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.

No comments: