Monday, December 26, 2011

The Gates of Paradise

the view from Mazama Ridge
 For most people, entering the gates of paradise, let alone seeing them, requires a flight to Italy and standing on long lines only to have just a few minutes of appreciative gazing at an artistic work. But for outdoor adventurers who live in the Puget Sound region, the only requirements to enter through the gates are that you have all-wheel drive and carry chains (the Nat'l Park rangers ask for them). After a warm-up drink of hot chocolate at Longmire Inn, our group of 10 Mountaineers would soon become a group of 7, due to one car's lack of chains, though this situation was unbeknownst to the rest of the party.

I had chosen transport vehicles well, I realized, as we were standing at Paradise, 5,000' waiting for the third car to arrive. Trips to the restrooms, lending a hand to skiers who had a slight equipment snafu and standing around chatting helped pass the time in the 25-degree weather. But still no third car. Cell phones were useless in the Park, as there was no reception, so we hearkened back to the old days when we had to guess what happened to the lost party members. Finally, at 11am – nearly an hour after we first arrived, we decided to proceed with our trip to Reflection Lakes, assuming there was some difficulty at the gate below.
Tatoosh Range from Paradise

There was a crust on the snow, but at least there was snow. It was a beautiful day with high clouds which allowed for good views to the south of the Tatoosh Range and at the mountain herself, to the north. We made our way up to Mazama Ridge, zig-zagging to moderate the grade, though I still felt a familiar burn in my legs. We attained the ridge and had an even better view of the Tatoosh Range and the foothills beyond, plus we ran into a few parties who were spending the night up there – what a treat!

please don't feed the birds!
Down the ridge we went, following a bearing that is roughly aligned with the saddle between the Castle and Pinnacle Peaks to the south. It was great to be in familiar territory again, as this is a trip I had done many times in the past 20 years, but not for the past three years or so. Mazama Ridge is like a kid's playground in that there are plenty of lumps and bumps (snow-buried trees) to go up, down and around on. I led the way in the fresh snow but it was by no means a point-a-to-point-b direct route, as I circled around a tree and weaved through submerged rocks. Soon, we left the ridge and dropped down toward Reflection Lakes, our lunch stop.

Unlike many other trips, where you slave uphill for hours, eat lunch and then frolic downhill and return to the trailhead, this particular trip requires some effort after lunch to make it back up to Paradise. Our leaders chose a packed, marked trail to make the way easier for us (and for them, as they broke the majority of the trail on the way up). To me, it took the joy out of the journey, but also saved me some energy, which I was dearly lacking by that point in the trip. We returned to the parking lot at Paradise, just as lovely as it had been earlier, though with more people and cars and prepared for our journey down the mountain and out past the gate.

Castle and Pinnacle Peaks from lunch
A fellow passenger in our carpool remarked that seeing one of the famed "Rainier Foxes" would have made the day complete and, around the next corner, we saw that very fox, approaching cars at what seemed to be dangerously close distance. He was with his buddy (partner in crime), a black fox, who looked to be straight out of a movie like Harry Potter or a Maurice Sendak set. We all thought, if we talk about winning the lottery and buy a ticket today, will we all become millionaires? But who needs to be a millionaire when you can enter the Gates of Paradise with just a set of chains for safe passage.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day Hike

In Seattle, many people are hyper-aware that not everyone celebrates Christmas, at least not in the traditional or spiritual way. There are many faiths and other holidays occurring at the same time, including Winter Solstice, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

Wanting to give people an option (or an escape, as it turned out), I decided to lead a hike on Xmas Day. I chose Cougar Mountain, since it is a King County Park and does not have a parking pass required (no need to stress about buying something) and has fairly mellow trails that allow for a good hike, interesting features like waterfalls and big ferns, without a whole lot of elevation gain.

We started out hiking up to Wilderness Peak, which does not have a view and barely seems like a peak, though I showed my group the summit register and penned our entry: "Merry Whatever, from the Seattle Mountaineers".

Our second summit, Longview Peak, was savored quickly, as there was a storm coming in from the south and we were getting battered with wind. Descending from the peak, we came across a "Holiday Tree", decorated with ornaments and Mardi Gras bead necklaces, celebrating all the festivals plus the beauty of the natural world.

Thanks everyone for a great day of hiking and Merry Whatever to All!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Girls on the Run!

The following is an interview between my inner self and my outer self, about my recent participation with a wonderful organization, Girls on the Run:

Inner: How long have you been a runner?
Me: I used to run years ago, doing 5Ks and 10Ks, then some trail running, but I gave it up because it didn't really suit me.

Inner: And tell me about your involvement with kids.
Me: well, I was a kid once, long ago. And a have a nephew, who is 4 and lives far away.

So let me get this straight... you no longer run and you are not a "kid person", yet you are volunteering with an organization that connects girls with running?
I know it sounds like a stretch, but I really wanted to get involved with young people and this opportunity popped up. The girl I run with is 9 years old, so she's still a beginner in running and we mix in walking with running. And running is something anyone can do, without  specialized equipment. 

Yes, I gave it a shot. I was nervous, both about the running and about being with a young girl. My friend, Julie, who volunteers as a coach, prepped me on the details of what to expect. The school who was hosting the program was in Sea-Tac, a community that has some socio-economic challenges, as well as some crime and drug use. This program also exists in homogenous areas like Queen Anne and Greenlake, but those kids don't face the same challenges in their everyday existence. The girl I was paired with was the only girl in a household with boys, plus their mom. Although she didn't mention this, my friend told me that they had recently taken in a girl whose mother had taken a vacation from parenting for a while. 

In addition to running, the coaches teach the girls about self esteem and being kind to one another and standing up to bullies. I got a chance to drive home the self-esteem issue while we were running: at one point, she looked back and, seeing no one, declared we were at the back of the group and would finish last. I reminded her of all the people we had passed and told her about my policy of never looking back, as it only makes you feel slower. When we finished, she could see that we were about in the middle of the pack and was very happy with herself.

I'm looking forward to the big event on Saturday, December 3 at Seward Park. There will be 400 girls (and their buddies), from programs all around the Seattle area, running in a 5K.

This small way of giving back comes at a time of the year when we think of what we are thankful for. Participating in the program makes me realize all I have to be thankful for, plus gives me a chance to make a difference in someone's life.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Purrfect Day on the Katwalk

strutting their stuff on the Katwalk
Fall started the first weekend of October and winter closed in on the mountains on the first weekend in November. The hope was that winter would hold off enough on the trail to Kendall Katwalk along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) so our group could safely make the destination and be up on the Katwalk with snow on the nearby peaks for contrast, while the fall colors were fading. The forecast was for clouds with the possibility of a snow shower, so when we looked up to see the blue sky above us while getting ready in the parking lot, we felt a little like we had won the lottery. Immediately, a few of us took our rainhats out of our packs and left them in the car.

By luck, we were a group of 10 women, all members of the Mountaineers and all hoping to get in a nice fall hike and see some views. We got more than we wished for. There were challenges, in particular, the creek crossing where the rocks had an inch of ice on them and so the only safe place to step was on submerged rocks or walking in the water, testing our boots' waterproofing. Water was coming down the waterfall and raining on us during the crossing, giving the impression that moving too slowly meant becoming frozen in the creek. We made it through without incident and were free to wander high, in the snow, up a well-trod path to the sky.

The views started early – the peaks across Commonwealth Basin (Denny Mt, The Tooth, Bryant and Chair Peak) and then the monster mountain who has followed me nearly everywhere this year (or am I following her), Mt Rainier, to the south. As we ascended, we ran into 2 guys who had camped up high and they remarked that we had picked the most perfect day to be up there. We were optimistic; in fact, we were determined to reach our destination. I could feel the energy coming from the back of the group, the desire to see the best views, the mountains cloaked in snow in a wintery wonderland that usually required snowshoes and very heavy packs. We pushed onward and upward into the deepening snow.

Just before lunchtime, we were treated to the first of the spectacular views to the east. We could see as far east as Mt Stuart and without the distraction of too many clouds. We then readied ourselves for our grand entrance "On the Katwalk". Take it away, Fred!

It was everything we had hoped it would be... and more! Snow-flocked trees, never-ending views, a lone man ready to take our photo using each of our 8 cameras.

he's saying, "girrrls!" to warn his guy person
We talked, we laughed, we sang, we took many photos, each slightly different in perspective, we socialized with other groups who arrived, including a girl-fearing dog. We were 10 adventurous mountain women who had cheated the weather and made it to the top of our world.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Desert Hiking is Not Just for Spring

During the month of October, hikers in Western Washington are fervently seeking out vistas with the elusive golden larches. Larch are unusual evergreens in that they are also like a deciduous; in the fall, their needles change color and later get dropped. They seem to take up residence in some of the most beautiful high country in the state, such as the North Cascades, the Stuart Range and Leavenworth areas. I have seen lots of larches, but this year, I was seeking something a little different.

I had been to Black Canyon in the spring (link to post here) to escape the rain and clouds of the westside and get a sneak preview of some spring flowers, but I had read reports of some beautiful fall color and, in particular Golden Aspen, and wanted to see it for myself (and the group of Mountaineers who would accompany me).

The drive to the trailhead had me very optimistic, as I had been worried that it was too late in the season for color and we'd be walking amongst barren trees. All along the road, there were trees with yellow leaves, orange leaves and still some green to add contrast. Then, we saw a big white bunny (no, we did not follow it down its hole) and it was probably a jackrabbit, but it's much more fun to call it a big white bunny. As we came around a corner, a couple of deer were crossing the road and they went hopping off, looking a little like kangaroos, when they spotted us. To our right, we saw the rest of their friends and family, about 6 of them gazing at us with big eyes, waiting for the road to be clear. Driving slowly up the rough road (apologies to Suzanne's car), there was a baby owl sitting right at the edge of the road, on the ground. It stayed motionless as all three of our cars passed by.

The color started again, right at the trailhead and stayed with us wherever there was a water source for the trees. The area of the cabin was starkly beautiful, with contrasting aspen, other colorful trees and the dark of the cabin's aging wood. We followed the canyon up to Umtanum Ridge and were treated to a view of not only the Stuart Range, but the entire Teanaway peaks. It was like having a mountain scene set to infinity. Then, we looked to the south and saw a big, white blob sitting above a distant ridge. It was very disorienting, but at the same time we were certain it was Mt Rainier. She has that certain majestic look (and also follows me nearly everywhere I go: previous post).

one of the views from ridge – colors in folds

We traversed the ridge and could see trees and colors in the folds of the hills; wherever there was water, it supported life and beauty. We spotted our canyon as the most beautiful, of course, and soon found the trail to descend through the trees, past the old cabin and back to the trailhead. Many in the group commented that it was a welcome change of scenery and proved that the desert is not just for spring hiking anymore.

hiking back down to Black Canyon

Friday, October 21, 2011

Native Planet Classic

Whirled Traveler note: I was doing a little cleaning of my site when I came across this draft for a post about the Native Planet Classic Ride that I did in June of 2008. It was a significant ride, both because it was a serious undertaking and because the training for it led to the assignment of my most-favorite-ever nickname, Our Lady of Perpetual Ascent. I hope you enjoy this visit back in time.

view from the road
Lost in Translation
We arrived at the Red Barn in Winthrop on Friday to pick up our packets for the next day's ride and were greeted by Jean-Philipe himself, ride organizer and founder of Native Planet. He heartily greeted Dan and Bill, then turned to me, embraced me and said, in his thick French accent, "It has been so long since I have seen you; it is so good to see you!" (translation: Aha! I have finally found a way to make you give money to my organization). 
Saturday morning came quickly and we rode the mile or so (who's counting?) to Mazama to meet up with Greg and to sample the first of the day's food stops. Who should be with Greg but John, well-known for his domestique services from a previous ride. After the morning formalities, Greg inquired, "How's your back feeling?" (translation: I brought John along in case you bail on me). 
hang up and ride, Bill
We set off en masse up toward Washington Pass: Bill, Bob, Annie, Greg and me, more or less riding together. After about an hour of climbing (wow, how time flew), I requested we stop so I could stretch out the aforementioned back (translation: I want to take a break from this mind-numbing climbing but don't want to sound like a wimp). A little while later, Bill's friend Dirk came flying by and Bill latched on and away they went.
At the Pass, we prepared for the descent down the west side, but I say "we" even though I had put my vest and rain jacket in the "Club Car" that morning. As I gave Annie the bag of my essentials to be driven around by her husband, Bobby, she asked, "Are you sure you don't want to carry the vest up to the Pass?" (translation: have you already forgotten how you froze just a few weeks ago while descending?!) Instead, I shoved a Seattle Chinese newspaper up under my jersey; I thought it might be fun to see if anyone in the cabin could read the reversed Chinese characters once the newsprint had transferred to my skin.
my training buddy, Annie
Off we flew, descending at a gradual rate, then climbing up to Rainy Pass, then descending a lot more. While we were cruising creekside (Granite Creek, as I read in my Visitor Guide), I noted that we were at milepost 148 and, with the lunch stop at mp 130, it was just another 18 miles of descending and that sounded just fine. Way to live in the moment, Lou! (after lunch I would face a 30-mile climb back to the Pass). Annie was having none of it, however, and she turned around at the East Creek Trailhead, figuring she would ride back with Bob who was somewhere behind us. At lunch we met up with those who had left us earlier (and would shortly leave us again): John, Bill and Dirk. After restoring calories and resting up, we set off on what is probably the steepest part of the 30-mile climb that was on the way to WA Pass.
"Oh my gosh, I have a fan", I thought, as I was passing by a man standing outside his car who was waving to me. When I realized it was Bobby and the Club Car, I had already passed him. We met up a bit later and I traded the Chinese newspaper for my vest.
Greg, ready to go after lunch
After settling in to a climbing pace, Greg noted, "my, aren't you feeling a bit frisky?" (translation: crap, I can't believe you would try to drop me after all those miles you sat on my wheel). He really had nothing to worry about because once I realized I was still in my middle chainring and my brain caught up with my body, it was I who was getting dropped. The next time I saw Greg and John, it was at their support vehicle, driven by John's wife, as the hiss of an espresso machine pierced the mountain silence.

With 3 miles to go before reaching WA Pass, the climbing was wearing me down. I started doing math to pass the time, since the music in my head had either stopped playing or was stuck on the same line of lyrics, over and over. I calculated that at my current speed of 5 mph, it was taking me 12 minutes to go a mile and I was losing patience. It had been a while since I had seen a mile marker but I was guessing that the green thing on a post ahead was what I was looking for: mp 161. Yes, I had 1 mile to go but I didn't know if I could bear another 12 minutes. Then I remembered that at the point where the Blue Lake trailhead was, it flattened out a bit. In fact, I remember Bob Nyberg and Annie saying how annoying it was when you thought the road was flat but it was still a climb. I'll take whatever I can get after climbing for nearly 30 miles so when I hit that flat-ish spot, my speed doubled to 10 mph and I rolled into the WA Pass rest stop with 12 mph on my speedometer and a smile on my face.
When Greg and John asked me how I was feeling, I said "Great!" (translation: it's all downhill from here!).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Detours Toocan Review

its center of gravity is higher than most panniers
 I was really excited when I received my new Detours Toocan "utility" pannier. Detours now has a Seattle office and their products are affordable and fun. Just as described, the outside of the pannier has a quilted appearance and looks to be very durable. There is also a pocket which is sized just right for my u-lock. The inside was more of a mystery, as the website description lacked details about it, but I was pleasantly surprised to find several pockets inside. First, there is an inner lining which has a pocket on each side of the pannier, giving two narrow pockets and two wide ones. The wide are the right width for notebooks or books and the narrow are good for eating utensils, pens, a rolled-up jacket, you get the idea. There is a small zippered pocket up near the top opening which appeared to be full. I unzipped it and, voila!, there was a rain cover inside. This is going to come in very handy in the winter in Seattle (ok, so it rains all year 'round here).
please note: this is not representative of a balanced diet

I really like having my wallet and other essentials in a zippered pocket so I moved the rain cover to a narrow inside pocket and replaced it with wallet, phone and lip stuff. There is still plenty of room in the main body of the pannier for groceries and what have you. It has a hard rubber bottom that stands by itself and protects the inside from water seeping in. I can't tell you how many times I've gone to a store, put down my non-Detours pannier and watched as it slid down to lay on the floor, getting dirty and making me feel disheveled.

Then, I loaded the pannier with my notebooks, snacks and rain gear and zipped the whole pannier closed so I could go out and give it a road test.

The attachment to the rack is with 2 stainless steel clips that hold onto the top of the rack. Every other pannier I have ever owned has had a bottom hook to secure it to the rack from below with an internal bungee. I made a mental note to check on it after a couple of miles and I was off. Given the fact that my route from home to Ballard covers some of the bumpiest, least maintained roads in the city, I wasn't too surprised when I checked on it to see that it was precariously hanging on with just one hook. The pannier had slid backwards (while all my others slide forward, hmm) and the rear hook had slipped off the rack so that it was dangling by just the hook, with all the weight on it. Fortunately, it didn't break and when I got home, I jury-rigged a rear bar for my rack from zip-ties to prevent further problems. I was so pleased with the other aspects of this pannier's performance and abilities that I was willing to put some time and energy into making it work.
a few zip ties work like a charm

And then I went out again to really make the pannier work. I went grocery shopping and filled it to the point where I could barely zip the top closed; it held a lot of groceries! The tag that came with it lists its uses as shopping, commuting and yard sales. I'd like to add school and hauling stuff to that list. This is a high-capacity, fully functioning pannier that looks great and is fun to use.

For info about where to buy Detours Bags or to order online, go to:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Anderson & Watson Lakes

a little fall color
For some reason, not many people hike this trail, but that meant a little more solitude for my small group of Mountaineers than on many other trails this weekend.

We lucked out with the weather! A sunny day was emerging from the gloom as we drove up to the trailhead from the socked-in city. Our first destination was Watson Lakes, which is perhaps the only trail in the Noisy-Diobsud Wilderness. We lunched while looking at Bacon Peak (how apropos!) and picked berries, too.

Watson Lakes- short on names, long on scenery
On the return, we side-tripped to Anderson Lakes and, while we weren't very impressed with the so-called lakes, once across the creek, we saw what the draw was for this trail... an awesome view of Mt Baker! Some fall color in the meadow, which will get better and better, was a nice addition.
Mt Baker and meadow near Anderson Lakes

We bid farewell to Mt Baker on the trail, only to encounter her again, from the road. Plus, we spotted another majestic peak which only later, with map in hand, did we identify as Mt Shuksan.

Mt Shuksan, from the FS Road

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mountain Wanderings 2011, Part Two

This is a continuation from Mountain Wanderings, Part One:
Lake Viviane and Prusik Peak

Two days later, I left town for what was the pièce de résistance of my hiking summer, a backpack trip in the Enchantments. I had applied for my sought-after permit back in February and was lucky to have the time off from school coincide with my selected dates. My friend and I stayed in a motel in Leavenworth's quiet part of town and were at the trailhead the next morning at 8:15, ready to hike.

I had read dozens of reports and accounts of the hike in to Snow Lakes and all of them made the hike sound like a real grunt. My experience was pretty good compared to what I had read, though when I saw a lakeside camp with a view of Temple Mountain, I was so ready to drop my pack.

following cairns to the Basin
In the morning, we set off to dayhike the Basin area and were surprised at how difficult the trail was up from Snow Lake. It wasn't really a trail at all, more like a bunch of slabs of granite, some with shallow depressions in them, courtesy of explosives. When you need the help of explosives to get you to your destination, you know you're going somewhere good. At the first sight of Lake Viviane, I reached for my hanky, so happy I was nearly crying. I'm not going to try to describe it; that's what photos are for. I tried to swim in the lake but it was leg- and mind-numbingly cold. 
as far as I could get into Lk Viviane
swim in Leprechaun Lk

swim in Sprite Lake- yes, that is snow behind me!

My friend and I had different goals and expectations in the Enchantments. His was to see everything he possibly could; mine was to swim in everything I possibly could. Somehow, we made compromises and I swam in a couple lakes and we still made it up to Prusik Pass. We admired views, photographed, I swam, we wandered and then it was time to head back down. It had taken us over 2 hours to ascend so we guessed we'd arrive in camp just in time for dinner. On the trip down, which for me is always much more tricky than the ascent, due to that darn gravity, we talked about weighing the screw-up possibility factor against departing a day early from Snow Lake. In other words, the trip up and around the Basin area had wiped us out so much, we felt to do it another day would increase our risk for an accident or injury.
where there are many lakes, there will be many waterfalls

purple fields below Prusik Pass

As we were making breakfast the next morning, we saw a rescue helicopter headed to the basin for those who were not so lucky to escape without injury. I took it as a sign that we were doing the right thing. Yes, I had planned this trip for over 6 months and had wanted to go there for over 10 years, but breaking a leg or worse was not my idea of a 10-years-in-the-making trip. As a consolation, I swam in Upper Snow and Nada Lakes on the hike out.
Little Mermaid?

The drive home was not without incident, as a section of I-90 was closed for blasting. It was a party on the freeway... or could have been, since I got out the Pocket Rocket, made some cocoa and heated up dinner, but no one was curious enough to approach us.
dinner on the median of I-90

That weekend, I worked on the Gold Creek Trail with WTA, with the hot sun bearing down on me while I lopped branches of encroaching brush. We had lunch by the creek and, as I dipped my head in, someone remarked that I had a look of bliss on my face. Oh, if he only knew!

I pored over my Alpine Lakes Wilderness map to see what lakes I was missing, as far as my swimming was concerned. Somehow, I had let Lake Lillian, on the west side of Rampart Ridge, slip from my radar. Alone on the trail once more, I climbed over downed trees, endured steep climbs and descents, repaired some toppled cairns and made it to the lake at last. 
in Lake Lillian

I managed to get in a nice swim and get out before two fishermen arrived, returning along the steep lakeshore from an overnight trip. On my hike out, I stepped over logs, just as before, until I found myself at a dead-end. Unbeknownst to me, I had just stepped over a log that was blocking off the wrong-way trail. I panicked a little, as I had packed lightly for the hike, with the confidence of the Enchantments backpacks still lingering, and I imagined myself having to spend the night there, with no water and a couple of almonds for nourishment. No thanks! That was enough to get me to burn a little stored glycogen and get my brain to think more logically. Soon, I realized my mistake and was on the correct trail down, emergency bivouac averted.

Two days later, I departed for the ultimate wilderness... New York City.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mountain Wanderings 2011, Part One

Once I was released from the clutches of academia in mid-August, I had some catching up to do in terms of hiking and logging the miles, scenic vistas and, most importantly for me, swims in lakes.
Peek-a-Boo Lake

the fish were jumping!

It didn't start out with a bang; in fact, it started with a whimper. That was me, whimpering as my new, expensive, Italian (but made in Vietnam) boots ripped into my heels, giving me one serious blister and a couple of minor ones. At least I was able to make it to Peek-a-Boo Lake, off the Mountain Loop Highway, for a good swim first. But the blister festered and forced me to cancel the coming week's plans while it healed. In the meantime, I got caught up with household chores and maintenance (you should see my bathroom!).

A week later, with the help of band-aids, moleskin and my old, faithful boots, I led a Mountaineers hike to Summit Lake and Bearhead Mountain in the little-known wilderness area, Clearwater, accessed from near the Carbon River entrance of Mt Rainier. I had never been there before, having just read about it, but my pick was regarded as "excellent!".

Summit Lake from Bearhead Mtn
We enjoyed flowers of many varieties, views of Rainier, Stuart and Glacier Peak, and then a swim in a fine mountain lake, with many areas for privacy (I encouraged two women in the group to skinny-dip for the first time).

Carbon River valley

my camp in the sky at Cutthroat Pass, 6800'

north from the PCT toward Canada

Just a few days later, I packed for an overnight, grabbed a friend and set out for the North Cascades. My intention was to backpack at Cascade Pass, but once at the Ranger station, we were informed the spots had been reserved, so we went east to Cutthroat Pass.

Talk about finding the silver lining! From our lofty camp at 6,800', we could see that the area near Cascade Pass was roiling with storm clouds, while meanwhile we had sun and wind and views in every direction. The next day, we explored north on the Pacific Crest Trail, mouths agape at the scenery, while strolling on a nearly-flat trail in the sky.

Two days later, I was booting up at the Tonga Ridge trailhead off the Foss River Road, with the goal of swimming in Fisher Lake. Mine was the only car at the trailhead and I enjoyed the quiet of the morning, allowing the clouds time to burn off. The trail to Fisher Lake is a dotted line on my map and now I know why; it was a steep uphill grunt to go over not one, but two ridges to get there. It was the kind of hike where I feel obligated to swim because of the great effort to make the destination.
Fisher Lake

wildflowers on Mt Sawyer
I still had plenty of time left, so I found the trail up to Sawyer Mountain as a way to complete my Tonga Ridge experience. Once up there, I met a family with grown kids and they offered me potato chips (instant bonding food). We talked and photographed and enjoyed the view, then decided to hike down together. It turns out that the parents are from Massachusetts and are cyclists fighting for their rights on the roads, just like we do in Seattle.

The following weekend was Labor Day and I started it off with some volunteer work with Washington Trails Association (WTA). I joined a work party (crafty of them to call it a work "party", don't you think?) at Franklin Falls, near Exit 47 on I-90. There were about 25 people  working on a trail re-route, directing water off the trail with drainages and beating back the brush.

Franklin Falls, just below I-90

At lunch, I journeyed to the Falls, which sit just beneath I-90 as it makes its way down from Snoqualmie Pass. In all my years of living in the Seattle area, I had never been on this trail and had never seen the falls which were obviously very popular, particularly on hot days, similar to the Denny Creek "slide" area on the trail to Melakwa Lake.

But wait, there's more... and it just gets better. Please continue to Part Two.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Cure for Bike Hate

Mt Baker is the big snowcone on the right
Lately, the anti-bike sentiment has been growing in Seattle. I think the argument is that cyclists don't pay for roads, yet they get road facilities and take away the space that a car could take up. While I have thoughts regarding these arguments (and will voice them when my life is threatened by a motorist), I tend more toward the "flight" option in terms of a response. So I packed my car with bike and gear and headed north to Skagit County.

Lovely Mt Vernon is where I headed to, home of a really awesome transit center that revolves around Amtrak and free SKAT busses, plus restrooms and lots of free parking. From there, I headed out on a bike trail that I'd never heard of before, the Kulshan Trail, that led me east and out of town. I did a loop around Big Lake, partly on busy SR-9, partly on a quiet back road. On the highway, where it is often tranquil, it was a little busier since it was a week-day. Each time I heard a car behind me, where there wasn't much shoulder, I mentally braced myself for a horn or a yell, though one never came. The vehicle slowed, waited, then passed when it was clear.
along the S. Skagit River Rd

I then climbed up to a ridge where there were farms and ranches and barely any cars (now that's more like it!) and had great views to the mountains with Mt Baker showing its snow dome. I headed for the Skagit River where it runs along the North Cascades Hwy, but I stayed on a road to the south of the river. The sun had been heating up, but I was riding in the coolness of the trees and enjoying the breezes from the big green river below. There were more cars there than I remembered on any weekend day, and I sometimes wondered if I should turn on my rear light, but I think my pink jersey made me quite visible, contrasted against the green of the tree canopy.
the lovely Skagit River

Heading back into town, I saw a dog meandering in the road ahead and I thought that maybe I wouldn't be able to escape the ride without at least one type of confrontation. As she came towards me, I slowed and saw her tail wagging. I stopped and she came over to give me a good sniff; then she posed for a photo. Not long after, I saw a couple of cyclists and we waved and smiled to each other. What a great day to be on the bike; and no hate in sight or sound.
the locals were friendly

farmland and foothills