Friday, December 31, 2010

Itinerary for 12-31-10

Meeting up with Kevin, Kris and one of Kris' friends for a winter hike/snowshoe outing along the Mountain Loop Highway.

We'll be carpooling from Mt. Vernon and anticipate making a visit to Heather Lake.

Depending on road conditions, time and energy, we may also possibly visit the Marten Creek Trail, Deer Creek Road or some other short/easy access type of Mtn Loop destination. There are a lot of exploration options in the area.

Return time is expected to be no later than 6:00pm so we have time to properly enjoy New Year's Eve festivities.

Happy Trails!


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Winter Solstice above Austin Pass

12/21/2010 Tuesday

With a slight break in the weather it seemed to be a great opportunity to break out and dust off the snowshoes for the season.

A slight break in the weather means it actually stopped raining in the lowlands for a day and there were even forecasted moments of blue skies and sunshine.

Turns out that it's difficult to find a snowshoe buddy on a weekday with minimal notice - particularly in the days just before Christmas.

The agenda for the day was to snowshoe from Heather Meadows (located at the end of the Mount Baker Hwy #542) up to Austin Pass and possibly to Artist Point, depending on snow conditions, weather and the condition of my knee (which has been sore since a long run on Sunday).

On the way to the mountain, snow started to appear even before reaching the little town of Maple Falls and it was sporadic all the way to the sno-park just past the DOT Shed. Beyond that point the snow accumulated quickly as the road climbed higher.

Snowshoeing was slow going due to all the fresh powder encountered immediately upon leaving the groomed ski trail.

Not in a hurry whatsoever, I took a lot of time for photos but the cold weather quickly drained the batteries. Ditto for the backup batteries also.

Here are a few pics from the parking lot up to A$$burn Hill:

Here is Table mountain and one of Tanya's unbelievable Orange Chocolate Chip Cookie that she only shares with me during the holidays. Tastes great at home and really hits the spot on the trail. Thanks T!

The Austin Pass Lodge, in Sepia tone:

Distant Mountain in Sepia, then color. Not sure which peak this is exactly: Larrabee, American Pk, Goat Mtn, Canadian Peak? No idea... sorry.

Austin Pass lodge from higher up:


Huntoon Point:

Shuksan with snow drifts:

As you can probably imagine from the snow drifts, it was rather windy out in certain areas. The weather was nice, but the blowing snow quickly covered up snowshoe tracks in a number of places and left only a thick crust on the surface.

Near the base of A$$burn hill I met up with three snowshoers who were visiting the area in winter for their first time. They requested a group photo with their camera, but I couldn't get it to actually take a picture, so we exchanged emails and I just took it with my camera. Nice group... hope they had fun.

On the way back down I took a detour to a little overlook which proved to be a comfortable (wind-free) spot for lunch (and more cookies).

The Sepia version:

While on the way back to the parking lot I stopped at the BCA Avalanche Practice Search area to freshen up my Avalanche Beacon search skills. Clearly more practice would be a smart move on my part and probably appreciated by my future snowshoe partners. :)

The ride home was uneventful, although a couple Christmas shopping stops had to be made in Bellingham which made for a late return home.

Hopefully the weather will improve for next week and be conducive to at least a couple more outdoor recreation opportunities before returning to work.

Happy Trails!


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Break Snowshoeing

Oh the benefits of getting Christmas shopping done early!

Dec 21st looks like my schedule might accommodate some time away from home which means it's time to dust off the snowshoes, check the avalanche forecasts and venture out somewhere snowy. Destination still TBD based on weather, avy's and participants.

This will probably be my only opportunity for an advance-notice outing between now and Dec 25th. More dates should available between the 26th and Jan 3rd.

Please don't wait for me to call you... if you have a free day coming up and would like to get out for some hiking or snowshoeing... please don't hesitate to contact me and make a proposal!

Happy Holidays, everyone!


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Win Atlas Snowshoes!

The kind folks over at Wild Washington are giving you (and me) a chance to win an Atlas Snowshoe kit this month.

Visit their website or their forum to find out how!

If you win you'd better let me know and we'll schedule a date to go play in the snow!


In other news, my Dec 4th planned hike probably isn't going to happen due to conflicting family plans.

While I don't have a new date set yet, there should be lots of opportunities for me to play outside during the last two weeks of the month since I won't be in the office.

Check back later for updates or feel free to proactively call/email me for an outing proposal.

Also, the 2011 Hiking Dates haven't been determined yet. I'll let you know as soon as they're posted.

Happy Trails!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Raptor Ridge 11-10-2010

Finally, a combination of blue skies and a day off of work allowed for a half day hike with a friend.

Afternoon commitments kept us from enjoying fresh snow in the mountains, so we settled for an outing in the Chuckanuts to photograph some local views.

My friend is a long time resident of the pacific northwest and has previously been to Oyster Dome and Fragrance Lake, but when I learned that he had never hiked up the Pine/Cedar Lake trail there was no question about where we needed to go.

The trail to Pine/Cedar Lake is notoriously steep. Not impossibly steep, but unquestionably it is 'training steep'.

Our route was about 6.5 miles round trip and between 2,100 (topo software) to 2,500 (gps) feet of elevation gain. While that may not sound like serious elevation for that distance (at least, not to all the local North Cascade hikers), virtually all the elevation is gained in the first two miles of trail: about 850 feet of elevation gain for each of the first two miles. Yep, it's a thigh burner.

We hit the trail about 9:00am and steadily made our way up the trail to the junction with the Raptor Ridge trail. At the junction we decided to ascend directly to the viewpoints via the unmarked shortcut route (go left at the junction and then left again on the unsigned trail just 50 feet or so away). Taking this shortcut helped us to crank out all the serious elevation gain at the beginning to get it over with.

At the high point of the trail there are three viewpoints.

The first viewpoint looks over southern Bellingham: the Happy Valley neighborhood, Sehome High School, Sehome Hill and points northward. WWU and downtown are hidden by Sehome Hill and evergreens block the westward view toward Fairhaven and eastward views to whatever is to the east. It's a view... but not one that earned a photo spot in this trip report.

The second viewpoint allows you to peek over Lookout Mountain to enjoy a view of Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters peaks (provided the clouds are cooperative). Today we were lucky to have views of both.

Mount Baker: 30 miles away as the crow flies, at 10x zoom.

Twin Sisters Range: 21 miles away as the crow flies, at ~10x zoom.

A short distance away is the westward view looking over the San Juan Islands. I think this is Lummi Island on the right, with Orcas Island behind it (Mt Constitution is 17 miles away) and to the left might be Cypress and Guemes Islands.

After soaking up the sunshine, snapping a few photos and resting the quads, we continued along the trail, descending to Cedar Lake.

Eventually we completed the Loop back to the main trail and opted to visit Raptor Ridge instead of Pine Lake.

I had been to Raptor Ridge once before and couldn't recall what the ridge view encompassed. Well, it turns out to be just a Chuckanut territorial view. No water (salt or fresh) or mountains. Honestly, it was pretty much an anti-climatic viewpoint, at an exposed rock outcropping with a sizable drop off.

WAIT! Don't put this on your "Don't Bother" list. There is a good reason to hike your burning quads out here.

There are a couple of unique features within the final 500 yards of the Raptor Ridge trail.

This last part of the trail takes you along the base of some beautiful moss carpeted boulder-ish cliffs. These are really amazing cliffs/boulders. They are all moss carpeted, with numerous holes worn away in their massive sides from (presumably) years upon years of water wearing away at the rocks surface. What I can't figure out is how those holes were worn away in those particular locations.

Geologists: next time you are in the Chuckanuts and are looking for a hiking buddy, please let me know!

My point here is simply that the view isn't "all that", but the final part of this trail is absolutely worth the time and effort to see it. The problem is that all this good stuff is so close to the end of the trail that most people probably pass it right by, getting all giddy for the view and completely miss this wonderful setting.

Here is a cute little mushroom growing in some moss on the side of a tree next to the trail.

The other interesting thing I noted at the end of this trail were the markings on the Raptor Ridge rock. They look like fossils of bird feet... or maybe they are just the results of dissatisfied hikers vandalizing the natural rock to make other people think they are bird feet fossils.

I'm pretty sure it would be a good idea to have a geologist stationed out here to answer these questions.

Enough rambling... go visit Raptor Ridge and let me know what you think.

Happy Trails!


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Howard Miller Steelhead Park

With the day off from work but limited time and a high likelihood of rain, this was a great opportunity to visit Howard Miller Steelhead Park (HMSP). This park is a Skagit County Park.

HMSP is located about 67 miles up the Skagit River, at the confluence of the Skagit and Sauk Rivers... and where the small town of Rockport is situated.

This is a popular fishing and eagle watching spot, so I hear. This trip was my first visit to this park. There are a lot of sites for camping - mostly geared toward those with RV's it seemed - but the grass was a healthy, vibrant green and the river is really only a stone's throw away.

As far as hiking goes, there are a few trails meandering along the river, but ultimately you'll end up on the old Sauk Road which will head west along the river for a few scenic miles.

The trail head is located at the west end of the park and is clearly marked, although it's not the typical trail head marker.

The first part of the trail meanders through some open meadows where quite a bit of planting has been performed in order to reclaim the shore and to encourage a vibrant, native, ecosystem. A number of signs provide some interesting reading about the local ecosystems.

Turning around presents you with a view of the lower flanks of Sauk Mountain.

Numerous short trail spurs lead you down to the river's edge, and hilly terrain beyond.

A short while later, the meadow trail connects with the Old Sauk Road, making for a nice quiet (and flat) walk through the forest.

Due to it's proximity to the river, there are a number of areas where the road has been washed out, but this is passable by most hikers who take their time and exercise necessary caution. In some cases, a side trail is being created up the hill to avoid the actual washout areas.

In addition to the beauty of the river and the forest, there were also eagles in the trees (but they'd fly away before I could capture an image of them) and the fish were literally jumping out of the water. Again, my best video and photo efforts failed to provide anything really useful to portray this experience.

A unique form of hanging moss could be seen hanging from the tree branches. These shots were all taken from the same location:

As you reach the western end of the road, a number of residential houses begin to appear above the road. At least one of these houses seems to have an aggressive dog who isn't kept chained up or in a fenced area. He quite surprised me with a charge and a barrage of vicious barks, but then retreated when I continued onward (not that he really gave me much choice at the moment).

Upon reaching a yellow gate I decided to turn around. It seems that, according to the map, there may have been an old cemetery a short ways beyond that gate. With the proximity to other houses, there is probably an alternative (and shorter) way to access the cemetery.

As I walked by the neighborhood of aggressive dogs, two more dogs began to head down the trail toward me while barking. They remained about 50 yards away, thank goodness, and didn't get a chance to experience a dose of pepper spray.

Here is an unusual piece of construction up near some of the houses. Not sure if it's a left over elaborate Halloween decoration or just some eccentric backwoods artwork.

The return trek was uneventful.

Instead of returning via the meadows, I remained on the road/trail which finally looped back to the campsites at the park.

Only encountered one other person on the trail on this wet day, but this place is probably a zoo in the summer.

All in all, it was about 7.5 miles round trip with almost zero elevation gain.

Truly a beautiful area for a dark, dreary and wet day.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hiking with Kevin at Cedar Lake

Pine and Cedar Lakes today

Blue Skies and picture perfect day... what better conditions for a snowshoe in fresh powder on Mount Baker?

The trouble is that we just realized Alexia only has a half day of school today which necessitates an early return time.

That means the morning will be spent along the beautiful Pine and Cedar lakes trail in the Chuckanuts. A great consolation destination for sure!

Our family calendar is pretty booked for the short term, so it may be a while before I get around to posting trip reports or Monday's Rockport trip or today's hike. Hopefully I'll get a phone pic uploaded from the trail to tide you over until then.

Happy Trail!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Heading to Howard Miller Steelhead Park in Rockport today.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Next Hike is...

Next hike is supposed to be this coming Saturday, but there may be a family schedule conflict that trumps the outing.

Give me a call if you already have hiking on your calendar and were thinking about coming along and lets see what we can work out.

Anyone open to taking a day off work early next week to go play in the snow? Might be a reality M, T or W since my trip to AZ has been canceled but the days off have not! Artist Point? Higgins? Pilchuck? Mtn Loop Lakes? C'mon, you know you want to!


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cumberland Creek 10-17-2010

A few weeks ago, Vince Richardson's Hike of the Week (published in the Skagit Valley Herald) introduced me to the Cumberland Creek trail.

This hike is relatively short, but also low elevation and close to home, making it a good choice for when you have limited time, sketchy weather or want to take the kids to play by the Skagit River.

Sunday afternoon provided clear skies, but also only a short window for me to escape out the South Skagit Highway to make a first visit to this trail.

Located on Skagit Land Trust property, the Cumberland Creek trail is located at about the 12.5 mile mark on the South Skagit Highway (which intersects Highway 9 where it crosses the Skagit River between Sedro-Woolley and Clear Lake.

It's about a 20 minute drive from Sedro-Wooley or about 35 minutes from Mount Vernon.

I've only been up the Skagit Highway a couple times so it was nice to find out there is a quality view of Mt. Baker and the Twin Sisters range from this route.

The trail head is easy to find: just turn left at the marker indicating 34183 South Skagit Highway and look for the gate. Park where there is room, without blocking the neighbors driveway.

At the gate you'll find a Skagit Land Trust sign, and hopefully you'll also find an interpretive trail map. This map is actually very interesting and informative. Grab one if you can.

This is an interpretive trail with five specific stations to visit. The pamphlet has a rough map on the back and tells a lot of interesting facts about each of the five markers. My route direction involved staying to the left until reaching the river, then took the middle route on the way back and then the trail on the right out to the river again.

Here is an image of my route (it's more precise than the pamphlet map).

The route follows an old road from the gate to station #1.

Notice that the markers are simply that: markers. You'll wish you had a pamphlet to read all about what you didn't know.

Staying to the left after Marker #1 will bring you to the oxbow lake and also a tree-mounted shelter for homeless ducks at Station #4.

Continuing on will bring you to marker #5, at the river. There is a nice riverfront beach here. It's not very sandy, but it has a nice shoreline and the river (well, before the current round of rain) was calm, quiet, clear and shallow. A nice place to relax, have a picnic, or cool your feet in the shallow water.

Well, it was nice and relaxing, until I stumbled across this salmon carcass. this is the not-gruesome version.

Sufficiently disgusted relaxed, I backtracked to the trail to go find station #3.

Along the way I noticed this HUGE leaf. Not sure what tree it was from... not a maple, thought it might be an alder (but alders don't usually produce such large leaves). Maybe it's a Cottonwood? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Eventually passed Marker #2 where the pamphlet points out the numerous tree varieties in the area. Found a chatty squirrel while taking pics of trees with moss and ferns.

Eventually I reached checkpoint #3 down near the river on the right portion of trail in the above map. Here I found a more rocky beach with less shoreline and animal tracks in the sand.

All in all it was a nice hike. Just under 3.5 miles of trail and elevation gain must be less than 20 feet.

Here is a short video from the river and also of the squirrel who wasn't too happy about my visit:

Thanks, Vince, for writing up this trail, otherwise I probably never would have known it existed.

For those of you looking for a little bit 'more', try locating some of the waterfalls in the area via