I like meeting new people. I like driving to the Oregon Coast. Today I did both.
Four of us headed to Cannon Beach, Oregon with a goal of just enjoying the day. The weather could not have been better, the scenery more vibrant or the food more good. It was just a great day overall.
We drove from Chehalis down to Rainier, Oregon and over to Astoria, then did a quick north Oregon coast tour before crossing back into Washington and heading back to Chehalis via Raymond.
No time for words, but lots of time for photos. Here they are.
Saturday called for a trip to the Banks-Vernonia State Trail in Oregon, a 21-mile paved rails-to-trails corridor between two old logging towns along an otherwise off-the-beaten-path stretch of highway in rural Oregon somewhere between Portland and the coast.
Vernonia is 30 miles from my hometown of Rainier, but there’s no quick way to get there. The most direct route from Rainier takes you up Apiary Road, a county road that passes nothing but trees for about 12 miles or so until it spits you out at State Highway 47. From there, take a left and you’re in Vernonia in about another 15 minutes or so.
Vernonia was a very sleepy town when I was a kid. It seemed like it was searching for an identity, and more recently it bore the brunt of the 2007 floods in Oregon as the Nehalem River flooded a good majority of the town.
But in even more recent years, it has been reborn with the completion of the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, administered by Oregon State Parks. One drive through the town reveals a freshened-up business district with several shops and restaurants that are bicycle-friendly. On this day I would see a few cars parked near the Vernonia Market with dozens of cyclists ready to hit the trail.
Very few places in the Northwest exist that are easily accessible by vehicle that allow a sweeping 360-degree view of mountains, valleys, sunsets and more. One of them exists right here in Lewis County.
Burley Mountain isn’t necessarily a short drive from even the closest town, but the road there can be driven the entire way if you have a high-clearance vehicle. You’ll be rewarded at the end and greeted by an unassuming cabin of sorts that is begging for one to come inside and sit a spell while gazing upon the mountains in the distance.
The gorgeous landscapes that surround the cabin have led many people to write about their experiences and leave notes for current and future visitors to read. A podium of sorts in the middle of the lookout contains capsules of other people’s adventures.
After resting in the cabin for a time, step outside and walk around for a bit. You can see Mount Rainier to the north, Adams to the southeast, St. Helens to the southwest and, on occasion, Hood all the way down in Oregon to the south. Bring a camera with a zoom lens so you can get some great shots of Washington’s majestic peaks!
I could go on, but I’ll let the photos speak for themselves when describing the awe-inspiring beauty of the Burley Mountain area.
Even the trip there and back takes you through some neat stands of forest. Very little traffic makes the drive somewhat relaxing, if not for all the washouts in the road. If you’re in a passenger car, you’re better off hiking the remaining 2.7 miles in from the four-way intersection, though.
So how does one get there? Take U.S. Highway 12 into Randle, then hit State Route 131 south. When you come to a fork in the road, take it left and follow the signs into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to Cispus Center. Pass Cispus and then find the signs for Burley Mountain about a mile ahead. Take the trip slowly and easily up the mountain because of potholes, ruts and other things that make your car hate you. A Forest Pass may be required, FYI.
Selected shots from a trip down to Lake Sacajawea in Longview this past Saturday. All of these photos were shot on Lions Island near the intersection of Washington Way and Kessler Boulevard.
A beautiful Northwest Saturday gave the perfect opportunity to take a short yet rewarding hike to an area that is home to some picturesque waterfalls that must be seen in person to be thoroughly enjoyed.
A group of guys from my church and I drove about 110 miles from Lewis County to the Lower Lewis Falls Recreation Area, home to the aptly-named Lower Lewis River Falls. The waterfall there was gorgeous, but a three-mile hike to the upper falls was well worth it.
Here are some photos from our trip:
Two Saturdays ago, I took a trip to the Mount St. Helens area yet again. But this time I took a different route.
I had never been to the northeast portion of the MSH National Volcanic Monument, so I figured I would try to visit the Windy Ridge area. However, I thought Norway Pass looked like a good area to traipse around for a bit, so I cut that trip off a few miles early and headed to the trailhead.
The trek was about a good 11.5 miles there and back, good enough for some decent elevation gain and a great workout before I had to head back early due to the time of day. I did not have any nighttime equipment with me, otherwise I would have been out there longer.
I don’t have all the time in the world to post about my trip, but AllTrails.com has some good hike reports from people who have done the same hike.
Meanwhile, here are some of my own photos, shot with a 2013 HTC One and edited on my Surface Pro in Lightroom 5.6.
Today, my friend Aaron and I took a hike to Coldwater Peak in the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. It was my fourth trip to MSH in the past two months, and this one offered the best views so far as the landscape and terrain changed many times throughout the hike.
The trail afforded us opportunities to get glimpses of four Northwest peaks: Rainier, Adams, Hood and the one looming closest, St. Helens.
In all, the hike totaled 12.7 miles and took 4 hours, 19 seconds of moving time to complete. We rested a few times, so our total trip time was a little over 6 hours.
I thought I would do something a bit different with this photo set and develop them in black and white. I think it gives the photo collection a different feel.
Seaquest State Park is probably one of the least talked-about gems of the pristine landscape that is Washington state. Just five miles east of the small town of Castle Rock, the park offers a cozy camping and hiking experience in a setting that is home to an old-growth forest that tells quite a story.
My father worked at the park in the early 1980s, before I was born — and subsequently would take my brother and I to Seaquest many times over the years. We would walk the trails, see the changing scenery in the forest and then stop for lunch before visiting my dad’s alma mater, Toutle Lake High School just east of the park.
It’s a place I still enjoy to this day, and Saturday I took my first trip there in three years. It was as if the park is frozen in time and has the same tales of history to tell among the hundreds of thin tree trunks that tower over the forest floor like organ pipes.
Saturday’s walk was much like many others I had taken throughout my life there, but my father and brother were not with me this time. Instead, I sought solitude in the forest after a week of emotionally draining work. It would prove to be just the remedy I needed as I trod slowly past damp moss, growing ferns and a thick mass of forest undergrowth that insulated me from the outside world.
Taking my camera into the forest might not have been the best idea initially, as a cloudburst spewed forth rain for 15 minutes, muddying up the trails and forcing me to seek shelter under a bent-over tree.
I stayed under that tree for a time, but once the rain passed, the sun peeked out and illuminated the trail a shade of green more vibrant than it had been upon my arrival. Just that scenery change opened up a world of memories for me, as I remembered visiting my grandparents who lived just one road over from the service entrance to the park at my back.
A part of the Seaquest State Park system exists on the other end of State Route 504, as a walkway takes one over the slowly-disappearing Silver Lake. There, you can see wildlife — especially small colorful birds — singing their songs and calling out into the open air.
Silver Lake is interesting in that, as mentioned before, it is slowly disappearing. It is plainly evident by the presence of more greenery in the water than in years past when I visited there. But it is still a beautiful sight nonetheless, and one that I will always hold dear in my heart as an embodiment of everything Northwest, everything home: the trees, hills and beautiful shades of green that the rain so generously contributes to.
I highly recommend taking a couple hours and enjoying Seaquest State Park. To get there, take Exit 49 from Interstate 5 and head east on State Route 504. The entrance to the park will be on your left, five miles from where you exited the freeway.
My friend Megan and I took a trip to Long Beach, Wash., yesterday. Here are some photos. Enjoy!
One of the more interesting geological features of the Pacific Northwest lies right in our backyard in southwest Washington state.
Ape Cave was extensively explored in the 1950s by a hiking club known as the Mount St. Helens Apes, hence the name. Now people come from just about everywhere to explore the 2.5 mile lava tube that is administered by the U.S. Forest Service, in the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.
Today, I met up with a cheerful and friendly group of guys from Vancouver, Wash., who invited me out to enjoy a hike in the upper portion of the cave, known as the more difficult of the two portions. I had previously hiked the lower portion with my father and younger brother when I was much smaller, but had never been to the upper portion — so I jumped at the chance to go.
Anyone going to Ape Cave should do three major things: (1) wear boots, (2) dress warmly and (3) use a bright headlamp. You’ll need your hands to do some clambering up through several rock fields inside the cave.
Once we arrived, we walked up past the closed gate to the entrance to Ape Cave (pictured above), where we promptly received our first sign the hike was going to be a bit of a test.
The inner portion of the cave is wet year round — after all, we live in the Pacific Northwest — so being mindful of where you place your footholds is key. The trail through the cave, about 1.3 miles or so in length, alternates between rock fields and smoother portions of a path.
The first half of the cave includes several rock fields that you will absolutely need a headlamp for help navigating. In this instance, a headlamp is better than a flashlight, because you’ll need both hands…
…especially when you come to a portion called “The Ladder.” Members of the group helped each other up, and I have no shame in admitting I took the longest simply because I had the longest legs of anyone there…it was tough to swing my right leg over a portion of the giant rock wall. The Ladder is the toughest part of the climb by far.
Only the penitent man shall pass, and thankfully, all six of us were able to easily kneel before the Lord.
Once you’re through The Ladder, the trail continues to alternate between rock fields and smoother paths — but it narrows and the scenery becomes a bit interesting. The structure of the lava tube is incredible to see in person.
The hike through the Ape Cave upper trail is very good exercise. For me, it was an equally intense workout for my upper body as well as my legs, owing to the fact I used my arms to provide stability as I navigated the rock fields.
We killed the trail rather quickly — I think I counted an hour and 30 minutes or so — and we encountered a makeshift stairway that takes you out to the open once again, leading to a trail that takes you back to the main parking lot.
We stopped for a few minutes to gnosh on some granola bars and drink some water, then we were headed back for the main parking lot. The hike above ground was impressive in its own right, offering views of a vast forestland that covers most of Skamania County.
Ape Cave is an incredibly awesome trip, one that I highly recommend. The lower trail is perfect for a family excursion, and the upper trail is best suited for more experienced hikers. It’s not only great exercise, but a great experience in one of the more unique geological features of our wonderful region.
If you go, the easiest way to get there this time of year is to take Interstate 5 to Woodland (exit 21), head east into Cougar using State Route 503 and its spur route — then continue following that road as it becomes Forest Road 90. Take a left on Forest Road 83, then a right on Forest Road 8303. Signs directing you to Ape Cave are plentiful.