Saturday, August 31, 2013

Washington: An Education in Ecosystems

I love Washington ... always have. How could you not love a state with such diverse ecosystems? We have been lucky enough to come to Washington 3 different times this year and get to really experience its diversity.

You already heard about our experience in the alpine ecosystem up on Rainier.

But to get the complete opposite, we visited the rainforest found in Olympic National Park. The park has the perfect blend of forest, mountains, rainforest, coastline and oceanic wilderness (Misti!).

In Olympic NP, the biggest thing we did was a 17.5-mile loop around the Seven Lakes Basin (have you noticed a theme where there is always some sort of water involved in our hikes?). The area gets 124 inches of rain annually, so it is LUSH. The trees sometimes grow to 200 feet!!! After navigating the forest, you hike along a ridgeline with view of the 7 lakes to one side and Mt. Olympus to the other. Except that Mt. Olympus was shrouded in clouds the whole time ... we met 1 hiker who was out there for 3 days trying to catch a glimpse to no avail. We did, however, spot a bear!

There is so much more in Olympic NP we want to explore! So we will be back. Oddly enough, we did not get rained on in the RAINforest. Can't say I'm sad about that.

After Olympic NP, we took a ferry WITH the Sprinter van to Seattle for our presentation (on my birthday!).

Then, we hit the trail AGAIN (this does not get old, I assure you), this time on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). This would be in montane ecosystem, for those who are following the lesson.

The PCT is a long-distance footpath running 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada (the AT was 2,181 miles when we did it). You might be wondering if this long-distance trail is on our bucket list ... so are we. For now, we knocked out 75 miles south from Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. You guessed it, there were lakes, lots of alpine, picturesque lakes.

Sheri & Randy (the other BP team) invited us on this trek as they were taking one of their brand reps out backpacking. We don't often get out backpacking with other people, so it was nice to have someone new to chat with along the way! A backpacking trip is a really good way to really get to know each other!!

The trail was up and down, up and down, up and down. About 16,000 feet of elevation gain and loss, I believe. Thankfully, there were lots of switchbacks (Bob Peoples - AT guy - would be proud). It is possible we traversed 75 switchbacks in one small section.

Another memorable thing about the section ... blueberries! Despite all the plentiful berries, we did not see a bear!

But, we did see mountain goat & marmots (no pictures, sorry)!!! And, believe it or not, we ran into a volunteer we knew from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy! Talk about a small world. 

We did 15 miles, 16 miles, 15 miles and the fourth day was going to be 18 miles and the fifth day was going to be 10 miles, but we all voted (willingly with beer and pizza on our minds) to bang out all 28 miles in one day! It is by far our longest hiking day in our lives (on the AT, our longest day was 25.7 miles!). Crazy, but it was worth it. 

Our few weeks in the Pacific Northwest is wrapping up and we eventually will be heading to the Southwest (pitstops in Crater Lake National Park for a look-see and in Boise, ID, for our next event). This past week, we had a great presentation in Portland and finally got to see one of our priest friends (meanwhile, he has been housing us at the University of Portland for quite some time!!). 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Visiting Film Locations

I'm going to switch gears from backpacking to pure road tripping in this post. In our travels during the last few weeks, we've stumbled onto a few cinematic hot spots. Admittedly, they are not the coolest of movie locations, but you can still geek out and get excited.

Astoria, Oregon
Location for: The Goonies (1985)

J & I are BIG Goonies fan. It is one of the few movies I quote and it is one of the 5 movies we brought on the road with us to watch (already watched it once). So it was only natural that we would make a slight detour to the Oregon coast and visit the town associated with the film.
This is the jailhouse where the Fratellis break Jake out of jail. While we were taking this photo, I said, "wow, that really looks like the Fratelli's jeep!" 

 It is the Fratellis' jeep from the movie, bullet holes and all!! It sort of helps that the jail has now been turned into a mini film museum. 
 This is the museum where Mr. Walsh worked and the boys raced by on their bikes past him. 

 You can even walk up to the Goonies home. I think there is way more shrubbery and landscaping around the home than there was in the movie, but we could still picture Mikey, Chunk, Mouth & Data scheming to save the Goondocks from being torn down. 
 There are a few other locations still there, like Data's home and the bowling alley, but we didn't go overboard. 

As for Haystack Rock, that is pretty amazing!!! The whole Oregon coast is just gorgeous, but this 240+ foot rock jutting up makes it more beautiful.


Forks, WA 
Port Angeles, WA
These are the real towns where Stephanie Meyer based her Twilight series books on. No parts of the movie were actually filmed there, but in other parts of Oregon and Washington (and I am not that big of a fan to track those down). Still kind of neat to think the tiny town of Forks reached stardom for just being there. The drive to Forks & Port Angeles is worth it just because it's beautiful. 

We stopped at Multonomah Falls in Oregon not because it made a quick scene in the movie, but because it is truly gorgeous and powerful at 550+ feet.

Don't you worry, we will soon return to our regularly scheduled programming of "what beautiful place are P & J hiking now?" 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

When in Oregon ...

... you have to stop and smell the roses, literally and figuratively.

The last couple of days have been splendid. We have been staying at University of Portland's Holy Cross Court, mostly apartments for priests, but we have our connections. UP is a pretty sweet campus, set far enough from the city in that there is quiet, but close enough for access. So we caught up on a lot of "life" things. It's a funny thing about living on the road. Life moves as fast as the cars around you and our schedule is usually jam-packed with going from here to there and fitting it all in. Stopping feels so odd, but so good.

We also took an afternoon to explore Portland. You've heard the motto, "keep Portland weird." Portland is definitely quirky, and we took full advantage of its eccentricities.

We walked 1 of its 11 bridges. That's right, 11 bridges in one city with less than 600,000 people.
The Steel Bridge

The Burnside Bridge in the distance from the Steel Bridge

I don't even really like donuts (cookies, brownies, cake ... that's my poison), but we waited 45 minutes to eat at the famous VooDoo Donuts.

We clearly had leftovers and they come in a big pink box. All day, people were asking where we got our VooDoo donuts. I swear, we could have sold those babies for twice the cost!

Other Portland sites: 

 Powell Books (we could spend our life and our life savings in a book store)

The International Rose Test Garden. Portland has really earned its nickname "city of roses," but especially because this one garden that's been there since World War I. There are over 7,000 plantings and that is nothing to sneeze at. 

Food carts! The food cartopia thing is pretty cool to see in person and the diversity of food is just amazing.  Apparently there is over 500 food carts around the city! 

Before heading to Portland, we explored a speck of the Columbia River Gorge Recreation Area. I say a speck because there are 77 waterfalls within 420 square miles and we saw 10 or so of them on the Eagle Creek Trail. We did a 22-mile loop. You would think that these trails start to look the same, but every area brings something a little different. For this one, it was the moss on the trees, almost jungle-like! We really loved the first part of this trail with all the waterfalls, but the second part a bit of a letdown aside from walking among really old-growth forest (most people just do the first part). It was just really overgrown and we discovered something called "bear grass," which is basically a tripping hazard on the trail. In any case, it's all about discovering new places and we got a sweet view of Mt. Hood (J's next conquest ... it's too late in the season to climb it now).

We are off to Washington for some more backpacking and a presentation this week!