Posts Tagged With: nature

Burley Mountain, Washington

Burley Mountain with Lookout

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest in southwest Washington is a vast area (about 1.3 million acres). It includes Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens. One of our favorite destinations is a place where you can see Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood by simply standing in one spot and turning in a circle. This amazing and beautiful place is the 5304 foot high Burley Mountain.

First you have to traverse a long, winding, rain-worn, single-lane road along steep cliffs. If you like that sort of thing, you’ll love this drive – if not, just close your eyes while someone else drives, because the view at the top is well worth it.

You can choose to park at the bottom of the final hill at a small parking area and take a short walk up the road to the top. Or for the adventurous, you can drive all the way to the top – you just want to be confident of your ability to either turn around in a very small area or back down yet another steep, single-lane, cliff-side road.

Mt. Adams from Burley Mountain

But as soon as you are at the top – stop. Look southeast and you will see Mt. Adams standing tall and perfect against the deep blue sky.

Directly south you can catch a glimpse of the top of Mt. Hood in Oregon. Look north and you will see Mt. Rainier peaking at you a little further in the distance.

Mt. St. Helens from Burley Mountain

Then look southwest – there is Mt. St. Helens looking beautiful but ominous. We always wonder how it would have felt on May 18, 1980 if we would have been standing on Burley Mountain. It looks so close you just shiver at the thought.

Another nice surprise at the top of this little mountain is the Forest Service Lookout cabin.

“Amenities” in Burley Mountain Fire Lookout

It is usually open during the summer and you can go in and see the “amenities” – a woodstove, a couple of single beds with worn

mattresses, a sink without running water, and a couple of chairs. There are also two notebooks where visitors can record the date of their visit along with their impressions. The view is almost as good from inside as it is outside. Small signs above the windows tell you what geologic feature you are seeing out each window.

On our most recent visit we ate our lunch inside the lookout, relaxing in the folding chairs. There is a picnic table outside below the lookout but on this day there were quite a few visitors and one family was already enjoying their lunch at the picnic table. A cinder-block vault toilet is located downhill from the picnic table.

Unfortunately there are also many electrical towers near the lookout which detract a bit from the “rustic” feel of the area, but we have never let that interfere with our enjoyment and from the number of other visitors, neither have they. One of the families we met was from Spokane and they said that they come to the Gifford Pinchot area every year on Labor Day.

As if three major mountains aren’t enough, you may also be greeted by huckleberries and wildflowers such as Indian Paintbrush. 

You will definitely want to take a camera because you can’t help but notice all the opportunities for nature photography even if you thought you weren’t into that. Everywhere you look you will feel like you’re looking at a postcard!

It’s hard to know when to leave. As you sit quietly and look all around you, you’ll notice the scenery changing with the daylight or as clouds roll through and move on. Eventually you do have to leave – driving those roads at night would not be a good idea. But you also know, just as we do and the family from Spokane does, that you will come back again and again because there is simply no other place like Burley Mountain.

For more information here is the website to the Gifford Pinchot (pronounced pin-show) National Forest:


From Randle, drive 1 mile south on Forest Road 25 and then turn left onto Forest Road 23. Continue on FR 23 to FR 28/21 and go right, cross the Cispus River, turn right onto FR 76, and continue past the Cispus Environmental Center to FR 77 on the left. Follow it for about 13 miles where you will see a sign directing you to turn left to go the last mile or so to the small parking lot at the bottom of Burley Mountain.

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Paulina Lake and Paulina Peak – Central Oregon

Central Oregon is one of my favorite places. There is so much to see and do there. So I had to make a decision on what to write about first. Since the picture on our home page is taken from Paulina Peak, I decided to start with Paulina Lake and Paulina Peak.

Paulina Lake

Paulina Lake

Located about 24 miles south and a little east of Bend, is the beautiful Paulina Lake. The lake, along with East Lake just east of Paulina, is part of the 55,000 acre Newberry National Volcanic Monument, a protected area, so nothing can be built there. However, Paulina Lake Lodge, located on the shores of the lake, was grandfathered in as it was built in 1948 long before the 1990 designation of the monument. You can rent rustic cabins, rent boats, dine in the restaurant that has rather strange hours or peruse the little store with pictures of all the huge fish everyone except us seem to catch.

When you arrive at Paulina Lake take the time to get out and check it out. It is a crystal clear blue lake that, if you get there early enough, is flat and smooth as glass, reflecting the surrounding hills like a mirror. Sometimes so many baby fish are jumping around they look like grasshoppers. It’s a serene lake to kayak on as well, allowing you to paddle out into the middle of it and just enjoy the solitude and the beauty of the area.

View from Paulina Peak

View from Paulina Peak

After you have rested, relaxed, and cleared you mind, it’s now time to drive up to Paulina Peak. Just back about a mile west from the lake is the road. It’s clearly marked. You’ll drive four miles up a washboard road, getting higher and higher, seeing farther and farther, until you come out at the top in a parking lot. You are now at 7985 feet. Step out and take a look to the north. There you will see Paulina Lake and looking down at it you won’t be able to believe you were just that far below.

The Big Obsidian Flow

The Big Obsidian Flow

Off to the east you can see  a true natural marvel – the Big Obsidian Flow. It is estimated the eruption happened about 1300 years ago and covers a little over 2 and ½ miles. What you are seeing is the flow of lava that contained just the right minerals to turn into obsidian (sometimes known as volcanic glass).

Top of Paulina Peak

Top of Paulina Peak

You can take an easy, short hike up to another lookout point and see a breath-taking 360 degree view. We like to say you can see yesterday and tomorrow. There are a few more easy trails that take you out to the east a little ways so you can view the area from there as well. Again, like the lake, you can just sit and listen to nature and be awed by the majesty of the volcanic activity that happened 75,000 years ago. The dark blue of the lakes, the deep green of the surrounding forests, the sheer size of the obsidian flow, and the cloudless blue sky, combine to create a natural postcard that could never be artificially duplicated.

So next time you are in Central Oregon, even if only for a short time, check out the Paulina Lake and Paulina Peak area. I think you will find it will be one of your favorite places as well.

Getting there: From Bend go 24 miles south on Hwy. 97. Turn left onto Paulina Lake Road, signs are also there for the Newberry Caldera. Go about 11 miles to the entrance to the park ($5 fee or Northwest Forest Pass.) About one mile farther will take you to the road to Paulina Peak. It will be on your right. The road to Paulina Lake is a little further on, look for the signs, it will be on your left.

Categories: Oregon, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tilton River State Park (The “Don’t Blink, You’ll Miss It” State Park)

Hwy 508 runs east-west through Lewis County, Washington, winding through hills and valleys and even an intriguingly-named “Bear Canyon”.  Along the way, part of it parallels the Tilton River, named for a territorial surveyor, James Tilton.

At milepost 27, look to the north and don’t blink! You will literally miss the turn off for Tilton River State Park. It is simply a pull-off on the side of the road with room for two, maybe three cars. No road signs, no ranger booth, no port-a-potty.

Tilton River State Park Entrance

You have to get out of your car and face north and then at the start of the trail, off to your left, you will see a plaque on a rock noting that the land was donated in 1994 to the State of Washington by twin brothers, William and Otto Studhalter.

The Studhalter boys were somewhat influential in the Morton area. Born in 1901 in Tacoma, sons of a Swiss father and German mother, the whole family moved to Bremer, eight miles west of Morton, when the boys were young. The twins were loggers as well as owners of a sawmill where ties were cut for the army in WWII. They donated an old steam donkey (a steam-driven winch for logging) that had been used around 1918 for the annual Morton Logger’s Jubilee. This steam donkey can be seen today in Gust Backstrom Park in the town of Morton. There is also a Studhalter Road a few miles west of the park.

William died in 1993 and Otto followed in 1997. Otto donated the 110 acres to the State of Washington for use as a state park. Later, six more adjoining acres were bought to add to the donation.

By now, you would like to see the rest of the “park” and the river.  Just take a walk down the fairly well-defined trail for about ¼ mile. Careful, there are small obstacles such as tree roots. But when you reach the end of the trail and emerge from the canopy of firs, red cedar, maple, and Oregon Ash, you will see a scene right out of an old TV show – a simple rocky beach, a twisting, lazy river (known as “The Studhalter Fishing Hole”, and handmade fire pits. A beautiful place for picnics, relaxing , fishing or watching the kids play in the water. Very serene and peaceful.

But enjoy it while you can. According to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, they have decided not to further develop the park and are planning to either sell it or have another agency take over management of the land. A place that holds summertime memories for many local residents could be closed down or built up. But maybe, just maybe, the new owners will honor the last intentions of the Studhalter brothers, and leave the property as is, accessible and natural, for future generations of families to enjoy.

Getting there: From north or southbound on Interstate 5, take exit 71 and head east to milepost 27.

Categories: Historical, Outdoors, Parks, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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