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!

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!

Fremont Lookout in Mt. Rainier National Park

Not sure what it is with me and sunset hikes. Somehow even when the forecast is calling for clear blue skies, which equates to gorgeous sunsets, when I arrive the weather has another idea in mind! Last night was no different!

We arrived at the park and there was a noticeable chill in the air. The mountain breeze was blowing through the valley creating a light misty fog. Good thing we brought a few layers for the lookout! Needed to put on an extra layer in the parking lot! And a hat!

From the parking lot the trail immediately starts on an incline to get up to the first saddle. There is a maze of trails in MRNP so you come across several markers at trail intersections giving directions and distances to multiple trails. Even it was becoming pretty clear there would be no views at the top, the trail was reasonably busy.

At the first saddle we had a cool weather phenomena with the wind pushing the cooler air through the valley up to and over the saddle. It creates a wispy blow over, similar to a misting fan over a beer garden on a hot day. Well of course we were without the beer and the hot weather!

After the saddle the trail takes you through a talus field. There are nice sweeping views of the valleys in this area. It would be a perfect spot to see a bear grazing in the fields. You know, way down in the valley at a safe and acceptable distance! After the talus field in a small public water source. I believe it is called frozen lake. It was mostly thawed, but with a few small icebergs. On a sunny day I bet that makes a beautiful photo!

After the lake, is the steady climb to the lookout. I’m just going to imagine you can see Mt. Rainier along this part. We saw a lot of whiteout and not much more!

Made it to the lookout in about 90 minutes with another 30 or so people to see a sunset……..or not. The wind was picking up a bit at the top so we needed to put on our puffy jackets to cut the wind. Then decide what to snack on. Several funny conversations about that! We both decided we should have brought whiskey. I even thought about bringing my Jetboil for some hot chocolate at the top. We sat at the lookout to block some of the wind. Twice we saw a 5 second peak at the top of Mt. Rainier. Unfortunately by the time I could get my phone out to take a picture it was gone!

We headed back down and needed our headlamps to see most of the way. With so many intersections along the trail on the way back we had a couple spots to make sure we were taking the right trail to make it back to the parking lot.

Definitely will be going back on a clear day because Mt. Rainier is so close to that lookout. A clear sunset would be spectacular. Another day!

Nice hike. Good company and conversation. Always makes for a great day!

And I do my little turn on the Katwalk…..

Kendall Katwalk that is! I decided to take a little spin up on the Katwalk. It’s a 12 mile RT hike from Snoqualmie Pass, mostly on a portion of the PCT. The trail is easy to follow and has a steady slow grade gaining 2,600 feet elevation over the 6 miles to reach the Katwalk. Although the trail starts out in the forest, you quickly break out of the trees into the open and cross a few talus fields. I chose to do this hike on Sunday and it was in the 80’s in Seattle, which for us PNWers is HOT! I started the trail at 7 am and did not encounter many hikers, but saw several trail runners. Not my idea of a good time but they seemed to be having fun!

This trail has several really long straight sections where you can see the trail for a long ways. At times this is nice as you can see the gradual incline, but the downside is at times it feels like you are standing still. The end before the next switchback seems to far away! So many spots to stop for breathtaking views and photos. I’ve just taken my iPhone with me but I think I need to invest in a mirrorless camera. I need more than my iPhone but my DSLR is too heavy!

As I was coming out of the forest I ran into another hiker, who broke out into a narrative about all the peaks surrounding us, giving a thorough description of each. Impressive. A minute later he says, “I’m not that smart, I just used the peak finder app right before I saw you so all the information was fresh”. HAHA! We both had a good laugh about that. Honestly I generally love other hikers I run across on the trails. Everyone is so friendly and easily strike up a quick conversation before the parting “have a great hike/day” comment.

For the most part social distancing was super easy to follow. If passing was necessary most of the trail allows for someone to step off the trail for others to pass. There are a few sections where this isn’t permissible. The vast majority of hikers/runnings were carrying face coverings and used them when necessary. Many took the opportunity to take photos of the surrounding peaks and of course Mt. Rainier! There is something special about Mt. Rainier. She is just so majestic set against a blue sky. We are so lucky to live near her. Lots of exploring can be down at Mt. Rainier National Park.

This hike has a couple talus fields to cross. I have to admit I’m not a big fan of talus fields. Since the rock moves constantly there are always rocks on the trail and the fields seem to put off a good amount of heat and reflection. Sunscreen, lip sunblock and a hat were necessary items! Along with lots of water!

Towards the top there is a 15 foot section of trail that still has a block of snow covering it. Some chose to be brave and try to create steps in the snow above the trail. Most of us chose to drop down and try to skirt the snow. It was a bit slippery but made it with no issues.

I had a big surprise at the saddle, with the sighting of a transplant mountain goat! Washington State Wildlife officials have been moving the goats from the Olympic Peninsula (where they are not native) to the Cascades (where they are native). They are easily identified by the tracking collars they wear. They are much happier in the Cascades with better food options throughout the year and the ability to roam freely. They are just the cutest and always a happy surprise when you see one!

The actual Katwalk is a narrow path carved alongside a slab of rock. If you continue past the Katwalk, there are two lakes where people backpack. My feet were a bit tired and it was getting pretty hot so I decided to stop at the Katwalk. There was a nice breeze at the top so that felt pretty good. I saw several trail runners at the Katwalk so they are at least doing the 12 miles!s. Crazy!!

On the way down I saw Mr. Goat again. He had moved down the trail a bit and was lounging on the mountainside in a patch of flowers having some lunch. I saw a lot more people on the way down who were headed up in the heat! They were all pretty excited to know they would get an appearance of a goat. The information gave them a bit of energy boost to keep going. I was glad to be heading down around 11 AM. It was hot but we still had not reached the heat of the day. I felt back for those who were heading up in the hottest time of the day.

The hike down was pretty uneventful. Great views on the way down. Pretty much staring at Mt. Rainier most of the way. Sometimes the trip back always feels quicker, but on this one I wouldn’t say that was the case. Probably because the sun was up much higher so there really wasn’t much shade until almost the very bottom. Might also have been the developing blister I could feel on the back of my right heel. Now sure what that was all about. My normal boots and socks, but wowza not a fan of the quarter size blister I now have!

I’m feeling good about the 12 miles. Coming off a significant shoulder surgery in January, I am working on getting my stamina back and wearing a backpack. I generally don’t wear my summer Osprey 22 pack as the shoulder strap sits right on one of my repair areas. I normally wear my Osprey 36 which sits better. I decided to gut it out and wear my 22 and it was pretty good. I was a bit sore at the end but nothing major. That’s progress!!

Another great hike to check off my list! I’m trying to set my ambitious sights on Mt. Adams and Mt. Baker next summer. We shall see!

Artist Point was unbelievably gorgeous!!

This past winter in Seattle has been……what’s the word I’m looking for…….oh yeah…..RAINY!  No it’s not unusual for it to rain in Seattle, but our rain is really light and more of a drizzle. Nothing that keeps you from going outside.  This winter we had obscene amounts of rain.  Downpours that lasted for days!  Flooding that we haven’t seen in well over a decade.  For awhile it seemed like it would never end!  On the plus side, we won’t have a water shortage this summer and our mountains are covered with deep snow!!  Deep snow makes for great skiing and snowshoeing, but it also causes significant avalanche conditions which make it too dangerous to go out into the backcountry.

Recently we are clearly seeing the signs of Spring in Washington.  The daffodils are starting to bloom and the tulips will be early this year.  We are starting to see bluebird skies which make for great snowshoeing conditions.  I’ve been to Artist Point at Mt Baker during the summer and it is pretty spectacular but I had not been there in the winter.  It was unbelievable and that is a clear understatement!  Mt Baker has a ski resort and miles of backcountry trails for split boarding and snowshoeing.  You could spend days there.

I’m not sure why but there really was not a lot of people there.  I would periodically see others on the trails but it wasn’t uncommon to look around and not see another person.  I knew it was going to be a great day!  The snow sparkled under the sun.  There were huge sections of completely untouched mounds of snow.  The kid in me just wanted to run over and jump into the snow, but the adult in me was questioning just how deep that snow would actually be!  Ultimately the adult in me won the decision point.

I trekked up the first big hill and saw the next large area of tracks.  Some went across the valley.  Others went up another hill.  More went off to the right or left.  So many options!  I stood at this point for several minutes just soaking in the beauty.  In the distance I would see skiers or snowboarders gliding down these huge hills.  There are no chairlifts to these areas so they trekked up to the top on split boards.  It was quite the climb, but boy that must have been an amazing ride down in untouched snow!  I just might have to try that with my snowboard sometime!

I finally made it up to the top Ridgeline.  Incredible 360 views.  The mountains were bright white and the sky was deep blue.  Can’t tell you how many times I said “wow”.  It was so pretty.  I sat at the top for quite awhile.  It was completely silent and I mean silent!  It’s honestly one of the things I enjoy most about nature.  Just the silence.  Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert.  Nature has always been the place I recharge my batteries and ponder life.  As a Virgo, I’m an analyzer.  I like to think….and think…..and think. Hiking provides the perfect setting for me.

I’ve had a lot rolling through my mind lately.  My mom and her health issues.  She is living in an assisted living facility now and getting the care she needs.  With the coronavirus outbreak I recognize she is part of a vulnerable population.  For the elderly this virus can be deadly.  The facility has put in place some very strict rules but nothing is  perfect.  There is always risk.

A person I worked with lost his wife to breast cancer.  I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen person take on the reality of a terminal diagnosis with such grace.  She fought as hard and long as she could, then made the decision how she would spend her last days.  She was so grateful for her life and the people in it.  She set an incredible learning lesson for everyone about being grateful and having grace.  These journeys are always personal for me as I am a survivor but I also lost my only sister to breast cancer.  I saw that battle on good days and bad days until the end.

Spending time reflecting on your life and those in it is always a good idea.  I am incredibly grateful for the life I live.  My kids are doing well and are healthy.  I’m learning the adjustment to retirement.  Spending time with my mom.  Spending time on the Ridgeline sitting in silence allowed me time to reflect on a couple people who entered my life at a time I wasn’t ready for them.  My personal life was a disaster and I wasn’t in a space to truly be present.  A matter of bad timing.  It happens and at times leaves me with the “what if” wonder.  I don’t regret meeting, but I do regret the timing.  Sometimes you just meet people you know are just meant to be in your life forever.  You’d hate bad timing to be the reason the person you are meant to be with isn’t here.  What if???  Deep thinking up on that mountain!!

I always stop at North Fork Brewery and Pizzeria in Deming on my way home.  It’s a little hole in the wall place that has the BEST PIZZA you will EVER eat!!!  I’m not kidding!!  So good!  I’m a fan of beer aged in whiskey barrels so I picked up their whiskey barrel aged Baltic Porter.  Sounds good!  When you check out they give you your bill in a shot glass with a fortune cookie.  My fortune ” Decide what you want and go for it”.  Good timing!

Hmmmm…….What if????

The larches are here, the larches are here!!

I’m sure larches are not unique to Washington state, but we celebrate them like a true state treasure!  Every fall, you will see daily posts on various hiking pages asking about the status of the larches.  Are they green?  Have them begun to turn?  Are they actually yellow now???  It’s like watching Black Friday shopping, only we never exactly know when Larch Black Friday will be.  Fortunately it not just one day a year.  This year has been a bit challenging due to our crazy weather recently.  October has always been the best time to see the larches in their golden splendor, but this year they are a bit slow to turn.    The larches started to turn and many are yellow, however a week ago we had a pretty good dump of snow.  The cold temps halted the color change and the cold temps are hanging on.  We’ve had a couple sunny days lately so that should get them moving again soon.

As this is a very popular hike in the fall, you can anticipate not being able to park in the lot at the trailhead.  It’s not uncommon to be a half mile from the trailhead.  Luckily I was able to find a spot (compliments of owning a Jeep!) in the parking lot (well on the hillside of the lot, but the Ranger said I was good!).  Lake Ingalls trail is about 9 miles out and back with about 2,500 foot elevation gain.  The high point is around 6,500 feet.

One thing I love about fall hiking in Washington is the sun is out, the sky is blue but it’s a little chilly.  You can get away with wearing a fleece jacket and sunglasses!  Perfect!  The trail was a combination of sections of either snow, ice, slush, frozen dirt, exposed rocks or just plain of sloppy mud.  It made it challenging to decide when exactly to put on microspikes.  I decided safety was better than falling so I put them on about halfway up to the pass.  Sections of this trail are very narrow with a large slopped drop-off right next to the trail.  When I say narrow, I mean I mean about a foot wide.  Wearing microspikes just made these sections easier to navigate.

Even though there was a lot of cars in the lot, I didn’t encounter many hikers on the trail. I stopped frequently to take photo, because the scenery was amazing!  Once you reach the pass, this is normally where you get to see mountain goats along with the larches.  Unfortunately no mountain goats this time:(. Plenty of larches though!  It’s always impressive once you reach the pass to look across the basin and see all the larches.  Against a really blue sky, white snow and the grey mountains they are just spectacular!  From the pass over the Lake Ingalls is about 3/4 of a mile of mostly flat walking.  It gives you many opportunities to stop and just take in the view.  It’s a lot of WOW moments!  Once you reach the other side, there is a fairly steep rock section to get up to Lake Ingalls.  There wasn’t a ton of snow in this section, so it was deep mud and sections of ice.  Not fun going up, but worse going back down on the way out!

The lake is simply gorgeous!  It is a deep blue.  I sat and ate lunch for about a half hour or so.  I knew the weather would be kinda chilly so I brought my jetboil with me so I could have some hot chocolate by the lake.  This was a great decision!!  Yummy!

I started back around 2:30 so the sun was starting to go down behind the surrounding mountain peaks so the temperature was starting to drop a bit.  I put on my puffy jacket for a bit, but once I got moving I had to take it back off.  The hike out of the lake and back into the basin but a bit sketchy.  It had been sunny all day so the trail down was super slick.  There were sections of mud and ice which made finding secure footing a little challenging.  Slow and steady got me back to the main trail with no incidents.  The rest of the hike back to the parking lot was pretty uneventful which is good because my feet were tired!

The best thing after a challenging hike is a roadside stand hamburger and fries!!  Perfect post hike food!

Fall Hiking is full of color! Well, usually…

We eagerly anticipate Fall hiking in Washington state.  It is the best time of year.  The temperatures are cool but the sun is out, skies are blue and the leaves are yellow, orange and red.  We can’t forget about the larches!  We wait months for these 45-60 days of spectacular hiking!  We decided to head up to Lake Valhalla to enjoy some of these spectacular colors.  Lake Valhalla sits in a basin so we all were eager to sit on the shoreline and gaze out on the colorful hillsides, eating our lunch and loving all the grey jays who come to visit and steal food if they can!

It’s October 8!  The peak of fall season!  We saw weather reports of a little snowfall at Steven’s pass, but nothing much to worry about.  Just a reminder to take micro spikes (just in case) and more layers.

We headed East on Highway 2 in the rain.  By Skykomish the rain had turned to slush.  Not long after, it was heavy snow.  As we headed up the pass, the road was covered in several inches of snow.  Not all cars could make it up to the summit.  At this point, we had left Fall and jumped all the way into Winter!

We parked at the Smithbrook trailhead.  It was snowing hard!  A few inches of snow had already fallen. We donned our fleece, puffy jackets and hit the trail!  About 50 feet in the trail disappeared.  Trees were folded over due to the weight of snow and they were blocking the trail making it disappear from sight.  Once we were able to clear off a few branches, the trees sprung back up and revealed the trail.

We hiked up through the switchbacks and out into the open.  Normally there are sweeping views of the mountains, but the cloud cover was really low so all we could see was snow falling and clouds.  There really isn’t nothing more peaceful than hiking through roughly a foot of fresh powder.

As we reached the intersection with the PCT, we ran into two northbound hikers who were on their last 20 miles.  They were cold and wet, but motivated as the end was in sight!  We wished them well and congratulated them on such a huge accomplishment.

We hit the saddle and could see peekaboo views of Lake Valhalla.  It was dark and moody due to the low ceiling.  No fall colors in sight!  Just snow.  Lots and lots of snow!  We made our way down to the lake just as the wind started picked up.  It was gusting pretty good and throwing what felt like ice pellets right at us.  It was clear we would not be staying at the lake for more than a quick view.  We sought out some shelter from a gathering of trees nearby and eat a quick lunch.  It was getting pretty chilly so we decided to head back, in case the wind decided to make a consistent appearance.  Hiking back 4 miles in a headwind with ice pellets is never enjoyable!  Once we made it out of the valley the wind had stopped and the clouds were beginning to clear.  The surrounding peaks became visible.  We ran into a second set of PCT hikers that were calling it quits.  The snow was the last straw after a few rainy, cold days for them.  One was from England and the other sounded local.  He said he would be back next year to finish!

Although we headed out for Fall colors we did enjoy the fresh snowfall.  We all can’t see 45-60 days of Fall hiking this year!  It looks like winter has arrived early this year and plans to stay!

Elusive Mt Adams

In June of 2018 I stood on the summit of Mt St Helens and looked across the horizon to see Mt Adams. I’ll admit I stared at it for a few minutes before in my mind I thought “you are next”!

This past year has been a bit or a whirlwind with work, the kids, and my elderly mom. My stress level had been pretty high from a combination of all that. I spent many a night sorting through options. I needed to reprioritize some stuff in my life. Realizing I’ve kinda always put myself in the background so others were the priority, I needed to change that. So, I made a major life change and retired after 32 years in public service. Huge decision but entirely the right decision for me.

I’ve started doing more stuff for me. Still looking for more hiking friends since I’m free during the week! I’ve been pushing myself pretty hard at CrossFit and boot camp. Two things I really enjoy!

I started thinking about Mt Adams again this summer. Trying to figure out if I could make it happen or not. My hiking buddy had some scheduling conflicts so we pushed our attempt out to mid August which is a little late for Adams. Not much snow left which makes for a harder climb.

We decided to leave at 6 am on Thursday morning. It takes almost 5 hours to get to Mt Adams. You have to drive to Trout Lake to pick up your climbing permit before you can head to the trailhead. Since this is a two day trip I was carrying a 30+ pound pack. That’s not really fun. I think I need to rethink my packing!

We started the hike at 1 pm and it was hot! It took us 4 hours to get to the camping spot through the heat of the day. With a huge pack! Not a good decision! The trail winds though a forest that had a major forest fire a few years ago. Some of the trees were severely charred while others were this pure white color. Standing side by side they provided such a contrast. At the base of the trees was new growth of small pines and flowers. The weened prior was a massive thunder and lightning storm which produced torrential rains. Sections of the trail were marked with deep ruts, some two feet deep, from the rains. Nature is so amazing!

After the forest, you enter the mountain area. The trail is covered with pumice and rocks and heads steadily up the mountain. The trail is marked with large cairns to guide the way. It’s so steep you can generally only see 1-3 cairns at a time. Hoping each plateau is the final, but always disappointed to see another steep stretch lined with new cairns.

Around 8,000 feet it started to get windy and the temperature was dropping so we stopped to layer up! I noticed my boot was rubbing on my heel which never happens. I hike in these boots all the time. I took off my boot to adjust my sock and discovered a huge blister! Grrr! I’ve never had a blister hiking. So a band aid and athletic tape later I was good to go again!

We put our packs back on and continued to climb until we found the first camping area. I’m talking with some other campers we decided this would be a good place to camp instead of pushing on another 1,000 feet uphill to lunch counter. There was good cover from the wind and it was clear we would have a spectacular sunset right out in front of our tents. We set up camp and cooked some food. For as much energy as we expended I should have been pretty hungry, but I wasn’t hungry at all. That was a problem! We sat on the edge of our plateau, watching some mountain goats just below us as the sun set and the clouds blew by. There is something about being above the clouds! It’s amazing!

I went to bed right after sunset because I just wasn’t feeling very good and knew I needed good rest for the final 4,000 foot climb to the summit. It would be an early 3 am alarm for about a 5 hour climb.

Well at midnight I woke up with the shakes, clearly running a fever and my head completely clogged. It did not get better! I got up at 3 and knew there was no way I could make a summit attempt so I decided to pack up and head back down. It was a tough decision but the right one. I’ve never turned back on a trail before. It bugged me all the way down but I was feeling so crappy I just wanted to go home.

Driving out on the bumpiest road ever you get a really clear view of Mt Adams. We stopped to take a picture. I stared at it for a few minutes and thought “never again”. I was feeling crappy and I know it was just my disappointment in not achieving my goal.

So now I have about 9 months to train for Mt Adams in 2020! I’ll be back with a lighter pack!

Dirty Harry’s Peak

We had a beautiful spring day in Washington. Late March and the 70 degree weather can’t be beat! We headed out to Dirty Harry’s Peak which is out close to Snoqualmie Pass along I-90. We decided to head there due to the views and climb being similar to Mt Si but without all the crowds. We arrived about 10 and the lot was already full so we parked close to the highway exit.

The trail wanders through the forest for the first mile and a half. At this point you come to the turn for Dirty Harry’s Balcony, which is pretty popular. It looked like most of the hikers went to this spot instead of heading up to the peak.

The trail to the peak was clear until about halfway then snow covered the trail to the top. The trail was easy to follow and microspikes were very helpful! The downside of the trail is it’s in the middle of the woods and goes straight up! The trees are so tall that there really isn’t much of a view along the way. Occasionally a beak a boo view would pop up but they are short lived.

This trail is notorious for the elevation climb. It’s a good leg workout for sure! At times, well honestly pretty much the whole way, the trail never seems to end! It’s seriously just straight up! Not even any switchbacks!

Once at the top the last 500 yards or so walk along the ridge line before you come to a spot where everyone sits. Mt Rainier is off in the distance. The ridges around the peak are all snowcapped. The sky was a deep blue. We have the most beautiful scenery here in Washington! The views seriously make you forget how bad your legs were hurting on the way up!

After about 45 minutes at the peak we decided to head down. The sun was out so the snow was getting pretty mushy. People without microspikes were slipping and falling. Even with microspikes it was a bit slippery. The decline is steep enough it was kinda rough on the knees after a couple miles. The last mile seemed to take forever but we finally make it back to the car. Sometimes the best sight ever is the car! Just knowing you can take your boots off and sit down is an amazing feeling!

Nice hike! Great workout!

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