Sunday, August 25, 2013

Deception Pass State Park, Whidbey Island, WA.

    Deception Pass State Park is located at the north end of Whidbey Island and the south end of Fidalgo Island, west of Seattle.  The park has amazing scenery focusing on beaches, the bridge, islands, and some old-growth forest.  I hiked the West Beach Trail and then did a long hike in the much less trafficked Hoypus Hill area.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Drive or Bike to Work? - Guide to Making an Informed Decision

Here is a list of questions to consider when deciding between commuting by bike, car, or bus.  Obviously this blog and its author have a strong bias towards trails and biking, but I tried to make these as objective and fair as possible.  Let me know if I missed anything!

1.  How far do you live from work? Is the distance by bike different than by car?

Most beginner bike commuters probably aren't interested in biking more than 5-10 miles each way.  Distances of less than 5 miles are often faster door-to-door by bike, especially in urban or high traffic areas.
If you live farther than that from the office, you might want to conduct a personal cost-benefit analysis looking at how much money (and time) you pour into transportation vs. how much you benefit in terms of housing cost, quality of life, etc.  Thanks to the RiverTrail in Little Rock and the expanding Razorback Greenway in NW Arkansas, there are many examples of bike commutes being shorter in terms of distance and/or time.

2.  Do you go jogging or hit the treadmill at the gym after work?

Converting your 20 minute drive to a 20-40 minute bike ride can actually increase your free time if you count it as your cardio for the day and get to skip a trip the gym.  My bike commutes have averaged about 10 miles round-trip, which at my pace means I get 40-45 minutes of exercise a day just getting to and from work/school.

3.  How much do you spend on gas or  bus fare

Even with short commutes, for many people this is $80-$200 a month.  Depending on your situation that may mean nothing or it might be a big deal.  If (big if) money was your main reason for living out in the country 30 miles from the office, then this additional cost should be factored in to your rent/mortgage comparisons.

4.  How much do you enjoy driving in rush hour traffic?  How much do you enjoy biking?

This is a little fuzzier than the dollars and hours discussed above, but for many it is of equal importance.  If driving in traffic drives you crazy (like it does me) then you may get quite a benefit from leaving your car behind.  However, if you happen to hate biking and love listening to the radio while sipping a coffee in a climate conditioned environment then the opposite is probably true.

5.  Do you have access to a shower or other ways to freshen up at the office?  

If your office doesn't have a shower and you are expected to be clean and dressed in a wrinkle-free suit then biking to work might not be a great idea.  I have worked at some places that have showers and I've also just tried to take it easy on the bike and let my co-workers deal with any odor-related consequences, but I've never had a shirt-and-tie job.  I sometimes drive to work one day a week and drop off clothes.  Bike bags are getting pretty snazzy these days and many people either bike in nice clothes or pack them.  You can go a long ways towards neutralizing any bike-related odors by reapplying deodorant and wiping down with a moist towel.

6.  How safe is the route you'd take by bike?

If most of your route is a bike/pedestrian trail physically separated from roads carrying car traffic then it is pretty safe.  Biking on roads with low speed limits is also fairly safe, but you don't want to spend much if any time on busy roads with cars zooming by at 45 mph.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Taking your Dog to Olympic National Park

I recently had the good fortune of returning to Olympic National Park for the fifth time.  This time I took a dog.  I knew dogs aren't allowed on the vast majority of trails in most national parks, but I didn't have much of a choice and I knew we'd still be able to see a lot from the roads.

Before I get into the specifics of what we did, let me pass on a few pieces of advice for maximizing your experience at a national park with a dog.
1.  Visit the park's website and find their pet policy page.  It is often under "Things to Know Before You Come".  This page will detail the trails, campgrounds, and other places dogs are allowed.  Policies vary and this is a good place to get specifics.  For example, dogs are allowed on the PCT in Rainier NP, on paved trails in Yosemite, and on some beaches in Olympic.  Other parks, like North Cascades, conveniently contain/border National Recreation Areas with much looser pet regulations.
2.  Ask a ranger if they have a pets brochure.
3.  Ask a ranger at a visitor center where dogs are allowed or if they have any recommendations for good hikes with dogs.  Rangers who've been around awhile might also know of great, lesser known, hikes in nearby national forests or state parks.

University of Washington Botanic Gardens

After visiting the more natural, northern section of the UW Botanic Gardens at Union Bay I wanted to see what the rest of the gardens were like.  Located east of downtown, between Broadmoor and Montlake, the gardens can be accessed from numerous parking areas.  I enjoyed the diversity of trail types that ranged from mowed grass to dirt to paved.  Most of the park is free to access, but the Japanese Garden often charges a fee.  I wandered aimlessly through most of the main areas of the gardens and can't say that I had a favorite area, but I did prefer the smaller trails to the main Azalea Way trail that forms the backbone of the park.  The dirt trail behind the Japanese garden was quite overgrown, so much so I'm not sure it is an official trail.  One complaint I have about the park in general is that very few of the trees are labeled.  Why bother to organize the sections of the park by families of trees and shrubs if you aren't going to label them?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Mt. Rainier National Park - Washington

I'll keep this one short and mostly link you to better information, since I just visited for the first time and only spent a few hours in the park.  I hope to return someday to do a longer hike or backpack; or maybe I'll just pass by on the PCT.

If you go on a weekend in the summer, get out there early.  Traffic at the entrance can get really backed up and the parking at popular spots can fill-up, forcing visitors to abandon their plans in whole sections of the park.  We left Seattle at 10:00 and didn't get to Paradise until after 1:30. We managed to get one of the last spots and saw people forced to just drive through and move on.

Better maps than the one shown below can be found here.  The embedded map can at least be used to get directions.  The popular Paradise area is located on the south side of the mountain and has a network of trails that head uphill from the visitor center.

For more information on weather, climbing, permits, etc. visit the park's main page at: