Monday, December 27, 2010

Some days mother nature just cannot be beaten.

Natalie and I had a great Christmas weekend.  We spent Friday and Saturday laying around watching movies and just being lazy.  It is so nice to not have anything that we need to do.

Sunday we were getting a little stir crazy so we headed up to Mt Baker.  Before we left I knew that a big front was supposed to come in Sunday night and drop a bunch of snow but the weather was clear as we headed up the mountain.  As soon as we pulled into the parking lot the snow started really flying.  We geared up and headed out and the weather just kept getting worse.  As we left the resort gates and headed out of bounds we knew the storm had showed up early and it was going to be a short trip.  

We made it 300 yards outside of the ski area boundary before the wind and snow cranked it up the final notch.  So we tucked our tails between our legs, admitted we had been beaten and headed back to the car.  It was a rough ride back but we made it after not too long.  

Days like that make the sunny ones so nice.  You win some and you lose some.  The beer at Boundary Bay Brewery coming back home was tasty as always though.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Great day in the mountains Sunday

This past weekend Natalie, Ross, and I headed up into the mountains for a little splitboard/AT adventure.  Ross just got a new splitboard (snowboard that turns into skis for the trip up), and I had rented Natalie some AT ski gear from the shop just down the street.  I had never really seen an AT (alpine telemark) ski setup so I had no idea what to expect but Natalie clicked in her boots and off we went.

It was a beautiful day and the snow was great.  By the end of the day we had skied 8 miles.  It was Natalie's first taste of back country skiing and I think I have her hooked.  We already have plans to go out to Mt Baker next weekend and head up to the Artist point area (I camped up there last year  I was playing around with various routes last night on the gps and have a tentative plan.  Cross your fingers that we get sun because it is a really pretty place when it is clear.

Thats all for now.  Hope everyone has a great holiday season!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wedding post at long last

All the pictures here (click me)

I have lost track of the number of times I have started and stopped this post since the wedding.  Every time I start I just cannot capture how much fun we had in words.  I have tried and tried but just cannot do it.  We had the time of our lives visiting with our friends and family that we do not get to see enough.  Every aspect of the wedding was perfect.  If I were to do things over again I would not change a thing.  Even the weather decided to cooperate.  We were out with friends from the Tuesday before the wedding until the Tuesday following and loved every second of it.

I am really lost for words when I try to describe the wedding.  Seeing Natalie walk down the isle is something the makes me smile every time I think about it.

Normally my posts go on and on but I am truly at a loss for words.  Thank you to all of our friends and family that made the wedding such a perfect day, or I should say a perfect week.  It is really amazing to have such great support from our parents, friends, and extended family.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

High Divide Loop in Olympic National Park

All the pics (here)

Well this past weekend we got out for what will probably be the last backpacking trip of the year before the snow really starts rolling in.

I had to work the previous weekend which was a bummer but the bright side was that I took Friday off as a comp day and so we headed out first thing Friday morning.

After a ferry ride and a bit of driving we had picked up our permit, bear canister for our food, and were on the trail.  The first day was a steady climb up from 2000ft to where we camped at just under 5000 ft over almost 8 miles.  We setup camp just as dusk was changing into full on darkness.  As soon as the sun dropped it started getting really cold.  We inhaled our food and sacked out fairly quickly.

Saturday we took our time rolling out of the nice warm sleeping bags and ate a leisurely breakfast.  By the time we headed up the trail it was probably 10:30 or 11.  This is a vacation right?  We also mixed in a little time spotting animals on the neighboring mountain.  We saw about 18 elk and a lone mountain goat way up on the peak.

The game plan was to explore a spur trail that eventually became a trail that the park service no longer maintains.  The ranger had promised us great views and was he ever right.  Most of the hike we were looking out over the Hoh river valley to Mt Olympus with glaciers hanging off in every direction.  The fall color on the trail was beautiful and we had a great time checking out the scenery.  We went out about 3-4 miles, had some lunch and then had a great hike back.

We made it back into camp before the sun started dropping and learning from our mistake the day before and we made sure to have dinner ready before the sun dropped.  We finished off a bottle of port, cleaned up and hit the sack pretty early saturday before the temps could drop too far.  I would say we were asleep before 9:30.  Ahhhh.....

Sunday we completed the loop back to the car by hiking up the ridge over the 7 lakes basin.  This was a beautiful trail that had some amazing ridge top walking.  On the right was a beautiful basin full of lakes and on the left was Mt Olympus with it's blindingly white glaciers.  The fields all around us were covered in brilliant red and yellows of what I think were blueberry bushes changing colors before going dormant for the winter.  This was the hardest day because we were walking downhill for around 4 hours but it was by far the most scenic.

We had left camp pretty early so we made it back to the car around 2:30.  The treat at the end of the day was Sol Duc hot springs that was just down the road.  We tossed our packs into the car and headed down the road eagerly anticipating our soak in the natural hot springs.  They may smell like sulpher but man do they ever feel good on sore legs.  We soaked in the tubs for about 45 minutes, then showered off and headed back to reality.

An awesome weekend with my beautiful wife.  So glad we were able to get that last trip in this weekend.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Well overdue post about Honeymoon in the San Juan's at Doe Bay

All the pics (here)

I have been meaning to writeup a post about our honeymoon, aka minimoon (it was Thursday - Sunday), in the San Juan's for weeks.  Well now that we just passed our one month anniversary I thought it was about time to sit down and make myself type.

I will post about the wedding as well but I am waiting to get our photos back from the photographers.  We had the time of our lives at the wedding but it was over before we knew it.  Monday rolled around and I had to go back to work for a few days.  I worked from Monday until Wednesday the week following the wedding and by the time Wednesday rolled around I was dying to get away and relax with my wife.  We headed out as soon as I got in from work Wednesday and were in Anacortes WA by 7 or 8pm.  We checked into our hotel for the night and were thrilled to be upgraded to a water view room with a hot tub.  We took the front desks suggestion on where to eat and headed downtown to a cool brew pub.  I can't remember the name.  The beer was good but the music was excellent.  They had a local bluegrass band playing and we had a great time kicking back and listening.

After a lazy breakfast we woke up Thursday morning and got on the ferry around 10.  I was exhausted from the wedding and work and took the ferry ride as a great opportunity to catch a little nap.  We got to the San Juan's and were greeted by low clouds and a nice drizzle.

The whole weekend the weather switched between rainy, cloudy weather and then the sun would pop out for a while.  The rain storms were a great opportunity to open up the front door on our little water front cabin, and read.

Thursday night we headed over to open mic night which I thought would be very lame.  I mean open mic night /pizza night on a tiny island?  How lame....  Well it was awesome!  We got take out pizza because the restaurant was too full for us to sit down.  The pizza was amazing.  After eating our pizza and washing it down with a little wine in our cabin we walked back over to check out the music.  For such a tiny place there sure was a lot of musical talent.  Most of the singers worked at the restaurant and were really impressive.  One guy had a business on the island of making ukuleles.  He play a few tunes that were really cool.  We had one strange dude sing songs about dogs.  He was pretty proud that when you search google for dog songs he was one of the first few hits.  A great mix of people and it was over way too soon.

Friday we woke up to some really nice weather and decided to get out for a hike.  We headed to a nearby lake and took a nice leisurely 4 mile hike.  The trail wound around the lake and it was a great time.  We headed back in time to catch the afternoon showers.

Saturday we had a reservation to go kayaking.  The best part was we would start right at Doe Bay so we did not even have to get in the car.  Well we woke up and could not see 5 feet outside the window.  Luckily the fog cleared a bit before our time to go out and we had a blast.  The fog socked things in so you really felt like the place was remote.  All sound was muffled so all you could hear was your paddle in the water.  We saw a few seals, a jelly fish the size of a basketball (seriously it was huge), and a ton of starfish.  What a great time.

I am missing a ton of things but you just have to go to Doe Bay yourself to see them.  It is an amazing place.  Natalie and I recently have been thinking of how we live to extremely different lives.  When we are home we have busy jobs, a fun busy city full of things to experience.  It seems like there are always people to see and friends we have not caught up with in too long, phones ring too much, and we are always running around.  When we go on vacation we tend to go off the grid.  Backpacking or going to a resort with no phone service, and yurts, or high camp where you have to be snowmobiled in or something just as basic.  It is great to live in a place where we can experience all that a city has to offer and at the same time be out in the middle of nowhere.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Kendall Catwalk

All the pics here (link)

This past weekend we got in a great 11 mile day hike and headed up to Kendall Catwalk.  It was a very nice mellow climb up the PCT (pacific crest trail).  It was raining when we left Seattle and the whole climb up there was a nice mist coming down.  The fog and mist felt great on the climb and made the catwalk have a spooky feeling since we could not see the bottom.  The rock face below us just fell away into a foggy abyss.

The catwalk is a section of the PCT that was blasted out of the mountain.  On one side is the mountain and the other is a sheer cliff with several hundred feet straight down.  It reminded me a bit of some of the biking trails I have been on in Utah.  While we were up there everything was socked in with fog so we hiked in our own little bubble of a view.

So far we have checked off quite a few hikes on our to do list and hopefully we will check off one more before the wedding.  We will see how the timing goes.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Natalie Heads Out Solo

This past Friday Natalie checked an item off of her summer to do list by hiking Mt Si solo.  The trail is 8 miles round trip with 3700ft of climbing so the trail is certainly a steep one.  The round trip took her about 4 hours which I think is awesome!

Good job baby!  Keep it up!  Very proud of her for getting out.  I think she may have caught the hiking bug!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pratt Lake Day Hike

Few Pictures Here (click me)

This past weekend Natalie and I got out for a nice 12 mile day hike.  After the North Cascades rain fly incident I was not sure Natalie would want to get back out.  Every trip we go on seems to turn into some sort of death march incident and that last trip as awesome as it was did have a hint of that element.  Anyway, mid week Natalie asked if I wanted to head out for a day hike.  Right after that she surprised me by saying "we could go overnight if you want."

I believe it was the first time I have said that I could not do an overnight since I had some things I had to get done over the weekend but we settled on a day hike instead.  Even better it was a trip Natalie picked out.

So armed with backpacks filled with the 10 essentials, see we do learn, we headed out of Seattle at 8:30.  After a coffee break, yes that is standard, we arrived at the trailhead a little over an hour later and started the walk.  As the trail description had warned us the parking lot was pretty busy but after we turned off to Pratt lake the crowds dwindled and we had the forest to ourselves.

According to the trail description it was a little over 4 miles in and although it took a little longer than we were thinking we arrived on the ridge overlooking the lake.  It was amazing how the forest changed as we walked and as we descended to the lake the pine forest gave way to talus fields on all sides.

The lake was a beautiful spot nestled at the base of the ridge we had descended from.  I tried my luck at fishing but did not see any activity at all.

The rain began to fall as we headed out but was short lived.  The mist felt pretty good and made the area feel very remote.

After a few hours we descended back to the car and found out from the trailhead sign that instead of the 8-9 mile dayhike we had planned we had just done 12 miles.  Feeling very good about our fitness we packed everything in the car and headed back to the city.

Hoping to get out on a good day hike again this weekend with several friends so more later.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Chilliwack River Trail via Hannegan Pass

All the pictures here (click me)

Every year our friends Dan and Laura head out on a backpacking trip with an ever growing group of friends.  Over time people have moved so the trip flip flops back and forth between the east and west coast.  This year the trip was out west and we were invited along.  All put together there were going to be 11 of us on the trip.  The only people Natalie and I knew were Dan, Laura, and Dans brother Tom.

I was psyched about this trip for weeks as it would be the longest I had been able to be out in the woods in over 10 years.  We would be heading out Wednesday after work and sleeping in the woods until Sunday.  We did a few training hikes, one is Mailbox Peak which was posted on here previously.  I went through all our gear with my neighbor Ross the weight freak (not a mean comment, he really pays close attention to the weight in his pack) the week before so I could cut out unnecessary weight.  In the end I had Natalie's pack down to 25 lbs and mine right around 36lbs.  Finally the day arrived to head out.

Day 1

We all met at our place, as we live the farthest north, and headed out in three cars.  Right from the start I could tell this was going to be a really fun group.  Everyone was really excited to see each other and to just get away from it all.

After a quick coffee stop we hit the road and drove the 2.5 hours to the trailhead out by Mt Baker.  There was a second coffee stop just to give us the extra bump we needed to get there.  I had been working until midnight and 10pm the first few days of the week so the coffee was powering the road trip for me.  We arrived as the sun was going down and everyone setup camp and then got a little fire going.  A large chunk of the group had just flown in that day so nobody made it too long around the fire and we all turned in around 11pm.

Day 2

Thursday the fun began with a climb up to Hannagan Pass (5100ft).  It was only about 4 miles to the pass and worked its way up a beautiful valley with snow melt waterfalls coming off of all of the ridges so the time passed quickly.  When we reached the ridge the group made a decision to make a side trip a mile up and 1000 ft of elevation gain to Hannagan peak.  It was going to be an out and back so we left our packs at the bottom and headed up.

Hannagan peak is 6186ft tall so the view was pretty amazing.  The weather was perfect without a cloud in the sky and we soaked up all of the sun we couold.  We could see all the way out Copper Ridge and down into the valley where we would setup base camp.  We came across several large snow fields as well which we had a great time sliding around in.  The trip was originally going to be a loop but because of the snow on the ridges we had to change it to a base camp with several large day hikes, but more on that later.

My legs were starting to get a good burn going as we made our way back down Hannagan Peak but we arrived back at the packs soon enough and after a quick snack break we headed down into the Chilliwack river valley.

We arrived at Copper Creek at camp (3200ft) after our decent from Hannagan pass.  We had only done 10 miles but we were all pretty wiped out.  Everyone picked out their campsite and started setting up.  Natalie and I arrived first so we headed up to the top of the camping area which we dubbed mountain view estates.  It was a pretty exclusive property that only had room for two tents so we ended up with Dan and Laura as neighbors.  I remember looking at the area where I setup the tent and saying "looks like water pools here when it rains but it is not going to rain so it does not matter".  Those words would come back to bite me.

We got a big fire going and everyone had a great time chatting and eating dinner.  Before we knew it the day was going and we retired to the tents.  We had a big day planned for Friday so we all wanted a good nights sleep.

Day 3

We woke up to the sounds of the east coasters calling up the hill that it was 7am and time to get moving.  Aaaarrrgghhhh, don't they know it is 7am?

We groggily (is that a word?) crawled out of the tent and started to get our stuff together for the big day.  The plan was to hike up to Watcom pass at 5200ft.  The elevation was not too big of an issue but the pass was 10 miles away making the day a 20 mile hike.  The most I have ever hiked before was 21 miles in Linville Gorge NC and I was in much better shape then.  Nobody else had done a day that big but everyone was in high spirits and ready to give it a shot.  That was the best thing about the group, everyone was motivated to make it to the pass but it was not a macho thing.

We loaded up our backpacks with day hiking supplies and were on the trail by 8:30am.

A little after 3 miles we hit one of the highlights of the day, the Chilliwack river crossing.  This was a highlight because it was in a cable car.  The car is a two person basket that you sit in and pull yourself across the river. I felt like a little kid when we got there I was so excited!  The structure holding the car up was even cool.  Natalie was pretty nervous as we loaded up but as we pushed off she felt how surprisingly stable the ride was and really started enjoying it.  We all agreed it was a major highlight of the trip.

The first 7 miles were pretty flat so we made great time, the downside to this is that it left us just under 3000ft to climb in the last 3 miles.  The push to the top was a bit of a grunt but before we knew it we were up and sitting in the saddle of the pass.  The view was amazing!!  The whole day we had been harassed by these little black flies that only seemed to bite select people, I was not one of them, but even if they did not bite they drove me crazy buzzing around my face and landing all over me.  I lost count after I killed 190 of them for the day.  Well on the way up for some reason Tom discovered that if he put his deodorant all over him the flies would leave him alone for a while.  So, when we reached the top we all slathered ourselves in old spice deodorant, basked in the flyless bliss, and took in the view.

Natalie had chosen to wear shorts for the day and her legs were pretty beat up from the brush we had to pass though all day.  I was wearing long pants and offered to swap pants with her and wear her shorts.  Her shorts look pretty long on her but on me they turned into some sweet retro 80's short shorts.  I am pretty confident in my manhood so I did sport them the rest of the day despite the million jokes.  Natalie commented that I looked just like a picture she had seen of me when I was 8-10 going our on my first backpacking trip.

It was tough to head off the pass but we all knew we were only 1/2 way and had a long 10 miles ahead of us.  Everyone hung in there and we arrived back at the cable car after a few hours.  The ride back across was just as cool.

Our group was the last to roll back into camp and we all cheered for ourselves having made the 20 miles trek.  All in all a really awesome day!!

Day 4

Sleeping the night before we were really hot so I had the great idea to pull off the rain fly and it was great!!  We spent the night staring up at the stars and I slept great.  We woke up to clear skies and one little cloud surfing across the sky.  We had a few groups going out that day.  We had one group, which Natalie and I were in, that was going to head up to egg lake on copper ridge and another group was going to take it easier and head on an adventure up the river to see how far they would get.

We headed out a little after 9 for our ridge top adventure.  The plan was to head up to egg lake which was 6.5 miles away and if we had time/energy we would keep going to a forest service lookout that was a few miles further. The hike back up to the copper ridge trail junction was uneventful except it made me think that after all this hiking it was going to hurt the last day to come back up this.  We made the turn off and it looked like the clouds were starting to roll in.  Nno worries I thought, just a little cloud cover, lets get up on the ridge and check it out.

It was quite a climb up to the egg lake viewpoint (5689ft) and we had to cross a few sketchy snow crossings but we were there quickly enough and had a few slides to keep the grins on.  It had spit rain a little off and on but nothing to really worry about.  As we stopped for lunch the bottom fell out and it really started to come down.  So much for heading to the lookout, we headed home.

Before we knew it the jackets came out and we had quickly gone from sweating to freezing in a matter of minutes.  The emergency blankets came out as we waited on one member of our group to come back off of a far ridge.  Once we were all together we headed out.  It took a bit of hiking but we were all warm enough to take off jackets soon.  We had a blast sliding back down the long snow fields we had climbed earlier.  Several brave folks glissaded down on their butts and came to a stop at the bottom with giant grins while screaming that they were frozen.  I took the safer route and slid using my feet as skis.

Once we hit the snow free trail we all pushed it to get back to camp as quickly as possible.  At this point I was pretty worried about our tent sitting back in camp with the rain fly off and our sleeping bags laid open.  The more I thought about it the more I realized we were a little screwed as all of our dry clothing was laying in our exposed tent as well.  The prospect of a long cold wet night was becoming more and more real.  Fingers crossed the guys in camp put our rain fly on before things got too bad.

After a few hours we were back at camp.  The rain still had not let up so the first thing I asked when I got into camp was if Dan had a chance to put our rain fly on.  Unfortunately everyone had been down hiking up the river and they had not gotten back to long before us.  Dan had put on our rain fly and done his best to soak up the pool that had formed in the tent but the damage was done and we were going to be wet.

Luckily everyone else was smart and had the rain fly on their tent so there was plenty of dryness to go around.  Before long we had a plan where Natalie was going to bunk with the girls and I would camp out in one of the guys tents.  It was not ideal and I was still really mad at myself for being stupid about the rain fly but it would get us through the night.

The rain just kept coming down until at about 8pm the faucets were turned off.  Not to say that the sun came out or anything but it did stop raining.  I want up to examine the tent and it looks salvageable.  I used my camp towel to dry off the sleeping pads and get rid of the left over water pools.  The crux was to dry out the bags.  My bag was just damp so I figured I could get by but Natalie's (luckily synthetic) bag was soaked.  There was a ripping campfire going so I figured it was worth a shot to dry out the bag.  Steve and I held the bag up to the fire and it immediately started to dry, there was steam blasting off of it.  It was crazy but within 10 minutes one side of Natalie's bag was completely dry.  We kept going and eventually were able to get both sleeping bags 90% dry.  We reloaded the tent and were happy to be located back in mountain view estates.  It was really great to have such a great group to work with.  I would say problem solved.

Everyone stayed up as long as they could despite the rain.  I don't think any of us wanted to let the trip move to the last day.

Day 5

The night was a little damp but comfortable and we woke up to cloudy skies.  We loaded up the soaked clothing from around camp and broke down camp.  I was sad to be leaving but happy that we would have a chance to dry out once we hit the cars.  The thought of a meal that did not come from a zip lock bag was pretty appealing as well.

We headed out of camp with bags that were probably a little heavier than when we came in due to the waterlogged clothing.  It was a tough push up to the pass but after an hour and a half or two we arrived on top, paused for a snack and then headed down the other side.  The rest of the trip out was uneventful but beautiful as we hike back down into the valley where the cars loaded with dry clothing and snacks awaited.

There was quite the hiking after party in the parking lot when we came out and we quickly dropped our packs, changed out of our wet boots and joined in.  Coolers were unloaded and everyone began to dry out in the sun that had decided to peek out a bit.

We headed back to Bellingham to eat at Boundry Bay Brewery which is one of my favorite spots after a hike in the North Cascades.  The food was amazing (best fried oysters in the world) and the beer was even better.  We all stuffed ourselves until we were uncertain if we could make it back to Seattle without a nap.

It was sad telling everyone bye in the parking lot, I think we all wanted the trip to keep going.  But all good things must come to an end and eventually we were back on I5 headed to Seattle, showers and warm beds.  If only all trips could be this great with such a perfect group of new friends.  Thanks for such a great trip everyone, certainly a highlight of all of my hikes.  Hope to see you again next year!!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mailbox Peak (2.5 miles up 4000 vertical feet of climbing)

All the pics here (click me)

Last week Dan and Laura and I met up out at the trailhead for Mailbox peak.  We got started about 6:30 and quickly realized it was way too late to start this monster.  We got about half way up before throwing in the towel.

We all agreed we had to come back and start a little earlier so yesterday a group of us met back up at the trailhead to give it another shot.  In attendance were Ross, Stephanie (after her second ACL surgery), Dan, Laura, Tom (Dan's brother), Natalie, and myself.

We headed up the trail at 5:30 and were quickly climbing.  This trail really does not waste much time before going straight up the mountain.  And I mean straight.  The demeaning part of the trail is that it seems to get steeper as you go up so as you climb it is getting progressively harder.

The whole climb is under a heavy canopy and is beautiful.  If it were not for the buzz of I-90 in the background you would never know you were 45 minutes from Seattle.

We ground up and up and up, finially starting to see light at the top.  This light was not the top but a giant boulder field that we climbed up and up and up.  At the top of the boulder field the meadow area started and was covered in wildflowers.  My progress quickly ground to a halt as I took out the camera and kept taking pictures of all the flowers.  The fog was pretty heavy which just made the lighting better for photos and I could not pass it up.

After about 3 hours we all were on top standing by the famed mailbox on top of mailbox peak.  Several of us signed the summit register, we ate some snacks and then headed back down.

The trip back down was about as hard as up because if how steep it was and I was very happy to have my trekking poles along.  About 1/2 way down the sun started to set.  We were in several groups at that point and Ross and I stopped to wait for Natalie so I could give her a headlight.  We gave Natalie and light and headed down the mountain.  For some reason Ross and I thought it would be a fun challenge to see if we could make it to the bottom without turning on our lights.  We made it within 100 yards of the trailhead before we turned on the lights and walked out to the gravel road.

Everyone was psyched to have made it to the top and we celebrated in the parking lot by destroying a bag of pretzels.  Then we all loaded up for the drive back into Seattle.  Thanks guy for such a fun hike.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Up to Carbon Glacier

View all the pics here (link)

This past weekend Natalie was away in NYC for a friends wedding.  I figured if she was having a girls weekend then it was off to the woods for me.  My neighbor Ross was game so we left the house at 7am Saturday morning headed to Mount Rainier National Park.  The goal was to camp up above the carbon glacier.  

When we arrived at the ranger station we found out that we were next in line behind the guy who got the last pass for the campsite we wanted.  We ended up with a permit for the carbon creek campground which turned out to be a nicer place to camp than were we wanted, even if it was not quite as far out.

So we started the trip with a 5 mile bike ride from the car up to the trailhead.  It was interesting riding a bike with 30lbs on my back but it was really nice to be back on the bike after taking a few years off.  

Then we hoofed it in just under 4 miles I believe to our camp at Carbon Creek.  We got a little turned around but after some searching we figured out where the place was.  There was a sweet suspension bridge on the way over to camp so I took about 5000 pictures of that.  We nabbed a great spot and setup camp really fast before loading up our dayhiking gear and heading up the trail.

It was not long before we came into view of the glacier.  I am not sure what I had pictured but this looked a lot like a gravel pit.  I can see why it is named the carbon glacier as it was black and covered in dark rocks.  It was an interesting contrast with Rainier gleaming so white you could hardly look at it in the background.  An amazing sight.

We kept heading up the trail, and I mean up, and passed the dicks creek campground where we had wanted to stay.  There was probably a nice view but the campsites were not much to look at.  We agreed that things had worked out well for us and continued up.  There was supposed to be a pretty lake at the top with an amazing view Rainier over a wildflower meadow.  Well after several miles of going up and up and up we hit the snow line.  Looks like no wildflower meadows for us.  Just to be stubborn we kept pushing up past the snow line a bit but realized that all we were going to accomplish was to get out feet soaked since I once again did not bring my gators.  Ok, they are coming on every trip from now on even if I am going to Arizona.

We eventually decided it was time to throw in the towel so I sent a quick message to Natalie from my spot messenger and we headed down.

We got back to camp, fished our beer out of the creek and kicked back in the campsite for a while.  Not too long after dark the day caught up with us and we turned in for the day.  I froze again proving to myself that I just need to bite the bullet and get a feathered friends 10 degree sleeping bag.  I must be getting old because I am getting really cold camping at night.  Nah, that can't be it!

Sunday we had a pretty quick hike back to the bikes and then had a blast racing back to the car.  I slowed us down taking lots of wildflower pictures.  Hopefully my buddy Stu will chime in and identify the ones I am not sure of.

Another great trip.  Looking forward to our car camping 4th of July adventure coming up this weekend.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Back to Rachel Lake -Dayhike

All the pics here (click me)

Natalie had to grade all weekend so I was going to get back out backpacking but due to a prior commitment on Saturday I turned my plans into a day hike.

I headed out of Seattle around 9am and headed the hour and a half to the trailhead out I-90.  I have done this hike quite a few times at this point and it is one of my favorite quick getaways.  It is 4 miles in to a beautiful alpine lake.  The first 3 miles are pretty flat and then you gain 1300-1800 feet in the last mile or so.

I was not sure what the conditions were going to be this time of year so I packed several items to make it a good trip.  I carried my flyrod on one side of the pack in case the lake was snow free (link to fishing trip in 2008), and on the other side I packed my ice axe figuring that if I had enough time I might try to get back up to Alta Peak (link to this hike in 2008).

Well both the fish and snow gods were against me and I did not use either of my toys to fish or climb but it was a great 8 mile dayhike.  The lake was still snow covered and because of how low the snow started (3000ft) it took me a bit longer to get up to the lake and I did not have time to attempt Alta.  So I ended up hanging out in the sun up at the lake for about an hour taking in the silence and looking out over the lake with a cool blue ring around it where it was starting to melt.

The highlight of the trip ended up being down in the valley where the hike is generally a little boring.  All of the wildflowers were out in force.  The ground was packed with trillium and some other yellow flower (pictured above) that I feel like I should know the name of.  There were dozens of snow melt waterfalls running down the ridges and it smelled like spring.  Check out the pictures link above to see all of the flowers.

It was a great day to soak up some sun and I look forward to getting back out.  Hoping to head out on a legit backpacking trip in the next few weekends so more coming up.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Long weekend in the Enchanted Valley (Olympic National Park)

You can see all the pics here (click me)

What a great weekend!  Saturday morning I met Dan and Laura at their house with my backpack all loaded up for the weekend.  Natalie had to sit this one out so that she could finish up some grading so I was playing the part of the third wheel.  

We left Seattle at about 9am and headed out to Olympic National Park.  True to form we planned this trip the night before but as always it worked out great.  The destination was the Enchanted Valley in the south west side of the park.  Choices were limited as the snow line is still pretty low as I learned last weekend.  So this trip would top out at around 2500 feet and keep us under the snow.  

We stopped off at the ranger station to get our back country passes and chat with the ranger about the crowds/animals/trail plan/etc and found the whole experience very relaxed.  Generally I have a slight problem with camping in national parks just because there is so much red tape.  You can only camp in certain spots, you have to tell them where you are going, etc.  I understand this is because the park is so heavily used and it is necessary but it still always bothers me a bit.  We had the exact opposite experience.  The ranger told us that it would be pretty busy but not to worry about it.  He made a suggestion about where he would camp but that we could go where ever we wanted.  He even said, "ah just write down a site for the records but you don't have to stay there".  It was nice having this kind of relaxed attitude for a holiday weekend.  Anyway, he did tell us that he had been out a week or so ago and saw 14 bears, elk, and a few goats.  He told us all about what we could see and about the trail in general.  It was probably the best stop I have ever had at a ranger station.

We left the ranger station and headed up the road to the trail head.  About 20 minutes later we arrived to a packed parking lot.  There were license plates from Virginia, Utah, Oregon, California, and obviously Washington.  This was going to be good as long as it was not too busy.

The plan was to hike in either 7 or 10 miles and setup a base camp for the next two nights.  The trail was beautiful.  There were waterfalls all along the trail, the wild flowers were starting to come out, and we were hiking in a misty rain that actually felt really nice.  As we went up the valley we started to see more and more evidence of elk.  There started to be more game trails spread around.  We did not see any animals however and were soon at the campground 7 miles out.  We were feeling good and decided to push another 3 miles to the next campsite.

The forest kept getting thicker and I really felt like I was walking through a movie set.  The trees were huge!!

After another hour or so we rolled into our spot 10 miles out.  There were quite a few people out there but we never felt crowded.  On the way out we really did not see too many people on the trail.  We ended up camping on a sandbar that was set back from the Quinalt river a bit.  I believe we may have camped at the elk latrine as there was tons of evidence of them around.  There were several fresh piles of bear poop about 15 feet from our campsite as well so we made sure to pick out a good location for the bear bag that night.

We had a great time chatting away around the fire until well after dark when we decided to turn in.  We all had high hopes of seeing a bear the next day.  Little did we know....

I woke up first Sunday morning and stumbled off to pull the bear bag down out of the tree and retrieve the coffee I needed to wake me up.  I was half expecting to see the bag on the ground with the contents spread around (you never know how clever the local animals are) but was happy to find our food hanging in the tree just like we had left it the night before.  I carried everything back to camp and made a cup of coffee.  I kicked back, sipped my coffee and watched the far river bank hoping to see a black ball of fur.  I had nearly finished my coffee when I decided that I would head down to the river and see if I could find any bear prints.  Dan and Laura were still sacked out  but I figured they would be up shortly.  After a great walk, and having not seen any bear prints, I walked back over to camp to find Laura and Dan staring into the woods behind our site.  Turns out that about 30 feet from our campsite a huge black bear had decided to bed down for the night.  This was the first black bear I have seen on the west coast and it was massive.  He did not seem to care at all that we were over in camp and would periodically look over, yawn and go back to sleep for a while.  Turns out the whole morning while I was staring across the river bank hoping to see a bear all I had to do was turn around.  Eventually our bear woke up and silently slipped off into the woods.

We had a bit of a slow start Sunday, it was vacation after all, and around 11 we headed up the trail with our daypacks.  We headed 4.5 miles up into the enchanted valley and were blown away by how beautiful it was.  There were waterfalls coming off of 3000ft cliffs, crazy river crossings, and bears bears bears.  We saw 4 bears during the day with one far off on a meadow, two just off of the main trail and another one that I spooked on the way back to camp as he was walking up the trail.  We saw one elk perched up on a bank high above the trail just keeping an eye on everyone.  Neither words nor pictures can do that hike justice.  We all agreed it was our favorite hike in Washington so far.

Back in camp we ate dinner and were asleep by 9pm.  I believe it took me about 12 seconds to fall fast asleep.

The rain cranked up a notch Sunday night which made for some great sleeping weather.  We all woke up feeling rested Monday morning.  Dan and Laura had a bit of a flood issue but luckily they were both dry for the most part.  As we were drinking coffee Dan spotted a bear across the river so we went down and watched him for a while.

We broke camp and started the 10 mile hike back to the car.  The trail was extremely muddy from all of the holiday traffic and the rain overnight so it was slow going. I managed to spook another bear on the way out.  We were low enough in the valley that I had stopped looking for wildlife when I heard something big move over to my right.  Turns out I had come around a corner and was about 4 feet from a big bear.  I think he was about as surprised as I was so we had a little stare off and I told him he should move along.  After a bit he wandered off down the trail.  That got my heart going pretty fast!

The rain did not let up Monday but after about 4 hours we were back at the car.  We were all feeling the 29 miles we had put in over the last three days and were happy to change into dry clothes and take off our packs.

It was an amazing trip and my only regret was that Natalie could not make it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Unsuccessful camping attempt outside Salmon-la-sac

My neighbor Ross and I have been trying to get out backpacking for quite a while now.  This weekend we were making it happen.  We rolled out of Seattle at 7:30am on the dot (early for us) and after a quick coffee stop we were headed out I90 to the mountains.  The destination was Waptus lake outside Salmon-la-sac area.

I have never hiked in this area that is loaded with alpine lakes and was really excited to get out in the woods, fish a little, and put in some miles with my backpack on.

The trail did not disappoint.  We walked along the Waptus river for most of the trail enjoying the cool air and silence of the woods.  We were making great time until about the 6.5 mile mark where we dropped down into a valley that had about 5 feet of snow covering everywhere.  The trail disappeared completely but as long as we kept between the river and the foot of the mountains we knew we were headed the right way.  It was hard work making it across the snowfields with a full pack and no snowshoes or gaiters.  Every once in a while you would be walking along and suddenly post hole in the snow to have to wriggle out like a beached whale.  It was slow going but we were enjoying the exercise.  

The big question mark in this trip from the beginning was a river crossing we knew we were going to have to make.  About a half mile from our intended campsite the bridge had washed out and we knew we were going to have to ford the river.  Being 2 feet deep in snowmelt water sounded a bit painful but it was a warm day and we knew it would not take long.  As long as the river was as I had read we would be fine crossing but you never can be sure this time of year.  

Well we never found out about that river crossing because about 8.5 miles into the trail, 1/2 a mile from the river crossing, I managed to have a medical mishap.  I was crossing a log much like the 15,000 logs I have crossed over the years when this particular one happened to break as I put all of my weight on it.  I fell through said log and involuntarily grabbed onto a small tree below it to stop myself from falling.  Well the tree I grabbed happened to be a pine with a large spike sticking out of it that did a pretty good job out cutting most of the way through my hand.  ouch!!  I was actually a bit more angry that the trip was over than I was in pain.  Ross and I managed to clean out the hole with ice cold water and got the bleeding stopped.  After thinking it over for a few minutes we made the correct choice and headed back to the car.  8.5 miles back to the car....

It was a good hike and I am amazed how great we felt for a 17 mile day.  I was happy that my feet and legs held up well this early in the season but it was a bummer to have to head out.

We got back to the car and headed back to Seattle.  My hand was not hurting much when we got back so I put off the trip to the emergency clinic until Sunday morning.  I spent a few hours of my sunday waiting to be seen by a doc.  Got a tetanus shot which I was wayyyyy over due for and was told my hand looked ok and to just let it heal on its own.

So boys and girls, what did we learn on this little adventure?  Well I learned that things happen and Ross and I were perfectly prepared.  I also learned that I am in better hiking shape than I thought.

I am hoping my hand will close up before this weekend so I can head out with Dan and Laura for a little backpacking trip. 

Here is a little end of post humor to offset the awful picture at the beginning.  

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Catching up after a long break from blogging

I just looked back at my posting history and it looks like 4/12 is the last post I made. I admit I have fallen off of the blog wagon a bit but things have been very busy.

We had Natalie's dad come out for a great visit. We took him around the normal full circuit of Seattle sites that we all know well (pike place market, kerry park, golden gardens, chittenden locks, etc) and added in a few side visits to a few of our favorite bars. I think Phil appreciated St Andrews pub the most as he could get his soccer and scotch fix all in one place. We ate great food and had a really good time touring the city and catching up. We even managed to get in a cookout with all of our neighbors and friends. It was a really fun visit and we can't wait to see him, and everyone, in September for the wedding.

A few weeks later I headed to Vegas for my bachelor party. The old Banner Elk gang (Matt, Nick, Sean, Palmer) was all there, Atlanta was represented by my buddy Mason, and Ross was our Seattle representative. It was a really good time having everyone out. I had not seen Nick or Matt since I moved so it was really great catching up and seeing how everyone is doing. The funny thing is that even though most of us had not seen each other in years it felt like it had only been a few weeks. Everybody just kind of picked up where we left off. Great friends. More pics and writeup can be found on Nicks site here. It was sad to say goodbye to everyone at the end of the trip but great knowing I will see everyone again out in Seattle in September. Thanks again guys for a great trip.

One weekend was spent selling Palmer's motorcycle that had been sitting in my garage since we rode the Trans America Trail together last year. Funny how as soon as the sun comes out everyone wants to buy a bike. I had about 5 people scheduled to come look at the bike on Saturday alone and the first guy ended up buying it. Sad to see it go but I believe it will pay for a new roof for Palmer's house. Not quite as much fun but thats life. Being grown up is pretty lame sometimes.

Add in some working and working and a month and a half really disappears.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Great weekend of birthday, splitboarding and wedding planning

I don't think we could have packed in anything else this weekend if we tried.  When I got home from work on Friday Natalie told me to be ready to head out for something at 7:30.  Birthday surprise!

We headed downtown and I was psyched when we walked up to my favorite sushi place.  The surprise was just beginning.  We were a few minutes early so we grabbed a drink at the bar before heading into the reserved seating area that I had always wanted to check out.  There are pillow on the floor in front of a very short table.  I always thought it was really cool but it must hurt to crouch down like that while you eat.  Turns out that under the table it is cut out so you can stretch out like normal.  This was pretty key when everyone started showing up and in our group of friends we had one pregnant and one that just got knee surgery.  One by one all of our best friends from Seattle showed up.  It was great to be surrounded by all my favorite people in Seattle, great sushi, and some tasty beers.  We all had a great time eating way too much and chatting away.  Before we knew it 11pm had arrived and it was time to head out.  Thanks again to everyone, it was a great time!!

We got home with plans to catch up for one last drink but I was heading out early in the morning to go up into the mountains with Ross and decided it was a good idea to call it a night.

All the snowboarding pics here (click me)

Saturday morning I rolled out of bed, met up with Ross, threw the last of my gear in the car, and we headed out of Seattle.  We headed back into the mountains after the snow gods had blessed us with 3-5 feet of new snow, depending on where you went.  We pulled up into the Hyak snowpark parking lot (same place as last week) at about 9:30.  The plan was to take the same route up but then branch off and head over to the Kendall clearcut.  This is a mountain just next to Kendall Peak (sort of) that was clearcut years ago and has trees coming back in but is still open enough that it is a fun place to ski.

We made pretty good time getting up to the top of the road and then headed out into new territory.  It looks pretty straight forward getting over to the road that we planned to take to the top of the clear cut.  Once we got close though we realized we were going to have to get across a crevasse about 10 feet down.  The creek that runs through the valley had managed to keep this gap open all winter.  We had to move quite a ways up the mountain before we found a snow bridge that was substantial enough for us to cross on.  After this little adventure we decided to take a nice long lunch/coffee break.

After lunch we kept heading up and discovered that there were going to be several snow bridges we were going to cross before we made it to the main part of the road.  Things turned out great and we managed to work our way over to the road and head up.  and up....  and up some more....  That mountain was a lot taller than it looked.  We set a turn around time of 2:30 and as soon as 15-20 minutes were left we kicked it in to high gear and surprised ourselves as we crested the top of the mountain.  We took a few minutes to catch our breath but the high winds had us strapping on the boards for the ride down pretty quickly.

It was not a long ride but we got some great turns in.  We even scouted a much better run for next time.  Funny how you don't see the routes until you are looking back at where you came.  The snow was amazing and worth every inch of the climb.

I am getting better on the splitboard but still have a bit to learn.  These past few weekends have been a great way to get out and figure out what I am doing.

Saturday night the neighbors all got together for a mexican dinner out over in Greenwood.  After that we took it easy over at Jake and Kays until about midnight when I headed back home.

Sunday arrived early and Natalie and I hit the road/ferry to Bainbridge Island for an open house at the resort where we are having the rehearsal dinner and are having guests stay for the wedding.  It was a beautiful day and we knocked out several big items on our to do list as well as tasting all of the choices for the rehearsal dinner.  Luckily there was enough time to squeeze in a good sun break out on the back lawn of the hotel overlooking the water.  Not bad...

After the open house we headed over to the Farm Kitchen (where we are getting married) to meet a potential florist.  We got there a early and soaked up a little more sun before meeting with Amy (the florist).  She was great and we gave her a deposit before packing up and heading to dinner at a little restaurant on the water looking back at Seattle.

Now that was a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Out in the snow

All the pics here (click me)

I recently picked up a new toy I have been wanting since we moved out here.  REI was having a sweet sale and well, I broke down.  So I am the proud owner of a new Voile Splitboard.  In case you don't know what this brilliant snow toy is it is a snowboard that breaks in half to form two "skiis".  The idea being that you use the ski mode to get into the back country and once you work your way to the top you put it together into a snowboard for the ride back down.

So Ross and I headed up into the mountains this past Sunday to play in the snow.  We went to Kendal Peak which is an area I have been to many times so I knew that route finding would not be an issue.  We got out to the mountain about 10am and started up.  I realized pretty quickly that I need to do this a bit more since I found some muscles I was not sure I had.  We worked our way in, stopped for a quick lunch break, and then headed up to the top.  We explored around a little trying to figure out how we were going to drop down to the road.  We eventually picked a path and made a few great turns back down to the road.  Well, I did take us on one little adventure through the forest but I had to throw in a twist, it could not be sooooo easy...  I need to do some adjustments to the board but overall I am psyched with how things worked.

Hoping to get back out this Saturday to give it another go.  Fingers crossed the snow conditions hold up.


For all the pictures click here (click me)

Disclaimer:  Due to extreme relaxation the timeline of events may not exactly match the post.  In the end we did all the things so lets not worry about the order.

Well I think I have been putting off posting about our trip to Hawaii because once I post about a trip then it is officially over.  I never wanted to come home from this trip.

This was my first trip to Hawaii and I have to say that I completely get why people are in love with the place.  We were in Kauai for 9 days.

We were invited to this amazing paradise by our friends Robyn and Phil.  The offer was presented to us an "engagemoon" which we could never pass up.  It was an amazing time to say the least.

Natalie and I flew in on Friday night and spent the first evening having dinner by the ocean and beginning the unwinding process.  We spent Saturday hanging out on the beach watching the surfers roll by.  We met Robyn and Phil at the airport around 3 and headed to their place in Poipu.  When we got to the timeshare I could not believe how beautiful it was.  We were 100 yards from the water.  We could hear the waves from our room.  Now that was living!!

The whole trip was a great mix of relaxing with friends and getting out to explore the island.  We spent the first few days settling in and then ramped up the adventure.  Natalie and I took an amazing zodiac (inflatable motorboat) ride up the Na Pali coast.  I have seen this area written up in backpacker many times and instantly start to drool.  Seeing this amazing area from the water was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.  You will have to check out the pictures because words cannot do this area justice.  Come to think of it photos cannot really do the area justice either.  This was a 5 hour boat tour with the last hour being a stopover for snorkeling.  At this point I did not think the trip could have gotten better but after throwing on fins and a mask I jumped into a new world.  With your head underwater you could hear the whales calling to each other.  After about 10 minutes in the water a turtle swam by and I had the amazing experience of diving down and swimming along with him about 5 feet away from my mask.  Wow!!

The night after the boat tour we all packed up and headed to a luau.  This turned out to be a bit touristy but was fun as well.  After fighting a bunch of tourists for a table we realized why we loved being on vacation with just 4 people.  The show was good though and we had a great time.

The next day the girls were getting massages so Phil and I picked up some snorkeling gear from the resort and set off to find a place to swim around and see some fish.  After doing a little driving we decided to go check out the area where we had signed up to dive later in the week.  We were not out long but it was great to be in the water checking out the fish and we knew we would be back in a few days.

We headed back to meet the girls and load up in the car for a little tour-de-island.  We drive up to the top of the island with our final destination being the town of Hanalei (where puff the magic dragon lived by the sea).  Along the way we stopped off for a hike/swim in the Queens bath.  This was a really cool tide pool right on the edge of the pacific where waves would keep the water moving as they splashed over the top but for the most part the water was very calm.  We swam and lounged around for a long time before we could bring ourselves to leave.  Near the end of the day we rolled into Hanalei which ended up being one of my favorite towns of the trip.  I am not quite sure why I loved this town but it had a great feel to it.  At this point of the island the mountains come almost directly down into the ocean.  A very very peaceful place to be.

The next day Robyn and Phil headed to do a little sight seeing while Natalie and I roamed the beaches near the room and did a little exploring.  We discovered a bar down the road that served the best fish tacos I have ever eaten.  The only thing planned for the day was a dive class in the pool where Phil and I would get briefed on how to use our equipment for the dive we had scheduled for Saturday.  Everyone had a great relaxing day and settled in even more.  That afternoon as Phil and I were getting our dive instruction in the pool the girls came down and had a few drinks.  After our class wrapped up we all sat in the sun sipping pineapple drinks until the sun started to dip.  Ahhhhh.....

Friday (so sad that it was Friday already) we explored a beach with Phil.  I wish I remembered the name of the beach because it was the most beautiful one we saw.  To get there we had to push the limits of the rental car a bit but after navigating the ruts and rocks we parked safely and walked the last 100 yards to a beach tucked away by limestone cliffs.  Again, you will have to look at the pictures since words cannot do this place justice.  We made it back to the room in time to walk up the hill and watch the sun set over the surf.

Saturday we got up to watch the sun rise (as we did most mornings we were there) and then Phil and I headed off to meet our dive guide at 8am.  We got a fish briefing of what we would see underwater and the signs our guide would use underwater as well as a quick safety refresher and we were off into the water.  The last time I went diving was in Australia and they motored us about a mile offshore before putting all our gear on us and letting us fall over the side of the boat.  In that little adventure I kind of freaked out but this time we just walked into the water and calmly slipped into a different world.  Within 10 minutes we were seeing turtles, moray eels, angel fish, and coral.  At one point a huge turtle swam up from underneath us and came within 2 feet of me.  It was so amazing to see such a huge animal effortlessly glide by.  We were under water for almost 50 minutes but it passed by like we just blinked.  I could have stayed out all day diving and swimming with all that sea life.

After turning in our dive gear we headed back to the room and took it easy.  It was very sad that we were already to Saturday.  We were looking forward to a great dinner to cap the trip off though.  We sat down to our nearly waterfront table 30 minutes before the sun began to set.  It was great being in a place like that with such good friends.  We snapped a few pictures as the sun settled into the ocean and waved goodbye to it for the last time.

Sunday was a very early wakeup to catch our plane.  I was physically pained to leave the place and cannot wait to go back one day.  I cannot thank Robyn and Phil enough for sharing that amazing place with us.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

T minus 2 days

2 days until we land in Hawaii.......  Heading out Saturday and returning the following Sunday.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mt Baker Cabin Weekend

This past weekend a group of us headed up to a rental cabin by Mount Baker.  Our neighbor Stephanie did all the work and found a great deal on a place that was 10 miles from the mountain.

Our friend Laura met us at our place Friday as I was getting in from work and we all quickly loaded the car and headed out to dinner.  After grabbing a mexican dinner and letting the traffic clear off of I5 we headed up to Baker.  It only took about 2 hours before we were walking in the door.  Ross and Stephanie had gotten out of work around 4 so they were already settled into the cabin.  We unpacked broke open a few drinks and took it easy the rest of the night.

Saturday morning the girls went for a little hike while Ross and I loaded up our snowboards and hit the mountain.  This was the first time I have been snowboarding at Mount Baker and it was a great time.  The sun was shining, there was not a cloud in the sky and life was great.  We rode for a few hours, had a beer and lunch on the deck at the base of the mountain and took in the view.  After relaxing in the sun for about an hour we hit the mountain for a bit longer and then headed back to the cabin.

Saturday night was spent listening to music, sitting in the hot tub, and enjoying the fact that not only did we not have any cell service but we could not pick up a single radio station.

Sunday we had a leisurely breakfast before hitting the road for Seattle.

Once we got back and were unpacked my neighbor Jake and I moved our newest 9310 Stone Brewery beer (a brown ale this time) into secondary fermentation.  It is going to be tasty.

Now I have just enough time to finish the book I am reading and maybe start on another one.

Only two weeks before Natalie and I head out to Hawaii for 9 days!!  What a rough life we lead.  :)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sun poisoning in Seattle

For all pictures (Click Me)

I have been feeling a little antsy lately and knowing that it was about time to head up into the woods. I was supposed to go a few weekends ago but I had a really busy week at work and did not have a chance to pack during the week. Well this past week was really busy too but I made myself head down to the garage and pack up my gear Friday after I got home at 7:00pm. Luckily I have been pre planning trips lately so all I had to do was print out a map and load a little info into the GPS and I was ready to head out the door.

I had been thinking about getting out for quite a while and the original plan was to try the Alaska Lake trip that I bailed on last time when I was not feeling so well. So, all week I was thinking I was going to head out there and then Friday I pulled up the weather report and it said warm and bluebird skies all weekend. Hmmmm, I had Artist Point on my list of winter camping spots and the view was why it was there. So, after a quick change of plan I printed out a different map, reloaded the GPS with the new destination.

The trip was pretty easy. Getting there was a snap. You just head up to Mt Baker upper parking lot, tell them you are staying overnight and head up with no passes or parking fees required. I walked on the edge of the ski resort the first mile and then had around 2 miles up to my campsite. I was snowshoeing in a tshirt it was so warm. Ahhhhh, I sure did miss the sun!!

Words cannot describe the scenery up there. I have to say that the Mt Baker area is one of the top 5 prettiest places I have ever been. As you climb you have a view of Mt Shuksan off to the left, a few huge back country ski bowls off to the right and as you begin to crest the ridge Mt Baker comes into view. Even though the ski resort is close by I could not really tell and felt as though I should have had to work much harder to make it to this place.

I got to my campsite around 2pm and started digging in. After a few scoops of snow I was so warm the tshirt even had to come off!! So after I dug my campsite into the side of the hill and was satisfied that I had everything all leveled off I setup camp, dug out some snacks, pulled my sleeping pad out into the sun and read my book for a few hours.

Eventually I put the book away and decided I would head up to Artist Point (a few hundred feet up the hill from my campsite) and see the view from there.

I discovered a few other people camped out up on top of the point and was happy to have my campsite all to myself.

I spent the afternoon reading, watching snowshoers and skiers head down the distant peaks and came to the conclusion that I have to quit thinking about getting a back country setup and just do it. I cannot imagine a better weekend than heading in a few miles to camp out and then mixing in a few ski runs.

Sunday I woke up to a carbon copy of Saturday. Blue skies and mid 40s. I was planning to snowshoe a little and explore but decided to repeat Saturday by dragging my sleeping pad outside, building up a snow recliner to set my pad in, and read my book. I took it easy in the sun for 3-4 hours before packing up and heading home.

I felt a little woozy the whole drive home and all night which I think was minor sun poisoning. Or maybe my body just forgot what to do with vitamin D. Either way I have a little tan and feel like all of the stress has been burned out of me. I can't wait to get back up to the mount baker area with some ski gear next time.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentines Weekend

Last weekend instead of just having valentines day we decided to turn it into a weekend.

Friday we went to see Presidents of the USA.  It was a pretty sweet deal as the tickets were a Christmas gift from Palmer.  We got there a little early so rather than wait in line we headed over to a bar across the street I had been wanting to check out and had a relaxing drink. It was nice to unwind after the week so after our beer we headed over to the show. This is a band that I liked a long time ago so I figured it would be one of those "oh yea I remember that song" kind of bands. It was one of the most fun shows I have been to in a long time. The lead singer has at least as much energy as he did 10 years ago, and maybe more. We got out of the show around 11:30 or so and headed home for the night.

We slept in saturday and after running some errands (yay oil change!) we headed downtown to the aquarium. We took a cab down so we would not have to worry about parking or getting the car broken into (happened to the 4runner again last week). We walked through the market and got a snack, picked up some tea natalie wanted and headed to look at the aquarium. We got down there about 4 and spent two hours walking around. It is a really nice aquarium. Atlanta's (my hometown) is probably nicer just by being so new but this one was really fun. They put a lot of mini tanks down low to the floor so kids can walk right up. There is a huge touch tank section that was filled with kids. We wrapped up just as they announced they were closing which was perfect timing. We walked up to grab dinner and since we were early we walked over to the new 4 seasons and had a drink in the bar. After a little relaxing there we went to dinner right under the market at il bistro and had a long relaxing dinner. After dinner we were not quite ready to head home so we walked over to a little bar overlooking the sound that we had seen while we were walking up from the aquarium and had a final drink of the evening. Then we caught a cab home and passed out. Sunday was just a relaxing get things done day and we finished the weekend watching the opening ceremonies that we had recorded.

Such a relaxing weekend and I think valentines should be a weekend event from now on.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


For all the pictures click HERE.

Saturday we headed out with Laura and Frank to an event that I don't think you can see in too many parts of the country. We went to watch the Cascade Quest dog sled race over by Levenworth.

This was a really cool event that went from Saturday to Sunday. The racers headed out 25 miles, camped, and then headed back in Sunday. Since we were there on Saturday we saw the teams leaving.

The whole event was very laid back so we got to meet the racers and all their dogs. We saw the 2pm start that was a purebred race. Since we were there at around 1:30 we saw them getting all of the dogs ready. As soon as the dogs saw their harnesses they got really excited and started howling. Even at the starting gate the dogs were so excited they started hopping up and down and jumping on top of each other.

It was a great day filled with lots of dog slobber.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hiking in the jungle

Another great weekend out in the woods. Dan, Laura, Natalie and I headed up to the north cascades this past weekend. The plan was to head up into the snow so we all loaded up the packs with winter tents, snowshoes, and all the warm gear we could carry. Well we got to the trailhead and even after driving uphill for 30 minutes the snow line was still so far above us that we decided to leave the snowshoes in the car.

We headed out under skies that were pretty nice but had a hint of darkness to them. About 30 minutes into the trip things began to get interesting as we came across an unexpected river. It was not really cold (probably low 40s) but still to cold to just wade across a river of snowmelt. We searched around a little and Dan and I decided the best crossing was over a fallen tree that was covered in ice. What could go wrong right? Well everything went well and after a little sawing of branches and handing of packs we were all across. In the back of my head I was thinking, hmm I hope the water level does not come up overnight because I have no idea how we will make it back across.

After crossing the river we headed into what looked like the set of Jurrassic Park. The trees were huge and covered in moss. We spent a good portion of the hiking heading up a creek bed. There were quite a few blowdowns which resulted in the trail just disappearing. We would realize after about 15-20 feet that we were not on a trail any more (this was a lightly used trail anyway) and would have to fan out to locate the trail again. It was cool to have to do a little route finding. I felt like we were making good time but as it started getting later we were still nowhere near the treeline where we had planned to camp.

A little after 4 Dan said he thought we should call it and use the remaining light to find a campsite. I really wanted to make the treeline for the views and so while he went off to the side of the trail to find an area to camp in (we were on the side of a mountain so not many flat spots were to be had) I dropped my pack and jogged up the trail in the off chance that

a. there was an established flat campsite ahead
b. that by some miracle the treeline was closer than we thought

Turns out the the trail just got steeper up ahead and there were not any good campsites up there at all. I reluctantly turned around and started jogging back down the trail to see if Dan had found a campsite.

When I got back Dan had just re-emerged from the woods and thought he may have found a place. We all heaved our packs back onto our backs and headed off the trail and into Jurrassic Park. The campsites were not much to look at but after adjusting the tents a few times we decided they would work well.

After getting setup we all changed into our warmest clothes and headed to our dinner/bar area. Between all of us we had two bottles of port, one bottle of wine, and a bottle of bailey's to have with hot chocolate later. It started getting cold so we fired up the stoves, opened up the port and ended up having a great night just catching up and talking trash. The hanging of the food line was a memorable experience. Booze+waterbottle tied to a rope that needed to be thrown over a tree is always interesting but this was a classic. Classic bear bag setup....

It had gotten dark at 4:30pm so we had all turned in by nine with full stomachs and faces that hurt from laughing. Great times with great friends.

The hike out was uneventful and my worst nightmares about the river crossing on the way out turned out to be nothing more than paranoia.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Han Solo

Ok, so 3 beers made that subject line sound really cool.

Last year in April Natalie headed out for her first winter camping trip. We headed up to Kendall Peak lakes which is a great snow camping trip where you snowshoe in 4 miles in with the last mile being the snowshoeing equivalent of a bushwhack, meaning there really is not a trail. This past weekend I had grand plans to head out on an epic solo snoeshoe adventure but after fighting a cold, or hangover or whatever it was I decided to bail on the idea on friday evening and repeat a trip Natalie and I did last year.

Last years trip was before this blog was started so let me recap a bit. This was the trip that last year Natalie and I took with my 3 season tent and ended up getting about 6 inches of snow overnight. Luckily this was a calm storm that blew in so we were comfortable under the 3 sleeping bags I had carried in. I figured that since it was Natalie's first winter camping experience I would make sure she was warm so she would want to go again. We worked so hard to make it up to this alpine lake and it never occurred to me until we hiked up to the edge of the lake that in April this lake was just a flat spot in the snow. Hmm, what a scenic plot of snow we worked so hard to reach....

So getting back around to this trip (sorry for the stream of conciousness post but well that is how it is this evening). So I rolled out of bed saturday morning at 9 and hit the road. After a bit of driving around to pick up last minute parking passes at REI I was on the road to the trail. I strapped on my snowshoes and started walking up the trail around noon. Ahhhhhh, I needed to get up into the mountains so bad..

Ok, so one more aside and then I will get back to the trip. I have probably posted on here more than once but I have discovered a formula to my happiness. I have discovered that I have to get up into the mountains overnight at least one weekened every six weeks. More is better but to maintain my sanity the formula seems to be one weekend every 6.

Ok, now back to the trip..... So I hit the trail at the crack of noon and felt the stress drop off with every step. After a few hours I was at the end of the trail and started up the bushwhack portion. Last time I headed up this with Natalie it was a lot of powder but this time the hill was a sheet of ice. Every step had to be stamped in so I would not slide back. About half way up the value of an ice axe started to make sense. Hmmm, note to self, next investment is an ice axe.

After a bit of bashing up the ice I was at the top of the hill. I took a quick detour up to the top of a peak to check it out and then headed to my campsite. After passing a few groups of campers I found a great campsite at the base of Kendall peak. Just about the time I was going to set my pack down I heard the entire wall of ice shift. This was a very eerie, very heavy sound as the snow/ice was consolidating for the night and I quickly decided to head to a safer spot in case the hill decided to detach. So a few minutes later I was within a stones throw of the site Natalie and I had used the year before.

The rest of the evening was spent setting up camp, bundling up and checking out the map for areas I had hiked and would like to hike in the future. Solo snow camping and just solo camping in general is a great time to just sit and think. I reflected back on the amazing year that has just passed. Wow, it is crazy how fast life passes. I feel like it was just yesterday Natalie and I were engaged in Doe Bay, or climbing Mount Adams with Dan and Laura. Wow, it all goes so fast.

Well I am back home now nursing my sore core calves and looking forward to getting out again this weekend. Natalie and I are headed out with Dan and Laura for another snowshoe weekend and I can't wait.