Monday, August 24, 2015

Trip Report: Astoria and Cannon Beach, Oregon

A few weeks ago my boyfriend and I took a trip to Astoria, Oregon. We were originally supposed to go to Vancouver, but those plans fell through. I was able to come up with a back-up trip the day we were supposed to leave. Astoria had a hotel room available, and I decided that we could also return to Cannon Beach as well as cross Saddle Mountain off my list of hikes since both were within an hour's drive of Astoria.

One of the things I enjoyed about Astoria was the pretty scenery of the Columbia River. The other was the presence of sea lions. They're hilarious to watch and listen to.

Bridge over the Columbia River

Sea lions
We went down to Cannon Beach for a day. My biggest priority was going to Ecola State Park to get a shot of the Oregon coastline and the Pacific Ocean.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Trail Report: Saddle Mountain

Saddle Mountain was on my to do list and was one of my featured places. I finally got the chance to do it when my boyfriend and I took a trip to Astoria, Oregon.

The hike itself was fairly easy until the very end. After about 2 miles, we went down into the saddle, and then had to go back up - that was the steepest part.

Once we got to the top, we could see the Pacific Ocean, the Columbia River and Astoria, the town we were staying in. We could also see four mountain peaks - Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Adams. It was a gorgeous day and we were lucky to have good visibility.

Saddle Mountain

The Pacific Ocean

Astoria and the Columbia River

Mt. Rainier

Mt. St. Helens (left) and Mt. Adams (right)

Mt. Hood

Me standing in front of the open landscape

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The downsides of a popular nature attraction

I wanted to write about something that's been bothering me lately: what happens to nature attractions when they become more popular and receive more visitors.

I tend to share my experiences and the places I've been to with my family and friends on social media. I love taking pictures while I'm hiking or visiting a nature attraction. I find most places to be so beautiful and amazing that I want to share them with everyone I know. If they can't be there to experience it, I want them to experience it as much as they can through pictures, and I hope that one day they will be able to see it in person.

I've realized lately that this is a bit hypocritical given my recent feelings. On one hand, I do want everyone to experience these places. On the other hand, I want to keep them to myself and to others who actually respect and appreciate nature.

Wanting to keep these places known only to those who respect nature is something I thought about when I recently attempted to visit the Columbia River Gorge area in Oregon. This area is known for its several waterfalls and for one of my most favorite places - Oneonta Gorge. It's a beautiful canyon with moss covered walls, a stream running through it, and a waterfall in the back.

Oneonta Gorge

While I was driving along the Historic Columbia River Highway, which was packed with hundreds of cars, I drove by the entrance to Oneonta Gorge. I saw how many people were heading into it, and I started to worry. I worry that too many people going through Oneonta Gorge will eventually destroy it. If it were a smaller number of mature adults, it'd be fine. But it's a huge number of people - families and children included. Kids don't always understand not to touch delicate things. Some teenagers and adults are disrespectful and leave trash or destroy something for the fun of it.

The last time I went to Oneonta Gorge, I saw several plastic bottles, aluminum cans, plastic bags and styrofoam cups in the stream or in the brush on the sides of the gorge. That upset me. I don't understand who would leave trash in such a beautiful place. I understand bringing in a water bottle to drink out of while hiking, but you're supposed to take everything back out with you when it's empty, not throw it on the ground. As for Starbucks cups and fast food cups - why are people even bringing these into the gorge? It's not a mall to stroll around in while sipping a drink. You will be climbing over logs and wading through the a stream, so you need your hands free. I hate that people who don't respect nature are even allowed in places like Oneonta Gorge.

I don't think that access to Oneonta Gorge should be restricted, but I honestly wish it wasn't so close to the road that just anybody can easily get to it. I wish it was a lot more difficult to get to so that those who don't respect and truly appreciate nature are discouraged from going there because of the effort it requires.

On a less serious note, one of the other reasons I wish only those who appreciate nature would hike or visit nature attractions is because some people ruin the atmosphere of being in these places.

I tend not to hike on the more popular trails in the Seattle area, but I have been on a few. Whenever I hike on popular trails, I pass several people who are blaring music while they hike. This bothers me because I came out to hike to get away from noise and to be in a location where it is quiet and peaceful. I like hearing the birds, the streams and waterfalls, and the leaves rustling in the breeze. I don't want to hear top 40 songs played from crappy speakers. If someone wants to play loud music, they should go to a bar. Or a sports game. Or a party. Don't come out to a pretty nature attraction or go on a hike and ruin the atmosphere for everyone else.

I know that hiking and nature are there for everyone to enjoy and that everyone should be able to enjoy it the way they want. However, if the way they want to enjoy nature affects other people’s experiences or is destructive or disrespectful to the environment, then they should alter their behavior.

Crowds can be destructive to a nature attraction and they can bring people who have a negative impact on nature. The more subjective thing about crowds for me is that they bring down the experience. For me, it’s not fun to go to a nature attraction that is crowded. One of the reasons I enjoy nature is the solitude. I like going on a hike or out to see something either by myself or with someone I care about, and we can chat or not chat and listen to the birds instead. I don’t mind passing by other people or saying hi to a fellow hiker at the summit, but I don’t want to feel like I’m at the mall or at an amusement park. Waiting in line to go up a mountain or see a waterfall is not my idea of a fun, peaceful time.

I found this picture showing what Oneonta Gorge looks like when crowded. It doesn't seem safe or enjoyable for this many people to be in a line to cross the log jam.
I’m sure there are people who don’t mind crowds. I just wanted to share some of the frustrations I’ve had in the past year when it comes to popular nature attractions - more so the trash issue than the crowd issue. If there’s anything I want people to take away from this, it’s to be respectful of nature and to follow the rule of taking everything out that was brought in – leave nothing behind. That would at least be a good first step.

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. I've read a few articles and blog posts about crowded attractions and trash that gets left behind. I'm sharing two of them below:

Beautiful and crowded: Top 10 places to avoid in Oregon's outdoors

Don't Trash Our Trails

I'm not sure what will happen in the future, but I hope that places like Oneonta Gorge are around for a long time. 

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Trail Report: Mary's Peak

Round trip distance: 1.5 miles
Highest point: 4,097 feet
Elevation gain: 400 feet
Pass: Northwest Forest Pass
Summit hike:
Meadow Edge hike:

I went to Corvallis, Oregon for the weekend for my boyfriend's ultimate frisbee tournament. Instead of attending the tournament all day both days, I decided I wanted to do some exploring. While looking for hikes within an hour or two of Corvallis, I found Mary's Peak, the highest point in Oregon's Coast Range and the 11th highest prominence in the state. It was the most interesting option in the area and seemed safe enough for a woman to hike alone.

While I was driving out to the area and then driving up Mary's Peak to get to the trailhead parking lot, the weather didn't look promising. It was foggy, misty and rainy. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to see anything. Luckily, the peak was above the clouds, so I ended up coming out of them and was greeted by blue sky and sun. Even though I couldn't see much of the land below, I thought it was cool to be above the clouds and I got some great pictures out of it.

The hike up to the top from the parking lot wasn't very long and wasn't much of a hike - more like a walk. After taking pictures on the peak, I took the Meadow Edge hike that went through some of the trees.

There were a lot of clovers along part of the trail

Mary's Peak is a unique location and I recommend that anyone who is in the area take the time to visit. I'd love to go back when there are more wildflowers out and to take pictures during sunrise or sunset.
The clouds dissipated some later in the day and I was able to see the land below the peak