With the Clock Ticking, A Quick Run to Rainier

SkiZer usually makes it up to Mount Rainier several times a year.

Not this year. No hikes at Sunrise, one of the SkiZer’s favorite places on Earth. Not Mowich either, which is now closed after tons of snow fell last weekend. The SkiZer gazed longingly at the big mountain, wondering if he’d miss out completely.

Then, after some lovely fall weather returned to Puget Sound, SkiZer decided to go for it.

The road to White River Campground remains open, but will close any day now. SkiZer gunned the engine out of Seattle and two hours later hit the trail for one last quick romp to Glacier Basin.

The hike is a straightforward 6.2 miles roundtrip into a beautiful alpine basin. With temps warming up into the 50s and lots of sun, it was a fantastic day — one last chance to see Mount Rainier’s dramatic northeast side before the roads close for good.

Little Tahoma looms above the lower Glacier Basin trail.
About 18 inches of snow was on the trail at Glacier Basin.
Lunch break overlooking the Inter Fork River at Glacier Basin.
Lots of snow and warm temperatures brought some energy back to the creeks on Mount Rainier.

Ghosts of Roche Harbor Await Visitors at the Afterglow Vista

Our Grand Tour

Afterglow Vista Mausoleum

Meet the McMillins.

They’re some of San Juan Island’s favorite ghosts. In their bizarre home in the middle of a forest near Roche Harbor, Wash., they share some laughs and like to entertain visitors from time to time.

And I do mean bizarre. It’s the kind of place you need to see to believe.

The Mausoleum Walk

sanjuanislandFrom Friday Harbor, the ferry destination for San Juan Island, bike or drive to Roche Harbor. The trail starts near the airfield; follow the signs leading into the woods.

The trail winds through an old cemetery, then eventually hits a gravel road. Keep walking down the road and deeper into a dreary forest straight out of a Stephen King story. Eventually, you’ll come to the arched entrance for the Afterglow Vista Mausoleum.

afterglowsign Afterglow Vista: Step inside for a bizarre experience.

Come to the Table

In the middle of a clearing, you’ll find a limestone table ringed by…

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What’s With the Name? Cape Disappointment Delivers

SkiZer hit the beach in October and found some nice surprises.

It was perfect timing to visit the Long Beach Peninsula in Southwest Washington. The hiking and cycling proved to be excellent and the early October weather was warm and friendly.

Now, for the surprises.

Camping — yes, you can camp year-round at Cape Disappointment State Park —  is fantastic. Within the park, you’ll find miles of hiking trails, several gorgeous beaches and two scenic lighthouses.

The SkiZer explored the North Jetty in the park, which juts out into the Pacific at the mouth of the Columbia River. The jetty is used by fishermen — this time of year, they were going for crab — but it’s also a great place to see wildlife. As the SkiZer stood there thinking deep thoughts and gazing at the water, a humpback whale surfaced nearby.

The scenic Discovery Trail is surely one of the best recreation paths in the state. It winds from the cape into the dunes of the Long Beach Peninsula and offers some fantastic riding for cyclists.

At the tip of the peninsula, Leadbetter Point State Park was another surprise: The mile-long hike thinned crowds and offered views from a remote and wild beach.

The Discovery Trail dips and winds through the dunes.
Views from the jetty at the mouth of the Columbia River. Moments later, a whale surfaced.
A fisherman hauls in a crab from the jetty.
The scenic Cape Disappointment Lighthouse stands above the Columbia River.
A short hike delivers hikers to a remote beach at Leadbetter Point State Park.
Rainforest-like surroundings are part of the hike at Leadbetter Point State Park.
Walkers take in North Head Lighthouse from Benson Beach at Cape Disappointment State Park.

With Great Fall Weather, Let’s Keep Hiking

Early October and the weather was fine. The SkiZer said to himself, “Why not squeeze in one more backpacking trip?”

Great decision. Six hours later, the SkiZer hit the Ozette Triangle trail to the Washington Coast. The 9-mile loop is popular in summer, but in fall, it’s empty. The wilderness coast once again becomes truly wild.

Streams start flowing again. The rainforest comes back to life after the dry days of summer. Seals outnumber hikers by at least 20 to one.

It was an incredible trip. SkiZer even squeezed in a day hike north to the Ozette River, where things feel even more remote. Not a soul was to be seen on a stunning beach that felt warm and friendly in 65-degree sun.

The boardwalk trail to Sandpoint.
On the coast north of Sandpoint.
Sunset, first day, at Sandpoint.
Fording the Ozette River north of Cape Alava.
Campsite at Cape Alava.
The sun sets behind Ozette Island off the Washington Coast.