In the middle of our second week in Croatia, we drove 3 hours from Split to visit Plitvice, our third and last national park. This was the part of the trip I had been the most excited for and it definitely did not disappoint! We spent two days and one night in Plitvice. Our plan was to check out the upper lakes on our first day and the lower lakes on the second.
Walking through Plitvice's wooden planks made for a very magical experience that is difficult to put to words. We were surrounded by stunning views of turquoise lakes, running waterfalls of all shapes and sizes, and lush green backdrops everywhere. I remember on our first day, there was a moment where I suddenly felt a strong desire to worship in song as we were hiking. It was hard not to be moved as I saw the splendor of God's majesty displayed throughout the park. It was seriously gorgeous and breathtaking at every turn. On our second day at the lower lakes, there was another moment where we stood at the top of a waterfall looking down at a lush, green, and flowering valley. I couldn't help but imagine that this was probably what being in the Garden of Eden felt like. I also couldn't help but feel like I got to experience a little taste of heaven while we were there. Even though my photos don't do justice, I'm thankful that they allow me to look back and remember what it felt like to step foot in this magnificent place.
On the morning of our second day in Split, we headed out in our rental car for KrKa National Park, which was about a 1.5 hour drive away. We had planned to get there early before it opened at 8am in order to avoid the crowd. From the entrance, there was a short 10-minute walk down to a wooden walkway that lead to Skradinski Buk, the park's main waterfall. On the walkway, we could already begin to see several smaller waterfalls flowing along the path. We took our time walking around the platform and just enjoying the picturesque scenery. Then we bought some lunch from one of the food stands at the bottom of Skradinski Buk before jumping into the water. Honestly, we couldn't really swim too much since it was pretty shallow and there were a lot of slippery moss-covered rocks below the falls, but we did get a nice closer up view of the falls. Since there was a ton of people there, we decided not to stay too long. Instead, we left that area and drove to a viewpoint of Visovac, a medieval Franciscan monastery built on a tiny island in the park. We also drove to check out Roski Slap, another one of Krka's main waterfalls.
The last island that we visited from Dubrovnik was Mljet for its national park! (This was going to be the first out of the three national parks we planned to visit in Croatia!) By that morning, we had the whole routine down: walk down from our apartment to Old Town, take the bus from Old Town to Gruz Harbor, eat breakfast at a nearby cafe, and hop on a ferry. This time, we took the G&V Line ferry to Polace, Mljet.
Once we arrived, Clay and I purchased our NP tickets and rented a couple of bikes to get to Veliko Jezero, the bigger of the two saltwater lakes in Mljet. (Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to check out Malo Jezero, the smaller lake, that day.) We ended up biking to the gift shop located at the edge of Veliko Jezero, where we parked our bikes and took a small boat to St. Mary (an island within the island!). On St. Mary, we visited a 12th century Benedictine Monastery and then spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in Veliko Jezero. We probably swam about 1/4 of the way around St. Mary. After our swim, we ate lunch at Restaurant Melita before we took the 5-minute boat ride back across the lake. The bike ride back involved some uphill and took us about 30 minutes. Back at Polace Harbor, we had some extra time to bike and walk around before our 4pm ferry back to Gruz Harbor.
I thought that Mljet National Park was definitely worth a day trip to visit! Clay and I actually realized that maybe we should have moved from Dubrovnik that morning and stayed a night on the island, which was very beautiful and green. The nature was breathtaking since most of it has been left untouched. Note for those thinking of visiting, the entry ticket for the NP comes with a bus ride that will get you close to the lake. Biking can be challenging with some up and down hill, especially on a hot day, but it's fun! As for the water around St. Mary, it is very clear, calm, and great for swimming -- just be mindful of the rocks along the edge.
Thanks to our Southwest Companion Pass, Clay and I managed to fly back to Seattle for a weekend in the middle of June to celebrate Jason's birthday! This year, Clay decided to gift Jason a set of fishing rods and take him on his first fishing trip to North Cascades National Park. The national park was so gorgeous during this time of the year with its snow-capped mountain ranges and turquoise-colored lakes formed by glacier melt. It offered such grand and majestic views of the North Cascades.
Our day trip started out with lunch at Hawks Nest Bar & Grill. We then checked out the Gorge Powerhouse, where we learned that North Cascades NP consisted of 3 lakes, 3 dams, and 3 powerhouses: Ross, Diablo, and Gorge. Together, these three powerhouses transform water pressure into electricity and are capable of producing about 40% of the total power supply generated by Seattle City Light, a public utility owned by the citizens of Seattle. So cool to learn that this national park generates so much electricity and power for the city of Seattle!
After stopping by a couple scenic views and overlooks, we spent the rest of the afternoon fishing at Diablo Lake, where we saw several campers and a fly fisherman. We stopped at a part of the lake with less people, which was really nice. I got a couple shots of Clay and Jason at our fishing spot (above). That afternoon, I got to learn from Clay how to cast a fishing line! Too bad I only reeled in a couple of sticks. Jason, however, was able to catch his first trout -- and we think he caught the same trout twice! Even though he was the only one that caught anything that day, it was truly an exciting moment for all three of us.
Over Memorial Day Weekend, Clay and I finally made the trip out to Lassen, checking off our last national park in California! From Friday-Monday, we stayed at St. Bernard Lodge, a friendly Bed & Breakfast located about 20 minutes from the main park entrance. Each morning, we enjoyed a nice breakfast buffet prepared for us by the B&B's owner.
On the first day, we visited the Kohm Yah-mah-nee (Snow Mountain) Visitor Center, where we watched a short film and learned that Lassen is one of the few places on earth where you can find all 4 types of volcanoes: shield, cinder cone, dome plug, and composite! Then we drove out to Sulfur Works, an easily accessible hydrothermal area where we were able to get a good look at some bubbling mudpots and steam vents. Since the main road of the park was still closed (we were very lucky it opened the day after), we decided to drive to the Warner Valley trailhead and hike 1.2 miles to Boiling Springs Lake. The hike was beautiful and the trail took us through a lush green meadow and across a bridge, leading us to a bubbling lake! I was quite mesmerized by all the different colors that the lake displayed and by the sight of the steam rising up from the water. Boiling Springs Lake was probably my favorite from the weekend! After the hike, Clay and I spent the rest of the day in the small town of Chester at the Lassen Gift Company & Soda Fountain (where we got an ice cream sundae) and The Locker Room (where we ate dinner and watched the NBA finals).
On the second day, we were able to drive through the main road of the park. We stopped by Emerald Lake and Lake Helen, which were both frozen and just starting to melt. At Lake Helen, we could see people hiking the snowcapped Lassen Peak. Other spots we stopped to see or drove by were: Kings Creek, Summit Lake, and Chaos Crags. We ended our drive at the northwest end of the park, where we visited the Loomis Museum and hiked the self-guided Lily Pond Trail (0.6 mile loop trail). We also hiked Reflection Lake (0.5 mile loop trail) and Manzanita Lake (1.8 mile loop trail). Clay ended up bringing his fishing pole so that he could stop and fish during our hike around the two lakes. Though we didn't have enough time to actually wait long enough for any fish to catch, all of the fishing spots we found around the lake provided beautiful views of Lassen Peak. Reflection and Manzanita Lake pretty much wrapped up our time at Lassen, but we did end up visiting another fishing spot at Hamilton Branch, which I'll cover in a separate post.
Next time we return to Lassen, hopefully we will be able to check out Bumpass Hell (closed this time) and hike Cinder Cone! For now, I feel very content with what we were able to see and will consider it a good preview to Yellowstone.
Just capturing as I go.