Covid Tour of the Northwest USA

A Hike and Bike Trip

A trail winding among giant trees

California Redwoods in a typical morning fog.

In Covid times, international travel is inconvenient or impossible. USA, with all the public lands offers endless opportunities for solitude and recreation. Staying away from people is relatively easy, especially when traveling by a van. Usually, I spend most of my time in the SW USA. However, for this trip, I wanted to explore northwestern states on foot and motorcycle.

US Northwest is incredibly beautiful, one can find deserts, glacier covered peaks, rainforests and endless beaches. However, for someone who abhors rain, it can be a tricky destination. Last time I came to ride in the NW, I was chased by a major storm for 1500 miles, all the way to southern Utah.

a person touching a giant tree

Admiring giants in Del Norte State Park.

Van driving on a dirt road through towering redwoods

Exploring Prairie Creek State Park.

I started driving along the Pacific coast in Ft Bragg, While the temperatures inland were over 100 F, by the coast, it was outright cold, even in the sun. Things did not improve when I crossed into Oregon. But then an unusual "heat wave" came through the NW. While most locals were trying to survive 100 degree days, I could finally enjoy Oregon's beaches.

two people walking on a beach with fog off the coast

Tranquil beach in Oregon.

a tree stump on a vide stretch of beach

I could not figure out if this stump just "landed" or was it a stump of the tree that actually grew right at the beach.

Washington's Olympic peninsula is a home of America's only temperate rainforest. A famous hike along the Hoh river has been on my bucket list for years, I finally got to do it with a friend. We hiked 18 miles along the river, all the way to the lateral moraine of the glacier on Mt Olympus.

a hiker standing next to a big tree

On the hike along Hoh river.

water seeping down moss-covered rocks

No problems finding drinking water on Hoh trail.

various plants grwoing out of a dead tree

Every dead tree is home to numerous new plants.

a hiker standing amoung giant trees covered in moss

Hoh trail winds through a moss covered forest most of the way.

a hiker between two parts of a cut log

Fern, moss and lichen.

a person sitting on a branch of a large tree

A moss covered tree near Lake Crescent.

a person swimming in blue-green lake

Going for a dip in crystal clear waters of Lake Crescent, the largest lake on the peninsula.

Beahes of the Olympic peninsula are also a big attraction and home to a few famous hikes. Unfortunately, because of Covid, many beaches were not accessible.

driftwood piled up on an empty beach

Driftwood strewn beaches of the Olympic peninsula.

beach ro cks stacked on a large log

Rock stacks on the famous Ruby beach.

Mt Rainier is only half a day drive from the Olympic peninsula and we wanted to do some day hikes there as a preparation for the longer hike that we had planned to do in the Cascades.

view of Mt Raininer through a snow cave

Mostly melted snow cave along the skyline trail on Mt Rainier.

view of Mt Raininer with a cascading river in front

Creeks are cranking, carrying glacial melt from Mt Rainier.

a person in a hammock with Mt Rainier behind

Chilling at Sunrise point of Mt. Rainier.

Hiking a Section of the Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail goes over 2000 miles from Canadian to Mexican border, passing through some of the most stunning scenery. We decided to do just one section, 74 miles long (according to a sign). We were dropped off at Stevens pass off US highway 2 and hiked south to Snoqualmie pass on I-90. There were a few hairy river crossings, quite a bit of elevation change, but the biggest challenge, by far, were the mosquitoes. We were bitten everywhere and all the time. Later on, a local lady told us that July is the worst time to hike as far as mosquitoes are concerned.

a hiker with many fallen trees in front of him

The trail is literred with fallen trees. Because it's a wilderness area, chainsaws are not allowed, so the crews cut and clear fallen trees like it was done 200 years ago. Doesn't seem like the best use of tax dollars.

a hiker walking into fog-engulfed forest

Foggy mornings give that true feeling of being in the Northwest.

a hiker high above an alpine lake

Just one of many pristine alpine lakes along the trail.

After the hike, my friend and I decided to explore the eastern side of the Cascade mountains. I also wanted to ride some famous single track motorcycle trails near Cle Elum. So we setup a camp by the Cle Elum lake.

a van and a person in a hammock next to a lake

Camping at the edge of the Cle Elum lake.

a person swimming in a creek

Cooling off in a creek.

Wanatchee National Forest has many great trails to ride. Some are fairly easy, but most were at the limit of my abilities. After a few days of excellent riding, I ended up on a trail littered with fallen logs. It turned to be a much bigger adventure than I had planned for. It took me two weeks of recovery before I could stomach the idea of trying riding motorcycle again.

old cars and trucks lined up

Old cars and trucks along a highway in Idaho.

During that time, we drove through Montana and Idaho. For some reason, Idaho has been off my radar for many years. There are no spectacular national parks, but there are beautiful forests, canyons, rivers and challenging trails to ride. I will most certainly have to go back to explore Idaho more.

a person in a hammock next to a lake

One of my favorite spots of the trip - Upper Payette Lake.

a person sitting under a giant tree working on a laptop

Working on my project in Idaho mountains.

A motorcycle parked on a small bridge over a creek

One of many, beautifully maintained, single track trails to ride in Idaho.

A van parked on road with mountains behind

The Grand Tetons.

Next, going east was Wyoming. We spent a few days in Grand Tetons NP. One day, we hiked through the magnificent Cascades Canyon up to Lake Solitude. It was a long 18+ miles day and we could barely walk at the end.

a person standing on a footbridge over a gushing creek

Solitude lake trail follows a gushing creek.

a person sitting next to a cascading waterfall

A waterfall just below Lake Solitude.

A person walking on a trail

The trail passes Wigwams (that is the name of the peak).

As beautiful as Grand Tetons are, crowds simply spoil the experience. So we headed to the Wind River Range in search of solitude. We were not wrong. We were not alone, but compared to the previous few days, it felt as if we were the only people there.

A person sitting next to a fire ring with wine glass

Happy to be away from the crowds.

A river meandering through a green valley

We hiked along a wide valley following the Green River.

A lake and mountains behind

One of two big lakes that the Green River flows through. No wonder the area is called Green River Lakes.

A van with sand dunes behind it

Chilling at Killpecker sand dunes ( yes, it's the real name!)

By the time I reached Colorado, the weather was already getting cold. Two and half months was about the right amount of time for this trip. I did not rush through any area, nor did I feel bored spending too much time in any place. The trip was an awesome experience, but, now, I am ready for a change of scenery, climate, culture, cuisine ..., a new continent.