Once the final, heavy snows of spring fall on Yellowstone, the desolate, tundra-like terrain of America’s first National Park starts to transform into a visual wonderland of awesomeness. If you haven’t yet seen this majestic park during the spring months, you are missing out on one of the most unique experiences in America.
I usually write about Olympic National Park for my #NatureWritingChallenge, but sometimes I need to bring it all back to the wilderness around America’s first National Park and celebrate the public lands that help bring the conservation revolution to the forefront of America. Yellowstone has always had a special place in my heart, captivating my imagination since my first trip there as a seven year old. I have seen the park in every month of the year, one winter, I witnessed something I had never seen before.
It was probably the 1990s. I recall being full of teen angst at the world, my “pain” encapsulated by the melodic mumbles of fellow harborite Kurt Cobain. It was summer and I was visiting my grandparents yet again, exploring everything interesting that the lavender-filled fields of Sequim had to offer. I had visited them every weekend for months, exhausting the wonders that this small Olympic Peninsula town had to offer. We went to the game farm a few times. We went out to Dungeness Spit. We drove to Port Angeles. It was the 90s, the Peninsula was a much different place.
Good news for those going to Yellowstone between now and April 20th, 2018. Many of the park’s roads are open for foot traffic! That means you can explore some sections of the park on your bike or on foot without worrying about cars or traffic. Below is a press release from Yellowstone National Park, as well as a few pictures from my road adventure in the park on March 27th.
Great news for hikers looking to stand atop one of America’s most famous volcanoes! Starting on Thursday, February 1st 2018 at 9am PST, this year’s climbing permits will be available for purchase to summit the stunning peak of Mt. St. Helens. Permits are $22.00 and are limited to just 500 a day from April 1st to May 14th. From May 15th to October 31st, only 100 permits are issued a day.
Sometimes, when in a National Park, unexpected things happen that forever change our nature-loving souls. We wander and explore, unaware that in just a few moments time, we will forge a lifelong relationship with a region that wasn’t at all planned. I refer to them as soul-soothing moments, and in 2017, I had one in Joshua Tree National Park.
Sometimes a stormy day in a National Park isn’t a bad thing. As the bad weather approaches, you can sit back and watch as the strength and power of nature shows off in full force. I have had many days of inclement weather on our Public Lands, and while not all were incredible, many stand out as some of my favorite days. Here is one of them, as written for my weekly #NatureWritingChallenge.*
We all have a mountain or trail in our “backyard,” which is hiked often and still captivates your sense of adventure and wanderlust. For me, it is Mount Ellinor above Hood Canal in Washington State, just 90 minutes from my door. At 5,944 feet above sea level, which is found less than 20 miles away, Ellinor is one of the classic hikes in the Pacific Northwest. Year round, it can be summited, rewarding those with a love of breathtaking views with a world class panorama. I have climbed her rocky flanks dozens of times over the past few years, each time different than the last. She is my crush, the object of my desire and more often than not, I find myself daydreaming of trips up her beautiful summit. One such trip was a winter trek, one that I look back on years later with the fondest of memories.
Sunsets are some of the most awe-inspiring moments in our lives. Plunging down beneath the horizon, there is something un-mistakingly soul-nourishing about them. In the most depressed days of my life, I always found a sunset in nature to be one of the most rewarding parts of my day and I am sure I am not alone. While many sunsets blend together, we all have a handful of moments, before darkness takes over, that stay with us forever. For me, one of those sunsets was found along a remote canyon in Southeastern Montana. Before I saw this sunset, I had no idea the location existed, but now the sights are forever etched in my mind’s eye.
Few hikes perfectly encapsulate the spirit and feel of a region like Gladys Divide does for the Staircase region of Olympic National Park. Full of stunning views, breathtaking lakes, wilderness adventure and relative solitude in the midst of unrivaled natural beauty, the long trek to Gladys Divide is one of those trails you’ll yearn to hike, year after year.
America’s most iconic National Park road is reopening, helping provide lifelong adventures into the heights of Glacier National Park. Soon, once the plows finish clearing snow, Glacier National Park’s Going to the Sun Road will be open to vehicles, once again inspiring and possibly terrifying modern day adventurers with inspiring views. Any day now, the Going to the Sun Road will be open. Will you be driving it this year?
Few places in the world are as beautiful as Olympic National Park. Year round, the upper left corner of the contiguous United States inspires wanderlust and leaves visitors in awe with true wilderness beauty and the spring months are no exception. As the temperatures warm up and the delight hours grow longer, the snowpack in the rugged mountains begins to melt, helping transform the regions waterfalls, rivers and creeks into beautiful torrents of water. Roads reopen after months of being closed and the animals start to wander around with their new offspring. Whales migrate offshore, hikers return to once snow-covered trails and all seems right with the world. Spring in Olympic is an experience your soul deserves and a perfect way to kick start your year of adventures in the great outdoors.
Along the eastern slopes of Olympic National Park, high above the fjord-filled wonderland of Hood Canal, a shimmering and shining lake thaws underneath two majestic peaks. Like a miniature Glacier National Park, this remote, oft-overlooked wilderness playground needs to be your late-spring adventure destination. Once the snow starts to melt for good and the creeks become passable after the spring floods, head to Upper Lena Lake in the Hamma Hamma region for insanely gorgeous views, incredible camping and endless exploration.
I do not love being in the wilderness by myself. I really don’t. It’s not blind fear or a phobia. It’s being in my head; all by myself for hours, not being able to share the experience with anyone that sort of lacks any draw for me. I guess, I don’t like loneliness. Doesn’t make me a good Northwest outdoor person, I suppose. Most people go outdoors to get away from everything and anyone. Not me.
But, just before the weather turned this fall, I wanted to test myself, wanted to try out that solo experience and see what it was all about.
As the snow falls on the mountains and hills around the Pacific Northwest, the hiking community struggles to find someplace new and remote, rewarding, accessible and beautiful. Franklin Falls, Lake Wenatchee, Hurricane Ridge, Artist Point, Paradise; the crowds gather at popular winter destinations around the region, bottlenecked by a lack of accessibility to other regions. Surrounded by a wealth of natural wonders, residents of Washington find ourselves repeating the same trips, or staying indoors until the weather gets better. Don’t fall into that trap. In the winter, while many will try to be awesome and climb high for epic, snowy, panoramic views, hundreds of miles of trails are sitting mostly empty along the wild and scenic rivers of Olympic National Park and Peninsula. One such river, the Dosewallips, is the ideal place to get away and experience the beauty of nature, just a short drive from the major cities of the Puget Sound.
Few places in the world produce pure joy and happiness with just one glance, but Olympic National Park’s Hurricane Ridge does that with ease. A mile above the Strait of Juan de Fuca and just a short 17 mile drive from the fantastic outdoor recreation town of Port Angeles, Washington, Hurricane Ridge is one of America’s most-underrated nature destinations. Open year round in the summer, the area is only accessible during the snowy months on the weekends, making a trip to the region a limited edition experience. Plan ahead, grab your snow gear and camera and hit up The Ridge this winter. This is a family-friendly adventure you don’t want to miss.
Life is hard and then, for most of us, it somehow gets harder. We keep fighting to keep our head above water, to stand tall in the face of adversity and to fight on. That is one of the reasons so many of us resonate with the Root Tree at Kalaloch Beach in Olympic National Park. Defying the odds, this tree is holding on by its roots, surviving against the power of erosion and the elements. Struggling and somehow living another day, we are inspired by its resilience, strength and beauty. As one of the unofficial representatives to the Washington Coast, the Kalaloch Root Tree is an introduction to the beaches of Olympic and a gateway to beautiful, rugged wilderness and the power of the Washington Coast.
Overlooked by the masses who head to the mosses of the Hoh, the Bogachiel Rainforest might be one of America’s best kept secrets. Just a few short miles form the small logging town of Forks, Washington, this wild and scenic river on the Olympic Peninsula is home to iconic rainforest trails and access to a remote corner of Olympic National Park. Closed in March of 2016, when the Bogachiel River shifted course and wiped out part of the trail, the area has now reopened, once again allowing endless wilderness exploration in a hidden corner of the Olympics. Full of history, majestic forests and a lifetime of breathtaking rainforest views, the Bogachiel needs to be your next Olympic destination. The beauty of the Bogachiel helped inspire the creation of Olympic National Park, so why not explore it on your next day off?