Monday, December 5, 2011

On a roll getting to the mountains this winter

Happy Dog
Sunday I was once again up at 5:30 (aarrgghh) and moving in the car by 6.  Baker was supposed to have sun, perfect visibility, and low avalanche danger according to the forecast and it did not disappoint.  We had a full house this trip with Ross and I in my car and Stephanie and their friend Tony in a car following with his two dogs as well as Ross and Stephanie's dog.

We pulled into the Baker parking lot about 9 and were shortly on the mountain.  We did a great loop that I have wanted to do for a long time which is a circumnavigation of Table mountain.  It was a beautiful loop and the mountains were out in all their glory the whole time.

We have not gotten any snow in the last week so I expected the conditions to be terrible but figured it would be worth it for the sun.  The snow was great!  Most of the slopes had about 8 inches of powder on top of a firm crust.

We were sidetracked a bit when Ross's front straps on both bindings decided to blow out.  We had spare parts but one of the screws stripped out which made for an exciting hour of swearing mixed with actual fixing of bindings.  In the end we got him back up and running and we finished the loop.

The final climb up the backside of table was pretty steep which made things a little tough but the hardest thing was that the snow condition were so mixed on the face that it was tough to get your skis to stick on the climb.  In the end I took off my skis and boot packed it to the top which was completely exhausting.

We were out for seven and a half hours which included a bunch of down time for exploring, fixing bindings and being awed by the view.  A great day!  Can't wait to get back up there.  Might make it this weekend but most likely this coming weekend will be one of staying in the city and letting the car take a breather.  I might even sleep past 5:30am on Sunday.

It has been a great run so far this winter. I have been out in the back country every weekend for the last month.
Happy dog with Mt Shuksan
in the Background

View down the valley from Atist Point
Ross on the backside of table mtn with
shuksan in the background

view from the binding repair spot

Looking at the end of Table Mtn.

Looking back at Mt Baker across the lake before climbing
the saddle up to Herman

View of Herman Saddle a.k.a. the
devil hill of mixed conditions

Monday, November 28, 2011

4 Day Thanksgiving Weekend

What a great 4 days!  We managed to work in a little bit of everything.

Thursday started with our annual visit to Walter and Courtney's pumpkin waffle breakfast.  We visited for a while and then bundled up for our yearly walk around Greenlake.  

The first half of the walk was a calm stroll in the misty cool fall weather we know and love around here.  The second half of the walk the weather turned on us and we ended up using our umbrella as a shield against the blasting wind and rain.  Wow it was nasty.  That will be a walk we will think back to every Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving afternoon we headed down to Dan and Laura's house.  We cooked, ate, drank and visited and before we knew it the clock said midnight.  I have no idea where that 10 hours went.  It was a great time and as always such a blast to chat and take it easy with those guys.  

Friday the plan was to not leave the house.  I was pretty excited to sit on the couch all day and read.  I now know that i am not very good at not doing anything as I was pacing the house by 2pm.  I managed to calm myself down and got in a bunch of reading which was excellent.  Looking back on the weekend I am very glad that I had Friday to just take it easy as things ramped up from there.

Me mid conversation about something
Saturday I was up at 5:30am, had all the ski gear in the car, and was on the road with Ross and his dad by 6am.  Ross's dad was coming up with us for a day of back country skiing.  His dad is a good downhill skier but had never had to work for those turns.  We got to the closed resort at about 7:30 and were on the slopes shortly after that.  We headed back up to Alpental where Natalie and I had gone last week.

Well the great snow that Natalie and I had was still there but it was hiding under about an inch of ice.  We started in the rain and started up to try to find the snowline.  It had to be up there somewhere.  Well I am sure it was up there but we certainly could not find it.  We turned around at about 4500 feet and headed down.

Ross's dad at the top of the climb
It is days like that when I am so happy I snowboard.  Ross and I were able to make the best of the terrible conditions and wring a few great turns out of the descent but Ross's poor dad had an awful time.  The snowboards let us float enough that we acted like ice breakers and were able to make turns and descend.  Skis  proved a lot more challenging though and pretty much took all the fun out of the descent.

We all arrived at the car smiling though and it was a great workout.  Amazing how much conditions can change in a week.  We will see what next week has to bring.

After I got home saturday I put up all my ski gear and got out my running gear so I would be ready Sunday morning for the Seattle 1/2 marathon.  As I was getting my things together Natalie decided she felt like running it too.  Our friend Jake had a packet that he had picked up for a friend who was not doing the race so on the spot the decision was made and Natalie was in.  I love that she can just jump off of the couch and run 13.1 miles.
Everyone at the finish line!

Sunday morning we were up at 5:30am and out the door by 6:30 headed down to the race.  We had 4 people running.  Natalie, myself, and our neighbors Jake and Stephanie.  This was Stephanie's first 1/2 ever which was exciting.  When we were walking to the start it was cloudy but dry and about 50 degrees, pretty much perfect.  Just as we started the rain started.  It poured the entire race.  That might sound terrible but it was actually great.  It felt so good to have the rain in your face, made me feel alive.  

Everyone had a great run!  Natalie ran a sub 2 hour race (with no training), Jake hit his goal of just over two hours, Steph came in at her goal and checked off her first 1/2 marathon.  I was psyched to come away with my personal record of 1:52.  After not really training that much and skiing the day before I could not be happier.  We spent the rest of the day watching three movies as it poured outside.  Great finish to an excellent 4 day weekend.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Quick trip to Alpental

Sunday Natalie and I got out into the snow for a really nice back country ski tour.  I recently finished a back country setup for Natalie and wanted to find somewhere close to test everything out with her before we made a real road trip somewhere.  Luckily for us Alpental ski resort, which is only an hour from the house, has not opened for the season yet.  There is pretty good snow cover everywhere but the weeds are still sticking up.

Natalie was not feeling so hot but she was a trooper and headed up anyway.  At the house the sun was shining and the sky was blue.  We were a little sad that when we made it up to the mountain the blue skies were replaced with clouds but there was very little wind and the snow was in great shape.

This was my first trip up to Alpental so we wandered around for a little while trying to find the easiest way up.  After a long traverse across the resort we headed up.  We were out for about 3 hours and got fairly high on the mountain before taking one nice long run back to the car.

It was great being out with Natalie on such a nice day.  I love that my wife is game for getting out in the cold and skiing around for the day.  I am hoping that the resort does not open for a few more weeks so maybe we can get another trip or two in up there.  Nice only driving a hour from the house rather than the normal two and a half or three to Mt Baker.

Monday, November 14, 2011

First backcountry snowboarding day of the season

Ok, I really will get the Italy posts up soon.  Until then I thought I would put up a quick post about this past weekend.

The snow has started coming down up in the mountains and it was time to go visit it.  The plan was pretty simple.  Ross and I headed out of Seattle at 6:30 Sunday morning headed to Mt Baker.  We headed up to Heliotrope ridge.  This is the same approach I used a few months ago when a group of us climbed to the top of Baker.

There was a lot more snow than I expected.  I had to not only be in 4wd to get to the trailhead but I also had to put on chains.  In November?

We hiked the first little bit and started with a sketchy river crossing but past that we split the boards and skinned up.  It took about two and a half hours to get to the toe of the glacier and we climbed for about two hours past that.  It was slow going due to the wind moving around the snow.  Some places were were knee deep super soft snow and then we would round a bend to a wind scoured face that we had to be very careful to keep an edge on.

After two hours of climbing the day was getting late and the weather started to turn on us so we put the splitboards back together and pointed them downhill.  What a blast!  We dropped 1000ft of elevation gain in no time.  The snow was fantastic and neither of us could wipe the smile off of our face at the bottom.

Only a few pictures due to the weather and high winds.  Hopefully this is another start to a great season.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Still working on the post for Italy but until then...

I am way behind in my posting.  Still working on going through the 2000 photos we took in Italy and getting posts together.  Stay tuned for those and a few other trips but just to hold you over I just ran across a video a long lost friend of mine from Boone made.  Amazing stuff.  Will catch up with you one of these days Brad.....

Shoot the Trails 2011, Brad W on

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Amazing hike up Mt Tenariffe last weekend

Click for more pictures

This summer has been a blur so far.  We have been visiting family in Denver, hiking a bit, went to see Phish at the Gorge Amphitheater, I had a great weekend with the guys up in Vancouver for my buddy Dan's bachelor party, and so much more.  Summers in Seattle are pretty nuts because we try to pack a whole year into 4 months of summer.  It has been a blast but has gone by so fast.  Natalie and I are just about to head out to Italy for a belated honeymoon so stay tuned for pictures from that amazing trip.  We cannot wait.

Getting back on topic for this post though we checked off a hike recently that we have been wanting to do for quite a while.  We made a few wrong turns but in the end we made it to the top of Mt Teneriffe.  This is right next to Mt Si and Mailbox peak which we have done numerous times but I have to say this was much better.  There are far less people and the view is amazing.  All in all a great day to be out hiking.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mt Baker via Coleman Route

View all the pictures from the trip by clicking on the image above 

This past weekend Natalie and I headed up to climb Mt Baker with a group of 4 other folks.  We headed out with Dan, Laura, Matt (we climbed Adams with him before) and Kent (a buddy of Matt's).
We arrived at the trailhead at 9:00am and were shortly on the trail.  We wandered through the forest for a few miles and eventually popped out onto a snowfield at the edge of the tree line.  Rather than take the real trail we just started heading up the snowfield.

Around 6000 feet we took a break to rope up into our teams.  We setup as two teams of three so that one team could help the other if something were to happen.  The snow was soft from the sunny weather so we kept the crampons in the pack.

The climb was beautiful, with Baker looming over us.  It was amazing, and messed with our minds a bit, to see the summit we were headed to off in the distance.

It was a tough climb but before we knew it we reached camp at 7500 feet.  We stopped with an amazing view of Baker.  Everyone was getting pretty hungry so the first order of business was melting snow for water and getting some food going.

The plan was to wake up at midnight and start hiking at 1:00am so it was an early night.  It is tough getting to bed at 6pm with the sun still blazing away.  We had eye masks I had picked up but it still took a few hours before I was able to wind down from the hike and fall asleep.

Beep!  Beep! Beep! 12:00am showed up before we knew it.  I cannot remember falling asleep at all but the alarm beeping away woke me right up.  Well I did lay around questioning my sanity for a few minutes but manged to get myself moving.  We had put all of our summit day gear to the side the day before so Natalie and I quietly gathered our stuff and geared up.

We were roped up and moving at 1:30am.  A little late but better than Mt Adams where we slept through 4 people's alarm clocks and woke up 2 hours late.  So I call it a success.  We were the first group awake, the stars were out, and it was completely silent.  You could barely make out the darker darkness that was Mt Baker in the dim starlight.  Wow, that is a long way up.

The morning was filled with crunching ice under my crampons and the zip zip zip of the rope on the snow as we ascended.  It is amazing how we just fell into a rhythm of step step breathe, step step breathe, and gradually ticked off the feet to the top.  I think Natalie and I started to feel the climb at about the same time.  I don't know if it was the exertion, altitude, or just being a little loopy from getting up at midnight but we hit a mini wall at about 10,000 feet on, ironically, an area called The Roman Wall.  This was a 30-45 degree slope of about 1000 feet and is the final push to the summit.  We pushed on though and gradually worked our way up.  As we crested the top of the wall the sun began to rise over the north cascades and was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.  We were surrounded by jagged peaks turned pink by the sun peaking over the horizon.  Just incredible....

We hit the top at about 5am, sat down and took in the show as the sun came up.

 We were on top for a bit before the cold winds drove us to pack up our gear, tie back in to the ropes, and head down.

The hike down was pretty cool because we got to see everything we had come up in the dark.  There were a few sections where we were pretty happy we did not see what we had been climbing.  Mostly though it was hard to not take in the sights on the way down.  We could see the San Juan Islands out in the middle of the sound.  Rainier was peaking out to the south, and all around us the glaciers were lit up.

It took us a few hours to get back to camp.  We all fell into our tents for a quick 45 minute nap, then packed up and headed out.  It was about 3pm when arrived back into the parking lot and all groaned with satisfaction as we dropped our packs that seemed to have gotten heavier throughout the day.

It was an incredible trip, and I have to say I am hooked.  Today I actually feel pretty good, my legs burn but are not any worse than after a 1/2 marathon.  It was certainly one of the hardest things I have ever done but was worth every step.  Rainier next year guys?  I hope so.  Hopefully I will get the chance to do Mt Adams in a day sometime in early August as well.  Can't put up the crampons just yet.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Quinault Lodge Weekend

A few weekends ago my parents came into town.  We have hit most of the Seattle sights so this trip we decided to get out of the city.  We headed to the Quinault Lodge.

We left town a little later than we would have liked and after stopping over in Olympia for a little dinner we rolled into the lodge at about 11:30pm.  This was a very cool place.  I felt like I had walked onto the set for The Shining.  If I kid on a bigwheel had come around the corner it would have been extra spooky.

This lodge was built in 1926.  Franklin D Roosevelt visited in 1937 and 9 months later signed the bill creating Olympic National Park (inspiration?).  Other than the dining room addition the lodge appeared to be all original.  The fireplaces were huge and had a fire burning in them throughout our visit.  We spent quite a bit of time on the couches in front of the fire visiting and catching up.

This was the rain gauge
showing 13.5 feet for the year
We made one side trip out to the coast.  We stopped at a few roadside areas to check out the "large cedar" as the sign put it.  After a while I picked a random spot overlooking the pacific and we setup our picnic we had brought along.  As we were setting up I noticed a whale rolling along off the coast.  He went back and forth in front of where we were for almost the whole time we there.  About the time the whale show ended a peregrine falcon cruised by very slowly not caring about us at all.  All in all we could not have timed the wildlife any better.

All too quickly Sunday rolled around and we headed back to Seattle.    It was a great weekend and very nice to see my parents.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Riding mountain bikes again!

A few weekends ago Natalie and I headed over to Whidbey Island for the weekend by ourselves.  We have been doing tons of weekend trips lately with groups and decided it was time to get away by ourselves.  We packed up the condotron (our huge car camping tent), bikes, and headed to a campsite at Fort Ebey State Park that Natalie had reserved.

We stopped along the way for a great dinner looking out over the water.  We took our time and just enjoyed being by ourselves with nowhere to be.

We actually took our time a little too much because by the time we got to the campground it was 10:45pm and the gates were closed.  Hmm, well guess we are sleeping on the side of the road.  We put all of our gear into the front seat and inflated our mattress in the back and promptly fell asleep.

About 6am we were woken up to a ranger knocking on the window.  I opened the door and said I was sorry we were sleeping on the side of the road but we had gotten in late.  He said not to worry and to come on in at our convenience.  Just as he was about to walk away he added as though it were an afterthought, "just for future reference in Washington State we close the gates at night but don't lock them".  Ha!  Well at least we were comfortable in the car all night even if we didn't have to be.  We laughed and then went back to sleep until about 9.

I had brought the bikes thinking we could ride along the coastal road but when we checked in the guard mentioned that all of the trails (and there were tons of them) were legit to ride bikes on.  Hmm.

We setup camp and decided to go for a ride.  Before moving out to Washington I use to go out and ride huge loops in the Wilsons Creek Area with a great group of guys.  If I was not working I was out biking.  Then I moved to the mountain bike mecca and hung up my bike.  I guess I got a little burned out and rediscovered backpacking.  It has been a great switch but getting back on the bike the other weekend certainly reminded me why I love riding so much.  These trails were not hard at all but they were right above Puget Sound and were fast and fun.  We had a blast riding for about 3 hours and then headed back to camp to get cleaned up for dinner.

We had a great dinner at the Oyster Catcher before heading back to the silence of the condotron.  It was a great weekend of hanging out with each other.  I hope we can get in a few more before the end of summer.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Sunday of Practice for Baker

Click the image above for all the pictures

Our climbing date for Mt Baker is rapidly approaching and seeing how our snow travel knowledge is limited our climbing group had scheduled a day to go over these techniques.  Matt and Kent have lots of experience and it was great to get out for the day and learn some new things.

We headed up to Alpental resort which is just little over an hour east of Seattle.  I could not believe how much snow was up there in June.  We had no problems getting on snow right out of the parking lot.

The weather was not quite what we had hoped but the clouds did keep the snow from getting too slushy so that was good for self arrest practice.

We were out there for about 5 hours and practiced snow travel while roped up as well as various ways to self arrest.  My favorite was to arrest and catch yourself as well as a person roped from you that had fallen.  Amazing how much weight you can catch.  Check out the pictures from the link above.  I am pretty psyched with how a few of the action shots came out.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Memorial Day Hike Down Chelan Lakeshore Trail

Click Image For All The Pictures
I have been a little slow posting this because work has been crazy.  But finally the true story will get out!  Well that was dramatic.

Anyhoo, this was an amazing trip.  The plan was to leave Seattle Friday afternoon and make the three and a half hour drive to Chelan to car camp the first night, then catch a boat to our trail (lakeshore trail), have another overnight hiking up to the town to Stehekin where we would stay for one more night and then head back into Seattle.

As has been the theme of my life lately work ran late Friday and it was 7:00pm before I even made it to Laura and Dan's house.  Luckily Natalie had the brilliant idea the night before that even though I was planning to come home first I should still put all of my clothes in the 4runner so that I could just meet her at Dan and Laura's house if time ran short.  So, I pulled up to their house, changed, and we hit the road.

Our ferry getting ready to depart
The positive side of getting out of town late was we missed most of the traffic.  We were up and over the pass before we saw the slightest backup.  We headed up and over the pass, into the dry side, passed the fields of wind turbines, and cruised into Chelan well after dark.  We pulled up to the campground after a few exciting moments of driving and arrived at a sign saying the campground was full.  Not surprised, as we had called ahead and were told it would be full, we thought we would ask the helpful attendant wrapping up her shift in the booth (11:30pm).  We pulled up nicely and said, "we know the sign says you are full but we thought it was worth asking, if you are full do you know somewhere else we could camp?"  The response from the booth was "seriously?!?"  Apparently she thought that we meant we needed a campsite for the weekend which is just a little crazier than asking for the night (on memorial day weekend).  Turned out there was a spot and a great one at that.  We setup the condotron (our huge car camping tent), had some wine and snacks and headed to sleep.

Just a few backpackers on this boat
We woke up Saturday to sunshine.  Sweet sweet sunshine.....  We headed over to the ferry which took us 45 minutes up the lake to the Prince Creek trailhead.  The lake was crystal clear like Tahoe or Lake Como.  Just beautiful with huge cliffs in places and rolling hills in others.  We moved through pockets of sunshine and into dark black ominous clouds promising to drench our backpacks riding on the front of the boat.

The boat was filled with backpackers and we could hardly get a seat.  I was secretly pretty worried that this was going to be like hiking at Disneyland.  At one point we heard several people remarking that they had never seen so many backpackers on the boat.  Uhh oh....

We pulled up to our stop.  I say pulled up, we actually just ran into the shore of rocks which I found odd.  All these years and they have not constructed any dock?  We offloaded from the front of the boat and started getting our gear together.

There were what felt like a thousand boy scouts on the boat and they all offloaded and acted as obnoxious as young boys with too much energy do.  Again, I was worried, are we going to be hiking in a traveling carnival?

The first few miles were pretty crazy where we it felt like hiking in a mall but after about mile 3 everyone spread out and we had the trail more or less to ourselves.  We took in the silence and marveled at the snowy peaks and the clear water.  What an amazing place.  We went through pockets that felt like Utah, Colorado, California, and a few sections that reminded me of hiking in Linville Gorge back in NC.

Home sweet home
Our first day was supposed to be 7 miles but the campground was pretty full so we pushed on until we found a spot around mile 8 that was one of the best campsites I have ever had.  We were perched above the lake, and could see peaks popping out of the clouds in front of us, with the the lake to our left and right.  Not too shabby.  We got camp all setup, Dan and I did a cross country trip down the mountain to filter water from the lake, and then we all took it easy.

Sunday we woke up to clearing skies and birds chirping away.  We took our time getting packed up and having breakfast and I think it was getting toward noon before we headed out of camp. The hiking was just as amazing.  We headed through several areas that had burned and the wildflowers were in full bloom.  For some reason I got home with only one flower picture.

We went over some crazy creek crossings, took in the sun that had decided to show up and enjoyed being outside.

Throughout the day we would pass some lucky folks cabins that were tucked away in the woods.  There was not any power or water so many were very basic.  Water piped in from a stream and power was either a solar array or maybe a generator.  It was neat to check out the different styles.

Float plane waiting to load up
About 5pm, after 11 miles of hiking, we rolled into Stehekin.  I was expecting memorial day busyness and too much commotion in too small a space.  I was wrong.  We came into town and it was dead silent, almost spooky because of my expectations.  We walked up to the ranger station and were given our campsite number and permit.  The girls headed off to claim our spot while Dan and I went down to "Store" to pickup beer.  I say "Store" because that was actually the name of it.  This great town had Restaurant and Store.  Store turned out to have quite the beer selection and the prices were surprisingly good considering this town is so remote the only way to get things to  it are to:

1.  Walk
2.  Fly a floatplane
3.  Take the ferry

We stocked up on beer and snacks and headed back to camp where the girls were getting our site setup.  Oh yea, we took a side trip to Restaurant to make a reservation for the night since as the ranger had advised.

After having a celebratory beer and getting camp setup we ate a great dinner at Restaurant and took in the peace and quiet of Stehekin.  I instantly fell in love with the town.  Quick fact, there are a total of 85 year round residents of Stehekin.

We spent the night setup by the lake singing hip hop songs and having a great time.

Monday arrived too quickly and we all rolled out of bed excited to grab some breakfast.  This meal would not be at Restaurant, we instead headed out to a place with a name that is too long for this town, the Stehekin Pastry Company.  We were told we had to check it out before we even got into town.  We decided not to rent bikes to get out there (rented by the hour, how cool is that) and instead stretched our legs and walked the two miles to the bakery.  It was worth every step.  The food was great.  We got more than we could ever eat and left fat and happy.

Too quickly it was time to pack up and catch the ferry back to the car.  I cannot wait to get back to Stehekin.  We were planning trips to return on our boat ride back to the car.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mailbox and Si in 1 Day / Walking like Frankenstein today

Mailbox peak last summer
So in preparation for various mountain climbing plans this summer (Mike and Katy are doing Rainier and the usual gang of four are doing Baker) the stupid idea was hatched to do Mailbox peak followed by Mt Si this past saturday.  It sure sounded like a great idea at the bar and truth be told it really was a great day of hiking.

Mailbox peak this past weekend
(the mailbox is under our hands)
So just to recap this brilliant plan.  Mailbox peak climbs 4000 feet in 2.5 miles, easily the steepest trail I have ever hiked.  It is an out and back so the downhill might be worse as you beat your knees into the ground.  Then it is a quick drive to Mt Si which climbs 4000+ feet over 4 miles.  

We got up Saturday at 6:15 and were on the road by 6:45 with coffee in hand.  We all met up and headed to the Mailbox peak trailhead.  The weather was cool and threatening to rain but held off the whole day.  The clouds rolled in and out letting us look back down to the lush green valley off and on.  At one point I just kind of got in the zone and hiked up ahead by myself enjoying the snow, mist, and clouds.  Mike and Katy were testing out boots to hike Mt Rainier in (which weight about 19lbs each) so they were really weighted down.  The gang of four (Natalie, Dan, Laura, and myself)  made it up to the top in a time that surprised us all, checked out the top and headed down before our body temps could drop too much.  We passed Mike and Katy on the way down not too far from the top and were happy to see they were in good spirits despite the torture devices strapped to their feet.

Back at the parking lot we all agreed that the first leg of the trip had gone well.  We ate, and rested until the whole group was back together and then headed off for mountain #2.  

The hike up Si went really well, we just chatted away and before we knew it we were near the top.  The last 100 yards I was pretty much ready to be finished but overall we all felt great the whole hike.  We all ended up running down the first half of the downhill just to save our knees a little.  I ended up running nearly the entire 4 miles back down.  It felt great to tear past the mile markers.  4, 3.5, 3, 2, wow I am almost at the parking lot, 1, well I will keep running now, and bam I was done.  Peeling off boots has never felt so good.  We had a celebratory beer in the parking lot and then headed out for food.  

What a great hike.  I can certainly say we are all ready for our respective climbs.  Next weekend is a long weekend of backpacking.  Heres hoping the weather will cooperate.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Back in Georgia for a few great days!

 More Pictures Here (click me)

Our Cabin
Since a little before I was born my parents have been visiting Vogel State Park in north Georgia.  When I was born the tradition somehow shifted over to going up there at Easter.  When I think back over the years if I had to identify one place where my love of the outdoors started I would say it is this park.  Before my memory begins my dad was carrying me around in a backpack (sometimes getting lost) through the trails surrounding this park.  I learned to fish, hike, and enjoy being out of the city, in this place.  So you can imagine how excited that I was heading back to a place that holds so many memories for me.

I missed the last few years since Natalie and I moved out to Seattle but this year I headed back.  This year Natalie was not able to because she was covered up with work and it did not line up with any of her holiday time but I hope next year that will be different.  I caught a red eye flight into Atlanta, leaving Seattle at 11pm Wednesday night.  This put me on the ground in Atlanta at around 7am.  I took the train down to near my parents house where they met up with me and we headed back to the house.  I pounded a coffee when I landed so I was feeling pretty good.  I think at that point I was powered 1/2 by coffee and 1/2 by excitement to be back in Atlanta.  My parents put me right to work re-hanging a bird feeder that had been knocked off the house.  Always a good idea to be climbing 30 feet up in the air after 4 hours of sleep.  :)

We grabbed some lunch and headed up to the mountains.  After a few hours we arrived and it was exactly as it was 4 years ago when I had been there last.  Barely any cell service, no tv, no phone....  perfect!!
Family Picture
My brother got in later that night and we had a great time catching up.  The four of us spent the next 4 days just like we always did each Easter.  We hiked, lounged around, visited with each other and were not bothered by the real world at all.  Palmer and I even got in a full day of fishing on the Toccoa river with a guide (best Christmas present ever).  The fish did not want to cooperate but we managed to get 7 in the day and it was a beautiful day.  It was great being back out with my brother who I do not get to see enough.  The day came to a close way too soon and we headed back to the cabin.  

The whole trip actually went way to fast but that just means it was a lot of fun I suppose.  It is pretty cool being in a spot where some of your earliest childhood memories are from.  The place is still exactly the same and it is just as hard to leave each year.

Hopefully Palmer and I will work out a fishing trip on this coast soon and I think my parents will be out in the next few months as well so it will be good to see everyone again.

Looking forward to being back at Vogel again next year.

Lady Slipper

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

Great weekend at the MTTA high hut

This past weekend a group of us (Laura, Dan, Mike, Natalie, and myself) headed out to a place we have been eying for 3 years.  The MTTA (Mt Tahoma Trails Association) maintains a small network of huts near Mt Rainier.  For $18 a person per night you can rent these spots.  I say spots because there are a few cabins and a yurt.

Muddy parking lot
We were originally scheduled for the yurt, with plans to rent out the whole thing.  Well at the last minute Laura got an email saying that the heat at the Yurt was broken and we had been moved to High Hut.  This cabin sleeps 10 so we expected company.

We arrived at the trail head around 2pm, and started getting our gear together to head up.  It was sprinkling but we were all confident, or trying to be confident, that it would turn to snow up higher.  I did forget to mention we had a 4 mile snowshoe ahead of us.  All of the cabins are ski/snowshoe/hike in.  Even better they are all off the grid and away from cell coverage.  Yep, paradise....

Drying Out
It took us a few hours but we made pretty good time getting to the cabin.  We were thrilled to walk in the door and not only see the cabin was better than we had expected but also that we were the only ones there.

We started flipping on the LED lights around the cabin after turning on the main power to the house (powered by a solar array).  Next we tracked down the thermostat for the gas fireplace since it was 35f inside.  Then we started changing into dry clothes.  It had not stopped raining the whole time but was pretty moderate so we were all just damp.

After the heat kicked on and everyone was in dry clothes we all agreed this was what life should always be like. We spent the evening having a great time chatting about anything and everything.  I felt like I was 10 years old hanging out in a fort I had built with buddies.  Great friends and an amazing spot.

We were only there for the night as this was a scouting trip but after our experience we will be back for sure.

View of the cabin as you walk up, you can see the solar panels

Bit of snow coming over the porch railing

group shot
picture of the back door

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Been in Seattle for 3 years and finally hiked the most popular hike around

Camp robber Jay at the top
Had a great day in the mountains today with Mike.  We headed up to Mt Si which is probably the most popular hike in Seattle.  It is only about an hour out of town and is used as a training hike for Rainier and other large mountains because of its steady grade for 4 miles.  You climb about 1000ft a mile for 4 solid miles.

This hike was not as hard as I was thinking it would be even though we hit snow 2 miles in and had to put on yak tracks and crampons a little after that due to the icy trail.

I have to say I have never seen such a variety of hikers on a single trail.  We saw everything from guys obviously training for big mountains, with their full packs with multiple ice axes hanging off the sides, to people in jeans with duffel bags (what do you use a duffel bag for hiking?) headed to the top.  There were even quite a few people in shorts.  ?  Do you know it is icy and really cold out here?  It was great people watching.

Round trip it is 8 miles and 4000 ft of climbing.  A great day to be out in the mountains.

Thanks Mike!

Jeans are the new technical hiking clothing

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Catching up

Time just keeps on flying.  I just looked back and my last post was at the end of February.  It has been a busy winter of playing.

You just don't see that every day.
The first weekend of the month we headed down to Denver for Monica's baby shower.  We all got a chance to catch up a little Thursday night then Friday morning Dave and I headed for Vail.  It was my first time riding with Dave and we had a blast.  We found plenty of tight tree runs and he some great video that I still need to get a hold of.  I ended up ripping a giant hole in my jacket from a close call with one tree.  At the end of the day we retired for beer and pizza and were joined at the house by Slick Lettuce.  I have not gotten to see Slick since the wedding so it was great to catch up.  You know good friends when you just pickup right where you left off.

Dave, Slick and I were back out at Vail Saturday morning and had to search a little for untouched snow but found plenty.  It was a great day of getting out in the snow with the guys.  The day ended way too quickly and we all agreed we would meet back up in Denver later that night.

Dave and I hit the road and after 2 coffee breaks we had him back in Denver in time to catch the tail end of the baby shower.  We wrapped up the festivities and then all adjourned to the Berkshire Restaurant (Dave's brothers restaurant) where we got to see all the baby shower attendees as well as have a special visit from Slick Lettuce and Amanda (old friends from NC).  We were so psyched that they made it out.  It really was crazy because we just picked up like we had just seen each other yesterday.  We really miss those guys and were so happy to catch up.  

Too quickly we were back on a plane to Seattle.

The second weekend of the month we had our annual gathering up in Baker.  We ended up with 6 great friends.  The group was Natalie, myself, Dan, Laura, Ross, and Stephanie.  The plan was to get out and snowshoe/ski and play outside.  Unfortunately the weather was a bit of a bust and Dan had managed to stick a cheese knife through his foot a few days before so our outdoor adventures changed over to hanging in the hot tub and drinking a few growlers of beer from the brew pub down the street.  Not a bad weekend at all.

Again too quickly we were in the car and headed back to Seattle.

In the spirit of not being home at all for the month Natalie headed out to a friends wedding the weekend before last and I headed up to the mountains to splitboard with a few friends.  It was a great day in the snow.  Perfect powder in the trees and a great group of people.  We ended up getting about 6000 feet of climbing in over 11.2 miles.  A great day!

And last but not least last weekend Natalie and I had our first weekend together in a month last weekend.  It was great to not be in a hurry all day or feel like we needed to be anywhere.  We got up Saturday morning and headed out to a cool breakfast place in Freemont, then headed over to the Burke Museum to catch a photography exhibit called The Owl and the Woodpecker.  Amazing photos!!

This weekend is looking like we will be in town again and we are not sure what to do with ourselves.  I am going to try to get out skiing but the conditions are looking a little dicey right now.  Hopefully mother nature will get her act together.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Snow Caves and Back Country Skiing

A few more pics (here) and (here)

This past weekend was the second field trip with the back country ski class I am taking.  The plan was to get in some skiing, dig snow caves and sleep in them.  It was a success...

At 4:30am Saturday morning much to the delight of Natalie my alarm started going off.  Ross and I were scheduled to be on the road headed to Mt Baker by 5am.  Anyone who knows me knows I was less than excited to be up so early but after a Red Bull and some cereal (breakfast of champions) I was feeling better.

Skinning up
We pulled into the Baker parking lot at 7:45, got dressed and met up with the rest of the class.  There were about 20ish people total on the trip including instructors.  After breaking up into two groups we headed for Artist Point which was about a mile and a half away.

After a few hours of skiing we rolled into camp and chose our sites to dig our cave for the night.  Ross and I lucked out and got a primo spot in a large berm of snow.  This cave was going to be awesome!

It took just under two hours and lots of sweat but we built a sweet cave.  We had room to fit all of our gear and lay down comfortably.  The pictures make the ceiling look low but we could easily sit up with room to spare.  The only tight spot was getting in and out of the cave as you had to go down under the wall through a narrow cave area.  You can see Ross digging out that part in the picture down below.

About 3pm everyone was wrapping up their construction so we decided to get in a quick ski down the Swift Creek drainage right behind camp.  The snow was pretty nasty and had a crust on top that kept even the best skiers on their toes.  It was nice to be out and good to warm up on the climb back to camp.

Digging in
The night was spent melting snow for our water the next day, cooking dinner, and then a good group get together to go over the plan for the next day.  In the end due to the weather report not being great for the next day the plan was that there was no plan.  We all headed back to our caves and tucked in for the night hoping to wake up to powder on the ground and no rain falling from the sky.

Cozy in the cave
Sunday morning brought clouds and snow.  The visability was terrible so we did a little navigation practice to deal with whiteout conditions and then called it a trip.  It was sad to not get in the tour I was hoping for but it was the right call given the weather.  We all had an interesting ski back to the car with full
backpacks.  Once you get 30+ pounds of camping equipment moving it does not want to stop.  We did a quick debrief at the parking lot and headed back to Seattle.

The next trip is at the end of the month and I have my fingers crossed for better weather that time around.  All in all sleeping in a snow cave was a complete success!