Mt Rainier is for all seasons!

We are so lucky to have such a spectacular national park in our backyard. Every season brings unique opportunities, sights and adventures. Winter after a fresh snowfall is downright magical!!

Having a Monday off meant a lot less traffic on the road for the nearly 3 hour drive to Longmire. We had plans to meet up with one of our hiking groups but missed them due to a car that slid off the road and needed a tow. The fresh powder was calling our name so Tami and I decided we would still head out on the trail from Narada Falls to Reflection Lake. There was at least a foot of fresh powder. The trail was well outlined and the snow covered trees were beautiful. There is something about snowshoeing through a forest that is blanketed with deep snow. It’s so quiet and peaceful.

The trail is a gentle slope through the forest and out to a saddle where you have to options. We opted for the most direct route as it was well traveled. The ceiling was pretty low so we actually never saw Mt Rainier. It was supposed to be a beautiful sunny day but that didn’t materialize until early evening and we had already left. We saw some pretty cool icicles hanging off buildings and rocks. Light snow fell for pretty much the whole time we were out.

I’ve never been to Reflection Lake in the winter so I wasn’t really sure what it would look like. It’s amazing in the summer at sunrise and sunset. I kinda figured it would be at least partly frozen but it was completely covered in snow. No reflection! Well maybe a Reflection of the Sky because both were perfectly white!

We decided to each our lunch at the lake and were immediately surrounded by lots of grey jays and a stellar jay. They sat in trees around us. Landed in the snow. Flew to our trekking poles and then sat on the poles, our shoulders and heads! By far the most friendly I have seen them even to the point of being somewhat aggressive. They would dive bomb trying to steal food out of your hand while you were just trying to get your hand to your mouth! After a few minutes we decided we better move on and head back to the truck.

The trip back was a bit chilly as the wind was starting to pick up. Surprisingly we only ran into a few people on the trail but everyone was very friendly as usual!

We are having such great powder this year! It’s so pretty and just makes you want to be out even more!!

On to the next adventure!!

Snowshoeing is so much fun!!!

I’ve been unable to hike for the last two months due to surgery recovery. Recently my doctor said I could start exercising so of course planning a snowshoe outing was my first idea!! I’ve heard snowshoeing is a bit more tiring than regular hiking so I didn’t want to do anything to long or strenuous. I was a bit nervous about my backpack waist strap running on my incisions as I know that does not feel very good! I decided to wear my 36 Osprey instead of my 22 and this was a good decision!

Last week the weather forecast looked pretty decent calling for a few inches of new snow overnight and snow during the day. That sounded perfect! Well in Washington the forecast is unpredictable and of course it changes from snow to rain due to a hanging high pressure system off the coast. That meant the last few days have been rain and no new snow. ūüė©. That makes for not so good snow conditions. We decided to head out anyways as we all have been missing our mountain adventures!

Skyline Lake Trail is located at Stevens Pass. It’s under 4 miles and about 1,100 feet elevation. Perfect for my first post surgery adventure. We arrived at 8 and the parking lot was starting to fill up. We saw about 30-40 other snowshoers in the lot and quickly learned they were all there for snowshoe intro classes.

I brought 3 different layered jackets with me because I wasn’t sure about how much rain or wind there would be. It was chilly in the lot from the wind so I put on my two heavier jackets. The parking lot was crazy icy but we made it to the trail without falling! Put on our snowshoes and headed out. Five minutes in I had to take off my outer jacket because I was clearly going to be too warm. I was good entertainment for Todd with all my wardrobe changes with jackets and gloves.

I have to admit I was a bit surprised by the climb. My legs felt good but my lungs are out of shape from taking a few months off. I took a few short breaks to catch my breath but I didn’t want to stop too long. Tried to step backwards and that didn’t go so well! Fell like a tall tree when my Showshoe tail got stuck in the snow!

The trail was in great shape. I was expecting it to be sloppy from the rain or really crusty from the re-freeze. The snow was pretty soft and the trail was wide enough to walk comfortably. The weather held out for us with just a little bit of wind and light rain. The ceiling was pretty low so not much visibility at the lake.

We made a shelf for us to stop and eat lunch. Broke out my shelter! Even though Todd gave me crap about the amount of stuff I carry it sure came in handy!!ūüėĚ. A couple grey jays came to visit and stare at us. They flew in and took up temporary residence on Tami’s trekking poles. They were pretty good sized all fluffed out in a winter coat! They are so darn cute! The lake is frozen and covered with snow so it was hard to tell how big it is. Another hiker walked by us and told us we were clearly having the best time of anyone! Apparently we were laughing so loud they could hear us across the lake.

We headed back down on an alternate trail. It was a bit steeper but less traveled. Tami took a video of the area and ended up taking a video of herself falling!! We are an entertaining bunch!

We all made it safely back to the truck. We all love snowshoeing!! Can’t wait to go again!!!

The journey of a cancer survivor

Cancer has permeated the lives of many in my family. ¬†Although most were diagnosed in their later stages of life, that is not true for both my sister and I. ¬†My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer originally when she was only 31 years old. ¬†Back then, roughly 30 years ago, the treatments were not as good as they are today and the options were very small. ¬†After her initial diagnosis she had almost 10 years before her reoccurrence. ¬†That “metastatic cancer” term owned the last few years of her life, before she died at the age of 46. ¬†My last picture of my sister and I is at the Race for a Cure. ¬†I remember watching her as she took part in the survivor photo. ¬†I’ve participated in the Race for a Cure for years, but I won’t participate in the survivor photo. ¬†It’s like a weird superstition for me. ¬†I’ve walked in the 3 day 3 or 4 times. ¬†I was asked to be a flag bearer for them. ¬†Pretty cool.

I’ve always been really open about my entire journey. ¬†I talked with friends who since have had their own diagnosis or a family member or friend. ¬†I realized during all my surgeries and treatments that there is a lot that you aren’t told, that I wish I had been told. ¬†So I figured if I could help someone else out, then I’m in. ¬†Over time, I’ve also learned it’s important to see people years out of treatment to give help and perspective. ¬†Some days you just try to make it through that day. ¬†I’m proof of the future.

I have always been the active one of the family. ¬†Good health with no major issues. ¬†Well that was until January 2007. ¬†I had been to the doctor in December because I could feel something odd just under my skin. ¬†They sent me in for the usual mammogram which came up negative. ¬†I knew it wasn’t right so I pushed them for other testing. ¬†On to an ultrasound and a biopsy.

I was at work when the doctor’s office called. ¬†I’m confident we talked on the phone for about 10 minutes as I had written a list of doctor appointments down on a piece of paper. ¬†I don’t remember any of that call after he said “I’m sorry to tell you this but you have invasive ductal carcinoma.” ¬†Weird how you fixate on certain words and then your mind just shuts off. ¬† Code black! ¬†I’ve learned plenty about that at work but this certainly was a different application with the same outcome. ¬†Honestly only two things went through my mind. ¬†The first was how was I going to tell my parents. ¬†They had already buried one child. ¬†I was panicked they would have to bury another. ¬†The second thought was my kids. ¬†They were so small, only 2 & 5 years old. ¬†What would this do to them? ¬†What would they remember about this journey? ¬†Would they remember me? ¬†I’ve always been a pretty confident and driven person but those 12 words rocked me to my core. ¬†The tornado was just beginning and it lasted for 18 months.

The next five months is a total blur. ¬†My life was controlled by doctor appointments, surgeries and chemotherapy appointments. ¬†As the sole income provider for my family, not working was not an option! ¬†Although difficult at times, it did provide a sense of normalcy in having a routine I recognized. ¬†I found out I have the BRCA 1 gene, which makes me at much higher risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer. ¬†I’m sure my sister had it as well. ¬†That gene carries risks for all the women in my family. ¬†The oncologist told me all the options available and their impacts on my rate of reoccurrence. ¬†I wanted no part of this to begin with so I certainly wanted no part of a reoccurrence so I took the most aggressive surgeries and treatments. ¬†I was mad at the world. ¬†First surgery was a bilateral mastectomy. ¬†That alone cut my reoccurrence rate to under 5%. ¬†That’s a crazy surgery! ¬†No getting around it. ¬†I had drains after. ¬†Couldn’t get out of bed by myself. ¬†Couldn’t lift my arms. ¬†The big part is they don’t tell you that your chest is concave after. ¬†It’s not flat. ¬†Nothing near. ¬†About 5 months later I had surgery to take my ovaries out because that is a silent but deadly cancer. ¬†No real detection protocol until it’s too late. ¬†Chemo puts you into menopause anyways so at this point they were just unnecessary. ¬†Adding chemo to the mix dropped my rate down to less than 2%. ¬†I didn’t have radiation.

In between those surgeries was 4 months of chemotherapy. ¬†4 treatments that were 3 weeks apart. ¬†I had the A and C treatments. ¬†It’s called the “red devil”. ¬†They aren’t kidding! ¬†I show up for my first treatment. ¬†I had a port placed in my chest so the chemo wouldn’t blow out the veins in my arms. ¬†I’m just kicked back waiting for the oncology nurse to arrive, when this lady walks in wearing the most PPE equipment I’ve ever seen. You’d think I was in a nuclear lab. ¬†I’m just in regular street clothes. ¬†No PPE for me!! ¬†She has on what can best be described as a space suit. ¬†Two gowns, 2 pairs gloves, face shield, etc. ¬†Nothing visible of her. ¬†I asked why she was wearing all that and she said “because this stuff is so toxic it can’t touch our skin.” ¬†Can’t touch your skin??? ¬†Are you kidding me? ¬†You are getting ready to inject this into my vein, which runs right by my heart and drown my insides with this crap but it’s too toxic for your skin. ¬†How about for my body?? ¬†Crazy stuff! First round takes about 2 hours and we head home. I’m actually feeling okay but starving. ¬†We stop at Trader Joe’s so I can get some hummus and flatbread. Go home and wait. ¬†The next day I feel like I’m getting the flu. ¬†By day 3 I’m down for the count. ¬†I’m have zero white blood cells so I have to go to the doctor’s office for a shot. As my treatments progressed these shots went from weekly to daily. ¬†I was told I would lose my hair. ¬†Over the course of 3 days I go from losing 5 hairs in the shower, to 50, to 500. ¬†It comes out in clumps which results in huge bald spots on my head. ¬†Not cool! ¬†I decide to let my kids shave my head. ¬†They think it’s pretty funny. I keep a mohawk for one last day and go to work! ¬†During my treatments I was off work for 1 1/2 weeks (because I was sick and had zero white blood cells) then at work for the last 1 1/2 weeks before my next treatment. ¬†My down time got progressively longer after each treatment. ¬†Only a couple days for the first one. ¬†Almost 2 weeks after my last one. ¬†It is a level of sickness that is hard to describe. ¬†I took a $300 anti nausea pill the day before each treatment and another one an hour before each treatment. ¬†Nope insurance doesn’t cover those! ¬†For the next 5 months I took a regular anti nausea pill every 4 hours. ¬†Never threw up, but I have never felt so horrible in my life. ¬†It’s like the flu times 1,000. ¬†Never ending, no breather, can’t sleep, do not want to eat. ¬†Everything tastes terrible. It’s like you are chewing aluminum foil. ¬†For some reason I developed an insatiable appetite or chocolate though. ¬†I could eat 6 Hershey bars in a day or a couple dozen chocolate chips cookies! ¬†Crazy but so good! ¬†(I still eat chocolate every day, just not 6 Hershey bars worth!) It takes you to the lowest of lows. ¬†I can admit I wanted to quit. ¬†Stopping treatment just seemed so much easier. ¬†If that meant I would die that was okay. ¬†It’s a terrible thing to say and an even worse feeling but it’s real. ¬†People don’t understand. ¬†They try, but they just don’t. ¬†I belong to a club where we share different experiences but we have a ¬†common bond. ¬†We know. We’ve been there to that deep dark place.

I tried to live as normal of a ¬†life as I could. ¬†I needed it. ¬†My kids needed it. I had 2 life changing experiences during my treatment that changed me on a dime. ¬†They both brought perspective. ¬†It’s easy to lose perspective because sometimes you just get swallowed up by trying to survive that you forget to breathe.

#1 During my third treatment I was not feeling good at all. ¬†I was struggling physically, emotionally and mentally. ¬†I was at the end of what I could take. ¬†I was mad. ¬†At everything and I knew it. ¬†Normally during chemo treatments you have your own room because each person’s treatment is different and the infusion lasts for different lengths of time. ¬†On this occasion I was in a room with another patient. He was 24 and getting a low dose chemo. ¬†We were together for a couple hours so we started talking. ¬†I was whining and complaining about how much this sucked. ¬†He told me his story. ¬†He was so matter of fact. ¬†He had some back problems and was prescribed Oxy. ¬†He became addicted and his life was out of control. ¬†He met this girl and they decided to get married. ¬†He wanted to change his life so he decided to get clean but the back pain didn’t go away. ¬†After running many tests they discovered he had stage 4 colon cancer. ¬†His tumor was huge and inoperable and he could not tolerate full dose chemo so he came in daily for a low dose. ¬†He was given 6 months to live. ¬†24 years old and newly married. ¬†His whole life in front of him that he would never see. ¬†He was going to make that the happiest 6 months of his life. ¬†Perspective! ¬†I was 42 at the time, married and had 2 kids. ¬†I had been in a career I love for over 20 years. ¬†I’d seen and done so much, but I was whining and complaining because life wasn’t fair. ¬†Nope, life wasn’t fair. ¬†I was sitting next to a 24 year old kid who wouldn’t live to see 25. ¬†That life wasn’t fair.

#2 ¬†I was eating lunch at the Barking Frog restaurant in Woodinville after all my treatments were done but I was still bald. ¬†It was a beautiful sunny day. ¬†We were sitting next to a table with some obnoxious drunk people and I got up to go to the restroom. ¬†Apparently I was the talk of the table after I left! ¬†This was the summer Brittany Spears shaved her head. ¬†This group was going on and on about not understanding why it was so trending for people (me) to shave their heads just because Brittany Spears did it! ¬†Perspective!! ¬†I didn’t look like a cancer patient! ¬†It didn’t cross their mind. ¬†I had cancer but it didn’t define me.

A lot has happened over the past 11 years. ¬†Being able to say 11 years cancer free is awesome! ¬†I’ve gotten to a point now where I’ve stopped counting. ¬†Looking back I wish I’d had some more information to help me determine my path forward. ¬†Doctors are great but they are focused on the clinical aspects and not the people aspects. ¬†Some of the pointers I wish I knew back then are:

  1. ¬†Don’t eat anything you like right before or after your chemo treatment. ¬†You will ¬†NEVER eat it again!! ¬†Eleven years later I can barely look at hummus and flatbread without my mouth watering because it makes my nauseous.
  2. Your head freezes and does not like anything touching it!  Had to wear a hat at night to stay warm.
  3. These treatments and appointments screw with your mind! ¬†It brings on serious PTSD. ¬†The anxiety you feel around blood tests and scans is relentless. ¬†It’s such a level of panic that you are going to hear the C word again. ¬†Even 11 years later, with my latest surgery they did a tissue screening without my knowledge (thank god) but when I saw the word “pathology” on my paperwork, it immediately brought on that intense level of anxiety until I saw the words “no evidence of metastatic cancer”.
  4. Live your life–Tomorrow is never guaranteed. ¬†Do everything you’ve always wanted to do. ¬†Try things that are outside your comfort zone. ¬†Don’t sweat the small stuff. ¬†It’s not worth the time. ¬†Let the BS and drama go. ¬†That’s their problem and don’t make it yours! ¬†Smile and laugh!

So here I sit 11 years later. ¬†Had another surgery 2 months ago. ¬†This is a two part surgery (last part at the end of February but it’s out patient) but it will be my last! ¬†YAY!! ¬†It’s called DIEP Flap. ¬†It’s a crazy cool surgery. ¬†I’ll let you google it and spare you the details except for the photo of my abdomen incision!

I’ve found over my journey there are a few things that just center me and make me feel at home. ¬†The first is water. ¬†This is my first home. ¬†I spent most of my childhood on a boat. ¬†It has significance to me in that it reminds me of years of great memories with my family and it just soothes my soul. ¬†Water will always hold a sacred place in my life. ¬†The second is my love of the outdoors. ¬†I could hike everyday. ¬†The old saying “the mountain is calling and I must go” so applies to me. ¬†I love the peace of the outdoors, the smells and sounds. ¬†It’s hard work to climb to the top of a trail, but the effort is all mine and feeling at the end is the bonus. ¬†It’s part of why I started this blog.

This has been a tough two months for me while I’ve been recovering. ¬†I’ve been grounded by my doctor and not allowed to exercise. ¬†I’m finally allowed to head back out to the mountains! ¬†Fresh powder, clean air and good friends! ¬†I’m alive!

I’ve always been a big Kenny Chesney fan and he has a song that is my life.

I’m Alive

So damn easy to say that life’s so hard

Everybody’s got their share of battle scars

As for me, I’d like to thank my lucky stars that I’m alive, and well

 

It’d be easy to add up all the pain

And all the dreams you sat and watched go up in flames

Dwell on the wreckage as it smolders in the rain

But not me….I’m alive

 

And today you know that’s good enough for me

Breathin’ in and out’s a blessing can’t you see

Today’s the first day of the rest of my life and i’m alive

And well…I’m alive and well

 

The stars and dancing’ on the water here tonight

It’s good for the should when there’s not a should in sight

This boat has caught it’s wind and bright me back to life

now I’m alive and well

 

Life is all about perspective.  Live it!

Final score: Blanca Lake Trail-1 Kristi-0

This really is a bucket list trail. Every time I see someone post a trail review of this milky green lake I just want to go! I tried to do this hike in the summer but I never got around to it. Recently I saw a couple photos of the lake with some snow around the edges and they looked pretty spectacular. I’m a sucker for a great photo! Decision made! Hike Blanca Lake before all the snow arrives!

Friday the weather report looked really good. Clear skies with a chance of rain or snow after 4. That would work out perfectly as we would be back to the truck by then! With snow around it is important to pack for a variety of weather conditions so extra clothes and what felt like four days of food. Better to be over prepared!ūüė≥

My friend, Todd, and I headed out a 7 am. We parked and started the extra 2 mike trek at 8:45. We were the only car at the gate. The road is closed due to three large washouts on the road leading to the trailhead. It looks like a major repair project so I’m not sure when or if it will be fixed. We arrived at the trailhead around 9:15 and set out on our journey.

The trail starts in the forest where there was no snow. This was nice because I was looking forward to seeing our trail work from our WTA work party a group of Happy Hikers did in September. The drainage ditch constructed was doing its job perfectly! A new set of log stairs made for a easy step up! A short rock path covered a muddy section of the trail. Dang we did good trail work!ūüėĀ. Shortly after bragging about our awesome tail work the trail conditions changed to 2-4 inches of slushy ice. It was a bit slippery so microspikes came in handy! We hiked in these conditions mixed with short sections of 4-6 inches of powder for about a mile. This trail has a lot of switchbacks. We could start to see the blue sky over the ridge line so that pushed us to keep going through all the switchbacks. At many points it truly felt like all we were doing was walking back and forth across the hillside but going nowhere. Them we’d get another glimpse of the blue sky and would gain motivation again, only to see it disappear after a switchback. As we gained elevation the slush turned to pure powder. Starting at about six inches deep and quickly gained to twelve to eighteen inches deep. Since we were the first on the trail we were blazing the trail. You could see the trail for the most part because the trail was lined with powder about two to two and a half feet of snow! The deep snow made the work effort much greater than normal. The trail was really narrow in places so snowshoes were not helpful. After about three hours of hiking and still not having the ridgeline in sight I was beginning to wonder if we would ever see it. My legs were so tired.

We finally found the first section of the ridge line but quickly lost the trial. We had to scramble up a rock face that was covered in snow and fairly slick. Additional workout for the legs! Once we got across the ridge we entered the start of what is probably a meadow in the summer. It was filled with small trees and thigh deep powder!‚ĚĄÔłŹ‚ĚĄÔłŹ

You could see which way the wind blows because all the trees had snow blown up one side pushing the top of the tree over so they looked like mini cornices. If the trees were bright colors and covered in Christmas decorations I would have expected to see Cindy Lou Who and The Grinch because we definitely were in Doctor Suess’ Whoville!! So pretty! We should have started singing “Fah who for-aze! Dah who dor-aze! Welcome Christmas! Come this way!”

At this point we had been hiking for 5 hours and we still we not at the lake. ūüė©. We could see down in the valley the edge of Virgin Lake. It looked frozen. We could see the remnants of what we think was the trail headed down into the valley. It is a steep decline into the valley. The trail had not been walked on since the snow so it was about 2 feet deep. We could see a dark cloud looming nearby and we figured it would be at least 2 hours of hiking( .8 miles each way) to get down to Blanca Lake and back up the hill. That would have made it about 3:30 before we got back to the ridge which would have meant a few hours of hiking in the dark with snow or rain. That didn’t sound appealing so for safety we decided to turn back.

Getting down was still work but easier as the trail was pack down by us and a couple other groups we saw. I saw the snow drift clinging to a log and it looked just like a dragon! Couldn’t help but take a picture. It was a perfect shot for my #devynrocks photo. I always take this love rock on my hikes to honor a family who lost their son this summer. He loved to hike so I take him hiking with me!‚̧ԳŹ

Once we got out of the powder the slush and ice became pretty slippery. Harder on the knees and hips coming back down. It only took us 2.5 hours to get back to the road. We walked out with another group who turned around at the same place we did. At this point we were tired. Our feet hurt and we were tired of walking. This made the trek on the road seem much longer than it was. The gate was never in sight, ever! We entered the mental battle of physical exhaustion! We finally made it back to the truck. Drank some chocolate recovery milk! Delicious! And finally sat down!!!!! YAY!!!

My activity app says we took roughly 30,000 steps. In hiking calories this would be around 3,000 calories. Let’s just say today I’m starving!

We may not have made it to the lake so that means it stays on the bucket list for next summer!

Blanca Lake Trail I want a rematch. Next summer! Game on!

Alpine Wilderness is always a WOW moment!

I’ve completed a few hikes in the Alpine Wilderness and I always seem to be saying WOW, or beautiful, gorgeous, and the list goes on.  Lake Ingalls did not disappoint!  I’ve had a couple goals this year. One was to see goats and the other was to see a bear, but from a safe distance!  I definitely checked off one of these goals!

We’ve had some kinda crazy weather here in Washington recently plus some devastating forest fires. For a time Lake Ingalls was closed due to the Teanaway fire. It opened last week and Sunday’s forecast called for sun and 50 degrees which sounded perfect!

Four of us headed for the trail. We were a group blend of PNW outdoor women and PNW happy hikers. We all share a love of the outdoors!  Along the road to the trailhead we could see hillsides of burned trees, along with some sparesd houses. The little houses were the only things to survive. Amazing how they were surrounded by char but appeared to be unscathed. We even saw some smoldering sections and wildland firefighters doing some control burns. Amazing people!!

The temperature was a bit brisk when we arrived but the trail starts steadily uphill right from the get go so we were warmed up in a few minutes. The trail had a little bit of everything. A little mud, a little snow, a little slush and quite a bit of rocks. Let’s not forget lots of fantastic views!!  So much to look at along the way. We even had several spots to view Mt Rainier which also amazing!  It always surprises me all the different locations where you can see Mt Rainier. Such a beauty!

It appears the trail gains about 2,500 feet up to the pass. It is steady with lots of switchbacks. This is a very popular trail so there was a steady stream of people headed up and quite a few backpackers on their way out.  Everyone told us they saw goats so I was pretty excited to get to the top!  It’s a workout hike!  Took us about 3 hours to get to the pass. There were 4 goats just hanging out. One walking down the trail towards us. I’m pretty sure I acted like a kid in a candy store!  They are so darn cute!  You just want to hug them, except for those horns. They really didn’t seem to be bothered by the hikers. They just went out their own business.

At the top was the first time we got to see larches. They are quite the sight especially contrasted by the deep blue sky!!  So pretty!  Seeing a whole meadow of them either the snow and blue sky was definitely a WOW moment!!

I have to admit I honestly had no idea what they were beyond bright yellow color. Come to find out they are a deciduous conifer. They have soft needles that turn yellow in the fall before dropping them come back in the spring as green needles.  Learn something new everyday!

From the top you can see the trail around the meadow that heads to Lake Ingalls. It is about an hour hike so we headed to the lake. Most of the trail is flat except for the last 500 feet uphill. The last bit is a scramble up  rock to the lake. Luckily the snow had melted so we could see the whole hill. I would imagine in snow this would be very difficult to climb safely.

The lake looks like most of the Alpine Lakes. Deep blue water surrounded by jaded mountains!  They are just breathtaking.  We grabbed a quick lunch and decided to head back as the wind was starting to pick up.  Only took about 2.5 hours to get down. Tired feet and we were starving!  Mama Vallone’s restaurant in Cle Elum hit the spot!

This is a great hike. The scenery is amazing and did not disappoint!  I would imagine in the summer this is a popular spot for backpacking.

Another fun adventure!  Great meeting some new hikers.

Happy trails!

Hello Fall. This is Winter calling. I‚Äôm coming home early this year!

I‚Äôve hiked to one Lookout before and that was pretty cool so I‚Äôve been looking for a few more. Tolmie Peak Lookout in Mt Rainier National Park fit the bill!  The weather was looking a bit sketchy so I packed some warmer clothes just in case. Boy was I glad I did!

We arrived at the trail at 9 and it was snowing!!  October 1. Fall has just started and it‚Äôs snowing!! Maybe we are going to have another snowy winter!  It looked like it had snowed a couple inches overnight already. I saw a couple people loading up their car from the campground. Yep that would mean tent sleeping!  I asked how the night went and all they could say was ‚Äúchilly‚ÄĚ. I bet!  I‚Äôm a fair weather camper so no thanks!

We started at Mowich Lake which is a really dark blue. The trail goes along the edge of the lake before heading into the forest. We ran into Ryan on the trail just before the forest. This is a really nice trail. It weaves through the forest on some rolling hills but no real steep parts. You come out on a crest line and can see down to the Wonderland Trail.  That was a pretty nice view into the valley!  I have to admit I was hoping to see a bear down there but didn‚Äôt!  I really want to see goats and bears. At a safe distance that is!  We did see a couple deer up close but that was all. 

At one point you emerge from the forest at Eunice Lake. It looked kinda black today with all the cloud cover. It made some of the pictures look black and white.  We walked down to the lakeside and it was a bit slushy so of course I fell!  Luckily the snow was a nice landing. 

From the lake you could barely see the Lookout up on the Ridge. The clouds were low and fairly thick. We weren‚Äôt anticipating seeing much from the Lookout but we headed up the hill anyways. I was surprised at how quickly we made it up the hill. I was a steady climb but pretty easy. Just as we came out of the tree line a huge blue patch of sky appeared. We were able to see all the way across the valley. The snow covered tress looked like a winter wonderland with the sun shining down. It was pretty cool. We walked up to the Lookout and could see this Ridge not far away. It was encased in clouds and looked like a harsh winter environment, like Everest!!  

The birds were flying around. Someone had made a snowman by the Lookout. I took my love rock with me(that I carry on all my hikes). It honors a family who lost their son this past summer. He liked to hike so I take the rock with me on all my adventures so he can keep hiking and I photograph it for the family!  This hike I added my heart rock to the snowman at the Lookout for a photo. I packed it back out for the next adventure!

We waited for about 45 minutes at the Lookout but were only able to see a Peak a boo view of Mt Rainier. I didn‚Äôt realize how close it was.  I love hiking in the snow. It is so peaceful. So quiet. Everything is so clean and fresh. The snow resting on tree limbs. Just allows you to clear your mind and just be present in the moment. Just you and nature. ‚̧ԳŹ

You can rent the Lookout and stay overnight. Totally adding that to the bucket list!!  That would be some incredible photos for sunset and sunrise!! Someone put a funny sign up at the ‚Äúhot tub rules‚ÄĚ. It caught everyone‚Äôs attention and you heard everyone, including us, say ‚Äúthere‚Äôs a hot tub up here‚ÄĚ?  So funny!!
This one goes on the list for next summer!  A nice summer day with clear blue skies!  Mt Rainier in all her glory. 

Another excuse to stop at Pick and Shovel tavern in Wilkeson!  So good!  Best handmade onion rings ever!  The black and blue burger was pretty awesome too!  Well and the beer!

Happy trails!

Beckler Peak in Skykomish 

There are a few gems out Highway 2 around Skykomish. I‚Äôm pretty sure I saw a WTA trip report that showed some pretty spectacular 350 views from the top. I kind of have a rule about choosing hikes. I love the outdoors so really anytime outside is my idea of a good time but when it comes to hiking I want a reward. That can be an amazing waterfall, spectacular views, colorful flowers or leaves or wildlife!  Over the summer I became addicted to Alpine Lakes. The water color is just something you won‚Äôt forget. 

However now Fall has arrived and I do love maple leaves that are turning yellow, orange and red!  The colors can overtake a hillside and make it look like a painting. 

Todd and I headed out to the trail. I missed the trail sign along the highway so we had a make a short turn around. Oops!  

We were the second car in the lot and in typical Seattle fashion it was raining!  In Washington you have to be okay with hiking in the rain because they is about 8 months of our year. It‚Äôs not hard rain so really it‚Äôs not a big deal. 

This trail meanders through the forest for pretty much the entire trail. There are a couple spots where you get a clearing and can see across the valley. Well you could see across the valley if the ceiling wasn‚Äôt so low!  We were only able to get spectacular views of clouds!  We did get to see some nice Fall colors though!  A few scattered maples were very colorful and stood out next to the lush green of the firs. We saw the remnants of an old forest fire. Charred remains with ground cover that had already regenerated. The power of nature!

The top has some nice stairs that I bet a WTA work crew made!  You can stand on top of a huge granite rock and bet that view is amazing!  Again we just saw clouds but we also had a snow shower!

This is definitely a hike hat is worth coming back when the skies are blue!  I want to see the view!!

Edmonds Waterfront for some photography adventures

My daughter’s soccer team had kind of a rough outing Saturday morning so I decided to get some fresh air and walk along the Edmonds Waterfront. ¬†Although it was a beautiful day, we had some pretty thick smoke from the Cle Elum wildfires coating the air. ¬†You can not only smell the burning wood, but it is irritating on your eyes and throat. ¬†What should have been a pretty spectacular sunset was altered, noticeably, by all the smoke. ¬†The sky was orange and kind of red, which transferred to the water, making it look like a polaroid photo. ¬†It was interesting. ¬†Really the highlight was this new photography toy I bought! ¬†It’s pretty exciting!! ¬†This one is a 3″ crystal ball. ¬†Although it does not tell the future, it does alter the landscaping for some pretty cool photos. ¬†I haven’t played around with it much, so I packed it in my backpack and headed for the waterfront.

Edmonds has kind of a unique waterfront. ¬†Lots of restaurants, parks and the ferry dock. There were a few people out scuba diving in the area in dry suits. ¬†Didn’t see them bring anything out, but not sure if it was just a class. ¬†Lots of kids playing in the water, which I’m sure is a bit chilly right now! ¬†I walked down the boardwalk and ran into about 10 people all huddled together tapping and swiping their phones. ¬†Yep, playing Pokemon Go! ¬†A little further down the walk was another group, mostly older individuals and that all had big binoculars and scopes. ¬†Hoping they were watching a pod of orcas off the shore I started looking at the water, but didn’t see anything. ¬†So I asked what they were looking at and it was just birds. ¬†Apparently this weekend was a bird festival in Edmonds. ¬†Not my idea of fun so I headed out on the fishing pier, which was packed. ¬†Lots of people fishing and several people with crab pots, which I’m pretty sure is closed. ¬†Saw a guy catch what looked like some type of cod and a heron finding lunch in the swallow water off the rocks.
I planned on walking through the marina for some sunset photos but all the dock gates are locked so I just kept walking. ¬†I didn’t realize there was a big beach and park at the end! ¬†Learned something new. ¬†I decided to try out the glass sphere on the beach. ¬†The box comes with a big warning sheet telling you not to hold it up directly to the sun and that is acts like a huge magnifying glass so be careful about where you use it so you don’t start a fire! ¬†Great!

It was fun placing it in the sand and water just to see what different effects would show up. ¬†Still not exactly sure how to hold it and take a photo. ¬†I think it might try the 6″ sphere too as it will show a lot more scenery within the glass. ¬†After a little bit of playing around with it, I like it! ¬†You can come up with some pretty cool and interesting shots with it. ¬†It’s a little heavy to carry in my backpack though for hiking as it is solid glass. ¬†Maybe……We shall see!

My new favorite hike–Chain Lakes Loop

On paper this looked like a pretty nice hike. It is unique in that it is a loop hike and not the usual out and back hike.  On a loop hike the scenery is always new, no repeat!  In person this hike is so much more!  Such variety is landscape, early peak-a-boo looks at Mt Baker, lots of talus, wildflowers, butterflies, lakes and finally a full view of Mt Baker. WOW!!

We started the hike at Austin Pass/Heather Meadows and went counter-clockwise. The trail headed down into a valley where the trail passes a small creek and a lake. The lake is deep blue, with the edges tinted in aqua green and copper colors. Massive spires surround the valley. The valley floor is a fairly short hike because you start zigzagging up the hill. There is zero shade on this climb and we chose an over 80 degree day so it was pretty hot and dusty!  Periodic water stops would give us the opportunity to get some views of either Mt Baker or Mt Shuskan which would give you a little burst of energy. The trail is surrounded by wild blueberries and huckleberries. Whitney loves wild huckleberries!  We could always tell when she found some good ones and it was quickly followed by “yum,yum, yum”. 

We stopped for a few minutes at the top of the hill as we needed the break and we got our first full view of Mt Baker and a couple huge lakes!  They looked like a good spot to stop for lunch!  There was a bit of snow at the top which was nice to cool off the hands with. We ran into quick a few backpackers who were headed out for a few days. I have a admit this looks like a pretty amazing place to camp!

I stopped part way down where I found a great clearing of Mt Baker. I packed one of my #DevynRocks rocks and took a couple pictures. This is in honor of a family who lost their son recently. He loved adventures so I take a rock with me on my hikes. I follow the hiking rule of leave no trace so I pack the rock, in and out, on all my hiking adventures. I hope he enjoyed the view!

We headed down the other side of the climb and this took us right down to the lake. The trail goes between two large lakes with a few campsites up on the hill. We found a nice spot to stop for lunch that was right on the lake and in a meadow of wildflowers. It felt so good to sit down for a few, refuel and put our feet in the chilly lake!  A small group came down with a black lab and he went straight into the lake!  Swimming around and chasing the bubbles he created by slapping on the water. It was so funny!!

After about an hour we headed back on the trail through the meadow before climbing up the hill to Artists Point. It was a steady climb but manageable. At the top the trail intersects with the Ptarmigan trail that continues along the ridge line.  We traversed along the hillside and arrived at Artist Point. Holy cow was the lot full!!  We started our hike at 9:30 which is normal hiking terms is late however on the trail it seemed to be quite early!!

The trail from Artist Point down to Austin Pass/Heather Meadows was steep and I mean steep!!  It was stairs and trail full of loose rocks. I’m glad it was at the end of the hike as it was hard on the knees.  

Overall this is one of my favorite hikes!!  It’s steady but totally manageable. The scenery is spectacular!  I bet in the late spring this is a beautiful hike in the snow! Another great hike!  Thanks for the company Tami and Whitney!

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