Tale Of Two Forts| Casey & Ebey

Forts are all over Whidbey Island and a few are even state parks! Fort Casey was located close to where I was staying making it an easily accessible place to explore on an early crisp sunny morning and Fort Ebey just a fifteen-minute drive toward Oak Harbor.

Fort Casey:

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Fort Casey is located five miles from Coupeville next door to the Port Townsend-Coupeville Ferry terminal. The fort was established around the 1890s as a World War I coast artillery fortification to protect the Puget Sound at the Admiralty Inlet area. The fort was decommissioned after World War II and made into a state park.

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On a quiet morning, I decided to explore the fortifications early before the crowds. In relative peace, I explored the arm structures, battlements and the iconic large guns reinstalled after becoming a historical site.

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For some reason, I found this funny!

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The iconic Admiralty Lighthouse built in 1903 was not open at the time. Maybe when I return for another visit to Whidbey Island I will have to stop by.

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Fort Ebey:

Fort Ebey just like Fort Casey was part of the World War II coastal defense system with smaller battlements. The old fort has a lot of hiking trails and beach access to explore.

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One such battlement had a series of tunnels to explore in the dark. With a flashlight and my phone, I walked around the dark rooms and passageways. I should have known that a walking around a dark secluded area would not be a smart thing to do. At one point when I was walking back down another semi-dark passageway, I caught a dark figure out of the corner of my eye off in a dark bunker. At first, I thought “oh hell! I saw a ghost.” But quickly realized it was a person and he was sorry to scare me, but I was already running down the corridor out towards light and to my car. This really should have taught me a lesson in not going to these places alone!

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After a scare just wanted to calm my nerves so I headed towards the beach to get some sea breeze. The waves were crashing in at an alarming rate. There were moments when the waves were huge, enough to boogie board or surf at one point.

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After what seemed like hours I headed back to my car and headed back to Camp Casey for a day of sunbathing at the pool.

 

Have you been to any of these forts? Did you find the Fort Ebey tunnel a little scary? Let me know in the comments!

Peaks Are Alive|Olympic National Park

I find myself in beautiful places and with that, I find myself at places I least expect. Every time I think of the Olympic Mountains I think of the Sound of Music. Wide open alpine meadows with peaks looking straight out of Alps. Why did Leavenworth have to be in the Cascades? Three days spent in what I believe the most beautiful natural park in Washington, a beautiful place everyone should visit.

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Hurricane Hill Trail:

In order to find the trailhead, you have to drive past the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center along a narrow road with one nerve-wracking switch back with a cliff. No tour buses here!

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The trailhead at the time could only be accessed by the lower trail parking lot. Along the first mile of the trail, the Olympic Peaks peeked out between trees. The vistas were spectacular with so much beauty coming all at once. While hiking to the top, our group came across so many deer walking around as if people did not bother them. One even came popping out of the bushes while a group of us were trying to figure out of we saw a bear in the distant slope.

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Marmots were also out lazy sunbathing on rocks like vacationers. Clouds coming across the slopes like wisps of smoke and a spooky show at the same time. The quietness of the landscape was so beautiful and unreal when this high up.

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Lunch was on a rock outcrop I ended up climbing up later to survey all the surrounding area. While climbing up the rock pile, clouds whipping all around me to the point where it was a wall of clouds. The song Into The Mist by Eivør going through my head as the clouds surrounded me.

Walking in the mist
No one knows where I’ve been
Far from my home now
Going in circles round and round
I’m on my own now

Something’s hiding in the dark
Lurking in between the rocks
Whispers in my ear
I turn around but no one’s there
I call up but there’s no answer

Shadow, shadow by my side
Drifting through the misty night
Are you wandering just like me
Within this surreality?

At this point I was separated from the group….and…I had a feeling something was not right. To be alone and exposed to predication (cougar sightings in the area along with bear), it was unnerving to see a deer below take off running into the trees with deadly quietness following. I knew something was close by, and I needed to figure out where it could be coming through. Thank goodness the group showed up with laughter and not coming face to face with a predator.

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Later a group of hikers had seen a black bear on the trail close by! I was lucky! The rest of the hike was uneventful and mostly viewing all the plants and other animals around the trail. The ride back to camp was rocking out to Mumford and Sons “I Will Wait For You” with a smile on my face.

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Obstruction Point Trail:

There is a dirt road turn out before the parking lot at Hurricane Ridge that goes down to this backcountry trail. Many people don’t see it, and this is one of the best-kept secrets of this area of the National Park. The road is long dusty with lots of switchbacks as it winds towards a small parking lot with a pit toilet. So bring your own toilet paper!

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Sunsets are starting to become a thing lately, and I am not complaining about it. Rewarding after a long day of hiking to summit a peak to watch the sun sink down ending another day.

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Spending time atop of a mountain viewing the sunset listening to the wind whip around you in near silence is as close to God as it gets. 37778120_10212406487747798_356720724972404736_o

When night fell, and it was time to put the headlamp on, we trekked down the mountain trying to keep on the trail that was nonexistent in the dark towards the van. Out here the stars shine brightly, and yet a shooting star decides to give us a show. On this night laying in a field with others viewing the stars in the sky made the world seem so small. _DSC0197

Five am wake up call again to chase the sunrise. Again we trekked towards another lake to view the coming sunrise. Pumpkin Seed Lake is an alpine lake very few people know about. It is somewhere off the beaten path of Obstruction Point Trail and finding it can be challenging. Challenging since the trail to it is not marked. You may have to ask someone who knows.

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This frog did not have a great morning after being caught two times by people. By the second time he just sat there defeated. 39400036_10212577663787092_875643024476995584_o

With enough coffee coursing through my veins, I headed up towards other alpine lakes in the area. These nondescript lakes are nestled between other peaks and off known trails where climbing talus and boulder fields is a must.

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This alpine lake at the bottom of the ravine was not as cold as the one at Heather Lake. Just getting down to it was interesting with the possible slide completely down into the lake if you lost your footing. DSCN4477

The famous Ptaragen made one last apearence before it flown away. Many people do not believe they exist because they are hard to spot, live in the highest coldest parts of the mountain ranges. Hear them is at times the only clue they are in the area, and they do get stepped on because they look just like the surrondings.

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Hurricane Ridge Trail:

After partying with another group at the campsite, we all headed towards Hurricane Ridge to hike the small Hurricane Ridge Trail.

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So I said in a previous post I had fed wildlife. Well, I did it again! Yep, this time it was a bunch of gray jays that are also known as camp robbers. To hold a bird in your had is a Disney princess moment. They loved crumbled granola bars and would take a sandwich if I let them. I know shame on me again! I will not be doing this again-it is out of my system now.

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Ok moving on…

Three days hiking in the Olympics was and will be a breathtaking experience. The peak was alive just as in the Sound of Music.

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Information:
Obstruction Point Trail
Hurricane Hill
Hurricane Ridge

Sunset to Sunrise In Mt Rainier National Park

Standing at the base of Mount Rainer at Sunrise is awe-inspiring and humbling. Seeing the mountain from afar looming on the horizon on a clear day does not give it any justice of the beauty of this symbol of Washington State. For two days sunset to sunrise, I had the awe-inspiring moments to see the mountain in all its glory.

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Sunrise area at the northeast corner is the highest of the park’s roads accessible areas to the mountain and the best place to get an up-close look at the biggest glacier collection in U.S. Sunrise like it name was where I set out on viewing the majestic sunsets and sunrises from nearby lookouts.

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The first things first, we had to stop by the White River campground to pitch our tents so we can fall into them into them without having to worry about it later that night. Getting two campsites together was a challenge, but we did find two (later that night we would come back to one of the sites having people already pitched a tent and asleep!). At roughly 2pm we headed for the trails to hike up to see the sunset while eating dinner.

Fremont Lookout:

We headed towards Fremont Lookout on Fremont Peak via the Frozen Lake trail. The trail starts out next to the Sunrise Rainier National Park Hotel. The trails at this point were busy with day hikers coming and going.

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Many hikers we encountered on the way up did talk of seeing bears in the area. Most said the higher up you went towards the lookout, the more chance you would see a bear in the distance. Cougars I can handle, but when it comes to bears, it can be scary to encounter one on a trail. Mount Rainier only has black bears and not grizzly bears thank goodness, but it still was in the back of my mind when I hiked up with the group of us.

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The trail up towards Frozen Lake is long, dusty and has little shade along the way as weaving through the mountainside. Bringing extra water is a must if the temperatures are above 70°F. Side cliffs opened to vistas of Mount Rainier looming before I covered in icy snow.IMG_3446

Frozen Lake is a lake with a snowpack that melts throughout the summer for drinking water in the Sunrise area of the park. It really is a small glacier that must be massive in the winter time. There was not a way of telling how cold this lake is because you cannot swim in it due to being blocked off from the public.

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At the crossroad of trails Frozen Lake and Fremont Lookout, this Cascade Golden Mantle Squirrel was begging for the walnuts we had in our packs. At one point we could get close enough to touch it, and it took the nuts right out of our hands. I will admit to knowing full well there are no feeding animals in the park, and yes there was a sign on the other side of this rock stating this! Shame on me!IMG_3460

The trail up to Fremont Lookout was rocky slopes with small boulder and talus fields to navigate. Towards the top, the trail narrows with massive boulders below reminding all hikers to be careful navigating the loose rocks making up the trail. At one point while getting closer to the lookout, there was a sound like a gunshot/firework coming from the slopes of Mount Rainier opposite of me. This happened not only once, but a few times as an indicator of an avalanche and even in the middle of summer, it is still an issue hikers face. The avalanche was not viable to us on Fremont Peak. IMG_3473

Once in sight of the lookout building, the temperature started dropping as the sun was sinking closer to the horizon. Even saw the mythical bird called a Ptargen that lives in the alpine. _DSC0148

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After exploring the lookout (the lookout is locked, and cannot camp out in it anymore), we all settled into the rock outcrops to enjoy our dinner in a sealed pouch. While eating our meals, we watched the sunset in quietness enjoying natures most beautiful sight. IMG_3487

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Sunsets are a life-changing moment for many who witness them. Experiencing them atop a mountain is a once in a lifetime moment.  Watching the sun sinking into the horizon reminds me to take a step back and just experience life as it is in the moment. The pinks, purples and golden rays refracting off the slopes of Mount Rainier is and always a beautiful sight to behold. _DSC0154

It’s even better then an Instagram post could ever capture!

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After spending another hour atop, we headed down the trail in dying light toward camp. By halfway down the darkness started to change the landscape into something of a mystery.  I have only ever hiked in darkness once. Being told by forest rangers this is bear and cougar country, it does make one very hyper-aware of your surroundings. I will say it was nerve-wracking to be the one in front of the group leading them down the trail! I did get down the trail unscathed as a group of people started heading up the trail (it must be a thing to hike at night). I arrived with the group back at the campsite and passed out after 5.2 miles!

Shadow Lake Trail:

Getting up to chase the sunrise can be a pain in the butt at 5am after only four hours of sleep the night before. Having no coffee and only a granola bar to get me to the lake just makes it harder. But seeing the sunrise was worth it! As I trudged onward towards my final destination, the rays from the sun started moving up the mountain in golden rays reflecting off illuminating all around the lake. At Shadow Lake, the place was remote enough to allow peace to resonate as nature started waking up for another day.

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Here coffee finally was pumping through my veins waking me up for another day of hiking. The only sound I could not stand was the deer flies and the mosquitoes trying to add to the collection of bites from the previous day.

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After spending relative peace and quiet taking in the beautiful sunrise, it was time to head towards the next trail-First Burroughs Mountain Trail. As I climbed up to the junction for the trail, I passed an old 1930s campground. The outlines of the camping spots can still be seen to this day.IMG_3503

First Burroughs Mountain Trail:

The  Frozen Lake Junction is where a few other alpine trails split off. One such trail is First and Second Burroughs Mountain trail. The trail is 4.7 miles of steep switchbacks along some rocky talus fields were marmots, ptarmigans, pika and the famous mountain goats made appearances. One such marmot ran down the steep slope and jumped right in front my face as he made is way past me!

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Once to the top of First Burroughs Mountain, I was up close and personal with a mountain that is a sleeping volcano. My second one in a span of four weeks!

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Spending an hour looking at Mt. Rainier, and checking out all the peaks of interest, the group and I made our way down the trail towards the parking lot. Five Guys Burgers and a Starbucks were in order after two days of hiking in the alpine of Mount Rainier.

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What are some favorite memories at national parks? Is Rainier on your list of places to visit? Let me know in the comments!

Information:

Fremont Lookout
Shadow Lake
First Burroughs Mountain

Sunsets of Whidbey Island

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“Never go too long without watching a sunset” -Atticus

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“The only kind of sunsets that I don’t like are the ones that I missed.”

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“Sunsets are proof that no matter what happens every day can end beautifully.”

-Kristen Butler

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Location: Fort Casey State Park and Camp Casey Conference Center SPU

Mt. St Helen’s Volcanic Monument|Part 1

I fell into a burning ring of fire,
I went down, down, down,
and the flames went higher,
and it burns, burns, burn,
The ring of fire.
~Johnny Cash “Ring of Fire”

Someone asked me how can I be so calm when living in a region with three volcanoes, and earthquakes? Living within the Pacific Rim means living on the edge of the Ring of Fire on a daily base. Just like those who live in regions where tornadoes are common, I am aware of it, and I go on living knowing natures most destructive forces are in my backyard. These volcanoes and the two mountain ranges in Washington state are the reason why there are places to hike worth exploring even when danger can be one step away.

On Sunday morning May 18, 1980, Mt. St. Helen’s erupted with such destructive force, that it turned the landscape around the volcano into an apocalyptic wasteland. The carnage left behind could be described as a ton of nuclear bombs had been dropped simultaneously for thirty minutes. But this apocalyptic nightmare of 1980 has turned into giant scientific laboratory showing the world there is life after destruction, and nature does have a way of renewing itself.

Mt. St. Helen’s Before and After Eruption. Photo: PixShark.com

 Start of the adventure…

Day 1: Castle Rock

Sunday afternoon I headed off towards Castle Rock with a van full of other students from Northwest University. With the van packed full of sleeping bags, tents, and food for the next five days, we set out for an adventure together to see how Mt St Helen’s rebirth has changed the landscape.

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By late afternoon early evening, we had reached SeaQuest State Park campground on the west side of the mountain. For a Sunday night, the campground was still packed with people, and most would still be there by the time we left Tuesday morning. After setting up camp, there were campfire spaghetti with salad and peas for dinner. After dinner, we all headed down to Silver Lake for an evening nature walk along the lake. At one point a beaver scared the crap out of me when it slapped it’s tail on the water surface as a warning to me not to get any closer. Just imagine a beaver coming at you! Not fun! Just walking along the boardwalk viewing the huge water lilies, and bird watching, made for a very peaceful relaxing evening walk. This peacefulness would be short-lived by night.

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Tent camping is an adventure in itself, and with three girls all crammed into a tent for the night will our bags, one of us was bound to be beat up by morning. I was the one who could not sleep a wink that night from the thunderstorm that had rolled in later that night and having a tent mate roll all over you during the night.  Normally hearing raindrops on the tent would be a relaxing sound to fall asleep to, but for some reason, the sound was not soothing enough to lull me to sleep for long. By morning I was tired, needed coffee really bad, and at one point fell asleep for fifteen minutes before breakfast in a camp chair.

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With a breakfast of Life cereal and coffee, the day started off at the Mt. St. Helen’s Visitor Center at Silver Lake looking at the exhibits discussing the geological aspects of the eruption. While in the parking lot of the visitor center, a Seahawk decided to make an appearance to show off their Seattle Seahawk pride as a “twelfth bird.” The Seahawk in question is a female taking care of her young in a nest of a few Douglas fir trees down from the visitors center. Looking through the scouting scope, the Seattle Seahawk football hawk logo resembles the real seahawk’s head pattern.

After confirmation that the road to Windy Ridge was not open, we head up the road to towards Johnson Ridge Visitor Center for the day.

Information:

SeaQuest Campground

Mt. St Helen’s Visitor Center at Silver Lake

Seaquest State Park- Silver Lake

 

Sugar Plum Christmas Time

The Nutcracker… that is for children and adults who are children at heart.
Because of an adult is a good person, in his heart, he still is a child.
In every person, the best, most important part is that which remains from his childhood.
~George Balanchine

There is something about the season of Christmas that brings out the child in all of us. The sugar-plum candies on brightly decorated plates, merry tunes playing from a bygone era, and magic of twinkling lights in the rain. As I have grown older there is still a part of me still in child awe at the season of Christmas. The Nutcracker is one, walking along a pathway of lights as they do in Scandinavia, and being together with those who you cherish.

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker at Pacific Northwest Ballet:
img_2613As the quote above says, The Nutcracker has been something I have always wanted to see. This past September I saw the tickets go on sale for the day after Thanksgiving and decided it was time to see this with Nana. I will admit I did pick out great seats for this matinée performance Sunday after Thanksgiving.

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Since this version is different from the Stowell and Sendak Nutcracker many have seen before 2015, this version was brightly colorful and done with the spirit of Christmas all wrapped into two hours. Traditional Nutcracker is weaved throughout the ballet with the famous Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier performing the pas de deux at the end. A new character with some humor to the story is Mother Ginger and her Polichinelle. You just have to go to see the Nutcracker to see this part!

Green Lake Pathway of Lights:

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On a clear cold December Saturday evening, a walk around Green Lake lighted with candles sounded like something Christmas to me. Since this part of Seattle is normally busy no matter what time of day it is, I decided to leave around 3:30pm to have plenty of time to find a parking spot on one of the surrounding streets. I scored one with relative ease! When I first started out on the path, volunteers were just beginning to light the candles and the sun was setting. Halfway around the lake was done with still light, and the other half was done with light from the many candles lining the path.

On the side of the lake where the community park is located was a bunch of hot air balloons laminating the dark skies, and giving off a spectacular view. unfortunately, there were no hot air balloon rides being done at the time. With some hot free hot chocolate in hand, and keeping an extra eye out for small children, walked around the rest of the lake with the masses. I will admit this event gets very crowded fast and people as my mom was saying, can become not so smart in the dark. So if you are not for big crowds, go at the very beginning.

Lastly…..

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