A tribute to a hiking buddy

Happy Father’s Day! I’ve been on a blogging hiatus for a few weeks to catch up on school work. Haven’t been hiking much either. I should finish up the semester in a week and then I plan on catching up with my posts and taking some nice hikes. In the meantime check out PNW Trail News and Photos page. Plenty of great hiking-related news and articles there from the Washington Trail Association, Seattle Times, and other contributors.

Some hiking news I’ve been following: Olympic National Park recently re-opened its Enchanted Valley area after the bears were bear-having (ha!) abnormal and coming up to people unafraid. The News Tribune recently reported on some of the best summer hiking and wildflower/wildlife viewing in the Puget Sound. The article’s suggestions include some of my favorite hikes, including the Sunrise Ridge Trail at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic NP (for great views) and Mt. Ellinor Trail in Olympic NF (for wildlife/goat viewing). Lastly, I went to North Bend, Washington, recently with the family. I mostly biked while there (the John Wayne Pioneer Trail) but would like to return to hike the prominent Little Si and Mount Si peaks. The Seattle Times recently reported on the Boulder Garden Trail, an alternative to the very popular Little Si hike. Both hikes start from the same location.

Finally, I want to say that I’m one lucky guy in that my favorite hiking buddy is also my son. We’ve done lots of exploring in the Pacific Northwest and I hope we have plenty more adventures together. Below are just a few of the photos from our hiking adventures over the past year.

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Lena Lake

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Paradise area, Mt. Rainier NP

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Mt. Rose

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Pack Forest Falls Trail

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McLane Nature Trail, Capitol SF

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You won’t believe the trail event happening this weekend

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This Saturday is the American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day. Noted as the largest annual U.S. trails celebration, National Trails Day is a day for hikers of all ages to head out a explore their local hiking trails and destinations. According to the American Hiking Society website, National Trails Day events will take place in every state, as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. These events won’t just include hiking too: they include horseback riding, bicycling, birdwatching, and geocaching activities as well. The focus is simply on getting outside and appreciating our natural and outdoor spaces. Here’s a complete list of the events in each state. Here’s some more information:


According to the American Hiking Society website, National Trails Day “evolved during the late ‘80s and ‘90s from a popular ethos among trail advocates, outdoor industry leaders and political bodies who wanted to unlock the vast potential in America’s National Trails System, transforming it from a collection of local paths into a true network of interconnected trails and vested trail organizations. This collective mindset hatched the idea of a singular day where the greater trail community could band together behind the NTD moniker to show their pride and dedication to the National Trails System”. Here’s a neat timeline that shows the establishment of NTD up to its 20th anniversary event in 2012.

I’ve never heard of National Trails Day before now. I really like the celebration focus and appreciate that communities in each state will hold special events honoring the outdoors and protected natural spaces. According to the AHS, there are some 200,000 miles of trails just in the U.S. Respecting and appreciating these foot- and multi-use paths is important to our physical and mental wellbeing and to the health of our communities.

If you like photography and social media, AHS encourages National Trails Day participants to email or upload their photos or post them to Instagram (tagged with @AmericanHiking and #NationalTrailsDay). Participants who post their photos can enter a contest – here’s some more information.

Finally, if you live in the South Sound/Olympic Peninsula area, there are several NTD events going on. Here’s a list of events in Tacoma-Olympia area. On the Olympic Peninsula, there are events in Sequim, Port TownsendQuinault, Shelton, and near Aberdeen. Here’s where you can find a list of all the events in Washington. Lots of great hiking and exploring going on this Saturday!

Memorial Day weekend hiking and camping tips

419187374_244fb2442b_b-2Thanks to arbyreed for the great photo.

Happy Memorial Day weekend. Thank you to all those who served or serve in our Armed Forces.

For many people around the country, Memorial Day weekend also marks the start of the summer camping season. If you do plan on camping or hiking this weekend, Washington Trails Association offers some excellent tips and advice on where to go in Washington and how to prepare. Some important takeaways from the WTA article: check the snow levels in the high country and prepare accordingly, especially if you plan on hiking or camping in the Northern Cascades/Mt. Rainier area, where snowpack often exists until mid summer. For finding a camping spot: don’t be afraid to wing-it and try dispersed camping (make your own camping spot) in National Forest lands. Just follow these Forest Service guidelines. If you plan on visiting Olympic Peninsula and find the Olympic NP sites all filled up, check out some of the lesser-known state and national forest campgrounds, such as Cottonwood and Hoh Oxbow (state land) on the west side or Hamma Hamma and Lena Creek (national forest) on the east side. Or try hiking into a wilderness camping site. The WTA article also identifies some great hikes around Washington, from the Columbia River Gorge and Olympic Peninsula to the Central and North Cascades and Washington’s Central and Eastern areas. If you have a to-do list of Washington hiking destinations, definitely check out some of these WTA suggestions.

For more news and information on Memorial Day hiking destinations and all things hiking and camping in the Pacific Northwest, check out Pacific Northwest Pathfinder’s PNW Trail News and Photos page. The news page features articles and photography from outdoor-oriented media outlets and blogs based in Washington and Oregon. Each week, the page offers new content to explore and share.

National Park fee hikes may mean fewer hike(rs)

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Looking across at Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park.

Beginning this weekend, entrance and camping fees at Mount Rainier National Park will increase, with even more rate hikes expected in 2016, according to an article by Kristin Jackson of The Seattle Times. Rainier’s single-vehicle entrance fee will increase from $15 per vehicle (covering the driver and all passengers) to $20, starting May 22. Individual camp-site fees will increase to $20 (from $12 to $15), while group-site rates will rise to $60 per night (up from $40-$64 depending on group size). Even the costs of a Mt. Rainier/Olympic NP annual pass will increase $10, up from $30. In 2016, park officials expect to increase Mt. Rainier’s single-vehicle rate to $25 per car and the annual pass rate to $50. NPS does not plan to increase camping fees in 2016. See a complete list of Mt. Rainier NP fees here.

Rainier is not the only NP pursuing this course of action. Olympic, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and other parks are all expected to follow suit. No word yet on when Olympic NP plans to increase its rates. According to Jackson’s article, the parks are pursuing the rate hikes to cover deferred maintenance, to better pay for resource protection, and to improve visitor service and facilities. Fortunately, the rate hikes are less than what the national park system initially wanted after receiving public and stakeholder feedback. The Seattle Times article states that the last time NPS instituted a major fee increase was 2006.

I’m all for better protecting our national wilderness treasures, I just wish there was an easier way to keep them well maintained besides increasing access fees and potentially excluding some visitors. I’m not sure if this approach will effect visitation rates to national park properties or not. While a great marketing campaign is one way to spur interest, the NPS does not want to deter visitors by making it too costly to access its properties.

I was happy to see that NPS does not plan to increase the costs of its Interagency Annual Pass. At $80 this pass is a deal, giving holders access to not only NPs but also national forests, monuments, and similarly federal-protected lands. My family has one and its well worth it if you visit nationally protected properties several times a year. If you live in Washington and want to explore some of the state’s other amazing attractions, such as Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, the interagency pass is invaluable. 

Also, if you don’t want to pay the new NP fee costs and still want to visit beautiful, pristine Pacific Northwest wilderness, you can always check out North Cascades National Park. North Cascades a little ways off the beaten path but doesn’t require access fees and still maintains inexpensive camping fees.

Let me know if you think the rate hike will deter you from visiting Rainier and Olympic NPs or not.

Mixed feelings on the social media shaming of #parkvandals

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The Washington Post recently picked up a story about a dad and his two kids who were allegedly caught vandalizing a railing at Tumalo Falls in Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest. The story broke in early May after Oregon resident Brett Nelson snapped a photo of the family and posted it to Facebook, where he called them out for unabashedly damaging NF property. According to Nelson’s account of the scenario in The Oregonian:

Nelson said both the man and the kids challenged him when he objected to their carving on the railing. Nelson asked the man for his license plate number, “so I can carve my name in the hood of your car.” He said the man responded “go for it, it’s a rental car.”

When he asked where they were from, the man responded “California.”

“I was like, ‘Go back,’” Nelson said. “Go carve your name in your own picnic table. Nobody wants you here.”

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Kalaloch Campground, Olympic NP, Makes the List

A recent Travel+Leisure article by Sarah L. Stewart identifies “America’s Prettiest Beach Campsites” and you’ll never guess which Washington State camping area made the list: Kalaloch in Olympic NP. Stewart’s description of Kalaloch aptly sums up this scenic Pacific Ocean-side campground. She states:

“Lose yourself in the wild beauty of the Olympic Peninsula at this 175-site outpost perched on a bluff high above the Pacific. Bald eagles and sea gulls fly overhead, whales occasionally spout offshore, and emerald-green sea urchins populate the rocky pools revealed at low tide.”

No disrespect to Kalaloch (pronounced Kah-lay-lock) – the campground is beautiful and nicely pressed up against long sandy beaches that stretch far in either direction. My only opposition to it is how quickly the campground fills up (largely by RVers) on summer weekends and long holidays. I’ve found that Mora Campground, located just an hour north of Kalaloch, doesn’t seem to attract as large of crowds (or maybe it was just when I visited?). Also Rialto Beach (a mile down the road from Mora) is just as spectacular with a little more peacefulness and ruggedness (see my photos).

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Looking southward on Rialto Beach.

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Lastly, another Pacific Northwestern campground made Stewart’s list too: Cape Perpetua Campground in Oregon’s Siuslaw National Forest. Cool – time for a road-trip to Oregon’s coast!

For more trail news and information from the Pacific Northwest, check out Pacific Northwest Pathfinder’s PNW Trail News and Photos section.

Scenic Washington Coast-Area Hikes for M-Day (or Any Day)

Happy Mother’s Day! Take time to enjoy the day and get outside (if that’s what mom wishes, of course). Douglas Scott of GraysHarbor Talk offers some suggestions for great Mom’s Day hikes in Western Washington’s Grays Harbor area. I’ve explored a couple of the areas Scott mentions and each one delivers. The Maple Glade Trail and connector trails offer a beautiful stroll through moss-draped old-growth trees. Kalaloch and Ruby beaches are always fun to explore – and they are some of the few places in Olympic National Park where dogs can visit (on-leash). Not to leave out Oregon residents, I found this article on some of the top 20 hikes in the Beaver State. Either way, you can’t throw a rock in the Pacific Northwest without it landing on a stunning trail or hiking area. Take advantage of it!

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Kestner-Higley Homestead, Kestner Homestead Trail, Quinault Rain Forest Ranger State, Olympic NP