TrackTalk Tourism Guide Beta


#1

Disclaimer: this post is 4463 words long. Don’t read it if your twenty minutes, or whatever, are that important to you. I like to believe this is a worthwhile post and will be a worthwhile topic.

I’ve wanted to do this for a while now, but have put it off for one reason or another. Even the least perceptive among us has surely noticed a demographic shift. Dyestat hosted a significantly younger community—a primarily high school community attracted by high-school-based content. Currently offering no content apart from the forums, TrackTalk is not consistently bringing in new crops of posters. This topic is not where I will opine on the trajectory of TrackTalk; I simply choose to mention the demographic shift because it is relevant to the following: as the members of this site age we develop interests apart from that which initially brought us together. Posters are graduating college, going to graduate/professional schools, getting jobs, and maybe finally having some disposable income.

With these new discretionary funds many of us choose to travel—maybe flying across the country to visit a college pal in his new city, maybe taking a road trip to catch a weekend MLB series, maybe travelling on business, maybe simply taking a pleasure trip. From what I’ve observed, we have posters spread throughout the country: the Bay Area, L.A., NYC, Wisconsin, Chicagoland, the Beltway, the South, et cetera. There exist already nearly innumerable websites dedicated to travel and dining. For the most part, those sites lack a certain intimacy. Do you really care what Craig from Peoria has to say about the food scene in Baltimore on Yelp!—probably not. There exists, on TrackTalk, a familiarity (real or imagined) largely absent elsewhere on this series of tubes we call “the Internetz”. Bolton may think Yifter is a moron for his opinion re: Lance and doping, but he probably would respect the same man’s opinion on a museum in Philadelphia or somewhere.

Something causes me to believe it would be a worthwhile exercise for us to submit reviews of our hometowns, college towns, or even the towns where our cousins live and we go on vacation sometimes. I’ll get us started in two parts. Part one will cover Baton Rouge and its sequel will deal with the City That Care Forgot.

I look forward to learning about, and eventually visiting, the cities important to y’all. Enjoy:

BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA

Baton Rouge is the state capital and, with a population of 230,000, the second largest city in the state. Factoring in the unincorporated portion of East Baton Rouge parish and the surrounding suburbs of Baton Rouge, the metro population is ~800k. However, it is safe to say were it not for the government, LSU, and Exxon, Baton Rouge would just be another armpit like Meridien, MS.

A word to the wise: unless you are downtown, don’t venture North of Florida Boulevard. Around 90% of the violent crime in the city occurs in that area. Of course, most of that crime is drug-related and you could probably drive through there with no mishaps. But I would hate to say I told you so in this situation.

Dining

Situated between two of the great culinary regions in the country, New Orleans and Cajun country, Baton Rouge’s offerings are surprisingly boring. That is not to say that a good meal is hard to come by here; it is just that it pales in comparison to its neighbors.

Italian: with a large population of Papists the Italian options are abundant, as one would expect. The top two are undisputed: Gino’s and Ruffino’s. Gino’s is more of what you would expect from a traditional Italian restaurant: chicken/veal parmesan/piccata/marsala, lasagna, et cetera. The best offerings on the menu are the cannelloni (both meat and seafood), Capri salad, and tortellini carbonara. A lot of people I know are crazy about the seafood arancine, but it doesn’t really excite me. Ruffino’s is a bit more of a fine dining experience. Their red sauce is a bit richer than Gino’s and I prefer it. They have perhaps the best pizza you can buy in a restaurant in this city. I usually stray from the Italian fare here and choose something from the steak and chops portion of the menu. My favorite is the “Pork Tchoupitoulas”—two bone-in pork chops topped with New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp and served with asparagus. The roasted chicken is also phenomenal; I never thought I would say that about so simple a dish. Frankly, I have never had a bad dish here and can’t imagine anyone going wrong with any of the options on the menu. The wine list here is pretty extensive, if that is a factor that impresses you. DiGiulio Brothers’ is another slightly cheaper alternative. Cheap is probably not the correct term for DGB, because the food here is anything but delicious. A plus for DGB is that it is in my favorite area of town, surrounded by good nightlife. Stay away from Monjuni’s. It is highly touted and advertised, but is an affront to all standards of taste and decency. Anthony’s Italian Deli and Pocorello’s are outstanding places to pick up lunch, cured meats, or pre-cooked meatballs.

Pizza: For as many good Italian restaurants as we have, there is a dearth of good pizza. Apart from the aforementioned Ruffino’s the best pizza you will find here is at Whole Foods. Of course, the pizza at Whole Foods is outstanding and compares favorably with all of the pies I have ever tasted. It is a thin crust pie at Whole Foods, so don’t go in there expecting some Chicago-style offering. A lot of locals talk up Fleur-de-lis, but it sucks in my opinion. It is cooked on a conveyer belt, which, if I were in charge of issuing restaurant licenses, would be grounds for loss of a restaurant’s license.

Mexican: Most of our offerings are of the Tex-Mex variety, and most are mediocre on their best days. The top three are Superior Grill, Ninfa’s, and Coyote Blues. The first two have the standard offerings: enchiladas, fajitas, quesadillas, you know the drill. Coyote Blues puts a bit of a local spin on things—fried oyster tacos, duck and raspberry chipotle quesadillas. There is a restaurant called Serrano’s at the North gates of LSU, which is popular due to its location. The food is pretty awful, although I did have a good brunch there one time. That probably had more to do with the inexpensive Bloody Marys, than the quality of my huevos. A recent influx of Latinos ha led to an explosion of taquerias. Most are pretty good. My favorite is El Limon. They have a variety of tacos: carnitas, lengua, barbacoa, cueritos, etc. They have a really tasty red chile sauce on the tacos, which are a bargain at $1.50 each. Their tortas are good as well, but I usually stick with tacos.

Oriental: My favorites for sushi are Ichiban and Sushi Yama. I don’t eat abominations like “bomb” rolls and California rolls and crunchy rolls though, so I’m not sure which restaurants do those things well. Girls really like this place called Tsunami, so I assume they do a good job of ruining high quality fish with cream cheese there. Ichiban and Sushi Yama have always presented me with exceptionally beautiful fish and outstanding service. My one complaint is the difficulty of finding Monkfish liver in Baton Rouge. Bay Leaf is by far the best Indian restaurant in town. Go for lunch, dinner is tasty but a bit overpriced (again, in my opinion). The lunch buffet sacrifices no quality and usually 4 meat offerings, a couple of vegetable offerings, and a couple of varieties of rice. Rama is my favorite Viet dining option. I’m not as well versed in Viet cuisine as I would like, but the V.C. whom I know tell me it is authentic and well-done. There is a growing SE Asian community in a part of the city inconvenient for me to travel to frequently, but I hear good things about the food scene in that part of town and intend to find my way out there sooner rather than later. My favorite Thai restaurant is Thai Kitchen. I usually get the Panang Curry.

Hamburgers: I’ve never been wild about hamburgers in restaurants. I can buy some ground brisket from the butcher and be perfectly happy with the grill or cast-iron skillet at my house. The only place that has made me say “Wow!” with a burger is Roul’s. It is next door to the aforementioned Serrano’s and about 200m from Mighty Mouse’s apartment. It is very dive-y and the proprietor is an Arab with a sense of humour. He hollers at passers-by “Come try my burger! It juicy-juicy like a ■■■■■!” The burgers are cooked on a griddle and are in the neighborhood of half a pound. I don’t know what kind of meat he uses; a classmate once told me he saw Roul buying meat from some guy on the side of the road. I don’t really care; it is greasy and delicious. His fountain drinks taste better to me than other restaurants. If you are into burgers I have either liked the following places or have heard good reviews: Five Guys, Chimes, Fat Cow.

Mediterranean: There are at least a dozen decent Lebanese-esque restaurants here in town serving the usual: gyros, shawarma, baba ghanoush, and the rest. I’ll let you in on a secret: they all get their food pre-cooked from the same supplier. They just heat it up at their own establishment. It tastes perfectly fine, but anyone claiming to discern a difference between, say, Roman’s and Arzi’s is full of crap. Roman’s, Arzi’s, Atcha, Alabasha, Akasha, and Serop’s all have multiple locations and are perfectly fine.

Miscellanea: The Chimes is a Baton Rouge staple. It is right outside of the gates of LSU and has served generations of students and professors. The décor here is great and so is the beer selection. They have 45 beers on tap from around the world, plus a selection of rotating taps depending on the whims of the propietors/bartenders. Additonally, they have ~80 other bottled beers available. They have a promotion called “Around the World”. You have six months to drink 60 beers from 20 countries. You are limited to five beers on your account per visit. If you complete the challenge, you get a shirt and your name on a plaque in the restaurant. Lasseviren has completed it twice. I have never been compelled to spend the money. The food here is good, if uninteresting. They offer an array of sandwiches and fried seafood, which are all better-than-average. My favorite dish is the New Orleans style BBQ shrimp. These shrimp have never seen a grill and I have no idea whence comes the name. They are head-on shrimp sautéed with butter, garlic, beer, pepper, and some other spices then served with their sauce on white rice with French bread. It doesn’t sound notable, but a couple of bites will change your mind. I usually end up going with the raw oysters when I am here. They are ridiculously cheap (something like 35c) from 12-3 everyday and all day Tuesday. Cold, salty oysters with cocktail sauce and draft beer is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

A place called Chelsea’s is currently my favorite restaurant in town. Their menu is eclectic compared to similarly priced (read: inexpensive) restaurants around town. Five grilled cheeses on foccacia, grilled vegetables on couscous, fried green tomatoes with remoulade sauce, and plate lunches are all outstanding here. This place is right next to DGB and Rama in the best area of town, and will be discussed further later on in this review.

Stockyard Café and Dorothy’s Kitchen are the best purveyors of soul food—stewed neck bones, fried chicken, smothered pork chops, collard greens, cornbread, and the rest. They are both located in the ghetto, so I would go before dark.

Barbecue: Frankly, it sucks here. I would not rate the best places above “average”. This is very disappointing to me since good barbecue is one of my vices. Couyon’s, Pimanyoli’s, and Voodoo do it the best. They don’t suck, but would quickly go out of business in Memfrica, Texas, or even Tuscaloosa. Couyon’s sells $1 pints of PBR and High Life along with $1.50 pints of Bud/Bud Light/Miller/etc. and has a nice set up with TVs and handheld trivia. It is not a bad place to kill some time.

Steaks: You only need to know three names: Doe’s, Ruth’s Chris, Fleming’s. Doe’s is not a white tablecloth eatery by any standards. It is the type of place you go with some buddies and a gallon jug of cheap wine. That is not to disparage the quality of meat they serve, though. First of all, their tamales are outstanding; start your meal with at least six. The steaks are all USDA prime and dry-aged. If you know steaks, you are probably already salivating. They are also ~2 inches thick. One downside, if you can call it that, is that they don’t offer any steaks less than 32 ounces. Obviously the rational among us will need to split the steak with a date. I always go with the porterhouse so I can enjoy the tenderness of the filet and the flavor of the strip. The steaks are served with delicious deep-fried drop biscuits and honey. I think they serve vegetables here too, but who cares? Ruth’s Chris is a national chain, but started in New Orleans. This is the second location of the restaurant. I prefer their steaks to Fleming’s, but Fleming’s has better side dishes. I don’t really care about side dishes when I go to eat steak. Both serve USDA Prime. Avoid Sullivan’s at all costs. They charge USDA Prime prices but only serve USDA Choice quality.

Fine dining: Maison Lacour takes this category, hands down. If you are trying to woo a client or a girl, this is the place. The cuisine has heavy French influences, and all of it is par excellence. Juban’s and Ruffino’s are distant runners-up. They are both outstanding, but do not hold a candle to Maison Lacour. Juban’s offers Creole fare like one would expect to find in New Orleans; they have an outstanding bouillabaisse as well as fish dishes.

Also, avoid ACME Oyster House. It is overrated in New Orleans, but retains some charm there because of its history. The outpost here opened in, like, 2008 and has similarly subpar food and haughty prices. For seafood hit Parrain’s (next door to ACME), Louisiana Lagniappe, or Sammy’s. Sammy’s offers the best crawfish of any restaurant in town.

Entertainment and Running in next post…


#2

Entertainment

I’ve complained most of my life since adolescence about Baton Rouge being boring. Of course, that is because I’ve compared it to New Orleans. So my complaints are a bit unfair. I will attempt to give my hometown a fair shake.

All of the college bars are located on the South side of LSU. They are all packed full of college kids, blare top 40 and rap music, and have limited drink selections. I have had some of the best nights of my life in these places. If you want to get blackout drunk with your buddies and dance with co-eds this is your Utopia. The younger crowd generally goes to Reggie’s, Mike’s, and The House. I spent a fair amount of time in all three as I got older since I made friends with workers there and ended up drinking for free. The cross country team called Reggie’s home for about three semesters when one of our former teammates tended bar. The ~21-27 crowd heads to Fred’s, JL’s Place, and Bogie’s. I liked Bogie’s the best mainly because that is where my group of non-running friends went. The cleat chasers follow the football players who get in fights to Shady’s. It is a pretty big bar, but has a terrible setup and is full of chachbags in flatbill hats and white tees. All of these places have drink specials that encourage binging e.g. Reggie’s has $3 Natty pitchers a couple of nights a week, Bogie’s has penny beer and mixed drink pitchers from 8-10 a few nights and $3 doubles all night a couple of nights a week. These are your typical college bars that we all know. Reggie’s offers a bonus: you are guaranteed to see at least one fight every night from Thursday to Saturday. Once a semester, Reggie’s and Fred’s each host an “Invitational”. They hire a fairly well known brand and charge a $10 cover and you get to drink anything in the bar (Crown, Glenfiddich, Maker’s, Grey Goose, beers) for free from 7-10, then they have some good specials until 2 a.m. when the bars close. All of the college bars have at least one “free drinks” night a week. Pay the $5 cover and all well drinks and draft beers are free from 7-10. I have always received my money’s worth.

Third Street downtown has a few bars that I enjoy. The drinks here are generally more expensive and there are fewer people vomiting and falling down. Live music is pretty common and they have nice seating areas/patios/balconies. I like Happy’s, Roux House, and Boudreaux and Thibodeaux’s. The only people I know who go to the Office and Puncher’s are douche bags.

There is a place called the Bulldog that is mostly a post-college crowd. They have a pretty good beer selection and a nice patio. It is just down the street from my favorite area—the Perkins Road Overpass. This is one of the few areas in town where one can walk from shopping to dining to nightlife. The bars here are Chelsea’s, Ivar’s, Duvic’s, and Zee Zee Gardens. Chelsea’s and Ivar’s are my favorites (I went here with Lasseviren on Christmas night 2010), but I have never had a bad time going out here. These bars are generally patronized by the professional crowd 25-60 year olds. Another similar joint is The Cove. They carry the best selection of scotch and whiskey in town along with as many bottled beers as the Chimes. The thing is, public transit in Baton Rouge sucks and the taxi service is essentially non-existent. So, be sure to have a designated driver.

Chelsea’s and the Varsity (right next door to the Chimes) are the only bars that bring in good live music. The rest just hire the typical college band to cover Journey and **** like that. Varsity brings in bigger names, e.g. Willie Nelson, but Chelsea’s has live music 3-4 nights a week. Chelsea’s venue is a bit more intimate and I enjoy the shows there more than the Varsity.

If you’re a football fan, this place called the Londoner shows Premier League matches live on Saturday mornings. They also have a substantial beer list (not quite the Chimes or the Bulldog, though).

There are several museums worth visiting. The most obvious are the State Capitol and the Old State Capitol. The current Capitol is the tallest in the country. The museum there is not large, but still interesting. You can stick your finger in the holes in the wall made by the bullets when Senator Huey Long was assassinated in 1935. I loved doing that as a kid. From the observation deck on the 34th floor, you can see most of the city. The Old State Capitol is perhaps half a mile away and is styled like a Gothic Castle. The museum here is larger and more interesting and I think is officially called the Museum of Political History. These, along with the Louisiana State Museum, are downtown. I believe both capitols are free to enter. Also downtown is the Louisiana Arts and Science Museum. They have a moderately sized collection. I don’t know much about art, but I enjoy the museum nonetheless. The best part here is the planetarium. I don’t know what kind of shows they are currently offering, but I have spent a lot of money there in my time. On LSU’s campus is the Hill Memorial Library. It hosts several historical collections: some original works by John James Audubon, maps and documents relating to the founding of Louisiana and Baton Rouge. It is free, and any historian would love to spend hours in here.

Walking around LSU’s campus is a great way to kill two or three hours. The architecture is impressive, as are the grounds. The layout was done by the Olmstead Brothers who also designed Central Park, among other notable projects. The drooping live oak trees, magnolias, and azalea bushes are beautiful in the springtime. Give yourself a tour of Tiger Stadium or Alex Box Stadium. Go watch the live tiger play.

If you have the fortune of being in town for a weekend in the fall, you will never forget it. Football weekends are the lifetime highlight for many. The fervor around town can only be compared to a religious cult. I’ve been to Tuscaloosa, Athens, Oxford, and Auburn for games and none quite match Baton Rouge. Probably because they have a higher percentage of educated fans and are a bit less rowdy. Go walk around LSU’s campus even if you don’t have a ticket. Tell people you are a visitor and you will eat and drink for free all day. Even if you are a fan of the opposing team, fans will feed you and treat you with hospitality as long as you can take a razzing.

On Memorial Day weekend, Tiger Stadium hosts the Bayou Country Superfest, a two-day country concert. I’ve never attended the concert, but have had a blast tailgating for it. If you’re into country music, though, it is allegedly the place to be. I met people who came in from all over (Minnesota, New York, Washington) for the weekend.

Golf: I like playing, but I suck. I have only played at City Park, LSU, and Webb Park. City is 9 holes, the other two are 18. There are better courses, but I don’t want to spend more money to suck it up and annoy better golfers who are trying to play through. Beaver Creek and Copper Mill are good, according to my golfing buddies. Howell Park, like City, Beaver Creek, and Webb, is run by the City Parks Commission. They all three offer a twilight deal during the Spring and Summer. After, like, 5 p.m. you can get a cart and a round for some outrageously low price (I think $8). Howell Park is very much in the ghetto, so finish your round before dark. Or don’t. But don’t get carjacked, please.

Running

The running community in Baton Rouge is pretty weak if you are looking to do serious training. The college runners are really the only people putting in mileage. On the plus side, they do most of their runs without the supervision of their coach, and accept runners who want to tag along.

There are two “running groups”. They are basically social groups that happen to run. One is called the Happy’s Running Club. They meet at Happy’s bar downtown on Tuesday evenings, run a 5k loop downtown (some do more), and have beer specials afterward. There is another group called Sunday Runday that meets at Ivar’s on, you guessed it, Sundays. I have never been, but have heard it is the same as Happy’s.

There are a few good locations for running. Most of my experience comes from starting my runs at the LSU track, so take heed. There is a lake adjacent to campus around which we did most of our runs. Starting from the track, one can run 6, 7.25, 8.25, and 10-mile loops around the lake. There is one slight ~400m uphill and downhill that one will traverse on the 8 & 10 milers. This is mostly on asphalt roads and bike paths and is well shaded. There is a path worn into the grass next to the road if you want to avoid the hard surface. I have never really cared. There are several water and bathroom stops, and half-mile markers if you want to check your pace. On the west side of the lake, you will run in front of the massive Antebellum style sorority houses. The path on the east side of the lake passes in front of mansions. We used to pass time by rating the houses on a scale of 1-10. Speaking of the 1-10 scale, hundreds of co-eds walk around the lake for exercise. We would shout out their ratings as we ran past. I tried to holler out multiples of Euler’s number to be less obvious. “2.4e!!!” The north portion of the loop goes around a golf course. If you are feeling frisky, you can add on several miles in the neighborhood at the end of the golf course.

Also starting at the track, you can run to the Mississippi River levee and take the bike path on top to downtown. We liked to run to the State Capitol, ascend the steps like Rocky, and urinate. This was after business hours, of course. Coming down from the Capitol, you can go through downtown and link back with the lake loop to campus.

One of my favorites was running on the levee. Heading down river from campus, the levee was loose gravel/dirt on top for ~120 miles. There was usually a breeze coming off the river and there were markers every fifth of a mile. We had a loop that started at the track, went down the levee for ~9 miles, then used a back road to hit the main highway back to campus for 14+ miles. There are talks to pave a portion of the levee “for bikers to train on”. Nigga please. Serious bikers don’t really benefit from having a 2 mile portion paved. Are they going to do 80 mile training rides on this 2 mile strip of path? Come the f*ck on.

There is a decent racing scene. There are usually 1-2 5k races a month Sep-Nov and Feb-May. Seventeen minutes will put you in the top percent. Nineteen minutes will get you an age group award. Not much to talk about, but there is free beer and food after, so I won’t complain. The best race is the Fat Boy 5k, held in the Spring.

We did our long runs about 50 minutes away on a road called Tunica. It is ~8.5 miles long, about half asphalt and half dirt and totally shady. Unfortunately there are no water or bathroom stops. I liked to drive about halfway down the road and do two out-and-backs so I could get water. It is definitely worth the drive if you want to do a long run. Here is the elevation profile (the portion ~5 miles is where we did hill repeats in the fall):

I guess that is it for now. If you read all of this, thank you. It got a little out of hand. Coming soon is my New Orleans guide. If you thought this was long, hold on to your hat. Oh, and count how many lazy platitudes I used in this post and let me know about them.


#3

LSU, not quite LSUS


#4

Baton Rouge is a ****hole and I am sorry that you live/go to school there.

I’m just lucky to have lived in two of the greatest places in the country – New Orleans and Malibu. I’d do a tourist guide, but I’m about to go to sleep because I’m f*cking old and wake up at 5:30 in the morning to drive 2 hours to work which is only 30 miles away.

That being said, Los Angeles traffic sucks and giving up my motorcycle and then my scooter to get a car were the dumbest decisions ever.


#5

I read, and enjoyed, every word. I came in with high expectations, and they were surpassed. Huzzah to you, yoshnatius - Bard of Baton Rouge, Legend of the Docks.

Though respiratory illness and lack of research limit what I am able to contribute at this exact moment, please know that your efforts have inspired me. I hope to contribute a similar, though undoubtedly inferior, guide to Coastal America soon.


#6

Vices: I’m out of the loop with the drug culture, but as far as I know all of the pot, cocaine, and pills pass through North Baton Rouge, undoubtedly at the hands of Quintus or LaDarius or RaKevin. Don’t go here looking to buy drugs, though. At best you will get arrested. At worst some massive gangsta on the down-low named Orrison will make sweet love to you, your car and money will be stolen, and you will be arrested. Do head to North Baton Rouge if you are looking to solicit sex. Hookers are all over, especially in the Plank Road area. There is a charity hospital in the vicinity, and there are tons of hookers nearby. In high school, a buddy was taking a lifeguard class at the hospital. He stopped to fuel his car after class one day and was approached by an elderly woman missing several teeth. She offered to fellate him. I’m pretty sure the hookers accept cash or crack as payment. No personal checks, please. Feeling a bit testy? Fulfill your Grand Theft Auto fantasies here! For the past fifteen years there has been a string of unsolved murders of local ladies-of-the-night. Being smarter-than-the-average-gangsta, you are likely to get off scot free, especially if you are leaving town. Caveat emptor: our hookers are not required to be tested for STDs. And, from what I can tell on a drive-by basis, the average weight is around that of the linebacking corps at an SEC school.

I think there is only one strip club in the city limits. It is a Penthouse Club. I’ve never been, but one of the Western Kentucky football coaches got a DWI leaving there the night prior to a game this fall. The outskirts of town are more densely populated with exotic dancers. There are places with names like Cinnamin’s, Southern Kumfurt, and Candlelight. Candlelight features a mother-daughter team who dance to “Family Tradition”. There is another place about 40 minutes away in Woodville called Illusions. Their tagline is “We put the wood in Woodville.” But mostly they are known for being fully nude and having a stripper with a prosthetic leg.

If you really want to buy drugs, just ask some kid on a college campus if he knows anyone. Duh.


#7

well done sir, well done.

EDIT: i would do one for where i live, but im going out on a limb and guessing that nobody here will be in seoul anytime soon, so its a waste of my time lol.


#8

Actually I’m going there because of my ranking in SC2. They’re flying me over and paying for my hotel all for a tournament.


#9

IdrA?


#10

He’s a little ■■■■■.


#11


#12

Juneau, Alaska. (Disclaimer: I am not an expert or longtime resident. Just sharing what I know.)

Overview.

Juneau is a town drowned in rain, cloaked in clouds, choked in mist.

In 2011, we had 26 days out of 365 that were classified as “fair.” This makes sense once you recognize that Juneau is part of the Tongass temperate rainforest, which happens to be the largest national forest in the United States.

It rains relentlessly, but on days the sun is out, you completely forget the insult of a month of rain and clouds because of the blue against the mountains, and the bald eagles gliding overhead, and the sea lions gamboling in the channel, and the adorable black bear cubs tumbling around in the woods behind whatever structure you might be staying in, and essentially every other stereotype about all the nature and scenery and wildlife alleged to be observed in Alaska. I must admit that I’ve found these scenery/wildlife stereotypes to be true. I see bald eagles every day and bears on nearly every summer trail run.

One thing visitors may not realize is that since the glacier only receded within the past few hundred years, the biodiversity in this part of southeast Alaska is astoundingly low – we have only a handful of tree species, not that many mammals, no snakes… people will even try to tell you there are no ticks, although I have it on good authority the latter assertion is fallacy. Folks will also claim that in Juneau there are no moose or brown bears (“grizzlies” are called brown bears on the coast and grizzlies in the interior), but this is also untrue. Admiralty Island is right next door to Juneau to the south. This land mass allegedly has the highest density of brown bears in the world, and those bishes are most certainly capable of swimming from island to island.

Travel Logistics.

Regretfully, the process of getting here is more or less a colossal hassle for any potential visitor. You know how you can’t simply walk into Mordor? Well, you can’t simply drive into Juneau. You either arrive by boat or by plane. There are no roads in and no roads out. I’ve never taken the ferry up to here from Bellingham (WA) but I’ve heard it’s an outstanding experience if you’re okay with the fact that it takes a few days. Bring your sleeping bag and make a plan to do nothing else but gaze around drooling at the scenery of the Inside Passage.

I’ve noticed that people who live here longterm tend to have Alaska Airlines credit cards, and I’m sort of kicking myself for not having one yet, because I’d have already racked up plenty of miles. All flights into Juneau have a connection through Seattle, and typically the flights will also touch down in some combination of Ketchikan, Petersburg, and Wrangell before finally dropping you off in Alaska’s illustrious capital city. At the risk of sounding dramatic, let me assure you that by your fourth layover you’ll be wishing you’d just taken a Conestoga wagon or a team of sled dogs instead, particularly if you ever make the dreadful error of flying here with a sinus infection.

Ravens.

Once you get to Juneau, you’ll likely notice the ravens. Yes, I gave them their own bold heading category, because I really enjoy them and their endearing black-winged swagger and ‘piss off’ attitudes. You may hear rumblings about the Tlingit vs. the white man and about who used to be in charge and who is in charge now and who should be in charge and who unfairly took charge from whom, but most of the arguing is obsolete because it’s clear that that ravens are the real owners of this joint. Don’t mess with them. They’re probably smarter than you and if you’re rude to them they’ll remember it. I have read that ravens are second only to humans in the range of vocalizations they are capable of producing, and I doubt a day has passed since I’ve moved here that I haven’t been privy to their witty and often obnoxious commentary. Please take a moment to notice and appreciate them.

Running.

The distance running community here is small but filled with characters who have all become incredibly dear to my heart. The Geezers running group meets every single Sunday at 7:30am for a runs that last about 75-90 minutes in the winter and up to several hours in the summer when they take to the trails. Don’t be fooled by the name. Although the group is indeed mostly composed of masters men, they’re all pretty tough. Lately I am often the only girl present, but there are a few other regulars.

In the spring and summer, Geoff Roes runs with the group (he’s also put on a few weeklong ultra running camps here), and spearheads all sorts of wild adventure mountain runs. He is a really nice dude and may even offer you a drink from his water bottle in the middle of one of these longer treks in the event that you’re a n00b to ultrastyle runs and have somehow deluded yourself into concluding you won’t need water on a four hour run (like me). Sometimes the runs are very challenging because I’m trying to keep up with people far faster, and other times, in the summer, the runs are easier and take on more of that relaxed ‘ultrarunning’ mindset because the group is scaling mountains and taking breaks to enjoy the vistas, pick berries, or jump in a some mountain meadow pool, all otherwise known as living the motherf*ckin’ dream.

If I were a boy I’d probably wish there were a stronger or larger community of runners my age cohort here, but as it is I’m pretty evenly matched and well-challenged by these masters guys. Besides, they are so fun I wouldn’t want to trade them for anybody else. Truly though, if you happen to be in town and want a group to run with, the 7:30 group loves to host out-of-town drop ins on runs (Frank Shorter is among the many out-of-town visitors to have experienced a Geezers group run…). Just say I sent you.

In spring, when there is ample snow in the mountains but the snowfall has stopped and the avalanche danger is practically nonexistent, you can run up Mount Roberts and pretend you are Indiana Jones and James Bond at the same time as you glissade down the back of it into a slide zone called Icy Gulch, which will take you into a small valley near a mining glory hole. Then you can bushwack to the Perseverance Trail, run back to town, change your clothes and join the other runners for breakfast at the Baranof’s Capital Cafe. Oh yeah, that’s the other thing. We do breakfast after all the Sunday runs, and contrary to what I’ll say about the restaurants here later on in this post, the post-run diner food never lets me down.

On the last Saturday in July you can run the Juneau Marathon or Half-Marathon for $40 or $20, respectively. Only about 40 people run either race, so anyone on here would most likely win something. There is excellent fluid/fuel course support and the post-race party features grilled salmon. If it’s a clear day, you’ll be able to see the glacier from across the channel during the middle of the race. You can wade right into the icy cold channel to soak your legs afterward, which I recommend. Be aware that the course is a straight up out-and-back, and if it’s a windy day you’ll likely be battling a headwind the second half of the race because the wind fairly consistently blows out of the southeast.

The spring/summer racing series here is super. All races are either $5 if you preregister or $8 the day of – super cheap. If you’re here in May, don’t miss Mud Run (“Spring Tide Scramble”) which is a race back and forth across the channel at low tide with both 3-mile and 7-mile options. If you’re here in June, do the Ben Blackgoat Memorial run on Perseverance Trail or the East Glacier Trail race. If you’re here in August, do the Mt. Roberts Tram Run. In lieu of me listing all this stuff, you can just look at the southeastroadrunners.org website. Be forewarned that the race field size here is wickedly small. I’m talking 20-50 people. Good opportunity to learn how to be a frontrunner. Also, the only race that has mile markers is the marathon… yeah, things are pretty old-school here.

Food & Dining.

Yeah…no. The best meals I’ve eaten in Juneau have involved potluck food cooked by regular people and not by restaurants (I haven’t ever personally fished or hunted here, but with plenty of friends who do those things, I’ve experienced no shortage of fresh salmon, halibut, and venison). So yes, while the potluck-style meals locals put on are wonderful, this is not a town one generally inhabits for the fine restaurant dining.

Restaurants of note include Chan’s Thai Kitchen, which is one of the best Thai places I’ve ever been to anywhere. I always find the atmosphere of Thai restaurants to be a little funny (as if there’s some implicit rule against energetic, loud, and lively conversation) and this place is no different, but the food is scrumptious.

The Island Pub manages to do a fairly decent imitation of pizza that is most closely likened to California-style, with inventive toppings. The crust does not measure up to a true New York-style affair, but the pizza will satisfy in spite of this. The atmosphere makes it a fantastic place to hang out, and I’ve enjoyed many long and lingering and pleasantly rowdy meals here.
The Hangar is one of my favorites, mostly because the atmosphere is nice (especially in the non-touristy months when you pretty much know every third person there). Ask to see the bar menu even if you are seated in the restaurant section, because you’ll have more options and several of them seem to be better deals. My go-to selection is halibut tacos. The Hangar gets clogged with tourists in the summer but it’s still a fun place to hang out as you may watch the floatplanes come and go from the dock right in front of the restaurant deck.

No “Mexican” restaurant in town has done anything but disappoint me and make me desperately wish I’d just stayed home with a jar of salsa and a bag of tortilla chips instead. Avoid these places.

A lot of people go nuts over the Waffle Company out in Auke Bay, but somehow paying $8 for a mediocre waffle I could make myself doesn’t feel right.

There are lots of other touristy restaurants I’m leaving out (e.g. Twisted Fish, Tracy’s Crab Shack) because I don’t know anything about them and really, the restaurant scene is pretty uninspiring.

So yeah, forget the restaurants. In May and June you can start climbing into the avalanche chutes to pick some truly exceptional edibles. You’ll know you’re in an avalanche slide zone when you no longer see conifers, as their rigid trunks snap against the force of an avalanche and they cannot survive there. Instead, the supple, yielding trunks of willow and alder, which bend under the weight of avalanche snow and thus can live through a winter buried beneath one, will mark the slide zone. Look for stinging nettles in avalanche zones because they seek out disturbed soil. It’s oddly enjoyable to let them brush your hand and get a little buzz from the histamine sting. Nettles are delicious, fresh, wonderful for you. You can pick the tops and eat them right there in the field (but don’t pick them past early July), and be sure to protect the inside of your check as you first bite down so as to disarm some of the sting. If you stirfry the nettles in a skillet or steam them, the stinging hairs will deactivate and you can make a kickass pesto that will make you feel like Popeye.

In April, the Devil’s Club plant is beginning to bud. Once the buds have formed red outer leaves, you will be able to pluck them from the spiny clutches of the plant without very much trouble, and you may peel away the outer layers and pop the soft flesh of the bud into your mouth. Devil’s Club is in the ginseng family and most certainly tastes like it.

Spruce tips, fiddleheads, twisted stalk, beach asparagus, berries!!! There is so much food to be picked once the sun comes back.

Speaking of sun, if you happen to be in town for the summer solstice, go to Sandy Beach or North Douglas or Auke Bay or out the road and see if you can make friends and glom onto somebody’s bonfire. Last year I kayaked out to a friend’s place on Shelter Island for a solstice party with work friends. We had a guitar, a beach bonfire, a keg of Alaska IPA, and a view of mountains and humpback whales. Even at 1am you could still see the very edges of the sunset. Exceptional.

Fun things to do that do not exclusively involve the outdoors.

Visitors must stop by the Alaska Brewery for generous free samples of all their beers. Do not miss out on the smoked porter, as it’s considered to be the famous one. Alaskan Winter is also very good, but unlikely to be on tap during tourist season. I do not care much for what I consider to be the boring beers (Amber, Pale, and Summer) but those are several of the most popular ones. The IPA, Stout, Winter, Smoked Porter, and White are quite nice, and the brewery always has a couple other special ones and “rough drafts” on tap too.

There is a decent smattering of bars on the main drag downtown, but far and away my favorite is the Alaskan Bar, which often features live local music (usually bluegrass). The Great Alaska Bluegrass band is my favorite band here. Dancing to bluegrass music pretty much involves stamping your foot and jumping around and this is the most fun way to do it. Unfortunately, though, a lot of people are really into swingdance here, which is irritating because swingdancing couples have no concept of personal space on the dancefloor and will basically swing all the f*ck over the place and into your space. I purport that it is acceptable to throw an incidental ‘bow or two at these asshats. Aim for bloody noses!

If you come in April, go to the Folk Festival in Centennial Hall. It’s a week long, it’s really folksy/bluegrassy, and it’s free. Any act that signs up gets 15 minutes to perform. You get some really outstanding acts and some cringeworthy ones too, but those are just as entertaining to watch.

4th of July is probably the most crazy day of the year. The night before there are fireworks, and if it’s a nice day some people hike up Mount Roberts or the Dan Moller trail on Douglas to get better views. The day of, everyone floods downtown for general shenanigans and debauchery. There are two parades: the first one is in downtown Juneau and then everyone hoofs it two miles away across the bridge to Douglas Island to do another one, because Douglas is the shiz so we get our own parade. The traffic on 4th of July is horrendous (for Alaska). Get a bike or just walk.


#13

Visiting/hiking to the glacier.

Most tourists stick to the East Glacier trail and the Visitor Center area, but the West Glacier trail is the one to hike. It’s a little gnarlier, and you can actually walk right up to the glacier and put your hands on it and take photos of yourself with it if you’re so inclined.

The glacier is alleged to be receding up to 600 feet per year in some areas, and in many places it has formed ice caves that one can walk around underneath. On my first hike to it, I walked around under one of these for nearly an hour. Knowing what I know now, I would never do that again for any period of time even if my miserly ass were bribed with many many Hamiltons. The caves can collapse at any moment without warning. A friend of mine was hiking around under one of them with a group, and after a while they came out from under it and decided to eat lunch. Not two minutes after they had emerged – POOF! – ice cave crashed to the ground. Since then, I also saw a calving event so significant that I’m afraid to go very near the glacier at all. Essentially we came up around an alder thicket just in time to see a chunk of ice the size of Super Walmart plunge off the glacier face and into the water. It must’ve disturbed something underneath the water, because after that, a few blue whale-sized behemoths leapt out of the water beneath the original calving area. Anyone kayaking near the glacier face would have experienced a gruesome and terrifying demise!

(very cool but not really the way I care to die)

While we’re talking glaciers, it’s worth noting that this is one of the few regions of the world where the sea level isn’t rising. The area is still experiencing quite a bit of isostatic rebound, which means that the land is gradually lifting up after having been compressed by those heavy glaciers for centuries.

Mt. Roberts Tram.

Mount Roberts is easily the most tourist-friendly mountain in Juneau, because it’s the one you can access right as from the cruiseship docks. There is also this little tram/gondola thing that takes people to a recreation area at the top, which costs something like $27. There’s a restaurant, a gift shop, and this sad little jail for a blind bald eagle you may look at. To my mind, it’s far more satisfying to hike up to the restaurant area (this only takes about 45 minutes), buy a beer or snack at the top and then hike around to soak in the terrific views (if it’s a clear day). Show the tram operators your purchase receipt and you can ride the tram back down for free.

Cabin system.

If you’re into camping but don’t think setting up tents is any particular sort of thrill, it’s a blast to get together a bunch of friends and rent one of Juneau’s forest service cabins for $35 a night (there are something like 10-15 cabins from which you may choose). You hike out to the cabin, bring all your food, water, and firewood, and then you have the run of the place. Most of the cabins are between 3-7 mile hikes one way with varying elevation changes, and depending on the time of year it’s nice to bring Nordic skis or snowshoes and take advantage of the terrain nearby.

Skiing.

If you visit in winter and you’re into skiing, Juneau does have a downhill ski area called Eaglecrest. I’m not big on downhill so I can’t speak for or against the quality of the runs, but I do know we’ve had more snow than any other ski area in the nation this season. I enjoy Eaglecrest more in the summer – it offers the best blueberry picking around.

Trails.

If I had to give a highly scientific estimate of the number of trails in this town, I’d say there must be about five zillion. Walk past any building toward the woods and you will find one. Do I need to elaborate? (Come run with the Geezers in the summer if you want to experience some of the best trails here.)

Other touristy attractions.

There is lots of touristy stuff visitors like to do that I’ve never done, like ziplining, helicoptering to the glacier, going on a floatplane ride, etc. I’m sure this is all fun, but definitely not an area of expertise for me, so I won’t talk about it.

Getting places.

Juneau’s bus system can be a little confusing but is mostly pretty reliable (except when it snows, which won’t happen during the summer tourist season). By bus, you can get to within a five minute walk to the brewery, five minutes to the Treadwell Historic Mines, 10 minutes to the salmon hatchery, and within a mile of the Glacier Visitor Center. The bus drivers are all very kind and helpful and you can just tell them you’re new in town and need help with when to pull the cord for wherever you hope to get off. Unfortunately, a lot of the fantastic big name trails are simply not accessible by bus.

Weather.

Right, we’ve covered that this place is cloudy and rainy as a rule, but I’ll go into a bit more detail just in case anyone is curious. Usually when I say I live in Alaska, people assume it’s -40F in the winter and 30F in the summer or whatever. For a bit of clarification and perspective, Juneau is actually at latitude 58, which is about on par with northern Scotland, and the fact that it’s coastal means our weather is surprisingly mild. Temperatures in the negatives are rare. We do get a few weeks here and there where the high will be between 5 and 20*F or something, but that’s not the norm. It’s more typical to see temperatures in the high 20’s to low 40’s in the winter. Winters in upstate New York, Minnesota, northern New England etc. all tend to be colder, snowier, and tougher than the winters here in Juneau.
Summers are fairly cool. We might have a rare day or two in the 80s, but even 70s is pushing it and I’d say 50s-60s are most certainly more common.

People in the 18-25 age range “visiting” longer term.

I came here as an AmeriCorps volunteer. You can volunteer on a trail crew or for a nonprofit or government agency, depending on what you apply for. The “temporary volunteer people” network is really strong and these became some of my best friends. All but two of the 10 people in my AmeriCorps group ended up staying here (one moved back east, and one moved north to Barrow – God only knows why…). My point is, many people come here as AmeriCorps volunteers, Jesuit volunteers, and so on. If you’re about to graduate from college and have no idea what to do next, and if bumming around Southeast Alaska sounds like something you’d be into, shoot me a PM and I may be able to offer additional insight.


#14

I figured I’d pitch in my two cents on this… so everyone can avoid coming to Vivian.

Vivian, La
Located in the heart of the Ark-La-Tex area, Vivian is just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Texas and Arkansas state lines. We’ve got a bustling population of about 4,000.
Dining

BBQ: Out Law’s BBQ is hands down, the best BBQ in Vivian, as well as uh, the only BBQ joint in town. Now, it’s not as good as the Hickory Stick in Shreveport (40 miles south of Vivian) but it’s the best we have.

Mexican: Chavo’s is definitely the most reasonably priced, authentic Mexican restaurant in town. You can never go wrong with # 18 (Fajita steak burrito), and they sure don’t skimp on helping size.

Oriental: Surprisingly, despite having an Asian population of just 0.02%, we do have a Chinese restaurant (probably owned and operated by that 0.02%.) Honestly I’ve never ate there.

Hamburgers: If you want a nice greasy piece of dead cow meat, just go to the Dairy Queen. Sorry…

Soul Food: For those with a sophisticated pallet, go to Lela’s Kitchen. It’s the only true soul food serving restaurant in town. If you’d like to take your taste buds for a wild ride on the soul train, order the blue plate special (usually consisting of gizzards, corn bread, and collard greens.)

Entertainment:
Oh where do I start with entertainment…
Honestly, there’s nothing in the way of entertainment in Vivian, unless you want to hunt, fish, or hang out at the bars all day.
We’ve got JR’s Saloon, Clark’s Bar, and Tony’s Hilltop. Take your pick.


#15

At least friendly neighbors will greet you with smiles… :slight_smile:


#16

Bumping this because it was a good thread idea that people kinda forgot about.


#17

Most people who aren’t from the west coast know a few things about Washington, namely, Seattle, Mt. Rainier, and Ken Griffey Jr. Having now worked for two six-month stints in Olympic National Forest, and traversed quite a bit of the Olympic Peninsula, I’d like to discuss some of the best places to go, especially from an outdoor recreation perspective.

Starting in Olympia, WA, you can either go west on 12 to Aberdeen, home of Kurt Cobain & John Elway, or north on 101. Head north along the Hood Canal, and the notable towns you’ll go through are: Shelton, Hoodsport, Brinnon, Quilcene, [turnoff to Port Townsend], Sequim, Port Angeles, Forks, Quinault, Aberdeen/Hoquiam. As a general rule, most of these places are little towns that don’t really have a lot to see or do, and in order to really get a sense of the Peninsula, you have to get into Olympic NF and Olympic NP.

Shelton was a mill and seafood town, as logging was (and is) a huge industry on the Peninsula. There’s a handful of decent places to eat, and the “downtown” has some cool historic stuff. Perhaps more relevant to recreation and stuff, it’s the last place other than Pt. Angeles or Pt. Townsend that actually has full grocery stores and services. The east side of the Peninsula borders the Hood Canal, which was big for timber shipping and seafood. Especially on the south end of the Canal, don’t harvest your own seafood, as it’s subject to algal blooms leading to low DO levels.

Hoodsport is a decent-size town on the Canal, and the jumping-off point to Staircase, one entrance to Olympic NP. This is all I have to say about Hoodsport. Odds are you will get hit on by a 50-year-old woman in the Model T. Go to Hama Hama Seafood near Eldon. Outstanding, local, fresh and cheap oysters. Brinnon and Quilcene are on the northeast part of the Peninsula; Brinnon is at the outlet of the Dosewallips River. This used to be another way to get to the Park, but the road washed out ten years ago and hasn’t been reconstructed. Quilcene has a special place in my heart. It’s also near a farm which during the summer hosts a classical music exhibition every Saturday. Sounds hokey; is not. About 10 miles west of Quilcene on 101 is the turnoff to Port Townsend, which is a deep-water port from the late 1800s. It’s got a great wooden boat museum, a lively downtown area, regular live music, and a fantastic Wednesday and Saturday farmer’s market (the Peninsula does great produce and herbs, especially lavender).

Sequim is big, about 30,000 people. You have to be strange to live in Sequim. Don’t stop in Sequim.

Port Angeles is the biggest city on the Peninsula, and the main HQ of Olympic National Park. It includes a ferry terminal that runs to Victoria, BC, and has recently become an occasional stop for cruise ships. There’s plenty of good places to eat and stay. At the very least, drive up to Hurricane Ridge, which gains nearly 6000 feet of elevation in less than 10 linear miles. From there, you can panoramically see most of the Olympic mountains; during the winter, there’s a ski lift active. Just west of PA is the Elwha River, which is being undammed right now in order to restore the natural salmon ecosystem.

Olympic Hot Springs is a short hike of less than 2 miles, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Lake Crescent is worth a stop; it’s a glacial lake with very steep sides and usually has great photo ops.

The next real town to go to is Forks, of Twilight fame. It used to tout itself as “the Logging Capital of the World” and with good reason, as old-growth trees on the west/wet side of the peninsula can get up to 16-18 feet in diameter. There’s a pretty sweet logging museum and the Hoh River oxbow in Forks… but in recent years it’s begun to get into the tourism aspect, which most locals seem to wearily approach as an undesired necessity. There’s a turnoff to La Push, which has some of the most spectacular coastal structures in the world… seastacks, lots of driftwood, rugged scenery.

Quinault is teeny, and really only serves as an access point to Olympic NF and NP. In the olden days, the Quinault lodge and logging industries boomed, but restrictions have curtailed all of that.

Aberdeen/Hoquiam have meth problems. I’d avoid. It also rains a ton.

Other notes:
-Beware Indian Reservations. Yes, you can gamble, yes you can buy fireworks. But they’re pretty bad places–crime, etc…
-Hunting is a big deal. Bear, deer, elk, all of it. Nearly everyone is into fishing and shellfish, too.
-People who have moved to the Peninsula either do it for recreation or because they don’t fit in with “normal” society. People who haven’t really ever left the Peninsula satisfy one of those categories as well.

NEXT POST: Backpacking, the best way to see the interior of the Olympics.


#18

The Olympics are very much a part of the Pacific Northwest… from about October through mid-June it rains almost continuously–up to 130 inches as an annual average on the west side (though about half that on the rainshadowed northeast corner of the peninsula). However, all of that water moderates the temperature, and it’s very seldom a stormy rain… no thunder or lightning, just a steady drizzle or mist that keeps up all day. But the real reason I keep coming back (aside from a job) is that summer out here is unbeatable. It gets and stays pretty dry, the temperature is still pretty mild, and the recreational opportunities abound. One significant consequence of all this rain is plant growth… as previously described, old-growth trees are enormous–Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fir, and Western RedCedar record-holders are all over the place. The Hoh River valley and Quinault valley are both famous as temperate rainforests, some of the only ones in the world.

Each of the dozen or so major rivers on the Peninsula have a trail network associated with them, and most of those connect with another by a pass trail. Even though Mt. Olympus, the highest point on the peninsula, is only 7980 feet high, it’s barely 25 miles away from sea level, and over 6900 feet from a point on the Hoh about 5.5 miles away, basically an elevation change comparable to the Rockies above Denver. Another consequence of all that rain is that there’s a very developed glacier system on Mt. Olympus, as well as several other mountains in the Olympics.

Olympic National Forest rings around most of Olympic National Park, and the combination of the two mean that most of the area is protected in some form, and thus a recreational paradise. The Park, especially, has numerous backcountry camping locations, and lots of opportunities for both dayhiking and multiday loop hikes.

Highlights:
-Hoh: Backpacker Magazine frequently features the Hoh, which is a really mellow climb (+500 ft) from the trailhead for about 12 miles, and then it begins ascending to the Glacier Meadow camp, which is the most popular base camp for climbs up Olympus. The rainforest and river walk make for really great pictures.
-Quinault: The Quinault River trail, within the Park, goes up a gorgeous meadow-laden valley, with a sheer cliff face extending most of the north side of the valley, and the river below. This trail connects via Anderson Pass with the West Fork of the Dosewallips.
-Kalaloch Lodge: Take a date or honeymoon or something. You’ll be a winner for life.
-Coastal Hikes: Olympic National Park also has quite a lot of the coast protected, and there are two major locations. The North Coast hike is at Cape Alava, and goes to Sand Point, the South one (or two) are more out-and-back, from either Third Beach or Oil City. These both involve considerable route-finding, river fords, and knowledge of tides. However, you’re almost always rewarded with interesting beach finds, wildlife, and great views of unusual geological features. It sounds kind of lame (beach hike, yuck) but it’s not just on sand and stuff–you’re in the trees a good bit of the time, and every skeptic comes back a convert.
-Seven Lakes Basin- This is most easily accessed from the Sol Duc region of the park, and is limited by permits because of its popularity. There are of course, seven major alpine lakes in the area. Haven’t been, would like to.
-Skokomish: The South Fork of the Skok is more rugged than the North Fork. North Fork is the Staircase area of the Park, and is widely regarded as one of the best river hikes in the state. From here, you can connect with several other river trails. My favorite trail is the South Fork, which has a little bit of everything–cliffs, river views, swimming holes, good campsites, wildlife, and trail bridges.
-Elwha: This is about a 32-mile runup from the Whiskey Bend trailhead, and a superbly-made trail with spur trails to either side up to Low Divide, and from there a connector to the Quinault area. I really like how clear the Elwha is, and how many FANTASTIC campsites there are the whole way up.
-Bailey Range Traverse: I haven’t done this, but I want to. The Baileys are pretty much the backbone of the Olympics, running east of Mt. Olympus and the Queets headwaters, and west of the Elwha. Although it’s not an official trail, there’s apparently a followable bootpath up from near Low Divide, and from there you get photo ops of Olympus, three river valleys, glaciers, and alpine trees. Can’t lose.

In sum, you should come to the Olympics, and preferably with a good backpack, tent, raingear, and multiple weeks to do it right. Holler for more info and/or recommendations.


#19

for starting this thread! I am using Ice Fire Kick’s Juneau info and mulethread’s Olympic Peninsula info in our 30th anniversary cruise this coming Sept. Lots of good info!

Thanks!


#20

For what it is worth, and I know my audience is waiting with bated breath, I am still working on a New Orleans post. I think it will be split into 4 sections (dining, nightlife, attractions, and running) and will probably tip the metaphorical scales at around 15,000 words.

As a teaser, here is the best pizza in the city:

At $6.50 a pie (serves two) from 3-6 daily, along with 1/2 price house wine, beers, and well cocktails, it is a steal. My favorite option is the pizza with spicy lamb meatballs, tomatoes, ricotta, rapini, and mint. However, the Calabrese with salami, capers, olives, and tomatoes is also better than 99.62% of the pies I have tasted.

As an added bonus, it is in one of the coolest hotels around. The lobby at Christmas: