In 2019 Clinton and I set a goal of 219 miles hiked in a year, under the “campaign” slogan of #TalleyYourMiles. To encourage you to #GetOutdoors I’ll highlight a few of our favorite hikes and hope you’ll go out yourself and find your own connection to these amazing public lands!One of our favorite spots is a unique, easy hike in Utah called the Toadstool Hoodoos. It is over 1.5 miles out and back to a beautiful opening with many hoodoos dotting the landscape. We’ve only begun to explore the area though as there are infinite possibilities when viewing the landscape and exploring. The hike starts right off US 89 between Big Water and Kanab Utah. A parking lot right at the trail head along with a wayside gives you plenty of information and a safe place to start hiking, even with a group or dogs. Make sure to keep the doggies on the leash! We brought both of our dogs and they loved it. There are usually plenty of people hiking the trail so if you want to be alone schedule your time for winter – we’ve even encountered people in the middle of the night. Not that this is a bad thing! But this hike is pretty easy, and when combined with the beauty and uniqueness everyone is able to view this incredible landscape. If you planned to come out and take professional looking pictures be aware that people will be in the way, and will not understand flashlight rules in the dark. 🙂
Hoodoos, also called a pedestal rock, is not necessarily in the same family as a balanced rock. A balanced rock is a naturally occurring geological formation resting on other rocks, bedrock, or glacial till. Because no single definition exists the term balanced rock has been applied to many formations of rock features, one being the pedestal rock. The pedestal rock is a single continuous rock form with a small base leading up to a larger crown, looking much like a mushroom. How did the rock get this way you ask? Wind, moisture, and the combination of chemical weathering (don’t think for a second that chemicals in the air don’t affect our lovely rock structures!) easily help erode these sand structures.
The hike itself only takes about an hour and the elevation is minimal. Starting at the trailhead, you head straight back through walls of white sandstone before the area opens into a large flat plane…except for the amazing hoodoos that seem to be hidden everywhere! A large impressive set meets you after about a mile, but keep walking back and around to see the many different views from different angles. Each glance will bring you a whole new perspective! The area is immense and if you walk back further you’ll get away from the possible crowds and have a few hoodoos all to yourself!
When traveling through the west make sure to take your time when traveling from point to point. You don’t want to drive by a quick hike that will leave you with amazing, lasting memories! This hike may have only added a few miles to our #TalleyYourMiles adventures, but it is one of our favorites. Keep here to read more amazing hikes and places to visit while driving across the country!
Clinton and I always enjoy when we can go back to our home states and meet up with family and friends. We enjoy our time immensely when our family and friends are willing to #TalleyYourAdventure with us. We were able to travel back to Washington State where Clinton is from, but this time visit Seattle as a launching point for Olympic National Park.
Our Washintonian friend Erika is pretty cool – she’s willing to drive from (basically) Spokane to Seattle just to pick us up and drive with us to Olympic National Park. Before we left, we secured an Airbnb in Port Angeles. Since Erika provided the ride, we provided the lodging; and since we were on vacation we made sure to spoil ourselves a bit! We rented a great little house with a steam shower and dry sauna for the one night we stayed and it was absolutely worth it! Take your time searching for a location to stay. Much like any expensive city that is not the easiest to get to, there may be areas of town that aren’t the best or are overly expensive but there is always a gem to be found! It took us a few days to find this place and once it opened we jumped on it. We’ve, for the most part, had good luck with Airbnb and definitely recommend it as a means for travel or visiting an area to see if you want to move to the area.
The first night of our trip we arrived in the afternoon, checked into the hotel in Seattle, and took to the streets. I’ve stayed in Seattle before, both for work and travel, and so has Clinton so we knew our basic way around the city. Eating salmon or clam chowder, easily finding an amazing sushi place, and excellent coffee – all staples of Seattle! We’ve been to the touristy places before such as the Space Needle, this time we were entirely focused on Olympic National Park. We had a long weekend (4 days) with two half travel days and didn’t want to miss any opportunities for adventures! Erika planned to meet us early the next day and we scheduled to be on the ferry across the Puget Sound to Bremerton so we weren’t spending most of our time in the car. It was a great trip – we love when we are on the water! Like I’ve stated before, the #TravelingTalleys are big supporters of public and alternative forms of transportation when possible. Our ferry trip was only an hour, but we were able to load the vehicle on the ferry and walk around and see downtown Seattle disappear as we headed away from the city.
Once we arrived on the other side and disembarked via vehicle, we drove towards Olympic National Park. The park is huge – almost 1 million acres of land – and is spread out from the coastline facing Seattle on the east to the west coast facing the Pacific Ocean. Traveling from one side to the other requires more than just the 1.5 day experience we had planned so we condensed our visit to one specific coastal location and a visitor center. Our beach goal was Ruby Beach, heading down 101 from Port Angeles and taking the northerly route on the way back through 113. We visited the visitor center in Port Angeles and in Hurricane Ridge. Erika was game for driving instead of trying to do hikes (April wasn’t the warmest time to visit Washington, even if Olympic is part rain forest!) which is a recommended way of visiting the park if you don’t have a lot of time or come off season and the weather doesn’t cooperate as much.
Olympic National Park actually has four different regions: the Pacific coastline, alpine area, temperate rain forest, and the drier forests on the east side. The park also hosts three distinct ecosystems: sub-alpine forest, temperate forest, and the Pacific coast. Don’t forget the wildflower meadow! While we were too early for a wildflower display the changes in the ecosystems was evident even with just a drive from Port Angeles to Ruby Beach. It is a long drive though, so if you don’t want to travel there and back in a day make sure to try and find lodging closer to Ruby Beach, such as Forks, so that you can stay the night closer to that area and make your way back the next day. Olympic National Park was originally designated Mount Olympus National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1938 and in 1988 Congress designated 95% of the park as the Olympic Wilderness. This is evident immediately when viewing a map because a visitor can’t really drive right up to the mountains like in many other parks, but there are many opportunities to hike.While we were visiting our destination was the sandy beach of Ruby Beach. Different than the beaches I was use to growing up in Florida, Ruby Beach had rougher, rockier sand and large outcroppings of rock structures to play on while the tide came in. Thick groves of trees were adjacent to the sand, which made walking to the beach even more fun since it was through part of the forest. There is massive amounts of driftwood on the beaches and in the surf, so be careful, but definitely take the time to get out of the car and view the beauty of the Pacific Ocean! It was cold but that didn’t stop us from climbing on the solid looking driftwood and the rocks near the surf while we watched the tide come in slowly.
While we didn’t have the time to visit the mountains, that didn’t mean we didn’t try to stop whenever we could for a photo op or just to view. The Olympic Mountains include the 7,965 ft Mount Olympus, the greatest glaciation mountain of any non-volcanic peak in the contiguous United States (outside the North Cascades). Several glaciers dot the Olympic Mountains including the Hoh Glacier, which is over 3 miles in length. We also didn’t have the time for a hike through the temperate rainforest, but we did drive through part of it and enjoy the view as much as possible. With an annual precipitation of 150 inches and including the Hoh Rainforest and Quinault Rainforest, this area is one of the wettest areas in the continental United States. Beautiful SItka Spruce, Western Hemlock, and Coast Douglas-fir surround most of your drive to Ruby Beach. Between the sights and smells, the trip was absolutely a perfect reunion with Erika!
On our way back to Seattle we were able to reconnect with part of Clinton’s family, including his Uncle and Aunt (hello if you are reading!). Friends, family, and a new national park? What a great trip for the #TravelingTalleys! Even if you only have four or five days a quick trip to another region of the world is doable for any type of traveler. Just do your research, make sensible decisions rooted in reality, and ALWAYS tell someone your game plan. We had so much fun visiting Washington and hope this post encourages you to #GetOutdoors and #FindYourPark, wherever you live!
Clinton and I love visiting Utah (hopefully this is obvious by now), and when traveling out of our home city of Page, Arizona we often find ourselves back in the state. Utah hosts an abundance of amazing National Parks and public lands for anyone to enjoy. Getting there is usually half the battle, depending on what fancy magazine cover you convinced yourself you could easily duplicate. Usually “view point” are just that – gaining elevation to see a birds eye view of a large piece of land. One of the best places to view large pieces of land is in Utah. While we’d love to see more remote areas (and we will here this next summer with our new truck!) we knew we could do better than the areas we actually were able to see. For instance, the Burr Trail. The Burr Trail is easily accessible because it is partially paved, but we are not able to go too far down some dirt roads with a Honda Accord. We’ve pushed it in a few places but as you do your own travels always remember to be safe and think about your actions before you can’t retract them!
One of the most beautiful places to visit for a birds-eye view of an amazing Utah landscape is Canyonlands. Canyonlands National Park is a kaleidoscope of colorful landscapes including canyons, mesas, and buttes created by the Colorado River, Green River, and their tributaries. On September 12, 1964 legislation was created and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson to make Canyonlands a National Park. Preserving over 300,000 acres of land, Canyonlands preserves both human history and natural beauty in three districts: The Island in the Sky, the Needles, and the Maze, with the Colorado and Green Rivers combining in the park. Each district showcases a different level of beauty. The Island in the Sky district is a broad and level mesa north in the park including the White Rim overlook. The Needles district is south and to the east of the Colorado River and is named for the red and white banded rock pinnacles that are featured in the area. Other rock formations exist in the area, including Arches, but fun fact – most of the arches are actually further out in the backcountry. Maybe we will be able to reach them this year with four-wheel drive! The Maze district is even more remote – there are no paved roads in this district!
Another location close by that we often find ourselves exploring in Utah is Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Originally designated at almost 1,900,000 acres it is among the most remote pieces of land in the country and the largest national monument managed by the Bureau of Land Management. There are three regions: the Grand Staircase, the Kaiparowitz Plateau, and the Canyons of the Escalante. Designated as a National Monument in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, the area was the last place on continental earth to be mapped. (Pretty cool!) The Anasazi and Fremont left behind rock art panels, campsites, and granaries from the period AD 950-1100, the time period when these cultures first made contact. But this area doesn’t stop in time there! Considered a dream for geologists, paleontologists, archaeologists and historians alike for scientific research and education. Don’t forget exploration! That is the best reason for our adventures! There are a few visitors centers scattered across the Monument that host educational opportunities, chances to ask a few questions before heading into the backcountry, and obtain a camping permit. One of the nicest things about camping in the Monument is the ease of camping in the monument. Even if you miss the opening hours of a visitor center, you only need to stop along a trail head and fill out the backcountry camping permit and they are FREE! (DO NOT forget to leave the copy for the Ranger! This is the whole point!) Clinton and I enjoyed camping in the area between Grand Staircase and Glen Canyon many times last summer.
If you aren’t planning to visit Utah for camping or hiking, remember that there are many parks to visit just for that picture perfect moment. But if you really want to see the true beauty, I suggest you try and take a little bit of time for a trail hike or a dirt road (safely!) that you can use to get out into the backcountry a bit more. Trust us, you’ll love it! We will always encourage visiting Utah, and hope that your travels will bring you to either of these wonderful lands!