In February, at the height of the rainy season in the Olympic National Forest, the Other Half had a work function in Seattle. Since it fell right around President’s Day, we decided to meet up and visit another national park over the weekend.
On Saturday morning, we drove to the Kalaloch Lodge, a rustic lodge which sits on the Olympic Peninsula within easy driving distance of several beaches, the national park, and the national forest. The views from the lodge are beautiful, and the front desk has an entire closet full of board and card games to play while you listen to the sound of the ocean after dark.
Our first goal was to visit the Hoh Rainforest, a lush temperate rainforest which contains a 17-mile trail to the base of Mount Olympus, the aptly-named and well-known Hoh River Trail. While we didn’t complete the trail due to the limited time we had in the area, we had a great time looking into the clear waters of the river while we hiked. There were several places the trail was difficult to find due to washouts or fallen trees, but it made the adventure that more interesting and fun.
We were also able to visit Ruby Beach, windswept and gravelled, which serves as a dramatic foreground for the many storms that break over Olympic Peninsula.
But the highlight of our trip was clambering over a mountain hilariously titled Colonel Bob. No one else was hiking in the misty morning fog, and even the birds were quiet when we started. As we hiked upward and clambered, the views fell away around us and reminded us why we love visiting the outdoors- that inner peace you can only feel when you’re surrounded by nature and those you love.
We’ve driven by Rocky Mountain National Park so many times in our lives that we really have no valid excuses as to why we haven’t visited before. On our trip home this spring, we decided to finally take the plunge and visit the park. Most of the hotels in Estes Park were either full or didn’t allow pets, so we stayed a bit further away in Loveland for the night.
Back in April, the Other Half was scheduled to take an additional licensing exam in California (which he passed!). He had his choice of several sites, but he chose to take his test in the community of Visalia, a quiet city whose morning scent of cattle reminds you of its agricultural origin.
The third day of our New Years road trip adventure, we begin in California. Humboldt bay shines on this winter morning, so white it shimmers like a mirage in the deeper areas. After breakfast, we decide to stick around the area and drive to the South Jetty, along the mudflats that comprise the driveable portions of the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
Picture it: you pull into a rutted pullout at 5:30 in the morning. When you open the car door, all the warm air in the car exits with you, leaving you near-freezing in a darkened field. You hear a bison snort somewhere nearby, and your breath momentarily fogs your glasses as you exhale. You fasten on your headlamp, and your feet crunch into the packed gravel as you begin the half-mile walk to your destination. The half-light of dawn begins creeping slowly around you, allowing you to pick out sagebrush from grasses. Dark buildings loom before you. Ahead, it starts to sound like someone is playing foursquare with a rubber bouncy-ball.
After our adventure at Yellowstone, we trekked down to our cabin in Jackson, Wyoming. The scenery through Idaho was beautiful, filled with farmland, and we luckily hit the Teton Pass just before sunset. Not only did we get to see the valley bathed in the golden afterglow of a spring rainstorm, but we also didn’t have to take the curvy, snow-covered road after dark.
The next morning, we were up at sunrise and ready to see what could be better than Yellowstone National Park. If it tells you anything, the Other Half and I discussed the minute differences between ‘awesome’ and ‘majestic’ in describing the two parks for at least 30 minutes. We may also have had way too much coffee that morning…
We weren’t entirely sure whether we’d like to spend one or two days at Yellowstone, but we finally decided that due to the driving distance we would have to cover from our hotel to the park, as well as the presence of the dog, we’d stick around the Jackson and Grand Tetons area for an extra day instead. Because of all the awesome things we saw in this short period, I’ll share with you a 5-step guide to seeing as much of Yellowstone as possible in a day. No, it is not possible to see the whole thing (or even 1/2 or 1/3) in one day, but you can prioritize what you want to see and plan from there.