As a 90’s song goes: don’t go chasing waterfalls. But I often take suggestions with a big grain of salt. As you probably notice, I love taking photos of running water. Having figured out long exposure shots in my camera has opened up a new area of interest for me. Also, if I’m waiting on a hiking buddy while they fill up their water filter on the creek, I might as well take photos.
I had finally gotten clearance from my surgeon to walk without the encumbrance of an ankle boot. I had surgery a few weeks ago, you see. My foot had progressively been bothering me and I felt I owed it to my feet to get the problem fixed. Being the body part that has done me the most favors, especially with my need to explore far into the woods for the sake of my mental health, I had to show my appreciation by having my growing bunion removed. This resulted in me being hobbled with an orthotic boot for several weeks. I wanted to make sure it healed well so I did what I don’t often do when someone sets limits for me: I followed instructions.
Now that I can start wearing regular footwear again and am allowed to engage in my usual bipedal activities, it was finally time to return to the trail. My usual hiking buddies picked Teneriffe Falls. It was short enough to take slow and uphill enough to promise a decent waterfall at the end.
Most of the way, we were doing switchbacks up Mt. Teneriffe. At some points on the trail, we get a peek of the bubbling creek fed by the waterfall above. My fellow hikers were also recovering from the effects of Covid so were hoping to go at a slow pace. My poor recovering calf muscles will be in good company.
We trudged uphill slowly and steadily. As we got closer to the falls, the trail became steeper and more challenging. We pressed on one arduous uphill step at a time. Eventually, we arrived at the base of the falls and spent a few minutes enjoying our success. As everyone else took a moment to catch their breath, I set up my camera and snapped away.
The trail goes past the falls and leads to the summit of Mt. Teneriffe, a challenging hike by my standards at the moment. Once my land legs have fully returned, I will surely come back and try my best to head up there. I hear the view is amazing.
Most people have a “secret trail” that they like to go to when they run out of ideas for where to hike. It’s the kind of place that is probably not so secret. For me, it is a sort of “back pocket” trail for when conditions are not right for my go-to trails or they just seem too far away and my motivation limits my choices to within a certain radius.
I would not call it my favorite trail, necessarily. There is no impressive waterfall at the end, nor a gaily bubbling stream along the trail. There are no impressive landscape views of Mt. Rainier. The trail is not even remote by any means. You could spy houses just a few feet from the trail in some areas and the occasional sound from construction vehicles drown out the woodland noise for most of the hike.
It does, however, slake my thirst for greenery and the sensation of solitude for those days when you just need a quick fix. I also love the different kinds of mushroom you run into along the trail. It also has a little bit of an incline, just enough to test your lungs. At the end, you arrive at an old stone fireplace, the only remnant of a cabin erected a long time ago by the land owners. It makes for a nice spot for a sit-down snack of cheez-its and fruit.
You can certainly keep going further down the trail to explore the rest of the woods. I have yet to do so, after visiting the spot at least 3 times now. Perhaps on my next visit, when the need to unplug seems too overwhelming and better opportunities are lacking. For now, I will continue to keep this trail in my back pocket for when I need it most.
Enchanted Valley. The name makes you think of a lush land full of cheery faerie folk making merry. In the Olympic Peninsula, near Lake Quinault, the trail winds through verdant paths ruled by towering trees. There is a chalet at the end of the trail. It’s not the type where you are welcomed into a great hall full of food and tucked into cozy and comfy beds at the end of the day. The view, however, is more than comparable.
I started out the day early, loading up my gear into the cruiser to catch the ferry that will take me to the peninsula. It takes about 3 hours or so to get from my house to the Park Ranger office in Lake Quinault to pick up my camping permit. I also had to borrow the required bear canister. The area is known for bear sightings and I do not want close encounters of the fluffy kind. We are not in a fairy tale story after all.
Driving from the Park Ranger office to the trailhead was an experience. The paved road fades into gravel quite quickly and you certainly get the sense that you are away from civilization. There are quite a few large pot holes to maneuver past. Thankfully, the cruiser is more than up to the task.
I claimed a spot on the trailhead to park my car and load up. This is only my second multi-day backpacking trip and the first one did not end as well as I had wanted. I am hoping that I will have better luck this time around. I planned on making it all the way to the chalet, perhaps a little past that point and find the world’s biggest recorded hemlock tree. It’s about 30 miles out and back. I am planning on spending 2 nights on the trail. I hope it’s not too ambitious of me.
The first part of the trail is a steady climb. This is where I am reminded that I am not the fastest hiker around, nor am I the fittest. I had to stop several times to catch my breath just in the first 2 miles. I am hoping this is the hardest it gets. The first stop on the way to my camp for the night is a bridge high above a rolling river. There are still a lot of day hikers around, taking pictures, relaxing on the rocks by the river below me.
I wanted to get to O’Neill camp before dark so I marked some interesting waypoints on my gps device and kept going. The park ranger told me my permit allowed me to camp on any established site along the trail but I wanted to be where I knew I would be close to water. The trail is shaded by an almost constant tree canopy but here and there I find green meadows. I spy what looks like a fox (or maybe a coyote?) discreetly following me through the trees to my left.
After 5 or so painful and sore miles of walking uphill and downhill I finally find the camp. It’s just past a dried up creek, a bit below the trail and right by water. I gratefully plop down on a spot by the water. It was my own private little cove. I had a wall of greenery screening me from the trail and a couple of trees shading me with their luscious branches. I pitched camp and set to work on making my dinner. I spent a few minutes surveying the river bank before turning in. There was still a bit of light but I was already bone tired from the day. I wanted to make sure I was rested for tomorrow.
I woke up the next morning to what sounded like a very upset bird somewhere in the trees outside my tent. I suppose I would be annoyed too if a lumbering neon-colored creature set up camp outside my door. I just never expected bird song to ever sound so aggressive.
Breakfast was oatmeal, coffee, and some quiet moments of contemplation. It was a nice start to the day. After packing up my gear and a quick sweep to make sure I did not leave anything, I was back on the trail. The path undulates quite a lot and there were a couple of rivers to cross over make shift bridges made of fallen logs. It was quite a pleasant walk. The shade from the trees and the occasional breeze made the hike quite pleasant. I even ran into a herd of deer grazing on a meadow. They ignored me as I walked by. I stopped for lunch just a little bit past them. I made sure to keep a wide berth just in case they get a little too curious.
By the time I get to the wooden gate shortly before the chalet, I was feeling the strain of the constant up and down of the trail. It is still predominantly uphill but the frequent dips in elevation only made the next hill or crest feel much steeper. Past the wooden gate is the river crossing. It’s a narrow bridge with just one rail. While the river is not that far down below, falling would be quite the misadventure.
After crossing the bridge, the trail evens out quite a bit and opens up. We are out from under the trees now and the sun is warm and pleasant. I spy the occasional wildflower along the path and the chalet just up ahead. When I get to the chalet, I am greeted by a park ranger. He asked me about my trip and checked my permit then let me loose to pick my camp for the day. I find a nice spot by a fallen tree that had an established fire circle. It will make for a nice place to chill later while having dinner. There is a tiny climb down to the riverbed. It is rocky in most places but just a short walk to get water. This time I made sure I knew the way back.
I still had a few hours of light and I had already made camp. I decided to load up a daypack and explore the rest of the trail. The giant hemlock should only be about a mile and a half past the chalet. The day was clear and the sun was getting quite warm. Here the trail began undulating again. There is a steep hill up ahead that began to dampen my mood but I climbed it anyway. As I crested the hill, I was greeted with a scene straight out of the Sound of Music. I was imagining the crescendo of orchestra music in my head as I beheld it. There is a lush green meadow just begging to be frolicked in. Beyond it I could see the mountainside across the river and so many waterfalls. It was absolutely magical.
I was loathe to leave the magical landscape before me but I had to keep going. My goal was to find the giant hemlock. As I kept walking along the trail, it began steeply climbing again. By this time my feet were certainly feeling the strain and the rest of me was beginning to succumb to exhaustion. Begrudgingly, I turned back and trudged back to camp. I will have to find the tree on another trip.
I spent the rest of the afternoon settling down in camp. I made myself a little bonfire. I didn’t really need the warmth as it was late summer and the nights weren’t that cold, even in the backcountry. I just wanted to feel cozy. Besides, you can’t make s’mores without a campfire. After today, I could use a treat.
I tucked myself in for the night as twilight was giving way to evening. I wasn’t sleeping long, however, when I noticed there was a bright light from outside the tent. I got out of the tent to see what the fuss was about, ready to tell off whoever had their headlamp on too high and pointing in my direction. When I got outside and looked around, I realized it wasn’t some errant camper with a too bright flashlight. The moon was full and bright and it was bathing the valley in silver. I had not counted on tonight being a full moon. I grabbed my camera to try and capture the breathtaking scene before me. Alas, I learn upon getting home that my night photography skills were still not up to snuff.
I got up early the next morning. It was 13 or so miles back to the trailhead and I was hoping to get back before it got dark. I ate my morning oatmeal and chugged my coffee before packing up my gear. After a final check to make sure I didn’t forget anything, I headed back. The steep, rocky slope I had to climb down on the way in weighed on my mind. I knew that at some point I will have to climb back up. It will likely be difficult. I tried to keep a steady pace but the undulating path made me feel like I was still going uphill more than I was going downhill. I stopped a couple of times just to get my heavy pack off my back and rest my feet by one of the many bubbling creeks I passed. By lunchtime, I managed to reach the junction to O’Neill camp. There is a small patch of grass right by the trail and a log I could sit on. I decided to take a break there and sit down to eat my lunch.
The rest of the afternoon, I trudged on steadily, occasionally stopping at interesting points on the trail to snap a photo or just pause to take in the scenery. By the time I reached Pony Bridge, it was midafternoon and a pleasant breeze was blowing about. I took another well deserved break to shed my pack. I even spent a few minutes on the bridge just enjoying the view and listening to the rushing water below. It was just the break I needed right before tackling the uphill climb on the rock slope. Now that I felt a bit rested, it turned out to be not as bad as I had been imagining. It didn’t take me long to reach the crest. It was going to be all downhill from there and to me, that was a good thing.
I reached my car by late afternoon. I spent a few more minutes loading my stuff in the car and changing out of my boots into a pair of sandals to make the 3-hour drive back a bit more enjoyable. After stopping by the Park Ranger office to drop off my bear canister and a quick pit stop in town for gas, I was on my way home. Pleasant memories of trees and sunlight cheerfully peeking through the forest canopy and woodland creatures still swimming in my head. It was quite the ordeal but I did not regret going on the trip. Perhaps next time I will get to see the giant hemlock. Hopefully it will still be there, patiently waiting for me.
If these old building walls could talk, they would probably be chattering with the headstones across the street. Boston has certainly aged quite well, all things considered. We were visiting for a multi-day conference. The plan was to soak in some learning by day and check the local color afterwards. I, however, had other plans.
History was my least favorite subject in High School. It was always all about remembering who did what when and where and there was always so much to remember. I was (and still remain) not very good at remembering things I am told to remember. Or perhaps I am just bad at doing what I am told to do.
However, I like old things. Work had a certain enduring quality back in the day when artisans and craftsmen poured their heart and soul into their product. To them, it was not just one more object out of thousands churned out to supply the needy public. It was their legacy, something that will endure and prove their existence long after their bones have been relinquished to the earth.
I love old buildings most of all. I could imagine those walls bearing witness to the bygone days, watching the constant march of progress. I would give anything to hear all their stories.
Most every parent dreams of their progeny going to Harvard or some ivy league school and mingle with the cream of the crop. I certainly would be proud to say my child went to Harvard. So on a free afternoon, my friends and I stole off to Harvard. I heard there’s a really good cannoli place near the campus. Also, if in Boston, one must partake of seafood. So after walking around the campus and feeling not much smarter than I was when I woke up this morning, we proceeded to have dinner at the nearest oyster bar. I was downing oysters like a greedy walrus. It was a good day.
The next day, I played hooky towards the end of the day and caught the trolley tour through downtown. My compatriots decided to ride along. We went to some historical spots to blend in with the tourist crowd. We visited Paul Revere’s house, a preserved wooden ship, the bar from Cheers, and walked across the park back to our hotel room to work up a healthy appetite.
We were staying in the hotel whose claim to fame was inventing the Boston Creme Pie. I had the rabbit for dinner. It was delicious. I had the famous dessert as well. The dinner was well worth the splurge.
Day 3 was our last full day in Boston. Most of the conference sessions were repeat performances so I decided to take a lunch break somewhere else. I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the city and headed for the highest building I could find. Sunset shots of the city on my last evening of the trip are going to be my thing from now on.
Early morning the next day, we caught the plane home. It was a nice trip down history lane. Perhaps next time I can visit again. I still have rabbit holes left to explore and a few places to revisit. And, of course I tried the lobster roll. It was worth the near-death experience.
I am a habitual payer of attention to random details when sojourning beyond my front door. I notice the guy in the black hoodie across the street who stands in front of the Masonic Lodge smoking cigarettes at almost the same time each morning. I realize there is a new sticker (a smiley face with dead eyes) on the pole of the bus shelter. I also realize that it has been over a week and the same plastic cap from a bottle of Mountain Dew is still stuck in the same sidewalk crack. As I ride the bus to work, I see a fellow bus passenger’s snazzy looking purse or another fellow passenger’s expensive looking leather shoes and how it complements his well-tailored jacket and pants.
Both good and bad catch my eye: crude graffiti, tasteful mural on a building, homeless person sleeping on the sidewalk, a shiny black Jeep Rubicon with a monstrous set of wheels. My local city is an urban adventure indeed, if you know where to look.
It is now Friday, a bit past noon. My boss keeps asking me why I am still in the office. I am rushing to finish sending a few more carefully worded emails to the higher beings and string pullers at work. I am confident they won’t even notice my missives until Monday morning, 9 am at the earliest. No auto-replies so far telling me they have left town for the time being and will be back soon. After 37 emails sent today, Outlook hasn’t decided to take the rest of the day off. It must be my lucky day.
It’s the day before my birthday. My mom is still in town, staying with me. I promised her we would go exploring downtown. She loves taking the water taxi across the Puget Sound to our neck of the city. I do too. We decided to meet downtown a few blocks from my office. She is having coffee with her new friend at one of the ubiquitous coffee chain cafes. They are to wait for me and we will grab some early dinner at the boardwalk before catching the water taxi home. We might also catch one of the pretty sunsets on the way.
Walking the few blocks to downtown is an adventure in itself. Nowhere near the green, forested trails and mountainsides I enjoy traipsing in but charming and interesting, nonetheless. Despite all the new construction for skyscrapers popping up everywhere like mushroom on a fallen tree, the old grandeur remains.
Here and there, you can catch a glimpse of the city’s history. You can sometimes walk past the old building facades and, looking in through the window as you walk by, imagine yourself transported decades into the past. Seattle may be a modern city but it has certainly managed to hold on to its bygone-era charm with a steel grasp.
Ivar Haglund opened Seattle’s first aquarium in 1938. To feed the hungry visitors (and the seagulls who hung around the area), he opened a fish and chips shop next door. The statue depicting Ivar feeding the seagulls was commissioned by his friends, whose names are engraved on the back of the statue’s chair.
Mom and her friend had fish and chips (fries, actually). I had the fried clams. I did not receive an acre of clams, just enough to fill a cardboard tray. There were plenty of gulls hanging out on the pier and a sign saying it is okay to feed them.However, seeing as my pudgy fingers could easily be mistaken for a chubby worm, I decided it might not be the best idea.
Standing in line to board the water taxi, waiting for the sun to set and bathe the water and the city skyline with that gorgeous orange fire is not such a bad thing to do. I was in good company, a full stomach, about to end my work week and wind down for a nice weekend break.
As the sun continues to set and the water taxi jets its way across the sound, I look back at the downtown skyline. I notice the silhouette of the buildings across the sky, the Great Wheel and its flashing neon lights, the wasp-waisted Space Needle seemingly standing away from the megaliths like a queen holding court.
I woke up from my sleep to the pitter-patter of rain on my tarp and the light of day. I had slept clear through to noon, snug as a bug in my sleeping bag and hammock, between the trees. When I finally peeked out of the confines of my hammock, I spy a pair of deer among the trees on the gravel bar across the river. They seemed to not mind me being there. I suppose I was not snoring loud enough to scare the wildlife away.
I began my day by washing the sleep from my face and freshening up before making myself a hot cup of oatmeal. Thankfully, I had a pretty good-sized tarp over my hammock. I had enough room to stretch out and cook my meal without getting wet in the rain or setting my tent on fire. I even decided to have some “breakfast in bed”.
I spent a good hour just chilling in my hammock, listening to the falling rain on my tarp and staring out at the river. Soon enough, I realized something: I get bored very easily. True, I was relishing the solitude, being surrounded by nature. However, I felt restless. My mind began to wander. Thoughts of home began to creep into my consciousness. Also, I missed my cat.
I debated whether to take another nap and maybe explore a bit around camp if the rain let up before it got too dark. My brain was too awake, however. Despite wiggling around in my sleeping bag, trying to get comfy for some shut-eye for a half hour, it was just not in the cards.
I finally and metaphorically put my foot down. I’m going to try making it back to the trail head. It was barely 2 in the afternoon. I figured I had at least 6 hours of light to make the 11 miles or so back to the car, or at least close to it. Last night’s fiasco only proved to me that I was capable of hiking in the dark. So, I packed up my stuff, did a final sweep of my camp, hoisted my pack on and started to walk.
Solitude and silence can only entertain a hyperactive brain for so long. Then I began to feel that the miles are so many and my pace too slow. I tried to pass the time by playing the army game. I looked around the trail for wildlife but it seems the rain had driven most of them into hiding. I did find a lot of slugs, however.
I ran into a deer on the trail that did not seem to care that I was (slowly) barreling down the muddy trail towards it. Making noise with my hiking sticks barely fazed it. I finally resorted to loudly asking it to let me through. Thankfully, when it saw that I was determined to walk the trail, it bounded off into the woods.
When I got to the Guard Station, I noted the distance to the trail head: 10 more miles to go. I must have been farther away than I thought. I felt like I had been walking over an hour. I should be at least 2-3 miles closer by now. Perhaps my boredom was just making time feel so much slower.
I saw a few more deer resting on the meadow just past the Guard Station. I also ran into a young couple headed in the other direction. We exchanged pleasantries. They were planning on heading up to Elk Lake and maybe the Glacier Meadow in the morning. I told them about the blow-downs near Martin Creek and wished them luck.
The monotony of the hike began to get to me. Soon I was starting to feel every achy step, hear every muddy squish of my boot. I began to count the slugs I saw on the ground. Before long, I was beginning to realize that it was getting dark. My yearning for home was getting stronger. I needed to quicken my pace.
The rain was also doing little to improve my quickly fading patience. I was beginning to feel frustrated: at myself for being such a slow hiker, at my pack for being so heavy, at my hiking boots for offering next to no cushion from the rocks on the trail. I was becoming a very unhappy camper.
Thankfully, before it got dark enough to need a headlamp, I was able to reach the Visitor Center and my parked car. All the literal and figurative weight finally lifted off my back as I unloaded my heavy pack on the back of my car, kicked off my boots, and peeled the damp socks from my sore feet. I spent a good few minutes just sitting in my car, scarfing down fig bars and gulping the rest of my water before settling in for the 4-hour drive home.
The trail along the Hoh River meanders pleasantly under a canopy of trees. Occasionally, it winds across a clearing covered with ferns and moss. There are a few creeks along the way. Some of them are easily crossed by hopping on rocks. One or two require balancing on a skinny log bridge – not an easy thing to do for someone who trips on a flat surface (even harder when you have a >25 lbs pack on your back). I could occasionally see horseshoe tracks on the mud, probably from travelers who have brought horses with them to the upper camps.
Day 2 of my first multi-day backpacking trip. I woke up to the sun barely rising past the horizon. Usually, I wake up earlier than that when sleeping outdoors. I suppose being swaddled in my hammock kept me warm and cozy throughout the night. I started my day on a breakfast of coffee and oatmeal. I changed out of my sleep clothes, packed my gear, and got back on the trail. My goal was to make it to Martin Creek and camp there for the night.
I found myself at the Olympus Ranger Station close to lunch time so I decided to take a break. I rested my heavy pack on one of the benches by the station and had some lunch. I spent a few moments taking in the solitude. The ranger station was still closed and there were no other campers in sight. As I was taking a sip of water from my pack, I realized that my water bag was somehow empty. I was pretty sure I had refilled it before leaving camp. It did not seem like a particularly hot day. I couldn’t have possibly drank all my water already, or have I? When I looked down, I noticed the ground by my feet was soaked. I had laid my pack on top of my water hose and had squeezed the bite valve open. It ended up dumping all my water into the ground!
I managed to choke down the rest of my lunch. After I took a few calming breaths, I paused to think. I checked my location on my phone and saw that there was a stream just ahead of me on the trail. I wasn’t sure how far the water was from the camping area at the Ranger Station, or if the river was accessible there at all. I decided to go for the sure thing and got back on the trail to go towards the creek. Luckily, it was not too far from the Ranger Station. It was also a decent sized creek. I was able to refill my water bag before crossing the creek and continuing on my way.
Lesson #1: pay attention to your equipment.
I trudged along the trail as it went steadily upward. I reached the High Hoh Bridge in the early afternoon. The bridge looked pretty impressive. The raging river hundreds of feet below, even more so. I knew the bridge was pretty sturdy. If it could support the weight of a horse, I’m sure it could support mine, heavy backpack and all. However, I was reminded of how afraid I was of heights. It took all of my willpower to fight down the rising panic as I walked across to the other side. That was probably the fastest I had ever walked across the bridge in my life.
As I continued on up the trail, the slopes became noticeably steeper. The trail turned into a narrow ledge on the side of a heavily forested mountain. There were signs of fallen trees around me, as well. Being this early into the hiking season, and the snowy winter not that long ago, I suppose it is to be expected. There were a few blow-downs across the trail that I had to maneuver around and over. Being on a narrow ledge high up a mountain slope did little to help. Neither did being terrified of heights and carrying a heavy backpack. After a few grueling hours of trudging, I found myself at the creek. The trail looked washed out and I could not find a place to cross. There were also a pile of fallen logs across the creek and I was not sure how I would make it through that and up and over the steep bank to the campsite.
I paused by the creek and weighed my options. I was by myself, unsure of my skills, hours (or even days) away from help. I did not see any other hikers pass me on the way up so I did not know if there would be anyone coming down. I decided to forgo the risk and turn around. I remembered seeing a few nice camping spots near the bridge. I headed back towards it. I made it back to the bridge in less than an hour and still had perhaps 2 more hours of daylight. I set up camp and began to get ready to make my supper. As I was finishing up my supper, something niggled at me. For some reason, I decided to pack up camp and head back down. I did not know what possessed me to do so. Something in my lizard-brain told me I should hike down and stay at Lewis Camp instead. It was about 3 miles from the bridge and I was sure I could make it by night fall. That turned out to be the second big mistake of the day.
The sun seemed to have magically disappeared a few minutes into my hike. I did not anticipate it to get dark so quickly. I spent the next hour or so walking as fast as my poor, tired legs could carry me down the trail. The last few hundred feet to the meadow, I had to put on my headlamp just to see where I was going. Luckily, I was able to find the meadow and the sign pointing towards Lewis Meadow campsites.
Lesson #2: Better safe and early than tired in the dark.
I found a nice little spot to camp and began to gather some firewood. Perhaps a campfire would cheer me up. I also decided to get some water. I still had a fair bit left in my pack but I figured I might want to make some soup or hot cocoa before turning in. Also, the forecast was predicting rain early the next day. I wouldn’t want to be trying to find water in the middle of a downpour when snuggling under a tarp in my hammock would sound like a better idea. I put on my headlamp and pocketed my bear spray and water bag and set off towards the river.
Getting to the river from my camp meant crossing a rock field filled with loose rocks and the occasional stranded fallen tree. This also meant that a straight path from point A to point B may not always be possible. I found myself having to walk around logs, up one hilly pile of rock and down another. It took me about 20 minutes of careful stepping and meandering to get to the river and fill up. It took significantly longer to find my way back to camp… Much, much longer.
As I was heading back to camp, I realized that all the meandering got me turned this way and that. I barely recognized where I was. It was too dark to see anything other than silhouettes of trees that looked exactly like every one next to it. I tried to find landmarks that would look familiar. At one point, I decided to make straight for the trees. Perhaps if I walk along the embankment in one direction I would end up in camp. I was wrong. I ended up crashing through the bushes until I gave up and decided to walk back towards the rock field. I spent the next hour or so trying to find my way back to camp. I was tired, hungry, scared, and as close to tears as I ever want to be out in the wild. I have been lost in the city before. This is much worse. Also, did I mention it was going to rain soon?
I decided to retrace my steps back to the river. I was able to find the exact spot where I had filled my water bag. I turned around, and slowly and calmly attempted to recreate my path. I double-checked every turn and closely inspected every fallen tree, every rocky hill. Slowly, things became more familiar and I found myself scrambling up the embankment back to my camp.
Lesson #3: Don’t go wandering about in the dark.
After spending the next 10 minutes admonishing myself for my foolhardiness, I finished setting up camp and sat down for some hot cocoa and a snack. After changing into my sleep clothes, I snuggled into my sleeping bag and promptly fell asleep. It was almost 2 am. That was more than enough adventuring for the day.
I am all for long leisurely walks most of the time. It helps to clear my head. Being around lush greeneries and catching glimpses of wildlife, big and small, never ceases to fill me with wonder.
I have only ever done an overnight camping trip until now. One night away from the creature comforts I am used to was often enough to make me appreciate the small things. There are only so many things in civilized life I can do without for so long.
I wanted to try my hand at sleeping out in the woods for longer than a night. Perhaps if I can walk a bit farther, linger on the trail a bit longer, I would appreciate nature more and set my inner wild child free.
The Hoh River Trail seemed to be a nice “beginner” trip for me. The slopes are gentle, the camps are plentiful, and hiking along a reliable water source feels reassuring. I did some research and asked people in the know for advice before packing my gear. I opted to sleep in a hammock instead of on the ground so I gave my tent up for a hammock, underquilt, and rain tarp. Forgoing the bear canister, I thought I might work on my bear bag skills instead. If there is one thing rainforests have plenty of, it’s trees.
Driving through the Olympic National Park road under a canopy of mossy trees was a treat in itself. It was like being transported to another time and place, somewhere far away, and long ago. There were plenty of people in the visitor center. Groups of young folk just hanging out, families out for a day of picnicking. There were also quite a few cars in the overnight parking area. It felt reassuring to me. As much as I do cherish solitude in the woods, I would want other people in camp especially on my first multi-day trip. At least I would have someone else to ask should I find myself lacking any essential backcountry skills.
The first few miles of the trail was still full of day hikers despite the time of the day. My pack was heavy but my pace was leisurely. Even early on there is already the promise of ancient stands of trees bearded with moss. The afternoon was humid but not too hot to feel oppressive. The uphill slopes were not so steep and the greenery along the way made even the climb a bit enjoyable.
I arrived at my first camp at about 5 pm. There were 2 or 3 other people in the campsite but I had plenty of space for myself. I picked two promising trees for my hammock, and set up camp. My first attempt at hammock camping and it only took me a few minutes. It was a pleasantly breezy day but the wind did no favors for me while I was tying down my tarp.
I still had plenty of time before sundown so I scouted around for a good place to take night pictures later. I also went and looked for the bear wire to hang my bag of food. After scarfing down my dinner and getting a water refill from the nearby river, I snuggled in for a quick nap and rest my weary feet. I wanted to wake up at full dark, spend an hour or so taking pictures of stars, watch out for nocturnal foragers across the river, and maybe sneak in one more hot cup of cocoa before snuggling back into my sleeping bag.
I had found the perfect little spot to set up my camera just a few paces away from camp with a clear view of the river and the woods across as well as a decent amount of open space to see the sky. I spent at least an hour taking long exposure shots, hoping I had dialed in the right camera settings and spent a few more minutes listening for wildlife. I was going for another cup of hot cocoa but the constant rumbling of the river was starting to lull me to sleep so I climbed back into my hammock instead. I have a long walk ahead of me in the morning.
I have always found that a well-kept garden, even in the middle of a bustling city, can do wonders for a troubled and anxious mind. I found such a garden not far from my work, mere blocks from the hustle and noise of downtown. It is were one can truly appreciate the Japanese attention to detail and drama, where simple lines and curves can awaken all five senses. You don’t need to hop on a plane to Tokyo for this one. If you live in Seattle, you can easily hop on a bus to get there.
The Seattle Japanese Garden has been open to the public since the 1960’s. It’s designed as a stroll garden with winding paths around a central lake and every area of the garden evokes different aspects of Japanese culture. The path itself curves up and over hills, and around trees and strategically placed bushes as if to hide just what is around the corner.
Stepping through the gates and into the garden, I imagined myself like Alice stepping through the looking glass. However, the flowers here were not as “live” as the ones in Alice’s garden. The colors and beauty of the blooms were very captivating.
As you walk along the path, you get transported from a soothing forest to a lakeside garden. Vibrant koi fish languorously swim across the water like rainbow ribbons. There is a wooden bridge spanning the water with a platform where you can stop for a sit. On some days, they will let you feed the fish. They will happily swim closer and nibble on the fish food you bless them with, unless the ducks get there first.
You can also see stone lanterns along the path, by the stone bridge, and in the pond. They remind me of the lanterns that I see travelers carry around in the anime shows I love to watch. As you keep walking along the meandering foot path further into the garden, you will also see a small pergola where you could pause in the shade and enjoy the view. There is also a concrete platform right along the pond that reminds you of a Japanese boat deck.
As far as gardens go, this one comes close to being a favorite. The landscape doesn’t change much over the years but each time I come back, it still feels refreshingly new. At least, this pretty garden is not behind the tiny door. I won’t need to shrink myself just right to find my way in.
I needed a break from my adventuring. However, my restlessness leaves me wanting for the outside. I thought, perhaps, something local may check both boxes. There is a park a few blocks away from home that I can get to with a short bus ride. It has trails for walking, and a nice pebbly beach where you can cool your feet. There are trees and flowers everywhere. You can grab a bench, or a log to sit on and soak up the sun. You can close your eyes and listen to the gentle lapping of waves, the amiable chatter of people walking by, and then you hear a boat horn honking just across the water.
It’s still a nice place to spend some time, even on a cool, foggy day. Sometimes, you may only have half a day free and a few hours to yourself. Maybe you just did not feel like getting behind the wheel of your car and get on the road for more than 2 hours away and back. In any case, it’s a good place to hang out and spend some time with your tree friends. Also, I hear there’s a good dim sum place just a short walk away.