Feeling Small – Mount Rainier National Park, Washington (part III)

Day three at Mount Rainier was full of lakes and waterfalls. Once again, we were greeted by blue skies as we headed out of Ohanapecosh, traveling west down Steven’s Canyon Road to Cougar Rock campground, which would be our home base for the remainder of our time here. We took the entire day, stopping along the way at the multitude of pullouts as well as taking a few short hikes. The first stop was Grove of the Patriarchs, an interpretive trail that leads through giant old-growth forests and across the Ohanapecosh River on a suspension bridge.

If ever there was a place to do a handstand, it would have been on the bridge. My bad. I’ve learned my lesson for next time.

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First Glimpse – Mount Rainier National Park, Washington (part II)

The next morning we woke to blue skies, the fog of the previous afternoon long gone. This was excellent news for us, as we were headed up to the northeast section of the park to catch our first glimpses of the mountain. 

From Ohanapecosh, we drove north to the White River entrance. Five miles in, the road forks; left leads to White River ranger station and campground and right leads to the Sunrise area of the park. We went left. 

From the White River Campground, we followed the Glacier Basin trail; one mile up, it intersects with the 1-mile Emmons Moraine trail, which leads to an overlook of Emmons Glacier. Continue reading

At the Edge – Mount Rainier National Park, Washington (part I)

Mount Rainier is a giant, snow-capped peak located in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state. It rises to 14,410 feet above sea level and, though not the tallest mountain in the continental US, is the most topographically prominent one. The summit of Mount Rainier is often above the clouds; on a typical day, you’re probably more likely to see it from your flight into Seattle than from the ground. A glance at the peak reveals numerous glaciers and snowfields. A lesser-known fact, though, is that Mount Rainier is actually an active volcano. Luckily there are no signs of an imminent eruption.

The mountain and surrounding area form the beautiful Mount Rainier National Park, a highlight of the Cascade region. The mountain is encircled by the 93-mile Wonderland Trail (it takes 93 miles to get around the mountain – that gives an idea of just how big it is!). In addition to backpacking this trail and summiting the mountain (neither of which I have done), there are many other hiking and sightseeing opportunities in the park. In the summer of 2012, we set out to accomplish some of these. Continue reading

Yellowstone National Park (part VII) – The Northern Section

Well, we’re here. The final post in my Yellowstone National Park saga. Today I’m going to focus on the only remaining section of the park – the northernmost portion. I concluded my previous post at Tower-Roosevelt Junction. From here, the park road travels west to Mammoth Hot Springs and east to the northeast park entrance and Cooke City, Montana.

Map source: http://www.nps.gov/yell

Heading west between Tower and Mammoth, there are a couple small lakes along the side of the road, a one-way drive up and over the Blacktail Deer Plateau, and a short drive to a petrified tree that has, unfortunately, been vandalized over the years. The Lava Creek picnic area has always been one of our favorites. And there are three short trails: a 100-yard walk to the viewpoint for Undine Falls, a 0.8-mile round trip hike to Wraith Falls, and the “Forces of the Northern Range” self-guided loop explaining the cycle of growth and forest fires in the park. In particular, it discusses the fires of 1988, in which approximately 35% of the park burned. Continue reading

Yellowstone National Park (part VI) – Seven Mile Hole

As I promised at the end of my last post, today I bring you the second ever Handstands Around the World guest post, once again courtesy of my mom!

She had so much fun writing the last one that she offered to do another. Well, the only person I know who has been to Yellowstone more times than me is my mom, so this seemed the natural place for her to contribute. The topic of today’s post is a hike that I’ve never done but one which, upon seeing her photos, I immediately added to my to-do list. Hopefully by the end of this post, you’ll do the same!


I have been to Yellowstone National Park somewhere between 100 and 200 times in the 41 years since I moved to Montana. Only 90 miles from my home in Bozeman, it is an easy day trip or even better, a great weekend camping trip. My children and I know the park better than almost anyone we know. I have visited every major geyser basin and some that are less well known and have seen Old Faithful erupt more times than I can remember. I have snapped photos from all of the observation points at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, have stood at the brink of the Upper Falls and near the bases of both Falls, and have spent a lot of time gazing down hundreds of feet into the canyon’s beautiful, colorful depths. Alone, or with one or both of my children, I have hiked the well-travelled trails many, many times and have literally thousands of photos from all over the park. Yet, despite our great love for Yellowstone, it was not until just a few years ago that we finally purchased some bear spray and set off into the backcountry to areas that few tourists ever venture. One such hike—Seven Mile Hole—took us to the bottom of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, a place that I had always longed to visit. Continue reading

Yellowstone National Park (part V) – Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Today we’re going to talk about my favorite area of the park – the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone! I know, I know, I’m doing this all wrong. Yellowstone is about geysers and grizzly bears, not rivers and canyons. Don’t worry, I love geysers too. And bears are pretty cool. But Canyon is still my favorite part. Something about the waterfalls and the contrasting colors is just so incredibly beautiful.

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River is 800-1,200 feet deep, up to 4,000 feet wide, and stretches 24 miles between Canyon Village and Tower-Roosevelt Junction. It begins when the Yellowstone River tumbles 109 feet over Upper Falls and ends near Tower Falls, where the water of Tower Creek drops 132 feet on its way down to the Yellowstone River. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Grand Canyon is the colors. The walls of the canyon are painted a variety of hues due to the fact that the area used to be a geyser basin and that many minerals are present in the rocks. Continue reading

Yellowstone National Park (part IV) – West Thumb to Canyon Village

Last week, I left off in the southeastern portion of Yellowstone National Park near Yellowstone Lake. Picking up from West Thumb Geyser Basin, today we’ll continue north along the lakeshore and up to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Map 4.png
Map source: www.nps.gov/yell

Yellowstone Lake is giant and also very uniquely shaped, with three protruding arms. It has a maximum depth of over 400 feet and its surface elevation is approximately 7,700 feet. In short, it’s a large, deep, weird-shaped, high altitude lake.

The main park road runs along the western shore of the lake all the way from West Thumb up to Fishing Bridge. The Yellowstone River begins at Fishing Bridge and flows north from Yellowstone Lake through Wyoming and Montana before eventually joining the Missouri River. I haven’t spent a ton of time in this area of the park due to the fact that it’s far from many of the other attractions and also that the campground at Fishing Bridge is permanently closed to tent campers due to bear activity. However, we’ve recently discovered that Bridge Bay campground is a very nice – albeit slightly windy – place to stay. We returned to our site one afternoon to find our canopy laying on its side. Continue reading