Starting with what's shown in this blog post, I was assigned a trek called "Pacific Coast" from July 13th thru the 20th, starting in San Francisco and winding up the coast to finish in Seattle. A nice, easy first trip it was actually 2 vans running parallel with each other with my fellow trainee, Kim Bonson driving the other van. We had a great time with 18 Germans, Swedes, Americans, Frenchies, Brazillians, and Danish folk, and it was my first chance to see Redwood National Forest, Crater Lake, the Oregon Dunes, Mt. Saint Helens, Mount Ranier, and Seattle.
Passing through much of California's wine country, it seemed only appropriate that our passengers get to stop for a tasting. And have you ever seen pictures of those Redwood Trees that cars drive through? Well, it's perfect for a group shot now, early in our trip up the coast. The "Avenue of the Giants" in Humboldt County is a beautiful drive and a great way to get a feeling for how large these trees are.
Below, Freddie Karlsson is showing us what's left of a Redwood tree after lightning. We learned lightning strikes will actually start burning the trees from the inside, and they smolder slowly for over 2 months before eventually crumbling into what you see in the picture.
After seeing the Redwoods in California it was off to Oregon, and Crater Lake which was at one point a volcano that reached about 1 mile above sea level. Thousands of years ago, it imploded, creating......(you guessed it).......Crater Lake. It is absolutely stunning and beautiful despite the heavy haze that was lingering in the area that day, and everybody took the opportunity to hike for the few hours we spent there. We think the haze was a result of the many fires in the area, but it seems nobody can confirm this. What a great surprise this park was, considering how I'd never even heard of Crater Lake before this trip!
(Above: Our camping spot on Diamond Lake, just north of Crater Lake.)
Now over on the Oregon Coast just north of Bandon, a small group of us chose to do a little horseback riding along the beach. The famous "Oregon Dunes" stretch for about 70 miles up and down the coast, and its a major tourist destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Beautiful day, beautiful place.....Laura Fricke, you fit right in.......
The horseback riding was considered a bit "tame" for each of us, so the girls wanted to ride quads in the famous Oregon Dunes to let off some steam. Me? Riding quads? Julius might be jealous, but that's an opportunity I can't pass up. We only rented for about an hour, but there's enough sand and dunes out there that you could ride all day and never see the same spot twice. It's just one enormous recreational area......I love it!
And seriously Mira, I've got to tease you about this...especially since you tried so much to avoid having me take the photo : ) When the rear wheels spin and you start sinking into the sand, don't pin the throttle and make it sink further! Okay, maybe you got mixed up in the language barrier when we watched that pre-ride video. You know I'm here to dig you out of course. Okay.....I'll dig out Laura, and Catherine too........ : )
We finished this perfect day (horseback riding, quads, and a sunset?) by watching the sunset over the Pacific from the dunes.
Cute little Ellie just doesn't fit in the picture when she's on her own feet so I gave her a little help. Elizabeth was an au pair for a year in Charlotte, NC, and finished her time in the U.S. by doing 2 consecutive Suntrek tours with us. That's a bit more van-time than even I can handle!
Freddie from Sweden and his girlfriend Luisa from Germany met as au pairs in the Boston area and sure do make a cute couple. I think these photos are a good reminder to all of us, that sometimes the best photos are the ones where you don't know you're being photgraphed.
Below, what a great picture taken by Lina Behrendt from Germany. Great way to end a really great day.
The next day, were were in Silver Falls State Park in Oregon. Ten beautiful waterfalls were the highlights to follow on this 3 hour hike. Freddie was offering tickets to the gun show of course. Silver Falls was to me, another great surprise that I'd never even heard of before being assigned this trip! (Am I really getting paid to see all this stuff and do all these things I've never done before? Okay. I'm not getting paid much : (
We were in bear country in parts of Oregon and Washington, and this was a surprise to almost everyone in the group (non-U.S. citizens.) Julieny from Brazil was the one person that was absolutely terrified the most about running into bears. So one night out at Peter's Inn in Packwood, WA, I figured this pose with the bear on the wall behind her might be therapeutic in helping calm some fears. I still don't think she slept well once I mentioned "bears" a couple days into the trip.
Late snow melt had washed out all the access roads and that kept us from seeing Mt. Saint Helens any close than what you see in the picture below. Fortunately the Park Rangers made the whole group feel better by giving us our Smokey the Bear Hats (exactly what it takes to cheer up a bunch of twenty-somethings, right?)
A day before the end of the trip as we hiked around Mt. Ranier, Lina was able to find enough snow to revive Frosty for the mid-summer hang out.
And this trip ended in Seattle, even though I didn't grab any pictures from the city. (My first time there though!) We had enough time for a night out on the town, and I had to switch vans to get ready to drop off this great first group and pick up my next crew. Admittedly, I was choked up over our departure. Maybe it's because it was my first group....maybe because they all turned out to be such a fun group of new friends. I didn't have much time to dwell on this though, as further north I was headed...into the Canadian Rockies!