Posts in Exploring
Fort Columbia Historical State Park

One of many coastal defense sites in the United States is situated at the Columbia River estuary in Chinook, Washington. It is well intact with 12 historical fort buildings, including the officer's house, artillery batteries, and two coastal artillery guns. The site is one of the many associated to the Lewis and Clark National and State-Historical Parks in Washington and Oregon. Construction of the 643 acre original fort lasted between 1896 and 1903, with additional construction during World War II. The fort was fully manned and operational for approximately 18 years before being transferred to the state in 1950. Today the park provides three miles of trails, a museum, wildlife viewing opportunities, and two historic vacation houses for overnight stays.

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Snoqualmie Tunnel

The Snoqualmie Tunnel is a 2.3 mile abandoned train tunnel which was built from 1912 - 1914 by the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (Milwaukee Road) for part of the Chicago to Seattle line. The last train to pass through the tunnel was on March 15, 1980. After that, Washington State acquired the right-of-way for recreational use. Now part of the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail rails-to-trails project, this tunnel provides no light, is roughly 20 degrees cooler than the outside, and leaks water throughout. Sounds like a great place for a first date!

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Bridges of the Pacific Northwest

Do you like heights? What about bridges? Does the thought of the tallest bridges in the state of Washington get you excited? If your answer is yes to any of those questions, read on. If your answer is no to all questions, still, read on, only so you know where not to go! Hoffstadt Creek Bridge, High Steel Bridge, and Vance Creek Bridge are the three tallest in the state. They each provide thrilling views, impressive feats of engineering, and terrifying photo opportunities. The hype is real, jump for joy, just don’t fall!

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Sky View Observatory

Located on the 73rd floor of Columbia Center, at a height of 902' with 360 degree views of Seattle and the surrounding areas, is Sky View Observatory. On a clear day one can see as far as the Olympic Mountains, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, and much more. The vehicles on the downtown streets below, the ships in the Puget Sound, and the Seattle Great Wheel all look like miniature toys moving in slow motion from this vantage point. You're on the top of the world here, at least, that's how it feels.

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Afterglow Vista

This past weekend we set out by ferry to San Juan Island to explore something that we'd recently heard about on the Lore podcast. That is the John S. McMillin Memorial Mausoleum, commonly known as Afterglow Vista. This mausoleum is hidden on a hill by trees, only accessible by walking a trail which goes through a nearby graveyard. Once you come to the monument you're awe struck by the size, beauty, design, and all of its masonic symbolism. Sitting on one of the six limestone chairs may make you feel uneasy if you know what lies within them. This memorial is astonishing with all of its history, symbology, and secrets.

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Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold! was printed across Seattle newspaper headlines on July 17, 1897. This was the start to the Klondike Gold Rush as dreamers came from all over the country attempting to strike it rich in the Yukon gold fields near Dawson City. Of the estimated 100,000 prospects that set out on this journey, only 4,000 found gold and a mere few hundred became rich from it. The rush here lasted only a few years until gold was next discovered in Nome, Alaska. Pioneer Square in Seattle is home to one of the four units of the National Park Service's Klondike Gold Rush Historical Park. The other three units are located in Skagway, Alaska.

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International Peace Arch Park

Dedicated in 1921 by Washington philanthropist Samuel Hill, Peace Arch is a one of a kind monument. In the interest of peace and nations, this is the only international gateway of its kind in the world. The arch straddles the 49th parallel, the international border line, and the surrounding park lies within both the U.S. and Canada. Visitors from either nation may walk through the arch and park without passing through customs, so long as they remain in the park boundaries and exit through the same side they entered.

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Tulip Festival in Skagit Valley

It's time to celebrate the blooming of tulips at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. For the last 32 years people from around the world come to see the beauty of these flowers from April 1-30. Each spring brings visitors in the hundreds of thousands and it's easy to see why. The fields of vivid colors with mountain backdrops and tulips in the millions is a gorgeous sight to see. We spent two days in Mt. Vernon exploring the fields and attractions.

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Lake Lenore Caves

Created by the Missoula Floods during the last Ice Age some 15,000 and 13,000 years ago, this area is a geologists best friend. Ridges, plateaus, rivers, lakes, coulees, and caves are some of the sites to be seen and explored here. 5,000 years ago Native Americans used this area to collect plants, fish, and hunt. The caves were used as a temporary shelter by them. Today it’s used for explorers and hikers like us.

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Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

On December 18, 2015 the “Billy Frank Jr. Tell Your Story Act” was signed into law by President Obama, along McAllister Creek, within the Refuge boundary. This act officially changed the name from Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge to Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. The signing also created the Medicine Creek Treaty National Memorial.

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A Bit of Urban Exploration

Here in the Pacific Northwest we have a lot of gray days. Winter isn’t particularly severe in the lower elevations, it’s just gray. Gray and damp. On the rare occasion that the sun makes an appearance, we find it important to maximize our outdoor time. While yes, we absolutely love our outward bound trips, sometimes we need to stick closer to home to enjoy that bright thing in the sky. This weekend was a prime example. Instead of driving an hour or two or four to go hiking in the mountains we chose to explore a couple areas of Tacoma.

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Visiting Nolte & Kanaskat-Palmer State Parks

This past week has been pretty cold here in the Pacific Northwest. With the temperatures in the 40s most of the days, and at times below freezing, we weren’t much motivated to get any real hiking done. Well, that, and it’s also been rainy. Instead, what we did manage to do was go out and explore two nearby state parks that we’ve had on our list for some time now.

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Exploring Cape Disappointment State Park

As we started our 3 hour drive towards the state’s most south western point, where the Columbia River opens to the Pacific Ocean, we were getting hammered by the rain. The closer we got, the harder it came down. We planned on setting up our tent and camping for one night. Thank goodness we opted for only the one night instead of two like we originally planned. We still knew this single, wet, windy, and stormy night would be pretty uncomfortable.

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Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies

15 steel ponies. Each life-size. Posing in a galloping fashion. Bronze and rustic in color. The herd appears to be stampeding toward a cliff. All of this on a ridge high above the Columbia River Gorge.

You’re looking at Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies, a public art sculpture in central Washington, along eastbound I-90 near the city of Vantage. David Govedare, the creator of this piece, worked on the project from 1989–1990. Though the work looks amazing as is, it’s still unfinished, due to a lack of funding.

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National Park Service Centennial GeoTour

On August 25, 2016, the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) will turn 100 years old! It has begun holding celebrations throughout the country while building up to its centennial. Here in the state of Washington the NPS has teamed up with Visit Rainier, the official Mt. Rainier tourism organization, to create a centennial GeoTour. It consists of four series, each series having 25 geocaches. This year long GeoTour is a celebration of the park’s birthday which explores a total of 100 geocaches in and around Mt. Rainier National Park.

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