adventure

What a Hoh

When I moved from Texas, everyone said they’d come visit.  However, the only one I believed was the Ginger; he said he would come visit to go hiking.  The Ginger is from the Dirty Jerz, and has lived all over the country, so it’s not surprising he is less inclined to enjoy the rolling flatness of Texas, and he’d take the opportunity to escape the oppressive southern summer.

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We planned to meet at Olympic National Park, which would be my first trip there.  After picking him up around the University of Washington campus, we had a three-hour drive to figure out where to start.  After some deliberation between the Ginger, Louboutini, and the Ginger’s travel friend, Cheap Douchebag (CDB), we decided on the Hoh Rainforest (insert “hoe” jokes here).

CDB is not athletic, he is cheap (thus the C), he’s a haughty elitist (“Iiiii went to Harvard Laaaaaaw”) and he does not appreciate nature.  Nor does he appreciate people going out of their way to make it easier for him.  Needless to say, he was a very large damper on the whole thing – complaining, whining, going slow on purpose, not chipping in for anything, and repeatedly mentioning how he liked being in Seattle proper a lot better, with the restaurants, girls, and booze.  Despite his best efforts, however, he still couldn’t ruin the incredible experience we were about to have.

We chose what amounted to a seven-mile hike, that started in the Hall of Mosses.  It wasn’t difficult, but damn, was it beautiful.  Not everything that is gorgeous needs to be hard.

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The main hike would be through the rainforest, and be an out and back.  The trees are so much taller and wider than I’ve ever seen – this is what ants must feel like when they come across a twig.

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Yes, I realize how phallic this all seems…

Summer 2017 had been awfully dry in the PacNW, so the “rain” part of the rainforest was lacking a bit.  Only about 100 inches of rain so far, in an area that usually gets 200 inches a year.  I’m glad we didn’t get rained on, but I cannot imagine the area being even MORE green.  I felt like I was stuck in Kermit the Frog – not that it was a bad thing.

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Ruby Tuesday

Ruby Beach is between the Hoh Rainforest and Olympia, heading north.  It was a last-minute stop, and it was worth the detour, as it is probably the nicest beach I’ve been to in the PacNW. (Take that with a grain of salt – it is not the type of beach where you’d want to swim, but it did have sand…)

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Driftwood from the rainforest is knocked into the ocean and floats downstream, until it lands on the shores of the rocky beach, and creates natural paths, gives wood to build shelters, and makes for amazing scenery.

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It was foggy and chilly when we arrived there; it was reminiscent of when the Goonies washed up on Cannon Beach in Oregon.  It was magical and as if it were keeping a secret in the mist, just for the lucky few.

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And just for a minute, I was one of those lucky few.

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Sourdough, Part 1

My parents came to visit a bit ago, and of course, I wanted them to meet my friends, and my new friend Lt. Dan was going to join us. We planned a dinner, but my parents wanted to go on a whale watch, so at the onset, I thought I was going to be by myself for a while. Lt. Dan called, and wanted to go on a hike, so we picked one, and off we went.

We chose Sourdough Mountain, which was rated as hard, but LT. Dan is actually a lieutenant in the military and I had been training to run my second half-marathon, so we figured we’d be fine. I borrowed Louboutini’s truck, and we drove the 1.5 hours to the North Cascades. After a little bit of rerouting due to random accidents and construction (seriously, construction schedules make no sense out west), we made it to the trailhead – and we couldn’t find it. A nice gentleman on his lunch break pointed it out to us, and not only was it totally hidden, but it looked like switchbacks as far up as we could see.
“It’s fine!” I really did think it was fine. We wanted a workout, my legs were strong, Lt. Dan went hiking and rappelling with her boyfriend all the time…we would be fine.

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After switchback #8, we started to get a little sore. We stopped every 15 minutes for a sip of water, but needed to take a 10-minute breather almost every other water break. The first 3 miles of the trail are 1,000 feet of elevation gain each, and the last two miles are not as steep. I know that 1,000 feet per mile doesn’t sound like a lot, but trust me. It is.

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As the day wore on, it took us almost 90 minutes to climb 2 miles. Normally, that is an embarrassingly glacial pace (usually 3 miles an hour is average, when you have elevation changes) but it was a tough hike. They were not kidding when they rated it “hard.” Unfortunately, dinner was soon, so we had to turn around just barely over the 2-mile mark. We still had some incredible views – to be expected when you’re so high up.

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Remember, when you climb up that much, you also have to climb down, and believe me, going down is always harder. The paths are narrow, and the PacNW is (still) in desperate need of rain, so the trails are dusty and slippery. You know how I know that? Because I slipped going down, and took a tumble down the mountain. Yes, really. I fell down a mountain. (I was okay, just some cuts and bruises.)

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Our lunch spot after my tumble.

If you notice, the title of this post has a “part 1.” That’s because Lt. Dan and I resolved to make Sourdough Mountain our bitch by the end of 2017. We’ll make it to the top, and back. Even if it takes all day, and a few more tumbles down the mountain. There WILL be a “part 2.”

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Happy Birthday America! A Foiled Hike

I spent nearly every 4th of July I can remember at my aunt’s beach house in Narragansett, RI. We’d arrive mid-morning, and the cousins would go to the beach and we’d try to get there before all the CT tourists. After a few hours, we’d walk back and have some sort of frozen drink with Grandma, who “didn’t realize it had alcohol!” (miss you every day, Gram). Then, at some point in the mid-afternoon, lunch would be ready (but who are we kidding, we ate all day), and it was usually a huge clambake/cookout, with shellfish, crab salad, burgers and dogs, salads, you name it. Followed by dessert, of course. When my grandfather was alive, we celebrated with birthday cake, and then we’d hang out until it was time for fireworks.

2017 is second year that I was going to miss on account of being across the country (Dallas in 2016), and it was the first 4th of July without either grandparent. In an attempt to take in nature, which was my grandmother’s favorite thing, we went on a hike. Or we tried to, at least.

Louboutini thought going to Blue Lake, a more challenging hike than Diablo Lake, would be fun, and Sandwich actually met up with us on time, so we were getting an early start. We’d have plenty of time to tackle the rated-hard hike, and time for a beer at what we three believe to be the best brewery in upper WA state. After driving for the requisite 1.5 hours, we realized that we had about another hour to go…not exactly what we’d planned.

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Not exactly what we wanted to see in the parking lot.

The last hour was essentially a 6,000 foot climb over a rutted, potholed road barely wide enough for Louboutini’s truck. The map said we’d only a little more to go, but I started to get nervous. “Louboutini,” I said. “There’s snow on the ground. There’s been snow for the last 20 minutes. And it keeps getting snowier.”

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1.5′ of snow at the base of the trail…not looking good.

We managed to make it to what looked like a parking lot, and began the hike. After a good 500 yards, I found the trailhead sign: it was poking out of 18 inches of snow. “Oh, this is the parking lot,” said Sandwich. Not only was the sign snow, but so was the parking lot. where we had parked was actually just where the snow had melted enough to clear part of the road – but we could go no further. Shrug…we were there for a purpose, and off we went.

After about a half mile of following the trail, which was really just footprints in the snow, we came to a fork in the paths. We took the left path, and after another half mile, ended up at a very, very dead end. The maps were not working, and we turned back to the fork. We started to take the right trail, and after about 30 minutes of trying to figure out where the footprint-trails went, we ran into a couple that was attempting to go the way we’d just come. We told them, and then they told us that the way we were going was a 3-prong fork in the trails, and they lead to dead ends as well.

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Sunglasses, tank top, two feet of snow. 

“But what about that big group I saw at the parking lot?” I asked. “Oh, we ran into them, they went a different way and that’s a dead end too. They were on their way back too.”
“Freaking snow in July!” exclaimed Sandwich. He’s a good Texan boy, and snow is totally not his element. We all turned back and headed to the trail we thought would take us back to the truck. When we got there, we decided we definitely needed to stop at Birdsview. So much for Blue Lake, but at least we got beer.  (And a pretty nice view. )

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Paddleboarding Extravaganza

Gem and I were really into the idea of going paddleboarding, and Groupon had a bunch of deals from which to choose, and while we’d never actually done it, we figured it couldn’t be that hard.

The day we chose ended up being a little choppy, so we went to a calmer side of Sanibel Causeway. The lady dropped off the paddleboards, gave us some instructions, and drove away. We had four hours of boarding to attempt, and by George, we were going to do it. We were even going to attempt yoga!IMG_20170424_085308726

It had been cool out, but we certainly miscalculated how burned you can get. We did not last the entire four hours (maybe 90 minutes?), but we did pretty much everything we wanted to: played with birds diving for fish, saw dolphins, attempted yoga poses (Gem was much better at this than I was), and even swam a bit.

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Gem is much better at a lot of things than I am…not just paddleboard yoga.

I even made a little friend, who was hanging out in the truck for us when we got back.

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It’s quite fun, and can be a workout when people don’t adhere to no-wake zones, or when the water is choppy.

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I resolved to buy a paddleboard from Costco when I returned to the PacNW. Until I saw how much they cost, and then I resolved to rent one instead.

 

Must-See Macau

Macau is a 1.5 hour ferry ride from the terminal in Hong Kong, and it’s worth a day trip.  Everyone knows about the lavish casinos and the huge party town (it’s like the Vegas of Southeast Asia), but here are three must-sees – aside from the glitz and glamour – that will make your Macau visit even more fun.

Old Town Macau

Check out the fortresses from when Macau was a Portuguese colony.  See the architecture, take in the decidedly European influence (there’s even a Port wine museum!), try to figure out street signs in Portuguese…

One stop for spectacular views of the city is the old fort, Fortaleza du Monte.  It has panoramic views and really shows you the dichotomy between Old and New Macau.

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The cannon is pointed directly at the casinos….hm….

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The Ruins of St. Paul are right next to the fort, and are gorgeous.

You can also see the Chinese influence that still hasn’t will probably never go away, in the forms of older temples and shrines, and even more modern propaganda in the form of the 1950s Mao posters in every store.

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Pandas!!!!!!!!!!

Did you really think I’d skip the pandas?  Come on….

There are two pandas in Macau, and they are awesome.  The panda park itself is interesting – it has panda EVERYTHING (so it’s basically my version of heaven), and you can watch them till your heart’s content.

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These were absolutely huge awesome pandas made from carnations.

If you catch them on a good day, they’ll do flips and entertain you, but on a bad day, they’ll just stay in their little cave area and not come out.  Luckily for me, it was a good day, and I got to see it up close and personal.  Now if only I could figure out how to get one home…

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Grand Prix Museum

I realize this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a really short museum and if you like cars or appreciate it at all, it’s worth a trip.  Inside, you will see Aryton Senna’s car and race suit, an entire wall devoted to Michael Schumacher, and various other cars from other forms of racing (Porsche, BMW, even Toyota).  It’s a throwback homage to the days when racing was insanely dangerous, drivers were rugged men, and parties were wild and debauchery ran amok.

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And if the Museo du Gran Prix isn’t your thing, the Port wine museum is right next door. Cheers!

IT’S SO FLUFFY I’M GONNA DIE!

The last time I had any experience with wanting something so fluffy I was going to die, I got it.  I mean, not exactly, but sort of…Maybe it’s not a live panda, but it’s something!

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But Jenna, didn’t you take a trip and see a bunch of critters in 2015?  Why yes, yes I did, but believe you me, I did not want to go up and hug that moose.

As this wasn’t going to be a road trip where I was expecting to see any sort of wildlife, I had resigned myself to relaxing, and looking out for sunsets instead of appreciating the animals of an area I’d never seen before.  Luckily, I am fairly adept at camera phones, and was able to catch some of them in their natural habitat.

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First, the rams!  Go Rhody! Look at those horns!  Ahhh, the college memories.  All they need is a blue and white URI shirt.  These were spotted in Badlands National Park, and while I wanted to go pet one, I figured they’d head butt me, and therefore refrained.  Next time though.

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Ahhh, buffalo.  Or bison.  I’m not actually sure what the difference is, but either way, it’s delicious.  These are a pretty common sight while traveling across the country, but I’ve never seen one so close.  They’re BIG.  Like, really big.  I could eat for months.

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Okay maybe not die, but this was the best thing ever!  It’s a mountain goat, and he was just hanging out on the path around Mt. Rushmore.  I approached cautiously, but it was just sort of staring at me with this bored look, and as I walked by, he didn’t even move.  He was this giant fuzzy animal and those horns looked pretty sharp, but I was about 6′ from this giant ball of fur.  I think I deserve an award for not cuddling it (though he was so calm, he might’ve let me).

Mr. Goat won’t ever replace Big Panda, but he’s a close second.  Very close.