Wallace Falls

I’ve had a couple crazy weeks at work and have been missing my outdoor time! The weather was suppose to hold out with chilly temps but no rain. Well it didn’t quite work out that way but it is December in Washington so we should be expecting rain. I had hoped to get in some snowshoeing this weekend but in general we are low on snow this year so it would require a few hour drive to find it!

I had a holiday party with one of my hiking groups to get to in the afternoon so I decided on a close by hike for the morning. There were a decent number of vehicles in the parking lot. I’m glad I grabbed my long johns as the wind was quite chilly! We had a steady sprinkle of rain but nothing dramatic.

One thing I love about this hike is the woody trail through the forest. It’s actually called the “Woody” trail. You are surrounded by tall pines and walk along the river. You could hear the tree tops rustling in the wind but no branches fell. The trail has good cover so it was nice and dry. The lower and middle falls are my favorite. The lower falls is short and rolls into a large pool whereas the middle fall is long and lean and sprays everything. The whole trail is only about five miles round trip. On my way down I saw a couple with their jet boil out doing some serious cooking! A bit of overkill for such a short hike but hey everyone has their own style!

I kicked back on a log for a bit and just listened to the trees in the wind. It’s such a relaxing environment to clear your mind and just wash away all your troubles. I could tell I was wired pretty tight so I needed to get outdoors. I felt so much better by the end. The clear air and sounds of nature. Along with a little sweat and elevated heart rate! Does the body good!!

Even made it back in time for a Xmas party with one of my hiking groups. Hanging out with a bunch of people I don’t know was a stretch for this introvert!!! I survived though and had a good time!

We got more snow today so that is awesome! I so want to get out and try my new snowshoes

Lake Melakwa in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness

I have great plans to hike Heather Maple Loop trail because it has great fall color and larches. That hike is a few hours from my house so I had to set a 4 am alarm, which I did. I packed my backpack Friday night so I could just grab and go. Well my alarm went off and there was just no way I was getting up. So two hours later I finally dragged myself out of bed and decided on a new plan.

I’ve always wanted to see the Rockwood Farms in Snoqualmie as it is well known for the beautiful tree lined driveway. I stopped by there to take some photos before heading out to the Denny creek Trail. This is a very busy trail so the parking lot was full and many of us had to park along the road. At this point I realized I forgot my trekking poles at home. Ugh! I would definitely need those later!

The hike starts out through the forest where we saw lots of varieties of mushrooms and passed a few pickers along the trail. The trail winds along a hillside, which I thought was the hill we would be cresting, then drops you down for a stream crossing and away from the original hillside. After about a half hour after crossing the stream you break out of the forest and into a talus field. The hike to the ridge line is all exposed and consists of many switchbacks and a few talus fields. The trail feels like it goes on forever. We had great weather so the fall colors were pretty amazing!

At the ridge line it is a nice 15 minute stroll to the lake. What I love about the alpine lakes is the colors! They all are a little different but equally spectacular. I stayed at the lake for about 45 minutes and had some lunch. It was starting to get a bit chilly as the sun was behind the trees so I decided it was time to pack up and head back down.

This is where all the fun began!! One there are lots of trip hazards on this trail and lots of talus fields. Slow going but boy did I wish I had my trekking poles!! You hear pikas along the trail but rarely see them. I found one basking in the sun on a rock so I finally got a picture!! That was pretty cool.

I was waking down a dirt section of the trail, nothing unusual, and tripped on a rock. Before I knew it I was down on the ground! Bad part was I fell face first into a group of large rocks! It didn’t knock me out but boy did it ring my bell and knocked the wind out of me. The good part of hitting the rocks is they stopped me from sliding over the edge of the embankment. That would have been bad!!

I immediately knew my face was bleeding quite a bit. I managed to locate my water bottle which had fallen off my pack and sat on the side of the trail so I could figure out how badly I was injured. I used my phone camera to see where I was bleeding. My mouth and nose were bleeding pretty good. I had a goose egg on my eyelid already. Thankfully my sunglasses took the majority of the blow. The lens cracked but stayed intact. They must be made of something crazy strong to hold together with that hard of an impact. Glad they did though or I would have been in much worse condition!!

Luckily I carry a pretty well stocked first aid kit and I’m first aid trained so I was able to get the bleeding to stop. I checked the rest of me out and I was all good except for some sore ribs from my camera I carry on my front backpack strap. I knew I needed to get moving as I had about 3 more miles to hike out.

I could tell as I was hiking that my eye was continuing to swell. Even though my lips were severely swollen I was more concern about my eye. I passed a couple hikers on my way down and had them give my face a good once over as I couldn’t tell if I was still bleeding or if I missed an injury. They were great and stayed with me for a bit on the way down so they could tell I had my bearings.

I finally made it back to my truck and drove to the walk-in clinic to make sure nothing was broken. X-rays were negative just lots of swelling and bruising!

I hike quite a bit and 99% of the time it is uneventful. Well this hike was the 1%. Glad I always go prepared for the worst. I make sure someone knows my plan. I always carry my Garmin InReach and have it track my hike so friends can see where I am. I carry an extensive first aid kit and boy did that come in handy! I always have the 10 essentials. Things can change so quickly and they sure did for me! I know it was an unusual situation and it won’t deter me from hiking. It’s just a good awareness to have.

Today I’m feeling pretty good. I have a pretty good black eye but my nose and mouth are looking much better. Too bad it’s not closer to Halloween as I could easily go as either Rocky or Conor McGregor! Batted tested!!

Mt St Helens ūüėćūüėćūüėć

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!!!

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!

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!

Goat Lake does not disappoint!

I planned on doing this hike a couple weeks ago but I decided to move it out and give myself more time. ¬†The Goat Lake hike is 10.4 miles. ¬†It’s about 35 miles past Granite Falls and about 35 miles past civilization and cell phone range! The Mountain Loop Highway feels like you drive way further than 35 miles. ¬†The instructions tell you to drive until the end of the pavement plus 3.5 miles, so I did. ¬†I drove to the end of the pavement, which was only a gap of about 30 feet before the pavement started again. ¬†Hmmm….That must not be the end of the pavement they were talking about! ¬†It wasn’t. ¬†Out in the middle of nowhere, where there are a ton of camping spots along the river and a lot of hiking trails to explore, you finally hit the end of the pavement. ¬†It’s for real this time! ¬†Gravel road for 3.5 miles. ¬†Total dust storm. ¬†Although my truck is normally forest green, it is clearly dirt brown now! ¬†The parking lot for Goat Lake is not very big and it was full so I joined the groups that were parking on the road.

I decided to take Lower Elliot trail out as it meanders through the forest and along the river so you get to listen to the birds and the water!  My favorite!  The first three or so miles is a nice stroll, then you start uphill to get to the lake.  I stopped a couple of times along the way to take some photos.  The waterfall just below the base of Goat Lake is pretty cool!  There was a ton of water flowing done the rocks so of course I had to venture down that side trail!  It alone was worth the hike!

There were a number of folks camping at the lake, but they are off to the left. ¬†The trail surrounding the lake is for day use only. ¬†Although I only saw a few people on the trail, there were quite a few at the lake already. ¬†I had to scout out the area and see if I could find a place to hang my hammock, because it is National Hammock Day! I found a nice spot overlooking the lake and I could have totally taken a nap if it weren’t for the constant bugs! Not mosquitos. ¬†These were flies, or they looked like flies, and they BITE to the point that ¬†you can feel them biting! ¬†Not fun! ¬†This made for a shorter than planned stay at the lake:( ¬†I packed up my gear and headed back down on the Lower Elliot Trail. ¬†I’ve decided I’d like to try a one night camping adventure, but no tent. ¬†Hammock sleeping, with net!

It took me 2 hours to get to the lake and 90 minutes to get back down.  This trail is a decent workout.  Enough sweating to let you know you are putting in some good effort!  Once you get out of the forest, you get to walk through narrow trails lined with wildflowers that were over my head tall!  The lake is stunning and worth the hike!  No snow around the lake but you can still see some on the hills.

Another great hike to check off the list!  Time to start planning a fall hike to Gem Lake.  I bet it is pretty spectacular with the fall foliage!!

Trail of Ten Falls in Oregon

I ventured down to Oregon over the weekend as my daughter was playing in the Adidas Beaverton Cup soccer tournament. I left a bit early, okay in the middle of the night, to catch sunrise at Mt Rainier. Unfortunately I was about 30 minutes late for that but I still managed to stop at Reflection Lake. You have to get here either first thing in the morning or at sunset to get a calm lake. The water truly was like a mirror. The skies deep blue with wispy clouds rolling by. This is one of my favorite spots to photograph. In the right conditions you can get some spectacular photos. I met a really nice older couple who were up from Portland. They were pretty chatty so we had some good conversation and laughed quite a bit!  I always love it when you run into friendly people!!

After Mt Rainier I headed done to Silver Falls Stare Park. I’ve read quite a bit about the Trail of Ten Falls. The trail is about 8 miles meandering through he forest and has Ten separate waterfalls throughout. Although it was a pretty warm day I was hoping for some shady conditions in the forest. Not so much!  This is a very crowded park and trail. I managed to see 9 out of the 10 waterfalls. Of the 9 I would say 4 were pretty cool. The rest were either obstructed or had such a small water flow that I’m not sure waterfall would be the right word to describe them. All in all it was worth the trip. Swear off a few pounds on that one. I apparently walked the trail the wrong way so I was headed uphill most of the time including a very long set of switchbacks and stairs!!

Adventuring around Crystal Mountain and Mt. Rainier

Kids are on spring break so what better place to still get some good powder snow, but also some good hiking in the woods.  We headed down to Alta Crystal Resort (highly recommend them!). We reserved a cool chalet with a loft so we had plenty of space.  They do some fun activities on the property, like a huge bonfire on Saturday nights.  They supply all the ingredients for smores along with drinks, including beer and wine for adults! They have a  pretty nice heated pool as well with hot tub!

We rode the gondola up to the top of Crystal Mountain.  It was a bit foggy when we arrived so we decided to have lunch at the restaurant at the top.  By the time we were done eating, all the fog was done and we had a breathtaking view of Mt. Rainier.  They have some fun summer chairs set up along the upper ledge so people can enjoy the view. We even got to see and feed the high altitude birds you frequently find while hiking on Mt. Rainier.

During the day we ventured out on some trails on the back of the property. ¬†We tried to hike up Goat Falls, but there was still quite a ¬†bit of snow and you definitely needed traction wear to make it. Unfortunately I did not pack them so we had to turn around. ¬†The forest is full of streams and super green moss. ¬†I could have spent a few hours at the stream taking photos! ¬†I’m sure i was down there for awhile playing around with shutter speeds and filters. ¬†Came away with some pretty cool photos! A couple that I might frame.

We took the sleds up near Crystal Mountain so the kids could play for awhile.  I got to try out my new shoe shoes!  Can wait to go on a snow shoeing adventure!

I can’t wait to head back to Mt. Rainier in the summer and do some more hiking!

Trekking out Boulder River

I’ve seen this hike on WTA.org a few times and what caught my attention was the photos of a waterfall. I seem to chase great waterfall hikes and this one lived up to the photos!!  The hike is posted at 8.6 miles round trip through the forest, along the river back, and up along the hillside overlooking the river. The forest is covered with so many varieties and color of moss covering the ground and the trees. This must be an old growth forest. Many of the trees seemed to reach up to the clouds and were well over 6 feet in diameter. One of these large trees had fallen and was blocking the trail. Three great guys from Back Country Crosscut Crew were sawing it to clear the trail. Sawing it with old school large hand saws!  Awesome guys!!  The  trail is well marked, with lots of thick mud and several stream crossings. With all the rain we’ve had lately the water was just running out of the hillsides. Along the trail you get to see 3 large waterfalls and a number of small ones. The large falls are gorgeous. Heavy flows of water cascade down the rocks to the river. The trail has a few hill climbs and descents but the forest is so peaceful we didn’t mind.   

We did run across a ferocious field mouse who challenged us on the trail. He bravely stood his ground then in a split second charged me. I was able to quickly maneuver out of his way so he ran past us and down the trail. Thank god!!  I don’t like mice so I was glad we were able to part companynwith no injuries or screaming for that matter!ūüė≥

At 5 miles we decided to turn around as the trail was getting very narrow and overgrown. Not exactly sure where the end was but another hiker told us we got close as the trial end in an old campground. Round trip the hike was about 10 miles for us. Nice sunny day to end March. Spring is on it’s way!!ūüĆ∑ūüĆ∑

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