Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Little Storm Light


Beards Hollow (1 of 1)

Beards Hollow looking west


It’s been a beautiful summer on the north coast of Oregon; since early July we have received only a trickle of precipitation.  On Tuesday, we received nearly two inches of badly needed rain.  The rest of the week has seen partly cloudy skies with periodic showers.

I decided this morning to make a trip to Beards Hollow to see what the landscape had to offer.  Since the tourist traffic has thinned, I was confident that the park would be nearly empty.  I arrive moments after the ranger opened the gate only to discover that my annual park pass expired yesterday.  The fine for not displaying a valid pass is ninety-nine dollars so I quickly made my way to the park office to purchase a renewal.

With a new pass in hand, I was rewarded with a brief display of “storm light”.  Ten minutes later, the skies were solid gray.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Road Trip 2014


selfie (1 of 1)

A quick selfie and the road trip began

Tradition has it that the first week of August, my lovely wife takes her annual vacation.  Being retired, I no longer have need for vacations; instead I prefer to consider such events as adventurous road trips.

With the car packed with all of life’s essentials, a full tank of gas, and a road maps from Triple A, we headed north.  Our destination was Port Angles, WA, also known as the gateway to Olympic National Park.

The park is massive; in terms of area it is slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island.  The landscape of the park ranges from the coastal beaches bordering the Pacific Ocean to the glaciate peaks of the Olympic Mountain Range.  The park’s west side is home to the lush temperate rainforest where the annual rainfall is in excess of one-hundred inches.  The size of the park and the rugged terrain make this national park seem daunting at times.  No road goes all the way across the park but you can drive completely around it on US Highway 101.

Hurricane Ridge is a popular destination and the most accessible mountainous area within the park.  Located at an elevation of 4,242 feet, it affords the ideal location to view Mount Olympus and the Olympic Mountain range.

OlyNP (1 of 8)

Looking south from Hurricane Ridge.  The early morning hazy was caused by the smoke from distant forest fires

OlyNP (2 of 8)

Mount Olympus looking west from the Hurricane Ridge

The park’s west side is home to the Hoh Rain Forest where the annual rainfall is measured in feet and giant hemlock, Douglas-fir and Sitka Spruce dominate the landscape.  Even to an old forester who has spent much of his life in the woods, the Hoh is impressive.

OlyNP (4 of 8)

Sitka Spruce towering over 200 feet in height

OlyNP (6 of 8)

This Douglas-fir is over twenty stories tall and the biggest one I have ever seen

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The entire forest is far above your head

OlyNP (8 of 8)

In many places, little light reaches the forest floor

The Strait of Juan de Fuca runs east from the Pacific Ocean and is the gateway to Puget Sound and Seattle, WA.  During the summer months, the cold waters of the strait are frequently shrouded in dense fog.

OlyNP (3 of 8)

Strait of Juan de Fuca looking north to Canada


With Canada just over an hour ride by ferry, we decided to make a visit to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia.  Established in 1843 as a British outpost, the city’s British ancestry is apparent in the double-decker buses, horse-drawn carriages, gardens, and tea rooms.

The ferry ride is also an incredible opportunity to people watch and to meet some very interesting characters.  We shared our seating compartment with two teenage boys who were hitch hiking north to Vancouver, BC.  They were carrying all of their worldly possessions in one small backpack which appeared to hold little more than a sleeping bag, toiletries, and an change of clothing.  I was impressed that each of them had a tablet computer; even when traveling light no man needs to rough it.

I was taken aback by the apparent lack of specifics regarding their travel plans. Their plan appeared to be, “we’ll figure it out as we go along”.  After visiting Vancouver, they were considering hitch hiking to Alaska, if things worked out.  I often wonder if they made it because they  spent their nights sleeping in the brush along the edge of  a darkened road.  At this point in my life, that’s just a little too much adventure!

Victoria (1 of 1)

Victoria’s Inner Harbor with the Empress Hotel looming in the foreground


The opportunities for sightseeing in Victoria are nearly endless.  We chose to spend this visit leisurely walking about as we have seen the majority of the attractions on previous trips.  No visit to Victoria would be complete without at least a quick walk through the lobby of the Empress Hotel.  The Empress is massive, with 477 rooms, it is one of the oldest and most famous hotels in British Columbia.  To many, the Empress is the iconic symbol for the city itself. 

A tradition at the Empress is the serving of afternoon tea, which is a time honored British ritual.  We considered it until we learned that the cost was $59.95 per person.  To be fair, the price includes scones, fresh fruit, and fancy finger sandwiches. 

Leaving the Empress, we walked eight blocks to Victoria’s Chinatown and enjoyed some of the best food this side of the Pacific Rim.  We also stumbled onto a small shop that specialized in gelato, after reading the menu it appeared there were no bad choices!

We began our day with breakfast in the States, travelled to a foreign country by ship for lunch, and returned back home to the States in time for dinner.  That’s a feat that will likely never be repeated!

So now the question is where will Road Trip 2015 take us?