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.