Road Trips & Life: The Unplanned Stops Make All the Difference

This post is about the advantages that the unexpected twists and turns can bring whether you’re on a road trip, navigating life’s journey, or sheltering in place during our current COVID19 crisis.

trail near cascade falls

On a road trip or an adventure vacation, I’m always inclined to follow the sign that points to waterfalls or scenic byways, even if it’s in a different direction than I’m heading. I may have a general plan for the day / week that includes multiple stops and hikes, but I’m more than happy to add one on or adapt my agenda. For me, it’s about exploring and experiencing as much I can. So many times when I look back, it seems that it’s exactly those impromptu adventures and discoveries that I treasure most. On a road trip through Washington, Idaho and Montana, I expected Coeur d’Alene to be a major highlight—but it wasn’t for me. About 45 miles down the road, I accidentally discovered the charming town of Sandpoint, what a gem—wasn’t even on my radar. An off the highway stop in Montana yielded an amazingly mini-excursion at Kootenai FallsOn another road trip through the Pacific Northwest, taking a break at an innocuous looking roadside stop, I was delighted to find Cascade Falls where I spent half an hour mesmerized by the shadows and projectile splashes of wild salmon.

Sometimes there are signs and we can choose our journey. Other times, obstacles and detours, like the one we’re having now, are sprung upon us. I’m not saying there isn’t and won’t be hardship and loss, but what I know is that we will look back on these times and remember the silver linings. Maybe it was that one silly, brave friend who held live Facebook dance parties to lighten the mood (C), the group of 10 cars driving up and down the street honking happy birthday, the grade school teacher who decorated her car with balloons and called out to her students on her megaphone as she drove by their houses, the extra time that Mom’s and Dad’s are spending together and with their children will no doubt rank in their “best of family time memories”.

I have no doubt that creativity, artistry, and innovation will surge. People will move beyond inertia and procrastination to evolve and achieve as never before. And maybe social distancing is exactly what we need to learn how to truly connect and to savor those connections. These few weeks of shelter in place are but a blip in our lives. Like the salmon’s flash of florescence —there is much to treasure if you look for it.

What are your favorite memories so far from our enforced “time out”?

Storm King: Short, steep, sweet trail with sweeping views of Lake Crescent

Distance: 3.8 Miles Round Trip

Elevation gain: ~1700 ft

Difficulty: Moderate or Difficult, depending on your fitness level and daring level with the ropes on top. (Some call it strenuous. All call it steep.)

The trail climbs persistently through the pine, cedar, and hemlock trees.

 

 

 

After countless switchbacks, you’ll be treated to several expansive views of Lake Crescent and, if you’re lucky, out to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

 

 

 

The maintained trail ends at about 1.3 miles. If you are “up” for it, pun intended, you can continue on the “climbers trail”. Your scramble to further heights will be aided by several sections of ropes.

Ken on storm king
Ken on the ropes

Proceed with caution, it’s quite exposed and super slippery.

 

 

 

 

On the way down, follow the short marked trail to Marymere Falls for the cool solace of Barnes Creek and the waterfall.

M Falls

Getting there: Parking and the trail head for both this hike and the Marymere Falls hike is located right next to the Storm King ranger station, Lake Crescent right off Hwy 101, 20 miles west of Port Angeles, milepost 228.

Parking: Free

Be sure to stop by The Lake Crescent Lodge and beach for some refreshments and photo ops before you leave.

Lake Crescent Lodge

 

 

 

After you’ve worked up your appetite, head to the First Street Haven (before noon) or the Next Door Gastropub (noon and after)  and get your grub on at these great Port Angeles restaurants.

For more nearby adventures check out the Spruce Railroad Trail by foot or 2 wheels, the Elwah River and Coleville Bike Trails, Olympic National Park, and Port Angeles itself.

 

Spruce Railroad Trail, Lake Crescent, A Scenic “Must Do” By Foot or 2 Wheels, Near Port Angeles, WA

Distance: ~8-10 Miles Out & Back ~16-20 Total
Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: Flat, friendly(pine-needle cushy single-track)
Usage: Hikers, mountain bikers horses, leashed dogs
Caution: Cougar and bear country

If you’re in the Port Angeles area, a visit to lovely Lake Crescent is a must do. It just a scenic 20-mile drive out of town. There you’ll find a delightful trail that meanders along the shore and through the forest on a pine-needle path lined with ferns. This is the splendid Spruce Railroad Trail, great for hiking, running, or mountain biking.

The trail is part of the 134-mile-long Olympic Discovery Trail, a mountain bike-able route that crosses the northern part of the Olympic Peninsula. The trail follows the former Port Angeles Western Railroad route.

The trail begins with a short paved section. Scenic views of Barnes Point and Mount Storm King (post coming soon) loom above the lake.

short section of paved road

Views from the Spruce Railroad Trail, Lake CrescentRowing on lake crescent

Tunnel lake crescent

At ~ 2.5 miles in, you’ll traverse a short bridge and have a gander at the spectacular, “Punch bowl” of Lake Crescent—crystal clear as far 40 feet down.

bridge and mtns lake C

 

 

 

 

 

Lake Tahoe’s Flume Trail–Simply Epic

While there are plenty of more technical and longer rides around Lake Tahoe, the Flume Trail is world-renown for its scenic beauty and an absolute “must do” if you’re in the area. (I’m sure you’ll see why after you watch the videos.)

 

Lake Views: Spectacular, Stunning, Jaw Dropping

Distance: ~12-14 miles

Difficulty: Moderately difficult due to elevation of 7000′ to 8157 and a 1000 ft climb in the 1st 4 miles, technically simple

Description: Ride begins at the trailhead in the Spooner Lake Day Use Area in the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park on the east side of Lake Tahoe. Follow the Flume Trail signs from the parking area via the North Canyon Road. In the first 4 miles, you’ll climb 1000 feet on fire road through aspen groves and meadows, followed by short descent to picturesque Marlette Lake.

Marlette Lake
Marlette Lake
Flume Trail Single Track
Lake Tahoe and Snow Capped Mountains Beyond
Fun Times on the Flume Trail

After ~1.5 miles of riding the dirt road along the lake, you’ll have ~4.5 miles of smooth, flat single track and breathtaking views 1600 feet above the east shore of Lake Tahoe. If you’re afraid of heights. some of the single-track sections might feel sketchy. Slow down and savor the beauty – the best section ends too quickly. You descend on a 3-mile fire road with lots of sand traps – beware.

Hourly shuttles summer and fall:  $18 The Flume Trail Bike Shop (mtb rentals too), 1115 Tunnel Creek Road, 775-298-2501

Notes: I’d say a shuttle is a must. In my opinion (and others’) it’s not safe to ride on the roads in Lake Tahoe.

I did this trail 4 years ago and didn’t stop once on the climb. This time the ride was more of a workout with stops for me—a humbling combination of altitude, lack of bike training, the fact that I was in the hospital 2 weeks prior, and perhaps being 4 years older (sigh). Would definitely do it again if I have the chance–those views (unlike me) never get old.

Scenic delights near St. George Part I: Gunlock State Park and Ivins’ Reservoir

Spent a leisurely morning exploring a few of the wonderful State Parks and scenic reservoirs near St. George, UT.

What’s great about the reservoirs in Utah, is not only are they breathtakingly beautiful, but you’re also allowed to boat, fish, and swim in them.

The 66-acre Gunlock reservoir, as you can see from the picture above is overflowing with scenic beauty. (Pun intended.) We heard that the falls haven’t flowed in about seven years so we got a special treat-they’re quite spectacular as you can see. Unfortunately,  people have died cliff jumping here so immerse yourself in the beauty wisely. The park is approximately 15 miles northwest of St. George and the dam was constructed in 1970 for irrigation water and flood control.

Gunlock Reservoir

 

 

 

 

 

cactus bloom framed gunlock fallsBest cactus bloom and gunlock

Meanwhile, back in Ivins, enjoying a coffee (not as hard to find in Mormon country as you might think) and a stroll around the reservoir. Ivins is a “bedroom community” of St. George that features its own little reservoir and the dazzling artist’s and retirees’ enclave of Kayenta. They have a coffee shop / restaurant, lovely gardens, galleries, and a theater there. Imaging waking up to this view every morning. In the other direction, a snow capped mountain range. Absolutely  gorgeous!

Ivins reservoir
Ivins’ Reservoir

 

 

 

Stay tuned for more explorations in the St. George area and beyond: Red Cliffs Desert Reserve