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!!