Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

Posts made in: 'outdoors' (34) Currently Viewing: 31 - 34 of 34

March 7, 2013 at 8:31am

Outdoor Addict: The Foothills Trail

MCMILLIAN BRIDGE: It's the best spot to jump on The Foothills Trail. Photo credit: Whitney Rhodes

A BREAK FROM THE CITY >>>

So the other day I was enjoying the trails at Point Defiance. They are one of my favorite easy escapes from the city. Plodding along on the trails, mud on my shoes, admiring the first signs of spring, listening to the birds, breathing the fresh air ... ROAAAAAAAAAAR. A Harley rides by on Five Mile Drive. So much for pretending I was out of the city for a while.

This is not a rant on loud motorcycles. Or cars. I have taken that drive many a time and sometimes it's the perfect lunch break. But I was left cranky and wanting out. Sometimes I need to just get out of the city. It doesn't have to be a crazy camp in the middle of nowhere trip. But sometimes I just want to see a cow.  So I set off on a quest to find a place that was close but would be an escape from all that is the city. A place that could be an afternoon getaway and not an all day affair.

I have found one dear reader. Pack your bicycles! Grab the roller blades! Bring the dog and kids! There is a trail with infinite possibilities. The Foothills Trail.

The Foothills Trail is an over 25 mile long trail that largely follows the old rail line. The Foothill Rails-to-Trails coalition has diligently championed the development of this scenic byway and it is a gem in Pierce County. When it is completed, it will link with other trails and you will be able to travel from the shores of Puget Sound in Tacoma, all the way to the foothills in Enumclaw. While not fully completed yet, there are substantial sections done providing miles of recreational opportunity.

My personal favorite spot to get on the trail is the McMillin trailhead. Located adjacent to the historic McMillian bridge just before you get into Orting, this small parking area offers you a two direction choice. Head over the historic railroad trestle bridge and into farmland, or continue towards the adorable town of Orting. Both directions have different pulls for me. On one hand, the farms (cows!) provide that visual escape from the city. On the other, the view of Mt. Rainier as you head into to town is unbelievable. Plus, the Orting Bakery is pretty darn good. If you do bring the kids, downtown Orting has a lovely little park for them to play in. Get some treats at the bakery and let the kids run around like heathens before strapping them back in the stroller. Oh and I've been told the pizza at Route 66 Pizzeria is "freaking amazing." You can start your trail adventure here. But at least for me, when faced with a bakery and pizza or a trail ... well lets just say I'm better when the reward is at the end of the exercise.

The trail is largely flat, mostly paved, and stretches for miles. If you are training for a long distance run or are a bicyclist, believe me it is worth the trip to mix up your routine. REI has built a rest area about halfway between Orting and South Prairie providing a nice place for a picnic. And just because the trail is flat and paved does not mean it's boring. On my recent walk I saw longhorn cattle, emus, woodpeckers, met an adorable puppy that was working on his manners and sat next to a lovely river. What will your next adventure look like?

The Foothills Trail

McMillin and Orting trailheads: From State Highway 167 and/or 512 take the State Highway 410 exit, then take the Orting/Sumner exit which is Route 162. Turn right towards Orting. The McMillin trailhead is on the right directly after the cement bridge at 140th St E. The Orting trailhead is 2.2 miles further on the right located in Orting City Park.

Find Pierce County's trail map here.

February 28, 2013 at 7:55am

Outdoor Addict: Stroll beyond the kissing couples at Owen Beach

OWEN BEACH TIDE POOLS: Don't touch the marine life you socks and sandal wearing sun-worshipper! Photo credit: Whitney Rhodes

Oh Pacific Northwesterners. You amuse me sometimes. That first sunny, above 50 degrees day is always so entertaining. It's like you've never seen the sun before. Quick! Everyone all at once get your dose of vitamin D! This behavior is completely justified given our constant state of grey the past two months, but if frolicking among the masses of socks and sandal wearing folks isn't your idea of a grand afternoon never fear dear reader, you need only look just beyond the beaten path.

On a recent sun drenched afternoon the area near the parking lot at Owen Beach was overrun. Dogs, screaming children, groups attempting to picnic without having to sit on the ground. It was an unnavigable mess. However, this is not our destination. Keep walking down the beach, past where the path ends, past the kissing couples, just keep going. The farther you walk the quieter it gets. Be sure to look around though. This is where the magic happens.

Just as the crowd thinned out and my friend and I started to enjoy the quiet we realized we were being followed. And not by a sun-worshipping, vitamin D drunk PNWesterner. By a dark shadowy fella. No wait. There's more than one of them. There's THREE of them. The trio was checking us out then disappearing into the water only to reappear farther down the beach. They were tracking us. I had never been stalked by a trio of seals before, but I'd do it again dear reader. Their hide and seek antics had us acting like eight year olds.

Beach walking and tide pooling is a quintessential northwest activity, and Owen Beach is the perfect place for it. It's fun for all ages: bring the kids, make it a date, or catch up with friends. The rocky beach is flat and you can go as fast or as slow as you wish. Dogs often love the beach but resist the urge to let them run free. Seals like to rest on the beach this time of year and would not enjoy a frightening encounter with a pooch (plus its against the law).

If you feel like being a Good Samaritan remember a plastic bag to pick up litter off the beach. The beach is one of the worst places for trash because of the animals that come in contact with it. Picking up a few plastic bottles won't impact you very much but may save an otter from a really bad day.

We spent most of our beach walk peering into tide pools, poking sea squirts and sea anemones, and mean mugging those seals. At one point violin music drifted down from the hillside above, giving our mock sword battle an epic soundtrack. Kids love finding the greenest rock, or looking for crabs in shallow pools.

I advise you to take a minute before you set off your own adventure to check the tide charts. This is as simple as a Google search these days, and can make all the difference. Low tide doesn't just provide the best tide pool viewing; it's crucial for access to much of the beach. The Tacoma Fire Department is quite good at cliff rescues thanks to folks not checking the tides and getting stranded. Don't be THAT guy. Trust me, wearing a sling to be hauled up a cliff won't impress your date.

OWEN BEACH, OPEN HALF-HOUR BEFORE SUNRISE, CLOSED HALF-HOUR AFTER SUNSET, POINT DEFIANCE PARK, 5605 N. OWEN BEACH ROAD, TACOMA, 253.305.1000

Filed under: Outdoor Addict, Outdoors,

February 21, 2013 at 12:50pm

Outdoor Addict: Scenic Beach State Park vs. the villain

SCENIC BEACH STATE PARK: Woah! Photo credit: Whitney Rhodes

I must confess dear reader, that I have a problem. You see, when two of my girlfriends recently texted me asking if I wanted to go camping on the beach my instant reaction was, "well duh, who wouldn't?" This would be normal if it was July. But it's not. It's February. Thus I must face the truth and admit it. I'm an addict. And my drug of choice is the great outdoors.

Since just the idea of sitting, confined indoors, at weekly meetings of Outdoor Addicts Anonymous makes me twitch, I'll be confessing my adventures to you dear readers. You can hold me accountable.

Hi. My name is Whitney and it has been one day since my last outdoor adventure.

My friend's sales pitch on Scenic Beach State Park promised sunset on the beach, soaring mountains, campfire and great food. It's February, we spent only an hour planning, and while there was no rain in the forecast, the temperatures promised to be chilly. What could possibly go wrong?

We arrived in the late afternoon with my small car packed to the brim. A winding road meanders through numerous campsites. We picked one with some lovely trees and a spot for a hammock. After getting organized we set off through the woods for the beach with steaming mugs of hot cocoa. And woah. Picture perfect. Take your breath away perfect. A classic rocky PNW beach awaited us. Just across the water, the majestic Olympics were still dusted with snow. We wandered the beach as the sky turned pink, then a soft blue. It was quiet, peaceful, and have I mentioned perfect?

Even the campsite was well setup for our trio. A large picnic table provided the perfect workspace, while a fire pit equipped with a grill offered warmth and a place to cook. However, lets not get all caught up in the bucolic scene here. There has to be a downfall to all of this perfectness.

That grate? Yeah. When not in use it lays next to the pit. In the darkness, all three of us managed to trip over it with varying degrees of damage. Jana got the short end of that stick and ended up bleeding profusely after stubbing her toe. The fire? Well let's just say it took some liquid courage in the form of lighter fluid to bring it to life. But all in all, minor challenges compared to that gorgeous sunset.

After satisfying our inner pyros we tromped through the woods for some late night stargazing. Again with the woah. The big dipper, Orion, Venus and more celestial bodies than we could identify awaited us. Combined with a half moon that was bright enough to beachcomb by ... well lets just say I'd do that again in a heartbeat. But this is where the villain of our story makes his entrance. The cold. Remember my advice last week? Check the weather. Then check it again. Even when you think you know it can surprise you. We beat a hasty retreat to the campsite after teeth started chattering audibly.

Sleeping started off so well. The silence and darkness of being away from the city was so refreshing and we settled into sleeping bags for some rest. 3:30 a.m. rolled around and our villain decided we'd had enough fun. Even when well equipped, 30 degrees is freaking cold. Determined not to let the villain win, we made some adjustments, grabbed an extra blanket, and turned to the best way to get warm: cuddling. Face it folks, when cold we will get close and cozy with just about anyone.

In the end our villain made this trip a little less fun than we would have liked but this week's adventure more than provided my weekly fix of the great outdoors. I'm already plotting my next foray.

  • Scenic Beach State Park
  • 9565 Scenic Beach Rd NW, Seabeck, WA 98380
  • $22 for campsites during the offseason. Also, an extensive day use area has picnic tables, fire pits, grills, and more for a less intense version of my adventure.

LINK: Manchester State Park

Filed under: Outdoors, Outdoor Addict,

February 12, 2013 at 1:46pm

COVER TEASE: The Great Outdoors with Whitney Rhodes

WHITNEY RHODES: Follow her into the woods.

WEEKLY VOLCANO COVER STORY PREVIEW >>>

Whitney Rhodes is the woman.

And no, I don't mean THE WOMAN - that would be disparaging.

I mean she rules. She's awesome. And she will be writing a weekly Great Outdoors column for the Weekly Volcano, kicking off this week. On the cover.

After this week's cover slot, you'll find her waxing parks and picnics right here on Spew - every Thursday.

I have her first story in my hot hands. It smells like pine trees. It feels like a down parka. It's insightful, well written, and dare I say, inspirational.

To whet your appetite for Thursday's cover story, today I share a few lines from her story.

Braving the outdoors with your significant other can be risky business. Two of my friends decided their perfect honeymoon was camping out in the Olympics. The now infamous story of this trip involves an uphill both ways trail, freezing wind, aggressive sunbathing marmots, and the always lovely honey-I-brought-matches-but-not-a-way-to-strike-them moment. Needless to say, it's a good thing they have a long history and are married. They can laugh about it. Barely.

We live in one of the most beautiful places in the country with opportunities to experience nature all around us. Our corner of the country is where everyone drives a Subaru and has a closet (or garage) that looks like a mini-REI store. However, just because that cute girl at the Parkway last night was wearing a Patagonia jacket does not mean an outdoor misadventure for your first date will be forgiven. In order to offer you, dear reader, the best chances of success I've put together three simple rules. ...

Oh yes I did just cut it off. Pick up Thursday's rag and read her prose. Be sure to smell it too.

Filed under: Outdoors,

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