Weekend in Olympic National Park

After nearly an entire year, I finally went hiking. I wish I could say that there was a good reason for not making the outdoors a priority, unfortunately I just let the time get away from me. My dad and I have been wanting to go camping for a while, so we took a long weekend and drove out to Olympic National Park to do some day hiking. I booked a small camper on Airbnb in Forks, WA (although I didn’t realize just how small it would be!) and planned to hit Mount Storm King and Sol Duc Falls/Deer Lake.

Mount Storm King

We chose Mount Storm King for the sweeping views and because the trailhead doesn’t require a Northwest Forest Pass – the parking lot actually requires no pass at all, which seemed to be quite the rarity. We left Forks and arrived at the Storm King Ranger Station around 9:30am. The lot was mostly full, but we were lucky enough to grab a spot as someone was leaving. This area provides a trailhead bathroom and there is a visitor center showing the day’s weather and trail conditions.

The first section of the trail is wide and largely flat, taking you through a tunnel and on to the signs for Marymere Falls. We figured we’d see how we felt after Mount Storm King and then consider going back and adding on the additional couple miles afterward. Oh, how unprepared we were!

After the turnoff at the sign pointing us up to Mount Storm King, the incline becomes much more pronounced and feels pretty similar to Mailbox Old Trail despite the numerous switchbacks. We took lots of breaks to catch our breaths – did I mention I hadn’t been on a hike since last October?! – and were unendingly grateful for the cool weather and shade the trees provided.

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Chenuis Falls (Mt. Rainier National Park)

My family was in town last weekend, and we ended up going down to Mount Rainier National Park for some much-needed time outdoors. We were initially going to hike up to Tolmie Peak, since that’s one of my absolute favorites in the park, but I didn’t plan ahead and we discovered that the last 5 or so miles up to the trailhead are closed off until June 28. The nice ranger at the turnaround point estimated that we could make it to Tolmie Peak and back to the parking lot in about 8 hours, but none of us were quite up to that challenge at 1:00pm in the afternoon. Instead, he gave us a map of the area and pointed us toward the Carbon River Ranger Station, where they suggested the 8-mile out-and-back hike to Chenuis Falls. We arrived at the trailhead around 1:30pm, and while there were a decent number of cars already parked, we saw plenty of open spots left as well. The bathroom there is standard, but clean enough. Don’t forget your parking pass (you can either use an America the Beautiful pass or the Rainier-specific one)! 

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Mount Rainier National Park

TLDR: Hiked with my parents, had questionable weather, mom attacked by a dog, made the weekend fun anyway.

This weekend, my dad and I decided to meet up in Ashford and do a few hikes near Mount Rainier National Park. We ended up convincing my mom to join too, and we rented a very cute Airbnb about ten minutes away from the Paradise side entrance. The plan was to hike High Rock and either Comet Falls or Pinnacle Saddle on Saturday, then drive through Mount Rainier National Park on Sunday and stop at various viewpoints on the way to and from Paradise Inn. Of course, things don’t always (ever?) go the way you plan.

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Hamilton Mountain

I decided to try Meetup for the first time following my last (failed) attempt, when I ended up on the wrong hike. This time, I was going with a small group down to Beacon Rock State Park on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. From our meeting point (transit parking at Tacoma’s Discount World), it took us about 3 hours to the trailhead parking lot. When we arrived around 9:30am, the first parking lot was already full. Luckily, there is a second, larger parking lot 0.1 miles up the hill from the first and we found many open spaces there. The road is well-paved and the parking lots are easy to access (and both have restrooms). Discover Passes are required to park in either of the two lots available near the start of the trail.

The start of the trail is wide and flat, and for about a mile it’s a very easy jaunt up to the turnoff for Hardy Falls. The trail down to the falls is steep and unfortunately, the falls were only a trickle this weekend–they might have been more impressive a month or so ago. Once back on the main trail, it’s a short distance to Rodney Falls and Pool of the Winds, which were much more unique. The Pool of the Winds (pictured here) requires you to climb up a rocky area at the fork, and there are guardrails for safety along the side of the edge. I saw several hikers debating whether or not they wanted to take the detour, and I made sure to let them know it was worth it (and that it was short!).

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Teneriffe Falls (Part Two)

Over a year ago, I hiked Teneriffe Falls for the first time and promised I would hike it again. Since my dad was visiting this past weekend, I decided to share with him one of my favorite waterfall hikes in Washington. Last week’s weather was such a nice reprieve from the dreary spring we’ve had so far, and my hopes were high that the forecast would be wrong about the weekend (it wasn’t). Luckily for us, we came prepared with layers and raincoats and arrived at the trailhead by 9:30am, where there were only around 10 cars. The new parking lot is one of the nicest I’ve seen, and has completely replaced the old lot, which has since been closed to the public.

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Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout

My friends and I had been planning to take a trip down to Mount Rainier for months, and this past weekend was much too beautiful to pass up the chance for a day hike to Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout. We started off from Kent Station at 7 AM, and the drive to the trailhead took about two hours. I’m glad I read the trip reports on WTA.org before making the drive, because I was able to anticipate the rough road conditions that started about 12 miles prior to the trailhead parking area. The road is very bumpy on the way up, and the dust can severely impact visibility, especially in the sun. I recommend keeping your headlights on the entire time, even if it doesn’t seem like it makes a difference–at the very least, cars around you will be able to see you better. Luckily, the road isn’t potholed, so even relatively low-clearance vehicles can make it to the top (although we did see one car that had punctured a tire and was being helped by the ranger). About 11 miles into the gravel road you will come to a pay station where you must purchase a $25 day-pass, unless you have an America the Beautiful Pass with you. When we finally made it to the trailhead, there were already quite a few cars lining the side of the road (you can only park on the left side, closer to the lake/trail).

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Teneriffe (Kamikaze) Falls

I did the hike to Teneriffe Falls back in March when it was much cooler, which I appreciated because the trail is uncovered for much of the way up to the falls. At the time, the parking lot at the Teneriffe trailhead was packed so we made our way from the Si lot instead–it added on an extra 3 miles round trip, but made for a nice warm-up/cooldown. You are required to hang a Discover Pass on your dashboard at both the Mount Si and Teneriffe parking lots, so prepare for that when you plan your hike. This hike is 6 miles round trip, with an elevation gain of almost 1500 feet. While not exactly Mailbox, Teneriffe boasts its fair share of rocky terrain, especially near then end towards the falls. It also has what feels like endless switchbacks, although the views along the way make up for it. The end of the trail is clearly less maintained than the first couple of miles, so watch where you step because it can be slippery (at least, it was in March!) and gets worse as you get closer to the waterfall. Teneriffe Falls is gorgeous–it makes the list of my Top 10 Favorite Waterfall Hikes! I looked up at crystal clear water cascading down a sheer rock wall and just felt utterly small–I would 100% recommend this hike to anyone, and am looking forward to going again in the future!

 

An Afternoon Trek to Franklin Falls

One of my friends recently got into hiking and the outdoors, so we decided to plan a short, weekday trek to Franklin Falls after work. It was a rainy day, so we came prepared with raincoats, gaiters, hats and waterproof hiking boots. The drive to the trailhead was easy once we hopped on I-90, and after taking Exit 47 there was almost no traffic at all. We parked in the Denny Creek lot, but soon realized that there was no connecting trail that would allow us to get to Franklin Falls from that trailhead. Luckily, it was a short drive to the correct lot (the Franklin Falls lot is very well painted and is a quick walk to the start of the trail), where we hung our Northwest Forest pass and started trekking. The hike is very easy, coming in at 2 miles round-trip and a total elevation gain of only a few hundred feet. With its well-maintained path and consistent river views, the hike to Franklin Falls would be a great outdoors activity with children, although they may need some assistance navigating the slippery rocks near the end of the trail. Between the  raging waterfall and the waves from the river crashing up against the rocky shore, the view at the end was spectacular. I’m sure this hike would be just as beautiful on a sunny day, but there was something particularly Pacific Northwest about the fog hugging the trees and the looming gray skies. All in all, I would rate this hike a solid 7/10 if you want an easy jaunt to a gorgeous payoff.

Panoramic Views

The Meetup Mix-Up: Coal Creek Falls

In order to fully delve into the craziness that was today, I have to start at the beginning. I downloaded an app called Meetup a while back, which brings together all sorts of people with the same hobbies and interests. I immediately joined several hiking-related groups in the Seattle region, and quickly found a hike I was interested in–an 11.4 mile round-trip trek on Wright Mountain*. The hike is described on wta.com as being “a scramble up a peak near Snow Lake,” which is something I had never done before. The requirements to RSVP included traction (microspikes, crampons, snowshoes, etc.), trekking poles, pants that allow for glissading down snowy slopes, and being in good physical shape. Meeting all but one of these, I signed up and planned on buying snow pants, which I ended up purchasing the day before the hike from a nice lady on Offer Up (Burton DryRides for $80).

Fast-forward to this morning at the Bellevue Park and Ride where I found the crew ready to go. I confirmed it was the Meetup headed to Wright Mountain and we got into our carpool groups, but by the time we arrived at the trailhead, I was certain this group was not headed to Wright Mountain. The person I had asked at the Park and Ride must not have heard me correctly–I was on the wrong trip! I didn’t want to ask my driver to turn back, and I was definitely too late to join the Wright Mountain hike anyway, so I went with it (if you were on today’s SOA Coal Creek Falls Meetup, now you know the real reason my bag was so heavy!). So, if you ever do a hiking meetup, triple check that the hike you’re joining is the correct one. Continue reading