Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Olympic Peninsula :: Freeing the Elwha - August 12th

Olympic National Park comprises a rather large area of wilderness, much of which is inacessible to the average person. On the northeast side is the visitor center, the campground, and Hurricane Ridge. U.S. 101 passes through the northwest tip with several short roads going into the park, and then on the western side is the Hoh Rain Forest visitor center and campground. There are also long, narrow strips of the park along the Washington coast with portions accessible along U.S. 101.

One of the short roads off of U.S. 101 on the north side of the park, west of Port Angeles, winds its way along the Elwha River and up to the Glines Canyon Dam.

My first visit to Lake Mills and the Glines Dam on the Elwha River was on September 10, 2010. At that time the water was gradually being released  to lower the lake level in preparation for the removal of the dam. The Elwha Dam, further downstream, was also slated for removal. I was curious to see what the area looked like after the dam had been removed.

Lake Mills was created by Glines Dam in the early 1900s - photo taken September 10, 2010

The Elwha River now runs through the site of the former Lake Mills.

The Glines Dam and Lake Mills - photo taken September 10, 2010.

Actual removal of the dam began on September 15, 2011 with an excavator sitting on a barge in the lake. Explosives were used when the canyon became too narrow for the barge and the last 30 feet of the dam were removed by a blast on August 26, 2014. A large crane had been used throughout the process to transport the concrete debris, which was then hauled away. To save money, parts of the dam that did not block the river were left in place.

The Elwha River, now running free, looking downsteam from the site of the dam.

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Becky Wiseman, "The Olympic Peninsula :: Freeing the Elwha - August 12th," Kinexxions, posted September 30, 2015 ( : accessed [access date])

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Iron Creek to the Olympic Peninsula - August 9th to 11th

Sunday morning (August 9th) I departed Iron Creek campground. I really wanted to stay longer but felt the need to get the windshield replaced. On the way to Interstate 5, I stopped at the Salkum public library. Like the library in Packwood, the library in Salkum is a public wifi hot spot available when they are closed. Both had good wifi even in the parking lot. I did a search for windshield repair in Olympia and came up with several, selecting the one that I thought would be easiest to get to.

After writing down the address and directions, I headed for Olympia. According to the map, Millersylvania State Park was on route 121 about 5 miles off of I-5 and about 15 miles from Olympia. I arrived there mid-afternoon and had a nice, relaxing stay.

Monday morning (August 10th), I left the campground about 8:30 a.m. and arrived at Auto Glass Professionals  within half an hour. Yes, the windshield would have to be replaced. Yes, they could do it today but not until 1 o'clock and it would take 2 1/2 hours.  Fine with me, I was just glad to be able to get it done so quickly.

I had some "chores" that needed to be done anyway. Grocery shopping. Laundry. While I was doing laundry, the van was facing south again, and that third "tendrill" extended about two more inches down the windshield then turned a couple of inches toward the drivers side. Simply amazing. I went across the street to a restaurant for lunch then went back to the repair shop at about 12:15, a little early but I didn't have anywhere else to go.

The repair was completed by 3 pm, a little ahead of the promised time. I was very happy to be able to leave the city before the evening rush hour. I found my way over to U.S. 101 and drove north for several hours before stopping at Dosewallips State Park near the town of Brinnon.

Tuesday morning (August 11th) I made my way toward Olympic National Park arriving in early afternoon at a campground just inside the main entrance (Hear O' the Hills). After getting a site for the nite I drove up to Hurricane Ridge. It's about a 30 minute drive, uphill, with a lot of curves. Terrific views but there was quite a bit of haze from a fire in the back-country though you couldn't smell the smoke. It's rather unusual to have a fire in a rain forest but the entire Pacific Northwest had an extremely dry summer as have many (most, all) of the western states. This fire was started by lightning the end of May.

I didn't take any pictures during these 3 days... but more to come in future posts!

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Becky Wiseman, "Iron Creek to the Olympic Peninsula - August 9th to 11th," Kinexxions, posted September 29, 2015 ( : accessed [access date])

Monday, September 28, 2015

Iron Creek Campground - August 5th to 9th

In previous posts, I've mentioned how nice Iron Creek Campground was but never said why. It's been more than a month now since I left and I still miss the place. What made it so special wasn't the big sites or the privacy within the sites or the fact that the sites were not close together or the very nice camp hosts. Sure, all of that was nice! But what really made it special was its location. It was situated in an old growth forest, alongside a river, and had a 2 1/2 mile loop trail that went around the campground. It was, quite simply, beautiful. It is one of the best campgrounds in which I have ever stayed. Ever. And one of my all-time favorite places.

My campsite at Iron Creek Campground.

There is nothing in the picture to provide scale as to the size of the tree and its stump but take my word for it, it was huge!

The only thing available to provide scale was myself. I am 5' 6" tall and I tried to hold the camera straight out so there wouldn't be any distortion. I'd say the tree was at least 5 feet in diameter.

Take another look at that second photo. Lying on the ground behind the stump is another fallen tree, shown above.  You can't see the end of it... I paced it off as best I could and counted 80 paces. At 2 1/2 feet per pace it would be about 200 feet long/tall. And it was just as wide as the other tree.

Moss hung off of the tree limbs and a small fern-like plant grew on the downed trees. It was as soft as down feathers.

On the southern side, along the river (which also ran on the eastern side), there was a wide variety of vegetation.

The golden rays of the setting sun drastically altered the appearance of the forest.

On portions of the trail it was like walking on soft sponges.

Dead and decaying tree stumps become home for new shrubs.

The five nights and four days I was there were, in some respects, magical. The atmosphere of the forest varied with the changing light and weather and depended upon whether you were on the river side or not.  Every morning and every evening I would walk along a portion of the trail, several times doing the entire loop. It was wonderful.

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Becky Wiseman, "Iron Creek Campground - August 5th to 9th," Kinexxions, posted September 28, 2015 ( : accessed [access date])

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Mount Rainier : Grove of the Patriarchs - August 8th

Each time I had come into Mount Rainier National Park, the parking lot for the "Grove of the Patriarchs," near the Stevens Canyon entrance on highway 123, was always full. But I arrived before 9 a.m. this morning and easily found a space to park.

Probably one of the easiest hikes in the park, the one-mile long trail takes you through an old growth forest, over a short suspension bridge, and onto an island in the middle of the Ohanapecosh River.

A short distance along the trail I came across this family "holding up" the tree. I offered to take a picture including the lady with the camera, but she said "No. We take this picture every year with the people in the same position!" What a fun thing to do, I thought.

I walked along the trail for a while with this lady and the lady she was with. They were from Nebraska on their way to visit friends in Tacoma.

This little girl was waiting for the rest of her family. She had been running around on the trail and apparently got tired. She gives some dimension to the size of the roots of the fallen tree.

An "artistic" rendering of someone crossing the river on the suspension bridge. The lighting was perfect for an instant!

I stopped at Box Canyon again. When I was here a couple of days ago the river was in deep shadow and barely visible. Here, on the south side of the bridge, it is 180 feet down to the river.

While on the north side, it is only 115 feet to the river.

At "The Bench" viewpoint after passing through Stevens Canyon. I sat here for over an hour just watching the clouds pass by, sometimes hiding the mountain, as above, other times exposing bits and pieces. And the cars. It was surprising to me how few of them stopped. And how few of the people in those cars actually got out of them when they did stop! The thing is, coming in from the east you don't even see Mount Rainier. And after going around the curve in the middle of the photo you don't see it either, unless you happen to glance in your rear view mirror at just the right time!  It was an interesting spot. Enjoyable sitting in the sunshine but quite cool when the wind picked up.

In the post "Travel Update... Glacier National Park" I mentioned that the windshield, on the passenger side, had been chipped driving through a construction zone in Iowa. One of the tendrils had been slowly migrating toward the rear view mirror. Upon leaving and heading back to the campground I noticed that tendril had lengthened to just beyond the rear view mirror into the drivers side. It now extended over halfway across the windshield. Earlier in the day it had only been about 8 inches long. And two of the other 6 or 8 small tendrils had also begun to lengthen, just while I was at the overlook. One was moving up to the top of the windshield and the other down toward the bottom. I'm guessing it was because Van Dora was facing south and the heat from the sun caused them to begin migrating. I couldn't feel any of the cracks, inside or out, but decided it was probably time to get the windshield replaced.

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Becky Wiseman, "Mount Rainier : Grove of the Patriarchs - August 8th," Kinexxions, posted September 26, 2015 ( : accessed [access date])

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Lava Canyon Trail - August 7th

After leaving Ape Cave I continued on up the road to Lava Canyon, my last major stop in the south side area of Mount St. Helens.

This sign, at the beginning of the Lava Canyon Trail, was almost enough to stop me from going but not quite. It warns of high cliffs near the trail along with smooth, slippery rocks. It states "The wisest decision you make here will be to stay on the trails and hike with great caution. Hikers have died in Lava Canyon because they went off-trail." Hmm. Okay. I proceeded. With extreme caution!

A description of the trail states "There are three sections of the Lava Canyon Trail distinguished by increasing difficulty. The upper trail is accessible and paved to a waterfall viewpoint. This portion is the easiest and leads you past a series of interpretive signs, which describe the formation of the canyon."

Looking down into the canyon from just beyond the end of the paved trail.

"Below the waterfall viewpoint the trail becomes more difficult; it is no longer paved and skirts high cliffs. This segment forms a loop, crossing the canyon on a 125-foot cable suspension bridge. The bridge provides spectacular views of the canyon below but may be unnerving to some hikers. The trail returns on the south side of the canyon, crossing a steel bridge upstream of the waterfalls and rejoins the paved trail." (The steel bridge can be seen in the photo above, just behind the lava rock.)

A little further down the trail, which was rather steep at this point and over slick rock with a bit of loose gravel thrown in for good measure. You actually lose sight of the river for awhile and then there was this...

The 125-foot cable suspension bridge. You can hear the river and see portions of it upstream but it is not really visible as you step onto the bridge. I was extremely happy that there was no one else nearby. It knew it would be quite bouncy with just me on it, I really didn't want anyone else crossing it at the same time.

With the camera draped around my neck and both hands on the side rails, I gingerly stepped onto the bridge. It swayed just a little with each step. Or was that just my imagination?

I tried not to look down but as I approached the middle of the bridge I couldn't help myself. I froze for a few seconds and couldn't move. The bridge was gently swaying in the breeze. Not much, but you could definitely feel it. All I could hear was the sound of the water beneath me and the rapid beating of my heart. Then common sense kicked in and I moved quickly off the bridge! Yes, I was shaking when I got to the other side. I sat for a few minutes, looking at the beauty around me and calming my nerves.

Then I went back out onto the bridge, oddly, feeling calm. I just had to get a couple of pictures!

Looking upsteam from (not quite) the middle of the bridge.

Looking down through the wooden slats.

A close-up view of a portion of the river, from the suspension bridge.

It was at this point that the lower trail, the most difficult, descends steeply into the canyon. You are warned "If you are uncomfortable with heights, this segment is not for you. Beginning at the suspension bridge, the trail crosses an exposed cliff face followed by a water crossing with a cable grab-line. A 30-foot metal ladder descends a vertical cliff providing access to the canyons deepest recesses and roaring waterfalls." Um, no. I'd had enough "excitement" for the day. They also recommended that you have a vehicle waiting at the bottom of the trail...

Back on solid ground once again, I continued on up the loop trail. A little more slick rock. More loose gravel. An uphill climb. Really not all that tough.

This view, from near the top, shows the river as it is about to drop over the edge.

The steel bridge. Crossing it was piece of cake after going over the suspension bridge!

The view from the middle of the steel bridge, looking toward the east.

The trail returned to the paved path and it was a short walk back up to the van.  I was on the trail for about an hour and 15 minutes. It was so worth the effort! It was a beautiful day with magnificent scenery.

On the way back down to Forest Road 25, I made one more brief stop. Shown above is the area of the lahar from the 1980 eruption. A lahar is basically a river of mud and water with the consistency of concrete. When Mount St. Helens erupted on the north side the heat melted the snow and ice and sent a huge flow down the south side, carrying with it boulders and downed trees.

The website of The Mount St. Helens Learning and Science Center is a wonderful resource with lots of photos and information on the eruption.

Another picture of Mount St. Helens from the south.

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Becky Wiseman, "Lava Canyon Trail - August 7th," Kinexxions, posted September 25, 2015 ( : accessed [access date])

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Trail of Two Forests - August 7th

This morning I decided to go south out of the campground on Forest Road 25 through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest toward Pinecrest, on the south side of Mount St. Helens. Forest Road 25 is on the east side of Mount St. Helens. The 10-mile stretch from Randle to the campground has some pretty rough spots where the road dips a couple of inches, was repaired, then dips again, oftentimes from side to side as well as lengthwise. From the campground to Forest Road 99 where you turn to go to Windy Ridge wasn't quite as bad but has a couple of rough spots. Of course, driving through the mountains meant that there were a lot of curves and hills to go up and down too. I was just a little leary of taking it 50  miles futher but the camp hosts assured me that it was a "good" road once you got past Forest Road 99. Thankfully, they were right!

There were several viewpoints of Mount St. Helens along the way with signs pointing out how the area had changed since the eruption. During timber salvage, the Forest Service left 1/4 acre to 5 acre plots untouched for wildlife habitat and soil enrichment. Noble and Pacific silver fir wre planted at high elevations where they naturally occur. Contractors harvest fir boughs for holiday greenery with the proceeds funding watershed restoration. Trees were planted among downed wood and standing snags. The fallen trees eventually decompose, helping to build soil. Native Douglas and grand fir, and western redcedar were planted on the valley floor along with cottonwood and lodgepole pine to add diversity. All of the trees you see in the above photo were planted after the eruption.

After about 2 hours, I stopped in Pinecrest at the visitors center and talked to the nice lady there to get a map and some idea of what there was to see in the area. She recommended a few "key" sites so off I went.

First stop was the "Trail of Two Forests," a very short 1/4 mile loop trail mostly on boardwalk. A sign at the beginning of the trail stated "You are about to venture through a land of lava, where images of ancient forest are captured in stone. You will follow an ancient lava river that spilled down the flanks of Mount St. Helens nearly 2,000 years ago... you will travel through both an old forest now cast in stone, and an emerald forest that has risen from the black basaltic lava."

As the lava flowed, it encircled the trees. The cooled lava encased the smoldering trunk and as the flow receded it left a raised rim of rock around the pillar of charcoal, which eventually disintegrated leaving the stone hole where a tree once stood.

Vegetation is growing inside some of the lava/tree holes.

If you were brave enough, had a flash light, and were small enough, you could crawl through one of the lava tubes! Several youngsters crawled through and said it was "really neat!"

The entrance to the lava tube.

A portion of the board walk and exit from the lava tube.

Next stop was  at the Ape Cave Lava Tubes. The short lava tube is about 3/4 of a mile in length and the other about 1.5 miles. Both are accessed via long metal ladders. I ventured into the shorter tube. It was a cool 42 degrees once you got past the entrance area. And dark. The walls of the cave felt slightly damp but cold and were quite smooth. There were several "rocky" areas to be traversed but nothing major. I don't particularly like being in caves so only spent about 30 minutes inside. I'm glad I went but it was enough for me.

Back at the surface I drove on up the road to Lava Canyon.

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Becky Wiseman, "The Trail of Two Forests - August 7th," Kinexxions, posted September 22, 2015 ( : accessed [access date])

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Mount Rainier - August 6th

It was about a 40 mile drive from Iron Creek Campground to the Stevens Canyon Entrance on the southeast side of Mount Rainier National Park but I really didn't mind the drive since the campground was especially nice.

Mount Rainier seen from the Box Canyon Trail.

And from "The Bench" after passing through Stevens Canyon.

A zoomed-in view of the snow-covered peak of Mount Rainier.

Louise Lake.

Reflection Lake. I talked briefly with a hiker from Ohio who was in his tenth day of hiking the Wonderland Trail. In my mind, that is an amazing feat! It is a 93-mile trail up and down and around Mount Rainier with a cumulative elevation change of about 22,000 feet!  It goes through lowland forests and valleys and into high alpine and sub-alpine areas. What an incredible adventure that would be!

Heading toward Paradise.

At the Paradise visitors center the mountain was playing hide and seek. The clouds moved quickly. Completely hiding the mountain for a few minutes then opening briefly allowing a glimpse of the mighty mountain.

I watched the 20-minute movie on the park at the visitors center, walked a couple hundred feet up one of the paths in the 60 degree sunshine. Yes, it was chilly, especially with the wind, but exhilarating. I didn't stick around long though and soon headed out of the park to my temporary home at Iron Creek Campground. It had been a beautiful day!

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Becky Wiseman, "Mount Rainier - August 6th," Kinexxions, posted September 20, 2015 ( : accessed [access date])

Friday, September 18, 2015

Mount St. Helens - August 5th

I arrived at Chinook Pass a little before 9 a.m. and was more than a little intimidated by the view ahead of me! I slowly ventured into the fog and eased my way around the curves and over the pass. It looked like the valley was filled with fog too but a little further down the pass and the fog lifted to tree-top height. Driving visibility in the valley was actually quite good.

The "plan" for this morning was to find a campground to stay in for a few days. I took route 123 south to U.S. 12 where there is a large Forest Service Campground (La Wis Wis). It was a nice campground but the sites were close together and it looked to be pretty full. I continued south on U.S. 12 through the town of Packwood and on to Randle where I turned onto Forest Service road 25, which goes toward Mount St. Helens.

Ten miles from Randle I "discovered" Iron Creek Campground, a fantastic facility in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. It was big with five loops and probably 150 sites. I picked out a site, paid the fee, and headed on up the road toward Windy Ridge and the eastern side of Mount St. Helens.

At Windy Ridge, I arrived just in time for the 2:30 p.m. Ranger Talk. She showed large, poster-sized photos of before and after the eruption giving a basic description of what happened on Sunday morning May 18, 1980. The above photo shows Mount St. Helens in the distance with the top 1,000 feet of the mountain gone. The main difference I noticed between this visit and the one in September 2010 is how much more vegetation there is and how much more greener it is now.

Spirit Lake with a portion of the trees blown away by the eruption lining the shore.

One area of Spirit Lake is nearly filled with downed trees.

A zoomed-in view of one section of trees against the shore.

Another view shows the section of Mount St. Helens that was literally blown away during the first few seconds of the eruption.

A portion of the "ghost forest" of trees left standing but with limbs and tops sheared off.  This is on the eastern side of Mount St. Helens. On the north side, in the direct path of the initial blast the trees were laid flat. I did eventually get over to the eastern and north sides during this visit but that particular day the sky was filled with a smokey haze through which the mountain peak was barely visible. See Mount St Helens :: 30 Years Later posted on September 13, 2010.

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Becky Wiseman, "Mount St. Helens - August 5th," Kinexxions, posted September 18, 2015 ( : accessed [access date])