Zion National Park

Zion National Park, Utah

I’m a big believer in the planning/expectation part of a trip being part of the fun, but I was really busy leading up to our Grand Canyon and Zion trip and didn’t have time to do much research.  I think I had photos from some of Utah’s other national parks in my head when I pictured Zion, so I expected it to be more of a desert and was surprised to find a river running through it and some fairly lush greenery.
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Hiking at Mount Rainier

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On Saturday Ben and I went hiking at Mount Rainier with some friends. The scenery was like a postcard: wildflowers in bloom, the snow melting but ever present; the sky a clear, intense blue.

I learned a lot from my hiking buddies about the wildflowers, and the Paradise Visitor’s Center has a nice flyer to help identify them. I think it gave me a little taste of what John Muir meant when he referred to Mount Rainier’s meadows as “the most luxurious and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens [he] ever beheld in all [his] mountain-top ramblings.”

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IMG_6648^This color of paintbrush wildflower only grows at Mount Rainier^

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IMG_6680^Our group looking ahead to Camp Muir, which Ben and I really hope to hike to sometime soon! Camp Muir is the “base camp” for summitting Mount Rainier.^

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You know it’s a good weather day in Seattle when “the mountain is out,” meaning Mount Rainier is visible in the skyline. The fact that you can only see the mountain from the city a handful of days in the year adds to the enchantment of being at the base of this hide-and-seek giant landmark; when you can see the mountain from Seattle it’s large and looming in the sky, dominating the skyline.

The beauty of the mountain and the surrounding scenery kind of wraps itself around your heart—it’s impossible to visit and not be in awe.

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P.S. Last time we had a chance to drive up to Mount Rainier it looked like this. We were at the same spot as the photos in this summertime post, if you can believe the change in the weather 🙂

Snowshoeing at Mt. Rainier

We went snowshoeing at Mt. Rainier two weekends ago and it was amazing; they call that visitor’s center Paradise for a reason. (It’s just as breathtaking on a clear day in the summer.)

There was no snow on the roads when we drove up but it was snowing pretty hard once we got there. We tromped around the mountain for about an hour, stopping a LOT to take pictures. I couldn’t help myself with the camera…I was like a kid in a candy store with all that snow!

^We didn’t expect the jumping photo to turn out but it is pretty good^

^I even made a video of the snow for your enjoyment! ^

The roads can get dicey in the mountains so I’m glad we made this trip when we did. I would 100% recommend this if you’re in the Seattle area in early-mid November with a day to spare. Mount Rainier tweets the current road conditions: @MountRainierNPS, and REI in downtown Seattle rents snowshoes too if you don’t have your own.

I should mention, as a sort of disclaimer, that we couldn’t see Mount Rainier at all even though it was hovering right above us. The heavy snow and fog hid it completely. I’ve learned not the expect to see THE mountain so I wasn’t disappointed.

I’m already looking forward to when Ben and I can return for more snowshoeing at Mount Rainier National Park!

Montana

We took the “long way” home from our road trip to Canada so we could swing through Montana and Glacier National Park. Though most of Glacier isn’t open this time of year we got new stamps on our park passports and were exposed to just a tiny taste of the unbelievably gorgeous landscape.

^Horses in the road RIGHT outside the car^

Oh my—this corner of Montana is a place I need to return. Our drive was stunning.

And with that I wrap up the story of our road trip! 🙂

Mount Rainier

Ben and I headed up to Mount Rainier last weekend to complete one of our summer goals—camping in all three of the national parks near us. I will say before I continue that we did know the weather would be questionable but we decided to go for it anyway! …and it rained. The mountain was covered in fog most of the time. But it was still kind of awesome.

We hadn’t reserved a backcountry campsite ahead of time (Rainier opens them up way in advance and we just weren’t on top of it) so we ended up at Sunrise camp, and the ranger recommended a few different day hikes we could do from the camp. Sunrise camp is only a mile in from the visitors center so we headed in, set up our tent, dropped off a lot of our gear and hiked up to the Burroughs Mountain Trail.

^Oops 🙂 ^

Though we had a few beautiful moments when the fog blew over it was frustrating because the mountain was SO CLOSE and at times we could hardly tell it was there at all. We put Burroughs Mountain Trail on our “day hike” list to return sometime.

^foggy morning on the lake at camp^

We headed back to Seattle after waking up in a soggy forest. (There is a rumor floating that I woke up at 4:30 am and told Ben the rain was “bears throwing berries at our tent” that I unfortunately can’t deny because I remember it—don’t you think that makes sense?) We enjoyed the cool temperatures, hot cocoa at camp, and the few moments of beautiful scenery.

I’ve also really enjoyed trying to dry out a muddy, dirty tent in our tiny apartment. Any tips on that?

Backpacking: North Cascades

McAlester Lake, North Cascades National Park

One of our goals this summer has been to camp in each of the National Parks in our area—we are so lucky to have three under three hours away: North Cascades, Mount Rainier, and Olympic. Since we went to Olympic recently we headed up to the North Cascades this past weekend, drove awhile along the beautiful North Cascades Highway, which was one of the prettiest drives we’ve done, and parked at the Bridge Creek trail head to start our journey.

^Diablo Lake, along the North Cascades highway^

^we hiked part of the Pacific Crest Trail for the first time (definitely though of the book Wild)^

^the wildflowers were as tall as me in some spots!^

^McAlester Lake^

^another pretty view of Diablo Lake from our drive along the North Cascades Highway^

We went to North Cascades National Park last year and did a beautiful day hike, and we’ve done several other hikes in the area this summer, but this was our first overnight stay. It’s nice to have the freedom to do a trail that’s a little longer when you don’t have the time constraints of a day hike. We hiked 20 miles on Friday and Saturday. That may not seem like too much to you more experienced backpackers but it was a lot for me!! I count it my exercise for the whole week 😉

The South Coast: Part 2

CAMPING AT SCOTT CREEK BEACH, OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK, Pacific Coast, Road Trips and Skymiles blog

Camping at Scott Creek Beach, Olympic National Park

We had an amazing, clear evening for our night on the beach at Olympic National Park (see our backpacking adventure to get this point on the beach here). The warm sun slowly set and our beach world turned orange and charcoal. Gradually the orange faded, the moon rose, and the the stars twinkled to life little by little. I woke up around 3 a.m. (because who sleeps soundly in a tent?) and opened my eyes to millions of bright stars above me and the lullaby of the ocean waves.

CAMPING AT SCOTT CREEK BEACH, OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK, Pacific Coast, Road Trips and Skymiles blog

CAMPING AT SCOTT CREEK BEACH, OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK, Pacific Coast, Road Trips and Skymiles blog

CAMPING AT SCOTT CREEK BEACH, OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK, Pacific Coast, Road Trips and Skymiles blog

CAMPING AT SCOTT CREEK BEACH, OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK, Pacific Coast, Road Trips and Skymiles blog

CAMPING AT SCOTT CREEK BEACH, OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK, Pacific Coast, Road Trips and Skymiles blog

CAMPING AT SCOTT CREEK BEACH, OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK, Pacific Coast, Road Trips and Skymiles blog

In a few months I won’t remember the annoyances of being a little extra tired after returning from a quick weekend adventure, or scrubbing my muddy, sandy boots, or trying to wash the smell of campfire from my hair. Waking up under a spectacular night sky, with millions of bright stars towering over me—that memory I will keep for a long time.

Deer Park

Deer Park Campground, Olympic National Park

On Thursday we headed to the Olympic peninsula and found our way to Deer Park, an amazing National Park campsite, situated at 5400 feet in the Olympic mountains. If you can brave an unpaved mountain road for about 8 miles, this experience is car camping at its best!

^serenity^

^breathtaking mountain scenery!^

^not a bad spot for some afternoon reading^

^Deer Park is an appropriate name for this spot…the deer weren’t shy about wandering right up to our campsite^

^I brought my tripod along and got some star photos. As you can see they are blurry so I need to work on my technique. There is a shooting star in this photo, which I can’t believe I managed to capture! The stars here were AMAZING. So happy we had a clear night for stargazing.^

Deer Park is a first-come-first-served area with only 14 campsites so I recommend arriving as early as you can to get a good spot. The fee for the night is $10, which you leave in a lock box near the entrance. We’d love to come back to this campsite again when we have more time and check out some of the nearby trails. It is such a gorgeous area.

We had such an amazing weekend at Olympic National Park! Stay tuned on the blog this week for some details about the next phase of our trip, backpacking on the coast.