help but notice the sacrifices laid out, some even set out as whole meals, for the fire goddess Pele who is said to live in that particular crater.

End of the Road

Unfortunately the current lava flow is much too far away (approximately 5 miles) from the viewing locations. You can, however; see the gas plume forming as the lava meets the ocean. With any luck tomorrow the weather will be nicer and we’ll be able to see things clearer from the Helicopter. We couldn’t see the active lava flow but we could see the remains of the last lava flow to cross road. It made us wonder how often they need redo the road.

The next and final stop was an old lava tube. The entrance into the tube was pretty sweet, as it was mostly hidden by the lush jungle fauna. It was neat but there wasn’t really a whole lot to see. The roots coming through from the plants above were pretty cool. Beyond that If you are pressed for time this is skip-able.

After a big day in the park we decided to take a drive to Kona on the other side of the island to hopefully catch sunset and dinner. Along the way we stopped at several beautiful areas. One of which was a black sand beach. This was a must see as there are several different colored sand beaches on the Big Island, and it is our goal to see each of the different colors.

We arrived in Kona too late to see the sunset, and pretty late for dinner. We grabbed something quick to eat at LuLu’s and hit the road again to get back to Hilo and our hotel. Unfortunately the day took its toll and we had to stop several times to take a quick nap on the way home. And now as our heads hit the pillows of our hotel… we bid you adieu.

With Love,
Randy and Rachel.