olympic national park

#NatureWritingChallenge - Gateway towns

Where is your favorite gateway town outside of America’s public lands and what makes it so great? Any memorable experiences?

Join us on Twitter with the hashtag #NatureWritingChallenge to discuss and share the topic Thursday at 8:30 CST. This post was created in one hour specifically for this challenge.

I’m going to be honest, I don’t know much about gateway towns. I know some people rely on them, as frequent visitors to these glorious parks, but I’m such a “travel far and wide” to get the park that I rarely have time to stop and see anything but my destination. That being said, I do have a few small towns through some of the various public lands I love that do stand out. I’m going to approach this topic a little differently by highlighting a few of them here in the next hour of writing and creating. I am also creating this essay outside of the normal time frame of the challenge due to a busy March. I wanted to participate, so I figured they’d be good writing prompts later on and they are. Enjoy!


Olympia, Washington

I know, this town probably isn’t TECHNICALLY a gateway town, it was a home base for me on one of my trips to the Olympic Peninsula to see both Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest as well as meeting a friend in a neighboring suburb to head out to Mount Rainier. Olympia was everything I needed. The town felt small, yet had all the good stuff to make any trip better. When I fly in to the airport, I want to head south and get as close as I can to where I need to be. Usually, I don’t even stay anywhere but my rental car but I had some time on this trip and needed to visit both areas so a middle ground was best. I got a decent hotel, for a good price in downtown Olympia, found a brewery, and was able to meet up with a local outdoor writer/runner/all around cool dude who may or may not have created this writing challenge. It was the perfect distance for a quick morning drive up to the peninsula or over/down to Rainier or St. Helens.


Crescent City and Arcata, California

The Redwoods will forever be something I think about almost daily. As much as I love the desert or other forests, these babies are the original real deal. Two cities that really welcome you to the area are Crescent City and Arcata. I have stayed in both, found delicious meals in both, and consumed good beer too. If you stay in or visit Crescent City, head out of town and take the Howland Hill Road through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. You’ll get spit out on CA-199 and that drive through the mountains is worth it, so take that route. We did, and followed the BEAUTIFUL wild and scenic Smith River to Oregon and subsequently spent the better part of the day exploring Oregon Caves National Monument. Talk about a Gateway town!

Arcata was a little more chill, it’s not a mainstream place, with plenty of unique flavor. If you’re there you have to check out the various breweries and restaurants in the heart of town. Arcata is positioned perfectly between the various areas of the Redwood National and State Parks. It’s a great base for exploring north or south, or venturing to the Lost Coast, one of my personal favorite places ever.

Honorable mentions is Ferndale, CA. This is a cute little town that is well kept and seems mysterious. The houses are gorgeous, the cemetery is really cool, and it’s on the way to the Lost Coast.

There are a ton of great gateway towns, I’m sure, but these are a few that stand out in my mind. I hope to explore more as my time opens up. Maybe I’ll find some great towns outside of some public lands this summer.

#NatureWritingChallenge - A memorable plant on public lands

A memorable or favorite plant, large or small, found on public lands.

Join us on Twitter with the hashtag #NatureWritingChallenge to discuss and share the topic Thursday at 8:30 CST. This post was created in one hour specifically for this challenge.


At first thought, I wanted to write about the huge trees along the west coast that I love so much. But, after a little more digging, I decided to focus on something that surprised me and really made me smile on one of my trips to (YES, You guessed it) the Olympic Peninsula. Western Skunk Cabbage, Lysichiton americanus, is a yellow flowering plant often found in the swamps of the moist northwestern forests. These yellow delights were a surprise for me, as I didn’t really plan ahead by reading about the plants of the Olympic Peninsula.

By the time I laid eyes on one of these plants, I had already been hiking around for an entire day. I had seen some pretty pink flowers, a variety of trees and mosses, and several types of ferns. Expectations were met, and exceeded, with plant life. Little did I know what was coming - in the form of skunk cabbage. I started my trek out to the coast on the Ozette Triangle (Loop) trail and crossed the bridge. If you read last week, this is probably my favorite trail I’ve experienced on public lands. I wasn’t far along the trail, which was mostly a boardwalk, and I noticed these yellow “lily-looking” flowers in the swampy areas.


I saw a few skunk cabbage plants and moved along, feeling pleased to see something new. Every little patch of swamp, I saw more and more. They were everywhere! The yellow flower was the perfect compliment to the varying hues of green in the forest and a stark contrast to the black mud and tannin rich water. I walked on, made it to the coast, and then saw more of them on my way back to the parking lot. I made a Twitter post once back at my motel for the night and I’m pretty sure @Publiclandlvr was the one to clarify what it was for me.

I had one more day on the peninsula, and it was suggest that I visit the Quinault region. I went on the south side, through the little tourist area and then made my way to east end around the lake. I saw beautiful trees and moss, some new trees, and a few more flowers. I decided to take a walk on the Maple Glade Rain Forest Trail. I’m so glad I did, because the water flowing through the swamp and the moss covered broadleaf (leafless) maples was stunning on that misty, foggy day. I did the small loop, already elated at the first sound only to be energized even more seeing the beautiful dots of skunk cabbage among the most brilliant green plants I’ve EVER seen in person. The pictures from that day DO do it justice, because you can see the gorgeous yellow dots and the brilliancy that is the green. What a treat.

Skunk cabbage apparently has an odor, to attract certain pollinators, but I didn’t smell it. Maybe I was high on the ocean air or the misty rain forest smells, but it didn’t hit me. I know the hearty yellow flower isn’t the most IMPRESSIVE plan on public lands, by any means, but it sure is a delight among the rest and something that I have fond memories of seeing for the first time last year on my first real hiking trip to Olympic National Park. I enjoyed every plant I saw on my trip, but I’ll always be excited to visit in the spring and look for good ole skunk cabbage.


#NatureWritingChallenge - My Favorite Trail on Public Lands

I remember stopping when I heard the first sign of waves - the ocean was near. The air changed, my pace changed, I was smiling uncontrollably, and I was finally to the beach.
— Me, March 2018

In my less than complete attempt at hiking 52 times in 2018, I stumbled upon one of my most favorite trails I’ve ever hiked on public lands. This trail has it all - ocean views, big trees, swamps, ferns, and even a meadow or two. The Ozette Loop (Triangle), located in the northwest area of the Olympic Peninsula is worth a visit if you’re in the area. I had read about the Ozette Loop (Triangle) in the 52 Olympic Peninsula Hikes book from The Outdoor Society, and just had to check it out for myself.


I had already hiked Mt. Storm King, been to Ruby Beach, visited the Hoh area, and even went to Cape Flattery before, but hadn’t really experienced a nice hike along the beach. I had no idea what was REALLY in store, but I knew it would have everything I needed for a nice morning. I found a tide schedule, planned the hike at low tide and found a place to stay right next to the ranger station - not the campground, but the Lost Resort. I had a cool cabin, I had an early bedtime, and I was excited for the next day.

Maybe it was the time of year, late March, or maybe it is always how it is out there, but when I arrived at the trail head I was basically alone. I set out, reading the various signs and information and then crossed the river and headed for the trees. I was exhilarated for the unknown adventure ahead. The thought of walking on boardwalks through the swampy northwest woods was exhilarating. The idea of eventually walking along the ocean to find another trail through the woods was EXHILARATING. I can’t find another word more appropriate than exhilarating, especially because just writing/thinking about it has me all kinds of excited all over again.

I made my way down the boardwalks, miles of them until eventually coming to a clearing. I had originally thought I was at the ocean already, but it hadn’t been nearly long enough. The lesson I learned is that when you’re near the ocean, YOU’LL KNOW. The air changes - you can smell the sea, the wind picks up, and it’s sudden. Before you know it, you’re pace is quickening and you’re almost running to see the ocean through the trees. Once I found the ocean, I climbed down the sandy cliff and made way to the rocky shore. Following the ocean for three miles is an experience everyone should have at least once. I’d do it daily if I could, trust me. It was slippery at times, with washed up seaweed and plenty of slick rocks. The smell changed from fresh ocean air to a bit more fishy ocean air, but it was still nice.


Once you’re back in the woods, you begin to miss the ocean. The trees return, the swamp smells replace the fishy fresh air, and the sunshine is filtered. Did I mention there was sunshine? Sunshine and a cool temperature are my favorite combination if it has to involve a beach. There are so many factors here that make this my favorite trail, but I mostly just love the variety of what can be experienced in under ten miles. Living in Texas has really made me appreciate the beauty of places with public land variety.

When you visit the Olympic Peninsula, don’t miss the Ozette Loop if you can help it. If you love variety, don’t mind boardwalks, and enjoy the smell of the ocean you will not be disappointed.


#NatureWritingChallenge - The World Melts Away


“A moment of place on public lands that took you away from all of your worries and stresses.”

2019 - Topic 3

January 24, 2019

Join us on Twitter with the hashtag #NatureWritingChallenge to discuss and share the topic Thursday at 8:30 CST. This post was created in one hour specifically for this challenge.

Every trail, every time.

I’d be lying if I said that every time I go hiking, I am relieved of some stress or find peace in some way. There are some days, some trails, and some environments that just don’t do it for me. It’s completely personal and I know it is likely dependent on my head space of the day. If I’m at my local park, which has a freeway nearby, I’m often there just to bang out a hike and not escape from reality. The trails are great, the terrain fun, and there are some parts that are more secluded than others but overall it’s not much of an escape. If i go to this local haunt with a mildly bad attitude or a need to relax and escape, it’s not going to happen because my brain will focus on the billion park patrons and seventy billion cars flying by over yonder on the freeway. Every trail has a purpose for both my physical needs and my mental needs and after a few years, I have them all figured out. When I need to fully escape, collect my thoughts, and feel the world disappear I head to the west.

Texas has red rocks and canyons.

I can’t always afford to fly to the Pacific Northwest, where I find peace on every adventure, so I drive to the state parks in West Texas. I’m fortunate to have a good car and a job that allows me to get out of the city and escape into the horizon. I recently visited Palo Duro Canyon State Park - the Grand Canyon of Texas. This place has red rocks and blue skies and is only five and a half hours away. I was in a sort of “blah” mood recently, so I drove out there and spent 10 miles alone with myself and quickly focused on my immediate surroundings. I was watching the light dance around the canyon - bouncing off the little hoodoos and red rock walls. I watched the clouds drift through the sky and got to breathe in that crisp winter air with hints of juniper. My phone and watch were in airplane mode, only there to track my path and take photos. I had disconnected and it felt amazing. These trails were not free from other people, but the one I chose was mostly empty compared to other popular spots. I stopped often, because my hikes aren’t about speed, and I would take in the view and write a little note about my thoughts or what I observed. I stopped to take a closer look at the rocks, the plants, and the birds. I’m not saying Palo Duro Canyon is my ultimate spot, but it is one place I know I can go in the dead of winter and be somewhat alone with myself allowing a true escape.

My ultimate escape.

If I had to pick a place where I felt 100% free from any weight or stress it would be the Olympic Peninsula. I’m not going to pinpoint one spot because I spent a solo weekend all over last March and it was the absolute best solo trip I’ve taken to date. I love to meet up with people, be shown around, and socialize but there is just something about a solo trip that really stuck with me. When I flew to Seattle in March, I expected a rainy weekend of hiking and was ready for it. I didn’t have any plans to meet up with anyone and didn’t have any intention of doing so. My first stop was the Mt. Storm King trail. My phone was mostly out of service and I had it with me for photos - a trend you’ll see. I hiked, alone, without really seeing anyone along the way. The area, the trail, and the experience was new to me. I had nothing better to do than focus on my feet, the sky, the trees, the birds, and the breathtaking views. When I get lost in the trees, figuratively, the world begins to melt away. My financial woes, my family woes, my minor modern world problems all fade to the background, or away completely. When I’m hiking in the northwest I find a new perspective because I’m removed from my world and placed in a new one. When I hiked the Ozette Loop I hadn’t had phone service since the day before early on. I was truly removed from the world and it was the best. I set out on another new and exciting adventure through the trees to the coast. I had no worries, no problems, and no issues during those hours. I stopped to take as many photos as my heart desired, I stopped to really take in the swamp, and then I stopped dead in my tracks when I heard the waves and smelled the sea air. The only things on my brain during that hike were related to the moment I was in at the time. What a treat, right? The northwest, and specifically the Olympic Peninsula, has always been a favorite but from that weekend forward it is where I go (physically and mentally) to relax my brain.

I hope you can find some peace in nature this year, this month, and/or this week. Go find your happy place!

#NatureWritingChallenge - Protection for #PublicLands during a #GovernmentShutdown

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“How do we ensure the protection our public lands need is given during a government shutdown? How should they be maintained?”

2019 - Topic 2

January 17, 2019

Join us on Twitter with the hashtag #NatureWritingChallenge to discuss and share the topic Thursday at 8:30 CST. This post was created in one hour specifically for this challenge.

“How do we maintain and protect without any funding? We’ve been doing it for years…”

Shut it down.

I’m a supporter of shutting down public lands with gates as soon as the government shuts down. If we can’t pay rangers and employees to keep it safe and clean, I can’t imagine the general public will do well unsupervised. Don’t believe me? Google news stories about Joshua Tree or Yosemite, two of the most visited parks in the country and see what comes up. Go ahead, I have a minute… I’m sure the articles weren’t all pleasant. The reality of a shutdown is that there aren’t law enforcement agents and employees monitoring these special places thus leaving them wide open to all kinds of behavior. Sure, the people and the bad behavior happen while the government is open, but there are people there to address them. If a state governments want to chip in some cash for operating expenses, I’m all about keeping them open if some form of funding is available to ensure employees get paid and park operations can be covered.

Explore alternative locations.

If your favorite public land spot is closed, there’s probably some alternatives to check out. State Parks are open during a federal shutdown and can offer gorgeous trails and camping. If you’re looking for hiking that you’d normally find within the gates of the parks, check out state or national forests. County and city parks are another great alternative and are probably even closer to home. Plans may be ruined and alternatives may not be exactly nearby, but remember that people are going without paychecks and some are even working without them.

Educate the masses.

We must press on with education. We must start young with education. Every opportunity we get, we need to spread the words of Leave No Trace and other outdoor ethics based pieces of wisdom. We need to speak to the ways of the people who still call this land home, despite government boundaries. We need to respect the land and cultures as well as educate the general public on the importance of the preservation surrounding the Indigenous people of this continent. There is always something to learn and no time like the present to learn it.

More help.

It’s time to volunteer and donate as able. Public lands need all the help they can get, shutdown or not. Pledge your time and money to these places you want to see throughout your life and for future generations. Offer to build trails, clean up public lands, and educate the public through various programs. Always keep them clean, but always pick up other trash if able to do so. We’re all in this together. If we come together for the common good, we can achieve great things. Find that special organization building the parks up and help them reach their funding goal or find a way to help raise money for them if you can’t spare the cash. I’m going to try my best to be a part of the solution by helping more when possible and I urge you to do the same.

Another annual pass.

Maybe the fee is already too high for the annual pass? Maybe it’s not high enough? The debate over park entrance fees and the annual pass will never end. What we do know, it all goes to a good cause regardless of the way you pay it. Always pay your public land fees - even (especially) during a shutdown. Buy that annual pass, gift it to your outdoor friends if you can and they can’t. We have to support our public lands, shutdown or not.

#NatureWritingChallenge - The Year Ahead


“Experiences you hope to have on public lands in 2019”

2019 - Topic 1

January 10, 2019

Join us on Twitter with the hashtag #NatureWritingChallenge to discuss and share the topic Thursday at 8:30 CST. This post was created in one hour specifically for this challenge.

“What are you looking forward to this year on public lands?”

More Hikes

Generally speaking, I didn’t hike as much as I would have liked last year. I’d like to use that as fuel to find even more public land hiking spots to explore. I have favorites that I’d like to visit again, but there are so many I haven’t even set foot on. I have several National Forests under 6 hours from home, so I’ll start with those as weekend adventure. From there, I’ll start finding more public land sites in cities I can fly to for cheap or on my way to another destination. I have high hopes of a summer road trip that involves many public lands from Texas to Oregon and back.

More Weekend Warrior Adventures

Speaking to the previous topic of more hikes, I plan to go hard on the weekends hiking as much as my schedule allows. I plan to hike once, but if I can fit a whole day of hiking in or multiple locations, I’m going to do it as often as I can.  I want to do more public land camping during 2019 weekends as well. This will hopefully include national and state public lands.


I want to learn as much as I can this year. That’s a vague goal, so I’ll get specific. One, I want to learn about the history of the land - the people who were there first, how they lived, and the culture in general. What can we learn from them and how can we exist together without continuing to crush their culture? Two, I think the first item will lead me to wanting to learn more about the geological formations of public lands. Third, I plan to make note of plants and animals I see to identify and learn how they support the ecosystem. I am not uneducated on these topics, I just feel they deserve more of my time and that my time would be better spent on them in lieu of television or movies.

More Help

Trails need building, trash needs removing, and organizations need volunteers. I plan to devote more time to helping public lands stay beautiful. I intend to join trail cleanups and maintenance events locally, as well as out of town. I will continue to search for trash on my usual walks and hikes and make an effort to talk to people if they are violating the rules. I renewed my membership with Leave No Trace and I encourage you to join and support them if it is in your budget. I plan to support other conservation organizations throughout the year, as money is available in my budget.

Another Annual Pass

As a household, we purchase an America the Beautiful Pass every year. Whether or not we “get our money out of it” or not, I buy one. Even if I go once, I feel I’m getting a good bang for my buck. Knowing these places exist for me is simply enough.

Specific Experiences

  • Olympic National Park - I’d like to visit for the third year in a row and hike a new trail.

  • Mount Rainier National Park - I want to hike the Skyline Trail at the very least

  • Crater Lake National Park - A visit, even if just a scenic drive (Who am I kidding, I want to hike too)

  • Muir Woods National Monument - I’d like to see this place as well as others in the area

  • Lassen Volcanic National Park - I want to hike here, but would settle for a scenic drive as part of a bigger road trip

  • Columbia River Gorge - Hopeful to visit a few trails that have reopened since the fire

  • Big Thicket National Preserve - explore, since it’s not far

  • Various State Parks in Texas/Oklahoma/Arkansas - the easiest weekend warrior option

  • Hot Springs National Park - it’s close and I’m curious

  • Ouachita National Forest - A revisit because I didn’t get far last time

  • Arizona - TBD, just want to visit the desert and meet some people

  • Run a whole trail - nothing too extensive or long, but one whole trail in full

There are plenty of even more specific places and activities I’d like to do, but this is a general idea to lay it out for 2019. I want to generate less waste and visit public lands more efficiently both for the earth and my budget. I’m going to continue to document, track, and promote my adventures on public lands. I want to continue to share the knowledge I gain and promote a balanced experience for all people.

#NatureWritingChallenge - My Best Moment on #PublicLands in 2018

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“My Best Moment on #PublicLands in 2018”


December 13, 2018

Join us on Twitter with the hashtag #NatureWritingChallenge to discuss and share the topic Thursday at 8:30 CST. This post was created in one hour specifically for this challenge.

The second I saw this topic, I knew instantly I wanted to talk about my trip in the spring to the Olympic Peninsula. I know, I’ve talked at great length about the Olympic Peninsula and Mount Rainier, but I can’t get them out of my head and I could go on and on about them forever. I feel the same way about the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the Redwood Forests, and Death Valley. But, in 2018, I visited the Olympic Peninsula twice and the first time was truly breathtaking and memorable in such a positive way.

I started 2018 with hiking and adventure goals. Though I’ve fallen short of what I was hoping for, the few trips I did take were more memorable than I could have imagined. I planned a spring solo trip to the northwest because I had been all over in 2017 and felt I needed to live up to those memories. I’m glad I planned the trip and tried to live up to the trips of 2017, because the trip to the Olympic Peninsula out shined the majority of them all.

I got a cheap flight for Easter weekend and had the Friday off from work, so what better weekend to head to the Northwest? I flew in on a Thursday night, around midnight, and drove to the Mt. Storm King Ranger Station. I had originally planned to park at the gate to Staircase and walk in, since the road was still closed, but As I had a last minute suggestion to hike Mt. Storm King and wanted to take it. I did a quick change at the restroom, and hiked to Marymere Falls. I was determined to enjoy some spring waterfalls, and this beauty did not disappoint. From there I hiked back to the giant rock at the base of the Mt. Storm King trail and headed up. I’m so glad I followed the advice and got to see Lake Crescent from above. What a treat. Being from Texas, the trail was a bit steep, but worth every ounce of sweat.

From Mt. Storm King, I headed west to Sol Duc Falls. It wasn’t too busy and there was still snow in the woods, so that was magical. From there I went to my little cabin I had reserved up near the the Ozette Ranger Station. The Lost Resort was home for a night and the cabin was more than adequate and very quiet. I had a good sleep and woke up to hike the Ozette Loop or Ozette Triangle. This loop trail was one of the highlights of my year, let alone this long weekend. I went from wet forests to open coastal prairie to the beach and back. Everything was so green and lively and muddy, the fresh smells of the ocean and the musty forest were everything I could have wanted during a weekend on the Olympic Peninsula. I made a quick stop at the Hoh Rain Forest area and did a few laps through the mossy trees. After my hike, I made my way down to Forks to eat and get a motel room. I settled in and then took a little drive to Rialto Beach to watch the sun sink into the Pacific. What. A. Day.


I woke up, rested and ready for the rainy day ahead. I had plans to maybe hike to Second Beach, but I didn’t want to get too muddy before heading to the airport so I settled on just visited Ruby Beach as planned. Settled, as if it was “less than” is not what I meant at all because Ruby Beach is beyond beautiful. The rain and fog made the beach beyond memorable. I left there and had a nice breakfast at the Kalaloch Lodge before heading back to the city. From there, I made the trek back to Seattle to visit the flagship REI before catching a movie and heading to the airport.

This long weekend was quick, packed full of green scenery, and a period of time I’ll cherish forever. This trip left me wanting more, and so I made the trek back in October to experience the fall and see even more. I’ve been obsessed with the Pacific Northwest since I visited in 2008 and the second an opportunity arises to move up there, I’m gone.

#NatureWritingChallenge - A Memorable Rainy Day on Public Lands

“A Memorable Rainy Day on Public Lands”


November 29, 2018

Join us on Twitter with the hashtag #NatureWritingChallenge to discuss and share the topic Thursday at 8:30 CST. This post was created in one hour specifically for this challenge.

April 1, 2018


It was the final day of my long weekend in the Pacific Northwest. I had hiked the Ozette Triangle, visited Mt. Storm King and wanted a little more Olympic National Park before heading to my flight in Seattle.

I had spent Saturday night in Forks, after visiting Rialto Beach and spending time in the Hoh area so it was a great starting off point for this rainy day ahead. I put on my rain coat, checked out of the motel, and headed towards Ruby Beach. The rain was off and on, but when I got to the beach trail it was ON. It was sideways rain, but I was determined to enjoy Ruby Beach. I had visited Ruby Beach years before, and needed to revisit it. I was glad to see that you still have to climb over tons of fallen trees to get to the beach. It was gray and wet and completely perfect.


From Ruby Beach, I went to the Kalaloch Lodge to grab breakfast. I had breakfast with a view of the ocean, the gray sky, and a bloody mary. It wasn’t very busy and I felt quite relaxed between my stops for the day. From the lodge, I made my way out to the Quinault area. I did a little hike just past the lodge, on the Wrights Canyon trail, in kind of a misty haze. I didn’t go very far before turning around, just so I knew I had enough time to see everything I wanted to see. From that trailhead, I moved east around the lake.

I stopped to take an obligatory photo with Bunch Falls and continued on to the Maple Glade trail which was one of the highlights of the entire weekend. The forest was the greenest green and the rain was light but prevalent with added drops that collected in the canopy. The skunk cabbage was prominent, the water was flowing, and the trail was magical.


From Maple Glade, I finished the trek along the north side of Lake Quinault and back to the main road. The rain was picking back up, and the drive back towards Seattle was hit or miss with showers. I stopped at a rest area with the biggest trees I’d ever seen at a rest stop, it downpoured, and I continued onward to the REI downtown.


The Pacific Northwest is my favorite place to be no matter the weather. Rain is expected, and every time I’ve visited I’ve been ready for it. I went in the spring and I got spring. The weather was cool, wet, windy, and completely perfect. I’d take a rainy day in Washington over a sunny day in Texas any day of the week.

#NatureWritingChallenge - A moment I am thankful for on public lands


“A Moment I am Thankful for on Public Lands”


November 23, 2018

Join us on Twitter with the hashtag #NatureWritingChallenge to discuss and share the topic Thursday at 8:30 CST. This post was created in one hour specifically for this challenge.

Since it’s Thanksgiving, I’m going to keep this short. One of the moments I’m most thankful for on public lands happened in October when I was visiting the gorgeous state of Washington. I had just parted ways with my new friend at Mount Rainier and was looking for something to do before going back to the airport so I headed west back to the Olympic Peninsula. I crossed a neat bridge called the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and made my way up to another cool bridge called the Hood Canal Floating Bridge. From there I drove to the Mt. Walker Viewpoint and there it was, the moment I’m forever thankful for… I walked from the parking lot to the viewpoint and saw Mount Rainier in the distance, peeking through the clouds. I remember seeing it, thinking to myself that I knew that mountain, and then reading the sign and just laughing. I was giddy with delight, really, to think I had been so close hours before was insane and wonderful all at once. I went from the South Lookout to the North, saw the amazing range of mountains, and then went back to the South to get more looks at Mount Rainier. There is just something about that place, it’s got a hold over me.


Mt. Walker was a fun drive, a nice quiet place to see some views, and a great places to do a cleanup before heading a few miles up the road to Finnriver Farm & Cidery. I finished the night with the same mountains as I saw from up on high. Probably the second most memorable moment in recent memory. The whole day, really, was a moment. From waking up and seeing Mount Rainier at sunrise to meandering through the park all day, and then making may way back over to the Olympic Peninsula. WHAT A GREAT WAY TO SPEND A DAY.


#NatureWritingChallenge - Off the beaten path (for me)

Today's topic:

"A memorable day off the beaten path on America's Public Lands"

This post was created in one hour for #NatureWritingChallenge hosted by Douglas Scott on Twitter.

I'm not sure how to approach the topic of "off the beaten" path without immediately thinking of my most recent trip to various public lands on the Olympic Peninsula in the great state of Washington.  Many of the places I visited had well worn paths that could probably use a break, but there were a few special places that seemed a bit less visited and allowed visitors like me to fully unwind and fully appreciate our Public Lands.

Many people visit the Storm King Ranger Station at Olympic National Park.  I'd be willing to bet that many people visit Marymere Falls, which is ranger station adjacent, as well as hike the Mt. Storm King trail.  I don't have statistics, but the Marymere Falls trail was well used and was easy to follow, even up the hills to the waterfall viewing.  Mt. Storm King, while abrupt with elevation was also well used until the "end of maintained trail" marker near the top.  I made it to that marker and thought I was on top of the world. Then, I saw a faint path that went past the sign and looked at my map to see what was up.  I'm not experienced with any hills over 700 feet, let alone a mountain, but I assumed people continue on and climb to the top to get a better view.  A quick internet search led me to numerous photos from the top and my newfound desire to get up there to see what all the fuss was all about.  I started inching past the tree with the "end of trail" sign on it, plotting my path and making sure I could safely climb back down.  I moved 20 feet, stopped and admired the view, moved another 20 feet and did this until I just didn't feel safe anymore.  It was still earlier in the morning, there was no one around, and I had an almost top of the mountain to myself.  I saw Lake Crescent in the distance, a rainbow through the clouds, and mountains covered in trees. 

Despite not being able to go all the way to the top, I felt accomplished.  I have never climbed that much in elevation in that short of a distance, I've never had views like I did from there, and I certainly haven't haven't felt ice pelt me in the face while staring at a rainbow.  I'm not the most physically fit person, so it was a personal victory for me to get up there without quitting.  I was overwhelmed with emotion, in a good way, and I had a few tears while laughing and catching my breath.  I didn't feel unsafe, stressed, or upset about anything.  I felt free, happy, accomplished, and motivated.  I sat there for a long time, staring out and up and taking in every moment as if it were the last thing I'd ever see.  If I wasn't already in love with the area and park, my heart would have melted right there on that ridge.  I was smiling ear to ear the entire journey down to the trailhead.

The mountain may have boosted my confidence and lifted my spirits, but the beach helped me truly let go of anything weighing me down.  I drove out to Ozette and hiked the Ozette Loop on a coastal portion of the Olympic National Park the next day.  The boardwalk and path to the ocean, through what felt like a temperate jungle, were well worn and beautifully maintained but once you hit the beach, it is just you and that ocean.  Sure, there were a few tide pools, rocks, and fallen timber, but for the most part it's just you and the ocean.  While walking from Point Alava to Sand Point, I ran into one small group of people and a few birds.  There was no path on the beach, just sand.  You walk along, alone for the most part, listening to the waves crash on the rocks.  The sensation of being free, following only a coastline, and being in one of the most pristine places on west coast was enough to make my head float.  I was gone, my thoughts were gone, and I was free.  I walked along, staring into the tide pools, hopping over logs, and dodging whatever seaweed stayed behind on land after high tide.  The three miles from point to point was a moment of zen or clarity or whatever you want to call it.

Olympic National Park rejuvenated my soul and assured me that I can do the things I want in life - like climbing mountains.  I have spent more time on the beaten path, but those little moments off have really allowed me to experience raw feelings and be at peace with myself more than any trail has in the past.  I'm forever grateful for our Public Lands and will continue to seek the places off the beaten path.