Staircase at Olympic National Park

Staircase at Olympic National Park

It’s been a while since I blogged! So where do I begin again? Let’s start with an “How I spent my summer vacation!” essay. Here you go!

Our Hiking Vacation (with kids!) Begins

The treadmill and stair machine at the gym are no match for real life hiking. So although I’d been working out regularly, starting our hiking vacation at a place called “Staircase” was a little intimidating to my out-of-shape legs. Fortunately for me, Staircase is named after steps that have rotted away and no longer exist to torture untrained tourists’ quad muscles. The Staircase entrance to Olympic National Park is on the southeast side of the park, and it is less popular than the entrance by the Hoh Rainforest. However, the hiking is spectacular, and this old growth forest ended up being the perfect place to kick off our 12 days of exploring Washington.

Staircase Rapids Loop

The travel guide I was using during our trip said that this hike, the Rapids Loop Trail, was 4 miles, which was misleading. It was only about 2 miles, with mild elevation changes on the trail. The path was gorgeous, with huge, old moss covered trees and boulders. At the halfway point, hikers cross the river on a suspension bridge, which was built to replace a smaller bridge washed away by a flood. Although technically this is not a rainforest, I thought that the lush mosses that surrounded us were more beautiful than the mosses in the famous “Hall of Mosses” in the Hoh Rainforest. This is definitely a trail that should not be missed!

 

Hoodsport and the Hood Canal

We spent the night in Hoodsport at Glen Ayr Hotel and RV Park. The hotel owns a dock on the Hood Canal, where we sat for a little while that afternoon and saw a seal popping its head up out of the water. That evening, Emmy picked The Tides restaurant for dinner. She wanted to eat seafood, and assumed correctly that a place called “The Tides” would have some choices. The hotel also had a very nice hot tub in a separate building from the hotel rooms, which we took advantage of.  Hood Canal is popular with divers and as we sat outside our room, we watched three divers suit up in hotel parking lot. They went diving in the evening during high tide. The next morning during low tide, we went back out to the doce and walked on the rocky beach. A family was bringing crab traps up on the dock and showed us a rock crab they had caught.

 

Mount Walker and Rainbow Canyon

Our handy guidebook said that the view from Mount Walker is incredible, with views of Seattle and also Mount Rainier. As we were driving up Mount Walker, all we saw was a curious deer and more and more fog. By the time we arrived at the viewpoint, we could barely see the trees in front of us. So much for the incredible views! We had also planned on hiking the Rainbow Canyon Nature Trail, but we couldn’t find the trail head! Supposedly, it was at the back of a campground in the same area as Mount Walker, but there were no signs for a campground or the trail. We were persistent, however, and stopped by a Ranger station to search the map for the elusive trail. The map showed that the campground entrance was right across the street from the entrance to Mount Walker. We drove back and parked by a gravel road that had been blocked off. As we walked back into the forest, we could see campground sites that we hadn’t noticed before because they were completely overgrown. This was obviously a campground that wasn’t in use anymore. At the very back of the campground, just like the guidebook stated, we saw the trailhead sign.

The trail was very narrow and closed in. No one else was there, of course, since it was so hard to find! As we descended into the canyon, wet ferns brushed up against our legs, and we felt as though we were walking in a Jurassic era forest. The girls were a little freaked out by the quiet, dense trail. The youngest started to look quite anxiously  around the forest for mountain lions. That is the one thing we didn’t want to see!

Have you been to Olympic National Park? If you haven’t, add it to your vacation list!

 

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Beaches! Acadia National Park, Part 3

Maine has a very rocky coastline. On our last day in Maine, I walked behind the rest of the family and soaked in the ocean view.

We had explored the tide pools and rocky beaches for our entire stay, and yet it didn’t seem as though we explored enough.

Lily and Emmy exploring tide pools

We even took a chance and went swimming in the frigid waters of the Atlantic ocean. The ocean temperature rarely exceeds 55 degrees in the summer!

Sand Beach

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Rocks! Acadia National Park, Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

The ranger in the visitor center video said that he used think about the national parks out west when he thought of rocks, such as Arches National Park, the Grand Canyon, and so on. But he soon discovered that Acadia, this national park of the East, is very rocky as well. As did we! The trails were all made up of rocks; rocks that pounded the bottom of our feet and made them ache after miles of hiking; rocks that threatened to twist our ankles as we bounded among them; rocks that were tricky to climb up and even trickier on the way down.

These rock cairns were one way the trails were marked.

The rocks tore a little hole in the side of my running shoes, and now the hole has gotten so big that my sock sticks through when I wear them. I gave in and finally ordered a new pair of shoes online!

These blue dashes were another way the trails were marked.

 

Just remember, when going up…

You will need to come back down!

And sometimes coming back down is harder and scarier than going up! The hiking trails in Acadia were some of the best we’ve ever hiked, and we’ve been on quite a few. 🙂

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Acadia National Park, Part 1

Go to the visitor’s center first! That’s our mantra whenever we go to a national park. We actually stop by the visitor’s center throughout our visits. The rangers are wonderful resources, and we always ask them questions about what trails to hike.

When we were in Acadia National Park this past June, we watched a video introduction to the park. In the video, ladder trails were mentioned, so of course, Lily and Emmy were determined to find one! However, it was already late afternoon, so we decided to take a short hike on a carriage road. We were able to see some nice views of the island and the ocean, which only made us more eager to explore in the week to come. (Did you know Acadia is on an island in Maine? I didn’t realize it until I actually started planning this trip!)

The first full day that we spent in Acadia, however, was hiking the famous Cadillac Mountain, which is where the sun first touches the Northern Hemisphere at certain times of the year. Many people hike up to see the sun rise on Cadillac Mountain. We were not those people. It is an easy hike, since you drive most of the way up, park, and then hike up a short trail to the top. The views are spectacular!

The view from Cadillac Mountain, Maine.

Just looking at my pictures again makes me want to go back! Acadia National Park is an amazing place to visit.

 

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She’s 13!

Happy Birthday, Lily!

We surprised Lily by taking her out for a seafood Sunday brunch this morning, at one of her favorite restaurants on the Fox River in Algonquin. She had guessed what we were doing, but it was fun anyway! And we were joined by my sister and brother, along with Ed’s family, so that made it an extra special celebration. My little Lily finally got the gift she has been begging for; the gift that “everyone else has”–although in our world, she’s not exaggerating. All of her friends really do have a cell phone, and now, finally, so does Lily! That really was a surprise for her because we’ve been holding out for soooooo long. Ed and I really need a way to keep in touch with her during all of her activities, though. I had bought the phone a couple of weeks ago and was hiding it from her. Last week, in a mix-up with carpool schedules, she was left behind at her school after basketball practice. She borrowed another dad’s phone to call us, even as I was thinking about heading out the door to get her because she should have been home already. I was wishing I had already given her her phone! But all’s well that ends well, as they say. We live only 5 minutes away from her school, so she wasn’t waiting that long.

Tomorrow is another big day for Lily…she has her first basketball game!

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