Railroad Grade via Park Butte Trail, 07/10/10

I threw everything in the back of the Forester Friday morning before work, planning to pick Nicole up after work and head to the mountains. Earlier in the week, we’d decided to camp Friday night and hike on Saturday morning. It’d been a while since we’d been up near Mt. Baker, and I figured we’d be able to camp last-minute along Baker Lake somewhere, so I started looking into options. The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest website promisingly categorized the Park Butte Trail as “partially” open, going on to state that meadows were clear, snow was in the trees, and snowshoes were not necessary. Furthermore, I learned that there were hiker-only campsites at the trailhead. Sold.

Bird in flight, Mt. Baker beyond, from Railroad Grade.

We made good time to the trailhead (I-5 -> WA-20 -> Baker Lake Highway -> FSR-13) and its large parking area. We set up our tent in one of the few single-night-only campsites set aside for hikers and drifted off to sleep early.

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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.

hikers_50

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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.

hikers_50

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The Burroughs, 07/19/09

After “losing” the first weekend in July to my grandmother’s 80th birthday party and the second to a Saturday spent soaking at Breitenbush Hot Springs, we were well overdue for a hike. Sunday was the only day available to us, so we settled on a dayhike at Mt. Rainier National Park.  I’d seen some stunning photographs taken from the Burroughs trail near Sunrise, and yearned for some in-your-face views of The Mountain—on prior trips to Mt. Rainier National Park (Spray Park, Summerland) the eponymous mountain remained frustratingly hidden in cloudcover.  If the weather forecast was to be believed, this day would be different.  It was.

Mt. Rainier and wildflowers from just above Sunrise.

Mt. Rainier and wildflowers from just above Sunrise.

On top of our hike starting at the always-busy Sunrise Visitor Center, we learned during the week that it was Get Into Your National Park Free Day, or some such thing.  So I set my alarm early, had no trouble getting Nicole out of bed, and we were on the road at 04:40.  I love early starts, but even as we cruised through Enumclaw and the tip of The Mountain lit up, I wished we’d started even earlier.  At 06:40, just two hours later, we pulled into Sunrise with our pick of the parking lot.  Ten minutes later, we were on wide empty trails through lupine with outstanding views of Mt. Rainier.  Of course, the views of Mt. Rainier are outstanding from the parking lot.

hikers_50

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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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