Ramble at Gold Creek Pond

I had intended to write more about San Diego this week, but life has a way of interrupting our plans and intentions, c’est la vie. Instead, I will post a short blog about a recent stroll we took around Gold Creek Pond, and next week I’ll continue writing about San Diego.

Gold Creek Pond is located in the Snoqualmie Pass region of Washington State. This gentle, paved, one mile loop is wheelchair friendly and offers some spectacular views of the area.

We went a few weeks ago just as the autumn colors were beginning to show. There are many places to sit and enjoy the scenery and the beautiful views.

The path is a bit narrow in a few areas, as shown in the photo below, which could be a bit tricky for some wheelchair users. But for the most part, it seems to be quite accessible.

Not far from the parking area is the trailhead for Gold Creek Trail 1314, another hike for another day.

I hope you enjoyed this short post. Check back next week when I will write more about San Diego.

Hikes, Rambles and Strolls

My husband and I have hiked a wide variety of trails in our 32 years of marriage. A few of our favorites are Golden Canyon in Death Valley, Fortynine Palms in Joshua Tree National Park, and Loch Brora in Northern Scotland. But our favorite place to hike is close to home, and includes almost any of the trails you’ll find in western Washington.

The Mountain Loop Highway is a 52 mile highway offering a variety of hikes along the way, as well as campgrounds. One of our absolute favorite hikes in this area is Heather Lake. This 4.2 mile round trip hike has an elevation gain of approximately 1,000 feet. The lake is located in a basin and offers stunning views of Mt. Pilchuck.

Another one of our favorites is Lake Dorothy, and is one of the first hikes we took together after we were married. This is a 9 mile round trip trail with 2,000 feet elevation gain. It is rated as a difficult hike, but the lake is beautiful and worth the effort.

When we first hiked this trail, we planned to stay for the afternoon. The area seemed to be deserted as we were setting up our picnic spot. However, when we opened a bottle of wine, and the pop of the cork echoed through the silence, several heads popped up and looked in our direction. One man said “you can’t open a bottle of wine up here without people noticing!”

Lake Evan and Boardman Lake is a nice hike for families. It is an easy, 0.8 mile hike with just 300 feet elevation gain. We hiked this trail years ago with some friends who were visiting from Florida. Immediately after arriving at Lake Boardman for a picnic, one of the kids fell into the lake. Luckily, it was a warm summer day.

Mount Catherine on Snoqualmie Pass is another beautiful hike. We hiked this trail a few years ago with my sister and her family. You’ll climb 1,330 feet in just 1.5 miles, so it’s not for everyone, but it offers stunning views of the area at the top.

Probably one of the most popular and heavily trafficked hikes is Lake Twenty Two. We drove past the trailhead early one morning recently and noticed that the parking lot was completely full, and people were looking for parking spots on the highway. We chatted with a ranger about this hike, and she said that they refer to it as “Lake Twenty Poo” since the outhouse is quite messy after a long weekend. I’ll pass on this one.

In recent years, we have had to tone down the difficulty of our hikes due to arthritic knees and hips, but we try to keep moving and enjoy easier hikes with less elevation gain. This past weekend we had planned to hike to Lake Boardman, but the road was too rough for our car. So we went back to the ranger station to look for other options. Lake Independence was suggested, so off we went. This trail was described as a gentle stroll though an old growth forest; well, it was probably the toughest hike I have ever been on! I felt like I was climbing the entire time. Climbing up and over rock, roots, and stumps, it was tough! I gave up after 45 minutes. My husband persevered and made it to the Lake.

Lake Coal is not far from the Lake Independence trailhead, and is a short, gentle stroll to get to the lake, so we went there for a picnic.

The drive up to the lakes on Forest Road 4060 offers stunning views of the surrounding area.

I hope you enjoyed this post and look forward to hearing about your favorite hikes in western Washington, or anywhere for that matter! As always, please leave a comment.

Happy hiking!

The Redwoods – Mighty, Majestic Trees

Sequoia sempervirens, also known as costal redwood and California redwood, are the tallest and largest trees on the planet. They once covered over 2 million acres in Northern California. Sadly, due to over-logging in the mid 1800s to early 1900s, they now cover only 131,983 acres. In 1918, the Save the Redwoods League was formed in order to preserve these beautiful giants.

I first visited Redwood National and State Parks as a child, and was awed by the trees. I visited again a few years ago, and found that childish amazement returning as I wandered down a path surrounded by these massive trees.

My brother, Kirk, and I, along with Babe in the late 1960s.

Located in Humboldt and Del Norte counties in Northern California, these parks draw thousands of visitors each year. The parks offer a variety of activities including hiking, backcountry camping, scenic drives and kayaking. If you have read any of my blog posts, you know that my husband and I love hiking, and that is what drew us to the park, along with the beauty of area.

There are many hikes to enjoy including Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail, an easy, one mile, level loop through old growth forest.

There are many other hikes in the parks, and trees that beckon to be climbed.

I call this one “old man and the tree.” 🙂

We stayed at the Bishop Pine Lodge and Cabins not far from Trinidad. After a day of hiking, we enjoyed a delicious meal at the Larrupin Cafe.

Trinidad is costal community with much to offer.

The Save the Redwoods League is still active today, over 100 years later! Hopefully, their work will continue to protect these grand lords and ladies of the forest, for many years to come.

Please leave a comment with your thoughts and favorite activities in the Redwoods.

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley, the name doesn’t sound very inviting. In fact, an immediate response to a suggested vacation there might receive an incredulous “why?!?” My husband and I visited a few years ago for our anniversary. Needless to say, we received a lot of teasing for our choice of our anniversary getaway location. However, it truly is a majestic place, with canyons, dunes, vistas, craters and so much more to see.

Death Valley, located in Eastern California in the northern part of the Mojave Dessert, received its national park designation in 1994, so it is one of the newer national parks. It boasts some other designations as well, including being the lowest point in North America, and being one of the hottest places on the planet. On July 10, 1913 it was a scorching 134 degrees, making winter a great time to visit.

A highlight of our visit was a hike in Golden Canyon. This beautiful hike starts off through a narrow canyon, with many smaller canyons on either side of the trail.

After about one mile, you will see a large, steep hill where the path cuts right into the side of the rock wall.

Photos above taken by theTravelsketcher.

It is a bit dicey getting across the hillside, with the rock wall on one side, and a drop off on the other, so keep your eyes focused on your footing. The trail twists down through some steep, rocky ledges and opens up onto what looks like an old, dry riverbed filled with large, loose gravel. It took about 45 minutes to work our way out of the riverbed. Then we came to some hairpin turns through more narrow canyons. At several points we had to navigate down some steep, stone walls, keeping a watchful eye out for scorpions as we used the rocks for balance. Once out of the canyons, the trail opens up at the base of the mountains.

It was about another mile to get back to the trailhead. This hike isn’t for everyone, but it was one of the more memorable ones we have taken. As we left the trailhead, we were ushered out by this critter:

Coyotes are abundant in the park, be careful not to get too close.

Artists’ Drive is another beautiful place to visit.

The beautiful colors in the rocks were caused by oxidation of metals.

I found the plants to be interesting as well, since they grow right out of the rocks.

Dante’s View is another point of interest in the park.

Photo above courtesy of theTravelsketcher.

Badwater Basin, pictured below is the lowest point in North America. It sits at 282 feet below sea level.

Photos below, courtesy of theTravelsketcher.

There are many other interesting places within the park to visit including Scotty’s Castle, Furnace Creek, Panamint Springs and Twenty Mule Teams. These teams of mules hauled borax from Harmony Borax Works. Note that Scotty’s Castle is closed until 2020 due to storm damage. There are many other things to do and see in the park as well, so do some research before you go.

I highly recommend visiting Death Valley, it’s an interesting and historical place to see. I prefer visiting in the winter, because the weather is cooler and I am not too keen on seeing snakes. Scorpions are active all year long in the area, and we were given guidelines on avoiding encounters with them when we checked into our hotel. But, hey, that’s all part of the adventure!

Wishing you happy and adventurous travels,


Arms Raised to Joshua Tree National Park

At the convergence of the Colorado and Mojave desserts lies Joshua Tree National Park. Its quiet, surreal beauty will draw you in, and you will find yourself lost in its distinctive landscape. The many hiking trails you’ll find here are an open invitation to roam, wander and experience its rugged terrain. The trails twist and careen around massive boulders, plants and the spiny, prickly looking Joshua trees. The trees were named by a group of Mormon settlers who thought the trees reminded them of the Israeli leader, Joshua with his arms raised to Heaven.

Located in Southern California, not far from Palm Springs, this almost 800,000 acre park has much to offer if you enjoy outdoor activities. There are many hiking trails to discover and rock climbing. At night, you’ll want to lift your eyes to the sky and take in the vast stars above. We visited a few years ago in January, and the weather was perfect, low 70s and clear, brilliant blye skies. Several of the hikes we took include Barker Dam, Hidden Valley, and my favorite, Fortynine Palms. This 3 mile round trip trail takes you to a secluded oasis with a stream. It is a relatively easy hike, but be sure to take plenty of water. The oasis is a gorgeous place to relax.

It was a hot day when we took this hike, and on several occasions, when we caught a glimpse of the oasis in the distance, I was beginning to think it was a mirage.

You will find some Native American petroglyphs along the Barker Dam trail.

Skull Rock is an interesting site to see. As the name indicates, this large rock looks like a skull.

I couldn’t take enough photos of the interesting rock formations and plant life.

Earlier this year, during the government shut down, there was much vandalism and destruction of the Joshua trees. Apparently, this happens on occasion, but the deliquients took advantage of the lack of park rangers during the shut down, and did a tremendous amount of damage. I don’t think they were ever caught, but I do hope that they are haunted by the trees in their dreams. What a completely thuggish thing to do. We have a treasure in our National Parks, and as citizens of this country, we have the responsibility of being good stewards, so be sure to tread lightly and leave no trace of your visit.

Yosemite National Park

We are blessed to live in a country with some amazingly gorgeous national parks that have immense diversity of landscape, animals, flora and fauna. We have President Theodore Roosevelt to thank for much of the effort in creating some national parks, the US National Forest Service, and for his efforts to preserve the beauty of our vast country.

There are over 400 national parks in the US and US territories. I have been fortunate to have visited perhaps a dozen of these, so I have barley scratched the surface.

One of my favorites is Yosemite National Park, which is located in the western Sierra Nevada range of Central California. We visited in April, 2018 and the weather was perfect. A bit chilly in the mornings and evenings, but sunny, clear and absolutely perfect for hiking and exploring. As I have mentioned in many of my blog posts, vacationing in the off season means fewer crowds and lower prices as well.

We stayed at Wawona Lodge, formerly Big Tree Lodge.

This charming Victorian Era hotel opened in the 1850s, and is 20 miles from Tunnel View. This scene took my breath away when I first saw it in the misty, morning light.

Half Dome Rock is a granite dome at the eastern end of the park. It was first ascended by George Anderson in 1875, and is still a popular spot today for rock climbers.

Yosemite Falls is a spectacular site to witness. There are many waterfalls in the park and they are at their fullest in the spring.

And of course, there are many hiking trails in the park offering beautiful views.

As we wandered through a pretty meadow, we saw a group of picnickers sprawled out on blankets, with binoculars, oohing and aahing at the side of a cliff. We turned and realized that they were watching a group of rock climbers ascend a rock wall. We stopped to watch as well. The climbers are far more brave than I am! I prefer the spectator spot for this sport.

There are many more activities in Yosemite than what I have mentioned here, as well as the amazing beauty of the area. Have you been to Yosemite National Park? As always, please leave a comment and share your favorite things about the park.

The Backies

The Backies is a region in the Highlands of Scotland where you will find charming villages, castles, distilleries and the crazy, fickle weather that is typical of Scotland. A colleague said to me “people don’t go to Scotland for the weather!” The locals say, “just wait 10 minutes, and the weather will change.” We certainly found this to be true; rain, wind, sun, repeat.

We went to the Backies in October, 2017 to visit some dear friends who live there. Scotland was our first stop on our five week European adventure. We had a delightful three days with them, and enjoyed many activities. One of our first stops was a hike to Loch Brora. Luckily, it didn’t rain while we were hiking, but the wind was fierce!

The next day we toured Clynelish Distillery. If you enjoy Scottish whiskey, I highly recommend this tour. It’s informative, educational and really interesting as well.

In the afternoon we visited a broch. Brochs are ancient, stone-walled structures, found in northern Scotland, that provided shelter and safety for people and livestock during invasions. As you can tell from the photo below, the weather was quite intense. The wind was so strong, I thought I was going to topple over!

The next day we visited Dunrobin Castle, the home of the Sutherlands. It’s a beautiful place where you can tour much of the castle, and the gardens as well.

The weather was sunny that day, and the wind wasn’t quite as strong as it had been, so it was a perfect day to stroll through the gardens.

My husband and our friend even played a quick game of croquet.

Dunrobin Castle is growing in popularity, and is experiencing greater numbers of tourists each year. We visited on a weekday in October, and the place was pretty much empty. However, summer months bring large crowds.

Have you been to the Backies? If so, I would love to hear about your time there.