Duckabush River, 06/25/11

I spent the better part of a week in June all alone at home, with both Nicole and Adelaide back in Wisconsin, where they remained after the three of us flew out last-minute to visit my Grandpa in the hospital.  Evenings were quiet; I vacillated between missing my three-and-a-half-month-old daughter fiercely and reflecting on the time I spent with my Grandpa in my youth and as I grew up and moved away from home.

I did plan, though, on taking advantage of this time alone by doing something.  While a backpack sounded good in theory, I knew that I was out of shape, out of practice, and unprepared even as the weekend approached.  So I thought a day spent walking along a river would do well for me—I’d stroll along leisurely, set up my tripod liberally, and see how far I got up the Duckabush River before turning around and heading home.

A detail of the Duckabush River.

I like driving over to the Olympic Peninsula early in the morning: down through Olympia, up along the Hood Canal with the cruise control set just right until you begin passing through all the small towns with their pickup trucks driven out onto the saltwater flats the tide has revealed.

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Johnston Ridge, Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, 06/26/10

Mount St. Helens erupted a few months before I was born. I just missed it. It also erupted about two-thousand miles due west of where I was born. So I didn’t just miss it, I guess. Sometime in elementary school a classmate came back from a trip Out West with a plastic baggie of Genuine Mount St. Helens Ash—bought, no doubt, on the side of the road somewhere in Montana or South Dakota. For many years that would be the closest I’d come to the mythical, prototypical volcano of my prepubescent fantasies: perfectly conical, oozing a fiery red glow down its flanks, and surrounded by prime dinosaur habitat. Volcanoes existed only in Earth’s far-distant past or its unbelievably exotic locales. They weren’t in Wisconsin; they weren’t near Wisconsin.

Well, it’s twenty years later and I’ve spent the last eight of it living in exotic Washington, home to five volcanoes, including, obviously, the majority of Mount St. Helens.

I’d had last weekend circled on the calendar for several months, as I’d pinpointed the date of a full moon rising over Mt. Rainier. Since snow levels at the particular area in Mt. Rainier National Park that I’d planned on going to weren’t quite low enough for me, as the weekend approached I began to look elsewhere.

And then Saturday morning arrived and I found myself sitting on the couch watching soccer. Nicole is so used to leaving at 05:00 that she was certain we weren’t going anywhere if we were still sitting on the couch at 11:00. This was all part of my master plan, though. It wasn’t going to work out for us to backpack anywhere, or camp anywhere, but if we left later in the day than normal, we’d be hiking in the late afternoon and could hang out until sunset and, hopefully, moonrise as well. Leaving West Seattle as late as we did (~14:00) meant that we wouldn’t arrive until about ~17:00. That said, both Nicole and I were surprised when Google Maps told us it didn’t take 4-5 hours to get there. We just always assumed it was a long, long ways away.

Anyway! This would be our first time to Mount St. Helens, a mountain we’ve rarely even seen.

We took I-5 south to WA-504 (Spirit Lake Highway) and drove it to its end. We arrived to the large, completely full parking lot at Johnston Ridge Observatory, ~4000′.

In the blast zone at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

The views of Mount St. Helens from the highway are outstanding, but once on Johnston Ridge the views are awe-inspiring. Seeing this live really reinforced the massive destructive power of the eruption.

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Carbon River Road and Glacier, 06/12/10-06/13/10

After spending Friday evening celebrating an improbable new job for me, we woke up Saturday morning eager to take advantage of beautiful weather but somewhat unprepared to do so. I’d been thinking about heading to the Carbon River entrance of Mount Rainier National Park, and its nearby location and easy walking made it seem like a good candidate for our first backpack of the year.

The Carbon River washed out the road of the same name some years back, and it stranded what used to be a drive-in campground some five miles down a now-but-perhaps-only-temporarily-decommissioned road. I thought we’d walk the five miles to the campground, set up our tents, and head off and explore the area, perhaps continuing on to Carbon Glacier, the lowest-elevation glacier in the Lower 48.

Nicole on the Carbon River Road.

Even though we didn’t get a super early start, the northwest corner of Mount Rainier National Park is such a quick drive that we’d gotten to the park, stopped in at the ranger station for our permit, and started off down the road by 11:15.

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Navaho Peak, 06/28/09

Somehow, Nicole and I had yet to truly reach a summit. It’s probably because we’d never picked a hike with the summit of a mountain as our destination. On Mt. Aix, we came close, only to be turned back by fear and thunderclouds. At Marmot Pass earlier this year, summiting Buckhorn Mtn. had been a thought until full backpacks and bum knees made us think otherwise. So reaching a summit was overdue, and Nicole in particular really wanted to accomplish that goal.

Mt. Stuart and The Enchantments Range from Navaho Peak.

Mt. Stuart and The Enchantments Range from Navaho Peak.

Cousin Bobby, who accompanied us on our hike to Goat Lake two weekends ago and didn’t break a sweat the entire time, wanted to go out again. We wanted to take him somewhere impressive, as we only have a few more free weekends until his internship ends. We also wanted to make him sweat.

Our friend David, who just returned from teaching English in Mexico for ~1.75 years and is staying with us at the moment, insisted that he had boundless energy and didn’t want to be left behind. He may have been exaggerating, and he might be regretting his decision at this very moment.

Our destination was chosen earlier in the week: Navaho Peak, in the Teanaway area. Like last week, we were unpleasantly surprised to find that Navaho Pass was declared WTA’s Hike of the Week. Undeterred by this obvious and repetitive display of telepathic plagiarism, we kept the plans in place as they were.


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Goat Lake, 06/13/09

[Editor’s note: Nicole surprised me this morning by having written her first trip report the night before.  Very cool!  Any additions by myself will be noted.]

So, Jeremy has been nagging me to write a trip report or at least a part of one since he started this website. He is so good at it that I never have. And I am lazy. But this is the longest he has waited to do one, so I thought I better help. Here it goes…I have none of the details like the times or mileage so Jeremy can add that stuff in.

We left about 6:30am and picked up my cousin Bobby in Mill Creek (he is interning out here for the summer). I believe we got to the trailhead about 1 ½ hours later, so a total of 2 hours-ish from West Seattle. As we got on our boots, the sky was clear and it was looking like a beautiful day. We started out and just a little ways in came upon a junction, where we chose the lower trail. The two options are supposed to be the same distance, with the lower being a little more challenging.  [The lower trail also stays closer to Elliott Creek.  —Ed.]

The trail was very nice and well maintained. We were walking along the river for much of the hike. I am having a hard time continuing with this part of my report. If only Jeremy were awake, he could assist. It was pleasant and the scenery nice. There were some pretty big trees. I guess that is all I have to say. Maybe a nice little picture would be good here, hon.

The author and her cousin along the lower trail.

The author and her cousin along the lower trail.

Eventually (maybe 5 miles in) we started going up to the lake, so the pleasant walking was no more. There were even switchbacks, but it really wasn’t that bad. Bobby, who by the way is 21 and in very good shape, didn’t even break a sweat or lose his breath. But us older folk did just a little bit. Shortly before we reached the lake, the dudes went off to the right to see a waterfall.  I missed it because I was feeling like finishing up the uphill part.


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