Category: National Parks

I’m Feeling 22 …

Just did a tally and … it looks like I’ve been to an equal number of states and national parks in my six months on this trip: 22.

How is that possible?! Looks like I can’t go to any others on this trip – gotta keep up this equilibrium!

This lil car has seen a lot of places!

National Parks: 22

Cuyahoga, Badlands, Wind Cave, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Glacier, North Cascades, Olympic, Mount Rainier, Redwood, Lassen, King Canyon, Sequoia, Yosemite, Death Valley, Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Arches, Carlsbad Caverns, Saguaro National Parks.

States: 22

Virginia, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona.


The Majesty of Yosemite


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Visiting Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier is awesome! It floats in the distance beyond Seattle, an eerie apparition that glows in the pink sunsets. Being able to explore it up close was so cool.

Everywhere you look, you see the peak.

Mount Rainier Geology

It’s the highest mountain in Washington, and the Cascade Range in the Pacific Northwest.

It’s a volcano, and there’s a chance it could blow in our lifetimes.

You’d be forgiven for not realizing it’s a volcano, though. Its fiery potential is covered by 26 major icy glaciers, 36 square miles of them.

Needless to say, it was interesting to sleep on. Not as scary as Yellowstone’s Supervolcano, but it somehow felt more conspicuous, being a conical mountain. It was easier to imagine the lava blowing out the top.

Mount Rainier National Park

I really liked this National Park, because it was a manageable size. There’s one main artery through it. The hikes are straightforward, and there aren’t things like grizzlies or rattlesnakes to contend with. There weren’t many people there when I was there, either. Another highlight.

I did meet another woman who was traveling around the country by herself. She was a bit older and had a small RV and two dogs. I haven’t met too many other solo women travelers on this trip, so I enjoyed talking to her.

West Side, First Night

On my drive and for the rest of the night, it was a bit misty and the sky was overcast. When I arrived to the park, I checked out the short Kautz Creek Trail. It was an interpretive trail that talked about lava flow, mud and debris from the volcano. I walked around the Longmire Museum, but it was closed. The trail that circles the entire peak (26 miles!) is always open, so I walked down a bit of that, the Nisqually River for a while. I love glacial melt, the eerie greenish-gray color and the rushing water.

Log bridge over the rushing Nisqually

There’s a Mount Rainier back there, I swear


Then I set up camp.

The night I arrived was cool and misty, but I got sooo lucky the next day, as you can see by the photos. I also got lucky to wake up early, before any clouds came in to interrupt the sunshine.

Stevens Canyon Road

It was pretty shocking to wake up and realize that the overcast sky had covered a GIANT peak. The same peak I had seen miles away, from Seattle and Bellingham and on Whidbey Island. Meanwhile, driving right into the park, I didn’t see it at all.

Boy, did I see it the morning I woke up in the park. It rose up in front of me the entire day, no matter where I was.

I started by driving Stevens Canyon Road. The road rose as it went along. I pulled off most of the pull offs. After a while, I started to be higher than the clouds! I saw Narada Falls, Christine Falls, and Reflection Lakes. Then the elevation changed again: I came around a corner and was in Stevens Canyon, which brought me back downhill. There was some gorgeous red foliage, as it was full sun here. It was a great fall scene.

Fall foliage in Stevens Canyon, Mount Rainier


Reflection Lake, Mount Rainier


Then I drove out to Sunrise, which was pretty remote. It’s one of the least visited areas of the park. When I got there, the parking lot was nearly empty. The Visitor’s Center and the Day Lodge were closed. I took my oatmeal, coffee, and Jetboil to a picnic table for breakfast. Frozen Lake was too far for what I wanted to do that day, but I hiked a bit down the trail. I did hike over to Emmons Glacier Overlook. That was cool. Rainier rose up like one of the Alps, and the Center and Lodge added to the Swiss feel.

View on the drive to Sunrise. What a commute!

A deer friend, enjoying the view of the peak.


I coasted back down the mountain, and hit Stevens Canyon Road again. This time I did the Grove of the Patriarchs, where I saw some giant trees and a very pretty river. Then I drove up to the Paradise Region.

There’s a reason its name is “Paradise.” Mount Rainier rises up dramatically behind it. From the visitor’s center/parking lot, many trails take you all the way up to it.

“Up” indeed. Thankfully, it was the perfect fall weather, and I had my hiking stick. I made it about 1.5 miles in, with some serious elevation gain. It was awesome. The views stayed … about the same. It was surprisingly crowded, considering the campground and most of my morning drive were barely populated.

On the way back down, at the entrance to the trail just past the visitor’s center, these two girls were doing “glamour shots” on the mountain. One was taking photos, and one was modeling, I guess? Maybe it was senior pictures, or one of their clothing line. There was a lot of giggling, frolicking and hair tossing. Not the usual vibe on a mountain trail, but it was entertaining. And the backdrop was amazing, so I can see why they chose it.


View from Paradise Region. Mount Rainier dominates the skyline up here.


I camped in Cougar Rock Campground. It was my first night back to camping after nearly a month in Bellingham and Sarah’s AirBnB. I really enjoy camping, so the transition wasn’t too hard, and it’s not too cold yet. The night was quiet and cool. I enjoy all the outdoor time, and getting in my tent just after sundown. I usually get a lot of sleep this way, and sleep very solidly.

The only problem was … this is ANOTHER National Park that did NOT have soap in the bathrooms. Not, like, they ran out. They just didn’t have any. Shake my head … It can’t be good for public health and safety.

I’m also listening to a fascinating audiobook, The Mysterious Benedict Society. It’s a bit Lemony Snicket meets Spy Kids. I enjoy breaking up my usual with lighter fare like this, and I can usually devour kids’ books in a day or two on the road.

Recommendation: Do It.

I really enjoyed my time on Mount Rainier, and I would definitely recommend a stay in this park. I’m sure it’s crazy busy during peak season, and it has one of the more limited seasons because of snowfall blocking much of the park. Plus there’s clouds to contend with. But if you time it right, it’s a majestic experience.


Grand Tetons: Hiking String Lake and Rockchuck Peak

The Case of the Missing Showers

Guten Tag!

I’m supposed to be a writer, so this is me writing:

I’m sitting at a picnic table, waiting for water to boil. I haven’t showered in 2.5 days.

Doing a hike right up the side of a mountain today probably didn’t help.


Cascade Range, from my campground

Hidden Lake Remained Hidden

It was an odd experience today. I had to turn around, though went until I couldn’t go on any longer. Alone, as it was getting way hotter, and then … I smelled cigarette smoke on the trail?

Even with bear spray, my brain was psyching me out too much. All it kept telling me was that there was a cigarette-smoking loner on the loose. Phooey.

Also I hate uphills, so it might have been my brain sabotaging my hike. 😛 Except … a 9-mile, 2900-elevation gain by myself probably was a bit ambitious?

I did get up to crossing Sibley Creek, and that felt like I was in the land of dinosaurs. There was so much vegetation, huge leaves, slits of brilliant sunlight … it was awesome.

Here’s Hidden Lake via NPS, since I couldn’t deliver 🙂

Diablo Lake

It’s not Hidden: here’s Diablo Lake. Yes, this is the view from my campground. This place is magical.

Shower Sleuthing

After lunch, I went to the Visitor’s Center to text my peeps. That is the only place with service in a 30-mile radius. Then I drove around for 1.5 hours to find ice, and ostensibly to find the place with showers. There are none in the National Park, which seems to be par for the course? I don’t exactly understand that … I guess it’s an environmental thing, and a resource thing? But they could also be making money off them, in theory.

Anyway: North Cascades Visitor’s Center directed me to a campground outside of the park.

I think I drove right by it? (To be fair, I think its signage sucked.)

I ended up in a state park, which had no showers. I also drove by Cascadian Farms. Like, the actual farm of that brand. They had strawberries, but no showers.

Thank heavens for baby wipes, I guess?

Night Life on the Road
Campground in North Cascades NP

Mmmchka. It’s bumping around here.

Meanwhile, for dinner, I’m making Hamburger Helper: Hashbrowns, so that’s exciting.

It doesn’t get dark for a while, so I’ll probably work on some fiction, then listen to an audio book.

Here’s hoping not showering is a natural bug repellent …

Diablo Lake, North Cascades

Yes, the water really is this color. The windswept trees were crazy. That happens because they are so high on the cliff and the wind comes right down the mountain, over the lake, and back up.

The coloration of the water is caused by “Glacial flour,” tiny particles that get ground up under and in the glacier, and then come down as the glaciers retreat in the warmer season, or maybe through rain or snow.

Gear: National Parks Annual Pass

It’s National Parks Week! So let’s look at a key piece of gear for my National Parks trip: the National Parks Annual Pass.

This thing is a steal! And it’s a great way to support the lovely wonderlands in our country.

It’s also how I’m able to afford visiting so many of the National Parks on a really tight budget. The pass allows you to get into any per-person or per-vehicle National Park without paying the fee. With some parks costing $20 per person for entry, this is an insane bargain. Especially because ~

Pro tip: if you’re broke, you & a friend (does not need to be relation!) can both sign on to one pass. So You each pay $40, and then just need to visit +2 parks each to save. Woo hoo!

Join my adventure by buying your own! Here’s some FAQs for more information.

Also, check out this list of all the Federal Recreation Areas. This may come in handy at some point! ::saves to iBooks::


Image result for 2017 annual pass national parks

Ironically this year’s image is one of the places I intend to visit!


Road Trip Vehicle Conversion :-0!

OMG you guys! Look at what my dad just sent me!

Ultimate Road Trip Car Conversion (Honda Fit)

zomg, i have seen my future and it involves … piano hinges

That’s my car! Turned into a platform of AWESOMENESS.

A) Like: serious props to pops for the love & support to look that up & find it & send it to me

B) He just retired so obvs needs a new side project, right?

C) I seriously may be am abso totes now in the market for piano hinges (!??!?!?!?!).


(even more than usual, Ash ;)) 

My new office.

Every time I’m on Instagram, I’m like … holy crap. This is my new “office.” (How are there still any questions?!) New defense against the Whack-A-Mole, exhibit A:

via GlacierNPS on Instagram

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