Sunday, May 27, 2012

Greenwater Lakes and Almost Echo

I had made no promises about reaching Echo Lake at 3900' when we set out on Saturday morning because I knew the snow level was at 4,000' in exposed areas, but could be much lower in the trees. I had a full trip: Garrett – up-and-coming hike-leader, Siv – co-conspirator on many trips, Paul – in his shorts, as always, Erika – new to the US from France, Anne – this is now her fave hike, Roy – fellow lake swimmer, Alice – on her third Mounties trip, Tom – doubles as a cyclist, Candy – a quinoa convert, Lisa – woman who would like to hike with dog, Terry – first met in '08 on Rock Mt.

My expectations were more than met on the hike, even before the hike began, in fact. The road to the trailhead, a bit over 9 miles from the highway, was all paved. Barely a pothole had to be navigated before arriving at a nice-sized parking lot with bathrooms and toilet paper. Then, on the hike, we crossed the Greenwater River many times, all on very sturdy and well-kept bridges.
almost the whole group – where's Erika?

It was at least a mile into the hike that I discovered that Paul was a naturalist (or at least knew all the plants – I'm really not into calling people names). He pointed out the Calypso Orchids that we had been oblivious to, as well as the flowering Red Currants and various birds playing and feeding in the river. The group dynamic was taking shape nicely and I was really enjoying the journey, especially since the trail itself was soft underfoot and fairly gentle.

Predictably, we hit snow, patchy at times, after about mile 4 but it was easy to navigate through and didn't cause much of a problem. Just before arriving at the turnoff for Echo Lake, we ran into a group of backpackers coming down from Echo who told is of the switchbacks covered in snow that were hard to follow. Since it was past 12:00, the universal time for lunch (if there is another universe where they eat at a different time, I don't want to go there), and uphill travel sounded difficult, we instead found a lunch spot by the river and quieted our tummies and refueled our bodies.

While Roy, Terry and Anne were busy creating a new friend from snow, sticks and a strawberry, a bunch of us were filling Erika's "To Go" list with destinations in both the Olympics and the Cascades so she could see the best places and get a condensed experience of hiking in Washington. I was daydreaming of places I had been and wanted to go this summer while hiking out to the trailhead. The 5.5 miles passed quickly, with Roy, Candy and Siv leading the way and stopping periodically to soak in a view or soak the feet in a cool stream. There were also plenty of dogs to pet and babies to admire, being a family- and dog-friendly trail.

When we reached the parking lot, instead of being happy we were at our cars, I was sad to see the trail come to an end, both because of the loveliness of it, but also because we seemed to have the right combination of hiker personalities in the group.

Enjoy the full photos here:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Disturbing the Peace

these matched my shoes

As I was walking through the Arboretum today, admiring the colorful azaleas once again, I heard the sound of delighted children discovering the natural world (I heard a bunch of kids screaming at the top of their little lungs, disturbing my peace.)
a color for everything

I like my flowers to match my umbrella

I took a diverting path through the woods and came across a flowering tea rose bush and I stopped to give it a good sniff. I could see the lovely children in the background and, to my horror, that they were approaching me steadily, from the other side. It was then that I realized that they were enchanted by my brightly-colored umbrella and were engaging me in a game of hide-and-seek.

Their game was broken up abruptly by the otherwise oblivious adults with them and suddenly I felt as though maybe I was being viewed as some type of pervert, hiding behind the brush while viewing children and doing who-knows-what. Lucky for me, they were running late for their bus, so I went on my merry way of flower-sniffing and photo-taking.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sitting on the Saddle Rock with a Shot of Whiskey, Dick

I stood in front of my bathroom mirror, applying sunscreen to every bit of my skin that I though might possibly be exposed while hiking, even though it would be hours before I would be on a trail. I was heading to Wenatchee for the start of two days of Shrub-Steppe Desert hiking, leading a group of Mountaineer hikers.

We met at the Coffee Cabin on 5th and Miller Streets near downtown Wenatchee and headed south on Miller to the trailhead, just 2 miles away. The area is owned and maintained by the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust and towers over the town. I had seen a photo of Saddle Rock, the main geologic feature, in the Hiking the Central Cascades book and I immediately wanted to check out the unusual scenery. There was a mix of sand, rock, small trees, basalt cliffs, views of snowy peaks and wildflowers that made hiking there a unique experience.

Considering the heat in the low to mid 80s outside, there was quite a bit of food consumed at McGlinn's Pub after the hike, then later at El Abuelo for dinner, then at the picnic table at Confluence State Park the next morning where a few of us had camped. First on the agenda for the day was to visit the Beezely Hills Nature Preserve in Quincy to see Hedgehog Cactus in bloom. This is the one flower that has been very elusive to a certain party member and, this being her birthday, she wanted to see if a little birthday magic could be summoned to bring on some color in the rocky Steppe desert.

Just a few minutes walk from our cars, we spotted one, then two, then many Hedgehog Cacti in bloom. Success! Then, it was on to Vantage and many more hours of hiking in the hot sun. The goal of the hike was Whiskey Dick, more of a ridge of high points than a single mountain and adjacent to one of the many wind farms sprouting up in the area, a very windy region.
some green at the spring

On our hike we saw a bunch of small flowers, non-blooming cacti (which made me happy we had made our detour earlier in the day), one tree, two rattlesnakes (both with their rattles on high), a couple of troughs with no water in them (I checked, and would have dunked my head) and lots and lots of sagebrush. We arrived at a high point, called it good, ate lunch and steadied ourselves for the long slog back down to the canyon and up the other side. There is a point at which a hike becomes a slog and, although there was good company and interesting conversation, the trip began to drift into slog territory. Between the heat, the dusty road which is much longer than the guidebook suggests and the lack of shade and feeling of openness, we felt like we were on a survival mission. I was running low on water, although I started with 2.5 liters, and accepted another liter from a fellow hiker which seemed to revive me some. I was so happy to see my car when we arrived at the trailhead!

The following day, I found the antidote to all the brown of the hills and never-ending sunshine while riding my bike home from my volunteer gig in Madison Valley . I passed through the Arboretum and sat on a bench to eat my lunch with a view of multiple colors of azaleas, many deciduous trees and lots of green, lush grass. It felt so good to be back in Seattle on the lush, green side.