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

The Scenic Route – North Cascades Highway, Washington

Summer 2011 was the summer of road trips. I graduated from college in early June without any plan in terms of jobs. My travel plans, however, were plenty. But first, I had to make it back to Montana.

I had my car out in Bellingham with me, but my mom and sister had driven out for my graduation as well. So we formed a mini caravan (with my sister bouncing back and forth between cars to alternately keep my mom and me company) and headed for Montana. Since it was the last time we’d be making this drive for the foreseeable future, we decided to take the scenic route. We left Bellingham and headed south on I-5 for a few miles before exiting onto WA Highway 20 – the North Cascades Highway. It’s the slow way home, adding about an hour and a half of driving time (though mileage-wise it’s actually a bit shorter), but it’s a very worthwhile detour. Continue reading

Get Outside in Bellingham, Washington

I’ve bragged before about the town of Bellingham and how I spent a fabulous 4 years living there while attending college. Located in the northwest corner of Washington, right on the coast, Bellingham has its fair share of gloomy, rainy days. But when the sun comes out, the rays of light shine down on a beautiful part of the country. And everyone heads outdoors.

I’ve previously mentioned the Chuckanut Mountains just south of Bellingham, but there are plenty of more local places to catch some sunshine too. Like much of the west coast, Bellingham is a very environmentally conscious city, and this includes maintaining a good system of parks and trails. There are walking and biking paths, forests, lakes, and waterfalls all within the town boundaries. Continue reading

Beyond the Moonscape – Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho (part III)

Today is an exciting day for me on Handstands Around the World. Today features my very first guest post! The guest author: my mom. She’s been reading my posts since I started this blog and she’s always been there to help me remember the details of our trips, proofread, and remind me of my propensity to overuse the comma.

This time she’s the one doing the writing and remembering and comma using. There will probably be substantially fewer commas in this post.

Anyway, my mom and sister returned to Craters of the Moon last year and were able to explore the newest addition to the park – the Wilderness Trail, which departs from the furthest point on the loop road and extends 5 miles across the lava fields.

These are their adventures: Continue reading

Lava Tubes – Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho (part II)

One of my favorite adventure activities is exploring caves. I’ve never truly gone spelunking (it’s on my to-do list), but if we’re somewhere with a cave, we always sign up for the tours. As it happens, formation of caves in lava flows is fairly common, meaning there are a few caves at Craters of the Moon that are open for exploration.

Unlike many parks, entry to the caves at Craters of the Moon is free, though we did have to obtain a permit at the visitor center. The reason for the permit system is two-fold; to limit the number of people entering the caves, and to protect the local bat populations against White Nose Syndrome, a disease that is currently decimating bats all across the country. To prevent the spread of this disease, any clothing or gear (including cameras) that have ever been in another cave or mine are not allowed inside the caves at Craters of the Moon without following proper decontamination protocols.

Once we obtained our caving permit, we proceeded to the Caves Trail, located just past the halfway point on the park loop road. At this trailhead is the 1.6-mile paved trail to four different caves. All four caves are lava tubes – caves that form when the top layer of lava hardens over while molten lava is still flowing beneath the surface. Once the flow of lava ceases, what remains is essentially a tunnel. Continue reading