A state capitol visit and reconnecting with friends – Olympia, WA

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We were hoping to see some sunshine when we got back to the good ol’ USA on Sept 15th (my, that was a long time ago!), but it seemed like we had brought the same foggy dreary days that we experienced in Victoria, BC back with us.  I know, I know, there’s a lot of that in the Pacific Northwest 😉

Having emptied our refrigerator of all fruits and vegetables for the border crossing, our first order of business was grocery shopping and then we hibernated in Sequim as a storm passed through.  We were quickly overwhelmed by cabin fever and headed out for a 6-mile hike at Slab Camp Trail #838.  It was lined with a variety of mushrooms that seemed to love the wet weather:

From Sequim our southward migration continued to Olympia, the capital of Washington.  As you may guess we took time for a guided tour of the state capitol building.  We learned that it’s unique in that it was intentionally formed as multiple buildings on a “capitol campus”; it faces Capitol Lake, Puget Sound, and the distant Olympic Mountains.  It was intended to be seen from afar as a single large structure supporting the dome of the Legislative Building at its center:

The Legislative Building and Justice Building as seen from Capitol Lake

The state is named after the first president of the United States, and no doubt he would be pleased that the state seal featuring him is found not only on the rotunda floor but throughout the building as decorations on railings, doorknobs, furniture, and curtains.  It lacked the historical artifacts and striking works of art we’ve seen in other capitol buildings, and our tour guide advised that a simplistic, sparse atmosphere is exactly what was intended.

The rotunda holds four statuesque fire pots in its corners that replicate ancient Roman signal lights, with the state seal and a bust of George Washington overlooking it

All the original lighting designs inside and out were created by Tiffany, including an ornate 5-ton bronze centerpiece chandelier made by artists in New York and shipped via railroad.

Looking up

After the tour we followed paths around Capitol Lake while viewing the colorful urban setting of downtown Olympia and its wooded hillsides surrounding the capitol building.  We ended our walk at Percival Landing.

View of Capitol Lake as seen from the hilltop campus

Can you spot the tourist?

That evening we were invited to dinner at Ed and Sharon’s beautiful home.  We first met them by chance at Tybee Island, GA last fall and at that time they invited us to visit them should we happen to be in Olympia.  Here we were a year later, happy to see them and enjoy a wonderful meal…

…and the view from their home!

The Capitol Building at the south end of Budd Inlet

I was flabbergasted upon seeing Mt Rainier from their backyard!

We had a delightful happy hour and dinner while getting to know them better.  This is what makes the RV lifestyle so awesome, meeting people on the road and forging friendships along the way.  We had a wonderful time, thank you Ed and Sharon!

Sharon, Steve and Ed

We also connected with my old friends Erwin and Estrella.  Erwin is a friend from college, and Estrella and I were co-workers at a bank in the Philippines.  What’s really heartwarming is that Erwin asked me in advance what Filipino food did I crave that he could cook and bring with them on their visit.  I haven’t seen this guy since my college days, and now he’s bringing us food – not one, but two potfuls of deliciousness!  He’s a great cook, and our tummies were very happy that night.

It was so good to see them again and spend several hours reminiscing about good old days back in the Philippines. “Daghang Salamat, magkita na pud ta puhon.”

All that good food prompted us to search for a trail to burn off some calories.  Tumwater Falls Park was a few miles from our site at American Heritage Campround.  We followed a scenic loop trail along the Deschutes River and three cascading waterfalls, with interpretive signs featuring images that illustrate the history of the area.  The Olympia Brewing Company was built at the lower falls in 1906, and they claimed to brew the best beer on the west coast.  The waterfall we saw during our hike was displayed on their cans for decades:

Tumwater Falls

Olympia Beer – there’s the waterfall!

The final stretching of our legs on this stop was at Millersylvania State Park, nestled in broad stands of old-growth cedar and fir trees.  The Miller family gave the 842-acre property to the state in 1921,  stipulating that it must forever be used as a park.

Buildings such as this one were constructed in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, almost entirely by hand

Old-growth fir trees were plentiful

Millersylvania means “wooded glade”

And with that we continued on to Oregon!


Next up:  Yet another state capitol visit and new friends


What a Hike! Maple Pass Loop Trail – Washington

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What an absolutely stellar hike we took here!  We both agreed Maple Pass Loop Trail was our favorite hike so far this year.  But I’m getting ahead of myself…

At first I was just going to lump this hike with my previous post about Winthrop, but this hike was so amazing that it deserved its own space.  But first some stuff about the national park… Continue reading

A Small Town With a Western Flair – Winthrop, WA

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Our destination in north-central Washington was the little town of Winthrop, located in the northern portion of Methow Valley along North Cascades Highway 20.  It’s surrounded by incredible vistas, ranch lands and soaring mountains.  Our one-week stay was at Pine Near RV Park, only a stone’s throw from downtown Winthrop.  Once we got hooked up it was time for a walk there to check it out:

Continue reading

Blazing Across Eastern Washington

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Exiting Oregon, we crossed into eastern Washington on a new-to-us route.  We loved the COE (Corps of Engineers) Plymouth Park even as we were setting up camp.  It’s well managed and maintained, spacious and quiet with level sites – nice!  The folks at the gate were so friendly that we had a chat with them each time we passed through.  They suggested some things to do in Washington, but also pointed across the Columbia River with advice about places to visit back in Oregon. Continue reading

Storms, Volcanoes and Hanging With Friends – Silver Lake, WA

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Mount Adams

Hoquiam River

Just as we began our southward migration through Washington, the weather turned really bad.  The rainy days continued as we drove down the coast to our planned overnight stop at Hoquiam River, just off the coast in the southwestern corner of the state.  One night turned into six as major storms hit, and we pulled in the slides and dropped the satellite dish to wait it out.  We canceled our stop at Astoria because winds were even worse there, and we were bummed that we missed our favorite fish and chips in the whole world at Bowpicker. We’d been waiting for weeks to have them again – darn!

Hoquiam River

“Baldy” keeps an eye on Hoquiam River during the storm

To keep us entertained and busy, we made a bunch of lumpia for future happy hours.  So when any of you meet up with us down the road be sure to ask about the stash in our freezer!


No campfire in this pit today!

During every break in the weather we drove 20 miles to the beach to hear the pounding waves, breath the ocean air – and buy some more seafood!  When we learned that the Quinalt Casino offered an all-you-can-eat Dungeness crab dinner buffet, we just had to partake in that as well.  It was one of the best casino buffets we’ve had.

Ocean Shores

These hard-core clammers weren’t bothered by the weather or the huge waves

Ocean Shores

That’s an angry sea!

Ocean shores

My only hike for the week

Since we can’t seem to get enough of this crustacean, we bought even more for our own crab feast at home.  I have to admit we did overindulge, but we were trapped in Dungeness crab heaven and I totally blame the storm for it!

We were fortunate that the towns of Hoquiam and Ocean Shores were spared from the brunt of the storm, and the only inconvenience we felt was being cramped with our slides in for several days.

Hoquiam River

We heaved a sigh of relief when the rains stopped

Windy Ridge, Mount St Helens

We resumed our travels and made one last stop in Washington, at Silver Lake.  We got along so well with Bob and Dee Dee at Puerto Peñasco, Mexico last February that we went out of our way to stop by their beautiful property for a visit.  We gladly accepted their invitation to snuggle Betsy into the full hookup site right on their property for a couple of nights.

Where else would we celebrate our first meal together then at an excellent Mexican restaurant, the perfect place to reminisce about good times in Mexico.



Betsy’s looking good parked in front of their beautiful shop – and the price was right!

Bob and Dee Dee live near Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, which we visited in 2012.  But this time they graciously drove us around to the northeast side of the volcano, often referred to as the Windy Ridge side.  It lived up to its name on this cold and blustery day.

Windy Ridge Loop

We watched a helicopter haul cut boughs for Christmas decorations and drop them near a waiting truck

The drive to Windy Ridge is a winding trek through the blast zone, and is the best location from which to view the devastation of the eruption that occurred on May 18, 1980.  We saw clear evidence of the blast’s full impact.  And despite the biting wind we climbed hundreds of steps up the hill to one of the best vantage points around.

Windy Ridge Trail

We read that there were 361 steps to the top

Views from the summit of Windy Ridge trail:

Looking down

Looking directly into Mount St. Helen’s crater just five miles away

Pumice Plain

A pumice plain created by ash and pumice that flowed from the crater

Spirit Lake

Spirit Lake’s immense floating forest left from the 1980 eruption

Mount St Helen

Blasted trees have remained untouched since the eruption

Mount Saint Helen

Thanks Deedee for capturing our wind blown ‘do’s

It might have been a gray day, but we were fortunate to get such clear views of the volcano and surrounding mountains:

Mount Adams

Mount Adams stands 32 miles to the east

Mount Hood

Mount Hood is the tallest mountain in Oregon, and we could see it from 62 miles away

Mount St Helens

The foursome with Mount St. Helens in the background

We had a wonderful time and really enjoyed Bob and Deedee’s hospitality.  Thanks guys, see you at Puerto Peñasco next February – the first Margarita is on us!


Next up:  Beautiful Bend, OR


Crabs, Coasts and Mountains – Port Angeles, WA

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Hurricane Ridge
The Dungeness Crab and Seafood Festival

New friends Mark and Laura from Victoria Island, BC

By October we would typically be halfway through our southerly migration, but this year we made a westerly detour to the Pacific Northwest, with the Olympic Peninsula as our destination.  As we all know, that area is famous for its fairly mild but often rainy weather, and we had plenty of rain during our stay!  We were constantly looking up at the sky and checking daily forecasts so we could plan our activities accordingly.

Geographically speaking, the Olympic Peninsula is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, on the east by the Hood Canal and on the north by the Strait of Juan de Fuca. And of course it’s anchored by the majestic Olympic Mountains.  Our home base was at Port Angeles, a coastal logging town at the doorway to Olympic National Park.

During our first few days here, our activities were limited by fog, rain and the constant lowering of the clouds that made the days grey and dreary.  Although a bit bummed by the weather, we had to figure out things to do with our time at this place surrounded by beautiful coastlines, mountains and glaciers.

One activity that brought our spirits right back up was the Dungeness Crab and Seafood Festival held in Port Angeles.  When we learned about this huge party during our planning a few weeks ago, we made sure we wouldn’t miss it.  The city celebrates its maritime heritage and bountiful seafood offerings by featuring Dungeness crab, one of our all-time favorites. It’s obviously loved by many others around here too, as ferries packed with folks from Victoria, BC steamed into the harbor to join in the festivities.

Dungeness Crab Festival

Sweet tasting and simply delicious Dungeness crab – yay!

While crab was king here, we also enjoyed fresh oysters, scallops and crab cakes.  The festive mood inside the tent with a Canadian couple we met while in line was more than enough to keep us happy as we enjoyed the bounty of seafood.

We had missed those crabs so much that we went to a local fresh seafood market the next day and got more to enjoy at home.  Yum!

Around Port Angeles

Port Angeles, WA

Port Angeles is nestled between the Olympic Range and the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Port Angeles

This city is the largest on the Olympic Peninsula, and has been an active deepwater seaport since the mid 1850’s

We made a few purchases of yummy locally-grown produce at the farmers market:

Ediz Hook

A long narrow spit of sand called Ediz Hook extends into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, helping to protect the Port Angeles harbor from ocean swells.  On most days we could barely see the spit across from the marina, but on the clearest day we drove onto it and enjoyed great views all around.:

Mount Baker

Mount Baker, San Juan and Lopez islands seemed to float on the strait of San Juan de Fuca

Glacier Peak

Glacier Peak stood out in the Washington Cascades

Olympic Mountain Range

The Olympic Mountain Range forms a dramatic backdrop for Port Angeles

Port Angeles

Living on the edge

Around our campground, Elwha Dam RV Park

Our campsite (Steve’s review here) was was less than a mile from where Elwha Dam stood for 100 years.  We learned that the removal of the old structure was the largest dam removal and restoration project in U.S. history.  Following the restoration, the river now flows freely from its headwaters in the Olympic Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  And for the first time in a century the salmon and other migratory fish have been able to return to their spawning habitat.

The trail leading to the old dam was laden with moss-draped trees and giant ferns:

Cape Flattery

One day we drove scenic Hwy 112 all the way to its end at the most Northwestern point in the continental United States, Cape Flattery.  We followed the short trail that took us to a dramatic overlook where we could see the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean at the same time.  The trail passed through misty forests and some interesting huge trees.  We were surprised that this relatively remote cape was so popular, as we passed a lot of folks during our exploration.

Candelabra tree

A candelabra tree

Me in a tree.  That’s as high as I climb!

Cape Flattery

Sea stacks at Cape Flattery

Tattoos Island

Lighthouse on Tatoosh Island

Cape Flattery

Makah sandstone formation riddled with sea caves

Hurricane Ridge at Olympic National Park

Olympic National ParkThe main feature on the peninsula is the multiple rugged, saw-toothed peaks of the Olympic Range.  No roads traverse the park’s interior, which is protected by Olympic NP.  Because of its diversity comprised of snow-capped mountains, wild ocean beaches and lush rain forest, the park is uniquely labelled “three-parks in-one”.  Bad weather during our visit forced us to wait four days before we could drive up to Hurricane Ridge to hike just one trail.


Another chilly hike, that’s frost on the ground!




Hurricane Ridge

Winds gusting over 75 miles per hour frequently buffet the ridge, giving it the “Hurricane” moniker

Hurricane Trail

There was a 700′ elevation change on this short but steep trail

Ediz Hook

That strip of narrow land across the water is Ediz Hook, with Port Angeles in the foreground

Hurricane Ridge

Watching the fog and clouds form

Hurricane Ridge

Weather changes happen fast here!

Olympic Wilderness

Olympic wilderness

Olympic Mountain Range

Mount Olympus is the tallest peak here at 7,979′, and we were lucky to get this clear view

Hurricane Ridge

“The hills are alive….”

We missed a visit to the rain forest and didn’t do any tide pooling, but considering the weather we got a pretty good feel for this beautiful place during our short stay.


Next up:  Hunkering down for a big Pacific Northwest storm


Incredible Fall Colors in Paradise – Mount Rainier National Park, WA

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Skyline Trail
Brown Jay

First capture of a brown jay!

We used our last hiking opportunity before the weather changed to follow the Skyline Trail Loop in Paradise.  As the tallest peak in the Cascade Range, Mount Rainier magnifies area rainfall by stimulating the flow of moist air coming in from the Pacific Ocean.  As such it also creates its own weather, which is why it’s obscured by clouds on most days.

We were unsure if we’d see the mountain this day, as fog hovered around us until we climbed through it at Paradise.

Nisqually River

We never saw the mountain up there behind Nisqually River

The moment we stepped out of the car we were awestruck by what lay before us.  We echoed John Muir’s impressions of 1889 as inscribed on the steps, and agreed with James Longmire’s daughter-in-law when she exclaimed, “Oh, what a paradise!”


This was our third hike here (click here for the previous ones), and definitely the highlight of our stay.  For folks coming here for just a day trip, Paradise is the best bet for digging into the mountain’s offerings of a landscape that will take your breath away.

There’s an intricate maze of trails with options for gentle or strenuous hikes, and the junctions are well signed.  We followed the Skyline Trail counter-clockwise via Panorama Point and extended our trek to High Skyline Trail, completing a 5.5-mile loop with a 1,700′ elevation gain.

Paradise Hiking Trails

Maze of trails within Paradise

The trailhead to the Skyline Loop is up those concrete steps, initially steep and then easing into a more gradual climb.  During summer the asphalted trail on this section is lavishly bordered with wildflowers, but today in early October the display before us was the brilliance of fall colors.

Blazing red

Blazing red


Climbing higher, we got a closer view of Mount Rainier and Nisqually Glacier:


Up, up, up!

Mount Rainier

Nisqually Glacier is one of the 25 glaciers of Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier

The mountain is an active volcano overlaid by snowfields and glaciers


Here you see a bit of the blue tint that indicates super-compressed ice


Several glacial waterfalls added a pleasant soundtrack to our trek

Besides great views of Mount Rainier and Nisqually Glacier from here, looking below displayed a maze of trails in the area:


There was a blanket of fog hovering over the valley:


Skyline Trail

Several marmots and squirrels scurried about along the trail, making final winter preparations.  They were adorable!

It was mostly clear at Panorama Point, and there were views of rugged mountain peaks poking through like islands in the sea of fog.

Panorama Point

At 6,800′ Panorama Point

Tatoosh Range

Tatoosh Range with Mount Adams peeking through in the distance

Mount Adams

Zooming into Mount Adams back there

The High Skyline Trail continued to climb above Panorama Point to its maximum elevation of 7,051′.  Then it dropped down into the moonscape rubble of an ancient moraine interspersed with patches of snow.

Highling Trail

Hikers below us where we were at Panorama Point

Skyline Trail



Yeah, it gets a bit windy up here!

As we descended, the landscape of rock and snow gave way to a tranquil carpet of fall colors.  The steep meadows flanking the mountain burned with hues of gold, magenta and yellow, the wonderful palette of Paradise’s fall colors.  I kept stopping to soak it in as I snapped away.  Steve took the most pictures he has since Bryce Canyon!

I will let the autumn colors speak to you, as descriptions nor my photos can do justice:







Mount Rainier in autumn

By early afternoon clouds had begun to envelop the mountain





Steve was in a daze as we walked through this area




In retrospect, hiking this trail clockwise was best, for at the beginning we got a clear and close-up view of Mount Rainier and the glaciers, saving the astounding meadows for last.  We’ve never seen nature’s color like this!

Skyline Trail

Oh yeah, this is paradise!



Next Up:  Peninsula and Coast


Exploring Mt. Rainier National Park – Washington

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Mount Rainier

Autumn is a wonderful time of the year to visit Mount Rainier, perhaps only second to spring time when the wildflowers are blooming.  At the time of our visit in early October, the meadows of Mazama Ridge had turned from colorful wildflowers to colorful autumn foliage of mountain huckleberry, vine maple and mountain ash.  But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

 Mount Rainier

A rare clear view of Mount Rainier with clouds just starting to form

This 14, 410′ volcanic peak was called Tacoma or Tahoma by generations of Northwest Native Americans.  Then in 1792 it was renamed Mount Rainier after Admiral Peter Rainier by English explorer George Vancouver.  Vancouver sighted the enormous mountain while exploring Puget Sound.

Mount Rainier is the natural wonder showcased in 365-square-mile Mount Rainier National Park, established in 1899 as the nation’s 4th national park.  It’s the highest mountain in Washington and in the Cascade Range, and the most topographically prominent mountain in the contiguous United States.  On clear days it can be seen from 100 miles away, and on our way there we caught our first glimpse from many miles away on I-82.

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier viewed from westbound I-82

Mount Adams

An added bonus was a glimpse of Mount Adams, overlooking Yakima Valley at 12,307′

Tree stump mountain

Doesn’t this look like a monolithic tree stump? as seen along White Pass

Our home base was Mounthaven RV Park (Steve’s review here), only 3 miles from the Nisqually Entrance on the southwest corner of the NP.  Had it been summer we would have loved our site here, as Betsy was shielded by tall trees.  But rain and fog enveloped the area during our stay, and being in the dark and cold all the time gave us a case of cabin fever.

Mounthaven RV Park

Betsy snuggled in between tall old trees, making our site dark (and muddy) most of the time

Checking out the forecast for our one-week stay, we saw three days of mostly sunny weather and planned our hikes around them.  To experience the maximum in scenic splendors we chose three trails: Rampart Ridge Loop, Lakes Loop and Skyline Trail via Panorama Point. They were all over five miles long and averaged 1,500′ of elevation gain.  Of course, we started early in the morning and had to survive temps in the mid 30’s – brrrr!  The lengths we’ll go to just to avoid crowds!

Mount Rainier National Park

Nisqually Entrance

Christine Falls

A 40 ft waterfall along the park’s road – Christine Falls framed by the bridge

Rampart Ridge Loop

This steep loop took us deep into the forest, with lush vegetation and giant old growth trees along the ridge known as “The Ramparts.”  It’s a remnant of an ancient lava flow which originated at the summit of Mount Rainier and retained it’s 1,000’+ height when glaciers around it melted.

Our trek was cold and damp due to the thick tree canopy that blocked out the sun most of the time.  We took time to notice the various mosses and lichens clinging to the trees, and lots of fungi on the ground.



Rampart Ridge Trail

Looking Up- its green

Rampart Ridge Trail

Looking down more green

Wooden Arch - Rampart Ridge Trail

A fascinating wooden arch tree that seems to be growing back into the ground

The Ramparts

The Ramparts is the remnant of an ancient lava flow which originated at the mountain’s summit

rampart ridge trail


A variety of fungi were everywhere along the mossy carpeted forest floor:


This would be a great summer hike, as it’s covered by tall trees and is a good way to get some elevation gain.  Beautiful forest views and a fantastic vista of Mount Rainier, all in just over five miles!

Mount Rainier

The only view of Mount Rainier from this trail

Lakes Trail Loop

Just over five miles around, this trail traverses through a myriad of delightful lakes at the base of Mount Rainier.  Fog added a new dimension to the hike, making it mystical, moody and chilly.  We were the only ones up there, and it was peaceful and easy to be one with nature as we trudged along the dreamy landscape.

Reflection Lake

Just imagine Mount Rainer behind that cloak of clouds

Tatoosh Peaks

At Faraway Rock with Tatoosh Peaks in the background and Louise Lake below




The only wildlife we spotted during these hikes

We were not disappointed, as the trail was a succession of gradual ups and downs passing through lakes, ponds, streams and waterfalls.





Myrtle Falls

Myrtle Falls

Writing this post, I had planned on putting all of our hikes together but soon realized the Skyline Trail needs its own post.  It was the highlight of our stay, and we hiked it on a mostly clear day which made us discover exactly why this area is called Paradise.  Stay tuned!

Mount Rainier

The mountain remained hidden as we headed for Paradise


Next Up:  Incredible Fall Colors in Paradise