Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, December 2010


COUGAR MOUNTAIN REGIONAL WILDLAND PARK (DECEMBER 22, 2010)

It was another black and white day on the western side of the mountains with a non-descript gray sky thrown in. Rain was in the forecast but it often is in the Pacific Northwest; we were prepared. Under these conditions we knew there wouldn’t be much to photograph but we enjoying trying. In fact, some of my best photographs have been on those days when the light was poor because I’ve had to look harder for subject matter. On black and white days like these I long for a better macro-lens because the microscopic world is fascinating and often provides exceptional beauty to those willing to look. A broken branch beside the trail can provide Van Gogh reds and yellows; and a wisp of lichen can take on the intricacy of tattered lace and moss the lime-green of hippie-days Day-Glo extravaganzas.

It being mid-week there were only a couple other vehicles at Red Town where we began our wandering and musing. We had no idea where we wanted to go; Coal Creek Falls was rejected because of the lack of light or ice formations and we’d recently hiked other trails on Cougar Mountain. We’d left the map at home not because we are mindless idiots but because we wanted to wander and be surprised at what we discovered. Besides, the trail system is generally well signed and you never have to venture far before you come out at a trailhead.

One of the trails we hiked was the Old Man’s Trail (we joked we took that trail because we were feeling old). Why it is called the Old Man’s Trail remains a mystery to us but it is a relatively gentle trail that eventually comes out near the Sky Country trailhead, a trailhead that was new to us. We also hiked the Cave Hole Trail, the Coyote Trail and the Klondike Swamp Trail not in that order (We’d started at Red Town and hiked the Cave Hole Trail, turning off onto the Old Man’s Trail (also new to us), came out at the Sky Country trailhead, retraced our route back via the Old Man’s Trail back to the Cave Hole Trail then took the bypass trail to the Klondike Swamp Trail then took the Coyote Trail back to the Cave Hole Trail, then back to Red Town.

The hike ended up being about 6 miles with 615 feet gain – not a strong work-out but a pleasant leg-stretcher with fresh air; plus, the little bit of photography we were able to indulge in was good for the soul.

By the way if you do forget your Green Trails map (No. 203S, Cougar Mountain/Squak Mountain) there are printed maps available at the trailheads.






Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mount Washington, December 18, 2010


Mount Washington, December 18, 2010

You never really know what the trail to Mount Washington will be like until you’re on the trail. This time of year the snow-line is fickle and the weather capricious. All we knew for sure is that we’d be hiking in snow at some point before we turned around - we didn’t feel like toting snowshoes (a necessity if the summit is your destination).

There was about an inch of snow at the trailhead (Exit No. 38) and it was a chilly, albeit sunny day. Most hikers know how to find the trail by now (it’s not signed but hard to miss) a little west of where the spur trail from the parking lot connects to the Iron Horse Trail. If you get to the spur down to Twin Falls you’ve gone a little too far!

Surprisingly there were only a couple other vehicles at the trailhead – hard to believe on such a beautiful day. We were equipped with Stabilicers, Yak Trax and ice axes but nothing would have helped much on the first stretch of the trail once it left the Iron Horse Trail. A very thin layer of snow concealed loose rocks/pebbles on the trail and it was slow going – the trail providing a great opportunity to sprain an ankle. Not enough snow for traction devices but just enough to make it entertaining.

I’d hoped there’d be a good crop of icicles to photograph and though they were beginning to melt we found several “batches” to play with (photography, not climbing!). It didn’t occur to me until later but it might have been interesting to shoot a short video of the ice as it melted. We passed the overhang (cave) where hardware dangles from the ceiling tempting climbers to practice their skills (no one was practicing).

About 2/3 of the way to the Owl Spot we hit enough snow that hiking became a joyful experience rather than a balancing act. The snow was beautiful but in dappled light, hard to get decent photos. Instead, we just enjoyed walking through the Christmas-y scene.

There was about 4 inches or so of snow at the Owl Spot (the view from the Owl Spot shrinks a little more each year as the trees grow) – we usually stop for a bite to eat but we weren’t hungry so continued hiking, making the stream our next potential turnaround. Strangely enough the snow deepened significantly as we made our way to the “designated” junction with the Mount Washington/Great Wall trail though we weren’t gaining much elevation. Just beyond the junction is the stream; not a problem to cross whatsoever but we turned around – the snow was more than deep enough to warrant snowshoes (the snowshoes were in Seattle). We bare-booted the Great Wall trail a short way just out of curiosity then retraced our route back to the car. En route we checked out a few of the “unofficial” trails.

We met a few hikers coming up on our way out, including a friendly gal who asked us where the trail went – she’d forgotten her map and was pretty sure she was on the Mount Washington trail. She’d started from Twin Falls so had already hiked quite a way. We told her she’d need snowshoes if she went beyond the Owl Spot – like us, she’d left her snowshoes behind.

There was still an inch or so of snow on the loose pebbles/rocks so though it looked odd we used our ice axes to keep our balance until we were on the Iron Horse trail.

As for photographs – I am not an expert photographer nor do I have high-end photo-gear but I get annoyed at what I call the “blue factor”. Snow and icicles that look white to us appear blue in photographs unless we’re out in bright sunshine. It is undoubtedly the color of evergreens reflected back onto the surface of the snow but it’s disappointing to get home, download the photos and find that most of the snow/ice shots are “blue”. Gives me the blues, in fact!

I do utilize my digital camera program and can either turn the blue shots into black and whites or play with the color a bit, adding a bit of red and yellow to brighten the snow.

A great day – is there any other kind of day in the mountains?

Stats: About 6 miles round trip with 2,400 feet of gain including side-trips.





Monday, December 20, 2010

Mount Si Rambling, December 2010


MOUNT SI

What else can anyone say about Mount Si that hasn’t been said?

It’s convenient, the trail provides a great workout and the views from the Haystack are splendid.

Though it’s been said that familiarity breeds contempt Mount Si is like an old friend you are comfortable with and can count on - even when you abandon Mount Si for higher realms Mount Si patiently awaits your return in the fall when days grow short and snow covers the high trails.

You know that Mount Si will always be there for you. Or will it? Now there’s talk about additional fees for recreation including the possibility of hikers needing a pass to hike on land managed by the Department of Natural Resources (State Parks are also in trouble; the future uncertain). I’m not a fortune teller but it is probably just a matter of time before it’s going to cost all of us more to recreate.

Me? I’d be willing to pay a modest fee for an annual pass to hike on DNR-land – better that than not be able to hike there at all. How much would I be willing to pay to hike Mount Si or another park in the vicinity? Well, let’s see – we’ve already purchased a Sno-Park permit, a pass from the Department of Fish and Wildlife (the Vehicle Use Permit) and my Golden Age Pass to access Washington National Parks and United States Forest Service land. I already donate to Washington State Parks when I renew my license tabs – so, OK – how much more would I be willing to pay? I’ve heard of $8 per vehicle, even $8 per person to recreate in a DNR-managed park. That, of course, is outrageous – I don’t care how much money you make. $10 or $15 a year per vehicle, OK – I’d be OK with that. Most hikers, mountain bikers, runners and climbers probably would be OK with that too though I can’t speak for everyone.

Recently there’s talk about the major land-management agencies combining passes – that strikes me as not such a bad idea. That makes it easier for everyone, including the land management agencies. For the latest information on proposals and updates on specifics check out the website for Washington Trails Association (http://www.wta.org/ Click the stewardship link for the latest news and how you can make your opinion heard.

And now a confession - I didn’t mean to get into politics – generally a subject I avoid. Like I read once, “each man is right according to his point of view”. I have the curse – or is it a blessing – to see more than one side of things and it’s hard for me to make a stand. Truth is like a diamond – like a diamond there are more than two sides and on issues such this there’s dozens of sides to reflect upon before making – or not making a stand. I can always find a little bit of right in the worst opinions and a little bit of woe in the best opinions. So I generally prefer to leave most politics to others and live with the consequences (by not participating in politics I don’t have a right to grumble about the outcome of controversial issues).

However, this is an issue I’m keeping a close eye on and depending on how it all shakes out I might have to step into the no-man’s land of politics.

The first time I hiked Mount Si I felt I had climbed a “real” mountain. After all, I had only done a few easy hikes up to that point. I forget how many hours it took to get to the top but a strong hiker today would find my “time” pathetic. Even when I was at my best there was always someone faster than me so I stopped playing that game a long time ago. I look at my watch when I get to the trailhead and when I get to the top, not the duration. I “find” my pace and stick to it and I don’t stop until I get there. I don’t need “rest” breaks if I am hiking at the right pace; I only need to stop for water on hot days when drinking frequently is a must.

My memories of Mount Si are good ones - in the 1980s a group of us would meet to hike up Mount Si after we got off work. We always made it down before dark, we had a good time and afterwards we’d chow down at a nearby restaurant (to replace the calories we hoped we’d lost).

A lot has changed in 30 years – there are fewer wildflowers at the base of the Haystack than there were my first visit in1980. The trail has been rerouted a couple of times. Some hikers like the changes; others don’t. The trail is more user-friendly than it used to be and a lot busier. On weekends the parking lot is overflowing with cars, hikers starting out, hikers returning, dogs on leash and off – a virtual river of hikers of all ages, shapes and sizes. I am but a mere drop in that human river except perhaps on a rainy Tuesday morning when there are only a few cars in the lot and you don’t have to stand in line to use the facilities.

Our last visit was a weekday (December 16th) and there were only a few cars in the parking lot at 10:15, a late start. There had been a windstorm the day before so we weren’t surprised to see a few trees had come down near the trailhead (none impeding a hiker’s progress). The snow line was low – but we didn’t get into snow until we’d climbed past Snag Flats (roughly the half-way point of the 4-mile trail).

We were well into snow by the time we reached the non-designated junction with the Old Si trail but the snow still wasn’t a problem. A thin layer of fresh snow covered the dirt and that made for good traction; no Yak Trax or traction devices required. We’d planned to hike to the base of the Haystack – en route a few hikers came down and mentioned that it was extremely windy on the top.

About last stretch of the trail became more challenging as the fresh snow now covered old snow; we were still able to hike without traction devices but most hikers would prefer to wear them on the descent. The vegetation was covered with new snow; we’d never seen Mount Si so pretty. When we broke out of the last clump of sheltering trees near the “rocks” we were almost blown off the trail. The wind was so cold as to be unbearable – we stayed only long enough to take a couple photos and beat a retreat into the trees; our hands were screaming from the cold.

The descent was a more challenging – without poles or traction devices it was easy to slip and slide on the steep grade but we managed to make it down without falling. Silverback utilized his staff; I depended on my good balance to keep from falling (I’ve tried hiking with trekking poles but don’t like them). We were both equipped with traction devices (Stabilicers and Yak Trax) but didn’t use them partly because even with gloves our hands were too cold to put them on. (Hint: Put them on a little before your fingers get so cold they can’t function).

We made it back down within a respectable time given that everyone we met on the trail was at least half our age. We changed out of our damp boots/sox into dry shoes and socks and could hardly wait to get our hands on that thermos of hot coffee we’d left in the car. As we drove back to Seattle I indulged myself in more Mount Si-related nostalgia – the New Years Day I climbed with friends (we were all wearing crampons) and even with crampons we lurched from tree to tree, laughing the whole way down. The wedding ceremony we encountered near the base of Mount Si – the happy couple turned out to be members of The Mountaineers that I knew. The time we hiked up Si on Super Bowl Sunday and the trail was just about as close to being deserted as you can get. The summer evening I met a fellow on the trail climbing with a huge pack who told me he was going to live on Mount Si (I often wonder what happened to him). The numerous hikers who have passed me as I grow older (once I grumbled “you might as well pass me, everyone else does”). The time I climbed the Haystack alone (my first and last climb) and found it easier than I thought it would be. On the summit I met a young woman who had just graduated from law school – she was celebrating (that was also her first time on the Haystack). The countless times I’ve run into acquaintances on the trail and how much fun it is to run into someone I know. The countless times I’ve hiked alone and found a lonely niche in the rocks below the Haystack to dream or to ponder a problem.

I look forward to seeing Mount Si again soon. Maybe I’ll see you there too.







Monday, December 13, 2010

Duwamish Hill Preserve, December 2010


Duwamish Hill Preserve (Beaver Monster Hill)

We don’t always go to the mountains. Sometimes we can’t afford to fill the gas tank, other times the weather is dire enough that staying closer to home seems like a better idea.

When the budget is lean and winter days are short – we walk. In addition to Alki Point, Lincoln Park, Longfellow Creek, Schmitz Park and other parks nearby we’ve walked around Georgetown, South Park (before they dismantled the bridge), Allentown (a small community under the umbrella of Tukwila), the Duwamish Longhouse on West Marginal Way and nearby a few abandoned, ancient houses that intrigue (sorry, no trespassing allowed)

We’ve also walked the Green River trail (from Boeing) to Allentown, stopping along the way where historical tidbits of earlier times can still be seen (and photographed). In short, we won’t to run out of “material” for many years – if ever. Mostly, though, these urban walks raise more questions than provide answers.

Take today for example – we wanted something close to home (the Pineapple Express was due to arrive) so decided to explore around Tukwila (Allentown) and see what we could find. On our way to the Tukwila Community Center we noticed what appeared to be a small park (no signage but obvious parking available). Since one of our objectives was to find Beaver Monster Hill and since the parking area was right under a hill with a trail on it, we figured this was it.

The hill is sometimes referred to as Poverty Hill by locals and is also known as Beaver Monster Hill. Silverback related the Native American story of Wishpoosh, the Beaver Monster to me as we walked. Long ago the Beaver Monster lived in Lake Cle Elum and according to the legend ate all the salmon in the lake on which the Native Americans depended. People were starving so Coyote (the trickster) and Wishpoosh fought – as they battled they chewed their way south to where the Columbia River meets the ocean. Finally Coyote managed to kill Wishpoosh and from that time the people could eat the salmon and continue to live along the river. Beaver Monster Hill is al result of that great battle.

If you’re interested in finding the hill you can follow our convoluted directions, get help from Mapquest or refer to recently published “Hiking Washington’s History” by Judy Bentley. From Seattle we headed south on I-5 and got off at Exit 158, turned west to Interurban Avenue, turned south onto Interurban (you can see the hill from Interurban Avenue but not the park). From Interurban we turned left onto South 115th Street – Duwamish Riverbend Hill (is on the left side of 115th Street).

The park appears to be open despite lack of signage; there is an obvious parking area. From the parking area a trail climbs a gentle grade with steps to the summit. Along the way there are benches where one can sit. There are views to the north of the Seattle skyline and on a clear day, probably views of Mount Rainier to the south.

From the summit we enjoyed views of the tannin-hued Duwamish River, bordered with industrial sites interspersed with pockets of forest and bottomlands. Once upon a time fishing villages lined the river; today the hill is surrounded by the hustle and bustle of industry – traffic on Highway 509, airplanes, semi-trucks and light rail hurtle by - it is reassuring to look down upon the Duwamish River as it still makes its way to Puget Sound. The river lives on despite us.

After the hike we looked on The Internet for additional information about the park; hence an article by the Cascade Land Conservancy (the 8-acre park opened in September this year). They refer to the park as the Duwamish Hill Preserve; the project took 10 years to complete. We didn’t count the steps; they say it takes 80 steps to reach the top. In addition to benches and trails a storytelling area was also built. The City of Tukwila was able to purchase the land thanks to the Cascade Land Conservancy and volunteers who put in many hours clearing the land of ivy, blackberries and trash. Even Foster High School students got involved in helping to preserve the site - they wrote a play about the hill and how it has changed over time (the students donated over $1,000 in ticket sales to the cause).

According to the CLC the site is estimated to be about 40 million years old (older than Mount Rainier). In the geological past the hill was underwater; marine fossils have been discovered there. Today the hill is a pretty place with rocky outcroppings covered with moss, sword ferns and in spring, wildflowers.

For additional information or to volunteer contact the Cascade Land Conservancy at http://www.cascadeland.org/




Friday, December 10, 2010

Kamikaze Falls, December 10, 2010


Kamikaze Falls, December 10, 2010

We know that the weather forecasters get a little carried away with their dire predictions but the system coming in this weekend does really appear to be nasty. Lots of snow, followed by a pineapple express (snow level ranging between 7-8,000 feet) – much of the snow that has fallen will melt. Friday was correctly predicted to be mostly dry (at least along the I-90 corridor) with a few showers. We leapt at the opportunity to escape our confines (cabin fever has set in).

After considering and then rejecting a hike (possible snowshoe trip) starting from the Carbon River entrance of Mt Rainier National Park we settled for something closer to home, especially as the cost of gas is going up. Again. Plus, recent trail reports indicated that it would likely be another brown hike (possibly hitting snow at 3,000 feet or above) and the Carbon River Road is much lower than that.

What, you may ask, is a brown hike? It’s a term that hikers have been kicking around for a few years used to describe the time of year when fall color has fled and snow has yet to fall and stay. The ground is a mash of wet leaves the color of meatballs forgotten in the back of the refrigerator and the branches of deciduous trees are bare.

However, knowing that this is the time of year for brown hikes we’ve learned to cope with them in a variety of ways. As a published photographer (nope, I’m not famous and will never put Art Wolfe out of business) on a lean budget and a low-end digital camera I’ve learned to view the mountains in a different way this time of year.

Take today for example – as soon as we got up, we knew where we wanted to go. There was only a slight chance of showers (we are okay with that and prepared) and the trailhead is close to home (Seattle). We could afford hit the road!!

On hiking websites there has been much to-do about the Kamikaze Trail near North Bend – the “old” trail departed from a service road and went up, up, up beside Kamikaze Creek and over the years enough hikers found their way to the boot path that it became the legendary route to not only Kamikaze Falls but a boot-trail went all the way to Mount Teneriffe.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wasn’t happy with all those hikers using the “old” trail and they attempted to keep the hikers out. That didn’t work – not even the signs warning of fines and “THIS IS NOT A TRAIL”.

At that time I was still writing “Hike of the Week” for The Seattle Post Intelligencer (printed version, not on-line). I was still pretty na├»ve about the ins and outs of land-management agencies when I first wrote up lowland trails so when I wrote up Kamikaze Falls for the PI I got some flak from readers. Some suggested that I had “ruined” their “secret” trail while others grumbled about ecological damage to the creek. Humbled, I resolved never to speak of Kamikaze Falls again.

Until I got a call from a DNR employee who said they were considering building a trail to Kamikaze Falls and would I like to accompany them on a hike? They wanted me to hike with them and give them my input on what it was like to hike the “old” trail and where the “new” trail (if they did build a new trail) should go.

As we hiked toward one of the overlooks of the falls on the “old” trail we agreed that nothing was going to keep hikers away from Kamikaze Falls and that perhaps building another trail was some sort of solution. A few years passed. Next thing I knew there was word of a “trail” being built to an overlook of Kamikaze Falls (the old trail would still be discouraged).

Last summer the trail was not finished but we hiked part of it on a quiet weekend and well, we liked the new trail. It wasn’t as dramatic as the original route but it was safer and there were – and are – some gorgeous spots along the trail (besides the die-hards have probably figured out a way to use the “old” trail anyway and at the very least are continuing on to Mount Teneriffe).

Since it had been a while we wanted to see how the new trail was getting on. We drove to the “School bus turnaround” on the Mount Si road and parked – it was a weekday and since it is a school bus turnaround you’d better get back to your car before the school buses turn around – just to be on the safe side). There’s another “way” to get to the new Kamikaze Trail but that’s another story. Let your imagination get to work.

A few other cars were also parked there and the DNR road was gated – as usual. As before we hiked up the road approximately a half-mile to where the signed trail to Kamikaze Falls takes off. As we hiked along the first stretch of the road we were amazed by the number of small trees that had been broken off by high winds earlier this week – some trees looked like they had exploded.

There did not appear to be any wind damage along the Kamikaze Falls trail, though. We had the trail to ourselves and the hike was pleasant, even on a drab day such as this one. It wasn’t a day to take superior photographs but it just felt good to be outside (Hell, it always feels good to be outside, doesn’t it?)

While there aren’t magnificent views along the trail we found beauty along the way. First of all there are the moss-slathered rocks, the ferns, the blue-green lichen and though the light was poor it was fun to photograph some of the quiet beauty as we hiked. Silverback mentioned – more than once and he was correct – that the trail is finely engineered and well built. Frankly – having hiked the old trail in the past – I like the new trail. The trail traverses several open slopes graced with boulders and views to Rattlesnake Ledge (and beyond on a better day). Apparently some hikers don’t like the new trail because the “adventure” has been taken out of it but you find any complaint here. Isn’t it a good thing there are lots of other “secret” places where they (or we) can still experience an adventure?

After contouring across the talus slopes the trail skirts Kamikaze Creek before it turns into dark, quiet forest. A little further along is a mossy outcropping at the end of a switchback; from here is a view you can’t miss nor would you want to.

Beyond the outcropping the trail continues to zigzag mostly through the forest, at one point joining the old trail, then leaving it again. The sound (and the fury too) of the waterfall can be heard and finally a white blur through the dark stands of trees gives a hint that you’ve reached the “first” overlook at the end of another switchback.

Here we were close enough to the waterfall that we were satisfied to make this our turnaround point (about 2,570 feet). We expected the waterfall to be amazing – and it was. Only one small snow patch remained; the rest was a blur of white water cascading over dark, semi-submerged rocks. We took a few gingerly steps down for a closer look, hanging on to trees for balance as we went.

We considered climbing further but beyond the first overlook the path is a little rougher and more of a scramble (we’re not quite sure where the official trail ends and the other begins). It looked like we had about another 150 feet or so to climb before we reached the top of the falls (it also appeared we weren’t far from the snowline). With an earlier start we might have gone on but going to Mount Teneriffe that way was out of the question (no ice axes, lack of time, lack of desire).

As we retraced our route we met a few other hikers coming up – the trail was a wise choice given the weather and the storms to come. We made good time back to the car without feeling we were hurrying – 3 hours up and back. Round trip 6 miles with about 1,600 feet gain.

Silverback enlightened me as to the meaning of “Kamikaze” – in Japanese it translates to “divine wind”.

A good day!














Monday, November 15, 2010

Hanford Reach National Monument, Cougar Mountain Regional Park


These two hikes are as different as night and day.


Time constraints won't allow me to elaborate on Hanford Reach National Monument except to say that it's one of the most scenic hikes we've done in the last month or so. It is a long drive from Seattle though - it takes about 3.5 hours to get to Hanford Reach and that's just one way. There is compensation for the drive though - it's scenic. So scenic, in fact, that we had to resist stops along the way for photo opportunities and just plain curiosity about what else we could do in the region.


Really, I don't mean to taunt you with how lovely this hike is and then say so little about it. Let me try: Hanford Reach is the last free-running stretch of the Columbia River in the United States - the region is managed by the Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.


The "white bluffs" in the Wahluke Unit of the monument was our goal - a hike I've enjoyed a few times in the past. The scenery defies description - the Columbia River, Locke Island, the sand dunes (about 4 miles from the "trailhead"), a settlers cabin that also served as a blacksmith shop and relics of WWII and the Cold War across the Columbia River.


Neither Jim, Maxine nor Bob had ever been there before - they were spellbound. The fine weather helped - in early November it was sunny and warm enough we could just "hang out" and take in the views. In spring we'll go back for the wildflowers ....


Sunday's hike (November 14) was like a hike on another planet after our visit to Hanford Reach. With a gloomy forecast and a tight budget we picked a hike close to home - Cougar Mountain Regional State Park. We hiked one of our favorite trails - from Redtown to Coal Creek Parkway. We like this hike because it is less crowded on weekends and under the right conditions it can be a pretty hike.


This wasn't the case yesterday - the fall color has drained out of the landscape and it's a "brown hike". Personally I don't like "brown" hikes - perhaps that's because there are few photo opportunities. A little snow would really enhance this trail -- or any trail in the lowlands (about the only kind of forest that can get away with being described as"beautiful" in November would be the rain forests but that's just my opinion). On second thought ... old growth forests, too, could also be rightly described as beautiful under the right conditions.


Spring is our favorite time to hike in the Issaquah Alps - we like watching, smelling and listening to the world wake up after a long winter's sleep. We also like the "Alps" later in the year when the waterfalls freeze and the brown leaves glitter with frost.


There were quite a few cars at Red Town - we expected that. But once we were on the trail we met only a few people and it felt good just to get fresh air and a lbit of exercise. We looked high and low for photo "opps" but didn't find many with our "dimestore" cameras. The beauty was there - the cameras are simply incapable of capturing the miniature, magical worlds we saw at our feet and on stumps. The cobwebs were misted with fine, droplets of rain but those were hard to photograph, especially when the cobwebs were nestled inside stumps.


Jeepers, I probably sound like I'm whining! Really, I'm not - I guess I'm just wishing that fall lasted longer and hoping that winter will be gentle (likely not). However, as for November as far as I'm concerned they could leave this month out of the calendar (it's probably a good thing I'm not in the charge of the world, eh).


White Bluffs (Hanford Reach) - about 8 miles round trip, no significant gain. Cougar Mt (Red Town to Coal Creek Parkway) - about 6 miles round trip, not much gain.
As for photos - the computer is trying to destroy (again) what's left of my sanity - it stubbornly insists on only posting the photo from Cougar Mountain, NOT the gem I had in mind for Hanford Reach. Sigh .....


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Annette Lake, November 2010


Though I don't look forward to winter it always surprises me how much we enjoy winter hiking once we make the transition.


Yesterday, November 10, we found ourselves at the Lake Annette trailhead just about the time several other vehicles turned into the parking lot (most of them stuffed with other senior citizens). Make no mistake - these seniors could out-hike many hikers half their age. You won't find them (include us too) sitting around to commiserate about the dying of the light.


One of my idiosyncrasies is I don't like other hikers behind me on the trail (or at least not on my heels) so we let them get ahead of us (I must have been an outlaw in my previous life - I also don't like to eat in a restaurant unless my back is against a wall and I can see who's coming in or leaving). Or maybe it's just because I'm hard of hearing.


Or maybe it's just because I'm used to leading hikes for The Mountaineers - then, I like to lead from the rear on the way out in my belief that it's better to come across a problem on the way out - rather than behind. That way you can scoop up the trekking poles others often leave behind (one reason I don't hike with trekking poles - I'm sure I'd lose them). Hence I strapped my trusty ice-axe to my pack though we were pretty sure that was overkill for this particular hike.


After Bob and Jim enjoyed a pre-hike pipe of fine tobacco we set out - with no one behind us, of course. It looked and felt like November and it wasn't long before we were hiking in a scrim of snow. Shortly after crossing the Iron Horse trail we began to encounter more snow but not enough to be a problem. We were stopping frequently for photos -- well, Jim wasn't (he didn't bring a camera).


If you know anything about photography you know that dappled light in forest (with snow) is challenging but I tried anyway. Further along the trail we came to the first avalanche chute of death (well, they really can be when there's a lot of snow). Much to our relief the avalanche chutes were still hiker friendly (no ice axes needed as of this writing - that could change any day though).


Along the way we enjoyed expanding views of Humpback Ridge - the light on the slopes mottled with snow and brush that hadn't yet been buried were lovely. The sky was so blue above the ridge it looked "fake", more like a movie prop than the real thing.


By the time we reached the lake there were seniors all over the place but since we're seniors too that was fine with us. The larger group of hikers were non-intrusive and it was easy to share the space with them (at the trailhead we also ran into a couple of hikers I knew from The Mountaineers - they were also non-obtrusive but that may have been because they'd disappeared by the time we got there). Before we finished lunch they reappeared; we chatted with them before they headed back to the trailhead.


There was one dicey moment - as we hiked along the lakeshore a way Murphy, Jim's standard black poodle, fell off a flimsy bridge into the drink. Good thing he has a thick, curly coat. As for the lake, that also was a challenge to photograph because of the tricky light (we had to contend with "blue" snow and deep shadows). In all my visits to Annette Lake I have NEVER managed to take a good photo of the lake!


Actually there was another heart-in-the-throat moment: on our way down my right foot shot out from under me causing me to slip off a snow-covered rock and ending up with my mittened hands encased in cold water. Not fun. I lead out on the way down; Bob fell once and twice I could hear the stamping of boots as Jim managed NOT to fall a couple of times on the slippery snow.


Speaking of returning to the trailhead, the larger group of seniors were still exploring the lakeshore when we left. As for us we were cold enough that we hurried down (my right hand was so cold from being plunged into cold water that it was screaming). A good reminder to carry TWO pairs of gloves on winter hikes.


All in all despite minor inconveniences we couldn't have picked a better hike - the sun was shining, it wasn't raining, it wasn't windy and there wasn't enough snow to fret about.


We topped off the day with hot coffee in North Bend.










Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Since Persis


I've been out several times but am terrible with dates - I always think I'll remember the day I did a hike then Time gets away from me once again and the hikes begin to blur together. It's a pleasant blur and pretty but alas, perhaps not as informative as the write-ups should be. I'll try to do better.


My most recent hike was Granite Mountain (10-29-10) and given the weather we weren't quite sure what to expect. Weather turned out to be great for hiking - I'm a much better hiker in cool temperatures than I am when it's hot. We could have made it to the lookout if we'd taken our ice axes .... but we didn't. Sure, we could have bare-booted it up and trudged through the snow but having been there several times before it just didn't seem necessary. Like an old hiking pal always said before hitting the trail "Is this hike really necessary?" Well, yes it was. We needed the uphill workout as we've been hiking in the desert lately (I almost typed dessert rather than desert). Well, we've been in the dessert too. Another good reason for a good, stiff hike.


Seems like no matter what kind of weather you get on Granite Mountain it's just plain pretty. The fall colors were still out at lower to mid-elevations - we hiked a while through the snow until it became a little slick. We could see more of the same ahead and had read reports of snow deep enough to warrant (possibly) snowshoes once you reached the "tarns".


Oh, we gained over 2,300 feet elevation. That's at least respectable.




Last week - (perhaps Wednesday 10-27?) we took our pals Jim and Maxine out to Hanford Reach National Monument; they had never been there. My, it's a long drive. It takes about 3 hours to get to Hanford Reach from Snoqualmie Pass, a little longer from Seattle. If gas wasn't so expensive we wouldn't mind the drive because the drive is beautiful, one we never tire of.


About that gate with the solar panel at the Wahluke Unit of the Hanford Reach National Monument (off SR 24, just past milepost 63) ... the solar panel is missing so it no longer closes at schedule times. Perhaps it is done manually. The Hanford Reach National Monument is open dawn to dusk and you can hike the white bluffs either south or north (we headed north).


First we stopped to view the old ferry landing (a boat launch today) before hiking up to the bluffs. Near the boat launch is an old cabin that belonged to an early settler - later it became a blacksmith shop. Little of that is left today - the old structure is protected by a barbed wire fence and it should be. The weather couldn't have been better - it was warm, sunny and the views of the Columbia River and Locke Island from the bluffs are amazing. It's only about 350 feet gain or so to the bluffs - if you head north you'll get to sand dunes at about 4 miles - just past the dunes is the Saddle Mountain Unit (that is closed as of this writing). Hiking out to the dunes is one of the most interesting hikes I've done but we didn't have enough time at our disposal to do so on this visit.


It was spring the last time I hiked out to the dunes; then wildflower displays were amazing and they will be again. A return trip is in order.


We wish Hanford Reach wasn't so far away - it's a bit of a "reach" for us but yes, the hike was really "necessary".


Recently we hiked the interpretive trails at Ginkgo State Park (Petrified Forest) and a trail in the Ginkgo State Park Backcountry. The backcountry hike was on an old jeep track that climbed to views of the Columbia River (does anyone ever get tired of looking at that river?). The nearby petrified forest is a little off-putting because the displays of petrified wood are protected by concrete walls and covered with steel rebar. You cannot touch the displays nor can you get a good photo - it is a little like being in a zoo. It's too bad such sites are ravaged by hoodlums and thieves - if not for them, the fossils wouldn't need to be in "cages".


For closer views of petrified wood visit the nearby Ginkgo Gem Shop - there are also living Ginkgo trees there (Ginkgo trees are one of the oldest trees in the world and are native to China). They will grow under the right conditions - I've even spotted one in West Seattle. We also stopped by the Ginkgo State Park Interpretive Center but it is closed for the winter except by appointment. We walked the grounds, enjoying still more views of the Columbia River and beyond.


On October 20th (I actually remembered that date!) I hiked with a friend to Red Pond above Commonwealth Basin near Snoqualmie Pass. That wasn't our intention. We aimed for Red Pass (it was a gorgeous day and the fall colors were at their best). We opted for the longer approach via the PCT and were having a great conversation. The problem is that the conversation was so interesting that we missed the turn-off to Commonwealth Basin/Red Pass and got about half-way up to the Katwalk before we caught our error.


Neither one of us wanted to go to Kendall Katwalk (we'd been there recently) so we backtracked to the turn-off and headed toward Red Pass. However by the time we got to Red Pond we were hungry and stopped there for just about the laziest lunch I've ever indulged in. By the time we ate, talked some more and took photographs we lost interest in going to Red Pass so hiked back to the trailhead via the old trail in Commonwealth Basin.


By the way the old trail now sports a "new" bridge over the worst crossing of Commonwealth Creek. I don't know who is reponsible for the fine work but thank you, whoever you are!!










Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mount Persis


Mount Persis (October 13, 2010)

A wild, rag-tag collection of hikers I used to scramble with in the 1990s would probably call Mount Persis a “candy-ass” hike. For that to be a respectable hike by their standards you’d have to include a long road walk, formidable elevation gain and inclement weather in order for it to “count”. Over time and through word of mouth the trail’s reputation grew as a doughty but worthy destination. Today Persis is even mentioned in a few guidebooks as a respectable destination though Fred Beckey probably gives it all of 2-3 sentences – something like “just follow the easy west ridge to the summit – no difficulties.”

My first Mountaineer scramble was Mount Persis in the 1980s – lead by Mary Sutliff, author of “Teanaway Country”, published by Signpost Press. I still have a copy of that must-have guidebook though it’s in tatters. That dreary November day we hiked in rain, wind and horizontal snow. At the summit I pulled icicles out of my hair. It was fun. Really, it was.

Then the trail (for lack of a better word) consisted of steep mud, slippery boulders, going over, under and/or around downed trees, negotiating an ankle-twisting boulder field - then just when you think it couldn’t get any steeper there was more climbing followed by a reprieve of sullen tarns, trying to keep up with shape-shifting hikers ahead through clammy fog and finally the summit with no views but for shivering, Gore-tex clad companions. It was fun. Really, it was.

Between the late 1980s through the 1990s I returned many times to Mount Persis in all seasons and weather; often in snowshoes, once even after running a half-marathon - those were good days (I thought they’d never end). In summer I lazed at the summit with Mount Index almost close enough to touch and entertained the possibility of the Persis-Index traverse but never got around to it. That didn’t sound like fun.

The rate at which Times passes is insidious. I’ve never stopped hiking but I had other places to go, articles to write and going back to Mount Persis didn’t seem important until recently. As time passes the desire to revisit such places has grown - that desire dove-tailed nicely with a friend in need of a write-up so three of us headed out with that objective in mind. It was time revisit that cantankerous trail again though I secretly hoped that the trail might have mellowed a bit over time. What would it be like to go back to Mount Persis after more than 10 years? Would it really be fun?

We knew about the problems with the road closures off SR 2 (Forest Service Road No. 62) and for a while no one seemed to know whether or not the gate would be open or closed. You just drove up to the gate, hoped for the best, drove to the “trailhead” and made damn sure you didn’t get locked in (we’d heard stories about hikers coming back to their cars – on the wrong side of the gate). That would not be fun.

The latest seems to be that at least for now the road is open but don’t cuss at me if it isn’t. Such things are always subject to change. A “No Shooting Area” inside the gate says in a few words what needs to be said to keep this place open to hikers. If they get too many shooters up there, if folks dump their dead appliances and what-all along the road, the land-management agencies may lock up the road again. That would not be fun.

As for us we lucked out on this golden October day. The road was open and as of October 13 no logging was taking place (this is all subject to change, weather could also affect your ability to get to the “trailhead”). Have a backup plan so if the gate is closed you can go elsewhere and still have fun.

My friend believed that I’d done the research on the revamped road system and alas, I thought that he’d done the research. We all knew the road system was more complex than it was in the 1990s due to logging and storm-related damage. As we drove up the road I was not too surprised to see changes; trees had grown tall where they’d been saplings in the early 1990s and stands of what had been mature trees had been clear-cut (anticipating such changes is different than seeing them). My limbic brain was working pretty well until we came to a junction I didn’t recognize – the Green Trails maps were out of date. My “gut” said “go left” – my companions thought otherwise. We parked, dithered a while and walked up the wrong road (right) that climbed toward the ridgeline. They finally convinced me that my first hunch had been correct – so we backtracked to where we’d left the cars to hike the “right” road (the right road is to the “left”). Confused yet? Are we having fun?

Time was growing short by that point; so were our tempers. We hiked apart for a while to “cool” down and I started out hiking too fast out-pacing the men. Thankfully I did recognize the road and knew we were close to the “trail”, a steep path (right) that looks like a dry streambed. There were two rigs parked directly across from the “trail”; the road being a little too rough for our passenger car. We were all smiles as we finally started up the “trail” and I recognized much of the terrain. At last we were having fun!

The first stretch of the route is no doubt the steepest, about equal to a workout in a gymnasium. Though it had been partially logged the route itself had not changed that much. It was up, up, up, and up with trees to crawl over, under or maneuver around while trying not to twist an ankle in a hidden hole. To compensate for the pain of elevation gain views begin almost immediately and the views would get even better. Before we reached the “meadows” (roughly the mid-point of the hike) to the north and east were views of Mount Baker, Mount Pilchuck and other Monte Cristo peaks (we were still having fun).

The boulder field was as I remembered it being, no worse and no better than years ago. After negotiating the boulder field the route climbs (moreorless) below and at times along the west ridge toward the summit. Though not as heavily forested it had been there were landmarks I recognized such as the balanced rock (looking north) and the lower cliffs of the Persis-Index massif. The trail, still steep, relented a bit though I was beginning to feel the effects of my too-fast initial pace -- I was determined to keep going and have fun.

Unlike my usual “forever” pace where I can hike/climb for hours without needing frequent sit-downs and “breathers” I had to stop several times to slow my thundering heart and/or catch my breath. Worst of all, my legs began to feel weak – a bad sign. No aches or pains, just generic fatigue so I stopped for an energy gel and then we kept going (I had been good about drinking water). I wasn’t so sure I was having fun.

The trail leveled off and by the time we reached the first meadows the fall colors were brilliant and the views expanding. All too soon the trail spurted upward again, back into the trees, crossing a few small talus fields before reaching the tarns (the tarns were not sullen, they were sparkling and cheerful). Here, one of my companions called it quits, he’d had enough “up” – beside, the tarns were beautiful and he was happy to stay put while we continued on. As I looked back I saw him taking photos of the tarns – it was obvious he was having fun.

By then I was getting tired; I had the desire to keep going but my body wasn’t cooperating. Against my companions’ advice I also wanted to reach the summit (Persis is one of my favorite summits). Since the summit was close, I left my pack at the tarns and continued climbing (don’t do as I do, do as I say and take your pack with you!). If you do something as stupid as that, you won’t have fun either.

My companion was at the summit by the time I arrived and he insisted I eat some of his crackers and peanut butter (I knew it was the right thing to do so I didn’t resist very much though I wasn’t hungry). We lingered long enough for photographs and a long look at Mount Index, Baring and other peaks (too many to name). As in the past I eyed the ridge between Persis and Index, wondering whether or not I’d ever be able to do the traverse but this time, the answer was “No”. Too many years had passed and my scrambling skills were a little rusty. Not fun!

We hiked back to the tarns, making good time. After a quick break at the tarn we knew we had to pick up the pace to get back down in time. There were time-constraints and we still were not absolutely certain we wouldn’t find ourselves on the wrong side of the gate. Such an outcome would result in a total lack of fun.

The descent was steep (no surprise, that) and we all fell, at least twice on the way down (no injuries other than pride). I felt fine – no aches or pains and since we were done with the “up” there was nothing holding me back from getting back down to the road. Going downhill made me feel young again – that was fun!

So what was “up” with me? Both companions thought I had low-blood sugar from lack of food, drink and starting out too fast. They were right, of course. However, I’ve learned from years of tough hikes that if I pace myself accordingly I don’t “bonk” despite my lack of interest in food while hiking or climbing. Perhaps I lose interest in food because I am so enthralled with the scenery (eating just doesn’t seem as important as seeing what’s over the next ridge). Ninety-nine percent of the time I get away with not eating much, this time I didn’t. But it was fun. Really, it was.

This situation could have ended it badly; I’m sure glad it didn’t.

Now the details – the short version with more precise data to follow - From Everett drive US 2 (north) turn right onto FS Road No. 62; as of this writing the gate is open. If you get to Index you’ve gone too far. Stay on Road No. 62 as it climbs (watch for possible logging trucks, the road is narrow), turn left at the first two junctions. At the third junction turn left IF you have a high-clearance vehicle then drive a short distance to the trailhead (there is a pullout with room for about 2-3 cars across from the “trail”). If you get to the end of the road you’ve gone too far (it ends just beyond the pullout). There is no sign for the trailhead. If you do not have a high clearance vehicle park at that third junction then hike to the trailhead.

Or as Fred Beckey might say – just follow the easy west ridge to the summit, no difficulties.









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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Summer is truly over!


I'm like the White Rabbit in "Alice In Wonderland", I'm late, I'm late, I'm late. The faster I go, the behinder I get. That sort of thing. Time flies whether you're having fun or not, in or out of the mountains.


Where I've been lately .... Mount Persis, the Eastside Trail (MRNP) and a mellow ramble at Gingko State Park near Vantage.


I'm still trying to catch up - plus, prepare for this transitional time of year on the trails.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

A new blog

I'm in the process of setting up a new blog.

Will let you know soon where to find it. Sorry I haven't been able to post photos! I believe my pictures are worth more than excessive verbage.

Karen

Sunday, October 3, 2010

More fall color hikes

Three great fall hikes - Longs Pass in the Teanaway, Blue Lake in the North Cascades and last but not least, Minotaur Lake near Stevens Pass.

Fall color is at its best right now - hike soon.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Rainy Day in the Teanaway, October 16, 2010


Yesterday felt like a genuine fall hike. Was it really only a few days ago that we were basking in the sun at Mount Rainier?


Since the weather was "iffy" we thought the Teanaway would be a better place to hike than on the west side of the pass.


Long's Pass sounded good - I hadn't been there for several years and even dared hope there might be a little bit of gold in those larch trees around Lake Ann.


We started out on the Esmeralda Basin trail, then took the County Line trail to a saddle above Lake Ann (the hike round trip is about 6-6-1/2 miles with about 2,100 feet of elevation gain. Older hiking guides suggest that some sections of the County Line trail are hard to follow but the junction for the County Line trail is signed; pretty hard to miss. We were on trail (a little indistinct but not hard to follow) until the saddle above the little lake. There we were a little disappointed to see that the larches were still green (though hardly surprised - we knew we were a little early).


It had rained the night before and the vegetation was wet along the trail - the blueberry shrubs have turned crimson and the meadows golden and shaggy. There are still quite a few flowers in bloom including scarlet gilia, Indian Paintbrush, harebells, pearly everlasting and asters.


As we lunched at the saddle I pointed out Fortune Peak to my companion and pointed out the scramble route to South Ingalls (if you can follow the scramble trail to South Ingalls you can hike out on the Lake Ingalls trail for a nice loop). However, I recall there's quite a bit of elevation gain and it makes for a long day. But fun! We considered that but with a late start and impending rain we ended up turning around instead.


Sure enough, almost as soon as we turned around it began to rain and rather hard. As we raced down the trail the rain was driven by wind until we were out of the open areas and into the protection of trees.


With the new rain the whole place was jumping with color! It was absolutely gorgeous!! No complaints at all except I don't think summer lasts long enough.


A Big Mistake

To those who have written comments to which I have not replied ... I am sorry. I did not realize they were accumulating on another page and thought I wasn't getting any comments. Now that I realize my mistake I'll do my best to catch up and reply to those who have asked questions. The ins and outs of blogging are not all that clear to me other than posting text and photos, please excuse my ignorance.

Karen

August, September hikes


Well, I'm still not caught up. I'm still doing more hiking than writing but now that the rains are returning, I'll have more time to fill in some of the blanks. I do hike year-round though I am reluctant to admit that much of the "good" hikes are going away as the days grow short and bad weather returns. I'll hike anyway and will always do my best to find places to write about and photograph.


Here are a few of the hikes I've done in the past month or so, with the most recent being yesterday's hike to Lake Ann in the Teanaway.


September/August hikes


Lake Ann (September 15th) Teanaway


Blue Lake, North Cascades (September 13th)


Indian Bar (September 12)


Backbone Ridge trail (September 11)


Tamanos Mountain (via Owyhigh Lakes) early September


Indian Henry's Hunting Ground (early September)


Camp Muir (late August)


There may be some "edits" to this list and/or additions.






Saturday, August 21, 2010

Summerland, Panhandle Gap




Panhandle Gap via Summerland (Wonderland Trail) August 20, 2010

Curses, foiled again!

Yet I can’t whine too much about that last 80 feet to Panhandle Gap. The snow at that point was steeper and icier than we were comfortable with; poor run out too. Instead we backtracked to a rocky saddle and watched other hikers cope down-climbing that pitch with trekking poles (does anyone use an ice axe anymore?).

If not for the snow the hike is not all that arduous – about 3,000 feet gain and just under 12 miles. The scenery is well, uh pretty scenic, especially after you cross Fryingpan Creek on a not-so-robust ridge.

From that point it’s a flower show all the way to the moraine. A short, steep climb from the creek to the Summerland shelter (no occupants) – here the trail switchbacks through cliffs mainly composed of wildflowers. Well, you get the idea. Just some of the flowers we saw: avalanche lilies (hanging on in shady areas), magenta paintbrush, western anemone, bistort, Sitka valerian, Veronica and at higher elevations monkey flowers and small ground-hugging plants we weren’t able to identify – lots of heather, both pink and white.

One of the most amazing things about this hike are the colors – the blazing white of Mount Rainier, the moraines (gray, dun, burnt sienna), the almost phony-looking shades of blue and green in melting tarns (perhaps the Creator used Photoshop when he got around to making mountains?). The blue sky which later in the day were broken up a bit by odd cloud forms (no adjectives come to mind), the daubs of primary colors provided by hikers and backpackers on the trail, especially against the dull moraines and the flashy white snow.

Snow that refuses to melt – still a cornice above Panhandle Gap. From our rocky saddle there were some intriguing “trails” that went hither and yon, we suspect to some of the nearby peaks and a couple of trails on the other side of the gap that especially intrigued us. Too bad we didn’t have time to explore those because we had the energy. It was one of those days you felt you could hike forever.

Did I mention the neon, lime-green shades of moss near the stream? Incredibly beautiful. Nestled inside one mound of moss was a perfect arrangement of flowers so tiny we weren’t able to get a decent photo of them. I’m keeping the photo anyway – as a reminder of a beautiful day.

We met some interesting people on the trail – Beth Rossow, who also goes by the name of Bogachiel Betty, currently working on measuring and photographing the Wonderland Trail (she has worked with Bette Filley on Bette’s books on the Wonderland Trail). By the way Bette was at Wapiti Woolies yesterday signing books – wish we’d known, I’d love to meet her.

On the bridge at Fryingpan Creek we met an elderly gentleman with his middle-aged son (gotta be careful with the word “elderly” these days, I’m not a spring chicken). They were also bound for Panhandle Gap.

On our way back we ran into the most laid-back marmot imaginable – he lives in the forest (at least this time of year) between Fryingpan Creek and the shelter at Summerland. He was more interested in eating something under fallen branches than worrying about us – he looked to be on the vintage side and gazed back at us with a “well?” expression.

On our way down we ran into the two men again we’d met earlier and chatted a bit – it turns out the son of the middle aged man (and the grandson of the elder gentleman) was storming up Muir at the same time we were visually grazing on the scenery near Summerland. Today he plans to summit Rainier and tomorrow (Sunday) he plans to run The Wonderland Trail. The whole thing. Oh yeah, forgot to mention that this youth rode his bike to Mount Rainier on his bicycle. Well, that gives one some perspective. The word “awe” comes to mind. I wish we’d asked for his name, maybe you’ve encountered him.



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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Perhaps a photograph - perhaps not




Here's a photo (this is just a test so if no photo appears, don't worry about it). The problem is on my end, not yours.




August Hikes to date (and the month ain't over)


August Hikes to date:

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/karenseyes/

August hikes to date:

Mount Washington (North Bend, 2010)

Red Mountain (Salmon la Sac via Little Joe Lake)

Red Mountain (Salmon la Sac via Cooper Road)

Nisqually Vista/Moraine Trail (MRNP)

Alta Vista (MRNP)

Stevens Creek/Box Canyon (MRNP)

Sauk Mountain (SR 20)

Indian Bar via Wonderland Trail (almost!) (MRNP)

Dewey Lakes (Naches Loop Trail) (MRNP and Pacific Crest Trail)

Chinook Pass to Bear Gap (Pacific Crest Trail)


I'm still hiking just about every other day ... will do my best to fill in details later. Bear with me!!



Monday, July 19, 2010

July hikes

July Hikes (A few in June too)

As I wrote a few days ago, I’ve been hiking more than writing. I’ll try to fill in some of these blanks soon!

Thorp Lake and Lookout ) July 18)

Surprise Lake/Trap Pass (July 14)

Mount Defiance (July 16)

Marten Lake (July)

Sasse Mt/Hex (July)

Summerland (July)

Iron Bear (June)

Doe Falls (July)

Heather Lake (July)

Edgar Rock/Boulder Cave (late June)

Plus “conditioning” hikes in the Issaquah Alps/Mount Si Recreation Area

Monday, July 5, 2010

Photographs

This is to let followers know that for reasons I can't decipher I am unable to post photographs. When I figure it out, things will return as normal.

In the meantime you can view photographs of my recent hikes at:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/karenseyes/

Easton Ridge, early June, 2010

Easton Ridge – June 5, 2010

I meant to post this last month but I’ve been doing more hiking than writing!!
This was probably my 10th visit over the years, ranging from brutally cold Mountaineer snowshoes trips to solo hikes in spring when wildflowers are at their best.

However the days of having this trail to yourself are probably history unless you hike mid-week. Our hike took place on Saturday and while we expected to share the trail with others, we weren’t psychologically prepared for the crowd gathering at the trailhead for a Mountaineers-related Naturalist hike.

We waited for the group to get ahead of us before we started out. Despite our relaxed pace we soon caught up with them as a faster trio of hikers caught up with us. We guessed we’d have to lollygag for a measure of solitude (we don’t mind an easy-going shamble from time to time) so we tarried and then some. We stopped for photographs of wildflowers along the lower stretch of the trail between the creek and the unsigned junction where the trail meets a gravel road.

There isn’t a trail sign there so when you get to the road head left and pick up the trail at the first, big switchback in the road. It’s hard to miss.

Flowers were aplenty – Hooker’s fairy bells, Solomon’s Seal, waterleaf, vanilla leaf, flowering current, trilliums and at higher elevation lots of spring beauties and golden glacier lilies, always a sight for sore eyes. We also saw serviceberry, vine maple with new, bright green leaves and Luina (not yet in bloom).

The next stretch between the road and the Domerie Peak trail junction is steep but the trail is in good shape. We stopped briefly at the junction (signed Easton Ridge, Thomas Mountain and Domerie Peak) discussing where to go. That was an easy decision - we knew most of the hikers were heading toward Domerie Peak so we opted for Easton Ridge instead.

At this major junction there are two obvious trails. The trail to left goes to Thomas Mountain and Domerie Peak. The trail to the right is the Easton Ridge trail but after a few paces you’ll come to another junction that is not signed or as obvious as the first junction. Take the uphill fork. The other trail contours above the logging road and soon ends (I know, I’ve hiked it).

Though the Easton Ridge trail is not as distinct as the first stretch it’s not all that hard to follow. When in doubt – go up. The trail improves as it approaches the ridge and skirts a rocky outcropping. That first outcropping makes a good spot for a break or a photograph of Kachess Lake below.

From the first outcropping the way now is mostly airy as it continues toward the ridgeline; there are a few more outcroppings along the way. Each outcropping provides a more expansive view of Kachess Lake, Easton Lake and Easton below. On a clear day there’s also a good view of Mount Rainier.

After the third or so outcropping we left the trail, taking a shortcut to the top of the ridge – this makes a nice ridge-run (a phrase often used by hikers who enjoy following ridgelines.) There are several outcroppings that make outstanding turnarounds or lunch spots with views in all directions – here you can view the path not taken, the forested summits of minor peaks including Mount Baldy.

Here is where we picked up one tick – not nearly as prevalent here as they are in other sites east of the crest (Umtanum Ridge and Creek is teeming with ticks). Other than the tick we had the ridge to ourselves and enjoyed a lazy, leisurely lunch.

We dropped back down to the trail and continued (east) for another half mile or so before turning around. My memory is not foolproof – I seem to remember a few years ago we hiked the trail until it ended at a rock outcropping but today we stopped shy of that.

This was our first warm day hike in a long time; it was nice not to have to bundle up and wonderful to bask in sunlight. We retraced our route back to the trailhead. The big group was still on the mountain so there were still a lot of cars at the trailhead, more than I’ve ever seen. We also met more hikers on the trail, getting a late start.

On our way back we stopped at Turtle Bar in Easton for milkshakes and for me, a hot-spiced cider with a cinnamon stick. The Turtle Bar used to be a funky place with delicious but greasy grub. It’s been spruced up, the prices are a little higher than they were but the food is better. In the past the old restaurant was mostly used by snowmobilers or cold and wet Mountaineers in need of sugar, caffeine and grease - now it’s become a more popular spot for residents and visitors to stop.

We hiked about 5.2 miles round trip with 1,859 feet of elevation gain per the GPS. The map is Green Trails No. 208 Kachess Lake.

To get there: From Seattle take I-90 east and turn off at Exit 70. Drive over the freeway and turn left onto a frontage road signed Kachess Dam Road and proceed to Forest Service Road No. 4818 and turn right. Stay on Road No. 4818 to an unsigned road junction and turn right – follow that road about ½ mile to the trailhead, elevation 2,400 feet, no facilities. A Northwest Forest Pass is required.

Howson Creek trail, July 4, 2010


Howson Creek Trail (July 4, 2010)

What better way to celebrate July 4th than hiking? Given it was raining on the west side of Snoqualmie Pass we headed east (as usual).

This trail has been on my agenda (again) for some time. I first wrote about the trail in “Hidden Hikes” and wanted to find out for myself how “hidden” it was after a few years have passed.

The hike is just as steep as it ever was; finding the trailhead is harder. Unless, of course, you hike this trail every year – a few years ago a sign made finding the trail pretty easy. Now – the sign is missing. Therefore we drove right past it and had to backtrack to find it again (the map and “Hidden Hikes” helped). The driving directions in “Hidden Hikes” is just about right on – the odometer reads 6.1 miles from the Last Resort on the highway heading toward Salmon la Sac.

The trailhead (as you head toward Salmon la Sac) is on the right-hand side of the highway at an elevation of 2,246 feet. There’s plenty of roadside parking on the other side of the highway. The trail – an old jeep track – once you spot it soon becomes genuine trail though there are no signs to clue you in. In a short mile or so (elevation 2,663 feet) Howson Creek is crossed – an easy crossing in early July.

After this gentle start the trail gets down to business – it starts to climb steeply and doesn’t relent. Despite the lack of signage we found the trail easier to follow than it was a few years ago – though faint in spots we were always able to find our way. Someone (the forest service? A friend?) has blocked off the game trails with branches and placed a couple of flags where the trail is a little confusing. We would have been able to follow the trail without the flags but I’d been there before and recognized some of the terrain. If you find the flags leave them – for first-time visitors who could be confused. The game trails are many and some are almost as good as the trail. Or would it be better to say the trail is almost as good as the game trails? You can be the judge of that.

The trail falls roughly into “thirds” – the first third climbs through an old clear-cut, the second third through mostly mellow forest with a few wildflowers (not very many) and the last third a long contour on talus below a rocky ridge. The steep grade does not relent; it is a thigh-burner so we paced ourselves accordingly.

It was a cloudy day so the views we anticipated never materialized – other than a sliver of Cle Elum Lake on the way down that was about the extent of our views. We were a little disappointed not to see Lemah Mt, Mt Stuart and others but we were gratefully for the cool, cloudy day. It was perfect hiking weather for a steep trail.

Our favorite part of the trail was the “third” – here the trail is mostly on talus and rocky, a few “pointy” evergreens anchor the trail in place. Once you are on the trail that contours below a rocky ridge (left) you will see Hex Mountain (just a little bump on this cloudy day) and Sasse Mountain (a forested summit a half mile from the “end” of the Howson Creek trail).

Stay on the main trail – a couple of rocky spurs lead to the ridge (left) and another trail drops into the valley below (right). I have no clue where the lower trail goes – if anywhere – some time we’ll go back and explore it.

We stopped where the trail meets the rocky ridge (saddle) at about 5,422 feet. You can continue to Sasse Mountain from this point. There is a faint trail juncture just a bit below the saddle to the right. A faded flag marks the continuation of the trail to forested Sasse Mountain, a half mile away (the left uphill fork is the correct path). We skipped Sasse there’s no view – however, you can hike from Sasse over to Hex. That would make a dandy one-way hike via the Sasse Mountain trail with a car shuttle. Hmmmm – maybe one of these days!

On our way back the clouds had cleared enough we got a better view of Cle Elum Lake; the water is very high. Some of the trees along the shoreline appear to be inundated. We heard muffled fireworks as we descended the steep trail but were not surprised we had the trail to ourselves. I have yet to meet another hiker on this trail.

There are reasons why this trail is not as popular as many in the region – for starters it’s hard to find. It’s a steep, difficult trail. There are easier trails that lead to better views. But if you like lonesome trails and like to explore this one is fun.

We checked out one of the spurs on our way back down and climbed to the ridgeline we’d contoured below. From where we clambered the ridge was narrow and other than a glimpse of Red Mountain there were no outstanding views. If we had accessed the ridge closer to the saddle it would probably have been more interesting – looking back at the ridge it “fattens” as it approaches the saddle.

I bet there are some nice views up there.

Stats: 8 miles round trip with 3,381 feet of gain (including our side trip). The map is Green Trails No. 208 Kachess Lake.

Flowers: Indian paintbrush, vanilla leaf, lomatiums, penstemon, phlox, lupine, thimbleberry – with the exception of vanilla leaf the flowers were few and far between.








Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dirty Harry's Truck


The Damned Truck (Dirty Harry’s Deuce and a half)

Early June, 2010

How many times have I tramped up Dirty Harry’s Road near North Bend to look for that rumored truck? Friends had found it, other hikers posted photographs of it on their web pages yet I met with failure every time I tried.

Until last week – thanks to a friend - we found the truck. We hiked the rocky, miserable road again, ignoring the turn off to Dirty Harry’s balcony, bypassing the crumpled, rusted artifacts from Dirty Harry’s legendary days of gyppo logging along the road – after all, we’d seen those many times before.

It is surprising how close it is to Dirty Harry’s Road and Museum Creek. The mistake we made before was crossing the creek, THEN looking for an old road where the truck can be found. This might have been true once upon a time but that truck has been sitting there a long time and alders have grown, making the snippet of old road difficult to spot let alone follow.

This time we didn’t cross Museum Creek; we looked for a path a few paces below creek. It took us a couple tries to find the path - it is hard to distinguish the path from thick vegetation. So - the easiest way to find the truck – at least for us befuddled geezers – is to hike to the creek, turn around, backtrack a few paces and spot the trail on the uphill side of the road (left).

A much as we enjoy exploring this path does not invite exploration; it’s a mess. Don’t look for flagging – it doesn’t exist. If you miss it, try again. The path is short and claustrophobic with obstacles of small, downed trees, brush and an almost impenetrable wall of crowded cedars.

We did eventually spot a ribbon and knew we were on the right track. You could tell that this old road had been a working road but it has been taken over by alders. We were only a few feet away from Museum Creek. Per instructions we followed the road (easterly direction) to a switchback marked with a large boulder; here the road heads back toward the creek.

The road (if one could call it that) veered into a thicket of cedars and dense brush; a few ribbons guided the way and after a wrestling match with ferocious cedars we spotted the rusting hulk of the Deuce and a half through the vegetation.

There lay an old radiator in the stream, the truck itself still mostly in one piece, the doors riddled with bullet holes, the smashed, headlights, the engine block, the flatbed, the whole mess. Peering into the cab we saw a jumble of leaves and clutter; someone had left a Rainier beer can on the driver’s seat. The windows of the cab are long gone and there are holes in the roof of the cab where daylight trickles in.

At first glance it looks like it had run into a boulder come to rest against near the creek. We don’t know – of course – how the truck got there or why – one can only speculate. We spent a lot of time photographing the truck though photographs can’t capture the mood of the place. It’s odd – it’s almost like the truck doesn’t want to be “found” or perhaps Harry knew he’d come to the end of the line and left his truck there to quietly rust away and slowly disappear over time.

We’ve been hiking for over 30 years and never met anyone who met Dirty Harry, not even Harvey Manning. Last I heard he was in a retirement home – and the old place where he used to live amidst a clutter of aging trucks is gone, likely to become someone’s moneyed “dream home” near the river.

When – and if – you find the truck sit down for a moment in the silence and ponder the man who drove this vehicle up and down cliff-hanging roads and put in roads where others feared to tread. Dirty Harry’s roads are all over the place though they are slowly being taken over by alders. Some day there will be little evidence so if you find a mangled piece of metal along the road or trail, let it be – it has a right to rest.

(I think even Harvey Manning had grudging admiration for Dirty Harry – they were both curmudgeons and they both loved the land in their own, fierce way.)

To find it (or not): Exit 38 (I-90), head toward the fire training center (don’t park outside the gate you might get locked in if you’re late). After parking walk up the road, cross the Snoqualmie River and in roughly 1/3 to ¼ of a mile find the hard-to-miss path on the right-hand side of the road. There is no sign. The path is Dirty Harry’s Road, follow that until you get to Museum Creek and good luck finding the path.






Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Meeks Table


Meeks Table, June 11, 2010


MEEKS TABLE (A NATURAL RESEARCH AREA) June 11, 2010

Meeks Table was hard to find in the early 1980s – it’s still hard to find. And more than worth it.

It’s a long drive to Meeks Table and a short hike. I’d hardly call it a hike. Perhaps “experience” is a better description.

Meeks Table is just inside the William O. Douglas Wilderness – be thankful for that because logging is breathing down Meeks neck. The trail was short to Meeks in the 1980s, now it’s shorter still as the once-forested path to the table has been logged to practically its edge. This is a sensitive environmental area; please keep your party-size small and tread carefully. Meeks table has never been commercially grazed by livestock and is an interesting area for ecologists and botanists to explore. The table is home to old stands of Ponderosa pine and wildflowers; some rare.

The most unusual flower is Giant Frasera or green gentian (century plant). It is one of the few places (perhaps the only place) it grows in Washington. Do bring a wildflower guide – there are too many flowers to list. In June we saw Giant Frasera (some of the frasera was getting ready to bloom), grass widows, death camas, stonecrop, bitterroot, spreading phlox, penstemon, lomatiums and more.

The mileage? Not much – about 3.82 miles (maximum) with 735 feet of elevation gain. Again - the challenge is finding the trailhead.

Getting there: From Seattle drive to Chinook Pass on Highway 410. Continue down from Chinook Pass on Highway 410 to a signed bypass around a landslide. The road is in good condition. Turn onto Bethel Ridge Road (Forest Service Road 1500) – the sign is partially blocked from view by vegetation until you are actually on the road. If you find yourself back on Highway 410 you’ve gone a little too far. The road is paved part of the way then becomes gravel; it is narrow and steep with turnouts (proceed with caution). When you get to a junction turn onto Road No. 1502 – you will pass McDaniel Lake, your clue that you are not too far from the next junction (Spur No. 1502-130). We missed it the first time and ended up at the Mount Aix trailhead (a hike we also want to do), turned around and looked again for the spur (look hard for it). The spur is short and rough, the parking spot obvious where the spur is blocked by large boulders (coming from McDaniel Lake the spur will be on the right-hand side of the road, marked by a metal post).

You can either walk up the blocked spur a way or follow a faint, flagged path to the talus field, the “start” of the hike. Either way, you’ll spot the “table”. We followed the flagged path to the edge of the talus slope – according to another source if you walk the road that leads to a path that avoids most of the talus. Once you are on the table you can hike around the rim in either direction – don’t miss the parklands or the quiet stands of Ponderosa pines or views of the South Cascades, including Mount Aix.

We suggest you dedicate at least a weekend to explore this region; it’s too long a drive for a day-hike and there are other nearby gems to explore.

We also recommend a stop at the Naches Ranger Station in Naches – not only do they offer a wealth of information to hikers and other recreational uses but this is also the site of the Three Mile Fire where several firefighters lost their lives only a few years ago.










Granite Lakes, Thompson Lake


Granite Lake, Thompson Lake (June 16, 2010)

I’ve been doing more hiking than writing lately so in order to stay more up-to-date on this blogs most entries will be shorter than my recent Barclay, Eagle Lake description.

We’ve gazed at the guidebooks and maps often, drooling over the possibility of getting to Thompson Lake, a hard-to-get-to lake no matter how you approach it.

Basically there are two approaches – one starting at the Ira Spring trailhead (the Mason Lake trail), continuing to Mount Defiance then dropping down to Thompson Lake. A lot of mileage and elevation gain. The other approach – and ours, is from the Granite Lakes road off the Snoqualmie Middle Fork road near North Bend. This is also a long, strenuous route.

We’d only intended to visit Granite Lakes on this cool but rare sunny day in June. The hike starts out on the Granite Lakes road (just past the Mailbox Peak trailhead) on the Middle Fork road. The road is a gated DNR road – there is room to leave a car or two there if you prefer starting from there. No trailhead pass required.

The guidebooks say it is about 11 miles round trip to Granite Lakes and that’s probably pretty accurate (PDA). Most of that mileage is on the road but it’s not an unpleasant walk. We passed stumps from past logging eras, Granite Creek (with a bridge) and all along the roadside, wildflowers. This also makes a good snowshoe walk in winter as there is no avalanche danger along the road.

In about 4-1/2 miles we came to a junction on the road, now with trail signs for Granite Lakes and Thompson Lake. This was the first time I’ve seen signs at this junction; they are a definite advantage.

For Granite Lakes, you hike downhill (right) onto an old road to where it ends. It is – roughly – a half mile from the junction. We stopped to admire violets and our first marsh marigolds of the season on our way. At the road end – no sign - look for flagging or if that is gone find an opening in the vegetation - that’s the trail.

The “trail” is probably less than ¼ of a mile to Upper Granite Lake but it’s a bit of a challenge. Crossing the outlet stream took a little cunning to keep feet dry but we managed (rock hop and vegetation belay). Not far from the stream crossing is Upper Granite Lake and it is a beauty. Since adjectives fail to describe such a pretty lake we’ll leave it at that. It’s damned pretty and larger than you might expect. Explore dim paths – some lead to secret campsites and one eventually takes you to Lower Granite Lake (we didn’t look for Lower Granite today). The ground cover is a glory of marsh marigolds, false lily-of-the-valley and Canadian dogwood just coming into bloom. Hellebore is just beginning to appear and beargrass will also bloom soon.

Back at the junction we had enough energy to hike further. I’d always wanted to explore the left branch from the junction – call it an old road or cat track, it’s rocky and lined with alders at lower elevations. Someone’s been lopping the encroaching vegetation (thanks!).

At about a mile – eureka! Another trail sign, this one for Thompson Lake – this, too, is a handy sign. Having never been to Thompson before we found it useful. The Green Trails map indicated it being about a mile to the lake.

We started out and soon came to the original sign for Thompson Lake, so weathered you could almost mistake it for a tree. A short steep stretch followed a level stretch, a couple of tributaries are crossed (not a problem), then the trail climbs to a ridge where you might expect a view of Thompson Lake. It’s only a partial view – trees obscure most of the lake and the trail continues on.

Silverback decided to take a break at the ridge while I continued, still hoping to get down to the lake. The last bit of trail is steep – it’s about 450 feet down to the lake and it’s steep, seemingly not often traveled. I had hoped to get to a viewpoint above the lake (it was too chilly to keep Silverback waiting for long) and I finally did where the trail breaks out into a boulder field with a stunning view of the lake, much larger than I thought it would be. To my surprise the lake was almost completely snow free (the trail was too) and I took several photos before turning around.

I dreaded the climb back to the ridge but I took it slow and easy; soon we were back on the road and on our way home. We both felt pretty good until about the last couple of miles on the Granite Lakes road; then, the fatigue caught up with us.

The stats: according to the GPS I hiked 17.4 miles (round trip) and Silverback 16. The elevation gain was about 3,800 feet (for me). The map is Green Trails No. 206 Bandera. If you skip Granite Lakes it’s closer to 16 miles round trip with less elevation gain.

Getting there: From Seattle take I-90 east past North Bend to Exit 34, pass the convenience stores and turn right onto the SE Middle Fork Road (Dorothy Lake road), continue about 3 miles to the trailhead for Mailbox Peak (left), park. Hike the road about ¼ mile to the Granite Lakes Road (a gated DNR road).

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Barclay Lake and Beyond


Barclay Lake and Beyond (May 27, 2010)

It had been about 10 years since my last visit to Barclay Lake; that was on snowshoes. Prior to that I’d been beyond Barclay Lake to Eagle Lake on an old, rugged trail on a summer day. How different would the trail and lakes look after this 10-year hiatus? This being a dreary we weren’t sure what to expect nor did we know how far we’d be able to get – that damned late-season snow would pop up sooner than later (it always seem to pop up sooner on late spring, early summer hikes).

The 4-mile forest service road (No. 6034) was in great shape, even for passenger cars. Even the trailhead is in good shape with two clean portable toilets, a kiosk and a box with wilderness permits for hikers venturing beyond Barclay Lake into the new Wild Sky Wilderness.

Then, there was the footbridge over Barclay Lake, about half way to Barclay Lake. In the past the bridge was broken, missing or so deep in snow you had to side-step across it on snowshoes as you clung to the rail.

Readers know by now that stream crossings are my least favorite aspect of hiking; I dread them unless I am 100 percent certain the body of water either has a bridge or can be easily boulder-hopped without risk of drowning or soaking the camera. I kept my dread to myself, recalling the time I’d forded the knee-deep Stillaguamish River rather than balance on the footlog that spanned it (everyone else walked the log but me). Perhaps this is because I never learned to swim. Yes, I know I could have been swept away but I still feel safer IN the water as opposed to FALLING into the water.

The first half of the trail is in recovering forest; a victim of past clear-cuts though the forest is recovering nicely. The old stumps with springboard notches are hosting new seedlings and groundcover is carpeting the ground with false lily-of-the-valley, moss, lichen and ferns. Mixed in with early season greenery are sprinkles of yellow violets, bleeding hearts and trilliums. In a word, it’s lovely.

After the gentle promenade through the forest we reached Barclay Creek and the bridge was in excellent shape; not only wide but with a good handrail. No sweat!

The trail between the creek and the lake is through deep, dark delicious forest, much of it old growth. The trail crosses a blowout (no water in it) a little before the lake. There are views of Mount Baring from the lake (I can attest to that having seen them in the past) but we were denied the views on this cloudy day - you’d never know the mountain was there. Nevertheless the lake is pretty, provides several, spacious campsites and many spots where one can leave the main trail and bask in an isolated pocket away from crowds on a sunny weekend.

We continued on the trail but since my memory was dim as to where the “old” trail to Eagle Lake began I’d done a bit of research on The Internet, clinging to the nugget of wisdom suggesting that as long as you kept the creek on your left you’d get to the lake.

My companions, Silverback and Florida Bob, were depending on me not to get them lost – neither had ever been to Barclay Lake. We did have the appropriate map, compass and a GPS though I can usually find my way around without needing to use them. Oddly, I seem to have a photographic memory of terrain, routes and trails including particular trees and oddly shaped boulders.

On our way around the lake we noted two signs for toilets (away from the lake) and empty campsites. We noted – and ignored – a couple of dim trails that headed uphill – they didn’t “feel” right. Too, we wondered – which creek do we keep to our left? We concluded it was probably near the inlet of the lake and sure enough, it was. After a stretch of old puncheon we found a “better” trail heading uphill and the creek was on our left.

Up we went and I do mean up. Though steep the trail was mostly easy to follow as it spurted uphill, weaving between stumps the size of prehistoric beasts, old growth trees and downed trees hosting small armies of seedlings. Occasional boulders rested or balanced between the trees; some seemingly held in place by roots.

An occasional cairn or ribbon came in handy along this stretch; purists might sneer at those of us who are grateful for cairns. Many purists dismantle them when they find them or tear down flags that mark an obscure route. I will never dismantle a cairn; on a foggy day they are helpful and not all hikers are wizards of the technological gadgets hikers use today (some seasoned hikers do just fine with map, compass and memory).

As for flagging, I have only flagged a route a couple of times but taken the flags down on my return. There seem to be two schools of thought regarding flags and cairns: destroy them or appreciate them – that is unlikely to change. We like cairns; we consider them old friends. All in all we found only a few cairns and only in the most strategic places.

Still keeping on the left side of the creek we climbed through the forest to the first of several boulder fields. In the mist it was hard to see ahead so here we relied somewhat on the cairns and the lay of the land. I enjoy negotiating boulder fields; it feels like “play” as I decipher a route through the maze of rocks, holes, blowdowns, emerging vegetation.

The cloudy day brought out many shades of green ranging from somber forest green to cheerful lime. The best time to explore this route is spring or in the fall (sans vegetation). Later in the year the boulder fields will become more challenging -- Devils club will soon leaf out as will soldiering alders at lower elevations.

We were just getting into gear for the fun of the boulder field when Silverback said “We have a problem”. A lens had popped out of his glasses and he didn’t have a spare set. Luckily, he found the lens but he is legally blind without both lenses in place (Florida Bob and I share Silverback’s unfortunate vision – without our glasses none of us would have “evolved”) - we’d have dropped out of the gene pool long ago eaten by tigers or by falling off a cliff.

I volunteered my spare set of glasses but mine were not strong enough. What to do? He was able to put the lens back in place but it soon popped out again. This necessitated either turning around (with the lens tucked safely away in a pocket) or coming up with a better fix. Silverback found a rock, sat down and set about making a temporary fix with items from his first aid kit. Somewhat carefully, we kept on going.

At the end of another steep stretch on boulders Silverback decided to call it quits; his vision was still partially obstructed by the “fix” to his glasses, it was getting cold and we were hungry. He’d wait for us there, bundle up and enjoy his lunch.

Florida Bob and I continued on, pleasantly surprised to find the route almost immediately left the boulders onto a state-of-the-art trail through the forest. We thought we were probably close enough to Stone Pond to keep going but we were denied the goal. After that pleasant stretch on honest-to-God trail we stalled at a snow-covered plateau with sets of old tracks going every which way. This was a good turnaround - we don’t like leaving a companion behind and it was getting colder.

Had we the time and better conditions we would have continued to Stone Pond, turned left and gone on to Eagle Lake but this was not the right time to pursue this. It didn’t take us long to get back to Silverback (he was just finishing his lunch). From there we made good time going down and as often is the case were surprised at how “short” the route is between Barclay Lake and Stone Pond - the route uphill feels “long” because it’s so steep!!

The hike back to the lake was uneventful – soon we were crossing Barclay Creek again and faster than you could say “Barclay Lake, Stone Pond and Eagle Lake” we were back at the car. Silverback’s glasses held up the entire jarring way much to everyone’s relief.

I forgot to mention that shortly after we left Barclay Lake we encountered our first “Wild Sky Wilderness” sign, our first sighting of a sign designating this wilderness area. Barclay Lake is not within the wilderness.

We will return – hopefully after the snow melts and before the worst of Devil’s club leafs out. Eagle Lake is still on the TBD list as is Mount Townsend. We’ll wait for a long, summer day and blue skies. Plus, we are still pining for that view of Mount Baring at the lake.

To get there: From Seattle head east on SR 2, turn left onto Forest Road No. 6034 (signed 635th Place NE), cross the railroad tracks, continue about 4 miles to the designated trailhead. A Northwest Forest Pass is required. The map is Green Trails No. 143 Monte Cristo.