In the Land of Volcanoes - Part 1
Expedition Orca - Second attempt
After searching in vain for orcas in Campbell River, we try again in Bellingham (Washington). We again book a full day tour with San Juan Cruises, but this time not with a Zodiac, but with a "normal" ship. Accordingly, the tour becomes more comfortable. In the morning we sail between the numerous San Juan Islands and moor in Friday Harbour, where we all have one hour free to explore the place on our own.
Unfortunately the weather god doesn't mean well with us today. Exactly to the minute of our arrival he sends everything that goes down to earth. Rain, lightning, thunder ... and this for exactly one hour, until 12.30 o'clock when we have to be back at the ship. So unfortunately we didn't see much more of Friday Harbour than the entrance area of the crowded "Cheesecake Café and Bakery".
Back on board we are presented with a rich lunch buffet and finally set off to search for orcas. The captain seems confident and is right. Soon we discover the striking black fins of a couple in the distance. The captain tries several times to get closer to the animals, but has to be able to guarantee a minimum distance and therefore moves forward cautiously. You never know where the orcas will reappear after they have scheduled a dive. It can happen that a fin suddenly appears within reach. But the passengers from other ships are much luckier than us!
Shortly before the end of the tour we can still experience a spectacle of a very special kind. White stripe dolphins are in a playful mood and position themselves one ship at a time in front of the bow in order to be able to swim with the bow wave. It's awesome how they can keep up with the speed of the ship and jump into the air in between! The captain tells us that he has already seen orcas do the same ... on a cargo ship.
North Cascades National Park
From the coast to the mountains: We drive to the North Cascades National Park, which lies in the cascade chain, a mountain range of volcanic origin. As the park is mostly wilderness, we only drive once from east to west on the only through road through the park. We pass rushing streams, turquoise reservoirs and - once again - breathtaking vantage points.
But what fascinates us the most is that the weather is "stopped" by the mountains of the cascades. That means, west of the coast it rains very often, the landscape is green and on the Olympic Peninsula (peninsula in the northwest of Washington) there is even rainforest. The clouds don't manage to move over the mountains, so the often persistent rain stops abruptly, as soon as you have crossed over the highest point of the Cascades. One then finds oneself in the so-called "High Desert", where the landscape is characterized by great dryness.
Mount Rainier National Park
Departure into the interior of the Mount Rainier National Park: dense rich green coniferous forest surrounds us, crystal clear deep blue mountain lakes line our route, the summit of a mighty awesome volcano rises from the landscape, its summit is decorated with a sugar crust shining in the sunlight. Mother Nature offers us an almost kitschy picture on this beautiful autumn day.
With 4392 meters Mount Rainier is the highest volcano of the cascade chain and the summit with the largest contiguous glacier (90 km2) in the Lower 48 of the USA. The national park offers a lot of hiking and climbing possibilities as well as impressive views. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a 4000 kilometre long long-distance hiking trail, also runs through the national park.
After visiting the Sunrise Visitor Center we decide to spend the night in the park and stay on a site of the White River Campground. Since we have been driving a lot lately and would do our bones good again for some exercise, we start after dinner to the Glacier Basin Trail, which leads from the campsite to, as the name suggests, a glacier. Unfortunately we made a mistake with the time of the sunset, so that we have to turn back halfway so that we don't have to return at pitch dark night on the not exactly flat and partly exposed way.
New day, new chance: Also today the sun is shining again and we start a second attempt to get closer to the glaciers of Mount Rainier. This time we start from "Paradise" on the Skyline Trail (9,2km / 650Hm). The name keeps what it promises. After steep sweaty two kilometres we are rewarded for the first time with an incredible panorama. The snow-covered peaks of Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood (Rainier's little brothers, so to speak) line up along the horizon and cut a good figure in front of the azure blue sky tent.
A little further on at Panorama Point we have to be careful that the greedy chipmunks and marmeli don't steal our Znüni.
We continue up, down through snow, over small brooks and along wildflower meadows, which pop the richest autumn colours on our pupils. We are always accompanied by the unique skyline.