To the mountains we go…We find hard work, adventure, laughter and memories

I’ve taken my youngest daughter, who is 13, on a few hikes with me.  I love the outdoors and so does she.  She plays soccer so I know she is in good shape and can handle, with much more ease than I, any of the hikes I have been on.  I’ve not taken her on any real strenuous ones because I don’t want to fade her love of the outdoors, but she has been asking me to take her on a hike to an alpine lake.  She shows me a photo of me in a hammock at Colchuck Lake and says “like this one”.  Off to gathering research I go!

I find a hike to Snow Lake, which is located at Snoqualmie Pass in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.  It’s an 8 mile roundtrip hike with a little less than 2,000 foot elevation climb.  I show her some pictures and she says lets go!  Of course that means bringing her BFF as well.  They both want to swim in the lake!  I let them know the like is just snow runoff so it is pretty chilly.  At 13 they don’t seem to worry about that.  For me, it probably would cause me to stop breathing so I’ll just watch from the shore.

We arrive at the trailhead at 10:30 and the parking lot is full.  This is a very popular hike and boy they weren’t kidding!  Lots of families and dogs on the trail, which is fairly narrow in sections as you climb through rock talus.  A little hard on the ankles as the rocks moves as you step on them.  It was about 80 degrees when we started so I’m glad I packed extra water as there is little shade on this trail.  I love that people love the outdoors and want to experience all the beauty the State of Washington has to offer, but these crowded trails really drive in the importance of trail etiquette.  Not because it just makes people grumpy when hikers don’t know or follow trail etiquette, but more importantly it is a safety issue on narrow trails on steep inclines!

The trails winds across the mountain with several switchbacks through the forest and across rock talus.  At several of the clearings you can really see how far up you have climbed.  That made the kids feel good about how high they were climbing.  I could tell they were getting a little discouraged towards the top as they were really hot and the climb was longer than they were expecting.  Two nice men stopped at a corner and provided them some encouragement that they only had one switchback left and would be at the top in just a couple minutes.  This gave them the spark they needed to charge up to the top, dragging me behind.  We ran into Tami and her family at the top.

At the top you get your first view of snow lake.  It is a large lake that is deep blue.  Much darker than Colchuck.  It is nestled in between the mountain ridge lines.  From the top, you have to climb down 400 feet to the lake.  Once the kids saw the lake they made a mad dash for the trail down to the lake.  We found an old rock structure near the lake.  It must be the remnants of an old house or something.  The lake is quite rocky, so it is a bit hard on the feet.  The kids quickly changed and headed to the water.  I’m guessing it took about 10 minutes for them to actually swim.  The 10 minutes was getting use to how cold the water was.  Definitely more chilly than they expected.  Nadine lost her balance and fell in, then Kylie decided to just dunk herself.  Nolan decided to give it a try too.  I bet they swam for a good 15 minutes.  Oh to be young!  Great way to cool off after a hot, sweaty and dusty hike.  I chose the more subtle approach and just soaked my feet and ankles in the water.  That was enough for me!  It sure felt good though!  We ate some lunch and then decided we better head out.

I have to admit I was dreading the hike out of the canyon from the lake up to the trail, but I was pleasantly surprised.  It actually was harder going down then coming up!  Bonus!!  The hike out was good, but very busy.  Lots of hikers coming up.  We passed a few dogs in the trail that were just laying down and wouldn’t go any further.  Too hot for dogs and people don’t bring enough water!!  I’ve even decided I’m to carry a cooler in the back of my truck with extra water, electrolyte drinks and chocolate milk.  My buddy Todd did this on the Colchuck hike and boy did that cold chocolate milk taste good after a long hike!

It took us about 80 minutes to hike up to Snow Lake and 60 minutes to hike out.  Kylie said mom that was a lot of work for a quick swim in the lake but it was a good workout.  Now I think I need to let her try out a backpacking trip!

It’s important to spend time with your kids.  They grow up so fast!  It just seems like yesterday they were starting elementary school, but now they are a junior in high school and starting 8th grade.

Memory making is so important.  Adventures they will carry with them for a lifetime and maybe even pass on to their kids.

What does serenity and perfection look like? It’s Colchuck Lake!

When I first saw a photograph of this lake, I just couldn’t stop looking at it.  The aqua green water surrounded by rocky mountains.  It just drew me in and was calling my name.  I read a couple reviews on it and someone said when you first see the lake it is like a religious experience.  I’m not religious, so I decided that must be what nirvana looks like.  The hike is about 9 miles roundtrip and 2300 feet elevation.  I figured I’ve drug myself up Mailbox Peak before and this is half the elevation so I would be good.  I was finally able to link up with my buddy Todd who also loves hiking and we headed out on an adventure!

The trail is located just when you pull into Leavenworth, however you have to drive out a dusty non-maintained road for about 9 miles to the trailhead.  Apparently several other people had the same idea as us and we had to park a good half mile from the trailhead.  Discovered you have to fill out an Alpine Wilderness Day pass before you can head in!  A group of WTA week long trail workers had just come out from working. Let’s all give a HUGE SHOUT OUT to WTA workers and volunteers for maintaining our fabulous trails here in Washington.  I have a work party signup on my list!  We all need to give back!!

The trail heads through the forest and along a creek, which I assume is Icicle Creek.  At least the first mile is entirely in the shade.  There was a nice cool breeze blowing so that was refreshing.  I knew it would be fairly warm, about 88 degrees, and I had learned my lesson about packing enough water on Mailbox Peak so I had about 80 ounces of water with me. I drank every last bit!!  All along the trail you have clearings which are simply spectacular!  The hills and mountains we climbed through and truly breathtaking.  We had several WOW moments.  It just reminds you how amazing this state is and how lucky we are to be able to take in this kind of natural beauty.

Climbing Colchuck is like playing leapfrog with other hikers.  Sometimes you get passed by several groups and other times you pass several groups but everyone is always so friendly and encouraging to each other. I love that about hikers!!  The elevation gain on this hike is a bit deceptive as it isn’t gradual over the 4.5 miles to the top.  It’s all located in about 3 sections of the trail and all these sections are in the last 1.5 miles to the top

!  It is a steady, at times never ending climb over rock stairs and tree roots.  Just when you see a clearing and think “it’s just right there” you turn the corner and see you were completely wrong!  The final push to the top is kind of daunting but once you reach the clearing and see the lake all the fatigue just washes away.   It is a moment of awe!  Nirvana!

The lake is aquamarine and crystal clear.  You can see the bottom out as far as you can see.  It is so inviting, taunting you to jump in because you are tired, hot and sweaty and it just looks so damn refreshing!  I watched several younger individuals jump in and swim around.  They seemed to be okay.  I decided to just take my shoes and socks off and put my feet in the lake.  It felt so good, but they were pretty much numb in a few minutes.  Todd decided to jump in.  The party next to us asked how it was and all Todd could say was “c-c-c-c-cold” and he quickly swam to shore and got out!  I brought along my hammocks because I just love relaxing in a hammock on a hike!  I am hooked on them!  Todd was a little apprehensive, until he relaxed in one. Pretty sure I’ve converted him!  We had a nice relaxing lunch hanging by the lake. We were both starving so we ate everything!  Hoping we wouldn’t get hungry on the way down.

It took 3 hours to hike up (stopping for some photos, snacks and breaks to bring my heart rate back down to a non-heart attack level!) and about 2 1/2 to hike back down.

We ventured into Leavenworth to stop by the Cheese Monger for some Applewood Cheddar and Euphoria, which is a delicious sheep cheese).  Love that place!  Then headed over to Gustavs for a burger, fries and a cold beer!

Awesome day for sure!  If you have never been to Colchuck, put it on your list!!  AMAZING!

My first but not last overnight backpack trip to Shi Shi Beach

So Seattle has had a 50+ day stretch of no rain and I’ve been wanting to try an overnight backpack trip to the beach.  I’ve seen quite a few hikers rave about using a hammock in lieu of a tent so I figured let’s give it a whirl!  I was missing a couple items so I had to pick up a burner and a water purifier as  you have to get your water out of a stream there.  Don’t want to get some crazy bacteria that makes me violently ill when you know you have to hike out for over an hour!  Then the excitement of deciding which dehydrated food to choose!  I was actually surprised at the variety.  I even saw dehydrated neapolitan ice cream!  That seemed maybe a bit too adventurous for my first trip so I stuck with a couple staples–lasagna, chicken teriyaki and eggs and bacon for breakfast.  I will admit I was a little nervous about what it would taste like so I packed “survival food” that I knew I would eat.  I will admit I brought pretty much all of that home so I know for next time to not pack so much extra food. Weighed down my pack for nothing!

I convinced Tami she should go too so we got all loaded up!  Of course the weather decided to take a slight turn and rain was now in the forecast.  It wasn’t listed as heavy rain so no big deal.  I mean we live in the PNW so we are all accustomed to a bit of rain!

So it takes like 5 hours to drive there. Didn’t realize that.  Plus you have to stop at the WIC  (information center) in Port Angeles to get an overnight permit.  We were only about the 8th camping party in line, but I swear we were there for an hour!  Luckily we did not need a bear can for our food as Tami had a friend that loaned us one. They were all out so everyone in line had to drive to Forks to get one, which was at least an hour or two each way out of the way.  Yikes!  We finally got our pass and headed to Neah Bay, where we had to stop to purchase a Makah annual visitor pass.  Oddly, they sell them in restaurants!  Now that we had all the required passes we head to the trailhead!  You can’t park at the trailhead so we dropped all our gear off and I drove back to a house that lets you park on their front lawn for $10 a day.  There are two residences that allow this and they are the ONLY places to park.  One is a half mile from the trail and the other is a mile away.  Luckily I got the last parking spot in the lot a half mile away and walked back to the trailhead.

The trail meanders through the Olympic National Forest, which is pretty cool!!  It’s a really well maintained trail which several bridges to cross, including a cantilever bridge! The trail is 2 miles long.  The second half is kinda muddy, but not more than I was expecting in a forest.  The last section of the trail is a steep section down to the beach.  You have to navigate over many roots, so they have added a rope to help you down and up that section of the trail.  At this bottom this drops you out onto the beach.  What a sight!  It’s a cross between Ocean Shores and the Oregon Coast.  Smooth sand with huge rock pillars out in the water.  People tent camp all along the beach which is 2.3 miles long.  We headed down towards the Point of the Arches as that is where most of the driftwood is located, which is necessary for hanging a hammock, and it’s also where the water sources are located!  Walking the beach is pretty, but by this time, carrying a 35 pound pack is getting a little old.

It took about an hour to get our hammocks set up.  I bought a bug screen for mine and could have sworn it also came with a rain guard, but boy was I sadly mistaken when I took it out!   Note to self, read the description more closely when ordering!!  Luckily Tami’s rain guard was large enough to cover both of our hammocks.  By this time we are starving and break out the dehydrated meals!  I try lasagna and Tami has a rice dish.  I have to admit the lasagna was really good!!  It could have fed 3 of us!  Didn’t read the serving size closely either!  Didn’t need the chicken teriyaki.  We could see the rain was coming so we went on a scavenger hunt for driftwood for a campfire.  Luckily there is plenty to choose from!  I brought a couple fire starters and we quickly had a nice campfire going.  In true PNW style everyone was out at their campfire in the rain and not seeking shelter!

We were suppose to see a really cool meteor shower but the cloud cover prevented that.  Instead of a spectacular glowing sunset, we were treated to a pink/purple sunset that held on until the blue hour, which is after the sun has set 12 degrees below the horizon.  At this point all the clouds turn blue.  The whole thing lasted about 20 minutes and we fell to darkness.  We decided to get all settled in the hammocks as the rain was obviously not going to stop.  I bet it rained from 5 pm to 3 am pretty steady then some wind after that.

Hammock sleeping is really comfortable.  As a person with a bad back and who can barely walk after sleeping in a tent, I had to problems!  Well, except for the occasional bit of water that fell off the rain guard when it couldn’t hold the puddle anymore.  Nothing like being woken up at 2:30 am by ice cold water running down your back!  Brrr!!  I just rolled up in my Rumpl camping comforter (so comfy!!) and went right back to sleep.  I kind of figured we would have some good fog in the morning, but the weather front blew over and we woke up to blue skies!

We were able to do some sightseeing at low tide as there is a ton of tide pools with starfish and anemones as well as some other sea life.  We could explore around the rocks.  Shi Shi beach is a beautiful beach.  You definitely have to work to get there but worth it!  I could see staying 2-3 nights to make the drive easier as well as give yourself a break in carrying a pack!

So I survived my first backpack trip!!  YAY!!  A couple learning lessons.  I packed one change of clothes too many. I packed WAY too much food, so I ended up brining most of it home(which meant extra unnecessary pack weight)!  I only packed enough water for the hike in and got all my other way at the stream after I filtered it.  That worked awesome!! The backpack is heavy so being as savvy with supplies and packing as light as possible is important!  I will re-arrange how I pack so most of the weight is in the middle of the pack.  Easier on the shoulders!

I’m hooked! I can’t wait to do it again!!

So much history behind the Monte Cristo Ghost Town

      This hike has been on the bucket list for some time and I bet we’ve had it planned for the past month. There is something about ghost towns that draw my attention. To walk on the same path of settlers, miners or timber workers from the 1800’s is pretty awe inspiring. I took our group a couple hours to walk the nearly five miles to the homestead. When we see the old railroad ties, saw blades, and the still operational train turnstyle it truly makes you appreciate the hard work and I mean hard labor all these individuals engaged in daily to not only get to Monte Cristo but to build and live. Several buildings still stand and have small plaques giving you the history of the building. 

      In modern days Monte Cristo is well out of the populated areas and doesn’t have of today’s “necessities” however back in the day Monte Cristo was a thriving tourist town with dozens of houses/cabins and a hotel. The train brought in goods and people and exported lumber and minerals.  If only you could hear the history theough whispers in the wind. What stories they would tell!

      This is a nice wide trail that really is road size. We say a couple washouts along with way but nothing too bad. We even got to cross a river by walking on a downed tree over the river. Not bad in the summer but it could be a little more dicey in winter/spring with a raging river.  We were a fairly large group of 8 today. All general hikers and one bad ass carrying a 45 pound pack getting ready for a 10 day hike at Mt Rainier!  Weather was good, not too hot but the smoke from the BC fires is still visible. It didn’t diminish the beautiful scenery though!  Wildflowers are out and we even spotted a frog or toad. I don’t know how to tell the difference😬. 

      We tried a new spot on the way home too. Dreasnought Brewery serves some pretty good food and some nice refreshing beverages!

      Another great day on the trails today!  Until next time!

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