Monday, April 27, 2009

Mount Si (sigh, not see) 04-26-09

Met up with Steve G. and Rob S. for a conga line type hike up Mount Si, just outside of North Bend, WA.

Rachel, her husband Steve and their dog Rudy met us at the trail head as well.

Weather was partly cloudy and the temperature started out pretty comfortable, but we all started to shed layers as we began the constant elevation gain. This trail is pretty typical of Cascade area trails, averaging just under 1,000 feet of vertical gain for every mile hiked.

The summit of Mt. Si, referred to as "The Haystack", tops out at 4,167 feet. The parking lot is about 500 feet above sea level and the trail is 4 miles out and 4 miles back.

This is probably the most visited trail in the state of Washington, or at least in the Top 10 if you consider trails near Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens. This is not the place to hike if you are looking for solitude.

Rachel, Steve and Rudy led the way, lucky to have Rudy pull them up the hill... until they hit snow at the 3.25 mile marker.

Rob, Steve G. and I, all being older, took the Senior Citizen pace: slow and steady.

After the 3 mile marker, spots of snow began to appear and shortly thereafter the trail was entirely covered with snow... well, ice really. The three of us stopped to put on our traction devices, which we brought along because we knew about the snow/ice conditions we would encounter.

Minutes later, Rachel, Steve & Rudy joined us as they had decided it was just too slick to continue in their shoes. 4-paw drive was helpful, but just not enough.

30 minutes later we arrived at the summit basin. Here there are a couple of rock outcroppings to scramble up, carefully. The Haystack towered above us another couple hundred feet, but was engulfed in fog. We decided to call the trip a success and opted to not venture out toward Haystack this trip.

Found a nice high spot with grand views and some friendly Robber Jays who decided to join in our buffet.

The temperature hovered around 42 degrees (F) but the continuous breeze quickly chilled our fingers. We all forgot to bring gloves... whoops!

The descent went quite a bit faster and everyone's knees held up pretty well. Many people made it to the summit basin without additional traction on their feet, but on their descent they all had to go from tree to tree, hugging each one to avoid slipping on the ice. We were able to just step past them in confidence. Thumbs up to Yak Trax & Stabilicers.

After the hike we stopped by the Starbucks in N. Bend for some caffeine and then drove into Issaquah to meet up with a long lost friend that we just located via facebook less than two weeks ago. Cheers Shane!

All in all, it was a fantastic day of hiking & relaxing. I believe that my recent cardio workouts significantly boosted my ability to make this an enjoyable hike instead of an agonizing hike.

Next hike date is currently up for negotiation. It may have to wait until sometime during Memorial Day weekend.

Thanks for reading, and happy trails!


Saturday, April 25, 2009


Primary destination today is the popular Mt. Si.

It's been years since I was last up there... somewhere between 8 and 11 I'm guessing. The last time was with Steve Weigel & Chris Jahne while the ladies were having some party at the Tanner Rd. house.

Will be meeting Steve Gilles at the Lynwood Park & Ride at 8am, proceeding to Rob's in Maple Valley at about 9:00 and then meeting Rachel & hubby Steve (and their dog) at the Trail head around 10:00.

Will the dog behave?
Will Steve's Dog-Park Knee injury persevere?
Will Rob's knees put up with 3,000 feet of descent?
Will Steve G. get to use his Yak Trax this trip?
Will Eric's legs handle 3,000 feet of gain without cramping?

We're all getting old and cranky, but you can tune in on Monday for the exciting trip report and hopefully some decent pictures.

Happy Trails!


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Next Outing: Sunday April 26, 2009

Despite the beautiful weather the last couple of days, Sunday is currently forecasted to be partly cloudy and did I hear the weatherman mention a bit of new snow in some areas tonight?

Enough already!

Destination on Sunday is still a complete unknown based on the weather and whoever decides to commit for the day.

Last year, Steve and I headed out to Ross Lake for an easy day exploring the dam and local sights. Despite our all day adventure, I still have a few landmarks up there that I'd like to check out when the lake is low. So, that's a possibility, but it makes for a long day of travel for those of you coming from the South so I'm looking at some other options as well.

Kendall Peak Lakes, Heather Lake or maybe a nice little river walk might fit the needs of the group better.

Feel free to comment your suggestions or email / call me anytime. Sunday will be here before I know it.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Chuckanut's Cedar Lake 4/8/09

On my way home from spending the day putzing around Heather Meadows I decided to stop for a quick hike to Cedar lake in the Chuckanut area. This would add some miles to my day as well as some good elevation gain.

The Trailhead to Pine and Cedar Lakes is located on the west side of I-5 between the Fairhaven Exit 250 and the North Lake Samish Exit 242 just south of Bellingham . The trail gains respectable elevation quickly – it’s a good workout for those preparing for the upcoming Ski to Sea race. It’s easy to follow with a number of signs to help keep you oriented.

Along the trail I saw a chipmunk and heard numerous owls. Despite my efforts, I couldn’t find one visually but I’m pretty sure one swooped near me, but I only heard it and didn’t see it. I also saw this interesting moss/fungi growth on a tree and a stump that appeared to be winking at me… and smoking a cigar.

The trail follows a small creek, but there weren’t any notable falls worth photographing. The trail also follows along the side of a canyon or two which provided neat side-views of the huge rocks that make up the topography. Neat to look at in person, not so neat to photograph.

I followed the signs to Cedar Lake and then proceeded beyond Cedar Lake to a couple of Viewpoints at about 2,000 or so. Once you reach Cedar Lake , keep to the left to get to the viewpoints. To the right, I believe, is a campsite. One viewpoint looks north to Bellingham (that’s Sehome High School with all the green grass and Sehome Hill beyond the High School), one looks to the East (trees and Cedar lake below you) and the last one looks to the west over the San Juans.

I ran out of time so I returned to the car after visiting the viewpoints. Next time I’ll probably visit Raptor Ridge, Huckleberry Hill and Pine Lake . Round Trip was about 5.7 miles and about 1,900 feet of total gain (per the GPS).

Next outing is scheduled for Sunday, April 26th.
Destination tbd, of course.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Mt. Baker - Heather Meadows 4/8/09

I skipped out on work Wednesday to go play outside (with approval from the big boss of course). Originally my plan was to do Mt. Si since it’s been quite a few years and it’s a great workout, but when I realized that meant I’d have to sit through morning and afternoon rush hour then that idea suddenly seemed much less desirable.

After much debate and changing my mind, I settled on Heather Lake. As I packed up the car it became obvious that there were dark, menacing clouds in the direction of Heather Lake , while Mt. Baker was staring at me… engulfed in full sunshine.

So, I quickly grabbed my avalanche beacon, ice axe, shovel and probe, jumped into the car and headed toward Mt. Baker instead. Besides, I’ve been to Heather Lake twice… both in such horrible weather that I haven’t really even seen the actual lake yet. It needs to wait for a sunny day.

Made a quick stop in Bham at Grace’s CafĂ© to grab some fresh bagels and a quick stop at JenJen’s store in Maple Falls to grab some sunscreen and chap stick before heading up the mountain.

The ski area was closed today, so I shared the entire mountain with only 8 other people.

Once up at Heather Meadows I was content to just wander around. The Artist Point area was engulfed in clouds, while blue sucker holes seemed to linger nearby… teasing me with good weather. Mostly I wandered here and there, taking pictures of this and of that.

Took a break on one of the chairlift seats just because I could.

Took some pics of the Austin Pass restrooms & lodge, both being surrounded by lots of snow. Recalled that a few years ago, Hiker Boy told us there was (maybe still is?) a payphone over there and if you call the number you can hear it ring… much to the surprise of anyone poking around that area, since the phone is completely buried in the winter. No, I don’t have the number. Sorry.

Eventually I came across an Avalanche Beacon practice area – what an unexpected surprise! No, this isn’t where you practice setting off avalanches… it’s where you practice using your Avalanche Beacon to locate buried beacons, simulating a rescue.

This practice area had three different beacons you could search for. I’m sad to say that my search efforts failed miserably. I know I was really close and I dug and dug and dug… but I just couldn’t uncover a single beacon. It was frustrating but it reemphasizes just how important it is to practice using your beacon so when a real emergency presents itself you can confidently zero in on those who are buried and need immediate help.

After I filled in the holes I had dug, my next stop was a nearby steep hill, about 30 feet high, which was a perfect spot to practice my ice axe self-arrest. It was kind of fun to throw myself down a hill in different positions and then maneuver into the proper position to self-arrest. Over and over again… fun, but tiring.

Next stop was Picture Lake (or is it Reflection lake… I never remember) where I enjoyed the view and snapped a couple pictures facing away from Shuksan since it was cloud obscured anyway. This is looking toward the spot where everyone takes that popular picture of Shuksan.

Finally returned to the car mostly dry. My bum was wet from all the snow sliding and my hands were soaked from the beacon digging. I was wearing a new pair of Mountain Hardware ‘all purpose’ gloves and they really soaked up the water but my hands managed to keep perfectly warm – it was amazing.

Driving away from Heather Meadows, Mt. Shuksan started to peek through the clouds so I took a few pics while parked in the middle of the road, my head sticking out the sunroof, before heading back to civilization… and my next hike to Cedar lake in the Chuckanuts.

Happy Trails!


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Rockport State Park on 4-4-2009

Depending on whom you talk to and what you read, Rockport State Park is closed from Nov 1 until May 1.
The Wa. State Parks website indicates it is currently closed. The Wa. State Parks staff (in Olympia ) that answer the phone when you call confirm that the park is closed. The fact of the matter is that the park is on public lands so they can’t really do anything if you are just wandering around (unless it’s posted as ‘keep out’ or ‘no trespassing’ or some other obvious, specific warning for some specific reason). With that knowledge, I set off toward the park, hoping there would be room to park along Hwy 20 without getting a ticket - or run over.

When I arrived at the park on Saturday morning I was surprised to find both sets of gates wide open. There is a sign and barricades that indicate the campground is closed… but everything else indicates the park is open. Even the restrooms were fully functional. As I was getting my stuff together, a couple other vehicles pulled into the parking lot along side me, parked and ventured onto the trail.

A map of the Park (and other state parks) is available here.

I followed the Evergreen trail in a clockwise direction. It was quiet and serene and offered some peaceful views of numerous creeks. No snow, no wildlife.

I came across this old growth Krabby Patty that was worthy of a picture.

After completing the loop back to the parking lot, I decided to cross Hwy 9 and follow the two loop trails over there with hopes of getting close to the Skagit River . Instead, the trail loops on a plateau, high above the river and the only views are of the peek-a-boo variety. There are a couple of deep canyons created from the creeks flowing through the park and it was impressive to consider the power of flowing water.

There were also a couple of peek-a-boo views of Sauk Mountain , if you have a good zoom and good weather.
Notice the five trees in a row along the left side? Cool.

There is also a peek-a-boo view from the parking lot, but there is a nice view of Sauk Mountain just a mile or so west of the park, along Hwy 9.

Total trail distance amounted to 4.9 miles.

I always seem to hear about people talking about the great fishing… there must be a boat launch or some other river access in the area, but I didn’t have time to hunt it down on this trip.

Stay tuned for couple more trip reports to be posted over the next few days for Mt. Baker/Heather Meadows and Cedar Lake in the Chuckanuts.

Happy Trails!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Change of Plans...

Just for the record... weather to the south is cloudy... but Mt. Baker is currently in full sun.

Forget Heather Lake, I'm heading to Mt. Baker/Heather Meadows. Might stomp up to Panorama Dome and practice some ice axe self-arrest techniques. Probably won't head to Artist Point but might poke around on the Twin Lakes road or White Salmon after visiting Heather Meadows.

Depending on weather and time, may stop by the Stimson Trail near Sudden Valley/Lake Whatcom/Lake Louise just to see what there is to see. Maybe I'll hit Raptor Ridge Thursday afternoon.

Happy Trails!

Itinerary for 4-8-09

Well... it's funny hiking on a regularly scheduled work-day. No one is available to be my buddy... and I expect it will be pretty quiet on the trail.

Currently, I'm planning on heading out to Heather Lake along the Mountain Loop Highway, if the weather looks pleasant. I've been there a number of times in the past, but the weather has always been horrible. Been there, done that... it sure would be nice to see that lake in some sunshine.

If time allows I may swing up to the Western Chuckanuts to see if I can make my way up to Raptor Ridge.

Hopefully I'll get a trip report up in the next couple of days for my Rockport outing and wherever I end up on the 8th.

Next scheduled hike is on Sunday, April 26th. Mark your calendar!

Happy Trails!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Itinerary for 4/4/09

Saturday morning I'll be heading out to explore the old growth scenery at Rockport State Park, just beyond the town of Concrete along Hwy 20. The park offers a number of trails on the north and south side of Hwy 20.

I've driven by the park time and time again... but have never taken the time to stop and check it out. Given my limited amount of time available and the increased avalanche danger everywhere else... it's either Rockport or the Chuckanuts. Since I made a number of trips into the Chuckanuts in 2008, this time Rockport is the obvious choice.

If it weren't for Le Mutt (that must be french, right?) I'd head down to do Mt. Si for the views and elevation gain, but that just isn't possible given the current circumstances.

Pics and a report will probably be posted on Monday or Tuesday... and then I'm hoping to hit a real trail this Wednesday for the first time in almost two months.

Also, as a side note (or a reminder to myself), Craig Romano will be at the Bham Public Library for a slide show on Tuesday evening as part of the Mt. Baker Club meeting. Craig has authored a number of local hiking books. It would be great if I could manage to attend that meeting.

Gotta go finish getting my gear together for tomorrow.

Happy Trails!