Sunday, May 4, 2014

Fort Ebey State Park

We've found that life comes pounding with such force that we have to purposefully carve out time to have fun. This is difficult for me (Rachel) because I like to have fun without pressure, without having to be anywhere or only having a few hours until my next obligation. Sean and I are both learning how to manage our time better (it's like we're becoming adults or some nonsense) and more importantly how to empty our minds of stress when we have a short period of time for fun. We practiced this last Friday - I got off work at 10:30 in the morning, he was out of school at 11:00 and we booked it up to the Mukilteo ferry and headed our way to Whidbey Island to go biking in Fort Ebey State Park. We played hard and caught the last ferry back home at 10:30 at night. We got just enough sleep to wake up in time for me to go to work on Saturday. We never stop moving, we grab every moment we can, and we force ourselves to get out and be active no matter how tired we are. We've never been happier. I don't say this as a "yay look at us, we're so cool!" but more to encourage you to do the same. It can be anything from going to a park, hanging out with your kids in your back yard, going on an evening walk with your family - anything, but it's the little moments that happen in between everything else that are yours. Make them yours. John Muir said once, "One can make a day of any size, and regulate the rising and setting of his own sun and the brightness of its shining."I know this isn't easy, it certainly isn't easy for us either, but nature has a way of making it worth it, I promise. 

Before we left home I was scrambling around looking for all of our rain gear because we'd heard that it was supposed to pour on Whidbey that day, but thankfully we were completely wrong. It was a glorious day: hot sun, cool breezes and all of the clouds stayed far away. We made our way to the beach first to eat our lunch on the driftwood and enjoy the soft, rolling waves. 

(little starfish dude)

We had a fair amount of trouble finding the correct trails for biking on, as the Fort Ebey is a much larger park than we had expected. There are extensive hiking and walking trails, some of which allow bikes and some of which don't, which is a fantastic idea. The trail system in the park hooks up with the Kettles trail system that is on county land and apparently they both have some of the best trails on the island! 

(Princess run was no princess...)

We started out on the one of the trails and I quickly came to the realization that I haven't the faintest idea how to mountain bike. I stood, straddling my bike with one foot on the peddle, looking down the first hill and said to Sean, "I'm going to run into a tree at some point...this should be fun." We skidded our way around corners, launched ourselves over tree roots and huffed our way up steep hills. It must be the fear of killing yourself at any moment that makes mountain biking fun, right?...right guys?? Yea, we'll go with that. :) 

(Had to take a's just a coincidence that it was after climbing a big hill)

We thought that the trails were decent for biking on, but were definitely better suited for hiking. They were pretty narrow, with a lot of hairpin turns and drastic elevation changes so it was difficult to gain momentum to get up the big hills. But hey, we ("maybe you", says Sean) may just be out of shape and inexperienced! 


(sign snap!)

When the sun started to leave the forested trails, we decided to give our bikes a chance to rest their wheels and we made our way to the bluff. The sun was making its way to bed, so the light was warm and golden over the sloping hills. We sat for a bit on a picnic table and watched the breeze ripple through the grasses while letting the beauty of this place seep into our bones. We walked through the dark, coldness of the concrete barracks and then up over the top for a sweeping view of the picnic area. 

(Expansive picnic area at Fort Ebey)

The light was perfect, the air was warm; no speaking was necessary to share this experience with each other. I followed Sean down the front of the hill and we ended up at the edge of the bluff, looking over the edge to the crashing waves below. 

(Following the path on top of the barracks)

Just as we were looking down, a sweeping shadow passed over us and paraglider was catching the breeze out to sea. He climbed higher and higher until he disappeared in to the sun and made his way over to dance with his friends. 

(Preparing to jump)

We had heard that this bluff was a popular launching place for paragliders, but we didn't know we would be so lucky to experience them flying over us with such graceful silence. I sat on my knees on the trail and looked directly up, waiting for them to sweep over me just before their shadow crossed my own. It was somehow a magnificently peaceful and exhilarating experience at the same time. 

(On the bluff trail, looking up)

Our visit here was more than what we had expected and this is what gives us the energy to keep visiting new parks. We take care not to research too deeply before going to a certain park because we like to be awed by first impressions and what the park looks like through our own eyes and lenses. Our state parks are diverse and the more we visit, the more we understand why they need to be preserved for future generations. This kind of unique environment exists only here and we are blessed that we will get to experience the fullness of its beauty over the next few years. 

(Preparing to fold his wings for the night)

Never stop exploring.
-Rachel and Sean 

For more information on Fort Ebey State Park, please visit the official Washington State Parks website here: Complete Information for Fort Ebey State Park

Adventure Awaits features Paragliding and Hangliding in state parks.

Washington Trails Association's guide and reviews for Fort Ebey State Park.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wallace Falls State Park

As I write this, I'm perched precariously as to avoid sitting on my bruised tailbone that I earned this week. Sean says I'm clumsy, but I like to think of myself as being frequently "in touch" with the earth...yes...the ground and I are good friends. Wouldn't you agree though, that bruised tailbones, soaking wet clothes, and aching muscles are a small price to pay for experiencing the beauty of this great state we call home?

This Sunday, Sean and I decided to have church outdoors and headed out to Wallace Falls State Park. After a little under an hour and a half of driving, we arrived at the park to find it packed full of people, which is annoying for hiking but exciting for our park system! It was the ideal day for hiking; high clouds, cool air, and not a rain drop in sight. I made my customary ISPR (Inspection of State Park Restrooms), and once it was found to be up to my standard of cleanliness, we hit the trail. 

(The first part of Woody Trail)

As this was our first hike of the season, my legs greatly appreciated the gentle incline at the beginning of the trail until we had to split to follow the Woody Trail that follows the Wallace River. After the longest .3 of a mile I've never complained about, we found a picnic shelter right along the Lower Falls and took a break. We chatted with two women who were in their seventies and I immediately decided that I couldn't lose face in front of these kick-ass ladies (and I'd better darn still be hiking when I'm seventy!) so we quickly made our way up to the Middle Falls look-out. 

(Lower Falls Look-out)

(My handsome hiking parter)

The Middle Falls are spectacular and provide a chance to rest before tackling the switchbacks leading up to the Valley Overlook area. I've decided that I love taking our camera out on hikes because it provides me with as many breaks as I want under the pretense of "artistic inspiration." I can, however, only take so many of those before Sean starts rolling his eyes and asking how this moss-covered rock is any different than the one we saw 300 yards before. What-EVER Sean, you just don't un.der.stand.

(Middle Falls look-out)

After the Middle Falls look-out, there's .75 miles of switchbacks left until the Upper Falls. I tightened my backpack straps, took a deep breath and we started our way up the hill where we very quickly reached the most breathtaking view. 

(Sean at the Valley Overlook)

I gave Sean a high-five and commented on how that .75 miles seemed FAR easier than the .3 of a mile we encountered at the beginning of the trail. I had read a review that said that the Upper Falls was nothing spectacular and in thinking that we had made it to the Upper Falls, I decided to never trust another review again. 

(Middle Falls over Granite)

(The upper part of the Middle Falls at the Valley Overlook)

We ate our lunch, snapped some photos, and took the time to soak in the tremendous beauty of the valley. As we were leaving, we took another look at the sign and realized that we had been enjoying the Valley Overlook and indeed NOT the Upper Falls. "Ahhhh" I thought, "That's why that was the fastest .75 of a mile ever. LIES."

(Rails at Middle Falls)

(The WTA has done a spectacular job maintaining the trails and keeping them safe!)

After a few choice words on my part, we decided to head another half-mile up the hill to the Upper Falls. In my opinion, the review was true; the overlook wasn't that great, but there were some gorgeous trees up there with lovely moss patterns on them. 

We were quite impressed with the condition that this park is in! The Washington Trails Association has done a lot of work here in the past few years and it definitely shows. The trails were clear and well maintained, there were maps throughout the trail and excellent signage at every fork (we just have troubles interpreting the signs...) We plan on heading back there later this summer and discovering the remote backpacking camping sites available on Wallace Lake. 

For more information please visit: Complete Information for Wallace Falls State Park (
                                                    - Washington Trails Association - Wallace Falls Hike (WTA)

Happy Adventuring!

-Rachel and Sean 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Joemma Beach State Park

In early November, my parents, my brother and our friend Kate came out to visit us for an early Thanksgiving. We decided to take a day and visit both Penrose Point and Joemma Beach State Parks because they are quite close to one another. We hit Penrose Point first and had a wild and cold walk on the trails where we watched the shore being buffeted by waves. When we arrived at Joemma Beach we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted with calm air and still waters, such a contrast the beach we were at just at a few minutes earlier! 

(I was enraptured by the water's deep shade of green)

We ate our picnic lunch, strolled along the rocky beach, and searched the clear water for little crabby critters. The water was absolutely phenomenal; it was clear, calm, and the most vibrant shade of green I have ever seen. With the steely grey sky reflecting off of the surface of the waves, this beach provided beautiful artistic opportunities for me. My dad and I spent most of our time scoping out subjects for me to photograph and we had a blast doing so. 

(My dad looking out from the cove)

(The gorgeous, peaceful cove at Joemma Beach)

(Galen and Kate looking below)

(The beautiful bluff above the rocky shore)

(Poor Sean was sick in the car, so it was just the 5 of us in the picture!)

My family and I really enjoyed the peacefulness that this park offers in the off-season. We loved being able to walk along the wild, rocky beach that was covered in pinecones, pine needles, driftwood and broken shells and to gaze out onto the quiet cove of Joemma Beach State Park. 

For more information please visit: Joemma Beach State Park (

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dash Point State Park

Hey-Oh! We're back! Sean and I broke in the new year with a quiet trip to Dash Point on a foggy Saturday morning. We were running errands in Federal Way and made a spontaneous decision to pop down to Dash Point for a walk. I only had my phone on me (the best camera you can have is the one you have with you :P) and had no plans for making this an "official" visit, which I think is what made it perfect. We walked along the beach in the dense fog and then sat on a picnic table together to watch the fog slowly creep off the calm, gray waters. There was a family gathered on the shore with white roses and a small box. As they scattered the ashes of their loved one on the ripples, we wandered away down the sand and allowed them to grieve in privacy. 

The freshwater creek flowing into the Sound. Can you spot the giant Flounder Rock?

Sean made the observation that this joining of the fresh and salt water is similar to The Columbia Bar where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean on the Washington and Oregon border. I, having the quick wit that I do, said that it's a miniature version...a mini bar! That's me: Queen of Corny Jokes. 

The fog beginning to lift from the shore. 

Peaceful beauty. 
(This photo isn't actually in black and white - the fog was just that glorious)

We found a cute little Jelly on the sand as we walked back down the beach. 
We think it may have been an Aequorea Victoria, which closely matches the physical
 characteristics we observed in this little guy. 

The jelly was such a beautiful subject, I love how it distorted the background and reflected the sky. 

We had a relaxing and peaceful visit here; relishing in the opportunity to spend time together and enjoy watching the sun finally break through the morning fog. We weren't planning on making this an "official" visit, but I realized later that this was a silly thought. Our goal is not to perfectly capture or document each park we visit, but rather to soak up the beauty each park has to offer and share our journey with you, in whatever form that may be! 

Happy Adventuring!

-Rachel and Sean

For more information on Dash Point State Park, please visit: Dash Point State Park (

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Flaming Geyser State Park

When Sean and I found ourselves with our first weekend off together in over a year and a half, we knew we had to do something awesome. Then when we woke up on Saturday morning and saw that the sun was shining for the first time weeks (or so it felt) we knew it had to be something EPIC. But then we decided to make breakfast...and coffee...and talk for a while...and before we knew it, it was already 11:00am and we were having people over for dinner later that night. Dang. We settled on Flaming Geyser State Park because it was close to us and it wasn't high on our list of exciting parks to visit. Boy, were we wrong! So far on our travels it's been one of our favorite experiences!

We decided to take the long way there and drove along the scenic and winding Green Valley Road, which has always been one of my favorites! While in the car, we saw hoards of fishermen on the river and I mentioned to Sean that someday I would love to see salmon spawning again. I had seen them on the Cedar River as a kid and didn't know whether to expect them on the Green River, so we decided that we'd go looking for them some other time.


We rolled into the park in a blaze of mint-green station wagon glory and after my ritualistic ISPR (Inspection of State Park Restrooms) we headed straight for the river to see what we could see. 
As soon as we arrived at the river bank, my left eye started twitching, a long buried memory surfaced and I found myself doing my "Salmon Call" that my dad and I had made up over 15 years ago. Sean looked at me like I'd lost my mind and then he did it too (what a guy). Not less than 20 seconds later, a GIANT. RED. SALMON. swam up to the shoreline, gave us a lingering stare, swished his tail at us and raced off into the shadows. I was beside myself, "Sean!!! It WORKED! My salmon call worked!" We continued to call the salmon until it was obvious that they were being capricious, so we went in search of them instead.  

(Sean crossing the creek to get a better view of the salmon)

We found an awesome little interpretive trail along the river where we found tons of salmon making their way upstream. The best little spot was at the end of the trail where there were stairs down to Cristy Creek and we were literally a foot away from the warring and struggling salmon! Sean was enthralled with two huge King salmon who were fighting over a beautiful damsel and even got splashed a few times during their battle. 

(Sean watching the salmon in Cristy Creek)

We couldn't get over how we weren't expecting to see any salmon and yet here were hundreds of them that we could almost reach out and touch! We lost track of time during this awesome experience and found ourselves watching them for over an hour and a half! 

(Two of the dueling salmon. You can just see the other one's dorsal fin in the background)

(These were the two I was watching fight their way upstream)

When our legs started falling asleep from crouching so long, we decided to head out in search of the famous "flaming geyser." I'd heard from many a friend that it wasn't all that awe inspiring, but we knew we had to check it out for ourselves anyway. I mean, come on...any amount of smelly gas coming up from the ground that you can light on fire is cool, no matter how you look at it. We found it within minutes and promptly blew out the flame so Sean could light it on fire again. Yay! This is what the "geyser" looks like. Take a good look. Now when you visit the park you can have an accurate expectation of what you'll find and everyone can quit complaining about how disappointed they are when they visit and enjoy themselves regardless! Pet peeve. Sorry. Moving on! 

(Sean lighting the gas on fire again)

Apparently this little flame used to be quite a bit bigger, a true testament to its name. In the early 1900s coal miners were drilling a test hole when they hit a layer of salt water and methane gas at 1000 feet of depth. Despite early beliefs that there was a giant dairy farm hidden beneath the ground, it is in fact a natural methane pocket that generated enough gas to fuel a flame that could reach heights of up to twenty-five feet! 

(Rachel dorking out over the flaming earth gas)

After we took obligatory photos with the small flame, we headed out on a gorgeous walk through the picnic area under the turning maple trees. We kicked up crunchy leaves, climbed trees, and laid on the grass and leaves in the warm, autumn sunshine. We've been to this park in other seasons before, but have never seen it as breathtaking as in the fall. The turning leaves combined with the salmon spawning make this an especially spectacular park to visit from September through November!

(a path leading through the fallen leaves)

(looking through the park from the geyser)

(the path along the creek where the salmon were spawning)

We walked along the river towards the play area, enjoying the scenery, when we saw this grand tree being lit from behind by the afternoon sun. I couldn't resist its allure and was pleased to find that its trunk made the perfect lounging spot for a peaceful rest. 

 (Rachel sunning in a majestic maple)

(Looking from the giant maple towards the river)

Sean and I hung out in the tree for a while intermittently chatting and listening the river run by until it was time to head home for dinner. In spite of the fact that we hadn't been expecting much of anything when we visited this park, we had one of the most joyful and fun trips so far on our tour. 

This park is known for its river rafting and tubing in the summer, salmon spawning in the fall, and has an RC Airplane field for year-round fun. The picnic area is expansive and there is a playground for the kiddos. There are trails on the hill adjacent to the river, though we didn't check them out, and there are numerous interpretive signs along the main loop. We saw many people at the park that day enjoying the salmon and the sun on this beautiful Saturday, which was really awesome! It made us happy to see people taking the time out of their weekend to come out and visit one of our wonderful state parks!

For more information please visit: Complete information for Flaming Geyser (
                                                          Washington Trails Association: Flaming Geyser

Happy Adventuring!

-Rachel and Sean 

Location of Flaming Geyser State Park: