Park Butte Lookout

Up Highway 20 just before the small city of Concrete is a turnoff for Baker Lake. This area is really popular in the summer for camping and fishing. If you head a little past Baker Lake you find several forest service roads which take you out in the foothills where several really nice trails exist.

Park Butte is my third lookout I’ve hiked to in Washington. They all are a little different. Some allow overnight stays while others do not. Some are open year around while others close during late fall and winter. Park Butte is on the south side of Mt. Baker and offers spectacular views of the mountain through fields covered in fall colors.

The trail starts out meandering through a meadow with little elevation gain. There is a fairly wide river or mountain runoff stream to cross. When we were there, a temporary metal bridge was placed over the river to allow crossing. I just read that it has been removed for the winter. With the recent rains I would not want to try crossing that river without a bridge. That is some fast moving water! Once you cross over the bridge the trail starts a steady climb up to another meadow. The climb is through the forest and occasionally offers peekaboo views over the valley. We had some low clouds so some of the view was obstructed, however I always like the view when you are actually above the cloud cover. It looks like you are on top of cotton balls or marshmallow cream!

When you climb out of the forest, you enter a large meadow that is currently covered with fall colors. The ground cover leaves were a deep red color, which was a nice fore ground against the white glaciers of Mt. Baker. Across the meadow we had an unobstructed view of Mt. Baker. It always seems so strange to be standing so close to glaciers. You can see the creases and blue coloring of the ice.

From the meadow you start climbing again to get up to the lookout. I’ll be honest you can see the lookout from the meadow and it looks so far away. Like crazy far away! The trail winds it way up and around the rocks. You walk parallel to the lookout for quite awhile. It can get a little discouraging as it doesn’t feel like you are making any progress to the lookout. Outside of the view of Mt. Baker there really isn’t much to see on this hike. The landscape is pretty dry and rocky unfortunately.

One exciting part on the trek up to the lookout was the sighting of a black foraging in a meadow. When I first saw the bear I wasn’t quite sure what it was, until it moved! It was a ways away so it was pretty exciting to see! It made the long trek up the hill go by quickly as we were easily distracted by seeing what the bear was doing. This was my first time seeing a bear int he wild on a hike! Pretty cool!!

The lookout was pretty busy so we didn’t stay very long. We moved off to the side to sit and have lunch looking out over a valley as the fog moved in. While we were eating lunch a group of horseback riders came up to the lookout. Never seen that on a trail before! They were pretty funny and immediately broke out their Coors Light to enjoy at the lookout!

It was starting to get kinda chilly so we headed back down. Another lookout hike to check off the list!

Burroughs 1, 2 and a herd of goats!!

We’d planned on doing this hike a couple weeks earlier but I somehow managed to miss the entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park. Still don’t understand how that happened! Just meant we needed to come back.

It turned out to be a pretty windy day with gusts about 25 mph. That’s not all that fun when you are on a dry mountain with blowing dirt. Luckily there is quite a bit of blockage areas along this hike. Burroughs is back on the Sunrise side of Mt. Rainier, which is definitely more desert like. Although the trail starts in the missile of a meadow, you quickly leave that and head out to the dirt and rock! This hike takes you along the side to Frozen lake as well, but instead of turning right to the lookout you go left up the Ridgeline. As we were walking along we would see a large herd of goats hanging out along with Wonderland Trail. We kept an eye on the herd and thought we could divert down there after our hike to get a look at the goats. My GF hasn’t seen goats up close so we were hoping they would still hang around.

Burroughs heading up to 1 and 2 is not the prettiest hike. You have long views out across the valley but the terrain is really dry and pretty boring. I would imagine it’s what the surface of Mars looks like! The highlight of the hike up was my GF attempting a headstand on top of Burroughs 1. It was a bit breezy up there. She tried several time and we ended up with a pretty funny video!

The trek from Burroughs 1 to Burroughs 2 was equally uninspiring. You can tell you are gaining some elevation as the air is a bit thin up there. We pondered on top of Burroughs 2 if we should head to the elusive Burroughs 3. Still not sure where it is or if it really exists. The park map doesn’t even show it! We decided to head back down and keep an eye out for the goats. Fortunately on the way back down we could see the goats the entire time and it was clear they were not moving anywhere. We made it down to frozen lake and made the turn onto the Wonderland Trail. We found a herd of goats bedded down in the trees. I would guess there were about 40 goats including several babies. We watched them for while then decided to head back down as it was getting pretty warm on the trail.

Another hike to check off the bucket list!

Skyline and High Skyline at Mt. Rainier

On August 22, the group headed back down to Mt. Rainier to hike Burroughs. I thought it would be a great opportunity to stretch out the legs and see some different terrain at Mt. Rainier. We were so busy chatting on the way down that I actually missed the turn into Sunrise at Mt. Rainier. Not exactly sure how that happened and I passed at least 3 signs telling me to turn! So……anyways we ended up at Paradise at Mt. Rainier. I haven’t hiked there in a really long time so it was a nice change. The Paradise side has a lot more meadows and waterfalls. You get a much closer look at the glaciers on Rainier and can see the trek to Camp Muir! Camp Muir is still on my bucket list!

Luckily Cathi has hiked Skyline before and knew it was a really nice trail. Portions of the trail are actually paved which is interesting. This trail starts at the well known stairs, etched with a John Muir quote. Right from the get go we saw the most marmots I’ve ever seen! They were everywhere!!! We even saw a couple bucks eating some vegetation. The marmots are clearly use to seeing people regularly. They stand right next to the trail or cross the trail right in front of you. At times they look like they are engaging you in a stare down!

What’s nice about this trail, beyond the view, is the ongoing view of Mt. Rainier. It feels like you are virtually standing on Mt. Rainier at times. It’s so close you can almost reach out and touch it! The glaciers on this side are amazing. You can see the blue ice, cut deeply with crevases and fissures. You just don’t understand the magnitude of these. To be able to see them with such detail at that distance, you know just how massive they truly are.

Although we had pretty clear skies, we also encountered some cloud layers as we gained elevation. One of my favorite parts of being on a mountain is the ability to get above the cloud layer. When you are above the clouds, the tops look like cotton balls. It looks like you could walk right out on them! Maybe that’s what the heavens look like. It just give an entirely different perspective to the environment. We were so lucky and were able to see Mt. St Helen’s, Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood from the trail. That is pretty amazing! I’ve summited Mt. St Helens. I’m going back to Mt. Adams in 2021 to finish that hike! If all goes well maybe even add Mt. Baker to the 2021 list!

This hike for the crew was a bit more difficult. It didn’t have more elevation gain or mileage, but the starting elevation point and increase created some issues with the thinner air. Right from the start a couple were having a hard time breathing but I think the views were a nice distraction.

Sometimes getting lost leads you to the best hikes! This hike lived up to that!

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!

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!

Snowshoeing is so much fun!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alpine Wilderness is always a WOW moment!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another fun adventure!  Great meeting some new hikers.

Happy trails!

Hello Fall. This is Winter calling. I’m coming home early this year!

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

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

We started at Mowich Lake which is a really dark blue. The trail goes along the edge of the lake before heading into the forest. We ran into Ryan on the trail just before the forest. This is a really nice trail. It weaves through the forest on some rolling hills but no real steep parts. You come out on a crest line and can see down to the Wonderland Trail.  That was a pretty nice view into the valley!  I have to admit I was hoping to see a bear down there but didn’t!  I really want to see goats and bears. At a safe distance that is!  We did see a couple deer up close but that was all. 

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

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

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

We waited for about 45 minutes at the Lookout but were only able to see a Peak a boo view of Mt Rainier. I didn’t realize how close it was.  I love hiking in the snow. It is so peaceful. So quiet. Everything is so clean and fresh. The snow resting on tree limbs. Just allows you to clear your mind and just be present in the moment. Just you and nature. ❤️

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

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

Happy trails!

Skagit Valley Eagles

Every January I venture up past Concrete along the Skagit River to see the eagles.  A few years ago it wasn’t uncommon to see dozens of eagles sitting in the trees or swooping down to steal a salmon out of the river. So impressive to see such a majestic bird in flight so close. Over the years, the numbers have dwindled significantly.  Now you might see a handful off in the distance.  The eagles seem fewer in number and maybe have moved north up to the Nooksack river. I might have to venture up there next time.

We are experiencing an unusually snowy winter this year in Western Washington.  Normally we only get a day or two of snow in the winter. This year it seems like we have a snow storm every other week!  On the positive side, the snowpack is full!  This means great runoff for the rivers and lakes in spring and summer. It also provides for the great beauty of our rolling hillsides and Cascade mountains.  Set against a beautiful blue sky it reminds us of what a beautiful state in which we live and play.

Leque Island levee trail

Although this really isn’t a hike, I heard this was a great place to see owls and I’ve always wanted to try to photograph owls.  Although I did find one sitting in a tree, I quickly discovered I need to buy a new camera. I’ve had my DSLR for a number of years and it’s time to upgrade! Add that to the bucket list!  We were lucky enough to see several blue herons and an eagle when we first arrived.

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