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Climb every mountain (and slog through some rain)

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We’re just back from a trip to the Seattle area. In retrospect, we ended up giving ourselves too many travel days: the Saturday to fly there and drive to our Inn near Mount Rainier; the Monday to get from Rainier to our Lodge in Olympic Park; the Wednesday to get back to Seattle and check into our hotel there. (Then of course, Sunday we just flew home. Today is the “day off work to catch up on laundry and get used to Eastern time zone” day.)

Then again—and this was our thinking while booking—we’d never been to the Seattle area before, and who knows when we’ll get back? So might as well pack in the sights while there.

And the sights are quite lovely:

Mount Rainier in the fall

Mount Rainier in the fall

Despite the ominous-looking sky in the photo, the weather was actually quite good for Mount Rainier in October; we didn’t get rained or snowed on at all during our park-visiting day. We did two walks and one big hike there.

The first walk was a very short one to get a better view of this rather cool mountain waterfall:

Waterfall in Mount Rainier

Waterfall in Mount Rainier

Our big hike was further in the park. Before leaving, Jean had noted that he wanted to do the Skyline Trail (5.4 mile loop, 1700 foot elevation) and it proved hard to deter from that, even though the park guide warned us we wouldn’t get any views on top, due to the fog that day. But the guide did give us some good advice about starting out on the side that provided a more gradual ascent. That was where we got some of the best views.

Hike up the Skyline Trail

Hike up the Skyline Trail

At the top, it was not only kind of steep, but it was also snow-covered! Now, the trail quality here was good—it was wide with easy footing—but the snow made it more challenging. It was a bit like walking in sand—sliding underfoot, slower, more tiring.

And indeed, we had no views whatsoever.

Snow and fog in Mount Rainier

Snow and fog in Mount Rainier

Still, I suppose it was an accomplishment. 🙂

On the way back—and the trail eventually became paved—we were surprised how many people there were, mostly starting at the steeper end. Imagine only a minority would actually do the whole loop, however. We only met a few people at the top part, and some later informed us they’d turned back before going too far in the snow.

And our final Rainier walk, after a late lunch, was a flatter one that allowed us to see the big trees of the area. They are definitely quite impressive.

Large trees in Mount Rainier

Just a few of the very large, ancient trees of this area

So Monday we were on to Olympic Park, which includes some of the rainiest parts of Washington State (and maybe the whole country). Parts of it get an astonishing 150 inches (380 cm) of rain per year.

So we should not have been too surprised, as we took off for our short hike in the Quinault Rain Forest, that it started to rain. Pretty hard. I was carrying an umbrella, and we were both wearing rain gear, but we didn’t do the full length of trail we might have. We walked for about an hour, covering maybe 4 km.

Lake Quinault Lodge

Lake Quinault Lodge at Washington Park. Not where we stayed, but looked nice, even in the rain.

Arriving at our Lodge, we were greeted by some locals.

Deer near Lake Crescent Lodge

Deer near Lake Crescent Lodge

Our Lodge was in a less rainy part of the park, and were quite relieved to see the sky clearing on Tuesday. In fact, it turned into just a beautiful day there, with some sunshine all day long, though not that warm.

View from Lake Crescent Lodge

Morning view from our Lodge, with the day already clearing

The hikes near the Lake Crescent Lodge seemed to be either really short, or fairly arduous. So we selected one of the lesser arduous ones, the Storm King Trail. This was described as “steep switchbacks up the mountain for 2000 feet.” And that was about accurate.

But at least this day afforded us some views once we got up there.

a view from Mount Storm King, Olympic National Park, Washington State

View from the top of Mount Storm King

The trail itself was another fairly wide, easy walking one (just steady uphill!), but at the very top it became narrower and my vertigo kicked in. Jean peered up a bit and concluded the final part looked just too steep, so we called it a day there and headed back down.

Forest Moss Monsters, Olympic National Park, Washington State

Interesting trees in the forest there

Unlike the busy Rainier trail, here we met just one other person on the trail until we were back down on flat, where we encountered a school group.

That seemed like enough hiking for this day, so after lunch we drove to the Sol Duc Hot Springs spa. It was a model of simplicity compared with the baths of Budapest, where I had to pre-study all the procedures before attempting an entry. Here we just paid our entry fee and they pointed out to some pools down the hall, past change rooms.

I had assumed they would have towels we could use, but they did not, so we had to buy one. And also unlike the fairly elaborate system of pools in Budapest, here they just had four near each other, of varying temperatures, all somewhat smelling of sulfur. (The pools are man-made but the water is natural hot spring.) So we just sat for a while in the hot, then slightly hotter one, and back and forth. Probably was helpful in reducing muscle soreness.

We slept really well on all our nights in the two parks.

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