Monthly Archives: November 2015

From Sea to Shining Sea: Olympic National Park

Marmot Pass in Olympic National Park

Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve made it.  10 parks and some 7,000 miles later, we have reached our final destination- Olympic National Park.  The journey has been long; it has spanned high mountains, low valleys, meadows, and rivers.  But we’re finally here.  I hope you’ve had as good a time as I have but for now, let’s just make this last stop a worthwhile one.  Washington State- Olympic National Park- here we come.

Poised on the crest of the Pacific Coast, 3,000 miles away from the mountain in Acadia we first saw the sunset, Olympic National Park has a rich history that encompasses thousands of years.  The area has been home to ancient natives, Indian tribes, and homesteaders of the 1800’s.  When you visit, it is no surprise that people would want to call it home.  This Pacific coast might not have the glamour of beaches in LA, but it still has the serenity we have come to expect from America’s national parks.

The diverse environment of the Olympic National Park is not only protected by the National Park service but has also been declared by the United Nations as an international biosphere reserve.  This might be because there are few places in the world that features so many interactions of environments.  The Olympic peninsula is home to rugged coast lines, sub-alpine forests and meadows, and temperate forests surrounded by a range of mountains.  Along the coast there are outcroppings of rocks called “sea stacks,” which are home to trees, birds, and many kinds of animals.

Beaches at Olympic National Park

To take a nice break from our weeks of volcanic adventures, some sea and sand might be a welcome relief.  The gorgeous beaches of Olympic National Park are free of the crowds common in other beach areas, so we will really get a sense of the natural beach environment.  Go ahead and beachcomb!  Find something cool and enjoy the glories of the Pacific.

And then, it’s time to look through the many types of forests.  It may be hard to believe, but Olympic National Forest is actually home to a rare temperate rainforest.  Due to the amount of rain the area receives yearly, the Hoh Rainforest has developed into a diverse environment open for exploration to visitors.  It may not be the Amazon, but it will certainly an adventure you never thought you’d have in the northwestern United States.

For the final conclusion to our epic journey, the best ending may be in driving up to Hurricane Ridge.  The drive up here summits the mountain range and culminates in a stunning view of the surrounding area- looking out on the Pacific Ocean, the beaches, and the beautiful mountains.  Take it all in guys.

And with that, we can pack up our bag, take off those worn out hiking boots and call it a day.  I’m sure our plane with take off in a few hours and we’ll head home.  But for now, think about how far we’ve come.  10 national parks.  10 weeks.  We’ve traveled over 7,000 miles and seen some pretty remarkable things.  Thanks everyone for coming along with me.  It was certainly the adventure of a lifetime.

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A Map of our Journey

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Once in a Lifetime: Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

In the last eight weeks, we have climbed mountains, braved swamps, and scaled cliffs.  Our journey has spanned hundreds of miles and eight national parks.  Though now our boots are worn, I hope you’re ready for the final stretch because I guarantee that you have never imagined a place like Crater Lake National Park.  Yes folks, like the pioneers of the 1800’s, we’ve made it to Oregon.

About 8,000 years ago, Mount Mazama, a sister volcano to the renowned Mount St. Helen”s, erupted with such strength that the summit collapsed and left a huge crater called a caldera.  Over time, the snow, water, and ice from the peaks of the cliffs fell into the crater and filled it with water.  What was left is what meets you when you first set eyes on Crater Lake- a vast expanse of remarkably clear blue water- filling a nearly two thousand feet deep crater at the top of a mountain.

But how do you get there?  There is only one way- the Cleetwood Trail.  It is the singular way to reach the lake shore from the cliff faces.  A 1.1 mile trek, this trail will take you directly to the boat docks.  Here you have the opportunity to do some swimming or even take a boat tour around the volcano led by park rangers.

View from Wizard Island Trail

These boats will take you out to Wizard Island, the volcano in the center of the lake.  It is actually one of two islands that have formed in the lake.  Not many people are able to say they have stood on a volcano island within a lake, within another volcano.  But we will be.  Not too bad.

The ventures allow you three hours to explore the island, during which you can hike to the top of the cone volcano.  One visitor from Wizard island suggests taking a lunch up there and enjoying the view.  No matter what, we are in for a stunning vantage point.

Perhaps the greatest part about views from any point in this park is the air in the area.  Some of the clearest in the nation, there are areas from which you can see hundreds of miles away.  I’ve been told that there are few better feelings than  standing at the top of a mountain, taking in all of your surroundings.  And with that clean air, the refreshing sensation of this experience could not be rivaled by any other.

Beyond exploration of the lake, however, our time in the Cascade Mountains could be filled with several other ventures.  Many trails in the park lead to gorgeous waterfalls like the Toketee, Plaikni, and Vidae Falls, which are must-sees for people looking to get a full sense of the Cascade Mountains.  The hiking here can be strenuous at times but that’s no match for us now.  We’re no strangers to a rough hike.

At the end of the day, we get to say we’ve encountered an unprecedented natural environment, explored it, and come out the other side.  After experiencing something so pure, so remarkable, and so vast, I don’t see how anyone could end up having anything but an appreciation for nature and all its wonders.  Especially for us, who have only one stop left to go, it is one step closer to the close to ten weeks of adventures.  I hope it’s been as worthwhile for you as it has been for me.

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Feeling the Heat: Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Manzanita Lake with Lassen Peak in the background

We did it, ladies and gentlemen!  We started at the peak of the east coast and we’ve finally reached California!  The journey is coming close to an end.  But never fear, there is plenty more in store as we take to the west coast.  This week, I present you with Lassen Volcanic National Park in the northeastern corner of California.  Many people immediately think of Yosemite or Yellowstone when it comes to parks in California but I’m here to tell you that there is far more to California than these two.  You might never have heard of Lassen before but after today, I promise you, it will shoot to the top of your list on places you want to visit.

From every angle you look at Lassen Volcanic, the views are absolutely breathtaking.  Home to the every single type of volcano in the world, the features of this park may take weeks to fully explore.  According to the National Park Service, every single rock in the park originates from the volcanoes.  The volcanoes in the area are currently dormant but surrounding the area are steaming lakes, boiling springs, and bubbling mudpots that are constant reminders of the 825,000 years of active volcanoes that have shaped this land.

But beyond its unique volcanic environment, this park is also located in the gorgeous Cascade mountains, which means there are plenty of sights to see once we get there.  For the best view of the Lassen peak, a walk around Manzanita lake might be the best way to begin.  Pictured above, this is perhaps one of the greatest natural landscapes one could imagine- and I’ve heard it’s even better at sunset.  Go fishing, kayaking, or swimming as you look on at an actual volcano!

Bumpass Hell Trail

Bumpass Hell Trail

Once you’ve had the time to marvel at the landscape, though, it’s definitely time to explore.  The best introduction to the hydrothermal environment of the park is through the Bumpass Hell trail, which meanders through the steam jets of the volcanoes in a path that appears to be out of a science fiction movie.  Take a walk, explore this active geothermal area, and work out those hiking boots.  It will be a hike unlike anything you’ve ever encountered.

The Boiling Springs Lake Trail, on the other hand, takes you out across a meadow to visit another of the park’s geothermal features: the lake that stays at a toasty 125 degrees.  After a visit to the Warner Valley meadow, which is surrounded by lush evergreen forests, you’ll get a better view of the more rustic side of the park.  And though the lake is certainly too hot for a dip, check it out anyway.  It offers yet another look at how all these volcanoes have made this park what it is.

After that, folks, you can cross “see a real volcano” off your bucket list.  You’re already experts at this point; we’ve traveled all the way across the country to get here!  You all deserve a break.  Have a nice rest by the lake or wherever you choose is best.  Only two more parks to go- are your boots broken in yet?

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