How to test services that make async network calls in Swift and return an Optional

One of the things that threw me the first time I did iOS development was the fact network calls were done asynchronously by default. From an implementation side this was nice, I didn’t have to worry about blocking my main thread. But from a testing side… well that was something new.

Since then Apple’s come out with Swift. And with Swift comes the need to learn new ways to do things.  A couple of things I wanted to work out how to do nicely was:  how can I stub out my network layer as I don’t want my test to have to run against a dummy backend, and secondly how can I assert the Optional value I get back is set.

Turns out it wasn’t too tricky. The optional var was set as a result of an async call, so the easiest way to check the value is to first wait till the var has a non nil value.

And stubbing out the network layer was easily achieved by using OHHTTPStubs.

My final test ended up looking like:


YOW! Connected 2015: Bridging the Designer – Developer Divide by Chris van Raay

I had the opportunity to go down to Melbourne for the YOW! Connected 2015 conference. It’s the second YOW! Connected to be held and even though it was at a smaller venue this year I enjoyed it just as much as last year.

What I enjoy about conferences is it’s a chance to hear how other people are doing things, get interesting insights and things to look into. And lastly to somewhat reassure you that as a developer (and organisation) the decisions you’ve made so far have actually been sensible choices. When you’re sitting in an audience and multiple speakers are mentioning things along the same lines there definitely is a sense of relief in a way.

But back to the conference. Whilst the conference covered both mobile development and the IoT, I mainly attended talks leaning on the mobile development side. For me there were two running themes in this space:

  • Designers and developers working together
  • The use of reactive programming in mobile development

There were also a few talks on mobile app testing, CI and CD that reaffirmed for me the state of testing for mobile, the decision we’ve made so far and where we can go next.

I’ll focus on trying to get up my notes on the designer and developer talks first as there were 3-4 talks on this topic. Whilst every talk had differing ideas on how designers and developers could work better together the crux of it all was communication and having a shared understanding.

Bridging the Designer – Developer Divide – @chrisvanraay

Common issues in the divide

Chris opened by discussing a number of issues in the designer – developer divide and how they may be overcome:

Us and them mentality
Developers thinking ‘designers don’t know anything’ and designers thinking ‘developers are lazy. To help overcome this:

  • Designers should be experts in the platform they are designing for
  • Developers need to be honest. Nothing is impossible, just harder/hard to do.
  • Break down the walls and have respect for each other. Working in a cross functional team helps with this

Implications of design decisions
It’s not easy for designers to know what is easy/hard. You get get through this by simply talking and working through it together.

Point 1 in ‘Us and them mentality’ about being an expert will help in understanding the implications.

Speaking different languages
Designers and developers often speak in different terminology. Use a shared language. E.g. things you can standardise:

  • Are you talking pixels or points
  • Is it a screen or a view controller

Design isn’t always measurable
Developers need to understand design isn’t scientific and will have to be more patient.

Geographical separation
Easily overcome by co-locating/sit together. Also better handover docs (this is more relevant if you’re geographically separated).

PSDs are terrible docs for developers to use
These are often provided as the output of design for developers to use. They’re not ideal though as developers often don’t have Photoshop nor the skills to use it well. Designers could help developers learn enough Photoshop but PSD files aren’t valuable enough in itself.

Conflict isn’t a bad thing
It gives you a different view on things. But you both need to be able to compromise on things.

But at the end of the day designers and developers aren’t really that different. Your goals are really the same thing, just in a different language.

How/what can designers developers do to help bridge the divide?

How does a team overcome the issues identified above? There are a number of things that a team can do:

Have a consistent design
This means you have less things to build, as a common understand is shared between both parties. To achieve this there are obviously some changes/improvements that need to be made:

Designers can structure their work to make the transition as painless as possible

  • Communicate the design rationale
  • Documentation of the stuff you will look at every day. Things like font, spacing, colour palette
  • Use smarter prototyping tools
  • Handover a spec – if you’ve documented the common things, you can get down to just handing over a wireframe with the styles listed next to boxes.

Developers can do the following things better

  1. Code for consistency
  2. Code for change – Change is inevitable. Branding can change, apps get sold. Really this is the same as principle 1.

But how can we do all this?
A number of approaches we’re given on how designers and developers could help achieve the above:

  • Name your colours something easily understood. E.g. instead of saying ‘colour #8cd8fd’, maybe your team will call that colour SkyBlue.
  • Centralise colours – e.g. use a category to add your defined colours to UIColor.
  • Name your different font variations. E.g. H1 could be 17 point System Font.
  • Give names to combinations of fonts and styles so they can be references in wireframes. E.g. H1SkyBlue would mean the font is 17 point System Font in SkyBlue.
  • Document reusable views somewhere. This makes it easier for developers and designers to know what something looks like and refer to where it is already being used.
Why should we care about this all?

Everyone wants and loves working in a high functioning team. Happy designers + happy developers = a better functioning team. You’ll have increased flexibility and productivity and a general better working environment.

It was interesting listening to this talk as we’ve started doing some of the things mentioned above at work and the designers and developers already agree it is a better experience for both parties.

Is bridging the divide an easy thing to do?

Yes and no. You’ll need discipline and ensure designers and developers have both bought into the process. Things can get into the way like really strict rules on checking in code. All of these can be overcome if the team is willing to be flexible and do a bit of forward planning and creative allocation of work. E.g. if you’ve got a hefty design piece, split it down and sequence the stories in a ordered known way that makes sense. We’ve actually already started doing this at work and it’s been a much more pleasant process in getting design improvements delivered.



Creating an OS X VMware image using Packer

The time has come to look at OS X VMs. I’d put this off for a while as the amount of development I’d have to do on OS X didn’t warrant the effort. But curiosity, easier management of upgrades and the need to learn new things has spurred me on this path of learning.

So without attempting to chew too much in one go my first attempt is to create a VM image using Packer.

Why Packer? From one config you can create images for different platforms – like VMware, VirtualBox, AWS etc.

For my own learnings I was creating images for VMware.


  1. Have packer installed. If using homebrew simply run
  2. Have VMware Fusion or Fusion Pro installed
  3. Clone the os-x-vm-template project
  4. Have the installation file of OS X available. If you don’t you can download it as follows:
    • Open App Store
    • Search for the OS – in my case I looked for ‘os x yosemite’
    • Click download. It’ll download to /Applications

Creating the image

  1. Go to wherever you cloned the os-x-vm-template project.
  2. Run the script

    This will finish and chuck out some output similar to:
  3. Copy the template.json file in the packer directory
  4. Open the osx-template-vm-ware-iso.json file and:
    • Remove the builder entries for parallels-iso and virtualbox-iso.
    • Modify the iso_checksum and iso_url variable values to match the ones spat out in Step 2. E.g.:
  5. Validate that your config file looks okay:
  6. If your template is all good the next step is to create the image

    This step will take a while as it’ll create a new VM, install and configure OS X then export it as a new vm. The output will be created in a folder of the same name prefixed with output – e.g. output-vmware-iso.

Next up I’ll look at using this image as the image as the base source image to create other more specific images. Why do I want to do this? I want the ability to easy trash and recreate OS X environments but I want this to occur fairly quickly. By keeping a base source image I won’t need to sit through the OS X installation each time I need to start with a ‘fresh’ VM.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Greetings from Lassen Volcanic National Park. Lassen is located in north east California and contains the southern most volcano that makes up the Cascade Range of volcanoes. It is sort of like a super tiny version of Yellowstone in some ways. There’s geothermal areas with hot springs, mud pots and fumaroles. Completed with the smell of sulphur wafting through the air at points. The park apparently is also one of the few places where all four different types of volcanos can be found.

There’s meadows in places

The park for the most part is fairly remote, it’s been about 1.5 hours of driving each way to get in/out of where we want to walk. One of the walks we did was called Bumpass Hell (yep another somewhat intriguing name that got my attention). It’s called Bumpass Hell after K.V. Bumpass an early settler in the area. He found the area and whilst showing it around fell through the earths crust burning his leg. As the Bumpass Hell trail wasn’t that long we continued on down to Cold Boiling Lake. Cold Boiling Lake sounded interesting as it’s named what it is due to it being a cold lake that looks boiling due to escaping carbon dioxide. In reality though it didn’t look like it was ‘boiling’ as bubbles only rose from certain areas and rather slowly at that. It did look pretty though as it was surrounded by a meadowy looking area.

Making our way to hell
A view without as much steam of Bumpass Hell
View on our way to Cold Boiling Lake

The other hike on my list was Lassen Peak. Lassen Peak is possibly the largest plug dome volcano in the world. Its last activity was May 1914 – May 1917, with its dramatic eruption happening in May 1915. With the eruption being relatively recent, one could say that some of the rocks in the area are California’s youngest rocks. We had to start this hike early as the peak is known for having thunderstorms past noon. The area has been having a bout of cooler than normal weather lately so  as we got higher the fog set in and let’s say it was fairly cold. Probably should have had gloves and a beanie. Eventually we made the top rest area and the fog cleared for a few minutes. You could just see Mount Shasta off in the distance. Everywhere else around was cloud. Some snacks and then it was on the way back down. My fingers were going red and hurting cos they were so cold. It was kind of odd later on when they were warming back up because they had a weird sensation.

Am I standing above the cloud line?
Am I standing above the cloud line?

Today on our last day we went for a drive instead of hiking. First we headed out to Subway Cave which is in the adjoining national forest. The cave is a lava tube formed by lava flowing through lava that had already cooled/hardened. When the flowing lava eventually disappeared a tube like cave was left behind. So with torches in hand into the tube we went. It was only 1/3 long inside it was pitch black and many degrees cooler than outside. There was info boards in the cave that you could read to find out more about the formation. They were easy to find as they’d kindly put reflectors on them.

No pictures of the cave ‘cos its too dark, but we did make light trails

After Subway Cave we went over to the Butte Lake area of the National Park as Cinder Cone was over there. Cinder Cone is another volcano and flow of lava from it created what is known as the Fantastic Lava Beds. We didn’t bother hiking to the top of Cinder Cone as we were all hiked out and had already spent over 2 hours driving already. So instead we hiked part way up the trail to get a better look then headed back.

Cinder Cone

The next two days are driving days on our way back to LA before we finish of the trip with a few days at Disney.

Redwood National and State Parks

The second last park of this 2 month adventure brings us to Redwood National and State Parks. The parks are located in the north coast region of California and consist of the National Park along with 3 of California’s State Parks. The State Parks actually existed from the 1920’s and came about as a result of the work of conservationists and citizens who were concerned about the extensive logging of old growth redwood forests. Through public donations and buying back of land the state parks were formed. Yet there was still concern about the extent of logging around the boundaries so in 1968 the creation of the National Park happened to protect lands around the State Parks.

There are 3 types of redwood trees, more commonly known as coastal redwood, giant sequoia and dawn redwood. The coastal redwood and giant sequoia both occur naturally in the California however the giant sequoia only occurs in the Sierra Nevada. Having been to Sequoia National Park before and seeing the giant sequoias it was interesting to see redwoods. Both types of trees have claims to fame. Redwoods are the tallest living things on earth whilst giant sequoias are the largest single trees and largest living thing by volume. To highlight the difference, the redwoods are basically taller but skinny whereas the giant sequoias are slightly shorter but have massive circumferences. Both can have trees that are over 2000 years in age.

Tallest trees in the world
Tallest trees in the world
The park also includes some of the coast
The park also includes some of the coast

When planning our visit to this region I wasn’t actually sure what to expect as I knew there was super tall trees but that was about it. I’d also wondered how different it was to Sequoia. Having spent a few days here I’m glad to say that it has been enjoyable. There’s a great variety of hikes you can take through the forest as well as trails along the coast. It’s also got a number of fairly accessible trails for those who can’t walk far that take you through old growth forest that still looks relatively untrampled on. Having been on a number of the old growth trails in the other parks this trip I can say that the other parks having nothing compared to RNSP. Standing on a trail, dwarfed by tall trees and just the sound of birds has something serene about it. Maybe it’s why I like doing these park holidays. It’s an escape from my normal life that’s filled with technology, traffic, thinking.

Shrouded in fog
Trees shrouded in fog

One of the cool hikes we did whilst here was a 11.6 mile loop in Prairie Creek park. The nice thing about this trail is that it goes through a variety of environments, from forest to canyon to beach and back. The canyon is known as fern canyon and has 6 different types of ferns in it. The ferns cover the canyon walls giving it a look from some era long gone by. So much so it’s been used in The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Star Wars.

Feeling tiny
Fern Canyon
Fern Canyon
Where does this lead?
Where does this lead?
To the coast!
To the coast!

Tomorrow it’s onwards to Lassen Volcanic National Park, the last park in this 2 month adventure.

Crater Lake National Park

Hello from Crater Lake, where today it’s the 4th of July, America’s Independence Day. Crater Lake is in the state of Oregon and the only national park in the state. The crater is actually a caldera formed when Mount Mazama erupted about 7000 years ago. The eruption was so huge that once the magma escaped the volcano the mountain collapsed in on itself. Within the lake sits Wizard Island a volcanic cinder cone that actually has a crater at the top. Wizard Island was created by a number of smaller eruptions that happened after the Mount Mazama eruption.

Wizard Island
Wizard Island sitting within the lake

During summer the park concessionaire runs a boat tour of the lake but only 2 of the trips each day include the stop at Wizard Island. Tickets only go on sale exactly 24 hours before and as the boat only takes 37 people you can guess what our first stop on arrival day was. Get some boat tickets.

So our first full day started with yet another early wake up call as we had to make the 1 hour drive round to the rim drive to hike down 1.1 miles in the boat dock. Being on a small boat on the lake was cool as you really got a look at how blue the water was and how high the crater walls were. After getting across to the island we had 3 hours to do whatever we wanted. The majority of people including ourselves decided to go for the summit trail. So up we walked to the top of Wizard Island. At the top you could clearly see the shape of the crater, you could even walk down into it if you wanted too.

Crater at the top of Wizard Island
Crater at the top of Wizard Island
Looking out into the lake from Wizard Island
Looking out into the lake from Wizard Island
Wildflowers. These guys live a hard life...
Wildflowers. These guys live a hard life…

We didn’t think we had enough time to walk to Fumarole Bay so after making our way back went to the dock to chill. I’d taken my shoes off and was dangling my feet in the water which was nice and cool. I wasn’t planning to go swimming and hadn’t packed any swim gear. But after seeing the ranger who was onboard our boat tour jump in fully clothed, I was like… well if she’s just jumped in fully clothed so am I. Soon after there was quite a few of us jumping in fully clothed. Usually the surface water in summer is between 55 – 60 fahrenheit (12.7 – 15.5 celsius approx), but it didn’t feel that cold. No colder than the beach on a summers day.

In we go...
Into the lake we go…

The water is so clear and clean that on the way back we made a stop and the ranger offered to fill anyones water bottles up. She did have to say that obviously there is a risk of giardia but there hadn’t been any detected. Seeing she was filling up her own bottle most of the other passengers did as well. That and I think some of them were running low on water and there was the 1.1 uphill hike at the end.

Day 2 and 3 was time to get some hiking in. There’s a few hiking trails here but not to many. Most of them aren’t that long in the scheme of things either. The Pacific Crest Trail does run through the park though and hikers can take an alternate trail that takes them to the rim trail before rejoining up with the original PCT. We did both our hikes early in the day as there’s been a bit of a heatwave of late. That and it’s 4th of July weekend. You should’ve seen the amount of people coming into the park around lunchtime and trying to get a park!

Changing colours as the sun was going down
Small island called Phantom Ship.

This evening we’re going to head to Klamath Falls fairground as apparently there is something happening there from 6PM for Independence Day. We have no idea what it’ll be like, a small country fair maybe?

Keep Portland Weird

On our final day in the Mount Rainier region the weather was expected to near 100. So instead of hiking we drove out to Mount St. Helens. Mount St. Helens is an active volcano best known for it’s eruption on May 18th 1980. It’s in the same Cascade Volcanic Arc that has the mountains (volcanoes) Rainier, Baker, Adams, Hood, Lassen Peak amongst others.

The region around the mountain is now a National Volcanic Monument and there are a number of visitor centres with the Johnston Ridge Observatory being the main one. The observatory is named for David Johnston a USGS volcanologist who died during the eruption whilst manning a observation site within 6 miles on the eruption. The monument is actually managed by the U.S. Forest Service and it is really well done. It’s on par with the ones run by the National Parks Service.

Mount St. Helens
Mount St. Helens

So with our days in Washington state finished it was time to keep heading south with 2 nights in Portland to break up the parks road trip. Portland is the largest city in Oregon and has a popular slogan of ‘Keep Portland Weird’. For starters there’s a cult following of the airports original carpet design. So much so the Grand Marshal for the city’s 2015 Rose Festival Parade was the PDX Carpet itself. Yep a rolled up section of carpet, googly eyes and hat! There’s even a satirical comedy show called  Portlandia that’s set in Portland.

So along with cult followings of carpet, there’s an immense laid back vibe to the city. Microbreweries, good food, murals and an abundance of coffee shops that can make coffee! And competing doughnut stores, of which we tried both.

Pizza pyramid mural
Pizza pyramid mural
Did your childhood suck? Grilled cheese might make it better...
Did your childhood suck? Grilled cheese might make it better…
Voodoo doughnut
Voodoo doughnut
Streetcar track warning
Streetcar track warning
Street piano
Street piano
Put a bird on it
Put a bird on it – watch this if you don’t get it, Portlandia, Put a Bird on It

Mount Rainier National Park

Next National Park on the list is Mount Rainier National Park. The park is located in Washington a bit inland from the Olympic region. After about 6 hours of driving on Wednesday we arrived at Paradise where our accommodation for the next few nights is at the aptly named Paradise Inn. In the US parks systems a number of parks have accommodation inside the actual park and Paradise Inn is one of two in Mount Rainier. So instead of having to tent or RV you can stay in a historic lodge/hotel. They’re often in prime locations and the parks service have done a great job in maintaining them. Staying in one of them is like a look back in time (and a great way to escape the pace of normal life). There’s high open ceilings, a fireplace, a dining room and usually no TV, phones or Internet (or if they do have it the quality is bad).

Welcome to Paradise
Paradise Inn was built back in 1916 and it was restored/renovated back in 2006 to address things like fire safety, seismic structure strength amongst other things. They’ve managed to keep its look and feel though and the very rooms you stay in reflect that of those visitors many years ago would have stayed in. Think tiny room with a small sink in the corner. Each floor has two showers and a male and female restroom. Paradise Inn has the trifecta of no TV, phones or internet. There’s no mobile phone service either. Looking at the old photos up and about, the inn today looks very much like what it did back then. When you look out into the lodge foyer in the afternoon and evening you can see people reading books, playing board games and completing puzzles. Things we would’ve done regularly before the advent of technology. It’s kind of refreshing in a way.

But let’s get back to the park. Mount Rainier NP was the fifth designated National Park in the US parks system and apparently the first that had a master plan. So even the road driving into and through the park had thought and design put into it so that visitors would see views of the mountain as they made their way up. Today it’s roads and buildings are historical landmarks. The park like many others has a number of regions, and driving between them can be time consuming. So some pre-planning of hikes and checking of driving distances is helpful.

Mount Rainer in the background, John Muir quote in the front. Muir is a legend with relation to the preservation of wilderness in the US.
Mount Rainer in the background, John Muir quote in the front. Muir is a legend with relation to the preservation of wilderness in the US.       

Paradise where we hiked today is an alpine region and in summer once the snow melts it is a hikers heaven as the meadows are filled with a bright abundance of flowers blooming, bees and birds pollinating flowers and lush green alpine vegetation. Luckily for us all the flowers seem to be bloom right now, and the weather outside is blue skies with very little snow on trails and none in the immediate area around the inn. Which is actually not normal. This time of year there is still supposed to be like 6+ feet of snow around Paradise and most of the trails should’ve been snow covered still. Unfortunately the Pacific Northwest had a terrible snow season so the Skyline trail which we hiked was pretty much snow free minus for a few small areas up top.

The slopes of Paradise are colourful with all the different blooming flowers
Some wildflowers up close

As we’re staying in Paradise, this meant that we could be afforded a chance at sleeping in… except that with the lack of sound proofing and everyone else waking up I still woke up earlier than intended… That’s okay as a peek out the window showed not a cloud in the sky. Today’s hike was only 5.5 miles, considerably short in the scheme of things so we took a few side trails to check out other views. But because it was short it also gave us time to walk leisurely and turn around and take it all in. You ascend up a trail with Rainier looming in front of you, but behind you you’re climbing the valley filled with flowers and the Tatoosh Range in the distance. With the super clear morning weather you could even see Mount St Helens, Mount Hood and Mount Adams in the distance!

Just a view from the Skyline trail
If you look carefully you can see some of the other mountains in the background

The Skyline Trail is also the trail that the mountain climbers take to get up to Muir Camp, the first stop on their way to attempt an ascent of Mount Rainier. You can actually day hike out to Muir Camp and back if you’re well prepared for changing conditions and can navigate back down if the weather changes – unmarked trail and glaciers to fall off. We were actually quite surprised how close the mountain was to the Skyline trail. Along the way we saw many Hoary Marmots. Marmots are a member of the rodent family and they kind of look like giant guinea pigs to me. They basically spend summer fattening up as in winter they can reduce their heartbeat to 4-5 beats per second and live of their fat stores. The trail has a couple shortcuts that you can take back, but we kept going up to the High Skyline trail the back done. It was interesting to see that the other side of the mountain had a very different look. It was more rocky, and vegetation hadn’t had much of a chance to grow yet. Making it back down, it was time to eat a hot dog. Hot dogs somehow = post hike food for me.

Can you spot the trail of climbers making their way up to Camp Muir?

Oh something else cool was they have the nightly astronomy setup at Paradise as well. Excellent for us as all we had to do was wander out of the inn and cross the carpark. Beats having to drive like an hour! Last night we saw Jupiter and 3 of its moons, Saturn (with it’s rings) and a moon, the moon and a pair of stars (which I’ve forgotten the name of). And today the guy had his solar scope out so we got to see the sun. Very cool, especially Saturn and the moon!

I’m a sucker for parks with cute or interesting names in trails or areas of the park. It’s often the name that’s caught my attention first. Park names and trails that have caught my attention before: Delicate Arch (Arches NP), Island In The Sky (Canyonlands NP), Road’s End (Kings Canyon NP), Many Glacier (Glacier NP), Exit Glacier (Kenai Fjords NP). Rainer NP got me for a few things: a mountain (volcano actually), it has a trail called the Wonderland Trail. There’s a place called Summerland (not to mention Paradise!). Hook line and sinker, it had me.

So as you can probably guess, today’s hike was out to Summerland. Summerland is about a 8.4 mile return with just over 2000 feet elevation change. The actual trail out to Summerland is part of the Wonderland trail. Wonderland is a 90 something mile trail (96 I think?) that circles Mount Rainier. The overall trail has elevation changes of over 20,000 feet (combined) and about 250 people hike the full loop each year. Many others hike sections hike portions of it. There’s also plenty of day hikes that follow the Wonderland trail for portions of it. The trailhead was on the way to Sunrise (yes another name that may have caught my attention), so we had to get an early start. Sunrise is about 2 hours driving from Paradise so we knew it would take a bit to get there. From what I’d read Summerland is a fairly popular trail in summer but has limited parking so an early start was called for. Funnily enough it isn’t listed in any of the visitor trail maps, which for some reason only list trails starting from the actual visitor centres. But I had my instructions on where it was so we were set.

The alarm was set for 6:00AM and we were on the road by 6:30AM. We arrived at the trailhead around 8:00AM, restocked our CamelBaks and hit the trail. The trail was under tree canopy for the majority of the journey uphill. A nice change as it was a lot cooler. The weather is in a bit of a heatwave at the moment so it’s 90+ fahrenheit which is mid 30’s celsius. It’s supposed to be getting close to 100 on Sunday! The trail gradually climbed and we reached a small meadow thing which had flowers which we weren’t sure whether was Summerland (no map). Basically my instructions said something along the line of crossing the creek and then there would be a steep 0.5 mile climb up to Summerland. We had a snack then debated whether we were there or not. The trail seemed to keep going uphill and the first bit didn’t seem particular alpine-ish. The portion after the creek to where we were wasn’t partially steep so the feeling was that it was probably actually 0.5 of a steep climb not 0.5 from the creek. So we started going uphill. Along the way a guy was coming up so we asked him if he knew whether the thing below us was Summerland. He’d done the trail before and he told us nope, Summerland was up all the switchbacks and that it was a huge meadow that was pretty with campsites and a pit toilet. So upwards we kept going. Soon we arrived at Summerland and yep it was a huge meadow. The flowers were in early bloom. July-August is when they really take off. We sat down on a rock for a rest surrounded by the meadow with Rainier in the background. The occasional marmot was scurrying around the place. A cute thing was the marmot we encountered on our way back down. We’d just left the toilet and wanted to take a track down to the main trail but a marmot decided it wanted to dig and play with the rocks on the track. It just sat there, then decided to go lie down on the side of the trail. Then it decided it wanted to eat again, ran up to a flower stalk grabbed it pulled it down and ate it. And ate more flowers. The hike back down was fairly uneventful, just very hot as the temperature had heated up since we left in the morning.

River crossing on the way to Summerland
Welcome to Summerland
Alpine meadows, a stream and great views
Panoroma of Summerland
Just one more Summerland pic


After Summerland we headed over to Sunrise as it wasn’t too far away. Sunrise visitor services and facilities don’t actually open till tomorrow (Saturday) but with the lack of snow season the area is open for hiking now. It’s the highest visitor centre point in the park and the mountain looms in it’s background. We didn’t do any hiking up there as it was super hot but it did offer different views of the park. Then on the way back down we stopped of at Grove of the Patriarchs Trail as it was only a 1.1 mile trail and went though old growth forest. It was an okay trail. It’s probably a trail more catered to day trippers, as you can definitely see the same/similar things in better forms doing a longer trail or visiting parks like Sequoia or the Redwoods. But it did have descriptive boards describing the various trees and how forest ecosystems worked which is great for education.

What the Forks?

We’ve spent the last few days in the Forks region. Forks being the place that the Twilight series is set in. We’re staying in a little town called La Push (population approx 350) that is actually the home of the Quileute Nation (Indian reservation). It’s a Sovereign Nation, so they have their own government – a Tribal Council. They run a oceanside resort and RV park that has a nice beachside holiday feel to it. There’s the RV park portion, cabins and a motel. We’re in a room in the motel and all rooms have a balcony looking out onto First Beach. In hindsight we probably could’ve based ourselves out of here as everything in Olympic is about a 1.5 – 2 hour drive from here. It would’ve been a fairly long drive from the airport though. The whole of La Push is in the Quileute Nation. There’s one restaurant and a small grocery store in terms of catering for tourists. Anything else is a drive back to Forks. Every room/cabin is self contained though. In fact tonight we’re going to eat in. Still minimal cooking but we have a roast chicken (already cooked), salad, potato and onion.

First Beach, La Push. This is where we’re staying.
Fires and fireworks permitted
Sunset over First Beach

So other than that, what’s been happening? Originally we’d planned on doing a longish hike on the day we moved over to Forks, but I did some shuffling, as it was going to be just over a 2 hour drive followed by a 9 mile hike. A hike which was dependent on the tide. So instead on driving day we drove on down to the Hoh Rainforest. It’s a rainforest climate and the token visitor walk is the Hall of Mosses trail. A short loop where you walk through the floor, with spruce and maple trees growing/hanging over tendrils of moss hanging down. Fungus growing on trunks and ferns all over. We also walked a bit up the Hoh River Trail. That whole trail goes for 17+ miles on way so we just said walk for 20 minutes and turn back. It was similar scenery but I can understand why people say to walk some of it at least. It’s definitely has less people through it so has a more untouched feeling to it.

Hoh Rainforest
Hoh Rainforest
Hoh Rainforest
Hoh Rainforest
Hoh Rainforest slug

Finishing up at the Hoh we headed on down the coast to Ruby Beach. The low tide had already happened a few hours ago but it was still down low enough for us to walk out to some rocks and look at starfishes and anenomes. Then we head on back towards La Push with a side trip by Rialto Beach. We couldn’t go out to Hole In The Wall as the tide was definitely on the way up by now. You’re probably wondering why I’ve mentioned the tide quite a bit. The tide change here is probably more so then we’re used to in Australia so you’ve got to make sure you don’t get trapped by the rising tide. As in some places you’ll be stuffed or you’ll have to wait it out. Along the coast at certain places there’s markers to mark where you can up if you’re caught by an incoming tide.

Starfish in tide pool, Ruby Beach.
Rialto Beach

Which brings us to todays hike. The Ozette Loop. A 9.2 mile loop hike that has 3.1 miles down on the beach between Cape Alava and Sand Point. You’ve got to time this hike around the low tide as otherwise it’s not accessible. Apparently there is a way to hike it overland if necessary (and we did see some of the markers), but that’s no fun. So with the high tide being at 5 something AM, we set our alarm clocks for 5:45AM. It was just under a 2 hour drive there and we we’re on the trail by a bit after 8AM. The ‘beach’ isn’t what we’re use to back home. It’s more rocks, pebbles, some sand and driftwood. So the 3.1 miles over that was slow going. As we got close to Sand Point we started seeing non human tracks in the sand. Bird maybe? Nah probably looks like a dog, nothing to worry about (even though dogs aren’t allowed on trails). Hmm what’s that? Ahh a deer. I’m not to freaked out about deer as they don’t have antlers or horns, but still nonetheless a safe distance was kept. Rounding Sand Point we had to start finding our way back onto the trail. We managed to find a marker which seemed to be in roughly the right location, so off we went. Yep correct trail.

The beach
If you stuff your tide timings up, a scramble up on of these will be necessary.
Driftwood, lots of it.

Tonight I’m going to see if my fire starting skills work – you’re allowed to have fires on the beach here. Also let of fireworks. We’ve decided to skip the firework portion and just go for fire. Tomorrow we’re on the road again as we’re heading over to Mt Rainier. Apparently the weather is supposed to be somewhat crazy with like 35+ temperatures! Might also be internetless for the next 5 days unless there’s free Wi-Fi. Definitely no internet for the first 3 nights in Mt Rainier.

Back in the lower 48

Well our time in Alaska is up and we’ve been back in the lower 48 for a few days now. With that it means we’re somewhere around our halfway holiday point and are now going to be making our way south back towards LA. But that’s okay, there’s still 6 national parks to visit along the way. Leaving Alaska on Friday we flew to Seattle where we picked up the car and hit the road to Port Angeles. The traffic on the I-5 was a bit of a mess, but we got to the KOA by 6PM so it wasn’t too bad.

We’re spending a bit of time in the Pacific Northwest region, and our first park was Olympic National Park. Olympic is in the north east of Washington and consists of a number of different regions – the coast, mountains, rivers and lakes and forests. As a result there’s about half a dozen different areas of the park and it takes a while to drive between them. So we’ve split our stay into two blocks so that we can avoid having to drive so far – it would take just over 2 hours one way to drive to the rainforest side of the park from where we are now.

The first day we spent in the Hurricane Ridge area. The hillsides look really dry as unfortunately the Pacific Northwest had a really terrible snow season this year. The area got a normal amount of precipitation but as temperatures were warmer than normal it didn’t fall as snow. According to the park newspaper there is usually snow still around on trails this time of year, but in February trails we’re pretty much snow free already. On this day we’d planned to hike out Klahhane Ridge but our hike was to be thwarted close to the end by a mountain goat. Yep you heard right. We got up to the last few switchbacks to be greeted with by a nanny and her kid. Righto let’s back away. So we backed out of sight waited a bit then slowly walked forward to try and see around the corner. Nope goats still there right in the middle of the trail. And ahh crap it knows we’re here, with the mother getting up and oh, walking down the trail. Okay let’s back away again. Hmmm what are you meant to do with goats? Turns out we didn’t know. Bears and cougars yep, know what to do there, but zilch don’t know about goats. So some more waiting another sneak around, and another oh crap. So a scramble up a rock in case it came down the trail and a wait out began. After 5 mins or so, it decided we weren’t harmful and decided to potter on back up the trail where in prompt decided to sit down (again!). Well we’d already known that when animals like goats or bison decided to sit, be prepared to wait a long time. So after a bit we decided we’d just turn around. On the way back we saw that a group did make it pass the area we got stuck in – don’t know if the goat had moved on by then. We possibly could’ve scrambled up the hillside, but after having the goat turn and walk towards us three times we’d had enough.

By the time we’d hiked back to the main Hurricane Ridge area the visitor centre was now open so we went in. Oh look warnings about mountain goats, and what to do when one follows. Apparently stay half a football field away, and be prepared to throw rocks if it starts following you. Hmm good to know after the fact. Had a quick chat to the ranger talking about goats and he’s like “Klahhane Ridge? I think I know which goat you’re talking about, I’ve thrown rocks at it”. Interestingly enough mountain goats are not native to the Olympic Peninsula and the goats here are starting to get a bit habituated which is not a good thing. A Google search soon told me that in 2010 a man was killed by an aggressive goat at Olympic NP on Klahhane Ridge. An interesting thing is that mountain goats crave salt, and the Olympics aren’t known for being particularly rich in salt. But what is? Human pee and the smell of sweat. The parks service here are now recommending people pee at least 50 feet off trail and on a rock so the trails don’t become one big salt lick for the goats. On the upnote, I had my first parks hotdog. Yummy. But damn is it about 3 times more expensive than our first U.S. trip ever.

View from Hurricane Ridge area
View from Hurricane Ridge area

As for today we headed over to the Sol Duc area which has old growth forest and a river running though. Headed off reasonably early as it was a 1 hour drive, The hike was nice, a loop through the forest, and as such it was actually cool to walk. The loop went through the hot springs resort, so when it said hotdog on the menu a hotdog was halved and shared. Then it was another 2 and a bit mile hike back.

Sol Duc Falls
Sol Duc Falls
Sol Duc region

Animal count for the last 2 days: Many deer, many mountain goats, squirrels and a lone bear.

Tomorrow we’re off to the Forks region. Not because I’m a fan of Twilight, but it’s time to explore the coast and rainforest areas.

Hmm I’ll have to add the other 1 pic from the Sol Duc area later. Internet is very slow this evening (edit: now added).

Rambles, musings, thoughts