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Showing posts with label the Olympic Peninsula. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the Olympic Peninsula. Show all posts

How Do You Celebrate Your Birthday ?

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There are only two major holidays on my calender : my birthday and New Year. For me, both of these dates represent a new beginning, a fresh start, a clean slate. It's time to look back and reflect on my goals and achievements, and time to make new exciting plans for the upcoming year !

It saddens me to know that many people don't really celebrate their birthdays. In my opinion, if you don't celebrate your birthday, you don't celebrate (your) life.

As somebody said : "If we are to appreciate the fruits of life, we must first appreciate the tree that bears the fruit: birth itself."

I've never considered myself to be religious, but I think a birthday is the Greatest Gift of Life, the Miracle, the Once-In-A-Life Time-Occasion that you have a chance to celebrate every year. The same energy that God/Universe/Nature invested in you at birth is present once again. It is our duty to be receptive to that force.

A birthday is a time to celebrate birth itself, the joy of life. It is also an occasion to rethink your life: How great is the disparity between what I have accomplished and what I can accomplish? Am I spending my time properly or am I involved in things that distract me from my higher calling? How can I strengthen the thread that connects my outer life and my inner life?

Celebrating my birthday by going surfing is my way to get in touch with my soul.

You don't have to be a hard core "surfer dude" to enjoy this, I'd say, most spiritual "sport/outdoor activity". And I put it in quotes, cause I can't even call surfing a sport. Yes, surfing has its competitive side, but for most folks, surfing is the way to engage nature in such an intimate way that very few people have access to. I call it Soul Surfing.

In soul surfing, we challenge the ocean, we challenge ourselves, and  not other people. Soul surfing is not about scoring points and winning titles, it's about having fun, it's as much about physical challenge as a spiritual experience. Especially at times of good surf in beautiful surroundings.

Soul surfing is one of the best ways to find your Zen, your inner peace, your "True Self".
The Ocean will clear your mind, get rid of stress, anxiety, and negativity, it will recharge your tired mind, and will strengthen your spirit.

As J.F.K. once said : " "We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came." 

So your next birthday, I advice you to give soul surfing a try. It doesn't matter if you don't catch a wave, or you won't be able even to get up on a board. It's about the experience, the feeling, the memories you will create for the next year ( OR MAY BE THE REST OF YOUR LIFE ).
                                                         It's all about STOKE !


"Each birthday is a new beginning, full of promise and opportunity and the chance to make dreams come true."

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Surfing Neah Bay : Part II

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Skiing and surfing on the same day can be a rare experience. While there are some locations across the world where you could ski and surf on the same day like Chile and New Zealand, I wanted to put our state on the map of " World's Best Adventure Travel Destinations" by exploring the Olympic Peninsula.

The Olympic Peninsula is a place where surfing and skiing can be just a few hours from one another. You can start out early morning on the snow-capped mountains of the Hurricane Ridge, and finish the day off taking on waves along the coast.

For my surfing part of the trip I went to Neah Bay, a small town on the Makah Indian Reservation located in the north-westernmost point of the continental United States. It was my first time visiting this corner of our state, and the experience was amazing !

Driving along State Route 122 ( named the Strait of Juan de Fuca Highway ) was like driving along Big Sur ( in California )- beautiful views, amazing pieces of history and unique places to visit !

While in town, I couldn't resist the temptation to have my picture taken at the north-westernmost point of the contiguous United States ( with Tatoosh Island in the background ). A land of dramatic headlands, sea stacks, and deep narrow coves, Cape Flattery exhibits sheer rugged beauty.

After a short hike and a few pictures, I headed down to Hobuck Beach, an exposed beach break that has small, but quite consistent surf and can work ( mostly ) at any time of the year. The access to the beach ( that I found ) was through "gated" Hobuck Beach Resort. Though a day pass is $15, I was happily waived the fee ( you still have to pay $10 for your recreation pass to park anywhere on the reservation ). There are a few cabins and a dozen or so tent and RV spaces ( $20 a night ).

Just like La Push, Hobuck Beach is an average beachbreak that has some good days and a lot of bad days. It's a beautiful spot, however, and the drive here is well worth it, even if the surf sucks.

That day I was blessed with beautiful spring weather, light breeze, and lots of sunshine. But the slopes of Hurricane Ridge were waiting for me, and I still had 2 hour drive ahead of me.

Skiing the Hurricane Ridge: Part III

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After spending a glorious morning surfing at Hobuck Beach I headed out to the Hurricane Ridge ski area. Though I visited Hurricane Ridge a couple years ago, I didn't have a chance to do anything other than just taking a few pictures. And that's what most people would do - drive for 17 miles from Port Angeles just to take a few pics, go for a short stroll in the snow, have lunch, and head back out.

If you're visiting the area, and all you have is just a few hours, I highly recommend to make a trip to the Hurricane Ridge ! It's so beautiful there !

Skiing at every ski area in Washington state has been on my Bucket List for the past couple years, and I really hoped to add Hurricane Ridge to my list this year. Unfortunately, due to weather conditions ( the road had been closed for a couple weeks ) and my schedule I was a week late.

Instead, I went "ski/alpine touring".

I haven't had a chance to write about my new "hobby" yet, but in short - for alpine touring you use your "regular" downhill skis with specially designed binding set-up ( AT/randonee bindings ) that allows the heel to free up for climbing and accessing backcountry. Then, the heel can "lock in", and the skis can be skied as normal alpine gear. To "walk uphill" on your skis, you use skins - removable pieces of nylon fabric whose nap runs at an oblique angle, allowing the ski to glide forward, but not back.

Avalanche danger was very high at the time of my visit, and I didn't want just "to wonder into backcountry".

As my trusted and favorite source I used " Snowshoe Routes Washington " , a great book for all skill levels, from beginner to experienced mountaineer.

I chose a relatively easy, yet very rewarding " Hurricane Hill " hike. It starts right behind the lodge, the trail is very used and thus easy to follow. I have to mention that for some ( inexperienced ) snowshoers the trail might get a bit tricky. Exposed ridgeline, two avalanche chutes, and knife-edged ridge crest might be more than you bargained for.

Even if the top isn't reached, the views are spectacular all along the trail. At the top you're rewarded with 360 degree spectacular views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Canada's Vancouver Island, upper Puget Sound, with Mount Baker rearing its icy head beyond, Olympus and Mt Angeles.

The way down was a breeze, and I was back to my car before closing time.

I wish I could just pass out in my car, but one thing that sucks about the Hurricane Ridge is that they close at dusk ( also, keep in mind that they open the gate at 8 am, and the lodge at 9 am, so it doesn't make sense to go there very early in the morning ).

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Ski and Surf the Olympic Peninsula: Part I

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How many places in the WORLD do you know where you can surf and ski in the same day ?

Skiing magazine knows 6. I can add 2 more : Iceland and ....Washington !

I've always thought of our state as one of the world's premier adventure travel destinations, and if you've been following my blog, you know we have it all : from world class mountaineering to the best cold water scuba diving, easily accessible hiking trails to one of the finest mountain biking playgrounds in the world. 

So when Ski Magazine failed to mention Washington state as one of the world's best places to ski and surf in the same day, I decided to go on an adventure of my own. 

The Spectacular Olympic Peninsula is known as one of the most photographed, and one of the most desired places to visit in our state. People from all across the globe come to experience the thrill of this Natures' Paradise.

This wasn't my first time visiting this corner of our state, but this time I had more time to actually do something fun !

I've already surfed at one of the popular spots on the Olympic Peninsula - La Push.

This time, I decided to explore another popular surf location and surf at  Hobuck Beach at the Makah Indian Reservation.

After spending half of the day surfing, I headed back towards Port Angeles to ski at the Hurricane Ridge.

What was suppose to be a day trip of surfing and skiing, turned into a weekend of unforgettable fun !

....to be continued...

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Winter surfing La Push

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People are surprised to know that there is "surfing" in Washington state. They are even more surprised to know that the best surfing happens early spring/autumn. Though, sometimes North Pacific storms brew up giant swells ( up to 20ft), mostly the waves are pretty small ( 2-3 feet). That's what I found during my trip to La Push this winter for annual La Push Pummel.

For me , the trip was more about "discovering" that area for myself rather than actual surfing. I haven't traveled along HWY 101 for a long time, and the event was a great opportunity to drive along that truly scenic road.

I'd definitely call La Push/Forks area one of Washington's best getaways. Since the "Twilight boom" the area is swamped with fans, and the local Visitor Information Center even offers "Twilight map". But even if you are not a Twilight fan, there is a lot to do and to see around the area - Hoh Rain Forest, Kalaloch/Ruby Beaches, Ozette/Crescent Lakes, waterfalls and hot springs.

As usual, I was short on time, and since the weather that day was not as promised, I had time for just one quick dip, and it was worth 4 hour drive !

That was my first time surfing/visiting La Push/Forks are, and like I've just said, it's definitely a weekend ( if not week long ! ) getaway.

Visiting Harricane Ridge

The winter of 2009-2010 was pretty bad for many local ski areas : warm temperatures, lack of snow, rain, and "shady " online marketing tactics ( we've just had 6 inches of snow !...but not exactly where you'll be skiing...)

It was even worse for Hurricane Ridge ski area. On January 18th , the only road to Hurricane Ridge was closed , the first time in 50 years since the road was put. The cause: water. Heavy rains triggered the slide and nearly 100 feet of road crumbled into the Ennis Creek valley.

Hurricane Ridge is very important to the area. Many local businesses, from ski operators to gas stations and restaurants, heavily depend on skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers, and tourists.

Repairs started almost immediately, and with crews working 12 hour days, six days a week, the road was opened earlier than expected. To celebrate the reopening of the road, which was accomplished ahead of schedule, and under budget, park officials waived the entrance fee ( which is usually $15 )the last two weekend of March.

My trip to the Olympic Peninsula, couldn't be complete without a visit to Hurricane Ridge. This was my first visit. One of my goals for this year was to ski at every ski area in Washington state. Unfortunately, during my Friday visit the lifts were closed ( but I did take advantage of free entrance ! ). But the views from The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center were breathtaking !

But if you're planning a ski/snowboard trip to Hurricane Ridge, feel free to check our this blog post to get the tips necessary to plan a stoked trip !

Exploring the Olympic Peninsula : Hiking Dungeness Spit

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Having ADD ( at least I suspect I have it :)) I am unable to focus on just one outdoor activity or stay at one place for a long time. So, after a nice , relaxing day at Port Townsend, I decided to head out to do something outdoorsy.

Dungeness Spit is considered to be one of Washington's best saltwater hikes.

Just 30 minutes drive from Port Townsend, The Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge can be found along the Dungeness Scenic Loop between Sequim and Port Angeles.

Sequim is a quaint little place to visit, and if it wasn't for this beautiful sign that welcomes you, I would just have missed it.

( Google images)

I heard about the Sequim Lavender Festival before ( though, never been a fan of " agricultural tourism " ) but didn't know that Sequim was the "Lavender Capital of North America" ( rivaled only in France).

I took the Dungeness Scenic Loop, but, honestly, didn't see much "scenery ". Got lost , and " found myself" at another Sequim' famous attraction - the Olympic Game Farm. As usual, pressed with time, I grabbed a souvenir ( " been there, done that "), and continued my trip to the Refuge ( which is only 10 minutes away !).

I read somewhere that this hike was " ideal for novice hikers...because it has no elevation gain...close to civilization with good restaurants nearby (?) ".

5 miles one way, hiking in sand, strong wind, non-hiking clothes ( who the hell hikes in jeans and cotton sweatshirts ? ) and on empty stomach ( damn those first timers !)...We didn't make it to the lighthouse...So sad. The day was gorgeous, and I was looking forward to taking a picture of me standing at the end of the spit.

One of the signs indicated that horseback riding was allowed on the designated horse trail through the uplands and the beach west of Dungeness Spit base. If you have any information about guided trips, please share with me ( I really love what they do at Ocean Shores ).

Later, I also found out that the waters of Sequim Bay were ideal for kayaking. Not sure, but may be it will be more fun kayaking those 5 miles rather than hiking.

And finally, have you ever wanted to live the life of a Lighthouse Keeper for a week ? For $ $260 - 350 a week you can. Visit The New Dungeness Light Station Association to find out more details.

Exploring the Olympic Peninsula : Port Townsend.

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One definition of the word " adventure " I can personally relate to is -
Something that’s new or different that isn’t an everyday occurrence
My latest trip to Port Townsend was something different to me. No biking, hiking, climbing...Just relaxing!

Port Townsend is famous for its historic homes and buildings, art galleries, museums, farmers markets, and of course festivals. Port Townsend is only one of three Victorian Seaports on the National Register of Historic Places.

So, a big part of the day I spent just walking around downtown ( which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and further was declared a National Historic Landmark ).

Even if you are not a history buff, visit Fort Worden State park, where you can feel " back in time " : visitors can view the original 12- gun emplacements, "discover " the bunkers, and even stay in restored residences or barracks. Fort Worden's Coast Artillery Museum was small, but very interesting. Because there were not many visitors at that time, we were even offered an interpretive walk.

In addition to the fascinating history of the place, the park offers a variety of outdoor activities : boating, swimming,diving, fishing, crabbing,kayaking,picnicking, hiking....

Fort Worden State Park and Conference Center is a 434-acre multi-use park and it's really hard to experience its history and beauty in just one day ( in my case -2 hours). If you are looking for a cheap stay, Olympic Hostel offers frugal lodging options right here at the park.

If you are looking for something more upscale , the Clam Cannery Hotel offers Port Townsend’s most luxurious waterfront accommodations ( and it's just 10 minutes away from the park ).

What struck me about the hotel was the difference between " outside" and "inside". When we got there, at first I thought I had the wrong address. It looked so...

But inside ( ! ) :

The Clam Cannery Hotel - first class accomodations for outdoor enthusiasts.

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Who says you have to sacrifice comfort and luxury to enjoy the great outdoors ?
If you are looking for somewhere truly unique to stay, when visiting Port Townsend, consider the Clam Cannery Hotel, the only 4-star quality hotel in Port Townsend.

This new boutique, all suite waterfront hotel offers unobstructed views of the Cascades, the Olympic Mountains, Whidbey Island and the Strait of Juan DeFuca. The hotel is called the Clam Cannery because the building was once home to one of the largest producers of canned clams on the west coast of the United States. Painstakingly restored by local artisans with an extensive use of materials reclaimed from the building, this historic structure is now one of the Pacific Northwest's most beautiful boutique waterfront hotels.

With the Olympic Mountains on one side and the Cascades on the other, Port Townsend is a unique location for recreational opportunities, with many of which are just withing minutes from the Clam Cannery.

What to do in Port Townsend is never a problem. Outdoor enthusiasts will find an adventure for almost every type, from adrenaline junkies to culture and history hounds.

Port Townsend is surrounded by water, so it's little wonder that the dominant outdoor activities here are water sports - fishing, sailing, kayaking, scuba diving, and of course, beach combing.

"Beachcombing" is the recreational activity of looking for and finding various curiosities that have washed in with the tide: seashells of every kind, sea beans (drift seeds), sea glass (beach glass) and driftwood.

Crabbing is one of Puget Sound’s most popular recreational fisheries. Each year, sport fishers catch more than a million pounds of Dungeness crab, using pots, ring nets and – in the case of wade and dive fishers – their bare hands ( at the Clam Cannery you can practically throw a crab pot from your balcony).

Port Townsend is a gateway to San Juan Islands, famous for its Orca whales and occasional gray and minke whales. Hop on board a local charter boat , and enjoy a fun-packed and fascinating whale watching tour on the water around the Olympic Peninsula and the San Juan Islands.

Set sail on a 82 ft. gaff-rigged schooner: a roomy, comfortable, traditional vessel that offers groups of up to 6 people a memorable sailing adventure. Explore the San Juan Islands, or cross the border into Canada with a destination of either Desolation Sound or Barkley Sound.

Admiralty Dive Center, a full service dive center ( just several blocks away from the Clam Cannery) , offers "Discover Scuba" class for the curious non-certified divers. The course entails a short academic session, pool session and, upon successful completion, a two-tank boat dive.

Your visit to Port Townsend wouldn't be complete without a horse-drawn carriage ride through the historic downtown district with beautiful views of Admiralty Inlet and Mount Baker, while your driver tells you about Point Hudson's history.

Whether you are traveling with family, pets or that special person in your life, there's no better place to stay while you’re in Port Townsend than the Clam Cannery Hotel. With unobstructed view of Port Townsend Bay, the surrounding mountain ranges, marine traffic and Port Townsend Historic District in their backyard, the hotel is the ideal home base for exploring the Olympic Peninsula.

Hiking To Olympic Hot Springs

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 The beginning of the trail

The actual trailhead
 Crossing a bridge ( you are almost there )

One of the "cleanest " hot springs

One more pool with the "view"

The scenic Lake Davis
The last time I was soaking in hot springs was 6 years ago in Oregon. It was winter time: the hike, the scenery, the hot springs - everything was gorgeous.
Since then I've always wanted to go back there. And recently I've discovered that we have not one , but dozens of hot springs , right here in our own backyard. I made some research, and the Olympic Hot Springs looked like the best choice.
The hike to Olympic Hot Springs is 2.5 miles from the trailhead during warmer months. When there is snow, road barricades are erected, and it increases the hike from 2.5 to 6.5 miles during winter. As you can see from the pics, the trail was not that bad. The snow covered part of it was icy, but passable. The hike itself was very easy.

As for the hot springs pools, well , I guess you will be the judge. To me, they looked quite shallow, somewhat dirty, and not that hot :) But I guess the combination of hiking, camping, and relaxing in the pools would make the trip worthwhile.

Personally, I had fun and really enjoyed the trip. I wish I had more time to explore the area a little bit more.