Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Explore Cambodia's other temples


As mentioned in an earlier post, there are thousands of temples in the Angkor region with Angkor Wat being the most readily recognizable. During the Golden Age of the Angkor civilization, the 9th to 15th centuries, this southeast Asia country was twice as large and much more prosperous than it is today.
Buddha statues adorn temple entrances
At present the government lacks resources to restore and maintain many of these temples, but here are two others that we would recommend to visitors.

Angkor Thom—the happy place
While in Siem Reap, Cambodia, we also visited AngkorThom, a striking temple complex known for sculptures, carved Buddhas, and tall structures. Unlike Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom was a large city--the last capital of the 12th century Khmer civilization--where people lived vibrant, active lives. Hospitals, roads, water reservoirs, and a detailed infrastructure were constructed during the period of high prosperity.

The Bayon Temple in the center of the temple city, is known for its many carved Buddhas with smiling faces—reflecting good times in Cambodia. Now we see only ruins, a skeleton of the historical city that fell when invaded by the Siamese (who looted all the gold and treasures). Later the Burmese invaded Siam and took those same treasured items.
Entrance to Angkor Thom, also a UNESCO site, is through a very elegantly carved gate. Cars, motorcycles, and foot traffic stream through this ornate gate into the complex. You’ll enjoy the smiling faces of rugged Buddha statues while imagining a pleasant daily life for the many inhabitants in those ancient times.
Smiling Buddhas reflect prosperous times in Cambodia.


Roaming monkeys were familiar sights as we explored massive structures and carvings on stone walls, including at the Elephant Terrace.

Jungle Temple--a wild place

When life circumstances deteriorated and people left Ta Prohm Temple, the jungle took over and destroyed many of the structures. Huge trees are now entwined in, through, and around walls of the so-called Jungle Temple. Tree roots tangle around rocks and stones, woven into the fabric of the deteriorating structures. They have become inseparable—one would fall without the other.
Enormous tree roots have wound their way around remains of this temple.
Centuries later, when the jungle was cleared, animals left (tigers, rhinos, elephants, and leopards among them), but many varieties of trees such as fig, banyan, mahogany, and rosewood were left. The temple area will continue to be left in this natural state to illustrate how nature adapts and reclaims the land when it’s undisturbed for a long time.
Roots and stones entwined in an inseparable structure.
Because the Jungle Temple is a messy jumble of stone and vegetation—and too many people crowded there--it’s easy to get lost when exploring the grounds, so we were told to follow the guide closely. A good thing, too, as we headed down a different path once after stopping to take additional photos. But we had been told to exit by the East Gate (we had entered the South Gate), so all turned out well.
It's had to imagine how imposing the roots have
become through the ensuing centuries.
Each of these temples illustrate different aspects of religious, social, and cultural life in ancient Cambodia and provide historical context today that is allowing the country to rebuild via tourism.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

 

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Mt. Rainier National Park--designed for tourism


Entrance to the first master-planned national park.
Mt. Rainier National Park, created in 1899, was the first national park that had a full master plan from the start. It was designed for tourism with a well-maintained road system engineered and planned to take advantage of scenic views of the namesake mountain and the meadows, lakes, and forests within its boundaries. Creating the road system wasn't easy since it meant boring through mountains at several points.
Wildlife, mountains, forests, and meadows are among the many
 attractions in Mt. Rainier National Park.
The park first developed the familiar rustic style of architecture that has since been used in many other western national parks. In fact, it was designated a National Historic Landmark District because of the architecture. All this was notable for the park system, even though the main attraction will always be the majestic mountain itself and 97 percent of the park that is designated wilderness with no development.

Beverly and Larry at Narada Falls
in Mt. Rainier NP
Mt. Rainier is considered an active volcano, even though it hasn’t erupted in 20,000 years. But magma heated water (steam) still escapes from the summit and lava flows drape the mountain sides making it potentially the most dangerous mountain in the Cascade volcano range. Shaped by fire (volcanic ash is a building force) and ice (tears it down with scraping and scouring), the surface of the mountain is constantly changing. “Erosion always wins,” says a sign at the Paradise Visitor Center. Thus, Mt. Rainier can be a destructive force or a sanctuary depending on weather and geologic forces.
Clouds move rapidly across the mountain and provide fleeting
views of its peak.
The park is a magical land, always changing. It can be misty, foggy, sunny, rainy, or cloudy--all in the same day. Dozens of rivers and streams run through the park, and trees grow twisted and bent from the weight of snow and ice. Visitors gain a renewed appreciation for the forces of nature when visiting the national park.  Although 9,000 climbers attempt to summit Rainier each year only half that number actually make it. Its size and variety are an inspiration for nature lovers and photographers.

Beverly poses on a fallen tree during
a hike in Mt. Rainier NP.
On our first day in the park we stopped to take pictures of Christine Falls, beautiful and strong as it cascades down a cliff. Then we took a short walk to Narada Falls, one of the most spectacular in the park with water splashing 168 feet over jagged rock into the Paradise River.
After lunch at  the park's main visitor center, Paradise Jackson Visitor Center,we walked to scenic Myrtle Lake and extended the hike to Nisqually Vista, a pleasant trail through a sublime alpine flower meadow, among the prettiest anywhere in the world during summer's blooming period. During our September visit, remnants of summer wildflowers dotted hillsides with bright color. Next we drove on Stevens Canyon Road and through a valley, then on to Box Canyon for a stunning look into the deep, narrow canyon cut by a rapidly flowing river.

Sunshine on Reflection Lake one day rewarded us with this amazing
 but short-lived view.
Scattered rain and gray clouds had curtailed some of our walks, but as we returned on Stevens Canyon Road, the clouds began to move quickly, opening up the top of Mt. Rainier. For about 10-15 minutes we watched clouds blow across the sky and allow for our first pictures of the mountain. A rainbow shone in the sky, and reflections sparkled in Louise Lake on the drive back to our cabin. We were satisfied with all we saw that day, even while hoping for better views of the mountain on another day (and we were not disappointed!).

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Monday, July 31, 2017

Angkor Wat draws visitors to Cambodia


One of the main reasons people travel to Cambodia is to see the famous temple at Angkor Wat, seventh wonder of the world. While Angkor Wat is the largest and most highlighted of the Angkor group, what visitors might not realize is that there are thousands of temples in the Angkor area, making it the largest religious center in the World.
The ancient temple of Angkor Wat brings tourists to Cambodia.
Five towers—a distinctive feature of Angkor Wat--are replicas of lotus flowers, which grow from mud (poor conditions) and open to beautiful flowers (opportunities). It’s an allegory even today for this region of Asia. The temples were not maintained and later fell into disrepair for about 400 years. During that time the jungle took over, almost obliterating these magnificent structures. They were rediscovered by French archaeologists in the 1850s and now give us an unprecedented glimpse into the industrious nature of an ancient civilization that we might not have known about otherwise.

Visitors wait to ascend the stairs to the
top of the tower.
Although most temples open to the east, where the sun rises, Angkor Wat is the only one where the main entrance faces west. Perhaps that’s because it was originally a burial temple (sunset indicated end of life).
Built nearly a thousand years ago without modern tools and technology, Angkor Wat is a manmade wonder. Ancient civilizations accomplished marvelous engineering feats when building these temples. The entire complex is surrounded by a gigantic manmade moat which was dug out to provide dirt to construct a flat hill on which the temple was built. The moat stabilizes the foundation year-round and served an engineering purpose then and now by maintaining the water table. In the rainy season the moat became a reservoir that kept the temple from flooding.

Detailed carvings decorate walls and pillars of the temple.


A spot for prayerful meditation.
The temples were religious icons used for prayers and ceremonies, especially for the rulers of that time. No people lived in the temples. During our visit we walked almost four miles around the complex. Dirt paths, uneven steps, and a lack of handrails required our attention as we wandered the grounds marveling at the intricate carvings and major construction achievements from ancient civilizations.
To visit temples in the Angkor area, most visitors arrive in Siem Reap, a town of about 30,000 people. About 35 percent are employed in the young tourism industry, which is based on these ancient temples. Unfortunately, landmines from recent wars (Vietnam, Khmer Rouge, civil war) still litter the ground around many temples, but local governments lack resources for costly and dangerous removal to fix the problems and open more temples for visitation.

Religious ceremonies are still important in the temples of Cambodia.
As we arrived one afternoon, the sun in the west made gorgeous reflections of the temple’s towers on the moat, a scene we recorded in numerous photos. Many people lounged by the water, taking in the sight of this symbolic structure. A fascinating place, Angkor Wat doesn't disappoint, and it's especially interesting if you like ancient history.
Larry admires the beautiful reflection of Angkor Wat.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier
 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

SeaWorld San Antonio showcases animal experiences and water play


In addition to thrill rides covered in a recent post, SeaWorld San Antonio offers multiple opportunities for close encounters with a variety of animals.
Entrance to SeaWorld San Antonio
Discovery Point

A highlight of our day spent at the park was visiting Discovery Point where an expansive 600,000-gallon lagoon (twice the size of the previous dolphin habitat) is home to a pod of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. You can watch them swim and play from sandy shores of the lagoon or see dolphins in a new way at the park’s first underwater viewing area, opened last year. Not only does the underground viewing spot provide a different look at the activities of these awesome creatures, it’s also a fine place to get out of the hot summer sun Texas for awhile.
The underwater viewing area is great for watching dolphins at play.
Want to come nose-to-nose with SeaWorld’s stars? Book a swim with dolphins, belugas, or sea lions in advance. Discovery Point is the only place in Texas where you can actually get in the water and swim with these animals that inhabit our seas. It’s a unique experience where you’ll get to interact with the animals through touch, feeding, and hand gestures.

Discovery Point also includes Explorer’s Reef, home to more than 350 species of fish, invertebrates, and amphibians as well as a living Caribbean coral reef grown almost entirely by SeaWorld San Antonio’s Aquarium Department. Learn about the importance of coral reefs in the ocean’s ecosystem.
Splash into Aquatica

Purchase a combo ticket for SeaWorld and the adjacent water park called Aquatica, and you’ll get the best of an active water park and beach activities including a splash pad for little tykes . Have a cool time imagining you’re at the beach--kiddos building sand castles, and everyone romping in crashing surf in the wave pool. On a hot Texas summer day, there’s no better place to be than getting drenched  on water rides that go from serene to extreme. Add to that the opportunity to touch sting rays, see tropical birds, or just relax awhile.
New whale calf and other animals

Dine with Shamu gives guests a close-up look at how orcas are trained.
Who doesn’t love a baby? SeaWorld guests can observe the whale calf, born on April 19, 2017 to Takara, the 25-year-old matriarch of the park’s orca pod. This is special because Takara’s calf will be the last killer whale birth at a SeaWorld park. It’s also the last chance for researchers to study orca development in ways that can’t be done in the wild. The knowledge gained will benefit wild whales as well as those at SeaWorld.
One of the best opportunities to see the calf is during Dine with Shamu, an additional activity that provides guests with a generous barbeque buffet right next to the training pool for the orcas. Trainers wander among the diners answering questions and then demonstrate some of their techniques for teaching specific behaviors to the whales. It’s a great close-up view of these magnificent animals performing for a small group of people.

Orcas put on a thrilling show which guests enjoy after dining
on a generous barbeque buffet.
And there’s more: SeaWorld is home to many beautiful birds including flamingos, penguins, and an array of exotic birds. Alligator Alley provides an opportunity to feed and learn about American alligators and red-eared slider turtles. Don’t overlook the Animal Connections Conservation Center where you’ll see pythons, birds, and other animals.
Flamingoes are favorites among many bird varieties at SeaWorld.
In addition to allowing visitors to enjoy and learn about a variety of animals, visitors should know that SeaWorld rescues and rehabilitates marine and terrestrial animals that are ill, injured, orphaned, or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. The park is proud of its leadership efforts in animal welfare, training, and veterinary care of one of the largest zoological collections in the world.

For our granddaughter—and us—the day spent at SeaWorld was fun and filled with special memories we all cherish.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Monday, July 17, 2017

Thinking Riviera for vacation? Try Gulf Shores instead

Accommodations are plentiful on beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama
White sand, sparkling water, and sunny skies make a perfect vacation at the beach.  But if a retreat to the French Riviera is more dream than reality, Gulf Shores, Alabama makes a sparkling substitute.  This resort community is family friendly, which means it’s a great place to take the kids or grandkids—or even schedule a multi-generational getaway.
Along with lazy days spent building sand castles and cooling off under splashing waves along 32 miles of soft, sugar-white sand, this coastal region offers a bounty of ways to enjoy its Southern charm.  No matter your age, you’ll enjoy the beach town simplicity and abundant opportunities to enjoy Mother Nature.
Dolphin sightings are guaranteed in the back bays of Gulf Shores.
Dolphin cruises—Companies such as Dolphin Express leave from Bear Point Marina and travel out on the back bays to view these playful creatures.  Dolphins are here year-round, and spotting these graceful mammals playing in their natural environment is an exciting experience.  Captains know exactly where to go and how to position their boats to attract dolphins.

Well-maintained trail at Bon Secour
National Wildlife Refuge
Hike the trails of Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, an undisturbed barrier habitat of almost 7,000 acres.  The Pine Beach trail is an easy two mile round trip path through a variety of ecologies including marine forest, saltgrass, and marshes to unspoiled beaches and sand dunes. The Refuge is also a stopping point for migratory birds and a nesting site for sea turtles. 

Secluded beach is a welcome destination.
Captain Skip Beebe started a family tour on Sailaway Charters because he noticed kids got bored on regular sailboat tours. So now he engages children with tales of diverse wildlife in the area and lots of hands-on experiences with sea critters he draws into his nets—and then releases.  As you float through local bays and bayous during this quick-paced and informative pontoon boat ride, you’ll see oysters, crabs, shrimp, birds, and even dolphins (attracted by the tapping of a hammer on the side of the boat). 
Family cruises teach kids about marine life.
View the sunset from a dinner cruise leaving from Orange Bay. While dining on seafood and dishes made from locally grown produce, guests watch dolphins swoop and splash alongside the boat’s hull. Coastal birds following the boat also provide plenty of opportunities for wildlife watching and photography.  Towards evening, blue sky fades into pink-tinged gray, dark-shadowed trees frame the setting sun, and delicate psychedelic ripples skim the water’s surface. 

Adults and older children enjoy exploring Alabama’s multiple fresh waterways by kayak at the Five Rivers Delta Center.  Outfitters provide single or double kayaks for rent. As you paddle through areas of mossy growth and open, easily navigated spaces of calm water, you’ll experience the beauty of scenic rivers, woods, and wetlands.  After an excursion on the water, spend time at the visitor center viewing exhibits about history of the region, importance of the rivers, and conservation activities for preserving the delta.  
Kayaking is pleasant in smooth water at Five Rivers Delta Center.
The Alabama coast is an angler’s paradise. Orange Beach is home to the largest fishing fleet on the northern Gulf Coast. Alabama has built many artificial reefs, both inshore and on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, to improve fishing opportunities for snapper, grouper, amberjack, cobia, triggerfish, and king mackerel.  Prefer to stay on land? Cast your rod off the 825-foot fishing pier at Gulf State Park.

Golf is a year-round sport in the mild climate.  Ten signature courses are within driving range of the beach, with several other courses open for public play.  Tennis, parasailing, scuba diving and snorkeling—and, of course, shopping are other activities enjoyed by visitors.
Whet your appetite with giant shrimp.
When you get hungry, head out for fresh seafood. Shrimp, crabs, oysters, and an impressive variety of fish can be found in most of the area’s restaurants, from casual barefoot hangouts to romantic white-linen candlelit dinners for two.  You might decide Gulf Shores is even better than the Riviera.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

SeaWorld San Antonio launches new coaster ride


Known for its close-up encounters with dolphins and whales, SeaWorld San Antonio has recently expanded thrills of a different kind. A new ride called Wave Breaker: the Rescue Coaster launched mid-June to the delight of theme-park afficianados.
Danni at entrance to Wave Breaker: the Rescue Coaster
Wave Breaker combines the excitement of a roller coaster with the adrenaline rush of a marine animal rescue mission. Inspired by 30,000 rescues accomplished by the Sea World Rescue Team during the past 50 years, the ride is designed with jet-ski-style cars that passengers straddle and grip handle bars while racing through a series of high-speed maneuvers.

Close-up of wave runner-type cars
My husband Larry and 10-year-old granddaughter Danni recently experienced this exciting ride that includes a pair of pulse-pounding launches over water. Being the smarter grandparent (roller coasters have never been my thing), I chose to take pictures of the two zooming along 2,600 feet of track.
Despite Danni giving her lungs good exercise during the ride, the design enables guests to experience what racing alongside the animal care team might feel like when a call comes in for rescue. It’s an exhilarating three minutes of constant motion.

If you love roller coasters, also try 360 degree flips on The GreatWhite or Steel Eel, the tallest roller coaster at SeaWorld. Both attractions will get your adrenaline revved up for sure. Height restrictions apply—and nerves of steel are good to have.
Thrills on Wave Breaker
But if you prefer a slightly slower pace—and don’t mind getting wet--check out Journey to Atlantis or the crazy twists and turns of Rio Loco. These rides will cool you off quickly with a full body soaking. Lines are typically not as long, but they still deliver thrills for all ages. Within half an hour of entering the park soon after it opened, we had ridden each of these two times.

Shamu Express accommodates families with young visitors just learning about thrill ride experiences; and there’s an interactive three-acre playground of age-appropriate rides and attractions for the smallest guests.

Larry is in yellow shirt and Danni is pony-tailed girl beside him--they
are hanging on as Wave Breaker starts its exhilarating ride.
There’s plenty to experience at SeaWorld San Antonio if you like action-packed attractions. But that’s just one part of the marine park’s entertainment. In future posts I’ll tell about other things to do and SeaWorld’s mission to protect and care for animals and teach visitors about natural wonders of our world.
Photos by Beverly Burmeier and SeaWorld San Antonio.

 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Guidebook for Route 66, America's famous roadway


On a trip to Peru, we met a couple whose dream trip in America was to drive along Route 66. This iconic highway has a reputation in song and literature that has expanded beyond the borders of the country in which it is located. 

The myths and mysteries of this legendary highway are covered in great detail in Drew Knowles’ updated fifth edition of Route 66 Adventure Handbook (Santa Monica Press/ May 2017). If you’ve ever thought of traveling on the “Mother Road” of America, this is the one book to keep handy on your road trip. For Knowles, the journey becomes the destination—stopping along the way is as important as reaching a specific point.

The quirky side trips on Route 66 appeal to a new kind of traveler, the “heritage tourist,” people more interested in exploring the roots of America than overcrowded theme parks or bustling city attractions. For these tourists Knowles covers offbeat roadside attractions, vintage motels and cafes, unique museums, Art Deco architecture, and amazing natural wonders on this vintage road. 
Opened in 1926, Route 66 was almost discarded when cars started zipping along super highways and interstate freeways that bypassed its treasures. But a renewed interest in the cultural and social history represented along its byways began in the 1990s, and the route is once again a highlight of many tourists, both domestic and foreign.

Knowles starts off telling how Route 66 came to be and then suggests ways to get the most from your journey along the highway. Recognizing that businesses and attractions are continually changing, he admonishes travelers to keep an open mind and a wandering spirit. Just let yourself discover whatever comes along at each turn in the road.
How long will it take to drive the entire route of 2,451 miles? You could spend two weeks driving around 200-300 miles a day, but that would only allow time to visit the most popular sites and main cities. Better to plan a month-long road trip to allow for a more authentic experience visiting historic downtowns of scattered communities, stopping for a burger and root beer at a local soda shop, perusing antique shops, and spending a few nights in original 1950s motels.

Maps, navigational guidance, GPS coordinates, and plentiful photos will help you plan your trip and find specific points of interest. The book is divided into sections for each state through which Route 66 passes: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. If you can’t make the entire drive, you can easily plot your path through the states and along the paths of Route 66 that are most appealing.
At each way point, Knowles provides detailed information about far more attractions than one road trip can cover. So, even if you make a comprehensive plan, allow for unexpected diversions that are sure to happen when you travel deliberately, meander purposefully, and take time to visit with people as well as places. After all, that’s what a journey on Route 66 is all about.

Photos from free sources

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Blooms galore at Singapore Botanic Garden


Throughout our travels all over the world, Larry and I typically look for national or city gardens to visit. Not only do we get to enjoy remarkable landscaping and colorful blooming flowers, but gardens provide a serene respite from city bustle, even if the garden is within city limits.
Water features add to the beauty of Singapore Botanic Garden
Such was the case with Singapore Botanic Gardens, located just five minutes from busy Orchard Road. A lush sanctuary in the heart of this island city (and country), Singapore Botanic Garden combines old favorites and heritage plantings with educational and discovery zones. The garden is huge, more than 202 acres, so allow plenty of time to wander and explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since it’s not possible to cover every part of the garden in one visit, start with the central section which is designated as the tourist belt.

Larry is surrounded by beautiful greenery in Singapore Botanic Garden.
When founded at its present site in 1859, the Gardens were laid out in the English Landscape style. The British colonial government took over in 1874, and botanists began developing the Gardens into the important institute it has become. One of the most successful agricultural experiments carried out from the botanic garden involved the promotion of rubber, which became a major cash crop for Southeast Asia in the early 20th century. Today the Gardens are managed by the National Parks Board.
The National Orchid Garden is a highlight of any visit to Singapore.
Among the attractions and horticultural activities waiting to be discovered in Singapore Botanic Gardens is the National Orchid Garden, a virtual explosion of amazing orchid varieties and colors. It happens that high humidity makes Singapore a perfect place to grow orchids because orchids need moisture from the air. Pink, purple, gold, orange, white—orchids large and small grow on any hospitable surface in this garden. Strolling along the paths is a treat for the senses and shouldn’t be hurried.

Glorious orchids abound in Singapore
Botanic Garden.
True to the nature of this garden, the gift shop is filled with decorative items made with real flowers, often dried and preserved in brilliant hues. So it’s a good place to get beautiful souvenirs or gifts for folks back home.
We also learned that because orchids grow so bountifully in this environment, a spray of orchids in the market costs only about fifty cents. Fresh flowers are important to the culture (always bring flowers when you visit someone). As we traveled throughout Southeast Asia, we were amazed at the proliferation of gorgeous flowers in every country we visited.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Kaloloch Lodge is gateway to Pacific beaches and rainforest of Olympic National Park


When exploring coastal zones of Olympic National Park a great place to stay is Kalaloch Lodge, located just off U.S. 101 at the southern border of the park’s coastal strip.
Our cabin had 2 bedrooms, living room, and full kitchen--and a
gorgeous view of Kalaloch Beach on the Pacific Ocean.
This rustic lodge is situated on a bluff above the Pacific Ocean and offers excellent views of and easy access to pristine Kalaloch beach—as well as other beaches with numbers instead of names. Nearby you’ll find a marine sanctuary, miles of hiking trails, and the lush, temperate Hoh Rainforest that makes the Olympic Peninsula so special.

Kalaloch's Main Lodge is almost 100 years old.
Kalaloch's Main Lodge is a legend in its own right. Built almost a century ago with lumber milled from driftwood logs that washed up on the beaches near Kalaloch Creek, the Main Lodge offers an environment with very few distractions—meaning no phones or WiFi. That’s just fine because nature is the main attraction at all Kaloloch accommodations.
Clouds reflect in the glassy beach at Kalaloch.

Our party of three stayed in a two-bedroom cabin with full kitchen. Located on the edge of the bluff overlooking  Kalaloch Beach at the point where Kalaloch Creek empties into the ocean, it was an excellent spot for admiring the ebb and flow of ocean water and for walking onto the glassy-smooth sand at low tide.

Sunset enticed many visitors to stroll along Kalaloch Beach
in Olympic National Park.
Gorgeous reflections of sky and clouds shimmered on the mirror-like surface, especially on our last night there. A gazebo and community fire pit on the bluff provided additional family-friendly opportunities. A bonus: cute bunny rabbits frolicked around our back yard, entertaining us with their antics.

Accommodations also include Seacrest House which offers motel-style rooms with private patios and balconies that face the splendid, often thundering, beaches. Nestled in a conifer forest just a short walk from Kalaloch's Main Lodge, Seacrest is the most secluded.

Beautifully weathered driftwood still washes up on the shore, and people still flock to the Main Lodge to see it. The Main Lodge is also a place to meet other travelers, purchase items from the mercantile store, or dine on locally sourced dishes at Creekside Restaurant. At dusk we enjoyed spectacular sunsets and reflections on the slick beach at low tide.
The river winds around and joins the ocean at the beach
just below the cliff where our cabin was located.
After a day spent trekking in the Hoh Rainforest and River region, Kalaloch Lodge was an excellent base from which to explore nearby Rialto Beach, Ruby Beach, and the Quinault Rainforest. There’s a 28-mile scenic Quinault River Road, which is definitely worth driving for a couple of hours (with stops). Despite a sometimes heavy rain the day we visited, the short Maple Glade loop—with magical visions in multiple shades of green—fuzzy, lacey, and furry textured varieties of foliage--was one of the prettiest trails we saw on the trip.

Larry demonstrates the size of the world's largest
Sitka spruce tree in Queets Valley.
Located in Queets Valley, this amazing area is also called “Valley of the Rain Forest Giants” because it contains the world’s largest Sitka spruce, western red cedar, Douglas fir, and mountain hemlock. It also claims the largest yellow cedar and western hemlock in the United States.

Whew! That’s a lot of big trees, but it’s understandable when you consider that the region can get up to six feet of rain a year.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier