Sunday, September 6, 2015

Green Mountain

On Saturday I hiked up to the Green Mountain Lookout in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. The Suiattle River Road into this hike has been out, more or less, since 2003, and just re-opened last fall.

This was a morning for cloud hiking. Fall was clearly in gear, with temps somewhere around 40 degrees, and signs of frost on the plants. Right now it should be called Red and Green Mountain.

The hike is about 4 miles to the lookout, which is perched at 6500 feet. I've seen the pictures, and the views are spectacular, of Glacier Peak and the surrounding area. My own views were restricted to lower elevations, as the lookout was in the clouds the whole time I was there. I was able to make a cell phone call from the lookout--there is that.

This lookout was the point of litigation recently. A non-profit group from Montana successfully sued the feds for using the aid of an helicopter in repairing or improving it, contrary to the Wilderness Act. Subsequently, legislators got involved to preserve the lookout, successfully. All this law and policy business made seeing the lookout that much more of a priority.

Coming down, the clouds lifted, and the open meadows came more into view. Spectacular splashes of red and green--my pics don't really do the views justice. Very beautiful.

The Suiattle River Road is full on washboard after mile 14 or so. I had to slow to 10-15 mph, or so, or the car would've shaken apart. The drive from Mount Vernon took a little more than two hours. Good times, listening to the new Mad Season-Benaroya Hall cd, a show which we attended in January. I was second up to the lookout for the day, but the trail got busy later on. Recommend the early start.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Redwoods National and State Parks

After the Oregon Coast, we continued on last week into northern California and the Redwoods National and State Parks. So, a bunch of trees pictures here. BIG trees. 

I haven't been to the Redwoods in many years. They are sort of out of the way--you either have to be taking the slow trip down the coast on the South 101, or head there with intent. In this case, the plan was for some August camping under some of the tallest trees in the world.

The Redwoods area is an interesting mix of conservation and preservation areas. There are the Redwoods National Parks, which are split up into several areas over a 100+ mile stretch.  There are national recreation areas. And then there is a system of California State Parks, such as Jedediah Smith State Park, Del Norte State Park, and Prairie Creek Woods State Park.  

Long ago, as a kid, I watched a film about Jedediah Smith. I was fascinated by the explorers.  Jedediah was a special one, even amongst the greats. Interestingly, he may never have actually traveled through the state park in his name. 

We were fortunate to find a camp site for a couple nights in the Mill Creek Campground, just south of Crescent City in the Del Norte State Park. This made for a great home base. Redwoods NP tip:  reservations are a good idea in August, but if you don't have them, campgrounds in the northern parks are more likely to have sites than those in the south.  Curiously, we were able to have a campsite fire, despite the fire troubles which prevailed throughout Oregon and Washington. We really enjoyed a campground program at Mill Creek, where we learned much about the redwoods.  The parks themselves are seeing double digit increases in visitors. I want to return to do the Coastal Trail, or part of it, sometime.

I got a short trail run in the first night, out to the Boy Scout Tree. Easy-peasy. The rangers said this tree would be the biggest in the world--in circumference I think--but for the fact that it was originally two trees. The trail itself--about 6 miles roundtrip--was quiet, like holy ground, with every turn showing another grove of huge trees.  There's a picture below of the Boy Scout Tree--pictures of redwoods need people or something to see the scale--but its a big one, for sure. The drive to the trailhead on the Howland Hills Road--a dirt road through redwoods--was incredible. Often, like driving under a herd of elephants' legs.

The next day we drove south to Prairie Creek State Park. We took the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, and saw more of redwoods, including the Corkscrew Tree. We then went on the Big Tree Loop hike, which included the Cathedral Trail. 

Our southernmost point was Orick, where we bought a nice big salad bowl, made of redwood. It's a really nice piece of work. Good weather, no smoke, good times. 

On the day of departure from Mill Creek, I spent an hour wading in the surf of the Crescent City beach. Found four sand dollars. From there, we took the Hwy 199 along the Smith River to Grant's Pass and then Ashland. The Smith River pass drive is gorgeous, but the river is way down, and the smoke was everywhere. Last picture below. Thank you firefighters.

One final night in Ashland, where we attended the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, seeing the U.S. premiere of the a very popular Chinese play. I've always wanted to check out this Festival, and the play was terrific.

Here comes September!