Category: sightseeing

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.

 

Souvenir Shopping in Taos, NM

Despite my conflicted feelings on Taos, I bought my most significant souvenirs there.

Proud Lady

The first was this R.C. Gorman print: 

R.C. Gorman's

R.C. Gorman’s “Proud Lady” source: SouthwestArt.com

 

I first saw this in the lobby of the Hotel LaFonda, and wow. To see this towering over you, in a 6’x4′ frame (at least.) “Powerful” doesn’t do it justice.

I wanted the largest one, but I am glad I got one at a solid size, which I could afford.

Finding the Perfect Souvenir

The other was the one souvenir from the outset of my trip I knew I wanted to get .

When I was growing up, my dad’s father wore this turquoise ring that was silver and had two rectangles of turquoise next to a larger square of turquoise. It was pretty big – took up most of his knuckle. He and my grandma traveled a lot, and that ring always stood out to me. It was lost at some point, so since I was going to be in the Southwest, I was looking for something similar.

Unfortunately, the bigger the (real, quality) ring, the more expensive. And, of course, we are still doing “women’s = FLOWERS” and “men’s = huge and clunky.”

After combing through entire jewelry stores, I finally found a large, oval ring made for women. It is as tall as my knuckle and actually fits snugly around my finger. It’s got these kind of “rock and roll” details, too: the band splits into three different ones that end in these silver knobs. They perfectly accent the black marble design on the turquoise. Many people who have seen it have complimented the turquoise, so I know I did good, and I am really happy about that!

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

Sunrise

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.

Paradise

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.

Camping

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.

 

Photo of the Day: Oregon Coast

First glimpse of the Oregon Coast!

 

It is a lifelong dream of mine to drive the entire Pacific Coast. Now, after doing the San Diego to San Fran portion of the Pacific Coast Highway in October 2015, I’ll be within reach of that!

The Oregon portion is 363 miles, and I will do the whole thing. Starting in Astoria, zooming on down to Brookings. I’ll take about a week to do it, camping at the awesome state parks along the way. (No reservations, wish me luck!)

The route itself was founded in 1926. Could you imagine tooling along it back then? It’s pretty remote now, with just a few population centers. Vacation and second homes dot the route, but they cost a serious penny.

Oregon’s Mile-by-Mile Guide

I’m also soooo excited I found this amazing guide, Oregon Coast Magazine’s Mile By Mile Guide.

As an info geek, it’s been really helpful to have in the passenger seat. It’s easy to read and follow along with. It’s incredibly thorough – if anything, I was missing stuff. But not this guide!

 

 

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.

Business Insider: The Most Beautiful Libraries in Each State

I know I’ve posted about my new #officegoals, but here’s a great new thing to aspire to check off: Business Insider has a list of the most beautiful library in each state. Sweeeet.

Lots of modern stuff. I was expecting more like Nevada’s for out west – rustic feels. Ir’a almost like the expectations were switched: lots of old-school homieness in the cities, and lots of modern sleekness in the country.

I dream of the day I can get married in Maryland’s entry, and live in New Jersey’s. Talk about #librarygoals …

Connecticut’s feels like one for a fancy personal home.
Texas: formerly a WalMart. Of course.
For the entire list and more photos like below, check out the Business Insider article here. 
Not really what you’d expect from Montana, eh?

Update: Just stumbled across these 360 degree views of some of the country’s most beautiful libraries! Thanks Thomas Schiff for taking, and HuffPo for sharing!

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