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2022: Year in Review

Pitons of St. Lucia

The Pitons of St. Lucia

2022 was once again an amazing travel year for us! We spent two weeks on cruise ships, many hours in airports, and saw many amazing things! We went both the farthest south and north that I have ever been and crossed off three more National Parks. This year travel felt like it was getting back to normal.

Unlike in years past, our first travels of the year didn’t come until the end of the first quarter with our port-a-day Southern Caribbean cruise on the Explorer of the Seas. We visited some of my favorite ports of any cruise we’ve taken and I have been watching flights to St. Maarten, St. Lucia (top), and Puerto Rico since we returned (we are actually heading back to Puerto Rico in the not-too-distant future). We got to snorkel in the pristine waters of Virgin Islands National Park and explore the oldest fort in the United States (bottom). 

Ship Sailing through Fog in Tracy Arm Fjord

Cruise ship sailing through fog in Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska

Almost exactly two months after returning home, we got on another plane and headed to the Pacific Northwest. We explored Vancouver, which I have been dying to see for over ten years. From there we boarded another ship and headed north to four ports in Alaska. We got to see a glacier, bears, raptors, and whales, and ride a dog sled. It was an amazing trip but I feel like we barely scratched the surface of Alaska and I can’t wait to return and explore it some more. 

After getting off the ship, we took a bus back to Washington where we spent a week exploring all of the unique ecosystems of Olympic National Park. From the mountains of Hurricane Ridge to the Hoh Rainforest and more green than the brain can process, it was a week of exploring the outdoors. My favorite part would have to be Rialto Beach and the crazy rock formations coming out of the water. It was otherworldly.

Hoh Rainforst

One thing that ties our travels together this year is rainforests. We hiked in El Yunque in Puerto Rico and drove through the rainforest in St. Lucia and St. Kitts. We explored the temperate rainforest at Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver and visited bears in the rainforest of Sitka. We hiked through the fascinating Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park (right). Near-constant rain and lush greenery seems to be the common denominator of 2022’s travels.

Of course, we took the camper out after returning from the PNW and spent some time at some new campgrounds and some old favorites (those stories coming in the next few weeks). The highlight of the summer in Michigan would have to be kayaking Pictured Rocks. That is something I have wanted to do since my first visit to the National Lakeshore and it was an amazing experience that I recommend to anyone!

San Juan National Historic Site

Since the summer, we have been pretty much at home, but more travels are coming soon! You will have to stay tuned to the blog to see what 2023 has in store for us! If all goes to plan it should be another amazing year of exploring this beautiful world!

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: Starfish

Starfish at Hole in the Wall

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: Mosses

Hoh Rainforest

Wordless Wednesday: Hoh Rainforest

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

Wordless Wednesday: Hurricane Hill

Hurricane Hill Panorama

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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