Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Two-Step Shuttle

Nicole's got the fever!
I set this hike up as a one-way trip with a car shuttle from the lower Twin Falls trailhead to the Iron Horse TH near Rattlesnake Lake so that we could maximize hiking and scenery which is increasingly difficult this time of year.

Starting out, it was pretty cold, so we kept moving, taking short and infrequent breaks. I forgot to pack dog treats which was a mistake. Not for my own dog; I don't have one. But for all the dogs out with their people on the trail. Nice dogs!

The side trail to view Twin Falls had a little ice so we bypassed it (no busted tailbones today, please) and kept going up, through some slick spots (think skating on the bridge), to the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. For the next 3.5 miles on the trail, it snowed lightly but with determination. There is another waterfall along the way, which was beautiful.

We found the turn-off for Cedar Butte and went up the direct route, admiring the light snow carpeting the green moss and lichen along the way. It was as if the snow had turned all the deep green to a lighter shade. The summit was like a winter wonderland, but not icy or treacherous to get there or back down. There was no view, but we used our imagination.
happiness is...

From there, it was a short jaunt to our waiting cars at the Iron Horse TH (where there are more bathrooms) and we did the shuttle back to Twin Falls and home.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Paying Homage to the Little Black Dress

It all started with a long look into my closet where I noticed my cute little black dress which had yet to be worn for the season. The summer was fading and it looked like my opportunities for wearing a short summer dress were limited. A little voice inside me said, "It wouldn't kill you to go on a date; just one date is all I ask". I had been nose to the grindstone trying to score a high GPA (managed a 3.9) and was currently working toward taking the nursing entrance exam. In all my studying, I had managed to completely ignore the opposite sex and had felt like I didn't need the distraction (that's what Facebook is for).

The day after I led a fantastic hike to Cady Ridge near Lake Wenatchee, an opportunity to take my black dress out into the light presented itself. A fellow hiker asked if he could reciprocate for the nice hike with "a hot drink or a casual meal". Casual, my ass, I need to wear this dress! So I picked a Taiwanese dumpling house at Lincoln Square in Bellevue and readied the dress with shoes and a necklace.
wasting time on FB in my LBD

The day of the date, I was digging ditches on the Pacific Crest Trail at Snoqualmie Pass while heavy smoke from forest fires in the east hung in the air. The thought that later in the day I would be all girlied up in Bellevue was almost too much of a shift, yet I managed it with near-grace (I changed in the Issaquah Community Center's bathroom, on the way down from the Pass).

When I arrived at the meeting spot and saw Rich, his jaw slacked for just a moment, as he had been expecting to see me in hiking wear or casual attire, at best. He had no idea of my hidden agenda to get my dress out for an evening.

Two months after that first date, my dress is no longer in season, but the relationship sparked from that first date (yes, I give some credit to the dress) has endured.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Summer Summary

The summer is long gone, washed down the drain by the recent deluge of the fall/winter season and swept into compost bins along with colorful leaves. But at least there are still photos, images which seem to be from so far away.

This summer was a successful season of lake swimming, edging me ever closer to my goal of swimming in all the lakes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness (that a trail goes to). The tally was six new lakes, shown in the order of my appearance in them:

Myrtle Lake, 4th of July – first swim of the season and snow and ice covered half of the lake
proof of my swim

this is on the shore of Myrtle Lake

Upper Melakwa Lake, Aug 5 – on the second day of a backpack on the hottest weekend of the year

this is just 1/4 mile up from Melakwa

Big Heart Lake, Aug 11 – I led a women-only hike to this lake 7.5 miles up West Fork of the Foss River

my hat is off to this beautiful lake!

the USFS has updated the distances to add 2 miles to our trip

Hester Lake, Sept 12 – a private trip to Myrtle's sister lake on a very rough trail off of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River. Read a previous post about it here.

a beautiful lake at the end of a tough hike

sign-eating tree

Ridge & Gravel Lakes, Sept 20 – it felt like summer was back, but this ended the swim season

I spy....

in Gravel Lake

 Next summer, the swimming will get a little more challenging, as there are fewer lakes left for me to swim in that are easily accessible and below 5,000 feet. But I look forward to the adventures it will bring.

Friday, September 21, 2012

1989: Part Three

somewhere on the North Island, NZ

In the fall, I embarked on a great solo journey to the land Down Under, to both Australia and New Zealand, leaving my job as a bike messenger at Bucky's, which was one of the great things about working there. Since there were no benefits, I could pretty much come and go as I liked. My first stop was in Australia. I did a lot of walking, some hiking and some more hiking. There was one day that, due to my lack of transportation, I walked nearly 20 miles, on a combination of road and trail and I was exhausted when I returned to the hostel that night. My next stop was New Zealand, where I had hoped to do some hiking on the South island, but after a few days in the North island's city of Auckland, I noticed my right ankle had started to swell.

There was a medical clinic near the hostel I was staying at and they did some x-rays, yet found no fracture or break, but assumed it was some type of stress fracture, given all the walking I had been doing. They gave me a pair of crutches and suggested I have a bone scan when I returned to the US to make sure there was nothing wrong. Back at the hostel, someone suggested to me that I take a tour with what is New Zealand's equivalent to the Green Tortoise, a multi-day trip by bus to hikes and scenic areas with other fun people my age.
crutching on the steps of the Nat'l Museum

The bus was full of young people, mostly from Canada, Germany and a few from the US. During the day we toured around the north island, sometimes hiking or swimming and in the evening, we stayed at hostels or farms. I had sat out on many of the hikes due to the crutches but one particular day, when the description sounded too enticing, I decided to join in. The trail went through dark forest, a lush jungle and then to a beach where a ferry would be waiting. But the trail was very muddy and my crutches got sucked in deeply which made for very slow progress. When the guys with me, Bob from Chicago and Tomas from Berlin, realized we might be late for the ferry, they decided to take turns carrying me. Although I liked to do things on my own, without outside help, I had to admit that being carried by two men, both strong and handsome, was not such a bad thing.
Bob was a good sport

We made it to the beach to discover that although we had missed the ferry with the rest of our friends, the ferry captain made another run upon hearing that there was a woman on crutches making her way through the jungle. 

welcoming ceremony
That evening, we stayed with a Maori community and went through a ceremony of song and stories to be accepted into their home. Upon my suggestion, we sang, "A Hard Day's Night", though there were no Brits in our group. It was the first thing that had come to mind after the day and weeks that I had been having. Then, the tour leader made a very moving speech about.... me. It was about my determination and endurance (he forgot to say stubbornness) and he was honoring me in front of all those people. It was very moving and I doubt I will ever forget it. Immediately following that, I was the center of a massive pillow fight with my fellow tour-mates, plus the Maori kids, which helped to break up the serious tone.

I had gotten used to being on crutches, but something had developed that really bothered me. During the night, my foot went stone cold; it was so cold that it would wake me up when it brushed against my leg. I had experience with injuries and I knew that they usually became swollen and warm with an increase of blood flow. This new situation struck me with great concern and, although one part of me wanted to ignore it and continue my travels (I could write a book about it, I told myself), another part of me was truly worried. I called the airline to arrange my departure 3 weeks premature.

When I arrived home, I saw a doctor who referred me to more doctors. After seeing multiple doctors, having a bone scan (which turned up nothing), being given a speculative diagnosis (MS), I finally landed in the office of a vascular specialist at Swedish Hospital, Dr Roman Wong. While checking me out, he attempted to take my pulse at my right ankle and was unsuccessful. Although he wasn't sure what the precise problem was, he told me to come to the hospital the next morning for an arteriogram so they could get a better idea of what was going on. The quick action that they were taking was both a relief and a concern to me. I was relieved to have finally found someone who didn't just scratch his head and make guesses, but I was really concerned that there was something very seriously wrong with my foot and leg.

Since I was essentially homeless, having given up my house-share when I left for my trip, I was staying at a friend's apartment on 5th Ave in Belltown, where the Monorail passed right outside the window. To this day, whenever, I hear the sound of the monorail, I get an uneasy feeling.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Tale of Two Sisters

Hester Lake, at last
This is the tale of two sisters, Myrtle and Hester. Myrtle is straightforward, uncomplicated and simple, while Hester is perverse, obscure and complex. While both possess beauty, Myrtle is the type who would compete in a pageant, while Hester plays up the "wild child" and relishes in being dirty.

I first became acquainted with Myrtle on the 4th of July. She was just waking up from her winter slumber, yet still shining in all her glory beneath the broad shoulders of Big Snow Mountain. I found a soft, yet melted out parcel by her shore and swam in her waters, though briefly, since she was not yet fully warmed to the season.
meadow below Hester

This past week, I was acquainted with her unruly sister who hid from us behind heavily moistened huckleberry bushes, slippery roots and mangled creeks and rocky outcroppings. At times, she misled and confounded us, but we found her eventually, glimmering in the sunlight below Mt Price.
sign on Dingford Creek trail

Like any pair of sisters, she bore some resemblance to Myrtle, in that she enjoyed solitude and provided refreshment to those who sought her out.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cady Ridge Ramble

the lake is in the bowl, far left
Judging from all the "ooh"s, "aah"s and "ohh"s once we were up on Cady Ridge, it was either a spectacular hike, or something else entirely was going on. I wondered, with an internal smile, if this type of satisfaction were actually a forbidden activity on a Mountaineers hike. We strolled through meadows, picked out peaks in the distance and plucked many varieties of berries for a veritable smorgasbord of hiking trails.

Glacier Peak
We continued along the ridge to the PCT, where we headed south .3 miles to the bowl that holds Lake Sally Ann. There was a nice campspot there which we noted for the future and then filled water bottles and a couple of us took a refreshing dip.

Instead of making it into a loop with the Cady Creek or Meander Meadows trails, we headed back the way we came, figuring if it was good in one direction, why not do it twice, with the sun starting to drop on the horizon, providing some softer lighting.
on the PCT, at junction with Cady Ridge

It was a long day, but we made it the almost 14 miles in about 8 hours. One of the best hikes of the season!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

1989: Part Two

This is a continuation of the year, 1989 as I look back at events that have shaped me during the past 25 years in Seattle. To refresh your memory, the first part is here

A couple of days later, I returned to work, complete with neck-brace and ski pole (the first for protection, the second for balance). I had given notice a couple of weeks before to leave that job and go on to a more exciting line of work – as a bike messenger. My first attempt after the accident to ride a bicycle was not a confidence-builder, as I was not able to throw my leg over the top tube. I had difficulty lifting my right leg more than 45 degrees, but instead of taking that to mean there was something wrong with me, I just adapted and leaned the bike further down so I could get my leg over it and ride. 

My rider number at Bucky's was 114 and I quickly became known as Weezy114. I really got into the messenger thing, as it was a combination of skills that I had talent in: riding fast, mapping locations on-the-go and a little customer service. There was a freedom to it that I hadn't encountered while working in an office. Although I was tethered by a 2-way radio, I still had choices to make and the riding was fun and the people were real characters.

After being trained by someone with the nickname "Gonzo", my first accomplishment was to hit a pedestrian in the central part of downtown as I was running a stale yellow light and she had stepped off the curb without first looking. I was mostly unhurt, but the woman was taken away in an ambulance. I continued working and riding, loving my job and the adrenaline high it provided, especially when the dispatcher on the radio was asking me to do something that sounded physically impossible... and I don't mean like climbing Yesler Way, which was inevitable. Often, the end of the day meant defying traffic light patterns to get a rush package to its destination on time – before the bank or business closed for the day. But every so often, I would have an "episode", as I began to call them, where my right leg would start to hurt and, when I got off the bike to check it out, it was as if my knee had set on fire. When I tried to soothe it by touching it, there was an eruption of pain. After a few minutes it would go away and I would get on with my day. I never went to a doctor about this, although I still had medical benefits from my previous job.

Later that month, I entered the Seattle to Portland (STP) bicycle ride, a one or two-day event covering 200 miles from Seattle to Portland. Because I was a bicycle messenger, it was expected that I complete it in one day. I decided to at least give myself the option of a second day, but by the time I got to the last stop option for overnighting, I had become so road-weary and disgusted with the ride that I wanted to get it over with the same day. I had a friend come down to Portland and pick me up that evening and we drove high into the hills somewhere (all I remember is seeing road beneath the car) and I reclined the front seat and fell soundly asleep. In the morning, we wandered into a cafe in Troutdale and I ate a full stack of pancakes that, according to the server, was difficult for a logger to finish in one sitting.

Because I was a cyclist and a swimmer, my friends convinced me to enter a triathlon that had a 1/2 mile swim, 25-mile bike ride and 5K run. It seemed innocent enough, but soon I was hooked on training for each of the three disciplines and competing regularly, though I certainly was not considered "competitive" as far as my finishing times were concerned. I was a vegetarian in those days and wasn't very knowledgeable about it, so I just ate what I liked, without looking at protein consumption or essential vitamins and minerals – that would have taken way too much planning and attention. In addition to working as a messenger, I was also hired on as a kayak guide at the local outfitter for a part-time job in the evenings so I could get some guiding experience. Soon, my life fell into a cycle of riding my bike for work, kayaking for work,  and swimming and running to train for events. Competing in triathlons gave me a great high and as soon as I had finished one, I set my sights on the next. One weekend, I ran the Torchlight Seafair Parade 5K on Friday evening, went home and packed up, setting off for Victoria in the morning, using car, ferry and bicycle for transportation, then did a triathlon on Sunday, then reversed steps until I was home and getting ready for work as a messenger the next day.

In August, a couple of guys I had befriended in the climbing course asked me to join their team to summit Mt Rainier and I accepted, imagining myself reaching the proverbial pinnacle of my climbing dreams. Due to a number of circumstances (heavy pack, poor diet being just a couple) I was exhausted by the time I reached basecamp at Camp Muir, 10,000 feet, especially since that was my first time at such an altitude. The plan was to "sleep" in the hut and wake an 12:30 AM for the summit attempt. At some point during the night, I awoke when I felt something grab my foot. I was surprised and a little afraid, but since it didn't appear that I was in danger, I went back to sleep, fitful as it was. When 12:30 AM came around, my friends were quick to tell me, in no uncertain terms, that I had been snoring so loudly that it kept them and everyone else in the hut awake. One of them had grabbed my foot in an attempt to wake me, in hopes that I would change position and stop snoring. I knew that I sometimes snored, but I had a feeling that it had more to do with my state of exhaustion and possible dehydration, than simply just blocked nasal passages. I made the first of two smart decisions that year... I would sit out the summit attempt.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Wonderful Wandering Week

I hesitate to extol upon the great virtues of the North Cascades Institute for fear that they will become so popular that every weekend will be booked and I won't be able to stay there again. However, it was such a wonderful and blissful week that I'm willing to take that risk.

We (Nicole, Jennifer, Mark, Lisa, Fran and I) arrived Sunday afternoon and were just in time for dinner. Well, that's not completely accurate, as Jennifer and Mark were late and were given free reign to pig out from the "light" fridge (which I bet was a lot lighter after they got their hands on it).

After breakfast at 8AM (meal times were my only complaint about NCI – I had to have a pre-breakfast snack each morning) and assembling a sandwich, we set out for the Rainy Pass trailhead after dropping a car at the Cutthroat Pass trailhead and stopping for some views at the Washington Pass Overlook.

I'll let the photo do the talking:

Liberty Bell from the WA Pass Overlook

From Rainy Pass on the PCT, we continued north to Granite Pass, then returned to the Cutthroat Trail and down to our cars. We had to hustle on the last couple of miles, as dinner-time was drawing near. Then we sped along Hwy 20 to pick up the other car, then headed back to NCI, dropping our packs outside the dining hall and grabbing plates on the way in.

Golden Horn and Tower Mt

Celebrating 25 Years in WA at Granite Pass

Totals for the hike: 13 miles, 2400' gain


I said goodbye to everyone after breakfast (they went on the Maple Pass hike), as I was taking a rest day after 3 days of hiking. I had a full schedule ahead of me: napping, shopping in the bookstore (bought a great wildflower book), wandering on the trails with my camera, reading by the lakeshore and more napping.

Here are some photos I took along the Diablo Lake Trail:

After dinner, which was the best of the week: salmon, curried carrot mash, roasted beets and blueberry pie for dessert, we joined the NCI trip to Ladder Creek Falls in Newhalem. Our guide and environmental educator, Josh, told us the history of the colored lighting they use at the falls. When trying to convince the city to build a dam for hydropower, JD Ross created a light show and piped in music to show the great powers of electricity. He got his wish of a dam (Ross Dam) and Seattle City Light moved into town permanently.
light on water at Ladder Creek Falls


We awoke to cloudy skies and, not sure what the weather had in store for us, we decided to stay low, hiking the Happy-Panther Trail along Ross Lake's Ruby Arm. The trail was lush with moss, ferns and salal and it was evident that not too many people hiked it, from how much moss there was creeping in from the side of the trail. We were able to hike it from point to point, with a car at either end. Along the way, we vowed to take groups of Mountaineers there so that the trail would be used more which would help to maintain it and keep the encroaching moss at bay, plus it would make people fall in love with the lowlands along the lake.
along the Happy-Panther Trail

a moss forest – where are the fairies?

In the afternoon, we once again joined Josh and other NCI Basecampers for a naturalist stroll up Thunder Creek. We learned about the 4 main varieties of ferns found in the national park and what exactly comprises an old growth forest. While standing on the bridge that spans the creek, a guy from PA was flyfishing and, as if on cue, caught a foot-long Rainbow Trout before our eyes.
he caught a trout!
 Totals for the day: 10 miles, 500' gain


The one trail that had come with extremely high recommendations was the Hidden Lake Lookout, accessed from the Cascade River Road outside of Marblemount. Nicole and I were on our own, as the others chose a hike of many miles at Ross Lake. As we climbed higher and higher, we hoped the clouds would burn off, but they did lend some drama to the photos. When we reached the lookout, however, the clouds pulled in tight leaving us with no view and a significant drop in temperature. On the way down, we hiked through a dark cloud, then emerged into the light of the valley and again sped toward "home" for dinner.

lookout is atop that peak

Hidden Lake
 Total: 9 miles, 3300' gain


Although we had planned a hike near Baker Lake, we were hesitant to leave that morning, as we had to say goodbye to our friends, our chef at NCI, our guide, our beautiful surroundings that had been our home for the past week. It was time to head toward home. But first, a hike at the Mt Baker NRA to the Scott Paul Trail where the Lupine were blooming and giving off a wonderful scent. If only my camera had a smell function!

Lupine smells wonderful!

fields of flowers and a moraine
What a wonderful week we all had! I highly recommend a stay at NCI, whether for one of their classes (I have taken a photography class) or for their Basecamp. But leave a space for me!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Prelude to the North Cascades Extravaganza

Friday morning, I packed up and left town. It sounds so simple when I say that, but it took days of preparation to get everything together. I was planning on car camping for 2 nights in Newhalem in the North Cascades National Park, then spending 5 nights and glorious days at the North Cascades Institute (NCI) with a small group of friends. It was still up in the air as to whether or not I would car camp near Baker Lake at the end of the week, but I needed to be prepared with supplies for that part, too.

The biggest consideration was, of course, the food. I had to have breakfast, lunch and dinner for the first couple of days and possibly the last day, but also the snacks for the entire week to keep me going on the trail and keep my blood sugar from plunging between meals which would be provided by NCI (which is one of the many reasons I love NCI).

I arrived at Newhalem in time to score a nice camp spot away from screaming children and, after setting up my tent, I had to deal with the oppressive heat. Unlike at home when I could just turn on a fan, I was not able to command the wind to blow. Even as I sat by the banks of the Skagit River, toes glancing the cold water, the breeze was intermittent at best. Then I heard nearby campers mention something about a swimming hole nearby and I set out on a mission to find it. I went on a walk up and down roads that were near creeks, I peered over bridges and bashed through some brush, but I only found marginal areas that either had too much current or too many obstacles to reach water.

There was a sub-group of Mountaineers staying at the group campsite across the highway and I decided to pay them a visit, hoping that they could offer a diversion from the heat or at least a cold beer. On the way to their site, I saw a faint trail leading into the woods and soon I stumbled upon what could only be termed as a "Queen's Bath". I was first introduced to the concept while traveling in Hawaii where, after snorkeling in the Captain Cook area, there was a freshwater pool fed by an underground spring which had been historically used for royalty to refresh themselves in its waters. I left my clothes on the banks and settled into the basin-like area of the creek, rinsing off sweat and cooling down my skin.

the view from Cascade Pass
When I returned to my campsite, it was still too hot out to do any cooking, so I nibbled on some nuts and was prepared to go to bed somewhat hungry and take my chances for the next day's hike. Just then, my neighbors came over with a plate of food that they had as leftovers. It was a chicken dish with gluten-free noodles and lots of vegetables. I thanked them profusely, then devoured the food, licking the paper plate. I felt ready to hike some miles the next day.

Siv arrives, surprised
we called this water, "Lake Louise"
My friend Bobbie joined me later that night and in the morning, we set out for the Cascade Pass trailhead, about an hour away. The plan was to get up to the Pass, then go on to Sahale Arm above it to wait for the Mountaineers group of friends who were coming up for the day. We made good time on the gentle grade to the Pass, then were sucked up by the scenery toward the Arm where we found a delightful and mysterious body of water, sized just right for dipping feet or head.

We spied the group below and I got the camera ready to capture each of them as they made their way to our new-found paradise. One member of the group, Siv, had been the inspiration for the duet of hikes for the weekend; her 2-year contract was coming to an end and she would be returning to her home in Denmark at the end of the month. The weekend hikes were a way for her to experience the very best areas of Washington State and for the rest of us to enjoy her company. Today was Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm and Sunday would be Trappers Peak and Thornton Lakes.