For views that rock you like a hurricane, visit Olympic National Park

Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park is so named because a prospector back in 1897 stood up there on a very windy day (100 mile an hour winds) and declared that it must be a hurricane. (It wasn’t, but the name stuck.) I lucked out with lovely weather the day I visited.

Hurricane Ridge is about 17 miles from Port Angeles and it’s a direct route to fun times. If you’re in the vicinity, it’s a must do.Whether you are just taking in the fantastic views, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, or perhaps biking up. Yes, I said “biking up”. And yes, it’s a thing, if you’re into that kind of thing that is. With a challenging 5,242 ft ascent over 17 miles, the ride is known as one of Washington’s toughest and most scenic bike routes and what many say is one of the top cycling climbs in the U.S.. The climb averages a 5.3% grade with the steepest ½ mile at a 9.4% grade. Any takers?

It does sound intriguing though doesn’t it? I’d like to give it a go one day if my knees allow. It’s the downhill that really gives me the heebie-jeebies… I’d feel more secure on a mountain bile than road bike.  A car shuttle might be an option…

In any case, whatever your activity pleasure, you’ll find the Olympic National Park a perfect playground. Get more scoop at Visitor Center at mile one and pay to play when you reach the park’s toll booth at mile 6.

ONP fees

I pulled off at the first opportunity for a hike and did a pleasant out and back on the Switchback Trail. As the sign indicates, there are a few options available to string together longer hikes.

sign on hurricain ridgeswitchback trail scoop

switchback trailswitchback trail looking backL on the switchback trail

hurricaine road and beyond

I’m keeping my escapades short so I can cover more ground on my “PNW adventure sampler” tour. After driving up to the ridge to enjoy the panoramic views, I headed back down to plot my next excursion.

Evidence of “The Inconvenient Truth” – pictures are worth a thousand words…

L on Hurricaine ridge

 

Exploring Sukhothai Historical Park

Started the day with a 6am swim at the Imperial Chang Mai Sports Club Resort’s 55 meter pool. Perfect pool for triathletes and swimmers minus the poor air quality here. I’m told the air is only bad for 6-8  weeks of the year due to the slash and burn technique used by regional subsistence farmers. By clear cutting and burning plants, the soil is temporarily revitalized and made fertile for crops. Educational efforts are underway and there is growing momentum to switch to less eco-invasive terrace farming and rotating crops instead. Of course, old ways die hard and progress is slow.

Wanted to get a workout in before sitting on my butt for the seven hour bus trip from Chang Mai to Sukhothai. (Second class with AC is just  ~$9. Great, easy, cheap transportation. I think the short taxi ride from the bus station to the hotel in Sukhothai was more…)

Anyway, the long  trip was definitely worth it – Sukhothai Historical Park did not disappoint. And a public bus ride here is so much better than in the states. It’s clean and everyone keeps respectfully quiet, even the children. Cell phone use is kept to an absolute minimum. By the way, if you make it here, renting a bike is the way to go – only 90 cents. The ruins (some reconstructed) are amazing. The park is immaculate (fastidious workers around every corner) and there are shady trees and moats to offset the scorching heat. Go early to avoid crowds and higher temperatures.

Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Historical Park, the ancient Kingdom of Sukhothai and former capital of Thailand existed from 1238 until 1438.

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Road trip: A quick stop in Sandpoint leaves a lasting impression

After a brief drive through and pit stop in Coeur d’alene  , we pushed on to the next town.

To be fair, we saw CDA through the lens of a rainy dusk and a long day, but nothing compelled us to stop and stay a while. My impression was that it’s a high-end resort town with lots of restaurants and shops, not unlike what we have in California. Granted we don’t have that lake and the mountains as a backdrop, but CDA was a little too polished / manicured for what I was seeking on this first timer’s exploration of Idaho and Montana.

The next “big town”,  Sandpoint, wasn’t even on our radar, but oh, my – what a charming little gem. Even in the dark, I could tell there was something special about this community.

We grabbed a bite at a local brewery where the locals were having a “snow making” party – cutting snowflakes and drinking the local IPA. Passed a wine shop filled with Halloween costumed oenophiles raising their glasses to toast each other.

In the morning, we strolled the town and the beach along the scenic shore of Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho’s largest lake (148 square miles surface area and 43 miles long) and the nation’s 5th deepest (1,150 feet ) and 38th largest in the country.

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Sandpoint City Beach Park, Lake Lake Pend Oreille
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Sand Creek Park Area

Sandpoint was mostly a ghost town in the “early” morning. It’s the shoulder season -shops don’t open until 10:30 and the locals sleep in. Stopped at a coffee shop and spoke with the owners, a couple who moved here in 2001 after living around the country. They love Sandpoint and say that the weather is nice and temperate from about May until October, when Indian Summer usually hits. Apparently, the current cold front (30-40 degrees) was an anomaly.

Rand McNally must have a crush on Sandpoint as they named it the most beautiful small town in America in 2011 and #1 ski town in 2012. It’s easy to see why this town has earned so many accolades as an outdoor paradise. Summer sports galore – swimming, SUP, hiking,  biking – and it’s also on the famous road biking International Selkirk Loop.  (Sounds like I need to add that to my “to do” list too.)

Apparently, the  ski season invigorates the town as Schweitzer Mountain Resort (downhill & cross-country) is just a stones throw away. On our stroll, we ran into an avid skier from New York on a quest for coffee. He scouted this place for his ski club and liked it so much he came back to try it out for a month. Hmm, sounds like a good idea to me. I think I feel a crush coming for my Idaho 1 night stand charmer, Sandpoint…Definitely deserves a repeat.