Archive for the ‘Author’ Category

Cape Flattery

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Story by Bret Wirta – The Incidental Explorer

Photos by Bret Wirta

Distance: 1/2 mile – Time out: depends

Degree of Difficulty: 0 – Elevation: not much

Pet Friendly: Yes

October 29th 2012

Cape Flattery 2012

The trail to Cape Flattery is a short walk, but it may take you a while to get back to your car depending on how much time you spend staring at the sea.
My brother Mark traveled from New Hampshire to visit last autumn. Of course it rained the entire week – hard. The deluge soaked us while hiking along Hurricane Ridge, silted up the Bogachiel River and ruined our fishing, and reduced the number of salmon trying to leap upstream at the view area at Sol Duc Falls to a lone fish thrown against the rocks by the roiling, thundering whitewater. But the one thing the rain couldn’t suppress was the awesomeness of Cape Flattery.

We drove to Cape Flattery along the northwest edge of the Olympic Peninsula on Route 112. We passed empty beaches and lonely coastline. We parked at the trailhead. It’s a short trail with many wooden steps and boardwalks sloping down to the sea. The path was wet and slippery so watch your step.

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Heather Park Trail

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Story by Bret Wirta – The Incidental Explorer

Photos by Bret Wirta and Craig Romano

Distance: 10 miles – Time out: 7 hours

Degree of Difficulty: 2 – Elevation: 5,800 ft.

Pet Friendly: No

September 17th 2012.

Heather Park Trail 2012

Heather Park is a trail that gains almost 4,000 feet in elevation while giving you magnificent views of mountains, forest and sea for its entire length. Those benefits usually mean a difficult climb; unless you can drive up to top and hike the trail in reverse!

Because the Hurricane Ridge Road was constructed to give sightseers above tree-line access to Olympic National Park, hikers can drive to trailheads that are a mile high in elevation. While just negotiating the winding road from the main entrance up to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor’s Center is journey enough for some, for others the road means you can enjoy hiking the ten-mile trail from the Hurricane Ridge parking lot down to the Heart O’ Hills campground far below. To take advantage of this unique situation – and not have to hike back up the mountain – you need a friend with a second car and a good guidebook. In my case, I not only had the guidebook, but because I was the high bidder at last year’s Washington’s National Park Fund auction, I had its author, Craig Romano for the day!

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Anderson Glacier Bike and Hike

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Story by Bret Wirta – The Incidental Explorer

Photos by Bret Wirta and Joel Thomas

Distance: 34 mile round-trip – Time out: Three Days

Degree of Difficulty: 2 – Elevation Gain: 3,500 ft.

Pet Friendly: No

September 12th 2012.

Bike and Hike to Anderson Glacier

Anderson Glacier is a magnificent but isolated area of Olympic National Park. I’ve always wanted to backpack to Anderson Glacier, but the 34 mile round-trip translated to an extra two overnights on the trail for me, so for the sake of time I always chose a different backpacking adventure. That all changed when a park ranger told me that you can get to Anderson glacier in one day by bicycling along the washed-out Dosewallips River road to the ranger station and then hike to glaciers from there. It seemed too good to be true.

My longtime friend and fellow explorer Joel managed to get a few days off too. We chose a perfect time. It was one of those blue-sky days in mid-September where you can’t decide if it’s still late summer or early fall. It was mid-morning when we strapped on our backpacks and mounted our bicycles at the Dosewallips trailhead. The trailhead was simply where a washout had ended the road. Past the berm and a road closed sign was nothing but a long bend in the Dosewallips River against a high gravel bank. Thee-hundred feet of road had disappeared. To get past the wash-out, the National Forest Service routed a steep, winding path up over the hill and down the other side where it joined the paved road again. From there the slope of the old paved road followed the gentle rise in the river valley. We bicycled up the valley and crossed the border into Olympic National Park with ease.

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Up, Up & Away; Hot Air Ballooning From Grief to Joy

Friday, September 7th, 2012

By Eileen Schmitz

A few days ago on Facebook a friend stated there were spots available for a hot air balloon ride in my hometown of Sequim, WA. I knew I had to say YES, after all saying YES is the foundation of the new healing journey upon which I have found myself. Written in bold Sharpie ink on a post-it note in my kitchen is the following:

How to live a life I love:

  • Say YES to fun
  • Experience new opportunities / adventures
  • Have childlike awe

Unbeknownst to me, a few hours with a hot air balloon and its crew will accomplish all of the above.

Up, up, and away?

Up, up, and away?

For six months and twelve days I have been climbing out of a dark hole that opened when my husband died rather unexpectedly. He and I shared a great passionate love; we were one of those fortunate couples who figured out the whole ‘being in love’ in a delicious, devoted and happy way that endured even when raising teenagers, even when the economy fell, and even when he wound up in a deep coma and unable to recover from complications due to – of all things – an appendectomy.

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A Novice Climbs Mt. Olympus

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Story by Bret Wirta-The Incidental Explorer

Photos and video by Bret Wirta, John Gussman and Mark Grdovic

Distance: 40 miles round-trip – Time out: 5 days

Degree of Difficulty:: Guide Needed!

Elevation: 7,973 ft. – Pet Friendly: No

August 10, 2012

A Novice Climbs Mt. Olympus

I’ve always felt a bit jealous of mountain climbers I met on the trail, with their rakish attitude and dangerous looking equipment dangling from their backpacks. That would soon change because I was part of a climbing team headed up glacier-covered Mt. Olympus! I was the high bidder at last spring’s Washington’s National Parks Fund fundraising auction.. Now thanks to the generous donation from Mountain Madness I was going to become a mountaineer!

Though I’ve backpacked on many wonderful trails and scrambled up my share of mountain peaks, until now I’ve never made a technical climb. A technical climb is a steep ascent on a carefully planned route using ropes, climbing boots with spikes, and other specialized gear. Besides the usual load of camping equipment, food, and clothes in my backpack, there was a new rope, harness, and heavy-duty hiking boots. Strapped to the outside of my pack in full view was my climbing helmet and titanium ice axe. My coffee cup dangled from a shiny carabineer, and poking from a thickly-lined pocket was a pair of sharp-spiked crampons. In a flurry of last minute shopping, 2nd Ascent in Ballard outfitted me right down to special lip-balm and sunglasses designed to ward of glacial glare.

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Constance Pass Backpacking Adventure

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Story and photos by Bret Wirta – The Incidental Explorer

Distance: 22 mile round-trip – Time out: 3 Days

Degree of Difficulty: 1 – Elevation : 5,850 ft.

Pet Friendly: No

August 1-3 2012.

Constance Pass Video

Constance Pass is a magnificent place deep in the Olympics, a perfect family backpacking adventure. My wife Trisha, college-aged children, Becca and Garrett and I planned a three-day journey. We decided we’d pitch our tents at Boulder camp both nights. We spent most of the first day hiking up the Big Quilcene trail to Marmot Pass. After admiring the view for a bit, we turned south leaving the Quilcene watershed and descended into the headwaters of the Dungeness River. The trail down to Boulder camp was easy and dry, the heat and the sweet smell of prolific purple lupines hanging in the unusually still air. Across the valley stood the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Deception and the Grey Wolf Ridge. Our kids hiked on ahead of us.

Our kids both left for college at the end of summer. I miss them. I miss them around the house even if they are just hanging with friends or watching bad TV. But the family times I enjoy most are when we are backpacking. On the trail, without distracting cell phones or other nefarious electronics, we experience the wilderness together.

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Marmot Pass Hike

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Story and photos by Bret Wirta – The Incidental Explorer

Distance: 11 mile round-trip – Time out: 8 hours

Degree of Difficulty: 1 – Elevation Gain: 3,500 ft. Pet Friendly: Yes

August 1st 2012

Marmot Pass Video

“Why did you choose this trail?” I asked a hiker who was lacing up his boot on the bumper of a car with California license plates. He said, “I read a guidebook. It said if for some terrible reason you’re allowed one hike in the Olympics in your lifetime, this one should be it.” I laughed and said, “That’s author Craig Romano. That’s why we’re climbing Marmot Pass too. “

It was noon when we left our car at the Upper Big Quilcene trailhead. It was good to be hiking with my family. My wife Trisha handed me my hiking poles and our teen-agers swung on their backpacks. According to Craig’s guidebook we’d see Marmots and plenty of wildflowers. It was sunny and in the mid 60’s. If our hike to Marmot Pass wasn’t as wonderful as Craig said it would be, it wouldn’t be because of the weather.

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Upper Royal Basin an Amphitheatre of Snow

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Daniel Collins

Olympic Light

Olympic Light

I toted my tele-skis up the Dungie main fork than on up the Royal Creek valley about 5 more miles in late July. With the extra bulk of ski boots, poles, and skis on my shoulders I caught many attentive hikers with thoughtful and bemused comments – like “goin to ski the glacier?”, “is there snow up there?”, “can you ski up there?” etc.

That last comment cut into my pride a small notch, but I was glad to get the attention on an otherwise solitary hike. I felt that if these kinds of trips inspire others with thoughts of skiing, than great and I could see that wistful look in some.

I camped in the Upper Royal Basin below Mt Deception and just spent hours marveling at the incredible depth of the amphitheatre and all the basin ski runs at my disposal. Mt Deception dominates but the area is filled with rocky crags commanding attention. Feathery clouds shrouded many of the peaks but let glimpses of late afternoon light shine through giving definition to the high alpine architecture. While green grass campers were down below, I was able to hike the skis up consolidated snow fields toward Mt Mystery and nearby peaks.

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Return of the River

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

Photos from John Gussman

Blasting the Elwha River dam

Blasting the Elwha River dam

Olympic Peninsula photographer John Gussman says "Dam removal began on the Elwha River in mid-September 2011. Originally anticipated to be a two to three year process, removal proceeded quickly and by late spring 2012, the Elwha Dam was completely gone. Work on lowering the Glines Canyon dam is expected to be complete by summer 2013."

John is creating a documentary film that includes these wonderful photos and more. This is what John has to say about the project:

"Return of the River is a film about the largest dam removal project in the history of the United States. It is the story of a river unleashed after a century of impoundment, and the extraordinary community effort to set it free. What if you could wave a magic wand and restore an ecosystem? What if you could revive a dying river? In a world of grim news about the environment, the return of the Elwha River is a story to celebrate. If only it had been as easy as waving a wand."

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WHALES FROM AFAR

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

By Per Berg

"Here’s a story about a employer sponsored outing. I hope you appreciate Per’s sense of humor
like I do. The Incidental Explorer."

All together now

All together now

The day started on the tail end of a brisk sunny morning. The timing was early for some, standard for others. It was 8:00 AM. Employees from different departments mingled for the first time, blinking at each other and sipping coffee. The social implications were off the charts. The hotel would have a chance to bond and grow as a team, while watching whales From afar.

We set out, caravanning and smoking cigarettes through the small highways of the Pacific Northwest to our destination, the Port Townsend docks.

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