It was yet another nice Saturday. The weather was cloudy early which allowed me to catch up on a few things and enjoy some coffee. By late morning the skies had cleared and it was going to stay like this the rest of the afternoon. Hard to pass up the opportunity for nice weather so I decided to head to the Tillamook State Forest for a high along Elk Ridge up into the mountains.
Not far along the Elk Creek Trail there is a small footbridge crossing the creek. This is the Wilson River Trail and leads to the Idiot Creek Loop Road near the summit of the mountain. I have been past this a few times but never had any interest till this afternoon. I didn’t know what I would find but I was excited to find out.
I think I ran into one person who was coming down rather close to the trailhead and that was it. It was a very quite trail this late in the afternoon which was really nice. Not long after the bridge the trail quickly starts to climb. The switchbacks are numerous as the trail snakes its way up the mountain. Most of the hike was in the shade and it was getting cold outside with the slow sun on the horizon. Near the top as I got closer to the ridge line sun was finally peaking over, making an appearance. One last switchback and into full sun.
Neared the top of the trail I found an small opening in the trees. I followed it for a few feet as it bursts through the last of the brush to an amazing view looking across the valley. This late in the evening I was treated to a spectacular view of the sun as it slowly set in the west. There was no foliage on these rocks so a perfect place to site and watch nature. I was awe struck by what was in front of me. After the long hike to get here I welcomed this break.
I took off my gear and settled in for some writing and drawing as the sunset. I could have spent hours on this perch but as it got into early evening the sun would be completely behind the mountains and I didn’t want to get caught out on the trail in the dark. While I had plenty of day light from on top of the mountain that would quickly change long before last light.
It was time to leave so I gathered my stuff and started my way down the mountain. I didn’t feel tired after that long rest and relaxation period. This was great as I kept a good pace down the mountain trying to bet the light. By the time I got to the creek crossing it was 6 with a decent amount of light left. From here it wasn’t much further to my car. One thing I did after this trip was put my headlamp in my day pack so it is always with me.
I just couldn’t believe my luck taking the Wilson River Trail and finding this rock ledge. Just the most amazing sight and really easy to get to all things considering. The only gotcha is the trail has a limited season. The park service takes down the footbridge at the end of October. Not sure when it goes back up but I have a feeling sometime in late spring. I honestly can’t wait for the trail to open.
While technically not yet winter it certainly felt like it the other day. I believe the high was in the upper 30’s but when you throw in the wind chill that quick dropped to the lower 30’s. Only good thing about the weather was it was a clear day with zero percent change of rain. Besides going to the city I didn’t have much of a plan and decided to just wing it.
Because I hate driving I took Metro to the Smithsonian to start my adventure. From here I walked down towards the Washington Monument and the WWII Memorial before looping back up Constitution Ave., walking past all the museums. Walking past all the monuments and symbols or freedom in the country really got me thinking. I have lived here my entire life so I do feel I take it for granted sometimes, the center of power for our nation is in my backyard. I would also argue that this is the center of power on the world stage as well. I got particularly choked up walking past the Newseum and reading their larger then life copy of the first amendment. With all the crap that has been going on with the national election I think we sometimes forget how it all started. We have become to divisive now and can’t seem to agree on the basics that make this country great and the envy of the world. Immigration is a big issue now but I fear the day when people stop risking their lives to come to this country. When that day comes, it’s over for the United States.
Eventually I ended up at my favorite smoking spot Shelly’s for a beer and food. It was just to damn cold to spend all my time walking around outside. Shelly’s afforded me the time to warm my hands and get some food in my belly. Despite the holiday’s the place was pretty empty even with a few high profile college games on like Army vs. Navy being televised.
With a belly full of food and warm bones, it was time to continue my hike around the city. As the sun set I wanted to see the capitol bathed in the perfect light of the setting sun and I wasn’t disappointed. With it being Christmas I then walked to the White House to see the national tree. I remember doing that several times when I was a kid so it was nice to go back and see it all again. The tree was nice but honestly it looks liked it just has a shit ton of lights thrown on to cover all the green spots. No person would cover their tree in that many lights in there house. The grounds the tree sits on where pretty busy in the early evening with hundreds of not thousands of tourists clamoring to get a view of the national tree and all the state trees. I even got a glimpse of the White House all decked out for the holiday affair.
While cold as crap outside it was good getting out and walking around. Winter is coming so opportunities like this will be few and far between for the next few months. With Christmas fast approaching I love this time of year. Getting out and mingling with the people and seeing everything decked out in holiday affair is really nice. This walk also reminds me of where I live and how lucky I am. I wouldn’t trade my US citizenship for anything. While I might not like everything about this country, it is still the best place on Earth.
All week I had been sick and taken most of that time off from work. I know my body pretty well and when I am not feeling good I just need to sleep and rest to recovery the quickest. Thankfully I already took Friday, Veterans Day, off a few week prior because I worked a full Saturday. I was thankfully for the time off and decided to head to Grate Falls for a quick hike. Its not far from my house and had been seven years since my last visit. I was only starting to get my energy back so a simple hike like Great Falls was certainly in order.
The park was full because of the holiday and the fee free entrance again. I just seem to pick them or they really do have them a lot, haven’t figured out which is happening. The last time I was here I remember coming into the park and heading down along the river so this time I headed up the river towards the small damn they have.
All along the trail I ran into people out enjoying the weather. To be honest it was another perfect crisp fall day with only a few clouds in the air. I managed to find a nice spot along the river to relax for a while. i was trying to make it out as far as I could but the river was a little high from recent rain. I also spent a lot of time right up at the falls just hanging out. Even managed to catch a leaf in mid flight that had blown over the water. All you could hear was the water flowing over the damn and down the river.
Not a very long hike but a great day to be outside enjoying fall. Even though I was sick i still managed to make it out for a while to enjoy some peace and quite.
I somehow know the right time to head to Shenandoah National Park. This day was another fee free weekend and the people were out in droves. Just getting into the park was a nightmare taking almost an hour. I hit a traffic jam long before the park entrance. It was a perfect weekend to be outside and with free admission, there was no reason not to visit the park. Actually today was the first time I saw the entrance fee, a whopping $20 per car! I have a national park pass so I haven’t paid to enter the park in close to 10 years so I was shocked when I saw the price. Definitely worth it if you come to visit, entrance is good for 7 days so its a deal and the park is amazing.
I had attempted this hike once before but couldn’t find a parking spot so this time when I saw an opening I jumped at the chance to hike this trail. It starts off rather easy as it is all downhill to the falls. This is an out and back hike so when you return to the parking lot, it’s all up hill. The trail was rather quite despite having all the people in the park. It is also a little confusing getting to the falls so be sure to have a map with you as you come to several forks in the road with not the best markings.
Once you finally get to the falls there is a very short and steep section of the trail that leads down to the river. From here you meander up the river to the falls which just appear out of nowhere when you round a corner. Not as impressive as some of the other falls in the parks but still a nice location. When I got the falls there is this sheer rock cliff that for some reason I just had to climb. I wanted to sit on the ledge and look down at falls so I was determined to make it to the top. After 20 minutes I finally made a path up the cliffs and reach my spot.
At the top of the cliff I sat around and just enjoyed the view. The sun was quickly setting behind the mountains so the entire valley was bathed in a soft glow of the setting sun which was really cool. Off in the distance I could see a couple of rock climbers getting in some practice on some other rocks and below me was a couple and their two dogs enjoying the falls as well. Off in the distance you could hear the wind blowing through the trees and the last of the birds singing before migrating south for the winter.
I wanted to spend more time sitting on the cliff but I had to hike back up the mountain and make it out of the park before dusk. Winter is coming and we already adjust the clocks forward so it gets dark real quick this time of year. Instead of hiking back down to the river and potentially falling off the cliff, I headed straight up the side of the mountain till I ran into the trail back to the top.
I left the house at a reasonable time but traffic getting to the park was horrible. My time at the falls was cut short because of this and the impending park closure as the sun set. While most of the leaves had already fallen off the trees it was a great fall hike in perfect weather with a tranquil view of the falls.
I actually hiked Stony Man a few months back. That time the entire mountain was fogged in so it made for some unimpressive views. It was not a bad hike the first time around and in fact sitting on the edge of a cliff watching the fog roll across the valley and up the mountain was really cool. This weekend the weather was going to be nice on Sunday with highs in the low 70’s. The time had come to get out and hike now that fall officially arrived.
While not a free weekend like the first time the park was packed. I must have run across three dozen people on the trail, all out enjoying nature. It was nice to see everyone outside but it made it really hard to simply enjoy nature. In fact, on the way down the mountain I ran across two deer. There was a couple not far behind me and I thought for certain they would scare the deer off but thankfully they did not. The deer just ignored us and continued to graze up the mountain side.
As I hiked up the temps really started to drop. While it might have been low 70’s at home it was in the low 50’s on the mountain. Fall is officially here but the leaves have only just begun to change. At the first overlook this time I could clearly see across the valley and really get a sense for the view. Unfortunately as I looked up to the summit it was still covered in fogged. I stayed here for at least twenty minutes just contemplating the meaning of life and soaking in the view.
Later when I did get to the summit it was fogged in, again. There were a few small gaps but I really couldn’t see much. I promise one of these days I will get to the summit and there won’t be any fog, guess I will just have to keep trying. At the top I spend another twenty minutes hanging out on the ledge enjoying nature. One reason I love to hike is for times like this, I spend all this time hiking to a beautiful spot and I just love sitting around taking it all in.
This fall I will certainly have to get out more to the mountains. I would like to view the park over several weeks and watch the leaves change as fall gives way to winter.