Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Coffeeneuring Challenge, Day #4

gazebo below my perch

all the gear fit to brew
This morning, I helped kids at a local elementary school learn how to ride their bike safely and this afternoon, I rode out to another Seattle park for some coffee – making and scenery enjoying. While I was riding up the Arboretum's park drive, first I saw a patrol car and then a Seattle Parks maintenance vehicle coming the opposite way. It was then that I first had the thought that perhaps what I was about to do (brew coffee with a campstove) might be either illegal or frowned upon by officials. A sidebar might be titled, "Why is this park different from other Seattle Parks?" Well, the University of Washington owns the land here and it is maintained by Seattle Parks. So good thing they had just passed me going the other way, their patrol had apparently ended while my mischief was about to begin (am I a bad person if I admit that this thought gave me a rush of excitement?).

these rocks were made for my bike

I decided on a spot that was just off the drive, overlooking a gazebo with some really nice fall color surrounding it. For me, there was a park bench and for my bike, a duo of rocks that held my bike up as if that's what the intended purpose was, like nature's bike stand. My water boiled very quickly since this time it was water for only the coffee and I pressed the coffee soon after, adding the pre-steamed coconut milk. After putting away some of the possibly incriminating evidence, I sat with my hot cup of coffee and enjoyed my surroundings before heading off toward home.

ah, simplicity

coffee: Rwanda Korenge from Conduit
distance from home: 7 miles
cost: insignificant

Monday, October 27, 2014

Coffeeneuring Challenge, Day #3

Neither I nor Laura can quite remember how we first met. It was either that we were cycling together on Mondays and then she showed up in my yoga class, or a gal from my yoga class appeared on the Monday night rides. Regardless, we have stayed friends mostly from sporadically seeing each other around the city, in a yoga class or, mainly, on Facebook. When she saw last week's post about coffee en plein air at Discovery Park, she asked if I'd like to join her in a collective coffeeneuring circle of cycling joy (or something like that).

We met up at Voxx Cafe on Eastlake Ave, she on her folding Brompton which she kept neatly (and easily, I might add) folded up beside us and me on my Surly, locked to a nearby rack. I had one of the cafe's seasonal specials – Cardamom Vanilla Latte and a ginger cookie (I guess I was in a spicy mood). They were both delicious, with not too much spice in either item.

Amid our conversation, a black lab interjected his snout, looking for cookie or at least cookie crumbs. It wasn't until his person disappeared inside and he began to bark that the crumbs made an appearance within the confines of his leash length. We returned plates that were licked clean.

After coffee and conversation, we two gals with longtime cycling connections made our way down to the obscurely–named Cheshiahud Trail which encircles Lake Union. We rode the soon-to-be-a-cycle-track area of the parking lot on Westlake Ave, then across the Fremont Bridge, at the north end of which we parted. I am sure our paths will cross again soon.

coffee: Lighthouse
cost: $7.88 for latte and cookie, plus tip
distance from home: 5 miles

Friday, October 24, 2014

Coffeneuring Challenge, Day #2

Today's coffeeneuring experience was a little bit different. While it's nice to visit coffee shops in different neighborhoods, I was also craving a little adventure. So I loaded up my bike with two panniers that contained my Pocket Rocket stove and fuel, my Aeropress coffee press (best cost/quality ratio), pre-ground Conduit coffee (El Salvador's El Bobollon that had been delivered to me via bicycle), some pre-steamed coconut milk, as well as some dried quinoa mushroom risotto left over from backpacking so that I could prepare and eat lunch, too.

the rear seat is for kid #1, front is for the babe

Just as I was getting my panniers stuffed with all my gear, my friend Elias posted on FB that he was out on his baby tandem (see photo) at a park north of Ballard and contemplating where to go next. I commented that I would be in Discovery park within the hour and could share my coffee with him (and his baby). One component that was particularly refreshing, other than the fact that I was going to brew coffee en plein air, was that it was going to be a low-tech outing. My phone is a flip phone and, while texting is possible, it is not convenient; I also have an iphone, but it has no service connection and is used solely with wi-fi, meaning that I wouldn't be able to contact Elias on exactly when and where I was or would be once I had left my house.

I rode down Fremont Ave, crossed the bridge and took the Ship Canal Trail through Fisherman's Terminal and out to Magnolia and up to Discovery Park. It probably took me longer than I thought it would, as riding with a couple of panniers uphill for a while is a slow-moving affair, but once I got up to the Officer's Quarters by the parade grounds, I spotted a tall guy on a long bike with a baby. We set up at the flagpole, an area that had steps, was dry and had a fantastic view out to the Olympic Mountains that were a treat to see on a cloudy day. After the water boiled, I first poured some into the baby bottle so Elias could make goat milk for Luca, then some for my risotto and, finally, when the water had cooled to an appropriate temperature, into the aeropress for some brewing.
the mighty Aeropress, brilliant in its simplicity

The coffee was delicious, though strong on its own so I added the coconut milk which was a fantastic complement. I have no idea why more coffee shops don't offer it as a dairy alternative (the two I know of are Chaco Canyon and Flying Apron – feel free to comment if you know of others). The risotto was a little, uh, old, but still plenty edible and provided me with some calories and warmth on this cool day. I also brought a cookie I had purchased from PCC – Chocolate Chick (as in chickpea). It was interesting. Then, I got my turn holding Luca, who probably kept me warm more than the other way around, due to his baby fat. He's cute, too, another fantastic Elias–Hitomi production and babies are so sweet with innocence and goodness. When he began to squirm, it was back to dad who bundled him up in the bike (car) seat for their journey home.
coffee: Conduit's El Salvador, El Bobollon
cost: insignificant
distance from home: 5 miles

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Coffeeneuring Challenge, Day #1

I decided to jump on the coffeeneuring bandwagon a little late in the game, as I tend to resist that which is popular and Cascade Bike Club (the largest membership in the US) has been posting a coffee ride every weekend due largely in part that the originator of the coffee/bike concept, Joe Platzner, is on their Board. Regardless of how many people are already doing it, I love my coffee and also love getting out and about, especially on my bike.

For my first Coffeeneuring ride, I did my research and found a most unlikely spot for a coffee shop – in a church. While the business end of the cafe has no connection to the church, the actual location is within their walls, with double doors connecting the cafe to the church lobby. Now, I'm no church goer, but I am a believer in Stumptown Coffee in that they roast a fine bean which leads to a smooth latte in the cup.

But first, I had to consult the weather radar whose images showed a mass of rain headed straight for North Seattle. Then, the wind picked up outside and as soon as I saw some streaks of rain on my south-facing windows, I said to myself, "yup, here it comes!". But the rain stopped and the wind took a break and the kids across the street in the playground continued to run and scream. That happened a few more times, until I figured that I would be waiting all day for the weather to clear while all along the weather was clear. So, despite the big, green blob that looked like it was headed straight for me, I headed out on my bike and up to the Interurban Trail. Whether it was going to rain or not was a mystery, but I had a sweet tailwind at my back, hurrying me to my destination. From a block away, I saw the white cross on top; yes, a church, it's in a church. I don't know how many times I had ridden by this church and never knew there was a Stumptown-serving cafe in there – a revelation in the making. I found bike parking on the side of the building, U-locking to a solid post beneath an awning; not exactly bike parking, but it was secure and could be seen from inside.

Inside, it was a comfy coffee shop, with upholstered chairs, a couch, cafe chairs and soft lighting, games and books and a community notices board. These are all good qualities in a coffee shop, though the best is... the coffee. The barista was very friendly, but not in an "I'm paid to be friendly" kind of way, just honestly friendly. The name of the cafe, The Bridge, was meant as a bridge to the community of Haller Lake and beyond. And now, the coffee – I ordered an Almond Milk Latte which made my tummy very happy and my tastebuds, too. It was strong espresso without being bitter and the almond milk was foamed expertly. I sat and read my book for about an hour, during which time it did not rain. When I left, I made the ride into a nice loop by going south around Green Lake and up Linden Ave, again with a tailwind and no rain.
coffee: Stumptown
cost: $3.75
distance from home: 3 miles

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A No-Rain Ride

The ride posting clearly stated my rain policy: "I am a weather wimp; the ride will be canceled if rain is forecast" and the forecasters seemed to oblige by calling for a 20% chance of the wet stuff falling before 10AM, the start time of the ride. So, when the 11 of us set out heading north from Snohomish, it was on nearly dry pavement, with hopes of improvement.

After exiting the Centennial Trail at Machias, there was some temperature-regulating misting from the sky which was very much appreciated. The worst thing is to get overheated in the first 10 miles of a 34-mile ride, so having our personal misters following us around worked out very well. But some time after we climbed up to the Snohomish Plateau and were on Storm Lake Road (we should have taken a different road, I guess), I was aware of wetness completely covering my face, dripping down my nose and chin and entering my shoes. The fine mist had turned coarse, with the trademark "Super-Soaker" wetness that the Northwest is known for. The moisture is enveloping from the top, sides and bottom and leaves no dry areas, though it barely looks like much at all is falling from the sky, a veritable "no-see-um" on the precipitation spectrum. But it was not rain.

After careening down a steep hill with good run-out (crucial when your braking surfaces are slick), we crossed Hwy 2 into Monroe and crossed into the domain of pouring. I should note that being an optimist and declaring the ride was a go in the morning's email meant that I was not going to be carrying raingear, nor even wearing a wool jersey. The temperature was in the low 60s and I was wearing my new Ibex bra and arm warmers, so I thankfully stayed warm, but not without some concern and offers of extra layers from my fellow riders.

Leaving Monroe, we all had one thing on our minds, to get back to Snohomish and our dry cars as quickly as possible and we took off at a good pace along the Old Snohomish–Monroe Rd, accompanied by many drivers who seemed to also be in a big hurry, whizzing by us as we were squeezed toward the edge of the road. At the top of the last roller toward town, the sun came out to erase all evidence of moisture from our bodies and bikes.

Technically, it never rained on our ride anyway; it just misted, super-soakered and poured. And, after putting away our bikes in our cars and walking through town, I noted that what the riders would really remember was the very last bits – riding in sunshine and the fantastic lunch and conversation we shared at the cafe.
(l to r) Richard, Louise, Bill L, Tom, Terry, Jim, Bill P

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Land of Summer

Summerland views

We found some summer left in Summerland! While it was rainy and cool on the drive to Mt Rainier, we saw blue sky just after entering the White River entrance to the Park.

The sun warmed us on our ascent and the Mountain came out to say hello and stayed for the day. The flowers have mostly gone, but the marmots were very active, stuffing themselves in the meadows.

marmot in meadow

We heard rumor of a bear on the way down who had been seen crossing the trail, but we didn't see or hear him. Someone had been munching and uprooting all the mushrooms along the trail, making it look like The Three Bears had been there ("this one's too soft, this one's too bitter, but this one is just right...").

fun fungi

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Backpacking Rainier

meadows in Spray Park
 This entry could also easily be titled, "Chasing my Youth", as I backpacked on trails that I used to hike when I was in my 20s and arranged with work to have Wednesdays free just so I could hike at Mt Rainier. In fact, the loop I did for the three-day backpack around Mother Mountain was a day hike I did one of those Wednesdays, all 16 miles. Although I know I did the loop, as I was hiking it the past week, I could hardly remember a lot of it. Wow, I must have been fit back then!
Ipsut Pass view

Cliffs at Ipsut Pass
I started out from Mowich Lake, after having driven to the Carbon River Ranger Station to get my permit. Back in my 20s, I could still drive to the Ipsut Campground, but now, due to multiple washouts, it had become a hike-in backcountry camp area. When choosing my nightly camp destinations with the ranger, I didn't get my first choice of camps, but that would turn out ok later, when I realized how much elevation there would be on the second day.
fall comes early in the Carbon River

From Mowich Lake, I hiked to Ipsut Pass, then down the sometimes-rough trail to the Carbon River, then turned upstream. Up until this point, I had been in shade or forest and it started to look like that luxury would be ending. It was a hot, cloud-free day in August and I was not looking forward to baking in the sun, but was soon re-directed to cross the Carbon River on a series of bridges to the trail on the north side of the Carbon River, in forest. I was spared from the ovens. At the next intersection, where the Wonderland Trail continued straight ahead toward Mystic Lake, I crossed the Carbon River back to the other side on one of the fantastic suspension bridges in the Park, high above the river.
crossing the Carbon River on the suspension bridge

The camp I had originally wanted to stay at, Carbon River, was full and now, after hiking 8 miles with a full pack, I would be gaining 1,400' in 1.5 miles to the Cataract Creek camp, partway up the climb to Seattle Park. I reasoned with myself that this was a good thing, since the alternative was to do all of the gain to the 6,400' highpoint of the trip in one day, had I stayed at Carbon River. Now, I would be chipping off a chunk of that gain today, making the following day slightly easier. At least that's what I kept repeating in my head as the way became gradually steeper and more rough, with rocks and mud and overgrown brush. Hiking the Wonderland Trail has its benefits, the greatest being that it is better maintained than most of the other trails in the Park due to its greater number of hikers. But now that I had turned off from that trail, I was entering a bit more of the wild lands of the Park. It was exciting, but also a little annoying, as I slipped and nearly fell in mud.

At last, and within not too much time or energy spent, I arrived at Cataract Creek and set up my tent. While I don't mind backpacking alone, I also find comfort in having at least one other party nearby in camp, just for a bit of security. There was no one else there; it was just me, the trees and a couple of babbling brooks. I reasoned with myself that it was better than having a crying baby nearby, but I still wished for some company. While I was cooking dinner, hikers started arriving until nearly all 6 sites were occupied. Although this was off the Wonderland Trail, some backpackers used it as an alternative route because, well, it was too damn beautiful to miss.

where do you want to go today?

The next morning, I got a relatively early start at 8:45 and set off climbing up and up, through rock fields, by waterfalls and flowers, stretching toward the high point of 6,400', a divider between Seattle and Spray Parks. I have no memory of this section of the hike from when I did it years ago, though I trust myself that I did do it. While in the flower fields, I had tried to stop for a mid-morning snack, but was soon overcome with buzzing around my head and invaders poking into my skin. Mosquitoes and flies were plentiful and kept me up and moving. I finally found solace on a rocky outcropping between two snow fields, where no bugs buzzed. Another backpacker stopped with me and I finally got to have some conversation. The hiker (I never did get his name) was from Springfield, Ohio (I immediately thought of "The SImpsons", but figured he was tired of that comment) and spent his vacations backpacking in many of the wonderful National Parks. When I told him I was from Seattle, he was clearly envious, which made me fill with pride for my city and region. I did a lot of eating, while he did a lot of talking; backpacking solo will drive you to one or the other.
crossing one of the snowfields

Mother Mountain, all of it

After reaching the 6,400' crest, without too much trouble from lingering snow, it was all downhill, with flowers, views and maybe a bear or marmot sighting to come. While the flowers were a bit past their prime in the higher elevations, they were pretty amazing lower down. However, I did spot several clumps of Gentians which are known to be the harbingers of fall. I tried to ignore them, but they kept looking at me, some fully opened and some through their closed, camera shutter-like form. I had planned to do a lot of lounging in the meadows since the day's hike was only 5.5 miles, but the bugs were driving me away. I also realized that the harsh midday sun on Mt Rainier would make photos unattractive and if I waited until later in the day, I could get better shots. I decided to descend to the camp, set up, relax and return later in the day.

open and closed Gentians

Camp for the second night was at Eagles Roost which is just like it sounds, perched high on a cliff overlooking the Mowich River. Through the trees, which provide shade, is a great view of Rainier. Downhill from the sites is a composting toilet with a fence for privacy and an even better view of the mountain – deluxe!

less harsh afternoon light
Once I had set up camp, hung my food bag on the bear pole and did some meal prep, I made my way up to Spray Falls and then back to Spray Park, just a mile up the trail. While the sun was at a kinder and gentler angle, the bugs were still raging. I must have been the only mammal in the area, as they were buzzing and biting non-stop. I never did see the bear that usually frequents the area; she probably knew better, less buggier places to roam. I snapped a few photos, had a snack, then retreated down toward the Falls. At that time in the day, the sun was shining on the falls, producing a rainbow and shadows of trees were projected onto the rocks. Forget seeing these falls during the day; linger longer on the trail and check them out near sunset.

my nest at Eagles Roost

Spray Falls at sunset

Back at camp, I talked with my neighbors and shared their view of purple mountain majesty – the setting sun turned Rainier pink and purple. I think everybody in camp wanted to be their friend at that point!

In the morning, I packed up and had a leisurely hike out to the trailhead at Mowich Lake. On the way, I stopped at the viewpoint which is named something like Eagle Cliff, which has an unobstructed view of the mountain and which is, in my opinion, mandatory for a stop to ogle. At the trailhead, I grabbed clean clothes from my car, headed for the lakeshore, plunged in a few times, coming out clean. Although the first time I did the loop, I was more youthful, the second time around, I was smarter and got more enjoyment from it and will take home more memories.

mmmm... Mowich Lake!