My Story is Your Story is Our Story

If you look carefully, stories can be found everywhere. Certainly within the pages of a book, within an epic adventure, a heartbreaking love story, the greatest achievements and tragedies of our nation, or the perseverance of one willing to lay down their life for a good cause.

Emma Relei

Wildflowers in Mount Rainier National Park

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Welcome to Hiking!

photo 1Before moving to Seattle this past September for graduate school, I never imagined going on a planned hike to a mountain…for fun. Growing up in Alabama I “hiked” when I was a young Boy Scout, but the mountains in Alabama are no comparison to the mountains here in Washington (The highest natural point in Alabama is Mount Cheaha, which is just a little over 2,400 feet, while Mount Rainier is above 14,000 feet. Mount Cheaha is located in a beautiful state park and provides a great place to view the beauty of Alabama from the bunker tower). Moving here was already an adventure: moving across the country on my own, leaving everything and everyone I know and love behind for two years, meeting new people, and getting back into academia. So why not add to the adventure and go hiking and explore an ice cave?

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My Second Home

I have lived close to the ocean for my entire life and I can’t imagine ever living more than a few miles from the coast. Listening to the crash of waves triggers nostalgia for my childhood. As a child, my family felt it was their duty to expose me to as much of the Pacific Northwest as possible. Despite all my whining (“are we there yet?”, etc.) on our family road trips, I will be forever grateful for all the memories they gave me. The countless summer days I spent at Orcas Island, whether I was swimming (a.k.a. taking my chances with the jellyfish) or watching the sunset, are some of the best memories of my life. This week, the In My Backyard Team traveled to San Juan Island, a close neighbor to Orcas. On our way to our campsite by San Juan Island National Historical Park’s American Camp, we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the ocean. We were close enough that I could smell the saltwater and instantly I felt a familiar calmness sweep over me. It was almost as if the ocean was welcoming me back to my second home.

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In the Shadow of the Mountain: Mount Rainier


For most perceptive Seattleites, Mount Rainier is a familiar sight. On a clear day the picturesque mountain graces our views. Mount Rainier National Park is a fabulous location for day hikes. Some of the In My Backyard team members went there for a day of hiking and research. There are several visitor centers at the park that serve as good starting points for hikes. We went to the Sunrise Visitor Center for our trip, but the Paradise Visitor Center is also a great location to begin a hike. Both of these visitor centers are starting points for many hiking trails that range in difficulty. Some of the hikes are super easy (even for me) and some of them are more challenging. At Sunrise, many of the hikes intersect so you can jump from hike to hike if you want to go to multiple locations.

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Hiking Fashion: How to Look Good While Hiking a Mountain


Running shoes are usually appropriate for easy-moderate hikes

When preparing for a hiking or camping trip, choosing the right apparel to bring is just as important as packing the right amount of supplies such as food and water. Whether or not you are comfortable in your clothing will affect your overall spirits and safety throughout the day/week.
It can be overwhelming and expensive when you’re trying to figure out how to outfit yourself for a hike. You want to be comfortable and safe without spending a ton of money. Read the following for some tips and tricks of the trek!

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Fall for the Sol Duc Falls

While at Olympic National Park with the In My Backyard team, Jimi (our graduate student intern from the Univ10494303_1468843896704474_6997913794192024184_oersity of Washington) and I hiked the Sol Duc Falls trail. Being only .8 miles one way, the trail is quite short. However, once you reach the falls, there are other trails you can continue onto if you desire a longer hike. The Sol Duc Falls trail is relatively flat and short, but it is still beautiful. Throughout the hike we even stumbled upon several small creeks and waterfalls before reaching the bigger falls. Despite being a popular and at times crowded trail, the tall trees and moss covered everything help make the trail feel secluded and small. While on it, you feel as though you are in the heart of the wilderness, when in reality you are super close to the parking lot.

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Elwha Exposé

During our four-day trip to Olympic National Park, the In My Backyard Team headed to the Elwha River. Beforehand, we, the SCA interns had put together some research to share with the group about the history of the Elwha, the construction of the dam, and finally the dam removal which is scheduled to conclude in September 2014.

To give you some background information, the Elwha is a 45-mile river on the Olympic Peninsula, intersecting the beautiful Olympic National Park. The river flows north to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In 2012, the Elwha River dams, which had directly caused a dramatic decline in the salmon population, began to be removed.

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Started from the Bottom Now We’re Here: Hurricane Hill

While in Olympic National Park our team decided to head to Hurricane Ridge for some hiking. Hurricane Ridge is about 17 miles from Port Angeles and is a quick and beautiful car ride. Hurricane Ridge has a visitor center with exhibits and films. There are also a few short meadow trails around the visitor center that are only .25-.5 miles. We decided to hike the Hurricane Hill Trail which is about 1.6 miles one-way and 700 feet elevation gain. If you’re anything like me, you have no concept of elevation gain and have no idea what 700 feet looks like. To clarify, 700 feet in 1.6 miles is moderately difficult. (But I am pretty out of shape so you can make your own assumptions).

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Brush Bashing Down the Sol Duc

The Sol Duc Valley of Olympic National Park is known for its mossy rainforests, beautiful falls, and sulfurous hot springs. In addition to established trails such as Lover’s Lane, the area provides opportunities for off-trail adventures. Our group of interns sampled some of both options. While the others hiked to the Sol Duc Falls, Ranger Kelsey, Natasha, and I explored down river from the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. We started off by hiking down a service road away from the resort. The grass was a bit overgrown but it was still easy walking. Eventually, we took a right in hopes of reaching the river. From that point onwards, we were brush-bashing, or as it is more commonly called, bushwhacking. We wove through groves of trees, leaped over muddy puddles, and evaded prickly plants. Soon we reached the pebbly bank of the Sol Duc. At first, we avoided getting our feet wet which led to some tricky maneuvering over and under log jams on the river. My long legs gave me somewhat of an advantage when it came to jumping between logs but it was still quite a puzzle to figure out where to step next.

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