Heather Park Trail

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 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!

Continue reading “Heather Park Trail” »

Anderson Glacier Bike and Hike

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.

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.

Continue reading “Anderson Glacier Bike and Hike” »

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

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.

Continue reading “Up, Up & Away; Hot Air Ballooning From Grief to Joy” »