Sporkless at Second Beach

Life has been more than just a little intense lately, and it became apparent to me that I was long overdue for a solo backpacking trip out on the coast. (like two years overdue as was evidenced by the cheese and beef jerky in various stages of decomposition/creating new life in my bear cannister)

I decided that my only chance to get away (with good weather no less) was to leave the market (a ten hour work day) as soon as the vendor envelopes were turned in at 3:00 PM and run like heck to the coast.

Everything was packed up and by my front door ready to go, all I had to do was get out of there, get home, grab the cold/frozen stuff out of fridge/freezer and hit the road. The only glitch was that I could not find my titanium spork. I love that spork and it’s just not the same going without it.

I was on Hwy 16 at 3:30 PM.

It was smooth sailing all the way to Port Angeles where I stopped to get my backcountry permit at the WIC (Wilderness Information Center) I knew I could self register at Mora, but that would require taking a different fork in the last road and then back tracking, so I opted for the stop in Port Angeles.

I was in and out of there in record time and was on the LaPush Road entering the Quileute Reservation on final approach for the trail at 7:30 PM. Sunset was at 9:00 PM, so I still had plenty of time to make final pack adjustments and get down the (luckily, very short) trail and get my tent set up before sunset.

One of the advantages of having been a backcountry ranger and a river guide is that I don’t mess around when it comes to setting up/tearing down camp-I learned to become extremely efficient, even more so when there’s no one around trying to “help”. I figure the faster I can do it, the faster I can get to the very serious task of relaxing.

This is the scene at 8:30 PM; one half hour before sunset.

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I was too tired between the five hours of sleep I got the night before, the long work day and the long drive to worry about a fire, so I dined on smoked salmon, cheese, crackers and kalmata olives with a small glass (and by glass, I mean my purple titanium mug 😉 of red wine.

I slept through the low tide the next morning (4:05 AM) which is just fine with me and spent the day walking up and down the beach and reading real paper books.

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I managed to finish “Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister” and “The Hunger Games”

I spent the afternoon collecting firewood, which can be a real chore on a popular beach at this time of the year when the best bits are picked over, but I managed to gather enough to build a fine fire on which to cook dinner. One of the great joys of staying over on Sunday night is that when others leave, you can often find extra wood around their sites. Not so at this time of year as everyone had burned what they had. I’m not certain the energy expenditure versus calorie intake was a fair exchange on this one, but it was worth it to have a lovely fire and grilled seafood for dinner.

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Once I knew I would be able to cook dinner (shrimp and scallops frozen in half strength marinade) I headed out to do some tidal pool exploring since the afternoon low tide had arrived.

This is considered “social hour” among coastal backpackers. We tend to give each other space when in camp. Even on a busy Saturday night like the night before, you feel very much at peace and alone due to the courtesy given. On one of these more crowded beaches we share with day users (I prefer ShiShi or Toleak for solitude, but didn’t have time to get out there this trip) all you need to do is hike away from where the trailhead spills out to set up your camp.

At low tide, everyone converges on the best rock formations/pools and searches for sea stars, urchins, crabs and other critters. Lots of shouts of “Hey, check out this crab” or “Look at the color of this starfish” are often heard.

While it wasn’t a minus tide, there were plenty of critters to enjoy observing.

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After that, it was time to wander back and cook dinner now that the fire had burned down to a proper bed of coal.

Since I froze the seafood in marinade, wrapped it tightly and kept the bear canister in the shade, it was still nice, cool and safe. I didn’t want to rush and try to cook it the first night as I wanted to relax and really enjoy it. (it was still frozen when I arrived anyway)

Dinner was shrimp, scallops, sweet onions and bell peppers grilled over a driftwood fire.

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With the obligatory s’mores for dessert.

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and a cup of wine of course 😉

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After dinner and securing food/smelly trash from bears, cougars, raccoons, etc… (thankfully the bear and cougar population seems to be thinner here than at Ozette, the raccoons are not german shepherd size like at Rialto and there were none of the infamous Sand Point ROUS in evidence, that aspect of the trip was uneventful.) it was time for more sunset photography.

I wasn’t the only one with that idea an I had to giggle at this poor guy (who reminded me a bit of Kevin Freitas) dancing around on one foot as the tide was coming in at him.

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After another wonderful night of sleeping on the beach, being lulled to sleep by the sound of the crashing waves, I awoke to another beautiful morning.

There was even a rainbow out over the water.

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Sadly, it was time to leave and return to the working world, but it was a wonderful, relaxing journey.

It was time well spent, as I did a lot of thinking, reading, dreaming and feel like myself again.

I even encountered a potential “hot wolf boy” (for those of you who have been sheltered from popular culture, it’s a Twilight reference and I was on the reservation side of the “treaty line”) that I always joke about wanting to find out there, but never do.

While the attention and effort to talk to me were appreciated, upon closer inspection, he was too young for my tastes, so I had to leave him be. Oh well… I hear they don’t house train properly and tend to not behave well if you take them home, so it’s all for the best 😉

Here are the rest of the photos in a slide show…

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Oh yeah… I’d better hit up backcountry.com and order another spork.

~ L

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Hot Larch Action!!! Maple Pass Loop Hike

Since I came into work on my day off to check on a project I had turned in, I took Wednesday off instead. I didn’t stress about my project and the weather was awesome yesterday; “win win”.

It’s funny, when I got a hike together for Sunday (also a lovely day) I almost had to go alone; but plan a hike on a spectacular week day when the weekend is forecast to be crappy and everyone plays hooky and crawls out of the woodwork (that’s how we are up here)

I was trying to keep the number down to 6 because any more than that gets tricky with carpools, schedules, etc… Given the distance that we were going to start the hike and the need to get North of Seattle before the worst of rush hour, I was a bit concerned about trying to organize eight hikers (yes, 8 on a Wednesday) from Spanaway, Tacoma, Renton, DesMoines and Seattle.

This needed to be a well planned and perfectly executed set of maneuvers.

Don picked me up at 5:00 AM, we met Eric and Alex who hopped in the car with Rick and Mich in Tukwila.

Getting from Tukwila (I made my “going to Tukwila” joke and no one got it. What? No one’s from here?) through Seattle was going to be tricky at the beginnings of rush hour.

We had an amazingly smooth drive though which is completely unheard of on a week day (I wonder if everyone else was playing hooky too?) and arrived in Lynwood to meet Janice and Michael, right on time. We piled into their car, so we had two cars, full. No wasted gas on our trips.

We started the long trek up to the North Cascades and Rainy Pass.

We arrived at the trailhead right at 9:30 AM and got everyone situated with packs/boots/water/bathroom breaks and hit the trail at 10:00 AM. (my “in a perfect world scenario” had come true)

The camp robbers at the trailhead were not impressed with Janice’s offereing of cranberries.

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Uh yeah… there was the getting my field test pants off (note to designers, leg openings are too small to get pants off over boots easily even with zippers open)

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We meant to do the loop in the clockwise direction which is steeper and harder going up hill and more gradual coming down (at least it was only 2,000 feet elevation gain/loss) but goofed up and did it counter-clockwise.

We made the switchbacky slog up through the old growth forest and finally started getting a peek at the larch on the hillside, at which time I proceeded to start singing my happy larch song, which pretty much consists of singing “larch” in my best opera voice. I suspect that WTA and NW Hikers trail reports over the next few days may refer to the eerie sound of a wailing banshee up on Rainy Pass.

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OMG!!! It was stunning. Everywhere we looked was made of awesome.

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We even saw a bear. He was HUGE and until we could get closer and get binoculars/big camera lenses on him, we weren’t 100% certain of the species. Once we saw his head/muzzle, it was apparent that it was a (brown in color) black bear, not a brown bear (grizzly)

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He was very fat and glossy. Unlike the bears in other areas of the state where the berries are in a severe shortage this year, there were many more huckleberries here in the North Cascades.

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Although the weather was in the low 70’s (absolutely perfect for hiking) the fact that summers here are late and very short was apparent by the needle ice pushing up through the ground.

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Here is the obligatory “sound of music” photo… (you can blame Dan/Monk for this annoying habit; he suggested it at Spray Park a while back)

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Don appears to have been AWOL when this group photo was taken.

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This was MUCH easier than the epic hike we did on Saturday. This was only 7 ½ (plus the side trip to Rainy Lake) and about 2,000 feet elevation gain (haven’t uploaded Garmin data yet)

It was perfect weather, perfect trail conditions and the perfect group of people.

The rest of the pictures are available by clicking here

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We got off the trail well before dark, made it down out of the mountains and enjoyed Mexican food and margaritas in Arlington and headed home well after rush hour.

I made it home by 10:00 PM which is after my bedtime, but not as bad as when we get home at midnight.

I got pictures onto my computer and let my Flickr upload run overnight, took a shower and jumped in the hot tub for a while and was in bed by 11:00 PM. Not too shabby.


Mood: Exhausted but Happy


Olympic Mountains – Land of the Gods

Despite having put an invitation to this hike out to 107 people on my personal email list, ?775 “adventurers” on one of my meetup groups and 6792 on NW Hikers, no one wanted to do it. Seriously… 7674 people and no one was willing or able to do the trip.

My long time hiking buddy Don called at the last minute and went with me. I’d have done it as a solo trip, but it was nice not to have to drive alone and we’ve been hiking together for so many years that

We left Tacoma bright & early, made a few food, coffee and bathroom stops (note to self, tasting several varieties of red wine you’re not familiar with and eating your weight in hummus the night before a trip is not so smart, it leads to lots of bathroom stops)

It was gray and cloudy all the way from Tacoma to the entrance to the Olympic mountain range just out of Sequim. As we climbed higher and higher up the windy dirt forest service roads, we broke through/above the clouds and were treated to a stunning panorama

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We hit the Upper Dungeness trail at 9:20 AM. We had a mile of Forest Service trail before taking the cut off up the Royal Basin trail and up into Olympic National Park.

There were lots of interesting fungi in the forest, but since we had a long LONG way to hike and wanted to do something new and different by getting off the trail before dark, I resisted the urge to photograph most of them. This shelf fungus with the rainbow drops on it was too cool to resist.

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I was also somewhat enamored with these cute little orange shrooms

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The first part of the trail went though what can only be described as a “fairy forest”

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Soon the trial opened up into a stunning alpine panorama

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It was still a darn long slog to get to the lake. Every time the trail would climb, level out and get back near water, it wouldn’t be the lake.

Finally, we hit the riparian zone of the lower meadow.

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Almost immediately we began the 800+ foot climb to the lake basin.

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It was worth the climb.

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After we wandered around the lake we headed up to the upper meadow.

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Where of course, I had to do my best/worst Julie Andrews impersonation.

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We lingered a bit too long, but enjoyed the twilight walk back to the trailhead as the fading light magically illuminated the mountainsides.

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Some say that the Gods live on Mt Olympus in Greece.

I think they live here in our Olympic Mountains.

After ten hours, 15.8 miles and 4,893 feed of cumulative elevation gain we exited the trail in the dark (not dark enough that we needed our headlamps) and headed down to Sequim for Mexican food and a margarita.

Next time, this will be an overnight backpacking trip so that we can explore the upper basin as well. I think 15 miles is my limit for a one day hike.

The rest of the pictures are available here:

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Why yes, I am exhausted and today was a slug day 😉


Mood: Super Tired


I’m Your Huckleberry

OK, maybe not, but I’ve been looking for a reason to use that phrase.

After the epic adventure on Saturday to Surprise and Glacier Lakes I needed an more mild adventure.

On Monday a couple of friends and I headed up to Chinook Pass via Mt Rainer National Park to hike the Naches Peak Loop and pick Huckleberries.

We did the loop in the recommend clockwise direction so that when we got on the park side of the loop (half of the loop is in the William O Douglas Wilderness and half in Mt Rainier National Park) we would be facing the mountain in all her stunning glory.

We started out at Tipsoo Lake and had to take the obligatory mountain reflecting in the water shot.

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We entered the William O Douglas Wilderness and wound our way around the peak.

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We found a pretty little lake, and ate lunch on some rocks overlooking it.

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We had such a crazy late (and wet, icy cold and violent) spring, that the wildflowers which would normally be dead by now, were still out.

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Since I was sick and still very tired from Saturday’s Glacier Lake epic, we decided not to go all the way down to Dewey Lake, but we did get some nice views (and have added it to our list of places to go backpack)

Of course, mountain meadows make me want to do the obligatory “Sound of Music” thing 😉

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We also wanted to get back on the mountain side of the peak to get some photos of the lady before she wrapped herself in clouds and hid from us as she is often wont to do. (and did before we were able to finish the hike)

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And of course, there was much eating of huckleberries. Due to the aforementioned nasty spring, there aren’t a lot of them out there this year, so we didn’t take any home, but there was plenty of grazing on site.

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And of course, a stop off at my old stomping grounds from my days as a ski instructor at Crystal Mountain, the Naches Tavern.

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It was an awesome day!

The rest of the pictures are available by clicking here

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Break’s over, back to work with me…

PS: If any blog readers missed the trip report and photos of Saturday’s epic, they are available by clicking here


Mood: Tired


Surprise and Glacier Lakes

I’ve been super stressed out about having to re-rooof the house, the sad loss of one of my chickens (Lovey) and then getting sick with a UTI (the dreaded/hated antibiotics are a bonus)

I needed to get out of the house this weekend. Not only was I going stir crazy, but the seasons are turning quickly this year and there’s not going to be much good hiking left before it requires skis or snowshoes. (the Pikas at Mt Rainier National Park are never wrong)

So what’s a sick girl to do?

Go go get some fresh air, maybe a nice easy hike…

Since I needed to get photos for a magazine article shot I wanted to go somewhere I hadn’t been before, so a friend and I headed up to Stevens Pass to check out Surprise and Glacier Lakes.

Come on, a little 9.4 mile hike wouldn’t be that hard, and 2900 feet elevation gain? I’d just take it slow (it’s not like I don’t stop every 100 yards to take a picture of something or other).

We left Tacoma at 6:30 AM, a much more civilized hour that our 4:30 departure when we went to Sunrise a couple weeks ago, made a couple stops and hit the trail at 9:00 AM

The trail starts out on an old powerline road, but quickly heads into old growth foreset. Some of the cedar tress were amazing (and coming from someone who used to work on the Sequoia National Forest that’s saying something)

In addition to the huge trees, there were some very cool mushrooms. Having moved here from the desert southwest, I’ve never met a fungus I didn’t want to photograph.

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I got excited and thought there were Chanterelles. I harvested a few (as did another collector on the trail I spoke to later) but a couple of things were “off” about them. I knew that they weren’t Jack O’ Lantern or False Chanterelle the most common lookalikes, but something told me they weren’t quite right, so I ran them past a few friends who know more about this than I do.

As it turns out, they are Gomphus floccosus,Scaly Chanterelle which cause serious gastic upset and illness. I tossed them in the compost bucket. I’m glad I followed my gut and didn’t just cook them up. That’s the thing about mushrooming, when in doubt, throw it out.

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There were also lots and lots of berries, Salmon berries, blackberries, thimble berries and (YAY) Huckleberries. I think we both ate our body weight in huckleberries.

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I have no idea what these are, I just knew that since I didn’t know what they were, I was going to leave them alone.

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These were interesting… (no, I didn’t eat them either)

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The trail followed a pretty creek.

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I had downed a whole bottle of gatorade and half a bottle of water before the hike due to the fact that I was nursing a UTI and felt like I was going to barf most of the first two hours of the trip. All that fluid made me feel even yuckier. Luckily I got a lot of rest breaks because I was taking lots of pictures.

Although I felt queasy and uncomfortable in the bladder, I didn’t have a problem with the elevation gain. I kept saying that I didn’t get how this trail was rated “more difficult”. (yeah, we’ll get back to that later)

Once I saw Surprise Lake, I felt a heck of a lot better.

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After a lunch break, we headed up to Glacier Lake. A guy we met on the trail told us that we should check out the basin above the lake, so we bypassed the lake (that, and we missed the cutoff) and headed up the Pacific Crest Trail to see what we could see.

It was pretty spectacular.

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The South Cascades (Rainier and areas South) North and Central Cascades all have unique characteristics and are stunning in their own way.

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We backtracked and enjoyed some time at Glacier Lake

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After all the stops to take pictures, eat berries and for me to complain about how crappy I felt (first part of the hike) and how stupid it was to attempt this hike while sick with a UTI and on antibiotics we had taken our sweet time. It was 4:30 PM and we had a five mile hike to get out.

That is when we discovered how steep the trail really had been. It also seemed longer going out than going in. We thought the switchbacks were never going to end. Then we thought the trial would never end.

Then the sun went down.

There was still enough ambient light to hike out without breaking into the ten essential packs to pull out headlamps.

Finally, I could hear the traffic on Highway Two, then I could hear the buzzing of the power lines.

I had never been happy to see big ugly powerlines before, but I was right then.

We made it back to the truck at 8:00 PM, Eleven hours after we started out.

12 miles, 4,000 feet of elevation gain; yeah that was a smart thing to do while sick.

But I am so glad I did it and don’t appear to have suffered any ill effects other than sore legs and hips.

Today, I laid around like a slug.

Tomorrow, the Naches Loop in search of huckleberries (and most likely bears)

The rest of the pictures are available here

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I think I hear the hot tub calling


Mood: Tired


Sunrise! the event and the place

Yesterday I dragged my exhausted carcass out of bed at the ungawdly hour of 3:30 AM in preparation for a 4:00 AM departure from Tacoma to head up to Mt Rainier National Park to photograph the sunrise (the event) illuminating the mountain at Sunrise (the place 😉

I managed to get everything ready the night before (which is why I stayed up too late) including the espresso machine so that I could brew up some “essence of the sacred bean” (with milk, vanilla syrup and a drizzle of caramel of course)

Since moving, I have not yet gotten my hiking/backpacking/snowshoeing/skiing gear organized; it’s in various piles and tubs in the gear room in the basement.

It was going to be below freezing when we got up there, and I needed gloves. Since I could not locate my fleece mittens that convert to fingerless gloves that I use for photography, I settled for the next best thing.

I grabbed a pair of gardening gloves which were quite “spectacular” with my ugly robins egg (yeah if the Robin was on LSD) blue TNF Flight Series jacket.

How’s THIS for a Mountaineer/Urban Farmer fashion statement?

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It was clear when we left Tacoma, turning cloudy about the time we hit Bonney Lake; I did not despair since Sunrise is on the East side of the mountain and the weather is usually different there.

As we wound around the hairpin curves of the road to sunrise, we could see peeks of the peak alternating with fast moving clouds around each bend.

It was going to be a crap shoot.

We arrived to heavy mist and fog. We were IN the clouds. Drats!

Having the reputation of “weather witch” and insanely good luck with weather on trips, I did not give up. After a disgusting visit to the pit toilets near the backpacker parking (we discovered that the regular bathrooms closer to the visitor center were in fact open [smacks self on forehead] I gathered my photo gear and headed out towards the trail to see what I could see.

The lady Tahoma was being a tease…

As the wind whipped clouds raced past her summit, a stunning pink and orange glow began to appear.

“Don! It’s happening”.

I ran down the trial to snap a few pics, and when I realized how cool it was going to be, I raced back up the hill towards the Emmons Glacier viewpoint, camera gear, tripod and trekking poles swinging wildly.

The usual cadre of photographers was not there because of the clouds.

Myself and only three other people witnessed THIS stunning, if not unusual sunrise and magical moment in wondrous silence.

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We headed down to the lower parking area where we saw the last of Tahoma for the day

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An ungawdly early trip to Sunrise is never wasted. We had lakes to bag and meadows to explore before the hordes of screaming visitors descended on the park (I normally won’t go there on a summer weekend) and we headed off down the trail to Palisades Lakes.

We only saw one other person in the parking lot and he was long gone when we hit the trail. We soon discovered the tracks of a large bull elk and a couple cows. We were not far behind them as the tracks were fresh and so was this elk pee… (we found a big steaming pile of elk poop too, but I’ll spare you that photo)

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We had a lovely view of Sunrise lake coming down the trial, but we bypassed that cutoff and visited Clover Lake

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The wildflowers were lovely (they are past their peak, but still plentiful) along the ridge

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The moon although no longer full, was still gorgeous

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The meadows were absolutely stunning.

I couldn’t help but do my best, bad Julie Andrews impersonation…

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We found something interesting in this little pond

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Tadpoles! Seriously, you’d best get to growing legs little guys, your season is almost over, even though it just started. These have to be some seriously bad-assed frogs to live up here.

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We checked out Upper Palisades Lake as a spot to come back to camp on a backpacking trip and ran into some folks I know. It appears that I can’t hike anywhere in this state without finding someone who knows me from organizations I’ve been involved with or recognizes me from my blog/magazine/website stuff. I honestly don’t know if I should be flattered or creeped out. (ran into a blog reader two weeks earlier at Spray Park)

Here’s the lake

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On the way out, the pikas were frantically nesting to get ready for what appears will be an early and hard winter.

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It was an AWESOME trip; 7;43 miles including a short sojourn to check out the lower Palisades lake, 2,246 feet of cumulative elevation gain, and off the trail by noon when most of the other folks were just starting out. We had the trail completely to ourselves. It was awesome.

The rest of the pictures are available by clicking here:

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And we WILL be going back for a backpack trip.


Mood: Tired


Hiking Fool


One of the best things about living here in Tacoma is that in addition to the lovely water surrounding us on three sides, we have Mount Rainier National Park, North Cascades National Park, Olympic National Park and a host of fabulous National Forests as our “back yard”

I FINALLY got some hiking in for the first time since May when a chain of events including house buying, escrow, moving and a fractured foot/big toe kept me from getting out and doing things.

On Friday, a couple friends and I headed up to Mount Rainer National Park to photograph the wildflowers up at Spray Park. The areas on the Carbon River side of the park have always been my favorite because it is the least accessible area of the park which cuts down on crowds, litter bugs, trail cutters, flower pickers, marmot feeders, and tundra trompers (all of which drive this former NPS Ranger batshit crazy)

After a long drive in on the washboarded dirt road up to Mowich Lake, we started the ascent up to Spray Park.

We took a brief stop at the Eagle’s Lookout for the obligatory photo op with the lady Tahoma (Tahoma being the mountain’s true name) who was in her full glory.

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We continued up the trial and hit the “longest alleged 0.8 miles of trail anywhere” up to the plateau.

That last bit of climb up sucks pond water, especially on a hot day, but it was worth every bit of it when we left the cover of the trees and entered the first meadow.

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There were wildflowers everywhere…

And bugs… OMG the bugs. I have given up on folk, natural and less toxic methods of dealing with bugs. I’ve found that what works best for me is the standard 30% DEET (hey, I’m not going to reproduce or lactate so no harm done) Even with three doses of the stuff, I got chewed on (or sucked on in the case of mosquitos) pretty badly in areas I didn’t get enough DEET on. (above my socks, my elbows which apparently are quite tender and tasty) and behind my ears.

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And a cute chubby marmot

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Of course, no trip to Spray Park is complete without the short side trip down to Spray Falls.

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The hike was an 8 mile round trip hike with 2,543 feet of (cumulative) elevation gain on the first day of the heat wave.


You can view the rest of the photos here: make with the clicky

Or as a slideshow here: clicky clicky

We got down about 3:30 PM and stopped in Bonney Lake for Mexican food and margaritas on the patio.

I don’t know what happened to Mazatlan after they moved to their new location, but the drinks, food and service were terrible; seriously, this was the worst Mexican food I’ve ever had, bland, tasteless and the margaritas tasted like grapefruit soda (at least they had a decent alcohol content).

*this margarita was so ashamed of the way it tasted, it had to hide it’ identity

We enjoyed our time on the patio, but from now on, we’ll wait until we’re back in good old Grit City and eat at Taquera El Guadalajara on 6th Ave.

On Monday a friend and I braved the heat and did an early morning run (5:30 AM departure) up to Snow Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness of the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest up off of Snoqualmie Pass.

I won’t get near that (or any other insanely popular) place on a weekend because I don’t care for crowds, but early on a Monday was nice, quiet and almost cool.

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We were mobbed by swarms of mosquitoes in the parking area. (7:00 AM WTF?) but I had gotten better at applying bug spray so I escaped this trip with no angry itchy welts.

The heat didn’t start to hit until we were just cresting the ridge to drop down to the lake, where we were treated to blessed shade. We knew that the hike up and out would be hotter than heck, but we did manage an early enough trip that we’d be out by noon.

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We walked around the lake to the junction with the trial that heads over to Gem Lake. This lake was every bit as stunning as I’ve heard.

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The rest of the snow lake pictures are available here: make with the clicky

Or as a slide show here: clicky clicky

Along with a BBQ with friends on Saturday and volunteering as a Swim Angel for the Danskin Triathlon on Sunday (that inspirational event will get it’s own post), I couldn’t have asked for a better long weekend.

I’m tired, sore, achy, bug bitten and slightly sunburned. THAT’s the way one should feel after a weekend.


Mood: Tired


Yeah Baby! We Bagged THREE Falls in One Day!

Yesterday started out with a torrential downpour at about 5:00 AM which scared off most of the people from my Boulder River Falls hike (those that hadn’t already been scared off the day before by the forecast) That left three of us; myself, Don and Eric.

My backup plan in case of uber crapy weather was to bag some falls closer to home with hikes which were too short to make a day of in themselves.

We chose three waterfalls in the Snoqualmie Pass corridor: Twin Falls in Ollalie State Park, Franklin Falls in the Denny Creek area and Snoqualmie Falls.

Eric and I headed up I-5 blasting “Born to Be Wild”; uh yeah… we were in a mini van, which makes it that much funnier.

We picked up Don at the Eastgate park & ride, grabbed some coffee and treats at Tully’s and headed for our first target, Twin Falls.

The rain from earlier in the morning had tapered off to a light mist. I didn’t even need the rain cover on my camera bag and Eric didn’t have to play Mary Poppins holding the umbrella for me when I set my camera up on the tripod for slower exposures (to get the movement of the water)

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I saw my first Trillium of the season

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The falls were STUNNING!

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and look, we’re DRY

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By the time we were done with the hike, the rain had stopped completely and there were patches of blue sky peeking out.

We observed a moment of silence (followed by proclamations of “Sucks to be You” & peals of laughter) for those who wimped out on the trip because of the weather.

Fall #1 bagged!

After some brief snacking, we hopped into the waterfall mobile and headed over to the Denny Creek area to bag Franklin Falls.

Once again, there was no rain.

There was a bit of compact snow in some areas of the trail, but we didn’t even need Yak Tracks; it was easy hiking.

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The falls did not disappoint. There was a lot of spray coming off the falls, so if we got close our lenses got soaked in short order making it difficult to get sharp photos. It was better when we backed off a bit.

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We stopped along the way back to the car to take more pictures and it started to lightly rain when we got to the car.

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Fall #2 bagged; and once again, we didn’t get rained on.

We weren’t too worried about getting rained on at fall #3 as the main overlook is very close to the parking area and the hike down to the bottom of the falls is only ½ mile

Luckily, my reputation as a “weater witch” held. (I always have good weather or at least better than forecast on my trips) As we drove towards North Bend/Snoqualmie to hit “the big falls” the rain stopped. We got out of the car and it was perfectly dry. (we wondered out loud how much fun the weather wimps were having at home while we were out bagging falls)

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We hiked down to the bottom of the falls; it was only ½ mile, but it was quite steep.

Snoqualmie Falls are always impressive and today was no exception.

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We finished off the day with well deserved munchies and beverages at the Salish Lodge (more expensive that we usually go for, but so worth it and we deserved it). As we looked out the window of the lounge we noticed that the torrential downpour had begun.

We had some great “debates” on freeway exits, directions and trailhead locations, but we all got the chance to be right at least once.

Yeah baby, we bagged THREE falls and didn’t get rained on.

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Total hiking mileage: 9.33 miles

Total elevation gain: 2,936

The rest of the photos are available here:

We bagged three waterfalls in one day photos

Here are the maps of our adventures:

Twin Falls Hike
Franklin Falls Hike
Snoqualmie Falls Hike

It was a GREAT day!

And did I mention that we bagged THREE waterfalls?


Mood: Tired


Our Wild Wet Wallace Falls Adventure

On Sunday, a group of friends (new and old) and I hiked up to Wallace Falls.

We got an early start and it was lightly raining (which actually makes waterfall photography better) which meant that we escaped the most crowded part of the day on a very popular trail.

We arrived at the trail at 9:00 AM to gentle rain, and the “morning shift” heading home.

We geared up and hit the trail.

I was testing out two new items I’d recently prodealed.

First was the LowePro SlingShot 300 it’s a sling style pack (only goes over one shoulder) and slides to the front where you can pull your camera out quickly without actually opening the pack. It holds all my lenses and will actually fit the camera with the 300mm lens attached. It also has a built in rain cover which came in quite handy on this trip. This thing ROCKS!! It’s actually way more comfortable than a backpack style camera bag.

Of course, the best “rain cover” was Eric (who looks very much like Mary Poppins in this picture) who was kind enough to hold my umbrella over mine and John’s cameras so that our SLR’s didn’t get wet (I was doing slow exposures to get the motion of the water)

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The other item(s) was the totally awesome pair of LaSportiva Thunder II GTX backpacking boots. They are lighter than full grain leather boots but have a steel half shank and are good for moderate backpack loads on moderate terrain. These are the first backpacking boots that don’t tear up my heels. I am sold Sold SOLD!

I wore them to work for two days to help break them in, and on the trail today there was NO pain, NO pressure/hot spots, NO heel slip and NO toes jamming into the front on the downhill.

I LOVE these boots.


OK, so the boots took us up the powerline trail and we gradually wound our way up through the lovely forest alongside Wallace Creek.

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One of the guys found a pretty little side waterfall.

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I also noticed that the currents are blooming. Eric’s pretty sure they are salmon berries. He may very well be right. In any case, some tasty berry is blooming.

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The little Yellow Wood Violets were blooming as well.

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Soon there will be trillium, and [gag] skunk cabbage [ouch] devils club, and blueberries/low bush huckleberries (oh, how I love to graze on low bush huckleberries which in my opinion are tastier than blueberries)

The true (and sad) sign of spring was the two mosquitos that Eric killed. Yikes it’s early for them. I don’t even know where my bug juice is at this time of the year.

It was an easy walk to the lower falls where the picnic shelter was. We were able to get out of the rain/drizzle/mist/insert your favorite name for precipitation here, have a snack and wander around for pictures of the falls.

And of course, pose… (you can see the upper falls in the backgorund)

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After our photo ops and munchies break, we headed another .3 miles up towards the middle (and reportedly the most photogenic falls).
Photo by Mike & Lin

Photo by John L

Where of course ,we had to pose… (again)

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Some of the boys scampered fairly close to the edge…

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A couple of us stalked each other 😉

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These falls did NOT disappoint!

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and of course, more photography had to happen

(photo by John L)

We wandered down the trail taking pictures of things we didn’t the first time up because the light was better and the rain was ending. It was fresh, and green and gorgeous.

Here’s a topo map of our Garmin Track


And what does any good meetup hike need to be complete?

A palce we’ll all fit where they don’t crinkle their noses up at the smell, good food, and …


It was a great day! If you don’t mention the two accidents on 405 and the big cluster fornication on I-5 near kent that made it take way tooo long to get home.

More pictures are available here: Wallace Falls Photo Hike

or here as a slideshow

We’re doing it again next week with a trip up Boulder River for some more hot, wet waterfall action.


Mood: Tired


Shi Shi to Point of the Arches Backpack

I had a brief opportunity to escape phone calls, emails and snail mail relating to my mother’s death while waiting for paperwork to be mailed from the Public Administrator’s office. (after a final call to the Medical Examiner’s office on Saturday, it was confirmed there was nothing more I could do until the paperwork arrived Tuesday or Wednesday.)

I was close to melt down, so it was time to escape the real world and get to the ocean.

Not just any beach mind you. One of the most difficult (distance wise and logistically) places to get to where I’d be subjected to as few people as possible.

Although I would have been just fine alone, the Icky Boy, who was already sore and tired from a backpacking trip in the Olympics turned right around and took me out to North Coast Wilderness of the (Olympic National) Park. (I can neither confirm nor deny that there was whining on the trek out)

Sunday morning, it was starting to heat up in the Puget Sound Region and even though we’d be back before the worst of the heat wave (a record breaking 103 in Seattle and 105 here in Tacoma)

Shi Shi Beach inovles getting a National Park Service Wilderness permit, then stopping in Neah Bay for an annual recreation permit ($10 for the year and the money is used for trails) from the Makha Nation. (note, the most Northwestern point in the contiguous 48 states, Cape Flattery, is here)

Once you have all your permits, the next trick is to find parking. There is no overnight parking at the trailhead, so an overnight backpacker needs to use (and pay for) secured parking .6 to 1 mile from the trailhead (depending on whose yard you park in) and then walk or get a ride to the trailhead. In the past, I’ve used the parking that is a little over half a mile from the trailhead, but this time we pulled in to “Donna’s Parking” about a mile away. The rumors were true and Donna’s husband Dana (a very nice guy who works for the tribe under an EPA grant running an air quality monitoring program) gave us and our gear ride to the trailhead. Since I used to run a class 1 air quality monitoring station at Canyonlands National Park, we had plenty to chat about.

I had been reading Twitters and Facebook updates on my phone as we were driving through Port Angeles and was already reading a lot of complaints about the heat building up in the Puget Sound region. We almost felt guilty as we were so cool in the shade that we put long sleeved shirts on.

We hit the trail and were pleasantly surprised to not only have cool weather, but to find that in late summer after a dry spell, there is much less mud that usual. Normally, the second part of the trail is a soul and boot sucking mess of shin deep mud.

As we hit the first overlook, we could see that the rocks and islands were shrouded in fog.

It is two miles from the trailhead to the beach on a gently graded trail/old logging skid road and then a sharp drop down a cliff to the sand below. Since it wasn’t muddy and slimy (I usually go in the Spring/Fall) my trademark “crabwalk/butt scoot maneuver was not necessary)

Once on the beach, one can pitch a tent anywhere above the expected high tide line, or continue on to Petroleum or Willoughby Creek or if you’re lucky like we were, all the way (2 additional miles) to a site right at Point of the Arches.

We had met a group in the parking lot who were leaving and had just cleared out of the camp site I’ve been coveting for over five years. Right at the rocks where you can pitch your tent on the beach but be in the shade of trees all day.

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At that point, the “race” was on. At that tide, no one was going to come in from the South and snake my spot (there is no overland trail past the point and it can only be passed at a tide of 4′ or less)

I was a woman on a mission. When we got to the bottom of the cliff, I saw a man with a couple other people not far behind us. I gave him the stink eye and hauled butt down the beach.

My heart sank when I found kayaks near the spot I had my heart set on, but they were just a bit North. We Got THE spot at the point.

By this time, the fog and clouds had moved in and we were actually cold.

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Some of the bits of driftwood were a bit too big for a nice little fire… (note the creative wood breaking going on in the background)

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Once camp was set up, it was time to explore the tide pools as the tide was going out and the diffused light was nice for photography (the fire was not lit until we got back)

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My reputation as “weather witch” is still intact. We had clouds and fog to cool our hike in, but the sun broke through and provided us with a lovely sunset and later moon and stars.

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We had cheese, crackers, smoked salmon and a nice old fine zinfandel for “happy hour” and then grilled prawns and veggies for dinner. (in addition to my weather witch duties, I’m also the “foodie”)

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One must carefully clean camp and store food after cooking something like that.

Hard sided bear cannisters are required in coastal areas of the park. The bears usually leave them alone, but the mutant fire eyed German Shepard size raccoons from hell are another matter entirely.

Monday morning, I was faced with an assault upon our camp that I had never experienced before.

We were raided by killer banana slugs and they wanted our food…

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There were at least half a dozen crawling on our around our food cannisters.

It was turning out to be a weird trip.

Everything with my Mom’s death and all the pressure to make instant legal and financial decision before you even being to wrap your head around the death more or less process it or actually grieve was making me crazy (and not in a good way) which is why we were there. Surpirsingly, the waves pounding the shore and the songs of birds did not relax me; especially not the first night when the brain gerbils were working overtime to make me insane.

Oh well, if you’re going to be kept awake by attacking brain gerbils and nightmares; it might as well be in a pretty place. (with no cell phone or Internet access) Just give me my coffee and no one gets hurt!

We moved our coffee and breakfast setup out into the sun so that we’d have a view while waiting for the tide to recede so that we could adventure South.

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We put our food away (being extra cautious due to the killer banana slug incident) and headed North around the point.

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I opted to back off and head to our Point as the tide approached it’s lowest point. This area was rocky and I had since decided that I wanted to spend as much time as possible barefoot. All of my pictures were taken barefoot; it was my theme, my refusal to subject myself to the wearing of shoes. (unfortunately, this resulted in my feet getting burned/tanned just enough that my Z shaped Chaco (sandal) stipes are gone [sad face]

I really get into my work.

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I was excited to find this guy (or girl) with many arms…

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I believe what we have here is a certified star fish (OK, Pacific Sea Star) Orgy. Apparently they like to diversify with the anemones. What ever floats your boat (or tentacles as the case may be)

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Let’s step away from the sea stars now shall we? That’s right, slowly, keep you hands where we can see them…

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and on a walk to the creek, I found this little spermy lookin’ guy (on come on, you all thought the same thing when you saw it)

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I also has some fun with seagulls later in the afternoon when we walked to the creek for water (which we teated)

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After exploring the tide pools and hiking to the creek for water, it was happy hour (hey, it was 5:00 PM somewhere and we were ready for our wine (did we mention that it was old vine zinfandel?) and smoked salmon.

After grilling the rest of the previous night’s dinner, we settled down for some reading, and then I scampered off take some sunset pictures…

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After that, it was time to sit by the fire where I finally unloaded a bit about how much stress this was creating and much pressure I was feeling. It was good to cry a bit and let it out. I slept better that night.

We were up bright and early on Tuesday morning because the Icky Boy had a board meeting and I had to get paperwork that was supposed to be sent by then filled out and back to the crematorium (I don’t know why it was such a rush on my end, nothing will be done until her doctor signs the death certificate; it’s a safe bet to say he’s in no rush because it doesn’t affect him. If it doesn’t affect him, he doesn’t deal with it.

Once again, the weather witch provided cool moist air to hike out in:

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It was a hot Hot HOT drive home (and a fairly warm climb up the cliff followed by the mile walk back to the parking area)

The trip didn’t bring me peace or healing (too early for both) but it did get me away from phone calls and emails (all of which were nothing I could act on until Tuesday) and distracted me with running through the sand barefoot chasing shiny things to photograph.

It worked as best anything could and that’s a good thing.

The rest of the pictures are available here:


Mood: tired