One mans adventures in life
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Mount Ellen is the highest peak in the Henry Mountains. It is the county highpoint for Garfield County, a Utah Prominence Peak and one of the 57 Ultra Peaks. Mount Ellen is remote, yet the trailhead is one of the highest in the state at 10,500 feet. The Henry Mountains were the last mountain range in the lower 48 to be mapped, surveyed and even named. When Major John Wesley Powell saw them in 1869, during his exploration of the Green and Colorado Rivers, the Henry Mountains did not appear on any official map. Powell first called the mountains the "Unknown Mountains".
Hiding in south Auburn, the White River at times seems as if it could be deep in the Cascades. Running between two city parks, is the White River Trail. The trail only goes a short 2.5 miles, so the paved trail makes for a good walk or family bike ride if you have young kids. There is only one short hill that small children will need to walk their bikes up. Side explorations are possible since the parks along side offer activities and with the river always nearby, some sandbars make good rock throwing locations.
One of the most mysterious places in King County is the Green River Gorge. You would think with the millions of people living in the county over the last century, the 12 mile gorge would be infested with people. Somehow the opposite is true, the Green River Gorge is one of the most secluded locations in Western Washington. In 1880, coal was discovered just above the gorge which led to the creation of the town of Franklin in 1887. The town of Franklin lasted until the 1920s, with more than 1,100 people living high on the rim of the Green River Gorge. We are talking many homes, a hotel, school, two saloons, the mine and buildings that accompanied it. But they are all gone now, with the forest totally overgrowing everything.
Very few roads lead high into the Olympic Mountains. Most people are familiar with Hurricane Ridge…considering it is the only paved road that gets very high. But the Deer Park Road is around 10 miles west of Hurricane Ridge and offers some excellent views as well, including access to a few high trails. Deer Park is also known for a campground that have sites nearly at treeline, an uncommon thing for any Washington campground. The highlight of Deer Park is parking at the end of the road, high on Blue Mountain......
Salt Creek Recreation Area is a Clallam County Park but is as good as any State Park in Washington. It is located on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, with rocky bluffs, tide pools, a sand beach, hidden coves, and forested trails to explore. Views extend over the Strait to Vancouver Island in British Columbia. With 90 campsites, other than summer weekends, you're likely to find a place. Salt Creek is also open year round. Other than the natural features, the park has kids play equipment, a basketball court, horseshoe courts, a softball field, and a volleyball court. At low tide, you can explore Tongue Point Marine Sanctuary, where rocky tidepools extend way out into the Strait.
Every destination has its most popular hikes. For San Juan Island, Young Hill is the most popular summit hike, offering views over Garrison Bay, the narrow straits to Victoria and the Gulf Islands. Young Hill is a good alternative to the island highpoint Mount Dallas which is located on private property. There is even some nice history to learn along the way.
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.