Pacific Northwest: Forests and Freshwater

25 September, 2023 1 comments Leave a comment

Northern Idaho, photo by Karen Richardson

When examining the map of the Pacific Northwest region of North America, one might assume that mountains would be the most remarkable feature travelers would encounter.

But when my husband and I explored the Pacific Northwest for five weeks in July and August, I found this not to be the case.

Northern Idaho, photo by Karen Richardson

As we camped and hiked throughout northern Idaho, Washington, and southern BC, I was much more intrigued by the pine trees, lakes, and rivers we encountered.

In my view, the mountains became more of an attractive backdrop that gave context to the landscape.

The first group of photographs pictured here were taken as we explored northern Idaho, following our travels in the high desert of Wyoming and southern Idaho in June and July.

Journeying north from Boise, we followed along the Salmon River and were thrilled to see many parties of river rafters floating in the current.

Rafters on the Salmon River, Idaho, photo by Karen Richardson

We didn't have a chance to investigate this time, but if we return to this part of the world, we will look into taking a guided rafting trip down the Salmon River.

It looked like a lot of fun, not too challenging, and the scenery was gorgeous.

Lake Coeur d'Alene, photo by Karen Richardson

When we used to travel all over the US and Canada by motorcycle, we attended a Honda Gold Wing rally in Coeur d'Alene and were impressed by the beauty of the area.

As we planned this year's trip, we were sure to include a visit to this scenic lake, pictured here from the Mineral Ridge hiking trail.

Karen Richardson and her husband

We were thrilled to take a site seeing cruise on Lake Coeur d'Alene one warm evening. We got to know some of our fellow passengers and enjoyed excellent live music by a local band, while watching the sun go down over the surrounding hills.

It was a magical experience and the scenery reminded me of Lake Muskoka, with many luxury homes and resorts nestled along the shore.

Karen Richardson in Deschutes Falls Park

We journeyed on from northern Idaho across Washington and up to Vancouver to visit family and friends for a week. Then we made our way south to Olympia, Washington.

For two weeks we camped at the Washington Land Yacht Harbor, an Airstream-only RV park and mobile home community.

From there, we explored the area around Tacoma. We asked a local resident about scenic hiking areas and she directed us to a hidden gem near the town of Yelm.

It was Deschutes Falls Park, a 155 acre sanctuary featuring a lovely old growth forest and a small river gorge, and we spent a pleasant afternoon hiking in this shady park.

In this photo I am standing beside one of the venerable trees beside the forest walking path.

Deschutes Falls Park, photo by Karen Richardson

The river water dropped 27 feet over rapids and a series of small waterfalls, interspersed with calm clear pools. All we could hear were the soothing sounds of trickling water, a breeze in the treetops, and birdsong.

The moss-covered rocks were a type of conglomerate that looked very different from the Ontario granite and limestone I am used to.

Another day, we took a bus trip to Crystal Mountain (the largest ski resort in the state of Washington) with some fellow Airstreamers. We enjoyed a gondola ride up the mountain and lunch at Summit House restaurant.

As our cable car slowly ascended, more and more of the surrounding mountain ranges came into view.

View from Crystal Mtn, photo by Karen Richardson

I loved seeing the progression of blue shades in the mountains, from pale cerulean in the far distance, gradually darkening to a smokey navy blue in the foreground. 

You can see two gondolas in the centre of this photo.

Mt Ranier, photo by Karen Richardson

At the summit of Crystal Mountain we enjoyed beautiful views of the Cascade Range and Mount Ranier, which we learned is pronounced ‘rah-NEER’ in Washington. (We had been calling it ‘RAY-nee-er’.)

With its snow cap glowing white in the sunshine, contrasting with the clear blue sky, Mount Ranier was an impressive sight. We also could see Mount St. Helens and Mount Baker (which we had glimpsed often when visiting Vancouver.).

Rivers Edge Ranch RV Park, photo by Karen Richardson

Our travels then took us east through Washington, crossing back into Canada at Yahk, BC, where we found a delightful little place to stay for a few days.

River's Edge Ranch RV Park was nestled on the bank of the Moyie River, which was a shallow glacial stream with a gravel bottom.

In this photo of the campground, you can see our Airstream on the right.

Rivers Edge Ranch, photo by Karen Richardson

The campground was just off the Crowsnest Highway and was part of a horse farm, surrounded by the Kootenay Rockies.

The owner said we could hike beside the pasture area, so we were able to stretch our legs and see the horses up close.

Rivers Edge Ranch, photo by Karen Richardson

We drove to nearby Creston for groceries (having crossed from the USA with a nearly empty fridge) and were delighted to find many roadside stands selling local produce from vegetable farms and fruit orchards. We loaded up on organic sweet peppers, summer squash, cherries, nectarines, and apples. Delicious!

The next day we walked into the quirky village of Yahk, home of Two Pump Paul's gas station, and enjoyed lunch at a tiny ice cream shop and cafe called Two Scoops Steve's. Next door was an artisan soap shop that had a pen of pet white goats.

Between the two stores was an entrance to a public garden that lead to a charming forest walk, which eventually brought us to this beautiful spot on the Moyie River.

Our stay in this interesting community, surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty, was as delightful as it was unexpected, and allowed us to conclude our visit to the Pacific Northwest on a high note. It was time to head east towards Ontario and more adventures...

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  1. Namaji September 30, 2023

    How beautiful and serene is every photo!
    I enjoyed reading your detailed descriptions that gave life to each photo. What a marvellous journey! Thanks for sharing it with us this way.