The Year in Review

2008 was a watershed year for us–with some thirteen hikes, including our first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth backpacking trips ever.  Before I start looking ahead to the 2009 hiking season, I thought I’d take a look back at what we accomplished in our first semi-serious season.  Before I started this blog in June, we’d already gone on a couple trips that I really wish I would’ve written up, but I have included them in the list below…



Never-Round in the distance.

1. Rialto Beach and Beyond, 05/29/08-05/31/08, 2-night backpack, ~12 miles, ~200′ elevation gain.  Our first backpacking trip, and, out of every one of the year, arguably the most difficult and the hike requiring the most preparation.  At turns sand, tide pools, and slippery boulders, what each step lacked in elevation gain it more than made up for in treacherousness.  Since several areas were impassable at high tide, much care was given to being at a certain location by a specific time.  My favorite moment was climbing the rope up and over Never-Round Point and seeing the secluded crescent beach on the other side.  Other highlights were seals, sea otters, and eagles.  We saw no-one for almost two days.  This trip also marked the beginnings of my new camera, and so I barely knew how to use it.  Photos at Flickr.


2. Ingalls Creek, 06/15/08-06/16/08, 1-night backpack, ~8 miles, ~1500′ elevation gain.  Out again for a quick overnighter.  What with all the stubborn snow, we were looking for lower elevation, east of the crest hikes, this one worked out, but with Ingalls Creek rushing, we only went so far.  The flowers were beautiful, and I liked looking at my map and knowing that The Enchantments were above us.  At Flickr.

Mt. Rainier from our campsite in the morning.

3. Mt. Aix, 06/29/08-06-30/08, 1-night backpack, ~10 miles, ~4000’+ elevation gain, ~7000’+ max.  A great experience: hard uphill climb, beautifully perched campsite, crossing snow, outstanding views, retreating in fear, a thunderstorm, and sunrise and Mt. Rainier.  I want to go back and reach the summit.  Definitely with a day-pack instead of a full backpack, though.  At Flickr.


4. Fourth of July Pass, 07/13/08-07/14/08, day hike w/ car camping, ~9 miles, ~2200′ elevation gain.  I broke my lens.  The hike was okay.  The North Cascades Highway was amazing.  At Flickr.


5. Nason Ridge, 07/20/08, day hike, ~10 miles, ~2300′ elevation gain, ~6200′ max.  The mountain goat encounter, lunch inside the lookout, views of Glacier Peak.  Flickr.


6. Lake Ingalls, 08/03/08, day hike, ~11 miles, ~2300′ elevation gain, ~6400′ max.  The beautiful basin, Mt. Stuart, the lake, the goats aplenty, our first marmots, the perfect weather.  A place to revisit.  Flickr.


7. Mt. Si, 08/19/08, solo day hike, ~8 miles, ~3100′ elevation gain, ~3600′ max.  I was happy to get out on this hike after some time in Wisconsin.  I was also happy to find the trail spectacularly unbusy.  I got it out of the way.  And smartly decided I didn’t have the experience to summit.  Flickr.


8. West Fork Foss River Lakes, 08/23/08-08/24/08, 1-night backpack, ~10 miles, ~2600′ elevation gain, ~4200′ max.  Roughest trail of the year, most exhilarating river crossing, a nice waterfall and pikas.  Flickr.


9. Summerland & Panhandle Gap, 08/31/08, day hike, ~11 miles, ~3000′ elevation gain, ~6800′ max.  Clouds, snow, and marmots.  An otherworldly landscape.  My own set of trekking poles and daypacks.  Flickr.


10. Spider Meadow & Spider Gap, 09/07/08-09/08/08, 1-night backpack, ~15 miles, ~3600′ elevation gain, ~7100′ max.  The huge meadow, a coyote sighting, the hard climb up to Larch Knob, our great campsite, my silly solo climb up to the gap, the views, glissades, and stars.  Flickr.


11. Skyline Divide & Artist Point, 09/14/08-09/15/08, dayhike w/ car camping, ~6 miles, ~2000′ elevation gain, ~6200′ max.  The moon owned this hike.  Taking pictures forever.  Our first experience hiking in the dark.  Worthwhile drive up to Artist Point.  Return inevitable.  Flickr.


12. North Fork Sauk River & PCT to Red Pass, 09/28/08-09/30/08, solo 2-night backpack, ~20 miles, ~4500′ elevation gain, ~6600′ max.  First solo backpacking trip.  First visit to Glacier Peak Wilderness.  The first-night fear, the beautiful fall colors, mountains, mushrooms, solitude.  Amazing.  Flickr.


13. Lake Quinault, 10/17/08-10/19/08, area nature trails and lodge time, ~3 miles, ~500’+ elevation gain.  Hiking  gave way to sitting in front of the fireplace.  Relaxation, big trees, first elk sightings.  Flickr.


14. Snow Lake, 10/27/08, day hike, ~8 miles, ~1300’+ elevation gain, ~4400′ max.  Last hike of the year. Snow and ice on the descent to the lake.  In and out before the crowds.  Forgot the camera.  Flickr.


It was a good year, and the first of many.  Though our schedules shift, and our bodies age, I can’t imagine giving this up.  You’ve got me, Pacific Northwest.  The coming year may not have the quantity, but it’s gotta have the quality.  And you’ll find it here.  (Send happy thoughts re: Enchantments Permits and Canadian Rockies trips.)

2008 stats: ~140 miles of hiking, ~33000‘ of elevation gain, and ~2000 photos I didn’t delete…yet.


North Fork Sauk River & PCT to Red Pass, 09/28/08-09/30/08

The final weekend in September beckoned.  The weather looked to be fantastic.  Unfortunately, Nicole and one of her toenails were at odds with one another, so if anything were to be done, it would have to be done solo.  Somehow I decided that a mere dayhike wouldn’t suffice; this meant I’d be going on my very first all-alone backpack: two nights in Glacier Peak Wilderness.  I actually didn’t give it much thought at the time (that is, before I set up camp the first night in near-darkness and questioned every sound I thought I heard).  It just seemed like the natural progression of things, something that I knew I’d do eventually.

As I may have mentioned in the past, Glacier Peak Wilderness (hereafter, GPW) has held near-mythical status in my novice hiker mind.  Maybe it’s because Spring & Manning called it the last wild volcano.  I suppose that has something to do with it: unlike Mt. Baker or Mt. Rainier, you ain’t parking your Subaru on the side of Glacier Peak.  You gotta hike to get anywhere near it, man.  So when, a week or two prior, I saw a post on NWHikers about Sloan Creek Road re-opening, it stuck with me.  Sloan Creek Road (aka Road #49) had been closed for some time (forever, as far as it concerns me, since I wasn’t going anywhere near it before this summer) and it’s one of the nearest access points to GPW.  So it seemed predetermined that this trip would utilize the opportunity.

Old-growth along the Sauk River.

Old-growth along the Sauk River.

I decided I’d hike the North Fork Sauk River Trail (#649) on Sunday and spend the evening at or near Mackinaw Shelter, then get up Monday morning and hike until I reached the Pacific Crest Trail (#2000) and take that to Red Pass.  If I could, I’d investigate White Chuck Glacier or climb Portal Peak, spending the second night in the area.  Tuesday morning I’d hike all the way back out and get home sometime in the afternoon.  Since I was leaving the where-and-when with Nicole, I figured it best to stick as close to the plan as possible, and act conservatively.

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Skyline Divide & Artist Point, 09/14/08-09/15/08

On this weekend, we decided to take it easy on ourselves–and I apologize if that attitude trespasses into the following trip report as well.  The plan was to head up to Mt. Baker on Sunday morning after listening to a bit of the Packers game, set up the tent somewhere, and then head out for an easy afternoon hike.  If we were feeling up to it, we’d do a little something on Monday morning, too.

We had a couple of bundles of firewood in the back of the Explorer and marshmallows and graham crackers in the cupboard.  We got ourselves some gasoline and two chocolate bars and headed north on I-5.  The only campground still open on SR-542 (Mt. Baker Highway) is Douglas Fir Campground, which is close to the trailhead we’d decided upon for our Sunday afternoon hike, Skyline Divide.

Mt. Baker from a knoll on the Skyline Divide trail.

Mt. Baker from a knoll on the Skyline Divide trail.

After checking in with the campground hosts (who said they’d had to turn away over 100 people on Saturday), setting up camp, and wasting a bit of time, we left for the trailhead.  I suppose I should say that–since I’d mentally deemed this hike too easy–I decided to complicate things by hitting the trail late in the afternoon so that we could catch the sunset, take some photographs, and then hike back down afterward, using our headlamps.  This would be our first time hiking in the dark.

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Spider Meadow & Spider Gap, 09/07/08-09/08/08

When the weekend neared and Nicole brought home a recommendation of Spider Meadow, I immediately and enthusiastically agreed, having seen a number of trip reports earlier this summer about that very location.  A Sunday-night backpack it was.

Spider Meadow panorama.

Spider Meadow panorama.

Spider Meadow sits in the Phelps Creek basin some 25 miles north of Lake Wenatchee, within Glacier Peak Wilderness.  We planned on camping at the far end of the meadow, setting up a base camp, and–if energy permitted–exploring the area up to and including Spider Glacier and Spider Gap.  We took our time rolling out of bed on Sunday morning, and pulled out of West Seattle at 06:18.  Driving over to and along US-2 is approaching autopilot status, and before we knew it we were turning north towards Lake Wenatchee.  It’s just a few more miles before the turnoff up Chiwawa River Road, and then a long ~25 miles to the trailhead.  (We timed this portion of the drive on the way out, and it took ~45 minutes.)

On the way in, only a few miles down the road, we saw two backpackers on the side of the road, and picked up our first hitchhikers.  They were completing the Washington portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, which they’d had to abandon earlier due to injury.  We took them up to Trinity and the Buck Creek Pass trailhead, saving them a whole lot of road-walking.  (Though with the popularity of the trails in the area, they probably wouldn’t have had to wait long for another ride.)  After dropping them off, we turned around and drove up to our trailhead, which sits at the end of Road #6211.  It was 09:30 by that time, putting the drive time just over three hours (including a stop for gasoline and the hitchers).

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Summerland & Panhandle Gap, 08/31/08

With late-August weather signaling the end of an already-abbreviated summer, and with the glaring omission of Mt. Rainier National Park (hereafter, MRNP) on our yearly itinerary thus far, we set our sights on Summerland.  Ever since we’d driven along the Sunrise side of Mt. Rainier en route to Mt. Aix earlier this year, we’ve been anxious to return to the area.  Since it was the weekend of Labor Day, we decided to forgo any backpacking plans, opting instead to wake up early in an attempt to beat out our fellow dayhikers.

We were out the door by 05:00 and driving in the dark down a road that I doubted.  Google Maps set me along a different road than I’d taken previously, but we ended up on WA-410 nevertheless.  Clouds hung heavy over the highway, and while I did my best to will them off, windshield wipers were necessary–briefly–on the east side of The Mountain.  I often forget just how close Mt. Rainier is to Seattle–we pulled into the Sunrise/White River entrance at 06:45.  Since it was, as previously stated, the first time this year inside MRNP, we added the $30 annual park pass to our credit card bill (7-day passes are $15, and we know we’ll be coming back more than once in the coming calendar year).   Unfortunately, our success in early arrival meant that no one was manning the entrance booths and instead of a flesh-and-blood annual pass, a machine spit out a receipt that could be exchanged for the real deal.  In the pocket it went, and up the road we drove.

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