We not only sat and got wiped out on the tubes, but we towed it ourselves with a motor boat at Lake Chelan. This was during a recent trip with my wife and her brother Amit who had visited us for a week. After showing him around the usual places such as Mount Rainier, we went for a 2 day trip to Lake Chelan which I hadn’t visited yet. Though I had heard great stuff about the place, I didn’t keep my hopes high since it’s just a lake with surrounding mountains but I was pleasantly surprised by what I experienced. I had watched a video from a geology professor on how the lake was formed during the last ice age and it was interesting to note that this is the third deepest lake in the US.
The approach via Route 97 alongside Columbia river was scenic unlike usual green routes. The barren surrounding mountains, blue waters and the warm atmosphere around the Lake Chelan gave a different vibe. We checked in at the resort, played putt putt and cosmic bowling in the evening, tennis the next morning and got ready for water-sports in the afternoon. I was rooting for a sunny day and fortunately it was, although the days before and after were cloudy. We rented a boat and tube from https://www.chelanparasail.com for 4 hours and set out to explore after a brief introduction. It was my first time driving a boat and it was super easy. We had a mini photoshoot once we were in the water but I was craving to get into the water and try tubing.
The tube was attached to the boat with a 20 feet rope and I chose to experiment with it first. I wore my life jacket and got on the tube with excitement unsure of how it would turn out. Amit took the driving seat and he started slowly until the rope lost its slackness and began towing the tube. It was a different experience on the tube being towed over blue waters whose depth reached around 500 ft maybe. I signaled Amit to increase the speed and he did slowly and all was going well until the tube plunged into the water taking me inside. I was scared initially since I didn’t know if I could come up and float easily but I was fine after few seconds. I got confident after the first dip and did few more rounds figuring out the best position to lie down on the tube to avoid the falls.
Divya took the driving seat once and it was funny when she pushed the lever increasing the speed suddenly – I fell from the tube and Amit who was sitting at the edge almost slid. Divya and Amit chose to give tube a try and I steadily increased the speed but they plunged too after a while. It was amusing to hear the survival instinct narratives when they both were off the tube. Divya lost her vintage sunglasses which she didn’t realize until I pointed. We all spent good amount of time in the water swimming, floating and enjoying the refreshing water.
We couldn’t get to tow the tube in high speeds since we kept falling off, so we chose to just drive around instead. Having snacks and listening to music, we explored up-to Wapato point and turned around to reach the rental place in time. It was a good first self venture in the area of water-sports and might try wake-boarding next time.
The nature has such diversity to itself that it never ceases to enthrall and empower while also being able to pacify and please every patron or a critic likewise. One can get lost in the heavenly beauties of the serene scenes, or get galvanized upon subscribing to audacious adventures! A sane balance of both these facets is what we experienced on our weekend getaway to the wondrous Oregon coast.
This was the roadtrip we were planning since a couple of months with Nikhil’s friend Rahul and his wife Siddhi accompanying us. All of us were pretty excited. We started from Seattle at 10am on that friday and the day’s agenda was to drive through the ‘scenic US highway 101’. Driving south initially through I5, we soon diverted towards 101 near Astoria, where we had lunch at the pier 11 pizza onlooking the columbia river, surrounding mountains and long famous Astoria-Megler bridge. After this delicious lunch and some yummy ice-creams on the way, we continued driving. The curvy roads at an elevation alongside the shoreline with tall lush green mountains on one side, vast and beautiful pacific ocean beholding rocks, houses/resorts, viewpoints on the other — this is one of the best drives I have ever been on! After driving through a long stretch of this scenic highway, we reached the airbnb vacation home booked at the Oregon coast city Waldport, at around 7pm.
The rhythmic roar of Pacific waters, the sea-bed extending so far and wide that the gaze covered entire horizon, the waves crashing against the shore, the gritty sand showcasing waverly patterns — witnessing these comforting and enthralling scenes beyond the glass walls, we stood, in sheer joy! This was the sight from our airbnb vacation home! We could not have asked for anything more in this setup – the first floor hosted a lovely living room, two sides opening up into several large windows almost covering the whole wall, cozy furniture collection, sharing an open kitchen whose counters also offered this beautiful sneak-peek outside, the ground floor having a bedroom opening up into a beautiful deck having barbecue grill and the classic wooden seating, stairs down to a backyard which directly opened up onto the sands! Yes! We fell in love with this lovely vacation home 🙂 The Walk down the backyard offered a breathtaking sunset view – the orange balloon floating on the vast water bed, gradually descending down, leaving a beautiful orange tint which reached all the way to the shore, finally going down after putting up a colorful show on the horizon! The chilled waters were pleasant to see, but put us into playing kabaddi with them! We also played frisbee, had a long jump competition on the sands and so on. A lot of fog and mist gradually encircled the beach at dusk, which added to its beauty while giving us a feel of being on a private beach! The colder surroundings made us head back home. Our bedroom housed huge window on the beach side. Sleeping to the rhythmic buzz of the waves and waking up the next day to see the beach and the sand directly from our bed felt like a bliss 🙂 Never before had I stayed so close to the sea! Full marks to this vacation home on everything!
The kitchen was well-equipped, it had an amazing collection of cutlery too. We relished fluffy and tasty omelettes alongside the crispy garlic bread toast sandwiches filled with yummy aloo stuffing, variety of veggies marinated and baked to awesomeness, also had nicely heated up methi parathas, chana masala and mutter pulao. We had a charming double date on the shore, with Rahul-Siddhi accompanying us on this trip. Lovely people they are and we all had a very nice time together!
Not just the shoreline drive, also the vacation home contributed to the beauty of this weekend getaway. But what was the ‘beast’ then? Here comes the powerful 900cc two seater ATV which we drove! Going up and down the dunes, doing lateral curved turns and skids, gearing up through the changing arenas of sand — this was an experience one of its kind! The Oregon Sand dunes at Florence was the abode of all these thrilling ventures. Some of the world’s largest and most beautiful dunes are located on the Central Oregon Coast. Glistening valleys, vast hills of shifting sand, the desert atmosphere make these dunes truly a must see!
Full marks to fun and excitement : we started off with an exciting guided 1 hour Sand Rail Tour from the Torex ATV Rentals, which helped us explore what’s in store on the dunes. It was a 6 seater ATV, and the tour guide took us all around showing different terrains, marked up regions, tree islands and water bodies while giving us thrilling and beastful experience of the highs and lows of the shifting sand. He also made us understand key protocols to be followed while riding these dunes on our own : like locating a fellow rider from a decent distance using the tall orange flags attached to their ATV, identifying deep fall patterns of sand and technique to avoid them, wet sand around water bodies and distance to be kept around them, and so on. It indeed was an adventurous tour where we also saw multiple two-seater, single seater bikes, 6 seater-tour ATVs putting up stuntful show while we experienced one awesome ride. After heading back to the ATV rental booth, we signed up for a one hour 4-seater 900cc ride to further explore the dunes on our own. Nikhil having had an experience of driving a similar one before, started off and took us to the dunes. We were by ourselves and even more excited; he tried mimicking few portions from what our guide had taken us on previously. After few minutes of fun on the wheels, he offered Rahul to check-out the ride. Rahul was pretty comfortable and did wonderful on the dunes. We were in for more adventure! There was also a couple of small hiccups: first one when our ATV got stuck in the sand while attempting to go over a steep uphill dune, where we all got out of the ATV, pulled off sand beneath each tyre to make room for movement. It was also heartening to see so many fellow ATV riders stopped by to offer help! As Rahul accelerated, we could see the sand sprinkling out like a water fountain from behind! 😀 Another time, as we drove close to a tree island, all of a sudden the ATV kind-of halted not moving an inch ahead only for us to realize that the gear chain got cut-off! Getting out of the ATV, we could see the leather pieces fallen on the track we followed! We called up the rental guys and they were to our rescue in less than 10 mins to replace the gear while they swapped out ATV with a new one. Our fun continued!
Me and Siddhi were excited and nervous at the same time, for as much fun it seemed, riding it was scary and dangerous too! Specially because it was our first time! I recollect reading a bill-board of some advertisement on our drive the previous day which read “When was the last time you did something for the first time?!” That was an inspiration! What a coincidence! It would be my very first time on the sand dunes, and of course my first ride on an ATV! There were butterflies in my stomach because of the sheer excitement! 😀 Siddhi was still not so keen to ride it, but I still wanted to. Nikhil offered me to try it out, and I hesitantly got on the wheels. I started off slowly being over cautious, gradually speeding up. I mostly drove on relatively flat dunes to get the hang of it, and eventually started exploring more uneven dunes. My initial feeling of scare also gradually turned into a thrill! I was shouting out of excitement at times and the joy on my face was evident 🙂 Looking at me doing it, Siddhi got excited and she agreed to ride the beast too; we had more fun except for a small portion where we bumped into a sand pit and felt some sudden jerk! Well that is what it is all about, it is not called the “beast” just like that! Everyone was fine and we continued riding more. Very soon it was time to head back. With a bundle of vivid experiences of this 1-hr ride we headed back to the rental location.
ATV ride was the main agenda of this trip and Nikhil and I kept wanting more! We chose to go back to the dunes for another hour! This time on a 2-seater 900cc beast, and I took control right from the rental location. It was roughly a half mile ride before we reached the dunes and navigated through the woods into the dunes; very soon reaching the wide open sand terrain! This time I was feeling more relieved and free – Of Course, it is only your husband with you and you can be as crazy and kiddo as you want! 😉 I started attempting more uneven dunes very early in the ride and drove up a very high dune, suddenly to realize it was a steep fall down! Nothing on the other side would be visible unless you climb up the top. Luckily I had breaks at that very moment, and retrieved the course of my ride! That moment gave me shivers! After this, there were plenty such goosebump moments where I tried riding across a very steep uphill several times, drove on full speed around small ups and downs of sand, drove up a very high dune and stopped to see fantastic views all-around, and so on. After I had satisfying time behind the wheel, Nikhil took over and then we had some real beastful experience! He tried many skids on the sand, several wavy dune areas, a couple of deep fall courses and much more! It was evident on his face that he was absolutely loving it, so was I 🙂 We had one heck of an experience! We switched seats a couple more times and further explored the arena; very soon our time ran out and we headed back. This first-time experience filled my excitement to the brim, and I was happy to have really tried something for a first-time. It sure motivated me to try out more, and I shall soon.
We drove back and had a late lunch at a beautiful river-side Italian restaurant, got back to our lovely vacation home, relaxed for sometime and then spent some nice time together. We played a lot of fun games on a VR playstation, the Nintendo Switch Wi, that was available at the vacation home! Cool isn’t it? We explored Bowling, Tennis, Golf and many more games on it! It was indeed a relaxing night. Next morning we checked out and visited a Tillamook Cheese Factory on the way back – the tour was informative as we walked past every stage of cheese making process while having a look at the live equipments pushing out huge blocks of packed cheese. Best part of this visit was that we could taste variety of cheese pieces for free! Yummy! We also relished the delicious garlic cheese fries on the way back. Rahul drove the entire stretch back and this was the first time Nikhil and I had time together on a drive (Else, he usually drives and we don’t have relaxing time together). We kept talking, playing and enjoying nice views together all-along. We visited ‘Bollywood Theatre’, an Indian restaurant in Portland where we had some delicious Vada-pav, Pav bhaji and a couple other eateries. Our ride continued, we saw the mighty Mt.Hood (which is like the Mt. Rainier of Oregon) and several other beautiful places on the way back.
This trip was rightly a ‘Beauty and Beast’ experience for me with serene shoreline drive, soulful beach and vacation home time, lovely tour buddies, enthralling ATV ride and much more! Truly a worth remembering ‘first-time’ something for me! So, get out and try something for the first time! Be a neophile! It is always more fun and amazing inspiration!
I was ecstatic when a notification from WSDOT on Twitter read that the SR-20 highway would be opening on 04/18. The highway is closed every winter due to the snow and opens in Apr/May after the plough. I had taken an excursion to Winthrop with my mom soon after last year’s opening in May and we had loved the drive. It was a month early this year and I was excited to repeat the journey with my wife this time. I was also excited about the booking I had made at an amazing lodge in Winthrop. The forecast was favorable for the weekend, we packed and left Seattle around 9:30 AM on Saturday.
It was cloudy when we started and the skies turned bluer by the time we reached Darrington. We were treated with the views already by the surrounding mountains. We stopped for a Hot Chocolate and continued with our drive to reach Highway 20. Our first major stop was at NewHalem where we spent ample of time exploring the bridge on Cedar’s trail, cherry blossoms, an old locomotive and the nature around. While on the highway, we could see numerous tiny waterfalls due to the snow melt which was a pleasant treat.
We passed through colorful waters, creeks and stopped at Diablo lake overlook which provided a beautiful vista of snow capped mountains and turquoise waters of the North Cascades.
We continued our drive through the heart of the mountains and it was nice to see many others had taken the road including numerous bikers. This is the part where the road is closed for the winters and opens usually in Spring. There is an interesting story about a lady who used to visit the opening day every time with Cinnamon rolls which can be read here. We had lunch near the PCT junction and reached my favorite part of the drive, Washington Pass. We reached the viewpoint after a short walk and the view from there was exquisite as usual.
I surveyed the surrounding mountains and passes for possible trails. The snow, jagged peaks, bright daylight and the road amidst the tall trees was a treat for the eyes. Co incidentally Sai was there too and we drove together to Winthrop.
We stayed at Sun mountain lodge which was an amazing place. Living room, bedroom, 2 balconies, views of Mt Robinson and surrounding Methow valley were few of the perks.
We also had our own hot bath tub. With all these unique features, they didn’t have the basic microwave oven which was a bummer since we had carried food. It was a full moon night and it was interesting to see the hills and our shadows in the moon light. The next morning we filled our stomachs with the Easter breakfast and I fulfilled my cravings of Waffles. We played a bit of TT and left for Seattle by noon. En-route, we also had an opportunity to cross the dam and it was super cool to see the gates up close. Journeying SR 20 in the late winter is one of the best things I think to do in Washington. It exposes the beauty of the state in an amazing way that could be experienced with just a drive.
A month earlier, I had gone skiing near Seattle for the first time this season to get in shape for the trip to Whistler. On that beautiful clear day, I came down on a blue line few times and it had been the most successful ski day yet for me. As expected, it had prepared me well for the upcoming ski in Whistler where I had to ski beside cliffs in whiteout conditions.
My friend from Minnesota, Chaitanya wanted to ski near Seattle and we had decided to visit Whistler, Canada on a weekend of his convenience. The forecast for the weekend was pretty bad and I hadn’t booked anything other than the stay. We went ahead with the plans and left Seattle on friday afternoon. Chaitanya was getting excited looking at the colorful spring, so I decided to show him the Tulip garden at the Tulip festival in Mt Vernon. It was a huge field and was nice to see the rows of colorful flowers.
We then waited for around 25 mins at the border to enter Canada and made our next stop at Apna chat house in Surrey. I had heard that Surrey had one of the best chats in North America and I had selected the place for batting. My lunch included 12 pani-puris(the best I have had outside India), 2 vada pavs, 1 alu tikki(amazing well) and pieces of Paneer chilli. Chats being my favorite dishes, I thoroughly enjoyed it and decided for a second round while returning. We then drove through greater Vancouver to get on Highway 99 which lined the eastern coast of Howe Sound. It was a beautiful drive on the winding roads overlooking the expanse of waters and mountains rising from it. The forecast for the next two days was rainy, so I had made sure that we reach Whistler that evening to leave us with ample daylight.
We parked the car and decided to explore the town first. I loved the feel of the town. The architecture, huge snow covered mountains, creeks, bridges, lights, the moon and the laid-back attitude came together in a beautiful symphony to make the experience magical. We retired for the night and were excited for the skiing.
The next morning, we were ready with rented gear by 10 AM to take the lift to the Blackcomb mountain. Since we were late in the season, half of the mountain was closed and only one lift took us to the upper half of the mountain. The higher we went, the worse the visibility got. We did a warm up run by taking a green line and reached at the base of another lift which took us to Hortsmans’s hut, the highest point of the day. We were above the clouds and the view was quite good. We couldn’t see anything much other than the parts of the mountain. We started to descend and this is where the ordeal started. Soon the visibility got so low that we could only see few feet in distance. Since both were kind of amateurs, we had difficulty in navigating and assessing the slopes. We were scared especially due to the exposed sections the runs had. I might have hiked only once or twice in such conditions and I was a bit uncomfortable since skiing was not my forte. I fell few times but tried my best to stand and figure the way down. I kept looking at the markings on either side of the runs and ensured that I didn’t ski past them. I lead my friend for most of the route and waited for him whenever I got ahead enough that I couldn’t see him. With the help of flag markers and other skiiers path, we managed to come out in clear and then took a blue line down to the same ski lift. I checked the map and I realized that this was in a loop due to the closures. There was no way out from here, so we had to go back to Hortsman’s hut again and come down a different route. The visibility got even worse by now and the route which we had to take had even more exposed section. A fellow skier lead us for two narrow turns and then we were left again by ourselves in whiteout conditions.
Even though it was a blue line, I got quite adept in the conditions and started skiing fearlessly. I used to look at a marker, go way from it and find the marker on the other side and then repeat the exercise while skiing the slopes. I couldn’t even assess the immediate slope and sometimes mind tricked to assume the angle. I realized that the conditions and the urge to get out safely was actually helping me learn to ski efficiently. So I started enjoying the experience since it brought a sense adventure along with the sport. Finally after traversing few narrow sections and skiing for sometime we came into opening and took a blue line called Zig-Zag all the way to download gondola. Chaitanya decided to call it a day but I took the lift up for another run and throughly enjoyed coming down the Zig-Zag line. While coming down the gondola, a lady who frequented the mountain told that this was the worst weather she had skied in on the mountain and the first time that she had to ski with the help of markers. I was ok since I had enjoyed the experience but I couldn’t exactly experience the hugeness of the ski trails and the views. Nonetheless, it was quite an adventure. We didn’t do anything much for the day other than the visit to nearby Alexander falls and a bungee jumping bridge.
It was raining quite heavily the next morning and we left the town without doing much. The drive back was much more beautiful due to the hovering clouds and the richer greenery. We made a stop at Shannon falls and I loved the views of both the falls we visited. We then drove through Vancouver downtown and reached Apna chat house. I had Pani-puri, Chole kulche and tikki chat this time. The wait at the border was quite longer this time and we made it to Seattle by 6:30 PM. I think I will be visiting Whistler often as long as I am in PNW.
Distance: 16 miles roundtrip Elevation: 3600 feet Activity: Snowshoeing and Snow camping
During the Lake Ingalls outing, a fellow hiker had described the perks of camping in Washington and I was waiting for an opportunity ever since. I had bought a tent too and hadn’t used it yet. The meetup event for Colchuk lake and Sunny weather forecast coincided and I signed up for it. Also, I loved the view of Dragontail peak and the name Asgard pass which adorns the lake. I followed the checklist for snow camping and had the most of the gear except an extra pair of woolen socks. The gear including sleeping bag, mattress, tent, stove, layers, extra clothes, etc weighed around 30 pounds and I thought I would be okay with the weight. My main source of food was a rice dish which my flatmate and I had prepared the previous day and I complimented it with Phulkas, Oats, Eggs, Energy bars, Bananas, Dry fruits and Cocoa powder. Along the trip, I would mainly learn about the sacrifices one has to make for the snow camping.
3 of us showed up at the Eastgate Park and Ride and we drove to the start of forest road near Leavenworth which was 4 miles away from the actual trailhead. We had to hike extra 8 miles in total due to the road closure. I left my ice axe to be frugal on weight, wore a beacon which the organizer gave and started with the microspikes at around 10:20 AM. I felt the weight pretty soon and within no time, I felt tightness on my chest due to the upper belt. I struggled but kept pushing myself. I had to frequently dust off snow sticking on my spikes, we hadn’t realized that it was snowshoe area until we saw other hikers marching fast with them. To distract myself from the agony, I kept counting 1-500 steps and repeated it multiple times and figured that 4-5 sets of 1-500 would make a mile. After taking many breaks initially, I actually did 1 mile without stopping following that method of distraction. Crossing on a narrow bridge later was quite interesting where we crossed it over even narrower snow deposits balancing with the help of poles on the railings. I had my lunch there and that would be the last big meal of my day. Even after 5.5 miles of hiking, we had only gained little over half the elevation of 3600 feet. So the rest came in final 2.5 miles and 1000 feet came in the last 1 mile which basically drained most of my energy. I was following a fellow hiker and he took frequent steep shortcuts which added to the struggle. Finally, we reached the frozen lake at around 4:30 PM. The blue sky, white blanket of snow with Dragon tail Peak, Asgard pass and Colchuk glacier on the other end of the lake looked soothingly beautiful and enjoying it, I kind of forgot the tiredness. But we had to set up camp soon. The snow on the lake was tested by early hikers as we saw them camped right in the middle of the lake. We chose a spot bit closer to the shore and started setting up the camp. I got the tips for camping and did my best to follow. First, I had to flatten/harden the floor by walking/stomping on a wide area where I would pitch my tent and cook. I pitched the tent, set the air mattress and sleeping bag quite efficiently while watching the Sun’s golden rays on the surroundings. Except my feet, I wasn’t that cold and didn’t even wear an extra layer of gloves. While digging, we hit the slush and wondered a bit if we should camp a bit higher. But since the water level was around 2 feet down, we stayed put. After setting up the camp, I melted the snow for hot water and made myself a cocoa drink. I didn’t feel like eating much for the night and I lay down in the tent for rest of the night. I had carried a 2 person tent and it was spacious. So I dumped most of the things I would need for the night in the tent. I was foolish not to wear down booties in the sleeping bag. Even though, my feet felt little better, they were no close to being warm and cozy. I was also foolish to leave my backpack totally outside which looked like it had weathered a snowstorm in the morning. I didn’t come out of the tent till morning except to pee once in the night and stars looked okay in the night sky. I knew I slept because of the dreams I remembered. Even though I was not that cold, I didn’t sleep quite well. I am not sure which reason contributed more to not enjoying the experience thoroughly – tiredness, thoughts or the cold. I just let it pass and spent the night alternating between sleeping on my back and side.
There was hardly any wind throughout the night but there were was a light snowfall in the morning. I was hoping for a colorful Sunrise, but clouds had other plans. So I came out of the tent much later (around 9 AM) and made myself a hot cocoa drink again. I couldn’t see the flames on the stove and I assumed something had gone wrong. After wasting 3 matchsticks, I realized that it was just that I couldn’t see it. My feet was very cold and they had lost hopes on me that I would take care. I wore a liner and hoped to feel better. I repeatedly kept moving my toes to ensure they hadn’t frozen completely. The gaiters had turned into a papad and also the shoes had stiffened since I had left them out too. I packed everything soon and I was ready with my backpack. Sun was out and I went to explore to be in motion and enjoy the surroundings. Dragontail peak looked like a towering Gopura in-front and the jagged peaks around looked stunning in the bright light. The organizer asked me to remove the liner for better circulation and the other hiker offered me a fresh pair of socks. Even though they felt similar to the one I was wearing, I took it mainly because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings and I didn’t want to look foolish if something went wrong. I actually felt better with my bare feet. We left the place around 12 PM and started our descent. The far surrounding mountains looked amazing and I felt the views were comparable to the ones I saw during Rupin pass. Again, I acknowledged and appreciated the fact that I am in Washington where the mountains are so close to the place where I live, that I was just hours away from the comfort of my bed. I hadn’t used around 40% of my gear and I didn’t feel that backpack’s weight had reduced. I was quite slow in the initial steep descent but after that I just stormed through the rest of the way. From 2.5 mile mark to the end(8 miles), I counted 14 sets of 1-500 steps which helped me keep my mind away from the tiredness. I thought I did fairly well for the first snow camping but I realized that my toes had sort of numbed and tingling sensation had developed by the time I reached home. Though it has reduced, I still have it even after 2 days at the time of writing. We stopped for food at Leavenworth and drove to Seattle to reach around 8:15 PM. I had realized about the daylight saving’s time late and was quite happy that I had to spend 1 less hour in the cold. It was a great experience with good learnings.
Be very serious about the gear. Snow camping can be dangerous if un-prepared.
Rice worked well for 1 day camping. Carry some cocoa powder, etc for tasty hot drink.