September 12, 2011

Recalling "The Best Trip Ever" To Revive My Spirits

Two weeks after the car crash and hospitalization, I need to move on and revive my normally upbeat outlook. So for starters, I'm going to do two posts on highlights of "my best trip ever" -- the August tour of the Pacific Northwest. This one will cover the first half of the trip going north from Yosemite and ending in Seattle.
We flew into San Francisco and immediately headed out in our rental car for Yosemite National Park on the other side of the state.

It was tough picking out a couple of photos from the dozens we took. But here they are:

Lake Tahoe

After 5-6 hours in Yosemite, we headed for Lake Tahoe. It was getting toward twilight when we drove along the lake, which added a nice misty touch.

Drive from Lake Tahoe, CA  to Crater Lake, OR
We were on the road for nearly three weeks. Each day brought clear skies, with daytime temperatures that reached 80 only once or twice. Meanwhile, back home, DC was experiencing the hottest August ever, and in Washington, hot also means humid.

Just driving from one stop to the next was a pleasure (as long as someone else was doing the driving). Here's an example:

Not having to drive meant I could frequently indulge in one of my favorite pastimes:

Crater Lake
Crater Lake was formed by the collapse of land into a caldron after a volcanic eruption. It has no rivers flowing into it and is famous for its deep blue color and water clarity. Snow was still on the ground from a near-record snow total last winter.



Here's a quick scan of the lake:

Crater Lake Lodge vs. Diamond Lake Resort

Crater Lake Lodge is one of the jewels of the National Park Service. It is an historic inn, dating back to 1922, and well situated to take advantage of the view over the lake.

We wanted to stay for two nights but they were fully booked for the second night. My disappointment was short-lived. We drove to Diamond Lake, less than 10 miles away, and stayed at the much less pretentious but in many ways more enjoyable Diamond Lake resort. The food was cheaper and better. Diamond Lake is a "working lake" -- with lots of water activities - - not just a "viewing lake." 

We were lucky to be staying here at the same time as a gathering of country fiddlers. One of the high points of the trip was an evening spent with them. Listen in:

Columbia River Gorge
The Columbia River Gorge is a canyon stretching for over 80 miles through the Cascade Range to the edge of the Portland metropolitan area. It forms the boundary between the States of Washington and Oregon. Much of it has been dedicated to national and state parks. The bumper sticker slogan in my hometown  -- "Ithaca Is Gorges" -- applies here too.

Here's an overview:

The Columbia River Gorge has over 70 waterfalls. Multnomah Falls at 620 feet is the second highest year-round waterfall in the U.S.:

Mt. Rainier -- Another High Point (In More Ways Than One)
Mt Rainier is on the list of the 16 most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of its recent volcanic activity and proximity to heavily populated areas. It has the largest "topological prominence" (i.e. size relative to surrounding landscape, not simply height) of any mountain in the continental U.S. For all 50 states, it's No. 2, after Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley) in Alaska. Ranked by the elevation of its summit, Rainier ranks 17th. The ten tallest mountains in the U.S. are all in Alaska, headed by Denali. For the continental U.S., three Colorado summits beat out Rainier (14,425 feet) in the elevation rankings. 

But enough of statistics. What you see is what's really impressive. Here are just a few of the many photos we took:

When we arrived late in the day to have dinner at the lodge near the top, we feared that we were in for our first disappointing weather.

When we left the lodge to drive back to our cabin, the fog was so thick we had to drive under 15mph. When we got up in the morning the fog was still heavy. We were on the ocean side ot the mountain. But as we drove to the eastern side of the mountain, it became clear and sunny. We were told that people in Seattle often are dissuaded from heading for Mt. Rainier because it looks socked in with clouds and fog. What they don't realize is that often the eastern side of the mountain can be crystal clear. Fortunately that's what happened to us. Here's the lodge on the other side of the mountain:

Lots of trails head off from the lodge. Some were even doable for me:

August at Mt. Rainier is peak time for wildflowers, like April-May in D.C.

On to Seattle -- The final stop on the trip north
Seattle was our only urban stop. We stayed there 3 days -- the longest stay in one place. Our luck with weather continued.

I've often said that if I had to call another city home, it would be either San Diego or Seattle. I read somewhere that Seattle is tied with my home town of Ithaca for having the most cloudy days. Here are some of the top spots to visit in Seattle:

Pioneer Square:

The original Starbucks:

Pike's Market,  of course:

And, finally, the Space Needle:


BEwood said...

John, thanks for the great pix and the good story to go with them.  I had the privilege of visiting Great Basin National Park in remote eastern Nevada this year, so know well that no mere picture can do justice to the grandeur of what the naked eye sees.

Brian Lockett said...

Fantastic. As you know Danuta and I are from Seattle and think highly of it. Climbed Mt Rainier years ago, lovely. 

Johnfldebruin said...

Dear John. Fantastic you did this trip. And that you liked Seatlle. We started in July up there for six days. Thsi was to long. After it Vegas and an Caribbean cruise.
You didn´t react on my e-mail concerning your car crash. I remember I was your driver formerly. Regards, John and RenĂ©