|Puget Sound sunset from West Point
I love visiting or discovering places I've never been before, whether it's a new hiking trail, restaurant, or road I've never driven. This year I hit some old favorites as well as places around the Pacific Northwest that were new to me, even after a lifetime of exploring here.
And a beauty of this region is knowing there are still plenty of places within the Northwest yet to discover.
Here's my attempt at selecting highlights from 2014, a year-end challenge!
January wasn't the month for exploring new places in 2014. Some good skiing at Crystal Mountain and Stevens Pass kept us going when the snows finally arrived in earnest, a bit late. But later than usual seems to be the new normal...
|Freshies at Stevens Pass
Early February was all about the Seattle Seahawks thrilling Super Bowl run here in the Northwest. While I wasn't among the fortunate to score tix to any games at the CLink, the spirit of the Hawks infused the region with pride. On the day of the victory parade through downtown Seattle, hundreds of thousands of us endured subfreezing temps for hours for the huge party. But the warmth generated by thousands on the streets made it worth the freezing fingers and toes. Go Hawks!
|Letting our freak flag fly! Edmonds-Kingston Ferry
Oh yea, there was some great Northwest skiing in February!
By March around here in the Upper Left Hand corner, we're ready for more...sun, longer days, warmth. In the meantime, I enjoyed an excellent early spring meal at Hitchcock on Bainbridge Island, dubbed a "food haven for Bainbridge as well as day-trippers from Seattle." Fiddleheads anyone?
|Salmon, fiddlehead, fennel mousse appetizer at Hitchcock
|Surveying High Campbell and toe of the avalanche
Now April was jam-packed with new Northwest adventures. From the first annual Bird and Wildlife Festival on Orcas Island, to a hike up the new Turtleback Head trail, to a spring wildflower walk in Deception Pass State Park with nature blogger Dave Wenning, to Skagit tulips, to a weekend camp-out and beach cleanup at the Washington Olympic National Park coast. We had it all here -- brilliant sun, spring skiing, torrential rain showers, and of course plenty of gray skies.
|Wild rhododendrons at Deception Pass State Park, WA
|Cape Flattery, WA
By May we've got a profusion of green here in the Upper Left Hand corner and the hiking season is cranking into high gear. While there's still too much snow at higher elevations for high country hiking, we got out for some great hikes in the I-90 corridor east of Seattle (Little Si, Mt. Washington). I also made my first ascent to Angel's Rest in the Columbia Gorge east of Portland. Marvelous!
|Angel's Rest overlooking Columbia River, OR
With tendinitis in my right hand, hiking took precedence over kayaking for much of the year. June brought a beautiful misty hike at Larch Mountain east of Portland, Oregon, with high school friends reunited via FaceBook. This was the first time I've done the loop into the ancient crater and back, and it was as lush and beautiful as any Northwest hike I've done.
|Larch Mountain, OR
Ah the crest of summer! Island time. Some friends from Arizona joined for a getaway to Orcas Island, and we managed some hiking, kayaking, and fantastic meals at local gems Doe Bay Cafe and Hogstone Wood Oven. But really, any time is island time.
|Mt. Baker from top of Mt. Constitution, Orcas Island, WA
Years ago I declared August my favorite month -- it brings the warmest, softest summer nights here in the Northwest. Early August brought a whirlwind kayak camping trip to Cypress Island, with a morning hike up to the stunning Eagle's Nest for breathtaking views of the San Juan Islands.
|Cone Islands, Bellingham Channel, WA
Northwesterners know that September is really just about the best month to get out and about in the region -- kids are back in school, Indian summer often rules, and more often than not the sun is shining. With trips to Vancouver, BC; Cama Beach Resort on Camano Island; and another trip to Orcas Island, it was a full month of fun weekends.
|Hiking in Moran State Park, Orcas Island, WA
Okay, October is really my favorite month now. Golden larches and vine maples are dressed up in brilliant colors like there's no tomorrow. If you catch a hike in the high country before the snow flies too thick and deep, it's spectacular. A weekend at the ever wonderful North Cascades Institute included a gorgeous hike and good workout on the Maple Pass Loop.
|Golden larches at their peak on the Maple Pass Loop, North Cascades, WA
Some years we're skiing in November, but not this year. However, a late warm dry spell allowed me to sneak up with a friend for an awesome but challenging hike to Blanca Lake. Talk about magnificent! The trail to this glacial-fed alpine lake was fairly busy even on a chilly mid-November day. Worth every drop of sweat for the view.
|Blanca Lake, WA Cascades
Sure it's a crazy busy month with the holidays, but it's also an excellent month to get out and away from the city bustle. With late snow and start to the ski season, some friends joined me for a truly awe-inspiring hike to the summit of Silver Star Mountain, just northeast across the river from Portland, Oregon. And in the shot below is a sneak preview for an upcoming blog post about an Olympic Peninsula getaway.
|Mt. Olympus from Hurricane Ridge, WA
What were some of your 2014 highlights? Did you do some hikes you'd never done before? Found a favorite new cafe in your neighborhood? We've love to hear from you in the comments below.
Wishing you happy trails and a truly Happy New Year! May 2015 be the best ever.