Friday, April 11, 2014

Spring Break Adventure, Day 11

If you're really crafty, you can get people to do your work for you. Thus, my old cycling friend, Bill Pence, writes about a ride we did.

I went out to amble around in the Fall City area to look for new roads for the Flock [this is a reference to the Goosebumps Rides, as in "flock" of geese]; I was joined by Steve and Agent Louise, who had finally escaped from the Space Aliens. She claimed to be in pitiful shape, but I saw no evidence to that effect. The anticipated sun had not yet arrived, in Fall City, so I was dressed with a winter jacket and gloves. Steve remarked that I was overdressed; it turns out that I was and I wasn't. He was under-dressed, part of the time. AL, who made no clothing changes and carried no jacket, seemed unaffected by the cold. Of course, this is a woman who regularly plunges into icy alpine lakes. Which says a lot for her constitution and not much for her common sense.

 Steve and Louise at the Falls overlook
We set off on David Powell road to warm up, a pleasant out and back. After the back, Steve led us up an old narrow footpath with vestigial asphalt which climbed steeply towards the Lake Alice road. There were downed trees and debris on the path so we sent Louise first [!]. We popped out on the Lake Alice road and climbed a very steep section. We were all pretty warm by now. We found the Preston-Snoqualmie bike trail and followed it for 1.8 miles (flat) to the overlook (see photo below). Lovely bike path. Nice view of the Falls. The ideograms on Louise's jersey stand for "Beef with Broccoli" (front) and "Szechuan Family Dinner" (side) [little did Bill know, I was pre-ordering lunch].

Retracing our steps, we soon got quite cold, so it was back on with all of the clothing, except for Alpine Lakes in the pink. After some discussion, we determined that the rest of the trail, climbing up to Preston, was too steep and mossy for the Flock. So we headed down the Lake Alice road to Fall City. We went around the back of the town and took the Issaquah-Fall City road to the junction, then crossed the highway and headed for Carnation. Steve and AL wanted to do the climb! [he's BS-ing – Steve wanted to do the climb; I wanted to go pig out at Starbucks]. We turned back short of the bridge, as I needed to get back to work. We were forced to feed Louise to keep her going.

We made quick work of the trip back with some nice pacelines. [I didn't know I had it in me – it was a blast!]
A very nice ride. The sun came out just as we finished. Distance, about 26 miles. Conclusion: no really usable new roads up there for the Flock, but a nice way to spend the day. Steve and Louise kept me from slacking off.

Agent Louise shows no apparent harm from her time with the Space Aliens, although she is planning her impending nuptials. Not sure if she met him on the spaceship. Steve and I were privileged to inspect The Rock. She promised not to appear on the TV show Bridezillas.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spring Break Adventure, Day 4

view from the parking lot!
Guess what we did right after breakfast? Yes, we stocked up on happy juice at Blackbird! We had timed our departure so that we could get coffee (drive-through this time) and still be on time to meet our friends and fellow Mountaineers at the Olympic Nat'l Park Visitor Center. Nicole was leading a snowshoe trip from Hurricane Ridge to Hurricane Hill and, while we hoped for weather like we'd had the last time on that route (sunny, blue skies), we were not completely optimistic, due to overcast conditions.

the group heads off up the road
The drive up was very revealing – we were above the clouds and the mountains came to life before our eyes, revealing the incredible vista from 5,000 feet at Hurricane Ridge. Because I had experienced a "wardrobe malfunction" that morning, which translates into not being able to fit into my winter pants, I was sporting a pair of wool tights and a skirt, my favorite cold-weather exploration gear. Remembering back to 2 years prior, when I was nearly panting like a dog left in a hot car, I was glad my layers were a bit lighter. At the first rest stop, I was baring all to the mountains in front of me as I changed to a short sleeve shirt and took off those warm tights. I was not alone in my bare-kneed endeavor; the trip leader, Nicole, was wearing shorts with her ensemble.

on Hurricane Hill, 5,757'
It was a bit of a slog to get to Hurricane Hill at 5,757', but doing the rest step, having fellow Mountaineers Rich and Nicole in step with me and the emerging views, were what was needed to get to the summit. The views were superlative! As much as I love Mt Rainier, another of Washington's National Parks, I have to admit that the views up on the Ridge were even better; there was simply more to look at and the open water could be seen in one direction.

Strait of Juan de Fuca out there

As what goes up  must eventually come down, we had to leave our perch and head back toward the cars, much of it on a soul-sucking road, angling uphill. At one point, I could swear I could hear my body talking, "Hey, fat cells, we gotta burn some of you to keep our girl going. Off to the ovens for you!" Fat cells: "Why don't you just make our girl eat some more food? It's too nice of a day to die." Body: "Our girl has to fit into her pants, so you've gotta go!"

When everyone was accounted for at the parking lot, we said goodbye and sped off (coasted) down the road and made our last stop at Blackbird for a little Joe-to-Go for our drive back to Seattle.

Rich, our only man, runs ahead for privacy

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Spring Break Adventure, Day 3

The day was a bit gray, so first we perked it up with coffee and a snack at Blackbird, then headed west for Lake Crescent. Although we were relatively late to the trailhead, we were early by most peoples' standards and the parking lot was not full. The big draw at this trailhead is Marymere Falls, a 1.5 mile lollipop-looped walk to a beautiful waterfall in a deep gorge. But first, a stop at the toilet; why do I mention this – the bathrooms are heated and wonderful. I almost had to send out a messenger to tell Rich that I would be delayed, as I was soaking up the warmth to guard me against the inevitable cold and damp of the hike.

Marymere Falls
After pushing myself out of the rest room, we set off toward the falls first, as the crowds were minimal and the veered off to Barnes Creek. The start of the trail, in which all trip reports that I have read mention that very few people are seen on the trail, has overgrown trees and a few branches blocking the way. I think those are deterrents for anyone might want to venture out of their comfort zone and up the trail, because the trail is very well maintained after that point. In fact, as though experienced hikers were in cahoots to keep others off this trail, the map indicates there is a ford a couple of miles in. In the summer, a ford might be an adventure, but in very early spring, it is a threat. Too cold, too deep. But there was no ford; there was a bridge made from a fallen tree, with a railing to one side. Even my "I'm a wimp and I know it when making crossings" fiance was able to walk across without constantly holding on to the rail.

No Hands!
There were a few more creek crossings and, in between, a lot of green: moss, trees and ferns. I postulated whether all the world's moss had originated right there, in the Olympic National Park. Moss grows in damp areas and reproduce via spores carried on wind or by animals. The ONP has plenty of spores to spread all around the world. Here's what Wikipedia had to say about moss and the Pacific Northwest:

"In the cool cloudy damp Pacific Northwest, moss is sometimes allowed to grow naturally as a lawn substitute, one that needs little or no mowing, fertilizing or watering. In this case, grass is considered to be the weed.[19] Landscapers in the Seattle area sometimes collect boulders and downed logs growing mosses for installation in gardens and landscapes. Woodland gardens in many parts of the world can include a carpet of natural mosses.[16] The Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, Washington State, is famous for its moss garden. The moss garden was created by removing shrubby underbrush and herbaceous groundcovers, thinning trees, and allowing mosses to fill in naturally."
that clump was the first moss

The moss can't help but grow, unrestrained and unabashedly. And we love this area for all that green, many shades of green.
We were treated to some glimmers of sun through the trees, a foreshadowing for tomorrow's adventure, as we headed back along the trail.

The drive east toward Port Angeles had me feeling a little sleepy, so we made our 3rd stop of the weekend at Blackbird Cafe for an afternoon pick-me-up.

Spring Break Adventure, Day 2

Keeping with my theme of adventure, Rich set a circuitous course of driving to the Edmonds ferry on our way to Port Angeles for the weekend. On the ferry, I had my nose in a book (#1 of 3 for spring break) while he scanned the horizon for whales. The drive from Kingston to Port A was uneventful, save for the slow-moving minivans we kept getting stuck behind.

Once at our destination, the Olympic Lodge, we set out for Blackbird Coffeehouse for an afternoon snack. We are very familiar with Blackbird, as we have been there many times before and they are the reason that I drink Rishi Tea almost exclusively. They also serve Stumptown Coffee, one of my favorites. After the snacks were consumed, we went for a walk along the waterfront, noting the Blackball Ferry that runs to Victoria, BC (must do that some time) and stumbled onto a gallery exhibit featuring local youth. I know that adolescents struggle with identity and purpose, but it was the overwhelming sense from their art that they have few outlets, creative or physical, that made us feel sympathetic and grateful that we grew up near cities where there was a lot available to us. And there still is.

We dined at Jasmine Bistro, a Thai joint where the spice rating should be taken seriously, then returned to the hotel and listened to frolicking of kids in the pool while reading and other stuff.

OK, so not a big day of adventure, but a prelude to the weekend.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Found Kitty

One morning, I received an email from a neighbor in the building who identified me as one of the "cat people" in the building (though I don't have a cat and I really love dogs) and let me know that there was "a cat in the garage that needed help".  Uh oh – Rich and I had seen a kitty there a couple of days earlier in the morning when we left for a hike, but didn't see him when we returned, so we had assumed he was gone. When I went down to the garage, I looked a little harder and there he was, curled up behind the compost bin, amongst bags of soil and some leaves, his little tan body blending in like just another blown-in-from-the-yard leaf.

I immediately went to the PhinneyWood blog, clicked under "Lost Pets" and a description of that very cat, a Siamese named Zuul, was the first listed. He had been missing for almost a week and his people were just 2 blocks away. It seemed as though he were an indoor cat who had ventured too far from home to be able to return safely.  I immediately called the number, then emailed as a backup.

Later in the day, while at clinical, I received a very appreciative message from his person saying he was coming over for Zuul, then later received an email saying he was safe at home, enjoying his second dinner.

It was so heartening to experience this kitty-person reunion, since Rich and I had decided that every time we saw a "Lost Kitty" sign in the neighborhood, it was really a kitty obituary. No, not true, kitties do turn up once in a while, in the most unlikely of places.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

My Teacup Runneth Over

While on a weekend adventure in Port Angeles, we went to the best little coffee shop in town, The Blackbird Coffeehouse, to have some pre-hike refreshments. Rich ordered a drip coffee or something with a concentrated dose of caffeine, while I opted for a cup of tea. The tea was uncommonly good and it was referred to as "Sweet Mint". It was a loose-leaf tea and the paper infuser it was in was anchored in the cup and stayed there as we drove up to Hurricane Ridge and beyond.

After making it to Obstruction Point without too much cringing from exposure or from the near head-on collision with an inattentive driver, we thought we should get out of the car and actually hike. It was cold and rain had been forecast for everywhere, including Sequim, the rainshadow capitol of the PNW and previously referred in a statement about the ever-present sunshine, "It's sunny in Sequim!".  In spite of the impending doom, we zipped up our rain gear to protect against the cold wind and headed out on the Grand Ridge Trail.

While I had been planning to re-create a hike that Rich had been on years before, one that would start two groups of hikers at either end of this ridge, they would meet in the middle and exchange keys, then hike to their friends' cars and reunite elsewhere (perhaps some tea and coffee?), thus allowing the hikers to all hike the length of the ridge without the mess of a car shuttle. But the Forest Service had other plans; they were going to close this road in just a couple of days to do some maintenance before the winter snows set in. Without the luxury of a key exchange, Rich and I were just doing the same-old out-and-back hike.

The trail started out steeply and with shale, so that it was more of a goat path which reminded me of the hike to Easy Pass in the N Cascades. But soon, the way became more trail-like, leveling off and we even had a few views, though the clouds were closing in. The immediate landscape was something like the moors of Scotland or the interior of Iceland; we were transported off the continent for the afternoon.

The rain started slowly, sneaking in and trying to trap us up on the ridge. Imagining the drive on the exposure-laden gravel road, I willed myself to turn back to the car. The tea was still in the car, with the tea leaves still immersed in water, now cold. But I was thirsty and I took a sip. Instead of a bitter sourness which often comes from over-brewed tea, my mouth was welcomed with a sweet, intense drink. The tea had only improved with time. I had to find out more about this tea, so we left Obstruction Point to head back to Blackbird.

And so began my quest for the "Sweet Mint" tea, which is made by Rishi in lovely Wisconsin. There is no tea by that name, but they have many teas that are enticing (Turmeric Ginger, White Ginseng Detox) which is how it came to be that my cupboards are stocked to the brim with several different varieties of Rishi tea, as well as a few other brands thrown in for good measure. I even purchased a glass double-walled tumbler with a built-in infuser so I can take my favorite tea, Mystic Mint, on the road.

Monday, September 2, 2013

High Adventure Along the I-90 Corridor

Just when I thought I had hiked nearly all the trails, swam in nearly every lake and summited every easy peak along the I-90 corridor east of Seattle, I found myself in uncharted territory, adjacent to a very popular trailhead. The Ira Spring trailhead is easy access from I-90 that leads to Bandera Mountain and Mason Lake, the most popular and easiest destination among the many there. If you keep going past Mason, you can either go east to a string of lakes, or west to Mt Defiance. But, what most people don't realize, is that the trail from Mason continues west past Mt Defiance for quite a while, to a lake sitting on the edge of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Thompson Lake. As an alpine lake swimmer, I first set my sights on Thompson years ago and started asking my hiking friends about it. No one had been there and we assumed that the trail was impassible, imagining a pile of trees stacked up like matchsticks that blocked travel.
view of Rainier and Adams from near Defiance

Over the years, I found trip reports from various sources that indicated that the trail was passable, that people, though not many, did go to Thompson and that the lake was unspoiled and beautiful, very worthy of a swim. A couple of years earlier, I snowshoed up the Granite Creek trail to Granite Lakes, which had a sign pointing to Thompson Lake in another direction. It was at that time that I became aware that there were two routes to Thompson, both about 7 miles long and both with a good deal of elevation gain.
meadows on the descent to Thompson

I knew I wanted to see all of the trail and not just hike out and return the same way, so I planned for a one-way trip. In the past, car shuttles were de rigeur for this type of trip, but I decided to amp up the adventure and set it up as a Key Exchange. One group, led by Rich, would start at the Granite Creek trailhead on the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Road and the other, my group, would start at Ira Spring, off I-90 at Exit 45. When we met up on the trail, presumably at the mid-point, we would exchange keys and then drive each others cars back to the meeting area in Issaquah.
Glacier Peak in the distance

The two groups of 3 hikers started out at about 8:15AM from our respective trailheads. Keeping a good pace and minimizing breaks was key to a long day on the trail and so our stops were brief, but long enough to grab a snack, drink water or pee. The rewards of hiking an obscure trail were realized just past Mt Defiance, where the blueberries were out in abundance; it seemed that no humans, nor bears had touched this area. Descending down the ridge, the berries became fatter, juicier and sweeter, but still no sign of any mammals, big or small. Never mind the food we had brought along in our packs; we were stuffing ourselves on sweet, sweet berries.

We soon reached a meadow with views of Glacier to the north which seemed such an unusual sight, as it was far to the north and further east. It was then that I realized I was in uncharted territory and it was a wonderful feeling to think that after so many years of exploring, there was still more to do. Even more was the feeling that I wasn't sure of what lay ahead and if we would be able to successfully complete the trip, or have to turn back, retreating with our tails between our legs due to an obstruction or losing the trail.
a great swim was had here!

When we were starting our descent to Thompson Lake, we heard the familiar voices of our friends and reunited, exchanged keys and lunched together, then we headed down to take a celebratory swim. Each group was able to report off to the other about the conditions we would be facing in our respective directions, better than any trip report that a database or web search could have supplied.
Granite Creek