Monthly Archives: July 2013

On Top of the World! Mt. Washburn, Yellowstone National Park

1-100_2051You feel like you’re on top of the world. You can see forever. And you just walked there!

“There” is Mt. Washburn in Yellowstone National Park. Located in the Washburn Mountains it is named after Henry Washburn who led an expedition to explore Wyoming in 1870. There are two trails to get up to the top. We took the easy route. Easy because it is really a gravel/partially blacktopped road and so it is wide with room for a lot of people. Now, ideally, you would like to take a hike where no one else goes, but forget about that happening in Yellowstone. Just go with it, because the nice part is that even though you climb in elevation, it is an easy, unobstructed walk so there were several more “mature” people walking and kids walking it as well. So it really is a friendly hike/walk for families.


It is however, 3 miles one way so make sure you take plenty of water and a picnic lunch to have at the top while resting for the trip back down. Plan on taking 4-5 hours for the whole trip, you won’t want to rush it. Also, check ahead with the park before you go, to find out if the trail has cleared of snow yet. It can still have snow on it into June. Wear layered clothing as the weather can be unpredictable.

The trail we took is the Dunraven Pass trail so you get to by going to Dunraven Pass. There is plenty of parking. On this trail you will gain 1393 feet in elevation. The other trail is the Chittenden trail which is 2.25 miles one way and you gain 1491 feet in elevation. This trail is paved so you could ride your bike up it if you are in that kind of shape.

1-100_2023Along the way you can enjoy the various colorful mountain wildflowers such as Indian Paintbrush and lupines, as well as wildlife. Just before we got to the top we saw several mountain goats hanging around. They obviously weren’t afraid of people. I swear some of them even looked like they were posing for us!1-100_2062

At the top is the main fire lookout for the park and a park guide to answer any questions you may have. The lower part of the tower is open to visitors. But before you can ask questions, you will be made speechless from the beauty of everything that you can see from up there. Yellowstone Lake, Hayden Valley, the Grand Tetons. If you work in an office staring at a computer screen all day, the views will make your eyes thank you.



It will be hard to leave. You will want to just sit there and look out at everything, taking it all in, watching as the sun moves across the sky and highlights areas you didn’t see just a few minutes earlier, shadowing other areas, bringing out the details of the landscape. So be sure you bring a camera. Words really can’t describe it and pictures can’t replace being there but they can help remind you of the way you felt when you were there. With so much to see and do in the massive park, it is easy to miss out on some things. But if you can, make the hike up to the top of Mt. Washburn a priority – because at 10,243 feet, you are on top of the world!1-100_2055

Categories: Outdoors, Parks | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Lake Wynoochee, Washington


Lake Wynoochee (Photo by Brandy Kirkendall)

Clear lake

Beautiful Wynoochee Lake












Tucked away just 30 minutes from the town of Montesano, Washington, lies the small pristine body of water called Lake Wynoochee. Located in the southern part of the Olympic Peninsula and created when the Wynoochee Dam was built to provide a reservoir, the lake is exactly what you expect of the northwest – deep blue and surrounded by a thick forest.

We decided to go up and check out the Coho Campground and take our boat (lovingly named “Lawn Art” since it sits as a decoration on our lawn more than we would like.) We headed west to Montesano and right past the exit to the town was Devonshire Road. We headed 34 miles up the twisting narrow road, then made a left when we saw the sign for the campground. Important note: cell phone service ends about 4 miles up Devonshire.


(Photo by Brandy Kirkendall)

Pulling into the campground, there were two options for sites. Loop B can be reserved online. We didn’t have reservations so we headed into Loop A which is first-come, first-serve sites and there were plenty available. The cost was $20 a night. There are also walk-in sites for $16 a night. There are pads for RVs but no hookups. Three yurts are also available for rent. There is a campground host, but no amenities. There are normally regular restrooms but unfortunately, they were closed due to a septic failure, so there were port-a-potties and hand-washing stations set up.

The weather cooperated pretty well and while it wasn’t warm and sunny, it didn’t rain while we set up camp. Then we jumped in the truck and took Lawn Art out on the lake. So this is where I have to tell you that we rarely do anything that doesn’t involve an adventure. There is no dock on the lake. We had to back the trailer into the lake, Josh then pulled away from the ramp and had to nose up to the bank so David could jump on. That worked pretty well actually. Until we pulled away and out into the lake. All of a sudden I looked that the floor and said, “Oh, we’re taking on water!” My 9-year-old grandson, Anden, started freaking out – “We’re gonna sink, we’re gonna sink!” I told him, “No, we’re fine, you have your lifejacket on and we’ll get back to shore.” Meanwhile I was thinking, “We’re gonna sink, we’re gonna sink!” I really hate it when I have to be the adult and act calm! So we had to quickly nose back to the bank so David could jump off and run and get the truck and trailer, while we then pulled back around to the ramp. David admitted, “I think I put the plug in the wrong hole.” Yes, dear, you did.

camp spot 2

Trail to Day Use Area

Clear lake w boat

Boating on Lake Wynoochee

Since fishing on the boat was too traumatic to do again that evening, Josh and Anden went to the day use area of the park and were able to do some fishing there. The day use area has the swimming area, picnic tables, and trails where you can get to the lake away from the swimming area.

Back at camp we ate dinner and made S’mores. That always makes life better. The next day dawned sunny and clear. I was worried Anden wouldn’t want to go in the boat again, but he was fine. The lake was like glass and while we knew there had to be other boats out there, there were none in sight. We really liked the fact that this lake is a lot less populated than other lakes that we usually go to. We fished awhile and didn’t catch anything, so headed back in to meet up my daughter, Brandy, and her fiancé, Jason. After they arrived, we went back out in the boat twice, fishing, puttering around, and just plain enjoying the sun and the company. A few more boats were out in the afternoon but still nowhere near enough to feel crowded.

Another evening back at camp eating dinner and S’mores and enjoying visiting. The best part about camping at Lake Wynoochee was the time alone with family. No cell service, no internet, no TV, no interruptions. Truly rustic. If you really want to get away from it all, there are several levels at Lake Wynoochee – RVing, tenting in the campground, walk-in sites in the campground, yurts, or even places where you can take your boat to isolated spots along the shoreline.

It’s not too far away from a town yet far away enough away from it all to remember what is really important – unforgettable, precious time with family.


Brandy, Anden, Nancy (Photo by Brandy Kirkendall)

Categories: Boating/Kayaking, Fishing, Outdoors, Parks, RV/Camping, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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