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!

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In which we visited the Redwoods

Redwood National Park encompasses a narrow band of land along the northern California coastline. The national park (established 1968) is combined with several state parks (Jedediah Smith, Prairie Creek, and Del Norte Coast) and together they protect almost 50% of known redwood trees.thumb_DSC_0584_1024 We started the morning escaping driving out of Crescent City, south along the coast on Highway 101. The 101 hugs the Pacific Ocean from LA to the Olympic Peninsula and has always been something I’ve wanted to drive. Viewpoints like this confirmed my suspicions on how gorgeous it would be: thumb_DSC_0588_1024

Dipping my feet in to say goodbye to the Pacific Ocean.

Dipping my feet in to say goodbye to the Pacific Ocean.

We also had the chance to fulfill one of my lifelong dreams: driving through a redwood. Yes, I know this sounds weird, but in some elementary school textbook there is a picture showing a car driving through a tree (probably this one) to illustrate just how gigantic redwoods are and I had to do it. There are actually three trees near (but not in) the park that you can drive through – we chose the Tour Thru Tree (silly lawyers can’t let them say “drive-thru” for liability reasons) for no other reason other than it was close to our itinerary.

They have quite a nice racket: Entrance is $5 and there is little to no maintenance on the thing.

They have quite a nice racket: Entrance is $5 and there is little to no maintenance on the thing.

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This is an approximately 750 year old living redwood. The tunnel was carved out in 1976, carefully avoiding the critical life sustaining parts.

Jeff drove, I took pictures. You can really get out once you're in it.

Jeff drove, I took pictures (you can’t really get out once you’re in it). So many milestones for the Jeep this week!

After this detour we zipped back into the park and drove through majestic groves of redwoods. It’s easy to spot which ones they are – their ashy grey trunks draw your eye upwards and they tower over every other tree; they are the tallest on Earth. Sequoias may have more volume and be more round, but they don’t scrap the sky like these giants:

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They won’t fit completely in my camera frame – I took this picture lying on the ground.

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Meandering through the giants

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We had most of the drive to ourselves which was nice so I could go slow and crane my head through the window to look up.

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There was a sign that said this was Big Tree – so we pulled off to see it. She seems just as large as a lot of other ones, but with a sign she must be special. Estimated age: 1500 years. Height: 304 feet. Diameter: 21.6 feet. Circumference: 66 feet.

thumb_DSC_0635_1024 Our itinerary did not leave much time for lingering, though this is a national park I’d love to revisit. We continued on to Fern Canyon in the southern (and Prairie Creek controlled) section or the park. Since it’s not technically part of the National Parks System we had to pay an $8 day use fee, and although it was a quick jaunt, it was worth it.

Our little trek took us about three-quaters of a mile.

Our little trek took us about three-quaters of a mile.

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Possibly my favorite picture from today.

Possibly my favorite picture from today.

After that we headed out, we made a brief stop in Arcata, CA for a delicious lunch at the Kebab Cafe (get the gyro itself or gyro burger – so good!!). If you didn’t know, California is in the midst of a terrible drought and I felt like were were driving through kindling as we drove Hwy 299 through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. It’s less a “forest” and more a lot of dried trees, cracking brush and dirt that look ready to ignite any second. It was also hot as blazes out there:

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We haven’t seen 100 degrees since before we moved to Seattle.

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OMG and then it got even hotter! We eventually reached 112 before the sun went down and gave us some sweet, sweet relief. Between us we have two bachelor’s (from a top ten university), a law degree, a dental degree and two master’s degrees- why again are we driving an unairconditioned Jeep across the US in July?!?

When we were in Arcata we called ahead to Chester, CA and got the last room at the Cedar Lodge Motel. We’re planning on camping at some point, but Jeff needed the internet for work this evening. The folks who run this Motel and RV Park are so nice, our room is clean and we’re very close to Lassen for our second national park of the trip. We were also given a complimentary newspaper detailing the local fishing report – adorable. Fun fact about Chester: Chuck Norris’s wife is from here and they have a house nearby. Tonight is good: Lake Almanor is steps away with a refreshing breeze, we have sandwiches from the local hippy market packed for tomorrow’s hike and I’m just really thankful there’s no foghorn.

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Today’s trek encompassed almost the entire width of California – 314 miles

We’re off to hike in Lassen tomorrow and then if we stick to the itinerary will be in Ely, NV tomorrow evening. Having internet each night has been nice, but not sure if we’ll get as lucky from here on out.

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 we go on our Graduation-moon, Part II: West Maui

The day before we left I picked up a couple of books for Jeff to read on the beach at our local used book store. On a whim I threw an old copy of Maui Revealed into my basket as well. We had never used a guidebook before, but I’m so glad we did. It took us off the beaten path to see some remote, breathtaking sites – we will definitely be using guidebooks for our future trips! One caveat – try to pick up an up to date book. Our morning trip to go snorkeling off of La Perouse Bay in an area called the Aquarium and Fish Bowl that were described in our 2008 text were thwarted because the area was now off limits. Oh well. We headed back to the car and decided to explore West Maui instead.

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Exploring the lava fields

After lunch at Aloha Mixed Plate in Lahaina, we headed north on Hwy 30 to just before it became the one-lane 340. Following the directions to look for the yellow fence (now painted green) through a pineapple field (now grown over) – we found one of our favorite sites in Maui: The two-tiered pools at Honoloa and we had them all to ourselves.

Hiking down

Hiking down

Overhead shot of the pools - the lower one connects to the ocean, the upper one is filled by crashing waves.

Overhead shot of the pools – the lower one connects to the ocean, the upper one is filled by crashing waves.

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Exploring the pools

Exploring the pools

We found cool fish!

We found cool fish!

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Loving my Hawaiian themed sunglasses from Target.

These tiny fish liked to jump from pool to pool.

These tiny fish liked to jump from pool to pool.

From the pools we headed down the road a little to see the Mushroom Shaped Rock and explore the lava blanketed coastline. thumb_DSC_0366_1024

If you showed me this picture and asked me where in the world it might be, I would say Ireland or somewhere like that - not a tropical paradise. It was amazing to see all the diversity Maui had to offer.

If you showed me this picture and asked me where in the world it might be, I would say Ireland or somewhere like that – not a tropical paradise. It was amazing to see all the diversity Maui had to offer.

Mushroom shaped rock. The red deposits in the lava are from when the island was relatively young.

Mushroom shaped rock. The red deposits in the lava are from when the island was relatively young.

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View to the north and west of the Mushroom Shaped rock

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Lava Arch

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We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring little coves and tide pools in the lava and had the entire hike to ourselves. We almost made it down all the way to the Olivine pools – we could see them and hear people at them, but were cut off by a deep cove.

Since we were so far from Lahaina and on the map it looked closer to take the tiny winding road from Kahaluloa to Kahului, so we kept going in a clock-wise direction around West Maui. The road was very tiny! One lane. For both cars. With a lot of blind turns cut into the cliff side. This would turn out to be a reoccurring theme on the island. {Kahakuloa is marked as large on the map, but in actuality it is a tiny hamlet. A tiny hamlet with delicious banana bread that we bought to support the local church. Bake sale food is the best!}

Our day's wanderings - no wonder we put some miles on the Rogue

Our day’s wanderings – no wonder we put some miles on the Rogue

In which we visited the Tulip Festival

This weekend my dear husband was tricked into lovingly accompanied me up to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, about an hour and a half north of Seattle.  It was #4 on a BuzzFeed list of 29 surreal places in America and with it being one of the closest I felt compelled to check it out.

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We left early Sunday morning to avoid the crowds and got there right when it opened. Good thing too because when we were headed back to Seattle around 10:30am, the exit off I-5 was backed up at least twenty minutes of us driving in the opposite direction.

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The festival is set up at a driving tour throughout the valley, but we only got out at RoozenGaarde, a farm that ships tulips worldwide, year round. The pictures here make it seem like the fields stretch miles into the surrounding snow-capped Cascades, but they’re really only several acres, making it one of the few instances where the photos are perhaps better than real life.

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In addition to tulips, the daffodils were just at the end of their bloom:

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Once we had explored the open field (and as it was getting crowded with visitors), we headed across the street to RoozenGaarde’s display garden and visitor center. There they had more varieties of tulips than I knew even existed!

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Jeff's favorites, "the fuzzy ones".

Jeff’s favorites, “the fuzzy ones”.

Display gardens

Display gardens

My favorites

My favorites

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All in all it was a fun morning exploring and we made it back to Seattle before noon. I highly recommend going early (or on a week day) as it was packed by the time we left.

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Sorry for what can only be described as a batch of landscape porn. Trust me when I say that I really did try to narrow down my pictures from the trip to only the really good ones.

 

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