Elwha Valley, Humes Ranch Loop, and Goblins Gate (A Six-Mile Hike)

It may have been less than six miles. Part of the route was washed out. I think. It was hard to tell. There were signs, there were counter-signs. Anything was possible and therefore nothing mattered.

It’s inside Olympic National Park, in the Elwha Valley area-thing.

Here’s the picture that I’ve decided I want to have show up at the top of the homepage (until I post another article at which point it will be replaced by that article’s picture):

Goblins Gate - Elwha River

You can almost *smell* the goblin!

Right, so that’s the Goblins Gate. Or Goblin Gate or Goblin’s Gate. I’m guessing the Parks Service doesn’t really know either, so I’m not gonna worry about it. Point being, it’s the best part of the hike and the only real Sehenswürdigkeit there. IMHO. Basically there’s this river and then it makes a sudden right turn and immediately after making this right turn, it has to go through this narrow part where the goblin is. But about half the river misses the turn altogether and has to seethe in fury, churning anti-clockwise in desperate agony just because it ended up in the wrong lane a half-mile back and there weren’t any signs saying that it was going to have to make a right turn eventually.

It’s like driving on the east coast.

Here’s a picture of the seething. It may not look angry, but, trust me, if you could *see* the undercurrents here…

Elwha River at Goblins Gate

It's like trying to get out of the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot.

So the part on the top of the photo is the raging vortex.The main river is coming from the left. That little stream pouring into the vortex is just a little stream that pours into the vortex. It’s not a good photo.

Here’s another picture of the gate, which I liked, and in particular a rock that makes up the gate, which I liked.

A rock at Goblins Gate on the Humes Ranch Loop Hike

Already pictured.

Other than that, though, the hike was like a well-written eulogy: gloomy but coherent.

There are trees and moss and clouds. It’s dark. In most places, yes, I’d call it a tree prison. Here are some trees with moss.

Humes Ranch Trail

But mostly the hike's not this pretty.

Just didn’t want you to get the wrong impression there. Mostly there are trees on either side of you and nothing to see but trees. When you’re down on the river, all there is is a river and then some mountains covered in clouds.

I suppose it might look different with better weather.

When I got off this trail, I decided to go down the nearby Mills Lake access trail. The lake will disappear soon as it was created by a dam that’s getting busted in the near future, though probably not by Lancaster bombers. The parks service isn’t that cool. The hike down to the lake was short but strenuous (read: steep). At the bottom, you mostly saw a river (the lake is further down as it turns out) and mountains covered in clouds.

There’s also this little fellow:

Waterfall at mills lake.

It's 15 feet tall!

IMHO: the only remarkable thing about this waterfall is that you have to walk through a knee-deep creek to get to it. The water there is cold in the winter. It had probably been snow a couple hours before I stood in it. I probably should have taken a photo of me standing in it. Battery was low though. Barely even got this shot off. And now you get all the benefit of being there without the hassle of having to later chip ice off your boots just so you can get your feet out.

And then I left there and ate at Wendys in Port Angeles on the way home. Am still amazed that you have to pay $4 to get over the stupid new Narrows bridge. Man. Seems like renting a private helicopter to airlift you over the Sound would be about the same price and, if you scheduled it in advance, potentially more convenient.

Nice to get outside though.


The Indistinct Redwood National Park and a Bunch of Other Indistinct Little Parks

So after the coast, the trees. Y’know, on my cross-country road trip, during which I visited a bunch of parks, it came to my attention that not every national park is like the national parks in Washington state. The parks in Washington state make sense to me. They’re big, there’s a lot to do there, they have visitor’s centers, they’re where the important topographical features are, and when you’re in the park, you’re in the park. Some of the other parks violate these guidelines.

Redwoods, for instance — well mostly you just never know if you’re in the park or not. Many of the most “important” trees are in state parks that adjoin the national park for some reason. I dunno. There’s a reason: people got worried about the ability to protect redwood forests, some of which were already part of state parks, and so lobbied a then-friendly federal government into buying up a bunch of random plots of land (so ungefähr).

Plus it’s just trees.

highway 101 near redwoods national park

No redwoods are actually included in this picture.

redwood trees in california

These trees' souls have now been stolen.

avenue of the giants -- redwood trees in california

"Avenue of the Giants", which I don't think ever passes into land that's technically part of the national park.

They don’t charge to enter the national park, either, which on the one hand seems appropriate since I’m not sure anyone ever *does* enter the park, but on the other hand they charge for all the parks in Washington state, which is where the *correct* national parks are located. Or something.

fallen redwood tree

It's sort of easier to appreciate how tall the trees are when they're lying down.

Up to 300 feet is how tall they are, tallest living things in the world. They’re not the biggest in volume, though (the sequoias are). ‘Course, they’re a little more normal-looking than the sequoias. Not that there’s anything not-wrong with that.

Oh, and:

california camping fees

In case you didn’t quite catch that, that’s $35 that the State of California is trying to charge for a night of camping. Surprisingly, the campground was empty.


Way Northern California Coast

It’s been a couple weeks, but I don’t know that the photo album idea is really going to take off and even if it did, it’s not really a great forum for expressing the deepest, inner-most feelings of my heart regarding, you know, topographical features, coast lines and tall trees and such.

Been a couple weeks.

Decided that when going up to see my parents for the holidays that I wanted to drive. I missed driving during the three weeks I was in SoCal after the trip officially ended. I miss driving now that I’ve been up in Seattle a couple weeks. Not sure how this driving-lust ends. Perhaps with a CDL. Mal sehen was wird. Wonder if I can work on my CDL the same time I do my PhD.

Headed up from SD, stopped in OC to pick some stuff up out of storage, went up to NB (CM?) for lunch with the DLF, then kept going. LA traffic sucked. Stayed the night in Stockton, then headed up the 5 through Sac-town, then turned left at Willits and headed west on Highway 20.

highway-20-california (3)…Which cuts through the coastal hills down to the coast.

Camp 20, a CCC camp (I think).

Camp 20, a CCC camp (I think).

The area is like a well-written eulogy: beautiful but somber.

Similes are cheap.

Here are some photos of the coast. (Which are also cheap.)

Russian Gulch State Park (between Fort Bragg and Mendocino).

russian gulch california

On a nice day, there's probably a good photo in here.

Highway 1, Way Northern California (north of Fort Bragg)

Highway 1 (north of Fort Bragg somewhere).

westport union landing state beach campground

Westport Union Landing State Beach: view from my campsite (looking south).

westport union state park at sunrise

Morning has broken.

Highway 1 California trees in mist

Trees in the mist -- where Highway 1 winds back up into the hills to re-join the 101.

Y’know, most places I’d resent the mist, but for this drive I think it adds to the experience. Or maybe I’m just trying to convince myself of that so I don’t have to go back there. Not that I wouldn’t want to. Although it’s a harder part of the country to get to than most.

I’ll do a separate post on the Redwoods, I guess.



Trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park(s?)

They refer to each separately, but only give you one map, thus obfuscating the truth, which is their way.

Went to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park or Parks over the weekend — left Thursday, came back Saturday. Camped for a couple nights. Hiked a little bit, took pictures of trees (see previous post), drove in concentric, ever-widening circles, wore rain pants in anger, used the new generator, and failed to strike up a conversation with a deaf girl from New Hampshire (based on her license plate).

Some photos, not so much of trees this time:

 Marble Falls Trail through Deep Canyon

Note rain gear — the pants were more effective than the jacket. The Marble Fork is the riverlet down below — the falls up above there were cool and flowed over marble, but they were hard to photograph in a way that makes them look appropriately cool. This hike is at lower elevation, so: no snow, no trees.

 My truck in the Grant Grove parking lot, getting snowed on.

Higher elevation, thus: snow, trees. I’m happy for my truck when it gets to do real truck things, like drive in the snow.

 Dinner at Rainy Potwisha Campground

Sure it was too wet to sit down and sure I was eating off of a frying pan with a pocket knife and a spatula, but you have to admit that’s a pretty properly fried medium-rare sirloin.

Potwisha Bear Box

 A bear box at the campsite — sadly, no bears were inside.

 Sequoia National Park Entrance Sign

An Indian head on a sign for a national park named for a Native American of the Iroquois tribe who lived 3,000 miles away from the park, around which is gathered an Indian family, from India, one of whom has just cracked his head open on the black metal arch holding up the sign and is bleeding profusely. 


  • The last mile of the trail to Marble Falls hike was pretty nice.
  • And I was impressed with myself for taking rain gear in my pack up to the falls since it was really sunny the whole way up. I like impressing myself, although it’s easier to do than it probably should be.
  • I was not responsible for the parks service having to kill any bears (I don’t think).
  • The rural area just to the west of the park (Hwy 180 and Hwy 245) was really pretty with steep green hills and wildflowers — didn’t look anything like California.
  • Slipping around on snow-covered trails to see really big trees is more fun than it probably sounds.
  • Successfully tested my power inverter and generator.
  • The steak was good.
  • I found chocolate Charleston Chews and Full Throttle Fury at the Christian camp general store at Hume Lake.


  • The first 2.5 miles of the trail to Marble Falls was full of the same scrubby chaparral that we have in Orange County and that makes me never want to hike here.
  • The Potwisha Campground that I stayed at lacked charm. And the neighbors’ kids lacked boundaries.
  • What with the snow and all, most of the A-grade hiking trails were inaccessible.
  • $18 a night for camping just seems steep to me, especially when you have to spend all your time there worrying about whether or not you’ve hidden all your food from the bears.

The bear boxes are kind of a downer. So long as you’re obeying the rules, you can’t really do stuff like take food with you into the back of your truck that you may or may not eat before falling asleep, for instance. It really had me ticked off that I was having to go so far out of my way to keep the bears from raiding the campsite until I saw what the bears were doing to keep us out of theirs. Boy, do we owe them bears a big ol’ Thank-You.

Good trip, though. Should go again some time when the snow melts and I can hike up to the lakes and waterfalls.


General Sherman and General Grant Are Also Names of Large Trees

To wit:

 General Sherman Monarch Sequoia at Sequoia National Park

General Sherman, the “largest living thing on earth”. There are people at the foot of the tree, for comparison, some of whom were relatively large — I assumed they were from the midwest.

 General Grant Sequoia at Kings Canyon National Park

As clearly demonstrated above, General Grant is barely three inches wide.

Beyond just the generals, a lot of snow, a lot of trees, a lot of snow with trees. As evidenced by:

 Grant Grove at Kings Canyon National Park

Snow on trees.

Snow falling through fallen sequoia in Grant Grove

Snow in tree.

All in all, though, the trees were noteworthy and there was snow.