For me, 2014 started at a full-out, month-long sprint. I’ve told you about my time with Jon (Jauncy) in the Southwest and now I will finally post about my travels with Hannah to the Pacific Northwest.
So, after the Grand Canyon, Jauncy and I headed back home and arrived in Nashville on Sunday. The following Thursday Hannah and I would be going back to the airport to fly to Seattle. One peaceful night’s sleep was all I got before going back into travel mode. Looking for the cheapest car rentals, snowshoe rentals, checking road conditions in the parks, campsite availability, renting a tent and ground pads, and other reservations and things that we needed. After battling through rush-hour traffic, we made to the airport in time for our 6:30 flight. It was only days prior that I was in this exact terminal and I was thrilled to be back here about to leave on another trip. Hannah and I got to the terminal and sat down in front of a girl struggling to fit a Mumford and Sons vinyl album in her backpack. I complimented her on it and as I never seem to meet a stranger, we started talking and she told us she was from Seattle. Hannah and I both perked up and had her tell us all about the weather, things to see and do, and places that are a must-see while there. She was very proud to be a Seattleite and got us even more excited to see this part of the US. With a quick touch down in Chicago, we arrived to our destination around midnight. The first rental car we were given keys to was a car that was slightly larger than a Smart car. We just looked at the car for a minute and decided there was no way this would make it in the weather we had been warned about. We settled on a 2013 Toyota Corolla and so the trip began…to a late night run to a 24-hour Subway. The next morning started early as we made our way into downtown Seattle. We walked down Pike Street (for all you coffee drinkers, this is the home of the world’s first Starbucks and the origin of its Pike Place Roast) right into the Pike Place Market (one of the oldest public farmers’ market in the United States). Seattle was an incredible city, and so was its people. After an eventful day in Seattle we picked up tire chains and snowshoes and headed two hours west to the Elwah campground for our first night in Olympic National Park. It felt like we were driving into a haunted forest. All of the trees had moss hanging from their limbs and in the moon’s light it was ominous and very creepy. It wasn’t until the next morning that we realized how beautiful this place truly was. We left the campsite headed for Hurricane Ridge. I’ll let the next few pictures speak for Hurricane Ridge.
Hannah excited about snowshoeing.
In the background is Mount Olympus and other Olympic peaks.
At the top of Hurricane Ridge looking into Canada
We saw a multitude of colors from the sky as the sun set on the way back
Actually, that was really easy so I think I will just turn this post into a picture blog . That way, I can start posting updates about actual Peace Corps stuff.
Hurricane Ridge is probably one of the top five hikes of my life. After this hike we headed to the Sol Duc campground:
The next morning we did a short hike to the Sol Duc waterfall
The moss hanging from the trees is so eerie. Imagine setting up camp at night under this
We found our later that this was a small tree
If it were the right season, I bet we could have seen a bear fishing for salmon upstream from the falls.
After this short hike we doubled back to Lake Crescent and then on to the Pacific coast:
Lake Crescent was beautiful
For any Twilight fans, we drove through and had lunch in Forks–apparently this is the place where the Twilight movies took place. This small town really must have gotten their claim to fame from this because no one mentioned Forks without mentioning Twilight. Our first stops along the coast were at Rialto Beach, Second Beach, and Ruby Beach:
In the background are sacred Native American burial grounds
Hannah swimming in the ocean of drift wood
We found a starfish!
We camped here and had a sunrise fire on the beach
After our first successful fire on the beach that morning–it’s hard making a fire in a rainforest–we headed to the Hoh Rainforest:
The Hoh rainforest was home to the big trees. Hannah is standing at the bottom of this 275 ft, 550-year old Sitka spruce
Life literally thrived on every inch of this rainforest
Holding maybe 100 years of history
Hannah felt like she was walking through Jurassic Park
Our next big destination was Mount Rainier. Hannah noticed that we weren’t too far away from Portland, OR and Mount St. Helens so…that’s what we decided to do.
We set up camp in a small town near Mount St. Helens. There were a dozen elk near where we wanted to set up the tent and Hannah was so amused that I was a little scared that they would decide to attack or something. It was a little irrational, but whatever. The next morning we had a short drive up to Mount St. Helens:
The volcano devastated the land but it is now teeming with life
Hannah climbing into a tree mold
Snowshoeing on Mount St. Helens
Great hike on Mount St. Helens and we were off to Portland, OR. We spent the day in Portland and then headed straight to Mount Rainier. Portland was a strange city. Some highlights were Powell’s Books–the largest independent book store in the world, Washington Park where you could see Mount Hood in the skyline of the city, and Voodoo Doughnut. I like how bike friendly it was.
The view of the north side of Mount St. Helens from Mount Rainier
I was exhausted at this point. Seeing how far away these people were in front of us going to the top, I didn’t want to go any further
Hannah kept pushing for us to make it to the top, though. And we did. It was straight up. I felt like I was climbing up a ladder the entire way, but we made it. And the view was well worth it.
What Hannah didn’t realize is that when you climb up something that steep, going back down is the bigger challenge. I’ve never seen anyone so afraid of walking as she was. I thought I was on this cliff watching Bambi learn how to walk in the snow for the first time. We walked around this ridge while people the size of ants gathered at the bottom to watch us figure out how the heck to get back down. I felt a little embarrassed because of how goofy we must have looked trying different ways to get back down and none of them working. Hannah ended up slipping and screaming because she thought she would slip and slide over the cliff (she wasn’t even close, but her pure terror made me afraid for her). So, we had to find a different way off because it was true, we probably would’ve died trying to go back the same way. We eventually found our way to a somewhat less steep slope and crawled down backwards on hands and knees.
When we got to the bottom, Hannah booked it back to the car. We were both exhausted
Our bodies were pretty worn out from the past week of hiking, camping in the cold, driving, and less than nutritious diet of peanut butter, chocolate and cans of soup. The final destination of our trip was to the Goldmeyer Hotsprings. This was the real deal! It was a primitive hotspring in the mountain. It was a three-hour drive down a fourteen mile road. The road had pot-holes big enough to hide a small child in. It was hellacious. After the drive, it was a 4.5 mile hike to the Goldmeyer campground and then another half mile hike to the actual hotsprings. It was everything you could ever imagine a natural hotspring to be. There was a cave that went back about twenty feet into the mountain where the source of the water was. This cave was walled off to where it filled to about four feet deep and 118 degrees at the back of the cave. This water spilled over the wall into a pool where it gathered and was about 108 degrees. This spilled into a third pool that was around 100 degrees. The outside temperature was 30 degrees and below while we were there and we were in the middle of the woods with a waterfall beside us. It was magnificent.
All in all, this trip was perfect. We saw everything we wanted to see and more. We experienced more than a lot of people get to see so for that we are both fortunate and thankful. I hope to make it back to this part of the US again one day. Play time is now over and I’m back in Knoxville working on PC stuff. Less than four months until I’ll be Lesotho-bound!
Bye from Jody and Hannah!