Sunday, July 22, 2012

Showing my son the Olympic peninsula

Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park is absolutely breathtaking! Copyright (c) 2012 Wendee Holtcamp

The last weekend Sam and I were in the Pacific Northwest, I took him to Olympic National Park. As I've said before, it's my favorite national park - it's so incredibly gorgeous and unique. But I also had to do some additional reporting and photography of the Elwha River for a second story I'm doing. My first story came out in Nature a couple weeks ago - Fish Return to Undammed Elwha River - and I have a feature due in a couple months. I also will be posting a slideshow and maybe doing a podcast for my Wendee Holtcamp Report at Adventures in Climate Change. I had so many technological difficulties on this month away from home, I have gotten really behind on a lot of things. So it took me a couple days to even get groceries in my fridge. I had a deadline on some edits immediately after I got home, I have another story due Monday, and I had to spend some time with my daughter, of course! I am also getting caught up on my two online writing classes I'm teaching simultaneously (note to self: teaching two classes at once is not advised in the future) :) 

Sam and I drove up to Washington's Olympic peninsula on Saturday morning after I had a great evening out on my birthday having a couple drinks at Random Order with my friends Kelli and Orna. Orna gave me a box of amazing Missionary Chocolates (vegan and the proceeds go to a good cause - and they are not only beautiful but absolutely delicious!) I will post a separate post about my birthday and other aspects of my trip soon but I want to keep this focused on Olympic National Park. Without further adieu, here are my photos from the trip, divided up by the location. I would make all the images the larger size but unfortunately the blog isn't wide enough, and it cuts them off! I am going to see if I can work on this...

Hurricane Ridge

It takes about 4 hours and some change to drive from Portland to Port Angeles on the north part of the Olympic peninsula, our home base for the trip. I took Sam to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center, which I hadn't been to in many years. Dad said we went there when we traveled there 20 years ago, but I don't remember that part! It was very different from other parts of the park, but this park is so diverse, with beach, temperate rainforest and alpine habitat that you never run out of options! At any rate, this is one of the most visited parts of the park. We took the drive and then did a short hike from there. This is the alpine view from the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.

Another view from the visitor center.

We did a short trail to Sunrise Point on the High Ridge Trail.

But first we had to cross over the ice field of doom. Sam got pegged by a snowball from a young girl.

There were many wildflowers out in bloom, including these avalanche lilies.

I love lupines!

Sam named this deer Fluffy. We saw many black-tailed deer out there at Hurricane Ridge! We never did see any elk. Sam reallllly wanted to go fishing or crabbing and we got some information from the folks at the visitor center, but we didn't really plan for that so didn't have a fishing pole or crabbing gear, and licenses for even a day are pretty pricey. So I told him he'd have to just come back another time!

Sol Duc

On Sunday morning, we ate breakfast at The Haven, a little dive recommended by a friend of mine. Then we headed over to the Sol Duc area for a hike to Sol Duc Falls. But first, we stopped at the Salmon Cascades demonstration because I stopped there last time with Terri and it was pretty cool! Apparently at certain times of year you can see salmon jumping here pretty easily. I didn't see any though.

The"hugging trees"!

So we arrived at the trailhead to the Sol Duc falls, and I forced Sam to change from flip flops into his tennis shoes. It was only 0.8 miles each way, but I didn't know the trail conditions. We saw this nurse log on the trail. A nurse log is one that dies and many other plants or trees start to grow out of it. Sam himself noticed it! And I took a picture.

A little stream on the trail to the falls. This one was taken by my phone! Not bad for a phone pic. 

Coastal temperate rainforest. Isn't it gorgeous?!

Another view of the falls. I just love the mossy rocks in this park!

Another view of the falls.

The Sol Duc Falls

There's a bridge that you cross to get to the area where I took the above photos. 

Sam played on the rocks for a while and I just sat and enjoyed the scenery and the sounds (When I wasn't trying to sneak a photo of him! He's quick!)

The Sol Duc river flowing through the canyon.

Elwha River/Humes Ranch Trail

In the afternoon, we went on another hike with a friend. This time we went to Humes Ranch loop trail. This is a shot of the clouds across the canyon on part of the trail. Pretty cool! Reminded me of an image I shot of the Amazon rainforest in Peru. We walked along and then took a detour that was really steep and went down to the riverbed. It was then that I realized Sam had changed *out* of his tennis shoes and back into his flip flops. Sigh. And this was when he really needed some sort of hiking shoe! Boys!

A view of the Elwha River through trees. This is upstream of where the Glines Canyon dam is (or was - it is partially removed at this point) The Glines canyon dam is the upper dam and is the one still actively being removed, whereas the Elwha dam is already totally gone. See my last blog post from a month ago - Elwha dam removal - for photos of the two dam sites!

Another shot of the Elwha River

A giant pock-marked rock on the Elwha River, a slightly different spot than above. We walked along the stream for a while and then took a different trail back up. It was a good thing because it wasn't near as steep!

Another view of the rocky riverbed.
Another shot of the Elwha River

And double bonus: We got to see the Goblin's Gate! This is one of the narrowest parts of the Elwha. 

"Inside" the Goblin's Gate. I climbed down to get closer, and the boys followed. 

We saw a ruffed grouse on the trail too. Sam was excited to see some wildlife. I was a bit disappointed we didn't see more, myself, because I love wildlife! We did see a couple chipmunks and Douglas squirrels.

And finally, the Hume's Ranch cabin! At the end of the hike, Sam was parched. Not only had he worn flip flops, we hadn't brought any water... oops. It was a pretty good hike too. We got back and drank some water, and then had a nice dinner!

Elwha River Mouth

Monday morning, before we headed back to my dad's, we visited the mouth of the Elwha River, where you can see the muddy plume caused by sediment coming down the river and out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We accessed this from the Lower Elwha Tribe Reservation.

This is an estuary just inland of the river mouth which is very important to young fish. It is also the part that is mostly or partly blocked by sediment from the dam removal, as I mentioned in my Nature piece

The beach on the Lower Elwha Tribe's reservation near the mouth of the Elwha River, looking back towards the mountains. Breathtaking!

Driftwood has accumulated here that has come downstream since the dams have been removed.

Another shot of the driftwood released after the dams came out washed downstream.

Rocks on the beach.

A shot of the muddy plume. The other water is much more blue.

A surfer walks along the beach near the Elwha River mouth. I LOVE this image! It was an opportunistic moment. It looks really cool in a larger size. Click on it!

Another view of the surfer at the mouth of the Elwha.

Talk to the Hand!

And just for fun, a series of images of my darling son and his hand! He so loves having his photo taken! :) I thought it was funny looking through all my pics and seeing "the hand"!

The first night we stayed at the Quality Inn in town, and the next night, we stayed as guests at the Inn at Rooster Hill B&B. We stayed in the Lauren Room and it was great! This was my bed. It had a kitchenette in a separate area, plus ....

These totally cool cubbies! Sam slept in here. There was another one on the other side that was like Alice in Wonderland with a bigger but small door and then a smaller one inside, and then a little tiny room in there. Great for kids. It's great because it's just a mile from the central part of town but it's on 2 and a half acres so it feels like it's in the middle of nowhere. The best of both worlds!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Visiting the Northern Oregon Coast

The Astoria-Megler Bridge, the longest continuous truss bridge in North America. It runs from Astoria, Oregon to Washington state. Sam and I accidentally took a wrong turn and ended up taking the 5-mile long bridge over the Columbia River and to WA before we turned back around. Just one more of the crazy issues and technological difficulties from this trip!! :) Copyright (c) 2012 Wendee Holtcamp

I took Sam to the North Oregon coast last weekend, including Astoria and Cannon Beach. Astoria sets on the Columbia Rver near its mouth. This is the Astoria Column a 125-foot tall tower painted with a mural depicting important events in Oregon history.

A closer view of the column.

To get here you drive up a long, winding road to the top of a tall hill, and you can see the entire county! It's quite a view.

The county from another vantage point at the column site.

And yet another view from the column.

From the column parking lot, Sam and I took a hike to a 300-year old Sitka Spruce known as the Cathedral tree.

It wasn't near as large as some of the trees in Olympic National Park, but it was a nice tree. We met a guy on the trail who was a WWOOFer (Willing Workers on Organic Farms), and about to start grad school at NYU in Journalism. Sam dubbed him bro-han.

A shot of the Cathedral tree.

I took this using the Vignette app on my Droid and I think I like it better than the pics from my Canon!

We have seen a lot of these gorgeous red elderberries around Oregon and Washington. In fact Sam is so impressed with all the berries in general. I was so excited to see red huckleberries on the trail and we ate some. They were the berries I ate the most as a kid at my dad's (as well as raspberries, but those were planted). In fact I took photos of the huckleberries and they must not have turned out because I can't find them!

I was so excited to see this Stop sign on the road. When I was a kid, my dad had a big van (Van Morrison was its name) and it was set high up and I could never see the road. Dad used to say "We just ran over a Stop Sign!" And I was all, what?! where? I can't see! I want to see! And I would get so upset because I wanted to see the flipping stop sign and couldn't fathom how we could RUN OVER one?! What the heck? Of course as I got older I saw them, but at the time I thought it was silly and frustrating at the same time. So seeing this in Astoria brought back good memories.

Based on a recommendation, we ate at the Blue Scorcher cafe. I loved the concept but the food left a lot to be desired, in my opinion... The coffee was good though.

We were guests of the brand new Astoria Riverwalk Inn, which sets right on the water overlooking a marina and the bridge. This is the view right out the window. It was awesome! The owners Brad and Seth - i talked to Brad most - were super nice and helpful, telling us the best spots to go clamming, the techniques, etc. Sam was so freaking excited about going clamming I thought he would pee himself.

We had a two-room suite, and Sam had 4 beds all to himself! He didn't know where to sleep! Ha! The room also had a bean bag, a couch, and a game station!

We got up to go clamming during low tide in the morning. Wait, we actually went at 10pm at night because that was low tide, and you CAN clam at night with the caveat that you actually have been before and have some semblance of a clue what you are looking for. Sam was so excited to go, and so I took him at night. Big mistake. It was freeeeezing cold, dark, and we couldn't see crap. Being late, no one was out clamming and so we didn't have anyone to show us the ropes. We left frustrated but went back the next day and had much more success! This is Sam walking through the woods at Fort Stevens State Park to get to the beach, clam gun in hand.

You look for dimples on the flat beach at low tide, of varying sizes, and then shove the gun (a shovel) into the sand. After it's as far in as you can get, you cover a hole on it, which creates a suction, and then pull the sand out.

Theoretically, that sand contains a razor clam! There was a guy on the beach clamming who helped us with the technique.

Sam with his first clam! He was happy as... a clam! :) Seriously, he was VERY excited to get this first clam!

We tried for a while without success. It was harder than I thought to find the dimples.

Looking, looking... but then he finally had more luck and eventually got 12 clams. The limit is 15 but we left after 12.

This is a razor clam up close. And personal! :) After we got about 12 clams, we left the beach and went to Cannon Beach. But after the day was done, we went back to my dad's cabin, cleaned and cooked the clams, and enjoyed them!

Sam with the ocean in the background. I think I took this on a different day but I like the photo and hadn't put it online yet!

Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach. Cannon Beach is just about 30 or 40 minutes west of Astoria.

Another view of haystack Rock. Sam made the comment that this was winter weather in Texas and summer weather in oregon! The beach was completely full with beach-goers, kids playing in the ocean, people flying kites, women sunbathing - despite the clouds. Funny!