I love rocks. I find faces and shapes in them that feed me stories. I love their colors. So when the weather gets warm, I head to a number of hikes that lead me close and face to face with rocks, many inscribed by glacial action years before. If you camp, you might want to follow AC_outlaw’s advice about camping essentials. One way to find rockhounding sites is to buy the Washington Atlas & Gazetteer from DeLorme. They have a list of popular rock hounding sites, including places to go to pan for gold. To learn more about glaciers, you might want to read Lu Baker’s article about glaciers.
Dry Coulee Dam, camping near by at Sun Lakes State Park
The interpretive center overlooks what would have been the United States largest and most powerful waterfall, except for the fact that at one time glaciers dammed the Columbia River and the route shifted to the east. Inside the interpretative center, a museum with Indian artifacts and displays of the damming of “Lake Missoula” helps explain the past. An edge of the cliff trail winds down for the more hardy. The entire Sun Lakes area is the remnant when those powerful rivers and glaciers cut through the area. At Blue Lake, you can climb up to a number of almost cave rock shelters where they found evidence the Indians of the area took refuge. Camping at Sun Lakes is plentiful, many water ski, swim and picnic.
Cedar River Watershed
The Cedar River Watershed Center recently opened and sponsors a number of classes, many that involve a hike up Rattlesnake Mountain. We’ve taken three of the classes, cost was $5 per person last year, one on geology, one on mushrooms, and one on raptors. All classes were exceptional. What we learned to see on the climb, was that a flat spot running along the edges of the mountain tops show where glaciers affected the topography. This is a wonderful outing for singles, married couples and families. The visitor’s center features gardens, a trail, lake access, a rain drum garden, and green roofed buildings.
If you follow the Cedar River, you will find several parks, a trail that follows the river bank from downtown Renton to Lake Washington, and back toward Maplewood Golf course. River rocks aren’t as much fun as gems, but a dunk in the river on a hot humid summer day will make you want to kiss your favorite glacier.
Red Top Mountain
This hike in Eastern Washington starts with a drive up forest road 9738 off of Highway 97, between the Swauk and Mineral Springs campsites. At the end of the forest road is a parking area for two hikes, one that leads you to the agate beds and another that leads you up a steep angle to an old forestry fire lookout building. There are no less than 5 outhouses in a four-mile area. You might not find any of the agate geodes unless you bring a pickax and are ready to sweat, but we found chips of both agates and crystals by scanning around the areas previously dug up. By looking for white rock and for the reddish crusty geode edges we managed to please ourselves. You can also pan for gold in nearby Swauk Creek or visit the remains of an old mining town at the National Historic Site in Swauk.
If you choose to stay in more elegant surroundings than the primitive campgrounds along Highway 97, you might choose to follow Robbi Erickson’s advice about adventures near Ellensburg.
Carbon River Glacier
Although the trail has once more washed out in the last years storm’s, carbon river glacier trail in the Mount Rainier National Park will bring you right up to the edge of the lowest reaching glacier in the United States. This trail is fun to hike, following rain forest and the Carbon river from the Ipsut campground on an almost level trail up to a suspension bridge.
If these hikes get you excited, you might also like some of the adventures that Donna Daniel’s recommends that include visiting a glacier.