Sunday, July 27, 2014

Double Visits to Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge, which is named for frequent strong winds there, is the most beautiful place within Olympic National Park on any clear days.

When we entered Olympic National Park from port Angeles, we drove straight to Hurricane Ridge despite the cloudy sky. As we got off the car at Hurricane Ridge, the sky was grey, the wind was blasting, and it was freezing cold. We had to retreat into the car and put on jacket or heavy sweater  - we were prepared for this.

The weather changed so fast that when we arrived at Hurricane Hill trail head, the cloud broke a bit, and the Olympus Glaciers were revealed partially. The Glaciated Peaks were still covered by dark clouds, but the Sun shone on Hurricane Hill trail, which is an easy trail with a lot of flowers along its path. We saw a marmot far away in the valley, and a deer near a puddle and by pine trees - quite a picturesque view.

As we were approaching the peak of Hurricane Hill, it started drizzling and drizzle turned into light rain - we were prepared for this as well - we put on raincoat and marched on. When we reached the peak, we were in the clouds! We could barely see anything 50 yards way, but we were greeted by two marmots by the snow on the northern slope.

The first visit to Hurricane Ridge was interesting and pleasant but with disappointment since we did not see the real beauty of Olympus Glaciers.

subalpine flower
Slope by Hurricane Ridge

A deer in the valley by Hurricane Hill
Marmots at the top of Hurricane Hill
Our last full day at Olympic National Park was a gloriously beautiful day! We decided to visit Hurricane Ridge for the second time first thing in the morning before going to the coast.

The snow covered Olympus mountain range, blue sky, green trees, bushes and light breeze - how  beautiful and pleasant it was. After days of hiking, we took it easy this day to enjoy the vista, walking leisurely on the meadow loop trails by the visitor center. 

Hurricane Ridge is surrounded by glaciers from southwest, to south and to southeast, Port Angeles and Strait of Juan De Fuca to the north. Come and go white clouds, a family of deer mulching on the southern slope of Hurricane Ridge, wild flowers around the meadow and on the slops along the trails, ... we lingered, mused and immersed in this wilderness paradise. A planned couple hour visit prolonged into a full morning enjoyment.
Olympus Glacier
on Hurricane Ridge's meadow loop trails
View of Glaciers from High Ridge
Mom and Baby Deers

Glacier Lily
Clouds moving in from northwest
Connection to Heaven

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Seastacks at Olympic Coast

The first time we saw seastacks in person was at pacific coast near Olympic National Park's Lake Ozzette area. A peculiarly shaped island prominently stood offshore by itself - a seastack!  Looking around, closer to the shore, there were a group of seastacks to the north of this seastack, and a few more to the south of it.

We stood in the rain for 5 to 10 minutes by the shore listening to the pounding waves, looking at the mysterious seastacks. Right at the time we were leaving, the cloud broke, the sun came out, we went back to the shore and lingered around for 5 more minutes before hiking back to the parking lot 3 miles inland.

A seastack at the pacific coast near lake Ozzette
It was a gorgeous sunny day at Olympic National Park the last day we stayed there. We went to the coast in the afternoon to visit the famed first , second, third and Rialto beaches.

What a view the seastacks provide under blue sky !

Seastack at first beach
Rocky shore near first beach
Seastacks at second beach
Seastacks exactly as officially defined
Those seastacks in the haze were more mystifying - like land forms from another planet. They amazed us, and made us wonder, lose ourselves in our imaginations.

Seastack is a geological landform consisting of a steep and often vertical column or columns of rock in the sea near a coast, formed by erosion. The nature has been shaping them for millions of years!

stroll on third beach
giant drift logs - another work of nature
Rialto Beach
Hole-in-the-wall on a seastack

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Trip Itinerary for Olympic and Mt Rainier National Parks

Olympic national park is famous for its three ecosystems (sub alpine, rain forest and coastal) in one park. Mt Rainier is the beautiful highest volcano in US. Both Parks are  close to Seattle, Washington; Olympic is northwest to Seattle while Mt Rainier is southeast to it. So we visited these two parks  in one trip.

Day 1 

Fly to Seattle - Tacoma from DFW via Alaska Airline which has a hub at Seattle-Tacoma

Had dinner with families of Lily's college friends.

Stayed at a hotel at Edmond for easy access to a ferry

Day 2

Take (car) ferry from Edmond to Kingston. Drive to Port Angeles

Visited Hurricane Ridge in late morning; Kayaked on Lake Crescent late afternoon

Dinner at Log Cabin Resort Restaurant

Stayed at Log Cabin Resort (lake front room) which is within Olympic National Park

Day 3

Bird Watching in early morning (Allan only)

Visit  Sul Duc: hiked Sul Duc Fall trail, Mink Lake Trail 

Went to Lake Ozzette in the afternoon - coastal area

Dinner at Hungry Bear

Day 4 

Hoh Rain Forest - Hall of Moss, Hoh River trail (partial)

Dinner at Pacific Pizza

Day 5

Revisit Hurricane Ridge in the morning due to beautiful weather in the morning

Went to Coast in the afternoon  - 1st, 2nd and 3rd beach 

Visited Rialto Beach later

Dinner at Lake Crescent Resort Restaurant

Day 6

Leave Olympic in the morning via Ferry (Bainbridge to Seattle)
Visited Space Needle, lunch at Star Bucks Center food truck at Justin's request

Drive to Mt Rainier - fill gas tank at Ashford (no gas station inside Mt Rainier), stopped at a couple water falls on the way - Narada Falls, Christine Falls

Arrived at Paradise Inn (elevation 5400 ft) around 5:30pm - dinner at visitor center Deli

Hiked on Nisqually Trail to get closer to Mt Rainier Glaciers

Stayed at Paradise Inn 

Day 7

Reflection Lakes

Box Canyon 

Sun Rise Point (elevation 6400 ft) , Sun Rise Lake, Clover Lake trail

Hiked to First Burroughs Mountain 

Dinner at Paradise Inn Restaurant 

Ranger Program

Nick and Justin played chess

Day 8

Went to lower elevation

Grove of Patriarch Trail, Silver Falls Trial, lunch at trail head picnic table 

Hiked on Bench lake and snow lake trails

went back to hotel early to rest a bit

Dinner at Long Mire National Inn

Suspension Bridge and Shadow lake trail

Ranger program at night

Day 9 

Leave Mt Rainier in the morning for a 1pm flight home from Seattle - Tacoma Airport


1. Weather changes fast at Olympic, rain comes down frequently - need to have rain coat or umbrella
2. Need both flexibility and patience to enjoy Olympic and Mt Rainier 
3. No TV or cellphone signal at Mt Rainier
4. Typically need to bring lunch to hiking trails

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Mt Rainier

Mt Rainier is the highest volcano and 5th highest mountain in continental USA. We visited Mt Rainier last week and saw many faces of it from many angles and different weather conditions.

Our first glimpse of the magnificent mountain was from a ferry when we traveled by car from Olympic park to Seattle. Although the mountain peak is about 100 km from Seattle, it towers everything in sight, even from the Space Needle - another landmark in Washingtonian state.

View of Mt Rainier from a ferry
View of Rainier from Space Needle
Most time Mt Rainier is under the cover of clouds. We were lucky that on the late afternoon arrival at Paradise Valley in the Mt Rainier National Park that it was clear and the glaciated Mountain was there for us to see and admire.
Mt Rainier
We stayed inside Mt Rainier National Park for 2 more full days. Our first morning at Mt Rainier was a cloudy one with dense fog, and we could not see the summit of Mt Rainier at all. We had a relative late breakfast at 8 am, and left the lodge around 9 am for Sunrise point which is 51 miles away from Paradise valley - hoping that the cloud would break later. Lucky for us again, as we approached reflection lakes, the cloud started to break open. We waited for half an hour or so and our patience paid off - the cloud broke away with only a piece of cloud at the summit - like a white hat to Rainier. The wind was at a right angle such that one of the lakes had a mirror flat surface to reflect the mountain.
Reflection Lake
Sunrise point is 1000 ft higher than Paradise Valley, at 6400 ft elevation. We arrived there around 12 pm - the mountain was covered by cloud again - so we went for lunch first after a short hike on clover lake trail.

It was blue sky with white cloud again when we were ready for more hikes and more views of Mt Rainier. We first took on the Sunrise Nature Trail through snow covered subalpine meadows for breathtaking views of Mount Rainier and the Cascades Range. Follow the Sunrise Nature Trail to the ridgetop to frozen lake, then head west on the Sourdough Ridge Trail to first Burroughs Mountain trail to reach the tundra - close to the foot of the summit - reach elevation around 7000 ft. The surrounding mountains were below our feet! The Emmons glacier was right in front our eyes.
 Mt Rainier viewed from east 
on the frozen lake trail
Emmons Glacier (left hand side)
The second morning at Mt Rainier started with even denser fog. The mountain was invisible most of the time. We went down 1000 ft  to the Grove of Patriarch trails and Silver Falls trail. After lunch break at trail head picnic table, we drove to snow lake trail.

Until after dinner at National Inn's restaurant at Longmire, the cloud broke just a bit. Mt Rainier revealed itself behind the veil of clouds

Veil of Clouds for Mt Rainier
View of Mt Rainier from Longmire Suspension bridge
Mt Rainier 's image was constantly changing as we viewed it from different directions, various elevations and under constantly changing weather conditions.

An active volcano, the most glaciated peak in the contiguous U.S.A, Mt Rainier is an icon on the horizon, a great wilderness.


1. Best time to visit Mt Rainier would be mid July to August (we were a bit early - but luck out weather wise)
2. Best lodging would be at Paradise Inn where we stayed. Sunrise Lodge has limited rooms, but would be great to stay there for a night to watch sunrise.
3. It would be great to camp inside the park
4. There are much more in the park other than the Mt Rainier - water falls, glacier lakes, meadows, flowers, birds and wild life.