A Lot of Travel, A Little Bit of History, and a Whole Bunch of Photos

Silver Lake Sand Dunes Panorama

Category: National Parks & Places Page 1 of 12

Wordless Wednesday: Del Morro Lighthouse

Lighthouse on Castillo San Felipe Del Morro

Kayaking Pictured Rocks

Kayaking towards Lover's Leap Arch

This past summer I got to do something that has been a dream of mine for over ten years, kayak Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I have hiked the Lakeshore Trail and seen the rocks from the water on the boat cruise, but I have wanted to get up close and personal with the rocks since my first visit. So, when we were able to score a campsite at the lakeshore, I started doing my research for kayak tours.

Before I get into the tour, I want to talk a bit about Lake Superior and boating safety. Lake Superior is notoriously rough and can be dangerous if you are not in the proper boat. It is not recommended that you take a recreational kayak to see the rock formations. A sea kayak with a spray skirt is the recommended boat for this trip. If you are not a seasoned sea kayaker, it is best to see the rocks on a guided tour.

Pictured Rocks Kayaking Boat

There are many companies that offer tours of Pictured Rocks, but we decided to go with Pictured Rocks Kayaking (paddlepicturedrocks.com) for one main reason: they launch from a boat (left). Most of the tour operators launch from a beach in the park and you paddle from the beach out to the rocks and back. With the boat, Pictured Rocks Kayaking is able to take their guests out farther and allow them to paddle the most impressive rock features. The boat follows the tour and if someone needs to go to the bathroom or gets too tired, they are able to go back to the boat.  Also, if a storm blows in fast, they are able to get everyone back on the boat to safety.

As of 2022, Pictured Rocks Kayaking offers two tours, the shorter (2-3 hour) Miners Castle Tour which gets paddlers up close to the famous Miners Castle rock formation, and the 4-5 hour Ultimate Kayak tour. Being a bucket list experience, of course we chose the Ultimate Kayak Tour.

Paddling through a cave

Our tour started in Munising where we had a quick kayak basics and safety demonstration before getting on the boat for a 40-ish minute ride to the spot where you get in the water right from the boat. The water was unbelievably calm on the day we did the tour. You can see in the pictures, the water was like glass and it was a very easy paddle.

It was amazing how close we were able to get to the rocks. We paddle into caves and felt the water dripping from the rock above (above). We got to paddle under the iconic Lovers Leap arch (top). The tour ends at Chapel Rock where we headed back to the boat to eat our picnic lunch while the boat took us back to town.

Kayaking Pictured Rocks

My only complaint about the tour was the speed it went. As pretty avid kayakers (and experienced tandem kayakers at that) we had a hard time going as slow as the tour dictated. I understand that it is a long time on the water and we didn’t want to tire anyone out, but my back go sore sitting in the seat before my arms were tired.

If you are visiting Pictured Rocks and want to get out on the water, I highly recommend Pictured Rocks Kayaking.  You get to see more than other tours with the comfort and security of knowing the boat is there if you need it. Our guide was friendly and knowledgeable and gave great restaurant recommendations! I would absolutely take the tour again if I was in the area.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Pacific Northwest Trip Recap

Clouds over Crescent Lake

Our trip to the Pacific Northwest this summer checked off two more states, one Canadian province, and two more national parks in an unforgettable nature-filled two week trek. We visited Seattle, Vancouver, Sitka, Juneau, Skagway, Haines, and the Olympic Peninsula.

I would love to take another Alaska cruise, but I think it would have to be on a larger ship. Sure, the Serenade can get into smaller ports that the big ships can’t, but there just wasn’t much going on during the sea days. I would look at ships that were purpose built for Alaska like the Norwegian Bliss that have more indoor areas for people to hang out on sea days.

Serenade of the Seas in Juneau

Cruise Ships in Juneau

I definitely want to explore different ports on my next Alaska cruise and I think I would look for a cruise that visits Glacier Bay. I’ve heard that park rangers get on the ship and talk about the nature. And it would cross off another national park! Ketchikan is another Alaska port I really wish we got to see!

I would definitely plan strategically if I ever cruise out of Vancouver again. I would make sure to pick the earliest check in time and arrive maybe even an hour before that. I might even look at cruises that start in Seward (Anchorage, Alaska) before looking at cruises out of Seattle.

Cruise ships in Sitka Sound

Cruise ships in Sitka Sound

You can call me crazy, but I would fly in/out of Seattle for a Vancouver cruise again. Amtrak is running the Cascades route again so the train is an option to get from Seattle to Vancouver again. Yes, it was two additional border crossings, but Quick Shuttle was easy and comfortable and honestly, you can’t beat the price of Greyhound. Is it my new preferred means of travel, no, but it got the job done!

I would definitely wait until later in the season to really get to explore Washington’s National Parks. I really don’t know if I can count visiting Mt. Rainier if I couldn’t see the mountain! I’ve been told the fog is less common later in the summer so that is when I would plan my return trip to the Pacific Northwest.

Hoh Rainforest

Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park

All-in-all, our 2-week Alaska cruise, Olympic National Park trip was another epic vacation! There were many firsts and experiences I can’t believe we got to do! Where will we explore next? You’ll have to stay tuned to find out!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Rainier Waterfall

One Day in Mt. Rainier National Park

Fog at Mt. Rainier

On our last day in Washington, we had to be out of our AirBNB at 10:00 am, but our flight didn’t leave until 11:00 pm, so we had a full 12 hours to kill. So, we decided to do what any National Park chaser would do with a day in Washington and we headed to Mt. Rainier National Park. Mt. Rainier is a three-hour drive from Port Angeles and an hour and a half from Seatac, so this was definitely a good way to kill time.

Our foggy view of Mt. Rainier

At over 14,000 feet above sea level, Mt. Rainier is the tallest peak in Washington State. Mt. Rainier is an active volcano and with its proximity to Seattle, it is considered to be one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. Near Mt. Rainier, I saw a volcano evacuation route sign for the first time. Mt. Rainier became the nation’s 5th National Park in 1899. Popular activities in the park include hiking, biking, and mountain climbing.

Like most of our time in Washington, the fog was so thick on our visit to Mt. Rainier that we couldn’t see it! With limited time to explore the park, we entered the park through the Nisqually entrance and drove to the Henry Jackson Visitor Center, and walked around the historic Paradise Inn (left). Once again, I was blown away by the amount of snow still on the ground in mid-June. There were still feet of snow up there at 5,400 feet above sea level!  The Paradise Inn is a beautiful building, built in 1917. The Parkitecture-style of the building reminded me a lot of the Old Faithful InnObviously, with such a short time to explore the park, it barely counts as a visit. I will have to come back later in the season so I can actually see Mt. Rainier!

After leaving Mt. Rainier, we still had extra time before our flight. We didn’t want to head back to downtown Seattle and have to worry about getting in and out of the city so we did some digging and found Kubota Garden in Seatac. It’s not in the nicest part of town and there are signs in the parking lot to keep an eye out for “car prowlers” but there was no one else around when we were there. There are a lot of trails to explore throughout the beautiful garden. It would be a great place to walk around on a sunny summer day. The parking lot is currently under construction and some of the trails are closed which did cause us to get a little lost, but we made it out of the garden and to the airport in enough time for our flight!

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop by next week for my final recap of our summer trip to Alaska and Washington! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Mt. Rainier Pinterest Graphic

Wordless Wednesday: Mosses

Hoh Rainforest

Olympic National Park: The Hoh Rainforest

Hoh Rainforest

The Hoh Rainforest may be the most iconic ecosystem in Olympic National Park. The otherworldly green landscape has been named a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. The forest is made up mostly of Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock trees which can grow over 300 feet tall and six feet in diameter. I haven’t seen California’s giant sequoias or redwoods yet, so the trees in the Pacific Northwest were very impressive to me.

Spruce Nature TrailThe term rainforest is very fitting here as this area of the park gets an average of 140 inches of rain each year. The almost constant mist in the rainforest accounts for another 30 inches of rain that allows the moss to thrive in clumps hanging off the giant trees.

There are three trails to explore in the Hoh Rainforest area: the popular .8-mile Hall of Mosses Trail, the 1.2-mile-long Spruce Nature Trail, and the 18.5-mile Hoh River Trail. We decided to start with the Spruce Nature Trail and we barely saw other people on this trail. Next, we did the Hall of Mosses Trail which was undoubtedly the more impressively scenic trail, but there were also a lot more people. Altogether, the two trails were only two miles of hiking for the day and I am glad we did both of them.

If you are planning on visiting the Hoh Rainforest, definitely make sure to bring waterproof hiking boots and a good rain jacket. I bought my boots for Alaska, but I really needed the waterproofing for exploring Olympic! You can see the puddles on the trail in the picture on the left.

Thanks for stopping by! Next week I will share about our time exploring Olympic Peninsula outside of the National Park. To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Hoh Rainforest Pin Hoh Rainforest Pin

Hiking Hurricane Ridge: Olympic National Park

Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge is the most easily accessible mountain region in Olympic National Park. It is an easy drive from Port Angeles to get to Hurricane Ridge. We looked at the weather when deciding to visit Hurricane Ridge as we wanted good views of the mountains, but as we discovered in Washington, the weather in one place does not have an impact on another area not that far away. It was sunny when we left Port Angeles but there were moments on Hurricane Ridge road that we could barely see in front of the car. The drive was a little nerve-wracking but luckily it cleared up when we got to the visitor center.

When researching Olympic National Park, we really wanted to do the trail to Hurricane Hill. The paved three-mile out-and-back trail has 700 foot elevation gain and is not for the faint of heart. Unfortunately, we were not able to make it all the way to the top because the last bit of the trail was still snow-covered. We were not prepared for snow hiking. If we had ice cleats and hiking poles we could’ve made it to the top, but regular hiking boots were not substantial enough. Just like at Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier, this Michigander did not expect to find snow on the ground in Washington in mid-June, but I have to remember that it is much colder in the mountains!

Deer in the woods

On our way back down, we had an animal encounter. Luckily, it was only a deer, but it got surprisingly close to us! This area is home to mountain goats and the trail is actually closed at the end of August for mountain goat management.

If you want to explore the mountains of Olympic National Park, Hurricane Ridge is the most convenient mountain section. If you want to ascent Hurricane Hill before the end of June, make sure you bring snow gear!

Thanks for stopping by! Next week I will be finishing my Olympic National Park recap, sharing about our experience in the Hoh Rainforest. To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Hurricane Ridge Pinterest Graphic

Wordless Wednesday: Driftwood

Log Across Ellen Creek

Hiking Olympic National Park: Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach at Low Tide

After leaving the Lake Crescent Area, we headed to the coast, specifically Rialto Beach. There are many beaches in Olympic National Park so it was hard to choose one to visit. Ruby Beach, one of the most popular beaches on the Olympic Peninsula was closed when we visited due to road construction, so we chose to visit Rialto Beach and do the Hole-in-the-Wall Hike.

When deciding what days to do what in Olympic National Park, we looked at the tide chart. The hike to Hole-in-the-Wall can only be accessed during low tide so we had to plan our visit accordingly. There is a forest service trail that would allow you to see the Hole-in-the-Wall formation during high tide, but you wouldn’t be able to get as close or see the life in the tide pools.

When we got to the beach, it was drizzling a little and it was overcast with a little fog. There were strange rock formations jutting out from the water. It was unlike anything I had ever seen anywhere else. We drove through the town of Forks, Washington to get to the beach and I totally understood why Stephanie Meyer set the Twilight books in this area. It looks like a place where strange sparkly vampires would live!

Tides at Rialto Beach

The trail is a 3.3-mile long out-and-back trail and most of the hike is just an easy walk on the beach, but there are some tricky sections.  The scariest part for me (and most of the other women hikers we saw) was the part where you had to cross Ellen’s Creek small stream that dumps into the ocean. The only way to cross it was by walking over a log. One woman told me, I’m sure as an attempt to reassure me, “I’ve been standing here over an hour and I haven’t seen anyone fall in yet.” Luckily, I didn’t ruin her streak, but I did take the chicken’s way out on the way back and scoot across on my butt. Apparently, when the creek is less full, people wade through it instead of the scrambling we had to do.

Starfish at Hole in the WallFrom there it wasn’t much further to the rock and the feature known as Hole-in-the-Wall. It is known as Hole-in-the-Wall because over time, the tide eroded the center of the rock and created a hole big enough to walk through. The walk on the rocks was slippery and I was very worried I was going to fall, but seeing all the life in the tide pools was absolutely worth it! We had never explored tide pools before so it was really cool to see!  I had no idea starfish came in so many colors! It was crazy because you could be looking at a part of the rock for a while and just keep seeing more.

If you are looking for a beach to visit in Olympic National Park, I highly recommend Rialto Beach and the hike to Hole-in-the-Wall. If you are planning to do this hike, waterproof hiking boots with good traction are a must. Walking on the beach, our feet got a little wet, but scrambling over wet rocks would’ve been near impossible without our hiking boots.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week when I share about our time exploring Hurricane Ridge! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Rialto Beach Pinterest Graphic

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