These two hikes are as different as night and day.
Time constraints won't allow me to elaborate on Hanford Reach National Monument except to say that it's one of the most scenic hikes we've done in the last month or so. It is a long drive from Seattle though - it takes about 3.5 hours to get to Hanford Reach and that's just one way. There is compensation for the drive though - it's scenic. So scenic, in fact, that we had to resist stops along the way for photo opportunities and just plain curiosity about what else we could do in the region.
Really, I don't mean to taunt you with how lovely this hike is and then say so little about it. Let me try: Hanford Reach is the last free-running stretch of the Columbia River in the United States - the region is managed by the Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The "white bluffs" in the Wahluke Unit of the monument was our goal - a hike I've enjoyed a few times in the past. The scenery defies description - the Columbia River, Locke Island, the sand dunes (about 4 miles from the "trailhead"), a settlers cabin that also served as a blacksmith shop and relics of WWII and the Cold War across the Columbia River.
Neither Jim, Maxine nor Bob had ever been there before - they were spellbound. The fine weather helped - in early November it was sunny and warm enough we could just "hang out" and take in the views. In spring we'll go back for the wildflowers ....
Sunday's hike (November 14) was like a hike on another planet after our visit to Hanford Reach. With a gloomy forecast and a tight budget we picked a hike close to home - Cougar Mountain Regional State Park. We hiked one of our favorite trails - from Redtown to Coal Creek Parkway. We like this hike because it is less crowded on weekends and under the right conditions it can be a pretty hike.
This wasn't the case yesterday - the fall color has drained out of the landscape and it's a "brown hike". Personally I don't like "brown" hikes - perhaps that's because there are few photo opportunities. A little snow would really enhance this trail -- or any trail in the lowlands (about the only kind of forest that can get away with being described as"beautiful" in November would be the rain forests but that's just my opinion). On second thought ... old growth forests, too, could also be rightly described as beautiful under the right conditions.
Spring is our favorite time to hike in the Issaquah Alps - we like watching, smelling and listening to the world wake up after a long winter's sleep. We also like the "Alps" later in the year when the waterfalls freeze and the brown leaves glitter with frost.
There were quite a few cars at Red Town - we expected that. But once we were on the trail we met only a few people and it felt good just to get fresh air and a lbit of exercise. We looked high and low for photo "opps" but didn't find many with our "dimestore" cameras. The beauty was there - the cameras are simply incapable of capturing the miniature, magical worlds we saw at our feet and on stumps. The cobwebs were misted with fine, droplets of rain but those were hard to photograph, especially when the cobwebs were nestled inside stumps.
Jeepers, I probably sound like I'm whining! Really, I'm not - I guess I'm just wishing that fall lasted longer and hoping that winter will be gentle (likely not). However, as for November as far as I'm concerned they could leave this month out of the calendar (it's probably a good thing I'm not in the charge of the world, eh).
White Bluffs (Hanford Reach) - about 8 miles round trip, no significant gain. Cougar Mt (Red Town to Coal Creek Parkway) - about 6 miles round trip, not much gain.
As for photos - the computer is trying to destroy (again) what's left of my sanity - it stubbornly insists on only posting the photo from Cougar Mountain, NOT the gem I had in mind for Hanford Reach. Sigh .....