One mans adventures in life
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Saddlebag Island is a bit out of the way when boaters are looking for recreation. It is located at the north end of Padilla Bay, 2 miles NE of Anacortes. Maybe this is what makes this area so appealing, especially for paddlers. The bay is very shallow, so shallow that maps show nearly everything to the east of the island group as just a few feet deep. Much of Padilla Bay is designated as a National Estuarine Sanctuary so wildlife sightings are common. Saddlebag Island is also a state park, covering the entire island. There are nice campsites on both sides of the island and a hiking trail around the perimeter.
Considered one of the best destinations in the San Juan Islands, Jones Island is a State Marine Park that offers camping, picnicking, hiking, saltwater fishing, and scuba diving. The park is a step above some of the other marine sites since the island offers running water (in summer), and two large lawn areas for activities. Restrooms, picnic tables and firepits are provided as well. A dock on the north campground allows for many motor boat visitors as well, including visitors from the parks moorage buoys. Paddlers will prefer to stay in the camps on the west and south side of the island. With campers throughout the year, the deer and raccoons have become quite tame on the island.
Kayaking around Shaw Island has many highlights, including Friday Harbor, the Wasp Islands and three State Park islands with camping and hiking trails. This particular San Juan Islands kayak trip offers some of the safest waters available as you are generally protected from the stronger winds and currents. The loop is roughly 23 miles and can be paddled in two or three days. This report highlights Yellow Island, Jones Island, Turn Island and Blind Island. Pictures for each island are on the links.
Pacific Beach State Park is a small state park, designed for picnics, camping and beach activities only. The camps are all out in the open, next to the beach. Campsites are tight, offering little privacy. There are roughly 22 standard sites, 42 utility sites and two yurts. No campfires or portable fire pits are permitted in the campground but they are allowed on the beach. Standard beach activities include kite flying, sand-castle building, beachcombing, walking and wildlife watching.
At first glance, Lake Sylvia State Park looks like a simple park with a lake, a beach and some camping. With the park being located inside the city limits of Montesano, who would expect there are miles of trails to hike leading out from the park into the surrounding forests, all maintained and owned by the City of Montesano. Starting with the lake, we find it is actually Sylvia Creek, dammed up by a homesteader in 1871. He built a sawmill operated by water power. The current larger dam was built in the 1920's to generate power for Montesano.
Hiking the beaches of Ocean Shores is boring, all Washingtonians admit this. The answer to a walk on the beach when visiting Ocean Shores is to do a hike on Damon Point to Protection Island. It is located in the southeastern corner of the Ocean Shores Peninsula. Damon Point is a huge sand spit going out into Grays Harbor. The currents and weather have made some dramatic changes, enough to wipe out a paved road that once ran the length of the peninsula. There was a State Park but they gave up on it when the access road washed out. So, the land was returned back to the Department of Natural Resources.
There are many good reason to hike the Johnson Ridge Trail. First is the trail starts at 3,600 feet. This usually means you will get some views without having to suffer too much climbing up through the dense Washington forests. The Johnson Ridge Trail gives you two summits, first Sunrise Mountain, which offers some decent views, then Scorpion Mountain, which offers stunning views. If that wasn't enough, you can continue just a short distance further to Joan Lake, which is nestled in the meadows just below the summit of Scorpion Mountain.
Waterfalls, mines, relics, alpine lakes, meadows and a tricky ridge all await the scrambler who wants to summit Canoe Peak, an unofficial name for this Alpine Lakes Wilderness highpoint. Its one of the 100 homecourt peaks so climbs are somewhat frequent.
Defend Puget Sound at Fort Casey State Park, one of the best preserved coast artillery posts in Washington. Unlike some of the other bunkers, Fort Casey features two 10-inch and two 3-inch historic guns on display. The views are pretty fantastic as well of Admiralty Inlet and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Others may love the Admiralty Head Lighthouse, open seasonally, which offers many interpretive displays about the lighthouse and region. At the south end of the park is the Keystone Spit and two miles of narrow land separating Admiralty Inlet and Crocket Lake.
No other place in Washington has the dramatic coastal scenery of Ebey's Landing where miles of farmers fields abruptly end at sea cliffs. The panorama looks like somewhere in Ireland, although the weather can be similar...that's for sure. This is where the first white settlement was located on Puget Sound. Unfortunately, Isaac Ebey settled here in 1850 and was murdered and beheaded by raiding Haida Indians in 1857. The Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve actually covers many public and private land holdings, a unique partnership between the Town of Coupeville, Island County, Washington State Parks, and the National Park Service.
Sawmill Ridge is the perfect hike for big distant views with little effort getting there. With just a 450 climb on a nearly brush-free slope, you'll be standing on top within minutes of leaving your vehicle. Two people could put a trail up this thing in just a few days and Sawmill Ridge would be one of the most popular trails in the region. Sawmill Ridge has 1000 feet of prominence, situated between Kelly Butte and Pechugh Peaks, which are the next higher peaks.
Located deep in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Hamilton Buttes is a former lookout site with incredible views of the region. Visited more by motorcycles these days than hikers, Hamilton Buttes awaits the unsuspecting hiker with views of 4 volcanoes, Adams, Rainier, St. Helens and Hood. The hike is short but the access roads are long, you'll be driving longer than hiking. There are huge basalt cliffs on one side of the summit area so watch your kids on top. Hamilton Buttes has nearly 1,500 feet of prominence, there isn't anything nearby blocking views.
LaConner is known as the most romantic getaway in Washington State. Although that may be debatable, LaConner is certainly is a enchanting little 1800s waterfront community. LaConner is also known as an artist enclave with many galleries to browse. If you enjoying boating, there are many opportunities for some rather unique experiences around the Swinomish Channel. The hotels along the water have kept the coastal-community feel by not building too large and looking more like mountain chateaus. At just an hour from Seattle, LaConner is definitely one of the closest places to feel like you have gotten away from everything.
Located just 3 miles west of Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island, Joseph Whidbey State Park is a day-use park with picnicking, beachcombing, hiking and wildlife viewing. The park has spectacular scenery across the Strait of Juan De Fuca and northern Puget Sound. The beach is one of the largest and best on Whidbey Island. Joseph Whidbey State Park has two large grass fields where nets can be put up for family games on the grass. There is one covered picnic shelter and many uncovered tables. Although there is no camping, there is one campsite if you arrive by kayak or canoe.
If you say you are going kayaking at Ocean Shores, you're likely to get looks like you are pretty extreme for Sea Kayaking in the Pacific Ocean waves. Those with a bit more knowledge might think you are kayaking inside Grays Harbor...but isn't that full of mud flats? Well, Ocean Shores has a surprising amount of waterways running all over the peninsula. There are specifically 23 miles of interconnecting fresh-water lakes and canals to explore. These waterways are fairly protected from the winds as well. An incredible amount of wildlife can be found, mostly waterfowl but the deer population in Ocean Shores is large and we saw several, including bucks with racks.
You can't miss Pyramid Mountain as you arrive at Lake Crescent from Port Angeles. It towers above the lake from this vantage. As you drive west along the shores of Lake Crescent, the pyramid shape slowly fades away into a long ridgeline. The Lake Crescent area of Olympic National Park is exceptionally unique for Washington since you can have some great hiking opportunities when the rest of the range is covered in snow. Pyramid Mountain is only 3,000 feet high, yet has the feel of being 4 or even 5 thousand feet high. The other major feature to Pyramid Mountain is the U.S. Army World War II Aircraft Warning Service Lookout on the summit built in 1942.
Located in the far NE corner of the Cascade Loop, these two peaks are commonly done together for a fun outing. The location is far east of the Cascade Crest offering opportunities for sunshine when all else is socked in. This area melts out quickly too, especially with most of the route being on south facing slopes. The other big draw is the bump nicknamed Serpentine Hill which makes it onto the Backcourt List, coming in at #98. Ironically, Iron Mountain, with an official name, is much higher with better views but only has roughly 300 feet of prominence, so not making it onto the Backcourt List.
Some lesser peaks make the best winter and spring objectives. With Higher Squire, you can find a generally safe, avalanche free, brush free route, excellent close-up views of Whitehorse and Three Fingers Mountains, and a summit with a hint of exposure. Along the way, the Eightmile Creek Trail passes right below Three O'clock Rock. This is a popular rock climbing area but it is also the only potential avalanche path to cross on this route. The upper portion of the trip can also be done as a loop, visiting Squire Creek Pass for additional photo opportunities of Three Fingers.
Possibly the largest waterfall on the Deschutes River, Benham Falls is more like a huge cascade than a traditional waterfall. The water drops over a series of ledges as the river passes through a large gorge. There are two options to reach the waterfall. One is to drive most of the way but a better option is a scenic half mile walk or bike ride along the Deschutes in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. This route will take you over a bridge above the falls where the waterway is quite tranquil and slow, in route to the upcoming rapids of Benham Falls.
Bend hosts the big Oregon Winterfest, the largest festival in Bend which celebrates the winter season. Located in the Old Mill District, if there isn't enough snow, they will bring it in by dump truck! People come from around the state to listen to live music, eat, watch winter sports, and do some pretty wacky things. Activities include a Big Air Show and a Rail Jam, where ski and snowboards drop down large ramps doing tricks for the onlookers. Gear companies standby throwing swag into the crowds. Metal Mulisha usually shows up doing motorcycle jumps that are just incredibly dangerous. For the adventurous, an early morning Polar Plunge in the river is available or try the Snow Warrior Dash.
Located in the Ochoco Mountains in the Ochoco National Forest is Lookout Mountain. The summit of Lookout Mountain happens to be the Crook County highpoint with a whopping three trail routes to the top. Lookout Mountain is also the second highest point in the Ochoco Mountains and the 40th most prominent peak in Oregon with over 2,400 feet of prominence . The summit is clear of obstructions making for distant views in all directions. You an see west to the Cascades, east to the Strawberry Mountains and everything between. Along the way, you can find many mine sites with interesting buildings, as well as a surprising amount of old growth ponderosa pine and true fir trees.