Back to Colchuck Lake

This is one of my favorite locations in Washington. It never disappoints. There is something special about the color of an alpine lake and the surrounding dark grey peaks. The lake immediately draws your attention due the color. It’s always a wow moment. I can’t stop looking at the surrounding peaks and rock formations. They are so impressive. We saw some people hiking up a snow section next to Asgard Pass. Now sure where they were going. Maybe into the Enchantments. One guy came back down with skis, having hiked up and skied back down. Mad props for that guy as that is a CLIMB!!!

You hear a lot about Asgard Pass. How difficult it is. Sitting at the lake staring at it you realize how tall it is. That’s quite a bit of climbing in the snow. I can see how you would be exhausted when you finally got to the top. I have to admit though I kept staring at it and wondering what’s on the other side. I’ve seen lots of pictures of the Enchantments. It’s called that for a reason! One day I’ll apply for that lottery and venture out on that 4 day backpacking trip!

We were lucky enough to see goats! A few in our group saw a momma goat and got a glimpse of a fluffy baby who was quite shy. We also saw a fairly large black tail deer. He had about 6 velvety antlers growing.

Colchuck is such a peaceful place. Even though it is a pretty busy trail it isn’t loud. You can still hear all the sounds of nature. Look around at all the lush ground cover. At certain spots on the trail you have openings where you can see all the rock spires surrounding the area. They are massive. Amazing!

People swim in this alpine lake. This very cold lake!! We saw the usual unicorn floaty that someone packed up there. I have to admit it looks pretty relaxing on a nice sunny day but having put my feet in the water I’m not brave, or crazy, enough to jump in. I’m sure it is refreshing along with heart stopping!

When I’m Leavenworth I also have to stop at the Cheesemonger. They have the best sheep and goat cheese!!! Also our usual post hike grub stop at Gustav’s! They have the best pepper burger and their fries are crazy good!

Another amazing hike in Washington! We are so lucky to live here!

Mt St Helens 😍😍😍

I’ve lived in Washington state pretty much my whole life. I walked by a view of Mt St Helens on my way to school. On May 18, 1980 I walked two blocks from my house and watched the eruption. A huge plume of grey ash that just kept getting larger and larger. My dad got called into work as they anticipated issues at the airport. My brother was flying to Hawaii as the mountain erupted and watched it from the sky. The ash blew away from us and hit Eastern Washington and Idaho pretty bad. I remember seeing all the photos of cars covered with inches of ash. Emergency vehicles with these crazy ventilation systems attached. People walking around wearing masks. We heard about the local life of Harry Truman. Pictures of the devastation and stories of lives lost. Hard to grasp the totality of the situation as a kid.

After everything settled down the money making began! Everywhere you went you could purchase small containers of ash, pictures of the eruption, t-shirts, etc. It was crazy!

I’ve been to Mt St Helens once since the eruption. The devastation caused by the eruption is really hard to understand the magnitude until you see it in person. It is a massive hole. A new lake. Probably millions of trees thrown around like toothpicks. Powerful!

I never knew you could climb Mt St Helens. I just learned about that last year. I decided to try for a permit. I know thousands of people apply. Far more than can get them. I was ready the minute the purchase window opened!! Well let’s just say the institute had a small problem with the permit purchase and the system crashed in minutes. Wow were people unhappy!! People can be so cruel, disrespectful and just downright nasty on social media. The institute had to regroup and get a new plan together for permit sales. The second time wasn’t exactly smooth but we got our permits!! They only issue 100 permits per day so we were feeling pretty lucky!! Let the mountain training begin!!

Four months later the day actually arrived. We drove down on Sunday night. As we drove to the Sno-Park the forest cleared and we got a clear shot of Mt St Helens. I have to admit that was the first time I realized how large that mountain is and thought about the fact we would actually be climbing to the summit in the morning! Freely admit I had a moment of self doubt! Followed by excitement!!!

We decided to tent that night and get up at 2:45 to hit the trail by 3:30 am. That night there was a thunderstorm circling in the distance. No rain for us but wow did we have a great sunset. I bet the alpenglow on Mt St Helens was spectacular!! A little beef stew dehydrated meal for dinner and time to call it a night. Surprisingly I slept a bit and got up at 2:45 am with no problem!

We hit the trail at 3:30. The first couple miles are through the forest with a bit of elevation but really just a nice warmup! It’s dark and we are navigating via headlamp. So we are trekking right along and I hear this weird noise off in the distance. Kind of a cross between a howl and a growl. Todd didn’t hear it so we just kept walking. A couple minutes later we heard it again. We both heard it that time. We heard it probably four times in total. No clue what is was but it was safely off in the distance. No bear spray. Todd said Mt St Helens has the most Bigfoot sightings so I thought that would be pretty funny! Just what we need……to see Bigfoot!! What a story that would have been but luckily nothing to encounter!

We hiked on the winter route which is called Worm Flows Climbing Route. It’s really divided into 3 sections, 12 miles round trip and 5,700 feet elevation gain. The sections are: Forest. Pumice rock and ground up pumice rock. Followed by snow fields to the summit. The forest was pretty mild as you are pretty much walking on a really wide trail.

Pumice fields generally suck! Once we emerged from the forest the winds were very noticeable. Sustained winds were pretty strong and the gusts were about 25 mph. That wasn’t very fun. Having ground up pumice rock thrown at your face at 25 mph hurts! You had to climb around and over the rocks and walk through what felt like sand. This section was about a mile long and all uphill. The sand made it difficult and energy sucking and the wind just made it worse. Unfortunately the wind followed us most of the way up!

We finally made it out of the pumice fields! Thankfully!!! I’ve never been so happy to hike in snow!!! Time for microspikes!

The snow sections are steep and I mean steep!! We had to toe punch into the snow to get any traction. The snow was so slushy you really had to pay attention or you would fall or slide. There are two sections of snow. Those sections took 3 hours alone to climb! It was exhausting!! Legs felt good though so I was happy with my training. I did learn that I have trouble deep lung breathing since my last surgery. Clearly have to stretch out my muscles more to get that back!

We arrived at the ridgeline…finally!! 6.5 hours after we started! What a view!! Mt Rainer was directly in front and spectacular as usual! Mt Adams was off to the side and pretty amazing!! Mt Hood was behind us and much further in the distance. The rocks around the rim were chocolate colored with hints of red. The dome was spewing steam and was quite a bit larger than I was expecting. You could see several visible fractures in the snow and a huge snow slab near the summit that is ready to fall. The sounds of the ice cracking was a bit eerie!we were waiting to watch large sections of snow and ice fall into the crater. The whole setting was spectacular and left us with a sense of awe of the power of mother nature. One side of the mountain is essentially missing. Followed by a huge clearing that still exists 38 years later. A new lake named Spirit Lake and Mt Rainier in the distance. I love the PNW!! We are so lucky to have all this beautiful scenery!!

After an hour at the top we decided to start down. The best way to get down Mt St Helens is glissading!!! OMG so much fun!!!! The chutes are easily found and it took us 21 seconds to slide down what took us 90 minutes to climb! Felt like a kid again!!

Unfortunately we had to hike down the pumice fields. The lower snow fields had obvious fractures which made it unsafe. Down the pumice fields was brutal!! It was now pretty warm around 80 degrees. Those fields felt like they went on forever!! It look us 3.5 hours to get back to the parking lot.

This was a challenging climb but also a spectacular one. I’ve never done anything like that before. The scenery was amazing! The mountain leaves you in awe!

So glad I decided to climb Mt St Helens! What an unforgettable experience!!!

Back to Beckler Peak and it did not disappoint!

Todd and I hiked Beckler Peak last fall. The views from Beckler peak are legendary. Full 360 views on a clear day. Well unfortunately we did not chose a good weather day so the hike was rainy, cold and miserable. To top it off it was all clouded in so zero views!

Not this time! The weather was perfect! We started out in dirt and hiked for a good mile before the snow started. The interesting part was it went from no snow to a very distinct snow line and it got deep quick!

We passed a lean mountain man on his way down. He gave us the info on the trail or really the lack of trail. This trial is known for all the switchbacks but there are none visible! So instead of winding our way up the mountain the path now is straight up! Seems like a great training hike for Mt St Helens!

This was quite the incline. Weaving around the trees with 6-10 foot deep tree wells. The snow was deep!! We kept up our pace and came out on the ridge line with some gorgeous views!! There wasn’t hardly a cloud in the sky! The sky was deep blue offset by snow covered mountains. It doesn’t get any better than that!!

Just before the summit we hit a crazy steep section that really was more of a scramble. The snow was deep and soft and there were several visible gaping holes! It was hard to tell if it was a horizontal break in the snow due to an underground stream or just a huge hole. Let’s just say it fell into the “sketchy” category. It was uncomfortable going up but I was more worried about going down!

We met a couple young guys on the way up. They were very nice and pretty funny! They gave us much praise for being two 50+ year olds grinding this hike out! We actually had lunch with them at the top. Normally the top is a huge rock that people sit on or on the hill coming up to the rock. This day is was covered in a good 10 feet of snow so it was difficult to see where the edge was. Didn’t want to get to close to that as it was a long way down!!

The views though!! OMG!!! Just stunning! Amazing hike! So glad we came back!!

Mt Teneriffe is not Mailbox!

So my hiking buddy Todd and I have permits to summit Mt St Helens in June so we have some training hikes to get in. We’ve already done Mailbox Peak so another recommendation was Mt Teneriffe. It seemed manageable so we decided to give it a whirl! I’ve hiked to the falls before and that’s a fairly easy hike so I figured this one was good. There is a new trail and an old trail. The old trail goes by the falls then takes you up to the top. It’s much shorter than the new trail but quite a bit steeper. The hillside is eroding so they are trying to move people over to the new trail. We opted for new trail up and old trail down. Probably not a smart idea with the upper trail conditions!

I’m researching this hike many people compared it to Mailbox. I’m honestly not sure how that comparison works. They are nothing alike! Mailbox is short and steep! New trail Teneriffe is long! And steep!

We started out in dirt and hiked for a couple miles before we hit snow consistently. It became deep quickly!! Lots of post holing up to the knee! Slipping and sliding even with microspikes. We spend so much energy trying to maintain forward movement it was tiring!

The new trail just seemed to go on forever. We really weren’t able to follow any real trail once we started to climb. We were just meandering through the trees looking for other footprints.

We passed a lost lizard that was stuck in a deep footprint. He couldn’t get out and was so lethargic. Todd moved him over to the dirt so hopefully he survived. He wasn’t the only crazy being out there! We actually got passed by 3 trail runners! Yes running up a snow covered mountain in spikes! And short shorts!!! He must have been freezing!! His skinny legs were so red! It made me cold!

We stopped along the tree line to grab some lunch. I was starving and was quickly coming to terms with the fact that I had not properly fueled for this hike. Too much energy spent and not enough in reserves. It was depleting fast. The spot was stopped T was calm and sheltered but it felt like the temperature had dropped at least 20 degrees. Both of us noticed the temp drop as we quickly put on our puffy jackets and heavier gloves.

After lunch we kept moving on. It felt like we were walking on a treadmill. Consistently moving but going nowhere! We finally made it over and out one ridge and headed to another when we finally saw another group of hikers! We found out we were fairly close to the summit. Just a bit more climbing and we came into a clearing and false summit. The weather was all clouded in so we had no view. I had reached the “wall”! I knew I was on empty and I was well aware that I had 4-5 miles to go down to get back to the parking lot and the trail down was steep and required good concentration. Todd hiked up to the actual summit and I stayed at the false one. Ate a bit more and got more fluids in me.

The route down was sloppy. The snow was not in good condition which made going downhill difficult. Losing traction was a frequent occurrence! We finally made it out of the snow and onto the dirt trail which was quite slick due to wet exposed tree roots. We passed a group that had an injured hiked. Search and rescue was on their way up to help her down. I swear we passed at least 30 SAR personnel on their way up. We later learned it took them over 10 hours to get her down. SAR is all volunteer!!! Great work they do!

The falls were stunning as usual! It was a nice break from the concentration needed from the huge step-downs on this trail. Going down this trail was not a smart idea!

Walking back into the parking lot I’ve never been so happy to see my truck. I’ll do that hike again! Next time I’ll make sure I fuel and hydrate appropriately beforehand!!

A little desert hiking at Ancient Lakes

The spring in Washington can be a tad bit dreary and wet. After a long overcast winter we are all in need of a bit of sunshine. The daffodils and tulips are out so we know summer is coming! We decided to head to Eastern Washington to hold off the development of web feet!!

Luckily in Washington we have pretty much every a bit of everything within a couple hour drive. Mountains, coastline, desert or rain forests. Doesn’t get much better than this!

Ancient Lakes is outside a small town in Eastern Washington named Quincy. Because of its location and weather patterns it hosts a large number of server farms and agricultural farms. Once you get out of the mountains the landscape changes noticeably. Moving from lush green evergreen to dry dirt/sand and sparse trees. Not only is the temperature change noticeable but the air type changes too.

I’m going to guess there are dozens of trails in Ancient Lakes along with dozens of lakes. We hiked on April 14 so the weather was in the 70’s and boy did that feel good! We saw several waterfalls and lakes of all sizes. Quite a few people were backpacking and we saw many people horseback riding as well. We hiked through the flatlands and made it up to the ridge line where we could see for miles! Across the Columbia river we could see he wind turbines all along the hillside. From the ridge line we wanted to head to the Columbia then circle back to the parking lot. I bet we spend 30 minutes trying to figure out how to get there! Phone gps is awesome but the screen is so small it made it a bit difficult to orient to where you really were and how far away the trail connection was. The trail along the ridge was difficult to see and for the most part absent. We had a rough idea where we were headed to we headed off in that direction. After about 20 minutes we were able to find the obvious trail and that took us back to the parking lot.

No ticks found which was awesome! This is a great spring hike! I could imagine in the summer it would be quite hot and not so much of a fun hike. I would like to add this hike to a backpacking list though!

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