Columbia Gorge

We started pretty early today and drove all the way to Columbia Gorge to see a couple of amazing waterfalls. There was a lot of traffic and parking spots were pretty hard to find, but we were lucky every once in a while, especially next to the most beautiful waterfalls. The first waterfall we saw was the Multnomah Falls, where we hiked all the way to the bridge. I wanted to hike more, but daddy was already tired from carrying me all the way. Here are a few pictures:

After this exhausting hike, we had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (generously provided by Roslyn) for lunch. Then we moved on to our next objective: Latourell Falls, where we stood so close to the waterfall that we got wet. On our way to Portland we stopped at the Vista House for a few pictures of the Columbia Gorge.

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Palouse Falls

Today I noticed a change in my daily routine: instead of going to bed after lunch, my parents buckled me in the car seat. I took my nap while they were driving and I woke up only after we made it to the Palouse Falls. We stared at the falls from the view point only for a few minutes, then we started hiking. We went all the way to the left until we could not see the falls anymore. The only significant elevation change during our hike happened at the train tracks: we hiked down into the canyon close to the same level as the water at the top of the falls. It didn’t take long before we reached a big stone, where we rested. There is a trail going down to the base of the falls, but that was outside the scope of this trip. Here are some pictures of us during the hike:

Remember the big stone where we rested in pictures above? Try to find it in the pictures of the waterfall below:

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Lynn Canyon

There are a couple of suspension bridges close to Vancouver and daddy felt that one of them was way too expensive ($34/person) compared to the other one (free). I took my nap while daddy was driving toward the canyon. Because he trusted our GPS, we ended up at the wrong side of the canyon (if this is how you call the side with less tourists). More importantly, we had to hike much longer to get to the suspended bridge (which pretty much meant that daddy would carry me that much longer). I was not very impressed by the river, waterfall, and the bridge, but I enjoyed the long stretches of stairs and I even made a friend on the other side of the bridge.

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Yellowstone Canyon

Based on driving time estimates, we were supposed to leave Yellowstone some time around noon to make it back home at a reasonable hour. The target for this morning was the Yellowstone Canyon, part of which we already visited a few years ago. We started with the road following the river on the south-east side toward the Artist Point. The sun sent its rays into the mist of the Lower Falls at a perfect angle to paint a beautiful rainbow. Unfortunately, the rainbow didn’t last long – we could see it fading while trying to capture it in pictures. We stopped at the parking lot next to the Upper Falls, hoping that we could hike – at least partially – the Uncle Tom’s Trail. We got lost after less than 20 minutes of hiking because the trail was covered in snow. This unsuccessful attempt gave us enough time to explore the north-west side of the river.

The North Rim Drive takes the visitors through a series of amazing viewpoints. From the Brink of the Lower Falls one can see the water going over the edge and the canyon. The Lookout Point is where I would go if I only had time to stop at one viewpoint: it offers good views of both the waterfall and the canyon. Unfortunately, we couldn’t hike to the Red Rock because the trail was closed due to snow. After another awe moment at the Grand View, we were again disappointed because the road to the Inspiration Point was also closed due to snow.

Photos: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

This is part of our trip to Yellowstone National Park: North Yellowstone | Geysers | Yellowstone Canyon

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Another lava tube

The nice weather we experienced the day before didn’t stick around too long. Luckily, being out does not necessarily mean being exposed to rain. Especially if there is a 4 km long lava tube expecting visitors at the south side of Mount St Helens. Before heading to the entrance, we had to wait for the visitor information center to open to rent a lantern. A short description of the cave convinced us that the Upper Cave would be more interesting to hike than the Lower Cave.

The lava tube reminded us of that in the Volcanoes National Park: quite cold, with water dripping from the walls. There were several differences though. Huge piles of rocks made the hike more challenging than we expected. They blamed the presence of these rocks on cracking of the ceiling. I broke the lantern glass while trying to set up the lightning for a cool picture; from that point on we were concerned whether we would lose the light before getting out of the cave. A ~2.5 lava drop was the most difficult to climb, I even slipped and fell once. We welcomed the abundant natural light at the Skylight and got out of the cave ~ 20 minutes later.

After two hours inside the cave, the weather outside seemed very warm. It was still drizzling from time to time; the weather improved though and the sun even shed some rays between the clouds a couple of times. The presence of some massive piles of rocks along the trail (very similar to those inside the cave) is still a mystery to me. We caught a glimpse at the mountain, but the cloudy sky was not a perfect background. We had lunch next to the Swift Reservoir, then drove along the Lewis River. Lower Falls and Middle Falls were beautiful, but far from impressive; unfortunately we didn’t find the Upper Falls. On our way back we turned on route 99 up to the Bear Meadow; the rest was closed due to road damage during the 2006 flooding.

Photos: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

This is part of our trip to Mount St Helens: Johnston Observatory | Ape Cave

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Sunrise again

We simply had to get back to Sunrise to see the place in a good weather. Hiking on the Sourdough Ridge Trail felt completely different than two weeks before. The snow disappeared almost completely: the ridge where I took a picture of Lida hiking on a pile of snow taller than me barely had a little patch left. Of course I took another picture of her gloriously standing on top of the remaining patch. We finally saw what the fog was hiding last time: steep rocky slopes and green valleys. Shadow Lake was visible from the trail, this time completely unfrozen. The Frozen Lake was still partially frozen with a huge pile of snow surviving on its West side. The fence cutting the access closer to the lake was as frustrating as the last time.

At this point the original plan (hiking to Mt. Fremont Lookout) changed (to hiking the Burroughs Mountains). Going up the First Burroughs was tough and dusty. Here is the sad part: I realized that we got on top of it only much later. We were hiking the Second Burroughs thinking that we would soon make it on top of the first one. A really nice view of the mountain was waiting for us and for the other several dozens hikers. Some of them got so inspired that they took their lunch boxes out and started stuffing their faces.

The descent gave me a hint that I got my mountains wrong, but it was too late to realign everything in my mind – I did it later when looking at the pictures. The meadows were full of flowers, the pictures don’t do any justice to reality. After getting below the tree line (in other words hiking through the woods) we lost the view of the mountain for the most part. Nothing impressed us much before we reached the areas ravaged by the 2006 flood, but hiking on the extremely unleveled terrain was not impressive. It was just tiring. After reaching the Glacier Basin Trail the trail condition raised our hopes that the hard part was over. It wasn’t. Most of the trail to White River Campground was difficult. The mountain was visible from time to time, but the sun was in the perfect position to ruin the pictures.

The difficult hike affected Lida’s right knee, which started to bother her. The last part of the hike – on the Wonderland Trail – was not exactly pleasant for her. The scenery was lame again – since we were hiking through the woods, we saw lots of trees, so many that it became too repetitive. I decided that the trails starting or ending in White River Campground are not worth the effort. The only highlight of the trail was a waterfall. This showed up when we were pretty high up and marked the point where the trail became interesting again. The trees obstructed the panorama only from time to time and a large variety of wild flowers decided to bloom for our viewing pleasure.

Photos: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

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Nothing more pleasant than waking up with the promise of a sunny day! And nothing more disappointing than realizing that you cannot trust the weather forecast! The ranger at the Paradise Visitor Center was trumpeting a gloriously sunny Monday, which didn’t console much the Sunday visitors like us. However, he gave us a little hope when he said that hiking high enough may get us above the clouds line.

We started on what seemed to be the Skyline Trail, adventuring deeper and deeper inside the fog. It was somewhat encouraging that there were plenty of people showing up from different trails running parallel to ours and hiking up. A sudden change in decor left us without any trees, on a completely white background. Or almost completely white: here-and-there some big stones that got rid of their snow cover. There was one point where the trail shook off the snow and made it easier to hike. Sweet relief for a few steps on solid ground before the snow took over again and trail became steeper.

While hiking we could hear a creek rushing down, but we could not see it for a long time. It may have been the fog obstructing the view or, more likely, it was flowing under the snow. The trail finally intersected the noise-maker (Peeble Creek). While having lunch we were meditating at the absurdity of being at the Panorama point with no panorama to look at. But we were already high enough to see the Rainier summit clearing from time to time. It took just a little bit more effort to get above the clouds line and see the mountain in its full splendor.

We continued hiking on the Skyline Trail and found it harder and harder to find our way: there were no more markers and we completely lost the trail after crossing a few snowbanks. Getting lost didn’t make much sense, so we turned around and gave up hiking the loop. The fog was thinner and the valley cleared up (partially) a few times. Hiking down on snow – or I should say sliding down – proved to be extremely enjoyable.

The rest of the day was dedicated to waterfalls. We actually had enough energy to hike to the Myrtle Falls, but the rest of them (Christine Falls and Narada Falls) were close to the road. The picture we took at the Christine Falls reveals a bit of the disaster that haunted us the following days: we hiked on snow above the clouds with no sunscreen to protect us from the sun. It lasted only one hour, but we paid for it for a week: our faces turned red on Sunday, red and swollen on Monday, red, swollen and cracked on Tuesday, red, swollen and peeling on Wednesday and Thursday, peeling on Friday and Saturday. We learned something that week. The hard way.

Photos: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

This is part of our trip to Mount Rainier National Park: Ohanapecosh | Sunrise | Paradise

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Driving from a sunny Richland to a very cloudy Mount Rainier was somewhat disappointing. On our way West we stopped at the Box Canyon, where a park ranger suggested to turn back and head for Ohanapecosh, where the weather is usually friendlier than in Paradise. It was drizzling at the time we parked at Ohanapecosh, but the sky cleared after we ate our lunch.

The Silver Falls Trail goes between Ohanapecosh river and the vehicle road through the park (123). While we could hear the vehicle traffic from time to time, Ohanapecosh river was impossible to spot. I was afraid that Lida would compare the trail with those in Olympic NP (which she didn’t find very enjoyable), but she thought it was similar to those in Glacier NP. Silver Falls marks the first visual contact with the river and makes the hike worthwhile.

The next part of the hike offered very good views of the river, both as turbulent (while approaching the falls) and as calm (around the Grove of the Patriarchs). Crossing the Ohanapecosh River one person at a time on a shaking bridge seemed like an adventure for the little kids. The Patriarchs were big-old trees that reminded me again of the Olympic NP. The rest of the Silver Falls Loop was very similar to the first part, without the vehicle noise. In hindsight, I would park right after the Stevens Canyon Entrance and hike from there to both Silver Falls and Grove of the Patriarchs.

While still on the trail, we saw the sun conquering the sky and chasing the clouds away. As soon as we got back to the car, we decided to give Paradise a second chance. Rainier was out in all its glory, only with occasional clouds disturbing the view. After stopping at a few viewpoints, we discovered the trailhead for Bench and Snow Lakes. Two families with very small children were very determined to hike despite the snow covering the trail. We followed them to the Bench Lake viewpoint, then a little more until we figured out that locating the Snow Lake was more problematic. We were so tired after hiking in the snow that we gave up the park exploration for the day and we drove to our base: White Pass Village Inn.

Photos: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

This is part of our trip to Mount Rainier National Park: Ohanapecosh | Sunrise | Paradise

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Yosemite Falls

Entering the park through the South entrance helped us avoid the delays at the West entrance. However, driving the winding road from the South entrance to the Yosemite Valley may have delayed us even more than the construction at the West entrance. Mariposa grove with its large trees was only a few miles away, but we postponed visiting it for the next day (a visit that didn’t finally materialize because of the long drive home – about 14 hours between Yosemite and Richland).

At around noon we started the search for the Upper Yosemite Fall trailhead, which took a while and a little help to find. Many switchbacks lured us through a forest that protected us from the sun, but afforded views of the valley only every once in a while. Columbia Rock viewpoint offered a good panorama of the valley, but also marked the point where the trees were too distant to really offer protection from the sun. The Upper Yosemite Fall showed up all of a sudden after we turned a corner (at the gate). We used it as background for a well-deserved lunch, then headed back down.

Reinforcements in the shape of a coffee (for Lida) and a strawberry shake (for me) gave us enough strength to get in the car and drive to the Glacier Point. This time we made it on time to see the Half Dome bathing in the sunset light.

Photos: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

This is part of our trip to Yosemite National Park: Vernal and Nevada Falls | Yosemite Falls

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Vernal and Nevada Falls

We chose the first hotel to minimize the driving from Richland, but still sleep as close to the park as possible. We made it around midnight – after losing an hour because I decided not to trust our Garmin. We slept like two bricks, woke up early and enjoyed the complementary breakfast. Trusting Garmin too much was again not good: instead of using highways on the way to the park, it took us through some rural roads with stop signs at every intersection. Leaving our luggage at our next base and construction projects at the West entrance of the park delayed us even more.

It was around 2 pm when we started at the bottom of the Vernal and Nevada Falls trail. At the point where we could choose between the Mist Trail and the John Muir Trail, we opted for the latter, hiking the loop counter-clockwise. John Muir Trail was quite boring with little exceptions – like a nice view of the Upper Yosemite Fall. It became exciting once we reached the point where both Vernal and Nevada Falls were visible. The platform right next to the Vernal Fall offered a very impressive view of the immense amount of water running away from high altitude. The Mist Trail was definitely different from other any other trails we have hiked. Hiking up on the Mist Trail exposes you to increasing amount of mist – you may not even realize what was the point you got soaked. On the other hand, hiking down forces you directly into the mistiest area – our ponchos saved us from getting wet to the skin.

We made it to the Glacier Point just a little too late for the sunset. We waited quite a while to see the park in the light of an almost full moon. This is when I realized (once again) that I was utterly incapable of using the manual settings of the camera (the sucker would not focus on automatic). That means – no night picture for you.

Photos: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

This is part of our trip to Yosemite National Park: Vernal and Nevada Falls | Yosemite Falls

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