A quick snowshoe at Mt. Rainier

We closed out November with a quick snowshoe at Mt Rainier. After all these months of quarantine outdoor activities are the only constant we’ve been able to do. You have to get out of the house so you don’t lose you mind. The outdoors, in general, are a sanctuary for many, me included. The fresh air and peace just help to cleanse away all the stresses of the world

Mt. Rainier any day is gorgeous. We are so lucky to have that mountain in our backyard. There are multiple entrances to the National Park so depending on which hike you want to do, you are on a different side of Mt. Rainier. This time of year all the entrances are closed except Longmire which takes you up to Paradise. It’s called Paradise for a reason! From Paradise you can take the normal trails up Skyline or you can head out on a dedicated cross country skiing and snowshoeing road. It’s pretty flat so its a good spot for new snowshoers. I took my friend there for her first snowshoe. Unfortunately we did not have fresh snow so the trail was pretty crunchy. Honestly we could have walked the trail in spikes. To change is up, I took her off trail and into the forest. The snow was much deeper in the forest and was a little hilly. The short hills were a little challenging for her but she kept going.

We found a nice spot up on a hill for some lunch. You could see across the valley and Mt. Rainier was behind us. It was such a pretty day and for a weekend it wasn’t very crowded. Not sure how that happened!

I definitely want to go back and snowshoe up Skyline. On a clear day you have views of Mt. St Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood. It’s high enough that you can be above the clouds which is pretty cool.

One of my favorite parts of snowshoeing is I carry my JetBoil with me so when we have lunch we can have a hot beverage as well! Takes the edge off on a chilly day!

Any day on the trail is a great day!

Artist Point is like no other for snowshoe!

I always venture up to Mt Baker for a day of snowshoeing. I try to make it up in the Spring as well because we are usually blessed with bluebird sky days which make artist point even more breathtaking.

I checked the weather for December 4 and it was looking pretty good, so I decided to head up to Mt. Baker. We had not had any new snow for several days so the top layer of snow was pretty solid, but under that was a good eight inches of pure powder. Because it was early in the season I decided to take my snowboard with me so I can ride down. I have not done that before so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. For such a nice day I was surprised there weren’t more people up there. Quite a few people were on skis. I strapped by snowboard onto my backpack and wore my snowshoes up the trail. Surprisingly it was pretty easy to carry my snowboard. I bought it would be heavier than it was so that was a pleasant surprise.

We had bright blue skies and a full moon was over the Ridgeline! That was pretty cool. What I really like about Artist Point is there are so many trails to explore. You can really venture off in almost every direction. From the upper section you can see almost the entire snowshoeing area. The 360 views are really some of the best in the state.

I found a nice spot up top that was off to the side. It normally is a pretty quiet area, even when other people are around, but not this day. There was a group of 3-4 women across the ridge from me and one of them was so loud! Super loud talker with an obnoxious laugh. It was really detracting from the normal peace you get in the outdoors.

I have this one hill that I figured would be pretty nice to snowboard down. It crosses this meadow and heads downhill back to the main trail. This would be a nice ride and cut down on the amount of hiking time. I packed my snowshoes in my backpack and strapped into my board. I have to say in my mind it made total sense. In real life, it was a bit more challenging than I anticipated. For one the crust on top was not thick enough to ride on top so everytime I turned my board sank all the way down in the snow. The slope wasn’t steep enough to maintain enough speed to keep going in deep powder. On top of that the weight of my backpack was causing some serious issues with my center of gravity. About halfway down I just gave up. The trail was too skinny to snowboard on and there were too many people on the mountain now. So with the best of intentions, I actually just ended up carrying my snowboard more than anything. Don’t think I will do that again.

It was still a great day!

Lake Ingalls is an annual hike to see the larches!

We had some crazy weather for part of October here in the PNW so it messed up the usual “Larch March”. The trees were a little slow in turning colors, then all of a sudden they were done. We missed the prime larch sightings for our hike and really caught most after they were done for the year.

We decided Halloween was a good day to head over to Roslyn and hike the Lake Ingalls trail. A group of five of us went. My usual hiking buddy Todd joined us as he had never done this hike before but it has been on his list. The rest of our crew are fairly new to hiking so I knew this hike would push them quite a bit.

We had snow only about half the time and the amount of snow was pretty low and crappy quality. Feeling more like ice than snow. We used microspikes for the snow covered sections as it was pretty slippery. The weather was pretty good so we had some nice views along the way. Lake Ingalls isn’t a steep trail, but it does have a steady incline all the way to the saddle, then is pretty up and down to the lake.

Normally once you reach the pass you can look across the saddle and the meadow is full of larches in stunning bright yellow. Unfortunately this time many of the trees had already dropped their needles and the rest were a pretty dark yellow, which indicates the needles are falling soon. The trail isn’t as nice as when it is covered with deep fresh snow. Until you get to the lake. No matter what the lake is always stunning. It is surrounded by grey mountains and the water is a deep, dark blue.

We sat around the lake for a bit and had lunch. I was introduced to peanut butter whiskey. I have to admit it sounds terrible, but it tastes so good!! The brand is ScrewBall and I highly recommend it! It made the trek back a bit more bearable as my crew was tired, sore and a bit cranky!

Lake Valhalla for some snow!

I’ve managed to get behind on my blog again so here I am writing a few posts to get caught up! AGAIN!

We happened to get some nice early snow this year so I took a friend out for her first snow hike. It was nice fluffy snow but not too much that we needed snowshoes. Lake Valhalla is one of my favorite snow hikes. It’s not too long of a trail and their are really nice views along the way. After the first good snowfall, there is an easy boot path to follow up to the PCT and ultimately down to the lake. We had a nice sunny Fall day with fresh snow so it was the perfect day for this hike. This was my friend’s first snow hike so I didn’t want to pick one that would discourage her from future snow hikes.

Even though this hike starts really close to Highway 2, its surprising how quiet it is. You can’t hear the traffic on the highway. It’s just silence. That’s one of my favorite parts of snow hiking. Even though I hike year around, winter hiking is special. In she summer you hear the sounds of birds and a lot more people on the trails. In the winter there is much more solitude and stillness. The air is crisp. You only occasionally see other people. There are less birds but they try to steal your food more!

Sometimes it is a bit windy at the lake which chills the temperature pretty quick! We saw two guys that were camping at the lake. They looked so cold! Not really sure what they were thinking. It was less than 32 degrees and is dark from 4:30 pm until 8 AM. I would imagine is would be around 20 at night. Fires are not allowed at the lake so not sure how they kept warm. The one male was coming down to the lake to get some water to filter. He said his boots were still frozen. Judging by the time of day they had camped their the previous night and were planning to stay another night. Not my idea of a good time!

We only saw three other people on the way out to the lake, but on the way back we passed about twenty! Good thing we went early!

This is one hike I really want to do in the summer. I bet it is a great camping spot in the summer!

Tolmie Peak Lookout was AMAZING!

The weather in Washington has been a quite unpredictable lately. Normally fall is cooler temps but little rain. Instead we have been having cooler temps and lots of rain or snow which has made it feel more like winter when hiking. Saturday looked like we had a little window of good weather around Mt. Rainier so we decided to head down to Tolmie Peak Lookout. It is a shorter hike at just 7.5 miles roundtrip and only 1,100 mile elevation gain. It is generally a really nice trail that goes through multiple different scenery options. The downside of this trail is the road to get there. It is about 12 miles of unmaintained dirt road, which translates to large potholes everywhere! Like you will need a new suspension when you finish driving on this section of the road. It is the most uncomfortable ride! I even drive a Jeep Wrangler and you are bouncing all over. It makes me cringe watching small cars try and drive on this road.

We arrived to a 3/4 full parking lot with some people choosing to part on the roadway to skip part of the trail. We started at the trail beginning as this section of the trail walks right next to Mowich Lake which is very pretty! We were greeted with clear, blue skies which made the entire hike beautiful! After the lake the trail winds through the forest where you have several elevation gains and losses. Once you exit the forest, you enter a short meadow which follows a smaller lake. The meadow was filled with fall colors. From this point you can see the lookout up on a rock ridge. Although it looks so far away, from this point is is actually only .9 miles to the top and it goes by quickly!

The trail up to the Ridgeline offers spectacular views of Mt. Rainier. Living in Washington you never get tired of looking at her. She is spectacular! There are multiple entrances to Mt. Rainier National Park so depending on which trail you take you get a different side and view of Mt. Rainier.

The lookout was busy, but we were able to find a spot to sit and eat lunch. There are a number of grey jays flying around and they were quite noisy! Acting like their usual selves they were taking any opportunity they could to steal your lunch!

The one negative I would say about the hike was the sheer number of people on this trail. It was just a train of people. Many who are clearly not regular hikers. They were cutting through switchbacks and walking in large groups (I mean 20 or so people) and completely congesting the trail so no one could walk by. Not willing to move over it created some problems along the trail. We need to be better about educating people on trail etiquette.

The road is scheduled to close for the winter Sunday (today) so we picked the perfect day to close out the Tolmie Peak Lookout season!

Larch month is upon us but ending soon!

October in Washington state is a busy hiking time! Partly because we generally have fantastic weather and secondly because of our fall leaf colors and larches! Larches? Never heard of those? Well, they are a deciduous conifer tree. This means they have pine needles, but unlike most conifers, larch needles turn bright yellow in the fall and then fall off over the winter only to grow back in the spring. In Washington October is called “Larch March” because so many people flock to the handful of hikes where you can find larches. I normally head over to Lake Ingalls because they are pretty spectacular there but the weather hasn’t been very good lately for the hike. We decided to head up to Maple Loop Pass this time.

Maple Loss Pass is on Highway 20 at Rainy Pass. Highway 20 is only open for half the year because of the amount of snow it receives. We are close to it closing this year. Normally in mid-October we might have a dusting of snow but nothing major. The fall leaf colors are pretty amazing in October and Maple Loop is known for larches. I was pretty excited to see them again this year.

After a crazy long drive to get there, we arrived to snow in the parking lot. Not a good sign! Clearly the recent heavy rains have resulted in heavy snow up in the mountains. Even on a weekday the parking lot was almost full at 9 AM. We headed out on the trail and within the first half mile or so, we were walking down a dedicated footpath with a couple feet of snow on the sides. So much for seeing all the larches and fall colors! We have clearly moved straight to winter!

I do love winter hiking! It is so pretty. Fluffy white untouched snow as far as you can see. Rock formations look like clouds as they are covered in snow. Trees are a fraction of their normal size as they are buried in the snow. The treetops are folded over to make them look like Dr Suess trees. We had a recent wind storm so we had to climb over quite a few alder blowdowns. They cover up quite a bit of space when they fall.

Once we got up to the lake we were able to see some larches on the other side of the valley but we could also see some storm clouds rolling in. The wind was starting to pick up and I was starting to question if we would be able to make the entire 7.5 mile loop. Well that question was answered before we made it up to Maple Pass. We hit the first ridge where you could see across the valley and ran into some hikers coming down from Maple Pass who informed us there was not visible trail from Maple Pass so they had to turn around. They had been breaking trail for a bit through knee to waist deep snow. sDue to the wind picking up and the pending rain/storm we decided this would be a good place to turn around.

It was so crazy to see that much snow this early in the season! It makes you feel like fall just got skipped over and winter is here to stay! I guess it’s time to break out all the winter hiking gear as snowshoe season is clearly upon us soon!

Park Butte Lookout

Up Highway 20 just before the small city of Concrete is a turnoff for Baker Lake. This area is really popular in the summer for camping and fishing. If you head a little past Baker Lake you find several forest service roads which take you out in the foothills where several really nice trails exist.

Park Butte is my third lookout I’ve hiked to in Washington. They all are a little different. Some allow overnight stays while others do not. Some are open year around while others close during late fall and winter. Park Butte is on the south side of Mt. Baker and offers spectacular views of the mountain through fields covered in fall colors.

The trail starts out meandering through a meadow with little elevation gain. There is a fairly wide river or mountain runoff stream to cross. When we were there, a temporary metal bridge was placed over the river to allow crossing. I just read that it has been removed for the winter. With the recent rains I would not want to try crossing that river without a bridge. That is some fast moving water! Once you cross over the bridge the trail starts a steady climb up to another meadow. The climb is through the forest and occasionally offers peekaboo views over the valley. We had some low clouds so some of the view was obstructed, however I always like the view when you are actually above the cloud cover. It looks like you are on top of cotton balls or marshmallow cream!

When you climb out of the forest, you enter a large meadow that is currently covered with fall colors. The ground cover leaves were a deep red color, which was a nice fore ground against the white glaciers of Mt. Baker. Across the meadow we had an unobstructed view of Mt. Baker. It always seems so strange to be standing so close to glaciers. You can see the creases and blue coloring of the ice.

From the meadow you start climbing again to get up to the lookout. I’ll be honest you can see the lookout from the meadow and it looks so far away. Like crazy far away! The trail winds it way up and around the rocks. You walk parallel to the lookout for quite awhile. It can get a little discouraging as it doesn’t feel like you are making any progress to the lookout. Outside of the view of Mt. Baker there really isn’t much to see on this hike. The landscape is pretty dry and rocky unfortunately.

One exciting part on the trek up to the lookout was the sighting of a black foraging in a meadow. When I first saw the bear I wasn’t quite sure what it was, until it moved! It was a ways away so it was pretty exciting to see! It made the long trek up the hill go by quickly as we were easily distracted by seeing what the bear was doing. This was my first time seeing a bear int he wild on a hike! Pretty cool!!

The lookout was pretty busy so we didn’t stay very long. We moved off to the side to sit and have lunch looking out over a valley as the fog moved in. While we were eating lunch a group of horseback riders came up to the lookout. Never seen that on a trail before! They were pretty funny and immediately broke out their Coors Light to enjoy at the lookout!

It was starting to get kinda chilly so we headed back down. Another lookout hike to check off the list!

Bridal Veil Falls looked closer to Niagara Falls!

We finished our goal hike of Mailbox Peak on Sept 10 so on the 19th we decided to head to a waterfall hike. Donna always like a waterfall and Bridal Veil is a pretty waterfall.

The weather was pretty rough a few days before our hike, so I wasn’t quite sure what that would do to the trail as it is in a forest and can have some fairly significant trail pooling. It was a bit chilly when we started out but not too bad and no rain!

The trail was actually in pretty good condition. We had some water going up the stairs, where it was pooling and filling the steps. The trails were covered with nice fall cover. The large maple leaves were covered with orange, red and yellow leaves. As we got closer to the falls, you could hear the water flow. Not the sound of a normal waterfall. It was the sound of a raging waterfall! All of a sudden it felt like we were in the middle of a rainstorm. We were getting soaked but it wasn’t raining! The waterfall was flowing so heavily it was creating significant wind which was blowing the water outside of the waterfall. We needed wetsuits! I’ve never seen that much water flowing down Bridal Veil! It was equally impressive and crazy! My friend, who loves waterfalls, was quite impressed! Not sure I will be able to top that for any future waterfall hikes!

Once we were sufficiently soaked at the falls, we walked partway back down the trail and took the trail that heads up to Lake Serene. I knew we wouldn’t be going to Lake Serene as there are thousands of stairs and switchbacks. Okay, maybe not thousands but its close!! A short ways down this trail there is a bridge which allows you to see the entire falls at Bridal Veil. It’s actually in two sections that you can’t see from the top. The rain had been so heavy a few days before, that we were actually treated to two additional smaller waterfalls just down the trail. I think I have filled her waterfall hiking bucket!

By the time we headed back to the car, it had just started raining. Perfect timing!

Mailbox Peak, yep I still don’t like you!

They say 3rd time is a charm, but I don’t think that applies to hiking Mailbox Peak. Although I really do not like this hike at all, this time, it was for a great purpose. September 10 was my friends birthday, but it is also National Mental Health Day. Mental health is something we don’t talk about often. It comes with an air of secrecy and weakness. We don’t talk that way about physical health so we should not talk that way about mental health.

The “why” behind the hike is my friend. She lost her oldest son a couple years ago to suicide. Devyn was (and still is) deeply loved by his family and friends. Devyn had reached out to the crisis line multiple times on that day, but did not get the attention or help that he needed. The feeling of hopelessness that can not be explained or relieved in that moment. That moment when a person feels suicide is the only relief. In reality it isn’t a relief. It is a lifetime sentence of grief and loss for everyone left behind. Choose to stay! Moments are temporary. This level of grief and loss is permanent!

Mailbox Peak is a hike Devyn did with friends. A photo of Devyn and his friends at the mailbox, smiling, full of life and a bright future. A photo she cherishes. Once she said she wanted to do this hike, I was all in with helping her reach the top. We’ve trained all summer for the hike. The weather was cooperating, although it was crazy hot! We decided it would be best for them to take the new trail up and down. Although it is a longer trail, it is not as steep. Both trails meet partway up the trail, so the climb to the summit is the same for both trails.

The day started on the wrong foot. On my way there I realized I forgot my boots! Huge problem! Had to turn around so I was an hour late to the hike. I told everyone else to start and I would catch up. My goal was to catch up at the point where the old trails and new trail meet.

We arrived at the trail and kept up a pretty good pace to meet up with the group. We were quick enough to actually catch them before the two trails meet. One of our group members was having some issues with nausea and anxiety so that slowed our pace getting to the top. Sometimes you just need to stop, breath deeply and focus on accomplishments to calm yourself. Too much thought can get you spinning in a negative direction.

The pace to the top was pretty slow, but that was okay. I started having back spasms along the way so frequent breaks helped by allowing me to take off my pack and stretch out my back.

Although I truly hate this hike, it was amazing seeing my friend step over the top and stand at the mailbox. A huge accomplishment! She spent some quiet time at the mailbox. Left a custom t-shirt. A Starbucks card and a Stay; sticker.

Longest walk every back to the car! 3rd time is the last time for Mailbox!!

Take care of your mental health. Reach out!

Always…..Choose to STAY; You are far more important and valuable than that moment! You are LOVED!

Annette Lake, supposedly the warmest alpine lake in Washington State

September 6 we planned our last training hike before Mailbox Peak. We decided on a fairly easy hike to stretch out our legs and talk about our upcoming hike. Annette Lake is near North Bend Washington off the Denny Creek exit. The Annette Lake trail is roughly 7.5 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 1,800 feet. The lake sits at approximately 3,600 feet, which is pretty low for an alpine lake, which is why everyone says the lake is warm enough for swimming. Although I have seen a number of people swim in the upper elevation lakes and they are COLD!!

We were treated to another moody sky hike, with lowland fog, which is pretty common in the fall in our mountains. Sometimes it blows over and sometimes it does not. The nice part of morning fog is how it affects the sun rays when they shine through the trees. September is generally a really nice time to hike in Washington as the weather is still good. Not too hot (for us that means below 80) and not too cold (which means no hardcore rain).

This trail leads you through a forest on a pretty wide dirt trail. Most of the trail is in the forest, with just a couple breakouts into meadows. Not sure really why they call them meadows as its not like you are walking through bunch of flowers or anything. Not really even a large open space. But anyways….. The trail was pretty busy but most people were wearing masks.

We arrived at the lake along with what appeared to be another hundred or so hikers! We had to walk a bit around the lake to find a spot for all of us to relax. We were able to find a downed tree for us all to sit on and eat some lunch. We talked for several minutes about who was going to go in the lake for a swim. I waded in to my ankles and quickly decided that water was not the warmest alpine lake. It was roughly as cold as many of the others I have visited! No swimming for me! Donna and I sat on the log as Michelle and Cathi decided they would go for a swim. Judging by the sounds of their breath after they dove in, they did not think it was very warm either! Luckily we had some extra dry clothes for them to put on for the hike back.

I can see why this hike is so popular. It reminded me a lot of Lake Serene, but without the thousands of stairs and switchbacks! It’s an easy hike that you can do after work to get in some quick mileage and stretch out your legs.

After this we were on the 4 day countdown to Mailbox Peak!

Burroughs 1, 2 and a herd of goats!!

We’d planned on doing this hike a couple weeks earlier but I somehow managed to miss the entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park. Still don’t understand how that happened! Just meant we needed to come back.

It turned out to be a pretty windy day with gusts about 25 mph. That’s not all that fun when you are on a dry mountain with blowing dirt. Luckily there is quite a bit of blockage areas along this hike. Burroughs is back on the Sunrise side of Mt. Rainier, which is definitely more desert like. Although the trail starts in the missile of a meadow, you quickly leave that and head out to the dirt and rock! This hike takes you along the side to Frozen lake as well, but instead of turning right to the lookout you go left up the Ridgeline. As we were walking along we would see a large herd of goats hanging out along with Wonderland Trail. We kept an eye on the herd and thought we could divert down there after our hike to get a look at the goats. My GF hasn’t seen goats up close so we were hoping they would still hang around.

Burroughs heading up to 1 and 2 is not the prettiest hike. You have long views out across the valley but the terrain is really dry and pretty boring. I would imagine it’s what the surface of Mars looks like! The highlight of the hike up was my GF attempting a headstand on top of Burroughs 1. It was a bit breezy up there. She tried several time and we ended up with a pretty funny video!

The trek from Burroughs 1 to Burroughs 2 was equally uninspiring. You can tell you are gaining some elevation as the air is a bit thin up there. We pondered on top of Burroughs 2 if we should head to the elusive Burroughs 3. Still not sure where it is or if it really exists. The park map doesn’t even show it! We decided to head back down and keep an eye out for the goats. Fortunately on the way back down we could see the goats the entire time and it was clear they were not moving anywhere. We made it down to frozen lake and made the turn onto the Wonderland Trail. We found a herd of goats bedded down in the trees. I would guess there were about 40 goats including several babies. We watched them for while then decided to head back down as it was getting pretty warm on the trail.

Another hike to check off the bucket list!

Chain Lakes Loop is one of my favorite hikes!

I’ve hiked Chain Lakes Loop in the summer and in the winter. The hike looks completely different in different seasons. You wouldn’t recognize it in the winter.

My birthday is in late August so my GF and I headed up to Bellingham for a little getaway! She had never hiked at Mt. Baker so we left early to spend the day at Mt. Baker. We originally planned on Heliotrope but there were some recent trip reports talking about the river crossings being pretty challenging due to ice melt. We decided we better not push it and went for Chain Lakes Loop instead.

I was surprised there weren’t many cars in the lot when we arrived. After a 5 minute discussion of which trail actually took us to chain lakes loop, we headed out. The trail is nice as it runs along Bagley Lakes. There are a couple nice stone bridges at the beginning. The water level is really low this late in the summer so it seemed closer to a creek or pond. The trail meanders along the water for the first mile or so before it turns into the hillside and you begin a long and steady climb up to the saddle. In the summer this section is lined with wild blueberries. They are a nice pick me up along the way as this section is pretty dry with no sun cover.

We did have some distant clouds so Mt. Shuksan was covered pretty much the entire time we were hiking. We did get some nice peek a boo views of Mt. Baker along the way. At the saddle you get to see Mt. Baker and overlook two large lakes down in the valley. Both of them are great spots for overnight camping. We did see quite a few tents around the lakes. We stopped for lunch at one of the lakes and soaked in the view for some time.

The second half of the trail heads out of the meadows and into a much drier section of the mountain. The backside has meadows in the distance, but the trail is dry, surrounded by rock fields as you head up to Ptarmigan Trail. The views on this side though are pretty phenomenal. Mt. Baker had some cloud cover rolling through so we had some good on and off views as we traversed the side of the hill. At the top you have the choice to head out the Ptarmigan Trail for an up close view of Mt. Shuksan or head towards Artist Point. We already knew the could were covering Mt. Shuksan so we headed towards Artist Point. At this point the trail was getting pretty crowded. A lot of people start from Artist Point so it can be a bit of a train line. The view heading to Artist Point is pretty nice. You get nice sweeping views with the small views of Lake Diablo. It stands out because of the color. You immediately know what lake you are looking at, at soon as you see it!

Pretty sure I’ve sold my GF on more hikes at Mt. Baker! We will definitely be back for some snowshoe hikes in the winter/spring!

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