Redwoods National Park

REDWOODS
Crater Lake National Park is a great day trip. I don’t think I would necessarily feel the need to camp there again, but it was worth the trip. With an early morning under my belt, down I went to find me some really big trees. Like, the biggest trees. I started at the Hiouchi Visitor’s Center where a nice ranger talked to me and another couple about some good day hikes, places to camp, and routes to take due to road closures. I paid close attention to that last part seeing as I haven’t been having the best luck with that on this trip…
To dive right in, I parked my car at the Hiouchi River Trailhead and started hiking. The trees gradually got bigger and bigger. I came to one tree that was completely hollow, and thought it was a dead end, so I turned left and went down to the river. The river’s bed was totally full of rocks. Practicing finding my center, I balanced some rocks and got a pretty impressive rock stack waist high before wandering back onto the trail. It turns out, that hollow tree was in fact a tunnel to more of the trail. Perfect. Through the tree I go. The trees towered over me. Moss was still sticking to branches, dead trees, rocks, and the ground. The Hiouchi River Trail follows along the Hiouchi River (also Smith River) which is a beautiful clear blue with a teal tint. You can see every rock, every fish, every ripple across the water. There were people swimming, dogs splashing, families kayaking. After walking along for a little over two miles I couldn’t take it anymore. The envy rushed over me and I needed to be in that water, too. I hightailed it back to my car, put on my swimsuit and tried to find this little parking lot across the river I saw while hiking with beach access. I found it, but you had to pay 8 dollars and I knew I wasn’t going to get 8 dollars worth of swimming in. I turned the car around and went back to the trailhead. I hiked in about ¼ of a mile before finding a turn out that went to the river. Crossing over rocks and sticks, I found a nice little sandy corner. It was there I dipped myself into one of the cleanest rivers I have ever seen (later, I would find out it is the 4th cleanest river in the nation). The water was cold, but totally doable. I bobbed around for a bit before laying on my towel and taking a nap while drying off.

Waking up in a beach-sleep haze, and stumbling back to the car, I tried to decide what to do next. There was a trail the man at the visitor’s center had mentioned that was a little farther south from where I was which was perfect because I needed to make my way south eventually anyway. The trail was along the coast and through thick bushes and trees. It was a loop about 1.5 miles long and I made it around in 20 minutes. There was this eerie feeling while walking through those bushes and trees that I was not alone. Knowing that mountain lions and bears are frequently spotted on that trail, I did not want to get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. That was the one time up until that point that I had been frightened on this trip so far.

Now, after 26 years of life, I’d like to say I think I know my body pretty well and my body was telling me, “I’M HUNGRY FEED ME NOW.” I had some snacks but they weren’t holding me over, I was driving down 101 next to all these national forests and parks and I could not find anywhere with food. Finally, I arrived in a small town named Klamath. They had a hotel, a trailer park, a two pump gas station, and a bar and grill. The bar and grill was small. There were four other costumers there, two of which were locals and two of which were traveling from Florida. The bartender had a harsh sounding voice but was very kind and asked me what I wanted. Food. I really just wanted food. But I ordered a vodka soda and asked about food later. There was another counter on the other side of the bar and grill that made the food. You had to pay for them separately. I am not kidding you when I say I ate one of the best burgers I have ever eaten at that little tiny bar and grill in that little tiny town of Klamath. Hot diggity it was tasty. Juicy, cheesy, full of onions and pickles and cheese and lettuce and some special sauce they called fry sauce. I chowed down, paid for my food, then my drink, and went on my way. I drove through the Avenue of the Giants, but at that point, it was already getting dark and I was spooked right out. The Redwoods tower over you. They leave this feeling of something looming, something alive just above you and all around you. They radiate all sorts of energy. Some of them were wider around than my car from bumper to front. They were seriously stunning, seriously insane, and seriously scary at night. That brings me to the second time I was scared on this trip. I was the only one on this road through the Avenue of the Giants. My headlights barely cut through the darkness. I could not see a single star in the sky because the sky was completely blocked by trees. At one point in time I pulled over to a potential sleep spot but got so nervous thinking about going pee next to my car in the dark that I just kept driving. That night I ended up sleeping in my car in front of a motel that was under construction in some little town that literally had houses and a motel. That’s it. It was another good nights sleep, with an almost potty accident in the morning due to lack of bathroom availability. But don’t worry, my pants stayed dry and I found a place to relieve myself.

Crater Lake National Park

I will add pictures into these posts later. Or just post them in an album on Facebook. But for now, words will have to do.

CRATER LAKE
On Sunday, the 16th I entered the North Entrance of Crater Lake National Park. Once you enter, you have to drive several miles through a desert before reaching the rim of Crater Lake. I knew of two camp grounds around the lake, both on the southeast side of the park, one more primitive (and half the price) than the other, so I decided to go there. I started driving around East Rim Drive which eventually meets West Rim Drive to make a complete loop around the lake. I must have missed some signs along the way (shocker) because I ended up at yet another dead end and had to turn around. Apparently there was a big snow storm a week prior to my arrival and it closed that part of the Rim Drive. “No worries,” I thought, “I can just drive all the way back around the West Rim and meet the East Rim drive on the other end. That way I can reach the camp ground.” WRONG. I drove the whole West Rim, entered the East Rim, and after several miles was met with, you guessed it, another dead end. Laughable, really. With a few puffs of my breath I drove back down to the West Rim and found the other camp ground with plenty of open sites for the night. I set up camp and ended out to hike around this magnificent blue world where water meets mountains and mountains meet sky the same color as the water.

I got to Garfield Trail, stoked to be out of the car and walking around with some spectacular views. Lalala, there I was huffing and puffing my way up this mountain when GUESS WHAT HAPPENED. The trail was closed due to snowdrifts and I would not be able to get to the top of the mountain that overlooks the whole lake. Seriously? Reluctantly, I turned around and found a nice little outlook and sat down to write and take some pictures. In front of me was a nice guy taking a selfie in front of the lake. In striking up a conversation, I learned he was from Ohio and was traveling around alone much like I was. After talking for a bit he said, “Okay, so I know this is corny but will you take a picture of me staring at this lake? You know we’re all instagram junkies…” I happily snapped a few shots and we traded roles, him becoming the photography. It gave me a good laugh (and a good picture or two) and he went on his way.

Shortly after, I made my way back to the trailhead, and into a gift shop down the street. I grabbed some grub and a postcard and sat outside in the sunshine before retreating to a lodge to try and find some wifi for a bit. The wifi was 4 dollars for an hour and it was hit or miss as to whether or not you actually got an hours worth of work done. There were several times I had to log back in, shut the web browser, refresh, don’t refresh, pay again, sit, sit, sit, get excited at the prospect of a page loading only to get an error again. So after being thoroughly fed up with technology I tossed my hands in the air and went back to my campsite in the woods. It was one of the biggest campsites I’ve stayed at on this trip. It had plenty of room for a tent, my car, and my hammock. A nice ranger told me he sleeps in his hammock all the time, which I was hesitant to do because, ya know, bears and stuff. But he reassured me and I was determined to swing soundly into the night while hanging in my hammock. My tent was packed up along with everything else because I knew I’d have an early morning.

When morning came I was SO thankful I had already packed everything but my hammock. I woke up freezing cold (totally should have worn socks) around 4am. I attempted to resituate. No luck. I gave up and through my hammock in my car, turned the heat on high and headed to the nearest bathroom. The prior day in the lodge I heard a lady talking to a guest about a sunrise viewing at 5am in front of the lodge. I knew the lodge was close to another less popular pull off because I drove all of Rim Drive the previous day, so I went to the pull off and waited. The sun was slowly starting to glow behind the mountains across the lake. I changed my clothes, brushed my teeth and washed my face and waited patiently. The clouds above Crater Lake grew pink and orange and the water started to shimmer a little bit more. The water was thick looking, almost like it was starting to freeze. Much like me in my hammock. Just as I thought I had seen all of the sunrise I needed to see, this bright grapefruit colored ball of light slightly showed over the mountain. Faster than I could believe, that glowing grapefruit sun showed it’s whole figure and lit up the sky. It was bright and colorful but easy on the eyes, not bright and harsh like mid-day sun. Everything was calm. Everything was colorful. Everything was all right. And with that, I said my goodbyes to Crater Lake National Park.

Seattle Departure

I am alive and well!

After sight seeing, good food, and some laughs, family vacation in Seattle came to an end and I hopped back in my car on Thursday, the 13th. I had a vague idea of where I wanted to go, but not quite sure where to go once I got there.

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
Several hours driving west, then north, then west again, I found myself at the visitor’s center of Olympic National Park in Washington. Highway 101 goes all the way around the park, with different entrances jetting into mountain ridges, rainforests, and rivers. I’m getting used to using maps and not relying on GPS and I’ve done pretty well so far (with a few turn arounds thrown in there of course). One of my whoopsies came after too much excitement entering the park. I thought I was taking a route that would lead me to a nice campsite, but instead, 40 minutes later, I found myself at a dead end on Hurricane Ridge. Although I was a little put off because I was trying to beat everyone else to a first come first serve campsite, the view was amazing and it eased my frustration. Hurricane Ridge is a panoramic mountain range that is in the upper part of the park. It was b-e-a-utiful. After smelling crisp mountain air, taking a picture or two, and using the restroom (my mom taught me I should go whenever one is available), I was back in my car, heading back to exactly where I started.

There was a thick fog that covered the tip tops of trees. The wind carried the fog across the road in front of me as I drove towards my desired campsite, which by the way, was full once I got there. Having several hours until sunset, and realizing I wanted to end up in the Hoh Rainforest the next day, I started driving west on 101 once again. Not long down the road I found Klahowya Campsite and there was room for more! The site was right next to the Sol Duc River so the sound of rushing water over rocks soothed me as I put up my tent next to a fallen tree covered in moss. After camp was set up, a short little walk by the river complete, and dinner was eaten, I read my book and went to bed. The next morning I woke up early, made some tea, and packed my things. Before heading to the Hoh, I backtracked towards the Sol Duc Campground for hike around the Sol Duc Falls. I’m not going to lie, all the signs about bears and mountain lions and hiking alone freaked me out bit, so with the advice from another lone traveler, I grabbed a hiking stick and headed on my way. The falls were splashing under a walkway, falling off a small rock ledge, and then cascading into a river below. There was so much mist in the air; a huge rainbow circled the bridge going across the falls. It was an amazing way to start the day. Back at my car I had a quick snack and started driving once again.

Thankfully, the early rise was worth it because I was able to snag a killer camping spot in the Hoh Rainforest Campground. Spikemoss draperies hang from big leaf maple trees in the Hoh Valley. It doesn’t harm the trees, but it does weight up to 4 times as much as the tree’s on foliage! How crazy is that? Once my camp was set up for my second night in Olympic, I jumped on the Hoh River Trail and started walking. The trees got a little bigger and bigger as I walked farther into the forest. Everything was covered in mossy green and the Hoh River snaked along next to the trail. I followed a group of backpackers for some time, listening to their stories about past backpacking trips, helpful tips for traveling, and even the volunteer work they do in their home town, but then a waterfall appeared on the left of us and I had to break away. I scampered up as high as the ferns and rocks would let me. Slightly misted by the falls, I sat for a while and cooled down while writing in my journal. I was on the Hoh River Trail for a little over 4 hours and made it back to the trailhead before the visitor’s center closed so I could send some postcards. Having had a full day in this lush rainforest, I was committed to one more day in Olympic. Before going to bed, I mapped out a route because just that morning I drove in the wrong direction away from the falls for 20 minutes before realizing it. National Parks really need more signage, y’all. With a route planned, I curled up in my tent and fell asleep.

OREGON
I woke up knowing I had a full day planned in another part of the park, but feeling like I needed something different. After packing up my things, I quite literally just started driving. Leaving Olympic National park, Highway 101 took me to the coast. A friend recommended Cape Meares State Park with a nice little hike right before the entrance so I was now on a mission to find it. And I did! The park overlooking the ocean with some rocky masses jetting out of the sea off the shore. I met a couple who came from Montreal and France. They spoke broken English, but enough for me to understand they flew into Seattle and are hitching their way to Humboldt County for a job. Lets just say they are…gardeners…I chatted with them for a little while, but then the realization the sun had started going down and I still didn’t have a campsite for the night set in and I went on my way after saying safe travels and goodbye. All of the campsites along the coast were at max capacity. Even thinking back on it, it sounds stressful but there was something in me that just did. not. care. I kept my foot on the gas pedal and kept driving. The West Coast pulled me in so hard my mind went tide pool. I pulled off the road and sat on the edge of this drastic crusty sand cliff that overlooked the beach. The sand had footprints going every which way across it. I could tell there was only a few hours until sunset but I could not pull myself away from that beach without sticking my feet in it first. My shoes and socks were on all day! I was driving all day! It felt wrong not to touch it. Not long down the road was a beach access pull off and it led to a short rocky path that twisted through trees, ending at little river that flowed into the ocean over shallow rocks and old drift wood. I hobbled my way across the water and landed next to a little wooden shelter that had been built by someone with a lot more motivation that me, but for that I’m thankful.

While sitting on that beach, something happened to me. I was completely overcome with this sensation of knowing that I long for tall trees and rocky mountains. I crave big landscape that makes me feel small but I was rooted in sandy Michigan beaches. That beach is exactly where I needed to be. It cleansed me and scared me and made me feel all the feels. The air was thickened by salty water crashing onto shore and the paper in my journal felt damp while writing. And here I was, sitting on a beach in Newport, Oregon all emotional but all smiles, watching the first sunset I had seen since Seattle thinking, “If my car wasn’t parked in a no over night parking zone, I would stay here all night in this little wooden half shelter on this beach in this sand.” But, reality was I couldn’t park where I was for more than another couple hours, and the sun had sunk beneath the horizon so it was starting to get dark. Hesitantly, I got back in my car and drove until I found a rest stop to sleep for a while before heading to Crater Lake, Oregon the following day. It was the best nights sleep I’ve gotten on this trip so far. So to that I say, “Thank you, Oregon Coast.”

Here’s some random things I’ve noticed and learned so far:

  1. People pump your gas for you. You don’t even have to get out of your car. Now, this doesn’t happen everywhere, but along most tiny gas stations on the 101, it does.
  2. There are signs that say, “End of 45 Speed Limit” but they don’t tell you what the actual speed limit is. Eventually, I realized if nothing was marked, just go 65 and all is well.
  3. Postcards are not only fun to pick out and send, but they also have really fun little facts on them.
  4. Olympic National park is 1,442 square miles. Yellowstone is a whopping 3,471 square miles!
  5. The beaches on the coast of Oregon are clean, crisp, and magical.
  6. More people hitch hike across the US regularly than I ever would have imagined. It seems wild to not really have a say in your route and the arrival at your final destination. I’ll stick to my car, thank you (and you’re welcome mom and dad).
  7. Good music makes the world of a difference when you’re in a car for 8 hours.