Wildlife Wednesday 01/28/2015

A marmot enjoying the view of the Olympic mountains

A marmot enjoying the view of the Olympic mountains

During a trip to Olympic National Park in August 2012 my husband and I took a day hike near Hurricane ridge.  As we  made our way along the trail I noticed a marmot that appeared to be enjoying the view of the Olympic mountains just as much as we were.

Lower Big Quilcene River Day Hike/Trail Run

View from Puget Sound ferry looking north

View from Puget Sound ferry looking north

9.4 miles round trip / 800′ elevation gain

With the weather looking more like spring in the Pacific Northwest, my husband and I decided to head over to the Olympics for a day hike.  We woke up early enough to make the short drive to Edmonds just in time to catch the ferry and may our way across the Puget Sound.  As the ferry headed west thick clouds hung over the Olympic mountains, but as we looked back to the east a panoramic view showed blue skies surrounding the Cascades.  The one hour drive around Hood Canal towards the eastern Olympics had our car winding through small patches of thick fog under cloudy skies.  As we made our way into the glacier carved valley alongside the Lower Big Quilcene River the grey skies disappeared and finally let the sunshine in.

Lower Big Quilcene River, Olympic National Forest

Lower Big Quilcene River, Olympic National Forest

The parking lot for the Lower Big Quilcene River Trail # 833 had only one other car as we arrived.  With plans to make our return trip a trial run we packed light bringing only the essentials.  The trail begins with a slight descent heading down towards the Lower Big Quilcene River.  Right away we notice the trail is very well kept and appears to have recently been worked on.  It has several river and stream crossings including what appeared to be very sturdy and recently built bridges.  As we hiked the sun spent much of its time hiding behind the ridgeline to the south of the valley.  At times the ridge would dip down and allow the sun peak down into the valley along the trail.  Once we made our way down to the riverside, the trails makes its way along the river slowly climbing into the valley.  After 2.6 miles we crossed through Bark Shanty Camp with a few backpackers camp sites along the river.  We continued our hike heading up towards Camp Jolley with plans to stop for lunch upon arrival.  We found a few logs with views of the Quilcene River allowing us to rest and refuel for our return trip.


Lower Big Quilcene River Trail, Olympic National Forest

With the afternoon sun still trying to make its way into the valley, we headed back down the trail towards the parking lot.  After fifteen minutes of hiking, we stopped to prepare for a trail run for the remaining four miles.  This was a perfect trail for running with most of the way going slightly downhill.  The trail headed upwards only a few times and when it did it was hardly noticeable.  We made our way running up and down winding along the Lower Big Quilcene River with bursts of sunlight when the ridgeline dipped low enough.  The parking lot had several cars at the trailhead as we arrived mid afternoon.


Lower Big Quilcene River Trail, Olympic National Forest


Heading east towards the Puget Sound with the sun was still making its appearance, we decided to skip the ferry ride and take the small road trip home.  We headed south towards the Tacoma Narrows bridge with Mount Rainier dominating the landscape to the east.  Our journey ended as we arrived home just as the sun made its final appearance for the day.

Mount Baker Snowshoeing / Nooksack Falls


Mount Baker near Artist Point

Since moving to the Pacific Northwest I have been interested to try snowshoeing.  Growing up in Texas I was never really exposed to any snow activities.  I assumed snowshoeing would be just  like hiking in the snow; therefore, if I love hiking then I will love snowshoeing.  With an REI gift card burning a hole in our pockets, my husband and I decided we were going to rent snowshoes and head to the mountains.  We loaded up the car mid-afternoon and after a quick trip to REI we headed north towards Mount Baker.  Our evening was spent in a charming cabin in Deming, WA.  The only heat source for the entire cabin was a wood burning stove that warmed us as we spent the evening reading by the fireside.  We woke up the next morning chilled as the fire from the previous night had died out hours before.  We were filled with energy as we packed up for the less than an hours drive to the Mount Baker backcountry ski area.  Within an hours drive we went from a green, lush environment to a winter wonderland in the North Cascades.


Mount Baker near Artist Point


Mount Baker near Artist Point


We were geared up and hitting the trail by 10:00 am.  Right away snowshoeing was a lot easier than I thought it would be.  After reading trips reports from recent visits to the area I learned that when travelling up the trail we needed to stay to the right of the roped-off downhill ski area.  Following this guideline we spent the morning and afternoon snowshoeing around the snow filled valley watching the skiers and snowboarders fly down the mountain zig-zagging through the fresh snow.  Several feet of light and fluffy surrounded the area for miles in every direction.  At times we would follow tracks created by other people and sometimes we would choose destinations and create our own pathways through the snow.  As beginner snowshoers we decided not to attempt the hike to Artist Point and instead we spent the day familiarizing ourselves with the equipment snowshoeing around the valley.


Snowy treetops on Mount Baker



Wind blowing the snow from the trees on Mount Baker


Exhausted from our days efforts hiking through the snow, we headed to the parking lot to load up and picnic in the car before heading down the mountain.  As we left the snowy mountaintops behind, a sign for Nooksack Falls lured us off the highway for a short side trip.  We made the quick trip the the waterfall viewing point, but the perspective from the fenced area near the top of the falls gives you just a peak of Nooksack Falls.  I enjoyed the landscape looking downstream as a light fog hung over the valley in the distance.


Nooksack Falls, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest


Nooksack Falls, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest


The cold air urged us to head back to the warmth of our car and we continued our way back towards Seattle.  As we drove away from Mount Baker and the North Cascades all I could think about was when I’d be back again.  Soon I hope.

Wildlife Wednesday 01/21/2015

Alpaca  San Juan Island, WA

Alpaca, San Juan Island, WA

During a trip to the San Juan Islands with my family in 2012 we visited the Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm near Roche Harbor.  The family running the business was very friendly and informative about all things alpaca.  After touring around the farm and visiting the alpacas we shopped for items made with the very soft alpaca fur.

Wildlife Wednesday 01/14/2015



I captured this eagle flying over the Shark Reef Recreation Area during a visit to Lopez Island in January 2013.  Lopez Island is one of the four islands accessible by ferry in the San Juan Islands in Washington state.  Shark Reef Recreation Area is a great location for wildlife viewing including a variety land and marine animals.

Boulder River Trail Day Hike/Trail Run


Boulder River Trail, Mount Baker – Snoqualmie Forest

8+ miles round trip / 700′ elevation gain

Have you ever had the feeling you’ve been somewhere before?  As my husband and I turned off the highway towards the Boulder River trailhead parking, we had that exact feeling.  Once we parked and started making our way down the Boulder River trail we knew we had made this hike before, or at least we had tried. Two years ago we headed down that very same trail, only to be turned around by unsafe, icy trail conditions which we were not prepared for; but that was not the case on this day.  Although our drive into the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie Forest was slowed down by thick, dense fog, as we made our way down the forest road the fog cleared and blue skies appeared.


Boulder River Trail, Mount Baker – Snoqualmie Forest


Even though the air was a bit frigid with temperatures in the high 30’s, trail conditions were perfect.  With the recent large amounts of rain we have been receiving in the Pacific Northwest, Boulder River was thundering along the trail throughout our entire hike.  The abundance of rain also resulted in beautiful, cascading waterfalls speckled along the way.  The trail ascends slowly along the river making for an easy day hike.


Boulder River Trail waterfall

After a few miles we rested beside Boulder River enjoying the sounds of a small, cascading waterfall.  We returned to the trail and made our way around the next bend to find a much larger, even more captivating waterfall.  It was mesmerizing – I couldn’t take my eyes off of it!

Boulder River Falls

Boulder River Falls


Boulder River Falls

Boulder River Falls

Once we peeled ourselves away from the beauty of the falls, we continued along the trail winding through the forest with the sounds of the river as our soundtrack.  The short winter day had the sun dipping behind the mountains early in the afternoon.  After nearly 4+ miles we decided it was time to turn around and head back towards the parking area not quite making it to the end of the trail.

Boulder River, Mount Baker - Snoqualmie National Forest

Boulder River, Mount Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest

With plans to make our return a trail run, my husband and I stripped down to our running gear and stuffed our warmer layers into our packs.  We made our way along the trail this time moving more swiftly jumping over the boulders and small creek crossings along the way.  Even though it was mostly a descent back towards the trailhead, at times the trail climbed upwards slowing me down to a light jog or even walking on occasion.  The backdrop of cascading waterfalls and the sound of the booming Boulder River made for an exhilarating, breathtaking trail run.  We arrived back at our car just in time as the warmth of the sun was being stripped away by nightfall.  As we headed back towards Seattle the dense fog that had dissipated late that morning returned as if it was waiting for us to leave the trail.