Jim Thorpe is in Pennsylvania, not the Pacific Northwest, but the Norwest Nomad’s journeys have brought him to new territories. Well, old territories that are are new again as I visit Northeast Pennsylvania. Despite growing up here, this was my first time seeing cardinal flowers.
While in the town of Jim Thorpe, of which I will certainly be penning a blogged ode (great town), I stumbled upon said cardinal flowers, which my botanical-expert brother (and professional gardener) identified. They’re beautiful to find in the wild, so I took a short video to share.
Gander, friends, upon the cardinal flowers of the Lehigh River shore, and as always happy nomadding.
Tucked away smack-dab in the middle of the Olympic Peninsula Loop, Lake Crescent is one of the most beautiful destinations in Washington—a state FULL of beautiful destinations. I visit Lake Crescent often (and often make a dual trip of Lakes Crescent and Quinault), so I figured I’d put together a list of things to do at Lake Crescent.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and people with boats will almost certainly come up with a radically different itinerary. This is just my perspective as a guy who prefers to keep the earth under his feet.
#1 Things to Do at Lake Crescent: Storm King
For intrepid hikers, Storm King is a must when you visit Lake Crescent. It’s my favorite hike in that area, and one of my favorites in the entire state.
From the top of the trail you get an awe-inspiring view of Lake Crescent and the surrounding area. Be warned, though, my friends—with courage, endurance, and grit, you must EARN this particular view.
It’s with great shame that I admit my inability to find any of my pictures of Marymere Falls, though I’ve visited the location more times than I can count. I’ll shoot out to this location every time I visit Lake Crescent.
My lack of falls-photographs does, however, give me an excuse of the tunnel on the trail to the falls. I call it the Hobbit Tunnel, though far as I know it has no official name.
I think the reason the tunnel always brings Lord of the Rings to my mind is because “Marymere Falls” sounds like something from the Shire to me, and because…well…this tunnel looks like a Hobbit tunnel.
Marymere Falls is a much easier hike than Storm King, and it really is a must-see for visitors to Lake Crescent. The Washington Trails Association covers it well here.
#3 Things to Do at Lake Crescent: Jeez, Just Chill and Enjoy the Lake
Many of these sorts of blogs go for outrageous, death-defying adventures. That’s all fine and good, but sometimes I feel like people get too caught up in chasing what will look cool on Facebook, rather than doing something that’s simply relaxing and rejuvenating (what crazy concepts in this modern age).
Lake Crescent is beautiful. Period. You can just relax on the shore and look out over the water and enjoy the simple pleasure of being alive. It’s okay to just…BE.
I still remember the first time I drove around a bend on 101 and caught sight of Lake Crescent. It pops up out of nowhere after a long drive through thick woods and high mountains.
The glacial water’s got a stunning shade of blue you won’t find in many other places around the country.
Personally, it’s natural beauty was, and IS, enough for me. My favorite times of each trip usually end up being just sitting on the shore and contemplating the beauty.
#4 Things to Do at Lake Crescent: Eat at Granny’s
Roughly 10 minutes east of Lake Crescent is one of the best-kept secrets of the Olympia Peninsula Loop: Granny’s Cafe.
Especially after a hard hike up Mount Storm King, Granny’s burgers and milk shakes are unbelievably good. This place is an absolute gem.
Mount Rainier is the crown jewel of Washington state, which means that it can get downright packed in the peak summer tourist season. So, if you’re looking to visit but having trouble finding lodging available within the park (or simply want to avoid the thickest crowds), then camping outside Mount Rainier is a great option.
There are multiple options for camping outside Mount Rainier, but today I’m going to share my thoughts on the National Forest Service’s La Wis Wis campground. I’ve written about La Wis Wis before in my Introverts Getaway Series, but that was in autumn, during the off-season.
Now that I’ve had a chance to try La Wis Wis during the busy tourist season, I’ve decided to cover it again. (This happens to be where I was camping, by the way, when I wrote my Pub Beer review.) Same campground, but different vibe, as last time I nearly had the whole place to myself but this time every spot was taken.
My brief summary of La Wis Wis during the busy season is simple: it’s very good. I highly recommend it to all visitors interesting in camping outside Mount Rainier. I stay at Forest Service campgrounds often, and I’d rank this as one of the better in the state of Washington.
The campground was filled to capacity when I visited in July, but my spot was wooded enough that I didn’t feel encroached upon. As you can see in the photo the left, there was a tent spot about 20 feet from the picnic table and fire ring, which is a feature I always enjoy in campgrounds.
With the separate tent spot, you don’t have to worry about stray sparks burning a hole in your tent, or about feeling crowded in when you sleep.
The fire ring has a grill and is excellently ventilated, so you can get a good hot fire going. Most of the spots are at least relatively close to water, which is also nice.
The campground is close enough to the town of Packwood that a short drive can get you to supplies, but the area in general surrounding area is so underdeveloped that it’s still nice and quiet.
The south entrance to Mount Rainier itself is not far from Las Wis Wis, which is also what makes it an ideal location for people who want to visit Rainier but not stay there. One thing that may confuse visitors is that it’s listed as being in Randle, but you drive many miles east of Randle before you get there.
You actually have to go all the way through Packwood and a few more miles east up the spectacular White Pass Scenic Byway before you get to La Wis Wis. You get ample warning that the turn is coming up, but it still kind of sneaks up on you because it’s right next to a bridge.
So, if you’re looking for camping outside Mount Rainier, I don’t believe you can go wrong with La Wis Wis. I’ll review some other sites in upcoming posts.
The North Cascades are truly an awe-inspiring sight. The rugged landscape is so raw that it can be intimidating for some people, and many of the trails are too difficult physically and mentally for beginner hikers. The smooth, easy 2-mile-long Skagit River Trail, however, proves that the difficulty of a trail doesn’t always correlate with its overall quality.
The Skagit River Trail starts at the parking lot of the North Cascades National Park Visitor’s Center. I’ve got the location pinned to the map at the bottom of this post, if you’d like to see it. If you just park in front of the center you’ll find an outdoor station with a map showing how to get to the trail head.
I hiked the Skagit River Trail on the same trip during which I did the Diablo Lake Trail, and while the Skagit doesn’t have views anywhere near as grand as Diablo Lake, I have to say I enjoyed it more. Really, I can’t pinpoint why. That little stretch of woods just has a very soothing, relaxing energy about it.
The Skagit River Trail is short, and much of it intertwines with portions of the Newhalem Campground, but the woods are still nice and silent. They have a sort of homey feel about them.
In a couple places, the trail leads out into the Skagit River. The wide tree canopy blots out the sun and, while I’m sure there are periods where the sun hits the spots, I don’t think they’d make realistic sunbathing areas. I could be wrong, though. I went there in the early morning.
Either way, the view from the shore is beautiful, with the Skagit at your feet and the soaring North Cascades in the distance. I definitely plan on hiking this little trail again next time in the area. I’d also like to check out the Newhalem Campground, as my guess is that that spot makes for some terrific sleeping.
You’d be hard pressed to find any place in Washington state more rugged than North Cascades National Park and its surrounding area. The mountains jut straight up out of the earth, no foothills or gradual incline to speak of. The dramatic landscape makes many of the area’s trails among the most challenging you’ll find. Luckily for those not looking to set their thighs on fire or to take a mallet to their feet, the 7.5-mile-long Diablo Lake Trail is an easier option that nevertheless leads to some beautiful views.
Note that I said “easier” here, not “easy,” which is what some other sites designate the Diablo Lake Trail as. I disagree with that designation, and I base that disagreement on the fact that most of the people I came across on the trail were sweating heavily and asking how much farther they had to go.
I’m just getting back into hiking shape myself, but I’m not THAT far out of shape, and the trail certainly didn’t feel “easy” for me, just “easier” than the other trails I’ve done in the North Cascades. It’s no Storm King, but it’s no Box Canyon Loop, either.
I’m more apt to lean towards a classification of “moderately difficult” in terms of strenuousness. The Diablo Lake Trail is straightforward, though, and doesn’t have any river crossings or climbs or anything that will test one’s outdoors skills in any serious way (assuming that you don’t sustain some kind of injury, of course).
The trail takes you up the mountain and then down the other side to the shore of Diablo Lake. The lake is artificial, created by Ross Dam, which you can also see while being down by the lake. So, if you’re looking for a feeling of escaping civilization, this trail might not be for you.
If you’re just interested in a nice, easier hike with some pretty views, the Diablo Lake Trail is a good choice. It’s not as as easy (and not nearly as short) as something like the Skagit River Trail, however, so there may be better options if you’re looking for something extremely quick and easy.
The trail leads through the base of a boulder field that offers some interesting views. Another section of the trail leads over an extremely steep slope that drops off and leads a long, long ways down to the water at the bottom of the mountain. The trail is plenty wide at this spot, but people who don’t like heights might find it frightening.
North Cascades National Park is one of the lesser-visited parks in the Pacific Northwest, but its spectacular, rugged scenery shouldn’t be missed. The Diablo Lake Trail is a good starter hike to get to know the area and to get a feel for what it has to offer.