In which we visit Capitol Reef and Arches National Parks

This trip reminds me of an eight-course meal at a fancy restaurant. You don’t get a large portion of each dish, but you get enough to peak your interest, enough to taste its subtle nuance, and enough to want more.

We started the morning off at Capitol Reef National Park. Since I had trouble finding much information on this obscure park we settled for the scenic drive portion and were not disappointed in the views:

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National Park #4!

Another outtake. I was struggling before coffee.

Another outtake. I was struggling before coffee. Also excuse the fog – I had cleaned my filter with a solvent and replaced it before realizing it wasn’t fully dry. Fortunately fixed this before taking the rest of the day’s pictures. But it’s kinda dreamy, isn’t it?

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Unbelievable rock faces in stunning red and browns punctuated with green.

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Rising in a slanted direction into the distance.

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We stopped by a restored early Mormon settlement and bought cherry pie, cinnamon rolls and coffee from the general store. The national park service maintains the orchards early pioneers planted and it remains the largest fruit tree area maintained by NPS.

We stopped by a restored early Mormon settlement and bought cherry pie, cinnamon rolls and coffee from the general store. The national park service maintains the historic orchards early pioneers planted and it remains the largest fruit tree area maintained by them. You can even pick fruit in season for a nominal fee. The cinnamon rolls were perfect. The coffee made by Mormons, not so great.

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Jeep is still going strong!

Jeep is still going strong!

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Loved these sedimentary rock formations

Grand Wash canyon. We headed the flash flood warnings not to enter when a storm was imminent.

Grand Wash canyon. We heeded the flash flood warnings not to enter when a storm was imminent (also we were on a time crunch).

Grand Wash

Grand Wash – Called a wash because it was not a stream or creek or river yet. Not until it rains. Signs of road damage could be seen all along the drive from previous flash floods.

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The red color was spectacular - I couldn't get enough.

The red color was spectacular – I couldn’t get enough.

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For only having the morning to explore, the scenic drive was perfect.

For only having the morning to explore, the scenic drive was perfect and because we started early, we had it mostly to ourselves.

We stopped and saw some early petroglyphs - these reminded me of the stickers people put on the back of their vans.

We stopped and saw some early petroglyphs – these reminded me of the stickers people put on the back of their vans.

Capitol Dome from which Capitol Reef takes its name. It's supposed to resemble the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

The white Capitol Dome towering above the Fremont River. This is from which Capitol Reef takes its name as it’s supposed to resemble the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

We headed out of the park towards Arches and kept being greeted by awesome canyon and rock formation views. It seemed otherworldly:

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We stopped for iced tea and directions at a gas station carved into the rock:

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And finally made it to Moab, UT where we grabbed lunch at the Moab Brewery:

Jeff had the Dead Horse Amber and I had the Moab Especial - both helped wash down chicken sandwiches.

Jeff had the Dead Horse Amber and I had the Moab Especial – both helped wash down delicious chicken sandwiches.

Today was ambitious: I had planned two parks in one day! But at the last minute I almost added a third. I didn’t realize Canyonlands was so close to Arches – they’re 20 miles apart which is a minute speck in national park distance terms. I really didn’t even know until we hit the exit for Arches and it said “One Exit: Two National Parks” and my heart immediately sank. What is wrong with me?! This whole trip was carefully mapped out, researched, planned. It was tight already. I spent lunch going over our itinerary – do we stay the night here and try to do both? Do we nix another one in favor of Canyonlands? And do we try to squeeze this one in without any preparation? Do we just drive to the gate, get the map and leave to say we’d done it?

In the end, I let it be. This trip is already pushing the quantity limit of quality. Not that we could just nix four parks and spend two days exploring each instead – it’s a lot of distance to cover and our stops are spaced so that we can achieve that distance. If we had driven straight to Minneapolis from Seattle it would have been 24 hours of driving. Our current concocted plan works out to around 52, so it would not have allowed extra time to linger. We need to be there on time so we can get settled and Jeff can work. No, I had to let this trip be what it is: a marathon taste-test. We’ll be back.

National Park #5

National Park #5!

Driving in past the Three Gossips - perhaps my favorite name for a rock formation.

Driving in past the Three Gossips – perhaps my favorite name for a rock formation.

And the gorgeous scenery continues.

And the gorgeous scenery continues.

Right before we saw the sign for what this was, I commented to Jeff that the rock appeared to be balancing on top of the other one. I should be a formation namer: it's called Balancing Rock.

Right before we saw the sign for what this was, I commented to Jeff that the rock appeared to be balancing on top of the other one. I should be a formation namer: it’s called Balancing Rock.

Like I alluded to earlier: I’ve carefully planned our experiences in most of the parks. Fern Canyon in Redwoods, Bumpass Hell in Lassenvisiting the bristlecone pines in Great Basin, etc. Each excursion was chosen to represent the character of the park and give us the maximum effect in our limited time. That’s why I ultimately couldn’t just add Canyonlands – I had no idea what to do there. A quick glance said there would be too many cool things, so I let it go. We’ll save it for another time. As for Arches, I picked the famous Delicate Arch (which also happens to be currently gracing the Utah license plate):

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It was hot - 97 degrees. Rangers at the beginning on the trail checked to see that we had adequate water (we did).

It was hot – 97 degrees. Rangers at the beginning on the trail checked to see that we had adequate water (we did).

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Queen of the world!

Queen of the world!

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I am adding this to the growing collection of pictures of my boots in different environs. I’ve had these since sixth grade.

Stone piles marked the trail in some areas.

Stone piles marked the trail in some areas.

Almost at the top

Almost at the top

Worth the climb!

Worth the climb!

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Delicate Arch!

Going back down was so much easier.

Going back down was so much easier.

We detoured to see a few more petroglyphs. These, like the previous ones, were carved by the mysterious Fremont people before they disappeared from the record.

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I would love to come back and see the 2,473 other arches we didn’t see, but, the sun was high and we needed to move on.

State #6!

State #6!

We checked for places to stay near our next stop, Black Canyon, but came up empty. Our original plan to camp along the way has been thwarted by the tiredness we’ve been feeling as a result of the long drives with no AC. We’re not the twenty year old explorers we used to be.

The closest place we could find was an hour and a half away in Grand Junction, CO, so we’re bunkered down here for the night. I’m beginning to believe we might actually make this crazy itinerary of eight parks, eight states in eight days, work.

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An easy 261 miles today, but we completed two parks, so I’ll take it.

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In which we visited Lassen and drove the loneliest highway in America

Remember when I signed off the last post about it being a good night? Bad news: we discovered while rummaging for some lost contact solution (turns out we left it in the hotel in Crescent City) that our boat battery had tipped and spilled all over the back of the Jeep. Good news: baking soda neutralizes the sulfuric acid. Bad news: everything closes after 9pm in Chester, CA so we couldn’t do anything. Good news: The grocery store opens early for the fishermen. We spent the morning scrubbing and neutralizing what we could.

Here’s hoping that the bottom of the Jeep doesn’t fall out anytime soon! Also figured out I’ve developed shingles (am I 80??) – but that is a story for another day. First – on to Lassen!

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National park #2

Lassen Volcanic National Park is like Glacier and Yellowstone had a baby. The peaks reach the sky, but the area is bubbling with geothermal activity. It’s the southern most part of the Cascade Range and its Volcano, Lassen Peak, last erupted 100 years ago. Give that our time was short, we chose to do the Bumpass Hell trail, one because of the name and two, because it gave great views of Lassen’s mountains and showed off the beauty of the Tehama caldera. It’s funny moniker comes from serious incident. Kendall Vanhook Bumpass, a local miner who was exploring the area, broke through the thin mud crust and scalded his leg badly resulting in its eventual amputation. Yikes. thumb_DSC_0695_1024 thumb_DSC_0666_1024

These beautiful purple wildflowers were in bloom along the trail.

These beautiful purple wildflowers were in bloom along the trail.

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I love the color the sulpher, thermophilic algae makes the water.

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Good reason to use the boardwalks (also a federal law).

Good reason to use the boardwalks.

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About 16 acres of hot springs, fumaroles (steam vents) and boiling mud pots

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Beautiful mud and algae above the boiling mud pots. Pictures don’t quite do it justice.

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Our hike didn’t take as long as planned, so we drove around a bit more of the park to take in the scenery:

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View of Brokeoff Mountain

In front of Lassen Peak

In front of Lassen Peak

View to the Cascades beyond

View to the Cascades beyond – this reminds me of the Appalachians outside Asheville.

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The is the highest point on the highest road in the Cascades

We had a long drive before us, so we headed out. I would definitely come back to Lassen again (and hike the Cinder Cone and Lassen Peak!). On the road again:

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Somewhere in California

Crossed the border and drove through Reno - it made me miss all the Burners who would fly in through here to go to Burning Man soon. Our route took us no where near the Black Rock Desert, which was probably for the best. It would make me miss it too much.

Crossed the border and drove through Reno – it made me miss all the Burners who would fly in through here to go to Burning Man soon. Our route took us no where near the Black Rock Desert, which was probably for the best. It would make me miss it too much.

Once through Reno we started driving on Nevada Highway 50. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was named “The Loneliest Road in America” by Life magazine in 1986. I get why: we crossed long stretches of desert valleys punctuated by desolate mountain ranges with little to no sign of civilization for close to sever hours. It was long and hot and I’m very thankful we had a car to do it in (despite its lack of air conditioning) because this is the route the Pony Express took and I can only imagine how hard it was for them.

Beautiful, but lonely.

Beautiful, but lonely.

Desert valley stretch. Note all the bugs we've accumulated.

Desert valley stretch. Note all the bugs we’ve accumulated.

Eventually we pulled into Ely, NV, the biggest settlement we’d seen since leaving Reno. It’s a little modern segment of the Wild West: advertisements for roping lessons, casino-hotels galore with stuffed rattlesnakes decorating the lobby, steakhouses and blackjack dealers smoking cigarettes they bought out of a vending machine.

Downtown Ely, NV

Downtown Ely, NV

We stayed in a hotel-casino that was built on the site of the old jail – so naturally it was called the Jailhouse:

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497 miles

497 miles

Long day, but we survived and we’re getting there – on to Great Basin next!

In which we go on our Graduation-moon, Part III: Road to Hana

The Road to Hana is one of the most popular things to do in Maui that doesn’t involve a beach or volcano. Hana is a tiny hamlet on the very eastern edge of the island, and like most things in life this journey wasn’t about the destination.

We started off early, myself driving the curvy roads to stave off the motion sickness and Jeff with our handy Maui Revealed counting mile posts to look out for sites. Over breakfast in the Kihei Caffe (food was meh) we had marked out places we definitely wanted to stop at while leaving plenty of room for chance.

There’s plenty to do on the road to Hana, in Hana and the surrounding areas and we couldn’t come close to seeing it all, but I thought we got a pretty good sampling. Here’s what we saw:

The Four Falls of Na’ili’ili-Haele

After researching this hike when we returned to Seattle I found out it is probably the hike that requires the most helicopter rescues in all of Maui. The Road to Hana is famous for it’s waterfalls and we had skipped the first pull out for Twin Falls for this one.

We started off hiking through a bamboo forest thicker than anything I'd ever seen.

We started off hiking through a bamboo forest thicker than anything I’d ever seen.

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We emerged from the thicket to the first waterfall:

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The trail past it, to the second waterfall was up a steep, muddy hill that fortunately had a rope to help you climb. We thought we were adventurous getting to the second falls because there were only two other people there. We were planning on stopping at this point since the guidebook described the rest of the trail as “difficult” and swimming was involved. The couple insisted that we could do it and that it would b completely worth it to keep going – and I’m glad we did!

Sketchy ladder plus rope to get up past the second falls.

Sketchy ladder plus rope to get up past the second falls.

On top of the second falls: We made it up! And didn't void my disability insurance!

On top of the second falls: We made it up! And didn’t void my disability insurance!

The rest of the “trail” was boulder hopping up the stream.

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Until we got to a place where the valley walls closed in on us and we couldn’t boulder hop anymore – it was time to swim:

Boots overhead (turns out we didn't need these).

Boots overhead (turns out we didn’t need these).

It wasn't far, but we couldn't touch. Third waterfall we needed to climb up in the distance.

It wasn’t far, but we couldn’t touch. Third waterfall we needed to climb up in the distance.

I risk taking my camera to take a picture of the fourth falls (carrying my boots over my head was tough enough and it's okay if they fell). This is a picture of the fourth falls from the guidebook.

I did not risk taking my camera to take a picture of the fourth falls (carrying my boots over my head was tough enough and it’s okay if they fell). This is a picture of the fourth falls from the guidebook – which can’t do it justice. 

I am so glad we went – it was gorgeous! About 100 ft high falling into a sparkling pool that we had all to ourselves. It was perfect – the quintessential Maui waterfall. We stayed for a while and then headed back down the stream.

Hibiscus flowers littered the river.

Hibiscus flowers littered the river.

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After emerging from the bamboo forest we continued on – stopping occasionally for hidden waterfalls and gorgeous outlooks:

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We shared a sandwich at Halfway to Hana Snack Shop where we met a gentleman from Missouri. He informed us that here at the midpoint, he “had got the gist” and was turning around. We decided to continue on and I’m so glad we did. Next stop:

Pi’ilanihale Heiau

The Pi-ilanihale Heiau (or Hale O Pi’ Ilani Heiau) is the largest heiau (hey-ow) in all Polynesia and one of the best preserved. Heiaus were places of worship and where chiefs lived. It sits among a garden representing plants that ancient Polynesians brought with them in canoes across the Pacific and it was stunning. We explored the grounds, having them to ourselves and being careful not to get too close to a coconut tree. My pictures don’t do it justice.

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The heiau is the black structure in the back. The thatched roof sheltered canoes. The volcano looms over it all.

Each one of these lava stones were passed in a human chain from a quarry seven miles away. If you dropped a stone, it had to stay where it fell. I can only imagine how long it took to build.

Each one of these lava stones were passed in a human chain from a quarry seven miles away. If you dropped a stone, it had to stay where it fell. I can only imagine how long it took to build. The wall you can see here is only the first side of it and doesn’t show you how massive the structure really is.

I can't escape dentistry even here!

I found some dentistry in paradise!

We had to be careful!

We had to be careful so these coconuts didn’t fall on our coconuts.

After re-filling our water bladder we continued on to Hana and:

Wai’anapanapa State Park

This state park whose name means “glistening fresh water” is one of the last ones before you reach Hana and is home to a small, black sand beach. Jeff found another hike in the guidebook, one that went in the opposite direction of everyone admiring the black sand.

We missed this sign and bushwhacked for a while. It got really hairy and for a minute we almost gave up before we found the trail again - I'm glad we stuck with it!

We missed this sign and bushwhacked for a while. It got really hairy and for a minute we almost gave up before we found the trail again – I’m glad we stuck with it!

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There wasn’t so much a path as a scramble over black lava.

The coolest part of this was watching how violent the ocean was against the lava. We found multiple blow holes and tiny coves that were fascinating to watch.

The coolest part of this was watching how violent the ocean was against the lava. We found multiple blow holes and tiny coves that were fascinating to watch.

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This day trip is all about dangerous ground – we weren’t scared!

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We found a smaller heiau in ruins out on our hike.

We found a smaller heiau in ruins out on our hike.

Stones have been laid so that we didn't trod on sacred ground.

Stones have been laid so that we didn’t trod on sacred ground.

Overlooking the Pacific.

Overlooking the Pacific.

After this little sojourn it was almost dinner time. We continued into Hana and ate a much needed dinner. I didn’t take any pictures, probably because I was beat after our adventures, but Hana is small and peaceful and definitely warrants further exploration. Most everyone around us was there for the night, but we had to head back, so we couldn’t linger.

The road to Hana is lush, two-laned and winds through the rainforest. The road away, on the leeward side of the island, is drier and one lane for both cars – it’s a completely different world:

The Road From Hana

I tried to take this picture of the road to show how it was cut into the cliff.

I tried to take this picture of the road to show how it was cut into the cliff.

This one taken from the steering wheel gives you some better perceptive of how narrow we're talking.

This one taken from the steering wheel gives you some better perceptive of how narrow we’re talking.

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We were in a race against dark, so we didn’t linger.

Following other cars made me less nervous about a a head-on collision around a blind curve.

Following other cars made me less nervous about a a head-on collision around a blind curve.

Sunset against the volcano

Sunset against the volcano

Lava arch

Lava arch

Dusk setting in

Dusk setting in

Bridge over a gorge

Bridge over a gorge – this doesn’t look like a tropical island.

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We rounded the last of the curves and the road widened just as we lost our light.

What a fun trip!

In which I glamp with the neighbors

Glamping is the portmanteau of glamorous camping. And my new favorite thing, or at least the RV version of it. Until now I’ve always experienced the outdoors under the thin cloth of a tent, but after tasting the civilization in the wilderness that is wine, cheese, Trader Joe’s appetizers, an actual mattress and a heated, dry place to sleep, glamping might be my new thing. This past weekend I went with my friend-neighbors Anna and Mary out to the Sol Duc area of Olympic National Park – an absolutely gorgeous corner of Washington state. Even the drive out was breathtaking:

Crescent Lake

Crescent Lake

Fog lifting briefly off the road

Fog lifting briefly off the road

Gary the Mann took our picture by the side of the road.

Gary the Mann took our picture by the side of the road.

The next morning after setting up camp we decided to make an easy hike up to the Sol Duc Falls. We started in a light mist that progressed to heavier rain.

Starting out

Starting out

And then, was that snow? And then, omg snow! So much of it!

Covering the trailhead in a winter wonderland.

Covering the trailhead in a winter wonderland.

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What do you get when you mix a rain forest with snow? A mossy, cold wonderland:

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The falls were fairly close to the trail head – good thing, because we were cold and wet at this point:

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Overlooking the water

Opposite side of the falls

Opposite side of the falls

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Close up of the falls

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So cold – let’s go to the hot springs!

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Bridge over the river

Lunch was sandwiches complemented by bacon jerky and prosecco eaten under a 1938 shelter built by the CCC - galloping at its finest.

Lunch was sandwiches complemented by bacon jerky and prosecco eaten under a 1938 shelter built by the CCC – glamping at its finest.

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I wish I could show you how large this forest feels. The greenery is overpowering and my neck was constantly looking too far up to grasp it all. It overwhelms you what tiny, tiny creatures we are in this forest; how small we are on this planet:

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Mary and Anna

Anna and I

Anna and I

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You can tell you're almost back to the springs by the sulfur smell in the air

You can tell you’re almost back to the springs by the sulfur smell in the air

After our hike we spent some time in the hot springs that Sol Duc is famous for. I never quite got a picture since I did not want to take my camera, but here is a picture from the website:

The large pool in the background was 53oF (cold!!!), the smaller ones closer were in the between 98oF and 103oF.

The large pool in the background was 53oF (cold!!!), the smaller ones closer were in the between 98oF and 103oF. It was fun to soak while it snowed and then jump in between to get the circulation going.

All too soon we had to get home.

Kingston-Edmonds ferry.

Kingston-Edmonds ferry.

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When you wave goodbye to the mountains off the back of the ferry – the fact that you’ve had to travel over land and sea to get there combined with their perpetual misty cloak, makes the Olympics seem like a forbidden land unlike any other.

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Here’s to many more adventures with these two!

In which we climb Oyster Dome

We eked out the last bit of our sunny three day weekend on a hike up to Oyster Dome in the Chuckanut Mountains near Bellingham, WA. The difficulty says 3.5/5, and that it is “family friendly” – but for two out of shape city folks this trail proved to be a lot of uphill lung busting. Fortunately the views at the top of the Sound and islands was well worth it!

Finally at the top - view of the San Juan islands in the distance over Samish Bay.

We started a few feet above the water pictured below. Finally at the top – view of the San Juan islands in the distance over Samish Bay. Elevation 2025 feet.

Relaxing on top of Blanchard Mountain

Relaxing on top of Blanchard Mountain

Made it to the top!

Looking much better after some lunch.

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Much of the hike was through old growth forests

Much of the hike was through second growth conifer forests

Ghostly tree stumps reminded us of how large these behemoths once were before logging days

Ghostly tree stumps reminded us of how large these behemoths once were before logging days. On parts of the trail you could see old rusting logging coils left over (and harboring tetanus).

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Part of the trail runs with the Pacific Northwest Trail that runs from the Olympics to Glacier National Park in Montana.

There are only two really good places where you can see the Sound. Most of the time you're in the forest. Here was the other one besides the Dome.

There are only two really good places where you can see the Sound. Most of the time you’re in the forest. Here was the other one besides the Dome.

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Total length: 6.5 miles with 1900ft of elevation gain – whew!

In which it’s time for an update

You know when you’ve neglected something for so long that when you sit down to do it it becomes overwhelming? This is me updating the blog this month! February has been full of fun and until I can sit down and do a proper entry, please see this update in pictures.

I’ve been hanging out in the resident room with my co-ressie’s adorable, rosy-cheeked kids:

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Going on hikes in the Cascades on the rare, intensely sunny days that we don’t deserve:

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Playing tricks on my co-ressie to keep the UNC-Duke rivalry alive out here on the West Coast:

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And attending dental CE courses on pediatric dentistry  in the modern era (with help from copious amounts of coffee):

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More later!