Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls – January 2014

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Lake Serene in all her serenity

Again, it’s been a while since my last hike post. And this post is much overdue as well… Here goes…

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Beautiful turnoff views

I had my usual Thursday off from work, so Jonathan and I decided to hike. Flexible jobs make for good hikes. It was cloudy in Seattle, but the previous day there had been an inversion where the clouds congregate down low and the skies are sunny up at high elevations. We’d heard about the inversion from Eve who had hiked and had been greeted by clear blue skies on her trek the day before. We were hoping for the same luck.  And the forecast for the Stevens Pass area was clear so we went for it.

Thursday, January 8, 2015. Hike: Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene. Distance: 8.2 miles roundtrip. Elevation gain: 2000 feet. High point: 2521 feet. 

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That’s where we’re headed

 

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Plenty of streams ran along and across the trail

A cloudy, gray morning in Seattle. Typical Seattle weather. I pack my hiking bag – including but hoping to avoid using my rain gear. Jonathan picks me up in his trusty old car, off we go toward Stevens Pass. This will actually be my first time hiking in that area. We sip on some coffee and cross our fingers that the clouds will part and we’ll meet sun on the other side.

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Preview of Bridal Veil Falls

And like clockwork, the clouds miraculously part. We’re about a mile before the turnoff for our hike, and bam! We leave the clouds in the dust. The road rises just barely enough that we drive above the fog and into the sun. We couldn’t have hoped for better luck. We are so psyched for the sun that we miss the turnoff. We drive an extra half mile, take in some beautiful mountain views at a turnoff, and then retrace our steps. We park in the lot – only a few other cars there. I pee behind the closed bathroom building with the locked pit toilets taunting me, and we set off on the trail.

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The valley below and the inversion layer

The trail is relatively flat with only mild elevation gain over the first few miles. Some tiny patches of snow scattered here and there, but nothing substantial, and nothing on the trail itself. The trail passes the turnoff for Bridal Veil falls (which we’ll hit on the way back down). We skirt some lesser, but still amazing, falls on our right. We cross the creek. The ascent begins. To quote the WTA trail description, “It’s a steady ascent using stairs, roots, and rocks for the final 1.5 miles gaining 1,300 feet”. Our entire hike is in shadow, the sun is obscured by Mt Index which towers over Lake Serene, at the top of the hike. (“Across the water the cliffs of Mt. Index rise 3,000 feet straight up and snow is piled at the base after a winter full of avalanches.”)

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A touch of ice on the trail

A hundred feet or so from our destination of Lake Serene, we’re greeted by icy trail. Careful walking. An older hiker with a sweet bandana-as-sweatband and his dog hike on by. He remarks that it’s like spring up here. It kind of is. Only when we finally reach the sign announcing our arrival at the lake do we find the sun. So happy, we bask in it’s light for a few minutes before forging on down to the lake. Jonathan and I find a nice rock to perch on, sit in the sun, and fuel up snacks. Man, this lake really is serene. It’s so incredibly still and peaceful.

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Snow packed trail just before the lake

We also realize that our sun is very limited. The sun is so low in the January sky that it’s barely peeking out at us through a notch to the left of Mt Index. It will “set” in a matter of minutes! Man, did we ever reach the lake at the perfect time. Jonathan sets up cameras to capture the changing light. We eat snacks – Skout bars, hot peppermint tea, hot hibiscus tea, etc etc.

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Jonathan enjoying a few moments of sun

The lake is iced over, some footprints visible on the ice which lead directly across and into snowcaves at the base of Mt Index. It’s been so warm that we wouldn’t risk following the footprints and crossing the ice. We’re happy on solid ground. Several small glaciers persist in the dark wintery shadow of Index. A few other hikers come and go. The sun “sets” around noon or so. Jonathan realizes that he had his GoPro on the wrong setting and it failed to capture the time lapse pics he was hoping for – bummer! More snapshots to compensate.

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Lake Serene covered in ice

After a good rest, we take the trail that skirts around to the right of the lake. Signs point us toward “Lunch Rock” and “Valley Overlook”. We check out Lunch Rock first. Up icy stairs and then we’re at a huge snowcovered rock that overlooks Lake Serene from the perfect angle. So aptly named, this would be the perfect place for lunch!

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Sunlight peeks over a dip in the horizon

We snap photos. I get nervous that Jonathan is going to slide off the icy snow and into the lake (my ol’ irrational fear of heights kicking in). I make my way down the icy stairs and over to the Valley Overlook. A nice view of the valley below and the outlet of the lake, also the uppermost point of Bridal Veil Falls.

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Looking towards Mt Index

I wander back down to our initial perch by the lake. I recline on a sleepy looking log. My rest is stirred by a mother-daughter hiking duo in matching purple athletic tights. I snap some pictures on their iphones for them. Jonathan wanders back down from his photo op at lunch rock. I pose for some pictures for him by walking across a log bridge several times – a human subject with Lake Serene as the backdrop. I’m getting cold. We head down.

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Photogenic ice

Trying to warm myself up, I take off quickly and hike ahead. I pass a few more hikers here and there. I make it halfway down the descent to the falls before Jonathan catches up with me. We bound down the stairs that make up a big chunk of the trail.
We reach the spur to the falls on our left and take it the 0.5 miles to our next destination. More uphill that we weren’t quite expecting. I’m glad I didn’t know there would be more up. Pass more hikers. I’m starting to feel sleepy. Stairs, stairs, stairs, and we’re there! Bridal Veil Falls!

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Ice, tiny glaciers, and a snow cave if you squint hard enough

 

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Sunlight still glows on Mt Index’s peak after “sunset”

The falls are huge. Water is leaping off rock which towers above us. A light mist hangs in the air from the crashing water. More pictures. Jonathan poses for some pics at the base of the falls and gets drenched in the process. We soak in the falls for a few minutes, then we’re off. On our way down again. Down, down, down. We’re back at the trailhead before we know it.

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Log bridge crossing on the way to lunch rock

Just in time to take in a beer from a tiny/weird new brewery on Route 2 less than a mile from the trailhead. And then we were on our way back to Seattle. A good hike. Great weather. Awesome inversion. Success.

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On the way to Lunch Rock and Valley Overlook

 

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Lake Serene from Lunch Rock

 

 

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Lake Serene being all serene

 

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View from the “Valley Overlook”

 

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The inversion layer of clouds grew while we hung out at the lake

 

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Stairs on the way down

 

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A fine bridge crossing

 

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Almost to Bridal Veil Falls

 

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Jonathan getting in for a closer inspection of the falls

 

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Water tumbling down Bridal Veil Falls

 

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Jonathan survived his brush with the falls

 

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Meandering trail down to the trailhead

 

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Reemerging into the Seattle fog

 

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It was a serene and picturesque trek. Can’t wait to do it again in summer

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Artist Point Snowshoe – January 2015

Driving toward Mt Baker
Driving toward Mt Baker. Snow covered trees everywhere

Jean

Jared and Tyler on snowshoes, halfway up to Artist Point
Jared and Tyler on snowshoes, halfway up to Artist Point

It’s been a while since my last post! I have been hiking/snowshoeing a few times and need to catch up on the excursion posts… Jared, Tyler, and I went on the first snowshoe trip of the year to Artist Point at Mt Baker. Jared and Tyler each had to try out their new snowshoes and I had to try out my new sleds (LL Bean slope sliders). So off we drove to Mt Baker…

I think we're in a cloud. Which way is Baker?
I think we’re in a cloud. Which way is Baker?

Saturday, January 3, 2015. Hike: Artist Point Snowshoe. Distance: a few miles (WTA lists it at 5.5 miles, but that seems way longer than we actually walked). Elevation gain: 1200 feet or less. High point: apx 5200 feet. 

Wake early, pile into Tyler’s Subaru. Coffee from the new Starbucks Roastery for the road. Stop at McDonalds for breakfast sandwiches and hashbrowns. Three hour drive to Mt Baker. A mostly cloudy day, but a few mountains peek out at us. Mt Baker Highway ends at our destination. No snow until the last few miles when the elevation starts to climb. Snowy trees line the road.

Tyler on his way up a snow hill
Tyler on his way up a snow hill

We arrive at Mt Baker. Around 10 or 11 am? The parking area is at the Mt Baker ski area. Shuksan appears from cloud cover at times. Mt Baker is nowhere to be seen. The clouds are too thick. We park. The parking lot is mostly full. We go off to our corners to pee in the snow. A couple is practicing with a ski parachute in the parking lot. We bundle up. The day is cold and snowy but not biting or frigid. Probably between low and upper 20’s all day. Snowshoes and tiny sleds in tow, we’re off.

Ski parachuters!
Ski parachuters!

We walk through the parking lot. Then go up the trail that branches right where other snowshoers and backcountry/sidecountry skiers are going. Partially on ski trail but partially out of bounds. Up we go. Tyler and Jared make adjustments to the new snowshoes. Tyler’s take more adjustment to get just right. The dropoff to the right feels kind of steep. Up, up, up.

Snow cave below
Snow cave below

I’d downloaded a new app called “Topo Maps” and use it to see where we are on the map. It’s really accurate and awesome. And useful with all of the clouds obscuring our view. The hill plateaus and we skirt left. We meet up with the road, completely snow covered, which is open in the summer and will take you all the way to Artist Point. Mt Baker is one of the snowiest places in the world. The snow beneath us is deep but fairly compact. We have no problem with our snowshoes.

Ski parachuting in action
Ski parachuting in action

We wind our way up, and suddenly we’re there! The views are non existent because we’re in a cloud, but it’s great to be up there. There’s a summer bathroom cabin almost entirely buried in snow. Other people are at the top, playing like we are. Another couple and their dog are getting ready to parachute ski down. It turns out to be an adventure for them – this is the first time they’d tried it with their dog. The woman skies first. The dog follows. The dude’s parachute gets stuck. The dog reappears, looking for his mama. Then runs off again. Then the guy skies off… we hope they all met up at the bottom somewhere… A few others are digging a snow cave. There are fun little hills of snow at the top. We run around a bit, play in the snow. We eat snacks of goldfish and hot peppermint tea.

Jared making his way down a snow hill
Jared making his way down a snow hill

There’s a tiny break in the clouds and we can see part of a valley below. Tyler climbs a snow hill to take pictures. I set my sights on another snow hill and break trail there. Jared walks between some of the snow hills. The white snow and flat gray light are incredibly deceiving. Is that an uphill or downhill? A sheer drop or flat ground? We all meet up amidst the snow hills. I try to run down a small slope, but end up running into a bank of snow that I had no idea was there. We look at the clock. Time to go down.

Tyler photographing the snow
Tyler photographing the snow

We follow the path which the parachute skiers and their dog had taken. We come across snowshoes that someone stashed! Haha, we leave them. And then there’s a steep drop. A couple is sledding on the lower half. They shout at us to sled down. We’re skeptical, nervously switchbacking our way down. Would we keep our snowshoes on? Take them off? Isn’t it steep? Hmm…

Summer bathroom cabin buried in snow
Summer bathroom cabin buried in snow

Then, out of nowhere, a sprightly old man suddenly appears over the hill above us. He’s at least 65, maybe even 80. He nods and smiles. Without a word he skitters past and jumps down the snow chute, snowshoes on and all. Whoosh. And then he’s gone. We look at each other in disbelief, shrug, and then follow his lead. Tyler first, Jared second, and me third. It’s steep but awesome. There’s a 4-5 foot drop at the top, but the snow is very forgiving. Weeeeeee! We reconvene at the bottom. Tyler tells us that when he got to the bottom, all he saw was the sprightly old man running off into the distance. We can only imagine he was looking for another snow chute to jump down. Mirage or man?

Sweet views
Sweet views

Inspired by our sledding success, we continue down, looking for the next slope to sled. These slope sliders are pretty awesome. They’re like glorified plastic shovels. We’ve adopted the sledding couple as sledding companions. A bit of walking down, and then we’re back at that drop off that I remembered felt steep on the way up. And suddenly it has potential. Could we sled it? Why not? Jared takes off first. Whoosh! Then Tyler. Then me. It’s steep and long and I can’t see anything with snow kicking up into my eyes. Somewhere in the middle I intentionally topple over to slow myself down. I hop back on and sled my way down. Whew that was awesome! The couple follows our lead.

Igloo!
Igloo!

We keep walking down. Mostly flat from here. A few tiny sled adventures along the way. We pass a group in the process of building an igloo. It looks amazing. Before we know it, we’re back to the trail junction, then at the parking lot. Man is my butt cold. I’m thankful for the heated seats. So warm.

Snow hills
Snow hills

We make our way back to Seattle. Sun setting. A stop at the Beer Shrine in North Fork for pizza and really really good beer. A successful adventure.

White on white
White on white

Rainier Paradise Snowshoe Round II – December 2014

Sunrising behind Ranier. Driving toward the park
Sunrising behind Ranier. Driving toward the park

Jean

Thursday off. Clear skies. Friends ready to snowshoe. Back to Paradise for snowshoeing!

Crisp clear day
Crisp clear day

Thursday, December 30, 2014. Hike: snowshoeing around at the Paradise Entrance in Rainier National Park. Distance: a few miles? Elevation gain: no clue. High point: unknown.

Snowy trees
Snowy trees

Me, Jonathan, and Eve snowshoed below Skyline Ridge, close to Panorama Point, and near Glacier Vista in the Paradise area of Rainier National Park. This time the roads were snowier and chains were necessary for the full 11 miles between Longmire and Paradise. The area was more crowded this time around too, with clear skies and plenty of people on holiday vacation.

Beautiful Paradise!
Beautiful Paradise!

We got a nice early start, getting to Rainier as soon as we could (gates opened at 9 am, we were there at 9:07) which meant leaving Seattle between 6:30 and 7 am. Rainier was in full view as we drove south, the sun rising behind it with the peak silhouetted in the black, pink, and yellow sky.

Mountains and sand dune-like snow
Mountains and sand dune-like snow

We payed our fee at the entrance, chained up at Longmire, then chatted with the ranger for a few minutes before we hit the mountain. Avalanche danger today: considerable. New to the whole avalanche possibility, this seemed high and so we were cautious in our trekking. (The scale ranges from Low-Moderate-Considerable-High-Extreme.)

We fixed our snowshoes to our feet, stuffed the essentials into our day packs, and headed up into the snow. We went up, right, straight, around a left bend, and over the wooden bridge. Plenty of photo ops on this crisp blue day (turns out the lowest temps for the day were 12 degrees! the morning was chilly).

Beautiful day
Beautiful day
Jonathan and Eve near Panorama Point
Jonathan and Eve near Panorama Point

Just beyond the bridge, we ran into a group of people sledding and building a snow cave – how awesome is that? They may have noticed the excitement in our faces, or maybe they were merely generous sledders, but anyhow they offered us a turn on the sledding hill with their sleds. Wooo! It was awesome. Jonathan, then Eve, then I ran up the boot path then each in turn jumped headfirst onto a sled and bombed down the hill. Snow flew everywhere! It was awesome. Great way to start the hike. We chatted for a minute then continued our way up.

Adams and Hood off in the distance
Adams and Hood off in the distance

We reached the top of the hill and paused for sandwich eating and tea drinking. All of the mountains were out in full force: Mt Adams, St Helens, and even Hood peeking out in the distance (=over 200 miles of visibility = awesome!).

Rainier! In all her glory
Rainier! In all her glory

We continued below Skyline Ridge (going right then up and over would have taken too long) and up the Edith Creek Basin Route to the flat area below Panorama Point. The views were even better up here! Eve and Jonathan wanted to climb the switchbacks to the top of Panorama Point, but were very patient with me when I resisted for fear of avalanches. Instead, we went only about 1/4 of the way up and off to the right where we could sit and eat trail mix while we soaked in the views. We chatted with Canadians who were doing the same.

Pink sun tinged shot. St Helens in the distance
Pink sun tinged shot. St Helens in the distance

There was a single boot path up above and Eve reconned it for us all. But it was too sketchy, so we continued back down instead. We headed as close to the Nisqually Glacier as possible, to the end of a small ridge of snow, also where the furthest tracks in this direction ended. Deciding this was a perfect vantage point of Rainier, the glacier, and the horizon, we settled in for a while. We took a bazillion pictures. Jonathan took out all 3 of his cameras. Several groups of people came up here to the “end of the trail” to hang out too and we chatted when they did.

Nice shot of Adams
Nice shot of Adams

Once our toes were sufficiently cold, we headed back down. We took the more direct route downhill along the Alta Vista route. The sun was getting low and began turning everything a beautiful golden color. Shadows stretched long. The moon came out. Beautiful!

Yay for hiking!
Yay for hiking!

Back down to the parking lot. De-snowshoe. Snap the final pictures of Rainier as the alpenglow faded to pink. Wind our way back down from Paradise to Longmire. De-chain the tires. Then head back to Seattle. A great day playing in the snow!

10/10 day
10/10 day
Tree, Rainier, Eve
Tree, Rainier, Eve
Tree, Rainier, Jonathan
Tree, Rainier, Jonathan
Moon, sky, snow
Moon, sky, snow
Waning daylight and long shadows
Waning daylight and long shadows
Jonathan in action, at dusk
Jonathan in action, at dusk
Golden golden light
Golden golden light

 

Alpenglowy Rainier
Alpenglowy Rainier
Driving down through alpenglow
Driving down through alpenglow
Tips of alpenglow tinged trees
Tips of alpenglow tinged trees
Pink Rainier summit
Pink Rainier summit
And the Paradise area at sunset
And the Paradise area at sunset

Rainier Paradise Snowshoe – December 2014

Snow on snow
Snow on snow

Jean

Following other snowshoe tracks
Following other snowshoe tracks

Snow! Christmas is fast approaching and the season has been markedly snow free. Of course, this is Seattle and not the ‘shire so the weather is as predicted. It was great to get out and enjoy the fluffy powdery white snow along with Eve and Lee, fellow New Englanders, at the base of Rainier on snowshoes and surrounded by what looked like magical Christmas trees.

Bridge crossing
Bridge crossing

Thursday, December 18, 2014. Hike: snowshoeing around at the Paradise Entrance in Rainier National Park, circa Mazama Ridge. Distance: a few miles? Elevation gain: no clue. High point: unknown.

As we drove south toward the mountain we could see the lower reaches, but upper 3/4 was entirely obscured in clouds. The forecast: rain at low elevations, snow higher. We reached Rainier mid-morning and chatted with the ranger at Longmire for a few minutes. No avalanche forecasting was available so early in the season and not yet a concern. In Rainier National Park, you’ll find the Longmire Entrance and Ranger’s station at the southern end of the park and 2700 feet elevation. East of Longmire is the Paradise Entrance and Ranger’s station situated at 5400 feet – 2700 feet higher! While it was raining at Longmire, there was nearly 2 feet of snow at Paradise! Lee, Eve, and I had to add chains to the tires halfway to Paradise. There was a handful of cars in the parking lot.

Deep snow
Deep snow
Snowshoes!
Christmas colored snowshoes!

We donned our shells and gaiters, buckled our snowshoes to our boots, and set off into the white. We zigzagged up and to the right, following the tracks of another snowshoer. Walking along what looked like a path, we came to trail signs just poking up above the surface of the snow. We walked generally in the direction of Skyline Ridge and could barely see the ridge. Over a frozen river and across a wooden bridge. Snow fell lightly and thick clouds obscured all but the nearest slopes. Rainier could be anywhere. We couldn’t even get the vaguest view of the enormous volcano we were on.

Christmas tree trees
Christmas tree trees

Pictures over the water. Selfies. Selfies of selfies. We got to the top of the hill. Ate some snacks. Drank water and tea. Veered left and continued up. Winds blew harder and pelted us in the face with snow the closer we got to the top of the hill. Upper frozen river crossing. When we’d had enough of the pelting, we turned around and retraced our steps. Back down the hills, past frozen rivers and Christmas tree trees. We chatted with a couple by the lower river crossing and took pictures for each other. Solid snowshoe.

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Me and Eve
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Lee and me

 

Buried signs
Buried signs
Eve
Eve
Gray green white
Gray green white

 

Teneriffe Falls – December 2014

Teneriffe Falls
Teneriffe Falls

Jean

Hiking up the road
Hiking up the road

An afternoon hike. I left the city around 1pm, started the hike around 1:45. Reached top at 3. Sat by the falls and stared hike down at 3:20. To the bottom at 4:30. 6 miles which was short and easy.

Monday, December 8, 2014. Hike: Teneriffe Falls. Mileage: 6 miles. Elevation gain: 1420 feet. High Point: 2370 feet. 

On the right track
On the right track

The first two miles were more flat than up. I follow a forestry road for the first mile, then a gradual trail that eventually skirts the base of the slope for another mile, then a mile of switchbacks. I ran into 3 young guys and nobody else.

North Bend views from the switchbacks
North Bend views from the switchbacks

I prepared for cold and snow, but it was 55 in Seattle and not a speck of snow was to be found on the entire hike. Microspikes not necessary. Trail junctions are very obvious. The trail is green and smells like fall or spring or both. Skies partly cloudy, no threat of rain. Some views of the valley and North Bend before the switchbacks, then open sky and so much brighter.

Rocky switchbacks
Rocky switchbacks

Back into the woods for the falls. Lower falls first then real falls. 400 feet high! Several tiers. Water falling, tumbling over cliff. Pretty sweet. Snack on a cliff bar and drink cranapple hibiscus tea. Sun comes out and illuminates the falls. Break over.

Then down down down. With the sun lower, the sky was even prettier. Nice views of the valley. Down down dusk setting in. Back to the car around sunset. Home! Not much traffic. Tuna mac dinner.

 

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The falls
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More falls
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Sun shining through the trees
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Looking down the falls
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Me at the falls
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Water cascading. Nearly vertical
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Shrubbery
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North Bend views on the way down
Faaaaalllls
Faaaaalllls

 

 

Mailbox Peak – December 2014

Mailbox Peak
Mailbox Peak

Jean

What to do with on a Thursday off with a 70% chance of rain? Easy answer: Hike!

I had the day off so Jared, Jonathan, and I took the the new trail up to Mailbox Peak. Jared and I have been talking about hiking Mailbox for about 6 months and we finally made it! This new trail has been open for only a month or two. The old trail is reportedly an unforgiving thigh burner – straight up. New trail: moderate and forgiving. Stats: New Trail – 9.4 miles, 4000 feet elevation gain. Old trail – (half as long) 5.2 miles, 4000 feet elevation gain. We had a solid hike under gray skies. I admit, gray skies are mediocre. Not my favorite hiking conditions, but it was well worth it. It was great to get out and moving in the mountains. Of course, I do have to come back and climb the steep, old trail on a warm and sunny day…

Thursday, December 4, 2014. Hike: Mailbox Peak, 9.4 miles. Elevation gain: 4000 feet. High point: 4822 feet.

To the mailbox -->
To the mailbox –>

We wake early-ish and, after borrowing Eve’s Discovery Pass and picking up Jonathan, we roll into the parking lot around 10 am. Only one other car is there. Each of us affix microspikes to our feet in the icy parking lot and forge ahead on ice into the gray morning. The air is heavy, but it’s not actively raining. Temps in the 40’s mean we’re warm enough. We are slightly confused by the trail sign pointing us into the new parking lot. After wandering toward the bathrooms, we turn around and easily find our way to the left and the actual trail. The trail is snowy and icy and the three of us are glad for our traction. The new trail is really well made – wide, smooth, well graded, and easy to follow switchbacks.

Snow gives way to dirt
Snow gives way to dirt

As we wind our way up the trail the snow begins to clear and the ice gives way to dirt. We all take off our microspikes. We cross a few streams and a small bridge. We admire the greenery and moss. Washington is always green! This state will never cease to amaze me with it’s persistent greenness.

Jared and Jonathan
Jared and Jonathan

The trail is steady. I’m slightly ahead of the guys when I hear the sound of someone running behind me. At first I think it must be Jonathan? But I turn around to find a trail runner with his two dogs gaining on me. I say hi and they sail past quickly. Running up this trail is pretty badass and makes me wish that I liked running in any way…

Snowy clearings
Snowy clearings

About 3 or 4 miles in, the snow gets a bit thicker and we put our spikes back on. The snow is packed and gets heavier as we climb higher, most notably when we pass through clearings. There are a few clearings – the first gives way to views of trees, but the second and third open up to views of the entire valley. We can even see Seattle in the far off distance. The skies are gray but the clouds are high enough that there are great views to be had. The trail runner and his dogs pass us on their way down.

Nice views from one of the clearings
Nice views from one of the clearings

Toward the top, we hit the junction with the old trail. The two trails merge for the final push to the summit. Immediately the trail is steep. I can see how hiking the entire old trail would be brutal…especially going down. We climb through the woods and then there’s an opening to the right complete with a scree filled slope. The mountain and sky blend together. A group of 4 or 5 hikers pass us on their way down. They tell us that the top is a little windy. One guy is wearing jeans and is disgruntled.

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Mailbox ahead!

Up, up, up. The trail just keeps going. We’re climbing the ridge and the sky has completely opened up – amazing views in every direction! Then we see the mailbox! Woooooo! We arrive at the top. 360 degree views of snow dusted mountains all around. I pile on all of my layers. I know I’m going to get cold immediately. Jared, Jonathan, and I eat snacks, snap photos, and admire the scenery. Jared and I begin our descent and Jonathan sticks around for a few minutes taking pictures.

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Arriving at the mailbox

Down, down, down. Trekking poles are super helpful for the descent. Jonathan catches up to us after a few minutes, having run down from the summit. Then we lose him again. Back in tree cover, Jared and I stop for snacks and hot tea. Jonathan catches up. I take off 4 of the 5 layers I’m wearing. We all snack.

Photo shoot in action
Photo shoot in action

I wander off to pee in the woods while Jonathan poses for a photo shoot on the edge of the snow covered scree slope. The snow is so sticky off trail. With each step all of the snow under my feet immediately sticks to my shoes. Every 3 or 4 steps the massive pile of snow attached to each foot comes loose and tumbles downhill.

We pack up and hike down. The hike down seems longer than the way up. I suppose it is almost 5 miles… The weather is deteriorating. Clouds are lower. Rain begins to fall on us. I bust out my umbrella – my favorite piece of gooby gear. Down, down, down. Across switchbacks, over snow, out of snow, traction off, pictures snapped, less rain, hurrying down to get Jonathan to work by 5. Back across small streams, over the bridge. There’s less snow here than when we were going up. So much has already melted.

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Down…
Down...
Down…

At 4 we finally reach the bottom! Success. A 6 hour hike. Well done. A really fair hike that got serious near the top. Can’t wait to come back and hike the old trail…

Also: we got Jonathan to work in time. We didn’t have time to bring him home. And he ran the last 500 feet because we were stuck in traffic. But he made it with minutes to spare.

 

 

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Snow Lake – December 2014

 

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Snow Lake from the Overlook

Jean

A great hike in a winter Wonderland…Snow Lake is the place to go! A busy trail in the summer, this hike is the place to be on a late fall/early winter weekday. A great way hike to kick off December with: tromping through the woods wearing microspikes, hiking on snow and ice, perfect weather, excellent views, amazingly beautiful lake… The hike was sullied by an unfortunate snowshoe-theft-ish incident, BUT all snowshoe related matters have been resolved and all is right again. Read on for more details…

To Snow Lake -->
To Snow Lake –>

Monday, December 1, 2014. Hike: Snow Lake, 10.0 miles. Elevation gain: 2000 feet. High point: 5100 feet.

Eve and I both had the day off from REI so we decided to put our snowshoes (we were hoping there would be enough snow) and microspikes, to the test. Eve had run the Seattle Marathon the day prior. Yes, you read that correctly. She ran an entire marathon. Yesterday. Therefore, we got on the trail late, around 11 am instead of 8.

Looking to the mountains from I-90
Looking to the mountains from I-90

Traffic leaving the city was manageable. The mountains surrounding I-90 were covered with a perfect pristine amount of snow. A handful of cars sat in the parking lot. We (hopefully) donned our snowshoes immediately. We’ll need them, right? Totally. And walked along the packed snow trail for about a half mile when we ran into our first fellow hiker. He wore microspikes. And told us snowshoes were unnecessary. Ok, time to trade the shoes for spikes. Check. Shoes stashed off trail, check. We propped them against a fallen tree root and buried them in snow to hide them. They were only slightly visible from the trail, so if you squinted you could see them. But having stashed gear dozens of times, we were trusting and we decided this was our best option. After all, this was a weekday, which meant fewer people on trail, and little hiker traffic past our precious snowshoes.

 

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Winter wonderland
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So snowy

 

We passed a pleasant looking family – two men with their two kids – as they skirted patches of ice. They turned around at a treacherous stretch just after we passed them.  Our microspikes were perfect for the trail. We crossed ice and snow like it was our job. And we ran into some fellow REI peeps who recognized us by our REI packs! One of them worked at headquarters. Sweet! We chatted a bit and continued on our way. At the junction to Source Lake, we ran into another pair of guys coming from that direction. Quick chat. Continue up.

Warm snowy switchbacks
Warm snowy switchbacks

Then we hit the switchbacks that lead the ridge. So awesome! Super warm. Such great views. Icicles clinging to the rocks above. Sun drenching the slope. Drips of water falling. And the sound of ice falling on soft snow. Amazing views of the valley from the top.

Ridge top views
Ridge top views

Once at the top of the ridge, we bore left. We stopped to take in views of Snow Lake from the Overlook. We were already in shadow so we put on our puffies to eat cliff bars and cheese-its. Two gray jays joined us and hopped in circles around us. Sorry guys, no food today.

Gray jay!
Gray jay!

With enough sunlight left that the lake was still basking in sun, we hiked out of the ridge’s shadow. Passing through a patch of alpenglow we returned to the warmth of the sun. I quickly realized that I’d dropped my phone at the overlook, so went back for it and was happy/super relieved to find it laying face down in the snow, not gone after careening off a cliff. Whew. We continued right, over the frozen stream, hopped across frozen rocks, and reached the huge boulder at the end of the trail. The entire lake was frozen and criss-crossed with cracks. The lake overlook was gorgeous. We marveled at the fact that such a beautiful spot existed a mere hour from Seattle. After obligatory REI pack shots were snapped in front of the frozen lake, the return trip began.

Excited faces! Snow Lake is awesome!
Excited faces! Snow Lake is awesome!

Back in shadow quickly, a couple and their dog passed us on their way down to Snow Lake. We were impressed/shocked that the chick was wearing casual boots. Total gear judgy time. We passed another couple at the top of the ridge. By now the once sunny switchback-covered slope was covered in shadow. Sun sets at 4:30! Bounding down the trail, we talked about past hiking adventures and continued to remind ourselves to retrieve the snowshoes. Down, down, down. Over snow. Across ice.

We reached the stash spot at last. And discovered to our horror – no snowshoes. Only a void where our snowshoes had once been.  Someone had taken our gear. Bastards! Lame. Bogus. Ridiculous. I was too disappointed in my faith in humanity to be angry. I was just annoyed and confused. Had someone really taken stashed gear? Who would do that? Seriously? I tried to maintain hope…maybe some naive hiker had brought them to the trailhead thinking we had dropped them in a very strategic place by accident? Hmm…

Eve and I picked up the pace. We were at the bottom in no time. And no snowshoes in sight. Not in the parking lot, not propped against the trail sign. Nowhere. Argh. We crossed the parking lot and asked the dude in the rental shop if someone had turned them in? No dice. Harumph. A guy was getting in his car just as we were getting back to Eve’s car, so we asked him. And of course he hadn’t seen them. Lame. The couple with the dog and the casual boots appeared, and we asked them. No sign. Everyone seemed nice and sympathetic and as equally perplexed as us that someone would take stashed gear. Sigh.

So we drove back to the city with two fewer pairs of snowshoes than we’d set out with. But it was a beautiful, beautiful hike. A winter wonderland. Overall the hike deserves a 9/10. It would have been worthy of a 10 if it weren’t for the unfortunate snowshoe incident. But the sunset on the return drive was epic. Pink and orange shades dominated the clouds.

Saturday, December 6. UPDATE:

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Survivors

Snowshoes found! Gear retrieved! Yay snowshoes!

So, it turns out someone took the hidden/buried/carefully stashed snowshoes out of their hiding place so that nobody would take them. Yes, you heard that right. Someone stole the snowshoes so that they wouldn’t get stolen. Weird but true. Anyhow, Eve and I drove to pick them up today. And we are very glad to have them.

Remember folks: if someone stashes gear, don’t take it. Leave it where you found it. Don’t try to be a hero. Seriously. Just leave it.