On Upcoming Adventures In the National Parks of Washington

The Skeptical Cardiologist feels compelled to apologize for the paucity of new and exciting content on this website for the last few months. The reduced post production reflects both a sense that I have covered most of the important topics to which I bring a unique perspective as well as new work challenges and life events.

Unfortunately, post production for the next weeks relative to cardiology will be scant as I have decided to celebrate the end of the pandemic by going on a national park vacation adventure. For the next two weeks the former eternal fiancée  and I will be exploring an area that I have never seen before; the pacific northwest.

I wrote about National parks devoted to plants in 2017 when I visited Saguaro National Park.

There are 56 National Parks (NPs) in the  U.S. and prior to last week, the skeptical cardiologist had visited 13 of them,  none of which were plant-based. Only 4 NPs as far as I can tell are created specifically to preserve a plant species. Three of them are in California, two of which are concerned with really large redwood trees. I haven’t visited Sequoia  or Redwood National Park in California but I’ve been to Muir Woods National Monument north of San Francisco and apparently (per the eternal fiancée ) I wasn’t suitably impressed by the immensity of the coastal redwoods (Sequoia Sempervirens) that grow in their enormity there. Perhaps if I had seen the giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron Giganteum) which grow on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains my jaw would still be dropped.

There are no plant-based National Parks in Washington (but there are five national forests!) however on our trip to the PNW we are planning on adding three more National Parks and one National Monument to our résumé.

We start with a few days hiking in Mount Rainier National Park, “Washington State’s most renowned natural landmark. The mountain is the contiguous USA’s fifth-tallest peak and an enduring symbol of the Cascade Range, “studded with geologic wonders, boasts gushing waterfalls, wildflower-strewn meadows, and mile upon mile of forested trails.”

Next, we visit the San Juan Islands National Monument which is “situated in the northern reaches of Washington State’s Puget Sound and consists of nearly 450 islands and rock outcrops that lie scattered about the Salish Sea. The national monument—administered by the Bureau of Land Management—is home to a surprisingly diverse array of fauna. Its waters are a haven for harbor seals, porpoises, and orca whales.”

We will stay on “beloved” Orcas island, one of four main inhabitated islands before heading to North Cascades National Park, “an untamed wonderland that lies about two and a half hours northeast of Seattle. It is a hiker’s paradise that contains jewel-like lakes, evergreen forests, and spectacular panoramas.”

Twin Peaks Country

I’ve long been a huge fan of David Lynch and adore his ground-breaking TV production, Twin Peaks. The former eternal fiancée identified the diner where many iconic scenes from that legendary series were filmed.

Just a ten-minute drive from Snoqualmie, visit North Bend, Washington for Twin Peaks’ famous Double R Diner. In real life, it’s Twede’s Cafe, but once you walk in you’ll find Double R signs on the walls from the series, black and white checkered floors, and retro red bar stools. And, yes, you can order a damn fine cup of coffee (and hot!) with a slice of cherry pie. Remember to tell the waiter you take your coffee “black as midnight on a moonless night.”

Further investigations (see this article) revealed multiple other Twin Peaks-related sights in the Snoqualmie region.

The exterior shots of The Great Northern Hotel where Agent Cooper stayed were based on the Salish Lodge and Spa and nearby Snoqualmie falls forms the backdrop for a large portion of the mesmerizing opening credit sequence of Twin Peaks.

The sequence is set to the song “Falling” written by Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch and performed by Badalamenti which is arguably the best opening credit music ever written/performed.

To view the 2.5 minute sequence and better appreciate the genius of Lynch and Badalamenti in general go here.

And while the slow transitions and sleepy imagery impart a sense of tranquility, the overall mood of the sequence implies something sinister or somehow unnatural. Lynch uses the title sequence to explore something he’s repeatedly explored: the potential for deception within the warmth of small town America. After all, the show is centered on the discovery that one of its most beloved citizens, the high school Homecoming Queen Laura Palmer, has been brutally murdered. The docile town introduced in the title sequence is now forced to investigate itself in order to unravel a murder mystery.

Our last NP stop will be in Olympic National Park, “one of the Pacific Northwest’s most wild and scenic areas. Encompassing large swaths of an eponymous peninsula, the UNESCO-recognized gem showcases temperate rainforests, glaciated mountain peaks, and dramatic wind-battered beaches.”

Olympic National Park’s  three main sections are largely independent from one another. On its western flank, the park is home to rocky monolith-strewn beaches akin to those of the Oregon Coast.  Inland, it features dense temperate rainforests carpeted in thick mosses and luscious vegetation. At its center, 8,000+ foot snowcapped mountains soar overhead.

If any readers are familiar with these areas please feel free to leave advice on hiking trails, points of interest, foodie restaurants, and off-the-beaten path esoterica in the comments or in an email (drp@theskepticalcardiologist.com.)

Badalamentally Yours,


N.B. Brief descriptions of the Washington National Parks from this blog

N.B.2 I can’t seem to embed the opening credit sequence in the post (?copyright issues with YouTube) but here is the the haunting Laura Palmer’s theme played by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra for your listening pleasure


10 thoughts on “On Upcoming Adventures In the National Parks of Washington”

  1. I’m a Washington native, and have spent a lot of time in most of these areas you’ll be visiting. You e definitely put together a great itinerary. I’m currently hiking the PCT north bound, so will be venturing through the backwoods of WA soon as well, and finishing up in the North Cascades.

    I’m not sure about the order of your itinerary, but I presume that you may likely be traveling from the North Cascades to the Olympics. If so, the most direct path will take you across a bridge on the north end of Whidbey island. This area is called deception pass, and has a beautiful beach and trails to walk. Rosario beach is a good place to start. Further south along this route you’ll also pass Fort Ebey’s state park which is one of my favorite parks in all of WA because of the beautiful cliff side trails and views of the Puget sound. Still further south, before you take the Port Townsend Ferry, if you have time, you can stop off for a bite to eat in Coupeville, a lovely little seaside town where you can get freshly raised mussels from Penn Cove. Also, the Little Red Hen bakery has excellent coffee and cinnamon rolls.

    Port Townsend is also a lovely town as well, and the Olympics are an incredible area. I live on Whidbey island, hence the local recommendations. I hope you have a wonderful trip. On a separate note, I’m a dietitian and I really enjoy your blog.

  2. I highly recommend the Hike Cascade Pass to Sahale Glacier in North Cascades National Park if you can commit a day. It is 12 miles round trip with 4000 foot of elevation gain. So you will definitely get your cardio in that day. I am 12 years post CABG and have done it twice. https://www.nps.gov/noca/planyourvisit/cascade-pass-trail.htm

    Given the historic heat wave we are having this year, I would minimize your time on the east side of the Cascades.

    The recommendation for Rialto Beach on the Olympic Coast is a good one, but I would check first with the Park Service to make sure it is open. The access is across the Quileute Reservation which has been under a tribal closure for the past year due to the pandemic.

  3. If you pass near the SW of the NP Mt Rainier, you may find this character interesting. A trailblazer and wagon train Captain, Longmire settled at the mineral springs and built a ‘Health Resort’ – some of the buildingsstill in use today. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longmire_Buildings
    It must be in the genes My father being a ship’s captain, and in my dotage… a Coach (Captain) Driver – with much interest in Natural Healing Arts.
    Enjoy your foray into The Healing Forests

  4. Yeah don’t bother cycling up to hurricane ridge or mt constitution There are more enjoyable ways to spend your precious vacation days.

    • Now you tell me. 😉 It’s a reasonably graded road, but long. That’s not the problem. The problem is that there’s one road up, and you’re sharing it with loads of tour buses and RVs, and you’re breathing that all the way. I was about 30 years younger. I remember making my way through the parking lot, with a sad-looking coyote walking around begging for food scraps.

  5. Hopefully you will be spared the Venusian heat of last week. I did do a bicycle tour of the Olympic Peninsula some 30-odd years age. One of the most vivid memories was hiking in Colonel Bob’s Wilderness. It was a 3-4 hour hike up. Coming down I developed a wicked patellar tendonitis (thus said the orthopod on our hike, who, when asked what could be done to help me get down the mountain, said with unaccountable glee, “Ain’t a damn thing we can do here!). I did eventually make it down. I could scarcely walk for a week, but somehow I could still ride my bike.
    Lake Quinault National Park was definitely worth it; cycling up Hurricane Ridge–not so much.
    Have a great trip–and eat some Dungeness crab for me!

    • Steven,
      You would think it would be helpful to have an orthopod on a hike! I’ve been monitoring the historic heat wave that hit the PNW over the last week and had to make several adjustments in the itinerary. For example several weeks ago I could find no accomodations anywhere near the North Cascades, then one day about a week ago there were lots of openings. That should have alerted me to a proble but I made a couple of reservations at places in Winthrop and then began hearing about the heat wave. Sure enough, on those 2 nights the heat would be at historic levels and none of the places had air conditioning.
      By the way “Colonel Bob’s Wilderness” is an odd name for a place. Where is it?
      Dr P

  6. It will be busy at Hoh National rainforest entrance to the Olympic NP. Try hiking the south fork of the Hoh instead. Just as magical. Fewer people. Also go to Rialto beach. Nice beach walk with tide pools and starfish and anemones.
    Hurricane ridge has great vistas if weather is clear.
    Port Townsend on Olympic peninsula is worth visiting. Good little restaurants and a ferry.

    San Juan island has a great vista hike at American Camp and cattle point. Great history at British camp too.
    Lopez island is quaint and great for cycling if you are renting bikes.
    Orcas has an easy hike with great views at turtleback Mtn preserve.

    The drive on hwy 20 to NCNP is jaw dropping. Pull over at every viewpoint. Go to the NP visitor center in newhalem and do the easy hike from there along the skagit River. Go see Ross lake Dam. Go all the way to Washington pass. Get out and be prepared to ask if you got transported to some other world.

    If you continue down from the pass stop in Mazama. Tiny town with quaint country store and lodging.

    I’ve spent a lot of time in Olympic and Nortn Cascades NP. Less at MRNP. one great hike I did at MRNP was Grand Park loop but the road to it is inaccessible this season. You might stuck just going to Paradise visitors centers and doing the Skyline Trail Loop. It’ll be crowded.

    I’ve lived in WA state for almost 20 years and have been to all the places you are going. North Bend is closest and we’ve hiked a lot near there. Any hike in the snoqualmie pass area will be busy. If you’re up for a climb do Mt. Si. It’s iconic. It’s the first hike we did when we moved out here. 8 miles RT.

    Have a blast! You are visiting the best of WA state.

    • Page,
      Thanks so much for all the great advice. I am concerned about crowds at Mt. Ranier but we will try to start our days early before the hordes descend on the trails and perhaps seek out trails less traveled.
      Dr P


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