Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kamikaze Falls and Hall Creek 12/19/09

Solo and undecided about a destination, I finally found myself at the Mt. Tenerife trailhead Saturday morning at about 10:45am or so.

This was my first visit to this trail.

The weatherman kept assuring me that the weather would be 'partly cloudy'. Since there was only one cloud all day it could be considered, by some, to be "Partly Cloudy". Unfortunately, it was one BIG cloud that extended at least from Mt. Vernon to N. Bend.

After a short distance of hiking, a trio caught up with me when it was time to remove a layer or two. They continued on in front of me along the new route to Kamikaze Falls.

I was hoping to get a photo of the 'this is not a trail' sign, but apparently it's along the old route.

The new switchbacks worked well and led me past a view showing the steep incline of nearby slopes.

I was also likening the lichen along this section.

Just as the trail approached the falls, I spotted Dicey and Sadies Driver descending the old route, much to my surprise. They obviously started a lot earlier than I did, and are also a lot faster than I am. Plus, it's hard to stop on that degree of descent.

A few minutes later there were a couple others descending: JimK and Opus.

I wasn't able to get their attention (not that I tried very hard since I was only about 30% sure if I knew them or not) but was able to catch up with them later in the day.

I spent probably 30 minutes at the falls trying to take some photographs without soaking the camera. Results weren't as nice as I had hoped, but it was still an enjoyable break.

My favorite Mossy Rock:

My favorite Mossy Rock, as viewed from the only spot I could get the tripod situated... with an unreachable branch in the way:

Top part of the falls:

Bottom part of the falls:

Foliage and Falls:

While descending I almost stepped on some clean bones from a good sized animal.

Took a couple more pics in that area before returning to the car.

From here I drove out to Olallie State Park and made my way up the Hall Creek trail to the Iron Horse span... another spot that I had never been to before.

It was 'partly cloudy' here too.

Followed the zig-zag trail for a short distance (very short... 50 yards?) before venturing east for a half mile or so. Looking back, I should have gone west to visit Change Creek which is also on my to-see list (and still is).

Returned to the car without trouble and partied it up in Kirkland with some of my favorite hiking charachters from for the 2010 Calendar Social.

For those of you keeping track (no one), this was Trip #100 since I started keeping track. It took 5 years to do those trips... and I enjoyed every one of them. Thanks to everyone who joined me for one or more of these outings and thanks to Tanya for being so supportive.

Happy Trails!


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

Kendall Peak Lakes - 11/14/09

Finally made my first venture up toward Kendall Peak Lakes, located at Snoqualmie Pass along I-90, about 54 miles east of Seattle. It's right across the highway from the ski area.

Weather was much better than expected, with plenty of blue sky, and temps certainly felt warmer that the 'high of 30 degrees' that the weatherman promised.

Upon my arrival at about 10:30am there were only about five or six cars parked at the trail head. Even though it's early in the season, I expected a lot more (and more did show up, later).

Just after my arrival at the TH, a SUV pulled up and a group piled out of the car. They sounded like a group of people just getting to know one another. I inquired if they were a Mountaineers group, but learned they were actually a local Meet-Up group.

A short while later I met another solo person with snowshoes who was just getting started. I'll just refer to him as DMS for this Trip Report.

The first half mile or so was packed enough for easy walking without snowshoes but it did eventually become softer snow and a lot deeper so the snowshoes were a necessity (if you didn't bring skis).

DMS and I leapfrogged each other a couple times through the first two miles or so but ended up just pacing each other and chatting about previous outdoor recreation trips and agreeing that 'more' is never enough.

The route was well established and easy to follow.

Ultimately we reached the end of the broken trail just a short ways after the end of the logging road (on my map anyway).

DMS wasn't ready to give up yet so he started breaking trail, following the faint trough that remained after all the recent snow. I followed right behind him, but decided to call it quits at about 4,300 elevation. I hadn't done a very good job of eating and felt the beginning pangs of leg cramps coming on.

While having a snack break, I noticed a pattern of lines on a nearby hillside. Not sure what it's from but I'm guessing it's a result of how the hillside was logged.

DMS opted to continue onward, knowing we were getting pretty close. We wished each other good luck and parted ways.

All in all it was a fantastic day on the trail and I look forward to finishing that last half mile or so in the next couple of months.

Parking for this snowshoe route is at the Gold Creek Sno-Park which requires a daily or annual permit for your vehicle. Enforcement begins about November 15th and continues until mid April or May, depending on snow levels.

GPS Tracklog from this trip:

7.6 miles.

Next outing is scheduled for Dec 12th... or the 19th. Stay tuned!

Happy Trails!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lame Itinerary for 11/14/09

The pros and cons of winter weather.

Early snow = early snowshoeing.
Lots of snow + Wind = Moderate to Considerable Avalanche risk.

Only hiking once a month = Never let your hall pass go to waste.

Going Solo = My friends were smart and scheduled indoor activities.

So, despite the conditions I'm braving the elements on Saturday to visit Snoqualmie Pass.

As of this moment, I'm planning on making a first visit to the Kendall Peak Lakes snowshoe route, located at the Gold Creek Sno-Park (exit 52 or 54, I-90).

Depending on the weather, route conditions, snowpack analysis and my comfort level I may decide to swing by the Lower Gold Creek trail (same area) or retreat to the west and check out the Zig Zag trail located just south of the Olallie State Park.

Then again, there's always Rattlesnake Ledge or Mt. Si (big sigh or little sigh) as standard backups to get the blood pumping.

Regardless, I'm just hoping for a good time with some nice pics to share and memories to cherish.

My plan is to be back in the car before sunset since I need to be back in town to attend a 4H awards ceremony by 7:00pm.

Happy Trails!


Saturday, November 7, 2009

One Week To Go...

Why do these outings seem so far apart these days?

My next outing is scheduled for next Saturday, November 14th.

You can expect typical November conditions which commonly involve wind, rain, snow and of course, fewer daylight hours.

Being out of town for a few days means I haven't kept up on what is going on in the Cascades... not sure how much snow there is, anywhere, but it's probably more than what we had at this time last year. Last year at this time was my first trip to Granite Mountain, where I didn't encounter snow until the last stretch (where I turned around due to leg cramps, doh!).

I haven't kept up with my fitness program since the MSH trip so while I'd like to tackle Mailbox Mtn or Mt. Dickerman, chances are it will be something a little easier... or totally new.

So, if you're interested, please drop me an email or give me a call.


PS: My NW Forest Pass is now expired. If you are coming and have a pass I can postpone that purchase for another 30 days. ;~)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mt. St. Helens 2009 - Part 3

Thanks for coming back for the conclusion of this trip report.
If you tuned in late, here are links to Part 1 and Part 2.

For everyone else, here are a few summit pictures, courtesy of Erik Hansen.
View of Mt. Rainier, Spirit Lake and a bit of the crater rim (on the right) and a bit of the lava dome (lower left):

Here is a 'zoom' on Rainier and Spirit Lake (objects are further away than they appear)

Here is the Lake, a bit of the crater rim (right) and the current Lava Dome:

Here is a zoom of the Lava Dome, complete with Steam Vents!!

Summit Shot taken by a fellow hiker of Erik & Tim (recently 'found'):

Keep that pic handy in case the Milk Carton people ever need it to help America find him.

So... that's about it.

Here are two maps for future reference. One is a map posted at the trail head and the other is a topo map with our (my) GPS track shown in blue.

I'm contemplating another summit of MSH next spring. Training starts... now! I can only pray that the weather is as perfect next time as it was the first two times.

Now, let's back track a bit to Part 2 when I mentioned we made a couple of interesting observations on the trail, below treeline.

The first interesting phenomenon is the scarring that we saw on may trees. The scarring seemed to consistently occur on the lowest 48 inches (approx.) of the tree trunks and was always on the side of the tree facing the volcano. While I didn't take any pictures of it, a good example can be seen in this very short video that I just happened to take. Take notice of the tree on the right:

We theorized that a blast of hot gasses or some other force from the eruption caused this damage. It could be due to something completely different, be we don't know what it would be.

The second interesting phenomenon was actually noticed by a kid who was... maybe 8 years old. He pointed out that the branches higher than about 20 feet all had moss hanging from them, but lower branches didn't.
Why is that?
Well, we also noticed that the tree trunks were dark near the ground but they transitioned to a lighter color about six feet below the moss. Furthermore, a few trees had blue diamonds mounted on them to guide winter recreationists through the snow. These diamonds were mounted about where the moss started.
Those observations led us to infer that the winter snow prevented the moss from growing any lower and the snow also resulted in the color transitions on the tree trunks... and the height of the blue diamonds.

If you happen to know something about either of these observations we'd love to hear your opinion.

Next hike is currently scheduled for November 14th or so, but hopefully there will be an opportunity to still squeeze in a fall-colors hike before all the leaves hit the ground.

Happy Trails!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mt. St. Helens 2009 - Part 2

(Click here for Part 1)

The Fab Five hit the trail just after 8:00am under blue skies, below freezing temperatures and a notable arctic wind.  Except for the wind and temperature, we couldn't have asked for better conditions.

I was the only one of the group that had been on this trail or even in this area before. Rob S. & I made the summit on a day a lot like this day (but much warmer) back in 2004.

The trail starts out innocently enough with a two mile warm up through evergreens at a light to moderate grade. This section gains about 1,000 feet in elevation over the two mile stretch which is pretty tame compared to a lot of Cascade trails. It's also pretty tame compared to the final three miles of trail which gains 3,500 feet of elevation.

For the most part, this is a pretty innocent trail although there are a couple of very interesting things that came to our attention.

Unfortunately I didn't take pictures of any of them.

Did I mention how cold it was?

Why is there scarring on the bottom 48 inches of many trees?

Why is the hanging moss only on branches higher than about 20 feet?

The answers to these questions, and more, may be found in Part 3 of this trip report. Well, it's more likely they are only theories, not answers per se, but there are more important things to discuss at this point.

After the first 1.5 miles of forested hiking, the base of Monitor Ridge becomes a prominent sight.

Steve stopped to remove a layer of clothing.
Erik stopped for some pictures (of the ridge, not Steve removing layers).
Ray stopped for a rest, and some pictures.
I stopped for some pictures.

Tim stopped. Then disappeared.
For the next 4 hours.

It wasn't until fifteen minutes later that we came to grips with his disappearance.

During this fifteen minute period we continued our forested walk for a half mile, crossing a steep meadow and finally crossing the Loowit Trail (a 27 mile loop around the base of the mountain) before taking a break at treeline, elevation 4,800 feet.

Here is a picture of Ray crossing a meadow (or, more likely an avalanche path) just before reaching the Loowit Trail intersection.

We knew Tim was in the front of our group when we first stopped at the base of Monitor Ridge and we assumed he would wait for us at either the Loowit Trail intersection or at treeline.

Alas, Tim was nowhere in sight.

We assumed and hoped that since Tim has significant WA hiking experience and is a former member of the Mountaineers, he would wait for the group to catch up at this point. Our plan was to then break up into a 'fast group' and a 'slow group' and also pass out walkie talkies so the groups could keep in contact throughout the journey.

We should have had this discussion at the trail head... and we should have passed out the radios at the trail head.

Lesson learned... but learned too late to be useful today.

Now we could only hope that 1) Tim didn't get lost off route, 2) didn't get diverted onto the 27 mile Loowit Loop, 3) he didn't get injured or sick on the mountain and that 4) we find him on the mountain or back at the RV at the end of the day.

We weren't too worried, but we were concerned since none of us had ever hiked with him before. Had we given him a radio at the trail head, this wouldn't have been a concern at all.

The larger dilemma we now faced was whether we would still split into two groups or not. At least now we could all have our own radio since we brought 4.

The four of us began our ascent.

The trail quickly shifted from trees and dirt to lava rock and ash. Steepness ensued.

The general route is marked by large wooden posts along the ridge. Simply proceed from one post to the next, taking the path of least resistance, and taking care not to kick up ash clouds or topple lava rocks onto hikers below you.

The trees quickly fade away as you ascend closer to the summit.
Are we there yet? Nope... 3000 more feet... up, but you can see the crater beckoning you onward.

Erik and Steve led the way up the ridge. Quickly taking a one or two post lead.
Ray and I took a much more leisurely pace.

Never having hiked with Ray before and knowing very little about him it was very difficult to tell if his pace was a physical/conditioning necessity or if that was just his hiking style: slow and steady wins the race.

I felt compelled to periodically inquire with him about his condition to make sure he wasn't over exerting himself or exceeding his physical limitations. He was a man of few words (to me, anyway).
He never complained.
He also never said he wasn't going to make it.
Nor did he ever say he was going to make it.

Ultimately, he did disclose that his thighs were burning which was helpful to know.
I offered him a variety of (legal) drugs. He respectfully declined. He seemed very comfortable.

We continued upward.

Mount Adams came into view.

While taking a standing break, Ray offered to let me go ahead of him.

This put me into a personal dilemma. I wasn't sure if leaving Ray in the rear, alone, was a wise choice or not.

After a few minutes of internal deliberation, I decided to go catch up with Erik and Steve to discuss the current group dynamic. Ray and I stopped so I could give him the radio, give him instructions on how to use it and then we tested it. I also gave him an extra set of batteries... just in case.
That's how I roll.
I proposed we check in with each other every 15 or 30 minutes, but it turned out that Ray's "watch" was his cell phone. Being out of a service area meant it wasn't useful to tell time. So, I agreed to leave my radio on and if Ray needed me, he would power his on as necessary.
The problem with radios is that sometimes they emit static or other people are using the same channel... not quite the 'wilderness' feel that some people desire.
Then again, when you are on the only trail for miles around with 100 other people you can't be expecting solitude or silence.

So... I left Ray.

Erik & Steve were still in visual contact and they slowed their pace while I gained elevation.

Here is Steve on a crest of the ridge:

While this hike to the crater is often described as a 'walk up', it really isn't. It's much more of a scramble, followed by a really steep walk on the beach.

This section of the route is over lava rock (boulders). The good news is that they are 'sticky' rocks in that your boots really lock down on them, making for solid steps without worrying your foot will slide.

Here is a pic of some busted up lava rock:

It is important to watch for ash on the rocks because your foot can slip on the ash.

The last 1000 feet of vertical elevation gain up to the crater rim is all ash. It's almost exactly like walking on the beach with your feet sinking in the sand with every step. 12 inches forward, 2 inches back. It's amazingly tiring.

Finally I catch up to Erik & Steve.

Here is Steve staring at the summit, still a long ways off.

We discuss the group strategy and conclude that Ray is likely fine in the rear and we'll try to keep visual contact with him. If he keeps progressing upwards, so will we.

Looking back down the mountain, you can see that visibility wasn't a problem on most of the ridge. How many hikers can you count?

We discussed the potential to summit this point as a consolation summit sometime in the future:

Eventually, Steve decided to hold back as he reached a flat spot on the ridge where it was hard to monitor Rays progress. We gave him a radio, tested it and then Erik & I continued upward.

We passed a geologic monitoring station, a few snow banks, an injured hiker who took a tumble on a lava rock and a monsterous cairn (with Mt. Adams in the background):

We finally reached the transition from the volcanic rock ridge to the super-steep beach.

Only 1,000 more feet of elevation gain.

Tim was still missing.

It was 11:45am.

My post-op toe was throbbing. I was worried that descending might be painful.

I was worried that Ray might descend slower than he was ascending.

We contacted Steve on the Radio. He had met up with Ray and they were still ascending... Ray was doing fine.

Erik was willing to continue up toward the crater on his own, with a radio. We agreed that he would start his descent at 1:00pm. We hoped he would locate Tim on the crater, bag the summit, and get some awesome pics.

My plan was to continue upward for a few more minutes and turn around at noon. This would allow me some extra descent time to accomodate my toe and also be able to get an early status on Steve and Ray to prep them for the descent.

Here is a zoom shot of hikers on the crater rim:

My descent turned out to be a piece of cake. No toe trouble.

It's a long hike down.

Here is a hiker contemplating the beauty of western Washington:

Here is a short video of the scenery, from east to south to west to north:

A short while later I met up with Steve and Ray, lounging in the balmy 41 degree sunshine. We hung out for a bit and then received a radio message from Erik that he had reached the summit and located Tim... safe and sound. They began their descent at 12:45pm.

Steve, Ray and I began our descent.

Ray descending Monitor ridge:

Before we knew it, Erik and Tim caught up with us.
We took a short break to regroup and discuss how we originally became separated.

Tim explained that when we stopped to take photos at the base of Monitor Ridge a solo hiker passed through our group and continued on up the trail. Fast.

Tim mistakenly thought that hiker was me. So he followed. Pursuing me all the way up the mountain. Finding it very odd that I would do such a thing. Once at the summit he continued to follow the rim until the footpath became too faint and felt too exposed. He turned around and eventually met Erik at the summit.

We were all relieved that he was back with the group... safe and sound.
We were about this happy:

Tim, Steve and Ray made a quick descent while Erik and I took our time and enjoyed the scenery. There was a little touch of color announcing the arrival of fall once we approached the base of the ridge.

Finally... after 7 1/2 hours, we were all back at the trail head. Ready for some hot RV coffee, a change of fresh clothes and an opportunity to rest our feet.

The drive/ride home was uneventful. Mostly, we were contemplating the events of the day and probably thinking about when and where our next outing will take us.

This trip involved about 500 miles of driving and cost approx. $60 per person. That's about $10 for dinner, $22 climbing permit and $28 of RV gas per person.

All that mind-numbing reading and not a single picture from the summit?

Sorry... you'll have to come back to read Part 3 to see the summit shots (provided by Erik H.).
Plus, I'm not done rambling yet.

UPDATE: Part 3 now available (click here)

Happy Trails!