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!!

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