Adjusting to the Golden State: 3 Preserve Hikes in Sunny California

Adjusting to the Golden State: 3 Preserve Hikes in Sunny California

It's been three weeks since we moved to the Bay Area, and we are on our way to settling in. The other day, while taking a walk with Onur, we glanced at each other, feeling confused. The sun was shining bright, and at the same time, it felt like we were in an air-conditioned building.

It was a strange feeling, almost like sitting at a desk with a sunlamp on one side and a fan blowing in your face on the other. In Washington State, cold rain and scattered sunbreaks are the norm in February, and I don't remember it being as windy as we've been experiencing here, in the South Bay.

Driving to a New Beginning // Five Highlights from our Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip

Driving to a New Beginning // Five Highlights from our Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip

Rain beetled on our windshield, crackling like static electricity. It was the kind of rain that made me want to drive the actual speed limit. The kind that left big splotchy streaks on my soft cotton pants while we were loading up the car. Our road trip was off to a blustery start.

When we first talked about traveling from Washington to California for my husband, Onur's, new job, my antenna perked up at the idea of a "Road Trip!" We could see the redwoods! Drive along the ocean! Stop at cute beachside towns! Take one last trip before Onur started his new job! Have "the tank" (a.k.a our trusty Subaru) with us from the get-go in California! 

A New Adventure in California

A New Adventure in California

It's a New Year, and a new adventure for our family. In a few days we're moving to California, where my husband, Onur, will start a new job in the Bay Area. Surprise! As you can imagine, we're nervous, excited, sad, and scared, but ultimately happy for the opportunity to grow in our relationship and our careers.

At the same time, leaving Washington State is bittersweet. Just two months after I moved here, in December 2009, I met Onur at a coffee shop in Bellevue. We became engaged a little over two years later, in February 2012, and we married that same year at the Salish Lodge, near Snoqualmie Falls.

Throughout our eight years together in Washington State, we've watched a rainstorm from a cabin on the Olympic Coast, jet-skied on Lake Chelan, ridden horses on the beach in Seabrook, Washington, and visited our friends, George and Sheila, on Whidbey Island more times than we can count. Close friends became our family—a network of trust, support, laughter, and faith—as we navigated our lives together in Washington.

Rainy Day Hike to Iconic Seattle Landmarks (and a National Park!)

Rainy Day Hike to Iconic Seattle Landmarks (and a National Park!)

It was cold, it was raining, and as far as I could tell, there wasn't going to be a break in the weather no matter which way we headed. Feeling weary of packing up my rain gear and hiking in blustery weather, I texted my hiking buddy Grace. She suggested a "Tour de Seattle" from Kerry Park in Queen Anne to Olympic Sculpture Park and beyond. Sounded great to me! 

Here's a look at the urban hike we did through downtown Seattle, with stops at Myrtle Edwards Park, Olympic Sculpture Park, Pike Place Market, The London Plane, Intrigue Chocolate, and Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. At the end of the post, I'll share some tips for doing an urban hike in the rain :)

Wenatchee Crest Snowshoe

Wenatchee Crest Snowshoe

On New Year's Eve, Grace and I slipped on our microspikes, tethered our snowshoes to our packs, and set out on our last snowshoe of the year. Our initial choice, Indian Creek, had led us to a bare, 3.0 mile road walk—not exactly the experience we were looking for. So! We paused and hit reset, sitting in Grace's idling Subaru and thumbing through a paperback of Snowshoe Routes: Washington for another option.

We wanted something not-too-difficult, since we were going out snowshoeing on New Year's Day too, but we also wanted pretty, snow-covered views. Wenatchee Crest was only about a 20 minute drive from Indian Creek, and at 6 miles roundtrip, 400 feet elevation gain, it wouldn't break our fitness bank for the next day. Our adventure ended up being a wonderful last hurrah of 2017, with some surprises, too!

Mazama Ridge Snowshoe

Mazama Ridge Snowshoe

My Instagram friend Mitch recently talked about the balance between traveling to a new place and revisiting an old favorite, and I couldn't help recognizing the sentiment. Most of the time I'm compelled to hike in places I've never been before, mainly for practical reasons: improving my knowledge of hiking in Washington State and pushing myself outside my boundaries.

But there's always one or two hikes—or, in this case, a snowshoe—that I come back to year after year. Mazama Ridge is that snowshoe for me: a wide, gently rolling fairway with gratifying views of Mount Rainier. In the summertime, magenta paintbrush and periwinkle lupine douse the meadow-like ridge, while winter turns her into a vast white playground.

High Hut Snowshoe

High Hut Snowshoe

High Hut is a bucket list snowshoe offering piercing views of Mount Rainier and a one-of-a-kind backcountry experience. Part of a system of huts and ski trails managed by the Mount Tahoma Trails Association (MTTA), it's located 13 miles southwest of the Nisqually Entrance to Mount Rainier, about a 2 hour drive southeast from Seattle. 

The cabin-style hut was built by the volunteer-run MTTA, a non-profit organization founded in 1990 in order to develop a trail and hut system near Mount Rainier. Huts provide shelter, sleeping quarters, a communal warming space for backcountry travelers, and a winter getaway for skiers, bikers, and snowshoers. The MTTA's 25-mile trail system and four huts were inspired by hut-to-hut trails and mountain chalets in the Alps.

Bullion Basin Snowshoe

Bullion Basin Snowshoe

For our first snowshoe of the year, Grace and I headed to Crystal Mountain. With the snow level rising to 4000 feet, we figured our chances of finding fresh powder would be better at a ski resort or Mount Rainier. I had also hiked a loop on the Silver Creek trail, PCT, and Buillon Basin trail this past summer, and wanted to come back to check it out in the wintertime.

Hidden Gem Spotlight: O.O. Denny Park

Hidden Gem Spotlight: O.O. Denny Park

O.O. Denny Park, a 30 minute drive northeast of Seattle, is a quiet, secluded park that is a great option when you are short on time and looking for a burst of nature. A 2.5 mile, moderately hilly loop will take you from the waterfront—with restrooms, a playground, pebbly beach, and large picnic area—to a well-groomed trail system winding through a lush ravine. Highlights are a 600+-year-old tree trunk named Sylvia, a trio of beautifully crafted wooden bridges, and the opportunity to enjoy waterfront views from benches and picnic tables in the park. 

Three Spooktacular Halloween Hikes near Seattle

Three Spooktacular Halloween Hikes near Seattle

There's something skin-prickling and hair-raising about hiking in October: Leaves stir and rustle, trees creak and moan in the wind, temperatures cool, and nightfall creeps in. Embrace the spooky change in the season with one of these three family-friendly hikes that will give you a spine-tingling thrill for Halloween. Each hike includes a "Spook factor" from one to ten, with ten being a full-blown, expect-ghosts-to-emerge-out-of-the-walls creepiness. Bwah-ha-ha! :-)

10 Beautiful Fall Hikes in the Greater Seattle Area

10 Beautiful Fall Hikes in the Greater Seattle Area

It's fall season in Seattle and it's a great time of year to hike! Greenery is lit aglow in burnished red, marigold, and pumpkin orange. Warm sunrises greet shorter days and brisk mornings, and the taste of snow is on the tip of our tongues.

Now is the time to get outside and savor golden larches and fall foliage, dripping moss and sweet, earth-scented paths, and—when the rainy season kicks into gear—newly swollen rivers and waterfalls.

Fall weather can also turn on a dime, so get ready before you head out. Check the weather forecast and road and trail conditions. Pack warm layers, rain protection, and traction devices—like microspikes—for the possibility of snow.

Here are ten beautiful hikes for a taste of the fall season!

That's a Wrap! Washington Trails Association's 2017 Hike-a-Thon

That's a Wrap! Washington Trails Association's 2017 Hike-a-Thon

As we wrap up the summer, I wanted to say a big "Thank You!" to everyone who cheered for and donated to our team—The Big Three—during Washington Trails Association's 2017 Hike-a-Thon.

We are so proud to support an organization that is a tireless advocate for trails and outdoor access for all in Washington State, and we couldn't have done it without your support!

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

September 2017 marked our fifth anniversary, and we knew we wanted to do something special to celebrate. Onur had taken a day trip to Zion National Park—located in southwestern Utah—in 2016, and suggested we return for our anniversary. He didn't have to ask me twice; I was in!

Zion is famous for its sheer, multi-colored cliffs—uplifted layers of sedimentary rock known as the Grand Staircase—carved into a dazzling canyon. The Virgin River flows wide and easy along the length of the canyon, while soft brick- and sand-colored walls of sandstone rise like cathedrals from the valley floor. It was easy to lose ourselves in the magnitude and wonder of the place.

Celebrating the 2017 Solar Eclipse

Celebrating the 2017 Solar Eclipse

Excitement for the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse had been building throughout the summer, and Onur and I were getting excited too. We were mulling over options to travel to Oregon when the Mount St. Helens Institute announced a guided eclipse hike to Coldwater Peak.

Although we'd only experience a partial eclipse from Coldwater Peak--about 97%--we thought it sounded like a fun activity to do together. The field trip included camping on Coldwater Ridge the night before, as well as dinner, breakfast, and lunch. Onur would have the chance to visit the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, a place he'd never been before, and we'd also be able to do something new together as a couple: camp together!

Weekend Getaway in the North Cascades

Weekend Getaway in the North Cascades

Looking for a weekend getaway in the mountains, my friend Grace and I headed to North Cascades National Park: a true wonderland of steep, slate-blue craggy mountains, aqua-green lakes, and wondrous larch-peeping hikes. Colonial Creek Campground, a car campground located 125 miles northeast of Seattle--near mile marker 130 on Highway 20--fit the bill. The plan was to arrive on Friday afternoon and set up camp, hike and explore on Saturday, kayak on Sunday, and then drive back home. 

Snowgrass Flats Loop

Snowgrass Flats Loop

In search of wildflowers and mountain views, Grace and I headed to Snowgrass Flats in the Goat Rocks Wilderness this past Sunday. Although the views of Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, and Mount St. Helens were hazy from wildfire smoke, the sheer variety of wildflowers blooming bright--red and magenta paintbrush, pink monkey flower, lupine, subalpine mariposa lily, bistort, cinquefoil, and pasqueflower--made our day.

Berkeley Park

Berkeley Park

Hiking past bright, multi-hued fields of lupine, paintbrush, bistort, sitka valerian, and awe-inspiring views of Mount Rainier is a priceless summer adventure. I was seeing vivid wildflower reports of Berkeley Park in the Sunrise area of Mount Rainier National Park, and though I've written about Sunrise hikes in my book, 75 Great Hikes Seattle, I had yet to visit Berkeley Park. So, I went for it!

Skyline Divide

Skyline Divide

Skyline Divide, located near Glacier, WA, is a breathtaking hike with wildflowers in the summertime and unparalleled views of Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan, and the North Cascades. My friends Grace and Margaret had never hiked it before, and after finding out a tree that had been blocking the road had been removed, we decided to go for it. At 5:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 29th, we all met up at the Ash Way Park and Ride, piled into my Subaru with Margaret's dogs, Heidi and Badger, and headed for the trailhead.

Lodge Lake

Lodge Lake

Lodge Lake is small, quiet lake tucked behind the Summit at Snoqualmie Ski area. Clocking in at 4.0 miles roundtrip and just over 800 feet cumulative elevation gain, the hike is a scenic, approachable option for beginners, families, out-of-town visitors, and if you're short on time. Starting from the trailhead, you take off south on the Pacific Crest Trail, climbing 450 feet and passing under chair lifts on the north-facing slope of the ski resort, then descend 350 feet to Lodge Lake. 

We were looking for a sub-5 mile, snow-free hike to do together and to test out how Onur's knee injury would hold up. We figured we weren't going to get a Mount Rainier view since the cloud base forecast was 6,000 - 12,000 feet, so a hike to a lake with wildflowers seemed to be a good move. It was also nice that it was less than an hour drive to the trailhead, off exit 52 on I-90. 

Full Moon Hike: Mount Rainier National Park

Full Moon Hike: Mount Rainier National Park

Grace and I were driving back from Chelan on the Fourth of July, cruising over Stevens Pass on a traffic-free evening, when we had the kind of exchange hiking buddies have while figuring out on their next hiking adventure. Someone said "Tolmie Peak" and then someone wondered aloud when the next full moon was. Grace looked it up: "Huh, it's this Saturday." Done! We had found our next hiking fix: a full moon hike on Saturday, July 8th, to Tolmie Peak Lookout in Mount Rainier National Park.