Friend Renee came to visit for a full week in late May, early June. While we spent most of our time on Vashon exploring trails and farmstands, at farms and in the garden, we were able to get out into the mountains on a beautiful – albeit crowded – Saturday. The ideal hike we saught: epic views, 2.5-3 hours or less from home, 10 miles, and full of solitude. We found everything but the solitude on our hike to Bandera and Mason Lake. High point 5240 ft, elevation gain 3400 ft+, distance 10 miles.
We arrived at the trailhead to around 10 am on a Saturday. Actually, not quite 10am because a few miles shy we were greeted by a backcountry ranger warning us about crowds, a full parking lot, to please only park on one side of the road in order to avoid an impass or car wreck, but be careful of the soft shoulder as last week two cars rolled over the edge of the steep forest road. Yikes! We parked 0.6 miles from the trailhead and walked to the start. Jared forgot his water and had to go the 1.2 miles roundtrip to the car and back. Whoops.
But then we were off – onto the mild yet steadily climbing Ira Spring Trail. We tried to count the hikers and dogs – a requisite pastime on hikes with N&C – yet we lost track after 150 people and 30ish dogs. And that was merely on the way up. The throngs of hikers were well spaced though, so no conga lines or bad trail etiquette to fret over. Early on Jared planted the hunger seed and mentioned how tasty Indian food would be after the hike. At the split, we went right up the steep trail that led to Bandera’s summit, which yielded amazing views of Rainier, the Cascades, and Mason Lake. Snack time. Rest time. From there we returned to the trail junction and bore right again to scope out Mason Lake. On the banks we relaxed, took in the sunshine, and watched a few bold dogs and hikers jump in the icy lake.
The walk out was easy. We conjured up images of Indian food. We returned to our car in time to admire the small town of Carnation, sip a quick beer at the Black Raven brewery in Redmond, and of course savor garlic naan, onion naan, Saag Paneer, Chana Masala, extra yogurt sauce, and Bhuna Gosht at Kanishka before returning home…
It was a beautiful winter day and Jared and I wanted to get our hike on. We tossed around the idea of hiking Mt Defiance, but when our friend Megan and her friend Katrina told us they were planning to hike Snow Lake, we tagged along! A bit shorter meant we had time for adult obligations like chores and laundry. Yay! The hike was a good time. Icy, snowy, windy, full of other day hikers. WTA says the hike is 10 miles, but Jared’s watch said 7.
Sunday. November 22, 2015. Hike: Snow Lake, 7.0 miles. Elevation gain: 2000 feet. High point: 5100 feet.
We meet Megan at her house, pick up Katrina along the way, and drive out to Alpental. The parking area is full! Well almost full. We find a spot, park, don our boots, gaiters, and microspikes and head on out.
We hike up the trail. It’s sunny and nice. We immediately shed a layer. Microspikes were a good idea – lots of ice and a solid little base layer of snow. Just like I remembered it from hiking it last winter.
About a mile in we hit the junction for Source Lake – none of us have ever been there but apparently it’s just a short hike in. Maybe next time. From there the trail switchbacks up a steep slope. Lots of people out today. And lots of dogs.
At the top we stop for a wee snack break – along with everyone else but the crowds felt more festive than overrun. It’s here that we realize I packed my snacks. Only. I thought Jared packed some for himself. He thought I packed them for both of us. Oopsie. Well it’s a short hike. We’ll share. Jared and I share an apple at the overlook. And a dog steals the apple core! Ha! His owner tells us about his thieving nature and how he once stole hamburger from a woman on a beach. Amazing. Many people habituate the gray jays to a life of stealing food from humans by feeding them snacks.
We head down toward the lake and take the shady switchbacks down. The lake is clear and unfrozen. We talk about food and diet and eating or not eating things. Jared and I are vegan except for the 50 lbs of beef in our freezer and the turkey we’re about to pick up for Thanksgiving!
We wind around the lake to another lil’ view spot. Damn it’s windy! Snacks in the wind. Brr. Let’s get out of the wind! Back ’round the lake and up the shady switchbacks. Then to the saddle and back down the sunny switchbacks toward the trailhead. Back past the Source Lake turnoff and to Megan’s car. Yay hiking!
Tuesday. July 28, 2015. Hike: Kendall Katwalk. Distance: 12 miles. Elevation gain: 2600 feet. High point: 5400 feet.
I hiked Kendall Katwalk for the first time in July. You can find pretty pictures from that hike HERE. I didn’t carry my phone/camera so no pics this time around. But to give you an idea, imagine the pictures from July only more gray. It didn’t really rain on me, but the Seattle gray has settled in and now most days are just kinda gray now.
This time around I was going for a trail run. So I made the Katwalk part of my half marathon training. (I’m running the Grand Ridge Half Marathon in less than 2 weeks from now!) 2,600 feet elevation gain is a little more than I want to run, but the Katwalk is a good distance and importantly close to Seattle.
I drive out to the trailhead and park in the half full lot. I start my run sometime between 9 and 10am. I’m not timing myself really. Just running to run and cover the miles that I’ll cover in the race. I wont be setting any records. My race goal is to finish and run the entire time. If I finish under 3 hours – a slow and completely attainable goal – I’ll be happy.
Temps are around 50. I’m decked out in running tights, a t-shirt, my houdini windjacket, and earband. I have a handheld water bottle, which holds only 10 oz, so I carry another 1L water bottle – somewhat awkwardly without a strap. Without a running vest, this will have to do. I take a few gels – okay, packets of honey – for energy and experimentation. The first time I ran a long run (about 90 minutes) I did it without food or water and felt like total crap. Rookie move. It’s worth it to carry a little something. There’s an entire science behind when and what to eat and drink, but I’m fine approximating it. I realize I forgot my watch so I’ll guess at the best time to eat the gels – around 2/3 of the way to the top, then again 1/3 of the way down.
I set off on the trail. It’s a gradual climb. Steady but not too steep. I run the entire way up, aside from a few slightly steeper patches and spots with terrible footing where I walk. I pass a few people – some going up, some coming down. I eat a honey packet 2/3ish of the way up. According to WTA, it’s here “at 4.25 miles, cross a nearly flat ridge top where large fallen trees bear evidence to a past storm”. Swigs of water here and there. I also stash the bigger water bottle after refilling my handheld from it and continue uphill.
The wind picks up in gusts near the top. Brrr. I hope the exposed Katwalk isn’t windy. I can always pop my hood for a little more weather protection. I climb a little higher and pop out onto the “katwalk” where luckily there is no wind. The scree here is slower going but I take the opportunity to walk when I can. I turn around at the first switchback on the katwalk. I think that must have been about 6 miles.
Whew running down is more my speed. I have to watch my footing and I’m concerned about getting cold, but it’s great. I pass a few people I ran by on the way up as well as a lot more people coming up now. I understand the trail etiquette that those going up have the right of way, but it’s really nice when people move over for me to run past. (Or do trail runners automatically have the right of way? Hmm I should look into this.)
I eat my second honey packet and pick up my rogue water bottle. I contemplate not eating honey, but convince myself that it’s better to have a tiny bit too much sugar in my system than not enough. Running down is so much more fun. My knees feel fine, which I’m actually surprised by. I would have thought my knees would hate me, but they seem pretty happy. Sweet.
Two miles from the trailhead I get passed by 2 horses and their riders – the first time I’ve actually seen horses on the PCT. I manage not to fall on the way down, too. Score. And I make it down to the trail head just in time to use the stinky outhouse a few hours later. (I forget how long it took me – not fast for sure but not horribly slow either.)
I immediately change into wool pants, wool shirt, and down jacket. The only way to stay warm is to not get cold, so they say. I gobble down a little rice and veggies I brought to get some food in my body. I’m not hungry, but I can’t really eat and drive so it’s now or when I get home. Drink a little more water. I drive home to Seattle but not without stopping. Ugh I feel sick. I’m nauseous. Was it the run? The slightly sketchy leftover rice? Getting too hot in my wool and down duds? The bumpy highway? Yes, probably all of the above. I pull off some random exit, pull onto a cul-de-sac, recline my seat, and powernap. I manage to doze off for a few minutes and somehow feel better. Back on the road again. Race, here we come!
This post isn’t too terribly late…it’s from a few weeks ago. Jared, Tyler, and I hiked to the top of Alta Mountain on a Sunday. This hike was a test run/quasi training hike for the Wonderland Trail, which we just finished yesterday! The day on Alta was beautiful – warm weather, blue skies. And the views were even better. Alta has to be one of my favorite hikes and favorite views in Washington so far…
Sunday. August 9, 2015. Hike: Alta Mountain. Length: 12 miles. Gain: 3300 feet. High Point: 6151 feet.
Tyler meets Jared and I at our place and we hit the road somewhere around 8 am. I’d been particularly ambitious this morning and had made breakfast burritos which we eat in the car. Tyler brings the coffee. We drive the 1 1/2 hours (not bad!) to the Rachel Lake trailhead, the last few miles of which is on a washboard dirt road. We’re on the trail by 10 am.
The hike starts out easy along the Rachel Lake trail. This hike has 3300 feet of gain, mostly in spurts – you’re either walking flat or climbing up. Early on we all break to pee. It’s 3.5 miles to Rachel Lake. Flat, through woods, through a large meadow with plants above our heads, then up! We see what we later realize is Hibox Peak and all quizzically wonder – “is that where we’re going? it looks so far away…”. Turns out it’s not. Alta is hidden for the time being.
We pass most people along the steep section leading to Rachel Lake. Families ending their weekend of camping, groups, etc. One young guy is carrying a heavy Weber grill. Another a keyboard. Strange, but ok.
We make it to Rachel Lake and man, is it gorgeous. We snack and sit for nearly an hour just soaking in the view. It’s just too relaxing and picturesque to leave just yet. Other people are sitting along the rocky shore too. A small dog spends 20 minutes with us, patiently begging for food. Jared and Tyler have plans to jump in the lake on the way out. I use the privy (call me crazy, but I find the idea of toilets along trails in the woods both strange and awesome).
We finally muster the mental resolve to get back on the trail and continue up the – possibly difficult – trail to Alta Mountain. We resume our places along the unmarked trail and quickly gain elevation as we ascent tight switchbacks that take us above Rachel Lake – another beautiful vantage point.
At the top of the switchbacks, along the ridge, we take the unmarked trail right that will take us to Lila Lake and Alta Mountain. We meander along the ridge for a while. A trail runner runs past. Less than half mile later we’re at the next unmarked junction that takes us left up to Alta. Trail reports of a “knife-edge” ridge and the WTA description that “the route is non-technical, but those with a fear of heights will be uneasy” makes me nervous, but it doesn’t look so bad from here… I can handle it.
We again climb up steeply for a short time before the trail sort of levels off again. We walk along the ridge. It reminds me of walking along a boardwalk or walking the plank. The ridge drops off steeply on both sides of the trail and the valleys open up expansively to huge views in all directions. Beautiful. And blueberries! Blueberry bushes line the trail up here. Yum.
Is that the top? No. What about that? No. The ridge goes on and on, false summit after false summit. The knife-edge gets sharper. Ok, I can understand the “uneasy” part. I’m feeling pretty uneasy. I hike ahead of Tyler and Jared – I know I’m going to have to slow way down over the hairiest parts, so I make up for future lost time now.
On and on. Jared and Tyler catch up. Eventually we see the cairn that marks the top. It used to be over 6 feet tall not long ago, but now it’s probably 3 or 4 feet. Still, it stands out and we make our way there. Success!
We snack at the summit for a few minutes. Amazing views in all directions! We can see the bottom of Rainier (the top is in clouds). Hibox Peak, Lila Lakes, the PCT, and a dozen or so other standout peaks and lakes that I somehow never manage to remember. Gorgeous. I brought a big jar of Justin’s hazelnut spread. As Tyler dips his nature valley bar into the jar, tiny bugs swarm him and about a dozen of them nosedive into the nut butter. I’m amused and pick the bugs out. After 15 or 20 minutes, we decide to head back down.
Back along the sharp-ridge. Less uneasy-feeling-inducing on the way back somehow. Over the ridge, down the hill, over the other ridge, down the switchbacks, back to Rachel Lake.
Jared and Tyler jump in the lake. They say it’s warm. Ish. I dip my feet in and wash off the dirt (my Brooks Cascadias that I hike in have totally blown out and dirt finds its way in easily). We chat with the folks who sit at the shores of Rachel Lake now. We’ve conquered our mountain and feel pretty accomplished.
Ok, I guess we can’t stay here forever…Back down the steep section, Jared is practically doing a jig down the trail. We all have so much energy. We meander through the woods and across the meadow, the flowers are looking particularly large and in charge (does anyone know what that tall purple flower – that I didn’t take a picture of – is? gotta figure that out…).
Down through the woods. We’re all running at points – feeling great! Jared leading the charge, me in the middle, and Tyler in the back. Eventually we realize that we can’t run forever/shouldn’t run forever if we want to hike Wonderland in one piece.
Back to the car. An awesome, beautiful, demanding, and rewarding hike. Can’t wait to come back and check out Lila and Rampart Lakes…
So I’m waaaay behind on blog posts (yes by about 15 posts!) but thought I’d catch up in reverse order…starting with the newest and working my way backward. Jared and I went hiking yesterday in the North Cascades. We both managed to get the day off from work. Originally we intended to hike Alta Mountain, but seeing as how the forecast for the Snoqualmie area called for rain and clouds, we diverged north instead.
Monday. August 3, 2015. Hike: Heather-Maple Pass Loop. Distance: 7.2 miles. Elevation gain: 2000 feet. High point: 6650 feet.
We get a smidge later start to the day after an exhausting (but great!) social day (we hosted a random PCT hiker the night before whom we bade farewell, met friends for breakfast, sailed, and hosted music club). We left for the mountains around 10 am.
Drive the 3 hours north to the North Cascades, realizing along the way that we’re going right by Ross Lake and Diablo Lake – a place we hope to canoe/camp later this summer! Diablo Lake is the most beautiful shade of slightly cloudy turquoise…
Jared and I each eat our half of the QFC sandwich we picked up along the way – not a ton of food, but somehow so dense and satisfying that we have no desire to eat another crumb until later that evening.We read about ptarmigans on the way and hope we see one. We arrive at the Rainy Pass trailhead just after 1. We hop onto the trail that points us toward Lake Ann (we think it’s counter clockwise around the loop? seems to be the direction most people travel) and start hiking!
Through woods, past a few people, and out onto a beautiful scree slope. A pika squeaks at us. Bog remnants below. Vast views beyond. We start to see a touch of haze above and beyond – wildfire smoke?! A faint smell of campfires permeate the air. Up switchbacks. Views of Lake Ann just below – a photogenic cirque with a tiny island in the center.
Up to Heather Pass where two women with a dog tell us about the good views to be had down the short social trail to our right. The social trails lead to the further, more rugged peaks that require scrambles (Lewis and Wing Lakes, Black Peak, and beyond). We meander a few hundred yards down and admire the badass looking peaks from a distance. Lovely wildflowers.
Continue up the ridgeline toward Maple Pass. The higher we go, the smokier it gets. The smell of smoke gets stronger too. We chat with an older couple about the smoke and fires. A few ash flakes dust down from the sky occasionally. One lands in my eyelash.
Despite the smoke, the views are still beautiful! Jagged, rugged peaks in all directions. Many glaciated peaks. We keep climbing until we’re finally at the pinnacle of our hike – Maple Pass. I surprise Jared with 2 beers I have stashed in my pack. We sip and chat from our glorious vantage point.
A middle aged couple inquires about the trail down – have we been down before? is it steep? We haven’t been there before, but it’s supposed to be a bit steeper that the first half. The return from whence they came.
Beers empty. Time to descend. Switchbacks down. There are a few precarious spots with significant exposure, but we make across the hairy spots easily. We spy a tent perched at the end of a ridge just past Maple Pass, it looks like an awesome spot to camp. Switchback down more. This portion of the trail reminds me of the Ohanapecosh Park of the Wonderland Trail, on the east side of Rainier with it’s exposed, beautiful ridgeline.
Down down. Bathroom break. Continue down. And suddenly… Ptarmigan! Wha!!!???!!!! The chill bird skidders slowly then hangs out at the edge of the trail. Can’t believe we found one!
Back into the woods. A few jaunts of running. This trail is too fun not to run. More roots lead to more stumbling lead to walking again. Before we know it, we’re on the flat, paved portion of the trail near Rainey Lake. A flat half mile out.
Back at the car sometime between 4 and 5. On our way back to Seattle we compose poems. In my brain I was thinking haiku, but said limerick. Jared came up an awesome limerick. I came up with a sweet haiku. Please enjoy…
There once was a couple from Seattle Who went to the North Cascades to do battle They hiked up a peak Saw a bird with a beak And spent the ride back home with the atl’ (atlas)
Drove by Diablo Hiked up high, drank beer, saw bird Home to Seattle
I hiked Red Mountain on July 29. Ok well most of Red Mountain. I turned around before the actual summit. I’ve got my eye on you Red…
Wednesday. July 29, 2015. Hike: Red Mountain (Commonwealth Basin). Distance: Probably 8-10 miles. Elevation gain: 2900 feet. High Point: 5890 feet (I probably made it to 5800).
I wake early and leave home around 5:30 or 6 am. I’m shooting to beat rush hour. I do and make it to the trail by 7.
After my hike to the Kendall Katwalk yesterday – where I saw Red Mountain up close and personal – I couldn’t resist coming back to try to conquer this aptly named peak. The red peak loomed in the distance and I wondered to myself, “hmm I wonder what that mountain is called. I’d like to hike it”. Lo and behold, the creative mountain namers out there dubbed it Red Mountain. Ha.
I opt to take the “abandoned” old Commonwealth Basin trail into the Commonwealth Basin. This allegedly abandoned trail parallels the PCT (which I hiked yesterday), but cuts off some distance, making the trail steeper and shorter. While abandoned, the trail is super cush. It’s beautiful, has more character, crosses an idyllic creek, and the bushes lining the trail are overflowing with huckleberries and salmonberries. Win win win. Nothing about the condition of the trail would make you think it was abandoned other than the fact that I saw no one else on it and there were no signs other than one nailed to a tree that simply said “abandoned”.
I make good time up the trail. I pass Guy Peak (another peak that looks alluring but requires ropes which is outside my current hiking plan). Red Mountain comes into view. Watch out, Red! Here I come.
I pass wildflowers. I plan to pick berries on the way back down. I intercept the actual Commonwealth Basin trail and continue on. A tent is set up off the trail to the left, which I pass around 9 am.
The trail gets steeper and climbs more abruptly up the flanks of Red. Tight switchbacks. Views of Rainier! With every ascending switchback, more and more of Rainier comes into view.
I reach the top/end of the trail below the scramble to the peak. After exploring the social trails for a few minutes, I take the sharp right after the second cairn as per trail report instructions and begin the scramble. It’s of course steep and the footing is pretty sketchy – lots of scree. The higher I go, the more the boot path is dominated by more rock and less soil. I put away my phone so I can use my hands on the scramble. It gets steeper and I have a hard time following the boot path. I look back down and think, hmm how am I going to get down this completely loose scree? what if I loose my way? The fear is enough to deter me. Falling and/or getting stuck or lost doesn’t sound fun. I vow to come back to the top of Red one day. One day.
I turn around and slowly scramble my way back down. Snack break. I see my first person of the day – the older guy who set his tent up below. We chat then I’m off. Some running on the trail down until I reach huckleberry territory. I use the tiny zip lock bag that once held saltines to hold the berries.
I pass two guys in their 40’s. They make unfunny jokes about seeing a cougar. I let it slide because they give me pro berry picking tips which makes them ok in my book.
I hike and pick until my tiny bag is bursting with berries. Back down to the car sometime shortly after noon. Drive back to Seattle before the afternoon rush hour begins!
Some day I’ll come back for Red Mountain. Just you wait, Red…
(Later I mixed the berries with blueberries and made a bomber Huckleberry-Blueberry-Salmonberry cobbler/crisp! It was delicious)
A belated blog post from last month. I hiked Kendall Katwalk the day before hiking Red Mountain at the end of July. A sunny and gradual hike along the PCT from Snoqualmie Pass with stunning views.
Tuesday. July 28, 2015. Hike: Kendall Katwalk. Distance: 12 miles. Elevation gain: 2600 feet. High point: 5400 feet.
I wanted to go on a longer day hike, over 10 miles, but didn’t want anything too crazy in terms of elevation gain and loss. And I didn’t want to drive too far but needed good views…so lo and behold…Kendall Katwalk!
I wake at an average time and wait until rush hour has passed before leaving the city. You either have to leave at 6:30 or 10:30 to play it safe. I get to the trailhead in about an hour, eat a snack, download the topo map of the area, and head out on the trail. The PCT is graded for horse travel, so I knew nothing would be too steep or demanding. Plus, a lot of folks trail run out here if they want ups and downs but nothing too aggressive.
The trail starts out in the woods. Nice and easy. Past a picnic table. Across wide switchbacks. 2 miles in the trail opens up. Nice low views of Guy Peak. And a stand out red mountain – what is it? I consult the topo, guess what? It’s called Red Mountain!
I pass a family of 4 and continue on. Back in the woods. About 4 miles in there is another clearing. Pretty wildflowers. Evidence of an old storm/downed trees. Back into the woods but approaching tree line. Around 5 1/2 miles in, I cross a scree slope and am out in the open – on the Kendall Katwalk. Great views all around. Rainier to the south.
I snack atop the ridge. Continue on until I can see the other side of Kendall Peak and pause there. I take in the views (there’s still a tiny bit of snow up here too). After a few minutes of sitting still, I get moving again.
I retrace my steps across the katwalk and down, down, down the mild slopes. Back to my car and I drive back to Seattle. I’m in a little traffic, but not terrible. I’ll come back for Red Mountain…