We Can Do That

In mid-July, my daughter Hailey and I embarked on an 8-day trip to the Pacific Northwest. Our primary focus was hitting all the National Parks (and a few other sights) in the state of Washington. Our voyage also took us south into the northern regions of Oregon.

I Hope you enjoy this post and can enter into our happiness as you experience the sights and sounds we experienced!


Whidbey Isalnd

In order to get to the Island, we need to board a ferry (car and all) for a short 20-minute jaunt across a portion of the Puget Sound.

At Fort Casey State Park (our first destination) we were able to explore an old abandoned coast artillery installation. It was constructed at the turn of the twentieth century to protect the Puget Sound. There was virtually no one there and very few rules governed the place. We had a blast exploring the concrete rooms and viewing the massive guns.

This was our first campsite on Whidbey Island at Fort Casey. We had a great site right on the edge of the Puget Sound.


Deception Pass


The sign reads, “To the north of this narrow passage is Fidalgo Island, so named for the Spanish explorer, Lieutenant Salvador Fidalgo. To the south is Whidbey Island, second largest island in the contiguous 48 states, which Captain George Vancouver, while exploring this region in 1872, at first thought to be a peninsula. Further exploration conducted by him disclosed the existence of this intricate channel. Upon the realization that he had been deceived as to the character of the large island, Vancouver gave to this channel the name Deception Passage and in naming the island he honored his trusted offer, Joseph Whidbey.”

The brief video below shows me filming Hailey on the 976 foot bridge spanning Deception Pass. You can see the views in both directions and also detect the bridge shake as the cars passed by. It was a bit scary indeed!

Washington cherry stop along the road.


North Cascades National Park

Located on the northern border in central Washington, Cascades National Park was our favorite location. Not only was there a lot to do as it pertained to hiking, but the beauty (in our opinion) rivaled everything other place we visited (and that says a lot!). The park features the rugged mountain peaks from the North Cascades Range beautifully decorated with pine trees and snow caps. With approximately 312 glaciers, the park has the most glaciers of any American park (about one-third of them) outside of Alaska.


After taking the picture above at the entrance sign, we then proceeded to the campground. Since I didn’t have our reserved campsite number (actually I did, but I didn’t know how to locate it), we drove around the loop looking for a reserved sign with our name on it. And we drove around the loop. And we drove around the loop for a third time. Every site was affixed with a reservation sign, but not one of them said, “Smith.” After finally checking at the Ranger’s Station we were informed that we were in site 90. Obviously, they simply forgot to update the card (as you can see in the picture below)! From that point on “Gosselin” was worked into our comedic lines now employed for the the duration of the trip. Also notice me holding one of my daily staples – peanut butter on wheat bread!


Diablo Lake Overlook (below) was the most picturesque location at the park. It’s easy to just stare for a great length of time and get lost in God’s marvelous creation.

The montage of pictures below were from our favorite hike in our favorite park on this trip. It is called the “Maple Lake Loop.” It is basically a scenic walk through the mountains around lakes and patches of snow. The loop trail ascends 2,000 feet before it returns to its original location. Walking counterclockwise (as we did) made for a gradual ascent over a long distance and then a sharp and shorter decline upon return to the trail-head. The total distance is 7.2 miles and scenery is absolutely phenomenal.

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Skiing in July

We discovered this little caboose car restaurant that made fantastic smoked meat sandwiches and served soda the old fashioned way. “And how do I use this bottle cap opener, dad?”

The pictures below were taken at Rainy Lake. A short walk from the parking lot took you to this 4,800-foot-high alpine masterpiece, but only after walking about a mile through an Engelmann spruce and Douglas fir forest featuring heaps of wildflowers. Off in the distance you can see the perpetual waterfalls that fill this lake from melting ice caps up in the mountains. The water is pristine and very cold.

You know I could resist a cool dip!

The pictures above are from Washington Pass Overlook.

Dinner, then jacked up after some salted caramel ice cream!

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A brief music video recapping our time in North Cascades.

Mount Rainier National Park

At 14,409 feet, Mount Rainier stands head and shoulders above all the other peaks in Washington state. The mountain contains more glaciers than any other mountain in the continental 48 states. We only had a good portion of one day at the part, but thankfully enjoyed clear skies – something not always common for this often-foggy location. We did some nice moderate hikes enjoying the meadows, wildflowers, streams and mountain views. We didn’t climb the mountain (that’s a challenging one – 9,000 foot elevation gain extending over 8 miles needing the assistance of ice axes!), but we did drive to the two primary observation points for some stunning views of the mountain. The one on the east side is called “Sunrise” (the two top pictures from below) and the one on the south side is called “Paradise” (the two bottom pictures from below).

The very brief video below provides a nice landscape view of Mount Rainier from just beyond the visitor’s center at “Sunrise.”

The restaurant has Wi-Fi!


Olympic National Park

At 1,442 square miles, Olympic National Park is massive. Yet its size is not the only thing that attracts its many visitors. Within a day, people can experience breathtaking mountain vistas and meadows with wildflowers and the Pacific Ocean and rain forests! Yet if you want to really appreciate all this diversity, plan to spend at least 2-3 days making your way around. As you can see from the pictures below, there is a lot to do in this gem that covers a sizable portion of the most northwest corner of Washington State.


The Mountains!

The Ocean!

The Rain Forest!

The two pictures below are from a favorite attraction offered to all visitors at the park for an additional charge. It’s called the Sol Duc Hot Springs. The facility offers one fresh water pool and three mineral pools kept at various temperatures (99-104 degrees). The water that supplies the springs (from rain or melting snow) mixes with the gases coming from the cooling volcanic rocks and then rises to the surface. The sulfur smell is definitely noticeable and unmistakable, even as soon as you approach the facility from the parking lot. Though the pools are drained and refilled daily and are closed twice every day for “resting” and “testing,” you just don’t feel these waters are “clean” with so many bathers sharing the same facility. I believe for that reason, Hailey didn’t last very long in the water.

Frequently the campsites we called home were not equipped with showers. This was my replacement!


The brief music video below shows highlights from Mt. Rainier and Olympic.

Lewis and Clark National Historic Park

Located in the northwest corner of the state, Fort Clatsop was the winter encampment for the Lewis and Clark expedition from December 1805 to March 1806. Pictured below on the right is a replica of the fort. The video further below shows the inside courtyard of the fort with an actor playing the role of an early explorer. Short trails from the fort lead to the water’s edge where the expedition made their final landing to conclude the western phase of their journey.

No explanation (or apology) needed when you’ve lived out of the car for over a week!


Mount Saint Helen’s National Monument


On May 18, 1980, the whole world was informed of the massive eruption of Mount Saint Helen’s. It has been called, “the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States. Fifty-seven people were killed; 250 homes, 47 bridges, 15 miles  of railways, and 185 miles of highway were destroyed” (Wikipedia). The spewed ash flow was solid for over 9 hours reaching heights of 12-16 miles above sea level. Ash was deposited in Canada and many surrounding states. The picture above shows a “before and after” of the mountain.

This would be one of my most adventurous hikes and it lived up to its billing. The distance and elevation would be roughly equivalent to the Grand Canyon. Yet Mount Saint Helen’s adds additional challenges. For starters, there is no water available anywhere along the hike. What you can carry is all you’ll have to drink – and you’ll be using every drop of it (as we learned the hard way)! Second, In addition to the rocks to be climbed over, the final third of the hike is through the lava ash without any shade. This part of the trail is very steep and is compared to walking uphill in loose sand – two steps up and one step behind! Permits are required for those who seek to scale the summit.

The montage of pictures below captures the three phases of the hike (that are all fairly equal in length). First there is the forest (by far the easiest part). Then the bolder field. Finally, the lava ask (a killer!).

The video below shows Hailey approaching the rim of the mountain after a very grueling hike. I love her response when I asked her, “When do you want to do this hike again.” If you listen carefully, her words are classic! “Never!”

This video below shows a panoramic of Mount Saint Helen’s from the summit looking north. You can clearly see not only the lava dome, but the whole side of the mountain that was eliminated after the eruption in 1980. The body of water off in the distance is Spirit Lake. The lake was devastated and even displaced by the blast. Volcanic debris filled the lake and unearthed trees covered forty percent of the lake’s surface. The lake was highly toxic for a month after the eruption. To the right (east) is Mount Adams and straight off in the distance is Mount Rainier.

We made it!

The photo on the left depicts a nice celebratory pose for the camera. The photo on the right reveals the reality of how we actually felt.

Mount Saint Helen’s  Hike!


This was the final picture we took. Time to pack, shower, eat, drive to Seattle and catch our late-night flight back to New Jersey. A lot to ask of two very exhausted souls!