The next leg of my journey had me flying (back to that plane part) from Seattle to Great Falls, MT and then driving (o look automobile) to Red Lodge, MT with a brief stop in Bozeman, MT. My journey also took me to Cody, WY.

Going to take things a little old school and omit the words and let the pictures do the talking.


SJL3: Scenic driving at its best

Leaving Red Lodge and headed to Cody I took the Beartooth Highway to the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway. Lots of memories for me on this drive. If you don’t get carsick and aren’t in a big rig (there are probably some guidelines on the websites as to vehicle sizes – some of the turns and grades are pretty extreme), I HIGHLY recommend this drive. It is breathtaking.

SJL2: Park Pass please

The next big adventure of the summer was camping in two national parks. NOT one but TWO! First up was Olympic National Park, a stop in Fox Island to see friends and then onto Mt. Rainier National Park.

Day 1

To start the trip off the Bainbridge Ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island! (hahaha got that sea leg in!).

Bainbridge Island was charming!


Lunch was Fish & Chips at Doc’s Marina Grill. Then swing by Pegasus Coffee (it is absolutely charming and a great place to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee and a sweet treat). If you don’t want a sweet treat there you can walk to over to Blackbird Bakery The musical treat for the afternoon was having the Speakeasy Jazz Cats playing music out front of the bakery. Super fun stop and a must visit for anyone staying in the Seattle area.

Now then…onto Olympic National Park!!!

First stop in the park is to Hurricane Ridge, the drive is no bueno if you get carsick (consider yourself warned!). After a drive up to the top, a stamp in my National Park Passport it is down to Heart of the Hills campground and time to pitch a tent and build a fire. Heart of the Hills has some good spots that aren’t rocky and all pretty level. It is all walk-in for $20/night and firewood is cheap. As with being in most national parks, be sure to carry cash for firewood and campsite fees.

Day 2

After a night at Heart of the Hills, we drove to Port Angeles (a good place to stop and get some coffee and lunch fixings (I recommend Easy Street Coffee and Tea – get the Coffee milk, the cold brew syrup is made in house and it is excellent – for sandwhiches to go stop in at Country Aire Markets. )  From Port Angeles we went on to Lake Crescent, where we did an easy 1.7 mile hike to Marrymere Falls. The Lake Crescent Lodge is absolutely adorable and if you have the time I would recommend staying there. The views are spectacular and it is just charming! We did not stay there rather went to Sul dac camp, campsites are $25/night – ground is rocky and there are only a handful of walk-in spots so I recommend making a reservation. What I learned this trip is that those campsites not run by a concessionar are easier first come-first serve and there are more walk-in sites available.

Once settled in at the campsite (to which this would be my first night sleeping in a hammock), we mosied over to Hot Springs Resort to 1) get firewood and 2) check out the hot springs. So the hot springs: the set up is akin to multiple hot tubs and a pool, all at different temperatures. There are showers and lockers – I recommend taking your own shampoo/body wash and towel (you can rent towels). With that said – next time I would rather hike to find the hot springs and not just go to the resort and I would not stay at the cabins at the resort. Otherwise the night went well and I slept most beautifully in my hammock. Olympic is very much a rainforest, so do expect for a mist and damp weather, this would be a big contrast to Mt Rainier.

Day 3

Leaving Olympic we took the scenic route through Forks (it’s a dump…I get why Bella wanted to leave – I didn’t see Jacob or Edward but the drive through coffee stand was decent so there is that). The scenic route took us by Ruby Beach (holy amazing – get out and if you have time hike down!). Lunch was in Aberdeen, nothing worth really noting, and then it was onto Fox Island! Fox Island is delightful and it was great to visit with friends and enjoy great views paired with excellent conversation and laughter.


Fox Island Sunset

Day 4

Leaving Fox Island we headed to Mt Rainier National Park and passed several cute town along the way. We stayed at Cougar Rock Campground in the park, walk-in sites are Loop A and R, reservations can be made however there were plenty of walk-in sites. This campground is run by the NPS and is $20/night, with firewood being $7/bundle. After getting settled in our campsite (i.e. hanging the hammocks) we drove over to the Longmire Visitor Center (another stamp in the NPS passport) and a short .7 mile walk around the Trail of Shadows (a very easy loop with educational points along the way).


The general store at Longmire is fully stocked with anything you could possibly ever need and all the souvenirs one could ever buy – it is located next to a lodge with restaurant (whose food seemed a bit overpriced in my humble opinion). That night we attended the campfire ranger talk (If it is offered in any national park you are staying in GO!) and learned about the development of Mt Rainier (I may or may not have been super happy and geekily excited). Sleeping in our hammocks was pretty great, until temps dipped into the 30s and it was a tad chilly. My shining moment was waking up in the morning, starting the campfire all on my own (and made my own coffee!) and getting the coals to a heat factor of “fires of Mordor”. All without burning myself or anything else!

SIDE NOTE: The Cougar Rock Campground utilizes electric vehicles to patrol the campground – this made me VERY happy. I was very sad that I couldn’t find a ranger to speak with about the use of said EV. Side, Side Note: I’m a nerd – I know.

One thing we did learn was that even though we were traveling in July, it is still a bit early in the season for hiking the upper bits of the park. The Paradise area still had large amounts of snow and Sunrise had only JUST opened (i.e. the day before). So we didn’t really get to hit the trails we wanted to, however the drive was spectacular. With rain and dropping temps in the forecast for that night, there was a unanimous decision to forgo another night of tenting and head back to Seattle. Given that big, beautiful, glorious snowflakes were falling at the Sunrise Visitor center – we deemed our decision to be a good one.

Final Thoughts

I would really like to get back and explore Mt Rainier more (just a tad later in the season) – the scenery was spectacular and I didn’t get to do the hikes that I would have wanted to. In terms of lodges, the Paradadise Lodge and Lake Crescent Lodge are the two that I would be inerested in staying at. In terms of comparisons, I don’t think you can compare the two parks. The ecosystems are completely different and that makes visiting them both in the same time span absolutely fascinating.


“The national park idea has been nurtured by each succeeding generation of Americans. Today, across our land, the National Park System represents America at its best. Each park contributes to a deeper understanding of the history of the United States and our way of life; of the natural processes which have given form to our land, and to the enrichment of the environment in which we live.” George B. Hartzog, Jr., NPS Director, 1964-1972

SJL1: Hike, Horsecamp, and Wine

Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone. – Wendell Berry

To be very honest, I wasn’t sure that the opening leg of my trip could be topped. I was wrong. Horse camping was incredible.


Side note: I was pretty proud of myself for being somewhat handy in helping with providing some minimal guidance for the truck to the trailer hitch and not being a total dolt around the horses.

Second side note: This was my first time around horses in 7 years, of which the last time ended up with me in a neck brace being ambulance off the side of a mountain – The credit goes to my horse and my camp leader for making this experience back in the saddle seamless and confidence boosting.

Silver Falls State Park, Oregon ( – DO it. Go! I was so amazed at how beautiful it was!

Trail of Ten Falls *cue momentous music*


800 ft of elevation gain, 7.8 miles, 8 waterfalls, approx 4hrs (inclusive of lunch, breaks, camera stops, etc.)

Start at North Falls Trailhead > Canyon trail to Twin Falls (1.1 miles) > Twin Falls Trail (.5 mile) > Twin Falls to Winter Trail (.3 miles) > cont’d to Double Falls (.4 miles) [ you will see: Middle North Falls, Drake Falls, Double Falls – which was really 1 and a trickle, Lower North Falls, Middle North Falls] to Canyon Trail to Lower South Falls (1 mile) > Stairs of Hells to South Falls (1.3 miles) > South Falls to Rim Trail (.9 miles) > Rim Trail to North Falls Trailhead (2.3 miles)….and you DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!! **HUFF-HUFF-PUFF-PUFF**

I highly recommended hiking the entire loop (in some places you get to walk behind the fall!) – be sure to wear comfortable shoes, take a hiking stick if you have one, and dress appropriately. I saw one too many silly people in flip-flops and shoes that made my feet hurt just looking at them (here is to you platform boots and let’s not speak of the ding-dong parents who let their kid (roughly between 3-5yrs of age) wear jelly sandals – the kid looked miserable btw…DUH!). Pack a lunch/snacks and water! Take lots of pictures and give yourself time to enjoy the hike!

Side note: The “stairs of hell” (SoH) they aren’t fun (that also isn’t their real name, I don’t think they have a name but it seems appropriate). The below picture doesn’t show the entire staircase up, nor does it illustrate the actual ‘stairs’. I recommend you take your time, breathe, be in shape, stop and enjoy the scenery (look behind you at the waterfall), breathe, look around, did I mention breathe?


Yay! You did it!!! But wait! There is more! Don’t get all excited that you made it through the SoH and think you can make it from the Rim Trail to the North Falls Trailhead in record time. Heed my advice: Don’t go out of the gate hot! There is an incline, it isn’t apparent and it will get you. Consider yourself warned! I also recommend doing the trail in the direction given above however if you don’t have time to do the entire loop, it can be done in sections.

The next two days were filled with horseback riding, fires, and enjoying the outdoors.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end and so there was a return to Newborn. (With dinner at Chehalem Brewery Co ( – Excellent! Ask for the house aoli!)


Before leaving and moving onto part two of my walkabout, wine was had. Wine should always be had, especially when in wine regions. A wine tasting at Vidon Vineyard ( was the farewell ending to my time in Oregon, and an ever so perfect ending at that. The winery has super awesome views accompanied by happy, knowledgeable staff. Be sure to say hello to Mr. Studly (the vineyard rooster). I really liked the Explorer Tempranillo (yes, named after the Explorer satellite program!) and 2014 3-Clones Pinot Noir. Do the tasting, buy the wine, enjoy the experience. Thank me later.


After buzzing up, it was a drive to Portland where I caught Amtrak Cascade to Seattle King Street Station…and onto Walkabout Part Two.

Side note *3 or is it 4?*: Don’t take the Amtrak Cascade if you can take the Coast Starlight. If you must do it, go business class and sit on the left side of the train.

Endnote: This trip wouldn’t have been possible without my Oregon mom, her ponies, and an adorable little pup. I’m forever grateful and the memories will last a lifetime.

SJL1: Riding the Scenic Express

I am very keen about travel, not only personally…but also about travel for as many Americans as can possibly afford it, because those Americans will be getting to know their own country better; and the more they see of it, the more they will realize the privileges which God and nature have given to the American people.  – President FDR

June 19

The time spent in Tahoe City was perfect (see the previous blog for more). The weekend was a celebration of love and laughter and new experiences. Getting in the car to head out of town was not sad but rather an eager anticipation of the next adventure. The route was as follows:

Tahoe City – 80West (may or may not have been some slight backtracking that did go by Donner Lake and Donner Memorial State Park – all persons survived with all body parts accounted for) – take 89 north through Quincy, CA

Food stop in Quincy: Patti’s Thunder Cafe (super cute! dog-friendly patio and they brought water for the pup – food was really good (I had a Thunder Burger with salad and homemade blue cheese dressing) and the coffee was also good! Recommend!

Over lunch the subject was asked about going a little out of the way to drive through Lassen Volcanic National Park – the vote was a yes! (I may or may not have been a little giddy).


Lassen NP was stunning – absolutely stunning. The greens, the blues, the snow…Mother Nature knows how to impress. The park wasn’t that busy and that was super nice. It is a park that I would love to go back and do some camping and hiking in.

From Lassen, it was onto 44west and into Redding, CA. Dinner at Black Bear Diner (Tri-tip sandwich was divine and paired with sweet potato fries …nom nom!)

The temperature changes of the day:  Tahoe City 72F – Lassen NP 59F – Redding 96F

The elevation changes of the day: Tahoe City 6,250 ft – Lassen NP 8,511 ft – Redding 344 ft

June 20

From Redding, it was I 15 to US 97 (with a stop in Weed, CA and a view of Mt Shasta) then onto St Rd 138 and into Crater Lake National Park (insert squeal here).

So the fact that I was able to visit 2 unplanned national parks…let me repeat…TWO AMAZINGLY AWESOME NATIONAL PARKS!!!! Yea well I was in nerd heaven.

It was so easy to see why Crater Lake is one of the crowning jewels of the NPS – pictures really don’t do it justice. (BTW – there was a Tesla charging station at the North entrance…#phdnerdmoment). The park was busy, much busier than Lassen – and while I didn’t get a chance to see the entire park – I did get to see the Crater Lake Lodge (Part of the historical society of hotels). On the way out of the park, the weather took a turn for the interesting with temps dropping and hail coming down. It was an experience, to say the least! Then it was onto Oregon and home base!

Temperature changes: Redding 92F – Crater Lake 48F – Newberg 72F

Elevation changes: Redding 344 ft – Crater Lake 6,178 ft – Newborn 175ft

Over the course of 2 days

? State Forests/Parks – Donner Memorial State Park and possibly others

6 National Forests: Tahoe NF; Plumas NF; Lassen NF; Shasta-Trinity NF; Winema NF; Umpqua NF

1 National Wildlife Refuge: Klamath National Wildlife Refuge

5 major lakes: Donner Lake; Lake Almanor; Shasta Lake; Klamath Lake; Diamond Lake

2 National Parks: Lassen Volcanic National Park; Crater Lake National Park

This was one of the most scenic road trips…hands down…ever!

Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone. – Wendell Berry