Olympic National Park

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North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

June 26th through 29th, 2022

Driving Through

North Cascades National Park is a weird one compared to the most recently visited locations.  Its origins can be found in the three major dams built along the valley that powers most of Seattle.  My first day in and out of the park was mostly searching for places I can park the van and exist without needing to spend money.

I didn’t know it at the time, but my first hike was outside the park in the greater Ross Lake Recreation Area.  It involved hiking along the edge of a mountain with a convenient turnaround point at a cascading river.

Survival is Key

My time at this park devolved into survival.  I knew before arriving that the Pacific Northwest was going to get a heat wave but I didn’t expect it to hit the Cascades as well.  My simple midwestern mind thinks “there are mountains so that means elevation where its cool”.  Except that most of the areas you can sit around are only 3000 feet which is not enough to escape the heat.

So in reality I just sat in the heat next to cool water and jumped in a few times.  It wasn’t my traditional national park exploration but still enjoyable in its own way.

Dam, the Power

Before leaving I had to at least do something on the touristy side.  I hiked a nature trail surrounding the Gorge dam and read all the plaques telling the history of the town and the first dam in the region.  I’ll admit my favorite part was stepping inside the museum due to the air conditioning but all in all another great stop in the North Cascades.

Lewis and Clark National Historic Site

Lewis and Clark National Historic Site

July 22nd, 2022

Nice Winter Home

If you are into history, this place is fun.

As a midwestern child, we were all taught of Lewis and Clark and their expedition to map the west.  Its romanticized in its teachings and lent to many daydreams on my part about what it would be like to be an adventurer.

This national site has a recreation of the original overwinter location that the Lewis and Clark expedition set up when they reached the west coast.  I didn’t know what to expect of the place going into it, but I enjoyed a morning of walking through structures and just pretending.  The afternoon was spent hiking a random trail for the sake of getting my legs to do something.  If you are in the Astoria area, I recommend a stop in.

Tahoe Weekend

Worlds Collide

This ended up being a really tough weekend for me in multiple ways.  It seems obvious in hindsight that the traditional male bachelor party and a van life with a focus on minimalism and moderation would conflict.

Money for me was a huge deal this summer and I picked and chose every dollar I spent carefully.  For others being on their main vacation for the summer so it didn’t matter what things costed.  This 4 day weekend ended up costing 1/6th of my nearly 100 day summer.

Moderation was my other struggle. Van life has unique challenges to health and wellbeing and I used a strict sleep schedule and moderated my eating.  This weekend challenged habits I spent a month cultivating and just sent me into a weird mental spiral.  Either fully join in and set myself back or isolate myself.  It was a tough choice.

I’m writing this months after the fact with the assumption that nobody will fully read this.  Its more of a reflection for myself. It took me nearly another month to shed the anxiety of the weekend.  But hey, the lake was pretty and someday I’ll be able to post a really cool drone video from it.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park

July 10th through 12th, 2022

Starting Out On Top

Every time I’ve come to this park it was after leaving the Redwoods.  Coming from a place with the cool ocean breezes and lush green landscapes gives quite a whiplash.  Honestly I’ve said to myself every time “why did I ever leave the coast?” And its always worth it.  This park is such a hidden gem of the exact type of wilderness that I’ve been searching for.

My first hike is to the top, straight to the Lassen Peak.  My first time here in 2016 I started walking up the trail but got intimated by the elevation.  Not this time.  I would categorize this as a strenuous hike but at the top it feels like you are on top of the world.  Its completely worth it.

Unique Smell In the Air

I often describe this place as Yellowstone without the geysers with a touch more mountains mixed in.  My second day in the park I decided to focus on the sulfur pit features that are scattered throughout the park.

I also saw my first bear for the summer.  Photos taken safely from inside the van with the camera lens stuck out a cracked window.

Trail to Myself

Ok, so I didn’t have the trail completely to myself but I think I counted six people in a five hour hike.  For a national park trail next to the main campground that is essential a trail to yourself.  Ultimately this is why I enjoy this park more than most.  When you are out exploring it really feels remote and untouched.

Redwoods National Park

Redwoods National Park

July 3rd through 8th, 2022

Bigger Than I Remember

Redwoods National Park is a hodgepodge of a bunch of different smaller parks each with their own special trees.  Their common thread is these wondrous and very very big trees.  Every time I come here I think I remember how big they are but there is nothing like it back in the Midwest.

I started this nearly week long stop at the Jedediah Smith State Park.  It was a bunch of short nature hikes showcasing the biggest of the big trees.  A nice gentle start.

Favorite Parking Spot in the Country

I found the oddest spot to park the van for the week.  It is a parking lot next to the ocean that I believe its technically in the park since rangers were cleaning out the trash cans.

But the sunsets every night was gorgeous and the people I met there were friendly as can be.  It was the perfect staging area to peak into random groves and felt like a safe place to just relax.

The Gold Coast

There are certain traditions that I’ve formed when traveling back to places for a second or third time.  This hike starting at the Elk Prairie Campground Visitor Center and ending at the ocean is one of them.  While its possible to make it out to the ocean via a car, the first time I did it was by hiking out there and the reward of the journey makes it feel more worth it.

Journey before Destination.

Lava Beds National Monument

Lava Beds National Monument

July 1st, 2022

Lava Tubes Without the Light

I find myself at another Lava feature for the second time in about a week.  The neat feature of Lava Beds National Monument is the spelunking you are able to do.  I probably traverse through five or six lava tubes where the only light I had was from my headlamp.  During one section where I was completely alone I sat by myself with my light off under visual sensory deprivation.  It was a short time here since I had lava features overload, but a great one if you like caves.

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

June 28th to 30th, 2022

Work Before Fun

After a few days in the heat I pushed through to just get to Crater Lake.  Feeling behind on work and other personal projects I decided to get my work done before going out to explore.  My view out my window of this vibrant blue lake was probably my best office location of the summer.  Plus the few meetings I had with the lake in the background fooled a few people thinking it was a fake backdrop.

I Go Down, I Go Up

When I finally was ready to go out for some hikes I figured the only access down to the water was a good place to start.  I quickly figured out that my perspective of elevation was skewed with the size of the Lake.  All of the hikes basically went down, or they went up.

At the Lakeside I ran across a group of really awesome and adventurous folks.  After chatting for a bit we got to see a couple actually jump in the Lake from one of the only safe places to do so.  Based on their reaction, it was way too cold for me.

To round out the evening I decided to hike up to one of the peaks surround the lake.  It felt like each viewpoint the lake looked more majestic.  So basically the photos turned into me taking panorama after panorama.