The Year in Review, 2009 Edition

Two-thousand and ten is here, and twenty-oh-nine is past.  I’m hoping we get out a bunch this coming year, but, for now, a look back at the photos of the past.

1. Twin Falls State Park, 02/04/09.

2. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, 03/21/09.

3. Boulder River, 04/19/09.

4. Thunder Creek, 05/23/09-05/25/09.

5. Big Quilcene to Marmot Pass, 06/06/09-06/07/09.

6. Goat Lake, 06/13/09.

7. Navaho Peak, 06/28/09.

8. The Burroughs, 07/19/09.

9. Blanca Lake, 07/26/09.

10. Gothic Basin, 08/15/09-08/16/09.

11. Cascade Pass, 08/23/09.

12. Lower Ice Lake, 08/27/09-08/29/09.

13. Canadian Rockies Grand Tour, September 2009.

There it is!  Enchantments this year?  Better work on permits, then.  Scrambling and/or glacier travel classes?  Perhaps.

2009 stats: ~175 miles of hiking, ~30000′ or so of elevation gain, and ~1700 undeleted images.

Canadian Rockies Grand Tour, September 2009

I’ve wanted to go to the Canadian Rockies since I first laid eyes on them. Via photography. With steady jobs and paid vacation time accruing, we circled a week on the calendar this Spring, set about planning and purchasing, and crossed our fingers.

I monitored the weather anxiously, but in the end, we were blessed with beautiful conditions for the majority of our trip. This won’t be my normal trip report, just basics and photos. We had an amazing time!

Day 1, Saturday, 09/12/09:

~9 hour drive from Seattle to Mt. Robson Provincial Park, via Kamloops (where we stopped to change money and buy groceries). I’d planned on camping that night at either Robson River Campground or Robson Meadows Campground. The river campground was closed for the season, so we set up camp at Robson Meadows after not-quite-visiting the Visitor Centre, which closed at 17:00, just before we arrived. The view of Mt. Robson from the highway was Wow!-inducing. I ran over again to the Visitor Centre to catch the sun set on Mt. Robson’s West Face.

Mt. Robson's summit at sunset.

Mt. Robson's summit at sunset.

Day 2, Sunday, 09/13/09:

Up early–but not that early since the earliest we could get our permits at the Visitor Centre was 08:00. After permits for two for two nights ($20) and watching most of an informational video, we were off.

We had 13 miles to go that day in order to make camp at Berg Lake. By far Nicole’s longest backpack (and rivaling our longest dayhikes) and just as long as my final day out of Lower Ice Lake. Our bags were relatively heavy, but the elevation gain (~2800′) was spread over such a distance that it wasn’t too terrible. Except on our climb from Whitehorn Campground past the waterfalls until Emperor Campground…

Once at Berg Lake, we found a secluded site and relaxed.

Nicole surveying upper Robson River as we approach Berg Lake.

Nicole surveying upper Robson River as we approach Berg Lake.

Day 3, Monday, 09/14/09:

I woke up early to take advantage of the clear skies, taking a dozen too many photos of Mt. Robson in the morning light. Our original plan was to hike to Snowbird Pass (~13 more miles) on this day. We toyed with the idea of doing a different, shorter loop, but decided on going up the trail to Snowbird Pass as far as we felt like it. Which ended up being about 8-9 miles, round trip. We didn’t make the pass, but the views of Robson and the Robson Glacier were outstanding.

Sunrise lights up the top of Mt. Robson, reflected.

Sunrise lights up the top of Mt. Robson, reflected.

Robson Glacier lake, en route to Snowbird Pass.

Robson Glacier lake, en route to Snowbird Pass.

Nicole, at bottom left, overlooks the massive Robson Glacier.

Nicole, at bottom left, overlooks the massive Robson Glacier.

Day 4, Tuesday, 09/15/09:

Not looking especially forward to 13 long miles out, but we made it, relishing every descending kilometer marker along the way. We’d thought about camping again after we made it out, but opted to check into the first hotel we found in Jasper. We did laundry, filled up our cooler with the hotel’s ice, and ate the best burgers ever.

A path of stones leads to Berg Lake.

A path of stones leads to Berg Lake.

Following upper Robson River.

Following upper Robson River.

Nicole, at right, descends into the Valley of a Thousand Falls.

Nicole, at right, descends into the Valley of a Thousand Falls.

Day 5, Wednesday, 09/16/09:

Jasper to Lake Louise, via the Icefields Parkway, with photo stops. By far the most beautiful stretch of road I’ve driven.  We’d planned to hike Wilcox Pass, but it was closed due to blasting that also had us sitting still on the highway for an hour or more. Instead we hiked Parker Ridge, just south of the overflowing-with-Japanese-tourists Icefield Centre. A nice, easy hike, perhaps 4 miles.  Quite beautiful.  After the hike, we drove down to Lake Louise where we did some expensive car camping and I borrowed someone’s axe to chop our firewood while the bull elk bugled.

Atop Parker Ridge, looking down at the Saskatchewan Glacier.

Atop Parker Ridge, looking down at the Saskatchewan Glacier.

Dork on cliff.

Dork on cliff.

Waterfowl Lake, on the side of the road.

Waterfowl Lake, on the side of the road.

The beautiful Peyto Lake.

The beautiful Peyto Lake.

Day 6, Thursday, 09/17/09:

Woke up to raindrops on the tent, packed up the car before it turned to full-strength rain. Rest day it was! We drove to Banff and checked in early at our hotel, bummed around Banff. Expensive!

Day 7, Friday, 09/18/09:

Better weather, but after checking the Park Visitor Centre in town and verifying that Sentinel Pass was restricted to groups of 4 or more, and really not wanting to wait for/hike with someone, we decided to head back up to Lake Louise and climb up Fairview Mountain. Larches were in transition, and we reached the summit of 9000′, just below the cloud ceiling. Just over 6 miles round-trip. Then, back to Banff again via Highway 1A. Wildlife sightings in total: 1 bull elk, 3 deer, 1 porcupine, and, finally, a group of bighorn sheep.

Larch, mountains, and clouds.

Larch, mountains, and clouds.

Above Saddleback.

Above Saddleback.

Lake Louise as viewed from the summit of Fairview Mountain.

Lake Louise as viewed from the summit of Fairview Mountain.

Smile!

Smile!

Dork at 9000'.

Dork at 9000'.

Us.

Us.

Day 8, Saturday, 09/19/09:

An even longer drive back to Seattle via Yoho and Highway 1 instead of Highway 5/16. But we returned! We had a great time…

🙂 🙂 🙂

As always, plenty more photos at Flickr.

hikers_50

Lower Ice Lake, 08/27/09-08/29/09

Somehow, I found myself with an extended weekend at the very end of August; Nicole didn’t.  Thus, the table was set for my Second Annual Solo Backpacking Trip, a trip set to coincide with my twenty-ninth birthday.  Certain conditions were to be met.  The hike couldn’t be too high on our must-do list, because Nicole wouldn’t be along to enjoy it.  I also wanted something that would challenge me.  And why not make something that’s a little further away than our normal weekend overnighter?

In the end, I decided on Ice Lakes, via the Entiat River.  100 Hikes… put the round-trip mileage at ~28 and recommended allowing 3-5 days.  Ice Lakes were on my list, and the criterion fit.  I’d be carrying a heavy backpack (~45lbs) but reasoned that the elevation gain would be spread over so much mileage that it’d be no problem.  More training for the Canadian Rockies!  My itinerary was flexible: I’d leave Thursday, make the lakes Friday, spend Saturday exploring or summiting Mt. Maude, and return Sunday. Or, if the forecasted thunderstorms came to fruition, I might return Saturday instead.  Whatevs.

I left straight from work on Thursday around 12:30, and pulled into the trailhead parking lot at the end of Entiat River Road at 16:00.  The drive was nice, taking me past Leavenworth for the first time through Wenatchee and north along the Columbia River through an interesting landscape.  Though there were signs warning of big horn sheep crossings, I saw none.

I booted up and hit the trail at 16:20, setting a comfortably quick pace in order to put as many easy miles behind me as possible on the first day.  The trail starts off wide and dry, mixed-use as it is (hikers, horses, motorcycles).  The trees turn from somewhat unhealthy-looking to fully fire-scarred and destroyed as one makes progress down the Entiat River trail.

Evidence of a burn.

Evidence of a burn.

At 17:55, I entered Glacier Peak Wilderness, ~4.2 miles from the trailhead.  The trail narrowed.  Deer met me head-on on the trail.  The sun lowered behind the ridge to the west.  Every snap, crackle, and pop in the forest had me looking over my shoulder; I attributed each one to another deer, fearing a bear or cougar as the sounds stalked me along the trail.  I realized only later that the heat of the day had gone from the naked, burned trees.  And now they contracted in the shade like an old house in night’s silence.

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Cascade Pass, 08/23/09

After seeing friends’ photos from an overnight trip up Sahale Arm via Cascade Pass several years ago—even before we began hiking seriously—the trip has sat almost constantly atop our queue, waiting for the perfect window of time and weather to savor the experience.

This wouldn’t be that.

South and west from near Cascade Pass.

South and west from near Cascade Pass.

But it wasn’t half-bad, either.

After reading that the Cascade River Road would close September 1st and remain closed through much of October, I set aside the hope that this would be the year that we’d backpack up Sahale Arm and spend the night under starry skies and, instead, settled for a dayhike up to Cascade Pass, or perhaps a bit beyond.  If all I’d read was to be believed—i.e., that I’d run out of superlatives before reaching the pass—we’d be returning for that idealized evening on the Arm, anyway.

Knowing that the trail would be busy no matter what the time, and doing our best to get all of six hours of sleep after watching Inglourious Basterds the night before, we left West Seattle at 06:20.  After stopping in Marblemount in a thwarted attempt at a warm breakfast sandwich, we headed up the 23-mile Cascade River Road stuffing a quarter-pound of Costco muffin into each of our mouths.  Signs along the way warn that the road is primitive, but it’s actually an excellent road, with glimpses up and across the valley all along the way.  At 09:10, just less than three hours after leaving home, we pulled into a large, mostly-full parking lot.  I’d expected views at the parking lot, but I was impressed nevertheless by the dominating face of Johannesburg Mountain, even as seen through our cracked windshield.  Its upper reaches were shrouded in clouds.

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Gothic Basin, 08/15/09-08/16/09

For various reasons, we hadn’t backpacked in—I just checked—two months!  A fine amount of dayhiking, sure, but what with our upcoming trip to the Canadian Rockies, I felt we needed a bit more conditioning.  And I thought maybe, just maybe, we’d get some clear skies.  After shortening our list earlier in the week to three possible destinations, we decided we’d spend Saturday night in Gothic Basin.

Gothic Basin worked its way onto my must-do list way back when.  As sometimes happens when time passes, details regarding degree of difficulty slipped away from me, replaced only by snapshot statistics: 2600′ elevation gain, ~10 miles round-trip.  No problem.

We were up early enough Saturday morning, and on the road at 05:05.  I felt an early start was important, since we needed to find a campsite.  At 06:55, we pulled onto the side of the road at Barlow Pass, and were walking down the gated road to Monte Cristo ten minutes later.  Low clouds and fog made visibility poor.

Holding...

Holding...

Fifteen minutes after squeezing through the posts on either side of the Monte Cristo gate the road is really closed, and a trail is routed above the washed out road along the South Fork Sauk River.  I’d read that it wasn’t necessary to take the re-route, so we continued along the remains of the road, which wasn’t difficult, but does require that you watch where you step.  We’d be watching each step closely later on, too.

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