Sunday, August 9, 2009

Wellington to Windy Point (Iron Goat Trail) 8-8-09

Left the house this morning (solo) with about six different destinations in mind.

Ended up doing 1.5 of them.

First trail of the day was the Iron Goat Trail from Wellington to the Windy Point Tunnel. This section was about 8 miles, round trip, with very little elevation gain/loss.

Somewhere along the line a couple years ago, someone recommended the book The White Cascade by Gary Krist. It was a great book and was the reason I had to come visit Wellington.

To reach Wellington, as you head west on Hwy 2 from Stevens Pass, take the first right. Follow the road and then the sign to Wellington. It's about 3 miles from Hwy 2 and the road is 'decent' for any vehicle (except a skateboard).

For those that don't know, Wellington used to be a railroad town that supported trains crossing over the pass and is also the location of a notorious avalanche (the nations deadliest, according to the book) that wiped out numerous buildings as well as two trains. One of the trains was a passenger train, loaded with passengers, that had been stranded at Wellington for days due to weather.

This trail has an abundance of informative signs along the way, which are included in my photo album in case you want to try and read them online.

Despite the grim history and the ominous snowshed, the greenery was beautiful and it was really very interesting to 'hike' in this Land Of the Lost type of environment. Fascinating to watch Nature take back what former generations have left.

At the beginning of the trail you enter a very long snowshed.

Then you hike along side a concrete wall which used the be the uphill/back side of a snowshed that had a timber roof (12x12 timbers). The roof timbers were removed when this route was retired, but the wall remains.

The trail then just proceeds along the railroad grade with steep slopes above, and below. Some areas were forested, some were open avalanche paths.

After a couple miles you come to an unusual clearing. This unusual landscape is a result of a snowshed that was made entirely of timbers (no cement back wall). When the route was retired, it was decided that these timbers were rotting, so instead of removing them like on the other snowsheds, they left the timbers in place. So, here they sit. Slowly decomposing. Very Slowly.

Shortly thereafter you reach the Windy Point Tunnel. Pics of that are in my trip report from August 2007 where I used the Crossover Trail to reach Windy Point Tunnel. It's shorter but steeper, and you don't go through Wellington.

Once reaching Windy Point Tunnel, I turned around.
After returning to the parking lot, I noticed the trail continued in the other direction. That trail had a few additional signs and points of interest, but it dead ends just before a tunnel due to the potential for flash floods.

All in all, it was a fascinating trail. Few people were out here today, bugs were not a problem and the trail is easy to follow... and flat.

For those who are interested, after finishing this hike I finished the day with a short 4 mile jaunt southward on the PCT from Steven's Pass up to the ridge and back down, just to see what there is to see (which wasn't much).

Happy Trails!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Itinerary for 08/08/09

I'm looking forward to a day of exploring around Steven's Pass which holds a lot of new territory for me. The final destination(s) depend a lot on the weather conditions which could go either way based on the forecast.

The two main attractions (until I see the weather situation) will be to:
a) visit the old Wellington townsite and follow the Iron Goat trail westward to the Windy Point tunnel and
b) see what Skyline Lake is like without snow. Depending on how the trail and conditions are, its likely I'll try to head out on the ridge to reach that western high point that few snowshoers venture up.

Other attractions at the pass include the PCT southward to a couple lakes or northward to Lake Valhalla.

There is also a chance that I'll make a short stop at Deception Creek on the way back home to see the falls and to get a little sample of that trail.

Again, it all depends on the weather. And the bugs.

Had the weather forecast been more favorable this would have been a great opportunity to visit Winchester Lookout or Church Mountain, both near Mt. Baker. Maybe I'll tag one of those next month.

Happy Trails!


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Next Hike: Saturday August 8, 2009

Plan still tbd, let me know if you are interested in hitting the trail that day. Weather looks to be cool and cloudy... with bugs.

Sounds like a good time.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Heather Lake - 05/31/2009

Heather Lake (official trail info here) is located at the base of Mount Pilchuck, above the Mountain Loop Highway just outside of Verlot and Granite Falls, WA.

This is a popular hike year round and made a great second trail, after Lake Twenty-Two, to finish off my day of hiking.

Heather Lake is very much like Lake Twenty-Two, although the trail was very muddy for the last quarter mile before the snow started.
Very muddy.
Really very muddy.
Really very excessively muddy.
Mondo-extreme really very excessively muddy.

But it was still a good hike.

This was the first time I visited this lake while it was possible to see across the entire lake. Other visits here have been in rain, fog or snow... providing view of rain, fog or snow. Although those trips also provided some neat photos of moss and and encounter with an owl.

On this trip all that I encountered were people, dogs, mud, snow and a stellar jay. Despite that, it was still a great outing.


PS - Obviously I'm still catching up on trip reports, but my next outing is coming up this Saturday, August 8th. It's probably the last Saturday hike for a while as soccer season will start the following week. Yay!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Lake Twenty-Two - 05/31/2009

Lake Twenty-Two is located off the Mountain Loop Highway, at the base of Mount Pilchuck.

For those of you who happen to find this post because of a web search, this is in Washington State, north of Seattle, east of Marysville, between Granite Falls and Darrington... near the Verlot Ranger Station. Official Description is available from the US Forest Service.

This is a very popular trail, virtually year round.

Departed from home about 9:45am, started hiking at just after 11:00am.

Took the last 'legit' parking spot in the lot (at that time).

It wasn't a very good day for pictures, unfortunately.

The trail begins in the woods and crosses or passes near by a number of waterfalls as it progresses slowly higher toward an open valley which provides a view of a nearby peak: Liberty Mountain.

On this trip there was still a lot of snow at the lake. In fact, the lake was mostly still under ice. Later in the summer, when most of the snow is gone, there is a nice trail that surrounds the lake.

The lake sits in a glacial cirque beneath Mount Pilchuck. The surrounding cliffs are so tall and so close it's almost impossible to capture the whole scene without a wide angle lens.

Here is a zoom of a couple waterfalls tumbling down from snowfields atop Pilchuck:

On the opposite side of one of these cirque walls sits Heather Lake, which is where I headed after I finished this hike today.

While hiking back down to the trail head there was a girl and her mother, hiking with their little dog. The dog was being carried in a unique pack, made by Outward Hound.

Happy Trails!